In order to make sense of the latest desperate failures of civil peace in Iraq, it's necessary to revisit the origins of the country's decade-long sectarian civil war—and to question the broad contours of the willfully obtuse ideological course that led to and sustained the initial US occupation.
For most of American history, progressives have not loved the Supreme Court. From abolitionists to labor reformers, critics have generally seen the court as a friend to those who own the country, not to the rest of us who merely live here.
With so much international attention focused on Gaza, it's finally occurring to many Americans and other Westerners that the region has its own history, and that this history is key to sorting out the present conflict. So in this sense, Jean-Pierre Filiu's Gaza: A History arrives at a propitious moment.
A century ago, a woman who wanted to prevent or terminate a pregnancy had to exercise ingenuity. If she was fortunate, her partner could afford condoms (and was willing to use them), or she could buy a device called a Mizpah pessary, a proto-diaphragm sold under the guise of "womb support." More commonly, though, women douched with Lysol after sex, or, under more desperate circumstances, swallowed turpentine water, poked themselves with knitting needles, rolled down stairs, or hit their abdomens with a hammer.
The core disparity in childhood experience between the races has profound implications for middle-class black children. These children not only suffer from inadequate resources and crumbling schools; they also, unlike their white counterparts, have easy access to criminal networks that can send them abruptly into downward mobility.
With a nod to Elmore Leonard, Bad Paper seeks a bit of love for certain bad or not-so-nice people—the hundreds of debt collectors, some of them ex-cons, who chase down little old ladies on Social Security to cough up their last pennies to pay off the money they borrowed from the likes of Bank of America or Chase. But the marks aren't really paying off the banks. No, the banks long ago sold off these debts to debt buyers like the heroes of this picaresque nonfiction yarn:
How do we define the corruption that money brings to our politics? It's easy to be vaguely concerned about "money in politics" in the dollar-saturated public sphere that's risen up following 2010's Citizens United and subsequent federal-court decisions. But the "corruption" that's taking place now isn't as simple as some would make it seem, and its complexity contributes directly to its power and endurance.
Ruben Castaneda may be the nicest crack addict in the history of the drug. His worst transgression seems to be missing his brother's wedding-rehearsal dinner. He also, in the grips of his disease, began to call people near and far saying he'd lost his wallet, and showed up for work disheveled and reeking of booze.
William Deresiewicz begins his blistering, arm-waving jeremiad against Ivy League colleges and their dozens of emulators, which are creating a caste that is ruining itself and society, with the insistence that the book is a letter to his twenty-year-old self.
It is both reassuring and unnerving to recall the Cold War as conducted with books rather than tanks. Both the CIA and the KGB implicitly endorsed Maxim Gorky's proclamation that "books are the most important and most powerful weapons in socialist culture."