Even though it's a few years old, this work is still quite timely. Think of Packer as a modern-day Studs Turkel.
This author, Packer, is completely sure his writing is profound - - he is absolutely confident he knows stuff - - he doesn't!
He unequivocally states // . . . structured credit, default swaps, were good inventions. . . . The problem was the execution. \\
WRONG! [Throughout the book Packer makes various grandiose absolutist statements like this, which are wrong.]
This is a book for clueless people who worship murky and fuzzy thinking. Had the author been . . . say, a real journalist and not simply playing one at The New Yorker, he might have explained exactly how Peter Thiel came by his financing/CIA contracts for Palantir [Thiel sits on the board of American Friends of Bilderberg, Inc., with David Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, Richard Perle - - Perle introduced Thiel to Adm. Poindexter, who pointed those contracts his way].
And Robert Rubin - - yes, Packer tells us that Rubin got into both Harvard, and Goldman Sachs, thanks to his daddy's connections [which precludes any meritocracy, which Packer appears to believe we exist in], but neglects to mention that Rubin was a chairman, or director at Citigroup when they did all those // liquidity puts \\ - - money-back guarantees on all those trash CDOs they wrote - - which was why the gov't had to give them billions of free money, or Citi would no longer exist, which they shouldn't anyway!
[The author does correctly state that Obama was clueless and does an accurate job of reporting political theater - - but what intelligent person cares about political theater???]
FYI: On p. 291, bottom paragraph, what the author is referring to are called // dark pools \\.
Packer's book: cotton candy for brain!
This book introduced me to a whole lot of American politics that I was unaware of, though I have been learning just how much the Reagan era policies have affected everything and the problems that keep compounding because of them.
I found it started off a little slow, maybe going too far back in history, though I do understand the author needed some of that to tell his stories.
The farther I got into the book the more interested I was in the people who's lives the author was chronicling.
Did this book really help me understand anything about America?? I'm not sure. It did give me a view of an America I don't get to see though; the Midwest, the farmers, the underdog. Even should I go as a tourist, I still wouldn't see this, this you need to live, so this is as close as I'm likely to get. Is it everything? I doubt it. It's one aspect, it's just a few people, and hopeful people at that, but it's more than I had before.
The profiles on the rich and successful that are interspersed throughout, those I found a bit heavy handed, like they were part of the problem or created the problems, perpetuated the problems maybe. It was like a witch hunt and unnecessary, though occasionally interesting.
I really enjoyed the story of Peters Thiel, the man is unique, with an unusual world view. His perspective on the cultural change from optimism to pessimism, his example was the science fiction books of his youth compared to the dystopians that are all the rage now, was thought provoking. I've always been of a positive frame of mind and this made me think a little more about that shift in world views.
All in all, I really liked the book.
This book is incredible.
Non-fiction storytelling at its finest.
Packer illustrates how the decline of small businesses, unions, and public education have left the American people with a four-decade-long hangover. There’s no Advil within reach, thanks to the incestuous relationship between corporate America and American politics. The rooms still spinning but at least this guy can write!
“Some nights he sat up late on his front porch with a glass of Jack and listened to the trucks heading south on 220, carrying crates of live chickens to the slaughterhouses—always under cover of darkness, like a vast and shameful trafficking--chickens pumped full of hormones that left them too big to walk—and he thought how these same chickens might return from their destination as pieces of meat to the floodlit Bojangles' up the hill from his house, and that meat would be drowned in the bubbling fryers by employees whose hatred of the job would leak into the cooked food, and that food would be served up and eaten by customers who would grow obese and end up in the hospital in Greensboro with diabetes or heart failure, a burden to the public, and later Dean would see them riding around in Wal-Mart in electric carts because they were too heavy to walk the aisles of a Supercenter, just like the hormone-fed chickens.”
The author is clearly a good writer and narrator though to call this a history is a little far fetched. Cherry picking some peoples lives (many who seem to have made and make very poor decisions) and talk about a decline in America from the mystical 1950's ( no problems happening then, easy to get a job when you didn't have to compete with women or minorities) to 2010 and blame it all on rich people is quite ridiculous. The forces at work in any society are extremely complex and this book does nothing to dig deep into those complex interactions that have resulted in 2010 society. i can understand why people enjoy this book but it isn't an erudite work of research.
Ordinary Americans, losing a bit more often than they win, and actually having a pretty good idea why that is.
A good effort but ultimately more than I wanted to know. I think his point could have been made with shorter vignettes.
If life is getting you down lately, then this book should lift your spirits. Unless you identify with some of lower 99%, then you will probably be as depressed as I was about those who govern us and are supposed to be our best and brightest. This book is hardily recommended because it hopefully will wake up those of us to have been sitting on the sidelines for too long. The author's book on Iraq, The Assassin's Gate is also highly recommended.
This is a well written and interesting book, however, it is ultimately very depressing.
Let's be honest--George Packer is talented, but he's no Studs Terkel. No one is. That said--this book is excellent. The book is in that vein; a look at what has been happening in the US through individual vignettes. Good stuff, indeed.
edwardtone thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over
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