Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

This is a guest review by my husband Bill.  Welcome Bill!

In an age when middle and working class living standards have been stressed throughout the advanced economies, The Spirit Level (Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better)is a timely contribution to the discussion of why we are living in increasingly unequal societies, and the consequences of the policy choices that brought it about.
Written by British academics Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, The Sprit Level examines the levels of income inequality among the advanced industrial economies (and between states in the US) and how they relate to various social pathologies such as life expectancy, crime and violence, academic achievement, obesity, drug use, and incarceration rates. Along all these measures, there is a strong relationship between inequality and the prevalence of these problems. Even on measures of social mobility, highly unequal societies such as the US and UK fare worse than more equalitarian countries, even though increased social mobility is often cited as a justification for inequality.
The authors show how policies embraced during the last 30 years emphasizing lower tax rates for the wealthiest and widespread deregulation have vastly increased inequality and its attendant problems. Their solutions do not necessarily mean higher levels of taxation and government intervention, as some countries (such as Japan) have achieved more equal societies with relatively little intervention by the state.
Wilkinson and Pickett’s thesis is backed by impressive amounts of academic research, though it is written in a style that is quite accessible to the average reader. People can argue back and forth about whether highly unequal levels of income are fair or not, but there is little doubt around the negative consequences for the vast majority of citizens in those countries. This book is highly recommended to educate people to be better informed about economic choices facing their political leaders, and what can be expected as a result.


Copyright 2007-2010: All the posts within this blog were originally posted by Teddy Rose and should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Hoodwinked by John Perkins

Posted by Teddyrose@1 on March 21, 2010
Posted in Guest Reviews  | 1 Comment

This is a guest review by my husband Bill.  Welcome Bill!

Thanks to Teddy for requesting this book for me to review.  It was one I highly coveted.
After Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and The Secret History of the American Empire, Hoodwinked is the latest in John Perkins trilogy explaining how predatory capitalism has formed an unholy alliance with the imperialism of the American empire to threaten the economic, social and environmental fabric of the world. While it can stand on its own for those who have not read the previous two books, they provide more background detail, and are worthwhile additions to a reading list.
Perkins explains how he was recruited after graduating college as an economic hit man (EHM). Working for the Boston-based MAIN consulting firm, his job entailed selling governments in Third World countries on development schemes with forecasts of benefits that he knew to be wildly exaggerated. The intention of this deception was to saddle these countries with debts they could not possibly pay, when those projects inevitably failed to meet expectations for economic return. In such a weakened position, no nation could refuse the demands of Washington and its partners- the World Bank and IMF.
These demands would often include acceptance of US military bases, “structural adjustments” that meant slashed government spending on social programs and privatization of services, opening up of trade and foreign investment, as well as automatic support for US foreign policy initiatives. While it is a brilliantly simple means of non-military imperialism, Perkins is quick to point out that if these methods fail, the US is quite prepared to use other means such as assassination, coups, and military invasion to get its way. He warns that while previously these techniques had been applied on lesser developed countries, advanced economies are vulnerable to predatory capitalism as well, witness the crisis on Wall Street and the bankruptcy of Iceland.
The author has written these books out of remorse for his actions as an EHM. He explains how he was seduced at a relatively young age by money and sex (courtesy of his corporate trainer, a women with obvious links to US intelligence), needs that had been unmet in his earlier years. This work took a toll on his conscience, and he eventually left to set up his own consulting firm, as well as various non-profit organizations. Even then, he could not escape the grip of his former masters, as he kept winning projects that were heavy on cash, with little required in terms of work on his part. Perkins felt clearly this was to buy his silence concerning his past activities.
After the events September 11th (which he considers to be blowback for the imperialistic tactics of his government) , John felt he could no longer maintain his silence about EHMs and associated strategies to dominate the world. He has published the three books mentioned on the subject, as well as others on spirituality and the environment, and has undertaking speaking tours to publicize and apologize for his past work, sometimes in countries where the work was performed.
The author is not particularly radical in his viewpoint. He advocates for a responsible, benevolent, sustainable form of capitalism where corporations still have a place. Hoodwinked is a good read in itself, explaining in an easily understandable way the forces that shape international relations and economics. While some of the details seem somewhat contrived in a melodramatic way, there is no doubt about the validity of the overall narrative. Perkins also expresses great faith in the actions of ordinary people, acting as concerned consumers, citizens, and voters can each work in their own way to fight these malevolent forces and work towards a better world. The entire series is highly recommended.
Copyright 2007-2010: All the posts within this blog were originally posted by Teddy Rose and should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

Posted by Teddyrose@1 on November 21, 2009
Posted in Guest ReviewsHistorical FictionLawrence Hill  | 20 Comments

I won this book back in March from Joanne of The Book Zombie. Can you believe I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. Me either since it was one of my most coveted books then. My only excuse is my out of control ARC’s.
Then one day recently, my husband Bill asked me if I had The Book of Negroes. I was surprised he asked because he rarely reads fiction. I handed it over to him with the stipulation that he would have to write a guest review of it for my blog.

Without further ado, here is Bill Rose’s Review:
Book of Negroes, the fourth novel by Canadian author Lawrence Hill, is a truly remarkable work of historical fiction. It details the life of Amanata Diallo, who was kidnapped from her home in West Africa when she was only 11 years old, and sold into slavery. The book opens in 1802 when she is living in London, and being wooed by British abolitionists to speak publicly on behalf of their cause. The reader is then led back into her childhood describing an idyllic life in the village of Bayo, where she was born into a Muslim family and learned midwifery skills from her mother. This life is tragically interrupted one night when she is captured with others and led in chains on a three-month trek to the coastal port where they are placed on a slave ship for transport to America.
It is a voyage many will not survive, and at the end of it she finds herself in Charleston on the way to an indigo plantation on the South Carolina coast. The land is completely strange to her, and she only speaks the languages of homeland. Meena (as she is now called) learns English and is eventually put to work “catching babies”. From there we follow her as she is sold to another, seemingly more benevolent owner who teaches her to read and write, skills she masters well. Eventually he takes her to New York where she teaches English to other blacks (slave and free) while the American Revolution begins. The British offer freedom to all slaves who will fight for them, and with the end of hostilities approaching, she is hired by them to record the names and data of those who will be taken to Nova Scotia. She sails with them to finally be formally emancipated.
The life they find there is exceedingly hard, and when Meena is offered passage to England by an army officer sympathetic to the abolitionist cause, she accepts. Though she is now free, she finds London to be a strange place, and still yearns to return home to her village Africa. At the urging of her abolitionist friends, Meena agrees to be resettled in Freetown, a settlement for freed slaves ironically close to the slaving port she was shipped from decades previously. Our heroine is then faced with the momentous decision whether to risk a long and dangerous journey back to Bayo, without even knowing if it still exists.
This is a story punctuated by marvelous historical detail and character development. The numerous cruelties of the slave trade are detailed in ways that will shock the conscience. That its effects still reverberate to present day race relations, comes as no surprise after reading this book. The narrative voice of our heroine matures throughout the novel and adds to its richness. Though I am not normally a fiction fan, I found this novel certainly deserving of the buzz it has generated and a very rewarding read. It is highly recommended.

Please note:  In the U.S.A. this same book is titled “Someone Knows My Name”.   Thanks to Wendy of Caribousmom for alerting me to that.

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Copyright 2007-2010: All the posts within this blog were originally posted by Teddy Rose and should not be reproduced without express written permission.