Monthly Archives: February 2016

Five Days At Memorial

What is your life worth? Would it be worth less if you were terminally ill? Would it be worth less if you were physically or mentally disabled? Would it be worth less if you weighed 380 pounds? If you were hospitalized when a massive hurricane hit and flood waters isolated your hospital, would you expect to be cared for and rescued, no matter your condition? Those are the questions that are presented and not successfully answered in Five Days at Memorial.

Sheri Fink has written an absolutely devastating indictment of….everything related to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in New Orleans. Be forewarned that reading this book will make you sad, frustrated, angry and despairing at the events that happened at Memorial Hospital and other locations during and after the storm. This book made my heart ache and my blood boil.

The book follows doctors and patients at Memorial and the investigation into the deaths of patients at the hospital post storm. What struck me, is how easily and quickly panic set in. And the lack of an effective evacuation plan and the painfully slow response of the government to the disaster.

Dr. Anna Pau (pronounced “Poe”) was among those investigated for euthanizing patients who they deemed were too ill to evacuate. Most patients that had DNRs (Do Not Resuscitate Orders), no matter their current physical condition, were given injections of morphine and versed enough to be toxic and kill them. Dr. Pau was eventually arrested along with two nurses who aided her. Despite the arrests, they were never indicted.

This book is exasperating. Not in the “it was not well-written” way. But in the “how could these people possibly avoid responsibility” way. The thing that I find most disheartening is the afterword in which Ms. Fink shows that the lessons that should have been so obvious were only partially learned at best. As evidenced by similar events occurring during hurricane Sandy on the east coast.

I wish that everyone would take the time to read this book. It was eye-opening and it was written like a suspense novel. It is not an easy read and it will make you angry. But it will also make you think. I highly recommend this book.

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Evicted

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City is a book that really upset me. Matthew Desmond does an excellent job of looking into the issue of poverty, rent and the toll that eviction and high rents take on low-income families. The focus of the book is Milwaukee, where inner city poor spend up to 90% of the monthly income on rent.

Desmond follows a couple of landlords and some of their tenants over the course of a year or more. One landlord, Sheerena, is an African-American landlord who owns properties she rents to low income families. Her properties are typical of a slum. They plumbing doesn’t work, lights are missing, windows are broken. If the tenants complain about the condition of their property and a building inspector comes out, she evicts the tenants for complaining.

Tobin owns a trailer park in the low income white side of town where he rents dilapidated trailers to needy tenants, many of whom are on disability and/or drug addicts. He is slower to evict his tenants than Sherrena, but will do it. Tenants face tough choices of keeping the heat on during the winter months or paying rent or facing eviction.

This book is about gut-wrenching poverty, the kind most people know nothing of. This book is about how impossible it is to live when 80% of your income pays rent. The rest has to pay for food, utilities, clothes, shoes, etc. This book broke my heart.

People do not want to admit that one of the reasons that our country is falling behind in so many categories is because we have abandoned those who live in extreme poverty, describing them as addicts and people who do not want to work. It’s hard to hold down a job when you can’t afford bus fare. It’s hard to keep your grades up at school when you are hungry and cold and tired. And by allowing landlords to have substandard housing and charging so much for rent that is all tenant’s can afford, means that we are abandoning them to poverty. And crime. And drugs. We offer no way for people to rise from poverty and succeed when people cannot keep a roof over their head.

I wish all people who have no experience being poor and trying to find housing in the private housing market would read this book. It is eye opening and heart breaking. Desmond does, offer a solution to the problem. I don’t want to give too much away, but this book is worth reading. I really liked his style and was invested in people’s lives by the end.

I won this book from a Goodreads give away. I did not receive any compensation for my review and the opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.

 

 

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Hot Art

Were it not for the guns, I often think I could have been a cop. Or an FBI agent. But if I were a cop or an FBI agent, I would want to investigate art theft. It has always fascinated me that people would be brazen enough to rob priceless works of art and resell them to people.

Hot Art looks at Art theft on a world-wide scale. The story is told from the perspective of an art thief (retired) from England, a lawyer in Canada, a cop in LA and and FBI Agent. The thing the book focused on, which I really hadn’t considered before, is that a LOT of art is stolen that we never hear about. Things like silver settings, statutes, carvings and art from private homes. They are easily sold at antiques stores, markets, etc. The pure scale of the theft is mind-blowing.

The book also discusses major art thefts and how, many times, they are organized thefts for a certain collector or they are stolen without the thief considering that they cannot fence the art because of how high profile the piece is.

The book also discusses how few people actually investigate art theft and how few departments have detectives, let alone units, to investigate the theft of art. They approach to investigation is so different from other property thefts. Many victims do not want to report the theft and do not want it publicized because of embarrassment, even though it increases the likelihood the art will be recovered.

I liked this book. It’s an easy read and it’s entertaining. The author fully researched the book and gained the trust of thieves and cops alike. If you are interested in the world of art theft, this book is a good general overview of that world.

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13 Hours

This book pissed me off. It pissed me off because this government let four good men die who didn’t need to die. This book is about the attack on the consulate at Benghazi, Libya. It is told from the perspective of the security contractors who were hired by the CIA to help protect its agents when they were out in the city or meeting with people outside the agency or the consulate.

Despite what Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama told the public, this attack was a pre-planned military-style attack. It was not a group of random protesters who were upset about a video on YouTube about Islam. A random mob doesn’t attack with rocket propelled grenades.

Politics aside, this is a well-told story. You feel like you know each of the contractors personally by the end of the book. And it makes it that much harder to accept they are dead.

These guys believed in their country and all of them were former military. They fought hard to make sure that they were protecting their charges the best they can. The consulate was attacked and set on fire. There were numerous calls to the contractors for help. The CIA boss would not allow them to go for over an hour after the attack and then the contractors went on their own. They managed to evacuate the consulate staff and locate the body of a State Department staffer who died in the fire. They regouped at the CIA compound and then it was attacked. They fought the attackers off with little help. They were killed by rocket-propelled grenades.

The kicker is that this was all preventable. Several times, the consulate asked the State Department to upgrade security. Several times, there were denied. The book does an excellent job of telling the real story of what happened in Benghazi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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