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Promises Betrayed: Waking Up from the American Dream Hardcover – April 14, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

On the New York Times's Op-Ed page, Herbert offers reportage-based columns, a counterpart—earnest, rueful, angry—to Maureen Dowd's savage comedies and Paul Krugman's closely argued economic indictments. If Herbert fails to find new language to describe the abuse of power and lack of social justice in the U.S., he is reliable in continuing to bring the news. His strongest work here is a series on Tulia, Tex., where a ne'er-do-well white undercover agent sent 46 black "drug traffickers" to prison on scant evidence; Herbert's columns spurred Justice Department redress. Sometimes his columns are prompted by studies from interest groups, but that doesn't mean he doesn't get out of the office, meeting young unemployed and undereducated Chicagoans, for example. At times, Herbert writes with effective passion; his stance against the war in Iraq is enhanced by his reflection on "Know Your Enemy" posters he saw in his own service days. Too often, however, Herbert's voice is lost amidst his dutiful quoting of sources, attentuating his power. (May 4)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Even though the nation is more powerful and prosperous than ever, Herbert, a New York Times columnist, sees ominous signs of decay as we demonstrate national indifference to the erosion of basic rights. In this essay collection, Herbert explores troubling developments in the American vision, the justice system, economics, politics, and race relations. The book includes memories of Vietnam and its aftermath, a young Haitian refugee detained in Miami for two years, reporters covering a speech by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia having their tape recorders confiscated, and sweeping arrests of the black population of Tulia, Texas, on drug charges later proved to be false. Herbert laments that the nation, once engaged in the pursuit of lofty ideals, has lost its way as he explores a spirit of vengefulness and growing discontent with the war in Iraq. But he ends with a hopeful look at those things that continue to remain true to American ideals, including sports and the blues. These are heartfelt essays by a man disheartened by the direction of the nation. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; First Edition edition (May 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805078649
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805078640
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,599,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Bohdan Kot on July 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Bob Herbert, the op-ed columnist for The New York Times, collects some of his columns that range from 1995 to 2004 within "Promises Betrayed." The journalist gives a voice to the voiceless black citizens railroaded in Tulia, Texas, the wounded soldiers from the current war in Iraq, and the struggling working class. The writing is clear and often biting, especially when attacking the purveyors of injustice such as the racist cop in Tulia or some of President Bush's policies. For example, Herbert quotes George Akerlof, a 2001 Nobel laureate in economics, in order to shed light on the current U.S. economy. Akerlof says, "the Bush fiscal policy is the worst policy in the last 200 years."

An annoying fact among this collection is that Herbert repeats himself often within a batch of related columns. For example, the same facts and tidbits are presented over and over again in the "Disgrace in Tulia" columns, which appear in sequential order, as originally published in newspaper print. With that nuisance aside, "Promises Betrayed" is still a worthy piece of reportage that brings to light clear cases of injustice. However, Herbert takes his reportage a step further and believes the cases presented are a reflection of an America decaying from within due to its eroding morals. He says, "We've been attacked from without, but the greater danger to the essence of America is within. There's a fire in the basement of the United States and we're behaving as if we cannot even smell the smoke."

Bohdan Kot
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Adam M. Navrozally on September 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book explores situations not covered by the mainstream media. An earlier reviewer said that some of the situations he writes about are not typical. Nevertheless they still exist and if you're intrested in reading them, this is a good buy. Poverty, corrupted corporations, to attacks on the middle-class; this book is a great introduction to some problems American faces in these modern times.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jim Blier on July 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
On Bob Herbert's worst day, he thinks ten times more clearly (and of course, writes exponentially better) than the two illiterates who felt moved to offer their pig-ignorant commentaries. I doubt that either of them bought the book. For people who value the truth and who know Bob Herbert's work, he is always a pleasure to read.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on May 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Promises Betrayed: Waking Up From The American Dream by Bob Herbert (Op-Ed Columnist for the New York Times) is an in-depth analysis of the political struggle of citizens of minority groups and their confrontation with the power-based, vested interest realities of America which seek to maintain a discriminatory status quo. A study of the over-frequent application of the death penalty and the demagoguery of terrorism to control public opinion and electoral politics, Promises Betrayed acutely provides readers with a timeless and timely exposure of the truths in situations such as the fabrication of drug charges against several people on the racist behalf of a police officer in Tulia, Texas; an eleven-year-old girl's conviction of homicide despite any evidence supporting her confession as having been coerced, and so much more. Promises Betrayed is very strongly recommended for social activists, students of law and political science, as well non-specialist general readers seeking an understanding of the realities of the American political system and the endemic persecution of the innocent.
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