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on April 20, 2014
You could bookend this with Christa Freeland's "Plutocrats." But where that recounts a lot of dry history and statistics interspersed with its revealing interviews, Taibbi isn't afraid to roll up his sleeves and go to the story. This is a book written with a wry sense of the absurd situations it details. Corruption at both the top and the bottom of our society. But to very, very different ends.

Remember: this is the guy that went to the Florida "rocket docket" court, recording how thousands of people were stripped of their homes under the flimsiest pretexts, often with outright fabricated evidence. In "Divide" he goes again where the stories are: to Bed-Sty, the outer NYC boroughs, and the courts. And documents how miserably the system treats the disadvantaged. What you think you know from "Law And Order", believe it: you don't. Kafka himself couldn't improve on some of this. At one point Taibbi refers to all this as a "descent into madness." And after reading it, it's hard to argue with that.

The "Divide" of course is cash. But this is no screed against "the rich." If that's what you think you've not read the book, or completely missed the point. To wit: if you commit a massive, white-collar crime, but you've got enough (i.e. near-infinite) cash, you're now too much trouble and risk to even indict, let alone prosecute. And if -- like me - you've wondered why none of the people who committed these global frauds on a massive scale have ever been prosecuted for any of it, this book gives you a detailed, compelling, and depressing answer.

Taibbi points out most of us will never see any of this. Out of sight, out of mind. The poor are segregated away. And the corrupt wealthy never have to interact with any of the people who are so profoundly impacted by their frauds. These are the guys who ripped off us off, burned down our 401Ks, rigged Libor rates to line their own pockets with our mortgages. And then moved on to other cushy positions, presumably doing much the same.

One review here (by someone who claims to have read all of 3 pages) complains about Taibbi's assertion of "a miserable few hundred bucks" collected by welfare cheats in San Diego. But let's be clear: Taibbi never suggests these people should be let off. But he does spend considerable ink contemplating for example, about the corrupt execs at institutions like HSBC. Execs who brazenly laundered money for the Iranians and the Sinaloa cartel. (They actually opened a special teller window to fit the boxes of cash that were brought in!) About how these guys got off scot-free with a fine paid by HSBC. And never even saw the inside of a courtroom. While people who buy those street dime bags that HSBC so thoughtfully enabled can spend years, or a lifetime, in prison. Lose their kids. Their right to vote. And then even if they do get out can't get a job. "A billion dollars or a billion days." Does that seem like "equal justice for all?" Not to me. Not to Taibbi. And it won't to you after you read this.

Taibbi suggests a larger, deeper, and more sinister subtext. About what we claim to profess as a nation: due process, equal justice, simple fairness. Money and power have always had their sway of course. But the inescapable takeaway from this is that we've simply given up on these ideals; they're now just too much trouble. As a nation we no longer give a damn. That's the real divide. And the real outrage.
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on April 14, 2014
In this book, Taibbi further explores themes he touched on in Griftopia, where he discussed in exceptionally fine detail the various cons, swindles, and other criminal activity (to call it what it is, really, since it seems like so many avoid doing that) perpetrated by the American finance sector during the 2008 financial crisis. Although it's not really necessary, I'd read that book before I read this one, because it provides a lot of background, and just because the contents of that book explain that debacle better than anyone else could, or even bothered to.

As opposed to recounting what happened like he did in Griftopia, The Divide explains how the crooks at places like Lehman Brothers got away with what they did, or rather, how they did so in full view of regulators and then dodged prosecution by the Department of Justice. He juxtaposes this with the "other" justice system the opposite end of the wealth spectrum is subject to. Perhaps this isn't a new concept that Taibbi or anyone else just figured out - fans of Chappelle's Show might remember the Law & Order parody where Dave switched the white collar criminal and the drug dealer? - but in any case Taibbi draws this contrast to stark effect. The wealthy are more or less immune to prosecution no matter how egregious their crimes are, especially in the context of their work, due to any combination of the details being too arcane or the government being unable/unwilling to effectively investigate or prosecute. As for the poor, well, poverty is effectively a crime in itself, some people have more rights than others, something that's invisible to many people stuck somewhere between not caring and feeling they deserve it - after all, there must be a good reason all those people are going to prison even though violent crime is actually going down, right? It's easier just to not think about.

Taibbi's greatest talent as a writer is his ability to convey extremely complicated topics into ordinary language just about anyone can understand, this is one of the main reasons I was a big fan of his over at Rolling Stone. I believe him to be the best reporter out there to cover the seas of mud in the finance sector, and make no mistake, Taibbi is definitely an old-school reporter at heart, digging up mundane data, going through dry, dusty documents nobody seems to care about for our benefit. This book doesn't have Taibbi's usual tone, which at times borders on irreverent/bombastic (I mean that affectionately), but understanding these problems are important if we're ever going to get anything done about it.
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on August 25, 2017
I don't know, maybe I just need more depth. The book seems to really want to make everything a parallel between the wealthy getting away with more than poorer people. I was looking for some solutions in having equal representation under the law, instead of just pointing out what happens because most people are not able to afford what any "fat cat" can. It would have been nice to have policy and judicial change suggestions as this becomes a futile effort ending in the same disgust and greed that the author points out adnauseum . Too big to fail and too wealthy to be prosecuted equally are the main points. However, the depth of journalistic research the author went through to detail cases in point deserves its own credit and is probably worth the book purchase in itself.
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on April 21, 2014
Taibbi’s last book, Griftopia, got to me. Not like it made me mad, but you could tell the seething rage that was behind his words and it was so heavy that it almost detracted from his argument (The argument that you and I all got sold out).

Here, he’s toned it down. In the Divide, Taibbi flips back and forth between the malefactors of great wealth that can wreck a planet and a financial system AND then he looks at the people who suffer great injustice at the hands of the law. It is a class thing, as well as a race thing, and a gender thing. The concept of the two Americas is alive and well, and Taibbi shows it well.

A couple of notes: if you have followed Taibbi’s reporting in the Rolling Stone, some of these stories will feel familiar, but he does a good job rolling what may be disparate reportage into a coherent argument. The second note I am not sure if it says more about me or Taibbi or the system he covers. The sections that relate the great crimes the wealthy perpetuate are engagingly told, but they don’t get my lather up. I did get that lather up when he accounted for individual’s struggles against a racist immigration and justice apparatus. I guess I can relate to those better, since I have been much closer to the bottom in society than I ever will be to the top. I heartily recommend everyone needs to read this book, but they should check with their doctor beforehand.
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on December 4, 2016
Everyone in the United States needs to read this book, and understand how Banks and financial institutions commit terrible crimes and are not punished and how the most vulnerable in our country are institutionally punished for being there. Clearly a disturbing situation that should not exist in the supposed " Land of the free, home of the brave". How shameful this situation is, we need to rise up and change this awful punishment of the poor and vulnerable. Really shocking. Nice writing, easy to read and understand. Thank the author for me.
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on May 8, 2016
Taibbi's The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of Inequality is a must read. Others have written well on this topic, for example Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow, but none have succeeded with the intensity, clarity and moral outrage of this gifted journalist. His explanations of complex financial and economic transactions are written so well that rather than leaving the reader flummoxed, one feels encapsulated in a John Grisham thriller. He tells stories that succeed because you experience them from the point-of-view of individuals caught in the net of the world of today's American poor and disenfranchised. This is juxtaposed with the audacity and impunity with which today's one-per centers plunder and exploit the vulnerable and emerge unscathed. Of all the books I read in 2015, this one has had the greatest influence on me.
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on September 21, 2014
This book has stayed with me...and stayed with me....I can rarely pick up the newspaper or see stories on the internet without thinking about this book. You will understand what happened in Ferguson after reading this book, and you will understand why we keep seeing Wall Street financial institutions' paying record-breaking fines without any of their officers' going to jail.

I deducted one star because he did not include interviews with Justice Department officials about his scathing indictment of their agency. Did he try? He never said they refused to speak on the record with him.

But it's hard to read this book without cringing at how far we have strayed from the concepts of SERVE AND PROTECT.

I'm writing this after a White House security breach 9/19/2014, when a lot of people are asking, how did that trespasser get so far? But I'm actually thankful they did not simply shoot him, which they could have done--and which happens constantly in our modern security state.
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on February 5, 2016
This is a book I think everybody should read. But realistically, the Donald Trumps of the world will have trouble understanding what all the fuss is about. Therefore, folks who love the Donald, and all his entitled behavior, will probably not benefit from reading this. Ironically, it is precisely that group that needs to learn from the lessons within the most. If you want to understand why demonizing the poor and immigrants is popular in this day and age, even while it is ripping the social fabric apart, you need to read this book. Eye opening, as told through the eyes of real people and their actual experiences, by a writer who is easy, engaging and compelling, never preachy.
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on February 8, 2015
Very important book by Mr. Taibbi. You know how there are some things in life that having the knowledge of is certain to be painful, but you nonetheless need to know? This is what this book was for me in my perception before I even began reading it, but the scope of information here goes far beyond even the things I was already (partly) aware of. Accordingly, this truly is one of those books that every American needs to read, needs to have knowledge of. It's truly a very important book that tells of a widening chasm in America. That chasm represents a lot of monumentally-sized turmoil and horrible injustices here in our country, the likes of which goes far beyond that of most developed countries. Most of these injustices are hidden from the public at large. It's so shameful and un-American-like (compared to the ideals our Founders and most of the citizens of the times espoused) that words are barely adequate to describe its breadth. Written by an honest journalist, "Divide" is a page turner that's filled with information on every page, in every paragraph. Thank goodness we have some journalists with his principles around still. They're VIPs in our country, more so that many of the very wealthy who're abusing the system (with the aid of governmental bodies that are, at best, shameful displays of lax enforcement due to many bad reasons, and at worst almost traitorous Americans who're letting their own country wallow in this perverse, unholy alliance of unsympathetic, uncaring states of mind). These people know who they are. Mr. Taibbi pulls no punches in this hard-hitting, and ultimately heartbreaking, text.
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on April 21, 2014
Mr. Taibbi has done it again. This book is not so much about Wealth Inequality as it is about Justice Inequality.

The anecdotal story about a broke citizen with a zero felony record who was sent to Rikers Prison for the possession of half of a marijuana cigarette (half a joint), while HSBC executives who were guilty of laundering billions of dollars of Cartel drug money through their banks, never even saw the inside of a courtroom, is a good example of what this book is about.

If you only buy one book this year, make sure it is this one, you will be glad you did!
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