Learning From the L.A. Times Festival of Books

The most recent L.A. Times Festival of Books, April 9 and 10, on the campus of the University of Southern California, despite dampness, illuminated so many important issues of the day.

Baz Dreisinger (Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World) According to Dreisinger, the US prison population began to grow exponentially during the late 70s and the so-called War on Drugs. Recidivism rates of prisoners today are more about what she claims are overly stringent parole regulations being violated, rather than prisoners again committing the crime for which they were sentenced.

David J. Morris (The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) A former Marine, Morris condemned the Veterans Administration for waiting until 1980 to address PTSD as an actual, damaging condition for returning vets from Vietnam. Tragically, World War II vets in this country were expected to simply integrate back into society with no psychological problems. Morris, however, sees hope in the use of the beta blocker Propanalol to lessen the intensity of psychological damage after trauma is experienced.

Joe Domanick (Blue: The LAPD and the Battle to Reform American Policing) Domanick is an opponent to the LAPD's culture of paramilitary training, overly aggressive treatment of citizens and racial profiling, saying that the period of the 1950s up to 2002 was filled with incidents of police violence and corruption. It was William Bratton's shift in police policy that has changed our current climate of law enforcement in Southern California.

Sarah Chayes (Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security) Whether discussing Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, the Ukraine or even the United States, Chayes makes clear that it is the kleptocracy, the powerful and corrupt, who lead the world into chaos. She links the dangers of corruption as a topic originally discussed in the philosophy of John Locke and she explains how terrorist organizations like Boko Haram, al-Qaeda and ISIS flourish within chaotic, corrupt regions where there is no good option for the citizenry.

Reza Aslan (Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazereth) Aslan, a professor at UC Riverside, reminds us that the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and 74% percent of all law enforcement agencies believe right wing extremists in this country are a greater threat than Islamic terrorism. If we are more likely to die at the hands of a toddler with a gun than a jihadist, it raises the question of condemnation of American Muslims, says Azlan, By association, it also suggests a reconsideration of the vast amounts of money spent on Homeland Security versus other needs of the nation.