Book of the Month
Gangs of the El Paso- Juárez Borderland
Gangs of the El Paso - Juárez Borderland written by Mike Tapia examines gang history in the West Texas, Southern New Mexico, and Northern Chihuahua, Mexico regions. The author provides emphasis on what is known as the El Paso-Juárez borderland region encompassing the badlands--the historically notorious eastern Valle de Juárez--to the Puerto Palomas port of entry at Columbus, New Mexico. The book also examines this region by exploring a century of historical developments through a criminological lens. It provides history and geography on criminal subculture formation in the El Paso/Juarez area, and the apparent lack of drug-war spillover in communities on the US-Mexico border.
Senior Lecturer Juan (Frank) Campos
I recommend this book because it provides a unique view on the El Paso-Juárez and surrounding regions gang problem, history and subculture created on the US-Mexico border. Readers are captured by the historical detail and developments which helped shape the gang problem shared by bordering cities and surrounding areas. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning about border security issues in relation to gang formation, culture, and crime on the El Paso-Juárez borderland. We discuss many of these concepts in CRIJ 3351 Criminal Justice on U.S –Mexico Border and CRIJ 4319 Street Gangs Structure, Activity and Response courses.
Murder at the Sleepy Lagoon
Murder at the Sleepy Lagoon by Eduardo Obregón Pagán recounts the murder of José Gallardo Díaz on August 3rd 1942, who was killed after he was confronted by a group of friends from the 38th street neighborhood. This “38th Street gang” came to a party attended by José to seek revenge for an earlier beating of some of their friends. Although the cause of José’s death remains a mystery, the Los Angeles Police Department arrested 17 Mexican-American youths and despite insufficient evidence, the young men were held in prison, without bail, on charges of murder. The trial ended on January 13, 1943 and 12 of the defendants were convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to serve time in San Quentin Prison. However, in 1944, the convictions were reversed on appeal.
Why you liked it and why you are recommending it?
This is a great example of a real life case of a criminal trial that demonstrates the lack of fundamental requirements of due process. For example, during the trial, the defendants were not allowed to sit near, or to communicate with, their attorneys. Furthermore, none of those charged were permitted to change their clothes during the trial. This is because the district attorney wanted the jury to see the defendants in the zoot suits that were "obviously” worn only by "hoodlums." I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in Chicano history, learning more about the “Zoot Suit Riots” or the context of Luis Valdez’s play Zoot Suit.
Dr. Paul Ashby
‘This book has been on my reading list for a long time, and I started it over the Winter Break, so I’ll be reading alongside everyone. The core argument is that the U.S. has turned warfare into a deceptively humane exercise. Moyn reaches back into history to trace efforts to curb the brutalities of warfare (through things like the Geneva Conventions). He then outlines how things like drone technology in the U.S.' 'forever wars' have made war more humane - and more routine. Meanwhile, deeper pacifist efforts to remove warfare from human and interstate relations altogether, a movement strongly associated with U.S. liberalism, have been lost. Alongside the provocative argument, there's a lot of relevance here for some key debates in contemporary security studies and US strategy around 'remote' or 'vicarious' warfare, security cooperation, and how the U.S. meets stated global national security goals with less 'boots on the ground'.
Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions
By Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths
This book applies computer science and decision science concepts, such as optimal stopping rules, Bayes’ rule, and game theory, to everyday human decision-making. The authors discuss each topic in terms that can be easily understood by a mainstream audience (even those unfamiliar with anything remotely related to algorithms!) and include interesting stories about how these concepts were developed. Each chapter ends with a takeaway about how the concept can help people to make decisions about non-computer science-related aspects of their lives, such as how to know when to stop searching for the best car to purchase or whether it is best to be honest about your intentions in a competitive environment, or how to avoid playing “lousy games”.
Dr. Misty Duke
I chose this book because it addresses many of the concepts that we discuss in INSS/CRIJ 5328, Decision-making in Intelligence and Criminal Justice. I also like how the accessibility of the content allows readers who may otherwise be intimidated by computer science to develop a basic understanding of some of its central tenets. The book makes a compelling case for much of decision science’s reliance on algorithms for optimal decision-making, but also drives home the point that using them doesn’t have to be complicated. This is a great read for anyone seeking to make better, more efficient, decisions at home or at work.
Always Running: La Vida Loca: Ganga Days in LA by Luis Rodriguez
Dr. Theodore Curry
“Always Running: La Vida Loca: Ganga Days in LA” by Luis Rodriguez is one of the best gang member autobiographies ever written. Whenever I teach about gangs, I always assign this book. The author describes his experiences living in one of the most impoverished areas in East LA, how he got involved in drugs and violence and, later, membership in a notorious gang. But this book is also about hope and redemption as the author details how he got out of the gang later in life and worked to help other former gang members adjust to society.”
Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, From the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001
(New York: Penguin Books, 2004). 712 pages.
When the Soviet Politburo ordered its troops into neighboring Afghanistan in 1979 to prop up a client regime, they expected a swift victory with little reaction from the west. Instead, President Carter ordered the CIA to launch covert operations to support the Afghan resistance. Steve Coll’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Ghost Wars tells how these two decisions ultimately led to the September 11, 2001, attacks on America. Coll details how the Afghan fight inspired Islamic radicals to gather in Pakistan and organize to carry their jihad to the West. He shows, too, how Pakistan’s attempts to ensure a friendly regime in Afghanistan propelled the Taliban to power. Al-Qa’ida leader Osama Bin Laden, in turn, exploited his ties with the Taliban to turn Afghanistan into a base for his terrorist campaign against the United States. Finally, Coll details the frantic efforts within the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center to track down al-Qa’ida terrorists and prevent the attack that analysts knew was coming.
I recommend Ghost Wars as the most complete and accurate account of the roots of the September 11 attacks available today. Quite simply, Coll knows his stuff. He was the Washington Post South Asia bureau chief during my diplomatic assignment to Pakistan in the early 1990s. I remember his skill at the time, building ties to U.S. and Pakistani diplomats and intelligence officers. I worked with his sources in the Counterterrorist Center to find al-Qa’ida terrorists and bring them to justice. To this day, no U.S. journalist has demonstrated Coll’s access or understanding of the realities of counterterrorism work in the 1990s. I recommend Ghost Wars to my students for the grounding it offers in the rise of Islamic terror and for the portrait it offers of intelligence officers’ lives. Most of all, I recommend Ghost Wars as an enthralling read and non-fiction writing at its best.