Powerfully crafted accusations sounding the alarm on an insidious trend in political manipulation.

LIES, INCORPORATED

THE WORLD OF POST-TRUTH POLITICS

A damning jeremiad on how modern public policy can be exploited by corporate chicanery.

Journalist and national radio host Rabin-Havt (co-author: The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine, 2012, etc.), in conjunction with news watchdog Media Matters for America, digs deep to reveal a consortium of manipulators bent on undermining beneficial organizations and causes with manufactured misinformation. From the initial pages, the author blatantly skewers controversial public relations guru Richard Berman as a smear campaign propagandist. Rabin-Havt proceeds to systematically compile an incriminating dossier of lobbyists, propaganda spinners, unethical authorities, and “unscrupulous think tanks,” collaboratively known as “Lies, Incorporated.” These groups channel misinformation and generate public confusion around the most controversial hot-button issues surfacing during the Barack Obama administration. In a narrative that is far from sour-grapes disparagement, the author provides meticulous research and evidentiary support backing claims of these groups’ corruption dating back to their inception in the early 1950s when a shady syndicate of tobacco industry titans disseminated falsified information about the risks of cigarette smoking. For every crucial issue that surfaces, a corporation’s interests appear directly threatened by its exposure, the author implies, and desperate measures are taken by appointed spin doctors to skew semantics and twist reality for the sake of profit. With succinct clarity, Rabin-Havt demonstrates that statistics on climate change and global warming are continually challenged by the oil industry, just as efforts to promote comprehensive immigration reform, affordable health care, gun control laws, abortion rights, and gay marriage have all been continually contradicted by opposing factions propagating critically damaging misinformation. But the problem seems to have spiraled out of control. This is most obvious in the book’s closing chapter of remedies to “weaponize truth” by “demanding transparency from elected leaders as well as the media.” While galvanizing and optimistic, these solutions require major cultural shifts and, alas, appear to be as complex as the problem itself.

Powerfully crafted accusations sounding the alarm on an insidious trend in political manipulation.

Pub Date: April 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-307-27959-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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