A capable, eye-opening account of laissez faire financial laws and practices that serve the interest of criminals alone.

AMERICAN KLEPTOCRACY

HOW THE U.S. CREATED THE WORLD'S GREATEST MONEY LAUNDERING SCHEME IN HISTORY

A revealing look at the web of financial chicanery that puts the U.S. at the head of places in which to hide ill-gotten gains.

Where to go when you’ve robbed your citizens blind or sold a boatload of Fentanyl? Not Turks and Caicos or Liberia or Bermuda: No, the thing to do is cultivate the right kinds of allies, financial and political, in the U.S., and voilà, money laundered and riches secured. Financial journalist Michel serves up his first exhibit: Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue, a son of the murderous Equatorial Guinean dictator, who spent mountains of his compatriots’ money on mansions and, in time, Michael Jackson collectibles even as those compatriots starved. His vast fortune was not technically illegal, owing to laws his father promulgated. As Michel chronicles, to protect it, Teodorin went to “a country that had perfected the biggest system of transforming dirty, suspect money into perfectly legitimate finances and assets, obscuring its illicit origins in the process.” That’d be the U.S., where Ukrainian crime lords, Colombian cartel leaders, and their ilk have found a welcome haven. Criminal cash was ever more welcome with the presidency of Donald Trump, whose “efforts to dismantle America’s anticorruption program took place almost as soon as he entered the White House.” The author shows how Trump figured out all kinds of ways to skim the flood of illegal cash that flowed into the country—e.g., selling one of his Trump Tower apartments to the daughter of another African dictator who, like most of Trump’s business associates, operated behind a shell corporation. Michel’s diligent dissection is maddening to read, all the more so when he recounts how nonprofits and universities flock to accept dirty money in exchange for bestowing legitimacy on donors. Happily, since Biden came into office, the tide has turned, but the kleptocracy of which Michel writes, which “can be understood…as capitalism as its worst,” will be difficult to uproot.

A capable, eye-opening account of laissez faire financial laws and practices that serve the interest of criminals alone.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-27452-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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Strictly for dittoheads.

RADIO'S GREATEST OF ALL TIME

An unabashed celebration of the late talking head.

Rush Limbaugh (1951-2021) insisted that he had a direct line to God, who blessed him with brilliance unseen since the time of the Messiah. In his tribute, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis calls him “the greatest broadcaster that [sic] ever lived.” That’s an accidental anointment, given checkered beginnings. Limbaugh himself records that, after earning a failing grade for not properly outlining a speech, he dropped out of college—doubtless the cause of his scorn for higher education. This book is a constant gush of cult-of-personality praise, with tributes from Ben Carson, Mike Pence, Donald Trump, and others. One radio caller called Limbaugh “practically perfect” and a latter-day George Washington by virtue of “the magnetism and the trust and the belief of all the people.” Limbaugh insists that conservatives are all about love, though he filled the airwaves with bitter, divisive invective about the evils of liberals, as with this tidbit: “to liberals, the Bill of Rights is horrible, the Bill of Rights grants citizens freedom….The Bill of Rights limits the federal government, and that’s negative to a socialist like Obama.” Moreover, “to Democrats, America’s heartland is ‘flyover’ country. They don’t know, or like, the Americans who live there, or their values.” Worse still for a money machine like Limbaugh, who flew over that heartland in a private jet while smoking fat cigars, liberals like Obama are “trying to socialize profit so that [they] can claim it”—anathema to wealthy Republicans, who prefer to socialize risk by way of bailouts while keeping the profits for themselves. Limbaugh fans will certainly eat this up, though a segment of the Republican caucus in Congress (Marjorie Taylor Greene et al.) might want to read past Limbaugh’s repeated insistence that “peace can’t be achieved by ‘developing an understanding’ with the Russian people.”

Strictly for dittoheads.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2022

ISBN: 9781668001844

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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