An indictment of American science so critical that it seems beyond hope.

THE TRAGEDY OF AMERICAN SCIENCE

FROM TRUMAN TO TRUMP

An angry polemic about how American science has deteriorated catastrophically.

Science historian Conner dates the onset from the 1942-1945 Manhattan project, the first “big science” project in which the government spent massively on developing the atom bomb; after this, science became big business. In a series of grim chapters, the author describes the “corporatization” and militarization of American science. Nutrition science is especially debased. Incompetent research, industry-sponsored hype, bribery, and obliging regulators produce wildly contradictory dietary guidelines. Unsurprisingly, “Coca-Cola Company has been particularly culpable in its efforts to misdirect nutrition science regarding sugar.” With the help of well-paid scientists, tobacco companies held off government action for decades, and fossil fuel industries have successfully adopted their techniques to quash efforts to reduce global warming. Denouncing the “green revolution” in agriculture, Conner points out that it has vastly increased food production but that politics and war—not lack of food—cause famines today. He adds that its costly fertilizer and seed enrich large farmers and impoverish poor ones and that the additional chemicals pollute waterways. Military research is an easy mark because so much is genuinely horrible. It’s old news that during World War II, Nazi and Japanese researchers performed sadistic experiments on prisoners. American leaders welcomed them in the hopes of acquiring their expertise. When it comes to weapons that kill innocents, military researchers display an unnerving lack of sympathy, and civilian superiors, Democrat as well as Republican, tend to go along. The author urges vigorous government regulation independent of corporate influence—a no-brainer but spotty in previous administrations, to say nothing of the current one—and 100% government funding and control of research. Though this was a disaster in the Soviet Union and Mao’s China, Conner gives high marks to Cuba. Many democracies exert far stricter government control, which smacks of socialism, a poisonous word to American ears.

An indictment of American science so critical that it seems beyond hope.

Pub Date: June 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64259-127-9

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Haymarket

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

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ON JUNETEENTH

The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation.

Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where “the image of Texas has a gender and a race: “Texas is a White man.” The author astutely explores “what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man.” With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history—as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that “has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries.” All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight.

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-883-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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