Will please those who believe theocons to be the real dragon, rather than Dubya.



A former editor of the principal “theocon” journal First Things, now an apostate, warns that the religious zealotry of his one-time colleagues is a danger to American democracy.

The movement began shortly after the ’60s, says Linker, when some of the theocon (theologically conservative) architects—Michael Novak, George Weigel, Richard John Neuhaus—became disenchanted by the secularity of the causes they had initially supported (civil rights, Vietnam War opposition). These thinkers veered to the right, underpinning their political philosophy with conservative Roman Catholic theology. (Neuhaus, raised a Lutheran, was ordained a Catholic priest.) They crafted an alliance with Protestant conservatives and hoped that born-again Jimmy Carter would be their standard-bearer (he was not). They supported Ronald Reagan (though they were disappointed that he was divorced and rarely attended church), endured George H.W. Bush (who was uneasy around theocons), reviled Bill Clinton (and were stunned by his popularity throughout his impeachment trial), believed their prayers had been answered when George W. Bush was elected—twice. Although 9/11 changed the country’s focus from domestic to international issues, the theocons, Linker argues, twisted themselves into pretzels to support a first-strike war against a nation (Iraq) that had not attacked us. The author also takes us through the theocons’ involvement in (and reaction to) some current social issues and events—the Terry Schaivo case, stem-cell research, the Darwin debate, gay marriage and their central concern: abortion. Linker does not believe that the theocons are interested in a sort of Talibanized America (he makes this point a couple of times), but he does think they envision a sort of fantasy ’50s world in which men are in charge, women stay at home, gays go to therapy, everyone attends church on Sunday and Christian principles pervade the marketplace and the corridors of power. Linker’s text comprises much close reading of essays and books by the theocons—a strategy that may test some readers’ patience.

Will please those who believe theocons to be the real dragon, rather than Dubya.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-51647-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2006

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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


“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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