Shallow and speculative at best, paranoid at worst.

OBAMA'S AMERICA

UNMAKING THE AMERICAN DREAM

Conservative writer D’Souza (Godforsaken, 2012, etc.) further explores why he considers President Barack Obama “[t]he most dangerous man in America.”

The president of King’s College in New York City and a former policy advisor to President Reagan, D’Souza co-wrote and -directed the financially successful 2012 documentary 2016: Obama’s America, which painted Obama as being driven by an anti-American and anti-colonialist ideology. In this book, which expands on the author’s The Roots of Obama’s Rage (2010), D’Souza continues this line of attack, claiming that this ideology has made Obama “the architect of American decline” who “wants America to be downsized.” The younger Obama, asserts the author, absorbed this virulent anti-colonialist worldview from his (largely absent) Kenyan father, as well as his Indonesian stepfather, both of whom D’Souza describes as “Third World, anti-American guy[s].” (He also portrays Obama’s American mother as prone to “sexual adventuring.”) The author plays up the influence of such familiar Chicago figures as the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and former Weatherman Bill Ayers, whom D’Souza terms “Obama’s terrorist pal.” All of these influences, writes the author, have shaped Obama’s policies profoundly, particularly in energy and foreign affairs. Unfortunately, the author does not provide any solid evidence for his arguments, instead trafficking largely in guilt-by-association and apocalyptic predictions of “America’s decline and fall.” D’Souza has been criticized by liberals and mainstream conservatives for his strident theories; it seems highly unlikely that any minds will be changed by his latest book or by such statements as, “If Obama were white, he would have virtually no chance of being re-elected.”

Shallow and speculative at best, paranoid at worst.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59698-778-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Regnery

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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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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