Ridiculous red-baiting, intellectually on the Coulter—not the Buckley—plane.

THE ENEMY AT HOME

THE CULTURAL LEFT AND ITS RESPONSIBILITY FOR 9/11

“In order to crush the Islamic radicals abroad, we must defeat the enemy at home.”

Wasn’t it Jerry Falwell who proclaimed that the gays and lefties were responsible for the terrorist events of 9/11, God having vented righteous wrath against the decadent? Rightist ideologue-for-hire D’Souza (Letters to a Young Conservative, 2002, etc.), a denizen of the ivory-tower Hoover Institution, picks up where Falwell left off, and though he takes pains to distance himself from the Falwellian message, as did so many other Republicans in public, he unswervingly voices the master’s themes. The “cultural left” is responsible for fostering decadence—after all, doesn’t it protect pornography under the disguise of free speech and get all worked up about naked abuses of imperial power? Decadent liberal culture “angers and repulses traditional societies” such as might be found in Saudi Arabia and Dallas. By questioning the Bush administration, which has America’s best interests at heart, the lefties are egging on bin Laden and company, which amounts to treason. D’Souza helpfully provides an enemies list, numbering such figures as Nancy Pelosi and Bill Moyers and of course Michael Moore, who are of course more dangerous than anything al-Qaeda might field. But to get to that list, the careful reader will have waded through a curious defense of Wahhabism (it’s just Islamic conservatism), witnessed D’Souza’s brave scolding of the Bush administration (it’s bad to try to democratize the Middle East, since the unwashed might well vote for Osama and Saddam), seen that Planned Parenthood is the source of much evil in the modern world inasmuch as it scorns “efforts to teach sexual modesty and ‘abstinence’ to young people” and understood that the Islamists are just upset by America’s “missionary paganism” as part of the liberals’ plot to undermine God. “We know who the domestic insurgents are,” D’Souza warns, trying to sound ominous, “and we know who is sheltering and supporting them.” Yes, indeed. Hillary, meet Hussein, whose collective fault it all is. As for the rest of the liberals, well, chadors and hellfire await.

Ridiculous red-baiting, intellectually on the Coulter—not the Buckley—plane.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2007

ISBN: 0-385-51012-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2006

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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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