Vitriolic, bilious, venomous, and a lot of fun. Until, that is, you realize Vidal’s not kidding.


America’s favorite contrarian waxes wroth and righteous blustery in this gathering of new and recycled aperçus concerning elections past and present.

Since 1972, Vidal (Dreaming War, 2003, etc.) has been delivering alternative State of the Union addresses, a practice first begun on the old David Susskind Show and continued to the present. (Of Susskind, Vidal writes, “He was commercially successful; he was also, surprisingly, a man of strong political views which he knew how to present so tactfully that the networks were often unaware of just what he was getting away with on their—our—air.”) In those days, Vidal had Dick Nixon to pick on, and then Reagan and the Bushes and even Clinton, which allows him to make trendspotting pronouncements with his customary bite: “Republicans are often stupider and more doctrinaire than the Democrats, who are cuter, a bit more corrupt (sigh of relief), but willing to make small—very small—adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists [are concerned].” No one quite exercises Vidal so much as George W. Bush, who presides over an administration that he deems a “reckless junta,” “nakedly predatory,” and all around bad news. Vidal is deeply irritated at most of what Bush and company do, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has read him before. He casts a wider net with some of his most recent ex cathedras, though, as when he notes that the head of the Diebold Corp., which makes voting machines, wrote a fundraising letter for the GOP in 2003 promising that he was “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.” That is hardly the impartiality one would hope for from a man in his position, but no surprise to Mr. Vidal, who merrily intones, “Sooner or later, wherever mischief lurks”—and vote-rigging is a species of the higher mischief, as far as politics goes—“a member of the Bush family can be observed on the premises.”

Vitriolic, bilious, venomous, and a lot of fun. Until, that is, you realize Vidal’s not kidding.

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-56025-585-4

Page Count: 198

Publisher: Nation Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2004

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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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A forceful, necessarily provocative call to action for the preservation and protection of American Jewish freedom.


Known for her often contentious perspectives, New York Times opinion writer Weiss battles societal Jewish intolerance through lucid prose and a linear playbook of remedies.

While she was vividly aware of anti-Semitism throughout her life, the reality of the problem hit home when an active shooter stormed a Pittsburgh synagogue where her family regularly met for morning services and where she became a bat mitzvah years earlier. The massacre that ensued there further spurred her outrage and passionate activism. She writes that European Jews face a three-pronged threat in contemporary society, where physical, moral, and political fears of mounting violence are putting their general safety in jeopardy. She believes that Americans live in an era when “the lunatic fringe has gone mainstream” and Jews have been forced to become “a people apart.” With palpable frustration, she adroitly assesses the origins of anti-Semitism and how its prevalence is increasing through more discreet portals such as internet self-radicalization. Furthermore, the erosion of civility and tolerance and the demonization of minorities continue via the “casual racism” of political figures like Donald Trump. Following densely political discourses on Zionism and radical Islam, the author offers a list of bullet-point solutions focused on using behavioral and personal action items—individual accountability, active involvement, building community, loving neighbors, etc.—to help stem the tide of anti-Semitism. Weiss sounds a clarion call to Jewish readers who share her growing angst as well as non-Jewish Americans who wish to arm themselves with the knowledge and intellectual tools to combat marginalization and defuse and disavow trends of dehumanizing behavior. “Call it out,” she writes. “Especially when it’s hard.” At the core of the text is the author’s concern for the health and safety of American citizens, and she encourages anyone “who loves freedom and seeks to protect it” to join with her in vigorous activism.

A forceful, necessarily provocative call to action for the preservation and protection of American Jewish freedom.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-13605-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2019

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