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THE WIRES OF WAR

TECHNOLOGY AND THE GLOBAL STRUGGLE FOR POWER

Unnervingly convincing evidence that time is running out in the “gray war” with the enemies of freedom.

Disturbing news about the wireless world.

Helberg, senior adviser at the Stanford University Center on Geopolitics and Technology, spent four years at Google trying to eliminate disinformation from its search engine. In the process, he discovered that world autocracies, led by Russia and China, are conducting a cyberwar with democracies, and winning. In 2016, “on election night, the trolls in St. Petersburg popped champagne, toasted one another, and crowed, ‘We made America great.’ ” Helberg reminds readers that, 20 years ago, pundits proclaimed that the internet’s unstoppable freedom of expression would destroy autocracies. Few say that now. The internet has instead accelerated “truth decay,” where the click of a mouse supports any outlandish opinion. Those who suspect that illegal immigrants started this summer’s forest fires need only search for the terms “forest fires” and “immigrants” to discover that they have plenty of misinformed company. Though the U.S. has largely controlled the internet’s expansion, builds most of the storage and transmission infrastructure, and makes the rules, its leadership days are numbered. China’s Huawei, by far the world’s largest telecom company, dominates 5G, the revolutionary successor to today’s network that will vastly accelerate data and phone transmission. Furthermore, Chinese manufacturers make “a staggering 90 percent of the world’s mobile phones.” In his how-to-fix-it conclusion, the author emphasizes that America’s “digital defense of democracy” must become a national security priority. The U.S. must also establish a “Western 5G alternative,” massively increase technical aid to developing countries, and promote cyber sanctions to protect the free internet. Helberg is entirely correct in his assessment that this will require overhauling science and engineering education and expanding government-business cooperation, all of which will lead to a modern “Sputnik moment” similar to that following the 1957 Soviet satellite launch, which ended in triumph when the U.S. landed an astronaut on the moon.

Unnervingly convincing evidence that time is running out in the “gray war” with the enemies of freedom.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982144-43-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

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. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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