An expert’s comprehensive, sobering investigation.



Career energy-reporter Maize scours decades of American nuclear policy and finds enough harebrained schemes to fill up an entire field of defunct missile silos.

In 1945, the terrible power of the atom was unleashed, evidenced by the charred, twisted bodies that littered the ruins of Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even so, some of Uncle Sam’s finest scientific minds couldn’t help but wonder what other miracles the mighty atom might next achieve. Among the many ideas pursued by these scientists—and supported by their political patrons—were attempts to strap nuclear reactors onto the wings of airplanes, resurfacing the face of the Earth with atomic blasts and shooting astronauts into deep space via atomic-powered flatulence. In fact, according to the author, the boys from the lab grew so cocky after the success of the A-bomb that they seemed to have more in common with fictional boy-genius Tom Swift than any rational flesh-and-blood adult charged with making important policy decisions. Maize recounts the dizzying heights of this group’s collective hubris in dense but sobering detail. Not much of the United States’ more than 60 years of atomic history appears to escape his scrutiny or expertise, whether scientific or political. Sadly, this book may not find a large audience among general readers because much of the material is accessible to only the most informed energy specialists. However, the author’s catalogue of the wrongheaded notions involved in formulating U.S. energy policy to date is crucial knowledge for those tasked with forming American energy policy in the future. As the author poignantly demonstrates, U.S. scientists and policymakers still don’t know what to do with the mounds of nuclear waste piling up around the nation’s remaining nuclear power stations. Despite all this, he warns, the love affair with the atom persists.

An expert’s comprehensive, sobering investigation.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-1466420526

Page Count: 258

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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