A compendium of talking points for the midterm, tetchy without being shrill.

LOSING OUR DEMOCRACY

HOW BIG BUSINESS AND THE RADICAL RIGHT ARE DESTROYING OUR FREEDOM

“Hillary Clinton and Tom Paine vs. Ayn Rand and Robinson Crusoe.” So Democratic politico Green summarizes the current political scene in this brightly written polemic.

If you’ve been reading the headlines, have been keeping up with the work of Kevin Phillips, and are already disposed to think that the nation is a mess politically, then most of what Green has to say won’t come as news. Still, this is a handy one-volume summary to keep near the dining-room table for arguments with your neocon neighbor, the one who thinks the Bush administration really cares for the average American. Not so, says Green, adding, “George W. Bush has embraced democracy more as a prop than a policy.” His catalogue of Bush and company’s misdeeds adds up to an impressive indictment, but it is his diagnosis of the underlying causes for them that resonates. For one thing, he argues, Republican rightists have been more successful at “marketing their brand” than has the opposition, in some measure because of the illegal and/or unethical machinations of bigwigs like the now-deposed Tom DeLay; for another, you’ve got to be rich or a superb fundraiser to enter politics these days—he notes that it cost Ken Livingstone 80 cents per vote in the London mayoral race of 2001, whereas it cost Michael Bloomberg $100 for the same thing in New York that same year—which gives well-to-do corporations even more access and power in the political process. Add fundamentalist Christianity, laissez-faire policies, the administration’s fondness for outright lying and deception, a misguided war on terror and chaotic worldview, the Patriot Act, and the like, and even though the president “does not wake up daily and figure out how to sabotage democracy,” his actions trump whatever good intentions he might have, with the loss of democracy the result.

A compendium of talking points for the midterm, tetchy without being shrill.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-4022-0701-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2006

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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