THE PARTY IS OVER

HOW REPUBLICANS WENT CRAZY, DEMOCRATS BECAME USELESS, AND THE MIDDLE CLASS GOT SHAFTED

A well-argued call for more sanity in American politics.

Lofgren draws on 28 years as a professional staff member in Congress to expose deep, disturbing trends in Washington.

“Creative and constructive work is always harder than demagoguery or fear-mongering,” writes the author. “We have had too little of the former and too much of the latter during recent decades.” Lofgren tears into Congress’ “high measure of low cunning,” especially among Republicans, whose use of “political terrorism” illustrates the party’s principal objectives: delay and gridlock, obstruction and disruption. They consistently play to their base but with no positive workable agenda, and the cries for a reduction of the debt are often followed by the desperate need to increase defense spending. Lofgren astutely points out that defense spending is the personification of inefficient spending, and it creates no jobs. As "chicken hawks" play to the crowd and their fears of illegal aliens, drug wars and terrorists, talk-show personalities stir up the more radical elements until rational thought can no longer be found. The author distinctly lays the blame for the current situation at the feet of the Bush/Cheney administration, which nearly perfected the propaganda with the War on Terror, the Patriot Act and Homeland Security. Lofgren certainly doesn’t excuse Democrats, who often fail to offer a good alternative; plus, they lack the fanatics that drive the far right. President Obama must also assume responsibility for continuing some of the more heinous practices of the Bush administration, though the author neglects to mention the fact that the obstructionist Congress has thwarted him at every turn.

A well-argued call for more sanity in American politics.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02626-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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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. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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