A revealing, on-the-ground report that ably shows that the real looters after disaster are not the poor.

THE BATTLE FOR PARADISE

PUERTO RICO TAKES ON THE DISASTER CAPITALISTS

Activist and journalist Klein (No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need, 2017, etc.) looks at the “shock doctrine” as it is now unfolding in the ruins of Puerto Rico.

There’s a method to the apparent madness that, more than half a year after the devastation of hurricanes Irma and Maria, keeps much of Puerto Rico without electricity and drinking water. By the author’s account in this brief cri de coeur, it affords an opportunity for a clearance sale and land boom, which explains why the “disaster capitalists who have descended on Puerto Rico are reinforcing the most traumatizing part of the disaster they are there to exploit: the sense of helplessness.” Helplessness is the keyword for cities and their chokepoints, dependent on sea traffic from Florida to bring in supplies, unable to rely on agribusiness for fresh produce, and unable to air condition or light buildings. What to do? Sell out cheap and move to America, turning Puerto Rico into a place for natives to visit even as the speculators are moving to turn San Juan into the next Miami, helped along by a governor who seems committed to the project of luring American corporations to the island with a 4 percent corporate tax rate, “a fraction of what corporations pay even after Donald Trump’s recent tax cut.” It all seems to be working, except that, as Klein notes, plenty of Puerto Ricans are demonstrating that there can be another course, one in which the island is remade with small farms and gardens, renewable power, decentralized government, and other instruments of economic, small-is-beautiful revolution. As the author tours the island, she contrasts the desolation of the cities with the relative prosperity of communities that have adopted these soft-path, anti-colonialist strategies. Which will prevail? “Both are gaining power fast,” writes Klein in conclusion, “and in the high-stakes months and years to come, collision is inevitable.”

A revealing, on-the-ground report that ably shows that the real looters after disaster are not the poor.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60846-357-2

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Haymarket Books

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2018

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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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