A vacation for some, a nightmare for others. Either way, well worth reading.

A NUCLEAR FAMILY VACATION

TRAVELS IN THE WORLD OF ATOMIC WEAPONRY

An unlikely itinerary for WarGames addicts, with bonuses for geopolitics buffs as well.

Wired contributor Weinberger (Imaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagon’s Scientific Underworld, 2006) and Jane’s Defence Weekly contributor Hodge haven’t exactly hit on a new idea with this tour of nuclear facilities of the Cold War and the present; fellow journalists Tad Bartimus and Scott McCartney scooped them in 1991 with Trinity’s Children: Living Along America’s Nuclear Highway. The older book remains readable and oddly entertaining, as is the newcomer, which has many virtues of its own. Not least, and perhaps most newsworthy, is the authors’ “nuclear junketeering” trip to Iran, a nation whose nuclear history, they smartly observe, “was not always that of a pariah state.” Indeed, back when the shah was in power—all the way back to Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace initiative—America was glad to see Iran develop nuclear facilities, even supplying a research reactor that went online in 1967. By 1976, the authors add, Iran was projected to have 20 nuclear plants, a development stymied by unrest and revolution that, perhaps ironically, delayed the country’s nuclear growth for decades. That was then; now Condoleezza Rice huffs that “Iran needs no civil nuclear power.” These are weird times indeed, and this travelogue takes readers into some of the weirder corners, including Wyoming missile silos and the nation’s premier nuclear museum, in which one exhibit boasts two seemingly contradictory messages: one that nukes aren’t scary, “while also demonstrating that nuclear weapons weren’t terrifying enough to make anyone think twice about using them.” Weirdest, perhaps, is the authors’ venture to Siberia, where plenty of old-school hard-liners are still eager to lob a few ICBMs our way. The authors write with intelligence and good humor, though they end on a disquieting note: The last president to spend much time thinking about nuclear weapons was Reagan. Meanwhile, we’re sitting atop “a nuclear arsenal that serves many purposes, but no particular end.”

A vacation for some, a nightmare for others. Either way, well worth reading.

Pub Date: June 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59691-378-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2008

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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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