THE WITHDRAWAL

IRAQ, LIBYA, AFGHANISTAN, AND THE FRAGILITY OF U.S. POWER

A collection of insightful geopolitical analyses that offers little new for Chomsky devotees.

Two prominent intellectuals rehash familiar discussions about the myriad failures of American foreign policy.

In the foreword to this back-and-forth between Chomsky and Prashad, Angela Y. Davis calls Chomsky “the conscience of a country,” an unbending critic of the flawed concept of American exceptionalism. In addition to examining America’s disastrous, 20-year war in Afghanistan and the recent hasty withdrawal, the authors journey back to the Vietnam era, showing how the U.S. “has failed to accomplish any of the objectives of its wars.” American bombing, they clearly demonstrate, has created only needless suffering, and they are perplexed that government officials wonder why there is often hatred and violence directed toward the U.S. Due to its relentless military bullying, the authors characterize America as a kind of godfather. “There is a mafia quality to the way the United States has exercised its power,” they write in the introduction, “something that goes back to the days of the genocide against the indigenous peoples of North America….The idea that the United States…had a right to define the destiny of the Americas and to export this attitude to other lands, especially in parts of Africa and Asia, derives from its settler-colonial history.” Using a mixture of dialogue and insertions of Chomsky’s previous public pronouncements, the collaborators circle back continuously to the myth of American exceptionalism and how American attempts to govern with intimidation and military aggression have failed many times over. In a concluding section that feels tacked-on, the authors turn to the war in Ukraine, which they agree is a disaster for the planet: “The most significant effect of this war, barely discussed, is that it sets back—maybe permanently—the meager hopes for escaping the total catastrophe of climate destruction, the end of organized human life (and innumerable other species we are wantonly destroying).”

A collection of insightful geopolitical analyses that offers little new for Chomsky devotees.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-62097-760-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

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POVERTY, BY AMERICA

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

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A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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