An accessible book that sounds the alarm on how modern technology can be used by the government against its citizenry.

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VERAX

THE TRUE HISTORY OF WHISTLEBLOWERS, DRONE WARFARE, AND MASS SURVEILLANCE

A graphic indictment of American surveillance and drone malfeasance.

International investigative reporter Chatterjee (Halliburton's Army: How a Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War, 2009, etc.) and political cartoonist Khalil (Mission Accomplished: Wicked Cartoons by America's Most Wanted Political Cartoonist, 2007, etc.) join forces for an account that eliminates nearly all ambiguity from the tale of how Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, and a small group of concerned journalists alerted the world to the massive scale of “tracking, hacking and mass surveillance” that American security forces had undertaken. Chatterjee was initially employed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, but as he was making headway into the National Security Agency’s security reach, he saw his job eliminated because it was costing too much for too little payoff. He stayed on the case, however, often digging into his own pocket to do so, and the main result of his work was to show how the government had mistargeted innocent victims for drone attack, how it deceived the public during the coverup, and how often those responsible for inflicting those attacks suffered from PTSD. The moral conclusions here are clear, but the narrative seeks equal clarity where conclusions have been mixed and murky. Take the case of Snowden, who was forced to flee to Russia after he made classified information public. “The U.S. Congress was sharply divided on Snowden,” writes the author. “Some called him a hero, others a traitor.” Chatterjee and Khalil leave no doubt that they side with the former, and they never really explain much of a case for the latter. In fact, the very title of the book is in tribute to the heroism of Snowden and others who have brought such information out of the darkness. In Latin, the text informs, Verax means “truth teller.” The narrative effectively blends first-person prose with journalistic reporting and presents a complex story with cohesion. However, some of the subtleties might require more than a comic book.

An accessible book that sounds the alarm on how modern technology can be used by the government against its citizenry.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62779-355-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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