A thoughtful beginning, though only a sketch. The banality of evil is on full display, so conspiracy-minded readers may find...




An attempt at comparative whistleblower-ology, limning similarities in the short but memorable career of Karen Silkwood and the ongoing, unfolding story of Edward Snowden.

Silkwood biographer Rashke (Useful Enemies: John Demjanjuk and America’s Open-Door Policy for Nazi War Criminals, 2013, etc.) opens on a promising note, briefly reviewing the contributions of anti-corruption fighter Frank Serpico, big tobacco bête noire Jeffrey Wigand, and Pentagon leaker Daniel Ellsberg before proceeding to ignore them. Five cases do not a comprehensive sample make, still less two, and there are as many differences as similarities in the Silkwood and Snowden trajectories—foremost among them the fact that Snowden is still alive, though “he risks going to prison for a very long time, if he isn’t assassinated.” Moreover, the assassins, Rashke suggests, will be government agents, directly employed, as opposed to the private goons—perhaps—who did in Silkwood nearly 40 years ago. Still, there are some interesting overlaps, including the motivations each whistleblower may have had, boiling down to the personal and understandable ones of disillusionment and anger at official malfeasance. Interestingly, Rashke notes, fully half of potential whistleblowers never step forward, perhaps because, as Silkwood and Snowden discovered, they would be vilified for doing so. Though brief, this book sometimes seems labored, and readers will be forgiven for suspecting that it is simply an occasion for the author to rehearse his previous work on Silkwood, who undeniably merits a refresher in our collective memory. Rashke does well to remind readers that she did accomplish something in her death, namely, a bit of relief for would-be future whistleblowers under the terms of a federal energy law of 1974. That doesn’t quite cover Snowden, though, the significance of whose story may, like Silkwood’s, take 40 years to appreciate.

A thoughtful beginning, though only a sketch. The banality of evil is on full display, so conspiracy-minded readers may find it of interest.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-883285-68-5

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Delphinium

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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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. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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