A view of corporate America from afar that will likely offend some readers but ring with truth for others.

MIDNIGHT IN THE AMERICAN EMPIRE

HOW CORPORATIONS AND THEIR POLITICAL SERVANTS ARE DESTROYING THE AMERICAN DREAM

A Moscow-based, American political commentator for the TV news channel Russia Today looks with alarm and dismay at what he sees as the corporate domination of his native land.

In this passionate debut laced with sardonic humor, Pittsburgh native Bridge writes that American citizens, formerly rugged individualists, have been reduced to mere consumers under the heel of profit-driven, power-hungry transnational corporate elites. These corporations, he asserts, have vastly enriched themselves by waging war on ordinary workers, while virtually turning the U.S. government into a wholly owned subsidiary. “Today in America,” he writes, “a handful of powerful corporate forces are exerting pressure on the political system to such a degree that to speak of democracy is to sound like a fool and a simpleton.” U.S. Supreme Court decisions granting personhood to corporations, he writes, have perverted the intentions of the founders by giving corporate entities rights meant for living, breathing human beings. In this well-argued, liberally footnoted book, he finds that even the press is too deeply infected by corporate ownership to sound a clarion call over all that has gone wrong, since to do so, he writes, would be to bite the hand of the master. Instead, he notes, corporate-owned mass media deliver increasingly coarse entertainment, while military adventures flicker in the background. The book reads like the heartfelt cry of an expatriate, although his style is sometimes a bit over-the-top. Bridge obviously depicts contemporary America as an oppressive place, but he makes his case too strongly for readers to completely discount it—even if he isn’t the first to present such a picture. However, since Bridge has been living in Moscow, readers might be interested in his take on post-Soviet Russian society, but about this subject, he’s largely silent.

A view of corporate America from afar that will likely offend some readers but ring with truth for others.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1480209466

Page Count: 230

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2013

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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.

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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