A dispiriting though deeply meaningful tour of bad-news numbers that mark a frightful national decline.

ADRIFT

AMERICA IN 100 CHARTS

We have captains aplenty and loads of technology—and yet, writes entrepreneur and NYU marketing professor Galloway, the ship of state is lost at sea.

A little of the “adrift” metaphor goes a long way, but the author makes good points. For example, we all have powerful computers in our pockets, yet we fail to forge connections that advance the interests of the commonwealth. Moreover, although Galloway is intent on proving his thesis with meaningful numbers, we don’t seem to be capable of fixing major problems: the fact, for instance, that in 1966, “the U.S. committed 2.5% of its potential GDP to infrastructure development,” whereas today the number is 1.3%. Furthermore, “about 1 in every 5 U.S. roads is in poor condition. Forty-five percent of Americans do not have access to public transit. A water main break occurs every two minutes.” Meanwhile, the number of workers in the financial sector who populate the ranks of the ultrawealthy has doubled in the past four decades, and most of them know how to skirt tax laws. Corporate profits are more than double the percentage of employee compensation, while Jeff Bezos’ and Elon Musk’s space adventures occupy far more eyeballs on the TV news than the far more significant climate crisis. Everywhere the reader turns in Galloway’s book, there’s frightening news that promises to grow worse. In a supremely timely turn, for instance, he links mass murder—“a uniquely male crime” committed by “bored young men without any pathway to economic security”—to the general hopelessness of the era. Marriage rates are down, education for minority citizens lags far behind that for Whites, inequality grows, and wages continue to fall. All the points made by the author’s tables and graphs—“visuals that strike a chord and inspire action”—point to a maddeningly visible but unacted-on dissolution of the republic.

A dispiriting though deeply meaningful tour of bad-news numbers that mark a frightful national decline.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-54240-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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Strictly for dittoheads.

RADIO'S GREATEST OF ALL TIME

An unabashed celebration of the late talking head.

Rush Limbaugh (1951-2021) insisted that he had a direct line to God, who blessed him with brilliance unseen since the time of the Messiah. In his tribute, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis calls him “the greatest broadcaster that [sic] ever lived.” That’s an accidental anointment, given checkered beginnings. Limbaugh himself records that, after earning a failing grade for not properly outlining a speech, he dropped out of college—doubtless the cause of his scorn for higher education. This book is a constant gush of cult-of-personality praise, with tributes from Ben Carson, Mike Pence, Donald Trump, and others. One radio caller called Limbaugh “practically perfect” and a latter-day George Washington by virtue of “the magnetism and the trust and the belief of all the people.” Limbaugh insists that conservatives are all about love, though he filled the airwaves with bitter, divisive invective about the evils of liberals, as with this tidbit: “to liberals, the Bill of Rights is horrible, the Bill of Rights grants citizens freedom….The Bill of Rights limits the federal government, and that’s negative to a socialist like Obama.” Moreover, “to Democrats, America’s heartland is ‘flyover’ country. They don’t know, or like, the Americans who live there, or their values.” Worse still for a money machine like Limbaugh, who flew over that heartland in a private jet while smoking fat cigars, liberals like Obama are “trying to socialize profit so that [they] can claim it”—anathema to wealthy Republicans, who prefer to socialize risk by way of bailouts while keeping the profits for themselves. Limbaugh fans will certainly eat this up, though a segment of the Republican caucus in Congress (Marjorie Taylor Greene et al.) might want to read past Limbaugh’s repeated insistence that “peace can’t be achieved by ‘developing an understanding’ with the Russian people.”

Strictly for dittoheads.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2022

ISBN: 9781668001844

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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