A sterling example of why investigative journalists are valuable during an era of deep, broad and unconscionable government...

SPIES FOR HIRE

THE SECRET WORLD OF INTELLIGENCE OUTSOURCING

Private corporations employing former high-ranking federal government and military officials are making huge profits from secret contracts with the CIA, NSA and various baronies in the Defense Department, avers freelance journalist Shorrock.

In his first book, the author penetrates the covert worlds of corporations with names like CACI International Inc., Mantech International and Booz Allen Hamilton, as well as government agencies spending tens of billions of taxpayer dollars with no accountability. Dozens of previous titles have examined U.S. failures of information collection and analysis, especially leading up to and after 9/11. Shorrock excavates new dirt by focusing on the business of intelligence: the bottom line in dollars at the private corporations that win government contracts, often without competitive bidding or even public disclosure. The author does a remarkable job of learning as much as he can: gaining entry into conventions of defense contractors usually closed to journalists; sitting through the hearings of congressional committees whose members are regularly stonewalled by the government agencies they are supposed to oversee; reading through partially declassified documents. Peppered with acronyms, descriptions of highly technical hardware and hundreds of unfamiliar names both corporate and human, the book can be difficult to read, but Shorrock’s prose is lucid, his passionate brief for open government inspiring. Occasionally, he describes fiascoes already known to the public, such as the nasty interrogation techniques at Abu Ghraib, that illuminate the shadowy role of private corporations performing highly profitable contracted duties once handled by government employees. Shorrock forcefully makes the case that only members of Congress, ostensibly accountable to the citizens who elected them, can halt the inefficiencies and occasional outright financial corruption emanating from the private contractor/intelligence agency nexus.

A sterling example of why investigative journalists are valuable during an era of deep, broad and unconscionable government secrecy.

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7432-8224-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2008

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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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