Levine’s arguments aren’t entirely persuasive, but readers will be forgiven for hereafter not wanting to entrust too much...

SURVEILLANCE VALLEY

THE SECRET MILITARY HISTORY OF THE INTERNET

A sometimes-overwrought but provocative history of the internet-equipped security state, implicating key players in the digital economy in the game of espionage.

Even paranoiacs have enemies, as some wag once observed. Levine (The Corruption of Malcolm Gladwell, 2012, etc.), a tech-savvy investigative journalist who was born in Russia, documents an army of them in his wide-ranging look at the way governments and companies alike spy on ordinary citizens. That the internet grew from the defense industry and its dream of all-knowing supercomputers is old news; Levine looks at the malevolence behind it, writing about “America’s belligerent nuclear policy.” (It surely would have been belligerent had Curtis LeMay been successful in his drive to drop an atomic bomb on Hanoi, but he wasn’t; the point is eminently debatable.) From defense-related research came the spread of cybernetics and cybernetic metaphors in all sorts of sciences, from economics to biology, and the idea that information could be linked to power to “create a controlled utopian society, where computers and people were integrated into a cohesive whole.” That age may well have come, though whether it has reached the stage of “big data totalitarianism,” as Levine puts it, is again debatable. Where the book reaches its pinnacle of interest is also where it threatens to become unhinged. Here, the snake begins eating its own tail and encryption technologies such as Tor and Signal are linked not just to WikiLeaks, but also the National Security Agency as honeypots that “provide a false solution to the privacy problem, focusing people’s attention on government surveillance and distracting them from the private spying carried out by the Internet companies they use every day.”

Levine’s arguments aren’t entirely persuasive, but readers will be forgiven for hereafter not wanting to entrust too much information to the likes of Google, Facebook, and Amazon, to say nothing of the feds.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61039-802-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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