In a book that is more nuanced and far more entertaining that the revelations of Edward Snowden, Budiansky does not ignore...

CODE WARRIORS

NSA'S CODEBREAKERS AND THE SECRET INTELLIGENCE WAR AGAINST THE SOVIET UNION

A skillful history of America’s World War II code-breaking and the rise of the National Security Agency.

Having written the definitive account of the great Allied triumph in the decrypting of Nazi codes in Battle of Wits (2000), military journalist Budiansky (Blackett's War: The Men Who Defeated the Nazi U-Boats and Brought Science to the Art of Warfare, 2013, etc.) continues the story here, with equal flare. He begins even before the war ended, in 1943, when American eavesdroppers decided to intercept Soviet communications. This was less dastardly than it sounds because all nations spy on allies, and, as we later learned, Soviet agents were busily at work at the highest levels of Western governments. In 1952, President Harry Truman united communication intelligence into the top-secret (at first) NSA, now our largest spy organization, whose budget remains secret and whose massive supercomputers, satellites, and worldwide listening stations suck up massive quantities of information. The traditional goal of American spying—preventing another Pearl Harbor—has never been accomplished. Surprises continue to occur, including the Vietnam Tet Offensive, the Yom Kippur War, the fall of the Soviet Union, and 9/11. On the plus side, we achieved a detailed picture of the Soviet Union’s internal affairs, which revealed that its leaders had their hands full and gave low priority to world conquest. On the minus side, the NSA’s unlimited budget and lack of oversight have produced a swollen, woefully inefficient organization. Its eagerness to smite our enemies at any cost has “left in [its] wake an often sordid trail of transgressions against law, morality, decency, and basic American values.”

In a book that is more nuanced and far more entertaining that the revelations of Edward Snowden, Budiansky does not ignore the NSA’s accomplishments but reveals plenty of unsettling behavior that has so far persuaded Congress and the president, always anxious to demonstrate their patriotism, to enact mild reforms.

Pub Date: June 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-35266-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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