A damning, highly readable account of a once-great company brought to its knees by bad leadership.

FLYING BLIND

THE 737 MAX TRAGEDY AND THE FALL OF BOEING

Corporate malfeasance brings mayhem to the friendly skies in Bloombergcorrespondent Robison’s revealing exposé.

“Commercial aircraft are considered the world’s premier expression of manufacturing excellence,” writes the author, each plane involving the work of thousands of people. They are also made by massive and now near-monopolistic corporations whose fundamental duty, the ethos has it, is to maximize return to shareholders. There’s built-in conflict in a culture of builders committed to safety as against a culture of bean counters committed to shaving every conceivable cost and getting rid of anyone who questions them. So it was with the Boeing 737 MAX, a passenger plane built on the framework of the lithe 737. The newly released aircraft immediately caused the deaths of 346 people, and the investigation of the two crashes involved revealed both that “software had overridden humans” and that the Federal Aviation Administration had essentially turned over its watchdog functions to Boeing itself. Meanwhile, owing to a merger with former rival McDonnell Douglas and its much different corporate culture, Boeing’s executive ranks were filled with “skilled infighters” who displaced former executives less skilled in “the dark arts of corporate one-upmanship.” The new company was headed by a CEO who’d come from General Electric and “frequently lectured people about how Boeing needed to be a ‘team,’ not a ‘family.’ ” The cancellation of orders of the 737 MAX after the accidents cost Boeing billions of dollars in lost sales. Even so, writes Robison in his rigorous investigative report, the aircraft “will likely become common in airline fleets over the next several years”—American airline fleets, that is. As the author notes, Boeing was fined $2.5 billion for criminal fraud after company pilots lied to the FAA about that software, and the company has recently suffered more from competition from international companies believed to offer safer aircraft.

A damning, highly readable account of a once-great company brought to its knees by bad leadership.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54649-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A satisfyingly heartfelt tribute to a thoroughly remarkable man.

A WILD IDEA

Investigative reporter Franklin recounts the life of the free-spirited millionaire entrepreneur who used his fabulous wealth in the fight to save nature.

One constant in the epic life of North Face founder Doug Tompkins (1943-2015) was his enduring love of the outdoors. The son of a successful antiques dealer, he grew up in the countryside of Millbrook, New York (Timothy Leary was a neighbor), where he cultivated his love of the natural world. His contrarian ways eventually led to his expulsion from high school just weeks before graduation. Tompkins headed West, where he baled hay in Montana, raced Olympic skiers in the Rockies, and took up rock climbing in California. He also “hitchhiked by airplane throughout South America.” Tompkins ended up in San Francisco, where, by the mid-1960s, the skiing and climbing supplies business he started with the help of Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard suddenly began to boom. He was a charismatic businessman, and every one of his ventures after that—from his wife’s Plain Jane dress company to his own Esprit clothing brand—was successful. But his Midas touch never changed his passion for travel and adventure—e.g., flying his Cessna, sometimes with his family, but often, to the detriment of his marriage, solo. In the early 1990s, Tompkins bought property in southern Chile and fell in love with its pristine beauty. His outrage over the resource extraction–based nature of the Chilean government’s policies fueled his desire to protect the land. In the years that followed, he became an outspoken, sometimes reviled conservationist dedicated to using his fortune to transform thousands of acres of Patagonia into national parks. The great strengths of this timely, well-researched book lie not just in the author’s detailed characterization of Tompkins’ complex personality, but also in the celebration of his singularly dynamic crusade to save the environment.

A satisfyingly heartfelt tribute to a thoroughly remarkable man.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-296412-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperOne

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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