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Book review

This is a book review of  Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy by Joseph E. Stiglitz.

Editor’s Note: I received this book  from LibraryThing‘s Early Reviewers program.

Having won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2001, Joseph Stiglitz is, obviously, authoritative on the subject of economics. In the book, Stiglitz explains the causes of the 2008 economic crash and what we must do in order to prevent it from occurring again. He is one of a few economists who predicted this would happen, but was ignored.

In Freefall,  Stiglitz makes the case for regulation, the balance between government control and private-sector control. It was politically- motivated de-regulation that led to the near-destruction of the economy. Stiglitz also address the inequalities in the global economy and how to fix them.

Economics can be hard to comprehend, but Stiglitz writes in a clear, detailed manner that makes economics sound like 2 +2=4. On top of that, the book is well-researched.  I recommend Freefall to everybody who lived through the 2008 economic collapse.

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Book review

Sam Harris’ The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason

Harris is one of the “four horsemen of atheism” along with Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens.

Harris rips religion through logic and reason. He focuses on the evils of religion such as ignorance,  religion in politics and the bloodshed associated with religion.

The “four horsemen” have been accused of focusing on Christainity; however, if you read Dawkins’ The God Delusion, Harris’ The End of Faith and Hitchen’s God is Not Great,  they spend a great amount of time focusing on Islam and Judaism, as well as Christianity.

At one point I found myself disagreeing with Harris. He discusses Noam Chomsky’s take on Islamic terrorism, and says that pacifism is “immoral.” Harris had spent a majority of the book showing the horrors of religious-based wars, yet he says pacifism is “immoral.” Really, Sam? Are we, atheists, any better than the millions of Christians, Jews and Muslims who committed murder?  I’m a pacifist– I protested against Iraq. I believe that we should be involved in wars like WWI and WWII, where there is a specific enemy and purpose for war. I am against the Bush Doctrine– preemptively attacking any country that hosts terrorists (which, as I pointed out in several posts, would include America since we have terrorists).

Other than that little disagreement, I enjoyed The End of Faith.

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Book review

Today I’m reviewing Top Secret: the Truth Behind Today’s Top Mysticisms by Robert M. Price.

Another review can be found here.

As atheists, both Robert Price and I are skeptical and tend to question everything. Robert uses this book to question various mysticisms and popular culture bunks such as Deepak Chopra’s Transcendental Meditation, Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, Joel Osteen and fake religion (an oxymoron, I know), Eckhart Tolle and more. Robert uses logic, reason and facts to debunk every mysticism, shows how they can be dangerous and shows how gullible people fall for this crap.

Price uses a simple, yet elegant writing style to damn these mysticisms.

I recommend this book for people who want to understand why these mysticisms are so popular (it’s because they’re promoted by Oprah and trashy talk shows, as Price points out).

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Book review

Here’s another books review, though this is a single one.

American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America by Chris Hedges

A similar review can be found here.

Just like one of the books I previously reviewed (Republican Gomorrah by Max Blumenthal), Hedges  shows the alignment of the Religious Right and the Republican party.  He notes that he is a Christian in order to avoid a conflict of interest, though he says he doesn’t believe the Bible literally.

Hedges shows how fundamentalism has warped our language. Words such as “freedom,” “liberty” and “justice” no longer have the same meaning. These words now mean freedom through a relationship with Jesus, the liberty of living forever in Heaven and God will smite all nonbelievers, respectively. Hedges also shows how these people rail against the “secular, evil media,” “secular, evil education,” choosing to home-school their children, thus indoctrinating them. The “Creation Museum” is mentioned as a way to control people’s minds. Given all of these revelations, American Fascists is similar to one of my favorite books, Idiot America.

By linking the Religious Right and the Republican party, Hedges shows how fundamentalists have wrought one-horse issues such as gay marriage and abortion into American politics.

The essence of this book is to show how we are becoming our own worst enemy.

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Book review

This post has two book reviews.

First, Thomas Frank’s The Wrecking Crew.

Most conservatives are anti-big government and anti-tax; however, Frank shows how that is a lie. Frank recounts history, showing how Reagan, George Bush I and George Bush II bloated government and raised taxes. He also links the “revolving door” between government employees and lobbyists.

The Wrecking Crew is a book for those who want to know why the country is screwed up.

Second, Max Blumenthal’s Republican Gomorrah.

Blumenthal links various fundamentalist, evangelical cults such as Focus on the Family and the Republican party. As we’ve seen with the terror tea baggers partiers , the Republican party began as a “big tent,” but slowly became a one-ring circus. If you’re not a fringe, you’re not a member of the Republican party. Blumenthal’s book is a real eye-opener.

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Book review

Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House” by Valerie Plame Wilson

My original review is here.

Among my journalistic musings on here, I will post book reviews from time to time.

Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert CIA operative, whose husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, discovered the non-existent Iraq-WMD link. Both Valerie and Joe were outed  for journalistic and political revenge. In “Fair Game,” Valerie describes in detail her career and how the outing impacted her family, career and our national security. Under CIA protocol, much of the book is redacted.

In the acknowledgements, Valerie makes the best case for the book:

“At age seven, Samantha and Trevor have only the vaguest notion of what this book is about. Which is as it should be. When they are older, they will have plenty of time to learn what was at stake during their youngest years. Perhaps they will forgive their mother for the many hours on the telephone or at the computer, shushing them, when all they wanted was for her to play with them or answer an important question. I pray they will understand why their parents were away so much and less patient with their concerns. They are truly the light of my life; they are two of the reasons Joe and I fought for the truth and what we thought was right.”(p. 410)

“Fair Game” also teaches journalists a few messages:  be careful when you cite background and off-the-record sources; do not, under any circumstances, reveal classified information. Joe Wilson was cited as a “retired U.S. ambassador;” within days of that euphemism’s publication, other journalists and political figures put two and two together, and Wilson was outed. In the Google days, anybody can fact-check and background check your writing. As Plame notes, “Under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, it is a crime for anyone who has access to classified information to disclose intentionally information identifying a covert agent. The punishment for such an offense is a fine of up to $50,000 and/or up to ten years in prison.” (p. 146) Not only do you, as the journalist, hurt your credibility, as well as your organization’s credibility, you damage the life of the person you outed and national security–including yours.

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