Review: Merchants of Doubt

This review will deal with both the book and the documentary based on it. The book was written by two historians of science Naomi Oreskes of Harvard University and Erik M. Conway and was published in 2010, while the documentary was directed by Robert Kenner and released in 2014 and has just been released on DVD. I can strongly recommend both. The book is very clearly written and makes a compelling case for the authors’ thesis. Although the documentary is based on the book, its emphasis is different (dealing mostly with the climate change debate) and provides new information that is not in the book. Here’s the trailer.
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How could I have missed all this in Goodnight Moon?

Like many a parent, when my children were little, I must have read the book Goodnight Moon to them about a million times. As with all such books that required multiple readings, in order to stave off the boredom of repetition, over time I developed a dramatic style and became so absorbed in the theatrical effects that I never noticed all the major problems with the room that The Ugly Volvo points out regarding the nursery room.
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When more data is not better

I am about two-thirds of the way through the fascinating book The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI by Betty Medsger that deals with the 1971 break-in to the FBI offices in Media, PA by a group of eight anti-war and civil rights activists who took away all the files and then revealed all those that showed that the FBI was engaged in all manner of illegal activities, such as spying on and harassing people who were engaged in purely legal actions of dissent and maintaining extensive dossiers on thousands of people. Medsger uses that story as a springboard to also write a comprehensive true history of the FBI as revealed by the documents and subsequent discoveries as opposed to the myths that the agency cultivated. (See here, here, and here for earlier posts on this topic.)
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Book review: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

For many people of my generation, the Vietnam war was a turning point that radicalized us. For the first in our lives, we saw a cruel war waged by a massive military power that used chemical and biological weapons on a massive scale against a much weaker nation and a defenseless population and whose effects will be felt for generations to come. But we also saw how that military could be defeated by a determined population that was fighting to repel foreign invaders and their local puppets. We saw first hand how the US government and its allies lied shamelessly in the effort to advance its imperialist ambitions, cloaking its real goals behind the rhetoric of democracy. That undoubtedly colored our view of geopolitics and is maybe why we saw so clearly the lies that led to the Iraq war and can also see the same dynamic trying to be resurrected against Iran.
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On not getting On The Road

As an immigrant to America who arrived after graduating from college, I missed out reading the classics of American literature, not to mention learning about historical events that are referred to in shorthand by their names (Appomattox, Valley Forge, and the like) that most native-born Americans get as part of their schooling. I have tried to fill in my knowledge these cultural touchstones as best I can, with varying levels of success.
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Who’s Who in Hell

Thanks to reader Norm, I received a copy of the above book and it is incredible. It is a compilation of all the people in the world who are known to be atheists or skeptics of some sort, along with biographical sketches as to their beliefs. The book is by Warren Allen Smith and it is clearly a massive labor of love, clocking in at 1,237 large 8½ x 11 inch pages in two column format, on good quality paper with clear font and not a single typo, at least in the entries that I have read.
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Grimm and grimmer

Fairy tales are a staple of children’s literature with the first exposure to them coming in the form of bedtime stories read by parents. The stories that were recounted by people like the brothers Grimm and Han Christian Andersen are common knowledge to children all over the globe. These authors usually did not write these stories themselves but collected folk tales and retold them.
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Harry Potter, Christian warrior

The Harry Potter series of books captivated many people young and old, but especially the young. As I discussed back in 2005, the students at Hogwarts seemed to be well and truly heathens because the books had zero references to god and religion, with only a passing reference to Christmas (a pagan holiday anyway) and the name of a Christmas carol, while filled with stories of sorcery and witches and wizards and spells.
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