Skip to main content.
Book, Article, & Media Reviews
Chalmers Johnson

Extended Book Review

Many people the world over applaud the United States for its roles in:
  • Peace-keeping and policing terrorism
  • Advancements of science, technology and space exploration
  • Economic achievements and export of is economic model

These actions of good will have at least created an "empire" upon which the sun never sets. It is not called an empire in the media, in Washington, or academia even though the basic trappings of empire are there for all too see.

Johnson goes to great lengths to relate how the above behavior of America, by its many covert actions, created great resentment in the third world he calls Blowback. Although this term was invented recently (by the CIA) to define rebellions by groups of people and nations against exploitation that make the Boston Tea Party look tame, both in degree of exploitation and the rebellious response. Historically, the shoe is now on the other foot, but how many American citizens appreciate that fact? How many of us even remember the name of the king we rebelled against back in the 18th century--if indeed we ever knew it?
An Alternative Future for mankind – Eugene Minard Extended book review

In short, our destiny is in our own hands. But such control cannot come soon for even under the best conditions nature may require a thousand generations to bring a new species into being. But progress in our knowledge now enables the possibility that Homo sapiens can indeed significantly become more God-like. Moreover, gene manipulation has the potential to drastically reduce the time line to a higher state of behavior. Minard has an insightful approach: join the hands of religion and science in a new religion able to grow and move with the tides and times.

Monotheism has been a guiding light for part of humanity for some 3500 years. It arose several millennia after agriculture enabled a sedentary lifestyle that gave humanity time for leisure and thinking:
Naomi Wolf

Book Review

“Top-down edicts generate fear, but when citizens turn a blind-eye to state sanctions against others, so long as they believe themselves to be safe, a fascist reality has fertile ground in which to take root.

With these simple words written near the apex of the Bush II regime, Wolf captured a serious essence of our times. No society is safe from the autocrats, whether political, religious or plutocratic at root. And while such an event has receded some since this book was printed, it is an arresting exercise to realize the many parallels between America today and Nazi Germany and several other dictatorships are still with us. How it works is that a relatively sudden, historically speaking, event triggers a further series of events that culminate in dictatorship. The event needs only to generate fear in a populace and those in position to take power, either to promptly take over or to start the ball rolling toward autocracy. 911 provided just that opportunity in America. That event followed an historical pattern where we Americans, gladly but temporarily, gave up some of our freedoms for security. What makes 911 different, is that word temporarily. The so-called War on Terror has no end in sight--a feature the commander in chief emphasised again and again, as he continued to abridge freedom in America surreptitiously. That fear remains largely unabated. The present commander in chief has made some progress, as his predecessor had, but it now seems too little too late. Franklin Roosevelt may have been wiser than he knew when he said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

A Film directed by Lu Chuan - 2009

The Rape Of Nanking (now Nanjing) was an atrocity of the first order. Simply put, it was Genocide. And under Chuan's insightful directing, his film was more: It reveals the paper-thin barrier between the tender and savage parts of most of us. At the time, 1937, and especially once WWII began, we Americans simply demonized the Japanese as being mere animals.

Chuan deserves great credit for his ability to understand and depict humanity as it really is. Even the rare exceptional individual, as noted by Milgram, was present in the body of Sargent Kadokawa who was so filled with revulsion by what his countrymen were doing that he blew his own brains out.
Eugene Minard, MD

Extended Book Review

Minard’s research was thorough and well documented. His humility is evident from his acknowledgements: “My acknowledgements continue to the many writers who, unknowingly, did my research, and they are credited throughout. In my search for knowledge and truth, these are my current partial results.”

Quote from “Personal Prologue.”

“In my personal search for understanding of the great mysteries or existence, for a meaning and purpose in life, I have gone from unquestioning faith and inevitable disillusionment to a conviction that only the scientific method can truly enlighten, unite and perpetuate humankind in the face of extinction. In a fundamental way, this requires an understanding of the cosmic principle of evolution--the Great Moving Force.
By Bernard Lewis

Extended book review

This is a five-star book as a history with enough detail to satisfy the most inquisitive. The author's deep insights into how the lands of Islam operate are still being played out in our times.

The first century set the stage for what was to come. In parallel with the other monotheisms of the times, schism upon schism brought about branches bearing ever less resemblance of one another. An early and paramount issue had to do with governance. What entity, religious or secular, would lead the way into the future? Another was: Who was a citizen and who was not? Empire was an issue as well, and they too came and went. And the various sects almost continuously fought one another to be the voice for all, a battle still going on.
Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe.

"What Led Ordinary Men and Women to Risk Their Lives on Behalf of Others?"

Samuel Oliner & Pearl Oliner

Book Review, by Harry Rosenberg

For over half a decade, the head sociopath and his herds of obedient followers held sway so thoroughly that the good sides of human nature, parenting and altruism were seemingly smothered.

The Oliners keep their promise. Caring is what led so many to risk so much for so few (thousands). Parenting, like altruism, leads to caring for others. And that caring usually gave rise to friendships lasting a lifetime.

The awful horror of Nazi Europe is a story often told. The other side of the story, the survival of altruism has never been revealed as it is by the Oliners. What they have produced could be grist for several novels, but this book a novel isn't. Rather it covers the waterfront evil and how many people fought back all over Europe, even native Germans, by rescuing or sheltering thousands of Jews. Altruism as a national value was crushed, but not killed. That feature was barely visible as the events transpired--even to the participants.

This book is a classic, a stand-alone study of one of those awful swings of the pendulum of history. The Oliners devote 260 pages to the stories, and 161 more to appendices, methodologies with actual data, and notes.

In essence this book puts into stark relief the insanity (psychopathology) and utter madness of those who deny the Holocaust ever happened. For this reason we give this book five stars.
Inside Afghanistan After The Taliban (2006 Foreign Press)

Sarah Chayes

Extended book review by Harry Rosenberg

What a marvelous book! Spellbinding in its intensity; history in novel form with real life characters--warts and all. Chayes does it all. As an NPR reporter and later as a political analyst and activist-on-the-ground developing the local business infrastructure she became arguable the foremost expert on Afghanistan. Fluent in the Pashtun language and observant of Ramadan, she quickly made friends of the powerful as well the many. Her even handedness and obvious will to further fortunes of the Afghanis and their various social sectors gave her the in other journalists lacked. She was protected by the Taliban as well as those who came to power with their defeat. As her network grew, so did her perspective. Chayes grew to love the Kandahar, and lived there some years. Read on for some of the highlights--confirmed over the last four years since her book was published.
How to grow an economic empire.

What follows is an extended book review of Killing Hope by William Blum. It predates the Wikileaks leaks by some 6 years, and not surprisingly, Wikileaks provides nothing but additional support for the generalizations on this page--if any is needed. Wikileaks shows explicitly that America is not alone in covert actions. America, however, has special problem: It is losing control of information via an invention of its very own.

Killing-Hope is a very readable book, and is a must if one wants to understand America's true place in the world after WWII. Thanks to Adolph Hitler and Joe Stalin, America learned that the world is full of evil people who get away with evilness through propaganda and disinformation. And perhaps worse, the American public is adept, even eager to dehumanize any and all who do not believe as they do. Hermann Goering, during his Nuremberg trial period, explained how easy it is sway the masses. And Migram added the feature that that ease is a general trait of all humanity, not just the German people as his mentor Adorno, had it.
Bart D. Ehrman

Extended Book Review.

The subtitle directly addresses a quandary of our age:

"Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them)"

Ehrman is one of those rare people for whom the pendulum of faith has swung in both directions, but not to such extremes that he lost touch with either pole, religious or secular. Jesus, Interrupted, like his "Misquoting Jesus", contains biographical detail. Unlike the extremists on either side of the divide, Erhman is quite respectful of believer and atheist alike. Like a growing number of people, Ehrman characterizes himself as an agnostic, one who can rejoice in understanding both the worlds of faith and logic. His telling point is that the bible is the most influential book ever written, however its writing came to be in and by human hands. For that very reason it deserves deep study--the kind he has devoted his career to and reports here.
Frans De Waal

Extended Book Review

De Waal does a marvelous take on the visible elements, leaving the roots the business of the likes of Darwin and Dawkins. Ed Wilson does a somewhat parallel study of import as far as he goes. What De Waal adds, is concrete observations of how conflict resolution works in nature, while giving due the Selfish Gene of Dawkins. In the opinions of many, including us, the selfish gene not only gives rise to the selfish individuals, but to families and societies as well. In like manner, are not all behaviors genetic?
Misquoting Jesus Extended Book Review

Bart Ehrman

An early and confirmed Christian, a born-again Christian, Ehrmam has lived the gamut of Christianity—and beyond, if that is the right word. As a naturally-curious and thinking boy becoming a man, Ehrman was, like most of us, reared to believe, which he did with fervor. In the tenth grade he joined Campus Life Youth for Christ club. Its leader was a eager and charismatic 20 something who held meetings off campus at various club-member homes. Ehrman got to know Bruce, the leader, and was awakened to a new experience of happiness and salvation only a believer could know. In due course he became a born-again Christian.
A Groundbreaking Study of America’s Nonbelievers

Bruce Hunsberger and Bob Altemeyer

Book Review

Has organized religion (monotheism) really begun a terminal decline? This question reverberated in the backs of our heads as we got into this readable book on a subject that is still taboo in many quarters. Yet it is groundbreaking; indeed, it is eyeopening as well. What sets this book apart from those by other atheists is that it provides actual data and may be the first attempt we have seen that ties the need for, and expression of, religion to such traits as authoritariansm—Right Wing variety--but basically a genetic expression of society first codified by Adorno et. al. and extended by Milgram and Altemeyer himself.
From Stalingrad To The New Cold War.

Stephen Cohen

Extended Book Review

Until we met Cohen, his name was not in our consciousness. That soon changed when we heard him address various contemporary social issues. Reading and reviewing his book became our first order of business.

Cohen's account of the Soviet period is easily the best we have read. Moreover, it is consilient with the model for violence apparent in and among modern societies. For that reason alone, Cohen is most credible. Moreover, his encyclopedic knowledge of Russia, its language, and the Cold War give him the edge over contemporary historians who accept too many myths about Eastern Europe and the United States itself. British officials serving in both Moscow and Washington agree with his assessment that the Clinton and Bush administrations in particular pursued policies designed to alienate the Russians, by meddling in their internal affairs and encroaching on their legitimate sphere of influence.
Edward O Wilson

Book Review with Commentary

Readable, accessible, dramatic, and profound, Wilson is at once a first-rank scientist and storyteller. He wrote a book we could not put down until we finished it. And then we felt like reading it again. We grew up believing that nothing could be more complex than Einstein's theory of gravity. We were wrong. The human brain is far more complex and difficult to predict than a mere apple falling from a tree! As Wilson patiently explains, human behaviors arise from the brain and are in fact multiples more complex than physical laws known to date. Furthermore, Wilson convincingly argues, human behavior (psychology and sociology) is a consilient branch of science, at least so far. He is not an absolutist. The only real axe he grinds is consilience itself, and his axe is finely honed. For example, he explains nicely how evolution itself gives rise to our humanistic as well as existential belief systems. Each is an epigenetic expression of our genes.
Malcom Gladwell

Extended Book Review

Gladwell stands many of our conceptions of success on their heads. Who are our ancestors; where we are born; when we are born, trends in society, and the march of technology all matter as much as our genes. These "accidents" conspire to thrust the "fortunate" forward while leaving out the rest. In other words, there is a Newton, Pasteur, Obama, and their like, born among us every year. If the times and tides are right, they have opportunity make it. If not, they don't. This is how evolution affects society as it evolves.
Michael Ruse

Extended Book Review

This well-crafted book considers Darwinism, from the “-ism” point of view–for “-ism” Darwin has become. This is the fault of modern society whose discontents are ”ism” followers and "ism" creators in their own right. The last thing Darwin had in mind was to create a quasi “cult.” He did not, of course. However, unlike most cults, Darwin’s detractors created Darwinism by labeling what they PROJECTED as a threat–-a threat to their sense of self, their self image, their salvation. This is not at all bad in-and-of-itself; we all have a right to protect our individuality. The problem comes from the collective result when sociopaths use anti-Darwinism to further their grips on the human mind in order to achieve their own ends. We strongly recommend this book. It is a well-balanced read.
Gene Sharp 1973

Book Review and Commentary

Another chink in the human edifice of peace is available in this book.  Short it is, but loaded with key information it also is. A contemporary of Stanley Milgram,  Sharp illustrates how the findings of  Adorno and Milgram on the  Authoritarian Personality  play out in society. All three predate Altemeyer’s  excellent study of Authoritarians in politics that  Dean was able to bring into the 21st Century in the philosophy of the  Neocons,
Uri Savir

Book Review

This book is an excellent companion to "The Arab Center" by Marwan Muasher. Each is a voice of moderation, and each shows the power of the center when it organizes itself around a just cause.

Uri Savir, Israel's Chief Negotiator in the Oslo Process, recalls in his 1998 book The Process:

    "Over the years Israelis had cultivated a self-serving myth that ours was an 'enlightened occupation.' I knew this was a contradiction of terms, but I did not know and I think few other Israelis did how thoroughly we have invaded the lives of our Palestinian neighbors.
The Promise of Moderation

Marwan Muasher

Extended Book Review

This book should be read in conjunction with Uri Savir's great book on the Oslo Accords, The Process. Both are examples of how moderation can replace war. Each comes from highly placed authors from opposite sides of the Palestinian problem. And each illustrates how entrenched the war machines are on both sides of the great divide otherwise known as the Iron Wall separating the Zionists from Palestine, not to mention the rest of the world. Oddly enough, one of the founders of Zionism (Ze'ev Jabotinsky) predicted just this result if his compatriots did not mend their extreme ways. Jabotinsky had a social insight as rare in his time as it is in ours. Muasher and Savir are modern-day examples with Jabotinsky's insights. They each tried to pick up the pieces of broken machines in the Middle East.
Or The Principle of Action

Essay Review.

The Principle of Action is a more timely title for this essay of our times.

Voltaire was nothing if not an accomplished poet, philosopher, and satirist. Hence his title for this essay. He proposed just the opposite, for to take sides would damage not only the present, but the future as well. And his further point is that issues blow over, leaving those who took sides sidelined without a cause. History moves on; new issues arise; so why does it matter?

Voltaire is widely quoted, and we find many bits of wisdom that apply in our times.
When Psychopaths go to work
Paul Babiak & Robert Hare

Extended Book Review

Being a psychopath is not illegal. But their behavior ought to be. In the fashion of a Greek tragedy, these authors dramatically weave several stories of how psychopaths destroy lives--this time the setting is the work place. Their descriptions resonate perfectly with Martha Stout's "The Sociopath Next Door."
Since much of our factual information was generated by others publishing important books we list them all here for your convenience.
Sam Harris
Book Review With Commentary

For those of us who feel depressed by this country's ever increasing unification of Church and state, this little book is a welcome hit of adrenaline." -- Marc Hauser, Harvard Univ, author of "Moral Minds"