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R. S. Wilkerson RSS Feed (near Stone Mountain, GA)

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The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science- and Reality
The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science- and Reality
by Chris Mooney
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.97
77 used & new from $6.41

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brave Effort to Define What Makes Us Different, May 8, 2014
The book was written by one who openly asserts ". . . I am a liberal, self-described, self-examined, and hopefully self-aware. I am willing to update my beliefs and to change -- and I see this willingness as a virtue, a characteristic I strive to possess" (p. 274). And therein lies the great divide.

There is no doubt that there is a great political divide in this country: conservatives on one side of the aisle; liberals on the other; and a smattering of undefineds occupying some vague middle ground. Mooney set himself the challenge of reviewing the scientific (specifically the psychological) literature in an effort to determine why that divide exists, why it seems (or is true) that conservatives tend to deny science and in so doing deny some crucial aspects of reality, aspects which are crucial in policy making. Mooney's premise is that if he can find a scientific basis for the split between liberal and conservative, perhaps there might exist a means whereby the two can be brought together to deal with some of the major critical political issues of the times. His goal is admirable. There is considerable scientific literature which defines important psychological differences between self-identified conservatives and liberals. Using the differences identified by scientists, and there are clearly observable, definable psychological differences, Mooney examines many of the particulars in the political wars which existed as of 2011, when he was writing the book, and why the schisms exist with the virulence they do.

"Republicans today really are more doggedly misinformed about politics and economics (tax policy, healthcare reform), about science (evolution, global warming), and so on. Indeed, there is a very good reason for this . . . . Perhaps they respond differently to information than do liberals -- thanks to different psychologies, different media channels, or some combination of these and other factors. Perhaps they cling more strongly to wrong beliefs, out of deference to authority, unity with the group, and simple searching for closure. Perhaps they need to do so. This book takes seriously the idea -- increasingly difficult to deny -- that in the aggregate, Republicans and Democrats really think about facts, about reality itself differently. And it has sought to explain how such a misadventure could come about, drawing on the best scientific tools available to aid in such an account." (p. 271).

If it is the case that conservatives and liberals treat information differently, then how can that harmful schism be healed? His ideas require the biggest changes from liberals, because

"My current suspicion -- though I know the science is inadequate to prove it -- is that we probably evolved to have the capacity to be both "conservative," and also to be "liberal, " because both are really beneficial to us. The problem in modern times, and in the United States today, is that we've gotten terribly confused, and put these two sides of ourselves in opposition. Which is disastrous. They need to be operating together, rather than at cross purposes. But, as I said, I don't expect conservatives to actually listen to me. So instead of telling conservatives how they might fare better . . . let me instead tell my fellow liberals how they might. After all, liberals are very open to new ideas and to change -- and change is very much what they need. So here's the advice, liberals: You need to be way more conservative. And I don't mean that in a policy sense, but in a psychological one" ( p. 269).

And the tactics he suggests might actually work.

I highly recommend this book to self-identified liberals because it will help you see yourself and, sadly, some of your flaws. I know I got a few laughs from realizing "yep, that's exactly the way I am." Conservatives will see themselves as well, if they are open to new ideas and new information. The book is not a condemnation of conservatives. Quite the contrary, it's an effort to bravely go where no man has gone before and identify what makes us different.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 11, 2016 9:29 AM PST


The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible
The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible
by Simon Winchester
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.84
178 used & new from $1.35

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent story teller, May 8, 2014
The subtitle tells it all. The book is about those often unsung and unfamiliar individuals whose contributions physically united the states: canal builders, railroad builders, highway builders, telegraph, radio and television inventors. Winchester is an excellent story teller and the book is engaging. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in our nation's history. It's an entertaining and informative read.


The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future
The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future
by Joseph E. Stiglitz
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.52
111 used & new from $7.76

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How Inequality Harms Us All and Our Democratic Principles, May 8, 2014
The book was written by one who openly asserts "Our democracy, tilted as it may be, provides two routes by which reform might happen. Those in the 99 percent could come to realize that they have been duped by the 1 percent: that what is in the interest of the 1 percent is not in their interests. The 1 percent has worked hard to convince the rest that an alternative world is not possible; that doing anything that the 1 percent doesn't want will inevitably harm the 99 percent. Much of this book has been devoted to destroying this myth and to arguing that we could actually have a more dynamic and more efficient economy and a fairer society (p. 287).

Point of information: On April 3, 2014, Joseph Stiglitz spoke before the Senate Budget Committee. His prepared statement is available here [...] His statement is a succinct summation of The Price of Inequality.

Stiglitz' book requires an interest in economics and a modicum of familiarity with some of the terminology and theories. Stiglitz develops the thesis that our economic policies, both those of the Republicans and the Obama administration, are designed to abet the 1 percent in their accumulation of wealth to the detriment of the rest of us -- all of the rest of us regardless of our political persuasion. His case is clear and very persuasive. As Stiglitz states, "We can judge our system by its results, and if we do so, we have to give it a failing grade: a little while ago those at the bottom and in the middle got a glimpse of the American dream, but today's reality is that for a large segment of the population that dream has now vanished" (p. 274). Stiglitz details the impact the the Great Recession has had on our society and why our political policies have increased its intensity rather than providing a way to relieve it. He points out how, as of 2011, when he was composing the book, Republican efforts to cripple the government and the economy were having a devastating effort on the American worker.

Stiglitz is a liberal in every sense of the word; he adheres to an idealistic view of democracy and a fair and equitable society, the very antithesis of Republican economic proposals, as he repeatedly demonstrates.

"Maintaining the kind of society and the kind of government that serve all the people -- consistent with principles of justice, fair play, and opportunity -- doesn't happen by itself. Somebody has to look after it. Otherwise our government and our institutions get captured by special interests [one of his main theses is that our government and institutions have already been captured by special interests]. And at the very least, we need countervailing powers. But our society and our polity have grown off kilter. All human institutions are fallible; all have their weaknesses. No one proposes abolishing large corporations because so many exploit their workers or damage the environment or engage in anticompetitive practices. Rather, we recognize the dangers, we impose regulations, we attempt to alter behavior, knowing that we will never fully succeed, but that these reforms can improve behavior " (p. 281). His principle thesis is that our unequal society harms all but the 1%, and we are in danger of becoming a nation of two societies: the very rich and the rest of us.

I highly recommend the book, although it's a bit dense at times, to any one concerned about the economic and social well-being of our nation. I think it will be eye opening and informative.


The Birth of Satan: Tracing the Devil's Biblical Roots
The Birth of Satan: Tracing the Devil's Biblical Roots
by Gregory Mobley
Edition: Paperback
19 used & new from $13.50

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Should be entitled the Biblical Development of Satan., May 7, 2014
T.J. Wray and Gregory Mobley claim that the book is targeted at both an academic and lay readership, although I suggest some knowledge of the history of God and an awareness of man's dual nature would provide depth of context for the work. Taken straight, I think it would be a little bland. They stay very tightly within the boundaries of the Biblical references to Satan with some references to the near Eastern historical context. Their contention is that Satan evolves and changes during the course of the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Old Testament, although, except for a couple of notable exceptions, he's not very interesting in the first part of the Bible, as they trace his development from minor court functionary to the Prince of Darkness. What is interesting is the parallel evolution of God from a divinity possessing the power of good and evil to a singular entity possessing only good, as the two forces split over time. In a world in which man's darker nature often triumphs, there is a role for evil, a role currently played by Satan. In fact, except for his temptations of Jesus, he's not very interesting in the New Testament, either.

The authors point out that the Western world's perception of the devil is courtesy of Dante's Divine Comedy and Milton's Paradise Lost, especially Milton's version. His evolution in western culture would be far more interesting, but, the authors barely touch on that topic. They briefly mention the psychological importance of Satan in western culture, and I think they fall short of developing that topic. In a world in which man's darker nature often triumphs, there is a role for evil, a role currently played by Satan. What the authors don't mention is the birth of Satan. Man's dualism, man who is created in the image of God, seems the most obvious source for both a creator of love and goodness and a dark figure of evil, the two seem not separate forces but different aspects of the same nature, as they are in each individual. I was disappointed that they didn't discuss the possible origins of Satan, since that was the title of their book, even though they vaguely place the God-Satan conflict within the context of other eastern religions, particularly Zoroastrianism, which possess a good versus evil dichotomy. They seem uninterested in Satan's origins, just his development at the hands of the Biblical authors.

It's a moderately interesting book, although far drier than the subject would suggest it should be.


The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo
The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo
by Tom Reiss
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.86
116 used & new from $3.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and entertaining, March 8, 2013
It's the biography of novelist Alexander Dumas' father set against the French Revolution and the rise to power of Bonaparte. Alex Dumas was born a slave, son of a Frenchman who had fled into the wilds of Saint Domingue after a conflict with his well-to-do sugar planter brother, and a black slave who was his father's mistress for many years. The back story of Alexander Dumas' grandfather, Davy de la Pailleterie, is interesting in its own right and takes up a justifiably large portion of the book. Through some odd manipulations, Davy de la Pailleterie returns to France, claims his inheritance, frees his son, wins an endowment from his brother in law and proceeds to train his son, Alex, as a gentleman. Alex in a conflict with his father joins the army as a private. Comes the Revolution and Alex proves to be such a warrior, a man of great physical strength and extraordinary leadership, that he becomes a general in the post revolutionary army. Then he encounters Bonaparte, a fellow general, who dislikes him and all men of color, and his woes begin. The Revolution freed slaves and made equals of all men; Bonaparte's France reinstituted slavery and the Black Code. Alexander Dumas is born a few years before his father dies at age 44. Reiss draws a number of parallels between Alex Dumas and Edmond Dantes in the Count of Monte Cristo, but isn't heavy handed about it. It's an enjoyable book. I knew nothing about General Dumas and only a little about the French Revolution, and it has been many years since I've read The Count of Monte Cristo. I learned a lot.


American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century
American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century
by Howard Blum
Edition: Hardcover
123 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Neither history nor fiction, March 8, 2013
I like history books which are history books and novels which are fiction. This combines the two too much to be an enjoyable or even an interesting read. It's not sustained fiction enough to even be considered historical fiction and not sustained history enough to be taken as a serious historical account of a series of major events in American history: the bombing of the Los Angeles Times Building on October 1, 1910, the subsequent detective investigation, and the trials. It's unfortunate. That's a very interesting period in the conflict between unions and management, usually supported in their resistance by government officials. It should have been handled better. The stuff on D. W. Griffith and the birth of the American motion picture industry is largely gratuitous and could be stuffed into the book because of some chance encounters between the individuals, not because it was pertinent to anything.


The Story of America: Essays on Origins
The Story of America: Essays on Origins
by Jill Lepore
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $23.19
60 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We are the perception of our literary imagination, March 8, 2013
A delightful series of essays about the various ways we have written about and interpret our origins as a nation. I think she illustrates by means of a series of essays about significant writings in our history, and not always those one would expect, that we are what we have created from the literary imaginations of our people striving to bring the ideals of democracy, freedom, justice, and equality before the law to fruition in a rapidly changing world and a nation of changing political and social values. A very engaging study of how we have perceived ourselves and how those perceptions have passed into the public consciousness. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in American history.


The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use "Plain English" to Rob You Blind
The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use "Plain English" to Rob You Blind
by David Cay Johnston
Edition: Hardcover
73 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Congresspeople need a pop quiz on this book, March 8, 2013
I think the subtitle is inaccurate and misleading. The Fine Print is not about the fine print as we commonly think of it, it's about the partnership between government and big business to put more and more of the tax burden on the average tax payer, gouge the customer, put less and less of the tax burden on business, reward big business with greater profits which pays off in bigger campaign donations for the politicians, and provide ever fewer and fewer government services for the taxpayer. It's a book all taxpayers should read and then present a copy to their Congressional people with the instructions "there will be a pop quiz in a week."


Up Jumps the Devil
Up Jumps the Devil
by Michael Poore
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.76
59 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sympathy for the devil, March 8, 2013
This review is from: Up Jumps the Devil (Paperback)
A sweeping satirical look at man's understanding of the devil and at man's own devilish foibles through history and in the present. I haven't read a good satirical novel in quite a while, but this one is definitely worth reading, if you're willing to give the devil a little license to be what we've made him and to give mankind even more because we are also what've made ourselves. Mankind's definitely a peculiar species, even to the devil.


Chinese Whiskers: A Novel
Chinese Whiskers: A Novel
by Pallavi Aiyar
Edition: Hardcover
32 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A clever, witty look at group hysteria, March 8, 2013
A clever, witty look at group hysteria and governmental inepitude from the cats' perspective. Although set in Beijing, it speaks sharply to man's foibles no matter his nationality.


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