Review: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Back in 2012, I took the Moral Foundations Questionnaire test. So almost five years later, I finally got around to reading the book that explains it. Since it is now Facebook integrated, I kind of want ALL my friends to take it.

The framework presented here makes sense to me. I was fascinated by Drew Westen‘s
The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation
talking about fear being the key to reaching conservative voters. I could see that in the 2012 and 2016 elections. But, in the 2016 one, it felt like there was something missing. This book explains that pretty well for me. First, there are several values: Care, Liberty, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity. People who favor certain ones tend to skew into certain parties.

Also, the cycle tends to be we feel something, then judge it based on the feeling, and then create reasons to explain away the judgement. We mistake the reasoning as the basis for values and morality when it is much more subservient to the feelings. I would love to see where Behavioral Economics could go with Moral Foundations Theory.

Applied to politics, I finally understand why people so often vote for policies that will hurt them. They are keyed to emotional reactions to values triggered through how candidates express themselves. Being such a fan of behavioral economics, my impression of humans as purely rational was discarded long ago. MFT fits my observations of others and even myself better than anything else I have seen.

We also are highly social and dependent on the group dynamic. And yet, what policies are chosen to by governments can fray the social capital they have. Immigration and ethnic diversity can trigger a push back leading to more racism.

The book does not really have answers. The questions will drive some of my reading for the next decade in search of them.

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Review: Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works

Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works
Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works by Rick Santorum
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Santorum believes the family is the core unit of society not the individual. That has interesting implications such as what does that mean where there are so many divorces, single parents, and “failures to launch”? Making policy decisions based on that are also interesting.

I can definitely see evidence that supports Santorum’s story that Trump based his campaign on ideas from this book. Certainly he sought the votes of those in the rust belt, jobs for everyone, gut the government, repeal Obamacare, eliminate regulations, vouchers, and lower taxes. Something about feels hollow though.

The examples have that right homey feel politicians are so good at relaying. I found myself frustrated with the prescriptions, but I agree with the problems.

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Review: In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have not read Moby Dick. My guess is if I had read it first or been a fan of stories about ship life, then I would care more about the sailors, the details, and the narrative. Then again, I found the claim interesting that MD was not successful or acclaimed when it was published. I guess it found fame later? How and why that happened would be easily worth another star.

Philbrick’s writing is concise and direct. Flowery narratives in biographies from some of the acclaimed authors who bully their editors annoy me with feeling bogged down in unnecessary language. Then again, I should have felt the harrowing-ness of this event.

These are people who…
* Have had the unthinkable happen of a whale sinking their ship.
* They are a couple thousand miles away from South America.
* All they have to cross this are short distance vessels.
* They lack the food and water to make the trip.

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Review: Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a couple hundred pounds of chains bearing down on the reader. A father who writes about the race in America in the time just before #BlackLivesMatter attempts to put into words what it means. This stands out as a better expression of the weight of it all than anything else I have seen.

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Review: Philip K. Dick Is Dead, Alas

Philip K. Dick Is Dead, Alas
Philip K. Dick Is Dead, Alas by Michael Bishop
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent Dickian story in the irreverence that he would appreciate. The current fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the current environment made this a compelling read. The parallels between the Richard Nixon character and US politics reminded me of the fears about where we are headed to day.

Also, the inclusion of so many places in Georgia amused me.

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Review: A Nation of Immigrants

A Nation of Immigrants
A Nation of Immigrants by John F. Kennedy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was interested in reading this because JFK was the grandson of Irish immigrants. The Irish (and Italians, Chinese, and others) at one point were the targets of the kinds of language we saw just recently during the 2016 presidential election. He also was a senator and president who had to consider policy. From what I knew about him, his speeches expressed faith in American ingenuity and ability to tackle the greatest challenges.

This book did not disappoint. Well written, it is an easy read. He explains the history of immigration to the Americas both before and after we became a county. He describes how immigrants brought American systems, shaped values, and influenced our identity. He laments the resistance and advises the alteration of arbitrary immigration policy so that we can bring in the best instead of limiting ourselves to reflecting the demographics of 1920. His prescription seems to have been enacted in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.

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Review: Star Wars: Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel

Star Wars: Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel
Star Wars: Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rogue One is a prequel to A New Hope. Catalyst is a filler book tying together the events of Revenge of the Sith movie with Rogue One. I have not yet seen the upcoming movie, but the given what I know from watching the trailers dozens of times, I feel comfortable that I understand where it will be going.

The plot and writing are pretty basic. Books like this name drop a bunch of characters, so we have the expected names like Jyn Erso, the Emperor, Darth Vader, and Moff Tarkin. Plus some extremely minor characters non-fans would need Wookiepedia to recall. Plus some new faces show up.

I liked some of the science introduced in the story. There are some hints that I hope are further expanded in the movie where I can tell my friends, “Well, if you read Catalyst, then you would have seen that coming.”

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Review: White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son
White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son by Tim Wise
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Back in college, I was part of an anti-racism group. We worked with a local group and took their People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. Tim mentioned them near the end of the book, which made me think part of why I liked this book so much is his perspective and approach to white privilege is very similar to how I have been taught to think of it.

I think given the current climate on race relations in this country, this is important for people to read and understand.

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Review: Robot Visions

Robot Visions
Robot Visions by Isaac Asimov

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the Asimov’s essays about robots, computers, and cyborgs. They are well done.

The short stories at the front of the book are the same stories published in other books. There are a few new ones. So, if you do not mind re-reading them or have not read other books, then you are good. Otherwise, you should just read the first and second short stories “Robot Visions” and “Too Bad!” then skip to the last one “Christmas Without Rodney” and continue through the essays. Essentially, 347 pages of this book are unnecessary.

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Review: Loving Day

Loving Day
Loving Day by Mat Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A satirical jab at identity. Like so main character and many supporting ones, I am mixed. Am I black? According to One Drop laws, absolutely yes. According to some black people, yes. According to other black people, not enough. There are similar mixed messages from other peoples. Plenty think I am from the Middle East, Latin America, India, or other location where there people with brown skin. A reason why I like the term Mixed-Race is because it implies all mixed up and jumbled to an incoherent mess.

Mat captures this feeling better than most books I have read about mixed racial identity. The hyperbolic satire cuts deep. Maybe too deep to be very comfortable with the novel. In the end, I am pleased my friend Nikki asked me to read it because I happen to have needed to about now.

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