Book Review Shorts: Spycraft, Religion, and Conspiracy

Body in dumpsterQuick reviews of three books I've taken in lately:

  • Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs, from Communism to al-Qaeda by Wallace, Melton and Schleshinger
    Fascinating, scary, and geeky. With great diagrams and photographs explaining how spy devices were constructed and worked, and with interesting stories about various successes and failures, all told from the perspective of the "techs" working behind the scenes to support operations. For someone interested in geopolitical history, technology, security issues and government secrecy, it was a must read and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Warning: the book minimizes any discussion of the ethical/moral/legal implications of the spycraft, and the human toll takes a backseat to the geekery.

  • The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
    Important, thorough, and ineffective. Dawkins tries to cover every possible angle of every possible argument that there is no God, declaring that "we are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further." But while his rambling logic may be sound and his stance bold, it eventually comes off as obnoxious and overly hostile to be useful to anyone except another militant atheist. He also doesn't address versions of God that still may appear supernatural, but that don't ascribe otherness, intelligent designer status to God, e.g. animism, pantheism (though in other interviews, he says he has no problem with those versions). The question "can science give meaning to existence?" is core. I did find I tend to agree with Dawkins that the Universe doesn't owe us meaning, and that we can give our own lives meaning through what we create, or we can let the meaning of life come from how we understand/study/interpret/live out our existence.
  • Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil by Michael C. Ruppert
    Rambling, depressing, and comprehensive. Still not done with all 617 pages, but I'm pretty sure what I'll find in the rest - more of Ruppert's dramatic and exhaustively researched connecting of peak oil and energy issues, climate change, the CIA, the Presidency, the planning and execution of 9/11, PNAC, the drug trade, PROMIS, the Saudi Royal Family, economic policy, international politics, surveillance and civil liberties issues, government corruption, and personal failures. The book is not well organized and at times is flat out incoherent, but still has a lot of good original research in it. More important are the correlations that Ruppert makes between all of the above topics over the last few decades, and the horrifying conclusions that can be drawn if even some of them are accurate. It's a tour de force in assessing the sad state of our civilization, but nothing will keep it from being characterized by most as a total wackjob's self-indulgent conspiracy theories. Those seeking truth AND clarity must look elsewhere.

If you've read any of these and have additional thoughts, please share. Or, if you are also a consumer of the written word, let me know what's in your reading list these days.

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