Books In Brief

This book is probably not for bedtime reading. Why? Because it's going either scare you to the point where you're up all night trolling the Internet for other signs of the apocalypse, or you'll be so mad that you'll be up all night trolling the Internet looking for property in Canada or Mexico. I read two reviews on this book and both highlighted many of the same incidents on pre-war intelligence, the way the Bush Administration operates more on loyalty rather than transparency in governing, and the role of Dick Cheney in keeping information from Bush so he can plausibly deny any knowlege of a particular policy if something goes horribly horribly wrong.

I'll be reading this book in the daylight hours, and hopefully trying to nail down an interview with the author for my public affairs program. In the meantime, might want to read a very good review by Gary Kamiya over at Salon on Suskind's book. The NY Times has shorter summary review if you're pressed for time. (You'll need an account to read the NY Times review, but it's free to sign up).

In other news…

Speaking of my public affairs program, I had my first guest that I found smug and unappealing. He wrote a book on the overuse of antidepressants as a way to find "happiness" in life. The subject sounded interesting and I agreed to have the author on, but after reading the book, I was surprised by how badly written it was — especially since this guy has both a PhD and an MD. What my beef with his book? It's the way he makes emphatic statements and comes to unimpeachable conclusions based solely on a few case studies. He says things like: "Sally X's life after taking Zoloft trapped her in a bad relationship for a year because the drug blocked her ability to see that her boyfriend's personality was not compatible with hers." See what the problem is here? The drug, and only the drug, caused her to stay in the bad relationship. He does this with case studies over and over throughout the book. What kind of science is this? One to one causal connections in the hard sciences are accepted as "fact" if you can repeat the experiment and get the same results. When you're dealing with humans in a fluid situations, there are many other variables that come into play that are causal "factors." That's why you don't make inferences like "Drug X was the sole cause of Mark's unhappiness." How do you know that was the only cause? You have to really dig deep and find other "variables" that affect Mark's life and his psychological wellness (or lack thereof). If this book was submitted as a paper for a college class or even as a thesis or dissertation, this guy would have been ripped a new one by his prof or by the dissertation committee for being so sloppy with his analysis and using an almost laughable methodology. That's why it surprised me to know that this book was written by someone who went through the process of getting his PhD in political philosophy from Johns Hopkins University. WTF?

–PK

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