Showing posts from June, 2021

Recent Books 6-19: Mini-Reviews

  The Stand by Stephen King – This bloated monstrosity (1348 pg) starts as a disturbingly contemporary post-apocalyptic novel.  A deadly virus escapes from a lab and kills almost everybody. The few survivors start finding each other, but since this is a Stephen King novel, a bunch of Satanic hocus-pocus quickly becomes the focus.  Aside from the fact that this novel is about 1148 pages too long, it is otherwise forgettable.  Even the devilish villain is pretty boring. The Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman – Another good Navaho country mystery by Tony Hillerman.   An historic Navajo rug thought destroyed in a fire shows up in an architecture magazine and retired lawman turned detective turns up dead.   Retired Navajo Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn gets in involve.   Lots of nice scenes from Navaho country. Leaphorn and Jim Chee. The Sun: A Very Short Introduction – Another book in the very short introductions series.   All about the Sun in 184 pages.   I read this for background on severa

Book Review: Premonition: A Pandemic Story, by Michael Lewis

  This was a hard book for me to read, since so much of it is the story of government incompetence and the cowardice of our leaders, and the vast death and suffering those character flaws produced, but it is full of lessons for the future. Michael Lewis is famous for his ability to put human faces on big stories and construct   coherent narratives.   Premonition tells the story of the efforts of a handful of visionary doctors and scientists to prepare for and cope with the great Pandemic of 2020-… The first important politician to appreciate the threat was George W. Bush, maybe the last person I would have suspected.   Bush had read John Barry’s The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History during his summer vacation in 2005 and came back to the White House to ask Congress for money and created an office in the White House Staff.   Some of those recruited would play key roles in the rest of the book. What happened when the Obama team took over exposed one of g

Origin of Covid: The Lab Leak Theory

  The Lab Leak Theory On February 19, 2020, The Lancet, among the most respected and influential medical journals in the world, published a statement that roundly rejected the lab-leak hypothesis, effectively casting it as a xenophobic cousin to climate change denialism and anti-vaxxism. Signed by 27 scientists, the statement expressed “solidarity with all scientists and health professionals in China” … Katherine Eban, writing in Vanity Fair , assembles a persuasive case that the notion that covid-19 originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology should be taken very seriously.   One reason that it hasn’t been was that statement in The Lancet .   A second reason was the fact that the Lab origin theory was being promoted mostly by right-wing allies of Donald Trump.   Eban notes: Thanks to their unprecedented track record of mendacity and race-baiting, Trump and his allies had less than zero credibility. And the practice of funding risky research via cutouts like EcoHealth Alliance

Book Pre-Review: The Mote in God's Eye

 I just started this but I found it a bit hilarious how the Eighteenth or Nineteenth Century sea faring novel had been transplanted more or less intact into space, complete with its antique political organization, customs, and moral system.  Apparently space travel had catapulted mankind back into a more primitive era, and the authors had produced a "Hornblower goes to space" rip off.

Squeeze the Rich

 Recent revelations that the richest Americans pay a tiny proportion of their income in taxes, or no taxes at all, reveal a deep rot at the core of American economics.  Bezos, Bloomberg, Buffett, Icahn, and Musk each had years paying zero taxes while their wealth has exploded.  Even their five year average federal income taxes are tiny: It is time to bring this to a stop.  A good start would be to require publication of the tax returns of all Americans with a net worth of over 100 million.  Even better would be making everyone's income and tax public after the manner of Finland.  It's also time for Elizabeth Warren's wealth taxes - something like 1% of everything over 50 million and 2% of everything over 1 billion, annually.  Tax exiles should forfeit a big chunk of any American assets. Proceeds should be dedicated to national health insuran