Book Review

The Revolution

The Revolution: A Manifesto, by Ron Paul ★★★★
I’ve taken a break from reading larger texts, to read this book, which arrived a day before (I actually ordered 3 copies). I’m not much of a political wonk, usually hating the idea of politics, but, Ron Paul is a lonely exception. I supported Ron Paul before he ever became known to the public, voted for him for president, and will write his name on the ballot, just to avoid whatever bimbos are put up by the Republicrats for us to vote for. Nothing doing! Dr. Paul covers 5 relevant areas. 1) Foreign policy – like many of my previous posts, Paul advocates getting out of everybody else’s space, 130 countries’ worth of space, to be exact. 2) Support for the constitution – Paul suggests that we return to taking the constitution seriously, rather than allowing politicians to delegitimize sections to meet their convenience or so-called public need. 3) Economic freedom – Paul discusses the issue of removing the current tax structure, while concomitantly cutting back massive federal spending, 4) Civil liberties – Dr. Paul discusses how the use of such new institutions such as the Patriot Act, government eavesdropping, government regulation in health care, drugs, etc. have actually harmed more than helped Americans, and 5) Money – Dr. Paul discusses how the loss of the gold standard and absence of accountability of the federal reserve has led to a massive increase in the money supply while simultaneously devaluing money. All in all, the book is an easy read and a must for anybody who really cares about the future of America. Dr. Paul is certainly correct in anticipating an eventual collapse of the system which the feds will fix at the peril of even more of the freedoms that we currently cherish.

Translating Truth

Translating Truth, Multiple Authors ★★★★
This book is a discussion about theories of translation of the Scripture into the vernacular and is written by a group of most venerable scholars, most of whom were involved in the ESV translation, including JI Packer, Wayne Grudem, Leland Ryken, Jack Collins, Vern Poythress, and Bruce Winter. My interest in this book stemmed from multiple comments about the use of essentially literal vs. dynamic equivalent translation techniques. The book was quite effective at persuading me about the value of essentially literal translation techniques. I realize that there was a time when missionaries paid obeisance to dynamic equivalence, claiming that their audience would not understand various words such as “sheep” or “justification”. In the process, the gospel is dumbed down. Indubitably, many passages in Hebrew and Greek have double meanings, and perhaps both meanings are correct. Perhaps the original language is simply uninterpretable or challenging to understand; in those situations, the translator should not attempt to force on the reader a single interpretation. The book was quite readable, although I’m sure I would have understood it better with a better knowledge of Hebrew and Greek. Oh well.

The Climb

The Climb – Tragic Ambitions on Everest, by Anatoli Boukreev and G. Weston DeWalt ★★★★★
Having just read “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer, I felt it necessary to get another viewpoint of the 1996 Everest Tragedy. Krakauer certainly had a smoother writing style, though Boukreev remains the more believable author. Both detail the facts as they saw them that led to the death of six climbers on Everest in one day, though Boukrrev gives a far more plausible explanation as to the mistakes, and errors in judgment that occurred not only among the guides but also among the clients in several expedition groups competing with each other for the summit of Everest. Errors in supply tactics, preparation of the client climbers, organization of Sherpas and other personnel, and overestimation of ones’ own energy and endurance were skillfully laid out by Boukreev but totally glossed over by Krakauer. Both books will hold you spellbound until the end–such an event needs no elaborate journalism to portray the hopes, the folly, and the extreme conditions that all faced attempting to claim the distinction of having climbed the tallest mountain in the world. As for me, I’ll stay a little lower down on terra firma. If you had to choose between the two books, this would be the preferred.

The Lexus and the Olive Tree

The Lexus and the Olive Tree, by Thomas Friedman ★
Initially, I was going to give this book a few more stars, until Tom grew a touch weary to me. For a journalist, Tommy boy remains a putative total expert on international economics, national economics, international relations, and is single-handedly more responsible for world peace than any other journalist alive. He alone understands. So, what’s so good about this book? Mr. Friedman is a great storyteller. He’s a journalist. It is delightful to learn that other countries behave in ways that are different than in Amerika, but, don’t worry, globalism will solve that. This book was moderately enjoyable to read since Friedman is excellent at generating thought while reading this book, I was constantly awash of comments to write. Only a few will make this Kritik. Maybe the best criticism is that I have another best seller of T. F., “The World is Flat” sitting next to me, which I don’t think I’ll waste my time reading… I have a reasonable feel as to Tom’s thinking and really don’t need any more of it. At first, you begin to feel that Tom is a right-wing Republican. He advocates government non-intervention in the markets and the absence of trade barriers or restrictions. He advocates for morality as the principle fuel that drives a market, and the absence of integrity as the prime extinguisher of globalization, thus, the term golden strait-jacket. So, you then learn that Friedman went through an evolution in learning to get to the truth, and this evolution came only through seeing such as the poor in Rwanda, which informed him that freshman Republicans had no clue at all about the world. Only Tom knows. Friedman fails to suggest whether he has reached an apogee of learning, or, perhaps, that he may have to unlearn certain things. Friedman need not travel in order to learn what his enlightened self now knows – the ride in Disneyland called “It’s a small small world” would have taught him everything he needed to know. His experience in Rwanda taught him the mistake of the second amendment ( right to bear arms) and the necessity of the government’s forced distribution of wealth. The only conservative notion, he doesn’t take shots at is abortion, which makes me quite surprised. Throughout the book, he makes quite asinine statements, such as the fact that Amerika has a huge bankruptcy rate is a good thing since it represents a system that tolerates mistakes (but no mention as to where that lost money came from?). He suggests that Europe, notably Germany and France are somewhat inferior to the US in market integrity (book written before the fall of Enron and bank failures of 2008, or the massive loss of value of the American dollar over the Euro). He supports market integrity without accepting that the individual integrity of a country’s citizens is perhaps the most valuable asset a country could ever have — personal integrity has no place in Friedman’s thesis. Globalism has it’s problems, and Friedman enumerates them but concludes that globalism alone will save the world, especially poor, renegade countries. They need to speed up and make a flying leap onto the express ICE train flying by them. They need to accept that an intangible but totally irrational market, deeply controlled by hunches and propaganda, will influence their well-being significantly. Oddly, part of the reason I enjoy visiting Europe is that things are slower, and people thus think better. There is no greater joy than taking a long stroll with Onkel Herbert to the Biergarten and then solving all the world’s problems. Sadly, things will slow down, but in a totally cataclysmic way, especially for the USA, which, like Friedman, lusts for maintaining Amerikan world hegemony, at least in terms of markets. Friedman views the past as simply sentimentality (what’s old is mold, what’s new is true). Rather, I challenge that the book of Revelation talks quite plainly about globalization since it has always existed in one form or another…
 
After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory.  And he called out with a mighty voice,
“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!…
For all nations have drunk
the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality,
and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her,
and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.” …
And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning.
They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,
“Alas! Alas! You great city,
you mighty city, Babylon!
For in a single hour your judgment has come.”
And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls….
The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud,
“Alas, alas, for the great city
that was clothed in fine linen,
in purple and scarlet,
adorned with gold,
with jewels, and with pearls!
For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.”
And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning,
“What city was like the great city?”
And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out,
“Alas, alas, for the great city
where all who had ships at sea
grew rich by her wealth!
For in a single hour she has been laid waste.   (excerpts of Rev 18 ESV)
 
Nobody would have thought that the Galilean fisherman John would see the world so clearly as to predict global economic collapse, using Babylon as representative of world politics and commerce. So, we await the continued journey of Tommy Boy, and what new revelations will strike him in his visits to the ends of the earth. I’ll use others of lesser status, such as fishermen and tentmakers, to help define my Weltanschaaung.

Complete Book of Road Cycling Skills

Complete Book of Road Cycling Skills, by Ed Pavelka and the editors of Bicycling Magazine  ★★★★
Okay, I’m torturing you with a review of yet another bicycling book, also written in part by Ed Pavelka, but with a different focus, looking a road biking in general, rather than simply talking about long-distance riding. The book is divided into 8 parts, which I will not review, but each focuses on some aspects of bicycling, such as training, riding in traffic, medical problems with bicycling, etc. Each chapter was mostly 3-4 pages long, and thus easy to read in short spurts. All in all, an excellent book for somebody just starting out in the road biking world.

Pandora Prescription

The Pandora Prescription, by James Sheridan  ★★
The Pandora Prescription was written by a self-acclaimed US government contract pilot who flew secretive diplomatic missions between Miami and Havana, thus claiming inside knowledge in the underworld of international politics and espionage. The book is a fast-acting chase between a government agent working for the Department of Homeland Security, and Travis, who is attempting to locate and possess a so-called Apollo document. The book takes on the similitude of a Borne series movie, with near-omniscient government agents solving in methodological brilliance achieving a fantasy status.
Sheridan attempts to weave within the action his own thoughts on the construct of internal and international politics from a US perspective. His thesis is that following WWII, German agents, who in actuality were planted Soviet double agents, took over and dominated the internal workings of the CIA, making it a partial puppet of Soviet interests. In partial defense of that, he argues how the Kennedy assassination was actually a Soviet action performed through the intermediacy of Cuban agents, willing to seek revenge for US desire to assassinate Castro.
The contents of the Apollo file were documents from a Bilderback conference detailing how the international pharmaceutical industry had actually wished to suppress data regarding Laetrile as the cure for cancer, since it was cheap, effective, and without side effects. Many pages are labored over the thesis that Laetrile is indeed a cure for cancer, the truth of which is suppressed in the interests of maintaining the cost-laden health care industry, which in turn supports the US economy. In the end, the truth ends up in the hands of Soviet agents, who would use it to blackmail US interests.
Unfortunately, Sheridan mixes truth and fiction, attempting multiple theses, including a) the renegade nature of US government, which is a government against the people, and especially true of the Homeland Security, b) the subterfuge of international politics, and “conspiracies/clandestine operatives” such as the Bilderback society and not mentioned Trilateral Commission and Club of Rome, and c) the vast health care conspiracy to suppress the cure for cancer and other ailments. Each of these theses has some truth to it. I simply could not speak with authority regarding either a) or b), but refer you to writings such as are produced by brother Dennis, who has much to say on this topic, which I hold to be mostly accurate and consistent with Sheridan’s thought. Like Sheridan, brother Dennis also has much to say regarding the health care industry, but remains less informed, considering that since there are conspiracies behind every tree and under every rock, it must also be true of health care. As a physician, I certainly have grave concerns about the health care industry and believe that Pharmaceutical concerns heavily influence the data, and its interpretation. There is not a week that goes by where some drug rep is trying to buy me lunch and pawn some expensive, useless, and toxic drug off onto my prescription pattern. I just look at the demise of tamoxifen and the rise of aromatase inhibitors, which are far more expensive with more side effects, but marginally, if at all better than tamoxifen, and certainly with virtually no difference in overall survival. Overall survival is a number, unlike disease-free survival or time to progression, that cannot be manipulated. You can’t fudge on the death of a person by more than a day or two.
But what about Laetrile? Are we really hiding the cure for cancer? To even ask the question betrays a naiveté about cancer. Everybody would love a cure for cancer. The book mentions a small province in Nepal where cancer is not reported. Either they do have not the sophistication to identify cancer when it is present (quite probably true) or they die young (also quite true) and so don’t have the chance of getting the old-age disease. Why do people in Cuba and Mexico die of cancer, where they supposedly know the “truth”? Why have the Russians not opened up massive Laetrile clinics for their citizens, since they don’t have drug cartels, yet know the “truth”? I’ve had many patients go to Mexico for the cure, only to come back worse off than before. They should have laid on the beaches and drank their Tequila, rather than wasting their money on worthless cures. Why is Fidel dying of cancer? Odd thing, is it not? Is the drug cartel in Cuba restricting Laetrile from him? Are there cures for other diseases? If so, why haven’t they been discovered before the modern era? It seems like people live at most for 70-80 years, with higher rates found mostly in societies with improved public sanitation and a reasonably adequate diet. Alternative health care varies extremely, from chiropractic, naturopathic, Eastern mystical, Christian Science faith healing, and the list goes on. Having trained at the U. of Illinois, we are all too aware of the Krebiozin incident, which proved to be worthless (sterile water with less than 1 part per billion of any active ingredient). Now, maybe Krebiozin was just another pharmaceutical cover-up, yet I don’t see Brazilians flocking to Krebiozin clinics, since this is where that supposed miracle drug came from. In actual fact, all cultures and societies and levels of sophistication have their quacks. We will someday look at what we do as barbaric, and my enthusiasm for what I have to offer my patients is less than ebullient. If one cannot cut it out, then cancer will probably not be cured. Sheridan’s ignorance of the types and vagaries of cancer and his solution offers me nothing. This book had a “Bourne Identity” style excitement to its plot, some semblance of truth, but overall, a faulty thesis that distracts from the enjoyment of the story.

Into Thin Air

Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer  ★★★★
Into Thin Air is the account by Jon Krakauer, a reporter working for Outside Magazine, chronicling a climb on Mt. Everest. Krakauer, who was originally slated to climb with a group called Mountain Madness, based in Seattle and directed with Scott Fischer, was then switched to a group called Adventure Consultants, based in New Zealand and directed by Rob Hall. This book is a blow-by-blow account of the approach, climb, and disaster that occurred on the summit day, leading to the deaths of Fischer, Hall, as well as four other people. While Fischer and Hall were quite accomplished climbers and experienced with Everest, major decision errors, and arrogance, led to the catastrophes that occurred. Firstly, both groups took extreme pride in getting anybody with any experience at all up the mountain. Secondly, neither group followed their own rules. Neither would fix lines, expecting the other team, or, two other completely inept and inexperienced teams, to fix the ropes, and neither obeyed their own decision to turn back at a certain hour if the summit wasn’t achieved. In addition, there were simply too many people on the mountain attempting the summit push at one time to allow for speed, efficiency, and safety. It was a perfect setup for disaster. Understandably, clients pay reasonably high fees to be personally escorted to the summit of Everest, but, when one needs to be carried and dragged to the summit, as happened with Doug Hansen and Sandy Pittman, it defies the honor of actually having climbed the mountain. One of the guides, Anatoli Boukreev, a Russian climber of unbelievable fitness, came under the harsh scrutiny of Mr. Krakauer for reportedly abandoning several clients to look after his own personal safety, even though it was Boukreev’s personal valor that saved several clients, Pittman and Fox from otherwise sure death. Boukreev actually wrote a book The Climb to defend his own actions. Criticism of Krakauer’s writing, and failure to also look out for his fellow climbers by going ahead of the rest of the team. Part of this was understandable, as the rest of the team was not in good fitness and did not belong on the mountain, or should have turned back long ago. It has been argued that Krakauer’s slick journalistic prose tended to minimalize his faults and accentuate others, though I didn’t sense that this was domineering. Certainly, constructive criticism looks at the climbing errors, which occurred in virtually everybody on the mountain, rather than a single person. So you might ask, did they learn their lessons? I don’t think so. Get into the expedition groups’ websites (http://www.adventureconsultants.co.nz/AdventureInternational/ & http://www.mountainmadness.com/ ) and you will find that they are continuing this madness. You can even sign up for a several-month ski expedition to the South or the North Pole! Not a good idea. Everest, and even smaller peaks, like Denali or even Rainier, should be limited to those who climb on a regular basis and have a clue how to do advanced rescue and techniques of the mountain. A recent catastrophe on Rainier was exactly this sort of thing–poorly prepared clients who went through a short class on self-arrest and knot tying being dragged up a capricious and unpredictable mountain.

The Returning King

The Returning King, by Vern Poythress   ★★★
Also subtitled “A Guide to the Book of Revelation”, this book is a cross between a commentary and a narrative explanation of the meaning of Revelation. By that, he approaches his comments in a somewhat commentary style, occasionally pausing to offer insights into obscure phrases or words. Yet, the flow of the book is more intended to simply try to offer a big picture of what the book is all about. Its closest parallel is the book “More than Conquerors” by William Hendriksen. Hendriksen does offer a similar 7 cycle motif to the book, but spends much more detail in detailing the nature of the cycles, and why a book of prophecy would be presented as a series of cycles. By 7 cycles, Hendriksen explains that history is re-told 7 times, each in a differing, and progressive perspective. Hendriksen is also not fearful about taking an opinion about his interpretative camps, making it clear that an amillenial view best fits the 7-cycle motif. I certainly agree with Hendriksen, and feels that, in part, makes Hendriksen’s text a much better text than Poythress has to offer. Poythress attempts to see makes the series of 7 cycles fit either premillenial, amillenial, or postmillenial thinking. I don’t believe it works. Poythress’ text is certainly not without value, and a worthy read, though, “More than Conquerors” remains a superior and more insightful text of providing an amillenial explanation of the last book of the Scriptures.

Deutsche Geschichte

Nachgefragt: Deutsche Geschichte, by Reinhard Barth   ★★★★★
Translated essentially “Inquiry-German History”, this is a delightful little overview of German history written by a German for the school-age person. It presents various historical vignettes by first asking a simple question, such as, “How did the thirty-years war come about?”, or “What was Hitler’s goal in foreign policy?”, and then, a short 1-2 page answer is offered. More complex words are redefined in the columns. All in all, it makes for excellent reading practice for a faltering English speaker trying to learn another language. Of course, I did learn many new words, all of which a write down on an index card for re-review. The history is itself is fascinating, covering subjects that most Americans are not terribly familiar with, such as the events of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, and the raid on Springer Verlag. Other topics are discussed differently than one would typically be presented in American schools, such as the nature of the two world wars. It is true that the victors write history, which usually is at least partially incorrect. So, one gets the feel with the history of Germany. In all, it was a good read, and I’ll be looking for more German history books to both practice my Deutsch, as well as see history from a different perspective.

Exegetical Fallacies

Exegetical Fallacies, by D.A. Carson   ★★★★
The book is divided up into four main chapters, each of those chapters illustrating a principle area of error in biblical exegesis. The first two chapters, on word-study fallacies, and on grammatical fallacies, were a tad bit challenging to read, in that I knew very little Greek. The chapters were not worthless, but educational in showing how interpretational assumptions and sloppiness can create grave errors in interpretation. The most practical personal lesson was to realize the danger of learning just a little Hebrew and Greek. Unfortunately, it will guarantee to create more false interpretations that light on a subject. This is easy to understand, as, when one learns another language, one can pick up a text and assume to understand clearly what is being said, until one reads a legitimate interpretation. Such an experience can be quite embarrassing. The third chapter, on logical fallacies, was very good at pointing out how sometimes muddled thinking leads to the most inappropriate conclusions. Such muddled thinking includes carrying in assumptions and preconceived baggage into a Scripture passage, that causes is to say something other than what the author truly intended it to say. Finally, presuppositional and historical fallacies were discussed. Some discussion was spent in the review of the new deconstructionist movement, attempting to claim that the Scriptures could mean whatever the reader saw in them. Such an interpretation is in defiance of the historical author, who meant his words to mean very specific things. All in all, this is a must-read book for any serious biblical scholar, and though it will be a bit above the head of the one not entirely skilled in the Biblical languages, is still instructive at helping one detect when exegesis has failed to properly divide the word of truth.