In-depth, straight-talking reviews
The Straight Dope — book version. Free with Prime. WWW.the straightdope.net
The Straight Dope — book version. Free with Prime. WWW.the straightdope.net

How a decade of nonfiction changed my appreciation. Please check it out at http://www.thestraightdope.net


We had it and we lost it. According to Mariana Mazzucato, the USA showed precisely how to energize and motivate an entire country and its economy in the 1960s. Today’s USA shows no signs whatsoever of that spirit. It is everyone for themselves, and public institutions have become liabilities instead of levers. Mazzucato’s The Mission Economy is a delightfully positive, thoroughly thought through, universal solution to what ails capitalism. It is an object lesson in solutions hiding in plain sight.

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It was President John F. Kennedy who, fearing the USA was falling behind the USSR, suddenly pledged to land Americans…


The State must go. But how? It’s rather entrenched. Eric Laursen tries to answer this question by focusing on the why instead of the how. In The Operating System, he tries to compare the State to a Microsoft Windows or an Apple iOS framework. Unfortunately, this does not help much, and the vast bulk of the book has nothing whatever to do with OSs, because no decisions can be made from their similarities that would affect the State. Nothing about an OS foretells what might befall a State.

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Nonetheless, The Operating System, as an exhaustive argument for the value of…


It is pretty clear to the whole world that the United States keeps starting wars and never finishes them. William Arkin and E.D. Cauchi call them perpetual wars in their book The Generals Have No Clothes. But that’s just one tiny aspect of a much larger disease. It is a truism that since Korea after World War II, the US only knows how to win the war, but not the peace. Now, it appears not to be able to even win the war any more.

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The authors have spent decades in and around the national security structure, and what they…


“All disasters are at some level man-made political disasters, even if they originate with new pathogens.“ Discuss. In Doom, Niall Ferguson roams the world, history and even science fiction to examine disasters. There is no shortage holding him back. Too often, he finds midlevel managers at fault.

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The disasters he investigates cover the spectrum from war to pathogens, floods, earthquakes and in the end, planetary invasions. It is an education, a peek behind the scenes, a rollercoaster and an argument rolled into one bubbling and appealing package. The conclusion is that government has and continues to fail us:

“Approaching disasters…


Americans of all colors are waking up to the incredible amount of discrimination built right into its system. Blacks in the USA still must fight to even remain in the middle class because the taxation system is structured to boot them out. That is the premise of The Whiteness of Wealth, a clear, cogent, thorough and revealing work by a black tax lawyer, Dorothy Brown.

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Americans generally know that black households have a fraction of the accumulated wealth of whites. But Brown goes behind the headline numbers to show not only how this came to be, but why it continues…


At long last, here is a climate change analysis that credibly challenges the generally-accepted hysteria with facts, replicable criticisms, and a basis of solid scientific discipline. Steven Koonin was Undersecretary for Science in the Energy Department during the Obama Administration, and a 15 year climate scientist who has worked for Big Oil and numerous scientific organizations. His book Unsettled, collects his thoughts from that period, as well as the many challenges he has made to “The Science” of climate fear-mongering.

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His objections fall into two broad buckets: while there is real evidence of man’s contribution to pollution, there is no…


The difference between #metoo and #churchtoo is that the latter tackles a whole litany of abuses, mostly centered on sexual purity. In the evangelical world, purity means no talk, knowledge or experience with sex before marriage. It only applies to women, of course, and marriage can only be to a Christian man. Also of course. The result is a whole tribe of damaged women who have been blamed and punished for men breaking the purity code. …


It is a truism that no one person understands all of the income tax law of the United States. It is that bizarre, convoluted and complicated. To this, David Pogue is adding all of the potential disasters from climate change. In his How to Prepare for Climate Change, Pogue exhaustively describes what readers can only hope is every conceivable disaster, weakness, aid agency and product to help readers survive. It is not merely exhaustive; it is exhausting.

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From one angle, the book is an almanac of all the many destructive forces making their presence known on Earth. It describes floods…


Almost as s a public service, Jesse Singal has investigated numerous famous frauds of social/behavioral psychology. These are the fashionable, authoritative life hacks that can be described in cute memes or no more than a simple declarative sentence. The kinds of hacks that have made millions for psychologists, and continue to, long after they have been proven wrong if not totally bogus, and even after their creators have admitted as much. It is a delicious overview of what is wrong with psychology and why its credibility bounces along the zero level. They make his book, The Quick Fix, a great…

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