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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism - Naomi Klein A very disturbing book indeed. I can't decide whether I feel that her paranoia got out of control, or whether it is indeed a fair representation of US foreign policy over the last 30-40 years. A lot of it rings true. Though I hope that the links between torture and economic theory are not as clear as she paints them... that was the part I had the hardest time swallowing. Maybe we will learn more now that the Neo-Cons are going to lose control of the US.


I can't help thinking of The Shock Doctrine when I see the daily headlines here in Britain about the drastic changes our new government intends to make. Klein argues that the standard tactic the right has used is to wait for a crisis of some kind, and then use it as an excuse to rush through policies which they've prepared for this eventuality. In some cases, they engineer the crisis intentionally.

Okay... I can see that some of the government's policies can be defended as as a rational response to Britain's enormous debt. And then you have things like reducing the number of MPs from 650 to 600. This is very advantageous to the Conservatives. But the official justification is that it will save £12M.

Now, people are often bad at comparing big numbers. We owe something around £900B, largely as a result of having to bail out the banks during the credit crunch two years ago. Let's divide by ten million and try to relate it to something we can actually understand. So, I'll suppose that my cousin somehow persuaded me to invest in his business venture, which sounded sensible but actually turned out to be a pyramid scheme that collapsed catastrophically. To our horror, this has left us saddled with a personal debt of £90,000, which we're slowly trying to pay off.

Not surprisingly, my partner is all over my case, and is taking the opportunity to get her way on a number of issues while she has the moral upper hand. But when she uses this argument to motivate not buying a copy of a Sunday newspaper that I like and she doesn't, and which costs £1.20, I feel she's gone too far. A saving this small makes no real difference. It's just exploiting the situation.

Well, as I see it, that's roughly what our government is doing now.