Archive for the ‘book reviews’ Category

Highly Recommended Readings

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Here are some recommended readings. I may post some excerpts later but not right now. The first listing is what set me on the course of understanding Marxism theoretically and the second dispels a lot of exaggerations and false characterizations of Marx. I always had an idea of what Marxist theory was, but now I understand it much deeper than before Free Media Productions existed.

The Great Political Theories V.2: A Comprehensive Selection of the Crucial Ideas in Political Philosophy from the French Revolution to Modern Times edited by Michael Curtis:

This is a book I started reading around 2009.

When attempting to understand Marx, it is not particularly helpful to read information that is not particularly important. This is high quality material that was custom selected and compiled into a section on Marx. To view this material, read pages 155 through 180. The intro by Michael Curtis makes some good points, but take it with a grain of salt. Notice how Engels praises Darwin in his intro to the Communist Manifesto and compares Marx to Darwin. People who say that Marxism is anti-Darwin are not correct. Also notice how Marx discusses modes of production and the negative consequences associated with various modes of production.

The Enduring Questions : Traditional and Contemporary Voices by Jerry H. Gill

This was a Philosophy book I had in college (I aced the class).

Read pages 526 and 527 where Jerry H. Gill comments about Marxism and dispels a lot of myths. Near the end he makes some appeals to “human rights.” I am not saying to listen to that part!

The Gift of Fear – Gavin De Becker

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

The link
The link leads to an old eagleeye post on unexplained mysteries, that I made before buying the book. Gavin De Becker makes the argument that intuition is often worth acting on. His book indeed is interesting and I indeed did buy the book shortly after making that post.

It is a book with themes from criminal profiling, to escaping criminals, to forensic psychology. This book for instance contains information about liars and how their stories fail. Why they fail. It looks into a range of topics, and I figured it deserved a plug on Free Media Productions. If you are interested in the way the human mind works to avoid danger and also in the criminal mind, then read this book.

The history and geography of human genes – Cavalli-Sforza

Friday, May 28th, 2010

The link
I just purchased this book off of ebay. I have a decent understanding of human genetics and race – a much better understanding than neo-nazis or race deniers – but I think this book will take me to the next level. Hopefully someone who reads this blog entry will follow the same path.

L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza and his collaborators Paolo Menozzi and Alberto Piazza have devoted fourteen years to one of the most compelling scientific projects of our time: the reconstruction of where human populations originated and the paths by which they spread throughout the world. In this volume, the culmination of their research, the authors explain their pathbreaking use of genetic data, which they integrate with insights from geography, ecology, archaeology, physical anthropology, and linguistics to create the first full-scale account of human evolution as it occurred across all continents. This interdisciplinary approach enables them to address a wide range of issues that continue to incite debate: the timing of the first appearance of our species, the problem of African origins and the significance of work recently done on mitochondrial DNA and the popular notion of an “African Eve,” the controversy pertaining to the peopling of the Americas, and the reason for the presence of non-Indo-European languages–Basque, Finnish, and Hungarian–in Europe.The authors reconstruct the history of our evolution by focusing on genetic divergence among human groups. Using genetic information accumulated over the last fifty years, they examined over 110 different inherited traits, such as blood types, HLA factors, proteins, and DNA markers, in over eighteen hundred, primarily aboriginal, populations. By mapping the worldwide geographic distribution of the genes, the scientists are now able to chart migrations and, in exploring genetic distance, devise a clock by which to date evolutionary history: the longer two populations are separated, the greater their genetic difference should be. This volume highlights the authors’ contributions to genetic geography, particularly their technique for making geographic maps of gene frequencies and their synthetic method of detecting ancient migrations, as for example the migration of Neolithic farmers from the Middle East toward Europe, West Asia, and North Africa.Beginning with an explanation of their major sources of data and concepts, the authors give an interdisciplinary account of human evolution at the world level. Chapters are then devoted to evolution on single continents and include analyses of genetic data and how these data relate to geographic, ecological, archaeological, anthropological, and linguistic information. Comprising a wide range of viewpoints, a vast store of new and recent information on genetics, and a generous supply of visual elements, including 522 geographic maps, this book is a unique source of facts and a catalyst for further debate and research.

Book Review – Nikolai Yezhov: The Rise of Stalin’s ‘Iron Fist’

Friday, February 27th, 2009


Little in the way of authoritative biographical works have been written about Nikolai Ivanovich Yezhov, once known as “Stalin’s Favorite” and former People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs of the Soviet Union from 1936 to 1938. This new book offers an interesting glance, through a bourgeois historical lens, about the early life and political rise of Nikolai Yezhov without delving too much into his reign as a People’s Commissar. In fact, little is mentioned at all about this period, and instead focuses on Yezhov’s life from his proletarian origins, his service in the military, and his meteoric rise within the Bolshevik Party’s personnel apparatus.

The book’s strengths lie in that the author’s at least make some meaningful attempts to avoid allowing their own political beliefs hinder their objective historical work, though there is no short of reference to the “crimes” committed by Yezhov. Likewise, the authors don’t try to draw a psychological profile of Yezhov and are quite determined to describe his life and pre-NKVD career independent of how history has remembered him. Perhaps the work’s most praiseworthy element is that the author’s don’t try to assume conclusions (at least explicitly) where information is lacking. Unlike Robert Conquest, Getty and Naumov try not to assert assumptions in place of evidence and factual information.

A lot of information is based on sources or testimonies of people who recorded their experience of Yezhov from his earlier career – including individuals who served with him in the Red Army (1919-1921), his Party comrades in numerous provincial Party organs and his colleagues and coworkers in the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture. It also draws on some of the remnants of Yezhov’s personal records taken from his official archives.

The overall questions that Getty and Naumov are trying to answer throughout their research is what kind of person was Yezhov before he held the power of a People’s Commissar, explain his rapid rise within the Party and State apparatus and ultimately (according to the authors) discover whether Yezhov was merely Stalin’s tool, or a willing leader capable of acting on his own initiative.

The drawbacks of the book are that, despite the attempts of the authors, it does invoke moments of bourgeois anti-communist moralizing in reference to specific events and actions undertaken by the Soviet government, the NKVD and is underscored with a preconceived hostility towards Soviet policy. Furthermore, the book itself is extremely short (less than 200 pages), though this is probably due to the lack of verifiable sources on Yezhov’s early life.


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