Archive for August 2011


it’s hard out here

August 25th, 2011 — 1:33pm

(read the book free online - read the Reddit AMA)

Imagine you live in a small apartment above a bookstore.

Like most bookstores, it has an area set aside for perusing novels and consuming refreshments where you can relax with a alluring and fragrant pile of books stacked in front of you.  The only sounds come from the soft mood music the establishment is piping in and the contented signs of other customers.  You’re free to evaluate each prospective purchase at your own leisure, languidly stroking their pages one-by-one, seeing if this one or that one’s spine has what you’re looking for attached to it.

No one who works there ever comes up and hassles you about hurrying up and buying something already, there’s an implicit pact between client and business – you’re free to lounge for as long as you’d like, but if you want the convenience of taking the book with you, a fee is required.

That’s really all you’re paying, a convenience fee.  Each book sits on the shelf open and waiting, shyly beckoning you with coyly designed covers and promising words – tempting you to pick them up, sit them in your lap, fall in love with them, and pay to take them home. But whether or not payment is rendered, you can still have your way with as many books as you want, regardless of whether or not you pay a single cent.

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8 comments » | books, current affairs, e-books, news, publishing, terrorism, war on drugs

the importance of being anonymous

August 17th, 2011 — 5:25pm


(read the book free online - read the Reddit AMA)

British Prime Minister David Cameron is looking to make like an autocratic Arab dictator, and use the aftermath of the anarchistic violence that just swept across England’s streets as a reason to push through reforms curtailing internet speech and increasing online surveillance.  This follows closely on the heels of the United States passing it’s own bill drastically curtailing internet anonymity, as it forces ISPs to log massive amounts of user data.

The history of the Isles cracking down on the dissemination of dissent goes back at least to 1644, when the English Parliament re-introduced government control of printing and publishers in response to John Milton’s essay arguing  against the Catholic Church’s strictures against divorce.  Milton’s response championed free-speech above all other liberal rights:  “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”

But governments across Europe had been actively trying to prevent that for centuries, as at one time or another the roster of banned books included those written by Descartes, Galileo, Hume, Locke, Defoe, Rousseau, and Voltaire.  Limiting and controlling thought is nothing new to governments, and so it was this history of official censorship and censure that in 1776 led Thomas Paine to take an important precaution when he published the argument that caused the call for American independence to fully coalesce.

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6 comments » | books, current affairs, memes, terrorism

innocents and innocence alike

August 13th, 2011 — 12:52pm

(read the book free online - get a copy for your Kindle - read the Reddit AMA)

In one of The Dark Knight‘s pivotal scenes, Alfred descends into a strictly ordered and starkly lit Batcave as Bruce Wayne is doggedly patching himself up. After helping his employer with some stitching, Alfred realizes that Master Bruce doesn’t fully comprehend the dystopian miasma of violence that the Joker has brought upon Gotham City:

Alfred: A long time ago, I was in Burma, my friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never found anyone who traded with him. One day I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.

Bruce Wayne: Then why steal them?

Alfred: Because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

It’s a fantastic scene from a cinematic standpoint, but a problem occurs when you pull the Joker out of the movie as one crazy-ass allegory for chaos and death. And especially when you make the leap of trying to fit terrorism into the framework provided by the Joker, to use the the Joker as a rubric for terrorism.

No one better proves this than the Ft. Hood shooter, Nidal Malik Hasan.

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Comment » | books, counterinsurgency, Current Events, domestic terror, islam, news, politics, terrorism

the number frightened

August 8th, 2011 — 7:51am

(learn more about the book at the “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit)

Here’s a sad truth, expressed by a Londoner when asked by a television reporter: Is rioting the correct way to express your discontent?

“Yes,” said the young man. “You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?”

The TV reporter from Britain’s ITV had no response. So the young man pressed his advantage. “Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard,  more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you.”

- MSNBC.com’s World Blog

The ongoing riots in and around London highlight the truth behind an old Arab proverb:  “victory is not gained by the number killed, but by the number frightened.”  The formative entropy that began when a Tunisian fruit-dealer immolated himself on the street has finally rippled out across borders of the Arab world and into the West.

But this isn’t the first time an act of public violence somewhere else in the world has started a movement that ends up resonating inside the West as well.

As one century melded into the next, a different sort of terrorism began to stir in the core of the world’s great power.

Like others before, it was rooted in protest against the oppressive policies of what it saw as an immoral and corrupt government. A government that was seen by many as having no right to be exercising any influence over the lives of a people and occupying its lands. A government that hadn’t been legitimately elected by its people and was seen by many as serving the interests of a wealthy elite while ignoring the moral and social degeneration going on inside the nation.

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3 comments » | Uncategorized

the water is wider

August 5th, 2011 — 9:31am

(learn more about the book at the “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit)

Along the banks of the Mississippi, simmering tensions that should’ve been judicially dissolved over fifty-years ago have recently roiled back to the surface.  Due to the growing likelihood of financial dissolution, the school district that governs inner-city Memphis schools recently voted forfeit its charter and force a merger with neighboring Shelby County, a much wealthier and much whiter district.

Families in Shelby County aren’t exactly thrilled, its Board of Education sued to block the merger and referred to the proposed melding as a “hostile surrender.” And Memphis is far from alone.

Since the economy began to tank in 2008, thirty-four states and Washington D.C. have been forced to make cuts in K-12 education, with many of those cuts affecting the poor and disadvantaged.  Examples of this include Arizona eliminating support for disadvantaged elementary school kids, California cutting help for high-need students, and Illinois ending a program aimed at reading and study skills of at-risk students.

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1 comment » | Uncategorized

an American nightmare

August 1st, 2011 — 10:27pm

(read the book free online - get a copy for your Kindle - read the Reddit AMA)

Things had been looking up for black families, back in 1963 as MLK gave his “I Have A Dream” speech about 70% of black families were headed by a married couple. But that percentage steadily began to drop, between 1970 and 2001 it declined by 34%, double the white decline, and by 2002 it had bottomed out at just 48%.

But if the War on Drugs didn’t directly precipitate the destruction of the African-American family, why did the decline in married black women triple during the first decade of the War?

In fact, the impact of the War on Drugs has been so racially biased that although only 14% of all illicit drug users are black, blacks make up about half of those in prison for drug offenses.  (When you adjust for the fact that the Department of Justice simply throws prisoners who identify as mixed race half-black and half-white out of their data, the proportion is well over half.)  A black man is eight-times as likely as a white man to be locked up at some point in his life. And by 2006 America had, proportionally, almost six-times as many blacks locked up as South Africa did at the height of Apartheid.

Our penal system has grown so massive that the U.S. criminal justice system now employs more people than America’s two largest private employers, Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, combined.

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5 comments » | Arab Spring, current affairs, domestic terror, innercity violence, islam, news, politics, prison system, racial inequality, racial tension, racism, reform, revolution, terrorism, war on drugs

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