Saturday, July 30, 2011

Excerpt of the day

'As we watched from the playground, amid the monkey bars, the school principal told the young crowd, "No students were here on that day, but this did not save them. Over 1300 of your former classmates died that day. Now you are 780 in number. Look around you and imagine all of you plus 500 of your brothers and sisters perishing." My own daughter was barely out of elementary school so tears filled my eyes. Indeed, the death toll of children from this one school eclipsed by more than a thousand the total number of Japanese military personnel killed in Nagasaki that day. The school also lost twenty-eight of its forty-two teachers.' - Greg Mitchell, ATOMIC COVER-UP: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and The Greatest Movie Never Made

Latest discount book buy

Other People's Money And How the Bankers Use It (pb) by Louis Brandeis for 2 dollars.

Of course, if I had realized that there is a 1 dollar kindle version, I would have gone with that.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Quote of the day

"I have a message to those who attacked us. A message from the whole of Norway. You won’t destroy us. You won't destroy our democracy. We are a small but proud nation. No one can bomb us to silence. No one can scare us from being Norway." - Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg

Friday, July 22, 2011

Kindle book sale through July 27

The Atheologian points out that through July 27, Amazon is having a bargain Kindle sale of 900 plus books. is having another big sale on select Kindle books. I have already tweeted the most important titles, but they deserve as much exposure as possible, so here are the ones I bought:

Loftus: The Christian Delusion $2.99
Stenger: The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning $3.99
ibn Warraq: Why I Am Not a Muslim $1.99
Pickover: Archimedes to Hawking $1.99
Jones: The Quantum Ten $1.99
Stenger: Timeless Reality $0.99
I can vouch for Why I Am Not a Muslim and Archimedes to Hawking, both of which I have on my bookshelf; although I have not done more that skim and browse the latter, I have read numerous other books written by Pickover and find him to be one of the best popularizers of science. It is difficult to read something by Pickover and not end up wanting to go read something else to satisfy an intellectual curiousity that he has piqued - and from what I've already read of A to H, this certainly seems to be a book that will be true to that form.

In addition to the books that The Atheologian has spotted, I've found some other books of note on the list that I can recommend from previous readings:

Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend by Barbara Oakley $1.99

Adams vs. Jefferson : The Tumultuous Election of 1800 by John Ferling $1.99

Longitude by Dava Sobel $2.99 (Which I've discussed previously.)

Given the pleasure I got from reading the Ferling book above, I am pleased to find that his John Adams: A Life is also on sale for $1.99.

And finally, also courtesy of The Atheologian, the free sampler Superheroes: The Best of Philosophy and Pop Culture, which collects articles about superheroes from the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series.

Callahan reviews Jesus Potter Harry Christ

I previously passed along some information about a book comparing the literary similarities between Jesus Christ and Harry Potter, a book which is now out, available in both a print and a (fairly priced) Kindle edition.

Tim Callahan reviews Jesus Potter Harry Christ in this week's eSkeptic, ultimately giving this recommendation:

Whether or not one agrees with Murphy’s ultimate position, and whether or not one agrees with his arguments that Jesus was entirely (rather than mostly) mythic, Jesus Potter Harry Christ is well worth wading through, and wade through it one must, simply because of the sheer mass and volume of evidence the author provides. Make this a book whose pages you dog-ear for further reference and second readings.

How much longer?

I am still waiting on work on my home to be finished and still have most of my things (including my computer) in storage. I have been told that it should be another week until the work is complete, but given that I had expected to be back home at least a month ago, I haven't got my hopes up.

So the light blogging will continue until then.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Monday, July 04, 2011

A patriot's Fourth of July reader

Every July 4th I re-read "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro," a speech given by Frederick Douglass when he was asked to contribute to a celebration of the Declaration of Independence on July 5th, 1852.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.
I don't believe any speech better embodies the spirit of patriotism, nor honors the principles of the Declaration of Independence better; yet it is almost entirely negative and critical. Did Frederick Douglass "hate America?"

It's important to remember this manner of honoring the 4th of July: especially so in a United States that lets torturers walk free while whistleblowers are persecuted.

The morality at play in the Manning persecution is mangled beyond belief. It's perfectly conventional wisdom that the war in Iraq was an act of profoundly unjust destruction, yet normal, psychologically healthy people are expected to passively accept that there should be no consequences for those responsible (a well-intentioned policy mistake), while one of the very few people to risk his life and liberty to stop it and similar acts is demonized as a mentally ill criminal. Similarly, the numerous acts of corruption, deceit and criminality Manning allegedly exposed are ignored or even sanctioned, while the only punished criminal is -- as usual -- the one who courageously brought those acts to light. Meanwhile, Americans love to cheer for the Arab Spring rebellions -- look at those inspiring people standing up to their evil dictators and demanding freedom -- yet the American government officials who propped up those dictators for decades and helped suppress those revolts, including the ones currently in power, are treated as dignified statesmen, while a person who actually exposed those tyrants and played at least some role in triggering those inspiring revolts (Manning) rots in a prison after enduring 10 months of deeply inhumane treatment.

There's no doubt that it's illegal for a member of the military to leak classified or secret documents -- just as there was no doubt about the illegality of Daniel Ellsberg's leaks, or a whole slew of other acts of civil disobedience we consider noble. The fact that an act is legal does not mean it is just, and conversely, that an act is illegal does not mean it is unjust. Many people enjoy hearing themselves condemn the acts of tyrants and imperial forces in the world. If the allegations against him are true, Bradley Manning knowingly risked his liberty to take action against those acts, in the hope of exposing those responsible and triggering worldwide reforms. It's hard to dispute that these leaks achieved exactly that, but even if they hadn't, his conduct is profoundly commendable, and the world needs far more, not fewer, Bradley Mannings.
Or, as Henry David Thoreau put it:

Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislation? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right.