Saturday, October 29, 2011

Latest discount book buys

Perelandra (pb) by C.S. Lewis for 50 cents.

The People's Doonesbury: Notes from Underfoot (hc) by Gary Trudeau for 1 dollar.

The Doonesbury Chronicles (hc) by Gary Trudeau for 1 dollar.

Quote of the day

"[L]iberty ... cannot flourish in a country that is permanently on a war footing, or even a near-war footing. Permanent crisis justifies permanent control of everybody and everything by the agencies of the central government." - Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Behold, the Horrors of the New Deal

From The New Deal: A Modern History (via Slate)

The New Deal physically reshaped the country. To this day, Americans still rely on its works for transportation, electricity, flood control, housing, and community amenities. The output of one agency alone, the Works Progress Administration, represents a magnificent bequest to later generations. The WPA produced, among many other projects, 1,000 miles of new and rebuilt airport runways, 651,000 miles of highway, 124,000 bridges, 8,000 parks, and 18,000 playgrounds and athletic fields; some 84,000 miles of drainage pipes, 69,000 highway light standards, and 125,000 public buildings built, rebuilt, or expanded. Among the latter were 41,300 schools.
And just this afternoon I turned on Rush Limbaugh to hear him saying that liberalism is destructive.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The history of philosophy

It has come to my attention that for some reason I have failed to forward The Atheologian's recommendation of Peter Adamson's History of Philosophy without any gaps podcast.

Peter Adamson, Professor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy at King's College London, takes listeners through the history of Western philosophy, "without any gaps." Beginning with the earliest ancient thinkers, the series will look at the ideas and lives of the major philosophers (eventually covering in detail such giants as Plato, Aristotle, Avicenna, Aquinas, Descartes, and Kant) as well as the lesser-known figures of the tradition.
I've been listening for a year now and Adamson is 51 episodes into the project, just recently having gotten to Aristotle.

This really is a fantastic podcast - interesting and informative. Anyone with a remote interest in philosophy who isn't already following should start catching up.

Adamson has provided an invaluable resource: a convenient way to learn the history of philosophy in twenty minute or so intervals. In terms of digestible informational value, I would rank this podcast up with Bertrand Russell's masterpiece History of Western Philosophy, to give you an idea of the level of admiration I have for it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Retconning history

From entry Retcon

Definition: This term has become more and more used in the world of comic books. A retcon is when a later writer changes the history of a comic book to accommodate their own storyline. The more comic books continue, especially in the case of Marvel and DC, the more history current writers have to wade through. Many feel that it is easier to change the continuity than to have to deal with it.
Listening to the Chris Mooney Point of Inquiry interview of Rick Perlstein about leading Republican figures inventing their own versions of history, I could think of no better way to describe their cartoonish historical revisions than as comic book style retcons.

For example, it is easier to change the continuity to accommodate one's own storyline than to have to deal with it. Instead of coming to terms with the overwhelming consilience of evidence for evolution, David Barton simply cites the authority of the Founding Fathers and claims, contrary to reality, that Thomas Paine said that creation science (something that did not exist at the time) should be taught in the classroom instead of evolution (a theory that would not be presented for nearly another 70 to 80 years). Easier, but intellectually corrupt.

The sad part - that Perlstein addresses in the interview - is that media outlets, out of a false sense of balance, now tend to treat such claims as having merit by virtue of their being presented rather than treating them as the obvious nonsense they are.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Baleful quote of the day

"Every now and then it’s worth pausing to reflect on how often we talk about the killing of people by the U.S. Literally, the U.S. government is just continuously killing people in multiple countries around the world. Who else does that? Nobody — certainly nowhere near on this scale. The U.S. President expressly claims the power to target anyone he wants, anywhere in the world, for death, including his own citizens; he does it in total secrecy and with no oversight; and this power is not just asserted but routinely exercised. The U.S., over and over, eradicates people’s lives by the dozens from the sky, with bombs, with checkpoint shootings, with night raids — in far more places and far more frequently than any other nation or group on the planet. Those are just facts." - Glenn Greenwald, commenting on the killing of a 16-year-old (among others) by a U.S. drone strike

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The end of an era

Since this blog started back in '05, one of the topics I've blogged the most about has been cable news pundits, particularly Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly, and how antithetical to the things I value as a humanist they are. (See here for an early example.)

Haunted by Neal Postman's ghost and looking to save money I have canceled my cable subscription, so (for the time being at least) I will no longer be able to watch these programs as I did before.

This isn't much of a change, however, in that I had already mostly quit watching these shows, anyway. I feel I may have reached my saturation point after years of regular viewing. With the two years of insanity that was the Glenn Beck program on Fox News, it may take quite some time before my batteries are recharged enough to feel like ever doing such a thing again.

Hopefully, this will give me more time to spend with my book collection, which will in turn lead to better blogging (once I get back to blogging) more in line with the original intent of the blog (doubting humanist and all that.)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Quote of the day

"Every thing secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity." - Lord Acton, Lord Acton and His Circle

Friday, October 14, 2011

Excerpt of the day

From The End of America by Naomi Wolf

"Could what happened to Maher Arar happen to a U.S. citizen? Chaplain James Yee was arrested and investigated on suspicion of "espionage and possibly treason" on September 10, 2003. It is not widely reported that he had also spoken up on behalf of better treatment for the detainees in Guantanamo. Military officials claimed that Yee had classified documents that included diagrams of cells at Guantanamo and lists of detainees. He was also said to have "ties to [radical Muslims in the U.S.]."

Chaplain Yee was taken to a navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina, and interrogated. He was blindfolded; his ears were blocked; he was manacled and then put into solitary confinement for seventy-six days; he was forbidden mail, television, or anything to read except the Koran. His family was not allowed to visit him. He was demonized on TV, radio, and the internet and accused of being an operative in "a supposed spy ring that aimed to pass secrets to al-Qaeda from suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo ... Court papers said he would be charged with espionage, spying, aiding the enemy, mutiny or sedition, and disobeying an order." Chaplain Yee, born in New Jersey and raised a Lutheran before converted to Islam, was baffled at the accusations. His lawyers were told he could face execution. Within six months, the U.S. government had dropped all criminal charges against Yee. But the government said it did so to avoid making its sensitive evidence public, not because Yee is innocent.

Yee was released - but charged with what looked like punitive "Mickey Mouse" charges: "adultery, lying to investigators and two counts of downloading porn." In the presence of his humiliated wife and his 4-year-old daughter, military prosecutors compelled Navy Lt. Karyn Wallace to testify about their extramarital affair. The military rarely prosecutes adultery. The government never presented the evidence on which it based its first accusations against Yee. But after Yee was set free, he was placed "under a new Army order not to talk about his ordeal in any way that might be seen as critical to the military." If he says anything negative about what happened to him, he faces further prosecution.
Yee has since been released from his gag order.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

A book that should be read

I've been busy (again) finding reasons not to blog, but am taking a moment to remind you of what I anticipate to be one of the most important political books coming out this year - Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law is used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful by Glenn Greenwald - and that it is coming out later this month.

Given the recent news that the CIA will face no consequences for illegally destroying evidence of torture and conspiring to hide both the crimes of torture and withholding/destruction of evidence, while more and more Americans find themselves falling victim to the prison-industrial complex, this remains a book on a subject that is long overdue.