Finally I've finished the "Burmese trilogy" -- Burmese Days, Animal Farm, and 1984 -- which looms so large in Emma Larkin's "Finding George Orwell inFinally I've finished the "Burmese trilogy" -- Burmese Days, Animal Farm, and 1984 -- which looms so large in Emma Larkin's "Finding George Orwell in Burma". It was unsettling how much this book applies to modern day America; my home. How many people have I watched swallow government propaganda (invasion of Iraq for WMD) only to swallow new and improved and contradictory propaganda a year later (actually that invasion was about spreading democracy, not WMD, of course, of course)? How many people continue to insist that the United States is a democracy, even after the very public anti-democratic 2008 bank bailout? Doublethink is very much alive and well in 2010......more
Excellent book detailing the cultural heritage which props up western militaries so effectively. Hanson thinks he's refuted Jared Diamond, but nothingExcellent book detailing the cultural heritage which props up western militaries so effectively. Hanson thinks he's refuted Jared Diamond, but nothing could be further from the truth. The two of them are working on radically different timescales. Hanson is only looking at the last 2500 years, Diamond looks at patterns that have emerged over tens of thousands of years. Both visions are actually complimentary in large part. I'm interested in hearing their "debate" over NPR from a few years ago....more
An interesting look at race relations in rural Delta Mississippi during the last stages of formal segregation. It uses the unique situation of Delta CAn interesting look at race relations in rural Delta Mississippi during the last stages of formal segregation. It uses the unique situation of Delta Chinese-Mississippians in analyzing the local framework of race relations. This group went from being identified as "black" or "near-black" during Reconstruction, to "white" or "near-white" at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Just how that was accomplished sheds light on how the most powerful caste in the Delta, contrary to many social theories about lower class racism, played the prime role in facilitating its systematic institutionalization. ...more
This work really helped me begin to appreciate the historical importance of Marx's philosophy. It paints the picture of the philosophical context in wThis work really helped me begin to appreciate the historical importance of Marx's philosophy. It paints the picture of the philosophical context in which Marx was writing. I have duly noted that I must now not only study Marx directly, but Epicurus and Hegel as well...
In the epilogue Mr Foster briefly runs through how mainstream Marxism lost its ecological foundations after the death of Marx (and Engels)....more
Short and sweet. My version has three essays: War is a Racket (1935), Amendment for Peace (1936), and Common Sense Neutrality (1939).
The titular essayShort and sweet. My version has three essays: War is a Racket (1935), Amendment for Peace (1936), and Common Sense Neutrality (1939).
The titular essay was written as a reflection over World War I in the time leading up to World War II. Smedley gives a lot of numbers here of corporations and whole industries seeing their profit rates skyrocket during war.
Amendment for Peace is a legal strategy to use a constitutional amendment to slow down (and hopefully nip in the bud) spurious calls to war. It would make it unconstitutional to station troops outside of the continental US (and the Panama Canal). And would place strict limits on the Navy and Airforce.
Common Sense Neutrality is a plea to stay out of the war in Europe (later called World War II) after Hitler invaded Poland. ...more
I was expecting more of an economic argument, but eventually got over my disappointment in what is mostly a straight-forward argument against centralI was expecting more of an economic argument, but eventually got over my disappointment in what is mostly a straight-forward argument against central planning. Hayek clarifies that his use of "socialist" throughout the book is in regards to the economics of central planning, and his main argument is that the political consequences of central planning are undesirable and evil.
It is interesting to me that Hayek is not at all the free market puritan that he is made out to be across the political spectrum. In fact, Hayek makes allowances for a social safety net and a regulatory apparatus. He is a classical liberal, and liberalism is his answer to both socialism and classical conservatism.
He is an internationalist, and it was also interesting to me that he argues for a federation of all nations. He remembers quite incorrectly the context of an Adam Smith quote early in the book, and though the definitive edition corrects many of the smaller errors in his notes, but this one is missed. ...more
Basically, the book is about thinking of ourselves as cyborgs interacting in mutual and interdependent global networks. Actually, a lot of what he wroBasically, the book is about thinking of ourselves as cyborgs interacting in mutual and interdependent global networks. Actually, a lot of what he wrote about is a very natural jump for me to make. One of my many themes, as I've told my son countless times, is to think of people driving their cars as man-machine-complexes: cyborgs. I don't trust cyborgs. They take their cyborg-transportation-network-reality for granted. Too many times I've seen a person get hit by a cyborg and watched hir fragile ape body bounce off the car and into the air and down on to the ground, seemingly helplessly. Cyborgs in their transportation networks are interested in getting from point a to point b, and usually as fast as they can without getting into trouble. Apes intruding on their networks for bipedal nonsense are often viewed as a nuisance at best.
Likewise, here at my computer I've often thought of myself as part of a cyborg complex. However, Mitchell goes much further. He's basically saying many of us are more accurately thought of as cyborgs all the time. I'm not sure I'm willing to follow him to the end of that rainbow, but he has expanded and deepened my view of "the cyborg self". For example, his point about cellphones augmenting our voice and listening abilities at all times for most users. That is, instead of the domesticated ape hooking up at particular terminals/nodes to get hir cyborg on; zhe is always on. The ape's ears are at all times augmented, as a cyborg, with a cellphone close at hand, often as an extension of the body (when in pockets, or more vividly, when directly attached to ears as with bluetooth); and likewise the ape's larynx is similarly, at all times, augmented with global reach. Further, note that the ape's memory has been augmented. If we look at the written word as the first step in this cyborg process, the wikipedia i can access from my cellphone once again makes this augmentation more permanent. Or, as Mitchell might put it, the augmented memory enters a field of continual presence. He also says some particularly interesting things about GPS/GSI technologies and virtual reality....more
There were some worthy clarifications contained herein regarding Zizek's philosophy, however, I also felt there was an over-tendency towards repetitioThere were some worthy clarifications contained herein regarding Zizek's philosophy, however, I also felt there was an over-tendency towards repetition. The last 40% of the book proper (sans appendices) dragged, although at the very end some important concepts stand out. The last 100 pages is comprised of 3 appendices which are, perhaps, a bit indulgent (on literature, on music, and on kant vs hegel); however, they nonetheless contain insight into Zizek's valuable revelations (however padded they may be)....more
While Rall may be skeptical about finding The Truth, he does occasionally fall prey to overgeneralizing about the politics of Afghanistan. For exampleWhile Rall may be skeptical about finding The Truth, he does occasionally fall prey to overgeneralizing about the politics of Afghanistan. For example, early in the book he argues that clumsy American attempts to suck all the oil out of the Central Asian region without paying off the locals was, along with US policy on Israel, the main reason for the 9-11 attacks. There is quite a lot of information that has come to light since then that leads me to view this argument as a gross oversimplification in general; and one which exaggerates all out of proportion the role of Central Asian politics in that event. Of course, Rall is writing during the immediate aftermath of 911 and from within Afghanistan at the beginning of a war and occupation that hasn't ended 12 years later.
The graphic novel travelogue sequences are especially good; as is anything written from that immediate day-to-day perspective in this book. These particular sequences and essays are golden....more
Perfect for brushing up on the extensive documentation of genocide in North America. Important work if you want to thoroughly neutralize a denier. ThiPerfect for brushing up on the extensive documentation of genocide in North America. Important work if you want to thoroughly neutralize a denier. This and Raphael Lemkin's "Axis Rule in Occupied Europe" (Lemkin coined the term genocide), are perfect for shoring up your own confidence about what genocide means and that, yes, terribly, it has happened over and over throughout human history....more
I enjoyed this book as a quick refresher, though Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast and Slow" was much better. I have to knock down one star when I consider tI enjoyed this book as a quick refresher, though Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast and Slow" was much better. I have to knock down one star when I consider that there is a rushed quality to the book, and that this quality degrades clarity and precision on a topic that calls for it. ...more
Earlier I rated 2 stars to an inferior and incomplete (first 3 parts plus about 25% pf part 4) publication of Capital by Pacific Publishing 2010. ThisEarlier I rated 2 stars to an inferior and incomplete (first 3 parts plus about 25% pf part 4) publication of Capital by Pacific Publishing 2010. This is my complete review since picking up a full version (with quality pagination and typographic design):
The book was excruciating at first. Marx goes over in detail and in repetition what seem to me very simple concepts. He employs a lot of repetition throughout the book, but the first quarter of this book was pretty painful. That said there are some common sense ideas that Marx did help clarify for me.
Not everything advanced by Marx is necessarily so elementary, but there certainly wasn't anything earth-shattering in here for me. It is evident that a lot of this is due to the book's importance and popularity (i.e., many of these ideas have come my way via third parties directly or indirectly influenced by Marx). There's some good perspective in here on the nature of industry in Marx's time, and some important historical connections in the preceding centuries. Particularly piercing analysis in the latter-middle of the book about the soul-crippling nature of "detail labourers" in manufacture is also good, this is then followed by analysis of many different segments of the working class. He hits you hard over the head with documentation, and excerpts thereof, about the condition of the working class in his time. This is followed by historical analysis of the "pre-history" of capital (i.e., so-called "primitive accumulation"), which is bursting at the seems with historical concepts that continue to loom large among the modern left (and beyond... it is very interesting to consider that some of these economic ideas are also embraced by the right. When I have time I'll share some notes with examples of what I mean).
This edition also adds an originally scrapped "Part 7" as well as some other "Isolated Fragments" tacked on to the end.
I anticipate the value of this book increases after considering Marx's full argument -- through parts 2 and 3 -- but for now, standing on its own, I can not give it more than 3 stars because of the monotony in the beginning, and the over-use of repetition. In 2012, I feel the whole work could be condensed much further....more