George Carlin groused that when he heard the word bipartisanship, he knew a larger than usual deception was in the works. Ralph Nader's Unstoppable ofGeorge Carlin groused that when he heard the word bipartisanship, he knew a larger than usual deception was in the works. Ralph Nader's Unstoppable offers a different kind of bipartisanship -- cooperation, not conspiracy. Written primarily to a progressive audience, Nader draws on his reading of Russell Kirk and F.A. Hayek to share the good news: there are people who share the similar values in both political wings, and plenty of room to work together against a common enemy. What common enemy? The crony-capitalist state, the nemesis of both progressives who fear the power of modern-day robber barons, and of libertarians and conservatives who value free markets, the rule of law, and civic order.
Nader opens Unstoppable with a victory several decades old: the termination of a particular nuclear project based on a alliance between progressive environmentalists and fiscal conservatives. Although joining forces with conservatives was initially a pragmatic move, in the decades that followed, Nader familiarized himself with both conservative and libertarian literature. Nader deserves kudos, for while it's not unusual for those passionate about politics to learn their opponents' arguments merely to demonstrate to them while they are wrong, Nader seems to have gained a genuine sense of empathy for those on the other side. Humanistic concern runs through each political camp considered here, a commonality that can be the basis of cooperative action. What most progressives think of as conservatism, Nader writes, is a new thing, the product of decades of slow corporate corruption of the political state. Its subsidies to multinationals, the benefaction rendered by regulations that smother competition, conserve nothing -- and nor do they promote liberty. Nader may still disagree those on the right, but underneath the ideology, he writes, we are still human beings who, when confronted with abuses, want to help one another.
The alliances that can be created vary. Progressivism's opponents may agree on opposing the State's growing activity in everyday life, but they don't agree with one another. Take the environment: some of the United States' most sweeping conservationist legislation was enacted by presidents like Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, and environmentalism lends itself well to the language of conservatism; think 'stewardship'. Progressive horror at the inroads consumerism is making in the lives of children can find kindred spirits in the ranks of social conservatives, especially the religious who fear their children becoming selfish and materialistic. Libertarians who swear more by the market than moral order may object to progressive-conservatives limiting choice by barring certain kinds of advertising, for instance, but when it comes to forswearing money given to corporations they're stalwart allies. Another area of progressive-libertarian camaraderie is ending the drug war, which even Old Right types could be convinced to join if shown how the war has completely destroyed civil law enforcement in favor of pseudo-military police enforcement. Free trade is a particularly thorny issue: libertarians may be for it, and paleo-conservatives against it, but there's a fuzzy thin line between protectionism (which progressives might back) and cronyism.
In the latter half of his book, Nader puts forth a list of twenty-five issues that progressives can work with either libertarians or paleo- and populist conservatives on, or both. Some of them involve the federal government doing more, which I don't think will sell well in allying with groups who view federal overreach as the entire point of opposition. It's a let's-get-the-Wehrmacht-out-of-Paris-before-we-strengthen-it-against-Stalin situation. Others involve a heart dose of localism. like promoting 'community self reliance', and distributive electrical grids. At one point Nader quoted Who Owns America?, the classic agrarian-distributist critique of the then- nascent plutocracy, and I may have swooned. Considering that two of the major contenders for the presidency have nebulous connections to their respective parties -- the independent socialist Sanders and the populist Trump -- Americans' frustration with the reigning RepubliCrat scheme seems ripe for this kind of cooperation. I only wish Nader had put more emphasis on local cooperation, which is further removed from ideology, and more motivated by having to work with the facts at hand. Non-progressives will find Nader's repeated assertion that progressives have less interest in ideology than facts to be dubious, and for the record I think that comes a little too close to holding that the ends are more important than the means. It's not enough to take steps to take care of what ails us: we should have some idea of where we are going. If we allow power to accrete in the name of "doing something", then we'll simply pave the way for future abuses.
Quarrels withstanding I found Unstoppable to be an immensely heartening book, a reassuring dose of civility and cooperation. I think if more Americans read it -- progressives, liberals, conservatives, and even those power-enabling rascals in the middle, the liberals and neocons, we might see each other more as people with genuine convictions, and not merely wrongheaded enemies who need to be defeated and driven from the field. When the talking heads on TV, both the announcers and the candidates, drive one to despair, consider Nader's humane rebuttal. Genuine hope for America may not be forlorn.
(And where else are you going to find a book with a Green party progressive hailing decentralism and lamenting over the problems of regulatory capture and bureaucratic quagmire?)
Related: Crunchy Cons, Rob Dreher Citizen Power, Mike Gravel What's Wrong with the World?, G.K. Chesterton We Who Dared Say no to War, ed. Murray Polner and Tom Woods. (Men of the left and right, respectively.)...more
Getting it Right is a political history disguised as a love story, both tales told amid the radically shifting political climate of America's 1960s, Getting it Right is a political history disguised as a love story, both tales told amid the radically shifting political climate of America's 1960s, as Americans reacted to the growing global power of the Soviet Union and the increasing role of government in their own lives. Woodroe Raynor is an earnest young Mormon whose narrow escape from Russian soldiers invading Hungary cements his contempt for the Soviet Union, who finds similarly zealous spirits in the nascent John Birch Society. Leonora Goldstein is a bright young Jewish girl in the employ of the Objectivists, who adopts Ayn Rand as her mentor. Through the tumultous years of Kennedy and LBJ, the two test their ideas against one enough, struggling to build a relationship on their mutual conservatism despite different values. The real stars of the novel are the historical characters for whom Raynor and Leonora are mere appendages, including General Edwin Walker, Ayn Rand, JFK, and Barry Goldwater. Buckley incorporates a lot of historically-derived quotations into their dialogue, which makes some passages seem overly formal, but such casual pompousness would not be out of character for Ayn Rand. The story can't help but be personal for the late Buckley, a central figure in the movement, and one whose National Review denounced both the Birchers and Objectivists in his day. Buckley's highbrow scorn for the paranoid and self-impressed fringe is initially dampened in the novel. Both of its central characters initially find a world of meaning in their respective organizations, rising to high positions within them throughout the Kennedy administration, but by the reign of LBJ both have reconsidered as the founders reveal themselves to be utterly mental. The plot climaxes in the failed Goldwater challenge for the presidency, an election in which Johnson played on the public's fears that Goldwater's extremism would lead to global war. The famous "daisy" commercial isn't mentioned here, but the crackup of both the Birchers and Objectivists takes the wind out of the more moderate conservatives' sails. It's a quite a piece of work, an extended debate about political philosophy enmeshed in a lively retelling of the 1960s, a period which contributes action scenes in the form of assassinations and rioting. If the specter of Ayn Rand talking can be endured, most readers of a moderate bent will find this engaging.
The future is arriving more quickly than we think, the world being re-formed beneath our feet. Ten years ago, the fact that a presidential candidate wThe future is arriving more quickly than we think, the world being re-formed beneath our feet. Ten years ago, the fact that a presidential candidate was glued to his ‘BlackBerry’ was an oddity; now, smartphones are the very way we interface with our environment. The transformation of the world from material to digital is total, providing new avenues for the darker instincts of mankind to exercise themselves alongside entertainment, commerce, and education. Future Crimes is an astonishing review of the myriad of ways that this brave new world is making us not only more productive, but more vulnerable to malicious attack – and offers insight into the dangers we will face tomorrow. This is a book without rival.
Goodman writes as a law enforcement official who specialized in cyber security as computers left warehouses to become basic infrastructure. Now, after decades of experience, he shares extensive research and personal encounters with the reader. He begins by treading familiar ground at first, by reviewing the state of overwhelming exposure people now live in. As learned in Data and Goliath, virtually everything we do generates data that is collected and evaluated by someone, whether it’s our phone company keeping a history of where our phone travels, apps within the phone transferring our information to marketing agencies, or our interactions with the online world being monitored and recorded, as Google sifts through our email – and our websearches, and our YouTube viewing history, and our web activity on Android and Chrome – ostensibly to sell ‘better ads’. It's not just Google, of course: facebook is another major data distributor, but practically every website that depends on adspace is complicit.
Adding to this, however, is the threat of outside attack: criminal elements corrupting apps or creating their own to collect data for more malicious purposes, like emptying our bank accounts – or entities across the globe, looking for secrets. The fact that a person is an American or German national won’t stop Chinese companies from having an interest in their personal business if they are involved in technical enterprises of interest. Blueprints of the US president’s personal aircraft, for instance, were obtained by the Chinese after a defense worker’s laptop was infected with targeted malware. It’s not just smartphones, either: as computers undergird our very homes, surveillance no longer requires a group of fictional plumbers poking around installing cameras into ceiling fans. These days, even the power outlets can have ears.
Data collection isn’t just a problem for privacy issues: the concentration of so much information invites crime. When heist extraordinaire Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he replied simply – that’s where the money is. Why penetrate Target’s databanks? That’s where the information is -- high-value credit card information. The exposure isn’t all about profit, either, though the information superhighway has already helped far-distant predators steal and skedaddle. The early hackers practiced their craft for laughs, and so they still do – but the odds at stake are higher than simply wiping out computer drives. Future Crimes documents one case of a young teenager whose laptop was infected with software that allowed an outside party – a teenager at her school who was not even reasonably clever, but purchased a kit – to turn on her webcam, collect photographs of her in states of undress, and then attempt to blackmail and humiliate her. Even after she switched schools, the photos became the arsenal of bullies there, their hounding continued after a failed suicide attempt, and eventually ended only when she succeeded in killing herself. Secure in anonymity, able to meddle in the lives of others from safety, humans are willing and capable to do all matter of wretched things.
The fun will continue as the 21st century develops. Our digital world is in its infancy, a mere golf ball of connectivity compared to the solar-sized scale of tomorrow. In the years to come, it is possible that most every object in our home will be connected to an internet of things, and even if paranoiacs and luddites like myself object, regulation and market availability may force some level of IoT integration. The systems that control our lives – traffic management, electrical grids, financial markets – are managed online, and each of them has already been tampered and manipulated by tech-savvy hoods. As the world continues to become more automated, services performed by machines running on software that can be manipulated, our danger grows. Military drones have already been touched by malefactors – insurgents can watch a drone’s feed as it approaches, or skew its navigation so that it blows up the wrong neighborhood. (Assuming it had the right neighborhood to begin with...) Manufacturing robots have already proven themselves lethal, sometimes mistaking human laborers for parts to be manipulated, and if their software is tampered with, accidents could be effected on purpose.
Future Crimes is a daunting, eye-opening book. Even after reading other books on cyber-security, Goodman provides case after case I hadn’t heard of. This is five hundred pages of disturbing reporting and evaluation, dense and powerful. Like any security auditor, Goodman doesn’t leave readers shocked but helpless: the last fifth of the book offers some ideas into protecting ourselves. Part of the problem is that culture has not caught up to technological change yet: as smartphones ease un-informed adults into the digital world, people unprepared for vigilant defense of their information expose themselves to a burgeoning number of thieves and opportunists. Not even those who should know better are ready; many of the instances document here come from military or security officials not being fastidious enough, with the result that a virus intended for an Iranian offline network traveled to the International Space Station. In addition to arguing for regulations that force private enterprises to take more fiscal responsibility for safeguarding the information they collect, Goodman shares more interesting ideas, like crowdsourcing better digital security systems.
Two things are certain: we’re in for a ride in the next decade, and I won’t find a more eye-opening book this year. This book delivers reams of eye-opening information. It would make for an interesting exposure of crime merely by itself, but goes beyond that to brief readers on the multitude of security challenges we face now, and will face tomorrow, threats to our personal, corporate, and national security. Future Crimes is well worth your time: it, and the world it opens one's eyes to, are incredible.
Related: Data and Goliath, Bruce Schneier The Internet Police, Nate Anderson Spam Nation, Brian Krebs 10 Don'ts On Your Digital Devices, Eric Rzesut, Daniel Bachrach @ War, Shane Harris...more
The war to end all wars, what Sir Winston Churchill aptly described as the world crisis, began when a Serbian partisan assassinated the heir of AustriThe war to end all wars, what Sir Winston Churchill aptly described as the world crisis, began when a Serbian partisan assassinated the heir of Austria-Hungary's throne, setting into motion a Rube Goldberg diplomatic catastrophe. Despite the bloody spotlight quickly moving to the German invasion of France, and the English response, Austria's war against Serbia created an altogether different war in the east. Not here were the long, country-spanning trenches. The east was a front of movement and maneuver, but one denied consummation by the Central Powers' fixation on their western foes. The Unknown War, penned by Churchill as part of his large history of the war in the 1920s, is a sweeping history of the conflict.
Its sheer level of detail will no doubt be appreciated by students, as Churchill is obsessed with not only diplomatic wranglings but the step-by-step maneuvering of the armies as they clashed in great battles. The east contained no static front, and Germany's greatest victories came through risky attempts at envelopment. The German high command was slow to realize the potential of the Eastern front, so resolved were they that France was a more promising target. Time and again resources were taken from the East to fill the graves of the west, attacking places like Verdun, despite great victories in the east that seized Russia's rails and best positions. Austria, too, had its distraction once erstwhile ally Italy attacked it. The Italian command was in no danger of accomplishing anything, but Austria's fury at betrayal turned into counteroffensives that relaxed the hand at Russia's throat. Though Churchill writes the tsar's domain was on the verge of a comeback, victory was stolen at the last moment by the sudden Bolshevik coup. (Those scoundrels!) Churchill's happy talent for oratory translates for the most part into his writing; parts of it are narrative in the truest sense of the word, in that their cadence is speechlike. The disastrous Gallipoli campaign is lightly touched on; most of the chapter concerns itself with how the invasion forced the Central Powers to devote a little more attention and manpower to the eastern fronts, to break Serbia and open it up as a channel of munitions to aid the Turks. The English exercise, a horror in its own right, is simply blamed on accidents and an incompetent commander on the ground.
The author's personal defenses aside, this is probably a solid lead for those with an interest in the eastern front, but virtually no background....more
In a dark future, the triumph of collectivism has created a global society deteriorating to near-medieval conditions. Man is utterly broken by the staIn a dark future, the triumph of collectivism has created a global society deteriorating to near-medieval conditions. Man is utterly broken by the state, dominated by institutions from birth onward. Raised in cohorts in government offices, not by families, children come of age at fifteen and are assigned their lot in life by the governing authorities. They toil as drones for the next thirty years before being consigned the House for the Useless, where if they are lucky they will find some meager pleasure in the social programs before being execution as a burden to society. The state and society are all, so triumphant that even the pronoun "I" has been extinguished. The human spirit, however, is irrepressible.
Equality 2521 is a sinner in the hands of a suffocating state, a young man who yearns to study the ways of the world and perhaps even to become a scholar, but who is consigned to be a street-sweeper. After stumbling into an abandoned subway tunnel, Equality finds himself for the first time alone, and there in the dark with just his thoughts for company, a psychological journey begins. The tunnel, which he and a couple of sympathetic friends keep hidden from everyone else, becomes their sanctuary, a place for Equality to read books and experiment with the things he finds in the rubbish, a place where he eventually discovers that there are things not written in the Global We's philosophy. There is Electricity, and if he can realize its power he can make the world a better place. Breathlessly he takes his findings to the convention of Scholars, who promptly imprison him for many manifold presumptions (among them, threatening to put candle-makers out of work). Happily for him they are incompetent at incarceration, since so few people have ever rebelled against them, and soon he's escaped to make his fortunes elsewhere.
Anthem is a short work, a novella of no more than 90 pages; I read it chiefly because it was available for free on Amazon, and the delicious irony of something of Rand's being offered for free was too good to pass put. Altogether it's the tale of an individual's self-realization, his struggle for consciousness. Eventually he does, and as in 1984 his rebellion is urged onward by forbidden love for Liberty 5-3000, and given safe harbor by the wild; the rugged forests outside the bleak We-ruled cities are teeming with life and energy. But among the wild are grown-over homes, and inside them books which reveal how much was lost. Ultimately Equality and Liberty shed their old identities and emerge as Individuals, and here the book descends into preaching. All of the lost passion of twenty years comes bubbling up into Equality's realization that the individual is sovereign, the individual makes the world, and so carried away by it is he that when Liberty professes, "I love you," he replies with a half-page speech about the importance of names and the individual.
I have never Rand before, and will own a bias against her, one I've had since listening to a radio interview with her years ago. Even so, I enjoyed this work for the most part; any tale of man versus the state, of the natural vs. the contrived, is sure to win me over despite the overweening pronunciations of the last few pages Considering that the union of the happy couple results in a pregnancy, there is hope that the book's heroes will learn what the childless Rand never did, that people are born into society as surely as fish are born into the ocean. It is a society of the family, however, a natural one, where we are reared by the bone of our bone and the flesh of our flesh, not an artificial and imposed "Global We". Even so, this is a fascinating little book, well worth the time spent reading it; regardless of my animosity toward Rand's praise of selfishness, hers was a quick and artful pen. The similarities between this and 1984 make it a beacon of hope after Orwell's singularly depressing work about the triumph of the state.
1984, George Orwell Brave New World, Aldous Huxley ...more
On August 23rd, 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union shocked the world by entering into a nonaggression pact. They were not merely neighbors and riOn August 23rd, 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union shocked the world by entering into a nonaggression pact. They were not merely neighbors and rival powers ruled by domineering men who loathed one another: their respective ideologies viewed the other as the chief menace to civilization. Yet now, the fists which shook in anger were now extended in friendship, and Europe seemed doomed. Within weeks of the pact's signing, German and Soviet armies had both swept into Poland, igniting the Second World War. The Devils' Alliance is an admirable history of a marriage of convenience, recording why it happened, its effect on the beginning of the war its reception among the party faithful and a horrified Europe, and the breakup that saved civilization. The Devils' Alliance exposes the cynicism of the agreement, and the very nature of the totalitarian state.
Since its creation at the end of the Great War, the Soviet Union had been a European pariah, with a special enmity existing between it and the Nazi state after it came to power. The party line of Nazism was expressly anti-Soviet, viewing Bolshevism as a conspiracy; fears of communist takeovers were very life of National Socialism, birthing it and giving it strength. The Soviets were no less contemptuous of the counterrevolutionary Nazis, scoffing at their worship of nation and race. Ultimately, however, each had more in common where it mattered than not. They were the continental outlaws who rejected the political and economic systems of free Europe; both were totalitarian regimes in which the State reigned supreme, with every institution which might have softened or sapped its control either broken or rendered subservient. To regard Nazism and Communism as opposites on a left-right spectrum is inaccurate, for both supported state command of the economy: they merely disagreed on who should be in control. Each man, Hitler and Stalin, had ambition, and for a time found his 'enemy' an ally to pursue them with. One hand washed the other. Between them, Russia and Germany divided eastern Europe, each invading Poland in turn, and each seizing a third of Scandinavia. Russia needed help continuing to industrialize; Germany needed raw materials. The fact that each state had more in common than not is born out by their identical treatment of the Polish, with shootings and deportations fleeing the arrival of the conquests. Poles fleeing from Nazi occupation passed their countrymen fleeing from Soviet occupation, each wondering if the other was not crazy.
The same reaction could be had from communists and Nazi sympathizers the world over. Overnight, Stalin and Hitler's seemingly impulsive decision to play nice translated into movies in both countries being pulled for demonizing the other; for years the party faithful had been schooled in the evils of the other, and now they were instructed and propagandized to regard the other as a brother-in-arms against western liberalism. Some, sheepishly followed, like the American communist party answering to Moscow; other fellow travelers began experiencing cognitive dissonance. How could the ideals of the party -- Nazi or Communist -- be taken seriously if it made concordance with the adversary so easily? No doubt Moscow's turnabout demands influenced George Orwell: Eurasia has always been at peace with Eastasia? The communists ranks in particular would be thinned in Britain and France as people reacted to the absurdity. Once the tree of diplomacy had stopped producing fruit, of course, Hitler would have Barbarossa hew it down. Successive chats failed to convince the Soviets to stop looking at the Balkans so hungrily, and to go bother British India instead, and since the west had by and large been reduced as a threat, who was left to destroy but the Bolshevik menace? Enter the panzers rolling into the Soviet Union fueled by Russian oil, attacking tanks produced with German industrial expertise. The world breathed a sigh of relief, from a Britain who was no longer the sole object of Nazi malice, to Germany's fellow Axis members who found Joe and Adolf a very odd couple. Ultimately, the divorce made in heaven would lead to the downfall of Hitler's regime, as a rebuffed Joe had to pitch woo with the Allies instead.
Juvenile history books may count the Soviet Union among the Allies, but the postwar conflict between the west and Stalin was not a tragic falling-out between brothers. When Britain stood alone, the Nazi knife at her neck, "Uncle Joe" yawned and admired his new takings. Nazism and Bolshevism were houses alike in infamy, both responsible for murder at industrial proportions in the millions, and both intent on spreading the gospel of death throughout the world. They were gangsters who agreed to stop shooting one another long enough to take care of their mutual enemies, but happily human malice is a two-edged sword, and evil ever self-destructs. Devils' Alliance is an utterly fascinating history of realpolitik, which extends not only to the two titular monsters but to the Allies as well. It would have been easy for Churchill to be contemptuous of the Soviet plea for help, and when he urged Parliament to send such relief in resources as it could afford, he did so not to expand Britain's own power, but in recognition that Hitler waged war not just on Stalin and his army, but on the innocent Russian populace, whose livelihood and lives would be destroyed by the battle between the beasts. The Devils' Alliance is an excellent take on one of the most dangerous periods in European history. and stir readers to reflect on how much contemporary politics is driven not by idealism, but the pure lust for greater power. How many devilish alliances have been crafted between the west and the warren of woeful powers in the middle east? ...more
Divergent ended in one caste of future-Chicago’s society attempting to wipe out another in a bid for power; Insurgent ended with the resistance mountiDivergent ended in one caste of future-Chicago’s society attempting to wipe out another in a bid for power; Insurgent ended with the resistance mounting a counterattack on that caste’s headquarters. Tyranny gives way to tyranny, however, and soon our plucky heroes find themselves outside of Chicago altogether, venturing into the wilderness beyond it, through the shattered remnants of a world that once was. The finale to the Divergent series regains the first book’s strength, as Tris and the others finally find answers to questions that have only become more mysterious throughout the books. There are the usual action scenes, of course, and Roth’s characters grow up faster here than at any other time, having to make decisions with momentous consequences. As the overall story is finally revealed, Tris discovers that her city is the result of genetic engineering gone wrong, and Roth plays with the idea that certain kinds of power in human hands – the mind-control, the various serums that have been used, and the engineering – are wholly unwise. What is most striking about Allegiant, however, is not the world it creates or the issue it addresses, but the unexpected ending. I wouldn't have expected such boldness for a young adult novel, and it's sad yet faintly apropos. ...more
he Story of my Experiments with Truth is a piecemeal autobiography of Mohandas Gandhi, who earned acclaim by leading India to independence from the Brhe Story of my Experiments with Truth is a piecemeal autobiography of Mohandas Gandhi, who earned acclaim by leading India to independence from the British Empire through nonviolent means. It includes only the early portions of his life, ending in the 1920s long before the most famous incidents of the Indian movement. Gandhi establishes early on that he chose to downplay much discussion of his political activism in this work on the grounds that he had already written a history of his early struggles in South Africa, and that his later battles were so widely known they needed no further coverage from his pen. Despite that intention, politics peppers this story of his life, as he viewed public service as inseparable from any other portion of his being, and especially from his sense of spirituality, the pursuit of truth. Politics was simply a means of acting on the truth, of proclaiming it to the world.
If not politics, what then is this autobiography? Released in sections through a newsletter, it has no central focus; his search for truth is at best a recurring theme. There's politics here, interwoven with the accounts of legal cases and the epic quest to find his ashram a hand loom (this merited two chapters), but his reflections on religion, spirituality, and ethics give the work most of its substance. The work allows readers to see the legend of the Mahatma slowly emerge from the life of a passionate Indian lawyer who seems beset by scrupulosity, constantly ashamed of his wretched failings, recoiling in horror from the great sins of marriage and drinking goat's milk. Gandhi is not a moderate: after encountering a concept and deciding it worthy of an effort, the effort given is mighty: he adopts practices whole cloth. After being introduced to the concept of economic self reliance, he arranges for his newspaper staff to join him at a communal farm. When he became convinced of the spiritual and medical effects of total abstinence, he became celibate and began sleeping in a separate bed from his wife. Period. His ability to make radical changes in his life increased with practice: as a young man, avoiding meat seemed a terrible burden, one difficult to take up -- but a decade later, with much experience, he could declare war against his libido by refusing to engage in so much as an amorous thought, and developing a diet that wouldn't lead to excess 'interest'. (Meat and milk lead to sexy thoughts. Fruit, not so much. ) At the same time, he records some of his religious explorations, his reading of other sacred texts and comparing them to his own. This was only a minor portion of the content, however.
Those interested in the formative years and experience of Gandhi may find this book of interest; it is also marginally useful to those seeking information about his South African years, in which he fought to help Indians relegated to indentured servitude reclaim their dignity before the law and before themselves. It is not a cohesive work, however, and doesn't contain any extensive, in-depth writing on any given subject: instead, one sees the big ideas slowly developed over the course of his early life, coming together year by year, a worldview given life one practice and one belief at a time. Gandhi is at once inspiring and unsettling in the extremes of his life, dedicated to truth.
Related: Nehru: the Invention of India; Shashi Tharoor The Confessions, St. Augustine (who was also given to literary self-flagellation) ...more
Bad news. There's a planet-sized machine with a companion black hole ominously named "Abaddon" using artificial wormholes to suck entire star systemsBad news. There's a planet-sized machine with a companion black hole ominously named "Abaddon" using artificial wormholes to suck entire star systems into its maw. Worse news: the machine is a Borg-like collective of artificial intelligence systems with a serious attitude problem regarding organic lifeforms. To wit, it wants us all dead, and when it collides itself with the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way, dead we shall be. It's up to Captain Jean-Luc Picard to somehow find a way to save the galaxy, with a little help from his once-dead-now-resurrected-android-friend, Data. The Body Electric concludes David Mack's Cold Equations series, which started out as a political spy-thriller but ends in a bittersweet triumph for the now-returned Data.
Although the third and final piece of a trilogy, The Body Electric leaves behind what I thought to be the primary story of the Cold Equations trilogy, the latest chapter in the Cold War in Space series of books. Instead, the 'other' story in the two previous novels, the return of Data, rises to dominance, with the positronic commander taking a starring role in the Enterprise's efforts to stop the Machine's subspace-shattering kaboom. Wesley Crusher's rare fans will be gratified at his role in the story; it is he who learns of the threat, but he's powerless to combat it..The Body Electric is easily more on the side of 'soft' science fiction, being more about its characters - - Data and the ever lively T'Ryessa Chen, for instance -- than science, but many of the characters put the spotlight on the future of artificial intelligence, being as they are droids. There's even a little philosophy of the soul throne in as the AIs debate the merits of joining or fighting The Machine, which is a larger, meaner version of V'Ger from The Motion Picture. Although the-Enterprise-saves-the-galaxy plots border on ludicrous after so many movies, David Mack executes it well, especially in building tension. Readers will find it most interesting for the continuing evolution of Data, who has grown quite beyond his old limitations. ...more
On Saudi Arabia is an exploration of Saudi Arabia's culture, history, and political atmosphere. The nation is one worth learning about: home to the woOn Saudi Arabia is an exploration of Saudi Arabia's culture, history, and political atmosphere. The nation is one worth learning about: home to the world's largest petroleum and natural gas reserves, and a hotbed of religious violence which is simultaneously cozy with the United States despite being abusively backward in most respects. The Saudi Arabia that House unveils is one rife with contradictions and tensions, many of which are sourced in the Saudi royal family's machinations to maintain control. They constantly strengthen and attack the warring factions inside the realm for their own advantage: supporting and promoting Wahhabism across the world, for instance, but then swiftly attacking its adherents if their actions hurt the king or his standing in the world. Although the Saudi family would like to be more traditionalist, not only to pacify the swelling ranks of sectarian crazies, but to increase its own power, it is forced by reality to make changes -- to allow more opportunities for women, for instance, and be more open to criticism. The Internet is a djinn in a bottle, that undermines the complete authority the Saudi family and religious leaders once had. Saudi Arabia is bound to change, but it's in for a troublesome future. There's a great line in The Dark Knight Rises -- "Victory has defeated you!" -- Saudi Arabia exemplifies the idea. It is a nation utterly ruined by its prosperity: the rulers are corrupt, the people are spoiled (not working, not wanting to do anything useful, but eager to rage against the kingdom for not giving them more), and the economy is based entirely on oil, the production of which in Saudi Arabia may have already peaked. On Saudi Arabia is definitely worth looking at if you have an interest in global affairs and politics....more
**spoiler alert** NOTE: This is a review of both The Persistence of Memory and Silent Weapons.
The last time David Mack penned a Trek trilogy, billions**spoiler alert** NOTE: This is a review of both The Persistence of Memory and Silent Weapons.
The last time David Mack penned a Trek trilogy, billions upon billions died (Destiny), the Borg were vanquished, and thousands of readers' minds were blown by the intensity of it all. Now he's at it again with Cold Equations, set in the era of the Typhon Pact. A half-score of the Federation's most chronic enemies have their own confederacy, and the two states have been engaged in a cold war of sorts for the last couple of years, vying for power through covert missions. The Persistence of Memory opens with an attack on one of the Federation's most important research laboratories, one housing the deactivated bodies of B4, Lore, Lal, and various other Soong-type androids...the deceased Commander Data's family, as it were. A cloaked ship, later to be revealed Breen, raids the lab and nicks the bodies...and as the Enterprise-E is conducting its investigation, a man is spotted on the streets who looks very much like Data. The man is none other than Noonien Soong, Data's inventor-father -- a man who was supposed to have died years ago. But there he is, and looking rather young to boot -- what gives? The Persistence of Memory is largely his story, the tale of one slightly-mad scientist to achieve immortality while watching the drama of his offspring from afar, with some political drama tacked on at the end.
That drama takes on a life of its own in Cold Equations, where Breen intrigue threatens to disrupt a delicate negotiation between the Federation president, Naniette Bacco, and the Gorn Hegemony. Shenanigans from a Soong-type android lead to Data's arrest (did I mention? he's back), and then come explosions and assassinations. The Enterprise is on the scene, attempting to solve the mystery to both get their friend exonerated and to prevent their president's untimely demise, but something is screwy. Their mystery-solving works all too well, aided by a series of anonymous tips that raise Worf's hackles (and Klingons have very big hackles), and lead him to suspect that someone, somewhere, is pulling the strings, manipulating the Enterprise, the Federation, and even the Gorn into playing parts in a bigger scheme. Thus a murder mystery becomes a massive political drama in which the struggle for power between Typhon Pact members proves to be more interesting than the Cold War-like tension between the Federation and Space-Moscow. Unlike the Federation, which is more or less united (forgetting for the moment the angsty Andorians), the Typhon Pact members all have separate agendas, and they view one another as temporary expedients to their eventual nationalistic supremacy than actual partners.
After the epic-beyond-words achievements of Destiny, poor David Mack has a lot to live up to. Cold Equations doesn't feature thousands of Borg cubes running willy-nilly, eating planets and inspiring mesmerizing speeches from doomed civic leaders, it's still a fantastic trilogy so far. The Persistence of Memory not only brought Data back (sort of), but gave his, Lore's, and other androids' stories utter cohesion: what Christopher Bennett did for time travel threads, Mack does with robotics, linking not only the Soong family but episodes from the original series. Soong's perspective on watching his sons grow up is captivating, and then right behind that comes an intelligent political thriller that doesn't simply throw two entities against one another, but has at least five participating in a tangled web of self-interest and lies. I already purchased the finale, The Body Electric, and look forward to reading that soon. ...more
The ending of Plagues of Night saw me stand to my feet in shock. Not since the Destiny trilogy has there been such a cliffhanger in Trek literature. RThe ending of Plagues of Night saw me stand to my feet in shock. Not since the Destiny trilogy has there been such a cliffhanger in Trek literature. Raise the Dawn sees David R. George finish what he began, with brilliant success.
Tensions were high between the Federation and the Typhon Pact before this duology, but however much the leaders of the Federation and Romulan Empire might wish to maintain the peace, other members of the Typhon Pact -- and certain blonde, notoriously villainous elements within the Empireitself -- are more bellicose, and their actions have already led to catastrophe. As the president of the Federation resigns herself to the fact that her heavily fatigued people are in for yet another conflict, the Romulan praetor makes a stunning move, one that confirms that the days of two-dimensional bad guys are over.
Trek literature has steadily been pushing the envelope since the publication of the first Avatar books. George doesn't just overturn the apple cart of the status quo; since Rough Beasts of Empire, he's set it on fire. A few of Trek's characters have been going through the meatgrinder, and while that's been rough going for readers who feel for these characters, Raise the Dawn offers resolution. All of the stresses introduced in the first four Typhon Pact novels have coalesced here, putting our characters through the fire, even as they battle private battles of their own, like Prynn Tenmei's struggle to let her father go, and Sisko's alienation from his family. Raise the Dawn continues to be expansive; like Plagues of Night, its characters are drawn from across the Trek verse, excluding only the Titan and Voyager crews. But George goes even further by playing with prophetic visions of the kind we saw in "Far Beyond the Stars" and "Image in the Sand"; characters seem to be inhabiting multiple planes of existence at the same time, interacting with one another when they can't possibly be doing so, and it's too brilliantly done to be confusing, except in a delighted way.
George's duology is a must read for fans of Trek literature. I have not been this mesmerized or moved since the Destiny series; only Full Circle has even come close....more
They Eat Puppies, Don't They? is a satirical novel about the power of the military-industrial congress, its lead character undertaking a mission to poThey Eat Puppies, Don't They? is a satirical novel about the power of the military-industrial congress, its lead character undertaking a mission to pose as a lobbyist to whip up anti-China sentiment among Americans. In the view of the defense contractors, Americans are far too complacent about the old 'Red Menace': they aren't supporting measures like dandy new blow-`em-up drones, or the mysterious Taurus Program. To do this, their agent -- Bird McIntire -- teams up with an Ann Coulter expy, a woman with a distressing enthusiasm for war whose bellicosity is rivaled only by her contempt for those who don't think as she does. To create excitement about China, they opt to spread the humor that the reds are trying to off the Dalai Lama. Conveniently enough, the exiled leader of Tibet is hospitalized. While Americans throw themselves into the national sport of reacting to what the television says, and demanding Immediate, Drastic Action -- the chairman of China's communist party is trying to keep two of his generals from trying to do something crazy, like invading Taiwan. Oddly, this man with a history of happily executing dissidents via firing squad is the book's most sympathetic character.
Although Buckley's story is comedic, the wretchedness of the characters kept the book from being truly enjoyable to me, at least until the final few chapters when their plans go off the rails. Bird spends most of the novel being dominated by either his unpleasant wife or the Ann Coulter stand-in, seeking relief by drinking whiskey all night and pounding away at a series of cheap thrillers dominated by Manly Men and buxom babes, with all the quality of a Harlequin romance or the Left Behind series. He does have a household of livelier supporting characters, though, including a brother who is a Civil War reennactor ("living history participant") who walks around sporting a magnificent imitation of George Custer's curly locks and mustache.
I'm left with mixed feelings after reading this: I'm almost sure I would have enjoyed it more were my mood different. The tenor of American politics recently made the awful attitude of the Coulter character a depressing reminder of the kinds of attitudes that are most prevalent today.I for one read novels in part to escape such disheartening facts, if only for a while. ...more