Sunday, April 15, 2018

Zakaria interviews Madeleine Albright on her new book "Fascism: A Warning"

Today Fareed Zakaria interviewed Madeleine Albright on his GPS show on CNN, and talked about her new book, “Fascism: A Warning”, publishedby Harper (304 pages).
Albright made the pointed comment that people have lost interest in running for office because of hyperpartisanship and polarization. She is appropriately concerned about Trump’s lack of respect for the press and for truth and his tendency to play favorites, believing that might can make right for people who feel ignored (his base) by the intellectual elites.
Christian Caryl takes up the question as to whether the US is headed for fascism (rather remarkable that he feels he has to) with some criticism of her book here.  But it seems that the unwillingness of a lot of people to get outside of their own bubbles, maybe out of personal ego, adds to the risk.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

"Queer: A Graphic History": a philosophy text presented as a graphic novel

Authors: Meg-John Barker, Julia Scheele

Title: “Queer: A Graphic History

Publication: 2016: Icon Books, London, ISBN 978-178578-071-4, 176 pages, paper. 
I saw this book in the campus bookstore at Drexel in Philadelphia, run by Barnes and Noble, and picked it up on impulse.

It’s rather interesting to format a book that amounts to a historical encyclopedia on political and philosophical terms related to gay rights presented as a “graphic novel” with illustrations in black and white  The pictures take about 70% of the space in the book, whereas the rest is rather straightforward Wiki-like text. Then the authors pose characters who talk more about the concepts, as if in an animated documentary film.

The central question is, what is “queer”, which has become a fashionable term today, a reversal of a half-century ago when it was like the F and N words.

But the authors soon get into a presentation of “essentialism” v. “existentialism” (Sartre).  They see essentialism as a roadblock to gay acceptance.  Essentialism is connected to assimilation, which wa the earlier model of gay rights, starting with Mattachine and Frank Kameny back in the 1950s.  The authors continually point out moral ironies.  “The ‘it’s not our fault’ idea easily slips into portraying homosexuality as inferior” and “By focusing on the acceptable face of white, middle-class educated gay and lesbian people, they often maintain the oppression of those do not fit that (the queerer umbrella).” (p. 26).  Soon the authors visit “intersectionality”, which they attribute to Kimberle Crenshaw.

Later they explore “heterosexism” and associated privilege, which can work against you. Then on p, 134, they return to “Strategic essentialism” where an avatar says “Strategic essentialism might involve, for example, remaining quiet about the differences between individuals within the group as they fight for a common goal, despite engaging in those debates privately.” (p. 134).  Then, “a place for identity politics after all?”

There is also the point that transgender transitions may be viewed as a way of giving in to conventional gender expectations. There is a reference to Lee Edelman’s book “No Future” (2004) and its tying reproduction to “cruel optimism” (p. 160). There was no reference to Paul Rosenfels's polarity theory, which I would have expected to find. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

"Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-and-Death Crisis", NYTimes magazine "booklet"

Linda Villarosa has a booklet-length piece in the New York Times magazine on April 11 (for April 15), “Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-and-Death Crisis”, link.  The tagline is “The answer to the disparity in death rates has everything to do with the experience of being a black woman in America.”  The magazine cover is dedicated to the article. 

The article goes beyond an hereditary factors (like high blood pressure associated with resistance to sickle cell) to social conditions, and maintains that there are many issues with the availability and job performance of doulas (caregivers). 

The black infant mortality rate is 11.3 per 1000 as opposed to 4.9 per 1000 for whites.

The story starts with the narrative of Simone Landrum, and notes how early morning sickness comes with nausea and ravenousness at the same time. 
This is all rather remarkable, as is the police profiling and BLM movement, even after eight years of Obama in office.

Friday, April 06, 2018

"How the Right Lost Its Mind" and fell for Trump

There is a new book “How the Right Lost Its Mind”, by Charlie Sykes, from Random House. 

Again, I’ll have to get it and read it, in time.  But there is already a lot of controversy.

It can be said that old fashioned conservatism, especially the social side, got plundered by the Internet starting in the late 90s.  A “don’t ask don’t tell” mentality could not survive.

So today, we have an understandable war about privacy, and even the idea that the “user is the product.”

But the Internet also fed conservative media a certain way, so it tended to feed a certain mindset with reactionary tribal mindset.  So conservative media lost its own way, with regards to normal journalistic standards.
Jonathan Chait takes all this up in New York Magazine here
It’s also “right” to let National Review speak up about this (in a piece by Guy Benson) since the history of William Buckley seems to be an issue.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Lam Wing-kee's story shows the problems of censorship of books in Hong Kong

Alex W. Palmer has a booklet-length story in the New York Times about the arrests of booksellers in Hong Kong, a topic covered before.

This time it is the saga of Lam Wing-kee, who was first collared in 2015 at a customs checkpoint at the mainline. 

But the story also indicates that “banned books” are actually disappearing even in Hong Kong, as mainland publishers take control. 

There is a lot of history about publlisher Bao Pu. There is a lot of history of the cultural revolution, when intellectuals were sent to the countryside to become proles back in the 1960s.

The problems of censorship increase as Xingping consolidates lifetime power, and yet Xingping's official ideology, which Chinese students memorize, sounds like a hodgepodge. 
I can remember a left-wing bookstore (“Make Up Your Mind”) in Madison, NJ in the 1970s, where the owners saw the Chinese as morally pure but not the Soviets.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

New book "The Trump White House" seems to neutralize Fire and Fury

Well, there is an antidote to Wolff’s “Fire and Fury”.  That would be Ronald Kessler’s “The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game”, available on Amazon today, 304 pages.

I can’t find any conventional “professional” reviews yet.  But Devan Cole discusses the book on CNN on an April 1 interview with Jake Tapper, where the book claims that Kellyanne Conway is the chief leaker.

The Amazon link is here   and has some reviews, some of which think the book is objective and some claim it is Trump propaganda.

I’ll order it soon for a more full review. 

Trey Yingst of OANN said he had already read it today and expected to see Trump tweet about it!   Young adults recently in college are used to hundreds of pages of reading a day (like my own 50 pages of poetry for every English class at GWU, or Jack Andraka’s doing all his homework on airplanes  -- how about memorizing nomenclature for organic chemistry).  That’s a lot more reading that Trump can tolerate, beyond his Fox news on the idiot box (or plasma screen). 
Trump does respect people (including journalists) whom he thinks could have won out on his “The Apprentice” reality show. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Campus books stores when owned by Barnes and Noble

It seems that when Barnes and Noble owns a campus bookstore, it's mostly textbooks, college paraphenalia, and a small selection of general interest.

But a good part of the general section at Drexel in Philadelphia (near 30th St Station) is LGBT books, even a graphic novel.

And one way to sell books seems to be to get the movie made first.  There were books of movies already made, like "Love, Simon" and "Annihilation".

All this one the way to a cyber security meeting. Penn is across the street.