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.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Book shows young men drawn into extremism to find masculinity

Here is a little pre-review of a book by Michael Kimmel, University of California, “Healing from Hate: How Young Men Get Into and Out of Violent Extremism”, a book review by Dina Temple-Raston, “Masculinity, not ideology, drives extremist groups”, Washington Post, March 25, 2018, Outlook.

While Amy Chua had argued earlier (“Political Tribes”) that they were carrying out their group behaviors. Kimmel argues that they have become frustrated in attempting to experience themselves as men, because they cannot succeed in a society that demands so much restraint and abstraction.

That may be true of many groups like white supremacists and some of the European radical Islamic terrorists, although it explains less well the 9/11 hijackers.

All of this sounds Rosenfelsian.   
It’s true that upper middle class men who do succeed in academics, business or technology (or professional sports) probably never encounter other men who behave this way.  There is a movement going on to (like on Facebook) to  let boys grow up as boys (Steven Marche’s New York Times article in Nov. 2017). .  But upper class families (and higher achievers in the gay community today) would never see this. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Time's "1968" on the coffee table

Time Special Editions sells a coffee table gloss book, “1968: The Year that Shaped a Generation” in supermarkets now (112 pages).  (I never knew how big Wegmans could be until yesterday.)  The editor is Edward Felsenthal.

The back cover has a protestor holding a sign that reads “Resist!”

1968 (as in the CNN series “The 60’s”) was said to be a “revolutionary year of years”.  Or, “like a knife blade, the year that severed the past from the future.”

Indeed, on February 8, 1968 (a Thursday) I was drafted, in Richmond VA. On May 31, a Sunday, I would be in Special Training Company at Ft. Jackson, cleaning out the grease pit with a toothbrush, but I got off KP in time to overhear LBJ say on the radio that he would not seek reelection.  There would be the DC riots on 14th Street, and then the “Medium Cool” convention and Chicago, and then the last-minute win by Nixon.

A week or so later, we would be on “red alert” after the assassination of Martin Luther King.

There’s a lot in here, like about showbiz at the time (“Hair”) or the turmoil in Czechoslovakia and especially France (Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers”). 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A "colleague" review of "Red Clock": does "every child need two"?

It isn’t often that I feature “somebody else’s” book review, but Kathi Wolfe has a great account of the new novel “Red Clock” by Leni Zumas  (Little Brown [a “real” publisher], 2018, 368 pages).  The review is in the Washington Blade, March 9, "Viewpoint", p. 19.  
The novel, set in a dystopian future and probably capable of generating another LionsGate-like movie franchise, imagines a future where surrogacy and abortion has been forbidden, single people can’t adopt, and there is an “Every Child Needs Two” law.  Oh, it sounds so much like Rick Santorum a few years ago, or maybe Pat Buchanan before that.

It almost sounds like procreation is mandatory for everybody so that everyone else can find a partner.
I’m more interested, as a writer, in how a society becomes dystopian:  but with Russian meddling in our social media, weaker social capital, and a certain background complacency, all leading us to have a “President Poopiepants”, we can imagine how it starts. It's about a lot more than phony religious freedom laws . 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wired: Facebook's Two Years of Hell, and Zuckerberg's Manifesto

The March 2018 issue of Wired offers a cover with Mark Zuckerberg having undergone what looks like a bloody nose attack (or cut eyelash) from Vladimir Putin. Perhaps Putin doesn’t want to allow a 33-year-old become more powerful than Putin.

On p. 46 there appears the booklet-length essay by Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein, ”Inside  the Two Years that Shook Facebook, and the World”, link (paywall after free article allotment;  I bough a print copy at Union Station today after the kids’ “National Walk Out” gun demonstration on the Capitol Grounds).
The narrative begins with a tale of the firings of two contract employees, one of whom had done some private sleuthing of Facebook’s intended way of trying to defeat Trump in early 2016.  One of the employees was fired only for social media connection to a Gizmodo editor who released the leak. But then the article (in thirteen sections) goes back to give the history of Facebook’s energy in doing news aggregation, for the bucks. 

The article explains how Facebook has depended on Section 230, discussed widely on the blogs in connection with trafficking, especially sex trafficking and Backpage. So Facebook insisted on neutrality in presenting content to users, considering only the users’ interests according to algorithms.
Facebook wanted to have its chocolate cake and eat it too.  Newscorp (Fox) acted threatening, as Facebook was creating serfdoms to subordinate the news media, and underming Section 230 might be a way to hit back.  (That could silence individual bloggers, like me, over eventual downstream liability fears).  
By mid 2016, it had become evident that the neutrality was an albatross.  Trump’s people considered how to use the idea to feed fake stories about Hillary Clinton, and soon the Russians were doing it. Facebook was becoming a publisher of supermarket tabloid stuff while pretending not to be one.
The article discusses Zuckerberg’s 5700-word “Manifesto”, titled “Building Global Community” , from February 2017.  He does talk about Supportive, Safe, Inclusive, Informed, and especially Engaged communities.   It is the last one that is the hardest.  The new world seems to demand personalized community engagement that would have been unwelcome in the past.   But the Manifesto was written before Mark saw  all the wheels that had come off. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

"Atlantic" produces inner booklet with three stories of human trafficking and slavery

Rebecca Rosen edits a “booklet” in The Atlantic for March with three life stories of human trafficking.

All three are women who worked domestically.  Two are from the Philippines, one from Brazil.
They were generally involved in caregiving as live-ins, and were paid much less than promised contractually.  Some did not have good living conditions, as in Boston winters.  Some had immigration and visa issues, although the articles do not go into detail on this.

But there is “slavery” in other areas (especially caregiving) besides the sex trafficking which is in the news now because of the FOSTA-SESTA bills in Congress.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Authors push for black characters in children's books

I’m not one who will sign up to write for specific minority groups or play identity politics, but I noticed with some interest a story by Denene Millner (with her own book company) on p. 10 of the New York Times Review, “She wants more than M.L.K. at bedtime”, or, online, “Black kids don’t want toread about Harriet Tubman all the time”. 

She then writes about the need for more black characters in children’s books.
I keep getting these messages on how to sell volumes of books for specific groups, and fortunately have had the luxury of ignoring them. 
But there was a minority-focused book table at the NBC Washington Health Fair in DV this weekend.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Guardian's "Long Read" article on Casa Pound and the resurgence of fascist groups in Italy

Tobias Jones has a booklet-length article in the Guardian, “The Fascist Movement that Has Brought Mussolini Back into the Mainstream”, in a series called “The Long Read”, link here.
The article describes the muti-facted Casa Pound.  It seems to have started in bars in the late 1990s and been evangelized through rock and “fight clubs”.  The movement would get pushed in some books in the middle 2000’s and would be pushed farther by the migrant crisis starting in 2014. 
I can remember well from a freshman history course in college that Mussolini “taxed bachelors” and demanded procreation.

Andrea Mamomme has an alarming article on CNN, “Can AnythingSave Italy from a Return to Fascism? Brexit (Blogtyrant’s tweet “Whoops, England?"), in June 2016, Trump’s election, and the softening of EU have come with shocking speed after the migrant crisis.

 Illustration by Luc Giarelli on Wikipedia under CCSA 2.0 , “We dream of a Roman Italy”

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Indiana teacher's request for mental health books goes viral

A grade school teacher, Tina DuBrock, in Dyer, IND (almost on Lake Michigan) has come up with a wish list for mental health books, and the list went viral.  Here is the MSN story, and here is the Amazon link to the list.
The story says the teacher notes the “blaming” by parents on teachers and vice versa for serious discipline and security problems.

Some of the subject matter requested is pretty specific, like dyslexia.
Reid Ewing’s past discussion of his body dysmorphia might seem appropriate.  Here is a typical story in People Magazine explaining it.

Monday, March 05, 2018

"My 10 Year Odyssey Through America's Housing Crisis", in Alabama

Ryan Dezember has a booklet-length Saturday essay in the Wall Street Journal, “My 10 Year Odyssey Through America’s Housing Crisis.”

A lot of issues here: living on the Gulf Coast with hurricane risk;  flipping of property, subprime risk, do-it-yourself mentality, and a young man prepared to deal with all this as long as he had no dependents.

There’s also the problem of renting to unstable tenants who squat if they can’t afford anything  And the way abandoned property around deteriorates and smells.
I remember a Dr. Phil episode with a young couple who thought they could skip education and get by flipping houses with a baby on the way, back in 2006.
It’s all raw capitalism.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

More companies emerge to do book reviews: maybe this works with new books not yet self-published

A couple days ago I got an email from a company “USBookviews” which offers review services.  The strike page is here. The email marketing page is more colorful.
A process like this might work with a new book, like the novel that I am planning (“Angel’s Brother”). I don’t think sending older books (even as recent as 2014) makes a lot of sense, especially non-fiction and commentary.  I’ll think about this as I work on the novel.

The video above is another review service I found on YouTube.
I have a template for outlining the novel that I explain here.  This process helps tie “loose ends” together before it goes out to the world.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Dystopian novel "American War" seems more plausible now given tribalism (Vox interview)

Sean Illing of Vox interviews the Canadian-Egyptian author Omar El Akkad, of “American War”, set in 2075.

This sounds like a more gradual dystopian future.  Some southern states have seceded and some of the American southwest has been retroceded to Mexico. Coastal cities have been buried by sea level rise, and a third of the country has been killed by bioterror (maybe North Korea). Drones target citizens.
The novel describes how a girl Sarat falls into tribal extremism. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Amy Chua's new book on political tribalism, and her warning today for the US

Jonathan Rauch, a libertarian writer (now a fellow at the Brookings Institution) who made the conservative case for gay marriage in the 1990s with his own book (“Gay Marriage: Why It is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America”) offers a provocative review of Amy Chua’s new book “Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations”, from Penguin Press (2018).   Chua is a law professor at Yale.

Rauch jumps on the hard-wired aspect of tribalism.  I don’t experience it as much as others, as I resist “joining in” with demonstrations or showing a lot of emotion over single-issue campaigns – and claimins of group oppression.  To my mind, it’s a little shameful – yet at 74 I won’t wear shorts in public either.

Rauch also notes how easily we can be fooled by the political rise of anti-intellectual tribalism even in a stable democracy.  We have been warned.

Amy Chua has an op-ed in the New York Times “The Destructive Dynamics of Political Tribalism” today.  She warns that free market capitalism can lead to disasters in some developing countries because wealthy minorities become targets, and she thinks this is happening in the US today. Chua notices the aloofness of coastal elites and their disinterest in personal communication with people whom they see as uneducated and intellectually inferior.  This has ramifications for the individualized speech on social media, as if becomes suspect from those “without their own skin in the game.”  Does this boil down to expecting more personal community engagement before having a voice? 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Two business models for children's books at Small Business expo in Washington DC

The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Market held a pop-up exhibit in Washington DC Feb. 13 and 14.

At least two of the exhibits were from booksellers, of children’s books, which I personally do not offer.
One of these was “My Heritage Book” from Deandra Bufo Novak of Orlando Florida.  She writes custom books for small children’s families.  I have never actually been hired to custom write material for a client.  
The other is a kind of book club “Subscribe to Literacy, “WellRead”, by Undra Duncan in New York, where children’s books are packaged for once a month shipments. 
Daniel Lattier has an article about Amish romance novels in Intellectual Takeout.  He notes that in the nineteenth century Amish culture was not yet anti-technology, but somehow made the determination that modern technology would fray community religious cohesion as technology developed. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Barnes and Noble layoffs show chain stores having trouble as well as independents, with competition from online industry

Barnes and Noble is reported to have implemented a large layoff of retail employees on Monday. February 12, 2018, after weaker than expected holiday sales.  The slowdown over Christmas occurred despite the fact that as whole retail holiday sales did well over the holidays.
Barnes and Noble, the last standing large bookstore chain, has had to compete with Walmart and Amazon, which is preparing to open its own physical stores.  Amazon is looking for other headquarters, which could be built in the DC area, while its Seattle presence may shrink.
CNBC has a typical story 
Barnes and Noble is a public company.  At one time it owned some interest in some self-publishing companies. But it could sell itself to a media company or take itself private.

The drop in sales has come at a time when interest in independent bookstores seems to increase, and where literacy drives and used book stores in small towns seem to do well.
A Barnes and Noble in Bethesda near the Landmark Theater has closed. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Another infamous "Manifesto": "Industrial Society and Its Future"

Once in a while I cover the topic of “objectionable” content, especially “manifestos” written by people who went on to commit crimes. Indeed, the idea of a “manifesto” has gotten a bad name, as prospective for its author of future anti-social behavior. He wants to be viewed from on high.
Ted Kacznyski, the Unabomber, apparently will spend the rest of his days almost in solitary confinement among “the worst of the worst” at ADX Florence, Colorado.   

But he may be ruminating in the belief that he accomplished something with his “Manifesto”, “Industrial Society and Its Future”   This little paper (35000 words) put "Luddite" into everyday vocabulary. 

Kaczynski, remember, “threatened” the New York Times and Washington Post into publishing it in 1995, in the days just before self-publication on the Web was possible.  Penthouse never published it.  The New York Times still has the link here.  
He perhaps says some useful things.  The talks about over-socialization of people, which he believes contributes to the political coalition that we generally know as the Left. He blames conservatives more for technology, which he thinks can lead society into a trap.  Maybe that’s where we are today with the electromagnetic pulse threat, which generally only conservatives talk about.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Physical books sell so well in Afghanistan that there is a piracy problem

Road Norland and Fahim Abed have an interesting story about the physical sale of books overseas, specifically in Afghanistan, “Though most Afghans can’t read, their book trade is booming”, in the Sunday New York Times.
In a country where 60% of adults are illiterate, physical bookselling is booming.  The biggest areas are non-fiction (“Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and Bin Lade, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001”), often by western authors and translated into Urdu.  Self-help is popular.

There is a big problem with piracy of books in Afghanistan, comparable to DVD’s of movies in the west.

This is almost the inverse of my own business model.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Equality can make democracy harder ("How Democracies Die"); Then a book mixing affirmative action with the First Amendment

There are a couple more important books coming down the pike, at least from my own perspective, on democracy and free speech.

One of these is “How Democracies Die” by Steven Livitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.(Crown).  The media have circulated an interview with the authors that suggest that the bipartisan consensus, behavioral norms and tolerances necessary to overcome tribal partisanship have somewhat been predicated on keeping some institutionalized racism.

The authors argue that people are more polarized over race, religion, and culture than on taxes and spending, because the former confer a lot more meaning in their lives. The urge toward equality has made some groups fear expropriation or sacrifice.  Elitism has failed to recognize the practical problems that remain for many people and how easy scapegoating is.

Here’s a typical interview.

I would say, however, that in my own DADT III book, equality generally supports stability, as long as people believe everyone plays by the same rules.  This book may disagree. 

The Alan Dershowitz offers a criticism of Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic is, "Must We Defend Nazis: Why the First Amendment Should Not Protect Hate Speech and White Supremacy". an apparent rework of the 1999 book “Must We Defend Nazis?: Hate Speech, Pornography, and the New First Amendment” (NYU Press).   Dershowitz criticizes the book for offering a kind of negative affirmative action with regard to speech, because “there is no correlate, no analog, for hate speech directed at whites.”   The authors claim that free speech cannot be free without equality between the speakers. 


There seems to be another problem, a lack of an ability for abstraction among readers.  When I publish my own perspective on some issues without more of my own skin in the game, some people see my even meta-speaking as a form of bullying. 

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Elliot Rodger's "manifesto" gets into one idea we don't want to talk about: the "right" to "reject" others for intimate relationships based on our own stereotypes (even racial)

Once in a while I do look at “inappropriate books” or manuscripts that purport to become books.

Occasionally perpetrators of mass murder events have left “manifestos” to be found, as if they were “on high” judging humanity.  As a “rotten apple”, no commercial publisher, even a self-publishing company, could list something like this today.

One of the most notorious would be Elliot Rodger’s piece “MyTwisted World: The Story of Elliot Rodger” which came to light on the Internet after his 2014 killing spree in Isla Vista, California.  Yup, his name is in the "book title."
It’s well over 100,000 words and most of it, at a quick perusal, appears to be like a detailed diary.  It would be emailed (unsolicited to be sure) to up to 34 people.  It’s hard to fathom someone would recall so much meticulous personal detail with such resentment.

There seems to be no particular comprehensive philosophy, other than the hatred of women (because they always rejected him) or misogyny,  expressed at the end, as he plans his “Day of Retribution”.  But what is most disturbing should be taken note of.  He seems to imply he was “rejected” because he was half-Asian.  Maybe it would be OK to be 100% Asian and in a different, segregated world. But he had to compete with the “white boys” to be desirable (at least to white women).  That has rather profound moral implications.  We’re used to the idea that we can be attracted to anyone we want and “reject” anyone else privately.  But in the past few years, private choice has become public and mixed with ideas of discrimination.  I get this all the time when I go to discos and people whom I don’t want challenge me to dance with them and then question me why not.  Milo Yiannopoulos has written about this.

In some ways. Rodger seems like a straight version of Andrew Cunanan.
In any case, having written a “manifesto” seems to get a bad wrap. My own first DADT book (1997) was called “The Manifesto” but talks about real policy problems through a personal lens.

Her’s a Reason article by Cathy Young..  Here is the Asian American Defense Fund piece on the text.   

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Time: "Cybersecurity: Hacking, the Dark Web, and You"

Time has a Special Edition coffee table book. “Cybersecurity: Hacking, the Dark Web, and You”.
The most startling chapter is the third, “Inside the Hack of the Century”, by Peter Elkind, about the hack of Sony Pictures in late 2014 as the showing of “The Interview” approached.(Movies, Dec. 27, 2014). Sony had weak security, although this was probably comparable to what many companies had at the time (individuals and small businesses are much better at this). And the consequences, including the doxing of employees, were horrific, and for a time theaters felt threatened by Commie-terror attacks.  Today, the incident reminds one of the possibility that a foreign enemy (like North Korea) could try to undermine our system by going after much smaller businesses or individuals it didn't like, just to prove it could do it.  

Robert Hackett writes about “Google’s Elite Hacker Swat Team” (p. 42), about how they detected a vulnerability at Cloudflare in February 2017, and how Cloudflare (later prominent in shutting down Daily Stormer) fixed it in London in the middle of the night. The SWAT team Project Zero has recently exposed the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerability of Intel chips.

Massimo Calabresi writes “The Secret History of an Election”, p. 34, about how the Obama administration would have called out the military to protect voting systems, but it couldn’t stop the fake news manipulation on social media that preceded the election.

Charlotte Alter writes on p. 22 “Fighting Revenge Porn”, which gives the gratuitous web one of its most serious challenges in the downstream liability (Section 230) issues. It also shows how difficult “online reputation” can be to manage.

“The Deep Web” on p. 12, by Lev Grossman and Jay Newton Small, gives a biography of Ross Ulbricht and the story of the Silk Road, which was supposed to be legitimate but which the government claims is used mostly for evasive purposes.
The book concludes with the usual home safety tips. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Wired January 2018 issue takes up "The Golden Age of Free Speech" and its self-destruction

The January 2018 issue of Wired is dedicated to the paradox of how tech is using free speech to turn it against itself.  The issue is titled “The (Divisive, Corrosive, Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age of Free Speech”, link here.

There is an opening essay by Zyneck Rufecki, explains that the passive outreach technique that I used with the infrastructure set up by Googles and others has run into the limitation of human attention spans (and cognition in the masses).  I actually do go looking for articles on my own, where one thing leads to another; so I am not as influenced by algorithmic news feeds as others. (Neither would be Dr, Shaun Murphy.)  But most people have too many social commitments to maintain such intellectual oversight of their ideas.  There seems to be a problem with “viral outrage” which can cause people to feel targeted, to lose jobs or employment opportunities, or lead to other family members. 

The article goes into some specifics, then, as with a long essay by Steven Johnson on Cloudflare’s cutoff of Daily Stormer, which spread quickly.  The content lead-in "Nice Website  .... shame if something happened to it" suggests that activists will pursue almost any site they see is dismissive of minorities (neutrality equals aggression) and tech executives say this is happening, and they have practiced grade school self-control. 
Doug Bock Clark then explains the sub-doxing campaigns by some of Antifa’s activists.  Generally these activities are barely within the law.


Alice Gregory writes about a startup, Yondr, with a pouch that keeps your phone silent until you get to a “smoking pen”.   Reduce your speech and unchanged the world?  This sounds like a good idea for public schools and cell phone use.   The concept could also work at venues that don’t want to allow photography (as of other attendees). 

Monday, January 22, 2018

"Moron Corps": short book that would accompany "McNamara's Folly"

Author: John L. Ward, with Dr. William E. “Gene” Robertson
Title: “Moron Corps: A Vietnam Veteran’s Case for Action
Publication: Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co., 2012, ISBN 978-1-62212-207-3, 95 pages, paper, 12 chapters (link)

This short personal account is mentioned in Hamilton Gregory’s “McNamara’s Folly”.  The writer enlisted in the Marine Corps as one of “McNamara’s Morons”, so to speak, although his performance generally outruns most of his peers, and the book (with some help) is reasonably well written.   The book is more about the treatment of Vietnam veterans with PTSD and herbicide damage than about the social bad faith of the “Moron” program, which he admits was supposed to provide job training.

He would serve in Vietnam and be wounded once, and recover, only later to have serious health problems from Agent Orange and herbicides, and to get short shrift from the VA and civilian bosses.
He claims, on the last page, that he has a “narcissistic personality” but sees nothing wrong with promoting your victimhood. He provides a lucid discussion of Affirmative Action for government contractors regarding war veterans.

He also notes Dr. Martin Luther King's strong radicalism in a 1967 speech. 
He says he supports the military draft when necessary, and maintains we may be headed back toward it, with all the Stop-Loss policies of the Iraq war. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Huffington Post cuts off unpaid self-published contributions

The Huffington Post is ending is unpaid self-publisher’s platform, the New York Times reports, here. The reason is, well, fake news and the cluttering of the debate in the past two years.

But I had not been aware that HuffPost had accepted “self-published” contributors.  It still might accept some authors, but only if it thinks it can afford to pay them.
Also, this Personal Tech story in the New York Times casts a much more positive picture on book self-publishing, and mentions that some self-publishers (like Milo Yiannopoulos) now publish other authors. 

Thomas F. La Vecchia has invited former Huffington contributors to New Theory

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

"The Population Bomb": How a book can unintentionally give repressive governments excuses to do what they want

The Smithsonian Magazine has an interesting interpretive article about a 1968 book, Paul R. Ehrlich, “The Population Bomb”. I remember scanning this on the bus when I was in the Army. 

The article indicates that the book had a tremendous but misleading influence on the future of world population growth, causing repressive birth control policies in authoritarian countries (maybe even China’s one-child policy).  The article notes that it is consumption per person that matters as much as population itself.  That ties in to the current debate on climate change, which Trump wants to deny.


It’s interesting that a single book can have so much worldwide influence. Sometimes well-meaning authors give authoritarian leaders excuses to do what they want. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Stephen King explains how Donald Trump could get elected

Stephen King on Donald Trump (in the Guardian): “How Do Such Men Rise? First as a Joke”, link

What follows is like a short-film screenplay, where King hauls in some of his fictional characters from his novels, gives them truth serum, and asks who they voted for and why.

The childishness and low cognition of them is shocking. 

Also, on MLK Day, there was an outdoor used book stand at Foggy Bottom Metro, selling mostly African-American material books, out in the cold.  

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Midwest Book Reviews sheds light on how authors should get reviews

Recently, Pam Daniels (author of Robert LeBlanc’s book “Silent Drums” [my Wordpress review]) mentioned submission to Midwest Book Review, and I thought I would pass along the site.

My own immediate reaction is that my most recent book is already four years old (from early 2014), and the first is over twenty years old.  But I would consider working with a review company in advance of the novel I plan for this year.

The site (the company is located in Wisconsin) is set up in old-fashioned way, with frames, and links to a lot of articles with somewhat repetitious content.  My own older sites were set up this way.

The site has a low opinion of some of the self-publishing companies and of vanity publishing in general, and says it prefers small presses (which tend to stress local and iconic topics, or specialized writing like poetry).  But it also says you can apply to work for them as a book reviewer. 

Sunday, January 07, 2018

NYTimes has booklet-length front page story on intelligence failures with respect to North Korean "speed"

The Sunday New York Times has an alarming front page booklet-length story by David R. Sanger and William J. Broad: “U.S. Miscalculated the Nuclear Progress of North Korea by Years”, with subheadline.”Flawed Estimates Rank as One of the Biggest Intelligence Failures”, link here

But Mike Pompeo of the CIA criticized this assessment on CBS’s “Face the Nation” today. 

I tend to agree with the NYT.  It seems that Kim had a lot of black market help from other post-Communist nations. 

Friday, January 05, 2018

Is self-publishing starting to implode under criticism?

Here’s a provocative piece from a conservative-to-libertarian site, “Way too many books are being published”.  But open self-publishing has become one reason. About two-thirds of the new books offered today are self-published.  It’s not reported what percentage are print-on-demand.  (416,000 books were self-published in 2013;  300,000 by traditional;  most traditional need to sell about 10,000 at a min.)

It reminds me of a time in the mid 1960s when we thought “too many people are going to college”. And there was a draft.

I do wonder how well self-publishing-assist book publishers business models will hold up – the sustainability issue.  Starting around 2012 I started getting calls asking my why my old books from 1997/2000 and 2002 were no longer selling.  Well, even with most trade books (with certain exceptions like Harry Potter) that tends to be the case.

Note the BookScan (doesn’t look at ebook) from Nielsen – it knows how well your self-published books have sold (or not).
Intellectual Takeout seems to make a curious point for a libertarian site:  people need to share more goals in common and belong more.  That’s Charles Murray’s theme in “Coming Apart”. 

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Trump seeks to block publication of a book about White House with Bannon's leaks

In an move that sounds like totalitarian censorship, Donald Trump’s lawyers are seeking a cease-and-desist order against author Michael Wolff and publisher Henry Holt regarding the publication of the upcoming book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”.  The Washington Post article by Josh Darsey and Ashley Parker is here.   CNN Money reports on it here

The title of the book is provocative in that it invokes Trump’s threat against North Korea (“fat little rocket man”) 

But the “objectionable content” in the book has to do with Steve Bannon’s “telling” and Trump’s break with him.  Apparently a cease and desist was sent to Bannon too about breaking his employment agreement. 

Some attorneys are saying that this action constitutes "prior restraint".  The publisher says it intends the release Tuesday.  I have a pre-order on Amazon.

Author's Guild has weighed in as Trump's threatening to sue a journalist "is what dictators do" (Guild statement). 

Monday, January 01, 2018

Timothy B. Lee's "Gentle Primer" on Bitcoin

Timothy B. Lee has a booklet-length article on Ars Technica, “Want to Really Understand How Bitcoin Works? Here’s a Gentle Primer”.  Gentle indeed.  It takes time to follow this.  (This is the "right" Tim Lee;  he is "Binarybits" on Twitter.) 

This would have taken a long time to write.  Lee explains the Blockchain (which any advanced alien civilization will also have come up with), and the importance of public and private cryptography. These things don’t matter a lot until people want to do things under the covers.  It also depends on robust peer-to-peer computing (with all affiliated security risks from using it).

My own perception is that it is a good idea for any retired investor to have a small percentage of holdings in digital currencies, and learn how to use them.  Maybe 1% of liquid assets is a good target. I plan to look into this in 2018.  

Tim's own website "AboutMe" page has some interesting comments, especially March 25, 2012, and June 4, 2016, which I think was directed at me and my own books, not Tim (whom I met in Minneapolis, and who helped set up my 1999 lecture at the University of Minnesota; I also spoke at Hamline in 1998).

Update: Jan 3

There is increasing concern about the energy consumption (and fossil fuels, especially in China) for bitcoin mining.  Would solar plants solve this?

Update: Jan 23

While energy consumption of mining continues to be controversial, here is a New York Times piece by Nathaniel Popper, "A View from the Bitcoin Bubble", referring to the Winklevii.