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). (The manuscript suggests he was jealous of whites with blond hair.) 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.

Update: April 25

The Alek Manassian attack in Toronto on April 23 is related to the Incel issue and the suspect said in a social media post that he was "inspired" by Rodger.  Here is the explanation on Vox, by Zach Beauchamp.   CNN has an even more disturbing account by Gianluca Mezzofiore here.  The Toronto Star has a detailed report, which notes that there have been calls to ban a subreddit by a group of "incels", but which also questions the authenticity of Facbook posts attributed to Manassian.

Update: June 20

Sady Doyle in Medium writes about "The Deadly Incel Culture's Absurd Pop Culture Roots", here