Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rachel Maddow for Mother Jones

Lots of video clips with Rachel Maddow doing an evening in support of Mother Jones. Since she started her show on MSNBC, I've really been steamed that Comcast doesn't include MSNBC in its basic cable lineup. Fox Noise, yes, MSNBC, no.

One more article on Torture Not Working

See this article from the Washington Post on the torture of Abu Zubaida.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Soldiers Dying from Bad Electrical Work

CNN has this article on the shoddy electrical work done in areas housing U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Eighteen soldiers have died of electrocution. Most of the work was done by KBR.

Christian Nation?

I don't have a problem with people being Christian, especially the Christian Left. I do have a problem when Christians try to change history in order to support their beliefs. That's why I've been so interested in those who claim the Founders created this to be a Christian nation and they had no intention of creating a wall of separation between Church and State. The people who promote this view do so in order to argue that therefore Christianity - at least their version of it - deserves special treatment by the federal, state, and local governments of the United States.

The problem is that the Christian nation types LIE about history in order to make it conform to their views. The person doing the most to counter their lies is Chris Rodda, author of the book Liars for Jesus. The book is long, dry, and gets into history in more detail than even I want, and I have two degrees in history. But it requires that level of detail to show the problem areas of the Christian Nation types. When I bought the book, I thought the title was too harsh, and so did the minister who wrote the forward to the book. But after I read it, I had to agree with Rodda. The things the Christian Nation writers said couldn't be just errors and bad scholarship. They were too closely edited for that to be the case.

Anyway, I found out about Chris Rodda from Ed Brayton's blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars. In this blog post from Ed, he posts 9 snippets of video from Chris Rodda specifically refuting David Barton, the best known of the Christian Nation writers. In the first video she explains why he is so important - he is extremely influential in fundamentalist Christian circles, including writing the American history textbooks often used in Christian schools and home schools. Here she refutes some of his claims. She's dry in person, too, but she's damn good at what she does.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Book Review: The Thoreau You Don't Know

Title: The Thoreau You Don't Know: What the Prophet of Environmentalism Really Meant
Author: Robert Sullivan
Rating ***1/2
Tags henry david thoreau, walden, environmentalism, abolition, civil disobediance

This book is both social and intellectual history centered on Henry David Thoreau. It is written fairly well, there's just too much of it, it is more than I ever wanted to know about Thoreau.

Sullivan is at pains to describe the conventional wisdom on Thoreau and then to demolish it. The CW says that the man was an unsociable, humorless hermit. On the contrary, he was well-known in Concord, considered eccentric by some, but a fixture in the town. He used humor to get his points across more easily. He was not anti-technology, he did in fact design some machines and improve others. He was an abolitionist, and, though he wrote a precedent-setting essay on civil disobedience, he was never a pacifist and supported John Brown's raid despite its violence.

The author is also good at giving the context of the times. From our future-shocked era, the mid-nineteenth century may not seem like a time of great change, but it was. First of all was the overwhelming change in travel due to the railroads... a real game-changing event that made distances much smaller. Printing presses kept making technological advances that made printed material cheaper and more widely available.

In all of this, Thoreau spent most of his life studying the ecology of one town, Concord, Massachusetts. He made his study of this small ecology into a vast commentary on the topic of ecology, and for that he has an assured place in American intellectual history.

Publication Collins (2009), Hardcover, 368 pages
Publication date 2009
ISBN 0061710318 / 9780061710315

Book Review: Murder is Binding

Title Murder Is Binding
Lorna Barrett
Rating ****
Tags mystery, series, bookstores

First in a series about Tricia Miles, divorcee who began a new life as owner of a mystery bookstore in Stoneham, New Hampshire. The town has also reinvented itself by taking Hay-on-Wye as a model and becoming a mecca for book lovers. Tricia's store has been open for five months, and she is doing well. Her sister, Angelica, whom Tricia has never gotten on well with, comes for a visit and reveals she too is getting a divorce. Meanwhile the cooking bookstore next door suffers a fire and the murder of its owner, and the local sheriff suspects Tricia.

I found myself liking this book better after having read it than while I was reading it, oddly. It creates an interesting community and characters, and I plan to read the rest of the series.

Publication Berkley (2008), Mass Market Paperback, 288 pages
Publication date 2008
ISBN 0425219585 / 9780425219584

Book Review: White Witch, Black Curse

Title: White Witch, Black Curse (The Hollows, Book 7)
Author: Kim Harrison
Rating ***1/2
Tags paranormal, series, witches, vampires

This is a good though somewhat uneven series, some books better than others. It is a unique world, one in which paranormals were hidden before about 40 years ago, when many humans were wiped out by a disease, and the supernatural species then revealed themselves. The main character, Rachel Morgan, is a witch, living with a still living vampire, Ivy, who is also her partner.

In this volume, Rachel must deal with recovering memories of the death of her vampire lover, Kisten, as well as the reappearance of a ghost (literally) from her past.

Like a lot of the books in this series, this one suffers a bit from Too Much... Rachel has to deal with an overwhelming amount of bad stuff. It makes it exciting, but a little hard to believe and absorb.

But still a good and recommended series.

Publication Eos (2009), Hardcover, 512 pages
Publication date 2009
ISBN 0061138010 / 9780061138010

Population Warning

This, too, is a story that isn't much covered in the press. Overpopulation. This Alternet article is a dire warming that we must control population or the consequences will be absolutely dire. I have been terribly puzzled as to why this isn't talked about more.

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Twenty Years After

This is a story getting very little coverage. At least there is this article from MSNBC. Muckraking journalist Greg Palast claims to have extensively investigated the spill, and that there was high corporate malfeasance by Exxon. He says the cause of the spill was not the captain's drunken state but a malfunctioning radar that was known to be broken, and that the equipment that Exxon was supposed to provide to clean up spills wasn't available. Here's another article on the damages caused by the oil spill.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Nuclear Power Plants in France

A friend pointed me to a Newsweek article the other day saying it is impossible at this point to prevent reaching the tipping point where the environment is changed permanently for the worse because of global warming. One solution that many people are pushing is more nuclear power. This article from Alternet raises serious concerns about that option.

Refutation to Climate-Change Deniers

Finally. More than a month after George Will published an article in the Washington Pose with misleading data on global warming, the Post has now published a response that makes the scientists' case for global warming, and global warming driven by human effects on climate.

The AIG story

TPM has a good story, a summary of an in-depth Washington Post story, on the background of AIGFP, the little unit that has caused SO much trouble. Interesting reading.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Letter to the Pope

The story about the Pope's discouraging condom use while in Africa, in the face of the massive AIDS crisis, has continued to bother me. So I've been thinking of what I would say to him if i could.

Dear Pope Benedict:

You are, it seems, convinced that God condemns the use of birth control. Let me suggest an alternative view of God to you. Perhaps she (I am pagan, after all) cares for all of her creation. Perhaps she cares for the people who are dying horribly of a disease that could be for the most part prevented by the use of condoms. Perhaps she cares for the animals driven to extinction because there are too many humans crowding the planet. Perhaps she cares for the trees that produce the oxygen we breathe, cut down for farmland and living space for the TOO MANY PEOPLE on this planet.

There's an old story about a man forced on the roof of his house by floods, with the water still rising. A rowboat comes and offers to take him to safety. He says, no thanks, the Lord will provide for me. Another boat comes by some time later and offers to save him. He says no, thank you, the Lord will provide for me. Some time later, a helicopter comes by and offers to take him to safety, and he repeats the same mantra. Shortly thereafter, he drowns. After death, he meets God and starts berating him, asking why God didn't save him from drowning. God looks at him in amazement, and says, "but I sent you two boats and a helicopter!"

Perhaps, sir, condoms are God's helicopters. Perhaps affordable, reliable birth control happened at the very time human populations started to overwhelm Earth's resources for a reason. Please, think about it.

Book Review: Shanghai Moon

Title: The Shanghai Moon: A Lydia Chin/Bill Smith Novel (Bill Smith/Lydia Chin Novels)
Author: S. J. Rozan
Rating *****
Tags shanghai, mystery, series, jewelry, holocaust, lydia chin, bill smith

Ah, bliss. Lydia Chin and Bill Smith are back. I've never been disappointed in a book by S.J. Rozan, but I confess the Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series is my favorite. They alternate between being narrated by Lydia and Bill, who are partners in a private eye business. Both are believable and intensely human characters.

In this volume, Lydia is asked to help with a case when her mentor Joel Pilarsky asks her to help on a case with a Chinese connection. Bill isn't around, still deeply affected by their last case. When an important person in the case is murdered, Bill comes back. The case winds up involving Shanghai before and during World War II. Shanghai for a while had a large Jewish refugee population, as it was one of the few places that would accept the high number of Jewish refugees from Germany.

Rozan crafts a tragic story that involves Chinese and Jewish cultures, love that crosses those cultural boundaries, the horrors of war, and the ties between families. Highly recommended.

Publication St. Martin's Minotaur (2009), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 384 pages
Publication date 2009
ISBN 0312245564 / 9780312245566

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Book Review: Waiting for an Ordinary Day

Title: Waiting for an Ordinary Day: The Unraveling of Life in Iraq
Author: Farnaz Fassihi
Rating: ****1/2
Tags: iraq, war, insurgency, daily life

I wish every American would read this book. It is about the daily life of Iraqis from the time the U.S. invaded into 2006. The author is Farnaz Fassihi, an Iranian American journalist.who covered Iraq for the Wall Street Journal. She traveled around Iraq and told the stories of everyday Iraqis

If it an't broke, don't fix it. Iraq was broken, but it wasn't our responsibility nor in our power to fix it. Instead we brought death, sectarian violence, poverty, forced migration, loss of basics such as electricity, adequate hospitals and schools... and so on.

Fassihi shows the complexities of the situation. There were Iraqis who welcomed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. For the Sunnis, though, Saddam's overthrow meant a loss of power and prestige. After the invasion, Iraqis knew that the U.S. Army protected only the oil ministries, and it led them to conclude the war was for oil. As their lives descended into chaos and terror, hatred for Americans grew. One particularly effective chapter imagined what New York would be like if it had gone through what Baghdad has.

Here's Fassahi's summary of her time in Iraq:

"I've borne witness as people's lives have unraveled around me. I recall a poignant quote from Martha Gellhorn, a pioneer female war reporter, from her book The Face of War: "War happens to people, one by one." War doesn't just happen to the military, whose soldiers are fighting, or to the government, who wages it. It happens to people, one by one, house by house, and family by family. I have not met a single Iraq whose life hasn't been touched by tthe war or altered because of everyday violence. I have heard this sentence from Iraqis, over and over, "until now, we are waiting". What are they waiting for, I wonder. Perhaps for just an ordinary day." (p. 272-3).

Too much war coverage in Iraq has focused on America, and seems to not consider Iraqis as important. They are. They are human beings who have suffered at our hands. We need to be reminded of that, whenever we thing we know what is best for the world, and whenever we think we have unlimited power to change the world.

Publication PublicAffairs (2008), Edition: illustrated edition, Hardcover, 304 pages
Publication date 2008
ISBN 1586484753 / 9781586484750

Book Review: The Ghost and Mrs. McClure

Title: The Ghost and Mrs. McClure (Haunted Bookshop Mystery)
Author: Alice Kimberly
Rating: ***1/2
Tags: mystery, series, ghosts, private eye, bookstores

First in the Haunted Bookshop mystery series. Jack Shepard was a noirish PI in the Dashiell Hammett mode.when he was shot dead in front of a bookshop in Quindicott, Rhode Island in 1949. His spirit hung around bored for the next fifty years until Penelope Thornton-McClure became a partner in her Aunt Sadie's bookshop. Pen is able to hear Jack, and he finds her just his kind of person. When their first author event ends in the author's death, Pen and Jack have to solve the case.

Good novel, not outstanding, but I'll read more in the series.

Publication Berkley (2004), Paperback, 272 pages
Publication date 2004
ISBN 0425194612 / 9780425194614

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Julian Bond on Gay Rights

We often hear how difficult the relationship is between GLBT folk and African-Americans. Here is a post, though, including a video, of a speech that Julian Bond, a civil rights leader and Chairman of the NAACP, has to say on the topic. The following quote is terrific:

"When someone asks me, “are gay rights civil rights?” my answer is always, “Of course, they are.” Civil rights are positive legal prerogatives: the right to equal treatment before the law. These are the rights shared by everyone. There is no one in the United States who does not, or should not, enjoy or share in enjoying these rights. Gay and lesbian rights are not special rights in any way. It isn’t “special” to be free from discrimination. It is an ordinary, universal entitlement of citizenship."

One post that I saw on this mentioned that my hero and my Congressman, John Lewis, also gets it.

I've just listened to the whole speech, and it is well worth listening to the whole thing. It is about 25 minutes long.

Quiverfull: and Extreme Motherhood

Fascinating article in Newsweek about the "Quiverfull" movement in evangelical Christianity that emphasizes women's submission and role as mothers, and is anti-contraception. They believe that families should not practice any form of birth control, not even natural, that instead they accept God's will as to how many children they will have. The Duggar family is the most famous example. They have 18 children so far and a reality show. The movement is small, so far, in the tens of thousands, though it is growing. As a Pagan who considers us as an integral part of nature living in a modern world I consider already overpopulated, I find it hard to ... well, forgive the pun, but conceive of such a thing.

Catholic Church and Condoms

People can be so blinded by their beliefs (I don't exempt myself). Pope Benedict is reaffirming the Church's stand on prohibiting condom use, even in Africa where AIDS is the horror that keeps on giving. The article does point out that the Catholic Church is probably the largest private provider of AIDS care in the world... but why don't we take the simple available steps to prevent people from getting the disease in the first place?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Halliburton's Army

Fascinating article on the logistics of today's U.S. military, and why it may be impossible to dislodge KBR from its position supplying our troops overseas.

Ethics of Scientific Research

Susan Jacoby represents the atheist perspective in the forum On Faith. I like her approach to things, usually, she isn't afraid of pointing out the irrational (understatement alert!). In this post she does a good job in a brief post of discussing the ethics of embryonic stem cell research and scientific research in general. On Faith is interesting. Moderators ask a question every week and representatives from many faiths answer the question. Starhawk represents the Pagan viewpoint, by the way, and does so ably. There are several Christian commentators, and at least one from Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, etc. I'll have to admit the questions are pretty dumb, sometimes, but the commentators do their best and so often come up with thoughtful answers.

The Ugly Reality of the American Penal System

This post from one of my favorite blogs, Dispatches From the Culture Wars, gives some of the horrible statistics about the American penal system, which incarcerates more than any other country, and overwhelmingly incarcerates racial minorities. Something is badly wrong, and our drug policy is a large part of it. I don't agree necessarily with making all drugs legal, but would certainly like to see a shift to treatment over incarceration. Moreover, it is the U.S. demand for drugs that is causing the horrors of the drug trade in Mexico, with 6-9000 deaths so far.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Fusion Energy?

Thomas Friedman has a New York Times article cautiously optimistic that energy from nuclear fusion may turn out to be practical after all. That would be marvelous news if it happened.

Real Capitalists Nationalize

MoJo article that seems to me to explain well in layman's terms the need to temporarily nationalize some of the banks and why.

Unemployment Rates

This interactive map from the New York Times shows unemployment rates by county and the percentage change from the year previous. I mostly show it to congratulate the Gray Lady on their usage of new media to do some kick-ass features, like the timeline they did of inaugural addresses of the Presidents at the time of Obama's inauguration.

Bush's Torture

This article is about a 2007 International Committee of the Red Cross, the organization that monitors violations of the Geneva Conventions, that prisoners were tortured under the Bush administration. This is bad on so many levels. First, it is against the principles that have guided this nation from its beginning. The United States has been a leader over its history in crafting treaties that prohibit such methods. Secondly, if we torture, it is more likely that our own soldiers will be tortured upon being captured. And, most importantly, professional interrogators DON'T USE IT BECAUSE IT DOESN'T WORK. Maybe the one being tortured will give you accurate information. More likely, he will tell you anything to make the torture stop. And the interrogator doesn't know what information is valid and what isn't.

The Legal Right to Marry

This is an interesting article from People for the American Way (great group, by the way) that gives polling data on people's attitude to same sex marriage. I find it quite interesting that when you make clear that when it is made clear that it would not force religious groups to perform same sex marriages support for having same sex unions legal goes up dramatically.

What many people don't understand is just how badly same sex couples are affected by not having the legal rights afforded by marriage, in areas such as making medical decisions for an incapacitated partner (or even being able to see that partner in the hospital), inheritance issues, and much more.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Book Review: Many Bloody Returns

Title: Many Bloody Returns
Kelner, Toni L. P.
Charlaine Harris
Rating ****
Tags short stories, collection, vampires

This is a collection of short stories on the unlikely theme of birthdays and vampires. I wasn't that interested in the theme, but was interested in the editors, Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner, and others of the authors. Harris is one of my favorites, along with Tanya Huff, Kelley Armstrong, and Jim Butcher. The quality of the authors is high, and as usual with such a collection, I found out about one or two authors I'd like to read again, such as Tate Hallaway.

Fun collection!

Other authors
Kelner, Toni L. P.

Editor – Kelner, Toni L. P.
Publication Ace Trade (2009), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 368 pages
Publication date 2009
ISBN 0441016758 / 9780441016754

Book Review: Murder at the Academy Awards

Title Murder at the Academy Awards (R): A Red Carpet Murder Mystery
Farmer, Jerrilyn
Joan Rivers
Rating ****
Tags actors, celebreties, mystery, series, joan rivers

First in a series by Joan Rivers and Jerrilyn Farmer. I wanted to read it not just because of Joan Rivers and her vast knowledge of Hollywood, but because I've read Jerrilyn Farmer's Madelyn Bean series and enjoyed it.

The main character is Maxine Taylor, loosely based, of course, on Joan Rivers. The action starts with the red carpet show before the Academy Awards. Maxine's daughter, Drew, who works with Maxine, is good friends with the hot young star Halsey Hamilton. Halsey has been in rehab for several months, but shows up at the awards apparently high, in a bra and panties, and collapses while Maxine is interviewing her and dies. Drew's ex-boyfriend, Burke, is suspected. Maxine would love to have Burke out of Drew's life, but is afraid she might lose Drew if she doesn't try to clear him. Along the way Maxine takes an ... interesting... trip to rehab, and solves the mystery in a wildly public venue.

A good start to what will hopefully be a good series.
Other authors: Farmer, Jerrilyn

Author – Farmer, Jerrilyn
Publication Pocket (2009), Hardcover, 320 pages
Publication date 2009
ISBN 1416599371 / 9781416599371

Book Review: Inside Inside

Title Inside Inside
James Lipton
Rating ****

I came late to the discovery of Inside the Actor's Studio and James Lipton, I only found it a few years ago. Once I found it, I was enthralled, and became quite a fan of Lipton, because of his knowledge, his sense of humor, his joy in life, and his skill as an interviewer. He's always seemed young for his age, but I didn't realize how much so until I looked his age up on IMDB. He was born in Sept. 1926, making him 82! I thought he was in his 60s. So I was quite happy to hear about the publication of his book Inside Inside.

It was a bit slow to get into, and i finally understood his reputation for pomposity. That soon vanished though, and though it is a long book it gets more and more interesting. I had heard a bit of his experiences as a mec, sort of like a pimp but more respectful of the woman. He also knew some fascinating personalities, including Bob Hope, for whom he produced 12 specials. Then, of course, the last part of the book talks about the wonderful interviews done on the show and some of the highlights. I defy anyone to read about Chris Reeve's interview without crying, and marveling at the great gift of openness and vulnerability given not just by Reeves but all the guests.

Marvelous! Mr. Lipton, take a well-deserved bow.

Publication NAL Trade (2008), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 512 pages
Publication date 2008
ISBN 0451225015 / 9780451225016

The West Wing

Bravo has been running the TV series The West Wing, which originally ran from 1999 to 2006, I think. When it was first on, I watched a couple of seasons and then drifted away, I'm not sure why... I think because it is an intense show that requires a lot of attention from the viewers. Also, perhaps, because the horror of the Bush administration sharpened my interest in politics, and I'm more knowledgeable about it now. I was impressed with it back then and am even more impressed with it now.

For one thing, it is a great civics lesson, and the people who didn't watch it are probably the ones who needed to the most. It had a consistently liberal viewpoint, true, but in my opinion represented the Republican viewpoint well. The last season of the show, for example, was about the election for the President to succeed Jed Bartlett. It featured Jimmy Smits as the young, less experienced Hispanic candidate and the older moderate Republican Senator played by Alan Alda (Alda, by the way, did a marvelous job of acting, better in my opinion than his often over-the-top Hawkeye Pierce). Not only was it remarkably prescient about the 2008 race, the debate shown between the two was a marvel of showing the wide range of issues and the viewpoints of the parties. I'd like kids in civics classes to see it. And on issue after issue, they explained them as clearly as possible and showing the range of opinion, sometimes how impossible it is to get a consensus or a solution, as when they had a summit at Camp David to try, once more, to achieve peace in the Middle East. There were also great explanations of complicated topics. I just saw one episode that explained the census and statistical sampling, which is a topic that is heating up again with the year 2010 almost here.

All this and compelling characters and story lines as well. It's amazing the show survived for so many years and I'm so glad it did.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Book Review: Night Huntress

Title Night Huntress (Sisters of the Moon, Book 5)
Yasmine Galenorn
Rating ***1/2
Tags paranormal, fantasy, series, witches, fae, weres

Fifth in the Sisters of the Moon series by Yasmine Galenorn about three half-fae sisters who are leading the fight to keep a demon lord from breaking the barriers between Earth, the Otherworld where most of the Fae live, and the Underworld, where demons live. The story is good, involving searching for one of the seals that keeps the worlds apart.

The problem with this series is that the sisters are up against impossible odds all the time, and multiple times in one book. It strains credulity because someday their luck is going to run out. Still, Galenorn tries to balance this with by adding new allies, and givng the characters some time to develop.

Publication Berkley (2009), Paperback, 320 pages
Publication date 2009
ISBN 0425225461 / 9780425225462

Book Review: Our Lincoln

Title Our Lincoln
Eric Foner
Rating ****
Tags abraham lincoln, race, slavery, civil war, essays

This is a collection of essays that update the scholarship on Lincoln. Like most such collections, some essays are more interesting than others. Topics include Lincoln's use of images, his religion, his family, his attitudes to slavery and race, and more.

Lincoln is obviously a figure of wide fascination, since there have been so many books written about him. It seems odd that there are still new things to say, but there are. Some sources have been found recently, and Lincoln studies have benefited from recent social history. Recommended.

Publication W.W. Norton & Co. (2008), Hardcover, 336 pages
Publication date 2008
ISBN 0393067564 / 9780393067569

Another On How the Economy Got This Way

An article about adjustable rate mortgages and how they became such a big part of the housing bubble, and how Alan Greenspan had some responsibility for it.

Jon Stewart and the Daily Show

Great article from HuffPo on the feud between Jon Stewart of the Daily Show and Jim Cramer of CNBC. The article points out that mainstream journalists are not putting together the kind of analysis of the media that Stewart produces every day, in part because they are more bound by legal departments.

Maybe the kind of work that Stewart does will make people hold the "media pundits" accountable for the c**p they put out 24 hours a day.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Another in the Bad Religion series....

So many people in so many religions, or of no religion, are good people trying to deal with difficult ethical questions. I get that. But a case like the following is just ... well, I have no words. That the church's response was to excommunicate those who performed an abortion on a 9 year old girl carrying twins (what were her chances of safely carrying to term?) when it did nothing official against the stepfather who has been raping her since she was 6 is stunning.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My Universe of Followers

I don't have a Twitter account yet because I don't have any followers. So this cartoon fits me perfectly...

Book Review: The Inheritance, by David Sanger

Title The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power
David E. Sanger
Rating ****1/2
Tags geopolitics, iran, china, pakistan, north korea, afghanistan, united states, security, wmd

I don't read horror novels, but I doubt any of them could scare ma as much as this book. It is a summary of the national security threats that the Obama administration faces by a veteran journalist with deep access to policymakers.

The book has sections on Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea, and China, then sections on threat scenarios and what can be done about them. Some of his findings: Iran is working quickly to enrich uranium, and if they aren't working on a weapon design, that is the least difficult part of the process. Afghanistan has devolved during the years of most resources going to Iraq. Pakistan is the scariest threat of all, a country with nuclear weapons that is a failing state and may be in some danger of being overtaken by Al Quaida or the Taliban. North Korea is willing to sell the nuclear technology it bought from A. Q. Khan, and was setting up a nuclear facility for Syria until the Israelis bombed it. China is both trading partner and adversary at one and the same time, and is increasing its nuclear weapons capacity and its ability to engage in space warfare.

Sanger is willing to give Bush kudos for some things, but overall thinks the Iraq war had disastrous consequences, by diverting attention and resources from these higher-level threats, and by illustrating so well the difficulties in fighting an insurgency.

Overall, a masterful depiction of the complex realities of geopolitics.

Publication Harmony (2009), Hardcover, 528 pages
Publication date 2009
ISBN 0307407926 / 9780307407924

Thinking about the Food Supply

Great article in Mother Jones about how to sustainably feed the world's millions. It takes a high-level view of what is possible, both physically and politically.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A New Hope

I mentioned already being angry and depressed lately about all the evil that is done in the world in the name of religion. So many claim to have the one true religion, which, if they're right, means millions of others are wrong. Specific evils of specific religions include women told they must submit to their husbands, no matter how abusive or merely capricious they might be. Gay, lesbian, and transgendered teens taking their own lives because they are told straight out, or it it implied to them,, that God does not find them acceptable. Muslim extremists who destroy and destroy and destroy. Wars between people of different faiths. Children sexually and otherwise abused by clerics, and religious hierarchies that protect the abusers rather than the abused. Science ignored or ridiculed. And, in the past (I think), religion used to justify slavery and racism.

But today I was sharply reminded of some religious figures who are the best of humanity, people of courage and conviction, compassion and humor, who on their own justify the existence of humanity, and of hope. If people like this can exist, there IS hope for our species.

This came about because of seeing Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, truly one of history's outstanding people, as you can judge from the videos below, of his appearance on Craig Ferguson. Besides him there are Martin Luther King, the Dalai Lama, Mohandas Gandhi, and countless others who are not as famous, but who spread light instead of hate. love instead of abuse, compassion rather than intolerance.

Enjoy these videos of Bishop Tutu:

Friday, March 6, 2009

Renewable Energy Practical in the Southeast

... despite opposition from the Southern Company, the number one carbon dioxide pollutant in the country, and the only U.S. utility company to rank as one of the top 10 carbon emitters WORLDWIDE. The article mentions a report that refutes the utility.

Carbon Sequestration Practical?

I don't know the science well enough to judge the possibilities raised by this article, or if there would be unintended side effects of the process. But a way of truly sequestering carbon, if it should work, would be marvelous and might save the planet. Worth exploring!

Stepford Wives Redux

This article on the Titus 2 woman in some fundamentalist Christian churches is absolutely frightening. Absolutes, such as a woman must submit to her husband, are just insane and don't consider the circumstances an individual woman may be in. Every article I read like this adds to my sense that fundamentalist religion causes great damage in the world which crystallized when I read the book Prisoners.

The Gutenberg Tweet

The Gutenberg Tweet

Posted using ShareThis

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Fears of a Clown Article by Egan

Timothy Egan has this insightful article on Rush Limbaugh. Now let me be honest and upfront, I despise the man and have done so for many years. I used to have to listen to him while helping my parents on their paper route, and he was always good for raising my blood pressure. But I AM NOT ALONE. More people, apparently (though I'd like to see if anyone has any real statistics on it) despise him than agree with him, and while the GOP kowtows to him as they have been recently they will be more marginalized.

What is Socialism, Really?

This article is written by someone who IS a socialist, and explains more about what it is, and why the current efforts by the Obama administration to shore up our economy aren't socialism. Thanks, Mr. Meyerson, I've been wanting an article just on this point. Can we stop throwing around the term in an irresponsible manner now?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Book Review: Devil's Bones

Title The Devil's Bones: A Novel
Jefferson Bass
Rating ****

Third in the Body Farm series. Dr. Bill Brockton is trying to solve various cases with his forensic science. Unfortunately, the man who tried to frame him for murder in the last book and is determined to kill him escapes, and Brockton and those close to him are in danger.

This was a good book, though I think the second one is the strongest in ther series so far. I really like this series, more than I expected, due in large part to how much I like the character of Bill Brockton. One guesses that this character is based on that of Bill Bass, the real-life co-author who has the same job as the character Brockton. Some of the stories in the series probably come from real life as well. Recommended.

Publication William Morrow (2008), Hardcover, 320 pages
Publication date 2008

Book Review: Flesh and Bone

Title Flesh and Bone: A Body Farm Novel
Jefferson Bass
Rating ****1/2

This is a big book physically and in impact. This is the second in the series about Bill Brockton, forensic anthropologist and director of the Body Farm, the facility that investigates the forensics of decomposition.

Brockton develops as a character quite a lot in this book, and it is a character worth knowing. He is a decent man, a good man, with empathy for the people he deals with. In this novel, he begins a romance, his first since his wife's cancer death a couple of years ago. But things begin to go badly wrong for the doctor, a Perfect Storm of troubles on the personal and professional front. One problem is the threat of a lawsuit after he gives a pro-evolution lecture in one of his classes... the chapter is marvelous, by the way. Brockton is tested and how he changes and comes through this makes for a fascinating story.

Publication Harper (2008), Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages
Publication date 2008
ISBN 0060759844 / 9780060759841

Book Review: Bel Canto

Title Bel Canto
Ann Patchett
Rating ****1/2
Tags bookclub, fiction, terrorists, hostages, music

Ann Patchett's novel Bel Canto is about a party in a generic South American country which is taken hostage by terrorists. The party was international, given in honor of a Japanese industrialist in hopes he would invest. To attract him to the party, his favorite opera singer is invited. The party was hosted by the Vice President, and the President, the target of the terrorists, didn't bother to come to the party.. The terrorists, losing their main objective, are lost as to how to end the crisis. The book is the story of the months of captivity in the house, and the characters of the people caught up in the problem.

While the book didn't seem stirring during reading, it stayed in the mind. It led me to imagine the later life of the characters, and to remember their fate as if it happened to someone I knew. Excellent and recommended.

Publication Fourth Estate (2002), Paperback, 336 pages
Publication date 2002
ISBN 1841155837 / 9781841155838

Sometimes the Old Remedies Do Work!

Interesting article from MoJo on two old-time remedies that work for current problems. Turns out vinegar can clean water of certain metallic compounds, and that chicken, er, poo, can cause crude oil spills on the ground to break down.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Costs of Bottled Water

Article from MoJo on the real costs of bottled water and some alternatives. Fascinating reading.

Kerry to Will: Let's Debate on Climate Change

This article by John Kerry goes into again George Will's erroneous remarks on global warming, and points out how serious an issue it is, one we have ignored far too long. A lot of people probably don't know that Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, wrote a fine book on the environment and grass roots efforts that are making a positive difference called This Moment on Earth.

My Review of Merrell Encore Groove Slides (For Women)

Sierra Trading Post

Closeouts . It’s not hard to get your groove with this Merrell Encore Groove slide, whether you’re grooving through the weekend errands or just sliding into work in the morning. Nubuck upper Padded leather contrast collar Removable OrthoLite® insole Nylon shank Q-Form® triple-density compr...


Mary Atlanta, GA 3/2/2009


5 5

Sizing: Feels true to size

Width: Feels true to width

Pros: Breathable, Cute, Comfortable

Best Uses: Travel, Work, Hiking, Going Out, Beach, Barbecues

Describe Yourself: Casual

I've only been using these for a week, so can't yet speak to how durable they are. So far they are quite comfortable and fit better than most any other show I've had, which indicates to me that Merrell did their shoes right. Most shoemakers make shows that are too narrow in the ball of the foot and too wide for the heel of women's shoes.