Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

You must be an elitist snob

Friday, September 26th, 2008

If you’re reading this blog, that is. A couple of interesting quotes, from Sarah Palin, and Ted Stevens’ defense attorney, in this morning’s news.

The People Who Wouldn’t Grow Up

Friday, December 7th, 2007

Mitt Romney’s speech in defense of his religious faith has stimulated a great deal of editorial angst. My favorite is the Washington Post‘s, which bravely reminds readers that atheists also believe in freedom. Joe Conason, writing in Salon, points out the egregious crimes against humanity committed by so-called Christian churches, and singles out Romney’s Mormon Church for special attention. The New York Times joins the fray, reminding us that the United States was not founded on Christian principles; but that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States” (Article VI of the Constitution).

Still, the ill winds have blown some good. (more…)

Our fearful leaders

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

Blame it on my 50s childhood: I grew up reading and watching TV shows about “brave, courageous and bold” people. The kinds of people who knew the score, had a personal ethic — and weren’t afraid of the truth. Is anyone else as sick as I am of presidential candidates who will not take a stand on, for example, torture? Even the ones, like Rudy Giuliani, who apparently think torture is acceptable, won’t come right out and say it.

And what about Evolution v. Creationism? Why, almost 150 years after Darwin published “On The Origin of Species” (has any Creationist ever bothered to read this book?), are we, a country founded on Enlightenment principles, still having this discussion? (more…)

Nous sommes tous français

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

Hello to my friends in Paris! I’ve been reading about a new book titled, “The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography,” by Graham Robb. Robb bicycled 14,000 miles around France, and spent four years researching the country’s history from the time of the Revolution to World War 1. Before railroads and telegraph lines, France was not one nation, but many isolated sub-nations, with their own languages or dialects, often practicing pre-Christian rituals, often extremely hostile to outsiders.

We know that Germany too was a relatively new construction in 1914. We also know that wars are usually fought between elites, using commoners to do the actual fighting. Putting a loosely knit nation on a war footing is one way to consolidate its disparate population: Nous sommes tous français!

A corollary is disparaging political opponents as non-nationalists, traitors to the idea of a unified nation. This got me thinking about 9/11, that great unifying moment. The moment was just that, short-lived, destroyed by divided opinions about the Iraq War. Perhaps, though, we got it wrong from the beginning, and misinterpreted 9/11. What was attacked on 9/11? Not Heartland America, nor Christian America. Damage to Trinity Church in Manhattan was incidental.

No, the targets of 9/11 were our financial and military cathedrals, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And what ideologies better represent the United States in the 21st century than our economic power, backed up by our military power? They are the public faces of our elites, and the means by which they expand and maintain their power.

Reading for fun?

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

This week’s National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) report on Americans’ reading habits has been much in the news. An article in today’s New York Times discusses the correlation between secondary-school students’ reading habits and their scores on reading-comprehension tests. This correlation is a no-brainer. Something else in the Times article caught my eye:

Three years ago “Reading at Risk,” which was based on a study by the Census Bureau in 2002, provoked a debate among academics, publishers and others, some of whom argued that the report defined reading too narrowly by focusing on fiction, poetry and drama.

There is a huge difference between reading non-fiction and reading fiction, poetry and drama. Yet time spent reading the latter can greatly affect what we take from the former.

Don’t burn your books yet

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

“Optimistic estimates put the current e-book market at around $25m a year. That’s a rounding error for the publishing industry. And just to give you some perspective, ringtones — another digitally-delivered good — gross as much revenue as e-books do in a year… in 33 minutes.” — Andrew Orlowski

Steven Levy, writing for Newsweek, sees something else:

Torture: It’s a no-brainer

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

Long-time readers know I’m very cynical, but in these black days, even hard-core cynics still may be surprised. Cal Thomas’s “On Faith” column at the Newsweek/Washington Post Website is stunning. Thomas uses (gasp) the television show 24 as his jumping-off point, justifying the use of torture when “necessary to save lives.” (Thomas, who has won numerous journalism awards and worked for several networks, begins by asking “what is torture?” As Andrew Sullivan notes, it’s clearly defined in the U.S. Code.) The rationale that torture is acceptable if used to save lives deserves more analysis.

Why you can’t comment on posts

Friday, January 5th, 2007

Are blogs supposed to be interactive? I’ve been turning off the “Allow Comments” feature on recent posts to thwart blog spammers. I was wasting too much time moderating spam. Anyone wishing to comment can always contact me this way.

What’s al Qaeda reading these days?

Wednesday, August 10th, 2005

Harry Potter might be a favourite with kids, but strange as it may seem, he is also a favourite with Islamic terror suspects at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay.

According to The Washington Times, JK Rowling’s tales are on top of the request list for the camp’s 520 al Qaeda and Taliban suspects, followed by Agatha Christie whodunits.

If they really wanted to torture them they could hand out Ann Coulter books.

Harry Potter casts a spell on jihadis

Readings in foreign policy

Tuesday, August 9th, 2005

I recently read Robert Merry’s Sands of Empire: Missionary Zeal, American Foreign Policy, and the Hazards of Global Ambition, which discusses Bush administration foreign policy as it applies to the war on terror and the war in Iraq. Merry traces much of the ideology behind the Iraq invasion to neoconservatism, an ideology popular with several members of the administration. (more…)