Monday, May 13, 2013

Weekly Top Long Reads

   By Donna Cole

 MediaPolitical tries to avoid politics as much as possible on the weekend and do my long form reading on other subjects I find interesting. These are the better articles, reviews and essays I came across last weekend, and I thought I'd start sharing them. Some of the stuff linked here is borderline political, and it's all lefty stuff, but I like to understand how my adversary thinks. So, if you see something here that might interest you and have time for a long read, give it a shot. Remember: Read, it makes you smart. Read stuff out of your normal comfort zone and it makes you even smarter.

 Jan Mieszkowski on "A Short History of Nuclear Folly: Mad Scientists, Dithering Nazis, Lost Nukes, and Catastrophic Cover-ups" and "Napalm: An American Biography" in The Los Angeles Review of Books. This review covers two books, the first one tells the whole nuclear bomb story and makes the anti nuke (bombs, power or otherwise) argument. The second one tells the history of napalm from development to it's use in war, it is the more scholarly of the two books. I think one of the ethical points the author tries to make is why if a solider walks up to a civilian and pours gas on him, then sets him alight it's a war crime, but if you fly over him in a plane and drop it on him, it is not?

 Katie Engelhart on "Fighting the Mau Mau: The British Army and Counter-Insurgency in the Kenya Emergency" in The Los Angeles Review of Books. This review is about the British colonial times in Kenya and what war crimes, if any, they committed by putting down a counter insurgency movement called Mau Mau. The reviewer makes an interesting side note that in the 1950s the British had successfully put down a counter insurgency in Malaysia, and they badly wanted to give the American military advice on dealing with this as the US entered in to the Vietnam War. The Americans were not interested in what they had to share.

 Jess Nevins on "To Understand the World Is To Be Destroyed By It: On H.P. Lovecraft", in The Los Angeles Review of Books. This is on the early 20th century sci-fi, weird, horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. The author wonders why, and tries to explain why, Lovecraft, who was considered a second rate-hack-pulp fiction writer in his time by literary critics and his much more famous contemporaries, has had his work outlive them all and their critiques of his writing style. 

 Here are three articles on Marxist theory and political thought. Any time the "capitalist" economy goes through a downturn, the hard left come out to tell us what awful pigs we are. They throw around a bunch of old academic economic mumbo jumbo and promise they won't make the mistakes of the past. This time the workers will run the show and we will not create another Stalin or Mao they tell us. The only problem is that a single party centralized system will always create a Stalin or Mao.  

 "Marx, Public Choice Theory, and the Utility Maximizing Consumer", an essay by James Harken in The Los Angeles Review of Books. This is on Marxist economic theory and why capitalism is failing.

 "The Time of Marx: Derrida's Perestroika" by Peggy Kamuf in The Los Angeles Review of Books. This is an essay about a famous lecture the late left wing French philosopher-economist Jacques Derrida made after the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. The main ideas of Derrida were that Marxism will come back at some point in the future (and not repeat the mistakes), and while Kamuf, who has translated Derrida's work into English, doesn't touch on it here, his other big idea is that the Western European countries need to cede their own sovereignty to a centralized government that can then stand up to American hegemony, both economic and militarily. Sound familiar?

 "The Rise of Machines: Automation isn't freeing us from work, it's keeping us under capitalist control", an essay by Gavin Mueller in the self described leftist magazine Jacobin. The title pretty much sums up the idea, Mueller seems to focus on Detroit and the auto industry.

 Sticking with the Communist theme, the New York Times seemed to be focused on drones this weekend. No, that's a joke, not drone workers, drone aircraft.

 "Pilotless Planes, Pacific Tensions" an op-ed by Richard Parker in The NY Times. I highly recommend this op-ed. Parker points out that the new generation of the American military's drone aircraft need no pilot at all (not even one on the ground with a joystick), and they now boast weapons systems like microwave beams that can knock out an enemy's power grid and fry their aircraft's electronics. This has the Chinese shaking in their boots, and it is starting a new arms race with them.

 "How to Generate Distrust on Drones" by The NY Times Editorial Board. The Times' editors do not trust President Obama and his lack of transparency on military drone use.

 "A Remote Controlled Robot the Size of a Fly" from The NY Times Science section. Who knew? Harvard produces something besides lawyers.

 "Ariel Castro, Cleveland suspect, has a dark past that foreshadowed crimes he's now accused of", a detailed, and disturbing, background on Ariel Castro by Washington Post staff writers. Quality work.

 "Sleeping With The Enemy: What happened between the Neanderthals and us?" by Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker. I am a student of anthropology and I can't resist these type articles.

 "The Invention of David Bowie" by Ian Buruma in The New York Review of Books. Hey! It's about David Bowie. What's not to love? You know? Ziggy played guitar.

 "An Original Thinker of Our Time" by Cass Sunstein on the late economist-philosopher Albert Hirschman, in The New York Review of Books. While Sunstein is a liberal and former Obama regulatory czar, he writes about a wide variety of subjects and is usually pretty even handed (even in his weekly Bloomberg op-eds). I greatly enjoy his work and this review does not disappoint. 

 Margalit Fox, the obituary writer at The New York Times, has this fantastic piece, "Alice E. Kober, 43; Lost to History No More" in The Times' Sunday Review. Fox tells the life story of Alice Kobler, who was a classics professor and died far too young in 1950. Her life's work was to decipher an ancient text that was a precursor to classical Greek text, and her work on this was very important in opening a window on pre-classical Greek history. As that history is no longer lost to us, Fox makes sure Kober's contribution to our understanding of it is not lost either.

 That's it, happy reading.

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