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From Bad to Worse

Jul 26, 2014
Everything is going to become unimaginably worse and never get better again. –Kurt Vonnegut (1970)

ISIS; MH17; Boko Haram; 56,000 unaccompanied Central American children crossing our border. Everything is becoming unimaginably worse since my last posting on St. Paddy’s Day.

And little is being done about any of it. It is as if the civilized world has become exhausted by the enormities of our uncivilized brethren.

At home, the Dow tops 17,000 and everything is hunky-dory for the one percent. On Democracy Now, Israel is slaughtering Arabs again and Canadians are delivering water to thirsty Detroiters. And DetroitWaterProject.org wants you to pay the bill of some of the 13,000 Detroiters who have had their water turned off for not paying their bill. Incredible!

The virulence of the Obama haters, which has paralyzed our government for over six years, will only get worse if Hillary Clinton is elected in 2016. From the vantage point of today, that seems the most hopeful scenario one can imagine, as horrible as I contend it will be, with more horrible ones becoming as likely very soon: a Republican takeover of the Senate this fall, the death or retirement of Ruth Ginsburg, a Republican takeover of the White House in 2017.

Economic recovery? There is no economic recovery while millions are unemployed or underemployed, or are seeing the buying power of their paychecks shrinking. And—surprise!—that includes most of us.

How can one live in this world? Where are the Mahatma Gandhis and Martin Luther Kings who can lead us out of this spiraling descent and back toward the mountaintop? They are nowhere. It is up to us. We MUST organize a third party and it must bring together the vast number of unhappy Americans who are tired of endless war, tired of huge deficits, tired of a bloated do-nothing government of over-privileged nincompoops, tired of the corporatocracy, and ready, once and for all, to forge a new government, of the people, by the people, and for the people, before we all perish from this beleaguered and crippled earth.
tags: ATN

Noted with Interest, March 2014

Mar 17, 2014

* NEW * Paul Krugman won’t save us: We need a new conversation about inequality
by Thomas Frank. I've been saying this for years (though not this well). You've probably been saying this for years. EVERYONE has been saying this for years. So when are we going to stop talking and start DOING! From Salon, Feb 23, 2014. Accessed Mar 17, 2014.

tags: Noted with Interest | Economics

Announcing bookaworld

Mar 16, 2014
bookaworld is a 501(c)(3) public charity which, on March 4th, received its tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service. Since I first applied for that status in September 2012, you may imagine my delight at finally receiving it.

bookaworld’s mission is to place an eReader, stocked with 1001 titles representing the world’s most illuminating, entertaining, and educational books, into the hands of every child in the world. We will begin with those children who are not able to provide such an advantage on their own.

Reading informs, humanizes, and develops the mind and spirit. Yet billions of people have severely limited access to reading matter. Its delivery has, until now, been an onerous and expensive proposition, almost inconceivable on a global scale.

eReader devices and the Internet change all that. Today, we can place a small library—the equivalent of 50 cartons of books—on a six-ounce piece of hardware and into the hands of any individual for less than the cost of a few books. And if that individual has access to the Internet, their small library becomes a huge one.

If we are to meet and overcome the existential challenges confronting our world today—political, economic, environmental—we must engage all the brain power we can. This means liberating our fellow beings from the scourges of ignorance and want. Education and the printed word are vital in enabling this liberation. bookaworld exploits a unique moment in history to take new and dramatic steps in support of this effort. We hope thereby to help inspire and enable recipients of bookaworld eReaders to deliver themselves from ignorance and poverty, and, in time, to lead their villages, their towns, their nations, and their world to a peaceful and sustainable future.

I invite you to become a part of the bookaworld family. Our labor is all donated, and there is much to do. The bookaworld story is told at http://bookaworld.org. Please give it a look, and let me know what you think.
tags: Books and Libraries

All Together Now

Dec 31, 2013
Maybe next year.

Maybe in 2014 all those voices of dissatisfaction, from the unemployed, the underpaid, and the underrepresented; to the homeless and the hopeless; to Krugman and Stiglitz and Reich; to Mother Jones, Sister Amy, and Brother Cornell; to Scahill and Hedges and Greenwald; to Chomsky and Nader and Ehrenreich; to Snowden and Manning and Assange; to Occupy Wall Street and even to the Tea Party; and finally and firstly to you and me; maybe in 2014 we will get together and begin to forge the New Age of American Democracy.

Without such a new age, 99 percent of our children are doomed to a marginal income even in the professions, to a rampant and unrestrained corporatocracy, to one meteorological disaster after another, to the triumph of tyranny as China assumes command of the world, to a very possible fiery end in nuclear cataclysm.

Everything is broken. The end is near. Let's get to work.
tags: Working Together

Noted with Interest, November 2013

Nov 26, 2013

Storybook Plutocracy
by Thomas Frank. Review of George Packer's The Unwinding. ". . . a minor masterpiece of the social-disintegration genre—a beautifully written, clinically observed story of the slow-rolling economic transformation that has, over the last 30-odd years, made vast parts of America into a destitute wasteland while lifting a fortunate few to a kind of heaven on earth. . . ." From Public Books, November 21, 2013. Accessed November 26, 2013.

Obamacare: The Biggest Insurance Scam in History
by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers. I told you so, four years ago. Merry Christmas! From truthout, October 30, 2013. Accessed November 5, 2013.

There Are Good Alternatives to US Capitalism, But No Way to Get There
by Jerry Mander (can that name be for real?). An excerpt from his new book, The Capitalism Papers: Fatal Flaws of an Obsolete System. I disagree it is obsolete, quite the contrary, unfortunately. I will confess this, too: I love capitalism. But I love ice cream, too, and if I let ice cream have its way with me the way capitalism is having its way with the world today, a similar end would result. From AlterNet, July 24, 2013. Accessed November 5, 2013.

Imploding the Myth of Israel
by Chris Hedges. The greatest tragedy in history, following so soon after the second greatest. A two-state solution will never work; a one-state solution will never be proposed. The Jews will be fighting on and on, winning all the battles, until they lose the war (as we learned so starkly in The Gatekeepers). From truthdig.com, November 4, 2013. Accessed November 5, 2013.

tags: Noted with Interest

Noted with Interest, October 2013

Oct 30, 2013

A Summary of McMinimum Wages and McWelfare in One Hilarious Clip
by Bill Maher. So why is no movement starting up in our country? Excerpted by The Daily Unworthiest. Accessed Oct 30, 2013.

The Folly of Empire
by Chris Hedges. No one conveys the doomsday to which we are rushing like Hedges. From Truthdig.com, Oct 14, 2013. Accessed Oct 16, 2013.

Looting the Pension Funds
By Matt Taibbi. If you are a public employee, your pension is almost certainly disappearing into the pockets of the 1%. Find out how. From RollingStone, September 26, 2013. Accessed October 2, 2013.


tags: Noted with Interest

The End of Libraries, Part XVII

Oct 05, 2013
Time for an update.

In my first posting on this issue, in October 2011, I said, “I do not believe I am being an alarmist. We are in a political climate where public services are being privatized, downsized, or eliminated at a rapid rate. And if [public] libraries cannot begin to serve their patrons’ eBook reading needs—and they don’t come close to doing so today–and an Amazon or other commercial endeavor steps in to fill that need, libraries are finished.”

Shortly after I wrote that, Amazon introduced the book-lending add-on to its Prime account service: Prime members could now borrow one book a month with no due date. This was in addition to other Prime advantages: two-day delivery and a video collection made available for streaming. It was an effective sweetener to the $70-per-year Prime account and today Amazon has over 430,000 titles available to Prime borrowers.

Still, Amazon Prime lending isn’t much of a threat to libraries—yet. Real readers need a good deal more than a one-book fix every month. And the content remains problematic. Most, if not all, current bestsellers (or even second- or third-string bestsellers) are not available for Prime lending. But if you're a slow reader and happy with the ten-thousandth knockoff of Twilight, Prime lending may very well be providing a disincentive for visiting, or supporting, your local library.

However, two new commercial endeavors pose a far greater threat: Scribd and Oyster. The former has been around a while, providing online documents in a rather eccentric presentation mode. They and new startup Oyster are offering Netflix-like subscription plans for “all you can read” at less than $10 per month.

Oyster touts 100,000 titles, mostly consisting of the HarperCollins backlist (again, no current hot-ticket items yet available) and a few smaller publishers. Scribd doesn’ break out book numbers from its claim of having “40 million documents.” I could not find a facility to search either collection for the titles on my six-page To-Read list, though I suspect I would not find many, if any, of them available.

So content remains a problem. Your latest Grisham or Grafton is almost certainly at your public library (though not digitally, and you may have to be on a waiting list—but it is there).

Still, these vendors bring us another important step closer to The End of Libraries. By offering all you can read at a price affordable by most middle-class readers, they have gone the next mile in obviating the need for a public library for those individuals most likely to utilize and support it. All that remains now is the content puzzle. Once a Scribd, Oyster, or Amazon figures out how to convince publishers of the financial benefits of making all their publications, including new ones, available to their programs (see part II of The End of Libraries), then it is game over for public library support, and we will see libraries close at an even great rate than they are closing today.

And Our Banana Republic will be that much closer to becoming a reality.
tags: Books and Libraries

Noted with Interest, September 2013

Sep 18, 2013

Almost Half The Country Can’t Afford Basic Needs
by Alan Pyke. The line on the graph is disturbingly straight and steep. Have we passed the halfway mark in 2013? From thinkprogress.com, Sep 18, 2013. Accessed Sep 18, 2013.

Everything Wrong with America in One Simple Image
by Justin Rosario. An eye-opening graphic and a stunning video of Jeff Daniels ("Why America Is NOT the Greatest Country in the World, Anymore"). I would like to see some verification on the graphic. If it is true, it is truly appalling. From AddictingInfo.org, Sep 13, 2013. Accessed Sep 14, 2013.

Left With Nothing
By Michael Sallah, Debbie Cenziper, Steven Rich. They want it all—your money AND your life. And they'll get it. From The Washington Post, Sep 8, 2013. Accessed Sep 12, 2013.

Cornel West and the Fight to Save the Black Prophetic Tradition
by Chris Hedges. Okay, brothers and sisters, he's an eccentric. However, he is also the genuine article. Where else today can we hear the echoes of King? From Truthdig, Sep 9, 2013. Accessed Sep 12, 2013.

Poverty Has Same Effect On The Brain As Constantly Pulling All Nighters
By Bryce Covert. End Poverty Now! We can do it. From ThinkProgress, August 30, 2013. Accessed September 1, 2013.

The Expendables: How the Temps Who Power Corporate Giants Are Getting Crushed
by Michael Grabell. The "migrantizing" of the American work force. More and more of us are waiting at proverbial street corners, wondering if we'll go to work today. From Pro Publica, June 27, 2013. Accessed September 1, 2013.

9 out of 10 Americans Are Completely Wrong About This Mind-Blowing Fact
By "Politzane." Income inequality: Way worse than you think. Linked at Upworthy (Adam Mordecai), undated. Accessed Sep 1, 2013.

tags: Noted with Interest

Syria ... and You

Sep 03, 2013
We don't have a dog in this fight. We don't have a side to side with. The Arab world is in deep turmoil, caught between the forces of longstanding (and often US-maintained) dictatorships and antediluvian fundamentalism. Oil is about to go through the roof (according to Kiplinger forecasts), from the current $107 a barrel now to probably $120 to $140.

If there was ever a time to call upon America's instinct for isolationism, it's now. If there was ever a time to focus our extensive innovative and entrepreneurial talents on renewable sources of energy, it's now. If there was ever a time to stifle our rush to solve the world's problems through a unilateral application of force, for which no one has yet offered a convincing scenario for success, it's now.

The people are speaking and we don't want another mideast conflict. We may, and should, and must, shed many a tear for those poor dead children laid out in their shrouded rows. But everyone's fight cannot be our fight. We don't have the prestige, the power, or the right to intervene unilaterally.

Write your representative. Tell her or him that you oppose this war. Write your senators and tell them that you oppose this war.

They may very well take us to war yet again, anyway—historical precedent does not assuage our anxieties in this regard. But if you don't speak up to your congressman and to your senators, and they go to war next week, it will, to a small extent, be your fault.

So don't just go up on Facebook and grouse to your Friends. Our nation's future, to a small but so-important extent, is in your hands.
tags: Congress | Militarism | History

Noted with Interest, August 2013

Aug 25, 2013

The Comforts of the Apocalypse
By Rob Goodman. Much food for thought. Why are we here? Where are we going? What does it all mean? From The Chronical of Higher Education, Aug 19, 2013. Accessed Aug 25, 2013.

The Blip
By Benjamin Wallace-Wells. What if everything we've come to think of as American is predicated on a freak coincidence of economic history? And what if that coincidence has run its course? (And note the Comments.) From New York Magazine, Jul 21, 2013. Accessed Aug 1, 2013.

UK Report Recommends Author Payments for Library Ebook Lending
By Ian Clark. The UK is way ahead of us in bringing eBooks to public libraries, though even they still have a long way to go. From Library Journal, Aug 1, 2013. Accessed Aug 2, 2013.


tags: Noted with Interest | Books and Libraries | Economics

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