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August 17, 2014

Sunday Morning Book Thread 08-17-2014: The Police States of America [OregonMuse]


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Good morning morons and moronettes and welcome to AoSHQ's stately, prestigious, and high-class Sunday Morning Book Thread. The only AoSHQ thread that is so hoity-toity, pants are required.

All non-book-related discussion should go in NDH's early morning open thread, thanks.


Ripped From Today's Headlines!

So the events in Ferguson, Missouri this week generated a lot of mind-bogglingly stupid commentary from empty-heads who have no idea what they're talking about. And this, by the way, is yet another example of why the republic is not served well by the 24/7 news cycle. In situations like this, when nobody yet knows any actual facts, nevertheless the cycle demands that the airtime be filled with something, anything, so we shouldn't be surprised we get a lot of stupid commentary from empty-heads who have no idea what they're talking about.

The number one empty-head, or darn close to it, has got to be Paul Waldman, a Washington Post cocoon-dwelling commentator who complained that libertarians weren't "talking about" Ferguson. The funny part is that as of Friday afternoon, this silly article is still there, even after commenters responded with counter-examples and other evidence that thoroughly beclowned him.

So my counter-factual is a libertarian guy named Radley Balko, who used to run a web site called 'The Agitator', but who now writes for, of all outlets, the Washington Post. Yes, that's right, the same newspaper that published Waldman's dopey piece. Balko has been complaining about out-of-control, over-militarized police for years. And he still does, only now it's for the Post. Somehow, this has escaped Waldman's razor-sharp journalistic observation. Like this recent piece, for example.

In addition, Balko has written what could very well be the definitive book on the subject, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces.

Waldman is apparently unaware of this, too. Amazon's synopsis:

The unrest of the 1960s brought about the invention of the SWAT unit - which in turn led to the debut of military tactics in the ranks of police officers. Nixon's War on Drugs, Reagan's War on Poverty, Clinton's COPS program, the post-9/11 security state under Bush and Obama: by degrees, each of these innovations expanded and empowered police forces, always at the expense of civil liberties.

OK fine, but "Reagan's War On Poverty"? WTH is that? I thought the WoP was an LBJ-ism, short for "massive amounts of federal spending on welfare programs that did diddly squat to relieve actual poverty while causing untold damage to black families".

Anyway, despite all my snark, this is serious stuff. I would think that this issue is one that the left and the right could agree and come together on. We none of us want SWAT teams and armored personnel carriers rumbling through our neighborhoods at all hours.

I used to be a big-time L&O guy, dating back to Rodney King riots, but now, maybe not so much. We're a long way from the days of Sir Robert Peel and his sensible Principles of Policing.


Whodunit?

So I got 70% on this quiz about famous literary detectives, featuring a number of seriously clueless guesses that turned out to be right.


Science!

Here is a list of 10 novels that will make you "more passionate" about science, which I guess means more interested. I was intrigued by this entry, and may have to get a copy:

The Practice Effect by David Brin

In this 1984 novel, scientists succeed in creating a device that manipulates space and time - and they're able to use it to travel to another planet, which is very similar to Earth. Except on this other planet, the second law of thermodynamics works differently: Objects don't get worn out, and in fact get stronger the longer they're used. It's up to Dennis Nuel to figure out why this aberration is happening.

I can't imagine material objects not deteriorating with time and use, that just seems so basic to how the universe is put together. But I have to admit the idea is not without historical precedent:

Deu 29:5 I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet.

We usually think of miracles as spectacular one-off events, but this is quite different: the Israelites experienced this day in and day out, for years. They probably started taking it for granted. I know I would have. It must have been a bummer when it ended.

Also, I'm disappointed that no book by Michael Crichton, who to me would be such an obvious choice, made it on this list. I mean, the guy's been writing science themes into his novels for decades, you'd think he'd have at least one novel the compilers would think worthy enough to include. State of Fear, anyone?


The Best & The Worst

I just stumbled upon this list of the 50 best (non-fiction) books of the 20th century. And by "best", I don't think they mean "best written", but rather, the best books that everyone really ought to read and listen to. Or, perhaps I should say, these books are the most truthful. Although I do have a couple of quibbles: that's not the C.S. Lewis book I would have chosen and also, if you're going to have Strunk and White's 'Elements of Style' on the list, you might as well include Betty Crocker's cookbook, too.

Naturally there's a companion list, the 50 worst books of the 20th century, also non-fiction. And by "worst", I believe they mean "most perniciously influential". It's a pretty good rogues gallery, but I would have found room for Rachael Carson's 'Silent Spring' and that new one by Piketty, 'Capital in the 21st Century'. Also a definite must: 'The Feminine Mystique' by Betty Friedan.

And one complaint, some tighter editing is in order when publishing lists like these. There's one book that managed to make it onto both lists. Oops.


Books of Note

Via Bookbub, I noticed this book that I may have to read, The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, two Economist reporters who argue that the basic unit of modern society is neither the state nor the religion, but rather the company, i.e. the joint-stock company, or "corporation".

I was reminded of the "evil corporation" being the bad guy in many lib-prog Hollywood movies and other morality plays (because lib-progs hate the free market and they boneheadedly equate the free market with large corporations) as I saw this in the the Amazon blurb:

The enormous power wielded by the company is nothing new. Companies were behind the slave trade, opium and imperialism, and the British East India Company ruled the subcontinent with its standing army of native troops, outmanning the British army two to one. By comparison, the modern company is a bastion of restraint and morality.

In an Amazon review entitled Companies are better for citizens than most governments, the author observes:

Some people are suspicious or hostile to companies, contrasting them with some romantic vision of a charitable organization that picks up your kids from school and serves organic food to starving peasants with a side of educational enlightenment. They are deluded. In a comparison between "the state" and "the company," companies are better 95% of the time. First, because companies do not have the legal power to kill and punish; second, because they acquire customers and employees on a voluntary basis, while competing with other companies and opportunities.

He concludes:

The lesson -- to me -- is not that we need governments to behave more like companies. Governments need to get out of a lot of activities where companies (or individuals!) would do a better job.

Amen.


Recommendations

Moron Terry wants to pimp his friend Bryan Dodd, who has written a number of children's books, and I mean little kids, not YA, among them Poldilocks and the Bee Thrairs and Terry's favorite, Good Night, Carl., about a little boy who just won't (you guessed it) go to sleep.

Kind of reminds me of this book here, but this is one you wouldn't want to read it to your kids. Unless you're a moron. In which case you'd want the audiobook version, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson.

___________

A friend of mine is very much enjoying The Terror, which is anovel about a polar expedition in the 1840s by 200 men sailing north on two converted naval vessels, Erebus and Terror, to search for the fabled Northwest Passage. Spoiler: things don't go as planned. It's an historial event, but there's a paranormal aspect in there, too.

The author, Dan Simmons, has written a metric boat load of novels, as you can see on his Amazon author's page. There're so many, there's got to be something there for you to like.

___________

Another moron recommends Those Who Wish Me Dead, the newest thriller by best-selling author Michael Koryta. Or maybe it isn't the latest. It came out in June, but Koryta writes so many books, maybe by this time there's already another one out. This one is about

A teenage boy [who] witnesses a murder. He is sent to the Montana wilderness to a survival school, rather than be put into WITSEC. The killers, as dispassionate as the ISIS, find his location and begin their pursuit.

Add a backdrop of a forest fire, an education on survival skills, and nice plot twists, and settle in for a good night's (or two) read.

Sounds like a page-turner. Thanks, Dave, for the tip.


Books By Morons

Moron Gary e-mailed this week to let me know he has just released his novel Worth Saving on Kindle. He tells me it's set in a post apocalyptic world where

...Only the bad guys have guns. Young Kristopher and Clair try to establish a safe community. Building a safe haven on the roof tops of a mostly deserted city, they have to fight raiders, wild animals, and sometimes each other to try and create a life that is worth more than just surviving.

___________

I also heard from David, another moron who has just released a new book. This one is called The Giant's Walk. The blurb on Amazon says

In 1858, young priest Zebediah Goodnow and the orphaned Joanna pursue a murderous Giant and soon find themselves among the Martians. In 1957, astronaut Scott Winslow Hale takes his sick wife Helen to the shrine of the beatified Zebediah and clashes with a stranger named Eddie. In a tangle of Providential events, perseverance and peace are drawn from the toil of Faith.

Wow. Sounds wild.

Also available at Smashwords.

___________

So that's all for this week. As always, book thread tips, suggestions, rumors, threats, and insults may be sent to OregonMuse, Proprietor, AoSHQ Book Thread, at the book thread e-mail address: aoshqbookthread, followed by the 'at' sign, and then 'G' mail, and then dot cee oh emm.

What have you all been reading this week? Hopefully something good, because, as I keep saying, life is too short to be reading lousy books.

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