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Total number of comments: 8 (since 2013-11-28 16:33:20)


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  • Can Bookstores be Saved?
    • While I spent some hours in Borders in their corners and cafes reading books (under their stock overly bright and cold flourescent lights), I find it hard to mourn the company's demise or consider it a serious part of the discussion about book reading. Borders as a company has been in trouble for a very long time. So bad and long, in fact, that it had to be saved by Kmart of all companies in 1992. Moreover, Borders creation in the 1970s was not only a direct attack on the independents, it was well known for its "hip" anti-unionism. Compare that to the independents, whose loss has had far more substantial repercussions, and some of whom were unionized, especially in bigger cities and more liberal college towns.

      I think the story of physical reading material vs eBooks and such is far from being determined. That is, I'm not convinced that those who accept, promote and profit from technological determinism will hold sway. Consider all the locations people read, and whether or not carrying around a Kindle, tablet or similar would be appropriate, let alone something everyone who reads will want to carry around. Even the companies selling e-textbooks as a way to cut through educational price gouging haven't solved the issues of what real students do - underline, make marginal notes, etc. And for every individual who likes Kindle or similar, there are many more that still want the real thing in hand. In a different sense, this discussion reminds me a bit of what I call the Blackberry worldview problem: unlike a written planner in which one views their schedule in week chunks, i.e., overview and a broader picture are inherent, Blackberrys and similar focus on a day by day view of one's doings. eBook readers also force and reinforce a narrow view of things, i.e. page by page. The implications of that are substantial, none of which strike me as much good.

  • Ret'd. CIA Official Alleges Bush White House Used Agency to "Get" Cole
    • According to the CIA's statement, Professor Cole, you have, in effect, been advising them since at least 2006. There are lots of professors who over the decades have refused to lend their expertise to the U.S. government's domestic and international government's political police and spy operations, including the CIA and FBI, whether publicly or privately. Whether or not I agree with their politics, I respect their willingness to take a principled stand.

  • Top Ten Myths about Bin Laden's Death
    • "Bin Laden was executed by US forces. He was not. His wife lunged at the SEALS and was shot in the leg. Then Bin Laden made threatening moves (looked as if he was going for a weapon?), and he was shot."

      Ah yes, dangerous wives and "threatening moves!" How many times have we heard that one from American police after knocking down a door and shooting an unarmed "suspect." Are we to believe that two elite Navy Seals units couldn't take an unarmed man alive because of a lunging wife?? And, of course, this you call a myth because...well, you really don't know, do you? Nor do I. But it's sure looking more and more like a typical American military/police operation, i.e., shoot to death on sight. Even Attorney General Holder now feels the need to justify the shooting on the grounds that Bin Laden didn't offer to surrender. LOL. Were this a black man in his home in Mississippi, would your reaction be the same?

      On the face of it, a Bin Laden, alive and standing trial for his crimes, would have been major political trouble for the U.S. That's something I'd have thought you'd be telling us, Juan.

  • An Open Letter to the Left on Libya
    • Imperialisms always justify their wars as having a humanitarian basis and, as sure as birth, death and taxes, social democrats always use that element as a justification for supporting those wars and criticizing those to the left of them who don't. Juan, you've spent the past week and some presenting a plethora of apparently reasoned and impassioned arguments, all quite self-consciously defensive in nature, to justify as "humanitarian" and "liberating" the multinational military attack on Libya. It's telling, however, that when push comes to shove, your call for civilized discussion turns immediately into the same old red baiting - "chewing gum and walking at the same time" - that all the others before you, dating back to the German Social Democrats of 1914, have resorted to. It makes it hard to take your arguments at face value (though that's a necessary thing to do).

  • Top Ten Ways that Libya 2011 is Not Iraq 2003
    • This war is about who controls Libyan oil politically, not access to oil per se. Libya has the world's 9th largest oil reserves. A friendlier government would probably mean better access for the U.S. and other western powers in the long run, and would get the very unpopular Qaddafi succession plan off the table. While the Western powers apparently don't have much of a feel for what the opposition really looks like, weakening Qaddafi buys them time to influence the result.

  • UN Allies Bombard Libya to protect Protesters
    • Excuse me, but I thought what was going on in Libya is a civil war, an internal matter. Is the UN intervention really an attempt to "protect civilians" or a slightly-masked multi-country imperialist aggression to expedite the demise of Qaddafi? After all, Libya is a major oil supplier - 9th largest - and Qaddafi has long been a political outlier, to say the least, and general a pain in the butt for Western powers. This is not the first time that the U.S. has bombed Libya.

  • Cunningham: Every Uprising is Different
    • This mass uprising is an embryonic civil war, one with a government and related institutions on one side but without substantial existing parties facing it that can carry the crisis into a full scale civil war and a battle for state power. That is, unless the reports coming out are hiding somethings big. But if the organized opposition were really there, or to the extent that they are, one would expect them to counter the rumors and false reports that naturally and willfully arise in these kinds of circumstances, and thus offer the masses some kind of clear political direction.

      Mubarak is no dummy. He is smart and prideful enough to recognize the nature of the opposition, and hence to try to wait for this disparate movement's upward momentum to break. At that point, he believes it likely that the army, bureacracy and politicians that have distanced themselves will swing back into the fold, preferring wounded order to anarchy. Whether events will play out to his favor is to be seen.

      While there are an array of social class and political forces in the opposition, this appears to be a classical example of what happens in the absence of experienced political and organizational leadership having developed reputations and some following in advance. But then, perhaps, this crisis will turn out to be Egypt's 1905, a launching pad for the next round.

  • Kolin: How the US Became a Police State
    • I have three obvious questions for Prof. Kolin (and any reader inclined to his view):

      1) What is your definition of a police state, and a non-police state? You seem to be arguing that from its inception the U.S. has been a police state. Since, by definition, the elites are very much smaller in number than the masses, could there ever be not be a police state under capitalism (since that's the era you're talking about)? In your view, has a non-police state ever existed during this era among the major industrail nations?

      2) If the U.S. is currently a police state, how could Juan Cole's blog exist as a daily public entity, and your piece and book be published openly even though the "police state" controls the internet and has substantial influence over "the elite's" publishing houses? How could you and Prof. Cole be employed at universities, which are obviously directly and indirectly controlled by those elites?

      3) And from the perspective of historical accuracy, how is it that you make no mention of the Russian Revolution of 1917 or of the Soviet Union, although they were the explicit justification used by U.S. officials for the institutionalization of the U.S. "police state" from World War I, up until the fall of the Soviet bloc around 1990?

      Police powers used in a limited way, sometimes more, but usually less extensively in the context of an apparent democracy doesn't seem a viable working definition of a police state.

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