Remember Farenheit 451, François Truffaut’s classic movie about a future world where the job of the Fire Department is to burn books? These days they’re not burning books they’re digitizing them. The reason is because if they don’t they will disintegrate before our eyes. And when they do, there goes our history. Only problem is the digital media they use is obsolete long before the books disappear. And human memory is appallingly short. So whatever it is you cherish, better enjoy it while it lasts. Oops, there goes another terrabyte…
The Internet Archive
DeepspeedMedia.com | Feb 13
This video features Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive and his colleagues Robert Miller, director of books, and Alexis Rossi, director of web collections. On a mission to create universal access to all knowledge, the Internet Archive’s staff have built the world’s largest online library, offering 10 petabytes of archived websites, books, movies, music, and television broadcasts. The video includes a tour of the Internet Archive’s headquarters in San Francisco, the book scanning center, and the book storage facilities in Richmond, California.
This brilliant article by Lewis Lapham discusses the period leading up to George Bush’s War on Iraq which cost a trillion dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives and accomplished absolutely nothing. It is well worth reading in light of recent statements by politicians and their TV cheerleaders advocating preemptive military action against Syria and Iran. When you hear a politician talk about the need for war you should always ask if they are planning to participate. Note — Don’t miss Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer” at the end…
The Road to Babylon
Lewis H. Lapham | Harpers | Oct 02
Misgovemment is of four kinds, often in combination. They are: 1) tyranny or oppression, of which history provides so many well-known examples that they do not need citing; 2) excessive ambition, such as Athens’ attempted conquest of Sicily in the Peloponnesian War, Philip II’s of England via the Armada, Germany’s twice-attempted rule of Europe by a self-conceived master race, Japan’s bid for an empire of Asia; 3) incompetence or decadence, as in the case of the late Roman empire, the last Romanovs and the last imperial dynasty of China; and finally 4) folly or perversity.
— Barbara W. Tuchman
When President George W. Bush in his January State of the Union address pronounced the sentence of doom on Saddam Hussein (“America will do what is necessary to ensure our nation’s security I will not wait on events, while dangers gather”), I assumed that he was striking at a target of rhetorical convenience. The war on terrorism was not going as well as planned (Osama bin Laden still at large, Afghanistan not yet transformed into a Connecticut suburb, bombs exploding every seven or eight days on a bus in Israel), and who better than the tyrant of Baghdad to stand surrogate for all the world’s evildoers? The man was undoubtedly a villain, a brutal psychopath who murdered children and poisoned village wells, stored biological weapons in hospitals, subjected his enemies to unspeakable torture, and imprisoned his friends in the cages of perpetual fear. Not a nice fellow. Who would not be glad to learn that he had retired from politics or died in a traffic accident? If Mr. Bush chose to express his disapproval in what he called “the language of right and wrong,” who was I to deny him his demagogue’s right to issue harebrained threats?
In another fascinating article Professor Bacevich explores the startling parallels in geopolitical strategy between Israel and its giant patron, the US. The major remaining difference is that so far the US has not surrounded itself with a wall. Yet…
How We Became Israel
Andrew Bacevich | The American Conservative | 10 Sep 12
Peace means different things to different governments and different countries. To some it suggests harmony based on tolerance and mutual respect. To others it serves as a euphemism for dominance, peace defining the relationship between the strong and the supine.
In the absence of actually existing peace, a nation’s reigning definition of peace shapes its proclivity to use force. A nation committed to peace-as-harmony will tend to employ force as a last resort. The United States once subscribed to this view. Or beyond the confines of the Western Hemisphere, it at least pretended to do so.
A nation seeking peace-as-dominion will use force more freely. This has long been an Israeli predilection. Since the end of the Cold War and especially since 9/11, however, it has become America’s as well. As a consequence, U.S. national-security policy increasingly conforms to patterns of behavior pioneered by the Jewish state. This “Israelification” of U.S. policy may prove beneficial for Israel. Based on the available evidence, it’s not likely to be good for the United States.
It is generally accepted that the reason why America launched the 2nd Gulf War was to eliminate Saddam’s non-existent WMDs. As this article points out, that may not have been the primary cause. In this letter to the architect of that conflict, Andrew Bacevich asks Paul Wolfowicz for an acknowledgement that the war and its underlying strategic premise was a mistake. I’m not holding my breath waiting for a reply…
A Letter to Paul Wolfowitz
Occasioned by the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war
Andrew J. Bacevich | Harpurs | 25 Mar 13
I have been meaning to write to you for some time, and the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war provides as good an occasion as any to do so. Distracted by other, more recent eruptions of violence, the country has all but forgotten the war. But I won’t and I expect you can’t, although our reasons for remembering may differ.
Twenty years ago, you became dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and hired me as a minor staff functionary. I never thanked you properly. I needed that job. Included in the benefits package was the chance to hobnob with luminaries who gathered at SAIS every few weeks to join Zbigniew Brzezinski for an off-the-record discussion of foreign policy. From five years of listening to these insiders pontificate, I drew one conclusion: people said to be smart — the ones with fancy résumés who get their op-eds published in the New York Times and appear on TV — really aren’t. They excel mostly in recycling bromides. When it came to sustenance, the sandwiches were superior to the chitchat.
In God We Trust. It’s printed on the dollar bill. Etched into stone on court houses and monuments all over the country. What happens when trusting in God leads a President to start a war? Can you imagine Barack Obama making a speech and saying God instructed him to bomb Bombay or nuke Beijing? If you think that sounds preposterous you should read Kurt Eichenwald’s ’500 Days’, the account of the period following 9/11 when George Bush launched a war on the world in the name of ‘terrorism’. The author of that horrible day sat in a hideout in Afghanistan but Bush decided to bomb Baghdad instead because the Bible told him so. If you think I’m crazy, read this…
Gog and Magog
Kurt Eichenwald | Vanity Fair | Oct 12
Light from a chandelier of gilt bronze and crystal spilled across the hand-carved Louis XV desk where Jacques Chirac was working. His office, the Salon Doré, was an opulent holdover from 18th Century France, its golden walls adorned with Gobelins tapestries that surrounded the most valuable antiques in all of Élysée Palace. But on this day, the familiar grandeur barely registered with the French president as he waited for a phone call from Bush.
The topic, again, would be Iraq. Just weeks after the first U.N. resolution demanding that Saddam comply with his disarmament obligations, the Bush Administration was pushing the Security Council to take the next step, authorizing a U.N.-backed invasion. Chirac remained unconvinced that military action was necessary. He still considered the evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction to be flimsy at best. Rushing into battle based on hunches and theories struck him as the height of folly.
National Geographic photographer, James Balog, has spent years recording the changing conditions of polar ice due to global warming. During a recent discussion on NPR’s Science Friday, Balog mentioned that virtually every scientist on earth who has studied this issue concludes that this planet is warming at a rate unprecedented in history. Earth has warmed more and more dramatically than any time in the past 1,000,000 years. The entire scientific community agrees that one of the major factors driving this trend is human activity. Industrialization, transportation, energy production, etc. This is not just nature doing its thing. Nature has never done this before.
Balog has produced a movie called ‘Chasing Ice’ documenting his observations of the effects of this process on arctic ice fields and glaciers, including this clip of the breakup of a feature in Greenland larger than Manhattan Island. The movie will be released this spring…
James Balog | YouTube | 14 Dec 13
________________________________________________________________________________ James Balog is an American photographer whose work revolves around the relationship between humans and nature. Since the early 1980s Balog has re-defined environmental photography, whether his subject is endangered animals, North America’s old-growth forests, or polar ice. His work aims to combine insights from art and science to produce innovative, dynamic and sometimes shocking interpretations of our changing world.
I love to watch videos of how the world is supposed to look today from, in this case, 46 years ago. Good old Walter tells us all about the marvels of life in the 21st century. It’s a world of technological wonder. He doesn’t say anything about budgets, sequestration, drone warfare, torture, assault weapons, murdered school kids, gay boy scouts, North Korean nukes, extraordinary rendition, global warming, stray asteroids or homeland insecurity. They didn’t have those things back then. Just Russian subs armed with hydrogen bombs. Guess you can call that progress…
Walter Cronkite in the Home Office of the Twenty-First Century
For those of you over 40, this is how books used to be produced. They called it “craftsmanship”. The goal was quality, not profit. Esthetic value, not mass-market expediency. You could take one of these things and put it on your shelf (called a “bookcase) where you and your guests could admire and read it any time you wanted. You could loan it freely or even give it away as a Christmas present. Maybe someday, when we reach a new level of technology, we will rediscover the wonder of these simple documents so lovingly made and beautifully designed…
John Carrera | Quercus Press | 2011
________________________________________________________________________________ John Carrera is Proprietor of Quercus Press: Letterpress and Bindery in Waltham, MA.
An interesting commentary on the value of a free markets and trade, particularly as they relates to war and peace. There is a never ending debate about economic expansion versus retrenchment and protectionism. The thoughts shared here illuminate a facet of that question that is often overlooked…
The Value of Free Trade
Rabbi Johnathan Sacks | YouTube | 23 Jan 13
________________________________________________________________________________ Jonathan Sacks is the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, the largest synagogue body in the UK.
Most of my friends are of an age that they remember the tense days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. We all listened and watched the events of those days unfold with mounting anxiety and dread that the world was soon to erupt in a nuclear fireball. Imagine 9/11 a thousand times worse. So we can be forgiven if we lapped up the official story that it was all averted by the wisdom and courage of our President. History has a way of revealing truths that myths conceal. Such is the case here. Fortunately, myth or not, I am here to write this and you to read it…
The Real Cuban Missile Crisis
Everything you think you know about those 13 days is wrong.
Benjamin Schwarz | The Atlantic | Jan 13
ON OCTOBER 16, 1962, John F. Kennedy and his advisers were stunned to learn that the Soviet Union was, without provocation, installing nuclear-armed medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Cuba. With these offensive weapons, which represented a new and existential threat to America, Moscow significantly raised the ante in the nuclear rivalry between the superpowers—a gambit that forced the United States and the Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear Armageddon. On October 22, the president, with no other recourse, proclaimed in a televised address that his administration knew of the illegal missiles, and delivered an ultimatum insisting on their removal, announcing an American “quarantine” of Cuba to force compliance with his demands. While carefully avoiding provocative action and coolly calibrating each Soviet countermeasure, Kennedy and his lieutenants brooked no compromise; they held firm, despite Moscow’s efforts to link a resolution to extrinsic issues and despite predictable Soviet blustering about American aggression and violation of international law. In the tense 13?day crisis, the Americans and Soviets went eyeball-to-eyeball. Thanks to the Kennedy administration’s placid resolve and prudent crisis management—thanks to what Kennedy’s special assistant Arthur Schlesinger Jr. characterized as the president’s “combination of toughness and restraint, of will, nerve, and wisdom, so brilliantly controlled, so matchlessly calibrated, that [it] dazzled the world”—the Soviet leadership blinked: Moscow dismantled the missiles, and a cataclysm was averted.
Every sentence in the above paragraph describing the Cuban missile crisis is misleading or erroneous. But this was the rendition of events that the Kennedy administration fed to a credulous press; this was the history that the participants in Washington promulgated in their memoirs; and this is the story that has insinuated itself into the national memory—as the pundits’ commentaries and media coverage marking the 50th anniversary of the crisis attested.
Customers in the electronics section of a department store watch as JFK addresses the nation, October 22, 1962. (Ralph Crane/Time-Life Pictures/Getty)