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Archive for June, 2008

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Richard Betts and Intelligence Reform

Richard Betts, Enemies of Intelligence: Knowledge and Power in American SecurityThe Washington Note recently cited Richard Betts’s newest book Enemies of Intelligence: Knowledge and Power in American National Security for its impact on policymakers and legislators in Washington D. C.

Thomas Fingar, the Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, favored Betts’s assessment of the challenges facing the intelligence community and possible reforms. Moreover, many of Betts’s ideas are part of Senators Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Chuck Hagel’s (R-NE) proposed legislation S. 3041, which would establish a non-partisan Foreign Intelligence Information Commission.

For more on Enemies of Intelligence: read an excerpt or listen to a podcast interview with Richard Betts.

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Stephen Burt on Poetry for Pride Month

Beacon Press’s very interesting blog the Beacon Broadside recently featured Stephen Burt’s excellent post on gay and lesbian poetry. In the piece, Burt provides a concise and thoughtful history of gay and lesbian poetry and depictions of same-sex erotic passion from Sappho to the present day. He highlights many of the key figures, including Walt Whitman, Frank O’Hara, James Merrill, Adrienne Rich, and W. H. Auden.

Burt also offers two of his favorite works by queer poets: D. A. Powell’s Tea and Liz Waldner’s Dark Would.

Another poet Burt mentions in his post is Thom Gunn, whose work he discusses in greater detail in his most recent work, The Forms of Youth: Twentieth-Century Poetry and Adolescence.

Friday, June 27th, 2008

William Duggan and R. Glenn Hubbard on a Marshall Plan for Africa

The always interesting Policy Innovations recently excerpted from William Duggan and R. Glenn Hubbard’s article “The Forgotten Lessons of the Marshall Plan”, which originally appeared in Strategy & Business. Duggan, author of Strategic Intuition: The Creative Spark in Human Achievement, and Hubbard argue:

A thriving business sector is the key to improving political and social conditions in Africa today. And Africa today needs that sort of help. The first Marshall Plan accomplished even more than its creators had hoped; if its successor is designed with the same conceptual base, then history could repeat itself in another part of the world.

Many policymakers have suggested using the Marshall Plan to improve conditions in Africa. Duggan and Hubbard agree that such a plan is necessary but

most of the existing proposals represent a great misunderstanding of the intention of the original Marshall Plan and the way it worked. It was less a sweeping program of foreign aid to governments and agencies than a large-scale effort to restore the power of business as a growth engine. A true Marshall Plan for Africa could ignite growth and reduce poverty, but only through a set of institutions that are different from those the current aid system is currently using.

While recognizing that Africa today is far different than war-ravaged postwar Western Europe, Duggan and Hubbard believe that elements of the original Marshall Plan, properly understood, can be successfully applied. They suggest:

* An effective Marshall Plan for Africa should focus exclusively on business development

* There should be a focus on creating local financial institutions, business schools and associations, anti-corruption units, and courts

* An international commission should be create to oversee, collect, and manage funds from governments and donors

* African countries should be encouraged to create policies to foster business development

* Funds should be dedicated to a variety of purposes. Above all, they should not go for government-designed economic development plans, whose track record has not been successful

Duggan and Hubbard also wrote about this issue in an editorial that appeared in the Financial Times.

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Dogs

Xiaoming Wang, Dogs: Their Fossil Relatives and Evolutionary History

July’s issue of Natural History Magazine includes an excerpt from Xiaoming Wang and Richard Tedford’s Dogs: Their Fossil Relatives and Evolutionary History. The excerpt also features the stunning illustrations of Mauricio Anton.

While there is no shortage of books that examine the domesticated dog, Wang and Tedford’s work, based on extensive fossil research traces the history of dogs back more than 30 million years. As the authors show, the success and longevity of the dog family can be attributed to its expertise in hunting its prey, its resiliency, and its ability to adapt to changes in the environment. An article about the book in the Naturalist writes, “Thanks to successful migrations and flexible adaptations, canids are the most widely spread living carnivores in the world and the top predators in modern North and South America, Australia, and northern Eurasia….They have achieved a longevity and diversity unrivaled by any other group of carnivores.”

For more on Dogs you can also visit Xiaoming Wang’s Web page on the origin and evolution of the dog family and a page on the exhibit “Dogs! Wolf, Myth, Hero, & Friend.”

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Gary Francione on “Vegan Freak”

Gary Francione, Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal ExploitationWith the recent release of some very noteworthy titles in animal studies as well as our special 50% off sale, we’ve been writing quite a bit about our books in the field. Today, we point you to Gary Francione’s recent appearance on the very popular podcast “Vegan Freak.” (This is part 1 of 2-part interview). In the interview, Francione discusses his new book Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation, the state of the animal rights movement, and the failures of animal welfare legislation.

Interviews with Francione are always engaging and provocative and while you might not always agree with his views, his ideas about the way society treats animals, even as it tries to protect them, challenge conventional notions about how we think about and regard animals. Francione, who is the Distinguished Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy, was the first academic to teach animal rights theory in an American law school and his ideas continue to resonate among animal rights advocates, legal theorists, and philosophers.

For more on Francione, you can also read our interview with Francione, an excerpt from Animals as Persons, or visit Francione’s Web site, Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach.

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Michael Fischbach Speaks at the UN on Palestinian Refugees

Michael FischbachOn Friday, June 20th, Michael Fischbach spoke at a special meeting at the United Nations to mark 60 years of dispossession of Palestine Refugees. As several speakers noted the question of Palestinian refugees is the longest standing crisis on the agenda of the United Nations still awaiting solution.The committee chairman expressed concern that the issue of Palestinian refugees has moved to the periphery of the attention span of the international community while at the same time it is being exploited by extremists on both sides of the issue.

Michael Fischbach, author of Records of Dispossession: Palestinian Refugee Property and the Arab-Israeli Conflict and the forthcoming Jewish Property Claims Against Arab Countries (July 2008), argued that the essence of the refugee problem as it emerged in the 1950′s has essentially remained the same: that Israel has continued to rule out restitution and compensation.

Fischbach, who is also a professor of history at Randolph-Macon College, also looked at the historical conditions of the refugee issue. The following is a summary of his remarks as provided by the United Nations Department of Public Information:

Michael Fischbach said that, after the 1948 war, Israeli forces ended up controlling 77 percent of British-mandated Palestine, areas that became the new State of Israel, with the remaining 23 percent being the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Approximately 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled by Jewish forces, leaving behind homes, farmland, businesses, farm and business equipment and personal property. The Palestinians’ catastrophe represented a tremendous windfall for Israel, as Jewish agricultural communities began to utilize the abandoned land. The provisional Israeli Cabinet voted to bar the refugees from returning to their homes. Another windfall had been the vast amount of abandoned property. Israel had also confiscated moveable property, such as farm implements, animals, furniture, vehicles and factory inventory. (more…)

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Looking for Peace and Enlightenment with Sri Aurobindo

Peter Heehs, The Lives of Sri AurobindoPeter Heehs, co-founder of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives, and author of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo is traveling to the East Coast to talk about Sri Aurobindo and his new biography of the famed Indian yogi and philosopher. You can catch Peter Heehs at one of the following events:

June 26, 2008, 6:00 PM
NY Open Center Room 2A
83 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012

July 1, 2008, 7:30 PM
Garland of Letters Bookstore
527 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147

For more events with Columbia University Press authors.

Friday, June 20th, 2008

Sue OPEC: An Op-Ed from Thomas W. Evans

Thomas W. Evans, author The Education of Ronald ReaganIn an opinion piece in yesterday’s New York Times, Thomas W. Evans, a former adviser to presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush and the author of The Education of Ronald Reagan: The General Electric Years and the Untold Story of His Conversion to Conservatism, lays out the legal case for the United States to sue the oil producing nations of OPEC in order to break the power of the cartel. He argues that the president need simply to allow the states to seek relief in Supreme Court under our antitrust laws.

Citing a seldom-used provision in the Constitution, Evans contends that:

The attorneys general of the various states should sue OPEC as an alien or, pleading alternatively, as a foreign state. (A joint action by the attorneys general is the method the states used to collectively sue tobacco companies, Microsoft and health maintenance organizations.)

The states should contend that Article III of the Constitution outweighs the act of state doctrine. Respect for the sovereignty of a foreign government for acts “done within its own territory” does not, even if very liberally construed, protect decisions reached by a cartel based in Austria that directs 13 nations to sell their product at inflated prices to customers outside their boundaries. If the states won the case, the court could recover substantial damages based on assets and commercial activities of OPEC member nations in the United States.

Undoubetedly, this might cause political friction with Arab leaders but as Evans argues the region is hardly stable now and starting a lawsuit might be better than starting a war.

For more on The Education of Ronald Reagan, including other editorials by Thomas Evans.

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Beyond the Blockbuster: Intelligence Work by Jonathan Kahana

As we brace for/look forward to the onslaught of Summer blockbusters, we should also look to Jonathan Kahana’s Intelligence Work: The Politics of American Documentary to offer critical and historical insight to films of a very much different stripe than standard Hollywood fare.

In the book, Jonathan Kahana establishes a new genealogy of American social documentary, proposing a fresh critical approach to the aesthetic and political issues of nonfiction cinema and media. In particular, his book “tracks a simple historical shift between two structures of feeling, from trust to suspicion.” Thus the book begins with the New Deal era and discusses how documentaries from the period “emphasize a certain directness of address and pursue the ideal of diffusing social knowledge among the widest possible audience.” However, as Kahana argues, documentaries from the ’60s onward began to reflect a “discourse of doubt and criticism.”

Kahana considers an array of iconic as well as overlooked and obscure films beginning from the 1930s and continuing to the present. Whether found online or via netflix, the films under discussion in in Kahana’s work provide a much-needed alternative to what’s out there and offer a fascinating document to a critical facet of American film.

Films under discussion include People of the Cumberland (1938), The Fight for Life (1940), Power and the Land (1940), Cicero March (1966), Winter Soldier (1972) Underground (1976), Titicut Follies (1967), Attica (1973), Four More Years (1972), Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), An Inconvenient Truth (2006) and What Farocki Taught (1997).

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

Interview with Gary Francione, author of Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation

Gary Francione, Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal ExploitationGary Francione was the first academic to teach animal rights in a U.S. law school and has since become a central figure in the animal rights movement. In this interview he discusses his new book, Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation.

*We are offering a 50% discount on Animals as Persons and all other Animal Studies titles through August 1. 

Q: In your new book, Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation, you maintain that we suffer from “moral schizophrenia” when it comes to nonhuman animals. What do you mean by that?

Gary Francione: I mean that our thinking about animals is very confused. On one hand, we claim to regard animals as members of the moral community. We claim to embrace a moral and legal obligation not to inflict “unnecessary” suffering or death on animals. We can, of course, debate the meaning of “necessity,” but whatever it means, it must rule out suffering and death imposed for reasons of human pleasure, amusement, or convenience. If it does not do so, then the exception would completely swallow the moral rule.

The problem is that 99.99% of our animal use cannot be justified by anything but human pleasure, amusement, or convenience. For example, we kill more than 12 billion land animals every year in the United States alone for food. No one maintains that it is necessary to eat animals to lead an optimally healthy lifestyle and an increasing number of mainstream health care professionals tell us that animal foods are detrimental to our health. Animal agriculture is a disaster for the environment because it involves a most inefficient use of natural resources and creates water pollution, soil erosion, and greenhouse gasses. The only justification that we have for the pain, suffering, and death that we impose on these billions of animals is that we enjoy eating animal foods, or that it is convenient to do so, or that it is just plain habit.

We regard some animals—our “pets”—as members of our families. We see them as nonhuman persons. We love them and they love us back. We are not in any way speaking or thinking anthropomorphically when we say that dogs and cats are sentient beings with distinct personalities. That is simply a matter of fact. We have no doubt that they have an interest in avoiding pain, suffering, and death. We grieve when they die. But our dogs and cats are no different from the animals whose bodies we eat or who are used to produce dairy and eggs. We love some animals; we stick forks into others. That is what I mean by “moral schizophrenia.”

Q: You mention dairy and eggs. What is wrong with eating products that do not result in the death of an animal?

GF: Those products do result in animal deaths and tremendous animal suffering. Animals used to produce dairy and eggs generally live longer than “meat” animals, are arguably treated worse, and end up at the same slaughterhouse after which we consume their bodies anyway. There is probably more suffering in a glass of milk than in a pound of steak.

Q: So you advocate veganism?

GF: Absolutely. A theme that runs throughout my work, including Animals as Persons, is that veganism must be the moral baseline of anyone who claims to take animals seriously. Just as someone opposed to human slavery would not own any slaves, someone opposed to animal exploitation should not consume or wear animals.

Q: What about animal experiments? Is that use of animals justifiable?

GF: The use of animals to find cures for serious human illnesses represents the only use of animals in which we engage that is not transparently trivial. But this use is also not morally justifiable. In the first place, there are serious issues concerning whether the use of animals is “necessary” in that the required data cannot be obtained in any way other than through the use of animals. Secondly, even if there are some uses that are really “necessary” in some empirical sense, we cannot justify those uses morally because we rightly regard it as morally unacceptable to use any humans for experiments in which they are harmed or killed. Our only justification for using nonhuman animals in experiments is our species bias, or speciesism, and that prejudice can no more defended than can racism, sexism, or heterosexism. (more…)

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Sale on Animal Studies Titles

Animal Studies Titles on Sale

We’ve had such a great response to the post by Wendy Lochner, editor of the Press’s Animal Studies list, that we are offering a 50% discount on all animal studies titles, including works by Gary Francione, Stanley Cavell, James Rachels, Lorraine Daston, and Matthew Calarco. (The sale lasts until August 1 and is available to U.S. and Canadian customers only.)

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Asian Advocates: An Interview with Bruce Fulton

There a Petal Silently Falls, Ch'oe Yun, Korean Fiction

In conjunction with their interview with Ch’oe Yun, author of There a Petal Silently Falls, PRI’s “The World” also spoke with Bruce Fulton, the book’s translator. In the interview Fulton considers the place of Ch’oe Yun in Korean literature, the state of fiction in Korea, and what it’s like to translate with your wife.

You can read the entire interview here and below are some excerpts from the discussion:

The World: For Western readers unfamiliar with Ch’oe Yun discuss her place in modern Korean fiction.

Bruce Fulton: Ch’oe Yun’s brought a new level of narrative sophistication and intelligence to contemporary Korean fiction [contemporary by convention meaning post-1945]. She’s one of the few South Korean fiction writers who can balance (1) the traditional emphasis (brought to bear by the conservative and patriarchal Korean literary establishment) on historical, political, and societal relevance with (2) a highly developed literary technique. Though she draws for inspiration on historical and ideological issues arising on the Korean peninsula, she makes it clear that these issues, such as institutionalized violence, affect peoples the world over.

The World: What are the difficulties of translating from the Korean? And does the ambitious fiction of Ch’oe Yun pose a special challenge?

Bruce Fulton: For an inbound translator like myself (one who translates from a foreign language into his native language), subtext (meaning that must be read between the lines) is probably the biggest challenge. In the case of Korean-to-English literary translation, much of the subtext is cultural, and because traditional East Asian cultures are different in important respects from traditional Western cultures, a literal approach to translation will not work.

Korean is also a very rich language, comprising in roughly equal amounts both a native lexicon and a lexicon of loan words from Chinese. Yun’s stories are challenging (but often delightfully so!) because of their sophistication, irony, wordplay, intertextuality (for example, the references to “Tristan und Isolde” in “The Thirteen-Scent Flower”), and narrative techniques (such as stream-of-consciousness in the girl’s first-person narrative in “Petal”).

Friday, June 13th, 2008

Inevitable Dissident: An Interview with Ch’oe Yun

Ch'oe Yun, author of There a Petal Silently FallsBill Marx of PRI’s The World recently interviewed Ch’oe Yun, author of There a Petal Silently Falls: Three Stories by Ch’oe Yun. Our edition marks the first English translation of Ch’oe Yun’s work and, as Marx notes, she is considered one off the most important authors in contemporary Korea.

In describing Ch’oe Yun’s fiction, Marx writes, “Her writing marries a concern with the spiritual reverberations of political/historical events, such as the Kwangju massacre (1980) and the Park Chung-hee dictatorship (1961-1979) with sophisticated fictional techniques.”

Below are some excerpts from the interview and you can read the entire interview here or read an earlier interview with Ch’oe Yun. On Monday, we will feature the World’s interview with Bruce Fulton, one of the translators of There a Petal Silently Falls.

The World: You are considered one of Korea’s leading writers, which is as good a reason as any to have your stories translated into English. But why publish them now? Does “There a Petal Silently Falls” tell us anything Western readers need to know about Korea today?

Ch’oe Yun: The “Petal” story has to do with the Kwangju Uprising of May 1980, but I constructed it so that it could be read in terms of its universal significance. I emphasized the universal aspects of the story because I was concerned that this uprising would soon be forgotten in contemporary Korean history. All around us, albeit in different forms, violence is perpetrated endlessly against the pure and innocent, and this story can be read as an awakening to that violence.

The World: Critics describe you as an experimental, post-modernist author, heavily influenced by Western literary influences. How have avant-garde techniques shaped your writing? In what ways have they not?

Ch’oe Yun: In each of the three works I took pains to apply the most appropriate form to the story’s world-view. I’ll grant you that this approach can appear experimental. I’ve never been one to agonize over technique, though. The notion of language and expression as constituting their own world-view is part and parcel of much of what I’ve read in Western literary thought and aesthetics.

The World: Why do most of the characters in “There a Petal Silently Falls” live a ghostly existence, existing on the margins of society?

Ch’oe Yun: Because those are the people I focus on. I’ve never been interested in public heroes — male public heroes, that is. The history of Korean literature is full of such heroes; the rest of us tend to be sacrificed to their cause and end up in the shade, so to speak.

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

The Pesky Quiz: How Well Do You Know the History of American Attempts to Wipe out Insects?

James E. McWilliams, American Pests: The Losing War on Insects from Colonial Times to DDT

To highlight the history of U.S. efforts to control insects we offer a quiz to test your knowledge of this fascinating story as explored by James E. McWilliams in American Pests: The Losing War on Insects from Colonial Times to DDT. Also of interest is a video of James McWilliams discussing the book and an excerpt from American Pests.

In American Pests: The Losing War on Insects from Colonial Times to DDT, James E. McWilliams investigates the attitudes, policies (often misguided), and practices that have influenced our behavior toward and extermination of insects. While it might be easy to dismiss insects and pests as peripheral to the history of the United States, our attempts to eradicate them reveals much about changing attitudes toward agriculture and the environment over the last 400 years.

While by no means perfect, the methods employed by farmers in the early republic to controls pests were experimental, flexible, vernacular, and reversible. These were in essence local responses to local problems. However by the late nineteenth century the effort to exterminate insects had become dominated by a national bureaucracy buttressed by increasingly powerful industrial efforts. The results were that a number of possibly effective control tactics were pushed to the side, while a single, simplistic, and widely applicable approach culminating in the use of DDT became standardized.

Rachel Carson’s influential Silent Spring helped to change attitudes and to inspire the modern American environmental movement but the United States is still hindered by both the environmental devastation caused by insecticides and the rationale, attitudes, and interests that have dominated our policy to controlling insects over the past 100 years.

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

The Hudson as Literary Muse: Frances Dunwell’s The Hudson: America’s River

Frances Dunwell, The Hudson: America's RiverThe New Yorker’s blog on books, The Book Bench, recently featured Frances Dunwell’s The Hudson: America’s River. The post reflects on how the Hudson River has inspired key American writers such as, Washington Irving, Edith Wharton, and Herman Melville.

Frances Dunwell will be making her way up the Hudson this month to talk about her book. For more information please visit our author events page.

Read Dunwell’s post, “The Nature of the Hudson“.

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

A Review of Olivier Roy’s The Politics of Chaos in the Middle East from “A Fistful of Euros”

Olivier Roy, The Politics of Chaos in the Middle EastWe had meant to post something about this sooner but earlier this month A Fistful of Euros (AFOE) reviewed Olivier Roy’s The Politics of Chaos in the Middle East. (Read a pdf of the Roy’s introduction here.) AFOE is an excellent resource for opinion and insight into European politics and the ways in which Europe is thinking about the world. (For those interested in everything Euorpoean, eurozine.com is also worth a visit.)

The review gives an overview of some of Roy’s key points:

* Seeing the world through the lens of a “clash of civilization” fails to understand the diversity of the Muslim world
* The failures in Iraq are a result of U.S. insistence on seeing the region’s history and development from a Western perspective
* Political legitimacy is a major problem in the Middle East. The state and local nationalisms are undermined by both transnational ideologies and inter-state clannism, tribalism, and sectarianism
* Countries of the Middle East are united not by a desire to bring down the West but rather in an ongoing search for identity in a globalized world
* Though still very dangerous, Al-qaeda is increasingly detached from actual political developments in the region

    The review concludes, “I highly recommend The Politics of Chaos in the Middle East as an excellent introduction to the diverse political and social realities in the Middle East…. Use this book … to get a better understanding of the Middle Eastern Zeitgeist, its contemporary history and sensibilities with regards to Western influence in the region.”

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

Dr. Paul Offit on Autism and the Safety of Vaccines

Last week, parents including those associated with the group Moms Against Mercury marched in Washington D. C. to express their concerns about the possible connection between vaccines and childhood autism. The parents are also troubled by the vaccine schedule which requires a child to have fourteen vaccines in the first two years of his or her life.

Paul OffitPaul Offit, the Chief of Infectious Diseases, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and the author of the forthcoming Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure, argues that there is no connection between autism and vaccines and that delaying or withholding vaccines endangers the child.

In a CBS report on the march, Offit said, “There is no advantage to spacing out, delaying or withholding vaccines. The only thing that will come of that kind of behavior will be allowing for a period of time to occur when children are at risk of vaccine preventable diseases.”

Offit’s view is based on the most up-to-date scientific and medical research and echoes the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics who see no link between autism and vaccines. Moreover, according to the Center for Disease Control, these vaccines save an estimated 33,000 lives a year.

This is an important and contentious issue and we will be writing more about it over the next few months in anticipation of Offit’s book which will be published in September. We also have created a short film for the book in which Offit explains his position and the dangers of parents being misled on this issue.

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Bruce Hoffman and the Feud over Terrorism

Bruce Hoffman, author of Inside TerrorismYesterday’s New York Times “Week in Review” featured an article about the growing dispute between experts on the nature of the terrorist threat. One of the central figures in this debate is Bruce Hoffman, professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, senior fellow at the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Center at West Point, and the author of Inside Terrorism.

Hoffman argues that al Qaeda is “alive, well, resurgent and more dangerous than it has been in several years.” Hoffman counters an argument put forth by Marc Sageman, who contends that “the main threat no longer comes from the organization called Al Qaeda but from the bottom up—from radicalized individuals and groups who meet and plot in their neighborhoods and on the Internet.”

However, Hoffman points to empirical evidence that al Qaeda has reestablished itself along the Afghan-Pakistani border and is directing international operations. Moreover, its successes in Iraq has bolstered the organization’s appeal to jihadists. Thus, to turn attention away from al Qaeda would be a risky strategy that would severely set back efforts to combat terrorism.

To read more on Hoffman’s assessment of al Qaeda and how it has continues to have an impact in Iraq and elsewhere, we have provided an excerpt from Inside Terrorism.

* The article also mentions Abu Mus’ab al-Suri, the Syrian-born militant theorist who has called for a leaderless jihad. His life and ideas are the subject of Brynjar Lia’s Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of Al Qaeda Strategist Abu Mus’ab al-Suri.

Friday, June 6th, 2008

Beer, Richard Dawkins, New York’s Sexual Underworld, DJ Spooky, and More from University Press Blogs

Every so often we like to highlight books and blog postings from other university presses. The following links reveal the great breadth of what university presses publish and the fascinating reading and listening to be found at university press blogs:

The Cambridge University Press blog excerpts from an article on Charles Bamforth, the Anheuser-Busch Professor of Malting and Brewing (really), and author of Grape v. Grain: A Historical Technological, and Social Comparison of Wine and Beer.

Duke University Press reports on Thomas Glave’s remarks at Jamaica’s Calabash literary festival responding the Jamaican prime minister’s anti-gay remarks. Glave is the author of A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles.

Harvard University Press has a new book by Geremie Barmé on the Forbidden City which includes a link to Barmé’s web-based supplementary material to the Forbidden City.

Indiana University Press has a fascinating interview with Kate Lewkowsky on her new book Contemporary Quilt Art: An Introduction and Guide.

MIT Press got a shout out from Cory Doctorow on the always interesting and very popular site boingboing for their book Sound Unbound: Essays on the Future of Music edited by Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid.

The always-rewarding Oxford University Press blog has a podcast with Richard Dawkins, most recently the author of The Oxford Guide to Modern Science Writing.

While courts in Europe and Turkey debate the issue of headscarves for Muslim women, Katherine Pratt Ewing’s Stolen Honor: Stigmatizing Muslim Men in Berlin explores depictions of Muslim men. From the Stanford University Press blog.

For another look at the veil, the University of California Press blog has an interesting post from Jennifer Heath author of The Veil: Women Writers on Its History, Lore, and Politics.

New York’s antebellum sexual underworld is the subject of The Flash Press: Sporting Male Weeklies in 1840s New York by Patricia Cline Cohen, Timothy J. Gilfoyle, and Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz and published by the University of Chicago Press. The Chicago site also has excerpts from the flash press.

The University of Illinois Press offers its take on the recent Book Expo America here and here.

How good is your knowledge of the moon? The University of Nebraska Press blog has a quiz in conjunction with their new book, In the Shadow of the Moon by Francis French and Colin Burgess.

The excellent Yale University Press Podcast series, hosted by Chris Gondek, has a new episode with interviews with Jonathan Zittrain, author of The Future of the Internet — And How to Stop It and Benny Morris, author of 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War.

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Benjamin Barber on the Clinton Legacy

Benjamin Barber, The Truth of Power

With Hillary Clinton dropping out of the race and Bill Clinton recently telling a crowd in South Dakota that he may not be involved in another political campaign, attention will undoubtedly once again turn to examining the Clinton legacy and his imprint on U.S. politics.

In The Truth of Power: Intellectual Affairs in the Clinton White House, Benjamin Barber looks back at his involvement with the Clinton White House and in the book’s new afterword he considers what President Clinton’s final place in history might be. In 1994 Barber was invited by President Clinton to participate in a seminar on the future of democratic ideas and ideals. Following their meeting, Barber became an informal consultant to the White House which included several interactions with the president himself.

Like many, Barber was taken by the president’s charisma and intelligence but was disappointed by his ultimate lack of vision and his penchant to court accommodation and accept compromise rather than take on bold initiatives. Clinton recognized that the world was becoming more interdependent and that this would create new challenges for the United States but ultimately did not provide or act on a vision to grapple with these changes.

From the afterword:

In spite of my admiration for Clinton’s many excellent public works and his devotion to achieving a more just society, I conclude … that Clinton was a compromised president not because of personal deficiencies or psychic liabilities alone, but because of the absence of an overriding vision—an absence that allowed his liabilities to weigh down his presidency. Clinton recognized that a new emergent interdependent world lay on the other side of his “bridge to the future.” Yet his perspective appeared to be that of an astute observer rather than of a bold architect. With his sharp eye, he saw new challenges before America that would rock the nation. But he was satisfied with agile political gamesmanship and facile personality politics as responses, and while he secured a host of changes that made America a better place for all Americans, especially those on the periphery, he could not secure a permanent change of course for a nation sinking under the weight of self-absorption, market greed, and an anemic citizenry. Putting people first translated into a political doctrine that put ideas well to the side. The bridge to the future was more rhetoric than plan of action, much like Reagan’s “morning in America.”

Americans love such vague imagery, with its hazy invocation of hope, optimism, and an “exceptionalist” America that is the greatest nation on earth. The presidential campaign in 2008 was afloat in what Christopher Hitchins called a “tsunami of rhetorical drool.” But rarely do citizens look across the glow of morning to high noon, or beyond the other side of the bridge to the future to the somber and uncertain landscape to which it leads. Americans think of themselves as future oriented but are too pragmatic and reactive to live by lessons that might be learned from real prescience. And so with the pragmatic and wily Bill Clinton the nation had a man in office who was—however effectively—perhaps the smartest president in history to treat ideas so slightingly. Perhaps this was a tribute to just how smart he was.

Read the entire afterword.