Book Review: Bernie Sanders’ “Guide to Political Revolution” is more textbook than revolutionary

Someone—I don’t remember now who—described the major difference in American politics to be that the Left fetishizes being correct where the Right reserves that obsession for power.

For that reason, Republicans have been willing to abandon all previously stated principles so long as they can expect to have a warm body capable of signing regressive tax bills into law and who will nominate judges to protect conservative orthodoxies.

And it’s why a year and a half later, Democrats still get into fights about whether they supported Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in the 2015-16 primary. It’s why many of us on the Left continue, inexorably, viewing contemporary events as a chance to re-litigate that contest and who was right.

So just to say, “Bernie Sanders: Guide to Political Revolution is for teenagers,” will invite cheap jokes along those lines, and merely by existing, it reinvigorates the conversation about who actually had the better fire extinguisher a year and a half ago, even as the grease fire continues to spread.

Continue reading Book Review: Bernie Sanders’ “Guide to Political Revolution” is more textbook than revolutionary

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Book Review: We’ll be reading Zoë Quinn’s “Crash Override” to understand the Trump era for decades to come

In response to the recent Buzzfeed article about behind-the-scenes goings-on of Milo Yiannapoulus’ and Breitbart’s racism laundering, Washington Post journalist Philip Bump said, “An early chapter of every book documenting the Donald Trump era will be about Gamergate.”

If so, Zoë Quinn’s book Crash Override will be cited by nearly all of them as the autobiography of the person most affected by Gamergate and how she’s worked to defend everyone against online mobs since.

Continue reading Book Review: We’ll be reading Zoë Quinn’s “Crash Override” to understand the Trump era for decades to come

Book Review: Laura Spinney’s Pale Rider re-examines 20th Century’s biggest tragedy

It’s become a standard bit of 20th Century trivia that as terrible as the First World War was, the 1918 Flu Pandemic coinciding with the armistice killed more than the conflict itself.

Now, an especially pedantic person might want to argue that WWI really was the beginning of the ‘Second Thirty Years War‘; they might treat as bookends both world wars—roping together all battlefield deaths, all civilian bombings, every atrocity and genocide, every preventable famine and epidemic. And put together as a single historical event, they would claim, all the misery springing from human malice between 1914 to 1945 led to up to 100 million untimely deaths in those three decades.

But, as British science journalist Laura Spinney relates in her latest book Pale Rider, the pandemic known in its time as the Spanish Flu (but definitely not originating in Spain) may have killed in three years about the same amount as we murdered each other during those 30, infecting one out of every three people on the earth while killing one-in-20 of the global population.

Continue reading Book Review: Laura Spinney’s Pale Rider re-examines 20th Century’s biggest tragedy

BOOK REVIEW: Lynda V. Mapes’ ‘Witness Tree’ gives you new eyes to look at the world around you

If humanity doesn’t immediately reduce our emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other climate-warming air pollutants, global temperatures could rise by as much as 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most pessimistic forecasts.

For some reason, this knowledge isn’t as frightening to us as the prospect of a Cold War-style apocalyptic thermonuclear exchange — in the same way that the inevitability of lung cancer from smoking tobacco isn’t as frightening as the idea that, hypothetically, electronic cigarettes might have a one in 100,000 chance of blowing off their vaper’s head. Our risk assessment faculties aren’t adapted to gradual but certain peril the way they ought to be. So here we are.

In that context comes Lynda V. Mapes’ book Witness Tree. The Seattle Times reporter spent a year studying a particular hundred-odd-year-old red oak in north-central Massachusetts while researching its surroundings, using it as a lens to view the effects of global warming and ecology in general.  Continue reading BOOK REVIEW: Lynda V. Mapes’ ‘Witness Tree’ gives you new eyes to look at the world around you