Books I'm Reading

Records what I've been reading lately and my recommendations. I'm particularly interested in progressive and reformist political writings, security, software development, and military history.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Here Comes Everybody

Here Comes Everybody

Clay Shirky, 2008

Explores the fundamental societal changes already underway, enabled by how simple it has suddenly become to form groups.

Journalists take heed:
Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations, pointed out that although water is far more important than diamonds to human life, diamonds are far more expensive, because they are rare. The entire basis on which the scribes earned their keep vanished not when reading and writing vanished but when reading and writing became ubiquitous.

(Here, for me, is the money quote from what I've read so far!)

If everyone can do something, it is no longer rare enough to pay for, even if it is vital [emphasis added].

Journalists I respect have decried the rise of "citizen journalism", noting -- correctly -- that while it works well for quickly getting easily-available facts into everyone's hands (two examples Shirky cites are the 2005 tsunami hitting Indonesia and Trent Lott's remarks at Strom Thurmond's birthday party), we have relied for well over a hundred years on a professional class of journalists to do difficult, expensive, and occasionally dangerous research in depth to uncover stories like the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping, or Iran-Contra.

These stories are too important to leave to amateurs, and I use that term in the strict (rather than the perjorative) sense. I may love writing and digging up dirt on the powerful, but I have to feed my family too -- if it ain't pay copy, I can't afford to spend much time on it.

Here comes everybody is well worth reading.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid

by (Carter, Jimmy).


History and issues revolving around the West Bank, Golan Heights, and the Gaza Strip, written by a man who has walked the ground and talked with big political players and common folks alike. He reminds us that he was personally involved in some of the single biggest moves toward peace so far.

Peace in that neck of the woods is going to be hard to come by. Carter points out that the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians really do just want to live their lives and get along, but the fanatic splinters on both sides tend to drag the centers into conflict. With the bilateral history of terror and assasination, it will be impossible to forget the past, but Carter appears to be among those who think it would be possible to forgive. Carter puts the onus for peacemaking squarely on Israel, where IMHO it belongs -- they have the money, the weapons, and the position on the ground. In so doing, he lets the PLO off lightly. Too lightly, in my opinion, given its murderous activities in the seventies, which are scarcely mentioned.

But Carter is concerned primarily with the way forward, which he views the West Bank settlements and The Wall as having crippled, attempting to make permanent a two-class system that attempts to ensure Israelis' security, but in practice serving as a factory farm for suicidally enraged young men.

Read this book with your eyes open -- but read it.


  • History of conflict
  • Personal views into negotiations and people involved
  • Willingness to be blunt
  • Maps detail
  • Glossing-over of links between the mainline PLO and splinter no-shit terrorist groups such as Black September

Recommended? Yes