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Last Updated Tuesday September 25, 2018



 

Books Currently Reading


These Truths, Jill Lepore, LA Public Library. ''In the most ambitious one-volume American history in decades, award-winning historian Jill Lepore offers a magisterial account of the origins and rise of a divided nation. The American experiment rests on three ideas--'these truths,' Jefferson called them--political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people. And it rests, too, 'on a dedication to inquiry, fearless and unflinching,' writes Jill Lepore in a groundbreaking investigation into the American past that places truth itself at the center of the nation's history. In riveting prose, These Truths tells the story of America, beginning in 1492, to ask whether the course of events has proven the nation's founding truths, or belied them. 'A nation born in contradiction, liberty in a land of slavery, sovereignty in a land of conquest, will fight, forever, over the meaning of its history,' Lepore writes, finding meaning in those very contradictions as she weaves American history into a majestic tapestry of faith and hope, of peril and prosperity, of technological progress and moral anguish. A spellbinding chronicle filled with arresting sketches of Americans from John Winthrop and Frederick Douglass to Pauli Murray and Phyllis Schlafly, These Truths offers an authoritative new history of a great, and greatly troubled, nation'--' Kindle. Currently-Reading 2018-09-25.

A Crack In Creation, Jennifer Doudna & Samuel Sternberg, Amazon Prime. 'A trailblazing biologist grapples with her role in the biggest scientific discovery of our era: a cheap, easy way of rewriting genetic code, with nearly limitless promise and peril. Not since the atomic bomb has a technology so alarmed its inventors that they warned the world about its use. Not, that is, until the spring of 2015, when biologist Jennifer Doudna called for a worldwide moratorium on the use of the new gene-editing tool CRISPR—a revolutionary new technology that she helped create—to make heritable changes in human embryos. The cheapest, simplest, most effective way of manipulating DNA ever known, CRISPR may well give us the cure to HIV, genetic diseases, and some cancers, and will help address the world’s hunger crisis. Yet even the tiniest changes to DNA could have myriad, unforeseeable consequences—to say nothing of the ethical and societal repercussions of intentionally mutating embryos to create “better” humans.' Kindle. Currently-Reading 2018-09-06.

The Future Is History, Masha Gessen, Weebcentral Library. 'Award-winning journalist Masha Gessen's understanding of the events and forces that have wracked Russia in recent times is unparalleled. In The Future Is History, Gessen follows the lives of four people born at what promised to be the dawn of democracy. Each of them came of age with unprecedented expectations, some as the children and grandchildren of the very architects of the new Russia, each with newfound aspirations of their own--as entrepreneurs, activists, thinkers, and writers, sexual and social beings. ' Kindle. Currently-Reading 2018-08-31. A gift from my brother-in-law, Greg, Christmas 2017.
 
 

Recent Books


I, Alex Cross, James Patterson, Multnomah County Library. I have been following the PBS show The Great American Read, which polled readers for their favorite novels. Many of them are books that are typically assigned for junior high and high school reading. There are a number of pre-20th and 20th century classics. There is happily some classic young adult fiction, and, not surprisingly, some excellent contemporary 21st century novels. Also no surprise are books representative of the large U.S. Evangelical population, like The Shack, the Rapture porn series Left Behind, and the execrable capitalist porn novel Atlas Shrugged, although the latter's ideology would seem deeply antithetical to Evangelical beliefs. Perhaps the biggest surprise was one of the many novels by James Patterson, king of the airport throwaway fiction: I, Alex Cross. I decided to read it as a last summer read fling. It was a quick read, despite its 500 page length, chopped up into 100+ chapters, each designed to lead you to the next, with mini-cliff-hangers galore. The story was over-the-top suspense detective fare, but not excessively so; the main story was one of caring for an ailing grandmother juxtaposed with searching for a violent killer, with plenty of gore along the way. All in all, one James Patterson novel is probably sufficient to appreciate the appeal and to tire of the genre. Hardcover. Read 2018-09-21. The Great American Read on PBS.

Herzog, Saul Bellow, Clackamas County Library. 'This is the story of Moses Herzog, a great sufferer, joker, mourner, and charmer. Although his life steadily disintegrates around him--he has failed as a writer and teacher, as a father, and has lost the affection of his wife to his best friends--Herzog sees himself as a survivor, both of his private disasters and those of the age. He writes unsent letters to friends and enemies, colleagues and famous people, revealing his wry perception of the world and the innermost secrets of his heart.' Hardcover. Partially-Read 2018-06-12.

Everybody's Fool, Russo Richard, Multnomah County Library. 'A best-selling and beloved author, at the very top of his game, now returns to North Bath, in upstate New York, and the characters who made Nobody's Fool, his third novel, his first great success. The irresistible Sully, who in the intervening years has come by some unexpected good fortune, is now staring down a VA cardiologist's estimate that he only has a year or two left, and he's busy as hell keeping the news from the most important people in his life: Ruth, the married woman he carried on with for years... the ultra-hapless Rub Squeers, who worries that he and Sully aren't still best friends. Sully's son and grandson, for whom he was mostly an absentee figure. Doug Raymer, now Chief of Police and still obsessing over the identity of the man his wife might have been having an affair with before she died in a freak accident. Bath's mayor, the former academic Gus Moynihan, who also has a pressing wife problems and then there's Carl Roebuck, whose lifelong run of failing upwards might now come to ruin. Everybody's Fool is filled with humor, heart, hard times, and characters who you can't help but love for all their faults. It is classic Russo and a crowning achievement from one of the greatest storytellers of our time' Kindle. Read 2018-06-12.

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, Mark Haddon, Clackamas County Library. This novel provides a fascinating journey through the world of Christopher Boone, a teenager with Asperger's syndrome, who, by telling his own story of his life over an eventful couple of months, provides the reader an immersive experience of what it might feel like to see the world through the startlingly different lens of autism. Kindle. Read 2018-06-08.

The Help, Kathryn Stockett, Multnomah County Library. 'In Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962, there are lines that are not crossed. With the civil rights movement exploding all around them, three women start a movement of their own, forever changing a town and the way women--black and white, mothers and daughters-' Kindle. Read 2018-05-28. The Great American Read on PBS.

An Imaginary Tale: The Story of i [the square root of minus one], Paul J. Nahin, Weebcentral Library. Of interest because it provides a decent explanation of complex geometry. Paperback. Re-Read (2) 2018-05-15.

Hackers, Steven Levy, Multnomah County Library. 'Steven Levy's classic book traces the exploits of the computer revolution's original hackers -- those brilliant and eccentric nerds from the late 1950s through the early '80s who took risks, bent the rules, and pushed the world in a radical new direction. With updated material from noteworthy hackers such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Stallman, and Steve Wozniak, Hackers is a fascinating story that begins in early computer research labs and leads to the first home computers. Levy profiles the imaginative brainiacs who found clever and unorthodox solutions to computer engineering problems. They had a shared sense of values, known as 'the hacker ethic,' that still thrives today. Hackers captures a seminal period in recent history when underground activities blazed a trail for today's digital world, from MIT students finagling access to clunky computer-card machines to the DIY culture that spawned the Altair and the Apple II.' Kindle. Partially-Read 2018-05-13.

QED, Richard Feynman, LA Public Library. 'Celebrated for his brilliantly quirky insights into the physical world, Nobel laureate Richard Feynman also possessed an extraordinary talent for explaining difficult concepts to the general public. Here Feynman provides a classic and definitive introduction to QED (namely quantum electrodynamics), that part of quantum field theory describing the interactions of light with charged particles. Using everyday language, spatial concepts, visualizations, and his renowned 'Feynman diagrams' instead of advanced mathematics, Feynman clearly and humorously communicates both the substance and spirit of QED to the layperson. A. Zee's new introduction places both Feynman's book and his seminal contribution to QED in historical context and further highlights Feynman's uniquely appealing and illuminating style.' Kindle. Read 2018-05-05.

Quantum Theory: A Graphic Guide To Science's Most Puzzling Discovery (Introducing...), J.P. McEvoy, Oscar Zarate, Amazon Prime. 'A step by step tour of a notoriously difficult subject, tackling the puzzle of wave duality and the famous questions raised by Bohr's 'Copenhagen Interpretation'. Scientific discoveries of the earliest 20th century destroyed assumptions about basic physics laws. At subatomic level things work very differently, one particle seems to know what others are doing, limiting how accurately nature can be observed. Yet quantum theory explanations are widely applied and very accurate.' Kindle. Partially-Read 2018-04-25.

Ordinary Geniuses, Gino Segrè, Clackamas County Library. This is a good but not great biography of two lesser-known 20th century scientists, George Gamow and Max Delbrück, both of whom show up in many historical accounts of the history of molecular biology, hence my interest. I was particularly interested in the author's depiction of Delbrück, a Nobel Prize winner late in his life for work done thirty years prior. Delbrück, who is routinely depicted as a great thought leader and a fiercely intelligent scientist, is elusive in other historical accounts, begging the question: What did he contribute, and why was his input so prized? Hardcover. Read 2018-03-26.

The Little Book Of Common Sense Investing, John C. Bogle, Clackamas County Library. 'Investing is all about common sense. Owning a diversified portfolio of stocks and holding it for the long term is a winner’s game. Trying to beat the stock market is theoretically a zero-sum game (for every winner, there must be a loser), but after the substantial costs of investing are deducted, it becomes a loser’s game. Common sense tells us—and history confirms—that the simplest and most efficient investment strategy is to buy and hold all of the nation’s publicly held businesses at very low cost. The classic index fund that owns this market portfolio is the only investment that guarantees you with your fair share of stock market returns. To learn how to make index investing work for you, there’s no better mentor than legendary mutual fund industry veteran John C. Bogle. Over the course of his long career, Bogle—founder of the Vanguard Group and creator of the world’s first index mutual fund—has relied primarily on index investing to help Vanguard’s clients build substantial wealth. Now, with The Little Book of Common Sense Investing, he wants to help you do the same. Filled with in-depth insights and practical advice, The Little Book of Common Sense Investing will show you how to incorporate this proven investment strategy into your portfolio. It will also change the very way you think about investing. Successful investing is not easy. (It requires discipline and patience.) But it is simple. For it’s all about common sense. With The Little Book of Common Sense Investing as your guide, you’ll discover how to make investing a winner’s game: Why business reality—dividend yields and earnings growth—is more important than market expectations How to overcome the powerful impact of investment costs, taxes, and inflation How the magic of compounding returns is overwhelmed by the tyranny of compounding costs What expert investors and brilliant academics—from Warren Buffett an' Hardcover. Read 2018-03-21.

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline, Multnomah County Library. 'At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, READY PLAYER ONE is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.   For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perf' Kindle. Read 2018-03-09.

Maigret Sets A Trap, Georges Simenon, Multnomah County Library. Audio Book. Read 2018-03-07.

Between The World And Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates, LA Public Library. 'Hailed by Toni Morrison as “required reading,” a bold and personal literary exploration of America’s racial history by “the single best writer on the subject of race in the United States” (The New York Observer) “This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.” In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden? Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.' Kindle. Read 2018-03-05.

Outermost House, Henry Beston, LA Public Library. 'A chronicle of a solitary year spent on a Cape Cod beach, The Outermost House has long been recognized as a classic of American nature writing. Henry Beston had originally planned to spend just two weeks in his seaside home, but was so possessed by the mysterious beauty of his surroundings that he found he 'could not go.' Instead, he sat down to try and capture in words the wonders of the magical landscape he found himself in thrall to: the migrations of seabirds, the rhythms of the tide, the windblown dunes, and the scatter of stars in the changing summer sky. Beston argued that, 'The world today is sick to its thin blood for the lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water, for air, for the dear earth itself underfoot.' Seventy-five years after they were first published, Beston's words are more true than ever.' Kindle. Partially-Read 2018-02-26.

The Beak Of The Finch, Jonathan Weiner, LA Public Library. One of the difficulties in the study of the Theory of Evolution is to find clear evidence of natural selection at work, and to find evidence of the process of the formation of new species. Darwin postulated long periods of time, many thousands of years, which severely handicaps those who employ the modern scientific approach: to look back so long a time is to find only trace evidence, much being either destroyed or simply unrecorded, so to speak. Peter and Rosemary Grant, in their recent studies of the finches of the Galapagos Islands, watched the entire finch population closely for over twenty years, and found measurable evidence of natural selection operating in the finch population, and the populations of other organisms in their ecosystem. The author helps to show that natural selection is demonstrably operating on the scale of seasons, and that it is ubiquitous, no more clearly relevant than in the study of resistance to human biological control efforts for pests and infectious diseases. Kindle. Read 2018-02-19. Recommended by my friend David Wilson.

What Men Live By, Leo Tolstoy, Website. Tolstoy remains one of my favorite writers. His War and Peace and Anna Karenina were reading investments that still pay dividends. These four short stories, in particular What Men Live By, represent some aspects of Tolstoy's later turn to a simpler and more universal religious outlook, when he eschewed organized religion, and embraced a code based on Christ's teaching alone, centering on the Golden Rule and the Sermon on the Mount. eBook. Read 2018-02-12. Recommended by my friend David Wilson.

The Hunters: A Novel, James Salter, LA Public Library. Salter, a former fighter pilot, writes directly from experience in this novel of U.S. fighter pilots in the Korean War. He draws an internal picture of the psychology of the single combat warrior, and it feels genuine. His portrayal of heroism in the cloistered world of aerial combat does not always translate into obvious laudable accomplishment. Kindle. Read 2018-02-08.

Mink River , Brian Doyle, Clackamas County Library. The Department of Public Works in the coastal village of Neawanaka on the Mink River, besides performing the ordinary public works of cleaning streets and repairing sidewalks, slowly expands over time to 'preserve history, collect stories, repair marriages, prevent crime, augment economic status, promote chess, manage insect populations, run sports leagues, isn't that a bit much? We even give haircuts.' ( page 15) Worried Man and Cedar are its two aging employees, idealists who doggedly work to carry out their mission statement: 'Brains against Pains.' ( page 45) Hardcover. Read 2018-02-05. Recommended by my friend David Wilson.

Monument Road, Charlie Quimby, Weebcentral Library. It was a pleasure to soak in the deep water that is this novel. Charlie Quimby brought back alive a world I have had only episodic contact with in my life: small towns in the far country, where as a teenager, I spent successive summers, first in a small ranching and farming town in central Oregon, second in an oil and fishing town on the Kenai peninsula in Alaska. It was not as much the characters in this novel, but their sensibility, their rhythms of speech and actions that were recognizable from my past forays beyond the city.

After the pleasure of remembrance past is the pleasure of a deceptively simple love story. It is not one of gushing romance or erotic desires, but one of sharing a full life, of living for the other person, of being deeply grateful that fate brought a companion who could see you for what you are, and who unselfishly did the everyday things that add up to a lifetime of devotion. Kindle. Read 2018-01-14. Recommended highly by my friend David Wilson.

Uncommon Type, Tom Hanks, . I read a couple of these short stories, and they were flat and a bit amateurish. Tom Hanks is a brilliant performer, but I think this book doesn't get published, or get 4/5 stars on Amazon, without his deserved fame as an actor. Hardcover. Partially-Read 2018-01-06. A gift from Cindy, Christmas 2016

Perfect Rigor, Masha Gessen, Clackamas County Library. The Poincaré conjecture, one of the great unsolved topological problems, was finally proven at the end of the 20th century by Grigoriy Perelman, a Russian mathematician of genius. Topology might be described as distilled geometry. The historian Masha Gessen, who grew up herself in the Russian mathematical culture, invites us into the Aspergian milieu of world-class geometers to tease out the tale. Hardcover. Read 2018-01-06.

Palace Of Treason, Matthews Jason, . 'A novel about star-crossed Russian agent Dominika Egorova and CIA's Nate Nash in a desperate race to the finish. Captain Dominika Egorova of the Russian Intelligence Service (SVR) has returned from the West to Moscow. She despises the men she serves, the oligarchs, and crooks, and thugs of Putin's Russia. What no one knows is that Dominika is working for the CIA as Washington's most sensitive penetration of SVR and the Kremlin. As she expertly dodges exposure, Dominika deals with a murderously psychotic boss; survives an Iranian assassination attempt; escapes a counterintelligence ambush; rescues an arrested agent and exfiltrates him out of Russia; and has a chilling midnight conversation in her nightgown with President Putin. Complicating these risks is the fact that Dominika is in love with her CIA handler, Nate Nash, and their lust is as dangerous as committing espionage in Moscow. And when a mole in the SVR finds Dominika's name on a restricted list of sources, it is a virtual death sentence...' Hardcover. Read 2017-12-24. Gift to Cindy from Duane Christmas 2017

Introduction To The Russian Mennonites, Wally Kroeker, Weebcentral Library. Excellent short history of the Dutch Mennonite migrations from Holland to Prussia to Russia to all points on the compass, particularly North America. Paperback. Re-Read (2) 2017-12-23.

Protestantism And Progress, Ernst Troeltsch, Weebcentral Library. Ernst Troeltsch was a fin de siècle Protestant theologian who wrote Protestantism and Progress: A Historical Study of Protestantism and the Modern World. This work, along with his friend Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, both written just before World War I, are reasoned historical treatments of the influence of Protestantism on the perceived and potential progress of Western society. They provide effective contrast to the often simplistic and one-sided efforts by Protestant Evangelicals to do the same, such as Francis Schaeffer's How Should We Then Live? Paperback. Re-Read (2) 2017-12-13.

Nature and the Greeks, and, Science and humanism, Erwin Schrödinger, Weebcentral Library. Schrodinger was one of the great physicists of the 20th century. His wave equation transformed quantum mechanics. He has proven a thoughtful historian and philosopher of science. Nature and the Greeks offers a historical account of the twentieth-century scientific world picture, tracing modern science back to the earliest stages of Western philosophic thought. Science and Humanism addresses some of the most fundamental questions of the century: what is the value of scientific research? And how do the achievements of modern science affect the relationship between material and spiritual matters? Kindle. Partially-Read 2017-12-13.

Flashman In The Great Game, George MacDonald Fraser, LA Public Library. 'What caused the Indian Mutiny? The greased cartridge, religious fanaticism, political blundering, yes — but one hitherto unsuspected factor is now revealed in the furtive figure which fled across the Indian scene in 1857 with such frantic haste: Flashman. For Flashman, plumbing new depths of anxious knavery in his role as secret agent extraordinary, saw far more of the Great Mutiny than he wanted to. How he survived his adventures and inevitable flights from Thugs and Tsarist agents, Eastern beauties and Cabinet ministers and kept his skin intact is a mystery as remarkable as The Flashman Papers themselves. Ther latest chapter sees him passing through this most harrowing ordeal to his supreme triumph with Courage, Duty and Honour toiling dispiritedly in his wake' Paperback. Read 2017-11-19.

Two Kinds Of Truth, Michael Connelly, LA Public Library. 'Harry Bosch is back as a volunteer working cold cases for the San Fernando Police Department and is called out to a local drug store where a young pharmacist has been murdered. Bosch and the town's 3-person detective squad sift through the clues, which lead into the dangerous, big business world of pill mills and prescription drug abuse.' Kindle. Read 2017-11-16.

A New History Of Early Christianity, Charles Freeman, Multnomah County Library. This is a very readable historical treatment of the early gestation of Christianity. The approach is explicitly historical rather than theological, allowing the author to examine the early documents and archeology in light of the culture and politics of the early Christian writers. In particular the diverse perspectives and the many contradictions found in their writings can make more sense when considering wider historical influences, such as the region the writer came from, the language(s) they spoke and didn't speak, whether they were Jewish or Gentile, their position in society, and so on. Kindle. Read 2017-11-09.

Fool, Christopher Moore, LA Public Library. 'Here's the Cliff Notes you wished you'd had for King Lear—the mad royal, his devious daughters, rhyming ghosts and a castle full of hot intrigue—in a cheeky and ribald romp that both channels and chides the Bard and all Fate's bastards. It's 1288, and the king's fool, Pocket, and his dimwit apprentice, Drool, set out to clean up the mess Lear has made of his kingdom, his family and his fortune—only to discover the truth about their own heritage. There's more murder, mayhem, mistaken identities and scene changes than you can remember, but bestselling Moore (You Suck) turns things on their head with an edgy 21st-century perspective that makes the story line as sharp, surly and slick as a game of Grand Theft Auto. Moore confesses he borrows from at least a dozen of the Bard's plays for this buffet of tragedy, comedy and medieval porn action. It's a manic, masterly mix—winning, wild and something today's groundlings will applaud. ' Paperback. Read 2017-11-05. Recommended by my brother Craig and Bob Burns

A Legacy Of Spies, John le Carré, Multnomah County Library. John le Carré surfaces with a retrospective novel that serves as a kind of prequel to one of his first novels, The Spy Who Came In from the Cold. He gives you a first person memoir from Peter Guillam, faithful subordinate of the master spy, George Smiley, giving the sordid background of the disaster that befell Alec Leamas and Elizabeth Gold in Cold War Berlin. The author assumes much: It is better if you are familiar with the author's first novels, and some of the peculiarities of the Cold War. Kindle. Read 2017-10-17.
 

Selected Recent Articles


Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment?, Immanuel Kant, Berlinische Monatschrift. 'Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. ... Sapere Aude! (Dare to know!) Have courage to use your own understanding!' Kant's famous 1784 elucidation of the critical elements of the Enlightenment still has something of value for us today. He argues that the courage to think for ones self provides the impetus for a progressive society. This cannot happen without social and political conditions which support individual freedoms, but even with that, it requires ongoing courage to question various authorities and the societal pressure to conform. Kant particularly emphasized that church and state must forsake blind paternalism and be open to constructive criticism. Read 2017-12-21.

Protestantism and Progress, Theodore Plantinga, Calvin College, 1997-04-03. Calvinist philosophy professor Theodore Plantinga suggests that post-Enlightenment Protestants, so as to act progressively or correctly in support of individual liberties, should embrace the Protestant faith, building their responses to the world on the foundation of Calvin and Luther, rather than embrace short-sighted Enlightenment ideas. Yet Plantinga agrees with Protestant theologian Ernst Troeltsch's conclusions in his influential essay Protestantism and Progress, that the modern world and its ideas of Enlightenment progress did not spring from the spirit of Protestantism, whose Reformers remained medieval in their societal expectations of the individual and in full support of the state and the Church's coercive role in religion, even as they are argued for changes in theology. How does Plantinga justify his view that the societal and moral direction of Western civilization can be improved by removing the Enlightenment influence and replacing it with the Reformational Christian outlook of the 16th century? Re-Read 2017-12-21.

Soul Survivor, David Remnick, New Yorker, 2016-04-04. Aretha Franklin recently sang at the Kennedy Center Honors tribute to Carole King, reprising the song Carole wrote for her, A Natural Woman. The performance was glorious, and drew tears from the President, as well as from myself as I watched and listened to it later on video. Obama said afterwords: 'Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R&B, rock and roll - the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope. American history wells up when Aretha sings.' Read 2016-11-03.

A New Enlightenment, George Musser, Scientific American, 2012-11-04. Can quantum theory be the savior of pure reason? Presented herein is a conceit that the metaphors of superposition and entanglement, quantum mechanical mechanisms, are useful in modeling voting and governing choices of individuals in a democracy more accurately than in looking at populations with some stated propensity to support one policy or another. Read 2016-10-31.

Language in a New Key, Paul Ibbotsen, Scientific American, 2016-11-01. Noam Chomsky has dominated linguistics, although he may be better known as a skeptic who holds the powerful accountable. His theory of universal grammar posited that humans evolved an inborn knowledge of a universal grammar structure that was triggered in children as they developed the ability to speak in their culture. The theory has been modified into a less structured structure, so to speak, but more recent studies do not seem to support the main tenets. A newer theory is emerging that is described as a usage-based approach. Children start with a set of tools like categorization, analogy construction and reading social intentions, and use them to build rules for the language they are surrounded by. With the advent of online repositories of linguistic data, the new models are being tested like they never could when Chomsky constructed his theories. Read 2016-10-28.

Chief Justice Roberts 'Had It In for the Voting Rights Act', Stephanie Mencimer, Mother Jones, 2016-10-27. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the 5-4 conservative majority opinion for Shelby County v. Holder, which removed critical protections from the 1965 Voting Rights Act, particularly that jurisdictions with a clear history of vote suppression and discrimination could not change their voting procedures without DOJ oversight. The result was a rush of voter suppression efforts in former DOJ-monitored counties (mostly the Deep South and Southwest), and in other states where Republicans control the legislature. Since Scalia died this year, a number of lower courts are overturning the worst of these voter suppression efforts, and with the current balance of the court 4-4, the Supreme Court is not able to stop the lower courts from treating all citizens of the United States as if they are equal, at least as regards voting rights. Read 2016-10-27.

John Roberts and the Shifting Politics of Race, Nathan Pippenger, Democracy Journal, 2016-10-27. 'The Chief Justice is the most powerful defender of an increasingly untenable viewpoint.' John Roberts has spent much of his legal career opposing federal voting rights laws, and spearheaded the gutting of critical voter suppression protections from the 1965 Voting Rights Act in 2013, Shelby v. Holder. Mounting opposition to this renewed attack on minority voting rights is being seen in lower courts across the nation, with some success, as Scalia's demise is, at least in the short term, making it more difficult for conservative Supreme Court justices to carry their partisan voter suppression attack forward. Read 2016-10-27.

Between the Lines of the Voting Rights Act Opinion, John Schwartz, New York Times, 2013-06-25. Excellent breakdown of the 2013 Supreme Court decision Shelby v. Holder, which removed important voter suppression protection from the 1965 Voting Rights Act, with a 5-4 decision on partisan lines. The Republican Party has since gone on a tear in various states, producing various legislation that is designed to limit their political opponents' ability to vote. Read 2016-10-27.

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