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Reading is Fundamental

October 1, 2009

You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture.
Just get people to stop reading them.
~ Ray Bradbury ~

The library, I believe, is the last of our public institutions
to which you can go without credentials.
You don’t even need the sticker on your windshield
that you need to get into the public beach.
All you need is the willingness to read.
~ Harry Golden ~

How much longer will it be the case that a willingness to read is the only credential needed for access to books?

One library recently announced that they are doing away with books altogether and replacing them with a digital format. The only problem is not everyone will have access to the new system as the library is purchasing only a limited amount of digital readers.

And even if you have access to a computer or a digital reader, you may have to go through Google to get the book you want.

Google announced in 2004 its plan to digitize millions of books and make them available online. Books in the public domain would be made freely available. Newer books, published since 1923 and for which copyright still exists, would still be online, but viewable only in what Google called “snippets.” Two groups, The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, sued, alleging copyright violations. In October 2008, the groups and Google announced a settlement to the lawsuits, dubbed the “Google Book Settlement” (GBS). Google would pay $125 million and create the Books Rights Registry, a new organization that would direct funds from the settlement, and future revenue from book sales, to the copyright holders. Google would be empowered to not only display works, but also to become a massive, online electronic bookstore.

The settlement grants Google, automatically, permission to scan, display and sell books that are still in copyright but are deemed “out of print,” and for which the copyright holder cannot be easily found. These are referred to as “orphan works.” The status of orphan works has been the subject of much debate, and legislation has been proposed to make orphan works more available to the public. The GBS gives Google, and only Google, the legal right to digitize and sell these works.

As the article mentions people are fighting this decision and even the US Justice Department has weighed in against it, as well they should. This vast trove of information and knowledge should not be the property of one corporation alone, especially since Google did absolutely nothing to create the content they seek to control.

These days our civil rights are being abridged and abrogated one after another. As we fight for our right to be able to continue to speak freely, we must remember to fight for the right to continue to read the speech of others freely as well.

The failure to read good books both enfeebles the vision
and strengthens our most fatal tendency–
the belief that the here and now is all there is.
~ Allan Bloom ~

29 Comments leave one →
  1. cometman permalink*
    October 1, 2009 9:47 am

    Heh. Very sarcastic post from zerohedge on the quality of their reportage and readership which even takes a swipe at Klub Kumquat. Funny stuff.

    • Stemella permalink*
      October 1, 2009 12:40 pm

      More on ZH, this time from Felix Salmon – and the focus continues to be about the egos, not the more important story that the banksters are still robbing us blind and sending us back to the age of warlords and robber barons.

      The Zero Hedgies

      • cometman permalink*
        October 1, 2009 1:15 pm

        Yup. Barely a word in that article about the actual facts that zerohedge presents. I think the problem a lot of people have with that site is that zerohedge does the work they are supposed to be doing regarding financial reporting and that makes the cheerleaders on CNBC, etc who have been dead wrong look really stupid.

  2. Stemella permalink*
    October 1, 2009 11:05 am

    Wonderful picture and post, c-man. If books all become digitized and libraries become condensed to laptops with content selected by uber fascist corporations, then we will simply have to return to handing out leaflets written on palm fronds, sheep skin, or paper made from rags. The pendulum will eventually swing up again. Right now it is swooping downward.

    Google is becoming big brother and Amazon is becoming a pimp with its kindle.

    The independent bookstore is dying in every city across the nation. Publishing houses chase the elusive bottom line, printing the lowest common denominator. Libraries are being killed by budget slashings. This year Stanford University had to close its famous Physics library and laid off 60 people throughout the system. Many other major university libraries are also in dire straights. link

    The trend is for Library and Information Science programs to be relegated to on line distance learning courses.

    Youngins more often than not write in texting code or twitter and only rarely do people send hand written letters.

    Teachers have the task today to not only teach literacy, but to try to teach critical thinking in the age of texting and youtubing and instant gratification.

    In spite of all this I am confident that the written word in non electronic form will survive. It may go underground. It may not be as easily accessible to the masses at some point. It will, however, survive and will be revived when the time comes for it to be again necessary.

    “Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity.” Christopher Morley (1890 – 1957)

    “Frederick Douglas taught that literacy is the path from slavery to freedom. There are many kinds of slavery and many kinds of freedom. But reading is still the path.” Carl Sagan

    “If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are rotten, either write things worth reading or do things worth the writing.” Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790)

    • cometman permalink*
      October 1, 2009 1:22 pm

      Wow. Stanford is closing its Physics library?!?!?! Stanford? We’re not talking about Northeast Western Tumbleweed State U here. That is truly depressing.

      I still try to get most of my books from independent bookstores and you’ve probably noticed that when I link to certain books I use the Powell’s website most of the time which is deliberate on my part. I do make the occasional foray to Border’s when I don’t get my order in with the local store and need to get something quickly. Shamefully, I have to do that tonight since I’m going on a little vacation and I need some reading material for my upcoming flight.

      • Stemella permalink*
        October 1, 2009 2:31 pm

        Have a safe trip and a good time. And enjoy your new book! :)

    • sisdevore permalink
      October 1, 2009 6:40 pm

      ugh, no kidding. the on-line MLS is a cash cow, but the Art Dept…..

      I’m going underwater for a bit, then coming back up to read.

  3. Stemella permalink*
    October 1, 2009 7:51 pm

    A story worth tracking to see what evolves.

    Sacked envoy Peter Galbraith accuses UN of ‘cover-up’ on Afghan vote fraud

    Peter Galbraith is brother of economist Jamie Galbraith (both sons of economist John K. Galbraith). He was sacked yesterday by Ban Ki Moon for refusing, according to Galbraith, to go along with the cover up of the voting fraud in Karzai’s reselection.

    “I think it’s astonishing that the United Nations would dismiss an official because he was concerned about fraud in a UN-funded and UN-supported election,” Mr Galbraith told The Times yesterday from his farmhouse in Vermont.

    “I want to emphasise that my position was not for or against any candidate. It was simply that the votes should be honestly counted.

    “I was not prepared to be complicit in a cover-up or in an effort to downplay the fraud that took place. I felt we had to face squarely the fraud that took place. Kai downplayed the fraud.”

    The row between Mr Galbraith and Mr Eide goes to the core of international strategy in Afghanistan and has split the UN mission there. Sources said five members of the UN mission in Afghanistan had offered their resignation in support of Mr Galbraith.


  4. Stemella permalink*
    October 1, 2009 8:03 pm

    Speaking of Amazon, the case over it’s bullshit decision to delete Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from kindle has been settled.

    A Michigan high school student,

    Justin Gawronski, was so incensed that he sued the online retailer, alleging that Amazon essentially ate his homework when it removed his copy of “1984” and caused his “copious notes” to disappear. Now Amazon has settled the lawsuit with Gawronski and a co-plaintiff. As part of the deal, which awaits court approval, Amazon said it “will not remotely delete or modify” works on Kindles, with some exceptions.

    = snip =

    As part of the settlement, Amazon will pay a fee of $150,000 to the plaintiff’s lawyers, and the plaintiff’s lead law firm KamberEdelson LLC will donate its portion of that fee to charity.

  5. Stemella permalink*
    October 4, 2009 8:35 pm

    Some fundamental reading on deflated politics and economics, worthy of a Monday.

    Inside the Crisis
    Larry Summers and the White House economic team.

    Stiglitz Deflation Threat Pushes Fed to Stay at Zero

    Roubini Says Stocks Have Risen ‘Too Much, Too Soon, Too Fast’

    and a bonus for the phans of physics A Unied theory of Superman’s Powers

  6. Stemella permalink*
    October 5, 2009 5:45 am

    Goldie Sux has shut off the faucet of one of its blood funnels that feeds political campaign coffers via its PAC.

    Goldman, influence intact, lets one well run dry

    The article suggests that the Govt is now pwnd and Goldman no longer needs to bother with petty things like elections. Though they have sent a token to Chris Dodd.

    Even though Goldman’s PAC is not raising money, filings show it has given out about $25,000 this year, including $2,000 to Christopher Dodd, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Banking Committee and is facing an uphill battle for re-election.

    Goldman has also been active in responding to regulators. For example, it has come out against the Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposed new rules on short-selling.

    “I don’t see any indication Goldman’s influence is waning in D.C.,” Rosenfield said. “Every which way you look they come out on top.”

    I suspect their $$ influence is now being funneled more deeply and further obscured under the spiny cloak of the vampire squid.

    Speaking of high crimes and such, Goldman owed $1 billion if CIT fails

    Goldman Sachs Group Inc would be due a payment of about $1 billion if troubled commercial lender CIT Group were to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to a source familiar with the matter.

    Goldman would be owed the payment under a $3 billion rescue finance package it gave to CIT in June 2008. That rescue came before the U.S. government bought $2.33 billion of CIT preferred shares in December.

    CIT would be required to pay the $1 billion as a “make-whole payment” under that agreement.

    Nice return on the investment there Goldie! I wonder how many small businesses will have to close up shop as a result of a CIT bankruptcy?

    CIT is busy playing shellgame with its Board structure to try to stave off that eventuality of further feeding the squid.

    • cometman permalink*
      October 6, 2009 12:32 pm

      So they’re so entrenched now they don’t even have to lobby. Great. And still not many in the corporate media making the connection between Goldman Sux alums in the Obama administration and the amount of money they gave to Obama’s campaign.

  7. Stemella permalink*
    October 5, 2009 8:56 am

    Here’s an excerpt of Sorkin’s soon to be released book, Too Big to Fail in Vanity Fair.

    and this is another one of those Jack’s complete lack of surprise stories

    Senior U.S. officials deliberately created the impression last year that banks receiving huge government cash infusions were healthier than was the case

    In other words, Hank and Ben lied.

    Move along, nothing to see here.

    Bottom dwelling anaerobic feces eaters and maternal fornicators.

  8. Stemella permalink*
    October 5, 2009 5:54 pm

    Excellent discussion here between Nomi Prins, Dean Baker, James Mumm and Laura Flanders.

    and check this out Showdown in Chicago

    • cometman permalink*
      October 6, 2009 12:55 pm

      It would be nice if those planned Chicago protests got some coverage and shook some things up. But I’m not holding my breath, especially after heading this article describing how organized protests by the grass roots group Health Care for America Now (HCAN) got practically no coverage at all. The media came up with all kinds of ridiculous excuses for not covering the HCAN events.

      “At a certain point,” Indianapolis Star senior editor Jenny Green told us, the demonstrators are “not adding to the debate. They’re just one side saying exactly what you’d expect them to say.”

      Her colleague, Greg Weaver, the Star’s deputy public service editor for business, maintained that the raucous town meetings of August, dominated by conservative activists shouting down Democratic Congressmembers, were newsworthy because they “are more of a public forum where you have many sides of the debate, whereas at the [HCAN] protest [at WellPoint CEO Bray’s house] you have only one side of the debate.”

      “I did not think the protest at [Cigna CEO] Hanway’s house was news,” Philadelphia Inquirer business reporter Jane Von Bergen told us. “It was a staged event. It wasn’t real news. I avoid them. I can’t stand them. They don’t add anything. They don’t teach anything. If they go to his house, we don’t learn anything more about the health care debate.” The protest was “too manufactured,” said Von Bergen. “Just a bunch of people going blah-blah-blah.”

      No coverage because it was staged?!?!?!?! And the tea bagger protests weren’t? What the fuck planet is this guy living on? I guess if the events are staged by your corporate media colleagues at Faux News and CNBC, then they’re worthy of coverage. Rrrrrrrrrrrrr.

  9. Stemella permalink*
    October 6, 2009 8:24 am

    A call for the end of the Fishing Industrial Complex Aquacalypse Now: The End of Fish

    Our oceans have been the victims of a giant Ponzi scheme, waged with Bernie Madoff–like callousness by the world’s fisheries. Beginning in the 1950s, as their operations became increasingly industrialized–with onboard refrigeration, acoustic fish-finders, and, later, GPS–they first depleted stocks of cod, hake, flounder, sole, and halibut in the Northern Hemisphere. As those stocks disappeared, the fleets moved southward, to the coasts of developing nations and, ultimately, all the way to the shores of Antarctica, searching for icefishes and rockcods, and, more recently, for small, shrimplike krill. As the bounty of coastal waters dropped, fisheries moved further offshore, to deeper waters. And, finally, as the larger fish began to disappear, boats began to catch fish that were smaller and uglier–fish never before considered fit for human consumption.

    • cometman permalink*
      October 6, 2009 12:25 pm

      That article is right on the money. When I was a kid my dad and I went flounder fishing with a friend. I wasn’t that good at it and all I could catch were skate. Our friend said they were considered garbage so we just threw them back. Now since there is no cod left, four and five star restaurants in the northeast are serving skate and monkfish, another bottom feeder, on a regular basis.

      The expanding demand for sushi is really doing a number on a lot of species. In the early 90s I went to Greece, jumped in the water and came out with urchin spines all over my feet. Now 15 years or so later all the urchins were gone and when I asked a local fisherman about it they told me it wasn’t just in that local area but all over the Mediterranean. Evidently the high prices they can command at sushi places led fishermen to wipe them out.

      Another food that was once considered garbage was lobster and it used to be fed to prisoners. Changing cultural mores probably have more to do with lobster being considered a delicacy now than overfishing alone, but it certainly played a part. I read the fascinating book The Secret Life of Lobsters a couple years ago and it touched on the relationship between cod and lobster in the NE. In Native American archaeological sites, there were very few remains of lobsters found but lots and lots of big cod bones. Turns out cod are quite fond of lobsters and when they were plentiful they ate all the lobsters near the shore that would have been accessible to native fishermen. Once the fishing fleets took over they wiped out the cod and the lobsters started moving in closer to shore. The book is pretty uplifting because the lobster fishery is actually very healthy. At one point they were overfished too but around 1950s fishermen took it upon themselves to preserve the breeding stock so they wouldn’t have to face stricter catch limits. Now any female with eggs attached is thrown back in after a notch is cut in the tail to mark it as a breeder, and after that all breeders are thrown back whether they have eggs or not. The large breeders can produce more than enough eggs every year to replenish the supply.

      • Stemella permalink*
        October 7, 2009 10:32 am

        Glad to know the lobster fishery has been well managed, unlike so many other fisheries. I do my part by not eating lobster as it too rich for my tastes. Same with crab.

        So much is out of balance in the ocean now with over harvesting, acidification, pollution and climate changes.

        Somewhat related, I went to see Michael Moore’s Capitalism movie a few days back and there was a trailer for a new Disney film called “Oceans” that looked like great eye candy worthy of seeing in a theater. It is due in 2010.

        here’s the trailer

  10. cometman permalink*
    October 6, 2009 1:17 pm

    Almost ready to order my neural shunt! :P Check this out – Brain to brain communication.

    His experiment had one person using BCI to transmit thoughts, translated as a series of binary digits, over the internet to another person whose computer receives the digits and transmits them to the second user’s brain through flashing an LED lamp.

    While attached to an EEG amplifier, the first person would generate and transmit a series of binary digits, imagining moving their left arm for zero and their right arm for one. The second person was also attached to an EEG amplifier and their PC would pick up the stream of binary digits and flash an LED lamp at two different frequencies, one for zero and the other one for one. The pattern of the flashing LEDs is too subtle to be picked by the second person, but it is picked up by electrodes measuring the visual cortex of the recipient.

    The encoded information is then extracted from the brain activity of the second user and the PC can decipher whether a zero or a one was transmitted. This shows true brain-to-brain activity.

    Here’s the video mentioned in the article.

    • Stemella permalink*
      October 7, 2009 10:17 am

      What if you have a no brainer on one end who eats the EEG conductive paste? ;)

      Brave New World coming to fruition.

  11. cometman permalink*
    October 6, 2009 1:25 pm

    New species of glow in the dark mushrooms discovered.

    Seven new glow-in-the-dark mushroom species have been discovered, increasing the number of known luminescent fungi species from 64 to 71. Reported in the journal Mycologia, the new finds include two new species named after movements in Mozart’s Requiem. The discoveries also shed light on the evolution of luminescence, adding to the number of known lineages in the fungi ‘family tree’ where luminescence has been reported.


    Three quarters of glowing mushrooms, including the species described in the study, belong to the Mycena genus, a group of mushrooms that feed off and decompose organic matter as a source of nutrients to sustain their growth.

    Now if someone can figure out how to hybridize the glow in the dark varieties of the Mycena genus with the Psilocybe genus, we’ll soon have much more entertaining parties :)

    • Stemella permalink*
      October 7, 2009 10:11 am

      It would sure make hunting for them in the wild a lot easier were there to be such a cross breed! Follow glowing green caps!

  12. cometman permalink*
    October 6, 2009 1:55 pm

    Conservatives reach for new heights of stupidity. Now they want to rewrite the Bible to remove “liberal bias”.

    And evidently many of Jesus’ other teachings — from the “turn the other cheek” lesson, to his disdain for profiteering — will also no longer be acceptable in the conservative Bible.

    “Socialistic terminology permeates English translations of the Bible, without justification,” the Web site states — a strange assertion, given that English versions of the Bible date back at least to the 16th century, while socialism as a concept was formed in the 18th century.

    To combat the Bible’s “socialism,” the Conservative Bible Project wants to see Biblical use of the words “comrade,” “labor” and “fellow” (as in “fellow worker”) reduced.

    Yeah, and screw that socialist King James who commissioned the English translation in the first place. Fucking commie.

    I think I need to find one of those “Jeebus please save me from your followers” bumper stickers soon…

    • triv33 permalink
      October 6, 2009 6:57 pm

      Hey there! I know I’ve been absent here of late, real life crap and local online goading of some tea-baggers have kept me a tad busy. I don’t know if you caught this exchange between hidden comment and me in your cross post, but I thought you might enjoy it.

      • cometman permalink*
        October 7, 2009 11:47 am

        I did see that. That video was great and I think I have a crush on that woman now ;)

  13. Stemella permalink*
    October 7, 2009 10:07 am

    Interesting article by Simon Johnson who provides a possible explanation for Bernanke’s current dollar devaluation project.

    Obamas secret jobs plan

    It sure seems risky, and as usual if it fails, the working people eat it.

  14. Stemella permalink*
    October 7, 2009 10:10 am

    This explains a lot

    Universe has more entropy than thought

    A new calculation of entropy upholds that general result but suggests that the universe is messier than scientists had thought — and slightly further along on its gradual journey to death, two Australian cosmologists conclude.

    An analysis by Chas Egan of the Australian National University in Canberra and Charles Lineweaver of the University of New South Wales in Sydney indicates that the collective entropy of all the supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies is about 100 times higher than previously calculated. Because supermassive black holes are the largest contributor to cosmic entropy, the finding suggests that the entropy of the universe is also about 100 times larger than previous estimates, the researchers reported online September 23 at

    • cometman permalink*
      October 7, 2009 12:03 pm

      That is very interesting. I have to say that entropy is one of those concepts I’ve never really grasped. I get the basic concept that over time systems move from an ordered state to a disordered one but there is something that just doesn’t seem right about the whole idea. The problem I have is difficult to put into words and it’s the same feeling I get when I read about the anthropic principle – basically that the theory is based on what we perceive to be happening to the best of our knowledge. But if science has taught us anything it’s how much we still have to figure out that may be going on beyond our perception.

      Yes, once you break an egg you can’t put it back together again the way it was before. You can try to restore it but it will never be exactly the same. But it is possible to create a new, ordered egg out of the disorder of the universe which would seem to mean that entropy is decreasing over time at least in that case. A star blows up (entropy increases) and spreads heavier elements like carbon around. Over time gas clouds (which contain some of that carbon among other things) coalesce and form a new star and planetary system like our own (entropy decreases). Some of the matter in it is in the form of a meteor. The meteor containing carbon falls to earth(entropy increases). A corn plant grows on that ground and uses some of the carbon. The corn is fed to a chicken which then lays a new egg (entropy decreases). To me entropy seems to be cyclical. I know the theory is that eventually the universe will just peter out as entropy increases and all the fuel in it is exhausted, but that’s only one theory and how do we know that the material in what we call our universe doesn’t just go to start another one somewhere else?

      I guess what I’m trying to say is that deciding whether a system is “ordered” or not seems to be a concept developed by human beings and may not actually correspond to what reality turns out to be.

      Does that make any sense? I’m not sure I understand exactly what I’m trying to say either…

      • Stemella permalink*
        October 8, 2009 7:07 am

        Yes that makes sense. When one is describing something so theoretical, complex and ultimately untestable, such as the end of life, the universe and everything as represented by 10 to the 104 vs 10 to the 122 when entropy overcomes the entire system, it is very likely there are mechanics going on that are unperceived by the minds of scientists in a handful of universities.

        I think this broad generalization they came up with:

        “The universe is incredibly more orderly than it has any right to be. Egan and Lineweaver have shown that it’s just a bit more disorderly than we thought.”

        sums it up best.

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