Archive for June 19th, 2009
Has the U.S. military been proseletyzing the civilians of Iraq and Afghanistan? Apparently so, according to Newsweek:
[A] civil-rights watchdog group, Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), says . . . a cadre of 40 U.S. chaplains took part in a 2003 project to distribute 2.4 million Arabic-language Bibles in Iraq. This would be a serious violation of U.S. military Central Command’s General Order Number One forbidding active-duty troops from trying to convert people to any religion.
Lots of disturbing details regarding what appears to be the Christianized military of the United States.
Ed and Deb Shapiro recently had dinner with Monica Lewinski (that Monica Lewinski) which inspired them to write this thoughtful post about how to move on from one’s low moments, and why. Many good points here. They navigate the landscape well, recognizing that there is much territory between denial and unceasing-flagellating, and that there are better and worse ways for dealing with our least proud moments. Their advise applies to all of us, some of the time.
Generally speaking, I don’t like to criticize books. Tim Powers told us at Clarion that a sale negates all criticism. That may be more true with fiction (though I reserve the right to privately diss any book that’s badly done, regardless) but when it comes to nonfiction, I find it inexcusable.
I’ve been slogging—slogging, mind you—through a history of the rise of the Spanish Empire under Fernando and Isabel, the period during which the New World (?) was discovered by Europeans and Spain became the pre-eminent power on the global scene. The book is called Rivers of Gold and it was penned by one Hugh Thomas, published in 2003. I’m finding it virtually unreadable.
Partly this is a style issue. The prose are flat, lifeless. He makes the mistake of introducing casts of characters in one-paragraph lumps, as if the average reader is going to remember all these people, many of whom do not seem to matter in later parts of the narrative. We are given chunks of delightful detail about some things (the make-up of Columbus’s crews on both the first and second voyage, which is very telling about the geopolitics of the day) and the rather revolutionary nature of Fernando’s and Isabel’s co-rule (for it was genuinely a partnership) and then little about other things (like the ultimate disposition of the Muslim populations after the fall of Granada and what happened to their libraries, which directly impacted the rest of Europe).
But these are small quibbles. Thomas seems to have a bias toward Christianity, but he is clearly restraining himself throughout and attempting to be even-handed, and largely succeeds (sincere mourning for what became of the Jews). He orders the events well, so that we see the relevance of Fernando and Isabel adhering to Law rather than acting as autocrats and their background and education as it affected their judgment concerning what Columbus found and what his enemies told them.