Phil Shannon

The Passion Of Bradley Manning: The Story Behind the WikiLeaks Whistleblower
Chase Madar
Verso, 2013
181 pages, $19.95 (pb)

The issue in the trial of Bradley Manning, the source of tens of thousands of US military and state secrets leaked to WikiLeaks, is, in some eyes, simple.

“He broke the law,” lectured United States President Barack Obama, conveniently overlooking, as Chase Madar comments in his book on Manning, the routine violation by the ruling elite of the principle that “rules are rules”.

The Bracegirdle Incident: How an Australian Communist Ignited Ceylon’s Independence Struggle
Alan Fewster
Arcadia/Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2013
173 pages, $39.95 (pb)

In 1937, Ceylon’s British Chief of Police reported that “it is clearly dangerous” to allow the Australian communist Mark Bracegirdle, to remain in the country “stirring up feelings against employers of labour and against the British Government”.

Project Republic: Plans & Arguments for a New Australia
Edited by Benjamin T Jones & Mark Mckenna
Black Inc, 2013
251 pages, $29.99 (pb)

If the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) represents those who wish to make Australia a republic, yet the ARM sends congratulations to the Queen last year on her 60th year of rule from London, what hope is there for Australia becoming a royal-free zone?

Not much, must be the conclusion, after reading the ARM’s call-to-republican-arms book, Project Republic.

Earthmasters: Playing God With The Climate
Clive Hamilton
Allen & Unwin, 2013
247 pages, $24.99 (pb)

“Never let a good crisis go to waste,” seems to be the philosophy, says Clive Hamilton in Earthmasters, of the fossil fuel companies, the World Bank and the billionaire “techno-entrepreneurs” like Bill Gates and Richard Branson who are funding research into geo-engineering schemes for “large-scale intervention in the climate system designed to counter global warming”.

Drone Warfare: Killing By Remote Control
Medea Benjamin
Verso, 2013
246 pages, $24.95(pb)

“Never before in the history of warfare,” boasted the Wall Street Journal, “have we been able to distinguish as well between combatants and civilians as we can with drones”.

The Obama administration has helped in this claim, writes Medea Benjamin in her book on the “unmanned aerial vehicle”, by conveniently defining every military-age male in a drone strike zone as a “combatant”.

Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis & Volcanoes
Bill McGuire
Oxford University Press, 2012
303 pages, $35.95 (hb)

It is easy to forget, says Professor Bill McGuire of University College London in Waking the Giant, that human civilisation has thrived only in the broadly benign climate of the past few thousand years following the end of the last post-glacial era.

Greening The Media
Richard Maxwell & Toby Miller
Oxford University Press, 2012
246 pages, $44.80 (pb)

There is a reason why the typical electronic product warranty lasts only 12 months, say Richard Maxwell and Toby Miller in Greening the Media.

Most digital devices are designed to “break or become uncool” after just a year, requiring regular product replacements or upgrades.

The Price of Valour: The Triumph & Tragedy of a Gallipoli Hero, Hugo Throssell, VC
John Hamilton
Pan Macmillan, 2012
393 pages, $34.99 (pb)

Captain Hugo Throssell, one of nine Australian soldiers to win a Victoria Cross for supreme bravery at Gallipoli in 1915, stunned his home-town audience of patriotic Australians in 1919 with his statement that “the war has made me a socialist”.

Overdress: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion
By Elizabeth Cline
Penguin, 2012, 244 pages
$37.95 (hb)

Every year, Americans buy 20 billion garments, mostly from mass market clothes-makers such as Gap, Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, Wal-Mart and Target. They then throw away 13 million tons of it says a reformed clothing-addict, Elizabeth Cline, in Overdressed.

Charity shops can’t soak up the excess with less than 20% of thrift-shop clothing donations sold on. Most of the rest goes to landfill.

Whackademia: An Insider’s Account of the Troubled University
Richard Hil
NewSouth Publishing, 2012
239 pages, $34.99 (pb)

Universities were better in the olden days, says Dr Richard Hil in Whackademia.

As an Essex University student in the 1970s, Hil joined the British Socialist Workers Party (which expanded his political horizons) and the Campaign for Real Ale (which expanded his waistline), while his lecturers stimulated his intellectual growth.

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