Friday, December 17, 2010

Insectopedia by Hugh Raffles

I have always found insects fascinating. And, insects make up an incredible amount of the total biomass of the earth. Ants make up about 10% alone and all social insects some 30% of the earth’s biomass. Insects probably have more biomass than any other land animal. A great insects site on the internet is World of Insects.

But, this book is not your normal book on insects. This interesting book is about our reactions and inter-reactions with insects. We probably have relatively little knowledge of the insects of our world. One chapter talks about a plane being used in Louisiana to trap insects in the sky. They found lots of insects 5,000 to 15,000 feet in the sky. We are not talking about insects that normally fly; we are talking about insects that are using the world’s air currents to go to another place.

His chapter on cricket in China is also fascinating. There crickets are looked after and trained to fight. It seems to be a mixture of art and science that is used by cricket fanciers. There is a whole different culture involving crickets. See Cricket Cultural for a history about crickets in China. Also, cricket cages are still sold in China, see Asian Art Mall.

See him on YouTube at Book Review for a short talk on his book or see him at Google for a 45 minute talk on his book.

Hugh Raffles has a wonderful site on this book at Insectopedia. You can find a review of this book at New York Times.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Raffles. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

War in Human Civilization by Azar Gat

From a women’s point of view, what I found interesting is when he was talking about the hunter-gatherer societies. He talks how there was a disproportionate number of men to women. He does not come out and directly say this, but it would imply these societies practices infanticide on their female children. There was war or raiding going on in these societies and one big reason for this was for men to get wives.

When he talks about why these people go to war, reasons are women, murder and territorial trespass. It would seem that deadly conflict was ever expected amount these societies. “The fear of this restricted people to well-circumscribed home territories and necessitated constant precautions and special protective measures. Killing in fighting was among the main causes or mortality.” (This is quoted from page 35 of my paperback copy).

The other thing I like to note here is that we are becoming less and less violent as we become more civilized. We seem to think that we are naturally violent, but this does not seem to be true. (He talks about the Swiss and the Swedes. Both these people had very violent past, yet they are the most peaceful people today (page 40). Of course, the thing is that when we became more civilized violence became the domain of the rulers. We humans are nothing is not interesting.

You can find a good book review at BNET. This BNET review is by Michael Neiberg. Another review is at T. Kunikov’s blog. Although with the last one, it would be easier to read if he divided his review into paragraphs. There is also a good review at New Books In History. This review is by Marshall Poe. And, there is another review at Polical Review. This last review is by Keith Stanski.

I found this a great read. The main thing that may turn people off this book is its length. It is a long book. However, I think that the book is worth the effort.

Azar Gat is an interesting commentator. See his views on The Return of Authoritarian Capitalists. This article is in the New York Times.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Gat. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War, Buchanan

The full title of this book is Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War - How Britain Lost its Empire and the West Lost the World. The book is by Patrick J. Buchanan. Buchanan was a senior adviser to three American Presidents of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan. Buchanan is a syndicated columnist and founding member of three of American’s public affairs shows of NBC’s The McLaughlin Group and CNN’s The Capital Gang and Crossfire. He is a senior political analyst for MSNBC.

Buchanan has many interesting things to say about the war. As many historians currently seem to be doing, he is looking at WWI and WWII as one war. He calls the world wars the Great Civil War of the West. This is an interesting idea and certainly worth considering.

He talks about how the Eastern Europeans saw Stalin as a bigger threat to them than Hitler. They may have been right. I know when I worked with some Eastern Europeans they certainly express that view. A lot of historians, including Buchanan certainly think that Britain made some bad choices in both world wars. Britain certainly lost its empire because of these wars. Part of the reason was that the US did not support a British Empire. They support the UK in the fighting, but not the British Empire. This has a lot to do with why the British Empire was dismantled following WWII.

There is an entry on Wikipedia for Buchanan at Pat Buchanan. He has his own web site and blog at Patrick J. Buchanan.

You can find Buchanan on YouTube at Buchanan. What I have linked to is part 1 of a 10 part series (1 hour) of Buchanan talking about his book. For a typical book review, see the one at Magistra Mater. There is a review by Adam Kirsch, which completely pans this book and you can find it at The Sun.

I must say that I personally liked the book. I find it thought provoking. You may not agree with his views, but the book is well written. It also makes you think about the two world wars we suffered.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Buchanan. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Human Web by McNeill & McNeill

The full title of this book is The Human Web, A Bird’s eye view of World History. The Authors are father and son of J. H. McNeill and William H. McNeill. Both these historians are great writers and write history as it should be written (unlike the Times History of the World). Both of these writers have interesting things to say and have interesting view points on history. If you read any of these books, you will not be disappointed.

Thought Eurasia there was a cycle of steppe conquest and native resurgence. Most civilizations governments of Eurasia were at one time descendants of steppe conquerors, either directly or indirectly. It was Chinese armies after 1757 that destroyed the last steppe confederation to challenger an agrarian empire in Eurasia.

They make some other interesting comments on China, which had a market system going back a very long way. They also talk about how the Muslim and Chinese economic enterprises were all management by extended families. The strength of family ties made it difficult or impossible to trust outsiders and this limited the scale of their economic enterprises.

In European societies, the extended family ties were weak and we instead developed stock companies. In European rural areas, people worked in plow teams where members of the team came from different families. If a member of a team did not do their fair share of the work or did not deal honestly with his fellows, then they could be excluded from a plow team the next year, a dire penality. The plow team required mutual trust and cooperation beyond the limits of blood. Could this be why Europeans were prepared to trust one another?

For a book review see and at Goliath Business Knowledge.

See an entry for J. R. (John Robert) McNeill on Wikipedia at J. R. McNeill and for William H. McNeill on Wikipedia at William Hardy McNeill.

You can find William H. McNeill on Youtube. William H. McNeill talks about the study of history and how he came to write the Rise of the West at McNeill. See also William H. McNeill and David Christian discuss "Big History" at YouTube. David Christian has written “Maps of Time - An Introduction to Big History”.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See McNeill. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

Monday, November 1, 2010

History of the World by Richard Overy

This book’s full title is “The Times” History of the World. I will be reviewing another History of the World type book next. The second one is much, much better than this bland, very politically correct one, with no passion and no enthusiasm for the subject matter. The book is not bad if you want an historical overview and you are not much concerned about details. The book seems to be written by a committee and it shows. It is also curious, that the only book reviews I can find are by book stores.

The introduction in this book is the most interesting part. Richard Overy makes an interesting point of how Greek Culture was diffused, but the Chinese Culture was not. He also talks about how obtaining food only got to be a problem with agriculture and civilization. However, these themes and other in the introduction never seem to be followed up in the book. From what I can gather from the book, this is the only part that was actually written by Richard Overy. The rest seem to be written by others, but it is not clear who wrote what.

I must admit, that I find that you get little from books that are so politically correct at all times. Perhaps more people might read history if more history book writers were more passionate about what they write. I do not mind ready history from points of view different from my own. I in fact often enjoy such books. However, I find the politically correct movement writers too insipid, too boring and very annoying and it makes for bad history. In other words, such books suck.

I note that that has a section on the Jewish Diaspora that occurred from 70AD to 1800 AD. However, he fails to mention that in the 12 century there were more Jews living in the Middle East than in Europe. Might the problem be that he might have to explore what might have happen to these people? I am sorry that I am so negative on this book.

I note this author has a nice write up in at Wikipedia. (This is another place that can be boringly politically correct.) Richard Overy is considered to be a WWII historian. He is on YouTube at talking about the Poles in 1939. He is also on YouTube talking about bombing in the WWII at The effects of WWII air-raids.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Overy. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

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Water by Steven Solomon

The full title of this book is Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization. This is a great book for anyone concerned with our environment. We never seem to value water. We seem to feel it should be free. Unfortunately, humans place little value on what is free. To state that we abuse our water, fresh or otherwise, is to grossly underestimate the harm we are doing.

I do have on quibble with this book Solomon may understand water and our history with it, but he does not have the same understanding of history. For example, he states that the Islamic Middle East made math discoveries. However, the Islamic Middle East got their math from the Greeks, the Indians and even ancient Egypt. Our “Arabic” numerals came from India. Our Greek knowledge was preserved and transmitted to Europe by Christians in the Middle East. Europe did not recognize the Christians of the Middle East as Christians as they were not Catholic. However, this is way off topic.

Steven Solomon does make an interesting observation about sub-Saharan Africa. Although there was some impressive civilization there that developed around the Niger River, and the headwaters of the Senegal and Gambia Rivers, there just was not the development that occurred in Europe, Asia or the Americas. He talks about how these civilizations were isolated behind barriers of large deserts and the impenetrable ocean that limited their ability to engage with other societies. This could well explain the lack of development in Africa that occurs elsewhere.

One interesting thing he talks about is how the West is currently endowed with a water resource advantage. In most of the Western world, there is generally modest population pressure and a moist, temperate environment, making the West an overall water power. This did not help initiate civilization in our moist temperate areas, but it is now an advantage. As we, all know, civilization started in the relatively dry areas that were river valleys. These areas depended on irrigation systems and now seem to be all in trouble with having enough water.

Our civilization seems to have advanced so much over the last hundred years. So is it now surprising to find that electricity generation has not? I mean that we generate electricity using water in the same old ways. We create steam to move turbines to generate electricity or we use rushing water (i.e. dams or waterfalls) to turn turbines to generate electricity. I know we are trying to do this differently, that is use windmills (actually an old idea) or use the sun, but we have not made that much progress yet.

I knew about the huge water aquifer in the Midwest of the United States. I did not know that Saudi Arabia also has one that they are tapping. The one in Saudi Arabia is much further below the surface at ¼ mile deep. The one thing that is the same as in America, they are taking out far too much water for this to last long. Libya also has a big aquifer called Nubian Sandstone Aquifer. And guess what, Libya is intent on taking as much as they can from it and damn the future also.

Also, I knew about the destruction of the Aral Sea by the Russians. However, I had not heard of Lake Chad’s destruction. I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This city is on a big lake, Lake Ontario, where we get all our drinking water. People always seem to feel that you can not destroy large bodies of water. The problem, of course, is that you can. All the people living a round this lake have acted in the last 30 years to clean up the lake as it got quite polluted. However, to this day, when there is a big storm in Toronto, we still put raw sewage into Lake Ontario. We have not separated our storm sewers from our other sewer system and a big storm will overload our plants that clean the water that is to be put back into the lake. We are no better than anyone else is.

Steven Solomon has his own web page at Waterblog. There is also a site talking about Steven Solomon devoted to the Global Water Crisis. There is an interesting review of this book at WaterWired. There is a book review at the Los Angeles Times.

He is a speaker on Carnegie Council’s website. See videos for Steven Solomon under Resources at Carnegie Council. The video on this site is about 1 hour long. However, it is not very interesting. Steven just reads from prepared notes. However, there are lots of great interviews on this site, so you might want to check it out even if you do not listen to Steven Solomon.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Solomon. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

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IOU by John Lanchester

The full title of this book is IOU: Why Everyone Owes Everyone, and No One Can Pay. Do not take me the wrong way. I think that John Lanchester says some interesting things. However, let’s not mistake him for someone who knows what he is talking about when it comes to finance. The one thing I found most interesting is the change in title between UK’s market and North American’s market.

The UK’s market’s name was IOU: How Capitalism Broke Itself. I am in Canada, and they probably did not change the title for us. We do not matter that much. The change in title is for the US market and it is as I have shown, IOU: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay. I personally wonder about the title, especially when talking about subprime mortgages. I thought that the whole point about subprime mortgages is that the mortgagor can not pay.

One of my biggest beef about this book is that Lanchester confuses investing and gambling, and also about taking risks and gambling. Sure, you can use the stock market to gamble. You can gamble within a lot of human activities, but investing is not gambling. Placing bets is gambling. Why do I feel this way? Because what I do is investing. I buy shares in real companies that supply goods or services that people want or need to buy. This is what I believe is investing.

However, if you buy stock of a company of which you know nothing about in the hopes that you will make capital gains, I believe that is gambling. There is also a whole lot of gray areas between what I do and those that place bets on stocks. I think that those that buy things they have no understanding of are really gambling and they are just kidding themselves if thing otherwise.

Do I take risks in buying stocks? Of course I do. But we take all sorts of risks, all the time that hardly qualifies as gambling. Crossing the street is taking a risk. Putting money in something “safe” like a bank account is also “taking a risk”. Maybe this is not as risky as investing, but still a risk. In fact, putting money under your mattress is also taking a risk.

John Lancaster talks about the recent boom and bust. However, this has been going on forever. I have been investing since the 70’s and the stock market has not been tame all along until now. Believe, as I have been invested all this time. There have been lots of booms and busts. I believe this is called the business cycle. No matter what we want, we do not seem capable of taming the business Cycle.

I think that taming the business cycle is a big socialist fantasy. Anyone who has tried to seems to just get rid of the booms. The busts always seem to come around. Economic decline seems to be to be one bust after another. I you read history as I do, booms and busts have been around a very long time. Before the industrial revolution and we were all working on the land, there were good years and bad years - booms and busts. I remember as a child reading a bible story about Egypt where someone said that they would have 7 good years followed by 7 bands years. The idea was to save in the good years to help them through the bad years.

This is no different from what we should do now. When times are good, we should save for future bad times. We do not need to go to extremes, but we do need to put something aside for the future. We should not exhaust all we get and expect good times to last forever. I think that is why the busts are so hard for some people. The have created no reserves. Both the government and people need to act more sensibly. Then, perhaps, the bad times will not be so hard.

There is a Wikipedia page about John Lanchester, see Wikipedia. If you want a regular time book review, see Globe and Mail. See John Lanchester on YouTube.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Lanchester. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

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Superfusion by Zachary Karabell

Chimerica was first coined by Niall Ferguson (one of my favorite authors). He was first to remark on the closeness of US & China’s economies. Our problem (i.e. the rest of the world’s problem) is how USA and China will deal with this. What no one seems to mention is that these countries can destroy themselves and their economies by going to war.

Before WWI, Germany’s and France’s economies where heavily integrated and it certainly did not stop them from war. Mankind has shown himself to be, at times, highly destructive, no matter what the costs. Will China’s rise in power without war? I certainly hope so.

I think that the economic rise of Asia and parts of South American is great. We in the West are rich. Yes, we have problems, and yes, we have poor. However, this has nothing to do with the economic rise of the rest of the world. We have problems in spite of our wealth. This is because it takes more than money to solve human problems.

The full title of this book is Superfusion: How China and America became One Economy and Why the World’s Prosperity Depends on It. Karabell talks about how States try to control commerce for their own benefit. America is no different. They believed passionately in free trade and open markets because in the 20th Century it has served them well. However, the very success of open markets has now undermined America’s power. Karabell talks about how America now faces a new challenge. (See page 292.)

Can America adjust to a world of greater affluence in which it is one of several important pillars? They seem unsure of how to deal with this. But the USA has muddled their way through lots of other problems. There is a quote of “Gods protects fools, drunks and the United States of America”. There are lots of debates on who said this and the exact wording, but you probably have heard of versions of this before. Another quote I like is my Winston Churchill, who said, “America always does the right thing after it exhausts all other possibilities”.

We think of America being heavily involved in the 2 WW’s. However, they did not start them; they just finished them. Yes, the Americans can be aggressive at times, but they do have a short attention span. I think that as long as China doesn’t do anything over stupid, we will get through the rise of China just fine. The Chinese can be overly sensitive and defensive, but I do not think that they are stupid.

In 1946, America ended British supremacy and the British Empire. Britain had asked USA for an interest-free loan of $5B, repayable over a 50 year period. The British were certain that their friend and ally would say yes without so much as a question. Astonishingly, the Americans said no. In the end, America loaned Britain $3.7B at 2% interest. Britain had to terminate any tariffs and duties that privileged its colonies. It had to also abide by the Bretton Woods Agreement of 1944 and make the dollar the reference point for global exchange rates rather than the English pound. (See page 302.)

Will China do this same sort of thing to America? Who knows? However, we are sometimes treated better by our enemies than our friends. See a book review at National Committee on United States and China Relations.

See and hear Zachary Karabell talk about this subject on Carnegie Council’s website. This is a long video of some 60 minutes. You can also see excerpts on YouTube. Is Chimerica coming to an end? See a blog by Niall Ferguson at Chimerica is Heading for Divorce.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Karabell. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

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Forces of Fortune by Vali Nasr

I know the West complaints a lot about the poverty we have. We, supposedly, have people who do not have enough money to buy food; hence, we have food banks. But these same people probably also have a big screen TV at home. What we really lack is the will to use our money better. We do have money. We spend incredible amounts on Welfare and such even though we have little to show for it.

We still have poor. We have families in the fourth generation on Welfare. Nothing has changed for these families. They are still poor, or still behave poor. However, on a whole world scale, even our poorest are far better off that most of the rest of the world. We should not put up any objections to the rest of the world getting a better living standard. They are not taking anything away from us.

Our world is very unequal when it comes to living standards. So, I think it is great that India, China, and South America are now using capitalism and mercantilism to improve their people’s lots in life. I know that it is probably politically incorrect to mention it, but we had the rise of the bourgeoisie before democracy. It was the Industrial Revolution, the rise of the middle classes and then the rise of democracy, (with Individual Freedoms and the Rule of Law). We in the West do not know our history.

The West has been very unsuccessful in trying to impose democracy on peoples and countries. This has not worked at all. It seems to mainly lead to corruption and things like election fraud. This author is not the only one to point this out. See books by Paul Collier of Bottom Billion and Wars, Guns and Votes, that I have also reviewed.

This brings us back to the Middle East, the Muslims and this book. We have been unable to impose democracy in this area also. What this author thinks we should do is support the rise of the middle class in the Arab world and things will turn out better for them and for us. The full title of this book is Forces of Fortune - the rise of the new Muslim middle class and what it will mean for our world.

Vali Reza Nasr is an Iranian-American academic and scholar, as well as Professor of International Politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy of Tufts University. He is on Wikipedia. For a book review see Council for Foreign Relations website. See also National public Radio for an interview. See him on YouTube.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Nasr. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

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The Lost History of Christianity, Philip Jenkins

I always mean to do more book reviews. I read every morning and I read such wonderful books. Despite my good intentions, lots of time goes by before I think of reviewing a book I have read. The above book, I have just finished and it was wonderful. The full title is The Lost History of Christianity, The Thousand – Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa and Asia – and How it Died.

I know that it is fashionable to think of Islam as the “peaceful” religion. We pretend either that the Middle East was never Christian or that the Muslims never did anything to force their religion on the people they conquered there. We barely even acknowledge that they were conquerors. To say the Arabs conquered the Middle East, we might have to imply that there was violence involved with their take over this area.

Also, European Christians certainly did not help the Middle Eastern Christians. European Christians were mostly Catholic until fairly recently and they mostly thought the Middle Eastern Christian were heretics or worse. Perhaps if the Crusaders had not attacked Byzantium, it might not have fallen to the Turks. Perhaps, the most shocking thing of all is that the Middle Eastern Churches did survive and they are still alive today.

The Christians survived fairly well until the 12 century. The main prosecutions of Christians (and Jews) really got off the ground in the 12th century. Non-Muslims were totally wiped out in North Africa in this century. In the following centuries, there were times when Christians could live well in the Middle East and times when they could not. It varied a lot across the Middle East, depending on the time and place. The last big push in the Middle East to get rid of Christian populations was in the early 20th Century.

This is not to say that the Arabs were the worst conquerors of the Middle East. The Mongols invasions were probably more destructive. The invasion by Tamerlane was no picnic either. If you go back to bible, there was always a lot of violence and invasions in this area. In the 14th Century, the Middle East suffered because of the Black Death, Little Ice Age and war. The population dropped dramatically and this certainly did not help the Christian populations.

So, what Middle Eastern churches have survived? The main Christian churches were the Nestorians, the Jacobite (or Syrian Orthodox) and connecting Maronites, and Coptics. To find out more on the Nestorians, see The Unofficial Website of The Nestorian Church/, or the Nestorian Pages. This church does not seem to have its own website. This church is also called the Syrian Church of the East or Chaldean Catholic Church. This church is currently called Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East and is based on USA.

For the Jacobites, see their official site at Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, or Jacobite Syrian Church. The Syrian Church has lots of churches in North American. There are also churches in India, Europe and UAE. For information on the Coptic Church see Coptic or Coptic Church in Egypt.

Philip Jenkins, professor of history and religious studies at Pennsylvania State University. To see him on YouTube, see Philip Jenkins by Fora TV. To see a reviews of this book, see book review by J. Peter Pham or book review by Derek Leman.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Jenkins. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

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Not With a Bang But a Whimper, Theodore Dalrymple

The full title of this book is Not With a Bang But A Whimper, The Politics and Culture of Decline. I have written about Theodore Dalrymple before. He writes a column for the London Spectator. See .
He also writes for the City Journal. See City Journal.

Most of his books are a collection of essays he has written. This book is no different. What I want to talk about today is one of his essays, called The Roads to Serfdom. In this essay, he talks about the people of Britain looking back on WWII as the best time of their lives. The war provided them with a powerful existential meaning and purpose. People wanted this mood to continue into the peace time.

They wanted to use the dedication of the population, centrally controlled by the government to defeat things like want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness. This was from the Beverage Report and it was supported by such intellectuals as George Orwell. The thing they wanted was socialism. Against this spirit of collectivism, Hayek wrote his famous book called “The Road to Serfdom”. Hayek though that the road led to totalitarianism.

Dalrymple thinks he was wrong in this. What it led them to, was a total change in the British Culture. Moral passion shifted from the individual to the state. For example, it is a city council’s duty to keep the streets clean, not the individual’s. So people become litter bugs.

The British, before their socialistic experiment were independent and self-reliant. They believed in individual initiative, responsibility and tolerance. They had a very high tolerance to eccentricity that has just evaporated. For people on welfare, they call the day their welfare cheque arrives their payday, just as if they actually earned it.

People of Britain are left with very little to decide for themselves. They are taken care of by the government from cradle to grave. The only decisions they get to make concern shopping and sex. The people are infantilized with nothing much to hope or strive for and nothing much to fear or lose. Britain is now a people of the government, for the government and by the government.

To make a comment closer to home, I remember when workfare was introduced into Ontario. There were protests by welfare people and socialistic groups. They felt that the people on welfare should not be turned into “wage slaves”. But, what about me? I have worked all my life and I have save my money for a rainy day. These people seem to believe that they have a right to any money I have.

What about the thousand and thousands of people, here in Ontario, who actually do work for a living. They expect working people to continue to support them. I do not think the protestors had any clue how much the average working person was shocked at their attitude. The protestors expected to contribute nothing to society. So, you can see that I have some sympathy for the feelings Dalrymple expresses in this essay.

To see a review of this book, see book review. Theodore Dalrymple is a pen name. His real name is Anthony Daniels. He is in Wikipedia, see Anthony Daniels . He is also on YouTube, see Theodore Dalrymple in Buitenhof for an interview.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Dalrymple. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

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The Return of History, Robert Kagan

I want to get back to the stuff I love besides investing. The other thing is reading. I read a lot of great books and this one is no exception. This is not the first book I read by Robert Kagan. I read his of Paradise and Power also. His books are small, but he packs a lot into them. The full title of this book is The Return of History and the End of Dreams.

As a Canadian, I do not have the instinctive dislike of American as some of my follow citizens do, especially those living in places like Toronto, where I live. I do not mind that the US wants to make the world safe for their way of life. Because in doing so, they also make places like Canada possible. If the Chinese or Russians make the world safe for their way of life, I see not place for a country like Canada.

The Canadian way of life is somewhere between the American and the European. We are sort of capitalistic and sort of socialistic. We tend to muddle our way through things. However, Canada is a great place to life and a great country to raise kids in. I have always been grateful that I was born in a place like Canada, as there are so many awful places in the world that people are born into.

Now back to Robert Kagan and his book. The title of this book is because of Francis Fukuyama’s book called The End of History and the Last Man. In this book, which Frank wrote after the fall of the Berlin wall, he felt that the world would move towards liberal democracies politically. It is obvious now that this did not happen. There are a number of large states that are autocratic. Historically, this is a throw back to the nineteenth century, when in Europe you had mainly autocratic states, and very few liberal democracies, like US and Britain. He thinks that liberal democracies may well win in the end, but it could be a long and tough road.

Robert Kagan talks about China and Russia. He talks about the fact the most Russians and Chinese seem quite happy with their autocratic government. The Russians especially seem very happy with Putin. They seem to feel that as a democracy that they were shoved around by the West and now, with Putin in power, that can be a great power again.

He also talks about radical Islam. He does not believe that the radicals will be winners in the future. He certainly concedes that they can do a lot of damage, especially since they dream of destroying a great American city. However, what they really want is to take the world and their people back to the 7th century. He feels that even a lot of the most ardent Moslems do not want this and therefore, the radical cannot win.

The last thing Robert Kagan talks about is that the democracies should, and may well be forced to, band together if they want to survive and thrive in the current and future world. He thinks that the worlds governments will not all be liberal democracies in anytime that will help the current liberal democratic societies.

This book is well worth the price and the time it takes to read it. Robert Kagan is in Wikipedia, see Robert Kagan . He is also on YouTube, see After Words for an interview.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Kagan. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

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Life at the Bottom, Theodore Dalrymple

I spend my mornings reading. I read a lot of interesting books and I would like to share some of them. None of my books are on the best sellers list, or very rarely on this list. They are all non-fiction. Also, since the Canadian Banks have reported their 2009 results, I will be updating my spreadsheets and reviewing them over the next few days. I follow 4 of the big 5 Canadian Banks.

Now back to Theodore Dalrymple. Theodore is a British doctor who was working in a British inter-city hospital and prison when he wrote the essays in this book. He also writes a column for the London Spectator. See He also writes for the City Journal. See City Journal. Most of his books are a collection of essays he has written.

This book has stories of women and men trapped in destructive behaviors and environments. It is a look at the underclass life in Britain and the stories are not pretty. The story I want to talk about is the first essay called “The Knife Went In”. This story is about men in prison who are there for killing another person with a knife. However, they take no responsibility for their actions.

He first talks about a murderer who thought he was unlucky and that was why he was in prison for murder. It was not his fault, but the fault of the victim who was stabbed. If he had not been where he was at the time of the murder, the murder would not have happened. It was the murderer who was the victim in all of this. The stabbing is described as “The knife went in.” He really was not at fault. It was all due to circumstances beyond his control.

In this essay, he first talks about it being a mistake to believe that all men want to be free. He says on the contrary, if freedom entails responsibility, many people want none of it. The men he meets in prison, he says think of themselves as putty in the hands of fate. They do not believe that their choices or actions have any bearing on what happens to them.

With the men he talks to in prison, they feel that it is not their fault that they are in prison for such things as robbery. He says that they echo the police who increasing blame theft on the owners of property for failing to take proper precautions to protect their property. Like one man who stole from churches, because they were easy pickings. It was not his fault, the fault lies in the fact that the churches are poorly secured and easy to break into.

This is not the only book of Theodore Dalrymple’s that I have read. I find him an extremely interesting to read. He has very different opinions on what is wrong with our society and I am sure not everyone likes him for his opinions. But I always find his books interesting and entertaining. Why else would I read him?

Theodore Dalrymple is a pen name. He used this name to disguise whom he was talking about. His real name is Anthony Daniels. He is in Wikipedia, see Anthony Daniels . He is also on YouTube, see Theodore Dalrymple in Buitenhof for an interview. He also gave a speech in New York at the Harvard Club. See Theodore Dalrymple - Our Culture, What's Left of It - June 2005 .

This book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews. Also on my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Dalrymple.

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False Economy, Alan Beattie

I should first remark on the title. As far as I can see, it was just chosen to get attention. I can see no other reason for it. For books on the economy to sell nowadays, it seems that they must be given a title that has a negative connotation about the economy or about capitalism.

This book is a bit of a history of money, markets and finance. However, there are better books on these subjects. If you want to learn anything about these subjects, you would be better off reading such recent books as the Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson. In fact, any book by Niall Ferguson would be a great choice. Ferguson is a much better informed writer and he writes much better books.

However, one thing that Alan Beattie does point out that we would do well to remember is that it is not just Anglo-Saxon or Jewish people who do well in finance. It seems through out history that minorities in many societies have created thriving business communities. Minorities that have done well include many different ethnic groups and different religious groups. It is often the restrictions place on minorities that seem to account for this more than anything else does.

He also talks about theories of agriculture and slavery. He states that when land is plentiful, plantation owners would not be able to sit on their verandas and drink mint juleps if it had not been for slavery. If the laborers had been free, they would have simply left to start their own farms.

If you are like me and have already read everything that Niall Ferguson had written, then you might want to read this book. Alan Beattie does have a slightly different perspective on things. But, if you are limited in the books you can read, for what ever reason, then I would definitely suggest you read Niall Ferguson instead of this author. I have reviewed on my site Niall Ferguson’s latest book, Ascent of Money.

Alan Beattie has an essay on development at World Bank. There is a review of this book at Financial Times . He is also on You Tube.

This book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews. Also on my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Beattie.

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Lords of Finance, Liaquat Ahamed

The full title of this book is Lords of Finance, The Bankers who Broke the World, by Liaquat Ahamed. This is yet another book on the causes and cures of the Great Depression. This book is very readable and it shows you another aspect of the events around the Great Depression that are not usually discussed.

If you think that the people who are trying to resolve our current crisis know what they are doing, think again. If they are still arguing about the causes and cures of the Great Depression, how can anyone think that it is clear what should be done today. Although, as with any past economic crisis, the problems must be addressed by politicians and bankers in order for the economies involved to move on.

There have been a number of books about the Great Depression and Roosevelt. Conrad Black wrote a book about how Roosevelt saved capitalism. What ever else you might think about Conrad Black, he is a terrific writer. Of course, others have written about how Roosevelt prolonged the recession. The two main legacies from Roosevelt are the Glass-Steagall Act and the farm support policies. People still debate their merits; and passed and current helpfulness today.

In this book, Ahamed takes a different approach and concentrates on what would be Federal Reserve bankers today. He talks about mainly about Montagu Norman of the Bank of England, Emile Moreau of the Banque de France, Hjalmar Schacht of the Reichsbank and Benjamin Strong of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The book is great history, if nothing else.

One of the things he brings up is the relationship between Germany and France prior to the 2nd World War. France really did not suffer in the Great Depression and Germany was in great economic turmoil from the end of the 1st World War. France was determined to get reparations from Germany because of the 1st World War. There were many Germans who begged France to help Germany recover economically, but France ignored all their pleas. The Germans felt if there was no help coming for them, then there would be some sort of revolution in Germany with bad results. How right they were.

There is a review of this book at New York Times. See an article by Ahmed at Blogs and Stories. Also, see some questions and answers at The New Yorker. To see an interview with Ahmed, see YouTube.

This book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Also on my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Ahmed.

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Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

The full title of this book is Blink, The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell had also written two other books that I have read called The Tipping Point and the Outliers. His books are very easy reads and you always learn something. Usually, we find out something very interesting about us humans.

One thing you might find interesting is Chapter 6, The Delicate Art of Mind Reading. It gives the science behind the new TV show, Lie to Me. He talks about Silvan Tomkins and Paul Ekman classifying facial expressions. They also talk about what all these expression mean. These are facial expressions that cross all racial and ethnic groups. There are times when people can be very good at picking up on facial expressions and time when they are not. It is basically when we are under stress, when our adrenalin is flowing that we can be particularly bad at this. So, you can learn to be cautious about the time when you can be bad about picking up on facial expressions. Another interesting thing is that you can also learn to be better at picking up on facial expressions.

This book is also about decision making. Sometimes we are better off going with our gut instincts or our unconscious mind than putting a lot of effort into thinking about what we want or want to do. It is ironic that we are better off doing a lot of thinking about the small decisions than with the big decisions. The small things may be buying kitchen accessories. The big things may be buying furniture or deciding where to live.

Malcolm Gladwell also points out that often what people say they want and what they actually want can be very different. When people at a speed dating session were asked what they wanted in a date and asked to fill out a questionnaire on this, they had no problems in filling it out. However, who they really turned out to like was very different that what they said. Speed dating can work because people can tell very quickly if they like a person or not.

He also talks about the Pepsi challenge. Apparently, if people take a sip of a drink, they like the sweeter one. This is why Pepsi wins the Pepsi challenge. Pepsi is sweeter than Coke. The problem is people will have a different opinion about the drinks of Pepsi and Coke if they drink a whole can. This is why the new coke, which was sweeter than regular coke, failed so badly.

You can find reviews on this book on Wikipedia at You can see a discussion on this book and its topic at There is another review at

Malcolm Gladwell has his own site at On this site, he talks about his three books of The Tipping Point, Outliers, and Blink. Also on this site, he has his New Yorker magazine articles, his Blog, and his biography. Wikipedia has an article on him at and he is at TED at He is also on YouTube.

This book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Also on my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See gladwell2.

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Wars, Guns and Votes by Paul Collier

The full title of this book is Wars, Guns, and Votes - Democracy in Dangerous Places. Collier had also written another book that I have read called The Bottom Billion. I also wrote a review of the book, the Bottom Billion.

One of the things Paul Collier talks about is that in places that are very poor and violent, having the international community or the US come in and force a vote solves nothing. The place will still be poor and violent. Well, duh! I would have thought that being a Brit, Paul Collier would know, at least some of British history and not assume places will be fixed with a free vote.

I can understand where the Americans are coming from. They had their revolution, elected their own government, and thought they had found freedom and democracy for themselves. They did not realize what else they had. Britain had the concept of the rights and responsibilities of their citizen, and more important had concept of the rule of law. The British system was not perfect, but it by and large, functioned well. This is why, when they got what we consider democracy, where all citizens had the right to vote, things went smoothly.

Now, in the Americans, the 13 colonies already had such things as the rule of law. They also had experience voting, as there were local voted-in governments. Now, when they kicked out their British rulers, they had no problems. They did not realize what a debt their owned their British forefathers, for without individual rights and responsibilities, and the rule of law, I cannot see how just voting will give anyone decent government. This is, of course, what Paul Collier found out by studying what happen in poor violent countries that got a vote. They did not get decent government. They did not get problems solved.

As with the other book of Paul Collier’s, this book is a very easy read. He does a lot of research and presents the research and possible solutions in a manner this is easy to understand. He talks about more than just democracy and voting. If you want to read a regular review, see If you want to see his book from an economic perspective, see oxonomics. Paul Collier is also on If you do a search for Paul Collier, you will find him. He is also very easy to listen to.

This book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Also on my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Wars, Guns, Votes by Paul Collier.

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Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

The full title of this book is Outliers, The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell had also written another book that I have read called The Tipping Point. I am currently reading his book called Blink. His books are very easy reads and you always learn something.

One of the most interesting subjects that he talks about is what he calls the 10,000 hour rule. What it is, is that to get really good at anything, you must spend 10,000 hours on it. This would be approximately 8 hours a day, every day for about 3 ½ years.

The first person he talks about his Bill Joy, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, which was one of the critical players in the computer revolution. He started at the University of Michigan in 1971 and came across their new Computer Center. He started at this university when computer terminals and time-sharing systems came in. The University of Michigan’s new Computer Center had the latest. The center was open 24 hours a day and he lived near the center and spent a lot of his time there. The center gave out fixed amount of time on their computers, but then some of the kids figured out how to get unlimited amount of time on the systems. This was how he got to spend a phenomenal amount of time programming.

In this chapter, he also talks about the Beatles. They got invited to Hamburg. In Hamburg, you did not just play for one hour sessions; you had to play for eight hours. The played at a club seven nights a week and they played almost non-stop until after midnight. On their first trip, they played 106 nights for five or more hours. By the time of their success in 1964, they had performed live an estimated 1200 times.

If you do not know who Bill Joy is, you will certainly know who Bill Gates is. He went to a private school called Lakeside. There was a Mothers’ club that raised money to put in a computer terminal. It had a direct time-sharing link to a mainframe in downtown Seattle. Bill Gates got to do real-time programming as an eighth grader in 1968. When the Mothers’ Club ran out of money to pay for the kids computer club’s programming, they got an offer to test out a company’s software programs in exchange for free programming time.

All these people may have been very brilliant, but they also got opportunities to put in huge amount of time at the things for which they got famous. They got opportunities and they took advantage of their opportunities. There is, of course, much more to this book. For book reviews, see the New York Times review at and Also, see a Social Capital blog at

Malcolm Gladwell has his own site at On this site, he talks about his three books of The Tipping Point, Outliers, and Blink. Also on this site, he has his New Yorker magazine articles, his Blog, and his biography. Wikipedia has an article on him at and he is at TED at He is also on YouTube.

This book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Also on my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See

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Panic by Michael Lewis

The full title of this book is Panic, The Story of Modern Financial Insanity. In this book, Michael Lewis talks about the financial panic from 1987 to the current one. So this is all about the most recent insane market gyrations. This book is not really written my Michael Lewis; in fact, it is collection of articles published at the time of the recent panics that include 1987 stock market crash; the Russian default (including the failure of Long-Term Capital Management Hedge Fund); the Asian currency crisis; the Internet stock bubble and the latest subprime debacle.

It is a fairly light read and it is interesting because you can read what people were saying at the time of the financial problems. The down fall of this is that there is no historical perspective to help with our current financial difficulties. It might be helpful for people who had never been in a financial panic before. And, as it said, this book is a light read.

The most interesting thing that Michael Lewis says is that “The man on the street, for the first time, acted on the same foolish principles that have guided the behavior of sophisticated Wall Street traders for the past few decades.” To read more about Michael Lewis, see Michael_Lewis_(author) in wikipedia. I read this book recently and I did understand more about the financial panics he was talking about, but this is not the best book to read about financial panics.

To really understand what financial panics are all about, you might be better off reading a classic like “Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds” by Charles Mackay. See a review of this at

My other book reviews are on my site at Also on my site is information on where to find this book on See Panic by Michael Lewis.

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The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson

The full title of this book is The Ascent of Money, a Financial History of the World. If you want to understand the world of financial, this is an excellent book to read. This is a great basic book on finance that is clear and easy to follow. I also enjoy reading books by Niall Ferguson as he always has something interesting to say.

I will point you to some typical book reviews later, but first I want to mention a few things in this book. One of thing he talks about is that while inflation is monetary phenomenon, hyperinflation is always a political phenomenon. Another point he makes is that stock markets are mirrors of the human psyche. He points out the idea of stocks for the long term has only worked in the western world, and this is not true of other places. For instance, stock for the long term would have been a losing proposition in say, South America.

I know that the left hates this man. This is probably because he makes such clear, reasonable augments supporting what he says. This is unlike writers like Christopher Higgins and Richard Dawkins, which the left loves. The reason I do not like readings these lefties is that their basic point seems always to revolve around ‘If you do not think like I do, you are stupid’. I read this beautifully illustrated book on evolution by Dawkins. What I remember about this book was his deep implacable hatred for Bush and the religious right. I thought I would be reading a beautifully illustrated book on evolution, obviously not.

Niall Ferguson has his own web site at and there is an entry for him at Wikipedia at As always, you should read anything in Wikipedia with a critical eye. This site will not allow anything to stand that is not politically correct. This article either has a bland description of his work or is critical. Niall Ferguson is not politically correct. Robert Fulford has written a number of articles about Niall Ferguson and they are available at There are also videos with him at google and youtube.

This book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Also on my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson.

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Risk by Dan Gardner

The full title of this book is Risk, The Science and Politics of Fear. It is a very interesting book. We are, in the Western World at least, the longest living, the wealthiest and we live in the safest or most peaceful societies in human history, and yet we are more fearful than past generations. Dan Gardner worries about how our fearfulness will affect our children.

In Canadian surveys, it has been found that half the population thinks that a risk-free world is possible. Also, the majority of the population thinks that our government should completely protect them from risk in their daily lives. No one, or no government, or no government agency can guarantee zero risk. Things can be made safer, but zero risk is impossible. I find it absolutely irrational that people expect to live risk free.

One of the things Dan Gardner talks about, of which I found interesting, is that of surveys of basic cultural world views. Anthropology wise, we can be slotted into one of four world views. These world views are individualist, egalitarian, hierarchist, and communitarian. Dan Gardner also mentions that there is a strong correlation between risk perception and world views.

A hierarchist is someone who believes that people should have defined places in society and respect authority. An egalitarian is someone who believes in the equality of all people, especially in political, economic, or social life. An individualist is someone who believes the answer to problems is more freedom that is, you let people determine their own choices and things will come right. A communitarian is someone who believes in placing the interests of the community above the interests of the individual.

I have some of the characteristics of a communitarian in that I believe that people should live up to their social and civic responsibilities and should not merely focus on what they are entitled to, however, I must admit that I am individualist at heart as I believe that people are responsible for what they do and for their own lives. I also certainly believe in individual freedom. However, I also feel that there must be some balance between the rights of communities and the rights of individuals.

Dan Gardner has his own site at For a review of this book, see At the web site you will find information on Mary Douglas who is an anthropologist involved in world view and risk perception.

My other book reviews are on my site at books. Also on my site is information on where to find this book on See Risk by Dan Gardner.

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Stocks for the Long Run, Jeremy J. Siegel

The 4th edition of this book is at, on Amazon. (I had read the 2nd edition.) Jeremy Siegel has his own site at See, for a review of his book. Siegel has articles on the internet at

Even though the book is American and it deals with the US, it can also apply to us here in Canada. I, of course, started investing in stocks long before I had read this book. I also invest for the long run and I have done very well. As near as I can figures, I have made, since I started investing in the 70’s an average annual return of 10.3%.

I am basically 100% invested in stocks, 100% of the time. The one main problem with this is that when good investment opportunities come along, I have no available cash for investing. Take the current situation. The fall in the TSX has presented lots of very good buying opportunities and I can take advantage of few.

However, even with the above problem, over the long term, being investing 100% in stocks has been very good for me and I have made good long term returns. The problem with holding back some cash for good investments is that you never know when these opportunities will come. Look at the bear market we had in 2000, 2001. A stock market crash had been predicted for sometime. Alan Greenspan made his “irrational exuberance remark in December 1996. If I had put money aside, it would have earned little money for over 4 years or more.

So in closing, I should say there is not really good answer about whether or not too keep money in reserves for good opportunities. I did not do this so I really have no idea on how it would have affected my returns. In any event, this is an excellent book to read.

This book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at books. Also on my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Stocks for the Long Run.

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The Age of Turbulence, by Alan Greenspan

The sub-title of this book is “Adventures in a New World”. This is a surprisingly readable book. I highly recommend it. Considering some of the past statements made by Alan Greenspan, I found it rather shocking that he can write an interesting and readable book. You should read this book as you might learn, in an entertaining and enjoyable way, something about economic matters. You will certainly learn a bit more about a man, no matter what you may think about him, that has had a big impact on the US economy and therefore on our Canadian economy.

Reading about Alan and reading reviews on this book, there seems to be too groups of people, those who love him and those who hate him. Those who hate him blame him for the current asset bubble crisis in the US and anything else wrong with the US economy.

So there are huge arguments on what he may or may have done for the US economy. You can take sides, or do as I do and just believe that no one knows what they are talking about when it comes to the economy. What I can see is that, whatever else you might think of Bush, he has certainly been bad for the US economy. The Social Security is still not properly funded. The federal debt is way out of control and it was only made worse by Bush.

We in Canada are in a much better position. We have the CPP under control. Our federal debt is under control. I never like Jean Chretien, however, you have to admit that between him and Paul Martin, our economy was put into great shape. I was so disappointed in Paul Martin as he made an awful Prime Minister. I was looking forward to him being Prime Minister, but it did not turn out as I had imagined. I guess he spent so much time and effort into getting the job, he did not know what to do when he got it.

Wikipedia, of course, has a section on Alan Greenspan. See book review in the NY Times at There is some discussion of him at The Nation at You can see a book review on Amazon at For some of the book being read, go to

This book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Also on my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See The Age of Turbulence.

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Hot, Flat, and Crowded, by Thomas L. Friedman

The full title of this book is Hot, Flat, and Crowded - Why We Need A Green Revolution – And How It Can Renew America. I read Friedman because he always says interesting things. The US and indeed the world, is in deep shit, environmentally.

However, I am Canadian and as most Canadians do and what our Country does, is muddle through things. We will muddle through this environment thing. Canada never goes to extremes that the US does and we are generally quite happy about that. This book is available on Amazon; see the panel to the right side.

If you want to read a typical review on this book, see or see or see To read an excerpt from this book, see Thomas Friedmand has his own site at

Treating pollution as an externality is dangerous. Past Civilizations fell because they destroyed their environment. One quote I love in this book is on page 259. “Socialism collapsed because it did not allow the market to tell the economic truth. Capitalism may collapse because it does not allow the market to tell the ecological truth. If you learn nothing else from this book besides this, you will do very well.

The other very interesting thing he quotes is Stanford climatologist Stephen Schneider. He asks, “Can democracy survive complexity?” on page 406. “It is so difficult. It is multi-scale, multidisciplinary, with large certainty in some areas and small certainty in others. It is irreversible and reversible and we won’t know how we did until it is over. We will only know forty years later. That is why climate complexity is a challenger to democracy.”

An interesting suggestion is that since the price of oil is so high and it is therefore pushing innovation, we should keep the price of oil high. If it comes down, we should have a tax that automatically comes in and keep the price high. That is if oil is $100 a barrel, and it does to $90, we should have $10 a barrel tax.

All in all, this is very good book about a current and complex problem.

This book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Also on my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Hot, Flat and Crowded.

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Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan

Although, I must admit that I always tended to get only fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy in my weekly shopping. About the only prepackaged stuff I got was some cereal, and this was usually things like a package of oatmeal. I had a kid, so I had to also get some boxed cereal and some pop.

It is interesting how such books as thus one come out just when thinks are changing. This summer, in my local area, we have a farmer’s market opening one day a week. Also, just in the past year, we have a small bakery opened. The bread is wonderful. They list the ingredients for the bread, and it is only 5 items and I understand what all are. Unlike the awful bread, we were subjects to just 10 years ago (and still in the shops) which have a list of ingredients as long as your arm. I had no idea what most of the ingredients were.

When I had a cottage, I got local meat, and the local cattle were grass fed. The steaks were the best I have ever had. I do not know how the pigs and chickens were fed, but the chops and chickens I got were great also. The local place I went for meat was called an abattoir. This is just a French word for slaughterhouse and I do not know why it was called that. It would seem that such small local slaughterhouses are illegal in the US. That is too bad. I heard nothing locally about anyone having any problems with this slaughterhouse. This was a small community, and everyone knows everything that happens. If there had ever been a problem, I would have heard. I guess that sometimes it helps to be behind the US in things as having the privilege of a local slaughterhouse.

Michael Pollan has his own site at He also has a blog at and is on the Berkeley web site at You can find his book reviewed at if you go to / There is also an review of his commandments of eating at

This book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Also on my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Omnivore's Dilemma.

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The Bottom Billion, by Paul Collier

The full title is “The Bottom Billion Why The Poorest Countries Are Failing And What Can Be Done About It.” This is a very interesting book about the poorest people on earth and what the Western World can do for them. It does not give practical advice for individuals, but it does give practical things governments and aid agencies that give out aid can do.

What I like about Paul Collier’s book is that he looks at various things that have been done to help poor people and poor countries and then tries to analyses these things to see if they actually work or not. I like that he advocates practical things that seem to work. He talks about some standard solutions that do not work and solutions that do work.

I think that this is a very important book on world poverty. It is filled with statistics and common sense. He tries to come up with workable practical solutions. What I did not like about Jeffery Sach’s book on the End of Poverty, is that he comes up with grand schemes to help the poor. We have had grand schemes before, and they have not worked.

For a book review on Amazon see For book review at Oxford Press, see and at Financial Times see

He is also on, a wonderful site of speakers on all sorts of ideas. He is at

This book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at books. Also on my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See the Bottom Billion.

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Giving, by Bill Clinton

Giving - how each of us can change the world - is a great book. It is a very easy read. It inspired me to start lending money via On this website, you can loan small amounts of money to people all over the world. It finally seems that I was actually helping someone. All the money I have given to charity seems to have disappeared down a black hole, never to be seen again, never to actually do any good for anyone.

Now if you are a capitalist, as I would judge anyone who invests is, Kiva is the perfect investment for the future. Here you seem to be investing in people who want to be capitalists. If we want to keep the wealth we now have, I feel we must do something to spread around some wealth. Charity never seems to help. I have been giving to charity since I started to work in the late ‘60s. This is something like 40 years ago. I cannot point to any improvement in anyone’s life or any improvement for the poor of Toronto, where I live. In fact, we seem to have a lot more poor in Toronto now than there was 40 years ago.

Getting one great idea from a book is fantastic. What else can I say? If you believe in liberty, freedom and capitalism, then investing in potential capitalists in poor counties may be a very good investment indeed.

This micro-credit site is at Bill Clinton’s site is at The book is on Amazon at

On the web, you can find both positive and negative reviews of this book. There are a lot of negative reviews. However, I read books all the time, often having 3 or 4 on the go at one time. I read mostly non-fiction (history, economics etc) and some sci-fi. Most of the negative reviews feel that the book is too filled with feel-good stories when there is so much misery around the world. Sorry, but I still feel that if a book gives you one great idea, it is worth it.