Monday, December 26, 2011

The Horse, the Wheel and Language by David Anthony

I love the way this book starts. David Anthony says we should look into a mirror and see not only you but your ancestors. We see not only our own face, but a museum. Although you see your face, it is composed of a collage of features you have inherited from your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and so on.

David Anthony identifies the prehistoric peoples of central Eurasia's steppe grasslands as the original speakers of Proto-Indo-European. This is the Steppes north of the Black and Caspian Seas. This is important because roughly half the world's population speaks languages derived from a shared linguistic source known as Proto-Indo-European.

The Steppes of Eurasia go from Eastern Europe to China. These steppes were changed forever by the horse and the covered wagon. Apparently, there was a Secondary Products Revolution that swept Europe in between 3500 and 3000BCE. This revolution included the plow, wool sheep, dairying and the beginning of horse transportation. The secondary products of this this revolution included items like wool, milk and muscular power than be harvested continuously from an animal without killing it.

This SPR is an economic explanation for widespread changes in settlement patterns, economy, rituals and crafts. Much of this has been ascribed by an older generation of archaeologists to Indo-European migrations.

If you like history and anthropology, this is a great book. It also tells us where our language might have originated from and how we got it.

For a preview of this book, see Princeton University Press. Amazon does have surprisingly good book reviews, but you have to scroll almost to the page bottom to find them. For such a review, see Amazon. Another good review is at Dreamflesh. Plus another one at Thinking Out Aloud.

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

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Freedom in the Ancient World by Herbert Muller

I was attracted to this book by the title. I have read a lot of history, but I never thought of the ancient world having any freedom. However, I guess all movements must start somewhere.

He talks about the Axial Period from 800 to 200 BC. It was in this era, outside of Greece, that there emerged all the basic religious ideas on which man has lived ever since, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and Judaism.

He talks about a revolutionary change in mentality in about 6BC, when we start to hear of individuals who were not kings or gods. Such people were Zoroaster, Buddha, Confucius, Leo-Tse Amos, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Home Thales, Salon, Aeschylus, Socrates and Plato.

If you like to read about the ancient world, this is a great book to read to get a different perspective on what was occurring then.

There is a Wikipedia entry for Herbert J. Muller at Muller. For a review of this book, see Professor Carroll Quigley site. Professor Quigley’s main criticism of this book is “Prof. Muller's inability in this work to carry out his special task, the history of human freedom, seems to me to rest on his failure to distinguish between "freedom" (the existence of alternative personal choices in a society) and "liberties" (the existence of a social pattern which permits a man to develop his potentialities).”

This book won a Ralph Waldo Emerson award in 1962. See Wikipedia.

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

Friday, December 16, 2011

After the Reich by Giles MacDonogh

This book is about what happened after the Armistice of 1945. It is not a pretty story.

Women, of course, suffered tremendously. The German women were basically raped by everyone. The Russians and French were atrocious. The Americans tried to stop their soldier from raping. The British were somewhat better where they basically tried to use chocolate to get sex.

There was ethnic cleansing of the German peoples by Czech nationalists, and by the people in Poland, Silesia, and East Prussia. There are no Germans today in what was East Prussia. Russia moved eastward their border with Poland and told Poland to move their western border to include previously German lands, which they did. And, they did so with great cruelty to the German peoples in the area they took over.

We sort of know about the harsh treatment of German soldiers by the Russians, but the British and Americans were no far behind them in the appalling treatment of German soldiers after the Armistice. Of course, it is not only German soldiers that died. A lot of women, children and old people died too.

The thing is that we should know our history. Hopefully, by knowing it, we can avoid the same mistakes in the future. This is one very good reason for reading history.

One very good review of this book is at Dialog International. The title of the Telegraph review tells a great deal of the story. Their title is how 3 million Germans died after VE Day. See The Telegraph. Another great article is at Rense.

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Civilization by Niall Ferguson

This book is very readable. However, this is what you can really say about all Niall Ferguson’s books. I know some talk about him as being very right wing. Personally, I do not think that he is so easily cataloged. What he certainly is, is opinionated.

What I liked about this book was him talking about the rise of the West because of 6 killer apps. The killer apps were competition, science, property rights, medicine, consumer society and the work ethic. For a quick review of these points, see the bottom of the Guardian article, linked to below.

Niall Ferguson also thinks that when civilizations fall, it is not a slow decline, but civilizations, basically fall off a cliff. Is the US going to going that way? It is hard to say, but they seem to ignoring parts of the 6 killer apps that made them so powerful in the past. He asks if the threat to Western Civilization is not from others, but the west’s lack of understanding or faith in our own cultural heritage.

With China, it is trying to use some of these killer apps without others. For example, to Niall Ferguson, democracy goes with property rights and China does not want to go that way. He thinks that nationalism might become a problem with China. (He says if religion is the opium of the masses, then nationalism is the cocaine of the middle classes.)

He thinks the problem with Islam is that it could not reconcile itself to scientific progress and that this has been disastrous for them. He also asks if the head scarf is freedom of expression or subjugation of women.

On the Russians, he notes that they could duplicate the atomic bomb, but not blue jeans. He quotes Regis Debray in that there is more power in rock music, videos, blue jeans, fast food, news networks and TV satellites than in the entire Red Army.

For a good review, that also explains the 6 killer apps, see the one in the Guardian. Also, Amazon has some excellent reviews, see Amazon. Look towards the bottom of the page.

On YouTube you can hear a lecture on this book by Niall Ferguson.

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

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Origins of Political Order, Francis Fukuyama

I remember reading a review of this book. One of the comments said why would anyone buy a book by Fukuyama? The commenter went on to say that Fukuyama was totally wrong with his book called The End of History. There is a very good reason for this. Fukuyama is a very interesting writer. I have never been dissatisfied with any book by him. Both the End of History and this book is discussed in a Globe and Mail article.

This particular book is from Pre-human Times to the French Revolution. Fukuyama expects to write a 2nd volume on this subject. I certainly look forward to it.

This book is not only about economics, it is also about history. Like his remark about the Ming Dynasty. He says that it failed to tax citizens adequately to support an army to defend the country against the Manchus.

He also talks about the needs of Democracy. He says it needs a state that is effective and powerful, the rule of law and a government that is accountable. He talks of Afghanistan, which has a weak state and it cannot uphold laws on its territories. He says that Russia has a strong state, it holds democratic elections, but their problem is the rulers are no bound by law. He also says that Singapore has a strong state, the rule of law, but only an attenuated form of democratic accountability.

He talks about why Europe is different. It was only in Europe that the state was not build on top of tribally organized institutions. Apparently Europe exited tribalism via the rule of the Catholic Church. This is very interesting.

Another great review of this book is at PLOS Blogs. To hear a John Hopkins lecture by Francis Fukuyama, go to YouTube.

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Forge of Empires, Michael Knox Beran

This book covers the years of 1861 and 1871 and the revolutions of Abraham Lincoln, Tsar Alexander II, and Otto von Bismarck. The subtitle is “Three Revolutionary Statesmen and The World They Made”. What did these men do? Lincoln freed 4 M slaves, Alexander freed 27M serfs and Bismarck swept away an archaic jumble of completing sovereign ties, so many duchies and grand bailiwicks, and secured the prosperity of a region.

Free states like England and US liberated their people’s energies and the institutions of freedom were poised to carry all before them. But there was a countervailing reaction that set in the privileged cases to defend their prerogatives. In Russia, Germany and America, grandees with their backs to the wall meet the challenge of liberty with a philosophy of coercion to protect their power. (Slavery is a system of coercion.)

A couple of methods came with this philosophy. One was paternalism in which the master is a father to the works and looks after them. This is designed to regulate the masses. Another idea was militant nationalism. This is the right of superior people to impose their will on inferior people.

The book also talks about the southern people being Cavaliers. Like the Cavaliers who, in the 17th Century, fought for Charles I in England. Kevin Phillips brings up this point in his book, The Cousins’ Wars. Read an interview with Kevin at PBS.

One thing I learned from this book that I did not know was they Tsar Alexander II send the Russian fleet to US in 1863. He sent the Atlantic fleet to New York and the Pacific fleet to San Francisco Bay. This ended hope of England and France to intervene to help the South.

There is not much online about this book or author, but there is one book review at foreign affairs.

Michael Knox Beran also writes for the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. See some of his writings at their site.

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

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Going Dutch, Lisa Jardine

The full name is Going Dutch, How England Plundered Holland’s Glory. Of course, this is not really what happened. It is the Dutch that took over England. However, the Dutch did feel aggrieved by the wealth, power and influence that seeped away from to England at the beginning of the 18th Century.

The Dutch take over, called the Glorious Revolution occurred in 1688, the later part of the 17th Century. History seems to deal with this take over quite softly. The Dutch invasion went remarkably smoothly, with William mounting a propaganda campaign. William’s declaration was a very fine piece of spin. James more or less just sneaked away with his government basically declining to stop the invasion.

The Dutch States General needed the alliance with England. They were afraid that James would make an alliance with France and that France would again attach them. (About a quarter of the Irish Army fighting William at the battle of the Boyne were French Troops.)

However, the main part of this book is devoted, not to history really, but an effort to show that culturally, the English and the Dutch has a lot in common. Jardine tries to show that the Dutch and English share a remarkable amount in terms of outlook, fundamental belief, aspirations and sense of identity.

There is a Wikipedia entry for Lisa Jardine. The Guardian has a rather negative view of this book . I must admit she does go on and on about little culture things. The Independent has a much more positive view of this book .

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

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Hammer and The Cross, Robert Ferguson

This book’s full title is The Hammer and The Cross, A New History of the Vikings. There is a good review of this book at The Sunday Times.

The era covered is from the late 8th century when Viking raiders suddenly burst upon the shores of Western Europe and "roughly speaking all the Scandinavian peoples were Heathens" until "roughly the 11th or 12th when "roughly speaking all the Scandinavian peoples thought of themselves as Christians".

The Vikings felt that their culture was under threat and lashed out at the Christians who were threating their culture. The Germans started the trouble with the trying to forcibly convert the Saxon tribes to Christianity. These Saxon tribes were related to the Danish.

Of course the attack on English monastery at Lindisfarne was a complete surprise to the English. They knew who the Vikings were, and they probably had traded with them in the past, but to them this attack was a big shock. But Ferguson tries to bring some understanding to why it happened. Basically, the Vikings were acting like terrorist trying to protect their culture. This is a rather interesting perspective.

Of course, he talks of the Vikings going to Iceland, Greenland and on to North America. He also talks about their invasions into the British Isles. He talks of the Viking raids into Europe and the Mediterranean Sea. And, lastly about the Vikings that went east, down the rivers to the Black and Caspian Seas to Constantinople.

Hear an interview with Robert Ferguson on this book at YouTube podcast. Part 2 of this podcast is at YouTube podcast. See a short interview with Robert Ferguson on YouTube.

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

Sunday, August 7, 2011

This time is Different by Reinhart and Rogoff

This book’s full title is “This time is Different, Eight Centuries of Financial Folly”. The authors are Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff. See interviews and a review of this book at Princeton University Press. See a better review of this book at Harvard Magazine.

One of the first things that these authors bring up is the trouble with bonds. Their remarks are especially true of government bonds. How governments have ended up buying their bonds debts off, if you could call it that, is by inflation. If you have inflation, the dollars government use to pay off a bond is worth less than the dollars they originally got by selling bonds.

The US debt after WWII was 120% of GDP. How US “paid” off their debt from the 2nd world war was a combination of economic growth and inflation. In the current situation of little economic growth and very little inflation, you got to wonder how the US will bring down their current debt except by some hard decisions on taxes and entitlements.

Interestingly, there are a few countries that never had a central government default. They are Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Denmark, Thailand and the US. Europe had a lot of serial defaulter governments in the past. And some are like England, which had its last default in the 16th century, haven’t defaulted lately. There were also no defaults of central governments between 2003 and 2008, but this is far from normal.

Countries, institutions and financial instruments have changed over time, but human nature does not. Financial crisis follow a rhythm of boom and bust though the ages. The recent financial crisis that originated in the US and spread across the globe is only the latest manifestation of this pattern.

The think is that highly indebted governments, banks or corporations can merrily roll along for an extended period of time and then bang – confidence collapses, leaders disappear and a crisis hits. The thing is that leverage (thin capital to assets) can be fragile and subject to crisis of confidence.

This book may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It can get quite technical. Most people might be better off hearing the author speak. However, for an academic paper, I found this book written quite clearly. Below, I have listed a few places where you can hear both Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff speak.

See “The Anatomy of Financial Crises: A Global Perspective by Professor Carmen Reinhart” at John Hopkins lecture. See also Carmen Reinhart on Financial Crisis and Fiscal Policy at CATO Institute . See Interview with Kenneth Rogoff on "This time is different" at Jyske Global. Also see Ken Rogoff - Debts, Deficits and Global Financial Stability at INET Economics.

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

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Great Reflation by Anthony Boeckh

This book is fine for this type. However, personally, I liked the book “This Time is Different by Reinhart and Rogoff, better. However, Boeckh does make some interesting points.

He first talks about the Kondratieff wave. This is a popular thing to talk about. What I have found is that a lot of people believe in it, but few agree to just where we are on this wave. The basic problem is that we know where we have been, but we do not know where we are.

I think that the best thing that this author points out is that the current reflation going on in the US is an experiment. People thought this sort of action could have save the US from the Great Depression. However, it is all theory. No one has tried it before.

He, like a lot of US analysts, feels that we are still in a secular bear market. This author does not say so, but I know that a lot of analysts feel that there will be one more downswing in the market before we start on the next secular bull market. The author provides a lot of charts going back to 1885 in the US and these are very interesting.

He talks about how prior to 1960’s, lots of stocks were bought for dividends and dividend paying stocks were more prevalent. There were gradual changes to what people thought companies should do and one of the things is that, especially after 1980, companies cut their dividends and did stock repurchases instead. This was meant as a way to provide more value to taxpaying shareholders, who would have increased capital gain. This is because capital gain is taxed less.

Personally, I do not think that this move worked out well for shareholders. I think partly this has to do with the fact that companies got into giving out stock options. Now, it seems that most of the stock repurchasing is to cover the stock options given out. Also, companies tend to repurchases stocks, not at market lows or when their stocks are undervalued. They do not seem to do the repurchasing at at good prices.

I know a lot of people talk about the current bull market in commodities. This is because of the big demand for commodities from China and India. However, Boeckh points out that huge demand increases in commodities does not lead to rising prices in the long term. He says that the evidence is overwhelmingly clear that over long periods of time supply has risen sufficiently to sustain a powerful long term inflation adjusted decline in commodity prices as a whole.

If you think back to what happened about oil prices in the 1970’s when OPEC increased prices greatly, everyone was looking for oil and they found lots of it all over the world.

Another interesting thing he talks about is a long wave in Political Values. I had not heard of this before. He says that politics go from Progressive to Cosmopolitan to Conservative to Parochial. This matches up with an economy going from Expansion to Peak to Decline to Trough. John Sterman wrote a paper on this and it is available at MIT. Paper is called “An Integrated Theory of the Economic Long Wave”.

For a 10 minute radio interview with Boeckh, see Anthony Boeckh (pronounced Beck, by the way) has an investment newsletter at Boeckh Investment Letter.

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

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

War: The Definitive Visual Guide

The full title of this book is War: The Definitive Visual History, from Bronze-Age Battles to 21st Century Conflict. This is a DK (Dorling Kindersley) book. If you have not had or read any books from DK, you are in for a real treat.

DK books are marvelous books. They are gorgeously illustrated and written clearly and beautifully. If you get the idea that I admire their books, you are very correct. I have bought their books before and have enjoyed them immensely.

This may not be a subject you will enjoy. It certainly shows human’s violent side. However, we should not forget our history. History is full of battles. We should also not forget how destructive we can be. No matter how we feel about the matter, the truth is that campaigns and conflicts that have shaped world history.

I certainly read this book, cover to cover. However, it is just as good as a coffee table book to browse through when you have some spare time.

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

Friday, July 29, 2011

How Europe is Indebted to the Sikhs? by Bhupinder Singh Holland

This book is mainly about two things. The Battle of Ieper (Ypres Salient) in WWI and the celebration of Sikhs Martyrs of WWI in Ieper (Ypres) in November 2002.

It is an interesting piece of European History. There were an incredible number of nationalist in the Armies of Britain and France. More than 30 nationalists were represented in the Ypres Salient in the troops that fought there. The British and French had colonies and their armies reflected this fact.

The French army had Moroccans, Algerians, Tunisians, Senegalesians and other West Africans. They also had troops from French Guyana and laborers from Indochina, the Ammanites.

In the British army, first there were the Dominion’s of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The British Indian army would have troops from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma and Nepal. Other parts of the British Empire sent troops and laborers. These places would include such places as Egypt, the Caribbean, Bermuda, and the Fiji Island. When you think of the Great War, you think about Europeans fighting, but this is simply not true.

The book gives whole chapters towards talking about the Sikhs. It talks about hair, beards and moustaches. It also talks a bit about the philosophy of the Sikhs.

I think that this book might be of great interest in Sikhs tracing their families (i.e. Genealogy). This book has chapters listing the Sikh dead of WWI in both Belgium and France.

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

Friday, June 3, 2011

Common Wealth by Jeffrey Sachs

Jeffrey Sachs has a web site at Columbia. For a partial review of this book, see Marginal Revolution and review by Tyler Cowen. Also, see this book in 79 slides at And, to get a more complete book review, check out Guardian.

For a lecture by Jeffrey Sachs, see YouTube item under Authors@Google.

Jeffrey Sachs is a rich socialist. I guess he says some interesting things. He talks how well the Nordic socialist states are doing. He sort of thinks other states can copy, but I wonder. I think the main reason that socialism works in the Nordic state is lack of corruption. I think that this is cultural and I doubt if other states can do this. It is not just that the Nordic states have ethnic homogeneity. France has this too and it is far more corrupt.

I first time I really realized the difference between England and France as far as corruption goes was with the Profumo Affair. This happen in 1963, so it was a long time ago; but I was young and not conscience really about such things as corruption. In this affair, the UK Secretary of State for War had an affair with reputed mistress of an alleged Russian spy. Being Canadian, I was horrified, as seemed the UK public. However, the French just seem to shrug their shoulders and say, “it happens”.

I also do not think that we humans do things until we are really forced to. In Canada, we still have the problem that the poor go to poor schools. It is just not the problem of money. It is the problem of having the will to change things.

I do not think he really has solutions for changing our world. The poor in lots of places are getting richer and living better probably not because of rich western socialists, but probably in spite of them. Well, at least he is thinking about things. I, in fact, have faith in mankind. I think that we will figure things out and with the poor getting richer, we will have a bright future.

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

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Smart Swarm by Peter Miller

This is a really delightful and informative book. It is all about how insects and birds act in groups and how these groups get things done.

A single ant or bee isn't smart, but their colonies are. There is a study on Swarm Intelligence. See Wikipedia entry at Swarm Intelligence. What they are looking at is collective behavior of decentralized, self-organized systems. It is being applied to the development of robots. When applied to robots 'swarm intelligence' refers to the more general set of algorithms used to control robots. There is another good article on this at Carleton on this subject.

The monstrous Orcs in The Lord of the Rings coordinated their movements as a marauding army by following simple rules of interaction. These rules were developed by the study of a flock of starlings. If you saw this movie you would see how complex action was delivered from very simple rules. The rules were:

  • Stay close to other Orcs
  • Don't bump into other Orcs
  • Head in the same direction as the Orc throng
  • If you run into any humans - cut them in half with your sword"

On YouTube, you can see a very short animated video talking about swarms and what they can tell us at

There are a couple of quite detailed reviews on this book. One is at Business Pundit and another good one at Mission to Learn called Lessons from the Swarm by Jeff Cobb

Peter Miller is a senior editor at National Geographic. There are a couple of interesting articles here by Peter Miller. See Field Notes on the National Geographic site. There is also an older article on swarms by Peter Miller on the National Geographic site

There is also an interesting video of how Art Colonies work by Deborah Gordon. See YouTube site. This is rather long at just over an hour.

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

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Father of Us All by Victor Davis Hanson

The full title is The Father of Us All – War and History – Ancient and Modern. This book is a series of essays that Victor Hanson wrote on war. He has an entry in Wikipedia. There is a review of sorts on this book at PRODOS Film Study Group.

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Sanford University and a professor of classics emeritus at California State University, Fresno. His web site is at Victor and at VDH’s Private Papers.

He talks how the Greeks had rules for war, they had truces and they had plays on the insanity of war, but still they went on fighting with each other. Thucydides says that wars were fought for reasons of honour, self-interest, fear, anger and pride. Others have said we fight over ideas, perceptions, fear, honour and grievances. Today, we want to give different reasons for war. However, if we were really honest with ourselves I think we would come to the same conclusions that wars today are fought for the same sort of reasons.

There are a lot of people today that think that war has changed. It has appeared to change because we fight differently. However, there is no good evidence that people had changed at all. We like to think that we are more peace loving. We have lots of people pushing conflict resolution. But have we really changed? Are humans today really different?

The Greeks felt that some wars were good and some were bad. For example, the Persian wars were good because the Greeks were fighting for their freedom. The Peloponnesian war was bad because Greeks were fighting Greeks. Today we tend to think that all wars are bad, but is this right?

There is an hour video on YouTube called Conversations with History. This is an interview with See Victor Hanson. There is also a video with Victor Hanson talking about this book. See Book TV for a short version. For a long version at Book TV.

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

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Rise and Fall of Communism by Archie Brown

The way communism was to work was people received what they needed and contributed what they could. Problem with this is that it does not work. Why would you work when you saw that others did not, but got the same things as you did? I remember one Russian worker at the fall of communism say, “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us”. See an entry on Wikipedia on Russian Jokes .

Our North American Indians practiced such a policy of people contributing what they can and getting back what they need. However, these were small groups of people and they deeply depended on each other to survive. If not everyone contributed then the group would not survive. They also need to take care of members of the group so the group would survive.

Brown starts off with philosophical beginnings of the communist creed and traces communism to its down fall. I think that it fell because not everyone wants the same thing. That seemed to be the philosophy of communism that everyone got the same things. Of course, this is not what really happened; the leaders and the elite lived much better than the masses. A lot of people wanted to escape. This seemed to be the reason for the downfall of communism.

There were lots of good reasons people had to try and improve the lot of the common man. Karl Marx said a lot of interesting things. I think in the west that we ignore a lot of the stuff he said to our philosophical detriment. He was thinking of a better future of the lot of the common man. He was wrong in how to better the lot of the common man, but that does not take away the fact that he said interesting things and was a great thinker. There is a biography on Karl Max on Wikipedia . There is another great article on him at The History Guide under Lectures on Modern European Intellectual History.

For a good book review, see The Telegraph . You can see part of a lecture by Archie Brown about this book on Book TV and another short interview at YouTube.
There is a lot of interesting videos on YouTube about the fall of communism. See YouTube. This is about the Fall of Communism – 1991 giving news as it happens. There are 6 parts to this newscast. Also, there is a YouTube documentary on the Soviet loss of control over Eastern Europe. See YouTube. There is also a documentary on the Ceausescu execution in 1989 on YouTube.

This may be a long book at over 700 pages, but it is an easy and enjoyable read. We are so lucky nowadays because not only can we read books available, but we can also see lectures by our authors on the internet and see lots of information on the internet about any subject we can to read about.

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

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

The full title of this book is Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the rich teach their kids about money – that the poor and middle class do not. Also, Sharon L. Lechter was involved in writing this book.

This is the second time I have read this book. It is quite interesting. Although, I have not bought and sold real estate to make money, I have spent time building up the assets side of my balance sheet. The other thing I like about this book is when he talks about a house being a liability not an asset. I do believe this. There are good reasons to buy a house, but buying it and considering it an asset is not a good idea. Houses costs lots of money and are a cash drain.

I have not always paid myself first as this book suggests (and other people do to). Live has it ups and downs and this is not always possible. During my working life, I worked for a company that was bought out (and I lost my job) and company that went bankrupt (and I lost my job). I have also worked for companies that downsized and most of the time I was ok, but it was touch and go for a while. I also had my husband die and leave me with a small child to look after. At the worst of times, I may not have saved money, but I always did my best to live within my means.

The other thing I liked about this book was Robert talking about risk. He says you do not avoid it, what you do is manage it. I was never terrified of losing money in an investment. I did that, but I was always somewhat cautious and never lost a lot on one investment.

Another thing I like about Robert’s book is that he says you should work to learn, not work for money. Money can only motivate you so far. In my working life, I took on new jobs because I thought I would learn from the experience and I did. I never regretted this. Although, I must admit that sometimes it was scary to take on a job that had not previously existed, there were benefits. The main benefit being is that you can write you own job description.

There is an interview, in 5 parts, of Robert Kiyosaki interviewed by Philippe Matthews. See
Interview Part 1 , Interview Part 2 and
Interview Part 3 . Once you start with the first interview on youtube, the others should show in the right side bar.

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

The Next Decade by George Friedman

This is an absolutely fascinating book. I know a lot about history and I think that this helps to understand some of the issues this author brings up.

If you want to get a good idea of what the future world might look like, this is a very good place to begin to look at the issues. However, this book is very much written from an American viewpoint. It is also written from an old British idea of the best sort of world for the British Empire is a world were the countries in each area have a balance of power. Of course, the way George Friedman writes is that this is the best idea also for the American Empire. That is it is best that the countries in each area have a balance of power.

Let’s face it, China will rise and be a force to be reckon with in the future, I by no means feel that America is doomed in any way. China (and India) produced a large part of the world’s GDP until quite recently. It is not surprising that both these countries would rise up again. However, I think that what the Americans have going for them is the ability to change and innovate.

For a good review of this book, see SFGate. There is another excellent review at Word Press. Also, see an interview on YouTube.

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

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why The West Rules by Ian Morris

The full name of the book is Why The West Rules - For Now, The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future. If you want a great book that clearly explains social development of the West and the East. This is the book to get. As a study of the past, it is absolutely great. However, when Ian Morris tries to look into the future, his writing falls completely apart as he does such a poor job of it.

What Morris calls the West is the Middle East and Europe. What he calls the East is China. The West started to develop around 12,000 BCE, but then it was interrupted by the Younger Drayas. This is because the world got very cold. The theory is that the North American current got shut down because of an influx of fresh water came from the Great Lakes Area of Canada into what is now the St. Lawrence River. The theory states that this water had been held back by ice that suddenly broke. After 10,000 BCE, the West started to develop again.

Why did development start in the West? The main reason is that cereals come from wild grasses. And, there are 56 possible wild grasses, of which 32 grew in the wild in S.W. Asia and the Mediterranean basin. (Cereals are things like wheat, corn, barley, rice, sorghum etc.) Looking at the rest of the world, East Asia had 6, Central America 5, Africa, south of the Sahara 4, North America 2 and Western Europe 2 of these grasses.

The next item is the number of animals that could be domesticated. There are 14 animals that man has domesticated. Of these animals, 7 came from the Middle East and some of these are the most common ones of sheep, goat, cow and pig. East Asia had 5, South America had 1 and North America, Australia, and Africa had none.

So, the West got started in developing around 10,000 BCE and China around 8,000 BCE. The West had the lead until the Roman Empire fell around 550 CE. Then China lead in social development until around 1750 when it was over taken by North Western Europe. (Although I know, some people think that China started to decline before 1750 and because of this North Western Europe was ahead before this time.)

There other interesting thing is social development in the West. Except for the Roman Empire time, the most socially developed area was the Middle East until around 1400. It is around 1400 that the Europe started to develop ahead of the Middle East. By 1900, social development was advancing not only in North West Europe, but also on the North East coast of North America. By the year 2000, America had pulled ahead of the rest of the world.

If you want to know what is meant by social development, this book will explain it in detail. He gives his web site where he explains social development even further. See Ian Morris. See the biography of Ian Morris. See an interview video with Ian Morris. For a book review, see McClelland site.

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

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

On God by Norman Mailer

In my youth, I read books by Mailer, but I have not read anything by him recently, until I came across this one. He has been criticized for not having a complete philosophy, but I would have to tell you, neither do I. This is the only “God: book I have read. The others do not appeal to me. I have flipped through others, but I must say, I like Norman Mailer. I like reading people who have interesting things to say. I like people who get you thinking about things.

I am not a religious person and I do not go to church or pray on a regular basis. But, who has not prayed when troubles are piling upon them? I am not an atheist; I do not think I am agnostic. However, beyond that, it gets pretty unclear. What I do know is that I have relatives in the US Bible belt and they are very nice people. They are also more tolerant of other people ideas and believes that either Christopher Higgins or Richard Dawkins.

Norman Mailer is always interesting to read. So, if you want to read a book on God that it interesting and thought provoking, this would be a good choice.

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

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Alps by Andrew Beattie

I was looking for a history of Switzerland and found this book. My mother’s family was English and there are an incredible number of books on English history and on England. My father’s family is Swiss and books on Switzerland, I find, are few and far between.

This book is divided into four sections of Landscape, History, Imagination, Visitors. The thing that struck me about this book was the Visitors section. Mostly the “visitors” were British and most were from the 19th and 20th century. The British visitors certainly thought very little of the Swiss. They mostly loved to go to Switzerland because the fine scenery and part of the “scenery” was the Swiss who were looked upon as rubes or country bumpkins.

This book talks a bit about history. However, it is the History of the Alps, rather than just about Switzerland that I wanted. However, what I was particularly looking for was the development of Switzerland as a democratic nation. I figured that democracy must be bred into me with an English mother and a Swiss father. I do know how democracy got going in England, but this book is silent on what I would have thought to be a very important subject.

I do know that my family left Switzerland in the late 1800’s because financial difficulties and want to start a new life in Canada. They were also part of a small protestant group called Evangelical Association. Although, I must admit that some members of the family, especially, a son from my Grand grandfather’s first wife said they were Lutheran.

It is interesting that when Beattie has a very short section on actual history, he spends time on talking about William Tell. You might remember the main part of the story when Tell shoots an apple off the head of his son. The whole point to this section to tell us why it is all a fiction and this episode never happened.

All the sites that talk about this book give the same blurb. “The Alps are Europe's highest mountain range: their broad arc stretches right across the center of the continent, encompassing a wide range of traditions and cultures. Andrew Beattie explores the turbulent past and vibrant present of this landscape, where early pioneers of tourism, mountaineering, and scientific research, along with the enduring legacies of historical regimes from the Romans to the Nazis, have all left their mark.”

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

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mexico and the United States by W. Dirk Raat

I am a Canadian, and I must admit, I know little about of Mexico. I think that this book can give anyone a handle on the relationship of Mexico and the United States. Theirs is a complicated relationship and I think it is one that we should all understand. I find little on the internet about Dirk Raat, but I found his book a very enjoyable one to read.

I know Mexicans still think that they were hard done by the American’s who now own what was the North West part of their country. However, I do not have much sympathy for them on this. Do not forget that Spain got that land by conquest not long before it was taken by the Americans. Of course, the Americans also got the land by conquest. However, this does not make the Americans any better or any worse than the Mexicans. Maybe we should consider that in all of this, the original inhabitants of this land were never consulted.

Raat starts of talking about the different attributes of the people on both sides of the US/Mexican border. All people perceive the world from an egocentric or ethnocentric point of view. The Aztec thought of the people outside their center, especially to the north, as “sons of the dogs” or barbarians. They were referring to the people basically in south-western US and northern Mexico.

There was cultural conflict between the Mexicans and the Americans. The American thought of the Mexicans as ignorant, indolent and cowardly. They called the Mexicans greasers and chili peppers. Both the Spanish and the Mexicans found the Americans presumptuous, ambitious and aggressive.

Raat spends time on the background to and the fighting between the Mexicans and the Americans. There was really an undefined border between the new countries of Mexico and America when they gained independence from Spain and England. The land of Mexico that became part of the US was always on the margin of the Spanish Empire and then on the margin of Mexico. Its people were basically neglected by Spain and then Mexico.

This land was sparsely populated and its people traded with the Americans. Mexico centralized its government in 1830’s (from a federalist system). However, it never integrated this area. The frontier was dependent on the Americans for goods, especially manufactured goods. The area basically first became an economic part of the US before it became part of the US. However, another part of this story is also the American ideal of Manifest Destiny.

With the economic ties of US also came Americans and others via America into this region. Another point that has seldom been mentioned is that Santa Anna executed the survivors of the Alamo who surrendered. He also executed Colonel James Fannin and his Army (around 365 men) who surrendered also to Santa Anna. To the Mexicans, Santa Anna was a hero. To the Americans, he was a butcher.

See an article by Dirk Raat on Innovative Ways to Look at New World Historical Geography.

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