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The Terror of ISIS: Assessing the Real Threat Posed by the Islamic State
The Terror of ISIS: Assessing the Real Threat Posed by the Islamic State
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 14 Dec 2014
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This is an excellent account of how ISIS started over a decade ago.


Delphi Complete Works of Henrik Ibsen (Illustrated)
Delphi Complete Works of Henrik Ibsen (Illustrated)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Balance Between the Individual and Society, 4 Jun 2013
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Ibsen's plays are not just about 19th century Scandinavia; they are about the balance between the individual and society, and therefore very much connected with the 21st century..


Green Philosophy: How to Think Seriously About the Planet
Green Philosophy: How to Think Seriously About the Planet
by Roger Scruton
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What the Planet Needs, 24 July 2012
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Joaquina Pires-O'Brien
Roger Scruton's Green Philosophy: How to Think Seriously about the Planet is an outstanding book on the environment that shows how moral philosophy can be translated into policy. It is a massively comprehensive book that leaves no stone unturned in relation to rationalities and approaches that have been proposed to protect the environment, analysing them from many angles. There are two expectations behind his meticulous inquiry into the physical and the moral aspects of choices. The first is that it will provide all the facts needed to understand environmental problems; the second is that such understanding will recreate the moral connection between individuals and their immediate environment. As Scruton points out, this moral connection is already latent in humans and is based on the need for nurture and safety. These two expectations lead to what Scruton calls oikophilia, which literally means the love of one's home, which is the key to unlock the moral connection that motivates people to look after their environmental resources in a spirit of stewardship.

Oikophilia works, Scruton explains, by promoting human resilience, autonomous associations, market solutions, effective tort law, aesthetic side-constraints which emerge from open discussions among citizens, biodiversity, natural beauty, local autonomy, serious research, and a regime of pricing and feedback that return the costs of environmental damage to those who create them. These are precisely the kind of things `which have a healthy environment as their effect'. This long list of things is, of course, part of the conservative morality which Scruton recommends. It comes with a huge problem: to overcome the hostile attitude of the left-wing mind set of the radical greens that tend to rebuff conservatism and to equate the market with attributes like consumerism, selfishness and greed.

There are arguments in favour of conservatism in most chapters of this book. In those arguments it is posited that the individualism at the core of conservatism, which combines freedom with responsibility, is complemented by other values such as respect for customs and traditions, namely those in the spheres of inherited affections, national sovereignty, free enterprises and civic initiatives. It is also argued that it is worth maintaining the things that were built into society at great cost, such as English common law, which has enabled society to cope with environmental problems long before the state began to legislate against them. The conclusion of the argument for conservatism is that tradition is precisely the source of practical knowledge that helps us know what to do in order to accomplish something successfully. Any suggestion that the author could be trying to appease the left-wing greens is dispelled completely by his summing up at the end of the book in the two appendices, where he posits some bold ideas that have the potential to attract other types of contrary reactions.

Green Philosophy examines a number of the most pertinent environmental problems, shows how such problems were tackled in the past, and reveals the mistakes that were made in the process. In Scruton's view, both the radical greens and governments have limited visions of environmental problems and their habit of imposing top-down prescriptions for the environment disrupts the social equilibrium necessary for people to act morally as temporary trustees of the environment. To Scruton, these top-down solutions often either exacerbate the problem or create new problems in the process. If environmental problems are to be taken seriously, he argues, they should be subjected to public debate and accountability. Scruton makes the point that, in the recent past, people had control of their environment and an awareness of the risks it faced through their use. Removing control of the local environmental away from individuals is disingenuous since they are precisely the ones who hold the key to solving the problems relating to it. According to Scruton in order for people to regain control of their environment they must first relearn how `to turn on the moral equipment' which will enable them to value what they have and to protect what they value.

Scruton's Green Philosophy is a solid starting point for all public discussions surrounding the environment. In it, the author accepts that some environmental problems are so large that they have no realistic solution and the best that can be done is to manage them with the aim of putting them on the path of equilibrium. Global warming and the dwindling fisheries of the oceans are perhaps the two most notorious examples of large-scale problems.

Scruton's solution for the problem of dwindling fisheries is to divide up the shoreline into plots and allocate property rights to each. He cites two examples of autonomous fisheries management that worked, the Lofoten fishery in Norway, which survived for centuries without outside regulation, and the system of `individual transferable quotas' (ITQs) adopted by Iceland and New Zealand. Scruton is a fierce critic of the Common Fisheries Policy of the European Union (EU). He reminisces about a time past when each country in the coastal waters of Europe had their customary sovereign rights. Scruton fails to acknowledge that in the case of Great Britain and Denmark, accepting the Common Fisheries Policy was a pre-requisite to joining the EU. Therefore, his suggestion of returning to a system of property rights which would bring the good stewardship needed to safeguard the fisheries resource is nigh on impossible for a country within a transnational organization such as the EU. Furthermore, Scruton's assessment of the problems of the oceans and the disappearance of fisheries and the stocks on which they depend, fails to take into account the existing body of scientific knowledge on the subject, omitting to suggest feasible ways of tackling the problems associated with the Common Fisheries Policy.

Scruton's coverage of global warming is much better than his account of the oceans and their dwindling fisheries, and includes the entire spectrum of informed opinions, both past and present. He accepts the trend of global warming, that to a greater extent it is anthropogenic, and that there is a need to reduce carbon emissions. He explains the basis of the international solution proposed under the Kyoto treaty, known as cap and trade solution, as an attempt to create a market that will assign a price to emissions based on the logic of supply and demand. Although he recognises the market oriented solution underpinning Kyoto, Scruton is sceptical about cap and trade schemes due to their lack of transparency, which, in his view, is an invitation to corruption. Another reason why he opposes Kyoto is that it targets producers and not consumers, who, he believes, are ultimately responsible for the problem of carbon emissions. He proposes an alternative solution to the problem of global warming, by the introduction of a flat-rate carbon tax on all products regardless of their origin and to use this tax to finance research on cleaner technologies.

An overview of Scruton's suggestions to manage environmental problems is provided in the last chapter of Green Philosophy, entitled Modest Proposals. Here, Scruton reiterates that the state should not undertake tasks that could be better undertaken by the citizens. In his view, what the state should do is to help citizens to act effectively, through deregulation for example. The first step of any environmental policy should be to devise a scheme for putting a price on pollution and waste that serves as a deterrent. The chapter, however, is followed by two appendices. Appendix I, Global Justice, is a philosophical examination of the problems of bringing justice to the environment, especially the so-called intergenerational justice, that seeks to save the environment for future generations. In the second Appendix, How Should We Live, Scruton delineates the difficulties of moral judgements and the tensions that exist between the pursuit of happiness and sense of duty. He also points out that in the modern era, when overpopulation became the greatest source of pressure on the environment, one of the greatest tensions is that between the virtue of charity towards the poor and the virtue of unburdening the planet. The starkest example is the campaign against DDT that took place after the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, whose success led to an increase in the population of the malaria-transmitting mosquito, which in turn caused a huge increase in the number of African children who died of malaria.

One of the lessons of this book is that all actions designed to solve environmental problems in the present must be thought through to prevent a tragedy further down the line. For that, one must think seriously about the planet and reject top-down prescriptions and agendas about the environment. This, of course, requires the practice oikophilia, demonstrated by actions such as participation in civic associations, creation of sustainable neighbourhoods and respect for tradition. In the case of environmental justice, truth is not enough: only the whole truth will do. Many comprehensive books on the environment that have appeared before now have incurred errors due to incomplete visions. This is not the case of Scruton's Green Philosophy -- His polymath credentials have allowed him to uncover all the pertinent dimensions necessary for the care of our planet.


The Feast of the Goat
The Feast of the Goat
by Mario Vargas Llosa
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tale of Tyranny, 14 July 2011
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This review is from: The Feast of the Goat (Paperback)
This book is a tale of tyranny with lessons for everyone that values their dignity and their freedom. It is probably the most sophisticated novel of the Peruvian-born writer Mario Vargas LLosa, who in 2010 won the Nobel Prize for Literature. It skilfully recreates in fiction the last years of the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina in the Dominican Republic, as well as the political turmoil that occurred after his assassination in 1961. The settings are real and the situations perfectly plausible as told by Urania Cabral, one of the tyrant's many victims, who was sent to the United States by the sisters of her nunnery's academy to study in a similar school in Adrian, Michigan. After finishing high school in Michigan, she moved to Boston to attend Harvard and after graduation she went to work for the World Bank in Washington, D.C. Uri, as she is called by her friends in the United States -a nickname that is very unlike the debauched ones which were common at that time in the Dominican Republic-, cuts off all ties with her father and her family, and decides never to return to her country of birth. Now a forty-nine year old woman with a slender figure and big brown eyes she is well settled in the United States where she presently works for a law firm in New York. Unmarried, she lives for her work and spends her spare time reading and researching the history of the Trujillo Era. Although Urania has never had a holiday, she makes a last minute decision to travel to her homeland for a week. She wonders what made her take that hasty decision and whether she would eventually regret it.

Urania's narrative takes place entirely during the week she spends in Santo Domingo. It unfolds partly through monologues in front of her stroke-stricken father, Augustín Cabral, once an important figure in the old regime until he was cast aside by Trujillo without any apparent reason. Urania wants to tell her father about this and the facts she learned about Trujillo and his closest supporters, as well as about herself. Her father does not hear what she says; his eyes focus on her mouth as if trying to lip read her. She carries on talking anyway. Flashbacks from her childhood help to close some of the gaps in the story, a big jigsaw puzzle, which she is now able to complete using her expertise.

The title of this book has to do with the plot to assassinate the dictator, who in his later years was nicknamed `the Goat' by his detractors, as well as with an existing folk festival of the goat, a prized meat in Latin America. It took nearly thirty years for people to perceive the true colours of the dictator. Before that, he was called by the most sycophantic titles like `Father of the New Nation', `His Excellency', `The Generalissimo', `The Benefactor' or simply `The Chief'. To his detractors, Trujillo became the personification of the devil for he robbed people's souls and turned them into non-entities. In one of her flashbacks Urania recalls the visits of the dictator to the house of the Minister Don Froilan, in the absence of the latter, to have sexual encounters with his wife. She then recollects that the Generalissimo had the habit of visiting the wives of his ministers in their absence. She is saddened that her father had turned a blind eye to that and cannot help but wonder if Trujillo had tried the same with her own mother. The judgement of history that crystallised decades later revealed Trujillo as a bully and a power-addicted psychopath who ordered the massacre of thousands of Haitians and brought misery to his countrymen.

As young officer's training recruit man Trujillo revealed himself to be a confident individual. His self-confidence was boosted further by a certain Sergeant Gittleman, an American marine officer, who provided his military training during the occupation, mentoring him and then becoming his friend in the United States. Trujillo liked to boast about his military discipline and he always acknowledged the fact that he owed it to the marines. He had a cunning ability to read people's body language and facial expressions, something which he used to browbeat his subordinates and opponents. Just before the Presidential elections of 1930, the Dominican Republic was suffering from a collapsed economy and rampant crime. Trujillo, then in charge of the Dominican National Guard, was a presidential candidate who embraced the popular belief at the time that the ills of the country were caused by the Haitian immigrants. The people saw him as the man who could bring a definite solution to the problem and a panacea for their country's problems. Once elected, Trujillo stayed legally in office until 1938 but managed to remain in power until 1961 by governing through a series of puppet presidents. Soon after taking office he became the richest man in his country as well as the biggest land owner and employer. The fact that he practically had a monopoly of the job market perpetuated his father-figure image.

Urania's father, the Senator Augustín Cabral, also known as `Egg Head' due to his high intelligence, was an important figure in the regime. Before becoming the President of the Senate, he had been Minister of Foreign Affairs and President of the Dominican Party. Sadly, his intelligence did not prevent him from partaking in the popular racism against Haitians. It certainly did not make him a knower of character: he admired the punctuality, order, exactitude and discipline of the Chief but was blind to the Chief's faults. In his favour Senator Cabral was an honest man who never used his position for personal gain. The same cannot be said of the remaining men of the dictator's inner circle. Joaquín Balaguer, the puppet President, was a savvy politician, capable of maintaining his composure no matter what. Senator Henry Chirinos, whose nickname had to do with his drinking habit and his fancy rhetoric, was a hypocrite who after the end of the regime pretended to be a democrat to secure the post of ambassador to the United States. As Urania found out during the time she worked for the World Bank, it was he who had betrayed her father causing his downfall.

The puppet President, like the two senators, Cabral and Chirinos, was just a figureheads who served to give the country a pretence of democracy. Only the military chiefs had real power in the inner circle of the dictator, specially General José René (Pupo) Román, the head of the armed forces, and Colonel Johnny Abbes García, the former informer who was recently appointed head of the military intelligence service, SIM. Known by a rude nickname linked to his bad appearance, Garcia was a cold and cruel torturer and murderer. In spite of these credentials the Chief still managed to browbeat him for his failure in the mission to assassinate President Betancourt of Venezuela.

All the men who conspired against Trujillo were recently disaffected, each with their personal motives. Antonio de la Maza who came from an anti-Trujillista family which actually fought the dictator, at some point succumbed to the charisma of Trujillo and even worked for him together with his brother, who was recently killed by the dictator. A more typical story was that of the Lieutenant Amado García Guerrero, known as Amadito, a model soldier who was trained to obey orders. He hated Trujillo because he forbade him to marry Luisa Gil, the woman he loved and for turning him into a murderer during a test of loyalty forced on him, when he fired two shots into the head of the prisoner unaware that the prisoner he shot was Luisa's brother. The conspiracy had two main phases: eliminating the dictator and forming the new government.

The first phase of the conspiracy was the ambush, to be carried out by a group of seven: besides the already mentioned Antonio de la Maza and Amadito there were also Salvador Estrella Sadhalá (the Turk), Tony Imbert, Pedro Livio Cedeño, Huáscar Tejeda Pimentel and Roberto Pastoriza Neret. The second phase of the conspiracy was to put in place the plan of action for the transition government, and it had the support of no other than the chief of the Armed Forces himself, General Román. However, after the dictator was killed on 30th May, 1961, the expected regime change did not occur since Román became paralysed with fear after finding out that the Chief had been killed but that his driver had survived the ambush. The half baked conspiracy failed to foresee the need for safe hideouts for the seven men that participated in the ambush. As a result of Roman's failure to carry out his part of the agreement, most of the principal conspirators were arrested, tortured and had their property destroyed; hundreds of innocent members of the family and friends of the conspirators suffered the same fate. Of the group of seven only one survived -Tony Imbert-, thanks to the help of a conscientious individual, a rare breed in those days when most people had lost their better humanity. Of the five who were caught straight way, two luckier ones managed to kill themselves before being taken into custody while the remaining had to endure several months of torture before being executed by Trujillo's son Ramfis, with the full knowledge of President Balaguer. Soon the implication of General Pupo Román in the conspiracy was discovered and he too was arrested.

There is a superimposing narrative over the plot surrounding the operation `Killing the Goat', in the form of an anatomy of a servile society that results from all tyrannies. There is also something Dickensian in the vile situations which the characters of this book found themselves, reminders of how things should not be done. Since the tyranny does not allow the right of free expression, people are not aware of what really goes on in the government. This is how people can be tricked by propaganda, indoctrination and the fear of isolation. Once individuals abdicate their free will to the leader, they become like children who eventually love authoritarian parents, convincing themselves that the physical chastising are for their own good.

The threats of a tyranny extend beyond those which people hear from the defenders of human rights such as arbitrary arrests, tortures and executions. There are many other threats which involve discriminations such as those that deprive an individual from using his abilities to the full. Such discriminations are difficult to spot as they tend occur under a mantle of `legitimacy' provided not by a proper 'Rule of Law' but by a `Rule of Obscure Regulations' created at the whims of little dictators in positions of power inside the state's oligarchies. The result is some pretence of justice such as that which in Brazil was known as the rule of `to our friends everything, to our enemies, the law'. Tyrannies can appear to be efficient through their potential to resolve problems quickly. However, there is no guarantee that their solutions do not come at the expense of human rights violations. What tyrannies do very well is to foster discrimination by association, when families and friends are held responsible for the action of someone else. That is how the individual citizen is coerced into conforming or resorting themselves to violence. In a liberal democracy with a proper Rule of Law in place, a leader who looses the confidence of the electorate is simply be voted out of office.

The tyranny which the Dominican Republic underwent during the Trujillian era has universal lessons. The first lesson is the frivolity of believing that panaceas of any kind, including utopias and religion, can replace the Rule of Law. Trujillo's public persona allowed him to be seen as a panacea for the troubles of his country but his regime only brought misery and pain. The second lesson is the mistaken belief that those in the inner circle of the tyrant are free from the abuse of power. In truth, no one is safe in a tyranny, not even the friends of the tyrant, as in the example of Urania's father, who became a `living dead' after being casted aside by the dictator.

The conclusion of this tale of the tyranny is not about the reckoning but about the reconciliation of the victims with their own humanity. On her return to Santo Domingo, Urania is impressed by the modern city which grew in place of the old one and wonders if she would ever be able to move on as the city of Santo Domingo did. She realises that her impulsive return was an opportunity to revisit her past in order to free herself from it once and for all. Perhaps it was too late for her to confront her father but there was still her aunt and her cousins. If her aunt really cared about her, she needed to know the truth. The process for moving on requires bringing the truth out into the open. And there is no painless way of doing that. (See more JPO reviews at: (...))


LG 47LH3000 47-inch Widescreen Full HD 1080p LCD TV with Freeview - Black
LG 47LH3000 47-inch Widescreen Full HD 1080p LCD TV with Freeview - Black

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great LCD TV at a Honest Price, 9 Oct 2009
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Although there was a cheaper supplieer of this TV at amazon.co.uk I opted for that particular one because it was UK-based. Since I am a bit uneasy with having to learn how to operate something new, it made sense for me to buy twin TVs, for our lounge and master bedroom. I did not regret my decision. The tvs arrived well packed and the delivery man had placed them in our garage just as I requested on a note I left at the door. My husband and I managed to assembled both tvs by ourselves without any problems. Since they arrived, in July 2009, their image and sound have delivered what was promised.


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