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Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care
Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care
by Benjamin Spock
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £5.50

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Something is amiss. So give this edition a miss, 11 Jun 2013
Perhaps the early editions were good. The ones actually writen by Dr. Spock. I certinaly hope so because I'm going to get a copy to compare, and I hope that will be fruitfull. This one was not. It is "updated" and the update was not an improvement. When a book on childcare suggests that kids need to be 9-10 years old to go out on their own, something is amiss. So give this edition a miss - for the sake of the kids.

It is not complete write of, there are some good things on the basics. But tit's tone is infused with helicopter-parents-producing-18-years-old-with-the-maturity-of-13-years-olds mentality.


World Turned Upside Down
World Turned Upside Down
by Melanie Phillips
Edition: Hardcover

10 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars looking forward to reading this, 4 April 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
based on the "blurbs" and the comments I look forward to reading this, and will write a more fulsome review when I have. My working hypothesis is that people have limited rationality. Or put another way: There is a quota of irrationality that needs to be filled. If it is not filled with religion, it must be filled with something else. This being so it is better that the "quota" be filled with something that is irrelevant, like religion, than something that has actual consequences for real (as opposed to fictional) people, like science or foreign policy. As I find The Daliy Mail to be hilarious I am encouraged that the author is a columnist for that paper. This could be a lot of fun reading.

OK, I have now read it.

First things first: The introduction. The book can not be held to anything different from what the author claims for it: Are the authors stated objectives met. What matters is not what it is about, but how it is about it.
I take no points away for ideology as long has the author states it up front. Only for lies, which should be unnecessary as selectively picking your facts should be quite sufficient, for flawed logic and for poor language and organization.

The author claims to be no scientist, but a journalist. The pages that follows certainly bears this out; The author is most definitely no scientist. (defined as a person who applies the scientific method)
The claim to be a journalist is arguable, but I am inclined to acquit. There are passages that can reasonably pass for journalism: Lengthy sections where the author figuratively goes out seeking information and reports back what she finds. I.e journalism.
There is a range of topics (though largely within the confines of the world as understood by readers of The Daily Mail)

Israel is a recurring theme with a couple of dedicated chapters: The author presents a Zionists view that would make the president of Israel blush. It is no wonder that Norman Podoretz is quoted on the cover. The author sated her position frankly in the introduction and the case was presented with the facts tailored to suit. There were no lies that I could catch so I take no points. If you are a Zionist, you are a Zionist and this being stated front-and-center, so fair enough.

There is a chapter on science "scientific triumphalism". The author confesses in the introduction to being religious and takes this position against Dawkins et al on the subject of God. Using the First Cause route to argue for the existence of God. Filling it out with some arguments from the Intelligent Design movement. The moving on to questioning evolution, but without outright repudiating it.
More originally she labels certain scientists' theories about life in other parts of the universe as nonsense and uses this to discredit them. Though it is no clear why belief in the existence of life in another part of the universe is any more nonsensical than the belief in life outside the universe - God.

A revealing moment is when the author states that rationality is purposeful. "Without purposefulness there, then, there can be no rationality" (p80). This is , of course sheer nonsense and the arguments leading up to it weak in the extreme.
Finishing of the chapter with calling science more an exercise in mind control than accumulation of knowledge.
The author states up front that she is not a scientist, and with this disclaimer a certain amount of nonsense can be excused on the subject.
There is, however, no excuse for claiming rationality to be purposeful. This position is logically nutty in the extreme and does not follow from the cognitive deficiencies declared in the "disclaimer"/ introduction. I therefore take one star away for this.
This may seem excessively harsh. But it really is rather a grave and fundamental error.
In the authors defense it can be sited that she clearly claimed to have religion and made no secret of it; and that for someone thus afflicted the belief that rationality has purpose, comes naturally. I disagree. I know plenty of religious people, none of whom makes such claims.

"The red, green, black, islamist axis" is the title of one chapter. Neatly summarizing the axis of the authors disaffection. But the attack on these groups is spread through out the work. And this is a quibble with the book: The chapters do not stay on target.
There are hardly any consecutive 10 pages in the book where issues of Zionism and (anti-)Semitism is are brought up. Granted that the author describes the size and shape of her axe in the introduction, before she then proceeded to grind it; but there is such a thing as a time and place. Issues under treatment blend to together across the chapters to an extent to almost (but not quite completely) make the chapters headings arbitrary and meaningless.
The material could have benefited from more rigid compartmentalization, and I take one point for this.

The book has an index and while it could have been more fulsome, it is still quite helpful. I wish more opinion authors would include an index in their books.

The writing is generally good. Benefiting from a commendably sober use of adjectives.
The author quotes effectively from sources, and also quite cleverly from members of the "opposing team". Generally a good tactic and the author does not over do it either. That many of the quotes are very short, suggestive of being out of context, is not a major concern.
It is the author's prerogative to quote as selectively as she likes. It is the readers own responsibility to exercise appropriate skepticism.

Conclusion

We in the "reality based community" can perhaps find it difficult to understand the thinking of those in the "other" community. We think that cause and effect are linked; That facts exists independent of our approval of them, or even knowledge of them; That ignorance is risky; as it drives uncertainty and fear: That meaning is a human construct devised for our own convenience.

These things do not apply in the other community and this makes understanding difficult. I find this book helpful on these matters. When the author states that rationality is purposeful (p 80) much inexplicable thinking suddenly becomes much clearer.

I recommend this book to those who look for a broader understanding of the political thinking in the "non-reality based community". This was perhaps not the intention of the author, but it was never the less achieved; And is an instance of something existing in the absence of purpose.

Being a person who likes to be informed about what goes on in other parts of society than where I live, work and socialize, I sometimes like to read the Daily Mail ("right") and The Independent ("left") so as to be informed about what passes for conventional wisdom in that strange land. This book helped in that regard.

3 stars

1 star taken for disorganization
1 star takes for claim that rationality has purpose
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 28, 2011 1:36 AM GMT


Zionism: v. 1: The Real Enemy of the Jews
Zionism: v. 1: The Real Enemy of the Jews
by Alan Hart
Edition: Hardcover

11 of 29 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wide ranging, poor writing., 2 Oct 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
First substance.
The author is a British TV journalist and middle east correspondent who has travelled widely in the subject, both literally and figuratively.

The work is informative and wide ranging within the subject matter.
It is journalistic in the best sense, of being descriptive. Interviews explicitly referred to and quoted at length. The author goes places and describes what he sees.
In some respects the book reads like a multi-part TV documentary. Understandable given the authors background, and not a bad thing. The subject might well benefit from more treatment in this way. Rather than with ever more statements of narrowly tailored facts and opinions.

100% one-side of course, but that is the norm for political books. The sensible reader will always compensate with works by authors with countervailing views.
As usual the validity of claims to impartiality are negatively correlated with the frequency with which they are made.

The huge scope of the work and wealth material covered, mask the careful selection. After a 1000+ pages (both volumes) the reader will at least be extensively informed; which is not quite the same as being adequately informed. But it is a good start.

Secondly style.
It is poorly written. Sometimes so badly, that you must read a sentence several times to understand what the author has put down.
The work is in dire need of an editor, preferably someone who knows something about punctuation.

The fact checking leaves something to be desired. Examples:

P.389 Jews driven out by terrorist attacks staged by Israeli agents. Without a shred of evidence sited to back it up this extraordinarily serious assertion. At least put in a couple of foot notes here.

P.426 The claim that Jordan river is the longest river in the world will no doubt raise a few eyebrows.

The incessant use bold fonts to mark out text for purposes that are not quite clear. Certain bold-ed passages are so extensive as to render the point moot. Whole paragraphs, sometimes several paragraphs. Confusing, and after a while annoying.

I give 2 stars. I take 2 away for the bad writing. Ordinarily I would have taken only one for this, but it really is appalling. The punctuation and wildly excessive use bold fonts did not help either.
I take one more for poor fact checking. On something this inflammatory, careful checking is essential.
The book is tailored by its author, and no work can ever be otherwise. Therefore I take no stars for partiality.

2 stars may seem overly generous. But the book spans very widely and on such a large and multi-faceted subject there is room for such a work. This book may not be that work, but there are points to be had for the effort.

For the serious knowledge junkie on the subject of Israel/Palestine/Zionism, this is a book to get. But don't let it be either the first, or the last one, you read on the subject.

On the whole worthwhile.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 7, 2012 4:17 PM GMT


The Case for Peace: How the Arab-Israeli Conflict Can be Resolved
The Case for Peace: How the Arab-Israeli Conflict Can be Resolved
by Alan Dershowitz
Edition: Paperback

8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars could do better, 5 Aug 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Many comments seem to be focus on the fact that the work is not bi-partisan. This seems misguided. Of course the work is not bi-partisan. It is not intended to be. It is piece of advocacy. The title states as much. "The Case for". The author is a lawyer. His job is to make the case for his clients. You might as well blame a duck for not being a swan.
The work must be judged on its own merits and claims. The introduction/preface is there for a reason.

It is a bit all over the place, and several sections seem to be left over from an edit of an early draft of "The Case for Israel". The author virtually admits as much in the introduction. Also indicating alternative titles he considered. As the author declares all this up front, the work being somewhat incoherent must then be allowed.

The most obvious shortcoming in the work is the little space devoted to the actual actions of creating peace. Notable since the title indicates that something of the sort might follow. However, what there is of it, is fine as far as it goes. A reasonable amount of detail and prescription as laypeople would understand it.
Much more space is devoted to the required "attitude adjustment" of various parties, mostly those pro-Palestinian.
Fair enough; the author has a client to represent, and would obviously like to see the client get as much as possible. He repeatedly states that Palestinians mush be punished for terrorism and should lose land as a consequence. This is very contemporary thinking. Were terrorism is somehow a new and unacceptable category of fighting.
More "classical" thinking would simply be that Israel won the various wars and has more bargaining chips to play with in order to keep as much land as it can manage to hold on to. As has been the case at every peace negotiation that has ever taken place. Dershowitz should have stuck with the later argument. It at least has the virtue of ample precedent. Terrorism is too ambiguous a term to build a solid case on.

Much space is also devoted to the various offers made to Palestinians over the years, and that they have all been rejected by them. Wisely the author stays away from any larger questions or discussions on the context of those offers. Framed the right way, rejection can be construed as aggression and Dershowitz is at least partially successful in this.

Mr. Dershowitz touches briefly one point which has been brought forward by others as a major factor in breaking the deal in 2000. The issue of "hot pursuit". Israel's insistence on being able to pursue wanted people inside the new state of Palestine. Ostensibly the "ticking-bombs", though in reality not limited in any particular way.

After the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo in June 1914 Austria made 10 demands of Serbia, on whose behalf the murders had been carried out. All but one were accepted. This single rejection gave Austria the excuse they wanted and the rest is history.
The one demand that Serbia would not accept then was much same as the one made by Israel in 2000. Extra-territorial policing powers.
(On page 116 Dershowitz describes it with this gem of a phrase: "pro-active self-defence".)
This was unacceptable in 1914, and no less so in 2000.
Mr. Dershowitz no doubt is aware of the history and knows the significance. He dances around this contentious issue in chapters 9 and 12 with committing himself. No doubt a tribute to his erudition. But is it helpful in his advocacy?

Many pages are devoted to the issue of dismantling terrorist organizations. The example of the pre-1948 zionist terrorist organizations begin broken up with force by the Israeli Army (Though politically they live on in the Likud Party), is repeatedly sited with approval by the author.
Dershowitz mentions that Ben Gurion crushed the zionist terrorist organizations AFTER Israel was established, and had an army to do the job. But then cites this to argue that the de facto Palestinian government should do similarly BEFORE it has either a country or an army. In fact, being most insistent that it should have neither until after such time.
Since so much space is devoted to this issue it must in Mr. Dershowitz view be important. The fact that his evidence tends to contradict his conclusion rather than support it, is therefore a major problem in the work. A problem magnified by the author's own emphasis.

Another tactical mistake is answering the equivalent of "have you stopped beating your wife?" (page 190) with what amounts to "it depends on her".

Dershowitz handles the issue of ethnic dominance much better. He employs the argument that Jews much be numerically superior in Israel on many occasions in the work. To effectively argue against various pro-Palestinian proposals, without opening himself up to the counter thrust of why this numeric superiority is desirable, what ethnic supremacy means in practical terms, or even its place in the modern world. Very well handled.

Taring the opposition rather than their arguments is par for the course in political books and Dershowitz can not be reasonably singled out for indulging in this low-brow practice. Saying someone is "bad" is usually much easier than addressing their arguments head on.
Dershowitz is certainly guilty of some inflated rhetoric, though much less than is currently the norm for this type of political advocacy. First describing a position as "ludicrous, wrongheaded", then, a page later, as "Immoral, sinful, bigoted"; Without any further arguments to backup to these additional charges. Not particularly helpful, but not significantly damaging either. Dershowitz books usually benefit from quite sober writing.

The second half of the book is devoted to hatreds of Israel and Jews. And whether this hatred is a real obstacle to peace.
The amount of anti-Israeli and anti-semitic propaganda disseminated in the Arab world is of course well known, but it bears repeating and the author does it well. There is so much material available on this issue, that no more than a cursory description is possible for the author, but still very illuminating.

For large groups of people to think that blowing up a night club in Tel Aviv is A Good Thing, a lot of preparation is required. Evil acts must be preceded by evil lies.
Sociopaths are quite rare. The rest of us need propaganda before we engage in or approve of, such acts.
There is nothing new here. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was put together over a hundred years ago, by the Russian government, for a reason. Even autocrats need the compliance of their people. Several Arab governments find it fits their requirements very well to this day.
Egypt a 41-part TV mini-series based on The Protocols, Israel has its Masada-complex. It is all about getting people fired about some issue of the leaders' choosing. Or at least divert their attention.

The one-sidedness is not a weakness in the work, quite the reverse. After all, it is the case for his client, Israel, he is making. Not for anybody else. It is when he strays into bipartisanship that the work is diminished. The sock-puppetry is sometimes a bit too obvious and opens up to unhelpful comparisons. Overall he would have done better with fewer historical references.

Dershowitz makes a lot out of the hypocrisy of those who are critical of Israel's actions but not of the many other countries perpetrating the same things.
Pleading selective prosecution is very effective defensive tactic in a court of law. In international relations it makes no difference whatever.
This is part of a wider criticism sited by others: the work is excessively legalistic. This is somewhat disingenuous. The author is a legal advocate of international stature. His works can't reasonably be expected to be otherwise.

There is one significant problem with using hypocrisy charge against the critics of Israel, valid and justified though it is.
Dershowitz is comparing his client to those other odious examples he himself is citing. Does he really wish to have Israel judged by the standards of Iran; Is Israel really no better than Sudan or China. Or is he comparing apples and oranges ?
If you argue that you are exceptional you can't then claim to be unfairly singled out.
Exceptionalism is the founding idea of the place. No, far less history would have served the advocacy in this book better. Pointing out the splinter in the eyes of others is helpful, but mind where you have you own beams.

The case at hand is no doubt a very difficult one; possibly even intractable. But Mr. Dershowitz could have done better for his client. His "The Case for Israel" did a better job of advocacy. That said "The Case for Peace" is a useful companion piece, an appendix really, to that book; and well worth a read for those who have read the former.

I take away 2 stars. One for the before/after argument miss-match; And one for the implicit apples-and-oranges-except-not comparisons.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 28, 2014 6:21 AM BST


The Collapse of British Power (Pride & Fall Sequence)
The Collapse of British Power (Pride & Fall Sequence)
by Correlli Barnett
Edition: Paperback

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Both a good educational and a good read., 25 Jun 2008
I will not repeat what other have said but simply add my comments.

The four works in this series is an exceedingly thorough review of what went on in the British military-industrial economy in the period 1918-1956.

The works great strength is the thoroughness. The 4 books (The Collapse of British Power, The Audit of War, The Lost Victory, The Verdict of Peace) run to well over 2000 pages. Packed with detail and analysis. But the work is never for a moment dull. The crisp, lucid prose carries the reader comfortably along.
The author displays very considerable literary gifts in being able to make otherwise dry and repetitious material very readable.

The work displays a marked fascist / statist bias throughout. The authors own feelings on the subject of liberal education are much, much repeated.
But significantly, the authors personal biases in no way limits his criticisms, which are levied at all and sundry with a wealth of detail in countless examples. None are exempt. Very few non-fiction authors, especially those with an ideological affliction, can make such a claim.

However, this does lead to some obvious contradictions in the work. The author describes numerous instances of government failure and incompetence, and all the while calling for more government intervention and control.
Since the work is essentially a forensic examination, and its thoroughness is not affected, this bias can be dismissed as inconsequential.

I would strongly recommend this work to anyone who have a serious interest in British history of this period, General economic history, Industrial and economic development and the links between Industrial, political and military power.
For any British politician claiming national stature, these 4 books should be regarded as required reading.


Who Owns the World: The Hidden Facts Behind Landownership
Who Owns the World: The Hidden Facts Behind Landownership
by Kevin Cahill
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

25 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The book reads like a serialization in The Guardian, 10 July 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Anyone with a left-of-center ideology will find much to comfort their beliefs.

In the introduction the author goes into why, in his opinion, the measure "acre per person" is far better than "people per square mile". Mathematically the two are the same, but of course the psychology is very different.
In his example: 8.2 acres person person in the USA, or 77 people per square mile. But who get his 8.2 acres in the Death Valley dessert and who gets his in Manhattan? This the author does not go into.

Repeatedly the author makes statements to the effect of the plentifully available land. Conveniently ignoring the transportation, and subsequent energy nightmare, a full use of all this land would entail.
The author admits that the books should have been written 100 years ago and it would no doubt have been more relevant then. As it is now, actual prosperity for most people in the advanced economies is very marginally affected by ownership of land. Agriculture and land tied activities like mining is a much more modest fraction of GDP these days. Businesses have increasingly found it useful to dispense with owning landed property at all, as an unnecessary economic encumbrance; just renting as and were required. Likewise people. Investment is the source of wealth. In securely owned assets. You own personal dwelling is an obvious choice for investment but not the only one, and frequently not the best one either.

Those with a modicum of schooling in economics will find much to be mystified about. My personal favorite is the assertion that distribution of land will end poverty (p.29). The author de facto admits that this is nonsense by using UK current land distribution (69% own their own dwelling) as an example of a prosperous population. Yet elsewhere call those same people feudal serfs. He specifically site the Swiss as an example of land ownership (the Swiss mostly rent) not being the source of wealth in the bulk of the population.

It takes more than a small leap of faith (ideology?) to assert that the Duke of-so-and-so owning 100 000 acres of rural Scotland has much to do with the un-affordability of houses in London.

On one score there is agreement between the author and conventional economics. Agricultural subsidies. The author seems to be offended that the already rich receives money from the taxpayer, without mentioning that the bulk of the moneys paid out in subsidies goes to the small owners. An economist would be equally offended by both, considering one pound paid out uselessly, just as bad as another.

Cahill refers to the Queens ownership of all land as "trivial piece feudal nonsense" yet expend many pages on how significant this really is. Which is it: A piece of feudal nonsense or hugely significant ?

The author throws the word "illegal" around quite a bit. Then he contradicts himself by stating that the perpetrators change the law to suit themselves. Legal is whatever the law says it is. The author appears to mean "immoral" when he uses the term "illegal".

So the work is deeply ideologically addled and not shy about it. Which is perhaps inevitable in someone willing to undertake the thankless task of compiling a book about land ownership. We should be thankful that someone is willing to undertake it at all.

A sober reader will not have any great difficulty filtering out the ideological slant. But this bias may compromise the integrity of book. Note the differing treatment of UK and Ireland. The author makes much of the fact that the Queen is the legal owner of all land in the UK, all others "hold" land in the country. In the Irish chapter the Irish state took over the legal right of the queen. Yet the author keeps referring to Irish people individually "owning" land in Ireland (p.169) This mixing and matching of terms persists through out the work.

The book reads like a serialization in The Guardian - there is a lot of repetition and invective against the landed rich. Repetition is fine for a series of newspaper articles published over a period of time, but in a book it becomes a nuisance.
A bit of editing would not have been out of place.

Cahill writes a crisp, lucid prose and manage to inject some excitement into the subject. His thoroughness does him credit and is the greatest strength of the work.

I would certainly recommend this work to anyone with an interest in economic history. Appart from the obvious groups of readers like those with a strong sense of envy or afflicted with some other sort of left-of-center ideology.

Enjoy the strengths, ignore ideological nonsense.

3 stars
1 taken away for inconsistent and inaccurate use of terms
1 taken away for poor editing
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 2, 2012 3:06 PM BST


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