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Gerrit Ruitinga "gerrit ruitinga" (Antwerp)

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Blair's Wars
Blair's Wars
by John Kampfner
Edition: Hardcover

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and insightful, 17 Jan. 2004
This review is from: Blair's Wars (Hardcover)
"It is some feat to go to war five times in six years" This first sentence of the book sums it up.
What makes a left-wing leader with his focus almost exclusively on the domestic agenda venture into conflict probably more than any of his post-war predecessors, culminating in the most extensive war Brittain has fought since 1945.
The book paints an analytical portrait of the leader slowly transforming from a politician who thought he could do it all to one under deep pressure and slightly overwhelmed by the course actions were taking.
Kampfner sees Blair as having a clear mission embedded in a set of deep moral and religious beliefs. On top of that he sees him as a politician who believes in his own power, superior intellect and convictions and who is convinced that he "can put things right", displaying a "leave it to me" mentality, not only in his own country but also in his dealings with other world leaders.
He genuinely beliefs that he can bridge the differences between the US and Old Europe. That this is not the case as the whole episode around resolution 1441 in the UN Security councel shows, does not need further demonstration.
Blair is increasingly forced to make choices and not necessarliy always at his moment of choosing. The choice, almost by determination, is for the US with the well known results.
Blair always maintained that he favoured the course of action because " no future generation should ask us why we did not do something about it". There is no doubt that the Iraq regime was one of the vilest on earth and that ending it has made the world ( certainly Iraq) a better place. Whether this was the best way to do it, is a question for historians and will probably take decades to answer. Why Blair took the path he choose is, however, excellently described in this book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 23, 2009 12:56 PM BST

House Of Cards [VHS] [1990]
House Of Cards [VHS] [1990]
Offered by stephensmith_426
Price: £15.00

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb black comedy, 17 Jan. 2004
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
When it was broadcasted 13 years ago I lived in another country and could follow it sporadically. I decided to wait for the tapes and it was well worth the wait.
The House of Cards is probably the best black comedy ever made. I hesitated about Comedy, but Ian Richardson's off the cuff remarks to the camera provide the piece with a Brechtian distancing as if to make sure the viewer is emphasized in his role as observer, not part of the play.
The story is well known; the rise of Francis Urquhart to power in 10 Downing Street. He is all we dont want our politicians to be but of we suspect them quite often nevertheless; ruthless, ambitious and completely amoral.
Dobbs and Director seeds take this image to the bitter end. Francis and his wife manipulate, scheme, murder and to no other good then their own. Francis is casually asked by his wife whether he should not start an affair with the journalist protagonist. Nothing seem to indicate that this would put any strain on the marriage; it is a simple manner of progresing to their common goals as are the murders which are committed.
Richardson is more than superb as Francis U. He is hard, he is soothing and, above all,he is the ultimate salesmen of his schemes to his fellow men and women, a manipulator pur sang. His side commenst to the camera are absolutely brilliant.
Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne would always put a smile on my face when ridiculing politics. This grim tale leaves nothing to smile about but forces a deep reflection on politics, ambition and greed.
For me, one of the best BBC series I ever saw.

A Season for the Dead
A Season for the Dead
by David Hewson
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but flawed, 17 Jan. 2004
This review is from: A Season for the Dead (Hardcover)
A murder in the Vatican, a beautiful young scientist that witnesses this murder, a team of a burnt-out cop and a rookie of the Rom police, a powerful Cardinal and a very interesting pathologist; all the ingredients of an exciting thriller. And indeed, the writing is at good pace, the developments of the characters well done, the dialogues very interesting, if not always related to the plot. However, the plot is so far fetched that even the various ingenious twists do not convince.
Still, enjoyable enough not to put it away.

Balthasar's Odyssey
Balthasar's Odyssey
by Amin Maalouf
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A splendid novel, 17 Jan. 2004
This review is from: Balthasar's Odyssey (Paperback)
For those that have read his previous books, like Leo the African and Samarkand, it will be no surprise that the Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf again delivers a splendid book. You can read it as a historical novel, as a metaphysical one or just as an adventure novel; it is all three.
The main protagonist, Balthasare, gets involved with a book, the Hundreth Name, which apparently gives the magic hundreth's name for Allah, a certain cure to avoid the end of the world. Set in 1966, the year that many believed to be the year that the world would come to an end, this is certainly a book to be treasured. Alas, he loses it and he sets out on a journey to retrieve it. a journey which will take him from his home in Lebanon to Constantinople, Genoa, Amsterdam, London and many other places. During his trips he encounters many people and thinkers from all main religions, Catholics, Muslims, Jews etc, as well as a whole range of scoundrels after his money or other possessions. The many meetings contain gems of debates about the meaning of life and religion. The debate is wonderful and insightful and poses very interesting questions; one non-catholic questions whether the phrase "Love thy neighbour as one self" is that important as self love is always flawed and suggest that "He who is without sin casts the first stone" really should be thr prime guideline for our life.
All this is set against a painstaikingly well researched historical background ranging from the upsurges against Constantinople to the Great Fire of London.
A magic adventure indeed!

Arafat: The Biography
Arafat: The Biography
by Andrew Gowers
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very well balanced biography, 1 Jan. 2004
This review is from: Arafat: The Biography (Hardcover)
This book by an Editor of the Financial Times and a former Middle East correspondent from the same newspaper is a very welcome addition to the wide library already existing on Yassir Arafat.
It is welcome not so much because it gives us many new insights or facts, but because unlike most other biographies, it is quite objective. It is written in an almost distant style and judgement is only passed where it is necessary for the analysis of situations or to reach conclusions.
There are many books written on the subject of Arafat or the Middle East conflict, in which he has played such a significant role for the past decades.
Is Arafat a great leader or a stumblestone for success? Is he a terrorist with blood on his hand or the moderate piece oriented factor in the process? Most books will give you a definite choice because they are written with an own agenda ( be it from an Israeli viewpoit or from a Palestinian one).
This book does not. It painstakingly follows Arafat from his first controversy ( where was he born?) through all his wheeling and dealing in Jordan, Lebanon, Tunis and , finally, the Occupied Territories. It reviews the highs ( the speech to the UN and the recognition by the US) as well as the many lows like the civil conflicts in Jordan and Lebanon, both ignited by the choices the Palestinians, Arafat most foremost, made.
The picture is of a man driven by only one goal; the independence of the Palestinians in a state recognizing the pre-1967 borders. It is to Arafat's credit that virtually the whole worlds recognizes this goals as the right end to the crisis in principle.
The fact that the region seems to be removed from it further than ever, however, is as much the results of Arafat's actions as well.
This book excells in helping the reader to develop a blanced view on this very complicated but hugely interesting individual.

Shattered Dreams: The Failure of the Peace Process in the Middle East 1995-2002
Shattered Dreams: The Failure of the Peace Process in the Middle East 1995-2002
by Charles Enderlin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £28.00

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More verbatim report than analysis, 31 Dec. 2003
This book is no doubt an important document in the vast library on the Middle Eastern Peace Process. The author is a French television anchorman who has been very close to a number of key players in the Camp David (2) process and has lured many of them in front of his camera.
Through his work he has been able to create a very close, in may cases verbatim, account of the numerous negotiations between the Palestininans and the Israeli's.
The result is a fascinating insight in how these talks have taken place. On some pages the Clinton's exasperation with Arafat was palpable as, in other instances, the utter humiliation the Palestinians felt in the hands of the Israelis.
Barak not greeting Arafat whilst joining the dinner table was taken as a very personal affront and had immediate repercusions.
Also the straight forwardness of the Israeli team, continuously
frustrated by the more byzantine movements of the Palestinians demonstrated that negotiations are impacted by chemistry as much as by positions.
This closenosee to the subject is at the same time the pitfall of the book. Enderlin is a recorder; he does not offer analysis or opinion. The general opinion that Arafat was to blame for the lack of succes and that Barak had offered everything is put in the light of the very well oiled Israeli PR techniques and the utter lack of that ( such a pity in fact) on the Palestinian side but the real merits remain undiscussed.
However, there is always something to critisize and as a document of time and insight this a very worthy read.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 8, 2012 4:39 AM BST

New Zealand (Lonely Planet Country Guides)
New Zealand (Lonely Planet Country Guides)
by Tony Wheeler
Edition: Paperback

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable for a trip to New Zealand, 31 Dec. 2003
There are probably countries you can visit without a Lonely Planet Guide. New Zealand is not one of these. The way to enjoy NZ is to travel from place to place and not to pre-book anything far in advance. Car rental is easy, the roads are very good ( in the right time of the year) and you have accomodation galore. The most important reason not to pre-book is that you are always dependent on the weather. I have made three trips in the past few years to NZ with my family and on all occasions we had to change plans because of the weather.
The more flexible you want to be the more important the guide is, in particular when it's a first trip. The first time we arrived in Auckland with only a general idea what to do in our three weeks and we found that quickly we left other guides in the suitcase and relied solely on the LP to plan our trip. The guide contains all relevant information and is sursprisningly up to date. The most important is that it is not a commercail tourism promoter but that it gives yo an hones impression on what there is to do.
E.g. it was pretty clear from reading the guide that as a family with relatively small children we were better of in Wanaka then in Queenstown as the children were not yet at an age that they could enjoy all the thrills and that Wanaka, whilst offering Jetboating and biking was more appropiate.
Even on the third trip we took we still had the guide with us. You have to be prepared to do some long stretches of driving and nothing helps to drive awy the boredom as creating expectations and anticipation by reading aloud what is said about the next attratction.
In particular for accomodation I found it helpful. Everywhere you pick up the NZ AA guide with all motel accomodation ( very handy) and the LP is there to give you some reviews of the accomodation selected.
The book could haven been priced at a much higher level; I still would have bought it ( in fact, I am on my second edition)

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