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Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC)
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David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
by Malcolm Gladwell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.06
45 used & new from CDN$ 18.22

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Offers a lot of inspiration for overcoming, Nov. 22 2013
This latest literary offering of Gladwell challenges the reader to take a second look at situations before accepting the inevitable. Counter-intuitiveness or going against the norm is the guiding principle proclaimed in this collection of personal testimonies about people who dared to think outside the box in typical David vs. Goliath situations. When facing a dire health issue, or an infinitely stronger opponent, or a lack of resources to stave off disaster, or just plain down on one's luck there is a natural tendency for many of us to flee rather than fight and overcome. To challenge that disposition of cowardly despair in the midst of impossible odds, Gladwell has us revisit the biblical tale of David and Goliath on a couple of different levels. Each one points out that fear of an opponent or obstacle is often baseless when seen in the light of reality and relativeness. Goliath, as that indomitable giant, really was a weakling ready to be knocked down to size through the ingenious resourcefulness of a shepherd boy trusting in his sling and God. Everything about this story goes against conventional thinking, which is where Gladwell believes more of us should find ourselves when in trouble: turning a problem into a solution by going where no-one else has gone before. In the subsequent chapters, the reader is introduced to a photographer, a cancer specialist, a lawyer, and a human-rights activist who overcame daunting challenges - some personal, others environmental - by learning to stand up to seemingly impossible odds. Each had to overcome a fear that they would be defeated in their quest to overcome a learning disability, or a violent temper, or limited support for a cause. As Gladwell shows, big and powerful does not always win the day. These stories are inspirational in how they follow through to that moment of triumph when an unique strategy turns the problem on its head and makes believers out of skeptics. Timing and creativity are everything when it comes to making a little bit of sustaining love overcome a whole pile of destructive power.

Appropriate Adult [Import]
Appropriate Adult [Import]
Price: CDN$ 28.71
15 used & new from CDN$ 17.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Outmaneuvering Evil, Nov. 16 2013
This review is from: Appropriate Adult [Import] (DVD)
I found this movie-documentary chilling and compelling in what it has to say about certain people's ability to stand up to evil regardless of the cost. The storyline in this made-for-TV miniseries is based on the life and times of Fred and Rosemary West, a Gloucestershire couple who committed a string of gruesome murders of young children and women who had come under their care betwen 1975 and 1990. As serial killers, it was shown that they first subjected their victims - a number of their own progeny - to unspeakably vile forms of sexual torture, before killing them. Because Fred, the husband, was considered to be mentally challenged and very susceptible to his domineering wife, the state called on Janet Leach in the community to act as his 'appropriate adult'. This film looks at how this very brave and determined woman made herself and her family emotionally vulnerable as she tried to befriend Fred in order to get him to confess to all his and Rosie's slayings. While she took risks in cozying up to Fred, she was able to gather enough evidence, before he committed suicide, to help convict his wife. The filmmaker pulls no punches in portraying Janet as a decent but naive individual used by both the accused and the state to make their case. This is truly a chilling story where people become victims when they try to do good in the face of unimaginable wickedness.

The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism
The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism
by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.69
25 used & new from CDN$ 14.19

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Evils of the Past Threatening the Future, Nov. 13 2013
Daniel Goldhagen, a journalist and former Harvard academic, has written another book on his favourite subject: the state of world Judaism and Zionist politics. In this study, he shares the view that anti-semitism is globally on the rise in the way that echoes the goals of Hitler's Final Solution. Instead of Neo-Nazism leading the charge to wipe out the Jews, it is now extreme Islamism, in the form of jihadist politics and religion, that is championing this murderous cause. The Holy War that is being unleashed on Jewish interests, inside and outside of Israel, are based on what Goldhagen calls fallacies motivated by ignorance and blind hatred. It is inconceivable that Islamists would take up a morally bankrupt cause like anti-semitism in an effort to establish religious supremacy if it wasn't written into the Quran as part of their creed. The Jewish race, since before the time of Christ, was largely dispersed throughout the world as a nationless people. Only since 1948 has around nine million people of a total of about sixteen million been able to return to their homeland to become a relatively prosperous nation. It is this nationalistic success that Goldhagen believes intensifies the pervasive enmity that organized Islam has for the Jew. He goes further to show that this unfounded fear and virulent hatred of the Jew is not simply contained to a clerical call for holy wars in the form of terrorist attacks on the Jews and their friends. Anti-semitism has now gone viral on the Internet with the widespread propagation of spurious books like "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" being heralded as proving that Jews are social parasites, Christ-killers, usurers, capitalist exploiters, infidels, and murderous fiends. While these attacks were evident through history, and have sometimes reached homicidal fury during times of national crisis, Goldhagen is deeply concerned that they are now becoming part of a more concerted international effort to destroy Jews once and for all. There is a new breed of anti-semite out there called eliminationists who use any means to endoctrinate the next generation with ideas that have long ago been invalidated but persist because religious and political despots have convinced their followers that the Jews are the cause of their oppression.

Fourteenth Day, The
Fourteenth Day, The
by David G Coleman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 17.24
34 used & new from CDN$ 2.97

5.0 out of 5 stars The Day After the Night Before, Nov. 9 2013
This review is from: Fourteenth Day, The (Hardcover)
Many of us baby boomers remember those thirteen days in October, 1962, when the US and Russia literally went to the brink of a nuclear war over the latter's placement of missiles in Cuba. Most of us grew up believing that the main drama occurred during this period when President Kennedy imposed a naval quarantine on Cuba, forcing the Russians to back down with their shipments of SAMs. Based on recently released, highly-classified White House tapes covering this very tense period in the Cold War, Coleman believes that the real drama happened on the fourteenth day. It was during this twenty-four hour stretch that the United States had to find a way to make sure Khrushchev and Castro lived up to their commitment to remove the nuclear warheads. This book offers a fascinatingly new, behind-the-scenes look at the world of crisis management and its many options. Until now, much of the public's knowledge was restricted to what the Kennedy administration wanted us to know. With these tapings, we now have a clearer idea as to how the various diplomatic channels were used by the NSA. All the main characters, ranging from the President to his cabinet to CIA director to advisers, are on display here. Where JFK really shines in this whole piece was his ability to keep the many different views in perspective as he sought to find the safest way to end this mega showdown. His ability to keep the pressure on the Russians was helped by the fact that the White House controlled the message from the outset. It is no secret that Kennedy was using this crisis to fashion another run for the presidency in 1964.

Last Refuge, The
Last Refuge, The
by Gregory D Johnsen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.50
33 used & new from CDN$ 11.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Inside a Global Hotspot, Nov. 4 2013
This review is from: Last Refuge, The (Hardcover)
This is no ordinary, detached scholarly account of life inside a terrorist operation at the highest level. Rather, Johnsen, using intercepted Al Qaeda field notes and American intelligence for the period after 2009, takes his readers inside a major terrorist operation that continues to pose a major threat to world peace. Al Qaeda, to that end, has gone through a number of significant highs and lows in its development as a key advocate of militant jihadism. Johnsen, with considerable expertise on the subject, explains how Al Qaeda has set up a new, clandestine operating base in the hostile terrain of South Yemen as a last-ditch effort to keep the cause alive. By making this move, Al Qaeda - once the most feared of terrorist movements - may have backed itself into the corner as to its ability to elude detection from American unmanned drone attacks. The book is full of historical detail that makes the point that, while Al Qaeda may be only the shadow of what it once was during the Bin Laden Tora Bora days, it still has the power to make life uneasy in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden regions. Johnsen follows the final four years of the Salih regime as it tried to maintain power over a country that was badly fractured by deep tribal and religious divisions within Islam. Within this increasingly chaotic scene, what was left of Bin Laden's crumbling Al Qaeda was able to set up its new headquarters and training base in the barren wastelands north of the capital of North Yemen in the town of Sanaa. This study offers some useful insights into the terrorists methods of the various Yemeni cells, a credible explanation as to why the Americans fell out with the Salih regime, and why President Obama has favoured the use of drones in knocking out Al Qaeda. What Johnsen doesn't do is look at the more recent connections forming between Al Qaeda in Yemen and satellite terrorist movements in Kenya and Somalia. In my judgment, this book is far and away the best out there for helping to define where Al Qaeda is currently at in its evolution as an international terrorist movement: virtually on the south-western tip of the Arabian Peninsula with nowhere to go but down the East African coast.

Shadows of Combat: Poetry about the Vietnam Era
Shadows of Combat: Poetry about the Vietnam Era
Price: CDN$ 10.44

5.0 out of 5 stars A Fitting Tribute to the Memories of War, Nov. 3 2013
I have to admire these two authors for sharing the highs and lows of their lives together in the American military, through well-written poetry and prose. Like in "Our Duffel Bags", an earlier account of their soldiering in West Germany during the heart of the Cold War, this little anthology of verse captures, with similar intensity, the powerfully raw images of the Vietnam War. I've taken some time to read these poems because I want to discover the essence of what it meant for a number of my friends to serve in this theater. While "Shadows of Combat" may not have the same literary punch as Michael Herr's "Dispatches", it is a more realistic and controlled portrayal of the daily life of serving in a very dirty and ever-dangerous conflict. Fatigue, terror, fear, darkness, sounds, relief, elation, and hope are just some of the key emotions that Geschke and Toto have packed into their very readable free verse. In reading these poetic musings, I learned a number of things about this war that makes me appreciate anew why my friend Ray is loathe to talk about his stint of service that coincided with the Tet Offence: the torrential rains; the spooky noises of the jungle; the exploding sound of rocket fire; and the invisible enemy. This is a must read for those, like myself, who want to gain a better appreciation of a brutal war that really had no winner.

The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan: A Boy Avenger, a Nazi Diplomat, and a Murder in Paris
The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan: A Boy Avenger, a Nazi Diplomat, and a Murder in Paris
Price: CDN$ 11.08

5.0 out of 5 stars Hero or Traitor?, Oct. 31 2013
In early November of 1938, a young Sephartic Jew, Herschel Grynszpan, walked into the German Embassy in Paris and shot to death a minor Nazi diplomat. That single homocidal act can be credited with helping to change the course of history and create a storm of controversy that, to this day, has refused to go away. The journalist Kirsch takes an in-depth look at the surrounding circumstances and events leading up to and including the assassination and its terrible aftermath. What he found was a wide range of opinions as to the merits of his deadly actions. While many European Jews regarded his single act of lunatic revenge as the main cause of the terrible Kristallnacht, some are willing to see him as a very brave patriot standing up to an evil regime for what it did to displace Polish Jews in Germany. What the author determines from his research is that this lonely and shadowy character committed an extremely rash act that continues to divide society to this day as to its real value. Hannah Arendt, the notable Jewish political thinker, chose to see him as a Nazi agent bent on provoking an incident that would unleash a terrible persecution on a mass of defenceless people. That thesis doesn't seem to stand up to the evidence of how the Nazis treated him after he was captured in June, 1941. Rather, the more credible view seems to be that he acted alone out of the passionate concern that something had to be done to stop the egregious discrimination and persecution being heaped on Jews in Poland. After all, his family was one of thousands displaced in an effort to ethnically cleanse the Greater Germany of the Jews. Typically in history, it only takes one small incident to unleash a cataclysm of death, destruction and revenge. To understand this act, in all its historical ramifications, Kirsch does a masterful job in giving the reader enough background detail to form an intelligent view as to cause and effect.

Fortress Israel: The Inside Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country--and Why They Can't Make Peace
Fortress Israel: The Inside Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country--and Why They Can't Make Peace
by Patrick Tyler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 25.08
22 used & new from CDN$ 6.59

5.0 out of 5 stars The Tail that Chases the Dog, Oct. 27 2013
In this monograph, prominent American correspondent, Patrick Tyler, makes a compelling argument for showing how and why the Israeli war effort virtually defines this country's character. It is his thesis that the Israeli military high-command wields such over-powering influence over the affairs of state that it is not likely that Israel will ever be able to make peace with its Arab neighbours. A history of Israeli politics from 1948 on attests to that. The Zionist Sabra cadre - the group of military leaders sworn to protect the nation at any cost - has gone out of the way to push the war agenda, either in a pre-emptive or subversive manner on the pretext that Israel needs to defend itself against nations sworn to its destruction. Names like Ben-Gurion, Dayan, Sharon and Weizman come to mind. Even with moderate premiers leading the government during the fifties and sixties, the military pushed for what ultimately turned out to be very costly campaigns to expand Israel's borders, with very little to show for it except a continuing build-up of tension not only with Arab neighbours but with the Palestinians and Hamas. Tyler openly wonders why the peace option has never really been given a chance when so much is at stake in the region, and all he can come up with is the fact that this generation of political leadership has had to look to the army to define the nativism that comes with being a nation: in other words, who is a citizen and who is not. In this century, the right-wing coalition of Netanyahu and the military have formed a formidable partnership promoting an aggressive settlement policy and refugee containment. Where the peace process has surfaced, it has a lot to do with the efforts of a new generation of left-leaning activists who don't favour Zionism.

Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman
Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman
by Jeremy Adelman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 26.30
42 used & new from CDN$ 26.30

5.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary Story About a Great Thinker, Oct. 26 2013
The much checkered life of Albert Hirschman makes for a fascinating read for those of us who have a strong contrarian bent when it comes to challenging conventional thought. Talk about exploratory and lateral thinkers changing the direction of the modern world; Hirschman became one of those new breed of academics in the twentieth century who continually thought outside the box in an effort to establish a better understanding of how nations could better manage their economies. As a political economist, this German-American immigrant came to his outlying views by a long drawn-out process of political activism in Weimer Germany, an insatiable appetite to widely read and critique political philosophies, and a passion to improve the lot of humanity through innovative thinking. To reach those goals, Hirschman undertook a self-imposed journey from the heart of Nazi Germany in the early thirties to revolutionary Spain a few years later to fascist Spain a year later to the US at the outset of WW II to South America in the fifties and back to America in the sixties; each stage consumed with research, analysis and publishing. What he was most devoted to as an upcoming academic was the finding of ideas that practically worked in the context of a political economy - a system where politicians appreciated that economics was not an exact science strictly controlled by partisan ideologies such as state socialism vs. free enterprise. A lot of this well-written biography looks at his many indepth projects and investigations that took him into countries like Colombia and Italy to find ways to boost their economic growth. In the process, Hirschman became a fastidious collector of data that would challenge the standard political assumptions that prosperity was based on imposing success on others as if one size fits all. Regularly hired by the US government, World Bank and numerous private corporations to sell the so-called benefits of capitalism in the Third World, Hirschman often took a different tack. He chose to champion the idea that the road to political stability could only be assured by patiently and intelligently implementing economic change in response to national crisis where the little guy had as much input as the corporate elites.

Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown
Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown
by Philip Mirowski
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.91
29 used & new from CDN$ 21.91

4.0 out of 5 stars Economic Smoke and Mirrors, Oct. 23 2013
The big idea in this study is that the neo-Liberal agenda - that which preaches the ultimate importance of money in the operating of society - has infinite ways in which to make its point. By promoting the critical need for freedom in the marketplace, the neoliberals want us to recognize that this self-evident truth then allows them the absolute right to dictate how it will look. Using the economic construct 'risk' in the loosest and the most artificial fashion possible, the disciples of Friedman, Hayek, and Strauss preach the need to leave the world of investment capital and technological innovation to those who have brains and the financial means to make it happen. Behind that reasoning is the condescending view that the consumer is best kept in the dark as to his or her unwitting role in making it happen. Case in point, the subprime mortgage market of the early years of this century was a creation of a seriously deregulated financial market predicated on neo-Liberal thinking intent on pushing investments to new limits on the crazy pretext of maximum reward versus minimum risk. Since the financial crisis of 2008, when the economy went in the tank, the neo-liberals continue to operate as if nothing has happened. Using a modicum of purple prose to make his point, Mirowski takes his readers inside the nebulous world of neo-liberalism as it continues to unload all kinds of new and often untested business concepts on what it hopes is an uninformed consumer and naive investor. Contrary to what society should have learned from the financial debacle of 2008, it seems that governments are still willing to allow markets to regulate themselves.

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