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Reviews Written by
C. Baker "cbaker" (Washington, DC)

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Durable Disorder: Understanding the Politics of Northeast India
Durable Disorder: Understanding the Politics of Northeast India
by Sanjib Baruah
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 64.73
7 used & new from CDN$ 15.67

5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Durable Disorder: Understanding the Politics of No, Oct. 12 2005
Durable Disorder is an outstanding collection of essays on the politics of Northeast India. Much like Baruah's monograph on the political troubles in Assam, this work discusses the origins of ethnic conflicts in Northeast India and how these conflicts have perpetuated themselves through both internal jockeying for resources and recognition among ethnic or cultural groups and the unintended consequences of state policies that foster instead of discourage these movements. Importantly, Baruah details the erosion of true democracy and respect for human rights that both the state and these ethnic movements have precipitated.
Baruah's conclusion discussing the potential of economic development and a bold "Look East Policy" fostering economic trade and cooperation between Northeast India, Burma, China, Nepal, Bhutan, and other Asian countries contiguous with present day Northeast India is insightful and forward thinking, although given the political barriers may be somewhat idealistic in the short term.
Overall, this is an excellent work and one policymakers in India should take seriously if they hope to resolve the problems of this troubled region.

Field of Dreams (Bilingual)
Field of Dreams (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Kevin Costner
Offered by marvelio-ca
Price: CDN$ 34.97
17 used & new from CDN$ 3.42

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Costner's Best Movies, July 18 2004
This review is from: Field of Dreams (Bilingual) (DVD)
This ranks as one of my favorite movies of all time. You don't have to be a baseball fan to appreciate the nostalgia and warm heartedness this movie brings to the big screen - well little screen in the case of the DVD. It's part ghost story, part fantasy, part nostalgia. It's also about redemption and the fulfillment of dreams.
The story begins when Ray Kinsella, a reluctant Iowa farmer, although he won't admit he's reluctant, starts hearing a voice telling him "build it and he will come." Ray dreams, ponders and finally plows under many acres of his crop to build a baseball field on his farm, against all rational logic. And the magic begins. This magic takes Ray on a strange quest in search of a '60s radical holed up in a New York City apartment writing children's books played by James Earl Jones - to tell why would spoil the movie. But suffice it to say Jones ends up with one of the most memorable "speeches" in the movie about the nostalgia of baseball.
It's hard to really do justice to the plot without spoiling the movie but it will at times give you chills and in the end is very uplifting.

The Bodyguard (Full Screen)
The Bodyguard (Full Screen)
DVD ~ Kevin Costner
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 43.96
13 used & new from CDN$ 1.28

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, July 18 2004
This review is from: The Bodyguard (Full Screen) (DVD)
When this movie first came out the critics panned it mercilessly and frankly I just can't understand why. I thought it was fabulous. Kevin Costner plays an ex-Secret Service agent hired to protect a spoiled, difficult to get along with diva receiving death threats. Whitney Houston portrays the spoiled starlet to perfection. The chemistry and interplay between Houston and Costner was electric. The music in the movie was also great.
There are really some key elements that made this movie extremely good. First, I thought the acting was top notch by all involved. The supporting cast really played their characters well, as did the stars. Secondly, the editing was outstanding. The movie and plot move along at a fast pace. There is not a dull moment in the entire movie. And finally, the plot was plausible (for the most part) and the mystery - who is the hit man - slowly reveals itself. Having watched the movie several times, there a several foreshadowings.
Overall I found it a most entertaining movie both as a mystery, a thriller, and love story.

Scarlet Diva
Scarlet Diva
DVD ~ Asia Argento
Price: CDN$ 19.99
11 used & new from CDN$ 14.95

2.0 out of 5 stars Chaotic, July 18 2004
This review is from: Scarlet Diva (DVD)
This is a semi-autobiographical movie directed by Italian film starlet, Asia Argento. The movie is rather chaotic, which may fit with the life being portrayed, but does not make for a very good movie. The lead character, played by Asia herself, flits around from one strange incident to another - partially out of loneliness, partially out of looking for love and companionship, and partially trying to find her niche in life. It's a sad story filled with drugs and wrong choices - or at least what appear to the viewer as wrong choices. Unfortunately, disconnected from any explanation of the significance of the movie, it leaves one feeling like they wasted a few hours of time watching something rather pointless.
The interview on the DVD of Asia Argento sheds some real light on the meaning behind the movie and had I watched that first I might have interacted with the story differently. Even with the interview as background I don't consider this to be a particularly good movie.

Sirens (Widescreen) [Import]
Sirens (Widescreen) [Import]
DVD ~ Hugh Grant
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 64.40
10 used & new from CDN$ 36.86

3.0 out of 5 stars Sirens, July 12 2004
This review is from: Sirens (Widescreen) [Import] (DVD)
I am not overly fond of arty movies like Sirens so I admit a bit of bias that probably colors my reaction to it. The real theme of the movie, unless I completely missed the point, is the spiritual damage, if not emotional damage, that sexual repression exerts on the individual (and society, if one takes the logic a step further).
Set in the 1930's, a catholic priest is sent to compel a famous artist from displaying an erotic painting that mixes religious with erotic themes that the church finds offensive. This repressed priest and his wife find themselves in the midst of an almost bacchanalian atmosphere, as the artist's models cavort around in a carefree, playful, sexually liberated manner. The real focus the movie really becomes the priest's wife, who starts to find herself drawn into experiences around her and frees herself of her own repressions.
The drawback to the movie is it's just not that entertaining and has no real plot. I enjoyed the imagery and the acting was top notch. But on the whole, I found it somewhat boring.

The Medallion (Bilingual) [Import]
The Medallion (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ Gordon Chan
Offered by vidco
Price: CDN$ 12.92
49 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars Forgettable, July 12 2004
Jackie Chan has really cranked out a lot of movies and I have found some of them quite entertaining with action packed fight scenes, good stories, great stunts, and Chan's self deprecating sense of humor. This is not one of them.
There is not much to the plot - Chan is a Hong Kong cop facing off against a super criminal "Snakehead". Snakehead is after a medallion that is possessed by a kid. The medallion gives people special powers. Snakehead kidnaps the kid and Chan is in the hunt to save the kid and keep the medallion out of Snakehead's hands.
Unfortunately, the plot is awful and makes little sense. The fight scenes are not very good. The movie essentially breaks down into a not very interesting series of vignettes that I could never decide whether they were supposed to be funny, scary, thrilling - they were just plan dumb.
Chan would be better served to make fewer, higher quality movies than to churn out forgettable fare like The Medallion.

U.S. Senators and Their World
U.S. Senators and Their World
by Donald R. Matthews
Edition: Paperback
10 used & new from CDN$ 22.24

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Overview of the Senate, July 11 2004
The United States Senate is a unique institution created by a compromise between the large and small states at the constitutional convention of 1787. But the institution was not all that admired by James Madison, one of the key constructors of the Constitution, as can be seen by his statement in Federalist 62:
"A government founded on the principles more consonant to the wishes of the larger States is not likely to be obtained from the smaller States. The only option, then, for the former lies between the proposed government and a government still more objectionable. Under this alternative, the advice of prudence must be to embrace the lesser evil; and instead of indulging in fruitless anticipation of the possible mischiefs which may ensue, to contemplate rather the advantageous consequences which may qualify the sacrifice."
Whether this was the personal opinion of Madison, or just propagandized agreement with his New York audience is immaterial. It is obvious from this passage the Senate was not welcomed with open arms by all segments of the political world, especially the large states who were not proportionately represented. The Senate does carry out one very important function- it protects the "residual sovereignty" of the States (Federalist 62). Thus, the Senate was created and the States protected.
Out of this compromise has grown an institution, a deliberative body, with a unique and surprising cohesiveness. One would expect that Senators from fifty different states and localities to do more serious and violent battle over legislative policies. But, except for the Civil War era, the Senate has been a relatively cohesive body. This cohesiveness and congeniality has given the Senate a level of strength and respect unmatched by the United States House of Representatives. Donald R. Matthews in U.S. Senators and Their World discusses many attributes of the Senate that creates this unusual cohesiveness and collegiality.
The Senate has institutional characteristics that spur it toward cohesiveness. First, it was set up to attract a certain class and type of representative. Thus, the Senate is a very homogenous group, consisting mainly of older, white, wealthy, protestant males. This homogeneity alleviates class differences which often lead to conflict. Second, the Senate is a fairly small group. Since there are only one hundred members, there is more of a basis and opportunity for them to interact with each other on a very personal level. Also, the size of the group leads to a dispersement of the workload and power to all members, encouraging them to work together.
Further, the electoral cycle and the six year term gives Senators the ability to spend a larger portion of their resources on power and policy goals instead of reelection compared to their House counterparts.
Senatorial norms growing out of almost 200 years of practice have also greatly added to the cohesiveness and collegiality of the Senate. As Matthews points out, various Senatorial "roles" have grown in the institution giving the body a congenial working environment because each member knows what to expect from others. Another norm in the Senate that alleviates conflict is the seniority system. Freshmen quickly learn they are expected to serve an "apprenticeship" and keep relatively quiet in floor debates. Freshmen who break the norms will generally have a more difficult time moving up the ladder to power and prestige. Seniority is also the key arbiter of committee selection and chairmanships, cutting down on conflict that would arise if the caucus system were the sole source of committee selection.
Specialization is another key element of senatorial cohesiveness and congeniality. Senators usually become experts in policy areas, leading to respect and power in their area of expertise. This makes seniority even more important because the elder statesmen in a policy area gain recognition as leaders in their field. Experts are listened to by their colleagues who depend upon them for information in specific policy areas. This is an example of how the body works together to deliver clearer legislative policy. Even if two experts form two factions, usually along party lines, there is at least a clear message coming from the chamber delineating the alternatives. This is not the case in the House.
Courtesy, reciprocity and institutional patriotism are other norms that give the Senate a collegial atmosphere according to Matthews. Senators, regardless of their differences of opinion, are expected and do show respect and courtesy to their colleagues. Senators also lend each other assistance and bargain over legislative matters frequently. According to Matthews, the most effective legislators, operationalized as percentage of sponsored bills that passed, are those who most closely adhere to senatorial norms (115).
Committees also have a cohesive and collegial effect on the Senate. This may be surprising since committees have the opposite effect in the House. In the House committees create decentralization and fragmentation. Further, the power of committee chairmen is greatly reduced by their large number and the proliferation of sub-committees. This leads to poor, incoherent policy. This phenomena is greatly reduced in the Senate because it is a small body. Hence, the committee chairmen form a distinct leadership group because their seniority, rank, and definitive number give them respect and prestige.
Further, the pursuit of power and policy goals in the Senate does not lead to decentralization and fragmentation as it does in the House. The Senate is smaller and each individual member has a substantial degree of power and media attention vis a vis his House counterpart simply by being a member of the upper chamber. Also, there are more power and policy making positions available.

Matthews had provided an excellent overview of the modern US Senate.

Congress: The Electoral Connection
Congress: The Electoral Connection
by Professor David R. Mayhew
Edition: Paperback
34 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Congress The Electoral Connection, July 11 2004
The goals of individual congressmen have a significant impact on the quality and power of Congress as an institution. The exact role of Congress is a much debated issue but it can be safely stated that at a minimum, Congress is to make quality public policy, which in aggregate, benefits the nation as a whole. The extent to which this is achieved is in large part dependent on the willingness and ability of Congress as a collection of individual goals and desires to strive toward this end.
David Mayhew assessed that the main goal of congressmen was to gain re-election. In this never ending quest for popular support, the legislative and oversight duties of congressmen takes a back seat to advertising, credit claiming and position taking. In other words, Congress' vast resources are expended in allocating benefits to small constituencies and not toward responsible, cohesive and nationally oriented public policy. Staff and office material are used for keeping in touch with constituents and casework. Committees are platforms for position taking and pork barrel politics. And parties and party leaders focus on doling out favors, setting agendas and protecting the habits and routine of the organization. This results in delay, narrow policies directed at small segments of the population, a tendency to favor the legislative preferences of organized constituencies, especially those with a proven power to deliver money, manpower and votes, and finally symbolism. The end product is poor public policy with little cohesion and direction.
Mayhew's assessment of what drives individual members of Congress could be debated. But his conclusion that the policy making is fragmented and disjointed is difficult to argue with.

The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court
The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court
by Bob Woodward
Edition: Paperback
26 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Inside Look at the Supreme Court, July 11 2004
Despite being a bit dated, The Brethren, by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong, remains one of the most illuminating looks at the inner workings of the Supermen Court. And certainly it will remain a very interesting historical look at the court it examines.
The Brethren attempts to present the reader with what "really" goes on in the Supreme Court. It describes the conferences, the personality of justices, and how justice's feel toward each other, items which are generally hidden from the public. Covering the terms from 1969-1975, Woodward and Armstrong gives us a look at the fourteen justices and how they dealt with the major issues facing the court. The book describes how Burger changed his conference votes so he could assign the majority opinion of the court, angering William Douglas and William Brennen. He also describes how Thurgood Marshall greeted Burger "Hey chiefy baby", getting a kick out of making him feel uncomfortable. The reader sees how Harry Blackmun agonized at being considered Burger's "boy" which eventually led to his breaking away from the conservative wing of the court. Woodward also tells of the lack of respect the justices had for the abilities of Chief Justice Burger, who wrote poorly reasoned opinions that embarrassed some members of the court.
The main thesis of the book is how the moderates control the opinions of the court. A majority opinion must have the vote of at least five members of the court, therefore the opinion becomes a compromise between the author of the opinion and his joining brethren. Even when an ideologue writes an opinion, his opinion must be amended to maintain the votes of his brethren. Therefore, the majority opinions of the court usually reflect a somewhat moderate solution, as compared to the ideological make-up of the court.
The Brethren also relates how politics play a key role in the decisions of the court. Justices have predispositions to every case they decide, and most have an ideology that influences their decisions. The role of the moderates on the court is also an example of how politics effects the decisions of the court. If a president is able to appoint enough justices of his political persuasion, the court's ideological make-up will change, as will the direction of the court's decisions. Justices on the court do worry about the effect of new appointments to the Supreme Court. When President Gerald Ford appointed Justice John Paul Stevens to the court to replace Justice Douglas, Brennen and Marshall worried about the future of abortion and busing, fearing a new conservative justice might vote to overturn or limit the scope of decisions in these areas. These are a few examples of the role of politics in the Supreme Court.
The strengths of this book include its in-depth view of court personalities, antidotes, and relationships between the justices. These are aspects of the court normally not made public. Another strength of the book is its description of how cases are decided, and how a court is "built" (a majority opinion). Further, the reader gets an understanding of the factors that influence a court's opinions such as ideology, compromise, persuasive arguments, and even interaction with the clerks.
The major weakness of the book is the lack of documentation. There is absolutely no documentation for the material presented in the book. Woodward's disclaimer is he got the information on background and deep background, meaning the sources go unnamed. He also claims he read memos, unpublished and rough draft opinions, and other unpublished written material generated by the court. Despite the lack of documentation The Brethren remains a must read for students interested in law and politics.

Angel Heart (Special Edition) [Import]
Angel Heart (Special Edition) [Import]
DVD ~ Mickey Rourke
Price: CDN$ 13.19
27 used & new from CDN$ 7.42

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Angel Heart, July 10 2004
This is definitely one of the creepiest movies you'll ever see and the ending is a shocker. Set in 1955, a private detective named Harry Angel (played my Mickey Rourke) is hired by Louis Cyphre to find a long ago crooner named Johnny Favorite, who owes him something. The search leads Angel to a dark underworld of voodoo and strange murders. In his search for Favorite, Harry goes to New Orleans, where he runs into Epiphany Proudfoot, played by Lisa Bonet. As Harry gets closer to the truth of Favorite's whereabouts, things just get weirder and weirder. And Louis Cyphre turns out to be Harry's worst nightmare. And the title is an excellent play on the movie's denoument. Overall this is a great creepy thriller.
The DVD extras are also interesting (see the Mickey Rourke interview, is tragi-comic).

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