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Herbert L Calhoun "paulocal" RSS Feed (Falls Church, VA USA)
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Frontiers of Knowledge: Scientific and Spiritual Sources for a New Era
Frontiers of Knowledge: Scientific and Spiritual Sources for a New Era
by Douglas Kinney
Edition: Paperback
Price: $24.54

5.0 out of 5 stars Elements of a new paradigm of Reality, October 29, 2014
Often at a distance, we have watched the entire procession across history of man's struggle to address the questions about the true nature of human reality: We desire to understand better how a new more all encompassing reality is to be conceived; one that takes into account all of the things that we have long known exist in our world and in our mind's eye (but have been too bashful to admit it). We want to better understand how this more widely framed reality is to best be defined; how it is to be delimited; what its boundaries are to be; and what knowledge bases are to be used to interrogate it. These are just some of the questions Mr. Douglas Kenny touches on in this wide-ranging, often free-wheeling analysis of what we know about our contemporary reality and how we have come to know it.

As Mr. Kenny reminds us here in his introduction, the sharpest edges and most of the flying elbows of the debate are often seen between what can loosely be characterized as the "spiritualists" and the "scientists" camps, respectively. Over the course of two millennia, it would not be inaccurate to suggest that the "spiritualist" won the day for the first 1500 years of literate existence, and from the Renaissance up to the turn of the 19th Century, it is fair to also say that the Scientists have held sway since.

In this brief span of human history, we have watched the procession go from a god-centered and god-driven medieval universe, to a Newtonian clockwork universe. In the god-centered worldview man existed under the certainty of, and under the constant watchful eye of, as well as under the hammer of, divine authority. Still the god-centered universe was broad enough to contain all of mankind's fears, demons and the widest extent of his imagination. Its main drawback as a paradigm of our reality was that it remained weak on explanation, analysis and understanding. The god-centered paradigm was an "a-causal," nonlinear, synchronous world similar to the reality one would normally expect to find in normal living biological systems. In the god-centered universe, there was no requirement that meaning be attached to logic and reasoning. The god-centered universe also came with a purpose: The certainty of having a deity's hand of the rudder of human reality was seen as enough to compensate for lack of knowledge, explanations, analysis and understanding.

But, that all changed with Sir Isaac Newton. In the last five hundred years, the only role the Newtonian clockwork reserved for the gods to fulfill was that of setting the initial conditions for kick-starting the universe. Thereafter, the wheels of the clockwork began to turn on its own and the world became one big computer simulation. Everything within the clockwork was not just explainable, but also analyzable and predictable. These in fact became an important part of the new canon of science, the scientific method. The Newtonian clockwork was a linear, causal, a run away reductionist machine.

Everything within the Newtonian universe could be broken down into its component parts; and with rare exceptions, the whole was exactly equal to the sum of all its parts. In the main, the Newtonian-Cartesian machine was a very orderly mechanism. Only after a good half millennium run, around the turn of the 20th Century, did cracks begin to appear around the edges.

Einstein led the wrecking crew that would prove to be anathema to the Newtonian machine. Both Einstein's relativity theory and the Quantum theory he helped fashion, pointed unerringly to all of the exceptions to the Newtonian rules. What he and his colleagues discovered came as a package of anomalies and exceptions that still bedevil most Scientists today. As Mr. Kenny makes clear in Part I section 2, it is through these anomalies and inconsistencies that led to the re-opening of the floodgates over which new bridges for connecting the old and new realities can now be built.

Since the puzzles and anomalies of Quantum Physics that Mr. Kenny speaks of here, have waxed and waned, there is now general agreement that the two sides have finally moved much closer together. And while it would be an exaggeration to say the two sides are now in bed together, Mr. Kenny "has it about right" when he suggests that quite a bit of cross-pollination is taking place, and a great deal of the crossover is from the scientific side to the spiritual side rather than the other way around. This book is more than just a modest continuation of that cross-pollination process.

Put simply, Mr. Kenny, in this his new book, "Frontiers of Knowledge" has one overriding goal: to bring the readers up to the very frontier of contemporary understanding about the state of our reality - at which point the reader will be able to see that the two camps have finally reached a point where the stars are finally aligned so that the chances of cross-fertilization have been optimized.
The author wants to bring the reader up to a level of knowledge that he too will be able to see what the fruits and possibilities of cross-pollination can mean to expanding our understanding of a wider reality, and in understanding how the contours of a new reality might be widened to admit ideas that we have always known existed beyond what science has been able to embrace and has been too embarrassed to admit to.

As the reader will see, the author argues rather convincingly that we are now on the threshold of a new revolution, a paradigm shift, indeed, a new exciting frontier, as it were, leaning strongly in the direction of more systematic investigations into what previously has been described as "unusual phenomena."

If he is correct, and I think he is, then previous competing paradigms of reality, which still are quietly developing on their own parallel tracks, will have reached a natural point of convergence where cross-fertilization is not only now likely, but may be the next logical step. That point of convergence is the point at which the quantum revolution is finally being completed, and at the same time, our understanding of human consciousness is also being satisfactorily resolved.

In this sense, "The Frontier of Knowledge" is as much a Progress Report on where we stand on each of these separate but parallel projects, as it is the introduction and advancement of a new scientific theory of spirituality.

There is a great deal to report no matter from which side of the competitive ledger one finds himself. But here Mr. Kenny focuses the reader's attention most acutely on the spiritual side, where, using the tools of science, and then reexamining knowledge and data bases and data sources on the spiritual side of the ledger, he brings us up to the critical point: one in which the data he deploys is put fully out into an "intellectual clearing" where it can then serve joint enterprises. It is an "intellectual clearing" that provides the reader free rein to examine this cross-pollination process, and to assess both its efficacy and its worth to the contribution to a new paradigm.

And like in any emerging discipline, the science and art of cross-fertilization requires the fashioning of a new set of concepts, a companion vocabulary, its own grammar and new rules announcing the proper terms of engagement between the science, or material side of reality, and the spiritual or human side.

It is no secret that the Rosetta Stone of this new joint enterprise -- that is, the veritable work-horse of the new paradigm, is a concept the author calls the "zero point field. (ZPF)." The ZPF is such an exquisitely appropriate concept that no reader will complete this book without appreciating its immediate importance and impact to both sides of this cross-disciplinary enterprise. In fact, I will end this review by explaining how as a Scientist, I first ran into the notion of "a field" and then explain how the author plans to use it here to meld the two competing realms of reality together.

My introduction to the field concept occurred in College Physics during the study of electromagnetism. An "electromagnetic field" was an abstract concept that could be used to represent lines of electrical force as far out into the universe as electrical energy could be measured. It was a versatile and handy conceptual device that could adequately represent any energy fields, on matter what context they appeared. The representations could be in either mathematically form, or just schematically.

However, in the realm of quantum physics, the ZPF has acquired important new duties and an important additional role. It is the ZPF that now replaces what we once thought to be "the vacuum." Instead of their being a vacuum, we now understand that what appears to be empty space is in fact a seething sea of activity, with temporary particles "coming into" and "going out of" existence in a fleeting moment. The processes involved are, exchanges in energy between elementary particles and the ZPF as an irreducible component of the universe's background existence.

As this author shows here, at the core of many of the world's foremost spiritual traditions lies basic notion of energy exchanges and energy fields that pervade human spiritual connections and communication. These notions make the ZPF a natural point of contact for cross-pollination. Ten stars


The History of American Wars
The History of American Wars
by Thomas Harry Williams
Edition: Hardcover
117 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Another "Good News" "Bad News" story About American Wars, October 29, 2014
This "standby" of American history, deservedly has received national acclaim. It has done so primarily because it has accomplished what it set out to do: provide a compact history of American War in a single volume. Unfortunately its primary asset -- of compactness -- is also its primary flaw -- not being finely grained enough to place some of the wars in a proper and meaningful context. The example that most illustrates this point is the author's ambiguous treatment of the "French-Indian War," which he has somehow found it convenient to "lump" under the confusing and demeaning rubric of "long-running colonial skirmishes against the disorganized savages."

Among other things, the demeaning references to Indians as "disorganized savages," seems unwarranted given the facts revealed elsewhere in the author's narrative here, which time and again shows that the colonials, having no idea how to fight a war themselves (that is to say, beyond relying on outmoded British tactics which quickly proved ineffective in the new American terrain), had no choice but to adopt, in toto, every tactic the so-called "disorganized savages" had used against them? This included moving in loose formation and taking cover, rather than lining up shoulder-to-shoulder in an open field of fire in a completely exposed line; the use of horsemen as scouts (later called the calvary), ambush, attack and disperse tactics, surround and attack at night just before daybreak, attack and destroy fields and food sources, etc. In short, according to the author's own narrative, the "disorganized savages" apparently taught the American Settlers all they needed to know about how to fight guerrilla style, which was the only style that made any sense on the new terrain at the time.

But the gratuitously demeaning racial insult hurled at Native Americans aside, my main concern was not with the insult per se, but with the way the author otherwise contextualized the "French-Indian War." And here there are of course at least three ways to do so. One way, common among American Historians, including this author, is to depict the war as not much of a war at all but just a series of "long-running colonial skirmishes against the "disorganized savages." Or, second, to see it as a mere extension of the global conflict between Britain and its European enemies, primarily France and Spain. The final way is to see the war is as an entirely American Colonial owned enterprise -- as a war owned by the Colonials who, not coincidentally, were desperately under siege on their Western and Northern fronts by a coalition of French and Indians, and thus desperately in need of British help?

This last way of seeing the war, as an entirely an American Colonial Enterprise, is the way Dr. Gerald Horne of the University of Houston chose to see that conflict in his 2014 book "The Counter-Revolution of 1776." And from this vantage point, one gets a radically different picture of the meaning of that war than that given here by Dr. Williams.

First and most important, both authors agree that the Colonial militias were not just untrained, indeed that they were just awful fighters, and of equally weak resolve. They also agree that the Colonial militias, were just a series of ad hoc ragtag operations pulled together at the last minute by the various colonies without anything resembling an overall command structure. As a result, they almost always lost battles going up against drastically smaller numbers. In fact, one of the reasons they were under siege was because the French-Indian coalition was winning virtually all of the "so-called" skirmishes with the American Colonials, even when the Colonials outnumbered the enemy. One could argue, without exaggerating too much, that this was a case of the "pot" calling the "kettle" black. Who indeed were the real "disorganized savages?"

However, when Colonial America summoned "Big Brother Britain," as it inevitably was forced to do, even though Britain itself was extended around the world and under siege, Britain nevertheless came to Colonial America's rescue and succeeded in slaying the French-Indian threat on both borders, ridding the continent of all other colonial powers and greatly subduing the "disorganized savages," as well.

The British rescue operation was so successful and so greatly relieved the pressure on the Colonial army that its "colony-run" militias stopped recruiting and training altogether and on the spot. All that "Big Brother Britain" had asked for in return, was for its colonial little brothers to "kick into the Kitty" to help pay for the rescue operation (i.e. its war debt) -- especially since Britain was over-extended elsewhere, and especially also because Colonial America itself was successfully undermining British trade through increased competition in the key commodities of sugar, molasses, cotton and tobacco, and thus was flushed with cash.

Oh, yes, and by the way, there was just one other important request Big Brother Britain asked of its wayward little brother. It was the same request Britain had made of all its colonies. It was this: In addition to "anteing-up" for the rescue costs, would Colonial America please stop engaging in the slave trade?

Professor Horne argues convincingly, with tons of documents taken primarily from British archives, that it was this latter request, about stopping the slave trade, rather than the Boston Tea Party, that broke the proverbial camel's back and launched the "so-called" American Revolution.

The ensuing Machiavellian logic staring the Colonials in the face is virtually unassailable: Free of all the military threats on the continent for he first time, and due primarily to the slave trade, now competing globally on an equal footing with Britain, why give up its "cash cow" of slavery?" Indeed, why pay reparation to Britain for its war costs and still be under the foot of the Crown? Plus, now that Britain is militarily weaker (as a result of rescuing us), maybe this is as good a time as any to take her on?

With this kind of logic starring Colonial America in the face, giving up slavery just because the British said so, made no sense at all from the colonial perspective. Unless that is, they were indeed truly men of honor and really believed in paying their war debts, and in freedom from slavery, which of course in all cases, history proved, they were none of these.

So, instead, Colonial America welshed on its war debt, retained slavery as its cash cow, and proceeded to declare its independence from a prostrated and war-weary Great Britain. And to add insult to injury, the last of the ironies in a long list of them, was that Colonial America would also cast its revolutionary rhetoric in the language of slavery itself, but not for the black men it held in bondage, but as if the Colonials themselves were the slave of Great Britain? (Go figure?) Three stars


Naturalist
Naturalist
by Laura Simonds Southworth
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.45
46 used & new from $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Another Southern Baptist Scientist, October 25, 2014
This review is from: Naturalist (Paperback)
Who would have thunk it, that a skinny poor Alabama Baptist boy, would rise to become a venerated and renowned Harvard University Professor and world-class Scientist?

Born at the beginning of the depression and more or less abandoned by his divorced parents to a neighbor when he was about seven, EO did not know that he was either poor or unusual.

Alone and bullied as a child, and losing an eye in a fishing accident, his bad eye actually improved to 20/10 vision making the study of insects easier. EO thus took refuge in the study of bugs. As he puts it: “Everybody goes through a “bug” period, I just never came out of it.”

Parlaying his keen sense of observation, his skepticism about his own Southern Baptist religion, living around museums and the National Zoo in Washington DC, and picking the right mentors, EO matured into Science long before he had matured into a man.

This proved to be the winning formula for the success of a poor Southern Baptist boy of exceptional intelligence, as he went on to get scholarships to major Universities, invent Sociobiology, win a host of awards and authored several award-winning books, including this one.

Touché to another Southern Baptist, for a powerful, well-written and inspiring book. Five stars


Comedians
Comedians
by Arthur Grace
Edition: Hardcover
31 used & new from $1.60

3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Black and white photo album, October 25, 2014
This review is from: Comedians (Hardcover)
This book is a beautiful collection of full page black and white photos of some of America's most well known comics. As a sideline, answers to a series of questions such as ("What are you thinking 10 seconds before you go on stage?) is asked each of them. Each comic gives a very personal and revealing answer to the question. Some also out of force of habit, provide a few jokes.

Unfortunately, neither Bill Cosby nor Eddie Murphy, two of the most well-known contemporary comics, were included. Both refused the offer to participate. Three stars


Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State
Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State
by Ralph Nader
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.41
75 used & new from $10.25

3.0 out of 5 stars This is Both an Accurate and a Useful Treatise, But ...?, October 25, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
... the accurate part is not very useful and the useful part is not very accurate. Allow me to explain by beginning with the accurate part of the book first.

Using his considerable experiences and his legal skills as an activist, the reader will discover here that Mr. Nader is a walking encyclopedia of details on the activist ways of organizing. Here, to our great benefit, he has shared with us his invaluable multi-talented and multilayered experiences, which arguably, as useful as they may be to a properly constructed theory, in practice, were largely failures during his generation (and spectacularly so in the case of his presidential runs).

However, be that as it may, his ability to retell his experiences with great accuracy and then cast his treatise at a rather high abstract level of analysis, attests to both its accuracy and its profundity. Were the objective of this a book about the theory of political activism in America, then surely this exposition would make a valuable contribution to advancing our state of knowledge.

But, accurate theoretical analysis, or acquiring more theoretical knowledge, is not this book's stated purpose. And while that may indeed be what American activism needs at the moment, it is not what the book is supposed to be about: This book is suppose to be about how, in the context of today's toxic political environment, "we the people" might "practically" stop the Corporate juggernaut bearing down on our democratic way of life, blocking every access to our freedoms, stifling, and undermining our economy, and inhibiting democratic participation?

And for that particular goal, theoretical abstractions, no matter how accurate and profound their insights may appear to be -- especially "motiveless" "feigned morally neutral" and abstract ones -- have no place, and thus in my view, renders this book quite useless for the stated objectives.

There is yet another aspect of the author's proposals that strikes me as rather useless: According to the author's own analysis, his mostly tactical suggestions, at their very best, would amount to little more than a series of "one time" "ad hoc," "issue related," "poorly funded," and "poorly committed to," "tactical forays," unlikely to work except around the margins?

Since together they in no way constitute a strategic threat to the corporate state apparatus, pray tell: How is such a clumsy tactical machine going to go up against the well-oiled well-financed, and well-organized, strategically deployed behemoth called the corporate/national security/prison/drug industrial complex?

Although the author waxes eloquent as he parses the fine points and nuances of Conservatism and Libertarianism, he forgets the competition: Liberalism -- that is, until the very last chapter, where, with an obligatory wave of the back of his hand, he pretty much dismisses liberalism as a useless after thought. I have my own thoughts about the deficiencies of liberalism, but that is grist for another mill.

In both cases he fails to descend from his very accurate but nevertheless, lofty Ivy Tower-like abstractions back down to the ground level, where, arguably, "American politics lives." Mr. Nader finds it unnecessary to speak to the motivations of those who, as he so carefully points out, hide behind the label "conservative and libertarian" to justify their baser instincts, actions and motivations. And even though on this one excursion into motivations, he is "dead on," he nevertheless quickly "tap dances" away from the darker implications of why one would need to use false labels in the first place -- unless they were being used to cover up darker more hidden motives? Sadly, Mr. Nader slides away from this "heavy clue" about what really animates American politics, and he does so without so much as even an acknowledgment of the pivotal value this mislabelling of a key ideological component of the American political process has on the objective he has set before him in this book. The very fact that such concepts so pivotal to a proper understanding of the American political process like racism, greed and corruption, do not appear in either the text or even in the index of this book raises a question about its real purpose and whether it can be trusted or put to any use at all in dealing with the practical issues of American politics?

For be it for me to suggest that one of the reasons the American political system is currently in such a mess, is precisely because too many people -- Mr. Nader and Mr. Obama included among them -- have decided to finesse this very issue of morality and criminality extant in American politics: They have willfully failed to see the elementary self-evident fact that the contemporary American political process in our modern contemporary era has become first a battle between "good" and "evil"' and only afterwards a battle over theory, tactics and strategy.

Yes, of course, it is much easier to pretend that the moral character and quality of American politics has not diminished in recent decades, that it is still the same old morally innocent playground, where all the players and ideologies are equivalent, equally well-meaning, equally moral and entirely motiveless? As Nader puts it here, all sides are well-meaning and have the same goal, but just differ only in the means used to achieve them? (Really? Come again?) The cold-blooded truth is exactly the opposite: It is that one side of the American political spectrum "plays dirty and "for keeps;" while the other side continues to give the "wayward side" a pass, always explaining away the vulgarness and baseness of their ideas -- even as they treat them as if they are morally equivalent to their own. Then the meeker side is always bending over backwards to give them the benefit of the doubt and plenty of maneuver room -- treating the morally bankrupt, bought-and-paid for conservative movement as if it is the moral equivalent of their own side.

The conservatives then go for the "balls" first, and only afterwards for the "jugular." But the meeker side then just continues to rationalize for the wayward side's destructive actions, holding out until hell freezes over (as Mr. Obama did) for more "Congressional bipartisanism;" and in the case of this book, Mr. Nader is calling for holding out for more meaningless Left-Right coalition building? Is it possible to keep yielding to America's wayward conservative child without doing permanent damage to the continued viability of adult moral political attitudes?

Sad to say, but here too Mr. Nader has spent a lot of time rationalizing for that wayward side, a side that he seems to have a special affinity for. However, he, just like Mr. Obama did, simply fails to face the reality of what that side is doing to help destroy the American polity and its way of life as we have come to know it. He for instance gives them credit for having read F.A. Hayek, and Ludwig von Mises, or even Adam Smith? Yet, he and I both know that these ditto-heads rarely go beyond Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, and Dr. Laura. A conservative intellectual heavyweight might just admit to having read the offbeat conservative iconoclasts of Tom Sowell and Ayn Rand, and no more. But to suggest that they do anything more than toss Hayek's and von Mises names around, is giving them too much credit.

After listening to Palin, Cain, Bachmann, and Peary, Mr. Nader can argue that it is just a difference in means not goals if he wants to? But that is not what every Congressmen (to a man and woman) have said as they continue to retire in disgust: Each one has suggested that the Congress is a viper's nest of corruption and criminality, and nothing less. And at the front of that train are "bought-and-paid for" conservatives. Even here, Mr. Nader himself impeaches his own well-constructed theory by noting in passing, that FDR and Ike, were not the only U.S. Presidents to warns us about where an unbridled over-reaching corporate and national security state would lead. So too did Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter.

Now to the useful part of the book.

Mr. Nader's generational experiences in the trenches of American political activism has yielded a virtual cornucopia of viable tactical necessities and imperatives. From knowing how to organize well, to knowing precisely how the legislative process "really works," to how to motivate young people to get involved in projects that may well require a life time of committed actions, is solid advice that is all to the good, and will work in any environment and at any time. This is advice that every potential political activist, or foot-soldier for the next political revolution, must have in his battlefield plan and in his tool kit. Indeed, this is advice that you can take to the bank.

However, in this book, all this accurate advice, is provided minus a socio-political context that intersects with the realities of American politics on the ground. The way Mr. Nader has put it, leaves the reader to think that the Congress somehow "emerges out of the ether" as a neutral chessboard with a fixed set of rules, whereby, if the pieces and players are moved about the board innocently according to these impersonal rules, then success, failure or checkmate following as the night follows day? ... Would that it were so?

But Mr. Nader knows as well as anyone that the American political system is exactly as the retired Congressmen have described it: a viper's pit that no longer works for average Americans, and is no longer an innocent impersonal abstraction. It is the hub of a corrupt hydra-headed monster. Mr. Nader also knows that the American political system, no less than the American economy, does not operate according to Adam Smith's invisible and benevolent hand. It is not simply that the corporations are ruled by greed, corruption and the mindless pursuit of their own self-interests, but more often than not, so too are lobbyists, politicians, and even political activists. The whole system is one big "pay-to-play" orgy.

How else can foreign governments like Israel, Saudi Arabia, and not even China get a table at the table of the American political process that trumps the influence of the American voter? How else can "bright-eyed" "bushy tailed" freshly minted college graduates" be coopted by corporations to "come over and fight for their side" (against the graduates' own interest) just to gain fame and fortune? Or, how else do we get poor conservative white people mouthing such inanities as "I want the government's hands off my medicare and social security?" How else too would the likes of Herman Cain, Michelle Bachman or Sarah Palin, have the gall to stand up in a national debate and embarrass the nation by displaying their 5th Grade level ignorance before the entire world?

Even Mr. Nader himself acknowledges in a lengthy discussion in chapter six, that those able to muster the necessary courage to reject these corporate offers of cooptation, are soon banished to Siberia for the rest of their careers. Indeed, as the reader will discover, most of the book is less about how to stop the corporate behemoth than it is about how the corporate state has successfully outmaneuvered us to defeat every idea, every piece of legislation, and how they have proceeded to co-opt, threaten, or marginalize every committed activist or Congressman -- and indeed how they have actually succeeded at it beyond even their own fondest dreams!

In relief, it must be said that this book is little more than a backhanded Corporate State's manifesto of their successful take over of the American political system. It certainly is not a manifesto of how to stop the corporate behemoth from continuing to "huff-and-puff" down the tracks as it continues to pick up speed as it heads to a full collision with an increasingly impatient electorate.

So, may I ask the author: Why give us an accurate but a highly abstract motiveless, emotionless, highly nuanced amoral treatise on the one hand, and practical advice on the other, that has been neutered and stripped of all its useful moral and emotional content; it is advice standing alone naked before the people, stripped completely of even a semblance of useful political context?

Mr. Nader, the kind of political system you have described here, one that does not take into account the fact that racism, corruption and greed are not just the mother's milk of American politics, but also consistently throughout U.S. History has been its most salient elements, is a political system alien to the American way of life with which I am familiar? How can we trust a treatise that ignores these pivotal elements?

To conclude, no one has more respect for Mr. Ralph Nader than I do. He was and is America's last Guru, the last shining light of my generation. He has always been and will die a stalwart for all that is good and sacred about our democratic way of life. I still salute him. However, with the greatest respect, I believe he has directed this high energy, high level treatise to the wrong audience, and to a no longer existing political system? One that has been greatly weakened by the Corporate State.

Unless I am terribly mistaken, the level at which I see the current American political discourse, resides a couple of notches below the level this book has been cast. We are now well below the waterline of mutual respect and decency. Has anyone failed to notice how the presidency has been vulgarized through disrespect by conservatives towards Mr. Obama, and by Mr. Obama's own desultory performance? I don't like Mr. Obama either, but I would never disrespect the presidency to voice my dislike of him.

These people, who have openly, unapologetically, unabashedly and gratuitously insulted the presidency in public and on the Congressional floor, are the people Mr. Nader wants us to join hands with and sing Kumbaya? How about first trying to restore a bit of civility into the American political process? Three stars


The Tiananmen Papers
The Tiananmen Papers
by Liang Zhang
Edition: Paperback
Price: $17.14
104 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars that the Chinese Politburo operated pretty much like the higher councils in any government, October 22, 2014
This review is from: The Tiananmen Papers (Paperback)
In this book, a trio of American-Chinese scholars, team-up to give us their rendition of what happened in China on June 3-4, 1989. And it is an interesting story they have to tell, indeed.

It is, if I understand it correctly, that the Chinese Politburo operated pretty much like the higher councils in any government, even Western governments: To wit, when decisions cannot be made at lower levels of the Communism Party, they are continually kicked upstairs until a clear decision is made.

In the case of Tianananem, the decision to use, or, not to use, force against the student protestors was kicked up even higher than the top -- to a rarely used extra-legal Committee of eight elders, where they decided it was more important to preserve stability than to run the risk associated with widening democracy through increased democratic reforms. I imagine the Committee of Elders is equivalent to our use of a "Group of Wise men."

Obviously the elders decision had dire consequences for those who had argued for more reforms, as most were summarily purged from the party and excommunicated to ts outer fringes.

These authors draw the very speculative conclusion that had the decision gone the other way -- that is against the use of force -- relationships between the West and China would have made a quantum improvement much earlier. And more importantly, that had the decision been not to use force, China would today be a much more open and democratic society?

At the time this book was written, 2001, it would have been difficult for a reader to assess such a prediction. However, with thirteen additional years of hindsight, at least as far as the U.S. is concerned, our relationship with China has evolved smoothly and at an even pace during this period. I wonder if it would have been in our interest to have it develop any quicker?

In any case, speaking personally, I no longer worry so much about Chinese democratic reforms as I do about the rapidly unravelling of our own U.S. democratic reforms. That thought aside, this was a very thought-provoking and insightful read. Three stars.


Schopenhauer in 90 Minutes (Philsophers in 90 Minutes)
Schopenhauer in 90 Minutes (Philsophers in 90 Minutes)
by Paul Strathern
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.91
29 used & new from $1.88

3.0 out of 5 stars The Philosopher of Pessimism, October 21, 2014
Known as the philosopher of pessimism, Schopenhauer's philosophy reflected his personality. And personally, he thought the world was a bad joke, one that was indifferent to our fate. Later, Darwin's earth-shaking of Evolution, would prove him to be right on this point.

Arthur Schopenhauer grew up mostly in Hamburg Germany, a member of the upper class. His father brow beat him into becoming a businessman and then committed suicide -- as mental illness ran in the family genes. However, Schopenhauer, despite his rank pessimism, was supremely sane.

Eventually managing to kick his father's ghost, he broke with his mother, and enrolled in the University of Gottingen as a medical student, but then soon began attending lectures in philosophy. Although Hegel was the philosophical rage of the day, Arthur, like everyone else too could not understand him. So, he took classes from Kant instead, and fell in love with his philosophy. He wrote his PhD thesis during the War of 1812 where he got to know, and spend hours talking to and helping Goethe with his "Theory of Colors."

Also, for the first time he discovered Indian philosophy, which helped to re-kindled the dark attitudes about the world that already lay deep within him. Schopenhauer wrote his magnum opus "The World as Will and Representation" in Dresden. He began it by seeing the world as a puzzle in search of a solution that only the truth could resolve. But what he discovered, and the way he viewed the world, seemed to undermine, rather than reinforce this search for the truth.

To Schopenhauer, there was no redeeming value to the world: It was evil and contingent, and God was not good. His worldview is that the world consists only of representations, mere phenomena, a Potemkin facade. But what supports this facade is not "the thing itself" (noumena) but a blind, impersonal "universal will," one that exists without cause and that lies beyond space and time.

Since the Will feeds on the trappings of individuality and ego, its selfishness and greed is what brings about all the misery and suffering in the world. Thus, in order to liberate ourselves from our egos, we must give up the idea of individuality and become selfless beings, admirers of art and aesthetics -- things that involve will-less contemplation.

In an earlier work called "The fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason," Schopenhauer argued that it is our perceptions that create the world. And they do so according to four types of cause and effect: logical, physical mathematical and moral. Together they conform to "the principle of sufficient reason," an idea, stolen from Leibniz and improved upon by Schopenhauer that means that "everything has a reason for existing, as it is, and not otherwise."

All these causes and effects belong to the phenomenal world, not to the world of "the thing in itself," or noumenal world. The latter, which is replaced by the Will, does not take part in cause and effect. Causation can only apply to phenomena in the world of experience and the will does not act as its causative agent. We gain access to, and are participating in the universal Will, only through introspection; that is to say, only when we are aware of ourselves from within.

And although we can be aware of our actions on two levels: act and Will, as operating in the "cause and effect world," or as our intuition, operating within the "realm of personal awareness." Yet, even though it is difficult to separate them, intuiting the Will does not cause our actions but underlies them. Put simply, as if anticipating Carl Jung, Schopenhauer viewed the Will as a universal force -- as a kind of collective consciousness, as it were, one that irradiates all phenomena.

Darwin's discovery in 1859 proved to be an intellectual "game changer." Everything seemed to fall before its universal dictates except Schopenhauer's philosophy. Schopenhauer simply reformulated his idea of a "universal Will" as Darwin's own "universal will to survive." And thus, it became a part of Darwin's misunderstood continuation as "the universal will to survive as the fittest." Although serious analysis was to demonstrate later that these ideas were little more than solipsism, during his lifetime, they were seen simply as deepening and further refining Schopenhauer's ideas.

But as would later be discovered, Schopenhauer's reformulation was perhaps too clever by half and looked at more seriously (as noted above) reduced to solipsism. For to know the will by introspection makes one's knowledge rest on a solitary basis: This kind of reasoning reduces to the well-known philosophical cul-de-sac of "I alone exists."

The problem was that Schopenhauer needed Freud -- except that he was about half a century too early. In his "intuition precedes analysis" formulation, he sorely needed Freud's unconscious mechanisms, which his ideas foreshadowed. But all he really had during the time of his existence was poetic and not philosophical ways to express his ideas. Still Schopenhauer will be remembered for being prescient as well as for being pessimistic. Three stars


Honor Lost: Love and Death in Modern-Day Jordan
Honor Lost: Love and Death in Modern-Day Jordan
by Norma Khouri
Edition: Hardcover
179 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars (dis) Honor Crimes and Religion: Slavery by another name, October 19, 2014
This book, "Honor Lost: Love and Honor in Modern-day Jordan," by Norma Khouri, is a story of love and divinely sanctioned murder told under the strain and tension of an alien shameful slave culture: and that alien shameful slave culture is called 21st Century Islam.

Islam is a 1500-year old Bedouin tribal desert culture where enslaving and murdering women "for fun" was, and still is, legal. However, "the fun" used as pretext to justify divinely sanctioned slavery and divinely sanctioned murder is called "a man's honor."

Even in modern and liberal Jordan (remember King Hussein and Queen Noor?), (dis) honor murders to ostensibly to "protect a man's family honor" is considered a normal and accepted way of life. For respectable religious men to engage in (dis) honor murders, is like pouring themselves a drink of water. Except in Jordan and most other Islamic countries, they don't even have to pour themselves a drink of water, because they can always order a woman slave around to do it for them.

The love story told here, is about two women friends who had to go through an elaborate ruse of opening a Beauty Salon simply to arrange for one of them, in love with a Catholic man, to meet for a tryst. As we later learn in the story, the lovers were eventually caught and Dalia was murdered by her father and brothers according to the rules and practices of divinely sanctions Islamic law.

The tableau of this vignette has occurred so often even in today's post-modern times that it not only defiles civilized human behavior, and defies religious moral sensibilities and common sense, but it also begs an important question. One that it is high time for all civilized peoples to ask themselves: From where does such bizzare, barbaric, shameful, criminal cultural habits spring, and why in the name of 21st Century civilization do we still tolerate it by continuing to allow it to happen?

The answer is obvious: all "cultures of gender slavery" spring from religion, that primal tribal mechanism invented 2000 years ago in some Middle Eastern desert camp as a response to men's fragile sexual fears: that some other man, or men may eventually conspire to "screw" their women? This fear is endemic even among post-modern Middle Eastern men -- and thus has long since been encoded in our masculine brains, and also encoded in the books of virtually every religion known to the Western world.

So, let us make one thing crystal clear: faced honestly, the codes in "the books" all point in the same direction; they all boil down to one thing: How can I protect my male right to "screw" as many women as I can, and at the same time exclude having other men "screw" mine? Said like this in plain English, it sounds exactly as base and as ridiculous as it is in reality.

Notice that in order for a man to think like this, women must first be objectified as a man's possession, hence slavery (i.e. submission) must be a prerequisite, i.e., a first step down this blackhole of fearful masculine sexual insanity. And then, as a second step, women's sexually related behavior must be carefully circumscribed, segregated, regulated and monitored. This includes their dress, make-up, movement, access to places beyond the home, profession, education, etc., ad infinitum.

In short, the basis of Western religion, as much as any other basis, grew out of a Bedouin tribe's primal fears that resulted in the invention of a culture designed to enslave the vagina and to backup the enslavement of this particular body part, with a rulebook full of codes that makes it impossible for "my woman" to have any access at all to "other men's penises." These were codes that at the same time (at least in practice), did not restrict my access to other men's women's vaginas. If that sounds like a crude and tortuous double-standard, then you too now fully understand the meaning of the Bible, the Torah, and the Koran.

When this shameful but elaborate jerry-rigged Rube Goldberg culturally-designed mechanism fails, as it invariably does, a "man's honor" has then been assaulted. Presumably because after all, he was the designer of the idiotic fear-based sexual contraption in the first place? Therefore, to save him from self-embarrassment, all Islamic women must pay the ultimate price for a bedouin tribe's 2000-year old stupidity and sexual insecurity. They must pay with the whole of their psychological existence -- if not all too often also with their lives.

As Norma, Delia and all Middle Eastern women in this story know, fixing the consequences of this shameful, criminal cultural enterprise of conspiracy, is not going to be easy. But we in the West know what the correct answer to it is: It is to get rid of religion, period. Full stop.

We in the West are doing it the old fashion way, by allowing religion to die on the vine due primarily to the weight of its own backwardness and ignorance. That of course is a slow and agonizing death that takes generations if not centuries. In the Middle East, this process somehow has to be sped up, otherwise the entire world will remain in mortal danger, vulnerable not just to (dis) honor killings, but also to other forms of mindless religiously-generated strife such as the potential even for nuclear war between Israel and its neighbors, or Pakistan and India.

The only way I see that it can be sped-up in the short run, is for women the world over to wake up and finally realize what is the real nature of the problem that religion solves: Religion is simply a very, very expensive pacifier encased in cultural garb, designed to protec man's from his own sexual fears and insecurities.

Why should women so willing remain a part of a criminal cultural enterprise that enables this self-destructive psychological insecurity to run rampant, especially over their own lives -- a system that subjugates them and murders them both physically and psychologically?

The first step towards a solution (i.e., self-emancipation from gender slavery) is obvious: The truth of this colossal fraud and the sexual insecurities that underlie it, must be exposed.

Exposure to the light of the day is the best disinfectant. At first, it may not seem so, but exposing this fear-based sexual fraud will be cathartic for both men and women, because "sexually secure men" do not want their humanity defined by, or even tied to, such shameful and ignorant crimes. But also at the same time, "sexually insecure men," want nothing more but to keep the fraud and the true underlying the nature of the crime, a secret forever. Nothing undermines the fragility of this fear-based sexual project more than exposure.

However, it must be further said that it is women who must begin to bring this issue to the table, and doing so openly is not going to be any less cost-free than is doing nothing in silence. And worst yet, women must begin to do so conspicuously in the very countries where these shameful sexually insecure murders are still encoded as law and sanctioned as everyday practice.

Since women there are already being sacrificed as martyrs in silence, it is now time for a new family of martyrs to rise to the fore -- consisting of both freedom-loving men and women. They both must emerge with loud public voices and stand up and be counted. These voices must be heard from the mountain top of the United Nations dais. Civilization depends on it!

To pretend that it can be done at a "standoff distance," at a safe range far away, while sipping tea on a patio in some Western country, is a pipe-dream that has diminishing returns that in the end will not solve the problem and in fact may delay surmounting it.

Women in the lion's den must begin to roar out loud and ask unabashly: Why indeed does a man's honor have to involve keeping my vagina locked up in cage? Why do I have to become a slave to your sexual fears and then have to die both physically and psychologically because you men are sexually insecure?

Then, of course they must then begin to go one step further and ask the most important but most forbidden question of all: If all religions do, is protect a man's sexual fears, then why indeed do we (women) need them at all? Five stars


Madame Bovary (The Modern Library, 28.1)
Madame Bovary (The Modern Library, 28.1)
by Gustave Flaubert
Edition: Hardcover
8 used & new from $4.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Death of a Middle Class French Woman, October 17, 2014
This is essentially a story about women, (at least attractive women), and about how they were forced to negotiate the world in 19th Century Bourgeoisie France.

Emma was from a poor family, a romantic dreamer, who came out of the covent at 15 and married a doctor well above her station, expecting an idyllic life. However, when it did not turn out that way, or live up to the expectations set for her by the cheap romance novels she had been reading, she became frustrated, went into cycles of depression, and eventually began to act out by using the only power she had, her beauty.

She thus began a series of indiscrete sexual affairs with men in her town and earned herself an unflattering reputation. Meanwhile, her mediocre doctor husband, Charles Bovary, was so enchanted with, and blinded by her beauty, that he simply failed to see that she had been a slut until well after her death.

Until she committed suicide, Emma had ricocheted from single man to married men in search of what was missing in her life, but unfortunately was unable to find it. Spending lavishly on her suitors, she ran the family into debt, and sought help from her lovers to bail her out. When they repeatedly failed to come through, she drank the arsenic that one of them had inadvertently given to her. Her husband soon followed her in death, and because of the family's poverty, their young daughter was remanded to live out her life on a cotton farm.

There was nothing complicated about this novel as i understood it. Pure and simple, to me it was a statement about how women can become trapped in the circumstances of the culture that middle-class existence they are caught up in, or that are imposed on them. Whether in the 19th Century or today, in the 21st Century, women, as is true of all people, will find ways to rebel and act out their frustration.

This was the first book I have read by Flaubert, and thus I still lack a sophisticated power of literary analysis to be able to adequately evaluate and judge it. Maybe now I will resort to a Cliff notes summary to better understand all of the nuances that I missed. Because it is Flaubert, and not because I fully understand it, five stars.


The End of All Evil
The End of All Evil
by Jeremy Locke
Edition: Paperback
4 used & new from $490.00

1.0 out of 5 stars A Self-taught Treatise on Freedom and Evil, October 17, 2014
This review is from: The End of All Evil (Paperback)
This book is a self-made self-taught treatise on both the concepts of "evil" and "freedom." Both are presented here as "contextless" abstractions -- an unnecessary complication that the author has later identified as an evil in itself, one that is a part of the overall conspiracy to manipulate and control others. Yet, throughout his presentation, he pretends not to see that he himself has been guilty of his own most serious self-defined crime, and made it a basic category error to boot.

These two contextless abstractions are offered up to us with general but extremely vague definitions as being at opposite ends of the human spectrum of emotional activity. How he can do this without first placing them properly in some human context, defies common sense and all logic. For no matter how hard he tries to make the two concepts "free-floating concepts" that lie somewhere up in the ether above human activity, they remain culturally-determined -- that is, if they are to have any meaning whatsoever.

Thus, this author is guilty of the same crime of "subtle manipulation in order to control," as those (mostly "the Government") he accuses of doing the same. The worse of all evils in his view, is democracy. (Go figure?)

At heart one must conclude that he is an anarchist, yet, he lacks the courage to admit it. He also has a profoundly negative attitude towards "freedom," one that involves exclusion but not inclusion. Ultimately, no matter whatever else he says about it, "freedom" to him is nothing more than his "entitled" desire to be "left alone," period.

That connotation of "freedom" has a long sordid pedigree that goes all the way back to Columbus' "so-called" discovery of (an empty, unpopulated) America, remember? Now, all that empty uncivililized land only for the white man's use, now that was the kind of "freedom" of which the author speaks (but only in coded language), is it not? [C'mon, you can tell me, I won't tell anyone else?]

As a result of his hidden agenda (which is actually transparent, but which he is sure no one else can see) he speaks in abstract biblical-like parables, easily recognizable as "coded racist white folks language," so that he cannot be tied down to exactly what he believes in, what he is trying to say, or indeed what he is about, or what this, his own, secretive, conniving self-serving project is really up to?

If there is a less subtle an indirect example of an author trying to control and steal the freedom of his reading audience, I do not want to see it.

Reading between the lines (and beneath his breath the only way one can read this tract), this author sounds like an uneducated, frustrated self-taught white racist libertarian, one of the followers of the ideologue, Tom Sowell. One who has learned life's lessons the hard way, and thus one who feels (as all racist whites do) entitled to "lord over" others. Except, as is usually the case, he lacks the courage to stand up and be counted for what he believes, or see the contradiction between his own "libertarian ideas" and his desire to "force-feed" others his own bankrupt worldview, or to his own already discredited way of thinking and his own jaundiced and cockeyed way of seeing the world.

Obviously, when he attempts to educate others, as he is doing here, he does not see himself as manipulating and controlling them, only when that other abstraction: "the government" does it is it then manipulation and control? [By the way, is it not written down somewhere in the great book, that "the government" is none other than "We the people," or am I mistaken on this point?]

Far be it for me to knock someone who is uneducated and who has been self-taught. For this is a good place for anyone to start on his life's journey of intellectual enlightenment. However, it is also not a good place to end one's life. If all you have is what you have taught yourself, and have not availed ourself of what the rest of the world has to offer, that is a barren life, indeed.

Learning what those in the formal academic arena have to say about these matters, is not a bad place to turn to, after being self-taught. Philosophers have dealt with these issues for millennia, and since time immemorial. And although there are many things that they have gotten wrong, they have also lighted the way for "free-thinkers" like this author. One of the proudest moments of my intellectual life is when my best thinking is independently confirmed by other academics.

My challenge to Mr. Locke is not to curl-up in his little comfortable corner sucking his self-taught white libertarian thumb, but to get out in other parts of the intellectual world and test the waters. I have no doubt that he will find there, a great deal to his liking. One star


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