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Take No Prisoners: The Battle Plan for Defeating the Left
Take No Prisoners: The Battle Plan for Defeating the Left
by David Horowitz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.70
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78 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read. But will the GOP operators listen? Only if we rise up and make them hear., July 28, 2014
To understand David Horowitz and his confrontational approach to the Left, we have to remember that he understands the Progressive mind so much because he used to be a card carrying member of their movement. He knows what they think, what they intend, how they go about it, and what they are after. Many Conservatives and Moderates find his writings, speeches, and appearances on TV and radio to be extreme because we tend to view the attacks of the Left as ignorant, bad manners, and even crazy at times. But as Mr. Horowitz notes, if they are so crazy why have they been the majority party for all but twelve years since the end of WWII? True, the GOP has won the Whitehouse more often, but we only had the Senate periodically, and didn't take back the House until 1994 (and then lost it to Pelosi in 2006 until ObamaCare helped us take it back in 2010).

Horowitz points out that this isn't a debating society. The Left plays for keeps and portrays everyone who opposes them as evil and seeks to destroy them all the while decrying the politics of personal destruction. It is a dance that they have perfected and are abetted in its intricacies by the media. Conservatives keep thinking that the sheer weight of the evidence from history of socialism's failures will carry the day, but it won't. Why? On page 8 Horowitz writes: "Why do progressives not see that the future they are promoting has already failed elsewhere? First, because they see history as something to transcend, not as providing a reservoir of experience from which they must learn. Second, because in their eyes the future is an idea that has not yet been tried. If socialism failed in Europe, it's because they weren't the ones implementing it, and the conditions weren't right to make it work." I remember Michael Lerner, one of Hillary's advisors and friends, wrote in his magazine Tikkun that the reason Communism would work today when it failed in the USSR is because he and others such as Bill and Hillary and better people. Wow. I am also reminded of then Candidate Obama's famous phrase, "We are the ones we have been waiting for". He was serious. It wasn't a gaff.

Progressives view more government subsidies as a twofer: they see people who get government goodies (such as contraception that they don't have to pay for) as more free and, because they are the providers of the goodies, they get more power to do more "good"! Conservatives see more government subsidies as creating more dependence and the increased government intrusion in our lives as a diminishment of freedom. These are not reconcilable views. And as the author points out in chapter three, it constitutes the most serious battle in the world - more than the struggles in the Middle East - because it is over the future of Liberty and Freedom and the Constitution in America.

In chapter four, the author urges the GOP to go on offense. We can't wait to respond to the Left. We have to personalize the issues and show the victims of Progressive Policies. We have to expose the corruption. Too often, Conservatives fall for the consultant advice of not being offensive or too strident. Maybe that is good advice, but it becomes horrible advice when you do what Romney did in the second and third debates after winning the first one by being afraid to call Obama out on his mistakes, half-truths, and complete misstatements of fact. Romney let Obama up off the mat and the Democrats ran with that all the way back to the Whitehouse. On page 66 we read, "Positive proposals should spotlight the way progressive policies specifically hurt minorities, working Americans, and the poor. In opposing those who oppress and exploit these people, Republicans will demonstrate they care about what happens to the powerless and the vulnerable. It's a simple equation, but the Republicans somehow don't get it."

The Left is always more unified and controlled in its public communications. They use the same talking points, phrases, and subjects. It is stunning and we always wonder why the public doesn't see through it. They don't. They hear the messages the Left is communicating, even when it is nothing more than a fantasy (or nightmare). As Alinsky taught them, the other side must always be portrayed as immoral. The Progressives believe they are always with the angels and all opponents to the Progressive agenda are devils. Oh, and stupid, too. How many times have you heard a Republican candidate referred to as stupid? Yeah, I know. It is tiring.

Horowitz says that the Right needs to unify around the ideas of individual liberty and natural rights that are not a part of or subject to political action. This necessarily calls for limited government. We need to understand that the very goal and purpose of the Progressive/ Liberal / Socialist movement is to fundamentally transform human nature through government action. We need to help people realize what the Progressives are attempting to do to them and convincing them to stand together against this agenda of government tyranny. We stand for freedom and liberty and personal responsibility.

There is an old saying that is more apt than it should be. It says that to get the antonym of any word simply place the word social in front of it. This is why the beloved term of the Left - Social Justice - has been so destructive. In the name of helping the poor get housing, rent control has made housing unavailable and where it exists it has driven prices higher. While buildings the poor can afford are maintained horribly and are too often unsafe. The mortgage crisis was brought on by pushing housing on people who could not afford the homes they were buying and when the system inevitably crashed, it was the poor who lost their homes first, while the middle class had a great deal of its wealth destroyed and, too often their jobs evaporated as companies contracted along with the economy and then failed to grow much at all once the recession supposedly ended. What we have to show and convince the Progressive base of is that the Progressive bureaucracy, like all bureaucracies, work for their own interest and not for theirs. This is true for minorities, for students, laborers, women, and everyone else who thinks they will be taken care of by the government and then wonders why it isn't working out for them.

I get a kick at how much time the Left biased media and the Democrat Party spend giving the GOP advice on how to throw off the Tea Party and the "ultra-right wing". Ever notice that there is no "ultra-Left wing" in their rainbow? Do you really suppose that they have the interests of any Republican at heart? Horowitz points out that the GOP isn't just bad at politics, it is terrible at politics. In chapter seven he asks if the Tea Party and the GOP can stay married. On page 107 he says: "My answer is it better. The White House is occupied by a lifelong anti-American radical who has done more to bankrupt this nation's economy, take us down as a military power, and destroy individual liberty than anyone would have thought possible when he took office in January 2009. And it's worse than that. Obama is the head of a Democratic Party that has moved so far to the left over the last forty-six years that it has become anti-free market, anti-individualist, anti-constitutionalist, and unready to defend America's sovereign interests at home and abroad. We cannot afford to let such a party run our government for another four or eight years. The world cannot afford it." Amen.

Chapters eight and nine form the actual political strategy and tactics part of the program. He provides and discusses six principles for politics that the Left knows but seems to escape conservatives:
1) Politics is war conducted by other means.
2) Politics is a war of position.
3) In political warfare, the aggressor usually prevails.
4) Position is defined by fear and hope.
5) The weapons of politics are symbols that evoke fear and hope.
6) Victory lies on the side of the people.

He admits that politics is contextual and that we cannot apply any rules rigidly. There are times when the situation is such that being aggressive will work against you. But he uses the word USUALLY, not always.

In the last chapter he talks about the tactics of winning the next elections. He sees the victory lying in inclusion. While it is true that in 2000 Bush reached out to minorities and they turned away from him, that does not mean his approach was wrong. The GOP cannot remain a largely white and rural party. We need to remember Reagan's Big Tent. We need to expose the destructiveness of the race industry and the Democrat political system of quotas, categories and identity politics. We need to be a party of individual merit, inclusion, and judging everyone by the SAME standard. The GOP needs to be the party of OPTIMISIM, OPPORTUNITY, and EQUALITY and not Balkanization.

I enjoyed this little book and think it offers a great deal of good advice. I do not have a clue whether the GOP party operators will listen or learn. Generally, people who have gained positions of power suppose they got there because they know more than the people who aren't there. And they tend to talk rather than listen.

We shall see.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI
Comment Comments (17) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 12, 2014 11:01 AM PDT

The Murder of the Middle Class: How to Save Yourself and Your Family from the Criminal Conspiracy of the Century
The Murder of the Middle Class: How to Save Yourself and Your Family from the Criminal Conspiracy of the Century
by Wayne Allyn Root
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.04
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71 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading and considering no matter if you take all his specifi prescriptions or not. The broad goals are solid, I think., July 16, 2014
Wayne Allyn Root was a student at Columbia at the same time as Barack Obama. He knows exactly what the climate of the campus was and the anti-American ethos of its classrooms and student organizations. This book is his passionate explaining of how the Progressives running our government today (in both parties – but especially in the Obama Administration) were educated in that environment at Universities all over the country and have grown up to fundamentally transform America into the a Progressive (Socialist) country and root out all vestiges of our founding. The main thing that has to go is the strong, independent, and prosperous American Middle Class. This book takes the view that it is not dying of natural causes but is being actively murdered by Obama and his ilk at every level of our government. Frankly, it is Chicago / Alinsky Politics writ Large.

The book is in two parts. The first ten chapters lay out the case of the purposeful destruction of the middle class, why they are doing it, how they are doing it, and who is doing it. On page 15 the author writes: “None of this is a coincidence. This is a cold, calculated plan to collapse the U.S. economy under the weight of debt and entitlements, bankrupt, small business owners, destroy capitalism … and murder the middle class.”

The author takes us through why the Middle Class is being targeted (because a wealthy and independent middle class is too strong to control while a dependent poor class is easy to buy off), the list of all those involved (the political class, the crony businesses, the public employee and teacher unions, and the true believers), how they are going about the process of killing off the class of strong liberty minded folks (ever bigger government, ever greater debt, and regulatory confiscation of our lives – think ObamaCare and the EPA under Obama as the two obvious examples), and a reminder that people have stood up to massive oppression throughout history. He brings up William Wallace, but we can also think back to the Great Depression and WWII America to see a generation that knew how to scrap, fight, and build!

The second part is fourteen chapters on how we can survive the current crisis both individually and how to create a movement to turn things around. The basic idea is simply to do the opposite of what Progressives have been trying to do in fostering government bureaucracy, dependence on government, the size of government, the creation of massive deficits and doubling the national debt under Obama.

Mr. Root advocates that the Middle Class take over the GOP and make it a party all about Middle Class values and fostering independence and liberty for all, shrinking government, and slashing regulation of our lives. At present the government says it is for the people but it is really all about appeasing the dependent classes for the benefit of the likes of Buffett, Gates, and Soros. They represent the top 1/10 of 1/10 of 1% of wealthy in our country. I agree with him that we should end the government employee unions, they are a travesty to help the Progressive Agenda at the nation’s expense. He also wants immigration and unemployment to be rational and in America’s interest, not in the interest of the Democrat party. He wants the Tea Party to grow and become even more energized. He advocates the government living within its means and a 15% income tax on individuals and businesses – flat rate – with the only deductions being for your mortgage, charitable contributions, and your healthcare. He also wants ObamaCare repealed completely.

He wants this movement to get better organized, to have a media campaign to brand Obama, Hillary and the Progressives for the socialists they are, brand the Democrats as the party of our nation’s economic suicide, and he wants a Constitutional Convention (which seems utterly foolhardy and dangerous to me – the Progressives will be there too, remember). He wants Obama impeached, which seems utterly destructive and implausible to me. Anyone else remember how impeaching Clinton backfired horribly on the GOP? Obama is out in two and half years and his popularity is falling like a stone, there is no reason to help him by making him a martyr!

I do think Root is spot on in describing how each of us must take ownership of our own lives, our own health, our own finances, and the future of our family. His specific prescriptions are worth considering, even if you decide to do something different or have a different order in your personal priorities. That is what freedom and liberty are all about!

He also provides you with his contact information.

Like his previous books, this one is also worth reading and considering.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 17, 2014 5:56 PM PDT

The Romney Family Table: Sharing Home-Cooked Recipes & Favorite Traditions
The Romney Family Table: Sharing Home-Cooked Recipes & Favorite Traditions
by Ann Romney
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $24.11
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple Family Recipes You Can Make for Your Busy Family. Great photos of beautiful food and a wonderful family., July 10, 2014
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If you can't see what a wonderful person Ann Romney is from reading through this book, I am quite unsure what to tell you. This is a book of a person who cares about family and has no pretension to being elite or above the rest of us. Sure, she and Mitt are very wealthy. Good for them. They earned it. But they certainly have lived without wealth. And they have shared their blessings with many other folks in and out of their Church.

I grew up as a Mormon in Detroit when Mitt's father was an important church leader in Michigan before and after he became governor of Michigan. I was a teenager and did some gopher work for Mitt's mother's campaign for the senate. But I was no intimate of the Romneys. However, I saw how they lived. Sure, they had more than my working class family. However, they lived in one of the more unpretentious homes in Bloomfield Hills. And they had zero airs of importance. They were all about helping others and organizing people to make things better for everyone. Period.

That is the message of this book, as well. The recipes are simple home fare, not fancy gourmet fare for the elites. Basic family stuff that any family can afford to make and simple enough for people with busy lives to make and enjoy meals together. And family is the message and core of this book, through and through. If you know any Latter-day Saint families, you will understand this message and it will resonate with anyone who places a high value on family togetherness. This is about family recipes handed down, Sunday meals, Family Night, Traditions each family has and keeps as a way to unite generations, and Holiday Meals.

The book is also full of simple breads, soups, salads, and family style main dishes, side dishes, and desserts. Lots of desserts! The emphasis is on flavor, ease of preparation, and feeding a group.

The book is full of gorgeous photos of the dishes and the Romney clan and unless you for some reason you hate the Romneys (I cannot imagine a good reason to not admire them), you will find a lot to love in this book.

I recommend it for families looking for good recipes for their home and for those who want to delve more deeply into the Romney views on life and family.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 21, 2014 9:07 AM PDT

Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas
Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas
by Edward Klein
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.79
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get some real reporting on the Clintons and the Obamas for a change! Not the sanitized false picture you get from the Press, July 2, 2014
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Since we no longer get anything but the party line from the Major Networks and the "newspapers of record", we have to turn to books to get the real story on what is going on with Obama and the Clintons. We should know Ed Klein by now because of his great books The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She'll Go to Become President and The Amateur. Of course, Clinton and Obama supporters sputter and squawk and they deny the books' accuracy in general, but they never provide specific denials. Why? Because they know the books are accurate. And over time, we have seen the truth settle out and it looks just like the things Mr. Klein has told us. So, I for one trust him. But, of course, you can believe anything you wish.

This book takes us through the period from just before the 2012 election through pretty much the present moment. We learn how much the Obamas and the Clintons despise each other (hate would not be too strong a word but would not evoke the disdain they have for each other as despise does). The problem for the Clintons has been that Hillary feels that she is entitled to the Whitehouse and is already talking about historians researching her presidency at her presidential library. And Bill wants to get back in the Whitehouse so badly he is willing to die trying (literally, he has progressive heart disease and is willing to dies overworking during the campaign to try and get back in the Whitehouse). Hillary is justifiably worried that when she wins the Presidency (she has no doubt that she will win) that Bill will think HE got re-elected and still treat her as a first lady rather than as the President. Could be, right?

Obama had a problem coming in to 2012. His popularity was sagging and he faced the real possibility of losing to Mitt Romney. He needed the Bubba Clinton magic no matter how much he didn't want to seek it. But as Valerie Jarrett (the always present advisor) pointed out to Obama, after he won re-election, he doesn't have to give Bill a thing no matter what Bill thinks was promised. So, Obama went hat in hand to Bill and got him to campaign on his behalf. Of course, Obama never delivered on any of the implied quid pro quos Bill thought they had after their round of golf together. Nada. That is why Bill seemed to go off message a few times during the campaign and said a few nice things about Romney and made a few criticisms of Obama. Those weren't casual mistakes. They were shots across Obama's bow to deliver or else. Obama never delivered. That is when the Blood Feud got really ugly.

Bill wanted Obama to let him take over the DNC and use Obama's fund raising machine to help Hillary. But the Obamas (including Valerie Jarrett) have zero intention of leaving the political stage or giving up the levers of the Democrat Party after his two terms are completed. They intend to continue their work of fundamentally transforming America. And far from endorsing Hillary, Klein suggests that Obama is looking for a younger more Progressive politician to continue HIS agenda rather than let the country slide back to the Clinton Agenda. For Obama, there is no forgiving Bill for saying that "The Era of Big Government is Over!"

Klein also provides a take on Benghazi and its involvement in CIA gun running to the "good rebels" in Syria and the preposterous notion of knowing who those could be. The author's reporting indicates that Hillary was quite involved in the understanding the attack as terrorism right away. As was the CIA. But that the story of the video came from the Whitehouse. Hillary (and later, Bill) were quite against the preposterous story. But that was the Whitehouse line and they either had to resign or go along. Resigning was not going to help in 2016, so they went along. But that is turning out to be a problem for 2016, as well, because the Obamas (and Jarrett) are doing all they can to leave the stink for Benghazi on Hillary. I have no idea if Klein's take on Benghazi is correct, but I believe his diagnosis of the political fallout is spot on and I am inclined to believe that he is correct on all points.

The book is also quite interesting on the strangely intertwined relationship between Barack and Michelle Obama and their all-powerful friend and advisor, Valerie Jarrett. This is must read stuff, even if quite unnerving to realize how much power this unelected and almost unknown to the public this person is.

We also learn about the separate lives and almost purely politically based relationships that the Obamas and the Clintons have in their marriages. Obama doesn't like Michelle's nagging and sense of superiority and she doesn't like his smoking and how much he does to be apart from her. That is the reason for the separate vacations. Bill and Hillary haven't been close personally for at least twenty years. She does her thing and he does his. She runs their Washington mansion as her base of operations and he retreats to his penthouse suite in his Presidential Library; his Playboy Mansion, as Klein puts it. Women still throw themselves at him and he is still on the prowl, bad heart or no. Remember how Nelson Rockefeller died? This might be the story for Bill and his bad ticker, as well.

Both of the Clintons have serious health issues and work hard to hide them from the public. Bill and Hillary have each had extensive plastic surgery recently to get freshened up for 2016. Both the Obamas benefit, as the Kennedys always have, from a sympathetic Liberal press. Including hiding the fact that Obama still smokes much to Michelle's annoyance.

And while this is both shocking and yet unsurprising, the reason Obama shows complete indifference to job growth, economic growth, the deficit and the national debt, is that Obama does not think them all that important. The only thing that really matters to him is inequality in all its forms. Does this reveal to you the nature of his true political spectrum? A Monochromatic Far Left?

There is much more in the book than I can cover here. But this hits some of the big points of the book. I recommend it to you. Especially if, like me, you keep wondering why the Press hides the truth and protects the Clintons and the Obamas so much. It really is astounding.

Recommended with enthusiasm!

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI
Comment Comments (52) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 7, 2014 11:11 PM PDT

My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers in Music
My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers in Music
by Anne Midgette
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.83
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A frank and open autobiography by a truly great pianist who is also very human with challenges every pianist fears., June 18, 2014
In Hemingway's "Death in the Afternoon" there is a conversation between the author and a woman who begins as a fan of his. After they talk for a while and she gets to know a new story of his she declares, "You know I like you less and less the more I know you." And Hemingway replies, "Madame, it is always a mistake to know an author." I felt this way after reading this autobiography by Leon Fleisher. He is a great pianist. Some would declare him a genius, and I would not resist that judgment. However, there is a level of openness and frankness about his life and very human frailties that I think make it unsuitable fare for children and even adolescents who might be interested in finding out about the life and musical views of this historically important pianist. Not that he is graphic, but what parent would want their child reading about Mr. Fleisher's multiple failed marriages, multiple girlfriends, crushes on female colleagues and even some of his female students (his present marriage has been long lasting and seems to have had its beginnings when she was a student of his). He also speaks of drug use positively and helpful in "finding things" in that other state. For me, this is all hogwash and human frailty.

I am understanding of human frailty, since I am human myself. I bring this up not to condemn Mr. Fleisher or to make excuses for him. He wrote the book with his co-author, he wanted to be truthful and frank about who he is, warts and all. Fine. I think the book is worth reading for people interested in his life and his thoughts on music. But I would not encourage a young music student to read it. I wouldn't want an impressionable teenager to read it who might think all this poor behavior to be exotic and worth emulating as an experiment with their own life. I think people find far too many ways to damage their own lives and the lives of those whom the care for without thinking that these frailties have anything to do with or are justified by extreme gifts, talent, or being a fine musician. I marked it down one star because of the inclusion of these messy aspects of his life. Should he have left them out? I am not saying he should have. Apparently, Mr. Fleisher did not want to be an inspiration to aspiring young musicians. Because I can't imagine ANY parent who has read this book, giving it to their child less than adult age. (As an aside, I have adult children of my own, three grandchildren, and have been married to my wife since 1976. I am not claiming this as admirable, but just demonstrating experience with what I am talking about. How you regard it is up to you.)

Now that I am done with that caveat, what does the book have to offer? I think a lot. Leon Fleisher showed himself a prodigy very early and had a family, especially his mother, that rallied around his talent and devoted itself completely to the development of his pianistic ability. To the point that his father eventually closed his business in San Francisco so they could devote themselves to his development in New York. He got the best training available to them in San Francisco, as a boy. And the family developed contacts who were committed to Leon as well. One wealthy family knew the great pianist and teacher, Arthur Schnabel, and arranged a surreptitious way to get the boy in front of the great man because Schnabel would not take children younger than 16 as students. But he was so impressed with young Leon that he accepted him at his studio in Italy. But Leon's family could not afford the fees or the expenses of living overseas. Again, Leon's lioness of a mother arranged the contacts and found a sponsor in the man that had founded and ran the Crown Zellerbach paper corporation.

He spent ten very formative and important years under the instruction of the great Artur Schnabel. This vastly important pianist was a key to the great tradition and genealogy of the Germanic piano tradition. Let me fill you in a little bit. There are no bigger names than Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Maybe Bach and his sons are in the class, as well. But they were keyboardists, not pianists per se. Beethoven met Mozart and studied with Haydn. Haydn is the very definition of musical Classicism. Mozart is its great prodigy. Beethoven drove Classicism to its very limits and then created Romanticism. Beethoven's most important disciple was one Carl Czerny, who taught many students the Beethoven tradition and helped found the virtuosic technique that others built on. Two of Czerny's most important students were Franz Liszt, who was the greatest virtuoso of his time and maybe of all time. He did for piano what Paganini did earlier for the violin. The other was Theodor Leschetitzky. Between Liszt and Leschetitzky, they taught almost all the great virtuosos. Add in Czerny pupil, Kullak, and you pick up Anton Rubinstein and the Russian school. There are exceptions, but it is easy to play six degrees of separation using these great pianists and teachers to trace one's heritage back to Beethoven. My own study (and I am hardly a great pianist), goes back to David Kahn, Arthur Friedheim, Franz Liszt, Czerny, and Beethoven! Fleisher is a great pianist and his goes back through Schnabel, Leschetitzky, Czerny, to Beethoven. You get the idea.

For Fleisher, Schnabel was a kind of spiritual father and his studio was an extension of his family on the other side of the globe. His mother was with him and that had its positives and strains. For example, young people, even geniuses such as Fleisher, find themselves full of interests other than practicing at times. His mother one time bit her fingers until they bled and showed them to him to instill guilt in her son for all she had sacrificed for his piano. He had to practice! As you can imagine, the relationship was fundamental to Fleisher for good and with difficulties. This is not an uncommon experience in the life of prodigies. When I was at music school and met some of these prodigies, one parent or the other, often mothers, occupied an outsized place in the lives of these musicians. We non-prodigies also feel deeply about our mothers and consider her a massive force in our lives, but for these prodigies, it is also tied up deeply in their music and their instrument. If their mother was an accomplished musician, the problem is even more acute. However, Fleisher's was not an extreme case of mother domination. I have seen some of these folks with personalities that never develop past an emotional level of pre-adolescent maturity. As the story was told in this book, that was not Fleisher's issue. But he did have a difficulty in staying married and he states a deep regret on not being a better father. And he is wise enough to show gratitude to his ex-wives and his children for the strength of his family and his connection to his accomplished and fine children.

Mr. Fleisher had a number of glorious accomplishments and played with everyone and especially with the great George Szell of the Cleveland Orchestra. But then disaster struck. His right hand had the ring and little fingers curl up and would not uncurl. He tried everything to fix it. I mean everything including standard medicine, non-traditional medicine, psychology, massage, relearning piano technique, and it was a long time before medicine caught up with any understanding of the kind of injury repetitive motion can do to some musicians. For decades, Fleisher played Left Hand piano. He has become the all time master of Ravel's Concerto for the Left Hand. He has had works commissioned for him. As other pianists such as his friend Gary Graffman became afflicted in a similar way, they worked on the issues together. One of my professors at the University of Michigan, William Bolcom, wrote an interesting concerto for TWO Left hands on two pianos. It was composed in a way that either part could be a solo concerto OR they could be performed together. Graffman and Fleisher have performed it in every permutation. Fleisher also became a conductor, lecturer, and spent more time teaching students at Peabody and at other universities around the world. And he performed as a left handed pianist.

Eventually, through ferocious determination and the help of many people, Fleisher's right hand started working at some level again. It still varies from day to day, but he was able to play two handed music again. And that's not only great for him, but for the whole world. He is a marvelous musician. He points out in his book that he has had more faculty appointments than he can name and can't even remember all the students who have been part of his group piano lessons. One of those was at the University of Michigan (unmentioned in the book except for his connection to Bolcom and the conductor Gustav Meier). He was there while I was studying there, as well. But I was in music theory with the piano as my instrument and we were not allowed to do much at all with the actual piano faculty other than our assigned teacher. So, I never met Mr. Fleisher, though I walked by his studio regularly and saw him walking around the school occasionally. It was cool to see such a big name on the door. I guess I wish I had found a way to just say hello to him way back when, but what difference would it have made?

One of the cool aspects of this book is that there are five "master classes", which are short articles where he discusses his views and shares his thoughts on five of the masterworks he is most closely associated with. Very interesting reading that is geared for the general reader and in a way musicians can appreciate as well. But they are not written to a level only professional musicians can appreciate, so don't become intimidated. One thing I will warn you about when you hear from prodigies and genius instrumentalists how little they practice. Don't believe it. One of the games they like to play with each other and maybe with their own psyches is that they don't have to work at their craft. It came to them as a gift. No question that they have a gift. But, believe me, they worked at it. Now. What they CALL practice might not be much. But they PLAY their instruments a lot. Horowitz used to claim that he hardly practiced at all, but then you get story after story, as Fleisher recounts in this book, of his playing for Horowitz and being pushed off the bench while Horowitz played Clementi for three hours. Fleisher claims he tells his students not to over practice. What that would be is beyond me. I am sure he doesn't want them to injure themselves. But you have to put in the work. I take it much like I take the CEO on his 2nd or 3rd marriage and yet another set of young children who writes in his memoirs about how he regrets sacrificing his first (and second) family for climbing the corporate ladder. He will advise the younger executives to not make that mistake. But of course it is impossible to follow that advice and still climb the corporate ladder. Regret is cost free but it fixes nothing. Now, if Fleisher wants his students to trade an hour or two a day of keyboard beating for more introspection, analysis, and study of the music by hearing the score more clearly in their minds, I think that would be terrific. But that comes after the three to six hours of hard work of playing each and every day. Otherwise you won't have the facility, the strength in your back and legs as well as the suppleness in your arms and hands to play an extended recital. Just my view.

I recommend this book to anyone seriously interested in pianism and in Mr. Fleisher in particular. But please keep in mind the mild caveats I mentioned.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 18, 2014 8:12 AM PDT

Investment Valuation: Tools and Techniques for Determining the Value of Any Asset
Investment Valuation: Tools and Techniques for Determining the Value of Any Asset
by Aswath Damodaran
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $71.46
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A marvelous and serious resource for thinking about valuation., June 9, 2014
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As a businessman and a student of business, I consider this one of the most important business books that I own. I consult it regularly and use it in every consideration I have involving valuation. This is a complex and subtle topic. I know people wish it were a straightforward topic that you could simply apply inputs and crank the handle and receive a sure valuation that everyone could agree to. But real life isn’t like that. This is why every deal has a buyer and a seller. We each have different approaches, different needs, different desires, and different expectations about what tomorrow will bring.

Professor Damodaran has gathered together a vast number of valuation techniques and gives us great background and context for applying them and when they will tend to provide good information and when they can mislead us. I think this is tremendously valuable. But it requires work on the part of the student or the business person trying to come up with a useful valuation for some asset.

In reality, we should use multiple techniques when considering any asset and see how well they agree with each other and where there are divergent valuations. We should then consider what is causing those differences and see if that analysis yields some valuable insight.

So, if you want to think deeply and seriously about valuation, this is a great resource. If you want a simple machine to crank out a number, this is not valuation for dummies.

I recommend this book strongly.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI

America: Imagine a World without Her
America: Imagine a World without Her
by Dinesh D'Souza
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.99
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906 of 977 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We are in the middle of a fundamental transformation of America from her traditions to something new. Will it still be America?, June 4, 2014
Let's get it right out of the way. While his critics will use his legal troubles against him, the arguments and evidence in this book (and the movie) should stand on their own. I think they are solid and stand up powerfully. Remember, when you have the facts, you argue the facts. When you don't have the facts, you argue the law, and when you don't have the facts or the law on your side, you attack the person. When you hear his opponents bad mouthing Dinesh D'Souza personally, you know they do not have an argument to make. This is why you hear politicians trying to turn themselves into victims of personal attacks because it serves to deflect the serious arguments being made against their policies and actions in office. Be alert, my friends. Be alert!

The idea of this book isn't that America is about to disappear any time soon, but rather that we are in the middle of a fundamental transformation so profound and severe that it changes what America is and her place in the world. Essentially, the country will have the same name, but the new management has transformed it from its traditional principles to radically new ideas completely disconnected from and antithetical to those of its founding and history. I think we can see this clearly. Of course, if you like the new ideas, you think it is a wonderful thing. If, like me, you despise the new ideas and revere the founding and traditions, you are horrified by what is taking place. But that it is taking place seems obvious and not debatable to me. How about you?

He sets up the argument that the end of American Civilization is the end of Western Civilization since Europe is already in thrall to the Left and Socialist ideals. He points out that the external threats we see to America are not the real problem, but the replacement of our Constitution and our Founding principles with these new ideals. And what are they? He uses as an illustrative point the view of America held by two influential Frenchmen. For the Founding we get the case made about what America was by Alexis de Tocqueville in his famous and important book "Democracy in America". And for the new ideas that are rapidly replacing our Founding we get Michel Foucault, whom the author knew when he was a student at Dartmouth and Foucault was a teacher there. One is an ideology of action, energy, confidence, liberty, and real progress. The other is a political ideology of power, government, resentment, dependence, and futility. America used to be about leaving the country richer for the next generation. Present America is about spending the livelihood of generations yet unborn and sticking them with the tab.

As Madison, Jefferson, Washington, and all our Founders understood, government is necessary and useful for some things. But it is oppression and must be limited and contained and used properly as a fire can be used to heat the home and cook food. Left to itself, government will, like a fire let out of control, consume everything and destroy the entire house and destroy the lives of the people who used to inhabit the home. How many times do we have to relearn the lesson that men and women are not angels and will misuse power for their own purposes if left without constraint?

We also get to see how Obama was raised by Leftists, sought out Leftists, was educated by Socialists and Communists, and has friendships with radicals such as Bill Ayers, Edward Said, Robert Mangabeira Unger, and Jeremiah Wright. There are many others. D'Souza also recounts his own conversation with Allen Ginsberg while at Dartmouth and how this influence sprang from the same anti-Founding Socialism that Obama drank deeply from while growing up. Their basic belief is that America obtained all its riches by stealing it from others and that it must be dismantled and the wealth returned. America's moral guilt is otherwise irredeemable. We must retreat from the world stage and allow others to take center stage and assert their values (whatever those may be). And anything done in the service of making that happen is justifiable and "true" no matter who it conflicts with trivialities like facts and historical truth. Ideology is all that matters and the power to implement it constitutes all that is true.

We are introduced to Saul Alinsky, his principles and methods, and how they influence not just Obama, but the Clintons and all their associates on the far Left today. As the author points out: the commonplace is that if we elect Hillary in 2016 we get Bill. But we also get Saul and all his baggage, as well.

D'Souza also examines the very effective tool used today; especially in our schools, universities, and in our mass media. It is the idea that our values today are suitable for judging all previous eras (as if the future will have the same values we hold and will not misunderstand and misjudge us as we do those in the past). Of course, they teach the idea that we "stole" America from its original inhabitants. The role of conquest among all peoples and nations is never taught and usually condemned only in Europe and especially by America. D'Souza demonstrates the tribal wars and extinctions of people and tribes among the Native Americans at the hands of other Native Americans. Of course, they did not view themselves as one people. They engaged in brutal attacks on each other and engaged in continual dispossession of the lands and lives of other groups. They were anything but the peaceful philosopher innocents of the Leftist imagination. The same is true of the Southwest and Far Western United States and our wars with Mexico. The land became part of America, but the property rights of Mexicans were recognized and formerly Mexican residents became American citizens. Nor did the vast majority of these newly minted Americans seek to leave their new country and return to Mexico.

D'Souza also examines the horrors of slavery and the idea of reparations and colonization (separating the former slaves to another country of their own) at the time immediately following the Civil War. Frederick Douglass was among those who rejected both. He wanted his people to stand on their own two legs and no longer to be dependent on the white man or the government for protection different from any other citizen. Frederick Douglass understood that America was founded by white men, but refused to see it as a white man's country. So we should today. The author also has a chapter comparing the ideals espoused by Douglass and Booker T. Washington compared to those of the modern Civil Rights leaders from DuBois through the NAACP and Michael Eric Dyson. He notes that Martin Luther King thanks Thomas Jefferson for providing the moral basis for the liberty and rights of all citizens, including blacks.

This book also contains a spirited defense of the virtue of prosperity and the morality of free markets. He shoots down the notions of America as an exploitive evil empire oppressing all but the elite. Along the way he also criticizes the present day GOP for being so inept in its espousing these principles. D'Souza sees exploitation of the poor and labor by Progressives and their bureaucracies than by the freedom to work and thrive by your own hard work and wits. It is government cronyism that stifles economic growth and freezes out competition from smaller businesses and the formation of new businesses. He points the finger at modern redistributionist government as the biggest thief of all. Not only in the direct appropriation of dollars from the politically unfavored to the politically favored, but through massive and expensive and freedom destroying regulation.

Moreover, he sees this ever larger more intrusive government as a prison. He refers to the American Panopticon; referring to prison design by Jeremy Bentham where the prisoners where kept under constant observation. It is a design that has rarely been used. However, with today's technology, oppressive laws, regulations, and ever more demanding government, we are all living in a prison of our government's making in order to be kept "safe". This capitulation to central authority demonstrates how we are losing our way as a nation and losing our will to resist this loss of freedom and liberty.

D'Souza ends by reminding us that decline is a choice, not an inevitability.

I really like this book. My one quibble is that I think D'Souza at times dresses up his arguments with biasing detail such as discussing Foucault's homosexuality and penchant for sex with strangers and teenage boys. How does this help the core idea he is trying to make? And it invites opponents to resist with side arguments of their own. He does this kind of argument by defaming a few times and while always true, they seem a bit cheap to me. But the sensationalism probably helps sell more books and tickets. Oh, well. Still, it is a good book. I recommend that you get it and read it.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI
Comment Comments (86) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 11, 2014 6:50 AM PDT

Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works
Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works
by Rick Santorum
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.19
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Santorum offers himself as a social and fiscal conservative for ALL Americans - including the working class., May 6, 2014
I like Rick Santorum. He is clear about what he believes and he acts on those beliefs – even when it costs him. I think that is an admirable trait. I also agree with most of his social values. This book is a clear and concise statement of his positions and intentions as he prepares to run again for the GOP nomination to try and become President of the United States.

During the last campaign he did well for a while because his sincerity comes across well. However, he eventually faltered and he failed to gain the nomination. He thinks he has learned some things, is better organized and will garner more money this time around. Maybe he will do even better than last time. But maybe he won’t.

Frankly, I think he comes across sometimes as a bit too enamored of Rick Santorum rather than as a guy who loves and admires the American People and wants to give them their voice as their leader. And I think that hurts him. It makes him less likeable than he could be. He also focuses too much on the last time around. He is still bashing Romney and seems to have forgotten that people chose Mitt over Rick. He never addresses that problem well. But he does blame Romney for losing to Obama. Maybe that blame is deserved. But then shouldn’t Rick, if he was better, have beaten Mitt in the Primaries?

Sometimes, I admire Rick so much as a voice on social issues that I wish he would lead an organization for those issues similar to the one Grover Norquist runs for taxes or James Dobson does on Focus on the Family. And maybe the latter is why he doesn’t. Dobson already occupies a good portion of the same ground. Not all of it. But some of it. Santorum seems to think that even though he lost his last senatorial bid and did not get the nomination of the GOP for President that this time around he will be quite electable.

Or maybe, and this is not uncommon, (ask Ron Paul), he will try to win but even if he can’t he will have a strong influence in the nature of the debate and make the candidates address the issues he cares about and shape the national debate along lines he wants discussed and win people towards his movement over time. Not a bad outcome, really. Sometimes it isn’t about the immediate win. Look at how the abortion debate has swung since away from abortion at any stage of the pregnancy to pro-life since Roe v. Wade. Nothing sudden, but incremental steady pushing and speaking has been winning more hearts and minds across America.

In this book, Santorum is going after the blue collar coalition that helped Reagan win the Whitehouse and that Romney lost in the last election by writing off the “47%” at the bottom who consume so many government services; much more than in Reagan’s day. Santorum thinks he can revive their desire for independence, liberty, and opportunity by demonstrating he understands their difficult choices and showing how he can revive the economy and create an environment in which all Americans can prosper rather than an ever increasing dependence on government.

He uses a composite family; the Harrisons, and shows their difficulty in the Obama economy to get by in a world with diminished opportunity for themselves and their children. He demonstrates rather convincingly, I think, that ever more regulation, ever more costly social benefits, ever more environmental invasion of our lives, and (especially) ObamaCare are bad for EVERYONE. And that opportunity to start and grow private sector businesses will provide real jobs and opportunities for EVERYONE.

Santorum is not a Rand Paul style Libertarian and sees more of a role for government than, say, a Ted Cruz. You have to decide for yourself if this is the kind of GOP you want to support. There is a wide range of choice this time around. Santorum thinks that since the radical Progressives have taken over the Democrat Party and try to pretend that they are moderates, they will drive away the true moderates. The real hope for the GOP, says Santorum, is to motivate those ever more disaffected with the choices they have faced in choosing between Progressives in both parties, to find a home with a Conservative candidate who believes there is a role for a fiscally sound government that is also socially conservative. You have to decide if you agree, so I recommend this book strongly for politically minded folks to get to know this man.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson – Saline, MI

Nordic Ware Platinum Collection Original Bundt Pan, 6 Cup
Nordic Ware Platinum Collection Original Bundt Pan, 6 Cup
Price: Click here to see our price
46 used & new from $18.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great pan for making great cakes, May 1, 2014
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I found a GREAT chocolate Bundt cake recipe that I decided to use for my Christmas giving that year. However, I found that making a full 12 cup Bundt cake was great for big families, but much too large for couples without kids or single folks. So, I bought two of these six cup pans because making the cakes using them would be very easy. I would not have to change the recipe one little bit. Just a couple minutes shorter baking time. And because it is a genuine Bundt cake pan, it is of very high quality and makes a GREAT looking cake.

I found that spraying the pan with a flour and oil mixture available from both Pillsbury and the PAM people, works best. Cover the pans WELL and you won't have any sticking. And if the occasional cake does lose a tiny piece here or there, remember that is why the great cooks of the past invented ICING!

Love these pans!

Logitech M510 Wireless Mouse
Logitech M510 Wireless Mouse
Price: $22.99
214 used & new from $13.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very nice mouse!, May 1, 2014
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I quite enjoy this mouse. It feels great in my hand. I like the way the buttons, wheel, and the page back on the left side of the mouse work. The two batteries will increase the battery life. And the mouse moves easily, but still has a sense of slight drag on the surface rather than a totally slick feel. I like that. I want to feel the mouse move on something.

I have used Logitech products for years because they are durable, affordable, and well thought out. This is no exception.

You will likely enjoy this mouse. I know I do.

Good job! Thanks!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 4, 2014 3:54 AM PDT

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