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Saturday, 31 July 2010

In July to read is to fly

Reads on the fly as July flies by... It has flown.
You can play the music CDs in the background.

Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen (Economics 1998) has books translated into thirty languages. Identity and Violence is a departure from his usual topics of welfare and development economics. The book discusses issues of identity including religion, culture, globalisation, 'East' and 'West', Muslim history and multiculturalism. Sen witnessed the communal conflict that marked India's independence in 1947, and is in a position to ask his reader to rise above the narrow-mindedness of those who are not prepared to think beyond simple categories. Sen is among the great intellectuals of modern times and is worth heeding.

In Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics, Paul Street chronicles the rise of Obama. He deconstructs many of the myths surrounding the President including, grassroots funding, progressive politics, stance on war and health care. The book offers a broad and well-informed understanding on the meaning of the “Obama phenomenon”. Street looks at Obama in relation to contemporary issues of class, race, war, and empire. He considers Obama in the context of America’s political history. He concludes that Obama is no exception to the electoral system and ideological culture of the true American political tradition. This book offers a balanced assessment, is deeply researched and draws from the author’s direct experience as a civil rights advocate. It remains to be seen if, as Street concludes, Obama is a “neo-liberal fraud.”



The Chomsky Effect A Radical Works Beyond the Ivory Tower Robert F. Barsky
"People are dangerous. If they're able to involve themselves in issues that matter, they may change the distribution of power, to the detriment of those who are rich and privileged."
—Noam Chomsky (voted "most important public intellectual in the world today" in a 2005 magazine poll)
Barsky writes about Chomsky, the inspiration, catalyst, analyst and advocate. Chomsky encourages people to become engaged—to be "dangerous" and challenge power and privilege. The actions and reactions of Chomsky supporters and detractors result in what is termed "the Chomsky effect.
he is “the most important intellectual in the world” and “the great American crackpot”; his intellectual status is “on a par with that of Darwin or Descartes,” but “everything he says is false.” These conflicting judgements cover all domains: linguistics, philosophy, literary theory, psychology ... but above all politics and international affairs.
Barsky also discusses why Noam Chomsky has come to mean so much to so many—and what he may mean to generations to come.

What’s the Hitch? Christopher Hitchens’ new book, Hitch-22, is a mixture of memoirs and essays. Hitchens was a left-wing, anti-imperialist, scourge of American hubris, erstwhile booster of Vietcong and Sandinistas, ex-Trot who ended up a drummer boy for Dubya Bush’s war in Iraq, a tub-thumper for neoconservatism, and a strident American patriot. Paul Wolfowitz became his new comrade. A reviewer notes ‘...how typical of Hitch the maverick, the contrarian: another day, another prank. .. not easy to take this consummate entertainer entirely seriously’. On the serious side, Hitchens writes very sentimentally about his mother, and shows sincere devotion to his friends. All in all Hitch-22: A Memoir, like most of his books, is straight-shooting, deeply interesting, often witty.

The March of Patriots, is a book by Paul Kelly of Australian political history, of the fall of Keating, and the first two terms of the Howard government, kind of like a tale of two PMs.
The book is described thus by crikey.com: ‘...it makes the reading of it dull but dutiful work. It’s the literary equivalent of cleaning out the garage on a grey Saturday afternoon.’
My prose is very inadequate and nowhere this height or depth. But Kelly did fail to probe the deeper traits of his subjects for context, e.g. John Howard who is aptly described by a book review as ‘a mild racial chauvinist, xenophobe and nostalgist. These two tendencies, mild in themselves, become noxious when combined, as they did in the Tampa period, producing an utter indifference and disdain for people of a different race.’
Crikey.com has reviewed the book and christened the author “Oracle of the obvious”. All of the 36 comments of the review of the book have rubbished not just the book but Kelly the author, who at least had the dignity not to respond to the critics. Begs the question why these critics - considering their negative comments – even bothered putting pen to paper, to comment on someone who apparently they do not rate. Maybe just a bit of envy of their oracle there.
All these detracts from my take which is that Keating, who served as PM for less than half that of Howard, has left a longer-lasting and more important legacy. Howard shamelessly exploited asylum seekers for political gain and, along with Dubya and Blair invaded Iraq.