Helmuth von Moltke and the Origins of the First World War
Helmuth von Moltke and the Origins of the First World War
By Annika Mombauer
Reviewed by Daniel Hindes
Explanations for the start of the First World War fall primarily into three categories. Fault is assigned either to the Germans, the English, or to everybody. The heart of the case against the Germans is that they clearly wanted a war and conducted their diplomacy accordingly. The case against England is built around evidence that the British Empire intentionally provoked Germany. And the case for blaming all sides incorporates the above facts and more. Frequently the view you find correct depends on national background, with the Allies blaming Germany exclusively, which is easy enough to do. Germans frequently point out the central role England played, especially in not de-escalating. And sober heads everywhere can see how it is possible that both views contain elements of the truth.
Star in the East: Krishnamurti, the Invention of a Messiah
Star in the East: Krishnamurti, the Invention of a Messiah By Roland Vernon Reviewed by Daniel Hindes I got this book off half.com for a dollar (plus shipping). I got it because I am generally interested in Krishnamurti and the early history of the Theosophical Society through my interest in Rudolf Steiner. Steiner got his start as the General Secretary of the German branch of the Theosophical Society, before he and his followers broke away in 1913. The reason for their break was Krishnamurti. Not Krishnamurti personally, but because of the claims that were made about him. I’d read Steiner side of the story in several different places, so I was curious to know how things looked from other perspectives. Otherwise, didn’t know much what to expect from this book, but must say I was pleasantly surprised. Vernon is an excellent writer, and the story flows seamlessly, in places almost like a novel. It gives an excellent overview of the early history of the Theosophical Society, with compelling biographical sketches of CW Leadbeater and Annie Besant. He also gives a description of HP Blavatsky, but this one is rather flat. Vernon can’t hide the fact that he believes Blavatsky made up many of her claims, especially those that involved teachings passed on to her by Masters from Tibet. But he does give the basic historical background, including Blavatsky’s founding of the Theosophical Society and her role in bringing both Leadbeater and Besant into the movement. Upon Blavatsky’s death in 1891 the Theosophical Society entered a new phase, one which was to be dominated by Besant and Leadbeater. Each gravitated to their own strength. Besant became the great organizer, tirelessly campaigning for one cause after another. Leadbeater became the resident clairvoyant, expert in the supernatural, and in communication with Blavatsky’s Masters. For a while the Society thrived. Both sensed that the Theosophical movement needed a point of focus, a mission to bring it into the future. And so they resurrected an oral teaching of Blavatsky’s, that a great world teacher would come. Blavatsky had apparently indicated that this would happen in the second half of the 20th century, but this point was conveniently neglected. And so the focus of the Theosophical Society became the preparation for new world teacher. Leadbeater in particular took up the task of this search. He was hindered in this by the 1906 a sexual scandal involving his relationship to young adolescent boys. He rode it out by self-confidence, never appearing ashamed and never apologizing for anything. And Besant needed him, so by 1908 he was back in the Society. And shortly thereafter he discovered Jiddu Krishnamurti on the beach outside of the Theosophical Society compound in Adyar, India. It is a question to me how...
Freakonomics By Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner Reviewed by Daniel Hindes This is first and foremost and interesting book. The premise is to take the tools of economics – rigorous statistical analysis of voluminous data – and apply it to topics beyond the range normally addressed by economists. The result are, of course, interesting. Interesting enough to put the book and to the best-seller list and make it a topic of many discussions. I, too, was pulled in, and found myself reading quotes from it to friends and family. In short, it’s worth the read. The book has two authors, one a journalist, the other an economist. Steven Levitt is the economist, was ideas form the bulk of the book, while Stephen Dubner, the journalist, puts them into engaging prose. One way of doing this is front-loading the book, placing half interesting discoveries in the introduction. And so the introduction starts off with the most controversial idea, namely that the introduction of legalized abortion in 1973 is the cause most responsible for the dramatic drop in crime in US in the late 1990s. It’s the type of cause and effect thinking that most people would probably not come to on their own. And although the idea makes sense, it is not on its inherent logic that the proof rests. Rather, in a later chapter, Steven and Stephen explore statistically all the factors that are related to crime, as well as those factors thought to be related to crime, in order to see what degree of influence each might have. And in the end no other explanation accounts for the dramatic shift in the crime rate. And so the fact stands, as morally difficult as it may be. The introduction wanders through a couple of other points, such as why real estate agents tend to under price houses by 3 to 5% (they sell faster and easier that way, while the extra effort required to get the last $10,000 or $20,000 for the house are not worth the additional $150 that the realtor would earn in increased commission). This point is easily proven using mathematics and enough processing power by comparing homes the realtors sell for clients (in this case in the city of Chicago) to those houses realtors sell on their own behalf. Sure enough, realtors hold out for a higher price when it’s their own money. The next highly interesting point: statistically, money doesn’t buy elections. That seems counterintuitive, but it is statistically established. Money flows to candidates that are in the lead, and they certainly spend it, but no amount of money will elect an unviable candidate. If voters do not like the candidate to begin with, that candidate can spend any amount of their...