Book Review: When Giants Fall – An Economic Roadmap For the End of the American Era by Michael J. Panzner

when-giants-fall

A Savant’s  Perspective on the Present Entropy

In this riveting, insightful treatise, Michael J. Panzner takes the reader on an incredible adventure exploring the present entropy (‘Presentropy’) engulfing our globe.  The term ‘entropy’ is derived from the Greek and suggests a “turning towards” or confronting the degree of disorder in a system. As Panzner writes: “A look back in time indicates that when a true sea change is in the air, numerous warning signs are apparent beforehand, especially to those who are willing to open their eyes and asses the facts in the cold light of day” (p.182). Well, that’s exactly what Panzner accomplishes, it doesn’t stop there.

I am tired of books that simply shout at the prevailing winds of dissent and discord (including those that possess a clear partisan political ax to grind). “When Giants Fall – An Economic Roadmap For the End of the American Era” is uniquely not “one of those.” It addresses not only the present conundrum but boldly forecasts conditions, conflicts and challenges that we should all anticipate (not simply American citizens by the way – this book deserves a global audience, prompting and a constructive dialogue amongst all concerned).

This book distinctly demands broad audience appeal. It is extremely well written and superbly documented. The subject matter covered includes economic, socio-economic, geopolitical considerations, international relations, national and international security, demographics, energy, natural resources and — how a new reality is upon all of us; a reality whose form and substance have yet to be fully formed.

As Panzner points out, “Calculations depend, of course, on assumptions about the future” (p.128). After laying the groundwork for his prognostications, the author does a masterful job weaving reasonable, yet startling realities that emerge to paint a picture about a very different and perhaps, uniquely foreboding future. Panzner’s capability to characterize the conceptual framework that surrounds concepts, like pressure, equilibrium, and competition for influence all serve to enhance the reader’s appreciation for the legitimacy of the picture Panzner paints.

A phenomenal contribution!!! – A superb addition to your personal library. However, don’t leave it on a shelf when you’ve finished reading. I’m keeping mine handy as I reference Panzner’s prognostications against the new emerging reality that continues to unfold on a daily basis.

Buy one for a friend. They will be thankful to have the opportunity to devour this work.

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Book Review: The Inheritance – by David E. Sanger

the-inheritance

The Inheritance – The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power – Harmony Books, ( an imprint of Crown Publishing – A Division of Random House, Inc.). NY,NY    Copyright © 2009 by David E. Sanger

I couldn’t put it down — it takes discipline and commitment to buy a 462 page volume on any subject. However, the manner in which David Sanger crafts this splendid piece of insightful, stimulating literature is food for the soul of a citizen, as well as the intellect of those desiring further enlightenment about the world we inhabit. Riveting – Distinctly addicting – Intriguing.

I bought one for a friend. Her reaction after the first few chapters is the same as mine was…more! Sanger provides a perspective that one simply cannot obtain by reading widely and consuming sound bites. He weaves a mosaic that allows one to see a picture beyond the one he has painted.

Great works of literature spawn even more questions and robust dialogue about the necessity to strategically appreciate the nuances of “where do we go from here” or “Now what?” Armed with relationships, experience, access and sources that only a respected veteran journalist can acquire, Sanger gracefully shares the depth and breadth of a perspective that only one equipped with these hard earned credentials can accomplish.

A precious gift that every American should read to assist in garnering an appreciation of the challenges confronting this country, as a new administration is baptized into the depths of a new world reality… one whose form and substance  was directly birthed by previous U.S. administrations.

Like I said – distinct Pulitzer potential here.

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Impufficient – or Hijacked by Harvard in Central Oregon

Impufficient

By Bill Dahl

All Rights Reserved

During my lifetime, there have been more than a few occasions where I’ve felt the impulse to act to fix something. Typically, my wife recognizes this devious, uniquely intense, gleam in my eye as she observes me moving about rather deliberately, locating the tools I’ll require to address the task at hand. (She usually rolls her eyes and makes a barely audible, primal grunting sound indicating, oh boy… Here we go again). My family has learned over the years that when I act on these impulses, the consequences of my efforts are rarely sufficient to produce the desired results (especially if it involves electricity or plumbing). My family characterizes these episodes in my life as impufficient. Let me explain.

Martin Feldstein, Harvard’s George F. Baker Professor of Economics (and President Emeritus of the National Bureau of Economic Research) authored an article in the Washington Post on January 29th 2009 entitled “An $800 Billion Dollar Mistake.” As I read Dr. Feldstein’s piece, I couldn’t help visualizing the good Professor mimicking the reaction my wife displays when I act on impulse to fix something around the house. According to Feldstein, we need to take more time with this effort to create an economic stimulus plan. Feldstein’s argument is that we are succumbing to the impulse to fix the economy without incorporating the essential resources required to do so. Furthermore, Feldstein concludes that what is presently proposed is not sufficient…impufficient, if you will. It’s a unique moment in the history of our family that a concept that characterizes certain experiential moments in our family unit is unwittingly hijacked by a Harvard Economics Professor and finds its way into the Washington Post.

To make matters even worse, I was sitting on the couch in my living room on Friday evening January 30th channel surfing, when there he was — Martin Feldstein — on The Charlie Rose Show talking about his Washington Post article with the likes of Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, and journalist David Leonhardt of the New York Times. I was mesmerized. The whole conversation was focused on the issue that the impulse represented in the presently proposed economic stimulus legislation is not sufficient…impufficient. Not only did this fellow have the gall to incorporate our family’s sacred word into the conceptual framework of his written piece for the Post, he was now on national television touting it to anybody and everybody. He was in my living room!

Then – final straw of final straws – I went to my local coffee shop Sunday morning February 1st and settled in with the New York Times. On the front page, I began to read David Sanger’s piece entitled “Reinvention or Recovery.” I almost lost my coffee – there he was – Harvard’s Martin Feldstein, quoted on page one of the Sunday NY Times by Sanger, spinning my family’s impufficient concept again.

Honestly, to my knowledge, we’ve never met Martin Feldstein (who knows who my wife chats with on-line). However, Dr. Feldstein, if you ever read what I’m writing here, perhaps your use of our family’s term impufficient, might be further informed by the following:

Your suggestion that a tax credit of some 20% of the cost of a new automobile would stimulate American families like ours to step up and buy a new car — Well, that’s terribly impufficient of you. Do you realize that buyers must have a down payment (that would be some savings), a stable source of income (that’s a job they reasonably believe they will have throughout the term of the loan), a stellar credit score, a debt-to-income ratio acceptable to the lender and sufficient liquidity in the financial system to accomplish this effectively.

Our family’s bank is not Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells-Fargo/Wachovia or JP Morgan Chase/WAMU. Our 401K is not with Merrill-Lynch. We are not insured by AIG or any of its affiliates. We have a conventional mortgage on our home that is well-below the current $417,000 Freddie/Fannie limits at a market rate of interest (not one of those sub-prime or Alt-A mortgages everyone seems to refer to as toxic). We’ve lost 20% + in the value of our home over the past 18 months. Unemployment rates in the tri-county area where we live are the highest in the State of Oregon. This morning’s edition of our local paper (The Bend Bulletin February 1, 2009) said we have almost 2,400 people receiving food stamps in our city. Heck, the populations sign when you drive into town says 24,500. Translation Mr. Feldman: Whatever rescue or bailout that we taxpayers have shelled out the $700 billion for has not evidenced itself where we live. It’s been impufficient.

Mr. Feldstein, one of your central points in your “An $800 Billion Dollar Mistake” article is to provide incentives to households and businesses to increase current spending. Mr. Feldman — America is losing jobs. Those who have employment (as we do) are confronting the reality of having less income in 2009 than we did in 2008 (or 2007 for that matter) faced with rising healthcare, grocery and energy costs, coupled with our respective employers wage stagflation and slashes to their benefit plans. Your suggestion that our family should be provided with some sort of incentive to spend is impufficient, when you begin to recognize our primary concern is survival. We’re not alone: Our friends and neighbors feel the same way. We’re all quite concerned about the state of our economy, our community and our country. Some folks are downright scared. The trust and confidence of folks has been shaken. The American consumer is tapped out Dr. Feldstein. We can’t go on attempting to spend what we don’t have, particularly in light of the fact that real property values for homeowners like us continue to spiral downward, as well as the crisis of confidence that I’ve referred to.

With all due respect sir, you’re obviously a very bright guy and make some other points in your recent media barrage that deserve consideration. However, I just don’t think you live in the same hemisphere as we do. I understand that the ivory tower of academia has a tendency to pull folks like you away from the reality lived by folks like us. Having said that, my wife and I would like to invite you to come out west and spend a week here with us in Redmond, Oregon USA. We have a spare bedroom and Jacki is a great cook. We’re told by others that we’re nice people. I’m sure you’ll find us the same.

One thing we seem to have lost over the last eighteen months enduring this economic crisis is very simple: We wonder aloud if smart folks like you, who are empowered with influencing the content of the dialogue, intended to provide a solution to this mess – truly understand the reality of our lives. What we’ve seen, read and heard thus far is distinctly impufficient.

We’ll leave the light on for ya.

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