Tag Archives: Book Reviews

The New Masters of Capital – American Bond Rating Agencies and the Politics of Creditworthiness by Timothy J. Sinclair

A journey into a cavern of capitalism that is rarely explored.


 

The New Masters of Capital – Sinclair

The assessment of financial risk in society evolves. In this volume, one gets a guide to the inner working and evolution of Moody’s, Fitch and Standard & Poors. Yet, it is vastly more than that.

As Associate Professor of International Political Economy at the University of Warwick, Sinclair’s methodology and commentary are simply magnificent. With such a paucity of books authored on this subject, I searched and selected this volume. I am very glad I did.

The honesty that guides the author’s analysis is refreshing:

Rating, as it exists today, is not rocket science. It attempts to meld quantitative and qualitative variables that are not commensurate and therefore cannot be placed into an equation. It is crucial to understand this point for much of the commentary in the financial media passes over the inherent subjectivity of bond rating.  Ratings are not deducible. They reflect the application of rules of thumb. What follows from this observation is that ratings are judgments – the realization that ratings are actually more contestable than they may appear.” (emphasis is mine. p. 176).

In a society where quantitative modeling seems to lead to “leaving it to the experts” – the realization that subjectivity in risk assessment remains an all too often overlooked element within this reality. Sinclair’s chapter on Blown Calls (and the footnotes therein) are tangible evidence of this fact.

The chapter entitled “Unconscious Power” was absolutely fascinating. The ever-increasing global power that these entities exercise over humanity is an awareness that did not go unnoticed by this reader.

This book is a gem, crafted by an incredibly capable and insightful scholar. Timothy J. Sinclair is a superb guide.

I HIGHLY recommend it.


 

 

 

A Nation of Deadbeats by Scott Reynolds Nelson

When you read this book you garner a vastly deeper appreciation for the terms scholar, historian, research and story teller. You also are blessed with a unique narrative regarding the history of America’s financial disasters in the nineteenth century. I’ve done quite a bit of reading in this genre – and this book is a MUST READ.


 

A Nation of Deadbeats
I truly enjoyed this work. Actually, I became immersed in the narrative and learned more than I could have hoped.

This work has encouraged me to continue to “explore the places where maps have failed us…pushing along in the dark.” (p. 254). Yet, the historical evolution of U.S. capitalism that this work recounts, illuminated the absence of pre-existing maps from which to plot the path ahead. However, this work also revealed for me that man, at every juncture, with his seemingly eternal penchant for wealth and power, and organization – emerged, and injected itself at every opportunity.

For me, this book distinctly reinforced the incontrovertible evidence inhabiting the historical record; when you combine man and money, the emergence of mayhem is a matter of fact. Although we currently live in a time where our culture suggests that we know most everything, can control our environments, and predetermine outcomes of socio-economic (and geo-political) policies – I remain a healthy skeptic…particularly as it relates to ALL things economic. Again, this volume is a reminder to me to remain sensitive to the alerts from my “crap detector” (attached to my forehead, swiveling in a 360, 24-7 – and – solar powered). The “smugness” that inhabits our intellectual, social, economic and political discourse today remains, in my opinion, one of our most profound, enduring weaknesses – as a species – particularly as folks continue to espouse rigidly militant “certainty” about issues; past, current and future. I, for one, appreciate those who possess a high regard for questions vs. those who attempt to cram answers down my throat…as the author’s commentary at the end of the book, directed at his colleagues, elicited deeply appreciative smirks from this reader.

Yes, as some of the author’s final remarks in this book indicate, I too have ongoing concerns about the unregulated and mysterious miasma of rogue waves of capital that seemingly slosh between the shores of our globe…outside the cognitive awareness of the ordinary citizen…capital without margin (“margins impose safety”… p. 251), incalculable leverage, incomprehensible risk, and a source of instability whose magnitude and morph I remain acutely concerned with…as inertia continues to thrust us into places where maps are under construction…pushing along in the dark.…to a yet, unknown destination. Yet, the human motivations remain seemingly unchanged.

This particular work is profoundly appreciated by this reader. Thank you so very much Mr. Reynolds.

I highly recommend it.


 

Why We Lost – A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars by Daniel P. Bolger

Why We Lost – A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars – By Daniel P. Bolger

 

The 21st Century U.S. Military Post-Mortem

 


 

 

 

Daniel Bolger is a 35 year veteran in the U.S. Army. He retired in 2013 as a Lt. General. During his career he was awarded five Bronze Stars.

 

As a U.S. citizen, this book should be required reading for the lay person with no military experience. Why?

 

Bolger provides unparalleled access into the lives of U.S. military men and women who were engaged in these wars – and provides uniquely, frank and descriptive accounts of the conditions and challenges they encountered. Bolger’s insightful accounts provide the reader with an appreciation of their service, sacrifice, courage and bravery that one simply cannot garner from the mainstream media coverage of the same. You walk away from this book with a deep and renewed sense of appreciation for the bravery and courageous contributions of our men and women who were/are involved in these conflicts.

 

This book is written in a brutally honest fashion. It is definitely not a muckraking attack on the U.S. military – nor is it a one-sided justification treatise for all things military written by a insider zealot. It is a fair and balanced treatment of every dimension of these conflicts from a participant’s perspective…Bolger’s voice is refreshingly fair, providing uncanny, forthright commentary surrounding the genesis of these wars, the conduct of the wars, and U.S. attempts to extract ourselves from the aftermath of this mayhem.

 

Finally, Bolger’s insights into “now what” regarding the lessons learned from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq provide fertile ground for the essential dialog that must take place regarding the role of the U.S. military in the 21st century.

 

Who is the enemy? This is a central theme throughout the book, and remains the question today embedded in the threats to geo-political stability that continue to inhabit our globe. There are some quotes Why We Lost that should serve to provide the basis for a dialog far too many in the U.S. choose to avoid. Here are a few:

 

“The war cost the U.S. a lot of money, almost a trillion dollars since September of 2001, about two-thirds for Iraq, the rest for Afghanistan. Just how much permanent damage this did to our country’s economy is hard to determine. War funding certainly elevated the Federal government’s already burgeoning annual deficits and added a few more unwelcome strata to the accreting mountain of long-term debt. Both political parties pointed accusing fingers even as the spending continued. By any measure, fighting a protracted war on the opposite side of the world with a volunteer military and a lot of expensive contractors is no cheap” (p.419).

 

“We did not understand our enemies. Indeed, drawn into nasty local feuds, we took on too many diverse foes, sometimes confusing opponents with supporters and vice versa. Then we compounded that ignorance by using our conventionally trained military to comb through hostile villages looking for insurgents” (pp.429-430).

 

“The record to date shows that no senior officers argued for withdrawal. Instead, like Lee at Gettysburg, overly impressed by U.S. military capabilities and our superb volunteers, commander after commander, generals up and down the chain, kept right on going. We trusted our invincible men and women to figure it out and rebuild two shattered Muslim countries and do so under fire from enraged locals” (p. 430).

 

“Stay the course. Add forces. Pull out. Over time, in both countries, all three approaches were tried. Only the third one, pulling out, worked, and that in the finite sense that it ended U.S. involvement. But it left both friends and foes behind, sowing the seeds for future troubles” (p. 431).

 

As Dwight Eisenhower warned decades ago, the military-industrial complex is – well – a business. Like any organization, it knows what it knows and does what it does – learning along the way.

 

However, after reading Daniel Bolger’s Why We Lost – A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, I came away with an appreciation for another reality of organizational behavior; inertia.

 

Inertia is an energy that propels an organism/object/organization ahead, knowing what it knows, doing what it knows how to do. The problem with the energy of inertia is that it possesses an intrinsic characteristic; motion. Once you combine energy and motion and a huge organization begins lumbering downhill into vast and remote terrain – it is terribly difficult to pause, take account of oneself, change direction and rethink what we thought we knew. It is difficult for organisms and organizations to unlearn, reconstitute themselves and become more fit for the challenges that will undoubtedly unfold in the future.

 

In my mind, the dialog about the role of the U.S. military in the 21st Century is the unequivocal contribution of Daniel Bolger’s Why We Lost – A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

 

This is a superb contribution for anyone desiring to become more informed about the role and future of the U.S. military…a discussion that we should not avoid or postpone.

 

BUY THIS BOOK!!! I deeply appreciated General Bolger’s masterpiece. I’m confident you will too.

WHY-WE-LOST

 


 

 

 

 

The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln

This is my second novel by Stephen L. Carter. (My first was Carter’s BACK CHANNEL) — It won’t be my last.


 

 

 

Carter is the master of historical fiction. The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln is my second meal of his literary fare. Carter’s character development, dialog, plot and careful caricatures — provide the reader with a yearning to keep turning pages (ALL 655 of them in this case).

Carter’s historical fiction works are also educational…his twisting of historical events is insightful and provides insights into historical contexts that are absent from non-fiction treatments of the same.

Introduce a reader to Stephen L. Carter!!! They will appreciate your thoughtfulness and be back for MORE!!

About Stephen L. Carter (Excerpt from https://www.randomhouse.com/knopf/authors/carter/bio.html)

Stephen L. Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale, where he has taught since 1982. A prolific writer who has published seven critically acclaimed non-fiction books during the past nine years, he has helped shape the national debate on issues ranging from the role of religion in our politics and culture to the role of integrity and civility in our daily lives.

Professor Carter, 46, was born in Washington, D.C., the second of five children, and attended the public schools of Washington, New York City, and Ithaca, New York. He received his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and his law degree from Yale University. Before joining the Yale faculty, he served as a law clerk for Judge Spottswood W. Robinson, III, of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. He also briefly practiced law at a firm in Washington.


 

 

I was immersed in this marvelous book. You will be deeply satisfied you selected it as well. BUY IT! Read Stephen L. Carter!!!

 

ENJOY!!!

A Place Beyond by Nick Jans

 

 

Meaning Beyond Words


 

According to author Nick Jans, “Words, like map and compass, tell one story yet fail at another.”

 

Nick Jans
Nick Jans

 

If there is meaning beyond words – well – Nick Jans is a literary guide I urge you to read – as he details the stories of his life among the Inupiat people of Ambler, Alaska.

 

Jans has a way of writing that affords the reader the privilege to envision, imagine, see, smell, hear, taste, feel — to journey intimately to those places where – for far too many authors – their ability fails to open these mysterious dimensions for our souls to wander, to live, to explore. Jans writing creates a yearning in the reader to return to his work – to immerse oneself into the marvelous milieu that Jans is uniquely gifted to create.
A Place Beyond
A Place Beyond
A Jans writes, “It’s not the death of the elders I mourn. It’s what’s dying with them and what’s taking their place.” There is an intimacy to Jans writing that allows you to feel what he is writing about – how he actually feels about the subtleties of  his many years of  living in Ambler reveal. He possesses an uncanny ability to observe and relay for the reader the human dimension of feeling that many writers simply are unable to accomplish.

 

This book is a song. It’s music for the soul. Listen to Jans sing:

 

“And beneath it all is music – a delicate, liquid shattering, a song of returning, of breathing again after long silence. I should join the others in their celebration, but just now, I want to sit alone, to watch and listen as the winter breaks apart.”

 

Nick Jans is an artist whose literary gifts allow the reader to enjoy dimensions of meaning and sensory stimulation amidst a literary topography that has been characterized as — “meaning beyond words,” a place beyond.

 

Enjoy A Place Beyond – Finding Home in Arctic Alaska by Nick Jans. Trust me – you’ll fall in love with this book. I did.

 


 

ENJOY!!!

A Colder War by Charles Cumming


 

 

A COLDER WAR by Charles Cumming
Charles Cumming
Charles Cumming
Freefall Without a Chute

 

Charles Cumming has been referred to as the “Modern Master of the Espionage Novel.” After reading A COLDER WAR – I understand the characterization.

 

This is my first read of a work by Charles Cumming. It will be the first of many more.
A COLDER WAR
A COLDER WAR
Cumming has a unique way of grabbing your soul and submerging it into a reality that he creates. You will gasp for air, turn and burn pages, and yearn for more.

 

An inertia inhabits A COLDER WAR – when the story grabs you in the first twenty pages – you become a passenger in the backseat of  vehicle that is plummeting downhill toward a cliff – without a driver.

 

 A COLDER WAR by Charles Cumming – It’s a freefall without a chute! Enjoy the thrill! I did!

 

 


 


ENJOY!!!