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A Vietcong Memoir: An Inside Account of the Vietnam War and Its Aftermath
A Vietcong Memoir: An Inside Account of the Vietnam War and Its Aftermath
by David Chanoff
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.35
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Worth Reading -, November 28, 2015
I was truly hoping to see the other side of the Vietnam War, but no such luck with this book. Mostly about an educated Vietnamese who was part of the bureaucracy shortly before and after the Americans came to Vietnam. The 'Viet Cong' was no guerrilla, mostly a bureaucrat.

An Eagle Named Freedom: My True Story of a Remarkable Friendship
An Eagle Named Freedom: My True Story of a Remarkable Friendship
by Jeff Guidry
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.63
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Nice Story -, November 28, 2015
A nice story about a guy that volunteers at a wildlife sanctuary - takes care of a bald eagle, two adult bears, and a cougar, while also going through chemotherapy himself. On the other hand, there really isn't much to this story, and fortunately it is quickly readable.

High Output Management
High Output Management
by Andrew S. Grove
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.52
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best -, November 26, 2015
This review is from: High Output Management (Paperback)
Companies today have two choices: Adapt or die. Some have died in front of our eyes; others are struggling with the adaptation. As they struggle, the methods that worked well for them for decades are becoming history. Companies that have had generations of employees growing up under a no-layoff policy are now dumping ten thousand people at a time onto the street - that's part of adaptation.

The book contains three basic ideas. The first is an output-oriented approach to management. The second is that the work of a business, government bureaucracy, etc. is something pursued not by individuals but by teams. High managerial productivity depends largely on choosing to perform tasks that possess high leverage. The third idea is that a team will perform well only if peak performance is elicited from the individuals in it. Task-relevant feedback is required to get and sustain a high level of performance.

Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS
Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS
by Joby Warrick
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.92
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Read Something Else -, November 26, 2015
The book is primarily a biography of Ayman al Zawahiri. However, if you're interested in the rise of ISIS and what keeps it going, you should find another book. Being an excessively personal story one is unable to learn the reasons behind its scale and speed of growth, the half-hearted attempts by the U.S. to trample ISIS after withdrawing in 2011, or its strengths today.

What about the fact that the Islamic State aspires to destroy the state system of the region? How is ISIS so extraordinarily able to replenish loses? Recent U.S. estimates are that the U.S. led bombing campaign has killed about 20,000 ISIS over the last 1.5 years, yet are more numerous than at the start. Why is it so attractive to a large number of people, and what will do to the future of the Middle East? This clearly makes ISIS much more complicated to deal with than otherwise.

ISIS supposedly came from Al Qaeda in Iraq - however, that didn't exist. Will something else with a new flag arise if/when it is defeated? Will a coalition arise to end ISIS, with the Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and other local entities in the region taking responsibility and ultimately leading to a more stable region?

Why didn't the U.S. do a much more thorough job of eliminating ISIS' funding from oil revenues?

The book was terribly boring, overly focused on an individual, and I couldn't finish it.

The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing: A Guide to Growing More Profitably
The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing: A Guide to Growing More Profitably
by Thomas Nagle
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $66.93
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Intelligent Approach to a Complicated Topic, November 26, 2015
Our ValueScan survey, covering over 200 companies in both consumer and business markets, found that firms developing and effectively executing value-based pricing strategies earn 31% higher operating income than competitors whose pricing is driven by market share goals or target margins.

A prominent example is the iPhone. While out of line with competitive products, Apple understood that a hard-core group of innovators would place a high value on the iPhone's differentiation. Wal-Mart puts its deepest discounts on products, like disposable diapers, that drive frequent repeat visits by big spenders on other products. Since competitors with narrower product lines cannot justify an equally low price on a 'loss leader,' Wal-Mart can undercut them to generate more traffic without triggering a price war.

Cost-plus pricing is historically the most common pricing procedure. However, in most industries it is impossible to determine a product's unit cost before determining its price because unit costs change with volume. A price increase to 'cover' higher fixed costs can start a death spiral, while in strong markets it can lead to underpricing. One should instead ask whether the change in price will result in a change in revenue more than sufficient to offset a change in total fixed variable costs.

Two problems arise when prices reflect the amount buyers seem willing to pay. Sophisticated buyers are rarely honest about how much they are willing to pay for a product. Secondly, the job of sales and marketing is not simply to process orders at whatever price customers are currently willing to pay, but rather to raise customers' willingness-to-pay to a level that better reflects the product's true value. For example, only after extensive marketing to communicate value did photocopiers, mainframe computers, and food processors achieve market acceptance. Finally, letting pricing be dictated by market-share goals is analogous to 'letting the tail wag the dog.'

Because a price cut can be so easily matched, it offers only a short-term market advantage at the expense of permanently lower margins. Thus, unless a company has good reason to believe its competitors cannot match a price cut, the long-term cost of using price as a competitive weapon usually exceed any short-term benefit. Sometimes the most profitable price is one that substantially restricts market share - Godiva chocolates, BMW cars, Peterbilt trucks, and Snap-on tools would doubtfully benefit from added share by cutting price. A product with a 30% contribution margin could lose up to 25% of its volume following a 10% price increase before it resulted in lower profitability. When Alan Mulally took charge as Ford's CEO in 2006 he declared that Ford would focus on selling cars profitably, even if fewer of them. He cut Ford's 96 models to 20 and sold off its unprofitable Jaguar and Land Rover brands. While Ford initially gave up market share in the 2008 recession, it was the only one of the Big Three to avoid bankruptcy.

Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy: An Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity
Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy: An Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity
by Joseph E. Stiglitz
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.93
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inequality Is a Choice We Make With the Rules Created to Structure Our Economy, November 25, 2015
Ninety-one percent of all increases in income from 2009-12 went to the wealthiest 1% of Americans, and millions remain trapped in disguised unemployment and part-time employment. The workforce participation rate has fallen to levels predating the widespread entry of women into the labor market in the late 1970s. The unemployment rate, including those working part-time involuntarily and those wanting a job but not actively looking is over 10%.

The American economy is not out of balance because of the natural laws of economics, nor the result of the inevitable evolution of capitalism. The rules shaping our current economy were formed by incorrect economic orthodoxy. Supply-side economics posited that constraints imposed by regulations and disincentives imposed by taxes and a generous welfare system were limiting growth, a sharp break from Keynesian economists' emphasis on insufficient demand as the limiting factor in today's employment scenario. Per Stigler, when the rules no longer work, it is time to rewrite them.

Wages for most Americans are stagnant, but worker productivity continues to grow - the disparity between the two has become unprecedented. CEO and bankers' incomes soar, with no concomitant improvement in the performance of the firms for which they are responsible. We have a deficit of 3 million jobs needed to reach pre-recession employment levels and absorb those who have joined the potential workforce. Eighty percent of job growth has been in low-wage service and retail employment. More and more piece together a living as 'micro-earners,' working through a variety of platforms to offer rides, rooms, or services - cleaning to computer programming.

Since the late 1970s, we have seen a decline in our growth rate, four significant economic downturns - including the worst since the Great Depression, and an increasing share of the limited growth that has occurred going to the top, with stagnant incomes for many and a hollowing out of the middle class. Policies that focus only on the symptoms of our dysfunctional economy - eg. remedying the worst extremes of inequality, will not tackle the underlying causes. Piecemeal proposals that tinker at the margins of our current economy will not suffice to get our economy back on track.

Skill-biased technological change cannot explain why highly skilled workers have had to move into lower-skilled jobs. It cannot explain why what has been happening to wages in the past decade - even skilled workers are not doing well. Nor can it explain the magnitude of the rise of pay at the top - including CEOs and those in the financial sector, or the rising gap between growth in worker productivity overall and average wages. Historically, wage and productivity growth moved in tandem, but this has not been true for the last third of a century.

Technology, globalization, shifting demographics and other major forces are important, but largely global in nature. All advanced countries should be similarly affected if they are the primary drivers - but among advanced economy countries, the U.S. has the highest level of inequality. Regardless, even those global factors are not out of our control.

The economic crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession that followed demonstrated that the promise of a deregulated market economy was empty. Only through an $800 billion government bailout were the banks and the market sustained. Further, saving the financial system did not trickle down to ordinary mortgage holders or average workers, who lost over 4 million homes and whose real median income declined nearly 8% between 2007 and 2013.

Much of the increase in wealth is attributable to the increase in the value of fixed assets, not an increase in productive value. The most obvious and widespread example is the massive rise in real estate values. If the value of real estate increases thanks only to the rising price of the property and not to physical improvements, this does not lead to a more productive economy - no workers have been hired, no wages paid, no investments made. Much of this is due to the financialization of the economy, including the increased supply of credit that typically goes to those that already have wealth. Land rents, monopoly profits, drug pricing, patents and other forms of intellectual property have become the major sources of increased wealth.

Financial services comprised 7.6% of GDP before the 2008 crisis, then fell back to 6.6% in 2012, and back to 7.3% in 2014. In the 1950s, when the U.S. economy was growing more rapidly than recent years, financial services constituted 2.8% of GDP, and between 1950 - 1980, generated between 10 and 20% of total corporate profits. After 1980 it generated between 20- and 30%, and still is well over 20% today. Between 1979 and 2005, finance professionals increased their presence among the top 1% by 80% (from 7.7 to 13.9%).

A recent target of market manipulation has been the LIBOR rate, bringing higher profits. The growth in asset management income accounts for about 35% of the growth of the financial sector as a percent of GDP. The other core growth business for finance has been shadow banking - moving traditional commercial banking functions to the financial markets where they are outside regulation of traditional lending banks. Long chains in the provision of credit are complex, creating leverage and more vulnerability to fraud etc.

Economist Thomas Philippon has shown that the U.S. financial sector's cost of supplying credit was 2.4% in 2011, compared to 1.6% at the end of WWII. Thus, for all the growth in the financial sector, we cannot see any improvement in the performance of the economy.

The average stock was held for about 7 years in 1940 and two years in 1987, seven months in 2007. In the 1980s, half of all U.S. corporations were the objects of takeover bids.

There is little relationship between pay and performance. CEOs are often compensated simply for luck, such as when oil company executives get paid more when global oil prices increase. New proprietary data show public firms invest substantially less and are less responsive to changes in investment opportunities compared to similar private firms. Thus, pay incentives are now tipped towards underinvestment. Before the 1980s, a firm borrowing a dollar would invest 40% of that on average. Shareholder payouts have nearly doubled since the 1980s and corporate profits are at record highs - with no increase in investment. Finance before was a mechanism for getting money into firms, now it functions to get money out of them. Executives at nonfinancial corporations in 2014 U.S. spent 705 of pre-tax corporate profits paying shareholders in the form of stock buybacks and dividends; in the year prior to September 20008, corporations spent an average 107% of profits buying their own shares and paying dividends. In the postwar period, nonfinancial corporations only dedicated an average 18% of profits for such.

According to the CBO, 'in 1979, households in the bottom quintile received over 50% of transfer payments. In 2007, similar households received about 35% of transfers.' Again, per the CBO, 69% of the $161 billion annual capital gains tax expenditure goes to the top 1%, only 7% to the bottom 80%.' Advocates of cuts to top marginal tax rates contend the reduction was supposed to encourage more work among top earners and increase the size of the pie. A Congressional Research Service report found 'no conclusive substantiate a clear relationship between the 65-year reduction in the top statutory tax rates and economic growth.' Evidence from the 2003 dividend tax cut shows the only effect was to increase dividend payments.

Over the 40 years between 1973 and 2013, productivity grew 161% while compensation rose only 19%. There are roughly 8 million undocumented (illegal) workers in the U.S.

Bottom-Line: Nobel-winner Stiglitz wisely counsels against proposals that tinker at the margins of our current economy - that they will not suffice to get our economy back on track. And then he does exactly that - recommending more and stronger unions (ignoring the fact they were major factors in driving the Big Three and the legacy airlines bankrupt), more equality between races and gender. And then he ignores the two elephants in the room - illegal immigration (currently an estimated 8 million workers, plus their progeny) and exporting jobs to Mexico, Canada, and the Far East. A major disappointment.

Raw Deal: How the "Uber Economy" and Runaway Capitalism Are Screwing American Workers
Raw Deal: How the "Uber Economy" and Runaway Capitalism Are Screwing American Workers
by Steven Hill
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.21
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 'New Deal' is a 'Raw Deal' for Workers, November 25, 2015
Having worked as a cross-country truck driver for the last decade or so, I've observed several trends adverse to the 'little guy' (drivers). One exception is that a number of companies are switching from paying on a 1099 (driver is an 'independent contractor,' responsible for paying self-employment taxes, and receiving no benefits - overtime, disability, paid sick, holiday or vacation leave, retirement, unemployment insurance) to a W-2 basis, so at least the driver isn't hit so hard by the self-employment tax; some are even providing a semblance of benefits (vacation, subsidized health care). On the other hand, there has been an increase in 'owner-operators,' who by virtue of owning/leasing their own truck become responsible for maintenance (an encouragement to take better care of the truck, and improve fuel economy), as well as keeping the truck moving so as to cover lease/purchase requirements. Another problem for most drivers - they're paid by the mile, regardless of road conditions, or delays due to poor maintenance. One of the latest - Uber and Lyft, which by their very nature mostly charge less than taxis, while once again making the driver responsible for fuel, capital investment, and maintenance. The result - implied claims of driver net income that can't possibly be true. And there are now more and more independent contractors delivering packages to people's doors - what little I know about what they're paid suggests that like Uber/Lyft, those involved are responsible for buying/maintaining/fueling their own vehicle - and undoubtedly not netting nearly as much as they were probably led to believe. As for those poor drivers who focus on transporting trucks from one owner/location to another, that sector has gone from reimbursing expenses for fuel, rooms, and transportation between jobs (the company assumes all risks) to where a flat (inadequate) fee is paid and the driver assumes all risks. Overall, I see the 'sharing' economy as more oriented towards dumping more/all of the risks on drivers, as well as the little guy having far less negotiation power (no union, company not exposed to uncovered fixed costs).

So, I picked up 'Raw Deal' to see what its authors had found. Uber, says its CEO and founder, boasts his company will 'make car ownership a thing of the past.' Ridiculous. And valued at $51 billion, larger than Delta or United Airlines, and approaching that of G.M. and Ford - even more ridiculous. It's a dead end for workers. So is employment as a freelance temp. There's no doubt that workers in such situations experience lower wages, less security, little/no benefits, while the firm's owners are living high.

The top one-tenth of 1% of Americans (160,000 families) own nearly 25% of the nations wealth, a share that has doubled over the last few decades. The Federal Reserve' Survey of Consumer Finances in 2013 found that the top 10% of families own 75.3% of the nation's wealth, while the bottom 50% share has fallen to 1.1%. Author Hill also points out that while corporations have seen a 30% rise in profits since the Great Recession in 2008, and in 2013 netted an all-time high of $2.1 trillion, marquee companies have slashed their American workforces by 2.9 million while increasing employment overseas by 2.4 million between 2000 - 2010 (offshoring, sending jobs to Mexico and Canada). On that $2.1 trillion in profit they paid an effective tax rate of just under 205, one of the lowest rates since 1931 and only a third the rate paid in the 1960s and less than the rate paid by most middle-class people. The share of federal tax revenues paid by U.S. corporations has fallen from 33% in 1952 to 11%. Six years into the recovery, the economy has nearly 2 million fewer jobs in mid- and high-wage industries than before, and 1.85 million more in lower-wage industries.

A 2014 study commissioned by the Freelancers Union found that over one in three workers ((53 million) are now freelancing; other estimates predict this will grow to nearly half of employed Americans. A declining unemployment ate is simultaneously occurring with a declining employment rate.

Job automation, robots, 'smart' devices have been replacing many humans in the workplace, and experts believe this is about to accelerate - '47% of existing U.S. jobs are at risk from computerization over the next 20 years.' In 2010 the Washington Post reported the first decade of the 21st century resulted in zero net job creation in the U.S., a 'lost decade.'
Since WWII, no decades has had job growth of less than 20%.

More and more Americans are turning to 'monetizing' their assets - eg. rending out their homes, cars, and labor. ('Winners' on the 'labor brokerage' websites are not paid for their search efforts, increased travel-time, dealing with flakes, the cut taken by the sites (usually 10-20%). There's no guarantee of netting the minimum wage. Some of the sites (eg. 'Fiverr') pay as little as $5/job, and 70% have at least a B.A., 20% a master's, and 5% a PhD. The 'good news' - you're your own boss!

The top 5% of households are responsible for 30% of consumer spending, up from 23% in 1992. Hill envisions that eventually our economy will implode from too little consumer demand.

Increasingly temps aren't very temporary - some employed at the same company for 11 years. The median wage of temps is 22% below that of all workers.

Merck sold its Philadelphia factory to a company that fired all 400 employees and then rehired them as independent contractors. Merck then contracted with the company to make antibiotics, using the same employees. An Arizona P.R. firm, LP&G, fired 88% of staff, then rehired them as freelancers working in their homes, with no benefits. Similarly with 'Out' magazine.

The Internet site Upwork draws from workers all over the world, looking for work as logo designers, article writers, website developers, translators (competing with Google 'Translate'), application developers, etc. Creative workers from developed countries try offering their services at 10 - 30X the rate of those from the developing world - not a likely opportunity for success. It has 10 million contractors spread across over 180 countries, with 25% of those in the U.S. Facebook, for example, subcontracts to Upwork the screening of its one billion users' postings to make certain they meet community standards for decency, etc. Upwork employs about 50 in this activity, from Turkey, the Philippines, Mexico, India, and Morocco at about $1/hour. Upwork also provides software that tracks computer keystrokes, mouse movements, periodic screenshots.

TaskRabbit was formed in 2008 and connects domestic freelancers for eg. fence painting, grocery shopping, assembling a piece of furniture. It has about 25,000 contractors in 18 U.S. cities + London. Customers provide ratings and reviews of the contractors; the site takes a cut of 20% to 50% of what is paid. Often the job is bigger than advertised - with the contractor risking a bad review if he/she requests more or refuses. About 70% of contractors have at least a B.A., 20% an M.A., and 5% a PhD. Obviously they're not paid for their search or travel time, given any benefits, their work-life is unpredictable, and they have to struggle with about 40% of customers for payment. According to the 'Economist,' they're paid about 25% less than those employed full-time in the same job. Temporary agencies rake off about 40% of the wages paid.

Automated hospital pharmacists (PillPick), stock traders (employees at financial stock-trading desks dropped 8.5% in 2012 have been automated. Specialist doctors are those most at risk for automation because they have a small range of problems. It's estimated that the shift to e-discovery will lead to one lawyer sufficing for work that once required 500 lawyers. 'Truck driver' is the #1 occupation for men in the U.S., employing 1.7 million (95% male) in 2012.

Another site, 'Spare5', monetizes brief moments (eg. riding the bus) to do simple tasks like label slideshows for less than $1/hour.

Merchants in the Temple: Inside Pope Francis's Secret Battle Against Corruption in the Vatican
Merchants in the Temple: Inside Pope Francis's Secret Battle Against Corruption in the Vatican
by Gianluigi Nuzzi
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.66
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Some of the Saints Were Sinners -, November 24, 2015
Pope Francis was chose on March 13, 2013. Only a little over 4 months later brought the calendar to July 28, 2013 and Pope Francis was at a meeting in a room whose sumptuous immense maps and cosmic chart decorations had been commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII (1502-1585). The official order of business was to approve the annual financial report for 2012. However, previously he'd received a memo from church auditors. It listed emergency situations such as 'a complete absence of transparency in the bookkeeping of both the Holy See and the Governorate' and that 'no one person can be considered actually responsible for financial management.' Other points included 'the budgeting and decision-making processes of both the Holy See and the Governorate are senseless' and an environment of 'the rules don't apply to us.' Costs are out of control - especially personnel costs. There are duplicate activities . . ..' Their every effort to improve things over the past 25 years had been ignored. The Pontiff created an eight-member Commission to address these problems, chaired by an auditor from Malta who had signed the letter to him. Members came from KPMG, E&Y and other respected firms.

Francis's attitude represented a sea change from his predecessor. Under Benedict XVI, Monsignor Carlo Vigano, Secretary of the Governorate, reported to the Pontiff outrageous expenditures such as a Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square costing 500,000 euros - as a reward, he was discredited and exiled to the U.S.

The Prefecture, supposed to oversee the finances of other departments, didn't even know all the departments it was supposed to supervise. Regulations introduced by Benedict XVI and Francis were being disregarded. Bookkeeping is not standardized, despite existence of regulations for accounting. Some offices kept their own private cash stash that they can manage on their own. The Governorate didn't both to present an annual financial report on the prior year.

The Pontiff poke reported that he'd been told that in the past five years there had been a 30% increase in employee expenses. He knew most was based on cronyism for vague projects. Rather than one human resources office, there were fourteen - one for each power center on the organizational chart. Millions had been spent paying for unbudgeted jobs with ridiculously padded invoices. He also noted that there was a complete lack of 'oversight of investments' - in some cases there were losses of as much as ten million through bad investment. Investments entrusted to UBS, BlackRock, and Goldman Sachs had fallen from 95 million euros to half that. These problems may have been the unspoken reason for Ratzinger's decision to step down.

The Commission requested financial statements from the past five years, lists of employees, all wages and compensation, and contracts for goods and services signed since 1/1/2013. Nuzzi then goes on and on with anecdotal examples of foot-dragging, secrecy, and other means of non-compliance with the Commission's request for information. Impossible for a reader to get an overall sense of compliance, long-term. Then he declares the 'only 20% of donations to the Holy Father end up in projects to aid the poor' - without any documentation whatsoever. He then rails against low interest rates received on Vatican deposits (< 1%), when that seems in-line with what Americans get.

The Pope's residence is about 50 square meters, with the largest cardinal residences as much as 10X that. (Why doesn't the Pope make them scale down?)

Bottom-Line: Not very credible, far too anecdotal, and very hard to read.

Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath
Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath
by Ted Koppel
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.60
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bringing Light to an Important Problem -, November 24, 2015
Three power grids generate and distribute electricity throughout the U.S., maintaining a perfect balance of supply and demand. The Internet provides instance access to the computerized systems maintaining that equilibrium. Several nations have the expertise to gain access to and throw these systems out of balance; meanwhile, criminal and terrorist organizations are acquiring it.

The U.S., collaborating with Israel, mounted a hugely successful cyberattack on Iran's nuclear program in 2008, and Iran retaliated by destroying 30,000 Aramco computers in Saudi Arabia. Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and others almost daily demonstrate cyber capabilities in espionage, denial of service attacks, and planting digital time bombs. The point at which Internet commands originate is often deliberately disguised. Capable cyber-attackers are far more numerous than the current lest of nuclear powers, and some of them are uninhibited by threat of retaliation.

Dispatching journalists to gather information in the field costs money, while hiring a glib bloviator is relatively cheap, and inviting opinionated guests is free. Audiences are endlessly absorbed by hearing amplified echoes of their own biases. We've become conditioned to the notion that there's an 'expert' to support almost any point of view. Meanwhile, we remain a largely reactive culture/government.

Because EMP destroys electronics directly and people indirectly, it is regarded by some as Shariah-compliant use of a nuclear weapon. The Congressional EMP Commission found that Iran has practiced launching missiles and fusing warheads for high-altitude EMP attack, including off a freighter. Iran has also orbited satellites on south polar trajectories to evade U.S. radars and missiles, at altitudes consistent with generating an EMP field covering all 48 contiguous states. Iran launched its fourth satellite on such a trajectory as recently as 2/2015. Another issue - because a nuclear EMP attack could be conducted by surprise and anonymously - deterrence may not work against it.

April 16 2014 at PG&E's Metcalf Transmission Substation a few miles south of San Jose, at least two saboteurs lifted a metal vault cover leading to an underground vault containing AT&T fiber-optic cables, cut those cables within 30 minutes, and with 19 more minutes knocked out 17 giant transformers at the substation. The transformers leaked 52,000 gallons of oil from their cooling systems, then overheated but did not catch fire. (If hit in other areas, they probably would have exploded.) It took 27 days to bring the substation back online. FERC concluded that if nine of our most critical substations were knocked out at the same time it would cause a blackout of most of the U.S.

Our roughly 2,000 very large transformers cost millions each and are hard to replace. Each is custom made and weighs up to 500,000 lbs. Some spares are on hand, and one of seven U.S. manufacturers (Pennsylvania Transformer, in Pittsburg) says it can only build 10/month. Procurement cycles range from months to years. (The substation was attacked again in August of 2014 - intruders stole construction equipment; authorities do not believe the two breaches were related.)

Bottom-Line: I believe Mr. Koppel is highly credible. However, some areas of his book appeared lifted verbatim from public sources, he failed to explain some outcomes (eg. 'Why would an EMP attack disable power lines, vehicles, cause planes to fall out of the sky?' as claimed in a Heritage think-tank report and implicitly assumed in this book. A Wikipedia article argues the contrary - decimating the entire rationale for devastation.)

When to Rob a Bank: ...And 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants
When to Rob a Bank: ...And 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants
by Steven D. Levitt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.04
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Lot of Blah -, November 22, 2015
The book is a compilation of blogs from the authors' website, so you're better off just reading their blog. Except that's not too good either - many of the topics are just ramblings without conclusions. Little in the way of numeric analysis, not the quality of their prior work. As for when to rob a bank - I'd suggest you don't because video recordings, ink-bomb packs, and fast responding police make it far to risky. Computer hacking is the way to go - but first you need to learn computer hacking. That's too much work for me, so I'll stick to leaving banks alone.

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