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Move: Putting America's Infrastructure Back in the Lead
Move: Putting America's Infrastructure Back in the Lead
by Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.36
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reimagining cities and city streets, May 18, 2015
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This book starts out with the “crumbling infrastructure” meme that our roads, bridges, and airports are under-funded, then makes a case not just for repairing them, but for augmenting it with bullet trains, city-wide commuter trains, and bicycle and pedestrian paths. It’s really about re-engineering cities. Because cities are transportation hubs, it focusses on transportation as the means to redevelop them into densely packed but “green” areas with human-friendly transportation alternatives like ride-sharing, mass-transit, bicycle, and foot paths.

Author Rosabeth Moss Kanter explains how city managers in places like Portland, Seattle, Boston, San Francisco, and even old industrial areas like Chicago and Miami (the book devotes many pages to redevelopment of transportation in those two cities) are taking a comprehensive view of using alternative transportation to redevelop themselves.

Ms. Kanter gives us an idea of how those trends might be harnessed to remake cities. Ideally, we’d like to have urban areas that offer many modes of transportation that move people comfortably from home to work, school, and recreation in the inner city or suburbs. People should be able to choose to get around by automobile, train, bicycle, or footpath. The compelling vision of having many clean, high-tech, and efficient transportation routes is the strength of this book.

If there is any weakness, it is the usual “bait and switch” propaganda about “crumbling infrastructure.” Ms. Kanter lays out the party line of the highway construction lobby (roadbuilding contractors, heavy equipment makers, and construction labor unions) of portraying our highways and bridges in the worst possible light. To hear them tell it, every highway and bridge is about to fall apart and needs immediate rebuilding. Their motive, of course, is to gin up maximum tax increases to fund the highway projects that are their livelihoods.

An even noisier “crumbling infrastructure” constituency is the advocacy group Ms. Kanter represents --- people who advocate for ALTERNATIVE transportation. This group incessantly agitates about “crumbling infrastructure” not because they care that highways and bridges might need to be repaired, but because they want to raise taxes on gasoline and then hijack the money to build bullet trains, commuter rails, and bicycle trails. They seek to plant the idea in the public mind that roads, highways, and airports are archaic modes of transportation. They use the “roads full of potholes” and “passengers hate air travel” memes to make roads and airports appear ridiculous. They want to replace them with trains and bicycles.

Thus, you’ll be reading nonstop propaganda about how awful is every highway, airport, and railroad in in the USA. Not saying that there’s anything wrong with propaganda. Good propaganda is based on a core of truth, which is then exaggerated. Interest groups like the highway lobby MUST make their case in the strongest terms to get funding from taxpayers who already feel overburdened. I was educated to the fact that we “only” spend around $50 billion a year to maintain our highways, which really is not all that much for a $3 TRILLION dollar federal budget. The book educated me to be more of an advocate for tollways, which are self-funding.

On the other hand, I don’t believe the nonsense about most every highway in the country crumbling away, or that air travel has become aggravating because airports are defective. Air travel has become aggravating because so many millions of passengers want to be flown around the country for $199. Airplanes have become busses with wings for the hoi polloi. Of course the airlines are going to pack them in like sardines to make a profit. That has nothing at all to do with “crumbling infrastructure”

Once you get past the “crumbling infrastructure” propaganda the book becomes much more positive and interesting.

There’s an interesting discussion about reviving long-distance passenger rail service. Ms. Kanter paints the usual picture of sleek bullet trains “whizzing by” but acknowledges the difficult economics of building and operating them. She makes a better case for expanding citywide commuter rails. There’s an interesting discussion of funding highway travel based on automated toll roads that increase their fees based on peak demand. There’s also a good overview of emerging ideas for making our highways and airports more “intelligent” by connecting autos and aircraft to a centralized traffic control system that uses computers to smooth traffic flow on the land and air. The book is even up-to-date on the current legal dispute between taxi drivers and “ride-sharing cooperatives” like Uber.

These are the transportation issues that will loom larger in public discussions as we move deeper into the 21st Century. We will see how these issues play out in cities like Chicago, which the book describes in detail as being extraordinarily progressive in reinventing its transportation to be greener and more human-friendly. On the other hand, Chicago’s city bonds were reduced to “junk” status the other day because the city is running short of money to pay its bills.

Will voters tolerate the tax increases that may be needed to fund these expanded transportation projects? Ms. Kanter makes the point that the funding will have to come from consortiums of public and profit financing, and shows how that has already happened in places like Chicago and Miami. Perhaps we’ll see much more public/private financing of the “reengineering” of cities as the economy regains its footing.

I must say the book is persuasive. In the beginning it was filled with cliché’s about “crumbling infrastructure.” But Ms. Kanter fills the rest of it with so many details about what is being accomplished with public/private partnerships for transportation alternatives that I found myself warming to the ideas. I’m much more open-minded on these proposals than I was before reading the book.

Ms. Kanter explains it thus: “Reimagining cities and city streets involves finding a balance between cars and other forms of mobility; cars, trucks, buses, and people must share the space in better ways.” We are given a glimpse into the future of how America’s cities might look by mid-century if the present trends of public/private cooperation on diversified transportation are continued.


The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them
The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them
by Joseph E. Stiglitz
Edition: Hardcover
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38 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Yes, we know the diagnosis is income inequality, but what’s the cure?, April 23, 2015
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The economy stalls from time to time for reasons that perplex economists. Sometimes the economy gets into a long, drawn-out “stagflation malaise” of high inflation, high unemployment, and slow growth. At other times, after a long period of buoyant growth, it suddenly freezes up like an engine whose oil has leaked out. The economic engine froze up in 2008. The federal government put the “oil” back in it with massive bailouts of public money. Since then, the “vehicle” has had to be towed around at slow speed, years after the engine burned out.

These “malaise” and “freeze-up” scenarios are separate economic diseases that require different cures. Economist Joseph Stiglitz argues that the cure for the freeze up economy is to reduce INCOME INEQUALITY between the wealthiest “1%” and the remaining “99%” who constitute the middle class.

Stiglitz’s thesis begins with Ronald Reagan, who came into office in 1981, vowing to recover the economy from a decade-long malaise of high inflation and unemployed. Reagan reasoned that the economy was flagging because too little money was being invested to improve its productivity. He therefore reduced the top 70% income tax rate to 28%, so that the wealthy would retain more money to invest in new business creation.The theory is that capital creates production, production creates jobs, and jobs give consumers the ability to earn enough to purchase the production of the factories. The wealthy profit from their investment in creating production, employees profit by their wages, and everybody benefits from an expanding catalog of new and improved goods and services on the market.

Reagan's economic policy became known as Supply Side economics. Most of us who lived through Reagan’s era saw enough evidence to convince us that this was the correct solution to the problems of that time.

“Reaganomics” was expanded by future Presidents, especially George W. Bush. The tax rate on capital gains and dividends was reduced all the way down to 15%. Banking regulations were repealed. We were told that this bonanza of tax cuts and deregulation would create an explosion of job opportunities for the middle class, as it had in Reagan’s day. Instead we got the Great Recession, resulting in a debilitation of the middle class that continues to this day.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

In this series of essays, Stiglitz theorizes that our economic growth requires more than just capital formation. It also requires consumers to earn enough income to PURCHASE the goods and services that capital produces. Reagan’s economics were effective when we were faced with a shortage of capital formation in the 1980s. His polices became counterproductive when they were carried to extremes by President Bush during a time when we faced a shortage of CONSUMER PURCHASING POWER in the 2000s.

Income inequality in the 2000’s was aggravated by massive layoffs of employees by corporations in waves of {rightsizing, downsizing, outsourcing, offshoring, involuntary early retirement}. These were GRATUITIOUS layoffs designed not to save companies teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, but to enrich the owners by reallocating the employees’ paychecks and pensions to the executives and Wall Street firms that own the stock. Some jobs were rendered redundant by computer automation, but most were eliminated because they could be moved overseas, or half the employees could be let go and their work double-loaded on the remainder. Many companies invited low-paid foreigners into the USA under the H1-B program to put Americans out of work. Millions of factory jobs were relocated to Mexico and China and millions of IT jobs outsourced to India.

With tens of millions of Americans thrown out of work all at once, the competition among more job applicants seeking fewer job openings drove down wages. Airline pilots who made $250K a year were reassigned to regional airlines that paid $60K. Information technology workers making up to $120K were replaced by foreigners earning $40K. The foreigner workers who replaced Americans on the job sent most of their money back to their home countries instead of spending it in the USA.

By 2008 consumers no longer had the income to continue buying up all the goods and services produced in the USA and imported from overseas. Giving more tax cuts to the wealthy only worsened the economic balance by creating a speculative bubble in bogus financial derivatives and inflated real estate.

So that is Stiglitz’ diagnosis: An excessive degree of income inequality caused the Great Recession of 2008 that lingers to this day. The question now becomes WHAT IS THE CURE?

Stiglitz’s prescription is to reincarnate Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s. Raise taxes on the 1% and operate the government on enormous budget deficits funded by the printing of paper money. He would spend the money on things like hiring millions of new school teachers and rebuilding our cities and infrastructure, powering them with “green” energy.

Conservative economists are going to cry “boondoggle!” and point out that many government-sponsored projects waste taxpayer money and are riddle with corruption. The iconic failure of Solyndra is fresh on everybody’s minds. Conservatives would also ask why 25 years of massive public works projects haven’t pulled Japan out of its recession. Perhaps government public works projects don’t really create many jobs. In the Great Depression it took hundreds of thousands of people wielding picks and shovels to build Hoover Dam. Now the project would be done with a few hundred people driving heavy equipment. So, Stiglitz’s main proposal seems more appropriate to the early 20th Century than the 21st.

Why don't so-called Progressives like Stiglitz propose raising incomes directly, which can be done by raising the minimum wage and requiring companies to show more responsibility in maintaining sustainable employment instead of hiring people and then laying them off?

Stiglitz does debunk the Free Trade myth that the USA can export its way to full employment prosperity. Every country in the world is trying to dump the same grab bag of {motor vehicles, aircraft, machine tools, computer hardware and software, and ag products} in each other’s laps. These goods are glutted on world markets. Only those countries that produce with the lowest cost labor have an advantage. That means a race back to re-enslaving the middle class instead of improving its fortunes. “Free Trade” is a ruse for AMERICAN companies to fire their AMERICAN employees, then set up shop in a low wage country to export the product they used to make in the USA to our market. They want to make product with a foreign wage scale and sell it to Americans at an American price list.

However, I didn’t see Stiglitz recommend curbing these trade abuses. Why not put tariffs on jobs-destroying imports from low-wage countries or ban them altogether? If you’re not going to recommend that as a solution, then why mention foreign trade as a problem?

To summarize: Stiglitz makes the case that wealth inequality is holding back our economy. He debunks the notion that more tax cuts for the 1% would cure today’s economic disease. He makes it clear that MORE regulations, not less, are needed to rein in irresponsible business and banking practices that harm the economy for the 99%. He identifies Free Trade as a red herring to dis-employ American workers.

But then he proposes a reincarnated government-heavy New Deal, which is never going to be passed by today’s Congress. Why not bolder solutions that directly address the problems of inequality he so eloquently laid out. Somebody needs to come right out and say it: “Raise the minimum wage; mandate an Employee Bill of Rights to project employees from being put out of work by predatory corporate management; and impose tariffs to keep American companies from going into cahoots with foreign governments to break the back of our economy with jobs-destroying imports!"
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 19, 2015 6:30 AM PDT


Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader
Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader
by Rick Tetzeli
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.67
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars “Toy Story” was the defining moment!, March 27, 2015
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Did you think, as I did before reading this book, that Steve Jobs’ success was defined by the Apple Computer, the Mac, the Ipod, and the Iphone?
It turns out that these products WEREN’T the most critical links that took Jobs to the pinnacle of success.

Jobs made so many early-career mistakes that by his early 30’s he had become a washed-up has-been, noted for his failed management that wrecked projects like the Lisa and NeXT. He was running Apple into the ground so fast that the board of directors revoked his management authority.

After being booted from Apple, it was his purchase of Pixar that transformed him into a winner. Like him, Pixar was on the verge of failure. It had no customers or products. Jobs had the vision to transform it into the animation studio that created the most beloved movies of our time, starting with “Toy Story.” Under his leadership, it increased its value more than a thousand-fold.

After his reputation had been restored by success at Pixar, he was invited back in to rescue Apple, which had lost its vision during his eleven-year exile. His brilliant innovations during his second stint with Apple were almost anticlimactic. It was his management of Pixar that taught him the lessons he needed to succeed in the corporate major leagues.

That's one of the key insights into Steve Jobs that I would never have known about if I hadn’t read this book. Authors Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli capture the COMPLETE Steve Jobs, including his brilliance and his deficiencies, some of which he learned to overcome, and some that he couldn’t. There are many delightful stories showing the full range of his amazing personality, from its wholesome goodness to its most irrational eccentrics.

It’s a well-told, very meaningful story about the human side of one of the most enigmatic personalities of our time. It inspired me to understand how relentless Mr. Jobs was in perfecting himself as well as his products. We can profit by applying those lessons to our lives if we’re going to make the most of ourselves as businesspeople and human beings, the way he did.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 27, 2015 9:53 AM PDT


American Made: Why Making Things Will Return Us to Greatness
American Made: Why Making Things Will Return Us to Greatness
by Dan DiMicco
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.34
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Returning to our roots as a nation that creates, makes, and builds things, March 3, 2015
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Author Dan Dimicco is the former CEO of Nucor Steel. The words “steel company” conjure up images of abandoned factories, intransigent labor unions, and corporate management that doesn’t know how to compete in the new globalized economy.

But Mr. DiMicco’s combination of engineering and management skills have turned Nucor Steel --- a once-obscure company in a moribund industry --- into a champion. Under his leadership it has become one of the world’s most innovative, efficient, and profitable industrial companies. It has become a role model of constructive relations between Management and Labor.

So, Dimicco is worth listening to. The issue he addresses in this book is familiar to most --- the perception that our economy is still limping along six years after the onset of the Great Recession of 2008. Most of us know friends and family members who are sitting at home twiddling their thumbs because they can’t find any means of employment, or at best are underemployed stocking shelves and ringing the registers at a big box store for minimum wage.

Us old-timers remember those prosperous times back in the ‘60s and early 70’s when high-wage jobs were plentiful. In those days we had an economy of SUBSTANCE based on the manufacture of steel, motor vehicles, aircraft, machine tools, construction equipment, appliances, and many other basic everyday products.

That substantive economy appears to have been replaced by a new financial economy that many criticize for bestowing excessive wealth on Wall Street stock-jobbers and ethically-challenged bankers, while consigning former members of the American middle class into low-pay service jobs that don’t provide much opportunity of upward mobility.

Mr. Dimicco wrote this book to air his ideas on how to recover our fortunes by once again by returning to our roots as a “nation that creates, makes, and builds things.”

I connect with this book on two levels. First, I am a former Nucor Steel shareholder familiar with Mr. Dimicco’s innovative methods of industrial and human resource management. Second, as a business owner and investor, I am a keen observer of the economy. During the past 30 years, I have watched many industrial companies shutter their U.S. operations, putting their employees out of work, and leaving formerly prosperous communities in distress. Mr. Dimicco, who created prosperity by growing Nucor’s business at a time when his competitors were inflicting wreck and ruin on our economy, has lessons to teach us about growing our economy and creating the jobs that sustain it --- practical lessons that ivory-tower economists have never considered.

Dimicco begins by busting some entrenched economic myths.

The most entrenched myth is the notion that we can recover our economy by exporting our way to prosperity. Like most myths, this one contains a grain of truth. Our economy may indeed augment its prosperity by trading with other countries under certain conditions. The myth is that exports will become the PRIMARY pillar of prosperity and economic growth if we adopt free trade with many other nations.

The problem is that every developed and developing nation including Brazil, China, Japan, India, South Korea, the USA & Canada, and the European Union are all trying to manufacture and export the same product lines of motor vehicles, aircraft, steel, computers, farm equipment. These nations can’t possibly boost their economies when they’re all trying to dump the same merchandise in each other’s laps. In fact, the economies in Europe and Japan are in even worse shape than ours are. The only thing the Export Myth has accomplished is to create a glut of manufactured goods on world markets, most of which have to be sold at a loss. This goes a long way toward explaining why the most highly industrialized countries in the developed world, including the USA, are in economic decline.

Only the LOWEST-WAGE countries like China, South Korea, and Mexico prosper from free trade because they pay their people so much less than developed nations do, and can undersell them. Their low-paid workers cannot afford to buy goods produced in high-wage countries like the USA. Their governments are also likely to be hostile to OUR exports. They may tolerate U.S.-made products only until they have had enough time to steal the technology and copy it. For decades there has been a one-way migration of industry, technology, jobs, and wealth out of the USA and Europe to the low-wage countries. Mr. Dimicco advocates that the trade should be managed so as not to disadvantage us.

Beyond even that, the right way to restore prosperity is to make sure that people in the DOMESTIC market have the means to purchase the products their labor and capital produces. It’s foolish to pin our economic hopes on selling to impoverished persons overseas when our own people are unemployed and living from hand-to-mouth. Put them back to work producing for the domestic economy, not the vain hope of exports. When they have jobs that pay them enough to buy the goods and services and they produce, the economy will recover. Our economy today is not suffering from lack of means of production, but from lack of consumption. Due to all the offshoring of jobs overseas, there are too few people left who are gainfully employed at fair wages to sustain the economy.

Instead of putting Americans back to work, our corporate leaders have had the mania to put them OUT of work by destroying their jobs through {rightsizing, downsizing, work force reductions, and early retirements}. Employees are no longer considered to be human capital, but “cost centers” that must be eliminated. The right way to fight that problem is for companies to adopt Nucor’s culture of valuing its employees. Nucor has never laid off any competent employee. It is thus a bulwark of economic stability even during recessionary times when most other companies are throwing their people overboard, and thereby intensifying the downward spiral.

Dimicco next demolishes is the myth that there is a “skills gap” that prevents U.S. companies from being able to find Americans who are qualified to work in industrial and technology jobs. He points out that there are millions of skilled machinists, managers, and IT workers who are sitting at home idle because their American employers relocated their jobs overseas. He contends that American CEO’s who allege a “skills gaps” are intentionally misrepresenting the truth. Their problem isn’t a “skills gap” but their unwillingness to pay market wages to Americans who already have the skills their companies need. Instead of employing Americans they are constantly agitating Congress to expand the “H1-B Visa” programs that allow them to bring in low-paid foreigners from the Third World --- who are often mal-educated to a standard far below Americans, but who will work for far less money as indentured servants of the H1-B sponsoring companies.

So far, I am in agreement with Mr. Dimicco that free trade should become managed trade; that jobs-destroying imports from countries that don’t trade fairly should be curtailed; and that the “skills gap” is a fabrication by lazy and dishonest corporate managements who are using it as a ploy to agitate for Congress to expand the H1-B program in order to allow them to replace their American employees with indentured servants from overseas.

I also agree with Mr. Dimicco when he says that the politicians of both parties have too little direct experience with the economy to understand how it works. Both parties keep themselves busy spouting political platitudes. Republicans claim that the austerity idea of cutting taxes and reducing government spending will be the panacea that restores economic growth, while Democrats say that raising taxes and growing government in every possible way is the correct approach. Mr. Dimicco is surely right that these politically-driven ideologies are hokum.

I am less inclined to agree Mr. Dimicco when he says that “rebuilding our ‘crumbling’ infrastructure” will be THE miracle cure for our economy. I travel most of the country in the course of a decade and have rarely observed deficient infrastructure on our roads, highways, bridges, or airports. I know I’m going to be told that the defects are invisible to the naked eye, that I’m not a structural engineer, and so on, but I do believe that the cry of “crumbling infrastructure” is more a slogan by interests that thrive on government contracts than a reality. Not that there’s anything wrong with rebuilding infrastructure, I'm just skeptical that it is the holy grail of economic recovery that many politicians, labor unions, steel-makers, and construction interests, try to make it out to be. Japan has been trying to fight their recession for 25 years with massive infrastructure spending. All they have to show for it 25 years later is an economy that is STILL depressed and is now encumbered by government debt that makes our debt look like pocket change.

In regard to politics, Mr. Dimicco also joins the obligatory anti-Obama chorus that one hears from most of corporate America. He echoes the corporate party line that Mr. Obama is somehow bad for business, despite our corporations making record profits and driving the stock market fantastically to all-time-highs during his term.

Perhaps Mr. Dimicco’s true message should be that it really doesn’t matter that much which party is in power --- it mainly depends on what we do ourselves to recover our personal and business fortunes. If every company in the USA was led by a person of Mr. Dimicco’s caliber --- if every corporate leader shared his vision of excellence and innovation; and if every corporate leader valued the employees the way that Nucor’s management values them --- then this country would NEVER have another recession. Our economy would immediately return to full employment prosperity no matter who is running the government.

Mr. Dimicco and the people who work for him at Nucor are showing us by example how to prosper through all challenges. We should hope that our representatives in the White House and Congress will take Mr. Dimicco's recommendations to heart, especially in regard to remediating the destructive aspects of free trade, and it getting away from the ideological red herring that tax cuts or tax increases are the primary means of restoring prosperity. If past history is any guide, we can't hold our breath waiting for the politicians to act.

But while they're dithering in Washington, we can do plenty to help recover the economy and our personal fortunes on our own. Perhaps that's the REAL message of this book: don't wait for anybody else to fix our problems. We can do it. Mr. Dimicco shows us how HE recovered a decrepit company in a moribund industry and made it a star. Perhaps we don’t really need to look any further than that for lessons on how to do that in our businesses!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 29, 2015 1:35 PM PDT


Galactic Lebensraum
Galactic Lebensraum
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Space Age Nazis, February 15, 2015
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I thought this was mostly a decent read because it showcases the Nazi ideology as it might have evolved into the future, if they had prevailed in WWII.

The story shows how incredibly conflicted the Nazis were. They saw themselves as Spartan warriors, but in reality were entirely corrupted by lust for women and the loot they stole from the peoples they conquered. They saw themselves as rational men, but were as superstitious as little children. They claimed to desire a future based on Space Age science and technology, but in reality worshiped the medieval economy of land, slaves, and horses. Above all else they were sadistic. They tortured and killed “subhuman” peoples of other races for the sheer enjoyment of watching them suffer and die.

All of that may sound like “old hat” but it is made into a powerful story when transposed on top of Space Age technology in the late 21st Century. It’s a very vivid story of the Nazi mindset. It’s also a story that should be remembered, because many people have forgotten how atrociously evil the Nazis were.

As other reviewers have pointed out, some of the story defied conventional logic. Why ship poison gas to outer space when nature’s perfect killing machine, the vacuum of space, is just outside the airlock? But the real-life Nazis did many crazy things that made no economic sense. Maybe some high-ranking Nazi was being bribed by the chemical industry to buy their poison gas production and use it to kill prisoners on Saturn’s moons. The real-life Nazis did a lot more ridiculous things than that to profiteer from mass murder and war. Don’t let those seemingly illogical details detract from a good story.

So, the first half of the book is a decent read. The problem is that the author tries to combine two stories into one book. That’s a “no-no.” Each book should tell one discrete story. The second half of the book is a whole ‘nother story about a journey by the Nazis to an extra-solar planet. That story is discordant with the first and should have been put into a second volume. The first volume could then have been expanded a bit to tell its story more thoroughly, while the second volume could have been fleshed out better.

In spite of that drawback, it’s still a worthwhile read, and well worth the price of the book.


The Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder
The Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder
Offered by Hachette Book Group
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65 of 73 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The DELIBERATE Superpower, December 5, 2014
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I began to suspect from the outset that author Peter Zeihan was not born and educated in the USA. He appears to be only superficially acquainted with U.S. history before World War II.

However, that is NOT a significant weakness of the book because its crux is what has happened, and what Zeihan interpolates WILL happen, between 1945 --- when the USA emerged as a superpower --- and where we are headed into the mid 21st Century. On that period of current history and history extrapolated forward, Zeihan is expert, and that is why this book should be read.

Zeihan's premise that the USA is an "accidental" superpower whose people just happened to stumble upon a continent of astoundingly favorable geography is dubious. Yes, the favorable geography was there, but the creation of the United States as a continent-spanning and then global superpower was no accident.

Zeihan seems to believe that it was a cakewalk for American pioneers to secure possession of our country from coast to coast, and that not much in the way of man-made "artificial infrastructure" (i.e. canals, highways, and railroads) needed to be built:

======
One of the things that the Americans have traditionally not needed to spend that money on is artificial infrastructure.
======

Mr. Zeihan needs to call up an 1850's canal map, an 1860s through 1940s railroad map, or a modern road atlas with its 40,000 miles of Interstate highways. We've spent the modern-day equivalent of trillions of dollars on transportation infrastructures since our founding, and we're still at it, with the chorus of calls to commit money to high-speed passenger railroads. Transportation infrastructure is the LIFEBLOOD of America. The necessity of unifying the country with man-made transportation has always been an instinct of our national consciousness. Every great man-made transportation corridor we've built --- from the Erie Canal to the Panama Canal to the Transcontinental Railroad, to the Interstates, to the airports has been constructed out of necessity to unity the country economically and politically. Even the "natural" waterways like the Mississippi and Ohio and Potomac were made navigable by man-made operations of dredging and locking.

It took a century of intensive canal, highway, and railroad construction to make it possible for Americans to consolidate sovereignty over the Continental USA. Astounding amounts of capital were poured into canals , railroads, and highways that linked the interior USA , separated by 200 miles of barren Appalachian Mountain "desert," to the East Coast ports.

Indeed, the United States exists in its continental form because George Washington saw the need to link the interior of the continent to the coast before the trans-Appalachian settlers joined up with the British in Canada or the Spanish in Florida. He organized the Potomac Company as a joint venture between Virginia and Maryland to accomplish that. Other states joined the compact, and the final result was the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention. Then came the era of railroads, of highways, and now of air travel. The USA exists as a continent-spanning sovereignty BECAUSE of the enormous expenditure of capital allocated to the DELIBERATE construction of trans-continental infrastructures.

Mr. Zeihan also appears to be only superficially acquainted with Canadian history. His conception of Canada as a fragmented quasi-nation that is probably destined to be absorbed into the USA has a 1960-ish or 1970-ish retro feel to it. These issues of Quebec seceding and Alberta becoming the "51st State" were front-page stories on foreign policy magazines 50 years ago. Those scenarios never panned out because Canada is a deeper-rooted nation than it often appears, even to Canadians. Mr. Zeihan (who Internet research reveals to be Australian-born)would not be expected to understand the history of Canada or the USA the way a person who has lived their entire lives in either country would understand it.

However, the meaningful aspect of the book is how Mr. Zeihan analyzes the world from 1945 going forward and then extrapolates how the mid-21st Century (2030-2080) will look. That last part, which reaches its climax in the Epilogue, is eye-opening.

It is a contrarian-positive view of the USA. Instead of declining into a dystopian post-Superpower anarchy, as many today feel is our destiny, Mr. Zeihan makes the case that the USA's role as the world's ONLY Superpower will be ENHANCED. And, yes, he does explain why our geography is a big part of that. But the character of our people, and especially the vision of our leaders to bridge the gaps in our continental geography in order to make us a unified nation, are the largest part of the equation.

Our geography IS accidental. Our status as the world's only Superpower is DELIBERATE. But that aside, the book has given me a clear vision of what the USA and the rest of the world is probably going to look like in 2030-2080. We make better decisions in the present if we have a good intuition of what the future will bring. I think Mr. Zeihan has foreseen IN SPECIFIC DETAILS, NOT JUST GENERALITIES, the mid-century future of the USA and the world and has described it lucidly in this book.

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btw. this book was released barely more than six WEEKS ago and its main theme of decline of American adversaries in the oil-producing countries of Russia, Venezuela, Iran, etc. is ALREADY happening. Oil prices plunged 50% in the last six weeks and knocked the stuffing out of these American adversaries, just as Peter Zeihan predicted would happen around mid century. This happened because our oil production nearly DOUBLED in the last two years due to fracking. There are also incidental signs that China's economy has reached the limit of its growth curve, as its recent economic growth rate is the slowest since the 1990's. America is once again viewed as the preeminent economic power on the planet. I'd say author Zeihan "hit it out of the park" in predicting this one!
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 18, 2015 11:38 AM PDT


Unretirement: How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and the Good Life
Unretirement: How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and the Good Life
Price: $9.17

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The positive and negative forces of "un-retirement", September 23, 2014
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Most Americans born between 1920 and 1950 lived rags-to-riches lives. They grew up poor during the Great Depression of the 1930s, then were called up to fight World War II. Those who survived the war came home to make their careers during the Great Prosperity of 1945-1999. They worked during a time when salaries, home prices, and stock markets were rising, and career-ending layoffs were rare.

Most of that generation retired with paid-off residences and vacation homes; company-paid pensions and health insurance; and often rental properties and million-dollar 401K plans. Their "golden years" were filled with affluence and leisure. Most didn't even have to PLAN for retirement. Having a steady, layoff-proof job during a period of affluence automatically took care of that for most.

Then things changed. Sometime around 1990, companies started busting their employees' careers by putting them out of work in their 50's with {early retirements, workforce reductions, offshoring, outsourcing, downsizing, rightsizing}. Career jobs and corporate-paid pensions were extinguished. Employees were told to put their own money in 401K plans. Then the Great Recession busted their stock portfolios and sunk their home equity. Many have cashed out their 401K plans to tide them over their current financial debacles because they can't find jobs that pay anywhere close to what they used to earn.

Things look pretty bleak for this generation's elder years, but are they really? Author Chris Farrell says they're actually fairly bright. He theorizes that the post-55 year-olds whose financial lives were derailed by layoffs and recessions are entering upon a social "revolution" that will enable them to get back in the work force and prosper into late old age.

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Welcome to unretirement, a revolution in the making "Older workers are going to change the workforce as profoundly as women did," says Deborah E. Banda, senior adviser, AARP Education and Outreach. "The changes they are making in the work place will benefit all generations, not just older workers. "
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I was dubious about this noble-sounding idea. It seems to me that not many people want to work any longer than they have to. My father, who retired at age 62, was an executive with post-retirement offers galore. He turned them all down until he passed away at age 79, even though he retired in modest circumstances. The incredible numbers of commercials advertising financial planning for people who still dream of affluent retirement leads me to believe that not many people cherish a career that requires working into late old age.

So it seems that the majority of people who work past 62 are on the job because they HAVE to work, not because they're enthralled with the job or because they're being paid such huge sums of money that working at an advanced age becomes more rewarding than retirement. Some are working heavy-labor jobs that are beyond the limits that their bodies can safely withstand. They are crippling themselves to make ends meet.

Farrell seeks to debunk those notions by showing that recent advances in healthcare enable people to remain physically younger than their chronological age. He postulates that most companies will reverse their current policies of refusing to hire people over the age of 50 and even start welcoming them, as it becomes more in vogue to recognize their experience, loyalty, and mature judgment than their gray hair.

Are Farrell's ideas are grounded in reality or merely wishful thinking?

He theorizes that people are going to be able to work at career jobs until their 70's, when the current reality is that many companies have a "30 and out" policy that boots their employees out the door in their 50's.

He believes that there will be large numbers of "elder entrepreneurs" when in fact entrepreneurship is rare even among the young. He assumes that self-employment earns a person a decent livelihood, when in reality self-employment is often a desperate means of eking out a marginal living when a person has exhausted all other avenues for employment.

If companies do hire elders, will it be because they value their experience, or because they`re a "just in time workforce" who can be herded into the office for the three hours a week that demand peaks, paid minimum wage, and then booted out the door as soon as the phones stop ringing?

On the other hand, he is surely right about there being nothing like economic calamity to shake people loose from their complacency. People who planned to make career nests in large companies are suddenly put out of their jobs and have to learn to get by on their own resources. People who were tied down by their jobs to a place they didn't much care for are suddenly free to move to someplace else that is better in tune with their individual desires. Human creativity that had been held in check by security is suddenly unleashed.

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In other words, we're living through a period of experimentation. Far too much of the conversation about aging ignores how much grassroots innovation is directed at the challenge. In cities, suburbs, and towns around the country, stories are accumulating about the experiences of older workers, the good, the bad, and the gray area in-between. We're witnessing the birth of a new business, the unretirement industry.

"When there are no set rules-- you make them up. The future of old age and retirement will be improvised." The history of innovation suggests that many large-scale transformations often start small.
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Farrell sums it up objectively:

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Taken altogether, a mix of positive and negative forces are pushing and pulling older workers away from traditional notions of retirement.

"The big question therefore is not simply whether there will be enough jobs for older workers but whether the work will be rewarding enough, both economically and socially, to keep them in the labor force." That's the right concern. Management hasn't exactly gone out of its way to nurture a supportive work climate in recent years.
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This book didn't convince me that life is going to be a paradise for many in that generation whose careers and financial assets have been busted by recessions and layoffs. I'm not convinced that people will work until their 80's because they enjoy it, or that many will morph into "elder entrepreneurs." Most will work, if they can find anybody who'll hire them, because the alternative is spending their last days eating porkinbeans in a rancid "eldercare facility."

But most of what we do in life is done because we HAVE to do it. If work was fun at any age we'd be paying employers to let us do it, not seeking compensation from them. And some elders WILL succeed in mastering life on their own terms as entrepreneurs or highly valued, well-paid employees. The more who EXPECT to succeed on those terms, the more there will be who do succeed. At a minimum, If Farrell can convince the 50+ readers that they still have a fighting chance to obtain some measure of late life financial security and dignity, then this book has well served its purpose

The great Christian philosopher C.S. Lewis said, "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." Read this book and you might be inclined to agree with him.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 23, 2014 6:43 PM PST


Jesus on Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel
Jesus on Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel
Price: $15.87

104 of 115 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jesus is on trial and YOU are the judge, September 15, 2014
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I wasn't sure what to make of this book until I understood the audience that David Limbaugh was writing it for.

He's NOT writing it for people who have already made their minds up:

If you're into middle age or beyond and are a confirmed agnostic you're very likely going to say, "David Limbaugh is a deep-thinking author who masters his points and writes them with clarity. But he didn't convince me that there is a God."

If you're already deep into your life's walk through the Christian Faith you're likely going to say: "David Limbaugh reaffirmed my faith. He educated me to details that will help me to understand my faith more deeply, but on a fundamental plane he didn't tell me anything that I wasn't already convinced of."

Thus, if your mind is already made up, this book won't change it. Those who will find this book revealing are most likely be in their late teens through their late 20's --- young people who are trying to judge for themselves whether the Bible is fact or fiction.

This would be a person who has grown up in a church-going family. Then he or she comes of age and sees the world, with all its blemishes, for the first time through adult eyes. He/she asks: "If God did make the world then He must be incompetent or crazy. He made a world where the people who are most likely to prosper are the evil-doers who step on everybody else, while the most innocent people are the ones who get their throats cut. What kind of god does THAT? I'd rather believe in an honest Devil than a deceiving God!"

David Limbaugh talks to people who have Jesus on Trial in their minds by making these points:

1. The Bible has a self-reinforcing tapestry that is unlikely to have been invented by Man. When considered as a whole it is perceived to be God's blueprint for Creation and Man's role in it. If one reads the Bible carefully, the answers are all there. Mr. Limbaugh demonstrates some specific Bible passages that make this point clear.

2. That our lives are a tapestry of self-reinforcing faith. Believers perceive that when our lives are aligned with faith-based principles then Divine guidance will help us see the optimal path. We're always free to make our own choices of where we're going and what we're going to do, but lives aligned with Christian principles will glean deeper insights into making the right choices.

3. That God's influence is constantly at work in this world to influence men towards doing good over evil. Even the best-intentioned people of faith allow pride and greed to influence us into making dreadful decisions. Divine Power is constantly at work to mitigate those mistakes and draw as much good as possible from them.

4. That the Universe, life, and human consciousness are unlikely to have evolved without intelligent design by God. The human mind has the ability to comprehend every structure of the universe, from the smallest subatomic particles, to mega-galactic structures. Consciousness allows us to understand the full depth of the universe and to frame our moral decisions of doing good or evil within the full depth of understanding right from wrong. Human beings possess consciousness because God created us in His image.

5. David Limbaugh is candid throughout the book about "not having all the answers." I don't have them all either, but I do understand WHY all the answers CAN'T be known during our life on earth. If all the answers WERE known, then we could not be living lives of self-determination. And the ability to freely choose our life's journey according with our own judgment is precisely the point that makes us human beings.

I'm confirmed in my faith, so the book didn't change my mind about anything. However, I was educated to Bible passages that I didn't understand nearly as well as I thought I did. So, even after 50 years of Bible Study I had things to learn. David Limbaugh is a remarkable scholar to dig so deeply into the Bible, and he writes with perfect clarity.

A person already deep into the Christian Walk will find this book to be a confirmation of their faith. The most value will be gleaned by a young adult who doesn't know what to believe. You were taught an idealized faith as a child. Now as an adult you've seen reality, which has its share of incomprehensible brutality and injustice. Now Jesus is on trial in your mind. Read this book as the brief for Jesus, then judge for yourself whether the Bible expresses His truths.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 4, 2014 7:22 AM PDT


Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life
Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $11.99

180 of 192 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Super People, Excellent Sheeple?, August 21, 2014
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This book piqued my interest because my son just graduated high school and is entering college. His classmates range from the "Super People" (author William Deresiewicz's phrase for the highest achievers) who are on their way to elite universities, to the more typical students who are starting their higher educations at community colleges.

In each book review I try to include a few well-written sentences that concisely illustrate an author's point of view. This book is so well written that I could have chosen just about every sentence. Here are some of the best:

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The compulsive overachievement of today's elite college students-- the sense that they need to keep running as fast as they can-- is not the only thing that keeps them from forming the deeper relationships that might relieve their anguish.

Isolated from their peers, these kids are also cut off from themselves. The endless hoop-jumping... that got them into an elite college in the first place--the clubs, bands, projects, teams, APs, SATs, evenings, weekends, summers, coaches , tutors, leadership, service -- left them no time to figure out what they want out of life.

Too many students, perhaps after a year or two spent using college as a treadmill to nowhere, wake up in crisis, not knowing why they have worked so hard.

"I hate all my activities, I hate all my classes, I hated everything I did in high school, expect to hate my job, and this is just how it's going to be for the rest of my life."

The result is what we might refer to as credentialism. The purpose of life becomes the accumulation of gold stars. Hence the relentless extracurricular busyness, the neglect of learning as an end in itself, the inability to imagine doing something that you can't put on your resume...the constant sense of competition....to be played out within the same narrow conception of what constitutes a valid life: affluence, credentials, and prestige.

If those of us who went to college in the 1970s and '80s no longer recognize the admissions process, if today's elite students appear to be an alien species --Super People, perhaps, or a race of bionic hamsters
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That's a pretty dreadful assessment, but Deresiewicz is a former Professor of English at Yale and member of its admissions committee, so he must have seen plenty of it first-hand.

He is surely right about those of us who went to college in the 1970s no longer recognizing the admissions process. I graduated Georgia Tech in 1979. He praises students of our era as "passionate weirdos." That certainly fit my class, although I'd prefer to call us "competent eccentrics." We were engineering nerds. I was recruited because my ACT/SAT put me in the top 2%. I had zero extracurricular activities.

Fast forward 40 years and it seems that colleges cater to "credentialed conformists." Applicants have to show that they are not only academic stars, but social butterflies involved in numerous group activities. Even the "party schools" require students to write an essay explaining why they want to be admitted. The only requirement to be admitted to the party schools of the 1970s was that you had to have tuition money and a pulse.

What caused this change from universities prizing "passionate weirdos" to "credentialed conformists?" Perhaps it has to do with these factors:

1. We have become more litigation-conscious. Companies can't afford to hire "loose cannons" who create potential legal liabilities. Nowadays people are easily offended by many words and deeds that were ignored in the past, and they are quick to hire lawyers who will seek to recover damages on their behalf. So companies value conformists who follow the book more than they used to.

2. Flattening of management. A company that had 20 branch managers 40 years ago, now has only 1 regional manager, thanks to advances in computers and Internet communication. So, if 95% of the management jobs are gone, then companies have to find discrimination-neutral ways to winnow down the pool of candidates applying for that one job. Inflating the job requirements with credentials, no matter how bogus, is one way to do it without running the risk of discrimination lawsuits.

3. Maturing of industries. A century or so ago people were allowed to practice Law even if they had no formal education. It used to be that way in fields like auto repair and computer systems development. Now that these industries have matured and there is no longer a shortage of applicants, credentialization is the most efficient way to cull the herd.

The important question is whether all this credentialing and hoop-jumping is counterproductive to success in college and in life. I don't think it necessarily is. Corporations operate on these principles. So it is not unreasonable that colleges should give the highest priority in admissions to those who are likely to perform well in corporate employment.

Credentialing and hoop-jumping only becomes counterproductive when it is forced upon people whose natures are NOT motivated by peer-group competition. This may include most nonconformist, creative-minded people who prefer to blaze their own trail through life rather than walk on someone else's.

And we must remember that credentials are not the primary currency of success. Most of the worthwhile things we obtain in life come from our souls. We prosper mostly from the goodwill we create by doing things for others without thinking "how am I going to get paid."

Layering credentials on top of that principle strengthens your credibility and amplifies your reach. But if you have a defective character then credentials will only lengthen the height from which you fall. A lot of hotshots on Wall Street who were long on credentials and short on integrity are costing their companies tens of billions of dollars in fines for defrauding the public. Those who exchanged their souls for tickets to a rat race will die neither wealthy or respected.

I recommend that students and parents should read this book as an "alarm bell" to warn themselves when they may be pushing the hoops-and-credentials envelope a bit too far. William Deresiewicz makes fundamental points that are too often perceived only at the end of life's journey:

Keep your priorities straight. Perfect your own soul first, then jump through the hoops if you feel you have to. But, really, your objective should be to induce life to jump through the hoops YOU build. Never be afraid to take the risks that success requires. Never be afraid of failure. And always do what is right. If your soul is deep and rich, your life will be deep and rich. But if you seek to cover a shallow soul with credentials, then your life won't be worth the paper those credentials are printed on.
Comment Comments (21) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 1, 2015 3:31 AM PST


Blessed Are The Peacemakers: A Shattered Nation Novella
Blessed Are The Peacemakers: A Shattered Nation Novella
Price: $2.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blessed are the makers of a difficult peace, August 20, 2014
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One of the primary reasons why President Lincoln fought the Civil War so relentlessly was that he was convinced that achieving a durable peace between the USA and CSA would be well-nigh impossible. Enormous differences over slavery, the final disposition of the Border States, and trade and navigation would become impossibly complicated between two rival governments. Mr. Lincoln felt that any “peace” short of the restoration of the Union would be merely an armistice while both sides raced to prepare themselves for a renewal of hostilities.

In this follow-up to SHATTERED NATION, author Jeffrey Brooks takes us through the tortuous peace negotiations between the USA and the CSA following a more successful althist war by the Confederacy than actually transpired. The peace negotiations are held in Toronto, Canada, then a part of the British Empire.

This book is quite different from its predecessor. Although Shattered Nation had some lighthearted moments, it was by nature a long and dark story filled with the mud and blood of hand-to-hand combat in and around Atlanta. This novella is a much shorter, lighter, and happier story of the transition from malicious warfare toward a difficult, but honorable peace.

But it’s more than a story about peace negotiations. It wraps an immense amount of background information about the Confederacy around the characters, much of which is not from the traditional “moonlight and magnolias” Lost Cause legend. We find that the Confederacy is riven by its own factions that may be even more threatening to its continued existence than were Mr. Lincoln’s armies
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One can see a larger story emerging --- the exiting from the stage of history of the Confederacy’s elder statesmen like Lee and Davis, and their replacement by the new generation of youthful Southern leading lights like John Breckinridge. Mr. Brooks says that the challenges of this new generation will be told in a forthcoming book HOUSE OF THE PROUD to be published around the end of 2015.

It seems that there is still quite a story to be told. Despite winning its glorious war for independence, all is not yet sweetness and light for the Confederate States of America. As Pogo might have said, “We have met the enemy and he is us!”
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 21, 2014 9:26 AM PDT


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