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In Mistrust We Trust: Can Democracy Survive When We Don't Trust Our Leaders? (Kindle Single) (TED Books)
In Mistrust We Trust: Can Democracy Survive When We Don't Trust Our Leaders? (Kindle Single) (TED Books)
Price: $1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Provocative, March 4, 2014
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In Mistrust We Trust: Can Democracy Survive When We Don't Trust Our Leaders by Ivan Krastev

"In Mistrust We Trust" is a provocative book about the nature of our present disappointment with democracy. According to intellectual Ivan Krastev this disappointment comes from the voters' sense of lost power. The book is more about the questions it asks than the answers it provides. This stimulating 71-page book is broken out in three parts.

Positives:
1. Interesting and provocative topic. Worthy of a TED Talk.
2. Global politics.
3. Book is infused with some great quotes. "And it was none other than Winston Churchill who dryly observed that `the best argument against democracy is a five-minute talk with the average.'"
4. A very interesting look at democracy. "What we are witnessing in all this is not the end of democracy but, rather, its radical transformation."
5. The changing role of politics. "Politics has been reduced to the art of adjusting to the imperatives of the market."
6. A lot of focus on the diminishing power of the voter. "In short, the voter has lost the capacity to counterbalance the power of the market in the name of a shared public interest."
7. One quote that captures our current American political system. "Democracy has been turned into a game of chicken, in which preventing the other side from governing is more important than governing yourself."
8. Defining what a democracy in crisis is. "A democracy that constantly changes its governments but fails to correct its dysfunctional policies is a democracy in crisis. A democracy in which public conversation has lost its capacity to change opinion and in which debate is reduced to a confirmation of existing ideological biases is a democracy in crisis."
9. The five revolutions that have shattered our world in the last half-century.
10. So what makes democracy so attractive? Find out.
11. Trends of inequality of disposable income. "For instance, by 2011, 20 percent of the U.S. population owned 84 percent of the total wealth of the country. And this disparity exists not only in the U.S. All over the world, globalization has led to the decline of inequality between states but the increase of inequality within nations."
12. An interesting look at the elites. "The new elites are self-confident because they are not only mobile but often refuse to see themselves as a part of a wider society. In times of crisis, they do not lead the community but leave it."
13. This book in a nutshell. "Citizens are losing trust in democratic institutions not because these institutions are less efficient or more corrupt, but because we have lost our power to influence them."
14. The power of smartphones. Probably the best part of this brief book. Many great examples. "In Russia, the legitimacy of the Russian Orthodox Church was undermined when a blogger posted a photo on Facebook showing the patriarch donning an expensive watch, and it declined further when Russians learned that the patriarch's public relations team doctored videos to conceal this fact from the public."
15. An interesting discussion on transparency. "The transparency movement embodies the hope that a combination of new technologies, publicly accessible data, and fresh civic activism can more effectively assist people to control their representatives." "Inundating people with information is a time-tested way to keep people uninformed."
16. So what brings change? Find out.
17. The importance of trust. "It is this basic trust that allows society to advance. This is why democracy cannot exist without trust and why politics as the management of mistrust will stand as the bitter end of democratic reform."

Negatives:
1. The writing style is uneven and some thoughts lack lucidity. A lot of interesting thoughts and observations but the overall book lacked a smooth flow.
2. The parts are greater than the whole.
3. Krastev has some great quotes and provides provocative ideas but missed opportunities to build on them.
4. A section on the science of trust would have added value.
5. No formal bibliography.

In summary, a very provocative topic and some keen observations. A lot of substance in a small book but it's communicated in an uneven manner. Some missed opportunities aside; there is also a lot to like in this book. The book is full of great quotes and the section on the power of smartphones is worthy of a book on its own. The book provides a great topic for a TED Talk and it's worthy of your time. I recommend it.

Further recommendations: "Lesterland: The Corruption of Congress and How to End It (TED Books)" by Lawrence Lessig, "The Solution Revolution: How Business, Government, and Social Enterprises Are Teaming Up to Solve Society's Toughest Problems" by William D. Eggers & Paul MacMillan, "The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future" by Joseph Stiglitz, "Winner Take All: China's Race for Resources and What It Means for the World" by Dambisa Moyo, "The Post-American World: Release 2.0 2nd (second) Edition by Zakaria, Fareed published by W. W. Norton & Company (2011)" by Fareed Zakaria, "That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back" by Thomas L. Friedman, "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class - And What We Can Do about It (BK Currents (Paperback))" by Lou Dobbs, "Screwed" by Thom Hartmann, "Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming" by Naomi Oreskes & Erik M. Conway, and "The Spirit of Democracy: The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World" by Larry Diamond.


What's Killing Us: A Practical Guide to Understanding Our Biggest Global Health Problems
What's Killing Us: A Practical Guide to Understanding Our Biggest Global Health Problems
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enough to Whet Appetite but not Enough to Satisfy Hunger, February 25, 2014
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What's Killing Us: A Practical Guide to Understanding Our Biggest Global Health Problems by Alanna Shaikh

"What's Killing Us" is a brief guide that lays out the most important challenges and issues in global health care. TED Senior Fellow, global health and development specialist, Alanna Shaikh, shares proven ways to solve problems and improve global health. The book is average but the message is not, Shaikh does enough to whet the appetite of the public on the key factors that will shape global health for the next decade. This educational 52-page book includes the following ten chapters (global health issues): 1. Pandemic influenza, 2. Chronic and noncommunicable diseases, 3. Neglected tropical diseases, 4. HIV and AIDS, 5. Tuberculosis, 6. Weak health care systems, 7. Child mortality, 8. Motherhood, 9. The end of antibiotics, and 10. Climate change.

Positives:
1. Accessible and concise prose.
2. Excellent topic and Shaikh has great command of it.
3. Excellent format that is applied to each global health issue: The basics, Why we should worry, and What we can do. Excellent approach.
4. Provides a representative list of ten global health issues of importance.
5. Does a good of defining terms. "Pandemic influenza is an epidemic of the flu virus that spreads worldwide."
6. A lot of facts in a brief guide. "Deaths from that 2009 epidemic killed about half the number who die from seasonal flu every year in the U.S., while the catastrophic 1918 flu pandemic killed at least 40 million people; some estimates go as high as 100 million."
7. The issue of obesity. "Obesity has followed globalization. So have many other chronic diseases. As the planet grows increasingly interconnected, and more densely populated, people eat in less healthful ways, exercise less, and therefore face a new set of threats to their health."
8. Poverty. "Infectious diseases are returning to wealthy countries, while chronic and noncommunicable diseases are showing up in poor countries as the lifestyles of the poor change."
9. The reality of HIV in simple terms. "To start with, HIV has no cure. Anti-retroviral medications let people with HIV live near-normal lives, but the instant they lose access to those drugs, their health starts to worsen. The disease is fatal without treatment. HIV is spread through activities like sex and drug use, which can be tough to change."
10. Interesting look at tuberculosis. "TB is our biggest global pandemic, though it doesn't always make headlines. One out of every three people on this planet is infected with TB bacteria."
11. The key issues when evaluating a health care system.
12. Interesting points, here's one on child illnesses. "Childhood illness also stalls innovation and creativity. When your child is sick, you're not having brilliant ideas or starting a small business. You are just trying to take care of your sick kid."
13. The importance of improving maternal health. "Improving maternal health is one of the eight millennium development goals, a set of high-level poverty-reduction priorities agreed upon by all U.N. member states. Countries have committed to reduce their maternal mortality ratios 75 percent by 2015."
14. Alarming and little known fact, "Based on current projections, antibiotics will stop working in 10 years. Completely. A gene has appeared that makes bacteria resistant to almost all antibiotics." Find out what gene it is.
15. Climate change is a reality! "Climate change, the increase in the global average temperature and the accompanying severe weather events, is the single greatest threat to human health."
16. Notes linked up.

Negatives:
1. This guide is an appetizer for things to come. Way too brief to cover anything comprehensively and the author acknowledge it.
2. Lacks panache. It reads like a PowerPoint presentation.
3. Lack of visual material. Where are the charts, the graphs and tables?
4. Lacks scientific rigor.
5. There are better books covering many of the topics brought up in this guide.
6. No formal bibliography.

In summary, this guide does enough to whet my appetite but not enough to satisfy my hunger. The author succeeds in meeting her goal "to show you a little bit of why I find this work to be so important and so fascinating". I love TED Talks and look forward to a comprehensive book from Ms. Shaikh on this very same topic where we can really sink our teeth in.

Further recommendations: "What Should We Be Worried About?: Real Scenarios That Keep Scientists Up at Night" by John Brockman, "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines" by Michael E. Mann, "Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity" by James Hansen, "Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming 1st (first) Edition by Oreskes, Naomi, Conway, Erik M. (2010)" by Naomi Oreskes, "The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care" by T.R. Reid, "The Upstream Doctors: Medical Innovators Track Sickness to Its Source (Kindle Single) (TED Books)" by Rishi Manchada, and "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer" by Sidhartha Mukherjee.


Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America's Fate
Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America's Fate
Price: $9.78

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Upbeat Conservative Look at The Future and What Holds Us Back, February 23, 2014
Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle that will Decide America's Fate by Newt Gingrich

"Breakout" is a solid, readable book that contends that we are in a political battle between the past and present. A conservative, somewhat upbeat look at the future, a man that needs very little introduction, Newt Gingrich, takes the reader on a ride into the future and the forces that are holding us back. As a progressive pragmatist I have many disagreements with Gingrich, but there is also a lot to like. This stimulating 274-page book includes the following thirteen chapters: 1. The Great Opportunity, 2. Breakout in Learning, 3. Breakout in Health, 4. Breakout in American Energy, 5. The Green Prison Guards, 6. Breakout in Transportation, 7. Breakout in Space, 8. Breakdown in Government, 9. Breakout in Government, 10. Breakout from Poverty, 11. Breakout in Achieving Cures, 12. Breakout from Disabilities to Capabilities, and 13. Breakout Champions.

Positives:
1. Well-researched, well-written, accessible and upbeat prose. Like him or not, Gingrich is an accomplished author and well-read man.
2. Very interesting topic. Frontiers of the future and what is holding us back. "The fight will be to modernize our institutions, our laws, and our regulations so we can see a genuine breakout in our lifetimes."
3. Very well laid out book. He breaks each chapter by breakout and proceeds to use his well-crafted "Pioneers" and "Prison Guards" analogy throughout the book. He covers a lot of topics of public interest.
4. A conservative that embraces science and technology? As a member of the science and technology brethren, I'm all ears. "Astonishing progress in medicine, transportation, learning, energy production, and other areas has set the stage for one of the most spectacular leaps in human wellbeing in history."
5. Provides a nice brief history of breakouts past and a taste of things to come.
6. An interesting discussion on modern education. Khan Academy, virtual charter schools, Udacity..."Historically, we conflated being an expert with being an expert on how to teach."
7. Scientific breakthroughs in medicine. "Americans could soon enjoy longer and healthier lives with personalized medicine and regenerative technology. But the prison guards could delay those benefits by decades. Tens of millions of Americans don't have that long to wait."
8. The barriers to U.S. oil and gas development.
9. I haven't had a chance to look into the claim that the HBO documentary Gasland was based on a lot of misinformation. If that's true, shame on the left for perpetuating such lies. The only way to make progress is to have discussions based on the facts and NOT misinformation; this goes for the left and the right!
10. Self-driven future, let's make it happen!
11. I really liked the idea of the prize model. "There is a way forward for America's space program. Despite the prison guards' effort to preserve the status quo, we have begun to see exciting progress outside of NASA. Genuine pioneers are opening space to the private sector, taking risks--both financial and physical--in pursuit of the high frontier. They've done it with encouragement not from NASA but from prizes."
12. One of the most compelling arguments is the one where unnecessary rule strangle innovation. Agreed we need to do better. "The Code of Federal Regulations exploded from 19,000 pages in 1949 to almost 170,000 pages in 2011, an eightfold increase. Do Americans really need eight times more controlling today than when I was a child? In the past decade alone, the CFR grew by more than 20 percent. Between 1993 and 2012, the government added eighty-one thousand pages of new rules to the Federal Register. The regulations that came from the Dodd-Frank Act would fill twenty-eight copies of War and Peace, and rules issued by bureaucrats took "13,789 pages and over 15 million words,...which is equal to 42 words of regulations for every single word of the already-hefty law, spanning 848 pages itself," according to one analysis. It's completely out of control."
13. Identifying the groups of breakdown. "There is a breakdown in simple competence. There is a breakdown in common sense and defined purpose. And there is a breakdown in the rule of law."
14. Kudos to Mr. Gingrich for every once in a while acknowledging where President Obama's administration is actually moving in the right direction from his POV. "To its credit, the Obama administration has been moving in the right direction on this issue: the federal government does have a number of initiatives to open up federal data, but the sets published on data.gov often serve little purpose, like maps of clean energy companies, charts of electricity prices, satellite images, and census data."
15. I really liked the concept of using technology to break out of outmoded bureaucracy. Great stuff! "With enough capabilities, citizen-created apps could begin to manage government better than the bureaucracies do themselves--not a high hurdle by any stretch."
16. The best chapter of the book, "Breakout from Poverty". "Real economic growth does more to help the poor than any social program." Agreed, but there is that element of fairness that's missing. Some of the facts are troubling, "The poverty rate among minorities is alarming. Thirty-eight percent of African American children live in poverty. Thirty-five percent of Latino children live in poverty. Native Americans living isolated on reservations with a different set of communal rules are another group with exceptionally high levels of poverty and unemployment." You could basically right a whole book on this chapter, great stuff.
17. The four revolutions in science that can help cure many diseases.
18. Focusing on how to overcome physical challenges. Highlights abuses in the in welfare system that undermines the system. "Welfare reform had the unanticipated consequence of giving states the incentive to move people from welfare (where the states pay part of the cost) to disability (where the federal government picks up the cost). Clever entrepreneurs have even established companies to help states move people from their welfare rolls to the federal government's disability rolls."
19. The eight key principles that distinguish pioneers of the future.
20. Well sourced and it links!

Negatives:
1. This is definitely a one-sided upbeat conservative affair. Gingrich focuses on the good of his side and doesn't really present the best arguments against his case.
2. Rarely gets into controversial topics. As an example, what is Gingrich's stance on teaching evolution in the science classroom? Are conservatives opposed to accepting/teaching the best scientific explanation for how life evolved over time?
3. Is critical of Obamacare but does not present ideas on how to improve it? He states that it threatens premium increases...so what is the Republican-controlled Congress doing to curtail said increases?
4. On one side presents compelling evidence that we have enough energy for the foreseeable future and new techniques to retrieve it but on the other side loses the argument by not accepting the scientific consensus behind climate change. Let's be HONEST about the discussion. Yes we have energy, and yes it would probably have a positive economic boom if we are able to retrieve it in a safe and responsible way. Climate change to the best of our current knowledge is real so let's deal with it responsibly.
5. One of the great strengths of this book is the sales pitch on overregulation, and it's a compelling one and one that resonates with me. On the other hand, we also learned a valuable lesson when the foxes are free to roam the henhouse as the 2008 financial debacle can attest. Banks too big to fail...in fact did and lack of oversight and greed did us all in.
6. I would be careful before criticizing funding on scientific studies that may come across as a waste of money. Many times the public is misinformed on studies that may lead to practical findings. Genetic studies like the fruit fly research Sarah Palin ignorantly criticized have a lot of value. So yes, I'm sure there is fat and waste but let's also be fair and acknowledge productive and wise use of funding.
7. I totally agree with the following quote, "Real economic growth does more to help the poor than any social program." My gripe is that corporations who have grown to epic proportions have not done as good a job of sharing such a growth with their employees. The economic inequality in our country is growing not getting better. I don't have the time and enthusiasm to go over the details again but it's a troubling fact that Gingrich ignores.
8. Single mothers are in fact disproportionately poor as stated in the book yet one of the best resources to help reduce this vicious cycle of poverty is access to planned parenthood centers! It's time for conservatives to respect the reproductive rights of women. Abortions should be safe, accessible and yes rare. For all the talk of trying to get government out of peoples lives conservatives have a tough time with this issue.
9. No formal bibliography.

In summary, to my surprise I liked this book. I am nowhere near Gingrich on the political spectrum but a lot of his ideas are sound, reasonable and actually resonated with me. His sensible and upbeat tone will win readers over. My complaints have to do with relying on sources of questionable integrity. The Heritage Foundation for one was on the wrong side of history regarding smoking and is now on the wrong side of the climate change debate. It would be nice to have a conservative think tank that accepts and respects scientific consensus. That aside, the book is accessible and worth your time. I recommend it.

Further recommendations: "A Nation of Moochers: America's Addiction to Getting Something for Nothing" by Charles J. Sykes, "The Solution Revolution: How Business, Government, and Social Enterprises Are Teaming Up to Solve Society's Toughest Problems" by William D. Eggers & Paul MacMillan, "White House Burning: Our National Debt and Why It Matters to You (Vintage)" by Simon Johnson & James Kwak, "The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future" by Joseph Stiglitz, "No, They Can't: Why Government Fails-But Individuals Succeed" by John Stossel, "Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines" by Richard A. Mullen, "Winner Take All: China's Race for Resources and What It Means for the World" by Dambisa Moyo, "The Post American World" by Fareed Zakaria, "Age of Greed" by Jeff Madrick, "That Used to be Us" by Thomas L. Friedman, "War on the Middle Class" by Lou Dobbs, "Screwed" by Thom Hartmann, "Merchants of Doubt" by Naomi Oreskes & Erik M. Conway, "Science Under Siege: Defending Science, Exposing Pseudoscience" edited by Kendrick Frazier, "Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients" by Ben Goldacre, and "The Science of War" by Michael E. O'Hanlon,


Getting More: How You Can Negotiate to Succeed in Work and Life
Getting More: How You Can Negotiate to Succeed in Work and Life
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $10.54

5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding!!, February 17, 2014
Getting More: How You Can Negotiate to Succeed in Work and Life by Stuart Diamond

"Getting More" is a fabulous practical guide on how to become a better negotiator. This book succeeds in providing readers with the tools necessary to get more out of work and life, and it works! Professor Diamond a teacher at the renowned business school of The Wharton School, produces and pardon the pun, a real gem! Countless and I mean countless number of practical lessons that complement the enlightening instructions on how to become a better negotiator. This useful 418-page book includes the following sixteen chapters: 1. Thinking Differently, 2. People Are (Almost) Everything, 3. Perception and Communication, 4. Hard Bargainers and Standards, 5. Trading Items of Unequal Value, 6. Emotion, 7. Putting It All Together: The Problem-Solving Model, 8. Dealing with Cultural Differences, 9. Getting More at Work, 10. Getting More in the Marketplace, 11. Relationships, 12. Kids and Parents, 13. Travel, 14. Getting More Around Town, 15. Public Issues, and 16. How to Do It.

Positives:
1. An engaging, well-written and practical book.
2. A practical topic, how to get more in work and life.
3. Very few books live up to expectations, this one does and exceeds it.
4. A recreation of Professor Diamond's famed class.
5. The twelve major strategies of negotiation. Diamond expands on these twelve strategies and provides MANY practical examples on how these function in work and everyday life. By far the biggest strength of this book.
6. The strategies are easy to use and buried in ordinary language.
7. Key quotes that resonate with me. "Common enemies bring parties closer together and make the negotiation easier."
8. Important educational tidbits throughout the book. "The most important asset you have in any human interaction is your credibility. If people don't believe you, it's hard to convince them of anything. Your credibility is more important than your expertise, connections, intelligence, assets, and looks."
9. The entire negotiation course in three broad questions: 1. What are my goals?, 2. Who are "they"?, and 3. What will it take to persuade them?
10. Debunking perceptions. "If you believe that negotiations are about the substantive issues, sadly, you will be right more than you are persuasive. That means that the truth, the facts, are only one argument in a negotiation. The people and the process are much more important. This is particularly hard for people who are focused on the substance--doctors, engineers, financial experts--to accept. But, based on research, it is true. You can't even use substantive issues to persuade effectively unless and until the other party is ready to hear about them."
11. Find out the most important negotiation tool you have.
12. Hard bargaining gems. Great stuff! "Using the other person's standards is one of the great negotiation tools that most people don't know about. Standards are especially effective with hard bargainers. Few people know about them, fewer people use them, and almost no one understands the psychological levers that enable them to work in all kinds of situations. I'm not talking about "objective" standards, or criteria that you think are fair. Standards are criteria that the other party thinks are fair."
13. The keys to successful negotiation. "The key to standards--indeed, to all successful negotiation--is framing. I've referred to it earlier in the book. But nowhere is it more important than with standards. Framing means packaging information or presenting it using specific words and phrases that will be persuasive to the other party."
14. The two kinds of people in competitive life, this is much deeper than meets the eye. "In competitive life, there are two kinds of people: those who are qualified, and those who try to steal from those who are qualified. What this really means is that many, if not most, hard bargainers act the way they do because they lack the skill to meet their goals fair and square. So they have to lie, cheat, and steal."
15. The power of intangibles.
16. The importance of keeping your emotions in check. "Emotion is the enemy of effective negotiations and of effective negotiators. People who are emotional stop listening. They often become unpredictable and rarely are able to focus on their goals. Because of that, they often hurt themselves and don't meet their goals. Movies often show scenes of impassioned speeches, suggesting these are highly effective. Whether that is realistic depends on whether the speaker is so emotional that he or she is not thinking clearly."
17. The Getting More Model. Fantastic!
18. A great chapter on dealing with cultural differences! "Indeed, our collective inability to deal effectively with our differences is the root cause of almost all human conflict since the beginning of time. But to make headway, we first need to understand what "difference," "diversity," and "culture" actually mean."
19. Great practical advice for the workplace.
20. The value of questions. "By not making yourself the issue, you can ask companies hard questions about their service standards. But remember, ask: questions are more powerful than statements."
21. How to improve relationships, dealing with kids, travel..." The best negotiators are calm, but they are completely focused on their goals. They negotiate in a structured and prepared way."
22. Absolutely loved the chapter on public issues, sounds like a fantastic idea for a new book. What do you say Professor Diamond? Here's a teaser, "If the United States and other countries want to succeed at stopping mass terror, we should start providing food, clothing, jobs, housing, and medical care to the people who can find the terrorists. In other words, many more people on the other side have to want to stop the path we are on. We can't make them." Another because it's too damn good not to, "Focusing on meeting the needs of moderates, instead of finding and killing the extremists, is a negotiation strategy that appears cheaper, and with a higher chance of success."
23. An excellent summary chapter that puts a bow tie on this outstanding book!

Negatives:
1. The book requires an investment of your time. It's a solid 418 pages worth of reading. In retrospect, it could have been about a hundred pages shorter but it's a small price to pay for so many practical examples.
2. It's repetitive. Professor Diamond is true to his roots of teaching where repetition is an educator's best friend.
3. It doesn't really go through gender differences.
4. No notes or formal bibliographies.

In summary, this is an outstanding guide! Professor Diamond has made me a better negotiator and it really works. I've put into practice what I have learned from this book and it has paid dividends. I am more confident person as a result of this book. I have learned newfound techniques on how best to negotiate, in practically every facet of my life and I have Professor Diamond to thank. Do yourself a favor and read this book, it will change your life. I highly recommend it!

Further recommendations: "Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success" by Adam M. Grant, "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman, "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead" by Sheryl Sandberg, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change" by Stephen R. Covey, "Getting Things Done" by David Allen, "The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business" by Charles Duhigg, "The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It" by Kelly McGonigal Ph.D., "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain, "The One Thing" by Gary Keller, "Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work" and "Switch" by Chip and Dan Heath, "Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don't" by Jeffrey Pfeffer, "Outliers: The Story of Success" and "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference" by Malcolm Gladwell, "Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success" by Rick Newman, and "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us" by Daniel H. Pink.


The Pros and Cons of the Gun Control Debate - How Do Obama's Laws Impact Gun Ownership
The Pros and Cons of the Gun Control Debate - How Do Obama's Laws Impact Gun Ownership
Price: $0.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Even handed but Disappointing, February 13, 2014
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The Pros and Cons of the Gun Control Debate by Danica Wallenberg

"The Pros and Cons of the Gun Control Debate" is a disappointing even-handed and accessible book on the incendiary gun-control debate. Wallenberg doesn’t provide enough depth and doesn’t go far enough technically to address the debate to satisfaction. This below average 43-page book includes the following eight chapters: 1. What Are Assault Weapons And What Are They Typically Used For?, 2. What Is The Gun Control Debate About In The USA?, 3. What Is The Second Amendment And Does It Apply To The USA Today?, 4. Are Assault Rifles Really Needed For Self Protection?, 5. Why Are The Crime Statics In The USA With Guns So High?, 6. Why Are The Crime Statics In The UK With Guns So Low?, 7. Does More Crime Happen In Gun Free Zones in the USA and Why?, and 8. Is A Ban On Weapons A Bad Thing In The USA?

Positives:
1. Accessible book. Fair and even-handed treatment. Wallenberg goes out of her way to be fair.
2. Gun control is a hot-button and always interesting topic.
3. Does a good job of defining terms. “Assault weapons are only able to fire one round at a time for each time the trigger is pulled; therefore, even though there is a misconception between assault weapons and automatic weapons, automatic weapons have the ability to fire a steady stream of rounds by just pressing and holding the trigger where assault weapons cannot.”
4. Succinctly describes what the gun control debate is all about. “Overall, the gun control debate taking place in the U.S. is not about a reduction in gun ownership, but about a reduction in gun violence.”
5. Clearly states President Obama’s proposed gun-legislation agenda.
6. The Second Amendment and how it relates to gun control.
7. A discussion on whether or not assault rifles are needed for protection.
8. A discussion on the causes of mass shootings. “Much of the increase in these mass shootings has stemmed from young adults male aged 19-26. This is especially true of the shootings that have occurred in the last 2-3 years. However, there has also been an increase of shootings related to religious racism, job loss, jealousy, mental health issues, as well as drug and gang violence.”
9. Some eye-opening statistics, “Since 2006 the number of annual deaths from gunshot wounds stands at nearly 31,000.”
10. How we compare with the UK? “It is the overall belief of the government and the people of the UK that their gun laws and restrictions have led to a lower rate of gun violence throughout the region.”
11. So what is the answer to minimizing violence in America? Wallenberg provides her answer…not going to spoil it.

Negatives:
1. This is a below average book. Wallenberg leaves too much on the table and doesn’t go into her topics deep enough. In short, there are better books on this topic.
2. No tables, graphs to complement the material.
3. No notes, bibliography or supporting material provided.
4. The author doesn’t build up her case for and against gun control in an engaging manner. Where are the quotes from the best defenders for each side of the argument?
5. Every topic is treated superficially. Disappointing really.
6. There isn’t anything in this book you haven’t heard before and better.
7. I can think of so many ways to have made this book better…let me leave it at that.

In summary, it’s rare that I agree with most of the conclusions of the author yet disagree with the quality of the effort. Unfortunately, that is the case here. Wallenberg selects an incendiary topic but douses it off with lackluster facts, poor narrative and poor arguments. I don’t take pleasure in writing negative reviews but I have to be honest to myself and to those who expect my reviews to live up to the standards I have established. In short, interesting topic that failed to meet my expectations.

Further recommendations: "That’s Not What They Meant About Guns!” by Michael Austin, “Guns” by Stephen King, “Pack of Lies Volume One: Debunking the 40 Most Destructive Conservative Myths in America” by John-Paul Berbach and specifically Lie #8 Gun Control Laws are Unconstitutional, “A Well-Regulated Militia” by Saul Cornell, “Living with Guns: A Liberal’s Case for the Second Amendment” by Craig Whitney, and “America’s Constitution: A Biography” by Akhil Reed Amar.


Anker® Multi-Angle Portable Stand for Tablets, E-readers and Smartphones, Durable Aluminum Body, Compatible for Apple iPads iPad Air, iPad Mini / New iPad Mini, iPhone 5S 5C 5 4S 4; Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 Tab 3, Note 8.0 10.1, S5, S4, S3, S2; Google Nexus 4,7,10; Asus EeePad Transformer
Anker® Multi-Angle Portable Stand for Tablets, E-readers and Smartphones, Durable Aluminum Body, Compatible for Apple iPads iPad Air, iPad Mini / New iPad Mini, iPhone 5S 5C 5 4S 4; Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 Tab 3, Note 8.0 10.1, S5, S4, S3, S2; Google Nexus 4,7,10; Asus EeePad Transformer
Offered by AnkerDirect
Price: $39.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this Stand!, February 8, 2014
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Anker Multi-Angle Stand for Tablets

This multi-angle is one of my favorite accessories. It's such a great product I bought three of them. Here is my "patented" review format that I usually apply to non-fiction books but such a product deserves special treatment.

Positives:
1. It does exactly what you expect it to do, provide a stable stand for your favorite electronic device.
2. Well constructed! Solid aluminum construction, capable of handling up to 11 pounds.
3. Countless angles and so easy to adjust.
4. Great details: rubber feet, protective padding, and foldable. It even has a perfectly placed cutout so you can access your iPad's home button.
5. Portable. Take it anywhere, it only weighs 3.4 ounces.
6. Can be used with so many devices. I use it for my following devices: iPad Air, iPad Mini, Kindle Fire, Kindle Paperwhite and even my iPhone 5S.
7. Flexibility. The padding in the footer can be removed and reattached with ease.
8. It looks great!
9. No longer do you have to buy covers with stands.
10. Great value!

Negatives:
1. You may have to buy more than one, because others will want one.

In summary, very few products live up to expectations and provide you with exactly what you want, this product is an exception. The Anker Multi-Angle Stand does exactly what I expected it to do and it does so with class. Get it!


Keystone XL: Down the Line (Kindle Single) (TED Books)
Keystone XL: Down the Line (Kindle Single) (TED Books)
Price: $1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Objective Treatment Uneven Results, February 8, 2014
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Keystone XL: Down the Line by Steven Mufson

"Keystone XL" takes the reader on a journey along the controversial 1,700-mile pipeline. The journey reveals the extent that corporations will go to get oil versus the intrusive effects it has along the pipeline. Energy correspondent for the Washington Post, Steven Mason and his crew treat this topic objectively and professionally but the results are a mixed bag. This uneven 169-page book is broken out into the following three Parts: 1. Canada, 2. The Northern Plains, and 3. The Southern Leg.

Positives:
1. A well-written Kindle Single.
2. A current and fascinating topic. The book in fact touches upon many issues: climate change, energy trade policies, the desire of Native Americans to protect land, and eminent domain.
3. High production value. Plenty of photos and graphs that complement the narrative.
4. Objective and fair treatment of the subject. Munson goes out of his way to present both sides of the issue. It's one of the few books that capture what everyday citizens are going through.
5. The facts. "Canada's economically recoverable oil sands are an immense prize estimated to hold about 170 billion barrels of crude oil, reserves second in size only to those of Saudi Arabia."
6. Does a good job of capturing public perception. "The American public is firmly behind the pipeline. A Washington Post poll in 2012 found nearly 6 in 10 people saying the U.S. government should approve the project; while fewer than two in 10 opposed it. About 83 percent think it will create jobs. Nearly half think it will not cause significant damage to the environment."
7. Impact based on research. "More energy expended means more greenhouse gases. A Congressional Research Service report released May 15, 2012, estimated that Canada's oil sands produced 14 to 20 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than the average barrel of U.S. imported crude oil -- or comparable to low-quality Venezuelan crudes."
8. What the pipeline has done for North Dakota. "While other states have barely held on through the recession, North Dakota's boom has brought a windfall of state tax revenue and jobs; the state's 3 percent unemployment rate is the lowest in the nation, and conservatives tried -- without success -- to repeal the state property tax because of high oil tax receipts." "North Dakota has overtaken Alaska as the nation's second-biggest oil producer."
9. The issue of eminent domain. "The Keystone XL pipeline has reignited the emotional issue of eminent domain -- the taking of private property for public use -- all along its proposed route."
10. The issue of politics. "In the presidential campaign, Romney said that he would approve the Keystone XL his first day in office. "Day One, President Romney immediately approves the Keystone pipeline, creating thousands of jobs that Obama blocked," said the narrator in one of the candidate's ads." "One of Obama's first achievements in office was raising fuel efficiency standards for all American automobiles. By early 2013, the window sticker fuel efficiency of new U.S. automobiles had climbed to 24.5 miles a gallon, up from 20.8 miles a gallon in 2008."
11. Defining the Keystone XL pipeline. "The Keystone XL pipeline consists of two sections: The northern one runs from Canada down to Steele City in southern Nebraska, and the southern one starts in Cushing, Okla., and runs to the Texas coast. In between is a completed section of pipe that is part of the first Keystone project."
12. An interesting section on Indian country and history. "A key reality is this: Even after TransCanada has secured the right to build from federal and state officials, it still could run into a hitch on -- or near -- tribal land." "The Sac and Fox, like many other tribes, rely heavily on casinos for income. The tribe said in a May 2012 newsletter that it received two-thirds of its revenue from its casinos."
13. The story of Harold Hamm and what led to his success. "Hamm, by contrast, has lauded the virtues of keeping tax incentives for oil exploration companies such as his, even as Romney opposed such incentives for wind energy."
14. A postscript that captures the on-going emotional issue of the Keystone XL pipeline. "And built it or not, it will remain a powerful symbol of our need for energy and the lengths we must travel and choices we must make to meet those needs."

Negatives:
1. Fair treatment but uneven results. The book lacks cohesion it felt all over the place perhaps a reflection of a long trip.
2. It's repetitive even for a Kindle Single.
3. Political issues are discussed but Mufson treats it with kid gloves.
4. The science of oil is very weak. An appendix or a link would have addressed the issue without impacting the narrative.
5. A table summarizing the corporations involved in the pipeline would have added value. Some missed opportunities here.
6. A look back, a synopsis would have been helpful.
7. Mufson leaves the reader hanging too many times. As an example, when explaining oil prices. He goes from stating that reliance on Canada will make little difference because of world supply and demand. Understood. Then goes on to say that even though we (U.S.) have trimmed the volume of oil imports by 15 percent over a period of seven years, the cost of imports nearly doubled. Why? It's probably safe to say it was because of increased demand by China and India, but complete the thought and provide a chart complementing the narrative. That's where my frustration sinks in...

In summary, succeeds in providing then public with an overall feel of what the Keystone XL pipeline entails. It fails however in presenting a clear, succinct picture of this hot-button issue. Mufson is fair and treats this topic with the utmost respect but does so at a fault and dare I say muddies the water. The book is worth reading if you want to get a closer look at the ground-level impact the Keystone XL pipeline has. It's one of the few books that actually capture the direct views from farmers, workers, and the people impacted not just the corporate side. However, the author looses focus a bit much for my taste. He teases the reader with interesting tidbits but doesn't complete the picture. In short, an even treatment that led to uneven results.

Further suggestions: "The Pipeline and the Paradigm: Keystone XL, Tar Sands, and the Battle to Defuse the Carbon Bomb" by Samuel Avery, "Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines" by Richard A. Muller, "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines" by Michael E. Mann, "Clean Break: The Story of Germany's Energy Transformation and What Americans Can Learn from It (Kindle Single)" by Osha Gray Davidson, "The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future Of Our Economy, Energy, And Environment" by Chris Martenson, "The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality" by Richard Heinberg, "Addicted to Energy: A Venture Capitalist's Perspective on How to Save Our Economy and Our Climate" by Elton B. Sherwin, Jr., and "Nuclear 2.0: Why A Green Future Needs Nuclear Power (Kindle Single)" by Mark Lynas.


The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America
The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $11.99

26 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Provocative Book that Hopefully Inspires a Civil Conversation on Incendiary Topics, February 5, 2014
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The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld

"The Triple Package" presents a provocative thesis that when three distinct forces (the Triple Package) come together in a group's culture, they propel that group to disproportionate success. Thankfully, these forces or set of values/beliefs are accessible to anyone who choose to incorporate them into their lives. Yale Professors and best-selling authors, Chua and Rubenfeld provide the public with a riveting book that is sure to inspire a cultural debate. This controversial yet fascinating 304-page book includes the following eight chapters: 1. The Triple Package, 2. Who's Successful in America?, 3. The Superiority Complex, 4. Insecurity, 5. Impulse Control, 6. The Underside of the Triple Package, 7. IQ, Institutions, and Upward Mobility, and 8. America.

Positives:
1. A well written, well-referenced book. A page turner.
2. A fascinating and potentially incendiary-producing topic in the capable hands of Professors Chua and Rubenfeld. A good use of world history and research to make provocative claims. In general, I found their observations to be fair and even-handed even when they leaned on their own personal cultural experiences.
3. The book is very provocative and is not afraid to touch on very sensitive topics. Overall, I think the authors went out of their way to be as edgy as possible without crossing the line. "Throughout this book, we will never make a statement about any group's economic performance or predominant cultural attitudes unless it is backed up by solid evidence, whether empirical, historical, or sociological."
4. A great job of defining, explaining and supporting arguments in favor of their thesis of the three elements of the Triple Package: 1. A Superiority Complex, 2. Insecurity. And 3. Impulse Control. Most importantly how these elements work together to instill drive and deliver on defense. "Superiority plus insecurity is a formula for drive. Superiority plus impulse control is a formula for hardship endurance. When the Triple Package brings all three elements together in a group's culture, members of that group become disproportionately willing and able to do or accept whatever it takes today in order to make it tomorrow."
5. An interesting look at America's most successful groups as measured by conventional metrics such as income and academic accomplishments. "If there's one group in the U.S. today that's hitting it out of the park with conventional success, it's Mormons." Find out what the church holdings are...significant comes to mind. Enlightening sections on Cuban Americans, Nigerian Americans, Asian Americans and American Jews. "American Jews are disproportionately successful by pretty much any economic measure." The authors focused on a total of eight ethnic groups.
6. Controversial conclusions. "The success of Nigerian Americans and certain other black immigrants - who face many of the same institutional obstacles and prejudices as African Americans - is significantly due to cultural forces"
7. The book is full of surprises and fascinating tidbits. Find out who the most highly educated ethnic group in the United States is...I won't spoil it for you.
8. Interesting observations on religious groups, particularly concerning how Mormonism ties into American exceptionalism and how it departs on key theological points from most Christian denominations. "In particular, Mormons reject the doctrine of original sin." Also a look at Protestants, and the Amish.
9. Some quotes are memorable, "I don't consider myself an immigrant. I am an exile. I did not leave Cuba for economic reasons. I left Cuba because of Communism. I left because I had to."
10. A mesmerizing discussion regarding superiority and inferiority as it relates to race. "African Americans in every stratum of American society, including the most successful, repeatedly testify to the internal burdens of being black in the United States and `the sheer force of will' required to succeed `while being condescended to (under the best of circumstances).'"
11. The need to redeem parental sacrifice. Impulse control exemplified in Chinese American parenting. Excellent examples from different cultural groups.
12. I really enjoyed learning about the sources of pride from some of the lesser-known groups. "The Lebanese, he writes, are `descendants of the ancient Phoenicians,' a Semitic people who, like the modern-day Lebanese, were famous for being commercially successful wherever they went."
13. The importance of how to deal with failure. The book does a good job of discussing the factors that lead to success. "Now confirmed by numerous studies, the correlation Mischel discovered between impulse control and success is nothing short of jaw-dropping." There is also a fascinating new wrinkle on the famed marshmallow test.
14. Eye-opening observations. "Success in America today comes more often to groups who resist today's dominant American culture".
15. Understanding the price to pay for the Triple Package, the most glaring pathologies. "The Triple Package works by making people very good at attaining conventional success, so everything depends on how much you think conventional success is worth."
16. Upward mobility in perspective. "Rising remains the rule in America, not the exception." Very good cognitive-inducing points though the authors do acknowledge that upward mobility is shrinking.
17. The causes of success and nonsuccess. Many myths debunked including myths involving innate higher IQ among Chinese American immigrants as a reason for their disproportionate success. "If Asian students were truly genetically superior to other students, they would not be spending twice as much time on homework each week as their peers in order to outperform them." "Drive predicts accomplishment better than IQ, and the Triple Package generates drive."
18. Interesting case studies on Appalachians, the Amish ("They aim not to show the world but to be separate from the world."), and of course Holocaust survivors. This one quote moved me, "Representing six million dead is a grave responsibility, and a terrible burden for a child to carry."
19. A broad-brush portrait of the current Triple Package trajectory in America and how to reverse it. "America declared war on both insecurity and impulse control. By 2000, all that remained of the American Triple Package was the superiority complex - which, by itself, leads not to success, but to swagger, complacency, and entitlement."
20. Justice Sotomayor's success puts a smile on my face. "Sotomayor's story illustrates just how extraordinary a persona has to be to overcome the odds and institutions she had stacked against her."
21. Comprehensive notes.

Negatives:
1. Sometimes misrepresents the mainstream liberal thinking. Example, "Everyone is equal to everyone else". As a progressive thinker, that is not what "we" espouse. It's about equal opportunity not equal outcome.
2. Notes were not linked up. A real shame.
3. We are products of our genes and the environment that we grow up in. The focus of the book is on specific cultures but how does biology play into it?
4. The authors did a very good job of stating their case that America remains an excellent country for upper mobility but did not discuss in any significant detail, the big elephant in the room, increasing inequality gap.
5. Some comments come across as presumptuous, and they were doing so well...
6. No formal bibliography.

In summary, I really enjoyed what turned out to be an enlightening and provocative book. I am of the progressive persuasion but a lot of the arguments resonated with me. This is a book that hopefully inspires civil conversation on sensitive issues. In my view, the authors have gone out of their way to be edgy without being disrespectful. You don't have to agree with every conclusion to enjoy a book, you may not even agree with the tone but you would miss out dearly if you skip this book. Why give this book five stars when I clearly didn't agree with everything in it? Because I love books that enlighten, inform, provoke, inflame, and bring new ideas to the table. I highly recommend it!

Further recommendations: "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change" by Stephen R. Covey, "Getting Things Done" by David Allen, "The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business" by Charles Duhigg, "The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It" by Kelly McGonigal Ph.D., "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain, "The One Thing" by Gary Keller, "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman, "Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work" and "Switch" by Chip and Dan Heath, "Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don't" by Jeffrey Pfeffer, "Outliers: The Story of SuccessRebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success" and "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell, "Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success" by Rick Newman, and "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us" by Daniel H. Pink.


Taxes in America: What Everyone Needs to Know
Taxes in America: What Everyone Needs to Know
Price: $8.79

4.0 out of 5 stars Accessible Book on Tax Policy, February 2, 2014
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Taxes in America: What Everyone Needs to Know by Leonard E. Burman and Joel Slemrod

"Taxes in America" is an accessible book on tax policy in America. Educational and informative this book does its darndest to engage the audience by taking a reader-friendly approach on how our tax system works by asking logical questions and answering them in straight-mannered fashion. Professors Burman and Slemrod with background in economics and specifically tax policy do an effective job of sharing their wisdom with the public. This informative 301-page book is broken out into the following three Parts: 1. How are we Taxed?, 2. The Costs and Benefits of Taxation, and 3. A Tour of the Sausage Factory.

Positives:
1. A well-written and accessible book on tax policy.
2. Great command of the topic.
3. Excellent format. Smart decision to ask layperson-styled questions and provide direct responses. Cartoon inserts help break up the monotony and add much needed humor to a dry topic.
4. Do a good of defining terms. "A tax is a compulsory transfer of resources from the private sector to government that generally does not entitle the taxed person or entity to a quid pro quo in return (that's why it has to be compulsory)."
5. Some interesting tidbits of note, "In early 2011, antitax crusader Grover Norquist accused conservative Republican Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) of breaking his no-tax-increase pledge by proposing an amendment to end a tax credit for ethanol. Norquist objected to the elimination of the credit because he views it as a tax increase, while Senator Coburn considered it to be a spending cut."
6. The use of taxes as a form of regulation. "A cap-and-trade system can have similar effects to a carbon tax. Under this system the government sets a limit on total emissions, and then allocates or auctions a number of permits equal to that amount. The permits can then be bought and sold, which establishes a market price."
7. Straightforward explanation of how taxes vary across the federal, state, and local governments. "The federal government's revenue comes predominantly from individual income taxes (43.5 percent in 2009) and social insurance and retirement receipts (42.3 percent), while only 6.6 percent comes from corporate income taxes and about 3 percent from excise taxes."
8. Standout facts. "The cost of government is measured much more accurately by what it spends than by what it collects in taxes."
9. Payroll taxes in perspective. "Although it's conceivable that consumers or capital owners could bear part or all of the tax burden, statistical studies have almost uniformly concluded that workers bear the entire burden of both the employer and employee portions of the payroll tax."
10. The arguments for and against lower capital gains tax rates.
11. Interesting discussion on why we tax corporations and how some get away with paying no income tax. For example, the New York Times reported that General Electric, one of the largest companies in the world, paid no income tax in 2010 despite worldwide profits of over $14.2 billion and U.S. profits of $5.1 billion.
12. Did you know? "Oregon and Delaware are sales tax havens--they levy no sales tax at all."
13. It goes over what seems to be a countless variety of taxes: use, luxury, excise, sin, Pigouvian, flat, estate, property...to name a few.
14. The most progressive estate tax is..." For sure, the estate tax is the most progressive tax in the federal tax system. The Tax Policy Center estimates that, in 2011, 97 percent of the tax will be collected from the estates of households in the top 5 percent of the income distribution, and 78 percent from the richest 1 percent. By comparison, only 58 percent of personal income tax revenues are collected from the top 5 percent and 34 percent from the top 1 percent."
15. Strong conviction on what is not true. "It is not true that cutting taxes by itself will guarantee a spurt of growth. We know this by observing that some countries with substantially higher tax takes are doing quite well, thank you. We know that higher tax rates on the rich do not guarantee economic disaster, because in the 1950s and 1960s, when the U.S. top individual tax rates exceeded 90 percent, the U.S. economy performed very well indeed. Better than in decades since, on the whole, in the rate of growth of GDP and productivity. We know that lowering tax rates will not boost the economy so much that revenues will go up rather than down. We know this by observing that recent tax cuts in the United States and in other countries were inevitably followed by bigger deficits."
16. Worthwhile quotes. "President Lyndon Johnson once said: "The most damaging thing you can do to any businessman in America is to keep him in doubt, and to keep him guessing, on what our tax policy is."
17. Tax subsidies. "Tax subsidies add up to more than $1 trillion per year. That's not chump change, but, until recently, it's been off limits in any bipartisan budget negotiations in Congress because Republicans have been unwilling to consider anything that might be labeled a tax increase."
18. One of the more interesting chapters, "Tax Administration and Enforcement". Good stuff! "Overall, in fiscal year 2010, 1.1 percent of individual income tax returns, 1.4 percent of corporation income tax returns, and 10.1 percent of estate tax returns were audited."
19. Reality. "While tax revenues are at the lowest level as a share of GDP in more than fifty years, they are expected to increase as the economy rebounds and the stimulus measures expire. However, population aging and rising health care costs will put unprecedented pressures on the federal budget. Unless Congress figures out a radical cure for health cost inflation, services would have to be cut drastically from current levels to balance the budget with the tax system of current law."
20. Political reality. "The era of surpluses died because the younger Mr. Bush was not about to repeat his dad's mistake. His vice president, Dick Cheney, growled that "deficits don't matter." Mr. Bush cut taxes by trillions of dollars while creating a huge prescription drug entitlement program, waging two wars, and increasing non-defense discretionary spending even faster than Mr. Clinton. Mr. Bush left office with a burgeoning deficit and record-low approval ratings, but both sides continued to embrace the two Santa theory. Candidate Barack Obama criticized Mr. Bush's fiscal profligacy, but proposed new spending programs and tax cuts that would have increased the deficit almost as much as Mr. Bush's policies. Candidate John McCain was more restrained on spending, but his huge promised income tax cuts would have led to even larger deficits."
21. Links to notes and a helpful glossary of terms.

Negatives:
1. As hard as they try (and they do try), tax policy is a dry topic.
2. Tax policy can be very complex.
3. The authors provide some helpful charts and diagrams but I was hoping for more. As an example: tax policies by president, timeline of tax reforms and implications, to name a few.
4. Failed to take advantage of the more controversial aspects of tax policy. A chapter on the major scandals involving tax evasion would have added some spice to this book.
5. Some hot-topic buttons were purposely ignored or barely mentioned: income inequality, religious tax breaks, Affordable Care Act (does mention the 3.8% tax on investment income for individuals with income over $200,000, and couples with income greater than $250,000).

In summary, this is a very solid book on tax policy but no matter how you slice it, it remains a very dry topic. The authors do well in explaining the basics of how the tax policy works and how it might be made better. The book is well written, accessible and provides a helpful glossary of terms. The book lacks spice but it is a welcomed reference for us laypersons in tax policy. I recommend it.

Further suggestions: "Taxing Ourselves, 4th Edition: A Citizen's Guide to the Debate over Taxes" by Joel Slemrod, "The Benefit and The Burden: Tax Reform-Why We Need It and What It Will Take" by Bruce Bartlett, "Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget" by David Wessel, "White House Burning: Our National Debt and Why It Matters to You (Vintage)" by Simon Johnson, "The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future" by Joseph E. Stiglitz, "Tax Havens: International Tax Avoidance and Evasion" by Jane G. Gravelle, "Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else" by Chrystia Freeland, and "Deficits, Debt, and the New Politics of Tax Policy" by Dennis S. Ippolito.


The Last Hours of Humanity: Warming the World to Extinction
The Last Hours of Humanity: Warming the World to Extinction
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4.0 out of 5 stars Succinct and Persuasive Essay, January 31, 2014
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The Last Hours of Humanity: Warming the World to Extinction by Thom Hartmann

"The Last Hours of Humanity" is an alarming plea for action to stave off what is essentially a life and death scenario for humanity. Best-selling author and progressive talk-show host, Thom Hartmann provides the public with a clear, succinct and an updated look at the perils of global warming. This disturbing 46-page book includes the following six chapters: 1. The Extinction Threat, 2. The Great Dying...in fast forward, 3. The Methane Overkill, 4. The "Clathrate Gun", 5. Tipping Toward Extinction, and 6. Staving off Extinction.

Positives:
1. Hartmann is a gifted author. Always engaging and persuasive. He takes scientific consensus and adds elegant prose.
2. An understated hot-topic issue of our time, global warming.
3. Makes solid use of sound science leading to strong persuasive arguments.
4. An interesting look at the Permian Mass Extinction. "The Permian Mass Extinction was initiated by a colossal flow of lava in an area of what is now Siberia. That was the trigger but not the killer. The killer was under the water and under the ice where trillions of tons of greenhouse gases largely derived from carbon and frozen in the form of crystalline methane lay in wait."
5. The formula for extinction clearly stated. "So we now know the formula for extinction. Something happens to increase global temperatures five to six degrees, which triggers a melting of the frozen carbon and methane oceanic reserves that then leads to further global warming devastating life on Earth."
6. Troubling facts. "They found that in the last 5,000 years, the planet cooled about 1.3-degrees (a slow, natural and accountable variation), but in just the geologic eye-blink of the last 100 years it's warmed 1.3 degrees -- an amount and speed which no natural process could explain."
7. Clear comparison between methane and carbon dioxide. "Over a twenty year time period, methane is 105-times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, so it's critical to determine just what exactly is being released in the Arctic."
8. Does a wonderful job of explaining the runaway greenhouse effect.
9. Provides great quotes from leading subject matter experts. This from Michael Mann, "We are literally releasing the carbon dioxide that nature had locked up over a hundred million [years] down below the Earth. And we're releasing all that carbon dioxide now at a rate a million times faster [than it accumulated]. It's the time frame of a century, not 100 million years."
10. Is fair about the tipping point. "The problem with these tipping points is we don't know exactly where they lie. We know that they're out there. But, where we cross those tipping points, we don't know for sure."
11. So how do we stave off extinction? Find out.
12. Puts this important issue in perspective. "It's not economics; it's life and death."

Negatives:
1. Does not take advantage of Kindle's ability to link to endnotes.
2. Too short to be comprehensive.

In summary, this is a very persuasive, succinct essay on the need to stave off extinction. An alarming essay perhaps necessarily so, Hartmann makes a compelling plea for action. It's a succinct book that does a good job of capturing the essence of the issue. A worthwhile essay to read, I recommend it!

Further recommendations: "Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future" by Donald R. Prothero, "Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity" by James Hansen, "Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet" by Bill McKibben, "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines" by Michael E. Mann, "Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth" by Mark Hertsgaard, "The Republican War on Science" by Chris Mooney, "Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America" by Shawn Lawrence, "Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming 1st (first) Edition by Oreskes, Naomi, Conway, Erik M. (2010)" by Naomi Oreskes, "Lies, Damned Lies, and Science: How to Sort Through the Noise Around Global Warming, the Latest Health Claims, and Other Scientific Controversies (FT Press Science)" by Sherry Seethaler, and "Science Under Siege: Defending Science, Exposing Pseudoscience" by Kendrick Frazier.


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