Punchy prose and canny muckraking make for an informative, entertaining challenge to economic orthodoxy.

OIL AND FINANCE

THE EPIC CORRUPTION CONTINUES 2010-2012

An unholy alliance of Wall Street bankers, energy traders, OPEC pooh-bahs and complaisant government regulators are pillaging the American economy, according to these savvy, feisty polemics.

Learsy, a commodities trader, updates his previous entry in this series with a new collection of his Huffington Post blogs. His pieces circle around two great swindles: First, the government bailout of select financial institutions, especially its rescue of insurance giant AIG; he alleges that Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein cooked up the bailout during secret phone calls so that Goldman’s and other banks’ holdings of AIG derivatives could be paid off with taxpayer money. Second, the run-up in oil prices was in a market the author believes to have been glutted by stored oil and manipulated refinery capacities. (Learsy thinks petroleum should be trading for around $30 per barrel, not $100.) Here Learsy targets many culprits: banks that speculate in oil using virtually free loans from the Fed and FDIC-insured deposits; Saudi officials who restrict oil output; President Obama, who could burst the price bubble by selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve; and newspapers that peddle peak-oil alarmism, which Learsy smartly debunks. Other selections support a high-speed rail system, warn of looming global food shortages, and cheerlead for the Occupy Wall Street movement. Learsy’s writing has a blunt, plainspoken style—sample headline: “The Oil Market Plays Casino While the Obama Administration Acts as Croupier”—that sits well with his populist indictment of Wall Street and its patsies in Washington. He has an insider’s knowledge of the intricacies within the global financial web, which he explains with clarity and biting wit; yet he’s not afraid to take bold, iconoclastic positions. (Among his anti-market heresies are calls for nationalizing the oil industry and establishing an American grain cartel.) At times, though, Learsy’s prescriptions trip over themselves; economists and environmentalists will choke at his suggestion that we step up off-shore drilling to bring down oil prices—and then impose gasoline rationing to force Americans to conserve. But that’s just one questionable pitch among better cases to be made in this take-no-prisoners savaging of the global economy’s oily underbelly.

Punchy prose and canny muckraking make for an informative, entertaining challenge to economic orthodoxy.

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1469903293

Page Count: 240

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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Smart, engaging sportswriting—good reading for organization builders as well as Pats fans.

THE DYNASTY

Action-packed tale of the building of the New England Patriots over the course of seven decades.

Prolific writer Benedict has long blended two interests—sports and business—and the Patriots are emblematic of both. Founded in 1959 as the Boston Patriots, the team built a strategic home field between that city and Providence. When original owner Billy Sullivan sold the flailing team in 1988, it was $126 million in the hole, a condition so dire that “Sullivan had to beg the NFL to release emergency funds so he could pay his players.” Victor Kiam, the razor magnate, bought the long since renamed New England Patriots, but rival Robert Kraft bought first the parking lots and then the stadium—and “it rankled Kiam that he bore all the risk as the owner of the team but virtually all of the revenue that the team generated went to Kraft.” Check and mate. Kraft finally took over the team in 1994. Kraft inherited coach Bill Parcells, who in turn brought in star quarterback Drew Bledsoe, “the Patriots’ most prized player.” However, as the book’s nimbly constructed opening recounts, in 2001, Bledsoe got smeared in a hit “so violent that players along the Patriots sideline compared the sound of the collision to a car crash.” After that, it was backup Tom Brady’s team. Gridiron nerds will debate whether Brady is the greatest QB and Bill Belichick the greatest coach the game has ever known, but certainly they’ve had their share of controversy. The infamous “Deflategate” incident of 2015 takes up plenty of space in the late pages of the narrative, and depending on how you read between the lines, Brady was either an accomplice or an unwitting beneficiary. Still, as the author writes, by that point Brady “had started in 223 straight regular-season games,” an enviable record on a team that itself has racked up impressive stats.

Smart, engaging sportswriting—good reading for organization builders as well as Pats fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982134-10-5

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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