Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

After I finished reading Ezra Klein’s review of Ron Suskind’s The Confidence Men, I came to the same conclusion as Matthew Ygelsias:

I really liked Ezra Klein’s review of Ron Suskind’s book in the NYRB for its wholesome focus on monetary policy errors as the most plausible way the Obama administration could have made things better. Nobody was stopping them from replacing Ben Bernanke with someone more committed to full employment, and it seems likely that they could have filled two existing Board of Governors vacancies with people more committed to full employment. If the chairman and those two empty seats all felt the way Charles Evans feels, we’d be in much better shape today. None of that is to deny that fiscal policy could have been better, but as Klein says the key blocking points on fiscal policy were in Congress.

It was, and still is, very confusing to me why the one institution that can address the current economic ills and operates more independently from political control/manipulation was ignored by this Administration.


Read Full Post »

Cloud Atlas

First time I’ve read David Mitchell, and his writing/storytelling greatly impressed me.

First, I found his method for conveying the book’s themes to be highly engaging and emotionally effective.  The themes that most resonated with me were slave/master, recurrence of events throughout human history, the surface mutability of those experiencing the events, quest for power and the societal harms that accompany it, and the enduring human characteristics that, in some sense, negate time’s passage.

First, Mitchell composed the novel by creating six stories, broken up, with each occuring chronologically, except for the sixth.  This story entirely completes itself in one chapter.  That’s because Mitchell then reverses the order and ends the novel with the original character.  This structure simultaneously emphasises a static human nature with only the external world differing.  No matter which way the world’s clock runs, the same themes regarding power imbalances and quest for power continue unabated.

Slave/Master:  In each story, some Mitchell creates some variation on this theme. Sometimes it’s more parasitic – as in Dr. Goose, or the fabricants – and other times it’s more just a pure drive for power, as in Sloosha’s story.  Either way, one person/group seeks advancement not through skill or creativity, but through brutality and suppression.

Recurrence of events: I touched on this above, both with the novel’s structure and the slave/master theme.  Basically, no matter what period, either future or past, humanity continued to relive and perpetrate the same essence of events. Sometimes the victim was one person, as in Timothy Cavendish.  Other times, whole societies suffered, as in the fabricants.  Either way, no matter the time period, the same events occured, in both a macro and micro sense.

Read Full Post »

Too Big Too Fail:
Reading this (technically listening) after listening to The Big Short. In the latter, the author and characters continually observed that the people running the Wall St. investment firms did not understand what their businesses were actually doing, either in scope or in execution. Too Big Too Fail reveals the same insight, though it does so by absence. Rather than highlighting the executives’ ignorance, the author focused on what the executives actually worried about: short-selling, liquidity, raising capital, and the sudden emergence of these issues. If the executives had the insight that Mike Burry or Steve Eisman had – which they got by actually reading what the mortgage investments were – they would have been less surprised by the market’s sudden downturn.

The book also highlights the incredible difficulty of obtaining regulatory concessions from the investment banks. To help lessen the disaster, the Fed, Treasury, and Congress needed to act – basically without haste. Once their actions reduced the turmoil and allowed the investment banks to return to massive profitability, the urgent impetus for reform diminished rapidly. Since reform took significantly longer than the stabilizing actions, Congress operated from weakness.

For a novel, I’m reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. About half way through. So far, the most striking themes represent the nature of reality, which also includes the nature of self. Who are we, and how do we know others? The protagonist frequently mused that he may not have known his wife. Creta talked of having three different personalities, and was unsure if any were the right one. The book contains this subterranean current that each character is more and less than what the author presents.

Read Full Post »