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Bob Cluett "high latitude traveler" (Wellington, Ontario, Canada)

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The Great Reflation: How Investors Can Profit From the New World of Money
The Great Reflation: How Investors Can Profit From the New World of Money
by J. Anthony Boeckh
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 26.30
50 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Great work/Dark thoughts/Plain language, Sept. 15 2012
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J. Anthony Boeckh, longtime editor of The Bank Credit Analyst and more recently co -author of a cautious but excellent monthly investment letter, has now given us The Great Reflation (Wiley, 2010, 314 pp.). "The Great Reflation" of the book's title is the combination of Bush bailouts, Bush-Obama deficits and Bernanke quantitative easing that "has virtually eliminated returns on liquid, safe, short-term deposits...while guaranteeing a world of high future risk and volatility." (p. 291). The book gives the reader not only an account of the investment events of 2008-9 but an analysis of what put us into our present economic hole and of what options we face for getting ourselves out of it. Best of all, its second and third sections offer to individual investors (particularly retired individual investors, of whom we have more each day) some very sound instruction and counsel on managing one's money over the next decade, a decade that Boeckh expects to be even more of a roller-coaster ride than the last one.

The book's 15 chapters are divided into three sections: - I Financial Instability, II The Markets (stocks, bonds, currencies, gold, commodities, real estate) and III The Future, subtitled "Is a Return to Lasting Stability Possible?" Boeckh answers this question in a 10-page summary and conclusion after Chapter 15. Despite a tendency to lean at times on a shopworn phrase or a mixed metaphor, he is a writer of exceptional lucidity: he marshals data well, his graphics are plentiful and relevant, and when a knockout punch is called for, he can throw that punch. For example: "The government has used its monopoly power of taxation to make promises that artificially inflate expected living standards; these promises will not be kept." (p. 67). For example again: "the same people who created the previous credit binge are still in charge." (p. 40). Boeckh's awareness of the overriding irony of financial life - as in Hyman Minsky's law that stability always begets instability - makes him a chaste (and often chastening) teacher, and for that reason one worth paying attention to in perilous times such as we are in now.

Not for nothing is economics called "the dismal science." Most of those who attempt to teach its more difficult concepts to undergraduates do so dismally. They seek to instruct in places where they should fear to tread. Boeckh needs no such fear; yes, he is that good. From the start he tackles inflation, debt supercycles and long wave (Kondratieff) theory, and he does so with an admirable understated clarity that throws into relief some of the chilling facts that lie beneath his text, such as who's still in charge, and "the long run in the investment business does not exist anymore."

Does he offer solutions, both global and individual? Yes, in a sense, he does, though I would call his offerings imperatives rather than solutions. First, the global imperative: a new world monetary system. Second national imperatives for the USA: 1) bringing the delusions of empire under control (if they can `t control the Somali pirates, how can they nation-build for Iraq and Afghanistan?), and 2) re-establishing rates of savings and investment that alone can rebuild the U.S. economy (the government moves money - and DEBT! - around but doesn't build a whole lot). Third, the imperatives for individuals: 1) liquidity; 2) diversification; 3) wariness (for signs of the impending downside lurches that will be the hallmark of the present decade). And, at low points in the market, the best investments are likely to be stocks, especially in well-run, small-cap companies.

A book praised already by people as eminent and as diverse as Michael Wilson (our former finance minister) and Mark Faber (the renowned "Dr. Doom") deserves attention. It deserves particular attention from people in my situation: retired, and living off our lfe's savings. Everyone, especially those over 60, who must finance their lives out of their wits and their capital should read this book. It is #1 of all the recently published guides to the hazardous economic future we all face.

Wonderful Flying Machines: A History of U.S. Coast Guard Helicopters
Wonderful Flying Machines: A History of U.S. Coast Guard Helicopters
by Barrett Thomas Beard
Edition: Hardcover
18 used & new from CDN$ 68.31

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Book, with a Hero, Sept. 14 2012
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Barrett Thomas Beard's Wonderful Flying Machines is an excellent 1996 account of the introduction and development of rotary-wing rescue aircraft in the U.S.Coast Guard. The helicopter is now a principal device in the saving of the lives of those who 50 years ago would have been lost at sea, and Beard's history of its role in USCG operations is thorough and accurate.

A major strength of the book is that it is not merely the history of Igor Sikorsky's machine; it is also the story of the machine's greatest pilot and most vocal promoter within the USCG, Frank Erickson. Erickson retired on 1 July 1954 to become an engineer and test pilot with Brantly Aircraft Corp, where he continued to work on the helicopter flight stabilizer for which he had already been awarded a patent. He had also, in the 1940s, developed the Erickson Hoist, the Erickson Chair and the Erickson Basket, all of which in more developed variations are still in use today. Post Canada's commemorative stamp honoring the Canadian Coast Guard (ca. 1985) depicts a helicopter cherry-picking a man off a sinking ship with an Erickson Hoist, and the epic 1998 storm that took several lives in the Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race would have taken many more had it not been for rescue helicopters and Erickson`s equipment. Endlessly restless and blessed with an instinctive contempt for the status quo, Erickson was probably (except for a brilliant ability to perform under pressure) ill-equipped for a military career, from which he retired after only 23 years as a commissioned officer. But he left, ironically, as big an imprint on the way his branch of the armed forces goes about its work as any man since the World War I inventor of the tank. Beard's account of that imprint is excellent in every way.

The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership
The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership
by Steven B. Sample
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.29
54 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars old bromides, new container, Sept. 13 2012
Steven B. Sample's Contrarian's Guide to Leadership, at 190+ pages, tells us at rather excessive length what Peter Drucker could tell us in a 10- or 12-page essay. Its counsel is about as contrarian as the investing advice purveyed by Merrill, Lynch before that august brokerage went down the tubes in 2008: "Know which hill you're willing to die on;" "Work for those who work for you;" "Follow the leader." In other words, when it comes to being contrarian, this book is not very. Dr.Sample does try to get his Contrarian passport validated by inserting a chapter praising Machiavelli, but the praise is narrowly focused on The Prince, a small occasional piece, and ignores The Discorsi, which are Machiavelli's great monument in the field of modern political science. Not what one expects from a retired university president!

Some people, like Don Shula and Jack Welch, can be brilliant leaders and at the same time be hugely articulate about exactly how they lead and what motivates their followers. Others, like Vince Lombardi and Fiorello Laguardia, can be remarkable leaders who are despite themselves inarticulate about the precise sources of their strength. Sample's leadership achievements at USC were both notable and genuine, but as an explicator of the method I would have to put him in the Laguardia camp. Not a book I would buy a second time.

Rescue Warriors: The U.S. Coast Guard, America's Forgotten Heroes
Rescue Warriors: The U.S. Coast Guard, America's Forgotten Heroes
by David Helvarg
Edition: Paperback
44 used & new from CDN$ 4.42

3.0 out of 5 stars great subject, missed opportunities, Sept. 13 2012
Rescue Warriors, by David Helvarg, is a book with a great subject, the oldest and most undervalued of the American military services, the U.S. Coast Guard. It treats the service in several of its aspects (historical, economic, political, geographic) under a baker's dozen of chapter topics, and gives the service overall an extremely positive review. Unlike other recent USCG books (Ocean Station, and Deadliest Sea for example), it is not an objective history; rather it is an account (with historical and other addenda) of the author's experience embedded with several different Coast Guard units. My own response to the book -- for all the merit of its nominal subject -- was a nagging wish to hear more about the Coast Guard and less about the author. I acknowledge that this response may simply reflect my deficiencies as a reader. Nevertheless, if I were starting from scratch on a mission to learn about this great and venerable service, I would pick up the two works cited above before picking up Helvarg.

Deadliest Sea : The Untold Story Behind the Greatest Rescue in Coast Guard History
Deadliest Sea : The Untold Story Behind the Greatest Rescue in Coast Guard History
by Kalee Thompson
Edition: Hardcover
26 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Deadly Sea: deadly editing flaws a potentially great book, Aug. 31 2012
Deadliest Sea is an account of the sinking (from sloppy maintenance) of the fishing trawler Alaska Ranger in a storm in the Bering Sea during the first days of spring, 2008, and of the heroic rescue of nearly all of its 47-person crew by the Coast Guard Cutter Munro and two extraordinary helicopter crews. It is a gripping and well told action story, with skilful interweaving of much of the personal histories of the five-dozen-plus persons who were involved either as rescuers or rescued. Well worth the read, I would say.

The book's principal shortcoming -- and a continual irritant to this former USCG officer -- was the failure of its editors to run a simple vocabulary and fact check on a very diligent writer (Kalee Thompson) who had done a superb job of researching and narrating the human side of a remarkable story. Problems of nomenclature abound -- is it a ship or a boat? is that a rear wall or an aft bulkhead? is that a ladder or a stairway? is that the bow of the ship or the front? And finally, the ultimate blooper: we are told that cadets graduate from the U.S.Coast Guard Academy with the rank of LT(j.g.) rather than as they do in real life, with the rank of Ensign. I do not lay these problems entirely at the feet of Ms. Thompson: someone in the editorial department of William Morrow should be given some stern military discipline -- say, loss of one rank and a month's pay. These flaws notwithstanding, I can recommend the book unreservedly. It is, as I say, well worth the read.

The Big Short
The Big Short
by Michael Lewis
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.96
82 used & new from CDN$ 2.15

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Together at Last, June 26 2011
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This review is from: The Big Short (Paperback)
The Big Short is an account of the guys who made a killing as Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Wachovia and other less renowned banking and investment names were being sucked down the tubes by the mega-leveraging of overvalued derivative paper. Those guys did it, of course, in accordance with the Michael Lewis mythology, the story that he tells and re-tells in all his ego-fronted books: quick, bright young deviants (the new kids) beat up on slow, old, established traditionalists. But The Big Short is different from Lewis's other work like Moneyball in that this time the mythology fits the reality of which he is giving an account. This time, the quick young deviants - nobodies with names like Steve Eisman, Mike Burry and Vinny Daniel - really did take the measure of the financial community's big dudes - Richard Fuld, Ken Thompson, John Thain. And though the big dudes were retired or fired on generous terms, they did not leave their executive suites wreathed in laurels, and they left their stockholders holding a lot of empty bags. In this book, reality and the Lewis mythology are together at last.
In the summer of 2010 David Brooks wrote a column in the New York Times contrasting Princes with Grinds (NYTimes, 13 July 2010). The Princes are people like John Thain and Bill Miller: gracious, widely informed, gifted in conversation, they are men you feel privileged to be with. Grinds, on the other hand, are brilliant but narrow and boring, often totally graceless. The heroes of Lewis's book are - to a man - Grinds, and Lewis does an excellent job of showing the degree to which their social dysfunctions equipped them to be the ultimate contrarians and ultimate winners in the subprime collapse. The book has other strengths as well: like the best economic historians (Keynes, Kindleberger, Galbraith, Fox and Bernstein), Lewis sees economic history as narrative, and he writes it that way. With its principal focus on the unforgettable Steve Eisman, the book enables Lewis to keep himself and his ego out of the way until the very last chapter, so that for 252 of its 264 pages the work is a splendid entertainment, full of the energetic vitality of the dysfunctional buccaneers who made a ton of money while the rest of us were hiding in the kneehole of our desk or being taken to the cleaners by the wrong hedge fund manager. Though I have long recoiled from the manner in which Lewis's books often impose his new-kid mythology on events to which it is not wholly suited, I have to regard this book as a genuine breakthrough for its author and his myth. In spite of my longstanding reservations about Lewis and his work, I must recommend The Big Short unreservedly.

Ocean Station: Operations of the U.S. Coast Guard, 1940-1977
Ocean Station: Operations of the U.S. Coast Guard, 1940-1977
by Michael R. Adams
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 39.35
15 used & new from CDN$ 27.05

5.0 out of 5 stars Telling it like it was, June 24 2011
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As a former officer in the USCG (active duty 1954-58), I have long wanted a book that persuasively describes the difficult work of seagoing rescue. Michael Adams has given us that book. The frame story of OCEAN STATION is a descriptive history of the several ocean stations and of the American vessels (called OSVs)that occupied the eight stations that were the USA's responsibility in the Atlantic and Pacific between 1940 and 1977. Within the Coast Guard we called them "weather ships," because their most regular duties involved taking weather data and launching and tracking weather balloons. But they also collected rainwater samples to check on Soviet nuclear testing, and above all they were a prodigious resource for vessels and passenger aircraft that were in trouble several hundred miles from dry land.

Adams is highly qualified for this task. 20 years a USCG officer and a licensed master mariner, he is also an extremely lucid and (where necessary) vivid writer. He brings great expository clarity to describing the three classes of cutter that were the workhorses of the OSV fleet, and why two of those classes -- originally designed for other work -- had structural and other problems in the 30- to 50-foot seas that the OSVs commonly encountered on station. He brings great descriptive skill to the rescue work involved in recovering several aircraft ditchings and in the assisting (sometimes towing) of civilian ships that were in trouble. As one who spent a chunk of his life doing that kind of work, I often found in his text the shock of recognition.

All of us who went to sea for the Coast Guard within the span of the OSVs' history owe this writer a huge debt of gratitude for all that he has put into the record at the disposal of the public. The book's notable readability makes it an attractive acquisition for anyone interested in the history of the USA's role in the world's oceans, and an especially attractive acquisition for anyone interested in vividly told stories of danger and rescue. An accurate, authentic and often exciting piece of work.

Two Planks and a Passion: The Dramatic History of Skiing
Two Planks and a Passion: The Dramatic History of Skiing
by Roland Huntford
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 60.19
30 used & new from CDN$ 3.75

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Great Trip through the Snow, Feb. 4 2009
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Two Planks and a Passion is Roland Huntford's fourth excursion into travel in snow and at high latitudes. The first three concerned explorers (Scott & Amundsen, Shackleton, and Nansen); this one concerns equipment -- specifically the ski and its long history. Two Planks is linked to its predecessor books not only by geography but by Huntford's talent for remarkably thorough research and by his ability to organize often difficult material into a readable narrative for those not expert in the area. Though history and politics are often woven into the narrative (As in the Russo-Finnish war of 1939-40), he never loses sight of the principal item in his history. Huntford is a polymath; he is also an expert skier and high-latitude traveler, but he wears both his learning and his expertise lightly, and my interest never flagged once in the book's entire 400+ pages. Whether you are a sports fan, a history buff, or a devotee of the literature of exploration, this book will enrich all that you know and will do that in a consistently entertaining way.

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