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PHIL

San Diego, CA, United States | Member Since 2011

395
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 165 reviews
  • 171 ratings
  • 0 titles in library
  • 22 purchased in 2015
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FOLLOWERS
131

  • Bailout Nation

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Barry Ritholtz
    • Narrated By Bill Quinn
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (64)
    Performance
    (27)
    Story
    (26)

    Bailout Nation offers one of the clearest looks at the financial lenders, regulators, and politicians responsible for the financial crisis of 2008. Written by Barry Ritholtz, one of today's most popular economic bloggers and a well-established industry pundit, this book skillfully explores how the United States evolved from a rugged independent nation to a soft Bailout Nation - where financial firms are allowed to self-regulate in good times, but are bailed out by taxpayers in bad times.

    Rorik says: "sub-standard audio quality"
    "Crony capitalism unveiled"
    Overall
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    Story

    I have read probably 20 "great recession" books, and this is one of the better ones, though it came out in 2009 or so. It is well-told, well-edited, easy to listen to. This is a critique of the evolution of our economy and particularly the financial services sector from a smaller number of risk-taking owner-managers to today's sort of diffuse, ad hoc-governed, crony insurance system. (This is embodied perfectly in the odyssey of Robert Rubin from Goldman Sachs to the US Treasury to Citi; and of course the purportedly anti-government but utterly ham-handed governmental interventions of Mr Greenspan.) Democrats and Republicans both come in for a skewering. The book follows the gradual multi-decade drift of businesses and other institutions (like the Fed, Congress and the Presidency) into ever-more interlinked circles of privileged influence, into such a configuration that, in 2008, the Fed wound up jumping to wakefulness and leaping in awkwardly to "catch falling knives" being the finances of various mismanaged institutions (that were well-enough connected to the Fed).
    The wisdom of hindsight is of course always nice, and I still await some working plan in our ultra-complex world economy to replace the mess that happened here (with a skeptical eye on 2010's Dodd-Frank). Maybe this author can give us a sequel? The US does seem bad, until anybody scrutinizes a lot of other systems. The whole thing still seems marbled through with incredibly misallocated resources and risk. The picture painted as of 2009 is still very instructive, and gets us ready to try to understand whatever is next. The captains of government seem only marginally more competent now than they were in that benighted era (not good enough!), and a lot of flaws pointed out in this book are very much with us.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Contagion: Health, Fear, Sovereignty: Global Re-Visions

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Bruce Magnusson, Zahi Zalloua
    • Narrated By Alexander MacDonald
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    Over many decades, "contagion" has been a metaphor of choice for everything from global terrorism, suicide bombings, poverty, immigration, global financial crises, human rights, fast food, obesity, divorce, and homosexuality. Essays examine the language of epidemiology used in the war on terror, the repressive effects of global disease surveillance, and films and novels that enact the perplexities of contagion in a global context.

    PHIL says: "A strange admixture, but - interesting"
    "A strange admixture, but - interesting"
    Overall
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    Story

    All kinds of dimensions of "contagion" are here, and it emerges as a central metaphor of how we organize our world nowadays, subjectively and collectively. But the journey to this point is quirky. The introduction was somewhat misleading, as I thought, crestfallen, "oh no, a politicized hectoring on leftish-academic themes in trendy abstract terms by spoiled effete impudent snobs with the usual too-obvious 'bad guys' and no sense of ironic self-awareness but instead a sort of righteousness ...." But straightaway, the book's first essays offered up some straight-faced tutorials on epidemiological and military trends in managing contagion issues in today's world, as in, microbial diseases and ideologies with the terrorism label. Then it veered back toward the sort of post-structuralist, deconstructionist, modern French lit-crit stuff that, frankly, is a guilty pleasure I can find stimulating and imaginative (particularly when it escapes the Marxist rhetorical baggage some academics endlessly schlep around). There was some discussion of modern popular culture from zombie fiction to DeLillo's novels (including Cosmopolis, available here). At some point, it was working: I got this great eerie feeling of being transported to spooky new ways of mapping my emerging world, much as I got listening recently to Hyperobjects (another audio available here, in that same vein). I like thinkers who turn my comfortable world inside out and leave me a little (or a lot) disturbed. But yet, I thought, this yet has the lingering tone of an effete academic un-ironically biting the hand that feeds him/her, criticising as a sort of monstrous horror movie the system (s)he self-sustains on. Finally, at the end, an essay on the novel The Believers served notice that nobody would escape the self-aware post-modern deconstruction, including imperious liberal-intellectual snobs. So, how to summarize? We go from organizational responses to contagions most citizens recognize, to an exploration of how the contagion metaphor is colonizing all kinds of thought and reasoning in today's world. Worthwhile, by my lights.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Supermoney

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Adam Smith
    • Narrated By Adam Zink
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (9)
    Performance
    (6)
    Story
    (6)

    Supermoney may be even more relevant today than when it was first published nearly 25 years ago. Written in the bright and funny style that became Adam Smith's trademark, this book gives a view inside institutions, professionals, and the nature of markets that has rarely been shown before or since.

    PEIYI says: "Terrible"
    "A world-wise, light-hearted, funny walk ..."
    Overall
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    ... through behavioral economics, before it had the name: I had lately read the first book in this series, 'The Money Game,' in print, and enjoyed it. This picks up in the same continuous tongue-in-cheek, footloose tone, into the early 70s. It is like 'The Go-Go Years' also found here in audio, but sketched in quicker little portraits of knaves and fools all across the investment world (but no less wise and instructive for that). Plenty is pertinent and even prescient for repeated trips through herd stupidity seen in markets since then. (The Swiss bankers vignette could fit today's news. And the musings on the Swiss are worth the price of admission). The narrator has just the right laconic tone, but he is awful at pronouncing any word not simply and obviously domestic-American-English. He is at a pre-college level, making a hash of anyone's name (a widely literate personal would know) and any city or street name (a cultured-literate person would know). It is seriously distracting listening to him make a hash of, e.g., "subsidiary," "Basel," "strasse," "Cuernavaca," "antennae" .... Yup, that's right. Fortunately I can wince and enjoy the book. The way investors (retail or for their own account) as well as various partners and other bigger financial wigs are suckered, hoisted on their own petards, is completely familiar, and can be amusing from a safe distance. This coincides with odd snips from here or there such as the appearance of a certain sort of pre-Jobs figure: an "acid-head arbitrageur" (yes, mispronounced) worthy of a Peter Sellers character sketch. Many a character of various stripes stumbles into the miasma of the 70s, like straight-faced insects into a complicated trap, and I was old enough by then (and stumbling enough) to enjoy this now. Here, entertainment meets cynical world-wisdom. Yes, the tech booms were flaring up back then, tech stars, hot names and the mystique of hot investments going through the same tilt-a-whirl. The pitches to investors are mighty familiar. And yes, some things may be tedious -- but even the standard hoary recitation of the transition from paper to computers in 1970s brokerages (not funny to many partners and players who were caught sideways and dragged under, along with some retail investors) is peppered with laugh-out-loud portrayals of various players.
    The 'Supermoney' concept itself is a fairly shallow notion plastered on the front of the book. 'Supermoney' is roughly capitalized future earnings, as in, stock, which multiplies the canny entrepreneur's (otherwise relatively plodding ordinary cash) money. It can be lost as easily as any other asset class discussed here. But that's alright.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Next Economic Disaster: Why It's Coming and How to Avoid It

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 15 mins)
    • By Richard Vague
    • Narrated By Charles Kabala
    Overall
    (1)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    Current debates about economic crises typically focus on the role that public debt and debt-fueled public spending play in economic growth. This illuminating and provocative work shows that it is the rapid expansion of private rather than public debt that constrains growth and sparks economic calamities like the financial crisis of 2008.

    PHIL says: "Maybe I'm not getting the point fully, but ..."
    "Maybe I'm not getting the point fully, but ..."
    Overall
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    Story

    ... I'm under the impression that the solution here is basically a few accounting adjustments. If it was that straightforward, were all these bubbles and crashes, lo these last 400 years, a lot simpler than we thought? I admire the author's good intentions. The explanations of the problems at the outset were also good. Maybe it's just me -- but I can't see how this would prevent people engineering new ways to fall into the same ditch again, as they seem prone to do.
    I'm more inclined to go with what is being tried -- macro-prudential regulation to be sure systemically important firms are identified and watched, and forced to have a more sound financial and risk management structure. And if they do crash, a fast-track way to get control of them and do a resolution. That is, if it isn't all undone in the next couple years, which I think, politically, is quite possible. Then it's off the races again. But maybe it would be anyway, people being so inclined to run toward that ditch, and find loopholes to get there, the short-term incentives being what they are. And I don't see how this proposal changes those incentives.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Anatomy of Greed: The Unshredded Truth from an Enron Insider

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Brian Cruver
    • Narrated By Mel Foster
    Overall
    (36)
    Performance
    (16)
    Story
    (16)

    Brian Cruver first entered the Enron's office complex, in March 2001. He was an eager MBA ready to cash in as a new hire with one of America's most highly valued companies. But, from his first day - when his new boss warned him, "there was a mix-up in the hiring process," but that it was "no big deal...just think of it like you're adopted" - to his last, when he and his colleagues were given thirty minutes to leave the building, Cruver found himself enmeshed in a business cult that each day grew only more bizarre.

    Patricia says: "Compelling companion to your Enron library"
    "Good piercing explanations; lots of so-so filler"
    Overall
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    Story

    This book stays breezy and reasonably entertaining. Being an Enron junkie, I would not miss it. And from that vantage, I enjoyed it a lot. It walks us around the physical place and through the details and trivia (some weirdly Orwellian) an Enronian would know. Then it does swoop occasionally to interesting deeper views and overviews, glimpses much deeper into the heart of darkness, the real sickness of the culture and especially the (avowedly) atrocious foreign projects, mostly as spoken by a more senior acquaintance "Mister Blue" while the latter was drinking $50 double shots of top-of-the-line booze and presumably staring darkly into the void. Here one will get glimpses and hear summations I hadn't heard elsewhere. I had I thought of that phrase "heart of darkness" right before the author quoted Conrad's book.
    The end sort of peters out as we join the parade of terminated employees in a not-atypical dreary wandering away from the scene, into job fairs and wasting time online. The only special thing is, this guy was mistakenly left in the payroll and had access to messages and the physical place, so more is revealed as the defunct "Death Star" spins into bankruptcy outer space.
    Stating the stock price and volume, and big events, as the author's personal adventure progressed day by day, works well. As far his participation in anything, he was developing a financial risk management product along the lines of bankruptcy insurance (but not a CDS, apparently) that didn't make it to prime time in his tenure.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • What's Behind the Numbers?: A Guide to Exposing Financial Chicanery and Avoiding Huge Losses in Your Portfolio

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By John Del Vecchio, Tom Jacobs
    • Narrated By Tom Jacobs
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (10)
    Performance
    (7)
    Story
    (7)

    Companies are under more pressure than ever to "beat by a penny," but you don't need to be a forensic accountant to uncover where the spin ends and the truth begins. With the help of a powerhouse team of authors, you can avoid losing a chunk of your portfolio when the next overhyped growth stock fails by knowing What's Behind the Numbers?

    NOLA909 says: "A CPA rates this book 5-stars"
    "Sharpen your pencil, and your thinking"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is great value all the way through. With some limited accounting background, I am able to follow it on my walks without reference to the downloaded charts and graphs, though these are clear and helpful. And this is a walk all around the hidden soft spots in company financials. These metrics are easy to calculate and straightforward to apply. And plenty of the statements are hedged (in a good way) to help from oversimplifying things. Little capsule company histories side-by-side with where the numbers went, help to back up these useful tools. I plan to listen again to internalize all of it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By John Brooks
    • Narrated By Johnny Heller
    Overall
    (139)
    Performance
    (114)
    Story
    (117)

    What do the $350 million Ford Motor Company disaster known as the Edsel, the fast and incredible rise of Xerox, and the unbelievable scandals at General Electric and Texas Gulf Sulphur have in common? Each is an example of how an iconic company was defined by a particular moment of fame or notoriety; these notable and fascinating accounts are as relevant today to understanding the intricacies of corporate life as they were when the events happened.

    Skipp says: "Little dated but relevant"
    "A bit uneven; jumps around; has gems"
    Overall
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    Story

    This works for me. I have a broad and deep interest in business and financial history, and I'm always snagging stories from here and there and fitting the parts together into deeper understandings. Sometimes the author nails it here -- as in, giving a great plain-language explanation of central banking and international currency markets (and some wild swings, say, in the pound sterling, presaging better-known recent ones, featuring the US and UK's coordinated battles with speculators, trying to reduce volatility in those markets). I always like a different but clarifying look at such things, from a bit different angle. But, this is a snapshot from the later-mid-1960s, so (like reading some older books or watching some older movies) it helps to have some bigger background and context. The earlier stories do fit well as prequels to more recent ones. This was written on the eve of the US dollar falling off the gold standard, and the emergence of the post-Bretton Woods world (things the author only guesses at, prospectively), so having more of the story helps.

    Elsewhere there is a story about price-fixing among certain manufacturers in the 60s. These scofflaws got their knuckles rapped, somewhat, under the glare of public and governmental attention. Then there ensued the corporate game (also well known among politicians) in moments of scandal, of artfully evading responsibility. We have a ringside seat as this art is practiced by various execs under the hot spotlight. What a rhetorical dance! This is a fine tutorial (all done tongue in cheek) for anyone, I suppose, looking to glide through a public grilling in congressional hearings and parading before angry righteous citizens wielding pitchforks and torches, without breaking stride or losing that elite "teflon" panache (and somehow trying to sound ethical and even noble, or as a last resort, gullible, but no, not culpable!). I find plenty amusing and enlightening here. But the choice of topics is fairly random, and it does suffer from flat spots.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • A New Era in Banking: The Landscape After the Battle

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Angel Berges, Mauro F. Guillén, Juan Pedro Moreno, and others
    • Narrated By Erik Synnestvedt
    Overall
    (1)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    A New Era in Banking: The Landscape After the Battle identifies the main drivers of change at the heart of this wholesale transformation of the financial services industry. It examines the complex challenge for financial institutions to de-risk business models, reconnect with customers, and approach stakeholder value creation.

    PHIL says: "Solid, if elementary; some useful bits"
    "Solid, if elementary; some useful bits"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    For those who have followed financial services and the trends in regulation since '08, a lot of this is not new. The narrator, with his blandly casual, unvarying bored yuppie intonations intensifies the feeling at moments of listening to an interminable corporate slide show; every single sentence (no exceptions) begins and ends in the exact same sound registers, and I get the feeling he was just clocking in and picking up a paycheck. The review of recent history was very pedestrian and unimaginative, and I didn't hear anything at all new until some time in the 30th minute. Maybe every half hour I heard something that really made me perk up. The fresher ideas (at least, fresher in my experience, having absorbed many of the big mainstream books on this area) involve thinking in new patterns about future growth and change in this industry. Though few sharp-etched answers are offered, and plenty of bromides are here about honoring all stakeholders (without really digging into how incentive structures can specifically and concretely change to get us there), the listener is invited to consider many directions and niches for banking in the near future, and some opportunities and dangers, from the community level to internationally. I don't regret hearing this one, though I will refrain from much, if any, "wow" response.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Power Failure: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By MiMi Swartz, Sherron Watkins
    • Narrated By Karen White
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (45)
    Performance
    (9)
    Story
    (9)

    From inside the walls of Enron, a lone whistleblower attempted to avert the course of events leading to the largest bankruptcy in American history. On August 16, 2001, Sherron Watkins wrote an anonymous letter to Enron's Chairman, Ken Lay, laying out problems with Enron's use of partnerships to hide debt. She warned of a possible scandal that could topple the company if investors and the news media learned of the operations. Then, she revealed her identity and confronted Lay directly.

    Kevin Christy says: "A Truly Compelling Look at Greed and Arrogance"
    "A worthwhile addition to my Enron library"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is maybe the sixth book I have read on Enron. Full disclosure: I am an aficionado, fan and amateur scholar of the Enron story. This one (for readers who already have a basic grasp of the narrative) has its own useful and illuminating angles and facts, large and small. Sherron Watkins' personalized journey through the company helps show the nervous, semi-entrepreneurial kind of path many felt they must follow, to be linked to the personalities and the "action" where advancement and even survival could be found. On occasion, the personal trivia veered into the stupid -- ski and paintball encounters and such. But I guess this shows some of the silly juvenile trash that I am given to understand still permeates the halls of many corporations, as team- and spirit- building exercises. Apparently the cheerleaders still stalk the halls of business. But these sidetracks are mercifully short, and the discussion often touches (if simplified, then comprehensibly) on quite substantive matters -- some details of accounting devices used to puff up revenues and hide debt, and the legalities of entering, say, retail electricity sales in multiple states. Then, too, we get a good portrait of the principals' (Skilling's and Fastow's, particularly) reactions to such obstacles, as mere technicalities to be creatively overcome. And there, the story is quite current, in view of globalized corporations' armies of numbers and law personnel brainstorming to "arbitrage" every such obstacle. Some of this is a natural (and not necessarily always nefarious) part of doing business -- creativity IS often about stretching existing boundaries and obstacles. And sometimes the legalities ARE sketchy. Of course, Enron became a caricature and a cartoon of this, as is skillfully laid out here. The narration is clear, punchy and quite suitable.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Shifts and the Shocks: What We've Learned - and Have Still to Learn - from the Financial Crisis

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Martin Wolf
    • Narrated By Sean Pratt
    Overall
    (22)
    Performance
    (17)
    Story
    (18)

    The Shifts and the Shocks is not another detailed history of the crisis, but the most persuasive and complete account yet published of what the crisis should teach us about modern economies and economics. The audiobook identifies the origin of the crisis in the complex interaction between globalization, hugely destabilizing global imbalances and our dangerously fragile financial system.

    PHIL says: "Good on Europe's problems, fair global update"
    "Good on Europe's problems, fair global update"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The Gordian knot entangling the Euro members is fascinating and well explicated. This author's prescriptions strike me as pretty straightforward neo-(neo-) Keynesian, but I wouldn't let that dissuade me from hearing him out. He does at least roughly map a lot of areas that need vigilance -- we are not (ever) out of the woods.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Merchant of Venice

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 58 mins)
    • By William Shakespeare
    • Narrated By Michael Redgrave, Peter Neil
    Overall
    (16)
    Performance
    (9)
    Story
    (8)

    Award winning actor Sir Michael Redgrave leads a full-cast performance of Shakespeare's dramatic comedy.

    Jeanette says: "Tis a LIAR"
    "Riveting"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'm primarily a "business history guy," and not into fiction much. But I'm also an Anglophile, raised on Shakespeare, and this play is very revealing of much business/cultural history. Modern ears, I think, will likely deplore the injustices done to the Jewish merchant Shylock, which might not have been Shakespeare's (or his audience's) views at all. This was billed as a "comedy," right? As in, having a "happy" ending? But I love the way the pretzel logic leaves everyone, even the most virtuous, tinged with a bit of larceny and trickery. The hypocrisy of the supposedly virtuous Establishment gentiles was well on display here (perhaps unintentionally?). The performance I thought delightful all around. I can only wish audible would produce the earlier Christopher Marlowe play "The Jew of Malta," and maybe the nonfiction book "Shylock's Children: Economics and Jewish Identity in Modern Europe" by Derek J. Penslar. But meanwhile, Ferguson's "The Ascent of Money" is available, which sheds some limited light on the topic.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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