Donald Trump

For some reason when I explain how funny, twisted, and clever some of Donald Trump’s deals are, people just stare at me.  They make me laugh.  They’re not right, they are not good, but they are devilishly clever.  For example, he was trying to evict tenants from rent control building in New York City.  Something next to impossible to do.  So he decides to let homeless people live in the empty apartments until the remaining tenants decide to leave!  He argues he’s a good guy, yet who’s going to want to live in the same building as a bunch of homeless people?  They’ll leave!  (He decided not to do this one because his lawyers said it would be as hard to get rid of the homeless people as it was to get rid of the original tenants.)

For this and other deals that are so clever and twisted they made me laugh outloud, read Donald Trump’s first book “The Art of the Deal“.

Working Poor

Working Poor by David K. Shipler is a terrific book. One of those books that helps you see the world through somebody else’s eyes. I remember standing behind a woman in Walmart once who didn’t have enough money to pay, and instead of taking out the DVD or the tennis shoes, she took out the food. The good food, not the junk food. Shipler’s book helped me to understand how someone could make that choice in that situation. He explains that the poor are in a cycle of poverty because they don’t have the skills or resources to teach their children better. I won’t try to explain it all to you – read the book! But I thought a couple of his concluding points were worth calling out.

– David Shipler advocates not for raising the minimum wage, but for creating a path to better jobs. People that start out at minimum wage should have a clear training or experience path to a job with better wages. There will always be people around to fill the entry jobs, however, to end the cycle of poverty, we have to allow those that are working hard and well to progress.

– Job education is key. Many children from poor families don’t learn the basics of job interviewing, showing up on time, customer service, etc. As hard as it is for some of us to accept that, we could do the best good by teaching them the basics. Shipler had quite a few positive examples in this space.

Through real people Shipler shows us what the life of the working poor is like in America. Check out a copy from your local library or click on the link to the right and buy it. Read it.


This BookMachine can print a book in five minutes. Select the book you want, insert your credit card, and in 5 minutes, your book comes out the slot. Imagine what this will mean to bookstores! To all the industries involved in getting books from publishing houses to bookstores!

Will your local chain bookstore still stock thousands of titles to browse through? Or just the bestsellers? Will there be “bookstore kiosks” at the local mall? The airport?

If these machines catch on and publishers buy into it, I would expect book prices to drop significantly as shipping costs decrease and overprinting and overstocking problems are eliminated completely.

10 Partisan Myths

I haven’t read this book, but I just added it to my wish list after reading this Newsweek summary.

“Running on Empty: In his new book, Peter G. Peterson, chairman of the Blackstone Group and a former secretary of Commerce, explains how the theological war between Republicans and Democrats is bankrupting our future” It seems to add factual material to my theory that we exaggerate the differences between the parties and follow our party’s belief a little too blindly.

Progress Paradox

I recently read the Progress Paradox by Gregg Easterbrook and really enjoyed it. In my mind the book had three parts.

In the first part, Easterbrook spends quite a bit of time explaining how much better off we are then humans have been at any point in history. More of us eat better, work less, are healthier and have more leisure time than any other point in history. He backs this up with a lot of detail and debunks quite a few myths. It was very interesting.

In the second part, Easterbrook theorizes on some of the reasons why we are almost always unhappy and why continuously strive to have more. Why do people want always bigger, better and more? One of the ideas I found intriguing is that maybe stress and the desire to accumulate things have been tied to success in the past. (The past of our species that is.)

In the last part, Easterbrook details his ideas for how life could be better for more people. His main point is that the US should have universal health care coverage. He also talks about giving more to developing nations and raising the minimum wage.

I recommend the book to anyone who likes to think about the state of our current society.

Perfectly Legal

If you own stock in an American company, you should read this book. If you pay taxes in America, you should read this book. Obviously, I think everyone should read the book.

Here’s my quick review. I’ll call out more detailed examples later:

David Johnston, a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter for the New York Times, describes what is wrong with our tax system. It taxes the poor and rewards the rich. It allows the rich and their decendents to continue getting richer while leaving middle class and upper middle class salary workers less and less to save.
Johnston covers a multitude of topics from:
– how the richest Americans are getting richer,
– to how the richest Americans pay the least percentage of their income in taxes (not the least because most of their income is not a salary),
– how executives abuse corporations, gaining huge incentives using such things as the corporate jet to defering income which allows them to pay less tax and gives the company less right offs,
– to how corporations aren’t honest with their stockholders on where the money is going,
– to how corporations report one set of profits to their shareholders and another to the IRS,
– to how corporations are paying less and less tax at the cost of the middle and upper middle class,
– to how Bush’s tax cuts won’t really benefit anyone making less than $500,000/yr because of the Alternative Minimum Tax, and he knew that,
– how the repeal of the “death tax” is really a “how to make the really rich richer” but doesn’t affect most of the US, including farmers, not a one of who has lost a farm to the estate tax,
– how Congress continues to pass tax laws and funding that meet the needs of the people that contribute to their campaigns, the rich,
– how the IRS polices the working poor and middle class to meet quotas instead of the really big scams that they know of that would bring in billions of dollars,
– and so on.

In conclusion, he says we all need to be well informed, talk to everyone we know, pay attention to the tax bills being passed, and push for more transparent tax law changes as well as a cleaning up of the tax bill and more funding to pursue the big time tax frauds.

Pattern Recognition

Pattern Recognition is a science fiction book by William Gibson that’s not science fiction. Everything in the story is current, deployed technology, but Gibson describes it a way that we see how different our culture is becoming because of technology. The main character, Cayce Pollard, is a brand specialist; she’s a contractor that helps corporations determine if their brands will work or not. She also has a very different way of observing the world, and although it took me a while to appreciate it, Gibson’s style of describing everyday occurences through Cayce’s eyes really grew on me. Cayce starts the book out working on a contract in London and is soon traveling around the world to solve the mystery of the “footage”. The “footage” is a series of film clips being released on the web that has gathered a following, almost a cult, that is obsessed with figuring out if the footage is from one film, if the film is finished or not, and who is the producer. It’s a good mystery as well. I enjoyed this book immensely both as a mystery and as a not-so-science-fiction book.

Off with Their Heads by Dick Morris

Ordinarily, I would never comment or rank a book that I didn’t finish, but this one bugged me enough to make an exception. “Off with Their Heads” is well ranked on, but a closer look shows that people either love it or hate it. I hated it – or at least I hated the first chapter. Dick Morris’ book is supposedly what happened to our sense of unity and determination after 9/11. He blames a number of organizations and people for “sidetracking” us and devotes a section to each of them. The first section was about the New York Times. Morris claims that the NYT’s is now extremely liberal and that they slant their poll numbers (that was interesting) and pick their stories to align with their beliefs. While I personally believe every newspaper picks stories that align with their beliefs, and I have no problem with it, I just like to know about it, so I was looking forward to hearing his NYT story. However, other than the issue of the poll numbers, all I heard was rants. Morris was very upset that any front page space was given to the civil rights of prisoners, the number of dead in Iraq, etc.
If the New York Times slanted their polls or weighted them inappropriately, then that’s wrong. If they gave titles to news stories that weighted the news towards one side or another of the story, then I agree they are biased but not necessarily wrong.
If the New York Times decides that the civil liberties issue as manifested by the lack of prisoner rights granted to prisoners in Guantanomo Bay is a front page issue, then I think they have the right to put the story on the front page. I think it is front page news. I don’t think it should be withheld because it might detract from our support of the Iraq War. I think it’s atrocious that we don’t give our prisoners captured during time of war (not those captured on the battlefield, but those captured in civilian places, like the Chicago airport) the same democratic process and “innocent until proven guilty” as every other citizen. We need to practice what we believe in. That is a separate, although not unrelated, issue than whether or not we should support a war in Iraq.

Electronic Textbooks

Yahoo! News – Short on Books, Texas School Uses Laptops. There’s a school in Texas that plans to hand out laptops with electronic copies of all the textbooks (plus 2000 other books) to every 5th and 6th grader. I think this is great! I always wanted electronic copies of my textbooks for several reasons:
– It would weigh a lot less. Imagine being able to cart around all 5-10 textbooks and all your reference material in a laptop that weighs 2-10 pounds! You’d no longer be tied to the library nor your dorm room. (And in this case we won’t be hurting the backs of 10 year olds.)
– You can take notes right on the book.
– You can search both your notes and the books, extremely easily.
I hope more schools and universities follow this trend!

Downsize This! by Michael Moore

At the recommendation of a friend, I read “Downsize This!” by Michael Moore. I found it a funny and provocative book about the state of business and politics in America. Be warned! – Nobody will be able to read this book without being offended by something. At the same time, nobody will be able to read this book without finding at least one issue that they think is important. If even half the facts in the book are true (and Moore says they all are), then there are a lot of things wrong in America right now. My favorite chapters were the ones on corporate welfare (he tells about how many millions of dollars in aid some large corporations receive from our government and how they repay our tax money by laying off people) and the ones on loyalty that a company does (or doesn’t) owe to the city or state that gave it tax breaks and incentives to do business there. He gives examples of companies that receive $100,000s in tax breaks from a city and turn around and move their plants to other cities.

I guarantee that something in the book will make you stop and think. Something else in the book will probably upset you too. It’s a comedy – mostly satiric – but with a point.