Latest read: The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires

Tim Wu’s second book The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires is wonderful examination how American information empires were established and stifled innovation at the same time. This is my second book by Wu following his brilliant Who Controls the Internet.
The Master SwitchWu identifies long business cycles surrounding the birth of information systems. While they begin open over time they were consolidated and driven by the market to become closed.

We displays how they become open again following amazing innovations force a business change in order to survive in the new marketplace.

The Master Switch opens with the birth of the Bell AT&T telephone monopoly. This is a facinating story when held against the garage startups of Apple and Google.

There is an amazing look at how countries and cultures also view information empires differently. The case for Wu is the capitalist, independent market approach to radio vs the UK’s BBC dominated by the royal family.

The Master Switch reveals how four key markets actually hold government infrastructure: telecommunications, banking, energy and transportation. These four and their capitalist owners for generations established control over any citizen’s attempt at challenging their monopolies. The lesson Wu establishes is corporate control by closed technologies. Yet one cannot help but understand they magically protected the country from the devastating affects of revolution leading up to and more importantly the horrific aftermath of World War I that forever removed Paris as the hub for film entertainment.
Continue reading “Latest read: The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires”

My latest read – 13 Bankers

Reading 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown can be considered a good introduction to the country’s long relationship between Wall Street and Congress.  A new reference for how our country began its relationship with Wall Street and the massive changes during the Reagan, Clinton, W. Bush and Obama Administrations reveal how well the financial elite have directed legislation in Congress.
To read about how our republics leaders’ viewed banking was a refresher.  Of course it would be a great insight to hear their views of the 2007-2009 financial collapse and the new banking world we must struggle through.

Clearly Congress was pitched a bill of goods manipulated by Wall Street. That simply bit them in the ass.  I was amused to see how they were asking for the government to bail them out when their house of cards folded in on them.  And yet I’m amused to read and listen to “specialists” or “experts in the field” in the financial marketplace or even the vast field of TV “analysts” who say the government is socialist for ”buying” the banks.

TARP was issued under W. Bush?  If the Treasury did not step in and bail out Wall Street we would be in the middle of a global revolution.  Sure — ignore it all and watch our entire economy totally collapse.

I was impressed with the book’s level of detail surrounding the relationships between W. Bush and Obama’s senior leadership (who transitioned to the Democratic White House) and their twisted histories with the major banks on Wall Street.  Its clear the amount of money funneling through Congress today provides Wall Street with a clear avenue to set policy — and even give away free money.  Well its not exactly free…the money handed to Wall Street to protect their horrible investment decisions on terms they could bargain for collectively.  And of course they all took it.

As Jamie Dimon from JPMorgan Chase stated, somehow during the financial  collapse they managed to have the best year in the company’s history — and paid out billions in bonus compensation while most Americans who purchased their products lost everything:  jobs, mortgages and ultimately their future as a result of the recession that followed.

13 Bankers blog
13 Bankers - Simon Johnson

Latest read: Ahead of the Curve

The title of Philip Delves Broughton‘s Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School was interesting enough to jump on my reading list but when I began to see his book mentioned in blogs and on twitter I pulled it from my wish list and dropped it into my cart.  It was not a mistake. The opportunity to learn about the life of a Harvard MBA candidate is a pretty interesting read.

Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business SchoolBroughton is the former Paris bureau chief for The Daily Telegraph of London. His writing was easy, flowing and pleasant.  Broughton was also very human in his approach to writing about the elite training ground for the high stress world of finance, venture capital and banking.

Broughton was also able to describe those MBA alums who spoke of those demands and losing wives and children to the long hours of business.  It was a bit odd to read that more than a few alums went through the divorce process four times.

Worse yet was those few who admitted their own children did not know who they were due to those demanding hours.  Most wanted their MBA to provide for their family while in fact they were losing touch with them in the process…all for the glory of wealth and fame.

And yes it was interesting to hear how his class of 2006 could land $400,000 jobs, his thirteen interviews with Google were pretty demanding.

In the end he skipped his graduation on a rainy Saturday in to take his infant son to his favorite Boston spot for cannoli.  At one point in my life I would have ridiculed this man for skipping his Harvard commencement.  For $175,000 (minus his new BMW — see below) you better be sure I would show up come rain or snow for that moment.  Today with two small children and a backdrop of a soggy event on Harvard Square I kinda understood his decision.

I was impressed with his review of their first year known as RC: required cirriculum.  The demands of Harvard’s case studies was rather impressive as their main tool for teaching.  And from the looks of it those case studies required round the clock research and planning.  The feel of his fellow students all aiming for post Harvard success was an interesting read, especially from the foreign students.  Most of his fellow students agreed they did not want to be called upon to review a case study.  The demands were extremely high and Broughton described a couple of painful episodes of his participation and those by his fellow students.
Continue reading “Latest read: Ahead of the Curve”

Latest read: China Shakes the world

I found myself fascinated by China Shakes the World: A Titan’s Rise and Troubled Future – and the Challenge for America by James Kynge. Yet most of the time I was also infuriated over how America has fallen asleep regarding China’s threat to our economy.  Kynge has written an excellent book that should be read by every school teacher, mayor and businessman.

It was my goal to finish this book before the end of the summer Olympic games.  But I needed time to finish Randy Pauch‘s one of a king book The Last Lecture (review is here) so this week was plenty of time to complete this book.

Infuriating?  Yes Kynge shares a startling story about how the Chinese almost secured the assets to the American company that produces stealth coating to the B-2 bomber.  Yes THAT Stealth Bomber.  Now are you interested in what Hynge has to say?  It was Financial Time’s Book of the Year.

So how does America’s secret stealth technology (a skin made with highly specialized thermoplastics and composites which are radar-absorbent) come within arms reach of the communist Chinese?  Did they try to steal it?   No, they almost purchased the technology outright.

What about pirating and corporate espionage? China plays this game very well too.  And based upon the communist’s approach to banking, well lets just say their idea of business as usual includes very loose, corrupt accounting…kinda reminds me of Enron.

If you are frustrated with the RIAA’s music lawsuits against college kids encourage the RIAA to go to source in this matter: China.  The Chinese have truly become the world’s leading Pirate Nation. A word of note to the music and movie industry: Do you really believe your lawsuits against college kids is making a dent in your attempt to stop pirating?  Go to China.

The Chinese impact
It’s not on the gold medal stand in women’s gymnastics.  As the saying goes … if your not cheating, your not winning.  Regardless, it was the American gymnast Sacromone who fell of the beam and floor exercise that cost the team gold medal.  I know the Olympics bring out national pride. We all feel good about cheering for our athletes during the 16 days of competition.  But what about the other 349 days of 2008?
Continue reading “Latest read: China Shakes the world”