radicalbooks

I’ve heard it said that when you’re feeling a little burned out, you should read a radical book. Yesterday, I took to twitter to ask for recommendations for radical books, using the hashtag #RecommendARadicalBook. What followed was an embarrassment of riches, one that continues into today as people continue to make wonderful recommendations on the hashtag.

I have attempted to compile the suggestions, and note the twitter handle of the person(s) who recommended the book. I have listed those works available for free online first, followed by those in print. When links to places to buy books were provided (or, where I felt compelled to look them up myself), they are listed.

Since I cannot hope to maintain this as the list continues to grow, I have duplicated this on a wiki, and would welcome those who wish to, to continue to add to it: http://recommendaradicalbook.wikia.com.

So here’s to a summer of radical reading. Because, as Milena Bereket pointed out, “#CONTEXT (which u wont find on CNN & co!) is everything!”

Happy Reading!

Recommendations Available Online:

Recommendations Available in Print:

Out of Print Recommendations:

  • HISTORIA DE UN DEICIDIO: a conversation btween Vargas Llosa & García Marquez @blogdiva

Resources for Radical Reading Online (& Off):


You’ve probably noticed the “View Summary” link on certain tweets:
viewsummary

Clicking it opens up a nice preview of the linked content, often with an image. These previews are generated by setting up what the Twitter API calls a “Twitter Card.”

I wanted to set this up for BecauseFinanceIsBoring.com, which uses Tumblr, but runs on a custom domain. I found a great article reviewing how to do this by Samantha John, founder of Hopscotch (an iPad programming language to get kids coding!). Her overview was super helpful, but her gist didn’t work for me–she’s using a different Twitter Card than the one I wasted to use (summary_large_image).

So, I forked it, played around, and made it work! Here’s my forked gist https://gist.github.com/alexisgo/9822047 with all the code you need to add a large image preview Twitter Card.

There was one wrinkle for me, which is that on my tumblr, I almost exclusively use Text Posts. Tumblr has a variable to grab images from an individual post, but it’s only available to Photo type posts–and I use Text type posts. So I didn’t know what to set the content to on the twitter:image:src meta tag: <meta name=”twitter:image:src” content=”http://placekitten.com/250/250/”>.

But what I discovered is that if I leave out this meta tag, twitter seems to pick the final image in the post, and use that for the preview image, which works well enough for my purposes.


For an upcoming post on Because Finance is Boring, I compiled the following tables comparing two Wall Street regulators budgets, employees, number of Dodd-Frank rules completed, budget requests, and enforcement actions.

CFTC vs SEC: Rules Finalized, # Employees, Budget

Dodd-Frank Rules Finalized
(as of March 2014)
# Full Time Employees
(FY 2013)
FY 2013 Budget Budget $ per Dodd-Frank Rule
CFTC 50 682 $206 million $4.1 million
SEC 42 4,023 $1.255 billion $29.8 million

CFTC Budget Request, as Compared to the Size of the Derivatives Market is Regulates

Fiscal Year CFTC Request President’s Budget Appropriation Total Derivatives Notional Held by U.S. Banks
2003 $92.5 million $82.8 million $85.4 million $71 trillion
2004 $110.5 million $88.4 million $89.9 million $88 trillion
2005 $110.6 million $95.3 million $93.6 million $101 trillion
2006 $112.1 million $99.4 million $97.4 million $161 trillion
2007 $136.2 million $127.4 million $98 million $166 trillion
2008 $138.7 million $116 million $111.3 million $200 trillion
2009 $151 million $130 million $146 million $213 trillion
2011 $191 million $160.6 million $168.8 million $231 trillion
2011 $216.2 million $261 million $202.3 million $231 trillion
2012 $349 million $340 million $205.3 million $223 trillion
2013 $317.4 million $308 million $206 million $240 trillion
2014 $315 million $215 million  TBD
2015 $280 million TBD  TBD

Sources:

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 11.25.09 AM

Continue reading ‘CFTC and SEC Budget Requests, Completed Rules, Enforcement Actions’


On March 7th, 2014, I submitted the following comment to the United States Department of State on whether or not it is in the national interest to grant a Presidential Permit to TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

You can find a PDF version of this comment here.

March 6th, 2014
Robin L. Dunnigan
Director
Office of Europe, the Western Hemisphere and Africa
Bureau of Energy Resources
U.S. Department of State.
Re: Presidential Permit Applications: TransCanada
Keystone Pipeline, L.P, National Interest Determination (Docket #: DOS-2014-0003)
Dear Ms. Dunnigan,
This letter is being submitted in response to the solicitation for public comment issued by the U.S. Department of State, with regard to if TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P.’s application for a
Presidential Permit would serve the national interest.
I am writing as a concerned United States citizen. I work as a freelance journalist, and have contributed to The Nation, The Washington Post the American Prospect, and N+1. In addition, I currently serve as the Communications Director for the nonprofit group The Other 98%. I spent seven years working on Wall Street, in both the cash equity and equity derivatives spaces, across three firms: Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank. Finally, I was a co-author of the “Occupy the SEC” comment letter[1] on the “Volcker Rule,” Section 619 of Dodd-Frank, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. I am writing this letter in a personal capacity.The TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline Project (hereinafter “Keystone XL”) is not in the national interest of the United States of America, nor does it advance the State Department’s mission of creating a more secure, democratic, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community. Continue reading ‘Comment Letter: US State Dept Must Reject Keystone XL’

Cross-posted with permission from Because Finance Is Boring.

Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. Many on the Left are using this opportunity to bring new life to a much-aligned idea: that there is a role for government in fighting poverty.

On the Right, LBJ’s War on Poverty drew criticism from Milton Friedman and his seems to be the prevailing ideology today. The refrain goes: these sorts of programs are going to disincentivize work and be exploited. The belief was that the best way to fight poverty is by growing the economy, which is best done by shrinking government.

It’s not surprising this belief in advancing the economy as a means to ending poverty prevailed: it’s a convenient theory for those in power. 95% of the gains from the 2009-2012 economic recovery went to the 1%. This ideology serves a dual purpose for the wealthy: it lines their pockets and it absolves their consciences. Believing that promoting the very economic growth that enriches the elite will also magically eradicate poverty is a rewarding mythos and a salve to the conscience.

While the Right have been very effective in criticizing this war on poverty, the Left has let them set the agenda, and by doing so, has been on the defensive ever since. President Bill Clinton best symbolizes this capitulation when he enacted welfare reform, the “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act” which added work requirements and created a lifetime limit of 5 years of benefits. Bill DeBlasio, the new mayor of New York City who ran on a progressive platform, was just sworn-in by former President Clinton. What does this say about the commitment of our so-called progressive candidates to truly move forward?

Continue reading ‘The War on Poverty is Still a Political Plaything’


It took me seven years to learn about Wall Street what Federico Garcia Lorca gleaned simply by witnessing the 1929 Market crash. An excerpt from a lecture he gave at Columbia University in October 1929:

The truly savage and frenetic part of New York…the terrible, cold, cruel part, is Wall Street.

Rivers of gold flow there from all over the earth, and death comes with it. There, as nowhere else, you feel a total absence of the spirit: herds of men who cannot count past three, herds more who cannot get past six, scorn for pure science and demoniacal respect for the present. And the terrible thing is that the crowd that fills this street believes that the world will always be the same, that it is their duty to keep that huge machine running, day and night, forever. This is what comes of a Protestant morality that I as a (thank God) typical Spaniard found unnerving.

I was lucky enough to see with my own eyes the recent stock-market crash, where they lost several billion dollars, a rabble of dead money that went sliding off into the sea. Never as then, amid suicides, hysteria, and groups of fainting people, have I felt the senstation of real death, death without hope, death that is nothing but rottenness, for the spectacle was terrifying but devoid of greatness. And I, who come from a country where, as the great father Unamuno said, “at night the earth climbs to the sky,” I felt something like a divine urge to bombard that whole canyon of shadow, where ambulances collected suicides whose hands were full of rings.

-Federico Garcia Lorca
Lecture: A Poet in New York
Lorca at Columbia, October 1929
Translated by Christopher Mauer
From the bilingual edition of Poet in New York, with translation by Greg Simon and Steven F. White


Today, I was on the Up with Chris Hayes show to discuss the comments made by President Obama and Governor Romney about Dodd-Frank in the first president debates.

There is much to say on this topic, more than can fit even into a long-form program like Up with Chris, so I wanted to present some of my preparation notes on the topics discussed.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I think Dodd-Frank does not go far enough, and that I want to see bank executives behind bars for the crimes leading up to, and following, the financial crisis. But I also believe there is much in Dodd-Frank that is important, and we need to acknowledge that, or we will lose it to the many efforts already underway to gut it. Thus, it is important that we understand what Dodd-Frank does, giving credit where it’s due.

Does Dodd-Frank Designate Banks as Too Big to Fail?

In the debate, Romney stated that Dodd-Frank “designates a number of banks as too big to fail, and they’re effectively guaranteed by the federal government. This is the biggest kiss that’s been given to — to New York banks I’ve ever seen.

What Romney is referring to is a designation of being a “Systemically Important Financial Institution” or SIFI for short. But this designation does NOT designate a bank as Too Big to Fail. Further, Wall Street does not see being slapped with the SIFI label as a boon. This was pointed out well by Rep. Maxine Waters in an article at the Huffington Post.

As just one example of how much Wall Street hates the SIFI label, take a look at how Jamie Dimon complained about the SIFI requirements to Fed Chairman Bernanke back in 2011. As another example, Alice Joe, who is the executive director for the (unflinchingly pro-Wall Street) Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness has said thatThere’s a huge, huge cost in becoming a designated SIFI.”

Continue reading ‘Dodd-Frank, the Debates, and TBTF’


Shit Is Fucked Up And Bullshit

Image by baslow on flickr

I have been anxiously awaiting the public release of Chris Hayes’ book “Twilight of the Elites” (available at Powells, Amazon) for some time now, because this is a book that leaves one yearning for conversation, dialogue and, yes, debate, about its content. So for the tl;dr crowd, let me begin by saying this was a book I found so stimulating and immersive that I cannot wait to be able to discuss it with a larger audience.

An oft-photographed sign at OWS events is the much-quoted “SHIT IS FUCKED UP AND BULLSHIT.” Hayes’s eminently well-written book outlines in a plethora of areas exactly why that is the case, and how we got there. Even if you think you are aware of the depth of the rot plaguing the highest levels of our society, you will likely earn a new level of outrage by reading this book.

At its heart, Twilight of the Elites is an indictment of the meritocracy—or what passes for it. A compelling revelation that comes early in the book is the bastard etymology of the very word “meritocracy.” The man who coined the term, Michael Young, did so in a book that was written as a satire, though not read as one by the general public.
Continue reading ‘Twilight of the Elites: A Review’


This is an article that I wrote that was originally published in n+1 ‘s fourth issue of the Occupy! gazette

When some people think about Wall Street, they conjure up images of traders
shouting on the stock exchange, of bankers dining at five-star restaurants, of
CEOs whispering in the ears of captured Congress members.

When I think about Wall Street, I think about its stunted rainbow of pale
pastel shirts. I think about the vaulting, highly secured, and very cold lobbies.
And I think about the art passed daily by the harried workers, virtually unseen.

Before I occupied Wall Street, Wall Street occupied me. What started as a
summer internship led to a seven-year career. During my time on Wall Street, I
changed from a curious college student full of hope for my future, into a cynical, bitter, depressed, and exhausted “knowledge worker” who felt that everyone was out to screw me over.

The culture of Wall Street is pervasive and contagious. While there are Wall
Street employees who are able to ignore it, or block it out, I was not one of
them. I drank the Kool Aid. I’m out of it now. But I’d like to tell you what it was
like.

+ + +

When you are wealthy and successful, you have a choice. You can believe your
success stems from luck and privilege, or you can believe it stems from hard
work. Very few people like to view their success as a matter of luck. And so,
perhaps understandably, most people on Wall Street believe they have earned
their jobs, and the money that follows.

While there are many on Wall Street who come from wealthy backgrounds,
there are also many people from very humble backgrounds. In my experience,
it is often those who do not come from privilege who are the system’s fiercest
defenders.

When I was a summer intern, Continue reading ‘Leaving Wall Street’


telephoneOn April 26th, Senators Levin (D-MI) and Merkley (D-OR) put out a letter calling on our financial regulators to finalize a strong version of the Volcker Rule by the summer. Twenty-two Senators signed the letter.

There is a draft companion letter circulating today in the House of Representatives that is being led by Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR3), Rep. Waters (D-CA35) and many other representatives. It is important that as many members of the House of Representatives as possible co-sign the companion letter. This would show the regulators that Congress is looking to them to complete the Volcker Rule by the summer, without loopholes.

If you want to help, call your representatives and tell them to co-sign Rep. Blumenauer, Waters & others Volcker Rule letter! (But wait, what should I say?)

Brief Background on the Volcker Rule

man carrying a bag of money
Haven’t heard about the Volcker Rule? At its heart, it’s about preventing banks that enjoy an implicit government backing from GAMBLING. On Wall Street, gambling is called proprietary trading. The basic idea is that banks that have received billions in TARP money and more billions in secret Fed loans (that were not disclosed to the public nor to Congress until Bloomberg filed a Freedom of Information Act request) shouldn’t get to act like a Hedge Fund, or someone “feeling lucky” in Vegas.

The Volcker Rule was a part of the 2010 law, Dodd-Frank. And as with many complex laws, Congress placed the responsibility of actually writing the final rule with the financial regulators: the SEC, OCC, Fed, FDIC and CFTC. These Agencies have released a draft of the rule, solicited public comment, and are now writing the final version of the rule.

It is important that the regulators write a strong final version of the rule without loopholes, but it is equally important that they not delay finalizing the rule. The letter from Merkley’s office, and the companion House letter, urge the regulators on just these points.

If you want to rein in Wall Street, and ensure that we have an insurance policy against future bailouts, you should call your House representative and ask him/her to co-sign Rep. Blumenauer et al’s Volcker Rule letter.

The easiest way to do this is to call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121, and ask for your Representative’s office by name. You can also look up your Representative on Open Congress.

But wait, what should I say?

When you call, we suggest you tell the staffer:

I am your constituent, and I am calling to ask Rep. _____ to co-sign the Volcker Rule letter being circulated by Rep. Blumenauer and Rep. Waters. The letter calls on the regulators to finalize a strong Volcker Rule by this summer.

In case the person you speak to needs more information about the Volcker Rule, you could tell them:

The Volcker Rule is section 619 of the Dodd-Frank Act. It is an important rule that will help address systemic risks to our banking system and the Too Big to Fail status of institutions managing trillions of federally insured deposits. I support the rule and ask you to co-sign the letter from Rep. Blumenauer and Rep. Waters.

If you want to learn more, may I recommend:
What is the Volcker Rule?
What was Glass-Steagall?



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