01-23-2013 | The Yesferatu Collection

January has been a remarkable month for donations and I'm a grateful mammal. I will be thanking several folks this month, but first, someone with the (kinda awesome) handle of Yesferatu has committed to a monthly donation for the purpose of rebuilding a parapolitics library here in Vermont. The first batch arrived shortly before my last business trip to DC, so the photo above represents an attempt at starting an interesting conversation with a TSA employee. Alas, it was not to be...although I did have plenty to read at the bar.

My first five picks might look random, but that's only because they are. William Blum's "Killing Hope" is, of course, a flatly essential piece of work, being a comprehensive history of US military (and intelligence) "interventions" post WWII. The scope is encyclopedic, the sourcing is rigorous, and this book has stood up to many lavishly funded attempts at "debunking" the narrative contained here. I may in fact purchase several more copies. I have strange priorities.

I haven't read "The Iron Triangle" since shortly after 9/11 happened, and it is awe-inspiring to consider how little I resemble that version of myself here in 2013. 10,000 personal observations aside, that also meant that this was a brand-new book and I read it the night it showed up. I had no context for the players and history here until fairly recently, and this is a small but valuable puzzle piece for mapping the National Security State. I have been going back through to connect dots and follow up on notable paragraphs ever since.

Eric J. Weiner wrote my all-time favorite book on Wall Street ("What Goes Up") and does a great job of being "accessible" to shit-stupid popular audiences while still providing clear thinking, meaty facts, and no Friedmanesque metaphors in sight. That said, "The Shadow Market" is a very flawed book. Hard to say which is worse: how perishable the narrative is as the global economy continues to unravel, or the simple fact that "The Shadow Market" is an actual finance economics term with a long-established meaning that has nothing -- NOTHING -- to do with the subject of Weiner's actual book. He is writing about how the rest of the world has stepped into the black hole of the "global" credit/solvency crisis that began in 2008, which is a fascinating and important subject, and he gives a fast-paced tour. There is not a single page here, however, regarding derivatives, dark pools, private exchanges, or rehypothecation. Although these are facts with an expiration date, I still give it a thumbs up.

I am partial to the work of Jeff Wells, so I should qualify my recommendations of the very imperfect "Rigorous Intuition." Without question, it is basically a bound collection of blog posts. The fact those blog posts are quite poetic and often cover important material that barely exists in print, well, that might not matter to you. Although I wish this had been fleshed out into more of a book proper, it's far preferable to being on a f'ing computer and the sheer range of material here makes it one hell of a gateway drug or general introduction to...well, The Gaping Maw.

Re-reading Daniel Hopsicker's "Welcome to Terrorland," I am appreciating how much this book influenced me. When I first read this, I found his writing style irritating but the facts were the star of the show. So granted, I wish Hopsicker didn't speak in the third person, wouldn't waste column inches with personal gossip from anonymous sources, and second-guessed himself more often. Still, nobody else wrote a book about Mohammed Atta that comes anywhere close to being honest. Until then, this strange little book remains essential.

Edit: Oh yeah - so how did a book I still don't really like manage to influence me? Hopsicker stays focused on drugs and money, to the limited extent there is a difference. Whatever else can be said about "Terrorland," at no point does he wander away from his story. No geopolitics, no history expositions, no writerly pretension, just a police blotter, gumshoe narrative of his attempt to break a story. That story is one we talk about a lot here: the ongoing and global reality that "illegal" economies in drugs, prostitution, assassination and weapons are a major source of revenue for the same governments who criminalize them.

Another day in paradise, though: no biggie.

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