Monday, December 17, 2012

Extremely disappointed in the Madoff book "The Wizard of Lies" by author Diana B. Henriques

Extremely disappointed in the Madoff book "The Wizard of Lies" by author Diana  B. Henriques

I've read in book or audio book almost every book written about Bernard Madoff, the New York hedge fund financier who stole more than $50 billion in his ponzi scheme that was revealed in December 2008 when he confessed to his two sons, who were highly paid officers of his company.

The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust | [Diana B. Henriques]I was looking forward to reading the book "The Wizard of Lies" by Diana B. Henriques, who was the lead writer for the New York Times in covering the Madoff scandal, especially since it was announced that it was the basis for the upcoming HBO movie about Madoff being played by actor Robert DeNiro.

Although the book includes a lot of details gleaned no doubt from her years of covering the scandal, it also includes what looks like a pitch to forgive Madoff's wife and two sons and to exculpate or clear them of any wrongdoing.

It's almost as if Henriques was paid by someone in the Madoff family to make them look good, or maybe she got to close to the Madoff family. It's that bad!

She goes to nauseating lengths to question public beliefs that the wife, Ruth Madoff, and their two sons Mark and Andrew were guilty in the unprecedented ponzi scam. How could his wife and two sons, especially because they were involved in the company, not have been involved? Madoff's younger brother Peter was the Senior Managing Director and Chief Compliance Officer for Madoff's firm. Is it possible that these close family members worked without even a hint of the scam that wa staking place.

Although Madoff is now serving a 150 year federal prison sentence, the fact is that he broke the scam in a private conversation with his two sons and later his wife. That was almost two days before Madoff was arrested. The sons went to federal authorities to report what their father had told them.

Was that staged to protect them? They haven't spoken with him since the confession, and Mark later committed suicide exactly two years after the Ponzi scheme was revealed.

If someone was going to do a movie about Madoff, they might consider doing a fictionalized version since Madoff avoided a public trial where facts and truths would be put to the test, and immediately confessed his guilt. His wife, Ruth, was left with more than $2.5 million, certainly no where near the hundreds of millions they spent in their lavish lifestyle each year, but it is more than enough for her to lvie comfortably.

Henriques goes out of her way to defend Ruth and the sons, questioning without any facts their innocence.

The story HBO should do is one that speculates on the fictionalized reality of what may have happened. Did someone get to Henriques, the lead reporter at the New York Times. Billions of dollars were involved in the scam and many people had much to lose? She writes in defense of Ruth and the family as if she was their PR agent, not an investigative reporter. For example, she offers excruciating detail about Bernie Madoff but very little substantive detail about the actual roles of Ruth and her sons in the Madoff family business.

Why shouldn't the public believe in this speculative treacheries? The fact is that Harry Markopolos handed the Madoff case to the Securities and Exchange Commission at least twice, and hounded the SEC on the topic for years. Why didn't the SEC take the case seriously? Why didn't they do their job? It's almost as if someone at the SEC was protecting Madoff. (Markopolos was a strange character who contributed to the fact that few people believed his "evidence" of a ponzi scheme. He clearly was good at making enemies not believers, though he had a few.)

This book was doing great until the author started her dive in defense of the Madoff family.

It just is not possible that the wife and sons knew nothing. It's more likely that they knew something than not, given their roles int he company and their lifestyle. They had a motive to lie. They could have gone to jail, too.

The fact that the two sons never spoke to their father doesn't suggest as Henriques writes that they were so angry and anguished at their father, but rather than only in a conspiracy of silence (Code of Silence is what the police call it) that two sons would not speak to a father who gave them so much. What did they earn? They were handed their careers and their hundreds of millions that funded their own lavish lifestyle. They had a lot to lose to have spoken to their father. And wouldn't a father warn his sons not to speak to him again for fear they might lose everything? That's the kind of love one might expect from a family of vicious greedy financial jackals.

Henriques doesn't build much sympathy for Madoff but she clearly presents a case the wife and children need.

A court never got a chance to review the facts, so a book by a New York Times reporter would be just as good. Or would it?

Henriques comes across biased, which is not surprising considering she was one of the few if only reporters Madoff agreed to be interviewed by for her book.

What does that tell you? Madoff may have been a liar and a thief, but he is not stupid.

--- Ray Hanania

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Total Recall: Schwarzenegger's unbelievably fascinating book

Total Recall: Schwarzenegger's unbelievably fascinating book

Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger has not received a lot of good reviews. In fact, you might observe that the reviews are snarky, nasty and really mean in some cases.

Schwarzenegger was a great actor, a very good governor of California, a decent husband with faults and an author dedicated to minute detail of his life.

Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life StoryI found the book fascinating. Schwarzenegger offers a refreshing candor and detail that may sound drab and boring to the critics, but describes who he really is. Schwarzenegger is an immigrant from Austria -- maybe the reason why the media hates him so much, they loath anyone from the "Aryan" or Germanic heritages -- a successful body builder, a very good actor and a politician. He married into the Kennedy dynasty, wedding Maria Shriver, the daughter of Sargeant and Eunice Shriver.

He overcome huge obstacles with pure determination and belief in himself to rise up to become one of the most successful and recognized bodybuilders in the World.

He parlayed that into Hollywood movies, starring in several of my absolute favorite films. In his book, Schwarzenegger offers insights and remembrances of events that are fascinating.

I listened to the audio book. Three large files of about 9 hours each.

His story is an immigrant success story. He became governor when everyone said he couldn't, including his wife. Yet he did it. he didn't go off the deep end like former Governor Jesse Ventura, nor did he become the political icon like Ronald Reagan. But he left a lasting legacy in California.

It is amazing how easily the public is manipulated by a partisan and biased media. Many of the writers hate Schwarzenegger. He was a centrist Republican, something liberals loath even more than right wing fanatic Republicans because the centrists are so much harder to discredit.

He overcame many obstacles to become successful and his book should inspire others to pursue their dreams and their goals without fear. Schwarzenegger did it and he hopes you are inspired to do the same.

He doesn't dwell on the most recent news and scandal to haunt his career. He cheated on his wife and had a baby with the woman who was a housemaid. It happened 14 years ago. He didn't even know he had the child until many years later. But Shriver had heard the rumors and confronted Arnold just after Arnold left public life. At least she considered his career. Schwarzenegger talks about that event and apologizes for it. Not with excuses but with genuine remorse. He acknowledges he hurt his wife and his four children. That incident probably more than all the rest have pushed the critics to extremist assault against him.

Whatever Maria does, that is between the two of them. But it doesn't minimize his successful life and his inspiring story of an immigrant with so many things that might hold others back to become the success he did.

I loved the book. I urge you to read it or listen to the audio book, too.

-- Ray Hanania

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hawaii and the tragedy of its real history

Hawaii and the tragedy of its real history
Lost Kingdom: Hawaii's Last Queen, the Sugar Kings and America's First Imperial Adventure
By Julia Flynn Siler

Most Americans probably really don't know and don't care about the tragedy of Hawaii. All they see is a beautiful island of hula dancers and a dream vacation that often gather little more than dust in the bottom of the bucket lists of most Americans who never get to travel there.

Julia Flynn Siler's book "Lost Kingdom: Hawaii's Last Queen, the Sugar Kings and America's First Imperial Adventure" may sound like a boring academic look at a long gone history of the islands, but it instead a compelling narration of how explorers from Britain and later America's Missionaries destroyed the innocence of the Hawaii people.

First, it was Capt. James Cook of the British Royal Navy who accidentally stumbled upon the Hawaii Islands in the late 18th Century while looking for a sea route to Asia's wealth. When his ship landed, the islanders were a complex people with customs, culture and historic rituals dating back nearly two millennium settled originally by natives from the Polynesian Islands.

Cook brought fleas and gonorrhea to the people of the islands which he first named the Sandwich Islands in honor of another British Admiral.

Cook was killed during a battle with islanders but when his men returned to England they brought with them stories of great natural resources, wealth and beautiful naked women.  A few years later, a Methodist Priest Asa Thurston led a group of missionaries to the Sandwich Islands, which were later renamed Hawaii, in the hopes of civilizing the natives there. But in the 80 years since his landing in 1820, the missionaries became greedy prospectors, stealing the land and resources of the island and imprisoning the native Hawaiians with teachings of forgiveness and love -- forgiveness for the foreigner and suffering for the islanders.

By the end of the 19th Century, Hawaii's royal family was deposed and jailed and the descendants of the American missionaries had managed to put most of the land ownership and the economy of the islands in their own control and hands. Hawaii was annexed and in 1959 was incorporated as an American State, against the will of the island's natives.

Siler tells this story in a poignant, detailed manner. It's a compelling narration of destruction and tragedy. Beauty destroyed by the missionaries who were driven by evil interpretations of the Bible.

The story of Hawaii is tragic beyond comprehension. Man of the natural resources of the island were destroyed and driven to extinction, while imported resources like sugar and pineapples were exploited into industries controlled by the "Hawlay" or White People as the native Hawaiians called them.

I remember as a child how America celebrated the embrace of Hawaii. We were told that the Hawaiian people wanted to become a part of America, but we were never told the truth of how American businessmen and robber barons stole much of what is now an American colony.

America can claim many great accomplishments. But the story of Hawaii and the imprisonment of their culture, transforming it into a cheap tourist industry now overshadowed by the many Pacific battles of World War II that began with the Japanese attack against pearl Harbor in Oahu on Dec. 7, 1941.

This is a must read book that will open the reader's eyes to the truth. In 1993, President Clinton and the US Congress offered an apology to the people of Hawaii on the 100 year anniversary of the island's annexation by the United States. Later under President Obama, legislation was introduced to grant special status to the native Hawaiians similar to the rights given to the Native Americans on the American continent.

Too little, too late. But it's not too late to know the truth of this beautiful island's sad and tragic history.

Click here for more details.

-- Ray Hanania

500 Days, Kurt Eichenwald's eye-opening expose on the secrets and lies of the "war on terror"

500 Days, Kurt Eichenwald's eye-opening expose on the secrets and lies of the "war on terror"

Americans were consumed with emotions in the wake of the horrible murder of nearly 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001 that it is not surprising that many lies and exaggerations that played to the public's screams for revenge went unchallenged for years after.

But now, more than a decade since the horrific terrorist attacks that toppled the World Trade Center's Twin Towers in New York City, damaged the Pentagon and threatened destruction of the White House or the Congress, Americans might be ready for some truth when it comes to what we did and what we didn't do in response tot he terrorism.

Certainly Osama Bin Laden deserved his fate, killed in a late night assault by Navy Seal Team 6 on his home in a suburb of Pakistan earlier in May 2012. So many terrorists have been arrested and follow-up terrorist attacks have been thwarted since.

The extremes that Americans were taken by their drive for revenge, and the compromises of our principles and morals that were thrust upon the willing public by leaders driven by anger and vengeance, surely went far beyond what was justified.

No other author has had the courage to confront the lies in more documented detail than writer Kurt Eichenwald in his detailed look back on the events of the first 500 days after Sept. 11, 2001, "500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror War."

The book is a painful examination of the shortcuts on the fundamental principles that define America as the "leader of the free world." The most distressing stories involve the individuals who were arrested in Afghanistan or who were "identified" by other prisoners as being al-Qaeda terrorists when in fact they were innocent of any involvement in the terror crimes.

Dozens of innocent people -- maybe even hundreds of thousands -- were arrested and not only put in prison where their rights to defend themselves were denied under the pretext of fighting a war on terrorism, but they were tortured by American soldiers at Guantanamo and sent to be tortured by terrorist regimes that the United States has denounced, like Syria.

So troubling are some of the stories that Eichenwald details. Suspects were literally grabbed from the street after the United States offered to pay fortunes to anyone who would turn in an al-Qaeda operative. People were turning in their neighbors and rivals and without even double checking the facts, those turned in were grabbed and imprisoned and taken from their families without any information or ability for the civilians to defend themselves. Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered the prisoners to be arrested while the Justice Department labored to find ways to undermine the fundamental core values of our American judicial system to justify their criminal acts.

People were tortured to the point where they were forced to lie, lies that were then used as the basis of deciding how American military personal would engage the conflict, putting our soldiers' lives in jeopardy. In many cases, torture failed to produce any reliable results. Eichenwald details how the FBI managed to extract much useful information from real al-Qaeda prisoners through normal interrogation techniques only to have the results thrown out and the techniques replaced with physical torture by the CIA. The CIA and Cheney and Rumsfeld would then use the information obtained by the FBI to claim that they had extracted the information through the use of torture.

Americans were lied to and American soldiers were pushed to act like animals in their misconduct and war crimes against innocent civilians who were not involved in terrorism, but were suspected of terrorism because of their names, their religion and the physical appearances as people from the Middle East.

That no one in the United States even cared about all this is even more distressing, especially since the same torture techniques that were used by Americans will probably one day be used on American prisoners of war by our enemies.

The book is lengthy and detailed, but it is a compelling story that will captivate anyone who still believes that somewhere in today's America lie the ruins of a powerful Constitution and the principles of freedoms and civil rights.

This has been one of my favorite audio books so far.

-- Ray Hanania

Thursday, October 11, 2012

12:21 a novel by Dustin Thomason

Fiction: 12:21, a novel by Dustin Thomason

12.21: A NovelDustin Thomason's novel "12:21" explores the myths of the Mayan "long" Calendar which ends on Dec. 21, 2012.

The novel takes through a somewhat tortuous story line in which a Mayan descendant leaves an ancient Mayan city ruin carrying a disease similar to Mad Cow disease, and spreads it through the world.

Historically, Thomason offers some insight into the Mayan Calendar, but his writing style is stilted. Difficult to read. Not an easy flow.

Probably the best part oft he novel is his recreation of the ancient Mayan civilization and a fictionalized account of a brutal Mayan leader who turns to cannibalism. The story is built around the Mayan leaders scribe and the detail about ancient Mayan life brings this novel to life. Tragically, everything else is a let down.

It's very predictable. The events. The scenes. The dialogue.

The audio book is about 11 hours long.

Here is the book summary from

From the co-author of the two-million copy mega-bestsellerThe Rule of Four comes a riveting thriller with a brilliant premise based on the 2012 apocalypse phenomenon—perfect for readers of Steve Berry, Preston and Child, and Dan Brown.
For decades, December 21, 2012, has been a touchstone for doomsayers worldwide. It is the date, they claim, when the ancient Maya calendar predicts the world will end.
In Los Angeles, two weeks before, all is calm. Dr. Gabriel Stanton takes his usual morning bike ride, drops off the dog with his ex-wife, and heads to the lab where he studies incurable prion diseases for the CDC. His first phone call is from a hospital resident who has an urgent case she thinks he needs to see. Meanwhile, Chel Manu, a Guatemalan American researcher at the Getty Museum, is interrupted by a desperate, unwelcome visitor from the black market antiquities trade who thrusts a duffel bag into her hands.
By the end of the day, Stanton, the foremost expert on some of the rarest infections in the world, is grappling with a patient whose every symptom confounds and terrifies him. And Chel, the brightest young star in the field of Maya studies, has possession of an illegal artifact that has miraculously survived the centuries intact: a priceless codex from a lost city of her ancestors. This extraordinary record, written in secret by a royal scribe, seems to hold the answer to her life’s work and to one of history’s great riddles: why the Maya kingdoms vanished overnight. Suddenly it seems that our own civilization might suffer this same fate. 
With only days remaining until December 21, 2012, Stanton and Chel must join forces before time runs out.

-- Ray Hanania

Monday, October 1, 2012

Micro by Michael Crichton

Micro by Michael Crichton

This was one of my first audio books and it was phenomenal.

The story may be unbelievable but is any science fiction techno-thriller believable these days?

The book is well written. The plot is tight. Basically, it's a story about a greedy corporate CEO who starts killing off people to preserve his profits.

But the real attraction of the book is the phenomenal detail that Crichton offers in terms of the insect world. In the book -- without giving anything away -- a group of students are miniaturized and they end up in a nearby rain forest. What they go through fighting off ants, beetles, wasps, bats and spiders is an exciting read.

Although the book is for mature readers, kids would love the story of how little people have to struggle to stay alive with now giant insects and animals surrounding them. How insects eat, breath and conduct themselves is offered from a close-up perspective or a micro-human being. Crichton describes home a wasp lays its eggs in a live host. How insects sense other potential prey in their environment.

I purchased this one on audio book and listened while in the Health Club. It made the workouts go by fast. I mean the narrative is that good that you lose a sense of time reading it. You get fully absorbed.

Click here for the book's info on

I highly recommend Micro. It is a fast and capturing read.

-- Ray Hanania