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Archive for March, 2008

Recommended Reading

Monday, March 31st, 2008

A quickie:

On managing our Return On Attention (ROA): John Robb discusses filtering obstacles and Ross Mayfield pushes a particular platform.

Abu Muqawama -“Thoughts About This article From the Observer

Points for amusing sarcasm and an accurate evaluation of the character of Left-wing Brit newspapers

Thomas P.M. Barnett -“China’s capitalism isn’t so foreign

Happened to have a number of conversations this weekend about the business culture in China: one from a newbie buyer back from her first overseas trip to Shanghai and the other from a part owner of a sizable export-import company just returned from Shenzhen. The latter compared the Chinese “hunger” to do business very favorably to the redtape climate he experiences in India.

That’s it!

Resting on my Laurels

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

I noticed this morning that last month I hit the five year mark as a blogger. Last week, at some point, I went over 250,000 hits. The interesting thing is that it took me almost five years to accumulate 200,000 hits but only five months to rack up the next 50,000+ .  A good trend in my view, for which I would like to thank my readers and commenters – it is your interest and stimulating feedback that makes Zenpundit worth doing.

In honor of this anniversary, I’m taking the day off and will return to blogging Sunday night. Have a great weekend everyone and thanks!

Bacevich at Progressive Historians

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Jeremy Young, primus inter pares of Progressive Historians , had breakfast with noted military writer, Iraq war critic and professor, Colonel Andrew Bacevich and has a a review of Bacevich’s lecture at Indiana University:

Generally, one doesn’t think of columnists as being engaging speakers, so I was pleasantly surprised when Bacevich proved the exception to the rule. He held forth for about forty-five minutes before a crowd of about 200 people, packed into a room that seated about 75. Bacevich’s main argument was that in the aftermath of 9/11, the administration had developed what he termed the “freedom agenda,” which rested on three assumptions: that American military power was invincible, that the greater Middle East was ripe for transformation, and that it was possible for Americans to instill democracy in the region at a minimal cost. Subsequent events, of course, have proved all three of these assumptions wrong. Today, Bacevich argued, America’s military and foreign policy strategy has failed — and worse, the Bush Administration has no comprehensive, moral strategy to replace it.

….I asked Bacevich what he thought our future defense spending priorities should be. His response was that we should focus on beefing up our navy, and secondarily on maintaining our air superiority, while cutting budgets for the army and marines. For those of you who read this blog, that’s suggesting a combined 2GW/3GW force to meet a 4GW threat — a clear no-no in strategic theory. When one of my fellow grad students pressed Bacevich on the navy question, he admitted to being a Mahanian and said we needed a strong navy to deter pirates!

Read the rest here.

Bacevich has a sense of humor. Multibillion dollar platforms to take out jerry-rigged Somali and Indonesian gunboats manned by illiterate tribesmen?

“Smoooooooke on thee Waaaaaaaater….”

Friday, March 28th, 2008

This is something you don’t see every day. A traditional Japanese orchestra playing Deep Purple’sSmoke on the Water“.

Hat tip to Mithras at Fables of the Reconstruction

Munzenberg’s Viral Post: What is in your Antilibrary?

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

The other day, I was having a conversation in the comments section regarding ancient Chinese philosophers with my learned friend Lexington Green, when I had cause to quote Nassim Nicholas Taleb, from his most recent book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable:

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. he is the owner of a large personal library ( containing thirty thousand books), and separates vistors into two categories: those who react with ‘Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?’ and others – a very small minority- who get the point that a private library is not an ego boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real estate market allow you to put there. You wil accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growig number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call the collection of unread books an antilibrary.

A passage that immediately made me feel better about having resigned myself to falling further and further behind in reading the books that I keep purchasing ( I’m now also periodically finding myself going to IKEA to buy shelf extensions. I’ve resigned myself to that too).

The obscurely named Munzenberg of Soob, also enjoyed Taleb’s take on the proper function of a book collection and has begun a viral post What is in your Antilibrary?:

I’d like to pose a question to those who read this blog entry: What are three to five books on your shelf that lay unread and what knowledge do you hope to retrieve from them? [ ed.- see Munzenberg’s antilibrary here]

….I suppose I may have to tag people to get a widespread antilibrary booklist going. Feel free if you are reading this blog entry to start your own entry (the more books the better right?). I’ll link to you here if I catch it. I shall tag:

Adam Elkus

As Munzenberg has graciously “tagged” me, here is a fraction of my current antilibrary (the antilibrary appears to be a dynamic state with a definite phase transition to library status) I decided to avoid those recently acquired books at the top of my pile and use some finely-aged examples:

On the Origins of War: And the Preservation of Peace by Donald Kagan

Bought it after I enjoyed reading his revisionist The Peloponnesian War with the intent of getting into Kagan’s head on strategy and military history in general. I was reading a flood other military books at the time and it was lost in the shuffle

HO CHI MINH: A LIFE by William J. Duiker

This is a critically acclaimed biography by a highly respected scholar which I intended to read in tandem with recent biographies of Chiang Kai-Shek and Mao ZeDong, in order to get a feel for the interlocking social networks these leaders shared (Zhou Enlai was a hub for each man for a time). I finished those books but have not begun this one yet.

The Growth of the Mind: And the Endangered Origins of Intelligence by Stanley Greenspan, MD

I actually started this one but it was thrown into a packing box during a year I was building a house, selling another and moving several times. It then spent several years in storage before making it back on to a shelf. The purpose was to learn more about cognitive development in children.

Pillar of Fire : America in the King Years 1963-65 (America in the King Years) by Taylor Branch

Refresher on social, African-American and political history. Like the Kagan book, it was crowded out of the must-read bookpile by the deluge of military history and strategy books that I was reading at the time

The House of Rothschild: Volume 2: The World’s Banker: 1849-1999 by Niall Ferguson

As I am one of those freaks who actually enjoys economic history, I read Ferguson’s first volume years ago and thought it was lucidly written. This book too, fell victim to the packing box

It’s a rare opportunity to be on the ground floor of one of these viral posts and to be able to watch how far afield it travels, so I am selecting my “tags” with great care:

Sean Meade


Brad DeLong

Valdis Krebs

Dave Dilegge

Dave Schuler


Younghusband opines on The Traveller’s Library

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