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Archive for May, 2009

Recommended Reading

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Top Billing! BLACKFIVE – for their Memorial Day series of posts

Many personal tributes. Go visit!

HG’s WorldMemorial Day 2009 and Memorial Day II

A historically-minded tribute from a veteran and a historian.

Fast Company -“I Can See You” by Jamais Cascio

Radical transparency

Abu MuqawamaGreatest. Red Team. Ever.


Thomas PM Barnett WPR column  The New Rules: The Good News on the Global Financial Downturn

Tom’s “in-your-face-pessimists!” survey on the state of post-meltdown globalization and war.

ArmsControlWonkEssential Reading? (Also check out their coverage of the North Korean nuclear test)

Michael Krepon gives us an excellent reading list for those interested in nuclear strategy and Cold War history.

AFJA deterrence we need by Gene Myers

On the folly of nuclear abolitionism

Sic Semper TyrannisHaaretz Article on Iranian Realities

The logistical and operational difficulties of an Israeli conventional-only strike on Iranian nuclear facilities without US help and Col. Lang’s opinion that Iran’s leadership is doing all it can to make Israel’s case for help look good.

James FallowsBack to the gaokao….

Where standardized testing – or rather “the” standardized test – is the educational system and China’s officialdom is starting to wonder if that rigidity isn’t killing creativity and innovation. If only the advocates of NCLB here knew as much as Red Chinese bureaucrats.

SEEDCreation on Command

Neuropsychological inhibition and creativity – how does relaxing control yield ideas?


Behavioral economist Dan Ariely demonstrates how adding complexity to choice dramatically skews decision making in irrational ways.  A few years back, Scientific American had an article with research on choice and happiness that demonstrated that the optimum number of choices for human happiness was relatively low. Ariely takes that one step further, many choices often equates to bad decision making because of our tendency to operate on “autopilot” (he does not use that term but it is what he describes).

Qualitative vs. Quantitative

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009


Drew Conway of Zero Intelligence Agents asks a great question of all social science and humanities folk in the readership: 

Nye and Drezner on Quantitative Scholarship

As a student in a department that covets rational choice and high-tech quantitative methods, I can assure you none of my training was dedicated to learning the classics of political science philosophy. On the other hand, what is stressed here-and in many other “quant departments”-is the importance of research design. This training requires a deep appreciation of qualitative work. If we are producing relevant work, we must ask ourselves: “How does this model/analysis apply to reality? What is the story I am telling with this model/analysis?”

Whether you are a producer, consumer or tourist of political science research you probably have an opinion on this debate, and I’d like to hear it.

Drew asks an important question. “Research Design” is inherently an act of qualitative and normative judgments. If the researcher is lacking a consciously constructed and identifiable intellectual framework or lens, they will still have one by default, except it is likely to be composed of contradictory hodgepodge of unconsciously acquired biases, hiding under a presumption of objectivity. That’s not an optimum perspective from which to select objects to measure and yardsticks with which to measure them.

The comment I left at Drew’s site was:

Quantitative analysis is sharpening the focus of the telescope or microscope. Qualitative analysis is knowing what’s worth looking at.

Being trained as a historian, I’m a qual dude but quant tools can tell me when I’m on target or by how much I may be off. Or if I am full of crap. On the other hand, quant scholars can be like drunks looking for their car keys under a streetlamp because that is where the light is. Quants need data and not every significant variable is the one that is easiest to isolate and measure. Or measure beyond mere correlation. Or at all.

Quant-Qual can never be either/or any more than we should try walking on one leg.

We need more consilience and less compartmentalization in intellectual life.

On Friendfeed Requests

Friday, May 22nd, 2009


Some of you – ok, a whole lot of you – have made Friendfeed subscription requests of me in the last few weeks to which I have not responded (Friendfeed is an app that manages your social networking conversations). This is intentional but not personal toward anyone.

I tried Friendfeed as a result of being on Twitter back when Robert Scoble was tweeting and blogging about Friendfeed nonstop, which piqued my curiousity. I found the format then to be annoying ( the interface may have changed in the interim) and no one I knew was using the service at the time so, after a few days, I let the account go dormant. No offense, Friendfeed may be the new 2.0 sliced bread, but I don’t have the time right now to go straighten out my account and use yet another social media platform. Maybe during the summer when I have some downtime I’ll give Friendfeed a second chance – at the moment it isn’t even on the radar.

Now Using the POINT of the Spear….

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

My esteemed colleague, Michael Tanji, goes knuckles over Think Tank 2.0.

Tanji has my 100 % endorsement.

The Anabasis of Cyrus

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

The Anabasis of Cyrus (Agora) by Xenophon. Translator,  Wayne Ambler

Arrived a few days ago. Now I am set for Lexington Green’s Xenophon Roundtable in September 2009.

….They decided, then, to pack up what they had, arm themselves, and proceed forward until they should meet with Cyrus. When they were about to set out, as the sun was rising, there arrived Procles, the ruler of Teuthrania, born of Demaratus the Laconian, and Glus, the son of Tamos. They said “Cyrus is dead” and said that Ariaeus had fled with the other barbarians….”

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