Open Thread III

While other bloggers have draconian rules if you want your voice to be heard, at tdaxp we make it easy. Do you want everyone to read an article, listen to a question, or hear a thought? Do you want to add something to a discussion that doesn’t fit under a typical post? Then use the open thread.

  • Open Thread I reached 19 comments, spanning from December 7th to December 17th.
  • Open Thread II reached 37 comments, starting December 21 and ending January 16.

You decide how popular Open Thread III will be. Post whatever you like. Let your voice be heard.

Talk, discuss, converse, post, comment, and, most of all, enjoy!

35 thoughts on “Open Thread III”

  1. Dan,
    I'll give this open thread thing a shot. Since you focus a lot on education I wanted to provide a link to a Reason blog post about the Charles Murray series on education in the Wall Street Journal. Links to the Murray articles are in the blog post. I only read the second Murray piece. From that I basically agree, although I do not know what his policy recommendations are. I would argue that most people do not need a classic liberal arts education and much of the education received in four year colleges is superfluous (and most students don't care.) Don't get me wrong I like philosophy and art history, but I can do a better job learning that on my own. The relevant Reason link is below:


  2. actually, those were just guidelines. the actual Draconian policy is here: [1]

    “Everyone is welcome to comment. However, the comment must be pertinent to the thread. And, while you are free to disagree with Tom, if every comment you write is in fundamental disagreement with Tom, there are other websites where your time would be better spent.

    Before asking or (worse!) demanding an answer from Tom, please at least search the voluminous website for an answer/direction, ask a frequent commenter, or read one/both of the books.

    No lecturing Tom. He has described this weblog as his 'virtual living room'. Don't taunt Tom (or anyone else!). I want our conversations here to be great.

    Comments should be reasonably brief. There are many fine, free weblog services where your long writings can be posted. Self-linking/manual trackbacks for pertinent posts are encouraged. Lay translation: if you have a long comment, post it on your weblog, then put a link in the comments. If you'd like us to read an article, link it (don't copy it in).” *

    [*] section added by Dan, both for emphasis, and to stop blogspirit from italicizing everything!


  3. Okay, I just posted, but I also just finished reading the last Murray article. While I agree with some of what he is saying, I get the sense that it is a bit too deterministic. Obviously, there are smart people and dumb people and a lot of people in between. I have to take issue with his managerial view of society and the economy, however. Murray is incredibly wrong when he states that the economy is run by the cognitive elite. The cognitive elite may be able to open up new vistas, but they most certainly are not running the economy. The economy is spontaneously ordering and requires the contributions of tens millions to “run”. No one person, or group of people are in charge. As far as the “how to educate” bit, it too seems overly managerial and static. There is no room for the choice of the individual; the intelligent are to be saddled with values that do not necessarily care for while the not-intelligent are to be told how to live their lives. Very authoritarian.

    Okay, I'll lay off posting until someone else contributes.


  4. I recently read Sun Bins excelent “Is China a threat” which happily capped off what I'd believed through both other articles involving the subject and through conversation with friends that hail from China.

    In the article Sun Bin suggests China's shift away from the “ChiCom” (my term not his) ideals and toward a more liberalized and capitalistic framework.

    Here's my question (and I posed it to Sun Bin but he's yet to respond):

    As China moves further from it's recent Maoist foundations and closer to what will essentially foment itself as “democracy” will a fracturing occur? Certainly the vast majority of Chinese are of Han ethnicity. But the remaining minority entails over 100 million people and is generally scattered amongst the frontiers of Chinas northern and western geography. As the “Party” dwindles will these ethnic pockets splinter away from the Han majority? Consider as well the Korean element in Manchuria (some 2 million.)

  5. Subadei, don't even worry about it! Fast & furious subjects is part of the tdaxp Open Thread way. There's not even a 700 page reading list before you can comment! :-p


    D'oh.. I was hoping I finally had my very own anti-tdaxp troll! L-)

  6. I was trying to delay this because I don't like commenting twice in a row, but here goes… ๐Ÿ™‚


    I tackled Murray's articles over at ZenPundit. [1] So far Col, Mark, and I are involved, but be sure to comment there as well.. the thread looks like it's going to get interesting! The short of it: Murray's controversialist writing style masks his real claims, and he's probably wrong for a much more boring reason than people hope.


    Ja volt, mein herr!


    An intra-Han struggle would be more dangerous to China than ethnic seperatism (as long as the Uigghers don't acquire a nuclear bomb, etc). While I don't think any of these scenarios are likely, they all are plausable and all are bad.

    1) The People's Liberation Army revolts, overthrowing a Communist Party now viewed as unstable with a Burma-style stability (perhaps most likely if China tries and fails to take Taiwan)
    2) A re-run of the the fall of the Qing Empire, with a worker-peasant revolt with sympathy among the intelligentia. The destruction of central government overall which force outside powers to protect different regions of a hobbled central government. (perhaps most likely if the economy collapses, so that the migration to the cities continues without an increase in employment)

    China has already transitioned from a totalitarian to an authoritarian state. While it appears that englithened authoritarianism slowly leads to liberalism, there have been enough exceptions that the future is not assured.


  7. Dan
    Thanks for the input.


    Klingons?! LOL. I think I'd lean more toward Romulans. A picture of the congressman wearing Spock ears at a convention would be priceless.

  8. Subadei,

    Wouldn't the widening economic and opportunity gaps within Chinese society be more dangerous in the near future than any ethnic considerations? After all, we have not yet seen the effects an economic downturn will have on China. It will be most interesting, and perhaps if the government struggles to contain the masses some ethnic separtism will unfold…..

    Excellent read about oil, insurgency and corruption in Nigeria. (save the fact it doesn't mention China's widening role in the situation):

  9. Sorry Dan, I don't mean to 100% copy your point (though I certainly agree with your assertation of an intra-Han style struggle being more likely than ethnic separtism)… I did not add in the above that I consider an economic downturn likely, perhaps not right now this year but certainly in the next 3-5 years.
    It will also be interesting to see what a series of natural disasters or extreme weather (certainly possible with El Nino's known effects on Northern China) could do to the tinderbox of already struggling rural peasants.

  10. Eddie,

    The last two economic downturns in China were democidal, albeit because they were intertwined by Mao Zedong's autogenocides. The previous one, caused in part by US manipulation of Chinese currency, was harder any better. So while I have wondered about how equally “Han” the “Han Chinese” really are, I agree with you on the dangers of intraethnic class strife.

    From Fridman, M. (1992). Frankling D. Roosevelt, Silver, and China. The Journal of Political Economy 100(1), 62-83.

    “The silver purchase program, initiated by President Franklin Roosevelt in late 1933 in response to the economically small but politically potent silver bloc, gave a large short-run subsidy to silver producers at the cost of… severe deflation on China, the only major country still on a silver standard, and forced it off the silver standard and on to a fiat standard, which brought forward in time and increased in severity the subsequent wartime inflation and postwar hyperinflation. The silver purchase program thereby contributed, though perhaps only modestly, to the ultimate triumph of the Communists. “[1]

    Not that the US would ever think of manipulating Chinese currencies nowadays… [2]


    Representative Wu has set back the coolness factor of scifi fans, and Congress, ten thousand years… and 20 parsecs.


  11. Hmm–here's something to check out sometime: [1, 2]

    It enables a site's visitors to chat with each other.

    Found out about this “chat” service through [3]

    Look of the right side of the page (“Want to chat? Click here”).

    Ever read Ohmynews? Interesting news site–it's been around for awhile, created in South Korea.

    So, anyone find this service worth trying?


  12. Dan and Eddie,

    Thanks for the points and the link. No doubt China faces some difficulties along the lines of an economic gap. Given that more than half it's population are rural poor, an influx of migration to economic centers will likely outpace job developement (even given China's dangerously brisk economic growth) a “peasant revolt” scenario makes sense (though I'd put more of a Maoish twist on it.)
    Whether China faces economic collapse and class warfare or a more liberal, positive future I still have to wonder how culturally cohesive they'll remain. What, beyond the “Party,” holds Taiwan, Tibet or the above mentioned Uighur from declaring independence? What of the Hui or Kyrgs, will they divide along religious lines?
    LOL. I don't expect an answer, just throwing ideas around, I suppose.

  13. By way of Mercatornet [1]:

    “Let Americans Learn Arabic”
    Publication:The New York Sun; Date:Jan 11, 2007; Section:Editorial & Opinion; Page:11 [2,3,4]

    […]we need to put many more resources into making Arabic one of the languages commonly encountered by schoolchildren. Yes, children, since languages are learned most easily by the young. Our task will therefore be to make Arabic one of Americaรขโ‚ฌโ„ขs main taught languages, rather than the specialty taste that it is now.

    Efforts to recruit native Arabic speakers will only ever yield so much. Many Arab-Americans will hesitate to join efforts they see as antithetical to their own people, and no amount of Karen Hughes-style outreach could make much of a dent in this.

    The small upsurge in รขโ‚ฌล“interestรขโ‚ฌย in Arabic courses at universities since September 11 is not enough. The same kinds of efforts the government put 60 years ago into cranking a viable amount of Russian speakers out of our universities must be put back into play now for Arabic.This is urgent because learning Arabic is a crucial gateway into winning the hearts and minds of native Arabic speakers.[…]

    Thoughts? Comments? Opinions? Etc.?


  14. Jayson,

    I've heard of Oh My News, mostly from its detractors [1,2], and I understand it to be something like a pro-profit version of Wikinews [3]. I don't see site-specific chat really taking off (I worked at a company that tried something similar, with little results), but it's a neat experiment.

    As far as Arabic speakers (your second post), I agree. That German and French are often the main foreign languages taught in public schools owes a lot too outmoded Europhilia and structural inertia, and little that actually matters. If we view the world as tradingig in labor, capital, and violence, teaching worker-oriented (Spanish), investment-oriented (Mandarin or Japanese), and violence-oriented (Arabic) languages should be a top priority.


    “What, beyond the “Party,” holds Taiwan, Tibet or the above mentioned Uighur from declaring independence? “
    The People's Liberation Army? :-p
    More seriously, each of these has problems.
    East Turkestan, being substantially Muslim, has the typical provblems of crazed Muslim extremists. A Chechnya against Russia may be a good thing, as Russia' default strategy is to attack its neighbors (militarily, economically, politically) in the process of her centuries-long collapse. China has been much more quiet, and has not attacked any foreign country since her abortive invasion of Vietnam in the 1970s.
    For better or for worse, the Tibetans have abandoned a strategy of forceful independence, and the same time China has adopted a policy of Sinization.
    Taiwan is tricky. Beijing is hemmed in by her own rhetoric, unable to fulyl engage the Sinophile KMT because of hamfisted military threats. The best case scenarios are either a Taiwanese declaration of independence that Beijing doesn't prevent (say, during the 2008 Olympics, which would require a Chinese Nationalist government in Taipei) or the KMT being able to run some candidates in China in exchance to the CCP to operate in Taiwan (which would require a Taiwanese Nationalist government in Taipei). Neither is particularly likely, I fear. Instead we will probably see a continuation of the present, destructive status quo.


  15. 2 *fascinating* companies to read about; first is Mark Hemmingway's story on Blackwater USA, the cover story to the 12/18/06 issue of The Weekly Standard:

    Warriors for Hire:Blackwater USA and the rise of private military contractors
    by Mark Hemingway
    (Cover story to 12/18/06 Weekly Standard)

    And here are some letters regarding this story:

    Correspondence from 12/22/06 issue

    Correspondence from 1/13/07 issue

    Regrettably the full text of the exchanges is only available to subscribers, but the letters regarding Blackwater were featured first, and are therefore immiediately available through the “preview.”

    The other is another cover story, on Goldman Sachs, from the 1/29/07 issue of Forbes:

    Sachs Appeal
    Neil Weinberg 01.29.07

    Goldman Sachs' All-Star Alumni
    Neil Weinberg

    “Goldman Sachs graduates populate the uppermost reaches of government and business.”

    Aside from being the subject of “cover stories,” do these 2 firms have anything in common? (So far, I can think only of one…)

  16. Jayson,

    Thanks for the steady supply of links!

    On Blackwater, the rise of PMCs is a great, great sign. It's part of the building of the sort of Military-Industrial-SysAdmin-Complex [1,2,3] that we will need if we are serious about this sort of work.

    What's the similarity with Goldman Sachs? (Perhaps its too early in the morning for me to think straight! ๐Ÿ™‚ )


  17. I can think of at least 2 somewhat-“related” things they *will*–if not already have–in common. They'll both be despised by Leftist loons, and they'll both evetually become the objects of conspiracy theorists' ire.

  18. (Access code for Fast Company's February 2007 issue is “FCFEBMUSIC.”) [1,2]

    Digging Out

    The idea of putting people to work was largely neglected after the invasion of Iraq. Now, as debate mounts over troop withdrawals, one strategy might help fill the void.
    From: Issue 112 | February 2007 | Page 80 | By: David Axe | Photographs By: David Axe


    In his role as a civil-military cooperation officer for the Light Infantry Regiment–one of the most battle-hardened in the British Army, with roots running back to the late 17th century–Morte liaised among Iraqi reconstruction agencies, the U.S. State Department, the British Foreign Office, and Iraqi construction contractors. Drawing from a reported $80 million in State Department funds channeled to the British forces who occupy southern Iraq, Morte sought out ventures most financiers would consider risky at best. During his time in Basra, he gave small infusions of capital–microfinancing, as it's called–to 200 Iraqi entrepreneurs, who now employ around 10,000 Baswaris. Morte hoped to slowly build self-sustaining enterprises, thereby weaning the country from reliance on foreign aid and improving Iraqis' opinions of foreign forces. The ongoing objective is better security and a reduction in the unemployment that, as Morte's commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel John Bowron, explains it, “puts people in front of a militia recruiter.”[…]


  19. Sounds like the good Dr. Barnett wants a book out of you, Dan. Congrats on some well deserved recognition.

    Oh and your concept of “simple blogger” is decidedly wanting. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Just wanted to try placing these links [1,2,3] side by side, and see what anyone here gets from them:

    They're obviously as distant from each other as Maine from California–and yet, like Maine and Califronia, they seem to have something joining them, IMSHO.


  21. Jayson,

    To me, the links you gave recall Pinker's description of “Authoritarian High Modernism” [1]:

    “The blank slate has had an enormous influence in far-flung fields. One example is architecture and urban planning. The 20th century saw the rise of a movement that has been called “authoritarian high modernism,” which was contemporaneous with the ascendance of the blank slate. City planners believed that people's taste for green space, for ornament, for people-watching, for cozy places for intimate social gatherings, were just social constructions. They were archaic historical artifacts that were getting in the way of the orderly design of cities, and should be ignored by planners designing optimal cities according to so-called scientific principles.”

    This is a topic I've mentioned before [2], and essentially goes back to the idea of progressives designing a perfect society — a “Jerusalem” in the words of Clement Attlee [3]. Such a view is essentially Protestant [4], and it doesn't surprise me that an author would use a Catholic pope to argue against it.


    Thanks. He's being helpful. [5] ๐Ÿ™‚


  22. But what did you think of the other links? And can you see a relationship between them?

    BTW, here's something else that you might find interesting–myself, I find it a bit weird:

    “The pulse of Rio de Janeiro's slums luring foreign guests”
    Tourists and expats are flocking to the city's favelas for 'authenticity' while fearful middle-class Brazilians stay away.
    By Andrew Downie | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
    from the February 6, 2007 edition

    (Hmm–any possible 5GW angle[s]?)

  23. Dan, from the link to Barnett's blog: “although blogging on group blog sites would help” !!


    In a way, the new so-called “open source environment”, along with Internet blogging and cheaper self-publishing in general, reminds me of the methods used by many 18th and 19th C. authors. For instance, the poet Walt Whitman self-published, sent a copy of Leaves of Grass to Ralph Waldo Emerson — who already had a devoted following — received back a private letter dripping in enthusiasm and congratulations, and then self-published another edition including that letter without Emerson's permission! (Probably wouldn't fly in today's originality-obsessed culture, what with charges of plagiarism and issues related to copyright.) Before the advent of the mega-publishers, early authors often self-published and/or began with very low print runs, sent copies out to big name authors and editors, and depended on word-of-mouth and endorsements to build interest. I wonder if the OSE will lead back to that sort of development. On the other hand, Whitman wasn't to see real success until very late in his life — still nothing like his popularity now — and died in poverty. On the third hand, start small as TPMB says, and given enough interest and perhaps the right kind of attention from big names, the large publishing houses might bite.

  24. Ry,

    Avoiding the decisive battle when terms are unfavorable to you is a generally obvious strategy, though purposefully avoiding decisive battles on an infantry level is most famously a feature of 3GW. So it's just plain good sense from Sadr's perspective.


    Group blogging, Dreaming 5GW [1], blah blah blah ๐Ÿ™‚

    I previously compared open source, English publishing, and the blogosphere [2], so I think we agree there.

    Now that I have a professional research program [1,2] I will start publishing in conferences (essentially, the non-peer reviewed journals Tom talked about) this year. What would be fun is to expand both the professional and more bloggy writing, but we'll see. ๐Ÿ™‚


    Wow — thanks for the ton of links!

    The slums piece reminded me of when I was in Italy, and my hosts talked about touring the fun they had touring the West River rezland. (I've been to Flandreau [3] and along the Missouri [4], but going to places of true poverty — such as Pine Ridge and Rosebud — seems dicey).

    PS: In the future, when I become globotyrant, I will abolish the use of all pronouns such as “those” , “the other” etc, in long comment threads Too many possible referents! ๐Ÿ™‚


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