Category Archives: BLOGROLL REVIEW

The Mac Droids (The Register)

[Part of a series of articles reviewing blogs and websites (here The Register) on my blog-roll; see the about page. ]

With The Register reporting in its usual scurrilous style Microsoft’s ongoing difficulties in killing Windows XP, Bill Gates stepping down as the head of Microsoft and Taleb making an instructive blunder on the Mac-versus-Windows religious wars I thought I would indulge myself in a rare techie post.

It is also part of the review Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Black Swan.

Windows 3.0 (1990)

One of the many interesting (and instructive) observations that Taleb made in The Black Swans was the following.

A person can get slightly ahead for entirely random reasons; because we like to imitate one another, we will flock to him. The world of contagion is so underestimated.

As I am writing these lines I am using a Macintosh, by Apple, after years of using Microsoft-based products. The Apple technology is vastly better, yet the inferior software won the day. Why? Luck.

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Of Causation and History (Crooked Timber)

[Part of a series of articles reviewing blogs and websites (here Crooked Timber) on my blog-roll; see the about page.]

I have completed Taleb’s The Black Swan and will say more about it later but I first want to take him to task on one of his opinions (one that he doesn’t really hold as it turns out). From page 171:

Popper’s insight concerns the limitations in forecasting historical events and the need to downgrade “soft” areas such as history and social science to a level slightly above aesthetics and entertainment, like butterfly or coin collecting. (Popper who received a classical Viennese education didn’t go quite so far; I do. I am from Amioun.) What we call the soft historical sciences are narrative dependent studies.

To confuse historicism and history is a horrible conflation, and no claims to rural roots should excuse this kind of boorishness. As Aristotle by way of Aquinas and Schumacher reminds us,

‘the slenderest knowledge that may be obtained of the highest things is more desirable than the most certain knowledge obtained of lesser things.'(*) ‘Slender’ knowledge is here put in opposition to ‘certain’ knowledge, and indicates uncertainty.

(*) Aquinas, Summa theologica, I, 1, 5 ad 1.

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Goldberg is also Wrong about Ahmadinejad

[Part of a series of articles reviewing blogs and websites (here Jeffrey Goldberg) on my blog-roll; see the about page.]

[Update: Please read the companion article, The Love Buzz, explaining why it is important to seek out everyone’s point of view, especially those of people that you find offensive, and that this process in no way condones their actions.]

In an eerie coincidence, as soon as I completed my essay, Why Fisk is Wrong about Ahmadinejad, that finished with Jeffery Goldberg, I read Goldberg’s article, Mearsheimer and Walt: Apologists for Ahmadinejad, responding to Stephen Walt comments in a lecture in Jerusalem:

A professor criticized the authors for failing to condemn Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be wiped off the map. “I don’t think he is inciting to genocide,” Walt responded.

Goldberg starts with the infamous mistranslation:

October, 2005: “Our dear Imam said that the occupying regime must be wiped off the map and this was a very wise statement. We cannot compromise over the issue of Palestine… I have no doubt that the new wave that has started in Palestine, and we witness it in the Islamic world too, will eliminate this disgraceful stain from the Islamic world. But we must be aware of tricks.”

despite it being well known that more accurate translations exist.

The Imam [Khomeini] said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time. This statement is very wise.

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Trita Parsi’s Treacherous Alliance

[Part of a series of articles reviewing blogs and websites (here Trita Parsi) on my blog-roll; see the about page.]

Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of
Israel, Iran and the United States

by Trita Parsi (2007)

This is one of the best books I have read. I read it over six months ago yet it seems as clear as if I had read it yesterday and still feel excited about what Trita Parsi has achieved with this book, demonstrating that while the evolution of the relationship between Israel and Iran has had a deeply ideological face, underneath this façade geopolitical factors have been the real drivers and the real causes of their gradual transition from allies to enmity. Again, their current enmity is not founded in the Iranian revolution at the end of the 1970s but the termination of the cold war and the defeat of Iraq in the first Persian Gulf war in the 1990s. Parsi bases his analysis on 130 interviews of senior officials in charge of the foreign policy of the three countries covering the period from the decline of the Shah to the 2006 Lebanon war.

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Obama’s Realist Iranian Policy

[Part of a series of articles reviewing blogs and websites (here The Daily Duck) on my blog-roll; see the about page.]

In an article over at the Daily Duck I opined that Barack Obama had most realistic policy on Iran, and Susan’s husband demurred.

If you think Obama has a good grasp on the strategic issues surrounding Iran, we’d love to hear what that is. Talks without preconditions? Talks with preconditions? Different from the Bush Administration how, exactly? Everything I have heard from Obama on Iran leads me to the exact opposite conclusion, that he has no idea whatsoever what’s going on there or what to do, but is just winging it, shifting his position moment by moment to dodge the incoming flack.

Fair enough. I have listened carefully to Obama on Iran with some trepidation, expecting the usual nonsense but I saw no major mistakes (I am thinking especially of the Russert interview). That is not to say that he really does understand the issues but I think it does suggest that his advisers understand the situation and that he has mastered the brief.

Note that while it is not my reason for supporting his policy, recent polling suggests that the public seems to be swinging behind Obama’s readiness to deal with Iran diplomatically.

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Marc Ambinder and Obama’s New Politics

[Part of a series of articles reviewing blogs and websites (here Mark Ambinder) on my blog-roll; see the about page.]

For anyone who hasn’t seen it I recommend Ambinder in conversation and Andrew Sullivan. Sullivan, who makes no pretense at all of running a non-partisan blog, explains that when he needs to ground himself he heads for Ambinder’s office, just such an occasion providing the inspiration the video discussion. The discussion is vintage Sullivan, but I think it is vintage Ambinder too who quickly gets out of the way, giving Sullivan the space to make some eloquent observations about the appeal of Obama and the nature of politics.

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Anger and The Speech: Giordanao, Cesca, Sullivan, & Yglesias

[Part of a series of articles reviewing blogs and websites (here Al Giordano, Andrew Sullivan, Bob Cesca & Matthew Yglesias) on my blog-roll; see the about page.]

I have been watching with amazement the similarity of passionate liberal Bob Cesca’s and passionate (maverick) conservative Andrew Sullivan’s coverage of the democratic primaries. I can find myself reading articles from either one of them and confuse them, one for the other.

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