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Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris, Chapel Hill, Boston, Istanbul, Calgary, Washington DC, Austin, Tunis, Warszawa and counting

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Art of War

One of the classics of military education, I figured I had to read Sun Tzu's The Art of War as a self-respecting political scientiest. It is definitely one of the oldest books I have ever read (the old testament and Homer come to mind as being older). I was disappointed though in the sense that I had expected a real book, in something like an extended essay form. In reality, The Art of War is basically a collection of aphorisms. That means more patience is required by the reader than I usually show and a lot more thought has to be put in every sentence or even word.

After I had read all of them, I discovered that the second part of the edition I had was exactley the same text interspersed by various commentators (from early Chinese ones to early 20th century American ones (General Crook is quoted once)). That second version I found a lot better, it placed Sun Tzu into context somehow, before some of his aphorism seemed a little too obvious ('never attack downhill; use spies'), but the aphorisms made clear how military leaders in all of history had heeded Tzu's advice and fared well on it (even though I am sure that a patient researcher could show as many examples of people who suceeded even though they had counteracted to Tzu's advice). Shocking was how many proverbs still ring true today:

The consumate leader cultivates the moral law, and strictly adheres to method and discipline, thus it is in his power to control sucess.

The comment on this read:
There is a very strong temptation ... for government forces to act outside the law, the excuses being that the processes of law are too cumbersome, that the normal safeguards in the law for the individual are not designed for an insurgency and that a terrorist deserves to be treated as an outlaw anyway. Not only is this morally wrong, but, over a period, it will create more practical difficiculties for a government than it solves. A government which does not act in accordance with the law forfeits the right to be called a government and cannot expect its poeple to obey the law. Funcontionning in accordance with the law is a very small price to pay in return for the advantage of being the government.

Sir Robert Grainger Ker Thompson, Defeating Communist INsurgency: Experiences from Malaya and Vietnam (1966)

Monday, July 23, 2007


This is definitely one of the more weaker papers I've written (it is kind of crappy actually, but I had to write it in three days and stil hope I'll get a decent grade for it). It deals with the Open Method of Coordination which is a relatively new mode of governance in the European Union, very technical.

Mein Deutsches Dschungelbuch

Ich habe Mein Deutsches Dschungelbuch von Wladimir Kaminer als Geschenk nach meinem Praktikum in Frankfurt vor ein paar Monaten bekommen. Hatte es bisher irgendwie nicht geschafft das Buch zu lesen, das aber jetzt nachgeholt. Ich fand es persönlich gut, Kaminers trockener Humor, die Art und Weise wie er sich über einige (deutsche oder auch nicht) Gegegebenheiten lustig macht ist einfach genial. Aber, ich hatte vorher mindestens schon 3 andere Bücher von ihm gelesen und muß deswegen zugeben, daß mir viele seiner Geschichten etwas repetitiv vorkamen. Wie bei so vielen dieser witzig-sarkastischen Autoren (Bill Simmons, Bill Bryson, Terry Pratchett) werden die Witze durch ständige Wiederholungen (nicht der Witze als solcher, aber die Struktur bleibt bestehen) irgendwann ausgelaugt und deswegen kann ich das Buch nur teilweise anpreisen - an Leute nämlich, die noch nicht so viel Kaminer gelesen haben.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Reasons for the Exceptional Nature of the American Welfare State

This is the first of my three (the next one is due sunday, and no, I have not started writing yet) long essays this semester and, nomen est omen, it deals with the reasons for American exceptionalism in public policy. Why does the US spend so much less on welfare than most European states (15% of GDP compared to around 25%), why is it less universalistic, why did it arrive so late? The paper is about 12 pages long and I do not like the end, think it sucks actually, but I do not have the time to rewrite it, so there you go.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Le Vicomte de Bragelonne III

Alors, j'ai fini Le Vicomte de Bragelonne de Alexandre Dumas. La troisième partie était facilement la meilleur, même si peut-être aussi parce que je n'étais pas encore habitué à la langage de Dumas dans le premier bouquin, en tout cas, j'aimais bien lire la troisième partie. Il y a plus d'aventure, et moins des intrigues d'amour. Mais, il faut dire que il y ait quelque partie de la trilogie, qui sont plutôt faible ou parfois ridicule d'une perspective moderne

Premièrement, le dévouement que les anciens servants montrent pour leurs maîtres est même pas ridicule, mais ridicule seulement. Le servant de Porthos par example meurt après entendre la nouvelle de la mort de son maître sur ses vêtements comme un 'chien' (citer de Dumas) par tritesse. Il n'y a pas d'émancipation d'eux, ils agissent comment ils l'ont fait dans Les Trois Mousquetuaire, plus de trente ans plus tôt.

Deuxièment, on n'est pas capable de prendre le suicide de Raoul serieux. Il le fait pour sa fiancée qui lui a déserté pour le roi. Désolé, mais je suis trop cynique pour que je croie que les gens sont aussi romantique pour se tuer un ans après qu'ils soient trompé.

Troisièment, Dumas a quelques contradictions dans ses déscriptions ou caractérisations. Monsieur Fouquet par exemple au début est montré comme un homme plein des intrigés contre le roi, cependant pendant le deuxième bouquin il change et devient une victime des circonstances. En général, il y a quelques instants où on a l'impréssion que Dumas ait perdue le vue d'ensemble un peu. Le fin du deuxième bouquin est dominé par une croissante amour entre Raoul et une anglaise par exemple, seulement pour faire Raoul rentrer en France et elle est jamais même évoquer plus. Mais peut-être les fautes loqique comme ca sont inévitable si on écrit un trilogie sur plus de 2400 mots.

En résumé, lisez ce bouquin! Si vous voulez apprendre francais, si vous avez aimez les trois mousquetaire pendant vos enfances, si vous aimez les libres ancien et historique, si vous aimez le livre en général, allez-y. C'est bien la peine.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Inequality and growth

Another one of my attempts at economics, this is a short (4 pages) essay on the effect on inequality. I tried to prove that inequality hinders growth, and accordingly economically is counterproductive. That was not possible sadly enough, there really seems to be a correlation between inequality and growth, one can only redistribute wealth and try to limit the negative side-effects.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

20, July 1944

Tom Cruise will star as Stauffenberg in a movie on Operation Walküre, the biggest coup attempt ever attempted against the Hitler government (check Wikipedia if you never heard of it). Over 200 people sentenced to death, 5,000 arrested after it failed (one of which ironically - to all those familiar with the Revolution 1918/1919 was Gustav Noske, the bloodhound). Admittedly the Gestapo used the coup attempt as a way to settle some scores, yet, considering its scope, a military takeover with the SS being usurped as well as the NSDAP and a civilian government had been prepared as well as a new military leadership, the 20, July 1944 was unparalleled in the history of the Third Reich.

Even though I usually like to watch historical movies and even more so about aspects of history that interest me (I watched the Good German for God's sake, it, well, wasn't that great), I am not going to watch this movie.

Why? A couple of reasons are decisive here:

Tom Cruise sucks. I don't have a problem with him being a member of scientology(I just think he is a moron for being a member of an authoritarian or even totalitarian religious society), but I don't think I have ever seen a movie with him where I came away impressed by his acting.

I don't trust Hollywood to not turn this into a melodramatic movie, with Stauffenberg's love interest riding off into the horizon to classical music in the end.

Finally, I am sick and tired (j'en ai marre! - le francais est vraiment plus fort là) of the overemphasis on the conspirators of the 20th July 1944 and even more so the way are portrayed nowadays. Let's not forget that these same guys supported the Hitler regime until military victory became a virtual impossibility, which is when they decided to act. Their opposition was directed in no sense whatsoever against the extermination of Jews, homosexuals and others. The only reason for their coup-attempt was to enable Germany to escape the shit hole (sorry, but it's true, ain't it?) that the Nazi-government had guided it in (and into which the Germans had proved to be more than willing to be lead).

Their glorification is completely ridiculous in the end. There were so many other people that acted, and for better reasons, and earlier, and braver (meaning alone or in smaller groups with lesser chances of success). My favorite will always remain Georg Elser.

Ah, wirklich also? Ein wenig spät, ihr Herren, die ihr diesen Erzzerstörer Deutschlands gemacht habt, die ihr ihm nachliefet, solange alles gutzugehen schien, die ihr, alle Offiziere der Monarchie, unbedenklich jeden von euch verlangten Treueid schwort, die ihr euch zu armseligen Mamelucken des mit hunderttausend Morden, mit dem Jammer und dem Fluch der Welt belasteten Verbrecher erniedrigt habt und ihn jetzt verratet, wie ihr vorgestern die Monarchie und gestern die Republik verraten habt.
Friedrich P Reck-Malleczewen zum 20.07. 44