Archive for the 'Fight Club' Category

Wishing on a Tsar

Fight Club’s upcoming bout is on “Time for a Model Change” by Graeme Maxton and John Wormald, two car industry veterans and writers for the Economist.  So, I thought it was fitting that this morning’s Business View in the Economist was an entertaining review of current status of Detroit bail out.

gremlinThe automakers are arguing that unlike the airlines, bankruptcy would be devastating for two reasons: 1) airline tickets are short term commitments 2) the car industry has a long supply chain with 3 million workers.  And, as Jon Stewart deftly pointed out with a Hot Wheels version of the AMC Gremlin he drove in high school, that unlike the Financial Services bail out, at least the automakers produce something useful (even though they lose $2K/car they sell).

So, all this has led to the need for a Car Tsar.  The Economist (link above) gives us a little background on the various Tsars [or Czar (derived from Caesar) originally meaning Emperor in the European medieval sense] we’ve had since 1982:


The first such tsar is believed to have been America’s Drug Tsar, first described thus in 1982, who had a mandate to oversee America’s war on drugs, which included activities by several government departments. Since then, the term has been used on many occasions to describe officials with grand cross-departmental responsibilities. Even the Bush administration has had a war tsar, a bird flu tsar, and a bank bailout tsar, while Al Gore reportedly declined Mr Obama’s offer to make him the climate tsar.

The word “tsar” is used because its sounds powerful, though government tsars often find the opposite is true in practice. For one thing, they tend to be appointed during a crisis, and are often invested with unrealistic expectations. Also, having responsibility for activities in several government departments often turns out to mean no power over any of them.

Still, if there is car tsar he will have a huge advantage over other tsars: namely the threat of handing the whole mess over to someone with real power—a Chapter 11 bankruptcy judge, and nobody wants to face the sayonara tsar.

Top 10 Non-Fiction in 2008

Time Magazine’s Top Ten Non-Fiction Books of 2008:

  1. The Forever War by Dexter Filkins (The gaping wounds of Iraq and Afghanistan have produced a torrent of words, but no single volume so far has the precision and power of The Forever War)
  2. The Thief at the End of the World by Joe Jackson (smuggling rubber tree seeds out of Brazil, in a single stroke handing England supremacy in one of the key resources of the 20th century)
  3. The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder (authorized biography of Buffet)
  4. The World Is What It Is by Patrick French (authorized biography of Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul)
  5. The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale (true crime, birth of forensic science)
  6. Hurry Down Sunshine by Michael Greenberg (about his 15 year-old daughter’s mental breakdown)
  7. Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang (tells the story of several women amongst the 130 million migrant workers in China) 
  8. John Lennon by Philip Norman
  9. The Magician’s Book by Laura Miller (illuminating not only the Chronicles of Narnia, but the nature of reading itself.)
  10. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (a dismantling of the American myth of the self-made man)

Comments anyone?

Redrawing the Map of the Middle East

It’s hard to believe that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (or Iraq and Afganistan for that matter) seems minor now compared to the tinder box of India and Pakistan relations.  But, really it’s the same core issues playing out on a larger scale.   In a Machiavellian master stroke Lashkar-e-Taiba, the extremist group behind the Mumbai terrorist attacks, has further destabilized Pakistan and India and redrawn the map of the Middle East (Robert Kaplan points out in this morning’s NYT that the “Middle East” now stretches from Jerusalem to Myanmar).

In addition to the Kaplan piece, also check out 1) a recent Terry Gross interview with Ahmed Rashid on the rapidly deteriorating state of affairs in Pakistan and 2) a suggestion for a future Fight Club bout: Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present by Michael Oren.


Nodal Point

Since this is a book Fight Club, and Rich H. can’t seem to make a decision, I’ll throw out another recommendation: Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America by Jay Parini.  This book is right in our wheelhouse.  The book is not about great literature – so, you fictionophobes need not worry about Moby Dick and Gatsby being on the list.  Rather, the author selects books, many non-fiction, that are “nodal points, places where vast areas of thought and feeling gathered and dispersed.”  And, it would be a fitting send-off for our sparring partner Ami.

These 13 are: “Of PlymouthPlantation” by William Bradford; “The Federalist Papers,” essays published under the pseudonym Publius but written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay; “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin”; “The Journals of Lewis and Clark”; “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau; “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe; “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain; “The Souls of Black Folk” by W.E.B. Du Bois; “The Promised Land” by Mary Antin; “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie; “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care” by Benjamin Spock, M.D.; “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac; “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan.

So, what do you say Rich?  Call the ball.


Fight Night

We’re stepping in the ring to review Andrew Bacevich’s “The Limits of Power” a quick but damning review of American policy making and “generalship” in the wars since the end of the Cold War.  But, I’ll leave the review to the host, Bill B.

I wanted to plant some seeds as to which spine we would break next:

Anyhow – some ideas.  Looking forward to a good fight tomorrow night with maybe a few rounds on the election?

Fight Club Show Off

Matt H. consider yourself on notice.

Get Your Genuine Fight Club Mug

For a limited time only, in partnership with the creative (if violent) people at Thabto, we bring you the Fight Club mug.

Don’t be a MUG! Look like a real man when you’re drinkin’ your brew! 

Inspired by the word ‘MUG!’ itself, which is often used in British slang, this large mug with a knuckle duster handle will ensure nobody steals your buscuits.

For those of the fairer sex, Thabto has removed the blood stains and replaced them with butterflies.



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