Journal: 300,000 Beijing residents to access National Library through TV

Original Story
Original Story

September 10, 2009 marked the 100th anniversary of the National Library. Reporters learned that the National Library is now popularizing new reading channels, enabling citizens to access content from the National Library through their digital TV. By the end of this year, more than 300,000 Beijing citizens will enjoy this service.

With a hundred-year history, the library now has an area of more than 250,000 square meters, making it the third largest library in the world; it has a collection of 27 million books, making it among the top five in the world; its daily attendance of 20,000 guests is unrivaled in the world.

Currently, there is Internet access at every desk in the buildings of the north part of the library, and wireless Internet covers the whole library; in the China Digital Library for the Blind, blind people can listen to digital books and music as well as online lectures for free; the DIY circulation service in National Library enables the readers to return books to the circulation counter without having to enter the building, making 24 hours circulation service possible; National Library is also now developing a handheld National Library system with which users can use their cell phone as an access terminal, allowing citizens to receive digital information and services of the library through several channels, including text messages.

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Review: Blind Into Baghdad–America’s War in Iraq

6 Star Top 10%, Congress (Failure, Reform), Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Intelligence (Government/Secret), Military & Pentagon Power, Misinformation & Propaganda, Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy, War & Face of Battle, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity

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The ONLY “Before and After” Book on the Iraq Mis-Adventure,

October 7, 2006
James Fallows
James Fallows is unique for giving us the only “before and after” book on Iraq. This book, while it consists of a collection of articles published in the run-up to the war on Iraq, is exemplary for showing what was known before the war, and how a combination of ideological bias, bureaucratic timidity, confusion, and general incompetence actually allowed this Nation to be led to an elective war of devastating consequence and cost.

The author provides both an introduction and a conclusion to the book that are unique to the book and set the articles in harmony as a whole.

There are other books that excel as retrospective reconstruction and finger-pointing, among which I would include HUBRIS, Squandered Victory, The End of Iraq, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, and most recently, State of Denial, but this is the only book to focus on all that we knew prior to the war about the daunting difficulties facing us in making the peace, and why the political leadership of the Executive did not want us to think about that, and why the political leadership of the Congress refused to play its role as a co-equal branch with the power of both the purse and the declaration of war exclusive to it.

James Fallows documents how virtually every sensible element of the federal government, from the military to the diplomats to the commerce and treasury and agriculture and others, all KNEW that invading Iraq was going to open a Pandora's box of sectarian violence, ethic conflict over resources, a collapse of good order, the failure of infrastructure the US would not be able to repair quickly enough, and on and on and on and on!

Objective observers, including the British, considered the claims of Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz with respect to the ease with which Iraq qould be liberated, to be the “ruminations of insane people.”

The author's bottom line is clear: the bureaucracy did its job and anticipated every single reason for not going to war, every single calamity that would befall us in Iraq. Where government failed was at the political level, with Dick Cheney closing out the policy process, spoon feeding the President lies from convicted thief and liar Chalabi, and with a full-court press backed by Wall Street and the media, to declare dissent to be treason–hence General Tony Zinni, former Commander in Chief for the Central Command, being called a traitor for sharing his knowledge.

The author and The Atlantic Monthly did not rely only on open sources. They sponsored a war game that came as close as possible to matching all that the US Government might be doing behind closed doors, using only open sources and overt experts, and here again, well in advance of the war, the conclusion was the same: don't do it!

The author concludes the book with several findings, all of which are completely consistent with the other non-fiction books I have read on Iraq and related blunders:

1) Corporations deciding on how to market a brand of toothpaste are vastly more meticulous and thoughtful that the political leadership in the Executive deciding to go to war on what proved to be whims, lies, and active mis-representation.

2) There was too little friction. The Administration got a “free ride” from the people, Congress, the media. Other than Senator Byrd, who shall long be my personal hero for his 80 speeches against the war (he alone among all the Senators stood fast on the matter of the Senate being equal to the Executive and having the right to question this idiocy–see my review of his book, Losing America), our Congress abdicated its responsibilities and failed the Nation. This was a bi-partisan failure, but the extremist Republican leaders were most to blame.

3) There has been no accountability. I remain shocked by the number of books and DVDs (see my list of Serious DVDs) that document the constant stream of lies and mis-representations from the political leadership and their tame uniformed members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (who should be fired for confusing loyalty with integrity). It is a sad commentary on the Nation that the pedophile charges against Congressman Foley seem to carry more weight with the public than our 65,000 amputees.

I like this book very much. It is important for all Americans to understand that good minds working only with open sources of information easily anticipated the reasons why an elective war on Iraq was not a good idea. It is important for all Americans to know that the good people in State, Defense, and elsewhere got it right, but Dick Cheney shut them down, shut them out, and alone, bears responsibility for leading a young President ignorant of national security matters, on a very irresponsible and costly course of action.

Dick Cheney has a great deal to answer for–none of the others could have achieved their ill without him.

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Review: Free Flight–Inventing the Future of Travel

5 Star, Best Practices in Management, Biography & Memoirs, Future

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5.0 out of 5 stars Opens the Sky to Non-Pilots, Great Overview,

May 24, 2003
James Fallows
I bought this book for a very practical reason. In the aftermath of 9-11 I was thinking about moving to Smith Mountain Lake, four hours drive to the South of Washington, D.C., and I wanted a sense of whether “general aviation” might provide me with a once a week “commuter solution” for getting back up to the National Capitol Area.The book is fully satisfactory. While some might complain that it tells a personal story, I found this perfectly useful as a means of understanding both the pros and cons of airline travel through “hubs” that impose time loss on the passengers for the convenience of the commercial airline companies, versus “general aviation” which allows point to point travel.

Most interesting to me was learning that with the hubs and the problems inherent in airline travel today, the average speed for any trip by air can be just about the same as the average speed if going by car–60 miles per hour.

I ended this book with three understandings that more than warranted its purchase:

1) I, a non-pilot, could easily learn to fly and it would not only be worth my while, but great fun as well.

2) General aviation, while not as robust as it could be, is alive and well in America, and new solutions (including an airplane that comes with its own parachute, lowering the entire plane, with passengers, in the event of an engine failure) are there.

3) NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Agency) does a lot more than space flight–I was quite astonished to find that they are heavily engaged in thinking about general aviation solutions, and generally optemistic that in an era when time is the most precious commodity, and general aviation may be a solution for many businessmen as well as traveling families that shy away from the nightmare of getting kids through airports.

Bottom line: a great read, a great buy, and a vision into the future that is practical and fun.

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Review: National Defense

5 Star, Force Structure (Military), Military & Pentagon Power

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5.0 out of 5 stars Still Relevant Because NOTHING HAS CHANGED,

January 19, 2003
James Fallows
I bought this book, used, after it was recommended as a key source to a just-published book by Robert Coram, “BOYD: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War,” which I recommend very strongly, together with this book for historical perspective.Although there may be a few inaccuracies (I did not notice anything substantial) what really matters about this book are two things: the author is a very serious critic with both Public Citizen and Atlantic Monthly credits, and the taxpayer's best interests in mind; and NOTHING HAS CHANGED since this book was published in 1981. If anything, it has gotten worse. One page (43) really jumped out at me, as it contains a chart showing how many planes can be bought for the same amount of money (1000 F-5s, 500 F-4s, 250 F-15s) and then now many sorties per day they can do because of complex logistics and other constraints (2.5/day for F-5's, 1.5 per day for F-4s, 1 per day for F-15s), finally concluding on the “real force” numbers: 2,500 for the F-5, 750 for the F-4, and 250 for the F-15.

As General Wes Clark noted in his book of lessons learned as NATO Commander during the Kosovo crisis (“Waging Modern War”), he found the new USAF airplanes so unresponsive that they needed a full 24 hours notice to shift from one pre-planned task to another.

The author is equally effective in criticizing the Navy for its obsession with carriers and other big ships; and the Army for complex helicopter systems that–as General Clark documents in his book–they are loath to actually use in combat because they might not work as advertised or might be blown out of the sky.

In this book, the author gets the “constants” right, and they are still with us. First, he focuses on the rapidly changing nature of external threats, and the importance of having a military–we do not–that is agile and able to surge in varied directions. The Cold War “one size fits all” military simply will not do….yet the current Administration continues to spend in that direction, with $7 billion for a lunatic anti-missile defense (we would be better off detecting cargo containers with nuclear bombs in them), and another $72 billion for ultra-modern (code for ultra-expensive) weapons systems that a) have not been defined, b) do not provide for the intelligence support needed to make them effective and c) have no connection to the real world of sub-state violence and instability.

The second thing he gets right is the importance of both oil, and instability, as the twin threats to American prosperity–with our over-dependence on cheap oil being a form of Achilles' heel, and our ignorance and tolerance of Arab and other instability and repression being the other side of that same coin.

The third thing he gets right is the need for an independent test authority, because the US military services have proven over and over again that they are corrupt when it comes to weapon acquisition. Whether it is the Navy or the Air Force or the Army is irrelevant–they all fail to do proper requirements analysis and concept development before jumping into bigger more expensive weapons systems that are both not needed for the kinds of threats we have today (America spends as much on national security as the next *twenty* countries, including Russia and China, *combined*), and that do not work as advertised. The taxpayer needs and must demand an Independent Test Authority for all military as well as intelligence systems.

I found this book, and one other, by Paul Seabury and Angelo Codevilla, “WAR: Ends and Means,” to be very helpful starting points in thinking about whether the taxpayer's $500 billion a year that is spent on national defense, is spent wisely. The other two, mentioned above, are the four book beginning to a 100+ book list on making America safe that I will be reviewing here on Amazon over the next 18 months.

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