Friday, January 30, 2004

Chickens Coming Home To Roost - WMD And The Justification For War With Iraq

(spontaneous observations on learning the Bush Administration is open to an independent inquiry into Iraqi WMD)

I said before the war, in the early days of the war when passions were high, throughout the war up until today, that the Bush Administration was rushing to this war and exaggerating the reasons for doing so (my most generous interpretation).

Are the chickens coming home to roost?


A further problem seems to be one of operational negligence. Why were plans to avoid post-war Iraq chaos ignored and flushed? Why weren't they implemented if we were going to war for reasons of WMD, but that if we didn't proceed in a way that would assure orderliness we wouldn't be able to secure the WMD?

What does this tell us? Wanton exaggeration of war aims or severe negligence and/or incompetence? For, if there were WMD, and this was the causus belli for the war, then this would have had to been our first priority in building the war plan, and not getting Saddam, or liberating the Iraqi people, if the result ends up being further uncertainty about the WMD, whether it really existed or not, and/or whether it was spirited out to other countries or terrorist agents in the post-war chaos and aftermath.

For a war effort to secure WMD, and America, to not implement a strategy that takes these into primary account seems very odd, especially when there are known instances of wanton disregard for plans that accurately anticipated the aftermath and conditions on the ground after the initial ground war.

Was this just a variety of incompetence, with efforts to sway the perception of the war aims in order to mask this? Or was there something more rotten going on, as I suggested before the war?

Sunday, January 25, 2004

The Timing Of The State Of The Union And Video Coverage Of A Dean Campaign Event

Musing today on the association of Matt Drudge's hub connector spreading of passionate Howard Dean campaign speech images, and the timing of the State of the Union address. Was this dreamed up in advance? That Karl Rove, fearing the rise of Dean, wanted to juxtapose less-than-flattering images of one of Dean's fiery speeches, which probably never look good on video, against President Bush being "somber" and "presidential" during the State of the Union?

It's titillating, and, if this were the case, they must have been both greatly disappointed and pleased. Disappointed because Dean got trounced by John Kerry and John Edwards, who definitely come across less "nuts" than Dean during a campaign speech, and thus the timing of the State of the Union doesn't mean much in contrast to the Democratic front-runner, who is now John Kerry, who can easily compete with Bush on the "somber" platform.

Still, they must have been pleased with the effect on Dean regardless of the Iowa result, since he unexpectedly gave them a bonus with the "rebel yell" (or "shriek"). Has Dean ever done the rebel yell before at a campaign rally? Probably not, so that must be seen as a bonus, and Drudge didn't expect to have that too, but he was definitely ready with his doctored photo of Dean reading something and looking like Chucky (what is the source of that picture I it real?).

But, with the rebel yell, and the whole thing becoming a national obsession, even with the mainstream media, the State of the Union pretty much disappeared from the national radar, for the most part, and Bush hardly gained any contrast points in relation to John Kerry for looking "presidential" (whatever the hell that really means).

So, in the aftermath of Iowa and the State of the Union, everyone is talking about Howard Dean, John Kerry, and John Edwards in that order, and President Bush is increasingly becoming irrelevant in the eyes of the mainstream media.

That's one take on the events of the past week, and the timing of the State of the Union. One never knows the truth of these matters until years later, if ever, and I don't have any more access to the Bush Administration inner sanctum than anyone else.

Just something that came to mind this morning.
Kevin Drum Puts The Smackdown On President Bush, War, And Elections

Kevin Drum is on fire today. His take on the Bush Administration and their electoral posturing as regards to Iraq is gold. Pure gold.
After 9/11 George Bush had a chance to build a bipartisan consensus about terrorism and how to respond to it. But he didn't just fail to do that, he deliberately tried to prevent it, and by transparently treating terrorism as little more than a chance to boost the prospects of his own party he has convinced everyone who's not a Republican that it's not really a serious threat. After all, if he quite obviously treats it as simply a political opportunity, it's hardly reasonable to expect anyone else to take it seriously either.

Treating Medicare or abortion as a partisan issue is one thing, but treating war the same way is quite another, and in the end it's George Bush who is largely responsible for convincing half the United States and most of the world that terrorism is little more than a GOP talking point. It's likely that someday we will pay a heavy price for this.

By the way, his rant today isn't related to my prior posts today, so noone get any funny ideas about that.

WMD, Cognitive Dissonance, Rationalism, And Serious Analysis - Part IV

Back over at Kevin Drum's place (blog) yesterday, I was musing on his discussion of pre-war Iraqi WMD beliefs, and, even more, his dismissal of Noam Chomsky as not a "serious" critic. Now, I have all the respect in the world for Kevin, but I have as much or more for a challenging critic like Noam Chomsky. As always, keep in mind these comments are on-the-fly, and not vetted, proofed, or multi-drafted.


Another must-read is "The Sorrows of Empire" by Chalmers Johnson. Remember, he is the one whose earlier book "Blowback" accurately forcasted that the world was not at all happy with the proliferation of US bases around the world, and that one day it would come back to bite us.

Sweet reference Mimikatz. What every American should understand is the well-known international concept of "Islamicist blowback".

No serious analyst would ever dare to mention in the mainstream media that we practically reinvented Jihad ourselves in our attempts to enmesh the Soviets in Afghanistan [in their own Vietnam].

Or that the CIA sponsored the terror camps (to a signifigant degree) that we later spoke out so vehemently against, one of which Clinton bombed.

No, that's absurd analysis (not because it's based on faulty facts or information, the information is sound, but because it goes against the conventional wisdom and belief in our righteousness).

Serious analysis is that these terrorists are enemies of freedom and not patriotic defenders of their territory and culture, and that whether we encouraged this cocktail of territorialism and religious fanatacism is not relevant, if even acknowledged, since that was eons ago in the Cold War, and now they should know better that we are no threat when we build military bases on their "lands", and especially because everything has changed now since 9/11, and you can go back to Kansas, and the stars do revolve around the earth (oops...mixing my eras and dogmas).

WMD, Cognitive Dissonance, Rationalism, And Serious Analysis - Part III

Back over at Kevin Drum's place (blog) yesterday, I was musing on his discussion of pre-war Iraqi WMD beliefs, and, even more, his dismissal of Noam Chomsky as not a "serious" critic. Now, I have all the respect in the world for Kevin, but I have as much or more for a challenging critic like Noam Chomsky. As always, keep in mind these comments are on-the-fly, and not vetted, proofed, or multi-drafted.


lest us all not forget that BushCo insisted throughout the run-up that they had oodles of evidence that they could not reveal because of security reasons.

Bush and Co didn't need evidence. All they needed was the conventional wisdom and existing belief that Saddam had weapons.

With their dogmatic emphasis, they cherry picked evidence and convinced themselves the case for war was undeniable. 80% of the free world disagreed.

As mentioned earlier, the rationalist Chomsky also believed there were WMD in Iraq, based upon the evidence that he had seen (admittedly not much).

The difference is that Bush and Co turned the evidence they could find into, for them, an undeniable claim that was widely denied. The claim was not that there was WMD, which almost everyone suspected there to be to some degree.

It was that this was a reason for a war. A just war. That there were no WMD only makes the claims that this was a just war, based upon WMD, that much more a crock.

Because, even with some WMD, the vast majority of the free world was against the war (an immediate war), because they did not consider Saddam Hussein, a weakened despot, an imminent threat.

Without WMD, this becomes so obvious as to not need to mention, though this apparently escapes our mainstream media, also caught up in the fiction of conventional wisdom and ratifying "official" belief systems.

WMD, Cognitive Dissonance, Rationalism, And Serious Analysis - Part II

Back over at Kevin Drum's place (blog) yesterday, I was musing on his discussion of pre-war Iraqi WMD beliefs, and, even more, his dismissal of Noam Chomsky as not a "serious" critic. Now, I have all the respect in the world for Kevin, but I have as much or more for a challenging critic like Noam Chomsky. As always, keep in mind these comments are on-the-fly, and not vetted, proofed, or multi-drafted.


Everyone acknowledges we live in a dangerous world. But most everyone does not know why. They don't know, or have even really examined, why their enemies hate them.

Our leaders just lie about it. Plain and simple. So they are no help.

And it's not just our enemies that make the world dangerous. We make it so for ourselves. Conventional wisdom doesn't pay attention to nonlinear disruptions caused by our environmental impact.

Noam Chomsky's latest book is a good place to start shattering illusions and start examining the world and challenges we face rationally.

Howard Zinn's book, Artists In A Time Of War, is also a great place to get a dose of cognitive dissonance, and commit yourself to engaging and absorbing it, rather than ignoring and rejecting it.

There are two ways to deal with cognitive dissonance. It is not a new concept. Mainly, it's the difference between deductive and inductive thinking (well, not exactly).

If information does not support your conclusions, i.e. belief and conventional wisdom, do you reject or ignore it for this reason? If so, welcome back to the Middle Ages.

Or, in the face of conflicting information, do your examine and adjust your conclusions? This is the scientific process, and thankfully because of it we have become a more rational creature and have won our freedom.

Don't give it away. And don't ever believe that Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn are not serious analysts or commentators.
WMD, Cognitive Dissonance, Rationalism, And Serious Analysis - Part I

Back over at Kevin Drum's place (blog) yesterday, I was musing on his discussion of pre-war Iraqi WMD beliefs, and, even more, his dismissal of Noam Chomsky as not a "serious" critic. Now, I have all the respect in the world for Kevin, but I have as much or more for a challenging critic like Noam Chomsky. As always, keep in mind these comments are on-the-fly, and not vetted, proofed, or multi-drafted.


If you look into it Kevin, you'll find that reliance on ideology and fiction is what allows these things to happen (mixed in with some genuine fear).

To be honest, Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn [Kevin did not mention Zinn, but I'm using him as another example] are two of the more serious analysts around, and just because they seem so radical in their visions doesn't mean otherwise, just that the measure of useful illusions and fiction we live on may be the more radical in nature.

9/11 should have caused people to look up and start asking questions about the conventional wisdom, and its insistence on how to correctly interpret the available information, and, along with this, what information ought to be ignored or downplayed.

The answer is that important information should not be ignored when it contrasts with the belief system and conventional wisdom (i.e. cognitive dissonance). Instead, the rational thinker will examine the available information and look for patterns of consistency in order to gain some understanding and hopefully predictive insight.

This is called the rationalism - the scientific process.

There has never been a compelling argument that Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn aren't rational or scientific in their thinking - only that either they are too much so, or not suitably emotional enough to understand the importance of information being consistent to belief and conventional wisdom.

In other words, have you already formed your beliefs and understanding of the world, your knowledge, and only supporting information is needed, as you are rigid and certain in this belief?

Or, are you more fluid, adaptable, and able to change, by realizing that your beliefs and conventional wisdom are only working hypotheses, and that in the face of conflicting information more sensible wisdom and beliefs may be appropriate?

Which one do you think will be more successful in a changing and fluid world?

Saturday, January 24, 2004

George Bush Threatens First Veto On Behalf Of Big Media

It's time to start focusing on Big Media again. Congress has just passed a bill to expand the reach of Big Media, by raising the number of outlets they can own from 35% to 39%, and this after we successfully put down similar efforts by the FCC to raise the limit to 45%.

Yes, "we". The blogosphere was primarily responsible in airing these issues when the FCC ruling came out. Big Media ignored it. No surprise there, and the most compelling argument on our behalf (will the media report on important issues not in its financial self-interest?).

Apparently, this thing got put into the Frankenstein omnibus spending bill because Bush threatened a veto if they didn't put it in. So now we know...George W. Bush is bought off by Big Media (well, many of us already knew that). The vast majority of the American people are not in favor of this action, and stated so in the last go-around. What is George W. Bush thinking, that he'd rather be on the ranch than be reelected?
A veto threat also led GOP leaders to allow media companies to become larger than many lawmakers wanted. House and Senate majorities earlier had voted to oppose a Federal Communications Commission decision permitting a media company to own TV stations reaching 45 percent of the U.S. viewers, up from 35 percent. But GOP leaders, fearing a veto, raised the cap to 39 percent.

Like I said, it's time we start raising the roof on this again (not raising the ownership limit). Paging Lisa English...

What Happened To The Democratic Negativity (Part III)?

Yesterday, I was hanging out over at Kevin Drum's place (blog). I had some on-the-fly reactions to one of his posts ("The New New Conventional Wisdom"), discussing the media wonderment that Democrats are suddenly such positive creatures.


Very short version: If you can't defend your own, even while competing against them, against unfair and distorted treatment from the media, which could happen to any of the candidates, then the media gets a pass for it, and when it gets turned against you, you deserve what you get, no matter how much you complain, because you gave the pass earlier saying it was alright, even though you clearly knew what was going on and seemed to have considered it wrong.

Just like the resolution in Iraq in some ways.

You can't have it both ways. The Democrats could have strengthened themselves as a party, and made a surge against negative reporting against them in general (and media bias), by uniting against negative coverage of them as a whole, and at least specifically in this case with Dean, which is the most egregious case of it so far.

They didn't. The Democrats aren't concerned with media bias - at least not today. Yet, they'll make it a big issue later, and I'll be reminding everyone who didn't mind, looked away, and in fact took advantage of, media bias just a months earlier.

Media bias sucks no matter who it benefits. We really need to move away from the corporate slush fund dominated two-party system.
What Happened To The Democratic Negativity (Part II)?

Yesterday, I was hanging out over at Kevin Drum's place (blog). I had some on-the-fly reactions to one of his posts ("The New New Conventional Wisdom"), discussing the media wonderment that Democrats are suddenly such positive creatures.


If Dean somehow surges again, get ready for more negativity. This is a joke, and clever commentators ought to pick up on it.

In other words, the negativity was pointed at Dean, since he was winning, and he responded with negativity. Now, he's not on top, and miraculously the negativity is gone. Since when does the obvious become compelling news? Big Media wants this to be about Dean spinning all the negativity, Kerry being a positive nice guy, and everyone taking notice now. That's not what really happened, at least in reality and not image.

The absence of Democrats speaking out against Big Media's portrayal of Dean (not the Internet, or Drudge, but mainstream media television and newspapers)...

...has been noted by independents everywhere. Apparently, the Democrats don't need to rally around their own, or defend reality, when image and the "politics of personal destruction" is underway, and not by other politicians, but by mainstream media coverage and misreporting.

What I'd like to emphasize is that a real party who really cared about politics in America would band together, despite self-interest of the individual players, and loudly proclaim that this "assassination" coverage is unacceptable and will be identified as such in public at every turn.

This isn't altruistic in its face. It works for the self-interest of all the candidates. If Kerry needs the mainstream media to assassinate Dean's character to win, he doesn't deserve to win. But if he pulls out the nomination, after saying nothing in defense of Dean (in terms of clearly unfair media coverage), and then suddenly faces it himself, and expects people to rally behind him because of it, he can forget it.

Hypocrisy doesn't sell.
What Happened To The Democratic Negativity (Part I)?

Yesterday, I was hanging out over at Kevin Drum's place (blog). I had some on-the-fly reactions to one of his posts ("The New New Conventional Wisdom") discussing the media wonderment that Democrats are suddenly such positive creatures.


It's not the video (of Dean's "nuts" speech) that suddenly has made attacks out. It's that Dean is no longer in front.

Kerry was a big negative player in mailings, but now he's on top. He'll try to ride it out.

Gephardt was totally negative, and he's gone.

Dean knows he can't be negative anymore, and this is more from his showing in Iowa than anything else. The video just amplifies it for him.

Clark wasn't really that negative in the first place, so that doesn't really apply.

Ditto Edwards.

What we have here is the expounding of a "great difference" that really isn't such a great difference. Lieberman doesn't have to trash Dean anymore, and just has to try and posture with the other pro-war resolution Democrats (at least for the time being).

If Dean somehow surges again, get ready for more negativity. This is a joke, and clever commentators ought to pick up on it. But, if you favor a candidate who's helped by Dean getting trashed by Big Media, you probably have an ethical quandary.

The attempted assassination of Howard Dean's image has been epic, but not yet complete, and Dean can bounce back. Many are convinced he will.

The absence of Democrats speaking out against Big Media's portrayal of Dean (not the Internet, or Drudge, but mainstream media television and newspapers), which clearly has interpreted a campaign rally beyond what it really was, and misrepresented the spirit and nature of that post-caucus rally, not to mention has declared the victory of image over reality (since Big Media shouldn't be bothered to point out that the images do gross injustice to what was really going on...they only need to comment and amplify what the images seem to say).

I've taken note that none of the Democratic candidates or the party has spoken out against the blatantly unfair treatment of Dean, who has brought much energy, enthusiasm, attention, and fundraising to the party.

Whoever wins the nomination, if it isn't Dean, will be next.

I don't want to hear them complain when they get ambushed by Big Media, whether it's Kerry and his haircuts or some other nonsense.

Right is right all the time. If it's wrong for the mainstream media to do that, you need to say so all along. Guys like Kerry only complain when it happens to them, and take advantage when it's happening to someone else.

Like I said, whoever wins better not complain about their portrayal in the media. They stood silent while Dean was nearly destroyed, and he's a good man. They are no better, and deserve no better treatment.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Failing To Defend One's Own

The Democratic Party should be very careful in regards to the attempts by media outlets to destroy Howard Dean's candidacy. In their joy of regaining traditionalist control of the party, they may, by failing to defend and stick up for their own (Dean), drive the final wedge between themselves and independents who have been willing to look the other way in order to defeat Bush.

This may possibly lead to a 3rd party presidential run, if the current Iraq, economic, and criminal investigation trends of the Bush Adminstration continue, by someone like John McCain. With a credible candidate and the right message, talking about bringing power and influence back into the hands of American citizens and not big monied organizations, the endorsements of progressive organizations like and influential individuals like George Soros will not be assuredly Democratic (all are united to defeat Bush, so a better positioned 3rd party candidate would be just as good).

Depending on what happens in the next few days and weeks in terms of Howard Dean, and what kind of support he gets from his party, will decide if a large number of his supporters who are not die-hard Democrats will lean towards the 3rd party (if Dean's campaign is effectively derailed by Big Media, which is not a foregone conclusion).

Moderate Republicans, fiscal conservatives, libertarians, independents, progressives, Greens, the previously disenchanted non-voter are all up for grabs. A guy like John McCain would be able to put forth a credible challenge to win their vote. Such a platform would force the Democratic Party to choose between its liberal or centrist wing, and desperately hope it could keep the rest.

Like I said, if the Democratic Party doesn't stick up for Dean, and what he's done for them in terms of energy, organization, and fundraising, not to mention enthusiasm, then a useful illlusion gets shattered. It's not that Dean has to win, but the man and message is respected and honored by the eventual winner of the party nomination, and when it counts, in the pinch, and not when it's already over.

Some of us care about the issues, about the platform, and about the imminent danger of totally losing control and access to the media, and thus national discourse when the Internet is still much in its infancy in terms of impact. There are great dangers in the world today, not only from terrorism but from the effects of our actions and industries on the environment.

In America, obesity is an epidemic, even amongst the young. Our children are also becoming more prone to asthma and attention deficit disorder. This is no doubt due to the unregulated release of industrial chemicals into our communities, rivers, and natural reserves, the decreasing nutritional quality of our food, polluted air and water, and a dumbing down shallowicization of our culture through the influence of television and lowest-common-demoninator media marketing.

To me, the freedom of information and distributed media access and control is the number one issue in America, and for dealing with the immense challenges we have before us, and which our traditional political parties really have no feasible plan to deal with, if they even acknowledge them, in a timely and appropriate manner.

In their absence, someone will step up to accept the mantle. This is the first law of free markets. We must defend these free markets, especially in politics, or we will lose them. There is a growing danger facing us, and we are not institutionally prepared to deal with it. It's time to change. From this man, you will never hear "anyone but Bush" (though I'm not saying that when the time comes that will be the thinking behind my vote - it's just not a worthy rallying cry for the greatness of our times, especially to brag about or promote).

I'm not going down with the ship without a rational and engaged effort to plug the holes and get back on course. Right now, all hands on political deck are engaged in infighting, with the holes being ignored, and the course set by political expedience to win the smaller partisan skirmishes. This is unacceptable, and possibly will lead to a nonlinear development that overwhelms our ability to "weather the storm".

It's about time we wake up and take responsibility.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Emotional Selection In Memes - The Case Of Urban Legends

I'm reposting this from early May, for reasons that may or may not obvious to regular readers.

Every now and again, I'll post an article related to my interest in selective perception, attitude change, and cognitive dissonance. It sounds technical, but it really isn't. As time goes on, I'll elaborate on these models of the mind, and try to relate them to everyday occurrences. Especially involving political attitude change and reinforcement. This one is an interesting one, and I'll post my analysis of it a little later on, or perhaps in a brand new post about urban political legends.
This article explores how much memes like urban legends succeed on the basis of informational selection (i.e., truth or a moral lesson) and emotional selection (i.e., the ability to evoke emotions like anger, fear, or disgust). The article focuses on disgust because its elicitors have been precisely described.

In Study 1, with controls for informational factors like truth, people were more willing to pass along stories that elicited stronger disgust.

Study 2 randomly sampled legends and created versions that varied in disgust; people preferred to pass along versions that produced the highest level of disgust.

Study 3 coded legends for specific story motifs that produce disgust (e.g., ingestion of a contaminated substance) and found that legends that contained more disgust motifs were distributed more widely on urban legend Web sites. The conclusion discusses implications of emotional selection for the social marketplace of ideas.

This emphasis on disgust, and emotion winning out over reason, is very interesting, and the scenarios and research credible. Even more compelling, the authors of the study extend their ideas to the social realm and see a method to the madness of fear-mongering.

In legal and public policy circles, researchers have expressed repeated concerns that the media may skew public policy by provoking irrational fears. By provoking such fears, the media may cause society to skew public policy toward trivial but emotional "problems" and away from legitimate problems that are less emotional ( Bailis & MacCoun, 1996 ; Edelman, Abraham, & Erlanger, 1992 ; Glassner, 1999 ; Marsh, 1991 ). Although the media may deserve all the criticism it gets, irrational fears often propagate in the form of informal contemporary legends that use as experts only the ubiquitous "friend of a friend." Until we understand more about emotional selection, we are unlikely to understand the social implications of a marketplace of ideas that competes not only over truth but also over emotion.

There are ramnifications on political discourse and campaigning as well. Will virtual urban legends be spread throughout the people by their participation in political blogs? By overreliance on emotion and skewed stories and facts? Or will the availability of instant research and fact checking powered by Google be able to counter this? I'm not sure. I know the emotions are already running high on political blogs, and on many sites, and in many comments threads, the mob rules and independent, thoughtful opinions, and especially dissent to the consensus view, are not welcome, or are misconstrued to be the work of "trolls" from the "other side" (i.e. the enemy, other party).

Freelixir Is Retired

Though, as with the case of Michael Jordan, retirement can never be presumed permanent. Only death (and some say taxes) are permanent. What I'm thinking though is that roaming around with an alternate identity, or at least name, isn't really the best thing, and sometimes discourages rigorousness or balance on my part.

So allow me to reintroduce myself. I'm Jimm, and I'm a nice guy. I love America, and I respect opinions that differ from my own. From now on, I'm going to be sure that I represent myself consistently and without the occasional (and very rare) head-scratching and bewildering outburst-as-gonzo-strategy (I won't even bother to explain).

Any of you who have been my irrational target on one of these two "days of infamy", my sincere apology.
God Blessed America With Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King is a personal hero. In elementary school, I was given the assignment of delivering the "I Have A Dream" speech on his birthday. I'm not sure if it was a national holiday then, and, for whatever reason, I didn't actually end up doing the speech. As I remember it though (vaguely), the impetus behind it was my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. McNair, a brilliant and engaging black woman and teacher.

My elementary school was integrated, and the inner city kids were bused in. Many of my closest friends didn't come from the neighborhood, and were either Mexican or Black. None of us really cared about that though. The bottom-line denominator is that we loved sports, and we played football, soccer, or basketball together every recess and lunch. I loved those days, and will never forget Robert, Jesse, Reggie, and the rest.

The assignment and exposure to Dr. King changed my life. Ever since, I've been very interested in ideas and movements of liberation. It opened my eyes in those young days to realize that America was still growing into the land of freedom. After the "I Have A Dream" speech, I soaked up all the American rhetoric I could find during grade and high school (Daniel Webster being another personal favorite - "One and Inseparable").

Dr. King's dream is mine too, not to mention millions of others around the world. We should never rest until we see it awaken. In my mind, making Dr. King's birthday a national holiday is one of the best and most inspiring moves we've ever made as a people, because it assures that, in the absence of a Mrs. McNair, that all kids growing up will inevitably be exposed Dr. King's presence and brilliance. To his dream.

God bless America, and Dr. Martin Luther King.
Taking A Retreat

Once again, I find that I'm pushing myself to the edge out here on the Internet. I spend an inordinate amount of time poring through information and blogs, and believing that it really makes a difference, that with enough time an integrative vision and message can be grown.

Yesterday, I snapped a little bit at a few bloggers and politicians, and, in my mind, that's never appropriate. I know it's par for the course for many, but not me. That's not what I'm about. Sometimes it happens because I'm mixing my reading of Camus with politics (especially meditating on his brilliant position against "murder justifying murder"), which is a combustible mixture for me.

Or, it might be rage at the idea of a renewed military draft, and the growing trend I see in this country of "failure justifying failure". I really think that our current course in this country, in both economic and foreign policy, is severely limiting our options for the future. I find this dangerous, and don't even really care whether its intended or not (and I don't assume that it is intended in the absence of supporting information for that contention).

So yes, I'm angry. To be honest, I'm very concerned and worried about our viability and strength as a nation (in a larger sense than military might). It's not healthy to be lathering myself into a rage, however, as it affects the quality of my life and of my relations with others (similar I find to the trend nationally).

With that in mind, I'm going to wrap up a few projects I'm working on in the next week or two, and then head off to the mountains for a zen retreat. In case you're wondering, I'm not a Buddhist, but a Christian who crosses over and sees great value in zen and taoist practices and insights. This movement is growing, of dialogue within and between faiths, and I encourage people of all faiths to explore the insights of zen meditation and philosophy.

I am.
Dick Cheney And Ending Careers
As Bush's Cabinet recruiter, Cheney brought O'Neill into the Bush administration. Cheney and O'Neill had known each other since they worked together in the Ford administration. Cheney fired O'Neill in December 2002 after the Treasury secretary objected to Bush's tax cuts and made several embarrassing public remarks.

"I was a big advocate of his, without question, and it's turned out to be a big disappointment," Cheney said. "We were friends. It's one of those things that happens periodically — you put a round peg in a square hole, and it didn't work."

Cheney said he thought O'Neill would do a good job because of his experience as deputy budget director under President Ford and his success as CEO of Alcoa.

"Why it failed? I don't know. I don't want to get into that," Cheney said. "Paul has had his say. I disagree with his analysis, obviously. But he's had his day. I feel badly for him, to some extent, that he has ended his career on this note. That's his choice."
Stream of Consciousness - This Morning

there's a fictional world, and the real world. the politician's job is to construct the most appealing fictional world, or, preferably, to cut through the fiction and show the real world, and how the platform is constructed on top of that.

*** website dude. Says he supports Bush because the Democrats want to go back to Clintonian foreign policy where we always ask the UN first before we do something.

well, this is not only fiction, but diametrically opposed to reality. Clinton militarily intervened in Bosnia with NATO forces, and without UN imprimatur. In fact, knowing that Russia would veto the action, Clinton didn't even bother going to the UN (and wasting political capital).

also, comparing the casualties, one has to wonder which action was more effective, and look at the associations without rushing into judgements of causation. Who were the "peacekeepers" in Bosnia, and why having a better time of it than Iraq? Why are the numbers of casualties so different, and is this related to the conduct, strategy, or politics of the war?

finally, the Bush Administration went to the UN, and therefore can't try to claim otherwise. if their supporters try to claim otherwise, and blame it on Powell, they're forgetting who's in charge, and who's responsible.

contrary to Clinton, the Bush Administration was not able to divine that the UN wouldn't play ball, or didn't care, and instead ended up trashing the reputation and honor of our nation by trumping false evidence and championing a shifty case, resulting in great diminishment to our brand, image, and popularity around the world (badly wasting political capital).

in addition, we went in unilaterally, without even seemingly considering a NATO action, which inevitably led to even greater suspicion and disapproval of our motives and methods, though we claimed allies, most of which were repressive nations, along with England, Australia, Spain, and Italy, while the rest of the free world was greatly in opposition.

that's the reality.


association does not imply causation.

the claim that catching Saddam has diminished attacks by 30% of whatever number. there is a reach here, because there could very well be other reasons for this. we've known for awhile that the money and arms are finite for the resistance, and in need of being replenished, and not so easily available as time goes on. so this could just as easily explain the "lull" in attacks, and also possibly imply a strategy of theirs that preemptively realized this development, and therefore focused on more precise intelligence and deadlier attacks as the resistance went forward.

casualties do seem to be holding, if even the attacks have gone down.

regardless, the rush to imply causation from an association is not deductive or rational. the desirable conclusion is acknowledged and in mind, and the evidence is compiled to support it. we want the resistance to diminish now that saddam has been captured - who doesn't? but that doesn't mean we should get carried away with proving it, and our fiction, while ignoring that reality may differ.

indeed, it is our wish for reality to conform with our fiction, or utopia, that drives this. in anthropological and psychological terms, this might be construed as seeking "magical solutions", though we do seek to control and subdue nature, so there is a deeper and more intuitive explanation for it than dismissal as "magical".

I'm guessing that this fallacy of association implying causation is rampant in our public discourse, political communication, and media reporting. it would be interesting to follow that up.

how much fiction, and how much reality?


further ruminating on the difference between the Bosnian and Iraqi occupations. we've ostensibly gone into Iraq to liberate them, and to lessen the perceived danger of Saddam.

Saddam is now captured, the danger has clearly been dispelled, if not discounted in the first place, and the Iraqi people are liberated from Saddam's repression.

we are still occupying. yet we are doing so in a position of no strength. for, if the Shiites desired, they could make the occupation impossible.


because our reasons are used up for being there, short of remaking Iraq into a modern free market democracy. in order to do that though, we need their cooperation. if they resist, especially the majority Shiites, the measures we would have to take in relation to our other goals as far as the liberation of Iraq would be regrettable and hyprocritical.

in previous occupations, the occupied were essentially the enemy, and this dynamic was known by both parties, and probably encouraged a one-sided balance-of-power that allowed the occupying power to do what was necessary to accomplish its goals.

on the other hand, the Iraqis are not our enemies but our friends, or at least sympathetic enough for us to expend blood and treasure in liberating them. either they are respected equals or charges we are responsible for. either way, this means we are limited in the destructive means by which we can compel obedience to the aims of the occupation.

if the Shiites all resisted, we would not have enough forces to deal with it, without bringing in reinforcements and beginning indiscriminate bombing.

we would be back to Vietnam-era hypocrisy and doublespeak where we had to "destroy the village (and villagers), in order to save it (and them)".

since in no way have we ever made the case that the people of Iraq threatened us, or threaten us today, there would be no moral basis for our upgrading to a war against a united Iraqi resistance either.

only very specious claims based upon our desire to build a modern free market democracy in Iraq as essential to our national security would then be left, and the American people and the world just wouldn't buy it.

the reality is that fiction wouldn't sell.

Bring On The War Gamers
Mr. Dean's gaffes are viewed as the main reason for his slide in the polls in recent weeks. As a result, Bush strategists disagree with pundits who say the person best positioned to emerge as the Dean alternative is Mr. Clark.

Campaign officials reason that if the Democratic Party balks at nominating Mr. Dean because of his propensity for gaffes, it will be loath to embrace Mr. Clark, whom Miss Iverson called "every bit as gaffe-prone as Howard Dean."

That would leave Mr. Kerry and Mr. Gephardt, both of whom recently have polled well in Iowa. While Mr. Edwards' popularity has surged to a lesser extent, his aversion to criticizing rivals in an increasingly acrimonious contest has positioned him for a possible spot on the Democratic ticket, perhaps as vice president.

Dr. Dean is not dropping because of gaffes, but because of overwhelming negative media exposure. Wesley Clark is clearly the scariest opponent of those left for the Bush wargamers, since Clark essentially comes as their worst nightmare, being that he can credibly put to bed the fictional meme that Democrats "want to bring back Clintonian foreign policy, which requires the permission of the UN."

Examining the record, we see that Clinton followed no such requirement, and Wesley Clark is proof positive in the case of Bosnia.

Beyond that, a Democratic ticket combining the talents of Dean and Clark, whoever ends up being the top man, would clearly worry if not prematurely defeat the Bush war gamers. If this were to be the case, that Clark and Dean would so intimidate the Republicans, can they drop President Bush? What would happen to all the money he's raised?

I only mention this because the Republicans would be better off without Bush, and Cheney, than with them. Any neutral observer would be hard-pressed not to come to the same conclusion, in preemptively considering all the facts and information coming out during the course of the election (that people just aren't paying attention to yet, that will paint Bush and Cheney negatively, and this after catching Saddam hasn't made a bit of difference in popularity).

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Democratic Challengers Champion Freedom Of Information

Wired magazine is reporting that secrecy is becoming a big campaign issue.
Normally, presidential candidates spend the days leading up to the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary sucking up to hog farmers and singing the praises of those oh-so-flinty New Englanders.

But in the last week, on the eve of the formal start of the 2004 elections, two Democratic contenders took time to talk about a topic that's usually reserved for spooks, conspiracy theorists and a couple of policy geeks: how the government keeps its secrets. There's a faint, but real, possibility that this most opaque of subjects could become a full-blown issue in the presidential campaign.

On Friday, retired Gen. Wesley Clark trotted out his proposals (PDF) to make government more transparent -- just a week after Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman unveiled a similar plan.

In a Manchester, New Hampshire, speech, Clark said he would "restore the public's right to know" by rolling back the Bush administration's expanded powers to make documents classified. He promised to return the powers of the Freedom of Information Act back to where they were before Sept. 11. And Clark vowed to keep public documents posted on the Internet permanently, "unlike the Bush administration, which has repeatedly removed and rewritten postings when politically expedient."


"The vulnerability from Bush's perspective is that he's seen as covering up in favor of the special interests," said John Podesta, who was the White House chief of staff during Bill Clinton's second term. "The secrecy issue is the key into that story line. The public kind of smells a rat. And if you lift the veil a little bit, they'll see the rat's under there."

Last month, U.S. News and World Report devoted a cover story to how "the Bush administration is doing the public's business out of the public eye." And transparency crusader Steven Aftergood, after working in relative obscurity for years as the head of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, has suddenly found himself the subject of profiles in Esquire and The Washington Post.

Go Clark and Lieberman! I encourage all of the other candidates, and the Democratic Party itself, to follow suit.

In the case of Howard Dean, this is a sticky issue, because of his secrecy of his records in Vermont, but is fully consistent with the rest of his campaign.

All I can say is this, "Come clean Dr. Dean!" This issue - the freedom of information, transparency, and accountability - must be pushed in the larger campaign.


More on Wesley Clark's championing of the freedom of information later this weekend (I consider the freedom of information to be the greatest immediate challenge ahead of us in securing both the blessings of liberty and security in the 21st century and beyond).

Corporate Social Responsibility - The Movement
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is also often referred to as business responsibility and an organisation's action on environmental, ethical, social and economic issues. The terms in the area can seem confusing if you don’t know the jargon, however, don’t be put off by this.

You need to think of CSR simply as ensuring that your business is aware of its impacts, is accountable for its actions, and that it undertakes these actions in a responsible manner. Furthermore, a well-run business is transparent in its decision-making and processes and this makes for good governance

CSR can be described as an approach by which a company does the following:

· Recognises that its activities have a wider impact on the society in which it operates, and that developments in society in turn impact on its ability to pursue its business sustainably.

· Actively manages the economic, social, environmental and human rights impact of its activities both locally and across the world, basing these on principles which reflect both international values and the organisations own values (ethics), reaping benefits for both its own operations and reputation as well as the communities in which it operates.

· Seeks to achieve these benefits by working closely with other groups and organisations – local communities, civil society groups, other businesses and home and host governments.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Network-Centric Warfare

From The Information Warfare Site, a revealing look at the future of American military strategy and operations.
The term "network-centric warfare" broadly describes the combination of emerging tactics, techniques and procedures that a fully or even partially networked force can employ to create a decisive warfighting advantage.

NCW increases combat power by networking sensors, decision makers, shooters and their weapons platforms to achieve shared situation awareness, increased speed of command, high tempo of operations, greater lethality, increased survivability and a degree of self-synchronization.


[Visualize] the special forces soldier in Afghanistan, who, while riding a horse with Northern Alliance forces, was calling in air support.

"So what you had was a B-2 or B-52 pilot -- who didn't know this guy, didn't know his frequency, had no knowledge of how that guy was operating -- getting the word he wanted a bomb, and it would happen," Stenbit said. "That's an enormous change."

He refers to this type of operating mode as Smart Push -- the ability to gather data from a lot of sources, put it together and make decisions based on the data.


[T]he goal now is to get from Smart Push to what he calls Smart Pull – the ability to give warfighters the freedom not to be locked into either time or space, so they can obtain the information they need at the moment they need it, regardless of where they are.

And that's where the concept of NCW comes into play.

Stenbit said it involves moving from the broadcast TV paradigm to the paradigm of the Internet.


Stenbit said the primary barrier to achieving the Internet paradigm is bandwidth.

"We have to have an infrastructure of communications which has enough bandwidth in it to allow, for instance, three people to pull the same data at the same time – because if you're going to Smart Pull, you need more communications or it won't work," Stenbit explained. "Then you need to put the data and applications on the network – not in a way that's pre-aligned against a task, but much more openly, so that it's more like the Internet."
Not Of This World - President Bush's Big Ideas

The Baltimore Sun asks President Bush to return to Earth.
Sure, we're suckers for space, and we get that Mr. Bush wants a "big idea" to provide an inspiring backdrop to his re-election campaign. But why not be truly bold and tackle some of our earthbound challenges?

How about a grand vision for ensuring universal health care, including long-term care? Or the president could pledge himself to a speedy overhaul of Social Security before it becomes financially unsustainable.

If he wants to think really big, Mr. Bush could set a 10-year goal of weaning the U.S. off fossil fuels, thus advancing national security and cleaning up the environment at the same time.

What about a voyage to inner space? A mission to rescue the poor, the unskilled, the abandoned youths of cities such as Baltimore from lifetimes of despair could be heroic beyond measure.

President Bush has previously pledged himself to compassionate causes, such as leaving no child behind in the classroom and bringing relief to the AIDS-ravaged continent of Africa. But the money he provides fails to match his rhetoric.
Nonlinear Reading? - The New Literacy
A concept being discussed in some quarters, and taught and implemented in others, is called New Literacy.

Dr. William Kist, a professor at Kent State University's Stark Campus, is a proponent of it, has researched it extensively, written papers and an upcoming book on the subject, and teaches it to his students.

New Literacy has several definitions, but one theme stands out: The ability to process information and apply knowledge is as important, if not more vital, than the traditional teachings of reading, writing and math.

``I would say, in a nutshell, the theory is that we human beings are going to read in a different manner in the 21st century than we did in the 20th century,'' Kist said.

``We are going to spend more time in front of a screen than we spent in front of a page.

``Now that doesn't mean that we're not going to need to have to know how to read print. That's absolutely imperative,'' Kist said. ``However, this theory... is saying that the way we read and write is going to be different. It's going to be nonlinear.''
Fiscal Conservatives Demand Service

The other day, I was going on about the fiscal conservatives, libertarians, and moderate Republicans who were not being politically served by their elected representatives. Well, I wasn't kidding. Six conservatives groups have just broke ranks with Congress and The White House.
National leaders of six conservative organizations yesterday broke with the Republican majorities in the House and Senate, accusing them of spending like "drunken sailors," and had some strong words for President Bush as well.

"The Republican Congress is spending at twice the rate as under Bill Clinton, and President Bush has yet to issue a single veto," Paul M. Weyrich, national chairman of Coalitions for America, said at a news briefing with the other five leaders. "I complained about profligate spending during the Clinton years but never thought I'd have to do so with a Republican in the White House and Republicans controlling the Congress."

Warning of adverse consequences in the November elections, the leaders said the Senate must reject the latest House-passed omnibus spending bill or Mr. Bush should veto the measure.


The Heritage Foundation has projected that passage of the bill would "mark the third consecutive year of massive discretionary spending growth" following increases of 13 percent and 12 percent in the previous two years.

"Congress' continued fiscal irresponsibility is clearly exhibited in the thousands of pork projects contained in the bill," the Heritage report noted.

There you have it - the fiscal conservatives standing up for themselves and demanding to be served.

We also have some fitful stirrings frpm social conservatives, who I didn't even include the other day in my analysis (and, overall, I'd say they're being served well), in regards to immigration reforms, and Cheney is trying to do damage control on that as we speak (as rumours that fundraising will be affected are rampant, and Cheney seeks to spin the immigration reforms as necessary for national security).

As for moderate and young Republicans, not to mention libertarians, I don't see any overt public displays of rebellion, just explicit displays at the ballot box, or reduced turnout.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Martin Luther King, Israel, Oil, And The Middle East
“Israel’s right to exist as a state is incontestable,” Dr. King wrote. He then added, almost prophetically, “At the same time the great powers have the obligation to recognize that the Arab world is in a state of imposed poverty and backwardness that must threaten peace and harmony.”

Referring to the stake U.S. oil companies have in the Middle East, Dr. King went on to note that “some Arab feudal rulers are no less concerned for oil wealth and neglect the plight of their own peoples. The solution will have to be found in statesmanship by Israel and progressive Arab forces who in concert with the great powers recognize fair and peaceful solutions are the concern of all humanity and must be found.”


In a March 25, 1968 speech to the Rabbinical Assembly, Dr. King said: “peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity. I see Israel as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality.” Less than two weeks later, on April 4, Dr. King was murdered while organizing support for striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee.
Multiple Attractors Are Possible - In Chaos, Climate, And Warfare

It's not every day that I am researching (googling) a topic, in this case the intersection of complexity theory and national security strategy, and not only find what I'm looking for, but also synchronicitously find further explanation of a prior topic, in this case the nonlinear dynamics of climate change.

I love Google.
Multiple attractors are possible in a chaotic system. This statement means that chaotic systems can have multiple quasi-stable states. The earth's climate is a good example of this sort of behavior. Our current climate appears to be relatively stable. There is some variation in the climate, but it falls within a general range for a number of years. On the other hand, we know that the earth's climate was significantly different during the ice ages, when it fell within a very different range for a long period. Our current climate and the ice age climate are both quasi-stable states for the earth's climate. The causes of changing climates for an ice age are still not understood and might be quite insignificant, which further highlights the nonlinearity of chaotic systems.

In an analogous fashion, armed forces can drastically change their organization and means of fighting a war. The People's War of Mao Tse-tung is an example of this. Mao divided the phases of war into different stages. In some stages, his army fought a guerrilla war as small units. Only later, when conditions were right (i.e., the opposing armies had been sufficiently weakened), did he combine his units into a conventional force. If warfare is chaotic, then chaos theory warns us that enemy systems can exist in different states. The implications are that we must be aware of these possible states and, if necessary, be capable of changing our own system's state to counter the enemy strategy. Chaos theory also warns us that the transition from one state to another can be very fast.
Climate Change And Extreme Weather May Go Together

From last July, news that is still relevant today.

In an astonishing announcement on global warming and extreme weather, the World Meteorological Organization signaled last night that the world's weather is going haywire.

In a startling report, the WMO, which normally produces detailed scientific reports and staid statistics at the year's end, highlighted record extremes in weather and climate occurring all over the world in recent weeks, from Switzerland's hottest-ever June to a record month for tornadoes in the United States - and linked them to climate change.

The unprecedented warning takes its force and significance from the fact that it is not coming from Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth, but from an impeccably respected UN Organization that is not given to hyperbole (though environmentalists will seize on it to claim that the direst warnings of climate change are being borne out).

The Geneva-based body, to which the weather services of 185 countries contribute, takes the view that events this year in Europe, America and Asia are so remarkable that the world needs to be made aware of it immediately.

The extreme weather it documents, such as record high and low temperatures, record rainfall and record storms in different parts of the world, is consistent with predictions of global warming. Supercomputer models show that, as the atmosphere warms, the climate not only becomes hotter but much more unstable. "Recent scientific assessments indicate that, as the global temperatures continue to warm due to climate change, the number and intensity of extreme events might increase," the WMO said, giving a striking series of examples.

Are we paying attention to this yet?

Conceiving Of Climate As Moving Away From Equilibrium

Googling around while musing on connections between extreme weather and global warming, I discovered this enlightening interview with the director of the McGill Radar Observatory's Isztar Zawadzki, himself musing on extreme weather and global warming.
Will extreme weather increase because of global warming?

There is a good possibility that that will happen; fluctuations in the weather will likely be stronger. The global climate system is getting out of equilibrium and will undergo more variability before reaching a new equilibrium. Many elements in the system will be forced into a fast adjustment, and that will create oscillations in the weather.

How long will it take to reach a new equilibrium?

It could take 200 years, or 1,000 years. It depends on how fast everything can adjust to the new conditions. But species need time for evolution, for change. If the climate is changing too fast, there won't be time for a proper adjustment.

Is there a scientific consensus today about global warming?

We can say with certainty that global warming is happening; it is a fact. We have seen global warming for over a century now. With less certainty but still some confidence, we say that it's happening because of our own activities. There is still a debate on whether we are the cause, but there is a growing consensus that we are. Certainty stops at the level of global effects. At the regional level, the certainties drop even more. And when we talk about weather and extreme weather, we have zero certainties.

Knowing what we do today about developments in complexity and chaos theory, it is not fanciful or without ground to assert that climate change (i.e. global warming) could result in extreme weather (hotter and colder).

This seems counterintuitive mainly due to the choice of language (global warming in favor of climate change) and heuristic (underlying assumptions assuming linear shifts in climate rather than nonlinear transitions of a system moving away from equilibrium).

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Neoliberalism And Neoconservatism - More Alike Than Different?
Reading Ronald Asmus and Kenneth Pollack's Washington Post op-ed contrasting the neoliberal and neoconservative approaches to the Middle East, we were struck much more by the similarities between the two positions than by the differences.

I'll be exploring this vein, of the tendencies of neoliberalism and neoconservatism, further as the days and hours proceed, but not really as is done above. My analysis will focus on centralization of power, and the corresponding ascendancy of elite actors, whether or not these actors are proxies for American power.

The competing vision of power being constructed on this site, and referenced when discovered from others with like-minded visions, will focus on lateralization, distribution, and scaling-by-network (emphasizing resilience and fault-tolerance), and primarily involve the free flow of information, labor, trade, and capital, while also assuring the balance of these under the inevitable restrictions of human politics and morality.

The foundation of this vision is the inalienable rights and dignity of humankind, before which no other value or priority will take precedence. To our benefit, this foundation is already grounded in the Constitution of the United States of America, along with a number of other free nations, and needs only to be authentically and fully realized in law and practice.

In a complicated world, the implementation of this vision necessarily involves fits, starts, and asymmetries, and will not seem as simple as the champions of neoliberalism and neoconservatism often make their policy prescriptions and benefits out to be (even though their vision only seems to result in greater and more complex disfunction and chaos).

I mention this in order to be honest at the root of things, rather than after the obvious reality of the matter is already in evidence. Other ideological encampments would be well served by doing the same. For, to put it simply, that there will be asymmetries (in reality) is a given, and we need not concern ourselves with it. There will never be perfect justice or equity.

But where we can assure an elemental equity and symmetry in title and protection of the inalienable (rights), we must. It is here that this vision draws the line, and will not tolerate inequality or asymmetry. What comes out of this foundation, what follows, in terms of imbalances of the desirable, is outside of centralized planning and control, and instead involves the inevitable and brilliant vibrancy and dynamism of human culture and civilization.


The Disenfranchised Conservative, Libertarian, And Moderate Republican

A large proportion of the political supporters of the Republican Party aren't really getting what they want. In essence, they are not being served. Libertarians, fiscal conservatives, and moderate Republicans - these people are not being politically served. They don't seem to notice this.

That they can't see this is epic. The vision of the Bush Administration is one of a giant and probing national security and surveillance state, in which the impetus behind the vision is failed policies of the past not being acknowledged as such and instead defended "come hell or high water" (crony capitalism and foreign policy).

What happened to the real conservatives? What happened to the real libertarians? Will the real patriots stand up and be counted in an age when American power and sovereignty is being concentrated centrally at the federal level or ceded to business interests at unprecedented and historic levels? Will we idle in the shadows as political neoconservatism and economic neoliberalism come to dominate our nation and world, and, if so, have we resigned ourselves to the end of the classical and successful vision of American constitutional republicanism and democratic federalism cultivated to date?

It's time we pull our heads out of the sand, show some courage instead of capitulating to fear, no matter our particular political persuasion, and realize what's at stake - our democratic and federalist and constitutional republic. Forget about the's time we bring back the classical. Why are we throwing it away? Do the wheels have to fall off before we notice our bearings being lost?

By my read, our form of government has demonstrated remarkable fitness through our history. Why are we burying it? Because of the acts of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden? If so, I have to question who's winning the war on terror. If these men and women want to gut our way of life, and our system of government, we should at least challenge them to justify it in contentious, open, and public debate.

That's why I'm here (since March 2003).


I'll have more on this as time goes on. Be prepared for a serious challenge to the current radical neovision of America, keeping in mind that I'm defending the classical vision, against the neos challenging it, and not the other way around.

Also, take note that free market theory relies on the notion of perfect information (never quite so in practice), and that the more that information is restricted, filtered, and concealed behind closed doors of crony capitalists and state actors, the less that free markets work as advertised. There is no progress in going forward with economic liberalization when the prevailing trend in politics is the opposite and towards official secrecy and surveillance. For then the benefits of these expanding markets will be inordinately enjoyed by those already politically and economically positioned to do so, and more readily able to notice and capitalize on profitable developments, as capital inevitably dominates labor (since foreign capital and investment will be steered through crony domestic networks, increasing their ability to "lord" over and repress the rest of the people, by furthering their control of the political system and influence over the purse strings as far as who gets what contracts and jobs, and under which conditions), while any impetus or pressure to correspondingly open up political access and empowerment decreases, not increases.
Puncturing The Illusion - The Real Backers Of Big Government
tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show

What's the deal with this? Who is "government-expanding"? What do they think Bush is doing? Government spending, power, and influence (the federal government, not the states) are going up, up, up. Skyrocketing.

If there are any trends going against an expanding federal government, it is those that cede influence, power, and control to Big Business, i.e. corporations, which aren't accountable to citizens by elections in any sense, and thus can't be seen as a positive development, since we are democratic citizens before we are global consumers.

My position will be criticized as "business bashing", but so be it - engage in mischaracterization and name calling, and then prove the accusation with sound argument. Rail on about bashing business all you want, just keep in mind that I'm a champion of free markets and information (but only the two together), and the issue is this - it's the largest companies that will be exerting the most influence on local communities and their planning boards, tax policies and land development, through sheer might and dollar-exacting influence on political processes.

How can this be seen as a good thing? By anyone but a very, very small minority of well-positioned corporate and federal stakeholders? Political and economic centralization of power is a danger to liberal democracy and market capitalism, but cleverly justifies its vision as furthering those very systems.

We need to puncture this illusion.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Targeting Dissent - The Military Information Complex?
The evidence is that targeting of independent media and critics of the US is widening. The Pentagon is reportedly coordinating an "information operations road map", drafted by the Information Operations Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. According to Captain Gerald Mauer, the road map notes that information operations would be directed against an "adversary".

But when the paper got to the office of the undersecretary of defence for policy, it was changed to say that information operations would attempt to "disrupt, corrupt or usurp" adversarial decision-making. "In other words," notes retired US army colonel Sam Gardiner, "we will even go after friends if they are against what we are doing or want to do."

Hmmm. A military policy against "adversarial decision making". Does this mean not only against our enemies, friends and allies, but also against ourselves, against fellow Americans with a differing and/or opposing position?

We need to assure that no military information operations are being conducted against American citizens exercising their freedom of speech and thought, unless actively engaged in the violent overthrow of American society. If we allow a threshold where dissent may be interpreted as itself threatening the security and strategy of America, we open a Pandora's Box we don't want to open, and that will vary from interpreter to interpreter regarding what is considered dangerous or harmful speech and opinion. This is so compellingly not reflective of our tradition of liberty and freedom of speech, that it should be immediately addressed and dismissed, in public.

Further, we should examine the ban on propaganda against American people, and assure that it is being followed and, if not, strengthened so that it will be or criminal violators will see lengthy prison time. It should also be extended to allow for no exceptions, assuring that military information operations are not deployed against the American people, and even more egregiously using (our) American media outlets.

Last, this points out why we need, as added insurance, to assure diversity of media ownership and production in order to secure liberty and freedom and guard against malfeasance (whether "well-intentioned" or not). This obviously would begin with dismantling Big Media, and also in encouraging or subsidizing an expansion of available news service options as well, since so many rely on AP and Reuters exclusively (when not just reporting on government press releases).

In short, we must protect and expand the freedom of information here in America, and in the process realize the benefits and security of greater political and economic participation, not to mention greater efficiency of free markets (free markets work, crony markets don't), that the mechanisms of full transparency and accountability provide.

For the security and blessings of liberty, we must accept nothing less.

European Union Wants World Trade Organization To Tackle Corruption

From the ever reliable and informative Transparency International comes news that the EU is pushing the WTO to get into the anti-corruption business:
The European Union wants to expand the agenda of the World Trade Organisation to include anti-corruption measures, Pascal Lamy, the EU's trade commissioner, said yesterday.

In Berlin, Mr Lamy said the Commission would comment on the EU's stance on business and trade-related corruption when WTO members reviewed its trade policies this year.

He hoped the move, aimed at prompting other WTO members to do likewise, would be a first step towards building a "broad coalition of interests" in support of an "explicit anti-corruption agenda in the WTO".

"If we get others to follow, we will have gone a long way towards making the fight against corruption an explicit rather than an implicit WTO objective" he said. (via Financial Times)

We really need to free ourselves from the riptides of corruption and crony capitalism. To do this, you can't just try to swim against the current. You have to lateralize and move beyond the current, and gain a fresh perspective courtesy of full transparency and accountability.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

The Use To Defuse Strategy

The Howard Dean campaign really should use the Fox News image of "Howard Dean Loses His Temper!" as the next ironic fundraiser. It will win them money and praise, force the media to cover the issue as the Dean campaign is framing it, and send a warning to the media and Bush campaign that the "use to defuse" strategy will be in full effect against negative reporting and dirty politics.

I'd also like to see Wolf Blitzer sponsor a new poll: Who has the worst temper . . . Howard Dean or George W. Bush?
From Anger To A Bad Temper - Real News And Analysis

Why can't a media producer like Time Magazine, which has previously reported on George W. Bush's temper, ever do a real human-interest story, with a little depth, like why there is an obsession in American media, at this moment, in regards to Howard Dean's temper, without any mention of the fact that Bush has the same quality?

This would be news - meaningful information and analysis that people would appreciate reading. For, if this vein were followed, it would strike reporting gold, leading to an awareness and acknowledgement that this is merely a pretext for the even more central "anger" meme being pushed against Howard Dean, that Dr. Dean "is an angry politician", "is playing on anger", "is playing the anger card", and juxtaposing that by claiming that what we need is a positive leader, who will unite America, in these insecure days post 9/11, and all this from the supporters and champions of a president who has governed in a way that has clearly, predictably, and inevitably divided America, along the way engaging in questionable activities and justifications that Howard Dean demands accountability for, because and about which many millions of Americans are genuinely disturbed.

That would be political reporting that would inform Americans. Indeed, by exposing these shenanigans for what they are, and pointing out major television networks that seem to be part of the political propaganda effort, rather than the "fair and balanced" effort, Americans would be able to become more deeply aware of the political process in America, be more free and capable to examine the underlying issues involved (the most important understanding of the election), and clearly see which public media networks are reporting in a fair and balanced fashion, and which that are clearly taking sides and spinning information to the benefit of a particular ideology and party.

Why can't we have this? Is this too much to ask? That we get some adult, educated, informed, and balanced news coverage in a nation that is a beacon of modern freedom and democracy in the most advanced era of human civilization to date?

I don't think so.

(please meditate on this)
Why We Need To Downsize Big Media

Though I'll admit it's certainly not in Rupert Murdoch's self-interest for Howard Dean to become the next president, since Dean has vowed to break up Big Media, I'm still somewhat outraged, though also humored and ironically pleased, about the latest development at Fox News, which Tom Tomorrow has posted as a screenshot, and which makes the case for Dean and the rest of us better than anything else on why media concentration of ownership is a danger to the truth and America.

What is it? Well, you should go take a look at it, but the gist of it is that Fox had a news alert today that Howard Dean lost his temper! God forbid! As I mentioned the other day, one possibly could try to make an issue of this, in a perfect world, but in this world if Howard Dean runs for president he will be running against George W. Bush, who, wouldn't you know it, also has a quick temper and, even more well known, a mean streak.

Not only that, but George Washington himself had a terrible temper, along with Andrew Jackson and God knows how many other presidents, and that didn't result in chaos and catastrophe. In fact, Dean acknowledges he has a quick fuse most of his life, and it's clear from his governing record in Vermont, which is superior, that it hasn't bothered him.

Ultimately, if Howard Dean were running against Abraham Lincoln, a gentle man, then maybe this would have some meaning. But, since he's running against George W. Bush, you may as well criticize him for being a former governor, or for being a man - two other things Dean has in common with George W. Bush.

In any case, how a candidate for the presidency, even before the first caucus or primary, could possibly force a news alert on a major network, just on the notion that he "lost his temper", is beyond explanation in an adult, modern free democracy.

The bottom line is that this is pure politics, slanted toward a particular ideology, following the lead of a coordinated effort by right wing interests and the Republican Party to spin the meme that "Dean has a temper", and is thus unfit to be president. For these private interests, this kind of campaigning is well within their rights, though seemingly less helpful than would seem worth the effort, since their own guy has the same quality. On the other hand, for a major American television network to promote these "talking points", and promoting one-sided campaign "propaganda", essentially "taking sides", is beyond the pale.

It's time to downsize Big Media. No owner - corporate, government, or otherwise - should control more than 25% of media. I'd like to hear Howard Dean bring that, and scare Murdoch further into proving better than anyone the clear danger of Big Media. We need a free and independent media - not a mouthpiece for official or partisan truth.


(or, if you're going to presume to be "fair and balanced", at the very least be equally blatantly partisan...where's the Howard Dean talking points?)
All Points Bulletin . . . Howard Dean Loses His Temper!

On Fox News. This graphic ought to be good for a million dollars in fundraising for the Howard Dean campaign. Joe Trippi ought to personally thank Rupert Murdoch, in writing, for a rallying image that will rival the sandwich.
Information Dominance
"Information dominance" came of age during the conflict in Iraq. It is a little discussed but highly significant part of the US government strategy of "full spectrum dominance", integrating propaganda and news media into the military command structure more fundamentally than ever before.

In the past, propaganda involved managing the media. Information dominance, by contrast, sees little distinction between command and control systems, propaganda and journalism. They are all types of "weaponized information" to be deployed. As strategic expert Colonel Kenneth Allard noted, the 2003 attack on Iraq "will be remembered as a conflict in which information fully took its place as a weapon of war".


"Unfriendly" information must be targeted. This is perhaps best illustrated by the attack on al-Jazeera's office in Kabul in 2001, which the Pentagon justified by claiming al-Qaida activity in the al-Jazeera office. As it turned out, this referred to broadcast interviews with Taliban officials. The various attacks on al-Jazeera in Kabul, Basra and Baghdad should also be seen in this context.

The evidence is that targeting of independent media and critics of the US is widening. The Pentagon is reportedly coordinating an "information operations road map", drafted by the Information Operations Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. According to Captain Gerald Mauer, the road map notes that information operations would be directed against an "adversary".

But when the paper got to the office of the undersecretary of defence for policy, it was changed to say that information operations would attempt to "disrupt, corrupt or usurp" adversarial decision-making. "In other words," notes retired US army colonel Sam Gardiner, "we will even go after friends if they are against what we are doing or want to do." (from the Guardian via ProgressiveTrail)

Would this explain the spying and dirty tricks on U.N. Security Council members deliberating the Iraq resolution during the pre-war period? Or am I mixing military and foreign policy strategy (surely we're not running military operations against the U.N.)? Or, more ominously, are our leaders mixing these strategies? An inquiring mind still wants to know.

Media For Democracy 2004
We are all living in the crosshairs of powerful media institutions. Their fire is "incoming,"right into our living rooms, and then into our brains. We need more than self-defense. We need collective action to challenge mainstream media assumptions and push back. We need to support independent media, with our eyeballs, dollars and our marketing know how. We need to encourage media literacy education in our schools. We need to challenge candidates to speak out on these issues, and media outlets to cover them.

The short truism is that we can all do more than we are doing to ensure that next year is not just happy but happier than 2003. is launching a major new initiative called "Media for Democracy 2004" to monitor and challenge political coverage next year – and to mobilize voters around a campaign for better media practices. Timothy Karr,'s executive director, is leading this effort and can be reached at if you want to help and have time, resources or skills to contribute. (from Alternet)

We better be ready for 2004, because we know Big Media is going to be. At least from this site, Big Media will be given no quarter.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

The Straw Man

Persuing the Internet this evening, musing and googling on the Straw Man fallacy, I discovered this handy rhetorical fallacy reference.
The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of "reasoning" has the following pattern:

1. Person A has position X.
2. Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).
3. Person B attacks position Y.
4. Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.

This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. One might as well expect an attack on a poor drawing of a person to hurt the person.

Along with the Straw Man, the tutorial details about 40 other common fallacies, with examples. If you're not already a rhetorical pro, it may we worth your perusal and bookmark, especially as election season kicks in, and the arguments begin in earnest (as if they're not already ongoing).

Burning All Illusions - Framing The Straw Man
One of the most effective ways of preventing people from discovering the truth about a given issue is to make an unwelcome idea absurd through misinterpretation - and then vigorously challenge that misinterpretation. In this way, all discussions becomes a matter of rejecting or accepting the misinterpretation.


During the Vietnam war, the hawks argued for using extra force to defend South Vietnam, on the grounds that the war was winnable; whilst the doves argued against using extra force to defend South Vietnam, on the grounds that the war was unwinnable. As long as these arguments defined the parameters of government and media debate, it was extremely difficult for anyone to raise the point that the United States was not at all defending, but was actually invading and destroying South Vietnam - regardless of whether the war was winnable or not.


This device of invisibly limiting the parameters of opposition is an infinitely more effective technique of thought control than that of forcibly censoring unsuitable ideas. For here the two false poles act like magnets attracting the iron filings of debate to either side, making it extremely difficult to pass through the middle to a more adequate argument beyond - which will tend to be dismissed as 'fresh in from Neptune'....

I encountered that passage last night, after having stumbled upon the book at Barnes & Noble, and thought I'd pass it along. In my mind, this is a great piece of writing, which makes a great point about framing debate, irregardless of how one feels about the war in Vietnam, of which there is still plenty of ambiguity, and very little certainty, even now, over 30 years later.

In the Vietnam war there was no frontline; the enemy was everywhere. Not in uniform, not always armed, not always a male of fighting age. And if a whole South Vietnamese village supported the Vietcong, providing a base, logistics and intelligence to soldiers who were often their husbands and sons, then where exactly was the line drawn between civilians and enemy personnel? It was that reality that gave rise to [an] oft-quoted statement by an American officer in the field that "we had to destroy the village in order to save it." (from Time magazine)

Friday, January 09, 2004

Amitai Etzioni Challenges The Economist - With Cold Hard Cash!

Ah, the sweet fire of a presidential election year. I love it. Making my daily blog rounds from the sidebar, I see that Amitai Etzioni, champion of communitarianism, has challenged the Economist to put its money where it's mouth is.
The Economist predicts that the presidential election will be a close one; that our economic recovery will be jobless; and that the unemployment rate will not be lower on Election Day than it is today. I would like to bet this socio-economists predictive powers against those of the Economist’s libertarian follies.

I hereby offer to meet any amount they are willing to bet, for a charity of our choice (most any other than Hamas), that (a) the election will not be close and (b) the unemployment rate will be lower than it is now by the time we go to the polls in November.

I love this kind of stuff. For, if the Economist is not just hedging their bets, and predicting the opposite of what many believe, then this could be an interesting publicity stunt for them. After all, Etzioni and the communitarians are ideological adversaries, and very well known. Too bad we won't see it happen.

Thinking about the differing predictions, however, gets me thinking. First, as the Economist lays out, if the unemployment rate does not improve by the election, remaining at the historic and absurd level it is today, I'm curious how they think it will be a close election, and not a clear victory for Howard Dean and/or Wesley Clark. By my read, Bush is dead in the water if he can't improve the job situation, especially since the "triumph" of Iraq will definitely have worn off by then, while we still will be active over there, strained for military resources, and paying the bill. My hunch is that there will be a case of buyer's remorse right about that time, which, combined with Dean and/or Clark's intention to challenge the wisdom of doing Iraq when and how we did it, as opposed to other ventures, in an overall frame of cost-benefit analysis, will spell doom for Bush.

Indeed, with mainstream media attention, and especially if Clark is on the ticket either as the president or vice-presidential candidate (or Zinni), the Bush foreign policy is not going to come up smelling roses. By then, the impact on our free world relations and the global economy also will be coming clear. Everyone will know that the Bush Administration exposed a CIA agent working on WMD for (at best) political reasons, Bin Laden will most likely still be on the loose and issuing threats and demands, color-coded alerts will still be intermittently blared, even if continually fine tuned more than the college football BCS formula, and the likely affect of our cynical treatment of our troops, in the sense of "support the troops", while cutting their benefits, then not allowing them to retire as planned, will be dawning on people, as we have to spend more money to try to bribe people to join (or remain enlisted in) the military when recruitment will be seriously challenged, and vague talks of military drafts continues.

So Bush needs to create some jobs, or get Bin Laden, dead or alive. This is really his only hope. Everyone who keeps making this out to be about foreign policy is just wishful thinking. If jobs grow a little bit, enough so people feel it, and the unemployment rate is not mainly a measure of how many have given up looking for work, then, if successfully spun along with a resurgent economy, the election will be close.

Keep in mind that this thing will start out, after the Democratic Convention, at around 53-47% in favor of Bush, if nothing dramatic happens between now and then, and on balance things are more likely to get worse for the incumbent than better.

Especially if Dean is the candidate, riding his grassroots organization, a few points will be made up in previously disaffected non-voters alone. All Greens will vote for Dean, and he has an excellent crossover chance at fiscally concerned and moderate Republicans, as would Clark, though these Republicans, more likely than not, would stay Republican in their votes on their representatives in Congress.

Throw in some criminal convictions, or another attack, or a worse-than-already-expected lagging job market, Congressional hearings on the failure of intelligence and the Administration in justifying the war in Iraq, warning cries from international financial organizations and fiscal watchdogs about the dangerously growing deficit and the falling dollar, and you've got many causes of potential chaos that could sink W. Bush just like his father, if not worse.

On the other hand, if job growth is strong, and most scandals and negative attention are avoided, than Bush should have an edge, but not much. Forget the conventional wisdom about the incumbent - Americans are in an anti-incumbent mood, and many will be coming to the polls (for the first post-9/11 presidential election) that have largely been staying away and not voting. Most of them will not be coming back because they think that they need the protection provided by a strong president (everyone knows we're the baddest force on the planet), they're going to come back because they believe they can't stand aside anymore and let American treasure and liberty be sacrificed in the name of other people's liberty and welfare, especially while we're vulnerable and suffering right here in the homeland.