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Archive for August, 2005

Monday, August 29th, 2005


Perhaps there will be time for commentary later tonight in an update….but not right now

The Physics of Societal and Cultural Change” by Dr. Von

Necessary War” by Callimachus of Done With Mirrors

More later…..

Monday, August 29th, 2005


A bit of personal trivia.

Blogging was light today due to a special family outing to take The Firstborn of Zenpundit to see ” The Lion King “ – which was absolutely amazing. The costumes and set design in particula exhibited aesthetic brilliance. The Firstborn, like the rest of the children in the theater sat entranced at the performance.

Well, almost. Naturally, seated directly behind us was what I can only describe as a multigenerational, matriarchy in motion of Suburban hillbillies who seemed unaware that the performance was not taking place in their living room. Either that or being unfamiliar with the theater they just went went with the standard etiquette of the Friday Night Open-League Bowling tournament.

I could take the non-stop,whiny, running commentary of the anemic five year old, her mother’s automatic and duly ignored attempts at idle-threat ” discipline”, the occasional ” I’m bored” announcement from the petulant 14 year old boy and the miscellaneous antics of the rest of the brood showing evidence of being sired by more than one father. That’s nothing you can’t see at any given mall. Or at least at a convenient passing carnival.

No, what grated on my nerves was the behavior of the grandmother. For a woman of some advanced years, she could give out the most violent guffaw – and did so regularly with each and every punchline. And then she repeated the punchline out loud to the brood and surrounding audience who had just heard it 3.5 seconds earlier- just in case the joke had escaped anyone – and guffawed again. Louder. She was like Max Cady in a fanny pack.

We shhhed. We asked for quiet. We glared. I finally made a rude remark of my own( it began with ” Ignorant” and was well-seconded) but the only sustained peace we received was after the intermission when continued talking would have interfered with their rapidly consuming a hay bailer of popcorn and several pounds of candy apiece . I was kind of amazed at how a group so socially inept could have had the economic means to purchase about $600-700 of tickets and probably close to that much in junk food. Oh, the topper was the five year old reaching into Mrs. Zenpundit’s hair – which Mrs. Z. wisely did not tell me about until we were in the car and on the expressway.

The Firstborn however saw none of this nonsense. She was in the world of The Lion King and was completely oblivious and raved afterward about how wonderful everything was.

That made the day :o)

Sunday, August 28th, 2005


Chirol of Coming Anarchy asks about ” Domestic PNM Theory

Like Curzon and Younghusband, I’m a big fan of Thomas Barnett and the Pentagon’s New Map. While we at ComingAnarchy, and many others, have debated the implications his theory has in the domain of international relations, one interesting question came to me, namely, the implications of it for domestic policy. If we accept that disconnectedness equals danger, then what kind of social and criminal justice policies should we be pursuing? Barnett advocates a so-called SysAdmin force to police the world and rebuild failed states into functioning members of the Core. If one then were to imagine a city with its suburbs, downtown and ghetto, what kind of SysAdmin force and policies would PNM theory dictate?

Since the primary goal of a domestically aimed PNM program would be to connect disconneted people with mainstream society, who would be targeted (i.e. what are the signs of disconnectedness) and how would they be connected? Given that Barnett’s theory is so complimentary of capitalism and views globalization, the international incarnation of capitalism, as the savior of our world, I find it interesting that on a domestic level, his theory would tend to recommend policies essentially socialist in nature.”

The Core-Gap-Seam taxonomy developed by Dr. Barnett is a good ” horizontal model” that can be applied to other domains besides international relations and military grand strategy. In fact, Tom Barnett and Stephen DeAngelis are currently looking at applying PNM concepts to business strategy, international law and public education. I will leave international law and business strategy aside for another day and concentrate on Chirol’s question on domestic disconnection.

It is popular to divide America into Red states and Blue states these days and look at the shrill rhetoric that exaggerates differences and obscures commonalities. I have news for the internet partisans of both sides. They’re on the same side. They’re all connected. They’re in the system. They have the luxury of time, education and DSL connections to worry and fight over permutations of John Roberts attack ads, the lunacy of Cindy Sheehan and other future historical trivia.

The real ” other side” is neither Left nor Right but the disconnected denizens of America’s Educational Gap. They are the children of Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities who meander through stark lives of unquiet desperation. They come from bookless homes with parents who are at best marginal figures, often consumed by drug addiction and mental illness, when they are present at all. Ubiquitous violence and conflict from an early age leave them emotionally disconnected at a neurological level from societal norms and at times a sense of empathy. The range of the moment oriented skill-sets they develop to survive the conditions of their dysfunctional world coupled with the basic education left unlearned in subpar schools leave them virtually unemployable in mainstream society. America has developed a durable underclass and contrary to popular belief it is not an exclusively Black or urban demographic.

Chirol asks if applying PNM theory, a domestic ” System Administration” force, to America’s internal Gap requires ” socialistic” measures. It’s a good question. My answer is that it does not. What is required is that all measures both public and private, State and Federal, current and future be designed, concentrated and coordinated with the systemic effect in mind. A trillion dollars of public and private money directed at two or three objectives instead of twenty-thousand directions is going to have a significant effect.

Secondly, that if we truly wish to make significant headway and solve rather than manage this problem and ” shrink the gap” I would suggest that a certain realistic ruthlessness is required to make the very young the focus of all our efforts for the first time and write off the already badly screwed-up, incompetent and sometimes criminal adults in their lives. For two generations we have worked through and subsidized the dysfunctional adults and I have to say, anecdotal happy cases aside, this strategy ran counter to basic economics, psychology, sociology and educational theory and has, unsurprisingly, yielded consistently miserable results.

My prescription fits poorly into a Left-Right spectrum and would draw upon policy ideas from conservatives and liberals alike without adopting the worldview solution of either being primarily goal-directed. A massive redirection of societal resources toward our most At-Risk and vulnerable children coupled with a systemic intervention against socially disruptive and incompetently disfunctional behaviors that create the conditions for anarchy and violence.

Friday, August 26th, 2005


Bruce Kesler, who has been active in politics since the Nixon administration ( I believe Nixon disdained Kesler as a ” hippie”) and writes for several venues, sends me interesting things on a regular basis. Today, in ” Analogy Inanities” at The Democracy Project, Kesler takes on the ” Iraq is Vietnam” meme, currently enjoying renewed popularity among the MSM lightweights:

We are being smothered in asserted analogies between Vietnam and Iraq, between the 1968 or 1972 presidential elections’ candidates, issues and outcomes and those predicted for the 2008 election three-plus years hence, or between various mid-term Congressional elections and that of 2006. Almost all of these analogies are fairly worthless, in one or more of logic, facts, causes, knowledge, or connections. They may fill space in pundits’ columns, activists’ causes or politicos’ campaigns, but are pretty poor indicators of understanding the present and, especially, understanding a still quite unclear future.

Analogies are basically illustrations serving arguments. By drawing a picture of a previous event, and drawing a parallel picture of a current event, then inferring or pointing out the similarities, a conclusion is argued.

The logical quality of the analogy depends upon the empirical facts, or as close to that as one can get, of what is included and excluded from the past and current situations, and of the causal factors and the connections between cause and effect in each case and between cases. The persuasive power of the analogy depends upon the extent of fact-checking knowledge by and available to the listener, the relevance and appeal to the listener of the connections made, and the presentation of the analogist.

These latter “emotional” factors, naturally, are more important to the ignorant or partisan than is logical quality. Counter-arguments based on facts and logic are aimed at the more cognizant or open-minded. Counter arguments more based on the emotive factors are necessary for reaching or neutralizing the determinedly ignorant or partisan, but the arguer’s integrity depends upon taking much care to not stray into poorly defensible argumentation.

Sometimes analogies are useful to argumentation, or to begin to understand a difficult subject by using a set of different simple cases, and some actually contain high logical and persuasive quality.

More often, there are more factual and contextual differences than similarities between what is presented as the previous case in the analogy and the current case, the causal and logical connections within and between the two are even more extended than presented, and thus the conclusion argued is more tenuous than real or instructive.

I am not contesting Santayana’s famous dictum, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I am saying that it is incomplete and inadequate. The elements that can make an analogy of greater quality or worthlessness apply, of course. In any event, and even for the best of analogies, it is still essential to deal with the current and probable details and differences. Getting lost in a past event or one’s understanding of it can be as or more dangerous than not knowing the past. It can also restrict one’s imagination, thinking and planning as to the present and future actions that can result in a more favorable outcome.

Great pundits, activists and politicians recognize that the future can be made, not just repeated.”

Analogies are powerful tools for horizontal thinking. A fact recognized by many higher educational institutions that rely on the MAT to screen prospective graduate students. Well constructed analogies emplasize the parallel nature of operational premises or major structural features of two dissimilar things. Poorly constructed analogies rely on superficialities or non-critical aspects to try and draw a hasty generalization.

In my view, the Iraq and Vietnam fall into this category as Iraq is about as much like South Vietnam as it is like the Moon, something recognized by more perceptive antiwar types. Perhaps we should have a contest to see what other specious antiwar Iraq analogies we can inject into the debate. Bonus points for historical obscurity. The winner is the first blogger who finds somebody on the Left using their slogan seriously.

I open with ” Iraq will be America’s Agincourt !”


First a minor correction. Mr. Kesler began his activism with the Johnson administration, though the earlier hippie reference stands.

Secondly, Mr. Kesler writes in reference to comments section:

There is not a space limitation at Democracy Project, outside of decent writing. Beyond about 1-thousand words can be carried over on to a connected page, as was done with my debut post about the sad state of ombudsmen (third in a series I’ve been doing). The reason that I did not go further into illustrations or analyses of examples is that I wanted to concentrate the reader’s attention on the framework of analysis, for the reader’s own critical thinking, without distractions of my further views or the reader’s own dispositions.


Friday, August 26th, 2005


I’m very sorry for the diminished posting the last few days. And email contact with several of you.

My powerpoint presentation has been rendered moot after much investment of effort, sweat, blood, tears and toil; and I have just had my ass handed to me tonight in high stakes Texas Hold’em. As in, on a platter, minimum ” 4″ to open. Normally this is far too rich for my blood but I was on fire earlier in the evening and managed by guile, luck and stealth to get above my station in life .To make matters worse I was a finalist before being taken to the cleaners by the arrogant, cigar-chomping, bitter-enders.


I am going to bed.

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