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Recommended Reading

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Top Billing! Although it may be bad form to cite blogs I am part of here, they just happened to mesh together thematically on thinking historically on the same day. These are really good, meaty posts that complement one another well even though they come from the Left and the Right. John Jay’s post will also interest those concerned with 4GW:

Progressive Historians (Jeremy Young) – Historians and the Gospel of Professionalism and Toward a “History that Does Work in the World”

Chicago Boyz ( John Jay) The MSM Misses the Bout: Part I , The MSM Misses the Bout: Part II and The MSM Misses the Bout: Part III

I am going to have to go back later and add comments at the site when I’ve finished writing my own posts tonight.

Jamais Cascio –  Singularities Enough, and Time ( Hat tip to John Robb)

Subsingularity is cool too.

Swedish Meatballs Confidential …..is back in “not safe for work” business.

In Harmonium Notes towards a theory of Information Opeations (IO) and Structure and Function in Information Operations

Kinda theory-heavy but without some deep thought and conversation, terms like IO will continue function primarily as conceptual “magic cloud” umbrellas that obscure more differences than they reveal.


Please note the comment by networks expert Valdis Krebs

Soob What to do about Zimbabwe? Nothing.

There would be a certain innoculation effect here in Zimbabweans against future cretinous “Big Man” nationalism.

Eide Neurolearning BlogOut of the Box Thinking

This cliche has physical analogs

AFJFrom red to green The rise of jihadism in Russia by DMITRY SHLAPENTOKH

That’s it!


Late add here, very good piece by Michael Tanji:

Haft of the Speardeeper than technology


I’m in good company.

What is Obama’s Core Worldview?

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

Seldom has a public figure of obvious intelligence and education running for president left so scanty a political trail of breadcrumbs to follow. His geniality and ability to connect on a personal level is such that even Illinois archconservative GOP legislators and lobbyists found him to have been, despite his politics, a reasonable person with whom they could deal, at least on occasion.

Obama has a disconcerting number of hard-core, ex-revolutionaries and shady Machine fixers  not only in his past but his immediate present ( you’d think the Democratic Party would have enough raw talent that the Obama campaign would not have to scrape and make use of Communist wingnuts) but seldom has Obama himself ever uttered a controversial word or committed a suspect deed. His voting record, thin as it may be, troubles me:


Voted against free trade zone with Central America (2005)

Voted against letting the IC spy on foreign suspects without a court order (2007)

Consistently voted for timetables for troop withdrawals on several funding bills (2007)

Voted against the confirmation of the superbly qualified Samuel Alito and John Roberts ( 2005, 2006 – I suppose if President Obama nominates the superbly qualified Lawrence Tribe to SCOTUS then all the Senate Republicans should vote “No”.)


Voted against allowing homeowners to argue self-defense who used firearms against local ordinances (2004)

Voted to limit handgun purchases to one per month ( 2000)

Voted against making street gang “hit men” eligible for the death penalty (2001)

In Obama’s defense, while in the Illinois legislature he voted to allow at least former police officers and military personnel to have “conceal and carry” rights which cannot be said of all Democrats in a state where the all-powerful Mayor Richard Daley is near to insane on the issue of gun control. Nor is his brief stint in the Senate any less substantive than John F. Kennedy’s “gentleman’s C” record who served a longer time before running for President than did Senator Obama.That said, Obama is still disturbingly close to our first, modern vaporware, candidate. 

What hill would this man die on, figuratively speaking in terms of political issues?  Whom or what can Barack Obama not abide?  We all saw the video of a young Bill Clinton shaking hands with JFK by this time in 1992 and heard about innumerable Arkansas characters but Obama in contrast has remained a relative cipher. Does Obama have any longtime friends? Keep in touch with Harvard classmates? Anybody? Where are his Indonesian schoolyard chums popping up on CNN ? If the MSM can find John McCain’s  75 year old North Vietnamese jailer from the Hanoi Hilton they could at least find someone who hung out with Obama somewhere, sometime and heard him express an unguarded opinon. Fred Thompson was runing for all of five minutes and every chick he ever had dated had been interviewed by the Post or the NYT before the New Hampshire primaries opened. It’s weird.

I have readers who are Right, Center and Left.  If I’m missing something here or if you care to sound off in Barack’s defense please do so but I’d really like to know what this man holds as non-negotiable principles.

Scalia on Target

Friday, June 27th, 2008

The SCOTUS decision in Heller is important. Let me crib from Lexington Green:

The enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home. Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.

Justice Scalia, The District of Columbia v. Heller

Heller was not just an affirmation of the common sense and historical interpretation of the 2nd Amendment as an individual right -indeed, the idea that the people did not have the right to be armed except at the pleasure of and in service to the national or state governments would have struck the Founders as outrageous tyranny – the entire Bill of Rights was added to placate moderate antifederalists who were unmollified by Hamiltonian assurances regarding Federal power – but of the right of self-defense itself. Not everybody believes that right exists. Or more precisely, they seek to convince you against all history and common sense that you have no right to preserve your life when threatened.

That ancient underlying right emanating from Natural Law is the real target of gun grabbers and authoritarian bureaucrats.

When 4GW Forces Weigh Becoming a State

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

At the most excellent site Jihadica, I found this obscure gem:

Interview with Umarov, North Caucasus Amir

More interesting is Kavkaz Center’s newly-released interview with Dokka Umarov, the amir of the North Caucasus Emirate that he declared at the end of 2007. Here’s what stands out:

  • The decision to declare an emirate was not taken lightly and occurred after much debate.
  • Umarov acknowledges that he has taken a lot of heat from fellow travelers for aligning himself ideologically with al-Qaeda and declaring war on the world.
  • The mujahids do control some territory, but their control is not absolute. Therefore, he does not want his supporters rushing to form a state.

The two translations, Arabic and English, diverge over what sort of state Umarov is talking about. In Arabic, he says he doesn’t want his supporters rushing to form an “actual state” (dawla fi`liyya). In English, he says he doesn’t want them rushing to form a “virtual state.” The difference is significant and if anyone can download the video and make out the right translation, I’d appreciate it

Almost two years ago, William Lind, musing on the prospects of the much more militarily and politically formidible HAMAS terrorist group, pointed to the question for 4GW entities “To Be or Not to Be a State”:

Normally, that captured Israeli would be a Hamas asset. But now that Hamas is a state, it has discovered Cpl. Gilad Shalit is a major liability. Israel is refusing all deals for his return. If Hamas returns him without a deal, it will be humiliated. If it continues to hold him, Israel will up the military pressure; it is already destroying PA targets such as government offices and arresting PA cabinet members. If it kills him, the Israeli public will back whatever revenge strikes the Israeli military wants. Hamas is now far more targetable than it was as a non-state entity, but is no better able to defend itself or Palestine than it was as a Fourth Generation force. 4GW forces are generally unable to defend territory or fixed targets against state armed forces, but they have no reason to do so. Now, as a quasi-state, Hamas must do so or appear to be defeated.

….Hamas faces what may be a defining moment, not only for itself but for Fourth Generation entities elsewhere. Does it want the trappings of a state so much that it will render itself targetable as a state, or can it see through the glitter of being “cabinet ministers” and the like and go instead for substance by retaining non-state status? To be or not to be a state, that is the question – for Hamas and soon enough for other 4GW entities as well.

Statehood appears to be a risky tipping point for an irregular movement to cross.  A strong insurgency only makes for a vulnerable state and a targetable, semi-disciplined, conventional force unless the new state can devote years and resources to consolidating it’s fragile position. For that reason, in the era of State vs. State warfare, guerilla armies were careful to create separate civilian political wings or, better yet, “governments-in-exile” that could safely operate in some remote capitol, playing the diplomatic game of winning legitimacy under the protection of a foreign power. This is not an option for 4GW movements because being an overt pawn of foreign powers conflicts with the ability of the 4GW entity to compete on the moral level of warfare with the regime.

What about “virtual statehood” ?

This is easier to manage, being mostly free of the responsibilities of governance of fixed territory. A virtuual state is still targetable, being composed of social and economic networks but it is a highly elusive target, very adaptive, quickly evolving and with a propensity toward symbiotic behavior, grafting itself onto a host nation-state, willing or unwilling, such as Pakistan in the case of al Qaida ( and before Pakistan, Afghanistan. And prior to that, Sudan).

Wielding sophisticated information networks, the virtual state can cultivate primary loyalties anywhere on Earth that is within range of an ISP or area of mobile phone reception.

Is Creativity a Social Product ?

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Blogfriend Dan of tdaxp clearly thinks so:

Doing Artsy Stuff Isn’t “Creativity”

I’ve talked about creativity before, in the context of the OODA loop, purposeful practice (a form of metacognition that is the opposite of “flow”), and mental illness. Another part of creativity is being recognized as useful by the field of a domain. If you invent a new type of hot water heater, that is being creative. If you’re chess technique allows you to rise in international chess competitions, that’s creativity. If you cure cancer but don’t tell anyone, that’s just wasting your time.

So this article is somewhat off-base:

Why Do Men Share Their Creative Work Online More Than Women? | Scientific Blogging
A recent Northwestern University study has a surprising results – substantially more men are likely to share their creative work online than women even though both genders engage in creative activities at essentially equal rates.

As it confuses artsy-stuff (making music, taking photographs, etc.) with creativity. Certainly artsy-stuff can be a form of practice, therapy, or good old recreation. Perhaps it can lead to creativity one day when you share it with others. But if you sit on it, you’re enjoying yourself, not being creative.

This is more or less along the line of argumentation proposed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi  and Howard Gardner for “Big C” creativity being “real creativity” because it has a downstream societal impact. However, I’m hesitant to accept that social recognition should be a form of validation of creative merit.  To paraphrase my comment at tdaxp,  what if the people with whom you share your creative efforts are not able to accurately assess the intrinsic merit of what you have made or discovered?

For example, Vincent van Gogh’s paintings now sell for upwards of $ 80 million dollars but in his lifetime, despite a prodigious artistic output ,he often had to get by with financial help from his family. Many artists, scientsts, musicians and inventors found cold receptions from their contemporaries to later gain posthumous vindication – sometimes by chance. This is the old “starving artist” cliche and most artists who starve do so because they are mediocre talents but a number of the greatest artists, scientists, inventors and musicians starved with them – or at least were confounded in their hopes for recognition and acclaim.

In all likelihood, the more insightful and groundbreaking the creative act, the less likely the society of the time will be able to fully appreciate or understand it. At least for a time.

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