Video and Computer Games Superempower Horizontal Thinking

Brain Training,” by Orson Card, Civilization Watch, 26 June 2005,

While I struggle on how to integrate this with that, some kind words on videogames by Orson Scott Card:


When you play videogames, you’re giving your brain an intense workout, and the skills you’re developing are useful across the board.

It’s not like riding a bike, where the muscles you develop are useful for riding a bike. When you’re playing a videogame, you’re stretching your ability to notice things with your peripheral vision (useful for driving cars without killing people), recognize patterns, remember intricate series of events, and to delay instant gratification for greater rewards later.

Most of all, you’re practicing learning.

Compare it to homework, where you simply repeat what you’ve already learned until it’s boring. It never gets faster. And if you’re making mistakes, you don’t get any feedback until the teacher grades your work and hands it back.

With videogames, you get instant response to your mistakes and a chance to correct them right away. And when you’ve mastered a pattern or figured out a puzzle and moved on, the next puzzle is more challenging and the next pattern is faster or more complex … or both.

Videogames keep you constantly on the edge of your abilities, stretching, growing.

And even though the player may be physically alone, he is actually moving in space and time, interacting with many “others” at the same time.

According to the article, “Gee contends that the way gamers explore virtual worlds mirrors the way the brain processes multiple, but interconnected, streams of information in the real world” (Steven Johnson, “Your Brain on Video Games,” p. 41).

Here’s the clincher: In a study conducted at the University of Rochester, cognitive scientists Shawn Green and Daphne Bavelier discovered that the perceptual differences between gamers and nongamers were “far more pronounced than the differences between hearing and deaf individuals.” In other words, playing videogames stretches and improves your visual perception more than having to compensate for deafness does!

They wondered if maybe they got these results because people who were naturally more perceptive were more likely to play games. They took a bunch of complete nongamers and had them immerse themselves in the World War II game Medal of Honor and “the evidence was overwhelming: Games were literally making people perceive the world more clearly” (p. 41).

Games are also addictive. It’s not just that they stimulate the pleasure centers in the brain — they also imprint patterns that continue after the game is over. Many people have reported persistent semi-hallucinations of Tetris shapes or Pac-Man patterns superimposing themselves on the real world hours after they have stopped playing.


Mission: read blogs. Write posts for blog.

But maybe some Unreal Tournament first…

Tancredo Is Right On Nuking Mecca (We Are Not At War With Islam)

What Difference Do Nuclear Weapons Make?,” by Max Singer and Aaron Wildavsky, The Real World Order: Zones of Peace, Zones of Turmoil, revised edition published 1996, pg 66.

Revisiting Questions on Deterrence and Nuclear Terrorism,” by Mark Safranski, ZenPundit, 22 November 2004,

The Tancredo Blunder,” by Hugh Hewitt,, 18 July 2005, (from Captain’s Quarters through private email).

Representative Tom Tancredo suggested that the United States destroy Mecca if there was a devastating al Qaeda attack on the United States.

“Well, what if you said something like — if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites,” Tancredo answered.

“You’re talking about bombing Mecca,” Campbell said.

“Yeah,” Tancredo responded.

Hugh Hewitt criticizes Rep. Tancredo, and is wrong on in almost every paragraph

I have been hearing from people who urge that Tancredo is just voicing the updated version of the MAD doctrine which kept the USSR at bay through the long years of the Cold War. That’s silly. Destroying Mecca wouldn’t destroy Islam. It would enrage and unify Islam across every country in the world where Muslims lived.

Wrong. The purpose of MAD wasn’t to destroy the Soviet Union — that would have been an effect, but not the purpose. The purpose of the Massively Armed Deterrent was to deter the Soviet Union.

More specifically, if the United States knew that al Qaeda had acquired a weapon, we would need a way to compel al Qaeda to give us that weapon.

To go one step farther:

Deterrence against clandestine weapons presents quite different problems from the traditional deterrence relationship with the Soviet Union, even if the analytic structure of deterrence is essentially the same. The deterrent threat is likely to have to be against the individual or small group [or their interests — tdaxp] that is being deterred, not against a country.

It is really “compellence,” rather than deterrence, that is needed to deal with the threat… [The United States] would need to be able to compel the threaten to reveal the location of the weapons so that they could be disarmed… Now the democracies need a threat against [the terrorist organization] that will prevent [the terrorists] from retaliating for his own destruction. For some [terrorists], it is hard to imagine such a threat.

So in truth, Tancredo did not go far enough. Not only should we be prepared to destroy what bin Laden considers most holy and special if he severely hurts us. We must also be prepared to do so to avert him from hurting us, or even defending himself, if the circumstances permit.

Hewitt goes on, still wrong:

Let me be blunt: There is no strategic value to bombing Mecca even after a devastating attack on the U.S. In fact, such an action would be a strategic blunder without historical parallel, except perhaps Hitler’s attack on Stalin. Anyone defending Tancredo’s remarks has got to make a case for why such a bombing would be effective.

Of course it would not grow our power or wealth to destroy Mecca. Of course a radiated Mecca would not be able to be used to preposition aircraft for future conflict. That’s not the point.

Mark Safranski pondered this earlier:

No one knows though bin Laden reportedly told the BBC that he had acquired nuclear weapons for deterrence purposes which indicates:

a) That bin Laden understands the concept well enough, and

b) There is something he considers important enough to acquire nuclear bombs in order to deter America from some action.

The question is “what” ? My guess it is to protect Islam’s Holy sites.

Hewitt’s conclusion is right, at least

I want to be very clear on this. No responsible American can endorse the idea that the U.S. is in a war with Islam.

Of course not. We are at war with al Qaeda. It will be them we will deter and compel, even if there will be collateral damage to to an ancient multicultural temple and Christian church, long shorn of her decorations and venerations.

Elsewhere on the Blogosphere: Stones Cry Out conflates massive armed deterrent with mutually assured destruction. Power Pundit says an attack on measured cannot be a “measured and appropriate response” (whatever the circumstances? — tdaxp). Point Five mocks hawks. One Hand Clapping started all this.

From the Hawk Right: La Shawn Barber decries weakness in the face of terror. Baldilocks sees nothing new in Rep. Tancredo’s words. InstaPunk exhaustively defends the congressman. HCS and Gen both understand theory.

Update: Mark from ZenPundit adds his thoughts

Tancredo’s hamhanded, off-the-cuff, bluster looks positively milquetoast next to U.S. nuclear doctrine under Jimmy Carter. The purpose of making terrifying, credible, deterrence threats is to NOT have to actually use nuclear weapons. If a nuclear bomb goes off inside the United States tomorrow, I can just about guarantee that we will use nuclear weapons in retaliation against probably more than one terrorist-supporting country. If we are bombed it will because our enemies disbelieved that we would retaliate, not because we are clear that we will.

Update 2: More thoughts from…
Riting on the Wall:

” the core critique (and there is a secondary critique below as well) here is that deterrence is, at root, a byproduct of rational actor theory. which is to say that all actors within a system will under all circumstances make rational decisions to maximize identified self-interests. these interests can be existential (which is the essential logic of mutually assured destruction) or they can fall to other categories: symbolic, tactical, strategic, etc. under normal circumstances, making a clear and credible existential threat to a defined action would deter such an action (in this case a nuclear strike on us soil) from taking place. all this is well and good under traditional understandings of rational actor theory, but i have to throw several wrenches in the works at this point.”


In real-world nuclear deterrence logic as it played out in the era of brinksmanship through MAD, rational actor theory was not actually subscribed to by either superpower.

Update 3: While Sahhabh picks up the story, the Saudis have already started Mecca’s destruction.”

Karl Rove v. Rogue CIA Agent Valerie Plame and Husband Joe Wilson

Spy Valerie and the rogue CIA,” by James Lewis, The American Thinker, 18 July 2005, (from private email).

While some parts of the article are over-the-top, Lewis of American Thinker does a good job dissecting the / / brouhaha

Is it self-defense by apparatchiks at the Central Intelligence Agency?


Behind the scenes, the single most important reason for the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson farce is that CIA Director Porter Goss has finally started to clean house at Langley. Goss’s long-overdue shake-up is clearly backed by the White House, the top levels of the Pentagon and State Department, and the new National Director of Intelligence, John Negroponte.

Judging by Director Goss’s remarks at his Senate confirmation hearings, those whose jobs are most in danger include the CIA “experts” in WMD proliferation – Valerie Plame’s outfit – who completely failed to anticipate the Indian and Pakistani nukes, and just couldn’t figure out what was going on with Iraqi WMDs. Valerie Plame’s bosses are facing the axe for decades of failures.


Self-defense by the remnant of the Iron Triangle?


It could be a bloodbath, and the Permanent Establishment knows it.
The farcical Plame/Wilson assault on Karl Rove is a shot across the bow of the White House. The spook bureaucracy is fighting for its perks, hand-in-hand with the Democrats and the media. This is exactly the same iron triangle that destroyed Richard Nixon.


Government corruption, that required a whistle-blower?


Valerie Plame’s CIA bosses took care not to ask Mr. Wilson to sign a confidentiality agreement, routine in such cases, almost as if they wanted him to make a public fuss. They were not surprised, one might think, when Mr.

Wilson promptly took his story to New York Times Op-Ed Editor Gail Collins, one of the great Bush-haters of all time. As Joseph DiGenova, former US Attorney for DC, recently said, “The CIA isn’t stupid. They wanted this story out.”


Subversion? Or some other form of the CIA trying to control policy?


Telling lies to confirm somebody’s paranoid beliefs is a classic disinformation gambit, right out of Spy School 101. But such gambits would be far more usefully employed against al Qaeda, our opponent in war. If the United States is attacked again by terrorists, one reason will be that our CIA has wasted time fighting the White House rather than the enemy.


Corruption versus Zarqawi

Concerning Cruelty And Mercy, And Whether It Is Better To Be Loved Than Feared,” by Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince, 1513,

Sunnis Working on Iraq Constitution Slain,” by Sameer Yacoub, Associated Press, 19 July 2005, (from Captain’s Quarters).

Iraq is corrupt. This helps us.

Deaths are tragedies. Murders are monstrosities. But in our souls, we ultimately accept these things as part of the world. God calls people, and they come home.

But money, that’s a different matter. Murders are forgiven. Thefts aren’t.

As Machiavelli wrote centuries ago:


Men more quickly forget the death of their father than the loss of their inheritance


It is this force that is hurting Zarqawi in Iraq.

Take the recent news that two Sunni Arab lawmakers were recently assassinated


Gunmen assassinated two Sunni Arabs involved in the drafting of Iraq’s constitution Tuesday, another blow to U.S. and Iraqi efforts to draw members of the disaffected community away from the insurgency and into the political process.

Mijbil Issa, a committee member, Dhamin Hussein al-Obeidi, an adviser to the group, and their bodyguard died in a hail of gunfire from two vehicles as they left a restaurant in Baghdad’s Karradah district, police said.

Issa, a prominent lawyer, was among 15 Sunni Arabs appointed last month to the 55-member constitutional committee — made up mostly of Shiites and Kurds — to give the Sunni minority a greater voice in building a new Iraq. Ten other Sunnis, including al-Obeidi, were named as advisers to the committee.


In Iraq, a high-ranking government job does not just mean that you are on the people’s payroll. It means work for your brothers and cousins as advisers and senior secretaries, it means work for your smarter nephews as junior secretaries, It means work as bodyguards for your “regular guy” nephews. It means money for their wives and things for their children.

In a non-corrupt Iraq, these murders would be seen merely as murders. Merely a premature departure from the mortal plane by elder statements. But in a corrupt Iraq, murder of government officials means theft from dozens, if not hundreds, of family members.

Zarqawi’s attempt to eliminate Sunni participation in the drawing of the Iraqi Constitution means theft from hundreds, if not thousands, of Iraqis.

Corruption will hurt Zarqawi, and there’s no easier way to “hearts and minds” than that.

Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq on the Leviathan and the SysAdmin

A Not-so-grand Strategy,” by Bill Roggio, The Fourth Rail, 19 July 2005,

Former Professor at the Naval War College Thomas P.M. Barnett breaks the military’s job into two roles: the Leviathan and System Administrator. The Leviathan “kills people and breaks things.” The System Administrator “builds states and builds nations.” If you have a strong Leviathan but weak SysAdmin, you win the war and lose the peace.

Now, Abu Zarqawi’s al Qaeda in Iraq is seeing the wisdom of that split as well


Al Qaeda in Iraq and Zarqawi now appears to recognize the futility of conducting military operations alone to achieve victory in Iraq. The SITE Institute reports the recently released publication of Zarqawi’s magazine, Thurwat al-Sinam, discusses grand strategy, which extends beyond pure combat operations.




This issue is the first edition of the publication to explicitly reference military strategy, delineating five sectors or “fields” of jihad: military, security and intelligence, medical, information, and economic. Throughout the issue, the authors reiterate that if the mujahideen focus only on military operations, regardless of their successes in battle, they will lose the jihad on other fronts. They provide examples such as Afghanistan and Bosnia wherein an alleged military victory by the mujahideen was overturned in the eyes of the international community because the mujahideen neglected other sectors of warfare. Of particular interest as a non-military based threat to the mujahideen is the creation of a “peaceful Islam” which has “nothing to do with the original religion” and is spread by “information media all over the earth” in the hopes that “the infidels will succeed in this which they could not do militarily”.




The dilemma for al Qaeda is that it is an overwhelmingly military organization [like the Pentagon — tdaxp], whose finances are specifically set up to support military operations, weapons acquisitions, training, recruitment and infrastructure. There is very little energy devote to the softer aspects of grand strategy – wining the hearts and minds in the areas of economics [jobs, business, education, etc.] and humanitarian care [like the Pentagon — tdaxp]. Al Qaeda cannot match the West’s superiority in these areas. And even if they tried, their ideological makeup makes the prospects success unlikely. The rejection of al Qaeda by local Iraqis sympathetic to their cause makes this clear.



al Qaeda in Iraq and the United States have the same goal: to win. If we are going to beat them, we have to build a SysAdmin faster than they do.


Update: Mark wonders why Mr. Zarqawi has a “FRIGGIN’ MAGAZINE.” Maybe it is a spin-off from his blog?