The Death of a Republic

“Congratulations on the abolition of the Parliamentary Republic and on the establishment of Direct Democracy!” Thus I ended my class today.

The People Are The Powerful

My Classes are Democracies and hold elections every week. I run my classrooms on a variant of the Iraqi model, with a proportionally-elected Assembly, a President chosen with 2/3rds of the Assembly, and a Prime Minister named by the President approved by half of the Assembly. I’ve played around with modifications of the design, but I enjoy starting off classes with the Assembly / President / Premier model of government.

The constitution can be modified by the Prime Minister presenting a proposal to the assembly, whereupon it must be approved by a 2/3rds vote. If so legislated, it must pass with a 2/3rds plurality in a plebiscite. The Constitution has been radically restructured before, and every time the variation has left the old infrastructure intact while some portion of it was changed. Once, a Supreme Court was established that could overrule the elected government at will, creating a Judicial Supremacist state. Another time, a Lebanese system of “confessions” was eneacted to parcel out different posts to different cliques. Thirdly, the Assembly was replaced with an “Assembly-of-the-Whole,” with every student having one vote. And just last semester, an openly corrupt Prime Minister oversaw a series of fraudulent elections which created a very Medici feel to teaching.

But today, for the first time, the Republic itself passed into the world of memories and dreams.

The elections had produced an odd outcome, the Assembly divided between three students. They had unanimously named a President, though her initial course of Prime Minister was rejected unanimously. A second choice of Prime Minister barely passed. The Prime Minister then decreed a discussion question and organized the room, and I left (as I do) to allow conversation to be unimpeded by my presence.

When I returned the Prime Minister announced that he believed that weekly elections were time consuming, and that a Rule of 5 (a body to be composed of two of the three Assemblymen, the President, the failed Prmie Minister, and the serving Prime Minister) be established to run the class by majority vote. The Offices of President and Prime Minister would be filled by a majority vote of the Rule of 5.

After a “teachable minute” on the Venetian Republic and Oligarchy, a student proposed that a Direct Democracy be established through direct, majority votes on all issues.

An assemblyman counter-proposed that the Rule could be expanded to 6, with a non-present student added to give the governing council the input of normal students.

This created a black-lash against Republicanism generally, with a student suggesting an Assembly-of-the-Whole without the unfair implications of proportional representation (this was suggesetd without suggestion from me).

Yet another student suggested a Consular Republic, with two consuls named who would jointly decide all matters. The Consuls would not have to face reelection, and so could concentrate on running the class efficiently.

Another student suggested the establish of a Benign Monarchy, with the teacher declared “King” and ruling as he sees fit.

The Prime Minister, perhaps trying to salvage the declining fortunes of the oligarchy, offered to accept the burden of Dictator-for-Life, which would allow the Assembly, Presidency, and Premiership to keep functioniong, without the wasted time of elections.

On the board, the following options were written

Rule of 5
Direct Democracy
Rule of 6
Direct Assembly (Assembly-of-the-Whole)
Consular Republic
Benign Monarchy
Benign Dictatorship

The failed Prime Ministerial candidate proposed delaying action until next week (perhaps hoping that the anti-Republic backlash would subside by then). The hoi polloi were outraged, and demanded immediate action.

At this point, the oligarchical faction saw the tide of history vote against them. The Prime Minister stated that the abolition of the Republic was a bad idea, but as the majority of the students appeared to be against representation, he would subnmit the establishment of Direct Democracy to popular vote. The assembly followed him in confirming the selection, though each emphasized that they thought the decision was bad.

As the Japanese House of Lords had before it, the Assembly voted itself out of existence.

Now its action had to be confirmed by plebiscite. The majority of the oligarchy here voted against the constitution change. They hoped to show the common studentry that they respected the democratic voice (by allowing it to pass the Assembly) while still defeating it in the election. However, outside the oligarchical faction, all students voted to support the establishment of Direct Democracy. The oligarchs composed less than one-third of the class, and so the change passed with its required 2/3rds popular majority.

“This didn’t go the way I planned” said one of the oligarchs.

“I am sorry for destroying the Republic” said the (now former) Prime Minister.

Shows-of-hands decided all subsequent questions in the class. A republic died. A democracy was born.

Working definition of "Global Guerrillas"

Robb, J. (2005). Journal: Insurgents or global guerrillas?. Global Guerrillas. November 30, 2005. Available online:

My post criticizing John Robb’s theory of “Global Guerrillas” as “Coherent Gibberish” is one of the most popular things i have ever written. The post’s talk-back thread is currently at an incredible 46 comments. Even better, I have learned a lot from commentators, and their contributiosn to the conversation are certainly more valuable than mine. As a result of feedback I have sharpened my own understanding of John Robb’s theory and its important elements, such as the bazaar of violence, open source warfare, and the systempunkt.

However, the discussion is problematic as Robb has not been clear as to what global guerrillas actually are. Perhaps he is saving his best thoughts for his upcoming book (Brave New War — available on April 27th). But I’m too interested to wait that long. Therefore, taking Aherring’s “working definitions” of 5GW as an inspiration and Robb’s Novemer 2005 post on global guerrillaism as a starting point, I provide the following definition:

global guerrillas (n., pl.) are non-state actors who violently oppose a state. They seek to create and maintain a bazaar of violence and lead the state to extreme weakness or failure. Contrast against insurgents, who are non-state actors who violently oppose a state in order to replace or modify a government.

As I said before, I do not believe that the global guerrilla concept is valid. In a world where states alliances of states are the primary exporters of security, there is little for guerrillas to do. They can kill and they can destroy, but they cannot rule.

PS: Many thanks to Chiasm and Purpleslog, who both linked to the original article And, talking of super-empowered individuals, congratulations for Catholicgauze for being noticed by the USC Center on Public Diplomacy!

The Right to Self Defense (as reserved to the States Respectively, or to the People)

The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America reads

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

“Amendment X” is one of the most important sentences of English ever written. While Amendment IX obviously does not create federally enforcable rights and Amendment XI corrects a Supreme Court powergrab on technical grounds, Amendment X works to directly limit the power of the national government. This passage protects our federal experiment from interest group tyranny, from some powerful sect enacting their morally pure laws throughout our land.

It is in this context I am excited about Eugene Volok’s words on the right of (medical) self defense (hat-tip to NRO’s Bench Memos):

Volokh’s bright but controversial idea–which is soon to be published in the Harvard Law Review and was recently presented at the American Enterprise Institute–is that there is a constitutional right to what he terms “medical self-defense.” The basic concept is that the government may not throw substantial obstacles in the path of medical treatments that might protect against death or serious harm. If accepted by the Court, this would mean that the government could not prevent a sick individual from using an experimental drug not yet deemed effective by the Food and Drug Administration. It would also invalidate the federal ban on payments for organ donations. And, of course, it could be applied in any number of other circumstances, limited only by the inventiveness of lawyers and the imagination of judges.

I agree with this completely. But at the same time, such an right to medical self defense should not give judges the right to legislate from the bench. We have states governments to experiment, to try this and that, to come up with the best solutions through an evolutionary process.

Haiku Book Reviews, Pretensious and Unhelpful, Arrogant blogging

Recently, I had the rare fortune of having a haiku poem in my honor, written by no less a poet than a a Chicagoist. It reads:

learned and dense yet cryptic
perfect for haiku

In honor of such an gift, below are short reviews of books I read during the recent break (in haiku form!). Enjoy!

Kingdom of Make Believe,” by Dean Barrett.

New York publisher
Visits Thai sister-in-law
The deaths have begun

Getting it Right,” by William F. Buckley, Jr.

Bill Buckley, Ayn Rand
The John Birch Society
Only one survives

The Emperor’s New Clothes,” by Joseph L. Graves read the tdaxp review)

Just call them racists.
Maybe that will shut them up
P.C. balderdash

The Scientist in the Crib,” by Gopnik, Meltzoff, & Kuhl (read the tdaxp review)

West Pole baby brains
Kantian learning machines
Ridley was better

Evolutionary Developmental Psychology,” by Bjorklund & Pellegrini (read the tdaxp review)

The genes make the man
Adaptations for his life
And for his children

My Secret,” by Frank Warren(read the tdaxp review)

From the angst ridden
Tales of human lives and lies
Through USPS

Elements of Global Guerrilla Theory

In a comment to my post criticizing John Robb’s Global Global Theory as coherent gibberish, TDL break down Global Guerrillas Theory into three elements: systempunkts, open source warfare, and the bazaar of violence. Below are excerpts from TDL’s summary, as well as posts by John Robb, on these three comments. I then summarize each idea individually, and provide a final overview at the bottom of this post.

Concept: bazaar of violence

TDL’s view: “it has been around for a long time and is not a new manifestation”
Robb’s view: “This bazaar is where a combination of local and global “hot” money is funding a diverse set of groups, each with their own methods of operation and motivations. Groups engage in co-opetition to share resources, intelligence, and funds (see the attached simplified diagram)… Through this funding, terrorist violence, and infrastructure disruption; global guerrillas create conditions ripe for the establishment of a bazaar of violence. In essence, the bazaar is an emergent property of global guerrilla operations within a failed or collapsed state. Once established, it builds on itself and creates a dynamic that is almost impossible to disrupt.”
My View: A bazaar of violence refers to a distributed set of security providers, analogous to the software bazaar of Eric S. Raymond. Continuing the analogy, most states feature a “Cathedral of Violence” where security is provided by a relatively stable set of official authorities and organized crime. Bazaars of violence are highly unstable, as a large security providers typically exploits economies of scale to become a de facto government.

Concept: open source warfare

TDL’s view: “Open source warfare also seems a useful analytical framework to understand some of the threats we face today; there seems to be a lot more sharing and a lot less top down control among terror groups (networks, stand alone actors, etc.) occurring today than were ten years ago.”
Robb’s view: “Open source warfare, like what we see in Iraq and increasingly in other locations, relies on networks of peers rather than the hierarchies of command and control we see in conventional militaries. This structure provides an open source movement with levels of innovation and resilience that rigid hierarchies can’t match. Unfortunately, these attributes are likely not constrained to merely local tactical activity. Open source movements can exhibit emergent intelligence that guides the movement’s collective actions towards strategic goals.”
My View: Open source warfare exists when the tragedy of the commons with regards to violence-related marketable information does not. It requires security providers to value the destruction of the market leader more than their own existence. Open source warfare is thus more likely to be used by zealous organizations and less likely to be used by criminal enterprises. As this gives organized crime an unfair advantage in the security arena, open source warfare tends to kill-off organizations that practice it.

Concept: systempunkt

TDL’s view: “a systempunkt can erode the credibility of a government agency and eventually force that agency to give up its power and yield to it to private entities (although I think it would be extremely difficult to do so.)”
Robb’s view: “It is the point point in a system (either an infrastructure or a market), always identified by autonomous groups within the bazaar, where a swarm of small insults will cause a cascade of collapse in the targeted system. Within infrastructure, this collapse takes the form of disrupted flows that result in immediate financial loss or ongoing supply shortages. Within a market, an attack on the systempunkt destabilizes the psychology of the market to induce severe inefficiencies and uncertainties. The ultimate objective of this activity, in aggregate, is the collapse of the target state and globalization.”
My View: The systempunkt is the right bomb, in the right place, at the right time, that can collapse an otherwise stable and emergent complex adaptive system. As no such strike has ever been observed, the systempunkt is a theoretical construct of global guerrillas theory.

Final thoughts: The systempunkt does not exist, open source warfare is suicidal for groups that practice it, and bazaars of violence are regular but unstable features of social life in unstable countries. For this reason, Robb’s theory rely on super-altruistic global guerrillas, who practice open source warfare despite its high costs in order to extend the life of violence bazaars.

Gun Fights and Knife Fights

Nagl, J. (2007). Spilling soup on myself in al anbar. SWJ Blog. January 26, 2007. Available online: (from ZenPundit).

Foreign occupiers face a problem: they are foreign. The police don’t have this problem. Policemen and women are from the community, or at least the region. Their job, over the months and years and decades and generations from being a rookie to a grey-haired old coot, is to work the same beats solving the same problems. Foreign occupiers can be induced to leave, by convincing them that the utility they gain from a region is exceeded by the costs involved in handling the region. However, policing is a logical function of any local government. The only way a local government can be turned from policing is if it gives up on being a government (which happens sometimes, but only rarely).

With that in mind, I read Colonel John Nagel’s post over at the Small Wars Journal Blog:

Always consider the long-term effects of operations in a counterinsurgency environment. Killing an insurgent today may be satisfying, but if in doing so you convince all the members of his clan to fight you to the death, you’ve actually taken three steps backwards.

This is wise thinking for a foreign occupier under certain situations. But it would be insane for police. Foreign occupiers nearly always face long-term strategic despair, as they know they will eventually leave. But local forces don’t plan to leave, local forces will be there win or lose, and so local forces have a greater incentive for winning. Foreign occupiers worry about angering their enemies. Local police focus on making their enemies (criminals) fear the law.

Colonel Nagl described counterinsurgency as learning to eat soup with a knife, but it may be thought of as trying to win a shoot-out with a knife. The weapon is inappropriate. Knives are best used in knife-words, at the short-range, close-in fighting that defines insurgencies. We have biggest gun in the world. We should use our guns to blow away our enemies, and find men good with knives to leave in their place.

The solution for Iraq is clear: stop making Iraq a case where foreign forces fight terrorists, and start making it a case where local police fight terrorists. Instead of US Marines and Soldiers fighting in Anbar and Baghdad against Sunni Baathists, let the police, national guard, and army of Iraq.

When the terrorists find themselves trapped, they should not delight in our fear of angering them. They should look out their windows and see the security forces of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or the Dawa Party, or the Patriotic Union, or the Kurdish Democrats.

When we leave, we take away the hope and safety of our enemies. And in return, we will give them fear.

Terrorize terrorists. Leave Iraq Now.

Blacks and Latinos

I had the pleasure of chatting in person with a regular commentator of tdaxp today. The conversation began with Bush’s State of the Union address, but eventually turned to the issue of comparative racial and the difference between blacks and latinos. That is, the different between black group-level political strategy and latino group-level political strategy has been symbol v. substance.

For the past 50 years, most self-identified black movements have focused on highly symbolic victories. Brown v. Board of Education is a great example of this. In one swift movement, the Supreme Court declares separate but equal is inherently unequal. A bumper-sticker slogan for the ages. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are the legacies of this strategy, focusing on symbolic grievances to achieve symbolic victories (plus funding and jobs for their organizations and hangers-on).

During the same period, Latino politics seems to have been focused on one big gain: immigration. National-level latino politics seems to focus on making more latinos. I can’t recall a latino analog of Jesse Jackson, but efforts by latinos to enlarge their voting bloc have been tireless for more than a generation.

For now, the results show that substance is more important than symbolism. The continuing poor standing of blacks on most measures of welfare, combined with the continuing integration of latinos after three generations in the country, is compounded by the growing population imbalance. According to the 2000 census, 12.3% of Americans are black while 12.5% are Hispanic. There is every reason to believe the gap has grown larger in the years since then.

America’s transition from a secondly black to a secondly latin country will not have the same consequences has the lack of a Catholic majority in Lebanon of the Sunni’s loss of control of Iraq. But it won’t be without consequences, and a likely one is a change to the mythic past.

But that is a post for another time…

A "Diplomatic" Victory

Dateline: Paris. Following the occupation of Munich and lightning attacks on Denmark, Holland, Naples, the Third Republic has accepted the unconditional surrender of the Deutsche Reich and the Ottman Empire.

The news, following twenty-four years of war, was all the more surprising as until minutes ago the world thought that the German Empire thought was a valued ally against the Turkish threat.

“Traitors! Frog-eating traitors!” angril declared Wilhelm II, exiled Kaiser of Germany, in his provisional capital of Warsaw. “I left my western front defenseless as I trusted the French. Hah! Trusted the French! Famous last words.”

Blue = Third Republic, Yellow = Ottoman Empire, White = Wilhelmine Rump State

Mehmid VI, last of the Sultans, more philosophical. “We were so close… so close. At one point during this long war we could have conquered the world… if we had acquired one additional industrial center. And several times were were only two major capitals away from such a victory. This very year we were in that situation . But such was not to be.”

Field Marshall tdaxp was magnimonious after the declaration of victory. “A thousand years of reparations against the enemies of La France!”

The Clamactic Final Month of War

Continued the Field Marshall, “Our conqeust was fought valiently. We were open in our intention to conquer Britain. We were delighted when the Italians, who attacked us without reason, fell to the avenging Turkish sword. For most of the war against the Turks, once they extended their sights even further, Germany behaved responsibly. True, they betrayed us about five times, but such is their Krautish nature.”

Suqsequent to next months March of the Fallen Empires, Marshall tdaxp will formally thank the DAIDE project, as well as Albert bot, for their tremendous work bringing hard, single-player diplomacy to the laptop screen. “Many have times. Only DAIDE, and Albert have succeed. Only those two except, of couse, for La France!”

Notes on Visual, Auditory, and Mental Cognitive Load

Kalyuga, S., Chandler, P., & Sweller, J. (2000). Incorporating learning experience into the design of multimedia instruction. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92, 126-136.

Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (2003). Nine ways to reduce cognitive load in learning. In Bruning, C. Horn, and L. PytlikZillig (Eds). Web-based learning: What do we know? Where do we go? (pp. 23-44). Greenwich, CN: Information Age Publishing.

M&M: “each channel in the human information-processing system has a limited capacity — only a limited amount of cognitive processing can take place in the verbal channel at one time and only a limited amount of cognitive processing can take place in the visual channel at any one time… A potential problem is that the processing demands evoked by the learning task may exceed the processing capacity of the cognitive system — a situation we call cognitive overload”

KCS: “a visually presented geometry diagram, combined with auditory presented statements, enhanced learning compared to conventional, visual-only presentations (the instructional modality effect)… However, presenting several sources of information simultaneously, even in an integrated format.. may not always be effective, particularly if some of the information to be processed is unnecessary or redundant they may prefer to ignore the text but may have difficulty doing so, resulting in a higher cognitive load”

Don’t Overload Any of These Three

Nagging Questions…

“Learning styles” does not have much support. However, if people possess both visual and audio systems, doesn’t it make sense that people’s abilities in these systems will vary? Is this a contradiction?

The authors divide processing into essential, incidental and representation parts. Is the only difference between incidental and representational processing that representational processing involves remembering things you have to and incidental doesn’t. Can something be both incidental and representational?

5GW Tactics and Counter-Tactics in Hockey

note: This is a guest post by Catholicgauze. CG’s been a friend of mine for some time. Before starting his very good blog, he wrote a three-part series on the geographer H.J. de Blij which appeared on tdaxp [1, 2, 3]. The following are his first thoughts on the 5th Generation of Modern Warfare

Engber, Daniel. (2007). Rorygate. Slate. January 18, 2007. Available online:

It started out as a joke. Steve Schmid, a twenty-two year old hockey fan from New York, wanted a run of the mill hockey player to be in the All Star game. He chose the Vancouver Canucks’ Rory Fitzpatrick as his candidate. Schmid started his campaign on Something Awful’s forums and on a few other online message boards. The campaign was only semi-serious and the online voting by self-described “goons” was expected to go nowhere.

However, when the campaign moved past its organizer/leader and into leaderless aggression or fifth generation warfare (5GW) results began to materialize. A website for Fitzpatrick’s draft to the All Star game was constructed by a supporter. Political-style ads promoting Fitzpatrick, and even some jokingly negative, appeared on YouTube. Traditional media then began to pay notice. A cycle of news stories increased awareness and support for the draft movement culminating with Canucks’ players practicing with shirts supportive of Fitzpatrick.

When online votes for the All Star game were being tallied as the polls remained open it became apparent that Fitzpatrick had a shot of being elected into the game. Various sports journalists, NHL officials, and even Wayne Gretzky laminated this and begged for voiding Fitzpatrick’s votes.

The release the “Rory Vote-O-Matic” by supporters practically guaranteed Fitzpatrick’s election. The script allowed browsers to continually submit votes, there are no limits on how many times one could vote, for Fitzpatrick. With this the NHL decided to act but only half-heartedly. Minor increases in ballot security were quickly countered by Vote-O-Matic makers.

Then something odd happened. The near-equilibrium between votes for Eastern and Western was disturbed by something and support for Fitzpatrick collapsed while votes for competition remained constant. Many on the internet believe the disruption was caused by the NHL covertly eliminating votes for and only for Fitzpatrick. In the end Fitzpatrick officially fell about 20,000 votes short of going to the All Star game.

This battle between a leaderless movement and the National Hockey League is a great example of 5GW. When the NHL instituted minor modifications into the environment the movement adapted in the style of a living organism. Only when the NHL abandoned the light-footprint model and instead changed the rules of engagement completely did they deny any possibility of victory to the Fitzpatrick draft movement. The only thing which stopped a complete NHL victory was their lack of subtlety.

The message is clear. To win 5GW the rules have to go out the window. A traditional attack will simply be adapted to at the cost of wasted resources by the attacker. Change the rules; however, to something where there can be no adaptation. Easier said than done but a game plan none the less.