The People and the Powerful

Ignoring well wishes who urge him to name Hillary as his Vice President, Barack Obama faces a fight that keeps going…

Clinton launches new Fla., Mich. offensives – Kenneth P. Vogel –
The new Florida and Michigan offensive will kick off in earnest today with three campaign events in South Florida – though she’ll have to share the state with Obama, who begins a three-day campaign swing there – and will likely also include campaigning in Michigan. That’s in addition to an already circulating online petition and escalating campaign rhetoric casting Clinton as best-positioned to carry the two important big states in the fall against presumptive Republican nominee John McCain – partly because of her fight against disenfranchising Democrats there.

In an intentional bit of symbolism, Clinton’s three campaign stops will be in Palm Beach, Broward, and Dade counties – the three jurisdictions where Democrats allege voters were disenfranchised during the 2000 presidential election.

Clinton campaign officials acknowledge the target audience for the offensive is not only voters but the superdelegates who will ultimately decide the nomination as voters and the party officials who will meet May 31 to effectively rule on the fate of the Florida and Michigan delegations.

Rumors of Hillary R. Clinton taking her fight to the convention are reasonable, considering that she is ahead in the popular vote. Obama proponents argue that this is true only if you include all 50 states, because Obama instructed Michigan to remove his name from the ballot. He did this because (a) he knew he would lose and (b) he trusted Howard Dean of the Democratic National Committee as a better fixer than Mark Brewer of the Michigan Democratic Party. This is true, but irrelevant: Obama’s reasons speak to his wisdom as a political strategist, but don’t negative the fact that Obama lost Michigan, as he knew he would.

Of course, as a supporter of George W. Bush, I see nothing wrong with the loser of the popular vote winning the contest.

In many ways, an Obama presidency is as close to Bush’s third term as we are likely to get.

5GW / xGW around the blogosphere

xGW is composed of six so-called “generations,” each of which has existed back into the distant path, and all of which will likely exist into the distant future. The term “generation” is unfortunate, and comes from William Lind’s older “generations of war” framework, which is a form of Hegelian dialectalism that is to the analysis of war what Lamarckianism is to the analysis of natural selection. xGW has recently been the topic of conversation in the blogosphere. A short chapter dedicated to xGW is included in my monograph, Revolutionary Strategies in Early Christianity. A few of these posts are highglithed below.

I got to thinking about this subject after Lexington Green emailed me Smitten Eagle’s broadside against 4GW and 5GW, after which S.Eagle clarified his views. S. Eagle notes the need for evidence of actual 5GWs, while also emphasizing that organized violence requires organization:

Others have spoken about the role of the Super Empowered Individual (SEI) as a major actor in 5GW. I’m afraid that lone gunmen, in my conception of warfare, do not qualify as “organized violence.” For violence to be “organized,” it requires an Organization. An Organization of One is not an organization. I think there has to be more to organized violence than a single pissed-off dude with lots of cunning.
Finally, for 5GW to actually exist, it needs to have a strong track record of convincingly beating 4GW fighting forces. I’m afraid there really hasn’t been any evidence to support this. (Unless, of course, my denial of 5GW is evidence of it’s success…but if that’s the case, I think we’re getting a bit too close to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle to speak anything authoritatively about 5GW, or any xGW for that matter.)

Younghusband at Coming Anarchy described war having “the ultimatum aim of having to break the enemy’s will to fight.” This definition defines 0GW (aimed at exterminating the enemy) and 5GW (aimed at preventing the enemy from observing his adversaries) out of being “wars” at all, perhaps leaving them instead of the worlds of barbarism and politics.

PurpleSlog discusses “superempowerd individuals (SEIs),” a term popularized by New York Times opinionist Tom Friedman and used in ill-defined discussions of 5GW that take place outside the xGW framework that do not define. SEI is to 5GW what airspace regulations are to the administrative divisions of Romania: uncorrelated topics that nonetheless will overlap in certain technical discussions

5GWers do not need to be SEIs.
SEIs can do more things then 5GW.

This is some overlap in the thinking and the people doing the thinking on 5GW and SEI.

They are not the same thing!

Curtis of Dreaming 5GW has a highly theoretical take on nuclear weapons, and how they relate to xGW:

The doctrine that “Technology does not drive doctrine!” has most often been used when arguing against the theories of those who would draw 5GW on the basis of the new technologies that are appearing and gaining prominence in the world. Drone aircraft may be used by a 2GW force, a 3GW force — or an open-source 4GW force should it acquire that technology. Quite regardless of the technology used, the style of 2GW, of 3GW, and of 4GW will be the same, since these types of combat are defined by how they: target the enemy’s OODA in different ways; seek different methods of overcoming that enemy; and indeed, within the xGW framework, are often utilized to combat a foe who depends upon a different generational style of combat for his own victory. (Cross-generational conflict.) Technological distinctions may in fact give a specific generational style of combat a slightly different appearance — one force used arrows, a newer variant uses bullets — but such distinctions do not define the strategic and tactical goals so much as color the style of warfare used by all within that xGW with a different tint; the xGW remains the same.

Lack of clarity hurts theoretical work, while precise discussion help it. Thinkers like Smitten Eagle help point out where this is lacking, and I appreciate those like Younghusband, PurpleSlog, and Curtis for continually challenging understanding in this important field.

Bush’s Third Term

We now here from Barack Obama that wars will be against symmetric enemies whose success or failure will depend on their military budget, and it is impossible to get an American steak in Japan.

In a way, these Obamisms make me happy. It may be better to have a wise leader over a foolish one, but I’ll take an incompetent idiot over a resourceful one any day.

Not that Barack H. Obama (or the man he resembles most in style, George W. Bush) is an idiot. Both BHO and GWB survived the dangerous world of American politics with a combination of short political careers (lest time for career ending blundres), unearned benefits (the affirmative action hire, the legacy pick). Both also enjoyed a political base more interested in ousting the other party than in presenting a coherent set of policy initiatives.

While there certainly was a time when the “best and brightest” went into politics (Richard M. Nixon and George H.W. Bush being prime examples), that day seems to be past. Politics is a poorly paid ghetto of the professional world, while global business increasingly lures those who want to change the world… and make money doing so. We are then left with the question: how should be choose politicians, if we know they are sub-par?

Clearly, we want to minimize the harm they can cause. If our leaders are going to be more foolish than in the past, we can at least guarantee they are odius and gaffe-prone enough to make it politically costly to engage in any new or original policy. Senator Obama fits this description closely, and without the political courage of his opponent, comes with the additional benefit of not being able to take a punch.

Is is that question of political courage which is the main stylstic difference between an Obama presidency and merely giving Bush a third term. As seen in the Iraq War, Bush would rather see his program through victory than enjoy broader political support. Obama’s done nothing to imply that degree of political bravery. Considering what we have seen of Senator Obama so far, that is a good thing.

Update: I had just finished this post when I read that Barack Obama voted for the farm bill. As G.M. Groff writes, “The farm bill is absolutely absurd and economically hurtful. I’m glad McCain voted against it, and disappointed that Obama voted for it.”

A Catholic and an Atheist Examine “Revolutionary Strategies in Early Christianity”

Major props to Mike Dewitt (of Spooky Action) and fl (of Primrose Road) for both examining my monograph, Revolutionary Strategies in Early Christianity: The 4GW Against Rome, and the COIN to Save it).

Revolutionary Strategies in Early Christianity

Mike and fl bring remarkably different perspectives to the book. I appreciate both of their time in reading the review, thinking about it, and distilling those thoughts into analysis & questioning. Mike writes:

What if I told you that Jesus and St. Paul were the architects of the greatest insurgent (fourth-generation warfare) campaign ever? What if I used Scripture and contemporary Roman records to show exactly how they did it (and how the Romans recognized the threat and responded, ultimately failing)? That’s exactly what [Dan tdaxp] does in “Revolutionary Strategies in Early Christianity: 4th Generation Warfare (4GW) Against the Roman Empire, and the Counterinsurgency (COIN) Campaign to Save It”. In an intellectual tour de force, Dan not only convincingly explains how precepts such as “If someone forces to you to go one mile, go with him two miles” and “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent” served as foundations for the Christian revolution; he then explains how Muhammed designed Islam to defeat Christianity. And to top things off Dan analogizes the two religions to Microsoft and IBM. At just over 40 pages Dan’s book is a short, clear, and profound read. It WILL change the way you look at history, current events, and the future, whether you’re an atheist, agnostic, or a practicing Catholic like me. I realize that last sentence defies credulity, but the ideas in this book ARE that powerful!

While fl pens:

I’ve also recently had the chance to read Revolutionary Strategies in Early Christianity, which I would review in depth were I qualified in any way to review a political science text. It’s actually a very clearly-written book (in the interest of full disclosure, the author is a friend of mine) and a useful primer for terms regularly encountered in the political science blogosphere, especially those related to military strategy. The book is an interesting read regardless of what side of the political spectrum one is on — though the analyses often skew right, this is more of a text intended to expound terminology, not ideology. My only [major] concern is that the history element of the book rests on the assumption (stated explicitly in the introduction) that the New Testament is for the most part an accurate historical record. I’d like to hear Dan’s explanation of what warrants this assumption (i.e. I challenge him to a duel).

Feedback like this is what blogging (and writing) is all about.


Apple, the computer of choice (but not for me)

Slashdot’s report that 66% of high-end personal computers are macs was a surprise to me, but perhaps shouldn’t have been. I have admired Mac OS X for years, with its superb combination of usability what-you-see-is-what-you-get usability and BSD unix power. Indeed, the last computer my family purchased would have been a Mac, if our standardized line of printer supported that operating system.

Because Mac OS X is thus out of the picture, and I’ve never had a pleasant experience with Vista, I plan to make my next PC a Windows XP box. It runs the software I need, which is more I can say for either Vista or OSX.

The Halliburton of the Left

Google refuses to remove terrorist videos from Youtube. Google assists India in the arrest of a man for blaspheming a long dead Indian emperor.

98% of Google Bucks go to the Democratic Party.

Not much of a story here (educated whites tend toward liberalism, money is more important than ideology to businesses, &c). My reason for posting this is for the benefit of those readers who have long complained about companies associated with the Republican party, but are remarkably silent when the shoe is on the other foot.

What is creativity?

Half Sigma ponders in some detail what it means to be creative, and he gives some factors associated with that label. While HS doesn’t go into everything, according to respectable lines of psychological research is predicted by

  • Background knowledge of the domain of the creative work
  • Working memory capacity
  • Self efficacy in the domain
  • Creative self efficacy
  • Openness to new experiences
  • Psychosis

Psychosis in this context can be thought of as “horizontal thinking,” “distant relationships, etc.” The appropriate level of psychosis varies depending on the domain. So clinical levels of psychosis is much higher among creative modern artists than among creative thermodynamic physicists, because domains with strong degrees of standardization weed out psychotics before they have the appropriate background knowledge needed to be creative in the first place.

The ordering of the “risk factors for creativity” is still open to debate. For instance, someone with low self efficacy in a domain, low working memory, and low openness to new experience can be just as creative, if they are forced to learn the materials required to get them background knowledge in the domain of the creative work.

The Genomeplex Crosses Time

Me, December 2007:

10,000 years ago the artificial genome-plex radically expanded its scope, adding plants to its army. Corn, wheat, barley, potatoes — all manner of plant species that could not exist by themselves in the wild — were artificially created from free ancestors.

When Jurassic Park came out, the idea of bringing dinosaurs back to life seemed incredible. I think now it’s just as much a matter of time. Same thing for other extinct animals, and extinct plants.

The genome-plex is preparing to cross time.

What Jurassic fruits taste the sweetest? Which plants eaten by the triceratops would make good raw material for ethanol? I think we’ll live to have a good idea of the answer to these questions.

We live in a world, radically artificial twice over, and we haven’t begun to see what it will hold.

Scientific Blogging, three days ago:

Researchers from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and the University of Texas, USA, have extracted genes from the extinct Tasmanian tiger (thylacine), inserted it into a mouse and observed a biological function – this is a world first for the use of the DNA of an extinct species to induce a functional response in another living organism.

The results, published in the international scientific journal PLoS ONE this week, showed that the thylacine Col2a1 gene has a similar function in developing cartilage and bone development as the Col2a1 gene does in the mouse.

“This is the first time that DNA from an extinct species has been used to induce a functional response in another living organism,” said Dr Andrew Pask, RD Wright Fellow at the University of Melbourne’s Department of Zoology who led the research.

Not only does transtemporal genetic research (DNA science that crosses time) hold upon the promise of giving us our own pet Tasmanian tiger, it can also lead to human benefits in the form of gene therapy. Just consider how much of music aptitude is driven by genes, for example. It is conceivable that some genes that might led to truly great musicians have fallen out of the human genome due to genetic drift or other factors. Now that mere extinction does not limit what genes we can use, we might one day identiy extinct but gifted lineages of men, and some of their DNA into the contemporary population.

(I use music aptitude just as an example. The same could be true for any skill with a substantial genetic component.)