Friday the 13th

Yesterday, Friday the 13th, was my last full day at work.  At a high-level, I was tasked with “improving operational outcomes” of military actions.  One of my motivations for leaving was, in the course of doing my job, seeing shit I can’t unsee – not a lot of it but if you have an allergy to something it doesn’t take much to make an impression.  (That’s how I think of it.  I discovered that I have an allergy.  Some people can eat bags and bags of peanuts with no ill effects but others go into anaphylactic shock if they touch one – just luck of the draw.  If you have a peanut allergy then don’t eat peanuts.  Problem solved.)  Thinking about those things every day wore me down to the point that I need to do something else.  What did I see?  That human beings do awful things to one another.  That they spend a tremendous amount of time and energy preparing to do awful things to one another.  And if you think “If we could just get [Country X] to conduct themselves humanely then all would be well.” I’ve got news for you, hippie:  It’s a global problem.  Why we do these things to one another I’ll never understand.  What a waste.  I wish I had some insight into how to get people to stop but I have no fkg clue.  I’m sorry.

And He will judge between many peoples And render decisions for mighty, distant nations. Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they train for war. Each of them will sit under his vine And under his fig tree, With no one to make them afraid… 

– Micah 4:4

Thought for the Day – March 31, 2017

Bacevich’s ten principles for reducing U.S. tendencies toward militarism:

  1. Pay attention to the nation’s founders,
  2. Bolster the separation of powers,
  3. Treat the use of armed force solely as a last resort,
  4. Strengthen U.S. self-sufficiency,
  5. Emphasize national defense,
  6. Control defense spending,
  7. Use more soft power,
  8. Emphasize citizen-soldiers,
  9. Use the National Guard and reserves properly, and
  10. Improve U.S. civil-military relations.

Twenty questions for President Trump

From Benjamin Wittes:

  1. Are you making the allegation that President Obama conducted electronic surveillance of Trump Tower in your capacity as President of the United States based on intelligence or law enforcement information available to you in that capacity?
  2. If so—that is, if you have executive branch information validating that either a FISA wiretap or a Title III wiretap took place—have you reviewed the applications for the surveillance and have you or your lawyers concluded that they lack merit?
  3. If you know that a FISA wiretap took place, are you or were you at the time of the application, an agent of a foreign power within the meaning of FISA?
  4. Was anyone else working in Trump Tower an agent of a foreign power within the meaning of FISA?
  5. If you know that a Title III wiretap took place, are you or were you at the time of the application engaged in criminal activity that would support a Title III wiretap or might you have previously engaged in criminal activity that might legitimately be the subject of a Title III wiretap?
  6. Was anyone else working in Trump Tower engaged in criminal activity that would support a Title III wiretap or might another person have previously engaged in criminal activity that might legitimately be the subject of a Title III wiretap?
  7. If you were tweeting not based on knowledge received as chief executive of the United States, were you tweeting in your capacity as a reader of Breitbart or a listener of Mark Levin’s radio show?
  8. If so, on what basis are you confident the stories and allegations in these august outlets are true and accurate vis a vis the activity of the government you, in fact, now head?
  9. If you learned of this alleged surveillance from media outlets, did you or anyone on your staff check with any responsible law enforcement or intelligence officials or agencies before making public allegations against your own government?
  10. What exactly does any of this have to do with Arnold Schwarzenegger?

And ten more:

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Thought for the Evening – June 29, 2016

Observe, orient, decide, act.

The phrase came up in discussion at work today.  (The essence of my job is to help people observe what they need to observe so that they can get oriented and make better decisions – to get them high quality “actionable information”.)  From Lind’s piece (linked to above):

[U.S. Air Force Col. John Boyd] posited that all conflict is composed of repeated, time-competitive cycles of observing, orienting, deciding, and acting.  The most important element is orientation: whoever can orient more quickly to a rapidly changing situation acquires a decisive advantage because his slower opponent’s actions are too late and therefore irrelevant—as he desperately seeks convergence, he gets ever increasing divergence.

After the discussion I thought about the applicability of the “OODA loop” to other domains;  specifically, environmental issues. Maybe it’s a stretch to say that Boyd’s idea applies.   The idea that sticks with me from that paragraph is the contrast between seeking convergence and experiencing divergence.   With respect to the environment, Americans in general are lousy observers.  We haven’t oriented ourselves to our environment and, because we haven’t, I think we’ll have a very hard time adapting when (if?) we start experiencing significant divergence, e.g., climate change disrupting agriculture.

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In the event you were under the impression that Russia gives a rat’s ass about Syrians

From today’s New York Times:

Some Russian analysts say the Kremlin is using the conflict in Syria to test a new generation of weaponry from a major procurement program that military officials began in 2010 after years of oil-boom profits.

“There are radars and all sorts of new control systems, and of course we need a firing range,” Konstantin V. Remchukov, the editor of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, told the Echo of Moscow radio station this week.

“We carried out a lot of exercises,” Mr. Remchukov said. “But a firing range like that opening before us in Syria, with these bombing sorties, with drones and other objects of the new generation, this is, of course, a favorable place for fine-tuning all our new weaponry.”