Monday, September 10, 2007

Top Billing! SWJ Blog - "General Petraeus / Ambassador Crocker - Boots on the Ground Assessment"

Dave and Bill should be thanked - the post includes access to the full transcript and briefing slides. How many bloggers in the next few days are going to bother reading in full before launching into their pre-scripted ( and largely cocked up) talking points ?

Co-Top Billing! CKR - "The Presidential Candidates’ Foreign Policy Statements: Early Observations" plus "The Presidential Candidates’ Foreign Policy Statements: Rudolph Giuliani" and "The Presidential Candidates’ Foreign Policy Statements: John Edwards"

Kudos to Cheryl Rofer for the heavy lifting on this important series.

Callimachus - "Contemptible"

I never liked Brian De Palma anyway. Overrated ripoff artist at his best.

Col. Pat Lang - "Petraeus and Crocker - Interesting "

The colonel gives his " old hand" take on the report testimony

Nonpartisan - "9/11: The Mouse that Roared "

NP, the motive force behind ProgressiveHistorians blog, writes from the Left in the first of a 9/11 series, with a critique of Orson Scott Card (which will interest some readers here) and he draws on the actuarial argument about terrorism risk assessment ( also of interest).

Soob - "The Other Long War "

Nice post. I'd say bite the bullet and decriminalize. Addicts will then be a public health issue but the global revenue flows of narcotics trafficking will no longer be a national security issue.

Steve DeAngelis -"Explaining Development-in-a-Box™"

Required reading for understanding the evolution of the Sys-Admin spectrum.

That's it!


I'm surprised you linked to the Progressive Historians piece. The quality is far below what normally earns a nod from your blog.

The underlying claim -- that deaths from thinking- and non-thinking- opponents are comparable for the purpose of analysis -- has been dealt with elsewhere. If that was the entirety of the post, P.H. would have presented us with a boring repetition of claims many years old.

However, the flurry of personal attacks are bad. Worse, the implied personal attack against O.S.C. over the death of his son is sickening.
Hi Dan,

My links are not meant to imply endorsement, unless otherwise indicated by praise. I put this one up intentionally to create some sparks & perhaps send a few of my readers who disagree in the direction of PH.
ZP, thanks for the link! Dissenters from the right are more than welcome at PH so long as their dissent is respectful (really, the same standard that's true for all members).

Dan, the underlying claim of my post is that we lost the "War on Terror" by allowing it to divert us from our previous world goals; I use the actuarial data only as a segue into that broader point. As for my comments on OSC, I was wondering whether someone was going to object to that. There is NO "implied personal attack" on OSC about the deaths of his children; if I had been meaning to attack him over that, I would have come right out and said so. I am attacking what I perceive to be his inappropriate RESPONSE to those deaths: becoming a crusader against phantom "terrorists" who never harmed his family in any way. OSC and the Card family have nothing but my deepest sympathies (and empathy) over that loss, but that doesn't give him a right to purvey it into mindless hatred of an innocent party.
Basically, the nonpartisan (who sounds very partisan) is saying that 9/11 has had a 5GW effect on America, to the delight of al-Qaeda and to the misfortune on America.

Much of what NP says in that regard makes sense, although I do not believe the article was written well.

The hysteria over the terrorists is a worthy subject. As TPMB says frequently, we should act as if we've already won; all that's left is negotiating the terms.

Question, though, since Dan brought up the "thinking- and non-thinking" meme: Is it possible for a 5GW effect to occur by accident?

Ha, imagine: that's the ultimate in "formlessness"!

But I mean, basically, that al-Qaeda may have intended a kind of 4GW sabre-rattling and 4GW attack but "accidentally" achieved more of a 5GW jujitsu kind of attack.
I've expanded my thoughts on D5GW. ;)
Curtis, just a clarification: I am in fact very partisan, as is my site. I chose the name "Nonpartisan" to reflect an organization I was part of when I began blogging four years ago, and it is in no way representative of my political views.

Hey - if you read this, check out Art Hutchinson's post on various tools for estimation/prediction.


Art *really* knows his stuff here as this is what he gets paid $$$ to do for a living.

Prediction markets, actuarial tables, scenario planning, computer modeling, decision tree analysis etc. all have pros and cons. I'm in a prediction market group ( I lurk) run by Howard Rheingold's ppl - it's interesting but I wouldn't, say, bet a year's income on it.

Actuarial tables are a useful tool for making economic comparisons because they are right the vast majority of the time. The problem is when you hit a " black swan" event on the outlier of a Pareto curve ( say, the 10,000 year flood). Then you are pretty much screwed without some kind of fallback position
Thanks for the Hutchinson link -- he's obviously a smart guy, and he makes some good points.

My criticism of his post is that he doesn't go far enough -- if we can't determine the risk of terrorism with any certainty, then of course we should try to head it off, but why sit around worrying about it? To take a similar example, the impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter in 1994 showed the world how susceptible Earth is to a devastating asteroid impact, one that could occur with as little as 24 hours warning, yet no progress has been made to head off such a potential attack, and no one lies awake at night worrying about asteroids hitting the earth. Why the difference in reactions between asteroid impacts and terrorist attacks? What justifies that additional order of magnitude of fear?

In my post, I wasn't attempting to quantify risk, only actual raw numbers of deaths. In that context, obviously, 9/11 is a bee sting as compared with devastating illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Nor can one say that it's because there's wider awareness of the deadly potential of terrorists than of chronic disease; show me someone who hasn't been touched at least obliquely by cancer, for instance, and I'll show you a member of a tiny minority in American society.

So why are Americans so afraid of terrorists to the exclusion of all other potentially apocalyptic threats (in addition to asteroids, infectious disease seems to fit Hutchinson's criteria), to the extent that they are willing to surrender civil liberties and alter American culture to prevent them? What is the rational justification for such hyperbole? To me, there isn't one -- hence the point of my post.
What justifies that additional order of magnitude of fear?

Comets don't have guiding systems constantly steering them toward Earth -- unless you count the actual laws of physics, in which case they are more predictable than terrorists who are also guided by physics but a physics run through the bio-electrical guidance system called reason. Reason acts outside the strictly linear and forward-moving cause & effect chains, at least for those of us who would look "inside" terrorists, for the simple fact that reason is informed by past experiences, learned culture, etc., rather than only present conditions. (We can see the present conditions, but the past histories of so many vaguely seen individuals are veiled.)

So why are Americans so afraid of terrorists to the exclusion of all other potentially apocalyptic threats

Not to the total exclusion -- that is hyperbole, in which you are using the same fear/hysteria you deride. But your general point (I think) is important. In a 5GW world, managing multiple threads threading multiple domains will be very, very important. IMO.
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