05 April 2008

The madness in my method

One of the few questions I have gotten throughout my life, not just from posting articles and such at my blogs, is: how do I do this stuff?

You know, analysis?

The quick and glib answer is that I keep it all in my head.

That is, strictly, true, although there are memory aids for keeping track of some of the worst of complex situations, like that of interconnected terrorism. Beyond that, however, there are a few in-born talents that are not easily described nor replicated that help me out. So there is no way to properly teach these things in the way I use them and I can only, really, put a description to them. Trying to tell people something that is a part of just how one thinks is extremely difficult because of the underlying factors of inheritance, personality and general proclivities. Everyone has a suite of capabilities that has no exact 1:1 similarity from individual to individual, although there are certain patternings that are generally useful for everyone.

That, then is the first item: the generally useful rules to go by.

Foremost of these, for me, are some of the most glib and yet most insightful phrases that are available in the english language background. We normally call these things 'rules of thumb' and describe the extreme short-hand method of taking a look at something and seeing how to apply ourselves to it. Some examples that can be run across in my works:

  1. The Theory and Practice Conundrum - Quickly and easily stated -
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.
    This is the depressingly easy thing to understand that those espousing all sorts of fine ideas do not comprehend. My articles on socialism look at the conception of it as a 'end state' phenomena in which certain, pre-existing, states must be in place for socialism to come about. In theory it will come about, but in practice everyone ignores the end-state conditions and tries to do something else. If you ignore the pre-conditions, then you do not get socialism, and usually what results is some form of State authoritarianism or totalitarianism that increases human misery. Originally started in the sciences, this single concept has proven to be highly adaptable across all of human life, so that when someone espouses a great idea, then looking at the 'how do you do it' of putting it into practice makes most of those grand ideas fall flat on their faces.

  2. Complexity from simplicity - There is no real good rule of thumb on this save the old tried and true -
    If you are up to your ass in alligators, remember that you were trying to drain the swamp.
    The simplest of actions can have deep and profound consequences because one did not bother to look at all the things that one simple thing will change. Here the entire 'Global Warming' crowd has found a home thinking that they can change one simple variable, that of carbon dioxide, and all sorts of wondrous things will happen. Point out to them the geologic record in which *all* the 'greenhouse gases' were in higher concentration than today and the world did not get a 'runaway greenhouse effect' to turn the planet into Venus, and they will hem, haw and point to a hundred years worth of data while ignoring 800 million years worth of same. When the planet has a nice, steady rate of continental drift (unlike today's mad racing around the globe of continents) the world did, indeed, heat up and the continents did, indeed, settle and global temperatures rose as water flooded in over the land to form lovely, vast, shallow oceans resembling the Caribbean save over whole continents. And then the temperature stabilized. Higher than today? Yes! But those conditions tended to have a clean and open oceanic flow and large continental masses, not this patchwork of large, small and medium sized bodies of water we have today. Want to get *that* back? Remove the isthmus of Panama and in no time at all you will get much, much, much higher temps as the Atlantic and Pacific find equilibrium. Also get that damned heat sink off the south pole. This also speaks to the likelihood that mankind has an effect that is meaningful on global climate: until we do as the Pierson's Puppeteers did in Larry Niven's Known Space, or we decide to do a bit of Terraforming, that effect is miniscule. When many, many simple actions work at the same time they create complexity that is derivative of the interactions between them. Each ant in an ant colony is very simple to understand, but taken as a whole the entire colony acts in many complex ways to build structures with heating, cooling, ventilation and defenses against predators and catastrophe. If the world climate is due to multiple, interacting variables that are not well defined or understood, then putting one's finger on a single causitive that will swamp out the rest is nearly impossible.

  3. Humans are gregarious - Speaking as an introvert that is painful, but a necessary recognition of the state of my fellow man. Here we are looking at the '6 degrees of Kevin Bacon' but on a personal scale and I, personally, have boiled that down to '4 degrees of Monzer al-Kassar' who is, apparently, one of the best connected individuals on Rock 3 from the Star Sol. Take *anyone* out of the news who is in a relatively high plane of visibility, say the Salt Lake City scandal for betting, and you find that individual connected to Semion Mogilevich who knows Monzer al-Kassar. It is hard to find anyone in government, today, that is two separations from Mr. Kassar. When he and Nadhmi Auchi got connected via arms deals and such, that coalesced an entire universe of connections even tighter. The scary part is that I have problems placing *myself* at two individuals between myself and Mr. Kassar, but then I know a relatively well connected retired Marine. This is not only becoming a damned good 'rule of thumb' but may soon turn into 'The Law of Connectedness to the Underworld' for nearly everyone on the planet. So when I see a name pop up, say from the released Iraqi Foreign Ministry Archives, I now have a huge list of mobsters, gangsters, money launderers, corrupt industrialists, corrupt banks, arms merchants and narcotics traffickers to run against that individual. How do you find obscure connections between people? You *look* for them.

  4. The Law of Unintended Consequences - This has a relatively tried and true saying with it -
    No good deed goes unpunished.
    Yea, and verily, there are many unexpected consequences from actions and not all of them understood when the action is taken. There is another one that fits this category-
    It seemed like a good idea at the time.
    And this one,also -
    Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.
    And then moan and complain about how something you so fervently wanted and believed in turned out so very, very wrong. There are actually quite a few sayings in this realm, which indicates the amount of the lack of foresight humans possess and how easily a 'good idea' blinds us to possible contrary outcomes. Creating 'Social Security' started to deprive the US of its older workers *just* as WWII started up... the thing should have been rescinded. Instead the lovely wit of Congress decided to allow employers to offer 'non-monetary benefits' like 'health insurance' that were never seen as something to apply to the entire population. Thus the original problem of removing older workers from the work force is compounded by the subsidizing of health care, all during an era in which, save for the influenza pandemic, human expected lifespans were rising globally. Not the absolute limit of how long your body, in theory, could go, but the reasonable length of time less than that which was rising towards those limits. One simple action, ignoring consequences and ongoing demographics then gets compounded by *another* 'benefit' that was meant to be limited, which then gets expanded over time and is hit by the exact, same demographic influences. Yes, every 'progressive' and 'liberal' wants to crow about the supposed 'good' of these programs, while not recognizing the underlying demographics that are taking more money away from younger individuals and handing it to those that will be retired, longer and healthier while subsidized by the young. As the middle part of the post war 'baby boomer' generation gets into this, the tilt of the economy becomes horrific. And yet we hear people wanting to make the entire population poorer by increasing the latter 'good idea' until the overhead of it makes it collapse. Strangely enough, the amount of one's budget for 'actual' health care has remained steady, but the cost for the 'societal good' has increased steadily and sharply. Want to bankrupt America and make everyone sicker and live shorter lives? Make subsidized health care universal. Worked for the USSR, does wonders in hot summers in France, and is forcing folks in the UK and Canada to go elsewhere for necessary procedures because of 'rationing'. By all means lets bring that busted concept to the US and supersize it!

  5. Human stupidity - Now this category, alone, is a 'swamping effect' on the others, but helps one to come to grips with how the others get to where they are. There are so many conspiracy theories out there that it is difficult to count them all, and yet one does not need a conspiracy to make bad things happen. Or, as Napoleon was reputed as stating -
    Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
    Yes, every 'conspiracy theory' that I have seen has faltered on this point. And any single conspiracy that requires a competent part of the government needs to be thrown out immediately as it pre-supposes an impossibility to start with. If we had competent government we wouldn't have so much of it, run so poorly, with such asinine decisions made. And while everyone holds up the military as the epitome of what will make a conspiracy work, realize that this is the same organization that ran Operation Marketgarden, and dropped tens of thousands of men into the waiting arms of two SS Panzer divisions because one General didn't trust his INTEL. The entire operation was incompetently drafted, incompetently run, incompetently supplied and delivered men, most competently, into the waiting hell on earth that they were not prepared for. If you pull out 'Area 51' and UFO's, please show me the great and lovely advances that have been made that are *not* directly related to human ingenuity and science. Like the movie Men in Black I can come up with one: velcro. Unfortunately that has more to do with one man observing how nettles got stuck in clothing than anything else. Where is the anti-gravity, teleporters, warp drive, and who knows what else that is supposed to be attributed to UFO's? So when I see a series of strange events that *might* have nefarious background *if* you pre-suppose a conspiracy, I do ask if there is a series of more likely, but far lesser things going on that explain events. First it devolves upon something tried and true - human stupidity and cupidity. Second it deals with people as they are not some impossible greatly contained conspiracy that is 'behind the scenes'. Also it calls up the complexity from simplicity theme which works much better than conspiracies do.

  6. Regression towards the mean - Yet another topic I spent a post on a while back, looking at batting averages and other delightful things, with a bit of underhandedness to remind folks that data analysis can be time variable independent. This goes far beyond the 'rookie season effect' which only shows up in the much lauded players, and looks at how rookies generally under-perform to their mean and then will take some years to establish just how good they are in a professional milieu. That said the mean set up as a slope across those years has a powerful draw to it, and it is the rare, indeed extremely rare, player that can overcome the effects of age and set style to move away from that mean. Temperatures show a mean, also, but that mean depends on time scale and outside events, plus a good determination of what is actually being measured. When weather stations were set up in the 1920's-40's, suburbanization had not taken off like it has in the decades since then and the stations, themselves, have been swallowed up by that. The result is a thermal change due to the heat retention and output of modern homes, roads and equipment. If you see an increasing mean across those stations are you measuring a dependent or independent variable? And having an HVAC unit blast exhaust towards a weather station at ground level will, surely, change its readings more than general air temperature. This effect also helps to understand things like firearms training vs enemy casualty rates, so that more effective gunnery skills could be instilled into the training regimen. The very low percentage of effective shots fired against all shots fired pointed Allied commanders to the fact that most bullets didn't actually find a target. That very low percentage (and without looking it up 3% sticks in the mind) meant that even a single percentage of better fired rounds would increase troop combat effectiveness by 33%. Today that has been taken to very high levels were spent ammo for 'cover fire' is used for its deterrence effect, but the final shots for pulling down enemy targets are very, very well aimed. Likewise the mass bombing campaigns of yore from WWII are now replaced by precision guided bombs hitting within feet or inches of a target not yards or miles. The mean of target accuracy and lethality, then, has been on a sharply increasing slope from the 1940's onwards for the US armed forces, meaning that a relatively small force hits far, far above its weight class against a larger and lesser trained enemy.

  7. Centralization vs Distributionism - Two of the hardest fought memes in the 20th century started with the attack on personal liberty and freedom by looking at the State as a means of centralizing the efforts of society. The concept is posited that a centralized system can have reduced overhead and be 'more efficient' than a distributed system, which distributes the load across the entire system. The US Post Office is a Centralized system, the US Power Grid is a decentralized or distributed system. One of the greatest changes in efficiency for mail delivery came from the private sector and moving to a series of locally centralized, but interconnected, sorting and distribution systems. FedEx was one of the first, great 'proofs of concept' to do this, and moved to an integrated set of distribution centers for all of its packages. That said, each package has its routing number and is shifted by that into the system for how it is handled. An interlocking set of distributed centers with minimal information flow between them for inter-center package routing, meant it could 'absolutely, positively be there overnight'. If you packaged it early and gave it high priority... the later you package it the higher the cost. That is a 'Quality of Service' system and added the third, great paradigm between Centralized ideas of government (classically Socialist views) and Distributed ideas of government (Federalist views) with a third type that has not been tried yet: a Quality of Service accountable system. The reason that does not get done as it would treat citizens via preference schemas and afford some better services than others... that boots Socialist forms of 'equality' out the window, as well as 'classical liberal' views of the equality of man. To get an idea of what a QoS system is like, read Brave New World. Your soma gets a very *high* preference for distribution... even if you don't want it. Especially if you don't want it. Traditional forms of Federalism (pre-20th century) depend on a Distributed model in which each part has its own priority and goals, but has checks and balances between itself and all other levels. By creating semi-autonomous levels of governance with independence, within bounds, for each level, the basic needs handed to each level can be best assessed at the lowest common level for accountability to society. Socialism does not tend towards accountability, and a QoS system only for restricted domains of service that are highly prescribed, while a Federalist system holds a domain accountable for everything handed it, not just a few things to try and excel at. The Internet, itself, has a structured set of routing tables that are semi-centralized, but being a 'network of networks' the entire affair is distributed and decentralized with cached routing tables distributed throughout the system. It is amenable to QoS schema, but only for very restricted areas under IP v4, while IP v6 will have more ability to handle that. As soon as everyone agrees to play by the same book...

  8. One man, with courage, makes a majority - From what I've seen that is a quote from a biographer of Andrew Jackson about Jackson, and not from Jackson himself... although it sounds about right coming from him. This is not, however, the 'Great Man Theory' of history that would be espoused by others, like Theodore Roosevelt, but, instead, the concept of one individual who actually will do and say what is necessary when necessary to change how those around him perceive the course of human events. This is decidedly *not* the masses going to man the barricades, but is, instead, one person making a very pointed view of himself and society using pertinent background and support to say: This must change. Not all change is *progress* and when progress turns out to be wrong or counter-productive, then change to repeal such progress is required. In science the concepts of Uniformitarianism and Catastrophism have been prevalent in geology since it became a science, with the Uniformitarianists holding sway and then the Catastrophists and then back and forth between the two for decades. By the early 20th century Uniformitarianism was holding sway but had all sorts of hard problems dealing with species distribution, changes in climate and other artifacts of the geologic record. How could continents, sitting in the same place, go from polar to tropical to desert conditions in a matter of a few millions of years? And just how *did* related species get such weird geographic distribution? I looked at Alfred Wegener who proposed the concept of Continental Drift, but who's science could not make it work, and so, lacking that it was set aside for decades. Only when WWII submarine magnetic measurements were declassified did an actual process, unknown to science, appear: sea floor spreading. Suddenly the need for catastrophic events to change climate gave way to uniform methods to get such changes. Then looking at the K-T mass extinction, catastrophism would come *back* in the 1970's, until realizing that boloid impacts were actually quite common on the geologic time scale once the craters were actually looked for. That restored uniformitarianism to now encompass not only the entire solar system, but the system's movement through the galaxy and accounting for some random events like Gamma Ray Bursters. Wegener did not create a majority, but a majority came to that view via other means, so that he would be vindicated even when he was dead wrong on how it could happen.

  9. Good idea, wrong scale - In Stephen Jay Gould's The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, he brings up an excellent point that science tends not to throw away workable concepts even if the scale of the domain they were originally applied to doesn't work. It is very interesting to see that previous ideas of evolution have not been tossed away, but a memory of them retained and put to work in the field of genetics to look at how biological entities shift and change genetic material due to macro circumstances. Concepts that Huxley proposed for species and how they gained traits turned out to be inoperable at the species level, but has been re-utilized at the genetic level to see how shifting in genetic material changes the ability of that material to promulgate itself over time. In many ways that turns evolution on its head and offers a yet to be demonstrated as working paradigm in which genes are seen as utilizing higher level macro beings to promulgate genetic material. Species, in that light, are not the resultant animals or macro-effect beings that result from those changes and the species, if anything, is that collection of genetic material and its ability to craft useful higher level effects for the continuation of its encoding. Strangely enough this offers a way to view viruses as some of the most efficient self-promulgation systems that utilize other code encapsulations for their promulgation. So a successful virus is one that passes itself on by efficient transport, takeover, replication and spread. This does not make the hypothesis *right* but offers insight into how and why we may approach the higher level effects of changes in the genome and see if there is a predominant effect going on. In the realm of banking a similar problem is being seen by those systems that are opportunistically using person-to-person banking and contacts as part of the larger system to exploit the defects in the command and control banking system. Higher level 'accountability structures' cannot cope with heavily fluid and nearly unidentifiable p2p contacts and shifts of funds in the 'white world' that allow for black market funds transfers to take place. Again the larger scale systemic concept is not one that can be invoked at the lower level, but the lower level one can be utilized to exploit the higher level system so as to promulgate the transfer of illegally garnered funds through white world transactions. Just as some viruses exploit the deficiencies in the higher level macro immune system of resultant beings so, too, does p2p money exchange systems thwart the accountability of the higher level banking system.

  10. Conservation of practice - This one is simple -
    If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
    It is interesting that two of the most conservative organizations on the planet use the principle of 'stick with it until you prove something else works' concept: military organizations and science. Both of these are evidence based organizations that require that something have capability to work and demonstration of its workings before it is implemented. That is how you got mass waves of soldiers going 'over the top' in WWI without aerial and ground reinforcement all the way into late 1917 and even into 1918. The first massed armored thrusts supported by air power had only happened a couple of times and while effective, the general push needed to be sustained by fast moving follow-on units. A tested way to fight with armor had demonstrated lacks in the hypothesis but that the hypothesis was tenable, if the supporting systems of transport and re-supply could be modernized. Between the wars there was no greater proponent of this new style of armor based warfare than B. H. Liddel-Hart and during the overrun of Rommel's North African field headquarters a copy of Hart's book on armored warfare translated into German was on Rommel's nightstand... the British general let Hart know that *he* had that exact, same book in English on *his* nightstand. Hart had refined the hypothesis into a theory giving insight into the use and deployment of post-WWI advances of technology on armored warfare and it is still taught in war colleges to this day. Those limited tactical concepts were implemented on a strategic scale, first by Germany, then by the Allies, and the shift from Blitzkrieg to the continuously mobile front changed the nature of warfare in the modern era from limited sallies by relatively slow forces to extremely fast pushes across a broad front to achieve strategic objectives. Not only was that idea useful at the tactical scale, but at the larger venue of the strategic scale, but it could not be implemented as it existed in WWI as it lacked pre-conditions to happen. WWI pointed out the problems of Napoleonic warfare, and the European powers ignored the American experience of the US Civil War in drafting training and wartime preparation. That system broke down into futility and yet getting something that *worked* took a bit of doing and a couple of decades more.

Those, then, are 10 'down and dirty' rules of thumb utilized to look at things. I apply these on a system basis, that is that any single event or artifact must be examined in context of other events or artifacts around it and see how they fit together. This is something that is not a readily apparent thing to do when dealing with single events or circumstances that appear to be part of an ongoing continuum at a lower level. In Turkey the ability to confidently date an archaeology site is hampered due to a mixing up of potter shards and apparent anachronisms of finds outside of their levels as understood in a wider context. Turkey, like many other places, has rodents and in Turkey the larger, burrowing kind can often infest sites and drag or dig stuff upwards, let things fall down burrows and, generally, make a mess of a site before on even gets there. Thus the rules for a pristine site, in which layer upon layer is set down in an orderly fashion and confident dating of a layer comes from the co-deposition of artifacts, must be set aside to a 'preponderance of artifacts' and those being hard to shift ones taking that place. In that a large scale rule (deposition) is trumped by small scale activity (rodent population over time) to thwart overall dating accuracy (as seen in similar, less disturbed sites elsewhere in the region).

Not to be outdone, hard rock geologists utilize this overall rule for areas in which generally well defined rock strata are known but particular strata composition at any given point is not known. Then the smaller rule of animal disturbing is used to examine the dug up leavings of ants to see what it is they are pulling up. If you know the general strata you can get insight into its particular composition if the disturbing influence is deep enough to reach it.

That is a compound, multi-level tool of analysis used by adding together known problematic effects in one field (archaeology) and utilizing the exact, same underlying compounding to help another field (geology). For archaeologists the ability to get labor to go through relatively loose sediment as 'field experience' is relatively cheap and easy. For a geologist you are often looking at explosives, drilling equipment and multi-million dollar investments to find out what is going on within hard rock layers. What is a nuisance to one field becomes a necessary tool in another field, due to differences in underlying circumstances.

Many of those 'rules of thumb' incorporate multiple views into them, just like the proper ratio between the size of a step to the height of the rise for stairs is also compounded from multiple views. Just like the step to riser ratio is an instance of a singular 'rule of thumb' covering the construction trade (and varying greatly from region to region and Nation to Nation) so, too, these outlooks vary in specific principle on any one item or circumstance.

Catching a bit of Wayne Rogers on the tube last night and he essentially repeated the following (Source: Fox News, Cashin' in, 29 JAN 2005) talking about the elections to be held in Iraq in 2005 allows these tools to come into play:

Terry Keenan: Wayne, Dan was our man on the scene, he was giving us an assessment of how the elections may go. What do you think about that first and oil second?

Wayne Rogers, founder of Wayne Rogers & Company: I think Jonathan is absolutely right. First of all it's not a democracy. This is a pretense in a certain sense. We use the word because it's going to make it sound good. Iraq is filled with a people who are extremely religious. They oppose each other. Even if we have a vote and it looks great to the west, that doesn't mean that the oil spigot is going to go on tomorrow morning. There is going to be sabotage. The insurgents are still going to be there. All of the things that we're seeing today are going to continue. It's a wonderful idea, and I love the idea. But it's not reality.


Terry Keenan: If Iraqis can, in large numbers, safely go to the polls, can they start to safely patrol their own oil reserves?

Dan Senor: Oh, I think it's going to take time. To Wayne's comments, this is not a pretense. That's offensive to the millions of Iraqis who are risking their lives tomorrow to go to the polls. It’s an amazing thing. There are 22 Arab countries, none of which their citizens can hold their governments accountable. Iraq will be the first. There are many Iraqis who are taking enormous risks for this. As for where the oil situation is going to go on the ground there, I think it's going to be a long time before the Iraqi oil resource capability can have any impact on Iraq or the region. The oil production infrastructure of the country is in dreadful condition, completely dilapidated after three decades of chronic under investment by Saddam.

Wayne Rogers: When I say pretense, I mean the result. I'm not saying the intent is not admirable; it’s a great intent. You can't fly in the face of 2,000 years of history. You got the Kurds and the religious part of the Shiites and you’ve got the Sunnis. They're going to battle each other. There is not one Arab nation in the world that is a democracy today. They are all kingdoms. They are all based on tribal instincts and tribal relations. I think that's crazy.

Dan Senor: Wayne, what about Turkey?

Stuart Varney: No one is suggesting that this is going to become overnight a perfect democracy like England or America.

Wayne Rogers: Well, that’s what Dan is suggesting.


Stuart Varney: Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, it’s just had an election, a peaceful transfer of power. Turkey is a Muslim democracy. Afghanistan has just had its first democratic election. It is a Muslim society. What is this that Muslims can't have a democracy just because they haven't had it in the past? That's nonsense.

Wayne Rogers: Wrong, wrong. Afghanistan is not a democracy. Afghanistan is a federal relationship between those tribes there. Ahmad Karzai is the mayor of Kabul. He’s not head of the country. That's unrealistic.

Dan Senor: Muslims operate in democracies around the world. They fully participate. There is nothing about the Islamic DNA that precludes Muslims from participating in democracy. So don't count them out. And the same arguments have been used about the Russians. I remember during the Cold War, ‘the Russians aren't capable of living in Democracy, they have lived under autocratic rule for millennium.’ They have pulled it off. The same has been said of eastern Europeans and Chinese and yet in Hong Kong and Singapore and Taiwan, people of Chinese descent have been able to pull off democracies. So don't count them out so quickly.

[I will use brackets to specifically call out some of the rules of thumb, but others do apply as well, and will only do that once or twice after this entry paragraph. What follows is a typical analysis by me.]

Notice that Wayne Rogers equates democracy with results, not with process [The Theory and Practice conundrum]. That is a fallacy in thinking as democracy is not a system of expressing popular will but to get results from government [Complexity from Simplicity; Human Stupidity]. That is a well known concept which I had looked at before, but it bears repeating: democracy has many forms and variants from direct 1:1 democracy to representative democracy of various kinds, which include a wide panoply of individuals and elected bodies to help societies to self-govern [Complexity from Simplicity; Centralization vs Distributionism]. What *is* the democracy that Iraqis and Afghanis do *not* have, according to Mr. Rogers? It is a *result* of ending insurgents, ending societal differences and getting oil out of the ground safely [Theory and Practice conundrum; Law of Unintended Consequences]. That *is* what he boils it down to for Iraq, and for Afghanistan he makes the astonishing claim, properly refuted by Stuart Varney and Dan Senor, that there are, indeed, Muslim majority Nations with democratic means that operate to reflect the larger society [Human gregariousness; Complexity from Simplicity]. Even more astonishing is that there are tribal and ethnic divisions in *both* Indonesia and Turkey *and* insurgents in both Nations, and yet Mr. Rogers cannot cite them as having only a pretended democracy. [Theory and Practice conundrum]

Not only is that offensive to Turkey and Indonesia, but it is deeply offensive for anyone who believes that self-government will adjust to society and ethnic problems via democracy. As Dan Senor points out the WESTERN form of democracy is a thin patina only a couple of centuries old as compared to dictatorship and Empire stretching back to the first known written records of mankind, far past 4,000 years. If anything can be said to be the 'norm' in human society it is dictatorship and authoritarian systems heading towards Empire and democracy the unproven and unestablished 'upstart' of governing systems [Regression towards the mean]. If Mr. Rogers shifted the context of his remark to say that ALL societies are doomed to ethnic problems, religious problems and the inability to have anything except a 'pretense' at democracy for a limited time, he might have some point worth looking at. And others have made that contention, so it is not even untrodden territory. [Good idea, wrong scale]

What goes beyond that is that Dan Senor brings up the cornerstone of democratic procedures: accountable government.

Mr. Rogers continues on his results based analysis for goods and supplies, but democracy is not about supply those things. It is about having accountable government that the people can change via democratic process, such as voting. Democracy, if anything, is the messiest and least results-oriented of all governing systems in that it gives the widest possible play to society and then has restricted capability to try and ensure that society is not harmed by the popular will. I can, easily enough, point to places where democracy has failed: The Balkans, Somalia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, Pakistan, Iran, and Russia is faltering as a democracy even now. Are these places unfit to have democracy because they have failed at it in the past, and in a few places it never really got attempted in a reliable and accounted way?

Even worse is that positing ethnic and religious differences that lead to violence as invalidating democracy also yields a list of countries with such problems: Spain, Italy, Turkey, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, Burma, Peru, Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, Haiti, Liberia, Nigeria, Eritrea, Somalia, Yemen, Rwanda. Are these societies, then, unfit for democracy? To Mr. Rogers violence of the ethnic or religious sort is a prime invalidator of democracy, and yet democracy allows for such differences to be hashed out in a civil manner. Many of the violence problems are due to tiny minorities feeling oppressed by the larger culture, that is true, but does the turning to violence then invalidate any pre-existing attempt towards democracy?

By far the worse is the idea that a federalist view of self-government, of separate but cooperating and inter-connected governments, can NOT be a democracy. My guess is that invalidates the United States as primary example here, but also Switzerland, and a number of other governing situations in which multiple, independent but de-limited governing systems hold themselves in check and balance to provide an accountable system of governance for the entire affair. When Mr. Rogers speaks of Mr. Karzai not ruling 'more than Kabul', that could also be said of Washington, Adams, Jefferson and, indeed, going all the way up to Lincoln.[One man with courage makes a majority] Their actual extent of authority beyond the Capital and the very small federal forces existed because of civil compact and agreement amongst the States and some few of those early Presidents were viewed not only as biased towards their home State, but towards particular groups that were ethnic, religious and familial based.

Now what is the system that Mr. Rogers describes by describing the defects of 'democracy'? This is the analytical tool of examining the goal or standard and then composing them together and seeing if they have a better description. Thus, the inversion of his standards in decrying Iraq and Afghanistan for Wayne Rogers [Conservation of Practice]:

- Democracy must end all violence between all groups (stated about Iraq and insurgents)

- Democracy must ignore racial and religious views (stated about Iraq and Afghanistan on why they cannot have democracy)

- Democracy must allow no opposition to it (stated about Iraq and opposition in general)

- Democracy must be complete and not subdivided or federalized (stated about Afghanistan)

- Democracy is results based and only results matter (stated about Iraq and oil)

- Democracy must have a single ruling authority (that from the Karzai view)

- Democracy ends all questions of differences (stated about Iraq and ongoing violence and ethnic differences)

Mr. Rogers has, in negative, not described what democracy is. His expectations for democracy as described as to why Iraq and Afghanistan cannot get them describe, instead, a different system. It is not a system of personal freedom or liberty, nor is it a system of accountable government. It is a system where results matter, and obedience to government matters and there is one, sole, ruling part of the Nation and it rules all the Nation absolutely.

We have come to see such systems as Totalitarian Systems, that impose rule from above, that repress human freedom and liberty and that use mass imposed migration or simple slaughter of different populations to end all differences. He has described Communism under Stalin, Nazism under Hitler and the ruthless and maniacal regime of the mass murderer Pol Pot. Indeed, Stalin was completely 'results oriented' as was Communism and the various '5 year plans' are wholly indicative of a results oriented system of government that dictates to all levels of society 'what is to be done'. [Law of Unintended Consequences]

Thus I must fault Mr. Rogers for not applying the proper tools of analysis, the 'rules of thumb' and also giving an idea of what his ideal system that he is trying to describe in negative actually *is*. The exact same conditions he decries in Iraq and Afghanistan are going on in The Philippines, yet is *that* only having a 'pretense at democracy'? How about Colombia with FARC and ethnic problems? Turkey with the DHKP/C and Kurdish ethnic problems, do they only hold a 'pretense' to being a democracy? India has a caste system far more rigid than many clan and tribal systems in the world, and has ethnic differentiation integrated into that and has taken long decades to try and shift from those views towards ones more open of social mobility... all the while being a democracy and, indeed, now the largest, single democracy on the planet... *with* multiple Islamic and Hindu religious factions resorting to violence. Is India only having a 'pretense' of democracy?

That brings up a problem of another order when an individual casts down large swaths of humanity utilizing religious and cultural differences to do that casting down: they are practicing a form of ethnocentrism *and* bigotry towards their fellow man and the belief that all men are created EQUAL. The individuals who typically do that have views that are typified by: racism, cultural superiority, and elitism. Those are views which led directly to 'the White Man's Burden' and Imperialism, because these lesser cultures just needed someone to step in and set them right. Even worse, if one has those views and then wants to be isolated from these other cultures, the bigotry and bias raise to very high levels in which you say that your culture is so superior that it should not even *touch* these lesser cultures as they are unfit for the wisdom you impart. Isolationism, on its own, is not indicative of this and can stem from many causes, as seen in the case of Japan withdrawing from the world to prevent the overthrow of the Bushido based culture via gunpowder. That was not inherent superiority that led to such isolationism, but fear of losing the basis of society.

[End typical analysis]

Note that through the preceding analysis I deployed other tools, like Historical Comparison and Contrast, and Following Results from Previous Experiments, to look at how things shift according the the advocacy position that is taken by an individual to attempt to stand up an argument on wide-ranging affairs. To counter imprecision and ensure that I properly try to examine things, to my personal level of satisfaction (and that is a Personal Evaluation Tool different for each individual) I also try to ensure that the background tools, while unstated, are present. This makes for dense and compact reading as I am not explicitly calling out the multiple tools per sentence, which would turn already lengthy pieces into extremely long books or monographs.

Then, utilizing these tools and not telling you what they are, I also do one other fierce and quite nasty trick: I change the direction of analysis and tool suite suddenly from one venue to another while maintaining narrative thread. That is a trick that good mystery writers and SF writers use to lead a reader into one, comfortable line of thought and then demonstrate how that very comfort leads to imprecision of evaluation and results. As with the analysis above, I utilize the theme of questioning those Nations that have exactly the problems described and then shift gears, pretty suddenly, to doing the inverted analysis of what system Mr. Rogers is describing in his consistent negatives. It is meant to be a jarring experience and wake the reader up to the concept that they have been led down one particular path of reasoning *for a reason* and that if they are comfortable with it, then they must address the following, shifted analytical style, with a different sort of attention.

I have it from multiple instructors in high school and university, plus numerous readers here, that this is a headache causing experience. People do not like being suddenly shifted from their comfortable mental position or pathways and find themselves in a blast furnace. That, too, is a tool and I often abuse it to shift gears so often that the reader is, actually, left to their own devices... which is the point of those articles.

Another in the great 'Bag o' Tricks' is the lengthy quotation, which might not have been 'fair use' for profitable circumstances, but I take no advertising nor seek no cash for my use and, instead, seek to follow lines of reasoning across works. To do that I must fairly present that line of reasoning as seen in the original, even if it is a sub-textual and background one that is not the stated one of another author. The thin-skinned folks at UKIP castigated me highly for using someone else's views to convey a message that was not the overt one, but analysis of underlying factors, and the individuals involved obviously did not take time to *read the damn article I had written*. The UKIP was, and still *is*, to me a sidelight and sideshow, the underlying analytical thread outweighed another author's biased views towards them because, in my estimation, the underlying analysis was worth calling out in the larger, more biased section. I have gotten that a few times with my utilization of other authors that may, or may not, be under one cloud or another, but my analysis in each case holds: to get to the larger conceptual notion I am presenting I *must* give a fair section of another author's mindset. I do that in fairness to those authors, because I do not want to be seen as 'cherry picking' a 'quote here and a quote there'. If you ding me on another author, I will ding you right back and say 'pay attention to what is going on in the larger work'.

That is the 'Forest and Trees' rule which folks should be familiar with.

What is even worse for the reader is that I, as the writer, have so ingrained these tools as to make them part of the background of how I composite a piece. I rarely call upon them in a conscious fashion. Like Alfred Hitchcock, who would mentally step through every scene, every piece of dialogue, how every shot should look and how it would be composited and edited, the worse part of making a film was having to get the actors and actresses and actually filming it. For me the piece is already a constructed thought system and writing it down is the tedious portion... particularly ensuring that the mental side-tracks that are part of a piece are properly integrated and followed so I don't leave something out.

To sum up an already lengthy piece... wait! There is the Meta-Analysis which I used here, too! Yes the use of stepping back from an analysis to do a further analysis of the tools used to analyze things. That is highly important when explaining a tool system like the p2p banking system or trust-based p2p networks in general. If folks can't see how they work at the local scale, their larger context is lost. So drawing back from an analysis to do a Meta-Analysis to refine a tool or definition is most handy. This entire piece, including the internal analysis, is a three step Meta-Analysis system: the Analysis, the Meta-Analysis to explain tools and the Meta-Meta-Analysis to explain tools to utilize tools to do analysis.

Most handy!

Back to the summation...

... this process that I deploy is not one of artifice, which is to say artificial, but natural to my thought processes. I didn't study how to make tools to use tools to do analysis, no one taught me that. Yet, like the ingrown reactions to moving objects using the Calculus, each individual has this within them to a greater or lesser degree. It took humans thousands of years to derive the Calculus, and yet humans still threw stones, caught balls, walked around, and, basically, used the applied Calculus for every living, breathing moment of their lives. Finding out how to actually describe all that took awhile.

Luckily as I use scale free systems of thought, by and large, I can step back from that and offer up this piece as a final Meta layer on top of the existing ones. This is a conscious expression of my analysis, but is not thorough nor rigorous as that would not be possible within a delimited lifetime.... or easily in one without limits, either.


cold pizza said...

I, hopefully one among many readers, do appreciate the time, thought and effort you put into your blog. I am an information sponge with interests in nearly the whole catalog of human knowledge (the exceptions being celebrity drivel and sports trivia--items of no intrinsic value to humanity other than momentary diversions for shallow thinking masses--and so I display my prejudice and bigotry towards people who know not how the world works, neither do they care).

There are few polymaths. Thanks for sharing. -cp

A Jacksonian said...

CP - My pleasure!

What I cannot capture is how my mind utilizes the tags that go with a given idea, concept or activity and then form coherent, working structures out of them. How do I explain that something has 'completeness' or what mathematecians call 'elegance' when a structure fits together? Even worse how can I explain how, when a structure is working and there are a number of unknown parts, that those parts must 'fit' with the existing structure to satisfy them? When an illegal arms deal happens and the actual actors are named, that is but a surface representation of those initiating the deal, not those supporting it... and those supports must be in finances (or services! one can never forget the 'I scratch your back, you scratch mine' deal), manufacture, transport, storage, and so on. Just because they are illegal, does not mean that these things do not happen. It may be through irregular pathways from the 'white world' but they must be there, nevertheless.

I, too, am an absorber of odd facts, bits of mental detritus, and even a modicum of true cultural flotsam and jetsam... not that I actively think about them, but my mind does the mental trick of adding the normal tags to the events/people/statistics/etc. and then just tosses them into their appropriate areas, mostly marked MISC. Like my TEMP subdirectory on any computer I use that has tons of junk in it, mostly unsorted and yet still relatively easy to find. My first CS teacher in high school taught me that bad habit on the good reasoning that you can let the machine sort by name, date, file type... easy to find stuff!

In the sciences the generalist's science is geology, as it gets to touch everything from astrophysics to biochemistry and genetics. So geologists who try to keep up with the field must have the old 'nodding acquaintance' with terminology across a wide array of subjects. Richard Feynman describes how he was able to pick up the basics of biochemistry and genetics (I believe it was) to sit in on a summer with scientists in that field asking some fundamentally hard questions in their specialty. Feynman, in about a week, had absorbed enough to start asking some of the intro questions and was sloughed off by the specialist saying those were pretty basic to their topic... and then he asked 'How long did it take you to learn enough to ask those questions?' and the answer was about 2-4 years. He had done that in a week.

My talent tends to be the synthetic talent to take what is talked about, understand the fundamentals behind them and then ask some pointed questions. When I was working that was the horror of people who had a meeting with me, especially a wide-ranging technical one crossing many fields: by the wrap-up hour or so of a 4-6 hour meeting I was asking questions on funding, legal technicalities, building design, network and cabling, and a host of questions across the board of all the specialties. In a highly technical procurement requiring building refit, laying of network cable, system installation, etc. each of the specialists had their role to play, but getting each to realize that someone knew enough to see if there were slip-ups or places where bureaucracy could be used as an excuse to do nothing, got schedules prioritized. That and getting a mandate from headquarters and the head of the agency *first*... I had my priorities straight, and CTO I did the first of its kind, full and open source, all-bidders welcome, come one come all deal for an agency that had *never* done so at that technical level or size of procurement.

One of the senior individuals who was retiring told me, a year or so later, that people were in shock at what was going on. 'You were grabbing all the hard parts and doing them, no excuses to anyone.'

I told him I had taken the EASY parts to do so that no one else had an excuse to slack off. That set him back...the delivery and install *that* was hard on me.

I treated everyone like highly competent professionals and talked to them at their level demonstrating that I had listened, learned, incorporated their problems, connected them, addressed them and handed back a plan forward. I wanted few meetings, well run and only if they were necessary. No one could complain that I did not take my share of the load... and I have a desk audit to demonstrate I took on the job of two-three individuals two pay grades higher than myself.

What I put out today is a far cry from that kind of capability. I am running at about 70% of capacity and the rest might come back online someday... my mind is not stopping on that repair effort.

I do not browbeat, I do not demean,and while I have a nasty acerbic and sarcastic streak, when I see something going off the rails I call it as it is. And I tell my readers *why*. One is always free to disagree with my ideas and conclusions, but question my motives and its Dumb Looks, Still Free. Unless you gots a halo over your head and trumpets from heavens announcing you, don't expect me to take criticism of motives all that well.

I am trying to help and create something different... maybe not better, but surely something more worthwhile than where we are now without having to tear down others to do so unless they deserve it... and I tell *why* they deserve it and don't get hyperemotional over it. We are implored to use reason by our forefathers and I abide by their wishes. And all political parties have been hit, all top contenders looked at... trying to impugn I am in the tank for any of these partisan causes and one ignores that wider scope. At their peril.

I cannot create a majority, but I just might put the few ideas out there necessary to allow that majority to come into being. We need that now, more than ever. We have been warned about the path we are on since the founding, and they set the roadmarkers up. I read those roadmarkers and see the path... and its end is becoming plainly evident. I step from that path, alone, and tell why it is not a good one. Then see the better one and tell of it... but those markings laid down centuries ago and their warnings I tell about, too. So one can know *why* I speak as I do.