Tag: random

“Winning” War

Lamenting a lack of “winning” — especially if the solution is increasing military budgets — shows a frightening lack of understanding the purpose of our participation in modern wars. We’ve entered into some untenable situations from which it was difficult to cleanly extract our forces. We’ve intervened in situations where we were not really wanted.

Money is not going to magically create “winning” situations. The problem is not insufficient tech, hardware, or troops. It is bloody impossible to hold hostile territory in the long run – and trying is socio-economically draining. Ask the Romans – demanding tribute engenders animosity. Consult the Brits – colonialism is quite possibly the technique most apt to succeed (create an economic incentive to accept the new rulers), but eventually the colony wants legal and economic independence to get a fair market price for goods. Replacing the government with one that supports you? Germans can tell you how well that works (La Résistance, for instance).

You hold a conquered territory by leaving sufficient military presence to continually re-take the area from the locals. So when I hear someone saying they want to “win” wars … I expect they don’t know exactly what it takes to win. Or what winning even means. Who really wins in a war? Executives and stockholders for companies with multi-million dollar contracts to manufacture equipment whilst remaining safely away from the combat zones.


Do you know …

Having a commonly recognized accent often leads to hearing similar illogical thread: Oh, you are from over-yonder-place. Do you know so-and-so. The polite response (“no, I do not”) does nothing to dissuade the asker. I suspect most people want to answer “no, I don’t bloody know David Beckham. There are fifty three million people in bloody England. You’re from Atlanta, do you know Usher?” Which might better get the point across that it is statistically unlikely that I’d know any individual from a country none the less a fairly famous one who, I imagine, has a fairly exclusive social circle.

Evidently it isn’t just accents that prompt this nonsensical assumption. Trump’s press conference today:

Black journalist: “Will you meet with the Congressional Black Caucus?”

Trump: “I would. You want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours?”

And he probably thought he was being nice in acquiescing to the meeting. I wish the reporter had responded with a terribly rude and likely honest answer: “No, they aren’t friends of mine. But, as a decently well informed citizen, I am aware of their existence and wanted to know if you planned to meet with them.”

Legal Precedent

This may set an interesting precedent:


Not quite the same as saying the preconceived notions broadcast by the now-CiC of the military branch means it would be impossible to achieve a just result from a military tribunal … but extrapolating a little can any minority get a fair trial in an executive branch run by Trump? Can a woman?


“You think our country’s so innocent?” … now Trump was talking about murder, but I am thinking about it in light of Russian interference in the election. We’ve backed regimes coming into power, supported coups overthrowing foreign governments … sometimes both for the same individual (e.g. Ngô Đình Diệm). We distribute propaganda for favoured candidates, obtain and publicize embarrassing information about unfavoured candidates … and with the proliferation of computer technology, I am certain we have used hacking to obtain this information.

Trump’s seems to assume public objection to Russian meddling presupposed the US hasn’t taken the same actions. Not true. It isn’t anger that Russia turned these techniques on us … or even sour grapes that they managed such a stunning success. A significant number of people object to this behaviour when the US does it too — I don’t agree with assassinations, executions, or interference in elections be it by the CIA, MI6, KGB, China’s Ministry of State Security, or any other state security apparatus.

Ideas – not exactly a viral infection

I remember a stir not too long after Obama took office – mid-April 2009. He was attending a conference in South America, and Hugo Chavez gave him a book, “Las Venas Abiertas de America Latina”. And people who were already saying he was a disgraceful president who undertook an apology tour decided that the mere possession of a book chronicling the history of American imperialism in South America was just farther proof of his anti-American beliefs. The whole thing struck me as silly – I’ve read Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto. Managed not to become a Fascist or a Socialist. I’ve read stories about unicorns flying over rainbows too; didn’t turn me into one. I didn’t realize that making oneself aware of opposing viewpoints was so controversial.

What makes me think of this incident now? The problems the UC system has had with Milo Yiannopoulos’ speaking engagements. Discourse is civil discussion of issues with people – even if their opinions differ from ours. Compromise isn’t bullying others into taking up your beliefs. To have an effective governance of a large, incohesive population requires compromise. How can there be any compromise between individuals who fear being made aware of an alternative viewpoint? No matter how abhorrent you find someone’s belief, there is generally a reason for those beliefs. And without understanding the reasons, you have no way to find a path that addresses both people’s desires.

It’s easy to dismiss someone as a white-supremacist. Or a fascist. Or an ape, or any other ad hominem attacks that forestall the type of compromise that is necessary to govern effectively. We’re setting ourselfs up for marginalized minorities (even when there are three million MORE people in the “minority”) or radical swings between left and right leaning governments as they trade off every couple of years and un-do whatever the previous administration has accomplished / mucked up (depending on your point of view).

Educational Philosophy

I was discussing educational philosophy with my mom a few days ago — especially early childhood education, which wasn’t either of our specialties. But as Anya is getting older, it’s becoming relevant. And I’m surprised by the rigorous curriculum adopted by one of the local “elite” preschools around here. It’s got a wait list and enormous price tag. And it ignores a great deal of recent research regarding childhood learning – essentially that very young kids form the neural connections that are needed for formal schooling through free play. Not by getting them to sit down and listen to lectures at an earlier age, not by being told what to do and doing it … but by being left to their own devices to use toys “wrong” and run and climb.

Made me think of my experience with education — and I graduated top ten in my class, so this isn’t just “the school is why I’m failing, not me” complaining. School managed to take all of the fun out of any subject. Not sure if that’s just the Puritanical history of the country dictating that work shouldn’t be fun or just a reality of trying to teach 30 kids in a class.

I love reading. And talking with friends about what I’ve read. I do *not* love reading a few chapters and writing a five page double spaced Arial 12 point text essay on the allegory … you get the idea.

I started University as a history major – but I don’t care as much about the exact date that the Treaty of Versailles was signed as much as the socio-political impact the treaty content had on much of Europe. I don’t want a list of the crusades and their dates – but the cultural impact, the religious impact, hell even the political impact that having a large number of military leaders and men roaming across the continent had “back home”.

Chemistry lab experiments were graded on the % deviation between your results and the predicted outcome. You were essentially being tested on your ability to get exactly 12 milliliters into a container. Or you had the good sense to BS your way through the experiment, calculate the intended results, and reverse engineer your experimental values with a variance somewhere between 91% and 97%.

Art – first of all, I find the idea of grading such a subjective subject to be right silly. Personally, I would have graded on attitude and effort. Someone who lacks hand-eye coordination but put a lot of thought into the media and technique may have made an ugly picture … but they got something from the experience. A talented artist may have fobbed off the class but made a beautiful piece. I have to say, I had a physical education instructor who graded with that exact logic. Someone from the girls’ basketball team could grade poorly in the basketball unit not because they didn’t make baskets but because they were disruptive to class and weren’t trying. Someone who was putting forth a lot of effort but didn’t make any baskets could still get an ‘A’. Usually, though, physical education was graded on one’s ability within specific sports.

Maths and physics become a memorization challenge. Foreign language classes were recitation. Any class – they managed to turn it into an unpleasant experience.

Winter Gear

My gloves say they have 40 gram Thinsulate; but every time I would work outside, my fingers would be FREEZING. Oddly, my husband’s gloves – which also say they have 40 gram Thinsulate – keep my hands nice and warm.

Evidently women’s gloves (at least the cute leather ones) do not have insulated fingers. Which is obvious when you consider the distinct lack of bulk in the fingers. I picked up a pair of ski gloves from REI – these are fully insulated.

I also got insulated overalls and work jacket on clearance. What an incredible difference. Anya and I shoveled a couple inches of snow, cleaned off the car, and played outside for a while — temperatures in the mid 20’s — and I was warm.


I know everyone has a gut reaction to the efficacy of the immigration ban – be it ‘total rubbish’ or ‘great job securing our borders’ – but a few organisations have bothered analysing the historic actions that would have been eliminated by the travel ban.

The Cato Institute, libertarian leaning but certainly not a left-wing think tank, finds no benefit to national security. The nations included in the ban account for seventeen convictions for attempted terrorist attacks – and exactly zero deaths. Now “attempting” a terrorist attack could be anything from planning to trying to actually execute an attack. Bad, but ZERO people died. A few of the banned countries (Libya and Syria) did not account for a SINGLE attempted attack. They provide a illuminating breakdown of what appears to be selectively picked data published by Senator Jeff Sessions — Trump’s pick for Attorney General. 6.9% of the list (over 500 accounts) were foreigners planning attacks on US soil. Even if I assume Senator Sessions hasn’t selected data to make a couple of countries look particularly bad, the travel ban fails to prevent 93.1% of PLANNED attacks.

A common argument is that stopping one attempt is worth it (questionable considering the disruption caused by the travel ban – doctors are unable to enter the country to take up residency at hospitals, scientists are unable to enter the country to take research positions at universities, but value cannot be ascribed to a life so arguing is a bit of a bad job). What cannot be determined, though, is how much anger does this move engender? How many people BEGIN providing material aid to terrorist organisations because of this ban? How many people are going to end up dead because of this action?

I’ve said before – it would be one thing to decree the entire immigration process insecure and shut down ALL immigration (travel tourism too. bad for, say, people who own hotels) for a period of time while a new process is deployed. Selectively banning countries based on history of terrorist activity — which this certainly IS NOT — only causes different people to undertake terrorist activities. It’s a little like the aeroport security scanners – they’re looking for everything previous terrorists have tried. Makes people feel better (even as they complain about the inconvenience) that the government is “doing something” to keep them safe. I guess this falls into the same category, but we aren’t even selecting countries to ban on historic data. We’re selecting them on some guy’s perception of risk. Or some guy’s investment portfolio. Or some guy who threw darts at a map of the Middle East.