Quotulatiousness

October 14, 2017

BAHFest East 2017 – Jerry Wang: BLANKIE: Baby LAb for iNfant-Kindled innovatIon and Exploration

Filed under: Humour, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

BAHFest
Published on Sep 24, 2017

Watch Jerry propose an ambitious research program to “make big science with tiny people.” By leveraging the unique morphological and neurological capabilities of babies, he aims to advance the frontiers of science and engineering with giant baby steps.

BAHFest is the Festival of Bad Ad Hoc Hypotheses, a celebration of well-researched, logically explained, and clearly wrong evolutionary theory. Additional information is available at http://bahfest.com/

QotD: WW2 sabotage manual or typical management at your company?

Filed under: Bureaucracy, History, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

(1) Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.

(2) Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of per­sonal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate “patriotic” comments.

(3) When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and considera­tion.” Attempt to make the committees as large as possible — never less than five.

(4) Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.

(5) Haggle over precise wordings of com­munications, minutes, resolutions.

(6) Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.

(7) Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reason­able” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.

(8) Be worried about the propriety of any decision — raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the juris­diction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.

Office of Strategic Services (OSS), Simple Sabotage Field Manual, 1944.

September 29, 2017

Battle of Polygon Wood – Betrayal At The Italian Front I THE GREAT WAR Week 166

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

The Great War
Published on 28 Sep 2017

The British and Australian forces under Sir Herbert Plumer continue to advance at Passchendaele. Plumer’s new tactic comes with a high price in men and material but it also gets results. German flying ace Werner Voss fights his last legendary fight and on the Italian Front, some Austro-Hungarian officers want to end the war sooner than later – and not in their countries’ favour.

September 21, 2017

“Once Obama and his allies launched their domestic surveillance operation, they crossed the Rubicon”

Filed under: Government, Law, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Daniel Greenfield explains why the recent news on wiretapping Trump associates might yet bring about a Watergate for the 21st century, only with Obama team members in the defendant roles:

Last week, CNN revealed (and excused) one phase of the Obama spying operation on Trump. After lying about it on MSNBC, Susan Rice admitted unmasking the identities of Trump officials to Congress.

Rice was unmasking the names of Trump officials a month before leaving office. The targets may have included her own successor, General Flynn, who was forced out of office using leaked surveillance.

While Rice’s targets weren’t named, the CNN story listed a meeting with Flynn, Bannon and Kushner.

Bannon was Trump’s former campaign chief executive and a senior adviser. Kushner is a senior adviser. Those are exactly the people you spy on to get an insight into what your political opponents plan to do.

Now the latest CNN spin piece informs us that secret FISA orders were used to spy on the conversations of Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. The surveillance was discontinued for lack of evidence and then renewed under a new warrant. This is part of a pattern of FISA abuses by Obama Inc. which never allowed minor matters like lack of evidence to dissuade them from new FISA requests.

Desperate Obama cronies had figured out that they could bypass many of the limitations on the conventional investigations of their political opponents by ‘laundering’ them through national security.

If any of Trump’s people were talking to non-Americans, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) could be used to spy on them. And then the redacted names of the Americans could be unmasked by Susan Rice, Samantha Power and other Obama allies. It was a technically legal Watergate.

If both CNN stories hold up, then Obama Inc. had spied on two Trump campaign leaders.

Furthermore the Obama espionage operation closely tracked Trump’s political progress. The first FISA request targeting Trump happened the month after he received the GOP nomination. The second one came through in October: the traditional month of political surprises meant to upend an election.

The spying ramped up after Trump’s win when the results could no longer be used to engineer a Hillary victory, but would instead have to be used to cripple and bring down President Trump. Headed out the door, Rice was still unmasking the names of Trump’s people while Obama was making it easier to pass around raw eavesdropped data to other agencies.

No matter how bad the information gets, I doubt that Trump will go after Obama personally — ex-Presidents have an unwritten constitutional privilege that way, I understand — but some of his former cabinet and sub-cabinet officers might well be sacrificed to minimize long-term damage to the Obama administration’s various legacies.

On the other hand, CNN hasn’t been having a lot of luck with their big breaking stories lately … this might be another one of those “lots of smoke, but no fire” situations. Democrats facing tough races in 2018 will be hoping that there’s no “smoking gun” there as far as criminal prosecutions are concerned.

August 28, 2017

QotD: Gramscian damage

Filed under: History, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Americans have never really understood ideological warfare. Our gut-level assumption is that everybody in the world really wants the same comfortable material success we have. We use “extremist” as a negative epithet. Even the few fanatics and revolutionary idealists we have, whatever their political flavor, expect everybody else to behave like a bourgeois.

We don’t expect ideas to matter — or, when they do, we expect them to matter only because people have been flipped into a vulnerable mode by repression or poverty. Thus all our divagation about the “root causes” of Islamic terrorism, as if the terrorists’ very clear and very ideological account of their own theory and motivations is somehow not to be believed.

By contrast, ideological and memetic warfare has been a favored tactic for all of America’s three great adversaries of the last hundred years — Nazis, Communists, and Islamists. All three put substantial effort into cultivating American proxies to influence U.S. domestic policy and foreign policy in favorable directions. Yes, the Nazis did this, through organizations like the “German-American Bund” that was outlawed when World War II went hot. Today, the Islamists are having some success at manipulating our politics through fairly transparent front organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

But it was the Soviet Union, in its day, that was the master of this game. They made dezinformatsiya (disinformation) a central weapon of their war against “the main adversary”, the U.S. They conducted memetic subversion against the U.S. on many levels at a scale that is only now becoming clear as historians burrow through their archives and ex-KGB officers sell their memoirs.

The Soviets had an entire “active measures” department devoted to churning out anti-American dezinformatsiya. A classic example is the rumor that AIDS was the result of research aimed at building a ‘race bomb’ that would selectively kill black people.

On a different level, in the 1930s members of CPUSA (the Communist Party of the USA) got instructions from Moscow to promote non-representational art so that the US’s public spaces would become arid and ugly.

Americans hearing that last one tend to laugh. But the Soviets, following the lead of Marxist theoreticians like Antonio Gramsci, took very seriously the idea that by blighting the U.S.’s intellectual and esthetic life, they could sap Americans’ will to resist Communist ideology and an eventual Communist takeover. The explicit goal was to erode the confidence of America’s ruling class and create an ideological vacuum to be filled by Marxism-Leninism.

Eric S. Raymond, “Gramscian damage”, Armed and Dangerous, 2006-02-11.

June 16, 2017

Italian Mountain Warfare – The Espionage Act I THE GREAT WAR Week 151

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Published on 15 Jun 2017

WW1 Flying Event: http://bit.ly/TGWStowMaries

The US entry into the war had raised some pretty unrealistic expectations among the Allies. When General Pershing arrived in Britain, King George personally told him how he looked forward to the 50,000 US airplanes soon in the air. At the same time the Italians start an offensive in the Trentino and attack Mount Ortigara.

June 11, 2017

Mark Steyn’s reaction to the Comey hearing

Filed under: Government, Media, Politics, Russia, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Full disclosure: I didn’t watch the Comey hearing. I didn’t watch people watching the Comey hearing. I would rather have actively gone wandering around town, looking for some freshly painted surfaces to watch instead. If we ignore my dereliction of “duty”, perhaps Mark Steyn can fill in for me, and provide his thoughts on the “Comeytose State”:

Readers have demanded to know what I think of the James Comey hearing. In the words of Daffy Duck, shoot me now.

Okay, the slightly longer answer is: I don’t think about it. And there isn’t enough money in the world to pay me to think about it. But, if you insist, I will make a couple of points:

1) The FBI should not be in the counter-intelligence business. There are, as Democrats never tire of pointing out, “17 intelligence agencies”, which is, by my count, 15 too many. We should at least get it down to 16, by eliminating what’s meant to be a domestic policing agency.

2) As I’ve pointed out in recent weeks, someone seems to be holding the US Constitution upside down: We have courtrooms presuming to be legislatures, and the legislature pretending to be a courtroom. Both perversions are part of the systemic dysfunction that obstructs proper representative government. The allegedly Republican Congress should investigate less, and try legislating some of the President’s agenda.

3) On October 19th last year I called Comey “a 6′ 8″ gummi worm“. That was very much on display on Thursday, as the straight arrow writhed and agonized over what he might have done had he been a “stronger man”. He is far too psychologically weird and insecure ever to have got close to being FBI Director (far weirder than Hoover, even if you believe every single story about the guy), and the fact that he did ought to be deeply unnerving to Americans.

4) As everyone more sentient than an earthworm should know by now, “the Russia investigation” is Deep State dinner-theatre. I wrote a while back that, in today’s Hollywood, what Hitchcock used to call “the MacGuffin” – the pretext that sets the caper afoot, the secret papers, the microfilm – has degenerated into a MacNuffin: there’s no longer even a pretense that are about anything. The “Russia investigation” is the ne plus ultra of MacNuffins, so smoothly transferred from Los Angeles to Washington that one vaguely suspects some studio vice-prez who bundled for Hillary came up with the idea as a reality-show pilot that accidentally bust out of the laboratory.

April 18, 2017

Examples of the “Paranoid Thriller” genre

Filed under: Books, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the latest Libertarian Enterprise, J. Neil Schulman discusses a type of book that he characterizes as the Paranoid Thriller:

It’s probably no surprise to anyone who’s read my books, but I’m a long-time fan of what might best be called the Paranoid Thriller.

“Paranoid Thriller” isn’t a book publishing category. You won’t find such a classification in the Library of Congress, or in the shelving system of Barnes and Noble. Amazon.com has the most cross-referenced indexing system of any bookseller I can think of and even it doesn’t seem to have that as a sub-category of fiction.

Technically — because these stories are often set in the “near future” or “the day after tomorrow” or sometimes in an alternate history — the Paranoid Thriller is a sub-genre of science fiction. But usually, beyond the element of political speculation, there are none of the usual tropes of science fiction — extraterrestrials, space, time, or dimensional travel, artificial intelligence, biological engineering, new inventions, scientists as action heroes, virtual realities, and so forth.

I’m sure even this list shows how outdated I am when it comes to what’s being published as science-fiction these days, which within the publishing genre has abandoned all those cardinal literary virtues of clarity, kindness to the reader, and just good storytelling in favor of all those fractal fetishes that previously made much of “mainstream” fiction garbage unworthy of reading: dysfunctional characters, an overwhelming sense of helplessness and despair, and of course hatred of anything ever accomplished to better the entire human race by old dead European-extraction white men.

[…]

The Paranoid Thriller is step-brother to the Dystopian novel, such as Yvgeny Zamyatin’s We, Ayn Rand’s Anthem, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and George Orwell’s Nineteen-eighty-four, and brother to the espionage novel — everything from Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels to John Le Carre and Tom Clancy’s spy novels; and at least kissing cousin to alternate history thrillers like Brad Linaweaver’s 1988 Prometheus Award-winning novel, Moon of Ice, about a Cold War not between the United States and the Soviet Union but between a non-interventionist libertarian United States and a victorious Nazi Germany.

Some examples of the Paranoid Thriller:

In books, let’s start with Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here, the story of an American president who rises to power by enforcing a Mussolini-type fascism in America, published three years after the movie Gabriel Over the White House enthusiastically endorsed such a presidency, well into the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt who did it for real, and a year after Adolf Hitler became the Führer of Germany.

Three years before Jack Finney’s novel The Body Snatchers was serialized in Colliers, Robert A. Heinlein’s 1951 Doubleday hardcover novel, The Puppet Masters crossed genre between futuristic science-fiction and the Paranoid Thriller — in effect creating an entire new genre of Paranoid Science-Fiction Horror — in which unlike H.G. Wells’ invaders from Mars in The War of the Worlds who had the decency to exterminate you, the alien invaders instead jumped onto your back and controlled your brain making you their zombie.

But then again, Heinlein had already created the Ultimate Paranoid Thrillers in his 1941 short story “They” and 1942 novella “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag” — over a-half-century before The Wachowski Brothers’ 1999 movie The Matrix — in which the entire world is a vast conspiracy to convince one man of its reality.

Jumping two decades forward I’ll use as my next example Ayn Rand’s 1957 epic Atlas Shrugged, in which the Soviet- refugee author warned how the United States — by following the path of a kindler, gentler socialism — could end up as the fetid garbage dump that had devolved from her once European-bound Mother Russia.

March 22, 2017

A check-in from the “libertarian writers’ mafia”

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the most recent issue of the Libertarian Enterprise, J. Neil Schulman talks about “rational security”:

Two of my favorite authors — Robert A Heinlein and Ayn Rand — favored a limited government that would provide an effective national defense against foreign invaders and foreign spies. Rand died March 6, 1982; Heinlein on May 8, 1988 — both of them well before domestic terrorism by foreign nationals or immigrants was a major political issue.

Both Heinlein and Rand, however, were aware of domestic political violence, industrial sabotage, and foreign espionage by both foreigners and immigrants, going back before their own births — Rand February 2, 1905, Heinlein July 7, 1907.

Both Heinlein and Rand wrote futuristic novels portraying totalitarianism (including expansive government spying on its own citizens) within the United States. Both authors also portrayed in their fiction writing and discussed in their nonfiction writing the chaos caused by capricious government control over individual lives and private property.

In their tradition, I’ve done quite a bit of that, also, in my own fiction and nonfiction.

So has my libertarian friend author Brad Linaweaver, whose writings I try never to miss an opportunity to plug.

Brad, like myself, writes in the tradition of Heinlein and Rand — more so even than I do, since Brad also favors limited government while I am an anarchist. Nonetheless I am capable of making political observations and analysis from a non-anarchist viewpoint.

We come to this day in which Brad and I find ourselves without the comfort and living wisdom of Robert A. Heinlein and Ayn Rand. We are now both in our sixties, old enough to be libertarian literary elders.

Oh, we’re not the only ones. L. Neil Smith still writes libertarian novels and opines on his own The Libertarian Enterprise. There are others of our “libertarian writers’ mafia” still living and writing, but none as politically focused as we are — and often, in our opinion, not as good at keeping their eyes on the ball.

March 3, 2017

The key difference between written and oral communication

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Megan McArdle, discussing the uproar over the Attorney General Jeff Sessions “did he or didn’t he lie to congress” debate, took time to clarify why we don’t (and can’t) parse spoken communications in the same way we do with written work:

If you read the latter part of this exchange extremely strictly, chopping off the preamble, then you can argue that Sessions was technically untruthful. The problem is that this is not how verbal communication works. The left is attempting to hold the attorney general to a standard of precision that is appropriate for written communication, where we can reflect on preceding context and choose exactly the right word.

Oral language is much looser, because it’s real time. Real time means that we don’t have 20 minutes to puzzle over the exact phrasing that will best communicate our meaning. (For example: Reading this column aloud will take you perhaps five minutes. It took me nearly that many hours to write.) On the other hand, our audience is right there, and can ask for clarification if they are confused.1

Demanding extreme clarity from an oral exchange is unreasonable. Moreover, everyone understands that this is unreasonable — except, possibly, for the chattering classes, who spend their lives so thoroughly marinated in the written word that they come to think that the two spheres are supposed to be identical. Most ordinary people understand very well that there’s a big difference between talking and writing (which is why most people, even those who are dazzling in conversation, have a hard time producing fluid and lively prose).

That’s not to say that it’s wrong to investigate the Trump administration’s ties to Russia. Investigate away! If the Trump campaign knew about, or colluded with, the hack on the DNC, then Trump should be impeached. But at the moment, we have no evidence that Sessions committed a crime, much less attempted to cover it up. The court of public opinion is probably going to require somewhat better facts to convict.

    1. One reason that we writers spend so much time thinking about precise wording, and larding our prose with extra paragraphs meant to clarify exactly what we’re talking about, is that language is rife with ambiguity. This is why, at one time, Annapolis cadets were required to take a class in which they would write orders, and their fellow cadets would tear them apart looking for ways that a simple order could be misunderstood. It’s also one reason so many people get into so much trouble on Twitter: they write like they talk, but stripped of cues like context and facial expression, what they say is very easily taken the wrong way.

Conrad Loses His Job – Nivelle’s Coup I THE GREAT WAR Week 136

Filed under: Europe, France, Germany, History, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 2 Mar 2017

The new Austro-Hungarian Kaiser is not happy about his Empire’s dependence on the German ally. And he is also not happy about their own military decisions and over the winter has worked to replace key positions with his own men. The last step in that process is convincing Conrad von Hötzendorf to take a position on the Italian Front. At the same time, French Commander Robert Nivelle is trying to get control over the British Armies on the Western Front and the Zimmermann Telegram is released to the press.

February 24, 2017

Mechanised War In Mesopotamia – Toplica Uprising I THE GREAT WAR Week 135

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 23 Feb 2017

After the humiliating defeat at Kut last year, the British upped their game in Mesopotamia and this week 100 years ago the British Indian Army starts making gains towards Baghdad. In the occupied territories of Serbia the local population is rising up against the Bulgarian and Austro-Hungarian occupants and on the Western Front, the British make surprisingly easy progress against the German Army.

January 21, 2017

Fighting on Alpine Peaks – Call for Self Determination I THE GREAT WAR Week 130

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 19 Jan 2017

The winter of 1916/1917 is the harshest one so far in the war. Nowhere do the soldiers suffer from these extreme conditions than on the Italian Front in the Dolomites. The fighting there is fierce already but the cold, avalanches and height make it even more brutal. After the failed peace negotiations, the cry for ethnic self determination can still be heard all around the world. And German foreign secretary Arthur Zimmermann sends a fateful telegram to Mexico that is today remembered as the Zimmermann-Telegram.

January 16, 2017

100 years ago today

Filed under: Americas, Britain, Europe, Germany, History, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:26

From the Facebook page of The Great War:

On this day 100 years ago, a coded telegram was sent by German foreign secretary Arthur Zimmermann to German Ambassador to Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt. In this telegram, Zimmermann instructed von Eckardt to offer Mexico a military alliance and financial support against the United States should they not remain neutral. This was a possibility since Germany was about to unleash unrestricted submarine warfare by February 1, 1917.

To understand this telegram, it is important to understand that talks about military cooperation and even a military alliance between Mexico and the German Empire had been going on since 1915 already.

The telegram was sent via the American undersea cable since the German cable was interrupted by the British when the war broke out. US President Woodrow Wilson had offered the Germans to use their cable for diplomatic correspondence. What neither Wilson nor the Germans knew: The cable was monitored by the British intelligence at a relay station in England. Furthermore, the British codebreakers of Room 40 had already cracked the German encryption.

The biggest challenge for the British now was to reveal the content of this telegram without admitting that they were monitoring the cable while ensuring it had the desired impact.

January 8, 2017

Spy Networks – Public Opinion – Conscription I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Filed under: Cancon, Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 7 Jan 2017

Chair of Wisdom Time! Indy answers your questions about World War 1 and this week we talk about espionage, opinion polls and conscription.

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