Thursday, July 3, 2014

Naming military aircraft after hippies? Why not indeed…

At NRO, Ian Tuttle nicely dissects  Simon Waxman’s case of the vapors over this question. OK, not exactly this question, but another burning question: why it is we persist in naming bad ass birds after Native American tribes.

Waxman is among the stable of Solons at the Washington Compost. It is evident that he thinks the practice is deeply offensive to Kiowa, Lakota, Apache and Comanche.  Equally as evidently, he did not do his research as to the attitudes of these groups. Here is a typical example, from the post:

Army Regulation 70-28, dated April 4, 1969, made the tradition of conferring tribal names on military choppers official policy, and names are selected from a list provided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In 2012, American Indian leaders came out to ritually bless two new LUH-72 Lakota helicopters.

And more from Crispin (WOI) Burke on the long standing  perception of this tradition as honoring brave, courageous and tenacious warriors (perceptions, we must impress upon you, by the very tribes Waxman is so concerned with):

So what evidence do we have to suggest that Native Americans aren’t offended by the Army’s tradition? Take, for instance, the fact that Army Material Command actually gets approval from Native American tribes before naming its aircraft. That’s according to the Department of the Army’s Pamphlet 70-3, paragraph 1-11-4-g, for you sadists out there.

Still not convinced? Well, consider that some Native American tribes don’t just approve of the Army’s naming convention, they give their outright blessing—literally.

In 2012, Native American leaders were on hand to bless two brand new LUH-72 Lakota helicopters—named for the nation which handed the Army one of its most notorious defeats at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.

The two helicopters, christened “Eagle” and “Turtle” for prominent Native American symbols, carry honor feathers in their cockpits, gifts from the tribe to the North Dakota National Guard.

A rudimentary Google search would have perhaps revived poor Mr. Waxman, he of the oh-so-finely- tuned moral sensibilities.

Now, Tuttle has some fun at Waxman’s expense:

Indians were not alone in placing a high premium on martial courage, of course. Until about the time Franklin and Penelope Rosemont started printing “Make Love, Not War” buttons and distributing them on the streets of Chicago in 1965, people tended to see war as an unavoidable part of the human condition, and it was a truth universally acknowledged that a society seeking to survive would need a sizable corps of men fierce enough to fight. Vergil, following Homer, sang “of arms” and the men who bore them.

But the progressivism that has flourished over the past half-century is not interested merely in eradicating war (a doomed, if well-intentioned, undertaking). It sees a self-evident evil in the martial virtues themselves. Progressives see not an America whose martial virtues have been exercised in defending and liberating but rather a jingoistic country that has used superior military force to conquer and brutalize. They would much prefer an army (if such a thing is necessary) of SNAGs: Sensitive New-Age Guys. American Indians such as Apache John, who embrace warrior glory rather than victim status, are not only unwelcome in the progressive vision but impossible. Like offensive team names, they need to be disappeared.

And, if you think that characterization is a bit over the top, reference the words of Waxman, who while deep in the throes of the vapors concerning America’s past, references Chomsky, the high priest of such vexation, as backup for his claims.

The destruction of the Indians was asymmetric war, compounded by deviousness in the name of imperialist manifest destiny. White America shot, imprisoned, lied, swindled, preached, bought, built and voted its way to domination. Identifying our powerful weapons and victorious campaigns with those we subjugated serves to lighten the burden of our guilt. It confuses violation with a fair fight.

It is worse than denial; it is propaganda. The message carried by the word Apache emblazoned on one of history’s great fighting machines is that the Americans overcame an opponent so powerful and true that we are proud to adopt its name. They tested our mettle, and we proved stronger, so don’t mess with us. In whatever measure it is tribute to the dead, it is in greater measure a boost to our national sense of superiority. And this message of superiority is shared not just with U.S. citizens but with those of the 14 nations whose governments buy the Apache helicopters we sell. It is shared, too, with those who hear the whir of an Apache overhead or find its guns trained on them. Noam Chomsky has clarified the moral stakes in provocative, instructive terms: “We might react differently if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes ‘Jew’ and ‘Gypsy.’ ”

So, it is quite evident that the Native American groups take no offense, and actually are honored by the practice. Indeed tribes are active partners in the practice. Now, I suppose it is always open to Waxman, the Roaming Noam and others of the tribe of the ‘progressives’ to argue that these groups are in the throes of some deep seated denial, Stockholm syndrome or the like, in an effort to explain all of this away. But in making such a rhetorical move they open themselves up to charges similar to those they level at others; they engage in a sort of pseudo-psychotherapeutic imperialism if you will, knowing better than the poor vanquished  brown man, what is in fact better for him, his true valuations and interests. They would seem to be arrogating to themselves superior knowledge of the true thoughts, emotions, motivations and interests of the Native Americans that take part in this practice.

Be that as it may, there is simply no evidence that the tribes are offended. It seems that in his haste to capitalize on the Redskins brouhaha, Waxman, as others have done, has glommed on to the notoriety of the case in order to morally preen before his readership.

Now, to the point of this post:  I am disappointed that Tuttle failed to actually address the question that heads the post.  I can see no good reason NOT to name military aircraft, missiles, tanks & etc. after hippies. I think it’s a damn fine idea.  But, lest we too narrowly restrict our pool of candidates for honor, we should include the entire ‘progressive’ tribe. Yes, I know the term is imprecise, but we can use it to delineate those that share the overall view of Waxman/Chomsky, that, on the whole U.S. history is a lopsidedly bad story of exploitation, imperialism, genocide, etc..

Once we’ve supplanted or supplemented DOD with DOP, we can begin the purge, and institute the new naming regime.

Well, very clearly Howard Zinn and Chomsky need honoring. 

Zinn was a B-17 bombardier, so, obviously, we will need to name one of the two extant bomber aircraft after him. Since his prose is a bit less turgid than Chomsky’s, we’ll give him the B-2 Stealth Bomber.


Chomsky, precisely because his prose lumbers along, angrily growling at a low rumble, saturating his target with less than precisely delivered rhetorical munitions, will be assigned to the old reliable flying strato-fortress, the B-52.

How about derivative popularizers of the prog gospel?
There should probably be a large troop transport, a C-130 perhaps, that can proudly bear the moniker of Davison native, Michael Moore.
Hey Hey Hey! The Blue Angels need to freshen things up anyway.

And, lest we forget, Oliver Stone, who has rendered Zinn’s masterpiece cinematically, we’ll assign him the LGM-30 Minuteman, the last land based nuke missile in the arsenal, because of the obvious connection with JFK, and ‘Cuber,’ Ollie’s home away from home.

OK, now on to actual hippies.

Abbie Hoffman was by all accounts a loud and obnoxious guy. So he gets the McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II

Kind of a big loud middle finger ain't it?

Damn.  He’s a “yippie.” I know. I know.
OK, how about Donavan? That guy has the essence of hippy doesn’t he?
No. Not that Donavan, this one..
Mellow. Yellow. 
He reminds us of something relatively slow and easy, something one wants to get comfortable with. Yes, of course...
A trainer, the HawkerBeechcraft T-6B Texan II

It’s yellow after all.

Speaking of mellow dudes, you have to give John Sebastian something very slow and non-threatening and cloyingly saccharine.

Because he sings like a lark, he gets the LARC-V (Lighter, Amphibious Resupply, Cargo, 5 ton)

Note: It’s yellow, and it ain’t scarin’ anyone.

How about misunderstood I’m-only-aiming-to-destroy-property bomber boss Billy Ayers?  Sure his folks were building bombs chock full o’ nails nuts and bolts, but those were not intended as anti-personnel.  We can take him at his word, something of similarly innocuous intent is suited to him.

How about the SRBOC, or Mark 36 Super Rapid Blooming Offboard Chaff? It, as the name indicates, is a short range missile system that throws up shards of chaff, simply to confuse incoming missiles.  Harmless enough. Billy boy would approve.

How about wifey, Bernadine Dohrne, who thought what Manson’s group did with knives and forks was pretty darn hip?  Clearly, she deserves to be the first official name given to the M9 Bayonet.

Yes, I know, these two were less hippy, more yippie, but still in that broadly prog camp.

OK, that’s all I have.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Jean Shepherd - July 4th

An Army Fourth - Shep during his Army days...

Cool cynicism runs up against patriotism. The 'put-down artist' rendered speechless by taking part in a parade. One of his best stories. Click to listen, right click to download.

And on the fascination of fireworks...
"There are muddle-headed souls who would tell you over and over that man is a basically peaceful and quiet creature, destined  ultimately to while away his golden days strumming lutes, penning odes, and watching birds. I have never yet witnessed a turtle preparing to ignite the portenteous fuse of a cherry bomb. No, it remained for man to concoct black powerder from the innocent elements of the earth and ultimately split the atom, all in pursuit of that healing balm -  the thundering report."

A story of near disaster: Ludlo Kissel and the Dago Bomb that Struck Back

More Shep holiday broadcasts HERE

Google book HERE

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Cars, Climate Change and Kirok’s Obelisk: Precautionary Principle Analogy.

Really just an excuse to work in a reference to an old Star Trek TOS episode. Wait for it...

By electing to drive a typically equipped car I engage in behavior that can end up in death or injury.

By electing to drive a cutting edge, AI enabled self-driving high tech gee whiz car, I engage in behavior that can end up in death or injury, but the likelihood is substantially decreased. However, I will spend considerably more money than for a typically equipped car.

I might decide to refrain from driving, in order to assure myself of no future bad consequences.

By electing to refrain from driving, I will not be engaging in that behavior; will not run the risk, but will not benefit from having a car.

In a rough nutshell, we can use this to illustrate the so called ‘precautionary principle.’ It says something like this:

If an activity is known to carry certain risks, it may be the case, that all things considered, it would be best to refrain from it, even in cases of epistemological uncertainty, that is; when we know the risks are present within a certain degree or range of probability, but we do not know whether we will incur them.

This principle, in some form or another is often cited in reference to climate change, to support either mitigation technology, or limitation/elimination of carbon generating technologies.  The mitigation technologies are analogous to the gee-whiz car; the limitation/elimination regime is analogous to electing not to drive automobiles.

Quasi-formally, the argument for elimination goes like this.

In any case where an activity has avoidable negative consequences that are likely enough and severe enough, we should avoid it.

A has probability P (high enough) of causing severely negative consequences C (severe enough).

Therefore, we should avoid doing A.

Applying this to the car example, the conclusion is that we should not drive cars, assuming you think the accident rates are high enough.

Quasi-formally, the argument for mitigation is similar but has this first premise

In any cases where an activity & etc…, we should introduce devices that will reduce the likelihood and severity of the consequences of that activity.

This leads to the conclusion, contained in the later clause:

We should introduce devices that will reduce….& etc.

To apply this to our car example, the conclusion is that we should drive cars that have mitigation technologies, such as airbags, computer aided traction, or self-driving tech; drive with helmets; etc., including some combination of such ‘devices’ as innovation provides them.

Now, obviously, in this latter case, we can take greater or lesser measures, depending on how much risk we would like to eliminate.  The more mitigation we opt for, the greater the cost. That expenditure must come from somewhere. Sacrifices must be made in some other aspect of life. Money ‘don’t grow on trees,’ even if it is created by fiat. At some point, excessive caution will price the technology out of existence, in that it will become prohibitively expensive, drying up the market, and thus the providers.

In the car case, we could require all the above mitigation measures, and include some sort of Michelin Man body suit, ejection seat, self-driving AI in all cars, (if it is demonstrably better than human drivers), and drive the cost of cars up so high that only the very wealthy could afford them.  That being the case, we would need to factor in the negative repercussions this ‘carlessness’ would have in other spheres of human activity, and determine whether the negative utilitarian impact outweighs the precautionary benefits.

In the elimination case, elimination of the activity will equally as obviously bring with it negative consequences. So, we will have to carry out a similar projection of impacts.

In either case, we need to ascertain probabilities of the various negative impacts.  We should also take into account the positive impacts for all options, and their probabilities. We also need to ascertain how allocation of finite monetary and other resources will be impacted.

So, in order to properly and thoroughly carry out the sort of thinking instantiated in the precautionary principle, we need not only consider the positive impact of mitigation or elimination, but the negative impact as well.  We should also consider the positive and negative impacts of retaining the status quo, and we should compare the three proposed regimes.

In any case, the plausibility of the arguments for action will also rely on the degree of certainty we have as to the causal connection between the activity and the targeted negative consequences under consideration.

In the car case, the certainty is quite high, that human driving has direct causal connection to injuries and deaths on our roads.  In the case of climate change, there is not as high a level of certainty as to whether or not carbon dioxide levels are cause of climate change, or symptom, or as to the role of human produced CO2. Indeed, there is even disagreement as to whether or not any significant change is occurring at all, and whether or not it is caused by anything we can significantly affect. If, for instance it is due to long cycle solar minima/maxima, short of altering dear ole’ Sol, there is nothing we can really do about it.

So, in general, it looks as if there are three basic attitudes we can take to such risks.

1. Retain status quo.

2. Mitigation/adaptation.

3. Elimination.

In each case, we have to consider viability of the proposed measures, costs and benefits, and do this for all involved parties.  Using the car analogy again, it may be proposed that we require all cars in the world to have a certain set of precautionary gizmos. If so, we would have to consider whether or not such a thing is feasible and affordable across the globe, for all (or most) drivers, and how they should be provided with the gizmos.

Should the regime be regulated into effect? Who enforces? Who pays? Who can afford the new cars? Who cannot? Should we rely on market forces? If so, do we not retain a status quo? All these questions and others need to be addressed. We’d also have to establish that the gizmos would actually do the job.

In the case of climate change, we might have a proposal to eliminate oil, gas or coal fired power plants in favor of solar, wind or hydro powered plants. Less drastically, we might introduce mitigation requirements, such as “filters” on power plants, or we might introduce one of the so-called ‘carbon credit’ schemes. If so, we not only have to consider if the U.S. can afford such regimes, but Namibia or Sudan or Pakistan. We have to ascertain the likelihood of compliance across the lines of the world’s many sovereign nations. We have to compare the use this money would be put toward with other possible uses, and ask if it is overall the best ‘bang for the buck.’ 

It would seem that these proposals would be compelling only if it is the case that the consequences of inaction are perceived to be sufficiently dire and likely. Hollywood analogy time: It would have to be something as dire and likely as the scenario presented in the Bruce Willis film Armageddon. We would have to be in a position where we literally see the damn hammer of the gods hurtling toward us. Only then would we come together, override sovereignty or cost considerations and build the damn obelisk of Kirok.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Darth Bin Fishfood? Jar Jar Bin Laden?

Clearly the CIA abandoned this particular effort too early, and well before they had fully considered the widespread effect they could have produced.

There’s a dispute over how many of the figurines, if any, were ultimately delivered. A person with direct knowledge of the project in China said hundreds of the toys — one of which was seen by The Washington Post — were made as part of a pre-production run and sent on a freighter to the Pakistani city of Karachi in 2006.

The CIA, while not disputing that it had commissioned the bin Laden figures, said the project was discontinued shortly after the prototypes were developed.

“To our knowledge, there were only three individual action figures ever created, and these were merely to show what a final product might look like,” said CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani. “After being presented with these examples, the CIA declined to pursue this idea and did not produce or distribute any of these action figures. Furthermore, CIA has no knowledge of these action figures being produced or distributed by others.”

They could have easily tapped into the almost universal contempt for the…earlier episodes of the Star Wars franchise to sow the seeds of a visceral disgust response to the mere image of Osama Bin Fishfood.

Note the similarity:

Osama BFF the Doll

And Darth Maul

Imagine what could have been; a coordinated re-release of that horrid Episode I with a concomitant saturation bombing of the Middle East with Darth Laden (Lauden?) dolls…er.. action figures, raining from the skies as vast formations of aircraft flew over Af/Pak, Iraq, etc. in gross violation of airspace.

It might be possible though, that there was good reason to axe the effort. As Phantom Menace characters go, Maul was not really as appallingly bad as the others. He was kind of a hissing bad ass come to think of it.

One dimensional, yes, but not wooden and mind-numbingly boring as were so many of the others. So, perhaps the CIA saw that he was not necessarily the best choice for propaganda purposes.

But they cut bait too prematurely, I think. If they had been thinking about this just a bit more, the CIA would have happened on the obvious choice for this sort of psychological aversion therapy. Think about it; if you had to rank the characters in that interminable film in terms of intolerability, there are several that are better candidates for action-figure hybridization with OBFF. Several characters the essences of which the Chinese figure manufacturers could have captured, and craftily melded with Bin Laden’s visage. 

Brooding pouty baby Anakin,

Soporific Padme,

Dime-store philosophizing Qui Gon

or Yoda.

Sure, any of those would have done. But, one character truly stands out, reviled across all cultures (OK maybe more in Rastafarian circles). Of course we are talkin’ Jar Jar.

There is a certain resemblance:

Perhaps it is not too late to take advantage of this?  Drop millions of copies of Phantom Menace into ISIS held territory, and millions of talking Jar Jar Bin Laden Action figures, including all those catchy and painfully unfunny Jar Jar phrases We-sah all-a hate-sa so much.
All those kids would be turned off to ISIS AQ or any other variant forever!
Hearts and Minds. Hearts and Minds.
It's all about the kids.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

World Going to Hell in a Hand Basket? No worries! Consult Leonard Nimoy.

He has the answers:

One the one hand, he might advise that we all hold hands and try to get along, pondering the clouds, the twists of life, while trying to understand both sides…now..

On the other hand, he might advise that we bang ‘em with hammers, and ring some bells…

In the interests of freedom, justice and love, of course.

Friday, June 13, 2014

A simplistic way forward on Iraq

Partner with the grown-ups (that would be the Kurds.)

1. Long term primary project: Support Kurds in ongoing strengthening and development of the KRG into an independent Kurdish state. Negotiate substantial increase in U.S. and allied military presence in that state, for striking capability if/when necessary for our national security interests. Continue to forge extensive economic ties of course. Also continue to aid it in its efforts to ease the humanitarian toll of the wars in Syria and Iraq.

2. Shorter term and secondary project: Support to Maliki government (if it lasts) but with stringent conditions (root out corruption, Sunni inclusive government and security forces, removal of Iranian/Syrian players, funding and influence.) Give the SOB a short time-line. If he fails to meet these conditions, cut off aid. No dithering about it. We’ve been dithering; he’s been dithering long enough. He can blame the hasty withdrawal for his having to cozy up to Iran, and Shia extremists all he wants, but he didn’t sign a status of forces agreement that retained our presence, his choice, not ours. This was not Bush's preferred route when negotiating that agreement. Also, if Maliki was competent, he would have a track record like that of the KRG.  We make clear we work only with competent governments, and those that do not tolerate extremist elements, secure their territory, and promote religious tolerance, etc., as does the KRG. He has compromised with barbarian elements, he can lie in that bed. Enough.

3. In any eventuality immediately start to increase interdiction efforts aimed at Syrian and Iranian elements in Iraq, ISIS, etc., via conventional air strikes, drone strikes. These can be run from the Gulf and the KRG. Let it be known to Maliki’s state that we will use its airspace for this purpose, agreement or no. Let the international community know we are doing this, agreements or no. We have earned the right to act in this way in this particular country due to the blood and treasure we spent in liberating the country from Hussein. Agree or not with that war, that will be the way it is. We will continue with this until we see fit to stop, also relying on the judgment of the Kurds as we make such judgments and decisions.

This will be part of a broader effort to wean ourselves from dependency on double game playing states that are not really U.S. allies in that region (Saudis) and others, (e.g., Pakistan). Iraq has been trending that way. We must send clear signals.

4. Decrease reliance on the regional bad-actors’ oil as part of larger plan to replace Mideast oil with domestic and other stable sources of oil and gas, particularly from the Americas. Mexico would benefit from this. Mexico’s economic health would help us domestically.

Goal: dry up the funding for Islamist militancy and propaganda. If the Iraqis, Saudis, Paks & etc. make up for these shortfalls by selling more to Russia, China, etc., so be it. We will at least, no longer be paying what is essentially welfare and salary to double dealing governments and people that kill, resent and hate us. If states such as Saudi and Pak dry up as ‘allies’ in intelligence gathering and military operations, so be it. We cannot tolerate double games.  Aid from such regimes was always limited by their interests and double games, not ‘whole hog’ and deciding in the GWOT. We must remember this about them. And, no, I don’t care that this is “simplistic.” Look where ‘realistic compromise’ ‘nuance’ and ‘pragmatism’ has led us.

5. Let it be known to any states that knowingly allow enemies of the U.S. to operate and plan within their borders that we will eliminate the threat at any time we deem necessary. Any attack by such a nation’s military on American aircraft or personnel carrying out operations will be considered an act of war. It will meet with response. It is too bad if we violate such countries’ airspace to do so. We are under no obligation to run a risk because such nations are either unwilling to root out the barbarian or incompetent in their domain. They should not make prudential mistakes by doing something about airspace violation that they may regret.

6. If any attacks on the American homeland find their origins in such places, swift reaction will occur. Major attacks will draw major responses, similar in scale to the Iraq and Afghan wars, and we will not stay to pick up the pieces.

Each of these promises will be made to an Iraq that fails to meet conditions described in #2 above.

7. Continuing economic force will be brought to bear on any funding streams that help the double gaming states and/or Islamist violence. This will include traditional embargoes, sanctions, espionage, infiltration, legal actions and untraditional means such as cyber operations against banking and similar institutions. We will not always work through courts. We must make it clear that we can deal deciding economic blows at any time, and quickly.


That’s all I have.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why is Iraq Going to Hell in a Handbasket?

An interesting read here on the GWOT. It touches on the future of Iraq, which ain’t looking too good right ‘bout now.  

See HERE and HERE and HERE.

Sanka freeze dried version of points on Iraq today:

1. U.S. invasion de-stabilized the place and allowed a foothold for Islamic terror organizations.
2. Iraq and U.S. national security interests would have been better served if we never invaded.
3. Iraq may split into three states, one Sunni (ugly) one Shia Iranian puppet (also ugly), one Kurd (not so ugly).
Quick hitters:

1. It was not the case during the whole of our involvement that the place was an uncontrollable mess. The surge was a high point of relative order and security.  Had we maintained that level of involvement and presence for a longer period of time without making clear there was any proximate date of withdrawal, it might have solidified and stability might have taken to an extent that would have made hand-off to the indigenous government more likely to succeed. So, it is arguable that it was not our invasion per-se that created the mess, but the invasion PLUS the short-term of occupation and the “lite” nature of the involvement in governance and security for the nascent state.
The author actually suggests something like this as a technique going forward in the war against Islamic terror organizations, but for use in “moderate Sunni states.”

…working more closely with the more moderate Sunni states in the Middle East. Our new efforts will require more aid (and unlike with some of our Syria promises, aid that is swiftly delivered when it can make a difference). They will mean more technical assistance and training. More shared intelligence. More military support and, yes, action when it is the only and best available option.

Yes, I know Maliki is Shia, but that difference aside, if we had been doing something like this in Iraq all along, while giving no signals of imminent baggage packing, maybe, just maybe, things would have gone differently.

Which brings us to point #2.
This counterfactual is hard to assess, but would either Iraq or the U.S. have been in a better place? How long would Hussein have gone on flouting UN resolutions? What would be the consequences? Would the international community have continued on that path or flagged in its resolve? Might not Iraq have become unstable anyway? If so, is a civil war not possible? Is it not possible that Shia militia, aided by Tehran and Syria would have behaved similarly to ways they did in pre-Surge days? Is it not possible that the Kurdish north would have become refuge for civilians fleeing the fighting and barbarism? Would it not be possible that Iraq dissolve into three separate regions?  If all of this would have been the case, then we would be no better off than now.

 If, on the other hand we had taken the steps outlined in #1, we would arguably now be better off, and Iran and Syria would be having less "input."  Once again, this is all counterfactual hypothesizing, so we really do not know.
This brings up #3.

Biden Lite: If Iraq had split into three states as part of a peaceful, long term political development made possible by substantial U.S. and coalition presence and mediation, then it would be more likely to be a stable situation, in that the new order would be something that did not come about due to warfare, actions and support of Iran and Syria but mutually agreed compact between Iraqis, under an extended period of peace, civil order, and political action.
If, on the other hand, Iraq splits into three states as a result of warfare fueled by Tehran and Syrian elements, the antagonisms will be more likely to continue, things will be more likely ‘hot’ and unstable rather than 'cool' and relatively stable.



Which is He Predicting, the Demise of English Departments, Literary Tradition or Books?

Samuel T. Cogley wants to know.

That is the question concerning the main point of this article.  I think the gist of the author’s point is captured here:

Only wealthy institutions will be able to afford the luxury of faculty devoted to studying written and printed text. Communications, rhetoric/composition, and media studies will take English’s place.


Why should college students read narrative prose when they get their fill of stories from television, cinema, and interactive video games?


Narratives currently live in many different media, and there should be nothing wrong with academics considering them alongside print narratives.


As long as literature departments remain beholden to print culture, to the study and transmission of printed texts, they will continue to fade in relevance and prestige. Period-based (print) literature courses will continue to vanish in favor of disciplines that study and instruct students in contemporary media platforms. We need only to look at how successfully film and television migrated out of literature departments and into departments and schools of their own.

Some reactions:

1. Written texts come in E-versions. These are selling like hot-cakes.

More to the point:

2. Written text offers features none of the other forms of media offer, for purposes that none of the other forms can better serve.

a. In long-form narrative: the richest capacity to take the reader into the subjective life of the authors/characters, immersion in the stream of thought, emotional life, etc., of the people portrayed. Literature is unparalleled in this capacity, even if other forms of narrative can work similarly.

b. In analytical work: Books have the strongest ability to make very complex structures of thought objective (thus freeing up brain space that would otherwise be needed to memorize or retain already accomplished complex trains of thought/analysis as the author’s project of analysis continues ) thus allowing greater progress and facility in analysis. This holds true for individual authors and books, as well as traditions.  Consider how reliant science, philosophy, mathematics, law & etc., are on this aspect of literature. Once again, it simply does not matter that this literature may be instantiated in E-books. ‘Books is books.’ They have this unique function. Film, television and video games simply cannot do this.

c. The extrapolation from recent technological history contained in the article is probably false. Radio, film, television and information technology evolved in the 20th Century, and none have completely supplanted the others as forms of communication, entertainment and information dissemination. Each has a particular strength that is recognized and made use of. This guarantees its survival.  Each has limitations. This guarantees and urges innovation in technology, as well as retention of old technology.  Literature is an older technology that has an exactly similar relationship to these technologies. It still thrives because it best does certain things. (See above, and..yes, E-books count Samuel) To project that there will be a major supplanting of books by electronic media in human culture is historically inapt, in that it ignores these facts.

d. Therefore, there will always be a place for long-form literature (books), and its various genres in educational institutions.

e.  Try to do philosophy, science or law without using ‘world 3 objects.’ I double-dog dare ya.

f. Ditto history.

g. Ditto, history of narrative.

which is..

h. study of literature.

which is..

i. what English departments do.

Monday, June 9, 2014

If this is a Turing Test “Pass” then I’m HAL-9000

...Or the grading is done on a serious curve....

According to the story, about 30% of people were fooled by Eugene. That means 70% were not.  This hardly meets the criterion as stated in the article itself:

“The test … requires that computers are indistinguishable from humans...”

Now, if a computer program is truly indistinguishable from humans you would expect that performance in such judgments would be no better than chance, and that either 50% of respondents were fooled, over multiple iterations of testing, or MORE.

You should run a series of trials with the program, and ask some number of subjects to tell whether the interlocutor is human or machine.  The result, over the long term should verge on around 50% success in identification of human or machine, OR slant toward choosing human when in fact machine.
That’s point one. 

Point two:

The programming team says they set out to make the program appear to be a young teen so as to “mask” deficiencies in responses. For instance, we have this response quoted:

“I feel about beating the turing test in quite convenient way. Nothing original,” said Goostman, when asked how he felt after his success.

This seems to be a dodge.  Anyone can mask deficiencies by claiming his program is supposed to mimic a young person, or user of English as second language, or mentally impaired, or brain damaged, or drug addled, etc…  That’s too freaking easy. Mimic a normal functioning human being, proficient in the testing language. That’s the challenge.

Point three:

The link in this report to the online version is dead. If the intent is to mimic the communicative abilities of deceased persons, this is a rousing Turing test success.

 Oh alright. I did try again, and did find a working link HERE

I had the following conversation with Eugene:

Me:  What is the name of the third planet from the sun?

Bot: Could you formulate your question in more precious way? Maybe, let's talk about something else? What would you like to discuss.

Me: Let me try one more time. What is the name of the planet you live on?

Bot: One more time? Oh! Maybe, let's talk about something else? What would you like to discuss?

Me: The planet you live on.

Bot: By the way, my guinea pig urges you should sign their petition about giving guinea pigs equal rights with humans and paying compensations to all victims of medical experiments. I hope you won't deny it!

OK, enough. I don’t know how this would have fooled .01% of respondents, let alone 30%. It’s not even a very good impression of an ADD kid… Oh look, a squirrel!

Color me unimpressed.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


The 40th Anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, D-day.

Events as they happened, CBS and NBC: