Following The Votes In Georgia

As of now (6:20pm Pacific) the results in Georgia look a little too good for Hank Johnson; I doubt that we’ll see an outcome this good at the end of the night:

With 13% of precincts reporting, it’s 73.8% for Johnson and 26.2% for McKinney (UPDATE: It finished out at about 60% – 40% for Johnson, still about a 5-6% larger margin than pre-election polls had shown).

If you want to catch the buzz of the evening, check out some of the folks liveblogging this:

* Tom Baxter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s “Political Insider” blog
* Andre Walker of “Georgia Politics Unfiltered
* Jeff Emanuel of “Peach Pundit

And of course, the blogger who kicked off the whole “we gotta get out of this place” push down in Geeorgia…

Will Hinton, “Dignan

UPDATE2: Hank Johnson’s campaign called to thank us all. So… thank you, to everyone participated!

Proportionality And History


One of the issues bandied about has been that of “proportionality”, or for that fillip of insider jargon, the question of in jus bello, or justice in war.The issue is how one prosecutes a war, and the limitations imposed on the prosecution of war by the need to maintain moral legitimacy in victory.

The charge frequently made is set out (in a fairly rich post – he’s not watering down the moral issues at all) by Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber, who says:

…here lies a real difficulty for conventional just war theory. If recourse to war is sometimes just—and just war theory says it is—but it may only be justly fought within the jus in bello restrictions, then it looks as if an important means to pursue justice is open to the strong alone and not to the weak. Faced with a professional army equipped with powerful weaponry, people who want to fight back have no chance unless they melt into the civilian population and adopt unconventional tactics. If those tactics are morally impermissible because of the risks they impose on non-combatants, then it looks as if armed resistance to severe injustice perpetrated by the well-equipped and powerful is also prohibited. And that looks crazy.

On the other side, though, it hardly seems to be satisfactory to say that non-conventional forces should be subject to weakened jus in bello restrictions, since the restrictions are there to protect those who have immunity from attack and whose immunity is not removed or diminished by the fact that one side or the other are militarily disadvantaged.

So I was interested to read a recent paper by David Rodin, “The Ethics of Asymmetric War” in The Ethics of War (eds Sorabji and Rodin). Rodin proposes to address the problem by strengthening the jus in bello constraints on the strong.

There are of course two broad questions. Just war theory, to a naive reading, ought to be about conducting war in a manner which allows for the possibility of peace afterward. The minimization of suffering is an end in itself, but this is not simply a calculus of pain. The basis for the laws of war were set down by the Greeks, because the alternative to war conducted in a manner showing some restraint was simply slaughter.

And slaughter did happen often enough.

The question is – can we fairly say that Israel (in Lebanon) and the United States (in Iraq) are behaving with restraint?

The picture at the top of the page is an aerial photo of a neighborhood in Beirut.

Here is that neighborhood after it was bombed by the Israelis (images from this site via Juan Cole, who misses the point as he so often does).


Juan suggests that this juxtaposition suggests that:

The difference between Ahmadinejad and Olmert is that the Iranian president is a blowhard. The one who had practical plans to wipe a country off the map was Olmert.

Juan is a history profesor so he ought to know better (yes, I know…). Here are some images from Wikipedia. I have cut and sized them in Photoshop, and raised the contrast a bit to make them more legible.


Frampol, Poland before being bombed by the Luftwaffe.


Frampol, Poland after being bombed by the Luftwaffe.


Cologne after the “Thousand-Bomber Raid”


Hamburg, after the firebombing.

We’re much better at area bombardment today – with conventional weapons. It would be easy for Israel to simply and literally flatten the neighborhoods in Beirut where Hizbollah is based.

The fact that they haven’t should buy them some standing in reviewing their in jus bello behavior. But somehow I doubt it.

If I get into a barfight with Mike Tyson, the fact that he hits harder than I do is less material than whether he hits as hard as he could have or harder than he needed to.

This pattern is repeated thoughout the conduct of this war, in the air and on the ground. Every day, Israeli and Coalition troops put themselves in unneeded danger in order to act with restraint and proportion.

It happens that these photos offer a quick way to make my point. Do awful things happen? Of course they do. It’s war. Am I saying “Gee, Israel hasn’t nuked them, so give them a break…” No, not even close.

I’m saying simply, that Israel (and the U.S.) are acting with some restraint.

The war that some commenters here look forward to won’t be restrained, and the aftermath will look much more like the World War II photos.

And that’s why I’d like to avoid it, and why I’ll support a restrained war in the hope that it can eliminate the conditions for an unrestrained one.

The War Inside Your Television Set

It’s a given that the current conflict is above all a media war. We’re fighting to change people’s perceptions and behavior, and attempting to do so without the level of violence that someone like Clauswitz was talking about when he said that “the object of war is to bend the enemy to your will”.

There are two debates going on right now around this. One involves media manipulation on both sides; one involves attempts to understand and ‘calibrate’ the level of violence we’d accept in the course of the combat in Iraq and Lebanon. I’ll talk about the latter in a bit.

In the first, there’s clear evidence that folks on the other side are managing the flow of information.

Start with this account from Anderson Cooper:

“This is a heavily orchestrated Hizbollah media event. When we got here, all the ambulances were lined up. We were allowed a few minutes to talk to the ambulance drivers. Then one by one, they’ve been told to turn on their sirens and zoom off so that all the photographers here can get shots of ambulances rushing off to treat civilians. That’s the story that Hizbollah wants people to know about.

These ambulances aren’t responding to any new bombings. The sirens are strictly for effect.”

Note the picture associated with the story:


Go read the story – it’s what a good journalist would be reporting along with the direct reporting of what’s being shown him or her.

Now go to the ‘Drinking From Home‘ blog, and note the two pictures – of the same woman, bewailing the destruction of two different buildings on two different days.

For grins, I’d love to get a better picture of the similarly-dressed (yes, I know many religious Muslim women wear similar garb) woman in the CNN picture above…wouldn’t it be interesting to see if she’s the same woman?

Rusty Shackelford goes on to show that the Reuters photographer Adnan Hajj manipulated photos of Israeli fighters (captioned as firing missiles when actually shooting off an antimissile flare), as well as Photoshopped pictures of the bombed Lebanese landscape.

It’s clear that Hizbollah – like Al Quieda in general, including the forces we’re fighting in Iraq – are fighting an information war, and do so consciously.

And, I’ll argue, it has an impact.

The perception in the media is, variously, that they are implacable fighters while our soldiers are brutal killers and our efforts harm mostly civilians.

This perception is powerful both in its impact on us and our perception of – and so decisions about – the war, and on their own population who are being asked to decide whether their reaction to Israeli bombs is rage at Hizbollah or Israel.

So how do we react?

Interestingly, it seems that we tried to, at least in Iraq.

Marc Lynch, blogging at Abu Aardvark, has a post reviewing a new U.S. Army monograph on “Information Operations in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom — What Went Wrong?

The root paper is interesting (and deserves a post of it’s own), but I want to focus on one of Marc’s conclusions (the second conclusion is also important, and I even agree – if we were funding the blossoming of news outlets in Iraq and then using it as a metric of success there are some possible serious problems there…):

First, if you recall the Lincoln Group fiasco, the problem there wasn’t that “good news” articles were being placed in the Iraqi press, or even that they were paying for play – it was that the origin of those articles was concealed to make it look like they came from Iraqis rather than from Americans. That’s a big no no. If the PSYOPS newspapers, radio and television stations were not clearly identified as American military outlets, and were presented as genuine Iraqi outlets, then it would be the Lincoln Group fiasco on a much larger scale… and carried out by the military itself and not by an amateurish, unqualified contractor. That’s a big “if”, and it is not clear from the report.

I’d wonder why, exactly, it’s such a big ‘no-no’, and welcome comments from Marc or others on that. My recollection is that it was a big ‘no-no’ because folks who were opposed to the war seized on it as evidence of American duplicity. I’m not sure how different the outcome would have been if the news had gone out under American bylines; they claim of duplicity would have simply been moved from the source to the content.

So on one hand, we’re getting rolled in the media by the oter side, and on the other, we seem to be precluded from managing newsflow because when we’re caught, it will be so embarassing that we’ll lose all credibility.

A challenging conundrum.

Why is it so challenging?

Well, I’ll go back to my earlier writing about the role of media and the citizenship obligations of journalists.

On one hand, their role is to see things and share them.

On the other, they are members of a polity who – to some extent – share the interests and goals of the polity.

As I’ve discussed, it’s not so clear that goal #1 – the search for the great image, soundbite, or lede – hasn’t completely eclipsed goal #2.

Edward R. Murrow seemed to do a pretty good job at seeing things and telling stories about them. He also didn’t seem to have a lot of trouble remembering which side he was on.

How do you think he’d have reacted when Hizbollah tried to stage-manage the news in front of him?

Why is it that so far, only one mainstream journalist has stood up on the issue? Maybe I’m undercounting – and God, I’d love to be wrong on this.

But if we allow the media to be managed against us – and here I’m not suggesting that the media are traitors, just that their perception of their job – as Mike Wallace put it – wasn’t to say “No,” Wallace said flatly and immediately. “You don’t have a higher duty. No. No. You’re a reporter!”.

The First Media War – Guest Commentary

Here’s a guest post from uber-commenter Daniel Markham. It’s cross posted on his blog What To Fix

I’ve been doing analysis for most of my life, and I’m curious about the current state of world affairs, so I thought I would share with you my preliminary conclusions on the world situation as it is today.

I believe we are fighting the First Media War. I believe this war started sometime in the 1980s, and will continue for at least the next fifty years. Just like the American Civil War ended in the trench warfare that we saw again 50 years later in World War I, the Cold War ended with Vietnam with the Media War tactics we saw 20 years later in Middle East. In some sense, it may continue on forever, for this war will either evolve backwards and become explosively deadly or evolve forward into traditional multi-party politics.

This is an involved thesis, with a lot of information, so if you are looking for the cartoon-of-the-week, it ain’t here.All conflict has consisted of two things: messages and options. When we were cavemen and some other tribe raided our tribe for food and women, they were sending us a message about their strength, our weakness, their plethora of options, and our paucity of options. Indeed, killing an opponent has always been as much about exercising one of your options and sending a message to those that remain living than it has been about anything else. Over time, as we became more and more civilized, we have forgotten this. The relatively recent rise of nation-states has de-personalized these concepts for those of us in the west. We have civilized warfare to the point that we have forgotten what it means when it is personal.

First some definitions.

Messages – the information you are sending to the world. This includes your own population, and the population support base of the enemy. In the caveman example, seeing your opponent advancing towards you with a spear is an urgent message that your brain insists on your processing immediately. Civilized people believe that he rise of nations meant that only nations made and received messages. This is no longer a productive paradigm. Ideologies make and receive messages. People claim to send or receive them for an ideology.

Messages have two purposes. The first is marketing, or telling people things they did not know before. Marketing is based on spreading information to the point that there is a desire to hear more information. That’s it.

Sales is another person taking action based on the information they receive. When we talk about the Iraqi occupation, for instance, some commentators say that we need to convince the average Iraqi who is sitting on the fence which way to jump. That’s patently not true. We need only tell them about their options. No action — the inability to decide — is a victory for the civilized world. Most of us sit around unable to decide things all the time. It is a peaceful way to live. We have a marketing job in Iraq. The side wishing people to take up arms has a sales job. Sales jobs are much tougher. That’s not making a comment on how good or bad things are going in Iraq, just an observation on the difference between the message types.

Options – are your ability to take various initiatives, both diplomatic and military (or a combination) without perceived encumbrance. Options are a direct result of property ownership and social complexities. When I had an arrow, my option was simply to shoot you or not shoot you. If I have a million-man army with a deep sea navy and millions of rich, independent actors ready to take loosely coordinated independent action, I have a lot of options.

Note that treaties by nature limit options. So do cultural norms, unspoken assumptions, and tradition.

Increasing your perceived options decreases your opponent’s certainty about their position. Opponents with few options feel insecure and are more willing to come to terms. (a phrase which may have little meaning in the future) While decreasing your opponent’s perceived options has the effect of hindering their message and hampering their morale.

Actions – are coordinated groups of messages and changes in perceived options.

Campaign/War – The goal of any campaign/war is to increase the number of positive messages and options you have while eliminating the ability of your opponent’s messages to create sales and your opponent’s options to create uncertainty

Looking at war as a set of messages and options is a generalization of warfare over the last several millennia. During the age of nation-states and industrialization, it was understood that formal armies were the only entities that fought to negotiate disputes, but this is a very recent assumption, and does not hold true in much of the world. Armies are hierarchical organizations, pyramids. The message is to tell the enemy’s state to stop fighting. One message, one organization. Conflict was either armed or not. Armed conflict meant that the options were all based on military warfare.

This pyramid, industrial methodology is the most effective in fighting other pyramid organizations, such as North Korea. In fact, in a trans-national,post-national world, loosely networked but strongly opinionated people are the new players. Against these ideological, networked and distributed opponents, such as Iran, the hierarchical army is the wrong tool for the job. Old definitions cannot work effectively in a new environment.

Note that what I am talking about is something the west is extremely good at: the coordination of messages and options in such a way as to prove that your idea is better than another. It’s called branding and marketing warfare, and when combined with diplomacy and military action is unstoppable. Unfortunately, nobody (and I mean nobody) in government has any idea what an effective marketing campaign looks like in the third world or how to combine these three concepts into an effective Media War. As we’ve seen in the states, the Department Of State and the Department of Defense are pitiful at even communicating at times, much less coordinating complex actions. Some progress has been made here, but both institutions have flawed mission statements and reasons for existence.

I’m not going to expound on this a lot more — there is a book’s worth of material here for writing. I will, however, point out some interesting conclusions that can be drawn from these definitions.

When talking about messages, the goal is to separate sales from marketing. We are currently using active metrics to determine message effectiveness, such as the number of phone calls in Iraq that turn in insurgents or the number of people killed by either side in the current conflict between Israel and Lebanon. This is like measuring the success of a picnic by going through the trash can afterwards. It’s countable, but it has no bearing on the changing conditions. Bean counters must count beans, sure. You cannot manage what you cannot measure. But you cannot measure what you do not define. If definitions are lacking, metrics are counter-productive.

Battles may be won without the sender or the receiver of the message being aware of it. In fact, the sender or receiver may be even unaware that a message exists. That’s because messages (and options) are about perception, not reality. If the Lebanese Prime Minister gets on TV and talks about how there was a massacre in Lebanon today because 20 people died, and the world perceives this to be true, it was a massacre. The message was sent and received.

Options can either increase or decrease perceived future options. Invading Iraq decreases future options if we believe we must be there until the place looks like Switzerland. It increases our options if we look at the pressure put on Iran and Syria and move towards having more ability to do unexpected things to these countries. Perception here, just like the previous example, is more important than reality. If US forces are perceived to be “tied up” in Iraq, then that sends a message. Likewise, Israel moving back into Gaza and Lebanon sent a message: we are going to act to defend ourselves even if we are unpopular. Bad message, but look at the number of options now available to Israel. They can distract the world in Lebanon while snatching up the Speaker Of Parliament in Gaza. In fact, the real problem with Israel currently is that they have such a bad message and too many options. It makes other countries uncomfortable. Especially the ones that want to exterminate Israel.

Messages are fought as stories, in MSM, blogs, and word-of-mouth. Messages fit into narratives, which are preconceived ideas of how the world operates. Controlling the narrative is the equivalent of controlling the high ground. The narrative will shape all future messages to fit into it.

Our industrial culture and structures are not suited to the new war. A lot of platoon commanders can organize a defense based on a piece of land, but none of them can organize a message/option campaign based on a Hezbollah/insurgent situation in an urban situation. Reading the situation is NOT like reading a topo map. To combat this a lot of times we say something pithy like “Get out into the people and listen” But getting out into the population is also not effective, because everyone has a different interpretation of the same interview. You’re also guessing at the sales effectiveness of your opponent, based on a regurgitation of his message. In other words, if I repeat your opponent’s narrative to you, that doesn’t mean I’m “sold” — that I have made a decision to take action. Maybe I just want to see your reaction. Maybe I tell you whatever I think will confuse you the most. You have to decouple your opponent’s narrative from the communication you are processing about your status. And you have to do it in a consistently repeatable fashion.

Governmental structures are supposed to operate certain processes for the citizens: water, electricity, sewage, conflict resolution, security, crime prevention. These processes provide perceived value — this is the “What’s in it for me?” or “Key Selling Point” of the marketing world. I have been studying organizational change for years and I can tell you that perception matters more than metrics when trying to change a complex system. The perception of the success of these processes, not the actual quantitative values, is the measurement of the campaign in an urban environment. Nobody cares if you have 20% more water than last year. Nobody cares if we have 400 calls into Baghdad this week. Those are wonk numbers. Those are facts, statistics, measurements. Without a message or a narrative, they are nothing for us. Maybe ammo for the enemy, but nothing for us.

The situation with our forces in Iraq is somewhat analogous to having a highly trained set of factory workers and managers, all world-class at making widgets. Only the widgets we were trained to make, nobody is buying those any more, and our management has no idea about how to develop a product and market and sell it. Our manufacturing, traditionally measurable activity is top-notch, but the perceived value of our product, the ability to match features of our product with needs of our customers, the perception of our brand in the marketplace — all key indicators of success, are not being measured or managed. We need to develop products within weeks or hours and have our factory workers crank them out with industrial efficiency. There is simply no room for multiple levels of command in such a fast-paced battlefield. The old McNamarra/statistical process control/industrial mindset was not-so-good even back in the 1960s. We need to give some folks a serious cranial-rectal decoupling.

Over the past few years, I have been developing statistical interviewing and measurement technology to answer the question of “how do we quantify all sorts of qualitative information about the way our company operates” for the civilian sector. I never really thought it had much application in the military world, until I started reading more and more about concepts like Fourth Generation Warfare and COIN operations. Now I’ve come to believe that we need to combine as many opinions as possible — this is a war of perceptions — adjust our output and cut our time to market to the bone if we are to win. Fighting a media war is not like anything we’ve ever done before, and our structure is against it, but we have the ability to win. We just have to adjust, adjust continuously, and adjust quickly. And by adjust, I mean, change the widgets, the message about the widgets, the narrative, and our options.

Daniel Markham is an Inventor and Organizational Change Architect for Bedford Technology Group. You can reach him by email here.

Election Day

Tomorrow is Election Day, and we’ll be closely following both the Lamont/Liberman senatorial race in Connecticut and the McKinney/Johnson congressional race in Atlanta.

Our sympathies in both cases are probably pretty clear; first, and foremost we hope people will vote for Johnson – in fact we hope people will vote for him, and that you’ll go through your address book and email or call anyone you know in the 404 to see if they are in GA-4 and can vote – and ask them to vote for Hank.

In Connecticut, my feelings are more complex. As I’ve noted, I don’t much like Lieberman, but I think he’s right on some critical points – first and foremost that politicking around the war is a horrible thing to do – and something that may well lead to a bigger, nastier war later on.

And I think the Kos/”Blackface” Hamsher wing of activists are heading the Democratic Party toward wider electoral disaster. They may be able to concentrate national attention on one race and have a strong impact. We’ll see – my earlier prediction that Lieberman would lose the primary and then, if he chose, win in the general still stands. But I’ll say without qualification that a national party led by the Kossaks would be a train wreck.

A New Host

We’ve wrestled with some technical problems in the last month or so that ultimately boil down to an environment with a gazillion spam trackbacks; inefficiencies in the MT antispam architecture; and an underpowered server environment.

Sadly, we can’t do much about the first. The second is worth considering, but isn’t going to happen soon.

We could do something about the third one, and so with the help of evariste, we’ve moved to Pixelgate hosting here in Southern California.

It’s good enough for Exposure Manager

We’ve reenabled trackbacks, and so we’ll see how we do.

Everyone has The Right…But Not Everyone Ought to Exercise It

A slightly longer version of my “So you want to buy a gun?“piece is up at the Examiner.

While I believe that everyone should have the right to own a gun (with the obvious exceptions of the criminal and the insane), that doesn’t mean everyone should choose to own a gun.

That’s because while I believe in rights, I also believe in responsibilities — and I don’t think they can be separated. You want rights? Great. You have to take a good helping of responsibilities to go with them.

What Color Is The Sky On McKinney’s Planet?

When I listen to people like Cynthia McKinney I wonder a lot about their attachment to reality; I mean they adapt it so much and so often that someone watching is left wondering if there is a cynical awareness that they are lying, or if somehow they just don’t see the same objective reality that the rest of us do.

Last night Cynthia McKinney debated Hank Johnson (I’ll find a link and out it up when I find a video or a transcript).

Among a lot of other amusing statements, this one leapt out: McKinney bragged that political Web site rated her first among Georgia House Democrats in the sub-category of legislation, though many of her colleagues had no score.So let’s go to (because that what we do in the blogs, we click through and look).

|Name |Rank in State |Score |Rank in House|
| Rep. Kingston (R-GA-1) |1 |21.38 |…77|
| Rep. Linder (R-GA-7) |2 |21.00 |…87|
| Rep. Norwood (R-GA-9) |3 |18.50 |…123|
| Rep. Deal (R-GA-10) |4 |14.88 |…209|
| Rep. Bishop (D-GA-2) |5 |13.50 |…247|
| Rep. Price (R-GA-6) |6 |11.62 |…271|
| Rep. Lewis (D-GA-5) |7 |10.89 |…287|
| Rep. Westmoreland (R-GA-8) |8 |10.37 |…296|
| Rep. Gingrey (R-GA-11) |9 |9.25 |…325|
| Rep. Scott (D-GA-13) |10 |7.25 |…364|
| Rep. Marshall (D-GA-3) |11 |5.25 |…407|
| Rep. McKinney (D-GA-4) |12 |5.25 |…408|
| Rep. Barrow (D-GA-12) |13 |4.00 |…430|

That’s the only ranking I can find on the site. So is she flat lying, or just delusional?

And should the people of Atlanta be represented by the 408th most powerful member of the House?