« "Do it yourself" realities in the policy world | Main | Open Thread - 12 December 2015 »

12 December 2015


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Slightly off topic but below is a link to a Princeton paper called "On Bullshit" that tries to define what bullshit is and why it so prevalent in our culture.


SoCal Rhino

As a complete non-expert in these matters trying to piece together some understanding of reality, one of the insights from this committee that I've found helpful is that there is no single group or point of view running things, more a collection of subgroups pursuing their own perceived interests. A better explanation for incoherence than "11 dimensional chess" or a deep state cabal of master puppeteers.


It's all Tom Clancy's fault. I am native Bulgarian and I know exactly what you mean about Eastern Europeans' penchant for believing in some truly outlandish conspiracy theories. My personal theory is that the precipitous changes in the 1990s left many people worse-off, which coupled with the geopolitical reorientation of Eastern Europe (or its elites in any case) makes for fertile grounds for conspiracy theories. In reality the it's simply the nature of predatory globalism and capitalism that was installed in these countries, with perhaps a dash of US interest in keeping these countries as dependent as possible and as compliant as possible. But you see your country having corrupt elites, many of whom were educated in the West or spent time in such places as the NDI and the World Bank, and your fantasy tends to take objective facts and construct an unbelievable narrative in order to feed into the sense of national victimhood caused by an OTHER. In reality, the only ones to truly blame are the local elites, and the people for allowing these elites to do as they please (which mostly translates into personal enrichment and cronyism, while toeing the US line in order to ensure their usefulness, and thus personal survival).


Always worth reminding ourselves, "Never attribute to conspiracy that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."


SoCal Rhino

Yes, the Borg, together the subgroups are enough alike to form a collective. pl

The Twisted Genius

Old Microbiologist,

A young woman who worked for me told me of here experience in going through the CIA selection process. At their first meeting the room was filled with all kinds of people of all races and many cultures. As the selection process continued, the room became progressively more white and male with a smattering of white females. At the end, it looked like some debutant ball with Buffys and Muffys from wall to wall. No wonder they don't have a clue. This young woman decided to work for me instead.


why assume they are either/or?


it is stupid to be overly attached to a particular conspiracy model.


and the wheels tend to come off leaving a mess.


There's a point where you see government policy objectives that keep failing, and those guys just try the same thing, and it keeps failing again... you have to start asking yourself "Is this perhaps intended to fail?"

Personally I see a lot of programs falling into this category, and healthcare would be one of those, and the training of "moderate" terrorists would be another.


I believe X files is coming back.



Nah! Don't corrupt your mind like that. It is just delusion and ineptitude. pl


It used to be the case that CIA officers were recruited from WASP Yalies and FBI from Fordham Irish Catholics. Entirely different, but cohesive cultures. And there was little trust between them, which was a good thing. Nowadays, due to bureaucratic HR hiring and things like preferences in hiring (e.g., prior military), you get a lot of hit-or-miss hiring and quality across the board. And greater incohesion.


I think I might have started the whole thread by posting an article from RT that stated "Gun in Paris terror attacks linked to ‘Iran-Contra’ Florida arms dealer" . I merely reflected an Russia Today article. Whether RT tells the truth or not, needs to be corroborated.

Charles Michael

I don't buy conspiracy.

and I try hard to decipher blatant obfuscations of facts, or smart spin doctors efforts to create a false narrative; now you have in the MSM some kind of permanent flow of judgements pointing to one direction. The sarin case, but also the MH17 come to mind.
IMO it is disturbing the part of the public having kept a modicum of rational and eroding the citizens trust in the society.
And if they don't have the time or some general knowledge in geography and history, and these are both some kind of privileges, this portion of the population can be tempred by "extraordinary" fairy tells.

So, Colonel, as your site represent a very precious (unique ?) source of re-information, my humble suggestion, if I may, would be to erase the nonsens without banning the perpetrators.

shame them a little as you did with my first post here, people can learn.

Ken Roberts

Babak -- You might enjoy "The Man Who Knew Too Little", starring Bill Murray. It has many fine moments. Perhaps my favourite, is Murray driving the "wrong" way about the roundabout.

Anyway, "conspiracy theory" is a poorly framed meta-concept. There are lots of uses for "simplified models" or "working hypotheses". Information wants to be free, weapon systems demand to be used, the sun rises in the east, public opinion supports (insert topic or name), and so on ... these are all short cuts, very useful, despite the "actor" not having volition and/or the "real" relationship being otherwise.

Usually where there is a conspiracy theory, there is underlying it a conincidence which someone has observed and built a theory upon. That coincidence can be useful data, regardless of quality of the theory. Messenger is goofy? So what. Thanks for the message.


Charles Michael

I usually give people several chances before I ban them. pl



"Gun in Paris terror attacks linked to ‘Iran-Contra’ Florida arms dealer" So what! Such people deal with everyone in the world and their wares circulate on international markets forever. pl

Old Microbiologist

Yeah, I agree with you. Go over to Dept of State and try and find some black employees. I wonder how they bypass all of the OPM rules? Try and find out their pay scales as well. That entire Department is clouded in secrecy and illegal management practices.

On the other hand I worked with DTRA and DARPA a lot and ran into a substantial number of SES appointees in the "junior" SES grades who were all under 25 years old and white females. I think this is also true for a majority of the workers over in the West White House who while not in high grades are all young and inexperienced. How it got that way has baffled me. Political appointees for recruiting campaign contributions? I don't know but it means no one really has a clue who is controlling policy. Certainly POTUS has no clue about anything and all of his guidance comes through Jarret so it looks shameful to me.

C Webb

America is highly competitive all areas where they put their attention; science, technology, business, sport etc.

How is it possible they would be incompetent in the area of greatest importance, the area where they put the most resources?

Sometimes I read comments here in this community describing how America operates like a geopolitical Mr. Magoo on the world stage and I genuinely wonder; how can this be?

Old Microbiologist

I believe you have hit it on the head. In the military we call it herding cats.

Most government entities are fighting each other for funding and prominence all the time which is a large factor as to why there is so little communications between sister agencies. I used to get into (serious) trouble for trying to reduce my budget and cut personnel. That is just "not done".

One interesting phenomenon I went through was when the Dept of Homeland Security was formed. OPM was forbidden to create new positions due to a mandatory cap on Government civilians. So, every subordinate agency and some other including DoD had to give up permanent GS slots (and bodies) to the new DHS. If you understand managing civilians then you know that we are often saddled with lousy employees you can't ever quite get rid of. So, here was the perfect opportunity to clean house which is exactly what happened. I got rid of a few duds myself but ended up regretting it when they became BIG Department Chiefs at DHS and later I had to go hat in hand for funding. So, if you understand what I am saying you can also understand why DHS is so absolutely FUBAR.

FB Ali

While rejecting the "conspiracy" theories that are so prevalent, one should not fall into the opposite error of assuming that events, or sequences of related events, just happen - either haphazardly, or because of some underlying 'movement of history' (or some such concept).

Similarly, while it is true that the US agencies involved in foreign policy and action are not filled with the 'best and brightest', there are (and always have been) individuals who are bright, and effective when they find themselves able to influence events.

Another fallacy to guard against is that, because the US policy-making apparatus and process is so muddled, the US essentially acts abroad without any policy or goals.

These points are well illustrated in a long article by Andrew Cockburn in Harper's which describes the US's interactions and intersections over the years with Al Qaeda. One of the things that is striking in it is the extent to which US policies are influenced by external powers and agendas. This is probably due to the confused mode of US policy-making, as well as the ability of foreign interests to influence powerful people in the US in one way or another.


Outrage Beyond

How can this be?

One explanation is the lack of consequences for failure. Indeed, it seems that Borgistas fail upward, with promotions and sinecures as their reward for incitement to and implementation of mass murder.

In considering this situation, and how it might be rectified, a quote attributed to Samuel Johnson comes to mind:

"When a man knows he is to be hanged...it concentrates his mind wonderfully."

In other words, perhaps only an existential crisis can reform the Borg.

In the realm of how this might play out and bring the Borg back to a reality-based world, I happened to come across this article yesterday, which discusses the Russian experience in overcoming such a crisis. While the translation is a bit rough, it's nonetheless an insightful analysis.



My View as per conspiracy and CIA involvement .....

I never argue about global warming because I am not a scientist. In the same way that I can't argue about 9-11 conspiracy theories because I am not a building engineer.

However; each time I read a claim of any U.S. government involvement with "terrorism", it is viewed through this prism ....

I recall "Operation Northwoods".

Yes, it can be said that the action did not take place, but the very fact that an attack upon American citizens could be even mentioned at the highest echelons of the American government and not leave everyone aghast with such ideas, speaks for itself. The people having such conversations were not charged or castigated but rather promoted.


One shouldn't assume much of anything when gathering information. Then, you make an analysis. Certainly conspiracies (collective acts in secrecy) occur. Another truism is helpful... "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence".

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad