The Starfish and the Spider

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The Starfish and the Spider, The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom. A slender volume of 230 pages published in 2006 and the bearer of glad tidings for the Occupy Wall Street movement. The final paragraph of the book is as follows:

“Yes, decentralized organizations appear at first glance to be messy and chaotic. But when we begin to appreciate their full potential, what initially looked like entropy turns out to be one of the most powerful forces the world has seen.”

The authors divide organizations into two types, those that are centralized with a head directing a body like a spider and those that are decentralized with no head directing a body like a starfish. Cut a starfish into pieces and each piece will grow into a new individual; cut a spider’s head off and the spider will die. Why is this so important?

It is important because those who oppose Occupy Wall Street will look for a leader or a central group to capture or discredit as they did in Wikileaks. When there is no center, there is no easy way to combat the idea(s) that OWS is advancing. In the decentralized model, each attack on the idea makes it stronger by attracting more supporters. Thus we use the strength of the opposition to OWS against them. By the time the opponents of OWS figure it out, it will likely be too late for their side, the 1% and their supporters.

There is a downside to the good news though. Al-Qaeda also uses the decentralized model. In the words of the authors, bin Laden was a catalyst who sparked the movement and stepped back to let others form cells and act on their own. That is in contrast to Saddam Hussein who was the head of a centralized organization, a spider, where capturing or killing the head could lead to victory. There are ways to defeat a starfish, and I will leave that for a future post. I am optimistic that we will defeat al-Qaeda and I am optimistic that we will defeat the 1% before they are able to effectively counterattack.

Dick Cheney

Dust jacketIn My Time, A Personal and Political Memoir by Dick Cheney with Liz Cheney. Contrary to what Dick Cheney said, the contents of this book did not cause by head to spin. It did confirm what many of us already knew or suspected, George W. Bush intended to invade Iraq no matter what. He even intended to defy Congress if necessary and was prepared to be impeached over the issue if necessary. Evidence of WMD did not matter nor did logic or law. That’s how much Bush/Cheney respected the Constitution.

Syria with the assistance of North Korea tried secretly to build a nuclear reactor at al-Kibar in the Syrian desert. Israel, with Cheney’s support, wanted the US to destroy the reactor before it became operational, but Bush was opposed. Subsequently, Israel went ahead and bombed the unfinished reactor on their own. That was the second nuclear reactor destroyed by Israel with Iraq’s being the first.

Now we are faced with the possibility of a nuclear Iran and again the US is being urged by Saudi Arabia, Israel and others to destroy the Iranian reactor(s). If we do not, I fear that Israel will again act on their own, and the US will be blamed for the actions of Israel as our proxy. For a brief discussion of the consequences of attacking Iran, please see my prior post, If John McCain had won. Recently, Afghanistan indicated that it would support Pakistan in a war between Pakistan and the US. Consider the possibility of Iraq allied with Iran in a war between the US and Iran.

I was disappointed that Dick Cheney did not mention bin Laden and al-Qaeda at Tora Bora in Afghanistan when we and the Pakistanis had them surrounded in late 2001. I was hoping for his take on how and why bin Laden escaped with most of his supporters to continue fighting the US.

Please see Guilty! | Who shot the sheriff?

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Bush “the Decider”

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In a recent USA Today interview, George "the Decider" Bush claimed that his administration was responsible for the death of Osama bin Laden. He "decided" to send Dick Cheney to Pakistan on a hunting trip. While there, Dick "accidentally" shot and killed bin Laden. The later raid by Seal Team 6 was a cover up by the Obama administration to cause the Pakistanis less embarrassment. It supposedly took the US's best military force to find and kill bin Laden, not just a single, old American politician with a shotgun.

Please see Who shot the sheriff?


Ayman al Zawahiri

Bin Laden is dead, but the real leader of al-Qaeda lives on. Osama bin Laden was the charismatic face that al-Qaeda presented to the world, but al-Qaeda’s number two, now the leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri was/is the planning genius. It was his plan to attack the US on 9-11 to lead us into a trap in Afghanistan, and we are still there. His idea was that we and our NATO allies would expend our efforts in an endless war that we could not win. That would enable al-Qaeda to expand their efforts into other countries and lead finally to the re-establishment of the Caliphate after the destruction of Israel. Thus far, we are following al-Zawahiri’s script very closely. I think that it is time to throw him a curve that he didn’t anticipate. I will leave it to Barack to devise that one. Let it be a surprise to us and to al-Qaeda.

Joe’s Law

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Joe’s Law by Joe Arpaio and Len Sherman is the 2008 autobiography of America’s toughest sheriff with his opinions on drugs, illegal immigration, politicians and everything else that threatens America. Sheriff Joe is the sheriff of Maricopa County which includes Phoenix. He has been elected and re-elected to the position with continuing very high voter approval. He is also quite controversial because of some of his policies. I am not going to discuss that in this posting because I have read only his side of the story.

In this posting, I want to discuss his career in drug enforcement which spanned 30 years in the Federal Government. Drug enforcement is dangerous work, but Joe enjoyed the challenge. When he retired, he tried being a travel agent, but missed the challenge and excitement of law enforcement. Then he ran for sheriff and found a new niche that he enjoyed. Most of the book is devoted to his career with the Drug Enforcement Agency and its predecessors. One telling fact, I consider it THE telling fact, drug interceptions into the US were about 10% when he began his career and they were still only about 10% when he ended his career. 30 years and no change. I think it is time to change our focus to the 90% that is not intercepted and enters the US.

I have never used recreational drugs nor have I researched the subject, but I intend to research it and will report on my findings. If we able to reduce the demand for drugs, then the suppliers would lose all incentive to smuggle it into the US. Right now we are treating the symptoms of the problem, not the cause(s). Until we focus on the causes, we will never lick the problem which I consider more of a threat to the country than al-Qaeda, Saddam Hussein and a nuclear Iran all rolled into one.

Let us list some possible sources of the drug problem: poverty, boredom, lack of parental guidance, lack of leadership by our religious leaders and our politicians, divorce, declining moral standards, corruption in high places, lack of opportunity, inadequate schools, and the list goes on. Until we determine why people use drugs and make the attempt to reduce their incentives for drug use, we will never solve the problem. It will take honesty and courage to face why people use drugs. To date, we have taken the easy way and as Sheriff Joe relates, the easy way has not worked.

I would like to add an aside at this point. Sheriff Joe describes his encounters with John McCain in this book on pages 227 through 233. He found John to be bad tempered and vindictive. That confirms my impression from reading other accounts about John McCain that I read before the 2008 election. I admire his contributions to the nation but I thought then and continue to believe now that John McCain was the wrong person at the wrong time to be elected President of the US. We can count our lucky stars that Barack won that election.