Glass Beads and Complex Problems

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Martial Musics:

Here's one more of my doublequotes
The URLs, for anyone who wants to read the quotes in context, are as follows:
Musicians call-up is not playing well in Congress
Terror in the Skies, Again? is the address where I'm blogging that whole series separately, so you might want to bookmark that URL if they're of interest.



John Robb's mention of this blog yesterday (see previous post) finally nudged me into finding a trackback solution for Blogger, to wit, HaloScan. I still can't ping John from yesterday's post, but I hopefully can and will from this one.

Now, back to the business of gaming war and peace.. I just picked up a copy of Jane Thompson's book Wargames: Inside the World of 20th Century War Reenactors. Looks fascinating, as giving us another set of windows on war and what it means to us, how we "handle" it on the inside.


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Blogged by John Robb

John Robb's blog today included a link through to this one.  I haven't been writing here in a while, and I suppose I should probably do so again -- but in the meantime, if John sent you here, I might as well show you something of my recent work. 

I have a new web-page at, which I'm slowly populating with enough materials to give you a broad overview of my games and analytic process. 

And most of my recent blogging has been done at a new blog I'm calling BeadLogs. The idea there is to take and juxtapose two quotes that have a strong resonance between them.  Here's the very first pair I posted, which both revolve around statues of lady Justice, and puritanical revulsion at her breasts:

Imagine, if you will, hearing those two quotes in stereo. They give new meaning to the term double quotes, don't they?

You can find the first eight or so "pairs" -- some of them dealing with terror, torture and other aspects of our contemporary world, some with matters scholarly and playful, at BeadLogs. I really like this new format, and hope to post a new pair of quotes there every week or two.

And yes, I'll try to revitalize this blog with some new posts on apocalyptic violence and religious terrorism on the one hand, and glass bead games and game play on the other.


Sunday, July 06, 2003

A book to blog about!

Tom Atlee's definition of co-intelligence is "what intelligence would look like if we took wholeness, interconnectedness, and co-creativity seriously." His book, The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All, is intelligent in that sense: it is a terrific bricolage of Tom's learnings from his own experiences and from his many friends.

In a nutshell, Tom offers us a persuasive account of what we can do, and how, to change our world -- not for the better as we as individuals might define it, but as we might define it if we listened to each other closely enough to arrived at mutual understanding.

A quote from the Introduction:

Gone are the days when the worst we could do was conquer a neighboring tribe or overgraze a local hillside. We are reaching a point where individuals and small groups will be able to create, or destroy, almost anything. We have moved beyond the scale of centimeters and miles down into the microscopic, even subatomic realms, and up into the planetary and interstellar realms, from angstroms to light years, from nanoseconds to gigabytes. We break up atoms and chromosomes. And collectively we change forests to deserts. We litter the upper atmosphere with layers of space junk zooming around earth at hundreds of miles an hour. Our inventions are transforming the lives of our grandchildren's grandchildren -- and we do not have the foggiest notion how. And we are doing all of this faster and faster, more and more, bigger and bigger.

Meanwhile, individually, we can directly comprehend only a tiny fraction of what we are collectively doing. Our individual senses, nervous systems and brains are not capable of taking in the gigantic effects, both current and potential, that our civilization's creativity is capable of generating. Our nervous systems are set to respond to what is here and now and obvious: we can not feel radiation, the population explosion, the vital information missing from our newspaper, the disappearing ozone layer. And when we are faced with any significant piece of the full information, we get overwhelmed.

Stop and think about this for a minute.

We cannot individually comprehend the range, depth and detail of the consequences we are collectively generating for ourselves.
Well, if we cannot appreciate our circumstances individually, perhaps we can do it collectively. Unfortunately, our democracy is not designed for that. Even in those rare instances when it is not being manipulated by special interests, it operates on elections and polls, on the numerical adding up of our individual opinions. Logically speaking, this cannot do the job that is required; if we can not individually comprehend our circumstances, adding all our individual incomprehensions together will not improve our understanding.
The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All was officially released July 4. You can read a sample chapter, then order it from

Let's be co-intelligent about this, let's get the word out, let's blog it!


Saturday, June 07, 2003

Drones, triggers, minds and hearts

Here's a brilliant, purely verbal glimpse of interconnectedness, of the way the sorts of lines of force that are separated out in a STELLA or VenSim model or a HipBone analysis actually swirl together in reality in a much foggier manner than our best graphical depictions can suggest – "foggier" in this case meaning richer and more complex, more truthful in fact, though not necessarily terribly informative (was Socrates informative?).

The paragraph comes from a longer piece about battlefield drones -- the pilotless aircraft that now carry both video cameras and missiles -- and the issues raised by recent CIA use of them in Afghanistan when viewed in the context of a potential for DOD CIA FBI bleed together… an interesting topic in its own right, but one that I suspect works more like a Rorschach blot than anything else at this moment, unless one is naturally incurious or as well informed as James Der Derian.

My point here, in any case, is to draw attention to the way the words in this paragraph picture a process. The para itself comes from Jordan Crandall, the piece is called Fingering the Trigger, the language is (appropriately, in my view) techno-military.

Here's the para:

The military does not simply produce a weapon to meet a need; a weapons-capacity arises in a cultural-machinic field and the military organizes itself, aligns itself, around it. A drone arises out of a field shaped by continuous tradeoffs between protection, visibility, mobility, and firepower. Its capacities morph -- suddenly it is a missile-equipped drone, suddenly it is a hybridly-piloted one -- and fighting doctrines, careers, organizational strategies realign themselves accordingly. At the same time, the conventions shape the device. All rework the capacities of the human. There are continuous flows between humans, armaments, and systems of combat. There are flows and assemblages, and the modulations they allow. New forms of vision, representation, and coordination mediate these changes. What sees, what "captures," and with what capacity does it touch the trigger?

Let's go back to that penultinmate sentence:

New forms of vision, representation, and coordination mediate these changes.
The flow, in other words, passes through not just the real and virtual worlds (physical drone, video feed to remote pilot), but also through both external and interior worlds – through the realms charted if at all by anthropology, psychology and the religious and imagination…

That's the bit that gets me, the sense that the imaginal is the uninvited guest at all intelligence gathering and analytic functions.

Anthropology, depth psychology and comparative religion are the three great knowledge zones offering the potential of the greatest evaluative impact on how we view world affairs, just as systemic thinking of the sort practiced by Donella Meadows is the modal shift most needful in our thinking…


Thursday, June 05, 2003

SARS through the eyes of Falun Gong

A Reuters post today, China Jails 180 Falun Gong Members for SARS Rumors, touches on the fascinating and frustrating intersection of the SARS epidemic and apocalyptic religion:
BEIJING (Reuters) - China has detained 180 members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual group for spreading rumors and recruiting new followers amid the SARS epidemic, state radio said on Thursday. The practitioners were all arrested in the northern province of Hebei, it reported. Police officials were not immediately available for comment. "They spread doomsday theories in a bid to cause panic in society and claimed that the SARS outbreak in China was a warning to those who persecute and hate the Falun Dafa," it said, using another name for the group. "They also spread falsehoods that people who practice Falun Gong will not contract SARS in order to try to spread the cult and recruit more followers," it said.
Chinese authorities are unlikely to be monitoring and reporting on the particulars of the "rumors" spread by Falun Gong members, since they consider Falun Gong superstitious as well as dangerous, but the form taken by the members' "doomsday theories" would be of intense interest to scholars of apocalyptic movements such as the members of the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University -- of which I am one -- both for their own intrinsic interest, but also because such things are leading indicators for the ways in which apocalyptic belief can configure political dissent and on occasion trigger violence.


Tuesday, April 22, 2003

No Sunni or Shi'ite, only one Islam

Pepe Escobar's piece, Shi'ites on the march to Karbala in Asia Times Online offers the most insightful coverage I've seen on the Kerbala pilgrimage. Once again, we see the enmity between Sunni and Shiite melting, with America as the common enemy melding them together:
It's startling to compare Sunni and Shi'ite attitudes in the highly-charged atmosphere of post-Saddam Iraq. Sunnis - apart from the giant street protest after jumma (Friday) prayers at the Abu Hanifah mosque in Baghdad on Friday - have faded into the background, while Shi'ite clerics have demonstrated an extraordinary capacity for unity. They seem to be united on at least one rallying cry, heard at the Abu Hanifah demonstration and also on the road to Karbala: La Suniya, La Shieya, Wahda Wahda Islamiya (No Sunni or Shi'ite, only one Islam). But another battle cry - also vocally imprinted by Sunni and Shi'ite alike, is infinitely more problematic: La ilaha ila Allah, America Aduallah (There is no God but Allah, and America is His enemy).

CNN quoted the figure of 2 million pilgrims in Kerbala today. Escobar captures the intensity of the occasion:
"Prince" (as he is affectionately referred to) Hussein's mosque in Karbala is encircled by a vast courtyard and an ornate wall with exquisite blue mosaics with verses of the Holy Koran. Hussein's tomb is inside a silver-embroidered rectangle. Three hundred meters away from Hussein's shrine, on the other side of a huge square, is the also golden-domed shrine of Abbas. Since Saturday, the square has been turned into an immense religious bazaar - a congregation of silent widows, street orphans, raucous families, opportunists selling battered cassettes of Koranic texts, impromptu preachers, and the odd coffin paraded over heads and shoulders. The pilgrims on the move - on the Baghdad-Najaf expressway or on the dusty two-lane road between Najaf and Karbala - are an extraordinary sight, mingling with the rumbling serpent of American convoys, past charred T-72 tanks and "desecrated" Saddam Hussein murals that would have pleased Andy Warhol. Elderly Shi'ite women all in black carry plastic vases on their heads. Most men just carry a flag, chanting all the time, a keffiah (scarf) around the waist. Some, at the sight of a foreigner, immediately shout "No Saddam, no Amrika". Huge photos of Hussein, looking like a dashing medieval warrior-prince, decorate the entrances of tents set up in the desert offering tea, a few cushions and the latest tribal gossip.

Anybody thinking that a giant political rally - in a Western sense - will take place in Karbala is bound to be disappointed. The political statement is the gathering itself of Shi'ites in such staggering numbers. The pilgrims tell us how it is through their banners - like "I'm the one that Allah loves" - or through their words: "Everyone in Karbala would wish to be a martyr in Paradise with Ali and Hussein." What will happen, according to top clerics, is a giant concert of wailing, some flagellation and even some voluntary amputations - prohibited during the whole Saddam era: these are instruments for the Shi'ites to repent for not helping Hussein in his battle against the Ummayad Caliphate almost 14 centuries ago.


Saturday, April 19, 2003

Sunni and Shia pray together

It's not easy to parse Iraq from California, but this particular sentence is stunning:
At overflow Friday prayer services at the huge Abu Hanafi Mosque, a Sunni religious center that opened its doors to members of the rival Shiite sect in a rare demonstration of solidarity, hostility toward the Americans and the desire for an Islamic Iraq were on display.

Sunnis and Shiites Unite to Protest U.S. and Hussein
BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 18

See also:

Imam's words spark mass demonstration
A Cleric Assumes a Bully Pulpit


Thursday, April 03, 2003

A useful window

ShiaPundit's blog offers a helpful window into the world of the Shi'a.


And more...

From my perspective, with concerns about the radicalization of religious sentiment across the vast reaches of Islam, this is very good news indeed.
Ayatollah tells Shias to stop fighting
Ewen MacAskill in Washington
Friday April 4, 2003
The Guardian

The US-led force received a boost yesterday when the leading Shia Muslim cleric in Iraq called on Iraqis not to resist the Americans and British. Reversing an edict last year that Iraqis should fight for the homeland, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani told Shia Muslims they should not hinder the invasion force. He also called on Iraqis to stop fighting in and around the Shia holy shrine, the Tomb of Ali, at Najaf.

The US secretary of state for defence, Donald Rumsfeld, welcomed the ruling, describing the ayatollah as "courageous". Desperate to win over Muslim opinion, Mr Rumsfeld said that Iraqi militia loyal to Saddam Hussein had taken cover inside the Tomb of Ali and opened fire on US forces but the Americans, out of respect for the Shia, had not returned fire. He added that President Saddam had been responsible for the deaths of more Muslims than anyone else in the world. At central command headquarters in Qatar, Brigadier-General Vincent Brooks said the grand ayatollah's ruling represented a turning point in the war.

Until now, the US-led force has been disappointed at the lukewarm, and at times hostile, response from Shia Muslims, especially round Basra. The US and British surprise was mainly because Shia Muslims, who make up the majority in Iraq, have traditionally been opposed to Saddam, who is from the minority Sunnis, and rose up against him in 1991. The decision of the grand ayatollah urging Iraqis not to resist reverses a decision in September in which he urged them to fight. At the time, he urged Muslims to stand united "and do their best to defend dear Iraq and protect it from the schemes of covetous aggressors".


Excellent news

Here's some very hopeful news in light of the concerns I expressed below:
Locals' relief as holy site is secured

By David Zucchino in Najaf

April 4 2003

They have destroyed the local Ba'ath party headquarters. They are gathering up crate after crate of captured weapons. Now, United States forces in this southern Iraqi city revered by the world's Shiite Muslims have secured the gold-domed Ali mosque, still pristine and intact after three days of furious combat. Residents seemed to sense that something fundamental had shifted in their lives and that a grave threat to their religious heritage had fallen away. Thousands poured into the streets of this city of 500,000 on Wednesday, cheering a Humvee convoy carrying a US colonel - the warmest reception for US forces so far. Offering religious chants and salutes, 2000 to 3000 people greeted Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Hughes and his men.


Najaf and Kerbala

When the dust has settled, we will know better how well the alliance forces managed to handle the delicate task of entering Najaf and Kerbala -- homes to three of the most revered shrines of Shi'ite Islam. War is not always kind to the great edifices of human culture, as the names Montecassino, Coventry, and Angkor Wat remind us: if the US and their allies pass the test of Najaf and Kerbala by releasing the Shi'ites from Ba'athist domination while leaving the shrines of Ali, Hussein and Abbas unscathed, they will have significantly impacted the situation in Iran, too -- where Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim of Najaf is presently exiled.


Ali, son-in-law of the Prophet and greatest warrior of early Islam, was the founding figure and first Imam of the Shi'ite branch of Islam -- a man so great it is reported that he was born within the Kaaba itself. Here is an Indian visitor's impression of the shrine of Ali in Najaf, which conveys something of the awe in which it is held by the faithful:

I have sat and wondered at the marbled splendour of our Taj Mahal, the tomb which Shah Jahan built for his Empress Mumtaz Mahal, but despite its beauty, the Taj appears insipid in comparison with this splash of colour at Najaf. The tomb surpassed anything I have seen in gorgeous splendour. All the great kings of the world put together could not have a tomb as magnificent as this, for this is the tribute which kings and peasants have built together to enshrine the mortal remains of the great Ali.
The following story will give additional emphasis to the importance of Najaf in Shi'ite thought:
The Prophet Abraham had come to this place along with Isaac; there had been many earthquakes in the vicinity, but while Abraham remained there, there were no tremors. On the night, however, when Abraham and Isaac went to a different village, and sure enough Najaf was visited with another earthquake. When they returned, the people were most eager for them to make Najaf their permanent dwelling-place. Abraham agreed to do so on condition that they would sell him the valley behind the village for cultivation. Isaac protested and said that this land was neither fit for farming nor grazing, but Abraham insisted and assured him that the time would come when there would be a tomb there with a shrine, at which seventy thousand people would gain absolutely undisputed entrance to Paradise, and be able also to intercede for many others.

The valley that Abraham wanted to buy is called the Valley of Peace (Wadiu's-Salaam), and it is related on the authority of the fourth Imam, that Ali once said that this ValIey of Peace is part of Heaven and that there is not a single one of the believers in the world, whether he dies in the east or west, but his soul will come to this Paradise to rest."As there is nothing hidden in this world from my eyes," Ali went on to say, "I see all the believers seated - here in groups and talking with one another."


Thursday, March 27, 2003

Islamic eyes, too, view current events as signage:

We need a cross-cultural translator's handbook explaining what technical and natural phenomena - the stuff of current news reports and current realities - mean when "read" with eyes that see such things as signs of the times. Thus to Christian end-timers, the war in Iraq may be a fulfillment of prophecy rather than "just" a war: but Islamic eyes, too, view current events as signage.

From John Daniszewski and Sergei Loiko, A Cloud Of Tension Amid The Dust:

Elderly residents of Baghdad said they could not remember a sandstorm so fierce. At least some thanked God for it. "This storm, this rain [of sand], is our new weapon against their new weapons," said Hasan Uad Ahmed, a street volunteer from the ruling Baath Party, referring to the U.S. forces bearing down on Baghdad. "It is God sending us a signal that he is with us, and that we are doing the right thing," Ahmed said as he took shelter in a sandwich shop in the center of the city.

Is a sandstorm a meteorological phenomenon, militarily important to the degree that it clouds vision or clogs machinery? In Islam, sandstorm during a battle fought by Muslims is more likely to be perceived as… the archangel Gabriel riding to the Muslims' aid.

By Allah, I can see Jibreel on his mare in the thick of a sandstorm:

Here's an account of the Battle of Badr, the first and most famous battle in Islamic history, which Mohammed (here called "Rasoolulla") fought with the aid of Gabriel ("Jibreel"):

Immediate was the response of Allah (swt), Who sent down angels from the heavens for the help and assistance of Rasoolullah (saw) and his companions. The Quran marks this miraculous occurance: “I will help you with a thousand of the angels each behind the other (following one another) in succession.” Quran [8:9] Rasoolullah (saws), in his hut, dozed off a little and then raised his head joyfully crying and said, “O Abu Bakr! glad tidings are there for you. Allah’s victory has approached. By Allah, I can see Jibreel on his mare in the thick of a sandstorm.” Then he came out of the hut and exclaimed: “sayuhzamul jam’u wa yuwwalloonad-dubur” Quran [54:45] (Their multitude will be put to flight, and they will show their backs.)

This is in fact one of the miracles of the Quran becuase this verse was revealed in Mecca before any of these events at Badr had taken place. Omar (ra), upon hearing Rasoolullah (saws) proclaim this verse on this occasion said, “When this verse was first revealed, I asked Rasoolullah what it means. What multitude? What deafeat? And Rasoolullah (saws) didn’t answer me. But when I saw him recite it on that occasion, I then understood.” Then Rasoolullah (saws) took a handful of dust and cast it at the enemy and said : Confusion seize their faces!” As he flung the dust, a violent sandstorm blew like furnace blast into the eyes of the enemy. About this, Allah says: “And you (i.e. Muhammad -saws) threw not when you did throw, but Allah threw.” [8:17]

It was at this point that Rasoolullah (saws) gave orders to launch a full counter-attack. He incited the believers reciting the following verse: “And be quick for forgiveness from your Lord, and for Paradise as wide as are the heavens and earth.” [3:133]

The spirit of the Muslims was at it peak and they fought with the untmost courage and bravery severly wounding the Quraish army, killing many of their men and instilling fear in their hearts. The Muslims did not know that Allah’s help was about to descend upon them. They only knew the odds that were apparent to both sides: 1000 against 300, 700 camels against 70 camels, 100 horses against 2, enourmous provisions against none, an intent and preparation for war against an unprepared group of believers. Still, despite all odds, they had trust in Allah (swt) and His Messenger and they were willing and even hoping to give their lives of this dunya for the ever-lasting abode of Jannah. Because of their devotion Allah (swt) sent His help and victory.


Been away, I'm back


Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Not so sinful cells?

The story I blogged about an Indian protest against cell phones drew a rapid disclaimer from Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, who posted to The Register:
Despite its official sounding name the National Human Rights Council has nothing to do with India's (official) National Human Rights Commission. They specialise in colourful "protests" on various topics.

Recent "protests" have included one against the rain (or lack of it) in Delhi's hot summer - they organised a classical Indian dance performance, on the street, in front of parliament, to appease the rain gods. Earlier, they had people marching wearing nothing but loincloths (like traditional Indian wrestlers) to protest against the popularity of chewing tobacco. protesting against SMS is more high-tech, though.

T.C. Malhotra in Indian Group Sees Link Between Text Messaging, Divorce, on the other hand, sees it as coming down to a clash between flirting and the Indian tradition of arranged marriages:
Costing just a couple of cents, SMS messaging has become the craze among young Indians. It has also opened up new opportunities for flirting and setting up dates with members of the opposite sex. In a society where parents have traditionally chosen marriage partners for their children, this is something of a social revolution.

The tradition of "arranged marriages" has been in existence for several centuries. Some commentators feel the concept is best for Indian society and argue that chances of the marriage ending in divorce are low. "Indian society is structured according to a caste system and arranged marriages do not take place across caste," explained Hindu priest Swami Nityanand, who arranges marriages in New Delhi. "Families follow strict discipline [and] the chances of divorce are neutralized as social commitments ensure that the marriage lasts," he said.

The statistics seem to bear out this view. According to social scientist Shashi Srivastava, the divorce rate in India is only two percent. By contrast, nearly half of all first marriages in the U.S. are likely to end in divorce. Srivastava said Tuesday that more than 90 percent of marriages are arranged, although "love marriages" are becoming more common, particularly in large centers.

The protest may be colorful, as Ghosh suggests, but Malhotra's piece gives us a glimpse of a possible context in which it would make its own kind of moralistic sense – along the lines of the occasional evangelical Christian protest against rock music, perhaps.


Tuesday, November 12, 2002

And more of that Crusade talk

Now this from Pat Poberston, reported by WorldWide Religious News from AFP:
US evangelist says Muslims worse than Nazis

A popular US televangelist's accusation that Muslims are "worse than the Nazis" and call for Jews to wake up to the threat drew fire on Tuesday from a leading American-Islamic group which warned the comments could spark violence. In his remarks, Christian preacher and conservative commentator Pat Robertson said Muslims were bent on exterminating Jews, citing select passages from the Koran that liken Jews to apes and pigs.

"Somehow I wish the Jews in America would wake up, open their eyes and read what is being said about them," Robertson told viewers of his Christian Broadcasting Network news program on late Monday. "This is worse than the Nazis," said the one-time presidential hopeful, who has been highly critical of Islam in the past. "Adolf Hitler was bad, but what the Muslims want to do to the Jews is worse."

For the record, I'm working on a book manuscript now, tentatively entitled Landmines in the Garden. Paradise is the garden: the landmines are...


Talk about a Crusade!

For an insulting reference which is liable to cause offense across the Islamic world, and thus tend to polarize that world in favor of the Chechen cause and against Moscow, consider this remark which President Putin is reported to have made to a journalist from Le Monde:
If you want to become an Islamic radical and have yourself circumcised, I invite you to come to Moscow. Our nation is multifaith, we have experts in the field. I would recommend that he who does the surgery does it so you'll have nothing growing back

From: Putin rejects political solution to Chechnya conflict

It is going to be increasingly difficult to convince the Islamic ummah that the war against terrorism or any other plausibly related conflict is anything other than a cover for a war against Islam, when the Presidents of enormous nations keep letting slip these increasingly insensitive faux-pas.


The morals of messaging?

Under the headline SMS messages spark divorces, Agence France-Presse reports on a recent demonstration in India where a mobile telephone was burned in protest:
Activists with the National Human Rights Council staged a demonstration and burned a mobile telephone in a protest against the pithy messaging system. "SMS is against Indian etiquettes and culture and is the cause of numerous divorces in the recent past," council president Subhash Gupta said after the noisy protest. Some 2.5 million Indians are now proud owners of mobile telephones. But even innocent text messages like the typical "U4ME" are known to have sparked marital discord ending in divorce.

"SMS has diverted the youth of the country from Indian culture and they are now following the Western trend of dating," said council general secretary Ramesh Sabbarwal. Flashing SMS greetings broke all records at the Festival of Lights last Monday when cellular operators clocked nine million short messages in New Delhi. Across India, 25 million messages went out on that single day - a 500 per cent jump on normal usage. The infrastructure was so overloaded that some messages of endearment took six hours to reach their target.

It's so easy (recurring theme here, I think) to be blindsided by religion when one is thinking in terms of technology or commerce...

In the context of comparative religion, it's also worth noting that The Register reported this story under the heading SMS a Sin, say Indian protestors -- despite the fact that India's native religions don't contain the notion of sin.

Thanks, David Mery


Sunday, November 10, 2002

The Boyd cycle, netwar, and intuition

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Richard Myers recently told an audience at the Brookings Institution that the Taliban and al-Qaida "have proven more successful in adapting to U.S. tactics than the U.S. military has to theirs", according to Thomas E. Ricks and Vernon Loeb's article, Afghan War Faltering, Military Leader Says, in the November 8th Washington Post.

That's in essence a matter of the Boyd "OODA" cycle, the celebrated mechanism whereby a quicker turning circle in conflict gives a definitive advantage, while a slower OODA cycle can be fatal.

It's fascinating in this context to revisit the upset that took place when Gen. Paul Van Riper, representing an Iraq-like "Red" enemy, sank most of the "Blue" US fleet in the early stages of the $250 million Millennium Challenge 2002 war game [blogged September 16] earlier this year. As the Associated Press reported in an article titled Ex-General: War Game Rigged:

Robert Oakley, a retired ambassador who played the role of civilian leader of the Red force, told the Times that Van Riper was outthinking the Blue force. He said, for example, that in the computer simulations, Van Riper used motorcycle messengers to transmit orders, negating the Blue forces' high-tech eavesdropping capabilities. When the Blue naval forces sailed into the Persian Gulf early in the experiment, Van Riper's forces surrounded the ships with small boats and planes. Much of the Blue force's ships ended up at the bottom of the ocean. Oakley said.
That's a pretty impressive example of out-of-the-box thinking, to be sure -- but what drives the point home, and illustrates the psychological side of the "new thinking" that networked warfare, asymmetric warfare, the RMA and other contemporary approaches all demand is the following excerpt describing Van Riper as a strong proponent of intuition, from Thomas A. Stewart's How to Think With Your Gut in this month's issue of Business 2.0:
B-school encourages students to frame problems, formulate alternatives, collect data, and then evaluate the options. Almost every organization that trains decision-makers has followed the same approach. Paul Van Riper, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general, was taught that way, and he drilled this method into his students when he ran the Marines' leadership and combat development program in the '90s.
But Van Riper noticed that in the swirl and confusion of war simulations -- let alone actual combat -- rational decisions always seemed to come up short. "We used the classical checklist system," he says. "But it never seemed to work. Then we'd criticize ourselves for not using the system well enough. But it still never seemed to work, because it's the wrong system." Frustrated, Van Riper sought out cognitive psychologist Gary Klein. At the time, Klein was studying firefighters, who operate under conditions quite like war. To his consternation, Klein learned that firefighters don't weigh alternatives: They simply grab the first idea that seems good enough, then the next, and the next after that. To them it doesn't even feel like "deciding."
Inspired by Klein, Van Riper brought a group of Marines to the New York Mercantile Exchange in 1995, because the jostling, confusing pits reminded him of war rooms during combat. First the Marines tried their hand at trading on simulators, and to no one's surprise, the professionals on the floor wiped them out. A month or so later, the traders went to the Corps's base in Quantico, Va., where they played war games against the Marines on a mock battlefield. The traders trounced them again -- and this time everyone was surprised.
When the Marines analyzed the humbling results, they concluded that the traders were simply better gut thinkers. Thoroughly practiced at quickly evaluating risks, they were far more willing to act decisively on the kind of imperfect and contradictory information that is all you ever get in war. The lesson wasn't lost on the Marines, who concluded that the old rational analysis model was useless in some situations. Today the Corps's official doctrine reads, "The intuitive approach is more appropriate for the vast majority of ... decisions made in the fluid, rapidly changing conditions of war when time and uncertainty are critical factors, and creativity is a desirable trait."
Intuition is the secret of tight OODA loops. Rehire that man!

Thanks to Jim Lai and Karen for tipping me off to this one!


Friday, November 01, 2002

Religious Violence -- confirmation:

In the preceding entry, I suggested there might be a religious aspect to the Pretoria and Soweto bombings. From the BBC:
Tim du Plessis, editor of the Afrikaans newspaper Rapport, told BBC News Online that they are part "of a lunatic right-wing fringe" which included serving and former defence force officers. Their ideas are "very weird", he said, and some have been known to call themselves Israel Vision and to have their own version of the Bible, which depicts black people as sub-humans. They do not seriously threaten the government or the security of South Africa, but Mr du Plessis believes that they could cause serious loss of life and damage and sow distrust in what is still a fragile society.

Violent threat from SA white right, BBC News, World edition, 31 October, 2002.

The comparison here would be with the Christian Identity movement within the United States, known for their use of the term "mud peoples":
Identity is based on the premise that the Jews are literally Children of Satan - the seed of Cain, that people of color are 'pre-Adamic' mud people - God's failures before perfecting Adam, and that white Christian Aryans are the 'Lost Sheep of the House of Israel' - God's chosen people, and therefore America is the biblical promised land.

Lenny Zeskind, research director of the Center for Democratic Renewal, as quoted by Chip Berlet in Christian Identity, Survivalism & the Posse Comitatus, Political Research Associates



Religious Violence?

The Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University is holding its annual conference in Boston about now, and sadly I won't be there to participate. Many of the folks who gather there know a great deal about the religious aspects of terrorism, and I imagine they'll note in passing a possible religious thread in this week's Soweto and Pretoria bombings:
Officials say nine explosions wrecked railway lines and devastated a mosque. Flying debris killed a woman sleeping in a shack and wounded her husband.

Later that day, another bomb exploded in a Buddhist temple near Pretoria.

White Extremists May Seek 'Race War,' South Africans Say, New York Times, November 1, 2002

I don't think there's much doubt about the race war aspect, my question has to do with whether there may also be strong religious feelings involved.

The Pretoria and Soweto bombings may or may not be linked, and religious sites are also social gathering places, so it's possible that these are simply blows against nonwhite populations: let's just say there's also a possibility this will turn out to have religious overtones... as with Revd Paisley in Northern Ireland. That's a side of things law enforcement and bureacracies typically overlook.

Let's not forget that the ideology of apartheid in the old days was mostly supplied by the Dutch Reformed Church.


Sunday, October 27, 2002

Emerson Wilber Beck

Don Beck's work extending that of Clare Graves in elucidating stages in the human developmental process has been picked up by Ken Wilber, whose own work includes a comprehensive search of the comparative literature and a similar system of his own devising. There's a great deal of agreement as to the rough outlines of the process, but it's nice to find Ralph Waldo Emerson chiming in -- and better still, in times like these, when he's addressing war and speaking peace.
War and peace thus resolve themselves into a mercury of the state of cultivation. At a certain stage of his progress, the man fights, if he be of a sound body and mind. At a certain higher stage he makes no offensive demonstration, but is alert to repel injury, and of an unconquerable heart. At a still higher stage he comes into the region of holiness; passion has passed away from him; his warlike nature is all converted into an active medicinal principle; he sacrifices himself, and accepts with alacrity wearisome tasks of denial and charity; but, being attacked, he bears it and turns the other cheek, as one engaged, throughout his being, no longer to the service of an individual but to the common soul of all men.
You can find this gem, along with much else besides from Buddha to Gandhi and ML King to Arundhati Roy, in The Power of Nonviolence: Writings by Advocates of Peace edited with an introduction by Howard Zinn. Me, I just found a copy of Gene Sharp's The Dynamics of Nonviolent Action in a thrift, part three of his great treatise -- so I have my work cut out for me...

Via Paul Bausch's OnFocus with thanks for indirect direction from Derek Powazek.


Tuesday, October 22, 2002


I'm pretty sure that two is the first significant number: it takes two to tango, as Gregory Bateson once implied. I've always found single indicators less interesting than double ones -- monitor two topics, and when you find a cross-over between them, you've hit significance.

The Israeli-Palestinian issue is a major one, obviously, and so is the issue of water wars. When the two come together, as they do in this report from today's Ha'aretz, sparks may fly.

Infrastructure Minister Effi Eitam ordered the Water Commissioner on Tuesday to stop all Palestinian water drillings in the West Bank and to stop giving permits for future drillings. The decision, announced by the National Religious Party leader at a Jerusalem press conference, will have a severe effect on Palestinian agriculture, which relies mainly on water drilled from the ground.

Eitam prohibits Palestinians from drilling for water in West Bank
Tuesday, October 22, 2002
By Amiram Cohen, Ha'aretz Correspondent


Hell no, the Sims won't go!

Protest against the war in Iraq has hit the Sims. The folks at tiny signs of hope are offering what they call "powerful, but very small protest tools for the Sim community".
Our aim is to help your Sims build a just and peaceful world, one downloadable object at a time.
What's interesting here is that it's a real world protest, played out in simulation.

That's a bit of a dead-end graphic, by the way: they'd do better with the peace sign on a door that opens on that fine looking staircase...

Via Cory Doctorow


Monday, October 14, 2002

Beyond Scrabble®, the Glass Bead Game

Mendel Cooper at SCRABBLE® INFORMATION AND RESOURCES posted the following Commentary:
Scrabble® is an very good game, but it falls far short of being a
great game. Its major flaw is a sad deficiency in strategic depth,
being all too unbalanced toward word knowledge, i.e., memorization of word
lists. This is demonstrated decisively by the crude brute-force computer
algorithms that can beat even the best human players. None of the
richness and history of the English language, the exotic word meanings,
the convoluted derivations... not a single one of these plays a role
in the game. The game geometry is too limited, and this results in all
too frequent "blocked up" games after a couple of parallel plays (some
games are essentially over after only four or five moves). Moreover,
the game lacks a certain indefinable quality that one could call,
for lack of a better word, "beauty", a certain elegance - that mystery
that chess and Go possess in abundance. Scrabble® is essentially
reductionistic and mechanical, and ultimately sterile. It is a game for
bookkeepers and pedants, not creative persons. Last, and most damning,
the game and its layout are trademarked, and its corporate owners have
decided to suppress any further innovation and evolution in the game by
independent developers.

Consider this a proposal for replacing our aging, beloved word game with
a new, innovative game of word construction and mind expansion.

An idea-and-concept construction game, an intense adventure in
thought-play, a game that flirts with delirium and madness, a raging
engine of creativity, a pastime worthy of kicking off a new millennium.
A game free-form and wide ranging in its style. A game encouraging
intricate expression of strategy, even artistry in play. A game
crystallizing into a near-infinite kaleidoscope of forms and patterns,
a mosaic of never-when and might-have-been. A game with mystical overtones
of the all-consuming "Glaßperlenspiel" (Glass Pearl Game) in
Hesse's masterwork, Magister Ludi. An exploration expanding
the mathematical possibilities of Conway's Game of Life. A game
that exalts its participants, that places self-development and spiritual
growth ahead of naked competition. A game that honors brilliant play
ahead of greedy point accumulation. A game that values intensity above
victory. A game that belongs to no one, and to everyone - nonproprietary
and in the Public Domain. A game that people can still make a living
from, if they must, but that cannot become the exclusive possession of a
megaconglomerate, to be squeezed and exploited as a corporate property
to the detriment of its players and devotees. A game that will endure
through the ages, long after Scrabble® has mercifully been forgotten.


Sunday, October 13, 2002

A "bad case" scenario, okay?

MacArthur Fellow and Berkeley / Livermore physicist Richard A. Muller proposes a Saddam scenario that's sophisticated in its lack of sophistication, in The Lowest-Tech Atom Bomb: What Saddam still needs for nukes:
Unlike weapons-grade plutonium, (which is typically contaminated with Pu-240, a spontaneous neutron emitter), U-235 is difficult to detect without active probing, as with a thermal neutron source. It emits alpha particles and some energetic gamma rays, but these can be shielded with lead. This makes HEU relatively easy to smuggle. The easiest way to get a bomb into the US is probably in a shipping container. We wouldn’t detect it unless we were tipped off about where to look.

Let’s imagine a bad case. Saddam sets off a bomb in Washington D.C. Unlike the designers of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, he derives great pleasure from mass death. Unlike bin Laden, he takes credit immediately for his terrorism. He announces that he has additional weapons, and that if the U.S. retaliates, he will start setting them off in major U.S. cities.

That's a bad case, not a worst case scenario, got it?


Bin Laden may be pious, but...

An article today by AP's Donna Abu-Nasr entitled Official: Extremism Not Islamic Way quotes a senior Saudi official as saying:
Young Arabs, including Saudis, should not obey bin Laden's militant Islamic message because the world's most wanted man does not have the qualifications to speak in the name of Islam, Tawfeeq al-Sediry, deputy minister of Islamic affairs, told The Associated Press.

"A man like him, who has specialized in business administration and economics, may be pious, may love Islam or may be generally familiar with Islam, but that does not qualify him to issue edicts and talk about big issues that determine the destiny of people," said al-Sediry.

Thjis shouldn't be too surprising – bin Laden's close associate Mullah Omar also said that bin Laden wasn't qualified to issue fatwas, as reported by Arnaud de Borchgrave, UPI Editor at Large, in a piece aptly entitled Sheikh Omar says Bin Laden not authorized to issue fatwas, published in July 2001:
Any fatwa (Islamic decree) issued by Osama Bin Laden, America's most wanted alleged terrorist, declaring jihad against the United States and ordering Muslims to kill Americans is "null and void," according to the Taliban's supreme leader.

"Bin Laden is not entitled to issue fatwas as he did not complete the mandatory 12 years of Koranic studies to qualify for the position of mufti," said Mullah Muhammad Omar Akhund, known to every Afghan as Amir Al Mumineen (supreme leader of the faithful).

Bin Laden may be pious, but he's no mullah...


Do it yourself Netwar

David F. Ronfeldt and John Arquilla wrote the definitive RAND report, The Zapatista "Social Netwar" in Mexico , right? Okay, here's an update of sorts -- the globally distributed ZTPS:
Chiapas, Mexico - January 3rd, 2000 - the Zapatista Air Force "bombarded" the federal barracks of the Mexican Army with hundreds of paper airplanes. Each airplane carried a message for the soldiers monitoring the border. In remembrance of this event the Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT) releases a digital version of the Zapatista Air Force Action: the Zapatista Tribal Port Scan. [ … ]

The Zapatista Tribal Port Scan uses the Java Virtual Machine available in all standard web browsers to implement the port scan. The participating user simply visits the web site URL of a ZTPS implementation, and the scanning begins. Designed to be opened in a smallish browser window and minimized for all day scanning at home, work, or school, the ZTPS applet will scan a random port on a particular machine (chosen by the implementers posting the ZTPS site), from once per minute to once per hour, selectable by the user. Using both TCP and UDP socket connections, ZTPS may be configured to randomly select from an implementer-selected list of text messages, some of which may be logged by targeted machines. (Messages flying over the fence.) A download button in the applet interface makes it easy for users to download ready-to-implement software, and full source code for their own purposes, (or for modification). ZTPS effectiveness improves with the number of participating user/activists, so collective participation, as always, is very important. [ … ]

The Zapatistas are winning the war. Their intelligent and calculated application of the responsibility to risk, their creativity and conceptual edge in terms of activism, and their commitment to provocative transgressions that turn the opposition's borders into Zapatista assets, all point toward port scanning as an activist tool, and conceptual art. (Remember that Subcomandante Marcos was a Professor of Digital Media.)


Saturday, October 12, 2002

Speaking of Kevin Bacon

Garth mentioned Kevin Bacon, and of course the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game could be considered a linear subset of the HipBone Games category. I thought it would be interesting to see how Kevin Bacon links would fare on the HipBone board, and with help from Tom Merino, Mihaela Moussou and the Internet Movie DB, came up with the following game:

Here are the links:
Dean Martin and John Wayne starred together in Rio Bravo

Ann-Margret and John Wayne starred together in Train Robbers
Ann-Margret and Dean Martin starred together in Murderer's Row

Jack Elam and John Wayne starred together in Rio Lobos
Jack Elam and Dean Martin starred together in Cannonball Run II
Jack Elam and Ann-Margret starred together in Pocketful of Miracles

Victor Buono and John Wayne starred together in Greatest Story Ever Told
Victor Buono and Dean Martin starred together in Silencers
Victor Buono and Jack Elam starred together in 4 for Texas

Strother Martin and John Wayne starred together in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Strother Martin and Dean Martin starred together in Sons of Katie Elder
Strother Martin and Ann-Margret starred together in Villain

Anita Ekberg and John Wayne starred together in Blood Alley
Anita Ekberg and Jack Elam starred together in Artists and Models
Anita Ekberg and Victor Buono starred together in Northeast of Seoul

Dick Van Dyke and Ann-Margret starred together in Bye-bye Birdie
Dick Van Dyke and Dean Martin starred together in What a Way To Go
Dick Van Dyke and Jack Elam starred together in Never a Dull Moment

Slim Pickens and Strothers Martin starred together in The Flim-Flam Man
Slim Pickens and Ann-Margret starred together in Stagecoach
Slim Pickens and Jack Elam starred together in The Cowboys

John (I) McIntire and Slim Pickens starred together in Rough Night in Jericho
John (I) McIntire and John Wayne starred together in Rooster Cogburn
John (I) McIntire and Anita Ekberg starred together in Mississippi Gambler

I'm told if you're trying to introduce the HipBone Games idea to newcomers, the easiest way to get across how the links "work" on a HipBone board is to show them this game…

A challenge to Kevin Bacon / Six Degrees of Separation fans (and it's a lot tougher than the traditional form of the Kevin Bacon game): what other complete games can you construct on this HipBone WaterBird board, beginning with Kevin Bacon in any position? The Oracle of Bacon at Virginia may help.


Brainstorming using HipBone Games

Nor could I resist this – Garth Kidd gives the best description I've seen yet of the use of HipBone Games as a tool in brainstorming:
Brainstorming, and the Glass Bead Game

owrede, on how to brainstorm: "It is not that hard, but one has to follow some rules."
It's all well and good to get the people in a room and stop them from shooting each other down in flames for a short while, but if they don't have (or don't know they have) the mental tools to construct ideas, in my experience not much is going to happen.
The most exciting technique I've stumbled across is Charles "Hipbone" Cameron's Glass Bead Game, reverse-engineered from a game played by characters in Herman Hesse's novels.
The pieces, played on any node of the board, are ideas. Whenever there's a link between the node you want to play and another node that has previously been played, you must also come up with a way to link the ideas.
That turns out to be an excellent basis for coming up with new ideas: all you have to do is forge a connection between two concepts. That connection happens in two places: on the board, and in the brains of the participants.  This is no mere "put ideas up on a whiteboard" scenario: you're giving people the opportunity to change the way they think.
For a higher "score" (an elusive concept in a Glass Bead game, as the players really work as a team with a goal of completing the board), you can work on symmetry: the same kind of ideas on each node (say, philosophers), the same kind of links (say, things they disagreed on), and trying to echo the symmetry of the board in the ideas and links you play.
The difficulty level sets itself. Beginners might play actors on the nodes and movies they have in common on the links (hint: put Kevin Bacon in the middle!). Masters might play concepts like "theory of mind" on the nodes and relationships between them as the links. It's all up to you.
Mind mapping exercises discover ideas you've temporarily forgotten by following the connections between them. Glass Bead games create new ideas by creating the connections between existing ideas.
A good brainstorming exercise is to mind-map, then play a kind of unstructured Glass Bead game in which you try to create new links between existing nodes. You can mode-switch between the two as you go, but keep an eye out for any of your colleagues' brains exploding. The last time I did it, to a bunch of unsuspecting sales guys, one of them nearly popped a vein.
Funnily enough, I tripped over Charles' games on Brainstorms. :)

Blogged at Deadly Bloody Serious by Garth Kidd


how it helps understand the nature of cyberspace

Nor could I fail to draw your attention to this short piece, which mentions some other areas in which the Games might be of interest:

Years and years ago, as a Fine Art student in Coventry, I attempted to give a seminar on The Glass Bead Game, and the relation between the studies of the game, as envisioned by Hesse, and contemporary art practice. There were probably a couple of dozen people in attendance, and not a single one of them had read the goddamn book, which left me in the unenviable position of struggling uphill, trying to explain the book, whilst the assembled company grumbled at details as I went along. Since then I've always felt pathetically grateful and indulgent towards almost anyone who's even heard of it. HipBone Games however, takes the work a whole lot further, devising playable versions of the game, and linking extensive resources on the game, what it has to teach about game design in general, and most strikingly, how it helps understand the nature of cyberspace. I foresee losing quite a lot of hours in here... (via Robot Wisdom)

Blogged by marc robinson at Enthusiasm.


HipBone, Gelernter and the AI possibilities

I said I'd wait a bit before posting any more blog references, but… well, actually, I can't resist this lovely para from Connectivity, Spike Hall's RU wblog:

I , too, was moved by the Glass Bead Game that was described in Magister Ludi. Since then [ I had just graduated from college, many years ago] I have been actively fascinated with the possibility of constructing general representational schemas which, when understood, allow the replacement of conflict, incomprehension and fear with a wisdom which allows positive action. The possibility that large differences if bridged could result in large and positive consequences was an Aha! given to me by Hesse.

Reminds me of an interaction I had a while back with David Gelernter. I was participating in a chat session where he was the featured speaker, and posted him:

Hi David. Thanks for at least two stunning books, and a marvellous rabbinic interlude in one of them. How would AI go about recognizing beauty? My own hunch is that an aesthetic sense is *the great sorting principle*, that it has to do with pattern recognition, and specifically the recognition of isomorphisms, parallelisms in deep structure. So an AI that recognized deep isomorphisms across wide topic distances would be the ideal web navigator, as an I that recognizes deep isomorphisms across wide topic distances is a creative mind. It would also be playing Hesse's Bead Game, no?

to which he responded:

Hipbone, I think basically, that's exactly right. I wrote a book about this issue of what you call recognizing isomorphisms in widely different domains, a tremendously important issue in how the human mind works. I think you're exactly right in that if we were able to get software to be able to fake the human beauty sense, the fakery would be based exactly on the ability to make links between seemingly very different items. I think that the key to doing that is to, if we want to do it, and there's no question but that it could be useful, but if we want to do it...
I think the key lies in fake emotions in the computer, and that's a fascinating, difficult problem, but there has been some progress made on it. of course, a computer can simulate human emotions

Gelernter's take on this is to work on simulating the emotions and specifically the aesthetic sense. Hipbone's take is to get at deep structures and homology at the pattern language / archetypal level – also known to philosophy as "signatures" and "correspondences".

Derek Robinson's piece Glass Bead Games, AI and the rest explores "the possible uses of the Glass Bead Games, and of the HipBone Games in particular, as simple, artificial worlds which may provide a uniquely helpful basis for certain kinds of research in AI, the cognitive sciences, linguistics and philosophy, and describes the HipBone Games as a 'toy universe' ready-made for AI researchers.


Friday, October 11, 2002

Ignoble War Prize?

An AP piece by Doug Mellgren in today's Washington Post tells us Jimmy Carter Wins Nobel Peace Prize -- but there's more to it than that, it's a slam against the war proposal.
OSLO, Norway –– Former President Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for his "untiring effort" to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts and to advance democracy and human rights.
The Nobel committee contrasted Carter's success in finding Middle East peace between Egypt and Israel through diplomacy with the current situation in which President Bush is threatening to use force against Iraq.
"It should be interpreted as a criticism of the line that the current administration has taken," Gunnar Berge, chairman of the Nobel committee, said. "It's a kick in the leg to all that follow the same line as the United States."
Bush gets the anti-prize, in other words.


Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Current listing of blogs, wikis and such, that mention HipBone: Psybernet, Walter blogs the DreamEvent, kuro5hin, dazzle on semantic web ideas, Bernie DeKoven, friend, Ron Lusk's blog, friend Sebastien Paquet's blog, Robot Wisdom, HipBone mentioned as a GBG research tool, friend Misuba describes a game, As Above, Kevan Davis likens Plumb Design Visual Thesaurus to HipBone As Above, Kevan again, synonymic distances as a HipBone variant, Interconnected, Matt finds HipBone elegant, Vacuum, E Vielmetti games on network map, friend Keith Braithwaite on Glass Bead Game, Tim Voght, Pywicki on GBG, DecafbadWiki, Les Orchard jots HipBone, Sebastien again, most courteous

That's enough for now, I'll wait a while before posting an update. Thanks, y'all...


Sunday, October 06, 2002

Quote of the Day

Pro-war Americans tend to cite Germany and Japan to prove that U.S. troops could create democracy in Iraq; skeptics cite Nam. The Israeli invasion of Lebanon is an example much closer at hand. Lebanon is in the Middle East. Like Iraq, it's a country whose borders were drawn by colonial powers, whose battling communities never quite coalesced into one people. Sharon thought he could put his local allies, the Christian Phalange, in power -- and that an alliance cut before the invasion would hold up after it. He underestimated the power of Arab nationalism even among the Phalangists. The Shi'ites of South Lebanon didn't mind when Israel broke the power of Palestinians who'd embittered their lives, but turned into Israel's enemies when our troops stayed on. Israel's military edge helped during the invasion -- but much less during the long guerrilla war that followed.

Iraq could all too easily be a sequel. America's power may make invasion easy. Stopping internecine fighting and building a regime could be much harder. Three weeks after they arrive, American troops will stop being liberators and become Western imperialists again humiliating Arabs. The word Hizballah may come to mean the same thing in southern Iraq that it meant in South Lebanon.

from: Gershom Gorenberg, Sharon's Lessons for Bush in the Jerusalem Report.


Flag this for reconsideration

CNN is currently using a graphic in which the US flag is superimposed on the Saudi flag, very slightly covering a part of the Shahada or Muslim confession of faith.

This may seem like a small detail to CNN, but it is, shall we say, just a wee bit undiplomatic?

The World Flag Database carries this comment on the Saudi flag:
The script in the centre of the flag is the Islamic creed, "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is the Prophet of Allah". The flag is therefore considered sacred and special protocol rules apply: the flag does not dip in salute, nor is it ever flown at half-mast. Note that the creed always reads properly from right to left, with the sword hilt to the right, so the reverse of the flag is not a mirror image of the obverse. When making the flag, the creed must be reproduced precisely, including the accent marks. The use of the flag on any commercial item (especially clothing) is not recommended as it might be considered inappropriate, or even insulting.
Here is the flag itself, the text unobscured:


Sacred vs Sacred

In what may well be, to lift a phrase from religions scholar Philip Jenkins, the clash of jihad and crusade, Jerusalem's Temple Mount / Noble Sanctuary remains an extraordinarily potent microcosm of the conflict, see The Holy Places blogged below.

The issues discussed in Danny Rubinstein's article, Holy deadlock in today's Haaretz are therefore both timely and important:

Last Friday, the 27th day in the month of Rajab, according to the Muslim calendar, was marked by the Islamic world as the day on which the Prophet Mohammed went on his miraculous Night Journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and then ascended to heaven - the events of al-isra al-miraj. In Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount - which Muslims call Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) - the event was marked by a special assembly at dusk on Thursday. [ ... ]

The day of the journey (al-isra) and the ascent to heaven (al-miraj) is based on the famous opening of Surah 17 in the Koran, entitled "Bani Isra'il" (Israelites): "Glory to (Allah) who did take his Servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque." Since the end of the early Islamic period (late seventh century), a connection has been drawn between the Night Journey of the Prophet and Jerusalem. The "Sacred Mosque" is Mecca and the "Farthest Mosque" ("al masjid al Aqsa") is in Jerusalem, the place of worship farthest west that was known to the Arabs in the time of Mohammed.

Just three weeks ago, Dr. Nissim Dana caused a furor in broad Islamic circles when he published an article in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth in which he referred to the fact that the city of Jerusalem is not mentioned by name in the Koran. The organ of the Islamic Movement in Israel accused him of fraud and of falsifying history.

Recommanded reading: Gershom Gorenberg, The End of Days, a masterful treatment of the religious currents swirling around this extraordinary superposition of holy places.


Thursday, October 03, 2002

Discovery of the Day

Anthony Judge of the UIA in Brussels has his own website, with links to an enormous array of articles written over the past twenty years:


Monday, September 30, 2002

Low Tech Smart Mobbing?

When you're cuffed and on a police bus, cooperation is what it takes to get the cell phones going – an impressive low tech smart-mob technique? Two Washington Post reporters comment on their experiences during the Pershing Square demonstration last Friday in The View From the Other Side, by Michael Bruno and Christina Pino-Marina, Washington Post, September 27, 2002:

Several turned to their seatmates to strike up cell-phone partnerships. With everyone in handcuffs, one person would retrieve the other person's phone, dial a number, and stand up to hold it next to the other person's ear. It worked for us, too. Some callers were telling friends where they were; others were seeking legal advice.

Reminds me of the old Hindu story about prisoners chained together at a table in such a way that none of them can feed themselves -- but each can feed the person next along. Mutual Aid, as Prince Kropotkin would say.


Sunday, September 29, 2002

Treatment of Prisoners of War

The Quran prescribes a warrior code which balances fierceness with restraint, as exemplified by this verse:

Fight in the cause of Allah, those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors.

Brig. Malik's The Qur'anic Concept of War chapter on The Ethics of War mentions that "all cruel and torturous ways of killing the enemy are prohibited" ... "Forbidden also is the decapacitation [sic in my edition] of the prisoners of war..." (p 47) . Specifically (p 48):

A clear and definite directive was issued about the prisoners of war. "Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight)," ruled the Book, "smite at their necks; at length, when ye have thoroughly dubdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them): thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom." According to this directive, the Muslims were told that, firstly, their primary consideration in was was to subdue the enemy, and not to take prisoners. Secondly, prisoners could be taken only after the enemy had been thoroughly subdued. Thirdly, once taken, they must be treated humanely; the choice being only between 'generosity and ransom.' In the battle of Hunain, the Muslims had captured a large number of prisoners. All of them were repatriated on payment of ransom. The ransom for some of them, who were too poor to pay it, was paid personally by the Prophet (peace be upon him).

It would be instructive to compare the Islamic code with comparable codes from the same time in other areas of the globe, and indeed with the practices of the Quraish at the time. It is obviously not identical with contemporary international law, and I'd imagine OBL would fight closer to Quranic precedent than to the Geneva Convention.

A fatwa on the Permissibility of Executing Prisoners of War gives a glimpse of Islamist argumentation on the issue. Note particularly the discussion of the abrogation of certain verses of the Quran by superseding revelations.

For a wider consideration of Islamic and International views of Human rights, see Universal Human Rights and "Human Rights in Islam" by David Littman, Midstream (New York) February/March 1999


The Holy Places

If anyone is any doubt as to the impact on the Muslim "street" (horrible phrase) of such things as Israel's military presence around the Temple Mount / Noble Sanctuary, or the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia, "land of the two Holy Places" as OBL describes it, this image captured from an Urdu poster should make the matter plain:

That's a Jewish hand over the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, and an American hand over the Kaaba in Mecca.


The latest and the greatest of these aggressions, incurred by the Muslims since the death of the Prophet (ALLAH'S BLESSING AND SALUTATIONS ON HIM) is the occupation of the land of the two Holy Places -the foundation of the house of Islam, the place of the revelation, the source of the message and the place of the noble Ka'ba, the Qiblah of all Muslims- by the armies of the American Crusaders and their allies. (We bemoan this and can only say: "No power and power acquiring except through Allah").

[ ... ]

Today we work from the same mountains to lift the iniquity that had been imposed on the Ummah by the Zionist-Crusader alliance, particularly after they have occupied the blessed land around Jerusalem, route of the journey of the Prophet (ALLAH'S BLESSING AND SALUTATIONS ON HIM) and the land of the two Holy Places. We ask Allah to bestow us with victory, He is our Patron and He is the Most Capable.

From bin Laden's Ladenese Epistle: Declaration of War

There was an attack on the countries of Islam, especially on the holy shrines and on al-Aqsa Mosque, the prophet's first Kiblah.

Transcript of "Usamah Bin-Ladin, the Destruction of the Base" June 1999


Revisioning Coronation

Ritual, perhaps the most powerful bonding agent known to human psychology, has long been the province of the religious authorities. In a world that is increasingly both secular and multicultural, new forms of ritual must be devised which capture the archetypal power of high language and gesture, without fragmenting or displeasing the variety of keenly interested observers and participants.

The Dean of Westminster, who performed Princess Diana's funeral and will be deeply involved in the next UK coronation, recently spoke out about some of the new the considerations that this extraordinary piece of theater will involve:

The next monarch should participate in a multi-faith inauguration service as part of the Coronation, the Dean of Westminster, the Very Rev Wesley Carr, has proposed.
While the crowning should still take place in Westminster Abbey and follow an Anglican rite, the new king or queen could receive the blessings and prayers of leaders of other faiths in a second act of worship, he suggested.
The monarch should also be publicly acclaimed by "the people", in the form of MPs, to reflect modern democracy in Britain, said the Dean, who could have a lead role in planning the next Coronation.
Dr Carr's proposals, made in a lecture in the Abbey on Monday, would represent a radical departure from the Queen's Coronation in 1953 and will re-ignite the debate over the shape of the next one.
His remarks will carry great weight with the organisers of the ceremony because of the historic role played by Deans of Westminster in the event. Traditionalists will argue, however, that the ceremony should remain largely unchanged from 50 years ago.
The Prince of Wales originally raised the prospect of the involvement of non-Christian religions such as Islam and Judaism when he said he wanted to be known as "defender of faith" rather than "defender of the faith." A draft Home Office report on religious discrimination two years ago suggested that the Prince of Wales could be crowned king in a multi-faith inauguration service rather than the 1,000-year-old coronation ceremony, though this was later toned down.

Dean calls for multi-faith coronation by Jonathan Petre, Daily Telegraph, filed 18/09/2002

Text of Dr Carr's speech from Westminster Abbey site

It is fortunate that HRH the Prince of Wales is himself familiar with the importance of numinous experience as a result of his long association with Sir Laurens van der Post: no doubt he appreciates the extraordinary sacral nature of the occasion, with its overtones both of ordination and of healing.

Carl Jung, James Hillman, Norman O Brown, Christopher Alexander, Alan Watts, and Victor Turner are among the theorists whose work could be of significant assistance in the development of a depthful and satisfying ritual for the new millennium.


Wargaming Iraq

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 — With highly detailed options for attacking Iraq now before President Bush, a Pentagon war game conducted this week revealed worrisome shortages in some military equipment, military and Defense Department officials said today.
Shortages were found in several areas, the officials said, among them aircraft used for surveillance and reconnaissance, refueling tankers and transport planes.
But the computer-simulated exercise also found that the military had corrected other shortcomings since a similar war game in March. Moreover, it concluded that the armed forces could still win a war in Iraq while maintaining other global commitments, including the worldwide hunt for Al Qaeda, senior military officials said.

War Game Is Said to Show Shortages of Some Weapons by Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, NY Times, September 27, 2002


Poetry and PsyOps

Gallwey Kinnell published a fine poem, When the Towers Fell, in the New Yorker for the anniversary of the event: the magazine filed it under " fiction". Amiri Baraka read a poem at a festival the other day that belongs with fiction.

A month after Amiri Baraka became the poet laureate of New Jersey, Gov. James E. McGreevey asked the writer and political activist to resign yesterday because a poem he read at a recent poetry festival implies that Israel knew about the Sept. 11 attack in advance. [ … ] The governor asked for the resignation because of a poem titled "Somebody Blew Up America," which Mr. Baraka recited a week ago at the renowned Dodge Poetry Festival in Waterloo, N.J. Most of the poem concerns massacres, murders and oppression by the powerful against blacks, Jews and others, but it also asks:

Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed
Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
To stay home that day
Why did Sharon stay away?
New Jersey Laureate Refuses to Resign Over Poem by Matthew Purdy, September 28, 2002

Kinnell would seem the better poet.


Monday, September 23, 2002

Religious Violence

Three recent news stories illustrate how important it is not to make easy assumptions about who is religiously doing what kind of unspeakable horror to whomelse.

From Ireland:

Republicans 'confirm priest was IRA bomber'
(Filed: 21/09/2002)
Daily Telegraph

A senior Ulster politician said yesterday that republican sources had confirmed to him that a Roman Catholic priest masterminded an IRA bombing that killed nine people.
Three car bombs exploded without warning in the town of Claudy, Co Londonderry, in July 1972, killing five Catholics and four Protestants aged between nine and 65. The IRA has never admitted responsibility for the atrocity.
But Ivan Cooper, a founder of the nationalist SDLP and former Stormont MP for Mid Derry, said he believed that Fr James Chesney was the "officer commanding" of the Claudy terrorist unit.

See other stories on the same topic from: Guardian, Guardian, and Telegraph
From Thailand:
Military-style, Christian outfit aids minorities victimized by conflict in Myanmar
Associated Press Writer
Posted on Sat, Sep. 21, 2002
AP Wire
MAE HONG SON, Thailand - Most of the time, Shannon Allyson lives quietly in a four-bedroom, quarter-million-dollar house with his wife and three young children. At his thriving dental clinic, a filling will set you back $210, a crown $600.
But occasionally the telephone rings, there's word of another mission and Allyson shuts down his suburban America life and flies halfway around the world.
He slips into jungle boots, straps on a backpack and embarks on a grueling, risky trek deep into military-ruled Myanmar. There, the 41-year-old dentist offers solace and aid - free of charge - to thousands uprooted by war.
The missions - there have been more than 40 over the past five years - are run by a low-profile outfit with a Christian orientation called the Free Burma Rangers.
Ranger teams, which include some Americans like Allyson, seek to help as many as 2 million of the often forgotten people who have been driven from their homes in Myanmar's military campaign to suppress ethnic minorities that seek greater autonomy.
Human rights groups and Western governments accuse the military in Myanmar, which also is known as Burma, of brutalizing innocent civilians as it fights rebels among the Karen, Karenni and Shan minorities in the rugged eastern regions bordering Thailand. The regime denies doing that.
"Civilians massacred, villages burned, churches destroyed, Christian pastors and Buddhist monks tortured, forced relocation and over 5,000 IDPs (internally displaced people), 1,000 of whom are in hiding and fleeing for their lives," says one Ranger report, summarizing a June mission that Allyson was on in the Dooplaya district of Myanmar's Karen State.
Modeled after the U.S. Army's Special Forces, the Rangers operate in four- and five-person teams whose members specialize in medical treatment, security, counseling and - something the Green Berets don't have - recording violations of human rights.
And Rwanda:
Islam Attracting Many Survivors of Rwanda Genocide
Jihad Is Taught as 'Struggle to Heal'
By Emily Wax
Washington Foreign Post Service
Monday, September 23, 2002; Page A10

RUHENGERI, Rwanda -- The villagers with their forest green head wraps and forest green Korans arrived at the mosque on a rainy Sunday afternoon for a lecture for new converts. There was one main topic: jihad.
They found their seats and flipped to the right page. Hands flew in the air. People read passages aloud. And the word jihad -- holy struggle -- echoed again and again through the dark, leaky room.
It wasn't the kind of jihad that has been in the news since Sept. 11, 2001. There were no references to Osama bin Laden, the World Trade Center or suicide bombers. Instead there was only talk of April 6, 1994, the first day of the state-sponsored genocide in which ethnic Hutu extremists killed 800,000 minority Tutsis and Hutu moderates.
"We have our own jihad, and that is our war against ignorance between Hutu and Tutsi. It is our struggle to heal," said Saleh Habimana, the head mufti of Rwanda. "Our jihad is to start respecting each other and living as Rwandans and as Muslims."
Since the genocide, Rwandans have converted to Islam in huge numbers. Muslims now make up 14 percent of the 8.2 million people here in Africa's most Catholic nation, twice as many as before the killings began.
Many converts say they chose Islam because of the role that some Catholic and Protestant leaders played in the genocide. Human rights groups have documented several incidents in which Christian clerics allowed Tutsis to seek refuge in churches, then surrendered them to Hutu death squads, as well as instances of Hutu priests and ministers encouraging their congregations to kill Tutsis. Today some churches serve as memorials to the many people slaughtered among their pews.
Four clergymen are facing genocide charges at the U.N.-created International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and last year in Belgium, the former colonial power, two Rwandan nuns were convicted of murder for their roles in the massacre of 7,000 Tutsis who sought protection at a Benedictine convent.


A girl's best friend is a diamond

You can now apparently get your carbonized loved ones set as diamonds, and wear them round your neck -- shades of Mother Kali -- or, I suppose, in a tasteful lapel pin.

Ashes to ashes ... dust to diamonds
Britons turn to US firms that make cremated remains into gemstones, paintings or coral reefs

Burhan Wazir

The next time mourners refer to a dead friend as a 'diamond geezer', they might mean it for real. British customers are flocking to an American company which has developed the technology to turn human remains into diamonds.
LifeGem Memorials has patented a 16-week process that involves purifying ash at 3,000 C before it is further heated and pressurised into a diamond. The diamonds range in cost from £2,500 to £14,000. In Europe, they are certified by the European Gemological Laboratory, which examines gems from across the world.
The company has already taken a flood of inquiries from Britons who want to turn their relatives into diamonds.
'The average person has enough carbon in them to produce between 50 and 100 diamonds,' said Amanda Leesburgh, a company spokesperson. 'It's a simple process. We're basically taking the fact that all living creatures are carbon-based, and so are diamonds. Once we figured out how to get between the two, the process worked.
'We've been surprised by the number of people who have called in to inquire. I think people across the world like the idea of wearing a diamond that is very much part of their loved one.'

Sunday Times, September 22, 2002

If as they say, diamonds are forever, that's one hell of a way to pull off everlasting life.


Wolfram and the Glass Bead Game

In Forget the ghost, it's God in the machine, his recent review of Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind of Science, Graeme Philipson doesn't quite say that Wolfram's work in cellular automata is a glass bead game -- but the one certainly reminds Philipson of the other:
Fifty-six years ago German novelist Hermann Hesse wrote a book called Das Glasperlenspiel (The Glass Bead Game). When I read it as an undergraduate, I was struck by its idea that all of life can be expressed through games played with small glass beads, atoms of our being, arrayed in an infinite number of ways to describe the complexities of existence.

My thoughts returned to Das Glasperlenspiel when I came across an even more interesting work recently. The book is called A New Kind of Science, by Stephen Wolfram. His thesis is that science has been on the wrong track pursuing mathematical answers to complex questions about the world. The path to understanding existence, he believes, is through the reduction of physical phenomena to something similar to computer programs.

[ … ]

The debate over Wolfram and his ideas has scarcely begun. Is he, as he himself believes, another Newton?

Maybe he is, maybe he isn't. But the idea that life is a computer program - or indeed a series of glass beads arranged in intricate patterns - is appealing in itself.

Not surprisingly, perhaps: the link between cellular automata and the glass bead game is a venerable one. Nobel laureate Manfred Eigen wrote his explanation of "how the principles of nature govern chance" -- titled Laws of the Game -- in an explicit attempt to "translate Hermann Hesse's symbol of the glass bead game back into reality": it's a 1981 book on cellular automata and the like. John Holland, he of the genetic algorithms, says he wants his life's work to be a Glass Bead Game. So Wolfram is working in an area that'sd already considered very GBG-like.

And while we're on the topic -- Christopher Alexander, he of the pattern language, wrote a piece in the late sixties saying we needed a Glass Bead Game, which he identified as a structure of structures -- and went on to write that book of his which seems in retrospect to be just such a structure, just such a game. Hesse's game idea has truly inspired a whole range of the best of contemporary thinking!


Sunday, September 22, 2002


Howard Rheingold's Smart Mobs page at is the live expansion of his forthcoming book of that name, and sure to be a key blog to watch. I am proud to be associated with both, and a contributor to the blog itself.

Read the book, follow the blog, something unexpected this way comes. Most intriguing aspect: the potential for smart mobs to increase cooperation in a world that sorely needs it.


Prisoners of a Sexual Dilemma:

It is, I suppose, one of the glories of mathematics that it can give us equations for the male and female payoffs of various strategies of sexual behavior – "male payoff = (Demand for m mistresses) + (m mistresses*prestige) - (cost of m mistresses) = f(m) > 1". This in turn allows us to game out the consequences of more and less inhibited sexual strategies, finding a "Spouse-Swapping Equilibrium" and "non-monogamous equilibria" in general, and exploring what constitutes a "critical mass" of non-monogamous participants and an associated "tipping point" where society s-curves from a community of straights with a small minority of sexual radicals to a society of polyamorists with a small minority of recalcitrant straits:

Seriously, though, J. Hughes paper, Monogamy as a Prisoners Dilemma: Non-Monogamy as a Collective Action Problem is a fascinating exploration of monogamy and otherwise from a game theoretic perspective.


Many ethologists and anthropologists now believe that monogamy is not "natural" behavior for humans. Yet non-monogamous practices have declined with modernization, and the occasional attempts to reintroduce non-monogamous practices in the contemporary West have failed. This paper uses the perspective of rational choice theory and strategic interaction to examine three known equilibrium social states: patriarchal polygyny, loose patriarchal monogamy, and strict monogamy.
The paper then turns to contemporary liberal egalitarian society and examines strategic interactions among sexual consumers with strong non-monogamous preferences. Non-monogamous experimenters are shown to be in a prisoner's dilemma; if all pursue utility-maximizing strategies, their resulting collective satisfaction is less than if they remain monogamous.
Finally, while collective action to enforce non-monogamous norms can resolve the prisoner's dilemma, and make non-monogamy a sustainable sub-culture, the enforcement of these norms are incompatible with the libertinism that motivates egalitarian non-monogamy.

Opening paras:

Sexual radicals have asked "why monogamy?" many times, but only recently have ethologists and anthropologists re-examined the assumption that monogamy is a "natural" condition. Ethologists now believe that only 1-2% of all species may be monogamous (Angier, 1990). None of the simian species are strictly monogamous; our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, practice a form of group marriage. Among the 849 human societies examined by the anthropologist Murdock (1967), the vast majority (83%) practiced polygyny, men having more than one wife; monogamy was characteristic of only 16% of the societies. Even in societies that are technically monogamous there is often a good deal of both tolerated and covert infidelity.
Observers attribute human non-monogamous sexuality to two basic motivations. First, many ethologists believe that there is a sociobiological imperative to have as many sexual partners as possible. Non-monogamy is reproductively savvy for males in order to spread their genes, and for females in order to improve the hardiness and genetic variety of their off-spring. Secondly, most humans find a variety of sexual partners pleasurable, whether reproductively savvy or not. All other things being equal, some form of non-monogamous equilibria would seem to be natural.

Another example of a gaming approach to what have previously been considered (largely) moral issues.

Thanks to Stig at hackvan for pointing me this way


Hoisting Saddam in his own Social Net?

The mapping of social networks is one of those nodal tricks with graphs that seem to be springing up everywhere -- my own HipBone Games being another, a close cousin shall we say. Here the network is used to monitor and predict Saddam Hussein.

Mapping the Minds in Iraq's Regime
Social scientists take aim at Saddam Hussein

William M. Arkin is a military affairs analyst who writes regularly for Opinion. E-mail:
September 1 2002

WASHINGTON -- When Vice President Dick Cheney said last week that the United States would "consider all possible options" in defeating Iraq, few knew one of the options was a team of social scientists and mathematicians busily trying to get inside the mind of Saddam Hussein in order to topple him from power.
At the core of this secret U.S. effort is "influence net" modeling. In essence, influence nets consist of psychological profiles of political actors and graphic depictions of their relationships. They suggest how decisions are made and implemented. In short, the nets are diagrams of who influences whom, how that influence is exerted and why. In the last decade, intelligence and military analysts have increasingly relied on such tools to support planning, targeting and operations.
The problem, says one military proponent of this approach, called "effects-based" warfare, is that "not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." On the other hand, the scale of the U.S.


Saturday, September 21, 2002

Religious Tech:

Two interesting instances of religious use of technology reported today, one from Islam and the Hajj, the other from China and Falun Gong.

The first offers pilgrims on Hajj to Mecca a digital guidebook:

Electronic pilgrim guide developed
By Muwaffek Al-Nuwaiser & P.K. Abdul Ghafour

JEDDAH, 20 September — A Saudi-Egyptian company, based in Jeddah, has succeeded in developing an electronic pilgrim guide. Its designers said the 40-gram, 6.5 centimeter device can be used by all pilgrims regardless of their linguistic and educational backgrounds. It is expected to be a big help for pilgrims intending to perform Haj and Umrah.

[ ... ] The device, produced by Majd Company, not only answers religious questions but also provides guidelines to pilgrims in matters related to health, religious duties and Saudi regulations. "The device is designed in such a way the pilgrims would not find any difficulty to use it," he added.
Pilgrims will be able to attach the device to their clothes using a clip. It will also have an earpiece for hand-free use. Its surface will consist of a keypad with up to 24 buttons. Instead of letters or numbers, the buttons will have easy-to-read icons or symbols designed to relay specific commands.
"Pilgrims will not have to be literate to be able to use the device," Raja said. The electronic guides will advice pilgrims on how to prepare for pilgrimage, their religious duties and obligations during the Haj and Umrah.
[ ... ] The device contains special prayers for Haj and Umrah and a number of guidelines, he said, adding that the prayers were selected from the Sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It contains the prayers to be said by a pilgrim when he first sees the Holy Kaaba, during the tawaf or circumambulating the Kaaba, and in Arafat, Mina and Muzdalifa. Badahdah said the scientific material used for the guides have been approved by scholars in the Kingdom and other Islamic countries. .
Throw in GPS and messaging, and you have extraordinary possibilities for everything from religious education to crowd control to smartmobbing.

The second is a reminder of the technological sophistication of the followers of Falun Gong:
Cult members sentenced for TV hijacking
(September 20,2002 )(xinhua)

Fifteen Falun Gong cult followers were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 4 to 20 years by the Intermediate People's Court of Changchun City, capital of northeast China's Jilin Province, on Friday. [ ... ]

According to local public security authorities, at about 19:00 hours on March 5 this year, when residents in Changchun and Songyuan cities of the province were viewing regular TV programs, to their surprise, some Falun Gong devotees hijacked the cable TV transmission and broadcast a propaganda program for the evil cult through the use of their own small-sized broadcasting equipment.

Due to the hijacking, two trunk cables of the cable TV transmission network in Changchun were cut off, and subscribers tothe network in four districts of the city could not watch cable TVprograms as usual. The hijacking also resulted in the suspension of cable TV programs for 210 minutes and left 16,000 people affected by video and audio propaganda by the Falun Gong cult.
Falun Gong continues to be a thorn in the side of the Chinese Government, which cannot forget the impact of previous apocalyptic movements in China, not least of them the Taiping Rebellion, which left 20 million dead.


Friday, September 20, 2002

On Forgiveness

This paper reports results obtained with a strategy for the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma. The paper describes a strategy that tries to incorporate a technique to forgive strategies that have defected or retaliated, in the hope of (re-)establishing cooperation. The strategy is compared to well-known strategies in the domain and results presented. The initial findings, as well as echoing past findings, provides evidence to suggest a higher degree of forgiveness can be beneficial and may result in greater rewards.

A forgiving strategy for the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma, Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation vol. 3, no. 4, 2000

I came across it at for May 29 2002, and I think it's fascinating because what we're seeing here (as in much of Axelrod's work) is an approach to ethical and moral understanding that corroborates what the great spiritual masters have told us, in an unassailable, pragmatic,
non-doctrinaire, non-idealistic way.


Dept of curious crosscuts:

Here's a fascinating short clip from what looks like a blogzine run by Jim Dunnigan, war gamesman extraordinaire:
September 15, 2002; Almost everyone in the US with an Email address has received an offer from some corrupt official in Nigeria (or some other country) offering a multi-million commission if you will help them move some stolen or mislaid government funds out of their country through your bank account. Such offers are, of course, a scam, and result in the "foreign official" draining any bank account he is told about and begging for just a few hundred more dollars for fees and bribes. But the story now has a new twist. The Nigerian scam artists are sending their Emails to people in Moslem countries (first to identified businessmen in Saudi Arabia and more recently to anyone in many Moslem countries). Their new offer is that these forgotten or stolen or lost millions are being routed to the Palestinian Authority for use in feeding their people and buying guns to continue the struggle (minus a few hundred thousand paid as a commission to any helpful Arab businessman). Reportedly, the scam is enjoying some success from such efforts, as many Moslems are more interested in profiting by helping a good cause than in profiting by helping criminals smuggle their loot out of their country.--Stephen V Cole


Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Quote of the Day

From Jonathan Freedland's comparison of the Roman and American Empires in today's UK Guardian:

Rome even had its own 9/11 moment. In the 80s BC, Hellenistic king Mithridates called on his followers to kill all Roman citizens in their midst, naming a specific day for the slaughter. They heeded the call - and killed 80,000 Romans in local communities across Greece. "The Romans were incredibly shocked by this," says ancient historian Jeremy Paterson of Newcastle University. "It's a little bit like the statements in so many of the American newspapers since September 11: 'Why are we hated so much?' ",5673,794162,00.html

Thanks to Douglass Carmichael who blogged this at


Monday, September 16, 2002

Wargames and Sims

I'm particularly interested by the places where my two major interests – games and simulations on the one hand, and religious violence and the war on terrorism on the other – intersect. Two recent articles are worth noting in this regard. The first describes social network modeling as currently applied to Saddam Hussein's close circle:

Mapping the Minds in Iraq's Regime
Social scientists take aim at Saddam Hussein

September 1 2002

WASHINGTON -- When Vice President Dick Cheney said last week that the United States would "consider all possible options" in defeating Iraq, few knew one of the options was a team of social scientists and mathematicians busily trying to get inside the mind of Saddam Hussein in order to topple him from power.
At the core of this secret U.S. effort is "influence net" modeling. In essence, influence nets consist of psychological profiles of political actors and graphic depictions of their relationships. They suggest how decisions are made and implemented. In short, the nets are diagrams of who influences whom, how that influence is exerted and why. In the last decade, intelligence and military analysts have increasingly relied on such tools to support planning, targeting and operations.

The other discusses what happened when a US general "playing" a Saddam-like dictator turned conventional wisdom on its head and "beat" the US in a major war game – so early in the event that it had to be rescripted:
The biggest war game of all time.
Wake-up call

If the US and Iraq do go to war, there can only be one winner, can't there? Maybe not. This summer, in a huge rehearsal of just such a conflict - and with retired Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper playing Saddam - the US lost. Julian Borger asks the former marine how he did it
Julian Borger
Friday September 6, 2002
The Guardian,12271,787018,00.html

At the height of the summer, as talk of invading Iraq built in Washington like a dark, billowing storm, the US armed forces staged a rehearsal using over 13,000 troops, countless computers and $250m. Officially, America won and a rogue state was liberated from an evil dictator.
What really happened is quite another story, one that has set alarm bells ringing throughout America's defence establishment and raised questions over the US military's readiness for an Iraqi invasion. In fact, this war game was won by Saddam Hussein, or at least by the retired marine playing the Iraqi dictator's part, Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper.

There's plenty to comment on here, from the truism that models and games are only as good as the thinking that goes into them to the extraordinary $250 million price-tag for the game / exercise known as Millennium Challenge and beyond. For now, let's just cut to the philosophic meat of the matter and say that the old binary distinction between theory and practice is dead in the water: we now need to understand things in terms of theory, simulation and practice, and in fact the borders between theory and simulation, and between simulation and practice, are somewhat porous.

We do not yet understand what sims are, largely because we do not understand what play means in any context beyond childhood – despite the fact that it is the most advanced mode of human learning, and the creative state in which human mastery flourishes.


Sunday, September 15, 2002

Draft of design for refurbished HipBone web page opener


Anniversary Thoughts

Those whose lives were taken are blissfully free of concern for themselves, whether we believe in an afterlife or not: but those who remain who lost mother, father, sister, brother, lover, daughter, son or friend must feel, must necessarily feel as though the universe was ripped, torn like one wall of a room in an earthquake from them, raw space suddenly revealed in their homes and lives just out of eyesight, each step taken to lay fork and spoon on the table now haunted by that ever present, never quite visible vacuum, void.

Our hearts are with them.


I continue to view this as a conflict with enormous religious ramifications, and take al-Qaida's repeated denunciations of western presence in Arabia and Jerusalem as polluting to the holiest shrines to be the first key to a full and deep understanding of their motives.

Visible victories and defeats powerfully influence the human heart, which is almost incapable of holding steady in defeat the notion of God's support, despite scriptural statements to the effect that defeat before eventual victory may have its place within the divine plan. Thus the rapid fall of the Taliban will in my view have severely damaged the iconic status – approaching that of Caliph, Saladdin or Mahdi – which was beginning to accrue to bin Laden after the events of 9/11. This, to my mind, is the one significant benefit to the allied cause to emerge during the past year, and an attack on Iraq might be just the thing to polarize the Islamic world behind him and against us, thus stealing all such benefit from us.

I still find it plausible that bin Laden, if still alive, thinks in terms of 2012 as the probable culmination of his campaign, and that this consideration (drawn from his colleague Sheikh al-Hawali's writings in The Day of Wrath) informs its strategic shape and build.

Al Hawali's Day of Wrath
He suggests 2012 as likely date

I also believe that we are in some sense fighting a war of machine gun against mist, and that network war is not just a matter of digitizing the battlefield, but of responding at a one-or-two-humans level of precision, the level at which cells form and engage. Intelligence (including an intelligent understanding of the enemy) is paramount, and the protection of petty political turfs and fiefdoms within the apparatus of government is supremely counterproductive.


We shall have to rethink religion from the ground up.


Iraq: Worst Case Scenario

Milton Viorst, who wrote In the Shadow of the Prophet: The Struggle for the Soul of Islam, proposes a worst case outcome of the looming possibility of war with Iraq, in which:

...Saddam Hussein, prior to an American attack, goes after Israel with the chemical or biological weapons that Mr. Bush says Iraq possesses. Israel, if it survives, will retaliate, perhaps even with nuclear weapons. Such retaliation might indeed bring about the "regime change" Mr. Bush seeks, but it would not end the story.

Just over the horizon lies Pakistan, a Muslim country armed with nuclear weapons and permeated by extremists. Pervez Musharraf, its president, has joined America's war on terrorism but he is unlikely to survive politically should there be a nuclear attack by an American ally on Iraq's Muslims. Islamists, overthrowing him, would take control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal; lacking the ability to launch missiles that would reach Israel, they would turn on India, their more proximate enemy. A nuclear attack would set off global chaos.

Source: NYT 021012
I'm not sure that the attack on Iraq has to be nuclear for Musharraf to fall and the Islamists to take over. And missiles are not the only possible delivery systems.


Glass Beads and Complex Problems


The complex problems I'll be blogging mostly have to do with religious violence.

The glass beads reference is to the idea of the Glass Bead Game in Hermann Hesse's novel, Magister Ludi. I am interested in the application of some ideas drawn from Hesse's Game to the visual representation (mapping) of complex problems, and am developing an analytic style based on a minimum of two data-points in conjunction, in which symmteries and asymmetries are particularly fruitful indicators.

These are the two main areas I will be covering in this blog, which is basically a continuation of some work I've been doing elsewhere -- so I'll begin by posting some recent materials, and add in some of the relevant earlier stuff as I go...