Tuesday, September 18, 2012

'Managerial Cowardice' Plus Failed Situational Awareness

commentary by Roger Erickson

Forget Mice & Men, Steinbeck could have written a quite similar novel called, "Of Paradigms and People."

Parts of this sounds good, but then it all goes south.  Buddy, can you spare a paradigm?

Gates Slams Congress for 'Managerial Cowardice'

First the good.
"Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday issued a scathing criticism of lawmakers who he claims are willing to cripple the U.S. economically and strategically in the world to retain the votes and financial backing of the ideologues they’ve become beholden to.

“Too many are more concerned with winning elections and scoring ideological points than with saving the country,” he said in remarks at a meeting of the Center for Security and International Studies in Washington."

Gets even better.
“Across the board cuts are the worst possible way to exercise budget discipline,” Gates said. “When Mike and I were working together, my guidance was if we had to cut or find more resources we would never resort to across the board cuts. I referred to it as managerial cowardice, a refusal to make choices and establish priorities,” he said.

Gates likened [across the board budget cuts] to a scene in the Mel Brooks Western spoof, “Blazing Saddles.”
“The sheriff holds a gun to his own head and warns the crowd not to make him shoot,” Gates said."

Then it all goes south!
"Gates said if the politicians are serious about getting the country’s spending under control, they have to look at Social Security and Medicare, which constitute a much larger percentage of federal spending than defense."

Does this vaguely remind you of a troupe of ballerinas trying to discuss ballistics? Or quantum physics? Try as they might, there's simply nothing in their training that prepares them to discuss operations outside their prior areas of experience and reading. It's baffling. Even DoD managers can't extend situational awareness past points of propaganda that "every one knows?"

When it comes to situational awareness, what part of transition from a gold-std to a fiat currency standard didn't the Pentagon recognize?

How can military planners dare to try contingency management without at least determining which paradigm they're tasked with working in?

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”

But what if you don't get 'em fast enough? Or can't handle them? Predator prey cycles feature crashes when the predators can no longer find rabbits. If we run out of our own ideas, or we can't find and explore 'em, we'll crash too.  There's a suspicion that a Deficit Terrorist couldn't find a free idea even if it tried to gate-crash what passes for his brain.  There's no "snare," there.

What do you call it when a managerial class is prejudiced against any paradigm outside it's class-based ideology? A Dead-Culture-Walking?


Roger Erickson said...

We may be in more trouble than we think.

This is failed situational awareness of unprecedented magnitude. Whole European villages once supposedly displayed "moon madness," but we've achieve the rare feat of probably 300 million people displaying situational non-awareness - still one paradigm out of date. Since 1933 no less!

Should make your hair stand on end.

Adam2 said...

Is there such thing as a Defense Spending Trust?

Roger Erickson said...

Above all else, what we need is commitment to a Situational Awareness Trust.

And some loyalty to it, and trust in it.

What part of return-on-coordinated-human-capital can't supposed capitalists understand?

This ain't rocket science.

Dan Lynch said...

Sounds like part of a campaign to preserve the military-industrial complex, even if it means throwing what's left of the safety net under the bus. The old guns-or-butter argument.

Of course, MMT tells us that we don't have to choose between the two, at least not right now, but the powers that be either don't understand MMT or else they are just looking for an excuse to kill the safety net.

Anonymous said...

Why do we even have this ridiculous, deceptive monetary system in which the government has to "borrow" its own currency (i.e. hand out free money to banks every time it wants to deficit spend), which makes people incapable of understanding the simplest of things?

This conspiracy has deep deep roots.

Tom Hickey said...

Roger: Above all else, what we need is commitment to a Situational Awareness Trust. And some loyalty to it, and trust in it. What part of return-on-coordinated-human-capital can't supposed capitalists understand?

They think they do understand it perfectly. It's called the "free market" and all we have to do is get government out of the way and let the moochers struggle to survive in a world in which there aren't enough bones for all dogs, in great part because the big dogs are hoarding so many bones and daring the other dogs to take them.

Romney recent talk to donors, which he thought was private, amply illustrates this view.

Roger Erickson said...


I keep coming back to this question.

"What part of return-on-coordinated-human-capital can't supposed capitalists understand?"

Our DoD studies scalable operations as a science, ... but even they can't or won't look far enough to discriminate even the most obvious aspects of a changed situation, survived through a changed paradigm?

The Bigger the Change, the easier it is to lie to ourselves about how much has changed? Is that it?

It's not like we haven't done this through history. Any species capable of rapidly migrating as nomads from deserts, to mountains, to islands, along rivers, and even to the Arctic has found changed situations and paradigms to be no barrier whatsoever.

What has happened to Americans? We used to have ingenuity.

Tom Hickey said...

Roger, the problem really is at the top and Ravi Batra has explained it quite well. The US is now ruled by the acquisitors, and they are only interested in preserving and expanding their own wealth and power. They espouse free market ideology as the justification for unbridled pursuit of self-interest seen as "maximizing utility" in the economic sense.

They are very aware of the class struggle and practice class warfare to gain and maintain position, as the Romney slip up reveals. They don't give a hoot about anything other than themselves and their hoards, and they are willing to scorch the earth to get more, without concern with consequences since they feel secure in their fortresses, fools that they are.

Matt Franko said...

"maximizing utility"

Roger it looks like these people think they are achieving a "return on coordination" but in reality only for their sub-group of the human species (the 'acquisitors')...

is there an evolutionary parallel and if so, how does the majority balance of the species usually successfully suppress this minority phenom?


Roger Erickson said...

"the problem really is at the top and Ravi Batra has explained it quite well. The US is now ruled by the acquisitors"

That's just saying that the problem is that the rest of us collectively let these people rule.

Roger Erickson said...

"is there an evolutionary parallel and if so, how does the majority balance of the species usually successfully suppress this minority phenom?"

Yes, there are endless precedents, known as extinct species.

Those that survive always do so by employing a new level of indirection, to overcome what looks like an insurmountable task.

In short, survivors find a way to let the return-on-coordination outstrip the cost-of-coordination. Sometimes that occurs only after a evolutionary funnel.

There's a simple reason all physiological lifetimes are eventually shaped by the confluence of environmental and internal adaptive rate - it clears out the obsolete just in time to make way for new innovation.

Cultures must display the same dynamics, in clearing out old paradigms, to make way for the newly emerging ones.

Or else.

We're facing demand to shorten paradigm half-life, and we need CultureKevorkian as badly as we need new paradigms.

Roger Erickson said...

ps: Matt,

the details of exactly how all systems evolve is always unpredictable, and never the same

that's what keeps life interesting and fun

Otherwise, we would have committed suicide long ago, with or without Dr. K

Tom Hickey said...

That's just saying that the problem is that the rest of us collectively let these people rule.

Yes, and they are getting concerned that the moochers might be getting restless, so they have militarized the domestic security force, creating a dreaded "ministry of the interior" that the US never permitted before, complete with a total surveillance state and suspension of civil rights — aka police state and secret police.

These folks aren't stupid. They are prepared, along with fortress redoubts and escape routes, with large stashes abroad, like in the Caymans.

Matt Franko said...


Which typically goes extinct, the minority part of the population that is screwing the majority? Or the majority of the species that is getting screwed by the minority?


Matt Franko said...


This "moochers" this is a total fing disaster for Romney, I just knew it would go this way as soon as Ryan was announced....


Tom Hickey said...

BTW, anyone who is reading global news knows that wheels are coming off all around the world. Things are "hotting up." Defense Sec Panetta even released a warning about potential war developing between China and Japan over the territorial dispute — which he would never do without approval and for cause. These guys never say stuff like that off the top of their head. The US is genuinely concerned about this — enough to say it publicly at the second level to the top.

Tom Hickey said...

This "moochers" this is a total fing disaster for Romney, I just knew it would go this way as soon as Ryan was announced....

Not just them, Matt. The whole recent thrust of the GOP has been to conduct class warfare, lead by the divisive charge that the moochers don't pay any federal income tax, even though they actually pay the highest tax rate given the regressive nature of FICA and sales tax.

The Dems are too establishment to point out the obvious: The GOP has launch a class war. Now they are feeling the heat and crying foul. What a bunch of losers.

Matt Franko said...


Hard to see how this is a winning campaign strategy.... they may be on their way to permanent minority party status looks like...

I blame it on a Confederate infiltration of the GOP....

OT: "back in the day" I used to witness Chinese military hatred of Japan first hand ... it's pretty strong imo (at least it was then)... seemed like it went back to WW2 for them.


Roger Erickson said...


"Which typically goes extinct, the minority [or majority]"

In a social species, they ALWAYS go down together.

Matt Franko said...

Link for info on the current Japan/China situation:


Chinese govt has to have approved this imo.... they typically dont allow people to gather.


Roger Erickson said...

"potential war developing between China and Japan over the territorial dispute"

China is warranted in suspecting that we can't, or won't, fight successfully ... for very long ... in Iraq, Afghanistan, AND China.

Can you imagine trying to occupy China? Not without a different crew than who's been running the White House the last 12 years.

Expect to see more of exactly what "no one could have predicted" to actually occur.

Smart thing for Japan would be to "let" China buy those rocks, for a "profit."

There are currently only 2 import sinks in the world, USA & China. Japan has to decide what it wants. China already seems to know. [More Harvard trained economists! :) ]

Matt Franko said...

If you look at this spreadsheet, imo it looks like Japan has to be acquiring USTs from China as China has about a $300B trade deficit with US and Japan has a trade deficit but not of the level where Japan could acquire this much USTs over the last year.

I could be wrong but I think based on the math that the US CAD has to be going to Japan thru China....


Pretty tangled web. But looks like huge amounts of Chinese earned USD NFAs have ended up in Japan....


Middleaged-Living-in-a-Land-of-Makebeleive said...

Good comments from Roger, Matt, Tom, and Dan.

I was reminded of the paradigm of looking at the problem versus looking at the solution.

We could look at all the roles that humans play during their work day (I think this is a psychology model). Tom Hickey mentioned Ravi Batra which I had to do a search for and ...I believe there is value looking at a kind of Reorganization of government based on transparency, ethics, and opportunity for everyone.

First I wanted to point out some problems with Strategic Planning, organizational missions and objectives. Maybe we can agree that a strategic plan by Kissinger or Brezinski for the world based on an ethnocentric perspective is flawed and likely unethical. Perhaps we can even agree that strategic planning is a corrupting influence on the world based on the killing of non-christians and suppression of foreign governments by our own government.

See I think Robert Gates comments can be easily understood as a man working on his mission to secure funding for his organization. Gates may play roles during his work day as a corporate player, an ideologue for the Republican Party , as a financial investor, or as a government investor. Each human has many different motivations and interests.

So how do you fight the Long Range Strategic Plan for Goldman Sachs?

How do you stop a Long range Strategic Plan by some faction of Businessmen, NEOCONs, or World bankers?

In the Government they call this a "Reorganization" maybe. Clearly new rules of transparency (regulations) and new "Grand Goals" would have to be adopted.

1) What is the solution?
2) How is a solution to be adopted or implemented?
3) How do you suppress the power, money, and influence of those that would stop your plan of change???

It seems Ravi Batra is probably right at least here in that Political Change has to occur before real governmental change.