I look forward

Though I have been trained as a soldier, and participated in many battles, there never was a time when, in my opinion, some way could not be found to prevent the drawing of the sword. I look forward to an epoch when a court, recognized by all nations, will settle international differences.

– Ulysses S. Grant

death by powerpoint

Powerpoint is driving the Army nuts.

A funny article in the NY Times about the US military, and how everything they plan or do is being reduced to Powerpoint slides.  The reducto absurdum of war.

Like an insurgency, PowerPoint has crept into the daily lives of military commanders and reached the level of near obsession. The amount of time expended on PowerPoint, the Microsoft presentation program of computer-generated charts, graphs and bullet points, has made it a running joke in the Pentagon and in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The article includes some quotes which are fast becoming famous, including this wonderful thing:

“It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control.
Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”

– Brig General McMaster

Yes, he was referring to Powerpoint when he said, "it's dangerous."

Also via this article, we can all have our very own copies of this amazing Powerpoint slide, a real Army document which illustrates just what they're up to over there. Go ahead and click that link. It's been rendered for posterity as a humble jpg file. I wish George Orwell was alive to see it. He might say, "Sonofabeach, I hadn't imagined this in my wildest dreams."

Poor Microsoft gets blamed for everything. It's another example of how the method has become synonymous with the process. Just like to google something replaced searching for it. Not everybody uses Google, but we all say, "I'll Google that."

Hey, maybe they should try Google Docs. It has a nice lightweight alternative to Powerpoint. And with a satellite internet uplink, they could work on their presentations from anywhere in the field of operations. … Or maybe they wouldn't like that much. This motto might be stenciled on a tank:

No Powerpoint, No Peace


Move him into the sun—
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds,—
Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides,
Full-nerved—still warm—too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil  
To break earth's sleep at all?

by Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

Welcome to National Poetry Month. This poem arrived in my inbox today, and I concur it's quite right to begin the month with it. There is so much packed into its 14 lines.

Wilfred Owen died in WWI, aged about 25. And it begs the question, do they still make soldier-poets, and send them off to war? Or does war make poets of them? Do they carry futility with them, or merely bring it home?

You can decide.

to my congresswoman on memorial day

Dear Mrs. Capps:

Thank you for your continued service to the South Coast. I have received your e-mail “honoring the fallen,” on Memorial Day. I believe that for a year and a half, Congress has failed to do so by taking impeachment “off the table.” It is a national disgrace. There could have been no better tribute to our fallen, of this war and every war previous, than to exercise the legal and moral imperatives of the Constitution.

Respectfully …

Disaster Capitalism?

How those in Power use the shock of terrorism and disaster to effect social and economic change.

“…present-day global capitalism took hold when its advocates learned to exploit disasters. After a disaster (war, tsunami, terrorist attack), you can push your agenda for worsening labor conditions, looser regulation, and pocket-lining exercises (Enron, Halliburton) while the reeling, disaster-struck population of the world has its attention elsewhere.”

[Naomi Klein’s Disaster Capitalism video: exploiting disasters for globalism – on Boing Boing blog]