Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for April 27th, 2009

A powerful tool for learning and improvement

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Whenever I’ve been involved in any sort of project or coherent effort directed at a goal, I find that one of the most valuable tools is the "Lessons Learned" document prepared after completion (or, in the case of a failed project, after the project has been killed). This document lays out, for yourself and for others in the future, what was learned and what improvements were discovered (either in time for the project or for the next such project). This document becomes particularly valuable if it is bound in combination with a pre-project document that sets out the project goals and sketches the anticipated direction and challenges. The combination of the two will show exactly what was overlooked in the planning and will provide good guidance in the future.

The military knows this well. The after-action report is standard, and often reports with "Lessons Learned" in the title are published. In particular, the US Marine Corps has been a model of a learning organization. (See, for example, Tom Ricks’s excellent book Making the Corps.)

The CIA, on the other hand, seems to be ignorant of this useful approach. Greg Miller in the LA Times:

The CIA used an arsenal of severe interrogation techniques on imprisoned Al Qaeda suspects for nearly seven years without seeking a rigorous assessment of whether the methods were effective or necessary, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

The failure to conduct a comprehensive examination occurred despite calls to do so as early as 2003. That year, the agency’s inspector general circulated drafts of a report that raised deep concerns about waterboarding and other methods, and recommended a study by outside experts on whether they worked.

That inspector general report described in broad terms the volume of intelligence that the interrogation program was producing, a point echoed in smaller studies later commissioned by then-CIA Director Porter J. Goss.

But neither the inspector general’s report nor the other audits examined the effectiveness of interrogation techniques in detail or sought to scrutinize the assertions of CIA counter-terrorism officials that so-called enhanced methods were essential to the program’s results. One report by a former government official — not an interrogation expert — was about 10 pages long and amounted to a glowing review of interrogation efforts.

"Nobody with expertise or experience in interrogation ever took a rigorous, systematic review of the various techniques — enhanced or otherwise — to see what resulted in the best information," said a senior U.S. intelligence official involved in overseeing the interrogation program.

As a result, there was never a determination of "what you could do without the use of enhanced techniques," said the official, who like others described internal discussions on condition of anonymity.
Former Bush administration officials said the failure to conduct such an examination was part of a broader reluctance to reassess decisions made shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Defense Department, Justice Department and CIA "all insisted on sticking with their original policies and were not open to revisiting them, even as the damage of these policies became apparent," said John B. Bellinger III, who was legal advisor to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, referring to burgeoning international outrage.

"We had gridlock," Bellinger said, calling the failure to consider other approaches "the greatest tragedy of the Bush administration’s handling of detainee matters."

The limited resources spent examining …

Continue reading. Remember: Hindsight is one of the most powerful tools you have—but only if you use it to inform future efforts.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 April 2009 at 4:15 pm

The Right’s peculiar fondness for torture

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From the Center for American Progress:

Last week, President Obama made headlines after suggesting that he would support a "bipartisan" commission to investigate President Bush’s torture crimes, days after he released four Bush-era Office of Legal Counsel memos that detailed torture tactics used by CIA interrogators. These practices include slamming detainees against the wall, cramped confinement, sleep deprivation, the use of insects, and "the waterboard." Asked whether Obama should "investigate whether any laws were broken in the way terrorism suspects were treated under the Bush administration," 51 percent of the public said they would favor such an investigation. Meanwhile, advocates of torture — led by Vice President Cheney — are doing all they can to fill the public debate with misinformation in an attempt to push back against an investigation of Bush national security policies. After years of promoting secrecy in national security, for example, Cheney recently submitted a formal request for documents that he claims prove his point that torture prevented terrorist attacks. Cheney has also made multiple media appearances defending his and his boss’s approval of torture. Today’s Progress Report examines some of the myths about torture being promulgated by several Bush administration officials and other conservatives in recent weeks.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

27 April 2009 at 4:03 pm

Glasses fixed

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I drove up to my optician in Santa Cruz, who fitted a new temple-piece to my regular glasses and also put the temple piece back on the computer glasses. The computer glasses also have spring-action temples, so when the screw was removed, the spring pulled the little part of the hinge back up into the temple part-way. The result was that when you tried to put the temple back on, the holes didn’t line up correctly: there was a bit of overlap, but most of the hole on the temple piece was too far back.

He explained that one uses a special screw in this case: the screw’s point is extended with a (non-threaded) pin, small enough to fit through the overlap of the holes. Then, as you turn the screw, it pulls the holes into alignment and screws in. At that point, you snip off the pin extension.

Or you can put the temple in a vice, pull out the hole, and use a small wedge (a toothpick, for example) to keep it out until the hinge screw can be put back.

At any rate, things are fine now.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 April 2009 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Daily life

Swan Lake Chinese style

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Thanks to Constant Reader for pointing out this:

And here’s a pas de deux from the ballet.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 April 2009 at 3:53 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, Video

Who needs bioterrorism when we have manure lagoons?

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Marion Nestle answers this question:

Tom Philpott of Grist reported on Friday that a Chinese company called Cofco—a state-owned food-and-agribiz giant—is thinking of buying out U.S. owned Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, "at a significant premium to its share price."

Of course, that was before the shit hit the spam. Now, we’re suddenly facing a swine flu outbreak, which Philpott aptly describes as "a nasty mash-up of swine, avian, and human viruses. As Philpott subsequently reported on Saturday, the Mexican health agency IMSS suspects the outbreak may be linked to the clouds of flies that thrive in the manure lagoons of the Smithfield-owned industrial hog operations in Vera Cruz, where the swine flu was first detected.

With the World Health Organization warning of a prospective global pandemic, I’m not sure that Cofco is going to be so eager to acquire Smithfield. But supposing they were, do you think it’s a good idea to have the largest industrial hog operation in the world run by the Chinese government?

Continue reading for Prof. Nestle’s answer.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 April 2009 at 11:49 am

Good line from Paul Krugman

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From his blog:

So Bobby Jindal makes fun of “volcano monitoring”, and soon afterwards Mt. Redoubt erupts. Susan Collins makes sure that funds for pandemic protection are stripped from the stimulus bill, and the swine quickly attack.

What else did the right oppose recently? I just want enough information to take cover.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 April 2009 at 11:34 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government

Sean Hannity will submit to being waterboarded

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He will do it to raise money for charity. Very interesting. More info here.

Unfortunately, though, Sean Hannity is a serial and (so far as I can tell) compulsive liar, so he’s undoubtedly lying about this as well. But if he goes through with it, I’ll certainly donate.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 April 2009 at 11:31 am

Posted in GOP, Torture

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