Reading

How We Nearly Broke The US Military

How We Nearly Broke The US Military

I grew up during Operation Desert Storm and I would one day enlist to serve during Operation Enduring and Iraqi Freedom; and I'm not alone - my entire generation has had one single unifying fact that binds us together:  we've been a generation at war.  More specifically, we've been a generation that has been engaged in an unconventional war with very asymmetrical forces and we've seen a complete overhaul of the modern war fighter.  As a result of my employment within the Department of Defense, coupled with my insatiable curiosity, I have been following our engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq with great interest.

So it should come as no surprise that when former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, released a new book - I jumped at the chance to read it.

The Halo Effect, Polarization, and Modern Politics

The Halo Effect, Polarization, and Modern Politics

There's a psychological concept known as the Halo Effect in which an object, person, or ideology (OPI) in which you find positive is assumed to have no negatives and an OPI in which you find negative is assumed to have no positives.  This effect can be illustrated through some very simple thought processes: 
 

  • I like Jill, she is nice. 
  • I think donating to charity is nice. 
  • Therefore, I assume that Jill donates to charity. 


This assumption is based on no outside information.  I have never spoken to the hypothetical character named Jill, but I have a predisposition to assume that Jill would be "the kind of person who would" donate to charity.  If we step back and think, we would realize the fallacy here, but until we actively engage in that thought processes, or until we receive information which contradicts this (e.g. "Jill is especially tight fisted with her finances"), we will operate on the assumption that Jill donates to charity as if it were a fact. 

This assumption of fact is more powerful than just the Halo Effect. When we receive information, we immediately categorize it into one of two different sets:  True and False.  As a result, it's increasingly difficult to reach informed, unbiased positions with simple things (crop yield statistics), and almost impossible with complex issues. When news agencies lost their journalistic integrity, they helped set the stage for the polarization of the American public. 

World War Z

World War Z

I just devoured this book, and quite frankly, I'm a little upset that no one here has recommended it to me before now. It is probably, hands down, the best interpretation (written or visual) of a zombie outbreak that I have ever enjoyed; up to and including The Walking Dead. That's right, I said it; I think this book eats The Walking Dead for breakfast and defecates 28 Days Later.

From the greed and capitalism that lead people to capitalize on fear with "miracle drugs" which, due to the psychological fractures of the "Quishies" (or Q's), seemed to work and gave first world nations hope, to the skeptical bureaucracy that enabled an administration to ignore and obfuscate a rising global epidemic, we see a "realistic" insight on how the world could come crashing down.