Tag Archives: ooda loop

If we all saw the same America, perhaps we could fix it.

Summary: After scores of posts attempting to discover the core of America’s problems, recent events highlight one candidate — we don’t see the same world. It makes us easy to rule. We are a gift to the 1%. And the clock’s running out on us.

Its getting dark, too dark to see

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, not his own facts.”
— Attributed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan.


  1. In an oligarchy every peon has their own facts.
  2. Why citizens need clear vision.
  3. For More Information.

(1) In an oligarchy everyone can have their own facts.

”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

— From “Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush” by Ron Suskind, New York Times Magazine, 17 October 2004.

When starting the FM website I thought we’d present facts that would provoke debate in the comments about their interpretation and analysis, and the resulting recommendations. People would express their different values and forecasts as we ran through the OODA loop, starting with observations, and discussing our Orientations, Decisions, and Actions.

I was naive. We almost never got beyond debate about facts. No matter how authoritative the sources or clear the data, partisans of Left and Right came out to debate the facts. Or more often, ignore them while denying them. I have often written about the similar reasoning and behavior of Left and Right in America (reliance on propaganda, reliance on ideology over facts) — both are Americans, after all — and this is the clearest demonstration.

Both sides love their facts, however fake. Scientists speak to us about the warming pause — its causes and likely durationwhile Leftists deny their work (literally, they refuse to see it). Leftists build hysteria over a phony campus rape epidemic.

The Right too has a long history of refusing to see reality. The fiercest discussions on the FM website since 2003 were push-backs to my posts showing that the US was failing in Iraq and Afghanistan; millions still believe we won. Also provoking rebuttals were posts early 2008 about the ample data showing that the US was in recession (the NBER made it official in November 2008). As late as Summer they denied it — believing no recession was possible under Bush Jr. See these quotes from June 3 and some weird ones here.

Many on the Right believed that the government deliberately understates the rate of inflation. Some even pay Shadowstats to confirm their beliefs, despite the overwhelming evidence otherwise (details here). Others have crazy beliefs about Obama — that he’s a foreigner, Muslim, radical Leftist. Or that Saddam did have WMDs, and was an ally of al Qaeda.

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Comment threads about global warming show the American mind at work, like a reality-TV horror show

Summary:  Belief in a secret conspiracy of government scientists manipulating US climate data to exaggerate global warming might join Benghazi BENGHAZI in the right-wing canon. See this happen in real time in the comment threads at Prof Curry’s website, showing the American mind at work on one of our most important public policy issues. It’s a sad spectacle, deserving your attention. We can do better, if only we would try. (updated July 2)

This is second in a series about this fascinating story. It is one of a series of posts using popular media as a mirror in which we can more clearly see who we are, and what we’re becoming.

All Seeing Eye


I strongly recommend reading the comments to “Skeptical of skeptics: is Steve Goddard right?“ by Judith Curry (Prof, GA Inst Tech) at her website, Climate Etc.  (update: and to her follow-up post here). It’s a typical discussion about politicized science in America, with comments by scientists, talented amateurs, and extremist partisans. The latter dominate, with anti-science their primary theme.

If you step back from the specific issue, this thread reads like countless others in recent years by the Right (e.g. about evolution, the extreme example) — and by the Left  (e.g., genetically-modified food and nuclear power).  And by both the Left and Right about climate and economics. A common element is people who have little or no understanding of the subject, but confidently proclaim the relevant scientists to be fools, crooks, or charlatans (this is a defining characteristic of the public climate wars, with activists on both sides so condemning scientists on the “other side”).

Political leaders cherish such followers, their vanguard of high-energy “useful idiots” (an essential concept for political engineers, origin unknown). They’re easily directed and immune to rebuttal by fact or logic (they don’t listen to their opponents, who are misguided if not evil). As a chorus they entertain the faithful and can often shout down saner voices.

“Then the sheep broke out into a tremendous bleating of `Four legs good, two legs bad!’ which went on for nearly a quarter of an hour and put an end to any chance of discussion.”

This is a manifestation of an deeper ill in American life, anti-intellectualism. The best-known descriptions of this are two works by Richard Hofstadter. The comment thread at Climate Etc shows both of these traits proudly displayed.

(1)  Anti-intellectualism in American Life (1963).  It includes the belief that everyman can understand technical matters as well as experts, without bothering with years of study. It’s as or more serious now than in 1963.

Twenty-first century philistines, suffering from a lack of imagination and curiosity, have seized upon understandable economic anxieties since the financial crash of 2008, to shepherd an increasingly large flock of American sheep into the livestock freight carrier Pulitzer prize winning historian, Richard Hofstadter, called “anti-intellectualism.” … The American mind is swimming in icy waters …

— “America’s New Wave of Anti-Intellectualism“, David Masciotra (journalist), The Daily Beast, 9 March 2014

(2) The Paranoid Style in American Politics“, Harpers Magazine, November 1964 — To the Right-wing climate scientists are not just wrong, but in an active conspiracy to deceive us — they “fake”, fiddle”, and “rig” the data. Excerpt:

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Delusions of the well-educated and intelligent on the Left and Right leave us nowhere to hide

Summary: We’ve mined the comments on the FM website for evidence of delusionality on the Left, as evidence of a deeper ill affecting America. We’ve not done so recently for comments from the Right. Today we have a volunteer, one especially well qualified to show the nature of our problem.

“I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.”
— attributed to William F. Buckley, Jr

Grand Delusions, iStockPhoto

Grand Delusions, iStockPhoto



  1. Introduction to delusions
  2. A Right-wing libertarian sees the world
  3. Other posts with contributions from M. Simon
  4. For More Information
  5. How Left & Right see themselves

(1)  Introduction to delusions

Scores of posts document the problem America has seeing reality. Both Left and Right are increasingly lost in delusions, each clearly seeing the others’ delusions. Worse, these are not the traditional “uneducated lower classes” gripped by superstition. These are well-educated people enmeshed by interlocking systems of exaggerated or outright false information.

In many posts I’ve posted comments that clearly show this problem: brief candid expressions by smart people. At the end are links to posts about comments from climate alarmists.

Today we look at comments from the Right displaying almost identical pathology, from M. Simon of the popular long-lived Classical Values website (“End the culture wars by restoring classical values”). See the posts at the end with material by M Simon. They show Simon to be both knowledgeable and brilliant. That’s what makes these comments so fascinating.

(2)  A Right-wing libertarian sees the world

Some of these are too good to believe. My favorites are marked in red. These are part of a series of 18 comments to these posts:

Wow!  (a)  “The reason management pays so well is that it is incredibly hard. If it wasn’t companies on the average would be paying less for it.”

There is a large body of research that shows that the massive increase in pay of senior managers (both profit and non-profits) since 1980 is unrelated to any measure of background or performance. Especially unrelated to performance. This is obvious to anyone who reads the newspapers without ideological blinders.

Ditto if one thinks about this. Have senior jobs become more difficult during the past few decades to justify a massive increase in compensation vs other workers in the organization?

Even better! (b)  “Women are socialists. … I have more to say on that here – with lots of links: Nature, Men, And Women.”

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Swear allegiance to the truth as a step to reforming America

Summary:  Today we look at a characteristic of the people of New America, one that pushes us away from the America-that-once-was: our increasingly tribal view of the world, each with its own lies and contempt for those who disagree (especially experts). It keeps us easy to rule, and makes impossible to find our own common destiny.

Divide et impera.
– Divide and rule, a maxim that served Rome as well as it serves the 1% today

The Truth key

  1. Making ourselves dumber
  2. Causes?
  3. Why do we do this?
  4. Reforming America
  5. For More Information

(1)  Making ourselves dumber

This comment from a well-informed reader to Are we following Japan into an era of slow growth, even stagnation?:

“Economic decline {since the crash} is obvious to any sane observer.”

Almost every US economic metric has improved since the recession ended in 2009 — four years ago. What level of propaganda can induce this level of false knowledge? Yet this fierce belief in false knowledge — about easily found information — has become ubiquitous on the Right.

And on the Left, mostly focused on climate change since they abandoned the IPCC. Every large weather event brings forth claims that this results from anthropogenic global warming. And often, claims that this is “worst ever” or “unprecedented”, and that such events are increasing in frequency and severity. Usually without historical support, or even contradicted by the IPCC (e.g., their report on Extreme Weather).

Further supporting our tribalism is our reaction to contrary evidence: rejection. The readership of the FM website is ideologically diverse, and so we see this allergy worked out in the comments section as people squeal with rage when their biases are pealed off like scabs and exposed to daylight. On Twitter people can flee, as unfollows surge following tweets of facts that disturb the sleep of ideologues on the Left or Right.

No wonder we have become polarized as a nation, when we cannot agree on simple facts. How can we find a common future, when we cannot begin discussions about values and trade-offs because each side considers the other — correctly — deluded about simple things.

(2)  Causes?

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Learning to see beyond the American Pravda

Summary:  Here we discuss a powerful article about a serious weakness of America — our broken observation-orientation-decision-action loop. Specifically, our ability to orient our present in term of our history, a broken mechanism because of our amnesia and gullibility. We need not be like this; we can change.

Unless we see & remember, news is the 21st C's opiate of the masses.

Unless we see & remember, news is the 21st C’s opiate of the masses.


Recommended reading: “Our American Pravda“, Ron Unz, The America Conservative, 29 April 2013 — “The major media overlooked Communist spies and Madoff’s fraud. What are they missing today?”

The author discusses one of the marvels of our age: how the world is nothing like we saw it a 70 years ago, or even a decade ago. The author discusses a some noteworthy examples of our gullibility and amnesia.

  • The serious penetration of communist sympathisers and agents in the US government (although exaggerated by conservatives like McCarthy, Nixon, and Unz).
  • The frequent failure of our corporate accounting and regulatory apparatus, as seen in the tech-boom busts (with Enron the last and largest examples) and the banking failures during the great recession.
  • The massive campaign of lies surrounding the anthrax attack (so vital in passing the Patriot Act) and our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • And other stories even more thoroughly ignored by the mainstream press, and so remaining unknown to the American people.

Unz’s great article just scratches the surface of the layered deceptions preventing Americans from clearly seeing the world as it is.

Our Presidents, a facade of lies hides the men

US Presidents are among the most closely scrutinized people on the planet. We must know their true nature since they take office only after a successful career and brutally long election.  But we don’t. In fact the media help develop characterizations for Presidents & VPs, which becomes “fact” for Americans through intensive indoctrination. Kennedy was a sportsman and family man. Ford was a clumsy. Dan Quayle was dumb. Reagan was a fool. It’s astonishing how consistently wrong these are. Backwards, even.

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Tell Me How This Ends: Restoring American Power in the 21st Century

Summary:  Guest author Mike Few looks at America’s broken observation-orientation-decision-action loop, and proposes a three-program for reform.


Tell Me How This Ends:
Restoring American Power in the 21st Century

By Mike Few

Many posts on the FM website speak extensively about America’s Decline and broken OODA Loops. If his assessments are accurate, then what must be done to fix our internal problems?

The answer may lie in the Observe Function of Boyd’s OODA loop, changing the way that we see ourselves and the world. But, changing the broken Observe Function is not easy. It requires brutal honesty and a willingness to change. Above all, it requires us to listen to some hard truths.

Today, we feel a need to “fix” the Syria and Iran problems. Last year, it was Yemen and Libya. Next year, it’ll probably be Mexico and China. Why do we feel the need to solve the world’s problems when they do not directly affect our national security? Why haven’t we had a period of introspection to determine why we lost the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

It starts with how we observe the world. Since 9/11, the American public has been afraid of the terrorist bogeymen, a distraction from actually facing the real problems of the 21st Century. These problems include but are not limited to water shortages, energy shortages, rise of the rest, decline of the American middle class, crisis of the nation-state, rise of the transnational companies, and the burgeoning of the megabank.

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How OODA loops break

Summary: Analysis of America on the FM website talk about broken Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action (OODA) Loops. But what does this description mean? What are the consequences? Here’s the second of a series by Chet Richards (Colonel, USAF, retired) explaining this important subject.

Once broken, they’re difficult to reassemble.


In the last post, I ruminated on what a broken OODA loop is. But what is it that breaks?

A working OODA loop needs things like (see the OODA loop sketch at the end of this post):

  • A repertoire of actions that can flow implicitly from orientation, that is, you need to be (physically) able to do them and do them intuitively as Boyd would say
  • Implicit guidance and control links that can initiate these actions, that is, you can act when you intend to act
  • Orientation that can trigger appropriate actions, that is, you have made the process of selecting actions intuitive (that does not mean mindless, by the way)
  • A functioning conceptual spiral, that is, the “continuing whirl” of reorientation, mismatches, analyses and synthesis that does a couple of things. First, it keeps our orientation process aligned with reality, the unfolding situation. Think of this as allowing us to deal with the novelty that is flowing “around and over us,” much of it generated by our opponents. Second, it allows us to generate novelty of our own. I go into interminable detail on this in “John Boyd, Conceptual Spiral, and the Meaning of Life.”

If any one of these is absent, if it “breaks,” then the OODA loop is broken.  Just from looking at the length of the descriptions on this list, you can probably guess where most problems arise: Orientation. To come to grips with this, you have to keep in mind that although we often talk about orientation as a picture, as our impression of reality at some point in time, it really refers to the process of keeping those pictures up to date and projecting them into the future so we can use them as decision models.

Or, as Boyd once told me, an orientation is simply a pattern of ideas and actions.

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