Saturday, June 23, 2007

Progressive Castles

Recent efforts by Progressivists to control talk radio and other unconstrained discussion of ideas were brought to the forefront by Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe's recollection of an anti-talk radio discussion between Senators Hillary Clinton and Barbara Boxer, as revealed in a discussion with KFI talk radio host John Ziegler this last week. Inhofe's revelation brought further awareness of the growing interest of Progressive party leaders with the return of the Fairness Doctrine and reminded many of the inability of the Left to sustain a viable, competing national talk-radio program.

Without question, the Left's talk-radio failures have been dramatic and have raised question over the source of their inability. Countless millions of investment dollars have been lost by Progressivist investors in seeking to replicate Conservative success in talk radio. Failures have been so dramatic that many have begun demanding governmental control of speech that would have been unthinkable to anti-establishment children of the 1960s.

Much of the confusion on the conservative-nature of talk radio stems from a misunderstanding of the media appetites of the Left and Right audience. Progressive conspiracies of rich station owners colluding with corporate advertisers in smoke-filled boardrooms aside, the real issue is that interactive talk radio is a format inconsistent with the method in which Progressivist orthodoxy is disseminated.

Progressives, through their various incarnations, are centralized, command-oriented thinkers. Based upon a long-established societal framework that is best illustrated through the example of liberal feudal lords and their protected peasantry, beliefs in their model are originated and established at the political manor and dictated to the serfs to accept. From centralized, government-administered economic models to their approach in handling nearly all policy matters such as the demand for central determination of appropriate radio speech, they seek to have the protection and unaccountability of having the lords at the castle make all decisions.

Subsequently, progressivist media is centralized. Besides a near monopoly of control in print and television, the Left disseminates its message through the radio medium using National Public Radio and British Broadcasting Company transmissions. Collaboration found in talk radio, being inconsistent with centralized though orthodoxy, is as useful to their peasantry as tampons for men.

Even in interpersonal dialog, true discussion and debate over ideas is foreign to the progressive peasant. Countless examples of screaming Leftists at speaking events which dare host a Conservative viewpoint, confiscation of newspapers of opposing thought, banishment of Fox News from debates, and even physical attacks on those who seek to discuss an opposing viewpoint are common. False claims of "consensus" in their issues (e.g. global warming) are keywords for demanding blind acceptance of the Castle's dictates.

Those who don't participate in the Left's feudal model should remember this isn't a new battle, nor does their model lack useful strategy and benefits. Indeed, feudal systems provide risk reduction utility for the peasantry and lords, at an exceptional cost of liberty, autonomy and peasantry wealth. From the perspective of societal risk management, the feudal model has numerous benefits, including:

  • Effective dissemination and assimilation of messages under conditions of constrained economic and educational resources. Peasants are not critical thinkers and do not require advanced education to accept a unifying message.

  • Reduced inefficiency caused by friction in opposing thought. Viewpoints are consolidated and distort the community's beliefs in a leptokurtic (fat-tailed) manner, so as long as the central tendency is the correct strategy, the community's successful outcome is more likely.

In other words, the Progressivist model is often a superior strategy when the Castle leadership is right, and a dramatic failure when it's wrong.

Opposing the Leftist assault on decentralized media isn't easy. It is important to remember that a good component of the population does not feel it possesses the ability to be accountable for their outcomes and would rather sell themselves into servitude to their lords in exchange for attaining a small portion of wealth confiscated from those who are more capable. If the central body of society's distribution is more comfortable with the Left's risk-reducing offer, decentralized free thinkers have little to offer.

Leftist peasantry is motivated by fear and our open distaste for their co-dependent behavior only reinforces their support for those who would empower their parasitism. Their lords prey upon fear and distrust (read George Soros's "The Alchemy of Finance" to understand how increased volatility, fear and instability are items Soros and his kin engineer in order to profit). In this climate, it's difficult for free persons to enhance trust and reduce the inclination for the peasantry to empower their lords.

Only efforts that provide tangible improvement in the financial and social bottom line of the masses counts. While the Bush tax cuts certainly had their impact, notable administration failures include the inability to promote the Fair Tax, the lack of party support for Social Security privatization and other important efforts that would have given the masses less reason to seek the protection of the Left's Castle.

Recommended Summer Reading: Check out Franz Kafka's outstanding novel, The Castle (available on Amazon for $7.50) for an exceptional insight into the motivations and frustrations associated with Progressive socio-economic systems.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Risk Avoiders

In a speech to Harvard professors and students yesterday as reported by the Harvard Crimson, former President Clinton expressed a view on national risks that further illustrated the highly risk-averse nature of many American progressives.

Explaining the preferred method for dealing with risk, Clinton said "“We’ve got to try to avert disasters—not just be prepared to bomb somebody if a disaster occurs.”

In many respects, the former president's statement not only reflects two terms of that witnessed excessive avoidance of growing international threats, but also illustrates an approach that is increasingly common in corporations respective to operational risk. The sirens call of risk prevention is an enticing one, leading many into false hopes of the avoidance of all things bad. Indeed, some argue that much of the foundation of current progressivist thought is one based upon this avoidance philosophy.

Unfortunately for these optimistic believers, when outlier risk events ultimately occur, the theory fails them and rational response measures are lacking. Instead, false causations are usually established and scapegoats found and punished. "If only we tried harder to prevent it and had more money to do so" is the conclusion presented in response to the inherent failure of the prevention strategy. Usually, such systems perpetuate a significant decline until the participants recognize the folly of a prevention-only rhetoric.

For those less familiar with the pedagogy of risk, the former president's perspective can be described as one that believes the significant risks are outside the system and subsequently can be prevented. In risk nomenclature, this is known as exogenous risk, or risk that is "external to the system." The opposite believe, that risk is inherent to the system, is known as endogenous risk.

In many operations environments, managers are likely to find a pronounced exogenous-believing, risk-avoiding culture. Assets are deployed for risk prevention. In my information security experience with community banks, this corresponded with purchases of network firewalls, host firewalls and the application of software patches as the overwhelming majority of the information security budget. Methods that detect risk were a small minority of the budget, usually limited to the periodic review of log files, while more expansive detection and response capabilities were simply nonexistent. Managers sought to believe that risk was outside the bank's information processing environment and could be protected by barring the virtual doors from threats. (in firewall culture, some refer to this as the "Great Wall" strategy where all defenses are focused on a single great barrier between the exogenous Internet environment and the company's internal network).

In the event such a threat either passed through the barrier, threats usually magnify quickly, finding homogeneous environments in which to spread. Companies often operate the same type and version of operating system (at the same patch level) on their servers, administrative usernames and passwords are often the same, and defense approaches on servers identical. Once the threat has defeated one system's prevention capabilities, it has defeated them all. Only detection and response remain, but as we've seen, these have been neglected in many environments.

Addressing this disparity requires the adoption of a philosophy in the business culture that risk is endogenous, e.g. "bad things can and will occur." Instead of fearing and seeking to ban all fires, a balance is made between cost-effective prevention and effective detection and response capabilities. In the information security practice, this balance is well supported by best practices communicated by numerous professional and regulatory bodies (e.g. the ISACA and the ISC2). In fact, a risk management approach I've found successful in smaller operational environments has been one that closely evaluates risk prevention systems in order to locate aversion-bias and the occasional behaviors that cause leptokurtic skew of the organization's risk environment. Overconfidence in prevention appears to be highly associated with operational risk leptokurtosis.

Additional options may emerge, including one under evaluation in my research that focuses on the application of settlement processes (e.g. marked-to-market) to operational risk that support real-time risk recognition, similar to the daily settlement of futures positions found in futures markets. In such systems, the consequence of a risky position is felt quickly and usually with a moderate impact, providing the organization with immediate feedback. I'll be commenting more as this model evolves.

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