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McCain and the OODA loop
September 11, 2008 6:46 AM   Subscribe

John McCain was trained as a fighter pilot. Fighter pilot training is greatly influenced by John Boyd, who developed the OODA loop theory, which some say General Petraeus has adapted to the ground in Iraq, the real reason "the surge" appears successful. The OODA loop has been applied to business, computer security and now it appears that McCain is applying it to politics with some success.

Obama has spent 19 months talking about change, and McCain and Palin have been talking about it for 2 weeks; Can Obama get back inside McCain's already tight OODA loop? It appears he's trying. By referring to McCain's recent attacks as "Dishonorable" the Obama campaign hopes to counter-act McCain's honorable military service.
posted by jrishel (97 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
In my opinion, John McCain is deeply inside of the Obama campaign's OODA Loop. He has them very disorientated to the point that they are not sure what they are doing. There minds have turned to mush and they are not capable of thinking straight at this point. This was a brilliant case of mis-direction on the part of John McCain.

This campaign is quickly turning into a contest between the "Fighter Pilot" and the "Rock Star" I am not advocating for the election of John McCain, in fact I may not even vote for him. But from what I have seen so far and now that I have a basic understanding of the OODA Loop, I have a lot more respect for John McCain than I did just a week ago.


Let us assume for a second that this analysis is correct. I'm not granting that it is, but I'd like to focus on this word "respect" for a second.

If the analysis is correct, it would mean that McCain's VP pick was not on the basis of any merit. In fact, it was specifically someone with very little merit, to best surprise the Obama campaign. McCain, at 72 and with a history of cancer, knows full well that he could drop dead at any minute, leaving this meritless nobody in charge of the country. McCain is willing to risk having a completely clueless Commander-in-Chief in the midst of 2 wars in order to have a shot at the Presidency.

We now return you to your "respect" already in progress.
posted by DU at 6:55 AM on September 11, 2008 [27 favorites]


John McCain was trained as a fighter pilot. A balanced view from Gawker...
posted by sequential at 7:00 AM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


That would be Gawker...
posted by sequential at 7:02 AM on September 11, 2008




If the analysis is correct, it would mean that McCain's VP pick was not on the basis of any merit. In fact, it was specifically someone with very little merit, to best surprise the Obama campaign.


Is there anyone that has been paying attention or who has a brain in their head that thinks otherwise? The entire point of Palin is obfuscation and bait and switch - give the media and the talk radio something to argue about for two months OTHER than McCain and his record/policies/fitness for office/connection to Bush, etc. I thought it was clear as day from the get go, no?
posted by spicynuts at 7:03 AM on September 11, 2008


Wait, so Palin isn't our last, best hope for the Galaxy?
posted by blue_beetle at 7:06 AM on September 11, 2008


McCain graduated 894th out of 899 in his Naval Academy, and his military career consisted of crashing and wrecking five aircraft, four of which were in non-combat situations.

It seems that McCain had problems even keeping airborne, let alone knowing much about OODA theory.
posted by dydecker at 7:06 AM on September 11, 2008 [8 favorites]


I can kind hear Obama's voice say it now.

"John McCain... is old. Really old. John McCain... has suffered through four bouts of cancer. John McCain... wants to continue our wars in the Middle East and against terror wherever it may hide. As his running-mate, John McCain... has brought us Sarah Palin, a woman whose leadership skills encompass nothing more than managing a mini-van full of rowdy children. Think about that for a moment. Now, sometime during the next four to eight years, John McCain... could, heaven forbid, die and then... John McCain... would leave us all trapped in the backseat of an America-sized SUV speeding the wrong way down Interstate World War III surrounded by a million tanker trucks full of oil set to explode at any second. So, America, I'm telling you -- vote for me -- I'm not criminally irresponsible!"
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:08 AM on September 11, 2008 [8 favorites]


Is there anyone that has been paying attention or who has a brain in their head that thinks otherwise?

No, and now it would seem that even Republicans agree. My point was to debunk the notion that a good tactical move means that McCain would be a good President or even deserves respect as human being.
posted by DU at 7:13 AM on September 11, 2008


It's rare that the skills needed to win a tough election are the same skills needed to govern well.
posted by jrishel at 7:15 AM on September 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


Observe: Sarah Palin has a nice ass. Orient: Her ass is on the bottom of her backside. Decide: I want that ass on my ticket. Act: Stand back and ogle.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:20 AM on September 11, 2008 [6 favorites]


Well, I suppose abandoning every principle you once held dear is a unique strategy...
posted by Benjy at 7:29 AM on September 11, 2008


Seanmpuckett,
If Obama were to say anything like that - talking bluntly about McCain's looming mortality and insulting SUV-driving soccer/hockey moms, he would be utterly destroyed. No matter how correct we all might feel is would be in saying it.
posted by cimbrog at 7:29 AM on September 11, 2008


...feel he is, rather.

And now that I really think about it, it is fun to imagine his voice uttering those words...
posted by cimbrog at 7:31 AM on September 11, 2008


So a member of the Republican guard has expanded the AOP to include Metafilter and he is Oscar Mike with new ROE that deviates from our SOP. I expect Danger Close fire once the sitrep is given to actual and immenint casevac of the FNG.
posted by srboisvert at 7:33 AM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


some say General Petraeus has adapted to the ground in Iraq, the real reason "the surge" appears successful.
Somehow, I was under the impression that the "Anbar Awakening" in August of 2006 and the subsequent payment of the "Sons of Iraq" were directly responsible for the reduction of violence in Iraq. The Surge started in February of 2007.

I suppose the ongoing tension between the Iraqi government and the Sons of a Iraq, which is rapidly coming to a boil, will clear up any questions about causation. Perhaps that's cynical, but Woodward's The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008 convinced me that neither President Bush or General Petraeus had any real reason to believe The Surge would improve the situation on the ground. On the other hand, I can see how paying insurgents a reasonable wage to not fight you leads to a reduction in violence.

I don't know that I believe The Surge is a political calculation, but it's evident from people like Secretary of State Rice to ADM William J. Fallon that there was strong opposition to The Surge as a potentially successful military tactic.
posted by sequential at 7:33 AM on September 11, 2008


I don't think seanmpuckett was serious. "Vote for me, I'm not criminally irresponsible" isn't something anybody would say.

The suv hockey mom thing, the pig thing - as has been pointed out, this is all nonsense and a distraction. False controversies and trumped up controversial issues for the media to play with. And we suffer as a result. Don't fall for the okey doke.

By referring to McCain's recent attacks as "Dishonorable" the Obama campaign hopes to counter-act McCain's honorable military service American people hope to get him to cut that shit out.
posted by cashman at 7:35 AM on September 11, 2008


I don't mean any disrespect to anybody, but isn't this 'OODA' loop pretty standard practice for human beings reacting to just about anything? I mean, I guess it's nice to put a nifty little acronym on it, but it's not like it's some novel thing he's doing - it's what we all do.
posted by kingbenny at 7:47 AM on September 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


You know, being faster than your opponent may not matter much if he holds a stronger position. This is perhaps something that sets air combat apart from ground combat: there are no fortified positions, so movement is the greatest strength. Conversely, an army can hold a strong point and be safe there, even if their opponent circles endlessly.

To extend the metaphor, as we're doing, being able to politically outmaneuver your opponent may not matter if his positions are strong. If Obama holds his ground and sticks to his guns, refusing to be pulled off into side issues like "lipstick on a pig", the quick turnarounds of the McCain/Rove campaign may not help at all.
posted by echo target at 7:47 AM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


No, and now it would seem that even Republicans agree. My point was to debunk the notion that a good tactical move means that McCain would be a good President or even deserves respect as human being.

Yes I was with you..I was thinking maybe you had some insight that I didn't and there were actually people out there who thought otherwise.
posted by spicynuts at 7:48 AM on September 11, 2008


@srboisvert, just to be clear, I am an Obama supporter, but I found the OODA discussion when compared to McCain's recent strategy very interesting.
it's my first FPP, please be gentle

@kingbenny, I think the interesting thing about OODA is that while we all do it, but understanding that when you get to the Act part before your opponent, your opponent is forced to re-orient, preventing them from acting. Making action, any action, better in the short term than standing still. Now, how this strategy works for months of campaigning versus minutes in a dogfight remains to be seen.

@echo target, does political combat actually have a solid ground with high points? I think Karl Rove-type politics would show that your high ground doesn't mean much in a world where "truthiness" doesn't seem like such a joke anymore.
posted by jrishel at 8:04 AM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks for info about the OODA concept jrishel. Literally minutes before reading your interesting post I was wondering about the McCain game plan. Presumably it is not just of his own choosing but that of the strategists around him. But then, OODA, Observe Orient Decide Act, seems grossly simplistic.

Where in this outline is Boyd's idea "acting quickly to outthink and outmaneuver rivals -- will, Boyd wrote, "make us appear ambiguous, [and] thereby generate confusion and disorder."? Appearing ambiguous, generating confusion and disorder, then taking advantage of that seems to be the agenda.

Got to read more about this. Fascinating.
posted by nickyskye at 8:08 AM on September 11, 2008


Yeah, I guess the political field is less like solid ground with sure high points than a floating raft on the high seas, where the surface pitches and rolls and shifts and the high points change. Political combat is probably more like a cross between land and aerial combat. If you stick to one place forever, you're likely to be undermined, but a series of clever-in-the-short-term moves can put you in a bad position in the long run.

McCain's VP selection gains him an advantage now, but at the very least it's a gamble that may or may not pay off in the long run. I think she'll prove to have been a misstep. It was clever choice, but not a wise one.
posted by echo target at 8:20 AM on September 11, 2008


It seems to all be about getting and keeping the initiative. Maybe McCain with the Palin nomination is trying something special.

Maybe the Obama campaign should duct tape themselves to a chair instead of blindly reacting.

New round coming up?
posted by mfoight at 8:31 AM on September 11, 2008


echo target: This is perhaps something that sets air combat apart from ground combat: there are no fortified positions, so movement is the greatest strength.

Not really. What the Germans taught everyone in 1939 is that movement and tempo are the key elements in ground warfare. It's like the offensive and defensive lines in football; once you get the other guy moving, you can do whatever you want with him because you've unbalanced him and he is stuck reacting to you.

This is why the Republicans don't get hung up on what's true or untrue. Pressing the attack and dictating the tempo is what they're trying to do, not educate the electorate. Bogging the Democrats down with fact-checking and setting the record straight is exactly what they hope to accomplish.
posted by Nahum Tate at 8:34 AM on September 11, 2008 [5 favorites]


That American Thinker piece is weak:

Again, she's been to Iraq as often as Obama has
. He's been there twice and she is has neither visited nor articulated a position or strategy on Iraq other than the need for "victory".

She got into office attacking corruption among Republicans in Alaska and turned down the famous "bridge to nowhere". But she then shows very poor ethical judgment in office and actually ran her campaign on building that bridge.

So if you're just going to make up your data, it will easily fit any pet theory.
posted by peeedro at 8:35 AM on September 11, 2008


some say General Petraeus has adapted to the ground in Iraq, the real reason "the surge" appears successful.

The "surge" only appeared successful, because the Sunnis had been ethnically cleansed from the Shia neighborhoods and the Shias had been cleansed from the Sunni neighborhoods. The reduction in violence is simply the aftermath of a successful Bosnian-style ethnic cleansing.
posted by jonp72 at 8:37 AM on September 11, 2008


By the way, I think the idea that McCain is using an OODA-style strategy is a good insight, but only if you view the McCain/Obama campaign as a discreet series of news media "cycles." McCain is winning the nightly news cycle by sowing confusion, but Barack Obama outdoes McCain in terms of having campaign field offices, registering new supporters, and growing a broad donor base. McCain could win with his media-centric campaign, but his campaign isn't as good on the "retail" politics level, where Obama is stronger. (Remember how Obama out-organized Hillary Clinton on Super Tuesday?) McCain could win it, but then again, he could be the equivalent of the general who makes a lot of explosions and wins a few big battles, but loses the guerilla war on the ground.
posted by jonp72 at 8:43 AM on September 11, 2008


McCain could win it, but then again, he could be the equivalent of the general who makes a lot of explosions and wins a few big battles, but loses the guerilla war on the ground.

That's incredibly fitting given that if McCain does win, we'll very likely be facing another such adventure in Iran inside his first 18 months in office.

Also, Sarah Palin hates bears and wolves. God, I love the internets
posted by psmealey at 8:51 AM on September 11, 2008


Sarah Palin, a woman whose leadership skills encompass nothing more than managing a mini-van full of rowdy children.

so how is she unqualified to lead america?
posted by klanawa at 8:57 AM on September 11, 2008


What the Germans taught everyone in 1939...

Best. Godwin. EVAR.
posted by DU at 9:02 AM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, Sarah Palin hates bears and wolves

Especially wolves.

Her deadly wolf program: With a disdain for science that alarms wildlife experts, Sarah Palin continues to promote Alaska's policy to gun down wolves from planes.
posted by homunculus at 9:10 AM on September 11, 2008


Andrew Sullivan: McCain's Integrity
posted by homunculus at 9:12 AM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd just be happy if they could for once use that word that seems so difficult for politicians to use: the lie. McCain's lying. Unapologetically. Repeatedly. But nobody wants to say it. Instead, he's "misdirecting" or "telling untruths" or "spreading falsehoods" or "dishonorable."

Fuck that shit. He's lying. Make Obama's new negative campaign slogan "John McCain: LIAR." Put it everywhere.
posted by fungible at 9:13 AM on September 11, 2008 [7 favorites]


McCain graduated 894th out of 899 in his Naval Academy, and his military career consisted of crashing and wrecking five aircraft, four of which were in non-combat situations.

he also cracked under the Vietnamese high pressure interrogation techniques (it was not torture, according to former AG Gonzales own definition of torture), declared himself a war criminal -- thus committing treason. also, all that time spent in a cage (surrounded by "homosexuals", in McCain's own words) made him crazy -- his famous temper is not really temper, it's mental instability.

I learned all this from the 2000 Republican primaries, when the Bush campaign successfully did to McCain's campaign what the Vietnamese did to McCain's plane (and, possibly, his ass).

one wish Obama's campaign people were half as tough as Bush's, the election would be already over. maybe Obama does believe in coming in second, after all.

the real reason "the surge" appears successful.

easily disprovable bullshit. they began to pay off people not to attack them, simple as that. they're buying protection, which makes sense if you only need to beat the clock until November. the heart of the matter is political stability, and that has not been achieved.

but it's all moot at this point, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac get bailed out on the taxpayers dime and all America talks about is pigs, lipstick, sows, and female rottweilers.
posted by matteo at 9:22 AM on September 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Boyd was a genius. He applied his understanding of perspective and maneuver not only in the air, but in front of Congress and in epistemology. His "Destruction and Creation," with a core goal "to improve our capacity for independent action," has a foundation of Godel and entropy and concludes with a strong argument on "dialectic mental operations." The only hole I've found in it may be an overlap of Heisenberg Uncertainty and the Observer Effect. I would love to see what other Mefites think of it.

As a note, it was Dick Cheney who spent extended time with Boyd in the lead-up to Gulf War I. McCain's incompetence is what scares me. That is not the case with Cheney. I sometimes wonder about Cheney, if some of what moved him from idealism to cutthroat Halliburtonism were his talks with Boyd, who was vehemently opposed to the good-ol'-boy weapons trade mentality of the Pentagon. Boyd kept trying to reform the military. Cheney actually took their money.
posted by dragonsi55 at 9:24 AM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is there anyone that has been paying attention or who has a brain in their head that thinks otherwise? The entire point of Palin is obfuscation and bait and switch - give the media and the talk radio something to argue about for two months OTHER than McCain and his record/policies/fitness for office/connection to Bush, etc. I thought it was clear as day from the get go, no?

Honestly, until a few days ago I figured the Republicans were going to let this election slide and then when things don't get immediately better point to how it's all democrat's fault. Figured McCain chose her just to get some action on the side during the campaign trail. After all this is a man who divorced his cancer ridden first wife to marry a hot younger rich woman.
posted by kigpig at 9:24 AM on September 11, 2008


All this talk about OODA loops is not accidental, it's a key element of the McCain campaign. From Obama Counter-Programs The RNC, And Hurricanes Sarah And Gustav by William Bradley:
I introduced Schmidt, in 2006, to the Boyd Cycle. To the consternation of Schmidt's juniors in the Arnold Schwarzenegger re-election campaign, as Schmidt absorbed the very lengthy paper by retired Air Force Colonel John Boyd entitled "Patterns of Conflict" and made its principles a matter of required understanding in the Schwarzenegger campaign.
posted by scalefree at 9:50 AM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is why the Republicans don't get hung up on what's true or untrue. Pressing the attack and dictating the tempo is what they're trying to do, not educate the electorate. Bogging the Democrats down with fact-checking and setting the record straight is exactly what they hope to accomplish.

exhibit A:
GWEN IFILL: For more on the candidates' education plans, we turn now to two senior campaign officials. McCain adviser Lisa Graham Keegan is the former chief of Arizona's public school system. And Obama adviser Melody Barnes is the former executive vice president for policy at the Center For American Progress.

Welcome to you both.

First, Melody Barnes, I want you to respond to the ad we just saw which accused Barack Obama of supporting sex education for preschoolers.

MELODY BARNES, Obama Campaign Adviser: It's offensive and preposterous. That we would take such a serious matter of training our young children to defend themselves against sexual predators, which is actually the subject matter of the legislation at hand, and turn that into an ad about Barack Obama trying to teach 5-year-olds about sex before they can read, is absolutely preposterous.

I would think that every parent, every policy-maker in this country would support what Senator Obama actually was supporting, and we shouldn't turn something so serious into a political football.

GWEN IFILL: Lisa Graham Keegan, I want you also to respond to the ad that we saw that the Obama people -- the charges they made against John McCain, that he wanted to, among other things, abolish the Department of Education and if you want to respond to what Melody Barnes said as well.

LISA GRAHAM KEEGAN, McCain Campaign Adviser: Well, first of all, I think it's really important, what Melody says is not the case, and I would really encourage your viewers to take a look at that law. You can seen it online -- I am quite sure by now. That's where I found it.

Read it. It is not about sexual predators. It is about sexual education for 5-year-olds. It is quite comprehensive. I would have opposed it mightily as a legislator and then as a state school chief and as a parent. So, I just encourage the public to take a look at it.

And on the issue of the Department of Education, I had the privilege of being John McCain's surrogate at our platform committee, where one of my jobs was to argue mightily in favor of the important role of the U.S. Department of Education, because our party does have a few people who are dubious.

But Sen. McCain won the day with his position that, at this time in our nation, it is critical that the federal government and the states get together. And we are serious about this issue, because we have fallen so far behind. That's just an outright lie.
exhibit B (via^2):
What happened: A new 30-second TV ad attacks Barack Obama's record on education, saying that Obama backed legislation to teach "'comprehensive sex education' to kindergartners." The announcer then says, "Learning about sex before learning to read? Barack Obama. Wrong on education. Wrong for your family."

Why that's wrong: This is a deliberately misleading accusation. It came hours after the Obama campaign released a TV ad critical of McCain's votes on public education. As a state senator in Illinois, Obama did vote for but was not a sponsor of legislation dealing with sex ed for grades K-12.

But the legislation allowed local school boards to teach "age-appropriate" sex education, not comprehensive lessons to kindergartners, and it gave schools the ability to warn young children about inappropriate touching and sexual predators.
what was that about not making the election about small things again?
posted by kliuless at 9:52 AM on September 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


I sometimes wonder about Cheney, if some of what moved him from idealism to cutthroat Halliburtonism were his talks with Boyd, who was vehemently opposed to the good-ol'-boy weapons trade mentality of the Pentagon. Boyd kept trying to reform the military. Cheney actually took their money.

So this Boyd guy was kind of like the Yoda to Dick Cheney's Darth Vader?
posted by saulgoodman at 10:04 AM on September 11, 2008


does that mean underneath Dick Cheney's crusty old white man mask there is a slick black cyborg Sith Lord? this idea does not seem impossible to me.
posted by jrishel at 10:19 AM on September 11, 2008


saulgoodman:

Not Yoda...
posted by dragonsi55 at 10:26 AM on September 11, 2008


at the time mccain was trained. the navy was still using pods of whales and dolphins for target practice. this, together with his running mate's predeliction for shooting up alaska's animal population, should at least get him an nra endorsement.
posted by kitchenrat at 10:35 AM on September 11, 2008


jrishel:

Thanks for the post, first.

Reversing direction to look at Obama and whether he's being outmaneuvered, I'd say that while I'm not convinced he's the Savior, he has impressed me as a politician.

The lipstick hullaballo points this out. This is a skirmish, for one thing. He is not loading up the heavy guns yet.

The words he is using also indicate a 21st century understanding, in which "The Daily Show" is considered a trusted news source. A good part of this is that they use video evidence to contradict the statements politicians make. Hillary got tripped up by this when she claimed to have fallen under sniper fire, and video showed this was not true.

"Lipstick on a pig" is apparently verifiably attributed to McCain during Hillary's run.

"They must think you're stupid!" The word 'stupid' recalls this quote attributed to McCain: "People who make under $80,000 are too stupid to understand taxes anyway."

Obama took over Saul Alinsky's post as a community organizer. Alinsky was brilliant in outmaneuvering and suprising the opposition. He was, I think, responsible for filling all the toilet stalls at O'Hare Airport to draw attention to a cause, which made national news.

The big question may be whether all this very entertaining tactical maneuvering will make the field fertile for discussion of grand strategy or just burn it up.
posted by dragonsi55 at 11:00 AM on September 11, 2008


The Wars of John McCain: John McCain believes the Vietnam War was winnable. Now he argues that an Obama administration would accept defeat in Iraq, with grave costs to American honor and national security. Is McCain’s quest for victory a reflection of an antiquated pre-Vietnam mind-set? Or of a commitment to principles we abandon at our peril? Is there any war McCain thinks can’t be won?
posted by homunculus at 11:27 AM on September 11, 2008


So this Boyd guy was kind of like the Yoda to Dick Cheney's Darth Vader?

More like Kenobi to Anakin. You know, the well-meaning guy that failed to keep the super-talented student from turning to the Dark Side.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:30 AM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


More to the point... if McCain has a sure-fire strategy to "win" the war in Iraq, why doesn't he lay it on us, regardless of when, regardless of whether he's President of the United States or the senior Senator from Arizona?

Or, does he not love his country enough to do that?
posted by psmealey at 11:39 AM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


But then, OODA, Observe Orient Decide Act, seems grossly simplistic. Where in this outline is Boyd's idea "acting quickly to outthink and outmaneuver rivals -- will, Boyd wrote, "make us appear ambiguous, [and] thereby generate confusion and disorder."?

It's not in the OODA loop itself, but in the interaction between two (or more) OODA loops. The idea is to Act while your opponent is still in one of the earlier stages -- this forces him to react to what you've done, which requires him to return to the Observe step, which gives you yet another chance to Act before he does, etc. The revolutionary part of the OODA concept is the idea that quick thinking and quick action actually compound, much like interest. Unable to keep up with the pace of his opponent's actions, the loser falls behind in the loop. He either gets stuck in inaction, endlessly going "OO-OO-OO...", or he ends up acting without proper orientation. The latter usually means reacting to something the winner did seconds or minutes ago, leaving himself totally open to whatever the winner is doing now.

The ambiguity only exists in the loser's perception of the winner's actions -- because he is thinking a few steps behind, the winner's actions don't necessarily apply to the situation as he sees it, and may seem mysterious and random to him. At that point, unless the loser gets back inside his opponent's OODA loop, confusion, disorder, and defeat are inevitable.

In short: "dude, where are you?" "I'm in your base killing your d00dz".
posted by vorfeed at 11:39 AM on September 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


dragonsi55: I think Obama will be okay, in "The Audacity of Hope" he tells this story, which I'm paraphrasing:
When running for the Illinois Senate, his opponent hired a staffer to following him around and videotape everything he did. After about a week after asking this staffer to give him some space so he could have a phone conversation without it being recorded, to which the staffer replied only that he could call the campaign headquarters if he had a complaint. Barack then walked into the Senate reporters room and said "Hey guys, I'd like you to meet Justin. He's been paid by the Ryan campaign to follow me and videotape everything I do" The reporters started to interview Justin who only would repeat his name and employer's phone number like a prisoner of war.

The resulting media storm wrecked the Ryan campaign, and Obama won.
I think that kind of political jujitsu is just what he'll employ this time around, but it seems like it will get a lot worse before it get's better.
posted by jrishel at 11:41 AM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


The idea of continuously adjusting an action loop sounds like a fantastic way to run a campaign, and a DISASTEROUS way to actually govern. Once again I'm not surprised that our election system is encouraging these kinds of techniques in order to further such a short term strategy. I've said this before and I'll say it again: If we look at our electoral process as our means of breeding leaders, we are selecting for some truly awful traits.

I do think this is key to understanding McCain though, because he is a sterotypical attack pilot. He's only interested in smashing his objective and returning to base for the next one. He's tactical by nature.

...And is it just me, or is anyone else creeped out by referring to campaign flacks as "surrogates"? Every time I hear that I think of the pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
posted by butterstick at 11:45 AM on September 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


The ambiguity only exists in the loser's perception of the winner's actions -- because he is thinking a few steps behind, the winner's actions don't necessarily apply to the situation as he sees it, and may seem mysterious and random to him.

Indeed. There's a moment in the book Generation Kill where the Marines wonder why they're not being attacked in an ambush, when, with their night-vision goggles, they can clearly see the attackers watching them. The enemy turns out to be a group of dipshit Syrian "jihadists" with zero experience and training, and the Marines surmise that they simply don't know the Marines have night-vision capability at all, and think they're still safe. Even when you're looking right at the guys you want to ambush, they can be in your base killing your d00dz.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:46 AM on September 11, 2008


Let me be clear: I am not suggesting that John McCain is opposed to teaching children about appropriate and inappropriate touching just because he is himself a sexual predator. I am sure he has other reasons for making children more vulnerable.
posted by EarBucket at 12:14 PM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


The idea of continuously adjusting an action loop sounds like a fantastic way to run a campaign, and a DISASTEROUS way to actually govern.

Well, there's an obvious problem with the fact that governance in many areas isn't best understood by an adversarial model in the first place.

But that aside, this is a good way to execute. It is about tactical effectiveness and victory. Employed with overarching wisdom in the service of a good strategy, it'd probably be a good way to govern. Without those things, you can probably win a number of battles but lose the war, and that's more or less what I expect from a McCain presidency if he's elected.

I do think this is key to understanding McCain though, because he is a sterotypical attack pilot.

Is there evidence he's got this stereotypical personality or that he's a student of Boyd's work beyond the fact that he was a pilot for a while? It's not that I think it's impossible, it's just that I had the understanding Boyd's influence came a bit later and his stuff seems a little more sophisticated than I'd give McCain credit for.

The argument seems to go "Boyd's tactical analysis is winning. McCain has recently done winning things. Therefore, McCain is following Boyd's patterns." I'm not really sure I see much beyond some rather typical Republican politics. But if there's a stronger argument, I'd be interested to see it.
posted by weston at 12:16 PM on September 11, 2008


I think that kind of political jujitsu is just what he'll employ this time around,

This doesn't make you wrong by any means, but I remember people making the same kind of claim about Kerry in 2004 around the same time in the election cycle and it scares the shit out of me.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:25 PM on September 11, 2008


weston, I think the argument is more, from the outside, it appears that McCain's recent tactics and choices seem ambiguous, mysterious and random. Assuming he's not completely insane, we have to assume this is some larger strategy, hence OODA. Perhaps we're making the mistake of assuming.


Lentrohamsanin, yeah, I know. But I don't remember seeing any examples of Kerry doing any such maneuvering in his past, so I have hope.
posted by jrishel at 12:29 PM on September 11, 2008


McCain has this election locked up and in the bag, I think. Which is sorely, sorely depressing.
posted by kaseijin at 12:36 PM on September 11, 2008


I was just watching the McCain video where he is checking out Palin's ass that I linked to above and this time I realized, while he is watching her ass he is playing with his wedding ring - and seems to completely pull it off his finger. (32 seconds in, 42 seconds and then at 50 seconds)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:51 PM on September 11, 2008


Weston, you lost me. I was all set to agree with your opening premise, because the goal of government should be progress thru compromise, which is antithetical to the adversarial model. I don't see iterating over the issues of the day as a good way to plan for long term governance, but it might work great with <6>It is about tactical effectiveness and victory. Employed with overarching wisdom in the service of a good strategy, it'd probably be a good way to govern. Without those things, you can probably win a number of battles but lose the war, and that's more or less what I expect from a McCain presidency if he's elected.I think ANYTHING employed with overarching wisdom in the service of a good strategy would be fairly impervious to tactical blunders regardless of the tactics used. Good plans plan for failure. I think there are other aspects of his personality regardless of Boyd's work that indicate McCain is a fairly short term thinker, not interested in long term policy effects. Without getting too deep into it, I think the Palin pick illustrates this nicely.

posted by butterstick at 1:05 PM on September 11, 2008


So the above comment was supposed to say <60 days left in the election, but the html escaping seems to have failed.
posted by butterstick at 1:09 PM on September 11, 2008


Is there evidence he's got this stereotypical personality or that he's a student of Boyd's work beyond the fact that he was a pilot for a while? It's not that I think it's impossible, it's just that I had the understanding Boyd's influence came a bit later and his stuff seems a little more sophisticated than I'd give McCain credit for.

It's not John McCain that's a disciple of Boyd, it's his chief campaign adviser Steve Schmidt who has been since he used OODA to help Arnold win in 2006. Go read the link I pointed out above where the guy who taught it to him says so. Oddly enough it was McCain (& many others) being shot down over Vietnam that gave Boyd the impetus to develop his OODA theory.
posted by scalefree at 1:13 PM on September 11, 2008


Just to tie up a loose end, McCain was shot down in 1967. Boyd didn't develop OODA until 1972 or so & probably didn't get to start teaching it to pilots for several years after that.
posted by scalefree at 1:18 PM on September 11, 2008


McCain has this election locked up and in the bag, I think. Which is sorely, sorely depressing.

What the hell bizarro world are you living in? For the first time in my life, I'm seeing blue collar folks like my relatives who live in forgotten little Florida towns like White City (a town, according to local legend, literally founded by the KKK with the intention of being a white's only community) with Obama bumper stickers on their pick-up trucks! I see more Obama stickers on the big trucks rolling around in northeast Florida than McCain stickers by a margin of about 3 to 1. At the recent funeral for my Uncle Corky in East Point, (which is as working class and traditionally conservative a place as you'll find anywhere in America), I literally saw only Obama bumper stickers on all the big ass trucks parked in the church parking lot. I've never in my life seen as much support for a Democratic candidate among people traditionally thought to be the Republican demographic in my area as I see now for Obama. This statement is just plain wrong.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:30 PM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


weston, I think the argument is more, from the outside, it appears that McCain's recent tactics and choices seem ambiguous, mysterious and random.

IMHO, there is nothing mysterious or random about choosing Palin, nor about the timing involved: the Dems dropped the sex card by not choosing Clinton as Obama's running mate, and McCain was quick enough to grab it up before it hit the ground. The way he went about it was definitely OODA-ish, though -- McCain acted during the Democratic Convention, precisely when the Obama campaign did not expect him to, and their delayed reaction to something he wasn't actually doing allowed him to "steal the momentum" that the Democrats lost when they picked Biden. Now, despite an excellent speech and a clear "win" in terms of the impact of the two Conventions, the Democrats are playing catch-up on the VP issue in the media.

I think there are other aspects of his personality regardless of Boyd's work that indicate McCain is a fairly short term thinker, not interested in long term policy effects. Without getting too deep into it, I think the Palin pick illustrates this nicely.

The election is short-term! Besides that, the potential long-term negative effects of having Palin as VP ("being in the White House with an inexperienced VP" and/or "dying in the White House and ending up with an inexperienced-but-Republican President") are certainly not as negative, for McCain and his party & platform, as the alternative ("picking an experienced-but-boring VP in a conventional way, losing the election, and not even getting to the White House"). In terms of what's good for the country over the long run, McCain undoubtedly believes that his party and platform are best for America, so I don't see where the choice of Palin is short-sighted on his part. McCain had to either redirect some of Obama's momentum and popularity or go home; Palin has turned out to be a good way to do the former.

OODA isn't about long-term decisions; it's about how you make and execute your short-term decisions, especially snap decisions, in service to your long-term plan. Assuming that McCain's long-term plan involves being the motherfucking president of the USA, his short-term VP choice seems pretty good so far... and if there's one thing you can take home from OODA, it's the idea that you can't win over the long-term if you can't win in the short-term, no matter how great your long-term game may be.
posted by vorfeed at 1:37 PM on September 11, 2008


McCain has this election locked up and in the bag, I think. Which is sorely, sorely depressing.

I'm with saulgoodman, you need to stop watching network television. McCain is getting a boost from a confluence of events, but all of the major indicators are still leaning Obama, in places by a significant amount. Now, it's by no means a sure thing, but I do think Obama has responded much more confidently and stridently to media and Republican bs than either Gore or Kerry ever knew how. That he can pull the lipstick on a pig thing was a master-stroke, almost Clinton-esque. He intentionally made a very nasty comment, designed to belittle the Sarah Palin pitbull schtick, tie back McCain's own sexist remarks re: HRC, and got points for staying above the fray (I'm starting to see why he infuriated the Clintons... he plays this game better than they do). Hell, he even got ORLY to defend him.

Beyond it all, McCain has nothing. He's betrayed his much vaunted principles, he's tired, boring and clueless about pretty much everything people are dealing with at the moment, and the Veep choice who as gotten so much press is an empty shill of a politician. Even then, the VP candidate never matters in these things anyway.

All of this hullaballoo about the Religious Right getting behind McCain and ridiculous Swift-boat-like lies used to hit Obama strike me more as the last gasp of a very old way of doing business than it reminds me of past contests for president.
posted by psmealey at 1:56 PM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


.. and if there's one thing you can take home from OODA, it's the idea that you can't win over the long-term if you can't win in the short-term, no matter how great your long-term game may be.

Astounding cynicism of the rest of your comment aside (I read that as a giant middle finger waving to the rest of the country that isn't in the GOP)... the goal of the Presidency is to govern. Despite short-term victory being necessary for long-term victory, it does not assure it.

Turns out, this isn't a game.
posted by butterstick at 2:06 PM on September 11, 2008


Assuming that McCain's long-term plan involves being the motherfucking president of the USA, his short-term VP choice seems pretty good so far... and if there's one thing you can take home from OODA, it's the idea that you can't win over the long-term if you can't win in the short-term, no matter how great your long-term game may be.

vorfeed: but mccain's long-term plan apparently doesn't include provisions for actually winning at the game of being a good president--just doing the minimum to win the presidency is a short-term aim.

if his long-term aim were to build a solid administration, he'd surround himself with competent people who can make his administration more effective. instead he's pulling cheap stunts to divert people's attention from the glaring weaknesses in his--well, let's be blunt, his everything. and as for mccain genuinely believing his party's platform's the better one, he's yet to convincingly offer a positive platform of his own, and i find it hard to believe he even really has one.

the elephant in the room is that the current republican platform is basically that (funneling wealth from the middle class to the wealthy through the energy and defense industries aside), the government shouldn't play any role in our lives at all--no regulatory functions, no social services, not even public education. their platform is "it's all your problem, and without any government intervention, everything will work itself out just fine, or maybe it won't for you, but me and the people i care about will still be rich, so who cares." how they manage to wrap that turd up into a package that looks to some folks like a platform based on a commitment to higher moral principles, i will never in my life fathom.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:10 PM on September 11, 2008


Well said saulgoodman. I've often considered Grover Norquist and his ilk just well off anarchists.
posted by butterstick at 2:19 PM on September 11, 2008


saul, read Thomas Frank's superb The Wrecking Crew, which is precisely about the subject of your post.
posted by digaman at 2:40 PM on September 11, 2008


McCain wouldn't define "honor" in his recent "prickly" interview with Time. Was he unable to because he knows he's running a dishonorable campaign and breaking his pledge to "run a respectful campaign based on the issues"?

A Turbulent Youth Under a Strong Father's Shadow. I really don't think we need another dumb, drunk cowboy pilot who couldn't live up to his father's expectations.

I'd just be happy if they could for once use that word that seems so difficult for politicians to use: the lie.

Obama accuses McCain camp of lies, phony outrage:
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Wednesday accused Republican John McCain's campaign of using "lies and phony outrage and Swift-boat politics" in claiming he used a sexist comment against vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
OODA sounds like the IPDE ("Identify. Predict. Decide. Execute.") strategy I learned in Driver's Ed.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:40 PM on September 11, 2008


vorfeed: but mccain's long-term plan apparently doesn't include provisions for actually winning at the game of being a good president--just doing the minimum to win the presidency is a short-term aim. if his long-term aim were to build a solid administration, he'd surround himself with competent people [...]

Yes, but the election is a short-term aim which he must win if he is to have any chance at implementing his long-term plan. Thus, some degree of sacrifice of long-term goals for short-term goals is perfectly reasonable, given his position. When you're in a make-it-or-break-it situation right now, myopic concentration on long-term goals can actually be detrimental to those goals. Put another way: if you're not the president, you don't get to build a solid administration, no matter how many competent people you surround yourself with.

Astounding cynicism of the rest of your comment aside (I read that as a giant middle finger waving to the rest of the country that isn't in the GOP)... the goal of the Presidency is to govern. Despite short-term victory being necessary for long-term victory, it does not assure it.

Here's a hint: I'm a Democrat. I am not "waving a middle finger" to anyone, nor do I think that McCain is the best choice for president. This isn't about cynicism, it's about political reality... and I think the political reality is that McCain made a good political move when he chose Palin as his running mate. It may not last, and it may not be enough, but it was a great move nonetheless, as evinced by the many Democrats who were left standing around gaping at it.

IMHO, the Democratic insistence on nothing but long-term, policy-based thinking is half the reason why we haven't been able to win elections as of late -- we are not nearly as willing to take part in this kind of gamesmanship as the Republicans are, and despite how very ideologically pure that might make us, it doesn't give us presidents. The fact that we tell ourselves "it's not a game" is precisely why we don't win it.

My point isn't that short-term victory "assures" long term victory, it's that long term victory requires short-term victory. Winning in the short-term is a necessary, but not sufficient, requirement for victory in the long-term.

as for mccain genuinely believing his party's platform's the better one, he's yet to convincingly offer a positive platform of his own, and i find it hard to believe he even really has one.

Here it is.
posted by vorfeed at 2:43 PM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


“this, together with his running mate's predeliction for shooting up alaska's animal population, should at least get him an nra endorsement.”

Because hunters just love uselessly killing animals randomly and despoiling the environment, amirite? HA HA HA.

“The resulting media storm wrecked the Ryan campaign, and Obama won.”

That and Ryan being a self-absorbed, misogynist, asshole (each of those, while related, in a discrete demonstrable manner). I mean the Jeri Ryan stuff. But no one bought the “I’m a teacher” b.s. he was handing people either.

Obama seems to do well with rectitude in contrast, while throwing invisible uppercuts. But McCain is doing a good job of chewing himself up too.

This type of dynamic decision making has its place, but here the top stakes are legitimacy and esteem. It’s out of context.
Oh, I’m not saying it can’t be used in a campaign, but given the mindset of the U.S. right now...

I think McCain is going to wind up looking like the enraged drunk at a party, breaking the hosts’ t.v. while windmilling his arms at a guy who is saying “Dude, why are you trying to fight me? Let’s all just have fun. Relax.” *Crash* “Dude, that was the t.v., just calm down.”
With Palin in the role of shrill girlfriend screaming “You pussy! You pussy! He can kick your ass!” and falling on her ass hiking her skirt up and then puking all over herself and crying.

And Obama’s saying “Ok, he can kick my ass, ok? Let’s just enjoy the party.” And McCain comes out of the wreckage of the t.v. hutch and starts windmilling again until the host comes in and cuts off the keg and everyone gets pissed off and yells at him to leave.
There’s all kinds of room for bigger picture and Obama is damn good at drowning his opponents in it.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:55 PM on September 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Fighter pilot training is greatly influenced by John Boyd, who developed the OODA loop theory, which some say General Petraeus has adapted to the ground in Iraq, the real reason "the surge" appears successful.

The main architect of the new tactics, as I understand it, was David Kilcullen, an Ozzie general and extremely competent ethnographer whose work has formed US counter insurgency tactics (but who called the strategic decision to attack Iraq "fucking stupid"). Flying a fighter, while no doubt a complicated feat, is nothing like trying to interact with a complex and potentially/actually hostile foreign community on the ground, of whom you know next to nothing and with whom you can barely communicate.
posted by YouRebelScum at 3:16 PM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


George Lakoff: Don't Think of a Maverick! Could the Obama Campaign Be Improved?
posted by homunculus at 4:13 PM on September 11, 2008


Saul Alinsky -- who's that? What does that have to do with O'hare?

Rules for Radicals
Rule 9: The threat is more terrifying than the thing itself. When Alinsky leaked word that large numbers of poor people were going to tie up the washrooms of O’Hare Airport, Chicago city authorities quickly agreed to act on a longstanding commitment to a ghetto organization. They imagined the mayhem as thousands of passengers poured off airplanes to discover every washroom occupied. Then they imagined the international embarrassment and the damage to the city’s reputation.
posted by garlic at 4:22 PM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


The idea of continuously adjusting an action loop sounds like a fantastic way to run a campaign, and a DISASTEROUS way to actually govern.

I like this line from the politics link:
Keep in mind that it is more important to make faster decisions rather than the best decision.
For much public policy I'd argue that better decisions are better than faster decisions.

My belief is that McCain's current lead (or tie, depending on whom you ask) in projected electoral college votes has more to do with the current point in his hype cycle than any crafty strategics on his part. Will he reach the "trough of disillusionment" in two months? That much I don't know.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:37 PM on September 11, 2008


the media might finally be on to something (substantive)...
posted by kliuless at 4:55 PM on September 11, 2008


Will he reach the "trough of disillusionment" in two months?

Isn't that where lipstick-wearing pigs eat?
posted by psmealey at 5:32 PM on September 11, 2008


what I took away from that Altantic article is: John McCain is all about war, war, war. Like it says, he thinks war is the solution to all problems. He'll be a warmonger.
posted by dydecker at 5:35 PM on September 11, 2008


The main architect of the new tactics, as I understand it, was David Kilcullen, an Ozzie general and extremely competent ethnographer whose work has formed US counter insurgency tactics (but who called the strategic decision to attack Iraq "fucking stupid").

Kilcullen was never a General!
posted by Megami at 6:01 PM on September 11, 2008


The main architect of the new tactics, as I understand it, was David Kilcullen, an Ozzie general and extremely competent ethnographer whose work has formed US counter insurgency tactics (but who called the strategic decision to attack Iraq "fucking stupid").

Kilcullen was never a General!
And please, Aussie not Ozzie ....
posted by Megami at 6:03 PM on September 11, 2008


Oh, and Kilcullen was very hawkish about going into Iraq until it all started turning to Clag ...
posted by Megami at 6:06 PM on September 11, 2008


um, the missing piece of information here is that mccain (and cheney) wants georgia in NATO*

btw, the 'gaffe' that fallows was waiting for? cf. "I need to know if she really thinks dinosaurs were here 4,000 years ago. That's important.. I want to know that, I really do. Because she's going to have the nuclear codes."

---
* the point tho, for me, isn't so much that palin couldn't have been fully briefed by foreign policy experts in the region, it's that mccain has...
posted by kliuless at 6:19 PM on September 11, 2008


the 'gaffe' that fallows was waiting for

One's definition of "gaffe" depends on how eager one is to either see one or not see one: Gibson's interview is the first chance we get to see her off-script: is this or this a gaffe?
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:02 PM on September 11, 2008


John McCain - Lost in Space
posted by nickyskye at 7:09 PM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


garlic:

From your wiki "Saul Alinksy" link:

"Alinsky was the subject of Hillary Rodham's senior honors thesis at Wellesley College..."

I did not know that.
posted by dragonsi55 at 7:39 PM on September 11, 2008


Palin will break through that glass ceiling once and for all! Who knew a woman who would never link herself to the real feminism would be the one to fix the whole problem!
posted by metricfan at 1:32 AM on September 12, 2008


Who knew a woman who would never link herself to the real feminism would be the one to fix the whole problem!

yeah, because banning abortion even in cases of rape, incest, and imminent threat to the mother's life as palin proposes is "fixing the whole problem" of sexism. in the same way, i suppose, that drilling for more oil off america's coasts (oil that won't even enter the system for at least another 20 years) is the best long-term solution to global warming and declining global oil production.

and in the same way that the "more moral and principled worldview" so often attributed the republicans is the one that fundamentally asks us to put the welfare of a small number of economic elite ahead of our own (never mind those most vulnerable to economic hardship--god obviously just doesn't like them enough to take care of them).

and in the same way that jesus taught that the pursuit of wealth is the surest path to salvation. (remember those passages in the gospel about giving all your worldly wealth to the poor if you want to follow him? a brazen distortion of the liberal media. and that part about offering the other cheek to any enemy who strikes you in the face? that was a distortion, too: jesus actually advocated responding with shock and awe.)

and up is down. and black is white. and good is bad. and 2 + 2 = 5. and freedom is slavery. and arbeit macht frei. bleh. what a load of garbage.

don't kid yourself: palin won't be breaking any glass ceilings. more likely, she'll be installing new fortified ceilings with hurricane rated glass.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:17 AM on September 12, 2008


Dear saulgoodman (with respect to case number 9/12/08-10:17AM),

Our customer service representatives have determined that your sarcasm detector may require recalibration. Your RMA number is 4658289-1. Please include original packaging or a reasonable substitute, as metafilter cannot be held responsible for damage in transit. Thank you for your patience in this matter.
posted by vorfeed at 11:30 AM on September 12, 2008


(damn. but i didn't buy the extended service plan! crap... now i'm out half my last paycheck!)
posted by saulgoodman at 11:39 AM on September 12, 2008


oh hey!
On the Russian-Georgian conflict, her comments appeared to go further than Sen. McCain has in the past. When asked in August whether he would consider using military force to defend Georgia against Russia, he said, simply: "The answer to your...question is no." He has also emphasized that while he strongly supports Georgia, he isn't trying to reignite the Cold War. But his national security adviser, Randy Scheunemann, said Thursday that like Gov. Palin, Sen. McCain believes that U.S. military action would be needed if Georgia was a member of NATO and Russia invaded.
i think this ad sticks :P
posted by kliuless at 4:51 PM on September 12, 2008


Uh, yeah, saulg, as Purtle's SO I feel the need to confirm that your sarcasm detector needs some major calibration. But good points.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 6:54 PM on September 12, 2008


derive the hamiltonian of...: after consulting the schematics, i think i figured out the problem. my sanctimonious outrage circuits overloaded and blew out the whole conceptual mother board! that's what i get for not buying the extended protection plan.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:34 PM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


On the Russian-Georgian conflict, her comments appeared to go further than Sen. McCain has in the past.

I think that's putting too fine a point on it. She knew something about NATO and something else about the Warsaw Pact, and that's pretty much it. She didn't have a fucking clue how to answer the question, so she was trying to piece together an answer based on something she vaguely recalled from her 10th grade modern European History class.
posted by psmealey at 9:01 PM on September 12, 2008


i'm actually more concerned about mccain's 'national security advisor', viz...
posted by kliuless at 6:21 AM on September 13, 2008


Medvedev condemns Georgia NATO membership promise
posted by homunculus at 9:53 AM on September 13, 2008


It seems to me that the OODA loop might have a minimum length, proportional to an organization's (or organism's) size and communication network. What are the costs of maintaining a small, fast loop?
posted by wobh at 2:01 PM on September 13, 2008


“John McCain would rather lose his integrity than lose this election.”
posted by ijoshua at 2:46 PM on September 13, 2008


Follow-up by some of the people from Boyd's circle.
posted by dragonsi55 at 7:18 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


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