John Livingston

The Projection of Power and Information

One of the things I learned early in the military was that decision makers—Generals and Admirals, are only as good as the information they use as a predicate for their actions and decisions. The good ones understand the “power of information”, but most importantly the power of information in controlling a narrative. The bad ones—and there are many very average decision makers not only in our military, but also at all levels of government, business, in the academy, “the church” and the professions including law, medicine, and engineering”, seldom question the validity of the information that will determine the outcome of their decisions.

When I was a young Lt. on The USS Virginia there was little for a medical doctor to do, so I went through the process of qualifying to be Officer of The Day Underway. It was one of the most difficult undertakings of my life. Little did I know that not only would I be exposed to a foreign world of engineering, and shipbuilding, navigation, and weapons, but I would be given the rare insight about how top-level commanders in the field made decisions.

One day I was privy to a conversation between the CEO of McNeil Laboratories and the Captain of our ship who would later become CINCPAC Fleet—the second highest Naval Operational Commander in the World. As they were reviewing the complexities of the 36 separate computer banks in the Navy Tactical Data System (The “2.0 version is still operational in the Navy and a version on Air Force AWACS), the biochemist, the CEO., asked the nuclear physicist-engineer, our Commanding Officer the ultimate question—”How do you know what information is real and what information is not”? We were able to track and engage 36 separate targets at one time, prioritize the targets and select a weapons solution in a split second, but how did we know what was real? By the way, the very questions being raised about AI today were big problems back in the late 1970s.

Think about how information has been manipulated over the past 23 years by our leaders and media, Y2K, Global warming, Covid-19, Russian Collusion, The Mueller Report, Impeachment 1 & 2, Hunter’s Laptop, all part of a fear mongering public relations campaign to make people more dependent on government run by politicians and bureaucrats who now should have no credibility whatsoever. “Social Security trust fund”—really. Medicaid Expansion—Access, quality, care—really.

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The idea that career politicians are in “public service” is one narrative that needs to be questioned at all levels of government. The idea that you could take the first few pages of a phone book and select a more virtuous group of people to serve citizens may not be that far off the mark. And they would probably have a lot of common sense and a strong sense of fidelity to their fellow citizens.

In the Marines there is a great tradition—”the last is first”. When coming into camp after being in the field the lowest ranking member Lance Corporal, gets first in line privileges in the chow hall. The Colonels and Generals eat last. I remember somewhere in religious ed something about “the last shall be first…”

In Idaho maybe our elected officials at all levels of government should start evaluating information based on a healthy skepticism regarding the process of how the information was collected, who contributed to the collection of the information, and who screened the information prior to it being made available to the decision-making body.

We are seeing far to often in Idaho, in our legislature, and municipalities (county commissioners and City Councils) government employees who have never been elected, who are not parties to rules of “Ex Partee”, participating in processes completely hidden from the view of the public, that change the opinions of many of the decision makers many times without the elected officials even knowing it.

The symbiotic relationship between lobbyists, corporate interests, and at the local level developers and investors is incestuous at best, and I’ve been advised not to use the word corrupt, but you get the idea. Recently in Garden City two City Council members were alerted to the suppression of information that had been made available to the Council prior to an important decision being made. They both acted in an honorable and virtuous manner, asking for a delay in the decision until not only the information, but the process of reviewing what information would be made available to them could be reviewed. We the citizens of Garden City were well served by these two individuals. I look forward to a complete review of the process and of those who may have manipulated the information.

This is the way government should work. Information controls the narrative. Being skeptical of the information is part of anyone’s due diligence. With information plus an ethical bases by which to judge the information, a decision is made.

The will of WE THE PEOPLE needs to be brought front and center to the decision makers. Any bureaucrat that acts as a conduit or lens through which the information is passed must also have a respect for the “will of the people”. Any distortion of that “will” or concern or any misrepresentation of the position of a citizen verses a priority of a commercial interest, developer, or investor, should be a red flag to any decision maker at any level of government.

They are entrusted to serve “we the people” and no one else.

That is the way power is supposed to be projected in a representative form of government. Decision makers everywhere in the private and public sectors need to know who they are serving—customers and citizens—WE THE PEOPLE.

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One reply on “The Projection of Power and Information”

CGN-38 pictured above was the ship I served on from 1977-79. It was the first ship to deploy the Navy Tactical Data System (NTDS) technology, software and fire control hardware solutions. Unfortunately, it could probably outfight most of the ships and even squadrons today. It is today in moth Balls in Puget Sound and its’ Nuclear Reactor is at Haniford. Thank you, Robert and Parish, for digging that old picture up. It brought many fond and proud memories for me.

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