Well, this is disturbing

From Salon:

Just days ago, national security executives met secretly with airline CEOs to warn them that al-Qaida may be planning to fire shoulder-launched missiles at commercial jets in the U.S. There’s virtually no defense.


Note: if you’ve already read this one, please be sure to scroll down to the update.

From Elton Beard (via Patrick Nielsen Hayden):

The Ministry of Truth. The Defense Department Information Awareness Office has been raising some eyebrows lately over its plan to collect and analyze a great deal of information about the formerly private lives of American citizens. The IAO list of proposed technologies consists mostly of things more or less related to the collection and interpretation of data, but also includes this odd item:

Story telling, change detection, and truth maintenance.

Story telling and “truth maintenance” – the latter phrase would make Orwell jealous – are not, however, techniques of information gathering. Rather, these are elements of information manufacture, a function known as propaganda when not utilized by one’s own government. Call me suspicious, but somehow this makes me think that the IAO intends not only to collect information but to generate information too. That is, to fabricate and disseminate for public consumption stories that convey government-certified truth. The news media has provided this service to the administration pretty reliably for some time now, but maybe they’re ready to cut out the middleman.

UPDATE…”truth maintenance” may be less ominous than it sounds, according to Beard, who’s posted a correction:

Truth Maintenance: OOPS! No, I’m not referring to Object Oriented Programming Systems, I mean a big OOPS, as in my mistake! Darius Bacon, who knows his AI, has exposed a serious goof in my previous article – it turns out that truth maintenance is a well-known (except to me) Artificial Intelligence technique for pruning conflicting deduced or otherwise derived information from a knowledge base. So this particular sample technology from the IAO list, at least, is not as sinister as it sounds -it is legitimately a technique of information gathering, not dissemination.

I’m still a bit puzzled by the “storytelling” bit – this is an AI concept as well, but one that has to do with understanding how to generate a (necessarily) incomplete narrative that can still convey a message that is comprehensible to humans. I suppose that story telling technology could be used to expose gaps in available information – i.e. try to put what you know together as a story, and then see what’s missing – so I have to give this one the benefit of the doubt too.

That’s not to say that the information-gathering capability of the IAO is not seriously problematic, just that my conclusion that the IAO would be also engaging in propaganda was not well-founded. I feel like such a nimnoo. And for making this mistake in an article that’s been Tom Tomorrow’d, no less – I am sorry, sorry, sorry!

Hey, that’s the beauty of the blog — when you get it wrong, you can always set the record straight.

* * *

I’m playing hooky this morning, going to go catch a matinee of the new Bond film. True, I haven’t really, truly enjoyed one of these things in years — maybe going as far back as The Living Daylights, which I think is one of the more underrated entries — and this one will probably be no different, another heavy-handed, product-placement-laden spectacle which leaves me feeling logy and pummelled. And yet, I see a commercial with the cars racing on the ice and things exploding, and — most importantly — the Bond theme playing in the background…and I am inexorably drawn, like a moth to the flame. What can I say? Underneath it all, I am still a twelve year old boy.

UPDATE on Bond: big and bloated, but better than I expected. And now I’ve got to get some work done.

Strange bedfellows

From a column by Doug Bandlow, a senior fellow at the right-leaning Cato Institute (via Joe Conason, who asks why the anti-war right gets a free pass from the otherwise hysterical patriotism police):

Warns CIA Director George Tenet: “al-Qaeda is in an execution phase and intends to strike us both here and overseas.” An Italian investigator told Time magazine that al-Qaeda terrorists now “are better organized than at any point in the past year.” Muslim hatred of the West continues to grow. Palestinians and Israelis are at war. Islamic fundamentalists made dramatic electoral gains in Pakistan.

Why, then, the administration’s focus on Baghdad? Obviously Saddam is a monster. But Turkey treats its Kurds no better than does Iraq and Christian women are worse off in Saudi Arabia.

Baghdad has attacked its neighbors, but today is contained and constrained, far weaker than in 1990. Yes, Iraq deployed chemical weapons against Iran in war and maybe against the Kurds in civil war. But Saddam only used these weapons against defenseless adversaries. In contrast, the United States possesses thousands of nuclear warheads.

Baghdad is trying to develop an atomic bomb; so is North Korea, however. Brazil’s new leftist president-elect has expressed an interest in doing so. Islamic Pakistan already possesses nukes.

* * *

To not attack Iraq is “appeasement” and “moral cowardice,” charges Nile Gardiner of the Heritage Foundation. Washington’s critics are against us and “with our enemies,” says Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy.

In fact, opposition to the administration’s dangerous aggressiveness is simply good sense.

There is no more fundamental duty for government than to protect its people from outside threats. Yet President Bush admits, “We’ve got a long way to go” to defeat al-Qaeda. Making war on Iraq will make that defeat even more distant.

A change’ll do you good

We’re switching this site from Blogger to Movable Type. I’m vastly appreciative of the service Blogger has provided — I’m not sure I would have ever gotten this site off the ground, in its present format, without the ease-of-use their templates provided. But the glitches and the delays finally got to me, so here we are. If we’ve done this right, you shouldn’t even notice a change, but if there are any problems, please let me know. We should also have the blog archives (which have not been working properly for about two months) up to speed soon.

Another voice in the wilderness

When I threw my hat into the ring a year ago, the blogs were mostly dominated by a conservative/libertarian axis. These days, the ideological spectrum seems a whole lot more balanced (even if the journalists who keep writing those “gee whiz check out this blogging thing” articles haven’t caught up to the fact yet).

And here’s yet another unabashedly left-wing blog: Rantomatic, newly-launched by my friend and animation partner Harold Moss. Go give him a hearty welcome.