Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Wednesday, July 30, 2003  

All right, so apparently Bush said some shocking things in his press conference today, but that'll have to wait, because I don't even have time to read the report. I'm still on DARPA, a day late and a dollar short (well, several thousand actually). I'm a blogger, for Pete's sake. What do you want, the New York Times?

So DARPA. A big coup for our man Ron Wyden and a big blow for John Poindexter, who's probably going to get run out of town on a rail. All well and good, except that the proposal wasn't such a bad idea. (Actually, I don't know what the proposal actually was; I just know what I heard in the news. According to those reports, the FutureMAP plan was designed to be used by Middle East experts in the way that futures trading is conducted. They place "bets" on the likelihood of certain events happening--say Sharon getting whacked--and then a predictive model emerges.)

So let's examine what might be truly horrible about the plan. 1) It's impolite. 2) Well, there is no two--other than it being an unseemly program, it's not like the government would be sifting through your library records, reading your email, or plopping you in the pokey for three months on a "material witness" charge. But I suppose it is a bit unseemly. And by God, we're fighting terrorism, so whatever we do, make sure you don't offend anyone.

It may or may not have been a usable idea, but it's based on an economics model that so far I haven't heard anyone say was suspect. (Maybe Max knows.) You get people to predict what's going to happen, and you ensure they're using their best information because they put money on it. (In one story I heard on NPR this morning, someone--probably a DARPA hack--said it wouldn't actually be money-based, except maybe in terms of grant money. Whether that's true or just spin, I dunno.) Apparently the models have some statistical accuracy.

DARPA's a scary agency--don't get me wrong. But here we have George Bush gutting the judiciary and strong-arming Congress; we have the AG running roughshod over existing law and its practice; in Texas, Republicans are trying create a monarchy; John Poindexter's original vision for TIA was some kind of Orwellian interconnectivity of media, stopping, apparently, just short of the cameras in your living room; and we're worried about an economics modeling system because it's slightly impolite?

I think we oughta make every stinkin politician go through boot camp and put them on a one-month tour in Iraq and see how their vision of war, freedom, and the dangers of offending the 700 Club realign.

posted by Jeff | 11:36 AM |
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