Looking at my blog notes (I keep a Word file with notes on various things I read or think about that are potentially bloggable) I have a serious backlog of topics to bog about. Most of them, sadly are pretty serious and will take some thought and research which will take time, which is, of course, in seriously short supply right now.
In the queue:
Racism and racialism in the 21st century
Privacy and community
Equality and fairness
The heartland vs. the coasts
Policing the modern city
Some thoughts on the nature of property.
But I wanted to comment on and help publicize in some small way something I saw on Bill Quicks’ blog.

Cobb County and Marietta police arrested a surgeon in the emergency room of WellStar Kennestone hospital, resulting in the death of 16-year-old soccer player, according to a lawsuit filed last week.
Brad Dalton of Marietta died Sept. 30, 2001, from a brain injury he received while playing soccer. He was rushed to the hospital where neurosurgeon Dr. Daniel Moore was paged to report to the hospital for emergency surgery.
The doctor never made it to the operating table because police chose to arrest him in the emergency room on charges he fled a parking lot fender-bender, the lawsuit states.

If you want to understand why it is that we’re suspicious of TIA and other efforts by our government to protect us, it’s exactly because of events like this.
First, if it my kid, I wouldn’t be suing…I’d be in restraints somewhere after getting medieval on more than a few people’s asses.
But in a world where common sense doesn’t get issued along with a badge and a gun, maybe we ought to be thinking more about how to get some common sense down into the ranks along with all the sophisticated computer equipment.


Enjoy your family and friends. If you can, do something for those who have less than you, and spare a thought as you sit down to your meal for all those who helped create and defend the bounty we will all enjoy today.
I’m dropping some turkeys off at the local homeless kitchen and heading to my brother’s for dinner.
Shut off the damn computer!! Yeah, you!!
catch you all tomorrow…


Dear Chuck Pelto:
You’re a troll.
I’ve banned and killfiled you, and as soon as I can get logged into the server, I’ll ban your whole subdomain.
Please go play with yourself somewhere else.
Your host.
(if sufficent non-Chuck folks want, I’m happy to repost our whole sad correspondance)


Michele, over at A Small Victory has a triff post on ‘Blame America’, inspired by the recent murder of Dave Mobilio, a Red Bluff police officer, and the postings (on Indymedia and elsewhere) by someone who claims to be his murderer. Unlike the South Park song, it’s serious and has consequences.

In other words, don’t blame the shooter, blame the man. The man was holding him down and caused him to shoot. The man was repressing him and stealing his air and killing his babies and diminishing his rights.
And if it isn’t enough to just place the blame on corporations and laws that were obviously driving this person insane, you can always turn to the old conspiracy theory train of thought and blame the government.
Of course, that was it. The murderer was sent out their by none other than Ashcroft himself. They brainswashed the poor young man, turned him into a killing machine and then sent him out to kill a young police officer, all to make the anti-war protesters look bad. Of course.

It’s clear that there are things in our American history to which, like the root causes of all tragedies, we can trace the causes of many things. But one of the great things about this country is the commitment to the ideal of Progress, that things can be identified and fixed, that tomorrow will be better than today, that we are not enslaved to our tragic roots, and can leave them behind.
It isn’t sudden or perfect. But it’s real.
And yet we seem be ass-deep in people who want to throw up their hands and burn the house down rather than fix the leaking roof. That’s a great plan. If you’re willing to sleep outside in the cold.
The house may be leaking and imperfect, but it does keep the worst of the elements outside.
UPDATE: I hate it when I do a bad job and I’m not clear. Michele’s post was ‘triff’, which is slang for ‘terriffic’. I got four emails and two comments asking me what the hell I meant…so apologies to Michele first of all, and to the readers whose time I wasted.
Blaming America is stupid. There are lots of things wrong with this country (and this world); this is where we have the best shot at fixing them.
There’s no place I’d rather be.


…on TIA. I’ll make a longer response later (after I do some thinking), but here’s a quick one:
It seems reasonable to me that the government create plans and test tools to do things that are unlikely to be done, both as planning exercises and to have a stock of contingency plans. When I read about the outrage over the fact that the government has plans to, for example, invade the UK, I tend to cut them some slack because I think that planning for unlikely alternatives is a good thing.
But there are limits.
Planning for a roundup and incarceration of all Muslim-Americans would itself be an outrageous act, regardless of whether it was ever seriously considered as a policy. Making the plan itself crosses a bright line.
Does TIA hit that threshold?? I didn’t think so. A lot of people do. I’m weighing the issue, and will make more comments later.


Check out George Skelton in the L.A. Times today:

SACRAMENTO — California’s system for choosing legislators is badly broken. And only voters can fix it.
The problem: “Closed” primaries combined with districts drawn for party protection. Together, they’re adding up to legislative extremism. Toss in term limits and it’s a formula for producing ambitious amateurs who are radical or reactionary.
Legislators of both parties conspired last year to gerrymander legislative and congressional districts in their own interests. They redrew lines to preserve the political status quo for a decade in all but a handful of the 173 districts.
Seats became either safely Republican or safely Democrat — mostly the latter because Democrats control Sacramento. It means practically every election is decided in the primary.
Republican incumbents must guard against a primary challenge from their right. Democrats watch their left. The middle is ignored.
“The fear of being ‘primaried’ is driving decision-making in Sacramento,” South laments.
“They have no idea how you get a budget passed. You’ve got Democrats petrified about cutting spending because it’ll tick off a special interest they’ll need to support them…. You’ve got Republicans sitting there … scared to death they’ll get ‘primaried’ by some anti-taxer.”
The solution: Take the decennial redistricting away from the Legislature and place it in the hands of an independent commission, perhaps appointed by the state Supreme Court. Voters previously have rejected such ballot proposals, buying Democratic demagoguery about “politicizing the courts.”
South supports the independent idea: “Ten years ago I wouldn’t have said that. But this [redistricting] was just a joke and so damaging to the political system, I would favor almost any alternative.”

Well, duuuuh. So would I.


Nathan Lott made a smart comment here which he then expanded into a post on his blog.
Here’s the core:

The strategy of preying upon the economic worries of the working- and middle-classes counts on fear more than hope. Consequently, it does little to improve the Democratic image as dour yet untrustworthy. By that I mean that Bush is viewed as a happy hick on one hand but trusted with protecting the nation on the other. Meanwhile, Gore is a no-fun wonk and a national-security liability in the mind of most Americans. The current Democratic populism not only relies on the American tendency to identify with the working-class but attempts to exploit middle-class fear of a descent into poverty (that really is a retreat to the New Deal). But that fear may not exist. As long as the Republicans can present a hopeful instead of fearful front, they’ll win.
The problem here is not unlike that behind the Democrats unsuccessful objection to Bush’s tax cuts: They mis-define the middle class. Or, more often, they confuse working class with needy. This has two problems: 1) it alienates those middle- and working-class families who no longer identify with the (outdated?) image of honest folks struggling to make ends meet and 2) it forces the party to attempt to buy off the people footing the bill—big government circular spending. Brave Democrats muster the courage to tell voters they’ll increase taxes to spend the receipts wisely. But very few are brave enough to offer middle-class voters only dignity in return, not new government benefits. If Democrat policies targeted only the truly needy, the party couldn’t try to bribe Americans who can afford drugs with free prescriptions, for example. However, they could offer scaled-down solutions to real problems and sell themselves as a party of community.

Here I read three major points:
1) Defending the working class relies on fear rather than hope;
2) That fear is not as prevalent as some would suggest; and
3) These policies are mis-aimed in that they try and speak to secure middle-class Americans about the fears of the (he suggests relatively fewer) who are economically insecure.
I think Nathan’s well-intentioned comments are off the mark. Most indicators show consumer confidence as slowly drifting downward, and the reality of the job mix that we are seeing in this ‘jobless recovery’ is that the classic ‘middle-skills’ ‘mid-career’ jobs can no longer support a middle class family.
(Ironically, this is both masked and caused by the same thing…the explosion in home prices.)
Note that I owe cites on this but can’t get to them today.
If he interpreted my challenge to the party as a ‘create pork jobs’ plan, I apologize for misspeaking. I don’t at this point have a well-cooked plan (if so, I’d be standing at the party doorsteps, nailing it up), and part of what I try and do here is to engage in the dialog which will lead people smarter and better-informed than I to help me come up with one.
That plan should have a few key characteristics:
– Focus on jobs, not just output. Most economic policy uses aggregate employment (unemployment) as an indicator, along with GDP or overall dollars of output.
Since I believe that everyone manages to their metrics, select metrics that involve employment levels and employment quality (stability and income).
– Realize that creating European ‘jobs for life’ is a recipe for disaster, and that we cannot legislate employment. But … legislation in the form of fiscal, economic, and tax policy have huge impacts on employment, and we need to be mindful of those impacts and more specifically, working to have positive, rather than negative impacts.
– Look at the precursors to quality employment, which certainly have some things to do with the workforce. Education, training, culture. Again, not all of these are things the government has been good at doing. So let’s ask how to get them done.
– The reality is that small and medium businesses are the engine of American capitalism and of social stability and mobility. We need to find ways to tilt the playing field back toward the small business; this will have to do with simplifying regulations (not necessarily changing the requirements, but making it easy to understand and comply), tilting the tax laws, and changing the economics which make the government and regulator the ally of the larger company.
Here again we have a bad example – Japan, in which the maze of regulation is designed to protect the small farmer and small businessman to the complete detriment of the consumer.
These are just a few notions of the directions we need to go into. More later.
But dealing with these issues should be a way to offer the average American – the household of 4 making $40K/year – hope for a better future for themselves and their children.
That’s not fear…that how you make fear go away.


Declan McCullagh’s great site has the transcript of Pentagon briefing on Poindexter’s “TIA” program.
Take a look. Some samples:

My statement goes along the following: The war on terror and the tracking of potential terrorists and terrorist acts require that we search for clues of such activities in a mass of data. It’s kind of a signal-to-noise ratio. What are they doing in all these things that are going on around the world? And we decided that new capabilities and new technologies are required to accomplish that task. Therefore, we established a project within DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, that would develop an experimental prototype — underline, experimental prototype, which we call the Total Information Awareness System. The purpose of TIA would be to determine the feasibility of searching vast quantities of data to determine links and patterns indicative of terrorist activities.
There are three parts to the TIA project to aid in this anti-terrorist effort. The first part is technologies that would permit rapid language translation, such as you — as we have used on the computers now, we can — there’s voice recognition capabilities that exist on existing computers.
The second part was discovery of connections between transactions — such as passports; visas; work permits; driver’s license; credit card; airline tickets; rental cars; gun purchases; chemical purchases — and events — such as arrest or suspicious activities and so forth. So again, it try to discover the connections between these things called transactions.
And the third part was a collaborative reasoning-and-decision-making tools to allow interagency communications and analysis. In other words, what kind of decision tools would permit the analysts to work together in an interagency community?
The experiment will be demonstrated using test data fabricated to resemble real-life events. We’ll not use detailed information that is real. In order to preserve the sanctity of individual privacy, we’re designing this system to ensure complete anonymity of uninvolved citizens, thus focusing the efforts of law enforcement officials on terrorist investigations. The information gathered would then be subject to the same legal projections (sic) currently in place for the other law enforcement activities.

OK, it’s a prototype. On one hand, we want the government to be testing all kinds of things; on the other prototypes have a way of subtly going into production.
Worth digging more deeply, and take a look at the transcript yourself.


In thinking about Iraq, one thing that has nagged at me has been the reversal of position by Scott Ritter, the ‘belligerent inspector’ turned ‘antiwar advocate’. His open opposition to Administration policy was a significant issue for me, until I read Scott Ritter’s Iraq Complex in the NYT (link thanks to OxBlog).
It’s less of an issue for me now; take a look and see for yourself.
(Note that I’m still waffling heavily on the war itself)