. . . Poindexter

. . .


A smart bomb comments:

You are false data.
And some spammer comments:
OK, poindexter, I checked your site out.
Even for a dot-mil scam it's pathetic.

And what the hell is an "asymmetric threat"?
Is that some kind of anti-Symmetric remark?

Love the slides, though....

Planned Accomplishments: TBD

. . .

The Asymmetry Within

I washed the dishes, listening with Anya-like anthropological curiosity to a pop song of petty romantic revenge -- something along the lines of "Now you've left me and I'm never coming back" -- and found myself wondering about Michael Jackson's ex-lovers. Not about who, or how old, or what sex they are, but about what they're feeling. Are they grimly pleased by the outcome of his morbid privacy and perfectionism? Are they shaken and depressed? Gleeful? resigned? bored? And if some mix, then sequentially, contrapuntally, or chordally?

It's an obsessively rehearsed story: the cat grooming its bald spots, the oil paintings daubed to mud, the hygiene-frenzied billionaire awash in filth and surrounded by excrement; wrapping one side, landscaping the other, until the entire cliff starts to crumble.... (And lord knows I've attended enough rehearsals: the promising little tune overcooked into indigestible glutin; the mild aperçu pounded flat, tanned, shredded, and threaded into an unreadable essay; the novel's first page rewritten back into originary chaos.)

One can't maintain a firm line between outside and inside while simultaneously trying to induce an ideal form. You think you're shaping clay and find you've been crushing eggshells. Self-control and the impulse to control one's image, control of materials and the impulse to control one's production -- they're hard to distinguish in theory, and an ugly overextended lifetime can be spent without learning to distinguish them in practice.

So then, naturally, I started to wonder how someone who works for John Poindexter feels.

Here we have a perjurer, conspirator, felon, and traitor with proven disregard for the liberty and lives of American citizens, but oh! how the Bushes ensure his continued professional prosperity! To the extent of giving him responsibility for the most ambitious domestic surveillance repository in history!

Working for such a man, would one consider oneself a thug? a pirate (garrh)? a broken-spined creature thrashing toward nutrient and shelter?

Or does one go to work each day to touch the hem of a stately senility?

Or does one view IAO as merely a scam along dot-com lines, except with less risk of discovery? "The fools are giving money away, and we'd be even more foolish not to take it"? And "we'd be even more evil than our masters if we didn't at least partly believe it"?

Because if we believe it, and if we take the money, then isn't it possible that it'll all come true?

Clicking through the PowerPoint, it's certainly easy enough to picture the next generation of Andreesens suiting up and making the Poindexter scene. Each moronic whimsy that pops from their doughboy foreheads has a sacred (and tax-funded) right to life, swaddled in 80 yards of management-blather and trundled off with a roll of hundred-grand bills into the ever colder, crueler world.

So how do Poindexter's workers go about their job? Cynically? Or willfully deluded? Or (as surmised by Carter Scholz in a barely different setting) in some unstable combination?

Your IAO Programs
TIA (Total Information Awareness System), Dr. John Poindexter
"The TIA program will develop and integrate information technologies into fully functional, leave-behind prototypes that are reliable, easy to install, and packaged with documentation and source code (though not necessarily complete in terms of desired features) that will enable the intelligence community to evaluate new technologies through experimentation, and rapidly transition it to operational use, as appropriate."

FutureMAP (Futures Markets Applied to Prediction), Dr. Mike Foster
"... will identify the types of market-based mechanisms that are most suitable to aggregate information in the defense context, will develop information systems to manage the markets, and will measure the effectiveness of markets for several tasks. Markets must also offer compensation that is ethically and legally satisfactory to all sectors involved, while remaining attractive enough to ensure full and continuous participation of individual parties."

BSS (Bio-Surveillance... umm... Someday?), Mr. Ted Senator
"A prototype bio-surveillance system with appropriate military and commercial data will be constructed for a citywide area of military interest and demonstrated in a series of field experiments by injecting simulated biological event data into the real-time data streams of the testbed system."

EARS (Effective, Affordable, Reusable Speech-to-Text), Mr. Charles Wayne
"EARS encompasses wide-ranging, multidisciplinary research; quantitative evaluations of algorithm accuracy and utility; and efficient technology demonstration prototypes."

EELD (Evidence Extraction and Link Discovery), Mr. Ted Senator
"EELD’s initial activities demonstrated the feasibility of extracting relationships from text...."

Genisys, Lt Col Douglas Dyer, PhD [notice how Dyer ducks the acronym convention; watch out for this guy]
A new database platform. No, really. Because "current database technology is clearly insufficient." Any Ada programmers reading this? "Planned Accomplishments: FY02: Genisys will produce several prototype designs consistent with program goals."

Genoa, Lt Col Douglas Dyer, PhD
"Genoa provides analyst tools to augment human cognitive processes and aid understanding of complex arguments." The slide for this baby is appropriately mind-blowing.

Genoa II, Mr. Thomas Armour
"Cognitive aids enabling humans and machines to think together faster, smarter, and 'jointer'." Projected jointerizers include "means to overcome the biases and limitations of the human cognitive system" and "'cognitive amplifiers' that help teams of people rapidly and fully comprehend complicated and uncertain situations." The slide for this son-of-baby is appropriately mind-numbing.
Foreman, Smelter, Dump Truck Operator
Never trust a bald smelter in a three-piece suit

+ + +

Rafe Colburn makes a good point but misses the bad one:
The simple fact is that resources for analyzing information are limited, even for the federal government. This became completely obvious in the months after 9/11, when it was gradually revealed that we had more than enough information to track down the hijackers, but we didn't have the resources to piece it all together. This new system is aimed at gathering huge additional amounts of information...
This would be a legitimate argument against IAO if legitimate arguments counted. But national security is not the goal. I'm not talking some "Who watches the watchmen?" subtlety here. If Al Qaeda has a nuclear weapon, John Poindexter is probably who supplied it. (Only for the good of the Party, of course.)

No, the goal of Total Information Awareness is to help the administration follow its real vocation: maintaining political power through hypocrisy; that is, through a combination of personal secrecy and public libel. The Bush family relies on confidential deals, insider trading, erased records, and so on, while the far-right Republican Party has proven to its own satisfaction that any criticism of their policies can be deflected by launching non-sequitur counterattacks on their critics. Intelligence agencies -- "I know everything about you; you know nothing about me" -- are the coziest nests for such rodents.

Poindexter's fully integrated database of information on American citizens would, Colburn's right, be useless for spotting terrorists or predicting attacks. But for tracking down damaging information on a named target, it would work miracles. If any inconvenient witness starts to bring up late-night transfers of funds to foreign banks, or mysterious absences from duty, or college drug use, or vote tampering, or lying under oath, or even what the daughters are doing, just submit a simple query, and opportunities for harassment, news leaks, or assassination will be available in record time.

Kenneth Starr in a box, 24-by-7! Now that's worth paying for!


Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.