Barry Eisler

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Questions About the NSA's Data Mining

Although the Bush administration hasn't formally acknowledged it, it seems clear that at some point after 9/11 the NSA began a data mining operation in which the NSA examined phone numbers called by tens of millions of Americans with the aim of creating "a database of every call ever made." Email addresses and internet use might also be subjects of the program (I'd be surprised if they weren't). The ostensible goal of the operation is to tease out and expose terrorist networks.

Revelations about the program are acting almost as a political litmus test. The Wall Street Journal thinks CIA Director nominee Michael Hayden, who ran the program at the NSA, should get a Medal of Freedom; Frank Rich of the New York Times calls him "yet another second-rate sycophant."

Here are the questions that I think will take us toward the heart of the matter:

1. What is the program's benefit? That is to say, does it expose terrorists?

I'm not sure. On the one hand, I doubt terrorists would be so stupid as to use traceable phones to call each other. On the other hand, terrorists, like other criminals, sometimes do remarkably stupid things. I can imagine terrorists believing they could call each other as long as they used code in their conversations and not realizing that it was the fact of the calls themselves that might lead to exposure. Or they might use pay phones, but those pay phones could then be monitored more closely.

Even if the program could theoretically expose stupid terrorists, though, we still have to ask whether it could adequately single them out from under mountains of false positives. Think of how many phone calls are made on any given day in the United States. That's a lot of data. Even if the program could narrow the likely hits down to only a few thousand, that's still a huge number of people for the FBI to investigate.

Without hearing from someone with expertise in the field of data mining, for me the answer to the question, "Does it expose terrorists?" is, maybe.

2. What does the program cost? That is to say, how much of a civil liberties intrusion does it represent?

It seems that the program hasn't involved listening to the content of phone calls (that was the earlier NSA program, exposed in December); rather, it seems the program's focus has been solely an examination of who's been calling whom. How invasive this feels is going to vary from person to person. My own feeling is, it's a gray area. If the government comes into my house, that's an intrusion. If they look at my house from the street, it's not. If they go through my garbage, that's a gray area (BTW, there is judicial law on all these scenarios. I'm not (yet) talking about the legal outcomes; I'm talking about how these government activities feel to me as an individual). Similarly, if the government listens to the content of my phone call, that feels like an intrusion. If they observe me with a cell phone, it's not. If they examine records to see whom I've been calling, that feels like a gray area. Your mileage may vary.

Another aspect of the program's cost is its potential for abuse. Frank Rich, in his May 14 New York Times column, suggests that the program was aimed not at al al Qaeda, but at domestic leakers. My guess would be slightly different: I imagine the program was indeed originally targeted at AQ, but regardless of whether if was found useful for its original purpose, I can all to easily see it being continued for, shall we say, domestic purposes. This is just speculation, of course, but when I imagine what it's like to be part of this embattled administration, with a sub 30% approval rating, no way out of a foreign disaster of its own making, and upcoming midterm elections, I can easily imagine the desperation and paranoia that would make certain players turn the NSA on the "traitors" in the government and media who are causing all their problems.

But my take in this regard is partly a function of my distrust of the current administration. If you trust Bush et al and believe they're good men, you might not share my concerns. Still, I think a program like this one would lead almost any administration to abuse, and I'm not much more comfortable with it in the abstract than I am in its particulars.

(By the way, remember when the first NSA domestic-surveillance program was revealed last year by the New York Times? Bush assured us that "one end of the communication must be outside the United States." I wondered at the time how, given the program's objectives, such a limitation could possibly be relevant. It now seems that it wasn't true, either.)

Let's stop here for a moment. Part of the reason reactions to the program are so divided, I think, is because it's inherently difficult to measure the program's benefits (the administration claims that the program and others like it have saved thousands of lives, but I place no weight at all on those claims given the source. Maybe the program has saved lives, maybe not. The administration has too much incentive to lie to be trusted on this) and individual impressions of the cost are idiosyncratic. Accordingly, people are coming to radically different answers to the cost/benefit question.

3. But there's another important question. Regardless of its cost effectiveness, is the program legal?

The leftist reaction is, "Of course it's illegal. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which Congress passed in 1978, created so-called FISA courts that must issue warrants before Americans can be subjected to eavesdropping. The administration conducted this program in the absence of FISA warrants. Ergo, illegal."

The rightist reaction is, "All the NSA did was look at what phone numbers were calling what phone numbers. That's not eavesdropping. No eavesdropping, no need for warrants. Ergo, legal."

I'd like to know more before answering. But I will say this: I've never been able to understand why the administration refused to get FISA warrants for the program that was disclosed in December, a program that apparently does involve actual eavesdropping. I can't think of any legitimate reason for the administration's failure to do so. The FISA courts almost never even refuse a requested warrant, and the FISA act provides even for retroactive warrants in cases where an agency like the NSA has to act too quickly to get a warrant in advance. The administration has already blown the "but this wasn't eavesdropping" argument with the first program. It's too late for them to claim it here.

In fact, it's probably inaccurate to think of these as two separate programs. First, the NSA plays connect-the-dots with the phone numbers. Next, it listens in on phone numbers that look suspicious. Same program, different steps.

One other thing I'd like to know is, why were the phone companies turning over these records in the absence of subpoenas? Qwest refused, but AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth cooperated. Was this out of a sense of patriotism? Were there implicit threats involving government contract awards?

What do you think? What am I missing?
Bookmark and Share

62 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard two jokes about this yesterday.
1) The government is not wasting time looking at any of the data they got from the other phone companies. They're just checking the new accounts information at Qwest.
2) At least now we know that AQ uses Qwest.

Monday, May 15, 2006 4:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Lee Child said...

Barry, what are you missing? Not much, but your restraint is admirable. The earlier bout of eavesdropping-without-warrants was plainly illegal, and this current bout of data mining is close enough to need all kinds of what-is-the-meaning-of-is self-justification, which used to be a bad thing when the other side did it. Which is really always the ultimate test in politics, isn't it? The shoe-on-the-other-foot test - how would the WSJ apologists react if Hillary was doing this? How will they react if/when she inherits these powers and practices? Not well, I imagine, which makes their current position partisan and therefore bogus.

My friend screenwriter John Rogers has an excellent blog entry on this - http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com/ - scroll down to the May 11th piece "FISA in One Syllable Words."

Monday, May 15, 2006 5:45:00 AM  
Blogger John D. said...

"What am I missing?"

Phone records were being sold to private companies long before the recent USA Today story.

http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-privacy05.html

Monday, May 15, 2006 9:49:00 AM  
Blogger MWFindley said...

Barry, as a former intelligence collector - I am surprised that you (of all people) cannot see the value of a telephone number collection platform - particularly when married up with all the other collection platforms the various intel agencies have at the disposal. Law Enforcement Agencies, Intel agencies, and all the various cogs in the wheels in between - work very hard at keeping a terrorist attack from happening on US soil. We take are jobs very seriously - and when the civilian population bitch, whines and moans about something as insignificant as data mining telephone records - - It's frustrating.

We're damned if we do and we're damned if we don't.

What should bother people is that Big Brother is NOT your governemnt - Big Brother is Corporate America. I get some of my very best intel from those guys.

Monday, May 15, 2006 10:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Patrick Pricken said...

Maybe AT&T et al hoped that complying with the NSA would help them get COPE enacted?

Wikipedia: Net Neutrality
Article: Baltimore Sun
The moderately titled "Save the internet".com website

Monday, May 15, 2006 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Another point is President Bush saying, "The NSA was not data mining, they're not trolling."

If this wasn't data mining, I'm having a hard time coming up with a definition of what they did. Trolling? Hard to define, but if President Bush somehow things taking the phone call databases of 3 major phone service providers and looking for connections among that data isn't data mining, he's being as ridiculous as President Clinton parsing the definition of "is."

Monday, May 15, 2006 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Slugg said...

Barry asks, "What am I missing?"

... That the recently revealed data-mining operation and the FISA-less eavesdropping might not be not separate: that they might be components of a single electronic intelligence gathering operation?

Even as Army Field Stations once upon a time conducted "pattern analysis" of all encrypted Soviet HF communications to identify which frequencies should be monitored and recorded for main-frame computer-intensive cryptanalysis?

Imagine this: that the data-mining of call records could narrow down all the noise to indicators and tips... which could then be targetted for further research with a bit of warrantless eavesdropping. The feasability of this would all depend on which search criteria NSA selected for the data-mining operation.

Continuing to speculate wildly, if a "tip" developed from the mined data were proved lucrative, then the Attorney General could go forward to the FISA court for exquisitely legal permission to tap into that newly and happily uncovered evil-doer comms channel for an extended period of time... or he might not.

Might not? Might not... what??? Is the falcon deaf to the falconer????

Uhhhh... Sorry about that. Please pardon me while I drink deeply of freshly distilled dextromethorphan before I try to find the thread once again... aaah yes!... I remember where I was now...

If you're one of those pathetic cut-and-run liberals who's irrationally convinced the Bush Jr. Administration looks a whole lot like the Richard Nixon Administration Redux -- in short... an assembly of strong men and women who believe both that their unquestionably patriotic ends justify their means, and that the world is thickly populated with their enemies -- traitorous leakers, godless political opponents, evil terrorists -- well then...

It would probably be delusionally simple for you also to conclude that there are parallels between the technologically antique gang of White House Plumbers breaking into the Watergate Headquarters of the DNC to plant wireless microphone in the light fixtures... and the the current leadership of NSA agreeing to eavesdrop on everybody.

Monday, May 15, 2006 1:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NYTimes' Frank Rich warned in his OpEd this past Sunday:
"...this program may have more to do with monitoring 'traitors' like reporters and leakers than with tracking terrorists."

Add political opponents and candidates to that list too, IMO.

ABC News is reporting that the numbers their reports call are being tracked in an effort to root out their confidential sources.
http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2006/05/federal_source_.html

Apologists on the right say that it's only being used to root out terrorists. Wrong. They say they're not listening in, just looking for patterns. Well, a pattern of phone calls from a reporter to a source can reveal that source.

I fear this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Monday, May 15, 2006 2:39:00 PM  
Anonymous jim said...

I fear anonymous is on the mark --- who's likely to practice secure communications practices - terrorists or internal whistleblowers, opposition political figures, and reporters.

Monday, May 15, 2006 4:30:00 PM  
Blogger JD Rhoades said...

who's likely to practice secure communications practices - terrorists or internal whistleblowers, opposition political figures, and reporters.

To this administration, there's no difference. Dissenters and whistleblowers and the reporters who talk about them are terrorists, or at least, as they like to say "objectively pro-terrorist."

That's what's wrong and what's always been wrong about this whole thing: only the President and his men get to decide who's a terrorist, terrorist sympathizer, terrorist supporter, etc. And their definition is pretty broad...at one point, the Secretary of Education described the NEA as a "terrorist organization."

Any administration this careless with language shouldn't get to make the definitions.

Monday, May 15, 2006 5:49:00 PM  
Blogger JD Rhoades said...

MWFindley: would you mind posting, right here on this blog, a list of all the phone numbers you've called in the last six months so we can all read them?

We won't do anything else with them, we promise. I mean, if you've got nothing to hide, what's the problem?

Monday, May 15, 2006 6:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Putting things in personal terms misses the boat, in my opinion. Sure, it may not effect me or I may have nothing to hide. But, do I want reporters and whistleblowers to be able to avoid government intimidation. Absolutely.

And, it may be legal. I don't know. It may also be legal for government men to sit outside our houses, follow us everywhere we go and record our whereabouts, but most people wouldn't find that very American. Guess they'll just have to use cell phone location tracking so we won't get upset about it.

Monday, May 15, 2006 8:15:00 PM  
Blogger law dawg fed said...

Just a quick question -

Why is something moral/ethical when a business does it and immoral/unethical when the government does it?


If the words moral/ethical are inappropriate then subsitute "right" and "wrong" or whatever words you wish. The simple question is why the double standard?

Monday, May 15, 2006 9:23:00 PM  
Blogger Sean Amico said...

I heard today that a petition for a class-action lawsuit against the phone companies involved is being circulated. Of course, if this ever comes to pass, The Government (probably a co-defendant) will try and use the premise of "national security" as their defense and move to dismiss. The truth of the matter is that The Government has established long ago the precedent for invading people's privacy under the pretense of national security. One only has to look back to World War 2. Censors checked almost every piece of mail that went back and forth between military folks and civilians. The censors were even given stamps to let you know that your mail was being read. I think it's a stretch to equate WW2 to the War on Terror / Iraq, but my point is that this practice has been going on a lot longer than most people think, or, care to think about.

Additionally, I would agree with MWFindley...'What should bother people is that Big Brother is NOT your governemnt - Big Brother is Corporate America.' And each corporation will act and react in way that serve their best interests and/or the interests of their shareholders...even if it's illegal.

Monday, May 15, 2006 10:13:00 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

Lee, the John Rogers blog entry was hilarious. Thanks for posting it. Agreed that "how would you feel about this if the other side were doing it?" is a good test of one's objectivity (also agreed that the WSJ editorial board would fail this test much of the time).

John D, Mwfindley, and Law Dawg, one difference between private access and government access to information like phone records would be the different intentions, capabilities, and likelihood of abuse. Presumably the government, which wields tax, military, and law enforcement authority, can misuse information in a way that private entities without such powers can't. Therefore, I'm not sure that simultaneous discomfort with government information vacuuming and comfort with private information purchases constitutes a double standard. Nor can I agree that Big Brother is corporate America. Corporate America might have the information, but doesn't have the same power to use and abuse it.

Besides, if corporate America really has all the necessary information and is willing to sell it, why doesn't the government just buy it?

Mwfindley, I was a humint guy and the little I know about data mining I've acquired just from reading about it. Regardless, I can certainly see the *theoretical* value of this kind of mining; as I noted in my post, it's the practical value I wonder about. Here's a link to a discussion of some potential practical shortcomings:
http://www.slate.com/id/2109600/

Also, as I said in my post, the real and potential benefits of the program have to be measured against the real and potential costs. I gather from your post that you feel data mining is an insignificant intrusion on a person's privacy. Fair enough, but not everyone is so sanguine, and not everyone who's concerned is part of the "bitch, whine, and moan" (BWM) crowd. And the costs could easily exceed the intrusion itself if the program is abused. I know that our LEOs, military people, and spooks work hard, but they're also human. To me, that means they need oversight. For a history of some of the NSA's abuses:
http://www.slate.com/id/2132810/

Slugg, agreed that the December and May revelations most likely concern different aspects of the same program and on the Nixonian parallels. Anonymous, thanks for the link to the article about government monitoring of reporters' phone records. First it's AQ, then suspected leakers, then political opponents... I have no trouble at all imagining this progression. Which is why I wonder mightily: why did the administration not just do its eavesdropping through the FISA courts?

A possible answer just came to me: the NSA goes to the FISA court and says, "We have reason to believe the person making these phone calls is a terrorist and want to monitor him more closely. Give us a warrant." At which point the court says, "How did you learn about this guy?"

The answer would be, "by examining phone numbers called by tens of millions of Americans with the aim of creating a database of every call ever made, of course." At which point the court says, "huh?"

In other words, these are indeed two aspects of the same program, and the administration couldn't request warrants pursuant to part 2 without simultaneously revealing part 1. Therefore, they decided to do the whole thing secretly.

Maybe.

BTW, here's an explanation of social network analysis:
http://www.slate.com/id/2141801/

Monday, May 15, 2006 10:29:00 PM  
Blogger Bonnie Calhoun said...

"What am I missing?"

The only thing I see that you are missing is the rationale that our government does what they want, when they want and talking about it isn't going to change it.

These data collections have been around for decades. And no doubt, they are not going to stop because some citizens are outraged by it!

Monday, May 15, 2006 11:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Patrick Pricken said...

Why is something moral/ethical when a business does it and immoral/unethical when the government does it?

Maybe it's an emotional response. I'd say most people have lost hope in business, seeing that business was built to exploit every venue for success and power. Corporations are entities, behemoths, purely rational. On the other hand, your government consists of single persons and is ideally supposed to further its people's interests. With business, you have no illusions that if something is possible and viable, it will be done. But with government, you hope that somewhere, someone will stop and assess what she's doing, and if it's "wrong", then refrain from doing it again.

You also hope that politicians share at least some of your concerns and point of views, so when you judge an action as being "wrong", they'll do, too.

That's why people are often surprised at how far governments will go to gain / stay in power, and almost never surprised at how far business will go.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 12:31:00 AM  
Blogger John D. said...

...one difference between private access and government access to information like phone records would be the different intentions, capabilities, and likelihood of abuse. Presumably the government, which wields tax, military, and law enforcement authority, can misuse information in a way that private entities without such powers can't.

OK, two questions for you then:

1. What about the potential for identity theft? Careless control of the information can lead to it landing in the wrong hands. LexisNexis recently lost info on thousands of Americans to hackers.

2. What if the government contracted out the data mining and surveillance programs to private companies? Would you be OK with that (provided it isn't Haliburton)?

Since I'm in an interrogatory mode, I have a question for all of those who are uncomfortable with this program:
How did you feel about the Echelon program and the UKUSA agreement during the Clinton era?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 6:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Maryann said...

I frankly have a problem with the thought of someone cataloguing my weekly chats with family and friends, but let's face it, every time we visit a website, a blog, or answer questions on a survey, we put our preferences and sometimes personal info out on the most accessible place on this planet. Granted, there are spam blockers and virus checkers, etc to help lessen the bombardment of incoming e-mails and 'special offers', but the fact is we know this happens and still access MSN or Netscape or Explorer for more reasons every week. Perhaps it bothers me more that this is all one-sided. Maybe I'd feel better about it if the listeners would st least offer to subsidize the line charges. :o)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 6:09:00 AM  
Blogger Barry said...

John D. asked three questions:

"1. What about the potential for identity theft? Careless control of the information can lead to it landing in the wrong hands. LexisNexis recently lost info on thousands of Americans to hackers."

The rules governing private handling of private inforamation seem to need tightening. But I'm not sure how that relates to deliberate governmental collection of private information. Am I missing your point?

"2. What if the government contracted out the data mining and surveillance programs to private companies? Would you be OK with that (provided it isn't Haliburton)?"

You mean, would a data mining and surveillance program be more/less acceptable if the government ran it through private companies instead of doing it directly? I don't see how using a private contractor could make a difference one way or the other. Again, am I missing your point?

3. "I have a question for all of those who are uncomfortable with this program: How did you feel about the Echelon program and the UKUSA agreement during the Clinton era?"

Are you referring to Echelon itself? Or to revelations that the program, designed to monitor communications abroad, was being used at home?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 7:22:00 AM  
Blogger John D. said...

Barry,
I guess my questions are all really aimed at the same point, that point being the ongoing erosion of personal privacy over the last several decades. Government, private industry, and even the news media have all played a role in the equation. Is the current outrage the result of the fact that people are just now recognizing this? Or is it fueled by the fact that the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld "Axis of Evil" figures into the latest revelations? Is the outrage at what is being done, or is at who is doing it?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 8:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Lee Child said...

John D asked, Is the outrage at what is being done, or is at who is doing it?

For me, neither. I'm not outraged, or even surprised. We're well down the road toward what the readers and writers among us will recognize as the Tom Clancy model ... "if a cabal of five white guys ran everything behind the scenes, we'd all be much better off." I guess my real disappointment is in who it's being done to ... many years ago I emigrated to the "Land of the free/Home of the brave," and now I'm living in the "Land of the uncomplainingly surveilled/ Home of the perpetually nervous and scared."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 9:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Rae said...

John D. asked Is the outrage at what is being done, or is at who is doing it?.

Going to Lee's point, I don't think there is any outrage - or not enough to matter. I was distressed to read the results of a Washington Post / ABC poll that found "63 percent of Americans think the NSA program is an acceptable way of dealing with the threat of terrorism, while only 24 percent strongly objected".

The Bush administration has been brilliant at denial and obfuscation: if they're called on something they just say "we're saving thousands of lives from terrorists, and it's legal anyway, so don't worry, have some more pizza, and it'll all be OK. Trust us, because God is on our side." Absolutely brilliant. We're being lulled to sleep while our civil liberties go up in flames. And it's not only the Bush administration that's getting up to these shenanigans, they just happen to be at the helm now.

Barry said, regardless of whether (the program) was found useful for its original purpose, I can all too easily see it being continued for, shall we say, domestic purposes. I was reminded of J. Edgar Hoover's domestic surveillance program during the Vietnam war era; there's an inglorious history over the last century or so of domestic spying for political reasons. I hate to think that we've finally got to the point where we're proactively giving the powers-that-be permission for this nonsense.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 9:54:00 AM  
Blogger David Terrenoire said...

I know john suspects this is a partisan issue, and I can't speak for others, but I can assure him I've bitched aplenty about the erosion of the 4th amendment in particular. The government and corporations have used the bugbear of the drug war to erode probable cause to the point that Hayden said the term doesn't exist in the Constitution.

Maybe he's reading an advanced copy.

Add the Christian Right's assault on sexual privacy to the pervasive War on Terror's sidestepping oversight and we've handed a lot of power to those who find individual privacy inconvenient.

All perfectly justifiable, of course, as long as it's someone else's privacy being violated.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 9:56:00 AM  
Blogger JA Konrath said...

Does this proposal extend to calls made to 900 numbers?

What if those calls always last less than 30 seconds?

If so, I think I'll stick to internet, um, communication.

I'm guessing Al Queda will do the same. A Bluetooth IM works the same as a phone call, but won't be tracked with the new system.

And speaking of phone calls, the availability of low cost pay-per-use cell phones makes identifying callers nearly impossible, unless they mention their names during the call.

But to be serious for a moment, I have an honest question: Would we still be a terrorist target if we no longer needed foreign oil?

Wouldn't our interest in the Middle East wane dramatically if we met our own energy needs?

Yeah, I know all of the political rhetoric we spout about freedom and democracy, but there are a lot of countries without freedom or democracy and we pretty much ignore them.

If all the money we spent on counter terrorism, and Iraq, and to a larger extent the millitary and intelligence agencies, instead went toward converting the country to ethanol, electric, solar, and hydrogen power, wouldn't terrorists pretty much leave us alone because we'd be leaving them alone?

Or is that naive?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 9:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a simple individual who rarely tries to convince anyone of anything. I rarely discuss politics [or religion], partly because most of my time is spent just trying to make it through one day to get to the next one. But I make the time to read the paper, watch the news and try to filter and distill what's going on into something that makes sense to me.

And I read this blog. I don't think or write with the depth of many who post here, but I pay attention to what everyone has to say and try to base any opinions I form only on the facts. [As opposed to emotion or partisanship.]

Many of the posts here confirm my worst fears about where this country is headed. Like I said, I keep things simple, so these are the two things that are clanging away in my head: The Nixon years. George Orwell's 1984. One has already happened and one is happening now. [I'm not sure if someone else has used this analogy or if I thought of it on my own, but it's how I see things these days.]

Re:business vs.govt. in data mining: One of them is trying to sell you something and one of them is taking something away from you.

That's my 2cents worth. And Barry, I hope you don't get tired of this blog anytime soon.

John McAuley

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 10:07:00 AM  
Anonymous jim said...

This is really a novel strategy - see, since they "hate us for our freedom," we're just eliminating freedom. Ergo, they won't hate us anymore. Problem solved. It's that type of outside the box thinking that really pays off.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger David Terrenoire said...

Joe,

I'm just a schmuck here in North Carolina, trying to get by, reading the paper, etc.

But I've said since 9/11 that this president's biggest failure was his missing the opportunity to rally this nation behind energy independence.

Rarely does any president get handed this national unity, this undivided America looking for guidance.

In those days when every American was asking what can I do, Bush should have pushed for a Manhattan Project on energy, calling for all of us to conserve and making it our national mission to be free of Mideast oil in a certain time, like JFK did with the moon shot.

He could have done it. We would have followed him.

Instead, he asked us to go shopping.

Missing this opportunity marked Bush, in my opinion, as a man with no vision of the future, and no confidence in his country.

Would energy independence eliminate terrorism? Probably not. But it would eliminate some of the reasons for it and a hell of a lot of the financing.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger David Terrenoire said...

There's a brilliant take on the NSA/FISA flap over at Kung Fu Monkey:

http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com/

You might want to take a look.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger John D. said...

"...many years ago I emigrated to the 'Land of the free/Home of the brave,' and now I'm living in the 'Land of the uncomplainingly surveilled/ Home of the perpetually nervous and scared.'"

That attitude might be contagious. Check out this article:

Europeans Embrace Stepped-Up Surveillance

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger JD Rhoades said...

I was distressed to read the results of a Washington Post / ABC poll that found "63 percent of Americans think the NSA program is an acceptable way of dealing with the threat of terrorism, while only 24 percent strongly objected".

Rae, the apologists for this program trot that poll out a lot, as if Constitutional protections were subject to polls. But keep in mind that this story just broke. It takes a while (and often several outrages) for the full implication of what's going on to percolate through the public's mind. Look again in about six weeks and see how the public feels.

Wouldn't our interest in the Middle East wane dramatically if we met our own energy needs?

Yeah, I know all of the political rhetoric we spout about freedom and democracy, but there are a lot of countries without freedom or democracy and we pretty much ignore them.

If all the money we spent on counter terrorism, and Iraq, and to a larger extent the millitary and intelligence agencies, instead went toward converting the country to ethanol, electric, solar, and hydrogen power, wouldn't terrorists pretty much leave us alone because we'd be leaving them alone?

Or is that naive?


Not a bit, Joe. You hit the nail squarely on the head. The failure of this country's leaders to make energy independence the number one national security priority is the greatest failure of every administration since (and including) the Carter Administration. We had a warning with long gas lines, and we forgot all about it when the crunch eased.

If we had true energy independence, we could tell the countries of the Middle East, including the terrorist supporting Saudis, to go screw themselves.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 2:26:00 PM  
Blogger law dawg fed said...

Barry-

If you don't think corporate America has MORE power than the government we need to have a chat.

Lets see, before the government can really do anything to you it has to clear the hurdle of the Bill of Rights. Corporate America does not.

Lose your credit score? Think that won't mess up your life? Need a loan? Have to, essentially, make any purchase? Insurance? All those are controlled by corporate America and are done so with very few rights on your part.

So I guess so long as you don't need to buy anything and never get sick and never have to repair anything due to a car wreck or natural disaster or what not then corporate America has no hold over you. But if you need any of those things then I think their power is substantial.

Watch the movie Gattaca and then tell me corporate America has no power. It is a cautionary tale IMO and we can see where certain technologies can take us if we aren't careful.

YMMV.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 5:15:00 PM  
Blogger law dawg fed said...

This is dry and boring but it illustrates the problem of simply repeating the mantra of "energy independence." Sorry for all the techincal verbiage.

In 2001 the world burned over 400 quadrillion (Quad) Btu of energy and almost 40% of it was supplied by oil. North America burned 116 Quad of it in 2001 with Asia right behind at 113. But while we will burn only about 50% more energy by 2025, Asia will double its demand. The rule of thumb for Quad Btu is to divide it by 2, which represents how many million barrels of oil (mbd) you need to burn each day to achieve that energy. Asia will need about 40 Quad Btu more than we will. That equals 20 million barrels of oil per day - roughly what the US consumed in oil last year, importing more than half. Asia will burn 211 Quad Btu by 2025 according to the latest figures from the Dept. of Energy. Asia produces little oil and by 2025 the region will have to import more than 90% of its oil requirements, or 35 out of 38mbd. This is twice as much as they import today (18mbd). Of the 18 mbd Asia imports today just over half comes from the Persian Gulf, but of the 35 mbd Asia will import in 2025 60 percent will come from the Gulf. Meanwhile the Gulf's share of North America will decline from 22% to 20% by 2025. The Gulf will boost production for export from 17 mbd today to 36 by 2025 and 11 of those go to Asia while less than 3% will go to North America. The Persian Gulf accounts for 17 mbd out of a total of 56 mbd. But they have over half the known global reserves of oil. So in 2025 if oil is shut down in the Middle East North America will have to find 6 mbd somewhere else (the rest of the world contributes 60 mbd) while Asia has to find about 3 1/2 times as much. North America would be looking at a loss of 7% of its energy while Asia would be looking at losing 20% of its Quad btu (www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/index.html) Its our blood being spilt over there, but is it our oil? If the Gulf shuts down it not only eliminates the only source of revenue they have in the region, you automatically price most poor countries right out of the market. Economic deprivation would probably result. Worldwide.

And no one would care. We won't even notice, just like we don't now in Africa.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 5:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Rae said...

Hi LDF,

Your point is well taken about the power that Corporate America wields, versus the power of The Government. But I think the issue in many people's minds is that The Government is now ignoring the Bill of Rights and the Constitution; a debatable point, but a slight variation on your post.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 5:52:00 PM  
Blogger law dawg fed said...

rae-

How so please?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 5:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Rae said...

Ack. I was afraid you'd ask me that ;-)

I'm no constitutional scholar, and I'm not well read on the legal issues behind the current issue, but I think you could get some pretty good debate going over the 4th amendment. This is the whole thing - it's pretty short and sweet, and open to all sorts of interpretation.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Laws have been passed that are 'exceptions' to the 4th amendment (going to David Terrenoire's earlier point), but I think it's this amendment that's the basis for many objections to data mining in general, whether its the government or corporate American doing the mining.

You could also have some good arguments over issues of free speech (1st amendment) and self-incrimination (5th amendment).

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 6:26:00 PM  
Blogger law dawg fed said...

Another issue that is clouded in the rhetoric of "energy independence" is that only 45% of our oil usage is made into gasoline (www.eia.gov/pub/oil gas/petroleum/analysis publications/oil market basics/Demand text.htm), and the majority of that doesn't go our gas tanks but into diesal for trucking, trains, planes and what not for shipping of goods and services.

Look at your house. See all those plastics? Wires? Electricity? Asphalt on highways and roads? All dependent on oil.

BTW, for those saying we need to lessen independence on the Middle East I happen to agree. And we have been. Canada is our number one supplier. Mexico is second. Nicaragua and Venezuala are up there as well (Chavez is a worry as well, though). So we have been, but it takes time.

For those saying Bush squandered an opportunity, how long should it have taken him to ween us off oil? What is acceptable?

Especially given the facts I laid out at the top of this post. Because I doubt many on this list are living an Amish lifestyle with no plastics and growing their own food and making their own goods.

So, in my opinion, until you give up your entire way of life then you cannot shroud yourself in sanctimonious posturings of moral superiority.

I certainly haven't. I'm sitting in my air conditioned home in sweltering Texas, sipping a bargain-basement red wine I happen to like and watching my projector (TV) and typing on my laptop to all you fine folk. Surrounded by plastics and electricity.


Just another part of the problem, I guess.

My BS opinion only.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 6:29:00 PM  
Blogger law dawg fed said...

Rae-

As a federal agent I'm curious as to what laws have been passed that circumvent the Fourth, First and Fifth Amendments. Because I certainly haven't been given any new authority as a result and I want to tell my boss to unleash the dogs of war.

This is tongue-in-cheek, of course, but I am legitimately curious as to what you're talking about. The only circumvention I'm aware of is the ongoing controversy of Guantanamo Bay and holding non-US citizens (except Padilla) in custody. Is that what you're talking about?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 6:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Rae said...

LDF,

No, I'm not referring to Guantanamo.

My reference to laws being passed had to do with Acts of Congress, such as the Patriot Act, and FISA. I talked about them as 'exceptions'(with quotes) to the 4th Amendment, because they're exceptions in the opinions of those who disapprove of them. I expect that those who approve of FISA and the Patriot Act would argue that they're necessary tools in our fight agains terrorism.

When I said earlier that there are those who think the Government is ignoring the Bill of Rights, I had in mind the ongoing debate around 4th amendment issues (which I find fascinating when it's not making me cranky).

Regarding the 1st and 5th amendments, I was also talking about possible points of of debate, not implying that Congress had taken any particular action - sorry for the lack of clarity.


This article talks about changes in wiretap laws - you may find it pertinent. http://archives.cnn.com/2002/LAW/11/27/findlaw.analysis.ramasastry.spyrcourt/index.html

And now, all this thinking has exhausted me. Need coffee ;-)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 8:08:00 PM  
Blogger David Terrenoire said...

law dawg,

ZI'm the one who says Bush squandered the opportunity and here's why, at the risk of repeating myself. Remember what it was like on 9/12? People were donating so much blood that the Red Cross stopped taking it. There were so many volunteers heading toward NYC (I was one of them) that the city asked us not to come. Everyone was asking, how can I help? What can I do? We were, in a mood not seen since Pearl Harbor, ready to do anything.

How many presidents are given that opportunity? Very few. If Bush had said, as Kennedy did with the moon landing, this is what we nedd to do, I have great faith in America's single-minded, technological purpose, that we would be well on our way to energy independence.

So Bush had the amazing opportunity to do something of lasting value to this country and the world, and he blew it. His knee-jerk was protect the consumer economy (important, but hardly visionary), and military action. Also important, and if you're not asking the nation to sacrifice for war, not even financially, then you don't understand who we were on 9/12.

In WWII, families collected paper, cans, grew Victory gardens, all of minimal strategic value, but a huge boost to civilian morale.

This administration underestimated this nation and missed an opportunity we will not (I hope) see again.

That is catastrophic short-sightedness at worst and at best a missed opportunity.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 8:50:00 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

John D, now I see where you're coming from. Agreed, as Lee suggested earlier, this is an excellent way to "pressure test" one's convictions: would you feel the same way if the other party were doing it? A worthwhile question to ask.

Lee, thanks again for stopping by. Totally off-point: for those Jack Reacher fans among us, Lee's 10th (!) Reacher novel, The Hard Way, hits bookstores today. Starred review in PW, glowing full page writeup in EW, and great reviews from people who've read the ARC. I've never met anyone who liked Rain and didn't like Reacher, so if you haven't read Lee's novels, you're in for a treat. Check 'em out at www.leechild.com.

Joe asked, "Would we still be a terrorist target if we no longer needed foreign oil?"

That's an excellent question, although I think it contains two small fallacies in the way you've asked it. First, the question isn't would we be a target, but would we be less of a target. Second, the realistic goal wouldn't be to no longer need foreign oil, but to reduce our dependence. I mention these because when talking energy it seems easy to fall into the habit of thinking all or nothing (as I will suggest Law Dog does in a moment...).

I do think reducing our consumption of fossil fuels would make us less of a target. This would work two ways: first, the less we need foreign oil, the less tempted we are to distort our principles and policies supporting regimes like Saudi Arabia. That hypocritical support, IMO, is part of what fuels anti-Americanism in the muslim world. Second, if world demand for fossil fuels goes down, the Saudi's have less money to fund anti-western, hate-inculcating madrasses worldwide, and Iran has less money to sponsor terrorism worldwide (and to build nukes).

John, thanks for the kind words about HOTM. I can't imagine my getting tired of this blog, but I can easily imagine it taking over my life... ;-)

Jim, I'm not sure how much the "if they hate us for our freedom, we should just eliminate freedom" analysis persuaded anyone, but I gotta admit, it was funny as hell...

David, totally agree. My biggest disappointment with Bush as a leader is that he has done nothing useful with the political capital he was handed on 9/11. IMO, the most important thing he could have done would be to implement some form of carbon tax, including a higher federal gas tax at the pump. Second most important would be to end drug prohibition. Third most important would be to end agricultural welfare subsidies. But I'm going off topic...

JD, I mostly agree... except, again, watch out for the "all or nothing" trap. Total energy independence might never be possible; even if it is, it won't be for a long time. But that doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't take steps to immediately *reduce* our energy dependence.

LD, maybe we're not adequately explaining our premises, and I confess that this isn't something I've thought deeply about. But let's give it a shot. With regard to who's more powerful, corporations or the government, you said: "before the government can really do anything to you it has to clear the hurdle of the Bill of Rights. Corporate America does not."

Fair enough. But what can the government do after clearing that hurdle? Search your house. Carry off your property. Confiscate your land by eminent domain. Assess you for taxes. Put you in jail. Execute you.

Now, by comparison, what can corporate America do even in the hurdle's absence?

LD, on the question of energy independence, you said, "I doubt many on this list are living an Amish lifestyle with no plastics and growing their own food and making their own goods. So, in my opinion, until you give up your entire way of life then you cannot shroud yourself in sanctimonious posturings of moral superiority."

Can't agree with you on this one either, amigo. This seems to be an example of that all or nothing thinking that can blind us to other alternatives. Regarding energy use, profligacy and Amishness aren't two alternatives we have two choose between; rather, they're two ends to a continuum. Logically, I don't see how a refusal to live like the Amish necessitates a profligate lifestyle instead.

Moreover, I don't see the relevance of my lack of Amishness (or failure to ride my bike to work instead of driving my car, or whatever) to the question of what policies we ought to implement as a nation. I don't blame people for wasting gasoline today; it's kept artificially cheap through indirect subsidies. And I, like everyone else, would drive more sensibly if gasoline were more expensive. I might even rinse out sandwich bags instead of throwing them away if their price went up. Would those sorts of behavioral changes be worthless?

A few years ago there were power shortages in California. You wouldn't believe how much people were able to cut back on their electricity use at the time, just because they had to. Periodically there's a drought here. Again, it's astonishing at just how little water we need when we have a reason to conserve it. I have a feeling we could make the same discoveries with regard to fossil fuels, if policies were in place to give us a reason to do so.

So it looks like we're going to have to have that chat you mentioned. I'll bring the whisky. :-)

Last thing: you mentioned that we're reducing our dependence on mideast oil by sourcing instead from Canada, Mexico, etc. But remember, oil is for the most part a commodity. If we buy ours from Mexico, Iran sells to China. Iraq being largely offline now raises the world price regardless of who they were selling to before. IOW, world demand is what sets the price of oil, and Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela make their money whether they sell to us or to China and India. If we want to deprive the mullahs of funding, sourcing from Mexico is largely irrelevant. Reducing our use is what matters.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 9:18:00 PM  
Anonymous M.J. Rose said...

This might be naïve - I'm out of my depth in this conversation - psychology being more my métier than politics and law but I can’t help but wonder if the leak of this program wasn't a programmed leak to step up our paranoia. If a great number of us are feeling as if we are being watched doesn’t that – in an insidious way -- help the government make its point that we are living in times that require us to be watched. Is it possible they are setting this situation so their continued power grab becomes more and more acceptable because daily we feel more powerless? Or another way of looking at that is: Are they creating a “throw up your hands and accept it” mentality by letting us know that they are going to keep doing whatever they want regardless of any outrage?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 3:54:00 AM  
Blogger law dawg fed said...

Barry-

Yes the government can do all those things to you. But in order to do so they have to jump through an amazing number of logisitcal, philosophical and practical hoops. You know this as a former G employee. Add to that the culture of "lets not rock the boat" and you know how difficult it is, how many safeguards exist, to really go after anyone. Does it happen? Of course. Is it rare? I'd say so.

OTOH, lets look at corporate America? If they want to screw up your credit score all anyone has to do is send in a report. Wham, you just lost your credit. I am living this right now with a family member who moved out of their house, with permission/notice to the owner and leasor, who said sure, then changed their mind when they couldn't find a buyer. Then they said for this person to move back in or be hit with breach of contract, even after they verbally and in writing ok'd it earlier. This person refused, citing they had been given the okay to do so and was already living somewhere else, so they charged her credit with a 10,000 dollar civil judgement, even though this person has never been to court. Credit score went from mid 700s to 500s overnight. Then this person had their car wrecked by a non-insured driver. Need new car, but guess what? Lets look at your credit score, shall we...

They say all bad news comes in threes...

Then applying for new, better paying job. Well, we need to run your credit as part of our background...

Corporate America can screw up your life in ways I, as a government employee, can only wish I had access to should they wish it. And you know what, there ain't a whole crapload you can do about it.

If all that had happened to me I'd be at risk at losing my clearance. You know the tune of that song, don't you?

Back to oil - I never said or meant to imply its a all or nothing propostion. I am trying to imply that it is a vastly more complicated problem that simple "lets get energy independent" would lead us to believe. Sure we should all do our part to live as economically pure as possible, but even if we did it would have a modest impact at best upon demand, which is always the driving force.

If only 45% of oil is used as gasoline, and of that most is used in the shipping of goods and services, how much would all of our combined efforts accomplish? Really? Like your question about data mining, I am asking 1) what is the benefit and 2) what does it cost. But before we can talk about it we must understand the nature of the beast, and what goes where, which is why I posted what I did.

As for the world setting the price, agree 100%. Which ties in nicely with my above point, because America can do its part, or Europe, or China, etc. but until EVERYONE is pulling the rope then there's no movement. Because if one slacks off another comes in to take their spot. I said in the post with all the stats that if we lose the Middle East then most developing countries will be priced out of the game and the overall global economic renaissance we have been seeing lately is over. Because globalization cannot exist with scarcity of oil, at least for the foreseeable future. If we don't lose the Middle East then what we have is essentially a lot of buyers lined up at the crack house looking to score, and if one drops their habit from ten to two rocks a day, someone else will make up the difference and gladly. Because they're an addict too.

To get off oil would take a massive detox and then another substance to replace it. Not to mention totally revamping our infrastructure to accomodate it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 6:35:00 AM  
Blogger Barry said...

LD, as I suspected, we can't possibly resolve these thorny issues in the absence of copious amounts of booze. I think we should just accept this with as much grace as possible and do what needs to be done.

Going back for a moment to my suggestion that programs like this one need to be examined on a cost/benefit basis: there's an interesting op-ed in the NYT yesterday about the possible benefits, or lack thereof, of social network analysis:
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/16/opinion/16farley.html

BTW, I just wrote a whole article on America's energy policy. Hoping to get it placed in the NYT as an op-ed, but if that doesn't work out, I'll inflict on you all here...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger law dawg fed said...

Barry, I have a nice, unopened bottle of 16 year Lagavulin and a cheaper but equally refreshing unopened bottle of Glenrothes select reserve. BTW, word is the Lagavulin 16 is done so you might want to stock up.

This is truly the HOTM. :)

So, assuming I can clear the deck for June, maybe at the conference we can resolve these issues in the appropriate manner. And maybe Mr. Child would care to join us in our libations, if I am correct in that he will be attending?

You guys will probably be saying all the intelligent things and I'll just get drunk.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger Barry said...

LOL! LD, drunkeness is what will make us sound intelligent...

For those who don't know, LD is referring to the first annual Thrillerfest conference, held in Phoenix from June 29 to to July 2. You can find more info here:
http://www.thrillerwriters.org/thrillerfest/

LD, being a discriminating reader, is a fan of Jack Reacher and John Rain. He might even advise me from time to time on firearms matters in the Rain books. So, for anyone who has any complaints in that department, you now know where to direct your comments...

:-)
Barry

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger Barry said...

MJ -- my guess is that these revelations are just what they look like. Someone in NSA was uncomfortable with the programs and leaked their existence.

Excellent article on this very matter in the Christian Science Monitor:
http://search.csmonitor.com/search_content/0516/dailyUpdate.html

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

Last thing: you mentioned that we're reducing our dependence on mideast oil by sourcing instead from Canada, Mexico, etc.

Hi Barry. I used to work in the petroleum industry. Mexican crude is heavy, highly expensive to refine for more than asphalt, or other types of products better suited to those heavier crudes. There's a lot of waste as a result. We did buy a lot from Mexico at the end of the 70's and the early 80's when crude oil prices were in the 70 dollar range.

Arabian oils are light. They are the cream, highly prized. Without a comprehensive energy program that includes geo-thermal and solar power, use of alternative vegetable based fuel sources, we will continue to court the Arabian supply.

You don't like welfare subsidies for agriculture? How about we make those acres and acres of arable land work for us, feed the farmer and help supply our energy needs? Why not raise corn, synthesize it to make fuels our cars and generators can use? Retool those cars and generators so they can use it?

Imagine people getting tax credits to raise corn. Imagine vacant city blocks converted to that purpose, school children and old folk make a buck while watching a little miracle happen in what was once a graveyard for old cars and trash. I suppose avocadoes and nuts could also be used.

I'd paraphrase John Lennon here, but I'm about to launch into some more hackneyed phrasing:

The more one runs over a dead cat, the flatter it gets. Same thing here. Time to start thinking outside the box, stop going over the same territory, and every other cliché along those lines that I can conjure.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger Barry said...

MG, I'm with you. And you just reminded me of what a Cambodian govt official is reported to have said during Britain's mad cow disease outbreak: "You have millions of cows that need to be slaughtered. We have thousands of unexploded land mines that need to be found. If you ship us these cows, we can solve both problems at once..."

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger law dawg fed said...

Barry-

Hope I can make it. We'll see. As for the booze, you know I sound much less intelligent than I already sound after a good ten scotches...;) I'll leave it up to you and Mr. Child to take up the slack.

MG-

Interesting info about Mexican oil. Still, they are our number two supplier as of late.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger David Terrenoire said...

Speaking of outside the box, mg, the city folk of SF are working on turning dog shit into methane for their electrical needs.

That would make my two boys actually good for something besides sleeping on the couch when we're not home.

As for corn, it's very expensive to make into ethanol. Sugar costs about an 1/8, but corn's lobby is much more effective, therefore most of our ethanol is corn based.

And if you're passing that bottle around in Phoenix, law dawg, I would hope you'd consider including an old enlisted man in the mix.

I promise to be on my most entertaining behavior.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

I'd heard about the dog doo-doo, Dave. I'm all for it. There's enough in my backyard to heat Schnectady for a week.

My info on Mexico is over two decades out of date, LD, but I presume the crude hasn't gotten any lighter during that time. Venezuelan crude is pretty heavy also, I think. Also...some other country's also. I want to add China to that list, as an oil exporter, but I don't know why. Seems we purchased from some pretty obscure sources way back when, but none of them had the quality of Arabian Light.

I used to work for a small refiner, what was called a 'bias baby' during the days of entitlements. That was kind of a welfare subsidy, Barry, but for oil, not food and it made millionaires, not paupers, out of people.

Ironic, no?

Dave? Are you talking beet sugar? My guess is corn is put forth because it grows so well here. Sugarcane sugar is cheap, but we can't grow it most places in this country and it's so cheap at the expense of what's essentially slave labor in the islands. I don't care what they make the damned fuel out of, so long as they do so. Compared to the cost of war, world policing and drilling in pristine wilderness, alternatives are cheap, cheap, cheap.

I'll be in Phoenix, btw. Actually, I'm in Phoenix all the time, but Thrillerfest also happens to be taking place down the street from me and I've some business to attend to there.

And you all may as well plan to spend your free time around the bar because the sidewalk will sear right through your shoe leather should you be fools enough to venture outdoors at that time of year. That's why the Biltmore accommodations are so flipping cheap for the conference.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

David and MG and anyone else who will be in Phoenix during Tfest, we should definitely plan a time to continue these conversations in person and assisted by proper quantities of booze. I'll post something as the date approaches so we can work out where/when. Looking forward to it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 1:05:00 PM  
Blogger law dawg fed said...

David-

I'd be honored tp tip the bottle your way and share with a vet.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 1:44:00 PM  
Blogger JD Rhoades said...

David and MG and anyone else who will be in Phoenix during Tfest, we should definitely plan a time to continue these conversations in person and assisted by proper quantities of booze.

Can I come if I promise not to be snarky and saracastic?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 3:53:00 PM  
Blogger law dawg fed said...

Mr. Rhoades-Anyone hanging with me for any length of time had better be sarcastic because I sure as hell am.

Mr. Child-Just read your excellent review in Entertainment Weekly (My 19, 2006). Congratulations, it was a very good write-up. Well done. I hope if I ever write a book its half as well received.

Now if I can only get Reacher to carry his pistol with a round in the chamber...;)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 6:31:00 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

JD, you know that in person snarky sarcasm is a totally different story! I'm looking forward to it.

:-)
Barry

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 9:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Lee Child said...

Looks like we're going to have a separate HOTM-Comments track at ThrillerFest - should be fun. And as this thread seems to have morphed into an energy discussion, let me add my 2-BTU's worth: Arithmetic is our enemy here. World population is increasing, and per-capita expectations of reasonable baselines is increasing too, fairly sharply in the developed west and explosively in many other places. Superimpose those two exponential curves, and you'll see that even to slow the increase in demand will take massive sacrifices. To hold demand flat or to actually reduce it will take moves that will feel like a return to the Stone Age. As for alternatives, as always the key issue is investment - not of dollars, but of today's energy to produce tomorrow's. Clearly it makes no sense to burn "x" kilowatts to build, say, a wave machine that will produce only "x-1" kilowatts during its design lifetime. That tends to be the problem with most technologies. Corn ethanol and, for instance, the SF dog-poop idea are feel-good political fixes that don't contribute net energy overall, going forward.

Rationally, nuclear is the only answer. My brother works in that business. He tells me his blueprints are safe, and I believe him. But he also tells me that once his designs move out into the corrupt and corner-cutting world of construction, and the error-prone world of operation, then all bets are off, and I believe that, too.

So, what to do? Nobody knows. I do my best. I live in a community in New York State where we minimize energy use. We live in small dwellings, walk to the grocery store, don't use automobiles much. We burn less energy per capita than anywhere in America. It's called Manhattan.

Thursday, May 18, 2006 6:36:00 AM  
Blogger JD Rhoades said...

He tells me his blueprints are safe, and I believe him. But he also tells me that once his designs move out into the corrupt and corner-cutting world of construction, and the error-prone world of operation, then all bets are off,

"The error-prone world of operation" may be the best explanation I've seen as to why people continue to have grave misgivings about nuclear power. Consider that phrase stolen, Lee.

After all, it's my understanding that the Chernobyl disaster was the result of the people running the plant hollering the Russian equivalent of "Hey, y'all! Watch this!" as they turned the safety features off.

OTOH, the Navy's been running around for decades with nuclear reactors on the ocean, of all places, and no major disasters yet. So maybe it'll work.

Oh, and I live in a place where I'm within walking distance of work, the store, and the post office...it's called Carthage, North Carolina. :-).

Thursday, May 18, 2006 12:37:00 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

Recently I came across a list of the phrases that most commonly precede catastrophes. One was, "Hey, check this out." My favorite was, "Hey hold my beer for a second."

Thursday, May 18, 2006 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger David Terrenoire said...

I don't know, Barry, looks like we're going to have to rent a hall.

Thursday, May 18, 2006 1:49:00 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

Lee, those are great points, and I confess I hadn't considered them earlier. My first reaction, perhaps borne of some stubborn, misplaced optimism, is: maybe predictions about a growing population and energy use will prove as accurate as Malthus's observations about a growing population and the food supply. I hope so, anyway.

David, we're gonna have fun...

:-)

Thursday, May 18, 2006 8:10:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home