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Friday · April 09 2004

Related to one of today's Click and See items, What is Condoleezza Rice Talking About Cont'd?

More often, it was frustratingly vague. Let me read you some of the actual chatter that we picked up that Spring and Summer:

“Unbelievable news in coming weeks”
“Big event … there will be a very, very, very, very big uproar”
“There will be attacks in the near future”

Troubling, yes. But they don't tell us when; they don't tell us where; they don't tell us who; and they don't tell us how.

Let's be flippant and change the context. I'm in charge of a software project. My team reports the following from a code analysis:

“Unbelievable performance slowdown in coming weeks.”
“Lots of unknown bugs … there will be very, very, very, very many bugs reported within 3 months of launch”
“There is a huge logic flaw in the code somewhere about to rear its head, but we don't know which function is causing it”

Unless you can tell me exactly where these bugs and issues are, I can't do anything about them. In fact, I'm not even going to call a team meeting to make these vague reports a top priority. When my boss and users interview me after the worst software launch disaster in company history, I will expect them to buy the line that I didn't have specific information to fix the crippling software launch issues.

Responsible leadership.

Archived: Political » April 2004
What you had to say:
April 12 2004

Agreed. Either they think that we (americans) wants a scapegoat, or they have nothing better to do with our money.

Either way, they think that we won't notice the point that you make: That's because they're elected and we're dumb.

April 12 2004

Hmm, I'm wondering if I didn't make my point very clear and the sarcasm of my last paragraph was lost.

My point was that I would be a terrible team lead if I didn't even try to address vague issues reported to me. Software maintenance and tuning is an inexact science; very seldom do you know exactly what you need to do to fix a looming issue. Writing off problems b/c I'm not given perfectly detailed info would be a sorry excuse.

So I don't think we agree on this issue.

April 12 2004

Yes, you have a good point, here. When your enemy uses "very" 4 times to decribe how massive an attack he is planning, you may want to do more research.

I don't want to suggest that I think the Bush Administration's failure to act is really the worst thing they have done; we'll never know if another administration would have prevented 9/11, and i would tend to guess, "no". This to me is only an issue because Bush has decided to BASE HIS CAMPAIGN on the fact that he is a tough leader and will keep us safe from terror.

Don't you love how the the already ludicrously named "War on Terrorism" has now morphed into the "War on Terror?" Not only will our military wipe out the terrorists, but it will continue on to eliminate vertigo and shark attacks shortly thereafter.

April 13 2004

ha. oops. i guess i missed the sarcasm. probably since i was drunk. but saying "within 3 months of launch" is more detailed info than what they report was given.

in any case, if you at all realize that in the last 2 years since the attacks that so many people have come forward saying: I warned the government that X was going to attack us...or Y was going to attack us, you'd be crazy not to see that it's impossible with the number of daily terrorist threats that we get, that we can keep track and take each seriously. And how many different threats from different organizations did we get from oh...1991-2001. if anyone of those groups attacks us, it's their fault from not protecting us???

That threat that you list previously is very vague. sure, it's something for someone to look into, but where, who, why, when, how? I also believe that it's hard for an organiztion to have the information to realize what's going on at a specific detailed level...especially if the people at the level below aren't doing their jobs. Hey, did some terrorist enroll in a flight school in florida? yes, they did. therefore, they're going to blow up 2 buildings. oh yeah, have that checked out. is there some chatter going on about blowing up the u.s. again today? yes, there is. therefore, they're going to blow up 2 buildings.

I don't know, i feel like we're saying: "you knew what may happen, why didn't you stop it?". do you actually believe that anyone that knew what would happen wouldn't take the most action they could to stop it?

i don't hold anyone responsible except for the guys that committed the act, and anyone that commanded them to. do you actually think this commission is actually doing any good? and that anyone that is getting questioned really fucked up? i don't.

Why do we get to see these hearings in public, when most of the issues remain "closed-door, highly confidential security issues"? Maybe it's to make the victims families feel better, but i don't expect the FBI/CIA to give me a bunch of information that will make me say: Hey, now i feel better.

April 13 2004

"i guess i missed the sarcasm. probably since i was drunk. but saying "within 3 months of launch" is more detailed info than what they report was given."

You're playing semantic games with me. The previous line says "coming weeks", so I don't think 3 months is a stretch. Change "3 months" to "soon" and the point is the same.

I still think you're missing (or at least not responding to) my original point, however. I am NOT saying that anyone could have stopped 9/11. I am NOT saying that this comission is or isn't about making people feel better or wastefully spending money.

I AM making a comparison to software development, a metaphor that holds well enough for me because solving vague problems is commonplace, though the consequences for failure are incomparable to anti-terrorism.

Let me restate the players (and say this has nothing to do with my actual team, I'm using the industry as an example):
me = condi rice
my boss = george w bush, the president
my team = heads of CIA,FBI, etc

My team gives me the following reports...
"Unbelievable performance slowdown in coming weeks."
"Lots of unknown bugs ... there will be very, very, very, very many bugs reported soon after launch."
"There is a huge logic flaw in the code somewhere about to rear its head, but we don't know which function is causing it."

I share these with my supervisor, who also happens to be in charge of other projects. If my supervisor doesn't want to know the status of these issues in my project EVERY morning, something is wrong. If I'm not telling my team that finding more information is priority #1, something is wrong. I don't care how squirrelly this logic flaw is, we need to do everything we can to find out more.

I'm troubled by the news that this information didn't change the behavior of our leaders at least a little bit. I get the impression that this news was reported, they thought hard for a minute and then moved on. Why no joint meetings of security teams or cabinet secretary meetings? I doubt they would have stopped 9/11, but proper action would make me more confident in their abilities next time. And as Dan says, Bush is basing his campaign on tough leadership and ability to keep us safe. (oh, and also lying about Kerry's past votes, but that's a story for another day)

April 13 2004

"I doubt they would have stopped 9/11, but proper action would make me more confident in their abilities next time."

Why? If their proper action would not stop 9/11, and perhaps point out the same flaws in the security system that they're looking at right now, why would you be more confident in their abilities?

I'm not as troubled that this information didn't change the behavior of our leaders at least a little bit, as i think: 1. they get this type of information constantly (news of possible threats) 2. what they got was very vague, 3. no matter how you state it: "news in coming weeks" is relative and vague - and perhaps out of context depending on where/when it was heard in relation to the other sentences that you quoted. "performance slowdown" in coming weeks is not. it's a more specific and points out a potential flaw.

And yes, it is a game of semantics, isn't it? Isn't that what this whole thing is about??? To me, it's vague; to you, it's comparable to what would happen at your workplace. These hearings are taking place because everyone wants to know what was said, by who, and when...and what action was taken based on those words that were said.

I probably have a hard time with your analogy b/c I don't understand your industry/workplace as well as you do and I can't compare a supervisor who has to work on several projects (all of which have the same basic structure and language and shape) with the leaders of our country and their daily routine.

I'm not a Bush supporter, I didn't vote for him, nor do I think he's the best leader that our country has to offer. I think though, that we (the public) will never know what happened, what all the chatter was, what threats we get daily, how the executive branch is really run, what meetings took place, and what we need in order to be safe going forward.

Does it make a difference that today's terror threat level is blue, or green or purple? To me, it's all part of the same bullshit. I understand the value in learning what happened in order to be able to fix things for the future, but I don't think that's at the core of these hearings. I guess we'll see how much changes after the hearings in terms of what they learn about making national security better.

April 14 2004

If you want to really hammer the analogy, it's not going to hold up. Of course my supervisor doesn't have the breadth of projects on his plate that the president does. And, as I said, the consequences for failure are incomparable. However, my work is the only context that I can really understand what leadership is all about and I made the analogy to bring the decisions of our national leaders closer to home and be more easily understood. Clearly, the analogy doesn't work for you, so we'll set it aside and leave it at that.

The reason we'll never find anything out is that politicians don't divulge information that could be used against them even if it's for the greater good. They are not true public servants. Politicians are power hungry people who will hide and spin everything if it means they get to keep their job.

I'm going to stop there because I'll be in a bad mood all day from talking about my cynicism.

April 17 2004

I agree with you about politicians not divulging information, but that is clearly not the sole reason why we don't find out anything. I'm not saying anything you don't already know here, but want to point out that it's a matter of the amount of information, crossed with the interpretation of that information, crossed with the number of people that speak or do something with that information, and then it gets processed again, and again, and again. And depending on who you believe, and what sources you get it from and how you interpret it, the information can mean one thing to me and another to you. It's like that game of 'telephone' or whatever where you sit in a circle and whisper something to the person next to you and by the time it gets back to you, the phrase, "my feet are killing me today" comes back as "Mr. Pete killed a blue bird".

I am very cynical about the information that we get by the time we get it. Yes, credibility matters, but even with 'credible' sources--you need to take it all with a grain of salt. And I guess that's why this whole commission and discussion is frustrating to me: we'll never know.

© 2004 Jason Keglovitz