About Me

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Did Socrates say "Know Thyself", or was he misunderstood, as all are. Show Thyself is all we can do. The knowing is unknowable.  

I am filled with joy.  It can't be helped.  

Became a Farmer, Builder, Musician, Tank Commander, Librarian, Lawyer and Minister. I have failed at many things. And now retired.  Filled, just filled, with Joy. 

Friday, August 10, 2007

IT - can we plug historical data into algorithms to predict future?

Software developers have long been offering "tools" for a broad range of issues. For example, we are offered programs which prepare taxes, assure compliance with regulations, route shipments, or even predict outcomes given different scenarios.

The Government (Bush administration) now claims it has software that can even predict terrorist strikes. In 2004, the Government Accountability Office revealed that our Administration was running over 199 "data mining projects", many of which involved private sector information provided by private aggregators. The National Security Agency has amassed a database upon which it supposedly performs pattern-based analyses to hunt for terrorists.

There is no doubt among the marketing cognicenti that mathematical algorithms can identify trends and patterns of consumer shopping habits. In addition, IT experts can match voter proclivities, and even reveal financial fraud and crime. However, can running algorithms through consumer data predict where a terrorist strike will occur? Of course not. The NSA is using an enormously expensive tool -- data mining of every citizen's private data -- which will never provide the results needed. The people supposedly assigned to "hunt terrorists" are now sidelined in unproductive but almost infinitely time-consuming endeavors.

Specifically, instead of learning Arabic or interviewing Bin Laden's relatives, huge truckloads of numbers are being "analyzed" for patterns that will never reveal who will hit what target with what type of destruction. The NSA does not need to analyze the phone calls of 300 million Americans, for any reason, ever. The fact that they admit they are doing so is an admission that they have lost their way. They need to analyze the phone calls of a few thousand "fund-raising" religious fanatics -- and again, they HAVE to learn Arabic. The fact that the Government has populated its database with information about every citizen in the United States, and is not accountable for what it is doing, raises serious concerns about "abuse of power".

Remember how Nixon compiled Tax Information concerning his "enemies". What precautions have been taken to prevent private information from being used by people in positions of power to harass their personal "enemies"? Has Rowe used the "data-mining" to compromise his enemies -- by threatening to disclose the fact that they have visited Porn Sites, etc. What safeguards against manipulation of IT by people in power are in place? Do you think Rowe has any kind of restraint that prevents him from using Consumer Information against Senators who might otherwise be troublesome if they spoke out?

As a matter of fact, Why is the Senate so silent? Recall that when Hoover took over the FBI, we now know that he maintained "files" on all of his enemies, and collected information to compromise them. He went so far as to plant "communist" agitators in Martin Luther King Jr.'s churches, and then accuse MLKJ of being a communist! Did any Senator or Congressman question Hoover's budget? There were Journalists who spoke out, only to be suppressed -- they lost their jobs, because their Editors were threatened.

There is virtually no institutional criticism from any person in any part of our Government who is questioning why we are spending billions of dollars probing into the private information of citizens, while Al Quada is still actively and successfully training terrorists all over the world. The CIA has not bothered to learn Arabic or engage the Mullahs on the subject of what the Quoran does nor does not say! All over the world, people are cheering Bin Laden -- while we seem to have elected a President who is incapable of understanding, much less directing, actions appropriate to the circumstances.

I have to go farther: Does it not appear true that the Terrorists who are penetrating our "soft" and exposed parts with the most potent and portentious threats to our safety and security are not Arabs, or Islamicists? Those people seem to be largely occupied with their own problems. The Arab warrior, blessings upon him, is a model of restraint, fairly and openly expressing himself and his intentions. The Islamicist, assuming some have read the text, is living for a hereafter, and the Quoran specifically proscribes suicide, homosexuality, and killing of innocents. Clearly the world has little to fear from Arabs or Islamicists as a whole -- a few idiots aside, who can be found in every region and under every Religion.

The group which can clearly be seen actively grabbing our stuff, and threatening our future, is the cadre gathered about the person of George W. Bush. The waste is criminal, but there is more going on than mere "waste of public resources". There is a deliberate plunder -- the billions going into "IT" is simply pouring into the coffers of these pirates -- there is simply no expectation that "analysis" of consumer data will ever pin-point a terrorist strike. The billions are being spent to enrich the Bush family, the secret Cheney corporations, and the "legacy" institutions set up to provide for Rowe and his minions.