-----Mandatory Anti-War Statement-----

Just to get this on the table, I think that the administration has taken a huge risk. Huge risk might in fact be an understatement - imagine if you will a drunk Shriner standing at the edge of the craps table where his monthly salary sits on the felt, in an off-the-strip casino in Vegas, at 3:45 am, tossing one die and screaming "cooome-on boxcars". Now imagine that Shriner is George W. I suppose that analogy may not represent the true threat. We will 'win'. We will do it with relatively small losses. The risk is what happens next.

I for one don't believe that this is all about oil. Oil is a factor, sure. A large factor. But consider the following: Iraq has the most secular government in the region, a first world infrastructure (ok, second world as of Tuesday), natural resources, an educated population, and a huge export relationship with the rest of the Middle East. In my opinion, some idealistic, clueless plonk looked at Iraq and thought, "Hey, what a great place to build a representative democratic and secular government based upon the ideals of capitalism and globalism. All we have to do is get rid of the political system in place..." I think this is seen as a way to 'reform' the Middle East. And therein lies the problem. Choose a classical metaphor (other than Pandora's box - too obvious), and get ready for a case of terrorism that will make Al Qaeda look like the Mickey Mouse Club, circa 1960.

-----End Mandatory Anti-War Statement-----

John McCain made a remark on CNN last night that some of his colleagues had complained that this war might go on for as long as two months. I must admit that I share the same sense of incredulity as Senator McCain. Two months? That's the time required to kick-start a sourdough starter, or brew a batch of beer, or one-twelfth the time it takes to get tickets to The Producers. Listen folks, wars used to be measured in decades. The 100 year war was named that for a reason. Vietnam was the 10,000 day war - you do the math.

This ties into the general acceleration of life, acceleration of history, and acceleration of technology that we have all become acutely aware of in the last 20 years. However, when things move fast it is harder to recognize and correct errors along the way. We have to be more aware, more cognizant of forming trends, and do what we can to shape them before they become accepted or mandated.

Let's focus for just a moment on our own eroding liberties. Post September 11, a phase which I fear will define an era, a citizen is either comfortable watching any vestige of civil liberties or political dissent spin in decreasing clockwise circles down the toilet, or they are aiding and abetting terrorists. I know that many feel this is wrong, that there should be a middle ground, or that democratic societies require dissent. Benjamin Franklin has been quoted again of late, and not with that "A penny saved is a penny earned" crap either, 'cause 200 years later and the American consumer has yet to figure that one out. No, the quote that has been showing up lately is "The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either." Once again, a great tag line, but can we demonstrate the inherent truth of this. Well, maybe I can't, but a paper out of MIT has done a great job.

Let's take a current example: The FAA deployed a project called the Computer Aided Passenger Screening system in 1999, and is of course releasing a CAPS-II soon. The goal of these systems is to gather data from passengers and mine that data to try and determine who might be a terrorist. The FAA's limited passenger screening resources are then targeted on these 'suspects'. Sounds reasonable, if invasive. It is a case of trading some freedom, but gaining security - right?

Wrong. Rather than interpreting or re-typing the following paper, check it out yourself. There isn't much math, and it's well referenced. Suffice it to say that Mr. Franklin was right about freedom vs. security (and about the French, and that whole pocket change thing, in fact he has a pretty good track record for being right).

We are not going to get freedoms back once they are taken away. Bureaucrats like to have jobs for life, and getting rid of programs gets rid of bureaucrats, and budgets, and contractors, and systems integrators, ad naseum. We have to be aware that long after the war is over and the Republicans are gone, laws enacted today will still be around. It is easier to make law than to remove law, because laws become programs and programs employ constituents. The key is to influence the process before a law is made. I think the EFF and EPIC might have some strategies for doing just that.