Friday, October 14, 2005

Resistance is Futile

T. Rex points to a piece by Keith Olbermann wherein he points out the coincidence of bad news for the Bush administration and the raising of the terror alert status from the Department of Homeland Security.

I suggested that in the last three years there had been about 13 similar coincidences – a political downturn for the administration, followed by a “terror event” – a change in alert status, an arrest, a warning.

We figured we’d better put that list of coincidences on the public record. We did so this evening on the television program, with ten of these examples. The other three are listed at the end of the main list, out of chronological order. The contraction was made purely for the sake of television timing considerations, and permitted us to get the live reaction of the former Undersecretary of Homeland Security, Asa Hutchinson.

We bring you these coincidences, reminding you, and ourselves here, that perhaps the simplest piece of wisdom in the world is called “the logical fallacy.” Just because Event “A” occurs, and then Event “B” occurs, that does not automatically mean that Event “A” caused Event “B.”

But one set of comments from an informed observer seems particularly relevant as we examine these coincidences.

On May 10th of this year, after his resignation, former Secretary of Homeland Security Ridge looked back on the terror alert level changes, issued on his watch.

Mr. Ridge said: “More often than not we were the least inclined to raise it. Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don’t necessarily put the country on (alert)… there were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said ‘for that?’”

Please, judge for yourself.

[…]

To summarize, coincidences are coincidences.

We could probably construct a similar time line of terror events and warnings, and their relationship to – the opening of new Walmarts around the country.

Are these coincidences signs that the government’s approach has worked because none of the announced threats ever materialized? Are they signs that the government has not yet mastered how and when to inform the public?

Is there, in addition to the “fog of war” a simple, benign, “fog of intelligence”?

But, if merely a reasonable case can be made that any of these juxtapositions of events are more than just coincidences, it underscores the need for questions to be asked in this country – questions about what is prudence, and what is fear-mongering; questions about which is the threat of death by terror, and which is the terror of threat.

I have the feeling that if Karl Rove is indicted, we will be told the next day that a fleet of Borg ships has uncloaked in Earth orbit and we are about to be assimilated. (On second thought, maybe they’re already here…)