A compilation of governance tools that
might deserve a programmer’s attention

The Revolution will be Engineered

  1. Assertion Processor – RSS feeds of facts that matter
  2. Constituents’ Issues Assessment and blog archives of comments
  3. Explicit vertical and horizontal linkages among like-minded individuals
  4. A citizen-based Administration elected by a citizen-based campaign
  5. Citizen-based (not faith-based) programs for training, jobs & mutual support
  6. Peer-to-peer vigilance through our personal sensors and shared video archive
    1. of terrorism
    2. polling place coercion
    3. brutality by armed and unarmed bureaucrats

1. Assertion Processor for the Great Centrist Party

How do Doc and I do this? On the same day a while back, we quite separately used the term Heart of Lightness. Today, we’re both looking at how extreme the noises are, and he quotes the photodude’s The View from the Fence of Centrism from last August.

We’re all describing assertions but talking about them as if they’re facts. As Doc puts it: “Yet reasonable people are quick to label as hate all kinds of opinions that come up quite shy of the mark.”

Yesterday he pointed out an important truth: no one’s going to be elected by hating Bush.

I’d like a neutral process to allow authors and editors and reviewers flag and tag our assertions so we can line them up and see them in context.

Whenever we do the same thing over and over, that thing is begging to be automated. One thing we all repeat is our amazement at an article or blog post or other assertion that reinforces or attacks our biases. We’d like to promote the one and discredit the other, and we’d like to string together a bunch of related stories (or lies) that reinforce our biases.

RSS with your Whopper?

Slate even has a Whopper feature that in-house Chatterbox Timothy Noah maintains, specializing in the lies that political figures make.

Got a whopper? Send it to chatterbox@slate.com. To be considered, an entry must be an unambiguously false statement paired with an unambiguous refutation, and both must be derived from some appropriately reliable public source. Preference will be given to newspapers and other documents that Chatterbox can link to online.

Whopper Archive:
Dec. 3, 2003: Joseph Wilson
Oct. 31, 2003: G.W. Bush
Oct. 17, 2003: Grady Little
Sept. 16, 2003: John Ashcroft
Sept. 5, 2003: Christy Whitman
Aug. 29, 2003: Donald Rumsfeld
Aug. 22, 2003: Arianna Huffington
Aug. 8, 2003: Howard Dean
July 25, 2003: Condoleezza Rice
July 18, 2003: President Bush
July 10, 2003: Donald Rumsfeld
June 27, 2003: Remembering Strom
June 20, 2003: Billy Bulger
May 30, 2003: Ari Fleischer
May 23, 2003: Donald Rumsfeld
May 19, 2003: Un-Whopper: Ari Fleischer Tells Truth!
May 2, 2003: Peggy Cooper Cafritz
April 17, 2003: Eason Jordan
March 7, 2003: John Kerry
Feb. 28, 2003: Ari Fleischer
Feb. 14, 2003: Bill O’Reilly
Feb. 7, 2003: Saddam Hussein
Jan. 31, 2003: Karl Rove
Jan. 23, 2003: Bill Frist
Jan. 17, 2003: Naji Sabri
Jan. 10, 2003: Rod Paige

Without being hampered by knowing what I’m talking about, I suggest that someone could extend RSS to allow authors, editors or reviewers to annotate such articles to point out the elements that strike them as, well, striking.

Such elements cry out to include the reserved words of Journalism 101: who, when, where, what, why, how. It’s the subelements that seem interesting. Who meets with whom when and what common threads are lying around begging to be pulled out of the sweater simultaneously? TheyRule.net does some of the associating, but it’s out of date and limited to SEC data, with links to assertions which 404 as often as not. A centralized site is not the answer, however noble the intentions.

If we’re to have a way to scan and aggregate striking assertions, only an RSS feed will do.

The Hersh Model

Take this article by Seymour Hersh in the current New Yorker. In it, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who exposed the My Lai massacre lobs a fact grenade in the direction of NeoCon hawk Richard Perle and Adnan Kahshoggi, a Saudi-born arms dealer. The question is, are they facts or are they traitorous, unsubstantiated charges by a serial prevaricator? Since it depends on who does the reading, the best we can say is that its an assertion grenade and for the purposes of RSS assertion feeds that’s all we need to know.

Interestingly, Slate’s Chatterbox maintains an Adnan Khashoggi dossier. Here’s a report from last March, titled “Six Degrees of Adnan Khashoggi,” Part 6 – Richard Perle’s new pal.:

Everybody’s favorite shadowy arms dealer is back in the news! It is the premise of this occasional series that Adnan Khashoggi is connected to every shocking world event since 1960. In previous items, Chatterbox has linked Khashoggi to Sept. 11, Iran-Contra, the Marc Rich pardon, Wedtech, BCCI, the Marcos Philippine kleptocracy, the Synfuels fiasco, the breakup of the Beatles, and Charlie Chaplin’s serial seductions of teenage girls. (For details, see the “Six Degrees” archive, below.) Chatterbox does not mean to suggest that Khashoggi has committed any crimes. But it does seem to be the case that if you make Khashoggi’s acquaintance, the odds are that you’re not a nice person.

Mr. Noah even maintains a Khashoggi archive:

“Six Degrees of Adnan Khashoggi” Archive:
Feb. 11, 2002: Part 5
Nov. 14, 2001: Part 4
July 9, 2001: Part 3
Feb. 26, 2001: More “Six Degrees of Adnan Khashoggi”
Dec. 4, 2000: Did Adnan Khashoggi Throw the Election to Dubya?

Hersh’s Khashoogi article is long – 4,081 words. Who but a limousine Liberal has time to read this stuff?&
#xA0; Any Mac or Microsoft Word will autosummarize it for you, to any level you want. Here’s what my Mac reports, in 644 words, plus a few experimental tags to lend a feel for what I think might be useful.:

During the Reagan Administration, <actor>Khashoggi</actor> was one of the middlemen between <associate>Oliver North</associate>, in the White House, and the <associate>mullahs in Iran</associate> in what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal. Khashoggi subsequently claimed that he lost ten million dollars that he had put up to obtain embargoed weapons for Iran which were to be bartered (with Presidential approval) for American hostages.

<company>Trireme’s</company> main business, according to a <document>two-page letter</document> that one of its representatives sent to Khashoggi <documentdate>last November</documentdate>, is to <intention>invest in companies dealing in technology, goods, and services that are of value to homeland security and defense</intention>.

…The letter mentioned the firm’s government connections prominently: “Three of Trireme’s Management Group members currently advise the U.S. Secretary of Defense by serving on the U.S. Defense Policy Board, and one of Trireme’s principals, <actor>Richard Perle</actor>, is chairman of that Board.” The two other policy-board members associated with Trireme are <associate>Henry Kissinger</associate>, the former Secretary of State (who is, in fact, only a member of Trireme’s advisory group and is not involved in its management), and <associate>Gerald Hillman</associate>, an investor and a close business associate of Perle’s who handles matters in Trireme’s New York office.

…Its members (there are around thirty of them) may be outside the government, but they have access to classified information and to senior policymakers, and give advice not only on strategic policy but also on such matters as weapons procurement.

…One board member told me that most members are active in finance and business, and on at least one occasion a member has left a meeting when a military or an intelligence product in which he has an active interest has come under discussion.

…If you had a story about me setting up a company for homeland security, and I’ve put people on the board with whom I’m doing that business, I’d be had”—a reference to Gerald Hillman, who had almost no senior policy or military experience in government before being offered a post on the policy board.

…In <authoritydate>August<authoritydate>, the Saudi government was dismayed when the <authority>Washington Post<authority> revealed that the Defense Policy Board had received a briefing on July 10th from a Rand Corporation analyst named Laurent Murawiec, who depicted Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the United States, and recommended that the Bush Administration give the Saudi government an ultimatum to stop backing terrorism or face seizure of its financial assets in the United States and its oil fields.

…When I asked Perle whether the Saudi businessmen at the lunch were being considered as possible investors in Trireme, he replied, <actorquote>“I don’t want Saudis as such, but the fund is open to any investor, and our European partners said that, through investment banks, they had had Saudis as investors.”</actorquote>

<associatequote>“Here he is, on the one hand, trying to make a hundred-million-dollar deal, and, on the other hand, there were elements of the appearance of blackmail—‘If we get in business, he’ll back off on Saudi Arabia’—as I have been informed by participants in the meeting.”</associatequote>

As for Perle’s meeting with Khashoggi and Zuhair, and the assertion that its purpose was to discuss politics, Bandar said, <associatequote>“There has to be deniability, and a cover story—a possible peace initiative in Iraq—is needed.</associatequote>

…The views set forth in the memorandums were, indeed, very different from those held by Perle, who has said publicly that Saddam will leave office only if he is forced out, and from those of his fellow hard-liners in the Bush Administration.

…The paper said that <authorityquote>Perle and others had attended a series of “secret meetings” in an effort to avoid the pending war with Iraq, and “a scenario was discussed whereby Saddam Hussein would personally admit that his country was attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction and he would agree to stop trying to acquire these weapons while he awaits exile.”</authorityquote>

You get the idea. Experienced journalists could probably list the useful tags in 15 minutes.

The only part of this to take seriously is the urge we readers feel to pierce the veil of artifice that the media uses to perpetuate what Jay Rosen calls their master narrative and that Doc calls the “vs.” story.

I want to discuss the Assertion Processor with a journalist who actually knows how to spell “RSS”.

11:05:31 PM    

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