Secretary Gates and the Facepalm

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had this to say in a recent article by the Daily Mail:

‘If we start adding additional objectives then I think we create a problem in that respect,’ he said. ‘I also think it is unwise to set as specific goals things that you may or may not be able to achieve.’

The first sentence is completely understandable, as analysts from all walks of life have raised concerns over the possibility of “mission creep,” or what is considered an “expansion of a project beyond its original goals.”  The Obama administration has looked to avoid that by failing to establish any goals, whatsoever.  Well that was easily handled.

The second sentence is a bit more perplexing (and vexing to anyone with common sense).  It is unwise to set as specific goals things that you may or may not be able to achieve. I am fairly certain that Secretary Gates just used the definition of a goal as his reason why he does not want to set goals.  You are not sure if you will or will not achieve a goal, but it is a goal, something to strive for… that’s what makes it a goal!  (Take soccer as a prime example: you can watch soccer for 90+ minutes and never see a damn goal, but they still have those goals there to try for.)

My friend (I am not sure if she wants to be mentioned in a conservative blog or not) told me that someone on NPR said ambiguity was the best policy for the Libyan strike, so as not to mislead the public.  The military has to have goals, because without goals you cannot develop and change war plans or strategy.


The Personal Democracy Forum Doesn’t Help Conservatives

Monday was a very long day here in New York City.? The Personal Democracy Forum Conference busted out of the gate bright and early and never seemed to slow.? The conference and its attendees are a cornucopia of ideas and innovation.? It certainly feels as if the applications built for and during the Obama campaign have spurred an entire new focus in the political realm.? I feel like I’m a fly on the wall of the office that invented grassroots mailers.? It certainly seems that we are witnessing the initial stages of a new era in politics.

Six month from now things will be very interesting.? The first campaigns since the 2008 presidential race will begin cranking their engines.? It will be the first big test as well.? Letting all of us evaluate who “got it” after the last go round.

One has to understand that when they attend these sorts of events that there is certainly a goal of objectivity.? The reason for attending is to discover the areas in which politics and technology are intersecting.? How is technology, or possibly more specifically, the Internet changing politics?? Are these changes creating the evaporation of results from the previous models?? If so, how do we incorporate these new tools into our area of politics to create new successful models?? That’s what we are hear to discover.

The reality though is that people that are passionate about anything can’t keep it from seeping out even when they are trying to hold back.? There is nothing wrong with this.? I take zero issue with individuals who wear their heart on their sleeve.? At least it’s out there.

But at some point a balance issue develops.? If panels are mostly chaired by a certain orientation of political enthusiast, the point of view is always the same.? If the audience to which they are speaking is of the same enthusiasm, then they are preaching to the choir.? The cheers and hardly applause comes because of political orientation and alignment and not because all political technology enthusiast share the same goals.

We don’t.

Case in point was the fine display of two sheep being led on stage for the final panel of the day.? The sheep, in the form of two teleco representatives, had their achille’s slit so that they couldn’t escape and then were promptly ritually massacred by the Picadores Josh Silver.? Silver, well known in tech policy circles for avoiding any concerns or facts outside of his own talking points was suburb in his beat down.? I honestly couldn’t tell if the teleco reps were ill prepared or just trying to play the saint for the audience, the obvious antagonist.

But why was this happening?? Silver has a particular motivation and a goal, and not one with which all parties in the tech policy community would agree.? Why was no one with a differing point of view sitting on this panal?? Not to defend the telecos, but to ask questions from a differing foundation, or to call Silver’s bluff.? Where was Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, or Adam Thierer who started Technology Liberation Front?? Where was Timothy B. Lee, CATO fellow and Ars Technica contributor? (Who in my humble opinion has hands down written the best scholarly explanation of network neutrality available.? Which is mighty humble of me, if I do say so, considering I’ve written on it myself.)

I did appreciate hearing the audience gleefully suck up every drop the FCC commissioner Blair Levin had to say; especially the part where he told us that they were creating a plan.? Really? The plan he is referring to of course is the National Broadband Strategy which comes due in February of 2010.? What hardly anyone knows though is that the US Department of Agriculture who has used the Rural Utilities Services (RUS) division to improve broadband distribution in the past has been awarded funds for distribution from the stimulus.? RUS plans to distribute its roughly $2.5 billion by September 30th, 2009.? The National Telecommunications and Information Administration?who received the bulk of the broadband stimulus funds?will hand out their dollars in three phases occurring Spring of 2009, Fall of 2009, and Spring of 2010.

Spend first, formulate your plan later, Mr. Levin?? Sort of seems counterproductive to planning at all.

Conservatives are boned at PDF 2009.? There is certainly not enough representation amongst panel members.? Some of this is absolutely not the fault of Personal Democracy Forum.? We are under a liberal Administration, and that administration appoints liberal bureaucrats.? An invite to Robert McDowell or Meredith Attwell Baker would have been nice.? Maybe they were invited, and turned it down.? This too is a possibility.? At least Cas Sunstein with his Fairness Doctrine-esque “electronic sidewalks” for the Internet isn’t present.

I’m not laying the wood to PDF.? Yes, from initial indications it doesn’t appear that the ideological sides are well balanced, and possibly they don’t know where to look.? The real trouble however is the attendees.

The Personal Democracy Forum doesn’t help conservatives.? Because conservatives aren’t there to be helped.

The numbers are simply overwhelming.? I’d guestimate that the attendance is somwhere close to one thousand.? I’d also venture to say that there are roughly five conservatives there.? And I’m incorporating the one libertarian I saw with a Ron Paul button.

I’m dismayed.

I know these folks are out there.? I’ve written about them.? So where are they?? After this past Fall why aren’t ogles of people from the right side of the aisle on Capitol Hill all over this event?? Did the speakers shy them away?? I don’t really think so.? I’m a strong conservative-libertarian, and have been for years.? And while there are a few people in the speaker list that irk me on the average day, I wouldn’t let them keep me from attending when the majority of lectures and panels are simply focused on an examination of content in some form, a discussion of getting content to an audience, or about tools to help you be more efficient and productive.

This is subject matter that conservatives need to hear.? Maybe PDF needs to market themselves more to conservative circles on the web?? Possibly all conservatives on the web are poor and couldn’t afford to attend?? It could be that conservatives don’t fit in with all the Apple fan boys present at the conference.? If there were more Dell owners then it might have been more balanced.

All thought provoking questions.

These are just initial reactions.? I’m sure I will be thinking more about it into the second day of the event as I look for reasons for the paltry representation.

Secretly though, I think the liberals in the crowd are ecstatic.? Why wouldn’t they be?? It’s like someone serving up a box of free gold to anyone who shows up at the box and takes the gold.? And only liberals are showing up, so they get to take home all the gold.

You can’t teach a dead dog new tricks.? And you certainly can’t expect to win a fight you don’t show up to.

Very much looking forward to Tuesday.