Thursday, March 06, 2008


Applying the Occam Soccer Rule

The Occam Soccer Rule evolved in my mind over the decade or so I coached grade and high school kids in non-school soccer leagues. There were a number of rules regarding eligibility, some of which were arcane, which sometimes prevented the kids from playing soccer. So I found you could divide the rules, using Occam's 'razor', into the good rules and the bad rules. The good were those which encouraged and allowed more kids to play, the bad ones prevented that. No matter what you feel about abortion, most of us can agree, using the OSR, that laws which cause more women's deaths are bad, and laws which cause fewer women's deaths are good.

I watched a group of Democrats in the house (including our freshman representative from the new 7th District, Ed Perlmutter), on C-SPAN 2 last night talk about FISA and foreign signal intelligence. Some of it was as loony as 9-11 truthers (which was a very scary thing indeed). Most of it was dishonest rationalization for their inaction regarding the laws which are impeding foreign signal intelligence and blinding the nation to new threats. The issue is ripe for application of the OSR. If you make warfighting more like catching and prosecuting criminals, like lawfare, it is a bad law, if you make warfighting more like fighting a war, it is a good law.

Here is a much more eloquent discussion of the Democrats' bad law plans. In short, secret intelligence gathering and civil lawsuits, with their nearly unlimited discovery process, is not a good mix. Money quote from Cliff May:

Trial lawyers are among the most generous donors to the Democratic party —but leave aside whether that may explain House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refusing to let House members vote on a bill to protect the telecoms from being sued for
contributing to the effort to thwart terrorists.

Leave aside, too, that Sen. Jay Rockefeller — the Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee — defended the telecom companies last month, telling his colleagues: “What is the big payoff for the telephone companies? They get paid a lot of money? No. They get paid nothing. What do they get for this [for cooperating with intelligence officials to prevent terrorism]? They get $40 billion worth of suits, grief, trashing, but they do it.” (It is not clear that Senator Rockefeller still has
the courage of those convictions this month.)

But do not leave aside this: As the Washington Post reported, there is “one thing on which both sides agree: If the lawsuits go forward, sensitive details about the scope and methods of the Bush administration’s surveillance efforts could be divulged for the first time.” Divulged not just to the media — but also to terrorists intent on murdering you and your children.

For having written that, I will be accused of “fear-mongering.” So be it. If America’s experience with terrorism teaches anything, it’s that we have more to fear than fear itself. When politicians cave to special interests who want to make national-security policy — and billions of dollars for themselves — in courtrooms, that should raise fears, too. And if it doesn’t outrage you, maybe nothing will.

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