Sometimes People We Don’t Like Say Important Things…Update 1

Patriot Act revision is the public policy matter I regard as more important than any other facing our country, presented here by a man I generally do not support.  My first awareness of him was in his famous Rachel Maddow interview in which he appeared willing to roll-back the entire civil rights era’s gains and not only do I not favor that, I cannot imagine any seriously thoughtful American supporting that position today.  I shared Rachel Maddow’s increasing astonishment as her questions brought forth amazing and unbelievable answers from him.  I suspect that I will be amazed, negatively, again by him.  Yet, in this presentation, he is saying something important and worthy of public debate and consideration:

The original post’s commentary is below, on Donald Rumsfeld’s Memoir:

The title of former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s new memoir, “Known and Unknown,” comes from a remark he made about whether Iraq had supplied or was willing to supply terrorists with weapons of mass destruction. “Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me,” he quipped in 2002, “because, as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

Long before he became Secretary of Defense in the Bush administration I had read and found quite thoughtful some of the famous Rummy’s Rules, (pdf at: which have been amplified in 2001.  He certainly didn’t obey them all but they contain some substance that, like the remarks quoted above, bear serious thought.

We spend what seems like enormous time on the unknowns and fill in our ignorance with speculation, often stated forcefully as if it were fact.  A very high percentage of the commentary I see focuses on the motivations of particular individuals as if they were obvious.  Perhaps I am unique but quite often introspection reveals that I don’t know my motivations or whether they are many, mixed and sometimes contradictory.  How can I assert vigorously the motivations behind the actions of another person, no matter how much I suspect that I know them?

Before leaving the comments on Rumsfeld, let me mention something I heard in an NPR interview a few weeks ago about national infrastructure cybersecurity.  At the end of the conversation the host asked quite credulously “Is it possible that our infrastructure already contains bugs that we don’t know about that would disable it?” (paraphrase).  We really desperately need to refine the quality of our thought for this is an unknown presented as a valid question in a serious interview.  Obviously there could be bugs already planted that we don’t know about.   That’s part of not knowing something.  It doesn’t belong in a serious interview.

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