Category Archives: Literature

COW HILLS - LEDFORD

Syria’s broad effect, Afghan National Police outnumbered, and DEA’s Hemisphere Project

Refugees fleeing Syria threaten stability in neighboring nations, the ANP dwindling in the face of combat losses, and the NSA has nothing on the DEA, all in today’s defense headlines.

by Ed Ledford

September 3, 2013

Diana – Perseverance Incarnate & Ten Things for Tuesday.

FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM

1.  How (not) to squander your security clearance.  From the vaults, contributor Janet Farley with 7 deadly security sins: “There are a number of ways you could potentially jeopardize possession of your ever-so marketable credential. Let’s count some of the ways, extrapolated from the 2011 annals of industrial security clearance decisions made, shall we?”

2.  Cover letters – first impressions. Also from the vaults and contributor Janet Farley, 5 steps to an effective cover letter: “a cover letter is what introduces your sterling credentials to a potential employer. It is that segue that matches their needs with your qualifications. It is the valuable chance to use your real voice vice resume sentence fragments to pique the interest of the reader.”

 

THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT

*Israel-U.S. fire missiles in Med: breaking news from AP, among others: “Israel says it has carried out a joint missile test with the U.S. in the Mediterranean Sea amid heightened tensions as Washington weighs sea-launched strikes against Syria.”

1.  Losing in Afghanistan – the Afghan National PoliceTheGuardian.Com reports Gen. Dunford’s fair but dire conclusion: “Afghanistan’s police and army are losing too many men in battle, and may need up to five more years of western support before they can fight independently, the top US and Nato commander in the country has told the Guardian. . . . Dunford admitted that Nato and Afghan commanders are concerned about Afghan casualty rates, which have regularly topped more than 100 dead a week. ‘I view it as serious, and so do all the commanders,’ Dunford said. ‘I’m not assuming that those casualties are sustainable.’”

2.  Syria – diving too deep?  Reuters’ Steve Holland and Thomas Ferraro evaluate the stakes this Tuesday morning: “President Barack Obama’s efforts to persuade the U.S. Congress to back his plan to attack Syria were met with skepticism on Monday from lawmakers in his own Democratic Party who expressed concern the United States would be dragged into a new Middle East conflict.”

3.  Syria – pressure on neighboring countries reaching crisisAP’s Karin Laub and John Heilprin lay out the tides as refugee numbers mount to disastrous proportions: “Antonio Guterres, the head of the Office for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said Syria is hemorrhaging an average of almost 5,000 citizens a day across its borders, many of them with little more than the clothes they are wearing. Nearly 1.8 million refugees have fled in the past 12 months alone, he said. The agency’s special envoy, Angelina Jolie, said ‘some neighboring countries could be brought to the point of collapse’ if the situation keeps deteriorating at its current pace. Most Syrian refugees have fled to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.”  See also Aljazeera.Com’s report, “UN: Syrian refugee numbers cross two million.”

4.  Marines heading to West AFRICOM. Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa reports, “An international task force of Marines embarked the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) landing platform dock HNLMS Rotterdam (L800) Aug. 30 as part of a 3-month comprehensive effort to strengthen capabilities with African partner forces in West Africa. The ship and combined security cooperation task force, comprised of U.S., U.K., Spanish and Dutch Marines, will conduct practical application exercises in security techniques and tactics alongside forces from partner nations Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Benin.”

 CONTRACT WATCH

1.  DoD’s clean energy contract race – two front-runnersChicagoBusiness.Com contributor Paul Merrion reports, “With more than a hundred firms in the running, New Generation Power Inc. and Acciona Energy North America Corp. were among 22 solar-power contractors selected . . . by the Army Corps of Engineers, allowing them to compete for contracts with individual bases and other military sites. Congress has mandated that military installations must get 25% of their power from renewable energy by 2025.”

2.  Government contracting in plain EnglishPRWeb.Com covers Government ContactingTips.Com and new recommendations for succeeding in contract competition: “GovernmentContractingTips.com is a website that is devoted to showing small business contractors all the opportunities there are in government contracting. The website’s home page breaks down their new ‘First Steps to Government Contracting’ guide into easy to follow lessons. Each lesson displays all the basic knowledge a contractor should be aware of when entering the federal marketplace.”  Check out GovernmentContractingTips.Com.

 TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY

1.  NASA – vision for the futureAviationWeek.Com wakes us up to NASA’s relevance to the future of technology: “So NASA’s unveiling of a new strategy for aeronautics research is a bold and welcome move from a bureaucratic agency that often seems to have lost its sense of direction . . . . The aeronautics reset is based on the fundamental assumption that U.S. leadership in civil aviation will be at risk in as little as 20 years unless the nation acts to keep the pipeline of new technologies flowing. The revitalization plan—spearheaded by the associate administrator for aeronautics, Jaiwon Shin—was inspired by the story of Kodak, which through complacency and lack of vision saw its domination of the photographic film and camera market wiped out by digital imaging and smartphones.”

2.  Terrorism, drugs, . . . the incremental erosion of the Fourth Amendment?  NYTimes.Com contributor Scott Shane covers the latest and previously unreported government data collection project, The Hemisphere Project: “Hemisphere covers every call that passes through an AT&T switch — not just those made by AT&T customers — and includes calls dating back 26 years, according to Hemisphere training slides bearing the logo of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Some four billion call records are added to the database every day . . . . the program at least touched on an unresolved Fourth Amendment question: whether mere government possession of huge amounts of private data, rather than its actual use, may trespass on the amendment’s requirement that searches be ‘reasonable.’”  Related, read VentureBeat.Com’s “Have we passed peak surveillance?”

3.  The professional-scale DSLR camera you’ll want to own – and can.  At $399, it’s time to get serious about your photography bent.  Time exposes Sony’s new Alpha 3000 DSLR: “a DSLR that is small, inexpensive and easy for beginners to use, while still being powerful enough for a more experienced photographer . . . .”  [I’m getting one of these.]

POTOMAC TWO-STEP

1.  Rhetoric-ing himself into a corner: Obama’s backdoor might just force him to use it. TheDailyBeast.Com’s Michael Tomasky unravels the riddle and concludes, “I think this posture invites an avalanche of no votes. Obama and Kerry should have just used very oblique language suggesting that in the event of a congressional defeat, they’d reassess the situation or something like that. A posture such as that would at least let members of Congress know that their votes here really matter.”

2.  A confession: “’. . . I’m the idiot?’” asks Palin.   With one eye on the White House – and the other spinning counter-clockwise – Sarah Palin offers her Middle East policy.  WashingtonTimes.Com’s Jessica Chasmar writes, “In a Facebook post titled ‘Let Allah Sort It Out,’ former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin condemned President Obama’s decision to get further involved with the ongoing civil war in Syria. ‘So we’re bombing Syria because Syria is bombing Syria? And I’m the idiot?’ Mrs. Palin asked on Friday.  [Incidentally, Palin can see Syria from her back porch.]

 OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS

1.  “Striking Syria: Illegal, immoral, and dangerous.”  Aljazeera.Com contributor Phyllis Bennis argues that “whatever Congress may decide, a US military strike against Syria will still be illegal, immoral and dangerous, even reckless in the region and around the world. Congress needs to say no.”

2.  “On Syria: Be Clear, Then Hit Hard.”  Time contributor Walter Russell Mead argues, “What needs to come next is more clarity about what he plans to accomplish in Syria. I don’t ask that the President share his innermost thoughts with the world at this time; I only ask that he develop a clear strategic concept in his own mind. If he has a serious strategy, the rest of the world can watch it unfold; military leaders are under no obligation to telegraph their moves.”

3.  America’s identity is the pointChristian Science Monitor’s Editorial Board argues, “If US lawmakers accept that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons, they too must weigh the balance between affirming America’s identity as a global ideal leader against a humility in knowing the history of America’s war-waging disappointments.”

THE FUNNIES

1.  Punishing Assad.

2.  Palin’s Middle East policy.

3.  Politics, as usual.

 

Intel News – 6 July 2013

Daily Intelligence:  Morsi’s downfall detailed, Taliban kill 18, CJCS featured on CNN, and $12 billion OASIS RFP 24 July

 *given the practically innumerable spellings of the last name of Egypt’s former president Morsi, the “Daily Intelligence” blog will use Morsi in its own text, though “Daily Intelligence” will not change spelling in borrowed materials.

by Ed Ledford

July 6, 2013

Egypt on my mind.

FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM

1.  Stay cool this summer – Stealth Wear.  “Adam Harvey’s Stealth Wear – designed with a metallized fabric that protects against thermal imaging surveillance, a technology used widely by UAVs/drones – might be the catalyst that revives a cold-war mentality in our asymmetric world:  but on the asymmetric cyber battlefield, drones don’t get bigger or heavier or slower.  They get smarter and lighter and faster as detection-technology development accelerates counter a new kind of mobility.”

2.  100% Contractor Performance Review.  Contributor Diana Rodriguez follows-up her January 2013 blog, “Feedback and Annual Reviews on a Government Contract” with a look at the historical requirements of contractor performance review and, more contemporaneously, the Under Secretary of Defense’s January 2013 memorandum directing “that by FY 2015, The Office of Federal Procurement Policy is recommending 100% compliance” for contractor performance review.

3.  USNS Carl Brashear gets a makeover.  BAE wins $10 contract and Brashear gets a few days at the spa:  “Work will include inspection of the propeller shaft and stern tube, cleaning and painting of the hull, inspection and polish of the bow thruster propeller, installation of the cloropac unit and overhaul of the seal valves.”  She deserves it.

THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT

1.  Mori’s ouster detailed.  Everything you wanted – and need – to know about the fall of Morsi, but were afraid to let people you didn’t know:  Reuters’ Yasmine Saleh and Paul Taylor provide a view from inside in their detailed report: “For Egypt’s military chiefs, the final spur to rebellion came on June 26. That day top generals met Mohamed Mursi, the country’s first democratically elected president, and spoke bluntly, telling the Islamist leader what he should say in a major speech he planned as protests against him intensified around the country.  ‘We told him it has to be short, respond to opposition demands to form a coalition government, amend the constitution and set a timeframe for the two actions,’ an officer present in the room told Reuters. ‘Yet he came out with a very long speech that said nothing. That is when we knew he had no intention of fixing the situation, and we had to prepare for Plan B.’”

2.  Islamist fight back across EgyptReuters’ Mike Collett-White and Alastair Macdonald report, “Fierce clashes in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria left 12 dead and 200 injured, while in Cairo, five people were killed as pro- and anti-Mursi protesters ran amok in central areas and armored personnel carriers rumbled among them to restore calm.  Five police officers were gunned down in separate incidents in the North Sinai town of El Arish, and while it was not clear whether the attacks were linked to Mursi’s ouster, hardline Islamists there have warned they would fight back.”  See also AP’s “Egypt on Edge” and “Egyptians Clash.”

3.  Taliban kill 18 Afghan National Police FridayLongWarJournal.Com Bill Roggio reports, “The Taliban killed 18 Afghan security personnel in two separate suicide attacks in southern Afghanistan today. One of the attacks killed a border police commander. The largest of the two attacks took place at a police reserve unit in Tarin Kot [sic], the capital of Uruzgan province. A suicide bomber wearing a police uniform entered the dining facility and detonated his vest, killing 12 policemen and wounding five more, Reuters reported. Four of the wounded are reported to be in critical condition. . . . At least 22 Afghan policemen have been killed so far this month, according to a count by The Long War Journal. Among the policemen killed over the past five days are the senior female police officer in Helmand and a district police chief in Baghlan.”

4.  Missile Defense fails test.  According to American Forces Press Service, “Missile Defense Agency, the U.S. Air Force’s 30th Space Wing, the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, and U.S. Northern Command conducted an integrated exercise and flight test [on Friday, 5 July] of the ground-based midcourse defense element of the nation’s ballistic missile defense system.”  All systems were not a go:  “an intercept was not achieved.”  Guess who’s working this weekend.

5.  This Sunday – CJCS update on Egypt-U.S. mil-to-mil relationships.  Sunday on “State of the Union,” CNN’s Candy Crowley airs an interview with Gen. Dempsey taped before Egypt’s military ousted Morsi:  “’ I wanted to encourage them to protect all the Egyptian people, not to take sides in any particular issue, and to ensure that they were a part of the resolution of this, but in their proper role as a military which is to ensure stability, but not try to influence the outcome . . . .’”  Egypt’s response:  “’it’s their country and they will find their way.’”  See also Aljazeera: “McCain urges US to suspend Egypt military aid.”

6.  Distinguished Flying Cross to Osprey PilotsDefenseMediaNetwork.Com reports, “Despite serving with distinction in Afghanistan since 2009, no Marine pilot of an MV-22 Osprey had ever been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the third highest medal a member of a flight crew can receive. That changed at a ceremony last week aboard Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C. where two U.S. Marines of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365 (VMM-365) became the first Marine pilots of the MV-22 Osprey to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Maj. Michael Hutchings and Capt. David Haake were presented the award for their actions on a mission in Afghanistan on June 27, 2012.”

CONTRACT WATCH

1.  Contractors on chopping block, with othersAP’s Lolita Baldor runs down the effects of sequestration in the world’s largest office building: “A day without pay, the first of 11 through September, comes next week for more than 650,000 people who hold civilian jobs with the Defense Department. Officials worry that the Pentagon will be hit even harder by layoffs in 2014 if automatic budget cuts continue as planned.  Roughly 85 percent of the department’s nearly 900,000 civilians around the world will be furloughed one day each week over the next three months, according to the latest statistics provided by the Pentagon. But while defense officials were able to shift money around to limit the furloughs this year, thousands of civilian, military and contract jobs could be on the chopping block next year.”

2.  $12 billion OASIS RFP makes it a Happy Hump Day 24 JulyFederalTimes.Com reports, “The General Services Administration will issue a request for proposals for its much-awaited One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services (OASIS) contract on July 24, according to the pre-solicitation notice. OASIS is a 10-year, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract on which agencies across government can purchase professional services such as engineering, scientific and logistics services. The contract will be worth up to $12 billion, according to market research firm Deltek.  GSA to issue RFP for OASIS contract July 24.”

3.  $450 million Cloud contract – 26 AugustFederalTimes.Com announces, “The Defense Information Systems Agency is looking to the private sector for help in defining a planned $450 million cloud-computing project. The agency is seeking industry feedback on a draft request for proposals released June 24, and it intends to issue a formal request for proposals on Aug. 26.”

 TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY

1.  Cool things made in the good ol’ U.S. of AVentureBeat.Com’s Sean Ludwig gives us 5 more reasons to get that Lee Greenwood song bouncing around in our heads again:  Tesla, MacPro, K’Nex, and more.

2.  Nicaragua and Venezuela seek the geekFoxNews.Com reports, “NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s effort to evade prosecution in the U.S. took a turn toward Latin America Friday after the Presidents of Venezuela and Nicaragua announced they were prepared to grant NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden asylum. Although there were no concrete details from Presidents Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua or Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, it is believed that they are the first offers of asylum that Snowden has received since he requested asylum in several countries, including Nicaragua and Venezuela.”  See also, TheDailyBeast.Com’s comparison:  Silkwood to Snowden.   See also The Guardian’s take, “Edward Snowden is a whistleblower, not a spy.”

3.   Prophetic thoughts on Privacy.  In the wake of Snowden, (Re-)read NYT’s Op-Ed by Bill Keller: “When it comes to privacy, we are all hypocrites. We howl when a newspaper publishes public records about personal behavior. At the same time, we are acquiescing in a much more sweeping erosion of our privacy — government surveillance, corporate data-mining, political microtargeting, hacker invasions — with no comparable outpouring of protest. As a society we have no coherent view of what information is worth defending and how to defend it. . . . When our privacy is invaded in the name of national security, we — and our elected representatives, afraid to be thought soft — generally go along quietly.”  Really, why were we all so surprised by PRISM?

POTOMAC TWO-STEP

1.  Mary Jane for Mayors.   TheDailyBeast.Com’s Matt Taylor reports, 180 mayors push pot platforms into the D.C. spotlight:  “The 180 elected officials attending the annual meeting of the U.S. conference of mayors in Sin City unanimously adopted a resolution urging the federal government to let states and localities make their own marijuana policy. The bipartisan sponsors—including, along with the usual suspects, leaders like Jean Robb, the Tea Party–backed conservative mayor of Deerfield Beach, Florida—seemed to show that the war on the war on drugs is now in full sway, a process that has accelerated since voters in Colorado and Washington state embraced weed legalization at the polls last fall.”  Dude.

2.  Pile on the I.R.S.  WaPo’s Josh Hicks tracks growing scrutiny from the left: “Democrats are now questioning the Treasury inspector general’s audit in light of the new IRS documents, which show that terms such as ‘progressive,’ ‘health care legislation’ and ‘medical marijuana’ appeared on a multipart ‘Be on the Lookout’ list, or BOLO, that helped agents determine which groups deserved additional screening.”

OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS

1.  Elections, Not Generals.  Pulitzer Prize Reuter’s journalist David Rohde argues, “There is little reason to have faith in Egypt’s broken political process at this point. But the best way to ease the country’s bitter divisions are immediate elections that include the Muslim Brotherhood.”

2.  Sliding down the slippery slope, for realThe Atlantic’s Derek Khanna asks – and answers – “If the justification for PRISM and associated programs is predicated on their potential effectiveness, why shouldn’t such logic be applied elsewhere?”  Good question.

3.  Egypt’s Rocky RoadForbes’ Paul Gregory writes, “The Egyptian people, with their long history of secularism, were simply not ready for a religious order imposed on them by a minority party. Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood came to understand that they could achieve their vision of an Islamic state, contrary to the will of the people, only by non-democratic means. Thus Morsi began tightening the screws on other civil and administrative institutions with the main goal of achieving authoritarian rule. As the Egyptian people grasped what was happening, they took to the streets. They looked at him as a budding dictator not as the leader of a democratic state.”

THE FUNNIES

1.  King Tut.

2.  In the closet.

3.  Cut off the nose.

 

 

 

 

The N-word. A Confession, perhaps.

(I posted this, then took it down, then rolled around without sleeping much, and decided to re-post it.)

If CNN was bold, they would have had a white anchor open their show “The N Word.”  Instead, African American Don Lemon opened the show uttering the word nigger.  He closed the show the same way, uttering that word.

Ultimately, Lemon did a respectable job hosting the discussion.  I don’t know that we gained anything, though.

One of Lemon’s guests said, “I use it when I’m trying to be cool.  I use it when I’m trying to insult someone.  And I use it to describe someone who is a bad-ass nigga . . . .”  Meaning, she uses it, sometimes, as a compliment.

So – at least according to some – speaker matters. Context matters.  Which means uttering the word is a matter of some sort of privilege.  In this case, though, that’s not an earned privilege, but a privilege with which one is apparently born.  It is innate.  Passed down from generation to generation like some recessive gene.

What Lemon missed, I think, as did all of his guests, is the logical conclusion of the question the discussion begs – is it all right for an African American to use the word, but not all right for a European American to use the word?  If it is all right – and it apparently is – for an African American to use the word, what about someone whose dad is black and mother white?  Or, whose grandfather is white and grandmother black, with a white mother and white father?  What about three generations ago?  Four?  Five? One drop of “black” blood?  Does one drop of “black” blood let one utter nigger without fear of reproach or riot or resignation?

Where we end up is pretty much back where we sadly started in 18th and 19th century American history, which was – and still is, among many scholars – a question of what it is to be “black.”  At one point in our nation’s history, laws defined exactly how “black” one had to be to be considered “black” (back then, of course, the question was how “white” did one have to be to be “white”).  For a complete, more informed discussion, check out Who is Black?  One Nation’s Definition, by F. James Davis.  You can find an excerpt important to this particular point at PBS’s Frontline: “The One-Drop Rule Defined.”  Davis writes, “To be considered black in the United States not even half of one’s ancestry must be African black. But will one-fourth do, or one-eighth, or less? The nation’s answer to the question ‘Who is black?” has long been that a black is any person with any known African black ancestry. This definition reflects the long experience with slavery and later with Jim Crow segregation. In the South it became known as the ‘one-drop rule,’ meaning that a single drop of ‘black blood’ makes a person a black. It is also known as the ‘one black ancestor rule,’ some courts have called it the ‘traceable amount rule,’ and anthropologists call it the ‘hypo-descent rule,’ meaning that racially mixed persons are assigned the status of the subordinate group. This definition emerged from the American South to become the nation’s definition, generally accepted by whites and blacks. Blacks had no other choice. As we shall see, this American cultural definition of blacks is taken for granted as readily by judges, affirmative action officers, and black protesters as it is by Ku Klux Klansmen.”

Personally I think that as with all words the word will disappear when we let it disappear, let it die, divest it of all the power that the word itself will fight to preserve like some linguistic Selfish Gene.  (If you haven’t read Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene, read it.  It is tough to put down.)

Right now, the reality is that the word nigger is an unfortunate part of our contemporary culture.  Superstars utter it publicly and privately, hip hop artists rap it, Hollywood producers introduce it in scripts to “start a conversation about slavery,” kids on the corner use it.

I’ve used it.  I grew up hearing it from my mother, a depression era woman born in 1922, among others.  In Asheville, the black section near Eagle Street and South Market Street was Nigger Town.  It was, to us, to many others.  I didn’t decide that.  I was a little kid learning language.

Then, as I grew up, as black kids started attending the private school I attended – Harold Johnson was the first I can remember – as black kids started swimming at the private pool where I spent the summers, as black kids started playing baseball in the leagues I was in, and as I got to know these kids, the word became more and more uncomfortable.  Then it became an embarrassment.  Then, magically, miraculously, it disappeared from my personal lexicon.

So, I’m sorry.  I’ve said it, too.

I don’t know if I can genuinely regret that I’ve said it any more than I can regret being born when and where I was born and to whom.  I just was.  I certainly regret the history behind the word.  Regret that it still hovers in our cultural consciousness.  Regret any pain the word caused and causes and will cause when spit out at all – by blacks or whites or anything in between or outside those concepts, uttered in hatred or otherwise, by racists or otherwise, conscious or unconscious, appropriated or inherited.

We can denounce the word nigger from here to eternity, but it will survive for a long time to come, if nowhere else, in the darkest corners of racist havens (brings to mind folk singer Phil Ochs’ “Here’s to the State of Mississippi”) around our Nation.

And you can argue about it trying to educate and inform others until you are blue in the face, but some people are going to say it, and too many are going to continue to say it not with apologies or abbreviation, but with a defiant and twisted sort of pride.  And some of those will defend it along the tired lines that I’ve heard more than once: “I ain’t a racist!  Anybody can be a nigger.  When I say nigger, I’m just talking about a lazy person.  It ain’t got nothing to do with what race you are.  A lazy, worthless white guy can be a nigger.”

Right.

Those people are losing their voice, losing their platforms, losing their venues, losing their audiences, and they will go the way of the N-word, too, when the N-word goes the way of them.

Someday, I suppose, you’ll need an Oxford English Dictionary (online) to find it.  By then, few will truly understand the dark power the word once wielded.  But that might be good.

Next week, we tackle the C-word.