Archive for the ‘security’ Category

What about them Ruskies?

March 22, 2017

The inner workings of our democratic republic were brought into my awareness a couple of days ago as I was listening on NPR to Congressional hearings while mixing concrete for a deck stairway addition to my home.

They say that multi-tasking is not something you can effectively do. I have never believed that, so I try to do it all the time.

On that particular day, which happened to be the first day of spring, it felt good to be outside on a sunny morning in the slowly warming upper-40’s fahrenheit air, doing a constructive work in the yard while at the same time tuning into the hearing being conducted by Chairman Devin Nunes of the  House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

While trying to learn about the delicate and bullysome governance of our great nation while getting some work done, I make mental note to self: good luck with that.

So there I was  in the morning sunshine mixing concrete and it felt great in our cool early morning Blue Ridge mountain air.

And there was something about the experience that I would like to convey to you because I feel it is important that citizens make themselves aware of some of the issues that confront those men and women whose job it is to govern, and to work productively within in an immense, arcane federal bureaucracy the purpose of which is to keep our nation going.

Maybe its because I’m an old guy now, 65, that the first thing that jumps out in my mind is a deja vu of the Watergate hearings in 1973. As I was hearing our Representatives speak about Mr. Flynn, President-elect Trump, the Russians, FISA, unmasking this or that person, and possible unauthorized dissemination of classified information about a US person, etcetera etcetera blah blah blah . . .

My mind was flashing on the summer of 1973 when I was watching the Senate Judiciary Committee as they gathered info about the White House “plumbers” who broke into an office in the  Watergate hotel in Washington. During those hearings there was talk of Mr. McCord, Mr. Mitchell, and John Dean, and there was administrative finesse being displayed by Chairman Sam Ervin.

That was the last time, you see, that I listened attentively to a Congressional hearing.

Of course there is no real relationship between that Watergate fiasco 44 years ago  and whatever is going on now with this present wiretapping allegation brouhaha  as it relates to presidential politics.

But there was a connection in my mind between these two situations that are so far apart in time.

Perhaps what triggered the memory in my mind was the repetitive mentions of certain phrases being spoken by FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers. I kept hearing certain answers:

Hearings

“I can’t comment on that.” “I’m not going to comment on hypotheticals.”

. . . can’t comment on individual persons, US persons. . ., can’t answer; it would depend on. . ., not going to comment on a news article . . . , not at liberty to talk about communication within the executive branch . . ., I’m not going to answer. . . same answer . . . “same answer.”

At one point, Director Comey allowed this personal admission:

“That’s not something I can comment on. I’m trying very hard to not talk about anything that relates to a US person.”

My first thought was that these two Intelligence Directors were perhaps not as forthcoming as they should be, because, you know, their inquisitors were members of Congress who represent We the People, etc.

But then I realized that these guys are doing their jobs by not just spouting information about the US persons whom they are striving to protect.

My second thought was about how much grace the Congressional questioners were extending to these reticent public officials, by tolerating, without objection, such a continuous string of  those “I cannot answer that”  responses from Directors Comey and Rogers.

Reflecting on it now, two days later, the conundrum is best represented in this statement by Representative Terri Sewell:

“So Director Comey, I know you cannot discuss whether any investigations are ongoing with ‘U.S. persons,’ and I respect that. I think it’s important, though, that the American people understand the scope and breadth  of public, open source reporting of Mr. Flynn’s actions that led to his resignation. And while we can’t talk about . . . an investigation, I believe that we here at HIPSI, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,  must put those facts into the public domain.”

As the hours wore on, I came to understand that there is a very delicate balance going on here, in a very complicated world.  Irresponsible exposure of information that has been gathered about US citizens would be a violation of (Director Comey’s and Director Rogers’) sworn duty. At the same time they are duty-bound to protect US citizens, they are duty-bound to investigate people, both native and foreign, respectively.

This is no simple task.

Even though I managed, in the several hours I listened to all this, to mix 1360 pounds of concrete and place it strategically it in the ground in my yard, this labor that I did was far easier, I concluded, than the task that has been appointed to Directors Comey and Rogers.

To those two public servants, I am moved to say:  Thank you, gentlemen, for your service.

I did, nevertheless, notice a pattern developing in all this Congressional enquiry that flooded my earbuds as I labored through the day.

The Directors’ hesitant refusals to answer all questions were frequently preceded and/or followed up by lengthy statements from the Representatives who were questioning them.

At first, I thought this was just the politicians grandstanding, running their mouths to convince the public of their eloquence in the grave matters of national security.

By the end of the day, however, I had figured out that the Representatives were using the public forum to inject information from their own research into the public record. This too, is important.

I see it as public education, much more important than, say, how bathroom assignments are administered in public schools.

For instance,

Rep. Andre Carson says “There’s a lot at stake here for Russia.”

I’m paraphrasing Rep. Carson’s message here.  He went on to explain . . . This is big money, lots of implications.  If they (the Russians) can legitimate their annexation of Crimea, what’s next? Are we looking at a new ‘iron curtain’? . the United States, as leader of the free world, is the only check on Russian expansion. . . At the Republican convention in July, Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Trump himself changed the Republican party platform to no longer arm Ukraine. So, the same month that Trump denied Putin’s role in Ukraine,   Trump’s team weakened the party platform  on Ukraine, and . . . this was the same month that certain individuals in the Trump orbit held secret meetings with Russian officials, some of which may have been on the topic of sanctions . . . this is no coincidence in my opinion. . .

Now  is there something to this, does it even matter, does this amount to a hill of beans in all the gigabytes of data streaming across cyberworld . . . I’m wondering? while mixing my concrete.

And here’s another sample of the Committee’s exchange:

Rep Frank Lobiando: . . .if you can describe the use of Russia’s active measures during the campaign. . .

Rogers: So we saw cyber used, we saw the use of external media, we saw the use of disinformation, we saw the use of leaking of information, much of which was not altered, . . . release of cyber-information

And yet another random snippet:

Rep. Jackie Speier:

“You know, I think it’s really important, as we sit here, that we explain this to the American people in a way that they can understand it. Why are we talking about all of this?”

Thanks for asking, Jackie. I understand a little more than I did five hours ago, but I’m just one sand grain on the shores of America.

Meanwhile, I got something done today on the old homestead.

Concret1

And I must conclude that we’ve made some progress in our relations with the Ruskies since I was a kid in the early 1960’s. Back then, the big question was whether they were going to blow us to smithereens with nuclear bombs!

It seems we’ve come a long way since then. Maybe our peace-seeking has something to do with demolishing that infamous wall over in Berlin, the one where President Kennedy said “Let them come to Berlin. Ich bin ein Berliner,” and later President Reagan said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

In this life, there is a time for tearing down, and there is a time for building, and there is a time for listening, and a time for trying to figure a few things out while while listening and while building or tearing down, as the case may be . . .

Concret2

This has been going on a long time, but now, in modern times, the stakes are higher with all them nukes in the ground somewhere.

Be careful, gentlemen.

Glass half-Full

The Rights of Humankind

February 20, 2017

Archives

Twelve score and one year ago Thomas Jefferson submitted an innovative set of political principles to a congress of delegates from thirteen American colonies. The gathered assembly, known as Continental Congress, debated the contents and the merits of Jefferson’s proposal. The document began with these words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness–that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. . .

The world has changed a lot since those words were adopted  as the philosophical basis of a new experiment in civil government. Here are just a few of the ways our world has changed since those revolutionary days:

~ Our fledgling national legislature, known at that time as the “Continental” Congress, is now called the Congress of the United States.

~ We Americans now associate the world “Continental” with Europe.

~ On the “Continent” of Europe, citizen-groups are now struggling to form a workable political basis for a European Union.

~~ Whereas, In the year 1776, when our American Continental Congress adopted a plan for a United States of America, we had a nominal consensus for the basis of our Union; and That consensus was based, rhetorically, upon “certain unalienable Rights, . . . Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness; which Rights that had been “endowed” by a “Creator,

~~ In the year 2000,   the European Parliament adopted a Charter of Fundamental Rights of European Union, by which the peoples of Europe are resolved to share a peaceful future based on common values. . . indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity. . . based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law.

We see, therefore, that the American Union was initiated during an historical period in which faith in a Creator God was still, at least rhetorically, allowed to be a basis for political consensus.

The European Union, however, is coalescing in a post-modern, humanistic age in which their unity can only be expressed in terms of human agreements and motivations, stated above as common values.

As we Americans ultimately divided ourselves into two primary political identities, Democrats and Republicans, with one side being generally associated with  progressivism programs while the other is  based in conservatism,

We notice that in Europe, in what is now a churning crucible of 21st-century economic constraints, the divisions seem to be congealing toward two uniquely Euro polarities. On the Right side, we find the  Austerians, whose values are based on fiscal responsibility and the austerity that is thought to be necessary for maintaining economic and political stability. On the Left side, we find the Socialists, whose values are based on equality that is assured and managed by the State, which should produce solidarity among the people.

As Thomas Jefferson had proposed a declaration based ostensibly on the zeitgeist of the so-called Age of Enlightenment, so has a spokesman stepped forth, in our age, to propose for the Europeans a document that aspires to manifest the zeitgeist of this (perhaps) Age of Equality.

Toward that end, Mr. Yanis Varoufakis, former Finance Minister of the Greek Syriza party, has proposed a five-point plan by which the Europeans would collectively assure the rights of persons as they are understood in this, the 21st-century.

  https://www.socialeurope.eu/2017/01/new-deal-save-europe/

Stated simplistically, those rights are:

~ a collective investment in green/sustainable technology

~ an employment guarantee for every citizen

~ an anti-poverty fund

~ a universal basic dividend (income)

~ an immediate anti-eviction protection.

So we see, now, that in the 200+ years since the inception of American Democratic-Republicanism, the zeitgeist that was then seen as inevitable has changed. In the so-called Age of Enlightenment (c.1776) we were demanding a Government that would Protect our Unalienable Rights, defined broadly as Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.

The modern zeitgeist, however, as it appears to be evolving in the Europe of Our Age, is demanding: a Government to Protect our Basic Life Necessities.

Instead of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, citizens of the World now appear to be demanding Life, Security, and the Pursuit of Equality.

EURomeHdq

And that’s the way it is, 2017. We shall see how this develops as the 21st-century unfolds.

Smoke

The life song of J Alfred Bourgeois

May 11, 2016

We’ve worked hard for what we’ve got;

maybe we’re smart and maybe we’re not.

Thanks to the courage of long-dead soldiers,

we can grow and prosper and manage to get older.

We’ve read about .gov by the people, republics, and democracy;

we try to stay decent, clean, and free from hypocrisy.

And yes, we’ve heard of that Marx guy, and Lenin and whatnot.

but I’m here to say we aint no proletariat.

We don’t wanna change the world;

we like stars and stripes in the breeze unfurled.

Dinner on Sundays, work on Mondays, weekends for fun days;

this is what we like, and cultivate in predictable ways.

Jefferson said let’s do .gov by the peoples.

We say along with that came letting folks raise their steeples.

Marx, on the other hand said we need dictatorship of the proletariat,

but this home-making bourgeois boy giveth not a plug nickel for all that.

We’re happy to be plain ole boojwazee,

with a washer, dryer, car, and a home someday mortgage-free.

There are plenty out their who wanna die for the Cause;

we just like living in freedom under reasonable laws.

Floral

Glass half-Full

Old Sun

April 4, 2016

OldSun

Old sun came up again today.

just thinkin:

worked hard all your life

little deductions week after week

all those years

do-dropping deductions into invisible

somewhere account

social security in the sky

stealthy NewDeal squirrels

stored and hoard

funds

that Lyndon extended.

lived through the sixties twice

I heard the drummer say, laughing

and don’t trust anyone under thirty

then one day you have bright morning

in America

no go to work

what it all about Alfie

the croupier wheels

roulette deals.

65!

ain’t no jive

now what

say what?

401k and IRA

but me wear no fancy pants jeans no mo

an ne’er been to belfast

never lived life in the fast lane

til now

now that I’m too slow

to know

how it all happened.

We’ll just hop on our horses

waiting for Roy

Rogers and Dale Evans

to ride into heaven

they still ride horses

don’t they?

It’s bright up there.

Glass half-Full

WashPost came through on report

March 28, 2016

Today I made my first intentional effort to understand what the Hillary Clinton email controversy was all about. This initial reading session, which must have lasted about an hour, came about when I decided to read this morning’s digital Washington Post article entitled “How Clinton’s Email Scandal Took Root.”

As many years as this political controversy has been gathering steam, I have never paid more than cursory attention to it. It just seemed to me like a bunch of political malarky, although I did have a vague understanding that somehow the the security of our nation was involved.

If my sketchy Everyman Citizen memory serves me well at all, this hot issue came to the forefront of media exposure when Congressional Republicans raised the issues about Benghazi in 2012. Now let me say here that I am a Republican.

And about all I may know, or not know, about that tragic turn of Benghazi events is: my understanding of it is very small, based precariously on my limited retention of any details or vague narratives about the events that happened on that fateful day in 2012. But let me say this: I did see the movie!

So, as you can see I am, like most Americans, rather clueless about what is really going on in the inner recesses of our .gov  because I really don’t have a clue about it all until I, you know, see a movie about it.

So the movie, Thirteen Hours, gave me some notions about what happened the tragic assault on our consulate in Libya on a certain day in 2012. But who knows  why such a terribly fatal assault on our supposedly secure embassy might have happened? These issues in foreign lands are much more complicated that we simple-minded Americans make them out to be.

This morning, March 28, 2016, along comes this routine (daily) email from the Washington Post, a journalistic institution with which I have a minimally subscriptive connection. And when I open the email, this reported headline grabs my attention: “How Clinton’s Email Scandal Took Root.”

“Aha!”  I thought, here’s my chance  at last to glean some understanding about what this big brouhaha is all about.

Now our conservative and Republican friends may question my seemingly naive submission to that journalistic institution’s supposedly left-leaning reporting on such a hot issue. But hey, I saw Redford and Hoffman portraying Woodward and Bernstein back in the day, when I was myself a manipulated clueless college kid with a leftward bent. And I certainly understand and respect their Ben Bradlee legacy of Beltway investigative journalism; so yes, I am going to read this article and see what this reporter has to say about that whole dam Clinton email thing.

I mean, this is bound to be more reliable than the New York Times, n’est-que-c’est? and more journalistically thorough  than, say, Fox News.

Robert O’Harrow Jr., is the reporter (with journalistic contribution also from Alice Crites) and I must say: What an exhaustively long reporting job has been therein provided– quite informative about a vast chain of complicated, intertwining events that began mostly in January of 2009, yet still rolls on through 2015 and even spills out into this year–quite informative and yet, somehow, impressively concise.

Took me over an hour to read it.

My usual confusion in reading long journalistic reports aside–that confusion being frothed up in my uninformed brain about a multiplicity of persons whose first names are laid to rest after that first article-mention– and if that were not enough, all these names nested within the reporter’s dutiful covering of myriads of events and scenarios that happened in the dark recesses of securitized (or not securitized) .gov offices long ago or even quite recently, and what you have here is a confused citizen who is trying to become well-informed.

Me.

Now I am no Congressional committee, but I do have an opinion because I am an American. Furthermore, as both Jefferson and Adams advised, citizens of a free democratic republic should inform themselves about the issues of our times.

What’s really sad about all this is the disappearance of privacy; it seems so KGB and 1984ish to me.

If you care to join me in an assessment of same article by reading it yourself, then I commend you for doing so. And rather than render my half-baked opinion about the controverted content of Hillary Clinton’s thousands of emails, I will simply say this:

It seems to me that poor Hillary, finding herself at the crossroads of an electronic digital technological revolution that had not–and probably still has not–caught up with itself, made some attempts to find a middle path between two frustratingly extreme strategies of secure communication protocols; one extreme being absolute, classified security, which is systemically impossible; and the other extreme being her personal freedom and expediency in communicating persuasively with very important people all over the whole dam world.

And yes, she made a few bad choices, maybe even dangerous mistakes.

But hey, who wouldn’t make some screw-ups? with all that’s going on in this rapidly declassifying cyberspace world. I myself would probably be overwhelmed with it all, trying to negotiate with Wen Jiabao while making sure not to confuse the email accounts with recipes from Aunt Martha or whomever.

Nevertheless, although I may be willing to pardon the former Secretary of State for her (perhaps, perhaps not) innocent security breaches,  I will not be voting for Hillary Clinton for President; I will be voting for Ted Cruz.

Because: I think Ted would do better with the choices that a new President must face, better than Hillary, and most certainly better than Donald.

Smoke