Posts Tagged ‘intelligence’

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:


“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.


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 . . .


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

Intelligence and/or Faith

April 15, 2012

Intelligence and faith are not mutually exclusive. To compare them is to compare apples with oranges.

Intelligence is limited, and this fact must be acknowledged by those who believe that their accumulation of it is infinite.

Faith, on the other hand, assumes the limitations of knowledge, and accepts the reality that we live in a universe that requires explanation.

So let us explain. And, for the sake of explanation,  let us define.

Intelligence is the systematic application of information that has been observed and gathered, to problem-solving.

Faith is the evidence of things not seen, and the substance of things hoped for.

Say what?

What are my sources, you may ask, for these two definitions? The intelligence definition I wrote from my own observation and experience. The faith definition I found in the Bible, Hebrews 11:1.

I am not trying, necessarily to be logical here, merely sensible; there is a difference between the two. I do not believe that logic is absolutely foolproof, but then faith isn’t either. So this fool tries to utilize both; let’s be sensible here.

An intelligent person wants to know what is correct; a faithful person wants to act correctly.

I’m shooting from the hip here, as usual. Using myself as an example, say, I would say this about me: I am an intelligent person whose functional life is grounded in faith.

What does my intelligence tell me? It informs me that I live in a physical world that requires me to process information in order to live and function every day. There is DNA, and there is physical life that results from it, which includes me.

My intelligence raises an infinity of questions, always will. There’s no end to it. How many centuries did people believe that the earth was flat and the sun revolves around the earth? A lot of centuries. Galileo and Kepler came along and, by their intelligent analysis, changed all that. Newton built a whole world of information and calculation around their discoveries. Einstein came later and changed all that again. Quantum mechanics on the brain, and auto mechanics on the road, so I can get to work tomorrow. Knowledge is limited, but ya gotta start somewhere.

Knowledge is limited. Get used to it. The Hubble telescope can assist our seeing, but only so far, and even then you don’t know what you’re looking at. Same thing in the other direction–microscopes. It takes a lot of work and research to find out what’s going on up there in space, or down there in the cell, and then when we do find out some stuff, part of what we discover turns out to be wrong, and someone else eventually comes along with more reliable data.

I mean, look at Gates and Jobs: apples and oranges. I was tearing my hair out last night trying to integrate a new scanner/printer with our iMac so I could send a certain pdf in an email; the iMac wouldn’t accept my brand new scanner. Was I screwing up? or Mac? Probably me. Can’t blame Jobs. Nevertheless after an hour of frustration I went over to the old Dell with Word, and a different scanner, and worked the whole problem out, sent the pdf in the email. Go figure.

Knowledge is limited.

Is faith limited?  Probably. It only goes as far as you and God will let it.

What does my faith tell me? There is a God, and I am not He. There is a code upon which physical life is constructed, and there is a Writer of the code. There is a tree of knowledge and there is a tree of life. One of them is fascinating; the other is productive. I’ll leave you to decide which one you want to eat from. Probably both, if you’re like me. But I know where my life comes from, and it aint the tree of knowledge.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress