Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Mesopotamia or bust


Apologize to my once-loyal readers about the hiatus -- been busy taking care of loose ends at work and at home. Not too much time left to blog about Rita, DeLay, "staged" interviews with the President Bush or the drama that is the Supreme Court.

I'm deploying to Mesopotamia.

Haven't quite figured out what will become of this blog, but I suspect I'll get an idea when I get to my destination (which I'll gladly mention once I get there). I'm well aware of CENTCOM's policies affecting deployed bloggers, and I know that more than a few folks have closed shop as a result. I'd prefer to blog when I get back rather than get all amped up about blogging now and decide to stop because of some dimwitted idiot boss who isn't comfortable with the concept is riding my ass.

Regardless, OPSEC will never be a vulnerability of this site. I make this admittedly bold statement 'cause I know the types of people who monitor military Web sites, base newspapers, emails/attachments etc, and I know what will make them send me/my commander a nastygram. Truth be told: I've logged plenty of hours doing the very same job in a prior life. Suffice to say, it was thankless work, tho I'm thankful someone else is doing it now.

At the risk of being cryptic, Airmen in my career field generally deploy alone, not with a group. That is to say, we have to be our own troop commander, chaplain and logistic planner. In case I don't continue to blog, I'd like to share my list of "must need" items for the trip to a deployed location:

1. Cell Phone: The first time I deployed, I intentionally left my office cell phone at home, thinking I wouldn't need it in theater. Turns out that having a cell phone would have come in useful when I ran into flight delays within the continental United States, and certainly would have been nice to touch base with family during layovers on the rebound.

2. Fold-Up Luggage Cart: Some people get a kick out of carrying A/B/C bags or slinging their worldly belongings on their backs -- I do not. There's no reason to injure yourself on the way to the deployed location, and it looks pathetically ghetto. Buy on of
these and save your energy -- it'll be your best $20 investment.

3. Overnight Backpack: Never know where and when you -- or your luggage -- will end up, so be prepared with a carry-on. Pack toothpaste/brush, deodorant, a set of underwear, baby wipes and snackfood.

Again, this is more for folks who travel solo and/or have no shame in bringing non-issued gear.

So this may be the first of many postings or this may be the last in a while -- I'll let you all know either way soon.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Truman crew ambushed by NBC

Well, well, well. Turns out the national media covering the Katrina response got tired of the intergovernmental finger pointing, and started a witch hunt of their own. The first trial: the crew of the USS Harry Truman.

Granted, the Truman -- equipped with a huge hospital -- will likely not be much help at this point because the seriously injured evacuees have already been air transported to regional hospitals. But the ship's deployment is indicative of the "look-at-what-we're-doing" version of public relations that I mentioned in a previous post ...that the Truman's arrival is nothing more than a publicity stunt.

Well, watch this to see Ann Curry do a classic ambush interview ...doubt the Truman's captain or public affairs officer saw it coming. I'm surprised NBC chose to fry the US Navy, but I hope the word spreads to the other military services, including my beloved Air Force.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Dance ...or get off the stage


Tho the biggest aid organizations have already collected millions and millions of dollars to finance the rescue/recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast, that support hasn't reached nearly enough people. Part of the problem is that not everyone is reachable, and another part is bureaucratic processes that only work in cubicle culture.

So as we move into Day 5, the crosshairs move to FEMA and the Administration. Talk of mismanagement, bad leadership, sluggish responses and overall poor execution is starting to creep into the media coverage. True or not, these attacks just add another front to FEMA's current crisis and further slow the process.

Rather than dedicate its precious resources to defend itself and its various partnerships, FEMA should start "pointing fingers" and "naming names" of agencies that aren't playing well. Most organizations, including the military branches, understandably want the high-profile roles such as helicopter rescue ops or bussing people out of the abyss; most of what FEMA needs, however, is associated with the unglamorous jobs in command & control, safety, administration and public health.

FEMA should also be able to lean on the Administration for "top cover" too. It's never easy to be the U.S. government's lead agency for any event, but any bureaucratic in-fighting needs to be nipped in the bud, especially in this case -- the priority must be to mitigate the human suffering on the Gulf Coast.

For the thousands who have yet to see signs of help, frustration is well past boiling point. They are the ONLY ones who have the right to complain, criticize and second guess. The rest of us need to count our blessings and do what we can to support FEMA.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Chasing Galaxies, Missing the Sun

Hurricane Katrina came, conquered and devastated the lives of millions of Americans in a matter of hours. It has changed the region's topography forever. Even watching the coverage on television can be depressing. But, using history as a guide, those affected -- and dare I say the nation -- will ultimately prevail and return stronger.

This disaster is the kind, like the Sept 11 attacks, that will unite Americans. The wealthy will reach a bit deeper into their pockets, the spiritual will pray a little longer and those will able hands will work a harder. Soon, there will be benefit concerts, candy drives, fund-raisers and other ways we can take care of our brothers and sisters in the South.

In these cases, some organizations actually need the media to dessiminate information to families, survivors or the public. Red Cross may want to say "we have diapers and potable water", FEMA will want to assure folks that "help is on the way" and law enforcement agencies remind us that "looters will be arrested."

But we will also see shameless self-promotion ...organizations that dedicate PR resources to do nothing more than talk about themselves (sadly, the national media, cable channels specifically, are desperate for fresh perspectives and will interview almost any talking head to cut away from stale footage loops). All these interviews do is clog the airwaves and make it that much more difficult for the charitable organizations to let the public know how to make a real difference.

FEMA, the government's lead agent for recovery, has a list of ways to help out financially here. I will post others as I learn about them, and soon figure out how to make the list more pronounced on this blog.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

AF personnel system gets hacked

I recently received news that Air Force Personnel Center's computer database was hacked into and thousands of Airmen -- including yours truly -- may now be especially vulnerable to identity theft.

On the face of it, it's ironic: I have trouble accessing my own account most of the time, often resorting to creating new passwords on every visit. Somehow, these yahoos figured out how pry open my personnel information as well as 33,300 others!

At the core, however, it's a horrible inconvenience. The biggest problem is that all of our social security numbers are now open-source intelligence. So even if none of us spot identity fraud today, our new-found vulnerability will last the rest of our lives. This is undoubtedly a major blow (actually, 33,330 blows!) to Air Force information assurance credibility.

In the Air Force's defense, the Aug. 18 form letter I received via email (read: "Dear Air Force Member") clearly spelled my options moving forward: Because of the incident, I am legally entitled to a free credit report from big-time consumer reporting firms, I can also take my case to the Federal Trade Commission and I have all the pertinent addresses, Web sites and phone numbers. In terms of outlining this crucial information, which sadly most Airmen would have probably neglected to research on their own, the Air Force gets a huge plus.

What irks me is the time it took to send out the notification. According to the message, the hacking occurred between May and June 2005. Out of the entire email, only one sentence addresses the issue ..."(W)e delayed sending you this notice for a short time in order to give our law enforcement officials the best opportunity in the early critical time period to catch the perpetrator(s)."

BULLCRAP! The Air Force should have contacted us immediately, if for no other reason than it was bad news ...I mean, if I'm obligated to immediately report "Fraud, Waste & Abuse" or computer security violations up the chain, I expect that respect to be reciprocated. And because of the blunder, 33,330 Airmen marinated in vulnerability for months, without a clue, the effects of which are yet to be determined.

The Air Force needs to nab the hackers who did this, and the details should be posted on Air Force Link -- I'm all for the occasional public hanging. More importantly, I hope the Air Force doesn't come away from this incident thinking that a 2-month notification delay is acceptable, because it ain't.


Friday, July 29, 2005

On being Judge-mental

I'm extremely supportive of John Roberts being considered for a seat on the Supreme Court. Judge Roberts has led a distinguished legal career, and based on what I've read, is in agreement with the vast majority of Americans.

That some would-be opponents are having a tough time finding skeletons in his closet is amusing, and probably the only reason I keep up with the issue at all. Even some conservatives are second guessing him, based on a statement he made while getting confirmed to the DC Appeals Court in 2003:

"Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land ...it's a little more than settled. It was reaffirmed in the face of a challenge ...there's nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent."

Again, I'm no legal scholar, but anyone seeking confirmation to a U.S. appeals court, paricularly the one considered a stepping stone to the SCOTUS, must realize that appellate courts are not in the business of overturning Supreme Court decisions.

He knew not to rock the boat then, which is a good thing, because the next and final stop is Capitol Hill.

Why I (should) blog

I've been procrastinating. I've been checking this site for the last week or so, hoping to miraculously see a new post that I intended to, but hadn't, written on the big topics that have dominated the mil-blog scene recently.

While I don't intend to ever "compete" with my favorite bloggers, being in a different league -- and not having the audience or instant feedback -- somehow contradicts the sense of community that has motivated me to write. It can get lonely out here. And every day that passed, it became more of an effort to clean the cobwebs around here and re-energize this online writing experiment.

Fortunately, I don't blog for a grade, financial benefit or even for my beloved Air Force. I blog because I can, and I blog because so many of my brothers and sisters in arms can not.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Mastering the Mini (and Spousal Relations!)

I finally buckled to temptation, and the wife seems to not mind one bit.

I bought the Household Commander an iPod for her birthday.

As an introduction, this is a huge step for a family who has hitherto prided itself in being responsible consumers and avoiding the hype of consumerism. Neither of us gets excited about electronic gadgets -- I don't even own a watch -- but I must confess that this little doohickey is a lot of fun.

What started out as an impulse buy has turned out to be fairly educational too. From the moment you open the package, it's clear that this product will leave an indelible mark on humankind ...and we're going to be a part of that! Throw in some logo stickers, and it's flawless marketing.

It's that same "brand emotion" that causes new iPodders to waste money on accessories. For instance, we can assume that most folks would get tired of the earbugs and one day want to play songs on bigger speakers. The company's answer: Its very own "Stereo Connection Kit" for a mere $80.

The Funky Crew, ever the informed consumers, instead bought a cable that has a 1/8" stereo adapter on one end and a Y-adapter on the other for a fraction of that price. And tho not as pretty, it works just fine. The same research can be applied to the armband and better headphones.

Accessory marketing aside, it's been a blast. Evident by the way she beebops around the house, my wife is enjoying the new gizmo too.

And we all know that when CINCHOUSE is happy, everyone is happy.

Thanks Apple.