Advanced Issues: Compassion verses Opposition

Advanced Issues: Compassion verses Opposition.

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Readers’ beefs of the week

Jerry Coyne’s latest collection of rants from crazies . . . Hilarious!

Why Evolution Is True

by Greg Mayer Qapla’!! Philae has landed! The European Space Agency’s Philae lander has successfully landed on Comet P67, …

That’s ok..we feel sorry for you for being a self righteous ignorant pompous ass. Maybe take a religions or philosophy class so you can somewhat seem like you know what you are talking about. Way to paint humanity with one broad stroke. Or maybe you should spend some non judgemental empathetic time with the “others” that you feel such contempt and pity for. The world is made up of a variety of experience..everyone holds unreasonable ideas..even you! I feel sorry for you with such animosity towards other people that are not “like you”…

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Bush’s Legacy is more than Iraq . . . *facedesk*

Yesterday, Kathleen Parker had posted on the Washington Post web site an article titled: “Bush’s legacy is more than Iraq.” In it she argues that W was

. . . more than a composite of swagger and smirk. He was also a kind man with a gentle heart who should be remembered as such.

To bolster her argument she writes about

. . . how he really did feel others’ pain.

and offers as examples how

Bush often met privately and without fanfare with the families of fallen soldiers.

By the time I finished the article, I incredulous and was ready to puke. Literally. I have only one observation to make: I just cannot see how visiting the families of people whose blood he had on his hands could be interpreted as an act of kindness. Were it not for his manufactured war with Iraq, these families would still be intact. Hubris, yes. Kindness? You’ve got to be kidding me. There could not be a greater insult or a better example of how unkind Bush is . . .

I take hubris back. No. To hubris I’d just add complete, utter, stark, total lack of awareness and conscience. The more I think about it, the more incensed I get . . .

I don’t know who’s worse . . . W for doing it or Parker for not appreciating the irony of what she said. How many ways can one say “insensitive?”

At least I’m not alone. Reading the 1300 or so comments made be feel better . . .

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Authoritarians At the Gate

“Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.” – Robert A. Heinlein

Andrew O’Hehir recently posted an article on Salon [1] and Alternet [2] titled “Hey Liberals: You Haven’t Won the Culture War” in which he argues that the extreme political polarization that currently exists:

. . . involves values or mores that people hold on a primordial or unconscious level, which are not easily expressed in language and not readily subjected to rational inquiry. Translated into the political realm, these fundamental cultural mores become entrenched ideological positions, modes of expressing the unshakable conviction that my side is right and yours is wrong.

He is definitely onto something. He has identified the aspect of the political environment which has created and will perpetuate its current toxicity . . .

Since the subject has been broached, lets see how it’s played out over the past 40 years or so . . . The Republican party has alienated moderates to the point that even some moderate Republicans have changed their party affiliation to Independent and moderate Congressional Republicans who had the respect of their peers from both sides of the aisle have elected not to return. (Think Olympia Snowe). It now exhibits a significant redshift. Or as Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein in their book It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism [3] put it:

. . . the Republican party, has become an insurgent outlier – ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. When one party moves this far from the center of American politics, it is extremely difficult to enact policies responsive to the country’s most pressing challenges.


In every chapter of this book, we have documented the ways in which the Republican Party has become the insurgent outlier in American politics and as such contributes disproportionately to its dysfunction.4 If the case we have made about the GOP is accurate, then the culture and ideological center of the Republican Party itself, at the congressional, presidential, and, in many cases, state and local levels, must change if U.S. democracy is to regain its health. The contemporary GOP, to the horror of many of its longtime stalwarts and leaders like former senators John Danforth of Missouri and Alan Simpson of Wyoming, has veered toward tolerance of extreme ideological beliefs and policies and embrace of cynical and destructive means to advance political ends over problem solving. These tendencies have led to disdain for negotiation and compromise unless forced into them and rejection of the legitimacy of its partisan opposition (as manifested especially in the continuing drumbeat questioning the birthplace of President Obama, and the refusal of major party figures to condemn the birthers).

More after the fold . . .

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Molly Ivins did not exaggerate . . .

From TPMMuckraker: Texas GOP’s 2012 Platform Opposes Teaching Of ‘Critical Thinking Skills’

Actually, the title is a bit sensationalist . . . but not by much. And from my  perspective, the author missed one of the most juicy parts . . .

The article is about several planks in the 2012 Republican Party platform. It quotes the plank on “Knowledge-Based Education” as saying:

We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

The author of the article contacted the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) to ask for comment. The reply was:

“[The chairman of the Education Subcommittee] indicated that it was an oversight of the committee, that the plank should not have included ‘critical thinking skills’ after ‘values clarification,’” [The RPT Communications Director] said. “And it was not the intent of the subcommittee to present a plank that would have indicated that the RPT in any way opposed the development of critical thinking skills.”

Juicy part after the fold . . .

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The Wikileaks Brouhaha: Shooting the Messengers and Ignoring the Elephants, Part 5

In this series, we looked at the incompetence and negligence in the Departments of Defense and State that provided an operating environment that enabled Bradley Manning to copy hundreds of thousands of documents without ever being detected. The intent was not necessarily to present this as exculpatory evidence (but it would be really great if it did), but to assign culpability and responsibility for the criminal negligence that allowed this to happen with the idea of holding those who are culpable accountable.

In the earlier sections, I pointed out holes in the systems that made it inevitable that something like this would happen sometime. The only reason we know about them now is that Manning turned over his trove to Wikileaks. Recalling Scott Bradner’s observation:

The surprise about this latest series of leaks is not that it happened, but how it had not happened long before. Actually, maybe it has — not everyone who would like a copy of such information would be interested in publishing it.

Keep that in mind as you are reading. Brass tacks after the break . . .

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The Wikileaks Brouhaha: Shooting the Messengers and Ignoring the Elephants, Part 4

So far in our story, we have focused on the role of the Department of Defense in facilitating Bradley Manning’s opportunity to acquire and export so much classified information. In Part 4, we will shift focus to the Department of State and meet the matriarch of the herd.

In many ways, the plot doesn’t change, but in other ways, the only way to describe what went on at State is that it was a leviticusly deuteronomous Charlie Foxtrot.

Way past Epic Fail . . .

The tale picks up after the break . . .

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The Wikileaks Brouhaha: Shooting the Messengers and Ignoring the Elephants, Part 3

In Part 2, we looked at the security environment at FOB Hammer and discovered that there was effectively none. That was the first component of the “perfect storm” that enabled Pfc. Manning to collect the video and documents that were published by Wikileaks. There were two dimensions that interacted there. One was lax-to-completely-absent physical security at the site. The other was the failure on the personnel management side to detect all of the indicators that Manning was a candidate for being an insider threat. In Part 3 we will shift attention to the other components of the perfect storm that Manning described and show that they were there not for lack of information or institutional awareness, but because of negligence. The rest of the herd after the fold: Continue reading

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The WikiLeaks Brouhaha: Shooting the Messengers and Ignoring the Elephants, Part 2

Part 1 of this series revisited Pfc. Manning’s activities at Forward Operating Base Hammer with a focus on indicators that provided information about the level of oversight and risk management with respect to protecting Secret and Top Secret-level data.

In Part 2, we will look more closely at the information security environment at FOB Hammer and the initial response to the leaks by the DoD. We will begin to see how incompetent the whole chain of command from the leadership at FOB Hammer all the way up to the Secretary of Defense is in protecting high-value information.

Elephant 2 after the fold.
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The WikiLeaks Brouhaha: Shooting the Messengers and Ignoring the Elephants, Part 1


Amidst the Sturm und Drang following WikiLeaks’ publication of the State Department cables, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange drew fire from the DoD, the State Department, the DoJ, Congress and the mainstream media. But with the exception of a few articles and blog postings from the technology sector, there has been no discussion of how it was possible that Pvt. Manning could get away with hoovering off gigabytes of data from Secret and Top Secret networks while remaining completely undetected. There also seems to have been no public discussion of the implications. To go after Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange is just an exercise in shooting the messenger. Ignoring the message will not make it magically disappear. But this is not about messengers. It is about the message. This is about all of those elephants stampeding around the room. Time to break out the elephant gun.

In this multi-part series, I am going to revisit the kerfuffle resulting from Wikileaks’ release of videos and cables that it received from Pfc. Chelsea Manning with an eye toward examining:

  • what actually happened
  • why it happened
  • why it shouldn’t have happened
  • and, who is responsible for allowing an environment in which it could have happened to exist in the first place.

In Part 1, we will hear Pfc. Manning describe how the environment at Forward Operating Base Hammer and the lack of security on the DoD “secure” network and the absence of any security on the State Department’s network and systems worked together to enable him to do what she did without being detected. It will identify circumstances and conditions that will point to serious problems with the whole information security environment on both the DoD and State Department high-security networks.

Part 2 will dissect the security environment at FOB Hammer and then explore some of the implications of the problems identified in Part 1. It will show the complete absence of any kind of controls that would have prevented Manning from exfiltrating all of that information. Because of her status and emotional state, allowing Manning to continue in her position was just one more missing control at FOB Hammer. We will see how obvious it should have been to her chain of command that she was a very high-risk person and was a prime candidate for being an insider threat. It will also begin to identify the links in the chain of negligence and incompetence that allowed this to happen.

Part 3 will shift focus from FOB Hammer to the DoD at large and continue to document the negligence, incompetence and cluelessness as the dots are connected from FOB Hammer to the database at State. Again and again and again there were actions that could have been taken, policies that could have been put into effect and processes put into place that could have prevented Manning from hoovering up all of that information.

Part 4 shifts focus from the DoD to the State Department and describes all of the ways State didn’t do things that could have prevented the problem. If anything, State has bigger problems (with respect to the NCD) than did the DoD.

Part 5 will bring it all together and lay out the consequences of the incompetence and negligence exhibited by the players in this little saga. It will lay the message out in such a way that it will be clear even to those who laid the groundwork for this debacle.  Given the absence of any kind of risk management or security controls, that something like this would happen was (and probably still is) inevitable. Because of a lack of forensic information, we will never know how many other people did what Manning did, but put it to use in a different way.

In Part 5, we  will also review the concept of risk management and its function in the operation of any organization. We will talk about where the responsibility for risk management lies and point out all of the places up and down the chain of command in both the DoD and State Department where it is functionally nonexistent. It will show, based on Executive Branch and DoD directives, that the culpability for the leaks lies with leadership in the DoD and State Department for the complete lack of risk management oversight and practices. If they had followed common, bog-standard information security practices, this could not have happened. The culpability for this mess lies with the “management” of the Departments of Defense and State.

Part 1 after the fold . . .

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