Historical moments in Oil

Besides the day when I heard the first airstrikes hit Iraq in 2003 (the year I graduated high school) — one of the rare moments I really felt like I was really living through a historical catastrophe occurred during the spring of 2008. Oil had passed $100 dollars a barrel for the first time. I was a senior who for good reason thought poorly of worldly interminglings: my time was spread between an eye-opening ‘chemical and biological weapons & arms control’ course and an optimistically named course: ‘The philosophy and ethics of globalization.’

Amazing, thought I, that my class will forever be known as the class that graduated when oil passed $100/ barrel. For a brief moment in March, just a few days before my birthday, the first trade at 100 was made. By graduation day in May, a barrel hit $135. I’m not proud to belong to the High School class of Iraq’s bombarama, nor the ‘burn it till it hurts’ class of ’08.

(I wrote the previous two paragraphs back in March of 08. Since today is my birthday I figured it’s time to let it out!)

PFC Manning & Thoreau’s ‘machines of the state’

The Defense Blog for PFC Bradley Manning recently posted the details of Manning’s internment at Quantico, a military brig in VA. It’s disgusting:

He is not allowed to have any personal items in his cell.

He is only allowed to have one book or one magazine at any given time to read in his cell. The book or magazine is taken away from him at the end of the day before he goes to sleep.

He is prevented from exercising in his cell. If he attempts to do push-ups, sit-ups, or any other form of exercise he will be forced to stop.

He does receive one hour of “exercise” outside of his cell daily. He is taken to an empty room and only allowed to walk. PFC Manning normally just walks figure eights in the room for the entire hour. If he indicates that he no long feels like walking, he is immediately returned to his cell.

When PFC Manning goes to sleep, he is required to strip down to his boxer shorts and surrender his clothing to the guards. His clothing is returned to him the next morning.

As a habitual comment-reader, the following quote by Henry David Thoreau in this comment was interesting:

This is why Thoreau’s observation on State goons is so poignant:
“The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus,(7) etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs.”

And another posted a  poem by Erwin Markham which fueled Sidney Rittenberg to during time in a Chinese Prison in ’49:

They drew a circle that shut me out

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout

But love and I had the wit to win;

We drew a circle that took them in.

Recommended reading:

– “Is long-term Solitary Confinement Torture?” (Manning has been in for 5 months)

Solitary Confinement / google scholar

Exaggerating the cyberwar threat

In a June NPR Intelligence Squared debate on the question, “Has the cyberwar threat been grossly exaggerated?” tech commenter Bruce Schneier argued there needs to be a better language to frame infosec issues:

If we frame this discussion as a war discussion, then what you do when there’s a threat of war is you call in the military and you get military solutions. You get lockdown; you get an enemy that needs to be subdued. If you think about these threats in terms of crime, you get police solutions. And as we have this debate, not just on stage, but in the country, the way we frame it, the way we talk about it; the way the headlines read, determine what sort of solutions we want, make us feel better. And so the threat of cyberwar is being grossly exaggerated and I think it’s being done for a reason. This is a power grab by government. What Mike McConnell didn’t mention is that grossly exaggerating a threat of cyberwar is incredibly profitable.

“Bullets and Blogs” — new media and warfare [recommended reading]



Bullets and Blogs: New Media and the Warfighter” (2.7mb PDF) is a very new agey text. The report emerged from the finding of a workshop tasked with the question: How must battlefield communication change to adapt to this twitterin’ bloggin media-rich battlespace? The report is fascinating, and focuses on the Iraq/Afghanistan-relevant idea that rapidly broadcasting a media-rich ‘version of the truth’ to enemies and allies alike must be synchronized with conventional military strategy. At its root however is the rapid production of history across all mediums, and faster than the enemy:

“This report is rich with soundbites and recommendations supported by examples, including operations where the insurgents were the first to write the first draft of history, the draft that usually sticks especially when a factual challenge is not made within days or weeks.” (via Mountainrunner)

A comment by Cliff W. Gilmore, a US public military affairs officer speaks to speed vs. timeliness:

…the need to push information out quickly (speed) is a primary learning point highlighted in Bullets & Blogs. This is a media-focused learning point that differs significantly from the concept of timeliness, which has to do with who needs what information when. It’s easy to get distracted by the “wiz-bang!” of the communication environment and forget that a message doesn’t have to get there FAST — it just needs to arrive on time.

This is not to suggest that speed is not a factor in the new battlespace, just that it should not be a primary focus. There are several things we should be better at than speed. Credibility, trust, accuracy, timeliness, unified voice, privacy, intentional communication, delegation, security — and balancing them against one another — come to mind.

Findings in the Executive Summary

In summary, to achieve strategic agility in the information age, DOD should consider the following priority issues:
• Recognize that the winning strategy is “information engagement,” not “information control;”
• Embrace new media as a significant enabler of “that element of combat power called information;”
• Prioritize research and development, and organizational change, to exploit new media as a warfighting capability;
• Educate digital immigrants to begin the process of cultural change;
• Exploit digital natives – encourage, educate, empower, and equip;
• Enhance DOD’s capacity for commanding the attention and trust of key audiences through improved capacities for appropriate messaging, achieving a distributed global presence on relevant media, and finding and leveraging suitable messengers (third- party validators);
• Prioritize agility in the information environment, by:

» Enhancing speed of communication through: proactive information engagement; more refined classification efforts; in-field declassification authorities and capabilities; and, the removal of barriers to inter-agency and inter-service declassification;
» Moving towards decentralized authority and decentralized execution by setting the information rules of engagement;
» Identifying and mitigating risk, through a more sophisticated risk assessment process; » Ensuring commanders have non-lethal options commensurate with traditional lethal
» Requiring commanders to define the desired information endstate; » Exploiting new media for better measures of effectiveness; Streamline DOD policies and guidance; Synchronize, synchronize, synchronize — across all-of-government; Pursue a holistic approach; Engage the legal debate.

Now if only the DOD could control what information gets back to the US from Iraq

Army opens Mil internet access to Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, Vimeo

Picture 1
Photo by tcmhitchhiker

Today was the day that Army bases were ordered to stop blocking social media sites. No Youtube, yes Vimeo. No Myspace, yes Facebook. Seems arbitrary, but those are the sites I prefer anyway, so I would be happy were I in the mil.

It’s interesting what remains banned… The list includes:

(a) YouTube, http://www.youtube.com

(b) 1.FM, http://www.1.fm

(c) Pandora, http://www.pandora.com

(d) Photobucket, http://www.photobucket.com

(e) MySpace, http://www.myspace.com

(f) Live365, http://www.live365.com

(g) hi5, http://www.hi5.com

(h) Metacafe, http://www.metacafe.com

(i) MTV, http://www.mtv.com

(j) BlackPlanet, http://www.blackplanet.com

(k) StupidVideos, http://www.stupidvideos.com

(l) Filecabi,http://www. filecabi.net.

Check out the official order below…

Continue reading “Army opens Mil internet access to Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, Vimeo”

The Balad Burn Pit: All-purpose toxic materials disposal in Iraq [iraq, vet health]

Update Feb 20, 2010: The anger is rising: read this LAtimes piece.

Something made me mad today. So I’m posting about it.

After reading an article on Wikileaks regarding the Balad Burn Pit, where toxic chemicals such as

“…acetaldehyde, Acrolien, Arsenic, Benzene, Carbon Monoxide, Ethylbenzene, Formaldehyde, Hydrogen Cyanide, Hydrogen Fluoride, Phosgene, Sulfur Dioxide, Sulfuric Acid, Toluene, Trichloroethane and Xylene…”

are burnt, I became very angry. Continue reading “The Balad Burn Pit: All-purpose toxic materials disposal in Iraq [iraq, vet health]”