Iran / Iraq / Syria / etc.

Frontline: The Secret History of ISIS

It is good to see organizations like PBS take on the history of ISIS, with their piece this week, The Secret History of ISIS. It’s not horrible, and it’s good to see that they were able to interview some of the key players – original sources matter. You should make time to watch it; it’s about 45 minutes in length, and it will stream on just about any device. Three things, though, after you watch it. 1) Frontline does a good job of pointing out that Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) / Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) had been

Education / Teaching / Writing

Writing college essays

I teach college. My classes involve a lot of writing; there’s no getting around there. I read and grade a lot of writing. Midterms and finals are often essays, and they’re often in the 4 to 12 page range. And I often hear from my students, after the fact, comments like this. “I didn’t get the grade I was expecting.” “I usually do much better than this.” “This grade was disappointing.” “For the amount of effort I put into this, I was expecting a higher grade.” Let’s talk about this. I’ll use my recent round of midterms as a

Intelligence

Hillary Clinton has 2,093 problems ¯\_(?)_/¯

On Monday, the State Department finished their review of the 30,300 work-related emails and attachments that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had kept on her “private” email server at her house, and released to the public the last of the ones that the were able to release. Of those 30,000, all but 2093 were released. Those 2093 could not be released because they were determined to contain classified information. [1] The standard for this is, of course, zero. None. As someone with access to classified information, Hillary Clinton – and those who worked for her – are required by

Education / Intelligence / Research / etc.

Keeping track of PDF files

Now that I am back in the business of reading and using a lot of PDF files, I have a nice system in place. I thought it time to share it. Some of the PDF files are ones that I already have on my hard drive. Others are ones I need to pull from the internet. Others, still, are ones I make by “printing” a web page and saving it as a PDF files. In all of these cases, the end result is a PDF file that is saved to my hard drive (well, to the Google Drive account

Terrorism

Apple and the FBI: Trailblazing

The FBI has asked Apple to develop the means to unencrypt the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the participants in the 02 December 2015 shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California. Farook had a county-issued iPhone 5C, with which he used the iOS included advanced encryption options available to every user meant to serve as a safeguard to the data physically on the phone. Farook also backed up some of his data to an iCloud account – typically address, calendar, to-do list types of information – but the FBI asserts that it cannot access all of

Iran

On the trail of Bob Levinson

I stitched together a few oddities today, regarding Bob Levinson – things I just hadn’t realized. His cases is getting weirder and weirder. I remember when he went missing in 2007. It was news then. An ex-FBI agent, no longer working with the US Government, working on his own they said, looking into cigarette smuuggling., I remember when he went missing in 2007. It was news then. An ex-FBI agent, no longer working with the US Government, working on his own they said, looking into cigarette smuggling. They said he had traveled to the Iranian island of Kish –

Intelligence / Iraq / Syria

American strategy and politicization

Geoff Arnold pointed me towards a great article in The American Conservative, The Pentagon Fights Back. I’m going to plan to use it in future iterations of one of the classes I teach, ISSA 3302, Fundamentals of Intelligence Analysis, specifically during the section about the perils of politicization. Giraldi makes a good point, comparing current American actions and apparent strategy to a thinking of that of 1938 in Munich. I don’t think it’s just Rwanda that hangs over the head of this Democratic administration (Bill Clinton regrets how he handled it), but other atrocities and acts of genocide, to

Education / Iraq / Research

Google Searches and Alerts

I just created another Google Search today. I thought I would share with you what I used and how. As background, I have an ongoing interest in the Shia (and Sunni) militias in Iraq. The Shia ones have a long history of being supported by Iran, directly and indirectly. In 2014, the Iraqi government rolled many of the Shia ones into an umbrella organization, in response to the fall of Mosul and the need to officially bring these groups – armed – into the fight. Think of that action as mobilizing a well armed militia, in accordance with the US’s

Army / Writing

NaNoWriMo and my Army career

I’m using November 2015 to participated in #NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. It’s suppose to be a month in which to bang out 50k words towards a novel, using a lot of great tools and formulas from this great and structured program, but I’m a rebel – I’m going to try and put down 50k (or more) words about my time in the Army. Stories I Should Tell, I’m calling it. So, here’s the question to you: what are you favorite Art in the Army stories, that just have to be included?

Army / Iraq / Syria

America on being, or not being, in Syria today

The White House announced Friday that the US is going to deploy Special Forces personnel to Syria. The announcement specified that these SF personnel, described as intending to number less than 50, are going there as advisers to moderate rebel groups fighting against ISIS/ISIL. Today, President Obama faced questions from NBC Nightly News about his September 2013 pledge to not put troops on the ground in Syria. Back then, President Obama had stated, “My answer is simple. I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan. I will

44 Days / Army / Iraq

On Stifled Innovations

I have been spending a lot of time recently reading, re-reading, and talking with fellow captains about an April 2002 paper, ““STIFLED INNOVATION? DEVELOPING TOMORROW’S LEADERS TODAY.” Dr. Leonard Wong, of the Strategic Studies Institute, wrote it. The first time I read it, I cheered. The second time, I stewed. Now, it just gets me thinking, and worrying, about the company commanders to follow. The description of the paper is tantalizing – “The author examines the current company commander experience and concludes that the Army values innovation in its rhetoric, but the reality is that junior officers are seldom

44 Days / Army / Iraq

Coming out of Command

I’ve spent time today rebuilding my main computer, and with that, moving and backing up a lot of files.  I ran across a file, the contents of which are below, from an online interview I did with the folks at companycommand.com, back in 2003 or 2004, about capturing and sharing lessons learned about wartime command.  I’d almost forgotten I’d done the interview.

Army / Oahu / Running

50km

“I’m going out for a run, probably up to Post.  I’ll be back… after midnight, probably after 1” I said to my wife, as I laced up my shoes.  I’d been making noise about going for a longer run since it was the Thursday night starting a long weekend, and really, I didn’t think my wife was listening to me. We’d just finished dinner, there was still plenty of summer sunlight, I had a good full belly, and was feeling strong. “Uh huh,” she said, “yeah.” Followed by, “Wait, what?”

Army / Blogging

The Army Officer’s Guide to Mentoring

My good friend and Army colleague Ray Kimball has a new book that has hit the Amazon bookshelves. The Army Officer’s Guide to Mentoring is the book version of his dissertation, written to support his PhD at Pepperdine this year, about the state of affairs for mentoring in the specifically Army Officer Corps. This is the book I wish that John Chverchko had had available, when I reported in to his unit as a brand new second lieutenant in 1996. Ray doesn’t prescribe what mentoring and coaching in the Army should be, he just does a great job, based on his

Movies

The Martian, Movie and Book

We’re just back from the family outing to go see the Matt Damon movie, The Martian. Because it has Matt Damon in it, I am suppose to say that it sucks and that I hated it, but because it’s based on the Andy Weir novel, I am compelled to say that I did like it. It’s Castaway (trailer) in space, wherein our hero has to “science the shit” out of things in order to make his way back to Earth. It’s a good movie.  

Mini / Portland

The Club Runs

In moving West this August, I have immersed myself in the local Mini club. It’s what we do as Mini owners – we get together, we talk cars, we turn wrenches, we share meals, we go for drives. The Portland club has been around, in one form or another, for as long as the new generations of Minis has been. And with that, so have their organized run – planned events and drives, wherein someone marks out a route and leads others on a drive, usually because of the value of the route itself. Mini owners like curves, they

Army

“I need you to go into this minefield…”

I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my day. I did a lot of stupid things in service to the Army. At or near the topic of the list involves the time when I was a lieutenant, of course, and I was tasked to go into a minefield and recover 5,000 gallon field truck that rolled over onto its side there. We like to joke about minefields. They make for good drama. They are fantastic visuals, in movies, on TV – we just saw one on Doctor Who. But I’m not sure people really understand just how amazingly

Army / Culture / Family / etc.

The sound of gunfire

Alone, I can’t change American culture and this strange relationship we have with guns and ammunition. There are so many different things that America could do, to change the levels of gun violence in America, and the numbers of events of school shootings in our country. But this isn’t small problem, these solutions aren’t tiny ones, either, and I’m afraid that I haven’t come upon one yet that I can implement myself, which will bring national, regional, or cultural change. But what I can do is model the behavior I want to see. The behavior I want to see in