June 30, 2013

mama say i'm crazy . . .

My army bud Brian Voorheis is on mouth harp on this Fred McDowell piece . . . recorded in the Berkeley hills in some of the early days . . .

June 09, 2013

A goodie for you, choir

Best short critique I've ever found. Not a sound bite, though - practice lengthening your attention span ...

June 06, 2013

Bradley Manning, intelligence, and secrecy

Some thoughts on stuff in the news lately relating to this post's title:

• Back in the days when Bill and I were doing our front-line work for NSA, the prevailing philosophy in the intelligence community was anchored in the "need to know" dictum: Each player in the game was to have only such knowledge as absolutely needed to carry out his or her duties. In practice, of course, individuals were exposed in many ways to technically "unnecessary" knowledge; but the further afield such knowledge, the less reliable it was. I can assure you that, as lower-ranking enlisted men, we knew very, very little for certain about the overall scope of intelligence gathering, much less the more mysterious and "romantic", if you will, world of espionage and sabotage.

But, apparently, these days things are not the same. I'm frankly a little surprised that someone at PFC Manning's level would be privy to the kind and amount of info he had (presumably) official access to.  That's not necessarily odd, though, given how much the intelligence-gathering game has changed and grown in the near-half-century since Bill and I were playing it. It's now a vastly larger and highly lucrative enterprise, counting all the private contractors now assuming a central role - it also seems that vastly more people have high-level clearances than before.

• Comes word this morning that the NSA (who Bill and I worked for) has ordered Verizon to provide it information on all calls within its system, whether in the US or from the US to other countries, for 3 months, through July 19. (By the way, it speaks volumes that the story was broken by The Guardian, a British newspaper, and not by an American media enterprise ...) That, too, surprises me a little: Given the state of digital technology and the resources that the NSA has, I would have thought they wouldn't need such assistance from a mainstream institution like Verizon.

I don't worry too much about such shenanigans, though. No doubt the NSA is the world's largest customer for data-storage devices, and they likely have unimaginable amounts of archived data dating back to their inception. But data is not information. It takes people to get the information from the data, and, even given the expansion in intelligence gathering that's been going on, there are still not nearly enough people working on it to derive even an overview of what information may or may not be gleaned from all the data - nor is there likely or feasibly to be in the foreseeable future.

• At the risk of alienating someone (or everyone!), I must say that my sympathies are with PFC Manning. As I've alluded to previously, I personally essayed secrecy in my own life, and I developed a powerful distaste for it. That distaste extends to public secrecy as well. Here's the point: People who are seriously trying to hide what they're doing are almost always up to no good. (Now, I'm not talking about setting up surprise parties or the like, and you know it.) Hiding things from each other has no place among those who are sincerely trying to make this life better for everyone. Cooperation is impossible without trust, and trust is impossible without honesty.

Enough! Sorry, once again, for running off at the mouth - but all should realize by now that I just don't do sound bites or bumper stickers.