Big Corporation is watching

This week I received a phone call from the Veterans Administration, to ask me to submit a copy of my most recent DD-214,  the document that all veterans recognize as our Certificate of Release or Discharge from military service, which also provides the veteran with a validation for several federal and state benefits.

Since I am given to understand that the United States Government’s Executive Branch oversees the Veterans Administration and Department of Defense (DOD), and the DOD oversees the Department of the Navy, I am unsure how transmission of my Active Duty service record – and DD-214 for my second period of service (ending 17 years ago) – or at minimum, the DD-214,  failed to be transmitted to the records the Veterans Administration maintains (veterans are its customers).   Were it only a paper record, I could understand that millions of archival pages might be confusing for one file clerk with band aids on her thumbs and a dry sponge-pad (to moisten fingers) searching through file cabinets.   But for thirty years,  documents have been scanned into computer records.

pinterest_surveillance

In the most recent twenty years,  and particularly in the last ten years, there have been lobbying groups protesting the illegal monitoring/ harvesting of data purportedly on American citizens – and  our “undocumented guests” in the country.   College students, particularly at Ivy League universities, college professors,  Congressional investigations, anarchists camping out in the streets, and huge exposes by media – CNN, Politico, New York Times, and groups like the ACLU and so on, condemn BIG GOVERNMENT for purportedly nefarious purposes.

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Given my experience with Government, including data losses,  long delays between completing forms and receiving confirmation of receipt,  and even longer delays when requesting information, specific to the very thing the Government agency is responsible,   I have some reservation about how nefarious or how “omnipresent” Big Brother really is in our daily lives.   I am much more concerned with BIG CORPORATION (##).

Google, Facebook, other social media,  Microsoft, and so forth collect TRILLIONS of bytes of data daily on our finances, credit use, personal interests, sexual preferences, and other habits.  Anyone who has looked at a website on your computer or phone at work or at home should notice how quickly all your other devices start to send you “tailored” advertising.      And knowing that criminals, foreign governments, and non-state bad actors are often way more proficient with data mining than our own GOVERNMENT,  I would not be surprised to hear my Progressive, aka Liberal, friends be embarrassed one day in the future to learn that buying the Birkenstock and Hillary Clinton’s autobiography from the web, will also come with a free sample of Russian borscht or Chinese travel vouchers.

(##)   since I served and presently work where my privacy is understood to NOT be a sacred thing – the Government has maintained records on me since I was 18 years old – I am not willing, nor able to drop off  “the Grid” anytime soon

Thermite games

Among my peers in the world of Navy cryptologic operations,  we enjoyed a sense of humor that few civilians might understand.  To this very day,  when friends or family ask me about my work, I will likely smile, then say, “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”    I do not get asked very much about my work.

Today,  when recalcitrant equipment that I either test or provide customer with needed support and repair,   I always have a smart-aleck response as my double-secret probation/ inside-voice, final debug plan.   Put it in a barrel and light off some Thermite.   But then, I am hired to fix it;  it is up to my bosses to determine when the expense outweighs the continued troubleshooting.

Very early in the 1990’s, particularly as some hotspots in the world – where intelligence-gathering was not collected from 60,000 feet or a hundred miles in altitude as it may be today, but on the ground – my unit held a demonstration of classified material emergency disposal.   This was the chemical destruction capability of THERMITE.   Given a few minutes to dispose of the contents of a large safe,  personnel might not have time to shred documents;   some equipment that shouldn’t fall into the wrong hands could not be physically destroyed by physical effort.  Ergo,  a thermite grenade could be ignited, placed in or on it, and the object would be reduced to ash and molten slag.

However, history taught me that this material might have been more for show than practical use.   When the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was seized in 1979,  if some stories are to be believed,  shredded documents were reassembled  by people working furiously over months.  When the Iranians again seized our personnel during the Obama Presidency,  was there Thermite to obliterate our crypto gear on board? was it destroyed?  If jettisoned overboard, was it recovered?

And in the digital world of  identity theft,  credit reporting thefts, and hacking,  there’s nothing to render data irretrievable but for military-grade encryption.  And yet it often depends on human beings to practice security.   Of course my mind runs to a different form of “thermite”, but if we cannot find the provocateurs, cannot render them sanitized.

Here’s one video demonstration of this material:

http://www.military.com/video/ammunition-and-explosives/grenades/the-thermite-grenade/983538042001

 

 

 

 

Vampire…Vampire…Vampire

Every time I see a car with a bumper sticker “COEXIST”, I am given to wonder why these probably well-intentioned, folks are so ignorant of history and many are so rabidly determined to shut out any comment, observation, or objection.  The world is a dangerous place, and the people who see aggressors as victims and victims as aggressors are generally unable, unwilling, or unprepared to find real solutions -other than bumper stickers and molotov cocktails.  Here’s a refresher from 2006.   Via the Chinese and the Iranians, the terror group Hezbollah continues to be weaponized….

Source: Vampire…Vampire…Vampire 

“10 – 80 – 10” might explain everything

I was once (still?)  a cynic.   I started to consider years ago that ten percent of people were the top intellectuals, philanthropists, inventors, artists, and warriors (I was in the military at the time).   That also got me thinking about all the gloom-ers, doomers, and desperado,  folks whom I likened to the bottom “ten-percenters”.  In the middle were the remaining eighty percent who either were sketchy, but not necessarily “bad” or the more reasonable just-trying-their-best-to-get-by folks.   In a world today where people determine the answer they want first, and go in search of, or create the evidence they need to support their pre-determined answers,  it seems unnatural to work the other way round.   So I came up with an 10/80/10 proposition.   I have not conducted rigorous research.  During my worst cynical days and weeks,  personal experience and social media provide me a predetermined answer in search of validation.   I often apply it to everything that humanity touches.   Continue reading

In memoriam

Their feet rush into sin;
    they are swift to shed innocent blood.
They pursue evil schemes;
    acts of violence mark their ways. Isaiah 59:7

Prayers go out tonight to the victims of yet another terror attack in London.  Mayhem and murder committed by corrupt men.   In London, Manchester, Kabul or Manila the violent seem to strike randomly.

What these acts of terror have generated however is a resolve among the population to oppose evil.  While many, myself included want to take up arms to defend against these monsters,  those who prowl around looking to shed blood (1 Peter 5: 8) are ultimately opposed by love.  When children no longer are taught to hate from remote corners of the world, then terror will have no power here.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  

-1 Corinthians 13: 4 -7

 

May memories

A lot changes in forty years. In  May, 1977,  prior to my departure for Boot Camp at Naval Training Center, San Diego in October,  I was graduating high school.   Jimmy Carter was President, a fact that I thought, being a former naval submariner officer, would make him an excellent leader.   People didn’t want Gerald Ford as he had pardoned ‘criminal’ Richard Nixon, but I remember him for sending in Marines to retrieve the Mayaguez, which had been seized by the Khmer Rouge a month after the last battle involving U.S. troops of the Vietnam War.

In those last two years of the Seventies,  the Zumwalt-era of loosened grooming standards – longer hair, mustaches and beards worn by Sailors were okay.  Dungarees (bell-bottom style) and dixie cups, were the working uniform.   Pot was a problem on military bases including San Diego.   A community that now is marked by the upwardly-mobile, well-heeled beach crowd, Ocean Beach, was then a place where druggies and ex-military,  tattoo parlors and bars were less restrictive than up the coast near the UCSD campus.

A visit over the Coronado Bridge to the Naval Station Coronado, where carriers were berthed was my first view of a ship – the USS Recruit was a wood and metal reproduction on the Recruit Training Command, to introduce us to naming convention, etc – so did not count.  The ‘aroma’ of the interior of the USS Kitty Hawk was the first ‘knock out’ that I will never forget.  Jet fuel, grease, human sweat, urinals and generally,  the stink of at times, 3500 men (no women then) wafted fresh new sailors who had more recently been accustomed to PINE SOL clean scent.

At the time, I was a student learning to work on complex electronics and mechanical maintenance of teletypes.  Where I now cannot see without at least one or two orders of magnitude, I was able then to discern two from three centimeters adjustments.  The instructor was quite ADAMANT about that ability before graduation.   We had Iranian military students – this was prior to the Iranian Revolution – and when they were recalled by their government,  we were relieved.   Suffice it to say that American and Iranian hygiene were on different tracks.

In May of 1982,  with several of my fellow Russian Language students and the professor – I was able to travel  to Russia – prior to the end of the USSR (1989) – visiting cities – St Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev and Tbilisi.  If only for all but one – a socialist-  the trip was very informative and probably saved them and their future families from the ‘snowflake’ sensibilities, the mantra of “coexistence” and “socialism’s great”.  The people may have been interesting and interested, but the economy was a shambles. Ambition was reserved for the underground economy — some of whom are today’s Russian millionaires and billionaires.

In May of 1984,  I had been out of the Navy four years, attending the university in Tucson, Arizona.  Four three of those four years I had been actively involved in the Veteran students organization on campus,  and while peers were pursuing commissioning programs,  I was looking toward a government job after graduation.  Strangely,  in my second year after graduation,  when my graduate school plans went unfunded – I re-enlisted in the Navy -Reserve – that is.  The entreaties of one of my friends finally had me join his unit, only to see him quit!

After petitioning to resume an Active Duty career in 1987,  the next major May milestone I recall was May of 1997 when I was transferred from Norfolk, Virginia to San Diego, California.    1970 Dodge Chargers, if you could find one in decent shape were then ten thousand dollars or more,  homes which had been an unheard of, eighty thousand dollars – for an ocean view, were nearly eight hundred thousand,  and NTC was closed but for a few administrative medical functions.

And in the twenty years since that time,  friends and mentors went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq,  the Soviets became Russian trade partners, the Chinese became the world’s second-most powerful economy, the Islamic world tried to separate the economic need for the non-Islamic world – from the ideology that wants to reduce infidels to ashes,  and we are again at some form of odds over military preparedness against the adversaries that were no longer adversaries?

 

 

a sentry’s recollections

In the Navy I stood a lot of watches.  For those not familiar with our terminology,  “watchstanding” is an assignment for a specified number of hours, to monitor area security, equipment performance, duties according to one’s training and seniority,  or other duties “as assigned”.

As a young Sailor (I capitalize the “S” following a Navy custom),  my first watches were patrols of the recruit barracks I was assigned from the first days in the Navy forty years ago.  We patrolled for safety mostly, but it was also to train us to be light sleepers, and accustomed to getting up within moments to carry out duties.

Later assignments, once I had been in uniform for a year or so, was assignment to the base gatehouses, sometimes the Main Gate but more often the mostly deserted back gate.  Watches – as a student during that time – were mostly starting at midnight, “balls to four” or 4 AM, because I had a class schedule that ran two sessions until early evening.   One night, I was assigned to be a floor watch,  sitting at a desk in a quiet corner of one of the middle floors – decks, we called them – and with the lack of air, humidity, and heat -in a Florida summer,  I dozed off.  A thump in the back of the head and a shout in my ear – the Base Duty Officer that evening was an old Senior Chief – and I was wide awake.  Never dozed off again – ever – while on watch.

Ten years later ( I had left and then gone back into the service) , on my first shipboard ‘tour’,  I was a Petty Officer of the Watch, in port.  Every Navy ship, while moored has a security station, at the brow -entry gangway- to provide protection, announce visitors, note the commanding officer’s arrival and departure, and check for authorized ship’s company to depart or return.   As a Third Class Petty Officer, I was limited in the scope of my assignments, but once I earned my next rank, Second Class Petty Officer,  I sought to train and qualified as the Officer of the Deck (in port).  The OOD is responsible to that day’s Command Duty Officer (CDO) who monitors compliance to the commander’s orders while in port.  On a subsequent ship, I again performed that OOD role until as a Chief Petty Officer, I had oversight of the shore enlisted personnel in my capacity as the unit’s Senior Enlisted Leader.

I was fortunate that during my tenure aboard the various ships I served to have few altercations but for a couple inebriated Sailors.  My watchstanding duties which normally required me to be armed, including at various times carbines or shotguns as well as a 45-caliber semi-automatic pistol, were mostly routine.  But failure of security cannot be allowed. A case, where failure of security personnel at the Norfolk Naval Base a few years ago, allowed a deranged civilian truck driver onto the base and onto a pier, ultimately resulted in the death of a Sailor – and the assailant.   That Sailor gave his life defending his shipmate, a POOW who was attacked and disarmed. Another Sailor performed his duty to eliminate the threat.  Particularly in the post-September 11th world,  there are more random dangers, criminals, mentally unstable people, and web-enabled terrorists on friendly shores.  Being wary of the threats in foreign ports,  assignments for the 18- to 38 year old Sailors ( and Marines, Soldiers and Airmen) who stand watch at their posts are now a matter of serious professionalism.

As a result of being in that environment, witnessing a lot and fortunately only hearing some of the stories,  I have a lot of respect for law enforcement officers today.  The job of securing your assigned watch can be routine, dull, aggravating and demanding.  And there aren’t a lot of second-chances to get it right when dealing with a dangerous world.  To protect us they stand the watch.