For over a decade, and continuing into the future, this is the one information technology firm that has never, ever, let www.oss.net or any of its peripheral networks go out of service. The culture of reliability and ingenuity and responsivness of this organization cannot be over-stated. They are not just world-class — they set the standard. Robert David Steele, founder, OSS, EIN
WASHINGTON – As the Pentagon has sought to sell wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to often-hostile populations there, it has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on poorly tracked marketing and propaganda campaigns that military leaders like to call “information operations,” the modern equivalent of psychological warfare.
From 2005 to 2009, such spending rose from $9 million to $580 million a year mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pentagon and congressional records show. Last year, spending dropped to $202 million as the Iraq War wrapped up. A USA TODAY investigation, based on dozens of interviews and a series of internal military reports, shows that Pentagon officials have little proof the programs work and they won’t make public where the money goes. In Iraq alone, more than $173 million was paid to what were identified only as “miscellaneous foreign contractors.”
“What we do as I.O. is almost gimmicky,” says Army Col. Paul Yingling, who served three tours in Iraq between 2003 and 2009, including as an information operations specialist. “Doing posters, fliers or radio ads. These things are unserious.”
Phi Beta Iota: The real issue here is the lack of “management” across the entire US Government. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) does not manage anything. There are no standards for return on investment, inter-agency collaboration, even justification in the public interest. Budgeting is a corrupt political “game” in which the Cabinet Secretaries represent the recipients of taxpayer funds, not the taxpayers. Were OMB serious, intelligence, information operations, and public diplomacy would be managed as one account, an Open Source Agency under diplomatic auspices would establish the gold standard for truth, and no money would be invested in contractors whose primary qualifications consist of contributing to Congressional political action campaigns and playing golf. The truth at any cost lowers all others costs. We are nowhere near getting a grip on the truth.
Good things do come out of the Virginia state legislature. That normally reprehensible body has just stood up to the federal outrage that has come to be known as the NDAA. The letters stand for the National Defense Authorization Act, but at issue here is not the bulk of that bill. Virginia’s state government has no objection to dumping our grandchildren’s unearned pay into the pockets of war profiteers while our schools lack funding. At issue is the presidential power to lock people up without a trial, which was slipped into the latest military funding bill late last year and signed into law by President Barack Obama on New Year’s Eve. In fact, Virginia’s legislature does not object to that abuse except in one particular circumstance, namely when the victim of it is a U.S. citizen. But in that circumstance, Virginia says Hell No.
“After studying the controversial provisions and after hearing from many in the Fifth District, I concluded that the detainee provisions in the bill did not provide clear and unambiguous protection of the constitutional rights of American citizens. For this reason, I opposed the bill on final passage.” http://charlottesvillepeace.org/node/2635
Groups from across the political spectrum, including the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, urged passage of a bill in Virginia’s state legislature to nullify the new provisions. http://charlottesvillepeace.org/node/2692
Phi Beta Iota: Nullification is the softer gentler preamble to secession. The states, many of them over-invested in Federal bonds and many of them facing their own financial crises, are now starting to plan for the collapse of the US Goverment or economy, and becoming more alert to opportunities of state nullification of federal mandates. During this transition period resilience and sustainability will be “bottom-up” in nature, and those states that “assume” a loss of all federal funding after 2013, and plan for it, will do better than those states that assume federal (borrowed) largesse will continue. This will impact heavily on universities that rely on federal funding for most of their research.
Internet access has become a vital public interest. Cutting it off is almost like cutting off our air. I can’t imagine mankind transcending all of the challenges we’re facing without the internet. It’s gone beyond being a luxury to being an absolute necessity for positive social transformation.
Underwater data cables linking East Africa to the Middle East and Europe have been severed, bringing transfer rates to their knees in nine countries.
In a bizarre coincidence, a ship allegedly dropped anchor off the coast of Kenya on Saturday in a restricted area, cutting The East African Marine Systems (TEAMS) cable – shortly after three other cables were chopped in the Red Sea between Djibouti and the Middle East, the Wall Street Journalreported.
TEAMS was already stuffed with the traffic from the other three cables, the Europe India Gateway (EIG), the South East Asia Middle East Western Europe-3 (SMW-3) and the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSY), which were severed ten days before.
“It’s a very unusual situation,” Chris Wood, chief executive of West Indian Ocean Cable, the largest shareholder of the EASSY, and a major owner of data-capacity rights on the two other Red Sea cables. “I believe these were accidental incidents, although more will be known when we bring the cables up from the sea bed.”
Naturally, the number of cables ruined in a short timeframe has sparked suspicions of sabotage. A source from African carrier Airtel told Ugandan independent newspaper the Daily Monitor that the cables had been sliced on purpose.
“The EASSY and TEAMS cables were cut by malicious people at the weekend and this is causing connection problems. All internet providers, particularly Orange and Airtel have been affected because they all depend on these cables for service provision,” he said.
Wood told the WSJ that the cables in the Red Sea had all been severed at the same time, around 650 feet below the Red Sea, but he said that a passing ship could have done the damage because the sea is so shallow.
Phi Beta Iota: The vulnerability of secessionist movements, and the vulnerability of the rising poor using the Internet to by-pass government corruption and corporate predation, are illuminated here. The Autonomous Internet and Open Source Everything are the imperative if humanity is to create a prosperous world at peace that works for all.
Syria: Special comment: Over the weekend, news video footage from Homs, the so-called center of the opposition uprising, raised questions about the actual effectiveness of the opposition. The videos showed Syrian police, firefighters and militia using fire hoses to disperse a major opposition rally in Homs. So who controls Homs? Apparently the government does, with the exception of a few photogenic neighborhoods.
A European news outlet published a city map that shows the neighborhoods of Homs based on sectarian residence patterns. The map shows that most of the videos of violent confrontations have been taken in two or three mostly Sunni neighborhoods in the south of the city.
Homs is a large city and most of it appears to experience little to no violence, based on the video footage and the map of neighborhoods. The vast majority of Sunni neighborhoods and the Christian and Alawite neighborhoods report no violence. Life goes on in most of Homs.
If the Homs firefighters and police retain the capability to use fire hoses against demonstrators, then the government remains in control in that city. That is a basic precept of internal instability analysis. Homs still has a functioning government that responds to orders from Damascus.
The point of this comment is that most US news reporting on the struggle in Syria appears aimed at grabbing headlines rather than at providing a balanced view of both sides of the struggle. Non-US news sources present a different view of the unrest. For example, it is difficult to maintain that the opposition dominates Homs, when the fire brigade is secure enough to turn hoses on an opposition rally there. US news analysts completely missed the significance of the fire brigade operations shown in their own videos..
The bottom line is that the opposition holds no ground that it does not physically occupy and then only when government forces are not present or chasing it. Homs does not appear to be under siege or under opposition control, based on German news reporting. Some neighborhoods are and that is worth further research. It also helps explain why the al Asad government exhibits no signs of panic or severe stress commensurate with the urgent statements by the UN, Arab League and US officials. More on this topic later.
Phi Beta Iota: The truth at any cost lowers all other costs. The US media is 65-95% owned by Wall Street, with the bulk of their revenues coming from advertising by corporations that profit from war and instability.
Several months ago, I was invited by Sean Park to be a Venture Partner with Anthemis Group, a new financial services group with an aim to totally reinvent finance from the ground up.
(Sean was a generous backer for the Future of Money Project I co-created for a SIBOS conference, and we’ve met up several times in the past few years for animated conversations about the changing nature of money, value and wealth.)
I was delighted to accept the offer, and be a part of this exciting initiative by bringing attention to financial startups that just might help change the world for the better. If this is you, let me know!
Check out the video above to hear more about the goals of Anthemis and an overview of our emerging global financial landscape – presented last week at the Lift12 conference. Below is a brief post Sean wrote up about his presentation, and a great prezi as well!
Last Thursday I had the great privilege of having been invited by the remarkable Laurent Haug to present a snapshot of our vision of the new emerging universe of “digitally native finance” at the wonderful Lift12 conference in Geneva. Twenty minutes is not a long time (and thank goodness Laurent indulged me with a couple minutes more) to convey both the context and the substance of what we believe to be a fundamental shift in the paradigm of the financial services industry, but I hope I was able to give at least a good high-level overview. Most importantly, I hope I was able to convey the excitement we feel at the vastness of the opportunity and the win/win/win (for the customers/companies/economies) available to those who embrace the opportunity for technology-enabled disruption in financial services by introducing them – however superficially I’ll admit – to just a handful of companies who are at the vanguard of this wave of change.
For those that are interested, my presentation is below:
We few, we happy few, who actually get it. The opposite of the SOF motto that you cannot mass produce special forces, is that you WILL mass produce culturally-stupid conventional forces. This is on the leadership — straight-leg Army flags have no clue and don’t want to have a clue.
In one sense, the U.S.-led coalition has itself to blame for the riots and killings that have raged across Afghanistan in the wake of last week’s accidental burning of the Koran by American forces. Too many U.S. troops habitually disrespect their Afghan trainees, according to some of the elite forces who head up those training sessions. And those small, tactical acts of cultural stupidity can lead to a strategic moment, like the one we’re having now.
The ongoing disrespect can fuel smoldering resentment among Afghans that is compounded by the Afghans’ underlying discomfort with the decade-long foreign occupation of their country. The mishandling of the Koran was like a match on that explosive tinder.
According to members of a U.S. Special Forces “A Team” based in Laghman province, American trainers there inadvertently mistreat the Afghans with rough touching, mock insults and and a dearth of positive reinforcement. During my recent visit to Langhman, one Special Forces officer hurried to intervene when some Army National Guard soldiers wandered into an Afghan cemetery — another big no-no. “I’ve seen too many guys disrespecting their Afghans,” one Special Forces weapons sergeant says.
The accidental burning of the Koran represents was even more thoughtless … and reflects an almost willful ignorance of Afghan sensitivities. “How after 11 years here is there no system in place for properly disposing of religious [documents]?” asks one sergeant attached to a Special Forces unit based in Kabul. “It’s just fucking stupid.”
Syria-Qatar: Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani said he thinks Qatar should do whatever is necessary to support the opposition in Syria, even if it means giving them weapons. Al-Thani made the remarks while visiting Norway to meet with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
Comment: Al Thani’s remarks match those of the Saudi Foreign Minister. They reinforce that the hypothesis that the fight in Syria is between Sunnis and Shiites more than anything else. It has nothing to do with western notions of democracy.
Phi Beta Iota: The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has never really “managed” anything. They blew off the “M” forever in the 1970’s and became a budget chop shop unable to render intelligence with integrity to the Executive. At the same time, the Cabinet departments are focused on protecting budget share for their stakeholders (the recipients of the taxpayer’s revenue, not the taxpayer’s themselves), and neither they, nor the US Intelligence Community now costing us $80 billion a year, are capable of doing responsible analytics in the national interest. The lack of intelligence (decision-support) with (holistic) integrity across all organizations is the central challenge of our time.