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Wilds of NW Indiana
Author, Consultant, Content Creator
Interests: Military, preparedness, food and drink, animals, cooking, more as I have time
Recent Activity
If you are not regularly reading The Liberty Zone, you should be. There is a lot that can and should be said about the travesty that is the VA, and as usual, Nicki hits it out of the park with National Shame, Part II. Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2015 at BlackFive
Happy Holidays to All! Today is the shortest day/longest night of the year, and to my Norse/pagan/other friends who celebrate the Solstice tomorrow, a good one to you. To my friends of a a different faith, a belated Happy Hanukkah. If you celebrate something different, the blessings of that to you. Please be careful out there. Today is also the anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing, and if you think the timing wasn't deliberate, well... There is a lot going on, and if we get through the next couple of weeks without a major incident, I will be surprised and pleased. The propane tanks and cell phones in the news are but a small part of things. There are reports out in the open about Middle Eastern males checking out Bagnell Dam in Missouri; not-in-the-media reports of Middle Eastern males checking out a National Guard armory in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. There was a (mild, thankfully) poison/toxin attack on a synagogue just south of Paris that hasn't gotten a lot of attention. For those paying attention, there is a lot going on and Daesh has continued to issue calls for attacks here and abroad. This time of year offers the chance for maximum impact and to target religions and groups that are hated by Islamists. Others too, but if you don't think Daesh and other Islamist groups are the prime threat... For me, I say Sod Them. Enjoy your holidays, and enjoy them without fear. Just be alert and be prepared. Merry Christmas! Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2015 at BlackFive
Let me start by saying I don't care about wrappers, or who does what to whom how or when (so long as there is consent). By wrapper, I mean the outward manifestation that is the amazing human body. What matters to me is if a person can and does do the job, be it serving in the military or any other occupation, and if they are what I consider a good person. Yes, that order is deliberate, as I know some people that are great at what they do, but frankly are assholes outside of that. So long as they don't move beyond being "Do-Che's" as Uncle Jimbo has called it, I would use them for their proven abilities and expertise at need. Being able to do the job is what counts. Right now, our all-volunteer force is -- in my opinion -- the finest fighting force ever to exist. It is such because of a combination of training, professionalism, and high standards for any number of specialties, from combat to nuclear engineering/technical operations. That said, there are a lot of people of progressive bent that would like to see that force be eliminated, or otherwise degraded. Those points being given, the Secretary of Defense has ordered -- over some valid objections -- all military occupation specialties to females. So, I have one basic question for SecDef Carter: How does this improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the U.S. Armed Forces? After all, that is the bottom line, is it not? That one question does raise a host of sub-questions for me. While the order states open to those who meet the current standards, how long before the standards are changed to ensure diversity? After all, many of those current standards are difficult for females (and a large number of males) to meet. They were set high for a number of reasons, the majority of which come from experience in what is required to physically and mentally meet the demands of that specialty. If they are to be changed, what will be the driver for that change, reality or social engineering? The order also appears to come with a dearth of planning for how to implement this effectively, which often means a number of preventable problems. My question here is if that is considered a bug or a feature? Will the problems be used to create real solutions designed to improve the situation, and the effectiveness and efficiency of our forces to do their job of bringing death and destruction to our enemies, or will it be used to enact further changes to appease the Social Justice Warrior crowd? While I agree with Jonn that many years of study were ignored or wasted, was any review or consideration given to examining the operations of countries that have already allowed females to serve in a variety of combat specialties? While Israel is not alone in this, most have not allowed females into ALL specialties for a variety of reasons. If these were not examined or considered in deciding to open to all, why not? To reiterate for the regular trolls and other idiots: I don't care about the wrapper. I care about competence. I would love to have detailed answers from the SecDef to my questions, but estimate the chances of that are on par with my winning both the PowerBall and MegaMillion lotteries this week. Now, what are your thoughts on this? Continue reading
Posted Dec 6, 2015 at BlackFive
Edited: More added below, as promised. In examining the data coming out on the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, some quick thoughts and an invitation for discussion (by other than the regular trolls). First, as to the claim that the wife 'radicalized' her husband. Bullshit. I strongly suspect he was radicalized before, and that the marriage was an effort to strengthen that. I hope that competent people are looking into who helped facilitate that, and how. If memory serves, this would not be the first time a wife was chosen to help facilitate terrorist acts. Second, it would appear that they did have a plan, and had primary, secondary, and possibly even tertiary targets planned. They were loaded for bear, and headed somewhere else to do more mayhem when intercepted. Third, as Moe Lane points out (hat tip Instapundit), it seems clear to me that the holiday party was not the primary target, but rather a target of opportunity. No, I am not convinced he left angry and that caused this (too many people there, including one who was sitting with him, said he wasn't angry when he left). Why they went to snap count, however, is not that important, but rather that they moved before plan, off plan -- and I think we dodged a huge bullet by them doing so. Think about it: the number killed by weapons was not nearly as high as it could have been, and the IEDs, which could have put this on par with the Paris attacks didn't work. Did they move ahead of testing/rehearsing stage? It also would appear to suggest that any control working with them was not local. And, yes, right now I do think they had a control. Fourth, who financed this? He made $50k a year in one of the most expensive places to live in the US. On that salary, there is no way he/they could have afforded all the weapons and gear they had. It would seem that they had to have help, on finances if nothing else. Fifth, people did see things before, but were scared to say anything. My own thought is that a lot of effort has been given to vilifying/intimidating people who see something and say something. Gee, think there might be a reason for that? Thank goodness someone did say something after, which led to police intercepting them on the way to a secondary target. There is more, but that's all the time I have right now. Please do sound off in the comments. BTW, Uncle Jimbo has been on a roll on this one, hope to have time to post some links (or that he does so) later this weekend. Edit 1: Nicki at The Liberty Zone had similar thoughts (great minds think alike). If you are not regularly reading The Liberty Zone, you should be. Edit 2: The President will address the nation tonight. Anyone want to start a pool that 1 percent will be about the terrorist incident, and that he will not be able to bring himself to call it Islamist/Islamic/other-term-of-your-choice; and, that 99 percent will be about disarming Citizens via executive order? Edit 3: Uncle Jimbo has been on a roll, appearing on O'Reilly three days in a row! Working to add good links for all three days. Some good food for thought in the following: Day 3 Continue reading
Posted Dec 5, 2015 at BlackFive
Since it seems to be the thing to do, I am running a sale on all my works on Kindle starting this Friday. For a limited time, the three books in my "A Different View" photography series (A Different View: Travels to Al Qa'im and Beyond , A Different View: Travels with Team Easy, Iraq 2007 , and A Different View: DJ, Doura, and Arab Jabour ) which showcases day-to-day life of the troops in Iraq will be available for just $0.99 cents. My short story "Flight of the Fantasy " will also be available for just $0.99 cents, and my latest short story "Slaughterhouse " will be available for free. You don't have to have a Kindle to read them, you can download a free app for your computer or smart phone. If you have read, or do read them, please do leave an honest review of them. Continue reading
Posted Nov 26, 2015 at BlackFive
Amazon has grown to become a major part of our lives, to the tune of more than $88 billion in revenue in 2014. Think about that number a minute, and then think about the Amazon Smiles program. This is a program from Amazon that, if you enter Amazon through an Amazon Smile account link, a small percentage of your purchase will go to that charity. Yes, it is a small percentage, but look at that total revenue and think what half a percent of that would be. Right now, small charities -- and I suspect military charities even more so -- are struggling for donations. Shopping Amazon via an Amazon Smile link costs you nothing, but it can provide much needed funds to the charity you find worthy. The more who use it, and especially if you use it all year, the more that charity will get. While I hope you will consider using the Mission: VALOR Amazon Smile link, I ask you to pick the charity of your choice and use that link now, and all year long. It's a small way to make a difference, and a potentially large difference at that without you having to fork out a dime. Continue reading
Posted Nov 23, 2015 at BlackFive
My friend, AF veteran Ellen Adams, will be on a special episode of Chopped tonight. Please tune in to cheer her, and the other veteran participants, on what looks to be quite a challenge! Premiering Tuesday, November 10th at 10pm – “Military Vets” Veterans of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard and Navy face off in the Chopped kitchen. In the first round, one of the chefs stumbles upon a brilliant way to treat scalloped potatoes. Precooked meatloaf is the big challenge in the second round. The two final chefs go all out in the dessert round, making very clever sweet treats from a crispy snack and a sweet and tart drink. Host: Ted Allen Judges: Maneet Chauhan, Marc Murphy, Chris Santos Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2015 at BlackFive
You are joking, right?
1 reply
There is a lot of speculation that Daesh brought down Metrojet Flight 9268, a Russian civilian airliner, over Egypt. This is both behind the scenes and in the media, and it brings up some interesting points for consideration. First, it brings up the point of what did happen and how that is handled. In the US, airline, railroad, and other similar accidents fall under the National Transportation Safety Board. Yes, they can and have investigated more than airline incidents. One of the best legacy products of the now defunct Aviation/Space Writers association is a booklet called Air Accidents and the News Media. If you can find a copy, it gives a good breakdown of what happens, when, why, and who is authorized to talk at any given point. The actual process used is designed to allow a complete and impartial investigation and to avoid political interference in same. Sadly, the latter is needed as politics do come into play. It has since the early days of the railroads and continues today, and my thoughts on current and recent administrations eagerly coming out with immediate denials of terrorism should be easy to guess. The early, and often completely unfounded, speculation about any accident/incident is not helpful, and flat out wrong. It does, however, give the media and politicians ratings and a chance to grandstand. Getting real data is time consuming, and involves a lot of engineering and non-engineering forensics. It means testing each piece of debris, and often requires that the pieces be, in effect, re-assembled so that a full and accurate reconstruction of events can be developed. These days, it also involves a lot of computer modeling, which is a time-consuming process in and of itself -- and GIGO is very much on the minds of those involved. Those involved via the NTSB and similar agencies around the world tend not to talk or leak, knowing that while pieces may be sensational, how they fit together can provide a very different story. In my personal opinion and experience, the first speculations are often wildly wrong. The mid-phase speculation is more on target. The final report is (at least here with the NTSB) is accurate, fairly complete, and somewhat boring to read even when the results are significant or even spectacular. I will also note, for the conspiracy theorists out there, that I have never seen a final report that was clearly changed or whitewashed -- and trust me, given the hundreds of people that end up involved it would be very hard to keep such an event secret. I will also note that not every country follows our model. We are into that middle period of public speculation, and it is interesting to say the least. While there were early reports of the co-pilot being unhappy with the condition of the aircraft, there is a lot of back channel discussion of involvement by Daesh. This is now coming out in public announcements, and I do find it telling that the UK has stopped direct flights to the UK from the Sinai. This is not, however, definitive by any means. Which leads to a second major bit of food for thought. The Russians (and the Soviet Union before them) tend towards direct action when terrorism is involved. For our older readers, I simply will say Beirut, though there are many other examples. If this was indeed an act of terrorism, I suspect that the apocalpytic cult that is Daesh may well get some of what they seek. Speaking strictly for myself, I will simply say Владимир: Добрый Охота! Your mileage may vary, and if so sound off in the comments. Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2015 at BlackFive
Lawyer, politician, and actor Fred Thompson has passed. He played an instrumental role in the Watergate investigation as chief minority council; went on to serve in the Senate and run for president; and, was a successful actor of film and television -- and much enjoyed in the military community for the clip above. While he did not serve, I can say that he did indeed support the troops and encouraged private efforts to help troops and veterans. He also enjoyed a good cigar, and I plan to have one in his honor. Godspeed. Continue reading
Posted Nov 3, 2015 at BlackFive
Post previously pinned The FedEx hub in Indianapolis is looking to hire a large number of people (I've heard up to 500). This is part-time work, but comes with full-time benefits including medical, dental, vision, 401k and pension plans, tuition reimbursement, and more. There are opportunities to move up to a variety of other positions (nationwide even) after six months. I will note that the FedEx recruiter Mission: VALOR is working with is a Reservist, and we would like to see as many of these jobs as possible go to our troops and veterans. Please help us spread the word! Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2015 at BlackFive
I'm not only writing fiction these days, but am also doing some experiments. One that falls in both categories is a MilSF short story I have on Kindle for just $0.99. The plan is for this story to be the first in a series that flips between combat and what happens after the troops return home. I hope you will check it out, and feel free to leave honest reviews on this or any of my other works. Continue reading
Posted Oct 5, 2015 at BlackFive
It doesn't sound nearly so nice phrased that way, does it? It is far more blunt and honest though than the pablum of 'respecting other cultures.' The news has been full of the story, and in particular the case of SFC Martland. My friend Nicki says what needs to be said over at The Liberty Zone. For me, I simply note that, in my opinion, for even an unofficial policy to be as widespread as this requires the willful ignorance of those in command, if not their outright encouragement. For it to become the defacto official policy, it requires acceptance at very high levels. Go read Nicki, and share your thoughts. If you were over there and care to share, please do but you might want to use a non-work & non-personal computer to do so. Continue reading
Posted Sep 24, 2015 at BlackFive
Mary Katharine Ham has been a friend to Blackfive, and to many of the member authors, almost from the first day of this blog. She was and is a staunch friend to our troops and veterans, and has done a great deal for them -- often quietly. Her support, both direct and via helping a number of veteran charities, is but one way she has walked and not just talked. I believe I can speak for most authors, and say that we were all very happy for her when Jake Brewer came into her life, and became her husband, and the father of a lovely daughter and one child on the way. Like MKH, he too did for others, and was in a bike ride to support a friend with cancer. I regret to report that Jake Brewer was killed yesterday in a tragic accident while participating in a charity bicycle ride. He was 34 years old. MK's post is on Instagram, and she is sharing photos there that give a better view of Jake to us all. On behalf of the authors at Blackfive, I wish to extend our sympathies and sincere condolences to Mary Katharine and her children, and the family of Jake Brewer. There truly are no words at a time like this. I simply add that if there is anything we can do, please do let us know. Please keep them all in your thoughts, prayers, or whatever it is that you do. Continue reading
Posted Sep 20, 2015 at BlackFive
Guest post by Daniel Burton Ashley’s War by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon At some point while reading Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield, I started to read faster, flipping pages and nearly skimming. It must have been shortly after I realized that Ashley–the title character, but by no means the only female soldier documented in Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s book–was going to go to Afghanistan to serve on the front lines with special forces and wasn’t going to tell her parents any more than that she would be an “enabler.” They thought she was doing humanitarian work; Ashley was actually participating in raids with U.S. Army Rangers to capture insurgents in the dark of night. As the father of three daughters, it scared the living daylights out of me. If I wasn’t gripped by the book before, I was after this. I couldn’t put the book down, and it was closer to sunrise than it was to sunset when I finally closed Ashley’s War on the last page. Indeed, the entire book is gripping, fascinating reading, and Ashley’s War is a story that should be read by anyone seeking to understand American military policy, as well as the war in Afghanistan. The women Lemmon depicts in the story are admirable, incredible, and inspiring, and they deserve credit for their sacrifices. Ashley’s War documents the creation of Cultural Support Teams by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, a pilot program to put women on the battlefield to “enable” Green Berets and Army Rangers on sensitive missions in Afghanistan. Simply put, aspects of Afghan culture prevented U.S. Special Forces—comprised entirely of men—from interacting with Afghan women without offending and alienating the population they were sent to protect. Because women in Afghanistan play an important role in the community and were aware of the movement of insurgents, American soldiers missed out on vital intelligence gathering that could have helped their efforts. In contrast, American women are seen as something of a third gender by Afghans, being neither men (and so prohibited from seeing, communicating, or being seen by Afghan women) nor Afghan female. Cultural Support Team members–women–could build relationships with women in ways that men could not. They could go where American men could not. In great detail, Lemmon tells the stories of the women who heard about and applied to join the teams, the rigorous physical testing required of the applicants, and the bonding and friendships that grew during the experience. Lemmon is thorough and detailed in her reporting, relying on first-hand interviews with both the women and their families. The women are tremendous, every bit as brave, courageous and strong as the men they were joining on the front line. Lemmon’s writing is easy to read and understand, and she provides a level of background that allows anyone with any level of understanding about military affairs (or none at all) to read and enjoy. In 2016, the United States moves to full integration of women in the Armed Services. When the history of women in the military is written, the Cultural Support Teams and Ashley’s War may be seen as a critical moment and test in the policy shift. That said, it was hard for me to read Ashley’s War and not experience some reticence about America’s foreign wars in recent years. Do America’s best and brightest need to be spending their best and formative years fighting, bleeding and dying in a faraway land? Has their sacrifice made America more secure? I believe in the men and women that have gone so far and given so much, and I was moved by the realization that far too few of us recognize or acknowledge the enormous burden that those few individuals have carried as a result of the war. Review by Daniel Burton Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2015 at BlackFive
It is a pleasure to introduce you to Daniel Burton, who will be doing a series of guest posts reviewing fiction and non-fiction works. He lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. You can also find him on Twitter at @publiusdb. American Exceptionalism: An Experiment in History by Charles Murray American Exceptionalism: An Experiment in History weighs in at a little under fifty, four-by-six pages (not including notes and citations). It's pretty light weight, especially as it goes for books on politics or history. And yet, Charles Murray does not disappoint. He packs in a lot of interesting ideas in a short amount of time. Murray opens by looking at misconceptions about what American exceptionalism means. Rather than using the definition of "exceptional" that means "wonderful," Murray notes that at the founding of the country, and indeed for most of the first century of US history, most of the world saw what was happening in America as exceptional. There are four arguments Murray makes to demonstrate exceptionalism: 1. Observers through out the western world saw America as exceptional, something different from what was going on elsewhere throughout Europe. 2. American exceptionalism doesn't always refer to what was seen by western observers as positive traits. I.e. Americans tended to industrious, egalitarianism, religiosity, and community life, something that Murray ties all together under the category of "civic engagement." 3. Exceptionalism is...or was...a fact that cannot be denied any more than that the Gettysburg address happened. Further, understanding what it means is essential to understanding what it means to be an American. 4. American exceptionalism refers primarily to qualities that were observed during the first century of American history. America's setting (separated from Western Europe by an ocean), form of government (a republic), and the characteristics of the population (Toqueville and others described Americans propensity for industry, egalitarianism, religiosity, and community life) made for a place that was unique among the nations. Alongside his arguments, Murray takes time to address, or a least highlight, liberal arguments about why America is not, and never has been, exceptional. These primarily deal with slavery, social justice, and feminism. While not necessarily answering them, Murray ends with an assertion that though America has changed, it behooves modern Americans to examine whether the changes have been positive or negatives. Bite size and a fast read, Murray's examination of exceptionalism is worth the time and the reminder of where America came from. It's easy to find revisionist historians criticizing and rewriting American history through modern lenses, and Murray makes quick and clean work of reminding readers why America was, and is, a different place. Review by Daniel Burton. Continue reading
Posted Sep 16, 2015 at BlackFive
In the comments below that I've not had time to address (yet, working on it), someone noted that we used to be the site where people could find out what the troops were thinking. That is something Blackfive was (rightly) known for, and in my opinion a lot of good came out of it. That was a decade ago, and the times were very, very different. Social media was new, and traditional communications was changing. It still is, but... One of the things that happened was that younger troops had embraced new means to keep in touch with family and friends, and as a result things that would not otherwise be known to the larger world could be, and were, shared. One aspect was that needs of individual troops and units could be shared with a larger audience, and that resulted in an unprecedented outpouring of support, and "good" supplies/care packages/etc. reached those in need. Indeed, a number of charities we highlighted and supported stood up to make sure that troops got letters, packages, and more. It also highlighted problems in the supply chain, doctrine, and more -- and again charities and individuals stood up in a huge way. Everything from tools to kevlar blankets reached those in need. Where there were problems and issues, higher was made aware of them quickly and could deal with those as needed. Smart commanders (at the time Petraeus, Odierno, and others) embraced it as they could not only deal with issues quickly and smartly, but they could, would, and did seize opportunities. They encouraged the wise use of new and social media to add flexibility to the system, and got some amazing results. This was also the time that the administration and higher command reached out to Blackfive and others to formulate a very friendly policy that worked to prevent issues (and there were indeed a few issues with OPSEC and such) while making the most of the opportunity. That has changed. The politics in the five-sided-puzzle-palace have always had a tendency towards what I will refer to as rear-echelon, and towards suppressing anything that has to do with problems of things potentially embarrassing to higher. Better to hide it than to deal with it is something of a tradition in my opinion. That early policy did not sit well with certain quarters, as it did highlight problems, issues, and flat-out failures in the tail that hurt the tooth. Unsurprisingly to any student of history, the tide changed. One need look no further than the previous SMA who was obsessed with tattoos, painting rocks, and awarding ARCOMs for trolling SHARP violations instead of focusing on training that could keep soldiers alive in combat as a perfect example of that symptom. I will note that I'm liking the current SMA a lot more. Right now is not a good time for troops at ANY level to be speaking out. The social media policy has changed, and higher is coming down hard on things that used to be encouraged. Case in point: SFC Charles Martland. His case is more than disturbing (disgusting is one word I can use here given Blackfive's family friendly policy). Even more disturbing, higher has put in place a 'gag order' and is prepared to hammer flat anyone who comes to his defense. There is some reason to believe such has already happened, and the word is out that speaking out would be a very bad thing for those who do so. Whatever the official policy, the unofficial policy is that troops speaking out is a great way to end a career. Given the draconian cuts in play (and more on that horrendous, idiotic, and flat-out foolish thing in other posts), it is not a good time for the troops and not a good time for honest and full discussions (IMO). I know I am going to be very careful about sharing some things, so as to make sure that those sharing can't be identified. Personally, I think it is time for the tide to change again. How to make that happen depends on a lot on things outside the puzzle palace, and not just within. My hope is that we can share information to encourage that, and be a part of a good solution once again. Continue reading
Posted Sep 12, 2015 at BlackFive
Men of Harlech stop your dreaming, Can’t you se their spearpoints gleaming? I remember this day. It started like any other day, as I got in early to work at NASA. Part of my morning duties included checking various newsfeeds and related things, and when the first report of a plane hitting the World Trade Center, I remember wondering if it was a small plane and how such could have happened. Then came other reports, including an early one of an explosion at the Pentagon, and it was then I knew nothing was an accident, and I made the calls duty required. I remember the shock that went through our office, and the building, and my efforts to get any information possible. I remember the much needed laugh when I confirmed that the President was airborne, and Air Force One was in National Emergency Airborne Command Post mode (that’s not just limited to the E-4s). My public shorthand called out to my manager that the President was KNEECAPed caused someone who shall remain nameless to think that an attacker had hit the President in the kneecap with a baseball bat… I remember watching the news on televisions in various conference rooms, and the horror that ran through all when it was realized that it was not debris falling from the upper floors. Of learning more about the Pentagon, of tales of planes down elsewhere, and the command to land all planes now. Of wondering and worrying about people I knew at both locations. I remember being ordered to evacuate, and driving home still in shock, angry, sad, and more. We knew we had been hurt, and that far too many were dead; but, we still didn’t know the true toll. Our thoughts had turned towards survivors, and I knew that around the country Nightingales were prepping to fly to New York to take survivors to selected burn and trauma centers around the country. Would to God they had been needed. I remember the dust still caking the streets and buildings of lower Manhattan, and the smell of baked lime (chemical, not the fruit) and burnt sweet pork. Of being embarrassed by having an NYPD lieutenant drive me around to a day full of meetings. Of learning how he had barely survived both collapses, as he ran towards the trouble to help. Of being taken to Ground Zero, and watching the boots slowly melt off the workers as they searched their search. Of a young NYPD officer who made sure I saw the Statue of Liberty “while it’s still here” even as we checked out a report of a possible body in the river. Today, I remember all that and more. Today, I remember Rick Rescorla, who’s preparations, quick thinking, and defiance of official orders allowed him to save 2,700 lives. I remember that he, along with members of the NYFD, died going back in and up, to try to save more. Today, I remember the dead. Please remember and honor the 2,977 killed (no, not including the terrorists in that number, fuck them), and the more than 6,000 injured. As for me: I have not forgotten I will not forget I do not forgive The war began before 9-11. It is not over. It has just barely begun. Continue reading
Posted Sep 11, 2015 at BlackFive
News feeds are blowing up with the story about intelligence reports about Daesh (ISIL) being altered by senior leaders before presentation. I'm shocked, shocked, to find gambling in this establishment. For me, the real news is about how many analysts are willing to go on record in this case. To have fifty (or more) willing to do so on the record is truly unprecedented. There have been a number of quiet insurrections at various agencies and organizations in the past, but never anything in public like this. The closest I can remember involved Soviet analysis in the Carter years, and even then most of it was not done in the public, even when reporters came calling. The most that went public were a small series of leaks and off-the-record interviews. I will simply note that Reagan was not satisfied with what he was being presented, and took some unofficial steps to get other assessments to use for comparison and evaluation. Then again, Boss was smart enough to have a "kitchen cabinet" on a variety of topics where he needed expert advice. As I've written here (and elsewhere) before, the fact is, there has and is always a tendency to "shape" intelligence and analysis. Some of this is inherent in the system, and reflects an unconscious effort that is a result of the beliefs of those involved. There can even be an unconscious tendency to shape things towards the belief of those higher in the chain, and the known biases of the ultimate recipients. Where problems arise is when there is a conscious effort to alter or distort the actual intelligence and recommendations of the analysts (who are or should be experts in the area). At the best, such is because "the boss won't like this" and things are changed so as to present something that won't be rejected out of hand. At worst, it is a pandering to the beliefs and goals of the prime recipient so as to curry favor, power, and other delights. If you look at the worst failures of military and diplomatic efforts throughout history, they almost all come back to failures of intelligence and the lack of presentation of accurate intel and analysis to the leaders involved. The administrations response to Daesh/ISIL is a best inconsistent, and I personally feel that incoherent may be a better descriptor. Daesh has gone from being a fringe group to a major power (and I use that term advisedly) largely as a result of a variety of policy blunders going back to our premature departure from Iraq and the response to Libya. It is damning that fifty (or more) analysts are going on record. A small group might have political reasons of their own to cause a problem (and that has happened before). For such a large group to be willing to go public raises serious questions of competence and intent on those higher in the chain. At this point, whether any "shading" that may or may not have been done was done to make things more palatable for the President, or more, needs a full and thorough investigation. My opinion of Congressional investigations is decidedly mixed, with partisan circus a top descriptor. However, given what is coming out, I think Congressional and other investigations are clearly needed. While I've written on intel before, I think that a small series of posts may be needed on the topic, especially in terms of how those impact our intel and planning in regards this and other terrorist groups. Meantime, sound off in the comments with your thoughts. Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2015 at BlackFive
I want to welcome guest poster Dave Truesdale, who will be reviewing (primarily) science fiction and fantasy works here, and invite you to check out his work at Tangent. Dave is the managing editor and founder of Tangent, which is regarded by many as the premier review magazine for short fiction. He has previously been the editor for the SFWA Bulletin and was a columnist for the Magazine of Fantasty & Science Fiction. Please do check out his many other works. This review is crossposted at Tangent. Edge of Dark (The Glittering Edge, Book One) by Brenda Cooper (Pyr, March 2015, hc, 396 pp.) In the realm of science fiction literature, authors have grappled with the issue of advanced machine intelligence for a very long time—especially when it comes to sophisticated computers who take the form of robots who look like, act like, and far too often for their own good, think like humans and with a consciousness and will of their own. We now call such entities Artifical Intelligences (or simply AIs). The most famous example of SF dealing with the theme of artificial intelligence is Isaac Asimov's series of robot stories, wherein Asimov uses his invented positronic brains to explore the ramifications, loopholes, and problems mankind would have to confront, given the mandate of the author's iconic Three Laws of Robotics, first introduced in the 1942 short story "Runaround": 1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws. Jack Williamson took the premise and ran with it, extending the first law to include humanity as a whole, and not just individual human beings, with his classic novella from the July 1947 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, "With Folded Hands." He posited one dystopic outcome should individual choice and responsibility be relinquished (to all-caring robots, a stand-in for the State) for the safety and care his story's "Mechanicals" provided, and the consequences of sitting "with folded hands." Williamson's unnamed expansion of Asimov's First Law of Robotics became part of the robot canon in Asimov's own June 1950 Astounding story "Evitable Conflict." Though the concept was put forward in this story, it was not codified until his 1985 novel Robots and Empire. In the novel, robot R. Daneel Olivaw acts according to what few are aware of as Asimov's Fourth Law of Robotics, which is officially defined as such in two later robot novels. It is in essence a precursor to the first three and is called the Zeroth Law. It states: 0. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm. Along the way (and if intelligent, thinking machines weren't giving mankind enough ethical and moral dilemmas to solve), Asimov's intelligent robots became telepathic, which united them in ways humanity could not have envisioned, and which presented a whole new set of problems with which humanity had to deal. The questions surrounding non-smart machines (automobiles, washing machines, televisions, automated assembly lines, etc.) and their role in society (how much we depend on them and for what), and science fiction's intelligent robots, has been profitable fodder for many a rousing story or film (think I, Robot starring Will Smith for a contemporary example, though the original story from which its title is taken predates Asimov's robot stories). They all have one thing in common, however, regardless of how the author(s) or filmmaker(s) choose to deal with any specific issue (moral, ethical, or practical) in their tales of Man vs. Machine: all begin with the premise that we deal with finding a solution after we have caused the problem, i.e. created our thinking machines or ever more sophisticated AIs such that a Singularity has been reached and there is no going back. We are always valiantly attempting to stuff the genie—or AI, and the problems our short-sighted thinking has caused—back in the bottle. Not so with Brenda Cooper's marvelous Edge of Dark. She actually begins with the opposite premise, of thoughtful men and women realizing their machines need to remain subservient to their creators and doing something about it before a Singularity will have been reached and their thinking creations become the Masters and humanity slaves of their Machines. What is her solution? During humanity's steady outward expansion from Earth to the planets and then to the far stars, fueled by advances in technology and genetic science at a seemingly unhindered pace, mankind paused to reconsider some of the philosophical and practical implications of its relationship with its advanced machine intelligences. After much discussion and deliberation a decision was made "to outlaw the marriage of mind and machine." The human race was becoming more the slave than the master, so mankind forthrightly exiled the most threatening, humanlike AIs to the far reaches of a distant solar sytem to gradually die off in the cold and dark, for these sophisticated creations needed solar energy to insure their existence. This place was known as the Edge. Problem solved, mankind resumed a more balanced relationship with its machines for many centuries, in harmony with its technology. Immense, state-of-the-art space stations were built, luxurious arks where gene-modified animals were bred and husbanded, where specially gene-tinkered grains were grown, and where advances in many disciplines (including longevity research) were constantly sought so that the people creating them might enjoy their lives and the fruits of their labor within an artificial environment. These industrious, well-adjusted spacefarers lived and died for generations aboard their immense space habitats, forming bonds and friendships without ever setting foot on a planet. It was all they knew, their educational and social interactions providing intellectual and emotional fullfilment. They were as happy as any group of highly educated, hardworking people anywhere could... Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2015 at BlackFive
I've been asked more than once recently "What happened to Blackfive?" The question has come from long-term readers and from people I would never have expected to be readers. The common thought behind that question is what happened to our regular, often in-depth, posts on a variety of topics pertaining to the military and national security. It is a good and valid question. Speaking strictly for myself, I think it was a combination of things. When Blackfive started, there was a huge interest in, and need for, discussion and explanation of things military for a public that is increasingly disconnected from the military and from issues of national security. What Blackfive did was provide that discussion, and Matt wisely (IMO) started adding guest posters and then other regular writers to cover a wide range of areas as well as the various services. This came at a time when new and social media were truly new, and smart leaders in the military, government, and even industry saw the utility in such and embraced it. It was a time when the larger public was demanding information and answers -- though many were not happy that there were and are no simple answers to the complex questions being raised. It was a time when a number of non-profits stood up to help the troops however possible, and did a tremendous amount of good. It was a time when it became fashionable to "Support the Troops" and to be seen doing so. By 2007, this had changed. New media was no longer new, and a number of entrenched interests did all they could to marginalize it. The public was tired of a war that seemed to go on and on, despite being told that this was a generational fight and not just a quick battle. Politicians eagerly seized on this to push a variety of agendas domestic (mostly) for personal or party gains (again, IMO). It was at this time that Blackfive took some partisan stands -- a thing much debated within Blackfive. Whether or not how we did it was a wise choice or not is a matter of debate, but I will say that I personally think it hurt us by alienating a number of readers and by giving ammo to our enemies (or at least to those who saw us as an impediment to their political/turf ambitions). At the same time, we all had lives and several of us faced a series of challenges and change. This meant that our unpaid writing here suffered. Add in that senior leadership military and civilian that came into power that saw new/social media (and reporters in general) as the enemy rather than an opportunity... The world has changed, for good and for ill, and I am adapting to it and I believe that Blackfive is working to adapt to those changes. I think that more than ever we need to discuss the situation as it is, look at how changes impact the military and more, and that we need to discuss not just the kinetic situation, but the larger cultural war underway. To that end, expect to see a number of guest posts coming that will cover a wide range of topics. One of the first you will see are reviews of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and non-fiction works here. Other guest posts covering culture, national security, and topics of interest to not only our core audience (and I thank you all for continuing to read us each day) but a broader audience as well. Even with the changes in my life, and the need to concentrate on paying work, I hope to be posting a bit more regularly on topics kinetic and non-kinetic, with an eye towards the national security issues that I see facing the U.S. and the world. Military suicides, the VA, and more will be discussed by myself and others. "Support the Troops" gets a lot of talk, and -- to me -- damned few walk the walk. For our core readers -- who have done some amazing things in public and in private via that walk -- thank you. There is indeed more to come. Continue reading
Posted Sep 5, 2015 at BlackFive
Not a lot, to be honest. In some ways, it is because I saw it as more matter of course. In retrospect, I've seen how lucky I was to get to meet them, and that I did so because I became friends with some authors and because I worked for a convention that sought to bring in classic authors (LibertyCon). If there is a strong interest from our readers, I will share a bit in some future posts.
Toggle Commented Aug 30, 2015 on The 2015 Hugo Awards: Some Thoughts at BlackFive
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Same here. Very few are from Tor and related houses, and most of the others are from publishers who are more interested in sales than message. Fact is, I read Baen not for message, but because of the dedication to good stories -- including by authors who's politics I disagree with. Frankly, I don't give a damn about the gender, orientation, politics, etc. of an author. What I care about is if they write a good story, with characters I can identify with. When you look at Baen, you have works with a strong female lead in a poly marriage who has friends of different genders and orientations; and, who have members of different ethnic groups in strong leadership positions (Weber); openly gay characters and other delights (Hoyt); a variety of races, racial mixes, and social castes -- and even true others such as werewolves and orcs -- as good people and leaders (Corriea); and, I could go on. Yet, Larry's works are all just a bunch of white guys out on an adventure (eye roll). Then again, look at the makeup of the Baen authors, and you have true diversity of race, gender, and politics. I also love the "fact" that Sarah is a white Mormon male according to the SJBs...
Toggle Commented Aug 30, 2015 on The 2015 Hugo Awards: Some Thoughts at BlackFive
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Yep. I don't think they have a clue, or at least much of one, of how bad they look (and looked) to the world with the petulant, childish, and vindictive display given at worldcon. Think that it is going to bite them, and hard, here soon. When you look at the rapidly shrinking numbers for worldcon and "Fandom" and then look at the tens of thousands at DragonCon (where I wish I was next week), and the various ComicCons, most beings capable of reason get the picture.
Toggle Commented Aug 30, 2015 on The 2015 Hugo Awards: Some Thoughts at BlackFive
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There a few things in this world that truly make me mad. I'm not talking the things in life that can make us spark. There are lots of things in this world that can make me spark, and there is a reason that my nickname in early high school was "Spark Plug" and "Sparky." Those who truly knew me, however, knew that the problem was not when I sparked, which was soon over, but when I got very quiet and coldly precise. This morning, I awoke to very unsurprising news about the Hugo awards. I am disappointed, but honestly expected nothing less from the Social Justice Bullies and related ilk. Indeed, I'm more surprised that one or two categories more didn't get no award -- the equivalent of destroying the village to save it. That was their plan almost from the start, since those labeled "Wrong Fan" dared to get more fans involved in a dying award that represented the thoughts of less than 600 "Right Fans" who bought supporting or full memberships to the World Science Fiction Conventions -- which is where and how the Hugo awards are decided. For those truly interested, note the attendance figures for the WorldCon over the last 30 years, note the numbers of people who actually voted in the Hugo process, and then note the size of conventions like DragonCon, the various ComicCons, and such. As noted previously, I was in the past involved with some conventions and even had a small role in an Atlanta-based WorldCon (ConFederation). I long ago left such, many of the so-called "Right Fans" and people who styled themselves as Secret Masters of Fandom (SMOFs, though I note there is a huge difference between the self-styled guardians of what they regard as right and proper and real SMOFS) leaving a bad taste in my mouth. Frankly, I decided that my best interest was to focus on writing, which has been a large part of what I've done in real life. Most of my work has been in non-fiction, and that which has gone to the public has even won a couple of awards. To be very honest, one of the reasons I became active in Fandom, as it is known, was to meet editors, publishers, and other writers (particularly those of whom I was a fan). Going in was calculated, what happened was simply fun. What can you say about meeting classic Science Fiction writers from the Golden (and other) age(s)? About meeting and talking with Gordon Dickson, who's Dorsai series spoke to me and made me think and explore? About meeting and talking with the wonderful de Camps, Fred Pohl, the delightful Pournelle's, Fred Saberhagen, Harry Turtledove, Jack Williamson, the Zahn's, the Niven's, A.E. van Vogt, and others? About hanging out with the delightfully irrascible Bob "Horseclans" Adams in his room parties, or "smoothing" with Tucker himself? Of finding out that David Drake, who's combat SF was his way of dealing with his experiences in Viet Nam, was painfully shy -- and quite sharp with his wit. Of being able to form friendships with some of them, and with the likes of the Webers? Of course, you do meet a few who were and are assholes, and I shall not name them and have never bought anything by them after meeting them on panels or in private. Early on, I met a veteran named Jim Baen. Jim and his (former) wife Toni Weisskopf became something more than just acquaintances, and they pushed me to begin writing fiction. Honestly, they believed I could do it long before I thought I had a shot at writing good fiction (other than some AARs and such). Jim, of course, is the founder of Baen Books, and is widely and properly credited with saving the field of military science fiction. You can find video interviews done with Travis Taylor, Mark L. Van Name, David Drake, David Weber, Michael Z. Williamson, and Tom Kratman on that and other subjects on the Blackfive YouTube channel. That he did so because he saw that money could be made in it does nothing to diminish the fact that he did save it. Then again, Jim (and Toni) saw that publishing was changing on many levels, and found ways to embrace those changes, adapt, and be successful. I would note that Baen Books, and it's Barflies, have donated a massive amount of print and electronic books to the troops, particularly the deployed. Others play at it via token efforts. Baen and it's readers live it in a huge way. Toni has been a true and wonderful friend to me. In fact, if you look at my photo books done from my embeds for Blackfive, you will note the thanks to her for editing them. Toni has encouraged me in many ways and levels, and done things to help me along. She (and Jim) believed in me before I truly believed in myself. The Hugos have been gamed for years, and there are those very unhappy to have that exposed by Larry Correia with the original Sad Puppies campaign. This year, the Sad Puppies and the independent Rabid Puppies effort, showed that gaming for all to see -- along with the truly rabid response of those who have gamed it. The Hugos have been for some time about message and not about the best works of Science Fiction. The Puppies were and are about making it about good stories well told (and not the right cisgender normative message no matter how horrible the writing and/or editing). As I said, the response and results were not unexpected. I honestly thought No Award would take at least two more slots than it did. Where I'm not sparking is with how things were handled. First, there was the biased and childish panel that preceded the Hugos. Second, was the awards ceremony itself. That one or more Hugo nominees walked out early (along with other professionals) says it all. The deliberate and... Continue reading
Posted Aug 23, 2015 at BlackFive