Latest read: The Emperor’s New Clothes: Exposing the Truth from Watergate to 9/11

Richard Ben-Veniste’s book The Emperor’s New Clothes: Exposing the Truth from Watergate to 9/11 is a unique look at the political coverups that have engulfed Washington and the country. I find his approach to understanding the facts of highly publicized events to be a lesson in approaching internal reporting.
The Emperor's New Clothes: Exposing the Truth from Watergate to 9/11Ben-Veniste proves in The Emperor’s New Clothes that time will not and cannot alter Washington’s presidential change of power and the implications when tragic mistakes lead to institutional change.

It is clear to Ben-Veniste that established, solid governance can actually alter the accepted, institutional approaches in seeking important answers to events that bring organizations to the edge of collapse.

Clearly lessons from Watergate still ring true today. Since The Emperor’s New Clothes was published in 2009 Ben-Veniste‘s experiences as a commissioner on the 9/11 Commission have been given time to understand his successful, seasoned approach in dealing with the Nixon Administration and the conflict over Archibald Cox and the Saturday Night Massacre provide lessons in dealing with Condoleezza Rice and Attorney Generals (John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales) under W. Bush regarding executive privilege, another throwback position to Nixon and his defense of the White House taping system.

It would not be pressing to understand how Ben-Veniste is an accomplished lawyer, Assistant US Attorney for the Southern District service from 1968 to 1973. And then from 1973-1975 serving as the lead prosecutor on the Watergate Task Force. He was also a presidential appointment to the US Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group in 2000.

9/11 blunder by Alverno College President

A humiliating 9/11 blunder tonight by Alverno’s College President. Dr. Mary Meehan was the featured speaker at Alverno’s 9/11 Remembrance Service marking the ten year anniversary.

Sponsored by Alverno’s Civility Project her address was publicized as “An opportunity to hear her compelling, first-hand experience of the day that touched us all.”  Milwaukee Fox6 Television taped her address. Fox6 interviewed Dr. Meehan and several parents. The segment was broadcast on Fox6’s nightly newscast.

Shockingly Dr. Meehan was not even in New York City. She “watched” events unfold more than 15 miles away. She was in South Orange New Jersey on the campus of Seton Hall University.

9/11 blunder by Alverno College President
From Seton Hall University to Ground Zero

GoogleMap: 17 mile distance from Seton Hall to Ground Zero.

Dr. Meehan: Your attempt to share a “compelling, first-hand experience” is a humiliation to Alverno College and damages your reputation. Choose your words carefully:

Your address could have described fuselage debris from United #175 scattered on the grounds of the World Trade Center Complex. But you could not see debris from Seton Hall. Your address could have described how seemingly within seconds of United #175 impacting the South Tower a severed human leg fell onto 130 Liberty Street in-front of the Deutsche Bank Building. But you could not hear the screams from those passing by the limb from Seton Hall. You could have described how the impact of United #175 physically shook the entrance to the Deutsche Bank Building. But you could not feel that from Seton Hall.

If only you were actually standing on Liberty Street across the street from the South Tower on the day that touched us all. You would have stood next to my wife.

Latest read: Cognitive Surplus

Remember the last time you read a great story that you caught yourself peaking at the remaining unread pages because you didn’t want the story to end?  That’s how I can best describe Clay Shirky‘s book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age.  His stories were coming to a close before I was ready to put the book down.

cognitive surplusThis is a great follow-up to his first book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations.  Shirky is right on target with engaging, connecting stories to share his ideas about our new ability today to share collective knowledge.

Over 1 trillion hours of TV is watched per year. Imagine what can happen when people turn TV off and begin contributing.  And Shirky elegantly shares the shifting nature of professionals vs. amateurs in the age of the internet.  Pretty amazing reading.

I believe there have been attempts to move in the direction he outlines but a tipping point has been the mass availability of consumer devices at very affordable price points.  I recall Peter Gabriel‘s interview on the Today Show in 1988 talking about the efforts of Amnesty International and their attempts to videotape human rights abuses with large, analog cameras.
Today we know all to well from the murder of Oscar Grant that cameraphones have made their efforts real.

The Napster thing
IMHO Clay’s single oversight in the book surrounds Napster.  I think he was trying to communicate a holistic answer to why people (not just Gen Xers) were stealing music.  He called it sharing — it was stealing plain and simple.
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Latest read: The Cell

I finished reading The Cell: Inside The 9/11 Plot, and Why the FBI and CIA Failed to Stop It and was a bit disappointed. Not due to the writing, but rather I also read Triple Cross: How bin Laden’s Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets, and the FBI–and Why Patrick Fitzgerald Failed to Stop Him just a couple of months ago and felt it was much more in depth.

the cell

Triple Cross critiques issues addressed as errors in the reporting by the authors John Miller and Michael Stone.  Miller is a noted former investigative journalist with ABC News.
There was much attention drawn to The Cell for two reasons: The ABC movie The Path to 9/11 which was America’s first network movie behind the attack on 9/11 was based upon the book.  Second, it was Miller’s famous 1998 interview with Osama bin Laden.

At that interview Miller learned bin Laden was well on his way to leading al-Qaeda‘s war on America.  The only problem was it was too early for most law enforcement agencies to act upon.

The interview was interesting enough to see how Al was protecting bin Laden and Miller’s recollection of how 15 years old boys were shooting AK-47s next to his ears (as a way to intimidate him) repeatedly as bin Laden arrived for his interview.

Miller shared how he even initially met with bin Laden’s right hand man Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri.  It was quite an interview for Miller and helped establish him as a strong source on terrorism for ABC even before the 9/11 attack.

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Latest read: Our Endangered Values

Jimmy Carter has been an amazing writer since leaving the White House.  He has written 23 books and I have just finished Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis and found his writing a calming voice in today’s ridiculous world of news bites and aggressive internal rhetoric our “mainstream” news reporting.

our endangered values

I found Carter’s book similar in nature to Al Gore’s The Assault on Reason (review here) in finding a calming, rational leader who is looking to re-establish America’s global leadership through the core values our country was founded upon.

Carter simply lays out his personal, Christian and Presidential arguments for positive leadership reaching from Washington to a global audience.

The opening chapters focus on America’s traditional beliefs, Carter’s own traditional Christian faith, the rise of religious fundamentalism and the growing conflicts among religious people.  He accurately addressed the entwining of Church and State from 1970 to 9/11.

Carter also challenges traditional religious organizations in the South.  The issues of divorce, homosexuality, abortion and the death penalty.  These are emotional issues that reinforce many voters’ shift to the GOP and the Southern Baptist Convention.

An issue that continues to restrain Baptist and GOP leaders is the role of Subservient women in their church. This issue eventually lead to Carter’s exit from the Southern Baptist Convention.

It was interesting to see how his religious upbringing and service to our country as a navy submarine officer shaped his military, global and Presidential views.  Stories of positions on nuclear weapons, the aggressive Soviet Union and China along with the early movement in our country toward a safe environment are all reviewed with great detail.  He remains our country’s elder statesman with good reason stitched into the binding of his book.

Tags: Jimmy Carter, Our Endangered Values, reason, politics, reading, moral crisis, values, America, , religious fundamentalism, southern baptist convention, traditional beliefs, traditional christian faith, trends

Latest read: Triple Cross

My understanding of the events leading up to 9/11 have been shaped by great authors and believe Triple Cross: How bin Laden’s Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets, and the FBI–and Why Patrick Fitzgerald Failed to Stop Him by Peter Lance makes significant contributions to understanding the full breakdown of the US intelligence community.  Many elements of his research and interviews will should shock Americans.

Triple Cross: How bin Laden’s Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets, and the FBI–and Why Patrick Fitzgerald Failed to Stop HimLance reveals Al Qaeda had a mole in the NYFD who was able to steal blue prints of the World Trade Center before the 1993 bombing and that US authorities had been tracking Al Qaeda for more than 10 years.

The book’s primary focus is the role of Al Qaeda master spy Ali Mohamed and his work as a mole within US Army intelligence, the CIA and the FBI.  Lance brings a number of key points that were overlooked or more appropriately ignored by the 9/11 Commission.

Patrick Fitzgerald, National Security Coordinator for the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York met multiple times with Ali Mohamed years before 9/11.  During this timeframe Ali Mohamed declared his loyalty to Osama bin Ladin and told Fitzgerald that he did not need a fatwà to attack America.  And yet Fitzgerald did nothing.

Ali Mohamed was identified by the US State Department as Osama bin Ladin‘s first security trainer and helped smuggle Al Qaeda’s co-leader Ayman al-Sawahiri into mosques located in California and North Carolina for recruiting and fund raising.  Lance reveals that even Bin Ladin recruited at mosques in Chicago in the late 1980s.
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Latest read: Where Men Win Glory – The Odyssey of Pat Tillman

I have a cousin on his third tour of Afghanistan and an old friend from school serving in Iraq’s Green Zone.  This book is an honest look at a military tragedy and hits home for all who have loved ones serving our country overseas.
Jon Krakauer has written a sobering, powerful book Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman. This is about the life of a gifted patriot.  I finished this book on Veterans Day.

Krakauer’s focus is on the friendly fire killing and dishonor by the Cheney Bush Administration and Military towards Pat’s virtue, wife, mother and family.  As Krakauer points out the military conducted SEVEN investigations into his killing.

The opening chapter quickly introduces Tillman’s death then moves to his early childhood and life playing high school football. From there Krakauer traces his steps at Arizona State University where Pat was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and and Academic All-American.  He was drafted by the Phoenix Cardinals and turned down a $9 million dollar offer from the St. Louis Rams to stay in Phoenix.

Tillman proved time after time that he was able to overcome challenges placed before him and his measurement was not physical, but rather his heart and soul.  That is how Tillman was raised.  This even fell to brother Kevin Tillman.  Kevin and Pat both left professional sports careers (Kevin was playing pro baseball in the minor leagues) to join the Rangers shortly after the 9/11 attacks.

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Latest read: The Commission

The Commission: What we didn’t know about 9/11 will get your heart racing, stomach knotted, fists pounding and blood boiling. All in no specific order. You will feel moved-to-action regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum.

Read this book and allow yourself to come back up-to-speed with the events surrounding 9/11. Learn about dirty politics played by the Bush Administration regarding staff appointments to the 9/11 Commission.
The Commission: What we did not know about 9/11Philip Shenon, the New York Times staff writer in Washington DC offers a behind the scenes look at twisted politics and power in Washington DC and NYC. The book’s focus is simple: the Commission formation and events surrounding their investigation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Remember the Jersey Girls? Or senior Bush Administration officials who actually fought against forming the 9/11 commission?

Throughout the book Shenon documents how Philip Zelikow, appointed 9/11 Commission Executive Director was viewed by the commission staff as a mole for the Bush White House.  Zelikow served President-elect Bush as a member of his transition team prior to being appointed Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission. Soon after the Commission’s report was published Zelikow accepted an offer from Condoleezza Rice to work in the White House.

Remember George Bush initially nominated Henry Kissinger to head the commission? Yet when victims families first met with him (including the Jersey Girls) they learned Kissinger’s personal consulting company had the Bin Ladin family as a client. The families were outrage and Kissinger resigned the following day.

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Latest read: The Way of the World

Ron Suskind has written a revealing novel about the Bush Administration‘s attitude towards terrorism and American politics in The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism.  Suskind won the Pulitzer for A Hope in the Unseen and sets a pretty level playing field for the Bush Administration’s War on Terrorism revealing new insight to the strategy used by Bush/Cheney to “secure” war against Iraq.
The Way of the WorldSuskind brings many issues of concern to the forefront regarding the Bush Administration’s actions in taking the country to war.  I believe Suskind has clearly documented actions by Cheney as lessons learned from Nixon’s Watergate.  Cheney served Nixon as White House Staff Assistant in 1971 and Deputy Assistant to the President from 1974–1975.

During Watergate Nixon’s inner circle kept the President “in the know” but as Vice President Cheney has acted to deliberately keep W. Bush out of the loop for political and potentially legal reasons.  Suskind details the odd relationship developed by Bush in order to protect himself.

The 2% rule.
What does a sitting President do with a 2% approval rating with African American voters in a post-Katrina America?  With midterm elections on the horizon Bush simply extended (a bit early) the voting rights act.  That was the most strategic advice the GOP could offer?  Did they want to hit….say 4%?  This proves to be an excellent example of the political extremism underway in the Bush White House to show how the story and plans for war would be developed to further a political agenda.

Knifing the baby
Immediately following 9/11 Bush became accustomed to getting his political way with America, the mainstream media and government. History has shown this leads Presidents down dark paths.  When British intelligence (MI5 & MI6) notified the US that a plan was underway by Al Qaeda to blow up airplanes over the Atlantic Bush asked British PM Tony Blair to give up the terrorists to American authorities.  Blair refused saying British Intelligence had 2,000 operatives working this case for over a year.  They were eavesdropping on their ring of terrorists and looked to grab higher players within 30 days.
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Latest read: America Alone

America Alone

Mark Steyn has written a clever book America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It. In a post 9/11 world America, according to Steyn must “go it alone” against the impact Muslims have in today’s world.  A lot of his knowledge is coming from outside the mainstream of US media organizations and many will be surprised to learn the real state of affairs between a fading Anglo-America and a rising Muslim world.

America AloneSteyn begins simply with demography as the basis for his argument that Islam will outgrow the Anglo-American world.  The American birth rate is 2.4 while Muslim countries like Pakistan have a birth rate of 4.5 and given time some countries like England and Spain which have rates under 1.5 will simply fall off the earth in the next century.

He points out that eastern European countries like Russia have abortion rates as high as 70%, and acknowledges that countries are killing themselves in the long run while Muslims are set to flourish for the next two to three generations.

At the same time the medium age in some parts of the Muslim world is just 15.  Steyn argues that this very young minority will grow to see democratic countries and institutions will shift to the law and culture of Islam.

Is the Muslim world gaining political strength in a post 9/11 world?  Steyn writes about how the growth of Muslim populations in Europe still lead to isolation, not assimilation in their Anglo-countries and slowly over time how Governments have begun to accommodate their growing communities.  Want proof?

The recent release of Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi the Lockerbie bomber made headlines around the world. Freed from jail by Scotland al Megrahi returned home to Libya a hero.  Was it all for cheap oil?  The US Government condemned this release.  But who is holding power here?

Tags: America Alone, Mark Steyn, education, Muslim, Demography, culture, trends

Bandwidth for Schools

A National Broadband Policy needs to be more than just a talking point. Schools in our country need to upgrade their internet bandwidth to 25 Megabytes per second. This is for every school — not just the K12 district who slices up the bandwidth based upon the total number of school buildings in the district. The technology and educational impact upon our schools: leaving them behind just when students from around the world are joining and benefiting from the broadband educational internet.

Playing catch-up
Today we find a majority of schools around the country in the educational slow lane. For some reason it does not matter if the school is remote or urban, many are connecting at just 5 Megabits/second. Its like teaching history with books that still recognize Russia as the old Soviet Union….oh how I miss Gorgachev.
Any college connecting at less than 10MB — shows a lack of understanding and vision for their students who enter higher education seeking not just a degree but an advantage to enter the global marketplace.

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Latest read: The Looming Tower

Lawrence Wright has written an amazing book that helps us understand al-Qaeda. His book The Looming Tower: al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11 is very well written and as a result, very upsetting.  This won the Pulitzer Prize.
The Looming TowerWould you be surprised to learn foundations of al-Qaeda began with lessons from an Egyptian enrolled in grad school at the University of Northern Colorado in 1949? His name was Sayyid Qutb. He began the modern Islamist movement that today is al-Qaeda.

Wright documents the wealth of bin Laden’s family which provided Osama the financial ability to forward his own view of the world through terrorism. Wright’s research uncovers frustrating examples of how the US government failed to stop the attacks on 9/11 even when small teams within our intelligence agencies had evidence of the coming attacks. But since they were fighting each other — the CIA purposefully withheld evidence from the FBI. This shows how broken our intelligence systems were organization and — how they failed America.
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