Monday, September 29, 2008

Party ! Party and party

But first, this word from our sponsors...

Okay, so I don’t have any sponsors. I do have a few links to Amazon though. And you’re not clicking on them. I try not to bug you about it and I try to make it as painless as possible. I haven’t even written any lengthy reviews of the last two books I’ve read.

Lies My Teacher Told Me was a good book. I just don’t think it was a great book. It should have been -- and many think it was. So might you. It was chock full of the tidbits of history I like and had some great overall themes in it. In other words, I’m at a loss as to why I didn’t like it more than I did. Let’s just put it down to “chemistry.”

As far as Jeff Sharlet’s book The Family, I don’t know what to think. I did enjoy it but more than a week later I’m still pondering over it. I think it’s an important book. It’s certainly generating a lot of interest. I’m not sure if I was confused by Mr. Sharlet’s writing style or if I lack sufficient education about religion in America.

The beginning of it reminded me of reading Charlie Wilson's War. It reads like over-the-top fiction -- but it’s true. The names you read in it are simply incredible. Senators, Congressmen, Presidents and various world leaders that you will recognize. It’s just hard to imagine the level of fundamentalism’s involvement in government that Mr. Sharlet depicts. Yet a quick check at Wikipedia lets you know that Mr. Sharlet is on to something and it is very real. Check it out for yourself: The Family organization. The National Prayer Breakfast. Even this little blurb from Wikipedia grabs attention.

”The Fellowship operates a retreat center as an "unofficial headquarters," at the end of Twenty-fourth Street North in Arlington, Va. Called "The Cedars," it was purchased in 1978 through donations from, among others, Tom Phillips, CEO of arms manufacturer Raytheon... “

You might not get it immediately but we’ll get back to Raytheon in a minute and you will.

Now, back to our program.

I went to another controller retirement party last night. It was a great party. “Doc” has done his time and he went out in style. I can tell you without the slightest doubt, the taxpayers got their money out of Doc. He was one of the best -- the kind of guy that makes you proud of the profession.

As always, I pick up the latest news at these events. It’s as bad as I feared. The rookies when I left less than two years ago are now the senior controllers on the team -- sometimes the senior controllers on the whole shift. The next generation of controllers will be left to find their own way, just as my generation did after the PATCO strike in 1981. The loss of “institutional memory” is incredible and just as tragic -- if slightly slower -- than it was in 1981.

In case there is any doubt in your mind, this tragedy has been brought to you courtesy of the Republican Party.

"Another reality in the post-9/11 growth of intelligence analysis capability is outsourcing. We have outsourced the management of billion-dollar technical collection programs, and we have contracted for intelligence analysts."

"In the area of analysis, the number of contractors also grew. Not satisfied with doubling the number of analysts at the CIA, the intelligence community turned to the private sector, or at least privately owned companies. Many of the companies involved, such as Lockheed Martin, earn almost all of their money by selling to governments."

"The result of all those decisions to take the easy way out and sign contracts is that we have created a two-tier system for intelligence analysis. For now, at least, the more experienced analysts are often in the profit-making firms, aspiring to be among the ranks of their highly paid bosses someday. And their highly paid bosses are motivated to persuade the intelligence agencies, where they once worked, of the continued need for their contracts. And many of the bosses in the intelligence agencies are thinking about what they will do when they have worked twenty years and can begin pulling down a government pension."

Is any of this sounding familiar to you ? Seriously, maybe just a little too familiar ?

If you didn’t catch Raytheon’s name in the link above, you can always try this one.

”A team led by Raytheon Technical Services Company (RTSC) LLC, a subsidiary of Raytheon Company, has received a 10-year contract to provide training support for Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers. The single contractor award is valued at $437 million for the five-year base period. The contract also has two options. If exercised, the first option is three years and the second option, two years. “

Oh, and all those quotes above about the contracting out of our intelligence services ? They’re from the book I’m reading now -- Your Government Failed You. If you’ll think back to the days right after 9/11 maybe you’ll recognize the phrase. It was uttered by the author of the book, Richard A. Clarke, at the 9/11 Commission hearings.

You might want to buy the book. I hear Raytheon is hiring but I don’t think I’ll be invited to that party.

Don Brown
September 29, 2008

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