Hello & Welcome

Welcome to my Blog! Thanks for stopping by. I'll be posting from time to time my adventures in writing and my trials and tribulations in the publishing world, along with anything relevant in regards to current events, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Intelligence community that appears in the press. Please note that anything I post is not reflective or representative of any official position of the U.S. Government, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Air Force; only my views and opinions as a private citizen.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Holiday Season

Well, the Holiday Season is upon us again.

This time of year reminds us that we can be better people than we are, and asks that we re-commit ourselves to be more generous, more compassionate, and more kind to those we meet in life. It is a shame that we submerge the more generous versions of ourselves after the holiday season, and not rediscover them until the Thanksgiving Day parades and football games are over. Unfortunately, sometime around mid January, or early February, we return to being our more self-centered selves. Although you might think me being more cynical than the season should allow, we ALL do it, including this blogger. Admitting anything less is being dishonest.

The good thing about the season is that it always comes again the next year. Even the scheduling of a holiday in the darkest part of the Northern Hemisphere's Winter seems calculated (from the standpoint of the old world Europeans who established it) to not just give us something cheerful to think about, but to remind us to be better than we are in the darkest times of our lives. To help us strive again for a greater nobility and gentleness in our spirit that is the defining worth of our species. To drive us to become better people than we currently are at that point in our lives and to express that improvement in the generosity of giving. In addition to making our children's Christmas joyous, we can express this best by giving our time to charities, giving food or clothing to that homeless person on the street, or giving money to a church or non-profit organization to help others in need.

In doing so, we all strive to remember the season in our hearts long past January 1st.

May the season bring out the best in all of us.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

1.2 Million Reasons to Vote

Well, I've been away from my keyboard for a while, watching rejections from literary agents pile up, and taking some time off to play tourist in the Baltimore and D.C. areas with a quick side trip to Las Vegas.

On the 4th of November, every U.S. Citizen will yet again have the opportunity to stand up and be counted in a way that most people in the world are not afforded. The U.S. system of democracy (actually a representative Republic) is not perfect, or even ideal. However, the freedoms we are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights become meaningless if they are not exercised.

Blogging is a means of free speech. Voting is the means to ensure that we choose those who will speak for us in the national, state, and local government assembly houses, senates, and executive offices.

On Election Day, don't think, "My vote won't make a difference." or "It doesn't really matter." A freedom not exercised is a freedom lost. Learn about the issues, and the candidates. Go to your polling place on the way to work, or on the way home and vote for the candidate of your choice.

While the aftermath of war in Iraq has not been managed well, and Afghanistan is experiencing a resurgence of Taliban activity; until recently, Iraqi and Afghan citizens did not have the ability to decide who will serve them in government. Now they exercise that freedom, and their elected representatives will ultimately decide the future path of these fledgling democracies. The people of China, North Korea, and many of the African nations still do not have that ability. The dictators running these countries, some who attempt to cloak themselves in a veneer of the democratic process, continue to believe that the people are supposed to serve the government, not that the government should serve the people.

Since the American Revolution, more than 43 million Americans have defended the freedoms we enjoy as citizens. More importantly, nearly 1.2 million of our brothers and sisters died during their service to ensure our freedoms. Don't dishonor their sacrifice on election day. Vote.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bureaucracy vs. A Patriotic Act

A story in the Denver Post on the 18th of August was brought to my attention by the news team at WBAL, an AM Radio news and talk station in Baltimore yesterday. Entitled, "Marble for Unknowns Tomb Just Sits", it provides another example of the initially well intended regulations of government inhibiting common sense.

A retired car dealer named John Haines has, with his own money, purchased a large enough slab of marble that can be formed into a new monument that will replace the cracked and aging Tomb of the Unknown Soldier monument at Arlington National Cemetery. The marble block was hewn from the earth by veterans, at the exact same quarry the current marble monument was cut from. Mr. Haines has also arraigned for the marble block to be transported, FREE OF CHARGE, to the east coast for sculpting and eventual dedication.

There is just one problem, Mr. Haines' donation of this block to the cemetery cannot go forward because an "ordinary citizen", in the words of the deputy superintendent at Arlingon, Mr. Thurman Higginbotham, "....can't just give us any piece of marble and say, 'This is what we'll use to replace the tomb."

I sincerely hope that Mr. Higginbotham and the rest of the Arlington Cemetery management is suffering from only a temporary state of beaucratic stupidity, and does not sincerely wish to deny Mr. Haines' the opportunity to complete his generous donation. Assuming the block is properly sized for the sculpting process and of the quality needed to serve as a fitting memorial, the Arlington authorities should petition Congress or the appropriate government body for the waiver needed to accept Mr. Haines' gift.

It would be a shameful event if the Arlington Cemetery management choses to spend $170,000 tax payer dollars to solict bids to sell the stone to the government and then transport it for sculpting. There is a marble block made much more worthy by the honorable intent and charity of our citizens standing ready in Colorado to honor and keep alive the memory of our Soldiers Known but to God.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Whom to Thank for a Morning Airshow Near Phoenix

I was forwarded what follows by a Chief Master Sergeant in the Air Force, currently on active duty, and I think it makes a point we all would do well to remember. The following is provided verbatim from his e-mail.


Background: Luke Air Force Base

Luke AFB is west of Phoenix and is rapidly being surrounded by civilization that complains about the noise from the base and its planes, forgetting that it was there long before they were. A certain lieutenant colonel at Luke AFB deserves a big pat on the back.
Apparently, an individual who lives somewhere near Luke AFB wrote the local paper complaining about a group of F-16s that disturbed his/her day at the mall. When that individual read the response from a Luke AFB officer, it must have stung quite a bit.

The complaint:

'Question of the day for Luke Air Force Base: Whom do we thank for the morning air show?

Last Wednesday, at precisely 9:11 a.m., a tight formation of four F-16 jets made a low pass over Arrowhead Mall, continuing west over Bell Road at approximately 500 feet. Imagine our good fortune! Do the Tom Cruise-wannabes feel we need this wake-up call, or were they trying to impress the cashiers at Mervyns early bird special? Any response would be appreciated.

The response:

Regarding 'A wake-up call from Luke's jets' (Letters, Thursday):

On June 15, at precisely 9:12 a.m., a perfectly timed four-ship flyby of F-16s from the 63rd Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base flew over the grave of Capt. Jeremy Fresques. Capt. Fresques was an Air Force officer who was previously stationed at Luke Air Force Base and was killed in Iraq on May 30, Memorial Day.

At 9 a.m. on June 15, his family and friends gathered at Sunland Memorial Park in Sun City to mourn the loss of a husband, son and friend. Based on the letter writer's recount of the flyby, and because of the jet noise, I'm sure you didn't hear the 21-gun salute, the playing of taps, or my words to the widow and parents of Capt. Fresques as I gave them their son's flag on behalf of the President of the United States and all those veterans and servicemen and women who understand the sacrifices they have endured.

A four-ship flyby is a display of respect the Air Force pays to those who give their lives in defense of freedom. We are professional aviators and take our jobs seriously, and on June 15 what the letter writer witnessed was four officers lining up to pay their ultimate respects.

The letter writer asks, 'Whom do we thank for the morning air show?" The 56th Fighter Wing will make the call for you, and forward your thanks to the widow and parents of Capt. Fresques, and thank them for you, for it was in their honor that my pilots flew the most honorable formation of their lives.

Lt. Col. Grant L. Rosensteel, Jr.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Executive Order 12333 Amended

President Bush issued Executive Order 13470 yesterday. This order alters Executive Order 12333, UNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITIES.

EO 12333 is one of the documents used within the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) to set policy, along with U.S. Law, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights.

It sets out the President's guidance for the management of the community, affirms the roles and responsibilities of various IC elements, and prescribes some specific prohibitions the IC and its employees must respect.

So what was changed? (The changes listed below do not reflect typographical, grammatical, or consistency related changes within the EO.)

Part 1 - "Goals, Directions, Duties, & Responsibilities with Respect to U.S. Intelligence Efforts" was completely re-written. The major effect of the re-write of Part I is to insert the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) into a position of more direct control over the IC. This re-write helps to codify the DNI's authority and will hopefully cut down on any, "Yes you will." "No I won't." situations between the DNI and the heads of the IC elements.

Part 2 - "Conduct of Intelligence Activities" was altered to include:

  • Changing Section 2.2 to include gathering foreign intelligence regarding "the spread of weapons of mass destruction."
  • Changing Section 2.3 to ensure that signals intelligence (SIGINT) is only "disseminated or made available to Intelligence Community elements in accordance with procedures established by the Director in coordination with the Secretary of Defense and approved by the Attorney General."
  • Changing Section 2.3.e to permit the collection, retention, and dissemination of information needed to protect foreign intelligence or counterintelligence activities.
  • Changing Section 2.5 to limit the delegation of the approval of the IC's monitoring of a U.S. Person to that outlined in the FISA of 1978, as amended.
  • Adding a new section, 2.13, which states that, "No covert action may be conducted which is intended to influence United States political processes, public opinion, policies, or media."
Part 3 was altered to include:
  • Affirming the Attorney General's (AG) Role in Approving Procedures Established by IC Element Heads that Implement the Procedures in Section 2 - Any Dispute Between the AG and the IC Element Head will be Resolved by the National Security Council
  • Providing current definitions of Counterintelligence, Covert Action, Electronic Surveillance, Employee, Foreign Intelligence, Intelligence, Intelligence Activities, the members of the IC, National Intelligence & Intelligence Related to National Security, and the National Intelligence Program
The prohibition against assassination remains in place, as well as the ban on human experimentation outside of the guidelines provided by the Department of Health and Human Services where the subject's informed consent has been documented.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Let's Talk Writing & Publishing

I completed my first novel manuscript this past Spring, and I'm currently in search of a literary agent to represent me. I'll say up front that the comments that follow are based on my research into the process, and my limited experiences accumulated to date. Take it for what it's worth, as one fledgling writer's initial slog through the rites of publication.

The novel manuscript is a thriller, 113,000+ words in length (390+ pages) and is grounded in my extensive professional experience in the Air Force coupled with my love of reading and desire to tell an engaging story.

I began writing the book in August of 2007, and once the manuscript was completed, reviewed and re-edited, began searching for an agent to represent me in late June 2008.

I sent my first query letter out on the 16th of June. To date, I've sent out 31 queries from the 16th of June through the 7th of July, and received 16 polite "thank you, no" responses. On the 14th of July, I received my first request for the complete manuscript for review from a reputable and from what my research has discovered, active agent located in New York.

I sent the complete manuscript, along with the package of information requested, back to the interested agent on the 16th of July. As of today, I'm still waiting for the response to my requested submission from the interested agent, and don't seriously expect to hear anything for at least another two to three weeks.

For anyone contemplating the pursuit of a writing career: Patience is required. Once you've completed and polished your manuscript (an exercise in dedication, planning, and hard work in itself), the search for an interested publisher or agent consumes a great deal of time. Time on your part to do your research, find an agent/publisher who works in/represents your chosen literary field, draft a quality proposal or query letter, and then get a positive response. More patience is needed while a busy agent or publisher finally finds the time to review your submission and choose to respond. Remember that you are not the only writer out there attempting to get published.

Bear a few things in mind. While you're in a hurry for their answer, they are busy people. Agents need to attend to their active clients first, before they can find the time to deal with a potential new client's material. Acquisitions editors are dealing with the 10 books they are already seriously considering, the 10 books in the editing process, and the 10 books nearly ready to head to the actual production process. I suggest you put the time to good use by working on your next writing project.

When an editor or agent can find the time, especially after they have asked for your manuscript, they should find time to get back to you. If you've waited a reasonable amount of time (4 - 6 weeks, or the agent or editor's normal response time you've found in your research) contact them via e-mail or letter (do not call) and politely request the status of your submitted material.

I'll post more as this process plays out, and good luck to my fellow writers out there working towards the day when you hold your first book or other published work in hand.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sleeping with the Expired Nuclear Codes

Agence France-Presse posted an article today about three Air Force technicians at a Minuteman III missile unit at Minot AFB falling asleep while in possession of expired nuclear launch code components in violation of approved procedure on July 12.

The Airmen involved are certainly facing Article 15 punishment from their commander. This kind of incident is not what the Air Force can tolerate. Certainly not after the improper shipment of nuclear weapon components out of the country and the loading of nuclear weapons onto a B-52 without any awareness on the part of the Air Force or the Pentagon. The pattern of inattention to basic procedure and detail with respect to the handling and operations of nuclear weapons simply cannot be tolerated.

For the Three Airmen at Minot: We were all taught two things at basic training: Attention to Detail & Mission First. Pull your heads out my friends. Our nation expects better and you swore an oath you need to uphold. Your 328,598 active duty brothers and sisters in Air Force blue expect better from you, and you have failed them, yourselves, and your nation. Stand tall in front of your commander, take your punishment, and resolve to do better. Eventually, you will regain the respect and trust you've lost with your poor judgment.

The 'Comfort Capsule' Fiasco

On the 18th, the Washington Post ran a story on the Air Force's desire to use of counter-terrorism funds to assist in the purchase and outfitting of 'comfort capsules' for the use of Congressmen, high level DoD officials, and general officers to travel in style to their destinations. Not surprisingly, the New York Times printed an editorial on its web site this morning, rightly decrying this latest example of a lack of integrity in the service.

On the 21st of July, Air Force magazine published a story about the 'comfort capsules' intending to tell what Mr. Paul Harvey would call, "the rest of the story." The article makes the case that the demands of Congress and other VIP level members of our government for the 'expected' level of comfortable transport to a war zone where our troops fight for our country.

The Air Force e-mails the Post article refers to seem to indicate a desire for comfort run amok. Naturally, we all know that rank has its privileges; and no Senator or Congress member would be caught dead traveling the way our soldiers do to the front lines; in cramped, canvas lined or thin cushioned 'economy class' airline seats, often loaded into the transport's cargo bay. Naturally, there are no beds for rest or TVs to entertain the troops on the 14+ hour flight.

Certainly the senior leaders in the military shoulder many burdens, but they would be better served by shouldering the same burden the troops they command must bear. As for the politicians in Congress, they should travel with the troops and gain a better appreciation of the burdens of men and women in uniform, since far too few of our elected representatives have ever served in our military. Then we wouldn't be having a discussion about using counter-terrorism funds for 'comfort capsules.'

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Starting to Blog

Well here it is. My first Blog. I decided to start this blog because I am an aspiring writer (an outgrowth of my belief and advocacy for our Right of Free Speech) and as a place to comment on things I find of interest in the activities of our government and particularly the military, with a focus on the Air Force.

At the outset, I want to say how proud of, and grateful I am to, every soldier, sailor, airman, and marine serving our country at home and abroad. All your fellow citizens are forever in your debt.

I'll also use this Blog from time to time to talk about the writing process, and the whole adventure of writing, publishing, etc. as I experience it as a fledgling writer of fiction.

To all who wander across this blog - Welcome!