Monday, August 29, 2011

Ghosts of Everest: The Search for Mallory & Irvine

I happen to think climbing 8000 meter peaks is a foolhardy undertaking...

I offer as proof this story which started with the death of two climbers attempting to be the first reach the summit of Mt Everest in 1924. Mallory and Irvine were last seen "climbing with alacrity" toward the peak...and were never seen or heard from again. Their fate was unknown, until a 1999 expedition was mounted to solve the mystery, find the climbers' bodies, and determine if they reached the summit. The 1999 expedition was partially successful, but you'll have to read the book to learn precisely in what way. Ghosts of Everest is not only a captivating account of two mountain climbing adventures set 75 years apart, it is also a detective story.

Roadside Picnic

Written by the Brothers Strugatsky - Arkady and Boris...

Roadside Picnic was the basis for the film Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky. I couldn't afford a copy of the book so I read the Cryptomaoist Editions PDF of it using the Bookman PDF reader app on my iPhone.  Spooky, evocative, heart-felt science fiction.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

CPTED Resources

That's Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design for the acronym averse...

 The infamous Cabrini-Green - the opposite of CPTED

CPTED is the idea that we can shape our built environment to increase the ability of legitimate users of a space to assert and retain control of its proper use.  The inverse of this principal is that poorly thought out spaces can actually contribute to social disorder and crime.

There is a CPTED group at LinkedIn managed by Severin Sorenson, a consultant and one of the top people in the field. I am reposting the links from a reference list he maintains there as a service to those security practitioners who do not yet have a LinkedIn account (?!!) or subscribe to the CPTED group.

Anything by Randall Atlas is worth reading. His website is here.

Likewise Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design by the late Timothy Crowe is a classic in the field.

In the mean time just in case you haven't read Oscar Newman's Creating Defensible Space your reference library is incomplete.  Follow the link for a free PDF of this classic text.

National Crime Prevention Institute (NCPI) at the University of Louisville.

And there's the International CPTED Association.

The Wikipedia external links on the topic lead us to an interesting annotated bibliography.

When all else fails you can Google: Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design PDF

Center for Problem Oriented Policing

Design for Security - Milan

US DOJ Using Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design in Problem-Solving

Secured by Design (UK)

Felson and Clarke's Opportunity Makes the Thief - Practical theory for crime prevention

"Counter Terrorism Protective Security Advice for Shopping Centres" isn't strictly CPTED

The GSA Site Security Design Guide is recommended

Crime Prevention Research (UK Home Office)

California Crime Prevention Officers Association (CCPOA)

CPTED Ontario

Designing Out Crime Association

Environmental Design at Wikipedia

Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA)

Environmental Psychology (Wikipedia)

European Designing Out Crime Association

Florida Design Out Crime Association

International Society of Crime Prevention Practitioners (ISCPP)

Law Enforcement Environmental Planning Association of California (LEEPAC)

National Institute of Crime Prevention

Place Making for Communities

United States Designing Out Crime Association

This is just a sampling of the many resources out there for people and organizations to apply to their communities.

UPDATE (31 January 2012): Here are some new crime prevention resources recommended by participants in a long running LinkedIn thread.

Counter Terrorism Protective Security Advice for Shopping Centres

Crowded Places: The Planning System and Counter-Terrorism

Crime and Everyday Life by Marcus Felson

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design: Guidelines for Queensland - Part A: Essential features of safer places

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design: Guidelines for Queensland - Part B: Implementation Guide

Building Safe Toilet Design into Shared Urban Space by Carol McCreary

FEMA Security Risk Management Series

FEMA Site and Urban Design for Security

National Guidelines for Crime Prevention through Environmental Design in New Zealand Part 1: Seven Qualities of Safer Places - Published November 2005

National Guidelines for Crime Prevention through Environmental Design in New Zealand Part 2: Implementation Guide - Published November 2005

Peel Regional Police (leaders in CPTED)


Safer Places: The Planning System and Crime Prevention


The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs

Toronto Police Services CPTED brochure

UPDATE (22 July 2012): Gregory Saville points us all to an updated CPTED bibliography at Safe Cascadia.  See also the 6 March 2012 Eclectic Breakfast post titled Safe Cascadia.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The End of Al Qaeda’s WMD Threat

I continue to enjoy the responsible attitude and thought-provoking discussions at Homeland Security Watch...

From Alan Wolfe's post of 22 August 2011 titled The End of Al Qaeda’s WMD Threat

"Despite a decade of continued terrorist incidents against the West, resulting in tens of thousands of casualties every year, we have yet to see a mass casualty incident caused by a nuclear, biological, or chemical weapon."

He makes a solid case that is well worth reading if you worry about such things.

UPDATE: On a related axis Bruce Schneier (8/26/2011) steers his readers to an excellent anthology examining Islamic terrorism cases in the US since 9/11.

TED Talks for a Class I've Been Asked to Teach in October

I'm excited to be working on the curriculum for a class I haven't taught before...

When teaching the Principles of Security Management class (SM401) in the B.S. in Security Management program at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota I use several TED talks with good effect.

Loretta Napoleoni: The intricate economics of terrorism

Misha Glenny investigates global crime networks

Steven Levitt analyzes crack economics

Philip Zimbardo shows how people become monsters ... or heroes

Steven Pinker on the myth of violence

Winter semester I plan to add Bruce Schneier: The security mirage

In SM404 Security Techniques and Technology we will examine "current issues, trends, and technologies available to address security problems and issues. Topics include environmental design, executive protection, and technology advances for information and physical security, along with professional development practices."  New class calls for new tools so I'm having a relook at several TED talks I've enjoyed, including the following:

Ralph Langner: Cracking Stuxnet, a 21st-century cyber weapon

Rogier van der Heide: Why light needs darkness

John Kasaona: How poachers became caretakers

Alan Siegel: Let's simplify legal jargon

Gary Lauder's new traffic sign: Take Turns

Temple Grandin: The world needs all kinds of minds

Julian Treasure: The 4 ways sound affects us

David Kelley on human-centered design

TED has more than a thousand talks to choose from.  Try one for work, for school, or for fun.

Photo credit Sam Magraby at 

UPDATE: I was informed 18 October 2011 that the class will not be held this semester.  Rats...would have been fun.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dragon in the Lead

The Space X Dragon is scheduled for a trip to the ISS this fall...

Oh look, the Dragon has a launch escape system and a simple ablative reentry heat shield that can't be killed by a chunk of foam falling off the launch vehicle.    

The Dragon capsule seats up to seven astronauts in crew configuration, and will deliver staff  members to the ISS for $20 million a seat. Compare that to the $63 million per chair NASA is paying the Russians to take our astronauts to the ISS in the Soyuz.  I have to admit the Dragon 9 launch vehicle looks more than a little like a Soviet rocket, what with it being all functional and simple and redundant and all.  If this is what privatized space flight looks like I'm loving it.

What space shuttle?

Thank you Space Exploration Systems!

Note: In related news, China is planning to launch a prototype space station module into orbit.  The Tiangong 1 ("Heavenly Palace") will allow China to practice the skills required to become a space-faring nation.  Good for them, and for us.  Competition is good.  A race to Mars would be awesome!

Another Note: Seems I forgot to remember that NASA is not only an aeronautics research and space exploration agency it is also a card-carrying member of the federal bureaucracy.  For more on on the challenges of having the federal government as a customer read the excellent Private space firms question if NASA contracting policies will allow progress by James Dean of Florida Today (where he also writes for The Flame Trench blog).  You'd think NASA would understand the effect friction, drag, and inertia have on spaceships...

Is God a Moral Monster?

A little light reading...

This book is recommended by William Lane Craig whenever someone asks him tough questions about the vengeful all too human god of the Old Testament.  I'm actually reading a response to Copan written by Thom Stark titled "Is God a Moral Compromiser." I'm reading it on my iPhone using the free PDF/Comic Reader Bookman Lite app.

UPDATE: I finished Thom Stark's extremely detailed review of Copan's book.  How detailed is this review, you ask?  Well, at 344 pages, it's 92 pages longer than its subject.  Stark does a compelling job illustrating where Copan's arguments are weak, highly selective, or downright deceptive. If you walk away from Copan thinking the Old Testament YHVH wasn't all that bad, then you should read Stark too.  So, having said all this about Stark's work I suppose I have no choice but to read Copan's entire book as well.

Another Update: As of 28 October 2011 the review is now available in a Kindle format.  Still free.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"You Can't Handle the Truth!"

Some terms are so powerful even security professionals have trouble responding to them thoughtfully...

Another day, another debate amongst my peers...

Lately I've been doing some reading on cognition - bias, dissonance, and cultural of risk. I think that the specter of workplace violence, in general, and everyone's favorite boogieman - Active Shooter - in particular, threatens the worldview of many security professionals at a very deep level. We resist mightily the idea that these events are usually over seconds after they start. We want to imagine being there in time to help. We can't imagine being unarmed when the bullets begin to fly. I don't blame my peers for being more human than they know, but I hate to see them abusing statistics to fan the flames of fear to achieve some short term goal.

"Granted WPV/AS [workplace violence/active shooter] incidents are relatively rare but I also understand that they are essentially tied for being the number 2 cause of employee deaths in the nation – hence that is a legitimate concern for both businesses and security personnel...I am a strong proponent of planning for the worst and hoping for the best."

True enough about workplace violence in the very broadest sense, though the raw numbers are prone to misinterpretation. In 2009 there were 4,552 workplace deaths. The 542 workplace homicides come in third behind 645 deaths from falls, and ahead of the fourth place 420 deaths resulting from “contact with object.” Of all workplace murders, 75% were committed during robberies. The remaining were perpetrated by work associates (17%), family members (4%), and friends (4%). There is no "active shooter" category in the data.

More striking are the number of suicides at work, 263 in 2009. Half these suicides were committed with firearms. This is critically important, as employees inclined to kill themselves with firearms may choose to kill others before doing themselves in. The precise numbers of murder-suicides, where both a victim and the perpetrator died at work, are not clear due to the way the data is coded. Still, we can tease some numbers out of the BLS reports. “The homicide total for 2009 includes the 13 victims of the November shooting at Fort Hood.” “In 2008 there were 30 multiple-fatality workplace homicide incidents, accounting for 67 homicides and 7 suicides. On average, about two people died in each of these incidents.”  Between 1994 and 1999 there were 207 multiple fatality homicides accounting for 575 deaths.

There have been several active shooter incidents since the 1980s in which we can imagine that a quicker armed intervention might have reduce the death toll once the shooting started. Likewise, there are specific examples where armed security personnel terminated what was intended to be a mass killing – El Al ticket counter at LAX (2002), New Life Church (2007), and Holocaust Museum (2010). Of course, there is also the unfortunate example of the armed school resource officer who was unable to affect the outcome at Columbine (1999). Still, as a practical matter, it’s not obvious that simply arming security officers will put them at the scene of most workplace homicides in time to successfully intervene.

Should companies have a workplace violence prevention and response program? Absolutely. Should retail establishments have robbery prevention and survival programs? No doubt. Can an active shooter incident happen at work? Yes. Does it happen very often? No. Since the term “active shooter” carries such a strong emotional charge that we are tempted to overreact all out of proportion to its actual frequency perhaps we security practitioners would be better off not to use it as we prepare and promote our security programs.

UPDATE: Interesting a different thread on the same topic but at a different forum developed along the lines of the importance of employee awareness, early intervention, and prevention.

Our thread continued along its original line...

“How would the VT school shooting (Cho) have turned out if just one of the students or staff been armed?

I have read the same BJS report and distinctly recall that they chose NOT to count the nearly 3,000 dead from 9/11 but the reality was that most of those deaths did occur in their workplace environment.

For example your own acknowledgement that 75% of all WPV deaths occur from robbery (not A/S) would seem to further strengthen my own points and comparing WPV deaths to deaths from falls from ladders, or ‘robbery’ (resulting in death) from Active Shooter (resulting in death) seems to be missing the point.

Ultimately you may be at work or shopping at the local Wal-Mart but if one or more armed persons begin indiscriminately shooting down the employees and patrons all around you, do you want to wait for the public security response, which is most likely going to be at least a few minutes time, or would you rather have an armed security officer potentially able to respond in seconds?”

The question is one of resources. Arming security officers will double the budget [see correction below]. Adding sufficient officers so that there are enough to respond anywhere on campus or on any floor in the building in a timely manner will likely double it again. Even then most killers will be reaching for a fresh magazine, or eating their own gun, before your team even gets an emergency call. Unless you have other reasons - and there are several good ones - to arm your security staff doing so only to respond to active shooters is going to be very expensive and may not result in much harm reduction.

The conversation so far has been about arming security staff to respond to active shooter scenarios, not whether to arm instructors or let students carry concealed on campus in shall issue states. As for Virginia Tech, how would it have turned out if there had been a lock on every classroom door that could be easily secured by the instructor, or a student population that had been taught not to huddle like lambs awaiting slaughter?

Neither has this conversation been about the BLS record keeping and reporting criteria or whether or not 9/11 was a workplace violence incident. It wasn't, anymore than civilian casualties at Pearl Harbor were the victims of workplace violence. If you insist it was it still does nothing for your apparent case as there is no amount of armed guards, armed teachers, armed students, or armed citizens in the towers or at the pentagon would have made one whit of difference that day.

The relevance of the 75% robbery homicide statistic is that armed guards or even armed employees are a very expensive way to protect businesses that operate on very narrow margins. It also serves to point out that the active shooter boogieman that most employees worry about after being fed poorly explained statistics by lurid media reports are actually a small subset of the remaining 135 (25%) workplace killings across the entire country each year.

In the extremely unlikely event that an active shooter starts mowing down my fellow Wal-Mart shoppers I'd much rather have the means of my own salvation in my own hand, but an armed security officer might be better than nothing - if he or she is appropriately trained and equipped and in the right spot at the right time to do the right thing.

I'm not saying "Do nothing and wait for the cops." I'm saying that in most cases there are probably better ways to use the finite resources our employers and clients provide us to work with. This budget cycle I'm being asked to do as much or more with 3% less, not to quadruple [see correction below] the guarding budget to create a limited capability to respond to a problem that is about as likely being killed by a lightning strike.

CORRECTION:  I may have engaged in a bit of hyperbole myself (I told you "active shooter" makes security people crazy!) when I said arming the officers will double the budget.  That was a pretty big SWAG but I was trying to capture the additional recruiting costs, higher wages for persons I'd be comfortable asking to carry, the cost of training across the entire force continuum, overtime for regular qualification and retraining, armor - soft and rifle strength, firearms - pistol and carbine, accessories, ammunition, and higher insurance rates.  Still, probably not double (especially if the client nixes the carbines), but it could increase the bill rate by 50% easy.  I'll stand by my idea that in order to put two officers anywhere on site in less than three minutes (before the cops get there) I'd have to double staff levels.

REUPDATE:  As I was digging for details I encountered an interesting analysis of active shooters put together by NYPD titled Active Shooter: Recommendations and Analysis for Risk Mitigation.  All but 12 of its 192 pages is a compendium of active shooter and attempted active shooter incidents.  These are assembled from media reports and sometimes miss important details, but it's represents some serious work on someone's part.  It slips a bit toward the end by choosing to include several transnational terrorist attacks perpetrated in other countries, but otherwise it's a useful review.

Monday, August 15, 2011

An Open Letter to Those Who Condemn Looting

I am blessed with friends who send me things to read I might not otherwise see..

 This time it's the author of Socialism and/or Barbarism and a piece on the rioting in London.  My cognitive dissonance is screaming like a bad clutch.  His streets are not mine.  His views are not mine.  His anger is foreign to me.  But I can choose to attempt to look at his community from his vantage point.  I may not understand how it is, but perhaps I can feel how it is.  And in that alien disjoint place I might sense the measure of the differences between us.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"A Soul as Black as Snow White's Hair"

Finally a podcast worthy of of the sobriquet ROTFLMAO...

The LogicallyCritical podcast is both down home sensible and laugh out loud hilarious.  The author skewers a variety of topics with charm, simple production touches, and a wicked sense of humor.  Look for it at iTunes or at the website.  

There is only one problem.  The anonymous philosopher comic produced 27 episodes off and on over the space of a couple years and then quit.  Check them out if you need a blast of thoughtful irreverence.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

But Does Anyone Have Any Numbers?

Our peer Barry Nixon asks "Can anyone refer me to a good source or research that has been conducted on measuring the impact of workplace violence prevention programs?"

Barry is the founder of the National Institute for the Prevention of Workplace Violence and he and I have discussed the latest numbers in great detail recently so he knows the basic stats.  The question I suspect Barry is trying to answer is, “Are there any data that demonstrate that having an organized WPV program creates a detectable reduction in deaths, injuries, threats, or *cases?” (*Of course, a very successful program might easily increase the number of reported cases while reducing their severity). While we all strive to reduce fatalities, with the exception of homicides during robberies, they are relatively rare and a single severe incident can throw off the numbers. Tracking injuries, assaults, and threats may prove a more useful measure.

The FBI is certainly a promising resource.  Some correspondents referred Barry to the January 2011 FBI Bulletin.  As good as it is it presents best practices offered by eminent practitioners in the field that most everyone agrees makes good sense and which ought to reduce the severity of workplace violence cases (at least those involving other than Type I offenders).

With regard to workplace homicides, since ~75% occur during robberies at the hands of Type I offenders, a reduction in homicides and injuries during robberies represent a reduction in workplace violence (assaults and threats, by definition, not so much). Likewise reducing the number of robberies can reduce the number of persons harmed even if the rate of homicide and injury during the crime do not change.  JAMA has as paper testing a medical prevention model to the issue.  The effect of CPTED principles on robbery have been written up.  I have not touched the law enforcement literature on this topic.  So, Question 1:

What can our public administrators tell us about the impact of robbery risk reduction efforts on homicide rates? 

When it comes to Type II, III, and IV offenders - clients and patients, coworkers and ex-coworkers, and family and friends, respectively - an effective workplace violence prevention and response program should be able to track successful interventions, cases of which the company/client was aware but did not result in violence, changes in corrective actions and terminations for behaviors that are workplace violence risk factors, a reduction in assaults and threats reported by employees, a reduction in harassment and toxic manager cases, a reduction in some sorts of worker's comp claims, and increased employee job satisfaction and retention metrics. Question 2 is: 

Do our peers in Human Resources have any statistical methods that demonstrate that sexual harassment training actually reduces the severity and rate of incidents? Can their methods be applied to our question? 

In the very worst case of workplace mass murder at the hands of an active shooter, do those who apply best practices survival strategies survive, or suffer fewer or less severe injuries, than those who do not? Who offers routine instructions for low probability high impact events?  The airline industry.  Passengers who report paying close attention to the pre-flight safety briefings on commercial airlines are better prepared than those who do not. Finally, Question 3: 

How can post incident analyses be applied to after action reports of mass shootings? 

Other studies seem few and far between.  Most close by recommending further research.  There are some recent and not so recent doctoral dissertations that have been nibbling on this topic, but has anyone got a source for scientifically assembled hard numbers? Is the apparent decline in workplace homicides the result of education, prevention, and mitigation plans or is it part of the overall decline in violent crimeIs it possible that so many organizations have been so busy implementing their workplace violence prevention programs that have not had time to measure the contribution they make to the security, safety, and well-being of our employees?  Those of us who have managed cases to their conclusion are happy that our anecdotes are usually about potential harms successfully disarmed, but these are not statistics.  Will workplace violence prevention programs become a pro forma best practice without regard to their actual effectiveness?

Updated 10 August 2011: The deeper I dig the clearer it seems that only the healthcare sector has even attempted to assemble any statistics regarding the effectiveness of violence reduction programs.  As I play with search terms in the academic journal databases I'm finding more doctoral dissertations on the subject.  Two look especially good (in a security nerd sort of way), Developing a grounded theory for successful workplace violence prevention programs by Linda F. Florence, and A critical review of the prevalence and effectiveness of workplace violence prevention programs by Debra Deane.  I've sent away for copies of both.

Good news and bad news:  The good news, in 2008 James T. Wassell published a paper titled Workplace violence intervention effectiveness: A systematic literature review.  The bad news, he didn't find much high quality evidence either.  Of 100 studies half dealt with Type II offenders in the healthcare setting.  Ten percent discussed homicide prevention in retail establishments (Type I offenders).  He recommended more research...

More bad news: Developing a grounded theory for successful workplace violence prevention programs by Linda F. Florence "is not available at any academic or public libraries in the United States."  I have no budget for this research so I will not be spending $33.00 for a copy.

Monday, August 8, 2011

"How Many of You Expect to Die?"

"How many of you want to be old when you do?"

A recent edition of On Being titled The Far Shore of Aging is a fine example of why I am a regular listener to Krista Tippett's podcast.

In the July 21st 2011 episode Tippett interviews Jane Gross, journalist, author of A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents--and Ourselves, and founder of The New Old Age blog at The New York Times website.

My sister-in-law and her husband, my wife, and our family are caring for the woman who was once my mother-in-law as she descends into her Alzheimer's.  My feelings about this sort of death are not kind.  This is a horrible process.  My own mother is not well in dozens of small ways, but she has her wits.  She is aware of her decades of pain but she is still the person who was my mother.  Which is better, mindless comfort or mindful suffering?  Which is harder on the family?  What choice do we have?

In the course of her interview Gross said, "We live too long and we die too slow."  I almost cried.  On my way home from some errands I turned the car toward the local Barnes & Noble and bought my wife a copy of Gross's book.  I may read it myself.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cultural Cognition of Risk

Also known as the Conservative White Male effect...

The debate surrounding certain risks which mark the boundaries of the Culture War - abortion, tobacco, free trade, gun control, global warming, war on drugs, fundamentalist religion, global war on terror, debt limits, NASCAR - are highly polarized. Cultural Cognition of Risk helps explain why.

Chris Mooney has reposted a couple very interesting articles at his Discover magazine Intersection blog.  They lead us to posts from his Desmogblog.

From there we are led into the world of familiar terms like, "Denialism," "Alarmism," "Confirmation Bias," "Cognitive Dissonance," and then on to less familiar terms such as "Motivated Reasoning," "Cultural Cognition of Risk," "Identity Protective Cognition," "Social Dominance Orientation," "System Justification," "Biased Assimilation," "Belief Perseverance," "Attitude Polarization," and "Covariation Detection."  Whew!  It'll take me a while to unpack this all but so far the explanatory power of the theory seems compelling.

One of the eminent scholars in the field is Dan Kahan of the Yale Law School where he runs the Cultural Cognition Project.  Another was the late Mary Douglas.

Of course there are blogs about this field; The Situationist, Four CulturesBig Think, even Bruce Schneier wrote on it last fall.  There are instruments that assess how cultural cognition of risk affects you.

I keep thinking there ought to be an undegrad, if not high school, course on "Critical Thinking, Scientific Method, and the Psychology of Belief," but where to begin?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

It's Called a Two-Fer

"The ability of the Stuxnet cyberattack to physically impact equipment has made cybersecurity significantly more important for U.S. domestic security strategy..."

"Until now, the primary worry of the U.S. government's counterterrorism groups has been stated by CBRN, which listed threats in order of likelihood: chemical, bacteriological, radiological, and nuclear. [...] Since Stuxnet, terrorism concerns have morphed into "KBC: kinetic, bacteriological and cyber," said Cofer Black, vice president for global operations for threat analysis firm Blackbird Technologies, and a 30-year veteran of the CIA's counterterrorism efforts.

First, one (almost certainly American) alphabet agency uses Stuxnet to break Iranian centrifuges.

Now, the existence of Stuxnet allows other alphabet agencies to sound the alarm saying cyberweapons are real and can be used to break American things.

Someone is certainly getting their money's worth.

In related news:

Dateline Beijing ~1044 CE - Today Zeng Gongliang and Yang Weide presented their paper,
Wujing Zongyao - Collection of the Most Important Military Techniques, to the Chinese Emperor Renzong.  At a press conference following their audience with His Excellency the authors spoke briefly.

Gongliang said, "The invention of gunpowder will allow the Chinese people to destroy our  enemies with greater ease and efficiency.  Of course, the invention of gunpowder will allow our enemies to attack the Chinese people with greater ease and efficiency as well.  We recommend that measures be taken to protect the Chinese people from this new gunpowder threat."

Weide added, "Not since the creation of the first stone hand axe on the continent of Africa more than 1 million years ago has a weapon offered so many advantages to friend and foe alike.  This glorious achievement is also a deeply troubling development.  May you live in interesting times." 

You Have My Complete Attention

NASA Announces News Briefing on Mars Orbiter Science Finding 08.03.11...

The Press Release:

WASHINGTON - NASA will host a news briefing on Thursday, Aug. 4, at 11 a.m. PDT (2 p.m. EDT) about a significant new Mars science finding. The briefing will be held at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The new finding is based on observations from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been orbiting the Red Planet since 2006. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

The briefing panelists are:

- Philip Christensen, geophysicist, Arizona State University
- Colin Dundas, research geologist, U.S. Geological Survey
- Alfred McEwen, planetary geologist, University of Arizona
- Michael Meyer, Mars Exploration Program lead scientist, NASA
- Lisa Pratt, biogeochemist, Indiana University

The news briefing will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website. For NASA TV streaming video, downlink and scheduling information, visit:  The event will also be carried live, with a live chat box available, at

My Commentary:

This announcement is being made at NASA instead of the Whitehouse.  Good.

President Obama will not be making the announcement.  Good (or bad, if you're a SETI fan).

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is not making the announcement.  Very good.

There is no flurry of urgent activity at Cape Canaveral, Air Force bases, Navy submarine yards, or nuclear missile silos.  Really good!

There are going to be a bunch of government scientists there.  That's not necessarily bad, unless one of them is that misguided scientist who is intent on ruining things for the human race.

In a little over an hour we'll know...

An Update:

Streams of muddy salt water.  Not streams of muddy salt water inundating an abandoned space port.  Not tharks body-surfing on streams of muddy salt water.  Just streams of muddy salt water, flowing down a hill.  Then they dried up.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The View From Inside The Bunker

Honorable persons can disagree...

 This and other fascinating photos of WWII bunkers can be found at

As you know I have taken strong exception to some parts of some articles published by the Security Sensei.  He, being the better man, wrote to me directly in response to some responses to some of his posts at LinkedIn.

I do not have Jordan Frankel's permission to post the text of his two emails to me (one prompting this response, the other in response to it) so I will not.  I will assure you that his correspondence was polite and professional.  I thought on his initial comments for a while and responded as follows: 

"I understand that you and your firm are in the business of looking after persons who are in the market for safe rooms. As I mentioned in some of my responses, I have recommended safe rooms as part of a comprehensive home security program to some of my executives and clients over the years. My responses to your earlier article on corporate safe rooms was perhaps more strident because I've encountered a few execs (and been told about about many more) who seem to regard their EP program as a measure of how important they are, rather than an accurate representation of their risk profile. If I am accurately reading between the lines of your comments I suspect you have met some of these egos too. Good on you for your pro bono community service work!

I know you have products and services to sell and that your articles are part of your marketing efforts. My greatest concern with those articles I have commented on is that the examples you have chosen to strengthen your case frequently are not ones where a safe room would have helped. Many clients or potential clients - and even some security professionals - will trust the writer and don't look any further into the background of the cases mentioned. Thus, I regard the inclusion of poor but scary examples as alarmist.

I find using alarmist language to sell security services, products, and programs both unethical and counterproductive. Not everyone agrees with me. You and I have peers who regards anything that moves their security program forward as a tool to be employed. This can come back to bite us. Successful executives do not rise to power because they are risk averse. If we manage to frighten a CEO he or she becomes an altogether unattractive leader. When we fail to scare them they regard us with well-earned disdain.

There are others in our ranks who give in to the all too human tendency to agree with people who say things that reinforce views they already hold. The inverse of this is that we also tend to disregard and minimize ideas with which we disagree or which create cognitive dissonance. There are people in America these days who understand this better than most of us do and they are playing both sides of the security debates like a fiddle. I strive to remain aware of this risk and call it out when I see it. If you look over my other posts and responses at LinkedIn groups you'll see that your links are not the only ones I have taken issue with. I appreciate your responses to me as they give me a chance to examine my own presuppositions, lenses, and blinders.

By the way, I really like your OnGARD product. It is reasonably affordable, appears simple to install, is clearly effective, and best of all it is intuitive to use. I like security that is so simple a child can use it, because children frequently are among those we are protecting. I look forward to finding applications for it in my practice.

I hope this exchange is of some use to you. As a citizen, neighbor, husband, and parent there are days when I regret that there is no shortage of security needs in our society. There is much work to be done and I submit that most of it can be accomplished without resorting to alarmism and fear-mongering." 

I thank Jordan Frankel - the Security Sensei - for this exchange, which formed a paragraph or two in the security leadership paper I just completed.  His firm's OnGARD product really is pretty clever.  We will respectfully agree to disagree on how to motivate clients.