MeriTalk - Where America Talks Government
Steve O'Keeffe

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Posted: 11/22/2011 - 26 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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Democracy is Overrated

Sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast on Saturday. Looking at the L.L.Bean catalog. Do I need snowshoes or cross country skis or even a new fleece for Christmas? Snowshoes, really? The answer for me - and most of America - is no. We don’t need new snowshoes. All we’re doing is buying stuff we don’t need and won’t use. Stuff that’s mostly made in China. Our consumption is sinking our nation in avaricious quicksand. Worse, it’s mortgaging the free world’s future.
Super Committee Be Damned
So, what’s that got to do with the value of democracy - and who the hell am I to question the value of one man, one vote? Well, I’ll come back to the snowshoes. Let’s consider the challenges that we face as a democratic society. So much for the Super Committee... We have a series of difficult decisions ahead of us. Rational people know the right answers - we need to raise the retirement age, we need to reform the tax code, etc. But, and here’s the big but, it’s impossible for an elected official to make the right call on difficult decisions and have any earthly chance of being returned to office. And, no new candidate has a prayer at the ballot box if they call it like it is. Was anybody else angered by Grover Norquist on 60 Minutes on Sunday?
So, at this impasse, it seems that our system of democracy is doomed to make the easy, wrong decisions. The two parties will continue to score points - rather than compromise like adults and get to real solutions. Isn’t the absurdity in Greece the perfect metaphor for democracy’s decline?
Chinese Wall
Now back to L.L.Bean, snowshoes, and Christmas lists. Everybody knows that the developed world is drowning in debt. If the dollar’s depressed, the Euro's having a nervous breakdown. But does it really matter if we’re all in debt? Here’s the rub. It’s the transfer of wealth and control to China that sounds the alarm bells. When the Berlin Wall came down, it marked the triumph of the free market over central planning. The Dragon Economy is effectively erecting the “Great Wall of China.” Tibet is oppressed. Iran is buttressed. Our military’s now scrambling to the Pacific Rim. 
Ephialtes Goes Shopping
Our fathers expended blood and treasure in an epic Cold War struggle to defeat totalitarian states. The irony, we are defeating ourselves through our appetite for snowshoes and knickknacks. Like Ephialtes at Thermopylae - the Greek who showed the Eastern forces the pass to attack the 300 in the rear - we’re actively undermining our own system.
If democracy is on the way out, maybe we should be shopping for a better system? Our leaders keep looking for answers in extreme adventures at opposite poles. Perhaps those snowshoes will come in handy after all...

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Posted: 11/17/2011 - 2 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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Secure Footing

As the 25-Point Plan sputters and the fizz over IT innovation goes flat, is it time to go back to basics in making Fed IT better? Now seems to be a good time for pragmatism. And, as we return to the old chestnuts, where better to start than security? Are you tired of the talk - and looking for some real action?
Here are three common-sense ideas from a Federal CISO to make government IT more secure:
  1.  Thresholds and Shared Services: Let’s simplify FISMA and put some real teeth in the jaw. What real areas of cyber security do agencies need to cover - how about a list of 10 items? What about minimum levels of performance - nix the grading and move to pass/fail? If agencies can’t meet the thresholds, require that they outsource their security to another Federal agency - yes, that’s a shared service
  2. CISO CV: Why not establish minimum qualifications for Federal CISOs? What credentials/certifications are required in IT, security, business/budget management? You wouldn’t go to a doctor who wasn’t an MD, would you?
  3. Clearance Chaos: Why not standardize security clearances across Federal agencies? This would accelerate the pace, reduce the cost, and improve the outcome of inter-agency collaboration - and critically, allow for better information sharing with the intelligence community and DHS
By establishing simple tests, transparency, and accountability, we can concentrate security budgets and provide better security for all. Not increase the bucks - just the bang. Not surprisingly, the best ideas come from the operators - so let's listen to the CISOs.
Got ideas to put Uncle Sam on a more secure footing? We’re all ears…

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Posted: 11/9/2011 - 10 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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Down Goes Frazier...

A friend died this past Monday. Achilles - or perhaps more accurately Ajax. A man who suffered the “swings and arrows” - and walked off the battlefield intact. Following ‘enry the ‘ammer Cooper - the Brit bruiser who seated Ali - Smokin’ Joe parts the ropes and leaves the ring. This time there was no Eddie Futch to call the fight. Will we see the Smoke’s like again?

Will our “erudite” world that’s given up making things and shies away from hard decisions ever again sire new champions? Is the greatness gone with the grime?

Three years ago we hosted Joe Frazier in D.C. - 12 rounds with Smokin’ Joe. To say he punched above his weight would be like observing he had a decent left hook. Mr. Frazier - always gracious, always charming. Shook hands, flirted, and signed autographs until deep into the fight - I mean night. He sang, he smiled, as he sparred with the crowd.

I had the honor of sharing a drink with him one evening. Three ringside anecdotes:

1. Joe told me he weighed just 193 lbs when he fought the colossus George Foreman

2. Stupidly, I asked Joe who was the greatest heavyweight of all time? Dumbest question of my life - never lead with your chin son. “That would be me,” Joe Frazier replied

3. When the champ needed to walk back to the restroom, he asked to hold onto my shoulder. A man that Ali couldn’t put down holding on to my scrawny limbs…

We’ll miss you champ. If there’s a heavyweight heaven, they just got a real contender.

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Posted: 11/1/2011 - 4 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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Aliens @ TLA

Rainy day. Waiting for a meeting at TLA. Security guards feuding about who's the toughest space alien. Ming the Merciless vs. Mork - remember the Orkan tried to blow up Fonzie? What if Darth Vader went all force and light saber on the Klingons?

Must confess, it got me thinking. What if there was a smackdown in Area 51? How would the dust settle if the Terminator tussled with a Triffid? What if Sigourney Weaver’s buddy keyed in on HAL? Could Spock put the Vulcan neck pinch on a Dalek? What if Marvin the Martian had a close encounter with MegaMind? 

Who would you nominate to represent Earth? My vote: Michelle Bachman. Remember, if you can’t beat them, make them think you are crazy. Who better for that?

And, would Don King promote the fights? Would other aliens come and watch? Really folks, we do need the additional tax revenue.

Irony, the waiting for TLA meeting was more interesting than the meeting – and content was less alien. Nanoo, nanoo, and out.

Click here to watch Darth Vader do the Ali Shuffle  

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