Life & Island Times: 68: Skin Shedding

IMG_1833

Today’s email inbox contained the above best wishes from one of the medical community’s specialists who have attended my needs. With the ongoing health care follies inside our nation’s imperial city, it should have made me a bit uncomfortable.

Surprisingly, I am not yet uncomfortable despite turning 68 today. In snake terms, I have shed my skin 68 times. It is fortunate that nature provides us this annual cosmetic surgery. As this stage of life, it helps rid us of older wrinkles, life’s disabling expectations, false illusions and fear. Anger as well is let go during this annual shedding. In fact letting go is a key operant of successful ageing. That and restraining my inherent dickishness.

IMG_1834
On the positive side, some will tell you that slow-n-steady is the best approach to take towards ageing. I’m here to tell you that fast is better. Much better. The choice is simple – missile launch or squeezed out of toothpaste tube. I’ve always believed this, in spite of the trouble it has caused me from time to time. That is why God and Mssrs Harley and Davidson made fast motorcycles. Frequent sessions of full wide open throttle, my friends.

Readers of my four corners journal know my answer to this next question but they should also answer it for themselves — who is the happier man, he who has braved the storms of life on the ocean and lived or he who has stayed secure on shore and merely existed? Just remember that life upon this ocean is one where we humans enter the food chain, and not always at the top.

The edge – there is no straightforward way to explain why I lived there other than by stories. Various going-overs are what I tried to share in my four corners diary. I want to note for the record that I don’t recommend drugs, violence, or insanity as personal edges to cross, but they seemed to have worked for a lot of creative folks. Sadly, a lot of them died or got brain fried early. I remain too old for that shit. I think I always was.

In my long ago youth when I departed late night NYC to catch some sleep during the late 60s on the night’s last train, it was never full of nice guys. Yeah, I admit now in hindsight that this was risky. Hopefully, my final departure from this orb will not be so perilous. There’s nothing to fear from those folks in white coats, right?

Old elephants head off to the hills to die. Old Americans go out to the highway to drive themselves to death asleep at the wheel or stricken with a heart attack behind the wheels of our huge cars. I think I shall ride my motorcycle.

Every now and then when life gets complicated and the political jerks or job weasels start closing in around you, I recommend getting on a motorcycle and riding like a bat outta hell south to the Conch Republic. I plan to do so in the near future.

I am turning 68. Please, no presents. No more games. No more marching. No more protesting. 68. That’s 18 years past 50. 18 more than I likely deserved and certainly more than I thought I’d get. I am tired of being tired and achy. No fun — for anybody. 68. I am beyond the greed. My needs are simple. A bit more travel. More time and fun with friends. Acting my old age? Screw that. What I fear most is hearing these words “Relax. This won’t hurt.”

Children don’t need friends to help them face birthdays. But we do at this age. Some of you have been around for many of these celebrations, while others for just a few. Thanks for sharing with me the past, funny or frightening as it may have been.

Same time, next year? Who knows where. I’ll get back to you. Maybe.

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat
www.vicsocotra.com

The Medium is the Message

Editor’s note: We know, we know, the Staff of the Daily Socotra has not gone into summer re-runs, though it did turn out this way with the Medium series. I had to go back and put it all back together as the single story that it really is. I also wanted to get Karen a copy for her reference, and there are several bombshells being hurled around downtown that are both too fascinating for words and too ugly to think through fully. So this is what happened today. We will not be posting it as The Daily- rather it will go in the Novellas tab as a complete article. There is the matter of the Mac Showers book to wrap up, and another tantalizing tale about the Brotherhood, which will have to be written as fantasy, since it could not possibly be real, right? Anyway, this is part of that, and must stand as the creative effort for the day.
-The Daily Staff.
22 March 2017

The Medium is the Message

A Guided Tour Through the Veil With Evidential Medium Karen Anderson

Remember those words? The phrase was introduced in Marshall McLuhan’s book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in the dim and distant days of 1964. I was a young teen at the time, basking in the bourgeoisie pleasures of suburban Detroit. We had some problems at the time- perhaps you have heard of them? But on the whole, life was pretty good. We got up to change the channels on the television, sought out pay-phones to make emergency calls or have affairs- which I was sadly not doing at the time- and otherwise were tied to our landlines in our homes.

Telephone answering machines were cutting edge technology. The first ARPANet message was still five years away.

It was the way things had been, essentially since the days Alexander Graham Bell. When I think of the transformative nature of technology, and what we have seen since 1970, I have to guess that I will be able to hire a robot to generate content from AI for the site so I can retire, and even have The Daily go on into the distant future in a sort of digital perpetual motion.

McLuhan was on to something way back then, though he couldn’t know the immensity of the phenomenon he was attempting to describe. In his view, a ‘medium,’ not solely by the content it carries, and that was what needed to be studied. He included every means of communication, from phones to TV, radio and all the means by which advertising is inflicted on us. He said that a medium affects society not just by what content was transmitted, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself.

For McLuhan, it was the medium itself that shaped and controlled “the scale and form of human association and action.” The concept even included the wildly non-traditional definition of what communication really was. For example, he identified the light bulb as a clear demonstration of his concept. A light bulb has a social effect, he argued, reasoning that light enables people to create spaces during nighttime that would otherwise be enveloped by darkness, which actually describes our current watering hole pretty well. Some mediums have no recognizable content, and yet have profound social effects.

McLuhan describes the “content” of a medium as a juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind. OK, OK, I am not going to continue down that road. Go back and look at the book, and consider the electronic swirling circus of messaging we have to process from every direction. Consider it in the context of the long national nightmare we have endured since the last campaign began. It boggles the mind.

Some of you might have expected more from Marlow this morning, since his musings on motorcycles and the Motherland have been highly entertaining over the past few weeks. (We plan on packaging the series as something that might be called “Marlow’s Four Corners: A Ride on the Edge of America.” Stay tuned.

Others may have expected another plunge into the comfortable dimness of the Willow Bar to explore the remarkable career of Admiral Mac Showers. I think we are beginning to see the completion of that project- “Cocktails with the Admiral: Hot and Cold Wars in the American Century.” So, rest assured, there is a bit more of Mac’s life to be inflicted on you.

And in fact, that is where all these strands begin to come together. There are a couple mysteries that remain in Mac’s career, and they are tantalizing ones. Marlow knows some fundamental truths about human on two wheels and filled with adventure and wanderlust. McLuhan was right about content and about mediums, though I have discovered he wasn’t covering enough ground.

What I propose to do over the next couple days is tell you a story about a medium that just crossed my path.


Her name is Karen Anderson, and this is what manifestation the former Colorado Deputy Sheriff presents to the world these days.

Karen is a very nice and personable person. She also talks to spirits.

The Haunted Bunkroom


OK- you are just going to have to bear with me on this one. It requires a bit of a deft touch, since there are two clear paths by which I might spin this memory. I could be my usual snarky self and play it for laughs, mocking a profession of seers and mystics that is as old as the race itself.

Given the increasingly coarse nature of public discourse, that would naturally fit better, but this is an experience that I went through two weeks ago, and doubt if I ever will. Let me give you some background.

A mutual friend of Mac Showers is working on a book about what really happened at Pearl Harbor immediately before and continuing long after the morning of the attack. She takes it all personally- she had family who were key actors in the events surrounding one of America’s biggest military disasters. In the course of her research, she came upon Mac, and as part of an effort to contact as many Pearl Harbor survivors as she could before they departed, called Mac at his apartment at The Madison and would talk for hours about the people with whom he served.

That is how I met The Macaroon Lady, a title she earned through her love for the Willow’s delightful airy dessert. Mac would mail her a dozen periodically when they showed up from Kate Jansen’s pastry kitchen. I have talked to TML frequently since Mac crossed the Styx, with me serving as a knock-off version of him for matters concerning naval intelligence jargon and procedures.

As you are by now painfully aware, I am working on Mac’s long biography, and frequently I find myself kicking the lower drawer on the desk about some simple yet important bit of information that I should have asked him about when I could. During a call shortly after New Years, I think I said so. “Dammit, I wish I could just ask him. He made himself available fifty or sixty times, and I didn’t know what I didn’t know.”

“What if I could find a way to let you ask those questions?” she said. And that is where this story really begins, and where I ask you to suspend disbelief. In this age of politics, that should not be a leap of faith.

Lest you think I am just another devotee of the Ouija Board, I will put this out there for consideration, and why I do not dismiss notions about paranormal stuff out of hand. In addition to dozens of sort of strange things I have run across, there are three vivid instances containing facts that do not fit my normal world-view, the one I normally attempt to subjugate at Happy Hour.


The first of those, of course, is the near simultaneous passing of Raven and Big Mama, my wonderful parents. Dad died in the nursing home around lunchtime. Mom was seen active and alert when she was down in the lunchroom at Potemkin Village. She returned to her room and was seen by staff watching the Turner Classic Movie Channel. At the next visit around three that afternoon, she was found collapsed on the floor of her closet. The folks at the Village said it looked liked she was changing clothes to go out.

Two points about that. She was not told that Dad had died. She did not go out on her own since we took the car keys. Simple, really. I am left with the conclusion that 63 years of marriage had built a communications path so strong that the end of the life we know could not terminate it. Obviously it took Dad a little while to shake off the fog of dementia that took him and go get His Sweetie.

The second personal event is not circumstantial, if a bit stranger.

When I was assigned to the THIRD Fleet Staff in the mid-1980s, the command was located on Ford Island in the middle of Pearl Harbor. As the Pacific Anti-Submarine Warfare commander, it was deemed necessary to have an officer on the island on call, 24×7, and accordingly we established one of the Navy’s traditional all-purpose remedies: a watch bill. We would have a periodic requirement to stay on the island overnight, since it was (in those days) served only by the redoubtable Ford Island Ferry, and it did not run after taps.

To accommodate our requirement, a bunkroom on the second deck of the island Dispensary was assigned for our use. It was historic for several reasons. The courtyard of the building had been struck by a Japanese aerial bomb in the attack, and afterward, the building was used for triage of the wounded and as a morgue for the dead.


In the film “In Harm’s Way,” our bunkroom was the place they filmed young Patricia Neal sitting behind a desk as The Duke boldly strode into room, her silhouette profiled against our now-shabby room. Painting for the movie was the last maintenance the place had seen in years.

Anyway, with nothing else to do, I read messages at the HQ until nine one night, got my book and walked down the darkened street to the Dispensary, climbed the ladder to the second deck, slid the key into the solid old wooden door and enter my sanctuary. To say that the place was eerie would be an understatement, and I took off my uniform to sleep in the single bed in my skivvies.

Sometime in the deepest part of the night I was dreaming. It wasn’t one of the usual nightmares- the running dream or the falling dream- this one was just images, none of which made any particular sense until I realized I was looking down at a figure under thin Navy sheets on a single bed in a darkened room, moonlight flooding in Patricia Neal’s office window.

I watched myself stir, and then sit up, looking directly at me in the upper corner of the room by the door.

And then I was integrated in my body again, on a lumpy mattress in an old dark room that smelled vaguely of disinfectant and mold.

So, take that as a contribution to my personal ambiguity about the spirit world. There are components of it, and of the human brain, that I do not understand. If there is anyone out there that does, please do not hesitate to drop me a line.

Of course I recognize that these are suggestive rather than conclusive events. But there was a later time in my military career where I discovered to my considerable bemusement, that our program had been funding a paranormal unit for several years.

I will tell you this: if you can get the most hidebound organization in the US Government to fund telepaths for nearly ten years, there is something there. The unit was only called on for missions for which all other conventional approaches had been exhausted.

The demonstration that convinced me was the after-action report regarding the kidnap of a one-star American general in Northern Italy by one of the acolyte groups of the Red Brigades. After all other leads had gone cold, the Unit was tasked to do their best to find him. The reports the Talent produced were ambiguous in nature. Some of them were like: “subject is cold and it is dark where he is.”

Not much in the way of actionable intelligence, and of course the hope had been that ‘remote viewers’ could glance up at street signs on demand and perform real-time targeting. Apparently that is not how it works. But against all hope, the General was released and extensively debriefed. When they laid down the time line against some of the Unit reports, they matched up nicely. Of course it had been cold and dark. It was the European winter. The general had been locked in the trunk of a car.


I understand you cannot see much from there.

This was not the unalloyed success that supporters wanted, and in the nature of Washington projects with a significant giggle factor, it was transferred out of DoD and to the CIA for management. The folks at Langley did a blue ribbon review and announced that they could find no application of remote viewing to produce “actionable intelligence,” and they killed it.

Of course, they didn’t say there was nothing there. The report just concluded that it could not be relied on for military or covert action purposes. End of story.

Which it is for the Unit, but the story goes on. The Macaroon Lady had gained her trust and confidence after years of experience with mountebanks and frauds in one of the oldest cons in the book. She told me she had gifted me a reading with a medium who she could trust. I was informed that I would be speaking to Karen Anderson, Medium, at her office in Seattle in a couple weeks.

Naturally, I did my homework. Here is what I know about all this. The paranormal has been exploited by charlatans for thousands of years. If there is something there, it is not an on-demand capability. It can not be weaponized, per se, nor can it provide information that is not inherently ambiguous. The capability flits and it wanders, if real, like a ghost through the human mind itself.

But those are the conclusions of the Central Intelligence Agency. I know that Mom and Dad could communicate outside the normal means, and I know that I have seen my own sleeping body. But I will have to get to that tomorrow, when you will meet my medium, Karen Anderson. She is a remarkable lady. But I never for a moment would have thought that a reading with her would get to the very heart of one of the things I had been meaning to ask Mac about.

Mediums


(Former Deputy Sheriff, author and evidential medium Karen Anderson).

After yesterday’s outing- the independent account of strange happenings in the Ford Island Dispensary- I am going to reiterate the obvious: There is stuff out here in the world that I do not either understand, or for which I have no plausible explanation.

The Macaroon Lady (TML) knows this stuff pretty well. She is based in Malibu, in the heart of Southern California’s lotus la-la land. I don’t look down on the people who live and work out there. World’s best climate, spectacular ocean views can make you a little spoiled, I know, and the nature of the ephemeral entertainment business can lead people to believe the most extraordinary things.

I tend to believe only in what I can see with my eyes, and in the course of an active life, TML has seen it all: the stars, the star-wannabees, and people who are desperate to know their future. There are people who prey on them. No big news flash there, and the desire to know what the portents of life means thus accounts for the number of frauds, flim-flammers and mountebanks in the medium business.

TML has been through them all in her quest to find a reliable and honest medium. She is sensitive herself, but unease about the implications (and consequences) of her talent made her suppress it for years, and she finds the assistance of professionals to hone the truth in the visions that come.

We can have a long chat about that concept some time, but she eventually found Karen Anderson, a world-class psychic, former cop and fugitive from Southern California. Since I still have so many questions for Mac about things I was either too drunk or distracted to hear from him in life, plus that lingering mystery from the War in Southeast Asia.

So, she made an appointment with Karen to give me a reading, and it was how I found myself at Happy Hour Time, not at the beveled corner of the bar at The Front Page, but seated before my iMac with a battery of phones and a long legal pad with two pens. But we will get to that in a moment.

I am stuck with being what I am: a crasher through truth, fiction and history. Accordingly I looked up Karen on the web, and liked what I saw. In addition to being a very attractive lady, Karen has had some remarkable life experience as she came to full awareness of her talents.

Born and raised in Southern California (like TML), she found she had an innate ability to relate to the many animals that surrounded her over the years, Doctor Doolittle-like. She says she learned how to understand their thoughts and feelings.

She also thought that this unique talent could be harnessed for good- the sort of path that induces positive Karma, unlike the Carlos Castenada dark wizard school of spiritual energy. TML tells me that is a path down which you do not want to walk. Karen’s sort of talent cannot hurt or be used for evil.

Karen decided that a career in law enforcement might be a means to bring her talents to bear. Her career path took her into the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, she found herself in the little hamlet of Baily, a very small town nestled in the Front Range. She applied for a position as a Deputy Sheriff and she was accepted. She pinned on her badge, strapped on a service pistol and shrugged on the heavy-duty jacket and got to work.


(Karen’s beat in downtown Baily, CO).

As she gained direct interpersonal experience with people in a variety of states of mind, she discovered that her psychic skills enabled her to read the energy of the suspects and criminals with whom she dealt on a daily basis.

That can be a bit much, especially considering that people carry a lot of angry baggage around with them, the equivalent, I imagine, of attempting to have a conversation with someone screaming at you. She decided to strike out on a new path.

Fifteen years ago, she resigned from the Sheriff’s office in Baily and became a full-time Animal Communicator. Since that decision, Karen has logged well over 12,000 sessions with clients seeking knowledge of their departed companions. TML assured me that Karen, working from her office in Seattle, “provides incredibly detailed private consultations and refers to her style of readings as being that of an ‘Evidential Medium.’ As a former cop, she strives to provide actionable fact-based information evidence.”

“Karen is known widely in the community, and I can tell you for a fact that she has an easy-going sense of humor, down to earth manner and amazing accuracy. She has proven it to me. She is writing best selling books about her experiences. And she has won multiple awards as best Animal Communicator.”

I wasn’t completely sure I needed to talk to the former marital Dog, and I mumbled something noncommittal but supportive into the phone. I was willing to have a reading for the experience. If I wound up learning anything interesting, it could be useful to the biography of Mac Showers. And as a veteran scribbler, I know that any experience can be spun into a story that says something about life, and maybe more.

I was prepared when I sat down at the computer and called up the “meeting invite” when the appointed day arrived. Scheduling meant that my six o’clock on the eastern seaboard was three in the afternoon Seattle time. I had reviewed her website and a sampling of her testimonials, most of which were glowing. Karen’s web site states that her experience has earned her a reputation as “an expert in behavior resolution, discovering health problems and end of life issues for all living creatures. Her highly attuned intuitive abilities allow her to read the energy of all animals, living or deceased and also departed humans (Mediumship) bringing forth their messages of healing and much needed peace of mind.”

The instructions had been laid out with precision in the invitation. I was to dial a number and enter an access code, which was provided. I was five minutes early, and not completely surprised that I was now on a conferencing system provided by the same company that serves my company day-job. And like the weekly Business Development and Operations meeting at the office, the entire conversation could be recorded.

So I listened to the same Muzak waiting noise for a couple minutes and took a sip of a glass of Willow Happy Hour White, one of the last bottles I was able to purchase from Heather before the place closed. It was nicely chilled, and my first one of the day. I wanted to be sharp, and I wanted my notes to make sense.

Then the music stopped and there was a beep on the speaker-phone. “Good afternoon,” said a clear soprano voice. “This is Karen Anderson.”

And with that we commenced a journey to a place I had apparently once visited as if in a dream, but a place where Karen actually lives.

My Name is Not Jack


I topped up the tulip glass- close to the last glass- of the bottle of Willow Happy Hour White and walked back to the scene of the séance. I was dialed in, and a pleasant soprano voice came on the line: Karen Anderson, Evidentiary Medium.

In my mind I had an image of how this was supposed to be. I had been featuring a small round table with an exotic cloth and candle, the shadows deep all around. The medium,, in my imagination anyway, would have been a woman of raven hair and indeterminate age. Her eyes would have glittered darkly as her hands made curious gestures, summoning the spirits from beyond the veil to answer the heartfelt questions that death left unanswered.

It was not that at all, of course. The wine was chilled and the computer’s screen was bright and cheery, and the desk was bathed in warm yellow-orange light from the incandescent bulbs I refuse to stop using.

Karen is, of course, the antithesis of what you might expect if you were thinking of a Romani soothsayer. She is pert, athletic and blonde. I cannot testify to the depth and texture of her eyes, since she was in her office in Seattle, but everyone must adapt to the times, you know?

The Macaroon Lady had coached me on what to do to prepare. “Take good notes. She will record the session for your use later, but take good notes. Some of this will come back to you days from now and will make sense only then.” Accordingly, I had a legal pad and two Pilot P-700 fine-point pens at the ready.

Karen and I got as acquainted as one could hope over a long-distance Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) connection, and she told me what to expect.

“First off, I want you to open your heart to the voices of your loved ones,” she said. I had not considered trying to talk to anyone in my family, though I had been signed up for the human version of the reading. That is a different process from the one she uses to contact deceased pets. “I felt some distinct Mom and Dad energy. They were here about 45 minutes ago.”

I winced. I had not even thought about talking to my folks, but I was glad they were on the ball. Comforting, in a way. Karen kindly records the sessions through the magic of the conference call system, and she had to ask my formal permission to be recorded, which of course I granted. And then we were off to the races.

Karen started off with a non-denominational prayer that asked for goodwill and harmony.

“Do you have someone in your life- living or dead- that has a name that starts with a ‘C’ or a ‘K’?” she asked. That was almost a sucker punch, since two of the most influential figures in my adult life had those initials.

“Yes. But as far as I know they are both alive and healthy. I have not talked to them in a long while.”

“Are there sisters involved? I see the feminine aura of two sisters.”

“Mom had two sisters- Laura Rose and Hazel. Very smart and pretty ladies, all three of them.”

“I am getting a sharp pain in my leg,” she said. “It hurts and I don’t like it. Do you know anyone who had a leg injury? Sometimes they send me physical signs that are quite acute. This one hurts like heck.”

“No doubt. That would be me. I ruptured my left quad a couple years ago and the knees are both gone due to arthritis. I apologize if you have the pain I did. It sucked.”

Karen was settling in, getting on the beam that connected us, trying to unscramble the messages and images that were swirling around her. Mom was speaking directly into her ear, which she said was quite distracting. I thought Mom might have got a little more assertive in the afterlife, and I was sorry that none of the questions I had written down seemed to deal with my actual family. I was hoping that Mac Showers might appear, and I wanted to ask him about the one mystery we never managed to solve with Willow Happy Hour White or a cold Anchor Steam beer.

“I see images of police or law enforcement,” said Karen.

“Can’t help. Plenty of uniforms in the family, but no police. Well, except for that son-of-a-bitch in Aurora, Colorado in 1977. I only think about him when he shows up in my background investigations.”

“I am getting images of an athlete. A man built like a middle-linebacker. Did you know someone like that in College?”

“We hung around with a bunch of guys from the Michigan Football team at the house on John Street back in college,” I said. “But as far as I know, most of them are still alive.”

“I am getting a name coming through. A ‘J’ name, perhaps?”

“Well, there are a bunch of ‘Jims’ in the family- my great-great grandfather, grandfather, uncle and cousin. They are all on the other side. But I can’t imagine they need to talk to me about anything vital.” I thought about it for a while- this was not what I expected. I suppose I thought the Spirit World knew I was looking for material on the Vietnam chapters in the Mac Shower book I am still writing and would line up the appropriate figures for me to quiz: Mac himself, perhaps, or Admiral Rex, who certainly knew more about the mystery than anyone else, living or dead.

Then it hit me. There was someone who knew exactly what happened. “Is it ‘Jack’ that you are hearing? I asked, little goose bumps starting to form on my forearms. I took a sip of happy Hour White to slow down a little.”

“He says that is not his name.”


“If he is who I am thinking, that is true. His real given names were John George, but they all knew him as Jack,” I said, a little rattled. “Jack Graf.” That was exactly the man about whom I had the question: where did he die?

“He says they took him down.”

“They did indeed. He was posted to Vung Tau in the Third Coastal Zone of South Vietnam. They shot him down over the northern Delta in 1969 when he was flying as an observer in an OV-1 Mohawk. He was the only Naval Intelligence officer captured in the war, and the only one still listed as Missing in Action. The Vietnamese said he was shot while trying to escape, and they buried him on a riverbank that was washed away. Body was never recovered. It was Admiral Rex’s last big crusade to publicize his story and keep his memory alive.” In fact, it was at the heart of the mystery that could not now be unraveled, except by the dead.

“I have his energy. He is saying he was never released. I am seeing him on a sandy beach- the images are flashing. He is telling me he was never freed. He was held in some sort of asylum. He is with others. There are heavy doors- hard doors with hard sounds.”

I shivered. That sounded exactly like Lubyanka Prison in Moscow.

Karen continued, a little breathless. “There were repeated attempts at assassination. Someone wanted to obtain intelligence- he was set up for murder- there were dual agencies involved- more than one.” Karen was rushing through this as I tried to process what she was telling me.

Jack’s disappearance after his capture was the mystery. It was entirely possible that he died the way his captors told us, and the relentless floods of the monsoon years were certainly capable of washing away all in the path of a storm-enraged river. It all could have happened just the way they said it did. But the fit was too good for the other facts that were never mentioned.

See, Jack was a mustang- a sailor who rose to Chief Petty Officer before being commissioned as a Limited Duty Officer (Intelligence). As a sailor, he had been a photo interpreter, and when I was working on his case, a former shipmate of his told me he had been to the special Kodak School in Rochester. Kodak had designed a reconnaissance system that was one of the most closely guarded secrets in the entire Government: High quality digital pictures transmitted directly from space to the ground station in near-real time

It was so sensitive that people who knew the specific capabilities of the system were not permitted out of Saigon for fear that something just like this might happen. The Russians would have given their left nut to have a prize like Jack, and that is when my suspicions began to rise that the story had been deliberately covered up to keep anyone from discovering how Jack, with his enlisted background, had somehow slipped through the cracks to be permitted to engage in combat operations in the field.

Some say there were no Russians down in the Delta, but my Left Coast Attorney was the intelligence liaison officer at Ha Tien on the Cambodian Border, and he saw what had been a Soviet SIGINT site on an island just offshore. Tactical un-encrypted radio traffic at the time of the shoot-down identified who had been in the aircraft, and just who the new prisoner actually was would not be a secret to anyone in the region.

“He says he endured. Not proud. They put a blanket on it.”

“Ask him if the asylum was in Russia,” I asked.

“He is standing very tall. He says they did not break him. And he says that there is no mystery. You know exactly what happened to him. He was transported with others. There is no mystery about what happened, where he was taken, and what ultimately was his fate.”

I stared at the telephone. My theory was one that I had discussed with Mac many times. I knew about the Sweetheart List, the names of pilots who had been shot down d=over denied territory. They were known to be alive in captivity but were not freed with their comrades in Operation Homecoming in 1973. They remained the MIAs, and the families are fighting with the government to this very day. When the list was analyzed after the debriefings of the returned POWs, there were some curious coincidences, odd ones. Like compete crews for most of the tactical aviation we employed in the war. They were not necessarily from the same shoot-down, but completed all the positions in the aircraft. And men who had been sent from sensitive jobs in advanced technology like ballistic missiles who had to get their combat tickets punched in the war for promotion purposes.

And maybe intelligence specialists who held the keys to the digital kingdom locked between their ears.

“He says all you have to do is get people to believe it,” Karen said, her voice sounding far away. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease. He wants people to know what really happened.”

“I tried to tell his story before. I will have to do that again.”

“He knows. He is using an odd word- “Songbird” is what he calls you. He is at peace, and that a huge burden has been lifted.”

“Tell him we will not forget,” I said,

“I am getting a gesture from him- a thumbs up?”

I could only nod. The network time on the computer told me that our forty-five minutes was up, and I could sense that Karen was exhausted by the session, and that our time was done. There was silence for a moment, and when she spoke again, her voice was more relaxed in tone.

“I hope the reading gave you some closure,” She said. “The advantage of recording it is that you can download it and listen for things that may not have occurred to you during the session, and will only become clear over the next few days.” She told me how to download the audio file from the teleconferencing system, but that I had to act with a sense of urgency since they purged the files periodically, never to be archived.

I thanked her for her time, and told her I had enjoyed the experience and would comb over my notes and listen to the session again to see what I might have missed.

“It was a pleasure working with you,” she said, and echoed her thoughts straight back as the connection was broken. I sat still in front of my computer, stunned. A phone call had unraveled the biggest mystery I had encountered in my professional life, and if anyone asked how I had done it, I could safely say that I talked to a man who had been dead for forty years, and thus had it on the highest authority. *

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

* I will try to post a link to the audio file of the session. Make your own opinion, don’t take mine. Or Jack’s.

PEBD

032117

I ran across my old Navy finance jacket the other day as I start the painful process of preparing to move. Again. Where did all this crap come from?

I wondered if I needed to shred the old paystubs that I kept in chronological order with the two metal tangs inserted through the two holes in the top. There could be no possible interest in them, even for me, but there was personal information on them that I could not just throw in the trash.

I smiled looking at them, both for the amount that I had been compensated at the time and for the strange abbreviations The Pay Entry Base Date was in a little box to ensure that the DK- Disbursing Clerk- (we are not supposed to use those titles anymore, I think) but I have had a record of longevity pay increases, which were modest but always pleasant.

The PEBD represents the instant that the military clock started, (“It all counts on twenty,” as they say) and for the long strange trip this has all been. I noted that there are several longevity milestones happening lately- two of my cars now qualify for antique plates- and I realized that now includes me. This week I go over 40 years as an intelligence professional. Now, I realize that is no big deal- and several of the usual suspects have a half century (or more) of service to the Fleet and the Intelligence Community. But the roundness of the number, and the realization that it has been virtually my entire professional life was sobering, and made me think about fixing that regardless of the earliness of the hour.

It was a Spring that happened forty years ago. I was filled with piss and vinegar, and a pal who had been drafted into the Army for Vietnam had completed college on the GI Bill and mater-of-factly announced that he had applied for a Navy commission as a flight officer shortly after the fall of Saigon in 1975. I was between gigs in the publishing business, and had a delightful year spending my savings to see a bit of the world. The dwindling bank account made me realize that it was time to get back to work and save up enough money to quit and go traveling again.

Then it occurred to me that perhaps there was a different approach. Perhaps I could find an interesting job that included travel to all sorts of places. I talked to my pal about his experience at Aviation Officer Candidate School, and while unconventional, he said it was interesting and he hoped to be posted once more to Asia.

At about the same time, President Carter was beginning to realize that the world was a more dangerous place than he had anticipated. I understood that, too, and with the Vietnam War over, thought I ought to do something tangible to show my support. I had sweated the draft while in college, so it was sort of an unusual place to be. It was a gray day at the Military Entrance Processing Facility in Detroit. I had driven the two hours down from Grand Rapids to try something new. After the Yeoman glanced over the thick sheaf of forms, he told me to go see the Lieutenant when he was available. In the rush to get out of the old office building for lunch, he had me come into his office and walked around the front of his desk.

“Raise your right hand and repeat after me.” He cleared his throat and started when my hand was up.

“I, Victor Socotra, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

I repeated the words back to him without stumbling much and we lowered our hands. I thanked the Lieutenant and asked what was next. He smiled and said: “Go home. We will be in touch with a reporting date to your class at Aviation Officer Candidate School in Pensacola.”

“But I signed up to be an intelligence officer,” I said. I had heard about the ways of recruiters. I did not want to wind up in some MASH-like place in the wilds of Korea (though of course I did).

“Yeah, you are definitely an AI- an Air Intelligence Officer. You made my quota for the quarter, so thanks. Did the YN show you the short movie about what having a Marine Drill Instructor is like?”

Screen-Shot-2017-03-21-at-12.52.26-PM
(Scene from the recruiting film “Pressure Point” as the Drill Instructor advises his newest class of ‘Poopies.”)

I nodded. “Yes Sir. I watched the training film “Pressure Point“ on the wall in the closet. AOCS looks interesting, what with the shouting and running and marching and the rifles and the obstacle course and the Dilbert Dunker.”

“Have fun,” he said, grabbing his cover, “View it as a kind of street theater with a really good cast. It will change you forever.” Then the LT turned and headed out the door for the Coney Island on the next block. I looked around. Nothing seemed much different than it had when I walked in, much less forever. So, I left the office with a wave to the YN and went down to the lot, fired up the car and drove back across the state to await further instructions.

I could never have imagined what the next four full decades would bring. Wonder, certainly. Strange and exotic places in five different wars or contingencies. Adversaries that included the Soviets, Saddam, Balkan strongmen, Caribbean dictators, assorted terrorists and Saddam’s Revolutionary Guard. Places that included Honolulu, Pyongyang, Rangoon, New Delhi, Guantanamo, Port au Prince, Tokyo and Seoul. Not to mention a ring-side seat at the never-ending and highly entertaining circus that continues in perpetual motion in our own Washington, DC.

Despite being a Naval officer, I eventually retired from the CIA with service at ONI and DIA. I then had a chance to work for the Intelligence practices at SAIC, Bell Labs, IBM, CACI and now with a great group of professionals at Syntelligent Analytic Solutions, pride of Page County, VA. I am delighted with what came after I raised my hand that gray day in Detroit, though if you had asked me about that while I was doing pushups on the Grinder under the blazing Pensacola sun under the baleful gaze of Staff Sergeant Ronald C. Mace, USMC, I did have my doubts. Not anymore.

Oh, my son is a Lieutenant now, working in the same building I did in Hawaii when he was conceived. He told me the other morning that the strings on the midnight shift still sucks.

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

“Pressure Point” is available on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mikS7qQSN0

Old House Birthday

We are going to break format this morning. It was a heady St. Patrick’s Day weekend as the crowd moved from Car Bombs at The Front Page and decamped to Refuge Farm for some wine and spirits tasting at the fabulous Old House Winery and Distillery. The weather was perfect, the company grand, and now everyone knows the way to get to a place in the country safe from the Zombie Apocalypse!

– Vic

032017-1

032017-2

032017-4

032017-5

032017-6

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

Arrias on Politics: China and North Korea

China, that is, the ruling elite in Beijing, isn’t helping things. Talking heads can be heard opining that the only way to solve the mess in North Korea is with China’s help. But, the truth is a bit more complicated.

Beijing wants to carve out a larger piece of the pie (the world). How big is a good question, but as Cicero was fond of saying: “Deeds, not words.” Despite regular words of peace, they’re engaged in a rapid expansion on all fronts, seeking to stake out a real, and dominant, presence across the globe. They’re staking out control of the South China Sea, are flexing their muscles in the East China Sea (over Japanese islands), and are working on establishing a real presence in Central Asia and the Horn of Africa.

And North Korea can play a role in that global endeavor.

China is far and away the largest trading partner of the North Koreans, counting on China for the overwhelming majority of the oil it consumes, as well as filling annual shortfalls in food production.

So, why can’t China do something about the North Korean nuclear weapon and missile development programs?

As has been widely reported, North Korea is engaged in an aggressive program– what’s known in the US as “RDT&E,” Research, Development, Test and Evaluation – of missiles, weapons, and associated gear. (Just this past week there was press speculation that a new tactical missile launcher for a North Korean missile is a Chinese made truck, a possible violation of international agreements.) In the last several years the number of tests conducted by the North has increased, one public estimate being that during his 5 years in office Kim Jong Un has conducted 4 or 5 times as many missiles launches as his father conducted in 17 years as dictator.

The nuclear weapon development program continues as well, and the UN has reported that North Korea is now producing Lithium-6, a radioactive isotope of lithium that, per numerous defense experts, is a necessary material in the manufacturing of tritium, a key component of a hydrogen (fusion) bomb.

Here’s the thing: this is expensive. With a GDP of less than $30 billion, more than a million people in their army, perennially facing food and energy crises, where does Pyongyang find the money, and the technology, to pursue these weapons and systems? While we can speculate that Iran, flush with cash following the easing of sanctions, is a partial source, it’s simply not credible that this activity would be taking place without the explicit knowledge and at least implicit agreement of the leadership in Beijing.

Imagine South Korea, or Japan, were known to be developing a nuclear weapon. Beijing would be apoplectic; we could expect a continuous stream of invective from their leadership, and loud and aggressive military posturing, tied to vociferous demands in the UN for draconian sanctions. But, while Beijing will occasionally call for North Korea to end testing, and will announce it intends to adhere to existing sanctions, in fact it continues to trade with Pyongyang.

The reality is this activity by North Korea suits Beijing. Beijing may not particularly revel in the idea that Kim Jong Un will someday soon have nuclear weapons, but it doesn’t worry them; Beijing knows those weapons will never be used against Beijing. Further, there’s no desire in Beijing, no matter what they might say, for a unified Korea. Such a Korea would be, even under the rule of Pyongyang, a thorn in China’s side. Under the rule of Seoul, it would mean a US ally with a common border to China, an unacceptable situation; a unified Korea is simply not something Beijing wants to see.

But the continued rule of Kim Jong Un? Prolonged crisis just short of war? That represents problems, and costs, to the US, the ROK, and to Japan. And increased US commitments of forces into Korea means forces not available elsewhere. All that benefits Beijing. China will talk a good game, but there’s nothing that China has done in the recent past, nor anything it is now doing, that suggests Beijing will in any way work to resolve the situation in North Korea. In fact, Beijing likes it just as it’s developing. Solutions might be found working with the Republic of Korea and Japan.

But China is not on our side.

Copyright 2017 Arrias
www.vicsocotra.com

Car Bombs

car-bombs
The event came about due to a text from Heather. I am not blaming her, though. We were all complicit and there is no one to blame. She innocently wondered whether the Usual Suspects would be at The Front Page to enjoy a few Irish Car Bombs on the occasion of St. Patrick’s Day, when the determined Saint drove all the snakes out of Ireland. That was the Olde Sod’s gain, and not ours, since apparently all the reptiles swam direct to Washington, DC.

I flinched a little, since many of us have had a passion for the destruction of those who use improvised explosive devices as a terrifying tool of asymmetric warfare.

So, this is all OK at the Front Page, or most pubs in America, but this is a purely American thing.
Don’t try to order an Irish Car Bomb in Ireland. If you do, you’ll fully deserve to be thrown out of the pub. You may have never stopped to consider the name of this Guinness-and-Jamison’s-and-Baileys drink, too occupied with making sure that you don’t spill any as you chug the beer-shot combo.

heather-and-vic

To the extent possible, keep your wits about you. A few key safety points to remember before things get rolling:

First, the Irish Car Bomb is an American cocktail. It is only called Irish because of the use of Guinness, Baileys Irish Cream and Jameson Irish Whiskey.

Second, we call it a ‘car bomb’ because when the shot of Baileys is dropped into the glass of Guinness, it bubbles with a chemical reaction that appears to be an explosion, and actually becomes one when it reaches the bloodstream. Think of it as an Irish Boilermaker, if you will.

jon-and-jpeter

But because of the Irish ingredients, someone thought it was a good idea to name it an Irish Car Bomb. It was not. Car bombs are not taken lightly in Ireland and the name makes reference to the time of The Troubles back in the Old Country, ones we cannot imagine here. The once romantic Irish Republican Army was splintered into warring factions, some taken and molded by ruthless and violent neo-Marxists. Many people were hurt, and times were hard.

It’s just offensive, and naming a drink after this time in history doesn’t really make a lot of sense, particularly in light of the ubiquitous vehicle-borne IED. It’s just insensitive. Of course, I checked my snowflake privilege at the door to the bar. It is what it is.

Third, if you’re going to make this drink, you need to know how to make it properly (and try to come up with a different name for it). ‘Irish Boilermaker’ might be right, though frankly I find the irreverence of the original name to thoroughly in keeping with the nature of my forbearers.

How to make an Irish Car Bomb Cocktail :

Pour yourself a glass of Guinness- “It’s good for you!”

Not too much because, because you need room to accommodate the mass of the shot glass depth-charge, and the fact that you’ll have to chug it all. About half a pint seems to be a reasonable compromise.

Next, in a shot glass pour half an ounce of Jameson Irish Whiskey and half an ounce of Baileys Irish Cream. Drop the shot glass into the beer, chug and repeat.

I restricted myself to two and went home. I should have been down at the farm, cleaning up for the arrival of a party of birthday revelers. My moderation was not a major performance by a lad who once held the American record for consumption of Guinness pints in one sitting at a pub outside the Greenway in London. I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the place, nor much about the entire weekend. Or actually, that entire summer.

But time has a way of marching on, doesn’t it? To the Green!

empty-car-bomb

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

The Big Thaw

Screen-Shot-2017-03-16-at-3.46.03-PM

It was quite the week for weather, with snow and ice shutting things down effectively on Tuesday. It was not nearly as bad as it could be, and it appears those who knew that fact didn’t want to confuse us with the truth, and let the warning stand as the winds and snow came in. There are downstream consequences, too. The sudden chill may threaten the iconic cherry blossom display around the Tidal Basin. Temperatures are predicted to rise by the weekend, and the ice and snow banished, though the consequences could impact tourism in the capital. With that damage done, the snow and ice is melting quickly with the thaw.

Other people in town have been hard at work. As you know, I have largely stayed away from the hysteria on both sides of the aisle about the new Administration. It is no secret that I did not care much for the last one, and completely understand the histrionics about the new one. So this is not intended to be an advocacy piece. What it actually is intended to be is a general survey about what is happening this snowy week, and the start of the debate between the Executive Branch and the Congress. With only a slim two vote majority in the Senate, there will have to be an unlikely outbreak of bipartisanship that will make this true. I remember fondly when there was “compromise” in the system and happily worked for Democrats on the Hill and in the Clinton Administration.

With the thaw, the dam also appears to have broken on some of the senior appointments at DoD. six were announced as we were on the call this morning.

Here they are, as of this morning:

Robert Daigle: DoD Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE), Department of Defense. Bush 2 veteran returns to same office.

Elaine McCusker as Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, Comptroller. CENTCOM and Senate Armed Services staff alumna.

David L. Norquist: Under Secretary of Defense, Comptroller. 27 years of experience in Federal financial management. Former Chief Financial Officer for DHS.

Kenneth P. Rapuano: Assistant Secretary of Defense, Homeland Defense and Global Security. Think-tank analyst on national security (ANSER) and White House Deputy Homeland Security Advisor from 2004-2006. USMC vet with deployed service on active duty and as a civilian

Patrick M. Shanahan Deputy Secretary of Defense. VP at Boeing’s Supply Chain & Operations in both military (Army aviation and missile programs) and the commercial divisions (737, 747, 767, 777 and 787 programs). Adds to existing Boeing presence in the new Administration.

David Joel Trachtenberg Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, Policy. Former Assistant Secretary (International Security Policy), consultant and VP at CACI, though I knew him only by reputation when I worked there. He was also a Pro Staffer at House Armed Services Committee.

These are significant appointments (if confirmed) and will bolster the incoming OSD team and provides experience and familiarity with Congress in both Chambers. The controversy over the Mattis pick for Undersecretary for Policy (Ann Patterson, Obama Ambassador to Egypt 2011-13) appears to have been continuation of a conflict between Mattis and the White House over personnel. Mattis reportedly told the White House he would resign unless Mira Ricardel was transferred from her job at the Office of Presidential Personnel. Defense News yesterday claimed SECDEF felt that Ricardel was “a roadblock for nominees” due to her insistence on ideological purity. The White House was said to have “blinked” at the SECDEF’s ultimatum and the nomination process has gone forward. Ricardel is reportedly headed for the Commerce Department in a senior position.

Along with the personnel news, the budget roll-out is in progress, along with a significant amendment to the fiscal year in execution. They are both attached for your information, though they do come from the Government and I normally don’t open anything from the]at source.

I have rightly been accused me of having a Navy-centric view of things. It is an occupational hazard as a broken-down former sailor, I know, but it appears to be (along with the USMC) as one of the place the Trump Administration intends to make strategic ‘investments’. The existing maintenance account shortfall for ship and aircraft will need to be addressed first, since aircraft are not flying and ships are overdue for repair. The first first look through the plans doesn’t indicate there is much new in the way of Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (much less improving analysis) or other matters of interest to the intelligence Parkway Patriot community for which I am a poster child.

Over at the Department of the Air Force, recent analysis suggests that replacement airframes are coming in at about twice the cost of the platforms they are replacing, i.e., the F-35 variants for the Joint Services and export markets, the F-22 Air Superiority fighter, etc. Proponents argue that this is reasonable, given the enhanced capabilities being fielded. Still, it is hard to be in two places at once, should there be trouble in PACOM and CENTCOM AORs simultaneously. The old Russian maxim of the imperative of sheer numbers comes to mind, since it is virtually certain that expanded mission areas required by the “Hard Power” philosophy will result in smaller numbers of fifth generation platforms. The “Soft Power” that the new doctrine is intended to replace was actually a euphemism for that American cultural ubiquity in the world, which sprang not from diplomacy or Government initiatives, but rather from the entertainment industry and freewheeling American society with all its blemishes.

That said, this is what the building plan for ships and aircraft looks like across the years:

Screen-Shot-2017-03-16-at-1.34.16-PM
Coming down the pike are the stark trade-offs to fund Hard Power, which will doubtless cause intense controversy. Shipmate JoeMaz shredded the documents and distilled it to these key bullets:

Winners:
Defense: 10% increase
Homeland Security: 6% increase

Losers:
EPA: 31% decrease
USDA: 21% decrease

Collateral Damage.
Eliminates:

African Development Foundation
Appalachian Regional Commission
Chemical Safety Board
Corporation for National and Community Service
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Delta Regional Authority
Denali Commission
Institute of Museum and Library Services
Inter-American Foundation
U.S. Trade and Development Agency
Legal Services Corporation
National Endowment for the Arts
National Endowment for the Humanities

I seriously doubt that with a two-vote majority in the Senate for the GOP much of this is going to pass. Mr. Trump appears to be working us all with the art of the deal. But all the programs started with the best of intentions, but we are twenty trillion dollars in debt and somewhere this astonishing edifice is going to stop functioning.

But I am an optimist, even if I am a dedicated NPR listener who will doubtless be asked to cough up more cash to listen to classical music. Washington without Beethoven? Unthinkable, right?

We may already be there.

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

Navy Coffee

Gentle Readers,

I whined a bit yesterday about the slow defeat inflicted on us all by the curse of entropy. There were valid reasons for my complaint, and I will not vent about the scandal that is parading one of our pals through the public spotlight. It is of a piece with the disastrous maintenance condition of the Fleet and its Air Arm, and I am not going to attempt to deal with that this morning. I am frustrated at the idea that we are apparently under surveillance by both a predatory government and a host of cyber predators eager to sully our good names and steal our cash.

As I mentioned, in the course of attempting to survive the nasty intestinal bug that was going around this season, I found that my addiction to steaming rich, freshly-brewed Dazbog coffee from whole beans. My Cajun Master Chief Bos’uns mate became alarmed, and he wrote me this:

“YOUR LOSS OF AFFINITY FOR COFFEE IS A SIGN OF A POSSIBLE SCARY MEDICAL CONDITION IN SAILORS. YOU DO REALIZE THAT ALL CAREER SAILORS OF ANY RANK , RATE, OR SERVICE AFFILIATION HAVE COFFEE-BORNE CAFFEINE AS A VITAL BLOOD COMPONENT.”

“I have noted of late that a sort of caffeine intolerance is spreading through the Navy, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine, and Marine Corps, even the retired communities. Some are dealing with it through the medium of “Fru Fru Coffee” a blend of the all too prevalent warm dishwater excuse for the contents of large coffee urns and excessive quantities of moo juice and sweeteners. Such adulterations are evil , vile, and not conducive to good sailorly health. Naturally, I checked with the Great Catfish. It appears he has been aware of the problem since January when he posted on it in typical catfish, no-holds-barred fashion. Below for the your edification and the edification of anyone you want to share with is the wisdom of the Great Catfish on Coffee:

THE GREAT NAMAZU ON NAVY COFFEE
PETITION VICTORY COFFEE TO MAKE A MESS BLEND AND GET “BETTY BEAN” TO DO A VIDEO ON MAKING REALLY GOOD COFFEE IN CARRIER MESS DECK QUANTITY

GREETINGS, ALL CAFFEINE SUCKING BIPEDS BUT ESPECIALLY YOU COMMISSARY MEN (OR WHATEVER THE NEW SYSTEM CALLS YOU NOW) AND MESS COOKS.

I’ve been living at or under the sea for 3,000 years and now I’m writing for an organization totally dominated by former boatswain’s mates. Johnas and the rest of the motley crew at American Admiralty Books suffer from a malady of the index finger common to US Navy and Coast Guard Boatswain’s mates or whatever they now call ’em in the new politically correct Navy. The malady is called “coffee cup finger”. The righteous, proper, and traditional boatswain’s mate is basically propelled by coffee which is nearly always in hand. Unfortunately coffee is most often produced in large crew messes by temporarily assigned non-rated men who unfortunately are often not “cook strikers” and take no real professional interest in what should be one of the most important support functions on ship, MASTER OF THE COFFEE POT, which in many cases is more like the coffee barrel, urns that can hold literally a gallon or more of the absolutely necessary black liquid that fuels the fleet’s crews. Crews have dealt with the warm brown dishwater like contents of the large mess coffee urn for generations. They either kill their taste buds or “flavor” the caffeine carrier fluid with cow juice. I believe it’s time to stop the adulteration processing of this most important maritime fluid!

Enter VICTORY COFFEE

Victory Coffee is owned and operated by former Navy SEAL Cade Courtley and employs US naval and military veterans. Really shouldn’t all you sailors and vets be supplying your home coffee mess with Victory coffee, not just because it supports vets but because it’s really good, a company of folks who understand the cosmic importance of a cup of Joe. How about all of you detached element members, and small unit or shore side office crews who have to pay for your own in work spaces coffee mess? ( The first time Johnas, after retirement, saw a self funded coffee mess, and realized that the Navy and Coast Guard no longer took institutional responsibility for support of the fleet coffee habit for those members at a distance from an official galley, he was certain the communists had taken over. Terrible as his reaction was, I do have to admit that it pales by the state of catatonia that the elimination of traditional rate titles had on him, he has been in a coma like state now for several weeks. We are hoping that the aroma of a hot cup of Leatherneck (VICTORY’s darkest roast) may bring him around.)

OK, let’s do something to really once and for all end bad coffee fleet wide.

(1) First all you mess cooks buck up, accept responsibility with pride for your turn having custody of the coffee pot or urn.

(2) Watch BETTY BEAN’s course called BEAN AND COFFEE 101.

(3) If you run a small work space coffee mess go to VICTORY COFFEE http://www.victorycoffees.com/our-story and order the good stuff.

(4)All hands contact Victory Owner Cade Courtley and ask him to have Betty Bean

(a) Do a tutorial on making mass quantities of Coffee properly.
(b) Experiment with blending small quantities of great coffee like the various Victory Blends and provide instructions to mess cooks ( would also work for restaurant personnel) on improving big institutional pots of coffee with small amounts of premium coffee that may or may not have to be obtained by “cum shaw” methods.
( c) Make a Victory Blend for quantity brewing such as on a carrier mess deck and try to get it into the Navy / Coast Guard/ Marine Corps purchase systems. ( Hint may be saleable to small Coast Guard units directly).

Let’s all active and veteran sailors get behind the movement to get the warm dishwater off the mess deck and put quality coffee out in even the biggest messes that can hardly be screwed up by even the most disinterested mess cook. Come on Commissary men or whatever you’re called by these days. Push to get a little aboard. Then let’s push Cade to get his ass back on Shark Tank and get some capital to get the good stuff onto our mess decks and into the commissary. My pal Johnas has had a lot of shocks to his basically naval sensibilities of late. The smell of gallons of Victory Coffee brewing might bring him out of his coma.

Let’s get cranking! I’m a three thousand year old giant catfish, retired demigod, I know stuff! Pick up on this and run with it you maritime bipeds! GOOD COFFEE IS OF COSMIC CONSEQUENCE! At least demand that this stuff get on the commissary shelves immediately.

Write Cade Courtley at:

Victory Coffees Coffee LLC
3005 S. Lamar Blvd
Ste D-109 #291
Austin, Texas, USA 78704

Tell him you at least want to see this stuff in the commissary right away.

Copyright 2017 Admiralty Books
www.vicsocotra.com

The Other Shoe

Screen-Shot-2017-03-14-at-11.02.27-AM

I apologize for not being more engaged the last couple months. I am determined to complete the work on the Mac Showers book, and wondering if I will ever have the time to get to the projects beyond that. I need to buy some of that most precious commodity a human being has.

There have been changes to incorporate into the daily routine here. The rhythm of life has changed over the course of fixing whatever that strange neurological episode was that started late last summer. I am still up around the same time, though have abandoned the iron resolve that had me sipping fresh-brewed exotic coffee and staring at the computer at the usual time- 0445.

Maybe it was the flu or the nausea that killed my desire for the stimulant that I based my career on, but I found myself lolling in bed, salving my work ethic by catching up on the torrent of email that piles up every night, along with the annoying updates from Mark Zuckerburg and his appalling Facebook site, and the stray Tweets from people I do not know who seem very upset about something.

Anyway, that was not the routine this morning. I decided to screen the mail from the comfort and privacy of my brown chair in the living room, and I turned on the flat screen to survey what the storm had brought to us this morning. And then I began to consider what had happened the previous afternoon as the warmth of the steaming java began to course through my veins.

I have not ventured outside yet- I am taking a snow day and thankful that the industry day I had been scheduled to attend was cancelled. I roused briefly a little before five and peeked out to see if anything had happened overnight. It had, but it was just a couple inches of white stuff, nothing a Michigan kid would consider serious- except for the knowledge that there are Maryland and Virginia drivers out there intent on killing themselves and anyone they encounter on the roadways.

So, trapped in the apartment for a while, I decided to tell you about the Adventure of the Other Shoe.

The first one dropped with the obscene hack against OMB, ostensibly by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in 2015. The incompetents at the Office managed to permit the transfer all our personal data direct to the hackers.

All of it: personal information, family names and addresses, socials, contacts, financial disclosure forms and all the rest. I did not panic at the time, though I thought strong methods were only prudent. I went to the three credit reporting agencies and put a freeze on my credit.

The practical effect of this blunt force option is that anyone seeking to open a new credit based account will be refused access and the application- for real estate, diamonds, or such- will theoretically be denied. And theoretically I would be notified. If someone else wasn’t pretending to be me.

I know, I know, there are a lot of people who need credit and rely on shifting things around to keep their financial boats afloat. I had to do that frequently when the divorce was fresh and the kids were both in college. Moving debt from one account to another was a frequent tactic to keep the creditors at bay and take advantage of promotional interest rates.

Freezing your credit means that no new accounts could be opened. For the last two years, there was no activity on my credit reports in which I was not complicit- like pulling the freeze for a couple days while I got pre-qualified for a loan on the retirement fantasy home, apprehensive that the Chinese would pounce on the temporary vulnerability. That never happened, but going through the drill gave me a certain amount of comfort, though I left the freeze in place.

Yesterday was a day of apprehension. The big storm was coming in, predicted to happen at Happy Hour, which it did. There was a full menu of things today, including an early departure from the residence and an all-day conference a the glittering palace that is the new National Geospatial Intelligence Agency down near Ft. Belvoir. Things were tense, waiting to see what particular brand of lunacy on the part of responsible personnel would hold. Would we have to venture out on whatever came from the sky? Would we overreact? That is something that comes naturally here.

I was toggling back and forth from the websites of the Office of Personnel Management and the professional association that was sponsoring the conference. The Association caved first, and cancelled with the new date “To be determined.” I breathed a sigh of relief. The predictions were for the wintery mix to start around Happy Hour, and the gang agreed via email that it would be prudent to get a modest snoot-full prior to the roads becoming too treacherous. Accordingly, it was a full house at the Front Page and a raucous celebration erupted, fueled by the idea that it would be smart to blow off some of the impending enforced cabin fever and be home for the main event.

Which is why I felt relaxed enough once the cancellations started coming in to go down to the lobby and get my daily hug from Rhonda and check the mail. The hug is always good. The mail normally less so. I have lived in several units at Big Pink, and periodically I get mail in a bundle that has been slotted to my previous addresses. I got that from Rhonda and checked the regular mailbox. Junk, of course, and solicitations that were also junk. Plus a slim envelope from a bank whose name I did not recognize.

I opened it by the lobby trash can, for which I am just a middle man between the Postal Service and the recycling people. That is when the other shoe fell.

I was left with one solicitation to which I may or may not contribute- my ardor for the endless campaign has waned a bit. The one from the mystery financial institution- a firm called “Comenity Capital Bank” was a two page affair, one page, front and back in English, and the second page in Spanish, which went promptly into the trash can.

The English version was troubling enough, and I read it the first time with mild disbelief. The words were polite enough, since apparently we have rights as potential debtors. The bank deeply regretted that my application for a Zales Jewelry Store Credit Card had been reviewed and regretfully declined, since my credit reports were locked.

The other shoe had finally impacted the floor.

F**k! The bank is in Ohio, and is the executive agent for the Zales concern. I have not been in the Buckeye State in a while, except on matters requiring innocent passage, and I would never visit the Columbus metro area in any case. I had certainly not identified a requirement to purchase expensive jewelry on a revolving line of credit. The letter concluded by advising me to call Experian if I had any questions about the fact that someone had all my personal information and desired a nice sparkly tennis bracelet, ring and broach combination.

Screen-Shot-2017-03-14-at-11.50.54-AM

So there went the afternoon that might have been more profitably spent drowsing in my chair, waiting for the storm.

After the OPM hack in 2015, the government provided three years of credit monitoring to ensure that nobody complained overmuch about their negligence. Why only three is a bit baffling- I mean, am I going to be able to change my birthday and social security number then? Mom’s maiden name?

There are 22 million of us who had supplied excruciatingly personal information in our applications for security clearances- the dreaded Standard Form 86- and all of it was long gone.

I sighed. Someone involved in the hack had sold off the information on the dark web, and all my crap is out there to be picked off and used to purchase cars and houses and fancy jewels. So, off to the races we went. I called Experian and eventually got to a fellow who spoke with heavy accent who claimed to be named ‘Andy,’ who may (or may not) have been working in a call center in the U.S.

He opened my credit file after a long series of questions to confirm my identity. Naturally, all the answers to the questions he asked were also contained in the SF-86, so I am not completely sure that anything is secure for us any more. He told me the credit freeze was still in effect, and the application had been denied.

He then solicitously told me to contact the bank in Ohio, file a police report with the local cops to document the assault, and then contact the other two credit reporting bureaus- Equifax and TransUnion- and report fraud.

It took a couple hours to get through the calls. I have reported fraud to the Arlington police, placed alerts in my credit files, agreed to pay for a new monthly monitoring service that advertised instant alerts for new applications for credit in my name, and ensured the freeze remained in effect.

Then I went to Happy Hour and enjoyed the beginning of the storm, finishing in my brown chair, looking out the window at the flag that gallantly waved in the freshening breeze and blowing snow.

I had hoped there might be safety in numbers- 22 million files is a lot to plow through- but I guess my number finally came up. You might want to start thinking about what to do to protect yourself before some slimeball decides their significant other really needs more diamonds. From you.

Screen-Shot-2017-03-14-at-11.52.49-AM

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

Eggs, Milk and Toilet Paper

031317-1
Legendary local weather guesser Bob Ryan is now retired, but he would be in his element today. From 1980–2010, Bob was the chief meteorologist at Washington NBC affiliate WRC-TV. Before serving as the station’s chief meteorologist for 30 years, he was the first on-air meteorologist for the Today Show. He actually swapped jobs with the renowned weather-entertainer, Willard Scott. Ryan made his bones in the DelMarVa market with his non-nonsense approach and generally accurate forecasting for the region located in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Chesapeake Bay. He would have liked this one: there is a monster Nor’Easter storm is building up north and is predicted to dump something between six and ten inches of white stuff on your Nation’s Capital. Plenty more in Philly, New York, Boston and the points between on the East Coast Acela Corridor.

It was said famously that when Bob appeared on camera to tell us about the periodic potential horrors coming at us from the atmosphere, people would drop what they were doing and race to the supermarket to stock up on the Ryan TRifecta: “Eggs, milk and toilet paper.”

Presumably with that combination, plus specialized hygiene products for those who need them, you could ride out any storm. That is, if all the other panicked people had not already begun hoarding and cleared the shelves at the store. Honestly, with all the breathless coverage of impending disaster, it makes the scene at the local Harris-Teeter store a little like Venezuela after an unexpected delivery of rice and cooking oil.

I honestly thought the winter was over, and I could stop stockpiling eggs, milk and TP. That and the day-dreaming about wandering around again in shorts and flip-flops. I was looking at the Real Estate postings that my long suffering realtor in Tampa sends me very couple of days. I like the look of many of the properties- prices are not as hallucinogenic as Arlington, and it might be possible to have a pretty good retirement on Social Security and a modest disability check. You would not even have to eat that many eggs or drink that much milk.

I looked at the pictures of the kitchens first to see if the refrigerator has a crush-ice in door dispenser. That and a decent bar within stumbling distance are the two major factors in my hunt for a retirement dwelling. And a heated community pool with at least six feet of refreshing depth so I can tread water daily. And a roof, I suppose, but first things first.

I have been looking, originally, west of Tampa in the direction of Clearwater. My soon took the family there for a quick vacation and he raved about the beach, and I went down last year to check it out. I do not know the neighborhoods and thus will not permit myself to consider doing anything rash from this distance from the Sunshine State. But despite the relatively benign face that Old Man Winter showed us this year (did I actually even pull the gloves our of the pocket of my puffy jacket?) I confess to having a certain hankering for milder climes. Other major life events got in the way of my annual pilgrimage, which has taken me from Clearwater to Key West and the delightful Gulf shores of Pass Christian. But we are now getting to crunch time.

The lease is up in July on the one-bedroom place I rent from State Department Susan, and she will not sell it to me. It is a constant irritation that so many projects could be started that would make the place perfect. I would love to get started on some long-overdue remodeling for the place. Who in their right mind would have counter-tops that stain from a few drops of cranberry juice? Or that sentient life could go on having to manually crush the ice cubes from the trays that I have to freeze myself?

Jiggs and Mila are retiring to SoCal to live in paradise, and he wants to hang on to his place down the hall even if he is not living there. He has kindly offered to let me rent it until my time in the Capital of the Free World is done. And in the meantime, if might be time to start seriously downsizing to prepare for that contingency. It would be nice to know that there is something waiting by the placid blue waters of the Gulf.

Over the last few days, I have shifted my sights a little south from Tampa, towards Sarasota and the fabulous powdered sugar beaches of nearby Siesta Key. A pal sent a blast the other day announcing that he was scoping out his retirement home there, and another old comrade from The Agency is already in residence there, along with my financial advisor who does his level best to manage my pathetic retirement account. I can’t complain- I actually have one, so I count myself among the lucky ones.

I have been taking a break from the breakneck pace of events here aside from the meteorologic ones. I took a break yesterday and let Arrias talk to you about the urgency of actually doing something about the North Koreans, and their annoying tendency to launch rockets at things that upset themMarlow talked to you yesterday about the abomination that is Daylight Savings Time. My eyes popped open before five this morning, which if my numbed brain was correct, meant that it was actually still zero-dark-thirty for the battered body. The sun did not begin sharing its gray light for hours yet, and it was a peaceful time to look up into the gloom and think about what this year has in store.

The portents are there. Peter the Pool Guy was here to peek under the green tarpaulin that protects the Big Pink pool to check for winter disasters, so Memorial Day cannot be that far away. Many of my peers have already taken a powder and left town. Van Dyke and his bride are in The Villages, and I have kin adjacent communities. I can feel my toes tapping already.

But that is all going to have to wait until we see what the Snowplows bringeth. But I have to tell you, in Siesta Key the happy hours start at eleven, and from this distance, no one seems concerned in the slightest. I definitely am more concerned with getting to the store before the snow starts. I checked: I am down to ten eggs, two cans of condensed milk in case an emergency cornbread baking session breaks out, and I am good for TP for a month or so, should an avalanche bury the property. I am confident that Bob Ryan would agree with me. It pays to think ahead.

Screen-Shot-2017-03-13-at-12.21.16-PM
(Bob Ryan asks: “Got milk?”)

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com