Friday, August 30, 2019

A Little Humor: Dinner Date

I was feeling grouchy that evening, but as I had arranged a dinner date with a fine woman, I met her outside of a upscale restaurant.

When we entered the restaurant, the host asked, “Good evening, sir. A table for how many?” 

I looked at my dinner date, looked down at my shoes, and then looked back at the host and said, “I don’t know. I can’t count this high either.”

We were seated at a table and feeling festive for my date’s sake, I yelled out, “Waiter! A bottle of Dom Perignon champagne!” 

“Very good, sir,” the waiter replied. “What year?”

“This year,” I said somewhat irritated. “Now!”

The service took a while, so when a waiter passed by, I said to him, "Excuse me, are you our waiter?

"Yes, Sir, I am."

"Funny," I replied. "You don't look a day older."

When after a period of time we had still not seen our waiter with our dinner, I said to my date, "Do you know why they are called waiters? It is because they make you wait and wait."

But when the meal finally came, it was good, and I dug in and cleaned my plate.

When we had finished eating, the waiter handed me the check and walked away. 

I took a couple of bucks out of my wallet and tossed them on the table. 

"You’re supposed to leave 15 per cent,” my date whispered to me.

“I’m sorry, but I was really hunger, so I eat it all!”

Then I looked at the check and handed it to my date.

“This bill is outrageous,” I told her. “I wouldn’t pay this if I were you…”

Note: The above photo is of Groucho Marx from A Night at the Opera.

My Washington Times Review Of 'If: The Untold Story of Kipling's American Years'

The Washington Times published my review of If: The Untold Story of Kipling’s American Years.

As a teenager in the 1960s I was caught up in the spy craze created by the James Bond films. In addition to Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, I read many other spy thrillers and I watched spy stories on TV and at the movies. But it was as a pre-teen in the 1950s that I read my first great spy story, which was Rudyard Kipling’s “Kim.”

I later met many military and civilian intelligence officers who also read and loved “Kim.”

In Kipling’s 1901 novel, the son of an Irish soldier in India named Kimball O’Hara, known as Kim, is a wayward street urchin living in Lahore. He meets Mahbub Ali, a horse trader and spy, who has Kim deliver a secret message to a British military intelligence officer. And so Kim’s adventures in espionage and what Rudyard Kipling coined “The Great Game” began.

Although “Kim” takes place in India, where Kipling was born and later worked as a newspaper reporter and short story writer, he wrote the first draft of “Kim” in America.

In Christopher Benfey’s “If: The Untold Story of Kipling’s American Years,” we learn of Rudyard Kipling’s affection for America and his life here.

Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay in 1865 and educated in England. Readers have always associated this towering writer with colonial India, where he spent his early childhood and his literary apprenticeship, and with England, where he lived, in relative isolation, during the final decades of his life. Few readers are familiar with his exuberant American years, however, during the heart of the American Gilded Age. 

And yet Kipling wrote “The Jungle Book,” “Captain Courageous,” the first draft of “Kim,” his first “just so stories,” and some of his greatest poems on the crest of a Vermont hillside overlooking the Connecticut River, with a view of Mount Monadnock “like a gigantic thumbnail pointing heavenward,” Christopher Benfey writes in his prologue. “A principal aim of this book is to introduce today’s readers to a largely unfamiliar writer: The American Kipling.”

You can read the rest of the review via the below link:

Note: The top photo is of Rudyard Kipling and the above photo is of actor Christopher Plummer as Rudyard Kipling in John Huston’s fine film adaption of Kipling’s story, The Man Who Would Be King. Flanking Plummer are Michael Caine and Sean Connery.   

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Assange Is A Spy Not A Journalist: The Case Against WikiLeaks Founder Juilan Assange

Counterterrorism magazine published my piece on the case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

You can read the piece via the magazine piece above and below or the text below:

The Case Against WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange

By Paul Davis 

Many journalists have decried the 18-count indictment against 47-year-old Julian P. Assange, claiming the WikiLeaks founder and operator is a journalist and therefore exempt from prosecution for publishing classified information provided to him from a government whistleblower.

Ben Wizner, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), stated that prosecuting Assange would be unprecedented and unconstitutional. He said the prosecution would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations.

But not all journalists agree. Marc Thiessen, a conservative columnist for the Washington Post, states clearly that he believes that Assange is certainly not a journalist – he’s a spy.

“Some are concerned that the newest Assange indictment will help set a precedent to go after investigative journalist who publish classified information,” Thiessen wrote. “But as I wrote in 2010, unlike reputable news organizations, Assange did not give the U.S. government an opportunity to review the classified information WikiLeaks was planning to release so they could raise national security objections. So responsible journalists have nothing to fear.”

“Regardless,” Thiessen writes, “Assange is not a journalist. He is a spy. The fact that he gave stolen U.S. intelligence to al-Qaida, the Taliban, China, Iran and other adversaries via a website rather than dead-drops is irrelevant. He engaged in espionage against the United States. And he has no remorse for the harm he has caused. He once called the innocent people hurt by his disclosures “collateral damage” and admitted WikiLeaks might get “blood on our hands.” Thiessen wrote in his column.

WikiLeaks, founded in 2006 by Assange, describes itself as a multi-national media organization and associated library. WikiLeaks states on its’ website that they specialize in the analysis and publication of large datasets of censored or otherwise restricted official materials involving war, spying and corruption. WikiLeaks claims to have published more than 10 million documents and associated analyses.

“WikiLeaks is a giant library of the world’s most persecuted documents. We give asylum to these documents, we analyze them, we promote them, and we obtain more,” Julian Assange said in an interview with a German magazine.

WikiLeaks claims to have contractual relationships and secure communications paths to more than 100 major media organizations from around the world, which they say gives them sources, negotiating power, impact and technical protections that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to achieve.

According to the WikiLeaks website, the organization is entirely funded by its publisher, its publication sales and the general public. On April 11th, Assange was arrested in the United Kingdom in connection with a U.S. federal charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer.

Assange, an Australian citizen, was dragged forcefully by London’s Metropolitan police officers from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He entered the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, which he has denied. Ecuador Foreign Minister Jose Valencia said Ecuador revoked his political asylum due to countless acts of interference in the internal politics of other countries, personal attacks on embassy personnel, visitors, and diplomatic officials from other countries, as well as making threats against the government of Ecuador. Also, Ecuador was concerned about Assange’s deteriorating mental and physical health, his lack of personal hygiene, and his refusal to obey embassy rules. Ecuador invited the police inside their embassy to remove Assange.

Afterwards, Assange was found guilty in a British court of failing to surrender to the court. He could spend 12 months in a British prison for the offense. According to the U.S. Justice Department, the charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion relates to Assange’s alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States.

The indictment alleges that in March of 2010, Assange engaged in a conspiracy with U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst later known as Chelsea Manning. According to the indictment, Assange assisted Manning in cracking a password stored on U.S. Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRNet), a U.S. government network used for classified documents and communications. “Manning had access to the computers in connection with the private’s duties as an intelligence analyst and was using the computers to download classified records to transmit to WikiLeaks. Cracking the password would have allowed Manning to log on to the computers under a username that did not belong to the private,” the indictment states. “During the conspiracy, Manning and Assange engaged in real-time discussions regarding Manning’s transmission of classified records to Assange. The discussions also reflect Assange actively encouraging Manning to provide more information.

During an exchange, Manning told Assange that “after this upload, that’s all I really have got left.” To which Assange replied, “curious eyes never run dry in my experience.” On May 23rd, the U.S. Justice Department announced that a federal grand jury returned an 18-count superseding indictment charging Assange with offenses that relate to Assange’s alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States.

According to the Justice Department, the superseding indictment alleges that Assange was complicit with Manning in unlawfully obtaining and disclosing classified documents related to the national defense. The indictment alleges that Assange aided and abetted the U.S. Army private in obtaining classified information that was to be used to injure the United States or to advantage a foreign nation.

“After agreeing to receive classified documents from Manning and aiding, abetting, and causing Manning to provide classified documents, Assange then published on WikiLeaks classified documents that contained the unredacted names of human sources who provided information to United States forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to U.S. State Department diplomats around the world,” the indictment states. “These human sources included local Afghans and Iraqis, journalists, religious leaders, human rights advocates,

Demers went on to state that the alleged actions disclosed U.S. sensitive, classified information in a manner that made it available to every terrorist group, hostile foreign intelligence service and opposing military. He also noted that documents relating to these disclosures were even found in the Usama bin Laden compound.

This release, Demers said, made our adversaries stronger and more knowledgeable and the United States less secure. 14 and political dissidents from repressive regimes. Assange’s actions risked serious harm to United States national security to the benefit of our adversaries and put the unredacted named human sources at a grave and imminent risk of serious physical harm and/ or arbitrary detention.”

According to the Justice Department, the superseding indictment alleges that beginning in late 2009, Assange and WikiLeaks actively solicited United States classified information, including by publishing a list of “Most Wanted Leaks” that sought, among other things, classified documents.

“Manning responded to Assange’s solicitations by using access granted to the private as an intelligence analyst to search for United States classified documents and provided to Assange and WikiLeaks databases containing approximately 90,000 Afghanistan war-related significant activity reports, 400,000 Iraq war related significant activities reports, 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs, and 250,000 U.S. Department of State cables,” the superseding indictment states. “Many of these documents were classified at the Secret level, meaning that their unauthorized disclosure could cause serious damage to United States national security. Manning also provided rules of engagement files for the Iraq war, most of which were also classified at the Secret level and which delineated the circumstances and limitations under which United States forces would initiate or conduct combat engagement with other forces.”

Assange is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but if convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on each count except for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, for which he faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

At the May 23rd announcement, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said he wanted to thank U.S. Attorney Zach Terwilliger as well as the FBI special agents and the prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia and the National Security Division who investigated this case over the years.

“One of the Department of Justice’s top priorities is to prosecute, and therefore deter, unauthorized disclosures of classified information. In the past two years, we have brought four cases involving the leaks of such information. This is the fifth,” Demers said. “In 2013, Chelsea Manning was convicted by court martial for offenses that involved violations of her military oath to protect and defend the United States. As you know, she provided Julian Assange and WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of pages of national defense information. The indictment today charges Julian Assange for his alleged complicity in Manning’s actions, including his explicit solicitation of classified information and his encouraging her to remove classified information from U.S. systems and send it to him.

The indictment also charges Assange for his posting of a narrow subset of classified documents on WikiLeaks that allegedly identified the names of human sources—including local Afghans and Iraqis who were assisting U.S. forces in theater, and those of journalists, religious leaders, human rights advocates, and political dissidents living in repressive regimes. Assange thereby is alleged to have created grave and imminent risk to their lives and liberty.”

Demers went on to state that the alleged actions disclosed U.S. sensitive, classified information in a manner that made it available to every terrorist group, hostile foreign intelligence service and opposing military. He also noted that documents relating to these disclosures were even found in the Usama bin Laden compound.

“Some say that Assange is a journalist and that he should be immune from prosecution for these actions. The Department takes seriously the role of journalists in our democracy and we thank you for it. It is not and has never been the Department’s policy to target them for their reporting,” Demers said. “Julian Assange is no journalist. This made plain by the totality of his conduct as alleged in the indictment—i.e., his conspiring with and assisting a security clearance holder to acquire classified information, and his publishing the names of human sources.”

“Indeed, no responsible actor—journalist or otherwise—would purposely publish the names of individuals he or she knew to be confidential human sources in war zones, exposing them to the gravest of dangers. And this is just what the superseding indictment charges Julian Assange with doing. The new charges seek to hold him responsible in light of the full breadth of his illegal conduct.” U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger, for the Eastern District of Virginia, told reporters that he wanted to be clear about what Assange was charged with, and what he was not charged with. “Assange was charged for his alleged complicity in illegal acts to obtain or receive voluminous databases of classified information and for agreeing and attempting to obtain classified information through computer hacking.

But he has not been charged for passively obtaining or receiving classified information. The indictment alleges that Assange published in bulk hundreds of thousands of these stolen classified documents, but he has not been charged for that,” Terwilliger said. “Instead, the U.S. has only charged Assange for publishing a narrow set of classified documents in which Assange also allegedly published the un-redacted names of innocent people who risked their safety and freedom to provide information to the United States and its allies.”

Terwilliger said the sources included local Afghans and Iraqis, journalists, religious leaders, human rights advocates, and political dissidents from repressive regimes. The indictment alleges that Assange knew that his publication of these sources endangered them. “The superseding charges unsealed today are the result of nearly a decade of investigative work by FBI counterintelligence agents,” said FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence John Brown.

 “Today’s charges illustrate the priority the FBI places on enforcing the laws that protect our nation’s security and vital intelligence sources. The FBI is committed to investigating this type of alleged criminal activity no matter how long a case may take.” An extradition hearing for Assange will be held on February 25, 2020.

Paul Davis is a regular contributor to the Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International.

My Q&A With Chief Inspector Daniel MacDonald, Chief Of The Philadelphia Police Department's Intelligence Bureau

Counterterrorism magazine published my Q&A with Chief Inspector Daniel P. MacDonald, the Chief of the Philadelphia Police Department's Intelligence Bureau.

You can read the below magazine pages or the text below:

The IACSP Q&A With Chief Inspector Daniel MacDonald, Chief Of

The Philadelphia Police Department's Intelligence Bureau

 By Paul Davis 

Chief Inspector Daniel MacDonald has served in the Philadelphia Police Department for more than 27 years. He is currently the Chief of the Intelligence Bureau. Previous posts include Chief of the Narcotics Bureau, Staff Inspector of the Standards and Accountability Division, and the Captain of the 9th, 12th, and 8th Police Districts. 

He has received 2 Commendations for Bravery, 5 Commendatory Citations, 8 Commendations for Merit, as well as other citations, certificates and awards. He is also a Captain and military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army Reserves. He served multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was awarded a Bronze Star Medal (with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters), Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Combat Action Badge, Army Commendation Medal, and other medals. 

He received a Master of Arts Degree in International Relations and Dispute Resolution AMU, Bachelor of Arts Degree in Management AMU, PERF, Senior Management the collection side of the house. He also attended the Institute for Police Class 71, FBI National Academy, Class 241, Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command, Class 166, and Drug Unit Commanders Academy Drug Enforcement Agency. 

He was interviewed by Paul Davis. 

IACSP: Can you give us an overview of the Philadelphia Police Department’s Intelligence Bureau and its mission.? 

MacDonald: The primary mission of the Intelligence Bureau is to provide relevant, timely, accurate and predictive information and intelligence for the operational commanders of the police department so they can deploy their forces properly to provide public safety. In November-December of 2016, the police commissioner was soliciting ideas for improving functions of the police department. I’m a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army Reserves as well, so previously, working with Inspector Walt Smith - who was then the commanding officer of the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center - we had agreed that the intelligence function of the police department was not as efficient or as effective as it could be. 

To increase the efficiency and effectiveness, we should create a bureau-level entity that consolidates all the intelligence functions within the police department under once chain of command--not necessarily under one roof, but at least under one chain of command. The police commissioner agreed, and he told me to develop a proposal for that, which I did with help from the people who are currently working in the various intelligence apparatuses in the police department, as well as the data statistics folks. I sat down and came up with a proposal and the police commissioner approved it in March of 2017, and we established the Intelligence Bureau and started operations. 

The next component that we have is the Analysis and Investigations Section. That’s composed of a couple different sections. The main section is the analytical section, which has both police officers and civilian analysts who do analysis of crime and all sorts of things to determine what is going on and why. Separate from that, we have a Geographic Information System (GIS) section. They do all the mapping and computer programs for us. They are the technical folks. 

Then we have a Research Section, led by a civilian supervisor, a Ph.D., and they do a lot of our studies. They take us to the next level in the way we analyze and look at stuff. Also, we have a HIDA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program) Watch Center here. Then we have the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center (DVIC). This operation has a couple of supervisors and numerous analysts, sworn and civilian, that perform the fusion center functions. They sit next to the Real Time Crime Center, which is the City of Philadelphia’s Watch Center. 

IACSP: Is that the section that monitors all the cameras around the city? 

MacDonald: Right. We’ve allowed the fusion center to be a 24/7 operation by leveraging the Real Time Crime Center. The Real Time Crime Center is the fusion center for Philadelphia and the DVIC is the fusion center for the five counties. Because there was so much overlap there, we provided additional training so they can function on top of each other, and that way we can provide 24/7 coverage, not just for Philadelphia area, but for the region with the fusion side of the house. We expanded those capabilities. Last year, I developed the 2019 Crime Fighting Strategy for the City of Philadelphia. We developed it out of here using intelligence-led models called Pinpoint. 

IACSP: What are the components within the Intelligence Bureau? 

MacDonald: The Intelligence Bureau is currently composed of the Criminal Intelligence Unit, which is also housed here in this building. They are the collection side of the house. They are commanded by a captain and the unit’s police officers do human intelligence collections, covert/overt collections, briefings, and such standard fare on We’ve allowed the fusion center to be a 24/7 operation by leveraging the Real Time Crime Center. 

The Real Time Crime Center is the fusion center for Philadelphia and the DVIC is the fusion center for the five counties. Because there was so much overlap there, we provided additional training so they can function on top of each other, and that way we can provide 24/7 coverage, not just for Philadelphia area, but for the region with the fusion side of the house. 52 Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International Vol. 25, No.1 develop plans to target those problems, whether they be people, physical aspects, or whatever the problem is. Then we can fix them using not just police, but all the city agencies. In a way, that’s a unity of effort. Finally, we take all the actions that are planned and executed and measure the actual results and determine what works and what doesn’t work in a scientific fashion. We got funding for a new information management system that rolling out. 

IACSP: Is that available to the public? 

MacDonald: Yes. It is the Pinpoint Strategy, part of the city’s road map for violence reduction. We developed that here. We requested additional budgetary funding to roll it out. It is a two-part kind of thing; it is intelligence-led, using data and human intelligence to identify the worst of the worst people, places and things.

IACSP: Do you use intelligence in the way the CIA, DIA, and the other national security agencies do, such as a system to rate how reliable the information you gather is? MacDonald: Yes. We use a standard reliability system. It follows the DHS and FBI format for reliability. All of our intelligence products and sources of information are given reliability grades. We’ve migrated some of our focus away from the terrorism mission, not that we’ve stopped focusing on terrorism, but what is the biggest problem in Philadelphia? What’s the biggest killer, what are the things that takes the most lives? Opioids last year took 1,200 people. Then there were a thousand shootings last year resulting in 351 homicides. They are as bad as terrorism. 

IACSP: Terrorism doesn’t happen often, thankfully, but when it does, it is often catastrophic. 

MacDonald: Right. You need the infrastructure and you need to keep your eye on that, but you also need to look at what is killing you every day. And to honest, there is very little terrorist activity that goes down without a criminal nexus. 

IACSP: And the Philadelphia Police Department has a Counterterrorism Bureau as well, right? 

MacDonald: Yes. We are strictly intel; we don’t run operations. We run intelligence. Counterterrorism has an operational component as well. 

IACSP: Have you looked at the New York City Police Department’s Intelligence Bureau? They’ve been highly praised. 

MacDonald: Yes. I’ve been up and talked to Deputy Commissioner John Miller. 

IACSP: He’s an interesting guy. He interviewed Osama bin Laden before 9/11 when he was a journalist. 

MacDonald: I’ve talked to Thomas Galati, he’s the chief of intelligence up there. I’ve looked at a lot of their stuff and we’ve worked with them quite often. They have some really good stuff going on. We’ve adopted some of their stuff. They send us information every day. 

IACSP: Does your DVIC fusion center have federal agency liaisons here? 

MacDonald: Yes. Under the fusion center umbrella, the FBI and DHS are here full time. The Coast Guard is in the building full time. The DEA is here. A lot of seats. The purpose of a fusion center is to share information. The Intelligence Bureau is bigger than the fusion center, but it is a fusion center on steroids when you make it a bureau, because they are collectors and holders of information that we may need for any number of reasons. I’m hiring 15 to 20 civilian analysts next month. They will be forward deployed to the districts. 

IACSP: You’re putting them right in the district police stations? 

MacDonald: They will be working for the Intelligence Bureau, but they will be supporting the district captain. My goal is to put a civilian analyst working with a sworn partner in every district. Everybody needs intelligence. 

IACSP: What will the analysts be doing at the districts? MacDonald: Their job is to gather information. The idea is that they will have available in the field all of the information here. The methodology we use is to combine the data with the human intelligence and with street knowledge that doesn’t live in a database anywhere. About 80 per cent of what we do every day is not written down anywhere. The goal is to get as much out of their heads as possible. 

IACSP: What is the difference between national security intelligence and police intelligence? 

MacDonald: When you’re doing national security level intelligence, CIA, DIA, NSA, they are operating on Executive Order 12333 and not collecting on U.S. persons unless there is some significant stuff. We’re working with criminal predicates. We have to have reasonable suspicion or probable cause for the purpose of our collections. On the analyst side, there isn’t a difference. You’re using the same tried and true techniques. 

IACSP: Who are the truly bad guys in Philadelphia? Who are the top threats that you are looking at every day? 

MacDonald: Criminal threats. We have active investigations on a number of different groups, but I don’t want to get into the groups. There are 200 active and inactive gangs in Philadelphia. These are criminal organizations in the city, and they can be anywhere from 5 to 10 guys to 30 to 40 guys in gangs engaged in criminal enterprises. 

IACSP: Would that include organized crime? 

MacDonald: Yes, we’re looking at organized crime. The biggest threats to life right now in my opinion would be the violent drug gangs that are selling fentanyl-laced products. The one aspect of it is that they are a drug gang and they are violent, and the second level is the fentanyl product. When you combine overdose deaths with homicides, the biggest threats in Philadelphia are the criminal narcotics gangs that sell fentanyl. There are plenty of other threats out there, but this is the immediate threat. We still look at the other threats. We have a whole section that is dedicated to terrorism. When I was in Afghanistan, I was the chief intel advisor to the Afghan Border Police in the sector where I was working, and I found the lion’s share of the terrorist groups that were operating out there were first and foremost criminal organizations and terrorists second. If you’re not looking at them from both ways, you’re missing something. 

IACSP: Thank you for speaking to us and thank you for your service.

Why I Carry

You can watch actor William Shatner facing an armed robber from Boston Legal via the below link:

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

My Crime Beat Column: A Look Back At Mad Magazine

As one who grew up on Mad magazine, I was saddened by the news this past July that Mad would no longer sold on newsstands by the end of the year and future issues will no longer offer new content. I shall miss it.
In my January 3, 1997 Crime Beat column in the South Philadelphia American, I wrote about Mad. 

“Prison inmates are treated to cable TV, hot meals and a college education, while on the outside some people can only afford these things through a life of crime,” Alfred E. Neuman says in the latest issue of Mad.
Educating my nine-year-old daughter is one of my most important tasks in life. I try to compliment her Catholic school education by reading to her and passing on my views and values.
Although I am helping to build her self-worth, I am also advising that she should not take life, and herself, too seriously. In addition to telling her a lot of bad jokes, I have reinforced this notion by giving her a subscription to Mad magazine (which I also read).
Mad, founded in 1952 by William Gaines and Harvey Kurtzman, is a premier satirical magazine that influenced several generations of readers. Who could resist the self-depreciating advertisement that asked readers to “spread the holiday stupidity?” 
Despite a corporate takeover some years ago, the humor magazine’s contributing artists and writers (called “the usual gang of idiots”) can still pack a punch line. The magazine’s price, $2.50, is still listed as “cheap” and Alfred E. Neuman – “What me worry?” – remains the grinning, gap-toothed spokesperson.
I was about my daughter’s age when I began reading the satiric magazine and like many of my generation, I was influenced deeply by its irreverent humor.
I loved the movie and TV parodies, especially the crime films and TV shows, and the magazine’s look at the lighter side of life. I also liked the political humor, which perhaps initiated, and certainly slanted, my lifelong interest in politics.
And crime, in fact and fiction, was always a topic of satire, such as a look at the realistic police shows we’ll soon be seeing on TV in a piece called From Badge to Worst, and their classic parody of The Godfather. Mad also had a lot of fun satirizing the James Bond movies over the years. 

In their parody of Dr. No, called Dr. No-No, a man at a casino asked another man if the dark and dangerous man (Sean Connery) at the table was THE James Bomb?

"Yes..." the other man replied. "The famous secret agent with the incredible knowledge of women, food, and especially wine! I understand that he can not only tell you the vineyard and year - but also the name of the gal who stomped the grapes!"

"Waiter," James Bomb called out. "I'd like a Chateau Nov Ka Pop 1951, stomped by Fat Harriet La Clute!"  
The current issue offers the obituaries of comic strip characters, such as the U.S. Army’s oldest private, Beetle Bailey, and Charlie Brown, who died of a football injury after attempting to kick a football held by a neighbor, Lucy Van Pelt. Dilbert, 43, was found dead in a cubicle and Blondie, 71, died of toxic hair poisoning after years of blonde hair dye abuse.
Malcom Muggeridge, the British editor of another great humor magazine, Punch (which I was devoted to while serving in the Navy in Scotland), once said that the world was so ridiculous that it was difficult for a humorist to compete.
I believe our deep-rooted irreverence is an intrinsic part of the American character. Our inclination to ridicule our political leaders and others in the news is one of the reasons we will never lose our freedom.
Mark Twain explained the meaning of satire in a speech he gave in 1888. “Ours is a useful trade, a worthy calling,” Twain said. “With all its lightness and frivolity it has one serious purpose, one aim, one specialty, and it is constant to it – the deriding of shames, the exposure of pretentious falsities, the laughing of styled superstitions out of existence; and who so is by instinct engaged in this sort of warfare is the natural enemy of royalties, nobilities, privileges and kindred swindlers, and the natural friend of human rights and human liberties.”
In South Philly, with our earthy attitudes and lack of verbal restrain, we know something about using humor and sarcasm to deflate an overbearing ego.

A Little Humor: Fast Drivers On A Farmer's Rural Road

A farmer lived on a quiet rural road. 

But, as time went by, the traffic slowly built up at an alarming rate. The traffic was so heavy and so fast that his chickens were being run over at a rate of three to six a day. 

So the farmer called the sheriff’s office and said, “You’ve got to do something about all of these people driving so fast and killing all of my chickens.”

“What do you want me to do?” asked the sheriff.

“I don’t care, just do something about those crazy drivers!” 

So the next day the sheriff had the county workers go out and erected a sign that read: SLOW–SCHOOL CROSSING

Three days later the farmer called the sheriff and said, “You’ve got to do something about these drivers. The ‘school crossing’ sign seems to make them go even faster.”

Again, the sheriff sent out the county workers and they put up a new sign: SLOW: CHILDREN AT PLAY

That really sped them up. So the farmer called the sheriff every day for three weeks. 

Finally, he asked the sheriff, “Your signs are doing no good. Can I put up my own sign?” 

The sheriff told him, “Sure thing, put up your own sign.” 

The sheriff received no more calls from the farmer. 

Three weeks later, out of curiosity, the sheriff gave the farmer a call. “How’s the problem with those drivers. Did you put up your sign?”

“Oh, I sure did. And not one chicken has been killed since then. I’ve got to go. I’m very busy.”

The sheriff thought to himself, “I’d better go out there and take a look at that sign. It might be something that we could use to slow down drivers.” 

The sheriff drove out to the farmer’s and his jaw dropped the moment he saw the sign. 

It was spray-painted on a sheet of wood:


Note: The above photo is of Andy Griffith and Don Knots from The Andy Griffith Show. 

Monday, August 26, 2019

Social Media Security: Tips From An Army Special Agent

C. Todd Lopez at the U.S. Defense Department offers a piece on social media security tips:

Even the most innocuous data posted to a social media feed can be married up with other publicly available information to provide online criminals the tools they need to exploit members of the military or general public, an Army special agent said.

Special Agent Deric Palmer, program manager for the Digital Personal Protection Program, part of the Major Cybercrime Unit at the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, explained how those who aren't careful or aren't paying attention can unwittingly provide scammers and other online criminals all the information they need to exploit them.

Social media accounts, Palmer said, serve as fertile ground for digging up the kinds of information that can be used to impersonate someone, steal identities or break into other online accounts, such as banking or insurance.

Military crime experts continue to warn service members to be on the lookout for social media scams in which cybercriminals impersonate service members by using actual and fictitious information for romance scams and other impersonation crimes such as sales schemes and advance fee schemes. 

A Facebook page, for example, might contain current and past physical addresses where a person has lived, phone numbers, email addresses, names of pets, significant events such as birthdays and anniversaries, hobbies and other interests. Just browsing a Facebook page, Palmer said, he can figure out your favorite music, books, TV shows, political and religious leanings.

All that, he said, serves as "an attack vector" that an unscrupulous person can use to communicate with users further and gain their trust. Additional communications can bring out even more details that might later be used to break into online accounts or exploit users in other ways. Some social media users, Palmer added, even volunteer critical information that could be used to access their online financial accounts that they'd never divulge if they were asked by a stranger.

Some online memes, he noted, pose as games that get users to volunteer information that, coupled with other easily obtainable information, can be used to exploit them. A quick search online reveals a simple graphic meme that purportedly allows users to choose "your new cat name" and then post the results, along with the meme itself, on their own social media feed.

For the "cat name" meme, users would use the last digit of their phone number as a selector for any of nine name prefixes, their zodiac sign to choose from a list of 12 middle names, and their favorite color to choose from a list of eight potential last names.

A user might end up with "Count Sassy Pants" as a silly name for their cat. When they post that on their social media feed, along with the meme image itself, would-be criminals will know their phone number ends in 8, they were born in either August or September, and that their favorite color is yellow. Coupled with data already on their social media feed, and with data that can be obtained from data brokers, the information makes it easier to exploit users, Palmer explained.

Military personnel also are candidates to be impersonated online — malicious users might opt to use imagery of real-world service members available online to exploit other users. The U.S. military is one of the most trusted institutions in the nation, and online criminals, Palmer said, take advantage of that.

"The U.S. military is viewed as a prestigious club. ... It's an indicator of prestige," Palmer said. "It's instant respect. If I can pretend to be a U.S. general, unwitting people will respect me immediately."

With that respect, he said, a criminal can exploit other users while pretending to be a member of the U.S. military. Palmer's advice to service members: don't post your picture in uniform with the name tape visible. "It immediately makes you a target," the special agent said.

Palmer offered some tips to avoid being scammed: 

Immediate red flag! Be suspicious if you are asked for money or a wire transfer to pay for a purported service member's transportation, medical bills, communication fees or marriage-processing charges.

Be suspicious if the person with whom you are corresponding wants you to mail anything to a foreign country.

Be aware that military members at any duty location or in a combat zone have access to mail, cyber cafes, Skype and other means of communicating with their families, and they have access to medical and dental treatment.

The military will ensure that family members are notified should a service member is injured.

Insist on a "proof of life." The scammers will not video chat with you, because they know you will catch them in their lie. 

Trust your instincts! If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The special agent also provided eight points for better security online, and to make users less likely to be victimized by online criminals:

Permanently close old, unused accounts.

Enable two-factor authentication on any platform that allows it.

Use strong passwords, and use different passwords for every account.

On social media, accept friend requests selectively.

Configure the strongest privacy settings for each social media account.

Think before you post.

Limit use of third-part applications on social media applications, read the license agreement, and be sure exactly what those applications want to be able to access.

Change answers to security questions, and use false answers so that online criminals can't use information they gather online to gain access to your accounts.

Happy Belated 81st Birthday To Journalist And Thriller Writer Frederick Forsyth

Happy belated 81st birthday to Frederick Forsyth, author of the classic thriller, The Day of the Jackal, and his memoir, The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue, who was born on August 25, 1938.

You can read my Washington Times piece on Frederick Forsyth via the below link: 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Happy 89th Birthday To Sean Connery

Sean Connery has been one of my favorite actors since I first saw him in 1963 as James Bond in Dr. No. 

In addition to being the best Bond in my view, the "Great Scot" has also appeared in such fine films as The Man Who Would Be King, Robin and Marion, The Untouchables and The Wind and the Lion.

As notes, today is actor Sean Connery's birthday. He is 89.

Sean Connery was born on August 25, 1930, in Fountainbridge, Scotland.

In the 1950s, he was cast in numerous films and television programs. In the early 1960s, he landed the lead role of James Bond in Dr. No.

He continued to work regularly in film thereafter, and in 1987, won an Academy Award. Connery appeared in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in 1990. In 2003, he starred in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

You can watch read the rest of the piece and watch a film clip of Sean Connery's bio via the below link:

You can also watch a video of Sean Connery in his introduction as James Bond in Dr No via the below link:

And you can read an earlier post on Sean Connery's top ten films via the below link:

Note: The above photo shows the cover of Sean Connery's book On Being a Scot.