FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Friday, August 25, 2017

Ambassador Yamate, Paul Revere, Albert Meyer and AFRICOM walk into a bar

Following is a speech that I wrote for the US Ambassador to give at the closing ceremony of the AFRICA ENDEAVOR Senior Leader Communications Symposium the year that Madagascar hosted it.  The week long event brought together senior communications generals from across Africa with the goal of building communications/signals interoperability. The US Army Signals officers from AFRICOM geeked out over the short speech which highlight a few instances of early signals innovation.  

I didn't realize it when I first arrived in Madagascar, but an important facet of security cooperation work overseas is speech writing.  A supportive Ambassador can be a powerful force multiplier for any security cooperation program.  In Madagascar, I was fortunate to serve under a superb ambassador who always made himself available to speak at training and cooperative events.  His presence meant that we'd always have a large media contingent covering the event.  In Madagascar, that meant the event and subsequent interviews would be carried on the widely watched local news program in the evening.  A large part of security cooperation is managing and shaping public perception of long-term strategic goals--media coverage is a vital part of this.  The Ambassador's presence meant that I'd often need to prepare remarks for him to deliver.  Ideally, writing speeches for someone gets easier the longer you know the person as you are able to better intuit their voice. This was the case with my Ambassador--by the end of my tour there, the edits required became very minimal.  

His Excellency the President of the Republic of Madagascar
The Honorable Minister of National Defense
Distinguished government and military members from more than 40 countries and international organizations,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a privilege to speak before such an accomplished group of officers from more than 40 countries and international organizations.  We gather here to honor and acknowledge the hard work that each of you, the Africa Endeavor communications experts, has put in these past five days. 
The importance of military communications is deeply ingrained in the history of the United States, dating back to the American Revolutionary War and our independence.  In 1775, it was the American patriot Paul Revere, who took his famous horseback ride from Boston to Lexington – warning his countrymen that “the British are coming.” 
A week earlier, Paul Revere played a pivotal Signals role in alerting the colonial militia of approaching British soldiers.  Revere had arranged for lanterns to be hung in the bell-tower of Christ Church in Boston, and these lanterns would indicate if the British troops were coming by land or by sea – two lanterns if by sea, one lantern if by land.  Ultimately, the British ended up crossing the Charles River, two lanterns were hung in the bell-tower, and the local militia was alerted to the enemies’ arrival by sea.  The subsequent battles of Lexington and Concord signaled the start of the American Revolutionary War on April 19, 1775. 
After this auspicious start, however, there were hardly any Signals or Communications innovations until the American Civil War, nearly 100 years later.  This innovation was driven by technological advances in weaponry during the Civil War that revealed a need to quickly command and control units over long distances. 
Out of necessity, an Army doctor named Albert Meyer created the first Signals system that used a series of flags for daytime signals and torches for nighttime signals to direct movements of troops on the battle field.  Before Dr. Meyer’s system, commanders relied on horseback couriers to pass messages to other units in the field.  Dr. Meyer’s new and innovative signaling system allowed for a commander to call for reinforcements and receive a near instantaneous response.
I share with you the story of these two innovators because that is the role that all of you play today.  The battlefield has fundamentally changed in the last twenty years – even more so in the past ten years.  What we face today are often transnational or asymmetric challenges that exist in cyber space, in famines and floods, in insurgencies, in terrorist attacks, and in post-conflict peacekeeping missions. 
The United States cannot meet these challenges alone; Madagascar cannot meet these challenges alone, no country can do it alone.  However, we can – and we must – meet these challenges together.  This 8th Africa Endeavor symposium is important because you had the opportunity to share your own experiences and best practices.  You had the opportunity to work together and create standard operating signals procedures – so that when we face these challenges together, we are speaking the same “language.” 
While this morning in the closing ceremony, the work of the AFRICA ENDEAVOR symposium must not end.  In order to continue our standardization efforts, each of you will take your newfound knowledge home and share it with your defense leadership and the soldiers under you.  And I encourage each of you to continue to invest in the personal relationships formed here and leverage those to continue your military’s C4I development. 
I’d like to conclude by thanking the government of Madagascar for doing such a phenomenal job in hosting the symposium.  Madagascar, and each of you as representatives of your respective countries, understands the importance of investing in the capabilities of a right-sized military force. 
Madagascar, and each of you as representatives of your respective countries, understands the importance of your fundamental role as impartial guardians of democracy, and as protectors of the fundamental human rights of the all its people – to include women, children, and the most vulnerable.  
To all of you here, my congratulations on a job well done.  Thank you.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Weekly Reading: Give Tax Credits, Not Abortions, Maps, Burglars, Brown Rice and the best hitter on the best pilot

Williams called Glenn the best pilot he ever saw.  Enough said there.

NPR's Best Books of 2016

I love me some good book recommendations.  And NPR's sorting mechanism is great to drill down on their recommendations.

Why the $160 Suit Makes Sense (Men's Journal)
At only $160 it's worth a shot checking out Combatant Gentlemen.

We Asked 86 Burglars How They Broke Into Homes
Terrifying, essential reading.  Key quote:  "All of the inmates who responded said they would knock on the front door before breaking in."

An Earlier FUUO Post on Updike's 6 Rules of Literary Criticism
Literary criticism is hard to do well--heck, it's hard to do period.  Reading Updike's rules confirms just how difficult the process is.

Library of Congress Putting Its Map Collection on the Map
I love old maps.  The back section of the weekend flea market in Eastern Market DC has some great old maps that are worth the trip to peruse.  This article notes that the LOC is going to be putting three major collections online here.

How to Cook Perfect Brown Rice
This advocates for a method where you boil and cooked like pasta.  Willing to give it a shot.  But isn't white rice now the new brown rice?  Who knows these days.

Want to Reduce Abortion Rates, Give Parents Money
I am pro (spectrum of) life.  That means I believe that a unborn baby's value is not diminished by their development, size, or level of dependence.  It also means, though, that I value the life of the mother and the child post-birth (it also means I am for gun control and against capital punishment).  This article describes one way to demonstrate that ALL life is valued.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Poem of the Week (Somalia): Fatwo (The Decree)

Poet of the Week from Somalia: Abdirashid Omar: A brave poet of the week from Somalia!


Abdirashid Omar, 28, is in hiding after writing a poem criticizing the Somali Islamist group al-Shabab, which controls much of southern Somalia and is fighting interim government forces for control of Mogadishu.

Somalia: 20 years of anarchy

Omar breaks it down in "Fatwo":

Some of Fatwo (The Decree) Translated:
Somalia's consuming plague; The inferno that did ensue; And the guns that burn and blaze; For sport, and the sake of fun; The carnage that devoured and ruined; Facing down in a pensive stoop; I brood, pensive in thought.
Slumped, in a distant droop; Seized by sobs of grief; Lodged in my core and self; In a feat so shocking in deed; A butcher that Lucifer unleashed; The envoy of wicked devil; Bequeathed Hamar a bath in blood
Scions of the Somali stock; Since the space of time; The tragedy that set its march; On Somalia it chose to perch; Wiping masses in a purging rout; Forcing them into frenzy flight; Flowing wild in a second decade
This fad of raging cults; First of note; al-Shabab; The felicity they oft flaunt; Just like the fumes of essence; That infest the nose and lungs; Then choke and fog the snout; They thrive on flimsy feuds; Conceived in blinding mental fog
Scions of the Somali stock; The fanatics of Shabab; Whatever good they flaunt; Via blasts and fear of bombs; Is blight, and ravaging plagues; A taboo, in The Text of Time; With no grounds in the Holy Book; So heed the word, and stay advised.

FUUO Past Poets of the Week:
Some of my favorite poetry books:

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Poet of the week from Cameroon: Mbella Sonne Dipoko

In celebration of Cameroon's Independence Day (20 May 1972) my poet of the week is Mbella Sonne Dipoko.  I have provided a slew of links that can give you more background on his very interesting and colorful life.  I think that the poem that I have featured below aptly captures the spirit of the man whose life spanned the breadth of the human experience: poet, writer, chieftain, mayor, rebel and thinker.

NOTE: When I feature these poems I am not cutting and pasting them from anywhere since most of them aren't readily available on the web.   Instead I am retyping (transcribing) them from a book of poetry.  Initially this was tedious, but I have found that I enjoy it now.  Typing out the words, the stanzas, the periods, the capital letters, the commas, illuminates the poet's intent and state of mind for me. 
*From what I can tell, Dipoko wrote this poem in English.  I intend to translate it into French at a later date.

A Poem of Villeneuve St. Georges
(for M-C)
I am tempted to think of you
Now that I have grown old
And date my sadness
To the madness of your love.

All those flowers you hung
On my gate
All those flowers the wind blew
On the snow!
Why must I remember them now
And recall you calling me
Like a screech-owl

While I watched you
Through the window-pane
And the moon was over the Seine
And Africa was far away
And you were calling
And then crying
In the snow of exile
And the neighbor’s dog barking as if bored
By the excesses of your tenderness?

When I came down for you
And opened the gate
Cursing the cold of your hand
You always went and stood
Under the poplars of the river Yerres
At the bottom of the garden
Silently watching its Seine-bound waters;
And the moon might take to the clouds
Casting a vast shadow
That sometimes seemed to reach our hearts.

And then following me upstairs
You stopped a while on the balcony
As high as which the vines of the garden grew
With those grapes which had survived
The end of the summer
You picked a few grapes
Which we ate
I remember their taste
Which was that of our kisses.

And then in the room
You in such a hurry to undress
And you always brought
A white and a black candle which you lit.
Their flames were the same colour
Of the fire glowing in the grate
And you were no longer white
You were brown
By the light of the fires of love
At midnight
Years ago.

Dipoko was born in 1936 at Mungo, Cameroon.  He left Cameroon for Paris in 1960 and lived there for about 25 years (I think); he died in Tiko, Cameroon in 2009 .  He published two novels: A Few Nights and Days and Because of Women.  He also published a book of his poetry entitled Black and White in Love.  From what I have been able to research, he was also a controversial figure in his service as a mayor in Cameroon (in Tiko) under the CPDM after previously denouncing authoritarianism.

FUUO Happy Birthday Cameroon Post

Friday, March 24, 2017

Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo: a listing of THE Malagasy poet's works

The ridiculous thing is that you can't buy this book for less than $200 on Amazon--it's like no one wants you to read his poetry--a shame.

Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo
  • La coupe de cendres (1924)
  • Sylves (1927)
  • Volumes (1928)
  • Enfants d'Orphée (1931)
  • Presque-Songes (1934)
  • Traduit de la Nuit (1935)
  • Imaitsoanala (1935)
  • Chants pour Abéone (1936).
  • 18° Latitude Sud and Capricorne.
  • Calepins Bleu (Blue Notebooks)
  • Anthologie de la nouvelle poesie negre et malgache

Poetry of the Indian Ocean