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The Football Name Debate: Are We Missing the Point?

“The debate is over about the R-word; it’s now about whether if it’s proper to have a football team in this country carry on using a defined slur.” That was the closing statement by Jacqueline Pata, the Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). Her comment capped off a forum at the Center for American Progress, Missing the Point: The Real Impact of Native Mascots and Team Names on American Indian and Alaska Native Youth. The Center released a new report that examined several bodies of research about the harmful impact of mascot representations on the self-esteem of AI/AN youth, how they create a hostile learning environment, and the decades-long movement to retire them. The report by Erik Stegman and Victoria Phillips looks at recent key findings and incorporates statements from several Native youths, providing context that is relevant today regarding the use of these mascots and imagery.

Sitting on today’s panel was Pata; Travis Waldron, Sports Reporter, ThinkProgress.org; Mark Macarro, Chairman, Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians; Dr. Michael Friedman, Clinical Psychologist; and Erik Stegman, Associate Director, Center for American Progress. The forum started with very poignant remarks by fifteen-year-old Dahkota Franklin Kicking Bear Brown, a student at Argonaut High School in California, and a Champion for Change at the Center for Native American Youth. Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) also spoke briefly at the event.

Over the last year, the debate over the use of the slur by the Washington professional football team has largely centered on issues of economics and fan nostalgia. The larger issue at hand, however, is beyond the sports soundbites that dominate this discussion. Data and research now shows that the use of such racist and derogatory team names (and by association, ‘traditions’ and fan antics) have real and detrimental effects on Native youth today. With fifty percent of the Native population being of 25 years of age or younger, the danger of perpetuating this practice and continuing the cycle of defeatism, hostile learning environments, and poor self-esteem is all too real. Continue reading

Downtown, History, Interviews, People, Scribblings, Special Events, The Features

AZORIAN and the CIA Visit the Spy Museum

Hughes Glomar Explorer; photo courtesy Dave Sharp

In February 12, 2010, the CIA declassified substantial information surrounding one of its more secret Cold War projects, Project AZORIAN. The code name referred to the Agency’s ambitious plan to raise a sunken Soviet submarine from the floor of the Pacific Ocean in order to retrieve its secrets.

This Thursday at 10:15 am, the International Spy Museum, in cooperation with the Smithsonian Resident Associate Program, is hosting a special discussion on Project AZORIAN and the Hughes Glomar Explorer. The guest speaker is David Sharp, a former CIA employee who was part of the critical success of the Explorer’s mission.

The story of Project AZORIAN began on March 1, 1968, when a Soviet Golf-II submarine, the K-129 sailed from the naval base at Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula to take up its peacetime patrol station northeast of Hawaii. Something went terribly wrong in mid-March 1968 as the submarine suffered a catastrophic accident and sank 1,560 miles northwest of Hawaii with the loss of its entire crew. Interestingly, the CIA history is silent on the cause of the accident, mentioning neither how the agency came to learn of the sub’s demise nor the exact location of its resting place 16,500 feet below the surface of Pacific. Continue reading

History, People, Scribblings, Special Events, The Features

Scribblings: Annie Jacobsen & the Notorious Area 51

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’2010_08_06_rno-phx-bos_071′
courtesy of ‘dsearls’

Tomorrow, secrets of Area 51 will be revealed.

Okay, not quite all. But more than you’d expect. The International Spy Museum is hosting a special (and free!) documentary screening and author discussion tomorrow evening at 6:30 p.m. in conjunction with the National Geographic Channel. Annie Jacobsen is a contributing editor at the Los Angeles Times Magazine and an investigative reporter whose work has also appeared in the National Review and the Dallas Morning News. Her two-part series “The Road to Area 51” in the Los Angeles Times Magazine broke online reader records and remained the “most popular/most emailed” story for ten consecutive days. Her findings resulted in both a new book, AREA 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base, and a companion National Geographic special, Area 51 Declassified.

Jacobsen has been busy prepping for her book tour, which kicks off at the Spy Museum, but managed to squeeze off a few answers to WeLoveDC regarding Area 51, its purpose, and what really went on at America’s most well known Top Secret facility.

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Interviews, People, Scribblings, The Features

She Loves DC: Rachel Machacek

welovedc

I met Rachel a while back at a media preview at a local restaurant. At this point, many moons later, I don’t even remember which one, but we became fast friends and I began my raging obsession with this wonderful woman. Rachel writes about restaurants for Washington Flyer, but as we got to know each other, our conversations would always go back to one thing: boys. We’d talk about her love life, she’d give me solid, calm advice on mine, and I quickly learned she was writing a book on her experience dating.

I even got a sneak peek at the manuscript, and so when she finally got a publish date for her book, The Science of Single: One Woman’s Grand Experiment in Modern Dating, Creating Chemistry, and Finding Love, I was thrilled. So now that the release date of her book is TOMORROW, I thought I’d finally share one of my favorite people with you all. Continue reading

History, Scribblings, Special Events, The Features

American Indians, American Presidents…And a Heritage

Photo courtesy of
‘In the land of the Sioux’
courtesy of ‘Smithsonian Institution’

Ask someone on the street about Native American history and more often than not, they’ll most likely recall the “Thanksgiving story,” the Indian Wars of the late nineteenth century, “Custer’s Last Stand,” or probably the (abysmal) movie Dances With Wolves. It’s an era of our nation’s history that I think many know little about – or choose to look the other way – and I cannot blame them for it. It’s not a pretty period of history, nor is it exactly the United States’ most proudest collection of moments.

When I saw the National Museum of the American Indian’s (NMAI) press release regarding the variety of activities in celebration of Native American Indian Heritage Month, one of the events that caught my eye was today’s lecture with NMAI Director Kevin Gover and museum historian Mark Hirsch. They were speaking regarding a book the Smithsonian released last year, American Indians, American Presidents: A History, edited by Clifford E. Trafzer. While I couldn’t attend the lecture, I had wanted to interview both Director Gover and Mr. Hirsch regarding the book and its impact but despite both NMAI and my best efforts, we couldn’t quite make things work out.

Nonetheless, I decided to forge ahead with a look at this book – even though it was released last year – for a variety of reasons. Native American history is a subject very close to me, for starters, and is an era of history I feel is mostly glossed over in classrooms. The struggle of Native Americans during this country’s formation and rise to power is something that cannot be ignored and, I believe, contains lessons for our future as a nation and as a people.

So I asked NMAI for a copy of the book, eager to see what new perspectives awaited within. And…I was left wanting. Continue reading

History, Interviews, Life in the Capital, Media, Scribblings, Special Events, The Features, They Shoot DC, We Love Arts

Photographing the President

Lyndon B. Johnson’s photographer Yoichi Okamoto disappeared behind the President to make this image. Okamoto would have been below the eye line of almost all of the reporters in the room. (LBJ Library/Yoichi Okamoto, p. 118); courtesy National Geographic

Photographs. They’re a common form of expression in media today; they’re everywhere. To many, none are more relevant or as communicative as those taken of the President of the United States. We see them every day in the paper, on websites, on television. “Pictures are worth a thousand words,” says the old adage; none more so true than those of the most powerful and important position in these United States.

But what about the men and women behind those shots? Ever wonder about them – who they are, how they do what they do, what it takes to get “that shot”? John Bredar recently published The President’s Photographer: 50 Years Inside the Oval Office. Bredar primarily chronicles Pete Souza, President Obama’s chief photographer (and former photographer for President Ronald Reagan), through the book while discussing the unique ins and outs of the position with past photographers. We managed – with National Geographic’s help (and a review copy of Brader’s book)- to catch former Presidential photographers Eric Draper and David Hume Kennerly and find out a little bit more about who some of these special and unique individuals are behind the lens.

Access to the President “behind the scenes” by photographers is, in the sense of Presidential history, only a recent development. “Do we really need someone following the President of the United States around every day with a camera?” Bredar asks in his book. When photographer Edward Steichen approached President Lyndon Johnson about it, he posed a simple question: “Just think what it would mean if we had such a photographic record of Lincoln’s presidency?” Continue reading

History, Scribblings, Special Events, The Features

Scribblings: Emil Draitser

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‘The Leica M9 with the KMZ Jupiter-8 50mm f/2′
courtesy of ‘Ð�лекÑ�андÑ�’

At noon on Thursday Sept 30, Emil Draitser will be discussing his latest book, Stalin’s Romeo Spy, at the International Spy Museum. The discussion and book signing is free.

In the 1930s, Dmitri Bystrolyotov was handsome, fluent in several languages, a sailor, doctor, lawyer, and artist. He was also a spy for Josef Stalin and the Soviet Union. A charmer, he seduced many women in Europe – including a French diplomat, the wife of a British official, and a Gestapo officer – to discover their countries’ secrets for the Soviets. Caught up in Stalin’s purges in 1938, he then spent twenty years in the Gulag and came face-to-face with the true regime for which he had once spied.

Author Emil Draitser was a former journalist in the Soviet Union and now a professor at Hunter College in New York. He shared a little about Bystrolyotov and some of the more fascinating facts of Stalin’s “Romeo Spy.”

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History, Interviews, News, People, Scribblings, The Features

Scribblings: Malcom Nance

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‘Bunker Business’
courtesy of ‘isafmedia’

Tomorrow at noon, meet author Malcom Nance as he discusses his latest book An End to Al Qaeda at the International Spy Museum. The author seminar and book signing is free to the public.

A 27-year intelligence and combat veteran of modern counterterrorism warfare, Nance lays out a comprehensive plan that would defeat Al Qaeda in less than twenty-four months without a single violent military action. His proposals include waging a war against the fear Al Qaeda has stoked, drastically reducing heavy military operations that kill civilians in the process, and relying more heavily on counterintelligence to root out terrorist groups.

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Interviews, People, Scribblings, Special Events, The Features

Scribblings: Charlie Higson

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courtesy of ‘Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie’

This Saturday, Charlie Higson will be signing copies of his latest work in the Young James Bond series, By Royal Command. Higson collaborated with Ian Fleming (creator of the British superspy James Bond) to plant the seeds of how James went from being a regular schoolboy to the world-renown Agent 007 of Britain’s secret service.

Higson is a prolific British actor, comedian, and author. His television credits range from writing and performing in BBC comedies such as The Fast Show, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), and Swiss Toni. Before tackling the young Bond series, Higson wrote four other novels in the early to mid 1990s: King of the Ants, Happy Now, Full Whack, and Getting Rid of Mister Kitchen.

The Young Bond novels are aimed at younger readers, concentrating on James’ school days at Eton. There are currently five in the series; Silver Fin was released in the U.S. in April 2005, followed by Blood Fever, Double or Die, and Hurricane Gold. His latest, By Your Command, was released in hardcover in the U.K. in late 2008 and only recently arrived in the U.S. through Hyperion Press. He has since written The Enemy, a young adult horror novel, currently released in the U.K.

The International Spy Museum is hosting Charlie Higson for an author signing this Saturday from 2 – 4 p.m. The museum shared with WeLoveDC a recent interview they had with Higson about his latest Bond novel. Continue reading

People, Scribblings, Special Events

Scribblings: Gail Harris

Photo courtesy of
‘Missile Exercise’
courtesy of ‘mashleymorgan’

Gail Harris was assigned by the U.S. Navy to a combat intelligence job in 1973, becoming the first woman to hold such a position. When she retired at the end of 2001, she was the highest ranking African American female in the Navy; her career spanned 28 years of leadership in the intelligence community, from the Cold War to Desert Storm to Kosovo. Her last challenge was in developing policy for the Computer Network Defense and Computer Network Attack for the Department of Defense. She recently authored A Woman’s War: The Professional and Personal Journey of the Navy’s First African American Female Intelligence Officer and will be at a special program at the International Spy Museum tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m. She’ll share her unique experience and perspective in providing intelligence support to military operations while also battling the status quo, office bullies, and politics.

After the jump, a brief Q&A between the International Spy Museum and Gail Harris. Continue reading

Scribblings, Special Events, Technology, The Features

Scribblings: Shane Harris

Photo courtesy of
‘Watch The Watcher’
courtesy of ‘kevinspencer’

Tomorrow at noon, the International Spy Museum is having a lunchtime discussion with journalist Shane Harris on his new book, The Watchers: The Rise of America’s Surveillance State. In his new book, Harris tracks the government’s elusive quest to build a computer system that can sift huge amounts of electronic data for signs of terrorist activity. First proposed by national security adviser John Poindexter in 1983, reopened after the 9/11 attacks in a program called Total Information Awareness (TIA), and publicly banned by Congress in 2003, TIA was recreated as a classified program at the National Security Agency and is now a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s national security policy. Drawing on unprecedented access to the people who pioneered this high-tech spycraft, Harris contends that despite billions of dollars spent on this digital quest since the Reagan era, the government still can’t discern future threats in the vast data cloud, but can now spy on its citizens with an ease that was impossible and illegal just a few years ago.

A quick interview with the author after the jump. Continue reading

Scribblings, Special Events, The Features

Divulging Canadian Secrets at the Spy Museum

Photo courtesy of
‘Spies, More Spies, & Still More Spies’
courtesy of ‘Kevin H.’

“Certain death lay ahead if the least hint of my intended desertion got about.”—Igor Gouzenko

In September 1945, a cipher clerk named Igor Gouzenko walked out of the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa, Canada with secret papers and a plan. For Western intelligence, Gouzenko’s defection, and the layered information he shared, ushered in a new era of cooperation against a common foe. Tonight, join Amy Knight, author of How the Cold War Began: The Gouzenko Affair and the Hunt for Soviet Spies, to hear her ground-breaking findings. She was the first to explore recently de-classified records of the Gouzenko case in Canada, Britain, and the United States.

Ms. Knight is a well-known specialist on Soviet/Russian intelligence; in addition to her discussion, guests will also have a chance to see artifacts on loan from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service related to the case. The event is co-sponsored by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Embassy of Canada in celebration of the 25th anniversary of CSIS and in recognition of the collaborative and enduring security relationship between the United States and Canada.

A brief Q&A with Ms. Knight, after the jump. Continue reading

Scribblings, Special Events, The Features

Scribblings: Christopher Andrew

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‘MI5 Headquarters and Towers’
courtesy of ‘the grasshopper lies heavy’

This fall marks the 100 year anniversary of the founding of MI5, Britain’s counter-intelligence and security agency. As a celebration of the agency’s storied success since its inception at the turn of the 20th century, the service has authorized the publication of an official history by Professor Christopher Andrew of Cambridge University. This Thursday, November 12, the public is invited to meet with the author as he discusses his new book Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (here’s the Kindle link) at the International Spy Museum from noon to 1 p.m. Attendance is free.

Prof. Andrew reveals the precise role of MI5 in twentieth-century British history: from its foundation in 1909, through two world wars, and its present roles in counterespionage and counterterrorism. He describes how MI5 has been managed, what its relationship has been with government, where it has triumphed, and where it has failed. Defend the Realm also reveals the identities of previously unknown enemies of the United Kingdom whose activities have been uncovered by the agency and adds significantly to our knowledge of many celebrated events and notorious individuals while laying to rest a number of persistent myths.

A brief chat with Professor Andrew after the jump. Continue reading

Scribblings, The Features

Scribblings: Jennet Conant

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‘willie wonka chocolate bar’
courtesy of ‘rafeejewell’

At noon this Thursday at the International Spy Museum, Jennet Conant will discuss the exploits of one of Britain’s key agents of the “Baker Street Irregulars,” a group of agents formed under the British Security Coordination. The BSC was created by Winston Churchill as the British mounted a massive, secret campaign of propaganda and political subversion to weaken isolationist sentiment in America and manipulate Washington into entering the war against Germany.

Conant will discuss at this special author’s discussion the exploits of Roald Dahl from his book The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington. Beloved now for his books Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach, in WWII Dahl used his dazzling imagination for espionage purposes. His dashing good looks and easy charm won him access to the ballrooms and bedrooms of America’s rich and powerful, and to the most important prize of all—intelligence.

The author took a moment to answer some questions posed by the Museum. Continue reading

History, Interviews, People, Scribblings

Scribblings: Haynes & Klehr

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‘Soviet Unterzoegersdorf’
courtesy of ‘boklm’

In 1993, former KGB officer Alexander Vassiliev was permitted unique access to Stalin-era records of Soviet intelligence operations against the United States. Vassiliev subsequently shared the notes he took with Library of Congress historian John Earl Haynes and Emory University professor Harvey Klehr. Together they have written an extraordinarily detailed and shocking account of the KGB’s espionage successes in America, including penetrations of American government and industry at the highest levels. The authors expose Soviet spy tactics and techniques and shed new light on many controversial issues, including Alger Hiss’s cooperation with Soviet intelligence, KGB recruitment of muckraking journalist I.F. Stone, and Ernest Hemingway’s meetings with KGB agents. Join John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, authors of Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, at a special free lunchtime chat and booksigning event at the International Spy Museum on Thursday, August 20 from noon to 1 p.m. (No tickets required.)

A special Q&A with the authors after the jump. Continue reading