Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Russia/Ukraine Update

My Zimbio  Some months ago I observed a large withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria might clear the way for a Russian occupation of Ukraine, which I predict within the next ten years in my book, Navies, Petrol and Chocolate.

Others have observed there may be intent to move Russian troops to the Ukraine border, and western forces have exercised in Estonia in response.  Russia's 2018 exercise will occur in the East... making a broader Ukraine occupation improbable-- although Vostok 2018 is reported to be a command post exercise (see Patton's invasion of Germany during D-Day for possible similarities).

Mr. Putin:  we are watching you!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

What does Kim want?

My Zimbio  Granted, scoring a meeting with the President of the United States is a coup no North Korean leader has scored in the history of the country, but what (beyond more status enhancing activity) does Kim Jung Un want from the upcoming meeting with Donald Trump?

Here is a crazy idea:  he wants general elections to select a president of both Koreas.   Assume that the North (25% of the population who worship the man today) votes  as a block and the south (the remaining 75%) splits between several (two or more) candidates...Un wins!!

Korean population density

A worthy project for Gallop, the polling company.  Informed scholars believe Kim becomes irrelevant  the moment he allows a new government to undermine his northern authoritarian regime.  At the top of a democratically elected organization, with his secret police suddenly able to run rampant across the peninsula... uh oh!  What do you think?

Saturday, May 5, 2018


My Zimbio  The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution specifically protects:  "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

A woman I recently met was calling anyone  using Facebook an idiot, because "your data is open for abuse and examination."  We choose to share information on Facebook, I  replied.  What about banks, landlords and others with access to financial transaction data (because they pay for it)?   What about data, in your medical record, that hackers are sharing with the global criminal community?

Granted, hackers are criminals.  But are your health organizations really doing, what they should, to protect against (or quickly detect) a hack?  Likely not...

Banks and other organizations with access to your financial records are not criminal.  Yet they have unfettered access to your financial records and accounts, in the name of understanding your creditworthiness and making robust financial decisions.

[from Wikipedia] Article XIV of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights [stated even before the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution, that]: Every subject has a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches, and seizures of his person, his houses, his papers, and all his possessions. All warrants, therefore, are contrary to this right, if the cause or foundation of them be not previously supported by oath or affirmation; and if the order in the warrant to a civil officer, to make search in suspected places, or to arrest one or more suspected persons, or to seize their property, be not accompanied with a special designation of the persons or objects of search, arrest, or seizure: and no warrant ought to be issued but in cases, and with the formalities, prescribed by the laws.

In the internet age, we need to enact laws to protect citizens from probing commercial and government entities, and punish these abuses with civil and perhaps criminal penalties....

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Cyber Vulnerability

My Zimbio  A few weeks ago several scary hardware vulnerabilities surfaced to illustrate how sophisticated hackers have become.  Spectre and Meltdown hacks use manipulation of central processing unit cache (yeah, the "CPU" is one of the key chips on your computer's motherboard).  These hacks use a detailed understanding of cache memory functionality to steal data from applications on your computer or perhaps from elsewhere on your network (thanks to Carbon Black for this illustration regarding the workings of CPU cache/processing).

Some patches have been published, but these hacks are very hard to block.  In spite of assertions that we haven't seen this malware "in the wild," when you contemplate what this kind of hacking vulnerability means, you begin to realize how vulnerable computers are, in general, and understand the "rocket science" some of these hackers can bring to the table.

Computers.  Yes, the MRI and heart monitor in your hospital are computers.  Every device on your network.  Obviously desktop, laptop and mobile computers (including your phone) are also computers.

So what do you do about this?  Of course, install firewalls and enact your system's onboard security features.  Keep up-to-date on operating system patches (yikes... you might be forced to tolerate dog-slow performance or upgrade to the new phone!) ... but if you are responsible for any size organization, you should also monitor your network a bit more carefully.

Even  if your firewall can't stop a hack (pieces of malware infiltrate your network, then reassemble once inside, for example), you can detect unwanted data transmissions or peculiar performance characteristics (yes, even that sophisticated malware causes suspect hacked CPU behavior).

Thanks for reading.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Russian adventurism

My Zimbio  Every year for a number of years, Russia has run a substantial military exercise on the border of Ukraine.  Putin is wary of overcommitting, but Russian decision to declare victory and pull troops from Syria, enables a more  aggressive  "exercise" this summer.  

Europe hasn't welcomed Ukraine into NATO (or even  the economic European Union) and is dependent on Russian oil/gas.  US sanctions haven't been adequate to drive a Russian decision to pull forces from Donbass or Crimea, Ukraine.  Without  "boots on the ground," Russian forces will be capable of overwhelming Ukraine resistance.  Here is a graphic showing how the US can help: this approach provides US Reserve and Active forces, minimizing a commitment while adding substantial "teeth" to Ukraine forces, which are also arrayed across the country (although not in sufficient  number to stand up to Russian forces we see participating in the annual  Zapad exercises).

Materials on the 2018 Zapad exercise haven't emerged yet, but details on last year's Russian exercise are here.  Placing units in Ukraine before a Russian occupation will stop such an occupation without bloodshed,  while waiting until after a Russian occupation cedes the country to Russia.  Decisive action makes any leader popular:  Putin is running for reelection in March 2018.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veterans' Day

My Zimbio Sitting in the IHOP having enjoyed the Veteran's Day Special.  A day late for the publicized special, but they gave it to me.  "Amazing" and "huge thanks" to the Sterling IHOP team!

There are over twenty two and a half million veterans in America today (only a  little over 2 million Americans serve on active duty at one time).  So 7%. of our population are veterans.  Less than 10% of our veterans are women (less then 1% of the total population, or a bit over 1% of the total female population).

From ABC News:

In the decade since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, 2,333,972 American military personnel had been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan or both, as of Aug. 30,2011. Of that total, 1,353, 627 have since left the military and 711,986 have used VA health care between fiscal year 2002 and the third-quarter fiscal year 2011.

The VA's Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a non-profit whose mission is to improve the lives of veterans, points out that 38 per 100,000 of all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans using VA health care committed suicide during latest data available. There is very little information about veterans not using VA health care. Compare that to 11.5 deaths per 100,000 for the general public. (Quote ends here).

I find myself annoyed when I see a Facebook posting about the Veterans' suicide statistic (there are a lot of such posts).  Why?  Am examining the response... First, while I led a battalion to Iraq and have worked hard to correct our DOD mis-steps (which I saw during service or outside of it) let me say I have given far less than many of my vet colleagues.  Many vets deployed to combat multiple times and suffer from dramatic health issues due to service or perhaps circumstances that pre-existed or evolved since service: I am pretty healthy for a 56yo white guy.

Many vets struggle with unemployment or underemployment.  Turns out, veterans with disabilities fare better than disabled Americans without vet status ("The working-poor rate for Veterans with a disability is 7.9 percent compared to 4.4 percent for those with no disability.  Non-Veterans with a disability have a working-poor rate of 16.0 percent compared to 8.9 percent for those with no disability." The Veteran Working Poor Nov 2017). 

I am working on a start-up and several revenue generating activities after leaving an excellent job and my marriage several years ago.  The larger public is kinder to veterans than in the Vietnam era... public thanks are frequent.  But there are many generalizations that colleagues, friends and relatives heap upon a veteran.  

Better aware than not.  But... we don't consider ourselves "pity cases."  We are proud to have served.  But (speaking for one, at least) we are distressed to be heaped with all of our vet brothers and sisters (in spite of the sense of camaraderie we feel for those others).  Very few of us are cleanly classified according to our "MOS" (military occupational specialty), and were under the impression that, upon departure from service, we would be entitled to that fierce American independence and uniqueness that we fought to protect.  Yet somehow we can't shake these generalizations.

The pictures of soldiers walking through airports to applause bring tears to our eyes also.  But we (mostly) are no longer under the care of "big Army" (Navy, Air Force, USMC, fill in your service) and find ourselves cut off from the other circles we thought we would be joining upon exit of service.

Psychologists say we all feel more alone than was commonly believed.  So maybe this isn't special for veterans.  I have blamed a harsh Uniformed Code of Military Justice for the suicide rate.  But maybe that suicide rate is more about the permanence that we citizen soldiers find in our choice to serve.  Permanence of the negatives, in contrast to the fleeting positives.

Yes, thank a veteran today.  But more important, ask him or her where he/she was born.  Did he/she serve longer or shorter than expected?  How does he/she enjoy being a civilian?  How does he/she like his/her job?  What are his/her dreams/aspirations beyond the service?  Make a friend.  Extend a hand if one is needed.  He/she would extend one to you, if you needed.  Pretty sure of that.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Best Business Book

My Zimbio    In the year the US elected its first Reality TV President, how can I not include Daymond John's The Power of Broke book in a list of 2017's best?  John extolls the virtues of building a business on a shoestring.  The "Shark Tank" star has accomplished much, and "his" show has done for the VC process what President Trump's show has done for him... well, not quite!!  My own experience cycling through two distinct entrepreneurial ideas in one year, very much underfunded, certainly invites admiration and suggests wisdom abounds with this approach.

The Subtle Art... by Mark Manson is one I probably should have read a few years ago.  For all the challenges of my marriage and last well paid "gig," in retrospect my family (and I) would be much better off if I had muddled along with an attitude of humor and gratitude (hadn't given a F*ck), rather than seizing the discomfort to quit these two things, engage a financially draining software start-up and write my second nonfiction title (Navies, Petrol and Chocolate: Why Ukraine Matters).  Believe the Trump administration is coming around to a workable policy in Ukraine, but am uncertain that my book had a role there.  It  was a huge sacrifice to write... sacrifices for more than myself.

So Good They Can't Ignore You (Cal Newport) has got to be a fundamental of life and business.  Yes, true passion emerges after hard work, which  invariably is given to you by others, driving  passion and more hard work.  I am excited where eWISE LLC is leading me, contemplating the cyber intrusion detection AND response policy threads. 

Let me end this blog with several caveats:  I have read more fiction this year than business books.  Although Navies ... is a nonfiction book, I also published my first novel (Ukraine Skies, Baltimore Lights) and spent time with some avant garde fiction for inspiration.  Thus, there was little time for reading business material and this review are really a  "to read" list, not a "have  read" list.