Category Archives: Poetry

Why You Should Wrestle with a Pig, Even if You Get Dirty and the Pig Likes It

I suppose a more insightful saying is “don’t strike the King to wound” because it suggests taking on harms can be self-limiting in achieving goals.

Don’t commit suicide. Obviously.

That makes far more sense to me than an oft-misquoted “wrestle with a pig” saying that emphasizes being squeamish about any challenge that has a cost associated with it.

In other words, why run away when someone starts mud slinging? And does the fact they enjoy it change anything? Makes no sense logically.

Why not defeat an adversary in wrestling and then clean yourself as one would be expected after achieving any task requiring perspiration and exposure?

Consider the following version of the saying, which suggests one is wise to disregard a fear of becoming dirty while working hard to persevere against adversity:

It has been remarked by a wise man that he who wrestles with a hog must expect to be spattered with filth, whether he is vanquished or not. This maxim I have long known and appreciated; nevertheless, there are occasions when it must be disregarded. A man may be attacked in such a way that he is compelled to flagellate his hogship, even at the risk of being contaminated by the unclean beast.

Is it Whack to Hack Back a Persistent Attack?

The title of this blog post is from our 2013 RSA Conference panel presentation on the ethics and business of “hack back”, a stage we shared with CrowdStrike and Trend Micro.

It was based on 2012 presentations we had been giving to explain an ethical business model for hack back, based on setting international precedent and trial: a working legal framework for self-defense using information technology.

We had a fairly large turn out those years, and I’ll never forget CrowdStrike’s founder demanding that no recordings be allowed for our panel.

He wanted no press coverage.

I found that highly annoying because the WHOLE point of our efforts at the time was to raise awareness to bring MORE scrutiny, transparency and therefore ethics into the market.

And then CrowdStrike basically took a $50m self-loan and went on to becoming yet another American Anti-Virus company with ties to the FBI, moving the dial not an inch.

Fast forward and I’m here today to say the sad news from the NSA didn’t have to turn out this way.

David Evenden was hired in 2014 to work in Abu Dhabi on a defensive cybersecurity project, only to discover it was actually an offensive spy operation for a United Arab Emirates intelligence service.

Obviously things really took off around this time Evenden mentions.

I gave several talks after 2013 where I implored people to understand that “hack back” was very active even if people continued trying to keep it secretive.

Why so secretive? One reason obviously is entrapment of those recruited to do the technical work.

Once in Abu Dhabi, Evenden realized he had been deceived and that he and colleagues had actually been recruited to perform offensive hacking operations and surveillance on behalf of the UAE’s National Electronic Security Authority, or NESA (the UAE’s equivalent of the NSA).

The deception didn’t initially concern Evenden, however, because the work was primarily focused on conducting surveillance against would-be terrorist targets.

Ugh. Deception is a very loaded word here.

This is a text-book example of exactly what in 2013 we were working so hard on to avoid. Even if Evenden is lying, he can do so on the basis that deception is very easy when there’s zero transparency built in the system.

Evenden goes on to say literally the exact thing we discussed in our panel of 2013, which as I said was censored by CrowdStrike.

I’m an American and I want to target something overseas. What’s going to happen to me? Nothing. Almost nothing. We just proved that…

Even in 2017 I was on a panel at BSidesLV called “Baby got hack back” where I implored people again to consider how much of it was going on already without transparency or accountability.

It wasn’t a hypothetical for me in 2012. It certainly wasn’t in the news enough in 2017 (there was an audible gasp from my audiences) yet should have been.

Even if these stories would have been published sooner, more importantly an opportunity was missed to run and test far better guidelines for the market to reduce deception and confusion about legal hack back.

So I guess the point here is that this “proof” story is a decade after we very clearly said it’s a viable business plan, with activities mostly obscured and hidden from view, such that it needed open discussion already to avoid errors (e.g. criminal charges).

How to Teach War History in the Classroom

When I was a student in history, it seemed like everything we studied was war.

Dates were “important” because they related to some military event. Technology was “interesting” because it killed people.

I even spoke about this issue a bit in the origin story for this blog.

Poems always fascinated him because they present a unique window into the thoughts and feelings of our predecessors who faced important social challenges. Much of history is taught with an emphasis solely on military events — who fought, who won and why — which Davi found to obscure much of the more fundamental day-by-day decisions and lessons distilled into poetry by people of that period.

Indeed, poetry can be essential to understanding human conflict, especially influence campaigns, as I recently wrote about Afghanistan.

Oops, see what I mean? Even poetry is about war.

Fast forward to today and a new article in War on the Rocks suggests a shift towards more systemic thinking — more cognition for placing war in context of society — is being put on the table by military historians.

This integration of battlefield events with the social, cultural, ideological, and technological forces that often trigger and perpetuate war is just what the Society for Military History has called for. In November 2014, two of the best scholars in the business, Robert Citino and Tami Davis Biddle, authored a lucid and compelling statement about the importance of teaching the history of war — in all its various dimensions. “Perhaps the best way for military historians to make their case to the broader profession,” they wrote, “is to highlight the range, diversity, and breadth of the recent scholarship in military history, as well as the dramatic evolution of the field in recent decades.” A broadly based and scholarly approach to the teaching of war, they added, “puts big strategic decisions about war and peace into context; it draws linkages and contrasts between a nation’s socio-political culture and its military culture; it helps illuminate ways in which a polity’s public and national narrative is shaped over time. All this gives the field relevance, and, indeed, urgency, inside the classroom.”

The article is great in its entirety, not least of all because it also smacks down some nonsense claims about a decline in teaching about war.

Basic analysis proves such claims wrong.

And let’s be honest, if more people realized learning history gives you an excellent grasp of analysis they probably wouldn’t have to be sold on the benefits of learning about war.

Suggestions for US Military Naming Commission

Obviously the US isn’t going to name a federal building in Oklahoma after Timothy McVeigh, nor is it going to name a sky scraper in NYC after Osama bin Laden. My how times have changed!

Not so very long ago American military bases and ships were attacked viciously using information warfare tactics and conspicuously named for those who wanted America to be destroyed.

Even more to the point, history had been systematically erased through the process of gifting honors to immoral and disgraceful enemies of the state (rather than heroes and role models who served to protect America from its enemies).

Now a Naming Commission is taking suggestions for how to remove these attacks on American identity, undo obvious damage to morale, and reverse the systemic erasure of history.

The Naming Commission has the important role of recommending names that exemplify our U.S. military and national values. We are determined to gain feedback and insight from every concerned citizen to ensure the best names are recommended. To accomplish this monumental task, we are engaging with local, city, state and federal leaders and communities. We also encourage all interested citizens to submit naming recommendations…

Here is a quick list of suggestions to help get things rolling:

  • USS Chancellorsville –> Captain Donnie Cochran

    First African American Blue Angels commanding officer

  • Fort Bragg –> Captain Silas S. Soule

    In September 1864, Soule and his commanding officer, Major Edward Wynkoop, participated in the Smoky Hill peace talks with Cheyenne and Arapaho Peace Chiefs. Later, he traveled with Wynkoop and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Chiefs to Denver for a meeting at Camp Weld with Governor and ex-officio Superintendent of Indian Affairs John Evans and Chivington. Soule’s presence at both of these important peace meetings reinforced the decisions he made at Sand Creek on November 29, 1864, when he showed extraordinary courage in refusing to participate in the massacre of the peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho. During the attack, Soule and his company of soldiers refused to fight and in the days following the massacre, Soule wrote the chilling and explicit letter [documenting crimes and] one of the first to testify against Chivington during the Army’s investigation in January 1865.

  • Fort Benning –> Gen. Oliver W. Dillard

    Graduate of Fort Benning, Commanding General United States Army having served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. Fifth African American flag officer in Army, first black intelligence general, National Intelligence Hall of Fame. Distinguished Service Medal (1 Oak Leaf Cluster), Silver Star, Legion of Merit (2 Oak Leaf Cluster), Bronze Star (1 Oak Leaf Cluster), Purple Heart, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal (1 Oak Leaf Cluster), Good Conduct Medal, and Combat Infantryman Badge (2nd Award).

  • Fort Lee –> President Ulysses Grant
  • “The mere act of breaking the negro’s chains was the act of Abraham Lincoln…. But the act by which the negro was made a citizen of the United States and invested with the elective franchise was pre-eminently the act of President Grant” — Frederick Douglas, 1876

  • Fort Hood –> Lee Roy Young Jr

    The first Black law enforcement officer to serve as a Texas Ranger in the agency’s 165-year history. His great-grandfather was a Black Seminole and fought in three Seminole Indian wars (the largest slave rebellion in American history). From the small town of Del Rio as a child he decided he wanted to be a Ranger. He joined the Navy and served four years during the Vietnam War. After serving he earned a college degree from the University of Texas and began his law enforcement work, eventually working as a trooper and criminal investigator. In 1985, he took up the challenge of trying to become a Ranger. Three years later he was accepted and began investigating some of the state’s most notorious crimes. After retiring in 2003, Young opened his own private investigation agency.

  • Fort Pickett –> Army Col. Ruby Bradley

    Army’s most highly decorated nurse. As a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, she was the third woman in Army history to be promoted to the rank of Colonel. She earned 34 medals for her service during World War II and the Korean War.

  • Fort Rucker –> Lieutenant Willa Brown
  • Willa became a founding member of the National Airmen’s Association of America (NAAA), the first Black aviators’ group. She served as the national secretary and president of the Chicago branch of the NAAA, whose main objective was to pursue the participation of African Americans in aviation and aeronautics, as well as bringing African Americans into the armed forces. The work of both the school and the NAAA gained traction with the onset of World War II, as a serious shortage of experienced pilots made headlines across the country. A 1939 Time Magazine article on the topic mentions Willa and the NAAA, giving a national platform for their proposed solution to the problem: train African American men to become pilots! Willa advocated tirelessly for desegregation in the military, and her school finally became part of the government-funded CPTP, the Civilian Pilot Training Program (later the WTS, War Training Service Program), established to provide the country with enough experienced aviators to improve military preparedness. It allowed for participation of African Americans on a “separate-but-equal” basis. Willa was named federal coordinator for the CPTP in Chicago and, while the Coffrey School was not allowed to train pilots for the Army, it was chosen to provide African American trainees for the pilot training program at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. This program led to the creation of the famed Tuskegee Airmen and Willa was directly responsible for training over 200 future Tuskegee Airmen and instructors.

  • USNS Maury –> Ensign Jane Kendeigh
  • First naval flight nurse to fly evacuation mission to an active combat zone (Okinawa) she also served at Iwo Jima helping to evacuate 2,393 Marines and sailors. Of the 1,176,048 total of military patients evacuated in these dangerous flights during war, only 46 died en route.

  • Lieutenant Colonel Charles Calvin Rogers

    Known as a leader who led from the front, Rogers went where the action was most intense, rallying troops and personally directing and redirecting the howitzer fire. He ran from position to position, even assuming a place on one fire team that had been diminished by casualties; engaged in close-range firefights; and was wounded multiple times during the three assaults. After being wounded so seriously that he could no longer fight himself, he continued calling encouragement and reassurance to his troops. Due in no small part to his courageous leadership, 1st Battalion prevailed and the NVA force was repelled. On May 14, 1970, President Richard Nixon bestowed the Medal of Honor on LTC Charles Rogers, making him the highest-ranking Black soldier to ever be awarded the Medal of Honor. Rogers continued his service and rose to the rank of Major General, making him the highest-ranking Black Medal of Honor recipient. He worked diligently for race and gender equality in the military before he retired from the Army in 1984, after 32 years of service

Afghanistan as the Land of Poetry

From an article remembering the “Lion of Panjshir

From an early age, Massoud adored poetry. After all, Afghanistan is the land of poetry and mysticism. He listened to a young Masood Khalili recite poems on Radio Afghanistan; the two ultimately established a lifelong friendship. Khalili went on to become the Afghan ambassador to Spain, while Massoud entered the military arena. Poetry, though, was always present in Massoud’s life; he typically kept at least one poetry book on his person at all times, and he read poems to his soldiers.

Keeping a poetry book “at all times” to “read poems to his soldiers…” is a line straight out of the American Civil War.

Although, since it says he was a student of the American Revolution, I wonder if he carried the poetry of Phillis Wheatley who penned these deep thoughts in 1772:

No more, America, in mournful strain,
Of wrongs and grievance unredressed complain;
No longer shall thou dread the iron chain
Which wanton Tyranny, with lawless hand,
Had made, and with it meant t’ enslave the land.

She obviously was way ahead of her time and a true revolutionary hero, who nobody in America ever hears about.

During the peak of her writing career, she wrote a well-received poem praising the appointment of George Washington as the commander of the Continental Army. However, she believed that slavery was the issue that prevented the colonists from achieving true heroism.

And yet, despite her hopes and optimism for a better outcome, the American dollar bill honors a man who fought to preserve and expand slavery. Food for thought when contemplating the importance of poets during revolutionary times.

Ridicule as a Weapon: a Fate for Nazis Worse Than Death

A bayonet shoves Hitler’s book in front of a prisoner and says “Here, improve your mind!”. Source: “Donald in Nutziland”, Disney 1943.

In 2006 a special international communication draft was released by the applied studies program of The Institute of World Politics (IWP) called “Ridicule as a Weapon, White Paper No. 7“. It contained sharp analysis such as this:

…U.S. strategy includes undermining the political and psychological strengths of adversaries and enemies by employing ridicule as a standard operating tool of national strategy. Ridicule is an under-appreciated weapon not only against terrorists, but against weapons proliferators, despots, and international undesirables in general. Ridicule serves several purposes:
• Ridicule raises morale at home.
• Ridicule strips the enemy/adversary of his mystique and prestige.
• Ridicule erodes the enemy’s claim to justice.
• Ridicule eliminates the enemy’s image of invincibility.
• Directed properly at an enemy, ridicule can be a fate worse than death.

More precisely, it offers this applied context:

The Nazis and fascists required either adulation or fear; their leaders and their causes were vulnerable to well-aimed ridicule. […] Like many in Hollywood did at the time, the cartoon studios put their talent at the disposal of the war effort. Disney’s Donald Duck, in the 1942 short “Donald Duck In Nutziland” (retitled “Der Fuehrer’s Face”), won an Academy Award after the unhappy duck dreamed he was stuck in Nazi Germany.

And then it concludes with this suggestion:

U.S. policymakers must incorporate ridicule into their strategic thinking. Ridicule is a tool that they can use without trying to control. It exists naturally in its native environments in ways beneficial to the interests of the nation and cause of freedom. Its practitioners are natural allies, even if we do not always appreciate what they say or how they say it. The United States need do little more than give them publicity and play on its official and semi-official global radio, TV and Internet media, and help them become
“discovered.” And it should be relentless about it.

And for what it’s worth John Lenczowski, a National Security Council staffer under President Ronald Reagan, founded the IWP.

A modern and somewhat nuanced take on what this all means today is captured in a new talk by General Glen VanHerck, head of US Northern Command:

“Rather than primarily focusing on kinetic defeat, for the defense of the homeland, I think we must get further left,” VanHerck told an audience at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium. “Deterrence is establishing competition by using all levers of influence as I conveyed, and most importantly, the proper use of the information space to demonstrate the will, the capability, the resiliency, and the readiness by creating doubt in any potential adversaries mind that they can ever be successful by striking our homeland.”

Putting “doubt in any potential adversaries mind that they can ever be successful”… is to ridicule them, as Rommel found out the hard way when he quickly lost all his potential to be an adversary.

“Censorship is essential in wartime, and we are at war.”

A Report on the Office of Censorship from November 1945, by Byron Price (Director), has quite a lot of detail with regard to American culture during 44 months of national censorship operations.

Censorship’s work may be said to divide itself into two separate tasks. The first is to deprive the enemy of information and of tangibles, such as funds and commodities which he can use against our armies and our navies. The second is to collect intelligence of many kinds which can be used against the enemy. No censorship can fail to go dangerously afield unless it holds rigidly and resolutely to these basic purposes.

…the President issued the following statement outlining the bases of Censorship: “All Americans abhor censorship, just as they abhor war. But the experience of this and of all other nations has demonstrated that some degree of censorship is essential in war time, and we are at war.”

With all the news lately circulating about Texas hoarding weirdly pro-slavery revisionist narratives and denying history (e.g. struggle to remove revisionism and restore real history of the Alamo), it’s impossible to say Americans abhor censorship.

Without heavy censorship for example the myth of Davy Crockett finally would die, as historians repeatedly try to reveal he fought for slavery until being caught and executed.

Anyway, there are a lot of details from the WWII Office of Censorship in anecdotes like the following, which make for light reading:

Most of the censors, of course, were women, who traditionally have been preferred for the job.

Why? No more explanation about women is given. Here’s another one:

To prevent the transmission of secret information, the postal censors also had to stop such things as international chess games, for the symbols might or might not be entirely innocent.

I’ve always felt that way about chess. Also this:

One woman tried to get a letter past Censorship by concealing it in a basket of flowers which she carried off a plane at an American airport. She paid a $40 fine for censorship evasion.

Was it really concealed? I mean flowers are kind of unusual and draw attention, especially on a plane. At least she didn’t put the letter inside a bunch of balloons.

Speaking of balloons, Censorship asked Japan’s bombing campaign to be obscured from the people who were targeted until a generic “don’t touch the pretty balloons” warning finally became a compromise.

Late in 1944 voluntary censorship was presented with a unique problem in connected with the landing of Japanese bomb-carrying balloons in the western part of the United States… Censorship asked editors and broadcasters not to mention these incidents unless the War Department officially gave out information. There was complete compliance with this request, even when six persons were killed by one of the bombs in Oregon on May 5, 1945. Stories of the tragedy did not disclose the cause. […] The Japanese received neither information nor comfort about their fantastic scheme to attack the United States.

The Oregon Secretary of State today retells the bomb stories in much detail.

Taken as a whole the report consistently says that censorship must focus tightly on a narrow objective such as fighting against racism, fighting against pandemic and fighting against… I hate that I have to say it… enemies of democracy.

As the Office of Censorship report says on page 11:

It took pains to indoctrinate the censors and those charged with distributing intercepted information with the basic principle that only material having a direct bearing on the war should be reported.

All good food for thought when reading news about Tucker Carlson meeting with authoritarian leader of Hungary, Viktor Orban, before speaking at an anti-democracy gathering in Budapest.

Ace of Spades: Assassination of UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld

A new podcast with journalist Ravi Somaiya, to promote his book “Golden Thread“, discusses some of the latest thinking on a 1961 assassination of the UN Secretary-General:

Dag Hammarskjöld was called ‘the greatest statesman of our century’ by John F. Kennedy, but he was found dead with an Ace of Spades mysteriously placed on his body. […] In this episode, Dan was joined by award-winning investigative journalist, Ravi Somaiya, who takes him into the depths of this event and the remarkable consequences across the globe.

It’s a good listen on one of my favorite topics in history, but to be honest Ravi spoils it a bit by claiming he only did it because he was bored while working nights in boring New York.

Anyway, accountability for this incident has long been a sore and unresolved topic of white supremacists controlling African liberation from colonialism.

The U.S. refuses to declassify its intelligence files even today, so that gives this particular incident even more of a flair towards conspiracy.

What on earth is going on? Those (UN investigators) who investigate the death of Dag Hammarskjöld do not want to know about Crypto AG and those who report on Crypto AG (The Washington Post) do not mention once the United Nations scandal. We know that the US hold important undisclosed information regarding the Hammarskjöld case and we know that they refuse to share this information with the UN investigators. Why do you think the US has been withholding this information?


A film recently was released by another journalist, and similar to the Ravi Somaiya book (spoiler alert) he focuses viewers on the narrative of racism.

It seems “white corporate interests exploiting black people” had so much influence over British and American foreign policy that assassination was used on some leaders who tried to get involved in African independence.

With the case still unsolved 50-plus years later, Danish journalist, filmmaker, and provocateur Mads Brügger (The Red Chapel, The Ambassador) leads us down an investigative rabbit hole to unearth the truth. He, his Swedish private-investigator sidekick, and a host of co-conspirators tirelessly pursue a winding trail of clues, but they turn up more mysteries than revelations. Scores of false starts, dead ends, and elusive interviews later, they begin to sniff out something more monumental than anything they’d initially imagined.

Dag Hammarskjöld wrote amazing poetry in the 1960s, but it was the British band Motörhead formed in 1975 who penned the lines…

Pushing up the ante, I know you got to see me,

Read ’em and weep, the dead man’s hand again,

I see it in your eyes, take one look and die,

The only thing you see, you know it’s gonna be,

The Ace Of Spades

Why Driverless Cars Can’t Understand Sand

Sand is a fluid such that driving on it can be hard (pun not intended) even for humans.

It’s like driving on snow or mud, yet it seems to be far less well studied by car manufacturers because of how infrequent it may be for their customer base.

Source: Simulator Game Mods “Summer Forest”. Snow and mud computer driving virtual environments can easily be found, yet sand simulations are notably absent.

Traction control, for example, is a product designed for “slippery” conditions. That usually means winter conditions, or rain on pavement, where brakes are applied by an “intelligent” algorithm detecting wheel spin.

In sand there is always going to be some manner of wheel spin, causing a computer to go crazy and do the opposite of help. Applying brakes, let alone repeatedly, is about the worst thing you can do in sand.

On top of that the computer regulation of tire pressure sensors has no concept of “float” profile required for sand. When the usual algorithm equates around 40psi to safe driving, deflating to a necessary 18psi can turn a dashboard into a disco ball.

The problem is product manufacturers treat core safety competencies as nice to have features, instead of required. And by the time they get around to developing core competencies for safety, they over-specialize and market them into expensive festishized “Rubicon” and “Racing Design” options (let alone “WordPress“).

In other words core complex or dangerous scenarios must be learned for any primary path to be safe, yet they often get put onto a backlog for driverless. Such a low bar of competency means driverless technology is far, far below even basic human skill.

Imagine it like exception handling cases or negative testing being seen as unnecessary because driverless cars are expected only to operate in the most perfect world. In other words why even install brakes or suspension if traveling parallel to all other traffic at same rate of speed, like a giant herd? Or an even better example, why design brakes for a car if the vast majority of time people don’t have to deal with a stop sign?

Recently I put a new car with the latest driverless technology to the test with dry sand. I was not surprised when it became very easily confused and stuck, and it reminded me of the poem “Dans l’interminable” by Paul Verlaine (1844 – 1896).

Dans l’interminable
Ennui de la plaine,
La neige incertaine
Luit comme du sable.

Le ciel est de cuivre
Sans lueur aucune.
On croirait voir vivre
Et mourir la lune.

Comme des nuées
Flottent gris les chênes
Des forêts prochaines
Parmi les buées.

Le ciel est de cuivre
Sans lueur aucune.
On croirait vivre
Et mourir la lune.

Corneilles poussives,
Et vous, les loups maigres,
Par ces bises aigres
Quoi donc vous arrive?

Dans l’interminable
Ennui de la plaine
La neige incertaine
Luit comme du sable…

“The uncertain snow gleams like sand.”

Bailing Sand

the truck transmission whined in protest, the computer gave up. then, bailing away soft flowing sand from our door sills, shovel burning my hands even under a cool moonless starry night… something was truly exhilarating about digging out.

this machine would never understand. sat quietly and waited for rescue by a tool thousands of years old.

in a way, hacking machines is like driving off-road so far that you’ll maybe never make it out again. and that’s why to do it. humans are driven by curiosity, machines are driven by humans.