Chinese Cyberwarriors…

are crossing a dangerous line in the realm of Asymmetric Warfare.

I have been watching this issue for years with a detached interest. There is truly nothing earth shattering (hint) about the accusation that China continues to systematically prosecute economic espionage operations against the United States or the West. This is not a new theme out of Asia. The Japanese were accused of conducting industrial and corporate espionage in the 80’s and 90’s, which purportedly launched several of their high-tech companies far beyond the reaches of American counterparts. Most American electronics brands never recovered from the supposed theft of billions of dollars in research and development information, leaving Japanese brands to dominate the market. So, what is different about the current Chinese brand of economic espionage? China is a rising superpower and competitor, with much greater aspirations than dominating the world electronics market. Think military, then think beyond.


Can China, or any nation ever surpass the United States in terms of military technology, power and the ability to project that power? Not in my lifetime, or my children’s…thankfully. We have cornered the market by spending trillions and developing a robust military-industrial complex. The Soviets tried to compete with us directly and it tore them apart. The Chinese won’t make that same mistake. Think more subtle, then think massive scale.

What are they really doing? Stealing military secrets is part of it, but the persistent, widespread cyber-attacks indicate something deeper.

I have been thinking more about this lately, because the concepts of Cyber and Asymmetrical Warfare will be featured prominently in the sequel to The Jakarta Pandemic, setting the stage for a complete shut down of the United States. I just hope the Chinese don’t shut us down before I launch the novel. 

Take a look at this article, which does a great job explaining what has been capturing U.S. officials’ attention: Asymmetric Warfare article 


Ignoring my own hypocrisy

PredatorThe drone controversy reached a boiling point this week, as Senator Rand Paul filibustered the Senate for nearly 13 hours over the White House’s reluctance to assure the American citizenry “that drones will not be used against American citizens on U.S. soil.”

I won’t get into all of the specifics and relive the drama here, but after a few emotional days of listening to both sides argue over this, I decided to weigh in a little on Facebook. I can’t help myself sometimes. At one point, I stated that I couldn’t foresee the need for any administration to use drones to kill ANYONE on U.S. soil. After all, we have law enforcement agencies that can hopefully contain and defuse most crises. I started to get riled up by the partisanship, really buying into my own assumption that many of these politicians were grandstanding…and many of them were. I kept finding myself asking if these people really believed that drones could be used to hit a Starbucks? OR Take out Jane Fonda? I heard both of these mentioned by Rand, in addition to a dozen other scenarios that spiraled into the stratosphere of ridiculous. So I thought.

A combination of thoughts and FB posts jarred me out of this reverie. A good libertarian friend reminded me that “from order comes chaos,” and that “if the capability is there, eventually it will be used.” We all know that the use of technology or available resources expands, never contracts. So, if the government starts using drones for routine surveillance of suspected terrorists, where could this go? I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask the question, though I can’t imagine Hellfire missiles hitting Starbucks. If a terrorist is ordering a triple shot, caramel latte, and we have the kind of pinpoint intelligence that puts him in that Starbucks, I’m sure the feds can arrange for a few agents to arrive on scene, instead of an 18 pound high explosive warhead.

But what about a terrorist compound in the middle of say, West Virginia? A hidden, inaccessible compound so heavily fortified that conventional law enforcement methods would certainly result in fatalities on par with the Waco, Texas raid? What if that terrorist group posed an immediate threat to the population? Would a drone strike be acceptable then? What if the terrorists were U.S. citizens? All interesting questions for sure. Sounds like a crazy scenario, right?

This is where the hypocrisy thing comes into play. The scenario described above occurs in my latest novel, Black Flagged Apex, written well before the most recent controversy reared its ugly head. When and if you read the novel, you’ll be shocked by the methods used to deal with the terrorist compound. My imagination went well beyond drones, and if I can think of this stuff, I’m sure some much brighter individuals in a government sponsored think tank can do the same. Drones are probably the least of our problems. So while I criticized the Starbuck’s drone scenario, there are hundreds of other scenarios apparently more farfetched, and I created one of them. Hypocrisy exposed.

I did some research into the Insurrection Act, and the powers it grants to the Executive Branch. I suggest you do the same, because the use of drones, special forces, and artillery that I put forward in my novel is not exactly off the table in a time of domestic crisis. Define domestic crisis? The Insurrection Act uses terms like militia, insurrection, domestic violence and conspiracy in a manner that makes the 2nd Amendment look crystal clear. Maybe my Libertarian friends have the right idea. The more transparency the better.

Heads Up “Lawmakers,” this one is gonna sting a little…


This is my second installment in the “Heads Up” series.

My son made an interesting comment the other evening over dinner. We were discussing a new law passed in San Francisco that requires cell phone retailers to include a warning about radiation emitted by cell phones, when I made a rather bitter comment about how the law will get crushed once enough lobbying money is mobilized by the wireless phone industry. My wife added a comment about how several European studies linking cancer to cell phones will not be enough to jolt our populace past the lobbyist funded media cloud, “assuring” us that cell phones meet acceptable federal safety standards. I replied, “who do you think paid to set those supposed safety standards.” My son, 11, put his fork down, and said, “I can’t believe we live in such a corrupt country.”

Well, this wasn’t exactly the response we expected, or wanted. Both my wife and I spent the next five minutes assuring him that we live in a great country, and explaining how lawmakers and lobbyists work. We sort of glazed over the money aspects, and I’m not totally sure my son was convinced that we fully believed what we were saying. He’s heard our take on dozens of similar issues, from small things like cell phones to Wall Street. He’s heard us discuss how life might be a little less marred by nonsense in New Zealand, and ponder if it was possible to relocate before “it was too late.” I have no idea what “too late” means, but my son has been listening. We’re not happy with the direction of affairs in our great Republic, and guess what? I don’t think we’re alone.

Right now, you’re probably convinced we’re liberal activists. Not really.  Yeah, the move out of the country theme sounds very Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins-esque, but I assure you this isn’t completely the case. I don’t like to typecast, because this evokes expectations and a silo approach to thinking. Too many of us are stuck in silos, liberal or conservative…you can’t see very much outside of your silo. Independent? Another label, unfortunately. So, where do we fall on the spectrum? Who cares. I care about issues, and how they affect my family. Sounds selfish, but oddly enough, I haven’t come across many challenges that can’t be served by this litmus test, or any greater societal issues that wouldn’t be well served by it. Some examples?

I don’t want to pay more taxes (sounds conservative)…not because of a deep-seated political belief, but because I don’t want to lose more money from my paycheck. Who does? I feel like I pay enough right now, and I haven’t yet felt the sting of paying self-employment taxes on royalties for my latest novel. 15.3% (12.4% for Social Security and 2.9% for Medicare) on top of federal and state taxes…not a bad deal for Uncle Sam. I wake up at 4:45 every morning, and write for a few hours, so our government can pay off their loans to Wall Street. Or is it the other way around. Nobody is quite sure. I would, however, pay more in property taxes to fund the new intermediate school proposed for our town…because we really need it.  Convince me that any tax increase will go to infrastructure building or initiatives designed to wean us off foreign oil…and I’ll gladly pay a little more. Though I suspect there is plenty of money collected each year to pay for these things, if our “lawmakers” could achieve a competent level of “lawmaking.” On the flip side, I see a war brewing with Iran, and a relatively futile decade old conflict in Afghanistan, that I don’t care to fund with my taxes (now I’m a liberal hippie).

I would love less government (conservative), and less regulation (very conservative)…because I think all of our lawmaking apparatuses are hopelessly compromised by big industry money (liberal?) and I don’t trust them to serve the people’s best interests. Sad? Very sad…that I am at the point where I every time I see a politician’s face or name in the news, I shake my head and mutter something to the effect of “criminal” under my breath. I no longer see a difference between Wall Street CEO’s and politicians. It’s really depressing that I don’t trust our legislative branch anymore, at all. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that all politicians are essentially corrupt (despite what my kids might hear me say). Some are, most aren’t. Just like in any organization or group. The system is corrupt, and when you operate within a corrupt system for long enough, it’s hard not to start walking like everyone else.

I don’t know the solution to bring back my faith in Legislative Branch, but here are a few suggestions that might be a step in the right direction:

1.) Vote Independent. Yeah, I know it’s a wasted vote, for now, but I’m not going to be influenced by this line of thinking anymore. If there’s one thing I can guarantee you for the upcoming 2012 election, it’s that I won’t be voting for a democrat or republican. The two-party system is broken beyond repair, and adding a viable third-party would be the number one step toward restoring some honesty to our capitol. Pressure from each side is overwhelming, and stifles any dissent outside of party thinking. Junior members of the House and Senate don’t last very long if they fail to toe the party line. See the quotes from John Adams below, his thoughts on the development of two powerful political parties were amazingly prescient.

2.) Hold your representatives accountable. Communicate frequently. I don’t do this, but with the internet, it’s as simple as a few mouse clicks. Ideally, I’d love to see a system where we can vote on major expenditures just like on a community level. Want to fund the new intermediate school in my hometown? Vote directly in November. If it passes the popular vote, guess what? The school is funded. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do this on some level with national decisions? Imagine having to rush out to your local high school or precinct location to vote on an emergent national issue? You’d feel a little more important and invested. Electing a representative to do this work in a compromised political environment isn’t really working for us anymore. At the very least, we should all have the ability to “cast” a vote/opinion on issues, and see if our representatives are even close to representing their direct constituents. I think the results would be surprising.

3.) Involve your children in this discussion, at some level. And I don’t mean that you should teach them that America is corrupt. I feel bad about my son having this impression, but there is value to understanding why the system has some flaws. The sooner they learn that the “status quo” might not be the best thing for our country, the sooner it will change. Trust me, I can’t quit my job and rally full-time against Wall Street or Washington corruption (or even part-time). I have soccer games to attend, kids to shuttle around, a sailboat to enjoy. A full life modeled around what I considered to be the American dream. It’s pretty nice, and I’m not complaining. The kids are the key to affecting change. Republican or Democrat, the breakdown of Washington resonates. Let them in on the secret a little earlier, it may have a profound effect.

4.) Invest in an earpiece for your cell phone…it’s the least you can do for yourself, unless you trust the FCC to look out for your best interests. Guess who shapes their thinking?

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

“There is nothing I dread so much as a division of the Republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader and converting measures in opposition to each other.”