Latest read – War of Numbers

War of Numbers: An Intelligence Memoir was published after the death of Sam Adams. He spent his career working in CIA intelligence during the Vietnam War. He leaves behind a memory of dedication to country and an unbending legacy speaking truth to power.
War of NumbersSam graduated from Harvard and began a CIA intelligence career in the Congo. Adams won high praise for accurately predicting changes to the Congolese government in 1966.

His initial Vietnam war research focused on the moral of Viet Cong troops in 1967. He wrote a larger Viet Cong order of battle. This began a long clash with CIA, MACV, the Joint Chiefs and the White House over the size of VC forces before the Tet Offensive.

His initial reports never made it out of the CIA. His experiences in chapter 4 “Bulletin 689” changed everything. Adams was able to discover errors in the MACV order of battle. Insights from CIA interrogations allowed Sam to separate deserters vs. defectors regarding guerrilla troops at the hamlet, village and district levels. His order of battle data revealed MACV underestimating VC guerrillas by 120,000 by 1967.
Continue reading “Latest read – War of Numbers”

Latest read: None So Blind

Regarded as one of the CIA’s premiere Vietnam intelligence experts George W. Allen wrote a 2001 memoir None So Blind: A personal account of the intelligence failure in Vietnam that remains an alarming insight of intelligence failures that forecasted both France and America’s defeat in Vietnam. Allen’s contributions set the stage regrettably for the Pentagon and White House to also follow France’s misplaced goals in Indochina for the next twenty-five years.

None So Blind: A personal account of the intelligence failure in VietnamMy interest in Allen’s memoir developed from reading a series of confidential reports by the US military and CIA from the 1950s. Declassified in the late 1990s the documents address the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu.

Many of those documents point to Allen’s intelligence reports and analysis. Naturally this peaked my wish to better understand the American intelligence analysis of the French defeat.

Allen holds a unique, deep understanding of the Indochina Wars (France 1945-1950) and the coming failure of America’s intervention on behalf of South Vietnam 1960-1974. The lessons in his book leave deep, haunting impressions today on the White House and Pentagon leaders who ignored our intelligence community.
Continue reading “Latest read: None So Blind”

Dien Bien Phu retrospective

The valley of Dien Bien Phu was the site of a historic siege by the Viet Minh on a French garrison from March 13th to May 7th 1953. The result was the first time an Asian guerrilla force defeated a standing Western army in sustained battle.

The French hoped to again draw out their Viet Minh enemy and defeat them with superior artillery fire as they did at Na San in November 1952. However a year later a series of French military blunders would doom the garrison.

To more fully understand the French defeat the six titles below are well written and serve as the entrance to a deeper American involvement that would lead to our own nightmare.

Each author addresses key failure points long after the battle that invalidate immediate reactions to the siege. Each author conveys the inhumanity suffered by both sides before, during and after the siege.

Why Vietnam?: Prelude to America’s Albatross
Archimedes Patti

Hell In A Very Small Place: The Siege Of Dien Bien Phu
Bernard Fall

Street Without Joy: The French Debacle in Indochina
Bernard Fall

Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam Fredrik Logevall

Valley of Death: The Tragedy at Dien Bien Phu That Led America into the Vietnam War
Ted Gibson

The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam
Martin Windrow

The books all provide powerful experiences from both the Vietnamese and French perspectives:

This garrison was not an all-French unit. Quite the opposite. A majority of soldiers were African, Algerian, Moroccan, Tunisian and of course Vietnamese serving the French Far East Expeditionary Corps. This unit included European volunteers from Spain, Poland and Germany. The garrison’s officer corps were French. Make no mistake Paris was no longer interested in sending their sons to die in the jungles of Vietnam.

French Union troops moved a brothel into the garrison. Yes in 1953.

Generals Christian de Castries, Henri Navarre and René Cogny ignored their own very accurate military intelligence reports. The movement of heavy artillery from China into the surrounding hills was discovered by radio intercepts. Yet the Generals never considered the Viet Minh able to position heavy artillery around the surrounding hills.

Continue reading “Dien Bien Phu retrospective”

Latest Read: Decentralized Applications Harnessing Bitcoin’s Blockchain Technology

Decentralized Applications Harnessing Bitcoin’s Blockchain Technology by Siraj Raval is my follow up to three previous blockchain books. This kinda forks hard left after chapter two and drifts.
Decentralized Applications Harnessing Bitcoin's Blockchain TechnologyMy first book Don Tapscott’s The Blockchain Revolution was interesting in broad strokes. William Mougayar’s The Business Blockchain was better.

Melanie Swan wrote an even better overview to in her book Blockchain: A blueprint for a new economy. Melanie provides a great overview (looking back from 2015) to address decentralized apps (Dapps), decentralized autonomous organization (DAOs), decentralized autonomous corporations (DACs) and decentralized autonomous societies (DASs). There is such a deeper dive required to wrap your arms around decentralized autonomous blockchains.
Continue reading “Latest Read: Decentralized Applications Harnessing Bitcoin’s Blockchain Technology”

Latest read: The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam

The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam by Martin Windrow is another stunning book regarding the French defeat in Indochina. He follows the same historical accuracy as Archimedes Patti’s Why Vietnam? Prelude to America’s Albatross and Bernard Fall’s Hell In A Very Small Place: The Siege Of Dien Bien Phu.

The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam

Windrow has written an amazing history of France’s approach to defeat the Viet Minh. His work complements a select number of authors who have brought to life an important battle long overlooked in the late 1950s by America that contributed heavily to our entry into Vietnam.

Similar to my review of Ted Morgan’s book Valley of Death The Tragedy at Dien Bien Phu That Led America into the Vietnam War the siege is a stunning look by Windrow at a morally bankrupt 4th republic attempting to re-colonize Indochina beginning in 1946. World War II in Europe was over with rebuilding was underway. France attempted along with Britain to reclaim colonial territories after the surrender of Japan.

In great detail the opening chapters document French losses from 1948 to 1952. His attention to detail is amazing. These repeated failures as Windrow noted began to show weak points within the French Union. Clearly they had no ability to defeat the Viet Minh at the Laotian border.
Continue reading “Latest read: The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam”

Tesla Patch Wednesday

Microsoft and Adobe own Tuesdays. Tesla may take over the Wednesday rev cycle as Chinese hackers were able to turn on the model S wipers, open the car doors and even apply the brakes while in motion.
Hackers shut down a moving Tesla Model STencent’s Keen Security Lab posted a video that has gone viral on September 19. Tesla updated an over-the-air software update to their Model S. The Tesla Model S is now running v7.1 2.36.31.

This is not a new issue. Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller hacked a 2014 Jeep Cherokee while on a California highway.  Its a sign of thing to come as the Internet of Things continues.

World Economic Forum: The Blockchain

The future of financial infrastructure. An ambitious look at how blockchain can reshape financial services.

The World Economic Forum has posted a PDF view of the Blockchain’s pragmatic impact upon global financial services. Its a very visual read to a great deal of research.
The future of financial infrastructure An ambitious look at how blockchain can reshape financial services

The key areas of focus are blockchain technologies that can push simplicity and efficiency. The opportunity to create new financial service infrastructure based upon high level information security.

The blockchain is looking to launch next generation financial services infrastructure. The report’s use case focus considers how blockchain technology can benefit multiple scenarios across future financial services.

The report is a follow-up to a Deloitte/World Economic Forum report Disruptive Innovation in Financial Services. This report analyzes blockchain across nine sectors of financial services.

Latest Read: Blockchain – Blueprint for a New Economy

When Melanie Swan’s book Blockchain: Blueprint for a New Economy written under the O’Reilly series was available I was eager to start reading. This is a thoughtful overview to the Blockchain. There is much to learn about the role of cryptocurrency and the blockchain but this is not the sole focus of her work.

Blockchain - Blueprint for a New EconomyMelanie, like Tapscott paints a wide brush across the Blockchain. Too similar to Tapscott perhaps? No. If the blockchain’s focus was just security then it would command a smaller, narrow focus on IT infrastructure. Yet Melanie provides a wider arena to learn how Blockchains especially in healthcare hold enormous possibilities.

My first book Don Tapscott’s The Blockchain Revolution was interesting. William Mougayar’s The Business Blockchain was better. My thirst for knowledge continues.This is possibly the best of the three at providing a deeper dive to the possibilities of a truly changing technology.
Continue reading “Latest Read: Blockchain – Blueprint for a New Economy”

Latest Read: The Business Blockchain

William Mougayar’s new book The Business Blockchain: Promise, Practice, and Application of the Next Internet Technology provides a blueprint overview that compliments Tapscott’s Blockchain Revolution previously reviewed. Mougayar is able to specifically touch on the Blockchain’s architecture. Tapscott painted with a wide brush addressing everything possible with the Blockchain’s decentralized trust solution.
The Business Blockchain: Promise, Practice, and Application of the Next Internet TechnologyMougayar moves slightly forward addressing v 3.0 aimed at audiences wider than banking. A key view is that Blockchain will not just be for the enterprise. This will create a new crypto economy. It will be interesting to watch this grow. Care to take a live look? Here is the blockchain.info site.

He views the blockchain will revolutionize the roles of existing financial intermediaries including PayPal. Blockchains will force change upon them. They can adapt or die like the dinosaurs. Blockchains will disrupt oldschool, imperial organizations as the trust boundary shifts value away from them after hundreds of years.

Banks are clearly the key target of the blockchain infrastructure. To no surprise even the Federal Reserve has been given a blockchain briefing in June. The focus byMougayar beyond another blockchain overview is a breakdown of trust, obstacles and challenges to the Blockchain technology. The issue is much stronger in the financial services marketplace as Wall Street and international banks are now testing blockchains. He touches briefly implementing Blockchain technologies and closes by pushing the message of decentralization as a key in moving forward.
Continue reading “Latest Read: The Business Blockchain”

Latest Read: The Beast was Out There

For the last five years I had Brig. Gen. James E. Shelton’s book The Beast Was Out There: The 28th Infantry Black Lions and the Battle of Ong Thanh Vietnam, October 1967 on my must read list. I finally picked up a copy and read this book in just two days.
The Beast was Out There: The 28th Infantry Black Lions and the Battle of Ông Thanh, Vietnam, October 1967 I first learned of this book while reading David Maraniss’ They Marched into Sunlight review here about the Battle of Ong Thanh while at the same time in Madison Wisconsin a campus protest against Dow Chemical resulted in a riot with City police violently clubbing students.

Shelton, a major at the time of the battle was the Operations Officer for the Black Lions in 1967. He was removed from this unit just two weeks before the battle. He knew so many of the soldiers who died. This was an event that changed his life. Two of Wisconsin’s sons died in this battle: Jack Schroder and Daniel Sikorski.
Continue reading “Latest Read: The Beast was Out There”

Latest Read: The Blockchain Revolution

Blockchain as a financial technology (FitTech) surged in late 2015. Wall Street banks and other international financial firms stress tested this technology and are investing in blockchain infrastructure. Even Janet Yellen and The Federal Reserve received a blockchain briefing within June.

Don Tapscott’s Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and the World is a worthy introduction to this advanced security ledger technology. This book is NOT about Bitcoin.

The Blockchain RevolutionTapscott paints with a wide brush across the underlying architecture. Looking for blockchain infrastructure, cryptocurrency or blockchain as a service than take a glance at the table of contents. O’Reilly’s Blockchain books are more targeted to tech folks anyway.

Hard to believe I have been a fan of Don’s writing for over 10 years. Just looked at my review of Wikinomics and MacroWikinomics, his previous books published way back in 2006. His follow up Macrowikinomics was released in 2008. It was interesting to me to understand Don lightly wrapped an element from Wikinomics called Ideagoras into The Blockchain Revolution. Sometimes you just cannot leave home….

Clearly FinTech sees the blockchain’s potential to disrupt their world. The focus for Tapscott is how to address Blockchain beyond Wall Street. The blockchain allows participants of public and private distributed systems to agree on a common view of a system and track changes across those systems with highly secure encryption. Security is also the core of healthcare blockchains with the focus on the crypto in cryptocurrency.
Continue reading “Latest Read: The Blockchain Revolution”