Citizens of the Free World – In the Name of Freedom, Demand to See “The Interview”!

In a rare moment for me, I am getting into the entertainment industry. That’s because Seth Rogen and James Franco have created an unprecedented international incident by making a movie about killing the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.

I personally was looking forward to it, but it seems that is going to be much harder to do now. That is because of a string of events that began with what I imagine to be a very plump crew-cut dictator throwing the mother of all tantrums, and I now can’t see my movie.

Why this is important: The movie centers on the exploits of Rogen, who plays a journalist and his celebrity friend (Franko) being invited in a rare opportunity to North Korea. This mirrors some actual events such as the much publicized visits to the RPK by basketball superstar Dennis Rodman beginning in early 2013. Where it differs, is that this time, the hapless duo are tasked by the CIA to kill Mr. Jong-un.

Well that sounds hilarious, but what happened next wasn’t. Apparently, Sony Pictures was hacked by what now appears to be a group backed by the North Koreans (which reads more clearly as “Just Plain The North Koreans”.) These hackers have been rumored to have leaked the scripts to several movies yet to be released such as the new James Bond film, among others. That was kind of a dick move, but then they went so far as to threaten terrorist actions against Sony Pictures and various movie theaters if they went ahead with filming.

Well now that’s just rude. Actually, it is an international crime, but we’re splitting hairs. What we have is a direct threat by foreign agents to cause “terrorism”, which we can only assume means intentional acts intended to cause grievous harm to Americans and American property if demands are not met. This act has caused Sony Pictures to cancel their premiere of “The Interview” and Carmike Theaters, a company with over 200 theaters in the United States, has opted not to showcase the movie at all.

For that reason, more so than just threats, grievous harm has already been made against Americans. American companies now are being terrorized into capitulating to the whims of some impossibly immature, maniacal dictator. Forget for a moment that actual American lives were threatened and focus on the concrete damage that has been done. The North Koreans, (you’ll note I’m intentionally no longer still pretending it was some random hacker group who just so happens to absolutely adore Kim Jong-un) deliberately stole industry sensitive information that cost one American company, Sony Pictures, headquartered in California, perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars. It destroyed the premiere of one Hollywood picture and devalued many others. Thousands of people connected to the films industry are going to suffer because of this. If I haven’t been clear, this was a deliberate act of economic warfare, terrorism rather, from one sovereign nation to the United States.

And now those who regularly follow me see why I am interested. This attack demonstrates particular failures in the United States national defense strategy that must be addressed. The attack demonstrates the power that nationally backed hacking programs have to disrupt and damage American and allied country’s economic spheres. Showcasing the vulnerabilities of individual companies and individuals, the North Korean attack on Sony Pictures clearly demonstrates the ineffectiveness of the United States government’s response to attacks on its economic sector. Obviously, it is providing an inefficient level of defense for companies housed in the United States, because, as it seems, threats like the attack on Sony Pictures aren’t actually considered a threat to national security.

In case you think I going overboard, this isn’t even the first time Americans have been targeted like this, either. It has long been known that the Chinese have used commercial intelligence and espionage to silently break into the networks of American companies, steal their patented trade secrets and deliver them to Chinese owned corporations. Other nations even have entire departments and special third party agencies (like the one in question) dedicated to the endeavor of cyber-espionage and signal based attacks. Have you ever heard of Syrian Electronic Army? They are a group who does nothing but commit acts of cyber terrorism and espionage in the name of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Iran and the United States, among others have even been trading blows in a cyber pseudo-war for years. Lest we not forget my favorite subject, the group known throughout the world as ISIS. Their exploitation of social media has been used to target American Veterans and active service members at their homes, encouraging Islamic radicals to target them and their families.

The point here is that there is a major threat to American interests. Individual lives as well as the economic security and strategic corporate advantages of thousands of companies, the very lifeblood of United States national security itself, have been compromised. I am not someone who agrees with others that Sony failed by giving into the terrorists. If people were somehow attacked at a theater, it would be those executives blamed for the deaths, along with the North Koreans. Furthermore, a company, any company, like Sony Pictures have absolutely no defense against the ongoing threat of future revenge attacks like this, leaking all of their sensitive trade information, the secrets like unreleased scripts they need to keep their company going for years to come, given the enemy they are defending themselves is North Korea.

Do I honestly think that the RPK is going to bomb some movie theater because of a stupid movie, possibly starting a war that they will definitely lose? No, I don’t, but I do think that Sony Pictures Entertainment faces an existential threat by way of North Korea. Are we supposed to blame Sony Pictures because they can’t defend against a whole country? Switching gears, imagine if Providence Health and Services, a major healthcare company with hundreds of hospitals under its umbrella, were to face a similar cyber attack. Tens of thousands of people could have their sensitive health data, valuable information in itself, made public. Are we really going to blame Providence when the perpetrator of the attack was Iran? If all the lights went off in Santa Maria (just outside Vandenberg Air Force Base) is the city of just over one-hundred thousand people at fault, when the attack originated from inside Russia? No. How could every single company, agency, state, city, and individual in the United States be expected to protect itself, and by extension be responsible for the combined security of everyone else in the United States, against entire nations set to steal their valuable information, damage their property, or worse, end their lives?

What we need, in the lowly opinion of this former United States Marine Corps tactical data and networking communication specialist, is a deeper look into our signal defense architecture. More projects and agencies which specialize in SIGDEF need to be given priority in the coming years. Far more if even movie companies are more afraid of a dictator 5,600 miles away than they were of our own President. Frankly, the future of warfare is going to look very similar to events like the attack on Sony Pictures. Weak points in very large systems are going to be exploited with the few things that they are vulnerable to. Each time they are, the gears of industry are grind down just a little bit slower.

In the case of Sony Pictures, this attack was a direct hit on two fronts. The first is money. By threatening the movie maker, they lost the company millions, perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars. More so, many millions, perhaps billions more may have been lost now that valuable scripts have been made public. I don’t fault Sony Pictures though, for making the decision to pull the premiere. They showed their values there. They believed the threat of terrorism on American movie goers was true and for that reason, they chose not to risk lives of people at the cost of many millions of dollars. That decision, from my point of view, is admirable and the commitment to protecting innocent people over making money, should be recognized and commended. Perhaps they did it just because so many of the movie theaters decided to pull the movie too. I can’t honestly say for sure. All I know, is that I don’t blame them for the decision they finally were forced to make.

As for Americans though, I’d like for us to make it clear that we don’t give credence or credibility to the tyrannical tirades of any post-pubescent dictator. This isn’t something we need to call in the military, or spin up the missile batteries, though we have been at peace now for about two weeks, so it’s about that time again. All kidding aside, letting North Korea know simply how impotent we view them militarily by not putting our own troops in the front is the way to go. I mean honestly, what is the NPK going to do? Start a war over a friggin movie? Do you really think China would back you after bombing an American movie theater over something this petty? This whole scenario doesn’t even make sense. If they were though, I’m reminded of the line from 300 delivered ever so eloquently by  Gerald Butler:

No, the right move for Americans right now isn’t to force our military to take action. It isn’t to scold Hollywood either, for doing what they thought was the right thing to do to keep people safe.

For Americans, and the rest of the free world for that matter, the right thing to do is to march up to the box office and demand to see something that some North Korean dicktator threatened you not to see. We need to stand up in the roar of many voices and let it be known that we the people, will not capitulate, cower, or suffer the whims of tyrannical brats. We the people won’t be pressured, bullied, threatened, or crossed. We’re Americans dammit and we don’t get told what to do. We are Leviathan.

Thank you Sony Pictures for your concern, but I for one, am willing to risk the potential attack on US soil and would like to see your movie, if for nothing else than to give a big and hearty American one fingered salute to our friends over in Pyongyang.

(That’s not the salute I’m talking about, BTW.)

Thanks for reading!

Everything I write is completely independent research supported by fan and follower assistance. If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more like it, please follow Jon’s Deep Thoughts. Please also show your support by visiting my fan donation page here: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories and Essays in Military, Science Fiction and Life. Once again, thanks for reading and supporting independent writers.

Military Education doesn’t mean Uneducated

A question was recently asked of me, ” Why is so much power and authority entrusted to those with comparatively low levels of education, such as the common ranks of police and military?” There is a failure in this question.  It assumes that a lack of education, which is more clearly interpreted as inadequate schooling, is the same as a lack of intelligence or knowledge. Having made note of that failure, I must address a second. It assumes that those possessing great power in the military and police are uneducated, meaning that they are not properly schooled with a great deal of actual time in seats at prestigious houses of higher learning. There is an ironic arrogance in that statement, as anyone who would ask it must be profoundly ignorant of how the United States trains its members.

Picture above is a graduation ceremony of one of the four military academies of the United States. Here officers are trained for four years in everything from leadership to aerodynamics, structural engineering, telecommunications, and law. To get into one you must have shown exemplary talent, superior intelligence, and monumental initiative far superior to your peers among the “general” civilian population of college age. They are among the greatest and most exclusive academic organizations in the United States and they supply the United States military with many of the world’s most advanced warfighting masters at only the beginning of their careers.

Of course, the academies aren’t the only sources of education. Pictured above are students of the United States Army War College. In case you didn’t notice, I said that these men are students. The college provides graduate level instruction to senior military officers and civilians to prepare them for senior leadership assignments and responsibilities within the Department of Defense and other high value positions. Army applicants must have already completed the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, the required Professional Military Education for officers in the rank of major. The College is one of the three senior such institutions including the Naval War College and the Air War College. A major focus of the school is placed on research and progressing military theory. Students are also instructed in leadership, strategy, and joint-service/international operations. When the students, Colonels and Lt. Colonels in the US military among others, complete the courses, the college grants its graduates a master’s degree in Strategic Studies.

The last two examples, though, focused specifically on military officers. The elite leadership of the United States military. Beyond this, there is the enlisted side. Pictured above is a training taking place at one of the Marine Corps Recruit Depots where 18 year old young men are transformed into elite fighting riflemen. Education is not about the time one spends in a classroom. It isn’t even about the knowledge that one acquires. It is about the transformation a person endures. As a person who has both graduated Marine Corps boot camp and a person who graduated cum laude from a four year university, I can honestly say that the growth I experienced in three months of boot camp was far, far more valuable than the education I received in four years of college. Without going into specifics on boot camp (which I have) undervaluing the experience that military enlisted professionals is a grave mistake.

Besides that, every Marine, Soldier, Airmen, Sailor, whatever, spends months, if not years, in technical training schools taking part in world class technical instruction and certification. These schools cram more education into a few short months than others in civilian trade schools could hope for in years of paid tutelage. Here, students fresh out of high school become trade professionals in advanced fields such as linguistics, satellite communications, and aviation technician repair specialist. I’m proud to say that my first specialty was a computer guy in the Marines. Yes, we have those. That MOS now specializes in information warfare, and in the war of the future you might just find some 21 year old Corporal hacking distant foreign servers to bring down their anti-air capabilities prior to an attack. A similarly trained individual in the civilian education system is lucky to even get a job making sure that the email is being delivered.

I can’t speak for the police officers of this country. I’ve never served with them, but I know enough to respect their qualifications. I do know that they aren’t just some barbarian with a badge and a gun. My sister herself is going through college to get her degree in Criminal Justice with hopes of joining the force. Having said that, I know that they are also well educated, much more than this question would assume. Considering how much risk they take everyday, often surpassing even that of deployed Marines such as myself, I feel that dismissing them as uneducated is profoundly ungrateful and disrespectful, besides also being ignorant of the sacrifices they make just to be sworn police officers. This is especially true when those making these assumptions do so because they simply haven’t invested the time to rid themselves of their own ignorance.

I’ve spoken often of the prejudices against the military as being a class of individuals designated as being fit only for the lessers of society who couldn’t get into college. (Military Intelligence is an Oxymoron? I Think Not., What are the advantages of hiring someone who has been in the US military?) As a college graduate myself, I can honestly say that I felt that the demands and capabilities of our higher education system are severely lacking. They lack the fundamental quality that a system that is supposed to prepare you for your future should have, they don’t motivate you to learn. There is a myth that I think young people aren’t aware they have, that by being at a college, one will simply absorb “smartness” from brilliant professors and expensive facilities. They, however, don’t want to learn. They want to be there, get their piece of paper and go on to have success handed to them. Perhaps they lack a significant training and cultural indoctrination period that molds them into good students (like boot camp.) Quite honestly, though, colleges don’t do much more than allow, if not promote the idea by lowering standards to bolster attendance while increasing tuition on an exponential scale. I remember the most disturbing thing I have ever heard in my life was the semester before graduation hearing the words from my student councilor that the economy wasn’t hiring new graduates because they lacked the skills needed in the business world. My jaw dropped and she shrugged. So much for formal education as a means of useful knowledge.

Thanks for reading!

Everything I write is completely independent research supported by fan and follower assistance. If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more like it, please follow Jon’s Deep Thoughts. Please also show your support by visiting my fan donation page here: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories and Essays in Military, Science Fiction and Life. Once again, thanks for reading and supporting independent research.

To what extent is Al-Qaeda a creation of the CIA?

There was a conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States which spanned the globe and affected the lives of billions of people. For the Soviets, this conflict reached its low point in Afghanistan in the late 70’s and throughout the 80’s.

Mujahideen, Islamist warriors, were discovered who were willing to fight the Soviets. They were poor peasants and local warlords ruling small rural regions in Afghanistan. They had the advantage of terrain and local support, but little else.

The CIA made efforts to support the Mujahideen against the Soviets in a proxy war in which it could not be proven that the Americans were involved. The way that the CIA did this was by aiding those who wanted to see the Mujahideen succeed against the Soviets. This included wealthy Saudi individuals which had the ability to channel millions, and eventually billions through charity organizations. It also included intelligence resources from the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI, since the Americans had almost no one with links and intelligence resources in the country.

Once brought together to the same table, these very different groups were able to come together to give rise to a movement which channelled a great deal of resources in the form of men, money, and weapons, against the Soviets.

The conflict was unique in that thousands, tens of thousands of Islamic fighters flooded into the various fighting factions of Afghanistan from around the world. Many came from as far away as Libya, Somalia, and even the Philippines. Never before had such an organization been created and few could have even realized that it was even happening, besides the Mujaheed themselves. A military organization unlike any other, truly international and joined by a single purpose began to form, that purpose being ridding the Islamic world of outside influences. These were new Mujahideen of Afghanistan fighting what we now understand to be Jihadists.

The Saudis in particular were influential. Their money brought them great power and sway within the new military alliance. Along with their money they brought with them Wahhabi religious zealotry. These fundamentalists practiced an orthodox interpretation of Sunni Islam, calling themselves Salafis, which sought to abolish “newer” practices of other sects of the faith. They branded those didn’t practice Islam in their way as apostates (takfir), thus paving the way for their conversion to a more feudal form of the religion or even their execution. While not obvious, especially to the CIA, this had the effect of gathering thousands of warriors of divergent branches of Sunni Islam and unifying them, through forced uniformity to a central philosophical model and belief system, repressing and reforming all others. This was necessary for such an international contingent and had the effect of bringing together all of these different warriors into one single, highly motivated, highly unified, and highly organized fighting force, even if their organizational structure was nothing like any force seen up to that point in history.

I’m sure that at this point, many were trained directly by American as well as other nations’ military forces in the fighting of unconventional warfare. It would just be logical given what the Americans understood at the time and considering that, by our understanding, the militant Islamists wanted to get rid of the Soviets from Afghanistan, not all Western influences from the Islamic World. Our abilities and understanding of unconventional warfare through years in Vietnam and other conflicts meant that it was probably considered logical to aid the Mujaheedin in their fight against our existential enemy for more than thirty years. So it wouldn’t surprise me and it shouldn’t surprise you that it could be proved, though no one likes to admit or accept it, that American forces likely directly trained those who would one day fight against us in the War on Terror. If not directly, this knowledge found its way to the front lines via Pakistani intelligence agents who had established training camps all along the Northern Pakistani border with Afghanistan.

The combination of Afghanistani and international militants, Saudi funding, Wahhabi philosophy, and Pakistani intelligence, in many ways brought to the same table by American intervention against the Soviet Union were a force that reached critical mass over the 80’s and eventually brought about the humiliating defeat of the Soviets and was part of the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union.

This is when American involvement ended. It was no longer a concern for the Americans what happened in Afghanistan. Their enemy, after all, were the Soviets. The war was won, what left was there to do? Those who the war’s end affected the most were the Mujahideen that remained after the dust settled. They were the Islamic warriors who had fought the Soviets, brought from across the Islamic world and with the goal of rebuilding Afghanistan in their ideal Islamic image. Once the war was over, all those who were involved seemingly abandoned them. Many of these people had no avenue to return home. They were now stranded in Afghanistan, a devastated nation with little hope. Many came together to form alliances around their strongest leaders, those who still maintained their funding sources and intelligence networks abroad. These leaders included influencers such as the Saudi elite Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden and others like him, veteran officers of the Mujahideen forces were idealists, invigorated by the belief that a pure Islamic state could one day be built from the ashes of Afghanistan, one which reflected their Wahhabi interpretations of the religion. They would rebuild Afghanistan to serve as the example of the perfect Islamic state, a beacon to other Islamic nations across the world. The organization they created was built from extremely die hard adherents to their movement, vetted through tight bonds of tribal relationships and personal battlefield shared hardship going back years. This organization would serve as the base of the future Islamic state. “The Base” as it is translated in Arabic, is “Al Qaeda.”

Al Qaeda became a powerful organization very quickly. They reorganized the channel of funds from their Saudi religious leaders and family members, as well as rebuilt atrophied information sharing networks with the Pakistani ISI. They spread their beliefs, influence, and knowledge through veterans and comrades who returned as conquering heroes across the Islamic world. These heroes led in revivals of “traditional” Islamic philosophy that saw the repression of the now branded apostates and fed the movement further. They installed a new government in Afghanistan which was made up of allied students of acceptable Islamic teachings. “The Students” or Taliban, puppets of the reclusive leadership of al Qaeda, became the ruling regime in Afghanistan.

The Americans’ great folly in the matter of al Qaeda was the belief that once something is created it merely goes away. The Mujahideen were a fanatical group which served our purposes temporarily, but which had motivations and capabilities far exceeding our wildest expectations, or even their own. We may have brought together the means for their rise, but I honestly think it is wrong to imagine that anyone could have rationally predicted what would arise from it or that anyone, save for Osama bin Laden and his followers could have knowingly designed it. That said, yes the CIA and the Americans at large, had a role to play in the creation of Al Qaeda, as small and unforeseeable as that role may have been. In our time of fear against the greater enemy that was the Soviet Union, we brought all the necessary pieces that were needed to create such an organization to one table. Our failure, was that we underestimated the strength of Islamic fanaticism. We failed in that we assumed that once we, the only world’s lone superpower left the table, that all the others would as well. We failed again to oversee what took place at the table once we were no longer there. We did not create Al Qaeda, but we did create the situation in which it would be built.

Thanks for reading!

Everything I write is completely independent research. I am supported completely by fan and follower assistance. If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more like it, please follow Jon’s Deep Thoughts. Please also show your support by visiting my fan donation page here: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories and Essays in Military, Science Fiction and Life. Once again, thanks for reading and supporting independent research.

Month End Funnies: I Have an Irrational Fear of Zombies and am Buying a House. Any Advice?

Dear Jon,

I have an irrational fear of zombies. I am buying a new house, and don’t know what I should. I want to protect my family from the elements as well as the impending apocalypse. I’d also like to provide them with a good home, without sacrificing the basic comforts of home. I’d like all this, but don’t even know the minimum height that the concrete wall around the back yard should be. Please help!


Apocalyptic Annie

Dear Annie,

I’m so glad you reached out. The last thing anyone should be without is a secure home. We all want the piece of mind in knowing that our family will be safe, even if that safety is from the undead horde. Let’s make no mistake though, the eternal feeders bring with them much greater dangers than your common burglar or pesky kids selling popcorn. You’ll need to have a much more developed security plan than high walls, which I will outline for you. Don’t feel bad, not everyone thinks about this stuff. Frankly, I’m just proud that you cared enough to ask an honored that you would put the future of your family in my hands. Having said that…

The first thing I would advise you in is that you need to rethink your concrete wall strategy. Perimeter walls are a crutch and a waste of money if you haven’t already installed the collapsible window and door fortifications.

This is the Safe House by Polish architect Robert Konieczny of KWK Promes. It’s a fortress. There really isn’t another word for it. The Safe House is a giant concrete cube whose walls were designed to move, collapse and secure in the event of, well… it doesn’t really matter what, you’re going to be fine.

Yeah, and it isn’t the old musty sort of fortress we all knew growing up. Yeah sure it has all fundamentals of a quality castle, collapsible drawbridge, courtyard (which doubles as a detainment and quarantine area) and your walls by the way, but it also comes with a lovely patio, steel kitchen appliances and even an indoor pool. Also, as a bonus its massive concrete walls make it incredibly energy efficient, so that after the horde dies off, the environment doesn’t as well.

Honestly we should have seen this coming from Poland. I guess it really takes someone raised in a place with a history of being literally the first place where the world goes to hell in a handbasket time after time after time to be where someone would invent the first truly zombie horde proof home.

And yes… it’s real:

And if that isn’t really enough evidence, a wall won’t help you no matter how high it is. According to Max Brooks, author of the Zombie Survival Guide, says that if zombies really set their minds to something, err… minds… either way, if they really set their minds to overcoming an obstacle they’ll just climb over one another in some sloppy random fashion of a pile until your barbecue is burned.

Don’t you let anyone make fun of you Annie. Irrational fears are only irrational until they aren’t and then who’s laughing? You’re doing the right thing in being prepared. After all, a man’s home is his castle and if your castle doesn’t have a collapsible drawbridge, then you don’t love your family. Best of luck Annie!

Everything I write is completely independent research. I am supported completely by fan and follower assistance. If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more like it, follow my Quora blog Jon’s Deep Thoughts. You can also show your support by visiting my support page here: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories and Essays in Military, Science Fiction and Life. Once again, thanks for reading and supporting independent writers.

What is this Patreon Thing?

Have you ever experienced an online artist, or piece of artwork in your stream so amazing that you wished you could have given that dollar you gave this morning to the barista who screwed up your coffee to them instead? Do you wish that there was a way to give them a tip for taking the time to do something amazing for you and everyone else for nothing? What if you could help them keep doing the things they love, and which you love too, by donating a very small amount, along with dozens, even thousands of others, every time they produce something amazing? What if that act could help thousands or creators go from being talented hobbyists to full time creators of modern culture? I think that would be cool, too.

For thousands of us who are completely enslaved by a need to make stuff we love it can be a real burden on our lives. We’ll spend years doing this hobby when others are being legitimately productive and making their parents proud with that beautiful thing called income. At some point we get brave enough to share our creations with the world and the few that aren’t beaten down by the constant onslaught of the comments below our babies, those little pieces of art, to improve and grow to the point that we reach a few people out there. Eventually, if you stick with it, you wake up and a good day begins with a message on the network you post to reading:

“I saw what you made last night. It was amazing. Thank you so much!”

But kind words, likes, shares, and upvotes don’t actually often solve the problems real artists have. They don’t pay tuition, feed the kids, fix the roof or keep the lights on. They won’t keep an engine from breaking down, get the dog its shots, or suspend an eviction notice. In fact, they distract artists from doing those things. Basically, there are only two options for artists, live years of a marginal lifestyle themed by self-sacrifice and dedication or live off of patronage from parents or wealthy connections for those years of exploration and creativity until they are introduced to the right people. I’ll say this, I’m not very impressed with the depth of the second option. Life experience is something that feeds great art, not good art, great art. Great art isn’t created by a kid with talent, but who has never experienced real pain. It’s created by aforeign immigrant who makes beautiful images and video games, it’s created bycomic book artist who has struggled with prejudice and injustice her whole life, it’s created by a single mother and nurse finally living her dream, it’s created bya writer who bravely smiles as she faces a reality that she will one day be blind.It’s works by warriors leaving the battlefield, firefighters, janitors and CPA’s that showcase the marvelous untapped cultural wealth that almost exists in the world today.

But these people don’t often get to just make art for you. They’re responsible people with people who need them. More often than not, they’re forced into cubicles and shift work, stocking shelves or fixing pipes, not because they are dimwitted, unimaginative, boring people or even because they don’t have talent, but because people rely on them. They sacrifice what they want to do, for the people that need them. Instead, those who we’ve handed over our cultural legacy are those kids who have some talent and who are funded by wealthy patrons to make cool things. They are the creators of culture most responsible for the images, writings and sounds of today. They will be the people who future generations judge us by. It isn’t that some of this isn’t good, but thousands of years from now, when our ancestors are judging our writings of the wall, which artists do you want to be remembered? What people and what stories do you want remembered? Who are the storytellers you want telling the story of the era in which you lived?

I’m a writer who enjoys writing articles and short stories on this site and I dedicate a lot of my free time to the hobby. I’ve written because I enjoy it, sometimes to the detriment of other pursuits. I’m a Marine, honorably discharged in 2008 after having served in Iraq and now I am a teacher in my hometown’s middle school. I’ve done many other things as well, but still, I think of myself as a writer. Writing though, has never been something that has paid any bills for me. It hasn’t come close. I’ve written thousands of posts, essays, answers and stories over the past several years and collected quite a following in doing so, the whole time, though, knowing that it was probably never going to help me lead the life I want to live for myself or my family. My hobby was sort of my burden.

Then I saw a youtube video from an artist I love and at the end he talked about this new site called Patreon.

I could go to his page on Patreon and donate a dollar for every new piece he put out; no obligation, no real rewards, nothing really in it for me, just a regular donation to something I want to see continue happening. I love this guy so I did. I pledged $1. He puts out about two videos a months, so as yet, I have given him a whole $3. I couldn’t be prouder, especially considering that the other 650 patrons he has now contribute over $4,000 every time he uploads something new. By my estimation, he’s made $13,126 since I watched his video in the first weeks of June.

What Patreon is is a crowdsourcing platform that allows individuals to fund their favorite artists and creators for the creations they produce. It’s a lot like Kickstarter except that it focuses on small regular contributions per piece of artwork or per month, rather than a massive one time contribution. It also allows a monthly cap so that you don’t go over any budgets you set. Kickstarter is great for launching projects like companies, building a massive artistic installation, or writing a whole book, but suffers for people who just create pieces of creative content on a regular on basis and aren’t planning on changing the whole world. People who are newer and aren’t already established with a community aren’t really served by it either. Basically people who didn’t already have a large following, or have a great big massive idea and the social clout to back it up didn’t really have anything before that could help them grow.

That’s what Patreon does. As a patron, you find artists you love, be it in photography, writing, comics, paintings, web videos or whatever and you pledge whatever amount you want per creation. It could be a dollar or more and through the magic of the internet it doesn’t matter what currency you’re using. It automatically gets converted into the currency of the person you’re donating too. It’s completely non-obligation. You aren’t paying for anything. You’re just giving them a tip for creating great artwork.

Basically, for the first time, anyone can show the same appreciation and respect of a great artist that they show to that waitress who screwed up your coffee this morning. So I thought I should give it a try too. I created an account after a few days of debating, and my wife finally telling me to just do it. It took about 20 minutes once I had everything ready. It was super easy.

I uploaded my first work, the first chapter of a present I made for my wife on our 10th anniversary. It is the story of how we started dating when we were still back in highschool that I called I Drew a Monkey in a Math Book and Now I’m Married on one of my blogs The Writer’s Block. From it, I got my first patron, my greatest fan, Kathy Davis. Nothing really happened for a few weeks after that. Then I decided to do something else. I started to upload the answers I wrote here on quora. What are the implications of Kurdish forces having taken over the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk? (June 2014). A few days later I sharedMilitary Intelligence is not an Oxymoron and I Know You From Somewhere…, all three originally popular pieces of content here on Quora.

And then I got a notification that someone became my patron, someone who hadn’t given birth to me! He pledged $2. Over the next few weeks I uploaded a little bit more and gained a few more and few more. One even pledged five whole dollars to support everything that I was doing! It was miraculous. People actually did like my stuff.

Now I’ve been doing it for about a month. I am up six patrons and $13 for a year-to-date total of about $50. I couldn’t be happier. It doesn’t exactly get me very far. At about six to ten hours a work I put out, it is still far less than minimum wage, but it is growing and I am excited about where it is going. But the money isn’t what gets me; it’s the sacrifice. Upvotes, likes, shares, these are all nice, but they are an infinite resource. You could give them out all day with no real burden to yourself, but a dollar is something of real value. It hurts just a little. You had to do something to earn it and it can do anything for you. Letting it go means that you gave something special. It meant that you gave upsomething of real value to yourself to say, “This is something of value and I want this person to keep going,” or at the very least, “This is worth the tip I gave for my cup of coffee.”

I think what Patreon is doing is something so very important and wonderfully executed. It allows and encourages extraordinary everyday people to create and communicate things that will everyone can enjoy without needing to do the most massive. Furthermore it allows people who want to contribute to culture in the ways that they can afford. It really shouldn’t take and endowment, or a foundation, or wealth to create culture. It should just take people who want something to support. Patreon makes that happen in a way that can be of use to so many people.

I don’t work for Patreon. I’ve never met anyone who does. I’m just a user who’s fallen love with a product that has done far more for me than I could do ever in return. If I’ve made you interested in site I really want you to try it out either as a patron or as someone who creates. Check out my site and see how it works here: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories and Essays in Military, Sci-Fi and Life. Whether you decide to patron me or not I hope you decide to give the site a try. Great things are coming out of this place.

And you want to know what else is so great about it? I just made $13.

Thanks for reading!

Everything I write is completely independent research. I am supported completely by fan and follower assistance. If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more like it, follow my blog Jon’s Deep Thoughts or you could show your support directly by donating at my fan support page here: How you can support Jon Davis’ independent writing.

Is War a Zero-Sum Event?


In game theory and economic theory, a zero-sum game is a mathematical representation of a situation in which a participant’s gain (or loss) of utility is exactly balanced by the losses (or gains) of the utility of the other participant(s).

War is brutal and it is terrible, but it is not binary in nature. One does not “win” just because one “loses”. There can be many victors or none at all, but there is never an equal amount exchanged, one part given, one part received. The loss or gain from a military engagement is never, ever equal on both sides. If we think of warfare in the terms of a chess match then yes, this is true. Warfare and geopolitics, however, are extremely more complicated than moves on a boar. Bare with me for a short time and try to think of war pragmatically, devoid of the emotional burden which cannot be measured through exercises in game theory or by any other means.


To prove my point that war is never a zero-sum exchange, consider war as simple conflict. In its most brutal and basic form it would be just combat between two individuals, both presumably equal. Consider, now the death of a single person, the loser. That person’s death, a commonplace event in a warzone, socially and economically speaking, represents the end of any possible gains from their labor or any possible cultural contributions to a nation that he may ever produce. These are assets to a culture that are potentially invaluable. Considering the alternative, a nation may not have the means to support an individual, no matter how brilliant, to achieve their potential. What good is a world class software engineer in a nation with no power? In this case their loss represents one less mouth to feed, one less vaccination, one less series of resources expensed. This liability is finite though; there is only so much a person can take up. Therefore, in theory at least, a person lost is almost surely a net loss. Furthermore, it is almost surely more of a loss to the nation than is the bullet sacrificed by the enemy, and the gain that the victor has achieved is, in this case negligible. In this case, he walked away with only what he started with, his life. Ergo, in this example, warfare, when taken to the very base form, one person who lives, one who doesn’t, is a negative-sum event.

That said, there is also the possibility of positive-sum. When one nation overtakes another nation, it incorporates its surviving members, assets, resources and entire remaining capacity into its own. If this were the end of the story, we have a zero sum. Of course, this is not the end of the story. After the bullets have flown and mourning period has passed, the long run consequences and economies of scale take effect, new connections are formed, technologies are exchanged and the “empire” is capable of producing more value for both itself and its new citizens than either were capable of alone. This is why war can not be measured like exchanges on a chessboard, with a simple exchanges of resources. It can, however,be compared to RISK if we consider what happens when you capture enough territories. At some point, a person who has captured enough territories on the map gets a bonus, say if you capture all of North America. If you capture the right combination of territories and can hold them, you receive extra resources that would not exist at all if two or more players controlled the same spaces. In the real world, we might consider Russia’s recent intervention in Ukraine to be such an event. Considering the gain to Russia’s infrastructure that control of access the Baltic Sea and Ukrainian energy resources will have on the “new” Russia. It will experience much more economic and political power growth overall than the Ukraine has lost. This isn’t to say the Ukrainian loss is marginal; it is crushing to them, but the growth in Russia will potentially dwarf the losses experienced by the Ukrainians in the long run. So too, perhaps, will Russia’s next possible incursions as well. There is also much to say about how well this placed Russia politically in regards to force projection, international standing, discrediting NATO and the UN as well as the improved ability it now has to dictate policy throughout much of the old Soviet Union’s sphere of influence. To put it frankly, Russia’s total gain from Ukraine is immeasurably more than the simple value of the land and resources now lost to the powers of Kiev.

Then there is also the question of whether war, the very practice of organized violence has brought us all to the point of social prosperity we enjoy today. Stanford classics professor Ian Morris tries to argue this in his book, War! What Is It Good For? Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots. A historian and an archaeologist, Morris believes that we left caveman status when stopped hunting large game as our only source for survival, and started turning our spears toward each other in a more organized fashion.

…”by fighting wars, people have created larger, more organized societies that have reduced the risk that their members will die violently.”

If we consider this as even a possibility, one might ask if the whole of civilized Earth we know today, is in fact the extremely long run result of wars effect to bring about new efficiencies and social structures. It’s only a theory, but one worth investigating, both as a society and as individuals.

This argument is, of course, ignoring the loss of human life, but not because of the tragedy and drama that comes with it. Pain heals and people move on. It is a reality of the human condition. I say this callously, but consider this fact that I am speaking as former United States Marine and Iraq War veteran. I have lost friends in war and good people I knew with much more to offer the world than the potential they were given. I’ve also seen first hand the results of a war on the people there. Before you decide to rebuke me for my insensitivity, know that I have thought much more about warfare than you likely ever will. From my experience, you should consider that a blessing. Know also, the way one deals with war isn’t to dismiss it as barbaric. Any civilized person knows war is a terrible event so you shouldn’t pat yourself on the back too hard for being aware of this. It is to attempt to understanding why wars happen practically, and their long term consequences practically and not allow your objective rationally to be muddled through emotionally charged, one-liner humanist tropes, impossible to deny, but themselves of little value. If you want to solve warfare, you need to truly attempt to understand it a little bit better. That said, pain heals and people move on.

From a world standpoint there is a great deal of importance to temporary nature of human suffering caused by human death. You don’t think it is temporary? Name all four of your grandparents right now. First names. To those who can, name all eight of your great-grandparents parents. Still a good person? Name four great-great-grandparents. That’s only 1/8th of them. If humans did not have a means to move on and forget tragedy, these people would haunt you even though you never knew them. The truth, they didn’t even haunt your grandparents enough that they made sure you remembered them. At some point we all die. Those who need us will inevitably find others to lean on. Those who need us for love will find others to love. Those who need us for material wealth will find other sources for income. Those who need us for guidance and motivation will find other teachers and perhaps, if we are lucky, be furthered by our memory. No one can replace your brother, your friend, you mother, your wife, or your dog, but the qualities these people, yourself, provide to the world can be found elsewhere. In a macro scale, this is even easier. If a business person dies, his customers will send flowers to the family out of courtesy, and then they will be expected to find other service providers. Eventually, everything we provided will be replaced by our nearest competitors in every aspect. This is the fundamental strength of free systems based on mutual self interest. Losses are temporary events.

Worse yet, some people might be better off. The whole world might be better off if some people are lost. Say I and another man are the only two widget factory owners in town. Say that I bite it and he is now able to grow his business because of the boon of my sudden loss. This isn’t to say he is a bad person; he didn’t plan anything that led to my death. He is even a very good man, perhaps. He is just lucky due to my misfortune, or at the very least, inevitability being that eventually, we are not long for this Earth, regardless. If we consider the last example, though, owning both factories might make him able to achieve marvelous economies of scale, reducing the price of his goods and bettering the widget economy for all now that he is able to do more as the only player than if the two of us competed for limited resources. Maybe this growth will allow him to grow the local economy greatly built on the boom in one company’s widget success. I’ll beat you to the punch, yes I concede there is a possibility the world might be better off if I were dead. My wife, mom and dog would be very sad, but the rest of the world moved on without me and, in this example, were better off for it. Of course, just as easily, that other guy could become a tyrannical monopoly on widgets and you will all cry for the good old days of me. Who is to say?

And that is why we can’t measure human life as a factor. Who is to say what value it has. Was not bin Laden a human life? Did the world gain or lose when the Americans finally tracked him down in Pakistan and relieve the Earth of his presence? Did the world equally gain or lose when my friend Haytak was killed in Iraq? Was one more valuable than the other? Why? What of any individual human who is lost? What of great people? Mao, Stalin, Hitler? Were their deaths a gain or loss to the world? Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or Abraham Lincoln; by what value do we attribute their individual losses? How do any of these compare? Why can we say some losses are good while others are tragic? We cannot. The truth is, the loss of some people greatly disrupts the order and fundamental connections of so many others, damaging the prosperity and happiness of millions. Some of these people, just so happen to be evil. Some other people, very good people, bring about conflict just because they exist. Who is to say the world would be better off, or even worse off, if they suddenly weren’t a part of the picture any more?

Having said all this and tabling the philosophical moral discussions, there is no plausible case that a true zero-sum exchange will ever happen. Some resources will be exchanged and in the immediate event, many will be lost in the war. In the short term a negative-sum event will have occurred. I have yet to see a war which hasn’t ended this way. In the long term though, there have been nations which rebuilt stronger than before because of military conflict. Perhaps it was due to a benevolent ruler or, in the most likely case, the nature of people to take advantage of opportunity when there are gains to be made through efficiencies of scale and new resource interconnectedness. Such an event achieves greater gains than either nation could have achieved on their own assuming there is no change in the level of diplomacy between the two. That said, there is also a third possibility, one where two equally powerful nations duel in such a struggle, that all parties involved are sent back decades. In such an event there is no gain to be had, but a long arduous road back to zero. In such a conflict, the goal is not attempting to maximize gains, but defeat the enemy fast enough that your own losses are minimized. There is also the possibility of disruption, where one nation gains nothing, but utterly destroys, or at least sets another. This too is often the case.

With all this in mind, there can be many outcomes to war, particularly if viewed in the long run. Many negative, but not always. Sometimes there is growth. What there is not, is a case where a conflict arises, and an equal gain is made from an equal loss. Someone out there, values what you have more than you do.

Thanks for reading!

Everything I write is completely independent research. I am supported completely by fan and follower assistance. If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more like it, follow my Quora blog Jon’s Deep Thoughts. You can also show your support by visiting my support page here: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories and Essays in Military, Science Fiction and Life. Once again, thanks for reading and supporting independent writers.

Welcome Newsweek Followers and Listeners to Art of Charm!

Hello everyone and welcome to JDT. You’ve probably recently discovered this page thanks to either my recent publication in Newsweek or my appearance on the Art of Charm with Jordan Harbinger. That said, happy Veterans Day. I’ve been very blessed this week to be able to put out the message of veteran awareness and I appreciate you taking an interest to check out my site to find out more.

If you would like to know more about me, I’m a writer and blogger who focuses on military and veteran affairs. I often also write on the future trends of military technology as well as communicating veteran perspectives on current conflicts and Middle Eastern Affairs. I am also publishing my first book on the future of warfare next year, so if you’re interested in military fiction with a well researched technology and geopolitics bent, park it here for updates in the months to come.

I publish in various venues across the web, so for anyone who enjoyed seeing what you read or what we talked about on the podcast, or would just like to stay up to date on current projects, I encourage everyone to follow me here by email newsletter or otherwise. Here I keep followers up to date on what I am writing about, where I am being published and where to find what I am working on next. You can also follow me on Quora where I answer on just about anything.

I would also like to add that everything I do from outreach for returning veterans, communicating Middle Eastern disturbances, and writing military fiction, I make available for free, but am supported by volunteer patrons via the crowdsourcing platform Patreon. Patreon is a crowdsourcing website where people can donate on a voluntary basis to artists, writers, musicians, or whatever to create content and be funded on a regular basis. It’s like Kickstarter or GoFundMe except that instead of many people making small donations for one large lumpsum payout, many people donate a small amount to be paid out every month or whenever a content creator publishes something new. It’s not a way to start a company or do one huge project, but instead to keep the creators creating many small pieces that, together, make something really huge. The program lets patrons set monthly limits and creators can give special rewards, such as exclusive content and anything else they can imagine.

I’d like to ask everyone that, if you support the work I’m doing, to pledge through my patreon support page. If you decide to fund me you’ll get special access to works I will be doing in the future as well as bonus content to my books and stories that won’t be published anywhere else. You’ll also get the satisfaction of knowing that you’re helping support military and veteran issue awareness as well as helping me fix my leaky roof. Also know that 20% of my pledges go right back out to funding other veteran artists and entrepreneurs attempting to get started, as well.

That said, welcome aboard JDT. Please explore and tell me what you think. I’ve recently rebuilt the site to make it more relevant and updated. If you see anything you enjoy, please comment and share. Thanks again for visiting.