Robots: friendly helpers or heartless monsters that will destroy humanity? This is no longer just a question for the movies that play all the time on "Spike" or TNT. As you may or may not have noticed, aggressor nations such as the United States are getting out of the people business when it comes to fighting wars. Drones and robots are where the action is today, because drones don't urinate on the corpses of innocent people in Afghanistan, and drones don't burn the Koran, and drones don't come home missing a couple of limbs or a chunk of brain and end up standing alongside a freeway ramp with a [...]
It's almost the 30th anniversary of the Falkands War! If you forget why that war was fought, well, let old Maggie explain it to you: "We fought to show that aggression does not pay and that the robber cannot be allowed to get away with his swag." So to celebrate, England is sending over the HMS Dauntless, which is "'armed with a battery of missiles that could "take out all of South America's fighter aircraft let alone Argentina's,' according to one Navy source." They will retain these thoroughly crappy little islands off the coast of Argentina! Who wouldn't want them? Meanwhile, it's a war of words between the [...]
And now we get to prematurely place behind us another quite troubling incident in our recent history. Secret prisons? Eh, let's forget about those. Torture? Let's just move on. A incredible transformation of huge chunks of the military into a privately contracted mercenary army? La la la la la! Years and years of National Guard reservists being unexpectedly called up for active duty in Iraq? Oh well! Thousands of soldiers having had their service contracts forcibly extended, creating a stop-lossed conscription army, under a policy that somehow no judge would find illegal? Sorry guys and gals! (And sorry families of dead guys and gals.) Operation New Dawn: the war we [...]
"Airmindedness” is a term that used to be everywhere and now it's nowhere. The word, as defined by the OED, means an interest in and enthusiasm for the use and development of aircraft. The expression emerged with the development of the airplane in the early twentieth century, during which an entire generation struggled to expand their conceptual boundaries skywards. Prompted by the invention of mechanical flight, this airminded cultural moment was sustained by the military incentives that ceaselessly pushed for improvements to air power.
As media critic Friedrich Kittler proposes, technologies repeatedly find their ancestry in the mouth of war: “war was called the father of all [...]
Things in Libya are… God, this is depressing. But we've apparently done great damage to Gaddafi's Bab al-Azizya compound! Take that, books and files! Worry not, Lindsey Graham and John McCain are out agitating for us to just assassinate Gaddafi. (I'm pretty sure that's what "cut the head of the snake off" means.) You know: the American way.
Elsewhere? Much worse! Apparently government troops are firing on protesters in Yemen today, and, after the horrific weekend in Syria, "Syrian troops and tanks have entered the city of Deraa, where the protests against the Assad regime began last month. Troops reportedly opened fire randomly on people and [...]
It's been some time since we've brought you news on our endless war against the birds, but today is huge. When last we checked in, the plan was to basically kill all of the birds around airports, but that hasn't worked! Mostly probably because birds aren't fairly mobile. New news! Birds are more likely to attack than ever: "The number of severe bird strikes suffered by airline flights above 500 feet reached a new high of 150 in 2009, the federal data show. That represents a 40% increase in the rate of bird strikes compared with the average from 2000 through 2008. The trend continued last year, [...]
North Korea has invaded South Korea…. 's fax machines. Yes, maybe 80 businesses in South Korea have received angry spam faxes from North Korea. Harsh.
David Petraeus is snide gnome with a toupée hairstyle, and he is not even very good at winning wars—his military career can be accurately described as a draw in Iraq and total defeat in Afghanistan. As his personal scandal of marital infidelity involves ever more civilian women, shirtless FBI agents sexting those women, fellow commanders in Afghanistan, and the entire state of Florida, perhaps we will take a pause in our race for additional sleazy details to ask additional, important questions that are also about as sexy as a 60-year-old man with his pants off.
They're just sitting there… WAITING. I don't like it one bit.
John Cook's 4500-page Blackwater document dump is incredibly engrossing. These little stories! It's like, "we shot this dude's car, then everything was okay." What a nightmare Baghdad must have been (for Iraqis, I mean).
"Nicolas Sarkozy is pressing for success in Libya by coalition forces to be achieved in time for him to declare 'victory' on Bastille Day in Paris." —Good luck with that.
When your country fires 122 of 124 Tomahawk missiles into a country in a single day, and your pilots are doing bombing runs, then your country is leading a war on that other country. That's true even if the French President got his jets there first, and your president only announced it in a radio address from Brazil.
So there are some problems with this.
The Army has charged Bradley Manning with 22 counts, among them theft, fraud and most importantly, "aiding and giving intelligence to the enemy," by way of providing military information to Wikileaks. Manning is suspected, or said to be, the source not only for the leaked diplomatic cables but also for footage of airstrikes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has been held at Quantico since July of last year. (His mental health evaluation will supposedly be complete sometime in the next month, with a pre-trial hearing perhaps in May, and a trial mid-July, at his defense's request.)
One charge is "wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet [...]
When last we checked in on the war against the birds, our plan was simply to kill most of them. And now we meet the head of the Department of Agriculture's Airport Wildlife Hazards Program. His job? Killing some birds. In gas chambers. Also, did you know that those fat cats in D.C. are less likely to die in airplane bird strike incidents? That's right! "All the D.C. airports have a federal biologist on the payroll."
Here is what is apparently a Chinese reporter planting a Chinese flag on some bit of disputed land in the massive South China Sea territory. Here is a Chinese hacker "planting" a Chinese flag on the website of the Philippines News Agency. Here are tit-for-tat pictures of people burning China's flag and people burning the flag of the Philippines. I would suggest to the Philippines that neighbors that have land disputes with China often end up in unhappy situations.
Also did you know that in 1951 we signed the "Mutual Defense Treaty Between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America"? It's [...]
"I don’t know of any architects out there who want to kill birds." —Oh, they do, with their great glass facades and alluring skyscrapers. They just won't admit it in public, because of America's strident bird sympathizers in our long war against our avian enemies. For now, New York City remains a bird death mill in which we slaughter 90,000 evil birds each year. It's a good beginning. But we won't truly be safe until we kill ALL the birds. Just remember: for every bird we nab with our attractive see-through buildings, two more birds circle our airports, desperate to crawl inside our jet engines.
"Executive Outcomes was hired by several African governments during the 1990s to put down rebellions and protect oil and diamond reserves; it did not stage coup attempts." —Ah, it's one of those annoying days on the New York Times correction page, when the paper can only report what you have down cold, which it'll never get, and so they have to face up to complaints from global mercenary outfits. Shells within shells! Executive Outcomes (such a good name!) became a child of Strategic Resource Corporation, and contracted for Sandline International, both of which helped run the Sierra Leone "civil war," and which is a sibling to Aegis Defence [...]
"You can get a clue as to how we see war by how newspapers are selling themselves through their front pages. The news stands are covered with more explosions than human faces; the bombs are the story, and the message. One cloverleaf-shaped explosion in particular so beautifully conveys the story that it's on five front pages today. The bombs are the stars."
Here, the five most terrifying bits from the must-read article "The Terminator Scenario: Are We Giving Our Military Machines Too Much Power?"
• "If we make smart machines without equally smart control systems, we face a scenario in which some day, by way of a thousand well-intentioned decisions, each one seemingly sound, the machines do in fact take over all the “key functions” that once were our domain. Then 'we blink' and find that the world is one we no longer are able to comprehend or control."
• "A soldier back from duty in 2006 told Singer that a ground robot he operated in Iraq would sometimes 'drive [...]