Drones

Drones Are A Weapon Of The Weak, #2

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/01/2019 - 11:51pm in

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Drones

So, I imagine how everyone heard how drones shut down Gatwick airport, and the police and military were helpless?

Then there is this nice thread from someone who fought ISIS in Iraq. His end conclusion is that trying to shoot down drones is hopeless, you have to find the drone operator and shoot them.

Though I could be wrong, it looks like right now the only technology which really works, is jamming. The problem is that wide-spectrum jamming shuts down more than just the drones. And jamming won’t work against autonomous drones.

Drones are too small and hard for humans to hit reliably. Real attacks involve swarms of fast moving drones.

And drones are cheap. I wrote back in 2012 that drones would be weapons of the weak, and in 2013 discussed how technology was changing the balance of power between weak and strong in war.

This trend continues. Governments may force registration of drones and so on, but they are an easy cheap tech to make with off the shelf parts. They can’t currently be easily stopped by conventional militaries, and it will be impossible to harden all targets against them in the perceivable future. They will make both terror attacks and assassinations quite simple.

I always thought the US was foolish for developing this technology. They made it happen much faster than it would have otherwise, and while initially it was (and still is) useful to them, in the end it will be a technology that terrorizes them and other powerful governments.

Combined with IEDs, drones make for a very potent insurgency/rebellion/area denial technology. The only real counter to them right now is indirect: totalitarian surveillance states so one can track the makers and users. Fear of this sort of thing is, in fact, part of what is driving the rise of surveillance states.

Especially, for the smarter leaders, the realization that drone assassinations are eventually going to be almost impossible to stop.

I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing in the long run. Scared leaders and militaries which aren’t invincible are a good thing. But there can be a lot of pain on the way to leaders learning that they can’t just ignore their followers without violent consequences, and a lot of that pain will hit ordinary people.

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Book Review: Tyranny Comes Home: The Domestic Fate of U.S. Militarism by Christopher J. Coyne and Abigail R. Hall

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 07/01/2019 - 10:53pm in

In Tyranny Comes Home: The Domestic Fate of U.S. MilitarismChristopher J. Coyne and Abigail R. Hall explore the ‘boomerang effect’ whereby what the United States sends out in the form of a militaristic foreign policy eventually comes to affect domestic institutions and policies. This is a masterful analysis, finds Courteney J. O’Connor, that will be of particular use to students and practitioners of foreign policy, international relations, intelligence studies and strategic studies.

Tyranny Comes Home: The Domestic Fate of U.S. Militarism. Christopher J. Coyne and Abigail R. Hall. Stanford University Press. 2018.

Find this book: amazon-logo

Tyranny Comes Home: The Domestic Fate of U.S. Militarism is a masterpiece of analysis on the part of Christopher J. Coyne and Abigail R. Hall. The overall objective of the book is to discover how, and in what ways, a militaristic foreign policy eventually changes domestic institutions and policies in the United States of America. The framework they use for this process is the ‘boomerang effect’: essentially, what the United States sends out in the form of (coercive) foreign intervention does actually come to affect the domestic situation in the US, regardless of the time frame involved.

The text is split into two parts, with seven chapters overall. Part One, ‘Losing the Great Republic’, comprising Chapters One to Three, builds the context in which the book is set and the boomerang framework the authors use to illustrate the dangers of a militaristic foreign policy and tendencies toward coercive interventions. Part Two, ‘Cases of Domestic Liberty Lost’, comprised of Chapters Four through Seven, concerns the application and illustration of the boomerang framework to case studies: namely, surveillance; the militarisation of police; drones; and torture.

The United States has a peculiarly militarist and aggressively interventionist history, one which the authors use the words and ideas of Mark Twain to illustrate: according to Twain, ‘foreign intervention had real effects on the social fabric of America as the intervening country’ (1). The ‘boomerang effect’ described by Coyne and Hall is an illustrative method of understanding the cyclical process of how interventionist policies abroad will affect domestic government and (may) affect domestic civil liberties. The concept is that experimental social control mechanisms that are innovated for overseas application can be perfected while overseas, and will eventually be brought (consciously or unconsciously) back to the US. A crucial argument offered by the authors is that the militaristic foreign policy that drives coercive foreign intervention actually creates an environment in which the government operates under reduced constraints and oversight or accountability. This (usually) results in an expansion in the size and/or the scope of government and a citizenry that become more willing to accept these in the name of ‘security’ (5).

Image Credit: US Capitol Police (USCP),  National Socialist Movement March on Washington Against Illegal Immigrants, April 2008 (Elvert Barnes CC BY SA 2.0)

Contrary to the obvious conclusion that it is only the intervention itself that causes transformations in domestic policies and institutions, Coyne and Hall also identify the preparations for intervention as being just as responsible for the erosion of domestic liberties over time. In fact, the broadening scope and size of government powers domestically, influenced and reinforced by overseas intervention and the related innovation of ideas and technologies in combination with an institutionalised militarisation of politics and the economy, directly and negatively impact the liberties and freedoms that the government is supposed to protect. In order to limit that identified boomerang effect, the authors argue, it is necessary to curtail the American empire, and in order to do that, the ideology of the American citizenry needs to be antimilitarist (18).

This will not be an easy transformation to accomplish, given that the United States has a long and storied history of foreign intervention. Intervention also reinforces the domestic conditions that are conducive to the operation of the boomerang effect: namely, citizens’ fear (of the ‘other’) and the consolidation of state power (in pursuit of ‘security’) (21). Because drawing focus to international affairs, particularly those involving military security, is a means of unifying the domestic public in support of the government, ‘unquestioning support due to distraction from an external threat allows the government to consolidate its power relatively unchecked’ (27).

Coyne and Hall identify three methods through which social control mechanisms innovated during/for coercive foreign intervention can boomerang back on the United States: the human capital channel; the organisational dynamic channel; and the physical capital channel (30-42). Individuals who serve as members of the military during intervention learn skills and techniques that they then bring home with them; these individuals often go into careers like law enforcement or private security, wherein they are able to deploy those skills; and technologies innovated for overseas intervention eventually becomes utilised domestically. It is also worth noting that the boomerang effect is not temporally constrained: the effects are not often immediately apparent, but take a period of months to years to decades to be (readily) observable.

Part Two of the text concerns different cases in which social control mechanisms boomeranged back to the United States. The first of these cases deals particularly with the control mechanisms associated with surveillance. In general, members of the early iterations of intelligence communities in the United States also employed skills picked up during military postings to contribute to the growing ‘national security state’. The militarisation of the police was a particularly gruelling chapter, as many of the lessons that Coyne and Hall draw from the American intervention in the Philippines during the early twentieth century are clear in the modern policing strategies of the United States today. Particularly, the authors outline precise examples of how the veterans of the Philippines intervention transformed the structure of national police departments and influenced policy that did in fact set the stage for the current militarised (and continuously militarising) modern police (101).

The uptake and diffusion of innovative technologies have also tended to make violence more efficient, and because the ‘War on Drugs’ and the ‘War on Terror’ have both increased the pool of potential suspects to include America citizens, overall the government has ‘both the opportunity and the incentive to expand the scope of its activities’ (108). Drones are a particular form of technology that are most famous due to their use in war zones, but they are increasingly being used by the domestic agencies of the United States as tools of surveillance at home. Because of the array of drones available and the general fact that they are difficult (if not impossible) to detect, the rights of citizens can be (and are being) violated without their knowledge.

Possibly the most confronting chapter was that which concerned torture, and the methods of this that were innovated and perfected by Americans during coercive foreign intervention before finding their way back to the United States and into police departments. One of the cases analysed examines the journey of one particular soldier who, upon return to the US, was employed by the Chicago Police Department and openly implemented torture such as ‘the Vietnam Special’ (166).

The authors conclude that in order to reclaim what they call the Great Republic (of the United States of America), there needs to be a conscious de-institutionalisation of militarism in both the ideology and the foreign policy of the American people and government. The continuous preparation for intervention and actual intervention are reinforcing militaristic structures that are eroding domestic liberties through the boomerang effect through which social control mechanisms can be examined. In closing, Coyne and Hall state that ‘a commitment to liberty requires rejecting the potential benefits of intervention precisely because it can erode liberty’ (179), and given the evidence to support the contention that a militaristic foreign policy does erode domestic liberties, this can only be considered a truism. This was an excellent expository text that I do believe was one of the most educational I have read in some time, and I thoroughly recommend it to students and practitioners of foreign policy, international relations, intelligence studies and strategic studies.

Courteney J. O’Connor is a PhD candidate with the National Security College of The Australian National University. Her research considers the securitisation of cyberspace and the development of cyber counterintelligence policy and practice. Read more by Courteney J. O’Connor.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics.


African Drone with Pilot/Passenger

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 16/12/2018 - 8:09pm in

Yesterday I put up a piece I found on YouTube of a group of Kenyan engineers building what they believed to be Africa’s first passenger-carrying drone. The video showed them testing it in flight loaded with bags of sugar.

This short video from Sami’s channel on YouTube shows the machine in flight, carrying a passenger. The film begins with the team thanking the governor of Nairobi, Mike Sonko, before showing the flight. The man himself wasn’t terribly happy in the air, as a caption reads that it was only then that they realized he was frightened of heights.

The photo of the team at the end shows that the majority of its members are Black Africans, but there’s also a White guy and an Asian.

As I said in my earlier post about the vehicle, this shows the immense creativity of the people of Africa, a creativity that is being held back due to the continent’s poverty and kleptocratic politicians. If these could be overcome, and the continent reach the same stage of develop as the industrial West, we would be astonished at what they could achieve. This video offers a glimpse of the massive potential waiting to be unlocked.

Africans Build Passenger Carrying Drone

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 16/12/2018 - 9:04am in

This is great stuff! It’s from Stiv M’s channel on YouTube, and shows a group of Kenyan engineers testing what they hope will be the first passenger-carrying drone in Africa. It’s a large vehicle powered by four small propellers, rather like fans, mounted at each corner. To test its ability to carry weights, the crew load it with bags of sugar.

To my mind, this shows the immense creativity that’s locked away in the African people. At the moment, the continent’s poverty and lack of technological development is stifling the immense potential that’s clearly there. If the continent was as developed as the industrial north, who knows what they could achieve?

The British newsreader, George Alagiah, grew up in Ghana. He says in his autobiography that at the time he was there, it was confidently expected that the first non-western nation in space would be Ghana, not India. Sadly, it hasn’t happened. But the spirit and inventiveness is clearly there.

Drones: Very Legal and Very Cool

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 04/12/2018 - 7:00pm in


It was simple: everything Obama did would be reversed. What about drones, though?

Video of Ion-Driven Plane in Flight

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/11/2018 - 5:09am in

A few days ago I put up a piece about an article in the I, which reported that scientists at MIT had successfully built and flown a plane propelled by ions. These are charged particles. The plane had a series of electrically charged wires running in front and behind it. These turned the air running between them into a stream of charged particles, which were directed around the plane to propel it through the air.

I found this video of it in flight from the Sci-News channel on YouTube. There’s a brief explanation of the principle behind it, which describes the ionized air which gives the plane thrust as an ionic wind. It then shows the plane moving a short distance without the power switched on. This is then followed by the plane flying a far greater distance using the ionic power system. The video calls it the first solid-state propulsion system, and then describes it as ‘flight without propulsion’. Which sounds like the line about travelling through folding space in Dune: ‘Travelling without motion’. The explanatory blurb for the video states that the system could be used to create cleaner, quieter planes.

It’s a fascinating form of aircraft propulsion, and as I blogged about it the other day, it’s similar to the nuclear thrust engines used on some spacecraft. These use a grid of electrically charged filaments to direct a flow of ions away from the craft to generate thrust, although in this case the charged particles come from a nuclear reactor.

However, I am slightly alarmed by the possibility that this will be used to create silent drones, as mentioned in the I article and by one of the commenters on this video on YouTube. The last thing this planet needs is more refined killing machines, especially drones which are being used to kill civilians, including children – dubbed ‘fun-sized terrorists’ by the American drone pilots. And there is a real dehumanizing effect in using drones in combat. The drone operator is remote, miles away from the carnage they’re inflicting, and so the killing can seem unreal. As one angry trainer remarked when he hauled one operator from the controls for going way to far, ‘This isn’t a computer game’.

Hopefully this technology will be used to produce cleaner, greener, more efficient aircraft, rather than yet more engines of destruction.

Scientists Invent Ion-Driven ‘Star Trek’ Plane

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/11/2018 - 11:25pm in

This is a fascinating piece from yesterday’s I newspaper, for the 22nd November 2018. It reports that Dr. Steven Barrett and his team at MIT have built an airplane that flies through channeling air underneath its wings using electrically charged wires hung below them.

The article, by John von Radowitz, on page 13, reads

A revolutionary electronic aircraft propulsion system inspired by Star Trek has been tested on a working model for the first time.

The five-metre wingspan glider-like plane has no propellers, turbines or any other moving parts, and is completely silent.

Instead, an “ionic wind” of colliding electrically charged air molecules provides the thrust needed to make it fly.

In the tests, the battery-powered unmanned aircraft, that weighs just five pounds, managed sustained flights of 60m at an average height of just 0.47m.

But its inventors believe that, like the early experiments of the Wright brothers more than 100 years ago, such small beginnings will eventually transform the face of aviation.

In the near future, ion wind propulsion could be employed to power quiet drones, the team predicts.

Further down the line, the technology could be paired with more conventional propulsion systems to produce highly fuel-efficient hybrid passenger planes.

Lead researcher Dr. Steven Barret, from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US, said: “This is the first-ever sustained flight of a plane with no moving parts in the propulsion system.

“This has potentially opened new and unexplored possibilities for aircraft which are quieter, mechanically simpler, and do not emit combustion emissions.”

He revealed that he was partly inspi9red by the TV sci-fi series Star Trek. He was especially impressed by the show’s futuristic shuttle crafts that skimmed through the air producing hardly any noise or exhaust. “This made me think, planes shouldn’t have propellers and turbines,” said Dr. Barrett.
“They should be more like the shuttles in
Star Trek that have just a blue glow and silently glide.

The test aircraft, described in the journal Nature, carries an array of thin wires strung beneath the front end of its wings. A high-voltage current passed through the wires strips negatively charged electrons from surrounding air molecules.

This produces a cloud of positively charged ionized air molecules that are attracted to another set of negatively charged wires at the back of the plane.

As they flow towards the negative charge, the ions collide millions of times with other air molecules, creating the thrust that pushes the aircraft forward.

The article also said that

Test flights were made across the gymnasium at MIT’s duPont Athletic Centre, the largest indoor space the scientists could find.

The article also carried this diagram of the aircraft and its engine.

The illustration is entitled ‘How It Works’, and shows picture of the plane, with an arrow saying ‘Battery in fuselage’. There’s also a diagram of the electrically charged particles and the wires connected to the battery that the plane uses instead of a conventional engine.

The illustration’s notes read

Thin wires are strung under the front of the wing and thicker wires under the rear. When connected to a high voltage battery they act as electrodes. The thin positive electrode takes negatively charged electrons from air molecules, creating positive ions. The ions are attracted to the negative electrode at the rear and, as they flow towards it, they collide with neutral air molecules, creating thrust.

The plane reminds of me of the atmospheric aircraft in one of Alistair Reynold’s SF novels, Revelation Space, which fly through heating up the air below them. The propulsion system’s also related to the nuclear electric propulsion used, or proposed, for some spacecraft. This also uses an electrically charged grating to channel and increase the thrust of charged particles generated by a nuclear reactor. As I understand it, the amount of thrust generated by this type of rocket engine is small, but because it’s constant it can eventually build up over time so that the craft is flying at quite considerable speed.

An ion-driven plane is a fascinating concept, though it won’t be powering passenger craft just yet. But you wonder how many UFO sightings will be generated by the experimental and prototype craft which will be designed and built after this.

KILL CHAIN LIVE! on Channel 16

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/11/2018 - 8:12pm in

Instead of CJ Hopkins’ regular column this week, we’re posting the following excerpt from his dystopian science fiction novel, Zone 23, which we published, so we can do whatever the hell we want with it, and there is nothing he can do to stop us. We hope you enjoy it. Here it is …

 

Chapter 12 – Billy Jensen

Six months and a few days later, Billy Jensen, who lived somewhere else, and who had never even heard of Taylor Byrd, or Valentina Constance Briggs, or any of the other people in our story, was … well, basically, he was watching TV. He was doing this on the JumboMax screen of his Tannhäuser Systems In-Home Viewer, a Model 60, Series K, which covered one entire wall of his studio. The Model 60, which he’d bought on credit, and owed about GD 400,000 on, was patched into his Tannhäuser Systems In-Home Professional Gaming Console, which resembled the cockpit of a military aircraft and took up most of the rest of his apartment.

Serious gamers like Billy Jensen didn’t mess around when it came to their Viewers, or their In-Home Professional Gaming Consoles. They shelled out for the seriously high-end Pro-stuff, which was optimized to support whatever professional-quality gaming platforms the company in question designed and marketed, or had the exclusive rights to distribute, or some other kind of lucrative deal. Tannhäuser Systems (a partly-owned subsidiary of another subsidiary of another subsidiary of the Hadley Corporation of Menomonie, Wisconsin), in addition to being the market leader in the seriously high-end Viewer market, and Professional Gaming Console market, and offering an extensive and affordable line of professional quality gaming accessories, and T-shirts, and caps, and branded coffee mugs, was also the maker of the wildly popular interactive simulated MercyKill game, KILL CHAIN, which was Billy Jensen’s game.

KILL CHAIN, despite its aggressive-sounding name, was nothing at all like the horribly violent Anti-Social first-person shooter games people used to play in the bad old days. The violence involved was in no way gratuitous; it was strictly clinical, and compassion-based. The Targets were all Class 4 Anti-Socials, who were needlessly suffering late-stage disease, and whose quality of life was non-existent when measured on the HRQOL scale. Most of them were dangerous faith-based Terrorists, who posed potentially devastating threats, possibly with improvised nuclear devices, or horrible chemical or biological agents that would kill you the second they touched your skin. KILL CHAIN players (or Operators) targeted these poor lost souls remotely, neutralizing any threat they posed, and putting them out of their pointless misery.

KILL CHAIN VIII: Compassionate Hammer, released online the previous December, just in time for the Christmas holidays, was, in Billy Jensen’s opinion, one of the best in the KILL CHAIN series. It was sitting there, loaded, in his gaming console, ready to go when he logged off work. KILL CHAIN VII: For Their Own Good had been a serious disappointment. Too much focus had been placed on the Targets, on their personal lives and medical histories, had been the general critical consensus. Billy Jensen had to agree. It felt like maybe the narrative talent had gotten a little carried away with themselves, building in all these endless layers of exposition, mood, and whatever. It was like they wanted you to work your way through some interminable rambling Russian novel (or some academic sociological text) before you could even sight the Targets, much less put a missile down on them. You sat there, stick in hand, for hours, watching them unnecessarily suffering … which all right, granted, definitely got you all pent-up and, like, itching to tag them, which of course when you did, after all that build-up, certainly heightened the sensation of the kill, which was obviously what the designers were going for, but it left you with this weird kind of empty feeling, which after a while got rather tiresome. KILL CHAIN VIII: Compassionate Hammer had cut way down on patterning time. All that boring background stuff had been relegated to a single window that displayed down in the corner of your screen. Average acquisition-to-action time (or “ATA time”) was under an hour. Veteran players, like Billy Jensen, could get a perfectly decent kill in during their lunch or dinner breaks, which Billy Jensen often did.

Billy Jensen was a Junior Online Customer Service Solutions Specialist. He was twenty-seven years old … a Clear. He worked for a firm called Kierkegaard/Bose, designers of some kind of software solutions that had something to do with needs of business that Billy Jensen did not understand. This wasn’t because he was unintelligent. Billy Jensen was extremely intelligent. He could have understood. He just didn’t care to. It wasn’t Billy’s job to understand. Billy’s job was to virtually chat with K/B’s transterritorial clients, trouble-shoot their myriad problems according to a detailed algorithmic script, and get them off the Live-Chat network in less than seven to eight minutes, ideally. Like most OCS reps, he did this from home (a totally modern single’s unit on the 98th floor of TransCom Towers in Northwest Region 228) while logged into K/B’s global network, which auto-monitored Billy’s keystrokes. Billy worked the lobster shift, from 2300 to 0700, which didn’t bother Billy one bit. He kept to a relatively rigid schedule, which aside from doing his OCS job primarily consisted of playing KILL CHAIN six days a week for up to six hours a day. He logged in as soon as he logged off work, and played until just after 1500, after which he worked out, ate, slept a few hours, got up, showered, ate a light breakfast, viewed some Content, and logged back onto the K/B network.

The Content Billy normally viewed while drinking his vitamin-supplemented, high-protein, micronized-glutamine breakfast was KILL CHAIN LIVE! on Channel 16, hosted by Dr. Roger P. Greenway and Susan Schnupftuch-Boermann Goereszky. And thus, it being a normal day, and the time being circa 2150, this was exactly what Billy was doing. The screen of his Tannhäuser Model 60 was running the standard Real-Time feed of what appeared to be a Quarantine Zone, shot from the nose of a UAV holding at an altitude of twenty-three kilometers. Crosshairs were sweeping a four-block grid of empty streets of unlit buildings. They looked like maybe former warehouses, nothing particularly fascinating.

“Any idea where we are now, Roger?”

“Susan, we’re looking at Zone 18, Southeast Region 423. Looks like a sultry night down there. Not much to see at the moment, I’m afraid.”

“It does look pretty desolate, Roger.”

“Like I said, Susan, hot one down there.”

“Shall we introduce Target Number One then, Roger?”

“Susan, looks like Target Number One is a subject name of Carlos Witherspoon. Designated Class 4 Anti-Social Person. Late stage disease. History of violence. Hiding in one of those buildings there, Susan.”

“Any idea which building, Roger?”

“No, apparently not, Susan. We seem to be standing by at the moment.”

An unflattering photograph of Carlos Witherspoon, bug-eyed, grimacing, needing a shave, appeared in the lower left corner of the screen.

“Here’s a photo of Witherspoon, Susan.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah. Obviously in pain.”

“Breaks your heart to see them like that.”

“Yes, it certainly does, Susan.”

“No way to hide that kind of suffering.”

“Hopefully, we can get him some relief tonight.”

Billy Jensen hoped they could too. He disliked watching anything suffer, any form of sentient being, even a dangerous faith-based Terrorist. Being a Clear, he could not help this. Compassion was coded into his genes. His heart went out to Carlos Witherspoon, and all the other Carlos Witherspoons out there, suffering their needless pain and suffering. He meticulously peeled the foil away from his Happy Henry’s low-glycemic gluten-free instant energy bar and tried to imagine their pain and suffering. He couldn’t, or not entirely anyway. The desperate and unfocused rage, the hatred and envy of everything normal, and above all else the unrelenting fear that ruled their existence and governed all their actions, were emotions Billy had never felt, and thus could never completely conceive of, except in some purely intellectual way. The Variant-Positives were challenging enough, with their inner conflicts, and doubts, and questions, and their constant struggle to stay detached. Billy’s heart went out to them too, more so even, as he understood them, and how they thought, and he felt their pain. They wanted to be healthy, the Variant-Positives. They never would be, but they tried their best. The medications they took were crude, but they did seem to slow their disease progression, or at least reduced the worst of their symptoms to something approaching manageable levels. The drugs, however, could never stop them forming their Anti-Social ideations, or clear away the fog of primitive drives and base emotions that shrouded their brains. As uncorrected Homo sapiens sapiens, the best they could do was attempt to maintain a constant state of hypervigilance (i.e. paying close attention to their thoughts and feelings, writing them down, analyzing them, and then verbalizing them to “make them real.”) They did this in their support group meetings, and with friends, family, colleagues and doctors, and whoever was sitting beside them on the train, soliciting feedback from all and sundry, which they then evaluated and processed with others, who gave them feedback on this feedback, which brought up other thoughts and feelings, which they diligently processed, analyzed and verbalized, and meditated on at considerable length. All of which left them totally exhausted and no longer certain what they were feeling, or thinking, or exactly what they wanted, or what they had just been talking about. Billy’s Variant-Positive parents, Woody and Carmen, were perfect examples. They could hardly get through a conversation without stumbling over some thought or emotion that triggered some anxious observation of some possibly symptomatic reaction that they needed to process, accept and detach from, and otherwise discuss at considerable length. Billy loved his parents deeply, and he empathized with their pain, of course, but he couldn’t help feeling they would both be so much happier once they had reincarnated … whatever, Billy reasoned, chewing, in another hundred years or so the endless trials and tribulations of the Variant-Positives would all be over. In the meantime, they had done as much as any defective strain could do. They had tackled the problem (Anti-Social Disease) in a rational and scientific manner. To use a systems-based trouble-shooting analogy, which Billy did whenever possible, they had tracked and found their system error (the aberrant variant of the MAO-A gene), effected repairs to what they could (medicated the Variant-Positives), effectively quarantined what they couldn’t (segregated the A.S.P.s), and taken appropriate long-term steps to eliminate any future recurrence (developed the variant correction technologies, which had produced the Clarions, like Billy Jensen). All of which steps were perfectly logical, and thus, to Billy, complete no-brainers. However, he reflected, swallowing, for the Variant-Positives in charge at the time, these must have been rather difficult decisions, entailing as they did the making redundant, or phasing out, of their entire subspecies. Cognitively challenged as they were, he had to admire those Variant-Positives, those of his parents’ generation, who had made those decisions and who were trying their best to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition to a healthier world they would have no part in.

The A.S.P.s were a different matter. The poor things didn’t even know they were sick. Their brains were so gone, so riddled with disease, that they actually believed that they were normal, and that the Variant-Positives and Clears were the freaks. Which one good look in the mirror should have told them was not just wrong, but completely ridiculous. All right, sure, there were exceptions, but overwhelmingly, the Anti-Socials were simply … well, unattractive. They looked unhealthy, and congenitally so. And this was true of even the least afflicted and most cooperative among them, the ones they allowed outside the Zones to work in the Residential Communities, who Billy sometimes saw in passing on his way to Finkles or Big Buy Basement. The ones they didn’t let out were worse. Their skin was terrible, either dry and cracked or overly oily, and probably stank. Their hair was all greasy, clumped and matted, or it was powdered with dandruff and crawling with lice. Most of them seemed to be missing teeth, which was certainly caused by periodontitis. They bathed infrequently, clearly never flossed, didn’t use condoms, and smoked tobacco. Something like sixty percent, it was said, were chronic Diplastomorphinol users. The rest were mostly alcoholics, or were killing themselves in some other fashion. Billy could not begin to fathom what went through their small, enfeebled minds. How they went on, what they lived for, why they didn’t just euthanize themselves, were questions he had never been able to answer. Still, despite his instinctual revulsion (which any healthy organism felt when confronted with some grotesque abnormality among the members of its potential gene pool), he was, above all else, a Clear … so whenever he saw their photos appear on the screen of his Viewer on KILL CHAIN LIVE!, or even when he was just playing KILL CHAIN, and was confronted with their unrelenting pain, and pointless physical and emotional suffering, he felt himself overcome with compassion, and not just for the Target at hand, but for every living, needlessly suffering, uncorrected sentient being … that, and an irresistible urge to take them out as quickly as possible.

KILL CHAIN LIVE! on Channel 16, had been on the air for some twenty-five years. It ran at 2300 nightly, except for Sundays and major holidays. Billy Jensen had been watching the show, religiously, since the age of twelve, which technically his parents should have prevented, but nobody ever checked that stuff. The production elements had changed through the years as styles went in and out of fashion and new technologies came online, but the basic premise remained the same. Targets posing imminent threats, usually in some Recovering Area, but occasionally in one of the Quarantine Zones, were acquired, locked on, and eventually taken, typically by a laser-guided AGM 660 Godsend missile, the classic air-to-surface munition manufactured by Pfizer-Lockheed, which was one of the major sponsors of the show. The 660 Godsend, a solid fuel rocket, equipped with either a standard condensed or an “indoor” thermobaric warhead, and a Semi-Active Laser Homing guidance system that was totally unrivaled, was the ordnance of choice of Security Services throughout the United Territories. Not only was the Godsend a first class weapon suitable for use in both open and urban Emergency Threat Containment environments, but by licensing the use of its in-flight footage to KILL CHAIN LIVE! on Channel 16, Security Divisions of leading corporations, like the Hadley Corporation of Menomonie, Wisconsin, were doubling and tripling their profit margins. Hi-Def Real-Time NoseCam feed provided PixelPerfect footage of the Godsend’s dizzying Mach 2 descent through diaphanous webs of fluffy white clouds like some monomaniacal avenging angel. Average flight time was 26 seconds, during which the Operator needed to hold the crosshairs steady, painting the target, which was often moving, for the Godsend’s onboard laser seeker. The last few seconds were always a blur, so you had to wait for the slow-mo replays and satellite footage from other angles to see all the details and determine the score. For the overwhelming majority of Targets, death was instant, and presumably painless, unless a Target was exceptionally good, or whoever was manning the UAV screwed up somehow, or something malfunctioned. Normally, the Targets, whoever they were, males mostly, but sometimes females, and sometimes groups, or “hives” as they called them, were vaporized never knowing what hit them. Before the strikes you’d get their backgrounds, names, photos, medical histories, ages, associates, whatever there was. Then came a ten-minute call-in segment, when they read out people’s Fleeps and Tweaks, followed by some kind of medical expert, who Billy Jensen generally ignored. The current hosts, Dr. Roger P. Greenway and Susan Schnupftuch-Boermann Goereszky, were fairly attractive Variant-Positives whose job it was to look “concerned” or “deeply interested” or “wildly excited” while talking into the camera continuously as other people talked in their ears, telling them what to do and say.

“Susan, I think we’re getting the yellow.”

“I’ve got that here as well, Roger.”

Susan Schnupftuch-Boermann Goereszky, who sometimes did the news on Sundays, was “live” at her desk on the KILL CHAIN LIVE! set, a technological phantasmagoria officially located in Studio B of the Channel 16 Broadcast Center. Dr. Greenway was hunkered down in an undisclosed secure location, probably somewhere down the hall, surrounded by screens and wires and panels of buttons that nobody knew what they did.

“Susan, we’re definitely yellow here, Susan.”

“Still no sign of Witherspoon, Roger?”

“Nothing yet. But there must be something, or we wouldn’t be getting the yellow, Susan.”

“Roger, we’re going yellow in the studio.”

The infinity cycs in Studio B faded slowly from orange to yellow. Susan Schnupftuch-Boermann Goereszky cleared her throat and adjusted her posture. An ad for Anabastastic Plus, a painless anal bleaching compound, popped up right in the middle of the screen, which didn’t have anything to do with anything, so Billy minimized and stacked it with the others.

“Susan, it feels like something’s happening.”

“Is something happening?”

“Feels like it, Susan.”

“Still no sign of Witherspoon, Roger?”

“Susan, we’re getting … hold on, Susan. Someone’s talking … yes, good. We’ve got a location.”

“Which satellite, Roger?”

The feed from various orbiting satellites was flipping past in one corner of the screen … overhead shots of abandoned buildings on nearly identical empty streets.

“Do we have a number on that satellite, Roger?”

“Hold on, Susan. It’s coming in now.”

Susan Schnupftuch-Boermann Goereszky rolled her neck and flared her nostrils.

“2230. 2230. Satellite 2230, Susan!”

Dr. Greenway wrenched his neck now, rolling the tension out of his shoulders. Billy smiled and scanned his messages. Nothing that couldn’t wait ten minutes.

“Got him, Roger! There he is now!”

Satellite 2230 was up and feeding a beautiful tracking “god shot” of Carlos Witherspoon barreling out of some random building which was now on fire.

“Looks like that building’s on fire there, Roger.”

“Yes, it certainly does, Susan. It appears we’ve got some boots on the ground. They seem to have flushed him out there, Susan.”

“Oh no. Are they going to take him themselves?”

“Possibly, Susan. We just don’t … wait. Wait. Yes. I’m getting something.”

Consummate professional that she was, Susan Schnupftuch-Boermann Goereszky went straight to Real-Time Operator Feed, a risky move, but she just had a feeling. Carlos Witherspoon ran for his life, across an avenue and into a field, heading for a grove of crumbling buildings.

“We’re getting something …”

“I’m on it, Roger.”

The RTO Feed came up sharply, crosshairs groping and feeling for Carlos, who was doing a crazy zig-zag pattern across the field where there was no cover.

“Green, Susan. We’ve got a green here.”

The cycs in the studio went to green.

“Going green in the studio, Roger.”

Operator 225 was up. A silhouette showing his operator number and season statistics, which were all exemplary, appeared in the lower right corner of the screen.

“What can we say about our operator, Roger?”

“Susan, Operator 225 has 93 kills, 15 collateral, with an EEA of 2.1.”

“Pretty incredible numbers, Roger.”

“That’s right, Susan. And it’s only April.”

Operator 225 was good. Really good. Like circus shot good. Billy had seen him bank a missile off one moving car and into another, wasting an entire family of Targets with virtually zero collateral damage. Another time he’d flown one down a stairwell and into the lobby of this building, vaporizing everyone hiding in the lobby while the others upstairs went on with their breakfasts. What he was doing with Carlos Witherspoon was dancing the crosshairs back and forth against the direction and matching the speed of his zig-zag pattern across the field. Billy gave him, like, another twelve seconds before Carlos reached the safety of the buildings.

“This operator is amazing, Susan. He’s leading the target.”

“We’re watching it, Roger.”

The Foxtrot button on the RTO screen lit up suddenly.

Billy smiled.

“FOXTROT, SUSAN! FOXTROT! FOXTROT!”

Dr. Greenway leapt to his feet, bringing his crotch up into the camera. Billy chuckled. Carlos ran. Susan Schnupftuch-Boermann Goereszky kept her composure and went to NoseCam.

Southeast Region 423, wherever that was on the planet Earth, was rushing up into the screen, a blur of shuddering white and red and orange lights with squiggly tails, the patchwork grid of endless cities bleeding into other cities, indistinguishable, like a storm of stars, as the Godsend missile screamed down out of the night from twenty kilometers up. In a window in the lower left corner of the screen, Operator 225 was sweeping the delicate crosshairs back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, dancing with Carlos, intersecting him … now … now … now … and finally …

“WHOA! Unbelievable precision! Absolutely textbook, Susan! That’s got to be one for the highlight reel!”

“Let’s take a look at the replays, Roger.”

The screen was already subdividing, running an array of slow-mo replays of the kill from sixteen different angles. Billy froze one in which the missile hung in the air over Carlos Witherspoon, ten or twelve meters above and behind him, its cherry red nose cone pointed at the spot the stride he was taking would carry him into in approximately 0.06 seconds. In another window, he pulled up and readied the login screen of the K/B network. His shift began in forty-three seconds.

“Never knew what hit him, Susan.”

“His needless suffering is over now, Roger.”

“Not to mention the threat he posed, Susan.”

“Any details on what that was, Roger?”

“I’m afraid not, Susan. Definitely serious, though. Oh, look at that shot on Satellite 60! You can almost see the expression on his face.”

Billy pulled up his algorithmic script.

“Roger, we’re getting some breaking news in.”

“That is a dead center hit there, Susan!”

“Roger, we’re breaking away for a second.”

“Say again, Susan.”

Susan was gone. The picture had cut to a stock montage of Jimmy “Jimbo” Cartwright, III, founder and CEO of Finkles, the Transterritorial retail powerhouse, who’d been battling cancer for several decades, and who had suffered some sort of major setback. Senior News Anchor Chastaine Chandler, a stunning young Clear with designer lips and no hips at all who Billy had a crush on, appeared in a window in the upper right corner. Sadly, Jimbo’s condition was grave. The family had gathered at the Cartwright compound, filming on the grounds of which was not permitted, and had issued a statement thanking Jimbo’s millions of loyal customers and fans for their millions of emails, Fleeps and Tweaks, and prayers, and ongoing customer loyalty. Chastaine Chandler took a beat, shook her head in disbelief, and wiped a tear from the corner of her eye.

“I’d like to play a Fleep we received from a Finkles customer in Region 220 …”

Billy Jensen swiped her away and logged onto the K/B network.

#

Zone 23, by CJ Hopkins
Photo: U.S. Air Force, Tech. Sgt. Richard Lisum/Wikimedia Commons

CJ Hopkins Summer 2018 thumbnailDISCLAIMER: The preceding excerpt is entirely the work of our in-house satirist and self-appointed political pundit, CJ Hopkins, and does not reflect the views and opinions of the Consent Factory, Inc., its staff, or any of its agents, subsidiaries, or assigns. If, for whatever inexplicable reason, you appreciate Mr. Hopkins’ work and would like to support it, please go to his Patreon page (where you can contribute as little $1 per month), or send your contribution to his PayPal account, so that maybe he’ll stop coming around our offices trying to hit our staff up for money. Alternatively, you could purchase his satirical dystopian novel, Zone 23, which we understand is pretty gosh darn funny, or any of his subversive stage plays, which won some awards in Great Britain and Australia. If you do not appreciate Mr. Hopkins’ work and would like to write him an abusive email, please feel free to contact him directly.

 

*Volcanoes gonna vulcanize.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 23/07/2018 - 5:06am in

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*Volcanoes gonna vulcanize.