Love your drone

For all the spooks out there: this is a fun “what if” article ;p
In recent months, national governments have increased the speed with which they are introducing controlling legislation, aimed at defining the rules related to drones. Of course, rules regulating private and business drone usage, as the governments themselves just loooove to send a drone to spy on you and/or fire a hellfire missile through your window.
So, we are now seeing rules being placed on drone operators – initially governments want people who fly them for business purposes to gain licences: show them that you can fly a drone for business reasons, pay a few thousand bucks and get your “droner licence”. Logical people will ask: what is the difference in flying a drone to spy on your girlfriend and flying it as a business. Answer: none. Flying a drone is flying a drone. It still has a camera and makes weird pictures of weird people doing weird things. But, if you are a business, then you have to pay your fee to the government for your right to do things, e.g. licence for whatever activity. It makes you think, how will Amazon do this, with Jeff Bezos’ idea for Amazon drone delivery?
The future of drones is amazing, as visible by the latest conferences and trade shows.

Genius scientists show us the next stages of drone developments (watch the video!!!!!!!!).

My wonder at government stupidity is stimulated by something else. Drones are a recent phenomenon, released to the public by overeager nerds.

I would understand the government desire to limit this technology, but, of course, it is impossible, as any toy store now carries technology recently used only by elite army units.

I would like to push the thought a bit further, in terms of what we as citizens can USE, and the government has little or no power to stop us. Ever seen this?

This is a 5000USD miniature JET ENGINE, used by model aircraft operators, to power their aircraft. It weighs 5.3 lbs (2.3kgs) and has thrust of 53lbs (23kgs) and can rotate up to 112 000RPM!!!!
THESE kind of aircraft…

In the late 1990s I had the pleasure of attending many miniature aircraft shows, where some truly crazy people flew some amazing aircraft. Amazing not just due to the chosen real aircraft, but also due to the size of the models.

I had some crazy evenings talking to similar crazies (you know who you are) about the idea, that this is way too dangerous. Cool but dangerous. The size and speed of these jet behemoths allows to ask one interesting question: when will someone use them for stupid reasons? You may ask: why would Marcin ponder such ridiculous notions? Answer: Dale Brown, a cool high-tech combat fiction author wrote about flying aircraft into buildings around the same time as did Tom Clancy. Both of them wrote many years before 9/11. The White House already has problems with amateurs flying drones to spy on Obama’s sex life. Enough examples?
Now, in those same creative 1990s, we talked about some other crazy stuff. Loooong before advanced flight simulators and commercial or even privately-available GPS. The idea was to take the existing technology and take it to the next step:
– Build a huge model (we loved the F14 Tomcat at the time);
– Buy the 2 jet engines needed to make the sucker go faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaast;
– Install the standard flight system with its multi-band control unit;
– Add a second connection bandwidth;
– Install TWO cameras, that would feed the operator through the additional bandwidth.
– The Operator would have a helmet with stereo-vision installed, so that he could see “live” images;
Younger readers may laugh, at the “duh” (logical, today) nature of the ideas, but in the 1990s and early 2000s, none of this stuff existed. A decade before anyone thought of Occulus Rift, ELSA had the first 3D glasses (ELSA erazor III), which fluttered each eye to provide illusion of three-dimensionality.

So, the ideas were there, but no one took them to the next-next-next level.

To finish the article: take 25kgs of plastic aircraft, add 2 jet engines, advanced avionics and put some “boom” stuff into it. What do you get?

Or hell, why not build a cruise missile, with one or two $5000 jet engines inside it?
Citizens, cherish your drones! A drone does more than your rifle, protected under some constitutions…
Nerds, enjoy the funnnnnnnnn!!!!
And, yes, I do enjoy being a “what if” doomsdayer 🙂

Mr/Miss, thank you, excuse me. Where is the politeness?

What happened to formal politeness in the 21st century? Why is everyone on a first name basis or expects/demands to be? Who forced upon us this myth of instant “friendship” and “zero distance” with people we don’t know or who serve us coffee or call from the blue to sell new mobile services? Even more with those at the workplace, for whom “instant pall-hood” has become a religion (don’t they have a LIFE outside the company walls/halls?)
I’m wondering whether it is (my) age talking or maybe a feeling of self-worth and pride from one’s achievements, but I started noticing that the (various) barriers between myself and the rest of the world are a very important part of life. I work hard to improve myself, advance, gain promotions, be recognised. And…to distance myself from (most) others.

First, there are the negative reasons for maintaining personal distance:
– Just because you know my details from your computer screen does not make us BFFs or pals or mates or druzya;
– Just because you are lonely and have no life, does not allow you to be on a first-name basis with anyone you meet (does anyone remember this term “first name basis”?);
– Just because you were badly educated and were not taught the difference between “friend” and “acquaintance” does not give you the right to hug me and use my first name;
– Just because you snuck your way into a job and now have an inferiority complex does not give you the right to demand use of first names in the workplace — employees might actually want to stay as far away from you as possible (Polacy – pamietacie termin “nie tykaj mnie”?);
But there are also positive ones for maintaining personal distance:
1. A boss is someone to be respected for his/her achievements and for formal position within the structure (it is difficult to utter “Vice President…Johnny);
2. Some people have so many formalised achievements (titles, etc), that it is grammatically impossible to refer to them in any informal manner and they deserve to be “titled”;
3. Some relationships require a distinction between you and the people above you, around you and below you, so that stupid (subjective) perceptions do not confuse the (objective) relationships;

And then there is culture, history and good upbringing. Mr, Sir, Madame, Mizz (Ms) indicate the true nature of a relationship (either subservient as was in the olden times or of distanced semi-equals today), and calls for using the individual’s surname WITHOUT crossing the familiarity border of “you” (ty) and/or first name. Those, are for family, people you know for many years and had frequent contact with and for…friends. And here lies a key issue for the Facebook, Twat (sorry Twitter), VK and mobile-texting generation: FRIENDS are few and far between – if have 5-6 friends by the time you are 40, you are a lucky person. Friends are people on whom you can count to help regardless of circumstances, who like (love?) you regardless of your inner demons and enemies and who can tolerate your behaviours and can pay your bail. Not the ACQUAINTANCES who are only interested in your money, adding you to their “like” lists or wanting to “borrow” your homework or people accidentally in a photo whom you then “tag”.

I recall an interesting explanation during a recent trip to Ukraine, which (regardless of its absolute correctness) summarises this issue of relationship “naming”: Andriej Viktorowich Zalevski (first name, name of father “otchestvo”, surname). As a stranger/lesser I am expected to refer to this imaginary person as “Gospodin Zalevski” (Mr. Z), after a few years I may be allowed to be more forward and talk with “Andriej Viktorowich” and a few more years down the road HE can propose to progress to a first name basis. To those around us, the mode of reference is a clear signal of our relationship and its length/depth.
As time goes by, I am more for the forceful return of such a system, as:
– I like to respect those who deserve respect (equal achievers, superior achievers, big bosses);
– I like to maintain distance between myself and strangers;
– I realy like to miantain distance between myself and other employees, who do not interest me whatsoever;
– Where people have formal titles or posts, they should be referred to (with the exception of post-soviets and their “upgrading” of intermediate titles, where vice-minister is “minister”—a post is a post!!);
– I see no reason to give (absolute)strangers and inferiors any ego boost, as they do not deserve it (otherwise they would be in one of the above categories).
Besides, in all cultures we find that it is easier to standoffishly insult a stranger while not losing any class. “You Sire, are a swine!” sounds much better and funnier (Anthony Bourdain offers some good examples!).

And finally, do you want to be forcefully “friendly” with people whom you consider to be complete and utter idiots? Especially at work 🙂
And, yes, I seem to favour high power-distance relationships.

The NEXT global crisis / bubble: insurance

Remember one fundamental truth: there is NO global warming (buhahahaha, or other evil laughter ). The weather changes are random and there is NOTHING we can do about it. Or so the right wingers and global masters claim, guzzling petrol, not paying taxes, stealing our money and eating babies.

In the world where “climate does not change”, an American agency for atmosphere and oceans (NOAA – Not Ordinary Annoying Agency) published some data that this year the US was blessed with twelve climate crises costing the taxpayer 1 billion USD EACH. The number of sub-billion-dollar catastrophes (shhhh…blessings) was not given, but we can assume that a few more occurred and more dollars got forked out to those affected.

Having just renewed insurance on my apartment, it got me thinking. Insurance is another mathematical betting game, where the insurer gambles that it will collect more in revenue from dispersed insurers than pay out to those negatively affected by misfortune. Some fancy mathematical modelling there, spreading the risk (bets, anyone?), analysing patterns and where necessary raising premiums to cover increased outlays (as did the insurance industry after 9/11 to offset the massive payouts post-WTC to everyone affected-and-insured).

Now, here’s my quandary: the USA is an enormous country with multiple climates, time zones, major differences between north-south and east-west, two oceans and some massive lakes&rivers. And a puny building technique where houses are made from cardboard. So, we have a continent just begging for God’s wrath: a tornado here, a flood there, forest fire here, earthquake there. Now, just about anything and anyone is/are insured from (against) THEIR particular mishap, but when the number of such tragedies increases as does the typological and timeline spread of such tragedies, because there is NO global warming (buhahahaha), then the mathematical models of insurance companies go out the window (unless a tornado took it out first).

So, insurance companies are finding that they have to either: increase premiums, reduce (or deny any) payouts through cheating on contract and definition interpretation, reduce their profit margin (oh, the horror!!) or transfer the burden onto others (by going global and finding insures in countries where less bad things happen and stealing their premiums to pay the Americans). The problem with increasing premiums is that it changes the risk-versus-reward calculation of policy-holders and one by one they begin to drop out from the system: a poor famer here, a sneaky company owner there, further reducing the amount of money available to pay out to those who remain. Now, the globalisation option (buying insurers elsewhere, reinsuring on global markets) would be useful IF there was no global warming and no weather patterns changing everywhere (and since there is no global warming…buhahahaha).
So, where will the insurance companies get money for their payouts? And, of course, if these are stock traded companies when and how will their cash shortfalls become public knowledge? Will we find another leverage pyramid with trillions stolen (paid out in commission and consultancy fees) and the government (e.g. the same citizens who paid already in insurance premiums) left to pay off the massive debt (by the way: debt to WHOM)?

Food for thought: in Canada (I seem to recall), they tried to institute a no-fault car insurance system administered by the state: every accident gets a “it’s not your fault” payout and the rates would have been lower than in the commercial version. The model was killed by “the business” as insurance companies yelled bloody murder for potential loss of profits from poor suckers (e.g. drivers forced to pay for mathematically calculated/inflated premiums).

Food for thought 2: my apartment’s insurance policy covers (or so they promise) to pay for damage to the roof incurred from a blast wave (I kid you not). Now, as I understand the causal factors of a blast wave, there are 3 major ones: major explosion of some plant (chemical, nuclear, or maybe something like the Hungarian red mudslide disaster?); meteor entering the atmosphere (at that point I won’t care about my roof as if it has a blast wave affecting ME, then it is also landing ON me and squashing ME) or the most logical and probable: supersonic wave from a passing plane. Now, in the third case, the only planes that are supersonic are military and even they do not fly above mach 1 in peacetime and beyond military training grounds. Only in combat (e.g. WAR?????), so if there IS combat over my house, then (again) who will care about the roof getting blown off? But, I am sure that the premium contains some $$$ to cover that eventuality anyway. The last case is a nuclear detonation, but that is… WTF!!!!!!

Food for thought 3: After “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon” came out, enterprising insurance salesmen started selling asteroid insurance (“in case your house gets damaged”). Probability and Fate being what they are, one house DID get damaged by a rock from space, but upon claiming the payout, the policy-holder was politely informed that an asteroid upon entering the atmosphere becomes a meteorite, and his policy did NOT include those.

I might be getting older, but my mind increasingly leans towards the Texan form of insurance: AK447 and a bunker. Screw the mathematical freaks and their useless models. I hope they get fat on our money today, so we can eat their bloated bodies later.
Don’t invest in insurance products… buy gold. Even in Costner’s “Waterworld” people would know what it is (and use it for teeth).

The future of ISIS (short and bloody)

France’s response to the Paris massacre should be defined as lukewarm at best. Several fighter-bombers dropped some ordnance on a few locations, where the ISIS idiots have been sheltering. France is now placing a lot of importance on “returning to life as usual” as a major form of resisting ISIS. Is this because the Christmas shopping period is coming up? Where is the big punch, the overwhelming response, the shock&awe?

While “boots on the ground” are now unrealistic and would provide ISIS fighters with an opportunity to fulfil their greatest desire of fighting the American devils on middle-eastern soil, the world does have other response mechanisms. Ones that would provide the crazy extremists with what they desire – death (their own). And, lots of it.

Question 1: Where is Curtis LeMay, when you need a crazy general from Strategic Air Command, quoted as: “I’ll tell you what war is about, you’ve got to kill people, and when you’ve killed enough they stop fighting.” Simple. It cannot be 20 aircraft bombing some targets on a large territory. The challenge is to undertake a sustained, effective and overwhelming campaign, which will prevent ISIS from renewing its resource base. Ergo: destroy their assets faster than they can replenish them. This requires a coalition effort or just an angry US with 2 aircraft carriers in the region and some strategic bombers flying long-range missions (are they still based in UK?).

airborne death

Question 2 (resulting from the above): Don’t you think that Saddam is now vindicated in his strategies? Remember when US invaded Iraq and Saddam started burning oil fields? A cool strategy of “denial”, that will work against ISIS as well, seeing that the terrorists are earning an estimated 50 million USD per week from sales of oil. That in turn means that they have unlimited money for buying weapons, equipment, food, etc. Did you notice that the Toyota pickups they always use, have been getting newer and better? Who is the Toyota dealer for Iraq?

and we worry about car pollution

Question 3: Where is SOCOM when you really need them? US special Operations Command has proven itself as a hyper-effective tool for the elimination of Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, so why not shift their efforts and capabilities to a new target? In all types of ideological movements, the secret to their defeat is to attack the leadership – those who put stupid ideas into heads of idiots and then tell those frenzied idiots to go and do crazy shit. So, as SOCOM already did in Afghanistan, you go after the ISIS leadership with surgical drone strikes and targeted assassinations. As an illegitimate non-state pretentious wannabe, ISIS leadership are not state leaders, so they will not find protection under international law. Good. Their morning coffee and cigarette on a balcony will now be done with a though that a drone could be just over the horizon.

Question 4: will Anonymous help the various governments by providing vital digital data about ISIS’s online operations. This cooperating would be unprecedented and, undoubtedly, short-lived as the hackers and Western governments have only ISIS in common. Nonetheless, ISIS digital operations would be a source of good targeting data – imagine an ISIS leader talking online and that data passed to a circling American bomber with a nice 500kg “gift” to be dropped on THAT particlar “internet location”. If the hackers could wipe out more accounts, steal money from the rabid crazies, that would be even cooler.

Question 5: when will European governments shift their security policies to preventative detentions, targeted removals of individuals with proven links but against whom no “binding in court” information can be acquired? What about stripping of nationalities from extremists and kicking them back to the sand dunes that house ISIS? Is anyone deluding themselves that Europe will NOT go towards deportations? The current softness towards migrants is a temporary thing, trust me.

All we need is some political courage.

War with the War on Drugs

I’ve just seen the trailers for two new documentaries coming out in end of 2012, both focusing on the drug trade and its impact on our world.

For years I have been fascinated by the inability of large and powerful governments to stop the drug epidemic by doing two things:
1. Taking the battle to the source(s) of drugs, by operating officially or in clandestine manner right on the doorsteps of those producing drugs for export. The war on terror has show us how advanced technology and skilled operators on the ground can be very effective in extinguishing the enemy and reducing the impact of advanced “enemy” organisations through reducing their human asset pool. Afghanistan and Palestine show us, how a hellfire missile can change the balance of power.
2. Going after the drug as a biological material (this of course, does not relate to chemical drugs like speed). With the bio-genetic technology we have, there is no way that a determined government cannot develop a biological weapon (or genetic) aimed solely at the natural plants that produce our most potent drugs. Where is the virus that kills coca plants?
But then I realised (again and again) that the WAR must go on – no one in the governments needs a win on this issue, and by that I mean a win in terms of stopping the transmission of drugs across borders into developed western states. Without a drug problem epidemic, people will begin looking at the real underlying issues of poverty, as those that now “do drugs” and through that can be blamed for being useless or hurtful to wider society will begin asking: ok, we got no more drugs, we are clean, where are our jobs and medical services?
The same goes for agencies “battling the war”, that have sprung up in response to various governmental policies or have taken on new duties and thus received massive inflows of funding and resources. Agencies like the DEA do not want the “war” to end, as then they would have to close themselves down – the defenders have taken on a vested interest in the maintenance of the conflict. A one-time solution will yield a one-time bonus and then unemployment, while partial solutions will assure a steady, well-paid and prestigious job for life.
The politicians need a ghostly enemy, on whom many problems can be blamed and solutions need not be invented, especially that our modern-day politicians have no idea on how to deal with much simpler problems.
One interesting issue is: who cares about the citizens, suffering sheer hell in the hundreds of thousands? Who takes responsibility for defending those that cannot do it themselves?
The second one is worse: with the interweaving of interests (government, security, crime) all for the sake of “war on terror”, have we completely lost our ethical and moral compass an cannot focus on more than one strategic imperative, but must sacrifice all else in a desperate attempt at retaining our credibility?
The third relates to the increasing prison population, often cited as the emergence of modern-day slavery, used in various economic activities.
In a WAR, we need to “heroes”, “enemies”, there must be “effort” and “sacrifice” as well as “necessary spending”. Did I mention “civilian casualties”? Remember one interesting statistic about modern wars: before the 20th century 90% of all casualties in a war were the soldier; today 90% of the casualties are the civilians. The same in our “war on drugs”?

Whaling piracy vs terrorism

Whale wars are on the verge of mutating into eco-terrorism

Sea Shepherd won with the Japanese last week, as the Japanese declared they will withdraw their whaling fleet as the anti-whaling protester ship threatened the safety of Japanese whalers. So, Discovery channel can now advertise a success of its TV show with a leading G8 nation, and the crazy mavericks on board the Sea Shepherd can party till they vomit, happy with the lives of whales they saved.
Congrats to the pirates (they DO fly the black-skull&bones flag). Good riddance to Japanese “whaling research”, whose by-products wind up in Japanese restaurants as offshoots from a valuable research project (sic!).
Unfortunately, this will not last.
The Japanese are ambitious, have a good memory and do not take kindly to such insults. Right now, there is a bunch of lawyers reading the international law books with one major aim: to equate sea piracy with terrorism. Impossible? Hmmm…
Piracy is a crime regulated by international and national laws that emerged from centuries of painful experiences. It’s primary aim is economic, i.e. the conversion of ownership of goods/people through violence of various gradation. Even the simple sinking of a ship also has economic connotations (immediate loss of investment, cost of replacement, etc). Wikipedia: Piracy is a war-like act committed by private parties (not affiliated with any government) that engage in acts of robbery and/or criminal violence at sea.
Now, terrorism is different. Especially in the post-911 world with American politicians and agencies going crazy over anything they don’t like and continuously upgrading the extent and violence of their “war on terror”. Wikipedia comes handy again: “Terrorism is the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion. No universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition of terrorism currently exists. Common definitions of terrorism refer only to those violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror), are perpetrated for a religious, political or ideological goal, deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants (civilians), and are committed by non-government agencies.”
Where do the actions of the whale pirates fit? They have an ideology, deliberately target a specific group, disregarding the safety of “non-combatants” (whalers) and they are a non-governmental agency (a charity dedicated to anti-whaling). By calling the whaling as “research” the Japanese have removed any connotations with “economic” from their whale butchery, further pushing the whole issue towards…not-piracy.
Now, if the Japanese succeed in converting the ocean actions into terrorism, Sea Shepherd will find itself under fire from the very same military vessels that are (badly) trying to protect the ships off Somalia. The US will be required to chase this anti-whaling ship, as it cannot selectively enforce its OWN policies on anti-terrorism by pretending the crazy anti-whalers are just “deranged ocean idealists”. Discovery will have to cancel the show, and no credit card company will accept/transfer donations (like they did with wikileaks).
Still, the win is a first, and will hopefully lead to next successes of non-economic ideologies over the selfish and short-term capitalist mind-set that is destroying this planet.