Sunday, March 1, 2015

KILL CHAIN and PAY ANY PRICE


Is war neutral? Make no mistake, the net is a battleground, and like all battlegrounds it's a counting game of body bags and dollars. Not only do internet providers keep traffic slower here than much of the world, playing games with rates and speeds, but a "free" gaming app called Game of War can spy on you and sell your data to whoever they want...third parties who can then be hacked. (Facebook, LinkedIn, Tinder, and dozens of other apps and sites do this too.) Better read your service agreement before you click on it. And listen to some new audiobooks like these: NO PLACE TO HIDE is about how the government already watches everything you do; PAY ANY PRICE is about what you are being forced to pay for "security" that doesn't exist (financing endless wars that rich Arabs should be financing themselves); and THE AGE OF ACQUIESCENCE is a history lesson in how we came to accept the idea of the rich controlling everything (worshiping money and "freedom," which we define as "the equal opportunity to become unequal," including the loss of the middle class.) 



If we're still not sure what human morality consists of, asks the author of KILL CHAIN, (a Harpers magazine reporter,) how will we be able to determine what morality a robotic drone may possess once it becomes autonomous? The audiobook, which is subtitled The Rise of the High Tech Assassins, traces the history of what led to the present state of clandestine war. Obama decided to wage "smart" war after Bush played it dumb (and expensive), using stealth, spying, and drones. But there has been limited success, and even more budget deficits as the Pentagon plays the President and the taxpayers, asking for hundreds of billions to finance new computers, training facilities, weapons, jets, technologies, bases, ships, and an entire "kill chain" of operators, intelligence analysts and officers charged with the impossible duty of keeping America 100% "safe." The results have been spotty, with a terrorized general public in places like Pakistan and Yemen, where civilian casualties to drone strikes can come at any time. Imagine being a citizen of Yemen, aware that just talking to the wrong person can get you killed, not just by terrorists but by a missile fired from an unseen Predator--as one bus of pedestrians, including women and children, was when a "Hellfire" missile targeted a nearby car. Why care about this? Because the locals started thinking of themselves as victims of America...and terrorist sympathizers. War is messy, and "military intelligence" an oxymoron when the enemy starts getting smart, and uses Twitter while hiding and disguising. It is also incredibly wasteful and riddled with corruption on all sides. This audiobook, narrated by the always engaging Malcolm Hillgartner, attempts to put some perspective on the complexity of the problem.
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