The United States of Looney and Killer ‘Bots

92 years ago today, Tulsa was the site of what remains the single worst incident of racial violence in American history. The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 left the Greenwood area, once known as “The Black Wall Street”, a smoking ruin.

Imprisoned CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou sends us a “Letter from Loretto”: “It turned out that I had to get a copy of my formal sentencing documents to prove that I wasn’t a child molester. I did that, and was welcomed by the Aryans, who aren’t really Aryans but more accurately self-important hillbillies.”

Ricin is all the rage again! Once the hallmark of basement-dwelling militia losers, now dangerous gun-kook losers are showing their patriotism by mailing ricin-tainted letters to the President of the United States, the Mayor of NYC and so forth, because TYRANNY! What a compelling argument for their cause. Let’s hope they get to argue their case from a cage in Gitmo, like the cowardly terrorists they are.

…And right on cue, noted ass-clown Alex Jones is ready to claim it’s all a setup by the Illuminati or something. Makes so much more sense than just your average knuckle-dragging gun-crazies, right?

…Meanwhile, responsible Americans (including non-insane gun owners) are polling at 80% or more in favor of universal background checks.

Manufactroversy (măn’yə-făk’-trə-vûr’sē)
N., pl. -sies.

1. A manufactured controversy that is motivated by profit or extreme ideology to intentionally create public confusion about an issue that is not in dispute.
2. Effort is often accompanied by imagined conspiracy theory and major marketing dollars involving fraud, deception and polemic rhetoric.

Local parents and the American Civil Liberties Union urged the Springboro school board on Thursday to abandon a proposed policy listing creationism and evolution as “controversial issues” appropriate for discussion by Springboro students. They must love paying the ACLU’s legal fees.

The Louisiana House Education Committee killed a measure to repeal a 1981 creationism law on Wednesday, even though the Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional. The 1987 decision Aguillard v. Edwards ruled that their swamp-tard law was clearly intended “to advance the religious viewpoint that a supernatural being created humankind” and therefore violated the First Amendment. They must love paying the ACLU’s legal fees.

Noted creationist flim-flam artist Kent Hovind (AKA “Dr. Dino), has been ordered to pay more than $3.3 million in taxes and penalties, according to court documents filed May 15. He is currently in the Federal Correctional Institution in Berlin, N.H., serving a 10-year prison sentence for failing to collect and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in employee-related taxes, obstructing tax laws and structuring transactions to avoid financial reporting laws. In other words “a holy man”.

Well, it finally happened: Michele Bachmann announced today that she won’t be running. And comedians across the country suddenly feel the weight of a great depression.
{I can’t be sure, but in the late ’70s/early ’80s I think I ran into ‘Bonkers Bachmann’ leading those zombies waving signs and screaming incredibly hateful things at the staff and clients of the Reproductive Services clinic in Tulsa. We tried to engage them reasonably once and came away convinced they were all psychotic. That would jibe with what we’ve all seen after she hit the national stage}.

Jack (John Holbrook) Vance, American mystery, fantasy and science fiction author, passed away Sunday, May 26 at the age of 96. Jack died peacefully in his sleep. Rest in peace and thanks for all those wonderful stories.

The UN Human Rights Council, meeting in Geneva, has produced a report calling for a moratorium on the development and use of “lethal autonomous robots” (LAR) while the ethical questions they raise are debated. LARs are machines programmed in advance to take out people or targets, which – unlike drones – operate autonomously on the battlefield.

SkyNet calling on line one! Behold the Guardium, which is exactly what the UN is worried about. Israel’s killer robot cars are currently patrolling the border with Gaza. Equipped with “auto-target acquisition”, they can “react to unscheduled events, in line with a set of guidelines specifically programmed for the site characteristics and security routines”.  That means that if it sees something it doesn’t like, it can apparently take action all on its own — hopefully alerting humans in a command center before opening fire. The IDF says the little robo-cars can “use various forceful methods to eliminate” threats.

UAVs in Domestic Airspace: Some Thoughts

With the FAA set to “integrate” UAVs into U.S. airspace in 2015, now is as good a time as any to give some real thought as to whether this is the best idea.

Now, don’t get me wrong: my black hat doesn’t have a tin-foil liner, but I’ve been pretty unimpressed with the appalling litany of UAV/drone failures and long-known vulnerabilities  in the open literature. I wouldn’t feel safe with that junk flying over my head and you probably shouldn’t either. Here’s a few reasons why:

A common design feature on many drones is how they act when they lose contact with their controllers: in the event of communication loss the drone is programmed to land automatically, “for safety”. That doesn’t work so well sometimes.

During the first demonstration of their shiny new UAV, the Montgomery (TX) Sheriff’s Department  found this out the hard way. While flying at an altitude of 18 feet, their $300,000 drone helicopter lost communications and performed an auto-land maneuver… right into their own Bearcat armored vehicle. There were no injuries reported, but imagine the same thing happening over a playground full of kids: the outcome would be “sub-optimal” (AKA disastrous).

Danger Room has pointed out that since many drones depend on GPS, and that GPS is a very low-power signal from space that is totally without any authentication whatsoever, UAVs (or anything else) depending on GPS for timing or navigation functions are incredibly vulnerable to attack by jamming or spoofing.

Jamming can be as simple as a $50 (illegal, but readily available) GPS jammer or a homebrew RF white noise source. Spoofing can be more complex, but simply receiving the GPS baseband signal, adding a bit of delay, then re-transmitting it at a high enough signal level to swamp the “genuine” one at the target can severely screw with many GPS-based systems (I’m looking at you, wireless broadband networks). Iran has claimed to have “hijacked” one of the CIA’s own RQ-170 drones by making it think it was at its designated landing coordinates.


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