AQ to CIA: You Are the Empire, and We Are Luke and Han

I loathed Star Wars, The Force Awakens. Loathed it.

I hated it so much I made myself go back and watch 1 through 6 again, to try to understand what even Jar Jar Binks (in my admittedly lonely opinion, though I urge you to go back and watch those early ones again) had on Disney’s creation. Along the way, in addition to realizing that The Empire never thought to fix the vulnerability that allowed R2D2 to hack each new-and-improved Death Star instantaneously, I realized The Force Awakens should have, instead of replaying the same Star Wars story over again, talked about what went wrong with the Rebel Alliance, which after all shouldn’t have remained the rebels for long. Why couldn’t, didn’t, our noble heroes set up a sound society to replace The Empire? Instead, somehow, The Empire gets rebooted once again, without dealing with the fact that The Empire this time should have been the rebels in charge.

I realized, as I was watching over the movies again, how for some of the same time the US was celebrating Luke and Han on the wide screen, we were secretly backing our own group of theocratic rebels in the desert as they fought an evil empire (I assume our Hollywood President enjoyed the parallel). I’m the generation of Star Wars. I was raised believing in our scrappy victory over Evil. But it’s all too clear, now, that we’re not the rebels, if we ever were. The theocratic rebels we helped blow up a Death Star in 1977 went on to blow up our Death Star, and the endless series of sequels against these rebels is bleeding us dry.

The Force Awakens didn’t deal with the fact that the US has become (if it wasn’t already, in 1977) The Empire; the movie shied away from contemplating that fact.

Of course, that made the observation from this video — from an al Qaeda fighter (presumably captured) — all the more striking to me.

An al Qaeda fighter made a point once in a debriefing. He said, all these movies that America makes, like Independence Day and Hunger Games and Star Wars, they’re all about a small scrappy band of rebels who will do anything in their power with the limited resources available to them to expel an outside, technologically advanced invader. And what you don’t realize, he said, is that to us, the rest of the world, you are The Empire, and we are Luke and Han. You are the aliens and we are Will Smith.

Hollywood is still making movies that cover up this fact.

But it’s not fooling much of the rest of the world.

Update: As happened with Syed Rizwan Farook, the tabloid press managed to get into the culprit’s home. Both his 3-year old kid’s bedroom and the bathroom are completed decked out in Star Wars gear.

Monday Morning: Swivel, Heads

Somebody out there knows what this tune means in my household. For our purposes this Monday morning, it’s a reminder to take a look around — all the way around. Something might be gaining on you.

Let’s look…

Android users: Be more vigilant about apps from Google Play
Better check your data usage and outbound traffic. Seems +300 “porn clicker” apps worked their way around Google Play’s app checking process. The apps rack up traffic, fraudulently earning advertising income; they persist because of users’ negligence in vetting and monitoring downloaded apps (because Pr0N!) and weakness in Google’s vetting. If this stuff gets on your Android device, what else is on it?

IRS’ data breach bigger than first reported
This may also depend on when first reporting occurred. The number of taxpayers affected is now ~700,000 according to the IRS this past Friday, which is considerably larger than the ~464,000 estimated in January this year. But the number of taxpayers affected has grown steadily since May 15th last year and earlier.

Did we miss the ‘push for exotic new weapons’?
Nope. Those of us paying attention haven’t missed the Defense Department’s long-running efforts developing new tools and weapons based on robotics and artificial intelligence. If anything, folks paying attention notice how little the investment in DARPA has yielded in payoff, noting non-defense development moving faster, further, cheaper — a la SuitX’s $40K exoskeleton, versus decades-plus investment by DARPA in exoskeleton vaporware. But apparently last Tuesday’s op-ed by David Ignatius in WaPo on the development of “new exotic weapons” that may be deployed against China and Russia spawned fresh discussion to draw our attention to this work. THAT is the new development — not the weapons, but the chatter, beginning with the Pentagon and eager beaver reporter-repeaters. This bit here, emphasis mine:

Pentagon officials have started talking openly about using the latest tools of artificial intelligence and machine learning to create robot weapons, “human-machine teams” and enhanced, super-powered soldiers. It may sound like science fiction, but Pentagon officials say they have concluded that such high-tech systems are the best way to combat rapid improvements by the Russian and Chinese militaries.

Breathless, much? Come the feck on. We’ve been waiting decades for these tools and weapons after throwing billions of dollars down this dark rathole called DARPA, and we’ve yet to see anything commercially viable in the way of an exoskeleton in the field. And don’t point to SKYNET and ask us to marvel at machine learning, because the targeting failure rate is so high, it’s proven humans behind it aren’t learning more and faster than the machines are.

Speaking of faster development outside DARPA: Disney deploying anti-drones?
The Star Wars franchise represents huge bank — multiple billions — to its owner Disney. Control of intellectual property during production is paramount, to ensure fan interest remains high until the next film is released. It’s rumored Disney has taken measures to reduce IP poaching by fan drones, possibly including anti-drones managed by a security firm protecting the current production location in Croatia. I give this rumor more weight than the Pentagon’s buzz about exoskeletons on the battlefield.

Lickety-split quickies

That’s a wrap — keep your eyes peeled. To quote Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”