Go and See Edge of Tomorrow, it Rocks!

The hero and her sidekick Tom Cruise

The hero and her sidekick Tom Cruise

Edge of Tomorrow is a kick ass science fiction action flick.  GO AND SEE IT IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY!!!!!

It is action packed, actually makes sense (in science fiction terms,)has a quirky dark military sense of humor and an odd quirky dark romantic subtext (to me who loves warrior women [and my wife].)

OK Groundhog Day and that episode of Stargate did the reliving the 24hours bit before but not with the firepower (literally) of this movie.

I love the fighting machine, its direct line descent from what we are seeing in progress today and it certainly give the heroes a rational ability to carry REALLY BIG GUNS!

Emily Blunt is the hero here though the action revolves around the time looping Tom Cruise character.  Right now I think she’s better than Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley from Aliens because she is not so much reacting heroically to the demands of the moment as displaying long-term self-control and holding onto hope long after knowing the chances of survival are in the hands of pure chance.

SPOILER ALERT:    DO NOT READ BEYOND THIS POINT IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE AND HAVE ANY INTEREST IN GOING.

The aliens have invaded, 4 years ago, worse, they’re winning.

Tom Cruise’s character, a slimy salesman in uniform, pisses off the Allied high commander and gets assigned to the invasion force getting ready to push the aliens back from the beaches of Normandy (D-Day with choppers.)  It all goes terribly wrong and TomC gets killed in the first few minutes, along with pretty much everyone else.  But he’s not the utter waste of humanity you first thought.  In a final act of bloody-mindedness he takes an alien commander with him, setting off a time loop around his last 24 hours (which the aliens had set up so they got the advantage of do overs.)

Rita (Emily Blunt’s character) was killed early on during an earlier great battle in similar circumstances. In a series of many hundreds of do overs she finally has enough of an effect to win the battle though she cannot in the end get to the alien’s core (the Omega) and destroy them.   It is never stated in so many words but it is obvious that she learns from, and works with another soldier in this repetitive nightmare, falling in love with him but never able to save him.  At some point after the battle, probably trying to find a final solution, she is wounded in combat and given a transfusion, which destroys the looping.

By that time she is the new Sampson, Hercules, Sergeant York, Audey Murphy…but damned now to live and die just once she has to try to find a way to counteract the aliens’ undetectable, undefeated advantage.  Her friends dead or discredited she has to grit her teeth and allow herself to be used to recruit cannon fodder, in the hopes that somehow, she can help stave off defeat and find a key to victory.

My read of Rita is that she is very near the breaking point by the time the too cute TomC character pops into her life.  Not given the advantage of looping with her guide, each time she has to accept, come up to speed and move out with him each and every time, and it looks hard for her.

The TomC character Major Cage, starts out as a near total waste of oxygen, but his act of rage that sets up the loop is an act of redemption. And somehow, with backsliding, he keeps the redemption train moving.  When Rita first meets him I’m fairly sure she’d really like to pull his head off to see what goo is inside.  But as time progresses he earns her trust (remember this is over a period of less than 24 hours for her) and finally a little bit more.

It’s fairly obvious that Cage falls for Rita, physically at first (Blunt is Valkyrie hot) and then in a far deeper way (after the first several hundred deaths or so) and is also convinced that she (and her mad scientist friend) is the key to not having to die for good eventually.

At the end of the movie they die…after their first (and only) kiss, but the loop acts one last time to toss Cage back to an even earlier beginning, the beginning of a new age as the aliens have been destroyed though nobody has any idea what happened.

Last Scene, Cage in his noncombat officer finest faces the still burnt out and very dangerous Rita but now he is a seasoned warrior under the glow.  He has seen her die many hundreds of time, almost every time knowing that her death was the death of any hope except for his death and a do over.  She is seeing him for the first time, again.

I’ve spent hours thinking about the pick up line after the fade out.  One does not know what will happen, “Hi Rita you don’t remember me but we blew up the alien Omega together.  Just dropped by to thank you for saving humanity with my help,  I wanted you to know that seeing you die several hundred times was a real bitch and dying that last time, I was glad I wasn’t going to survive without you.   Could I take you out for a cold beer and pizza later?”

OK so that’s corny but I bet there are hundreds, if not thousands, of others wondering the same thing.

 

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The US’s (Asia’s) Worst Nightmare: a 4th China-Japan War

Asia’s Worst Nightmare: A China-Japan War by James Holmes | National Interest | January 5, 2014
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A fight over seemingly minor stakes, then, could mushroom into a major conflagration arraying China against the US-Japan alliance. How much passion would an East China Sea imbroglio rouse among the combatants? China and Japan would be all in. Disputes involving sovereignty — particularly territory and resources — tend to drive the perceived value of the political object through the roof. Tokyo and Beijing, moreover, are acutely conscious that the post-1895 status quo is in play. In Clausewitzian parlance, goals of such value merit open-ended efforts of potentially vast magnitude.

Given President Obama’s history of feckless dithering on foreign policy issues this could get really ugly. It seems likely that China will push to take advantage of our real if self inflicted weakness. In effect the administration’s habit of appeasement makes war more, not less, likely.

Reagan’s ’86 Libyan strike is a reasonable model for a ’13 Syrian strike

From Real Clear Politics: 86 Attack on Libya: A Template for U.S. Action Now

Should we choose to demonstrate our resolve in this manner, we must also prepare for the counter-response of Syria and its confederates. While we should prepare for terrorist attacks, kidnapping, or military strikes against U.S., allied, or Israeli targets, we must be equally vigilant in the cyber-domain. The actions of the Syrian Electronic Army already indicate the ability to launch increasingly sophisticated cyber-disruptions, and Syria’s Iranian sponsors also have significant cyber-capabilities that could be used to disrupt key infrastructure, communications, or energy facilities throughout the region. Suspected Iranian cyber-attacks have already targeted Saudi Aramco and Qatari RasGas, and similar attacks could be part of any retaliation.

Using the historical lesson of 1986’s Operation El Dorado Canyon, U.S. and allied forces can incur significant damage against Syria through a limited campaign and avoid the more deleterious outcomes of inaction or prolonged intervention. The bottom line: Like Reagan in Libya, Obama today has few good options — but the use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces requires a response, albeit a judicious one.

It seems likely that ‘Syria’ will end up a patchwork of mini states, so we probably should encourage the regime to retreat to its bastion on the coast, perhaps with a loose network of the other small sects in mutual support. Once the players set up their own cores, hopefully they would settle into some kind of loose confederation. Of course the jihadis don’t want this, but if there comes a period of settling out, separating and then taking out the hard liners should become feasible, with local support…expect more drone war…

This requires a basis for a future better time, right now the old regime has proven that the only peace they accept is that of subjugation and coercion. So degrading the regimes offensive capability and its ability to limit future intervention while not going for the jugular, in any more than a symbolic way, makes sense beyond mere face saving. Degrade the offensive forces enough and a defensive cordon is their only hope. It is going to be ugly, monstrous, utterly unfair, but there is no other solution given the situation as it stands today.

Reagan had to live with Carter’s mess, Obama has to deal with his own, times have changed, bad outcomes are accelerating in a more densely populated and seriously degraded world…social and ecological degradation are at the root of this disaster and something was going to break. But the level of horror could have been reduced if action had been taken earlier.

The Double Tap, not just for Assassins anymore

20130713-134015.jpgRead more: It Is Now Common Knowledge That US Drones Bomb Civilian Rescuers
The title’s misleading, actually what it’s reporting is the supposed common tactic of striking first responders to a missile strike with a second strike. This tactic called the Double Tap after the Assassins supposed rule of always putting two bullets in the kill zone to ensure the ‘client’ is ‘terminated’ is/was supposed to be a preferred TERRORIST tactic.

From a very cold metric it does many ‘good’ things from the view of the ‘operator.’

    • Increased kill % of those targeted
    • Kill those who might have been ‘shielded in some way
    • Kill shocked/ wounded target wandering around looking for compatriots
    • Kill fellow travelers who flock in from nearby to help
    • Kill sympathizers who come to help
    • Reduce the likelihood of good Samaritans leaping in to save dying ‘baduns’ ( let the bad guy bleed out)
    • Increase the ‘cost’ of letting (however reluctantly) militants use ‘your’ village as shelter
    • Increase the image of US war fighting ferocity
None of the above means our use of the tactic is: lawful, moral, ethical, or well reasoned. I would say that in general it makes the Drone Campaign vastly more repugnant, and degrading to the side (us) using the tactic if it is indeed used to strike those who have not been narrowly targeted, used in the sense of a standard non specific sweep up practice.

The use of drones in general outside of the battlefield to me becomes more and more problematic the further it moves from an area of active combat. However, with strict targeting it may just be necessary if distasteful tactic. And, If Double Tap is used in a combat zone then I’d see it as acceptable, little or no different from artillery. But if used for covert assassination strikes the DT used indiscriminately without specific targets may be a crime, it certainly is antithetical to our ( or what should be our ) moral standing in the world.

So I see DT as a real problem, but I have to point out that the trembling mention/implication that drone strikes are some how more indiscriminately lethal than manned aircraft strikes is laughable. The issue is that there are vastly more drone strikes these days and while drones are used in close battle, manned aircraft are more frequently tasked for that support. The weapons used are the same except that manned aircraft can and do carry larger more indiscriminate weapons, but generally in combat situations were the civilians are under cover or absent. The drones far from the battlefield are bound to get more ‘collaterals’ and as the enemy avoid all out battle and the effort is mainly about interdiction/suppression we are going to get this disturbing apparent trend.

Once more showing that it is easy for activists to use statistics to make an ugly truth worse than it is. It also points out why the broad drone campaign is problematic as it draws on and why DT beyond the battlefield may be as stupid as as it is abhorrent.

A world (at sea ) of difference

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as in many engineering projects the Navy’s UCAV X-47B flight testing and carrier qual seems to have suddenly jumped from baby steps to hyper speed.

Navy officers are very clear on a distinction between the Navy and the Air Force, which insists on talking about remotely piloted aircraft: Navy “unmanned air systems” have operators, not pilots. Of course, the Navy hasn’t been forced to divert a large number of qualified pilots into UAVs, as the USAF has been (Predators and Reapers are the USAF’s second-largest pilot force after the F-16), and will not have to do so for a long time. But the fact remains that flying a UAV with a stick and rudder or any semblance thereof is (to quote an Airbus guy’s comment on the Boeing 777’s back-driven yoke) like putting a steering wheel on a horse. “Pilot” is a bit of a misnomer.
Speaking of pilots, the Navy’s attitude towards adopting the X-47B’s automatic landing technology for manned operations is quite positive. The potential benefits — less wear and tear on airframes and less training time for the air group, along with improved safety — are substantial.

Read more at: http://www.aviationweek.com/Blogs
Wired has a different set of thoughts and more questions here. Wired sometimes seems to confuse the world of war with the world of tech and the world in general with the blue coasts of the US but they do a good job of tracking the tech and monitoring for hubris.

Smart Rock(ets)

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Classic shot of the classic, classy, grungy, so ugly it’s cute, A10 Warthog dropping a flare I think

The new family of 70mm laser guidance plug on warheads are another tick of the game precision warfare revolution.

What caught my eye:

While the APKWS, designed for maximum precision, has a Circular Error Probable (CEP) of about 2-meters, the round has exceeded this benchmark in testing and come within inches of targets at ranges up to 5 kilometers, according to BAE Systems officials.

Think about that … this is a WW II weapon and in the big picture inexpensive trending to dirt cheap. The guidance package-warhead replaces the dumb warhead, it has a trick laser based guidance system that is precise while leaving room for an effective warhead. The guidance system has an inertial reference platform and range finder…about the smarts and sensing of the original iPhone. In the future I see no reason it couldn’t have the ability to switch to pattern recognition guidance in the last few meters to go from inches to millimeters … At which point some targets don’t need an explosive ‘after.’