Kargas

The following is cross-posted from Lobelog.com. 

Iran’s Zahedan airport is located on a road named for Allama Iqbal, the great Indian philosopher whom Pakistan after partition adopted as its national poet. The shaheen, or eagle, features prominently in Iqbal’s poetry, as a symbol of vigour, dignity and daring. It is contrasted against the figure of the kargas, or vulture, which represents cunning, cowardice and ignobility. It is the latter appellation that the region frequently applies to the CIA drones which today menace the skies from Waziristan, Kandahar to Zahedan. But shaheen or kargas, they are both ferocious; and it is a feat to capture either. Small wonder then, that some in Iran see cause for celebration in the capture of CIA’s RQ-170 Sentinel drone, a stealth surveillance craft manufactured by Lockheed Martin.

This is not the first time the CIA has delivered one of its most advanced aircraft for inevitable reverse engineering to its putative enemy. On April 9, 1960, people at the Zahedan airport watched anxiously as an aircraft with unusually wide wings approached from the north-east. The Lockheed U-2C was on a top-secret spying mission for the CIA, but its target was not Iran. Indeed, it was coming in to land after being chased by several fighter planes. Over the previous 8 hours, the plane had photographed four strategic Soviet military sites from an altitude of 70,000 feet, well out of the reach of the Russian MiGs and Sukhois. It embarked on its mission from the Badaber air force base 10 miles to the south of Peshawar.

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The Ethical Governor

It is rather rare these days to discover art of such extraordinary creative genius that it leaves one impoverished for words. That rare moment occurred for me a couple of days back when I saw ‘The Ethical Governor,’ a short animation produced by the writer, musician and animator (or his preference: ‘electronic artist’) John Butler. It is the product of a sparkling imagination and technical virtuosity in which there are traces of Swift, Kafka, Huxley, Orwell, early Coetzee, and Philip K. Dick. Like the masters, Butler takes extant tendencies in society and brings them into sharp focus in works that combine social consciousness, perfect pitch irony, clever wordplay, subversive wit and spectacular visuals. He describes his art as ‘speculative fiction for the age of financialization’, and anyone who has delved into the world of CDOs, CDSs and SPVs will understand where he is coming from. Last year he told an interviewer:

I’m interested in human utility in the drone age.  Human redundancy in the unmanned economy.  I’m interested in the war between Finance and Humans.

I’m interested in the Universal Transaction Space we all now inhabit. […]

Speculative fiction is important because the future seems to be behind us, and nothing lies ahead. We’re just waiting for the next upgrade.

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