Aug 29, 2009
My name will go down in F1 history
For qualifying in last place twice consecutively
I am worse than any Ferrari driver in
I last drove an F1 car in 1863
By Monza I will be history
Why did they let me drive at all? Well, I guess it's just a
Aug 26, 2009
Since I'll be taking over the management of this blag during Michael's absence, I thought I'd do a little introductary post.
That should cover it. Now, some substance.
Lately there's been quite a bit of discussion about Pirate Party in Finnish media. I'd like to present an example of one of the things Pirate Party supports and copyright holder organizations absolutely oppose: free noncommercial use of protected content.
!WARNING! The creation and publishing of the following video was a crime. It was made by a thief illegally using content protected by copyright. By viewing this video you are supporting criminal activity.
If you do choose to view it, why don't you think about that while you watch?
Aug 22, 2009
I like how they're recommending I show up. As if I have a choice.
Aug 21, 2009
Copyright holder organisations in Finland were outraged at the news of the group's formation.
"We are absolutely against the idea that any political party can give their support to the idea of free use of protected content," said Arto Alaspaeae[sic], the director of IFPI Finland (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry).
There you go: if the record companies called the shots, Finnish political parties wouldn't be allowed to have "wrong" opinions on copyright. Read it closely. They're against the idea that any political party can give their support to cutting down copyright.
I wonder if anyone has told them this is at least supposed to be a democracy.
For more on the topic, here's Cory Doctorow: Economists call for patent and copyright abolition.
Aug 18, 2009
The Mary's room thought experiment was proposed by Frank Jackson in 1982 as a counterargument to physicalism, physicalism being the belief that the universe consists of nothing more than its physical characteristics. In other words, physicalism is what used to be called materialism: the denial of any kind of mind/body or matter/spirit dualism.
To quote from Wikipedia:
Mary is a brilliant scientist who is, for whatever reason, forced to investigate the world from a black and white room via a black and white television monitor. She specializes in the neurophysiology of vision and acquires, let us suppose, all the physical information there is to obtain about what goes on when we see ripe tomatoes, or the sky, and use terms like ‘red’, ‘blue’, and so on. She discovers, for example, just which wavelength combinations from the sky stimulate the retina, and exactly how this produces via the central nervous system the contraction of the vocal cords and expulsion of air from the lungs that results in the uttering of the sentence ‘The sky is blue’. [...] What will happen when Mary is released from her black and white room or is given a color television monitor? Will she learn anything or not?
In other words, we are to imagine a scientist who knows everything there is to know about the science of color, but has never experienced color. The interesting question that Jackson raises is: Once she experiences color, does she learn anything new?
Fair enough. Here's my problem:
[...] if Mary does learn something new upon experiencing color, physicalism is false. Specifically, the Knowledge Argument is an attack on the physicalist claim about the completeness of physical explanations of mental states. Mary may know everything about the science of color perception, but can she know what the experience of red is like if she has never seen red? Jackson contends that, yes, she has learned something new, via experience, and hence, physicalism is false. Jackson states:
It seems just obvious that she will learn something about the world and our visual experience of it. But then it is inescapable that her previous knowledge was incomplete. But she had all the physical information. Ergo there is more to have than that, and Physicalism is false.
I have a very real problem with that, as I don't believe it follows at all. I'll set it out, as the Wikipedia page didn't address this particular problem with the main argument, and I consider it decisive.
The philosopher Daniel Dennett, a capital man who writes about zombies, has objected. According to Dennett, if Mary really knew everything about color, she would learn nothing upon first experiencing color. I tend to agree with him: if, by definition, Mary really had all possible physical knowledge of color, then presumably that would include knowledge of the experience of seeing color.
In my opinion, the whole Mary's room argument is nothing but what Dennett calls an intuition pump: a thought experiment designed to evoke an intuitive response by misleading us.
Specifically, I believe the Mary's room scenario makes use of an intuitive division between theoretical knowledge and experience. On reading it, most of us assume that Mary has all the theoretical knowledge of color, but has no practical experience of it. The difference is similar to knowing how to drive a car but never having driven one. From a common sense standpoint, we will automatically assume that when a person who has been taught all about cars but has never driven one actually does, they will, indeed, learn something.
Notice, though, that that isn't what Jackson said. He said Mary has all the physical information. Isn't the experience of seeing a color also physical information? Basically, in claiming that Mary's knowledge does not include the experience of color, Jackson is claiming that experience, in this case experience of a qualia, is not physical information.
The entire thought experiment is set up to justify the existence of qualia as non-physical information. In my opinion, it does this by simply assuming the existence of qualia as non-physical information. If we assume that the experience of seeing a color is physical information, then by the premise of the experiment, Mary doesn't learn anything new on stepping out of the room.
Dennett's further objection is very relevant here. He says we can't imagine such a comprehensive amount of knowledge: Mary would really need to know literally everything about color before stepping out of the room for the experiment to make any sense. We find that difficult to imagine, so we transpose "all theoretical knowledge of color" for "all possible knowledge".
Basically, the way I see it, the whole thought experiment doesn't prove anything. It only begs the question. If, if, you assume that the experience of seeing a color is not physical knowledge, then Mary will learn something new the first time she sees a color, and then physicalism is false. If, however, we assume that the experience of seeing a color is physical knowledge, then Mary possesses a practically supernatural level of knowledge while still in the room, and will, in fact, learn nothing.
The question that any solution to the thought experiment boils down to is very simple: do you believe that the experience of seeing a color is physical knowledge? In other words, when you see the color blue, what happens? Physicalism asserts that something happens in your brain: at the end of the day, a physical process. This physical process could, theoretically, be recreated, so it would be possible for someone to upload the experience of having seen all the colors into Mary's brain. Therefore she, already possessing this superhuman knowledge of things she has never seen, would indeed learn nothing upon leaving the room.
On the other hand, if one chooses to believe in the transcendent existence of qualia, and the existence of a transcendent mind above and beyond the brain, then it is possible to postulate that something transcendent happens to the mind when it sees a color for the first time. I, as a physicalist, would kindly suggest applying Occam's razor to all these assumptions.
So, in short, my opinion of the Mary's room thought experiment is that it only proves the existence of qualia and the falsity of physicality if one presupposes qualia to exist outside physical knowledge. Therefore, it proves nothing: it only begs the question that it supposedly answers.
Aug 17, 2009
I fell completely in love with her after getting my hands on an actiongirls.com DVD. I can't speak for the website, but the DVD (Actiongirls.com volume 5) I did quite like. That's a topic I should return to at some point, but for now I just thought I'd post a few actiongirls.com stills. So as you'll see my point.
I love her.
Aug 15, 2009
A pinko conspiracy theory? Maybe. Here's an excellent article on the topic from a communist propaganda rag owned by an infamous Bolshevik:
Bloomberg: George Orwell Was Right: Spy Cameras See Britons' Every Move
Almost 70 years after George Orwell created the all-seeing dictator Big Brother in the novel ``1984,'' Britons are being watched as never before. About 4.2 million spy cameras film each citizen 300 times a day, and police have built the world's largest DNA database. Prime Minister Tony Blair said all Britons should carry biometric identification cards to help fight the war on terror.
``Nowhere else in the free world is this happening,'' said Helena Kennedy, a human rights lawyer who also is a member of the House of Lords, the upper house of Parliament. ``The American public would find such inroads into civil liberties wholly unacceptable.''
During the past decade, the government has spent 500 million pounds ($1 billion) on spy cameras and now has one for every 14 citizens, according to a September report prepared for Information Commissioner Richard Thomas by the Surveillance Studies Network, a panel of U.K. academics.
And it doesn't stop there. Just this week, two people in Britain were convicted for refusing to unencrypt data they own.
The Register: Two convicted for refusal to decrypt data
Two people have been successfully prosecuted for refusing to provide authorities with their encryption keys, resulting in landmark convictions that may have carried jail sentences of up to five years.
That's right. Five years in prison if you encrypt files on your hard drive and refuse to hand over the keys to the police.
Speaking of the police, it must be said that they're certainly doing their part. As part of their preparation for next month's Labour Party conference in Brighton, the British police are going to do door-to-door searches of the entire city to find Muslims.
The Daily Express: POLICE ‘GESTAPO TACTICS’ OVER TERRORIST FEAR AT LABOUR CONFERENCE
POLICE plans to quiz thousands of people in a seaside resort to check they are not terrorists were branded “Gestapo-style” tactics last night.
Squads of officers will carry out door-to-door interviews to weed out potential threats to the Labour Party Conference in Brighton next month.
Home owners and workers will have to produce passports, birth certificates, driving licences, proof of employment, and even provide the names of referees to show they are of good character.
They will also be quizzed on their religion to see if they have connections with Muslim fanatics. Critics said the “Gestapo” tactics were another sign that Britain is lurching towards an autocratic state.
An autocratic state? Nonsense! Autocracy, dear critics, means a system of rule by a single individual. It is patently absurd to suggest that Great Britain is becoming an autocracy. Try something like this instead:
After all, door-to-door searches to find people suspected of a heinous offense like an ethnicity or a religion were a specialty not of autocracies but of certain other forms of government that tended to have "soc" somewhere in their name.
I suggest anyone even slightly interested in this topic read the brief article from Bloomberg.com that I linked to above. Great Britain is turning into a truly terrifying place. I'll close with a last quote from that article:
In the bowels of New Scotland Yard, the headquarters of the London police force, a windowless room contains a giant bank of TV screens where the city is monitored around the clock. At the touch of a button, officers can focus on any neighborhood and zoom in on people's faces.
Police hunting the killer of five prostitutes in Suffolk were able to gather 10,000 hours of footage from in and around Ipswich.
By 2016, there will be cameras using facial recognition technology embedded in lampposts, according to the Surveillance Studies report. Unmanned spy planes will monitor the movements of citizens, while criminals and the elderly will be implanted with microchips to track their movements, the report says.
Aug 13, 2009
Instead of just leaving this blag to stagnate, I've managed to round up some people to fill in in my absence. I don't know yet when I'm being locked up, so for the near future, all of us will probably be posting here, just to keep things confusing. But let's meet our other contributors.
There's Henriikka, who'll become our featured artist as soon as we persuade her to draw that one webcomic, but as she's got enough projects of her own, someone needs to take over the duty of keeping this thing running.
This means handing it over to our tame computer scientist. Some say that he only speaks in machine code, and in order to read an e-mail from him, you have to compile it first; and that he can operate his Xbox 360 without a controller. All we know is, he's called Juho.
Aug 12, 2009
Aug 10, 2009
One of the theoreticians of politics to come in the 1990's was Samuel Huntington, whose book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order has been lampooned far and wide, mostly by people who haven't read one line of it. One of the things Huntington discusses in the book is the way in which we, as humans, form our identities by associating ourselves with different groups. One can be, for instance, a Londoner, English, British, European and a Westerner. Which level of identity is considered most meaningful varies from one context and time to another; our hypothetical Londoner will no doubt identify himself on a different level when compared to a person from Essex, Scotland, Poland or Canada. The dominant paradigm of politics defines which of these "levels of identity" is of predominant importance. During the Cold War, a Londoner would have been, above all, a Westerner: a citizen of the First World. In a different time, the distinction will be different.
Very broadly speaking, most of human history can be divided into two kinds of periods: those of secular politics and religious politics. Based on what we know, the earliest human polities up to the Roman Empire practiced an exclusively secular kind of politics. The Greeks didn't go to war because they thought Zeus would like it if they killed some barbarians, and the Romans didn't even care what religion their own subjects practiced, let alone what the Persians got up to in their spare time. Their politics were determined by secular imperatives. It didn't really matter what god you believed in as much as where you were from.
The roots of religion as a political force start in the ruins of the Western Roman Empire, when Christianity made its first bid for power. With the rise of the papacy, organized religion started becoming a political force. Politics in early medieval Europe remained mostly secular, however, revolving around feudal lords and kings. Christianity needed an enemy to become truly political, and it got it in Islam.
Contrary to what seems to be common belief these days, the early expansion of Islam started in Muhammed's lifetime was not so much a war of religion as it was one of imperial conquest. Non-Muslims were not forcibly converted to Islam, with the exception of some Christian Arabs who seem to have raised the Prophet's ire. In fact, the very idea that a non-Arab could become a Muslim was a novelty to Muslims themselves, and was only accepted after heavy debate. The historical record amply bears out that to the Christian and Jewish inhabitants of the Middle East and North Africa who fell under Muslim rule, the empire of the Caliphs was simply another imperial conqueror like Rome or Persia. Many Christian sects actually preferred to be ruled by Muslims rather than by Byzantium as late as the eleventh century. This is why many scholars of Islam and the Arabs refer to the wars of the seventh century as the Arab expansion, as opposed to an Islamic expansion.
Muslims and Christians clashed on the battlefield, and Muslim pirates were the terror of the Mediterranean for a long time. Then again, Christians also fought Christians all across Europe, and Muslim pirates were a far lesser menace to most people than Vikings, who also raided as far as the Mediterranean. To Byzantium, the Arab Caliphate was another rival empire. After the Arab expansion reached its limits, there was peace between Islam and Christianity. The event that really changed the paradigm of politics away from the secular toward the religious was the First Crusade. In 1095, pope Urban II called for a crusade to liberate the holy places of Christianity from the "infidels", and the First Crusade managed to capture Jerusalem and found a Latin kingdom in the Middle East. The First Crusade also ushered in the first era of religious politics, where the dominant division was the one between Christians and Muslims. This era continued on into the Reformation, and its signature conflicts are not only the collision of the Arab and Ottoman empires with Christian powers, but also the religious wars of post-Reformation Germany and the Spanish Reconquista.
This is not to say that politics at the time were radically different. In all of the conflicts mentioned above, perfectly secular power politics ruled the day. A statesman of Ancient Rome would have easily and completely understood all of them. The difference lies in the mentality of politics. In a secular political paradigm, wars are fought for political reasons, and differences between factions are usually ones of political ideology or affiliation. This is true of the Napoleonic wars as much as both World Wars and the Cold War. The largest difference between this and the religious paradigm is in the longevity of the conflicts.
The First Crusade largely started the great collision of ideologies between Christianity and Islam. In many ways, it lasted until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War: almost 900 years. The thing is, even a global political conflict like the Second World War or the Cold War doesn't drag on for that long. The two ideologies which were defeated in those conflicts, National Socialism and state socialism, simply ceased to exist apart from a few strange remnants. After 1945, Germany stopped being Nazi Germany; in 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and became Russia again. A religious conflict is an entirely different animal, however. A country can give up on a political ideology, but giving up on a religion is another matter altogether.
Here's an example. Less than ten years after France and Britain defeated Germany in the Second World War, they got together and started the process of European integration that eventually led into the EU we have today. The deep political animosity that led them to wage six years of total war was simply gone. In the 2000's, over 500 years after Constantinople fell to the Turks, we're still debating whether it's even possible for Turkey to be counted as a European country and be accepted into the EU. The tension is still there, because although Germany stopped being a Nazi country, Turkey never stopped being a Muslim country.
As a rule, conflicts set in the religious paradigm drag on far longer, and have far more serious and long-term ramifications than those set in a secular paradigm. Again, the crucial question is not whether two parties in a conflict have different religions, but whether the mentality of the conflict is religious or secular.
After the Counter-Reformation, European politics largely returned to the secular model. The Napoleonic wars, both World Wars and the Cold War were carried out in the secular paradigm. Now, however, I believe we may be undergoing a paradigm shift toward religious politics.
The terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, had a great many after-effects. Most of them are transitory: the Iraq war is drawing to a close, even if it remains to be seen what the fate of the country will be when Western troops finally withdraw. The war in Afghanistan goes on, but it too shall pass: such is the way of wars. Even the gigantic apparatus of state security the Americans set up after "9/11", eerily reminiscient of a similar system on the opposite side of the Iron Curtain, will be dismantled. In general, whenever an external threat creates something like this in America, it is eventually undone. In the 1950s, the threat of communism brought out McCarthyism, which was eventually and finally demolished by the civil rights movement. Before that there had been anti-Japanese and anti-German scares and other virtual pogroms, all of which have faded into history. The current system of Patriot Acts, phone taps, waterboarding and secret prison camps will, in due time, be perceived across the political spectrum for what it is, a monstrous abuse of civil rights and liberties, and be done away with, as its predecessors were. The War on Terror will eventually end and America will return to "business as usual".
I believe the most long-lasting effect of the September 11th attacks will be the new rise of a religious model of world politics, a model where the dominant political divide is again perceived as one between the West and Islam. This was brought home to me recently when an American acquaintance insisted that Muslims cannot live in a liberal democracy, because the goal of Islam is the creation of a Muslim state. This is a very strange statement, considering that Muslims have been living in Western liberal democracies for as long as they have existed. Indeed, Muslims and Christians have been sharing the same polities for almost 1,500 years. It is odd to imagine that in the 21st century this would suddenly become impossible.
This way of thinking is not, however, the peculiar eccentricity of a single American. Far from it. All over the Western world, failing religious and political movements have latched onto the idea of Islam-as-enemy to revitalize their flagging fortunes. In America, the large majority of these anti-Muslim pundits have been Christians; in Europe, they mostly come from the political right. Anyone who has followed Finnish, French or British politics can think of some, and their counterparts seem to exist in nearly all European countries. Republican presidential candidate John McCain called these people "agents of intolerance", and that is indeed exactly what they are. Their currency is xenophobia, pure and simple.
The fact of the matter is that the war on terror is a secular conflict. Osama bin Laden's terrorist network has a series of perfectly secular, political aims, which they and their imitators are trying to advance. The conflict itself is, therefore, secular, and no different in kind from the vast majority of other conflicts. Bin Laden himself has used the rhetoric of the religious paradigm to justify himself, talking of a holy war against the infidels and so forth. This is a propaganda exercise to justify his political aims. To take bin Laden's talk of a holy war of Muslims against the infidel as the collective opinion of the Muslim world is as absurd as believing that all American Christians approve of bombing abortion clinics. To believe, because of the actions of bin Laden, that there is a fundamental and unresolvable conflict between Islam and Christianity is as idiotic as taking the Northern Ireland conflict as irrefutable proof that Catholics and Protestants cannot live in the same country.
This, however, is exactly what our agents of intolerance would have you believe. It is curious to think that the fervent anti-Islam preachers of the West are basically doing precisely the same thing as bin Laden's propagandists in the Muslim world: trying to convince their flocks that the "others" are their sworn enemies, simply because of who they are. On both sides of the conflict, these people are trying to move our thinking into the religious paradigm, where the defining question is not what faction you belong to or what political belief you subscribe to, but what your religion is.
Political differences can smoulder for decades and even ignite world wars. Conflicts in the religious paradigm, however, are founded on such a deep and irrational intolerance that they go on for centuries. Indeed, this current propaganda offensive on both sides would hardly be possible without the past grievances harbored by each side. In a diplomatic move as astute as a congratulatory telegram from the German Kaiser, President George W. Bush referred to his War on Terror as a crusade: a term sure to bring carry and fuzzy connotations in the Muslim world.
This is the legacy that Osama bin Laden and his Western counterparts, the islamophobes, want to leave us. My fear is that they are succeeding. The attacks of September 11th, 2001, were only a spark. The agents of intolerance in the West are the ones who have taken that spark and made it into a bonfire of hatred and prejudice, and it may burn for decades.
Eight years after 2001, the islamophobic rhetoric in Europe already resembles the McCartyite pogroms of 1950s America. All Muslim immigrants are treated as a fifth column of the enemy who seek to overthrow Western democracy and replace it with an Islamic theocracy. There are calls to purge the political system of (native) politicians who are "too soft" on the immigrant threat. The islamophobes are a vocal minority, but if a faction of "hawks" springs up in the moderate right-wing parties to exploit this phobia of immigrants, it may set European immigration policy and religious tolerance back by decades. One almost expects a loyalty oath drive.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, is it any coincidence that the War on Terror has coincided with the new rise of religion in American politics? Suddenly the theory of evolution is an issue of national politics and election platforms, not science. The grass-roots smear campaign perpetrated against then-presidential candidate Barack Obama was not centered on his left-wing leanings or even his skin colour, some lunatics notwithstanding, but on the bizarre idea that Obama is a crypto-Muslim who only pretends to be a Christian. Clearly this was the ultimate proof that he cannot be allowed to become President; for most of the right-wing maniacs carrying on this campaign, being a Muslim was a far greater sin than being left-wing.
Across the Western world, there are signs of a new religious rhetoric of "us-versus-them" gaining ground. This, in my opinion, is the most far-reaching effect of the 2001 terror attacks. At worst, it may lead us into a new era of religious intolerance and hatred where Christians and Muslims again become convinced that they are each other's natural enemies. If this happens to any significant degree, then the agents of intolerance in our own societies will have proven to be far worse terrorists than al-Qaeda.
Aug 9, 2009
There's a reason for this, and it's not just the excerable prose. I don't want to downplay that aspect, because Remic is without doubt the worst writer I've ever read. The reason I can't go on reading War Machine is not only that it's awful, but it's also deeply disturbing.
Last time around, I talked about the inept characterization of the protagonist, Keenan, as both a tortured, alcoholic PI and an ultra-cool, über-macho supersoldier, at the same time. Later on in the novel, Remic adds another dimension. The protagonist is also a serial killer.
There's a series of scenes in which the characters' pasts are explored. Franco gets a ridiculously badly written backstory where he basically comes from a Welsh mining town where the evil mining company was mean to him, and then he blew it up. It reads like it was written by a 12-year-old, and is truly pathetic. Pippa, on the other hand, has a history of violence; first an abusive, alcoholic father murdered her mother, then her sister was raped, and Pippa solved all these problems by killing. It's no exaggeration to say that she is a psychotic murderer, but she still manages to get patronized and belittled by macho Keenan.
Now, however, we get a good long look at Keenan. Apparently, he used to be a policeman, and this gives Remic the excuse to write a very thinly disguised political commentary on crime and the justice system. Apparently, ten thousand years in the future, in the Quad-Gal or whatever, the justice system is a toothless joke run by social workers who release paedophiles convicted of raping and murdering 8-year-old girls on parole. The whole sequence is an encapsulation of macho rage and posturing at its most pathetic and its most disturbing. Keenan, you see, has a solution for this.
In the early chapters of the book there had been brief references to paedophiles, and Keenan and Franco's unremitting hatred for them. There was even a mention that they would stalk and murder paedophiles, apparently for the fun of it or something. It doesn't feel like too much of an exaggeration to say that the author is somewhat preoccupied with child molesters. As I've pointed out earlier, it's very difficult to read the book and the author's self-descriptions without coming to the conclusion that Keenan is a projection of the author, a fantasy-self. In the most disturbing section of the book, these two strands meet.
Keenan made his way into a maximum-security prison (which turned out to be surprisingly non-maximum-security), and there to the "Area of Sexual Misconduct", which is Remic's ludicrous attempt at an official name for a prison wing where sex offenders are housed. I'd quote some sections of the text, but I really can't be bothered. The point is that in a very disturbing, almost masturbatory section, Keenan makes his way to the prison and murders all of the inmates of the sex offender wing with a flamethrower. One section I will quote, from just before the massacre:
Understanding filled him. They were not human. Something had happened to these deviants, turned them into what they were: some alien virus, some genetic malfunction. They had no sorrow, no empathy for their victims. They were focused, entirely, on their own petty sexual desires, enthralled within a cocoon of spiralling depravity.
In a piece of dialogue with a colleague called "Volt" (...), Keenan tries to justify himself:
"This isn't murder, Volt. When a rabid dog kills a child, you destroy it. It's no longer a dog. This is the same. Can't you see that?"
He then murders 40 people with a flamethrower. But, of course, to Remic/Keenan, they're not people, they're paedophiles. I should point out that we're not told what the crimes they've committed were, as apparently it's enough to throw out a blanket condemnation.
After this scene, reading the rest of the book, and, indeed, re-reading the beginning, becomes more than a little difficult. Remic's protagonist, and his ideal self, Keenan, is a complete psychopath. This one act makes him a psychopathic spree killer, on par with the École Polytechnique or Virginia Tech murderers. Of course, Keenan justifies his acts according to his own system of ethics, where all people don't count as people. I'm sure those killers did, too. Keenan is no different. His logic here is the logic of Auschwitz, Treblinka, Dresden and Kolyma: my enemies are not human.
Based on what we've been told so far, Keenan and Pippa are sadistic, depraved, completely psychotic serial killers. Yet they're supposed to be our protagonists. With this background, they still operate as an effective military unit, fly around the galaxy in a spaceship and lead more or less normal lives. We're treated to their gay banter and jokes. We're supposed to sympathize with them, at least on some level. That's a little difficult, made even more so by the fact that by this point, all of the characters are walking contradictions. On one hand, they're wisecracking squaddies; on the other hand, they're psychopaths. Remic's characterization is so inept that it is perfectly possible to just forget all this background, because you'd never connect it with the characters in question.
On the face of it, Remic's violent vigilante justice fantasies read like the outpourings of an angry, angsty 12-year-old, but on several levels, they're deeply disturbing. They make me uneasy in the same way that Japanese pornography makes me uneasy. Yes, I sort of see what you're doing, but there's still something very wrong about it.
Add to this the rampant sexism of the book. As I've said, with the exception of mothers and daughters, who are helpless victims, and Franco's boss, who is Evil, we've seen every female character in the book in the nude. All of the women Keenan meets apparently can't resist his sex appeal, which, considering that Keenan basically is Remic's self-projection into the book, is a little sad.
And I really must stress that Remic's writing is epicly bad. To read War Machine is to undergo a constant linguistical assault on your mind. Like a good terrorist, Remic changes tactics constantly. He occasionally abandons grammar and punctuation, at times uses ALL CAPS, and unpredictably dives into the heady waters of his thesaurus, for instance calling the "deviants" Keenan slaughters heteroclites. As Wiktionary tells you, it doesn't mean what he thinks it does, but then again, I think you were expecting that.
Okay, so it's a trashy "military science fiction" novel. One can reasonably expect there to be violence and misogyny, as well as bad writing. But the violence and misogyny are simultaneously inept, pathological and disturbing, while the writing isn't just bad, it's abysmal. When you add to this the repulsively macho self-portrait Remic doesn't just paint but shoves in your face at every opportunity, the mix is truly vomit-inducing.
So, my verdict: never buy, read or even look twice at anything that had "Andy Remic" written on it. Seriously. It's worse than you can possibly think.