Daily Archive: 01/27/2015

Jan 27 2015

Blowback

The reason we use drones to kill brown people at random because they have the wrong skin color and religion or associate with those who do (please, if we had actual evidence there would be no such thing as a ‘signature’ strike) is because it’s cheap and easy to do.  So cheap and easy that your average drunken government employee (not that I’m implying that all government employees are drunk, even most of the time) can buy everything they need at the local Radio Shack.

White House Drone Crash Is Tied to Drinking by Intelligence Worker

By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT and MICHAEL D. SHEAR, The New York Times

JAN. 27, 2015

It was 42 degrees, lightly raining and pitch black near the White House when an inebriated, off-duty employee for a government intelligence agency decided it was a good time to test-fly his friend’s quadcopter drone that sells for hundreds of dollars and is popular among hobbyists.



Investigators said the man had been drinking at an apartment nearby. It was not until the next morning, when he woke to his friends telling him that his drone was all over the news, that he contacted his employer, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and then called the Secret Service to confess.



The geospatial-intelligence agency, with headquarters near Springfield, Va., employs satellites to gather data for the military and other agencies by using imagery to detect human activity and to map out changes in physical features on the ground. The website for the agency cites the discovery of “atrocities in Kosovo,” support for intelligence operations during the Olympics and assistance responding to Hurricane Katrina.

James R. Clapper Jr., the current director of national intelligence, became the head of the agency, then called the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, just days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.



President Obama, who was traveling abroad, declined to comment on the drone episode. But in an interview with CNN broadcast on Tuesday morning, Mr. Obama said he had instructed federal agencies to examine the need for regulations on commercial drone technology.

Mr. Obama said he had told the agencies to make sure that “these things aren’t dangerous and that they’re not violating people’s privacy.” He said that commercially available drones empower individuals, but that the government needed to provide “some sort of framework that ensures that we get the good and minimize the bad.”

“There are incredibly useful functions that these drones can play in terms of farmers who are managing crops and conservationists who want to take stock of wildlife,” the president told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. “There are a whole range of things we can do with it.”

But he noted that the drone that landed at the White House was the kind “you buy at Radio Shack.” And he said that the government had failed to keep up with the use of the flying devices by hobbyists and commercial enterprises.

“We don’t really have any kind of regulatory structure at all for it,” Mr. Obama said.

Umm… yeah.  That sound you hear is me slamming my head against the desk repeatedly.

Jan 27 2015

Until it happens to you.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me- and there was no one left to speak for me.

Library Visit, Then Held at Gunpoint

Charles Blow, The New York Times

JAN. 26, 2015

This is how my son remembers it:

He left for the library around 5:45 p.m. to check the status of a book he had requested. The book hadn’t arrived yet, but since he was there he put in a request for some multimedia equipment for a project he was working on.

Then he left to walk back to his dorm room. He says he saw an officer “jogging” toward the entrance of another building across the grounds from the building he’d just left.

Then this:

“I did not pay him any mind, and continued to walk back towards my room. I looked behind me, and noticed that the police officer was following me. He spoke into his shoulder-mounted radio and said, ‘I got him.’

“I faced forward again, presuming that the officer was not talking to me. I then heard him say, ‘Hey, turn around!’ – which I did.

“The officer raised his gun at me, and told me to get on the ground.

“At this point, I stopped looking directly at the officer, and looked down towards the pavement. I dropped to my knees first, with my hands raised, then laid down on my stomach.

“The officer asked me what my name was. I gave him my name.

“The officer asked me what school I went to. I told him Yale University.

“At this point, the officer told me to get up.”

The officer gave his name, then asked my son to “give him a call the next day.”

My son continued:

“I got up slowly, and continued to walk back to my room. I was scared. My legs were shaking slightly. After a few more paces, the officer said, ‘Hey, my man. Can you step off to the side?’ I did.”

The officer asked him to turn around so he could see the back of his jacket. He asked his name again, then, finally, asked to see my son’s ID. My son produced his school ID from his wallet.

The officer asked more questions, and my son answered. All the while the officer was relaying this information to someone over his radio.

My son heard someone on the radio say back to the officer “something to the effect of: ‘Keep him there until we get this sorted out.’ ” The officer told my son that an incident report would be filed, and then he walked away.

A female officer approached. My son recalled, “I told her that an officer had just stopped me and pointed his gun at me, and that I wanted to know what this was all about.” She explained students had called about a burglary suspect who fit my son’s description.

Jan 27 2015

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial Board: The Humane Death Penalty Charade

When the United States at last abandons the abhorrent practice of capital punishment, the early years of the 21st century will stand out as a peculiar period during which otherwise reasonable people hotly debated how to kill other people while inflicting the least amount of constitutionally acceptable pain.

The Supreme Court stepped back into this maelstrom on Friday, when it agreed to hear Warner v. Gross, a lawsuit brought by four Oklahoma death-row inmates alleging that the state’s lethal-injection drug protocol puts them at risk of significant pain and suffering. [..]

It is time to dispense with the pretense of a pain-free death. The act of killing itself is irredeemably brutal and violent. If the men on death row had painlessly killed their victims, that would not make their crimes any more tolerable. When the killing is carried out by a state against its own citizens, it is beneath a people that aspire to call themselves civilized.

Joseph E. Stiglitz: Why Stupid Politics Is the Cause of Our Economic Problems

In 2014, the world economy remained stuck in the same rut that it has been in since emerging from the 2008 global financial crisis. Despite seemingly strong government action in Europe and the United States, both economies suffered deep and prolonged downturns. The gap between where they are and where they most likely would have been had the crisis not erupted is huge. In Europe, it increased over the course of the year.

Developing countries fared better, but even there the news was grim. The most successful of these economies, having based their growth on exports, continued to expand in the wake of the financial crisis, even as their export markets struggled. But their performance, too, began to diminish significantly in 2014. [..]

The near-global stagnation witnessed in 2014 is man-made. It is the result of politics and policies in several major economies — politics and policies that choked off demand. In the absence of demand, investment and jobs will fail to materialize. It is that simple.

Robert Reich: Wall Street’s Threat to the American Middle Class

Presidential aspirants in both parties are talking about saving the middle class. But the middle class can’t be saved unless Wall Street is tamed.

The Street’s excesses pose a continuing danger to average Americans. And its ongoing use of confidential corporate information is defrauding millions of middle-class investors.

Yet most presidential aspirants don’t want to talk about taming the Street because Wall Street is one of their largest sources of campaign money. [..]

It’s nice that presidential aspirants are talking about rebuilding America’s middle class.

But to be credible, he (or she) has to take clear aim at the Street.

That means proposing to limit the size of the biggest Wall Street banks; resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act (which used to separate investment from commercial banking); define insider trading the way most other countries do – using information any reasonable person would know is unavailable to most investors; and close the revolving door between the Street and the U.S. Treasury.

It also means not depending on the Street to finance their campaigns.

Sarah Laskow: Snow looks pretty. But climate change and the storms it triggers are dangerous

‘Global warming’ doesn’t stop when winter comes – and dramatic cold weather events are exactly what scientists predict will be the result

It isn’t news to anyone that global temperatures are rising. Last month was the warmest December the world has seen in 135 years. Last year was the warmest year on record: according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average combined temperature of land and ocean surfaces was 1.24°F about the 20th century average.

Yet, as you may have noticed or read, it’s been snowing on the east coast of the United States – a lot. And that too is the result of what we call “global warming”.

It seems to be counterintuitive. Aren’t we worried about melting ice? Yes. Isn’t snowpack diminishing high in the mountains, where it matters most? Yes. But it is also true that in some places in the world – and the northern United States is one of them – dramatic winter snowstorms are exactly what scientists expect from climate change.

Robert Kuttner: A Break in the Greek Tragedy

Europe should count itself lucky that a leftwing anti-austerity party won the Greek elections, swept into office by citizens who’ve had enough. Elsewhere in Europe, seven years of stupid, punitive, and self-defeating austerity policies have led to gains by the far right.

If a radical left party is now in power in Athens and sending tremors through Europe’s financial markets, the EU’s smug leaders and their banker allies in Frankfurt, Brussels and Berlin have only themselves to blame.

Alexis Tsipras, leader of the winning Syriza coalition, says he doesn’t want Greece to leave the Euro. He just wants Europe’s leaders to renegotiate Greece’s debt. It’s about time. [..]

This crisis could have ended years ago with far less suffering for ordinary people who had no responsibilities for the offending policies. Greece, after all, has about two percent of the EU’s total economic product — and it has about 25 percent less than it had before the crisis. (That’s how well austerity medicine worked.) Writing off Greece’s debt outright would have cost peanuts, and still would.

The EU should have given Greece serious debt relief in 2009. Now, finally, there is a government in Athens that will demand it. But that will require a very high stakes game of chicken. Tsipras has to be willing to risk a default, and the financial shocks that would set off. He has to gamble that the IMF and the European Commission would institute an emergency damage control plan.

Jan 27 2015

TBC: Morning Musing 1.27.15

I have 3 articles for you today to get the blood flowing.

First, a great piece on Islam and Terrorism:

The Salience of Islam in Terrorism

Consider the following hypothetical statement: we must kill them before the kill us. We have to protect our women and children and our land from them or they will invade us. Who could say this? So-called Islamic terrorists in the Middle East, right-wing Christians on Fox News in the US? In fact both can and do say this. Radical Islamists and war mongering in the West are both described as ‘right wing’ meaning that the structure, not the content, of their thinking is similar. This rigid and simplistic way of thinking only entrenches each side. It is a failed strategy that only exacerbates the problem.

Jump!

Jan 27 2015

On This Day In History January 27

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

January 27 is the 27th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 338 days remaining until the end of the year (339 in leap years)

On this day in 1888, the National Geographic Society is founded in Washington, D.C., for “the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge.”

The 33 men who originally met and formed the National Geographic Society were a diverse group of geographers, explorers, teachers, lawyers, cartographers, military officers and financiers. All shared an interest in scientific and geographical knowledge, as well as an opinion that in a time of discovery, invention, change and mass communication, Americans were becoming more curious about the world around them. With this in mind, the men drafted a constitution and elected as the Society’s president a lawyer and philanthropist named Gardiner Greene Hubbard. Neither a scientist nor a geographer, Hubbard represented the Society’s desire to reach out to the layman.

History

The National Geographic Society began as a club for an elite group of academics and wealthy patrons interested in travel. On January 13, 1888, 33 explorers and scientists gathered at the Cosmos Club, a private club then located on Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., to organize “a society for the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge.” After preparing a constitution and a plan of organization, the National Geographic Society was incorporated two weeks later on January 27. Gardiner Greene Hubbard became its first president and his son-in-law, Alexander Graham Bell, eventually succeeded him in 1897 following his death. In 1899 Bell’s son-in-law Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor was named the first full-time editor of National Geographic Magazine and served the organization for fifty-five years (1954), and members of the Grosvenor family have played important roles in the organization since.

Bell and his son-in-law, Grosvenor, devised the successful marketing notion of Society membership and the first major use of photographs to tell stories in magazines. The current Chairman of the Board of Trustees of National Geographic is Gilbert Melville Grosvenor, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 for the Society’s leadership for Geography education. In 2004, the National Geographic Headquarters in Washington, D.C. was one of the first buildings to receive a “Green” certification from Global Green USA The National Geographic received the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for Communications and Humanity in October 2006 in Oviedo, Spain.

Jan 27 2015

Live Blogging the Blizzard 2015

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If you have nothing else to do, like those of us who are stuck in the northeastern USA, you can watch the live video cameras in NYC during the blizzard. Look no traffic, just a few silly pedestrians enjoying it.

New York City Snow Cam: Times Square

New York City Snow Cam: Columbus Circle

Jan 27 2015

The Daily/Nightly Show (Top Shot)

You know, if I had to pick a military specialty (outside of Supreme Commander for which I’m eminently qualified, just ask me) it would be a sniper because I have a keen appreciation of a well aimed kill from outside the range of immediate relatiation which is why when people like me are captured we’re generally executed on the spot as the cowards we are.

Alas my eyesight barely qualifies me for bayonet work and my natural distrust of authority makes me a poor match for the military and besides, I can’t drink with them.

No, seriously.  I ran into some Navy recruiters one night and I woke up in a parking lot miles away with no idea how I got there.  It’s my only black out and an experience I’m not willing to repeat because I could just as easily have found myself in Shanghai and as much as I appreciate the history of the oldest culture on earth I have no desire to visit as a victim of a press gang.  I do my own reporting and don’t need no stinkin’ paparazzi.

We’ll be talking tonight about Chris Kyle, the racist mass murdering asshole celebrated by the senile Clint Eastwood who was so stupid (how stupid was he Gene?), so stupid he gave a guy suffering from extreme PTSD a gun and turned his back on him.

Got a Darwin Award for that he did, but maybe he wanted to die.

We could have asked Larry anything about Veterans including why we treat them like crap when they’re no use as soldiers anymore, but we missed our window of opportunity.

Tonight’s panel- Irving Nicholas, Paul Rickhoff, Matt Taibbi, Sabrina Jalees.

Continuity

It’s because they’re Black Jon

This week’s guests-

The Daily Show

No, not the colostomy Castro, the twin who couldn’t get elected and is now HUD Secretary.