Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, August 27, 2015 9:44 pm

Odds and ends for Aug. 27

I don’t have anything to add to the coverage and discussion of the fatal shootings on live TV of reporter Alison Parker and videographer Adam Ward yesterday in Virginia. The now-dead shooter clearly had problems but, given the state of our laws, probably not the type that would have prevented him from getting a gun. The media too quickly made the discussion about itself, when they weren’t outright endangering people’s lives, and I have no interest in adding to that pile of crap. And I’m beyond tired of people who say nothing can be done, as if we don’t actively choose, every single day, to do nothing. Something can be done — maybe not to have prevented this particular shooting, but to prevent many more like it. The whole racism angle was silly (and, no, I’m not linking to Breitbart, FFS). And I’m just profoundly sad for the victims and their families, friends, co-workers, and industry — the TV news bidness is even smaller than the newspaper bidness, so everybody knows everybody else, or at least knows of everybody else. The two dead victims went out to do a job and were ambushed, and I’ve got nothing.

Moving on …

North Dakota is weaponizing its police drones with so-called “less lethal” weapons such as tear gas, Tasers, and beanbag cannons. Internet, you may hereby consider the fatal wounding of an absolutely innocent civilian reasonably foreseen.

Yes, it’s true that roughly 3% of all peer-reviewed research on climate change differs from the predominant theory. It’s also true that several common errors often appear in that contrarian research.

At least one county court clerk in Kentucky plans to fight same-sex marriage — which, by the way, has been the law of the land for a couple of months without the world’s coming to an end — even unto death. Upon reflection, I’m fine if the door hits ya where the good Lord split ya. In fact, I hope it hurts a little.

If you want to try to indict Hillary Clinton for transmitting classified information via unsecured email during her tenure as Secretary of State, you can try — it wasn’t illegal at the time, but what the hey — but you’re going to have to indict a lot of other people as well. One of them might well have been Colin Powell, but we don’t know because his emails were illegally (although probably not criminally) deleted.

Two Seattle cops tried to get a metro bus driver fired, alleging that he had cursed them. Just one problem: the bus driver was wearing a body cam. Now the cops are the ones who have been fired. But one must ask: How often do cops lie just because they think they can? And if they do it over such chickenshit stuff as this, how likely are they to do it when they could be going to prison?

Just how badly doctored were the so-called “expose” videos on Planned Parenthood? Very badly.

Hurricane Erika could make landfall somewhere on the southeastern U.S. coast — possibly in North Carolina — in the next four or five days. Y’all stay safe.

North Carolina’s unemployment still sucks. Couldn’t be because the legislature keeps taking money from the middle class and the poor and giving it to the rich, could it? Nahhhh.

Blogging is dead? Someone forgot to tell the home of some of the original blogging. (h/t Jeff Sykes)

Stevie Ray Vaughan died 25 years ago today. Still miss ‘im.

And, finally, another reason to keep ISIS out of Greece: a newly-discovered palace near Sparta that dates to the 17th century B.C.E.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013 7:41 pm

When we are ruled by barbarians, civility is vastly overrated …

… and that’s why this is a job for the Rude Pundit, who weighs in on both spying and drones:

Are we that crazed about our own precious safety that we simply don’t give a shit anymore about what other nations think when it comes to us “protecting” ourselves from “terrorists”? At this point, the United States views the world as one giant conspiracy out to destroy truth, justice, and high school football. We’re so … insane that Osama bin Laden must be laughing his crab-bitten ass off at the bottom of the ocean. …

The biggest allegation so far is that the NSA monitored the cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. A question about it to Press Secretary Jay Carney led to one of the all-time great weasel answers: “The President assured the Chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel.” Now, the Rude Pundit may not be a big city diplomat, but he is a professor, and he knows when the past tense is missing in a sentence. [That’s] so weaselly that actual weasels stood on their hind legs and applauded. …

And before anyone tries to say this is no big deal, much ado about nothing, metadata, or whatever self-deluding nonsense you wanna toss onto the shitpile, what’s more important, huh? Hearing Angela Merkel order take-out bratwurst or whatever … they do in Germany? Or assuring ongoing cooperation from our, you know, allies? ‘Cause those alleged allies are already thinking of telling the United States to [forget about] sharing spy information.

Of course, a little phone and email eavesdropping would be preferable for the people of Pakistan and Yemen, where Obama’s drone war is killing [many] civilians. Like, you know, the “18 laborers, including a 14-year-old boy, [who] were killed in multiple strikes on an impoverished village close to the border with Afghanistan as they were about to enjoy an evening meal at the end of a long day of work” in July 2012. The U.S. reported that as a successful terrorist murder operation, but Amnesty International discovered that it was, in fact, 18 laborers, including a 14-year old boy, who had [nothing] to do with terrorism. There’s lots more like that in both countries where we rain fiery death on the people.

What’s the game here? Is it that once Obama was shown the real threats to the United States, the [stuff] we’re all too stupid to be allowed to see, he lost his … mind and decided to go survivalist? Or is it that Obama is so concerned, like Democrats before him, to be seen as … tough … at home that he doesn’t really care what people overseas think about the spying and the drones missiles?

The Rude Pundit has a problem with all of this. He can’t just sweep it under the rug, say he trusts Obama, go about his daily life, and be glad that he’s not getting attacked. [Forget] that. He didn’t sign up for this. He’s not gonna pretend it’s okay because it’s not. And if it takes our European allies and the human rights organizations we have trusted for decades to smack us back into reality, then, please, slap away at our contorted faces.

I’m nobody’s idea of a national-security expert, but I would think that when our allies are threatening not to share intelligence with us anymore because of what we do and how we do it, we might want to rethink what we do and how we do it. And these two issues are far from the only problems I have with our president over national security.

Friday, June 18, 2010 8:53 pm

Meet Ralph the Death Pigeon*

Filed under: Cool!,Sad — Lex @ 8:53 pm
Tags:

Some unmanned aircraft are more futuristic, including a drone created by the Air Force Research Laboratory, which is shaped and painted to resemble a real bird. Though not ready for deployment, the bird drone, which may someday recharge itself by perching on utility lines like a real bird, has flown for 30 minutes.

*(h/t and name: Spencer Ackerman)

Saturday, May 8, 2010 12:36 pm

If Joe Lieberman gets any stupider, we’ll need to water him twice a week.

Sen. Joe Lieberman has proposed that people on a terror watch list be stripped of their citizenship — unilaterally, by the State Department, with no trial and no appeal.

That’s dumb enough, and anticonstitutional enough, on its own. And, certainly, we have learned over the years that expecting Lieberman’s proposals to be neither dumb nor anticonstitutional is like waiting for Godot when Godot has been buried in potters’ field for a couple of decades.

But wait! There’s more! The reason Lieberman wants to do this is to make it easier from a legal standpoint for President Obama to use drones to call in Hellfire missile attacks on people we think are terrorists. See, assassinating U.S. citizens without due process is illegal and unconstitutional and therefore almost as bad as lying about receiving oral sex from someone to whom one is not married. But if the victim isn’t a citizen any more, then the killing becomes simply Another Bold Strike in the War on Terror.

Of course, were Obama ever to be impeached on these charges, Lieberman, being All About Joe and a hypocrite besides, would no doubt vote to convict.

UPDATE: People on the terror watch list may be stripped of their citizenship, but it’s still OK for them to buy guns:

According to new statistics compiled by the Government Accountability Office and exclusively obtained by the Huffington Post, individuals on the terrorist watchlist were involved in firearm or explosives background checks 1,228 times in the past six years — and 1,119 of those transactions were allowed to proceed.

Less than 10 percent — only 109 — were denied.

Three of those matches involved the purchase of explosives, and all of those sales were allowed to proceed.

So: People on the terror watch list should be stripped of their citizenship. And a lot of people who support this think the Bill of Rights should not apply to noncitizens. Except for the Second Amendment. Wait … what?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010 10:40 pm

The law of war is a complicated thing …

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 10:40 pm
Tags: ,

… and policies begun under Bush and continuing under Obama may be putting Americans in serious legal jeopardy, law professor David Glazier told Congress last week.

Among other problems, it seems that our insistence that al-Qaeda fighters fall into some kind of legal limbo in which we can do anything to them we want may in fact cut directly the opposite way: If we don’t recognize them as legal combatants (and therefore subject to, among other things, rules of care dictated by Geneva and other law), there may not actually be any way in which we can legally engage them in combat.

Moreover — and this was the main focus of this hearing — while it’s legal to use drones to attack military targets (including people), it matters under the law who’s being targeted by drones and who’s doing the targeting, with the result, witting or not, being that we put our own CIA personnel in the same legal category in which we’re intentionally trying to place al-Qaeda:

A complicating factor in the current conflict is the United States’ failure to clearly classify our adversaries within any recognized law of war categorization. If we consider al Qaeda and Taliban fighters as combatants then we can lawfully kill them or detain them for the duration of hostilities based simply on establishing that status. The fundamental privilege that the law of war confers on a combatant in exchange for this vulnerability is immunity from domestic laws, which ordinarily criminalize any act of violence to persons or property. As a result of this immunity, sometimes called “the combatant’s privilege,” their conduct must be judged under the law of war rather than ordinary criminal laws. We have refused, however, to accord members of al Qaeda and the Taliban the basic right to engage in combat against us. We have instead treated any such conduct, such as Omar Khadr’s alleged throwing a grenade at an attacking U.S. soldier,
as criminal on the ground that these are not uniformed military personnel legally entitled to engage in hostilities. As a matter of law, this is tantamount to declaring these adversaries to be civilians. Civilians who engage in hostile activity can still be attacked, but only for such time as they are directly participating in hostilities. This classification thus imposes additional limitations on our authority to conduct drone strikes (or any other attacks) against them. There have been suggestions that U.S. targeting may have been expanded, at least for some period of time, to include Afghan drug traffickers who were supporting the Taliban with sale proceeds. This would clearly be unlawful by law of war standards, as would direct attacks on other individuals who are merely performing non-combat support functions, such as financiers, bookkeepers, propagandists, etc.

This issue is equally relevant to who conducts attacks on our behalf. There is no question that uniformed military personnel, whether regular, reserve, or national guard in federal service are lawful combatants entitled to “fly” drone strikes in a recognized armed conflict. But CIA personnel are civilians, not combatants, and do not enjoy any legal right to participate in hostilities on our behalf. It is my opinion, as well as that of most other law of war scholars I know, that those who participate in hostilities without the combatant’s privilege do not violate the law of war by doing so, they simply gain no immunity from domestic laws. Under this view CIA drone pilots are liable to prosecution under the law of any jurisdiction where attacks occur for any injuries, deaths, or property damage they cause. But under the legal theories adopted by our government in prosecuting Guantánamo detainees, these CIA officers as well as any higher level government officials who have authorized or directed their attacks are committing war crimes.

One of the basic responsibilities that underlies the privilege of serving as a U.S. military officer is the responsibility not to commit war crimes and not to put the personnel under your command in the position of having to commit war crimes. CIA employees are civilians, but the same principle, if not exactly the same statute, applies. We’re not supporting our troops (and CIA employees) when we make war criminals out of them. Yet apparently that’s what we’re doing.

I don’t have a solution to this problem, but I know that pretending it doesn’t exist isn’t a solution, either.

Thursday, December 17, 2009 11:36 pm

Odds and ends for 12/17

All your drones are belong to us: A readily available, $26 piece of software has allowed Iraqi insurgents to intercept video from U.S. Predator drones. The government has known about this flaw since the weapons’ use in the Balkans in the 1990s but never did anything about it because it “assumed local adversaries wouldn’t know how to exploit it.” As Attackerman (h/t) comments, “Arrogance like this gets people killed.”

All our money are belong to the devil, so send us yours: Televangelist Rod Parsley’s Web site sets a Dec. 31 deadline for contributions and urges, “Will you help take back what the devil stole?” The ministry is in financial trouble primarily because it had to pay a $3.1 million judgment to the parents of a 2-year-old whom a teacher at the ministry severely beat.

Bill Gates sez, “Go ahead, make my day tax my estate!”: The Microsoft founder says we shouldn’t let the estate tax expire. I agree with him. Raise the cap, sure. Index for inflation, of course. But scrap? Nuh-uh.

Relatedly, if you have both money and heirs (Hi, Mom!), you might not sleep very well next year.

Wall Street is killing health care: That’s what taking your company public will do. (Previously.) Just ask the newspaper industry.

Odd couple: Sens. John McCain and Maria Cantwell have jointly introduced legislation to reimpose Glass-Steagall standards on banks. Comments HuffPo’s Jason Linkins: “Give McCain and Cantwell a big round of applause for their effort, because in Washington, this seemingly obvious response to the financial crisis is considered the domain of wild-eyed hippies (and Paul Volcker).”

Which raises a damn good question: Why, in Washington, has the obvious become the domain only of wild-eyed hippies and Paul Volcker, and not of the “serious” politicians/bureaucrats/journalists?

Worthwhile related point: Byron Dorgan warned us at the time that within 10 years we’d be sorry we repealed Glass-Steagall. BZZZT! Wrong! We were sorry within nine years.

Speaking of banksters, looks like Ben Bernanke is going to get reconfirmed. Which would be fine if, like a large majority of the American public, he gave the first damn about putting people back to work. But he doesn’t. Memo to Congressional Democrats: You can steal this issue from the Tea Party, or you can let the Tea Party steal your Congressional seats from you. Your call.

On the bright side, for Democrats and the jobless: A $154 billion economic-stimulus bill passed the House … without a single Republican vote. I’m a longtime deficit hawk, but part of the reason that I am is that I understand that there are times when only fiscal policy can jump-start the economy. So you have to balance the budget or run a surplus in good times to be in position to spend in bad times. And as I’ve said before, the biggest problem of the earlier stimulus package was that even at $787 billion, it was only about half as big as it needed to be (second biggest problem was it relied too heavily on tax cuts, not enough on direct spending).

Here are three more questions to be asked about health-care reform, based on public pledges Obama has made in the past. No one who wanted reform in any form or fashion is going to like the answers. Actually, this piece was so good that I’m going to deviate from standard Odds & Ends formatting and quote from it at some length:

I’ll be evaluating the bill according to three principles:

1. When this plan goes into effect, will it bring an end to the battles that health insurance consumers must wage to retain their coverage, or will the practice of rescission continue?

2. When this plan goes into effect, will it bring an end to the long-term, intractable debt that millions of hard-working Americans incur, simply because they get sick, get injured and grow old?

3. When this bill is signed into law, will Obama truly be in the position to say he’ll be the last president to “take up the cause,” or will it be obvious that we’ve only kicked the can down the road, and that more needs to be done?

In truth, the way I see things shaping up, I don’t believe that the eventual reform legislation will achieve any of these things. At the same time, I think that if it makes it to Obama’s desk, he’s going to sign it. But, pursuant to the cause of Not Kidding Ourselves, he’d better not call it a victory.

Sounds about right.

Is the Senate health-care bill comparable to the (successful) Dutch health-care system?: No, not really.

Republicans are crawling back toward sanity: Yesterday, Laura Ingraham was likening health-care reform to the Holocaust. Today, Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour is saying it’s only as bad as Jonestown. Whew. I was really afraid they were going off the deep end.


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