This blog is written by a group of liberal patriots who aren't quite as pissed off as they were a couple of years ago, but aren't taking anything for granted, either. We share a fierce dedication to the Constitution - the only words ever put to paper worth dying for, and we'll argue it's finer liberal points with anyone.
We exist to remind y'all that America was founded on four boxes:
The Ballot Box
The Jury Box
The Ammo Box
They should be used in that order. This is our soapbox.
To contact any of the front-page bloggers here, send email to:
Your humble bloghostess is proud to be the recipient of not one, but two much-coveted Golden Monkeyfist awards!True Golden Monkeyfist - 2007
In Lexington, KY, cops are telling Occupy Lexington that two people have to stay awake all night. No problem - the motherfuckers at Chase have set up jackhammers on the same corner to make sure nobody sleeps.
As Occupy Wall Street protests spring up in cities across the country, authorities are thinking up creative ways to contain this peaceful and inspiring uprising. Although laws and municipal ordinances vary from city to city, there is a consistency in the tactics being used to stifle the movement. More importantly, as demonstrated by the protesters at Zuccotti Park who kept strong in the face of a looming eviction that never came to fruition, these maneuvers are not working.
Still, there is no shortage of justifications and rationales behind the constantly evolving schemes being implemented to destroy the spirit of Occupy Wall Street. Here are 12 desperate and unsuccessful measures the authorities are using to discourage, deter and crack down on peaceful protests.
1) No Snoozing In Public
Most cities have an anti-camping ordinance on the books that prohibits camping or sleeping in public spaces, particularly public parks, to minimize the risk of nighttime criminal activity. But the ordinances are frequently used to cleanse cities of the inconvenient and uncomfortable scenery of homeless people; police in San Francisco are known for enforcing the city's camping ordinance primarily against the homeless.
But now, all over the country, anti-camping ordinances are being used to arrest and deter protesters from occupying public spaces.
Local news stations covering Occupy Dallas report that police plan to begin enforcing the city's ordinance against sleeping in public, first with warnings, then tickets, and eventually arrest. Due to a city ordinance that prohibits sleeping in Los Angeles public parks, Occupy LA activists move their tents to the sidewalk every night, and move them back to the park every morning. Occupy Chicago protesters have resorted to staying awake in shifts, then switching with one another to sleep in cars or someone's home nearby to get around the ban against sleeping on the public sidewalk.
2) No Umbrellas
Officials in various cities are citing ordinances that prohibit the erection of permanent or semi-permanent structures, referring to tents, tarps, sleeping bags, and in one city, umbrellas.
According to Seattle's newsweekly, The Stranger, the Seattle Police Department warned protesters that, "You can't have an umbrella open unless you're standing and holding it," otherwise they are considered structures and will be confiscated. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn later clarified the reasoning in a statement, saying, "As for umbrellas, police were concerned that protest participants were using umbrellas and tarps to create makeshift tents to evade the no-camping rule."
In a city known for its heavy rains, it's rather extreme to ban the use of umbrellas. But the absence of tents, tarps and even umbrellas during downpours in New York City and Washington DC has yet to discourage protesters.
"I asked CBO to estimate the size of the deficit if the economy were at full employment, and CBO's response confirms that our weak economy is the major contributing factor, accounting for over one third of the projected deficit for fiscal year 2012," Van Hollen said in a statement last night. "It's clear that the fastest and most effective ways to reduce the short term deficit is to put Americans back to work."
Second, the sacrifice. This one gets a little wonky, but hang in there - it's worth it.
Ever since Obama redoubled his push to hike taxes on the rich, conservatives have been ridiculing Obama's invocations of fairness, insisting that the rich are already paying a rising share of the overall tax burden, and accusing him of pushing for mass wealth redistribution in the quest for equality imposed from above. He has been labeled "a staunch believer in the redistributionist state," a believer in "government-enforced equality," and even a "socialist."
So let's look at how Obama's tax policies would really impact the wealthy if they were enacted - and how those effects would fit into the bigger picture of income disparity in America.
One way to measure the impact of tax policies is to ask what impact they would have on the after-tax income of people at all income levels. This allows us to gauge just how "redistributionist" tax policies really are.
And guess what: When you do it this way, it shows that the notion that Obama's tax proposals are redistributive in any large or meaningful way is just comical. Indeed, the big picture is that the impact that they would have on income inequality is virtually nonexistent.
I asked the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center to analyze how Obama's policies would impact the after tax income of people at all levels, and to compare those results to people's after tax income under previous tax regimes.
The Tax Policy Center graciously agreed to my request, and looked at what taxes people would pay in 2013 under various tax regimes, when the Obama proposals would take effect. The Center drew up the answers in graph form (editorial conclusions are mine; the numbers are theirs). Here's the first result:
Here's how the chart works. In each income group in the top 20 percent - measured here by "percentile" - the blue line represents Clinton-era tax rates; the red represents Bush-era tax rates; and the green represents tax rates under Obama's first stimulus tax cuts.
The purple and light blue represent what after-tax income would look like for each percentile if Obama's tax policies were enacted. The blue one includes new taxes from the health reform law that are set to take hold in 2013, and the purple one doesn't include those taxes. Throughout, I'll be referring to the one including the health law taxes - the light blue line - because that's the most onerous scenario.
In other words, under the Tax Policy Center's model, the purple and blue bars give us a rough sense of the after tax income in various income categories if Obama were to realize his policy goals. The model assumes all the following Obama proposals would get passed: Letting the Bush tax cuts mostly expire for the rich, limiting the value of itemized deductions and some exclusions to 28 percent, taxing carried interest at regular rates, and eliminating tax breaks for oil and gas companies and for corporate jets.
As you can see from the above graph, the big picture is that only the very wealthiest would see anything approaching a signficant change, and in the larger scheme of things, it wouldn't be a signficant shift at all.
I told you it was wonky.
But it's a real eye-opener, and the wonkiness makes it impossible to refute, so it's well worth your time.
After decades in which "hard hats" were described as enemies of the left, and four decades after construction workers in lower Manhattan attacked anti-war demonstrators on Wall Street, the AFL-CIO on Thursday called on its members to defend Occupy Wall Street from the NYPD as the city moved to arrest and evict protestors in Zuccotti Park.
Hard hats and hippies-together at last.
And when Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the NYPD backed off, the AFL-CIO rightly took some of the credit for what union leadership called "an amazing victory."
"The AFL-CIO Stands with Occupy Wall Street," president Rich Trumka declared as police announced plans to move in. The federation e-mailed members in the New York area on Thursday, NY1 reported, urging them to come to Zucotti Park and "stand guard" overnight to defend the encampment from the NYPD. "Support" doesn't get more direct than that.
The unions also sponsored an online petition, and, after the mayor backed off, reported "hundreds of thousands" of signatures.
Today's events marked the sharpest possible contrast to the day in May 1970, when students protesting the Kent State Killings gathered on Wall Street, and were attacked by two hundred construction workers carrying American flags and chanting "All, the way, USA!" and "We're number one!" Rick Perlstein tells what happened in his book Nixonland: while police stood by, the workers beat students with lead pipes wrapped in flags, targeting those with the longest hair. A crowd of a thousand Wall Street workers cheered them on. "Thank God for the hard hats!" President Nixon declared, and invited Peter Brennan, head of the Building Trades Council of New York, to the White House.
I always wondered whether that hard hat action had been organized by the White House "dirty tricks" department-especially after a memo was leaked in which Nixon staffer Stephen Bull wrote to Chuck Colson, Nixon's key political operative, "Obviously more of these will be occurring throughout the nation, perhaps partially as a result of your clandestine activity." But the media declared, virtually unanimously, that the white union members were pro-war Nixon supporters.
Decades of de-industrialization followed by two years of economic collapse have brought disaster to the working class-and now a new political reality. And it's not just in New York City-AFL-CIO unions across the country have endorsed Occupy Wall Street and joined actions in their communities.
It happens every time. Whenever President Obama does something to please the one percenters, invariably it's something that not only causes significant harm to the economy, but also discourages the 99 percenters from supporting his re-election.
Yes, bad policy is bad politics. And the closer we get to the 2012 election, the worse the policy and the politics get.
President Obama is preparing to mangle his jobs message signing free-trade agreements that are opposed by unions, by Democrats and by the "99 Percenters" who recognize that the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama approach to trade policy has harmed the interests of working people in the United States and abroad.
Why? Because, according to Congressman Mike Michaud, D-Maine, the president "is going to give in to the Washington elites, once again" because "the big companies and the big banks want" the new trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.
The three agreements, all modeled on the failed North American Free Trade Agreement, passed the House and Senate Wednesday with overwhelming support from Republicans and minimal support from Democrats.
(President Obama signed all three bills this week.)
Only thirty-one House Democrats backed the agreement with Colombia, where unions note that labor organizers are regularly assassinated. Fifty-nine Democrats backed the agreement with South Korea. Sixty-six Democrats supported the Panama deal.
In the Senate, 30 Democrats opposed the Colombia deal, as did Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, and two Maine Republicans: Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.
The Democrats who opposed the agreements did so because these deals are wrong, economically and politically.
Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, who is running for an open US Senate seat in 2012, made the economic case.
"Trade agreements should be in the best interests of our nation and its people, but sadly this has not been the case with the past free trade agreements," Baldwin told the House. "Have some of our wealthiest corporations profited from them? Indeed. But the rest of America, especially the middle class, has struggled with job loss, closed factories, and economic and emotional anguish across the country."
Citing a study issued by the Economic Policy Institute, which reveals that more than 680,000 US jobs have been lost or displaced due to the rise in the trade deficit with Mexico alone since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was enacted in 1994. Baldwin explained: "I hear from Wisconsin families every day that are struggling mightily-struggling to pay the mortgage, put food on the table, and send their kids to college, especially during these uncertain economic times. The solution is to put our people back to work and preserve American jobs. When done right, trade agreements can help bolster our manufacturing and high-skilled technology industries and create jobs as they increase exports and help our economy recover. Done wrong, trade agreements send these same jobs offshore, leaving Americans out of work. Unfortunately, I believe these trade agreements with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia will exacerbate the US trade deficit and further erode our manufacturing base."
Lori Wallach, who directs Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, made the political case.
"It is bizarre that President Barack Obama has switched from his long-awaited focus on jobs to spending effort passing three George W. Bush-signed, NAFTA-style trade deals that official government studies show will increase our trade deficit even as polls show most Americans oppose NAFTA-style trade pacts and recognize that they kill American jobs," said Wallach. "The only way these deals will pass is if congressional GOP lawmakers expose themselves to the foreseeable election attack ads and provide President Obama almost all of the votes; most congressional Democrats will oppose these deals, which are loved by the US Chamber of Commerce and despised by the Democratic base groups. Apparently, the Obama team has a way to win re-election that does not involve Ohio or other industrial swing states. We saw with NAFTA in 1993 the dire political consequences of a Democratic president blurring distinctions between the parties on this third-rail issue of trade and jobs. And unlike NAFTA, this time, even official government studies show that these pacts will increase our trade deficit."
Obama's wrong-very, very, very wrong.
Signing these free-trade deals will harm the economy.
And it will make it a lot harder for voters in factory towns to support his re-election.
2012 is going to come down to turnout. Period. More than the economy, more than unemployment, more than the Occupy Protests, the 2012 election is going to be won by the party that gets every one of its voters to the polls. Democrats won big in 2008 because of huge turnout, and lost huge in 2010 because Disappointed Democrats sat at home.
As I have written numerous times before, I am going to vote for President Obama, and I encourage everyone who is not Mitt Romney to do so as well. But as someone who struggles every day to help people overcome the repug-installed barriers to voting and to light fires under the non-voting asses of apathetic Democrats, I do not appreciate President Obama making that job a thousand times harder than it already is.
Or maybe you're angry about one or more things that the 99 percenters are angry about. Scroll through the dozens of charts and photos in this amazing post by Henry Blodget. Unless you're Mitt Romney, you'll find something here that hits home:
The "Occupy Wall Street" protests are gaining momentum, having spread from a small park in New York to marches to other cities across the country.
So far, the protests seem fueled by a collective sense that things in our economy are not fair or right. But the protesters have not done a good job of focusing their complaints-and thus have been skewered as malcontents who don't know what they stand for or want.
(An early list of "grievances" included some legitimate beefs, but was otherwise just a vague attack on "corporations." Given that these are the same corporations that employ more than 100 million Americans and make the products we all use every day, this broadside did not resonate with most Americans).
So, what are the protesters so upset about, really?
Do they have legitimate gripes?
To answer the latter question first, yes, they have very legitimate gripes.
And if America cannot figure out a way to address these gripes, the country will likely become increasingly "de-stabilized," as sociologists might say. And in that scenario, the current protests will likely be only the beginning.
The problem in a nutshell is this: Inequality in this country has hit a level that has been seen only once in the nation's history, and unemployment has reached a level that has been seen only once since the Great Depression. And, at the same time, corporate profits are at a record high.
In other words, in the never-ending tug-of-war between "labor" and "capital," there has rarely-if ever-been a time when "capital" was so clearly winning.
It's not a new concept; many of us have suspected for quite a while that earth is the ghetto of the galaxy; beings from other systems know all about us and want nothing to do with creatures who knowingly destroy their own planet.
The Fermi paradox is a question: if other intelligent alien life is present in the universe, why aren't they here?*
Even if we postulate large numbers of aliens with the technology to visit Earth, we can now explain why they aren't saying hello. We've been broadcasting idiocy into space.
During a recent conference that focused on the possibilities and implications of long-term space flight, a German professor made an attempt at applying Christian theology to extraterrestrial aliens, leading him to ask the question "Did Jesus die for Klingons too?"
We've moved so far beyond speculating about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Now we're wondering how many Jesii exist in the galaxy.
If other life forms exist in our universe, he said, we should try to understand why Jesus chose to save those from Earth over other civilized life forms from other planets.
Did God reserve his grace solely for Earthlings and abandon the rest of the intelligent creatures in the universe? If not, how did God deal with the sin problem on multiple planets?
One possibility he mentioned is that God-incarnate visited each of the civilized planets and saved each of the races that inhabited them separately.
In order for that to be possible, however, he says multiple incarnations of God would have to exist at the same time. Assuming each incarnation took about 30 years, and based on how long civilizations are expected to survive, he estimates that there would have to be approximately 250 incarnations of God present in the universe at any given time to cover the sins of each civilization.
So picture the poor bewildered aliens parked out there in the Oort cloud, proposing to send a diplomatic mission to Earth. They aren't worried about us as a threat - star-faring civilizations aren't going to be intimidated by a species that has barely been able to wobble a handful of missions to their moon, and is even rethinking their space program - but they are going to be considering the other implications of contact. "The humans...next thing you know, the Seventh Day Adventists will be knocking on our doors on Saturday mornings to hand out tracts; the Catholics will be building special schools and flooding our courts with Jesuits; and the Baptists will be telling us we can't bezorp the paramales with our deedloids or we'll burn in Hell. And their arguments will be so stupid. Scratch the contact mission, I don't think we can handle the exasperation!"
And so the earth orbits alone around its star, abandoned and avoided by the more sensible species of the galaxy, like the creepy born-again Jesus-freak at school with the glassy eyes who you avoid having a conversation with because all he wants to talk about is the Bible. Damn you, religion! It's your fault we can't commune with the great minds of the galaxy!
*It's not really a paradox. It's an observation that can be explained by the idea that technological intelligence is very rare, and so widely dispersed that communication, let alone travel, between them is unlikely.
You can't escape the pitchforks and torches, motherfuckers - we are occupying everything. "After triumphing in a standoff with the city over the continued protest of Wall Street at Liberty Square in Manhattan's financial district, the Occupy Wall Street movement has spread world wide today with demonstrations in over 1,500 cities globally and over 100 US cities from coast to coast. In New York, thousands marched in various protests by trade unions, students, environmentalists, and community groups."
We understand your frustration, Romans, and there's always one asshole who fucks it up, but why did it have to be the until-now-admirable indignados? "Violence has broken out in Rome as tens of thousands nicknamed "the indignant" have marched in European cities in protest against capitalism and austerity measures. As the "Occupy Wall Street" protests took place across the globe on Saturday, some protesters in Rome smashed shop windows, torched cars and attacked news crews. Black smoke billowed into the air in downtown Rome as a small group of violent protesters broke away from the main demonstration. They smashed car windows, set vehicles on fire and assaulted two news crews. Others burned Italian and EU flags. Witnesses said the violence was caused by several dozen hooded radicals known as "black blocs", who wear black clothing to hide their identities and have been involved in the organising process of protests since early in the movement. Italian police said that at least four people had been injured in the clashes on Saturday, while the ANSA news agency reported that as many as 70 had been wounded, with three in serious condition."
For better news, check out Al-Jazeera's Occupy Protests liveblog. "A man holds a banner that reads "Not to austerity" as around 5,000 "indignant" demonstrators stage a protest in front of the Stock Exchange in Brussels October 15, 2011. Demonstrators rallied on Saturday across the world to accuse bankers and politicians of wrecking economies, but only in Rome did the global "day of rage" erupt into violence. Galvanized by the Occupy Wall Street movement, the protests began in New Zealand, rippled east to Europe and were expected to return to their starting point in New York. Demonstrations touched most European capitals and other cities."
We told you Saleh was lying about stepping down. "Yemeni security forces have opened fire on anti-government demonstrators in the capital Sanaa, killing at least 12 people and wounding dozens more, medics said. Security forces used live rounds as well as tear gas and water cannon to disperse thousands of people attempting to march on the city centre from their stronghold in Change Square, witnesses said on Saturday. Protesters have been gathering in Sanaa for months to demand the resignation of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the embattled Yemeni president who continues to defy domestic and international pressure to quit. Our special correspondent in Yemen said a huge rally was marching along a road in the north of the city towards the centre when they were attacked by pro-government supporters."
All those UN threats against Assad really helped. "Syrian forces shot dead two mourners when they fired at a funeral in central Damascus for a 10-year-old child killed during a protest a day earlier, a witness said. Some mourners began throwing stones at the security forces, who fired live ammunition back, the witness told Reuters news agency by phone from the scene in the Maidan district on Saturday. "Passions were running high. The body was wrapped in white and thousands behind it were chanting 'the people want the execution of the president' and 'we will be free despite you Bashar'," the witness said. The child, Ibrahim Sheiban, was killed in a protest in the Qadam suburb of Damascus. His funeral took place in Maidan, an old, socially conservative district of the capital, because his family is originally from there, the witness, a private sector employee who did not want to be further identified, said. Monzer Makhous of the Syrian National Council, a coalition of opposition groups, told Al Jazeera that the Maidan area is known for its opposition against Assad's government."
Looks like the reports of a well-run election in Liberia were premature. "Nine Liberian opposition parties, including President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's two main challengers, have rejected results announced so far for this week's presidential election and said party members would withdraw from the rest of the counting process. The head of Liberia's election commission rejected the allegations of fraud on Saturday, saying the vote was credible. "It doesn't pose any credibility problems," National Election Commission Chairman James Fromayah told journalists. "All the parties participated in the elections. The counting was done and both the local population and the international observers that came acclaimed the process to be free, fair and transparent." According to the latest results, Johnson-Sirleaf was leading with 44.6 per cent of the votes, ahead of Winston Tubman of the CDC party, slightly up on 31.4 per cent of some 950,000 valid votes counted. Despite the lead, Johnson-Sirleaf remains short of the outright majority required for a first-round win."
Get. Us. The. Fuck. Out. Of. That. Prehistoric. Shithole. Now. "Armed attackers have attempted to blast their way into an American base in Afghanistan, striking before dawn with rocket-propelled grenades and a vehicle packed with explosives. The attackers failed to breach the gate of the base in Panjshir province's Rokha district, though they did hit a security tower with a rocket-propelled grenade, a local police chief said on Saturday. Three of the men attacked on foot, shooting, while a fourth detonated the explosives-laden vehicle outside the gate, General Mohammad Qasim Jangalbagh said. All four attackers were killed and two Afghan security guards were wounded, he said. It was the first time in 10 years of war since a US-led invasion that a suicide bomber has struck Panjshir, the Reuters news agency reported. The Taliban claimed responsibility and said the bombers were Panjshir natives. A NATO spokeswoman confirmed the attack but said there were no American deaths or injuries and no significant damage to facilities."
How about the "Really Just Big-Boned Array"? "One of the world's most famous radio telescope facilities needs a new name - and ideas are wanted. The Very Large Array (VLA) is a bank of radio telescopes in New Mexico, US, and has appeared in a number of films including Contact and Independence Day. The array has been undergoing a radical upgrade of its electronics since 2001. To celebrate the project's finish, the observatory that runs the array wants to rename it - and is asking the public to submit ideas. The contest, found at namethearray.org, is open until 1 December and the winner will be announced at the American Astronomical Society conference in January. The VLA was constructed in the 1970s, and much of the electronics that collect and process the radio signals from its 27 gigantic antennas date from that era. The array has been used for more than three decades to tease out details of far-flung galaxies, supernovas and black holes - when not appearing in films. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) that runs the facility has for a decade been fitting it with state-of-the-art digital electronics, a new central computer, and high-speed transmission lines to carry the data that the 25m, 200-tonne dishes gather. The updated system should be 10 times more sensitive to the faint radio hum from the cosmos. The astronomy community has a long history of descriptive yet fairly unimaginative names - including the VLA itself, the Very Large Telescope in Chile, and the yet-to-be-built European Extremely Large Telescope (the design for which was chosen over the alternative Overwhelmingly Large Telescope). Now, the NRAO wants to open up the choice to the public's creativity."
This is important for not just members of the independent press. This is a warning to every local police department that thinks the power of violence and arrest gives it the right to abuse and mistreat law-abiding citizens.
The St. Paul and Minneapolis police departments, along with the U.S. Secret Service, have agreed to pay $100,000 in compensation as part of a settlement in a federal lawsuit filed after the inappropriate arrests and detentions of journalist Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and two of her producers at the 2008 Republican National Convention.
The settlement also includes an agreement that the St. Paul police department will "implement a training program aimed at educating officers regarding the First Amendment rights of the press and public."
As we originally reported in September of 2008, the three journalists were arrested (along with other members of the media) while covering protests and mass arrests outside the GOP convention, despite clearly identifying themselves to the police as members of the media.
In addition to the mass arrests of active protesters, footage later emerged showing an absolutely bizarre, and seemingly indiscriminate, police crackdown on peaceful citizens otherwise having gathered in a nearby city park (See video below.)
Democracy Now! producer Nicole Salazar was even roughed up by police in the course of her apprehension. Goodman, who had rushed out from the convention floor after hearing of the arrests of her producers, was cuffed and taken in despite any hint of inappropriate behavior, as seen in the two short video clips below...
A final settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit challenging the police crackdown on journalists reporting on the 2008 Republican National Convention and protests in St. Paul, Minnesota. Democracy Now! host and executive producer Amy Goodman, along with former producers Nicole Salazar and Sharif Abdel Kouddous, filed the lawsuit last year against the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments, the Ramsey County Sheriff and United States Secret Service personnel. The lawsuit challenged the policies and conduct of law enforcement during the 2008 RNC that resulted in their arrests. They were among dozens of journalists arrested that week in St. Paul. The settlement includes $100,000 in compensation paid by the St. Paul and Minneapolis police departments and the Secret Service. The settlement also includes an agreement by the St. Paul police department to implement a training program aimed at educating officers regarding the First Amendment rights of the press and public with respect to police operations, including proper procedures for dealing with the press covering demonstrations.
As we reported on the day charges were initially dropped against the Democracy Now! journalists several weeks after their arrest, footage of police in riot gear making massive, and seemingly inappropriate, arrests of peaceful citizens at a nearby city park was initially withheld from public release out of fear of police intimidation...
New footage was released late last week (said by the videographers to have been "buried" until now to avoid confiscation) of a bizarre mass arrest by St. Paul police. Scores of seemingly peaceful folks just sitting in a park are seeing being seized by riot squads. "LisaG," posting at Firedoglake, notes:
My personal favorite moment in the tape is an off-camera exchange. Police in riot gear have surrounded loungers in a waterfront park. They announce, "Ladies and Gentlemen, You're Under Arrest" and you hear one young woman say incredulously "Are you serious?"
Yep, I'm afraid they are.
Today, I saw a local Frankfort Police cruiser make at least four slow passes around a "Jobs Not Cuts - Rebuild the Dream" demonstration at the Old State Capitol. There were about 50 people there, and a more unthreatening bunch would be hard to find. Those cruiser passes were pure intimidation and completely beneath contempt. Shame on you, Frankfort Police.
This is what happens when you reduce war to the scope of a video game. While one side of me is glad that we're able to rain hellfire (no pun intended) and brimstone on "suspected" enemies without putting our kids directly in harm's way, the other goggles at this almost total depersonalization of war... something that should always remain up close and personal lest we become so blase about it that we wander off willy nilly starting wars in all kinds of out of the way places just to have an excuse to spend more bucks on more deadly and more expensive toys with which to kill those "suspected" enemies so our corporations can take their shit... oh wait. Never mind.
Those computer gamer types sitting over there in Nevada, flying those drone strikes in the Middle East are fast becoming the favored means by which the MIC can fight its dirty little for profit wars in which officers do their fighting in air conditioned comfort and never get dirty or break a sweat, and without ever having to be within a thousand miles of a theater of operations or actually have to deal firsthand with the results of their actions. Hell, from what I've been reading, some of them have never been in an actual aircraft cockpit.
They... like any other war gamers... just sit in front of their computer monitors and manipulate their little joysticks and Wham! Another Al Qaeda (or other terrorist group) "leader" bites the dust in what has become an almost weekly ritual. Wham! Another American traitor preaching for the "other side" is off to his unfortunately virginless version of Heaven. Wham! Another American Marine and Sailor meet their end, courtesy of Lockheed in the form of a $68000 Hellfire missile from nowhere. Wait! What????
A Marine and a Navy medic killed by a U.S. drone airstrike were targeted when Marine commanders in Afghanistan mistook them for Taliban fighters, even though analysts watching the Predator's video feed were uncertain whether the men were part of an enemy force.
Those are the findings of a Pentagon investigation of the first known case of friendly fire deaths involving an unmanned aircraft, the April 6 attack that killed Marine Staff Sgt. Jeremy Smith, 26, and Navy Hospitalman Benjamin D. Rast, 23.
The 381-page report, which has not been released, concludes that the Marine officers on the scene and the Air Force crew controlling the drone from half a world away were unaware that analysts watching the firefight unfold via live video at a third location had doubts about the targets' identity.
The incident closely resembles another deadly mistake involving a Predator in early 2009. In that attack, at least 15 Afghan civilians were killed after a Predator crew mistook them for a group of Taliban preparing to attack a U.S. special forces unit.
In that case, analysts located at Air Force Special Operations Command in Florida who were watching live battlefield video from the aircraft's high-altitude cameras also had doubts about the target. Their warnings that children were present were disregarded by the drone operator and by an Army captain, who authorized the airstrike.
Because names are redacted in the Pentagon report, it is unclear which Marine officer made the final decision to order the airstrike that killed Smith and Rast. But a senior Marine officer familiar with the investigation said commanders at the battalion or regimental level would have the ultimate authority, not the lieutenant who led the platoon during the battle.
Hell, even if you don't buy the notion that this constant and complete depersonalization of war just makes it easier for our corporate masters to keep starting the damned things, the potential for this kind of thing to occur is only going to increase exponentially with the increase in the use of such methods of killing people, not to mention the potential for this: (Note that this reprint of a week old story from Wired... to which Soapblox is not allowing a hotlink... was filed in ARS Techinica's BUSINESS section,)
A computer virus has infected the cockpits of America's Predator and Reaper drones, logging pilots' every keystroke as they remotely fly missions over Afghanistan and other war zones.
The virus, first detected nearly two weeks ago by the military's Host-Based Security System, has not prevented pilots at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada from flying their missions overseas. Nor have there been any confirmed incidents of classified information being lost or sent to an outside source. But the virus has resisted multiple efforts to remove it from Creech's computers, network security specialists say. And the infection underscores the ongoing security risks in what has become the US military's most important weapons system.
"We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back," says a source familiar with the network infection, one of three that told Danger Room about the virus. "We think it's benign. But we just don't know."
Military network security specialists aren't sure whether the virus and its so-called "keylogger" payload were introduced intentionally or by accident; it may be a common piece of malware that just happened to make its way into these sensitive networks. The specialists don't know exactly how far the virus has spread. But they're sure that the infection has hit both classified and unclassified machines at Creech. That raises the possibility, at least, that secret data may have been captured by the keylogger, and then transmitted over the public internet to someone outside the military chain of command.
Drones have become America's tool of choice in both its conventional and shadow wars, allowing US forces to attack targets and spy on its foes without risking American lives. Since President Obama assumed office, a fleet of approximately 30 CIA-directed drones have hit targets in Pakistan more than 230 times; all told, these drones have killed more than 2,000 suspected militants and civilians, according to the Washington Post. More than 150 additional Predator and Reaper drones, under US Air Force control, watch over the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. American military drones struck 92 times in Libya between mid-April and late August. And late last month, an American drone killed top terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki - part of an escalating unmanned air assault in the Horn of Africa and southern Arabian peninsula.
Suspected civilians? What the hell does that mean? I suppose to people capable of thinking only in numbers in languages based on statistics, it must mean something but it's not something an ordinary human like me can grasp, I guess.
But despite their widespread use, the drone systems are known to have security flaws. Many Reapers and Predators don't encrypt the video they transmit to American troops on the ground. In the summer of 2009, US forces discovered "days and days and hours and hours" of the drone footage on the laptops of Iraqi insurgents. A $26 piece of software allowed the militants to capture the video.
Yep... war by committee in which the ones doing the shooting are thousands of miles away from where the shooting is going on and the ones directing the shooting don't know who the hell they're shooting at but only that the targets are "suspected enemies" and all this over a generally unencrypted and obviously insecure computer network with holes in it big enough to fly a Predator through.