Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for July 11th, 2012

Best healthcare in the world

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Except when it isn’t. This boy sounds as though he would have been a wonderful man.

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2012 at 7:34 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Interesting notion: Medals for combat bravery for drone operators

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Very odd: Glenn Greenwald reports in Salon:

The effort to depict drone warfare as some sort of courageous and noble act is intensifying:

The Pentagon is considering awarding a Distinguished Warfare Medal to drone pilots who work on military bases often far removed from the battlefield. . . .

[Army Institute of Heraldry chief Charles] Mugno said most combat decorations require “boots on the ground” in a combat zone, but he noted that “emerging technologies” such as drones and cyber combat missions are now handled by troops far removed from combat.

The Pentagon has not formally endorsed the medal, but Mugno’s institute has completed six alternate designs for commission approval. . . .

The proposed medal would rank between the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Soldier’s Medal for exceptional conduct outside a combat zone.

So medals would be awarded for sitting safely ensconced in a bunker on U.S. soil and launching bombs with a video joystick at human beings thousands of miles away. Justifying drone warfare requires pretending that the act entails some sort of bravery, so the U.S. military is increasingly taking steps tocreate the facade of warrior courage for drone pilots:

The Air Force has been working to bridge the divide between these two groups of fliers. First off, drone operators are called pilots, and they wear the same green flight suits as fighter pilots, even though they never get in a plane. Their operating stations look like dashboards in a cockpit.

And drone pilots themselves are propagating boasts of their own bravery more and more:

Luther (Trey) Turner III, a retired colonel who flew combat missions during the gulf war before he switched to flying Predators in 2003, said that he doesn’t view his combat experience flying drones as “valorous.” “My understanding of the term is that you are faced with danger. And, when I am sitting in a ground-control station thousands of miles away from the battlefield, that’s just not the case.” But, he said, “I firmly believe it takes bravery to fly a U.A.V.” — unmanned aerial vehicle — “particularly when you’re called upon to take someone’s life. In some cases, you are watching it play out live and in color.” As more than one pilot at Holloman told me, a bit defensively, “We’re not just playing video games here.”

Whatever one thinks of the justifiability of drone attacks, it’s one of the least “brave” or courageous modes of warfare ever invented. It’s one thing to call it just, but to pretend it’s “brave” is Orwellian in the extreme. Indeed, the whole point of it is to allow large numbers of human beings to be killed without the slightest physical risk to those doing the killing. Killing while sheltering yourself from all risk is the definitional opposite of bravery.

This is why the rapid proliferation of drones, beyond their own ethical and legal quandaries, makes violence and aggression so much easier (and cheaper) to perpetrate and therefore so much more likely. In the New York Times today, Thomas Ricks, echoing Gen. Stanely McChrystal, calls for the re-instatement of real conscription because subjecting all of the nation to the risks of combat is the only way to finally restrain America’s posture of Endless War (“having a draft might, as General McChrystal said, make Americans think more carefully before going to war”); conversely, cost-free, risk-free drone warfare does the opposite. If the mere act of taking steps that will result in the death of others makes one “brave,” consider all the killers  who now merit that term: dictators who order protesters executed, tyrants who send others off to war, prison guards who activate electric chairs.

As for the claim that drone “pilots” are not engaged in the extinguishing of human life via video games, the military’s own term for its drone kills — “bug splat,” which happens to be the name of a children’s video game — and other evidence negates that. From Michael Hastings in Rolling Stone:

At first, many pilots resisted the advance of drones, viewing them as nothing but a robotic replacement for highly trained fighter jocks. . . . Now, given the high profile and future prospects of drones, pilots are lining up to operate them, volunteering for an intensive, one-year training course that includes simulated missions. “There is more enthusiasm for the job,” says Lt. Gen. David Deptula, a fighter pilot who ran the Air Force’s surveillance drone program until 2010. “Many pilots are excited about operating these things.”

For a new generation of young guns, the experience of piloting a drone is not unlike the video games they grew up on. Unlike traditional pilots, who physically fly their payloads to a target, drone operators kill at the touch of a button, without ever leaving their base – a remove that only serves to further desensitize the taking of human life. (The military slang for a man killed by a drone strike is “bug splat,” since viewing the body through a grainy-green video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed.)

As drone pilot Lt. Col. Matt Martin recounts in his book Predatoroperating a drone is “almost like playing the computer game Civilization – something straight out of “a sci-fi novel.” After one mission, in which he navigated a drone to target a technical college being occupied by insurgents in Iraq, Martin felt “electrified” and “adrenalized,” exulting that “we had shot the technical college full of holes, destroying large portions of it and killing only God knew how many people.“ Only later did the reality of what he had done sink in. “I had yet to realize the horror,” Martin recalls.

Human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson recently recounted numerous cases of horrifying civilian deaths involving Pakistani teenagers whose lives were ended by drones, and she observed that “this PlayStation warfare is only risk-free for operators of these remote-controlled killers.” She added that the use of the term “bug splat” for drone victims “is deliberately employed as a psychological tactic to dehumanise targets so operatives overcome their inhibition to kill; and so the public remains apathetic and unmoved to act,” and that “the phrase has far more sinister origins and historical use: In dehumanising their Pakistani targets, the US resorts to Nazi semantics. Their targets are not just computer game-like targets, but pesky or harmful bugs that must be killed.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2012 at 7:32 pm

Is the fix in with the DoJ?

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Interesting op-ed by Richard Eskow in Nation of Change, passed along by a friend:

More and more Washington insiders are asking a question that was considered off-limits in the nation’s capital just a few months ago: Who, exactly, is Attorney General Eric Holder representing? As scandal after scandal erupts on Wall Street, involving everything from global lending manipulation to cocaine and prostitution, more and more people are worrying about Holder’s seeming inaction – or worse – in the face of mounting evidence.

Confidential sources say that the President’s much-touted Mortgage Fraud Task Force is being starved for vital resources by the Holder Justice Department. Political insiders are fearful that this obstruction will threaten Democrats’ chances at the polls. Investigators and prosecutors from other agencies are expressing their frustration as the ever-rowing list of documented crimes by individual Wall Street bankers continues to be ignored.

Meanwhile the scandals and revelations go on. The new LIBOR rate-fixing scandal led the bank-friendly and conservative magazine The Economist to run a cover about “Banksters” and to publish a piece entitled “The rotten heart of finance.” People like Robert Reich are saying this could be the story that finally brings down the banks.

Where are the indictments?

But there have already been stories – lots of stories, terrible ones – about corruption, bribery, perjury, forgery, and a dozen different kinds of fraud. There have been stories about laundering money for the Mexican drug cartels, including a new lead that surfaced this week. There’s already ample evidence that Wall Street bankers have defrauded cities, deceived investors, and cheated their own clients.

Some of the bankers even rewarded themselves in that time-honored tradition of gangsters everywhere: with hookers, blow, and orgies.

The problem isn’t a shortage of scandalous stories. We’ve seen a lot of those. What we haven’tseen, at least here in the United States, is a single indictment of a senior Wall Street banker from the United States Department of Justice. And that’s what has these political insiders concerned.

Questions raised

A growing number of people are privately expressing concern at the Justice Department’s long-standing pattern of inactivity, obfuscation, and obstruction. Mr. Holder’s past as a highly-paid lawyer for a top Wall Street firm, Covington and Burling, is being discussed more openly among insiders. Covington & Burling was the law firm which devised the MERS shell corporation which has since been implicated in many cases of mortgage and foreclosure fraud.

Nobody we talked to wanted to publicly demean a public official’s reputation. Few of the people who are criticizing Holder privately want to fuel the right-wing witch hunt against him, which recently led to in the Republican House’s shamefully politicized contempt citation. But more of them expressed concerns about Holder, and expressed them strongly, than we expected.

The Attorney General is the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. But when it comes to Wall Street, they note that there’s not a lot of Federal law enforcement going on.

Obstructing the task force?

The Mortgage Fraud Task Force stands at the heart of the latest controversy. In January’s State of the Union address, the President said that . . .

Continue reading. It gets worse and worse, with specifics.

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2012 at 7:00 pm

Giving up the Goon Show

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I have realized that the 24 BBC Goon Show CDs that I have (96 complete radio programs), plus an additional CD/booklet on Spike Milligan and his career, are not really of much interest to children and grandchildren, lovely though they were to me in my youth—I listened regularly to rebroadcasts in the mid-to-late 60’s. Wonderful shows with Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers, and announcer Wallace Greenslade, and always with two musical interludes, the first by the fabulous jazz harmonicist Max Geldray and the second by the swinging Ray Ellington Quartet (both of whom would occasionally take parts in the skits), together with the BBC Band led by Wally Stott. So today I put them on Craigslist.

Time to move some stuff out of here. So you know why I like these so much, here’s one performance by Geldray from one show:


And here’s an excellent article on Geldray.

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2012 at 10:59 am

Posted in Humor, Jazz

Classic shave

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Today’s shave is a simple classic. Wonderful and wonderfully fragrant lather from Trumper’s Coconut Oil shaving cream, with the Rooney Style 2 Finest holding a billowing cloud of it. Three very smooth and easy nick-free passes with the Weber DLC, and finally a little splash of Coral Skin Food to send me on my way. A great start to what will be a good day.

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2012 at 9:02 am

Posted in Shaving

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