Print Story You can't wash your hands in a buffalo
By TheophileEscargot (Sun Jan 24, 2016 at 10:27:39 AM EST) Reading, MLP, Me, Watching (all tags)
Reading: "Drone Warfare", "Farthing". Watching: "Interstellar". Me. Links.

What I'm Reading
Drone Warfare by Medea Benjamin. Short book about how drone warfare works. Some of the information there was familiar, but it rounds it up in one place and did tell me some things I didn't know.

Benjamin highlights how drone warfare has shifted responsibility for bombing away from the military, towards spy agencies and civilian contractors. "The CIA, not the Pentagon, operates most drone strikes in Western Asia". Blackwater/Academi and other companies operate drones.

Another point is that drone operators actually see a lot more of their targets than a manned bomber would. Bombers usually just fly over once: drone operators may surveil their target for days before pressing the button. In that respect they may feel more of a connection than bombers do.

Benjamin also says that drones are not necessarily much cheaper than manned flights, as it takes a similar effort from ground and support staff to get a drone into the air. Another detail is that some drone controllers were deliberately modelled after the playstation.

The accounts of the toll drone strikes take on civilians are familiar but depressing. It's stressful to live under the constant threat of bombing. "Double taps" mean that rescuers who attempt to aid victims of the first strike are often hit by the second. After a drone strike, "Khorasan Mujahedin" often turn up and torture people nearby in an attempt to find snitches who might have reported the target.

I've read about this before, but Benjamin also discusses the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, the first US citizen to be assassinated by a US drone strike. Apart from the likelihood that he had no direct involvement in terrorism, it's a shocking precedent.

Overall, while drones don't have much difference in capability than manned aircraft, they seem to have been used in practice to introduce a new era of warfare, where killing is done by civilians and contractors, with less oversight and accountability. She quotes "No less than their insurgent targets they are fighters without uniform or insignia directly participating in hostilities".

One possible weakness is that she writes from a kind of left-activist perspective, which might alienate readers from the other side of the spectrum.

Overall, an informative but depressing book.

Had a nice birthday lunch lately. Ate some meat.


Took toddler to Kew Gardens again lately after he begged us, soon after he watched "The Empire Strikes Back". He kept saying "Star Wars tree!" in the hot, damp Palm House, pretty sure he thought he was in the Dagobah System.

What I'm Reading 2
Farthing by Jo Walton, author of the superb "Among Others". Wanted some light relief from grim books about politics, war or the holocaust; and from the first few pages this seemed to fit the bill as a country house murder mystery.

In fact it's pretty much the opposite: set in an alternate universe where Britain reached a peace with Hitler in WW2 (accepting French colonies in exchange for an end to the war) it involved all of these. Though it's set in the past, it features corrupt politicians are using a fear of terrorism to gain excessive powers in a very contemporary way.

I really liked this book as well. It has a well-realised and believable world, a decent plot, and dramatic but believable characters. It also subtly and deliberately undermines the conventions of the country house murder mystery novel in ways that I think might annoy fans of that genre.

Excellent book, well worth reading. It's the first in a trilogy, will definitely be looking out for the others.

What I'm Watching
Saw Interstellar on DVD. I'd been meaning to see it for a while but was put off by the length since I don't have much time. Really liked it though: thoughtful science fiction with some good action scenes as well as emotional drama. Along with "Moon", "Gravity" and "The Martian" there seems to be some good science fiction around in a more realistic vein these days. Liked the creatively designed robot and the realistically dystopian future. Well worth seeing.

Socioeconomics Children of men lottery-drafted to Vietnam poorer, less likely to work. Against laws and "facts". UK house prices to crash as global asset prices unravel. Stock market crashes, who's right, economists or markets.

Pics. ISS transits Saturn. Macabre vintage posters. Bison pyramid.

Random. Etymology of GIGO, LIFO, FIFO. Why there was a robot butler in Rocky IV.

Sci/Tech. 2015 hottest year. Why the Apple phone will fail, and fail badly (2006).

UK Politics. TFL to take over most of London's rail network. How Jeremy Corbyn has reshaped the Labour party, Corbyn's supporters more working class. What the Polling Inquiry said. A Conservative coup. People will only be interested in EU referendum for 7-10 days beforehand. David Cameron makes a horrific populist speech every Monday to "shape the agenda". Non-EU migrants to be deported if not earning £35,000 after 5 years.

World politics. US likely to retain a white majority. Far right comes to Sweden. 32 worst anti-feminists. What they say about #BlackLivesMatter today they said about MLK .

Video. La Z rider. Everyone Charles Bronson kills in Death Wish 3.

Articles. 11 Reasons Why 2015 Was a Great Year For Humanity. London's Crossrail needs to rename almost all its stations. The fight that broke Daesh. Flight Test: Antonov An-2. How "The Winds of Winter" could be published in 3 months.

< One Night Stands Stymied? | Almost to hell >
You can't wash your hands in a buffalo | 15 comments (15 topical, 0 hidden)
White minorities by ucblockhead (4.00 / 2) #1 Sun Jan 24, 2016 at 07:18:59 PM EST
The white minority thing has always been a red herring.  The US has long had two states with white minorities, and no one seems to notice.  Many of the major cities in my state are minority white.  Both the LA metropolitan area and the SF Bay Area are on the edge of being minority white as a whole.  But again, no one seems to notice.

Treating racial issues as "white" vs. "everyone else" never really made sense, no matter how true white privilege is.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

I never had a problem with killing Anwar al-Awlaki by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #2 Mon Jan 25, 2016 at 06:37:36 AM EST
He was an admitted member of Al Qaeda, part of their political leadership. Working for their PR department. He was just as legitimate a target as any other member of Al Qaeda. The only thing differing between him and, say, Osama Bin Laden, was his US citizenship. Sure, we could have tried to arrest him and bring him back for trial by sending a special operations force into the area to capture him.

They would have killed at least as many people as a drone strike, and he almost certainly would have been "killed while resting arrest". A drone strike aimed specifically at killing him at least has the advantage of being honest.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

Not to mention, he had direct links to terror by lm (4.00 / 2) #3 Mon Jan 25, 2016 at 09:30:35 AM EST
Even if you ignore his conviction for kidnapping and other activities for raising money for the Qaida, saying that he has "no direct ties" to terrorism is like saying that Giovanni Gentile had no direct ties to Fascism.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
I actually said by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #5 Mon Jan 25, 2016 at 12:13:46 PM EST
He had "no direct involvement in terrorism". He was a fundamentalist Sunni cleric whose followers included Al-Qaeda members, and was "linked" in that sense. But if Timothy McVeigh style terrorists attended an Evangelical Protestant church, would it be OK to launch a drone strike on the pastor since he's "linked" or "tied" to terrorists?
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Also, cough, by Herring (4.00 / 1) #6 Mon Jan 25, 2016 at 01:57:30 PM EST
first amendment.

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

[ Parent ]
Again, he was tried and convicted by lm (4.00 / 1) #10 Tue Jan 26, 2016 at 05:04:35 AM EST
Kidnapping for ransom doesn't count, I suppose.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Well by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #12 Tue Jan 26, 2016 at 02:45:30 PM EST
Kidnapping across US state borders is a federal crime. If the drone strike is because of the kidnapping, how is that legal, given that it didn't cross US state lines, and kidnapping doesn't carry the death penalty? Also if you trust the Yemeni justice system, then Awlaki already served his time.

But the kidnapping doesn't have anything to do with it. The legal basis for drone killings is that they are acts of "pre-emptive self-defense" authorised in this case by the 2001 Authorization of the use of Military Force. The ACLU statement was:

"If the court's ruling is correct, the government has unreviewable authority to carry out the targeted killing of any American, anywhere, whom the president deems to be a threat to the nation," said Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU. "It would be difficult to conceive of a proposition more inconsistent with the Constitution or more dangerous to American liberty. It's worth remembering that the power that the court invests in the president today will be available not just in this case but in future cases, and not just to the current president but to every future president. It is a profound mistake to allow this unparalleled power to be exercised free from the checks and balances that apply in every other context. We continue to believe that the government's power to use lethal force against American citizens should be subject to meaningful oversight by the courts."
On the other hand, this does bolster the point I always make about how people often overestimate the value of a written constitution in guaranteeing rights. Henry VIII had to at least go through the motions of a trial before he killed one of his subjects, Barack Obama doesn't need to bother...
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Most of that seems irrelevant by lm (2.00 / 0) #13 Tue Jan 26, 2016 at 07:52:34 PM EST
You made a claim, no direct ties to terrorism.

That claim seems to be trivially disprovable.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Nope by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #15 Wed Jan 27, 2016 at 12:18:11 AM EST
I said "no direct involvement in terrorism".

Actually, looking at the sources it seems I was wrong, he was never convicted of the kidnapping:

Yemeni authorities arrested him in 2006 with a group of five Yemenis suspected of kidnapping a Shiite teenager for ransom. Al-Awlaki was accused of being the group’s spiritual leader and issuing a religious decree permitting them to kidnap foreigners and rich Yemenis. He was released without trial after a year in prison following the intercession of his tribe.
He was accused, but never charged, of being the "spiritual leader" of group accused of criminal activity. That's not direct involvement in terrorism.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
I really liked Moon by lm (4.00 / 2) #4 Mon Jan 25, 2016 at 09:33:02 AM EST
Interstellar, I'm on the fence about. It seemed to me like it was trying too hard to be the second coming of 2001.

But I really did like the robots. IMO, they stole the show.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
re: fight that broke daesh by clover kicker (4.00 / 1) #7 Mon Jan 25, 2016 at 08:40:49 PM EST
I wonder if everyone will still be cheering for the Kurds in a few years when they're carving bits of Kurdistan out of countries we give a shit about, i.e our ally Turkey.

Honestly? by ammoniacal (4.00 / 2) #8 Mon Jan 25, 2016 at 11:54:19 PM EST
Re: Turkish Kurdistan -- no normal Turks live there, so it's not an issue of living space. It's an issue of Turkish pride vis-a-vis maintaining control of Mount Fucking Ararat and a shedload of other inhospitable rocks.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
oh well only pride, nothing of value by clover kicker (4.00 / 1) #11 Tue Jan 26, 2016 at 08:35:07 AM EST
You wouldn't mind if Canada annexed the top half of Maine, it's just trees, eh?

[ Parent ]
I would not give two shits. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #14 Wed Jan 27, 2016 at 12:16:57 AM EST
Maine is full of fucking weirdos. Please help them un-ass Americastan ASAP as possible.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Don't really care about Turkey by jump the ladder (4.00 / 2) #9 Tue Jan 26, 2016 at 04:19:02 AM EST
And their inept version of Putin president

[ Parent ]
You can't wash your hands in a buffalo | 15 comments (15 topical, 0 hidden)