In the community, UAVs are not the same as drones. Drones are unmanned targets. Drones are designed to be shot down. The unmanned aerial vehicle or UAV is mean to be used over an extended period of time. Since someone is apparently employed full time at the Pentagon with the sole task of creating unnecessary abbreviations, UAVs are now also known as UASs (unmanned aerial systems) or RPVs (remotely piloted vehicles).
Some large UAVs, such as the Predator, are extremely reliable. That is to say, they have a mean time between failures of thousands of flight hours. These cost four millions dollars apiece. Of course, "reliability" is relative. A passenger jet is expected to have a mean time between failures of millions of flight hours. UAVs and passenger aircraft, you see, are held to very different standards. Note, as well, that the pictures provided by Amazon show UAVs much smaller than the massive and expensive military UAVs. In the UAV world, reliability tends to scale down with size.
The image invited by the headlines is of a rotary-winged aircraft dropping down to your front lawn cradling Aunt Zelda's Christmas cookies in a bow-bedecked box. With this in mind, I think I'll write down the first five objections that come to mind:
First, what fraction of the population lives in a place that could easily be reached without hazard to or from overhead power lines, trees, or transmission towers?
Second, surface winds and weather in general are extremely important to low flying aircraft, especially the small variety. Is there a vast real-time weather grid operating at the 100 meter scale across the nation that I don't know about?
Third, any UAV large enough to carry cargo and with enough range to be useful will produce lethal debris when (not if) it fails mid-flight.
Fourth, an enormous hazard that would be posed by thousands of vehicles. In order to make this venture profitable, the government would have to preemptively absolve the carrier of any liability for the deaths and damage to property that would inevitably result.
Fifth, there is a reason we never got the jet packs and flying cars we were promised decades ago. Those things are not economically feasible. A vehicle to cargo mass ratio of 100 to 1 may work with ground vehicles, but I really doubt it would work with any rotary-wing aircraft.
And any of dozens of other questions follow, about protection from the elements, signing for packages, ethics of surveillance, reliability of operators, right wing loons shooting them from the sky, and the list goes on. But I think you get the idea.
In conclusion, this is farce masquerading as science fiction. Any government official unscrupulous enough to sacrifice public safety in favor of corporate profit would be ... well, to be fair, would be just about any political appointee confirmed by the Senate in the last couple of dozen years.
But regardless of the abrogation of the public trust this entails, it is a crackpot idea. I have only ever heard of one crackpot who succeeded in technology: Guglielmo Marconi.
But that is another story (see Erik Larson's excellent book, Thunderstruck).
A couple of decades ago, a person who gained employment working with top secret documents with the intent of stealing and distributing those documents to America's adversaries would have been called a spy.
Of course your modern Libertarian doesn't see it that way. Since the government is now run by one of those people, if you know what I mean, espionage isn't really that big a deal.
Google doesn't help me narrow down the originator (that is, there are too many possible original sources), but I have read in many places something like, "Scratch the surface of a Libertarian, and you find an authoritarian."
Here, libertarians bestow the title of "whistleblower" on a person whose actions certainly meet the definition of premeditated espionage. To many libertarians any damage done to the United States of America is worth it, so long there is harm done to the administration of that ... person. Thus does a person that would otherwise be considered just another privileged asshole get to live out a fantasy in which foreign governments allow him to pretend to be some sort of hero while under complete control so long as he continues to provide damaging information.
I haven't really read much on Lara Logan's bogus Benghazi story. I took one important thing away from the post-report reporting on 60 Minutes. Apparently, Lara Logan is extremely dedicated. Despite the fact that she was obviously suffering breathing issues throughout the recording period, she soldiered on in her dramatically half-assed "mistakes were made" statement. In it, she related how her team had spent a year "researching" the bullshit story. She failed, however, to explain how during that year of "research" her crack team of "journalists" had failed to due undergraduate level fact checking.
Should the fact that mercenaries are generally no more trustworthy than the criminals that typically employ them be considered adequate cause to do some digging? Probably. But that is just my opinion, I suppose. I'm no journalist.
[caption id="attachment_965" align="alignnone" width="648"] Sunrise over Arabian desert[/caption]
Having traded in my dirham for dollars, I have returned to my familiar haunt, the Chihuahuan Desert of southern New Mexico. It's probably a good thing, too, as my exercise regime suffered greatly. I did spend an hour or so swimming the Persian Gulf just a few hours prior to flying out of Abu Dhabi. The name is apparently a point of contention 'twixt the Arabs and the Persians. In the media on the south side of the gulf, it is called the Arabian Gulf.
So in the 52 days since I last posted, a few things have happened. First, Tbogg returned from retirement. Second, the raging crackpot wing of the House Republican caucus followed the lead of the raging crackpot wing of the Senate Republican caucus (pretty much just Ted Cruz) in threatening to take the ball an go home.
In the context of a game (it really is, in a political sense), we can view all the proceedings thus:
Wishful-thinking-based-polling tells the Republicans they will defeat the Affordable Care Act
"Negotiations" are held
Democrats spinelessly capitulate on all fronts, allowing Republicans to weaken ACA to something extremely friendly to "the healthcare industry"
Votes are held, with the greatly watered-down legislation passing both houses
The President signs ACA into law
People who don't appear to understand the Constitution challenge its Constitutionality, taking the case to the Supreme Court
Oddly enough, the extremely Corporation-friendly Supreme Court declares the extremely Corporation-friendly law "Constitutional"
Looking around for other ex post facto means to pretend all of the above never happened, someone thinks to dust off the two decades old Newt Gingrich gambit
The Republicans say that they will now refuse to do the one required task of their job description: pay the bills
Blame the black guy
Now, in the context of sport, we could look at it thus:
Before the game, one side continually reduces the value of the prize
The game is held
The expected side wins
The losing side cries foul and demands a review by the refs, knowing the refs are "their guys"
The refs allow the decision to stand
The losing side puts the trophy in a closet, while sitting in front of the closet door holding the ball and rocking back and forth
Nobody's getting the prize until the losing side can further "negotiate" down its value
No games of any type will be played until these demands are met
Losing side is puzzled at booing from the stands
As always, a sizable fraction of the American populace is still of the shit-your-pants-at-the-approach-of-a-brown-person bent. For this reason, two things occurred. First, military were exempted, helping to hide how financially precarious is the situation of many. Second, most DoD civilians are recalled, as their absence makes the military mission difficult in many places and nearly impossible in others.
These people must be the most embarrassing companions imaginable in Las Vegas. I doubt, though, that the bouncers in Las Vegas will be as accommodating as the American Press Corpse.
I'm going to have to step away for a while. I currently have nothing more to add to the national dialogue. If a person's default position on Obama or Trayvon Martin is "nigger, nigger, nigger," then response is pointless. If a person uses the trappings of science (i.e. the internet, computers, analog broadcast media) to spread claims that actual science is wrong, as with global warming, then response is pointless.
I am burned out.
As a person who has actually had to use the data revealing the noticeable effects of CO2 on the propagation of radiation from the ultraviolet through visible and infrared wavelengths, I can say that the Ghomerts and DeMints of the world leave me empty. If I claimed to speak Hebrew and babbled some vaguely Semitic-sounding gibberish, it would be the linguistic equivalent. The fact is that 100.00% of actual scientists who espouse global warming denial know they are lying to support one of two things: ideology (they are right wing loons willing to sacrifice any shred of scientific integrity for what they perceive as "the ends justify the means") or profit (since the science is so far beyond question to even the most basically trained of scientists, the wages available to those who would whore out what they know to be false "scientific" opinions are quite extravagant).
I cannot compete. When the "reality based community" plays by gentlemen's rules and the opposition plays by WWE heel rules, is there really a competition? Even a staged one?
As they say in France, "Un plein de merde trou du cul peut dire ce qu'il veut sans conséquence," which means "We have earned our current situation." Because I know French like DeMint knows science.
[Update]: I should mention that I do know a number of the artisans of science that actually believe the ridiculous bullshit they see on Fox News and should be excused. They are mainly consumers of data, and may be hoodwinked by their sources, because they are nor responsible for actually doing science. That is why even basically honest meteorologists, engineers, and doctors may say jaw-droppingly stupid things about topics such as vaccination and global warming.
For the second time since I moved to New Mexico, my favorite writer has died. I have nothing to add, really, to what has been said about the man known to many as Doghouse Riley by such luminaries as Charles Pierce and Tbogg.
Steve Gilliard had been the first notable writer with whom I had actually had exchanges in the comments and/or email. It took me a while to find a new favorite. The next writer to take up the mantle (Larry Wallberg, also known as The Exterminator), eventually withdrew from blogging. I don't think Doghouse Riley ever personally replied to any of the sparse comments I made on his blog. I nevertheless feel a sense of loss much like that of several years ago.
Today, Tbogg announced that he, too, will be retreating from the peculiar world of blogging.
I have spilled imaginary gallons of electronic ink decrying the quality of our media. Yet I find the recent hubbub involving news reading airhead Lauren Green's interview with Professor of Religion Reza Aslan unimportant. I suppose it is possible to become jaded that a typical news reader is hired largely for aesthetics, as the former Miss Minnesota suggests. I did make some half-hearted comments in various social media.
Green: “It still begs the question though, why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?”
Aslan: “Because it’s my job as an academic. I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament. That’s what I do for a living, actually.”
Mr. Aslan is a scholar in religions. A professional news reader (with a graduate degree in journalism, no less) doesn't seem to understand the meaning of the phrase “to beg the question.” Yet this hackneyed stereotype (former beauty queen turned TV news reader) incorrectly uses the phrase in questioning the religion expertise of a professor of religion at a major university.
On an old Army friend's posting, a former colleague wrote this comment:
As poorly as the interviewer conducted herself...she raised a valid set of questions....and the supposition is that (just like a Christian scholar can hardly write - even with "scholarly authority" - on Judiaism or Islam, Buddhism, Mithraism...etc.....(her question, at least least in my view, was never answered).We are the sum total of our beliefs....and it will, and does, (because it defines our ethos) affect our views, our "studies" etc. COme on guys....this man converted as an adult...which requires a SEE (significant emotional event). Of course it is going to affect how he studies, writes, theorizes. Duh. All the more reason to be skeptical while reading his book...makes it all the more enjoyable.
If a person does not worship Zeus, he obviously can't write with "scholarly authority" on the Olympian gods.
That's also why no scholarly work has ever been done on the Nordic or Mesopotamian gods.
Ultimately, though, I can barely get up the energy to climb upon the soapbox to point out the abject ridiculousness of the infotainment approach to journalism. It is no longer like beating a dead horse. Rather, it is like standing downwind from the much scavenged beast, which is now clearly in a gruesome state of decay and yelling the obvious at annoyed passersby.
Update: I shouldn't neglect to point out that the only other place I have heard the name "Aslan" was as the lion (the obvious Jesus character) in C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Slogging through the swamps of our media, I am assailed by this question. Often, this is in the form of some poor TLC drivel note even worthy of ridicule. What brings it to mind today, however, is a number of recent conversations I have had. It bothers me to no end that items that would generally fit the description of local news end up becoming the topics of discussion dominating the proverbial water coolers around the country. Among these are the Zimmerman case. The basic facts of the case are that an armed man saw a black teenager, followed him, then killed him. These basic facts would seem to require an overwhelming amount of contextual mitigation to overcome. I can only assume that the context that would convince a jury of reasonable people included whatever weapons the boy carried (and here I don't mean "boy" in terms of a male person not yet of voting age, I mean it like a fine gentleman like Mr. Zimmerman means it: one of those people), the verbal threats that no doubt lasted the duration of the stalking, and the completely unprovoked assault that must have occurred at the close of the undefined stalking period.
I only wish someone could present me with a non-absurd scenario in which the above could have happened.
I somehow doubt that will ever happen.
But if nothing else, this story has taught us a lesson. In conjunction with the story of the woman whose warning shot at an abusive husband cost her a 20 year sentence, this story has shown us two key facts about Florida justice: