It bugs me a little when should-be allies attack each other over twitter. They all end up looking like morons. For a while, I thought it was just the right wing loons accusing each other of not being racist, misogynistic, sociopathic, or otherwise misanthropic enough.
I soon found that the childish infighting is quite popular among segments of the their polar opposites.
People like Wendy Davis take pragmatic positions that will not doom them among their electorate. Among the self-appointed "purity" police on the left, this is heresy. These people will shoot their own causes in the foot to maintain a high level of self righteousness. I would point these people to a more talented wordsmith than myself. As a somewhat popular blogger once said, "Your Mumia sweatshirt won't get you into heaven anymore."
Whenever your pet flower child runs against a Bull Connor, keep one thing in mind. All things being equal your candidate might win, but all things are not equal so your candidate will lose.
I took a screen capture of a symptom of the pathology of our current media environment.
[caption id="attachment_989" align="alignnone" width="872"] What's the implication here?[/caption]
The story here is of a man, John Beale, who was serving as a top EPA official. His job description included expertise in the science of climate change. Rather than doing that job, however, he managed to convince his employer that he was secretly working for the CIA. He racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel expenses and collected a salary while doing little actual work.
What does this have to do with climate science?
But don't let that stop you from writing a headline implying that climate science is a fraud. In our mediascape, creating a false impression is desirable if it earns clicks.
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.