Droning On

I recall seeing the first drones.  Unmanned aircraft.  I’m a pilot and thought the technology was nifty.  I also admired the surveillance capabilities of those things.  Protect the troops without endangering AWACs and helo crews.  Find the bad guys.  Like that.

Then we started using these things to kill people at weddings.

Now my friend and futurist David Houle has pointed out that Grumman has a programmable 330-pound robot.  This thing is cool and can trek where no man has gone before or ever should go and has capabilities no human will ever have.  Major geek factor.

They also have a surveillance “bat” airborne drone – also a major cool and high geek factor item.  While watching the video I couldn’t help but notice how its superb surveillance eye was able to find a human “target”.  That is the label Grumman pasted on some guy walking on an airport tarmac.

We truly do have the capability to make a weapon out of anything, perhaps even a lampshade.  It’s just what the fertile minds of our war materiel contractors, the military and our secret CIA army dream up to do with that stuff that scares me, because the power and the decisions seem to be unbridled and even unchecked.

The NSA is supposed to get warrants for its spying, but it often doesn’t.  The CIA is prohibited by law from engaging in activities within the US, but it does so all the time.  The FBI is legally limited in its spying efforts, but it reads your email without a warrant, even going beyond the lawless powers of the so-called Patriot Act.  Now we have a programmable 330 pound robot that “they” will be able to program to do whatever they want it to do.  Look for a knock at your door soon.  And have a nice day.

For David Houle’s comments on privacy, have a look at his new e-Book, Is Privacy Dead?.


Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst – for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

A Special Kind of Nuts


North Carolina’s recently introduced House Joint Resolution 494 tells us that, “.  .  .  each state is sovereign and may independently determine how the state may make laws respecting an establishment of religion .  .  . ,” and that, “.  .  . the North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.”  It seems that the state of North Carolina may soon be free of that pesky First Amendment, right up until the time that the Supreme Court of the United States lets them know in a 9 – 0 decision that they are a special kind of nuts.  That will be the end of a legal process that will have cost the state of North Carolina millions of dollars over a brainless political ploy.

Elsewhere, the good citizens of North Dakota will have the scientifically interesting prospect of voting on a new amendment to their state constitution in November, 2014.  The science connection exists because their duly elected state legislators just voted to place on that ballot a referendum for a state amendment that would declare that a human egg penetrated by a sperm is a human being immediately upon their connecting and it has all the unalienable rights of citizenship.  It’s called the “personhood amendment” to their state constitution.

Not to be outdone, the braniacs in the state legislature of Kansas have overwhelmingly passed a bill that declares human life to begin “at fertilization.”  Further, the Kansas legislation will proscribe the information that doctors must provide to pregnant women and to those who might become pregnant, apparently believing that the politicians know more about medicine than do the physicians.

Note that Kansas is the home of the State Board of Education that a few years ago declared that evolution is just a theory.  The board mandated the teaching of “intelligent design,” which is creationism in a different wrapper.  I haven’t checked their genealogical charts, but I suspect that those Kansas Board of Education members are related through unhealthy intermarriage to the geniuses in North Carolina who think it’s okay for them to establish a state religion.

The most poignant part of the current “personhood” effort in Kansas was provided by State Senator Steve Fitzgerald (R – Leavenworth), who is quoted as saying, “The human is a magnificent piece of work at all stages of development .  .  .“  Who could argue with that?

The problem, of course, is the stage of development we’re talking about.  It appears that the Republican legislatures of those states and those of about 13 others doing similar things had their development arrested around the Pleistocene era, about the time the first human beings scratched on the walls of caves.

Senator Fitzgerald, you and your fellow mental luddites in governments all around America are, indeed, a piece of work, a special kind of nuts.

After the 9/11 attack we heard demands from the Muslim extremist world for a return to the fundamentals of Islam, as they understood them.  These are the same principles that punish petty theft by hacking off a hand of the perp and which make women the property of men.  We decried their backward demands as an attempt to return to primitive, dark ages ways.  Yet here we are in America doing the same kind of regression.

It falls to those of us who think that science and learning are good things and who accept actual, fact-based reality to figure out what is behind this national rush to primitive thinking and then to redirect America to a sane path.  So, you better help others remember the current insanity when it’s time to vote in November, 2014 and 2016.  If you let these primitive deniers of reality off the hook, things will get worse.

Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Because They Work

dobson_pants_on_fireThat’s the reason the Republicans distort, misrepresent and tell lies.  Yes, that’s an incendiary thing to say.  Yes, that especially includes those who honor their pledge to Grover Norquist over their pledge to the Constitution.  Yes, we’ve been fed a steady, high calorie diet of dishonesty by these people for a long time.  And don’t go looking for Democratic equivalency.  The D’s surely have had their day (I’m thinking now about Lyndon Johnson’s “credibility gap”), but this is the era of neo-con dishonesty.

The Republicans like to say that President Obama apologizes for America.  On the few occasions when those making that claim have been challenged, they have not been able to cite a single instance of apology – not one – yet they continue to spread the lie.

The Republicans charge President Obama of having a failed foreign policy.  Of course, they never offer any substance to support their sweeping accusation.  That he has a far better record of protecting America than President Bush, that he has focused on aggressively pursuing the perpetrators of 9/11, that he has re-established strong diplomatic ties with most of the rest of the world don’t seem to matter to the Republicans.  They continue to make their fatuous charges.

Indeed, President Bush and his Republicans told us repeatedly that President Bush kept America safe.  That’s a very interesting claim for a president on whose watch nearly 3,000 people were killed in New York, Washington DC and in Shanksville, PA in the worst direct attack on America in our nation’s history.  In some bizarre, Through the Looking Glass logic we are supposed to believe that the Republicans are the ones who are strong on defense and President Obama has failed.  It’s strange how the Republicans falsely accuse President Obama of the most terrible failing of President Bush and his Republican Congress.

Since President Obama’s inauguration the Republicans have been telling us that what is most important is “jobs, jobs, jobs.”  Oddly, over the past 4 years they have managed to block every job creating bill with only one exception: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the “Stimulus”).   That bill passed in spite of every Republican in the House and all but three Republican senators voting against it.

The Veterans Jobs Bill was designed to promote employment for our military veterans.  It’s an important bill, because our military personnel come home to a veteran’s unemployment rate that is 30% higher than our citizenry as a whole.  Nevertheless, the flag-waving Republicans in the Senate blocked that bill with a filibuster, leaving vets to suffer in their unemployment.  Still, the Republicans continue to tell us it’s all about “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan told us about a “welfare queen” living on the south side of Chicago.  He said that she was collecting welfare under 81 aliases and living the high life.  That was just the inflammatory story his base wanted to hear and, with his slick acting skills, he even sold that to middle-of-the-road voters.  The only problem with Reagan’s story was that there was no welfare queen with 81 aliases.  Reagan lied because it was self-serving and there’s a connection of that to what is going on today.

Mitt Romney is telling lies that blow the same dog whistle that Reagan blew.  Romney tells us that 47% of Americans pay no income taxes, that they refuse to be responsible for their own care, that they see themselves as victims and are dependent on government and that they think they are “entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”  Oh, those blood suckers, those lazy bums who steal from the rich, Mitt implies.  He wants us to believe they’re wealth redistribution lowlifes who have “foreign views” and will vote for Obama, whom Romney says is not like “us”, not like real Americans.  Romney does that in order to create an enemy for their followers to hate, just like candidate Reagan did, and it’s just another self-serving lie.

The continuing drumbeat of lies is successful in manipulating less informed voters into voting for the liars.  And their votes, coupled with those of “the base” are enough to win elections.  That’s especially effective if done in conjunction with preventing legal voters from voting.  The Republicans do that through Republican generated state laws to disenfranchise low income, minority and elderly voters, who tend to vote Democratic.

Lie, cheat, steal.  That’s the Republican platform and they do those things because they work.  It really is so easy to manipulate people.  Just inflame them with the Big Lie over and over.

Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Common Wisdom

We all know that the country is center-right.  Perhaps it’s there as a result of a pendulum swing from the socially farther left pendulum of the 60’s and the politicians and pundits now like to tell us we’re center-right almost as throw-away line.  Or maybe people just keep saying that and have done so for such a long time that we’ve come to believe it, but repetition doesn’t make the claim accurate.  Take a look at just a few issues before us.

Jobs – About 306 million of we 307 million Americans want the government to take energetic action to ramp up the economy and create jobs.  The noise from the far right is the only thing that is making it seem like there is huge opposition to that.  As a nation, we are left of center now on jobs.

Voting rights – Americans believe overwhelmingly that all of us over the age of 18, with the possible exception of convicted felons, should vote.  That’s pretty much smack dab in the center, not center-right.  On the other hand, there are Republican strategists who have openly stated that the only people they want to vote are those who will vote Republican.

In the 2010 election many states voted far right legislators into office and they have enacted laws they have fraudulently proclaimed are to protect us from a blight of voting fraud.  The thing is that voting fraud almost never happens – not even in Chicago.  These laws serve solely as an obstacle to voting for young people, the elderly, the poor and those in minorities who tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic.  Let’s see, righty R’s preventing D’s from voting.  Hmmm.

Immigration – Most of us believe that if people do something wrong that they should bear the consequences.  And most of us believe that children of illegal immigrants, born in this country and who have broken no laws should not bear those consequences.  Righties don’t want to pass the Dream Act and they are completely out of step with the majority of Americans.  The R’s continue to oppose it because they’re afraid they’ll get “primaried” in the next election by a fanatic on the lunatic right fringe.  That keeps them disconnected from everyone but the aforementioned lunatic right fringe.

This issue is complex, but as a nation we’re pretty much in the center.

Taxes on the wealthy – Depending on the week and the poll, anywhere between 62 – 80% of Americans favor increased taxes on the rich.  Only the righties who signed Grover Norquist’s pledge to never raise taxes, along with some already wealthy people are opposed to that.  That is to say, the country is center-left on this issue.

Contraception – Do you really need an explanation about this?  Even 98% of Catholic women have used some form of birth control and only some fundamentalist righties have a problem with it.  It’s just that a few of them have very loud voices.  We Americans are far left in favor of contraception.

Women’s choice – The majority of Americans continue to be pro-choice, although by a smaller margin now than in past decades.  In part that’s because of the loss of institutional memory of how things used to be before Roe v. Wade.  It wasn’t pretty.  We are center-left on this.

Global warming – It’s not just all the environmental scientists; most Americans believe that the Earth is getting warmer and that mankind’s activities like burning fossil fuels is contributing to it.  The only question is why anyone denies that.  To find the answer, follow the money.  It’s way on the right.  (Ref: “And another thing” below)

Social Security & Medicare – These are the two most popular programs ever created by the federal government and America is far left on them.  Only the righties want to abolish or privatize them.

Note to budget hawk absolutist righties: We made a contract with the American people, who pre-paid for these services and we must keep our word.  I know you’ll understand that.

Education – The righties want to abolish the Department of Education at both the federal and state levels.  They are starving schools of funds, so teachers, administrators and janitors are being laid off.  School maintenance and improvement projects are being halted and the disparity between the education of our poor children and the rich kids who get to go to elite schools continues to widen.  Our children are suffering, their future becomes bleaker every day we fail them and we are putting the future of America in peril.

Americans don’t like this.  They want their children to be educated and think public education is a very good thing.  The righties are completely out of sync with America on this.  This country is way left on education.

Healthcare – Most Americans want the government to do more to fix it.  All that is standing in the way is the resistance borne of the hundreds of billions of dollars being collected every year by the medical insurance companies, big pharma, big hospitals and a few others.  We’ve tried letting the market fix this.  That has resulted in our having the most expensive healthcare in the world, while at the same time we’re getting just middling results.  Only the far righties with megaphones attached to their faces think that continuing to let the free market work is the solution.  We want affordable healthcare and are at least center-left on this issue.

The list can go on until sunrise.  Those saying that we are a center-right nation have either bought into the Big Lie or think they will benefit by making you believe it.

It turns out that the common wisdom isn’t so common, nor is it so very wise after all.


And another thing .  .  .

Have you seen the TV commercials with the pleasant looking blonde lady in a black pants suit talking about American energy?  She tells us how plentiful it is and all we have to do is go get it.  As an example, she walks across a map of the lower 48 and tells us about, ”  .  .  . tapping Canadian oil sands for U.S. consumers.”  Sounds great.

Except the plan for the Canadian oil sands crude is to transport that heaviest, dirtiest crude oil with the greatest global warming footprint via the XL Pipeline to our gulf coast for exporting to other nations.  I need for them to explain once again how that stuff is for U.S. consumers because I’m not seeing how exporting it makes it for us.

One last comment: That ad and the others like it are sponsored by the American Petroleum Industry, the promotional organization of Big Oil.  Just so you know.

“We move through life like a man in a rowboat, looking back even as we move forward.” – William Landay

Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

1 2 3 4 Scroll to top