Saturday, August 18, 2012

Weekend Dystopia

Domestic drones are coming to an airspace near you. So, what a relief to find out that when it comes to spying on us from the skies, the police chiefs of our great nation fully intend to heed the constitutional niceties. At least that's what I think they're saying, given the mangled prose and dangling modifiers in the press release:
We also live in a culture that is extremely sensitive to the idea of preventing unnecessary government intrusion into any facet of their lives. Personal rights are cherished and legally protected by the Constitution. Despite their proven effectiveness, concerns about privacy threaten to overshadow the benefits this technology promises to bring to public safety.
Yeah, cultures is so picky about being violated. But I sure wish I had more proof that them-there privacy concerns are working like they should. 

Still, I suppose we should be grateful that we might even get treated to some advance warning from the police when an unmanned aerial device will be hovering in our neighborhoods. And that they will be painted a bright color so that we (and birds and any hang-gliders in the area) can see them. And that police agencies will be "strongly discouraged" from firing upon us from above. Even the ACLU is impressed, although it says it would be kind of nice if there were also some actual laws instead of mere suggestions. But we'll take whatever concessions we can get from our overlords. Compared to the terrorized Yemenis and Somalians on presidential kill lists, we should be so grateful for our exceptional freedoms.

It's usually not a great idea for politicians to openly consort with gangsters, especially when they're running for national office. But this is 2012, and ethics are so pre-Citizens United. If your name is Sheldon Adelson, you can be under pretend-investigation by the feds for illegal foreign practices related to your gambling empire, and still brag openly about buying the presidency. And while there may be some sharp intakes of breath from the few people who are paying attention, hardly anyone is batting an eye. 

Plus, since everyone has already decided whom they are going to support, it doesn't much matter how many baldfaced lies the politicians tell between now and election day. Paul Ryan begged for stimulus money and then lied about it. How else are he and Mitt sleazy? Gail Collins counts the ways

The Stung and the Feckless: The Washington Press Corps are miffed that President Obama talks to gossip rags and not to them. He hasn't given a press conference since June, when the corps seized upon his "private sector is doing just fine" gaffe and ran with it. He has instead appeared on shows like Entertainment Tonight, in the full realization that Election 2012 is just another ad campaign, and that he is TV Personality-in-Chief. What passes for a hard-hitting interview with him these days involves the reporter gushing that she just "flirted with POTUS!" Meanwhile, reporters are livid that the White House is demanding that even routine pool reports be submitted for censorship before release.

And yet, most of the populist outrage is being directed toward Putin's Russia, where the Pussy Riot punk band has been sentenced to two years for hooliganism in church and disrespecting their dear leader. State Department spokesperson (and former Cheney aide) Victoria Nuland issued a statement expressing "concern" and urging that Russia review the case. And when New Yorkers took to the streets Friday to express solidarity with the jailed rockers, the paramilitary forces of the NYPD arrested at least three of them, to express security state solidarity with Putin. The demonstrators' offense? They refused to take off their masks while converging in a public place, in gross pre-violation of the new corporate face-recognition technology planned for the Big Apple. The State Department has not even expressed its mildest concern about the civil rights crackdowns in our own country.

On a happier note, the diaries of George Orwell have just been published in book form.  They're still online, too. So the censorship is not quite complete. Yet.


Denis Neville said...

We should acquiesce to the rationality of a system, the institutionalization of a ruling trinity - the military, corporate, and political - that is fundamentally irrational?

These “serious” people are fools. It’s the same “crackpot realism” [the ability to accept and embrace a demented state of affairs and congratulate oneself for possessing such maturity and realism] of higher authorities and opinion-makers that C. Wright Mills described in the 1950s:

“For the first time in American history, men in authority are talking about an 'emergency' without a foreseeable end...Such men as these are crackpot realists: in the name of realism they have constructed a paranoid reality all their own.”

The capacity for self-correction, the central virtue of democracy, is now at risk. We are perilously close to not having democracy.

Just as power tends to corrupt, powerlessness also tends to corrupt.

“Man must in some way come to his senses. He must extricate himself from this terrible involvement in both the obvious and the hidden mechanisms of totality, from consumption to repression, from advertising through manipulation through television. He must rebel against his role as a helpless cog in the gigantic and enormous machinery hurtling God knows where. He must discover again, within himself, a deeper sense of responsibility toward the world, which means responsibility toward something higher than himself." - Vaclav Havel

"It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong." - Voltaire

Zee said...

I got a kick out of the ACLU's commentary on the International Association of Chiefs of Police's (IACP) “guidelines” on the use of drones, viz. :

“6. Weapons

Equipping the aircraft with weapons of any type is strongly discouraged. Given the current state of the technology, the ability to effectively deploy weapons from a small UA is doubtful. Further, public acceptance of airborne use of force is likewise doubtful and could result in unnecessary community resistance to the program.

Although we did not address weaponization of domestic drones in our 2011 report, the issue has come up more strongly since and is certainly a concern of ours. The IACP is to be applauded for strongly discouraging agencies from weaponizing drones.”

(Italicized text is from the IACP guidelines. Plain text is the ACLU's commentary. Bold emphasis was added by me, by way of sarcasm.)

I, on the other hand, might be reasonably well “weaponized” against at least the smaller and lower-flying drones if I see them first. My trap and hunting shotguns, using goose or turkey loads and extra-full chokes, might work quite well as a deterrent against aerial spying over my backyard spa.

Ré: “The Stung and the Feckless,” I am quite pleased that it was a local Albuquerque radio station (KKOBFM) that has helped prove how truly feckless our POTUS--and the White House Press "Corpse"-- is.

spreadoption said...

A bit of weekend respite, as we try to find our bearings in a nation lost:

Judy Collins and Graham Nash singing Randy Newman's classic.

Karen Garcia said...

More weekend dystopiana: Paul Ryan appears at "Disneyland for the Cialis Set" in Florida today, to tout his Medicare Kill with Kindness Plan. Google "The Villages" and read this LA Times piece:,0,6203516.story

These people may be rich, but they sound like they're shortening their lives through overindulgence in the good life! I wrote about it some in my response to the Maureen Dowd column today:

The carefully cultivated persona of Paul Ryan is melting faster than Velveeta in a microwave. This cheesy Adonis of fiscal conservatism, this one-man epidemic of deceit, is finally being exposed.

The revelations are coming in a daily deluge. The lies about the stimulus money, the insider trading, the groveling to Kochs and Adelsons.

He hid behind his own mother at a Florida campaign event Saturday, before an audience of well-heeled denizens of "The Villages"-- members of the elite subculture known as the "I've Got Mines" who harbor utter disdain for everyone under age 55 not related to them. They cheered wildly for their Darling Boy, as private security guards kept out the protesters. Paul West of the L.A. Times called the weekend campaign venue a hedonistic "Disneyland for the Cialis Set."

For the privileged RomRy Rabble, the foreclosure epidemic in Florida is just an unpleasant rumor that happens to other people. They have private theaters, golf courses, non-stop entertainment. There is even a boutique “Church on the Square” specially built to maintain the sanctimony.

Ryan can only appeal to that ungracefully aging tiny minority whose goal is to outlive the children of their golf caddies and maids. They are not among the estimated half of all older Americans who are now forecast to die in abject poverty. Ryan would have them die in even greater numbers, the quicker the better, out of his cruel sight, out of his twisted mind.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

@Zee (and @all):

Providing you can get past the right-wing slant and Alex Jones agitated narration that accompanies it, you might get a kick out of the following drone shootdown video:

And there's also this:

In light of Russia's authoritarianism under Putin, it's ironic to find it on RT.

Denis Neville said...

R’nR pitch on Medicare: "Not one dollar less for those who have and not one dollar more for those who don't."

Will old people vote to destroy Medicare for younger people?

They just might.

People can believe any kind of crazy nonsense they want. David Frum made the valid point that “conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, and its own laws of economics.”

How many subscribe to Aesop's ant and the grasshopper? If you don’t take better care of yourself, if you're lazy and expect others to take care of you, you deserve to die. They see self-sufficiency as a profound moral value and worship rugged individualism at the individual level.

“I've Got Mine, Jack and no one else matters!”

Generational warfare!

Suppress the vote!

How many have hidden racist values that they don’t and won’t talk about? Will that make it easier for them to drink the R ‘n R Kool Aid?

Play the subtle racist card!

Divide and conquer!

The conceptual stupidities of such conservatism are matched by the strategic stupidities of liberalism.

Neil Gillespie said...


Thanks for your response on Beware a Beautiful Calm, the Maureen Dowd piece. You got it right about "The Villages" as an elite subculture known as the "I've Got Mines".

The Villages is about 30 miles from here, it is a suburban, glittery, consumer cement landscape, an inhumane environment of traffic and dense population. Why are people drawn to such places?


You may be able to hack into the drone’s GPS system:

"Now the Christian Science Monitor reports that Iran jammed GPS signals and fooled the drone into landing at an Iranian base. "The GPS navigation is the weakest point," an unnamed Iranian engineer analysing the captured drone told a Monitor correspondent inside Iran. "By putting noise [jamming] on the communications, you force the bird into autopilot. This is where the bird loses its brain.""

"Once the drone lost its bearings, the engineer said, Iranians were able to reprogram its internal mapping system to think that its home base was an Iranian site at almost the same altitude. He added that the slight mismatch in altitude caused a rough landing that damaged the robot plane's landing gear and underside."

"GPS signals are broadcast by satellites, so they are weak near the ground. That makes them vulnerable to interference from stronger nearby signals. Even military versions of GPS are vulnerable to electronic warfare, which usually seeks to disable key systems to bring down a plane. The Iranians claim to have taken that one step further by electronically capturing control of the remotely controlled robot craft. A former Navy specialist told the Monitor that hostilely reprogramming a GPS to fly to a different home is "certainly possible"."

Denis Neville said...

Hank Williams Jr. sang “We Don’t Apologize For America” at the Iowa State Fair Friday night. The crowd cheered loudly and enthusiastically when he told them, “We’ve got a Muslim president who hates farming, hates the military, hates the U.S., and we hate him!”

“The long, dark chicken dance of the national soul…”

Do those “folks” know this?

Romney advisor Ed Gillespie this morning told Mike Wallace that a Romney administration would raise the Medicare eligibility age, effectively removing 65 and 66 year olds from Medicare.

They'll 'save and defend' Medicare by eliminating the old sick people!

Good morning Vietnam! “We had to burn the village in order to save it.”

Classic Orwell!

Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid must be destroyed in order to be "saved" for casino capitalist exploitation.

It's what very rich plutocrats do. Give them more free money, so they can burn it.

Zee said...


I'm afraid that hacking drones is well beyond my technical capabilities, but I have no doubt whatsoever that even as we find drones flying over domestic territory, we also have some very capable hackers who are trying to do just that--and probably will.

Just as the first person to shoot down a domestic drone will become an automatic "American hero," so will the first drone hacker who manages to crash one or more of them into the ground.

I'm all for it, 'cause drones are not our friends; they're just one more component of our rapidly expanding surveillance state which, I have no doubt, will soon start putting some of us in prison--with or without trial--merely for observed "suspicious activities" in our very own back yards.

Me, I'll have to stick with the technology that I know, 12 gauge shotguns!

Thanks for the links!


Thanks for the interesting display of firepower from the Texas hinterlands! I would have enjoyed trying my own hand on some of those civilian versions of drones! Would that I could shoot so well with metallic cartridges, with my aging eyes.

I often find Alex Jones and his Prison Planet and Infowars websites to have useful--and apparently, accurate--information, such as the following:

(This about a Utah city police department that wanted to use a blimp to spy on "high crime areas." But it just as well could be anyone's neighborhood.)

I agree with you that Jones is far to the right, even too far for conservative me. But we can't have too many civilian watchdogs, in my book, left or right.

It is my recollection that even @Denis Neville has found some useful information on Jones' sites, and has provided links to them for us in this forum.

Anonymous said...

There isn't one person who voted for McCain who will suddenly vote for obama

Not one.

I work on Wall Street and will gladly introduce you dozens upon dozens of people who voted for obama and are now voting Romney.

We're in trouble...

Zee said...


I forgot to mention that I am a great fan of Judge Napolitano, and I am very disturbed that his Fox News rant--"How to get fired from Fox News in five minutes" has apparently been removed from the Web.

I would be grateful to any Sardonicky follower who could point me to a copy that still remains on the Web.

Valerie said...


Not surprising that Wall Streeters who supported Obama are now supporting Romney. The money from Wall Street is flowing the same way and these people are, after all, in high finance to make as much money as possible.

I think, after the crash, some of the Wall Streeters wondered if they had gone too far - that the deregulation, risk taking and corruption had gotten so out of hand that they had hurt themselves by hurting the whole economy. But since the bailout and the Obama administration’s coddling (and the killing off of threats like Elizabeth Warren and the Occupy Movement) the Wall Streeters have realised that they can greedily suck even more out of the dying corpse of the economy and no one will stop them. Any tiny whiff of conscience they had had back in 2008 has been silenced by the culture of greed they surround themselves with. They realise that greed and a total disregard for society has totally paid off - that the lawmakers are for sale and their thug police forces will defend the rich as they ravage the country. So I am not in the least surprised that Wall Street has gone with the highest bidder and is supporting Romney.

Once again – I blame Obama as well as the Republicans. The Prez and his administration and team of advisors has shown them that no one will make anything other than a superficial effort to stop them. Wall Street is now even more emboldened. Their attitude is that there is no sheriff in town so they should just suck as much blood out of the dying corpse that is the U.S. economy as they can and then when the whole thing collapses, retreat to their gated communities from the rage that will surely follow.

As for being in trouble – sadly, we have been in trouble since 2008 when instead of hitting the ground running and using the rage against the banks from both parties as a spring board to lead the country into re-establishing solid banking regulation and the momentum for a Public Option, Obama sat on his hands and complained that the Republicans didn’t like him enough. The reason the Republicans have gotten even more bold is because Obama has been spineless and on the take.

Excellent quotes, @Denis. I gotta hand it to the Republicans - they have played their hand well. They continue to divide and conquer. First, they go after all unions EXCEPT the police; they need them to control the rest of the 99%. Second, they have worked out that people like my mother, age 80, vote and are relatively isolated from the realities of society. By protecting the benefits of those who already have them and cutting the benefits of younger Americans they can pit the two generations - keep them distracted from the REAL villains. People like my mom feel justified in their selfishness - after all THEY WORKED for what they have - and the younger people in their forties and fifties resent that they are suddenly the have nots, all as they pay for the older generation of haves.

What I can't get is how this older set, have no concern for their children's and their grandchildren's future. All my mom cares about is that HER benefits won't be cut. I guess it is hours sitting in front of Fox "News" and mindless entertainment.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

@Zee (and @all):

Thanks for the Infowars link on Utah police using blimps to spy on city dwellers. Yes, like you, I've found many interesting --- and worrisome --- examples of police and governmental abuse of power at the Infowars site, and I think of Infowars as an aggregator for that sort of information. Their interpretation of it is another matter, though, as they will often add an overly right-wing tone and overtly conspiratorial slant.

None of that is actually necessary, and it is often wrong. For the most part, I don't think it's necessary to invoke conspiracy when the many quid pro quos are so clear. (See @Valerie's excellent relevant comment above). Sure, genuine conspiracies have existed (for instance, the California electric power and LIBOR-fixing ones). But mostly, the broader results we see are simply the inevitable consequences of the structure of the system, the actors involved, and the motivations that are allowed free rein. Just as it's not necessary to invoke conspiracy to explain why eagles and wolves prey on ungulates, neither is it necessary to invoke conspiracies to explain why the plutocracy preys on us. It's the nature of the beast, and the great mass of the populace wasn't alert enough, no restraints were in place, so the predators became well-established in this environment and now they dominate. The various predatory component parts --- the corporations, the bankers, the wealthy, the politicians, the military-industrial-security-governmental structure --- certainly assisted each other, but much of their dominance doesn't have its origins in hidden conspiracy, just each trying to gain power and money for itself, and obvious assistance to each other in furtherance of those ends --- and both the nation and the greater public be damned.

In fact, one could argue that the hunt for conspiracy is largely counterproductive, for it keeps the public focused on malfeasance and associations, rather than reaching the conclusion that the system as structured is rotten.

In other but related matters, Tavis Smiley just had a good interview with Ralph Nader, video and transcript online:

Elizabeth Adams said...

I won't vote for a murderer. The lack of outrage over NDAA within the Democratic Party is too much cognitive dissonance for me.

I have never voted Republican and won't start now.

Third Party is the only vote for me.