Archive for November 2nd, 2011
How certain are we that the people being killed by U.S. drones are people who are threatening the United States? Linking to a BBC article based on reports on the ground, Glenn Greenwald discusses the hundreds of civilian casualties about which we almost never hear anything at all, many of these deaths involving children:
It’s easy to cheer for a leader who regularly extinguishes the lives of innocent men, women, teeangers and young children when you can remain blissfully free of hearing about the victims. It’s even easier when the victims all have Muslim-ish names and live in the parts of the Muslim world we’ve been taught to view as a cauldron of sub-human demons. . . . Everyone knows that the American President cannot commit “murder”; that’s only for common criminals and Muslim dictators (whom the West starts to dislike). But however one wants to define these acts, the fact is that we have spent a full decade bringing violence to multiple countries in that region and — in all sorts of ways — ending the lives of countless innocent people.
How can one distinguish Taliban from non-Taliban while operating a drone? Many argue that you can’t:
Viewed from a drone, any adult male in the tribal areas can look like a target, according to Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who is taking on the CIA.
“A Taliban or non-Taliban would be dressed in the same way,” he said. “Everyone has a beard, a turban and an AK-47 because every person carries a weapon in that area, so anyone could be target.”
This story reminds me of Amy Goodman’s observation (and Jon Stewart’s) that the United States excels at engaging in wars that remain sterile (and thus acceptable to Americans) because of the stunning lack of photographs. It is their contention (and mine) that if we had even a minimal level of reporting from the U.S. war zones, that our wars would quickly end. I suspect that the BBC is also correct that given manner in which drones are being used, that they are causing a lot of people in the Middle East to hate the United States. In other words, I have great concern that our drone wars are counter-productive to American long-term objectives. Many of the moral issues caused by the increasing use of war robots are discussed by Peter Singer at this TED lecture.
A recent story in the LA Times addresses a topic near and dear to me, because in years past I suffered the aural assault of five neighborhood dogs barking excessively. I even bought the neighbors (two of my neighbors) no-bark collars for their dogs, but they refused to use them. Eventually, the neighbors (who were all otherwise pleasant people ) moved away, taking their dogs with them. I’m talking about barking that began at 6 am right below my bedroom window and continued off and on until midnight. It would penetrate right through closed windows and closed doors. It would be as loud inside our house as we listened to the TV set. The problem is that some people are not at all adverse to noise, but I am admittedly sensitive. Barking dogs at close range keep me from thinking, playing the guitar and sleeping. The barking dogs to the west were a different kind of nuisance from the cat loving lady to the east (she had more than 20 stray cats, and also had an indoor 50 pound African serval that ate one of her other indoor cats).
From the above article in the LA Times, we learn that the city of Los Angeles is taking this problem of barking dogs seriously. Owners of excessively barking dogs will be fined. What is excessive barking?
A dog’s barking would be considered excessive if it continued for 10 minutes or more, or intermittently for 30 minutes or more within a three-hour period . . .
The fines are hefty, as I believe they should be:
Under the changes, dog owners would face fines starting at $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second and $1,000 for a third if a hearing conducted by the Department of Animal Services determines that a dog barks too much.
I’m not against dogs. My family has one, and you will occasionally hear her bark a couple of times, but that’s usually it (except when a possum sits on the fence). I am happy for the people of LA who will now have a better chance of enjoying the lack of barking.
As reported by MSNBC, Julian Assange has lost his appeal to London’s High Court, and is once again facing extradition to Sweden. His lawyers have indicated that they plan an appeal to Britain’s Supreme Court. Assange has steered supporters to a website titled Sweden vs. Assange for details and updates.
Jonathan Patz is the author of a new study indicating the “Four Way Win” that occurs when people choose bicycling over the use of automobiles. I’m completely on board, and I speak from experience as a person who commutes by bicycle more often than not to my job, which is about 5 miles from my home. The study by Patz offers some impressive numbers:
In the study, published today in Environmental Health Perspectives, Patz and his colleagues looked to the more than 30 million people residing in urban and suburban areas of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. They asked: What if during the nicest six months of the year, those residents left their cars at home for round-trips of five miles or less? And what if they chose to replace half of those short car trips, which account for about 20 percent of all vehicle miles traveled, with cycling? According to their calculations, making those short trips on bicycles could save approximately four trillion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, 1,100 lives and $7 billion in mortality and health care costs for the region every year. “Fighting global climate change could be one of the greatest public health opportunities we’ve had in a century.”