Recently it dawned on me that one of the things I most like doing is acting as a filter for people. I like going out into the worlds of information, music, and technology and picking out samples that I think will appeal to people I know, or anybody for that matter. In this way, I'm a human aggregator.
This site will be focused on current news stories that I feel offer a departure from the general agenda of the mainstream media. The term "mainstream media" is loaded, though, and many if not most of the articles I post will come from established, mainstream sources.
In any institution there will be outliers. There will be stories in the (typically mainstream) New York Times that go against the grain of the US media as a whole, for example. The problem is that many of them get buried under the din of the other stories, as their antithetical counterparts get more attention, more repetition.
Choosing stories largely from established news outlets, but which don't conform to what we might call the overall narrative of the mainstream media, gives us the ability to rely on rigorous journalistic practices while still allowing a different picture to emerge. Rarely will an established news outlet publish an out-and-out lie. Usually they skew the picture of reality by omission, by suggestion of what constitutes an acceptable range of opinion across the imaginary Left-Right spectrum, and by exaggerating the extent to which certain ideas are accepted in the worlds of science and academia, and minimizing the extent to which certain ideas are actually largely agreed upon in these worlds.
The ideas I'm putting forth here are not new or original in any way. I make no secret that most of my inspiration comes from Noam Chomsky, who along with others, has provided compelling evidence of systematic distortions of reality by the mainstream media. I consider Noam Chomsky to be the great genius of our time with respect to moral/political philosophy. He has already earned the reputation of a genius in the field of Linguistics, where his work has been undeniably groundbreaking.
Unfortunately, Professor Chomsky is all too often ignored. His works are very widely read around the world, yet in the US media, he is conspicuously absent from the discussion, unlike in the media elsewhere. But if we're interested in the reducing of human suffering, not to mention the very survival of the human race, we ought to pay more attention to this genius in our midst, an Einstein of our time, always willing to speak up and offer his opinion in the here and now, though nobody knows for how much longer, as he is getting on in years.
So it is, in general, the narrative offered by Chomsky and others that I will try to present on this blog. And the narrative goes something like this:
As citizens of the United States we have a shared responsibility for the actions of our government. Many if not most of us have little inkling of some of the injustices carried out in our names. Most of these injustices are uncontroversially accepted and well known to those who bother to do the research. The problem is that most people don't and perhaps can't bother. Most of us are too busy chasing the American dream, or just scraping by, to carefully research any topic, let alone get a wide range of news sources on current events.
For most of us, it's simply enough to get a headline here and there, or maybe to watch 30 minutes of news with commercials and fluff pieces interspersed. Couple this with the general sense we have about our country's unerring goodness, and a picture emerges of a government which values freedom, always goes to war with the right intentions, and does its best to take care of its own.
Unfortunately things are worse than this. Much worse. While it's impossible to paint the entire US government with the same brush (especially when you consider that in a democracy we're all part of the government), what we can say is that if the average citizen were truly willing to accept the reality of some of the things done in our name, there would be radical change.
We live in a time when nuance is seldom embraced. You're either in this camp or that, with no in betweens. Either America is a great force for good in this world or it's not. Either you support the troops or you don't. Either your government is good or it isn't.
Well there's a descriptor for this kind of thinking, and it's "childish". As we grow older, we learn to see more nuance. We're more willing, for example, to accept that it's ok to break the pharmacy store window to get medicine for a dying person who needs it, whereas a four year old will simply tell you it's wrong to break a window and to steal.
Embracing nuance and complexity, we can see that to attack a government which is only partially democratic - and therefore does not always speak for us - is not to attack the American people as a whole. We can see that our government is capable of carrying out the greatest good and the greatest evil. We can also let go of the notion that if our government does evil that we're doomed and that we're stripped of the soothing illusions necessary to be happy and carry on in life.
For any willing to accept reality, know this: Our government has and continues to carry out and participate in some very awful atrocities. From wars waged directly and indirectly over the years in Latin America, Indochina, The Middle East, and elsewhere, we have been complicit in the deaths and suffering of millions. Our media is to a certain extent subservient to our government, as well as the general public, who are often unwilling to accept these realities. Therefore they have done a fairly awful job at presenting the truth.
As if this weren't enough, we are in a dangerous era of nuclear capability. As our actions continue to inflame extremism throughout the world, the stakes are getting higher and higher in the US's game of global domination. Not only this, but the crisis of climate change has also received shamefully little attention and has not been presented in a truly balanced way in our media.
We very well may be on the verge of extinction as a species. And in the shorter term, with the erosion of constitutional rights in this country, the US government is on the verge of becoming an extremely tyrannical regime, its people racked with extreme poverty and inequality between the upper and lower classes, leading to less democracy, less control over what our government does, and therefore less ability to slow or stop the atrocities committed in the name of power and greed by a few bad but powerful apples.
I believe that when people are properly informed, and when they're honest with themselves, they can act to make the world a better place. This is why I spend my time finding and presenting news stories to others. In addition, I believe in the value of humor, even in the darkest of times, so I will sometimes post articles which are funny, often in an illuminating way, but sometimes just for a good laugh. And then there is the occasional randomly interesting article.
Here's hoping this does some good for somebody out there.
Click here, and forward to the last ten minutes of today's show, to hear Professor Anthony Hall expose "Professor" Shermer on Truth Jihad Radio.
Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic Magazine, has been caught impersonating a professor. Oddly enough, Shermer - a leading 9/11 untruther - has been falsely claiming to be an Adjunct Professor of Economics at Claremont University, home of leading 9/11 truth scholar Dr. David Ray Griffin.
In addition to these impostures, Shermer apparently makes a habit of falsely claiming familiarity with books he hasn't read. At a recent talk at Lethbridge University, Shermer lumped 9/11 skepticism with UFOlogy and holocaust denial, and derisively claimed that he had read all nine of his alleged colleague David Ray Griffin's books. But when challenged, he was unable to name even one of them!
University of Lethbridge professor Anthony Hall, astounded that one of Griffin's fellow Claremont professors would behave this way, emailed Jean Schrodel, the Dean of Claremont's School of Politics and Economics. Professor Hall noted that Shermer had advertised himself as "Adjunct Professor of Economics at Claremont University," yet was not listed among professors at the university website. Quoting from Dr. Hall's email:
I must say, (Shermer's) illustrated talk seemed to me to be far below even the minimal standards for a university presentation. His approach was professionally and ethically substandard. Dr. Shermer seems to specialize in efforts to demean colleagues through tactics of guilt by association. He equates, for instance, those who study the historical record of what did or did not happen on 9/11 with Holocaust Deniers and with those who study supposed aliens from outer space. He groups all the targets of his smear job together without distinguishing them as individuals with various specialties, disciplines, orientations, and theories. With his dehumanizing hate speech and psychobabble he seeks to arouse the antagonism of his audience towards a generic category he identifies as "conspiracy theorists."
In the question and answer session I asked Dr. Shermer about his view of the work of Dr. David Ray Griffin, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy of Religion and Theology at Claremont Graduate University. Dr. Shermer claimed to have read all of Dr. Griffin's books on 9/11 and found them to be entirely without merit. Thus, the distinguished Claremont Professor Emeritus, Dr. David Ray Griffin, was lumped together by another Claremont professor (??) into a general pool of Holocaust Deniers and such. All of this was quite shocking to me and I said so publicly. I was therefore relieved to find that Dr. Shermer may not be associated with your well regarded school in the way he claims.
I would appreciate an explanation.
The explanation, it turned out, was that Schrodel had never heard of Shermer. Whatever Shermer's connection with Claremont is - and it does appear that Shermer may have managed to milk some grant money through Claremont - he is NOT an adjunct professor.
Woody Allen's character Zelig, who spends his life impersonating people, became a human chameleon on the day he falsely claimed to have read Moby Dick. Did Michael Shermer - that impostor posing as a Claremont University professor - start pretending to be a Claremont professor on the day he first lied about having read David Ray Griffin's books? "Sure, of course I've read them all...and by the way, I'm actually a colleague of Dr. Griffin's at Claremont! I was telling him what an idiot he is in the faculty lounge the other day..."
Chewing on a cigar and blowing smoke from behind a greasepaint moustache, Shermer breaks into song:
(apologies to S.J. Perelman)
I don't care what you have to say About what happened on that day Whatever it is, I'm against it
Your thermate evidence is good But let's have one thing understood Whatever it is, I'm against it Whether you've elaborated Or condensed it I'm against it
I'm opposed to it, on general principles, I'm opposed to it!
I've read all Dr. Griffin's books They're pretty lousy by their looks Whatever he says, I'm against it No matter how he finished or commenced it I'm against it
No matter how much evidence To me its all irrelevance Whatever it is, I'm against it
"He's opposed to it, on general principles, He's opposed to it!"
My brain can't bear to hear the truth I'd rather have you pull my tooth Whatever the truth, I'm against it So please tell that professor who dispensed it I'm against it
"He's opposed to it, He can't allow himself to be exposed to it He's so opposed to it"
I love ad-hominem attacks Don't ever bother me with facts Whatever they show, I'm against it
I think by now you may have sensed it: I'm against it
WASHINGTON - Depressed soldiers who seek help for suicidal thoughts have been publicly mocked by higherups, military medical experts told the Daily News.
The bullying involves "humiliating-type behavior in ranks, formations, where soldiers were singled out and identified as someone who is suicidal, publicly ridiculed, and things along that nature," said Army Maj. Gen. Philip Volpe.
"They call a person out in front of a formation and chew 'em out" in a misguided effort at "tough love," said Bonnie Carroll, a retired Air Force major and head of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. "They tell them, 'You dishonored your unit. You're worthless.'"
Volpe, who with Carroll led the Pentagon's suicide-prevention task force, said he has witnessed bullying - and in one case relieved a lieutenant colonel who was verbally abusing a distraught soldier.
As military suicide rates continue to rise as a result of multiple deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Army and the other services have struggled to erase the longstanding stigma of seeking professional help.
"Does the issue of stigma and soldiers being stigmatized exist? Yes. Have soldiers been demeaned, belittled, ostracized? The answer is yes," said Col. Chris Philbrick of the Army's Health Promotion, Risk Reduction Council.
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Anyone who knows Laura Neff knows she's never more than a couple clicks away. "I email a lot, back and forth all day," she laughed.
The same thing that brings her smiles has also brought frustration the last 2 months. "I thought, that's not going to happen to me, that happens to other people," Neff shrugged.
But it did happen.
Someone hacked into her email account. Eight years of contacts and messages were in someone else's hands. "All of a sudden, people who were on my distribution list who I hadn't heard from in 5 years were emailing me saying, 'Did you email me this link to a pharmacy site?'"
That same week, Neff discovered someone got ahold of her bank card number. Not knowing if the two events were related, she tried closing that email account.
Instead of shutting it down completely, though, the company put the account on a 90 day wait in case Neff changed her mind about canceling the account. "Thinking, at least the account is inactive, so hopefully that will stop this problem and within the space of two to 3 weeks, it was hacked 6 or 7 more times."
Computer security experts call it e-mail hijacking. It's where organizations harvest clean email accounts to send out spam or hackers use to grab personal information.
The easiest way to beat it, experts recommend, and Neff later found, is changing your password and making it stronger. "That's what I did and when I changed it to something very difficult to discern, it stopped."
It's brought back the smiles and with them, peace of mind.
TIPS TO AVOID E-MAIL HIJACKING
Create Strong Passwords
Creating a strong password includes both letters and numbers, upper and lower case, making it difficult for hackers to crack. The easier a password is for you to remember, the easier it is for hackers to solve.
Do not use the same password for multiple accounts.
Delete vs. Dormant
Check with your email account service and find out if they immediately delete the account or leave it dormant for a period of time first. In either case, create a strong password.
Be careful about where you log onto your account. Only use computers you trust.
Read User Agreement
Before signing up for a new account, look at the fine print to find out how the email service handles canceling accounts.
Military electronic systems have long operating lifetimes, sometimes longer than the shelf lives of components in those systems. When a semiconductor supplier, for example, decides to discontinue an integrated circuit (IC) that is used in defense and aerospace systems, this can pose problems for both prime contractors and military program managers. Fortunately, this need for a continuing supply of older electronic components, not only for military platforms but for industrial, medical, and commercial products, has given rise to a growing segment of the electronics industry that supports hard-to-find and obsolete components as distributors for leading component manufacturers. This level of support often involves not only buying up excess inventory of discontinued parts at an electronics components manufacturer, but acquiring their intellectual property (IP) to remanufacture those parts when necessary.
Lansdale Semiconductor, for example, manufactures more than 3000 ICs in their original packages (about 850 as sole source). Used in both military and commercial wireless applications, these ICs were originally produced by companies such as Fairchild Semiconductor, Freescale Semiconductor, Motorola, Intel, National Semiconductor, Raytheon Semiconductor, and Signetics. Founded in Lansdale, PA in 1964, the company was relocated to Phoenix, AZ in 1976. In addition, a wafer fabrication facility in Santa Monica, CA was purchased in 1983, moved to Tempe, AZ in 1993, and sold to Primarion with an agreement for continuing support for foundry services. The company is certified and approved by the United States Department of Defense Supply Center, Columbus (DSCC) to manufacture parts for the Qualified Products List (QPL) and is a Qualified Manufacturer (QM) under the MIL-PRF-38535 Qualified Manufacturing List (QML), as well as an ISO 9001/2000 supplier, supporting the commercial, industrial, military, and aerospace industries. The QML plan was modified to allow Lansdale to list its parts regardless of whether the die was fabricated by Lansdale or by the original manufacturer. Lansdale’s President, R. Dale Lillard, explains the company’s mission: “From the beginning, Lansdale has specialized in aftermarket technology manufacturing and supplies for discontinued semiconductors and ICs. We are dedicated to that goal, assuring our customer base that older discontinued semiconductor, RF, and other IC technology product supplies will continue to be available. Our mission is to manufacture important integrated circuits forever. When you buy a replacement part, you want it to work exactly the way the original part worked. And we are talking about radar and other critical military systems.”
Secure Components LLC is another supplier of obsolete and hard-to-find components. Formed in 2008, the firm is an AS9120 compliant, certified small business, operating in Norristown, PA. As with many obsolete parts suppliers, Secure Components has qualified for a Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) code (506Y0), which is a code issued by the Defense Logistics Information Service (DLIS) to identify a commercial or government entity; it can also be assigned by a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and recorded by DLIS. The company supplies hard-to- find, new surplus, and government surplus parts to companies working on prime government contracts, with full traceability to prior government contracts.
The firm supports the United States Department of Defense (DoD), the US Army, US Navy, US Air Force, and the US Marines, as well as prime contractors such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Co. and numerous subcontractors. Its extensive list of partners include Tobyhanna Army Depot, Tinker Air Force Base, NAVAIR, USMC Yuma, and the US Coast Guard. Secure Components, which is assigned CAGE code 506Y0, has participated in more than 200 government contracts since 2008 as a prime contractor. The DSCC-approved vendor guarantees that all of its products from QML- 19500 approved manufacturers comply with all provisions specified in the MILPRF- 19500 standards.
Another dependable supplier of hard-to-find electronic components is Rochester Electronics, founded in 1981 and headquartered in Newburyport, MA. The company is licensed and authorized by over 50 semiconductor manufacturers to provide a continuing manufacturing source for mature/discontinued products. The list includes Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Analog Devices, Fairchild Semiconductor, Intel, Intersil, National Semiconductor, and Texas Instruments. Rochester maintains inventory for over 10 billion semiconductor die, and manufactures thousands of different devices and ICs in a variety of packages, from commercial grade to space-qualified packages. Th e company, which is certified to ISO- 9001:2008 and QML MIL-PRF-38535, maintains a design and technology office in Rockville, MD. Earlier this year, the company certified its facility in Newburyport, MA to AS9120 requirements, the aerospace quality management system for stocklist distributors. The AS9120 certification provides suppliers with a comprehensive quality system focused on areas impacting aerospace distribution. Rhe AS9120 standard addresses chain of custody, traceability, quality control, records availability and counterfeit awareness. Also earlier this year, Rochester was chosen as one of the Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems 2009 Supplier Excellence Award recipients. In 2007, Rochester received the Chinese Reliable Electronic Component Supplier’s Classification (RECS) by China’s Ministry of Industry, a joint administrated program by the China Electronic Purchasing Association (CEPA) and the China Quality Association for the Electronics Industry (CQAE). Rochester is authorized by a long list of quality electronics component manufacturers, including Agere Systems, Agilent Technologies, Analog Devices, IBM, International Rectifier, Lucent Technologies, Xilinx, and Zilog.
Summit Electronics Corp., with a line card that includes 3M, Actel, Advanced Power Technologies, Agilent Technologies, Alpha Wire, Altera, American Technical Ceramics, Analog Devices, California Eastern Laboratories, IBM Microelectronics, Raytheon Semiconductor, Rockwell Semiconductor, Samsung Semiconductor, TRW, and various divisions of Tyco Electronic, brings 40 years experience to the stocking and distribution of discontinued and hardto- find electronic components. Product lines include current transformers, diodes, ICs, memory, resistors, rheostats, transistors, and vacuum tubes. Founded in 1961 under the name of Thor Electronics, Summit Electronics (CAGE code 1T8PO), maintains a large reference library and computer database with data on current and obsolete parts.
The Harry Krantz Company has provided critical program support and electronic components to defense, aerospace, and industrial manufacturing for over 70 years. The firm maintains over 700,000 in-stock units of obsolete, hard-to-find and end-of-life components. Founded by Harry Kranz in the “Radio Row” section of Manhattan in New York, NY, the company has been guided by three generations, first by Harry’s son Richard and then his son Jeff. The privately held, family-run business has adapted to the changing needs of customers’ end-of-life system requirements by tracking down and acquiring hard-to- find components, including passive components, electromechanical parts, interconnections, and semiconductors.
Smith Semiconductor, Inc. is another company started to help aerospace and defense customers with procurement of obsolete or hard-to-find electronic components. Founded in 2000 (CAGE code 1UFG1), the firm stockpiles over 14 million items in support of automotive, commercial, medical, military, and space industries. The company markets excess inventory for other firms, using more than 40 different global sourcing web sites to connect sellers with buyers. Smiths has received contracts from defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin, Honeywell, and Raytheon Co.
H&R Enterprises, based in Chatsworth, CA, is another wholesale electronic distributor for obsolete and hard-to-find parts. Founded in 1970, the company has over 200 million ICs in stock, consisting of 300,000 line items, housed in a 30,000-sq. ft. facility. Parts include capacitors, connectors, diodes, ICs, and transistors. The company serves industrial, commercial, and military markets worldwide.
A number of companies have made full use of the Internet to build and update inventories of obsolete and hardto- find components, including 4 Star Electronics, Inc., Online Technology Exchange, Inc., and USBID, Inc. Like many online services, 4 Star Electronics’ web site allows quick searches by part number and online quotes for pricing. The company claims over 100,000 line items for same-day shipping, maintained in a 25,000-sq. ft . facility, with a global network and proprietary search utility providing access to over 50 million components worldwide.
The ANSI/ESD-S20.20 certified and ISO 9001:2008 certified electronic components distributor was founded in 2001 and is authorized for obsolete and hard-to-find components by many leading manufacturers, including Analog Devices, Burr-Brown, Fairchild, Linear Technology, Maxim Integrated Products, Microsemi, Motorola, and Texas Instruments. Online Technology Exchange carries both new and obsolete ICs, including analog-to-digital converters (ADCs), digital-to-analog converters (DACs), memory, and digital signal processors (DSPs). USBID offers a database with more than 35 million lines of inventory, including MIL-STD-883 and Method 5004 screened products. Based in Palm Bay, FL, the company (CAGE code 1XJX0) is ISO 9001:2008 certified as part of its quality management system.
A vow is a purely religious act which cannot be taken in a fit of passion. It can be taken only with a mind purified and composed and with God as witness. God sometimes does try to the uttermost those whom he wishes to bless. I do not want to foresee the future. I am concerned with taking care of the present. God has given me no control over the moment following.
Are creeds such simple things like the clothes which a man can change at will and put on at will? Creeds are such for which people live for ages and ages. All the religions of the world, while they may differ in other respects, unitedly proclaim that nothing lives in this world but Truth..
In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.
An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.
A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history. Action expresses priorities. An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.
All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take.
Faith is not something to grasp, it is a state to grow into. Faith… must be enforced by reason… when faith becomes blind it dies.
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi ( 2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was the pre-eminent political and spiritual leader of India during the Indian independence movement.
A young man was standing in the middle of the town proclaiming that he had the most beautiful heart in the whole valley. A large crowd gathered and they all admired his heart for it was perfect. There was not a mark or a flaw in it.
But an old man appeared at the front of the crowd and said, “Your heart is not nearly as beautiful as mine.”
The crowd and the young man looked at the old man’s heart. It was beating strongly but full of scars. It had places where pieces had been removed and other pieces put in … but they didn’t fit quite right and there were several jagged edges. The young man looked at the old man’s heart and laughed. “You must be joking,” he said. “Compare your heart with mine … mine is perfect and yours is a mess of scars and tears.”
” “Yes,” said the old man, “Yours is perfect looking … but I would never trade with you. You see, every scar represents a person to whom I have given my love….. I tear out a piece of my heart and give it to them … and often they give me a piece of their heart which fits into the empty place in my heart but because the pieces aren’t exact, I have some rough edges. “ Sometimes I have given pieces of my heart away … and the other person hasn’t returned a piece of his heart to me. These are the empty gouges … giving love is taking a chance. Although these gouges are painful, they stay open, reminding me of the love I have for these people too … and I hope someday they may return and fill the space I have waiting. So now do you see what true beauty is?”
The young man stood silently with tears running down his cheeks. He walked up to the old man, reached into his perfect young and beautiful heart, and ripped a piece out. He offered it to the old man. The old man took his offering, placed it in his heart and then took a piece from his old scarred heart and placed it in the wound in the young man’s heart. It fit …. but not perfectly, as there were some jagged edges. The young man looked at his heart, not perfect anymore but more beautiful than ever, since lovefrom the old man’s heart flowed into his.
Supporters of the tribunals at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, who insist military justice, not the federal courts, is the best way to deal with terrorists, should pay close attention to Tuesday’s events in a United States District Court in Manhattan. Faisal Shahzad was sentenced to life imprisonment, five months and four days after he tried to blow up his car in Times Square.
When Mr. Shahzad was arrested, and later given a Miranda warning, the “tough on terrorists” crowd screamed about coddling and endangering the country’s security. They didn’t stop complaining, even after Mr. Shahzad cooperated with investigators and entered a guilty plea with a mandatory life sentence. All of this happened without the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York Police Department breaking laws or violating Constitutional protections.
Now let’s check in on Guantánamo Bay, where President George W. Bush opened an illegal detention camp, authorized torture and abuse, and then set up military tribunals engineered to produce guilty verdicts no matter how thin or tainted the evidence. When the courts declared the system illegal, Congress made it slightly better. President Obama improved it a bit more. But it is still not up to American standards, or to its task.
There are more than 170 inmates left in Guantánamo. Only 36 have been referred for prosecution, some very dangerous men. Forty-eight are in a long-term detention that is certainly illegal. Almost all the rest are in limbo while the Obama team tries to figure out what to do. The chances are dimming every day that prisoners like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, will ever be brought to justice.
The only inmate on trial in Guantánamo is Omar Khadr, a Canadian who was accused at age 15 of killing an American soldier in Afghanistan. He has been held in extralegal detention for more than eight years, and the military has been attempting to try him since 2005. The thin evidence against him is tainted by his credible allegations of abuse.
The Pentagon has further shamed American justice during the trial by imposing censorship that included temporarily banning four reporters from the courtroom because they published the name of a witness who had been identified in news reports and public documents.
This is the choice: Justice in long-established federal courts that Americans can be proud of and the rest of the world can respect. Or illegal detentions and unending, legally dubious military tribunals. It is an easy one.
technology of warfare - Scientific American Mood:
don't ask Now Playing: Terminate the Terminators Topic: WAR
Apologies for omitting important references regarding my claim that we are witnessing a "profound escalation of warfare". The article copied below is an editorial in the July 2010 issue of Scientific American. In addition, there is a much better article of this new threat to peace in the same issue titled "War of the Machines" which is only (legally) available in hardcopy format. I'm sure most on this list will appreciate that Hezbollah is mentioned as being a perpetrator of this new technology while no mention is made of Israel which does in fact already use robotic warfare technology on Palestinians.
When U.S. forces invaded Iraq in 2003, they fought a traditional war of human on human. Since then, robots have joined the fight. Both there and in Afghanistan, thousands of “unmanned” systems dismantle roadside IEDs, take that first peek around the corner at a sniper’s lair and launch missiles at Taliban hideouts. Robots are pouring onto battlefields as if a new species of mechanotronic alien had just landed on our planet.
It is not the first time that the technology of warfare has advanced more rapidly than the body of international law that seeks to restrain its use. During World War I, cannons shot chemical weapons at and airplanes dropped bombs on unsuspecting cities. Only later did nations reach a verdict on whether it was acceptable to target a munitions factory next to a primary school.
Something similar is happening today with potentially even more profound and disturbing consequences. As Brookings Institution analyst P. W. Singer describes in “ War of the Machines,” the rise of robots leads to the frightening prospect of making obsolete the rule book by which nations go to war. Armed conflict between nation states is brutal, but at least it proceeds according to a set of rules grounded both in international law and in the demands of military discipline. It is not true that anything goes in the heat of battle. “Such rules are certainly not always followed, but their very existence is what separates killing in war from murder and what distinguishes soldiers from criminals,” writes Singer in Wired for War, his recent popular book on the military robotic revolution.
Those rules are stretched to their breaking point when robots go to war. The legal and ethical questions abound. Who is accountable when a Predator’s missile hits the wrong target? Missiles from errant drones have already killed as many as 1,000 civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Does responsibility reside with a field commander in the Middle East where spotters identified the “target of interest”? Or should blame be apportioned to the “remote pilot” stationed at a military base near Las Vegas who launched the strike from 7,000 miles away? And what about a software engineer who might have committed a programming error that caused a misfire?
Considering rules of engagement for war-at-a-distance raises a surreal set of questions. Does the remote operator in Nevada remain a legal combatantin other words, a legitimate enemy targeton the trip after work to Walmart or to a daughter’s soccer match? Would an increasingly sketchy line between warrior and civilian invite attacks on U.S. soil against homes and schools?
Remote-controlled robots are here to stay, and rules can be worked out to regulate their use. But the more serious threat comes from semiautonomous machines over which humans retain nothing more than last-ditch veto power. These systems are only a software upgrade away from fully self-sufficient operation. The prospect of androids that hunt down and kill on their own accord (shades of Terminator) should give us all pause. An automatic pilot that makes its own calls about whom to shoot violates the “human” part of international humanitarian law, the one that recognizes that some weapons are so abhorrent that they just should be eliminated.
Some might call a ban on autonomous robots naive or complain that it would tie the hands of soldiers faced with irregular warfare. But although robots have clear tactical advantages, they carry a heavy strategic price. The laws of war are an act not of charity but of self-interest; the U.S. would be weakened, not strengthened, if chemical and biological weapons were widespread, and the same is true of robots. They are a cheap way to offset conventional military strength, and other nations and groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon are already deploying them. The U.S. may not always be the leader in this technology and would be well advised to negotiate restrictions on their use from a position of strength. We can never put the genie back into the bottle, but putting a hold on further development of this technology could limit the damage.
The organization best placed to work toward a ban is the International Committee of the Red Cross, the guardian of the Geneva Conventions. A good starting point would be to convene a summit to consider armed, autonomous robots in the same framework as chemical and biological agents. The scientific community at large should get involved with this issue much as the Pugwash movement has worked toward nuclear arms control. Now is the time to take steps to ensure that a war of the machines remains nothing more than a science-fiction nightmare.
Omaha police officer Larry Minard was murdered by an ambush bomb on August 17, 1970. Minard and seven other patrol officers were responding to an anonymous phone call about a woman screaming at a vacant house.
The 29 year-old policeman was killed instantly when he examined a suitcase in the vacant dwelling. Minard was buried three days later on what would have been his 30th birthday with fellow officers serving as pallbearers. Three hundred Omaha policemen attended the funeral.
Minard had planned to go out and celebrate turning 30 with his wife Karen but instead was buried in Forest Lawn cemetery on his birthday. Minard’s children, ages 4 to 11, had already wrapped his birthday presents--gifts that Larry would never open.
Larry Minard, Jr. now proudly displays a tattoo of his father’s official police photo. Family members dutifully mark anniversaries, attend court sessions, and make media statements when Minard’s death is in the news.
Larry and Karen were married in 1958, the same year Minard joined the Navy. Serving on a destroyer tender, Minard made two long overseas trips before his discharge from the service in 1961.
Minard applied for the Nebraska State Patrol but missed the deadline by one day so he then applied for positions with both the Omaha Fire and the Omaha Police Departments. The police job opened up first and Larry put on the badge.
The day Larry Minard died, his boss Assistant Chief of Police Glen Gates and Special-Agent-in-Charge Paul Young of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, conspired to let the anonymous 911 caller that lured Minard to his death get away with murder.
J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, had been hounding Special Agent Young for months to get Black Panther leaders Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Longer (formerly David Rice) off the streets as part of the clandestine Operation COINTELPRO.
Young saw an opportunity to make a case against the two Panthers for the bombing but the unknown killer who made the 911 call stood in the way so a plan was hatched to send the 911 recording to Washington, D.C. where Hoover could intervene.
When Ivan Willard Conrad, the head of the FBI crime laboratory, got the tape and secret COINTELPRO memorandum from Omaha two days later he called Hoover to verify that he was to withhold a report on the identity of the 911 caller thus ending the search for Minard’s killer.
Hoover verified that no report was to be made on the 911 tape and that only oral information was to be shared with Paul Young at the Omaha FBI field office. Conrad noted his call with Hoover on the memo and initialed and dated it one day before Larry Minard was buried.
Hoover’s order held, the jury that convicted Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa never got to hear the voice of Minard’s killer. Nor did the jury know that the Omaha Two were targets of Hoover’s COINTELPRO program.
Larry Minard’s widow and children believe the official version of the crime. The awful truth that J. Edgar Hoover ordered the withholding of evidence about the identity of Minard’s killer didn’t come out until years later with the release of COINTELPRO documents and is too painful for the family to accept.
The Omaha Two, Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa, remain incarcerated at the maximum-security Nebraska State Penitentiary in their 40th year of imprisonment. Both men deny any involvement in Larry Minard’s death.