The Woes of an American Drone Operator

 

From Spiegel Online International.

As always click on the photo below for the entire story along with a short photo essay.

Way super highly double recommended ... and then some.

 

The Woes of an American Drone Operator

A soldier sets out to graduate at the top of his class. He succeeds, and he becomes a drone pilot working with a special unit of the United States Air Force in New Mexico. He kills dozens of people. But then, one day, he realizes that he can't do it anymore.

For more than five years, Brandon Bryant worked in an oblong, windowless container about the size of a trailer, where the air-conditioning was kept at 17 degrees Celsius (63 degrees Fahrenheit) and, for security reasons, the door couldn't be opened. Bryant and his coworkers sat in front of 14 computer monitors and four keyboards. When Bryant pressed a button in New Mexico, someone died on the other side of the world.

The container is filled with the humming of computers. It's the brain of a drone, known as a cockpit in Air Force parlance. But the pilots in the container aren't flying through the air. They're just sitting at the controls.

Bryant was one of them, and he remembers one incident very clearly when a Predator drone was circling in a figure-eight pattern in the sky above Afghanistan, more than 10,000 kilometers (6,250 miles) away. There was a flat-roofed house made of mud, with a shed used to hold goats in the crosshairs, as Bryant recalls. When he received the order to fire, he pressed a button with his left hand and marked the roof with a laser. The pilot sitting next to him pressed the trigger on a joystick, causing the drone to launch a Hellfire missile. There were 16 seconds left until impact.

"These moments are like in slow motion," he says today. Images taken with an infrared camera attached to the drone appeared on his monitor, transmitted by satellite, with a two-to-five-second time delay.

With seven seconds left to go, there was no one to be seen on the ground. Bryant could still have diverted the missile at that point. Then it was down to three seconds. Bryant felt as if he had to count each individual pixel on the monitor. Suddenly a child walked around the corner, he says.

 

Nice chairs.

 

The Bath School Disaster

 

The single most terrible school house atrocity in history, the Bath School Disaster, was carried out without the use of a single gun. 

From Rootsweb a community within Ancestry.com

As always click on the photo below for the site from which it was taken.

 

With all due respect and sympathy to the victims and their families of the Newport, Columbine,  McDonald's, and Virginia Tech shootings, the Oklahoma bombing, and other mass murders, they were not the worst mass murders of children in the US.

On May 18, 1927, 45 people, mostly children, were killed and 58 were injured when disgruntled and demented school board member Andrew Kehoe dynamited the new school building in Bath, Michigan out of revenge over his foreclosed farm due in part to the taxes required to pay for the new school.

 

 

We found the following editorial excerpt to be interesting in that it asks many of the same questions we are asking ourselves today.



Clinton County Republican-News
May 19, 1927

THE BATH HORROR

Forty children were killed Wednesday forenoon at Bath.  As many more were injured, some of them crippled for life.  At least four adults, honorable and useful citizens were robbed of life.  Never before has Clinton county been visited by such a tragedy - and never again, we hope.  And all this was the result of the insane rage of another citizen of that peaceful Clinton county community.

Every week - almost daily it sometimes seems - people lose their lives in groups.  All over the country and all over the world there are tragedies where dozens of innocent people go to death.  But seldom does this happen to a group of children.  And almost never are these horrors the result of a fiend's planning as was the case in Bath yesterday.

Andrew Kehoe, according to people of Bath, has long been opposed to the township agricultural school in that village.  He fought its establishment.  He fought the expense of operating it.  He was a leader of those who were opposed to the higher tax it imposed upon the community and township.  Because of his activity  and the leadership he fell heir to, he became radical and most unreasonable on this subject.  Being heavily in debt on his farm, the added taxes contributed to his loss of the farm on a mortgage this spring.  Evidently this was the last straw.  Andrew Kehoe became a maniac.

Light hearted, laughing children left their homes on the beautiful spring morning for the school.  Less than two hours later their mangled little forms were lying in a mass of wreckage and debris.  Why?  Because one man was incapable, or too stubborn, to recognize the need of modern educational facilities.

Fond mothers and fathers waved cheery goodbyes to their loved little ones early Wednesday morning.  Two hours later they gropingly lifed the edges of a quilt or sheet that covered a twisted little body, praying that God had spared their little one, only to find the terrible worst.  Why?  Because one man, Andrew Kehoe, allowed his passions to run rampant so long that it resulted in maniacal wholesale murder.

One stoical young father, already having identified the lifeless remains of two of his dear little ones, joined the search among the ruins only to uncover the third baby of his little brood.  As he tenderly carried this child toward the grass plot where the other two lay, the agony in his face was terrible to witness.  Would Andrew Kehoe in his sane days have caused this father and mother the anguish they are now experiencing?  No!  He allowed the comparatively trivial problems of his workaday world to unbalance his mind.  He forgot God.  He forgot his friends.  He ignored the beauty of the spring day.  He was oblivious to the sacredness and beauty of innocent childhood.  Black, bitter and unreasoning wrath filled his soul.  He would kill.  He would [maim].  He would wreck.  Anything, everything - nothing was too terrible to satisfy the rage he had developed - and all because of a few paltry dollars.

What is the lesson?

What can the people of the country - for the whole country has been attracted by the horror of the catastrophe - learn or conclude from Andrew Kehoe's dreadful act? Is the Bath township tax situation serious enough to warrant despondency or insanity among its citizens?  Is the building of a modern institution which equips children to meet the problems of the world a burden - or is it a privilege?

Andrew Kehoe's act has no parallel, so far as we know, in the history of Michigan.  That he was insane there is little doubt.  But he was not always insane.  To start with he was merely antagonistic.  Then he became radical.  Constant brooding resulted in murderous insanity.  He was the victim of the progress of his own lack of balance - but with him to his ignominious end he took the lives of over forty children.

What a terrible price to pay for narrow-mindedness.  What an awful calamity for one peaceful little community to bear for one man's lack of ordinary American ideals.  What an overwhelming and crushing grief for mothers, fathers, relatives and intimate friends.  Never before have we known of aversion of the cost of education taking such terrible form.  There are, however, many people who unthinkingly hamper and discourage the progress of good schools and other institutions for the welfare and happiness of the public.

What are we going to do about it?

 

The Blasters and Hollywood Fats

 

Ever wonder what's the big deal about Hollywood Fats?

Ever even heard of Hollywood Fats?

That's ok, few have.

Thought by some to be the greatest blues guitarist of them all, Michael Mann suffered the distinct misfortune of coming of age during a time of declining popularity for the Blues and then lost his life at the age of 32 long before getting his shot at another Blues revival.

Legend has it he was playing with Buddy Guy and Junior Wells before he turned 14. He worked with John Lee Hooker, J. B. Hutto and Albert King who fired him because he was too good.  He was on the road touring with Muddy Waters before he turned 20, maybe 18.

He recorded some sides both with/as the Hollywood Fats Band and Hollywood Fats and the Paladins all of which were very good but not earth shaking ... at least to my ears.

Finally when Dave Alvin left The Blaster's to become the "Godfather of Americana" or the "King of California" take your pick, Fats took over the lead guitar position and .....

Whoa!

The second time you listen to this, check out the tone, so perfectly crunchy and snarly at the same time.

Feel the power in his rhythm as he locks up the bass and drums and then walks them up into a whole new gear.

Listen for the little two bar fills into and out of both the verse and the chorus that perfectly frame Phil Alvin's vocals.

Finally, check out the look on Phil Alvin's face and know that he knows that what's going on here is very, very hard to come by.

This is Phil Alvin singing like only Phil Alvin can, Lee Allen on the saxaphone, John Bazz playing the bass guitar, Bill Bateman on the drums, and the legendary Michael Mann aka Hollywood Fats on lead guitar.

The Blasters.

Rock and Roll Will Stand.

 

 

59 years old and it still grabs me by the heart.

 

To quote Adam Smith one more time

 

 

 

 

 

 

The MIT "Engineers"

 

It's been a while since we've used two pieces from The Wall Street Journal in one week's time, but they're on a roll lately.

We took practically all of this piece because something is different in WSJ's linking system for this article and we found it to be very worthwhile. The link in the photo below will take you to a companion interview with WSJ writer John Hilsenrath on this group of unelected geniuses that are endeavoring mightily, while dining elegantly, to make your money worthless.

Do I seem bitter?

 

Inside the Risky Bets of Central Banks

By JON HILSENRATH and BRIAN BLACKSTONE

 

 

BASEL, Switzerland—Every two months, more than a dozen bankers meet here on Sunday evenings to talk and dine on the 18th floor of a cylindrical building looking out on the Rhine.

The dinner discussions on money and economics are more than academic. At the table are the chiefs of the world's biggest central banks, representing countries that annually produce more than $51 trillion of gross domestic product, three-quarters of the world's economic output.

Of late, these secret talks have focused on global economic troubles and the aggressive measures by central banks to manage their national economies. Since 2007, central banks have flooded the world financial system with more than $11 trillion. Faced with weak recoveries and Europe's churning economic problems, the effort has accelerated. The biggest central banks plan to pump billions more into government bonds, mortgages and business loans.

Their monetary strategy isn't found in standard textbooks. The central bankers are, in effect, conducting a high-stakes experiment, drawing in part on academic work by some of the men who studied and taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1970s and 1980s.

While many national governments, including the U.S., have failed to agree on fiscal policy—how best to balance tax revenues with spending during slow growth—the central bankers have forged their own path, independent of voters and politicians, bound by frequent conversations and relationships stretching back to university days.

The U.S. Federal Reserve now buys $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities each month and appears set at a meeting Wednesday to spend billions more on Treasury securities. The Bank of England has agreed to funnel billions of pounds to businesses and households through banks. The European Central Bank pledged to hold down borrowing costs of governments that sought help. The Bank of Japan, under increased pressure to fight deflation, is purchasing ¥91 trillion yen ($1.14 trillion) in government bonds, corporate debt and stocks.

The goal is to lower borrowing costs and stimulate stock markets to encourage spending and investment by households and business. But the method is untested on such a global scale, and central bankers have labored in behind-the-scenes meetings this year to size up the risks.

Central banks control the spigot of the world's money supply. When opened, the flow of new cash heats up economies, driving down interest rates and unemployment but risking inflation. Closing the spigot, on the other hand, raises interest rates and cools economies but tamps down prices.

The central bankers have promised that once the global economy gets back on its feet, they will shut off the spigots quickly enough to forestall inflation. But pulling back so much money, at exactly the right time, could become a political and logistical challenge.

"We're all very conscious that we're in an environment that's unusual and we're using a policy weapon that we don't have a lot of experience with," Charles Bean, deputy governor of the Bank of England said in an interview.

Central bankers themselves are among the most isolated people in government. If they confer too closely with private bankers, they risk unsettling markets or giving traders an unfair advantage. And to maintain their independence, they try to keep politicians at a distance.

Since the financial crisis erupted in late 2007, they have relied on each other for counsel. Together, they helped arrest the downward spiral of the world economy, pushing down interest rates to historic lows while pumping trillions of dollars, euros, pounds and yen into ailing banks and markets.

Three of the world's most powerful central bankers launched their careers in a building known as "E52," home to the MIT economics department. Fed ChairmanBen Bernanke and ECB President Mario Draghi earned their Ph.D.s there in the late 1970s. Bank of England Governor Mervyn King taught briefly there in the 1980s, sharing an office with Mr. Bernanke.

Many economists emerged from MIT with a belief that government could help to smooth out economic downturns. Central banks play a particularly important role in this view, not only by setting interest rates but also by influencing public expectations through carefully worded statements.

While at MIT, the central bankers dreamed up mathematical models and discussed their ideas in seminar rooms and at cheap food joints in a rundown Boston-area neighborhood on the Charles River.

Over Sunday dinners in Basel, which often stretch to three hours, they now talk of pressing, real-world problems with authority. The meals are part of two-day meetings held six times a year at the BIS. Dinner guests include leaders of the Fed, ECB, Bank of England and Bank of Japan, as well as central bankers from India, China, Mexico, Brazil and a few other countries.

The Bank of England's Mr. King leads the dinner discussions in a room decorated by the Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron, which designed the "Bird's Nest" stadium for the Beijing Olympics. The men have designated seats at a round table in a dining area scented by white orchids and framed by white walls, a black ceiling and panoramic views.

"It is a way in which people can talk completely privately," Mr. King said in an interview. "It is a big advantage if you have some feel for how central banks think about questions, what they're likely to do in the future if certain events were to occur."

Serious matters follow appetizers, wine and small talk, according to people familiar with the dinners. Mr. King typically asks his colleagues to talk about the outlook in their respective countries. Others ask follow-up questions. The gatherings yield no transcripts or minutes. No staff is allowed.

The 18-member group, formally known as the Economic Consultative Committee, has only once issued a public statement: a two-line missive in September, promising to look for solutions in interbank lending markets, responding to allegations that some private banks had conspired to manipulate the Libor interest rate.

On Mondays after the dinner, the bankers join a larger group of central bankers at a large round table on a lower floor of the BIS building, which is shaped like a rook chess piece. Staff members sit nearby at desks decorated in white leather.

"These meetings are a very important forum to understand the global situation," said Duvvuri Subbarao, governor of the Reserve Bank of India and a Sunday dinner participant. "People speak freely."

"Every time there is quantitative easing by the Fed, that gets discussed," said Mr. Subbarao. "We all have to reckon with the spillover impact of our policies on other countries." Basel, he said, is the place to air such concerns.

The role of the Bank for International Settlements has broadened since it was formed in 1930 to handle reparation payments imposed on Germany after World War I. In the 1970s, it became the center of discussions on bank capital rules. In the 1990s, it became the meeting place for central bankers to talk about the global economy.

The central bankers typically stop short of formally coordinating their moves. Mr. Bernanke, Mr. Draghi and Bank of Japan head Masaaki Shirakawa are more focused on domestic challenges. Mr. Shirakawa has often warned others in Basel about the effectiveness of easy money policies, according to people familiar with his statements. That hesitance has made the BOJ an issue in Sunday's Japan elections. Shinzo Abe, the front-runner to become prime minister, has promised to rein in the BOJ's independence and demand more aggressive efforts to end consumer price deflation.

But as central bankers grapple with doubts and disagreements over reviving the global economy, they form a tightknit fraternity, tied by efforts to manage growth and gird against financial instability. Their relationships play out during conversations by phone and in person.

"A big secret of central bank cooperation," Mr. King said, "is that you can just pick up a phone and have an agreement on something very quickly" in a crisis.

This summer, the central banking clique kept in close touch as they readied for a new round of monetary activism. On June 8, Mr. Bernanke and Mr. King spoke by phone for a half-hour before policy meetings at their central banks, according to Mr. Bernanke's phone records, obtained in a public records request. A few days later, Mr. Bernanke spoke by phone with Mark Carney, head of the Bank of Canada—and last month named as Mr. King's successor. Shortly after, Mr. Bernanke called Stanley Fischer, head of the Bank of Israel, and a former MIT professor who was Mr. Bernanke's dissertation adviser.

On June 18, Mr. Bernanke had an early morning call from his home on Capitol Hill with Mr. Draghi and Mr. King, according to his phone records, as the men assessed the impact of the Greek election on Europe's financial system.

Two conflicting views tug at the world's central bankers. One view is that central banks haven't done enough to attack economic malaise. The other is that easy-money policies lack sufficient power to help economies and risk triggering runaway inflation or another financial bubble.

In August, tension over the two positions spilled into the open during the Fed's annual retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Adam Posen, who recently finished a four-year term as a member of the Bank of England's monetary policy committee, chastised central bankers for their unwillingness to do more to stimulate their economies because of "self-imposed taboos."

Mr. Posen said central banks should give more help to such weakened markets as U.S. mortgages and European government bonds.

Athanasios Orphanides, another MIT professor who recently finished a term as the head of the central bank of Cyprus, took the opposing view. In the 1970s, he said, central banks sought to return unemployment to low levels of the 1960s. They made the mistake of keeping interest rates too low for too long, he said, yielding inflation instead of full employment. If banks repeat the mistake of overestimating their ability to push unemployment lower, he said, "disaster will follow on the price front."

Mr. Bean, meanwhile, said he worried that current low-interest-rate policies were losing their efficacy, an idea recently echoed by Mr. King. Low rates, he said, might induce less-than-expected business and consumer spending when governments and the private sector are burdened by too much debt.

"There is a lot we don't understand," said Donald Kohn, the Fed's former vice chairman.

Mr. Bernanke sat quietly during the discussion. But he and the other major central bankers were already primed to launch a new monetary onslaught.

A few days later, the ECB announced an agreement to buy bonds of struggling European governments in exchange for a country's adherence to fiscal austerity.

Then the Fed announced plans to buy bonds every month until U.S. job market improves "substantially." The BOJ, despite Mr. Shirakawa's hesitance, soon followed with news it also was expanding its bond-buying program.

Economists at the BIS, meanwhile, have grown more skeptical about the central bank tilt. They say their warnings of a credit bubble were ignored before the financial crisis. "Nobody took it seriously," said William White, formerly the top BIS economist.

Now, he said, the central banks may again be steering toward long-term troubles in their elusive quest for short-term growth.

 

Since we were already on the subject.

 

To quote Napoleon Bonaparte once again

 

 

 

 

 

Since we were already on the subject.

 

Make your own deficit-reduction plan

 

The Wall Street Journal posted a nice interactive which allows you to implement your own deficit reduction plan.

We played and are running a $5 billion surplus.

Click on the form below to link up.

 

 

To quote Adam Smith

 

 

 

Sometimes a map or some number of maps is all you need

 

We've been collecting maps for the past month or so.

Many will link you up to the story from which they were taken should you wish to pursue it.

We'll start with the Heritage Foundation's 2012 Index of Economic Freedom.  

Since 1995, The Heritage Foundation has published this index, the criteria for which is based on the theories of Adam Smith concerning the relationship between freedom, personal liberty and prosperity exressed most notably in his famed book The Wealth of Nations first published in 1776. To quote The Heritage Foundation, "The Index has brought Smith's theories about liberty, prosperity and economic freedom to life by creating 10 benchmarks that gauge the economic success of 184 countries around the world."

 

 

 

The index dropped across the board in 2012 as the U.S. dropped out of the top five and ranks #10 for 2012. This is probably not a suprise to anyone paying any real attention to the world around us.

The US does however maintain it's status as the world leader in incarcerated ciizens.  

Again, you can click on the map for somebody's very nicely done infographic built from information taken from public prison administration records of 184 (I think) nations around the globe.  The original compiler is unclear.

 

 

It seems likely that Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and probably some others are fudging their numbers down some.

This may shock you, but governments sometimes lie about stuff. 

Inflation and unemployment being two items that quickly occur to us around here.

But I digress.

Here's a slightly different approach as this "map" from Unicef links to an outstanding interactive that demonstrates the rate of gtowth of "Urban" Population" in the nations of the world.  You really should click on the image as we found this one to be way interesting.

 

 

Getting back to that "Economic Freedom" thing, world per capita gross domestic product for the most part trends with economic freedom.

 

 

As does "happiness" or and thus "happiness" ..... take your pick.

 

 

 

Along with suicides.

 

 

They have their thinking on this issue at Suicide.org who created the map, we're blaming it on that "Urbanization" thing referenced above.

On a more cheerful note, people all over the world are getting fatter.

 

 

Saudi Arabia wasn't a suprise, but Jordan, Iraq, Iran and South Africa were ..... at least to us.

World literacy continues to improve.

 

 

Except for in the City of Detroit, although Forbes crunched some numbers and is no longer concerned.

That's it for today.

To quote Tony Kornheiser,

 

 

To quote Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terry D. and I knew about the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, Texas mostly because we were living in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Ann Arbor's own (mostly) Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen had recorded Live, Deep in the Heart of Texas there, so we viewed it as special although we really didn't know why.

So, one night in between sets of the Silvertones in the basement of The Blind Pig (that's a pure, wild ass guess ... but likely) Terry informed me that he had heard that the Armadillo World Headquarters was in some kind of trouble and might not be around much longer. Futhermore it was his strongly held opinion that we should go down to Austin, Texas and see a show there while we still could.  Finally and as an aside, he had heard that the girls in Austin were awesome.

So we did.

The place was big, rundown, and about half or more empty. The bill featured a bunch of local bands that were all pretty good.

We walked out back to the "Beer Garden" outside and met some people who told us that we needed to make sure to come back tomorrow night for Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown.

So we did.

I was stunned.

He played about every kind of American roots music you can think to name, Blues, Western Swing, Cajun, Swamp, that New Orleans Rhumba thing, Gospel, Funk.

The band was way hot with some outstanding backup vocals that seemed to just walk on up out of the crowd.

He was a helluva guitar player and just when you thought it couldn't possibly get any better, he picked up a fiddle and then later, the harmonica.

Ahhhhh, the memories ............

So anyway, this is Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown appearing on Austin City Limits many years later with another real nice band none of whom I know except that I'm sure I do know the guy up front playing the sax, I just can't pull his name out of RAM.

Born in Louisiana.

 

 

As for the girls in Austin, Texas ....... as advertized.

 

To quote J. Robert Oppenheimer

 

                                   

                                                                      

                                                                                                                              

                   

 

Kid Creole and the Coconuts ... finally

 

We've been looking for a very long time for some video that does justice to the jaw dropping magnificence that was/is Kid Creole and the Coconuts.

I still haven't found it but these two do offer up a taste.

The Kid and his band never sold well in States despite making a half dozen way sollid records that included a no kidding dozen tunes that should have been ... IMHO ... radio staples for the next 50 years, but they owned Europe in the 80's and continue to fill big rooms there to this day.

This is Band Leader, Record Producer, Songwriter and Frontman extraordinaire Thomas August Darnell Browder aka August Darnell aka Kid Creole on vocals and rhythm guitar, along with the bands Musical Director the lovely and talented Sugar Coated Andy Hernandez aka Coati Mundi on the vibraphone, timbales, boxing gloves, real ugly faces and all around hijinx.

The Coconuts, who don't happen to be appearing in this first vid are Choreographer Adreiana Kaegi aka Mama Coconut, probably Janique Svedberg but maybe Taryn Haegy and Cheryl Pointer, along with Peter Schott on keyboards, Carol Colman on the Bass, Mark Mazur playing guitar, Al Mackon on the drums, Bongo Eddie Folk on percussion, Charles Lagond on saxophone, Ken Fradley on trumpet, and Lee Robertson getting his star turn on trombone.

Easily among the very greatest showbands of all time, this is Kid Creole and the Cocounts in London, England, 1982.

Don't Take My Coconuts

 

 

Here's your Coconuts

Lifeboat Party.

 

 

Monster Orders Upholsterd the Stockholm Exchange

 

Speaking of parasitic banks, does anyone think this clusterf#@& came from some private trader?

From SvD Naringsliv ..... I dunno ..... via google translate.

As always, click on the photo below for the entire translated ..... ish ..... piece.

 

Monster Orders Upholstered Exchange

Isn't that just the single greatest headline you've ever read?

Stockholm Stock Exchange was paralyzed on Wednesday morning of a purchase order of over 4.2 billion index futures. The value of words corresponding to 131 times Sweden's gross domestic product, and the stock market witnessed technical problems. 

 

 

The giant warrant december semester in OMXS30, a security equivalent to a basket consisting of the Stockholm Stock Exchange's 30 largest companies, and where trade is very important for the overall pricing of the stock market.

The order was on buy side of the order book and covered more than 4.2 billion futures, to a unit price of almost 107,000 dollars. It gives a theoretical value of 459 561 500 030 000, ie nearly 460 trillion dollars. Sweden's gross domestic product, by comparison, amounted in 2011 to more than 3500 billion.

 

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