This is What Really Happens in the Drone Program from an Insider

Over the weekend, Heather Linebaugh wrote a powerful Op-ed in The Guardian newspaper lamenting the lack of public understanding regarding the American drone program. Heather should know what she’s talking about, she served in the United Stated Air Force from 2009 until March 2012. She worked in intelligence as an imagery analyst and geo-spatial analyst for the drone program during the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here are some key excerpts from her article:

Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them a few questions. I’d start with: “How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?” And: “How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?” Or even more pointedly: “How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?”

Few of these politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue of what actually goes on. I, on the other hand, have seen these awful sights first hand.

I knew the names of some of the young soldiers I saw bleed to death on the side of a road. I watched dozens of military-aged males die in Afghanistan, in empty fields, along riversides, and some right outside the compound where their family was waiting for them to return home from the mosque.

What the public needs to understand is that the video provided by a drone is not usually clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a crystal-clear day with limited cloud and perfect light. This makes it incredibly difficult for the best analysts to identify if someone has weapons for sure. One example comes to mind: “The feed is so pixelated, what if it’s a shovel, and not a weapon?” I felt this confusion constantly, as did my fellow UAV analysts. We always wonder if we killed the right people, if we endangered the wrong people, if we destroyed an innocent civilian’s life all because of a bad image or angle.

Moreover, the many civilians being incinerated without a trial are not the only victims here. So are the actual drone operators themselves, many of whom end up committing suicide. Recall my article from December 2012: Meet Brandon Bryant: The Drone Operator Who Quit After Killing a Child. Of course, our so-called political “leaders” never get their hands dirty, other than to take a lobbyist bribe that is. Now more from Heather:

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from A Lightning War for Liberty http://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2013/12/30/what-really-happens-in-the-drone-program-from-someone-on-the-inside/
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How Retailers are Seeing Big Upside by Accepting Bitcoin

For a while now, I have been highlighting the fact that it is an absolute no brainer for small businesses to accept Bitcoin. Not only are you providing your customers with another method of payment with essentially zero downside (if you use a payment processor such as BitPay or Coinbase), it is the best free PR you could ever achieve. Back in November I wrote the following in my article You Can Now Buy a Plane Ticket with Bitcoin:

Notice the CEO’s comment about people coming to his site just because of Bitcoin. This is undoubtedly true, and as I have mentioned before on several occasions, it is a no brainer for a small business to accept bitcoin. It is early enough in the adoption phase that it will still drive tremendous press and buzz for your business and make you look technologically savvy.

It seems many businesses in NYC are finally recognizing the upside. According to the New York Post:

Sure, its value might rise and fall by the day, but some small-business owners in New York City are buying into bitcoin by accepting the buzzed-about currency at their brick-and-mortar locations. They’re saying the benefits are many, and the disadvantages are next to none.

That’s right, the digital currency — infamously linked to the purchase of drugs and guns — isn’t just for buying illegal goods anonymously online. It’s becoming a preferred method of payment for innovative business owners.

Daniel Lee, owner of Greene Ave. Market in Fort Greene, is even incentivizing with a 10-percent-off discount offer for customers who pay with bitcoin.

This “Bitcoin discount” is a trend that I expect to accelerate, and could be one of the primary drivers that sends Bitcoin adoption into the stratosphere in 2014. One recent example of this is the huge 40%-60% discount New York property firm RentHop is offering for clients that use Bitcoin.

More from the New York Post:

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from A Lightning War for Liberty http://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2013/12/29/how-retailers-are-seeing-big-upside-by-accepting-bitcoin/
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Further Proof the Justice Department is Protecting JP Morgan from Criminal Prosecution

In what may be the least surprising article of 2013, we find out from Newsweek that the Department of Justice is going out of its way to protect the poor little babies at JP Morgan from criminal prosecution in the Bernie Madoff case. While we know all too well about the institutionalized practice of “Too Big to Jail” that dominates the current fraud system of so called “justice” in America, it is still of the utmost importance that we spread these stories far and wide. Amazingly, in this instance the DOJ is actively blocking the Treasury Inspector General from doing his job in order to protect the mega-bank.

From Newsweek:

Bernard Madoff’s principal bank, JPMorgan Chase, has for years obstructed federal bank examiners trying to ascertain what it knew about his gigantic Ponzi scheme, an official document obtained by Newsweek shows.

The Justice Department refused in September to back up Treasury inspector general staff who wanted a  court order to enforce a subpoena, in effect shielding JPMorgan from law enforcement, the October 8 document shows.

The Justice Department told the Treasury Inspector General “that they were denying the request for enforcement of the subpoena,” which means officials “could not undertake further actions regarding this matter,” wrote Jason J. Metrick, the inspector general special-agent-in-charge.

The memo revealing that Justice protected JPMorgan from an obstruction complaint raises anew questions about how much the Obama administration has done to protect the big banks, whose lies about mortgage securities and other investments they sold sank the economy in 2008.

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from A Lightning War for Liberty http://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2013/12/27/further-proof-the-justice-department-is-protecting-jp-morgan-from-criminal-prosecution/
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Asia’s Richest Man, Li Ka-shing, Invests in Bitpay

If this is true, it is a stunning piece of news for the Bitcoin economy. According to the South China Morning Post, Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-shing has made an investment of an undisclosed amount in BTC payment processor Bitpay, a company I have highlighted on these pages on several occasions.

From the South China Morning Post:

Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-shing has invested in BitPay, the digital currency equivalent of PayPal, through his venture capital company, Horizons Ventures.

A spokeswoman for Horizons Ventures said the group would not comment on the details of the investment.

BitPay said it was “fortunate to have the benefit of many supportive investors, including Horizons Ventures”.

BitPay, founded in May 2011, handles transactions for 14,000 companies across 200 countries. About half are in the United States, with 25 per cent in Europe and 25 per cent in the rest of the world.

Simply incredible.

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Mike

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Asia’s Richest Man, Li Ka-shing, Invests in Bitpay originally appeared on A Lightning War for Liberty on December 26, 2013.

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from A Lightning War for Liberty http://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2013/12/26/asias-richest-man-li-ka-shing-invests-in-bitpay/
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How Debtors’ Prisons are Making a Comeback in America

Apparently having 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of its prisoners simply isn’t good enough for neo-feudal America. No, we need to find more creative and archaic ways to wastefully, immorally and seemingly unconstitutionally incarcerate poor people. Welcome to the latest trend in the penal colony formerly known as America. Debtors’ prisons. A practice I thought had long since been deemed outdated (indeed it has been largely eradicated in the Western world with the exception of about 1/3 of U.S. states as well as Greece).

From Fox News:

As if out of a Charles Dickens novel, people struggling to pay overdue fines and fees associated with court costs for even the simplest traffic infractions are being thrown in jail across the United States.

Critics are calling the practice the new “debtors’ prison” — referring to the jails that flourished in the U.S. and Western Europe over 150 years ago. Before the time of bankruptcy laws and social safety nets, poor folks and ruined business owners were locked up until their debts were paid off.

Reforms eventually outlawed the practice. But groups like the Brennan Center for Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union say it’s been reborn in local courts which may not be aware it’s against the law to send indigent people to jail over unpaid fines and fees — or they just haven’t been called on it until now.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law released a “Tool Kit for Action” in 2012 that broke down the cost to municipalities to jail debtors in comparison with the amount of old debt it was collecting. It doesn’t look like a bargain. For example, according to the report, Mecklenburg County, N.C., collected $33,476 in debts in 2009, but spent $40,000 jailing 246 debtors — a loss of $6,524.

Don’t worry, I’m sure private prisons for debtors will soon spring up to make this practice a pillar of GDP growth.

Many jurisdictions have taken to hiring private collection/probation companies to go after debtors, giving them the authority to revoke probation and incarcerate if they can’t pay. Research into the practice has found that private companies impose their own additional surcharges. Some 15 private companies have emerged to run these services in the South, including the popular Judicial Correction Services (JCS).

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from A Lightning War for Liberty http://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2013/12/26/how-debtors-prisons-are-making-a-comeback-in-america/
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Jeffrey Lacker: “Fed Has No Interest in Stopping Bitcoin”

While I don’t believe a word the professional criminals at the Federal Reserve say about anything, this is nonetheless an interesting clip from CNBC earlier today. The guest was Jeffrey Lacker, the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

Of course, I do note that after Lacker says his statement about the lack of imminent Fed intervention, he does mumble “at this point” under his breath.

The first thirty seconds is all that’s worth watching.

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Jeffrey Lacker: “Fed Has No Interest in Stopping Bitcoin” originally appeared on A Lightning War for Liberty on December 24, 2013.

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from A Lightning War for Liberty http://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2013/12/24/jeffrey-lacker-fed-had-no-interest-in-stopping-bitcoin/
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McDonald’s Advises its Own Employees to Avoid Fast Food

McDonald’s is simply the gift that keeps on giving. The company’s “McResource” website has made mistake after mistake all year, several of which I have have covered previously, including advice to broke employees to quit complaining, and their publication earlier in the year of budgetary advice that included not using heat and taking on a second job. Well McResource is back, this time essentially telling its employees that the company’s own food is not fit for public consumption.

From CNBC:

McDonald’s employee resources website once again is giving out worker advice that doesn’t seem to fit. This time, it’s about the industry it helped make ubiquitous — fast food.

“Fast foods are quick, reasonably priced, and readily available alternatives to home cooking. While convenient and economical for a busy lifestyle, fast foods are typically high in calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar, and salt and may put people at risk for becoming overweight,” reads one post on the site, which includes a picture of a hamburger and fries, two items that the fast-food giant specializes in selling.

A separate post writes, “it is hard to eat a healthy diet when you eat at fast-food restaurants often,” adding that large portions make it easy to overeat.

The site also advises people to limit how many fries they eat.

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It was the latest in a series of gaffes involving the site.

Last month, the company detailed tipping advice for workers, many of whom make around minimum wage. It listed pricey suggestions for tipping au pairs, personal fitness trainers and pool cleaners from etiquette maven Emily Post — advice it removed after a CNBC inquiry.

McSerfdom.

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Mike

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McDonald’s Advises its Own Employees to Avoid Fast Food originally appeared on A Lightning War for Liberty on December 24, 2013.

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from A Lightning War for Liberty http://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2013/12/24/mcdonalds-advises-its-own-employees-to-avoid-fast-food/
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The Times of India: “Almost Every Passenger on a Flight from Dubai to Calicut Was Found Carrying 1kg of Gold”

Watching Indian bureaucrats attempt to halt more than one billion human beings’ desire for gold has been one of the more entertaining and pathetic stories of all of 2013. It is one that I have covered on many occasions, the latest being my post from earlier this month:  Gold Smuggling Increases 7x in India and Surpasses Illegal Drug Trade.

Well it appears the trend continues, potentially at an accelerated rate, as we just learned that, incredibly, “almost every passenger on a flight from Dubai to Calicut was found carrying 1kg of gold.” As I have said many times in the past, if an Indian wants their gold, they will have their gold. 

CHENNAI: Faced with curbs on gold imports and crash in international prices leaving it cheaper in other countries, gold houses and smugglers are turning to NRIs to bring in the yellow metal legally after paying duty. Any NRI, who has stayed abroad for more than six months, is allowed to bring in 1kg gold.

It was evident last week when almost every passenger on a flight from Dubai to Calicut was found carrying 1kg of gold, totalling up to 80kg (worth about Rs 24 crore). At Chennai airport, 13 passengers brought the legally permitted quantity of gold in the past one week.

“It’s not illegal. But the 80kg gold that landed in Calicut surprised us. We soon got information that two smugglers in Dubai and their links in Calicut were behind this operation, offering free tickets to several passengers,” said an official. The passengers were mostly Indian labourers in Dubai, used as carriers by people who were otherwise looking at illegal means, he said. “We have started tracing the origin and route of gold after intelligence pointed to the role of smugglers,” he said.

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from A Lightning War for Liberty http://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2013/12/23/the-times-of-india-almost-every-passenger-on-a-flight-from-dubai-to-calicut-was-found-carrying-1kg-of-gold/
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Paul Krugman Spastically and Irrationally Attacks Bitcoin…Here’s My Response

The last aggressive anti-Bitcoin tirade I recall from Paul Krugman was written on April 14th of this year. It was such an irrational piece of drivel that I decided to respond to his Op-ed nearly paragraph by paragraph in my piece, Paul Krugman Goes on the Attack: Calls Bitcoin “Antisocial,” which I strongly suggest you read if you haven’t already.

What is most interesting about that previous article in hindsight is that he wrote it right after Bitcoin experienced its first major crash of 2013 (there have been two thus far, both after greater than 10-fold increases in the price). While I know Krugman periodically attacks Bitcoin, it’s interesting that this latest Bitcoin hit piece also came directly after the second crash. For those who are holders of Bitcoin, this should be taken as a very positive price signal going forward. Krugman’s prior article was written the day before the abolsute low price for the decline was reached at $50/btc on April 15th. It seems that Krugman becomes particularly comfortable slamming Bitcoin only after a price crash.

In any event, his latest Op-ed is almost as bad as the first one, and so I thought it’d be worthwhile to highlight his ignorance, irrationality and blatant use of statist propaganda once again. So let’s go.

From the New York Times:

This is a tale of three money pits. It’s also a tale of monetary regress — of the strange determination of many people to turn the clock back on centuries of progress.

The first money pit is an actual pit — the Porgera open-pit gold mine in Papua New Guinea, one of the world’s top producers. The mine has a terrible reputation for both human rights abuses (rapes, beatings and killings by security personnel) and environmental damage (vast quantities of potentially toxic tailings dumped into a nearby river). But gold prices, while down from their recent peak, are still three times what they were a decade ago, so dig they must.

The second money pit is a lot stranger: the Bitcoin mine in Reykjanesbaer, Iceland. Bitcoin is a digital currency that has value because … well, it’s hard to say exactly why, but for the time being at least people are willing to buy it because they believe other people will be willing to buy it. It is, by design, a kind of virtual gold. And like gold, it can be mined: you can create new bitcoins, but only by solving very complex mathematical problems that require both a lot of computing power and a lot of electricity to run the computers.

In the three paragraphs above, Krugman in employing a strategy that anti-gold people have used for years if not decades. That it is wasteful and environmentally destructive to mine for gold since it has no real purpose. Interesting. What purpose do diamonds have Paul? Did you buy your wife a diamond ring for your engagement? Did you make sure it wasn’t a blood diamond? Aren’t people likely raped and exploited in the mining of diamonds? I wonder how many articles Krugman has written on the destructiveness of diamond mining, a gem that isn’t even rare to begin with.

I tend to notice a huge hypocrisy from statists that in reality hate gold because it is a competing monetary asset, but then attempt to explain away their disdain using another, more publicly palatable rationale such as environmental destruction. After all, gold should get some credit for having at least has two hugely significant historical purposes. It has been valued for both its beauty and durability as jewelry, as well as for its monetary attributes. Diamonds have one primary purpose only recently established due to extensive marketing efforts (also in drills but you get the point), which is as a status or wealth symbol, so you’d think Krugman and other statists would get far more hot and bothered about blood diamonds than gold; but do they? No, they don’t. The hypocrisy is obvious.

The second thing Krugman does in the latest Op-Ed is to take this faux criticism and then attach it to Bitcoin. See the following paragraph:

Hence the location in Iceland, which has cheap electricity from hydropower and an abundance of cold air to cool those furiously churning machines. Even so, a lot of real resources are being used to create virtual objects with no clear use.

No clear use? Really, Krugman? There is nothing useful about essentially costless transfers of value on a peer-to-peer basis? There is no value to monetary transfers that eliminate expensive and parasitic middlemen? There is no value to using a public key as a way to ask for payment, thus reducing  enormous security concerns caused by providing all your private information to hundreds of merchants using credit cards? No value to being able to send millions of dollars across the globe in minutes rather than days? No value to free market currencies competing with state currencies? No value to economic freedom?

There are plenty of valid criticisms of Bitcoin, and a clear and thoughtful expression of those criticisms can only help the marketplace improve free-market crypto currencies in the future. Yet the irrational, ramblings of a statist who clearly hasn’t taken two minutes to objectively analyze Bitcoin is of no use to anyone and a disgrace to a supposedly highbrow newspaper like the New York Times.

His full Op-Ed is here if you have the stomach.

In Liberty,
Mike

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Paul Krugman Spastically and Irrationally Attacks Bitcoin…Here’s My Response originally appeared on A Lightning War for Liberty on December 23, 2013.

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from A Lightning War for Liberty http://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2013/12/23/paul-krugman-spastically-and-irrationally-attacks-bitcoin-once-again/
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Picture of Day: Obama’s Latest Selfie

This is brilliant, accurate and quite sad. No further comment necessary.

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 2.31.11 PM

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Picture of Day: Obama’s Latest Selfie originally appeared on A Lightning War for Liberty on December 22, 2013.

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from A Lightning War for Liberty http://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2013/12/22/picture-of-day-obamas-latest-selfie/
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