Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Should we fear Facebook, Google, and Amazon fleets of drones?

The Reaper drone.
Over at the NY Times, Maureen Dowd's concerns about behemoths Facebook, Google, and Amazon patrolling the skies over our heads with fleets of drones are valid IMO. Referring to a proposed movie script addressing the issue of drones making pilots obsolete, Dowd writes:

But the producer is missing a more original twist. Instead of unmanned planes controlled by terrorists, the drones could be an army of angry birds amassed by our computer overlords, Google, Facebook and Amazon. Every time one of the tech giants reveals it is venturing into the drone business, the rationale is presented purely as smart business, a benign and even benevolent expansion.

Amazon will be able to drop packages right on your lawn, or even your head. With fleets of solar-powered jet drones, Google and Facebook would be able to expand their customer bases by offering online access to poor and remote areas of the world devoid of telephone wires or cellphone towers.

Read Dowd's entire column here.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

GOP's Budget Priorities

Here it is: the budget priorities set by the Ryan plan approved the other day by the Republican House of Representatives:

From Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Alaskan wildlife at risk from potential oil drilling project

 This just in from Leah Donahey, Arctic Ocean and Reserve Program Director:

Dear Virginia,

Urge Interior Secretary Jewell to improve the first oil production in the Reserve. The first round of comments are due April 22 so send yours in today!

Bears, caribou, migratory birds and other wildlife and communities in and around Special Areas of Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve could be at risk from a proposed oil development project. Help by sending a letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today.

Conoco Phillips oil production project, called Greater Mooses Tooth 1, would be the first project since the Reserve’s comprehensive management plan was finalized in 2012. 

Thanks to your help, the Bureau of Land Management came up with a plan for our nation’s largest single unit of public land that conserved nearly 11 million acres and called for a balanced approach for future development.  It is critical that the BLM sets a high standard for this and any future oil and gas infrastructure within the Reserve.

The Mooses Tooth project is located in the wildlife-rich northeastern corner of the Reserve near the Colville River Delta, the largest and most productive river delta in northern Alaska. It provides important habitat for caribou, grizzly bears, nearly every species of fish inhabiting Arctic waters, falcons, Steller’s eiders and the yellow-billed loon – many of these birds migrate to and through the United States.

Sadly, the project could negatively impact these critical areas.

Please send a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell urging her to improve this project.

Public comments are due by Earth Day, April 22.
Thank you,

Leah Donahey
Arctic Ocean and Reserve Program Director

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A juror's reflections on the question of "reasonable doubt"

The article below was written by Barbara Raye and is cross-posted from

Barbara Raye is the Executive Director of the

Barbara Raye
I’ve just completed jury duty. The charges were simple robbery and aiding and abetting aggravated robbery. The verdict was guilty on both charges. But the process left me weary and fearful – not for my safety, but for the work ahead. I heard several comments in the process of determining “reasonable doubt” that followed the natural human process of receiving data, making meaning of it from one’s own perspective, and then reaching a conclusion. Peter Senge’s ladder of inference at work in a case study beyond my imagination.

People took their duty seriously and spent several hours over almost two days sequestered together – thinking, reflecting, going over our memories of testimony, and attempting to separate facts from “filling in the blanks.”

However, there were blanks and filling them in was the only way to get to “reasonable doubt.” Did the prosecutor’s presentation of the case “hold up?” Could the evidence be put together in another reasonable narrative? We were limited by our imaginations and life experiences. I left feeling overwhelmed at the degree to which race, race bias, and race imagery in this country defined these essential tools of justice.
One person was certain that the incorrect identification of the second bike at the scene could be explained by a second robber in bagging pants and hoodie that shadowed the bike and made it impossible to be seen. (The defendant did NOT have on these kind of clothes.)

One person determined that there must be a weapon because – as a man – the victim would have gotten up and fought off the two robbers on bikes if there had not been a weapon. That is what any man would have done. When I said that I wouldn’t have done that, and it seemed absolutely reasonable to me that a man would not have fought back under those circumstances. I added that as a crime prevention/self-defense trainer, our advice to any victim would have been to comply – give up the $180 dollars and be safe. The response was that I was a woman so of course I would not have fought back.

Two women were made uncomfortable by the black defendant and how he looked at them while they were in the court room. This reinforced for them that he was …. something …. aggressive, dangerous, mean, intimidating – maybe guilty.

Several became offended when I suggested that the “media imagery” of two black men on bikes at 4:00 a.m. attacking an unarmed white pedestrian and the fear the victim experienced could have created an expectation and perception of a weapon, even if there was not one. In response I was asked to take “race” out of the situation and assume that everyone was white.

I was told that I should not make assumptions about how comfortable or familiar the victim might be in living in a culturally diverse community and being a credible witness regarding description and identification of the offender. “We all have black people in our communities now. They are even in XX.” (a metro suburb.)
The facts lead to conviction – a verdict I supported. But the instructions and challenge about “reasonable doubt” left everyone trying to be “reasonable” based on their own perceptions, fears, experiences, and meaning. They left me in grief and turmoil.

How do we move beyond our own experiences to see options, possibilities, and meaning other that how “we” would (or imagine we would) do it? It felt a bit like failing diversity 101. It felt a lot like complex things made too simple. It illustrated to me the systemic societal racism in our systems. Disparities studies abound. Health disparities, overrepresentation in the justice system, underrepresentation in DBE and hiring – with no explanation but race bias. Yet, these reasonable people tried mightily to take “race” out of the equation.
Perhaps, we should stop trying so hard. Perhaps we need to understand that – in this country – for now – we need to do the opposite. We should modify our personal processes with an understanding that you cannot take out the cultural framework and experience of the people involved when trying to understand what happened – how it was experienced – why they acted the way they acted – and what resolution will hold justice.

It might well have been my white, liberal, guilt that made it so difficult in the first place. I needed to speak and to consider “reasonable” based on my own experiences, just like everyone else. My experiences have included observing/hearing race bias, stereotyping, and fear created by systemic policies and imagery that have harmed the truth about many people. My jury experience didn’t convince me that I could put those experiences aside and believe we now live in a free and just world. There is much work to do.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The nauseating Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's use of torture

When the topic of torture first hit the headlines under the G.W. Bush Administration, my stomach began to churn. Ever since, I've been afflicted with nausea whenever our officials have unbelievably discussed torture as a viable strategy in the "War on Terror."

The U.S. uses terror to fight the War on Terror??!!

So who could possibly be surprised by the recent Senate Intelligence Committee report stating that the CIA "misled" the government and the public about its use of "brutal interrogation methods."Say, like dunking a human being in a tank of ice water, beating him, and smashing his head against a wall?

If you've got some Tums or Mylanta, etc. on hand, take a look at this piece in the Washington Post summarizing the Senate Intelligence Committee's report:

A report by the Senate Intelligence Committee concludes that the CIA misled the government and the public about aspects of its brutal interrogation program for years — concealing details about the severity of its methods, overstating the significance of plots and prisoners, and taking credit for critical pieces of intelligence that detainees had in fact surrendered before they were subjected to harsh techniques.
The report, built around detailed chronologies of dozens of CIA detainees, documents a long-standing pattern of unsubstantiated claims as agency officials sought permission to use — and later tried to defend — excruciating interrogation methods that yielded little, if any, significant intelligence, according to U.S. officials who have reviewed the document.  

Read More:

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Idaho's death warrant for 450 wolves

eoy wolves under siege email

An SOS for Idaho's wolves from Defenders of Wildlife:

Dear Virginia,
I am writing with sad news.
Despite heroic efforts by people like you, yesterday, Idaho’s governor signed a virtual death warrant for hundreds of the state’s wolves.
The new law, HB470, establishes a $400,000 special fund, the sole purpose of which is killing as many wolves as possible. It is part of a broader effort by wolf-haters to reduce Idaho’s wolf population down to 150 animals – which means killing more than 450 wolves.
We cannot leave any stone unturned in our fight to protect wolves.  
  • Our legal team is assessing options.
  • Our field staff is gearing up for the fight of their lives and are mobilizing other residents of Idaho to push back on this terrible proposal.
  • Here in Washington, D.C., we’re using this as Exhibit A with the Department of the Interior as proof of what we’ve been saying along – when wolves lose protection they die.
We’re not giving up. Not by a long shot.
Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders of Wildlife
Jamie Rappaport Clark
Defenders of Wildlife

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A musical flashmob initiated by one little girl

Saw this on Facebook this afternoon and couldn't resist finding it on YouTube and reposting it here:

Published on May 31, 2012 On the 130th anniversary of the founding of Banco Sabadell we wanted to pay homage to our city by means of the campaign "Som Sabadell" (We are Sabadell) . This is the flashmob that we arranged as a final culmination with the participation of 100 people from the Vallès Symphony Orchestra, the Lieder, Amics de l'Òpera and Coral Belles Arts choirs.