You don’t mind if I borrow that Predator Drone for a second, do you?

The BBC questions the efficacy of the US government’s use of unmanned aircraft to kill “militants” in the tribal regions of Pakistan (by the way, in case you didn’t know, this is a secret war)—essentially, Are the drones effective in hitting their “targets,” or do they kill too many “civilians” (thereby undermining the policy by providing a free recruiting tool for the Taliban)?  This is accompanied by some dubious figures and claims by US govt spokesdrones about, respectively, the number of non-militants killed and the accuracy of these weapons.  Nowhere, though, does the article question the legitimacy of the policy itself.  Nowhere does it ask: Why is the US shooting missiles from remote control airplanes at people who couldn’t possibly be any threat to the United States?  About as close as it comes to asking that question is when it quotes an “expert on militancy in northwest Pakistan”:

“How many people do you want to kill to get Osama Bin Laden?” he asks.

“How many common militants who may not have done much harm to the US or its allies do you want to kill to get Dr [Ayman] al-Zawahiri [Bin Laden’s deputy]? That is the question.”

Of course, he hedges a bit with that “may not have done much harm” and by granting that all of this has anything to do with killing Bin Laden or his “deputies.”  Add to that a little grousing by Pakistani officials about violations of their sovereignty, and what you have, all in all, is a tepid and largely unnoteworthy “critique” of the GWOT, South Asia edition.

Except for this little nugget tucked in at the end:

What Pakistan says it wants is for the drone strikes to continue, but under its ownership, not that of the US.

“The US should just give us the technology,” says Rehman Malik. “If we do it ourselves, Pakistanis won’t mind.”

Ah, yes: Let us have a turn playing with the big shiny toy.  The Pakistani people won’t mind so much if we’re the ones killing them.

This is a pretty good illustration of the idea that when it comes to disputes between rival governments, or even negotiations between supposed allies, you can rest assured that, no matter the outcome, the people on both sides (or in the middle) are going to get the shaft.


To Serve and Protect (Themselves)

After Philly mayor Michael Nutter announced some proposed budget cuts, some of which included the police budget, the cops responded as they always do to any threat to their tax-funded gravy train: by suggesting that the decrease in money to the police, no matter how slight, will mean more crime:

The proposed cut to police overtime, about 8 percent of the department’s OT budget, was panned by John McNesby, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5.

“You can’t plan crime,” McNesby said. “He’s trying to cut the meat to feed the fat, and it’s not going to work.”

Of course, it’s possible that fewer cops on the streets might mean less crime:

Three Philadelphia police officers have been charged with planning the theft of 300 grams of heroin from an alleged drug supplier and then selling it to another person they believed to be a drug dealer and money launderer who, in actuality, was a DEA special agent.

“I’m personally pissed off about this kind of behavior,” Mayor Nutter said at a news conference at police headquarters this afternoon. “We do not employ criminals. That’s what they are. That’s how they will be treated.”

Unfortunately, Mayor Nutter, you do employ criminals, and plenty of them.


Two bumper stickers that I’ve seen recently:

Every abortion stops a beating heart

Mean people make little mean people

Now, assuming the driver of the car sporting the first sticker is a conservative (a longshot, no doubt), I think it would be helpful to point out to this person that Hellfire missiles stop beating hearts, too, with the crucial difference that Hellfire missiles often stop several beating hearts at once, so they’re arguably worse than abortions, if what we’re actually concerned with is the loss of human life.  Of course, the moral outrage of conservatives tends to be somewhat selective, with the lives of the “innocent” ranking higher than those of the post-natal variety.  As George Carlin put it: “Before you’re born, we love you; after you’re born, fuck you.”

The second sticker is a variant of the old “Mean people suck” sticker, and I’m going to assume, in spite of its ostensibly politically neutral message, that this one belongs to a liberal.  Why?  Because, seriously, who but a liberal would even think such a whiny, crybaby thought, much less drive around advertising it on the back of his car?  (Also, the fact that it was on the back of a Prius pretty much guarantees that we’re talking about a liberal, since no self-respecting conservative would be caught dead driving a car that got more than 12 mpg highway.)  These are the people who write letters to NPR telling about how “offended” they were by a particular story—for having the gall to entertain views that were an outrage to their delicate, infinitely refined  sensibilities (in other words, views they disagree with)—and who would apparently like to see the world turned into a giant daycare center, where everyone is wet-nursed to death and the mean kids have to sit in time-out.

The Drive-By Media

I caught this interview the other day on NPR, and this particular question by interviewer Melissa Block jumped out at me (from the transcript):

BLOCK: I wonder, Governor Barbour, if this oil gusher is testing your political philosophy in any way. You and many of your fellow Republicans champion smaller government, less regulation, more freedom for industry. Do you think maybe there is a role looking at what’s happened in the Gulf for robust intervention for regulation?

Now Barbour’s pat response that more regulation doesn’t necessarily mean better regulation, and that equating the two is “suspect,” and, further, that the “market system” will work it all out is suspect itself, considering that the market system is rigged, by the very regulations that are supposed to govern it, in order to shield companies like BP from having to pay the full costs of their reckless behavior.

But nevermind all that.  The thing that occurred to me when I heard this is that you’d never hear NPR, or any other major news outlet, ask a proponent of more regulation whether the oil spill is testing their philosophy.  Can you imagine Melissa Block asking such a question to, say, Chuck Schumer?

BLOCK: I wonder, Senator Schumer, if this oil gusher is testing your political philosophy in any way. You and many of your fellow Democrats champion bigger government and more robust regulation. Do you think maybe there is a role looking at what’s happened in the Gulf for less government intervention?

You can rest assured it will never happen.