By Doug Porter
For many months now San Diego Veterans for Peace have been staging a weekly vigil outside the General Atomics plant in southeasternPoway. It’s a difficult place to protest, parking is very limited, the elements can be harsh and some locals have been hostile.
None-the-less, the group shows up every Thursday afternoon. They stand by the side of the road holding signs reminding passers-by that drones are indeed weapons of war and not just some abstract toy the military plays with. The Vets for Peace say they’ve been surprised at how supportive people who working in the nearby plant have been.
It’s certainly not the flashiest demonstration; there are no celebrities, no acts of civil disobedience and news coverage is a rarity. But, like the drip-drip-drip of a leaking roof, the cumulative effect of the Vets for Peace presence is starting to be felt.
Today (3:30pm, Scripps Poway Parkway and General Atomics Way) there will be a TV crew from PBS, getting advance footage for next weeks’ national-wide April Anti-Drone Days of Action.
Next Wednesday (April 3) a nation-wide coalition of anti-war and privacy groups will kick off a month long series of protests with a rally in New York, followed by three days of protest outside the facilities of companies that make drones, including the local General Atomics facility, which makes Predator and Reaper drones.
Later in April protests will take place at universities and other institutions that conduct research into drones or help train drone pilots and operators. At the end of the month, rallies and demonstrations will target military bases in the US from where drones operate, including Hancock air base near Syracuse, New York.
While publicity about the April Anti-Drone Days of Action has been scant, they are getting noticed around the world. From the U.K. Guardian:
“There is a tremendous amount of skepticism with the public about drone attacks in other countries. There is concern that innocent people are killed and enemies of the United States are being made,” said Nick Mottern, founder of Know Drones, an educational organization that is helping co-ordinate the protests. Over the month the cities targeted by the campaign will also include WashingtonDC, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Honolulu, San Francisco, Sacramento, Minneapolis, Des Moines and others.
The use of unmanned robots to strike at suspected Islamic militants abroad has risen sharply during the Obama administration. Its defenders say that it offers a precision way of hitting targets without the potentially disastrous deployment of US manpower abroad. But critics point out that drone strikes frequently cause civilian casualties, while the definition of a suspect is worryingly broad and the exact legal context of the programme is shrouded in secrecy.
The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism tracks drone casualties, and estimates that in Pakistan alone 366 strikes have killed up to 3,581 people, with 884 being innocent civilians. Of that total number of attacks, 314 have been ordered while Obama has been in office.
Protesters said they hoped the campaign would rally public anger. “There is no question that the April Days of Action will exhibit a level of anti-war and civil liberties activism that is unprecedented in recent years,” said Medea Benjamin, founder of veteran anti-war group Code Pink, whose members recently protested against the appointment of drones advocate John Brennan as the new head of the CIA.
The campaign seeks to tap into a groundswell of domestic opposition to use of drones against American citizens in the United States, sparked by the leaking in February of a government “white paper” on drone targeting of United States citizens and the drone filibuster by United States Senator Rand Paul in early March.
Bad is Good, War is Peace and Other Orwellian Outrages
Meanwhile, an alliance led by the San Diego Military Advisory Council (SDMAC) and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has asked the Federal Aviation Administration to declare a large area of Southern California as a test range for drones.
Their angle is all about the money, the ‘jobs’ such an arrangement could potentially could offer to the region. Nearly 40 applications have been received for the FAA program, which will ultimately create six test zones seeking to integrate drones into domestic airspace. A trade publication article recently speculated that the program could result in at least one region becoming the next ‘silicon valley’.
To nobody’s surprise, the UT-San Diego is giving the SDMAC proposal plenty of ink. Here’s an excerpt from a recent article:
The application is meant to enrich the drone industry in San Diego County, which is already home to the country’s two largest UAV makers, Northrop Grumman in Rancho Bernardo and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in Poway. Northrop is known worldwide for its Global Hawk family of drones. GAAS builds Predator drones, which have been used in such places as Iraq and Afghanistan.
A study by the National University System estimates that 7,135 people were directly or indirectly employed by the UAV industry in San Diego County in 2011. They were assigned to projects that brought in $1.3 billion, a figure that has roughly doubled since 2008. It’s one of the few areas of the local defense industry that’s growing. Northrop recently announced that it will close drone operations in two other states and consolidate its UAV program in Rancho Bernardo, adding about 300 jobs to the workforce.
Not everybody is so sure all this domestic drone stuff is so wonderful. From the ACLU report on domestic drones:
Unmanned aircraft carrying cameras raise the prospect of a significant new avenue for the surveillance of American life. Many Americans have heard of these aircraft, commonly called drones, because of their use overseas in places like Afghanistan andYemen. But drones are coming to America. Their deployment has so far been held up by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over safety concerns, but that agency is under strong industry and Congressional pressure to pave the way for domestic deployment.
Meanwhile, the technology is quickly becoming cheaper and more powerful, interest in deploying drones among police departments is increasing, and our privacy laws are not strong enough to ensure that the new technology will be used responsibly and consistently with democratic values. In short, all the pieces appear to be lining up for the eventual introduction of routine aerial surveillance in American life—a development that would profoundly change the character of public life in the United States.
We need a system of rules to ensure that we can enjoy the benefits of this technology without bringing us a large step closer to a “surveillance society” in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded, and scrutinized by the authorities.
I’ll let East County Magazine’s Miriam Raftery have the final word on this for today (from a comment she left at UT-SD’s website):
The FAA just shut down two control towers in our region, yet we’re being asked to have unmanned drones flying around in crowded air space over populated areas, in places where there are often firefighting aircraft with decreased visibility due to smoke and more recently, drug smugglers using lightweight aircraft over the border. What could possibly go wrong?
Questionable Ethics, a Local GOP Specialty
On the heels of the recent ‘official looking’ smear mailings in the District 4 council race from the rather shady San Diego County Voters for Progress and Reform, our local GOP-types have come up with yet another underhanded scheme designed to tip the scales of democracy in their favor.
From John R. Lamb over at San Diego City Beat we have learned about ‘Navajo Republicans for Better Planning’. Thanks to their efforts, the GOP has scored a (very rare) electoral victory, sort of, winning three seats on the board of the Navajo Community Planners Inc. (NCPI), a development advisory panel covering Del Cerro, San Carlos, Grantville and Allied Gardens.
Following an email campaign GOP activist Mike McSweeney (resigned in disgrace in 2008 from the Sander’s campaign after getting caught in an electioneering subterfuge) claiming that the board was dominated by leftists (Republicans held a 3 to 1 advantage), GOP chairman and non resident Tony Krvaric signed a letter to voters from this previously unheard of Navajo Republicans group. From City Beat:
“On Monday, March 18th we will have the opportunity to elect good Republicans to the Navajo Planning Group Board of Directors,” Krvaric wrote, bungling the name. “Too often these boards are run by Democrats who do not share our values.”
“These Republicans,” Krvaric added, “will ensure that our community’s interests are well represented and that you will always have a voice.” He then asks recipients to “join me” in voting for the trio, with a concluding “Hope to see you there, every vote counts!”
Lo and behold, the GOP backed slate won the March 18th election, held at the Zion Avenue Church. It helped that two of the candidates were unopposed, but, hey, a win is a win. What a great day for Republicans, huh?
Or not. It certainly appears that the GOP group was promoted as a slate. And that might just be a problem. Back to John R. Lamb’s excellent reporting:
Council Policy 600-24, which governs the city’s 42 planning groups, not only prohibits “‘slates’ of candidates” but also places final investigative authority with the Mayor’s office, an intriguing scenario potentially pitting Krvaric and Co. against Filner, the man they love to hate.
Recall Filner? Maybe Not
After all, the trolls inhabiting the UT-San Diego’s comments columns have been calling for a recall since…the day after the election. And the Lynchester-types up in the editorial room have been pretty good about keeping up an average of one editorial a week questioning the sanity ofSan Diego voters.
But this particular bit of promised ‘news’ turns out to have been triggered by a reporter seeing a “Recall Filner’ bumper sticker. At least that’s what I’ve divined from this 10News interview with go-to political consultant Carl Luna.
An effort to recall San Diego Mayor Bob Filner would likely fail, according to a political analyst.
10News reached out to Carl Luna after learning bumper stickers have been popping up around town that read, “Recall Filner before it’s too late.”
It is not known who is responsible for the message or whether it is a serious attempt to unseat the mayor.
Oh wow. Let me savor the journalistic implications of this ‘coverage’…
Video of the Day
Forty years ago, back when I was much smarter, I occasionally penned a record (vinyl discs used to reproduce music) review for the San Diego Door when I wasn’t busy chasing down local scandals.
We got tons of free recordings shipped to us by companies. And we made an effort to listen to them at least once before cashing them in for beer money at the downtown used record emporium.
Occasionally, there’d be a surprise mixed in with all the mediocre crap. I picked up on the guy named David Bowie’s first album (for RCA- he’d flopped at Mercury Records) and wrote a glowing review.
It might have been (I don’t remember the details) one of the first really positive bits of publicity RCA got on the album. In any case, I was suddenly a minor celebrity in the world of rock journalism. Free trips to LA followed. My name was on all the right guest lists at music clubs. And then it was over.
Bowie is out with a new album, his best in years, in my opinion. Enjoy his new video featuring the always interesting Tilda Swinton:
On This Day: 1898 – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a child born in the U.S. to Chinese immigrants was a U.S. citizen. This meant that they could not be deported under the Chinese Exclusion Act. 1979 – A major accident occurred at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. A nuclear power reactor overheated and suffered a partial meltdown. 1986 – More than 6,000 radio stations of all format varieties played “We are the World” simultaneously at 10:15 a.m. EST.
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