Tag Archives: drones

#Drone Delivery Devices Coming to a Sidewalk Near You (video)

drone delivery

Remote-controlled drone delivery delivery devices were approved for use in Arizona by the Legislature.

On a lighter note, today’s video focuses on drone delivery devices. These are not flying taco copters. These are fancy ice chests on all-terrain baby buggy tires. Soon they will be making remote-controlled deliveries using our sidewalks, bike paths, intersections, and side streets with speed limits of 25 or less. Watch where you’re walking!


Watch the video below the fold.

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The Drones Are Coming: FBI Seeks Info on Drone Spotted in JFK Air Space

Dronebanner-sm72by Pamela Powers Hannley

Many Americans don't have a problem with the drone warfare being waged by the United States against "persons of interest," "enemy combatants," or "terrorists" because: 1) we have an old west "get the bad guys" attitude toward foreign policy; 2) we use drones because we can; and 3) drones kill other people's citizens not ours (except in the cases when we have killed US citizens with drones). Right now, we are the big bully on the block with drone warfare, but 70+ countries now have drone technology, and soon US air space will be opened up to drone usage by law enforcement. 

It looks as if that future– the future where we may be attacked by the technology we created– came a bit closer to reality today. According to the Huffington Post, an Alitalia pilot reported a close encounter with an unknown drone in the air space over John F. Kennedy International Airport outside of New York City. More details after the jump.

From the Huffington Post

NEW YORK — The FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday they are investigating a pilot's report that he spotted a small unmanned aircraft near Kennedy Airport.

The Alitalia pilot told controllers that he saw the aircraft as he approached the runway at Kennedy at about 1:15 p.m. Monday. The pilot said the aircraft was 4 to 5 miles southeast of the airport and was flying at an altitude of about 1,500 feet.

The FBI said the aircraft was described as black in color and no more than 3 feet wide with four propellers.

"The FBI is asking anyone with information about the unmanned aircraft or the operator to contact us," Special Agent in Charge John Giacalone said. "Our paramount concern is the safety of aircraft passengers and crew."

The FBI said the unmanned aircraft came within 200 feet of the Alitalia plane.

The Alitalia pilot can be heard on radio calls captured by LiveATC.net, a website that posts air traffic communications, saying, "We saw a drone, a drone aircraft." The FAA said the pilot did not take evasive action and the plane landed safely.

The FAA and FBI did not say whether Alitalia passengers might have seen the unmanned aircraft.

It's unclear what the small aircraft was. Some remote-controlled planes flown by hobbyists are wider than 3 feet. Under FAA rules, model planes are restricted to altitudes of 400 feet or less.


Pictures for peaceniks: Why the US military budget should be cut

 pt 10-350-flagby Pamela Powers Hannley

Remember the Super Congress? It was a gimmick that Congressional Republicans came up with after the huge debt ceiling and budget battle in August 2011.

The Super Congress was supposed to balance the US budget during the fall of 2011, but they failed to do so. As a result, the country is now facing "sequestration"– a fancy name for automatic budget cuts and tax increases that were trigger by the Super Congress' failure and the regular Congress' failure to negotiate and agree on humane budget cuts coupled with revenue-generating and economy-growing measures.

Thanks to Congressional foot-dragging, sequestration is upon us. The biggest budget that is up for trimming is the military budget. Although hawks are wringing their hands over potential cuts, the US military budget is by far the largest in the world. In fact, in 2011, the US spent more on the military than the next 13 countries combined! Wonkblog has provided great charts and background information on military spending– perfect ammunition for anyone who in more invested in peace than war. Check out it out after the jump.

From Wonkblog…

The United States spends far more than any other country on defense and security. Since 2001, the base defense budget has soared from $287 billion to $530 billion — and that’s before accounting for the primary costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But now that those wars are ending and austerity is back in vogue, the Pentagon will have to start tightening its belt in 2013 and beyond. If Hagel gets confirmed as secretary of defense, he’ll have to figure out how best to do that.

Below, we’ve provided an overview of the U.S. defense budget — to get a better sense for what we spend on, and where Hagel might have to cut:

1) The United States spent 20 percent of the federal budget on defense in 2011.

budget defense

All told, the U.S. government spent about $718 billion on defense and international security assistance in 2011 — more than it spent on Medicare. That includes all of the Pentagon’s underlying costs as well as the price tag for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which came to $159 billion in 2011. It also includes arms transfers to foreign governments.

(Note that this figure does not, however, include benefits for veterans, which came to $127 billion in 2011, or about 3.5 percent of the federal budget. If you count those benefits as “defense spending,” then the number goes up significantly.)

U.S. defense spending is expected to have risen in 2012, to about $729 billion, and then is set to fall in 2013 to $716 billion, as spending caps start kicking in. 

2) Defense spending has risen dramatically since 9/11.

Here’s a historical chart of U.S. defense spending since World War II in inflation-adjusted dollars. There’s a big spike for the Korean and Vietnam wars. There’s another big ramp-up during the 1980s under President Reagan. Then defense spending got cut significantly during the Clinton years until soaring to historically unprecedented levels after 9/11. 

U.S. defense spending is set to fall again in 2013, though it will still be as high in real terms as it was at the height of the Reagan build-up for the foreseeable future.

3) The Pentagon’s budget mostly consists of personnel pay, weapons procurement, and operations.

Source: Office of Management and Budget, Graph: Dylan Matthews

In 2011, the Pentagon spent about $161 billion on personnel pay and housing, $128 billion on weapons procurement, and $291 billion on operations and maintenance— the last largely in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those three items made up the bulk of the budget. Smaller amounts also were spent on R&D (about $74 billion) and nuclear programs ($20 billion), as well as construction, family housing and other programs ($22 billion).

My colleague Dylan Matthews created the graph above to show how these portions have changed over time. Personnel spending has stayed constant over the years, even as the number of soldiers in the U.S. military has shrunk (pay and benefits have increased). Weapons procurement can vary wildly. And operations spending has soared during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

4) The United States spent more on its military than the next 13 nations combined in 2011.


Needless to say, the United States remains the world’s dominant military power. The graph above comes from the Pete G. Peterson Foundation, which compiled data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

5) The U.S. defense budget is poised to shrink in 2013 and beyond, although this won’t be the biggest downsizing it has ever faced.

Two big things are about to happen to military spending. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down. And, thanks to the 2011 Budget Control Act, the Pentagon is facing both hard budget caps and a looming sequester that would cut defense spending by about $1 trillion over the next decade (compared to what was expected).

That’s a serious cut. Although, as the graph above from the Center for Strategic and International Studies shows, even if the sequester is fully implemented, which no one expects, the drawdowns after Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War were far more drastic in inflation-adjusted dollars. 

6) Sequester or no sequester, the 2011 Budget Control Act is expected to rein in the Pentagon’s base budget over the next decade:

BCA and defense spending

The chart above comes from the Congressional Budget Office,* which points out that the spending caps in the Budget Control Act of 2011 are likely to force the Pentagon’s “base” budget to stay virtually flat in the next decade, adjusting for inflation (that’s the light-blue dashed line). If Congress fails to avert the sequester, then funding levels will drop to an even lower level (that’s the light-blue solid line). 

These numbers don’t include any additional war funding that Congress might approve over the next decade. Still, sequester or no sequester, the Pentagon’s base budget will be well below the dark blue solid line, which is the CBO’s projection of what the Department of Defense’s budget would look like if costs remained “consistent with DoD’s recent experience.”

7) The Pentagon and Congress are already rejiggering the military budget in response to austerity.


Photo: Raytheon

Back in January, the Department of Defense unveiled its proposed budget for fiscal year 2013 — a look at how it would deal with new budget constraints. As Wired’s Spencer Ackerman reported, the Pentagon wanted to downsize about 100,000 human soldiers and ramp up advanced weapons programs, including drones, bombers and missiles.

Of course, the Pentagon doesn’t have the final say. Congress eventually passed its own $631 billion defense appropriations bill in December that made some changes to the Pentagon’s vision. Many of the weapons systems that the Obama administration wanted to retire — such as three Navy cruisers — were kept in. The final did, however, make plans to reduce civilian and contractor personnel by 5 percent over the next five years. 

8) The next secretary of defense will have to make further tough choices about the Pentagon’s budget.

reduction force

The chart above comes from a recent report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, which asked seven teams of experts to come up with ways to meet the Pentagon’s new spending constraints in the coming decades. It shows what areas different teams would cut — some experts advised heavily slashing the civilian workforce, others advocated cutting aircraft inventory. (There were some areas of consensus, though: surface ships were generally cut more than submarines, for instance.)

The cuts weren’t always painless. For instance: “Five of seven teams agreed that they could not fully resource their strategies under the assumed fiscal guidance unless they accepted near-term risk by reducing current readiness programs.” These are trade-offs Hagel will have to navigate.

9) Ordinary Americans want to cut defense spending far more than is already on the table,

Back in May, the Stimson Center unveiled the results of a new survey asking U.S. voters about their views on defense spending. As it turns out, Democratic, Republican and independent voters all want to cut military spending far more severely than the sequester would and far, far more severely than either party has proposed. Congress isn’t likely to pay much attention here, but it’s a reminder that defense cuts tend to be extremely popular.

Correction: I replaced the original graph in #6 with a better chart from the Congressional Budget Office, which shows military spending shrinking over the next decade under the 2011 Budget Control Act (after adjusting for inflation), not growing as originally stated. Apologies for the error.

Code Pink flash mob: ‘Arms are for hugging’ (video)

by Pamela Powers Hannley

You've gotten hand it to Code Pink. They're everywhere (1, 2, 3) protesting for peace and an end to corporate domination of our country. Check out the video of their flash mob protest over inauguration weekend after the jump.


Peace activists speak out against the ‘militarization of education’ in Cochise County (video)

Dronesby Pamela Powers Hannley

Fun! Food! Adventure! Smiling young faces!

And killing machines?

The poster pictured here advertises the Aviation Open House at Cochise Community College back in October 2012. The purpose of the open house was to showcase the college's new aviation classrooms, flight simulators, and training facilities. Jobs and education for rural Arizona youth– what could be more wholesome? Unfortunately, the open house also shined a spotlight on the college's cozy (and a bit creepy) relationship with merchant of death and destruction Northrup Grumman— as well as the college's disdain for freedom of speech.

Two local members of Women in Black attempted to protest at the event and were ousted– one for trying to distribute anti-war fliers and the other for posting anti-war fliers around campus. Both women– both teachers– say they were exercising their right to free speech and trying to educate college students about the not-so-rosy side of war and the drones they are being trained to built and fly. More details and a Loneprotestor video after the jump.  

The video below begins poingnantly with clips from a Cochise County Community promo about the new Aviation Center. Friendly corporate giant Northrup Grumman talks about their commitment to the community and how they built and designed the "Innovation Campus" and the curriculum. (How convenient, since Fort Huachucha is a center for drone warfare.) Later the video turns to testimony by the two activists before the college's governing board– where they remind the board of the college's commitment to free speech and lament the glorification of war and the militarization/corporatization of education.

Do you want your children and grandchildren to build and fly killing machines? I don't. 

Aren't there peace-related jobs they can be trained for? Of course. 

Down with drones.

Give peace a chance.


Code Pink To Dems: Stop Drone Warfare, Bust Up Big Banks


by Pamela Powers Hannley
I knew when I saw that hot pink bra on the sidewalk, I knew that Code Pink must be nearby. 
Code Pink, the women-initiated peace and social justice group, protested the War on Women at the Republican National Convention. Their message for President Barack Obama and Democrats targets the military-industrial complex.
At the People's Convention, sponsored by Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin spoke against war– particularly drone warfare– and called for Congress and the President to make dramatic cuts to the military budget.
Benjamin, author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, is a highly vocal peace activist.
At the PDA event, she said that there are strong, powerful men like Arizona Senator John McCain, who are standing up against cuts to the military budget, which are scheduled to go into effect due to sequestration.
But where is the movement to protect Pel Grants, Medicaid, and other social programs? she asked. According to Benjamin, the US could cut the military budget by 80% and still have the largest military in the world.
"Slash the Pentagon and put that money into life-affirming activitieis, which is what the people on the planet need," Benjamin demanded.
Attacking the other sector of the military-industrial complex, Benjamin and other Code Pink protesters wore pink bras on the outside of their clothes and shouted "Bust up the banks" in front of Bank of America, which is headquartered in Charlotte, host city of the Democratic National Convention.
Video after the jump.