By Timothy Imholt PhD




Years ago I found a copy of a (at the time) used paperback novel in the local used bookstore that made me want to be a scientist.  First there are some interesting bits about that first, it was a book not an eBook, and second I was in a local bookstore not a big box store.  Neither of which are common any longer.


This book was the first in a series called Warbots by a fellow Physicist named G. Harry Stine.  He was also one of the fathers of what is now build at home model rocket kits.  He passed away in 1997 and is missed by a wide array of different professional communities.  He even was the partial influence for me becoming a physicist and somewhat the reason for me writing fiction books (something I love to do).


None of that matters to modern day politics or the problems we face as a nation.


It does help us with something.  What he did in those books was to very accurately (in a way) predict drones, or what I believe the endgame desire of the drone programs to be.


He said that someday humans would be replaced on the battlefield by robots controlled by a human link (really deep mental link not just joysticks).  Through these Warbots, HEAVILY armed really advanced drones countries could settle international disputes and the humans would remain safe.


In those books he showed that humans on the battlefield are needed because the robots can’t give you a really great vision of the ‘situations on the ground’ if you are fighting an insurgent war, such as we have been doing.  The reason is that robots can’t give you a sense of what the people underneath all that heavily armed tonnage think and feel, at least those not involved in the battle.  In other words, the civilian population.


I think what he was trying do, in an entertaining way, was to warn us about future science taking thought out of killing.  Can you push a button and end a life?  Sure.  With the right robot…err…drone can you push a button from thousands of miles a way and end 50 lives…sure.  Should you?  That is the question.


Can a soldier on the ground tell for 100% certain that the person being killed, or structure being destroyed is a hostile thing?  Not always, but can a drone?  I think the answer is clear.


Should the drone programs exist?  I think they should.  Should heavily armed drones take the place of humans on the battlefield?  No…


Why bring up this topic in a day when we have other issues…missing airliners, Vladimir Putin taking over Crimea, Iran doing whatever Iran is doing…well, simple.


No matter where you or I stand on the matter our military has two things going on right now.  First, it is shrinking.  Now if you think it should is another question but the fact remains it is getting smaller.  Second, the military we have is tired.  The Global War on Terror has left us with banged up equipment and servicemen who need a break.  As a veteran I have talked to many who verify both of these claims.  They need to rest, retrain and re-equip.


Why does this question of heavily armed drones matter?


Well, specifically everything I have said above…Russia, Iran, and the world being, in general, a dangerous place.  People still want to do us harm and we want to stop them.


Now, as a scientist, if I looked at everything out there and said I have to protect a nation given the equipment we have in hand and the condition of our soldiers, I would lean HEAVILY on drones right now.  Logically that is a good answer, but is it the right answer morally?


That morality question is one I struggle with.  I hope, as a nation, we can get to where we can have a real dialog about it because drones aren’t going away.  They will become more common but we need to determine as a people where that line gets drawn.  What functions can a drone do?  What functions should a drone do?  Those are the questions we must answer and what your political party affiliation is should not come into the equation (sorry for the physics speak I couldn’t resist) when we do so.

At CPAC there were people giving out Stand With Rand T-Shirts. I talked to them

Here is the speech itself in two parts (the 2nd is really short)

My memory card was about to run out of space so I used my emergency backup camera (yes I carry one now)

Update: Resized bad video

A remarkable performance demonstrating the unremarkable principle that Americans cannot be put to death without due process.

Perhaps this is a remarkable concept: the history of the world is rife with tyrants who slaughter those who can be slaughtered, threaten with death those who would rise up against them, and imprison or enslave those whom it chooses.  Dr. Rand Paul’s soliloquy demonstrated just how remarkable our country is, for it is but one CIA appointment away from extinction.

The Founders understood the tendency of those with power to abuse it, and those who would abuse power to seek it.  They limited the power of government and divided governmental powers, such that no one person or branch could be “judge, jury, and executioner all in one.”  For the record, that’s not what the Founders said; that is what Rand Paul said last night.  It is these restraints that Obama laments not yet “having broken free” of.

Most (but not all) violations of essential freedoms have some sort of remedy.  Cops illegally search you or your private effects?  Suppress evidence at trial.  Don’t like the punishment imposed?  An appeals court can overturn it.  State doesn’t want you writing about something?  Write about it and then bring a First Amendment defence at trial. Didn’t get counsel at trial?  Have another trial. Judge posts excessive bail?  Appeal that decision.

Even the right to a speedy trial, the quintessential right without a real remedy, has a remedy – start a trial.  Capital punishment is not imposed without an indictment, trial (usually by jury), conviction after the prosecution demonstrates its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and appeals courts have upheld the verdict.  The accused may present an array of defences. or simply sit there and enjoy the right to be acquitted if the prosecution does not prove its case.

Drone strikes against Americans are fundamentally different.  There is no remedy for those killed by drones, nor are there checks on power, no way for a second, independent body to step in and say, “No, this person will not die.”  We can only imagine the futility of launching a lawsuit against the President on behalf of the deceased and the deceased’s family.  There is no right to present exculpating evidence, to show that you do not deserve the death penalty.   For as much as liberals malign procedural due process, it is that fundamental procedural check that invests such heavy decision-making with multiple, independent bodies – first a grand jury, then a petit jury, a judge, and an appeals court. Such a check is totally absent with drone strikes.

What of the death penalty?  Where are those who pray, hold candlelight vigils, and decry the violence of capital punishment?  Where were they last night, when Americans could be given the death penalty for any crime or no crime at all? I’ve noted this before and will say it again: Saddam Hussein was tried, captured, and put to death.  KSM may be put to death.  There are people who think that is wrong, but nary a peep was heard from them when Osama bin Laden was killed (no trial), Gaddafi was killed (no trial), or when snipers take out murderers.  There’s a certain sterility to those deaths that is absent in the capture, trial, conviction, and execution of Hussein, Timothy McVeigh, Ted Bundy, and all others.

I think that Obama knows this, knows that dead people are just more dead people and don’t run around making noise, getting followers, inspiring prayer vigils outside of courts, or otherwise mucking up the works.  But efficiency is no reason to end someone’s life – if it were, the Bill of Rights would be irrational.

Update DTG:  Roxeanne had this post in draft for a day but I was unable to get ahold of her to confirm it was done, It looked good to me so I wanted to make sure her words made it up while the story is still fresh.

If you are getting this many people watching and reacting to a fellow just talking on the US Senate floor for 8 hours, that means something.

This could actually be a turning point for this country.

A leader leads, agree with him or no, Rand Paul has just become a leader and God bless the Senators like Ted Cruz & Marco Rubio and others who have helped.

Update: The Anchoress emails most people don’t know about it, Rachel Maddow is hitting Paul but Glenn Reynolds has the line of the night:

The best part was when Rand Paul sought unanimous consent for a sense of the Senate resolution that the President shouldn’t kill American citizens in America — and Democrats, led by Dick Durbin, objected.

Update 2: based on this page the Anchoress was right.

If it’s not reported as far as people are concerned it didn’t happen.

Morning Joe is asking questions concerning the Drone program, yesterday Joe Scarborough expressed his upset with the program.

Now I have very little sympathy for US citizens sitting with an enemy in enemy territory collaborating with them in time of war. US citizens working with the Germans in Berlin or Tokyo were not immune to bombing. As however the war is not specifically declared (congress SHOULD do so) and given the more precise nature of the strikes proper oversight is not too much to ask.

Today Morning Joe led with the same story and Joe Scarborough continued on the subject hitting the republicans for not objecting, but it was his next pronouncement that caught my eye.

“The next step is the killings start taking place on American soil”

and that’s when I started to chuckle.

Didn’t Morning Joe in general and Joe Scarborough in particular just spend WEEKS calling people members of the “extremist wing of the NRA” for suggesting that the 2nd Amendment exists for the citizens to protect themselves from tyrannical government? Didn’t he say that people have no “need” of arms etc?

Yet now he is railing about the possibility of the American Government killing Americans on American soil without due process. Isn’t that the definition of Tyranny?

If I was the administration I’d be saying that Joe Scarborough is “obviously from the extremist wing of the MSM”, but I wouldn’t do it for long, good kept republicans are hard to come by.


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Update: Reason weighs in:

There is a darkly comic aspect to this, I suppose: Here’s a president who once taught classes in constitutional law and swore up and down that America doesn’t torture, that he was against “dumb wars” waged by his predecessors, that he was more transparent than a glass of triple-filtered water, and who won a goddamned Nobel Peace Prize! And he turns out to be not just a little iffy when it comes to being constrained in his willingness to break all sorts of rules but downright godawful.