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Drones over paupers: An Empire Merry Christmas

Competing for top ranking in this year's long list of fatuous end-of-year news pieces notable only for their talent at bleak unintentional hilarity: Overstretched U.S. drone pilots face stress risk. In this holiday season of mass unemployment and homeless protesters being shoveled out of the cities by police, drone pilots are having a hard time emotionally.

From Reuters:

"Flying drone aircraft over Afghanistan from the comfort of a military base in the United States is much more stressful than it might seem, even for pilots spared the sacrifice of overseas deployment and separation from family and friends.

"America's insatiable demand for drone technology is taking a heavy toll on Air Force crews, according to a six-month Air Force study, with just under a third of active duty pilots of drones like the Predator reporting symptoms of burnout and 17 percent showing signs of 'clinical distress' ...

"[The] biggest factor wearing down drone crews were things like long hours and inadequate staffing."

Inadequate staffing. One associates stress due to inadequate staffing to jobs where corporations have mercilessly downsized the labor force to increase short term profit. Not worth mentioning, one supposes, is the solution: spending less resources and time overwatching and shooting at the destitute in the faraway places on the mission plans.

In other words, drone crews suffer stress of the same nature as that endured by cubicle workers in corporate America. Letting Hellfire missiles off the chain on small groups of people, always poorer and smaller on the other side of the world, is a lesser component of the job.

This is described as "bothersome."

Really. Not joking, here. It's what the man said.

"We try to select people who are well-adjusted ... We select family people ... People of good moral standing, background, integrity," [Air Force] Lieutenant Colonel Kent McDonald, a man who worked on the study, told Reuters.

"And when they have to kill someone, and when they're involved with missions when they're observing people over long periods of time, and then they either kill them or see them killed, it does cause them to re-think aspects of their life and it can be bothersome."

A statement deserving banner notice, one Dick Destiny blog reader dubbed it "incredibly cynical."

Stressful in Somalia

"The U.S. has used drones to hunt down al-Qaida-linked militants in Somalia and Yemen, among other countries," reported the AP last week. "Their humming is a constant feature in the sky in many of the major towns in southern Somalia, especially the capital city and the militant-controlled southern port of Kismayo."

Earlier this week DD blog spied a recent news story in which Iowa locals were all atwitter about Northrop Grumman shipping a shrink-wrapped naval aviation drone on a flatbed. (They thought it might be a UFO. Seriously.)

"It's difficult to fly an unmanned drone through commercial airspace," a Northrop man told a local news agency.

Yep, I concede it's easier to fly drones in airspace over countries where we don't give a s-- about the natives, except as targets. And whatever they do or don't have flying around is nil or of no consequence.

A moment for the establishment of perspective

"Stephen King donates money for heating oil assistance to poor," read one headline this week.

"Horror author Stephen King's efforts to raise money to help low-income Maine residents pay their heating oil bills this winter have exceeded goals," reported a Boston newspaper.

This was after it was widely reported the US government would reduce home heating oil assistance by over 50 percent this year, from $55.6 million down to $23 million.

Cost of RQ-170 stealth drone, the Beast of Kandahar, lost over Iran, based on estimation from price of prototype called the Polecat: over $24 million.

Cost of Predator drone, lost over the Seychelles: $4.5 million. (Plus or minus a couple million.)

Cost of misallocation of national resources and immorality in decision making: Priceless.

Also big news, worrying about the fate of the Treasure the Beast of Kandahar.

Which brings up the philosophical question: How difficult is it to find someone to assert the Beast was taken over by alleged Iranian cybergenius and tricked into landing in Iran, for a website, desperate for eyeballs, that used to be a newspaper that went out of business in the real world for lack of readers?

Answer: Stop, you're killing me.

"Predator loans, iPhones and drones ..." The National Anthem -- topping end-of-2011 critics' lists as "the best startlingly real and truthful electric folk rock song this year!" -- Joe Morgansternly, The Weekly National Standard Journal & Politico Review

This post was originally published at Dick Destiny blog. Happy Holidays from the Empire!

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