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TMQ Tidbits of the Week

Once again, here is the best of Gregg Easterbrook’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback column on ESPN.com. You can read the football bits here.

How Exactly Does TMQ Beat the MSM to Stories? Many have begun to express concern regarding drones flown above the United States for terrain mapping, surveillance and other purposes. Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post recently declared that government agencies “routinely flying drones over U.S. cities and towns, using them to snoop on the activities of anyone deemed snoop-worthy, is repugnant.” The mainstream media’s commentators have been asking how the arrival of drones in the skies of our own nation was kept hush-hush.

It was not hush-hush! To quote from a January 2006 article on a prominent website, “Right now the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is seeking legal permission to fly Predator and Global Hawk military drones above the United States, officially in order to compile digital terrain maps. Planning to sunbathe nude? The NGA may digitally map your anatomical proportions. A regulatory dispute is brewing because the Federal Aviation Administration mandates that above the United States, only licensed pilots with an instrument-flight rating can fly an aircraft higher than 18,000 feet; the FAA wants this rule applied to the NGA’s drones. The NGA is claiming that as a spy agency it can ignore FAA air-safety regulations and use people who aren’t pilots to fly the drones above the United States. The NGA even claims it can order airspace closed, to prevent pilots of civilian aircraft from snapping pictures that show government drones are conducting spy flights in America’s own skies. A secret agency wants to suspend aviation safety rules in order to use military aircraft to spy on the United States. When, exactly, are the establishment media going to notice this story?”

Perhaps you have guessed the above quotation is from Tuesday Morning Quarterback. Six years ago, readers of a football column knew about the intrusion of spy drones into America’s skies. Where were the big newspapers, the major networks, the public-interest organizations?

Here, from January 2011, is my Reuters column on the NGA’s expanding domestic-sky drone program. Did you know that the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency even exists? Much less that it is building a $1.8 billion headquarters structure that rivals the Pentagon in size, and that every year the NGA wastes billions of dollars in taxpayers’ money to generate aerial views little different from those Google and Microsoft give away free.

Most of the mainstream media seem unaware of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, just like the MSM were unaware of domestic drones. It is disturbing that the federal government is using our own tax money to spy on us — and equally disturbing that news organizations don’t notice.

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Disclaimer of the Week Cars may not be as advanced as you think. Many readers including Courtney Faxen of Camarillo, Calif., note that ads for the new Mercedes M-Class include the somber disclaimer, “No system, regardless of how advanced, can overcome the laws of physics.”

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Unified Field Theory of Creep: Presidential campaigns traditionally begin on Labor Day, so they ought to be cranking up right now. Reader Daniela Bollingwood of Cayuga Heights, N.Y., notes Barack Obama began his reelection campaign on May 5. Ask any politician of either party — campaigning is significantly easier than governing.

Reader Tom Scudder of Albany, N.Y., reported that in May, he “received an email from the New York Library Association to vote for my choice for the 2014 Knickerbocker Award for Juvenile Literature. Are they asking me to vote on books which have not been written yet?”

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Think about this college reality: Upset at home by mid-major Ohio University, Penn State has not won a football game since 1997.

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Wasteful Spending on Bodyguards Watch: Tuesday Morning Quarterback pounds the table about minor government officials surrounding themselves with taxpayer-subsidized bodyguards, not for security but to make themselves seem important: while double-parking and cutting to the heads of lines. TMQ further objects to governors who go on international trips for the purpose of self-glorification — the Constitution forbids states from involvement in foreign policy — while taking along taxpayer-funded bodyguards so they can strut around like national leaders, rather than the subsidized tourists they are.

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is frequent offender, denouncing government spending for others but lavishing subsidized luxury on himself. Reader Bryce Tutjer of Richardson, Texas, notes the latest. Perry and his wife took a European vacation that includes the Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix. The Dallas Morning News reports, “Taxpayers will pick up the cost of the Perrys’ security detail. The governor’s office pointed out that security is a necessary expense that has been a customary policy. Perry came under criticism from watchdog groups after he refused to reimburse taxpayers for security costs associated with his failed presidential bid.”

Perry spent nearly $3 million of Texas taxpayers’ money gallivanting around the country for presidential self-promotion, then would not repay the cost from campaign funds.

Note Perry’s rationalization, that government favors for him personally are justified not because they are wise but because they are “customary.” Entitlements, environmental regulations, deficit spending, federal intervention in state redistricting — to cite policies Perry bitterly condemned bout during his failed presidential bid — are “customary,” too.

 

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