More Psywar

South America ? The administration is collecting evidence of al Qaeda operatives involved in cocaine trafficking in Paraguay and Colombia. Islamic fundamentalist cells are operating in a tri-border area of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. Evidence has been found of al Qaeda members in this no man’s land, a senior administration official says.

This reraises the issue that I brought up last week–what would be the impact on domestic cocaine consumption (and concomitantly, Andean drug warlords’ revenues) if the rumor were to spread that nose candy supplies have been laced with anthrax?

Trading Freedom For Security

Today, however, we may be facing just such a threat, and one that is largely without historical parallel.

To respond, we as a nation will have to confront some hard choices. The enormity of the risk to civilian lives on American soil is unprecedented, yet despite this the Bush administration has thus far shown remarkable restraint. But as the president weighs what additional measures will be needed, both the administration and civil libertarians would do well to recall that our history demonstrates that war-time restrictions on civil liberties have neither been irrevocable nor have they curtailed our fundamental freedoms in times of peace. Indeed, our democracy can, and has, outlived temporary restrictions and continued to thrive.

And if, as we get thicker into this grim conflict, the administration deems it necessary to enact more restrictive steps, we need not fear. When our nation is again secure, so too will be our principles.

I hope that he’s right, but one of my concerns is the ill-defined nature of the enterprise on which we seem to have embarked. We do not have a formal declaration of war, nor do we know, ultimately, with whom we are fighting, and I fear that this poorly-defined beginning will make it more difficult to define an end, and that those who benefit from the usurpation of our liberties may find it convenient to continue the crisis. I welcome the sunset provisions in the legislation that has been passed, where they exist, but would like to see them broadened.

Of course, I think that we need a Constitutional amendment stipulating that all federal legislation have sunset provisions…

Oz To Fly Fastest (and Cheapest) Scramjet

According to The New Scientist, they’re going to do a scramjet test down under next week.

The scramjet results from the $1.25 million HyShot project, led by the University of Queensland and is due to launch on Thursday 25 October. It will lift off on Terrier-Orion rockets at Woomera, 500 kilometres north of Adelaide.

Lessee, now, how much was NASA’s Hyper-X program again? A couple hundred million? What is that, about two orders of magnitude more? And didn’t their test flight go into the drink?

We’ll see if the test is successful, but apparently, NASA can not only not do it faster, better, cheaper than the private sector, even foreign governments can beat them. Even if their test fails, they can fail much more cheaply than NASA can…

Homegrown Fanaticism

With all the distraction of the affairs in the Mideast, is it possible that we’re ignoring threats closer to home? Another side splitter from Iowahawk–Peace Elusive in Strife-Torn Midwest.

An excerpt:

With growing waves of violence moving ever westward, some worry that California itself is now vulnerable.
“There is a large Midwestern refugee community on the West Coast, especially around Long Beach,” said Whitby. “Many are sympathetic to Gunderson and Uff Da, and police have intercepted several Winnebagos filled with Lutheran radicals as far west as Elko, Nevada.”
“And remember, these men are fueled on a diet of bratwurst, dairy products and 3.2 beer,” Whitby added ominously. “We can’t rule out a biological attack.”

Star Dreck

OK, I thought that when I saw the pilot, that this prequel to the Star Trek series had promise. Perhaps it still does. But tonite’s episode sucked. I had hoped that with what happened a month ago, that all this politically-correct script nonsense from Hollywood (and Rick Berman and company) had ended, but this one was probably in the can long before the event, and they didn’t think it was any big deal.

(Note to non ST watchers–if you didn’t see the episode, feel free to ignore the rest of this rant–it is predicated on the assumption that the reader actually watched it.)

First of all, it really got off on the wrong foot with me when he is on the alien ship, and they offer him a bowl of something, and tell him that it’s the closest they can come to water.

Water is one of the most common and simple molecules in the universe. It is very easy to make. Take two atoms of hydrogen, one atom of oxygen, and mix (shaken, not stirred, and do it somewhere that can safely contain the exothermic energy thereby released).

Then they do this goofy alien sex thing where she (and it’s obvious that she’s a “she” even though “she’s” hairless–you can tell from the shape) and the visiting engineer put their hands in a box of packing peanuts in a holodeck of sorts.

And of course, he gets pregnant. Why am I not surprised?

Much of the rest of the episode deals with how he handles being pregnant, and they use all the stereotypes of a pregnant woman to demonstrate this. Was there some point to this? Are we supposed to now be more sensitive to how a woman in pregnancy feels because we see some redneck guy go through it?

Give me a break. Anyone who was insensitive to pregnant women before seeing this episode will remain so afterward.

Anyone who was not will find it faintly amusing, but no more than that.

I have to say, however, in redemption, that at least at the end, when the pregnant “father” caught up with the “woman” by whom he was impregnated, she found another host for the pregnancy, rather than just flushing it down a sink.

But still, my hopes for a more realistic Star Trek were somewhat diminished by this particular episode.

I probably won’t be posting much in the next few days, for those two or three people who have been logging in to see what I’m raving about currently. I’ll be at the Space Frontier Foundation annual conference. However, on Sunday or Monday, I’ll attempt to post a report on any interesting developments that I discover in the process of attending it.

More Questions For Osama (from Larry King)

Glenn Reynolds has a great list of questions for Osama–much better than CNN’s. I’m just glad that Larry King didn’t get the Osama interview. Here are the questions he might have asked. (Use your imagination for the voice)

  1. What was it like, growing up in such a big family?
  2. Does it bother you that none of your brothers or sisters have the same mother?
  3. Do you ever talk to them–what do they think about your profession?
  4. It must have been kind of a thrill to see those buildings fall down like that. Were you surprised?
  5. Does it make you feel bad to listen to all these people around the world who are angry with you?
  6. What’s it like living in a cave? How do you do the laundry? Do you have someone come in once a week and sprinkle fresh dirt?
  7. Do you really have a tiny penis?

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!