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Saturday, January 18, 2003

 
"TAXPAYER DOLLARS FOR THE BENEFIT OF INDUSTRY."

The Sierra Club is throwing the book at President Bush's aggressive efforts to slash environmental protections.

Their "Big Book of Bush" carefully tracks the administration's anti-environmental record, and offers up tasty tidbits like this quote, from an undersecretary at Bush's Department of Energy:

"The biggest challenge is going to be how to best utilize taxpayer dollars to the benefit of industry."

That was Mike Smith, assistant secretary for fossil fuels at the Department of Energy, speaking to the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia, January 30, 2002. But actions speak louder than words, and it has been the actions of the Bush offensive that have been, well, offensive --

Take a look at the "Find the Remaining Safeguard" game -- which lists many of the regulations gutted by Presidente Arbusto. The sad thing is the game isn't even up-to-date -- Bush is still busy. ...



posted by Fred Clark 1:56 AM


Friday, January 17, 2003

 
BJORN LOMBORG GOES BANANAS.

The foolishness of Julian Simon is limitless.

Scary news about bananas:

Scientists based in France have warned that, without radical and swift action, in 10 years' time we really could have no bananas.

Two fungal diseases, Panama disease and black Sigatoka, are cutting a swath through banana plantations, just as blight once devastated potato crops. But unlike the potato, and other crops where disease-resistant strains can be bred by conventional means, making a fungus-free variety of the banana is extraordinarily difficult.


For Americans like me, this is huge news -- bananas are and have always been a given. Bananas on cereal. Banana splits. Banana bread. Spotty brown bananas for 49 cents a pound at Wawa. The idea of a world without bananas is unsettling, unnerving, alien.

Yet for Americans like me, bananas are a mere grace note to our main diet. For millions of others -- poorer people with far fewer choices -- the loss of the banana means starvation and (to quote the postponed-but-not-disproved Thomas Malthus) "gigantic, inevitable famine":

The banana, in various forms, is the staple diet for some half billion people in Asia and Africa.

According to cornucopian anti-environmentalist Julian Simon -- and his disciples, such as disgraced and discredited statistician Bjorn Lomborg -- the world can never run out of anything (see here).

"Therefore," the simonists argue, "the world's banana crops cannot really be threatened, cod cannot be overfished, and fossil fuels will last forever. Lalalalalalala I can't hear you lalalalalalalaaaaaaa."

But again: The banana, in various forms, is the staple diet for some half billion people in Asia and Africa.

The stakes here are too high for cornucopian nonsense.
posted by Fred Clark 3:51 PM

 
DICTATORS IN RETIREMENT.

A modest proposal to ease the transition to freedom.

Diplomats from a variety of Arab countries are reported to have offered Saddam Hussein refuge in exile if the Iraqi tyrant is willing to peacefully step aside. Here's Donna Abu-Nasr's take in her AP story:

Libya, Mauritania, Egypt, Belarus, Cuba or North Korea (news - web sites) -- could one become Saddam Hussein's next home?

Arab diplomats say the idea -- which has not been publicly confirmed -- has been presented to Saddam as a way out not only for him and his family, but also for his people, suffering for 12 years under punishing U.N. sanctions.

But denials have come as quickly as new countries are raised, and many experts say they do not believe Saddam will leave Iraq.


Saddam Hussein's voluntary resignation is perhaps the surest and most-direct route to a happy ending for the people of Iraq (avoiding the messy intermediary steps of U.S. warplanes bombing their homes for weeks, killing thousands of civilians in an effort to drive Saddam from power). It is, sadly, unlikely to play out that way. But one can hope.

Which brings us to one of my favorite pipe-dreams and part of my Grand Scheme for World Peace: a United Nations-sanctioned, 5-star Home for Retired Dictators.

The U.N. should acquire a large (but not too large) island somewhere in the remote South Pacific. This could be negotiated as part of a deal with some soon-to-be-flooded Micronesian nation -- the U.N. gains ownership of one mountainous island in exchange for guaranteeing asylum for the environmental refugees departing submerged atolls.

Top-rung private contractors (Hyatt, Hilton, etc.) will be hired to construct dozens of palatial residences on the island. World-class golf courses, fine chefs, old-school British staff -- the works -- would all be provided under U.N. auspices.

This island/resort becomes the world's most luxurious penal colony. The U.N. then hires a new Special Envoy -- someone with real estate sales experience, maybe one of those informercial hosts -- to offer dictators the option of immediate retirement.

Step aside immediately, the envoy tells them, and you can live out your days in a private mansion on Peacekeeper Island, far from the burdens of (tyrannical) leadership. International monitors will assure a smooth transition from your cruel regime to a representative, democratic government that respects basic civil and human rights.

Expensive? Probably -- especially since the domestic staff would have to be extremely well paid -- but not as expensive as war. And the transition to democracy should be easier, smoother and cheaper in their respective countries than if it is attempted following years of crippling sanctions and/or indiscriminate carpet-bombing.

But doesn't it reward dictators for their tyranny? In a sense, yes, but keep in mind these guys were already being rewarded with their lifetime reigns. All this would do is ensure that they continued in the lifestyles to which they had become accustomed -- minus the concubines and the torturing and imprisoning dissidents.

In any case, their pleasure and ease is a small price to pay for the peace and prosperity their departure from office would bring to the world.

Alternate ending: After operating the island successfully for a decade -- once Saddam, Mugabe, the generals from SLORC and Kim Jong Il are all residing happily on the island -- you recall all the servants and cut all future funding for the island. Secret cameras record what happens next on Survivor 29: Dictators in Paradise.









posted by Fred Clark 2:43 PM

 
OPTION FOUR: THE BASEBALL CAP.

Still looking for an eco-friendly, organic hair gel.

Until Tom's of Maine starts making an effective line of hair-care products, I'm inclined to try the advice sent in by Eric McGoey:

I am also blessed/cursed with hair that has a very strong will of its own -- a will to make me look as ridiculous as possible, apparently, and which can only be tamed with good, strong gel. ... (Having previously experimented with ultra-cropped hair cuts and their inverse -- that is, letting it grow so long that gravity pulls it down into some semblance of order, I have chosen gel as the lesser of three evils.)

My gel of choice? American Crew Firm Hold. This stuff is great - it's like rubber cement. You can put it in on Friday, party all night at a friend's house, sleep on the couch, and shape it back into place with some water the next day. It's more expensive than drugstore gels (Dep, Dippidi-Do - or whatever the hell it's called) that you were referencing, but, in my opinion, spending less on gel is a false economy ...


Eric then describes precisely the price I've been paying for my "false economy" of cheap-o brand gels:

AC doesn't disintegrate into white, dandruffy flakes like so many other gels ... and doesn't flake off like the head-chips from the non-users in those old Head & Shoulders1 commercials.

Here I was hoping no one had noticed.

Best of luck with your hair ...

You too, Eric.

- - - - -- - - - - - - -

1. About those old Head & Shoulders commercials --

They always began by telling us that "Nine out of 10 people" had dandruff. Then they'd present this little scenario where there would be, say, three random co-workers visibly disgusted by a fourth person scratching their scalp. Dandruff! they'd say in revulsion, shunning their flaky peer.

If 90 percent of us have dandruff, what are the odds that such a scenario would ever play out? How plausible is it that this one-in-a-thousand clique of three dandruff-less freaks would gather in the same workplace? And if dandruff-sufferers are so overwhelmingly in the majority, why should they stand for this kind of abuse? Rise up, people -- shake this flaky white yoke from off your shoulders and overthrow the oppression of the healthy-scalped minority ...


posted by Fred Clark 2:03 PM

 
DOUBLE AGENT.

Mr. Kenneth Nichols O'Keefe is unbelievable.

Got off work last night at "6 o'clock GMT" -- 1:00 a.m. where I live, which is late enough to listen to the BBC World Service on Philly's NPR station. World Service is so polite and dispassionate and British that it was a shock to hear a flat, American voice ranting in the loud, ugly, angry tones of American AM radio.

Specifically, I heard this guy, one Kenneth Nichols O'Keefe, an alleged former U.S. Marine who has renounced his American citizenship and is supposedly recruiting "human shields" to travel to Iraq. He was on the BBC program in a point/counterpoint-type conversation that got really loud, stupid and ugly. He was berating a dissident Iraqi journalist who was forced to flee Iraq.

The commentary from him on the BBC Web site bears only slight resemblance to what I heard from him on the radio.

The Iraqi dissident seemed to be arguing that if the U.S. intended to bomb his home and family as aggressively as it did a decade ago, he hoped that this time we would have the courtesy to at least finish the job and remove Saddam Hussein from power -- rather than sadistically encouraging rebellion, then letting Saddam crush it, like the first President Bush did. He kept trying to say that his country was a "sinking ship" -- that war might be bad, but the people were so desperate that anything might be an improvement ...

But this O'Keefe jerk kept interrupting him, accusing him of betraying his family and the people of Iraq for not returning to Baghdad to face execution. O'Keefe was rude, belligerent, conspiratorial, anti-American, and stupidly captive to a moronic "moral equivalence" outlook in which every regime seemed to be equally depraved and only he alone was pure and good.

Warblogger hacks like to argue with strawmen -- to concoct ridiculous caricatures that blatantly misrepresent those who oppose the coming war, then "fisk" these strawmen as a kind of weird forensic autoeroticism (hence "fisk"). It seemed, listening to the BBC this morning, that one of these strawmen had come to life and was shouting banalities on the Beeb.

Listening to this idiot on the drive home my overwhelming impression was that this guy must be CIA -- some kind of propagandizing double agent posing as an anti-war activist. Faltering public support for Mr. Bush's war and widespread skepticism about his secret evidence led some dark shadowy agency to send this operative out on a disinformation blitz, posing as a repellant misrepresentative of opposition to the war.

The usually respectable and responsible BBC had been suckered/coerced/ordered into putting this man on the air. ...

The less-rabidly anti-American commentary on the Web site seems less like a disinformation campaign than like some weird combination of John Walker Lindh, a pacifist Timothy McVeigh and Brian Wilson (who seems, unlike those others or O'Keefe, genuinely heroic).

That still doesn't make Mr. O'Keefe representative of opposition to this war. There are thousands -- millions -- of people opposed to this war to whom the BBC could be worldwide airtime. There are scores of bloggers far more representative, responsible and deserving than this guy. Hell, put Janeane Garofolo on the air.

I suppose Mr. O'Keefe is not actually a CIA double agent. But I suppose he wouldn't behave much differently if he were.

(Found the McVeigh link via Orcinus via Digby.)

posted by Fred Clark 1:30 PM


Thursday, January 16, 2003

 
WAR ON THE POOR, III.

George W. Bush's pastor should be fired for malpractice.

If you didn't follow the link below (via Jeanne) then please follow this one and read Hendrik Hertzberg's New Yorker piece about the blasphemies the Bush team is promoting as piety.

By this I mean what Hertzberg calls Bush's "preferential option for the rich":

"These tax reductions will bring real and immediate benefits to middle-income Americans," Bush said in Chicago. "Ninety-two million Americans will keep an average of $1,083 more of their own money."

The first of these claims, as the Financial Times editorialized the day after the speech, is "obviously bogus."

The second is true, but only in the sense that it is also true that if Bill Gates happened to drop by a homeless shelter where a couple of nuns were serving soup to sixty down-and-outers dressed in rags, the average person in the room would have a net worth of a billion dollars.

Average, yes; typical, no. A typical taxpayer—one right smack in the middle of the income range—will get a couple of hundred dollars. And a worker in the bottom twenty per cent will get next to nothing—at most, a dime or a quarter a week.



posted by Fred Clark 4:01 PM

 
WHY HAVEN'T YOU SEEN IT?

I'm all for you body and soul.

The indispensable Jeanne d'Arc has two must-read posts up today.

First, the incredibly timely full text of Martin Luther King's 1967 sermon/speech opposing the Vietnam War (annotated -- read the links).

Second, a level-headed look at Bush's war on the poor, which includes gems like this:

[As Kevin Phillips says,] it's "not only unfair, but the policy equivalent of self-dealing." Pretty blatant self-dealing: Bush's tax plan would save him $44,500. To most of us, that looks a whole lot like an annual income. Those figures have an uncanny resemblance to the amount of money we expect to have to work for. It's not fair.


posted by Fred Clark 3:42 PM

 
AN OPEN LETTER TO LORNE MICHAELS AND TINA FEY

Please go after Ari Fleischer. He's begging for it.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer holds sacred everything Saturday Night Live should hold as sacrilege.

He lies to defend power. He lies to protect his embarrassing boss from embarrassment. He lies to defend the death of innocents, the rape of the environment and the transfer of wealth from the poor to the wealthy. (I know you're wealthy now, Lorne, but you used to go after people like this.) He afflicts the afflicted and comforts the comfortable and daily assaults the good, the beautiful and (especially) the true.

It is inexcusable that SNL has thus far let this man go unscathed.

There is nothing edgy, sharp, satirical or meaningful about skits that make jokes about the Osbournes or about pop-culture trash like Joe Millionaire or Anna Nicole. The world doesn't need any more Anna Nicole jokes -- Anna Nicole is herself as big an Anna Nicole joke as there will ever be.

That kind of empty-pop-culture-reference, no perspective, softball insta-joke is what Jay Leno is for -- and aside from Weekend Update, you folks are in danger of becoming Jay Leno (or Leno lite).

Meanwhile, that smug liar Fleischer goes out every day to shield his boss from the American people. His lies are outrageous, blatant and anti-democratic. The guy might as well be wearing a giant bullseye on his chest for comedians and satirists -- but the comedians and satirists who once mattered are too busy shooting Anna Nicole in a barrel to bother with anything weightier. (And, okay, yes -- that was an Anna Nicole joke.)

I'll make this easy for you. Dave Cross. Get him on the show. The guy is Ari Fleischer -- except he's funny, and smart, and doesn't make his living telling lies so his boss can bomb poor people far away while stealing from poor people at home to give the money to his rich white friends.

Ari Fleischer would make a funnier recurring character than, say, "the Ladies Man." And by challenging the White House's arrogant duplicity every week, you'd be helping to make the world a better place.

Please. Your country needs you.

Sincerely,
Fred Clark


UPDATE: As of 1/17/03, no reply from the folks at SNL. Russell Mokhiber is picking up their slack with his ongoing Ari & I transcripts at Commondreams.




posted by Fred Clark 3:12 PM


Wednesday, January 15, 2003

 
THREE MORE LIES.

The Bush administration keeps catching itself lying.

1. There won't be deficits. The deficits will be small and temporary. The deficits will be large and temporary ...

Today's AP story by Allen Fram:

Federal deficits should balloon to the $200 billion to $300 billion range over the next two years, President Bush's budget director said Wednesday, a far bleaker view of the fiscal horizon than the White House had painted. ...

Last summer, the administration projected that there would be deficits of $109 billion this year and $48 billion in 2004. At the time, Democrats criticized those numbers as overly optimistic. ... The White House estimated last July that the red ink could fade to black by 2005.

The Bush administration could argue that they didn't technically "lie" about the huge deficits they're racking up. They could say that, as it turns out, the disastrous consequences Democrats predicted -- which were mocked and attacked uniformly by Republicans at the time -- have all turned out to be true. The Bush administration thus didn't "lie" about deficits -- they were just very foolish and misguided and should have listened to the Democrats who were right all along.

Somehow, I don't expect them to say this. Instead, as per their usual m.o., they're pretending they never said what they said before (i.e., they're lying), and have begun denying that deficits are even much of a Bad Thing (see below).

2. Deficits aren't really bad. Specifically, they don't raise interest rates.

Brad DeLong is extremely gracious to Glenn Hubbard, who has become the Bush administration's point man on this particular piece of duplicity:

[Hubbard] has let himself get boxed into a position the soundbite version of which ("no evidence" that swings in the deficit of the scale seen in the United States affect interest rates; the belief that the 1990 Bush and 1993 Clinton deficit-reduction packages substantially fueled the 1990s boom is "Rubinomics... complete nonsense") is radically inconsistent with what Glenn believes and teaches students in his Money, the Financial System, and the Economy textbook (see especially page 661, but there are lots of other pages as well).

"Radically inconsistent," I take it, is a term of professional courtesy meaning, roughly, "Hubbard is full of it."

3. Administration economists expressed "universal consensus" in support of Bush's latest redistributionist tax cut.

DeLong cites Dwight Meredith's pointed dissection of this particular piece of hogwash, then adds his own perspective:

I used to think that the frequency with which the Bush administration lies about its economic policies was the result of a cynical administration-wide bet on the laziness of the Washington media. But this particular lie -- that Paul O'Neill thought that dividend tax relief was the most important thing to do -- has no such explanation. It seems to be completely and totally pointless: the kind of lie that is told only by people for whom telling the truth is never seen as a possibility...


posted by Fred Clark 11:19 PM

 
ON HOLD.

So which is strongest? "Super-," "mega-" or "ultra-hold" hair gel?

The shelf in the discount store confronts me with three different colors of cheapo-brand hair gel.

(Sadly, I use the stuff. I'm a defensive user of hair products. My genetic inheritance includes two cowlicks -- one of the Alfalfa/Dennis-the-Menace variety, one of the Conan/Grimley variety. I fight back with chemical warfare. If anybody knows of an affordable and effective organic alternative, I'd be glad to hear of it.)

The sickly yellow hair gel is labeled "super-hold." The blue and green varieties (each the same shade as the respective varieties of mouthwash) are labeled "ultra-hold" and "mega-hold."

Which, one wonders, is strongest?

Mega-hold certainly sounds pretty strong, from the Greek for "great, mighty." But as a prefix, mega- usually means one million, or 106 -- that's impressive, but finite, so it must be less powerful than either of the two superlative varieties.

But how is one to judge between the competing superlatives? Super- implies a step beyond, above, superior-to. Again, that's impressive, but not as impressive perhaps as ultra-hold which suggests the nth degree, the ultimate, the extreme exceeding all other holds.

So I picked up the ultra-hold and was halfway to the counter when it hit me: Who would win in a fight between Superman and Ultraman?

No contest, really. I bought the yellow stuff.



posted by Fred Clark 1:28 PM


Tuesday, January 14, 2003

 
WAR ON THE POOR (cont'd.).

22 short propositions about Larry Paquette.

Larry Paquette wrote this editorial in the Los Angeles Times.

Larry Paquette is a sourcing manager for a manufacturing company in Fresno, Calif.

Larry Paquette is a Ragged Dick.

Larry Paquette thinks people hate him because he's rich, when really they just hate him because he's selfish.

Larry Paquette doesn't understand the difference between guilt and responsibility.

Larry Paquette thinks a 50-hour work week at a single job puts him in the "hardest-working" category.

Larry Paquette interacts every day with people who work twice as hard as he does for less than half the money.

Larry Paquette believes that people who generate waste are more industrious, important and deserving than people who clean it up.

Larry Paquette does not know his janitor's last name.

Larry Paquette is a lousy tipper.

Larry Paquette is discussed at Liquid List.

Larry Paquette has never had to walk 5 miles for clean drinking water.

Larry Paquette thinks he works harder than people who have to walk 5 miles for clean drinking water.

Larry Paquette thinks the people who have to walk 5 miles a day for clean drinking water are "looking for a handout."

Larry Paquette thinks the poor deserve their poverty.

Larry Paquette makes in a year about what Paul Krugman makes in a month.

Larry Paquette thinks Paul Krugman is jealous of him.

Larry Paquette thinks Jesus is jealous of him.

Larry Paquette thinks he is not his brother's keeper, because the only brothers who need keeping are lazy and don't deserve his help.

Larry Paquette will one night be visited by three spirits. If he does not learn the lessons they teach him, he will die friendless and alone.

Larry Paquette would be wise to avoid Sherwood Forest.

Larry Paquette is, biblically speaking, a fool (Psalm 14:1, Luke 12:13-34).

posted by Fred Clark 11:36 AM


Sunday, January 12, 2003

 
YES, HE REALLY SAID THAT.

Deep Thoughts from Dr. Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

Sen. Frist, who reportedly covets George W. Bush's job, already has a good handle on the president's syntax. (All quotations courtesy of "Meet the Press.)

- - - - - - - - - - - -

On his civil-rights record:

I go to Africa once a year or twice a year to work with the African-American community.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

On civil rights history:

We [Republicans] care about affirmative action if you define affirmative action as we did in the 1960 Civil Rights Act.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

On civil rights and the GOP agenda:

I am confident that we have an opportunity we can seize to not rely just on rhetoric and not just pass a series of bills sort of reflexly that might say, you know, for this or against that but to establish a dialogue that we in this country have not seen among our nation’s leaders but have that continue all the way down again to the dinner table and homes around the country.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

On health care:

I can['t] say it’s our number one priority but seniors and individuals with disabilities deserve the same sort of health care that people in the private sector get when it comes to prescription drugs.



UPDATE: Re: the "go to Africa to work with African Americans" quote, it should be noted to Dr. Frist's credit, that he has made many humanitarian trips to poor nations in Africa to perform surgery -- which is pretty darned Schweitzeriffic. But as the substance of his comments on "Meet the Press," and this New Republic article by Peter Beinart (via Jeanne via Jim) demonstrate, he's been less impressive as a senator. Here's Beinart:

[Frist] placed his concern for Africa's suffering people above the free-market fundamentalism and anti-foreign-aid dogmatism that inhibit many other conservatives from pursuing truly compassionate policies toward the world's poorest continent. If left to his own devices, Frist would have enacted policies that would have saved African lives.

But Frist wasn't left alone. He confronted a White House with far less noble priorities, and, by making those priorities his own, he preserved the political alliance that has now made him the most powerful Republican in the U.S. Senate.


That "would have" contains a tragic sell-out that bodes ill for Africa and for Dr. Frist's soul ...


posted by Fred Clark 10:37 PM

 
ASK NOT ...

In USA Today, Walter Shapiro says the American of George W. Bush sneers at sacrifice as "Jimmy Carter-esque":

For those who lived through World War II or even the agonies of the Vietnam War, it is hard to accept the reality that we are now a nation that can seemingly afford guns, butter and tax cuts.

Imagine Winston Churchill telling the British people during the darkest days of war with Germany, ''We shall fight on the beaches with rate reductions, we shall fight them on the landing grounds with tax-free dividends, we shall fight in the fields with business incentives, and in the streets with rebates. We shall never surrender, as long as there's one tax left to cut.''

In truth, we can now have it all without paying a major price in the short run. As Bush triumphantly declared Thursday, ''We're the strongest, most resilient economy in the entire world.''

So what if the government has to borrow a few hundred billion dollars more to pay its bills? So what if our brave fighting forces include only a small segment of society? We're Americans, privileged to live in a land that has transcended the need for sacrifice.

posted by Fred Clark 10:00 PM

 
A VERY, VERY BAD IDEA.

Military contractors want to fly predator drones here in America.

One of the scariest things about this very scary article by Renae Merle of the Washington Post is that it has been syndicated as a business article.

Federal regulators have begun considering rules that would allow drones, the pilotless planes being used in the war in Afghanistan, to fly in U.S. airspace.

Supporters envision the use of drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, for such tasks as moving cargo, pinpointing traffic problems, patrolling the border, searching for fugitives or fighting forest fires -- creating a domestic commercial market for drones that some believe could be worth more than $2 billion during this decade."There is a pent-up demand for civil and commercial application" of drones, said Scott Dann, president of an industry group that is pushing for commercial drones, which includes Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp.


Fighting forest fires sounds benevolent, but government drones (or industry-group drones) "searching for fugitives" most certainly does not. Keep in mind that existing drones are all weapons -- not vehicles, but remotely guided spy-cams and assassins. These are like flying versions of Omni Consumer Products' "ED-209" ("You have 15 seconds to disarm ... you have 10 seconds to disarm ...").

Yet even if these drones were employed only to pursue legitimate criminals (and not just Middle-Eastern men, peaceniks, Gore-voters, etc.), they have a history of killing the wrong people.

Anybody remember Daraz Khan? He was nobody important, really, just a peasant. He was poor enough that to him a 1/3 share of 50 cents was worth a long, dangerous day's work collecting scrap metal from U.S. ordinance. He was from a poor village, a place where nutrition was a constant struggle and growing healthy and tall was exceptional. Daraz' moderate height -- he was 5' 11" tall -- earned him the nickname "Tall Man Khan" in the village.

Tall Man Khan was killed by a U.S.-controlled predator drone because the soldiers operating the drone thought he might be the 6' 4"-tall Osama bin Laden. Oops.

Daraz Khan is dead. Osama bin Laden is still alive. And the U.S. military is bragging about how effective and accurate and high-tech and "smart" it's killer drones are. And the companies that make them are citing this as evidence that they should be allowed to use them domestically to, you know, track down fugitives and stuff.

"The potential applications for this technology in the area of homeland defense are quite compelling," Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a prepared statement.

In other words -- imagine just what John Ashcroft could accomplish with a squadron of killer drones at his command.

Aside from these civil-liberty concerns, there's also this:

Critics worry that a commercial airplane encountering a drone would be in danger.

"The technology is not sophisticated enough to assure the safety of other vehicles," said Carr of the controllers group. "It is not the unmanned drone that I am worried about; it's the commercial aircraft that has to operate in the same airspace with 200 people on board."

... But without pilots aboard, drones can't make the kinds of decisions pilots make every day, critics say. And they say drones were not designed to barrel through U.S. airspace, which can contain more than 8,000 planes at the busiest times.

Even if the drones were to fly at extremely high altitudes where commercial aircraft rarely venture, that would not be enough to satisfy some safety concerns, critics say. "They have to come up and they have to go down" passing through regular air traffic, said Warren Morningstar, a spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

Further, critics point to the drones' spotty record in the military. During the Kosovo war, 10 times as many drones were lost as manned vehicles, according to a report from Teal Group Inc. Three of the Air Force's six Global Hawks, which cost about $35 million each, have crashed.

... The drones cannot detect aircraft and avoid them automatically, said Scott Dann, a program manager of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. ... And if a pilot guiding a drone from the ground were to lose contact, there would be no way to guide it to a safe landing, Dann said.



posted by Fred Clark 6:44 PM


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