21 September 2001
1. NMD: MISSILE TEST RESTRICTIONS DROPPED FROM DEFENSE BILL.
It should surprise no one that the lessons politicians drew from the
terrorist attack reflect what they already believed. Proponents
of NMD, for example, see the use of hijacked aircraft in the
attack as proof that terrorists and rogue states will resort to
any means to attack us. Exactly, say their opponents, but with a
seemingly unlimited supply of would-be martyrs, why would they
bother with ballistic missiles? Missiles are costly, and have a
return address. To avoid a divisive floor debate on defense,
Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Chairman of the Armed Services Committee,
agreed this week to drop a provision in the Defense Authorization
bill that would have prohibited missile tests that violate the
1972 ABM treaty. Democrats are expected to introduce separate
legislation imposing NMD test restrictions, and the authorization
bill still cuts $1.3B from the $8.3B White House request for NMD.
But even that is likely to change as defense fervor grows.
2. BUDGET: TERRORIST ATTACK BREAKS INTO THE LOCK BOX.
Remember the huge surplus that suddenly vanished
(WN 31 Aug 01)?
On Wednesday, the director of the Office of Management and Budget
told science reps the Administration's goal is to maintain the
cap on discretionary spending at $679B. It's OK if Congress
wants to spend more on science, he said, as long as the cap
remains in place. But costs of war and clean-up from the attacks
are not included in the caps. He urged the scientific community
to resist academic earmarks by insisting that peer review be used
to ensure quality. Every Administration opposes earmarks (items
inserted in agency budgets that were never requested by the
agencies), and every Congress inserts them. They have a way of
showing up in the districts of powerful appropriators.
3. EVEN NOW: GULLIBILITY FLOURISHES IN THE MIDST OF DEVASTATION.
Who was really behind the terrorist attack? Papers across the nation ran
an AP photo of the smoke cloud rising from the ruins of the World Trade
Center that took the shape of a face. Not just any face, mind you, but old
Lucifer himself, though how people could be so sure it was Satan and not
a case of mistaken identity is unclear. Meanwhile, other papers were running
a prediction of the WTC tragedy by the legendary astrologer Nostradamus
in 1654. The leading expert on Nostradamus, James Randi, says the quote
is a total fabrication. Meanwhile, clambering over the ruins, were people
claiming to search for survivors with the DKL LifeGuard. Three years ago
(WN 30 Oct 98) the DKL LifeGuard was
marketed to law-enforcement agencies with the claim that it could detect
electric impulses from the heartbeat of humans through 500 feet of concrete
and steel. Alas, in a double-blind test at Sandia Labs it did no better
than chance and was revealed to be nothing more than a fancy dowsing rod
with buttons and lights.