Friday, October 22, 2004
1. PRIVACY: HAS "TOTAL INFORMATION AWARENESS" BEEN OUTSOURCED?
Remember the Pentagon program to create a data base of personal information? It would record our movements, purchases, who we talk to, what we read. It was the nightmare of the computer age (WN 20 Dec 02). It still is. Killed by Congress (WN 24 Jan 03) , or so we thought, but it was too bad an idea to be allowed to die. It was privatized and moved offshore, out of reach of U.S. regulators. Bahamas-based Global Information Group Ltd. offers such products as the "Terrorist Risk Identity Assessment." But is it accurate? Hey, war is not pretty; there are always civilian casualties.
2. MISSILE DEFENSE: UNTESTED SYSTEM MEETS NON-EXISTENT THREAT.
A full-color, full-page ad by Boeing in the Washington Post showed an interceptor missile being lowered into a silo in Fort Greely, Alaska. "Countering today's ballistic missile threat..." the ad begins. The policy of "peremptory strikes" to deal with weapons of mass destruction apparently applies only to countries that don't have any. A New York Times editorial today says that Iran and North Korea "have been emboldened by the sorry plight of the US and its coalition partners in Iraq." North Korea, despite its ambitions, has neither a long range missile nor a warhead at this time. "Boeing is committed to this vital program and the promise of a safer America," the ad concludes. WN assures readers that with missiles in the Ft. Greely silos we are safe from a North Korean nuclear missile attack.
3. THE EXCALIBUR PRIZE: DISTINGUISHED SELECTION PANEL IS NAMED.
Ranging from a hand-held worm-hole projector that zaps opponents to the other side of the galaxy, to an exotic payload delivery system, about which little is known except a mysterious acronym ups. nominations for a weapon based on the most speculative physics have been pouring in since last week's announcement. The deadline for nominations is Thursday, Oct 28. A diverse group of experts, familiar to regular readers of What's New, has agreed to assist in the final selection:
Puff Panegyric, Pentagon News Office
General Persiflage Missile Defense Agency
Elie Mosinari Congressional Budget Expert
Professor Basilisk Renowned Ornithologist
Ann Thropojinic Veteran Astronaut
Hi Rodomontade NASA Scheduler
4. POLITICAL SCIENCE: SCIENTISTS ARE MORE PARTISAN THIS TIME.
The New York Times wrote about it Tuesday, so I guess it's fair game. I got an e-mail this week from a journalist in the UK, who begged me to give him the name of a Bush-Republican scientist he could interview. I did, but it wasn't easy.