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The Informed Citizen
Friday, December 31, 2004

As the old year passes away,there are reports of commercial pilots being "attacked" by green lasers-"shot" into their cockpit windows.

There have been incidents in several states-including my home state,New Jersey,where the pilot of a Lear jet was "lasered" just after takeoff.

These events are potentially very serious: a laser,hitting just right, could blind a pilot momentarily,and could trigger a devastating air crash. Terrorists have reportedly considered using such a method to kill travelers,disrupt air travel,and cause widespread panic....but,in this case,I'm inclined to suspect another cause.

These "laser attacks" coincide,time-wise,with school holiday vacations: a period in which bored pre-teens ,and/or their somewhat older siblings,are "at liberty" and apt to engage in what my parents would call "tomfoolery".

This is the group most likely to engage in mindless acts of destruction : school vandalism,fires set in vacant lots,windows shot out with BB guns,graffiti,and,in our brave new 21st Century,
"messing around" with green lasers.

The lasers in question are YAG laser pointers.They are advertised as being 5 watt (the most powerful you can buy without an FCC permit),but are typically 1.5 to 2.5 watts in actual output.On a very clear night,they can project a thin green beam for quite a distance-as much as 2 miles.

Backyard astronomy buffs use them to point out various constellations...or so they say.I would guess they are more likely used to play "light saber" games with fellow buffs: an adult version of "messing around".

The gadgets sell for $60 to $600,and are widely available "on the net".Most are made in the Orient,and quality ranges from good to awful.(The "good" quality units probably won't burn up in your hand after a few minutes use.)

Some of the distributors-perhaps mindful of lawsuits-issue "boiler plate warnings" to prospective buyers. "This is not a toy. Children should be strictly supervised. Eye damage can occur.(Yadda,yadda,yadda.)"

As might be expected,pre-teens think they are "neat": sort of a "super flashlight".Hand a youngster a flashlight,and he/she will turn it on immediately;then rush outside to play flashlight tag,or pester the neighbors' dog,or shake up the young couple in the parked car, "light sabers".

Hand a youngster a green laser,and much the same thing will occur...only this time,once Junior has seen how far that cool green beam will reach,the "natural target" is apt to be an airplane.

Progress: It's wonderful.........I guess !


A Parsippany,NJ man was arrested in connection with Green Laser activities in NJ.He was not a terrorist. He was apparently just an overgrown kid.

The suspect's intellectual capacity may,perhaps,be judged by allegations he lasered a police helicopter while it was searching for him...
Thursday, December 30, 2004

Yesterday,President Bush appeared on television and detailed what the US was doing to alleviate the suffering of the victims of the tsunami.

He made a special point of suggesting Americans contribute to the American Red Cross,or to a short list of "approved" charities;
ie:charities which can be relied on to aid -rather than further victimize- the victims.

Jan Egeland,the forked-tongue UN disaster relief chairman,also appeared on television,to assure the world the UN was "studying" the disaster,and might actually begin to do something about it by Monday,January 3rd (assuming nothing more important arises.)

Think about that for a moment.The United States,which Egeland had suggested was "stingy",was already delivering assistance to the stricken areas-and had been doing so for at least two days.

The Unites States,moreover,had set up international agreements with willing partners,so the flow of relief could be accomplished smoothly and rationally.

The American public had responded as well: Early reports indicate Americans have contributed almost $100 million to the relief effort : way more than the smugly unctuous European Union has pledged (and $100 million more that the UN "five-per-centers" can't get their hands on !)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

On December 26,2004,a massive earthquake occurred in the Indian Ocean,creating a tsunami :a 500 Mph tidal wave,that crashed ashore in 8 southern Asian nations,and that hit Sudan,on the Horn of Africa.

As of today,the death count from this disaster is hovering at the 68,000 level,and it is anticipated at least twice this number will perish from other causes-notably disease and starvation.Millions are homeless,and the long-term effect on Asia's often fragile economy is impossible to assess.

For all that,before the surging waters had a chance to recede,
the "Tsunami Tsurfers" were jostling for a place before the video cameras of the "Mainstream Media": rushing to take advantage of the disaster to promote themselves and/or their causes (mostly the former).

One "environmentalist" opined the disaster was the result of global warming. Because of global warming,he explained,more people had built homes,set up vacation resorts,etc. along the Asian coastline-where they were vulnerable to tidal waves.

Nobody had the nerve (apparently) to point out the fact people who depend on the sea live as close as possible to it: something that has been the case for tens of thousands of years.

Another "environmental group" decided the earthquake must have been caused by sonar pinging-used by oil companies to locate undersea oil deposits. They pointed out as "evidence" the fact certain marine mammals had beached themselves: conveniently disregarding the fact there had been an earthquake in nearby Australia a few days earlier.

A reporter on Fox News got all glittery-eyed over the possibility an early warning system might have saved lives-if it had been in place.This rather fatuous line of questioning was squelched very quickly by the amused expert who was being interviewed.He noted,had such a warning network been in place,there would have been no way to warn potential victims in time;that such a warning would only have served to add panic as an additional death cause.

The NY Daily News made the tsunami tragedy a front-page item...sort of. Some reasonably photogenic "supermodel" had been injured badly by the tsunami (broken hip,legs,etc.) and had suffered the loss of her boyfriend,who was swept away.The News ran a provocative photo of the young woman as their cover picture,and made her story the center of their coverage.(One of the TV networks did likewise.)

The UN ,in the person of Norwegian-born Jan Egeland , decided to get in a few "cheap shots" at the US (Nothing new there !) Egeland,who clearly has an exaggerated notion of his worth,sneered at the initial US contribution,and inferred it was stingy. (Never mind the fact that it exceeded the total contribution of the 21 member European Union !)

This little faux pas proved a bit embarassing-even for the UN-and Egeland slunk back in front of the cameras the next day-looking very put upon -to announce he had been "misunderstood".(Hey:
I understood him VERY clearly the first time !)

In days to come,we may expect some further "tsunami tsurfing".
There is no tsunami warning network on our East Coast (we apparently have no real need for one) so we may expect some of our sharper-elbowed Senators to begin demanding a warning network be installed (at a cost of billions) on their side of the nation.

(Look for Chuck Schumer (D,NY),Hillary Clinton (D,NY),Edward Kennedy (D,Ma),Frank Lautenberg (D,NJ) and Jon Corzine (D,NJ) to kick off the opening chorus !

A day-to-day account of the war on terror,geopolitics,local politics,and any other damn thing that comes to mind.

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