Laser Laser, Burning Bright

Let’s start with some background first.

Jack Burton sent me a link to this website. With $699.99 US you, too, could have owned a handheld laser powerful enough to burn a hole through a plastic cup, or to put a dot on a cloud or tree miles away.

One of the lasers was used a few weeks ago to illuminate the cockpit of a commercial airplane at takeoff. Nothing happened except for an annoyed cockpit crew, and the plane continued on to its destination without incident. The Homeland Security guys felt compelled to issue a warning about it because they’d be in trouble if something did happen and they hadn’t said anything about it.

Now Prof. Reynolds has a post up talking about the commercial plane, and I’m waiting for an instalanche. (Probably won’t happen.)

As you might guess from my previous posts, I’m very skeptical about a terrorist using a laser to good effect. There seem to be so many problems with developing and fielding a working laser that even the US military doesn’t have one in its arsenal yet. But that doesn’t mean that some experimentation isn’t going on.

The go-to guy for info on the possibility for laser weapons (or even for new developments in military gear) is Murdoc Online. Case in point is this post from last year, where Murdoc points out that the Taipei Times is warning about a laser threat. I don’t think it’s any more credible than Murdoc did at the time.

Murdoc also let us know about an experimental laser system that’s mounted on a Humvee. The idea being to use the laser to destroy roadside bombs. I have no idea if it actually worked as advertised or if it’s something that didn’t pan out. Since I haven’t seen any press releases from the companies which make laser gear trumpeting how the US government is sending them large orders, I’d have to say that it probably is something that won’t be showing up any time soon.

Murdoc also has a post where he talks about simple, cheap laser defense. In all fairness the contact lenses mentioned only work against a specific frequency of laser light, but they would work.

So there you have it. Some idiot decides to use his souped-up laser pointer as a prank and Homeland Security warns of terrorists with Star Wars weapons. I suppose the prankster is happy. After all, even though no one knows who he is, he’s still kinda famous now.

Borlaug & Egeland

Our lives are easy – whether from the perspective of Jared Diamond’s book or our own lifetimes (my brother was out moving irrigation pipe in fifth grade and I was peddling around our village hawking newspapers – stories my children see as quite far from their experience). The deaths from the tsunami are hard to imagine, are horrible. The level of this human suffering seems beyond our ability to understand, to feel.

So, when a pompous and dry UN guy gets up and says we’re stingy, well, I’m likely to fall back on guilt. I could have put more into our Iraqi fund, I could be putting more into Tsunami relief. The charity to which our family devotes most of its energy is an ivory tower, designer one – setting up exchanges with Czech scholars, encouraging the teaching of Czech literature. But it does good and there is 0% overhead. You notice, these are all “I’s” – we think that way.

Okay, so I’m still on the defense but I am also not too crazy about my tax money’s “good deeds” being funneled through the UN conduit. We are always told to check out charities, to notice overhead – the UN’s percentage seems a bit too high for a good rating. (That’s part of the “I” – we notice things like that.)

But this post was prompted by one of those “good news we take for granted” moments – the “allies” Bush has lined up in his “coalition” are Australia, Japan, and India. And I observe, there he goes, being unilateral again. Australia’s like us – well, some would say “cocky” but we like to think we “honor indiviudualism.” But, let’s think about Japan & India.

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Quote Of The Day

The clear strategic conclusion remains what it should have been long before Coalition troops entered Saddam’s evil domain: No matter how strongly we wish it to be otherwise, we are engaged in a regional war, of which Iraq is but a single battlefield. The war cannot be won in Iraq alone, because the enemy is based throughout the region and his bases and headquarters are located beyond our current reach. His power is directly proportional to our unwillingness to see the true nature of the war, and our decision to limit the scope of our campaign.

[. . .]

No, we can only win in Iraq if we fully engage in the terror war, which means using our most lethal weapon — freedom — against the terror masters, all of them. The peoples of Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are restive, they look to us for political support. Why have we not endorsed the call for political referenda in Syria and Iran? Why are we so (rightly and honorably) supportive of free elections in the Ukraine, while remaining silent about — or, in the disgraceful case of outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell, openly hostile to — free elections in Iran and Syria? Why are we not advancing both our values and our interests in the war against the terror masters?

Michael Ledeen