Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Phantom Menace

The military, and the many corporations that feed, and are heartily fed by, it, must be rubbing their hands with glee (I've never been a fan of the term "military-industrial complex", thinking it sounds too Orwellian. But, under this administration, it may yet find its way into my vocabulary).

After the huge financial windfall (although a complete and utter scientific and technological farce) of President Reagan's Star Wars program, and its sequel: Star Wars II - National Missile Defense (developed under President Clinton and pushed forward under President Bush), comes the third piece of the trilogy, designed to continue the steady flow of tax dollars from serious social, educational and scientific goals and to your friendly neighborhood weapons companies.

The Phantom Menace to which I refer is the Air Force's recent push to move forward with the weaponization of space. "Phantom" seems an apt word here, given how transient and illusory the previous two initiatives have proved to be. "Menace" fits, because, as I said above, when the government proposes die-in-the-sky ideas like this one, the money has to come from somewhere. The price tag being thrown about for this is in the $100 billion range. Bear in mind that this is before the program gets going properly. How often has a program come in under budget?

We have an education system that is in desperate need of repair, with students leaving high-school ill prepared to compete in the very global marketplace that we have played such a key role in developing. We have no serious efforts to become energy independent - instead relying heavily on foreign oil, and hence ignoring a major way to improve our security. Poverty at home and abroad is being ignored. Scientific progress is being hampered, slowed and, in some cases, erased by harsh budgets and a twisting of the scientific process for the purposes of ideology. (Some of this happened as a direct result of the scientifically misguided moon-mars initiative. Some cynics even suggested that the real purpose of that idea was to funnel money to companies with military expertise. Now I might be starting to see their point.)

Addressing the real problems we face will make us happier, more competitive and safer. It will cost a lot of money, but the good news is that we can afford it, so long as we don't spend too much on our fantasy lives.
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