Jacko the Terrorist?

Michael Jackson had Wal-Mart employees frightened for their lives this week when he entered their store wearing a black ski mask. The same store met with tragedy two years ago when a masked gunman entered the store and killed one worker in an attempted robbery.

I don’t know if he’s still the king of pop, but he’s definitely the king of bad judgement.

It’s the end of the world as we know it?

According to an article by The Observer, the Pentagon commissioned a “secret report” on climate change but suppressed its release due to the dire predictions it contained. Normally I take alarmist stories of apocalyptic climate change with a grain of salt, but the officials involved in the preparation of the study are apparently well-respected climatologists, lending an air of credibility not normally associated with such scenarios. Some of the predictions really are disastrous:

Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters.

… major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a “Siberian” climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

… abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.

I saw this story a couple of days ago, so I’m surprised that the major news media hasn’t picked up on this, especially considering its political considerations. The document is obviously damning to W’s administration, whose ignorance of environmental issues borders on arrogance. The article reports that:

Last week the Bush administration came under heavy fire from a large body of respected scientists who claimed that it cherry-picked science to suit its policy agenda and suppressed studies that it did not like. Jeremy Symons, a former whistleblower at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said that suppression of the report for four months was a further example of the White House trying to bury the threat of climate change.

Again, I really hate to seem alarmist about this, but if even some of the predictions in this report are valid, then efforts to prevent or at least mitigate the resulting climatic changes need to be undertaken now, that is if it isn’t already too late…

The Alarm AKA The Poppyfields

The Alarm’s last album was over ten years ago, and it’s been over 15 years since they’ve had any singles on the charts. So how can a down-on-its-luck ‘80s group get airplay for a new single? Well, apparently one way is to change its name to “The Poppyfields” and have a boy band lip-sync their new song in a video. Mike Peters, the group’s founder and only remaining original member, comments:

We were just trying to open the debate up, because there’s so much music that gets played based on image. These days the song and the content get left behind. But now the song kind of squashes the assumption that new music has to be made by new groups. Ultimately, the hope is that maybe now people will sit up and listen to our records again.

I haven’t heard the song yet, but according to the Rolling Stone article it’s in the Top 30 Singles Chart in the U.K. Makes you wonder whether people liked the song or the band’s “look”…

By the way, the band’s original line-up did get together for a recent episode of VH1’s Bands Reunited

Pentagon Cancels Another Big Program

The Pentagon announced today that is canceling the RAH-66 Comanche program after 20 years of development. This helicopter was conceived as a fast stealthy armed reconnaissance aircraft. With the long approval and development time that new projects now require, the Pentagon has once again found itself with a weapon system it doesn’t need. The Comanche became obsolete with the advent of effective Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in the recon role in recent years. This program is just another in a long list of projects that the Pentagon has been forced to cancel or curtail in the last decade. The Crusader self propelled howitzer system was cancelled in 2002 because its mission of heavy artillery support against massed armored divisions in Europe did not exist anymore. The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber managed to make it to production but was scaled back because its mission of flying in undetected to strike at Soviet ICBM launch sites was no longer necessary. The F-22 Raptor aircraft was originally designed to provide a stealthy high-speed interceptor to dominate the skies. It has all the gadgets on board that money could buy in order to accomplish its single task. This approach has left the military realizing that it has a very expensive one trick pony in the F-22. Boeing is now scrambling to shoehorn the F-22 into more missions that it wasn’t designed for (like attack, bombing, and electronic counter measures) before it gets the budget axe too.

There have been quite a few more high profile projects that have been tossed aside recently as well. This leads me to several questions. Why is there so much time passing between determination of requirements and production? I would think that technology advances in production (a la Boeing 777) would make design and production somewhat faster than in the recent past. Is it all politics? Money? Project scale? Mission creep? Lack of foresight?

It almost seems as if we should abandon these large scale projects in favor of a more wide range of smaller projects. That way production could be increased on those that prove to have a viable mission and cancelled on those that don’t.

Maybe requirements should be less restrictive to leave room for innovation. The Comanche project has already cost the taxpayers $8 billion and will cost another $2 billion in termination fees. $10 billion was an awful lot of cash to spend to get nothing in return.

I am an outsider (a well read outsider) when it comes to the military and aerospace industries so I hope maybe Driko or Toby can help shed some light on how the Pentagon deals with these types of programs.

Cool Simpsons Page

The SimpsonsCheck out Tim Rawle’s cool Simpsons page, especially his comprehensive collection of lyrics that appeared in songs on The Simpsons. I personally find that breaking into song on the show is usually the kiss of death, but I will admit that they’ve occasionally come up with some fun ones. Some… :-p