We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Sunday, February 4. 2007
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (h/t, Dr. Bob) I didn't know that Bonhoeffer's dad was a shrink, and that the family expected him to be one too.
The final paragraph from Bonhoeffer's Wikipedia entry:
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My favorite hero. I re-read him every Lent. His letters are wonderful. Especially to his fiance. A loving man who knew that Jesus cared not a fig about our happiness or comfort in this world, but only about our struggles towards holiness.
Threat of anti-satellite weapons greater than you might think
By Ben Bova
Sunday, February 4, 2007
“Gentlemen may cry peace, peace,” said Patrick Henry, “but there is no peace. The war is actually begun!”
According to Aviation Week magazine, on Jan. 11 the People’s Republic of China destroyed a defunct Chinese weather satellite with a ballistic missile fired from their rocket launch center in Xichang.
Many nations of the world have objected (including the U.S.), but no one can do anything more than cry over the spilt milk.
Most Americans — most of the people of the world — believe outer space should not be militarized. And yet the inevitable logic of national interests has once again led a major power, China, to build and test an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon.
It’s happened before.
In 1981 the now-defunct Soviet Union fielded an ASAT weapon, after more than 10 years of tests, despite Moscow’s intense international public-relations campaign to ban “weapons in space.” The Soviet system consisted of a bomb-carrying satellite that was brought into orbit near to the satellite intended to be destroyed, and detonated when the two vehicles came close together.
The United States, meanwhile, developed an ASAT system consisting of a two-stage missile carried to high altitude by an F-15 fighter plane and then launched into space. The missile’s tracking system guided it into a head-on collision with the target satellite: a so-called “kinetic kill” system.
In 1985, during the furor over President Reagan’s proposed missile defense program known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (and dubbed “Star Wars” be the news media) the Democratic Party-controlled House of Representatives voted a moratorium on American development of ASAT systems. The U.S. has not tested an anti-satellite weapon since.
With our armed forces operating around the world, satellites are an integral part of America’s military systems. Satellites are used for observation of land and sea, for guiding missiles to their targets, for global communications, and for weather forecasting. It’s fair to say that without their panoply of satellites, U.S. forces would be blinded and unable to communicate with each other.
It would be valuable to an enemy, therefore, to be able to destroy key U.S. military satellites.
And satellites are virtually defenseless up in orbit. For the most part they are small, fragile machines that cruise in fixed orbits that can be tracked and targeted rather easily.
Meanwhile, there are hundreds of civilian satellites orbiting the Earth. They relay telephone calls and television broadcasts, they monitor the global environment, they help in search and rescue operations, they observe the weather, they search for natural resources and do many, many other tasks — including monitoring Western rangeland where cattle herds roam. If John Wayne were alive today and interested in cattle ranching he wouldn’t hire cowboys, he’d buy imagery from satellites.
In particular, international commerce and financial dealings are dependent to a considerable degree on satellites that flash communications around the world with the speed of light.
Now let’s think about electromagnetic pulses (EMP). A strong-enough surge of electromagnetic energy — say, a big blast of radio waves — could destroy the circuits in unhardened satellites. Turn them into useless junk. Most of our civilian satellites are not hardened, the way military satellites are, and are vulnerable to EMP.
A single modest-sized hydrogen bomb detonated a couple of hundred miles high would produce an EMP that could knock out just about every unprotected satellite on that hemisphere of the Earth.
Think of what would happen to Wall Street, to Wal-Mart, to your local supermarket, if all our satellite communications were suddenly shut down. And remember that the reason al-Qaida struck the World Trade Center buildings in Manhattan on 9/11 was to strike a crippling blow at Wall Street and the U.S. economy.
So, if terrorists got their hands on a moderate-sized ballistic missile and a hydrogen bomb warhead in the 100 kiloton range, they could knock out all the unprotected satellites over half the world.
Satellites are important not only to our military, they are important to our economy. From the daily buy-and-sell of the stock market to the information needed to get food from farms to urban consumers, satellites are the nerve center of our vital communications.
It’s not only the Chinese or some other nation with an ASAT weapon threatening individual satellites that’s worrisome; it’s the potential threat of a terrorist nuke exploded at high altitude that will cut off our commercial and financial communications.
And the news gets worse. The EMP from a larger nuclear bomb exploded about a hundred miles above the American Midwest could knock out electronic systems on the ground across most of North America. Think of your personal computer, your cell phone, your automobile’s ignition system, all going dead at the same time. Think of the electric power grid going down all across the country, from sea to shining sea.
How do we protect ourselves from that? Deterrence might work against a national government: we could threaten a tit-for-tat retaliation if any nation used ASATs against our individual satellites. But how to protect ourselves against terrorists whose only interest is to cripple the U.S.?
Eventually, inevitably, the nations of the world will have to initiate an international inspection system with the duty — and muscle — to inspect every rocket launch and determine that its payload is not dangerous.
But until that happy day arrives, the best we can hope for is to develop missile defense systems that can shoot down rockets launched by rogue nations or terrorist organizations. It will have to be a system that can watch the entire world — from satellites, naturally — and react quickly enough to intercept any launch that is unannounced beforehand.
Once again, the U.S. will be placed in the unwanted position of being the world’s policeman. But as the aforementioned Mr. Wayne would say, “It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.”
Accent on the got to.
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On the subject of grace and justification, it has always seemed to me that my responsibility has become far greater with the recognition of grace and that it is impossible to live in the world in the 'old' way.