Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Freedom Machines

It's no use talking to Ernest Istook about donkey carts, or velocipedes, or ornithopters. The plain fact is, he's simply wild about automobiles! He likes them so much that he refers to them, rather tautologically, as "great American Freedom machines."

Consider the evidence: As long as you've got enough money to fill your tank, you can use your car to travel from the place where you live to the place where you work. If that's not freedom, what is?

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. In some states, you can also drive your car to a late-term abortion appointment, or a same-sex marriage ceremony (though you filthy perverts may rest assured that Mr. Istook and his colleagues are working on these problems as we speak).

Also, unlike mass transit, transportation by car is not subsidized by taxpayers (so long as you ignore the cost of oil and gas subsidies, and building freeways through residential areas, and treating pavement runoff laden with automotive fluids and heavy metals, and sacrificing parks and agricultural land, and protecting oil tankers and infrastructure, and air pollution, and congestion and crashes, and the billions of dollars that driver fees and taxes fail to cover in any given year).

In NYC, meanwhile, plans are being made to screen every vehicle Freedom machine that visits the island for radioactivity.

The proposal — called Operation Sentinel — relies on integrating layers of technologies, some that are still being perfected. It calls for photographing, and scanning the license plates of, cars and trucks at all bridges and tunnels and using sensors to detect the presence of radioactivity.
A while back, I suggested that purposefully triggering urban radiation sensors would be a cheap and easy way of causing chaos. That was idle speculation, of course, and there's no reason to believe that our pitiless enemies are capable of coming up with a tactic like that (not without dedicating an hour or two to working out the logistics, anyway).

Which is just as well, because if Noah Shachtman is to be believed, the current system is very sensitive indeed:
I spent some time with an NYPD unit, armed with these sensors. Just about anything would set them off -- like a patient getting chemotherapy, for example.
Even assuming they manage to reduce the false alarms to a bare minimum, it sounds as though this extraordinarily data-hungry Emancipation Contraption will cause more problems than it solves:
Data on each vehicle — its time-stamped image, license plate imprint and radiological signature — would be sent to a command center in Lower Manhattan, where it would be indexed and stored for at least a month as part of a broad security plan that emphasizes protecting the city’s financial district, the spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said.
In other news, we need better icebreakers (or Exalted Yankee Liberty Devices, as I prefer to call them) if we're going to keep the goddamn Russkies away from the North Pole:
Russia -- which last year planted a titanium flag under the North Pole, claiming 460,000 square miles of Arctic waters -- "has 20 icebreakers in its fleet, seven of them nuclear powered, including the largest ice-breaking vessel in the world," Homeland Security Today observes. Of the Coast Guard’s three polar icebreakers, two have outlived their originally designed service lives of 30 years.

The third sets sail this week, Reuters notes, "to determine the extent of the continental shelf north of Alaska and map the ocean floor, data that could be used for oil and natural gas exploration." And maybe claim some turf for America, too.
(Illustration at top by Bruce McCall.)


Swampcracker said...

Of course, those icebreakers will require a naval escort to protect the Democratic Republic of Santa Claus from any bear incursions, although economic forecasts for Christmas remain the same: More coal in everyone's stocking.

Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

Phila, you may remember an ad campaign mebbe 15-20 years ago for GM cars, Mr goodwrench, iirc: It's not just your car, it's your freedom. It was pervasive and persistent, and I (for one) still remember it clearly (which, given my intake of psychotropics, is in itself pretty remarkable...)

Phila said...

More coal in everyone's stocking.


It's not just your car, it's your freedom.

I don't remember that...but it's admirably concise, isn't it?

God knows I'm not immune to that outlook, either. I spent years driving all over the country, just 'cause I could. Would be a very different person if I hadn't, in some ways.

We were talking about you at E the other night...a lot of good wishes were sent your way.

Bruce Baugh said...

I can't tell you how tickled I am to see that someone else knows/remembers the work of Bruce McCall. Lazy Afternoons has been a companion of mine almost since I first saw the Bulgemobile ads.

Unknown said...


Nice machine

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