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Ned Madden's article was more editorial than factual reporting ("The Death Ray," Oct. 1). First, much of what TRW does in this area is classified by the Department of Defense. Second, the houses grew up around Capistrano Test Site (CTS)—it was developer choices and buyers' decisions. CTS is not an intruder.
The "infamous, scandalous $50 billion corporate-welfare program" called Star Wars? Any defense analyst can easily describe the new threats that arose from the breakup of the Soviet Union and their weapons dump on anti-American countries. No longer are Russia and China isolated threats; instead, we have large numbers of countries and groups with nuclear capability and almost with delivery systems placing America and its allies under grave threat.
Many scientists who doubted laser capabilities and other Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) strategies have been publicly and privately proven wrong. The technology existed or was in development, but security did not allow discussion. The SDI budget for the majority of the programs was not funneled through the congressional budget process because of its classified nature (civics lesson). The term "dried up" is a laugher for those in the defense industry.
The airborne-laser program has been demonstrated effective. The Russians were treated to a demonstration firing of the laser, reflecting off a mirror in space, knocking out a missile. This was before 1990. May I suggest that intercontinental ballistic-missile capability presently exists in China and several other Asian and African nations and is close to being commercially marketed to certain political groups?
Suggested reading materials on the subject are Aviation Week (more right than wrong) and Jane's books on present military capabilities. I would like to go into more detail, but the Department of Defense and other military units don't allow this, in the name of national security.—Bob Stevenson, via e-mail Ned Madden responds: I'm on vacation in the Greek Islands, spending all the cash I made writing this article for theWeekly. Let me be brief so I can get back to the cruise ship's all-you-can-eat-lamb-and-all-you-can-drink-ouzo buffet spread: First, in writing about classified subjects, it's predictable that critics will claim as Stevenson does that the real story can't be told—a fact that, however sad for democracy, may be true, but it doesn't keep me from restating the simple point of my article: in South County, TRW is working on the world's most powerful beam weapon. That fact is open to anyone with two years to spend looking through the public record as I did. And it seems that if I can spend two years reading reams of unclassified government data, the least Stevenson can do is take a half-hour to read that story carefully: I didn't blame TRW for building CTS near homes. In fact, I wrote that CTS has been in South County since 1963 and used to be "hidden in the canyon. Suburban sprawl has changed that." There's no question that many countries have missiles capable of firing warheads a great distance; as necessary as that might make laser-beam weapons seem to U.S. national defense, it won't make them any more effective. (Now that I'm floating around in the Aegean, this brings to mind Diogenes: "If only were it possible to banish hunger by rubbing the belly.") Other documents in the public record indicate that U.S. intelligence agencies are far more concerned with highly mobile delivery systems—like so-called suitcase weapons and car bombs. To take the rest of Stevenson's letter in order: to my knowledge, no scientist critical of a space-based nuclear laser beam has ever been proven wrong publicly, and Stevenson offers no evidence to the contrary. I acknowledge that it would be logically impossible to say what has happened privately. Stevenson is right about one thing at least: the true cost of laser-beam research is probably pornographically higher than the numbers the government has allowed to escape into the public record. Perhaps most discouraging about Stevenson's letter is its technocratic tone, suggesting as it does that average citizens shouldn't endeavor to question the scientific elite and—more to the point—the corporations for whom the elite work. If that becomes the prevailing attitude toward government, Americans won't have to wait for someone to impose fascism from the outside; it will have been imposed from within. HILLBILLIES 'R' US
Re: Buddy Seigal's column "Train in Vain" (Music, Oct. 1): Seigal states in his preview of the Doublewide Hayride Show that you won't find hillbilly/rockabilly broadcast elsewhere "no matter how much fancy dial twisting you do." I'd like to call his attention to the alternative country/rockabilly/hillbilly radio show Howdylicous! on KUCI 88.9 FM every Sunday from 8 to 10 p.m. and available via the Internet at www.kuci.org. If Seigal "appreciates being exposed to this stuff," I invite him to tune in any Sunday for great classic and contemporary country music without the cornpone humor and hillbilly accents. Just good music.—Julie Espy,Howdylicious!, KUCI 88.9 FM, Irvine HE'S FONDA STIGMATA