Illegal aliens are a nuisance. I don’t want to cause alarm, but let’s face it: They threaten the safety and security of every citizen. Kinda scary looking, too.

Er, I’m talking about extraterrestrials, of course. With the scientific community abuzz this week about the discovery of a potentially habitable planet, so, too, do the debates on the existence of life on said planets. That then gets one thinking: Shucks, what would happen if we actually came into contact with a genuine, bona fide, 100 percent alien? Would it be like in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” or “Contact,” where we approached the aliens as friendly diplomats, welcoming them with music and newsreels of Adolf Hitler? In California, the state with the largest group of UFO sightings in America, our history of alien encounters tells a different story.

Even before the famed Roswell incident, the West Coast has had frequent so-called encounters with creatures from “outside space,” as those Rugrats once put it. On Feb. 25, 1942, about two months after Pearl Harbor, a humongous round object emitting a strange orange glow was spotted hanging in the nighttime sky above Santa Monica.

The City of Los Angeles did what any calm, rational, sophisticated metropolitan area would do: It shut off all the city’s electricity while dozens of gun crews and searchlights of the Army’s 37th Coast Artillery Brigade fired nearly 2,000 rounds of 12 pound, high explosive shells in full view of hundreds of thousands of residents. Six people died and the shell fragments rained on homes, streets, and buildings for miles around. And the object? Unfazed. It disappeared after 30 minutes without a single cloud of smoke, short-circuit or deflated weather balloon.

“ARMY SAYS ALARM REAL,” roars the front page of the Feb. 26, 1942 Los Angeles Times, “Identity of Aircraft Veiled in Mystery; No Bombs Dropped and No Enemy Craft Hit.” But hmm, that’s funny: No description of the “aircraft” is given, despite having been locked in by dozens of searchlights for half an hour in full view of half the Southland, and staff photographers snapping several photographs. Can’t let the public know that there was an alien, I guess. They might, you know, overreact a little.

Compare this to how the city reacted to an alleged UFO on Christmas of 2004. The Long Beach Police Dept. made a tape with a helicopter camera of a big glowing blob in the nighttime sky, shining brightly and dripping diode debris as it streaked along, in view of any citizen compelled to be walking outside on Christmas evening. And then, all of a sudden, it vanishes – like an on-off switch. The police were never able to identify for certain what it was. You can check out the video online, too.

In all likelihood, this was totally bogus. The flying phantom of the LBC has all the makings of a balloon with a flare attached, which becomes obvious when one watches the video. So why didn’t the LBPD or the local military base ever come to that same conclusion? Were they afraid of spoiling the feature story on the local news the following evening? Would the leprechaun in Mobile, Ala., come after them?

While I believe that somewhere out there is a planet with life, I think we’ve proven ourselves incapable of handling an alien encounter with the cordiality of a Hollywood movie. It would appear to me that the alien situation is a push and pull battle between government officials attempting to act in the best public interest, and new age moonies who stuck phasers to their heads when paranormal investigator and radio host Art Bell announced his retirement. I say let’s focus on finally getting a damn human expedition to Mars first.