Tuesday, January 31, 2006

That Darned Old Tree

I glanced at the obituaries this morning-on my way to the comics-and saw a familiar face on the page : a man who looked quite a bit like Santa Claus.

“Hey !”, I thought. “ That looks like Henry : my back fence neighbor.”

I had met Henry –to talk to-only once, though I had seen him puttering around his yard; and I had once pointed him out to one of my granddaughters. (I asked her: “ Do you suppose that’s Santa Claus over there ?” She looked at him and her eyes got big for a moment-then she answered , scornfully : “ Santa lives at the North Pole,Pop !Don’t you know ANYTHING ?”

The one and only time Henry and I talked, the old tree became part of our conversation.

It was – or had been – a weeping willow tree, and it stood gracefully on his side of the fence: shedding skinny willow leaves into our swimming pool – way back when we had a swimming pool.

My wife and the kids would grumble about scooping all those leaves out of the pool every summer, and I would grumble about raking them up every fall.

Time passed. The kids grew up, and we took the pool out. We had the sense we were growing older – not that we felt old,you understand !

The tree was aging too, and,one hurricane season, the top snapped off:leaving a raw, naked looking trunk , that occasionally sprouted bits of green, but was visibly rotting away.

My wife fretted that the tree would come down in our yard some day,and she took to calling it “that darned old tree” – as in “That darned old tree dropped branches in our yard last night , so I threw them back over the fence.”- or – “ When are they going to do something about that darned old tree ?”

Then,after all those years of being backyard neighbors,Henry and I finally met. I think the occasion was due to a woodchuck racing out of my yard ,climbing the fence like an overweight cat, and dropping heavily into Henry’s yard.

It was a pretty comical sight,and once we had stopped laughing, we introduced ourselves and chatted for a few minutes about Henry’s backyard menagerie. He had chipmunks, a possum or two, the occasional visiting racoon,and,of course, a family of woodchucks.There were other critters – some of which had made a home in the old willow tree.

“People ask me,” he said. “When are you going to cut that old eyesore down ? – and I tell them I hope I never see the day.”

Henry explained that his mother had brought him the tree many, many years ago- only, back then, it was just a tiny willow slip in a glass of water. He planted it to please her-never thinking it would take root and grow; never imagining,in his wildest dreams,it would someday be a tall and graceful weeping willow.

“My mother is still alive, God bless her !”,he added; “ And as long as she’s still alive, that old tree can stay right there !”

I told my wife the story later on-and suddenly the willow stopped being “that darned old tree”, and became “the old willow tree”. It became reassuring to glance out the window and see it there: old and threadbare,but still standing –for all of that.

And so, this morning I sipped my coffee and read the obituary of a backfence neighbor I barely knew : a man who looked like Santa Claus;
a man who joined the Army right out of high school, who fought in the almost forgotten Korean War,who came home, found a job, and settled down to help raise a family.

He is survived by a wife,children,grandchildren,and great grandchildren-and yes : his mother (God bless her !) is still alive.

I hope that “darned old tree” is still there when I go.
“Analyzing the Anthrax Attacks – The First 3 Years”

By Edward G. Lake ( Book Review)

(Available through:Barnes and Noble or Amazon.)



The Anthrax Attacks of 2001 : which involved about 2 grams of anthrax, sent through the mail, killed 5 innocent people,sickened 17 more-including a young child,caused widespread panic, and millions of dollars in property damage.

They also spawned a snarled ball of conspiracy theories –from virtually every spectrum of the political landscape : mis-information, deliberate-even vicious dis-information, honest misunderstandings, wild speculation, and some outright insanity – most of which spilled over onto the Internet.

I jumped into the tangle myself – mostly because I was enraged to learn someone had used “ my back yard “ to launch a terrorist attack ; and I’ll have to confess I reached at least 10 “flawless solutions” of the mystery: of which, I’m sure, 10 will prove wrong.

Among the people I chatted online with was Ed Lake – the author of this book. I found myself then- as I find myself now : in agreement with him on some things ; in disagreement on others.

The real source of disagreement between “Anthrax Theorists” is lack of evidential knowledge. None of us have access (as far as I know) to the FBI investigation – and that’s as it should be.

No one has ever been charged – but that does not mean no one will ever be charged. The Amerithrax investigation has already been so badly damaged by leaks to the Media, the FBI had to “go back to square one” ,and develop new protocols. An inopportune leak could throw it into the “cold case files” forever,by making it legally impossible to convict the perpetrator(s).

Ed Lake has, nonetheless, compiled an impressive body of information,and has shed light on aspects of the case many of us found it more convenient to detour around.

For that reason alone, his well written, very readable book is a valuable resource , and well worth the modest price !

Friday, January 27, 2006

News That is ….Different !

Nairobi: A Kenyan woman,angered because of a persistent local famine,placed a “powerful tribal curse on God” before going to bed.

Something may have gone awry: she died in her sleep.

Leavenworth,Kansas : Police were intrigued to learn a man suspected of drug dealing was handing out business cards; and made it their business to obtain one.

The card bore an image of a boxing glove striking a clock, with the legend: “For a quick hit on time, call The Boss !”

A handy telephone number was furnished : something the police made good use of.

Apparently the old slogan :” Advertising doesn’t Cost – It Pays !” isn’t always true.

Springfield, Ore: An armed robber held up a diner on a Monday,but was unhappy with the amount of money his deeds had netted-so he decided to return on Wednesday , for “seconds”.

After robbing the diner a second time, he fled across the parking lot: firing his pistol repeatedly to discourage pursuit …but managed, somehow ,to shoot himself in the foot.

Richmond, Va : A State Legislator, who decided to unload his pistol while sitting in his State House office , got an instant lesson in safe gun-handling practices , when the pistol fired.

Fortunately – for all concerned – a local Sheriff had given the lawmaker a bulletproof vest as a “gag gift” ; and the vest, hanging on the solon’s door, stopped the .380 slug.

The only damage was to the Legislator’s pride: He has felt compelled to issue numerous public apologies , and will probably be long remembered as someone who shot off his gun instead of his mouth.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Brrr !! Global Warming in the News Again !!!

As Europe struggles with another week of sub-zero temperatures-
(Russia and the Ukraine have reported –40 degree temperatures and considerable loss of life)-


recent discoveries have been causing “the Green Gang” some additional loss of composure.

Last year, according to the January 14,2006 of “New Scientist” magazine, environmental engineer Frank Keppler, and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute discovered that living plants emit a significant portion – 10% to 30 % ,depending on the season – of the methane –a more serious greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide- that makes its way into the atmosphere..

This discovery, which has been confirmed by two other prestigious bodies,means that the Kyoto Accords – which call for compensating for carbon dioxide production by planting trees – would actually increase global warming significantly if carried out.

A second discovery – announced last year in “Scientific American “-showed that global warming was not beginning at the poles of the earth as climatologists had predicted.

It was discovered the earth “oscillates” in its rotation , and that this “pendulum-like” oscillation causes portions of Africa to receive additional solar radiation : producing heat , that is transferred by convective ocean currents to the earth’s poles.

This effect, called “Chandler’s Wobble” , is believed by some to be the primary cause of earthquakes,global warming, and oceanic currents such as “El Nino”. A discussion of this phenomenon may be read here:


As a final “slap in the face”, it has just been announced the amount of sunlight reaching the earth – which had showed a pattern of increasing for 15 years – has begun to decrease.

More sunlight is being reflected back into space-but the planet is still warming up : reinforcing a growing suspicion that much of the “greenhouse gas” concept may be in error.


How much warming of the world’s oceans is due to lava flowing up from the earth’s core ? As far as I know, there is no practical way to measure this factor, and it has pretty much been ignored.

Anyone who thinks this lava flow is minor and inconsequential might wish to study this easy-to-read Cal-tech report on plate tectonics:


Global warming doctrines are being taught and promoted as if they were Holy Writ; but Science, combined with Ideology , produces a hybrid that is of little scientific value.

Perhaps it is time to nail some new theses to the doors of our scientific “cathedral” !

A day after posting this,someone directed me to this National Geographic article about a "geo-thermal mega-plume" beneath the Indian Ocean,that has been pumping huge quantities of heat into the ocean waters: enough-by itself-to account for much of our global warming !


This just in: Saturday, 01/28/06: Arctic ice blocks crashing ashore in Alaska-something not seen in decades.


(Was this phenomenon in the global warming models ? )

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Al Gore ? Nevermore !!

Al Gore , who won the 2000 election by Popular votes, but lost by Electoral votes , has emerged recently to criticize the Bush administration ,and to make recognizable running-for-president noises.

No surprise there ! Mr. Gore can hardly be expected to have warm,fuzzy feelings for his erstwhile opponent .

It is also unsurprising to see that some of his former supporters are experiencing a wave of nostalgia for “Honest Al “ – and wondering : “Gee ! Suppose He had become President – instead of that awful Republican ? How different –no, how WONDERFUL life would be !”

What WOULD life have been like with Al Gore in the “cat bird seat” ?

Well, for starters, 9/11 WOULD have happened. It had been planned years in advance,and Osama and his Merry Men were not overly interested in the outcome of the 2000 elections.

Let’s assume the outcome would have been pretty much the same .
(Perhaps Al Gore would have been in Tennessee mending political fences –and reading “My Little Goat” to some grade schoolers there:
Who knows ? )

Once he and Vice President Lieberman returned from their “undisclosed locations” , and things settled down a bit, President Gore would have been in a very tight spot – with the circumstances leading up to 9/11 aimed like an arrow at the very heart of his presidency – and no one else but Al Gore and Bill Clinton to blame !

People would want to know why airport security wasn’t better – and someone would have pointed out that Al Gore himself (presumably with the whole-hearted approval of his boss) had gutted recommendations made by a “blue ribbon” panel he had chaired – AND – that almost immediately afterwards, the airlines made huge contributions to the Clinton-Gore campaign .

The connection was so brazen, even The Nation – hardly a bastion of Neo-Con Thought – remarked upon it : rather sarcastically, in an article titled: “Boodle and Airline Security”.


People would also want to know about that whole “Saudi thing” , whereby just about any holder of a Saudi passport was admitted to the United States without question. ( The US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia-Clinton appointee Wyche Fowler- even disciplined one Consular Officer who questioned the policy.)

Source for this is the 9/11 Commission Report supplement: “9/11 and Terrorist Travel”.

The Saudis, you see, were considered “ideal” visitors, as they spent lavishly, and very often wanted nothing more than a trip to Disneyland.

(Did I mention the Disney empire was a heavy Clinton-Gore campaign contributor ? $21,950 for the 96’ re-election campaign + $23,114 for the ’97 Inaugural .)


People might also ask about the NSA and the CIA : Why didn’t they warn us ?

The NSA – yes, the same NSA being accused of “ spying on Americans” – had been tied up with spying on…..France !


America and France were commercial rivals ,and the French , it was said, were in the habit of closing lucrative overseas contracts by paying hefty bribes to foreign officials ( and collecting a commission on the bribes !)

The American business community appealed to Mr. Clinton –and-once the contributions were bundled and received , NSA was put to work on those pesky French : turning up bushels of information on who was paying what to whom. The CIA would then see to it that “the lowdown” was given to the Opposition Press in the Purchaser’s country.

A multi-million dollar sale the French had counted on would suddenly fall through, and the Americans would win the contract. ( Our tax dollars at work ! Yay !) The grateful business community would cough up another hundred thou or so for one of the many Clinton “slush funds”.

Meanwhile, the NSA and the CIA were picking up all sorts of chatter from places like Pakistan,Afghanistan, Yemen,and other Islamist strongholds – but the chatter was going untranslated . Too much of the budget had been spent on French-speakers.


Okay, I think we can conclude 9/11 wouldn’t have done much for Mr. Gore’s reputation , can’t we ?

“Maybe so”, his loyal followers say. “ But at least we wouldn’t have all this wicked invasion of privacy !”

Really ?

Let me draw your attention to this article – courtesy of EPIC : the “somewhat progressive” Electronic Privacy Information Center.
I have abstracted a bit of the report. Contents in full may be viewed at the link shown:


Clipper Chip is a cryptographic device purportedly intended to protect private communications while at the same time permitting government agents to obtain the "keys" upon presentation of what has been vaguely characterized as "legal authorization."

The "keys" are held by two government "escrow agents" and would enable the government to access the encrypted private communication.

While Clipper would be used to encrypt voice transmissions, a similar chip known as Capstone would be used to encrypt data.

The underlying cryptographic algorithm, known as Skipjack, was developed by the National Security Agency (NSA), a super-secret military intelligence agency responsible for intercepting foreign government communications and breaking the codes that protect such transmissions.

In 1987, Congress passed the Computer Security Act, a law intended to limit NSA's role in developing standards for the civilian communications system. In spite of that legislation, the agency has played a leading role in the Clipper initiative and other civilian security proposals, such as the Digital Signature Standard.

NSA has classified the Skipjack algorithm on national security grounds, thus precluding independent evaluation of the system's strength.

On Feb. 4, 1994, the White House announced the adoption of the Clipper Chip. The adoption was supported by Vice President Gore. The White House released a factsheet of Questions and Answers on the decision.

Let’s talk about Post 9/11 actions by a Gore-Lieberman administration.

Given the fact Mr. Gore would have had the same military and CIA advisers, and given earlier assessments and statements by the previous (Clinton-Gore) administration, I’m inclined to believe we would still have troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

One of the compelling factors in the decision to “neutralize” Iraq was the seldom-publicized belief Saddam Hussein would have taken advantage of the US involvement in Afghanistan to launch a pre-emptive attack on Saudi Arabia . (Tommy Franks alluded to this-rather briefly- in his book “ American Soldier”.)

The Saudis –understandably – were playing their own game. Despite huge purchases of American arms,their only real defense was hired mercenaries of uncertain loyalty , “led” by absentee Saudi officers.

They were terrified of Iraq, and terrified of providing open support to the Americans – so they used their contacts in the CIA to present the White House with carefully manicured intelligence.

It is “fashionable” in certain circles to suggest it was the Israelis who wanted the US to invade Iraq . I’m sure they have shed no tears over the downfall of Saddam , but even a casual examination suggests they were more likely alarmed by the prospect : in the previous Gulf War,it was Israel that was targeted by Saddam’s missiles ; and , had Saddam used chemical or biological warheads, the Patriot batteries that shot down the incoming Scuds would have dumped the deadly contents on Israeli cities. It may be instructive to recall that the Israelis threatened Saddam with a nuclear strike the second time around.

Okay. We probably would have troops at risk in Iraq. How about Iran ?

This is where we start getting into some very strange areas !

In 1995, Al Gore – with the full authorization of President Clinton – signed a secret agreement with (then) Russian Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomydin ,which called for an end to the sales of Russian armaments to Iran by 1999 – but which approved of Moscow’s completion of “existing orders” – including the delivery of 3 Kilo class diesel electric submarines – despite the fact this order completion was a direct contravention of the Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act (also known as Gore-McCain, because the very same Al Gore had co-sponsored the bill in 1992,when he was a Senator.)


Noting the proximity of the 1996 elections,one cannot help but wonder –given Mr. Gore’s predilection for fund-raising – whether some carefully laundered Russian and/or Iranian money did not flow into one of the many Clinton funds.

The Russians ignored this secret “agreement”, and were still delivering goodies to Iran in the year 2000 : prompting this chiding article in the New York Times:


In early 2000 , while Mr. Gore was still on the campaign trail , the Clinton administration allegedly supplied plans for nuclear weapon triggers to Iran – in a botched CIA operation called Operation Merlin : again with the full knowledge and approval of (then) President Clinton – according to NY Times writer James Risen , in his controversial book : “State of War”.


According to the Risen story , the designs were defective, but the defects were easily remedied, and the Russian go-between selected for this odd mission offered to do just that.

I’d like to believe Mr. Risen’s source got it wrong, and that the plans were for “fail safe” devices – intended to self-destruct a weapon if it were accidentally launched, or had been hijacked by militants – (President Eisenhower provided the same information to the Russians during his term in office as a means of reducing the threat of an inadvertent nuclear exchange) – but, given the Clinton-Gore history of “open market” diplomacy, and the recent revelations about Hillary Clinton’s acceptance of campaign contributions from two pro-Iranian groups, I wonder if Mr. Risen got only half the story !

Should “ auld acquaintance” be forgot ?

In the case of Al Gore : most definitely !

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Thoughts to Live By : Confession is Good for the Soul

There once was a religious young woman who went to Confession. Upon entering the confessional, she said, 'Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.'

The priest said, 'Confess your sins and be forgiven.'

The young woman said, 'Last night my boyfriend made mad passionate love to me seven times.'

The priest thought long and hard and then said, 'Squeeze seven lemons into a glass and then drink the juice.'

The young woman asked, 'Will this cleanse me of my sins?'

The priest said, 'No, but it will wipe that smile off of your face.'

An old man walks into a confessional. The following conversation ensues.

Man: 'I am 92 years old, have a wonderful wife of 70 years, and many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Yesterday I picked up two college girls who were hitchhiking. We went to a motel, where I had sex with each of them three times.'

Priest: 'Are you sorry for your sins?'

Man: 'What sins?'

Priest: 'What kind of a Catholic are you?'

Man: 'I'm Jewish.'

Priest: 'Then why are you telling me all this?'

Man: 'I'm telling everybody!'

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Red Star Rogue – by Kenneth Sewell and Clint Richmond

Did Russia try a sneak nuclear attack on Pearl Harbor in 1968 ?

On the night of March 7,1968, K-129 : a “Golf class” diesel-electric submarine, armed with three nuclear missiles, and two nuclear torpedos , surfaced quietly in the darkness at Latitude 24 degrees North; 163 degrees West – a mere 350 miles from the US Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

The sub was hundreds of miles away from its assigned patrol area, had not checked in with Soviet naval headquarters for almost a week , but had aroused no official curiosity : a circumstance that would itself be viewed as extremely curious . Russian submarine crews were rigidly disciplined ,almost fanatically loyal , and quite unlikely to go off on a “free lance” mission – especially with a KGB zampolit (Political Officer) aboard.

The location was in “direct line” with the Chinese submarine bases.
The procedure of launching from a fixed navigational point was consistent with Chinese launch doctrine; as was surfacing in order to launch missiles. The fissile material in the missiles and torpedos was of Chinese manufacture.

The authors believe a small group of Stalinist holdovers in the Kremlin and the KGB – led by Mikhail Suslov : a shadowy figure who had been Stalin’s blood-stained right hand, and Yuri Andropov: a Suslov protégé, who was head of the KGB, orchestrated this attack in order to bring about a nuclear exchange between the United States and China.

The United States , already bogged down in the Vietnam conflict , would have been substantially weakened. China would have been devastated , and an easy conquest when Russian troops (already poised on the border) rolled in “to restore order.”

What the plotters did not know – according to the authors – was that Russia had seen the wisdom of accepting a top secret offer from President Eisenhower of fail safe devices : little bombs that could be built right into a nuclear warhead , and that would destroy the warhead –and anything else nearby-if an unauthorized launch was attempted.

According to the authors , a rogue crew –probably highly trained KGB Spetsnaz troops assigned to KGB’s Executive Action Department - aboard the K-129 attempted to launch one of the 1 megaton missiles at Pearl Harbor ; but perished in the attempt ,when the failsafe blew the warhead apart, and exploded a second missile still in its tube. The combined explosions blew the bottom out of the boat, and sent her to the bottom.

There was a second thing the plotters did not know: US sub tracking capabilities were light years beyond anything envisioned by the Soviets,and K-129 had been under more-or-less continuous remote surveillance since it left its home base in Avachinskaya Bay. It had been tracked and identified by underwater SOSUS arrays, kept under watch by satellites, and pinpointed by its one micro-burst transmission.

There was no way the United States – which even had a photographic record of its exploding missile tubes – would have mistaken K-129 for a Chinese boat.

Had the attack on Pearl Harbor succeeded , approximately 500,000 Americans would have died. Pacific fleet headquarters would have been vaporized – and – given the information the US had at its disposal, the retaliation against the USSR would have plunged the two nations into no-holds-barred nuclear war.

How the United States gathered evidence about this event, and how it used the evidence make for some very interesting reading : If the authors are correct, our view of Cold War history – and the role some of our political leaders played – are overdue for significant revision .

Whatever your political education and orientation , I think you will be in for some unsettling surprises when you read “Red Star Rogue” !