Thursday, November 18, 2004


Well, God loves Irony.

Last week, my daughter had Pink Eye. Two days ago, I wrote a piece about disease. And yes, today, I have Pink Eye.

Being a 44-year-old with a disease commonly thought of as a childhood ailment really sucks. It also sucks, that I have to keep my distance from my daughter, so I don't re-infect her; this is a bigger problem than you might think, because my little princess considers it her God-given right to receive or dispense hugs and kisses to and from Daddy at her perogative.

My novel is progressing, if only in circles. I remember Tom Lehrer making fun of Beethoven once, pointing out that some of his symphonies seem to have trouble ending, as if Ludwig wasn't quite sure how to stop. I'd laugh more about that, except that, being an idiot, I entered a contest to write my novel, and the thing is due to be finished in one week.

Maybe I'll just kill off the main character with a really bad case of Pink Eye.

On another board, I've been trying to explain the election to some very hard-core Liberals. Once you realize that Liberals operate in a Logic-Optional Reality mode, you see how pointless it is to present evidence or facts. I'd have better luck convincing my daughter to enjoy broccoli.

I really like the CSI shows, but it occurs to me, that one reason we have trouble solving crimes like they do on the show, is that cities and counties only spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a facility, if it involves a professional sports team. The real Las Vegas Crime Lab, I suspect, does not enjoy multi-million-dollar-budget labs, with 50-gig computers and Summa cum Laude graduates on the staff.

Last thought for this article. If you really want to know the diff between Liberal and Conservative, consider that one has big problems with killing criminals, but is fine with killing babies, while the other accepts a jury verdict of death for a convicted murderer, but fights for every child's life. For all the debate, that divide always seems to show up.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Anthrax and Iraq

In 1942, during the Second World War, Dr. Stanley Lovell toured a number of facilities on behalf of the O.S.S. , to weigh the risk of sabotage and attacks on the public. He identified a number of weak areas, including water reservoirs and oil refineries. In many ways, his report 62 years ago reads like a DHS briefing today. One idea rejected early on, was the possibility of using the mail to deliver an attack. Codes and message were, of course, to be considered, but it seemed outlandish to believe anyone could or would use the mail to attack the United States. Unfortunately, in the weeks following the September 11th attacks, America found out that this assumption was invalid.

On October 2, 2001, a photo editor for American Media Inc. (who publish weekly newspapers like the National Enquirer and the Sun) named Bob Stevens was admitted to the JFK Medical Center in Atlantis, Florida. Three days later he died, from Anthrax inhalation. Stevens was the first documented case of a wave of 23 Anthrax victims, who touched or inhaled spores from Anthrax-laced letters. Five people died from Anthrax inhalation during this wave of attacks, which abruptly ceased in October. Targets for the letters included the weekly newspapers published by AMI, New York media ABC, CBS, NBC and the New York Post, and two letters sent to Senators Daschle and Leahy. There appear to have been three waves to the attacks:

The letter to AMI (and possibly others not discovered) was received sometime prior to September 25, with no notice about the Anthrax poison. Witnesses reported a “soapy” odor and texture to the powder, indicating the sender intended for the Anthrax to kill without warning.

The letters to the New York television networks and the New York Post, were postmarked September 18 with no return address, and included the following text in block letters:



The letters sent to Senators Daschle and Leahy were postmarked October 9 and included the same fictitious return address in New Jersey, and included the following text, again in block letters:



The FBI says all the letters appear to have been written by the same person, and all the letters were a photocopy. One oddity is that the paper size differed from letter to letter; the letter to the New York Post, for example, was printed on a paper size not normally found in the U.S., with a height-to-width ration of about 1.41 to 1, which Erich Speckin (who runs a private forensic lab) says is common to European business letters. Another possibility is that the letters were trimmed to remove gripper marks from a copier, which would help confirm the machine used to make the copies, or some other identifying marks.

There were differences in the Anthrax sent, as well. While the FBI contends that all of the Anthrax was from the same batch, some of it appeared to be more finely milled than others, indicating that the Anthrax was either processed by the letter sender himself, or that it was more finely milled between the first and second wave, for better sporulation.

After the October 9 letters, they stopped, and never started again.

This makes for an interesting detective story, but it also sheds light on part of the decision to invade Iraq. Why?

Following the loss to Coalition forces in 1991, Saddam Hussein’s military was forced to open their bases to inspectors, and in the course of those inspections, it was discovered that Saddam’s WMD programs had progressed much further than expected. Accordingly, the cease-fire was conditional on, among other things, the supervised destruction of all WMD stockpiles, tools, and research. As we know, that requirement was never met.

Fast forward to 2001. Iraq is on the desk of everyone concerned with National Security, because of their continuing interesting in acquiring/developing WMD, their support for a number of terrorist groups, and the law making regime change in Iraq official U.S. policy. Invading Iraq is on the back burner, but it’s on the burner.

September 11 hits, and all hell breaks loose. In addition to fighting Al Qaeda and bin Laden, all major threats to U.S. National Security move up the ladder. A dictator who has already attempted to assassinate a U.S. President, who is known to hate America generally and the Bush family in particular, who is also known to support terrorists and who is seeking WMD if he does not already have them, yeah he gets attention.

Early October, letters with Anthrax are showing up in Florida, in the same community where the 9/11 hijackers lived, in New York, and at the Senate. The Anthrax is a strain known to be in Iraqi hands as recently as 1998, and the best intelligence indicates they have kept it and are making more. Hans Blix admits privately that he believes Iraq has about 10,000 liters of weaponized Anthrax, on the basis of the intelligence he sees, and Dr. Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, or ‘Mrs. Anthrax’, has been photographed spending time in Saddam’s council recently. When the Anthrax is discovered to be more refined or ‘sporulated’ than any known samples in U.S. possession, additional speculation and concern is evident.

A private question went out about the consequences of the terrorist use of weaponized Anthrax. The answer received, is that the deliberate use of Anthrax as an attack on the U.S. population would constitute a WMD attack, and any response, up to and including nuclear strikes, would be legitimate.

In that light, President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq seems not only very reasonable, but also remarkably restrained. Also, I find it very interesting that the letters abruptly stopped in October, just after there success as a weapon and as a terror device began to become evident. I have no proof, but suspect that if a U.S. force were to discover and intercept a foreign group dispersing such a disease as Anthrax, that deadly force would readily be authorized.
Just something to think about.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Wars in Overlap

As the fighting for Fallujah has intensified, the very soul of the War for Iraq coalesced in one place, I am in a mood to think about other kinds of war.

One distinct side effect of the present day methods of education so commonly empoloyed, is that many high-school graduates have little grasp of historically significant events. Many times even college graduates are unable to name the significance of America's very existence, much less the import of the last two generations of History. The need to address that canyon of ignorance is one of my most pressing motives for writing this blog. It also occurs to me, that far too many people are unaware of the wars in which we are all presently engaged.

Wars also overlap, a fact lost on people who think that the end of military action means the end of the conflict. Consider the American War for Independence. Most people think it ended in 1781 at the Battle of Yorktown, if indeed they think of it at all. Perhaps others consider that it did not end until 1783, when the British finally got around to an Armistice. Others might recall that the British Empire did not enact even one of the agreed elements of the Treaty until 1787. But since the British invaded the American mainland after that, sacking a number of cities including Washington, D.C., it is quite fair to say that the American Revolution did not, in fact, truly end until 1814, when the British finally acknowledge once and for all, that they could not end our existence, and began to treat us as something like a real nation. The War for Independence and the War of 1812 were, from our perspective, bookend actions on the same war.

Many people think the Civil War began in 1861 and ended in 1865. But for farmers in the middle states, who saw violence as early as 1841, they might tell you something else. And with the rise of the KKK in the South, essentially domestic terrorism which was not stamped out for nearly a century after Lee surrendered, it's hard to say when the country in total was at "peace".

After the War of 1812, the United States and England joined together to rid the oceans of international piracy. The combination of allied and unilateral actions removed the threat of international sea marauders from the world, until breakdowns in cooperation (thanks to Japanese and Southeast Asia's indifference) allowed piracy to reform in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The effort continued even as the nations were involved in other wars, demonstrating the ability to fight wars in multiple fronts against multiple enemies for multiple goals.

Many conflicts of our own generation actually began long ago. The destruction wrought by drug abuse was long known, and by the end of the 19th Century, proscription of Opium was the law in most nations. After World War 1, drug use by veterans skyrocketed, especially with the introduction of heroin and the retail availability of cocaine. This was in large part due to the horrific nature of WW1; the battlefield use of gas, futile assaults against machine-gun emplacements, and the lack of effective field hospitals led to horrific casualties, both in number and damage. Survivors were often in constant pain for the rest of their life.

Another war long in progress, but not much-considered, is the war against Organized Crime. American historians are familiar with J. Edgar Hoover's response, to deny that OC even existed; unfortunately, that was not an uncommon response. The Mafia, various domestic criminal gangs, the Yakuza, and of course the Triads and Tongs have all affected the course of governments, in wars and peacetime both. The history there is so involved and significant, it deserves notmerely its own article, but a book with detailed notes and cross-references. It is worth noting for here, however, that even nations which consider their own political philosophy incompatible with the United States, nonetheless cooperate with the U.S.A. to defeat international crime syndicates.

The list goes on, but space and attention have limits. For here and now, it's important to consider the conflicts going on at present:

[] The War Against International and State-Sponsored Terrorism;

[] The War to Establish a Functioning Arab Democratic Republic;

[] The War to Convince the Totalitarian Regimes, That They Cannot Win a Military Conflict Against the United States, Regardless of Their Strategy or Tactics;

[] The War to Prove Communism Futile as a Political System;

[] The War to Prove Socialism Futile as a Political System;

[] The War to Pre-Emptively Remove Threats to American Citizens;

[] The War to Secure American Influence for the Century to Come;

[] The War to Separate Religion From National Policy;

[] The War to Advance Africa and the Middle East to a Better Standard of Life and Civil Rights; and

[] The War to Prove the Truth of the United States Constitution.

Many of these conflicts seem related, and some can be accomplished through coordinated moves. Others will require a different sort of conflict than military action, and will take longer to accomplish their objectives. But these are all important objectives, and some of them predate the Bush Administration (even the first Bush), and some will go on for as long as we can see ahead. But it remains important to see that higher dimensions exist, and that our nation's identity will be determined by the resolution of these conflicts.