Saturday, December 23, 2006

Ruling Class of America

Many of us have recognized for some time that when members of Congress talk about taxing the income of the rich, they really are working from the view that all income is theirs (the government’s) and they will let the rich keep some of it. It would perhaps better if the government taxed wealth, instead of income. But that would affect the Teddy Kennedys of the country and they would never allow that.

Two days ago in my local paper there was a story that said the Supreme Court of California will decide whether a law that was passed overwhelmingly by the people of that State, is constitutional. The Supremes start out with the notion that all laws are unconstitutional and THEY will decide what we will and will not have on our law books. Since what they decide is often formed from their whims about what life should be like, and not from existing laws, this is a kind of double slap in the face of citizens. I suspect that nine cheap lawyers in black robes are no better qualified to make these decisions than are the people of California.

Our Constitution was written to protect us from government. It puts limits on ALL three branches. But the imperious ruling class tends to forget that.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Judge Sides with Bush on Terrorism Law

In an AP story this morning (where it was hard to find) Judge James Robertson of the Federal District Court said “detainees (at Guantanamo Bay) can’t challenge their imprisonment in federal courts.” Originally, the judge said the prisoners could challenge their imprisonment in federal courts. Then Congress passed a law that said otherwise and for some reason, the judge must have actually read what Congress had passed.

How long the judge’s ruling will last is open to question. He is the same Clinton-appointed judge who ordered the government to change the style of U.S. currency. The Constitution is clear about the responsibility for designing money and it explicitly appointed another branch of the government to handle that duty. It goes to show that the Constitution is not an impediment to much judicial thinking, these days.

Coddling criminals and extending to aliens the same rights as citizens is a fairly recent battle that belongs in the land of the Liberal, not the land of the Constitution. But the handling of enemy combatants is not new.

When President Lincoln enacted his tough laws against northern citizens (most of whom happened to be in the opposite political party), he usurped the powers of Congress. Only Congress can suspend the right of Habeas Corpus, for instance—not a president. But Lincoln did it anyway. The question during the Civil War was not “Shall a President act in a tyrannical way towards citizens of another country (CSA)?” Rather, it was “Shall a president act in a tyrannical way toward the citizens of his own country?” Where was the Supreme Court during this period? Shamefully hiding under its collective desk. Meanwhile Lincoln had some 13,000 American civilians in the north tried by military tribunals and tossed into prison (Doubt what I say? Read your history books for this period.)

During the Civil War, most of Congress and the President were on the same side of the issues, so the President’s actions suited Congress. Jointly they raped the public and took away their rights as though American citizens were aliens. Now, during the Iraq war, many who are in Congress and on the federal bench are not on the same side as the President and therefore feel obliged to make sure enemy combatants are given the full rights of American citizens.

Why should enemy combatants have the same rights that American citizens have? Beats me. Not even the weird Supreme Court of the 1860’s could come up with that.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Cousin Horace

Finding a long lost cousin is usually a pleasure. Ten years ago I went to central Kentucky near Lexington, from the Los Angeles area to conduct research on my family. I had a question to ask of the man who was in charge of the Georgetown City cemetery. It is a beautiful place. He did not have the answer, but offered me a list of people who might know the answer. One on the list was a cousin I had not seen or heard of in forty-five years.

I called Horace Grover Gaines, my cousin. It took some convincing, but soon he showed up at the cemetery office to answer my questions directly. He was a big, nice looking man with an eye patch. He was definitely pirate material. Older than I by about nine years, He had been undergoing surgery on the cornea of one eye. It was clearly uncomfortable for him, but genealogy was important and I was going back to California soon. So he stayed with me and took me around town and his farm which had historical significance for several reasons.

The caretaker of the cemetery was very deferential to Horace, so I figured Horace was an important man in the community. Among other things Horace was the director of the cemetery. He was also the director of the biggest bank in town and served on the board of education, the draft board (in times past), and all sorts of community endeavors.

Horace was immensely likeable. And knowledgeable about our family in common. He had paintings of our ancestors in his home. He had records I had never imagined. But I had something for him as well: I convinced Horace that the farm he owned had been carved from the Kentucky wilderness by our common ancestors in 1783.

I felt bad because I had not known Horace longer. He was a good, intelligent man and a funny one besides. Over the next few years we corresponded often and swapped information. I wrote magazine articles based on his data and almost got the Louisville PBS station to conduct a search on his farm for signs of our Revolutionary War ancestors. But they backed out at the last minute.

I did not know Horace was a war hero, a wounded veteran of Pacific battles in WWII. I also did not know that Horace’s mind was slipping into Alzheimer’s disease. I should have suspected something because he did not remember my mother, a pretty woman whom most men did not forget.

I did get back to Georgetown a few years later with my wife. I was pleased that she got to know Horace and that we met Horace’s daughter and her children before Horace was carried away by his disease. His wife had died. He had a wonderful woman friend who helped take care of Horace until the end, which came on October 14, 2006.

I read that this nation is losing around one thousand of its WWII veterans every day. Horace was just one of those statistics. Until, that is, I set up a web page for him. It will stay on the Internet until I am another statistic.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

False Imprisonment

So there I was, about to turn off my computer a couple of days ago, and thinking about my great-grandfather Pryor. I had just written a small item about him for an attached web site. He has been dead almost a hundred years so there wasn’t much new with him. Anyway, I entered his name in the search spot in Google and wow! Up came a site for the sale of historical documents.

One of the documents for sale was a letter written at the Executive Mansion (of the President of the U.S.). The letter was written by Abraham Lincoln to Secretary of War Stanton about what to do with a couple of civilians who were in prison in Ohio.

One of the men was my great-grandfather. I knew he had been in prison at the behest of A. Lincoln but I didn’t know why. I always suspected it was because he had helped Confederate General John Hunt Morgan escape the Yankees in central Kentucky.

My great-grandfather did help Morgan, but the letter from Lincoln was written some eight months before Hunt had escaped! I had been wrong all these years about the reason for prison. Lincoln had tried by military court and imprisoned some 13,500 civilians in the North by the end of the War, so one more or less didn’t matter (KY was a neutral state).

Lincoln used the passive term when he wrote, “It is said that William S. Pryor is in prison . . .” He acted as if he didn’t know about it. But Lincoln’s good friend, Judge James Pryor was William S. Pryor’s fond uncle, and I bet Judge Jim leaned on Honest Abe a bit to let his favorite nephew out of the pokey. Abe, after all, was a very ordinary politician.

So I do not know why my great-grandfather was imprisoned. But I do know he was a lawyer and a good one from the size of his 1859 mansion.

Lawyers tend to lose their law licenses if they have been sent to prison, but imprisonment by Lincoln was reason for a merit badge, not a disbarment, and after the war my great-grandfather not only continued to practice law but also was made a circuit court judge. He served on the circuit for three years and then was appointed Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court. He was on that bench for twenty-six years, longer than anybody before or after.

Evidently, prison was a only graduate course.

I still want to find out what pretext was used to imprison him, other than the fact that he was a Democrat and Lincoln was a Republican. Kentucky politics can get rough.

,, ,,

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

End of an Obsession

The only way to end the obsession of writing a book, I have found, is to start writing another book.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Milton Friedman, 1912-2006

When I began studying economics in college, the Great Voice in the field was that of John Maynard Keynes, the darling of the Left. He was the entrée. People such as Milton Friedman were side dishes, the cole slaw of economics.

John Maynard Keynes’ The General Theory was sturdy and complex, and it obfuscated the fact that the author was basically just another socialist who saw big government as the answer to most problems in a society. It is no mystery that he had a huge influence over President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

We students were given the opportunity to read a slender volume called Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman. It was not as pretentious and weighty as The General Theory, but it made more sense and was elegant in its reasoning.

Thus it was that I (and many others) came to see that Milton Friedman was a beacon of light in a sea of socialism. Presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan also came to that conclusion as did Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain.

Friedman was not just an economist, he was a political thinker as well. He correctly saw that human freedom and dignity come as a natural result of free markets. For some strange reason, the Leftist Nobel Committee awarded him the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1976.

Over the past forty years Milton Friedman has positively affected the lives of millions and millions of people. His influence will be felt for years into the future by freedom-loving people.

What about John Maynard Keynes? The entrée has become stale. He is seldom mentioned, while the side dish has become the main meal for free countries.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

History's Mysteries

It was a rainy Monday afternoon, that May 4, 1874, when Bill Smoot murdered James M. Walker in a small town in Kentucky. Bill pulled his trigger in front of all the townspeople as a warning. He was the head of the local KKK and Jim Walker had been trying to get the Klan to stop killing people—men, women, little boys and girls alike. The Klan was warning local citizens not to interfere.

It was probably the first time a white man had been killed by the Klan in central Kentucky.

After Jim’s murder, the Klan, along with the sheriff and some others, chased all the “good guys” out of the area, using guns as persuaders. One of the pursued was a deputy U.S. Marshal. It wasn’t until the Federal Marshal of Kentucky got into the act and threatened to jail the sheriff that the chase was broken up.

Smoot was tried by a state court and immediately acquitted. That is the way things worked with state courts. But Smoot was then hauled to Louisville to a Federal Court and tried for interfering with a Marshal in the pursuit of his duties. He was found guilty, with two subordinates, and sent to prison for five years.

That should be the end of the story. But Smoot was out of prison quickly, riding again with his gang.

It seems that on March 3, 1877, with only two days to go in office, President U.S. Grant pardoned Bill Smoot and his two friends. And he raised all kinds of questions.

Jim Walker was my great-grandfather and I had written about the murder and subsequent events. I even wrote what I had heard about a pardon, but the National Archives has been unable to find a copy. Then, last week, someone sent me an image of the Smoot pardon by email!

It seems that President Grant, a Republican, had granted a pardon to a KKK member who was a Democrat, an ignorant day laborer with a strong penchant for drink, with no money, who was from an obscure county in KY. Grant wrote in the pardon that he was encouraged to make the pardon at the behest of two Democrat senators and the Democrat governor of Kentucky.

How does a drunken killer with no money get the attention of such high level people? My research showed that most probably the governor of KY was in the Klan, but I do not know if the U.S. Senators were in the Klan. Even so—why go to all the bother of getting a presidential pardon for this lay-a-bout? Grant wrote in the pardon that Smoot was convicted for an infraction of the “Enforcement Act” (civil rights laws of the time) but Smoot was not convicted for that reason, so the pardon was probably not valid, but he was released anyway..

President Grant’s administration was known for its corruption, but no one seriously claimed that Grant was anything but honest.

Perhaps we will never know why Grant gave the pardon for a specific crime and not a general pardon. Nor will we probably ever know why he did anything about Smoot at all. Nor will we be enlightened about Smoot’s “pull” in high places.

We can speculate that Smoot had information about the Senators and the Governor that would be embarrassing, but that is all. There seems to be nothing about Smoot’s case that would be of benefit to Grant or the Republicans.

It is just one of history’s mysteries.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Trash is Trash, Except . . .

While the news media is trying hard to keep the explicit IMs of Representative Mark Foley on the front pages, it is also trying hard not to know about or print the explicit passages written in books to far more people by Senatorial candidate James Webb in Florida.

Foley is an R and Webb is a D. Maybe that is the difference.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Benedict Arnold and His Descendants

One of several families who arrived by boat to establish Rhode Island Colony was the William Arnold clan. He had several children. I am descended from three of those children, but not from the fourth. The fourth son was named Benedict Arnold. No doubt he was a fine man, but it was his grandson or great-grandson who was the infamous traitor to his new country.

It was a pleasure to find that I was not a descendant of the Benedict Arnold clan. But he has plenty descendants in spirit if not in blood. Look at Hanoi Jane Fonda. Benedict just wanted power and position while Jane wanted to enforce her superior wisdom on us. It must have taken a monumental sense of self-importance to betray her country as she did.

Some think Jane Fonda got away with it—that is, was not tried for treason. But she did not get away with it at all. It is true that she did not go to prison, but look at how the general public remembers her. Few would want to be remembered that way.

After researching a book and writing 150 pages of it, I am even more aware of traitors in our midst. I am also aware of how the meanings of words have changed. My book is about the way civilians lived and contributed to the war effort during WWII. During those four years of strife when as many as a thousand military men died during a training mission with no battle going on, the American public put its head down and plugged away toward victory, one day at a time.

A few labor union leaders were the malefactors at home during WWII. They were willing to cripple the war effort just to satisfy their own selfish desires. Some of them were Communist and others were just short-sighted. But for the most part we all worked together to defeat not one, but two enemies.

Yes, Presidents Roosevelt and Truman had their detractors in America, but the Axis enemies had no reason to think a change in leadership here would result in a reduction in force of our troops at the battlefield.

Nowadays, the word “patriotic” has changed to mean an action that will weaken our country publicly. Our enemies can see what is going on. They know they can affect our elections because one party has told them so. The stated enemies of our country know they have allies in this land. These allies will shut down our intelligence operations, will open our borders, and will pull out our troops, if they get control of our government. That is called patriotism today but would have been called treachery during WWII years ago. I was there. I remember.

The simple fact is that dissention here results in a stiffening of resolve for our enemies in the Mideast. It kills our young men and women in uniform.

Benedict Arnold wanted power and position. Today, opposers to the protection of American citizens want no less. If they can convince enough Americans to vote their way, they will get their power back; but who will look out for the safety of our citizens?

It won’t be the Benedict Arnolds and the Jane Fondas of the country, the Dainty Americans with no will and no plan.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Speaker Denny Hastert

I see by the newspaper that Speaker of the House Denny Hastert is in trouble. Not because he did something, but because he didn’t do something—fast enough.

Did Mr. Hastert fail to kill Usama binLaden?

Did Mr. Hastert play sex games with a young page girl in his office while on duty?

Did Mr. Hastert lie to a Grand Jury?

Did Mr. Hastert store ninety thousand dollars of marked money in his refrigerator?

Did Mr. Hastert proclaim that gay men were pedophiles?

Did Mr. Hastert loose a child rapist on the public?

He didn’t do any of the above, but they were done by people of the opposite party. There was no outcry.

What did Mr. Hastert do? He failed to expel a Congressman fast enough. The Congressman wrote nasty text messages which Mr. Hastert did not know about. There was no physical damage to another person as a result of Mr. Hastert’s lack of fast action.

Yet, from the outcry of those who either ignored or protected people who were involved in the dastardly deeds listed above, is enormous. The outrage they suppressed when obvious crimes were committed by Democrats has now been found.

It is good to let it out. I did not know the mainstream media had any outrage in their systems at all. They have held it in for so many years that I thought it had atrophied.

And now I understand. Outrage can appear only when it is directed at Republicans.

Understanding always helps.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Gold Stars and Dainty Americans

It was not very long after the WWII began that lists of names began to appear in the newspaper. These were the names of the local young people who had given everything they had for their country, the ones who were killed by the enemy, or were killed by accident or friendly fire. Every day for four years more names were listed.

Small banners began appearing in windows of houses. A broad red trim surrounded a white field with at least one star in the middle. A blue star indicated that a member of the family was in the military. A gold star signified that the family in that house had lost a son or a husband or a father (later, it could have been a daughter) in the war. The flags may have turned yellow from exposure to the sun, but they were seldom removed.

In a way, the gold star flags were a comfort to those who also had lost family. The flags made the statement, “You are not alone.” They were also reminders that this particular family had “given until it hurt” to the war effort and until you did at least that much, you should not complain. In every city across the country houses had windows with flags, lots of flags and lots of gold stars. The silence of mourning civilians bore testimony to their dedication to freedom and liberty. They make the whiners and complainers of the present era seem ridiculously small by comparison.

Perhaps this is indeed, the era of the dainty American.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Peacocks and Terrorists

Recently on an Internet List that concerned itself with genealogy, a few people took a detour about peacocks. Peacocks were not, as I recall, related to any of us. But I read various stories with amusement as people told how the found peacocks in various unlikely parts of the country.

Unable to stand it any longer, I chimed in. I said I had lived in Arcadia, California and could tell a thousand stories about peacocks and none was favorable, except for the rare occasion when I could cheer at seeing a flat one in the roadway. “They ran wild in the city,” I told readers, “and we citizens had to tolerate them. They were a protected species. We could not feed them, chase them off, look at them sideways or do anything else that might be deemed offensive. In fact,” I continued, “Arcadia’s peacocks have almost as many rights as terrorists in U. S. custody.”

I am waiting patiently for a complaint, but so far no one has said anything except one lady who added that “peacocks are terrorists.”

Friday, September 22, 2006

Obvious but Unasked Question

Now that Americans have had their ears hammered by Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and by Mr. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela as they addressed the UN and the American press, it is time that someone in the press ask them the obvious question: “May a representative of our government go to your country, get on your national television stations and give his opinion of you and your government?”

Monday, September 11, 2006

Media Bias for Sure

So after writing my last post to this blog I have been looking for some newspaper somewhere to relate what the Australians said to their radical Islamic citizens. Can you imagine that news media people have not found this story worth repeating?


Maybe I was too hard on the media. And then I considered what I heard on the radio this morning on a talk show. Maybe I am not hard enough.

Point One: The New York Times printed what I thought was tantamount to treason when it told the story about how the international banking system was being observed by intelligence agencies to see where terrorists were getting their funding. The Times did this even though their President asked them not to do it.

Did I hear any condemnation from the media for this breach of trust that occurred within its ranks? Not a word.

Point two: ABC ran a docudrama about the “Path to 9/11” and all Hell broke loose. In it the story was told about how our Government failed to take action against our enemies for many years. There was condemnation all over the place from the Media and others.

Conclusion: the Liberal Media does not care about the safety of this nation. It does care a whole lot about the Clinton Legacy.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Aussies Shape up Muslim Immigrants

It seems that the Australians are fed up with political correctness. Their leadership recently told the Muslim population to accept the political and legal structures of Australia or find another place on the planet.

One of the major concerns of the Australian government was the statement by a Muslim leader that there were two sets of laws—Australian and Sharia. The Sharia law was brought to Australia from Islamic nations. It includes stoning of women and amputating the hands of thieves.

Is the government action just another case of “Islamophobia?” Last year, it was reported that Abdul Nacer Ben Brika, a radical cleric in Melbourne, was asked in an interview whether he thought Australian Muslims had a responsibility to adhere to Australian law.

He replied: "This is a big problem. There are two laws - there is an Australian law and there is an Islamic law."

And the Australian government has replied in effect, “No problems exist. There is one law. You signed on to it when you took the oath of allegiance to our country.”

Australians concluded that it was disrespectful to say of the new homeland, “Your laws are not good enough. We have our own.” And it is disrespectful. Further, what if Baptists suddenly decided to hang Presbyterians for their stand of predestination? Most people would call that “vigilante law” and would stop it in its tracks. Sharia law imposed in Australia or in the U.S. or in England is no different.

Of course, the politically correct and whining crowd has complained bitterly. But the toothpaste is out of the tube.

Add to this the story that news reporter Steve Centanni and a cameraman have been released in Gaza, but not before they converted to Islam at the point of a gun. Those Americans who are tired of having Christians ramming their gospel down their throats by means of persuasion should try Islam at the point of a gun. Some of these Muslim folks are not as peaceful as we have been told.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Ocean Cooling with a Thud

Having held my breath for nine days while I looked for repercussions from a story in my local newspaper, I have finally decided to exhale because it appears there will be no follow-up story, no repercussions, and no retractions.

The story was about our oceans between during the years 2003 and 2005. These enormous bodies of water lost more than twenty per cent of their “global warming heat they’d absorbed over the last fifty years.” How did scientists find this out? Well, there are ARGO temperature floats in the oceans all around the world. They transmit information to satellites and the data are collected at a central point, the National Oceanic and Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory.

This is rather startling news. It has to play havoc with computer models that regularly predict global warming conditions, especially those that predict future weather data based on the basis of straight line trends.

The reaction of the news media to this story was deafening in its silence. If the news had been different, however, the response might have been quite noticeable. That is, if these data had supported the global warming template many media people have been espousing, then there would have been a Media response no one could have missed.

The Media’s lack of interest in new data tells a story by itself. Instead of hitting the presses, radio and TV waves with a resounding clang, there was a dull thud that interested no one. A news story has to fit the Media’s template or it simply does not get processed and sent out.

It is August and I need a sweater. Maybe there is a reason for it that no one is telling me about.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Urban Myths Repeated

In the middle of writing my second book about WWII, I am hearing comments on the radio that sound eerily familiar. In fact, I am finding that much of the same baloney people were spouting during and after WWII is being recycled.

Did you know that President Roosevelt knew about the attack on Pearl Harbor and allowed it to happen so we could go to war?

Did you know that the attack on Pearl Harbor was the fault of the United States because of our policies from about 1927 on?

Did you know that the second world war in Europe was really the fault of the United States because of its part in the Armistice agreement that was reached after WWI?

It is beginning to occur to me that whatever happens, someone will decide that it is the fault of the United States. The reasoning will not even be original—the story teller will use the hackneyed thinking of the previous era to proclaim his findings.

For modern mythology you do not have to change the sentences, just insert a new president’s name and a new country’s name. There is no end to these urban myths.

While in a university course in abnormal psychology I heard a professor talking about a certain type of mental illness in which a person claimed to be wired through his brain to a well-known evil person and the person was telling him what to do. There were so many of these types of stories that they became depressingly tiresome to psychologists and psychiatrists.

One day, a well known psychiatrist became mentally ill and when he was treated, there was a great deal of excitement in the psychological community because the patient had heard it all and certainly would be telling a different story.

Psychologists were deeply disappointed when the learned patient told them, “Well, there is this wire in my brain and I am being controlled by really evil guy, and . . .”

Of course, those were the days of radio and radar. Now we have computers, the nutty stories have graduated to Internets and so on. But they are still the same basic stories.

History really does repeat itself, and in a tiresome way, too.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

More Nonsense from the New York Times

Recently my son sent me the address to a New York Times article.
So Big and Healthy Grandpa Wouldn’t Even Know You
Published: July 30, 2006

The past 100 years has seen a change from small, sickly people to humans who are so robust their ancestors are almost unrecognizable.

The gist of the story was that someone had looked at the skeletal remains of some fifty Union soldiers and then generalized to the entire American population that we were a small, weak, sickly group of people. What nonsense!

To be sure the skeletons of the 1620 settlers to New England were small. Many of their bones showed that. So did the height of the decks on the replica of the Mayflower which is still in Massachusetts.

But, given the fresh air and good food in America, people began to reach their potentials. Here is a quote about one of my own English/Welsh Pryor ancestors, Samuel, who was born about 1698 in Virginia: “They had ten children, eight sons and two daughters: William, Samuel, John, Thornton, Robert, Luke, Frank, and Joseph; the youngest of the brothers and least of them weighed 220 pounds.”

In addition to the healthy living in the new country one must add the factor of genetics, specifically hybrid vigor, “Increased vigor or other superior qualities arising from the crossbreeding of genetically different plants or animals. Also called heterosis.” In America the gene pool was quite broad and deep. The citizenry was vitalized by the hybrid vigor factor. Americans became a big, energetic, productive and smart nation due to this vigor.

You want proof? Who is the super power in the world today?

So if fifty scrawny Yankee soldiers were not in good shape, so be it. They were not smart or powerful enough to buy their way out of the draft. It is quite possible they were immigrants from ghettoes in European cities.

Whatever the case, there is no scientific support for generalizing to the entire American population from these fifty individuals of unknown origin.

There is no end to nonsense, pseudoscience or cuteness.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Dim Bulb Society

There I was, watching an afternoon news show on TV when the electricity went off. Really off—not just for me, but for the entire neighborhood.

It seems that my street and the one behind me are served by electricity from our back yards. There are three transformers that keep us all powered, and two of the three are more than forty years old. They were connected in parallel, which means they helped each other out. So when one blew, increased pressure was put on the other two and they went out rather quickly in the 107 degree heat.

I called Southern California Edison and got a recorded message that no one knew what was wrong with the power in my area, but that they were working on it.

Refrigerators, lamps, fans, hair dryers, computers, everything suddenly gone. But we had flashlights to see around the house at night and battery-powered radios so we could keep up with the rest of the world. But no fans in all the heat.

We did not think we would be without electricity for very long. Besides, a son lived nearby and we could share his air conditioner and lights.

Thoughtful neighbors began running big extension cords across the street so people could get their refrigerators going. Of course, they knew the cables ran in both directions, and they might need help one of these days.

Nothing happened for twenty-four hours. Then a Southern California Edison truck showed up. I talked to the driver, who was surveying the problem. He wanted me to know nothing was going to happen for at least another twenty four hours.

Our son’s power went out. We waited and sweltered. It was almost another twenty-four hours when two trucks showed up, loaded with three transformers. The crew with the truck went to work, removing and replacing all three of them. They were a contract group of no-nonsense linemen. Still it took several hours to remove replace and rewire each of the three, in 105 degree heat. Then we had to wait until a supervisor came along and checked out their work. Finally the OK was given and our electricity was restored, well over two days after the damage occurred.

I thought back over my thirty-five years of living in nice neighborhoods in Southern California and my problems with electric power. Problems seemed to be increasing in severity. My arguments with what I began to call “The Dim Bulb Society” (DBS) had been increasing.

I argued with DBS from the point of some electrical knowledge and with instrumentation. They responded with bureaucratic expressions. At one point I wrote to them, “In 1971 I had an office in Thomas Edison’s first factory in Schenectady, NY. It was built in 1880. In 1880, Thomas Edison knew not to do what you just did.”

And so our differences continued. While their linemen told me what was really going on, I listened to the nonsense from headquarters, spewed by people in air conditioned offices who were far removed from reality. I came to have a lot of respect for the linemen.

I expressed in our newspaper this concern: “If the rise of a few degrees in temperature causes so many problems, what will the Dim Bulb Society do when something really goes wrong?” After all, we are prone to earthquakes and we are at war. There are all sorts of possibilities.

Soon, DBS will begin producing institutional ads proclaiming how wonderful they really are and how dedicated to the customer they are and all that good stuff. But I will not believe them, except in the case of the linemen.

The economics of Power companies is special. As a monopoly, they have no competition. This is a necessary evil in our society. It is important for people to realize that power companies have the need to hide profits. If they do not hide them, they will not get another increase from the public utilities commission. Institutional ads are one way of avoiding profits. So are improved offices and cars for executives. There are all kinds of ways to keep profitability at a low level.

In my novel about the future called Time Out of Joint, I found a way to eliminate power companies. The idea sounds better all the time.

Friday, July 14, 2006

We Are Going to Starve!

There is an interesting story on the Internet today about the use of world food supplies for ethanol. That is, the more corn that is converted into alcohol, the less food there will be for starving people to eat. “That means fuel prices can drive up food prices, bad news for the two billion people whose food may fetch a higher price if it fills a gas tank.”

What is needed, “is an international body to oversee the biofuel/food problem. Right now, the author noted, "in effect no one is in charge."

I guess the UN people are too busy raping little girls to give attention to this problem. But as the Communists plainly showed, central planning never worked, anyway. And I can’t imagine that the corrupt officials in the U.N. will pass up an opportunity for another “oil for food” program/scandal to line their pockets.
Maybe central control of oil and food supplies is not the answer. But there is a control.

Perhaps when ethanol makes a dent in the demand for world oil, the price of oil will drop and the need for food to be converted into ethanol will also decline. When the price for corn rises more corn (and rice) will be produced. But most media writers don’t think very far out with their analyses.

There is a wonderful price system that distributes food and oil. On top of that there are several wonderful charitable supply systems that can also work if governments will only get out of the way and let them work. All the food and oil pressures in the world will not work if local governments will not let them.

Have pity on those who think the answer to every problem is more government. They aren’t very bright, and no experience in the world will convince them otherwise.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Rockets ala North Korea

Now that North Korea has demonstrated, sort of, its expertise in rocketry by firing off a few scud-type missiles and an ICBM that flopped, I suppose we in the U.S. should be shaking in our boots.

North Korea wisely counted on American Media to blow everything out of proportion in an effort to find some way to blame President Bush for their progress. But somehow, the timing was all wrong. There is nothing like an Independence Day celebration to make Americans feel strong again. The North Korean and American Media efforts fizzled like the ICBM that lasted all of forty seconds.

Possibly there were a few Americans who recalled the former President’s give-away of American rocket secrets that made possible the North Korean efforts. But that President should not be blamed too much. If he hadn’t given away such secrets, the New York Times probably would have.

These days, the term “Arms Race” has an entirely new meaning. It now means the race of one group or another to give away secrets.

Friday, June 30, 2006

President's Precedents

Now that the Supreme Court has interfered in military matters (big time) with its decision yesterday on a certain prisoner held at Guantanamo, it may be worthwhile to look at what has happened in the past as presidents have directed their militaries.

President Abraham Lincoln is a case in point. During his war against the South, he organized military tribunals to handle trials of civilians in the North who disagreed with him. Not only did he take away their weapons, but he also suspended American citizen’s right of habeas corpus.

Some 13,000 northern or neutral state males were tried by military courts and tossed into prison for the flimsiest of reasons. In addition, the President destroyed about 200 printing presses. Yes, if he disagreed with a Northern newspaper, he sent General Burnside in with troops to physically mutilate that paper’s printing press.

The only reason the President did not destroy a large Chicago newspaper printing press was that the troops were met by a large mob milling around outside the newspaper’s building. Rather than shoot the citizens who were in the way, the troops withdrew and the paper continued to publish. It was the last such attack.

One should bear in mind that Congress can suspend habeas corpus, but not a President. Yet the Supreme court was remarkably quiet as all this went on.

Am I making this up? No, it is information found in most history books that were written by diligent researchers. But not much was made of these Presidential acts. Writers seemed to think the ends justified the means.

So what if a few dainty Americans get worked up because terrorists are not treated well enough? Can you imagine what would have happened to them in 1864? President Bush seems quite mellow compared to his predecessor.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Supreme Court Makes Treaty with Enemy

The Supreme Court has just concluded a treaty with terrorists. In its latest decision, larded with votes from its Liberal justices, the court has decided that terrorists should be included in the group of Geneva Convention nations. These nations are in the Convention by treaty. By including the terrorists in the Convention, the Supreme Court has conducted a treaty with them.

In this country even the president cannot make treaties. Treaties are the province of the U. S. Senate.

Not since Andrew Jackson has a President defied the Supreme Court. If the President and the Senate acted toward the Supreme Court as the Supreme Court acted toward the other two departments of government, there would be even more chaos.

The Senate needs to act quickly.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Oops! in Cause for Global Warming

This morning my local newspaper carried the story that the temperature was warm and had not been so warm in four hundred years. I assumed that the subject was global temperature and not the temperature in Southern California, which seems to have been cooler this year.

With this story, the proponents of “global warming caused by the SUV in your driveway” crowd seem to have shot themselves in the foot. One may reasonably ask what caused the warming period four hundred years ago? Was it the SUV in the driveway of my ancestor in Renaissance Europe, or worse, in the driveway of my Native American ancestor in Virginia?

If the answer is neither, that these things happen naturally, some wag is likely to ask if the present warming is not also naturally caused and the battle will continue. But I will not ask that. I come from a family whose child didn’t just shoot himself in the foot, he blew off his big toe with a shotgun. For evidence see my book, Four on the Floor, which is kind of self-explanatory.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Senators' Revenge

So, why is the Senate so angry with the average citizen? Senators passed an abortion of an immigration bill that the American public plainly does not want.

Do they know we do not like it? Of course they do! The proof is that Senators who are up for election voted against the bill. The rest of the Senate thinks we are stupid and will forget all about this terrible bill by the time they are up for election.

It is time that we make a list of who voted for this terrible piece of legislation and we bring it out every time one of them runs. Democrat or Republican, each silly jerk that voted for the bill should pay the price for his idiocy.

What irritates me is that the bill would create a new type of protected class of person that would have more rights than we do—without the benefit of citizenship. It is very plain that our senators do not represent us. They represent illegal aliens--many of whom cross the border illegally, steal identities and do not pay taxes.

For their perfidy, these illegal aliens get protections we do not get.

The Senators must mad as hell at us, the people who follow their stupid laws and pay taxes.

But we don’t have to be angry with the senators. All we have to do is make sure they do not get re-elected.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Question 28

This test question for middle school children is coming:

28) Name six homosexual inventors and tell what their contributions were.

All I know is what I read in the newspapers. Very recently there have been two stories about education. One was that many people could not find Israel or Iraq or even Mississippi on a map. The other story was that California’s legislators want to alter children's textbooks so that the sexual proclivities of historical persons could be identified (but only if they are gay).

Am I the only person in the world who sees the disconnect between these two realities? It is embarrassing to reside in a state where idiocy is so very rampant.

Given that a large number of high school students cannot read well (if at all), perhaps from this population come the ones who go into politics. Perhaps these people do not know that the sexual proclivities of people mentioned in textbooks are not as important as being able to read the textbooks or, (and this is connected) being able to find states on a map.

I suppose there is no requirement that legislators be literate. But perhaps voters should insist that they be able to set priorities (even if someone has to read the alternatives to them).

As for the answer to Question 28, I do not know. I do not care. I do not want to know, do you?

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Promethian Propaganda

As I prepare for another book about the WWII era and focus on activities at Caltech, I am amazed at what I am finding. In talking with widows and children of scientists who were there at the time plus a few others who are in their nineties and were also there, I am finding differences between what has been written and what is recalled. All the differences cannot be accidental or just the result of one’s “slant.” Some are factual.

Discovering these differences is what makes the job fun. They give another dimension to research.

I take particular exception to parts of the new biography of Julius Robert Oppenheimer called American Prometheus. Well written and no doubt well-researched, it contains curious omissions and is a bit too adoring to be an objective work.

I do not intend to write extensively about JRO, but I cannot help but take written notice of him as I interview those whose paths crossed his in the early 1940’s. It was a time of heroes and giants; JRO was at least one of the giants although not, perhaps, all that Promethian.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Rumors of Tumors

In a recent Reuters news story, some eighty-five users of cell phones had malignant brain tumors and used cell phones “a lot.” What was the scientific quantity of use? “A lot.” Big science employed here! So a correlation was established by the writer, between cell phone use and malignant tumors. Two valuable rules of evidence were ignored.

One is that we all know that correlation is not cause and effect. We all drink water and we all die. Does water cause death? Only to those who drown in it.

The second rule is even simpler. It is exemplified by the story of people who lived near electric power poles whose children contracted cancer. Immediately, some people (and their lawyers) jumped to the conclusion that the electricity in the wires caused the cancer. What else did the children have in common? They played near the base of the poles where the power company had sprayed a herbicide to keep down the growth of weeds. It turned out that the herbicide was behind the cancer and not the electrons flowing through the wires.

Here is the second rule: One correlation does not rule out other correlations. In fairness, I can say that author of the study wrote that some “other agents” were ruled out (such as cigarettes). Probably not all of them. What they did not write about was the mechanism that causes human cells to become cancerous while in the presence of the electro-mechanical field of a cell phone. There doesn’t seem to be one.

Perhaps cell phones cause malignant tumors in some people, but probably not. The preponderance of evidence says not.

These kinds of “folk science” stories give good science a bad name. You'd think an educated Media would be more responsible. At least, more demanding.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Faces of Heroism

Today I talked to the widow of a long dead scientist. I explained that I was researching materials for a book She confided in me that her husband had worked on the first atomic bomb. She said she only found out after her husband had died, and she found out from another scientist. She did not even know her husband had gone to Los Alamos, New Mexico to the test site. It was all a deep, dark secret in those days.

The scientist told the widow how ashamed her husband had been for accomplishing his work so well.

The story of this scientist reminded me that heroism and patriotism take many forms. A person might be afraid in the face of the enemy, or might lose an arm in an accident during battle, or might have to kill a large number of the enemy to protect his comrades. Or, he might help make a new, terrible weapon. But he does his duty, even though he might not feel so good about it later. That is the nature of heroism. Often it leaves scars.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Scientific Dogma

Recently the Orange County(CA) Register had a science article on the loss of ice in Antarctica. A sub-heading said, “2 studies further support global warming caused by humans is adding to rising sea levels.”

The article presented evidence that ice was melting, but I looked in vain for evidence that the cause was human. There was none.

There probably is global warming. That the cause of global warming is human, appears to be an article of faith. Science has its dogma, too.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Moving Day and Failed Isms

When one is 70 or so, he or she should be free from the need to move from one house to another. That freedom ought to be up there with four freedoms that President Roosevelt named in 1941: freedom from fear, hunger, and so on.

As I was deciding what to take with me a couple years ago for my move to Fullerton from Arcadia, California, I had to choose from among many books. Even worse, I had to decide where to throw out many books. It is getting hard to find places that will take them, ecologically sound places.

Now that I look back on the ordeal, I am impressed by the subject matter of books that I did not take. Not feeling an affinity for those topics indicates a certain freedom from the past.

Failed “isms” need not always be part of one’s psyche or one’s library.

For instance, many books on Communism are gone. I am not a Communist but an economist by education. I had to study Communism in college. Communism has proven itself to be a failure and is found only on college campuses these days (in the United States).

Likewise, books on existentialism are gone from my shelves. Existentialism was a “cute” philosophy of the past. My, how we longed for cuteness and novelty. Novels and philosophic writings used to be crammed full of existential thought. Histories were re-written to reveal existential roots of leaders. And in days when I was young, God was really, really dead—and for the last time, too. RIP.

My books on psychotherapy and its originator, Siggy Freud, are all gone. At one time I was a true believer. And why not? I was brought up with it. Contemporary literature was chock-full of the language of Freud. Movies of the 1930’s and 1940’s were full of deeply significant psychological talk. Actually, our movies were rather heavy-handed in their propaganda sieges. They would be embarrassingly obvious now. Psychologists became priests and even today are consulted by judges in criminal cases. They are asked to predict human behavior, but are not held accountable when they are proven wrong.

Biographers felt they had to psychoanalyze their subjects. They took a rough cut even though they did not live in the times of their subjects and even though they were totally unqualified as psychologists and even though many psychologists they knew were equally unqualified to practice. (Among my souvenirs is a cancelled check written to a psychologist who talked to my son. This practitioner had his license pulled, for his unethical work with a member of the Beach Boys musical group.)

Few words about Freud are heard these days. Psychologists are trying all kinds of other treatment techniques for obvious reasons. A study reported on in Scientific American showed that the three main therapy methods recorded some kind of improvement about one third of the time. It did not matter which method was used. Movie makers and novelists have given up on Freud. So have I. Perhaps, by this time Freud, is really, really, dead. RIP.

When I write about people I try to avoid psychological terms and any form of psychological analysis. I am happy to admit that I am not qualified to dabble in the black art of psychology.

What else is gone from my library? Not the really fine literature of our culture. I still have that. And I still have the essays of early economists. They were political thinkers as well as economists.

I threw out all the old computer books. But I kept bird books and well-written histories. Bartlett and Roget are still on my shelves. Many astronomy books have been surpassed by new discoveries and all my atlases also have been made obsolete. Dictionaries have changed, but I still have a few computer programming books. I occasionally write a program just to see if I can still do it.

And I have an old bible or two. An occasional death of the Creator has not discouraged me.

At the last count, two thirds of my personal library is gone. Dusty, faithful old friends are being reprocessed somewhere into, I hope, new books so they can spread a better truth than I have known—truth that can last more than a few years. And I hope they can avoid cuteness.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Citibank Saga Continues

In my last post to this blog I reported on the UPS (Brown) situation that compounded my Citibank ATM card problems.

Citibank arbitrarily shut off my ATM card and shut me out of computer access to my bank account. I have heard that I was only one out of many more that this happened to . When I told Citibank that the new card they sent my was lost in the bowels of UPS somewhere, and in spite of what was reported I did not receive it or sign for it. So they sent another one to my local branch bank.

My local branch told me the card had arrived, so I went see them and pick up the card. I was told that the card was ready to go and already had my pin number included.

But when the teller at the ban tried to activate the card, it would not work. She had a bad cold and coughed a lot and was not feeling well. After many attempts, she had me call Citibank on the bank’s phone. They had a direct line to Calcutta. Either that or the guy on the other end of the line was doing a perfect imitation of the actor Ben Kingsley in the movie, Ghandi.

Ghandi could not activate my card, either. He worked and worked on it some 10,000 miles away, interrupting the process to talk to his supervisor a couple of times and then pronounced the job as completed. He wished me a nice day and ended the conversation. I asked the teller to test his handiwork. She could not get the card to work.

The teller and I spent some five minutes on my replacement card. This required many applications of her finger to a pad that was checking her fingerprint. That check was unreliable as well. But she finally pronounced the job as done. I went outside the bank to its ATM window and fearfully placed the card in its slot.

It worked! Despite all UPS and Citibank could do, I actually possessed an ATM card that worked.

Then I had to go home and call a special telephone number that would gain me access to my bank account via the Internet. It was back to India again, only this time with a female Ben Kingsley who had a high voice and spoke very fast. Ms Ghandi and I were able, after a long time to break the code so that I could access my own bank account.

All was in order with my finances. And I am developing some fluency with Hindi.

Monday, March 20, 2006

What Can Brown Do To You, Today?

Last week, Citibank suddenly tied up my ATM card and didn't let me know. So I went into the closest bank and inquired about it. They talked to supervisors and finally told me I would have to call my branch bank in Arcadia. So I called them on an 800 number, probably in Calcutta. There they switched me off to a supervisor. She told me my card was somehow involved in a fraud. A friend later told me that he saw in the newspaper and on TV that Citibank had screwed up a lot of accounts with a stupid move and that I was one of the losers. I don’t know, yet.

I tried to get into my bank account on the Internet but they had blocked that, too. So I didn't know how much money I was missing, if any.

Citibank offered to send out a card by UPS and that I should be at home all day to get it on Friday. Nothing happened on Friday so I called them the following Monday. They said their records showed UPS delivered the card and that I had signed for it. I said FRAUD and they better get on it.

Citibank offered to get a card to my local bank on Wednesday. But it would have another number. I said fine and then called UPS (good ole Brown). The guy I talked to had an attitude. He said in his arrogant way that their records showed the card was delivered somewhere on Thursday, not Friday, and picked back up that evening. It looked to him that it had been delivered to the wrong house. He added that the driver had put my name on the delivery slip. He did not know where the card was but at least it had the right address on it. He told me to tell Citibank to put a tracer on it.

I knew that the card was dead and that no one had tried to activate it. So I told the Brown guy what I was going to do--I was not going to tell Citibank and I was going to write about them in my latest blog on the Internet. And that he could do the tracing himself, if he wanted to. He ordered me to have a nice day.

Should we beware the military-industrial complex? No, the banking-shipping complex.

The saga continues.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Driving Miss Economy

Ask most people what is driving the economy and they will guess that it is the computer revolution. It seems that every day there is some new invention or way of handling information that retires an old device and makes necessary a new, expensive device. VoIP and MP3s are examples of newer devices.

But there is another economic mover and shaker that lurks in the background. Our nation’s inventory of houses is maturing. We don’t throw houses away like we do old computers. We upgrade them. Home Depot and Lowes-type stores are not popular just because they are fast-moving retailers. They are popular because they are filling a need caused by the aging of our nation’s houses.

Thanks to standardization of construction dimensions (2X4 construction is about the same in every state and door heights are usually the same), an innovation for repair or upgrading in New York is often equally useful in Texas. In other words, it pays to innovate because there is a large volume of potential customers. It seems that every week, my local home store offers a new tool or plumbing or electrical or bracket or insulation device that is easily handled by the average do-it-yourselfer. This continuous upgrading for the upgraders is very good for our economy. Because of the continuous revolution in electronics, people have jobs and the money to upgrade their homes.

If that weren’t enough, specialists are springing up with new products for those jobs where a do-it-yourselfer, can’t. Some companies will replace all the plumbing in your house; others will replace all your windows and doors. They do their jobs quickly and efficiently and that is all they do. Specialization often results in lower prices. Generally the replacements are better and use less energy. This activity is sparking the economy, too.

Our revolution in communication allows new ideas to flow quickly and easily around the country and the world. It allows a kind of marketing in which people read about a new product and then demand it from their local retailer.

If all this progress keeps up we may be able to afford an extra gallon of gasoline.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Bonds Between China and the USA

Recently I heard someone on radio say that the Chinese are financing America’s debt and that we were in trouble if they suddenly quit doing it. The idea was that a parent was going to “cut us off” without a cent. But the Chinese are not doing us a favor as a fond parent might. They are making an investment in the most business-like sense. It pays for them to invest in America’s bonds.

When a person says China is financing our debt, he is really saying that the Chinese bought a great deal of the bonds issued by the American government. The Chinese made an investment. If they “suddenly quit” financing our debt, how will they do it? One of two ways, maybe a bit of both. 1), China will sell some existing bonds, and 2), China will hold other bonds to maturity but will not buy more when those bonds mature.

In the first case, the Chinese will sell their bonds to someone else, just as they would any other investment. They are unwilling to take a loss--they made the investment in America for safety and a likely return on their investment. If they dump a lot of bonds at once they face a drop in the price of those bonds. Also, when they sell their bonds they will have to invest in some other government’s bonds. Lots luck to them.

America, with all its Chinese-owned bonds suddenly dumped on the market, will see lower priced bonds which means a higher interest rate in the future. However, there will be little immediate impact. Someone will buy the bonds and America will not be involved in the transaction.

In the second case (when China suddenly stops financing America’s debt) as Chinese-owned bonds mature China will buy no more of them. It will invest somewhere else. Again, lots of luck. China will buy another nation’s bonds, out-bidding someone else and that other person or nation will buy America’s bonds.

In order to sell a new issue of bonds, America may have to raise interest rates. In the today’s world, which seems to be awash in capital, the rise in interest rates will not be pleasant but will not be overwhelmingly large, either.

So do economists quake at the thought of China suddenly refusing to “finance America’s debt”? None that I know of, for the reasons given. And, if they are old enough they recall a time twenty years ago when people were afraid that Japan would suddenly refuse to finance America’s debt. Today’s pronouncement about our debt has a familiar sound and when decoded, it means “go back to school and take an economics class.”

Monday, March 06, 2006

Teachers and Personal Opinions

Several years ago, as I was passing the doorway to a science classroom, a seventh grader said, “Hello, Mr. Fiske, you old fart.”

I chuckled inside, but managed a stern face and said, “Come on, Bobby, let’s go to the office.” I wasn’t Bobby’s teacher at the moment, but I took charge of him anyway and marched him to the school office. There, I filled out a referral slip, on which I wrote, “Bobby called me, in front of about 20 students, ‘An old fart.’ While he may be right, I thought his choice of words was inappropriate for Dana Middle School.”

Bobby got a detention and was told to apologize. When he did I broke a rule and put my arm around him, saying “Bobby, I don’t mind what you said. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion. Just don’t say words like that in front of other students.” We became good friends after that. I am sure he did not change his opinion. But the office personnel had a lot of fun with the referral.

Having taught graduate and undergraduate students in college and all grades from six through twelve in public schools, I have loads of experience with political and other opinions in the classroom. My inner person guided me with a sense of fair play. That is, if I expressed an opinion, I gave the opposite view as well. No one knew how I voted in elections.

That is why I (and other teachers should be) was so offended by the actions of one Jay Bennish of the Overland High School in the Denver, Colorado area. In his lectures to tenth graders, this teacher expressed a great deal of anti-Bush, anti-U.S.A. venom with no opportunity for rebuttal, according to tapes made in his classroom. The remarks appeared to be off-topic as well as ‘off the wall.’ There was no fair play involved.

It is my opinion (others may disagree) that the American tradition allows for dissent and for both sides of an argument to be presented, even at the tenth grade level. This is especially important in America’s public school system.

Mr. Bennish’s lawyer argued on a TV news program that the teacher had the right of free speech. Not so. What if Mr. Bennish used his 55 minutes with students to preach the Gospel? He would find himself out of the school district on his ear. And he should be. He is a geography teacher.

So, okay, I was brought up in the Louisville, KY school district where teachers utilized fair play every day. Maybe other school districts are not so inclined. But I suspect that fair-minded people can be found everywhere.

Maybe I am just an idealist.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Bugging the CIA

In the past I have done some very special research for my books. By “special “ I mean to say research that cannot be found by the average person. I required help from the CIA and the FBI.

Under the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) a researcher can find all kind of useful information. For instance, I had a cousin who traipsed all over Europe after WWII, sometimes in Iron Curtain countries, for fun and profit. He owned several companies that dealt with the Federal Government, too. So I was sure the FBI had a file on him. The CIA, too. But I was more interested in his domestic activities, so I did not ask the CIA for information.

At first, the FBI only wanted proof that my subject was really dead. So I had to round up an obituary from 1967. And then the ___ hit the fan.

It just so happened that when I asked for information on my cousin, the Clinton Administration was found to have 900 private FBI files of Republican opponents and a big, embarrassing stink ensued. The FBI became very skittish about releasing information. They stalled and stalled. But after a couple of years I got a few redacted papers. They concerned mostly Jimmy Hoffa, the late (and still missing) president of the Teamsters. It seems the FBI was investigating my cousin’s companies to see if the Teamsters had been shaking down them down. The Teamsters were clean.

Well, now I am investigating another person, not a cousin, who may have been involved in “Operation Paperclip,” right after WWII. This was not a popular Truman program that allowed the U.S. to seize German papers, equipment, and scientists involved in rocket science and in atomic energy projects. If the scientists were Nazis, then their records were cleaned up. The purpose was a) to help the U.S. and b) to keep the information and scientists out of Russian hands.

On paper, my subject reported to Dr. Carl David Anderson of CalTech. Anderson was the man who turned down control of the Manhattan Project in favor of his friend, J. Robert Oppenheimer. In reality, my subject reported directly to President Roosevelt first and then to President Truman. He was a friendly spy among the presidents’ advisors.

I have requested information by FAX from both the FBI and the CIA. Fortunately, my subject’s widow is alive and alert, and she is quite anxious to find out what her husband was really up to during years as WWII wound down and the Cold War sprang up. He was never allowed to tell her.

And yes, the FBI has responded by asking for proof of the death of my subject. They will not accept their own government’s Social Security Death Index as proof of death. Maybe they do not trust the government.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

POW in the War Between the Sexes

Having grown up with two mean older brothers and no sisters or close female first cousins, I was brought up with a very scant knowledge of girls and women. But I was smart from the beginning; I didn’t understand females and admitted it. Despite my groveling and deference I grew up suffering at their hands. Women can detect even the slightest fear and will take advantage of any male who shows it.

Women teachers seemed to single me out for disapproval. No matter how hard I tried to please them, they came at me with a look of extreme displeasure, not unlike Representative Nancy Pelosi, who looks like the “before” picture in an ad for hemorrhoid sufferers.

In industry the person who caused me the most trouble was a woman named Mary Ann Something. She was bright, a very good manager and a sharp union steward, while I represented management. I could have a terrible day, but it always got worse when Mary Ann appeared in my office. I once tried to enlist Mary Ann in the ranks of management (we could have used a higher level of manager) but she would not sell out her Labor ideals and bore down even harder on me. No good deed goes unpunished.

In my personal life I have had two wives, a daughter, a step-daughter, a daughter-in-law and several granddaughters but my understanding of females has not improved because of them.

I have even taught in public school, where I often told my charges that women can do anything but play left tackle for the Detroit Lions and most men can’t do that, either. And I meant it. I wanted to be on record as pro-female when they took over the world. But my pretty students took this comment as mere groveling and wrote beside my name in their book of executions, “head of the line.”

My only saving grace is that I have a very good talent for fixing things. I would be pushing up daisies right now, if it were not for the day, early in my substitute teaching career, when a seventh grade girl I didn’t know brought me a handful of parts to her eyeglasses. It was during a test and she was losing time, so I quickly reached into my briefcase and bought out a tiny screwdriver and some very small screws. I had her glasses put back together again in less than a minute. She told other girls and my life was spared from that moment on.

There were several widows on my block and I was allowed to help them with electrical problems and plumbing disasters. That way I managed to continue in not good but tolerable standing with the female community. But it took lots of work to stay at that level.

The Bible says I came into this world with nothing. Nothing, that is, but a minus quantity of points with the opposite sex, and I have been trying to break even all my life. Like Sisyphus with his task of rolling a huge rock up a hill, I have been given the task of understanding women and failed every day.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Rocket Science Secrets

Nearly all of them are dead now. So I guess I can say a little about them and the adventures they described. I learned about them in a church, of all places. The church sponsored an autobiographical writer’s club and I was asked to join. Elderly ladies outnumbered us men, and their stories were no less interesting because they were women. However, it was stories about their families that caught my attention. Who could have expected to hear about the rocket science and its secrets that bound three of the ladies?

Over a period of years with this group I learned some of the secrets and even a tale of horror. For reasons I cannot tell, I was asked not to reveal their names. I understand why, but for the most part they are all gone now, and I can tell a little of what I learned.

The first story was one of horror and destitution. A German lady in the group, Heidi, revealed her story. She was raised in Transylvania, Romania as part of a German village with an almost ideal existence until WWII. Her uncle was a rocket scientist and professor whom I will call Hermann Schmidt. He was not a Nazi but his student Werner Von Braun, was. The little family managed to get through the War with deprivation, but they got through somehow. Then at the end, Russians came through, setting up a Communist government. The leaders of this government dispossessed Heidi’s family. The Russians took all German children of working age with them into Russia as virtual slaves to work on Russian farms. Heidi, a pretty girl then, worked a year or so in Russia and escaped first to East Germany and then to West Germany. Later, she went to Canada and ventured into the United States. Even now, Heidi is trying to locate the rest of her family in Europe.

The second story concerns a widow whose husband died just before I became a member of the writer’s group. A. L. (Bill) Belken is the name I have given him. He traveled as a civilian but had a high military status. Over a period of years I learned that he had worked directly for Presidents Roosevelt and Truman in Europe. I have seen personal commendations from those presidents for the work that Bill did, but I do not know what he did. The libraries of these presidents are silent on the subject. The National Archive says it has never heard of him.

All I could find from his widow was that he traveled extensively in Europe during and after WWII. Oh, there was one thing: when the P-38 plane was developed, it shook drastically. The two engines drove it were shaking the plane apart. Bill, with some kind of connection to Cal Tech, was asked to take a look at the problem. He suggested that the engineers reverse the rotation of one of the engines. That solved the problem and the P-38 was a great offensive weapon during the war.

I also learned that Bill was interested in JATO, or Jet Assisted Take Off of airplanes, which put him solidly in the rocket science camp. That was a short program, but rockets were just beginning to come into their own. Was Bill also involved in “Operation Paperclip?” It is quite possible. Very little is said about that operation, even today. But I can say that this operation, begun under President Truman, was one in which German rocket scientists and their laboratories were collected by Western Allies before the Russians could get to them. If the scientists were also Nazis, then their records were cleaned up. Perhaps little is known about Bill because of his involvement in that program. It was not a popular one.

Finally, there is another story. A wife in the writer’s group had a husband who was a simple MD and had been one during WWII. I will call him Dr. Mike Moriarity, because he has to have a name. Mike was part of America’s space program. The secret is that he was present at all Russian space program events during the 1960’s. He was a good friend of Yuri Gagarin and other Russian space people. He was an invited guest at each event. I personally have seen photos of Mike and Yuri together. Mike’s wife told us and later Mike agreed as he attended our meetings, that he would suddenly disappear from the U.S. No one knew where he was. Well, almost no one knew. Certainly not his family. But the Russians knew. Mike was with them.

When Mike would return from one of his clandestine trips, he was interviewed by not one but two U. S. intelligence agencies. The Russians had to know that he was being interviewed. And Mike was not allowed to tell one agency what he had told the other. That is, each agency had to ask its own questions; they did not share a common report or interview Mike at the same time.

Now, if the U. S. had a representative at Russian space flights, was there reciprocity such that the Russians had a representative to watch our space flights? Very likely.

Eventually Mike phased out of the Space program but all that he did was kept secret. Even today, although Mike and his wife are dead, almost no one talks about his exploits in the space program. Most don’t know. But there are good reasons for not using his real name even as I write this.

Looking at this group of elderly writers, no one could have detected the common thread among their stories. They certainly did not recognize the thread until I pointed it out to them.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Remarkable Cure for Headaches

If you knew me, you would never guess that I am, or was, a frequent victim of headaches. These were not the “My headache is gone!” run-of-the-mill type headaches, either. These were blinding, splitting, go to bed without any dinner and no TV headaches.
One afternoon, while in the early throes of one of these killer aches, I decided to take a walk and get away from it all. Living in upper San Dimas, CA at the time, I hiked to the closest trail I could find that led into the mountains. It wasn’t long before a path took me around the side of a hill among the trees and away from all the noise of city life.
Suddenly I found myself alone. There was no noise except for the chirping of a mocking bird and the cawing of a crow. Maybe a bee was zipping from flower to flower. The silence was stunning. Also stunning was the pile in front of me that had been left by horse which had recently gone on ahead. I was, after all, on a bridle path.
I stopped for some reason and took it all in, looking for a way to step around the pile, so I could continue up the hillside. It was then that I experienced an olfactory hallucination! I do not know to this day how it happened, but suddenly I was transported back to my youth when I would leave the big city and visit a farm for a few days. The farmer had lots of horses. It was Bluegrass country, you see. Those were happy times when the only responsibility I had was to clean my shoes and report for meals on time.
Unfortunately, my mind didn’t spend much time in that place. The forlorn cry of a hawk wheeling overhead snapped me back to reality. When it did, I realized my headache had fled to other places. I was healed! Well, not permanently, but for the afternoon. I found that as headaches occurred in the succeeding months I could dispel them by walking up into the hills until I found another fresh pile. It had to be fresh green stuff, mind you. The brown material with a crust on it would not work. Eventually, I was able to go for weeks without a headache and I can now report that I have not had a really bad one for years. Talk about a miracle drug!
Since that time I have offered this miracle cure to others. It has been successfully used against three headache sufferers, one hernia and a hangnail. I am sure it would help most people.
I have offered this miracle compound to people in a local hospital, but my kindness was refused. You would be amazed at the numbers of people who don’t want to get well. But I am sure most readers are not like them.
Probably, since most people live so far from a race track, they cannot get their own supply of this nostrum. I am prepared to ship a one pound box without delay. There is a modest cost, of course. But I offer a warning: use it right away. The shelf life of this curative is very short.
Please let me know of your needs; I have connections at Santa Anita Race Track. The regular spring season is about over and it will not be until the fall when a fresh supply will return to Arcadia.