Sunday, September 30, 2007

Stinkbomb from the sky

An error that appeared in the first draft of this post has been corrected. Hydrogen sulfide was misdesignated as HS2, when it should be H2S.

Because of conflicting data, I had trouble with the energy calculations. So I have erased them from this post and will report them in the next post.

Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) may be the culprit in the strange ailment that afflicted Peruvians who rushed to the meteor crash site.

Hydrogen sulfide is a poisonous gas released during flatulence and in connection with petroleum refining processes. It is found in natural gas deposits and sometimes in groundwater. In low doses, the gas, which has a "rotten egg" odor, induces eye and respiratory irritation and nausea. In higher doses, it is fatal.

The several dozen people who were sickened by the fumes emanating from the crater complained of those symptoms and reported a foul, sulfurous odor.

The bolide apparently plowed below the water table and generated enough heat to boil the water, which, in my estimate, emitted steam laden with H2S. Peruvian geophysicists recognized gray dust around the crater as pulverized meteor rock, showing the likelihood that the bolide hit with enough energy to bring a pondful of water to a boil. Witnesses reported that the meteor streaked to ground as a luminescent fireball, trailing a smoky tail, from some 1000 meters out.

Usually, meteors don't land hot, having burned off their outer layers by the time they hit. But this one may have defied the norm.

Not only was the bolide -- if that's what it was -- unusual in remaining fiery hot in the lower atmosphere, the striking of an H2S-laced water table with enough impact and heat energy to emit poison gas is also quite unusual, I'd say.

Additionally, according to experts, such a bolide event, which occurs roughly every 26 years, often leaves a field of craters from fragmentation of the meteor during descent. No crater field was reported.

So, anyway, just to add to the intrigue: Hydrogen sulfide is used to process deuterium, a neutron moderator used in nuclear reactors. Who knows? Maybe there is a classified technology for using H2S on board a satellite rather than prior to launch, which is what would be expected. And I wondered about the possibility of a reverse process, but have no clue as to whether a sudden infusion of deuterium ("heavy water") into ordinary groundwater could release clouds of H2S. Somehow I think that fairly unlikely.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Meteorite mystery deepens

It seemed that a rare natural fluke may have occurred, whereby a red-hot rock from the sky plowed into an underground water supply and let off a plume of noxious, mineral-tainted smoke.

But, scientists are still wary of the determination by Peruvian experts that the event that occurred near Lake Titicaca was really the crash of a meteorite.

Physicist David L. Griscom argues that not only does the smoke plume not fit the typical meteorite profile, but that the fireball was far out of line with what would be expected of a massive object hurtling into the stratosphere at a typical meteorite speed of 10 to 20 kilometers per second. The object should have "lit up brighter than day in the stratosphere" rather than becoming visible a mere 1000 meters from the surface, as was reported.

Also, the long-duration sound heard by locals is not typical of meteorite strikes, Griscom told me. Of course, we can't be sure how bright the fireball was, nor when it initially appeared, nor how long the sound lasted. As is well known, witness recollections are highly subjective, especially when it comes to sudden, freak events.

Possibly local scientists were mistaken about a meteorite strike and that a subsurface geothermal event somehow created a boiling crater, making noise and, along with rubble, throwing fiery, molten material that was mistaken for fireballs.
But local scientists and authorities have said nothing about molten matter.
Importantly, Peruvian seismic equipment registered an impact at the site, according to a local scientist.

Investigating scientists did say that the rock they had recovered was consistent with a meteorite, being high in iron content. But, the sample was much more rocky than usual, lacking the metallic "glue" that usually helps space rocks survive descent through the atmosphere, according to Jacob Silverman, who wrote two good synopses for How stuff works that appeared today on that site. The urls are

Silverman points out that scientists seem to think that meteorites don't arrive hot, but lukewarm or cold. For one thing, meteorites generally don't spark fires when they land in a forest or a house. But, there is a question as to whether the water really did boil for a while or whether villagers were too excited to give accurate details.

Please see my previous post "Pravda now a joke" and the item concerning a "war satellite" at the bottom of the post "Spooks clash..."

To recap, seismic equipment registered an impact, but details of the crash are wildly at variance with typical meteor crashes. So maybe it was a satellite. But if so, the locals who suffered from noxious inhalations seem to be fine now. So then, perhaps they weren't suffering from radiation sickness. But then, what made the water boil?

I'm sure the UFO researchers are champing at the bit. A case for The X-Files, I'm sure.

So do these oddities validate Pravda's decision to run Sorcha Faal's piece? Not in my mind. Why not run something by a journalist who doesn't also specialize in weird stuff, such as wrapping up the Israeli attack on Syria in some mythological stuff about an ancient burial ground of giants being visited by extraterrestrial vehicles?

Sept. 28 update
New Scientist has a story today that covers much of the same material as the post above.

Another weird conspiracy theory
that I don't vouch for came across my desk. Here it is:

China was incensed at Israel's bombing run that hit North Koreans at a Syrian military installation Sept 6. So Beijing paid back by using one or more of its new satellite-killer missiles to knock out either an Israeli or American spy satellite -- and then played dumb! Just like the Israelis and Bush after the Israeli strike.
The Israelis and Bush knew that if they complained openly, they'd be put in an impossible diplomatic situation, so they grimaced and played dumb too.

Somewhere along the line a wrong energy figure for the seismic recording crept in, it seems. However, the figure of 4.9 tons of TNT quoted by AP may very well be inaccurate. I'll take a further look soon.

Pravda is now a joke

One of the reasons I gave any ink at all (post below) to the possibility that a spy satellite, rather than a meteor, had fallen in Peru was that the report appeared in Pravda, which I guessed had some sympathetic sources in the Kremlin.

A few years ago Pravda published a serious article on Richard Perle that was based on a backgrounder supplied by Znewz1. So I had reason to think the Communist Party newspaper was still serious, though clearly highly political. But honestly I never read Pravda's online English version and so I guess my guard was down.

Now clearly, it is possible that a secret satellite rather than a meteorite crashed in Peru, but the source of the report, Sorcha Faal, has written some other rather weird stuff in the Chariots of the gods vein. One would think Pravda editors would be a bit more selective in publication of internet reports. Their standards are now so low as to make the political voice of communism a ridiculous joke. Unfortunately, the joke was on me to some extent, though I was cautious and my follow-up material posted below (see 'Sept. 26 update') tried to clarify things.

The BBC and others have been focusing on the "mass hysteria" aspect of the story. At first, only a couple dozen people were sickened by the fumes, but the numbers were bumped up to 200 and then to 600 within a few days. At work seems to be the natural tendency of news-hungry reporters to exaggerate and the likelihood that residents will worry that their minor ailments are related.

Another reason for the panicky reaction was an early story in the Peruvian paper Diario La Republica which reported locals sickened by radiation poisoning. That claim was not repeated by the paper, as far as I could tell.

A story today by Andrea Thompson casts doubt on the assessment of Peruvian scientists that a meteorite struck and focuses on the alternative idea that a local geothermal eruption occurred coincidentally with a fireball in the sky.

Her story is at

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Spooks clash over '9/11 mastermind'

Intelligence professionals are sharply critical of testimony provided by the alleged "9/11 mastermind," Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, while in a CIA torment dungeon overseas, according to a New Yorker report.

Jane Mayer, writing for the magazine's Aug. 13 edition, painted a grim picture of the reliability of Mohammed's numerous confessions, though the 9/11 commission rested much of its narrative on the al Qaeda chieftain's purported statements. Mohammed so far has confessed to involvement in 31 criminal conspiracies, a number which Mayer found high even for a top-level terrorist.

Robert Baer, a former CIA officer, told Mayer that all his spook associates were "100 percent certain" that Mohammed did not kill Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Similarly, FBI Special Agent Randall Bennett told her that of the many people he quizzed in Pakistan, none named Mohammed as the culprit.

Pearl's wife Mariane was skeptical when Attorney General Alberto Gonzales informed her that Mohammed had confessed to the murder. She'd heard this allegation before, only the information was classified and no evidence was available. Gonzales offered no new evidence and Mrs. Pearl suspected the attorney general was grandstanding in order to deflect political heat from his troubles.

Alcee Hastings, a House Democrat, said that he was disturbed by the methods used to interrogate Mohammed, Mayer reported. Hastings was prevented from revealing details but what went on "ain't right."

Mayer detailed CIA methods of torment that bore the earmarks of Teutonic diligence. Breaking people down was done according to precise technical formulas, based on sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation and other nasty bits of business. Survivors have reported inmates in one Afghanistan hell hole trying to commit suicide by beating their heads against the wall.

Mohammed has been moved to Guantanamo naval base, where he awaits a military tribunal.

The 9/11 commission said it was not permitted to interview Mohammed but was forced to rely on "confessions" he gave to CIA interrogators. Mohammed, of course, did not have access to a lawyer during the questioning. This may seem silly but had he had such access there would be less concern about the validity of his statements, which, on reading the 9/11 panel report, appear to have been a matter of telling interrogators what they wanted to hear.

Yet, leading federal lawmakers have said that they don't wish to investigate 9/11 anew, claiming that the 9/11 commission had wrapped everything up.

Air Force shoots down war satellite?
Pravda is circulating a report that a powerful segment of the U.S. military establishment strongly opposes war with Iran and cites Western press accounts claiming that the U.S. Air Force shot down a spy satellite that would have been used to guide cruise missiles into Iran.

David L. Griscom, a retired naval physicist, said, "I can assure you that the impact in Peru and the fact that villagers were sickened" was "the buzz" on CCNet, an email digest for scientists concerned with climate change and extraterrestrial impacts.

Pravda ruled out a meteor strike based on expert analysis of the impact energy. Evidently the villagers were sickened by radiation given off by the satellite's plutonium 238 reactor.

Pravda's Sept. 20 report says the missile strike against the satellite was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Sept. 26 update
El Diario La Prensa of New York reports today that Peruvian officials were checking into Pravda's claim that a U.S. KH-13 spy satellite appeared to have been felled by the U.S. Air Force in order to impede Bush administration war plans against Iran.

These sites have provided some information on what seems to have occurred near the village of Carancas: (scroll down)

The explanation of Peruvian scientists that a meteorite struck and perhaps unearthed some noxious ground gases doesn't seem altogether implausible. There seems to be no independent confirmation that a KH-13 satellite was downed, though there has been speculation that such a satellite's atomic reactor would sicken people. On Sept. 17, two days after the space object's fall, Peru's Diario La Republica reported that victims were suffering from radiation sickness, but the paper doesn't appear to have repeated that onetime claim.

One good story I've seen on the ET strike is by AP's Monte Hayes. That Sept. 19 story can be found at

Without better corroboration, I can't accept the Pravda story as worth anything at this point. In fact, I checked other articles by the writer, Sorcha Faal, and found them to be highly questionable. Her? work fits in well with the Bermuda Triangle genre. It's possible that Faal got her theory from a science minded blogger who early on posted the idea that a KH-13's atomic reactor had caused crater water to boil. (Sorry, I've mislaid that url.)

Shortly after the object crashed six miles from Lake Titicaca, some experts expressed skepticism that a meteorite would have done what it purportedly did. Jose Machare of Peru's Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Geology told Agence France Presse that the meteorite's impact seemed to have caused water in the crater to boil for about 10 minutes, which contributed to a noxious gray vapor given off from the site, apparently containing traces of arsenic and sulfur. Sickened locals had complained of a sulfuric odor.

But Jay Melosh, professor of planetary science at the University of Arizona, was initially skeptical, Hayes reported. Boiling water didn't fit the profile since meteorites are generally cold upon impact, having shucked the hot outer layers during descent.

A number of experts, such as Don Yeomans of NASA's Near Earth Object program, doubted the initial meteor claim, suggesting that the event was more suggestive of some geothermal disruption from below the surface. Alex Bevan, an expert on meteorites with the Western Australian Museum in Perth, wondered whether the fireball and the ground explosion were two unrelated events.

Peter Schultz, a meteor crater specialist at Brown University, was intrigued, saying the impact might be an unusual type of meteor strike. He said the crater's size indicated the original meteoroid was at least 10 feet in diameter before breaking up.

At any rate Jose Ishitsaka of Peru's Geophysics Institute confirmed that the 42-foot-wide by 15-foot-deep crater had been caused by a meteor, according to institute president Ronald Woodman, who said the impact registered on seismic equipment as having the energy equivalent of 2.49 tons of dynamite.


Jose Lopez, Puno public health director, reported that seven policemen were among those sickened by crater fumes and given oxygen before being taken to a hospital, al Jazeera reported. They suffered from headaches and nausea, like 200 villagers who also breathed in the fumes.

Renan Ramirez, an engineer with Peru's Nuclear Energy Institute, said testers had found no radiation at the site. The Geophysics Institute gave the same information.

Ramirez said, "It was a conventional meteorite that, when it struck, produced gases by fusing with elements of the terrain."

A writer known as xcamel, posting on, seems to have been quite diligent about finding out what scientists on the scene thought.

Xcamel says scientists think the meteorite met an undergound water supply tainted with arsenic. There are numerous local arsenic deposits which contaminate local drinking water, according to Modesto Montoya, a researcher with the geology institute. Ishitsuka theorized that the red-hot meteorite, upon plowing into the underground water, gave off a column of steam.

Xcamel's post is at

In sum, what we have is an event that the experts found to be very strange, but that could have been simply a very rare natural occurrence. On the other hand, since, as everyone knows, the first casualty in wartime is truth, there are grounds for suspicion. It seems likely that U.S. authorities could easily control the flow of information from the impact zone.

Physicist Griscom questions whether the United States has a satellite-killer capability yet, though he says a self-destruct mechanism is notionally possible. The U.S. does have rocket interceptors that can knock out missiles in subspace, but it is unknown whether these could be used against high-altitude satellites.

So anyway, throw into the mix a writer with a propensity for the fantastic and we have either perhaps a best-seller in the making or some sort of psywar disinformation operation.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Data mining article yanked from net

A student article on federal data-mining research on terrorist "chatter" at social networking sites vanished from the internet edition of the Rutgers student newspaper The Daily Targum today.

The Targum internet edition displayed the print front page, except that the space for the article "Students protest Busch research" was blank when I checked both Microsoft Explorer and Mozilla Firefox browsers on a Rutgers University terminal. A check of the student paper's search function showed the article was recorded. (Let me know whether the story has become visible in the blank spot. Write me at

The net edition is published by College Publisher Network.

Student Nasreen Hussain's story today concerns a student protest held at the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Computer Sciences on the university's Busch campus.

Fred Roberts, head of the Center for Dynamic Data Analysis (DyDAn), told the reporter that his center is one of four formed by the Department of Homeland Security. The other universities involved are Princeton, Rensselaer, Texas Southern and Texas State, along with Alcatel-Lucent Bell Laboratories and AT&T Laboratories, the story said. Additionally, federal weapons laboratories are contributing to the research.

"The work at Rutgers the students are concerned about is not aimed at identifying anti-American sentiments, nor do I believe it can be useful for that," Roberts told Hussain. "It is aimed at picking up 'chatter' about potential terrorist plots, not at picking up opposition to the war in Iraq or opposition to government spying on private conversations. The methods for doing these two things are very different."

Yet, he conceded that "a scientist can never guarantee" that such tools won't be misused. Roberts said that Rutgers' participation in the research means privacy concerns will be addressed. (Go to for further background.)

Roberts has said that sites such as MySpace are not especially confidential, regardless of whether the privacy option is used. He notes that the companies routinely cooperate with law enforcement agencies.

Update Sept. 25
No response was received to emails sent to Roberts or Targum editors.

Today's print Targum makes no mention of the missing item.

Today's online version shows what appears to be a "normal" blank column running down the page. However, the data mining story was the lead of yesterday's print edition but not visible on yesterday's main online page.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Simulating Osama

How does the CIA identify a recorded voice as Osama's?

It uses a program that digitally compares the recording to a voiceprint taken from a sample of his voice considered to be authentic. There has been a lot of research into voiceprints, with numerous proprietary methods invented by telecommunications companies. For example, Cellmax says its voiceprint technology is so good it can discriminate between close relatives with similar voices and can identify a speaker whose voice is altered by a cold.

We must expect that the CIA's technical services division is using the latest, state-of-the-art classified voiceprint technology.

So, does that mean their identification of bin Laden's voice on various internet videos since 9/11 is reliable? Sure, it might be. But advanced voiceprint technology also implies the possibility of near-perfect voice counterfeiting. In fact, implementation of speech authentication security schemes have been slowed because crooks are becoming increasingly sophisticated at fooling such technology, according to some reports.

Another thriving industry is voice simulation. For example, AV Voice Changer Software Gold boasts that "unlike other voice changers, Voice Changer Software Gold changes your voice over the internet in real time and provides an unlimited number of new voices. You can modify your voice by changing voice pitch, voice timbre, applying effects, adjusting advanced tuner and setting equalizer."

So then, how hard would it be to create a program that inputs the voiceprint numbers into a simulator, which then makes you sound like Osama and -- since it is based on Osama's voiceprint -- fools voiceprint analyzers?

We do know that the Osama tapes all seem to have something wrong with the visuals. Either old footage or use of possible lookalikes. But the feds say they rely on the voiceprints. And the press reports that "Osama bin Laden said in his latest video..."
In one case, there was the possibility of lip-synching by a guy in a black beard.

My point is that the news media should be a bit more cognizant of the problem of authenticity. This morning's New York Times kept the Osama tape to four graphs and the headline qualified the bin Laden link with a "said to be." That's progress, maybe.

Bush jumped at the opportunity to say of the "blackbeard" tape that Iraq was mentioned and that al Qaeda's targeting of Iraq was a serious concern. But Bush's judicious phrases showed that he thought it best to avoid saying flatly that the video was an authentic bin Laden broadcast. However, he was happy to play along with those broadcast media that did flatly assert that bin Laden had spoken on the tape.

Another concern: how about the possibility of framing people with phony tapes of voices that sound just like them? The courts need to take notice.

See articles by David Jastrow, June 1, 2007, Speech Technology, Olga Kharif, April 20, 2005, Business Week, and Greg V. Hulme, Oct. 28, 2002, Information Week.

Scientist tackles 'simulated' election
The problem of high tech rigging of results for political ends is pointed up by Steven F. Freeman in his new book Was the 2004 election stolen? Freeman is on tour promoting the book and sounding the alarm over the apparent ease of election fraud and systemwide collusion in coverup.

Freeman, who has a PhD in behavioral science from MIT, charges that the weight of evidence from exit polls points to massive fraud and that claims of pollsters protecting the system are not viable. Everyone is agreed that statistically the results point to a highly improbable outcome but are not agreed on the likelihood of theft. Freeman, a former professor of management, is not a professional statistician but uses statistics as a matter of course in his lines of work.

Freeman, who wrote the book with journalist Joel Bleifuss, gives a good synopsis of his views at To subscribe to his newsletter, visit

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. of Pace University mentions Freeman's work in a Rolling Stone article titled Was the 2004 election stolen?

John Allen Paulos, who is a professional probabilist, is also skeptical of the election result. Search for his home page and read his article.

Additionally, a group of professional statisticians signed a letter expressing skepticism over the election claims.

Rep. John Conyers wrote a foreward to Freeman's book. Conyers, who probed the situation in Ohio, wrote his own book, What went wrong in Ohio? The Conyers report on the 2004 presidential election. Author and commentator Gore Vidal, who wrote an introduction to Conyers' book, told an interviewer that neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post deigned to review the book and that the Boston Globe gave it only a brief, cursory mention.

Vidal believes the 9/11 attacks were allowed to happen as part of a coup by the Bush bunch in order to transform America into a police state that is compliant with a grandiose international agenda. Conyers' views on 9/11 treason are difficult to find via Google but I would guess that he views the subject as politically intractable at this point.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Greenspan stokes controversy over 9/11

Adding fuel to the firestorm over Alan Greenspan's charges of a White House fraud concerning the Iraq war is another, related, observation by the former Fed chief:

If al Qaeda's 9/11 strike was really part of a plot to disrupt the U.S. economy, why was there no follow-up attack? Greenspan wonders in his memoir, The age of turbulence: adventures in a new world.

"There was no bigger question in Washington than, Why no second attack? If al Qaeda's plan was to disrupt the U.S. economy, as bin Laden had declared, the attacks had to continue."

Greenspan has no answer for this puzzle, though he mildly raises the issue of some restrictions on personal privacy immediately after the attacks. But he certainly doesn't seem to be convinced that it was a security crackdown that prevented further strikes.

(The index of Greenspan's book contains no reference to the anthrax attacks which early on were bruited as some sort of follow-up, and used by the White House and its supporters to inferentially link Saddam to the 9/11 strike.)

Greenspan, who was airborne over the Atlantic rather than in his office near the trade center at the time of the attacks, wrote, "Whatever their publicized angst over Saddam Hussein's 'weapons of mass destruction,' American and British authorities were also concerned about violations in an area that harbors a resource indespensable for the functioning of the world economy.

"I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil."

Greenspan is on record as telling the White House that, if oil security was to be ensured, Saddam would have to be removed.

However, at the time he made his recommendation, there was somewhat less awareness of the strong evidence of treason within the Bush administration on 9/11. At the time he penned his memoir, the evidence had mounted. It seems likely that his wife, NBC newswoman Andrea Mitchell, would have kept him posted on the increasingly troubling questions concerning 9/11 coverups.

Greenspan avoids anything but generalizations regarding 9/11, ducking blow-by-blow accounts of meetings concerning 9/11 details, leading one to suspect that there's a lot about 9/11 that he feels it unwise to discuss out loud.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Telecom shield bill targets your liberty

Supposedly there's a big wrangle going on in Washington over curtailing some of the more obnoxious elements of the NSA wiretap law that was sneaked through at the last minute before recess.

But, says the New York Times, "Democratic leaders" see a deal on a measure to hold telecom firms immune from lawsuits for cooperating with government wiretap demands when another wiretap bill replaces the current one, which expires automatically in five months. (The most likely "leader" mentioned is John D. Rockefeller, head of the Senate intelligence committee.)

McConnell said that because of court rulings, the wiretap data flow had shrunk to a tiny stream by comparison with the time when the government had free rein to eavesdrop.

At the moment, telecom firms face lawsuits over their duty to protect customers from improper invasions of privacy by government officials. In the past, before the Times bared the NSA warrantless wiretap story, major telecom firms had for years turned a blind eye to spooks and FBI wiretappers operating out of telecom facilities. No touchy questions were asked about legalities. Now, however, these corporations are on their guard against eavesdropping that isn't legally justified.

So there's the real problem that's bothering McConnell, Rockefeller and the oligarchs. Easy backdoor spying on political or economic adversaries is being thwarted. The return of this unseemly practice is the aim of the telecom shield law. If telecoms can't be held accountable for ensuring that legal responsibilities are met concerning privacy and improper searches, then neither can the government and those who misuse it be restrained and held accountable.

Quantum developments peril communications

Nearly all encrypted data that moves over the internet or via secure electronic channels, such as your debit/credit card transactions, is based on a combined public key-private key system. The public key system uses numbers composed of very large primes, which, using classical computation, are considered extremely difficult to

However, researchers say they have proved that quantum factoring is feasible and are suggesting methods of making quantum computation practical. A paper by an Australian team, with some funding from the U.S. Office of Disruptive Technologies, said its experiment provided a "proof of the use of quantum entanglement for arithmetic calculations." The team, headed by Andrew White of the University of Queensland suggested checking for ways to craft quantum factoring algorithms that take advantage of the specific computer design used.


Another team, led by Chao-Yang Lu of China's University of Science and Technology, used four photonic qubits (units of quantum information) to factor the number 15.

Further research, the authors say, should be directed at coherent manipulations of more qubits, construction of complex multiqubit gates and quantum error correction."


A pay-to-read article on the topic may be found at New Scientist.

Though the number 15 is dwarfed by the primes used in electronic encryption, the race is on, and there's no telling how long it will be before someone is reading everyone else's stuff. Whoever does so first might become Emperor of Terra.

Well, what about a different encryption system? There's the rub. There doesn't seem to be a good alternative to the public key-private key method for electronic communications. It was a revolutionary development, and revolutionary developments can't be ordered up like a cup of coffee.

Market wobbles
The Fed's attempt to smooth out the market, and the economy, with a major rate cut follows classical regulatory policy. But it doesn't address current emergent problems: the fear of subprime effects; the unforeseen instabilities inherent in burgeoning quant computer trading; awareness that U.S. security officials are grasping for full access to virtually all private financial transactions; and the unsettling possibility that nearly all secure electronic communications are on the verge of being compromised; and that there is no back-up plan to uphold the modern financial communications infrastructure.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Nominee ain't too bright, or...

He's just another humdrum low-life conspirator.

Mukasey's record as a federal judge was to back Bush's extremist presidential power position in the "war on terror." In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece the ex-judge chastised the crybabies who were worried about our basic American freedoms being imperiled by the sickeningly named Patriot Act.

His point is that America is fighting a dangerous, insidious enemy and must resort to very stern measures. Good point... If you're an idiot and have no idea that forces within our own government stabbed America in the back and then used the incident as a pretext to pile up central power.

No wonder people like Schumer think well of him. Schumer, who backed the Iraq war resolution, has never taken notice of the obvious and extensive evidence of treason and had little problem with the U.S. emulating Israel's brutal interrogation methods.

Mukasey will be expected to make sure the Justice Dept. does nothing about the treason, not that the FBI isn't already well in hand. He will be expected to make sure the FBI "gets the tools it needs" to wiretap and spy on "dangerous enemies of the state" who know that treason occurred and want to do something about it.

Mukasey is a New York lawyer who served the power elite before becoming a judge. Today, he's an adviser to the Giuliani campaign. Giuliani has hinted that something might be amiss when he made a point of saying that he was incredulous at how the twin towers collapsed -- but otherwise he has "played the game" of staying out of the controversy over evidence of massive treason.

Among Mukasey's clients was Roy Cohn, onetime aide to Joe McCarthy. Though Mukasey is right behind Bush-style "McCarthyism," I believe that McCarthy would have had Mukasey on his list of dupes and fellow travelers, based on the old credo: if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck.

In the meantime, Bush has kicked out the apparently nonpartisan lawyer slated as interim attorney general and installed a fellow whose factional credentials seem to ensure that traitors need not worry.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Scientific debate over WTC collapses heats up

A scientific debate over the plausibility of the official theory of the World Trade Center collapses is gaining momentum as a Cambridge University engineering lecturer joined the fray by tackling a big hole in the National Institute for Standards and Technology investigation.

The lecturer, Keith A. Seffen, did a study on whether the collapse times -- which were close to the free fall rate -- were plausible and found that they were, according to a BBC news report. Seffen and several other scientists have worked to fill in the gap left by the NIST, which published nothing about the matter.

Seffen's paper is to be published in the Journal of Engineering Mechanics.

Among reasons that the sudden, rapid, symmetrical collapses have generated skepticism is that the top section of each building was lighter than the corresponding bottom section. Usually, it takes a heavier object to plow throw a lighter one in order to reduce it to shambles rapidly.

Let's spike the conspiracy theorist phrase

The phrase has been turned into a pejorative -- a cheap shot and an easy way to scornfully blow off a critic. Reporters who use it may say that, objectively, the phrase is accurate. But, the Murdoch press and others have made it into a term of derision, and reporters and editors should avoid such labeling.

Personally, I wouldn't mind being termed a treason theorist.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bush desperately needs another '9/11'

Faced with all the obstacles in his path, why does Bush continue his Mideast/Iraq policy?

Answer: he and his co-conspirators may have another "9/11" up their sleeves.

After the 2006 Democratic victory, Bush announced a troop "surge," knowing very well that once troops are overseas it becomes politically very difficult for Congress to force their return.

He now says a "gradual reduction" from the surge level is possible, which really means nothing. But Petraeus has said that a reduction will be forced by wear and tear on the troops, who are continually being recycled back to Iraq and whose tours are subject to arbitrary extension. The commander has said this level of commitment in Iraq is damaging the military's global capabilities and can't be maintained.

But consider the slew of laws and executive orders that have been emplaced that can easily be used for imposition of martial law in America and the waiving of basic American freedoms for political dissidents (see Project Censored's top 25 censored stories at Simultaneously, the U.S. is becoming increasingly bellicose toward Iran and is setting up a border conflict that might easily be used to justify escalated hostilities.

There's only one problem: The U.S. lacks enough troops to maintain the neocon policy of "pacifying" the Middle East through the soft underbelly of Iraq.

There are two ways to get more troops: set up mercenary brigades or re-institute the draft. Right now, Iraq is full of U.S.-paid mercenaries ("contract employees") but they are not easily constituted into a major fighting force -- plus they're very costly.

Yet a draft seems unthinkable. The resistance would be gigantic. Yet that resistance could well be smothered by a new wave of terrorism-inspired hysteria and propaganda sweeping the nation. For the Bush bunch, the danger of a second massive stab in the back has been that they will be targeted for doing a poor job in the "war on terror." But Bush's term is winding down and he is tending toward lame-duck status anyway. So, politically, how much does he have to lose from such an act, especially now that all the tools are at hand to impose martial law? Who would dare stop the ruling clique from also imposing a draft?

However, chances that Bush could again protect all of spookdom from accountability in a second massive terror attack aren't very high. Heads would have to roll this time. So whose heads will be sacrificed by the conspirators? Something to ponder.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Edwards, Breitweiser and 9/11

Jersey girl Breitweiser, one of the 9/11 widows who lobbied for an independent panel to investigate the attacks, made a political appearance with Edwards.

Though the lawyer turned activist and liberal blogger does not make explicit her concerns about conspiracy, that implication is what gets certain neocons so fired up against her and the others. Despite a dirty deal by Dems to vouchsafe the 9/11 commission coverup, Breitweiser has properly scorned the report as headed by people with sharp conflicts of interest.

Edwards is lagging, and he doesn't have much to lose in alienating the coverup media by working with 9/11 activists. Good move. At least he doesn't come off like a deer in headlights like he did a couple months back when questioned by a 9/11 truth activist.

Hopefully he can somehow work with responsible members of the 9/11 truth movement -- oh, I can hear the Murdochocracy now: Edwards consorts with wingnuts... Who cares? If you're gonna fight, then fight.

The quant menace: connecting the dots

When the number of computerized quant traders was relatively small, there was little need for them to interact much. But as the potential for huge profit crowds the investment field with quants, the potential for national and global economic catastrophe increases.

As one quant manager said in a Wall Street Journal story today: last month's sudden massive plunges in quant (as in high quantity trading fund) performance was a consequence of too many players. He of course is trying to fine-tune his fund's algorithms.

But the real trouble with computerized statistical arbitrage -- which relies on statistical analysis and the law of large numbers to favor profitability -- is not that it doesn't work, but that that eventually it will be such a powerful market force that it can't work as planned.

What happened in August seems to have been triggered by some unknown quant's short-selling. But short-selling is a key component of arbitrage pricing theory, a technique for taking advantage of statistical patterns in the market. That short-selling spree evidently triggered a round of forced repurchases, with massive losses.

As these arbitrage programs proliferate and their volumes grow, the statistical nature of the market is bound to change. That is, you get a "new force" that, like the market it mirrors, is highly non-linear. Non-linear processes have a strong tendency to become erratic, unpredictable and even mathematically chaotic.

Yes, some traders will improve their algorithms and squeeze out those who are less capable. But, the competitive process will mean that optimization of algorithms will reach a limit. In fact, it's a mathematical fact that an algorithm always has some maximum efficiency. You can't improve on it forever. Optimal algorithms may vary somewhat but they'll all have about the same bang for the buck.

So as computer arbitrage techniques race toward equilibrium, the quants face the likelihood of further sudden catastrophic losses at times that aren't terribly predictable. Of course, one could design an algorithm to monitor -- statistically and via espionage -- the subset of quant traders, but eventually this tactic will also zero out in value as others follow suit.

Consider several computerized players playing poker. Once optimal poker algorithms are achieved, the most probable outcome for any player, assuming each has unlimited funds, is to break even. If each player begins with a finite stake, then the player with the largest (using statistically meaningful differences) stake is most likely to eventually take all, with all the others going bankrupt. If each player has about the same finite stake, that means that there is an equal chance that any player will eventually bankrupt all the others.

This analogue may seem excessively simple. But these "forces" work the same, whether in poker or in a crowded APC field.

However, in the computerized poker games, a cascade effect isn't considered. But sudden, catastrophic APC movements can interact with each other and cascade into the general market, wreaking havoc.

The Bush administration's Wall Street watchers have failed to connect the dots, or, if they have, the intelligence has not reached higher officials. Yet the likelihood of one or more horrific economic shocks poses a far more terrifying threat to national security than anything that occurred on 9/11.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Mob slips terror net?

The mob can breathe easier... maybe. Organized crime links to terrorism showed up in a Homeland Security data mining operation, but the program, developed by national weapon lab scientists, was killed because other programs are commercially available cheaper, an HS spokesman said.

The pattern recognition program had been criticized for failing to meet privacy concerns, though the reputed misuse of data appears to have been a trivial technical foul. The data had already been vetted for privacy concerns, but just not for this specific program.

Whether we are witnessing the emergence of a row between feds and mobsters over 9/11 complicity is still a matter of conjecture. Certainly the mob's help was required in making World Trade Center steel disappear so quickly, and in quite a few other areas of the coverup.

In the JFK assassination aftermath, such a feud did break out. The mob backed New Orleans DA Jim Garrison's campaign to nail the CIA in the murder. The mob felt that the CIA, which did indeed carry out the assassination, had been trying to steer attention away from the agency by inferentially suggesting that the Mafia was behind the slaying. (Certainly organized crime at least agreed to the hit and had a major hand in the coverup.) Eventually mob boss Carlos Marcello, who had been named as an assassination suspect by a congressional inquiry, was sent to prison on federal bribery charges in what seemed to be an attempt to placate Warren commission doubters with the notion that the real killer had been locked up.

It's my thinking that Marcello was forced by mob families around the nation to take the dive in order to get the heat off the mob in general following publication of the congressional report.

So even though the mob, the CIA and top oligarchs eventually came to terms, the disagreement lasted for years and was extremely dangerous. Not only did many witnesses die but the feud could have exploded into a gigantic political firestorm at any moment.

Are we witnessing such a situation now? I'd say there's a good chance. Increasingly, serious professionals are publicly voicing severe doubts about official 9/11 claims. If you were a mobster involved -- or even not involved -- in the 9/11 coverup, wouldn't you be jittery? Wouldn't you be likely to protect your interests? Even if you believe in omerta, many of those involved aren't "stand-up guys" in that respect.