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Socotra House Publishing: Purveyor of Glib Words to the World

Socotra House Publishing is a small press dedicated to publishing and distributing the historical works of Vic Socotra, a non-mortal fellow who captures American and military history with aplomb.

Postcard from the Swamp #29

Do you suppose anyone would notice if the Government actually shut down at Midnight this Friday?

So much stuff flying around this week, including the snow that always panics residents of the Swamp. We got only a dusting in placid Arlington, with the heavier concentration to the east in Maryland. Traffic was predictably awful regardless, and with a monthly luncheon meeting out in the wolds of Reston. Shivering, too, with temperatures not expected to get above freezing until tomorrow.

Georgia is going to get more than a dusting, and flights out of Hartsfield International are already being cancelled to get prepared.

There is plenty of warming to go around, mostly in some blunt talk that the President either did or did not say, which might have discussed the places that some immigrants come from. The whole thing seems unseemly, considering we might have a reasonable expectation that prospective new Americans have some sort of useful skill. I mean, it only seems fair, right?

I imagine we will get all this sorted out, somehow. I remember a time when Authorizors and Appropriators actually did their jobs, don’t you?

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Copyright 2018 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

Life & Island Times: Dive Bar Vision

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The Commodore – Charleston SC dive bar

Author’s note: We were lounging in a Charleston SC dive bar — the Commodore — on icy slick Meeting Street two Saturday nights ago, sad that this former jazz bar had morphed into a millenial 1970s music venue. This dilapidated place may not last long, since urban development of tony condos and apartment buildings was marching quickly northwards from the historic downtown of this paragon, New South city. We cheered ourselves as the band began to play funked up versions of that long ago music after repairing a smoking speaker amp that they had spectacularly fried during their sound checks. As the smoke cleared, the music began to blare and the young’uns began to groove as a group on the dance floor, potential coming times came into clearer focus.

We were sitting in a dive bar
When the band started
On Charleston’s Meeting Street.
Uncertain but unafraid
Our hopes for soothing jazz expired.
We nursed heavy pours of rye whiskey over ice
Deadening our unease for these low dishonest times:
Absent were anger and fear
Circulating over distant
And darkened lands of Asia and
Possessing our private lives.
An unhearable march of boots
Might offend this joyful January night.

Simple wiki scholarship
Unearths the mistakes
From Bush Senior until now
That have rendered America sightless
Finds what occurred at the DMZ and near shore seas:
Psychopathic Kims and the power mad Communist Chinese.
Our soldiers and the public may soon know
What all school children used to learn:
Those to whom evil is done
Will do unspeakable evil in return.

Into this crisp winter night air
Where charming downtown lofts
Cozy, artful design declaims
The desires of comfortable Free Men,
Believin we can live forever
In euphoric dreams.
In the bar’s darkened restroom mirrors we might see, if we looked,
Totalitarianism’s ghostly faces staring back
And the coming international troubles
Half a world away.

Faces along the bar
Fling their cares away
As the lights never come on,
The music always plays.
All our networked inventions conspire
To make we revelers assume
The good future of our homeland
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost as the hunted in a dark woods.

Tis true of our normal hearts
The error was bred in the American bone
Like Jefferson, America’s men and women
Crave what we cannot have,
Not universal peace and love
But just to be left alone.

Sleepy under night skies
America in stupor lies
Unseeing here and there
Small red dots of light
Dance about as events occur
Predisposed to ignore them
Perferring tales of gossip and lust
We, beleaguered by our games
Which turn our minds into mush,
Flit about their warm affirming flames.

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Dancers flit about the Commodore’s dance floor

Copyright © 2018 From My Isle Seat
www.vicsocotra.com

Arrias: The Watchman

Editor’s note: This one is personal.

– Vic

The Watchman

I used to keep a sign in my office, where the watch officers could see it, a line from the Old Testament: Ezekiel 33:6:

“But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life… I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.”

The point is simple and clear: The real world has some harsh realities, everything isn’t win-win, every situation can’t be “worked out,” every situation doesn’t have a silver lining. In fact, the entire concept of intelligence is about decidedly Win-Lose situations. If you get intelligence wrong, bad things can happen. In some cases, truly horrific things can happen. At the very top of the pyramid of this process is that particular slice of intelligence called “Indications and Warning,” (I&W).

I&W is exactly what it sounds like, the process of watching a specific problem, looking for any hint that something is going wrong (Indications) and, when the situation warrants, blowing the horn and providing “alertment” to those who need to be alerted (known as Warning.)

The obvious problem of I&W is knowing when to sound the alarm, when to, as Ezekiel noted, to blow the trumpet. You never want to miss sending out a warning when one should have been sent out. But, you don’t want to sound the alarm unless it’s necessary. Crying “Wolf” not only degrades the system, in the modern world, crying wolf can lead to a self-generated crisis; and such mistakes aren’t particularly well tolerated.

This past weekend in Hawaii the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency – a state agency – put out the following false text during a drill:

“Emergency Alert: BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

Several points come to mind.

1) The director of HEMA needs to be fired and the person who sent out the message needs to be fired; a detailed investigation is needed to make sure everyone knows precisely what happened. People inside the system need to understand both what went wrong and that mistakes of this sort simply won’t be tolerated. Want a worker-friendly job? Go someplace else.

2) Containing North Korea must be job one. As much as everyone wants to blame Mr. Trump, this is not Trump’s fault. This is primarily Mr. Kim’s fault, he’s the one building the nuclear arsenal and ballistic missiles. Is there more blame to share? Certainly. Begin with the Clinton agreement in 1994 to fund peaceful nuclear reactors in North Korea, with an inspection regime inadequate to preventing North Korea from continuing its nuclear weapon development program. (I can hear someone crying now: “It wasn’t inadequate.” Yes, it was. North Korea has nuclear weapons. The program lived. Inspection failed.)

There’s more fault to go around. Both the Bush and Obama administrations had clear indications that the regime had continued the weapon development programs and essentially did nothing. How clear? Underground nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, 2013, 2 in 2016. When Trump came to office North Korea already had nuclear weapons; the test last September was a test of a larger weapon.

3) As horrible as a nuclear strike would be, civil defense has a role. A nuclear detonation over Hawaii would kill many people. But many more would live. A well-rehearsed civil defense system would maximize the number who lived, and improve the process of providing aid and relief to survivors. What happened in Hawaii is a lesson to us all that we need an effective public warning system, and we need a revamped civil defense system nation-wide; the world we live demands that we all address this heightened risk.

4) Expanded Missile Defense is needed now, one that provides a high degree of reliability, one that would make it unlikely that a single missile or even an attack of several missiles could actually reach US territory.

5) Finally, the US deterrence force, our nuclear arsenal, must be modernized. The paradox of deterrence is that the more reliable, capable and flexible the nuclear force, the more effective its deterrent effect.

What happened in Hawaii was a serious mistake. We need to recognize and accept that our nation’s defense, civil and otherwise, has problems and move forward and fix those problems.

Copyright 2018 Arrias
www.vicsocotra.com

Phone Call From Paradise

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Well, I suppose it was more like a phone call from Detroit, circa 1960. I was dozing in the brown chair, watching the cable news and watching the new cold air chase away the moisture of the temporary January thaw.

1960 was the year that our Scout Troop (#1032, Methodist Church, Lincoln St, Birmingham, MI) got a tour of the local Nike-Zeus defensive missile battery in the suburb where we lived. Cool field trip. The gear was spit-shined and the soldiers appeared squared-away. Apparently, at the time we were concerned about defending ourselves from attack by nuclear-tipped weapons aimed at what had been, a couple of decades before, something dubbed “The Arsenal of Democracy.”

That is a long time ago, and I had my time later to cuddle with our nukes on the off chance we had to use them. Thank God we didn’t.

Then yesterday.

I was just waiting for football to start, waiting for things to dry out after the rains, thinking of entropy, and particularly that part of the process of progressing from the vigor of young humanity to something less than that. So, then the phone goes off. I am not all there, but close enough to answer the phone. I consider that to be professional.

It was the LT, calling from his new digs high above Ala Moana Blvd in Honolulu. He said they just got the Civil Defense alert that missiles were inbound, and this might be the last time we talked. Having actually lived in the last time we paid any attention to this stuff, it did not surprise me. We used to get alerts on Iraqi Missile activity almost on the intercom at the Pentagon during the Gulf War, and sometimes fifteen minutes is a useful amount of time.

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You can get to cover, for example, which can even mitigate the effects of high-yield explosions. On 9/11, I was not far from the impact point at the Pentagon only two cups of coffee before it happened.

But naturally, my son was busy yesterday, having less than a coffee break to get ready for eternity, and I let him go.

I did some immediate searches, but didn’t see anything that indicated the NORKS had anything road-mobile to throw at us, so I was cautiously optimistic my son would survive the morning. But really, here we are again. What did we used to say? “Duck and cover?”

I don’t think we needed to come to this place again, but there it is. I know we made a decision to close down our defenses a long time ago. but maybe we ought to re-think that. I don’t want to lose Honolulu for real.

Copyright 2018 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

Pick Up Day

It was pick-up day. The on-line auction was done, the winners notified, and man, I was sweating this one- suppose I forgot? That has happened more frequently than I like to admit over the holidays. I treasure my friends, not to mention the rigid professional obligations of the last almost 41 years of service. But I remembered almost immediately upon rising this morning shortly after 0445.

So I knew what I had to do- catch up on the messages and get presentable to go outside. Then go over to the Front Page shortly after 0900, and pick up what I had purchased at the big auction.

The minor problem was I did not know what I had purchased. I bid on five objects in the Ras Mus on-line site, and apparently had won three of them- Course of Action One, COA 2, and the throw-away, just like my days back on the Joint Staff in the Pentagon.

It was rainy, gray, and there was no liquor at the bar. George the owner (or about to be former owner, though it was good to have a discussion about the perils of Escrow, $55K checks and attendant lawyers while I tried to find a Philipps-head screw-driver to remove my new possessions from the walls).

It was a bit early to feel really right about standing on the seat of a booth in the back bar to remove the new impediments to streamlining my life, but here they are:

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The auctions are always a crap-shoot, but I like the Ras Mus auctioneers. I no longer have the discretionary income to just do what I want, and plus, I have no wall-space remaining to fill, really, and this was a sort of token effort to preserve the memories of what is now officially a memory. Oh well. I knew people would want the framed Front Page of the Titanic sinking, since the existing bid was already $250 bucks, last time I checked. I bit my lip and bid on the Lucky Lindberg one that commemorated the Lone Eagle’s flight to Paris, and then the fall-backs that resonated from my time here in the Swamp.

Since they only gave me the catalogue numbers on the invoice, I wasn’t quite sure what I had won. I certainly got some strange stuff from the Willow auction, including a 24-inch skillet that I will never use, and hoped the brusk auctioneers could help me out when I got there. I was mildly surprised, after sloshing over in the rain. Lindy escaped my clutches, but I did have two that surprised me at bargain prices- it was only $17 bucks to have a framed recollection of Mr. Clinton’s public humiliation, something I shared while attending the Industrial College of the Armed Forces down at Fort McNair, and the earlier $24 Nixon thing that ripped us apart as a nation.

We used to think that sort of behavior was like criminal. How quaint the past seems now.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that I spent only $5 for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin’s announcement that air mail could now get from the Mainland to the Lovely Islands in only a little more than twenty hours. I used to jog from our place in McGrew Loop on Honolulu out to Pearl City and around the old Pan Am compound that served the big silver seaplanes and think how times have changed since those amazing days. I think I know who is going to get stuck with this one, ultimately. But enough. I had done what I did, and needed to make it complete. There are consequences to not complying with the terms of Pick Up Day.

Once I found someone from whom to borrow the Philips screwdriver and locate the artwork (it was complex), things were fairly easy. There were some teams of Asian men taking down the flat screen TVs, Hispanic men dismantling restaurant stuff and cabinets and fixtures being wheeled out despite the specific instructions not to bring two-wheeled carts. George, the Greek owner, was keeping his composure as the parts of his business life exited the building.

My three things fit under my arm, and despite the still spritzing skies, I got my stuff and got out of there without apparent injury or dampness. I would admonish prospective bidders in futures auctions (I can’t imagine many more bars to close down, personally, to make me want to care) to bring their own frigging tools. It is unmanly to not be prepared.

At home, I looked at the images that had been seared into our lives in their time. I don’t need any more crap, we both know that, but to have something that says “Front Page” around the house will remind me of the first times I sat at that bar, and the people who served the drinks and sat by my side, alive and well and happy. Or depressed. We had it all there, just as we did at the Fabulous Willow Restaurant and Bar a few blocks away, and the beginning of the diaspora of the Willow Refugees.

I wish I had been fresher on the case, but it was a busy week. Leo, the former Big Pink Building Engineer, had been ailing this flu season, but was well enough to get back to work on his rehabilitation business. He picked up the new closet door the day before, and Miguel was back from Salvador, and both showed up shortly after the Thursday Business Development and Operations call concluded at 1100 the day before.

I am not completely sure this was the vision, but the workmanship was great, the re-framing of the apertures of the closets to fit the doors, and those appalling ceiling-height metal bi-folds were gone, and I could stop looking at all my clothing every time I changed rooms.

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I think life is good, but I was pinned to the TV all day waiting for the work to be done, paid for and inspected, and the immigration issue was blaring as Miguel labored on my behalf. Yeah, I know. Irony is something, ain’t it?

I thought it was entirely appropriate to find myself unscrewing the artwork from the Front Page walls, tucking the long wood screws into my jeans, thanking the nice auction lady, and heading back out into the rain to go home with my treasures.

What the hell am I going to do with this crap? In only a couple decades it is all going to look like science fiction.

Copyright 2018 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

Postcard from the Swamp #28

OK- the lights, decorations and the world’s most bedraggled artificial tree have been nestled in the storage locker with care, and it is time to deal with the Bold New Year.

California got smacked again- earthquake near Berkeley and then an intense rainstorm that brought down some of the hillsides in the areas that had been burned in the massive fires of last month. So far, there have been fifteen fatalities from people who were overwhelmed in their homes.

The North Koreans- our most recent spats about nuclear-tipped rockets- are making nice at the moment and will dispatch a delegation to the upcoming Seoul Winter Olympics. things should be quiet until then….right?

The Dreamers and The Wall have everyone agog here in the Swamp, and we will run out of money to keep the Government open by the 19th. And while we all agree that “Continuing Resolutions (CRs)” are no way to run even a modest railway, I have every confidence the Congress will take the easy way out, even as the former leadership of the FBI will appear before the intelligence committees (among others) to testify about what exactly was going on in the DoJ and FBI.

And then there is the matter of that tell-all book about the Trump White House that had everyone quite mad, and appeared to mark the dramatic end of Mr. Steve Bannon’s spectacular time on the national stage.

I swear- I was off the grid for a couple days at the farm last week and could not imagine how nice it was to be away from the ceaseless din and piles of dirty laundry. But here it is- second swamp postcard of the year, and for the first time in several weeks, the threat of thermonuclear devastation seems a little more remote. That is good, but the media is already calling for Oprah to run against The Donald in the 2020 cycle. Just when you thought things could not get any weirder…

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Copyright 2018 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

Life & Island Times: Good Night White House

Author’s note: Almost a year into our new, stranger times, it feels like we are living in some fictional spooky midwest town. We are beset with multiple sideshow investigative dramas alongside existential threats with childlike leaders trading insults across the oceans. It’s like we are living inside some poorly written and directed film and video game offshoot by Steven Spielberg and Stephen King.

So with the above as prologue, here is a bedtime story for these times.

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In the main White House bedroom
There’s a charging smartphone
And a red MAGA ballcap under the dome
And a picture of
some guy named George staring up at the moon
And there were three Russian bears sitting on chairs
And one fat mewling Korean kitten
And a pair of red Chinese mittens
And an unruly Senate and House
Both filled with louses
And a comb and a brush and bowlful of covfefe mush
And a quiet first lady who is whispering “hush”

Goodnight White House bedroom
Goodnight George looking at the moon
Goodnight media talking smack
And that dopey red ballcap
Goodnight Russians
Goodnight chairs
Goodnight fat Korean kitten
And goodnight red Chinese mittens
Goodnight clocks
And goodnight fiscal locks
Goodnight to the Senate, maybe even the House
And good riddance, louses
Goodnight comb
And goodnight orange hair filled brush
Goodnight nobody
Goodnight tweeted mush
And goodnight to the first lady whispering “Donald, hush”
Goodnight alt facts
Goodnight corporate tax
Goodnight stars
Goodnight beltway hot air
Goodnight cable news noises everywhere

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At least we are not at the point of this . . .

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Copyright © 2018 From My Isle Seat
www.vicsocotra.com

Arrias: Iran: Will This Time Be Different?

Over the past week speculation has spanned the full spectrum as to what will happen in Iran: the Mullahs who’ve ruled Iran since 1979 are facing protests in a number of cities as many citizens call for greater freedoms and greater representation in their government.

The catalyst for the riots was rising food prices. But there are also reports that there are factions within the government who have incited the riots – the students being unwitting pawns – to pressure President Rouhani on future spending. One faction apparently wants more money spent inside Iran; others want to continue to expand Iran’s presence in Syria and Lebanon. These stories sometimes refer to President Rouhani as a “moderate” cleric. They’re careful, however, to place quotation marks around “moderate.”

In Iran several things are of note: 1) moderate mullahs aren’t; 2) No one comes to power (government or military) unless approved by a very small group of clerics. You can’t run for President or for the legislature (Assembly) until approved by a council of clerics; 3) The small council of clerics are approved by the Ayatollah Khameini; then, and only then, are the people allowed to vote. Western democracy it’s not. In short, the Ayatollah is the real power; 4) The Ayatollah isn’t going to give up power easily.

Iran is an amazing country, with 81 million people, larger than Alaska, with a civilization that is 4000 years old. Iranians have produced some of the finest art and literature in the world. They’re smart, talented, educated. It has been said repeatedly that Americans have more in common with Iranians than with any other people in the Mid East.

To listen to many – hopeful – experts, this time the people will win. In fact, if you listen to what’s being said, it’s inevitable.

But history hasn’t been kind to the idea that the people will win, and that ever greater liberty is a given. This concept, from the school of thought that history is developing to some new and improved end state (popular among Marxists), sounds good if you’re clever with the definitions. A squishy, feel-good, new age religion-spirituality supports this.

But not to put too fine a point on it, you can make a fairly clear argument that nations aren’t really in God’s portfolio. Nations are, as our Declaration of Independence notes, instituted among men. And they are full of failures and errors. Some few fix themselves over time, most do not. In most, the concerns are not about rights and justice, they are about power. And so, back to Iran, the Ayatollah and his mullahs.

Western civilization developed political philosophies that supported justice and individual rights; within that framework it was understood that each individual would be able to pursue those interests that served him best, whether they sought temporal or eternal reward. And so, Western thought focused on states that would provide the minimum necessary conditions for that pursuit.

The other civilizations of the world have chosen different paths. But at the core of all those paths, is a desire not to provide justice, but to hold power. The West created mechanisms to thwart those efforts (though the efforts are by no means fool proof); no other school of philosophy spent so much effort on limiting the power of the state.

In Iran the Mullahs may claim they speak for God (or Allah, if you prefer), but whether they happen to, from time to time, say something with which God agrees, they really speak for themselves, and seek power for themselves. They will not yield it gently. Perhaps the people will overthrow them this time, perhaps not. (If I were a betting man I would put my money on the Mullahs right now). Perhaps they will someday overthrow the Mullahs. But, those in power tend to remain in power. And the more power they have, the harder they hold onto it.

The Mullahs want to retain power. In all likelihood they will use every means to do so, including extreme violence. If we really want the pro-democracy movement to succeed, we will need to not only get involved, but we will need to understand that it will get very messy, will be very unpleasant, and may not work. Or we can sit and watch and hope it works out. And remember, odds are it won’t work out, at least not for the near term.

There are no easy answers.

Copyright 2018 Arrias
www.vicsocotra.com

Japan-gazer Special — Coded Communications In Space

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COMMENT: Happy New Year all — I pulled this one out of the internet news data torrent, just to allow some focus on what the article reports, and, perhaps more importantly, what it implies and portends. In my experience, Japan’s mainstream Yomiuri Shimbun seems to have pretty deep source connections into the Japanese government, and it occasionally writes articles about sensitive issues which serve as “pop-up-flares” to send signals to the Northeast Asia neighborhood, and also gauge/measure domestic public reaction. Nevertheless, the spook world of cryptography is normally a hidden one, and rarely sees the light of day …. so, it is pretty surprising to see the amount of detail openly explained below…
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
== Govt plans quantum cryptography to protect secret communications

(December 27, 2017; Yomiuri Shimbun)

The government next fiscal year plans to begin researching a space-based system that uses quantum cryptography communication, which is considered impossible to tap or hack, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Demonstration experiments on transmissions using quantum cryptography via satellite and other means are planned for fiscal 2022. The government aims to make the system fit for practical use by fiscal 2027. Competition over secrecy protection is heating up among military superpowers. In June, China announced it had conducted a successful basic test in space.

In addition to protecting private communications, the government hopes it can use the technology for diplomatic and national security purposes, such as at diplomatic establishments abroad and with far-off ships and aircraft.

Quantum cryptography communication is a technology that applies the properties of quantum mechanics (see below). A satellite that receives instructions from Earth sends information including a “key” by a laser beam of light particles (photons) to a sender on the ground. The sender then uses this key to encrypt its data, which the recipient decodes using a copy of the key it also receives from the satellite. The keys are abolished after being used only once. Attempts to intercept the transmission of the key leave traces, thus helping to ensure the safety of communications.

The government has requested about ¥300 million in its draft budget for fiscal 2018 to begin developing a high-powered laser to be loaded onto a satellite. The vendor would be chosen in a public offering. In fiscal 2022, transmission tests are to be performed by either launching a satellite or by putting the laser on aircraft capable of high-altitude flights. The goal is to have a system that can be put into practical use by fiscal 2027.

Maintaining the secrecy of communications is an important concern at the national level. In 2013, a former employee of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency revealed that the United States had been intercepting the communications of countries around the world, which became an issue.

Current cryptography communication is based on complex combinations of prime numbers. These can be decoded using prime factorization, so using larger numbers makes them more difficult to decrypt. As computer processing speeds increase, however, so does the risk of decryption, which is why there is an urgent need for quantum cryptography communication.

NTT Corp., Toshiba Corp. and other private companies have already made a strong effort to develop the technology. Encryption is becoming more common in everyday life, such as in credit card transactions on the internet and cellular phones. However, these technologies mainly transmit data through ground-based optical fibers. Direct transmissions are only possible in the 100-kilometer range, and data is at risk of leaking from repeaters.

Satellite-based quantum cryptography communication systems can directly transmit data several thousand kilometers. Although research and development in Japan is mainly conducted by private companies, many now believe state-sponsored initiatives are needed, a source with government ties said.

In July, the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, which is under the jurisdiction of the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, successfully sent quantum transmissions via a micro-miniature satellite. However, it was said that the amount of quantum information that could be transmitted to the ground was insufficient.

— Quantum mechanics

A set of physical laws that govern the submicroscopic world, such as photons and electrons. In the world of quantum mechanics, photons and electrons change when they are observed. Quantum cryptography uses this property to determine whether data has been intercepted or hacked by checking for changes to the photons, which makes communications more secure.

LINK: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0004149974

Life & Island Times: Anger and Distrust in Savannah

Damn, I wish you were here to enjoy this beautiful Savannah weather with me. It is early winter, and things are finally beginning to die. It is wonderful to be out in the crisp air, with the leaves turning dark yellow, and the warmth draining out of the sunlight and big natural gas log fires blazing in our century old coal fireplaces while our cat Angel airblowers the fallen leaves from the sidewalk into the avenue’s gutters. We now see a lot of crazy politics, violence and mayhem on TV because we watch it a lot more, now that the days are so very short, and darkness comes so soon, and all the annual flowers we planted in the fall are about die from unseasonsally early freezings. Climate change, go figure.

You should have been here yesterday when I finished off another baggie of leftover Christmas turkey and knocked back some Christmas gift rye whiskey and picked up my motorcycle helmet covered with old cigar bands and went outside with joy in my heart because I was happy to be an American on a day like this. It was like Paradise. You remember that long ago bliss you felt when you powered your jalopy down back country roads without a care in the world. Well, our nation’s wild road trip last year felt like that and a whole lot more.

I digress. These moments of joy are soiled by flashbacks and ghosts from a distant past too foul to name. And so much for these southern winters. The nearly denuded trees look diseased and chilled, hungry animals roosting in them do not appear pleased to be exposed to the elements and our prying eyes.

I was just sitting here on an extended weekend morning, waiting for another day’s college football bowl games to start and taking a very brief break from the televised news blizzard of bit actors and charlatans who trudge about the political freak show stages of our nation’s capitol. Take my word for it. I spent more than my alloted time at “full wide open throttle” as it were in our nation’s capitol. Now the forces of time and decay are taking over even that clown show. Beware . . .

It seemed normal enough, at the time, just another weird rainy day down here in the coastal low country . . . What the hell? I was suddenly assaulted by a news item that crossed in front of me on my laptop’s screen. The fat kid in Asia whom some call Rocket Man claimed to have a nuclear missile launch button on his desk. I thought it likely that it had a USB port and blue tooth internet connectivity. Everything’s better with blue tooth.

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Back when I was younger, the two main Cold Warrior competitor nations didn’t have these cool digital devices. It was a different time. People of those analog times were friendlier despite the megatonnage involved. We were forced to issue nuclear annihilation instructions face-to-face from a paper menu of bombing options that were lugged around in suitcases. Hell, you could afford to screw up the first strike, since we had lots of extra bombs and warheads for second and third strikes. There was a sense of certainty that we not just could but would eventually get the job done. People were not so afraid of the end time, as they are now.

There were laws then, but they were not feared. There were rules, but they were not worshiped . . . like Laws and Rules and Hackers and Media Sources are feared and worshiped today.

Like I said: That was a different time.

Further stories scrolling by on my laptop detailed in so many words Congress as a sinkhole of schmucks. We all know that. Hell. Sexual harassment is what Congress is all about. Until this past year, they acted as if it was the way of our forefathers.

Jesus. They have had us on the run and in the dark for many many years — until last year. One Leadership Lady called one of the perps from her own party an icon, while fully knowing the unspoken rule that a woman never got on an elevator on Capitol Hill alone with this creep. It was amazing to see them act so innocent and shocked by all these hushed up bad acts from the past, using tax payer money to secure the silence of the abused. It was horrid.

Why we couldn’t see it for what it was was mystifying. We weren’t wildly driving about with bags over our heads on a moonless night at eighty-eight or ninety miles an hour in a drenching, blinding rain on a two lane section of a poorly maintained US route.

But the country was travelling on a dangerous road seemingly full of blind forks, sharp knives and greasy spoons. Last year felt like the country was hydroplaning with its front tires no longer in touch with the asphalt or anything else. Our national center of gravity was too high and swung wildly side to side. We passengers had limited visibility into the facts or none at all. We could have tossed a flat rock a lot farther than we could see in front of us last year.

So what? We thought we knew this road — mostly a straight run across a big empty, with occasional dots on the map — small towns with gasoline stations and convenience stores.

Our plan, like it always had been during rough times, was to keep moving. Never slow down. Keep us and our car aimed straight ahead at speeds above the limit but not arrest-and-throw-us-into-jail fast. We all feel there is safety in speed. Nothing can hurt us as long as we keep moving fast.

But not last year, as we sped along faster and faster into an ever blacker and blacker darkness. We were rocketed along at 100 plus miles per hour news cycle velocity. It was dumb and extremely dangerous.

To add to our confusion, media outlets, digital and analog, erupted every half hour with outbursts of brainless gibberish about Russians, collusion, tweets, big money, and so on.

There were no breaks or brakes; if we had any of the later, they were useless. The national vehicle was wandering all over the road with its rear end frequently coming around. Jamming the tranny down into Low made no difference. So we went along for the ride, not even considering to brace ourselves for a serious impact, a crash that would hurt if not kill many.

The car never really hit anything. Now and then we felt a slight thud, like running over a small animal’s body (see Flynn, the Mooch, Manafort). So we just keep rocking on down the road never even looking to see if we had any of the road kill in our front grill.

Will the country in the coming year slide sideways very fast and utterly out of control and careen into an unforgiving steel guardrail at seventy miles per hour in the middle of the night? Hope not. But we really don’t know. No one does.

This has been a long time in coming — not just for the Republicans and the Democrats — but for all the rest of them. Even the rich, the famous and the powerful are coming to understand that change can be quick in these times and one of these days it will be them in the dock on TV, fighting desperately to stay out of prison.

I am sure that we are seeing this clearly despite all the fake politeness and smarmy hypocrisy of the media and not knowing whether to laugh at it or throw up on it as it as we descend into moral degeneracy and hypocritical hedonism, largely due to the misguided and greed-driven leadership of national politicians, senior law and intelligence agency officials, and local and national media.

Well, that’s about it for now. Christmas and New Year’s Eve are past us and it’s all downhill from here on . . . at least until Groundhog Day, which comes soon.

See you on the road. Drive safe.

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