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Location: Takoma Park, Maryland, United States

I'm now a 52-year-old American male raised as an Episcopalian, veteran of submarines, Peace Corps, and State Department. I like teaching people about what they can do with computers and have gotten by as an independent Microsoft trainer teaching networking, but I really hope to someday find a way to make a living traveling on my motorcycle, camping, and writing about places and people I meet along the way.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Prophecy or just smart as a whip?

Remember my earlier report of my conversation with Susan in MCC New York on July 3rd?

She was filling me in on some of the history of Syria, and told about how the son might lead Syria in a more enlightened direction? I wrote her a letter, and mailed it yesterday, speculating about how accurate what she had said might be. Imagine my surprise to read the on first page of today's Wall Street Journal reports of analysts saying the same thing.

There is a deal to be made with Syria. I think it has secretly been in the works for a long time. It might not be what Susan thinks and judging from what we've seen on the world stage recently, it might not be pretty.

I got to see a psychiatrist about my head injuries. Tonight was a third visit. He told me about how the brain heals and resolved some of my concerns about persistent bits of memory loss--that the problem should go away. He also hinted that it might be up to me to request a MRI, and that it will be easier to do so once I have medical insurance.

Returning home, I was just in time to catch the PBS special on recovering the text of Archimedes. What a story! What a shame if his science is being rediscovered on the eve of another dark age. Humans are seldom so stupid as when we try to solve our problems by force. The story was that Archimedes was killed by a roman soldier among the warring party that wassuppose to capture him for the Romans.

Reminded me of the book Once an Eagle and its key phrase:

"So in the Libyan Fable it is told that once an eagle, stricken with a dart, said when he saw the fashion of the shaft, with our own feathers, not by others' hands are we now smitten." --Aeschylus

Archimedes, whose improvements of the catapult, literally, kept the Romans at bay; killed by the sword, himself.

It's off the subject, perhaps, but while conservatives often nash their teeth upon hearing the name of Senator Frank Church, and ascribe blame to him for things that were already afoot due to previous misconduct, I would like to point out that he played a big role in forcing the DOD to improve the pay of servicemen at a time when it had remained stagnant for many years despite inflation and significant growth in the defense budget.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Air Power

I'm reading Stephen Budiansky's book, Air Power. There is a passage that describes the dropping of pamphlets that accelerated the end of WW I. The pamphlets told German soldiers that POW's captured by allied forces were treated in a humane manner and received the same daily rations allowances. The pamphlets then described the daily allowance to include marmalade and tobacco. WW I, the book says, ended largely because of mutinies in the German ranks and uprisings from citizens fed up with military leadership.

Interesting to see the contrasts in POW propaganda and to consider how the treatment of modern POW's works against our larger interests.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Susan's estate

Interesting rumor: I'm hearing from a couple of sources that Susan's father is asking the family trust fund, from which she borrowed some money to purchase her home, to foreclose on her. According to the pre-trial psychiatric documents, it was her father who first planted the notion that she might be incompetent, with the prosecutor. Interesting that this is happening on the eve of her expected release.

Karin, who takes care of the house for family members, says this is to get Susan a lower rate.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Letter from Susan

Gosh, I have to get better at reading my mail. I got a letter from Susan, yesterday, and being on my way out, set it asside. I'm glad I ran across it this morning before it got burried under more bills.

Susan's letters have not always been fun to read. Those from Carswell were full of indignation and flailings, as one might expect, and after the first one there was seldom much that was new. The bright spots were when she spoke about the food service ladies and some of the religous leaders who got in to see them. So, it is nice to get letters that are not full of desperation.

One of the things that Susan pointed out, in this letter, that she had also mentioned when I visited on Monday, was how impressed she was that she had not already been forcibly medicated. She sees that as a reassurance--that we have a judiciary that is still largely independent of politicians and empowered to protect people in positions like hers.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

More Friends

One of the good things that has come out of living in Susan's basement has been all the wonderful people who I've met who are concerned with her situation. Tonight, I connected with somebody who had been reading about her on-line. Jack Cohen-Joppa is in town for an alternative energy conference. We met for dinner, and I got to hear about his involvement in the protests on the tracks at Colorado's Rocky Flats nuclear materials processing site.

I've been on the other side of the nuclear energy issue, but certainly share his interest in finding other sources of energy that are environmentally friendly. I also admire those who continue American traditions of activism and anyone who engages their mind and participates in public dialogs. Here's his signature line:

the Nuclear Resister
"a chronicle of hope"
P.O. Box 43383
Tucson AZ 85733
Now 25 years In Print!
- information about and support for imprisoned anti-nuclear and anti-war activists -
Jack & Felice Cohen-Joppa, editors
phone/fax (520)323-8697
email: nukeresister@igc.org US$15/year/US$20 Canada/US$25 overseas
- selections from recent issues
- updated prisoner addresses
- & archived issues can be read at:
(please supply a postal address for samples)

Now, Jack and Felice have some experience with situations like Susan's. Here's a bit from his e-mail to me:
"We will publish our next issue sometime in July after I return from DC. We generally ask readers to write letters of support to the folks in prison because of their anti-war activity. If appropriate and if it is the wishes of the prisoner, we also ask readers to write letters of protest or support to officials. (& it is not uncommon to prefer that those first be sent to an attorney, to be submitted formally and so the defense knows what is being said!)

"It seems Susan would believe that she is in prison related to her anti-war activity, however delusional. Her letters clearly indicate such a peace-seeking motivation. So it seems consistent with our objective as a comprehensive chronicle to report on that fact now. I wish I had known in September that she was involuntarily committed! I have visited a friend at Carswell twice - not in the FMC hospital but the women's admin-max. on the same site, and only with a monitor in the same room.

"We've also on occasion reported on people arrested and sent to jail who were mentally ill, but for one moment of moral clarity and unambiguous action ended up in custody. We try to be sensitive but straightforward. Seriously contemplating nuclear war is enough to drive most people crazy, so most people are happy not to think about it. Likewise imprisonment. The fact that the US imprisons at a greater per capita rate than any other nation is rarely contemplated.

"We also have some experience supporting people of conscience accused of espionage - see http://www.nonviolence.org/vanunu/20050702felice.html and that site's home page."
Walking home after our meeting at Mark's Kitchen, one of Takoma Park's favorite restaurants, I was pleased to get a call from another person who has helped bring publicity to Susan's plight, Janet Phelan, who is now in Sandpoint, Idaho. I envy her so much for being able to be so close to those mountains.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The New Yorker: Online Only: Content

The current issue of The New Yorker has several thought provoking articles.

The New Yorker: Online Only: Content: "But, on 9/11, John O’Neill was no longer with the F.B.I.

In the summer of 2001, there was a damaging leak in the New York Times that exposed the fact that John O’Neill had taken classified information out of the bureau to an F.B.I. pre-retirement conference in Florida. His briefcase was stolen. It was discovered within hours and the information had not been touched, but because of this revelation he decided to retire. And he took a job as the head of security at the World Trade Center. He died on 9/11."

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Nine months and counting....

I visited Susan, yesterday. I must say that the anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication they are giving her at MCC New York are helping her. We talked for two hours and I was just amazed at how clear she was. At one point, she corrected herself. She was saying, "I know more about this than anyone," then immediately rephrased it: "I know as much about this as anyone. I don't need to be grandiose."

Leading up to this visit, I had been talking to one of the Scottish journalists. The Lockerbie conviction is going to be overturned. He put a call into Susan's DIA contact using the two phone numbers that Susan had given me. The person who called back was one who was presumed DIA when Susan introduced them to journalist, Ian Ferguson, during the Lockerbie trial. Susan's account of weekly meetings was quickly corroborated and she got high marks for her initiative and intelligence.

The judge is not simply retiring. He goes into some senior status where he can continue to work her case and others, but probably will not take any new cases. Susan thinks there is some chance she may be released, pending trial.

We then spoke at some length about Lockerbie, terrorism, and the drug trade. I knew that I should have been taking notes during all the conversations I had with Susan before her trip to Carswell. She corrected a number of things that I have not recounted correctly. First, she never said that Kadaffi was innocent in Lockerbie, but that we were prosecuting the wrong citizens. Kadaffi had a long history of supporting Abu Nidal and terrorism. Second, the CIA agents who got off the Lockerbie flight at the last minute were going to Washington to testify to defend the CIA against charges that others on the plane, DIA agents, were making concerning CIA participation in the drug trade that was funding terrorism, primarily terrorist Ahmed Jabril.

I'm probably not getting all the names right, but she described to me the situation in Syria, how a very feared leader, Hafez al-Assad, had been grooming his son Basil al-Assad to assume leadership, but Basil was killed by Ahmed Jabril (to intimidate Hfez al-Assad) and now younger brother, Bashar, has risen to power and is viewed as someone who might calm things. She described how Ahmed Jabril is something of a father figure to Usama Bin Laden and somebody with whom the DIA has a few scores to settle.

BTW: Did you know that Syria is on the U.N. Security Council?

Thinking about drugs, and the recent prison shooting in Florida, I asked her whether someone who has worked against such powerful figures needed to worry about the reach of terrorists into drug corruption in U.S. Prisons. She surprised me, saying that there is actually very little drug activity in prisons, not that there aren't plenty of women who would like sexual opportunities even without the added incentive of sex for drugs described in the news of that event.

She also went on at some length about how fortunate we are that the judiciary is independent of other political branches of our government. In many other governments, there would not be the protections that she is enjoying. Interesting that she could see her current predicament as preferable to some of the alternatives.