Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ain't That a Kick in the Head?

Heads don't make very good crash test dummies, particularly when attached to living bodies. Unfortunately, this is an era infamous for head trauma, whether on the battlefield or the athletic field.

In the older literature, one special case involving a head injury towers above all others, and almost certainly you're at least marginally familiar with it. Maybe while growing up you saw it depicted in a "Ripley's Believe It Or Not" newspaper cartoon, or perhaps you read about it in one of any number of books or magazines exploring the strange and unknown. Should you be a physician or specialist with a background in neuroscience, surely you became fascinated with the incident as you pursued your medical education.

But why mention the strange case of one Phineas Gage here at all? Well, because those of us with an interest in Fortean (ref. Charles Fort on the Internet) subjects are well aware of the Gage story, and now another piece of this bizarre little event has emerged.

At the young age of 25 in 1848's Vermont, as a railroad crew member, Gage was using a tamping iron to pack explosive powder into a railroad bed hole when the mixture exploded, instantly propelling the 43-inch-long iron rod through the man's left cheek, into his brain and out through the top of his skull, coming to rest several feet in the distance. To everybody's amazement, he survived the injury with residuals of a blind left eye and some curious and annoying neurological changes.

Smithsonian Magazine for January, 2010 (the cover is shown here) features a compelling little article by Steve Twomey, who not only updates Gage's story, but also offers an incredible photo of Phineas Gage himself, dressed in fancy attire as he strikes a bold pose, left eye closed, holding the very iron rod that should have been his passport to the Grim Reaper's lair. The photo, enlarged for publication, was actually a tiny daguerreotype image, and for much of its life nobody realized the identity of the photo's subject.

Twomey recounts the detective work and personal accounts of those involved in locating and identifying Gage's picture. A major giveaway, once the photo was enlarged via modern means, was an actual inscription on the metal bar itself, clearly signifying it as Gage's object of near destruction.

Gage only lived a few years after the accident, and Twomey's article, "Finding Phineas," also shows a photo of Gage's obviously damaged skull (now on display for medical students), and a mask image.

Due to copyright restrictions, I can't reproduce Gage's photo here (it seems, however, to have made its way to at least one Internet site), but I urge readers intrigued by strange historical accounts and early photography to visit a library or procure a copy of the magazine because, while most old publications haven't even been able to describe Phineas Gage, the enlarged photo of this incredibly lucky young man, holding the killer bar as if exhibiting a prized shotgun or trophy, beams with charm, confidence and power more than 160 years later.

Oh yeah, there's a definite rush, just to know that this is the guy we all heard about as kids, and one might detect a bit of a gothic flavor here due to the period clothing. If we didn't know better, we might even think we're looking at a male clothing model from a time long, long ago, and had he donned an eye patch and button-down shirt Gage could have been the perfect Hathaway Shirt model of recent decades. Some might even find Gage's photograph reminiscent of a James Bond movie poster, advertising a dashing secret agent with not a hair out of place.

Indeed, while the lore regarding Phineas Gage sometimes conjured up the image of a snaggle-toothed rail yard roughneck who probably couldn't get so much as a date with a barnyard chicken, the facts reveal an imposing figure and a very nice-looking young man. Regrettably, fate decreed that a tamping rod and explosive powders would assure his legend, but not a long or normal life.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Walter Sullivan and the Blink

In less than a 1973 millisecond, Walter Sullivan performed a feat on the level of atom-smashing in The New York Times. Science blinked, but quickly regained composure before its rusty armor developed another crack. After all, the debate was over, and those little flaws were always so dangerous to the established order. The mere thought of allowing sunlight's ultraviolet rays in to destroy the carefully groomed molds and fungi of settled and organized science, whose honored and hoary proponents assured us would guide humans forever, almost always sent shivers up the highly educated spines attached lovingly to closed minds.

But 1964 is the place to look first. Oh yes, 1964 was a fascinating year. In addition to the Socorro UFO, news stories and rumors of other UFO landings, close approaches and evidence consumed public interest.. The world of organized -- that is, "respectable" -- science also had something to crow about in '64, with publication of the book, We Are Not Alone. Written by Walter Sullivan, then science editor for The New York Times, Not Alone was well-received and regarded as quite thoughtful and scientifically accurate regarding the possibilities of intelligent life in the universe, and how we would deal with its discovery. Not only does this sound like Dr. Carl Sagan material, indeed, Sagan was quoted throughout Sullivan's book.

What wasn't a part of the book's extensive index, however, were the terms, flying saucers, unidentified flying objects or even UFO. Science editor Sullivan, already revered as the author of several informative books, explored extraterrestrial theory via the safety of mainstream thinking -- that is, again, respectable science. In fact, if one takes a quick look at the words of various columnists and reporters specifically writing for The New York Times in the sixties, there was considerable ridicule and dismissive prose about the UFO phenomenon. Not that this was unusual then, or now, in publications whose publishers and editors consider some things just too strange to take seriously.

So Sullivan's book became a fast award-winner and time passed. 1965 arrived and, as in 1964, intriguing UFO reports continued to pop up in the news. Early In August, writing in The Washington Post, reporter Howard Margolis advised: "The latest flurry of flying saucer reports -- if experience continues to hold -- will be forgotten in a few weeks by everyone except the people who saw them, the Air Force, and the devotees of the cause." Unfortunately, Margolis also swallowed the Air Force explanation that Jupiter and a few stars were responsible for thousands of UFO reports in the western U.S. during the summer, unaware or uncaring that investigators determined that these heavenly bodies were only visible from the opposite side of earth during sighting activity. Over at The Times, and this is purely my speculation, a skeptical Walter Sullivan was, nevertheless, watching quietly with care.

By March of 1966, something of a crescendo was reached when abundant UFO reports surfaced in California, Ohio, Illinois and, particularly, Michigan, for this was the home state of then-Congressman Gerald Ford, and while his office was besieged by a multitude of anxious citizens looking for answers, Ford began demanding a congressional investigation. The media "balance" could hardly have been more apparent, for while some news services reported about UFO sightings in deadly earnest terms, others treated the very idea of UFOs absurdly. One such was The New York Times itself, home of Walter Sullivan, which featured a humorous column by Russell Baker entitled "Salvation Through Flying Saucers" on March 29, 1966. Yet, somewhere in the background, I suspect, Walter Sullivan's impression of the universe continued to evolve.

During the first week of May, 1966, perhaps in an attempt to allay public concerns, former defense secretary Robert McNamara announced that there was no proof that UFOs existed. Within just days after McNamara's peculiar declaration, a new Gallup Poll revealed that some five million Americans believed they had seen UFOs, and ten times that number -- nearly half the U.S. population then -- thought that observers saw something real, though not necessarily flying saucers, and were not victims of imagination. Even as the Gallup Poll emerged, the Dept. of Defense announced that a search was underway to fund a scientific study of UFOs -- ultimately involving the University of Colorado and its eventually disastrous project.

Getting back to Walter Sullivan -- he was destined to take his popular book to prime time television, but first TV airwaves became notoriously fouled in May by the presentation of CBS-TV's one-hour special entitled, "UFO: Friend, Foe or Fantasy." Narrated by Walter Cronkite, this anti-UFO propaganda piece deteriorated so quickly into nonsense and negativity that when TV Guide (May 28, 1966) featured three letters from viewers commenting on the show, all were negative. If this was a cross-section of national viewer reaction, the program clearly fooled almost nobody and both TV Guide and CBS must have received a lot of "hate" mail.

Frankly, I did not know what Walter Sullivan was writing about as the years progressed since 1964, but in October of 1966 ABC-TV presented its homage to Sullivan's volume, also entitled "We Are Not Alone." Dr. Carl Sagan and several other respected scientists contributed extensively to the hour's premise about the possibility of extraterrestrial life -- and, of course, this involved evidence suggestive of everything but those troublesome UFOs.

I was not a regular reader of The New York Times, but seven years later, on October 17, 1973, I happened upon a fresh copy containing an article by Sullivan himself, entitled "Strange Radio Pulses Reported by Moscow." Now, as any tabloid reader can tell you, the Russian press has distributed so many wild claims over the years that one hardly knows truth from fiction from could-be. Nevertheless, Sullivan apparently received reliable information and had decided to impart what little he knew, cautioning that the signals may simply have originated from some mundane source.

However, the Russian report wasn't nearly as interesting as Walter Sullivan's other subject matter woven within the story. This brilliant writer, author of an award-winning book which clearly offered a positive case for extraterrestrial life somewhere else -- devoid of references to UFOs which would signify possible visits here and now -- acknowledged the incredible in his column, apparently not even raising an eyebrow:

"Amid reports from at least six American states that unidentified flying objects had been seen and even been visited, Moscow reported last night the detection of radio signals that may have originated with another civilization."

This was an astounding statement from a man whom, as far as I know, had spent virtually no time as a proponent of UFO existence. Yet, after mentioning more about the Russian radio signals, he smoothly returned to UFOs, not even attempting to flag a change of subject:

"An Ohio report, by the Associated Press, concerned a woman who phoned the police 'hysterically' to say that an oblong object had landed in a field and killed two cows. The police investigated but were unable to confirm the account."

Wow! Yet, hardly content to let things stand, Sullivan then quoted from a new UPI report about "two shipyard workers" in Pascagoula, Mississippi (the case of Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker, as we would later learn) who claimed a UFO abduction. No-bull science writer Sullivan then explained that former Air Force chief UFO consultant Dr. J. Allen Hynek of Northwestern University and Dr. James Harder of the University of California had questioned the men and conducted hypnosis sessions with them, and that the two believed the alleged abductees were telling the truth about their terrifying experience involving a physical examination by UFO entities. Further, Sullivan advised, Hynek had long insisted that the government should take such reports seriously. No laughs, no ridicule, no jokes here. Sullivan displayed matter-of-fact for all it was worth.

Sullivan may well have written more about UFOs before or since, but the main point here is that people change and, when allowing themselves the chance, so do science people. Bless Walter Sullivan, for he must have been a rare individual indeed to dare wear an open mind -- an inordinately open mind -- on his shoulder. Then, as now, publicly embracing the UFO issue in the company of the scientific community, even a little, is not always healthy for one's professional career. Expanding upon Dr. Hynek's familiar statement, science is not always what scientists do, nor is science writing always what science writers do.

For me, to discover the eminent Walter Sullivan casually and seriously weaving and crafting incredible statements about UFOs and the people involved with them into what would otherwise be just another article about Russian claims was a phenomenal moment, no more, no less. In a flash, Sullivan forced science to blink, and whatever words arrived on the scene the next day or the next week didn't matter because his literary freeze-frame image, in the words of the newspaper industry, had gone to press and was put to bed. And that's a --30--.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Confessions of An Irrelevancy, Vintage 2009

Ah, Christmas and New Year's -- annual occasions when people of good will celebrate religious traditions and/or look back to reflect fondly upon the last 12 months.

Unfortunately, I can't be bothered with any of that today. I'll leave the good cheer stuff up to my readers because, by George, you can probably handle it better than I. Merry Christmas! Happy 2010! Okay, my turn. . .

Maybe it's my age and the realization that nothing gets better and every motion becomes more painful with time. Perhaps it's the mortal fear involved when I actually consider attempting exercise with a hula hoop, certain that I'll awaken the next morning with my quadratus lumborum switching positions with the rectus abdominis. Forget mere floating kidneys, this is the serious stuff of which self-contemplation is made.

I decided to take this opportunity to do what thousands, millions of bloggers do every day, and that is to bore the living daylights out of you with my personal mind baggage. That's right, today I'll be using the word, "I" at least half as many times as President Obama inserts it into his speeches. Ol' Robert is gonna put you to sleep, right here, right now, with a few of my concerns over the years, and there's nary a UFO in the bunch.

My Confession: First, because I've mentioned President Obama now and again in these pages in uncomplimentary terms, there will be the occasional reader wondering if I'm a racist. Well, that's an interesting point, so I'll both clarify my position and shoot myself in the butt at the same time.

The truth is, several years ago when then-Senator Obama spoke eloquently before the Democratic National Convention (the previous one, not the last event), probably for the first time ever, I found myself very impressed with his demeanor and ability to express issues far more coherently than many of his colleagues. I did, in fact, e-mail his office within hours and congratulated him for a fine speech and said it was my opinion that he would make a good presidential candidate someday. I don't believe I have a copy of the e-mail by now, but surely his office must because his speech was an historic political occasion, and I can't imagine that any form of communication (including letters and telegrams) reaching his office regarding that special moment would have been deleted or destroyed, so somewhere in cyber land the evidence of my questionable advice remains. My bad, as modern clueless youth, unable to organize a proper sentence in English class, would say.

However, my opinion softened considerably when he actually began campaigning for the job, because I -- and, by far, I am no political genius -- felt and continue to believe that his plans are just too expensive and radical for the turmoil our country currently experiences. I don't know that he's going to go down in history as a very good President, and of course that would be a shame. And no, I was no fan of President George W. Bush, either. Politically, I'm an Independent voter, a creature traditionally both hated and coveted by the established parties, and there are days when it wouldn't take much to push me toward the Libertarian side. To me, the Democrats and Republicans have become evil twins in many respects, and we should be appalled at the evidence of corruption frequently emerging from either party -- appalled enough to do something about it the next time elections are held.

So no, I'm not a racist. My immediate supervisor in the Air Force 40 years ago was a black man who wrote excellent performance reports for me (he is shown in a group photo in my Air Force blog), and my roommates included black and Hispanic airmen (though I admit to a special place in my heart for Santos L., whom I once drove to town outside our Texas USAF base, and every time we passed somebody on the street he would open the window and shout, "F*** you, you mother!" as my face graduated through shades of red).

Climate Change: If there's anything profoundly more dangerous than changes in climate and/or "global warming," in my opinion as a non-scientist, it's the frenzied compulsion among many people for numerous self-centered reasons to "do something." Steady progress in "green" alternatives is a great idea, but don't sledgehammer the process into the heads of others. If anything, I believe that a significant decrease in world human population is the key to everything, but, of course, nobody wants to tackle that issue -- which indicates right away that it's likely the most important culprit causing problems.

One tires quickly of opponents who insist, well, if we took all the humans in the world and put them next to each other, they would only fill a space the size of Rhode Island or New York City or a bird cage or whatever calculation they throw out -- but the truth is that each person requires (according to statistics, and who even knows how accurate they are?) 14 point something acres, or far more, to sustain himself or herself throughout a lifetime, so things quickly become enormously complicated at that point. In the meantime, Third World countries persist in clear-cutting forests at an alarming rate, rare animal and plant species disappear forever, and we are left with just more and more of. . .us.

Drug Companies: To stay in business and to be amenable to huge profits and funds for further studies, pharmaceutical corporations must continue researching and producing medications, and then somebody has to purchase and actually put them into their bodies. Yep, that's where we come in. They and/or we must convince our physicians to make us/allow us to enhance or foul our organs by ingesting or injecting their stuff. Their efforts have become remarkably successful, particularly via the expensive marketing campaign evidenced nightly during national news broadcasts among the major TV networks.

My current favorite is a commercial for Ambien CR, a sleep medication, and while we concentrate on the cuteness of a rooster parading through bedrooms and city streets, I wonder how many folks hear warnings in the background that the medication may cause hallucinations, death, suicidal thoughts -- and the possibility that you might even get a swollen tongue (great for making you appreciate your airway, before you lose it)! Well, maybe they'll invent a pill to prevent that, too. At least the rooster looks healthy and apparently harbors no ad-induced neurotic requirement to beg for a sleep aid.
Wonder drugs can be good things, but Wonder-Why-They-Invented-This-One drugs may not be, as one contemplates the disturbing frequency of news announcements and lawsuits regarding medications that turn out to have questionable, injurious or even fatal benefits. Which shall be next? Who shall be next? If we ever return to nutritious eating, lots o' meds could disappear overnight.

Americans who travel overseas for terrorist training to use against U.S. military personnel and American citizens: Your age doesn't matter, you really deserve only to be executed swiftly by authority of my government upon your return to the states or on the battlefield. I don't give a damn what a great all-around high school student you were or how nice you were to grandma.

AM Radio: Fingernails on a blackboard, that's what it's like when I hear callers to talk shows say, "thank you for taking my call," because it's the show hosts who should thank people for phoning in. Without callers, they would be out of business, and in many cases should be. Some "talk shows," mostly on the local level, are merely hourly blocks bought and paid for by various businesses or corporations. In my area, for example, local weekend radio mornings are fouled by "help" talk shows funded by home builders, auto repair people, financial advisers, health food advocates and a hospital. Hourly blocks can cost, I've heard, around $2,000 in many circumstances, but I'm sure that's extremely high or low, depending upon one's location.

AM and FM radio, often a mere shadow of their former selves, have become vast wastelands populated by commercials disguised as other formats, and one longs for the days when radio was fun, informative and not just a tool for advertisers and a blatant political agenda machine.
As one example, perhaps you've had the displeasure the last few months of having your ears pounded with frequently played "Mrs. Douglas" commercials. Intended as a commercial to sell a brand of automobile, these annoying and, in my opinion, over the line commercials start out with the sound of a ringing phone whose tone and pitch are obviously intended to rattle the listeners' brains, and the sound is repeated as the spiel reaches its end. Worse, I heard this commercial repeated as often as three times within 20 minutes, and certainly for at least 2-3 times per hour for days on end. Then the commercial would go away for a few days or weeks, and then would return, where the cycle started all over again. Ad agencies aren't stupid and obviously the commercial helped sell cars -- but it must also have instilled hostility among many potential customers once they knew they were being played by this nerve-jangling promotion intended through a ringing phone to force your undivided attention.

Radio station management whom make it so transparent and obvious that advertisers are appreciated more than loyal listeners do a real disservice to the industry. In fact, any ad agency, in-house commercial production team or sponsor which chooses loud noises over intelligent writing and marketing to sell a product should be looked upon with suspicion, because we often find that there's very little substance behind the noise and flash they churn out.

Illegal Immigrants: No. Get out or let's help you get out. We can do that by monitoring and criminalizing employers who hire border-jumping criminals, and by at last taking extreme legal action against both public officials intent upon operating "sanctuary cities" and against those with various other agendas who illegally import the world's human detritus inside our borders. When you look at throngs of people who sneak in with no intention of assimilating or caring about our borders, language or culture, bold moves are definitely required. Call me cold and dispassionate, call me cruel and harsh, but don't call me if an insurrection due to government inaction evolves.
Gays in the Military: Of course, why not? Already there, dude, nothing new.
Heterosexuals in the Military: Of course, why not? Already there, dude, nothing new.

Radical Islam in the Military: Uh, no. That doesn't seem to work out well.

Animals: Be kind, just be kind. Our human idiocies are not their fault and, as relative latecomers to this planet, it could be said that we are merely their guests of a temporary nature. William S. Lemur and Spike the Rat will be smiling over sun-bleached human bones in eroded international human graveyards long after the universe forgot the moment it burped us into a brief and troubled existence.

Major Lifetime Surprise: I was gratified and very much surprised when (the late) former Central NY Congressman James Hanley recommended me to the Carter Administration in case they organized a new UFO study (see letters above) -- an intention rumored, but apparently never established. Anyway, we all know where the real UFO studies are going on, don't we? Hmm?
Far Less Than 15 Minutes of Fame Moment: Actually, this less than shining moment only lasted 2-3 seconds when the movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind used one of my magazine articles as a background prop among props, during a crucial moment displaying a collection of the main character's (Richard Dreyfuss) UFO newspaper and magazine clippings (see above). Chosen obviously because the Argosy Magazine graphics department produced a stunning and easily recognizable depiction of the subject at hand -- published just in time for Steven Spielberg's people's people's people to find this gem on some newsstand -- I remain particularly grateful that the rest of the article wasn't shown on The Big Screen. This article was one of the worst I ever wrote and the best thing about it was the artwork. Yeah, a couple of seconds in a motion picture, and I can tell you, stardom ain't all it's cracked up to be - and just where ARE my residual payments??? Been waiting for years and years and years. . .

Major Annoyance of the Moment: 2001, 2100, 2900, 1910 -- just wondering how long it'll be before I get the numerical 2-0-1-0 combination right this next year. The ones and zeroes in dates are so, so computer-ish. Must be a conspiracy.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Taking Gary McKinnon for a Little Swim - Part 2

Looks more and more as though alleged British computer hacker Gary McKinnon will be singing, "Coming to America" in a solo performance (Has the Queen knighted him yet? Sir Hax-A-Lot would sound cool). The young man who proved single-handedly that United States government computer security still sucks may already be on our shores when I post this entry. I'm still kinda ambivalent and kinda not about this mess, but maybe if I can break into multiple personalities or something for a few minutes I can manage a little conversation with myself, though directed toward others who aren't likely to read it.

TO MY GOV: At the end of the day, I hold out some hope that the benevolent part of us will let McKinnon off with a stern warning. What example would be set with a stiff prison sentence? Would imprisonment point the finger away from our own security incompetence, or give government attorneys some sort of testosterone rush? Wouldn't it be infinitely more constructive to jail U.S. leaders intent upon sharing U.S. weapons technology with China, Russia and our other, um, caring international "friends?" Instead, forget McKinnon -- maybe shouldn't our military drones go bomb the snot out of Italy and make 'em return Amanda Knox, who just went to prison based upon the judgment of jurors equivalent to the sort who would storm Frankenstein's castle with torches and pitchforks simply because "they ain't our kind?"

TO MR. MCKINNON: In the courtroom, please, for starters -- don't cry like a baby. Generally, that only works over here, especially in the media, if you actually ARE a baby -- or a professional athlete or congressman caught cheating on a spouse. Be pleasant, quiet, kind and courteous, and wear a facial expression that exudes confidence with just a touch of smugness -- the variety which silently announces to one and all that you're at least as smart as any computer geek in Homeland Security. At least.

TO MY GOV: Have you guys seen all the hate blogging going on in England over this? Wow, I never realized so many Brits could despise the U.S. This affair will surely not help U.S. radio talk show host and beloved (!) national treasure Michael Savage overcome his "banned in Britain" status.

TO MR. MCKINNON: Whatever happens, English dude, here's some great news -- you just know that some schlockmeister producer out there will dramatize your life story and techno-escapades in a movie. True, you're no Charlie Manson, but my gov certainly is entertaining the impression that you killed half the country. No fooling, by the time Hollywood finishes with you, movie audiences everywhere will forget the name, Jason, and Twilight will again be known only as something occurring at the end of a sunshine-filled day. Whether you spend eight days or 80 years in prison, a fat paycheck for the story of your life as hacker extraordinaire will be waiting for you like a faithful jailhouse bride when you get out -- that is, assuming authorized lethal injection isn't in your future, but I suppose even that could happen under the right circumstances in court. Well, whatever, just remember that my government can kill you, but it isn't allowed to torture first, so you've already cracked a lucky break there.

TO MY GOV: Pssst -- Hey, don't announce this publicly because, as you know, we don't t-o-r-t-u-r-e, but I think maybe you need to water-board this guy because it will be great fodder for the screenplay. And once the official case hits the courtroom, make sure your lawyers look darned official in dark suits -- and shine those shoes! Look the part -- remember, we're talking Hollywood here, and you want to project a properly debonair image and political stance to be recreated for the eventual motion picture.

TO MR. MCKINNON: You might get out of legal trouble altogether, if you can manage to bring along those folks associated with that East Anglia University "Climategate" thing. Those people are looking so guilty now that, by comparison, any hacking you've accomplished looks as dangerous as a game of solitaire. Bonus points if you can make the international thugs who populate the United Nations look any phonier they are, now that "global warming" has succumbed to the ice cube tray.

TO MY GOV: Oh right, what about that Climategate issue? Just when will Al Gore be sued in Federal and international courts for alleged environmental misinformation based upon lousy science, non-science and stiffness of oral communication?

TO MR MCKINNON: Finally, bring along the best attorney you can find, because while my government attempts to pound you to shreds for hacking -- deservedly, yes -- a little cobweb will be hanging above every head in the courtroom. Some folks will spend a lot of time trying to brush that web off their faces as it slowly descends, but it won't go away and it won't lose its annoyance factor. Where is the spider that spun this web? should be the question. Yes, something unknown should dominate that courtroom, and Gary McKinnon's own words of the past have implicated this mystery monster called the UFO. If ever there was a time for UFO disclosure, this is it, and if by some slim chance we find proof of a government cover-up, then let the legal fireworks begin. But chances are high that the government will find a way to avoiding addressing the UFO issue at all because it's the hacking, not the look-what-I-found part, at issue here. All foul things considered, the U.S. badly needs to make an example of you as both a warning to the legitimately lethal global hackers whom they'll never be able to touch, and to make us forget that computer technology is, at best, a complex and expensive game destined at all times to be devastated by the best player. Yes, you won a round, but some folks don't take kindly to having their marbles taken away. We beg for the best computer wizards and then condemn them when they demonstrate their talents to the max. Sucks to be you. You fill government hearts with fear, truly a danger because you have the skills to break through the extreme fantasy of technological security cherished almost as a religion by governments and corporations everywhere

TO MY GOV: Remember -- you wanted to bring McKinnon to our shores. Be careful what you fish for. Oh -- one more thing: Since you're ready to tear McKinnon apart like a pack of wild dogs, how about likewise pursuing the UFOs allegedly hacking our computerized missile systems, per Mr. Hastings, Capt. Salas, Lt. Col. Halt and others? I can understand your displeasure regarding a single human hacker screwing up NASA and defense files, but where's the outrage over mysterious bright objects showing up on radar and either disabling or reprogramming nuclear -- yes, nuclear -- missiles at supposedly secure Air Force bases? Will that issue be on the public agenda simultaneously with the McKinnon affair? Want to talk about priorities? Surely, this matter of obviously highly advanced hackers is a shade more important and urgent to national security than some British guy who currently trembles in his shoes and, we suspect, would sooner turn into an ocelot than ever tap into a government Web site again.