Thursday, May 29, 2008

Smiley Faced Killings - Is FBI Incompetent?

You've seen the following plot dozens of times on television. The police decide a death is an accident or suicide and someone like Jim Rockford, Harry Orwell or maybe Jessica Fletcher has to convince the police the death was a murder.

Today two real live Harry Orwells, retired NYPD detectives Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte, are attempting to convince law enforcement officers in many jurisdictions that a series of drownings are murders rather than accidents or suicides. Like the cops on PI shows the police in most of these cases have taken the easy way out and written the cases off so they don't have to risk investigating crimes that might be very difficult to solve. The Federal Bureau Investigation isn't interested if local police don't think there is a problem.

The investigation began with the death of college student Patrick McNeill, who drowned in New York City in 1997. Gannon made a promise to McNeill's parents that he would never give up on his case. They have already convinced Minnesota authorities that the death of University of Missesota student Christopher Jenkins was a homicide instead of an accident.

They believe 40 or more college men have been murdered many by drowning them in rivers, even in winter. In the best tradition of "CSI" they have examined data on river currents to determine where each body likely entered the water. Subsequent examinations of the area around the points of entry has revealed various different smiley faced graffiti.

I saw an 60's or 70's era movie about urban terrorism years ago. The only thing I remember about the movie is the quote: "Once is an accident. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is enemy action."

The number of drowning deaths of men with similar characteristics with the associated smiley face indicates the work of a serial killer or killers. The fact that nine were students at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse is particularly suspicious.

The idea of murdering people by drowning them isn't new. Characters in old gangster movies often talked about this method of eliminating someone, although the victim was often first fitted with "cement overshoes" so the body wouldn't be found. In murder mysteries victims might be drowned in bathtubs, swimming pools, rivers or the ocean.

Drowning provides certain advantages to murderers. There is no murder weapon for the police to find and link the murderer to the crime. The water may wash off any DNA or fiber evidence.

Getting the victim into the water can present a problem when the victim isn't cooperative, especially if the victim starts yelling. The possibility of being seen also increases the risk of being caught. The first problem can be reduced if the victim is drunk which is one of the similarities of the victims in the smiley face murders. Putting the victim in the water at night, expecially during cold weather would also reduce risk. Night fishing isn't as common in cold weather as it is in warm weather so there would be less chance of someone seeing the crime.

The fact that people sometimes drown accidentally or commit suicide by drowning benefits murderers, particularly if law enforcement officers don't want to bother with cases that are difficult to solve. A drowning death might reasonably be classified as an accident if the person was known to be swimming at the time, was at a party along a river bank or perhaps drowned near his or her residence particularly if impaired by alcohol or medication.

However, a drowning should be considered suspicious if the police cannot place the person in the vicinity of the place where he or she entered the water or there is anything suspicious about the condition of the body, such as the placement of the arms in some cases studied by Gannon and Duarte. If the person had been drinking before the death, the police need to determine if the person was physically able to get to the point where the body entered the water particularly if the drowning didn't occur near the route the person would take to get home.

If the victims were predominately black instead of predominately white, the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson would be screaming for an investigation. If the victims were female, the news media would be speculating about another Ted Bundy.

So, why is the FBI refusing to investigate the case? Don't the feds think white males can be the victims of crimes?

What if the 40 deaths had involved some symptoms that might indicate a disease? For example, what if all of those who had died had reported muscle aches followed by a rash and then an extremely high fever. The Center of Disease Control and the World Health Organization would both be investigating to determine if there was a common cause for the deaths. The CDC would want to know if those who died had had physical contact or perhaps contact with the same individual or individuals. Perhaps they all could have consumed the same food product before becoming sick. Health officials would rather investigate something that doesn't turn out to be a crisis than risk having an epidemic develop because they didn't take the situation seriously enough. AIDS was discovered because doctors became suspicious after noticing the increasing appearance of previously rare disorders.

Shouldn't the FBI be just as diligent in investigating a possible criminal epidemic? The FBI is supposed to be the nation's premier law enforcement agency. Local law enforcement agencies are often underfunded and understaffed. They may not have the type of facilities and personnel seen on CSI. They may be prone to concentrate on obvious crimes instead of attempting to deal with situations that might or might not involve crimes. Local departments are unlikely to recognize serial crimes that occur in many different jurisdictions.

Gannon and Duarte believe more than one killer might be involved because in some cases deaths occurred in more than one state on the same day. Who could be the killer or killers? The fact the victims were men could indicate female killers, perhaps women wanting to emulate Aileen Wuornos who admitted to killing 7 men. A woman could lure a man by promising sex or pretending to need help with her car. A satanic cult is an obvious possibility. The fact the victims tended to be successful in sports, academics and/or popular could indicate the killers are young males with similar attitudes of the Columbine High School killers. Members of an informal group might link to each other on the Internet and help each other plan the attacks.

Perhaps I'm expecting too much from the FBI. After all today's FBI isn't the FBI of Ephrem Zimbalist's Inspector Lewis Erskine.

Today's FBI is the organization whose leaders didn't think the number of Saudis learning to fly airliners in 2001 was worth investigating. Today's FBI couldn't figure out that a man who wanted to learn how to fly airliners, but not land them, might be planning to hijack an airliner and crash it into something. The FBI initially believed the DC sniper was a lone white male instead of the two black males they eventually caught.

If the FBI refuses to investigate and the Smiley Face deaths turn out to be murders rather than a bizarre coincidence, Congress needs to consider replacing the FBI with a real law enforcement agency that is capable of protecting us from criminals and terrorists.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Open Letter to Sen. John McCain on Global Warming

Unless some other candidate enters the race I will be voting for you in November. However, that is only because neither of the likely Democratic candidates has the experience to be the nation's Chief Executive Officer. Your acceptance of the nonsense about purported "global warming", which Meteorologist John Coleman calls "the greatest scam in history", indicates a level of gullibility that is undesirable in presidents.

I can understand how American leaders would believe that Saddam Hussein still had significant amounts of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Hussein had used such weapons in the past and there was no evidence he had destroyed them. U.N. inspectors discovered unloaded nerve gas shells shortly before the U.S. invaded Iraq.

However, there is no evidence for "global warming". There is no evidence of any significant temperature change other than the normal rise and fall of temperatures over time. The earth has warm years and cool years, warm decades and cool decades. The process that is supposed to produce global warming is physically impossible.

Those who claim the existence of global warming admit that temperatures only changed by 1 F or 0.17% during the entire 20th Century. A one degree variation is insignificant considering that daily temperatures fluctuate by 20 - 30 F and by over 100 F from winter to summer in temperate areas during the year. The passage of a strong cold front can drop temperatures by 30 F in a matter of hours.

A one degree change over a century could easily be explained by differences in equipment or changes in the locations where the equipment is located. Today's equipment is of questionable reliability. Many sites have characteristics that artificially produce higher temperatures.

Temperature varies by more than one degree in different parts of my yard. Temperatures went up and down during the 20th Century and have declined since 1998. The concept of a global average temperature itself is of questionable value.

Jean Baptiste Fourier first suggested that infrared radiation (IR) from the surface heated the atmosphere, but Fourier also believed that star light could heat the earth. He believed that gas molecules converted the radiation into heat. Niels Bohr demonstrated in his Nobel Prize winning research that absorption of specific wavelengths of light by gas molecules changed the energy state of their electrons rather than causing them to become hotter.

Land and water heat the air by conduction rather than radiation. 70% of the earth's surface is water which is a very poor radiator anyway. Supporters of global warming have failed to provide any evidence that the low energy radiation produced by earth's surface can heat anything.

Those who believe in global warming claim that it is caused by carbon dioxide (CO2) trapping a small range of IR. However, physicist R.W. Wood, who invented IR photography, demonstrated in 1909 that the process of trapping IR didn't cause greenhouses to stay warm. Instead they stayed warm because they trapped heated air which doesn't readily lose heat energy by converting it into radiation. His experiment used solid barriers to trap IR. CO2 is less than 400 parts per million in the atmosphere and is hardly capable of trapping IR the way the solid barriers Wood used could.

Ferenc Miskolczi resigned in protest from NASA after it suppressed a study indicating that the equations used to show CO2 would cause substantial global warming contained a serious flaw that rendered the equations invalid. His corrected equations show no warming.

Dr. Gerhard Gerlich and Ralf D. Tscheuschner in their essay "Falsification of the Atmospheric Greenhouse Effects Within the Framework of Physics" argue that the process global warming believers talk about would be a perpetual motion machine that physicists claim would violate the laws of physics.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Editor Wants Rev. Wright to Shut Up

The editor of the Hutchinson (Kansas) News says "Rev. Jeremiah Wright needs to shut up" in an April 30 editorial.

Barack Obama's supporters in the media are piling on Rev. Wright for having the audacity to speak his mind and possibly harm their candidate's chances of being elected president.

Forgive my cynicism, but they are ignoring the fact that Obama made Wright a public figure by using Wright's church to try to convince black voters to vote for him. Politicians have been using church membership to win votes for generations.

I can understand criticizing Wright for his statements about government being responsible for the HIV virus, but why do some like the New York Times( April 30) criticize him for his statement that the 9/11 attack was punishment for various American actions abroad which killed innocent civilians. Religious leaders have been blaming calamities on "sin" since biblical times.

I have read the sermon in question and see nothing wrong with it. As a social scientist I look at human actions in terms of direct cause and effect actions.

I would explain 9/11 in terms of the reaction of al Qaeda to having our troops stationed in their Holy Land and the failure of the FBI and CIA to do their jobs and prevent the attack. The FBI had a man in custody who wanted to learn how to fly planes but not how to land them, but no one at the FBI could foresee the obvious possibility that someone was planning to hijack a plane or planes and deliberately crash them. To me the 9/11 attack occurred because of incompetence at the FBI and CIA.

Preachers look at events from the view point of moral issues of right and wrong. Positive consequences are rewards for doing right. Negative consequences are the punishment for doing wrong. Like the prophets of biblical times Rev. Wright looked at the wrongs he felt America had done and suggested punishment was understandable.

Those who condemn Rev. Wright for his statement about 9/11 reveal themselves as anti religious bigots. They are the ones who should shut up.

Friday, May 2, 2008

In Defense of Mr. Wright

I disagree with Rev. Jeremiah Wright on many things, but as an American I believe that he has the right to believe whatever he wants to believe and express those beliefs.

My father believed the rights of freedom of belief and freedom of expression were important enough to risk his life in Europe in World War II. I believe those rights were important enough to risk my life in Vietnam.

I disagree with Rev. Wright that the U.S. government is responsible for the HIV virus, but as an historian I know that some of our ancestors gave small pox infected blankets to the Indians.

America has a long tradition of belief in conspiracies. Many believe there was some type of government involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the fall of the World Trade Towers. I disagree with those theories but see nothing wrong with people wanting to have such beliefs.

Wright's statements about 9/11 being punishment are consistent with a long religious tradition dating from biblical times. Religious leaders have often explained calamities as punishment for sins. I disagreed with Rev. Martin Luther King's statements about the Vietnam War, but I recognized that he had a duty to speak out against what he believed to be wrong.

One of the functions of religious leaders is to condemn what they believe people or nations are doing wrong. If we want to truly guarantee religious freedom, we must allow them to continue to do so even if we disagree with them.

If anyone is to blame in the controversy, it is Senator Barack Obama not Rev. Jeremiah Wright. No one held a gun to Obama's head and forced him to attend Rev. Wright's church for 20 years. If Obama had serious disagreements with Rev. Wright, Obama should have left the church instead of belatedly condemning Rev. Wright for holding various beliefs.

Obama's behavior is scary in someone who wants to be president. Presidents can become intoxicated with the powers of the presidency. A candidate who makes a practice of condemning those he disagrees with as a candidate might attempt to punish those who disagree with him if he's elected.

Rev. Wright's statements about HIV might not make sense to most of us, but many of those who are condemning him believe ideas that make even less sense.

For example, many of them believe that carbon dioxide which is less than 0.04% of the atmosphere has some type of magical power to control the temperature of the atmosphere. They believe this even though the process they talk about is inconsistent with the laws of physics and with scientific experiments. They claim the earth is getting significantly warmer, even though they admit that the average temperature they use changed by only 1F during the entire 20th Century and such change represents only a 0.17% increase in temperature. Such a small change could indicate nothing more than differences in equipment or differences in the characteristics of the sites containing the equipment.