Repeat After Me: 'I Am Getting Safer and Safer'

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President Cheney says we are safer than we were on 9/11
. Senator
Kerry says we are not safe enough, but we could be
. It’s an
election year. "Vote for us. Be safer."

is bliss. Until it kills you.

There are
some bad things going on out there. Sometimes the media focus
on them. More often, however, they focus on innocuous things or
highly improbable things and call them looming emergencies. Something
big is always going to kill us, one of these days, we are told:
the hole in the ozone layer, global warming, man-made carbon dioxide
in the oceans, whatever. Unless the government . . . . If only
the government would. . . .

In contrast,
there is a tendency for every influential institution to downplay
the really bad things that really do threaten society — things for
which there is no known solution by a government agency or a United
Nations treaty, things that would require a reversal of existing
government policy, for the government to do less, not more. If
a potential disaster can’t be used to justify the expansion of
the government, the media ignore it or else bury it on page 17.

To illustrate
my point, I shall select a back-page industry: cruise liners.


Have you
ever taken a cruise? I have. Three, actually. I was a speaker
at conferences on board cruise ships. So, I got free tickets.
That was back in the late 1970s. Been there, done that.

The cruise
industry’s ads on TV feature young, nubile couples — rarely seen
on actual cruises — frolicking in the surf. These ads are in fact
aimed at graying people with lots of money, who will spend most
of their daylight hours on board either snoozing in deck lounge
chairs or eating. They don’t call these ships "The Love Bloat"
for nothing.

The Securities
& Exchange Commission requires a publicly traded company to
send out a fat, unreadable prospectus before selling any stock.
The cruise ship industry is not similarly regulated. A case in
point. . . .

Does any
cruise line mention the existence of 100-foot waves that appear
out of nowhere on calm seas, without warning, and sink any ship
in their path? No?

Also unmentioned
is the fact that these waves are continual phenomena, not "perfect
storm" phenomena.

I did not
know of their existence until a week ago. Lew Rockwell posted
a link from the BBC News on his site. It was at the bottom of
his home page, which gets changed every day. I might easily have
missed it. Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, and Dan Rather missed it.

If you think
the media tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but
the truth, front and center, think about the following news report.
Think about the fact that this is probably the first time you
have heard about it, unless you visit Lew Rockwell’s site regularly.

waves spotted from space

The shady
phenomenon of freak waves as tall as 10 storey buildings has finally
been proved, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Wednesday.

Sailors often
whisper of monster waves when ships sink mysteriously, but, until
now, no one quite believed them.

As part of
a project called MaxWave — which was set up to test the rumours
— two ESA satellites surveyed the oceans.

During a
three-week period they detected 10 giant waves, all of which were
over 25m (81ft) high.


Over the
last two decades, more than 200 super-carriers — cargo ships over
200m long — have been lost at sea. Eyewitness reports suggest many
were sunk by high and violent walls of water that rose up out
of calm seas.

But for years
these tales of towering beasts were written off as fantasy; and
many marine scientists clung to statistical models stating monstrous
deviations from the normal sea state occur once every 1,000 years.

large ships sink every week on average," said Wolfgang Rosenthal,
of the GKSS Research Centre in Geesthacht, Germany. "But
the cause is never studied to the same detail as an air crash.
It simply gets put down to u2018bad weather’."

To prove
the phenomenon or lay the rumours to rest, a consortium of 11
organisations from six EU countries founded MaxWave in December

As part of
the project, ESA tasked two of its Earth-scanning satellites,
ERS-1 and ERS-2, to monitor the oceans with their radar.

The radars
sent back "imagettes" — pictures of the sea surface
in a rectangle measuring 10 by 5km (6 by 2.5 miles), which were
taken every 200km (120 miles).

Around 30,000
separate imagettes were produced by the two satellites during
a three-week period in 2001 — and the data was mathematically

ESA says
the survey revealed 10 massive waves — some nearly 30m (100 ft)

waves exist in higher numbers than anyone expected," said
Dr. Rosenthal.


while the MaxWave research was going on, two tourist liners endured
terrifying ordeals. The Breman and the Caledonian Star cruisers
had their bridge windows smashed by 30m waves in the South Atlantic.

The Bremen
was left drifting for two hours after the encounter, with no navigation
or propulsion.

Now that
their existence is no longer in dispute, it is time to gain a
better understanding of these rogues.

In the next
phase of the research, a project called WaveAtlas will use two
years’ worth of imagettes to create a worldwide atlas of freak
wave events.

The goal
is to find out how these strange cataclysmic phenomena may be
generated, and which regions of the seas are most at risk.

Dr. Rosenthal
concluded: "We know some of the reasons for the rogue waves,
but we do not know them all."

Had this
not been published on the BBC News Web site or some equally establishment
source, you would have thought this story was an urban legend.
It isn’t.

this phenomenon has been with us from the beginning of the oceans,
yet it has never gotten into the public’s consciousness, from
long before Christopher Columbus until today. Of course, there
is always tomorrow.

Think about
this. How did this story NOT get into the public’s consciousness?
This is "The
Perfect Storm
" in the form of a soap opera rather than
a George Clooney movie. "Tune in tomorrow!" This is
Poseidon Adventure
" every two weeks.

As for the
media? Silence. "A story not worth pursuing. No
news value here!"

Critics of
conspiracy theories usually argue, "No group could keep a
story like this hidden. The story would leak out." But would
it? Would anyone believe it if it did?

Stories that
are sufficiently threatening to scare lots of people into not
spending money, or scare them away from employment in a particular
industry, or get them to lose faith in the establishment’s reliability
are simply not passed along. Even when they do leak out, the public
resists thinking about them. The stories are just too unnerving.
People think: "If I can’t do anything about this, I prefer
not to believe in its existence. I would rather not believe it
than believe it and feel completely vulnerable."


There is
a lot of media attention on terrorism these days. The 9/11 Commission
has issued Part 1 of its report. It blames everyone in Washington,
which means no one in particular. It calls for another layer of
bureaucracy to solve the problems of the existing layers of bureaucracy.

Tell me:
How many of the federal government’s 15 separate and competing
intelligence agencies can you name, besides the CIA and the FBI?
If you got NSA ("No Such Agency"), you’re doing better
than most Americans. Twelve to go.

The Commission’s
report suggests that an Intelligence Czar should be appointed
to oversee these huge, long-established, independent bureaucracies.
That will fix things — just like the Energy Czar in 1974, William
Simon, whose primary task was to reduce America’s dependence on
imported oil. We are more dependent on imported oil today than
we were in 1974.

William Lind
is a specialist on fourth generation warfare: the kind of war
the Vietcong waged against us a generation ago and unnumbered
insurgency groups are waging against us today in Iraq. For anyone
interested in fourth-generation warfare, start

In a
July 29 column
, Lind analyzed the 9/11 Commission’s report.
He thinks it is typical of Washington reports. He thinks its main
recommendation will lead to more intelligence failures: centralization.

When bureaucracies
fail, one of their favorite ways to deflect demands for reform
is to offer reorganization instead. That appears to be what
has happened in the report of the 9/11 commission and Washington’s
response to that report. Worse, the reorganization envisioned
is to further centralize intelligence by establishing a national
intelligence director and creating a counterterrorism center.
One is tempted to ask, if centralization improves performance,
why didn’t the Soviet Union ("democratic centralism")
win the Cold War?

What American
military and national intelligence really require is that bureaucratic
anathema, reform. And reform in turn means not centralization
and unification, but de-centralization and internal competition.
What did us in both on 9/11 and in the run-up to the Iraq war
was an intelligence process that valued committee consensus
and internal harmony above the open rough-and-tumble disagreements
that surface new ways of looking at things.

The media
have given a lot of attention to the report and to terrorism.
But there is one aspect of the terrorist threat that the media
refuse to talk about: suitcase nuclear weapons. For this threat,
there is no deterrent other than product scarcity and price. For
this threat, there is no reliable defense.

If a terrorist
group sets off a real, live nuke along the lines of the one in
Tom Clancy’s The
Sum of All Fears
, the world’s economy will go down. The
second bomb, exploded a week later, will keep it down. The third
bomb will destroy the modern division of labor.

It takes
no strategic genius to know where to explode them. It
only takes familiarity with "Diehard
" The locations are: (1) 33 Liberty Street, New York
City (the New York Federal Reserve Bank), (2) the City of London
(the Bank of England), and (3) Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany (European
Central Bank).

move from "nuclear explosion" to "fractional reserve
banking." Then move from "we interrupt this broadcast"
to "ATM machine." I don’t mean move mentally. I mean
move. The moment you hear about a nuclear explosion, get into
your car and drive to the nearest ATM. Take out the limit. You
can always redeposit the money later.

Two days
after a nuclear bomb hits an American city, your credit cards
will be rejected by all card-swipe machines. My credit cards will
be rejected. All God’s chillun’s credit cards will be rejected.

These two
words — "card rejected" — would shut down the West. Who
has a month’s currency in small bills in ready reserve? Nobody
will be able to pay anybody with digital money.

long-feared inter-bank cascading cross defaults will take down
the banks.

The U.S.
government would then create a national rationing system. It would
put a moratorium on debt collection: no evictions, no cessation
of municipal services, and rationing in terms of last month’s
consumption, minus 20% (initially).

The credit
markets would be gone. That would be the end of everyone’s productivity
and lifestyle. It would cripple the division of labor.

I have talked
about this scenario with Sam Cohen, who invented the neutron bomb.
Sam and I disagree. I think we would get total panic and economic
breakdown on the day the third bomb went off. He thinks it would
take only one bomb.

I wish I
could remember the arguments I used on Sam to prove to him that
he’s wrong.


Dr. Joseph
Douglass has specialized in matters of government intelligence
and counter-intelligence for over three decades. His book on chemical
and biological weapons, America
the Vulnerable
, was published in 1987. I read it when
it first came out. I was persuaded of its accuracy. It is still
in print.

assessment of the 9-11 Commission report
is worth considering.

The good
news is at least this will provide the news media and their
hundreds of hired talking heads something to use to fill time
other than the two political conventions.

This has
proven to be the case. More than this, says Douglass, is unlikely.
Here’s why.

as usual, Washington investigations are mainly held to create
the impression that our elected representatives and government
officials are hard at work protecting the citizenry. In reality,
they invariably seem to spend monstrous amounts of money, work
hardest making certain no sacred cows are gored, including themselves,
and garnish millions of dollars worth of free publicity and
newspaper headlines. Rarely if ever is anyone held accountable.
Rather, the "system" is blamed, reorganizations are
proposed as a fix as though merely shuffling the deck of cards
will change the luck of the draw, and the size of government
continues to grow.

rounds up his usual prime suspects: chemical and biological weapons,
which he thinks are state-sponsored; the drug trade, which he
thinks is partially state-sponsored; and nuclear weapons, which
are obviously state-sponsored. There is an on-going link, he argues,
between the state manufacture of terrorist weapons (the production
system) and the criminal underworld (the distribution system).

A fourth
issue concerns what is known about the possible existence of
nuclear warheads already in the United States under the control
of foreign intelligence service agents or terrorists. This issue
was first raised by Col. Stan Lunev, formerly with Soviet military
intelligence, who defected from Russia in 1992 shortly after
Boris Yeltsin took the helm. Another source, retired FBI agent
Paul Williams, has reported in his book that bin Laden and company
purchased a significant number (20) of suitcase nucs from the
Chechen Mafia as the Soviet Union was changing back into Russia
and has smuggled several of the warheads into the United States
already. Presumably, they are just waiting for an opportune
time to set them off. For an overview, see J. R. Nyquist’s "Is
al-Qaeda Preparing a Nuclear Hit?

article is a truly depressing piece. Douglass takes it seriously.
Nyquist writes:

A new book
by terrorism expert and former FBI consultant Paul Williams
says that al Qaeda acquired 20 nuclear suitcase bombs from the
Chechen mafia between 1996 and 2001. This agrees with similar
statements made by Yossef Bodansky in his 1999 book, "Bin
Laden: The Man Who Declared War On America." In saying
that al Qaeda poses a nuclear threat, Williams takes his analysis
a step farther. He says that al Qaeda has almost assuredly smuggled
suitcase bombs into the United States. He also says that these
bombs are in the 10-kiloton range, capable of inflicting millions
of casualties. Williams believes that al Qaeda will use several
of these devices in simultaneous attacks against urban targets
by the end of 2005.

I remain
open to the suggestion but skeptical regarding the specifics.
I don’t think Western intelligence operators have penetrated al
Qaeda. That such a transaction for a single bomb is possible,
I have little doubt. That it is only a matter of time seems obvious,
which is why the mainstream media refuse to touch this story.

then asks two rhetorical questions:

Does not
the public have a vested interest in knowing what the U.S. intelligence
assessment of this reported threat really is? Is the Senate
Committee convinced that U.S. intelligence now is doing all
that they could reasonably be expected to do?

Here is the
problem: having a vested interest and admitting that one has a
vested interest are two different things. If a person’s vested
interest is such that he would be wise to make major changes in
his lifestyle and spending habits, let alone his geography, the
average person decides that the price of his vested interest is
just too high. This is why men die without writing wills. It’s
a lot easier to pass along one’s vested interest — in this case,
to Tom Ridge, who gets paid to worry about such matters.

As for the
Senate Intelligence Committee, this is an oxymoron: Senate, intelligence,
and committee.


If any national
political leader believed that a nuclear bomb had been smuggled
into his country, would he warn his people about this? Of course
not. The warning would create such horrendous economic effects — call
this the ATM effect — that it would paralyze the country.

The movie
," about a comet heading for earth, is like all
of the other movies about the Great Collision, beginning no later
than George Pal’s "When
Worlds Collide
." Everything runs smoothly until the object
actually hits the ocean, creating a huge wave. When the wave comes,
everyone is still living on the Eastern seaboard — or, in
the case of the Pournelle/Niven novel, Lucifer’s
, the West Coast. But it would never happen this
way. The entire economy would collapse long before the comet/meteor/planet
struck. The division of labor would disappear, along with just
about everyone living in an urban society. Who would go to work?
Who would not clean out his bank account? What bank could survive?

I have seen
no report from any official source about what the government is
doing to deal with the problem of suitcase nukes. I have seen
nothing from any official source on the steps that we citizens
should take in order to prepare for the detonation of a suitcase

Maybe they
are training uranium-sniffing dogs.

This much,
I do know: the U.S./Mexican
border is a sieve
. Ranchers on the American side of the border
are being threatened by the illegal aliens who are entering across
their property.

The media
give no coverage to this story. It has been going on for

Douglass makes a crucial point
: it is possible, even likely,
that the same underworld network that is bringing in illegal drugs
is capable of bringing in biological weapons.

The anthrax
letter attack seems to me to display the systemic problems within
our government even more than 9-11. It is important to understand
how serious the CBW (chemical and biological warfare) threat
is — not the CBW threat as described in government announcements
and the media, but the threat as represented in data that often
does not get into intelligence estimates. Information on the
CBW threat that goes well beyond nerve agents and anthrax and
plague has been both suppressed and/or deliberately not collected
since 1969. The history of this is extensive. The conclusion
that comes out of this material is that it would be child’s
play, notwithstanding the Department of Homeland Defense and
remedy of the various "structural problems," to mount
a massive terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland using advanced
CBW agents and without the government seeing any warning or
afterwards being able to link the attack with any perpetrator.
Recall from the above that terrorists or saboteurs and sufficient
CBW agents can be brought into our country using drug trafficking
networks and mechanisms.

The war on
terrorism is being brought to us by the same high-efficiency organization
that has waged the war on drugs for five decades. We should expect
similar results.


The U.S.
government has invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. This has turned the
entire Muslim world against us. A July 23 press release reveals
the results of a Zogby poll
conducted in June

Arab views
of the United States, shaped largely by the Iraq war and a post-Sept.
11 climate of fear, have worsened in the past two years to such
an extent that in Egypt — an important ally in the region
— nearly 100 percent of the population now holds an unfavorable
opinion of the country, according to two polls due out today.

Both surveys
were conducted in June by Zogby International and polled Arab
men and women in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco
and the United Arab Emirates.

The findings
reflect the concerns raised in the Sept. 11 commission report
released yesterday, which emphasized a losing battle for public
opinion. "Support for the United States has plummeted,"
the commissioners wrote.

we’re seeing now is a disturbing sympathy with al Qaeda coupled
with resentment toward the United States, and we ought to be
extremely troubled by that," said Shibley Telhami, a University
of Maryland professor who commissioned one of the surveys.

We now face
a determined and growing number of enemies who are willing to
die for their cause, who seek vengeance, and who may be supplied
with weapons of mass destruction by unnamed states whose leaders
have scores to settle with the United States. This country is
no longer loved, let alone well-loved.

We are not
told officially what the worst-case terrorism scenarios are. We
are also not told officially what things are still being done
poorly, and how a specific rearrangement of priorities and authorities
will restore national safety. The experts interviewed on TV tell
us, "We can’t be 100% safe." True enough. The question
is: "What, precisely, are we 80% safe from, meaning what
are we 20% vulnerable to?"

don’t seriously believe the war in Iraq can come home. They don’t
think that Osama & Co. can get to us. They really don’t believe
in weapons of mass destruction in enemy hands. They do not believe
that the mass production of such weapons by the Soviet Union (R.I.P.)
could lead to a black market transfer of a nuclear bomb to a Muslim
terrorist or a disgruntled Communist posing as a Muslim terrorist.
They do not understand that a state-built nuke delivered by a
non-state terrorist removes the supplier from the short list of
counter-attack targets.

If you don’t
think North Korea would become a supplier if push ever comes to
shove, then you are not familiar with that branch of the Kim family.

There comes
a point where an aggressive foreign policy starts producing negative
results. That point came for this country no later than 1898.

But there
were no suitcase nukes in 1898.


We do not
hear anything specific about portable weapons of mass destruction
that already exist or are cheap to create, such as anthrax. We
assume that because such weapons have not been used yet, they
will not be used, ever.

We hear nothing
about the steps being taken by government agencies to reduce this
kind of threat. There are two possible reasons for the silence:
(1) The authorities will not tip their hand on the nature of our
national defenses; (2) The authorities really don’t have a handle
on the extent of the threat, and they don’t want voters to know
this. Either way, the real threats are not discussed publicly.
The public worries about subway bombings, but not very much.

I worry about
two words: "card rejected." This is the overhanging
legacy of government-licensed fractional reserve banking. Call
it digital fallout. It can kill you.

31, 2004

North [send him mail]
is the author of Mises
on Money
. Visit
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