Havana Sonic Attacks for Super Techies Part 2

More bedtime reading for super techies only.

We continue from Sonic Attacks on U.S. and Canadian Diplomats in Cuba; a Kremlin Op?, followed by   Havana Sonic Attacks — for Super Techies Only, and Havana Sonic Attacks — Addendum for techies only.

Since the ultrasonic microphone has very limited use, and none at all interior to a dwelling, what replaces it? Since you’ve seen lots of spy movies, you know that hidden microphones can be tiny. But they need a connection by wire, or by radio waves. The bug hunter clears a space by scanning for those waves. In the old days, this required time-consuming tuning and listening. The Great Seal Bug operated for years, and was discovered only by accident. But advances in scanning have been matched by advances in bugging.

The wires can be in place for other purposes, carrying the bug’s signal invisibly.  The possibilities have multiplied with advances in technology. Nothing is straightforward.  Ruses are infinite. Think of every possibility, and you haven’t. Your reasoning cannot be trusted. Harry Caul, a specialist in the trade, was himself bugged, yet unable to find the bug in his own apartment.

Sometimes you just have to demolish the building. (LA Times 1991) Senate OKs $130 Million to Demolish Bug-Riddled U.S. Embassy in Moscow : Appropriations: But with the House calling for ‘top-hatting’ the structure, dispute still is not resolved. The Cuba housing is owned by the Cuban government. What chance is there that it isn’t already wired for hi-fi sound?

So the ultrasonic mike,  fingered by CNN “experts” as the source, described by the Google patent, is irrelevant. But ultrasound might be used by a bug in place of radio to transmit what it picks up. (PDF) Recent Developments in Covert Acoustical Communications  describes experiments with a Lenovo laptop that suggest this is possible. But by description of the Havana victims, the intensity was orders of magnitude more powerful than required by an information link.

(CNN) Sonic attacks in Cuba hit more diplomats than earlier reported, officials say, offers an important clue. Quoting,

Other attacks made a deafeningly loud sound similar to the buzzing created by insects or metal scraping across a floor, but the source of the sound could not be identified, the two US officials said.

This is very significant. The sound source could not be located. The normal methods and cues  of sound localization failed:

  • Intensity. Where is it loudest? Walk to it.
  • The (pdf) precedence effect.
  • The pinnae, the part of the ear hanging on your head, changes the sound as you twist your head, in a way the brain uses to locate the source.

That the sound could not be localized suggests it was generated by a method not found in nature. One such method is mixing of multiple ultrasound frequencies on surfaces inside the room. This is an indication of very high power, because the method is very inefficient.

But occasionally, there is a need to eavesdrop on a room that has not been wired for sound. Might the sneaks then resort to a squealing, brain-damaging ultrasonic mike? It’s actually possible that a device, not the design of Google patents, could be designed to detect the vibrations of a window pane. But the Russians had a much better solution by the late 1930’s, courtesy of Léon Theremin, the Russian who lived in NYC for a while, married a ballerina, and is known for his spooky musical instrument.

It was called the Buran.  It used a beam of infrared light, almost invisible to the eye. The beam was projected as a narrow spot onto a window. Some of the light bounced off. The window vibrations caused the spot to jiggle. The jiggles were detected (converted into electricity), amplified, and taped. This simple explanation is not enough for a workable device. There is a dearth of open source.

The modern replacement is the laser mike, for which there is a plethora of detail. Start with a small Maksutov telescope, such as a Questar. Be sure to pick the enhanced silver mirror coating. In place of the eyepiece goes a device about the size of a fist, called an interferometer, which has three more gadgets hanging off it, a laser an attenuator, and  a detector. This combo:

  • Sends a laser beam to the target
  • Receives the bounced beam and makes an exquisitely sensitive comparison, “the difference”,  with the original laser beam.
  • Sends the difference to a detector.

Depending upon your budget, you can add options like

  • Tunable laser.
  • Cooled detector.
  • De-noising software.

Unlike sound, which is rapidly absorbed by air, light goes much longer distances, miles in clear atmosphere. So if you’re having a tryst in a mountaintop eyrie, you may wish to protect yourself from Harry Caul  with Amazon’s Laser Mic Surveillance Defeater Laser Countermeasure Surveillance Protection Device for only $55.99 free shipping.

It’s a buzzer, shaking the window pane. Could it be nulled out? If the subjects of this privacy invasion have left some glasses or plates in view, it might be possible to acquire a reflection, rendering the window-shaker ineffective. Draw the blinds. Are you safe? Don’t bet on it. When there’s a will, there’s a way. I haven’t discussed all the options.

The takeaway: In the open source history of surveillance, there is no recorded occasion of a “bug” making noise, with one exception: the telephone with the noisy line. Those were real, when a “tap” was the attachment of an actual copper wire  to  a plain old POTS line. No longer.

The takeaway:  As the cause the Havana sonic attacks, a malfunctioning bug is completely implausible. If the attacks were not a case of mass hysteria, if they were real, as in causing physical harm, they were intentional.

More bedtime reading later. But first, check under the bed. Then,

a theremin lullaby from Carolina Eyck

N. Korea Missile over Japan; Kim Jong Un’s Fakeout Move

The basis of an open source prediction is weak compared to fact. Part of it is a little like French cooking; the art making of a sumptuous meal from unimpressive ingredients.

The goal is to analyze information available to everybody to extend beyond the obvious.  One could be skeptical of one’s own resources so as not to try. The opposite pull, “there has to be an explanation”, leads to cobbling together with weak logic, actually subtracting value from the open sources, instead of adding.

The question of this post is, “What is Kim Jong Un Thinking?” It seems that by widespread variation of human talent, there are three groups who will naturally have different views of Kim Jong Un:

  • Have no theory of mind. This group includes the psychopath, and people with mild tendencies towards Aspergers syndrome. To this group, Kim Jong Un is a black box.
  • Aren’t full time empaths, but are somewhat receptive to explanations of how other people think.
  • Those who obsess with cognitive empathy, like myself.

A proposition: Kim Jong Un engages in multiple strategies that are successful for him. It may not seem rational to us to execute people with an antiaircraft gun, but in a Darwinian North Korea, it seems, so far at least, to be a successful survival strategy. It allowed him to consolidate his inner circle among an elite that did not initially acknowledge an inherited mantle. This suggests that his strategy towards the Trump administration may be similarly complex.

The most plausible elements, inherited from his father, are:

  • Keep them talking
  • Never relinquish an asset.
  • Project the madman, in speech and deed.

But there’s room for plenty more. Kim Jong Un has plenty of time to think. Echoing “there has to be an explanation”, he has to be thinking something. We know he likes basketball, which is known for the fakeout.

I first noticed this during the IARPA “Forecasting World Events” program, when Kim moved some truck mounted missile launchers to the coast. We can assume he gave the order for the missiles to be elevated to the firing position.  The question was, would he fire a missile? With the whole world watching, he returned the missiles to horizontal.  From this Switzerland schoolboy who loves basketball, I thought I recognized a finger gesture, and a fakeout.

The recent face off between Kim Jong Un and the Trump Administration followed this sequence:

  • Warnings by the U.S. of the possibility of military action if North Korea continues to progress towards operational ICBM capability. The threat has been made in association with nuke and/or missile testing, but with a somewhat crumbly “red line” that has been an intermittent weakness of U.S. diplomacy for many years.
  • The usual dire threats of nuclear catastrophe by North Korea towards the U.S.
  • Verbal posturings from the Trump Administration that have tended to alternate between the strike option and diplomacy. The most recent of these is a definitive statement (WP): a strike option is ready to go.
  • In response, Kim threatened to (The Hill) target the vicinity of Guam with a missile attack of an unspecified nature. (Splash, explode, or EMP?)
  • The Trump Administration implied this would trigger the strike option.
  • Kim deferred the Guam strike.

Superficially, it appears a U.S. “win”,  with Kim backing down. But he changed the narrative, the story of the strike threshold, making it contingent on a strike on Guam. In public dialog, it transforms this:

  • Strike North Korea to disrupt their missile/nuke program.


  • Strike North Korea in retaliation to a hostile act.

In this war of words, the Trump Administration telegraphed the punch to China, which was forced to react with a definition of their foreign policy interests, forbidding first-strike against the North. Quoting (Reuters) Chinese paper says China should stay neutral if North Korea attacks first,

“If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.”

So the article headline obscures the real message from China. The sheer extent of verbal posturings by the Trump Administration has provided to  Kim Jong Un what computer malware specialists call “attack surface”, the part of the adversary susceptible to attack. With computers, it’s code. In foreign relations, it’s  the war of words , with real effects.

On January 17, 1900, Theodore Roosevelt penned a letter to the governor of New York, with a sentence that has stood the test of time: “Speak softly, and carry a big stick”. It’s a  principle of what is now called “Big Stick Diplomacy.”

It isn’t one of the world’s great ideas. But regardless of what you think of Roosevelt’s foreign policy, he was a success in his own time. Wherever current events lead, “Speak softly…” will remain available to future statesmen.







Havana Sonic Attacks — for Super Techies Only

With the Houston deluge, this is not the time for a serious post. If you’re curious enough to want more detail on how I thought about the Havana attacks, this is bedtime reading — for super techies.

My reaction to the initial report, by CNN on August 14, was the possibility of a case of mass hysteria. Wikipedia lists remarkable incidents, but mass hysteria need not be remarkable. It can be quite subtle. Numerous incidents involve faux “outbreaks” of a disease. It tends to occur in small, closed social communities, of which English-speaking legations in Cuba are an obvious example.

Perhaps a member of of this group came down with an undiagnosed inner ear infection, leading to a sense of pressure and tinnitus. Suppose the tenure of this individual began before the thaw. This person may have suffered Cuban harassment at that time, of the tire-slashing and super-gluing kind. “Justifiable paranoia” occurs. As the saying goes, “Even paranoids have real enemies.” Under conditions of tension and isolation, this could be enough to spark hysteria. And the medical findings? Preexisting conditions.

So I did not go at it as if it was real. It might have all petered out. But the reports persisted, with larger numbers of affected individuals. The F.B.I. has the expertise, and external consultants have no doubt been employed, to address the above. Although it is worth noting, mass hysteria has occasionally fooled experts, at least for a while.

So, assuming it is real, what is it? The Guardian consulted a  real expert, Tim Leighton, who thinks ultrasonics would be difficult. Quoting,

Leighton, who has studied the safety of ultrasound and measures to avoid its potential adverse effects on humans, said he would like to see more “prosaic possibilities” such as drugs or poison ruled out before being persuaded of the sonic weapon theory.

Leighton thinks a weapon that can work at a distance would have to be car-sized. I disagree. Another expert, Cleveland, refers to commercially available technology. Quoting,

Cleveland said that building an ultrasound emitter would not be hard. “You can buy transducers on the internet that emit these frequencies,” he said. “Anybody with a bit of engineering background could put one together.”

At that level, yes. But basic physics and some antenna theory suggests that it is possible to do much better. To do so would require the resources of a top-tier state, of which there are only a few. The mathematics of electronically scanned radar, at which the Russians are very good, is a good jumping off point. It also requires advanced materials science and condensed matter physics, so it is in no way easy.

Cleveland is correct that the effects could conceivably be produced by low doses of something not thoroughly studied in the West, like the Novichok toxins. But I chose to key off the F.B.I. theory that this was sonic. It’s the only reasonable choice for open source analysis. And there is one reported characteristic of the attacks that conforms with neither Cleveland’s off-the-shelf parts, or poison.

This was noted in (CNN) Sonic attacks in Cuba hit more diplomats than earlier reported, officials say. Quoting,

Other attacks made a deafeningly loud sound similar to the buzzing created by insects or metal scraping across a floor, but the source of the sound could not be identified, the two US officials said.

This is highly significant. We know that sound and light are both waves. Light can travel in a vacuum. Sound requires air. If you hold two flashlights, one in each hand,  and cross the beams, they pass through each other without influencing each other. This is because, in the normal world, the vacuum is linear.

The same is almost true with sound, but not quite. In normal circumstances, sound mixes up with sound to make new sounds. This is because air is not linear, and neither are the objects it encounters. Since 2000, this has been exploited in two ways:

So we see that multiple frequencies of ultrasound can create audible sounds, and a single frequency of ultrasound can retrieve audible sound  from a somewhat distant person. That an ultrasonic, ultradirectional microphone is possible is probably the cause of theories of CNN “experts”:

There are other possibilities, including environmental factors, said experts like Sharon Weinberger, a journalist, and the author of “The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA.” Others, such as former Foreign Service Officer James Lewis, point to the possibility of human error, in particular a surveillance operation gone wrong.

The implication is that a microphone using an ultrasonic beam was maladjusted or broken, causing the “attack.” But the patent describes a microphone of very limited and specific use, when the monitor and the subject are separated by unobstructed air. Under that circumstance, and only that, does the microphone have an advantage over other directional microphones. Perhaps because of this stringent limitation, this design is not offered on the open market. It has no use interior to a dwelling.

There’s more, but there are more days of deluge. So I will supply more bedtime reading another night.




Indonesian militants planned ‘dirty bomb’ attack – sources

Reuters:  Exclusive: Indonesian militants planned ‘dirty bomb’ attack – sources.

The conclusion, that a “thorium bomb” is not very effective as a “dirty bomb”, is correct. Quoting,

But experts cast doubt on their expertise, equipment and chances of success.

This is more tentative than necessary, the normal reaction  towards information of an unfamiliar nature.  The word “doubt” can be replaced with “certain to fail.”

If the planned bomb had gone off in a busy public space, the area would be safe for transit as soon as a normal cleanup were completed, the same kind of cleanup required by any terror bombing. There is more thorium in the granite of many public buildings.


“It could burn anything and make it hard for people to breathe.”

Thorium shares a property of some other elements: a fine powder burns spontaneously in air. A dust cloud can explode  like flour. So the addition of thorium to the mix could increase the “bang”, with some of the properties of a very small  thermobaric weapon. But TATP is uniquely unsuitable for this combination.  There are easier ways. Let’s skip the details.

This misdirection of terrorists, apparently from the association of thorium with atomic energy,  keeps them from more serious mischief. The dirty bomb threat is real.

Havana Sonic Attack; CNN Consults “Experts”

CNN: Was Cuban sonic attack a weapon, or an accident?

This is Bad Journalism. The three reporters reached out to individuals they describe as “experts”. But they aren’t experts. They are just people the three authors can talk to.

With the Information Explosion has come increasing specialization. A hundred years ago, a well-rounded liberal arts education implied that you would be able, in some minimal way, to grasp the fundamentals of our universe and society. If nothing else, your liberal arts heritage would make possible an unbroken chain of who-to-ask. If you didn’t understand something, you knew enough to find who would.

This fundamental ability, to “know who knows”, has become a casualty of the Information Explosion. Increasingly, people don’t know what they don’t know. This self-awareness deficit seeds a chain reaction, reaching out to people who don’t know either.

If it’s not your job to root out information, it’s just being dull and narrow. There have been ignoramuses  as long as people. But ignorance to the point of not knowing who to ask is fatal to the purpose of a reporter.

The first thing these reporters should have asked themselves, as a self-check is, “Do I know for sure what it means to be an expert on this subject?” Let’s put down the sterling definition first:

An expert on the subject of sonic harassment is someone whose job it is to design equipment, teach the operation of it, or to counteract the effects. Their job descriptions:

  • Design: An engineering physicist, or applied physicist, engaging in the cross-discipline of physics and engineering used to design actual devices.
  • Teach: A support specialist provided by the manufacturer to train clandestine operators. The operators themselves do not qualify as experts. They don’t know enough.
  • Counteract: A person whose job it is to ferret out and nullify all manners of clandestine electronic attack.

How does this compare to the list of cited “experts”?

  • Dr. Hung Jeffrey Kim, neurologist. The neurologist typically  has encyclopedic  knowledge of neurological problems and the relationship with pathology. He is expert at noninvasive diagnosis by clinical signs. Typically, he has little knowledge of physics. He knows little about acoustics beyond the basics of sound pressure level presented to the ear, and localization of sound. Mathematics:  undergraduate level. If I’m wrong, I’ll be happy to discuss with Dr. Kim.
  • Dr. Scott Masten, toxicologist. Toxicology is about chemistry, not physics. Knowledge of this  subject is limited to generalities.
  • Sharon Weinberger, journalist. The CNN journalists cite another journalist as an “expert”?   Technical knowledge: negligible.
  • James Lewis, former foreign service officer. Technical knowledge: negligible. He may not know this.

What happened? Why did the CNN journalists reach out to people who are not experts, and anoint them as such?

  • The CNN criteria is to bang out an article as fast as possible, without spending too much time on it. Make four phone calls, and you’re done.
  • Unlike sometimes socially distant scientists and engineers, the CNN “experts” are socially approachable.
  • Because their technical levels are little higher than the reporters, they won’t encounter the feared gobbledygook. CNN’s journalists can understand them easily, because they have the same limited vocabulary relevant to the subject.

Have people with expert backgrounds really become unapproachable? Or are we more impressed than we should be by  job titles, “Dr.”, “diplomat”, or “journalist”? Maybe a little more time with someone approaching the criteria of a real expert, coffee and doughnuts instead of the quickie phone call? CNN, try it.

Or has the Information Explosion deprived CNN’s journalists of the self-awareness of what they don’t know, and who to ask?

It would be interesting to compare the reasoning of the CNN article with the two I’ve written, Sonic Attacks on U.S. and Canadian Diplomats in Cuba; a Kremlin Op? and Havana Sonic Attacks — Addendum for techies only.

But it simply isn’t possible. It’s beyond the ken of the CNN reporters. Tragically, they don’t know how important their deficit is. If they did, it would become unimportant, because they would find the right people to ask.

CNN: know what you don’t know. Raise your standards.





Havana Sonic Attacks — Addendum for techies only

For techies only. 

A paper of the Central Institute for Labor Protection, Poland, (pdf) “Effects of Ultrasonic Noise on the Human Body – A Bibliographic Review”, is so highly relevant, an addendum is required. In Sonic Attacks on U.S. and Canadian Diplomats in Cuba; a Kremlin Op?, I wrote,

But there are ways, in theory if not practice, to project a concussive beam….Simultaneous hearing loss and concussive damage do not correspond well with a single attack frequency. Concussive damage without direct contact with the skull requires very high power.

A directed energy sonic weapon could take the form of a wave packet projector, an array of broadband piezo transducers working off lookup tables and adaptive algorithms. The report of concussion-type symptoms suggests a  packet pulse rate at the resonance the cranial cavity.

The problem with the above is that because of impedance mismatch between air and human tissue, very little energy  of the beam would enter the skull, not nearly enough to produce observable changes in brain tissue. But reminding us that symptoms, functional change, and pathology are not the same thing, the above paper provides a loophole. Quoting,

Workers using ultrasonic devices suffered from functional changes such as neurastenia, cardiac neurosis, hypotension, heart rhythm disturbances (bradycardia) and adrenergic system disturbances [32]. Studies showed that exposure to sounds with a frequency of 21 kHz and level of 110 dB for 3 h daily for 10–15days caused functional changes in the cardiovascular and central nervous systems [35]. Workers exposed to noise emitted by ultrasound devices suffered from increased neural excitability, irritation, memory problems and difficulties with concentration and learning [34].

Roshchin and Dobroserdov indicated that lev-els of 90–110 dB within the range of lower frequencies (21kHz) and 110–115 dB within the range of higher frequencies (40kHz) constituted the limit of occurrence of functional changes [36].

This is an assertion that sonic devices of reasonable power can cause  micro-structural changes in the brain, significant to neurological functioning, but with different pathology than normal concussion. This solves the major hurdle in explanation of the Havana events . Devices achieving these levels, either beam forming packet projector, or externally powered passive gadgets, are feasible.

And who are the authors of [35 and [36]? They  happen to be Russian:

35. Il’nitskaia AV, Pal’tsev IuP. [Combined
action of ultrasonics and noise of standard
parameters]. Gig Sanit. 1973;(5):50–3. In

36. Roshchin AV, Dobroserdov VK. [Reactions
of the human auditory analysor to the effect
of high frequency acoustic oscillations].
Gig Tr Prof Zabol. 1971;15(12):3–7.



Sonic Attacks on U.S. and Canadian Diplomats in Cuba; a Kremlin Op?

CNN: Sonic attacks in Cuba hit more diplomats than earlier reported, officials say.

My last stint as a Crimebuster, was with Mikhail Lesin, a Kremlin Hit, a Theory, Part 1, continued in Part 2, finishing with Mikhail Lesin Takeaway. The articles attracted more attention than you know. So let’s try again. The salient points of the CNN article are, quoting,

  • “…Cuban officials have taken the attacks seriously, even saying that Cuba has a greater national interest in determining who was behind the incidents….This summer, Cuba took the unusual step of allowing FBI agents and members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to travel to Cuba to investigate the attacks, and Cuba has increased security around diplomats’ residences.”
  • “Canada, which did not break relations with the Cuban government after the 1959 revolution, has deep commercial and diplomatic ties to the island.”
  • “… ‘It’s more likely that people in the Cuban security forces might have done a favor for friendly intelligence services without having cleared it all the way up the chain of command.'”

This is very good analysis. To this can be added,

  • The use of the weapon was unselective, The U.S. and Canada do not share a world identity. The harassment of Canadian targets weighs strongly against political purpose,because it dilutes dispute.
  • It  strongly weighs towards a scientific experiment.

The perception of Canada tends much more towards neutrality, even among those nations to which the U.S. appears an implacable enemy. The distinction has become much sharper during the Trump Administration. Far sighted diplomats of adversary nations anticipate, with pleasure, the dissolution of NAFTA, with the prospect of a further untethered Canadian trade policy.

Quoting (CNN) US embassy employees in Cuba possibly subject to ‘acoustic attack’,

“The employees affected were not at the same place at the same time, but suffered a variety of physical symptoms since late 2016 which resembled concussions. “…

(CNN) “Investigators searched diplomats’ homes but did not find any devices capable of carrying out the acoustic attacks and are still puzzled by the source of the disturbances, US officials said.”

So it’s high power, can focus on small areas, and hard to find.  The inability to find a device suggests an external energy source, exciting a  gadget or structure inside the dwelling. For an early example of a Soviet bug (not a sound maker) that used this principle, see The Thing.  But there are ways, in theory if not practice, to project a concussive beam.

Simultaneous hearing loss and concussive damage do not correspond well with a single attack frequency. Concussive damage without direct contact with the skull requires very high power.  This is top-tier physics, not a Cuban creation.

  • Cuba is a “green field” testing ground for futuristic weapons. Because Cuba is not a technically sophisticated nation, this unconventional weapon use is not anticipated. Objective effects are isolated.

This resembles a controlled medical experiment. In early testing of a vaccine, it is helpful  to have a test population that has never been exposed to the pathogen. This simplifies the test, because it removes subjects that have preexisting immunity to what the vaccine is supposed to protect from.

A sonic weapon is of interest to any state that desires a deniable method of harassment, either for social control of dissidents, or to impede operations of a foreign legation they consider challenging to control. The two obvious candidates are Russia and China. The CNN article also posits  North Korea, Venezuela, and Iran. Russia and Iran share the greatest history of extraterritorial “special action”, but Cuba is a long way for Iran to go for quality of science.

Cuba is devoid of natural resources coveted by China. During the Communist era, China did not project influence to the Western Hemisphere. There are no historical ties. North Korea lacks practical purpose  or capability for foreign use of a nonlethal weapon against a group.

But Cuba-Russia ties , though disrupted by the disintegration of the Soviet Union and Russia’s repudiation of communism, retain a personal connection between defense and security apparatchiks. Individuals on both sides, who were active then, are still available to make connections now. To preserve these aging connections, they must be used.

Until the pending expulsions are effective, the U.S. legation in Moscow has outnumbered the Russian legation in D.C. by about three-to-one.  The Russian point of view is: Most of them are spies. Of course, if you rent a car, drive around, look at things, and talk to people, even if you’re not wearing a rubber mask, you’re a spy. Perhaps in consequence, or perhaps inevitably, U.S. diplomats in Russia have been seriously harassed for a long time. See Moscow Rules: American Diplomat beaten in Moscow, Tit-for-Tat Expulsions., and Washington Post: Russia is harassing U.S. diplomats all over Europe. For psychological harassment of the type mentioned by the Post, see Fiona Hill, Putin’s Apology; Analysis Part 4; KGB Culture.

So why not test sonic harassment in Moscow? It’s not a green field. Diplomats in Moscow are on edge, hyper aware. Every form of harassment has both objective and subjective effects. In a Moscow test, it would be impossible to separate the two. Cuba tests offer quality of science.

The open source conclusion is that this was a controlled experiment by Russia. The primary intent was not to exacerbate Cuba-American relations. That would have been gravy.

This is not the first time acoustic weapons have figured in the dark world of Havana espionage. This has echoes of  the experience of British MI-6 agent James Wormold, who encountered a device that emitted a howl described as similar to a vacuum-cleaner. Wormold’s story, for which he deserves a star somewhere or other, is the subject of Graham Greene in Our Man in Havana.







American Time of Troubles; Hero of Charlottesville; A Painting for Today

“You Title It”,  36″x48″, acrylic on canvas.(click the image to enlarge)

The Russian  “Time of Troubles” lasted 15 years. Let’s hope ours is shorter. It has already created one hero of equality, Heather Heyer. Let’s hope that one is enough.

The original name was “Fish Eye”,  in reference to the curved perspective, reminiscent of the camera lens by that name.

Other tags could  be “The Dogs of War”, or “Naked Lunch”. Apparently, someone was having a nice sidewalk lunch when this happened. I haven’t managed to track the guy down.

The fish evoked my sympathies, so I made her beautiful. This may be the first application of lipstick to a fish.

It has no hidden message, only a sense of discord. Give it your own purpose.


Preview: Balance of Power

A natural sequel to CNN: Trump’s biggest nightmare? China and Russia’s new friendship Part 1 and CNN: Trump’s biggest nightmare? China and Russia’s new friendship Part 2, would be a piece about balance of power.

Peace between nations has sometimes been associated with a world order of a time. Between 1815 and 1914, there was no general war in Europe, even though the foreign policies of the time were at best, self-serving and amoral.

Balance of power was displaced as a foreign policy option by the idealism of Woodrow Wilson. It has continued in disrepute to this day. It was central to Pax Americana that we would bring the world to a better place, devoid of such machinations.

As a world order, Pax Americana is in its twilight years. The replacement will be disorder, or another system. It might be time to take a fresh look at balance of power. But it cannot be a simple replication of the 19th century European system. The conditions  under which an adaptation might work would be very different,  specific to our time.

We do not want to abandon our values for the pure self-interest of the 19th century.  We may choose  to champion our values more by example than by transplantation. We  have to set a good example.

Against current events, this may seem a little dull. It’s a good subject when time permits quiet contemplation. It  has been the subject of many authors. The approach of Henry Kissinger’s Diplomacy is distinctively  functional, emphasizing the mechanisms over excruciating historical detail.

In a future article, I’ll attempt to  reduce it further, to something much less than a good history, to essential features, deliberately non-representative of the post-Napoleonic era itself. The result may something we can reconstruct in the present.

We are in a state of Koyaanisqatsi, the Hopi word for life out of balance. We must find a new balance, without abandoning the values of the old.

Let’s wait for a quiet moment.

Until then, have a look at the trailer for Koyaanisqatsi.

John McCain takes on H.R. McMaster critics

CNN: John McCain takes on H.R. McMaster critics. Quoting,

"The recent attacks upon (McMaster) from the so-called 'alt-right' are disgraceful. Since this fringe movement cannot attract the support of decent Americans, it resorts to impugning the character of a good man and outstanding soldier who has served honorably in uniform and sacrificed more for our country than any of his detractors ever have," McCain said in a statement Monday afternoon. "Such smear tactics should not be tolerated and deserve an emphatic response.""I hope the President will once again stand up for his national security adviser and denounce these repugnant attacks, which arise from the same purveyors of hatred and ignorance who precipitated the recent violence in Charlottesville," McCain added.

Senator McCain, you said it for both of us. It’s rare for me to step away from neutral analysis, but some things have to be said. It does fall in line with Trump Wants to Fire U.S. Commander in Afghanistan, for the following reason.

At this point in the development of the Trump Administration, there are exactly three wise heads who bear the wisdom of U.S. foreign policy since World War II: Generals McMaster, Kelly, and Mattis. Without them, we would be adrift in a dangerous world.

The rest of you are still learning. Please learn fast.