Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bengazi Thing

Congressman Adam Schiff (D., California) has been named by minority leader Pelosi to participate in the most recent inquiry into the deaths of a U.S. Ambassador and three other State Department men in Bengazi. This seems to be fish guts in the water for the Republicans despite the fact that 1) the ambassador had asked for increased security, 2) early assessments of the attack were wrong, and 3) in a war we take damage.

I know Adam Schiff. I worked with him in the late 1980s when he was an Assistant United States Attorney in Los Angeles prosecuting environmental crime and a traitor in the FBI.  I supported several of his political campaigns as he was elected to the state legislature and ran for Congress, the first two times unsuccessfully. Adam is smart, honest, and very professional. That he can bring his experience to this so-called investigation is a positive sign. Minority Leader Pelosi considered not participating at all, but she has adopted two precepts of historical figures, Napoleon's "keep your friends close and your enemies closer," and Lyndon Johnson's, "I'd rather have him in the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in."

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Spies


The indictments of Chinese People’s Liberation Army officers by the United States for stealing industrial secrets suggests that there is more to the story. Normally federal prosecutors do not present an indictment to a grand jury until the investigation is complete and there is enough evidence to begin a prosecution. A prosecution is based on evidence, direct testimony from human beings and exhibits like photographs, recordings, documents, copies of emails, etc. Evidence against five men working in a highly secure office building in Shanghai would have to be based either on one or more really great eyewitnesses or an some explicit tape recordings. Presentation of the evidence will involve public disclosure of the methods used to gather the evidence. Does the United States really want to do that?

My hunch is that this is a publicity stunt, that the Obama administration just wants to make noise about the activities of this PLA unit in Shanghai. The Justice Department, the National Security Agency and the CIA are not interested in revealing their secrets in a courtroom and to the Chinese.

What the Chinese ought to do is send the junior guy to the U.S. to surrender and to insist on a speedy trial, supposedly 70 days. As a part of discovery the defendant can look at all the evidence and demand to know where it came from. Oops.

I suspect this indictment will go into the file and none of the men will ever see the inside of a U.S. courtroom. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

QSO

Back in the days of telegraphy when operators transmitted dots and dashes to form letters and words, they came up with a shorthand for different terms. CQ means "I am calling." QTH means location. QSO means, "I am in contact." In modern ham speak QSO means an on-air interaction between stations. Today I had my first QSO in the high frequency bands under my new General Class ham license.

I was on the radio today with Bill a more senior ham with whom I worked the drill yesterday. I reported I had my new ticket and he commented that he wanted to learn to use the high frequency bands that allowed long-distance communication. The every day band we use is strictly local, line of sight or within the range of a repeater. DXing – long distance radio work, is sort of the stereotype of the ham. Bill did not have his own "shack" but had access to other radio rooms. He offered to show me around the Red Cross communications center. In 45 minutes we were in front of an impressive array of electronic gadgetry in the basement of the Red Cross headquarters courtesy of his volunteer badge.

I read the stuff on the bulletin board, pressed the power button on a radio with about a hundred buttons and started spinning the dial paying close attention to staying within my band privileges. I heard a guy from Florida, but did not connect with him. I talked to a guy from Seattle, no big deal, but a few more spins of the dial and I was talking to Japan! He is Masa JE1LET and felt most privileged to be my first overseas QSO. He wanted to introduce me to his friend Robot (not Robert) in Barbados, but the antenna was pointed in the wrong direction. I didn't want to fool with the Red Cross antennas and took Masa's word for it.

So within 24 hours of my ticket upgrade I was talking to Japan. Pretty cool.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

General Ham I Am

That's the General Class Amateur Radio Operator, the next level above Technician which I passed about a month ago. I figured I would reach for the added privileges while I was still "hot" at exam taking. The iPad app was most helpful and after taking practice exams about 20 times, I was ready. I got just one wrong on the 35 question test. Now I can use the high frequency bands, the ones that usually require large radio sets, accessory appliances, and elaborate antennas.

The HF bands are where I can talk to California or Florida or Russia, but usually only at night. I don't know yet were I will fit into the ham thing except to help in community preparedness and public service. Hams often help out at races and parades to help the organizers keep track of sprained ankles.

Today I participated in a city-wide drill for neighborhood organization and communications. I drilled at Maple Leaf Park built over a reservoir at one of the highest points in the city. It's not exactly in my neighborhood, but it's the closest one. Five hams showed up and four of them came equipped for the zombie apocalypse including big radios, cables, special antennas, and boxes and boxes they never unpacked. I had a laptop and a handie talkie. The needed electrical power. I used batteries. We will see who the zombies kill and who survives. We practiced talking to other neighborhoods and sending digital messages. Everything worked and we worked.

There was a funny episode. The people in charge of the Emergency Operations Center asserted that someone was trying to jam the frequencies. So they set up a secret frequency, not to be discussed on the air, to be used if we got jammed. They set up a telephone conference call, the kind were you dial in and enter a code, so all the chiefs could evaluate the thing in private. My hub chief (he had so much stuff he just parked his SUV next to our picnic shelter) asked for someone to monitor the conference call. I dialed in on the iPhone with the ear buds and pressed mute. I listened to them discuss how "sophisticated" the jamming was. They were cross banding the repeater, etc. They compared signal strengths in various locations and opined that the jammer was in Interbay. No Shilshole. Boy this guy is crafty. A specific name came up.

Then an old timer said it sounded like a hot mike, someone sitting on their push-to-talk button. You could hear people talking and laughing in the background. There followed a radio by radio check to see that there wasn't some voice activated setting or something. One hub in northeast Seattle, on the frequency I controlled would not come up on the air except for me. So I radioed in and got a phone number. The chiefs called in and it turned out that a radio had a loose connection. oops. Sophisticated jamming my ass.