The FBI and Me

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been chasing down criminals of all stripes for 109 years. It was created, with vigorous bipartisan support, under President Teddy Roosevelt as the Bureau of Investigation (the “Federal” was added in 1935), the first national law enforcement agency.  Fighting crime might once have been thought of as a bipartisan enterprise, but in our nation’s Capital, nothing stays apolitical for long.

Crime and politics have intersected far too often in the century plus since the FBI came to be, and they may have crossed paths again recently when President Trump did his Celebrity Apprentice bit on FBI director Jim Comey.  Already loathed by half of Washington as the person most responsible for Trump becoming President, Comey had then managed to incur the wrath of the other half by refusing to give up on the investigations of Trump’s inner circle.  Seeing no love from either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Comey may have felt compelled to resort to some political intrigue of his own simply for self-protection.  He is not the first FBI director to do so.

Comey’s unfortunate brushes with notoriety may make him more memorable than all of his predecessors except one.  James Edgar Hoover, whose name adorns the building the FBI calls home, assumed directorship during Prohibition and spent the next 48 years building his organization into the most fearsome and legendary law enforcement agency the country has ever known.  Hoover served under, and some would say lorded over, six presidents.  By the time he suffered a fatal heart attack during the Nixon Administration Hoover had expanded the Bureau’s reach, and his own influence, into nearly every corner of the Federal bureaucracy.   As his power in Washington grew, Hoover grew more averse to any authority other than his own and more fearful that details of what might charitably be described as his quirky personal life might come to light.  Perhaps to discourage such threats, Hoover assembled dossiers on most of D.C.’s illuminati; general scuttlebutt held that he had dirt on everybody from the President on down, and Harry Truman once remarked that every member of Congress was afraid of him.  This aura of untouchability served to insulate him and his organization from the internecine mud wrestling for which Washington is famous.  Seeing the nation’s capital at its worst also likely solidified Hoover’s cynical belief that everyone was probably guilty of something, that evidence of the crime was out there somewhere, and that if FBI agents just dug deep enough for long enough they would find it.  J. Edgar Hoover was stubborn, insular and relentless, and as one might expect after four decades of his unyielding and suspicious leadership the FBI gradually came to mirror its iconic leader’s worldview.

Hoover is long gone, but the FBI still bears his imprint. The agency has a well-deserved reputation for thoroughness and diligence, and once they are on a case agents seem committed, Hoover-esque, to digging up the evidence wherever it may reside.  This tenacity can lead to very negative outcomes for the guilty and innocent alike.  I speak from experience.

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Rocky Flats Retirement Plans

I was notified by a reader that Rocky Flats was making changes to the retirement plans and attended one of the meetings where the changes were explained. I don’t pretend that the following is an official version of what is going on, although I’ve tried to make it as accurate as possible. The bottom line, as I understand it, is that management of retirement benefits will be transferred to an insurance company and that pension benefits will not be affected. This is being done because of the cost of administering the current plan. I was told when I arrived at the meeting that I had not received a letter announcing the changes nor did I need to attend because I took the lump sum payment when I retired. They graciously allowed me to attend the meeting.

I did hear some discussion that gave me comfort. It was stated there are no plans to change the health or death benefits for retirees. There was also a discussion about recent letters sent to salaried employees about confirmation of Medicare cost repayments. A confirmation letter must be sent to the benefit center by May 30 with documentation of Medicare costs to assure that the benefit continues. The discussion was that the reimbursements will be made quarterly. We have received deposits from the RRAs, but didn’t see any reimbursement at the end of the first quarter. Maybe that is coming at the end of June? It was suggested to call the benefit center to verify they have received the needed documents before the end of the month if you haven’t received a letter of confirmation.

Back to the changes in the retirement plans, the IRS is being asked to approve transfer of the plans to an insurance company. It is expected the IRS will issue a ruling in 12 months or so and, if approved, the completion will be in 18-24 months. Everyone, including those who have not yet reached the age to receive benefits, will be able to decide whether to take a lump sum or an annuity. The lump sum would be based on benefits earned, life expectancy, and interest rates. Spousal approval will be required. Financial advisors will be available to help make this important decision. Wells Fargo will continue to issue payments to those who have a current annuity until the process is completed. There was an appeal to keep the benefit center informed of address changes.

As an aside, I received an email that discusses DOE’s Office of Legacy Management obligations to the pension fund that is pertinent to this message. “At this time LM funds will be needed to meet its pension obligations, but the fund currently exceeds the anticipated liabilities.” The email goes on to state that any requirement to fund retirement obligations “. .  . would likely target DOE’s-USFWS (the Fish and Wildlife) visitor center.  .  .”

In Search of Settled Science

The media coverage of last weekend’s March du Jour, this one supposedly a celebration of Science (capitalization mine), portrayed the event as just that – celebratory.  But when Progressives get together carrying signs it almost always means a demonstration, and this gathering was as much a vehicle for the Left to chide conservatives about their refusal to accept the “settled science” of human-caused climate change as it was a paen to Science itself.

Watching the festivities unfold, I thought of a recent commentary by Vincent Carrol in the Denver Post.  He reported that Boulder County Commissioners had just voted to ban the growing of all genetically modified (GMO) crops on land owned by the county.  This edict will be problematic for farmers who have been raising GMO corn and sugar beets for many years on this leased land because, according to Carroll, there no longer are any non-GMO strains of sugar beet.  The farmers will have from three to five years to eliminate GMOs from their rotations. Case closed.

Here’s the Science rub.  There is no scientific evidence – none – that genetically modified crops are harmful to humans, insects or anything living.  The decision to flatly ban them flies in the face of all the research that has been done on the subject, and will do nothing but cause harm and hardship to the affected farmers, many of whom have tens of thousands of dollars tied up in equipment used to grow and harvest a crop which they can no longer plant.

The GMO ban was met with loud approval by liberal Boulderites, many of whom no doubt paraded last week in unwavering support of Science. In fact, Boulder liberals show the same disregard for GMO research that conservatives hold for the study of man-caused climate change.   Clearly science denial knows no political affiliation.

Why this distrust of science cutting across the political spectrum?  Science is supposed to be provable, reliable, the epitome of fact.  Remember junior high science class, where we learned the basics of the Scientific Method?  Start with a theory – what do you think is happening and why.  Then try to dream up an experiment that proves your theory, or disproves someone else’s.  Compile your results.  Then the most important step; submit your findings to others who will try to duplicate them, using your methodology.  If your experiment can be repeated by others, your “peers”, then and only then are your conclusions scientifically valid.  That’s how science works.  Or used to.

Peer review has been the backbone of scientific investigation since Isaac Newton lounged beneath his apple tree, and the science it produced seemed for the most part apolitical.  These days science methodology is becoming bastardized, thanks in large measure to our newfound reliance on computers and algorithms instead of beakers and Bunsen burners.  For example, our seemingly unlimited capability to gather and analyze massive quantities of data has led to the proliferation of often agenda-driven studies that arrive at their conclusions by asking a large number of subjects a long series of questions under the assumption that a small but publishable number of queries will yield a positive result (i.e., the result the authors wish to see).  This statistical alchemy was used in a study released last year which pointed to an increased incidence of certain types of cancer in communities located downwind from good old Rocky Flats.  More traditional studies have found no such link.  More recently, another megadata study found an increase in dementia and strokes in people who drink diet soda.  The researchers relied on data from massive numbers of soda sippers (full disclosure: I drink two or three cans a day) but somehow failed to correct for obesity and several other possible variables.  Another junior high science lesson: Correlation does not automatically equal causation.

Each of these studies was ostensibly peer reviewed.  But that most vital step in the process, according to many in the scientific community, has become sloppy and incestuous, bowing to political pressures and the “publish or perish” dictum so pervasive in academia.  The problem has become so epidemic, according to a study published last year in Nature, that researchers attempting to replicate other scientists’ experiments were failing to get the same results more than 70% of the time.  More than half the time the results could not even be duplicated by the original researchers.  When the supposedly peer reviewed (and widely publicized) study that claimed to find a link between vaccinations and autism was debunked, the British Journal of Medicine in which it was featured took nearly 10 years to publish a retraction.  That study triggered a public health crisis in Britain and the author was eventually tried and found guilty of gross ethical misconduct and fraud.   In spite of the criminal misapplication of science involved, thousands of American parents continue to cite the study when refusing to have their children vaccinated.  Most of these doting parents are well-educated (and liberal).  So much for the robustness of peer review.

Stories like these invite skeptics of all political lineages to dispute the results of what may be credible, critical studies, and contribute to the ideological fog that is threatening to smother the legitimate, rigorous methodology behind the bulk of science research.  They also infer that there are both liberals and conservatives (and evidently some scientists) willing to bend science to their ideology.  So forgive those misguided wretches who choose to take the assertion that human activity is the primary cause of global warming with a grain or two of salt.

We all want and need Science to be worthy of celebration, but clearly the science establishment has some housecleaning to do.  To regain our confidence those who do science right and proper have to be willing to call out the ones who distort its process for their own ends.  The rest of us, meanwhile, need to improve our science literacy so we can recognize questionable science when we see it, even if it means looking past our ideology.  Best that we reach consensus on climate change, among other headline issues, before the research findings become moot.

Events will eventually settle the scientific disputes that bedevil us.  Hopefully we will survive the proof.

Gorsuch and Rocky Flats

There seems to be a consistent effort of the Colorado media to support confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court of the United States. I admit I’ve been impressed by what I’ve read and seen about his intelligence and demeanor. I can’t help but be impressed by a man who says things such as “Gosh” and “Golly.” However, I must register a significant concern. Gorsuch was a key to the 10th Circuit issuing a legal decision that will result in significant compensation to landowners near the Rocky Flats Plant (and their attorneys).

The case is very complicated, and I’ll do my best to summarize. (I’ll warn that the discussion to follow is a very simplistic summary of an incredibly complicated story.) A jury decided to award multi-millions in compensation was due to landowners near Rocky Flats, but that decision was overturned by the 10th Circuit Court. The ruling was overturned because it was determined that there was no proof of damage from the operations of Rocky Flats, to include reduction of property values. Effectively, it was ruled that perception of damage was insufficient to award damages.

Enter Gorsuch, and my concern about the Judge’s qualifications. The original ruling was vacated. The new ruling mentions that Dow and Rockwell managed the Plant under contracts with the federal government. “But everything ground to a halt in 1989. That’s when FBI agents raided the plant and unearthed evidence of environmental crimes. It turns out plant workers had mishandled radioactive waste for years. Some had been poured into the ground and leached into nearby bodies of water. Some had been released into the air and filtered its way into the soil throughout the area. As news of all this emerged, the plant’s neighbors saw their property values plummet.”

I published a book a few years back titled “An Insider’s View of Rocky Flats: Urban Myths Debunked.” Its obvious Judge Gorsuch hasn’t read the book, because it, as suggested by the title, debunks many of the urban myths that are repeated in the Gorsuch summary. I’m going to refer to the book and will provide specific page numbers to respond to several salient points. The FBI did not unearth evidence of environmental crimes. Items listed in the eventual plea bargain had been reported to the public and regulators before the infamous raid of the plant. A key member of the team that investigated Rocky Flats told the Wolpe Congressional Committee, “Virtually none of the allegations contained in the search warrant were borne out by full investigation” (page 82 of my book).

On the issue of offsite contamination from the plant, the Wolpe report adds that in retrospect that the investigation found that the issues should have been resolved civilly and not criminally. It is explained “That is primarily because of the marginal evidence of criminal intentional misconduct and the lack of any significant environmental harm” (also on page 82). Not convinced? The Judge in the United States District Court Sentencing of the resulting plea bargain forced by the Justice Department commented “.  .  .the environmental harm caused by the charged violations was generally limited to inside the plant’s boundaries” (page 89).

The Grand Jury investigating Rocky Flats operations charged that the plant had engaged in activities “. .  .which violate(s) Federal environmental laws.” This may have been the source of the Gorsuch comment about “.  .  .evidence of environmental crimes.” Gorsuch et al apparently were unaware that the U.S. Justice Department responded that the Grand Jury had been repeatedly told that the charges “.  .  .are not crimes and are covered by various orders and regulatory agreements” (page 93)

So what? Gorsuch et al issued a legal decision that results in $375 million dollars of taxpayer money being awarded. The contractors were indemnified and the Department of Energy will have to cover the costs. The award (forty percent of which will be paid to the plaintiffs lawyers) will be based on the fact that Rocky Flats was a “nuisance” and not because there was any environmental damage or reduction in property values.

I’m going to make a sales pitch. My book “An Insider’s View of Rocky Flats: Urban Myths Debunked” is available at Amazon, and it contains many more details than what are in this summary. (The online version is only $3.99, and that version includes several pictures to include burning plutonium and two different plutonium ingots.) I don’t profit from royalties, so I offer this information without a benefit for myself. I’ll also comment that a second book is currently in editing, and that book will present a detailed justification for why the Rocky Flats Plant was crucial to preventing World War III through implementing the policy of Nuclear Deterrence. Rocky Flats being a “nuisance” seems to be a trivial price to pay for such a momentous outcome?

Should Gorsuch be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court? I hope, if he is, that he is more careful to base his decisions on facts and not urban myths that have been inculcated into popular acceptance!

Article about Safety of Rocky Flats

Nucl_Deter_Book_CvrI’m moving closer to publishing a book that will have “Nuclear Deterrence” in the title and will contain a history of the Rocky Flats Plant. (We’ll let you know when there is a new website for the project.) The new book presents information that should make everyone celebrate that Rocky Flats was key to preventing World War III. However, a recent article in the Denver Post emphasizes that critics of the plant who continue to find ways to create fear about the legacy of Rocky Flats. They argue about the risks of the site even after it was closed for about a decade ago. The article by Charlie Brennan of the Daily Camera is titled “Safe for wildlife, but what about humans?” The opening refers to a long-time activist that says the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge should not be open to human access for at least 24,110 years, which is the half life of plutonium 239. People who have made a living protesting Rocky Flats and continue to warn about the dangers left behind on the site say that it “.  .  .should be left to animals and the wind.” One argument presented is that “We live in an area that has abundant places to enjoy wildlife and nature without going to a place like Rocky Flats.” I’ll counter that with the observation that the buffer zone for the plant is one of the few places where the unique high mountain prairie has been preserved. People who are interested should be able to see the beauty of that area safely by using the several miles of the planned trails when the refuge opens.

The good news is that enough local municipalities have contributed to the Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) that will provide underpasses and trail segments. That will provide a link to the Rocky Mountain Greenway trail that will run from the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge to Rocky Flats and on to Rocky Mountain National Park. Enough municipalities agreed to support the project to make it a reality. Several State and Federal Agency officials have “. .  .signed off on the safety of the proposed refuge.  .  .  .” while critics continue to disagree.

Consider that many tens of thousands of people worked at the plant and many of them worked there for several decades. They worked in the industrial area that is now restricted from access. The people who worked at Rocky Flats are mostly living long lives. Walking on a trail through the area that was the buffer zone will be just as safe walking around a back yard in Boulder or a trail near Vail. Taking soil samples from the refuge should be accompanied by comparison samples from that back yard and the trail near Vail. None of us can walk anywhere, inside or out, without being exposed to the background levels of plutonium that were efficiently deposited world-wide by atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons.

I’ll close with the personal comment, which I’ve made previously. I’ll be willing to take my children and grandchildren on a hiking tour of the refuge without concern for their safety. My only concern is whether I’ll be able to keep up with them. I hope my new book will adequately present the fact that the very tiny to non-existent environmental risks at the site are overwhelmed by the fact that a policy of nuclear deterrence supported by the plant prevented World War III!

Vultures Circling Rocky Flats Court Settlement

The government’s agreement to pay $375 million to landowners near the Rocky Flats Plant and their attorneys for the “nuisance” created by the plant has attracted the attention of others who want to make money. I’m not an attorney, don’t even play one on television, but a recent Denver Post article led me to think it would be appropriate to send an alert to those who might be or are eligible for compensation based on the agreement

Attorneys overseeing the settlement have demanded “. .  .that a California firm stops trying to process claims on behalf of up to 15,000 affected households.” The firm was sending “.  .  unauthorized communications to class members with a false and misleading claims deadline (which required a response date of February 17.)” The settlements lead attorney, Merrill Davidoff, said that is a “.  .  .total lie.” He also said the deadline for filing a claim “…is June 1 and that claims should be completed on line at rockyflatssettelement.com.” The claim that February 17 is the deadline is “.  .  .clearly designed to instill a false sense of urgency.”

Apparently there are companies who are willing to take money due to the awardees. In the case of Rocky Flats, the companies are apparently willing to take a fee, perhaps as much of 40% of the award despite the fact that they have no legitimate roll in the process. Be careful what you sign, because the agreement might not be in your interest! A spokeswoman for the Colorado Attorney General Office said people who have been contacted by the outside firm can file a complaint at 800-222-4444 or going online to stopfraudcolorado.gov.

Twilight of the Bombs

This book by Richard Rhodes has the long subtitle, “Recent challenges, New Dangers, and Prospects for a World without Nuclear Weapons.” I was eager to read the book because of previous Rhodes books, Making the Atomic Bomb and Dark Sun. I considered the author to be a diligent researcher, but was surprised to read his assessment of the down-sizing of the nuclear-weapon production “.  .  .partly in response to unilateral and negotiated arms reductions, partly because public concern had caught up with its environmentally abandoned ways. The FBI had actually raided the Department of Energy’s plutonium-production facility at Rocky Flats, in Colorado, in 1989, looking for evidence (which it found in abundance) that the DOE and Rockwell International, a contractor, had violated environmental-protection laws.” (212-213) Rhodes obviously read the headlines and didn’t bother with careful research that would have told him there were not actual violations of environmental laws. He could have learned the complicated truth about the outcome of the raid by reading my book, An Insider’s View of Rocky Flats: Urban Myths Debunked. Regardless of that major flaw, the book contains interesting information. Rhodes also mentions that “.  .  .Rocky Flats, the only facility capable of producing plutonium pits, was permanently closed.” (page 218) That statement would have been more accurate if it had said Rocky Flats had produced most of the plutonium pits for several years. Continue reading