Do We Live In A Dan Brown Universe?

Yesterday I noted listening to a podcast with the author of a book on The Family while driving up north. With all the recent talk about Dan Brown’s novels following the recent release of the movie version of Angels and Demons, I felt that this sounded like the type of conspiracy Brown might write about. We have  religion and influence on governments around the world.

A recent news item also has the feel of a novel of this genre. The Wall Street Journal has a story involving secret codes going back to Thomas Jefferson:

For more than 200 years, buried deep within Thomas Jefferson’s correspondence and papers, there lay a mysterious cipher — a coded message that appears to have remained unsolved. Until now.

The cryptic message was sent to President Jefferson in December 1801 by his friend and frequent correspondent, Robert Patterson, a mathematics professor at the University of Pennsylvania. President Jefferson and Mr. Patterson were both officials at the American Philosophical Society — a group that promoted scholarly research in the sciences and humanities — and were enthusiasts of ciphers and other codes, regularly exchanging letters about them.

In this message, Mr. Patterson set out to show the president and primary author of the Declaration of Independence what he deemed to be a nearly flawless cipher. “The art of secret writing,” or writing in cipher, has “engaged the attention both of the states-man & philosopher for many ages,” Mr. Patterson wrote. But, he added, most ciphers fall “far short of perfection.”

This cipher did appear unbreakable, until recently:

There is no evidence that Jefferson, or anyone else for that matter, ever solved the code. But Jefferson did believe the cipher was so inscrutable that he considered having the State Department use it, and passed it on to the ambassador to France, Robert Livingston.

The cipher finally met its match in Lawren Smithline, a 36-year-old mathematician. Dr. Smithline has a Ph.D. in mathematics and now works professionally with cryptology, or code-breaking, at the Center for Communications Research in Princeton, N.J., a division of the Institute for Defense Analyses.

Sarah Palin’s Fate And The Liberal Values Summer Office

Ok, this is really weird. I was up at the Liberal Values summer office at Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island last year when John McCain first announced Sarah Palin’s name as his running mate. Last week we decided to come up to have what should be a spectacular pre-birthday party tonight and this trip unexpectedly turned out to also be related to Palin’s career. Sarah Palin has just announced her plans to step down as governor. Damn–now who will be keeping an eye on Russia for us?

We can only speculate as to why she suddenly announced this on a Friday of a holiday weekend (assuming she was not waiting until I got back to the Grand). Maybe this is part of a plan to begin campaigning very early for the 2012 nomination–although an early start certainly did not help John Edwards. She will hardly reassure those who believe she is not qualified for national office by running with less than a full term as governor of Alaska as experience.

Maybe she is resigning because of the way she has played fast and loose with the law, with a bigger scandal being about to break. Resignation is one way to generally prevent impeachment.  I’ll be back at Grand Hotel for a long Labor Day weekend–maybe we will have an indictment by then.

Incidentally there is another connection to the Republicans with our trips to the Grand. While I was in the same suite on the day when  John Kerry chose John Edwards in 2004 and John McCain chose Sarah Palin last year, as this was a suddenly planned brief trip it was too late to get our usual suite. Instead they placed us in the Eisenhower Suite. The last time we wound up in a different room from our usual suite we were in the Nancy Reagan Suite. In some ways the Eisenhower suite is preferable. The walls are pink in here, while the Nancy Reagan Suite is very bright red.

While these two suites are tied to the Republican Party, last summer I just missed a Democratic event. A few days before coming up last summer there was a Mackinac Island for Obama event. There is also another connection to both the Democrats and scandal and our trips here. One time when we were also up for a second time the same summer and did not get our usual suite we checked out who was staying there. We saw Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow coming out of the suite we generally stay in. Her use of the room (presumably with her husband) was the first thing I thought of when her husband was later caught with a hooker outside of Detroit.