Hamed Malekpour, AP
In this photo released by the semi-official Iranian Fars News Agency, Iranian President Ahmadinejad, waves to his well wishers as he arrives in the city of Kerman, about 625 miles (1040 kilometers) southeast of the capital Tehran, Iran, May 26, 2010.

I always wondered what happened to Jack. Now I know. He's working for a top-secret branch of the U.S. government that is using the weather as a weapon against Iran.

It's got to be Jack. I knew it the moment I heard Iran's director of cultural heritage and tourism introduce the country's new meteorological chief, Hassan Mousavi, by saying the West is using some sort of technology to cause droughts and extreme weather in Southern Iran.

The Iranian Fars news agency quoted him as saying, "Iran's southern region has been hit by sandstorms that engulfed several cities, caused by numerous droughts." He referred to this as a "soft war," although I can't imagine there is much soft about a sand storm in an Iranian desert.

So, good for Jack; I'm glad he found something useful to do with his life.

Jack was an old hermit I knew about 27 years ago when I worked as a reporter in Las Vegas. He used to come around the newsroom with a disheveled, leather-skinned look that suggested he had learned to become one with the harsh Nevada desert. He would show me the special rocks he had collected and explain how he used them to control the weather.

I never quite understood it all, but then I got the feeling he never expected someone of my mere-mortal stature to fully get it. Somehow, he placed the rocks in strategic locations around the desert, and their natural frequencies would affect jet streams.

One time he let me borrow a rock. I put it atop a dresser. When a series of large rainstorms hit the Midwest, he called in a panic, "Where on earth have you put that thing?" he demanded.

It's easy to poke fun at the Iranians, whose leaders seem to be banking on the gullibility of their subjects to create a level of paranoia about the West and its evil designs.

But North Korea often follows the same path. Last year, after the North Korean women's team lost to the United States in the World Cup, the coach blamed the defeat on his best players being struck by lightning during a practice. Maybe that was Jack, too.

And, really, how far is the leap from weather madness to some of the whoppers being thrown around on political ads in this country? The website Factcheck.org is filled with reports on the false claims coming out of both the Barack Obama and Mitt Romney camps.

Obama claims Massachusetts ranked 47th in the nation in job growth under Romney. In reality, it was 50th when he took over as governor and 28th when he left.

Romney has ads accusing Obama of steering grants and loans for green-energy companies to his political friends, but those assertions have yet to be proven.

It's a wonder neither side has used global warming, or the inability to stem it through legislation, to explain our own droughts in this country.

Maybe, as Dale McFeatters of Scripps Howard News Service suggested recently, the Iranians believe we tested our new weather equipment on American farmers before deciding to point it abroad. If so, the government should tell Jack he can moved his rocks now.

Jack wasn't the only eccentric I knew in Las Vegas. The town seems to attract them. A preacher named Yahnne Baptist used to drop by, driving a large white Cadillac with an Elvis Hood ornament.

Then there was the down-and-out alcoholic I met at a rally against a local zoning law. He kept telling me he had an original Goya hanging in his basement. I finally went to his house. He did.

And then there was Neil, who seemed to have inside knowledge about several local murders. He kept telling me to call Edna Buchanan, the crime mystery writer, who would vouch for him. I did. She told me he was nuts and that I should watch out.

I humored these people for their entertainment value. The Iranian people have no choice but to humor their leaders.

But if we humor our political candidates and vote based on one of their whoppers, we deserve what we get.

Jay Evensen is associate editor of the Deseret News editorial page. Email him at even@desnews.com. For more content, visit his website, www.jayevensen.com.