Sunday, December 31, 2006

BIG END OF YEAR HARD ROCK EXTRAVAGANZA

It being Sunday, the New York Times 'Arts' section contains the usual collection of features which make DD feel like he lives in another galaxy. Their green is my red, their dull, my sharp etc. "If You Won't Play the Album, They'll Sing It From the Top" sells the idea that since CDs and LPs are so passe, all white middle-aged geezer rockers must now perform their best classic rock albums in concert and all the way through. Look, there's Lou Reed in the NY newspaper, looking glum.

"When was the last time you listened to an album without interruption and from beginning to end?" asks whiz-bang Elisabeth Vincentelli. No one listens to albums anymore, was the day's received wisdom, used to justify the coverage of the selected Sunday fad. Single track sales and piracy are where it's at. Mixtapes and shuffleplay. (Nb: I actually get paid to write about single tracks for a Net music publication obsessed only with single downloads.)

Anyway, the final ten days of Tower Record's going-out-of-business sale gave DD the opportunity to buy quite a few albums to listen to in entirety at around $1.25 a pop. It ensured I had no interest in listening to review copies of more current releases the last month of 2006.

I was able to better buying habits from thirty years ago when $4.99 bought vinyl at the Listening Booths in Schuylkill and Berks counties Pennsyltucky rather than stew over whether or not I wanted to part with a twenty for a potential gobbler.

Since they were all hard rock CDs, the kind none of the vultures picking over Tower's dregs wanted, I had surprisingly easy going. As a consequence, the fairly big pile is actually my long "best of" year list.

So here we go:

The Mighty Jeremiahs -- Classic southern rockers, middle-aged men, doing a Christian take on ZZ Top without songs about hookers, whore houses, pool rooms and getting tossed out of the end of a racing pickup truck in a steel cage. Astonishing as it seems, a song called "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego" is rhythmically and vocally catchy. "Walk With Me Jesus" is also the best Texan-sounding "Jesus Just Left Chicago" rip, ever. "Love your neighbor but not your neighbor's wife" sings Jimmy Hall and backing soul sisters on "Tell the Truth." Hall used to be in Wet Willie. Remember "Keep on Smilin'?" Strong whiff of J. Geils' "Full House" here, too.

Hollywood Hairspray, Vol. 5 -- Los Angeles Eighties Sunset Strip rock from around the world, a collection of bands with kids, most of whom weren't around then, who still love the sound of it. Never saw the first four volumes, this one has a cover shot of a whore in thigh high boots. There's even a band named Hollywood from Sweden. And they're good! They still love LA and Motley Crue in Portugal, too, apparently. Records like "Hollywood Hairspray" make DD sure that while the war on terror might be forever, the United States will assuredly never lose as long as Poison remains an inspiration to people who sing and shout in English with a slightly odd accent.

The Albert Schroeder Experience "Freedom" -- Wouldn't you buy a CD of four white guys doing a tribute to the Jimi Hendrix Experience for $1.25? If you like hard rock like me, you wouldn't hesitate one moment. White guys doing Jimi Hendrix tributes are a necessary part of the lawn furniture in the great backyard of heavy rock. And I know if you're taking this seriously, and I am sure that you are, you also probably have a copy of a Randy Hansen vinyl record, or one by Frank Marino, as proof. However, even Mahogany Rush isn't as keen a name as The Albert Schroeder Experience, or the Stoney Curtis Band, which I bought last year.

Man's Ruin was a late 90's-2000 or so independent label known largely for overinvesting in stoner rock bands. The imprint released so much into the genre it was fair to make the joke that there were more people in stoner rock bands on Man's Ruin than there were fans of stoner rock.

And Tower Records had boxes of them sitting in the warehouse gathering dust.

For the firesale they were all put back into the Pasadena store where, at a little over a buck a piece, they were finally priced right.

Altamont "Our Darling" -- Vanity project of The Melvins' Dale Crover, who switches from drums to guitar and vocals. DD saw Altamont once at a stoner fest in Silver Lake, supporting this particular record, at which point I decided not to buy it. They stank up the place. Second time around, it's a winner for a great Who-like version of "Young Man Blues" and a fair Ted Nugent imitation, "Short Eyes."

Croatan "Violent Passion Surrogate" -- One of the about two hundred reasons Man's Ruin went out of business, Croatan are one of the true flat-tires of this column, even at a buck and a quarter. A duo, consisting of a drummer and a girl who squawks unintelligibly, sings flat and plays Blue Cheer-esque guitar. However, there's no "Summertime Blues" or anything remotely like what's on "Vincebus Eruptum." Instead, you get loud make-it-up-as-you-go-along art. A year or two ago there was another duo that sounded almost exactly like Croatan. They were called Vincebus Eruptum, of all things, and their debut, never surpassed, was amusing for a few listens, just for a song called "Who Farted?" in which the singer querulously answered, "You did." Nothing like that here. Move along now, you don't want to be looking for this.

Stone Fox "Totally Burnt" All girl hard rock band from San Francisco with guy drummer who isn't very good. The first half of the CD is from the studio. If you find "Totally Burnt," skip to the halfway mark where the songs come from a night in a dive bar. Fine version of "Cinderella," penned by the Sonics, but performed ala the version of DMZ's Flo & Eddie-produced album from the Seventies. Other ace cut from save dive is "Cruisin'," a number that sounds taken from the songbook of Kim Fowley-penned kids-on-the-Sunset-Strip tunes used for primer in The Runaways and Venus & The Razorblades.

Angel Rot "Unlistenable Hymns of Indulgent Damage" Why did Angel Rot decide to put the equivalent of a "Kick Me" sign on their hindquarters? The Internet does not reveal any secrets on Angel Rot. "Unlistenable" is a doom and death metal record and if Amazon sold all 125,568 such records, and nothing else, Angel Rot would probably come in at #56,233 on the ranking list. They were from New York and featured a member of White Zombie.

Hellstomper "Hillbilly Motherf-----" Terrible name, terrible title and they look bad, too. All is not lost though and a surly sense of humor emerges on "Another Goddamn Drinkin' Song" and "Chicken Truck." Reason to buy: A cover of Charlie Daniels' "The Legend of Wooley Swamp" which improves on the original. Unfortunately, if you can't sing good, you ought to stay away from Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Man." (Note to fans: File under Anti-Seen and Rancid Vat, "sitting naturally between homeless bum Wild Man Fischer and Alice Cooper throwing chickens and feather pillows into the audience.")

Alabama Thunderpussy "Rise Again" Rule of thumb: If a band has "pussy" as part of their name, they're always imitating southern redneck white trash and you should never, under any circumstance, pay full asking price. A dollar is good, however, and this is Alabama Thunderpussy's apex, at the top of the arc if only because every AT record has always sounded exactly the same. Furiously played manly riffs with manly shouting, chug-a-bottle-of-whiskey-and-get-your-stomach-pumped hard rock which would be a lot better if it had some swing, which it mostly never does.

This marks the end of reviews of Man's Ruin overstock, hurled into battle once again, courtesy of Tower's demise.

The Vincent Black Shadow "Fear's In the Water" The Vincent Black Shadow -- great name (!) -- answers the unasked question, "What would Gwen Stefani and No Doubt sound like if they were a pop metal band?" So you get a pack of pretty good-sounding tunes that don't really stick in your head as you think they ought to and occasional annoying ska rhythms that do. As Canadians, it is genuinely remarkable how The Vincent Black Shadows sound like they've lived in Orange County their entire lives.

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts "Sinner" See this entry on how I almost ran out and bought "Sinner" earlier in the year. Sticker shock brought me up short and it's a compelling reason why the record industry has such a hard time selling physical goods. Over twenty dollars to walk out the door at Tower at mid-year, a sinful price for what is actually a pretty good record, one that sounds like it could have fit right in with the best of Jett's catalog from twenty years ago. Jett thanks BestBuy in her liner notes so Joan, if you're Googling for reviews of your LP, let me tell ya BB didn't do you any favors in pricing, either. Parsimony aside, this still sounds like sweaty leather and swingin' bluejeans.

RadioVipers "The Morning Sunburst" French glam metal, I think -- see "Hollywood Hairspray, Vol. 5." The band pledges allegiance to Faster Pussycat, covers Guns 'n' Roses and has a rhythm section named Sarah Stripe and Iggy Street. If you had to pick in a blind test between Vains of Jenna -- who are getting a push because they're Swedish glam rockers peddled by the guy who does the 'Jackass' movies -- and RadioVipers, you'd be challenged. Next time there's a war on terror to declare, keep in mind how inspirational Sunset Strip rockers are overseas as compared to someone -- hmm, like George W. Bush.

Joker Five Speed "Rock 'n' Roll is a Motherf-----" More creative titling would help. Anyway, once these guys were sensitive emo punk rockers. Then they apparently got tired of being taken for the guys in the corner of the school dance with lumps in their throats, fired the punk rock musicians and hired a Ted Nugent. This record, in other words, has a bit of a split personality, one the band tries to conceal by having a photo of the guys surrounded by a platoon of slutty-looking girls in fishnets. Good try, works more often than not.

And that's the end of the end of year hard rock wrap-up, so search those bargain bins in other places because they've turned out the lights at Tower. Sad to see you go, I won't get a shot at listening to so many enjoyable albums, bought in one lump, again.

Now, excuse me, gotta put on The Albert Schroeder Experience. (I just love the way that sounds.) Happy New Year!

Friday, December 29, 2006

AFTER THE NEXT TERROR ATTACK: Distribute plush toys to defuse the tension, profs at Northwestern teach FBI agents

Often DD reads mainstream newsmedia articles on the state of security preparedness in this country that are completely baffling. They purport to show earnest preparation and training but to anyone with a shred of common sense they seem like complete wastes of time and resources or just plain damaging to the intellect and spirit.

Such was the case with a Los Angeles Times piece entitled "New FBI Means Business," yesterday. (It's here.)

The Times reporter was along for the ride at a leadership training course for the FBI, given at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, IL. The purpose: To get special agents to think like successful businessmen, to be open to new ideas, to look outside the box and all that sloganeering so beloved in such discourse.

Sounded good, until you started reading the fine print, unremarked upon by the journalistic practice of reporting a story, no matter how ridiculous, without pointing out its patently confounding and idiotic bits.

Blame this all, it appears, on FBI director Robert Mueller, who has an erection for "management science." He has compelled the FBI's "senior headquarters staffers and top agents from [its] 56 field offices" to take the training.

"If Toyota can adapt its car lines to the baby-boom generation, then why can't the FBI adapt its role to the changing security needs of the country?" asked the story. Perhaps because the FBI doesn't furnish a consumer vehicle or commodities, would seem the correct snappy answer, sending the lecturer fleeing from the podium.

In our land, however, this is never the case. While the FBI is allegedly being taught "dissent" -- "dissent" is a big concept here -- by the profs involved in the training, very little actual "dissent" is evident. In fact, DD scanned the article carefully and couldn't find one instance of talk about the worth of critical thinking.

" . . . the agents are taught the value of dissent," it goes on. "Included in the assigned reading is an article called 'How Management Teams Can Have a Good Fight'"

"Every organization that operates efficiently and effectively has people who are exploring better ways to do things," opines some head FBI apparatchik, rather obviously, who appears to be in charge of seeing that his underlings sit through the business training course.

One Northwestern lecturer teaches the FBI that some ideas aren't so good even though they seem keen, or keen to him.

"[The prof] used as an example urinals introduced at an Amsterdam airport that used the image of a black fly inside the basin to get the men to hit their mark. What seemed a good idea never caught on," the brilliant inference, one supposes, that armies of guys still piss all over the place. "Just because you have a great idea . . . does not mean everybody will line up behind it."

Remind us again how innovation in the public convenience is like counter-terrorism, sir?

"The classes take place in a modern conference center that caters to business. Lunch is served in the Johnson Wax Dining Room, breaks are in the Oscar Mayer Lounge."

At which point, if there were any good "dissenters," they would all jump up and leave.

DD saves the best for last, just where it appears in the Times piece.

Daniel Diermeier, "one of the Kellogg professors," says to agents: "Think of yourself as stewards of the FBI brand."

Yes. Men and women, think of yourselves as upholders of the rep of a hot dog, a floor wax, or a fine automobile -- like a Mercedes!

"The class also gets a lesson in brand management," continues the newspaper. Mercedes was faced with a public relations crisis in 1990. "As it prepared to roll out a new subcompact . . . the model flipped while making a sharp turn during a routine test of whether it could avoid a sudden obstacle, such as a moose."

However, Mercedes righted itself eventually, it is told in class. "Mercedes then launched a public-relations blitz and tried to defuse the furor by putting plush moose toys in ... new vehicles."

DD leaves it to the reader to imagine the variety of plush toys which could be fashioned to fit terrorism furors. Think strategically here, as you would be advised at the Kellogg school.

The hardcopy of the story included a photo -- not on-line -- of an FBI agent, listening to a lecturer, his hand thoughtfully held to his chin. It could just as well been someone with it smacked up against a forehead in disgust.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

DR. FRANKENSTEIN'S CURE FOR CROW'S FEET -- BOTULISM: Analysis, Good ol' American greed -- not Islamic terror -- stoked notorious biopoisoning case

Regular readers of DD blog know the government and terror experts excel at pointing out the age of biochemical terror is coming. They insist it is only a matter of time until microorganisms or powerful biotoxins are whipped up by al Qaeda-inspired terrorists to spread mass death in the populace. As proof, they insist biochemical terror is easy to do and point to captured terrorist documents which purport to show that biopoisons, like botulinum toxin, can be created simply from dirt and cow flops or road apples.

With GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow T-shirt on 24/7, DD subscribes to very little if any of these received wisdoms from the war on terror. The truth is more complicated.

The most notorious case of botulism poisoning by man-purified toxin came not from Islamist wannabes. It started life as a simple American scam, a way to make money in the poorly regulated cosmetic surgery industry. Purified research grade botulinum toxin was ordered up fresh -- piping hot, with no questions asked -- from a purifier and seller of microbial toxins and biochemical components in 2003 and 2004 by a small number of people who wished to repackage it as Botox, the FDA-approved botulinum toxin preparation produced by the pharmaceutical company, Allergan.

Botox, of course, is used to treat a number of medical conditions and is used in anti-aging salons by cosmetic surgeons. The scam involved buying purified botulinum toxin cheaply and reselling it to clients at a substantial profit. The clients, cosmetic surgeons, in turn, used it on patients.

The operation fell apart in 2004 when one doctor accidentally overadministered to himself and three patients the knock-off "Botox." Deadly botulism poisoning ensued, putting them all into hospitals. At this point, the FDA and Dept. of Justice stepped in, launching a criminal investigation into the origins and fraudulent rebranding of purified botulinum toxin, produced in California and resold through a number of shell companies based in Arizona. The eventual trial of those involved handed down a variety of guilty verdicts and prison time.

The criminal indictment in the case is lengthy but makes for fascinating reading. It is here.

Parts of this story featured prominently in the national news from Florida in 2004 and 2005. And this past November, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a report on the four botulism cases that resulted in the roll up of the operation.

However, all of the disparate and convoluted pieces of this story have not quite been woven together into a whole, a story which probably could take a thin book. DD lashes much of it together in this new story at El Reg, here.

Crib notes: The JAMA paper, while describing the botulism cases, anonymizes the perpetrator and his patients, as well as the companies involved in the case. In the Reg piece, DD names them all for you, so you can line the data up with what's in the criminal indictment of the knock-off Botox resellers.

The keenly interested should follow the links. They show the preparer of the toxin's botulism formulation and its business as a supplier to researchers and the US counter-terror industry. The purification and distribution of toxins and microorganisms of potential use in biochemical terror is monitored and regulated nationally through the Select Agent Program, a security regulatory function handled by the Centers for Disease Control.

In this case, botulinum toxin was purified and diverted for misuse in 2003-2004 not so much through the failure of technical controls on its production as through the abandoning of common sense and simple credential checking in furtherance of sales of it. No amount of rule-making and agency monitoring can remedy such things. All that can be hoped for is that such lapses remain rare.

Friday, December 22, 2006

MORE ABUNDANCE OF CAUTIONOSIS: Complete lack of common sense as a job requirement

With GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow T-shirt on and fresh from the dryer, this eruption of abundance-of-cautionosis speaks for itself, prompting the reasonable to ask: "Is there a test for employment in the preparedness industry which screens out everyone with common sense?"

"Emergency officials in Safford, Ariz., decided to be cautious when they found a white powdery substance near a dumpster with 'Anthrax' scrawled on its side," reported UPI.

"Or they could have called a heavy metal band aficionado.

"Officials said the substance is flour. And they now believe Anthrax is a tagger's tribute to the heavy metal band.

" 'We didn't get the connection with Anthrax the band at first,' Graham County bioterrorism coordinator Brian Douglas said. Investigators saw the words 'AC/DC' and 'Iron Maiden' on another side of the dumpster then realized Anthrax is the name of a band.

"Police also found empty flour bags in the dumpster.

"Even after discovery of the flour bags and the realization that Anthrax most likely related to the band, Douglas said he wanted to be safe.

" 'We decided to get our ducks in a row,' he said. 'It went from an emergency to a non-emergency, but we decided to test it anyway.'

"The test results were negative for anthrax, plague, tularemia, pox virus, melioidosis and ricin."

Get your head around testing an empty flour bag found in a dumpster for "pox virus." Are you not filled with confidence by our bioterror preparedness men? Now imagine the hilarity pursuant from the return of a false positive.

The original, unfortunately.

Friday, December 15, 2006

DAMNED BY FAINT PRAISE (Another in a series)

Two pro record reviews. The first, by Deadsy, was better than the average feeble mean I'm sent in promotional copies, surprising since the band's first album, which I also reviewed a couple years ago, was obstinately horrible.


Although named Phillips Exeter Blue I in his band Deadsy, Elijah Blue Allman, Cher's son by Gregg Allman, will always be the little kid playing guitar on the bow of the battleship Missouri in mom's prancing video for "If I Could Turn Back Time." Allman since has grown up to mix death-metal riffs with goth glam on Phantasmagore. Previously, Deadsy did tuneless death grunge, injecting variety with a cover of Rush's "Tom Sawyer" and an unusual appreciation for the look and feel of German army staff uniforms. What you have now is proof of determined progress. Read the rest at the Baltimore City Paper here.


Who buys Christmas albums for the holidays? Certainly not me. The next one came for free, too, and is something to listen to as you're phoning in a fruitcake order for mailing to a family associate, "friend" -- in this case, being too endorsing as a usage.


What’s surprising about husband-wife country vets Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison singing a Christmas song -- "Please Daddy Don't Get Drunk" -- about getting smashed and falling over while Mommy cries and the kid is sent to the bedroom is how convincingly warm and cozy it sounds.

Read the rest as PaperThinWalls.COM

Friday, December 08, 2006

LETTERS FRIDAY

DD blog gets mail, some of it printable.

They're watching you

Hey:

I thought you might get some amusement from this story: Six months ago, I requested documents about myself from CBP, pertaining to my detention at the US-Canada border a couple years ago. This week, they responded ... with a bunch of ridiculous nonsense on how I need to submit my request on the proper form, and include an explanation of what I want the records for, and more in that vein. In one way, it was refreshingly bureaucratic, the way government ineptitude is supposed to work... but in another more serious way, an aggravating violation of the FOIA and PA laws, department policy, EO 13392, and the Gods only know what else. I related the story (the most recent in a long string of unpleasant dealings with FOIPA officers the government over) online here, and a regular reader blogged about it here. Well, the blogger contacted me last night, and it seems CBP is a bit better at spotting online criticism of themselves than they are at properly processing FOIPA requests. They found his post in less than four hours - see here. I'm not necessarily one to see conspiracies in my Wheaties, but it seems interesting, in a creepy-chill-down-the-spine sort of way.

-M

On The Crackpot

Now Mr. Destiny, please let us be careful to separate the idea from the man who propounds it. Just because brilliant pebbles didn't quite work out, does not mean that any proposal from Lowell Wood should be rejected without giving it a fair examination.

You know and I know that particulate matter in the upper atmosphere would have a global cooling effect. The dinosaurs learned that. People around the world noticed it after the eruption of Krakatoa, as I recall. A friend of mine near Mount St. Helens remembers a chilly season while ash was in the air. And, of course, we all remember the scare about "nuclear winter" ... don't we?

Let us suppose that James Lovelock is correct and "global heating" causes equatorial regions to become uninhabitable, threatening to kill off five-sixths of the world's population. (How can a respected biologist make such predictions? Because he's a biologist, I guess; they are notoriously clueless when speculating outside of biology. But anyway, suppose he turns out to be right.) At the very least, we could detonate a few hydrogen bombs to create just a taste of that nuclear winter; and the side effects, such as radioactivity, would still be less ominous that the global heating that Lovelock predicts.

In the meantime, where is your properly organized refutation of the plan to spread particulate matter from airplanes? Incidentally this was first proposed many years ago in a book which I believe was called "The State of Humanity" edited by the late Julian Simon. It is not a new idea.

Still enjoying your column though.

--Charles Platt

Thursday, December 07, 2006

AN ABUNDANCE OF CAUTION MEN: CYA catchphrase taught to Americans

"Out of an abundance of caution" [or "in an . . . ] is one uniquely American p.r. catchphrases that's wormed its way into everyone's vocabulary in the war on terror. Whenever there is a false alarm, a turning of things upside down because of overheard electronic chatter, the spying of a troublesome woman or a man speaking unintelligibly on an airplane, a sketchy or nonexistent plot, anything that makes Homeland Security uncomfortable, the phrase is deployed. The mainstream news media does its part, requiring the response and distributing it through hundreds of duplicate stories.

Since the phrase flows smoothly from officialdom, even under the cover of anonymity, DD figures it must be taught in corporate-speak seminars on what to say to avoid compounding the chance of litigation, perhaps like a Dale Carnegie course on how to make friends and influence people in which the enrolled are taught how to smile.

With official GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow T-shirt on, DD went through the archives of "abundance of caution" stories, carefully screening out the ones about contaminated scallions and Taco Bell, students being frisked for weapons in public school and corporate lawyers explaining why a company is about to stop doing the right thing because it costs too much money.

Since the Osama bin Virus "threat" to banking was just a few days ago, it's also excluded.


"One of the many important functions of the Department of Homeland Security is to be a credible warning system against potential terrorist attacks," wrote Dan Moffet of the Palm Beach Post in "Grocery Clerk Threat Neutralized," one of the few humorous pieces to use the phrase in the recent storm over icky Jake, the NFL dirty bomb hoaxer.

"One of the worst mistakes the government could make is to compromise its credibility with the public by putting out loud warnings about threats that are too remote to be taken seriously. The words 'abundance of caution' come into play here. If the nation hears them too often, it will stop listening. We don't want that . . .There were plenty of reasons to see this for what it was -- another preposterous Internet hoax put out by someone with way too much time and way too few IQ points . . . "


On August 6:

"Three Egyptian college students were arrested in Minnesota and New Jersey yesterday after a nationwide alert by the FBI, which said the men were among a group of 11 students who had disappeared after failing to show up for an exchange program at Montana State University.

"Authorities said yesterday that preliminary questioning of the three men, along with interviews with friends and relatives overseas, had revealed no apparent ties to terrorist or criminal groups.

"The episode is the latest in a series of cases since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in which the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have gone to great lengths to locate individuals even when there is no clear evidence of a threat.

" 'In the post-9/11 world, the rules have changed,' Special Agent Richard Kolko, an FBI spokesman, said in a statement about the case earlier this week. 'The U.S. wants to assure that foreign students that register to come to the U.S. attend the schools for which they were granted a visa. This is simply out of an abundance of caution.'

Although students are said to be welcome, these students were immediately put on the fast track for deportation.


On the X-raying of shoes, in August:

"Machines used at most airports to scan hand-held luggage, purses, briefcases and shoes have not been upgraded to detect explosives since [a] report was issued.

"TSA spokeswoman Yolanda Clark said putting shoes on the X-ray machines makes the screening process more efficient and eliminates confusion. 'We do not have a specific threat regarding shoes,' Clark said. 'In an abundance of caution we require all shoes to be removed and X-rayed to mitigate a variety of threats . . .' "


Also in August, California's Arnold Schwarzenegger sent the National Guard into LAX out of an abundance of caution stemming from the blow-up over the British liquid bomb plot.

"Some 300 Guard troops were to be deployed by late Thursday to at least three large airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland where direct flights from Europe were scheduled to arrive.

"The troops were to remain at the airports until the nation's threat-alert level is lowered, an aide to the governor said. Their precise role would be determined by airport authorities, said Adjutant General William H. Wade II, the head of the California National Guard.

"[Schwarzenegger's California]homeland security director, Matthew Bettenhausen, said 'specific cities and targets were not known to be part of the plot.' Bettenhausen formerly worked for the Department of Homeland Security in Washington.

"Bettenhausen also said that because 21 suspects were arrested in England, 'it was believed the plot was disrupted.' But, he said, government agencies were acting out of an abundance of caution, mindful of the risk that other plotters had not been apprehended, or that copycats might try to 'take advantage of this.' "


In July, a troublesome woman and a confusing man tripped the gendarmes of Homeland Security on a commuter flight out of Rochester, New York.

"During the interview, the woman complained of chest pains and requested her bag, which authorities believed had been placed on the plane. About the same time, [a] man made a confusing comment about a suicide bomber, which prompted the agents to call for the plane's return to Rochester, [an official] said.

"The comment was the result of a communication barrier and the call for the plane was made 'out of an abundance of caution,' he said."


Also in July, an abundance of caution was practiced in NYC due to a nebulous plot alleged to be aimed at subways.

"The New York Police Department has posted additional officers in lower Manhattan in recent weeks in response to the unfolding plot to blow up PATH train tunnels in the Hudson River, Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

" 'Riders in the New York City subway system may have seen additional officers on the system this morning,' Kelly said at a news conference at FBI headquarters. 'In an abundance of caution,' we put officers there - it just happened to be coincidental."


In March, although there was no credible terrorist threat to basketball arenas, out of an abundance of caution, Homeland Security issued a warning anyway.

"The FBI and Homeland Security Department distributed an intelligence bulletin to state and local law enforcement nationwide describing the online threat against sporting venues, said Special Agent Richard Kolko, an FBI spokesman in Washington.

" 'We have absolutely no credible intelligence or threats pertaining to this issue,' Kolko said.

"With conference tournaments taking place this weekend and the NCAA tournament scheduled to begin this week, the bulletin was sent 'out of an abundance of caution,' Kolko said."


In October of 2005, officials closed a Baltimore tunnel out of an abundance of caution. There was apparently no threat.

"Despite questions about the credibility of a threat to detonate vehicles full of explosives, officials said they had little choice but to close one of the busy tunnels underneath Baltimore's harbor and partially shut down the other for nearly two hours.

"One person who may have been connected to the threat was arrested on immigration charges . . ."

"State and local authorities closed the tunnels 'out of an abundance of caution,' said Jim Pettit, a spokesman for Gov. Robert Ehrlich's homeland security office."

From an accompanying story: "While the information was somewhat specific, to date, the intelligence community has not found evidence that corroborates the information."


On October 9, 2005, a largely ephemeral plot, said to come from Iraq, was announced out of an abundance of caution.

"A recent U.S. military raid on a terrorist group's hideout south of Baghdad, Iraq, netted intelligence that prompted New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to warn Thursday that the metropolis' sprawling subway system faced an explicit threat of terrorist attacks . . .

"[A Homeland Security public relations man] said U.S. experts were continuing to evaluate the information but had passed it on to New York and New Jersey officials early on out of an 'abundance of caution.' "

In an accompanying story: "The terrorists were described as unemployed chemists who had recently taken a six-week explosive training course in Afghanistan." The alleged weapon of choice: bombs in baby carriages.


In September of 2005, a bioterror sensor either malfunctioned, rang a false positive, or was set way to low and informed authorities of a tularemia attack on the National Mall.

"Air sensors near the National Mall detected a possible disease agent last weekend during the Iraq war demonstrations, but health officials said Friday they believe the bacteria was picked up naturally and was not intentionally released.

"A low level sample of an airborne form of Tularemia bacterium from Saturday, Sept. 24 began a process of further sampling, which all tested negative . . ."

Said one official: "We thought - just to take an abundance of caution - to let everyone know what we knew."


In January of 2005, a nuisance from New Jersey activated federal response by aiming a small laser at a Cessna airplane.

"Federal officials charged a 38-year-old New Jersey man yesterday with willfully interfering with an aircraft after he allegedly admitted that he -- not his young daughter -- had aimed a green laser at a small Cessna Citation as it was approaching the airport in Teterboro, N.J.

"The Dec. 29 incident was one of several puzzling pilot reports of lasers aimed at aircraft over the holiday travel period.

" 'We have no credible intelligence of a terrorist group using lasers on the homeland,' FBI spokesman Bill Carter said. 'Out of an abundance of caution, we're asking the Federal Aviation Administration to investigate these issues and report them to the FBI.' "

"One Department of Homeland Security official said that the threat does not appear to be high. 'We haven't seen any threatening trend' that anyone is trying to test the system, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of intelligence information . . ."


And last, from TODAY, although the formal statement on abundance of caution has not yet been released, a woman with uncontrollable farting from a medical condition, troubled her fellow passengers and authorities, causing an American Airlines airplane to divert.

"A woman's attempt to cover up the nasty smell of her own flatulence caused an aircraft en route between Washington DC and Dallas to make an emergency landing . . .

"Passengers kicked up a stink when they caught a whiff of sulphur from burning matches and alerted cabin crew. The American Airlines plane was forced to divert to Nashville where all 99 passengers were evacuated [and bomb-sniffing dogs were summoned.']"

Here, at El Reg.

DAMNED BY FAINT PRAISE

Beats listening to John Mellencamp singing about our country during a commercial for full-sized pickup trucks. That's the best I could come up with for Blanche's "What This Town Needs" on V2 Records. You can listen to it for free and read the review at PaperThinWalls.COM

Or how 'bout, "The spectacles on the dame are Elvis Costello-cute." Or, "You'll catch this band a year or so from now in front of an upper-middle-class audience and their kids on Austin City Limits." Or "They're from Detroit? I thought Ted Nugent was from Detroit." Perhaps, "You can hear the wind blowing the dust in their faces on this tune."

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

IF ONLY THEY'D PULL UP THEIR SOCKS: Gosh darnit, those Iraqis just won't do it

By now you'd have to have been living in a cement bunker on the moon to have missed the media repeating one of the Don Rumsefeld mantras, included in his recent exit memo, on options to ameliorate the complete disaster called the war in Iraq.

Google news tab shows it repeated dozens of times.

For example: "Mr. Rumsfeld’s tardy list of policy options included at least one potentially useful suggestion. The U.S. might just start to pull out some troops, he wrote, 'so Iraqis know they have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country.'"

This from Joe Conason writing in the New York Observer.

A useful suggestion?

How about a convenient slogan.

With GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow T-shirt on, DD went rifling through the published wisdom of Don Rumsfeld, hypothesizing that "pull up their socks" was just the kind of eat-your-peas-says-pappa bromide that would appeal to the man as handy rhetoric. And that he must have used it before the handy exit memo.

On October 2, Rumsfeld, perhaps mentally preparing the exit memo, said to Bob Woodward, in a Department of Defense transcript of a lengthy discussion between the two.
"My whole approach has been, as I've said here, that it is their country. They're going to have to run it. We're going to have to take our hands off the bicycle seat, and we have to try to do it in a way that we find a great balance so that they can pull up their socks, grab their country, make a go of it, and we will not create a dependency and we will not feed the insurgency. And John Abizaid and I have been very much in agreement with it and the president . . . "
And in June, in a long speech at a International Institute for Strategic Studies Conference in Singapore:
"We don't intend to stay there and take the Iraqi oil, which is what the argument is. We don't intend to occupy that country for any period of time. Our troops would like to go home. And they will go home. And they'll go home at a pace when we're able, along with our friends and allies in the coalition, to pass off responsibility to the Iraqi security forces so that they can pull up their socks and take responsibility for their own country, which is what they're going to have to do. It will be the Iraqi people that will suppress that insurgency, not the coalition forces, and not foreign forces. But the short answer is yes, I am concerned. When there's broad support, everything is easy; when there's broad opposition, everything is hard. And simply because things are hard doesn't mean that you need to toss in the towel, however, I would add."
Yes, if only the Iraqis would pull up their socks and fight for freedom. That would do it, don't you think?

Perhaps Rumsfeld liked the phrase when Vice President Dick Cheney used it to brace the polity for war hardship at a Republican rally/town hall meeting in Wisconsin in September of 2004.
"When you think about the challenges this nation has surmounted over the years, this is a war we can win. There's no doubt in my mind whatsoever. But we have to recognize we are engaged in a war. There's an adversary out there that will do everything they can to get us. And what we need to do is to pull up our socks and support the kind of strong policies we need in order to make certain that over the long term we can pass on the nation to our kids and grandkids safer and more secure than we found it.
In any case, it is a prescription Democrats like, too.

From the Los Angeles Times, today, on the Senate/Gates hearing:

". . . when asked by [Carl] Levin whether he would consider beginning to withdraw troops 'so Iraqis know they have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country,' Gates replied, 'Yes, sir.' "

Hey Iraq, pull up your socks, dadgummit!
THE CRACKPOT: Electromagnetic pulse doom lobbyist to reverse global warming with really long soot hose

Electromagnetic pulse doom lobbyist Lowell Wood, also well known as a national labs nuclear weapons scientist, was characterized as a man with the plan to save the world from global warming in a recent issue of Rolling Stone.

Wood has a richly deserved reputation as a crackpot stemming from regular appearances as leading member of the EMP lobby. Rolling Stone magazine writes gamely of his interests, noting "Wood is infamous for championing fringe science, from X-ray lasers to cold-fusion nuclear reactors . . . "

Threat advocacy has also been his bag, Wood being one of the knee-jerk practitioners of the American national security way of finding theoretical enemies and then telling the government what to do about them on the taxpayer's dime. And that's worked superbly in the war on terror.

Dubbing Wood "Dr. Evil," which gives the man a little too much comedy credit at this juncture, Rolling Stone describes him further:
"With the Soviet Union gone, he needed a new enemy to fight, one that came with federal funding attached. Lately, terrorism has fit the bill. 'Threats are my business,' he says. 'I help the government figure out who can kill us, and how, and when.' Although officially retired . . . he also chaired a congressional commission that investigated the risk of attack from an electromagnetic pulse bomb -- basically, a nuke that explodes at high altitude, leaving people unharmed but disabling every power line and computer and electrical device in the country."


Wood's plan is to put hundreds of thousands of tons of aluminum powder or sulfurous soots into the high atmosphere above the arctic ice cap. This will be done by either dropping bags of it out of a fleet of 747s or by shooting the soot up a fifteen mile high giant Kevlar garden hose attached to a burner on the ground.

Soot and a hose! Like a volcanic eruption. Who knew? Of course, it must be right [eyes roll for dramatic effect] because Wood figured it out using computer modelling. However, DD reckons other than the one or two exceptions to the rule mentioned in the Stone -- they're known as "geoengineers" -- very few boffins are jumping to ride the soot bandwagon into the future of world history.

With GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow T-shirt on, it is difficult to divine how seriously Wood is taken by anyone in a position to actually get things done. On the basis of his work as part of the electromagnetic pulse lobby, a judgment can be made that very few people take him seriously who aren't compelled by job description or bribedpaid to do so. However, Wood makes great copy as a larger-than-life character from the world of secret weapons lab science, a Haystacks Calhoun of thermonuclear weapons so to speak, and as a curiosity in a pop culture magazine he appears to be right where he belongs.

Next year: Dr. Ironbeard makes the lame to see and the blind to walk.



"It is widely-known that we Americans contemplated, briefly and in a non-pervasive fashion, a nuclear EMP laydown on Iraq (a NPT signatory legally entitled to immunity from all nuclear attacks) as an exceptionally high-effectiveness commencement to Operation Desert Storm - and that two-thirds of the American people polled on the subject in that season supported the taking of such steps to protect the lives of American troops." -- Lowell Wood, EMP lobby-man, at FAS.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

MUMBLINGS OF MONKEY-MEN MOCK MODERATION: A reprint of an old column on asymmetric threats and varieties of electronic doom.

Not much changes in national security threat advocacy. The dangers are demonical. Only the characters and names change. Originally on VMYTHS.COM, the official page of Osama bin Virus, prior to 9/11, which -- as you know -- "changed everything." Maybe not so much.


(PASADENA, CA -- 06/01/2001) LOCAL LOS ANGELES TV news anchormen had a great time with the monkey-man of India -- an allegedly fierce creature fond of attacking the destitute while they slept. I bet yours did, too. Thanks to a strategically placed news story in the Los Angeles Times and subsequent legs on the Times-Post newswire in May, everyone was laughing it up over this story of queer beans emanating from the subcontinent. "Look at those backward perishers in Gobble-Wallah," was the smug subtext. "They don't know ---- from shinola!"

"Leading Hindu nationalists insisted that the military intelligence agency in Pakistan had sent the monkey-man in a sinister plot to destabilize India. Several members of Parliament demanded that the government send in crack paramilitary units to catch the ape-man."
-- from a May 2001 story in the Los Angeles Times on
the hysteria surrounding a recent urban legend of
India


However, our myths are just as good. We just spackle them over with a snobby, less proletarian techno-veneer. The monkey-man would have been fine for America in the early-70's, around the time of the filming of "The Legend of Boggy Creek," but now that we've invented the Internet, "digital Pearl Harbor" and "information warfare" derivatives are better socio-cultural fits.

So infatuated was I by the tale of the monkey-man of New Delhi I went in search of more news on the Internet and in so doing discovered that one of our special monkey-men had wandered away and merged with the cyber-lore of foreign lands.

It was said in the Los Angeles newspaper that an analysis in the Hindustan Times wrestled with explaining the belief in the monkey-man. Desperation and hard times was what it boiled down to, according to the Times -- superstition cooked up by "poor people" driven to aggravation by 10-hour power black-outs and water shortages.

Looking for the Hindustan Times on the Web for further copy, however, got me sidetracked onto another article published by the newspaper. In a piece from the June 8, 2000 edition, journalist Ravi V. Prasad mulled over "cyber-terrorism and the threat to India" in the wake of the KillerRésumé and ILoveYou computer viruses.

Prasad quoted R. James Woolsey, former director of the CIA, as an expert on computer viruses. In the Hindustan Times, Prasad alleged Woolsey had claimed the existence of "an entirely new class of viruses which he termed instructive viruses" during a talk given to a Washington-based think tank.

"An instructive virus can instruct [which would seem inarguable] critical computers to shut down vital infrastructure," went the story.

The Hindustan Times also claimed the National Security Agency had developed a "virus called Blitzkrieg ... based on research in quantum electrodynamics and chaos theory, which can destroy networks of entire nations ... the equivalent of the deadly human Ebola virus..."

"While there is no significant reason to suspect that the US may use Blitzkrieg or instructive viruses against India, we should be on our guard," continued the newspaper.

"Because the monkey-man reportedly attacked only sleeping people in the dead of night, actual sightings were hard to come by."
-- "...Sinister Simians Roam," the Los Angeles Times,
May 2001


U.S. CYBER-MONKEY-MEN HAVE much in common with the New Delhi species. Sightings of terrorists plotting to douse the lights from the refuge of an offshore cyber-bunker or Russian henchmen downloading precious U.S. Department of Defense intellectual treasure are often cited but occur only in the American equivalent of very dim moonlight: hearsay of classified goings-on or vague but stunningly grandiose mumblings delivered by parties who speak under the shields of secrecy and anonymity.

With the case of the NSA Blitzkrieg virus, the legend concerning it was already just about two years old when come upon by the Hindustan Times. In April of 1998, SIGNAL, the magazine organ of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, a publication notable for jargon-riddled articles on the repeatedly alleged utter supremacy of Department of Defense digital widgetry and a servile regard for the details of Pentagon contracting, ran a cover story on it.

Like many news items which take on the proportion of myths, this story concealed a small nugget of truth -- in this case, word of a still-in-development piece of commercial computer network security software -- within a billowing cloud of grandiloquent, often common-sense-defying huffing and hooting.

"A growing echelon of chief technology officers are likening the stealthy [Blitzkrieg] virus to the digital equivalent of Star Wars technology," alleged a
sample. Yet another segment of the now mythic story referred to an apparently very excitable but unnamed CIA computer security specialist who claimed Blitzkrieg virus to be "potentially more dangerous than nuclear weapons."

Mostly, all the magazine's blustering was aimed at getting the interested to attend an annual high tech conference sponsored by AFCEA. And, in the fullness of time, that was pretty much the end of it.

No "Star Wars" computing technology gained supremacy. Despite a great deal of wishful thinking on the subject, no digital "nuclear weapons" appeared. Virus-writers made ILoveYou and Melissa and Kournikova and a few thousand others of no account. Cyber-World Wars were said to be started and stopped, won and lost, lost and won, stalemated, checkmated, fool's-mated and deadlocked. It was Serbia vs. NATO, India vs. Pakistan, Arab vs. Israeli, Chancre Jack China vs. Commie China, Commie China vs. America, Lick-Spittle vs. the Cyber-Pantywaist, cats vs. dogs, a dozen or so I've forgotten, and Me vs. You -- you crusty botch of nature!

Are you beginning to grasp where your editor is going with this?

"One man who claimed that he had looked the monkey-man straight in the eye said the beast immediately turned into a cat and ran away."
-- from the Los Angeles Times


If one takes the wide-angle view, it becomes painfully obvious that it doesn't really matter if the songs we sing to each other are based on nothing at all. If
enough believe the myths have merit then subsequent public discussions and national policy can and does arise as a response to them.

In this specific case, empty-headed talk -- tales of monkey-men -- of U.S. origin about network blitzkriegs and instructive viruses is taken as an indication, by
a foreign country's Washington Post, that the American military has taken a lead in development of cyber-weapons and that it might be rational to think about devising balancing forces.

IRONICALLY, THIS IS not the view from the cyber-trouble front typically presented in the American mainstream. Instead, the US-centric view, which in and of itself is a rather selective myth, is best explained in connection with the Department of Defense buzz-term -- "asymmetric threat."

Invoked ad nauseum since the middle of the past decade by Pentagon-onks, "asymmetric threats" are "weapons [like 'instructive viruses'] and tactics that relatively weak enemies ... use to foil [U.S.] technological supremacy." Or, for another common example, they can be explained as features of "a war where [the adversary] will strive to fight electronically" instead of irrationally attacking the U.S. military head on.

Always in accompaniment is the vaguely-defined received wisdom that such menaces arise more or less spontaneously in foreign powers or agencies crazy-mad bent on attacking America in the future. The heretical idea that an "asymmetric threat" might not actually be so, that it might just be a sign of symmetry -- a reflection or reaction stemming from a perception that the U.S. military has an aggressive interest in the same type of offensive warfighting -- is not entertained.

In other words, the myth of the asymmetric cyber-threat will generally appear in our national news media as a reported condition in which American infrastructure is always said to be the target of foreign operations or plans in development. And it will present in a vacuum in which examples from the foreign perspective (of which there are now, unsurprisingly, quite a few) are excluded. One never expects to see mention of an article from the New Delhi (or any foreign capital's) newspaper suggesting the need for cyber-war agencies as a response to a presumed corresponding and quite possibly precedent American build-up. The exception to the rule is one in which such an article is filtered through a government, military or private sector source who paraphrases only the portion where information warfare agencies are recommended -- not the context in which it is delivered.

"If he's a monkey, I'm ready for him."
-- a New Delhi man "now in the monkey management
business" waiting and hoping for a call to take on the
monkey-man


However, this is not all bad news! Rampant confusion and mass insanity can be good for the economy. The multiplication of monkey-men myths creates job stimulus. Professionals recruited to prevent "instructive viruses" or network Blitzkriegers can be thought of as our more technologically informed variety of monkey-man managers. Indeed, they can spawn even more jobs and goods, creating "synergies" with strategic forecasting services or threat warning and information sharing networks. Anyone can get in the game, from federal agencies like the National Infrastructure Protection Center or the National Security Council to the private sector.

Better still, the work is inexpensive and can turn a substantial profit upon mark-up prior to delivery of the finished product. You see, the dirty little secret of monkey-man prediction is that it is the technological equivalent of unskilled labor.

That is, unless you consider daily Web-surfing and the collection of electronic gossip tasks requiring scholarly rigor.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: US intel functionary sez our spy agencies are the best, much to the world's pleasure and increase in laughter

Another quote, taken from the New York Times' insanely great (but not in the way intended) Sunday mag piece, "Open Source Spying," in which blogging and wiki-ing geeks within the apparatus will remake central intelligence collection into a formidable weapon for the future.

"The sixteen intelligence organizations of the U.S. are without peer. They are the best in the world. The trick is, are they collectively the best?"

Thus spake Dale Meyerrose, a chief information officer of the military, now a Bush administration-appointed functionary in the office of the director of NATIONAL intelligence.

With official GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow T-shirt on, DD says if you don't laugh at the statement, you'll surely have to cry. Remember, no common sense, critical thinking or recognition of what's transpired in the last few years allowed here!

In related matters, since national intelligence's new blogging and wiki-ing geeks are seemingly convinced that bringing the emergent wisdom of ignorant net-centric masses will be revolutionizing to national security, DD says: The revolution has arrived!

Here, apropos today's other post on the daily demonical menace of daily demonical menaces, the electromagnetic pulse attack, as determined by Google and Wiki.

Also be sure to read Glip Popple's Technical University of Gobble-Wallah white paper on the electromagnetic bomb, here.
THE ELECTROMAGNETIC PULSE OF DOOM LOBBY: Why is it a Republicans only club?

"...the de facto national policy of nakedness to all of our potentially EMP-armed enemies takes on ever more the character of national scale masochism. It is perverse, irrational, and assuredly not necessary or foreordained."
- Dr. Lowell Wood, electromagnetic pulse lobbyist, Lawrence Livermore Labs


Readers know we're faced with a host of apocalyptic threats in our war on terror. National doom by electromagnetic pulse attack is one such evergreen menace. While its threat advocacy lobby inside the Beltway appears small, it is tenacious. Once or twice a year it will place opinion pieces in the Post and the Washington Times and manage to hold congressional hearings on the subject.

While electromagnetic pulse doom is a 99.9 percent fictitious menace, everyone involved in the threat advocacy lobby acts the opposite. As a result, journalists must either play along or buy into it whole hog. Everyone has seen it on TV -- most recently in "Jericho" on Wednesday nights at 8:00 -- so it's just gotta be.

DD, with tongue in cheek, takes a comprehensive look at the EMP lobby and its representatives through 2006 at El Reg , here.


And if you enjoyed this entry, you sure won't want to miss related news in The Crackpot.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

INTELLIGENCE AGENCY BLOGGING GEEKS: NY Times Mag discovers new intel philosopher's stones. Will they turn gold into lead?

The New York Times Sunday mag's "Open Source Spying," written by Clive Thompson, purported to reveal how US intelligence agencies are being rewired by young analysts into usefulness via blogging and wikipedias.

DD is going to demolish this fancy in a few strokes.

First, eyeball the messenger -- Clive Thompson.

Thompson writes about tech stuff on an infrequent basis for the magazine. If you're ill-informed but interested what the future may hold and doubly keen on reading of young geek personalities as coloring characters, it's good stuff.

Consider Thompson's NYT mag piece from February 2004, "The Virus Underground." In it Thompson investigated teenage virus-writers with funny names, a fairly captivating subject, and one DD covered for about a decade.

However Thompson couldn't stay away from government experts and doomsday predictions, hopefully with computer viruses dragged in for variety.

And so, DD blog reprints this cool paragraph from the magazine:
The profusion of viruses has even become a national-security issue. Government officials worry that terrorists could easily launch viruses that cripple American telecommunications, sowing confusion in advance of a physical 9/11-style attack. Paula Scalingi, the former director of the Department of Energy's Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection, now works as a consultant running disaster-preparedness exercises. Last year she helped organize 'Purple Crescent' in New Orleans, an exercise that modeled a terrorist strike against the city's annual Jazz and Heritage Festival. The simulation includes a physical attack but also uses a worm unleashed by the terrorists designed to cripple communications and sow confusion nationwide. The physical attack winds up flooding New Orleans; the cyberattack makes hospital care chaotic. 'They have trouble communicating, they can't get staff in, it's hard for them to order supplies,' she says. 'The impact of worms and viruses can be prodigious.'"
Should have held that one a little longer. My bald pate ducks to the golden fools, so eager to concoct journalism-ready rigged terror scenarios in which the future is so accurately divined.

So now that the stage is set for wisdoms you are about to receive on the revolution in secret intelligence tea-leaf reading . . .

"In July, [a group of managers and staffers at an intel agency cited by the Times] decided to create a test blog to collect intelligence," wrote Thompson. "It would focus on spotting and predicting possible avian flu outbreaks and function as part of a larger portal on the subject to collect information from hundreds of sources around the world, inside and outside of the intelligence community. Avian flu, [a manager] reasoned is a national security problem uniquely suited to an on-line community effort, because information about the danger is found all around the world. An agent in southeast Asia might be the first to hear news of dangerous farming practices, a medical expert could write a crucial paper on transmission that was never noticed by analysts . . . "

Almost sounds good but, c'mon, fellows, you're reinventing the wheel for a second or third-rate market. The health science pros are better and have been at it longer.You want Pro-med mail and CDC's Mortality and Morbidity Weekly, among other things -- not another bunch of non-pros aggregating news clippings and citations.

Next up, the canard of a Google-like searchable index of intelligence databases and blogs automagically creating an eruption of truth through critical masses of emergent intelligent behavior.

DD has worked its way through this as GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow over the past few years and has one, among many, illustrative retorts to the so-called massive intelligence of mobs and network-distributed received wisdoms.

Here's Google's result on a WMD and terrorism related query: "how to make ricin"

The result, topmost in Google, linked to and downloaded all over the world by would-be terrorists, is a child's copy of a recipe for grinding castor beans that does nothing except produce castor bean powder containing a very small amount of the toxic protein. It also contains a step that destroys the protein.

Ah, the Delphic wisdom of the electronic world's hive mind.

Said one intel analyst on the secret blog phenomenon: "You demonstrate you're an idiot, that becomes known, too."

Other vignettes:

"What most impressed [one spy] was Wikipedia's self-governing nature."

"Once the intelligence community has a robust and mature wiki and blog knowledge-sharing webspace . . . the nature of intelligence will change forever."

"By this fall, more than 3,600 members of the intelligence services had contributed a total of 28,000 pages. Chris Rasmussen, a 31-year old 'knowledge management' engineer . . . spends part of every day writing or editing pages . . . "

" . . . Michael Wertheimer, chief technology officer, whose badge clip sports a button that reads 'geek.'"

At one point, the writer -- or one of his sources, or all of them, seem to float the idea that if only such methods had been in place prior to 9/11, all the disjointed information would have floated to the top of the great vat of all that is known and voila, revolution in intelligence affairs. WTC saved!

How prove you that in the great heap of knowledge?