Wednesday, February 28, 2007

BOMB IRAN: Updated USAF basics on counterforce strategy vs. WMDs

Bomb Iran

The graphic comes from Air Force Doctrine Document 2-1.8, Counter-Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Operations. It was made available through Steve Aftergood's Secrecy Blog today and you can find it here.

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow believes the left half of the artist's rendition accurately represents how the USAF has planned to deal with Iran. In fact, it looks just a little bit like Iran in its desert tone with large southern body of water in which floats an Aegis missile cruiser.

Note the B-2 stealth bomber dealing with infrastructure and the cruise missile in flight.

The USAF calls this counterforce, the elimination of chemical-biological-radiological-nuclear threats through kinetic action. In this paper it is also tied to preemption. This is part of "a comprehensive approach to defeating WMDs," the Air Force writes.

"Counterforce refers to offensive operations to strike adversary CBRN weapons and associated production, transportation and storage facilities prior to use...One unique aspect of this pillar is that it may be executed by a preemptive military strike."

"As we have seen in previous conflicts preemption requires close coordination with friends and allies, as well as the American people, in order to be accepted and effective," writes the Air Force genially. "From a tactical perspective, pre-attack intelligence and precise target location are crucial."

Counterforce strategy, states the document, would also lead to a "rollback of the adversary's CBRN capabilities..."

And quoting from another's book on bombing Iraq in Desert Storm, the Air Force flashes a bit of literary flair on the smoke of battle:

". . . F-117A's proved particularly devastating, for unlike [cruise missiles], they could destroy hardened targets. Laboratory, research and production facilities staggered under stealth-dropped smart bombs; video subsequently showed blasts sending destructive ripples through buildings like some parody of waves crashing on the beach."

Waves crashing on the concrete beaches; the odor of rubble and dust in the air at dawn -- the smell of victory!

Uh, excuse me, got carried away there for a moment. To transpose from Herman Wouk in War and Remembrance: "Enemies [like Iran] should ponder it."

"Target hardness and/or collateral damage considerations may make direct attack against WMD or related facilities impossible or undesirable, but an effects-based approach to targeting may result in alternatives that prevent the adversary from gaining access to ... WMD."

Translated: So, you've dug deep holes and poured thick concrete! How good are your shovels?

"Operations against production facilities provide another option for degrading or destroying an adversary's CBRN capability," it is written. "While the effect of the operation may be temporary, strikes against production facilities represent a relatively low risk option ... especially if the enemy has not yet achieved an operational CBRN capability."

It is difficult to find any fault or argue with the logic of the air force document. It is easy for laymen to read and understand.

The only quibbles DD has with it were the inclusion of only semi-relevant box quotes attributed to George W. Bush and an info-box on the Aum Shinrikyo. With regards to the former, GWB is not going down in history as a perceptive commander-in-chief. Leave him out in the next revision, fellows. As to the latter, see here:

Having taken the liberty of correcting the graphic, no spectroscopic or hard chemical evidence has ever been presented that Aum Shinrikyo produced VX. The material is difficult to synthesize and word of it in the hands of Aum Shinrikyo is tenuous, existing only in testimony.

The group also never produced botulinum toxin and as to anthrax, it cultivated a vaccine strain of Bacillus anthracis, one that could never have produced disease. See here.

No charge for the help, gents.

Related: Operation Radiating Rubble -- the computerized wargame of preemptive USAF/USN counterforce vs. Iran, developed through use of military data sets from GlobalSecurity.Org.

Ah-ha! Armchair Generalist does find fault with the Air Force's use/misuse of old Cold War language and explains the semantic and syntactic shenanigans here.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

JOSE PADILLA AND THE MANCHESTER MANUAL: US can't resist the moldy-oldy but a judge does the right thing

Buried inside today's Los Angeles Times was a story entitled, "Ruling on book benefits Padilla: Federal prosecutors tried to argue that his actions jibed with an Al Qaeda manual." (No link. Read it in subscriber copy, no web access because it's behind a reader hostile registration wall.)

Reporter Carol J. Williams wrote, "A federal judge in terrorism suspect Jose Padilla's competency hearing on Monday refused to admit into evidence a purported al Qaeda manual that prosecutors said advised captured terrorists to cooperate with attorneys and to allege they were mistreated -- as Padilla had done."

"US District Judge Marcia Cooke said there was nothing to indicate Padilla had ever seen the inch-thick 'Manchester Manual' found five years ago in a raid in Manchester, England."

The judge did the right thing.

The use of the Manchester Manual by a prosecution is now a sign of grasping at straws, an indication that the offense is doing badly. During the London ricin trial of 2004-2005, British prosecutors used it as part of a collection of documents they wished to use to demonstrate a linkage between al Qaeda and an alleged poison ring. They failed because the poison recipes taken off convicted killer Kamel Bourgass were traced to translations from American sources and Yahoo servers in Palo Alto, California.

A lawyer for the defense in the ricin trial also remarked that the Manchester Manual's designation as an al Qaeda manual was an American invention, specifically the US Department of Justice's, which posted an edited form of it on its website.

Last summer, your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow wrote that informed readers know that when someone invokes a "document" attributed to have some meaning in the war on terror, it's time to review it. This is because you either won't be getting the entire picture, or its historical context and provenance will be distorted in some interesting but politically or legally expedient manner.

And so it is with the Manchester Manual which has become a talisman for failing terrorism cases. It is a totem to shake when parties wish to convince people of something about terrorism based on little hard reasoning or evidence. (One original discussion is here from when George W. Bush's speech writers wished to allow him to make a connection between al Qaeda and Hitler. The Manchester Manual, one was supposed to believe, was al Qaeda's 'Mein Kampf' and approved of torture, something us Americans would never stoop to.

The Manchester Manual does indeed speak about ill treatment at the hands of interrogators. It does not use the milder word mistreatment. It is straightforward in its use of the word TORTURE and this comes in a section at the very back of the manual dealing with what "the brother" should do if he is captured by a Middle Eastern regime known for torturing prisoners.

Torture is expected in the Manchester Manual and, curiously, there is no mention of the United States, probably because at the time the manual was written, this country didn't have a rep as torturer.

These sections are not about alleging that one has been tortured by interrogators in order to throw off authorities. They are what to do when one is expecting to be tortured and when one is tortured.

In reading the Los Angeles Times article it is difficult to know how much the reporter and other parties know of this. One wishes to give them the benefit of the doubt but it is difficult to know who is the source of misinformation in this particular piece.

In the next three graphic snapshots, DD shows the sections of the Manchester Manual which the prosecution attempted to employ to show that Padilla and his lawyers are making it all up with regards to his ill treatment.

Note: "[In our country, the police authority] does not hesitate to use all kinds of torture ... " and "Under pressure of torture ..." -- as well as, "Torture of the brother takes place once again in the questioning apparatus ... "

It does not say anything about faking being tortured.

The manual continues with a straightforward discussion of establishing a baseline by asking for medical examination whether one has yet been tortured or not. Then, when one is tortured, to ask that this be entered into proceedings.

"The brother may have to confess under the pressure of torture ..." it reads.

More of the text, above, tells the jihadi he will be beaten and tortured.

This is not a section on how to trick people into thinking you've been mistreated in court. Instead, it is a section on what to expect in an interrogation cell.

Since the United States government established itself as a torturer for the sake of winning the alleged war on terror, it is now a questionable, self-defeating and confounding tactic to imply that a document which clearly discusses being tortured in other countries -- not the United States -- is about teaching one how to allege mistreatment when one hasn't been mistreated.

On the contrary, the government's position on this item is, so to speak, tortured.

Although the judge did not appear to address these technical details, she did the right thing when tossing the document and argument out under the explanation that there was no reason to believe Padilla knew of the Manchester Manual.

Other extracts from the what-to-do-when-tortured section of the Manchester Manual -- here.

The entire Manchester Manual, duplicated at Cryptome -- here. Relevant section near end.

There is further discussion an excerpts from the New York Times' article on the manaul treatment here. By way of Discourse Net, the NYT reported:

"In declining to admit the manual into evidence, [the judge] added that the manual would have converted the competency hearing into a debate over whether the defendant had been tortured in the brig."
THE INDELIBLE STAIN OF THE LONDON RICIN CASE (Continued): Sent home for torture and jail

In a story in today's Guardian, it is revealed two men held by the British government and later deported to Algeria will tried as terrorists in that country.

It connects to the ricin trial because one of the men, known as Reda Dandani, had been implicated by Mohammed Meguerba (Mahmoud Meguerba), the police informant for the case of the London ricin ring. As was written last week, when consulting with a colleague who was an expert witness for the London ricin trial in 2004-2005, it slowly came out that Meguerba had been tortured in Algeria.

The Guardian reports: "Reda Dendani, has been implicated by Mahmoud Meguerba, an intelligence source in the ricin trial, according to information received by Amnesty International. Meguerba, who was not called as a witness because he was considered unreliable, is reported to have been tortured by the DRS, the Algerian military security police."

Meguerba's evidence never made it into the London ricin trial and the prosecution case failed when the UK government could not prove any conspiracy connected to al Qaeda. In the case of "Bourgass et al," a jury found the co-defendants of the imprisoned Kamel Bourgass not guilty.

Many suspects were swept up and detained in what became known as Operation Springbourne, the anti-terror dragnet that preceded the London ricin case. When the trial ended, English authorities slapped control orders on the exonerated and began planning to deport them to Algeria.

The control orders were the equivalent of home imprisonment. In the meantime, the government began the process of trying to convince human rights observers that deportation back to Algeria, a country that tortures, would be all right.

In this it was unsuccessful.

Nevertheless, those subject to control orders, their lives ruined even though they had been found innocent, seemed to slowly go mad.

"[They] were detained indefinitely without trial under anti-terrorist legislation and later subjected to virtual house arrest under control orders," reported the Guardian. "In August 2005 they were imprisoned under immigration rules pending deportation."

"Their lawyer, Gareth Peirce [who was the organizing defense lawyer for the ricin trial,] said they could no longer bear the strain of indefinite detention and had withdrawn their appeals against deportation orders after assurances that they would not be prosecuted."

In Algeria this means little if anything and apparently those returned will be tried as terrorists.

The men were deemed a danger by British authorities, and in methods similar to those used to remove the rights of prisoners in American detention at Guantanamo, were said to be so through secret evidence which could not be examined or refuted.

The catalyzing events for this harsh treatment were the London bombings of 2005.

"Before the London Underground bombings in July 2005, the government accepted that Algeria's human rights record meant that sending suspects back there would breach the European convention on human rights, which bans inhuman or degrading treatment or torture," reports the Guardian.

"But in August 2005 the Home Office started moves to deport 15 Algerians deemed, on the basis of secret intelligence unusable as evidence in British courts, to be a danger to national security."

After the ricin trial, the defendants were retried in much of the English media where anti-terrorist expert and prosecution claims and opinions rejected by the jury were given a fresh airing. British lawmen rehashed the material from Mohammed Meguerba's confession, information which had not been allowed in the case.

The men released would have to be watched, it was claimed. At the time, there was one heartening development -- the alarm of the jurors who did not remain silent.

"We as a jury made a decision," they said. "To see the government disregarding our verdict and preparing to send [the cleared men] back to almost certain torture is horrifying. We would try to do anything to stop it." ("Freedom's Bright Lamp," The Guardian, May 21, 2005)

And they have continued to try as have others, without effect, through no fault of their own. It has become apparent fighting city hall is really tough in the so-called war on terror.

The Guardian piece is here.

24, torture, the ricin ring and reasons for war with Iraq is here.

National Security Notes at GlobalSecurity.Org on early repercussions from the ricin case in 2005 -- here and here.

Monday, February 26, 2007

SELF-FORMING FRAGMENT MUNITIONS: Explosively formed projectile, what's the difference?

The Danger Room blog expertly shows the ubiquity of EFP munitions here and here. The message in it is that one someone in the government or US military says a national fingerprint is found in some weapon, implicating some culprit we love to hate, your eyes should roll.

Last week on the Military channel's Futureweapons, a weekly show in which a shaven-headed ex-Navy SEAL gets multiple erections over assortments of bombs, guns and weapons platforms, your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow spotted a segment on EFP's developed by Alford Technologies of England. Alford's EFP is called the Krakatoa and it was peddled as a modern equivalent of the Limpet mine for special forces.

Futureweapons has been free advertising for Alford with the company's chief scientist as nutty professor showing off his special bombs in the backyard. For this episode he slapped together a copy of the Krakatoa for the ten minute segment. Not so hot for the show, DD didn't hear the word "EFP" once, something that revealed the segment was made long before the military's recent dog and pony show for reporters made the acronym common usage.

Alford's website is here.

DD thought the term used to be "self-forming fragment" shaped charge and, indeed, one can find the name across the web in pieces on Russian bloc anti-tank mines in Serbia and even in this old book, "Explosive Loading of Engineering Structures," here.

Reactive, or Chobham, armor is the old countermeasure for such charges, the text seems to indicate.

Futureweapons, as usual, is entertaining for all the wrong reasons.

Its writers are insane.

For a segment on a new recoilless machine gun that shoots "smart" grenades, the host beamishly goes on that previous to the invention of this miracle, US forces would have no recourse but to riddle a building with heavy fire. Now, with the new "smart grenade"-shooting machine gun, one can pump shells through the front window into the living room. The grenade waits until it's inside, then blows up, showering the interior with splinters, allegedly minimizing collateral damage so that people can move right back in.

That is, after they've picked the blood, flesh and bone out of the walls and removed and refinished the interior.

DD whiffs a straight up the stern attack with an undershoot in Lock On: Modern Air Combat! Of course, once again the screen shot of the second pass, the one with the line of fire stitched right across the beam, was unsuitable. [Eyes roll.]

Sunday, February 25, 2007

EAST OF THE KERCH PENINSULA: Sunday afternoon dive-bombing in Lock On

A Russian corvette barely survives a near miss from a 500 lb. bomb in the narrow waterway east of the Kerch Peninsula. (Note pom-pom gunfire from out of frame ship leading the surface action group.)

It's another squandered Saturday and Sunday in DD's dogged effort not to let the Lock On: Modern Air Combat monster game get the best of him. The tanker the frigate was escorting was an easier target and not so lucky. Unfortunately, I wasn't fast enough to get a screen shot while trying to evade deck gun fire so you'll have to take my word for it.

As a continuing installment from last weekend's riff on monstrously complex war games and Lock On, this small success didn't come without thorough preparation.

Lock On, like any respectable monster game, substitutes procedure and complexity for realism. If you want to get much out of it during its acclimatization period, one must come to grips with the mission editor, if only because the missions furnished for you by the game's developers will familiarize one only with crashing and bewildering environments.

The mission editor offers a way around this because, theoretically, it allows the beginner to write his own script. Lock On pitilessly disabuses you of the notion you'll succeed in a total fog-of-war environment, flying with a bare paragraph or two of instructions on the nature and general direction of the enemy. In other words, when you're learning just how to do a level weapons run without porpoising through the air in a badly flown aircraft, black box missions designed by other gamers don't work.

Saturday, then, was spent prepping the battle.

DD has no idea why Lock On is set between the Crimea and oil rich-Terek River/Caucasus Mountains regions in Russia. It has something to do with the Ukraine and Georgia as republics a coalition of NATO forces has chosen to defend from Russia, a rather hysterical proposition. The Netherlands, Germany and Turkey will enter into a significant "coalition" with the United States? ORLY?

In any case, that's the scene.

And for my battle, I had a small Russian naval group escorting an oil tanker through the narrow waterway connecting the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. You can't lose anything in such a small area, making finding targets easy. That was on purpose.

Still one must plan carefully and schedule a coordinated strike in which different planes and weapons packages arrive over the target area in such a way as to peel back its defense so that your flight of A-10's can arrive over the primary objective, in this case the tanker and its smaller escorts, with some reasonable expectation of being able to sink or cripple them by dive-bombing.

There is also really no such thing as a fire-and-forget or "smart" weapon in Lock On. Therefore, one can count on a steady percentage of misses and inefficiency on the part of an entire strike force, something that would be unpleasant for the standard gamer just wishing to jump in and play.

While building the mission, one must test it while under construction to evaluate for bugs, stupidity and balance. It is easy to bite off more than one can chew. Setting conditions for a little fun Santa Barbara-like mid-day fog over the water, quite naturally if unexpectedly, made it impossible to conduct visual bombing runs. Thick mist! Can't see!

And as a simulation you're trying to use for some afternoon entertainment value, it does no good for a strike force to be so front-loaded that everything is blasted by the computer AI battling itself before your slower A-10 arrives, or for the air cover to be so stout that the entire mission is spent just trying to survive and disengage. That is, unless you enjoy the idea of playing someone like the Japanese in the Marianas Turkey Shoot.

If you've practiced, set things up properly and been meticulous in planning, you can be rewarded with a scene like the above snapshot. It's success of a sort.

Lock On, it should be mentioned, offers six flyable combat aircraft. Two American, of which the A-10 is one, and four Russian. Each requires a different session of variables and procedures to be memorized. DD has already decided that understanding two out of the half-dozen is doing good.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Happily coinciding with DD's torture and 24 column over at el Reg was HBO's Ghosts of Abu Ghraib. It was well-reviewed just about everywhere by various TV critics. One example is here at the Indianapolis Star.

I watched Ghosts last night and while it was everything previews promised, it was turned off about two-thirds through. By this time I've seen more than enough of the Janis Karpinski speaking tour. The ex-dean at Abu Ghraib Torture U, Karpinski has flogged it, according to the Internet movie database, appearing on comedy talk shows and radio (The Daily Show, Bill Maher, and the Al Franken show), in addition to Iraq documentaries.

Please, no more Janis, no more Megan Ambuhl, no more Sabrina Harman, the latter so brainless and morally dead she hadn't the common sense to know playing smile for the camera over a man who has just been beaten to death constituted a couple of atrocities.

Pretty much absent are any people who had the guts to say "I won't do it, I'm going to blow the lid on this and if you try anything you'll have to torture or kill me, too."

Take them to the glue factory and put 'em all down to prevent even more book contracts and movies for being pieces of excrement. No more of slippery John Yoo explaining that the newfangled war on terror meant it had to be OK to suspend the rights of anyone captured unless someone gets to smack the man in the teeth with a baseball bat after he says it.

Once again it reminded me of the London ricin trial. During long telephone conversations across the world, as evidence was reviewed, I recall asking my colleague where all the allegedly scary hearsay on the defendants being part of a Wood Green poison factory allied to al Qaeda was coming from. Mohammed Meguerba, was the answer, a police informant who had been tortured in Algeria and who later recanted it. Of course, Meguerba never testified at the trial and when it came time to tell the US newsmedia, no one wanted to hear any of it. And we tried, coming to the conclusion that it would have to be published at GlobalSecurity.Org before anyone else went to press. When the paltry few in the US newsmedia did get to publishing, it simply repeated the bad information from Meguerba.

Looking back through this blog's archives, a couple more pieces on torture:

The tortured debate on torture.

Ugly details from a Senate report.
TORTURE! Better Jack Bauer than George W. Bush's goons

Today, at el Reg, DD discusses his experience with the fruits of torture with recent mass media protests over "24's" love of the same.

DD has no trouble with "24." "24" is silly and so is Jack Bauer. Back in December, I clapped my hands when Star Trek: Deep Space 9's Dr. Bashir showed up as a villain.

Cancelled doctors must know how to torture and Bashir did not disappoint. He tortured a former comrade really great, cracking him for the information in seconds. Then he killed the guy.

Jack Bauer, who had eased up on torturing the same man, said to Dr. Bashir that he didn't know if he could do such deeds well anymore. And Dr. Bashir looked at Jack, smiled a little and said, "It'll come back to you."

Anyway, "24" plods along week to week, a soap opera of terror porn, easy to follow, not even remotely real, easier to digest than current events. It's a lot easier to watch than Ghosts of Abu Ghraib or Iraq for Sale, any documentary starring John Yoo, Janis Karpinski and miscellaneous pieces of white trash from the country's jobless underbelly explaining how and why they did what they did.

And that is, I reckon, why many like "24," not so much because watchers think Jack Bauer is the real thing in the war on terror and we should have more like him, but because we can't bear to know the real thing.

Read it here.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow is an expert with regards to chlorine cylinder handling. This knowledge is convenient while reading of recent insurgent attacks in Iraq using industrial cylinders of the halogen bundled with explosives. (Read this and learn, American troops! It is a better briefing than any you will get in country.)

During summers off from undergraduate work at Albright College in Pennsylvania, DD managed the Pine Grove Community Swimming Pool, a half-a-million gallon volume sanitized by chlorine from industrial cylinders.

Adequate chlorination required the exchange of cylinders every 10 days.

Cylinders would be manhandled from storage, the new ones exchanged for the exhausted. Connection was made to a gas regulator and bubbler which released the element into the water spillway connecting the pool's pump house and the main inlet into its concrete basin. Damaging or shattering the valve at the top of the cylinder was not a significant problem. Even if wide open, it did not release the element in sufficient density or velocity to create a danger to many.

Chlorine cylinders were delivered by the industrial chemical supplier, Manley-Regan, of Middletown, PA. They were ferried around Schuylkill County to swimming pools, chained to the sides of flatbed trucks. The cylinders were very robust. They had to withstand falling off trucks and collisions. As a consequence, their handlers were laissez-faire, infrequently tossing the cylinders off the back of the loader onto the asphalt of parking lots.

The chlorine cylinders dug up the asphalt in the lot at the Pine Grove pool and I complained. So the distributor drove the truck onto the grass nearer the swimming pool, tossed them off the back, where they only dug divets in the lawn. Thanks! It was important to keep your feet out of the way.

Anyway, the lesson here is that it takes a bit of effort to blast open a standard chlorine cylinder, enough effort to make the actual explosive needed to burst the tank more of a danger than the actual amount of halogen contained within it.

Still, one can't turn up one's nose at chlorine.

Chlorine is immediately sensed in the corners of the eyes and by the Mark I nose. It is extremely active, as any halogen is, and burns sensitive tissues, but not skin, immediately. Because of this it is not a particularly effective poison gas.

People who get a whiff of chlorine perceive it well before immediately lethal concentrations arrive and move quickly away, if they can. Bursts and puffs of chlorine cause halogen irritation to the mucous membranes and conjunctiva of the eyes fairly rapidly, something workers at the community swimming pool under my watch learned through experience.

So, as a practical matter, use of chlorine gas as a weapon is contingent upon quick delivery of extremely large volumes.

In Robert Harris and Jeremy Paxman's A Higher Form of Killing, an older book on chemical warfare, chlorine's use by Germany om the western front in 1915 is detailed.

"German pioneers [opened] the valves of 6,000 cylinders spread out along a four mile front," the authors write. "The breeze stirred again, and 160 tons [of chlorine], five feet high and hugging the ground began to roll toward the Allied trenches. Chemical warfare had begun."

One immediately sees the insurgents in Iraq aren't close to achieving the chlorine densities used in full-on chemical warfare. Indeed, the great amounts needed to wage such a war quickly had WWI combatants looking for different, more deadly, poison gases. Chlorine was bad but things could be made much worse and they were.

The issues are handled with aplomb over at the new Danger Room blog and at el Reg, both noting the impact is still mainly psychological.

Dick Destiny defecated upon a lobbying company built from refugees from the Department of Homeland Security and their lack of knowledge on various chemical weapons, including chlorine, last year -- here. And if you go here you'll read about another alleged government expert telling a crowd of rubes they can make a terror weapon out of it by using bleach. Back in the day we had a word for such people and that word was: Idiot. (Search page for "Sidell.")

Additional information is furnished here on alleged homeland security guru, Richard Falkenrath, who became possessed in a mission to protect America from the dangerous release of gases like chlorine. Read the fine print and you'll spy mention of mass releases of chlorine from rail cars in Graniteville, South Carolina, and Macdona, Texas, resulting in nine and three dead, respectively.
CRACKPOT DHIREN BAROT: Redacted evidence provides riches of embarrassment

In the war on terror one can reliably count on authorities and experts to exaggerate the powers and savvy of al Qaeda terrorists. Having dealt with it at length, it's accurate to say that such claims are often dependent on the public not getting a close look, or an accurate interpretation, of gathered evidence. And even when the evidence is produced for examination, the mainstream media will not look at it, prefering to rely on its interpretation by lawmen or experts who'd lose their livelihoods if they became known for conservative views on the subject.

The evidence gathered from crackpot dirty bomber Dhiren Barot, presented as an extensive list of files on the website of the London Metropolitan Police under the heading of Operation Rhyme, provides an opportunity for a close look.

Before we travel out to that locale, however, it is worthwhile anchoring it by showing how experts use cases like Barot's to make points on how enemies are preparing to bite us again. (Here's a fairly representative piece on the mythology of Barot at CBS News. The reader will notice it relies entirely on he said/she said reporting, not on any actual examination of Barot's jihadi files.)

In this case, now have a gander at terror expert Bruce Hoffman's op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Remember al Qaeda? They're Baaack.

With it's infantilized title taken from the old horror movie, Poltergeist II, one conjurs images of al Qaeda staking out your living room, preparing to kidnap your kid and move the furniture around. Drubbed by critics as "elaborately pointless" and a "rehash of the first movie's story," it sort of fits many discussions in which al Qaeda is said to be coming. The writers of Op-Ed's don't assign the titles to their pieces, editors do, and this is just about the worst choice imaginable.

"...the truth is that the organization is not on the run but on the march," Hoffman writes.

Maybe it's true, maybe it's not. Toss a coin, heads they are, tails they ain't, and you might have as good a divining.

Hoffman appears to drag in Dhiren Barot, not by name, as part of reading of the tea leaves by looking at al Qaeda plots.

"Ongoing investigations increasingly suggest that recent terrorist threats and attacks — the foiled 2004 plan to stage simultaneous suicide attacks in the United States ... " reads the article.

If one scans the rap sheet on Barot at GlobalSecurity.Org here one immediately sees the charges on plotting to blow up US financial institutions. One also reads a US terror alert was prompted, and "...later criticized because it was several years after [Barot's] casing had taken place." Barot's videos of his NYC scouting trip are also available on the Operation Rhyme site.

In Britain, Barot is more well known for the evidence taken from files on his computer. These are compilations of public texts taken from the Internet, cut and pasted together in attempts to pitch to al Qaeda higher-ups a ludicrous dirty bomb plot employing smoke detectors and another half-baked scheme to pack limousines with gas cylinders in the hopes that they could be driven into a parking garage and detonated. In no case had Barot accumulated any actual materials. These were virtual plots and in his files the al Qaeda man reveals he hasn't even been able to secure a hand grenade.

The London Metropolitan Police posted Barot's files in its display for Operation Rhyme here.

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow will be primarily dealing with the dirty bomb and gas cylinders/limousine files, the latter also containing a focus on Barot's yen for a radiological weapon. (These presentations are entitled terror65-04mas11, terror65-04mas12 and terror65-04gaslimos.)

Examination of them isn't something newspapers, or for that matter brief TV news shows, like to do. To understand why these documents are ludicrous, one has to show them and then perform some cross-referencing to materials from which they were derived. It's graphically intensive but, by nature, dry and dusty. It's simply not as exciting as blurting out that al Qaeda's on the march and we nabbed Dhiren Barot just in time.

If you download these files you'll see they're heavily redacted. In fact, most of the content in them is blacked out, mindlessly so, as will be demonstrated.

"Some information has been concealed," reads the website, understating it a bit. This was because the files "[contain] information regarding security measures, positions of cameras, smoke detectors, etc and other information potentially of use to those who would wish to exploit them."

In other words, one is asked to believe that a dirty bomb can be made from thousands of smoke detectors.

However, making a dirty bomb from a lorry full of the household items wasn't Barot's only wish. He also fiddled with other really stupid ideas.

One involved used exit signs as a weapon of terror. In the United States, exit signs containing a very small amount of tritium, a radioisotope of hydrogen, have been smashed in buildings and thrown into landfills for years. It's thought to be a slight hazard but no one really cares about the issue as the danger is negligible. The EPA posts a fact sheet here.

One of Dhiren Barot's dirty bomb plots proposed the throwing of exist signs into the middle of rooms.

Barot also dallied with getting tritium for a dirty bomb from wristwatches.

"Two types of radioactive materials I did not investigate are Uranium and Plutonium," Barot writes. "Not available off the shelf I decided to leave these radioactive materials out of this research."

Throughout his files, Barot returns to the idea that his terror weapons should be made from off the shelf items, and that -- Allah willing, inshallah -- his plans will come true. In this quest, he cast around aimlessly on the Internet, cobbling together files on radiological hazards from common public sources. It is work on the lines of what a high school student might be able to accomplish over a weekend.

Barot is, in other words, dumb as dirt. His files reveal him to be a wishful man with no capacity for critical thinking and absolutely no acumen in science or demolitions. If he is an example of al Qaeda tutoring, it is difficult to come to the conclusion from fairly judging him that such training was worth anything.

" . . . home smoke detectors would not pose a security risk but smoke detector factories could," writes Barot, in one his files. At this point, he apparently starts to develop his plan for a dirty bomb made from lots and lots and lots of smoke detectors.

Smoke detectors contain a vanishingly small amount of americium-241, a man-made radioactive element indicated as radioactive ammunition for potential dirty bombs.

However, a smoke detector contains only about 1 millionth of a Curie of the element.

That figure is a merciless barrier with regards to terror planning, one Barot ignored because he is a stupid man. He would have had to buy ten million smoke detectors. That's ten, followed by six zeros, to make the small dirty bomb payload envisioned in dirty bomb analyses furnished by physicists.

Next up, here are the excerpts from Barot's journal files. These segments are not redacted, probably because they were necessary to make the case against him.

Note the "inshallah" invocation. God willing, we will make smoke detectors into a dirty bomb.

However, another interesting feature of Barot's files is their use of common articles which most scientists and reasonably educated people wouldn't bat an eye at. They contain no information that is immediately helpful to dirty-bombing terrorists. Instead, they are forthright discussions on various aspects of radiological hazard, necessary to public understanding of the subject.

These portions are all heavily redacted. However, since DD is familiar with the literature, moreso than the Brit anti-terror men who did the redacting, some of the blacked-out parts will be reconstructed for purposes of this discussion.

A great deal of Barot's presentations are taken from a Monterey Institute publication, Commercial Radioactive Sources: Surveying the Security Risks, by Charles Ferguson, Tahseen Kazi and Judith Perera. It is here.

In Barot's files, we see the Brits have blacked out the following flow chart. Could it be a very dangerous terror plan?

Nothing of the sort! It's Barot's almost exact copy of an illustration from the Monterey paper. Mindless!

If that was not sufficiently perplexing, here is another meaninglessly redacted excerpt from Barot.

In this instance, the police have blacked-out the figures from a publicly available table on the health effects of ionizing radiation. For his journals, Barot put it in upside down. Here is the original.

It comes from Dr. Rosalie Bertell's, "No Immediate Danger, Prognosis for a Radioactive Earth" and it's here.

And for a more sufficiently absurd redaction, please to look at the following.

Here, the Metropolitan Police redact the name of physicist Steven E. Koonin and a brief discussion by him, published in the letters section of the journal of the American Physical Society in 2002. It's here.

DD could go on but believes the reader gets the picture. The dissection of Barot's journals show that the man, while deserving of jail for his scheming and wishful thinking, was not the type of person who can easily be used to make the case that al Qaeda is on the march. If their marchers are all like him, one might be moved to come up with a different assessment of the terrorist organization's powers.

Is al Qaeda on the march? DD doesn't know. He knows Dhiren Barot was a malicious crackpot with busy and ridiculous plans. Barot was not a breathe-a-sigh-of-relief victory in the war on terror but, more accurately, a piece of detritus rightly swept off the street.

However, this discussion shows once again that public perceptions about terrorism rely on their symbolic interpretation by mass media and experts.

In this particular case, it's still a mystery why so much of Barot's files were ridiculously blacked-out by British counter-terror men. Could it be because the true nature of them is somewhat less than fear-inspiring? Possibly. But one supposes bureaucratic ignorance, the embracing of the abundance-of-caution mantra and stupidity are as good an explanation as any.

If you enjoyed this analysis, you'll find -- Dhiren Barot and the Will of Allah -- equally fascinating.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

HEARTS AND MINDS: Great slogan for when things have tanked all over

Reading today's newspaper, DD spied one of the news stories from the Iraq front on winning "hearts and minds." They're always identical. Slot the pic of the Marine or the Army soldier, his hand outstretched to an Iraqi tyke in the rundown battle-scarred street. Look, there's the pic of the officer having to do a social dance with the local tribesmen.

One believes the soldiers are absolutely sincere in it. The thought also occurs that implementing the chocolates-and-nylons thing when large swaths of Baghdad are ghost towns, as the mainstream news puts it, is like trying to empty the war's ocean of hatreds, sorrows and pain, one thimbleful at a time.

"Hearts-and-minds" is just a slogan, utterly brain-dead, now good for any use or argument from the left and right.

Recent applications in varieties of groupthink, frequently ridiculous:

Brutal Reality of Battle for Hearts and Minds Sniper fire, ambushes, unseen enemies ... the US fight to win the trust of ordinary Iraqis is taking place in dirty alleys and ruined police stations. --The Guardian

" consistently protect the population from insurgent reprisals, thus winning the minds part of the hearts-and-minds struggle..." -- Wall Street Journal

Brits to spend lots of money to jolly-up Muslim community alienated by counter-terror lawmen during the past few years

"£5m 'hearts and minds' fund to fight Muslim extremism
"Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly said the 'battle for hearts and minds' cannot be won from Whitehall as she set out fresh guidance on the role town halls ..." -- Guardian

"A regime change occupation force achieves victory by winning the hearts and minds of the occupied people by dramatically improving living conditions improving living conditions, infrastructure and the economy. During the almost four-year U.S. occupation of Iraq, we have not come even close to accomplishing those objectives" --Ocala Star-Banner

Big news: A report you don't need to read states the obvious.

"Study: Western Troops Need to Battle for Arab Hearts and Minds ... [a bloated think tank run by old Brit white guys in London has issued a] report that the United States and its allies need to pay more attention to the hearts and minds of local populations in the battle against terrorism..." -- New York Times

"In short, [we] must recapture the hearts and minds of the world and remind them about the best of America's ideals and values..." --Harbus On-line

Talk's cheap.

"I think the lieutenants are going to be more critical in leading the units (in) engaging the population, in winning the hearts and minds of people..." -- Daily Press

Bars of chocolate, anyone?

"In Haditha, Marines patrol on foot, greeting Iraqis at a market, trying to win hearts and minds one at a time. In numerous communities, including Saqlawiya..." -- Los Angeles Times

"Despite America's latest efforts using local television to 'win Iraqi hearts and minds,' the truth is that the US long ago lost that battle..." -- Jihad Unspun

"Indeed, it is hard to envision how the United States can win the crucial battles for the hearts and minds of key populations if Bush remains President..." -- Baltimore Chronicle

"The United States is losing the hearts and minds of people in the Middle East by supporting dictators that act contrary to the people's needs." -- GW Hatchet

"[How many] dead and wounded American soldiers, will it take to persuade the Bush administration that we have not won the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people?" --Miami Herald

"However it has long been recognized that no war can be won without winning the 'hearts and minds' of the conquered people. -- PEJ News

"Have you come to conclude that 'winning hearts and minds' is better than bombing places? [Satirical pundit]: Using bombs and weapons is just a part of America's Arsenal." --

"Consequently, the US government has lost the hearts and minds of the Muslim people all over..." -- Sudan Tribune

"While we are losing the battle for hearts and minds in Iraq, American contractors are easily winning the battle, using waste, fraud and abuse ..." -- Macon Telegraph

Bars of chocolate and the Iraqi national anthem.

One U.S. unit operating in Iraq has found the best way to win hearts and minds is to put loudspeakers on mosques... The broadcasts include Iraqi top 40 music; news dispatches taken from the BBC and Al Jazeera, speeches by the governor and the police chief ... 'That's a pretty catchy song,' said Maj. Dan Zappa, the executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, responsible for security operations in some of the most contested areas of Ramadi. 'It's interspersed with popular music. We've got video of kids dancing, hundreds of them, jumping around.'"
-- UPI

Don't forget the Hershey's Kisses.

"[The local soldier's] current assignment is about reaching 'the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people,' he said. 'We are a lot more interactive with the people ...' --Arkansas City Traveler

A gift for understatement.

"So, because many ordinary Iraqis reacted to their presence less than enthusiastically, America has waged a battle for the hearts and minds ... " -- Sydney Morning Herald

General Physical Fitness, to the front.

"Petraeus is the best we have according to many Republicans and Democrats and I believe he should be given a chance to win over the hearts and minds ..." -- Delaware County Times

"In Mosul where Petraeus made a reputation as the one general who truly understood Arab hearts and minds, the town reverted to insurgent control within hours..." -- Counterpunch

"' Winning the hearts and minds - that's what it's all about,' said [some soldier], 32, of Chillicothe, MO." -- CBS News

Don't be a sissy, though.

"The Americans like to talk about the battle for hearts and minds. But you need to hold them by the balls. There has to be the threat of force." --The Australian

"' Muqtada Sadr is in our hearts and minds, and it doesn't matter where he is now for his supporters.' The crowd chanted in unison, 'Yes, yes, Muqtada...'"-- Los Angeles Times

It never hurts to be frankly mentally ill, either. Slate knob writes microwave weapons will help.

Through the media, more eyeballs, hearts, and minds could see the infrastructure we destroyed. The DOD proposed the development of weapons 'to incapacitate personnel or materiel, while minimizing fatalities, permanent injury to personnel, and undesired damage to property and the environment...' The nonlethal weapons program is a pacifist's dream." -- William Saleton, Slate

Shooting people with bean-bag rounds, stingballs, teargas and rubber bullets rather than standard slugs wins hearts and minds. (Caution: Everyone in this story, from the reporter to the interviewed, is mentally ill.)

"Officers on the range fired about a dozen different kinds of nonlethal ammunition, ranging from rubber bullets and sock-like beanbags to fat, hard foam-tipped rounds fired from the M203 grenade launcher that is often attached to M16s... They also tried out stingball grenades, which spread a hail of hard rubber pellets instead of shrapnel ... 'I guarantee you these will hurt. We aim for an area around the belt buckle or the large muscle area of the legs and the aim is stop you from throwing that rock at me,' Rockemann said. Rockemann, who fought in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and stayed there about seven months, said his course [on shooting people with rubber bullets]is fully booked ... 'We are in hearts-and-minds mode all over the world now,' Rockemann said."

Monday, February 19, 2007

WARGAMES FOR TWENTY BUCKS: The hobby of the overeducated, someone once said

Above is a screen shot of DD's A-10 Warthog overflying the virtual harbor of Novorossysk in the PC game, Lock On: Modern Air Combat.

Two ships are on fire after being strafed with depleted uranium slugs. Are they the right ships? It's hard to tell in the game until the mission is over.

Lock On is one in many episodes of DD's mostly futile life-long indulgence in wargames, the more complicated and impossible to play, the better.

Lock On, or LOMAC as its 100 percent guy man dude fanbase refers to it, is probably the most complicated combat flight simulator, ever. That doesn't mean it's like real life. Nope, it just means most complicated, ever -- richly complex.

Published around 2003-2004, it still hogs all the resources on computers born two years after it.

To cut costs, most of these types of games come with no printed manual. One is furnished a .pdf e-book, uncomfortable reading at any speed in front of the computer and an unacceptable print job at over 100-pages of information, little if any which really tells you how to play the game.

In its place are furnished filmic training tutorials in which one sits in front of the PC watching various test drives -- or flights -- conducted by one of the game's developers. You are encouraged to jump in at any time, whereupon it is revealed to you that it's really going to take a while to figure out the keypress combinations needed to use the modern cockpits included the game.

The learning curve is steep and it is one LOMAC players revel in. Be foolish enough to ask for help the wrong way in any of the on-line forums devoted to the game and you'll be sent packing, everything from your intelligence to your genitalia impugned.

BestBuy packs LOMAC with two other almost as difficult combat flight simulators for $20 and that is certainly some kind of deal. It may not be your deal and I am still not sure that it is mine but I'm a card-carrying professional when it comes to such things, having actually bought a first edition copy of the Avalon Hill game company's recreation of trench warfare in WWI, 1914, back in the Sixties. (But more on this later.)

In any case, it's six bucks for each game. Sounds good, maybe. That includes the reality that every such game comes with a raft of bugs to be researched on the Internet. Bugs can be squashed by downloading patches, which introduce new bugs or various additional quirks implemented by the developers. Even if you do your homework, you still have to cross your fingers and hope the game will be stable enough to run on your machine.

LOMAC runs here but after a weekend of free time spent upon it, DD has calculated it will take 4-8 months to be able to fly an A-10 Warthog adequately within the context of the game. One can toggle the 'invincible' switch and survive, sort of, but it takes a bit of self-delusion to confuse being hit by a missile with a near miss.

In this respect, the screenshot is a little misleading. When you see them thrillingly rendered on the back cover of the box, the fire and smoke looks great. You don't get the comment that it's virtually impossible to tell where your targets are until you're right on top of them, at which point your situation with regards to the opposition is very bad or you've overshot your mark. This screenshot depicts a lucky hit which took no less than an hour and a half of flying to attain.

LOMAC, like any similar computer game, provides artificial markers to help differentiate mission goals and targets. The game would be impossible without them.

In this, LOMAC is a good abstract teaching exercise. The lesson is once you play it you'll never believe the nonsense about precision weapons and minimizing collateral damage again. While it's merely a game, it is sufficiently maniacal in its zeal to mimic the behavior of weapons systems in a busy landscape that after suffering it, one cannot possibly sustain the TV mythology of the magic of US military technology. Spending a substantial part of one's time learning procedures also tends to quash any remaining gullibility.

The very point of LOMAC's existence is that it's difficult. The hardship is a substitute for realism. Since no computer simulation can do that -- my conviction, unswayed by the regular bathwater served on games as simulations in the press -- this is as fair a trade as any.

Which brings DD back to his first of many complicated wargames, 1914.

1914 was designed by Jim Dunnigan, the father of complicated wargaming. It contained hundreds of pieces constituting the armies of Germany, France and England on the western front.

It took a couple hours to place them on the mapboard, draw up some minor variant of the Schlieffen Plan on a special map scratchpad and then start the game. When you're fourteen, this goes by in a flash, although I could only convince a friend to play it once. (And then he didn't want to be my friend, which is another story.) 1914 rose and fell on the fact that it was an accurate abstraction of -- 1914.

After you'd gotten over the mercilessly momentary thrill of reducing the forts at Liege with your railway-mounted heavy artillery and marching through Belgium, the rest of the game was static-line trench warfare. Dunnigan's rules invited players to dig in, flip over the counters of their respective armies so that fog-of-war was emulated and all one could see was a trench-line, and have at it. Refight the Somme.

Despite all that, 1914 wasn't a radical loser. Avalon Hill kept it in print for years.

Dunnigan wrote in 1989 that circulation of Strategy & Tactics, a magazine he edited for hardcore wargamers, hit an "all-time high" of 37,000 in 1980. That meant 37,000 subscribers got one wargame in each issue of the mag alone.

This was a base, one in which many regularly purchased more than a single wargame a month. The 1989 issue of S&T, for example, included The Battle of Tsushima, a recreation of Togo's defeat of the Russian fleet off Korea in 1905, one of the more remarkable battles in naval warfare. In my edition, it's unpunched, meaning it was never played. A look at the rules reveals why: So earnest in the aim to make individual 1905 battleships real, you need a large notepad and an enjoyment of a good amount of arithmetic to play.

By 1989 I had two closets full of wargames, some of which became known, in the parlance, as "monster games." There were, for instance, the brightly red-colored boxes of Korsun Pocket and The Longest Day, respectively by People's War Games and Avalon Hill.

The Longest Day cost one hundred bucks, I think, and its rulebook belligerently claimed it was meant to played in setpieces.

After committing the military symbology of the Wehrmacht in France to memory, it took an afternoon to set up.

Developers came to think of this as a short period of time, "monster game-wise."

Korsun Pocket was even more daunting. Dealing with a Russian encirclement of a German army on Eastern Front of World War II, it was designed to give players a feel for the same slogging through the mud both armies suffered through. In this, the designer achieved exactly what he aimed for.

In the book, The Best of Board Wargaming, author Nicholas Palmer includes one chapter archly entitled: "The First Thousand Hours are the Hardest: Monster Games."

"Most wargames can be played in two to twenty hours," he wrote. " ' Quite long enough!' when you first enter the hobby. 'What sane person would spend longer than a whole weekend on a game?'

"Like an insidiously addictive drug, wargaming tends gradually to undermine this solidly commonsensical view."

Initially, I thought computers might alleviate problems associated with the "monster game." The computer provided resources and book-keeping for crunching set-ups, maps and complex procedures.

LOMAC, and others like it, unequivocally announce this is not the case. "Monster games" in any technology, like ideal gases, expand to fit the volume in which they are contained.

Monster board wargames expanded to fit the larger boxes and fancies of the hobby fifteen years ago. LOMAC-like monster games expand to fit whatever computing technology is available, again to fit the fancies of the hardcore hobbyist.

It is not a mainstream group but it is large enough to support wargame development.

Although 37,000 subscribers to Strategy & Tactics in 1980 does not sound like much, it takes only a short trip to eBay to find there is no shortage of monster board wargames, unpunched and unplayed, ready for resale at rather much less than what they originally cost retail.

Everytime a dinner guest sees DD's closet of old wargames, they are invariably moved to say, "I bet they're worth something on eBay." Then I have them with the ultimate rejoinder.

"Get a life," I say.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

TORTURE TAXI PILOTS ENJOY DIGS AT MED PLAYGROUNDS: Those CIA men really know the best places!

You're just halfway home from delivering some al Qaeda scumbag...innocent man to the torture Salt Pit in Afghanistan and where do you stay?

It was snowing back in the United States, so CIA torture taxi Aero Contractors pilots named in the German kidnapping case of Khalid Masri chose the Gran Melia Victoria luxury hotel on the island of Majorca. This, according to a story in today's Los Angeles Times entitled, " 'Ghost pilots' of the CIA's rendition team." (Sounds like a computer game!)

So in case you were wondering, no, you'll never be put in a diaper, drugged and chained to the floor at the Gran Melia! Instead, you can decompress at the elegant seaside restaurant, shown below.

And even if someone else is being waterboarded, don't furrow your brow! All you have to do is worry about views of the water and the babes -- in the ocean or at the swimming pool!

The Gran Melia is not the only gold star resort!

Another is the Royal Plaza Hotel on the island of Ibiza, also a well-known Mediterranean playground. While the CIA might be keeping other rooms dank and unseasonably cold for the unlawful combatant or person of interest, you certainly won't be cold in the Royal Plaza's cozy jacuzzis.

And if the thought of flying people you don't know anything about to torture chambers in lousy countries makes your conscience quiver, you can always assuage it with some pie at one of the nice buffets.

"On the flight back to Washington," wrote the Times, ". . . the rendition team celebrated by ordering 17 shrimp cocktails and three bottles of fine Spanish wine..."

Reader's note: The Los Angeles Times determined the names of the 'ghost pilots' wanted in the German kidnapping case. It knows where they live, down to an aquarium in one of the men's living rooms in Clayton, NC. However, it was not made clear in the article whether German authorities had the same information. The newspaper said it would not reveal actual names because the accused are charged only under their aliases, which the paper did publish. (Story not linked. Reason: Hidden behind registration procedure bull.)

Earlier: A different CIA man, one who enjoyed thirty buck cigars and dining at the Serbian Crown room.

Friday, February 16, 2007

BOMB IRAN: James Woolsey & The Short Count sing the hits of Vince Vance

Arnaud de Borchgrave, aka The Short Count, editor-at-large for United Press International, recruited by the CIA at least twice and author of the best-selling techno-thriller, The Spike, furnished a blast from the past in today's World Peace Herald commentary,
World War IV.

"In response to my question about how he rated the odds of a bombing campaign against Iran, R. James Woolsey, the former CIA director, hummed an answer for me on the sidewalk as we exited the Metropolitan Club [not to be confused with the Serbian Crown Room, which is not members-only]. It was a parody of the Beach Boys hit 'Barbara Ann': 'Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb-Bomb Iran.'

"Bombs-Away-Over-Iran has become a hot topic in the nation's capital. 'We're not going to invade Iran,' President Bush assures his audiences. But why invade, when you can bomb? Some see this as a Wagnerian exit from Iraq, others as a critical battle in World War IV," continued The Short Count.

They were humming the old novelty parody by Vince Vance & The Valiants.

DD recalls it from the Iranian hostage crisis and when a grad student in chemistry at Lehigh University. Although I can't tell you what radio station it was aired on, someone was playing it regularly in southeastern Pennsylvania in '80-'81 or so, as it was heard on a transistor set at the lab in Bethlehem.

Vince Vance is still alive and kicking.

"Vince Vance & the Valiants [have] recorded 22 singles, 11 albums of which two are number one hits: Bomb Iran of 1980-81, written during the Hostage Crisis, and All I Want for Christmas is You of 1989-2005," informs the website, rather genially.

The picture is apparently taken from a white-label pressing of single. White labels are generally sent around as promotional copies and the photo of this one was cadged from a net salesman of novelty records.

Vance's discography also shows he issued a single, "Bomb Iraq," to coincide with the start of the war in 2003.

While World War IV may commence in coming months, "The Metropolitan Club is one of Washington’s oldest and most valued private institutions. Since its founding in 1863, it has vigorously pursued its primary objectives of 'literary, mutual improvement and social purposes.' Its proximity to the White House and other seats of American power has made it among the world’s most fascinating waypoints for local, national and international leaders, including almost every U.S. President since Abraham Lincoln. The Club’s unique location and dedication to the traditions of social civility provide its members with a convenient haven from the bustle of Washington business while offering the amenities of contemporary urban living."

Bomb Iran, the reality: USAF strategy document on WMD program-neutralizing counterforce strikes.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

AN EX-CIA GREEDHEAD'S TASTE FOR THE RICH LIFE: In the process of being sent over

Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, a former executive director of the CIA, is entering the process of being sent to prison for accepting bribes from a friend who ran a series of shell companies in southern California.

His fifteen page indictment is here.

It contains a damning collection of suck-up e-mails to his friend, Brent Wilkes, and others, as well as a tally of rich tastes while at the agency.

While one does not wish to believe that higher-ups in the CIA are all in need of stringing up, reading the indictment doesn't do them or their clandestine service any favors. It is an aggravating litany of dumbshittery as well as overarching greed.

"From on or about July 6, 2001 to about November 3, 2004, [Kyle Foggo] was the senior officer in charge of support operations at an 'Overseas Location' and as such directed the Overseas Location's daily equipment supplying operations..." it starts.

"From on or about November 4, 2004 to about May 12, 2006, defendant Foggo was the Executive Director of the CIA (then the third highest position in the CIA), and as such directed the CIA's daily operations."

"From in or about 1993 through in or about 2005, defendant Foggo completed ethics training approximately eight times and served approximately two years as Deputy Ethics Official," continues the document, eliciting a horselaugh.

Foggo is accused of money laundering, committing fraud and "engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity," of essentially accepting rich bribes in goods, offers and material while coercing or arranging for CIA subordinates to award contracts to his friend, the crooked contractor, Brent Roger Wilkes.

The only thing the indictment does not reveal is where the CIA operations were that Foggo was screwing with in his quest for gain. Afghanistan? Iraq? Will we ever know?

Rich tastes, cigars, towering cakes, Russian beers and gypsy entertainers

"Wilkes paid for Foggo and his family to join Wilkes and his family for a vacation in Scotland. The vacation included over $12,000 in jet flights, over $4,000 for a helicopter ride to a round of golf, and over $44,000 for a stay at the Pitcastle Estate which included trout fishing on hill lochs, salmon fishing on the river Tay, clay pigeon shooting, archery and a seven person staff," relates the indictment.

"On or about January 28, Wilkes treated Foggo to a dinner at the Capital Grille, for which Wilkes paid $1,195.96, of which Foggo's pro rata share was approximately $398.65."

At one point one reads of Wilkes being given a contract, through Foggo's conniving, for the delivery of water to CIA personnel at a price which was a rip off, marked up 60 percent over what was formerly a going price.

If anything, Foggo obviously likes to eat very expensive food.

"Wilkes treated Foggo to a meal at the Serbian Crown Restaurant, for which Wilkes paid $733.65 . . . Wilkes gave Foggo an Ellie Bleu Cigar [sic] humidor" which cost "2,307.38."

Continuing the guide to fine dining, "Wilkes treated Foggo at Ruth's Chris Steak House in Fairfax, Virginia, for which Wilkes paid $902.33 ..."

Wilkes and Foggo entered into an agreement, according to the indictment, in which Wilkes would hire his friend upon the latter's retirement from CIA.

"I plan to retire in ca in three years," wrote Foggo in e-mail to a bank loan officer, according to the government. "...while I have a big offer from a company in California [Wilkes' shell firms] -- I may stay in the area due to my worth to local companies..."

Crooked former Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, now serving time, looks to be an informer for some of this. One can, perhaps, imagine him at the same tables at the Serbian room and the Capital Grille.

The Serbian Crown Room in Great Falls, Virginia, offers, "Gypsy entertainers and an accordionist who resembles an old-time Cossack soldier ... On top of that, The Serbian Crown offers an eclectic array of both Russian and French fare, with a smattering of wild game dishes thrown in for good measure. Given the tenor of the place, it’s also not surprising to find listed at least two dozen vodkas, nearly 20 vodka-based drinks, various flavored vodkas and Russian beer. With such a setting, it’s no wonder that patrons opt for the heavy, rich dishes better suited to Siberia. Take, for instance, the tender venison cutlets, served with a rich sauce and two poached fruits (good) and green beans (overcooked). The pirozki, tamed sausages wrapped in a flaky pastry and sauced, is a good starter. If you are up to dessert, a server will wheel to you a tiered dessert cart with elegant towering cakes and pastries. Perhaps in the end you may just decide to order shots of vodka and caviar, lean back to soak up the background music and dream of far off lands."

Pictured above, an Elie Bleu Cigar humidor, priced at $2,300+ which you can put in your on-line shopping cart here. With 75 smokes, that comes to about $30.66 per.

Related travel: The Mediterranean Digs of torture taxi pilots: a short tour in promotional pictures.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

SILVER BULLETS FOR BIODEFENSE: Pentagon budget explained

Defensetech explains DoD's future budgeting for biochemical defense here. Defensetech breaks down the big numbers so you don't have to and outlines the glomming onto of the idea that old-timey medicine and biochemistry aren't good enough anymore. Nope, what's needed is a new approach, one called the Transformative Medical Technology Initiative.

Defensetech explains:

"The TMTI is the latest 'good idea' from OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense], where DoD is basically sending a hell of a lot of money to industry to find 'silver bullets' - a therapeutic that will address a broad range of BW threats, instead of a 'single vaccine-single disease' approach."

If you know anything about microbiology, biochemistry or medicine, you'll recognize this as nothing less than the product of a committee of Bush administration Pentagon appointees, people who must -- by definition, be scientifically illiterate, calling for a nonsensical God-like power to cure everything.

It is crap science dressed up as big science.

And in the coming years there will be no shortage of snake-oil salesmen from industry and academia leveraging it. Lunging for a share of taxpayer dollars, they will make promises to DoD, promises they will never be able to keep.

In the interest of winning the war on terror, Dod will not dream or be in any position to say nay to them.

Naturally, everyone would surely love to have silver-bullet cures for the plagues of man.

However, diseases only slowly relinquish their grasp on the human condition.

What was once considered one of the signal silver-bullet cures, the antibiotic known as penicillin, bane to Gram positive bacterial disease -- has not eliminated all sickness.

Indeed, in the history of bacterial afflictions, antibiotics have had only a brief history in the sun. Renewing them is one of the more pressing problems in medicine.

So when contemplating the often bewildering, even to the highly trained, complexity of mechanisms required to conquer prosaic microbial diseases, what is demonstrated is that -- with regards to DoD's war on bioterror -- what is really being asked for is nothing less than the magical.

How did this idea, the foolish and unrealistic wish for silver bullet cures, become entrenched as a driving force in the fight against alleged imminent bioterrorism?

One could write a slim book on the subject.

But for the sake of brevity, the wish for such global cures has always been with us.

It is a very human wish.

However, with regards to the case of bioterrorism and what to do about it, government wishful thinking is driven by the belief that the future enemies of America have a facile ability to create diseases of infinite variety.

Faced with such an insoluble dilemma, the only answer is to present the insane as sane, to come up with something which sounds good but which is actually nonsense.

And that's where the TMTI comes in.

Funding through DoD for research on defense against bioterrorism is not going to transform the health of the world. Malaria, among many other common diseases, will not be obliterated as a byproduct of Pentagon directives to counter designer bioterrorism.

Again, if one accepts the simplistic idea that designer diseases are or will be easy to create, the problem of fighting them becomes soluble only when one fabricates nuts ideas which sound good to laymen, deus ex machinas, novelistic and miraculous interventions which set the world right.

An example of one such weird idea to fight the future of designer bioterror is, simply, "education."

As explained in an essay delivered privately to DD by e-mail some months ago by a scientist who has gone before congress in making a name for himself as a doom monger in the area, students of science are to be discouraged from becoming future designer disease developers by explaining that such work is icky, gross and immoral.

The way to do this, it is claimed, is to inculcate in students a belief that being a disease developer is like being a pedophile.

DD laughed on reading it. Did we pay for this? Besides the fact that your average American undergrad science student can barely manage a streak plate or a Gram stain, what an effin' great idea!

Related: Out of the Box and Bottle a news item at GlobalSecurity.Org, from a couple years ago. Read carefully on the patent application, funded by the US Army as well as DARPA, for what amounts to gold-plated bullshit, an alleged miraculous cure for disease agents covering everything from viruses to bacteria.

Anti-bioterror device to purify blood.

The disease designers are coming. And we're stuck cowering behind the Maginot Line of modern medicine.

"High-power microwave weapons may be on the verge of a high-speed turn toward the practical," writes Aviation Week reporter David Fulghum here.

As a reporter for the trade pub, Fulghum's been part of the electromagnetic pulse lobby for the past fifteen years or so, writing about the miracle electromagnetic weapons that are always coming but never quite arriving. They are always on the verge of a high-speed turn toward the practical, so to speak.

The writing on our microwave cannons and their pulses has always been pathological.

Big plans have been afoot for fifteen years. A revolution in warfare and technology greater than anything we can imagine is nigh upon us, and all you have to do is read the rumor and jargon-riddled copy for the scoop.

"An advanced concept, pioneered by BAE Systems' researchers, uses light to multiply the speed and power at which [high power microwave electromagnetic pulses] --powerful enough to destroy enemy electronics--can be produced without the need for explosives or huge electrical generators," it is claimed.

Next, produce the boffin to deliver extraordinary but unsupported claims on his greatest new technology.

" ... BAE Systems researchers claim they have made a singular leap in HPM weapons technology ... Furthermore, the technology is scalable through the use of 4-in.-square arrays, each an integrated structure of dielectrics and electrical conductors. One hundred of them distributed over a square meter, for example, can generate up to 10 gigawatts of power, says Robert D'Amico, BAE Systems' director of advanced programs.

"We have shown everything we claimed with a laboratory testbed," says Oved Zucker, director of photonics programs for BAE Systems' advanced concepts facility here."

All is within reach of the electromagnetic pulse weaponeers.

"[We] extend from the sledgehammer to just making the [computer's] brain a little bit befuddled so it can't think for a moment."

The electromagnetic pulse weapon is good for everything. It is a Swiss Army knife of technology.

Mount it on a ship to destroy an enemy's navy. Just aim it at their bridges.

Put it in the F-16, the F-15, the F-18, hell -- everything that flies. Shoot it all over the place and the foe's entire air force, his cruise missiles, his surface-to-air rockets, they all come crashing down! Total victory, finally, within our grasp!

Tune in next year for the same story.

But our enemies are also sizing us for an electromagnetic pulse of doom overcoat.

The Chinese, for example, are planning to strike with nuclear electromagnetic pulsing, write the usual suspects.

"Leading analysts of the murky world of Chinese shashoujian weapons are growing suspicious that China will aim to counter its perceived enemies with anti-satellite and directed-energy systems, micro-satellite configurations and jamming weaponry," writes some nerd for The Guardian.

"Worrisome, too, is the potential to detonate nuclear devices in space, releasing an electromagnetic pulse that could cripple space assets in the targeted vicinity."

And the electromagnetic pulse attack coming to America, this time from Iran, is all the fault of the craven liberal Democrats, the greatest traitors this country has ever seen.

"Let me tell you the consequences of this impending defeat in Iraq," growls a security man for World Net Daily.

"A nuclear-armed Iran, now feeling invincible after a showdown with 'the Great Satan,' will attempt to use its new arsenal against America and the West. They may do so through the use of terrorist proxies. They may attempt to do so with an offshore attack using crude Scud missiles – perhaps even with an effort to produce an electromagnetic pulse that wipes out America's electrical grid and the circuit boards that represent the lifeblood of our technology society."

". . . This is the predicament Americans have placed us in today – Americans like Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, John Warner and Chuck Hagel ... these Americans actively doing the bidding of our enemies deserve a special place in the history books of betrayal and cowardice."

Also into the fray jumps Arnaud de Borchgrave, the Short Count, editor-at-large for United Press International, recruited by the CIA at least twice and author of the best-selling techno-thriller, The Spike.

"China also has -- untested -- the ultimate weapon to silence an enemy: the E-bomb, or electromagnetic pulse," he declares. "In the nosecone of an ICBM, or even MRBM, set to explode at an altitude of 75 miles above the east coast of the United States, EMPs can knock out all communications (except small handheld radios) from Maine to Florida and from Manhattan to the Mississippi River."


"How to take down the computer-driven sinews of a modern industrialized state quickly became a top priority for the major powers and Israel," writes the Short Count.

"Since then the United States has more than matched China's arsenal of cyberweapons -- from ultra sophisticated logic bombs, to Trojan horses, worms, viruses and denial of service decoys."

"China is looking at asymmetrical warfare, such as electromagnetic pulse attacks, to help overcome American advantages," writes another Republican manning the ramparts.

"However, such strategies, while preventing Washington from taking its superiority for granted, cannot defeat the US. To do so would require more traditional means. Concludes Gen. Zhu Chenghu: his country has 'no capability to fight a conventional war against the United States.'"

And out in Deseret, Utah, one woman doggedly keeps her electromagnetic pulse attack vigil.

"Let's say she's driving down Parleys Canyon and all of a sudden the radio station she's listening to goes off the air and her car stalls and she looks around and all the other cars on the road are stopped too," writes a newspaper. "[Sharon Packer] has pictured this scenario many times."

"This will be a signal that the country has been the victim of an electromagnetic pulse attack. EMP — the intense electrical pulse produced when even a small nuclear bomb is detonated at high altitudes — is Packer's biggest worry. In less than a second, the pulse can melt the wires of every piece of solid-state electronics, and the entire electrical system, in the United States."

"The probability of an EMP attack gets larger every day, she says, because 'a whole lot of people are developing weapons, and some of these people are not very responsible.' . . . Even a country with one low-yield bomb, deployed from a missile shot from a freighter in U.S. coastal waters to an altitude of 200 miles, could turn the United States into a Third World country within moments, she says. The damage is so swift that most lightning-protective devices are useless."

"An EMP isn't dangerous to our health," adds the newspaper helpfully.

Only a few people in the country recognize the danger of electromagnetic pulse attack, continues the newspaper.

One of them is Lowell Wood, a crackpot nuclear weapons scientist also involved in saving the world from global warming by thinking how to duplicate the eruption of Krakatoa with eleven mile high kevlar soot stacks.

Packer is spreading the testimony, already well spread, by Wood "that 'even a modest, single-explosion EMP attack on the United States might well devastate us as a modern, post-industrial nation.'"

It is time to shake people out of their "denial and inactivity" with regards to electromagnetic pulsing menace, she told the newspaper.

Previously, on Electromagnetic Pulse of Doom ...
THIRTY MINUTE DIRGE: And then it really slows down

Tuesday morning music break over at, a review of Orthodox, a trio of young men from Seville, Spain, who play three dirges on their new CD. One is thirty minutes long, another only thirteen or so.

Their heroes were a heavy metal band called Sleep. Sleep were never successful but infamous for an album entitled Jerusalem, a sixty minute-long dirge about smoking pot as a religion. That means the Orthodox fellows are nuts but nuts and thirty minutes long is the coin of the realm within the genre they have chosen to make their own.

In 1999, on Sleep, from Amazon's reviews page:

Sleep succeeds at putting listener into coma! One star.

May 13, 1999

Although Jerusalem rates a big goose egg as standard hard rock entertainment, I give it a solid "5" -- perfect -- as fractured high concept. It is entertaining indeed to picture the frozen grimaces on the faces of record execs at London -- the major label that paid for Jerusalem -- as the tape rolled for the first time. Heads must've rolled. Excellent, Sleep, for making a record that is so solid a raspberry to everything the "pro" record labels stand for. Unfortunately, a 52-minute dirge metal treatise to the religion of pot smoking doesn't quite make it as a repeated listening experience any more than David Peel's Have a Marijuana did decades ago. That said, at times the guitar, bass and drum rumble is occasionally awe-inspiring. Pike's lead breaks -- there are only three of 'em, all short -- capture the early Seventies-Brit Sabbath sound perfectly. Heavy as lead pseudo-religious treacle about harvesting dope. Singular in a dumb, cunning kind of way! Go, men, go!

If that sounds groovy, then find a pro review of Orthodox here. Be relieved the quality of mercy is not strained. The streamed tune is only three minutes in length.

Monday, February 12, 2007

TECHNO-THRILLING: Toe-to-toe and tit-for-tat with Iran, ripped from today's headlines

Thrill readers with chillingly realistic descriptions of warfare and roadside bombs ripped from today's headlines! No, it's not from the front pages of the Los Angeles and New York dailies on Explosively Formed Projectiles, made by Iran, in Iraq. It's just ad copy from the back of Dale Brown's 1996 techno-thriller, Shadows of Steel, a book in which the United States wages a stealth bombing campaign over Iran in order to brush back its powermad leaders.

Behold (and read the fine print)!

The headlines on Iran read too much like the start of a techno-thriller. The President is backed into a corner in his campaign to get tough with Iran. No one believes him with regards to unusual weapons, evidence and mounting Iranian menace. "With two US warship groups in the Persian Gulf, the allegations raised suspicion that the Bush administration was trying to build a case for war, much as it had used [phony] intelligence reports to win support for the US-invasion of Iraq," wrote the LA Times today.

Everything your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow knows and holds dear concerning techno-thrillers comes first from the work of Dale Brown.

In Shadows of Steel, as well as his other novels, Brown was well ahead of the curve in the use of corporate mercenaries in the battlezone. Indeed, it is the idea of a corporation, one that flies advanced aerospace weapons, which burns through Shadows of Steel.

For SoS, An American intelligence agency has been using a mixed military and corporate special operations team to aid a United Arab Emirates strike on an Iranian base in the middle of the Persian Gulf. (Abu Musa! Use Google maps!) The Iranians react badly, sink an American spy ship and capture part of its crew. Tit-for-tat ensues and a very special stealth bomber is dispatched to destroy the Iranian war machine.

The missions are top secret and special weapons -- bombs filled with acid and superglue (!) -- are used to minimize collateral damage. Acid-throwing is against the law! But there's still plenty of gunfire, killing and victory. In the end, the Iranians are vanquished. In Dale Brown's book, there are only about three of them, anyway, as cartoon characters. All of them are douchebags, like impressions of Ahmadinejad -- only a decade early.

Naturally, since the Iranians have virtually no military capable of standing up to a USAF/USN assault, the author has to go to some length to prop them up for the sake of combat action. In the case of SoS, he gives them the old never-completed Russian aircraft carrier, Varyag, sold to the Chinese, who lease it to the Iranians, rechristened as the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Throughout the book, Americans thirst to sink the Khomeini but in the spirit of minimizing the loss of life and creating a disaster which touches off an even deadlier war, the aircraft carrier is only damaged. The Chinese then decline to renew its lease and take it back.

It's quite a contrivance. (Who is to speak of contrivances now, anyway?)

However, it an entertaining one, if no longer in a dead serious way, and it took only about an hour and a half to read the book cover to cover again this weekend. At the book's beginning, Brown excerpts bits of newswires from 1994. "Let the shout of 'Death to America' ring loud in the desert as a clear expression of ... opposition..." is one Iranian attribution.

Throughout, the Iranians regard America as weak. Sounds familiar. They've said it for decades, big guys that they are, and now we all know it by heart!

DD still thinks it's a coin toss whether or not America goes to war with Iran. The momentum for has much in its favor: Two nations which view each other with contempt, fog of war, and an escalating ladder of hostility just closing in on a shoving match.

Maybe it's time to throw out the techno-thrilling script -- or just leave it to the writers of fiction.

Writing about sex isn't a strong suit of techno-thriller authors, no matter how successful they become. There's one sex passage in Shadows of Steel.

"She had an athlete's body, but it obviously had not been shaped in a gym or a spa ... it had been chiseled out in the harsh highlands and deserts of the Middle East, exercised by carrying guns and cameras, and hardened by numerous confrontations with soldiers and interrogators . . . her body was a weapon, but at least not for the next few precious minutes, it was not going to be used to kill or to spy."

Yabba-yabba-yow! Pistol whip my johnson with your sidearm!
THE HOME JIHADI'S REMEDY FOR ATHLETE'S FOOT: Chapati flour, peroxide, Mountain Dew. CDs of Meatloaf and video of 'Meet the Fokkers,' optional

Monday lunch-time PST humor break. Much to the world's great amusement and laughter, the terror trial of the Chapati Flour Gang has informed on the alleged -- make that really alleged -- efficacy of bombs made from ridiculous materials.

However, the next is just in from the net, a recipe for the curing of Athlete's Foot, the common fungal infection. It makes a little more sense than the formulation of the Chapati Flour Gang.
Instructions: mix flour and peroxide together then add a little Mountian Dew. The mixture should be like a paste. Put the paste on your feet. Then put on a pair of clean holy socks. go to bed and when you wake up take off the socks and soak feet in cold water. Finally rinse feet, be sure to get all of the paste off feet. *IF THE PASTE BURNS IT IS WORKING ... Apply twice a week.

From a home remedy page for Athlete's Foot here.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

WHAT WOULD THE WEHRMACHT DO? Rob Peter to pay Paul, shift units from A to B and back, change generals like air filters

Today's bit of information comes by way of David Isenberg, a fellow national security affairs analyst, writing in the Asia Times.

The US Army's being worn down in Iraq. That's the salient message and the complete write-up is here.

Last week your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow was going to put up an index for readers, one excerpting from the mind-numbing invocations of the phrase -- "military overstretched" -- in the public debate. But my mind became overstretched and worn-out reading them so I wrote about the nice game found in the closet, Megafortress.

Isenberg puts a tally on the American fighting vehicles blown up in action in Iraq: " ... 20 M1 Abrams tanks, 50 Bradley
fighting vehicles, 20 Stryker wheeled combat vehicles, 20 M113 armored personnel carriers, and 250 Humvees. The number of vehicles lost in battle comes to nearly 1,000 after adding in heavy and medium trucks and trailers, mine-clearing vehicles, and Fox wheeled reconnaissance vehicles..."

What would the Wehrmacht do? It's a thought experiment.

The US ground military in Iraq is faced with a conflict it can't win, like the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front after Stalingrad.

Although the nature of the conflict is utterly different (the existence of the USA is not threatened if it leaves the battlefield), as well as the actual manpower, the strategic, tactical, social and political problems are similar in that they're insoluble within constraints imposed by reality, no matter who takes the wheel.

So philosophically, considering what the US Army and the Marine Corps ought to do is about as worthwhile a problem as trying to puzzle out how the Wehrmacht could have won by changing deployments, the moving of units into and out of various theatres and jiggering a few battles here and there. What if the panzers had made it to the Meuse during the Battle of the Bulge? What if the endless offensive to pacify Diyala province keeps finding insurgent ammo dumps? What if we capture more Iranians and interdict the flow of those special explosive-packed cylinders? What if the Germans hadn't lost 300-400 tanks at Prokhorovka?

Since there are no real options for US ground forces other than enduring the Bush presidency and hoping that a change in leadership will withdraw them from the battlefield, the only thing that can be done is what the Wehrmacht did -- rob Peter to pay Paul, switch troops from here to there or dribble them in or out and back again.

Early last month, this blog covered similar ground.

Part of the 'What would the Wehrmacht do' collection: here -- here -- and here.

Friday, February 09, 2007

FRIDAY AFTERNOON GAME CLUB: Bombing Iran, popular entertainment in 1992

Today's newspaper started off with a story on virtual reality games made for and by the military. It's an evergreen story and always features the same characters. In this case, once again the reporter shleps to San Diego to play a video game designed to help veterans deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.

USC's Institute for Creative Technologies is also given the puff treatment, a place that's always received a free ride. The journalists covering it can't resist the joy of being treated like kings for a day while getting to play with the latest toy. The toys, in ICT's case, have always been advertised as miraculous amalgams of Hollywood's most creative and the cutting edge of the military, the coming together of which fashions little more than immersive console games on combat roleplay action suitable for BestBuy stores.

The boffins involved have ready slogans. In today's case: "From training to toy to treatment," says one. It's enough to make one gag. The reader is asked to swallow some horseshit about how the video game will treat Alzheimer's patients.

Since DD's mother suffers from severe senile dementia, I can assure you this is nothing more than the emptiest of brags.

If curing Alzheimer's as well as post-traumatic stress through video gaming isn't enough for you, ". . . ride atop a Hummvee," entices the newspaper. Do it here.

What is somewhat surprising is that the characters in these newspaper pieces never get the swift kick in the pants they deserve. They cry out for someone to rap them smartly in the teeth with the print version of a baseball bat.

In Ed Halter's From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Video Games, published last year, the ICT videogame makers were given ample space. Halter's book, a very good one, points out not everyone was impressed by the US Army's bankrolling of a USC institute to produce games which just aren't that useful, for sale at your favorite consumer electronics big box store.

The Institute produced Full Spectrum Warrior, allegedly a training tool which also found its way to game stores. In it, one is in Zekistan to fight an insurgency. [It's OK to laugh superciliously now.] It can be assumed at this juncture that everyone at the table must realize, no matter how numbingly besotted with game technology, that Iraq/Zekistan is way beyond what a game might help with.

Halter writes a taxpaper group called ICT's product "full spectrum welfare" -- "a subpar training aid" that had "become a hit video game."

"Maybe [the taxpayer group] isn't looking at this the right way. ICT stands in a long tradition of defense-funded think tanks and now that the subsidized sector is the entertainment industry, one might consider it a new form of massive funding for the arts," writes Halter, a little puckishly, I ... think. Sometimes it's hard to tell.

In any case, it's impossible to read anything about ICT without getting the usual brags and puffery about incredibly brainy people and "Rad experiment in progress."

And all of this is just a DD way to ease into a slightly different discussion on antique PC wargames.

Looking into closets earlier in the week, your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow was surprised to find how many titles involved bombing Iran -- back in the early Nineties.

While all the companies are now out of business, there were two popular titles from Microprose -- F-117A Stealth Fighter and F-15 Strike Eagle II. Three-Sixty Pacific, a small company devoted to wargaming as entertainment, published Megafortress, a game which put you inside techno-thriller author Dale Brown's "Old Dog" -- a souped up B-52. Unsurprisingly, it visited every one of the nations that would vie to become part of the famous Axis of Evil. Megafortress, riding on the fanbase of Dale Brown, one that overlapped male PC hobbyists to a certain extent, spawned two add ons, Operation Sledgehammer -- aimed at Iran and Libya and pictured above, and Operation Skymaster.

And these were only a slice of the full spectrum of combat flight simulators -- DD using the term 'simulator' loosely.

Today, they certainly look like antiques. If you squint at the Megafortress box, above, you can see you could supposedly run it under DOS 2.1. The original game was squeezed onto one 3.5 inch diskette.

DD was a beta tester for Sledgehammer, ergo the 'not for sale' banner on the box.

Megafortress was ambitious in that it made a game out of a not particularly exciting arc of job skills: Sitting in a strategic bomber, flying slowly to and from the target, and commencing to bomb, usually in such a way as to make it impossible to see what is going on.

As such, it's an exercise in the learning of the game's flight procedures, which buttons to push and knobs to twirl. (In the above pic from the manual, all the knobs and switches do actually work, even a windshield wiper in the upper lefthand corner. Since there was almost no view, the player had to be able to do something!)

One must manage the electrical system of the B-52, among others, a task that becomes somewhat challenging in an annoying way once a couple of the engines catch fire from enemies shooting at you.

All missions take place at night. The lighting is very dim as the player switches from the cockpit, to the navigator's console, or to the radar and bombing shacks. If you want to go sight-seeing, forget it. Get back to your fuel and engine panel.

Megafortress was prescient in its assumption that the B-52 would remain in front line operation. However, its designers missed the coming of the Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM. There are a wide variety of "smart bombs" -- but no JDAM. The crown jewels in Megafortress were televion camera-guided heavy bombs.

Surprisingly, DD could still get Megafortress to run on a modern machine. The sound routines no longer work but this actually adds to the flying coffin-like claustrophobia of it. And for some reason, the game makes the clock go crazy on an XP box, necessitating resetting it when you return to the Desktop from DOS.

The art on these games was old ANSI digital paintings, the moving images rendered in vibrating polygons. I thought it was pretty special in 1992, even lugging it and a computer to a vacation in the Outer Banks for play on rainy days. What did I know, though?

Megafortress fit a peculiar taste, one that no longer seems to exist anywhere in virtual world gaming.

By today's standards, it can't be made into a movie like a console game. And it doesn't require much of the fast and coordinated muscle twitch.

One has to love buttons and procedures or opening the flight manual on your knees to see what to do as things begin to break down. Patience is a virtue. The missions are long and very boring until they suddenly become frustrating with lit warning lights, the player hitting the Escape key so as not to be killed and frozen out in the game's active roster.

DD liked Megafortress and, surprsingly, still does. Enough apparently did to keep it in stores for awhile in the early Nineties. However, along with many other similar wargames, the genre became moribund and company went under in 1994.

In days to come, DD will get to other games designed for the military. Some don't get much publicity, like this one, probably because the average young patron of consumer electronic stores considers them no fun at all.

An essay on recent current events at Dale Brown's personal website,
KILL JOY: Richard Clarke offs famous vi editor

Readers will remember I dissed the idea of Richard Clarke's new technothriller about a month ago here.

This was a hasty decision, one it is time to partially retract.

For El Reg, DD produced a detailed review of Breakpoint.
Richard Clarke, the world's most famous security expert, has a new book entitled Breakpoint. A techno-thriller, it takes its place among its equivalents, romance fictions for American men, a genre for combining combat action porn with loving trademarked descriptions of weapons. The men in this story get hard over firearms, scotch and a chardonnay named Kistler.

However, it's as silly to condemn the genre as it is to disrespect hotdogs as not proper food. Techno-thrillers have made up a necessary part of the book rack in supermarkets for the last few decades and many Americans probably wouldn't buy anything with print in it if they didn't see it near the checkout stand.

Read here if you want to see the rest but be advised, it's loaded with spoilers.

What makes Breakpoint a bit of an eyebrow-raiser is Clarke's inclusion of Bill Joy, a famous computer programmer who invented the vi editor. You probably don't remember it but vi was an editor that made writing doable in cyberspace at connection speeds of 1200-2400 baud. This may seem quaint in today's world of high speed and buggy bloatware but DD can assure you it was anything but.

In Breakpoint, Joy is portrayed slightly unflatteringly as a central character named William Gaudium. Get it? If not, look here.

Teamed with Joy in Clarke's novel is Jerry Boykin, of all people. Boykin, to refresh your memory is America's top commando and an evangelizing religious fanatic who got into trouble mixing his beliefs with his role in the war on terror. See here among other places.

Now don't you want to know how it ends?

Clarke installs the standard slight legal wave-off in the author's preamble on all the characters being works of fiction and if one recognizes them one is surely mistaken. Ha-ha, nice try.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

BRING IT ON SEZ THE IRANIAN: On getting what you wish for

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow estimates it's a simple coin toss to determine whether or not the United States stumbles into a war with Iran. It's heads we win, tails they lose.

Perhaps it's not that bad, as a WAG, wild-assed guess -- a 50/50 chance of action.

From today's New York Times one reads of one of Iran's leaders giving a pep talk to his troops.
“Our enemies know very well that any aggression will have a response from all sides by Iranian people on their interests all over the world,” said [Mr. Ali Khamenei] in a meeting with air force commanders, according to the ISNA student news agency.

“Iranian people should not get scared of such issues . . . ” -- meaning being bombed mercilessly by the United States.

"The country’s Revolutionary Guards said today that they had tested a new land-to-sea missile that could sink big warships," reported the newspaper.

“These missiles, with a maximum range of 350 kilometers, can hit different kinds of big warships in all of the Persian Gulf, all of the Sea of Oman and the north of the Indian Ocean...”

Translated: We'll try to sink your supercarriers.

However, this contingency has been gamed rather thoroughly in Operation Radiating Rubble.

In that simulation, one in which the United States Air Force and two supercarrier battle groups launch an assault on Iran's southern military district, it is very hard for the Iranian military to touch a supercarrier. Gamed over a dozen times, the Iranian navy and air force were almost never able to get close to decisive action with a USN battle group. In one instance, one hit was achieved, one that did not hinder operations siginificantly.

History and the boilerplate statistics of military technology are not in the Iranian military's favor.

However, Operation Radiating Rubble was simply an abstraction, not real. And reality has a way of surprising you. They could do better. Or they could do even worse than was gamed, which was pretty bad.

The Iranian military is forced to fight a battle-experienced force far superior in capability and it will have to do it at night. It has no experience in this kind of war, one it will have to fight when facing the USAF and USN.

Those parts of the Iranian military operating forward toward American units disappear almost immediately. The USAF and carrier-based aviation inexorably destroys the Iranian air force and extends a free fire zone over the country.

The Los Angeles Times also ran a frontpage piece raising the idea that many people in Iran may be dismayed by the prospect of war with the United States.

Unfortunately, implies the newspaper, they are not in a position to do anything about it, sort of like Americans with respect to George W. Bush's escalation in Iraq.

"Many in Iran are aghast at the idea that a nation that spent eight years at war with neighboring Iraq could be in for another conflict," reported the newspaper.

"Iranians are working and they are trying to have better education for their sons and daughters and all that will be destroyed with one strike."

But it goes without saying that for every statement like this, the newspaper balances it with another from the opposite side, making the arguments a cancellation, just as in the United States.

" . . . we can make the Persian Gulf the tomb of the United States of America," said one Iranian politician, according to the newspaper. "They are weak."

Often wars start when the combatants not only don't understand each other but also hold each other in mutual contempt. They then work independently to figure out a way to get what they want, at which point things start blowing up.

See The Bedford Incident.

Richard Widmark as USN destroyer captain: If he fires one, I'll fire one."

Weapons officer on tense bridge: "Fire one!" And the ASROC missile flies hot and true but not before the targeted Russian sub gets one off.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

PAZZ & JOP 2006 MUSIC POLL: DD's ballot, not for all markets

For the past six years DD has participated in the Village Voice's yearly music poll. It collects the ballots of around five hundred (!) pop music kritiks, tabulates the results by assigned points and lists the alleged best albums released for the year.

Quite naturally, DD is always near the bottom of the list in shared enthusiasms. Another music journalist has always crunched the numbers and posted them to his website as a critical alignment rating. It'shere and if you click through to it, interpret it thusly: The closer to the bottom, the more unique the ballot. In other words, the fewer others shared your tastes in the poll.

DD's ballot is here -- good enough to rank me 470 among around 500. And that's moving up in the world. In past years, if memory serves, DD has actually had ballots where zero records listed on it were shared with the other skillion critics. This year's count is three: Joan Jett's Sinner, Leanne Kingwell's Show Ya What and Jesus H. Christ & the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse.

Here's the list and linked reviews from the blog:

1 Leanne Kingwell -- Show Ya What
2 The Who -- The Endless Wire
3 Jesus H. Christ & The Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse
4 Def Leppard -- Yeah!
5 The Kentucky Headhunters -- Flying Under the Radar
6 Cheap Trick -- Rockford
7 Various Artists Hollywood Hairspray, Vol. 5
8 Solar Anus -- Skull Alcoholic
9 Joan Jett & the Blackhearts -- Sinner
10 Witchfinder General -- Live '83

Sorry, no review of Solar Anus, a Japanese hard rock band that sounded a little like Budgie, except with incomprehensible Jap lyrics, of course.

Because the Voice poll only allows the listing of ten, a lot of things DD was quite fond of can't be packed in.

There was Girls Got Rhythm, a compilation of all girl heavy metal tribute bands. You simply must be entertained by the idea of an all girl band named Cheap Chick doing a cover of "Surrender." Ditto for Mistress of Reality doing "Fairies Wear Boots."

Pat Travers' PT Power Trio 2 was 70's classic stadium rock for the purist.

Include Pentagram's First Daze Here Too, a double-pressing of demo tapes from a hard rock band stuck in Maryland in the 70's. The essay it comes with is a hoot, a glorious tale of failure showing that they got as far as having members of Kiss come to their house to watch a rehearsal, only to be told they didn't look good and had bad skin. Such people, I like.

2006's Top Albums, according to the Voice poll, here.

Spoiler alert! Bob Dylan.
WEAPON OF THE WEEK: TV show on bombs as cheap Viagra

Back when we were all younger and happier, DD wrote a column called "Weapon of the Week" for the Village Voice. It was pitched as a satirical alternative to the trend in war journalism in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. At the time, our great newsmedia was pumping the polity full of stories about the great and wondrous technology we would be using on Saddam. All those super bombs would defeat the enemy in an instant without killing anyone but those who deserved it.

What rubbish it was. And it was easy to lampoon. All I had to do was watch cable news and pick up a couple daily newspapers to find some reporter or TV man going on about the "Mother of All Bombs" or some special thermobaric explosive that was going to kill Osama bin Laden in his cave or Saddam in his underground bunker. Those really worked good, didn't they? Well, as told in Dr. Strangelove, it's not fair to condemn an entire program for just a couple slip-ups.

Anyway, you don't see bomb journalism, anymore. Somehow, the same reporters who furnished all the original comedy on wonder weapons are no longer interested.

And that's a shame. Our bombs still need the love!

No one understands this more than the MILITARY CHANNEL, at slot number 116 on my cable box.

There are a couple of shows for the loving of bombs on every day but the one being pushed hardest is "Futureweapons." Hosted by an ex-Navy Seal with a shaven head, it is 50 percent pure entertainment and 50 percent outright falsehoods, which actually adds to its unintended fun factor.

Last night's segment was devoted to American weapons which are made purely to strike fear into the heart of the enemy.

The climax of the show was a bit on the MOAB, or previously mentioned "Mother of All Bombs."

Back in 2003, this is what I wrote:
Exultation over the new MOAB—perhaps the ugliest and most stupid of new weapons in the U.S. armory—reveals a poverty of intellect and heart in the country. A clumsy multi-ton monster bomb tested in Florida last week has no practical war purpose other than terror, in a military whose signal achievement in the last decade has been to make smaller weapons unerringly accurate.

The MOAB is the natural result of allowing munitions engineers to run amok, a design by the aggressively mediocre who in a better time and place would be sent into early retirement for the good of the taxpayer.

The Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or Mother of All Bombs (quite the rib-tickler), is so big it must be shoved out the tail of a lumbering transport plane on a sled attached to a drag parachute. This means MOAB can only be used against the helpless—an enemy who cannot shoot back because its air force has already been utterly smashed, its anti-aircraft missile network erased from the target area. A very large, undefended mosque would be a good hit for MOAB—meeting the bomb's criterion of use for "psychological" effect.

An idiot stationed in the Pentagon TV newsroom jabbered about the MOAB's "guidance" by Global Positioning System—great precision being unnecessary on the 21,000-pound bomb, another clue to its construction by government-sanctioned ninnies.

A small part of the blame for the MOAB must go to Dynetics, one more in a dismaying number of corporations that exist to provide applications in mayhem. The company's logo on the MOAB's tail was probably thought of as a coup in corporate advertising, although a bracing "Fuck You!" might have better created the impression that the thing was made by real people rather than a labful of killer androids on Eglin Air Force Base.

The MOAB is said to be a long-awaited improvement on the 15,000-pound Commando Vault ("Daisy Cutter") bomb, a canister of aluminum powder mixed in a slurry originally made to clear landing spaces of underbrush and demolish minefields. Daisy Cutters were used in Gulf War I and again in Afghanistan, to no obvious effect other than the creation of media and Pentagon erections. These cost $27,000 and change per bang, so even allowing for a three-ton increase in weight, MOAB should be cheap by Defense Department standards.

If the MOAB makes an appearance over Iraq, count on it to be enthusiastically superfluous due to the military axiom: A handful of really big bombs dropped in the open can't compare to thousands of much smaller ones smashing through windows, doorways, and hidey-holes.

The MOAB made no appearance in Iraq, a fact that probably annoyed the producers of "Futureweapons" ever so slightly. But the show did take viewers out to the town near Eglin Air Force Base to interview a few locals in a diner about the wonder of it. "Wow, aren't we Americans the best at this stuff!" was the general opinion.

The shows host added that the mere existence of the MOAB convinced the Iraqis they had to surrender. What a funny guy!

And the segment did answer the question on whether or not the MOAB was made by killer androids. It wasn't. It was designed by someone named Fred Davis. Way to go, Fred.

The Navy Seal described the MOAB as a precision-guided bomb with all sorts of bells and whistles without once noting the incongruity of the fact that you can't use it on anyone who shoots back because you have to push it out the back of slow transport plane, the C-130.

There also was a loud huzzah for the MOAB being the largest non-nuclear combat weapon, ever. This is unfair to the English who developed the Tall Boy and Grand Slam bombs, which were actually used in World War II against the battleship Tirpitz and submarine pens. (See here.)

Speaking of Navy Seals, while the human kind hosts "Futureweapons," DD once wrote about a real Navy seal named Zak. Just before war, Zak was sent to the Persian Gulf to defend our ships from treacherous Iraqi frogmen, the kind that didn't exist.

That's Zak above showing some mean pride as well as an impressive set of choppers.

I thought of him when reading lately of how we shot up every dinghy and rowboat in the Iraqi navy and how we were having to buy new dinghies and rowboats so the Iraqis could kinda-sorta help out defending their southern oil terminal.

Three years have passed and DD now wonders what happened to Zak? Had he been hit by stop loss orders and signed on for additional tours of duty? Had he been recruited for a win-hearts-and-minds campaign? "Come down to the waterfront and feed a fish to Zak instead of driving that one ton of explosives into the Green Zone today!" Or had Zak been allowed to come home to the sunny waters of San Diego?

The originals on MOAB and Zak.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

AMERICA'S THE HAMMER, THE REST OF YA ARE NAILS: Strategic appetite for destruction

In a Los Angeles Times story from yesterday, "Defense budget: big as a tank," our military chiefs were trotted forth to explain how the most gargantuan military budget in the history of the world needs to be expanded. Of course, that's expected when things are going bad.

Whenever there are nails in the world no longer receptive to being hammered because they've been hammered in as far as they can go, or they're bent over, a ruined wart of metal -- like Iraq -- it's not time to stop hammering. It's time to get a bigger hammer!

So DD is going to skip all the funny massaging of figures and ass backwards way of looking at budget requests the Times reporter, Peter Spiegel, is compelled to trot out to make readers think national defense is sliding into penury and soon we won't have a regiment of tanks to defend your home on Maple Street.

A navy admiral, Michael G. Mullen, spoke to the Times -- and here he used a very funny term, a Strangelovian one, to explain why the US military needs to buy a bigger hammer.

". . . it just isn't enough for the strategic appetite, and the strategic appetite is tied directly to the world we're living in."

Whoah, Nelly! Strategic appetite!

Webster's defines "appetite:" "a desire to satisfy some craving."

DD has no idea where Mullen comes from. He certainly has nothing in common with anyone I've ever met, twisting around the need to explain why the Pentagon needs more money by framing it as a craving for strategic reach.

It's not enough that the US military can maim any other conventional military in the world within a couple weeks of red hot strategic no-holds barred action. We need more. We hunger for more. How well-reasoned.

Spiegel doesn't bat an eye at the quote. Most of our defense journalists never would. What they would do, and this is what occurs, is then to produce some brief exposition that supports the illogical, that is -- makes it sound normal, rather than pathological.

One expects to see words like "challenges" to explain things and this is exactly what is written.

" . . . the challenges presented by other adversaries," claims the newspaper.

Other adversaries, you see, always present challenges. And not challenges meaning that beating them to a pulp presents a challenge that the current US military can rise to but a challenge in the sense that there is a need for more to cover things people can't even think of, just in case.

For example, the nail is not particularly well defined, or even looked at from the nail's point of view.

Would not Iran or North Korea currently find it challenging to face the US military?

Well, of course they would! As GS Senior Fellow, DD bets they'd be challenged right up to the point of extirpation.

There is one argument that Spiegel trots out, allegedly gained by interview, that is worth listening to. But as usual, it's glued on backwards.

The needs of the strategic appetite are " part, a reflection of a view held by many throughout the armed services that the military is the only US institution bearing the burden of the Iraq war. In interviews and in comments reported by superior officers, many veterans have argued that the US hardly seems like a country at war, with civilians making little sacrifice even as troops put their lives on the line."

That's true. The current US model is to wage war without involving everyone and our military men have had a decades working long and hard with political leaders in the crafting of it.

The argument is a stupid one to make without asking what exactly are you, or me, supposed to do about it. Send letters and care packages?

DD has read, until sick to death, of how the US military doesn't want a drafted military force. Yet a drafted force won World War II.

In the recently published book, Sea of Thunder, it is amply illustrated that US waged war in the Pacific alone with much more of a military and national investment than is present in today's conflict in Iraq. In fact, the US deployment to Iraq, in fighting manpower on the ground, isn't even equivalent to Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps, one of the Wehrmacht's smaller world theatre commitments, before we and the English drove the Nazis out of North Africa in WWII.

The answer to the argument is a political third rail: STFU and call for a draft. If you're unwilling to have a national debate on it, have the good grace to stop pleading to get more into everyone's wallet in order to buy more toys.

Read your own damn war histories. Stop playing dumb with the salesmen. It is nothing more than a charade to complain about the entire country not bearing the brunt of the war when one is unwilling to discuss it in terms other than begging for more money.

If the military wants to establish a bigger strategic reserve in manpower because it is necessary to satisfy a strategic appetite, a good way to do it is to have a draft. The best military in the world isn't just an all volunteer force.

DD is sure there must be many people in the US military who would welcome, might even encourage, such a debate. What exactly is the strategic appetite? And does the craving need to be satsified or should it be treated, like a disease, by maybe putting in the equivalent of a stomach staple. So why can't we hear from more military men instead of just the Mullens on strategic appetites?

Note: Once again, DD will not send you to the Los Angeles Times website. As explained previously, the LAT runs a web presence that is reader hostile and often illogical. It withdraws content behind registration walls that are not enforced throughout the parent company. Therefore, if you cannot read a story by one of its reporters on-line, you simply go to another paper in the chain, like the Baltimore Sun.

The link here -- of the original LA Times piece discussed above, is just one such example.

It's a damn shame, and fundamentally absurd that the reporter who wrote the story which was distributed throughout the chain cannot be read by all on his own newspaper site.

Why is this? Ask them, they're the ones with the idiot's strategy for on-the-web news. DD is a subscriber to the print version of the Los Angeles Times and enjoys his copy everyday over an early lunch.

Earlier stories of interest: Sea of Thunder and Operation Radiating Rubble.

Monday, February 05, 2007

THE CHAPATI FLOUR GANG: Chapati and Meatloaf?

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow has copied over some photos from the trial of the Chapati Flour Gang Jihadis in London. Circulated from the English court to the media, their purpose is to argue the prosecution's point that bombs made from flour and an indeterminate homebrew concentrate of salon peroxide are credible.

DD has maintained they're not but that it's a somewhat irrelevant issue. Intent to cause great harm appears obvious and gross stupidity in the would-be bombers isn't an ameliorating factor.

The above photo is of the stove from al Qaeda's Chapati Flour Gang center of operations, a small apartment. Ostensibly, it is to show how the salon peroxide was cooked.

The next photo is one of seized bottles of said peroxide.

And the last photo is one of an abandoned Chapati Flour Gang bomb.

Note the washers and bolts wishfully taped to the outside of what looks like a small tub of mushy chapati flour. The scoop from the upper corner is probably where authorities removed the detonator.

"In the kitchen was a corroded stove on which prosecutors say [the Chapati Flour Gang] boiled-down the peroxide hair bleach to make it stronger before mixing it with chapati flour, related the English press. "The oven was streaked with chemicals on the front, Woolwich Crown Court in South London was told."

"And on the [stove] rings was one of the pans used in the condensing process, it is alleged. A microwave oven next to the cooker had been left pockmarked by splashes.

"The alleged 21/7 bomb-making factory contained Meatloaf and Michael Bolton CDs, a court heard yesterday," another report added.

Making "bombs" from chapati flour and peroxide bleach to "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," among other tunes, sets an interesting scene.

In any case, the reader is left to make the determination. Which is more logically used in bomb-making? High explosive or chapati flour and beauty salon fluids.

Remember, no points in the real world for MacGyver-isms or breaches in the application of common sense.

One ton of explosive consisting of mortar rounds, artillery shells and rocket bombs in a truck? Or a plastic tub oozing chapati flour and peroxide?

Chapati flour and peroxide from London. It it like TNT, something really akin to "more than 1,100 mortar rounds buried in a stash just south of Baghdad ... a 'supermarket-type cache.'"


Prediction: If the US mainstream media chooses to eventually cover or summarize the trial, reporters and editors will also portray the Chapati Flour Gang as adept demolitions experts who slipped up by accident.

Chapatti Flour Gang Convicted.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

SNOBS RULE MUSIC JOURNALISM AT NEWSPAPER: Albums are dead and it's the revolution-solution

Sunday's always snob day in the Calendar section of the Los Angeles Times.

Like the other few very big dailies of the nation, it's the day the reporter trots out the big feature he or she's been working over all week, the one that has to establish some unified field theory in pop music, or find the right kind of intelligent and cultured musicians to expose to readers. Or both.

The lede piece was Ann Powers' the-album's-dead-nope-maybe-isn't-if-people-take-my-advice article. The New York Times had someone do this, too, back in December. (See here. No one listens to 'em, it's all iPods and piracy, go die already geezers.)

"The album as a format is dead," writes Powers. "It is so, so dead that it's obituary has been written approximately 981 in the past five years (that's how many times the phrase 'death of the album' came up when I put the phrase into a Google search."

Friendly advice: Because something is in a database one thousand times doesn't make it so. Check bioterror inevitable or it's easy for terrorists to [do fill-in-the-blank].

In any case, directly below Powers' article on the death of the album and Fall Out Boy's insistence that theirs will be the one to resurrect it, comes the second feature.

"How's this for a concept album: Jim Morrison's spirit summons a collective of Internet-savvy artist-activist-environmentalists to slip the surly bonds and attend a party up on high," writes Susan Carpenter.

It would be funny if Carpenter had an obvious sense of humor. Although surely a nice lady in person, Carpenter is a Times features writer who is always the snob in print.

Writing on books or music or consumer goods, she just can't help it. Everything is either the most expensive, the biggest, the bestest, the brightest, the most precious or something exceptional.

Normally, she's been writing for the automotive section. A weirder match couldn't be found because the Times car section, Highway One, is anchored by relentlessy unsnobby and merciless reviews.

But not Carpenter's work.

She writes only about breaking the speed limit with the most expensive and high-powered motorcycles money can buy. When they're not the most high-powered, they're the weirdest, like a Russian Army-built one that comes with a sidecar, one you can't afford, either.

For today's article, it's description after description about how intellectually, physically and spiritually top rank Perry Farrell is.

" . . . [he] shows them the pollution and the melting solar ice caps, then sends his party guests back to earth where they are christened as Solutionists and charged with saving the world."

"What he's setting to music: The 'revolution solution.'"

Now you might think such a thing cries out for lampooning. But the Times would never allow such a supercilious bird in its music section.

". . . Farrell's tight-fitting T-shirt and jeans showing off his low-fat physique, a string of red semi-precious stones demonstrating his allegiance to Native American philosophy . . . Farrell's is the ultimate in cosmic thinking . . . cosmic as in universal, as in visionary, as in the product of extensive reading, study and drive."

"Farrell seems especially affected by William McDonough and Michael Braungart's book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, about rethinking the manner in which objects are designed so they don't rot in a landfill but devolve into reusable 'technical nutrients.' "

Carpenter goes on but the reader gets the idea. If she were a horse, the thing to do would be to take her out, way way out to the most verdant pasture, letting her there to nibble grass and other nutrient-filled shrubs while pondering the ineffable goodness of the sky.

That being the case, Carpenter is easy to lampoon.

A few years ago, the Times published a feature on a local pop dance band called Dengue Fever. DD took it straight, cut-and-paste from the newspaper, leaving much of the structure of the original intact but souping up into super-Carpenter-style.

Remember, this is to be read with the straightest demeanor, else it would not be fit for coverage by many of the newspaper's music reporters. It's not funny, damnit!

Dengue Fever catching on!

If you can imagine a band where a Cambodian beauty queen shares the stage with Fidel Castro, Harry Truman, "Hooray for the Salvation Army Band" Bill Cosby and Michael Hutchence, you'd have a pretty good idea of the band Dengue Fever.

A well-executed experiment in the patenting of weirdos, the Silver Lake six piece is the sound of two cultures -- and eras: rollicking Sixties Beach Boys and psychedelic music translated into Khmer for the girl from Phnom Penh to sing.

During a show at Santa Monica Feeble Bar on Ivar last week, Dengue Fever surprised more than a few listeners. Warmed up by a Chilean singer-songwriter who wore a sanitary napkin on his head ala John Lennon in LA exile from Yoko Ono, singer Nyquol danced around the stage in a too-tight pair of Cambodian bridal bloomers. After belting out lines in Khmer and talking to the crowd in broken English, the band passed a hat. It was quickly filled.

The band was not surprised. Crowds always "go mental" at their shows, band members say. In 2002, when the group made its live debut at hipster hangout Spaceland in Silver Lake, "even white guys in tight pants with chew tobacco tins in their back pockets were dancing," said the bassist.

Guys with chew tobacco tins in their back pockets are rare in Silver Lake, but there's something in the combination of Beach Boy lyrics in Khmer and bridal bloomers that inspires.

To look at the audience during a performance is to see dozens of faces admiring the singer as if she were some sort of exotic animal in a zoo, like the giraffe with the giant kink in its neck now on display at the Santa Barbara Zoo.

The 23-yearold singer is Cambodian, not Cambodian-American, which would spoil the stilted novelty of this article and the band's official bio.

Band members Ethan and Zac Holtzman, who think of themselves as Cambodians, too, were trawling Little Phnom Penh in LA when they discovered their front girl singing in a market. Both had wanted a real Cambodian singer ever since 1997, when they visited southeast Asia and became hooked on the local psychedelic rock.

Zac Holtzman explains Cambodians went crazy for psychedelic music shortly after a B-52 was shot down over the country during the Nixon Administration's secret bombing campaign. The B-52, with "The Devil's Music" painted on its nose, carried cassettes of Jimi Hendrix, the Jefferson Airplane and the Beach Boys, which were listened to intently by scavengers combing the wreckage.

On the band's debut, Phenom-Penh, there are only two original songs. The rest as Sixties numbers translated into official Khmer. Especially exciting is a version of "If 6 was 9," which in Khmer means *&Y34 ^ ==!@, a southeast Asian wish to live long and prosper.

Friday, February 02, 2007


Sometimes DD has to pick up the guitar and let some good humor emerge. Last weekend, "It's a Gas" was tracked. In addition to yours truly, it features celebrity Richard Clarke on guest vocal, taken from a computer virus emergency, one in which a digital beast was about to "launch a big ol' D-O-S" -- as in denial-of-service attack -- on our great nation, many years ago. Rhythmically, it works kind of nicely.

"It's a Gas" was also the single on a record, allegedly "sung" by Alfred E. Neuman, and put into MAD magazine in the late Sixties. "It's a gas!" someone would yell after a gay Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs type of riff, and the guy playing Alfred E. would let out a variety of belches, some of them genuinely ferocious. It was a laff riot.

I also used to be fond of the music from Hee-haw. Two guys did a spoons and knee-slapping thing just about every show, punctuated with snappy mouth noises. That was really great as was the weekly rendition of Buck Owens' "Pfft You Were Gone."

Remember "Where, where are you tonight, why did you leave me here all alone?"

"It's a Gas" is here. Tech note: The Internet saw fit to put a millisecond drop-out into the song. It doesn't ruin the idea and it's not your equipment malfunctioning. And I'll fix it the next time I upload.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

NICK FURY'S PR MAN: Pull-ups, push-ups, dips and sit-ups -- David Petraeus can do more of them than you

The next bit on David Petraeus is pure over-the-top apple-polishing, the kind only a really bad newspaper would print.

In the past couple weeks Petraeus has been compared to Robert E. Lee, T.E. Lawrence, Steve Jobs and Obi Wan Kenobi. He has been repeatedly called the most brilliant man in the military, something which may be more than a little annoying to others in the service who do not consider themselves to be dullards. In the next segment, he's compared to David, the David from the Goliath fairy tale. Never mind that we Americans, with respect to war in Iraq in 2003, were enthusiastic about being Goliath taking down the much lessers of the world.

As a nation, the US is addicted to self-praise, even moreso when the times are ridiculously inappropriate. The more wretchedly we're doing, the more witlessly we brag.

From the Orlando Sentinel:

"During my tour with Petraeus, from 2004-2005, he proved to be an unbelievably energetic and upbeat man. He had an internal power source that enabled him to operate at 100 percent throttle all the time ... But while Petraeus is a skillful program administrator, he is still at his core, an infantry officer and a soldier. He has the most acute attention to detail I have ever seen in a military officer, but he isn't a micromanager or an obsessive-compulsive."

"I've seen him do on the spot corrections on soldiers who were wearing the uniform incorrectly or mispronounced Arabic words. Little things mattered to him, but didn't consume him. He once trained a lieutenant colonel on how to properly wear her Kevlar helmet, adjusting the straps himself..."

Strength through joy of physical fitness

"His days started before the sun came up with 5-mile runs and some calisthenics in the gym. He was known throughout the Army as a gym rat who was regularly challenged by soldiers in pushups, pull-ups, dips and sit-ups. In Army folklore, there is a tale of a brawny soldier, decades younger than Petraeus, who asked him how many pushups he was going to do that morning. Petraeus responded with a smile: 'One more than you.'..."

Petraeus was a drill sergeant, coach, teacher, commander, cheerleader, pace-car driver, chief executive officer, father, manager and mentor. I was lucky to have been his [p.r. man] in Iraq...

"There is no doubt that selecting Petraeus to lead the mission in Iraq is a smart move. I am puzzled that it didn't happen sooner, but now King heading back to Iraq for his third tour...

"We're about to watch David slay Goliath, and I'm excited..."
WAR ON TERROR-OSIS: Nation loses sense of humor, suffers collective nervous breakdown

"We're the laughing stock," said Tracy O'Connor, 34, to the Associated Press.

"It's almost too easy to be a terrorist these days," said another twenty-something girl. "You stick a box on a corner and you can shut down a city."

It's true. The government, newsmedia and the counter-terror industry have worked so hard to gin up fear over terrorism and what it's allegedly easy for terrorists to do, common sense is absent from the playing field. DD has written about the it's easy concept more than anyone else and what it has meant for the country and pursuit of terrorists, real and imagined.

The latest news, which your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow assumes you've seen, comes as a furor over a marketing ploy for Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Never seen it.

However, in promotion of the show, electronic boxes displaying one of its animated characters flipping the bird were placed in cities around the country. In Boston, the mayor and the bomb squad flipped out at the flipping lights, roiling various transportation lines and clogging things up in their zeal for removing the items, which were said to look suspicious.

The problem was they looked like what they were. Harmless. And DD reckons a bomb squad man, if he wasn't incompetent, certainly knew it upon examination of one. At which point, some common sense could have been deployed, a few phone calls made, and the arrests of harmless people and the bloviating on the calumnies of such pranks after 9/11 avoided.

However, the nation lost its collective sense of humor and ability to laugh at itself long ago. It has so allowed the manipulators of fear to run wild in the name of security, it is a bit astonishing to DD that more people aren't arrested. In this respect, terrorists have won.

When someone is booked on something as silly as a viral marketing campaign for a cartoon, we've shown that our country has made the work of terrorists easy.

Last summer, the Los Angeles Times ran a promotion for "Mission Impossible III." It involved putting movie theme music players into newspaper boxes. At the time, DD was picking up the Times at the corner in one such box. I was slightly surprised by the music and amused by the contraption in the box. It was poorly installed and had wires coming from it.

However, I work from the belief, informed by some real experience, that terrorists don't seem to be as clever as our leaders would have everyone think, in spite of one bad day. They were not going to be in Pasadena at the corner of Sierra Bonita, one block north of Colorado to ambush a couple of people near the coffee-making company. They're in London, being sent over for trying to make bombs out of flour and hydrogen peroxide, or WMDs from thousands of smoke detectors.

In any case, the same thing happened with the Mission Impossible III promotion. It was mistaken for bombs.

"A newspaper promotion for Tom Cruise’s upcoming “Mission: Impossible III” got off to an explosive start when a county arson squad blew up a news rack, thinking it contained a bomb," wrote one news story.

"The confusion: the Los Angeles Times rack was fitted with a digital musical device designed to play the “Mission: Impossible” theme song when the door was opened. But in some cases, the red plastic boxes with protruding wires were jarred loose and dropped onto the stack of newspapers inside, alarming customers.

"Sheriff’s officials said they rendered the news rack in this suburb 35 miles north of downtown Los Angeles 'safe' after being called to the scene Friday by a concerned individual who thought he’d seen a bomb."

In today's Los Angeles Times was an article telling of how the federal government was immediately going to sue the paper and the moviemaker for the year old stunt. Forgotten, it now comes about as a direct result of the arrests and confusion resulting from the Aqua Teen Hunger Force promotion.

The local federal attorney tied the Times promotion to an incidence at the VA Medical Center in LA. "The VA sustained damages as a result of the evacuation," claimed the DA. And an evacuation occured because a music player was mistaken for a bomb at the hospital. "Our preliminary estimate of the VA's loss is $92,855.77."

An estimate of damages, down to seventy-seven cents! One would laugh if it weren't so sad, an indication that an authority has lost her mind to the war on terror.

Returning to the Aqua Teen Hunger Force promo, "[the] New York Police Department removed 41 of the devices — 38 in Manhattan and three in Brooklyn, according to spokesman Paul Browne," wrote AP. "The NYPD had not received any complaints. But when it became aware of the situation, it contacted Cartoon Network, which provided the locations so the devices could be removed."

Another annoying item to be gleaned from these imbroglios is that alleged government information sharing, the kind that actually might benefit people, still isn't so hot. Other cities, like New York and Philadelphia, knew of the gadgets but no one bothered to get their heads together and send out informative memos to peers. No one appeared to pick up the phone to say, "Hey, don't lose your shirt if you see this."

Or perhaps they did pick up the phone and no one answered or it was impossible to get through. Can you get through to anyone at a company or a government agency? Of course not. You get a phone maze and robots.