Thursday, November 29, 2007

US NURSES TERROR CASE IN PRESS: Grim prospects for Hassan Abujihaad

"A former US navy sailor, already charged with divulging classified ship movements to British extremists linked to al Qaeda, also discussed details of a previously undisclosed plan to attack a San Diego military bases in late 2006 with at least two other men, authorities said Wednesday."

Appearing in today's Los Angeles Times, it continued the mainstream media's fair to very poor coverage of the case against an angry and troubled man who has, so far, been charged with terrorism on the basis of some orders for video tapes and rash e-mails back in 2001.

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow wrote about the case for the Register here in "Loose Mouth and Loose Change: $5 dollar tip leads to terror finance charge."

If one peruses the original indictment and evidentiary exhibits logged against Abujihaad, the charges were thin. (DD recommends you do so. They're linked to on my server from the Reg piece.)

Abujihaad bought videos from Azzam Publications and Babar Ahmad, a London computer programmer locked up since 2004 and awaiting extradition for trial to the US, for running a website that promoted Islamic fighters in Bosnia, Chechnya, and Afghanistan, according to the press.

As for sending classified documents to Ahmad, what Abujihaad did do ... is send rash e-mail, including orders for videotapes from the Benfold, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer upon which he served.

Among these communications was one in which Abujihaad generally addressed the time of the movement of the Benfold's surface action group through the Strait of Hormuz. This was sensitive information, says the government and it is reasonable to believe it. In the e-mail, he also described a very general vulnerability of an asset in the group. In the government indictment, prosecutors misrepresent it in attempting to polish the case against him.

Abujihaad's primary sin is extremely poor judgment. He corresponded with Babar Ahmad, a man the US government has been trying to get to trial in this country very badly. Abujihaad also called the government of the United States "scary pussies" in mail to Ahmad. Once this was recovered from a diskette in Ahmad's possession in London in 2004, its inflammatory content insured lawmen would pursue Abujihaad.

However, examination of the indictments and what exactly Abujihaad revealed constitutes lame stuff.

Originally, the most serious matter was Abujihaad telling Babar Ahmad when the Benfold's surface action group was transiting the Strait of Hormuz prior to Iraqi Freedom. He writes Azzam, informing his battle group is "to hold up [UN] sanctions against Iraq ... There is the possibility that [the group] will carry out a strike against Afghanistan: Main targets: Usama and the Mujahideen, Taliban, etc ... The [battle group] will be going through the straits of Hormuz on April 29, 2001 at night."

The idea that the US military was moving to strike at Osama bin Laden was not classified information. It was something everyone knew.

The serviceman then includes some general information, which may appear sensitive to laymen, on his ship group. However, the same can be found in many open source public information websites on the US military. In the affidavit, the prosecution draws attention to the statement, "Weakness: They have nothing to stop a small craft with RPG etc except their Seals' Stinger missiles." In the complaint, it's presented out of context by the government, seeming to indicate Abujihaad is revealing something secret, like how to attack the battlegroup's large ships. Actually, he's indicating SEALs in boarding party boats don't have big heavy weapons, which constitutes more functional open source information, no matter its context.

The other accusation, that Abujihaad was financially aiding a terror organization, stemmed from the purchase of three videotapes from Azzam Publications, run by Babar Ahamd. There was a mix-up in the order with the result that Abujihaad overpaid Azzam by five dollars. He told the organization to keep the change.

"Dear Brothers, you guys can keep the remaining $5.00 and [add it] to the funds that you Brothers are spending in the way of Allah and the great Websites .. Azzam Pub," he wrote.

Since the original article, the case against Abujihaad has crept along.

Occasionally, the US government has shown up in the press to deliver more accusations of plots by him in connection with an aquaintance named Derrick Shareef and an undercover informant named William Crisman acting as a stool pigeon for the FBI.

"According to a court motion filed by federal prospecutors that was unsealed Wednesday, Shareef and Abujihaad talked in 2003 while they were roomates in Phoenix of attacking a military recruiting station, in 2004 proposed attacking the unspecified San Diego military base; and in 2006 took concrete steps to produce such an attack," wrote the Times.

"Prosecutors are seeking to introduce evidence of the alleged plot for the trial, set for next month. That evidence includes wiretaps, statements from the [stool pigeon] -- himself a central participant in the alleged conspiracy -- and 'efforts to obtain weapons and ammunition in connection with the proposed sniper attack,' said the 123-page motion.

"The prosecutors said Shareef and Abujihaad conspired to commit sedition, or to "put down the government of the United States ... '"

Reading accounts of the case reveal only muddy pictures. Abujihaad had been under surveillance by the government for some time and it is a bit of a mystery as to why the new accusations against him had not surfaced earlier. As retold by the Times, they read more seriously than Abujihaad's tipping of Azzam Publications five dollars for three videotapes and the brief information given on the squadron he was serving in. On the other hand, they also can be viewed as evidence that an informant may have been leading Abujihaad.

"Prosecutors acknowledged that in several [wiretapped] calls, the informant appears to be initiating efforts to proceed with the plot and to buy weapons," wrote the Times. 'But that's not the only evidence the government has,' said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case."

One critical part of the story comes in this Times paragraph:

"Authorities would not say whether [Derrick Shareef], who faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, was cooperating in the investigation of Abujihaad. That investigation focuses at least in part on the former navy signalman's ties to al Qaeda affiliated extremists in Britain, including a prominent religious leader Babar Ahmad."

"The Ahmad component [in England includes] a number of highly inflated allegations which many might conclude would have the net effect of bolstering the US government's efforts to extradite him," wrote an editor in an addition to DD's original on the Abujihaad case in April. "The Ahmad campaign's initial reaction can be found here while Ahmad remains unextradited [to the US,] although his remaining avenues of appeal appear slim.

"The British Government have submitted their response to the European Court of Human Rights, after being granted a second extension," writes Ahmad's support website recently. "Babar Ahmad’s solicitors, from Birnberg Peirce and Partners, are now due to make final representations to Europe by the 4th December 2007.

"Previously, the President of the Grand Chamber in the European Court requested that a hold be placed on the extradition, to allow them to give the case 'proper consideration'.

"If the European Court of Human Rights refuses to intervene, then no other appeal stage remains and Babar would be extradited to the US imminently.

"Babar Ahmad's family stated: 'We hope that the European Court will decide that Babar should not be extradited, especially without a prima facie case. The assurance given by the US Embassy is not sufficient, in our opinion, to safeguard Babar's Human Rights. We continue to have hope whilst remaining positive and pray for Babar's swift return.'"

" ... Babar Ahmad is accused of running websites supporting Chechen and Taliban rebels."

The Los Angeles Times, for its part in today's story, publishes material that is misleading. In view of the original evidence gathered on Abujihaad and Azzam Publications/Babar Ahmad and presented in the original indictment, most of the material pertaining to it in the newspaper is exaggerated by varying degrees. It is also presented out of context.

"Authorities have charged Abujihaad with providing extremist websites operated by Ahmad and others with classified information about the location of Navy ships [This is only very generally true. It is absolutely false from a tactical military standpoint --DD] and the best ways to attack them."

"Abujihaad exchanged e-mail messages with Ahmad while on active duty on the guided missile destroyer Benfold in 2000 and 2001, according to an FBI affidavit," continued the Times today. "Abujihaad also praised al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and those who attacked the US destroyer Cole in 2000, the affidavit said."

Except Abujihaad never praised Osama bin Laden outright. If one consults the original indictment and e-mails submitted to the court for the case, the FBI does not mention Abujihaad praising Osama bin Laden.

What Abujihaad wrote in e-mail from 2001 was this (style and errors preserved):

"I am a muslim station onboard a us warship currently operating depolyed to the arabian gulf. it shall be noted that before usama's latest video was viewed by massive people all over the world. that psychological anxiety had already set in on america's forces everywhere. all this is due to the martyrdom operation against the uss cole."

The rest of it is here as .pdf. While the tone of it is unpleasant and Abujihaad mouthy and odious in support of his religion, he never really says what the FBI and government describe him as saying in interviews/leaks to newspaper reporters. While it certainly does the defendant no favors, it is not quite the case that it is advertised as. And it gives some indication, along with $5 dollar tip to Azzam described as aiding al Qaeda, as to why the government has been attempting to bring extra evidence against him.

Hassan Abujihaad's e-mail to Azzam on his ship group from 2001.

Complete original here as .pdf.

All documents retrieved from the PACER access to US courts system in April.

Abujihaad's PACER file had not been updated with additional materials reported by the LA Times as of today.

Ex-sailor accused of plotting to attack San Diego base.

Associated Press covered further motions prior to the Abujihaad case today. In court, prosecutors apparently played edited calls covering discussions between Derrick Shareef and Abujihaad.

"Federal prosecutors played secretly recorded phone calls Thursday as they tried to show how a former Navy sailor charged with supporting terrorism spoke in code about a plot to attack military personnel," reported AP, as published by Newsday.

"[Abujihaad] is accused of disclosing the location of Navy ships and the best ways to attack them," it continued. "Abu-Jihaad has denied passing along any secret information on Navy ships." (See image of "secret" information above.)

"Prosecutors have not charged [Abujihaad] in alleged schemes to attack the recruiting offices or personnel, but are trying to get them admitted as evidence to bolster their case when the trial starts in February. The plots were never carried out."

"Lawyers for [Abujihaad have argued that some phone calls and other evidence, such as e-mail searches, were illegally obtained and should be thrown out."

"In one call, [Abujihaad], a left-hander, is asking specifically about obtaining left-handed weapons, prosecutors say," continues the report. "He also is heard allegedly pledging support to Shareef in vague terms."

" 'I'm down, you know what I'm saying ... with whatever I can ... with whatever Allah has instilled me to ... help out with ... if I can do that, then I'm for it ... and I'll say it again, with whatever I can give you that's beneficial I'll give it to you,'" he said.

"But under cross examination, [the FBI's informatant, William Chrisman] testified that Abu-Jihaad never provided logistical support and acknowledged that Shareef complained that Abu-Jihaad was so passive it would take him 20 years to do something. Abu-Jihaad's attorneys also pointed out that he is heard on a call denying that he is a jihadi, an Islamic militant."

Original here.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

NINETY-NINE PERCENT OF RADIOHEAD FANS ARE SNOBS: Sixty percent of snobs eat and don't pay

Your standard music journalists, the kind who get their music for free, can't write enough future-of-pop trend stories.

Today's New York Times, in an article (by Ben Sesario) gamely tried to put a bright candy-wrapper on pop music theft -- China-style. Stating an estimated 85 percent of music CDs are pirated and that all downloaded music is stolen in China, the newspaper nevertheless attempted to portray the nation as an opportunity for music, one that must be embraced in "For All the Rock In China."

Logically, American labels are always interested in capitalizing on masses of potential buyers but, for the most part, cannot and do not release records in China. There's no point.

Squeezing juice from the turnip fields of Chinese "consumers," who really don't have that much money to spend, is elusive.

(DD quoted a figure for a typical Chinese wage earner -- $132.00/month -- a while ago in Slave Labor Guitars.)

To the benighted New York Times reporter, sent on junket to Beijing, this seems to be good because it's "the future." The journalist even lines up some dink from the NYC band, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, to say it for him.

"It's the future," chirped "Mr. Nick Zinner" of the group.

How 'bout if we said cholera was in your future? Could you get down with that?

What happens when the future is that everyone not famous and wealthy is compelled to forfeit their music because that's the way the gale is blowing?

Answer: Quite a few get disincetivized to make it. And for many, they go back to the good old days of just playing in the local bar, where if one can draw a crowd playing oldies, you'll get some cut of the beer money or a nightly stipend taken from the door.

The theoretical "up" side of the coin is represented by the occasional big deal artist -- or desperate one fallen off the charts -- booking a tour of China in hopes of taking home a windfall in ticket sales.

The article boxes out a quote, meant to seem gnomic and inarguable: "There's 1.3 billion people there. It's becoming a much wealthier place. How can we ignore that?"

The same way we would like to shun the benefit-to-society of a million packages of a drugged but slave labor cheap toy called Aqua-Dots, tons of poisoned pet feed, or cold medicines and tooth pastes that contains anti-freeze because it's more inexpensive to make, one hopes. It's disingenuous, no -- make that really dishonest, to fail to mention that China is definitely not, per person, a wealthy place and because it is not it has become ideal for large American businesses to use as a slave labor pool of low skill zero-quality control work not bound by all the federal regulations imposed for environmental safety and workers rights in the US.

Naturally, some artists play China.

Beyonce Knowles, currently nauseatingly on TV every five minutes jigging around in gold lame with a piece of gold jewelry that says "upgrade" clenched between her teeth, "plays" China, informs the Times.

George W. Bush could, perhaps, play China and make good money at it, too.

Damone, a Boston-based pop punk rock act you have probably never heard of, played China a few years ago. It didn't help their debut album, From the Attic, reviewed by DD here. And it can be said with reasonable certainty that the cost of the trip and tour was subsequently tacked on Damone's bill by their record company, ensuring that if they ever sold any copies of their record, there would be even more to skim off their royalties before cutting any theoretical check.

Yes, but the record industry's future is China, implies the Times, getting someone to add helpfully: "Major record companies have two options in China ... Adapt or die."

And that brings us finally to Radiohead because it also has to do with stealing music and the imperious transformation of things which have value into valueless air. In October, Radiohead was applauded by almost 100 percent of the college of pop music journalist snobs for showing us all the way to the future by giving away their most recent album on-line and allowing "fans" to volunteer what they'd like to pay for it, if anything.

"Understandably, much of the talk about Radiohead's new In Rainbows has been about the band's audacity to allow listeners to pay as much, or as little, as they want for it," wrote the Orlando Sentinel. "No other band in the world had dared put the controversial issue of how much music is worth into the people's hands."

"How much is it worth, in the pick-your-price realm? I won't tell you what I paid for it, other than to say that I tried to be fair to the band," wrote the Sentinel's reporter, probably dissembling. "In retrospect, however, it was a sweet deal for what sounds like the best record of the year."

"It appears the only losers in this model are old-school retailers," wrote the Los Angeles Times, counting the chickens before hatched. "It's definitely scary for someone like me, who has been making his money off of this business..." said someone to the newspaper.

It was indeed an excting time, we were told, because "[Everyone thinks] it's clear downloading music will be the main way people get their music in the future, but everything else is up in the air."

"Is Radiohead here to save 'rock 'n' roll'?" the Los Angeles newspaper asked in yet another slobbering article, this one by Ann Powers.

"In the war to redefine the music industry, the Delaware has been crossed," she burbled.

The crossing of the Delaware was good for us but bad for the British in 1776. However, existence in Trenton, New Jersey, has remained stubbornly indifferent and, in any case, the Brits paid us back in 1812.

Radiohead is British so some readers must have logically wondered what Ann Powers was smoking.

"Radiohead's decision to independently release its new album In Rainbows in downloadable format next week, for whatever price fans wish to pay, has pop's movers and shakers alternately applauding and flinching in the wake of the attack."

"Early results show most fans aren't greedy moochers, as only about a third have opted for the freebie," wrote someone, guessing wildly, at the Miami Herald. "Average sale is $8." (In one month results would expose this fool. Most fans actually were greedily mooching.)

"At least 99.9 per cent of all Radiohead fans are the worst kind of musical snobs," wrote the Australian Daily Telegraph, around the same time.

It was about the only newspaper with someone rude enough in print to get close to the truth.

Earlier this month, the cat eventually got out of the bag. It was a mangy one.

"Another Internet risk: Letting us turn into freeloaders," wrote the Arizona Republic in early November, noting -- among many others simultaneously -- that relatively speaking, most of the snobs gushing about Radiohead's In Rainbows elected to eat and not pay.

"Ask people to 'name your own price' for downloading a new rock album, and the majority will say 'zero,'" reported the newspaper in a glum little piece. Sixty percent had declined to pay anything to Radiohead for its so-called record-of-the-year. And the forty percent who did were cheapskates.

Radiohead claimed that the count was inaccurate but declined to offer a convincing counter-accounting, a protest viewed as a perfunctory and routine denial, somewhat like the whinings distributed by politicians and generals when things aren't going as perfectly as imagined.

In other news, Led Zeppelin's Mothership CD/DVD package, retailing at something over twenty bucks, sold 136,000 copies its first week in stores late this month. The glorious future isn't quite here yet and some people still buy records without feeling self-conscious, stupid and obsolete. Goddamn them.

Link to music in China piece at el Reg, a couple weeks ago.

For All The Rock In China.
THE SMARTEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD: And the journalists who fellate them

"We're off to see the wizard!"

There are only two types of stories on synethic biology in the mainstream press: Rewritten press releases distributed by newspapers, made only for the purpose of polishing a synthetic biologist while proclaiming how world-changing his research effort/company will be; and stories explaining how synthetic biologists will revitalize the world, but bad synbiologists will be making diseases, bioterrors and bio-errors, killing millions.

"Want to create a pathogen?" writes one knob in the second category for Reason On-Line.

"Just download its gene sequence information from the Internet and place an order with a gene sequencing company. The genes arrive in the mail a couple of days later. Mix it in your basement lab and then release on an unprotected public. Is this nightmarish vision of mail-order bioterrorism really possible?"

Another example of this type was recently proffered by the Los Angeles Times. This was the other flavor of standard piece, one in which the journalist fellates the synthetic biologist of choice, Craig Venter.

"We're trying to design cells that produce unique renewable fuels," it goes.

"We have one of those in extensive testing now that could be one of the first green jet fuels. Hopefully there'll be hundreds of these. With this breadth of biology, we have the capability of probably making any chemical out there. It's not hard even to imagine gasoline or octane that we put into our tanks. Bacteria can make that."

A common aspect of these stories is that the world is always transformed. Synthetic biologists have the answer for everything. In a country where empty-headed bragging is conditioned into everyone from birth, they actually almost stand above the madding crowd, regularly crowing to stenographer journalist/groupies how everything will be conquered. Global warming, cancer, the affordable housing shortage, all swept away by scientists who can manufacture life like putting together a simple transistor radio on a breadboard.

The more one reads the proclamations from synthetic biologists, the more one finds they have much in common with the claims delivered by civilian egotists at the Pentagon who went on about a revolution in military affairs before Iraq went bad.

Biology, in fact all science, is to be given new starch. And anything fantastic that can be imagined will happen. The obstinacy of nature, results dictated from Murphy's Law in which experiments simply do not work - or actually do work, but just in ways that are no more or less productive than previously - is not in this story.

DD performs a rant on the cant and how deadeningly repetitive is the delivery of brags here at el Reg.

One can't really underestimate how yawningly stupid mainstream reporting has been on synthetic biology.

In a country where the average person doesn't really give a hoot about science and mathematics, reporters are -- when interested in the subject -- even worse than the average citizen.

If you asked a stranger in the street, right after he'd paid $3.50 for a gallon of regular gas in Pasadena, what he thought of the "fact" that bacteria and plants producing petrol and jet fuel were just around the corner, he or she would likely roll their eyes.

Fuel crisis solved! Green jet fuel from bacteria!

Yet, here is this absolute rubbish in Karen Kaplan's piece at the LA Times, an article that is the equivalent in tone to what used to run in Tiger Beat magazine about members of The Monkees back in the Sixties.

"We're trying to design cells that produce unique renewable fuels. We have one of those in extensive testing now that could be one of the first green jet fuels."

The Craig Venter dictation lesson to the admirer at the Times is actually worse. DD linked to the piece's second page on-line, so you didn't see this one from the first page on Craig Venter finding alien life.

Venter's so great, he'll not only cure global warming, the fuel crisis and global disease -- but he'll also discover alien life in moon rocks, something which has so not obviously occurred to any other scientists since they were brought back. [That's sarcasm.]

Here's the reporter's question to The Great Craig, on discovering life.

Karen Kaplan (LA Times): "What if you find something that will freak people out?"

Let's repeat, with what the Times would have really liked to say.

"Oh Great Craig, what if you find something that will freak people out?"

The Great Craig, responding to us simpletons who detest progress: "Who could not like the idea of life in space?"

"[Craig Venter] thinks genome design will make it possible to create green jet fuel, gasoline -- just about any chemical. It's either that or go back to cave dwelling," drools the Times in the interview's subhed.

Craig will save us from the caves! The drought will eventually become less severe in California because of Craig's green jet fuels! There'll be rain in Georgia! Oh my God! Craig for President!

In truth, Kaplan's and the Times' idiotic slobber job over Venter (or any synthetic biologist) is commonplace. Editors just go nuts for nonsensical titillation.
CAN'T GET ENOUGH NERD ROCK: Photo caption special

On Thanksgiving day, the Los Angeles Times delivered its weekly regular nerd rock special. Closeted away in the weekend preview, reporters and editors delivered the prescribed dosage of tortured white, constipated nerd rockers for upper-middle-class liberal arts graduate school washouts.

Not the music of your USC or UCLA or Isla Vista/UCSB fraternity party, it's poverty-case pop music without a beat, thought of but not bought of very highly when Robert Christgau gives it a good grade or it shows up on an NPR morning show as air-freshener for pseudo-intellectuals and miscellaneous snobs.

Lyrics are always sensitive but untraditional as in "cooked up while trying for my MFA:" "Look at my teeth/Look at my teeth please/My teeth are cracked from the love of you."

Iron & Wine man: Muso for concerned mustache chewing and NPR listening.

It's "Rock of Rumination."

So says the Times of its weekly nerd rock choices, not actually meaning the digestion of grass into gas in the stomach of the cow, although the hoof fits.

"[Full] of ruminative, Southern-tinged folk and serious beard-stroking more worthy of nights sipping bourbon than feverishly updating your blog," it is claimed.

Our next nerd rocker has "a philosophy about music and it's about dudes." Actually, DD would have guessed the philosophy to have something to do with "slide rules" but no one who writes for the LA Times' entertainment section knows what they are anymore.

Anyway, they're liars, as usual. Check this pic -- below -- of Mike Doughty.

Mike Doughty: Has new rock album entitled "Bookbag Full of Love." A teaser, "Broken Hearts and Pencil Cases," is available for download on MySpace.

The best is saved for last.

Jose Gonzalez is "an Argentinian-via-Sweden crooner" who does something which "smacks of an NPR fantasy..."

Performs killer down-at-the-end-of-Lonely-Street coffee bar version of "Heartbreak Hotel" in Swedish.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

DOWN AND OUT IN PENNSYLTUCKY: Train for a career as a baggage handler or pray for a Fischer-Tropsch boom

DD keeps tabs on his old homestead, Schuylkill County, Pennsyltucky. Apparently the Internet has hardly come to old Schuylkill. If you search for it you find pathetic and wishful placeholders like this bureau for tourism.

"Our special [Schuylkill County] attractions include America's Oldest Brewery -- 'The Yuengling Brewery,' [a coal mine], [a raceway], Rausch Creek Motorsports Park ... " reads publicity material, somewhat forlornly.

It is also claimed that Schuylkill County has "three wineries." This is probably sort of true if you expand the definition of a winery to include grapes thrown in a field and left to the mercy of nine months of reliably cool or cold weather seasoned with massive snow and ice storms.

The entire county's population is about the same as Pasadena's -- around 150,000. And it has lost less to the Iraq war -- two dead, I think, to three here.

However, Schuylkill doesn't contain one decent book store, library or college worth mentioning. One piddling branch campus of Penn State University serves the county and it is located outside Schuylkill Haven. (The branch campus purpose is to serve as a combination waste bin/training ground for high school graduates too inferior for immediate placement at State College.)

A couple of business schools for secretaries are in Pottsville.

Career opportunities are few in Schuylkill County.

There is the military but education is poor and the county's mean family income is only about 77 percent of the national average. Service and retail is about all that's available.

Since the Nineties, Schuylkill County has seen its small garment industry progressively destroyed by overseas slave labor pools. Pine Grove, my home town, decided sometime during that period to attempt augmenting its tax base by allowing a big company to come in and set up a gigantic landfill within the township. So now Pine Grove is known as a destination for garbage from big cities in neighboring states.

Schuylkill County has had famous citizens.

Author John O'Hara hailed from Pottsville, the county seat, and became notorious for literary work which cast his hometown very poorly, under the alias "Gibbsville."

Schuylkill County was also home to the Molly Maquires, a secret organization within the population of coal mine workers which stretched across Schuylkill, Carbon and Luzerne counties in the late mid-to-late 1800's. They fought for better treatment of miners and engaged in sabotage of the local coal industry, gaining a reputation which attributed murders, assaults and theft to them.

A number of the Maguires were tried in Jim Thorpe, Carbon County, then a coal capitol. They were subsequently hung, "probably wrongly," according to one account here.

Maguirism was made a crime because it meant sticking up for the small man inside the mine at the expense of big business interests. However, the glory days of coal eventually ended and Jim Thorpe suffered decay and ruin, as did virtually everything in the eastern part of the state tied to that industry.

In the Sixties, when local public school history classes in Pine Grove dealt with the Maguires, they were essentially portrayed as Irish terrorists.

With existence dire and prospects nil, bringing opportunity to Schuylkill County has always been important. It's now so important, local efforts take on airs of utter desperation.

Locally, there has been great interest in bringing in a company to employ old Nazi technology for converting waste coal, of which there is plenty in Schuylkill County, to oil.

The first "Fischer-Tropsch process" coal-to-oil factory "would be [built] in Schuylkill County in eastern Pennsylvania, an economically depressed anthracite coal mining region whose economy revolves around waste dumping, [subsistence] coal mining, waste coal burning and prisons," writes a Schuylkill citizen opposition group here.

"This facility would be a heavily subsidized experimental demonstration project that could pave the way for many more of these refineries throughout the U.S."

Ideally, the wish is to locate it in a place called Gilberton near the poverty-stricken towns of Mahanoy City and Shenandoah. The idea -- one supposes -- is that if a Fischer-Tropsch plant employs some people, there will be somewhat fewer locals winding up warehoused in one of the other growth county businesses, SCI-Mahanoy state prison.

Schuylkill County has the potential to be a leader in the country once again -- in pollution. As it led, alongside its other neighbors in Pennsylvania, during the heyday of big coal.

But it is only a potential and the project appears stalled, probably because "Fischer-Tropsch" conversion plants for coal to oil have never been such great ideas.

In Nazi Germany they made some sense because the country was run by a ruthless dictator and at war with the world, cut off from oil resources and with its infrastructure under heavy bombardment. So more ruin and pollution weren't really big negatives in the larger picture, one in which the Third Reich's heavy industry could pull its workforce from slave labor procured in occupied countries.

Other employment opportunities for Schuylkill are needed. One possibility, developed today in an article in the Pottsville Republican, calls for "airport cargo workers."

There is no regional national/international airport which serves Schuylkill County.

"High school graduates who get jobs at the proposed cargo airport could expect salaries in the $30,000-a-year range, while those with college educations will command that figure as a minimum, and perhaps into the six-figure category," stated an article in the newspaper.

"That's what state Rep. Todd Eachus, D-116, told a group of educational leaders during a meeting last week. Eachus said the low range of the salaries for the proposed facility currently represent the per capita income in the Hazleton area - $17,200 a year," continued the piece.

Ah, but the airport does not yet exist and it is by no means certain that it will.

Remember, we're talking about Schuylkill County, a place with no obvious resources to raise it above other tracts of similarly depleted and exhausted interior in America's heartland also competing for futures in baggage and box handling.

The politician told "educators that he examined existing cargo airports in the country and listed nine typical positions and the salary range for those positions which would require only a high school diploma or its equivalent ... "

Regrettably, even bear hunting appears to be in something of a decline in Pennsyltucky.

The Pine Grove and Schuylkill County archive at Dick Destiny.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

THANKSGIVING ADVICE FROM THE BIG SCOUNDREL: Phony sincerity -- annoying vice or good habit?

"In a reflective mood as he looks toward his final year in office, President Bush delivered his first official Thanksgiving speech Monday, urging Americans to 'show their thanks by giving back' and to remember that 'our nation’s greatest strength is the decency and compassion of our people,' " reported Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times here.

How does one sit still when the biggest scoundrel delivers platitudes and admonitions for altruism no decent person would believe are sincere.

Answer: It's a job.

And no speech would be complete without drawing attention to our obligations, of which there are always many.

"After recounting [some crap story about English settlers in Virginia fit for a class of elementary school kids] Mr. Bush ticked off the reasons Americans had to be thankful, including 'farmers and ranchers who provide us with abundant food,' 'entrepreneurs who create new jobs' and 'devoted teachers who prepare our children for the opportunities of tomorrow.'"

"Mr. Bush went on to praise 'Americans who serve a cause larger than themselves,' not only the military but also people like Liviu Librescu, the Virginia Tech professor who died this spring blocking a gunman from entering his classroom, and Jeremy Hernandez, who broke open the back door of a school bus to lead children to safety in August when the Minneapolis bridge they were traveling on collapsed."

These constitute the usual knee-jerk Lenny Skutnick citations.

Personalized example: And we can take as a beacon the giving heart of Dick Destiny who just last Thanksgiving took in a homeless kitten and personally hand fed two mockingbird chicks that had fallen out of their nest in spring until they could safely fly away. Forgive him for he could not find an opportunity to give up his life for someone else this year but maybe in 2008 something will present itself.

"By contrast, Mr. Bush on Monday asked Americans to consider the 'many ways to spread hope this holiday: volunteer in a shelter, mentor a child, help an elderly neighbor, say thanks to one who wears the nation’s uniform.' ”

Always honor the troops. Twice a day if possible.

OK, here's the thing.

DD has never believed the men and women who wear our nation's uniform are fighting in Iraq to preserve his freedom to be a jerk in print. Here's a good resolution to make, anytime of the year, not just for Thanksgiving: If you think that, stop.

GWB, like many people you only listen to because you have to or because the media waves them under your nose everyday, is quick with the advice. In this way, he is reminiscent of my mother, back in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, before she lost her mind and was put in home.

Here were some "greatest hits," familiar to anyone stuck in front of a similar parent or someone alleged to be deserving of respect:

"Eat your peas." Delivered at a meal made unpalatable by some explosion at the table for some imagined transgression.

"Eat your Brussel sprouts." Delivered before the kitchen timer was set to five minutes, after which, if the plate was not empty, you were given the strap.

"Don't you know children are starving in Korea?" Delivered sometime between "eat your peas and "eat your Brussel sprouts."

"This is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you." Delivered after the kitchen timer expired.

"Come out of your room and don't make me tell you again." Delivered after fifteen minutes of everyone in the extended family hating on each other just before Thanksgiving dinner in Pine Grove.

"Get your nose out of that book and come out of your room." Delivered after escaping from the Thanksgiving dinner table.

"Who wants to say 'grace'?" Delivered by the person who viewed belief as an attendance contest, one in which the more Sunday masses attended, the more likely one was to ascend to Heaven.

"There but for the grace of God, go thou." Delivered right before a punishment for committing no crime.

"Shut your mouth!" Delivered five to ten times a day, extra on holidays, as needed.

"I told you to shut your mouth!" Delivered just after being struck but just before sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner.
TUESDAY MUSIC CLUB: Zolar X not rubbish

Note: Google's Blogger property is not without fault. Often it appears notoriously buggy, making posting impossible or fractured. Such was the case with a music piece on DD blog from a week or so ago. Initially, it could not be posted. Publishing was broken for an entire day. Then it was posted in duplicate, at which point DD deleted it. This is a virtual reprint.

When Zolar X, a trio of middle-aged men who dress in the garb of Seventies Star Trek aliens hit the stage for Fox's "The Next Great American Band," talent judge Dicko yelled: "Rubbish!"

Dicko, who was huge in Australia, has not been big in the United States. And DD skipped the show on Friday two weeks past, not being interested in the further adventures of an assortment of obvious prop-ups (Rocket) and journeymen from Nashville (Sixwire, The Clark Brothers).

The Muggs, a trio, made it through week two by being the best hard rock band in the contest. No one else in the show even came close to making the big noise The Muggs can. In return, they got the standard treatment good hard rockers have always received at the hands of people who listen only to dance music and pop. Damning by faint praise.

The Muggs don't have a good singer -- nyah, nyah -- went the cant. But boy do The Muggs rock out live.

DD doesn't know if The Muggs made it through in subsequent weeks. Doesn't matter. Bands like The Muggs are always around years after everyone else on these types of shows have dried up like dog excrement and been washed into the sewers by passing rains.

No surprise, then, my taste is the exact opposite of Dicko's.

This being the case, it also no surprise that DD likes Zolar X, too, certainly enough to give them a good review in the Village Voice.

See here for 250 words worth.

Another reason to hate on China

"While only a tiny percentage of Chinese people own a credit card (thereby making online download purchases difficult), the cash-pre-pay nature of mobiles means there is an established, digital payment system existing between the user and the mobile operators," writes on journalist at the Register.

"This allows for easy purchase of MVAS such as ringtones, caller ringback tones, background music and wallpaper."

Reduction of rock music to the equivalent of aural wallpaper, or more aptly air-freshener for your ears -- that's the future of pop and rock music. And I'm not interested in it. DD doesn't care about young people who steal music or their tastes. Don't care about the artists. Don't care about the music companies.

They're just symptoms from the disease causing the slow degeneration of everything I hold dear in the art.

"... [The] elaborate categorisation of music we seem to so enjoy in the west is the preserve of only a few music obsessives in China," continues the article.

"While Converse trainers and drainpipe jeans might make your average Chinese high street hep-cat seem like an alternative cognoscenti, the chances are that understanding is lacking and there is very little consistency between any two elements of their identity, including music preference. Whilst hanging at the bar in Beijing underground live venue D-22, I noticed a Chinese girl next to me with crazy hair, blackened eyes, torn clothes and black fingernails. I got talking to her and asked her what kind of music she listened to. Backstreet Boys, was her immediate reply ... Music online is rarely searched out or bought according to genre. In fact, not only is your average MP3 not sold as part of a genre, it is also almost certainly pirated, completely DRM-free, with no meta data attached and, in a huge number of cases, doesn’t even have a file title. You are left with a completely ‘naked’ piece of audio. China simply never went through the age where music was bought at a premium on vinyl, cassette or CD, then lovingly horded, categorised and put on display for all your dinner party guests to see, encouraging in-depth dinner discussions about prog-rock or jazz."

In essence, this describes why digital music, for me, is joyless work -- while listening to records and CDs is the opposite. I have absolutely nothing in common with "consumers" and "critics" of popular music who sit on the end of high speed Internet connections downloading jumbles of MP3s, using another portable listening computer to jumble them more. When I see the likes of 'em in the record store across the street from Pasadena City College, I wonder what they could be doing there.

They're not a demographic a used CD and vinyl store can pitch to. (And then I see the sign on the front glass: "Buy and sell used iPods.")

A gargantuan number of files on a hard disk, all with random names, does not make a library of rock music.

It's a collection of junk, indistinguishable from all the other crap that collects on any digital storage medium. It reminds me of the collections of computer viruses and pirated software accumulated by children running bulletin board systems in the late Eighties and early Nineties.

I wrote a book about the subject in 1994. It was called "The Virus Creation Labs" and not being much of a futurist, I never dreamed that today's common music consumer stealer would, socially, evolve from the model of teenage computer virus hoarders and software pirates.

Rather than sort and identify digital music, most of it becomes simply part of a pile, best deleted when tired of so that the process of digital junk collection can be started anew. One might get the same jazz from being a rodent running on a wheel in a cage.

See the entire story at the Reg, here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

BAGHDAD DIARY: Your intelligence insulted, as usual

History Channel aired Baghdad Diary, a retold tale of the military's rush on the city in the backslapping days of the invasion.

The Los Angeles Times gave it a gentle but tepid review, indicating it was a boring and pointless slog.

"['Baghdad Diary'] is a slightly awkward combination of two compelling stories, chronicling the experience of NBC News cameraman Craig White -- who was initially embedded with the late correspondent David Bloom -- and Fadil Kadom, an Iraqi taxi driver who let his camcorder roll in the run-up to and aftermath of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion," wrote Variety magazine.

"Compelling" is in the eyes of the beholder.

Video news journalist Craig White comes off as someone trying to be handwringingly sincere and a war correspondent he-man at the same time. By evidence, he sucked at both.

The film featured very little framing of combat. One sees columns of US armor, a dust storm, burning supply trucks under a concrete overpass somewhere near Baghdad, incinerated Iraqi tanks and pickup trucks.

Almost all of it is recognizable from previous air time. None of it is illuminating.

Look at Ahmad Chalabi's rig jobbers and the Marines tearing down the statue of Saddam Hussein!

Look at all the looting starting up!

Along the way, White's colleague, David Bloom dies of an embolism. That's off camera. OK to show our military in the process of destroying a weak foreign country but not OK to show an embedded reporter breathing his last.

In a better country, those responsible for stuff like this would be shunned and run out of their profession. As part of the general glee over a glorious war and in a position to do more about it than just be embedded journalists along for the ride, they deserve a rolled-up newspaper to the head, at the least.

Through most of Baghdad Diary, the journalists come off as those waiting in line to get their ticket punched as war correspondents. Think of the career opportunity: Be a Hemingway at the front with the troops. Eat MREs and miss showers. Dodge shells and bullets. Smell the cordite and burning things. And apple-polishing ticket-punchers they certainly were, liked by one of the commanding officers of the 3rd Infantry Division.

Baghdad Diary received its just desserts.

It was sent off to the backwater of the History Channel on a Saturday night. The documentary lacked even the standard extended cable promotion juice given to shows about white trash urban tattoo parlor employees and Orange County machine shop thugs who build the same custom chopper over and over while shilling for Lugz work boots.

About half of "Baghdad Diary" is shot from the point-of-view of an Iraqi taxi driver with a handheld camera. Even his footage is not particularly absorbing.

As usual, the stumbling point with Iraq war film-making is that everyone knows how it ends. The once strutting American president now almost universally loathed for his dogged pursuit of war at the cost of country's once good reputation, the general who engineered the walkover of a patsy military and retired leaving others to hold the bag, the journalists who made it entertainment for a few weeks and citizens who were ecstatically for war.

"He's my man." -- GWB

Yes, that Baghdad Bob was a funny guy! Buy the DVD.

If you had a magical machine with a red push-button, one that could reach anywhere and give the producers, the print journalists, the TV men, the politicians, the president and Tommy Franks electric shocks, not enough to really hurt them, just enough to let 'em know what you thought, you'd push that button without hesitation. And you'd keep pushing it.

War Book/War Movie Deals.
PORTUGAL SAID TO BE DOWN AND OUT: Sort of like large tracts of US interior

"The former world power has failed to adopt to a changing globe and is feeling the pinch as Chinese imports flood in," reports the business section of the Los Angeles Times, without a shred of self-consciousness.

In "Down and out in Portugal," readers are told: "[The family owned store in Lisbon] is going through hard times as it fights cheaper Chinese rivals that have poured into Europe in recent years."

Portugal failed to "wire itself for the 21st century," presumably unlike the US where local businesses in places like Schuylkill County, Pennsyltucky, have done so so well in the face of Chinese imports.

Yes, white trash America is so much more wired for the 21st century than Portugal. And they always have the military to enlist in so they can go off and be blown up in Iraq.

Portugal doesn't even have that.

"In many ways, though, the Portuguese have been architects of their own decline," continues the piece, chock full of business analysis and wisdom straight from one who is omniscient -- Barry Hatton -- at the Associated Press.

"Their unwillingness to adapt to a changing world is carrying a heavy price as the country of 10.6 million people weathers one of its toughest periods in modern times."

All downhill since Vasco da Gama

"History has turned the tables on Portugal," writes Hatton. "The Chinese encroachment is vexing for a country that was once one of the great maritime powers (back when sails and rowing were the only way to get around), pioneering European sea routes to the riches of the East 500 years ago."

"Portugal earned the moniker 'the sick man of Europe' due to its sclerotic economy and bureaucracy," continues Hatton, the not-so-well-informed student of world history. Sick Man of Europe used to be Turkey, now it's a cliche. It was also the name of Cheap Trick before they were Cheap Trick.

"Portugal's bedrock industries such as the garment and footwear sectors took a body blow with the surge of Chinese competition. Like many Portugese businesses they were doomed by their misguided belief that a low wage, low cost strategy was still feasible in Western Europe."

Absolutely no one in the United States of America believes in low wage, low cost strategies, nosirreebob! Those poor fools in Portugal!

Recommendations for economic revitalization from us Americans:

1. Get a bigger military. A lot bigger. Think really, really big -- the biggest in world history! Then provoke a war with a much weaker country and pay for it on credit.

2. With the arms manufacturers that come with the military, be an arms merchant to the world. Work at gaining the reputation of "world's best guided bomb-maker" to great leaders of the world -- like Pervez Musharraf!

3. Variable rate mortgages!

4. Bring in Wal-Mart. It will employ more citizens at below subsistence wages but will shove medical benefits off on emergency rooms nationwide with distributed costs billed to the taxpayer.

5. Institute credit cards for everyone. Then change the bankruptcy laws so no one can walk away from debt.

6. Ethanol subsidies for corn farmers! And implement a "Manhattan Project" for coal mining and exploration. Coal is the world's most common fossil fuel!

7. Freely use "war on..." or "Manhattan Project for..." any national problem with no answers.

8. And -- it can't be emphasized enough -- always remember to start a war with someone much weaker.

Distract citizens with tales of trivial menace

Take a lesson from Schuylkill County, Pennsyltucky. Don't come to grips with diminishing expectations, unemployment and utter lacks of good health care and superior education.

Remind your polity: "There are bad people out there."

Here's an example of how to do it.

"Unfortunately, the dishonest folks out there make life miserable for everyone," wrote Schuylkill County's Pottsville Republican newspaper today.

"Some ... have struck in the last month in Pottsville, Minersville and Cass and Norwegian townships, breaking into more than 50 unlocked vehicles.

"Items stolen from those vehicles include cash, laptop computers, a GPS tracking system and, most frighteningly, a .45 caliber pistol.

"Norwegian Township police Sgt. John Zuratt said he has seen nothing like this spree in more than a decade on duty."

And remember, "On balance ... locking your vehicle’s doors is much better than leaving them unlocked."

"Iran's leader calls dollar 'worthless'," also from today's business section, seemingly uncognizant of the story on the next page insisting that Portugal was worthless.

"Oil is priced in US dollars on the world market, and the currency's depreciation has concerned oil producers because it has contributed to rising oil prices and eroded the value of their dollar reserves," reported AP in an unbylined article.

Friday, November 16, 2007

THE WINDMILL: Not for sissies

Not included in Rock Band or Guitar Hero III.

Once again DD was vexed by Guitar Hero III/Rock Band playing ninnies at BestBuy. Guitar Hero III has stomped into stores everywhere, selling 1.4 million copies to American tyros not self-conscious enough to get how callow they look "playing" plastic toy guitars in front of game screens in public.

It is as if any human capacity for embarrassment has been expunged from their genetic codes.

And there they were at BestBuy, lined up in front of demos not ten yards from where I was trying to keep it together long enough to buy a CD. Well, the record industry knows where I'm coming from and it doesn't care. There aren't enough people like me buying CDs but there are many more buying games in which you can pretend to be a rock star while stumbling through the miming of an old classic rock hit.

On television, Rock Band was getting advertising with animations of a young band jumping out on top of a speeding bus, brandishing guitars and mike stands against the wind.

Guess what they were "playing"?

"Highway Star" -- a song by Deep Purple DD doesn't even put on the turntable anymore. I was never so lame in the early Seventies that I'd be caught dead miming to my parents' Robert Goulet records.

Extra points subtracted from Rock Band lamers who suffer no cognitive dissonance over Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Gillan not looking like short-haired mall punks, the demographic the Rock Band commercial aims at.

"What's even cooler is that the game caters to lefties, like my Boyfriend, as well," writes Melissa Tyndall of Guitar Hero III for the Clarkesville Leaf-Chronicle. "All a player has to do is scroll through the game options, set it to lefty status and flip the guitar over. For those of you unfamiliar with the game, it's like Dance, Dance Revolution band-style. You pick up a plastic guitar and have to try to keep up with the beats of the music with the keypad on the instrument."

"Rock Band has revamped graphics and the instruments themselves look more legit," lied reporter Christa Collins at the Cal Poly Post (San Luis Obispo).

"With Fender putting their name in the mix, it's no surprise. The guitars themselves could almost be mistaken for miniature Fenders themselves."

That is if Fender guitars were a bit less than 3/4 size, made of plastic and came without strings.

"Bottom line: Rock Band rocks," wrote some flacks masquerading as reporters at the Boston Globe on Tuesday.

"Your imaginary rockers can hit the road, winning or losing fans, earning money, scoring a van, and flying to LA to sign a record deal depending on how well they play."

Psshhht. No watching a knife fight break out between two drunken thugs and a biker chick? Where's the fun in a game without that?

"Ultimately, the best thing about Rock Band is that it's not just about individual glory on an instrument," write the Globe journalists. "As novices, our favorite feature was the 'Savior' option, whereby a player can rescue an underperforming cohort who's in danger of flaming out by executing a rad stage move. One altruistic rocker can save an entire band."

DD can assure readers this never happens in dives. It's the opposite. The weak link drags everyone down, there's a fight after the gig, and the band blows apart.

Despite the pile-up of young human waste in front of the Guitar Hero III and Rock Band demos, DD gritted the teeth and kept to the appointed task: securing a copy of Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who.

As a documentary DVD set on The Who, it goes well beyond The Kids Are Alright, a movie covering the same territory which made it into theatres when DD was in his twenties.

At the beginning of the three DVD set, Roger Daltrey reflects on the odds of four people as accomplished as the members of The Who meeting and doing what they did.

It's delivered in an understated fashion, all the more remarkable at a time when rock music would be better if less people chose to try their hands at it and dump the results into every media outlet within their reach.

By the time Tommy was recorded, the Who were the best live hard rock band in existence. Their stage show exceeded by an order of magnitude -- indeed, was quite different -- than their studio album sound. Live at Leeds, an edited recording of their standard show, was a shattering explosion of rock 'n' roll TNT. If you were used to listening to Tommy or the singles from Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy, the wild and staccato stomping of "Young Man Blues" and "Summertime Blues" came as rude shocks.

If you buy a CD copy of Live at Leeds now, it's not quite the same. Later versions of the record added the entire performance. It watered down the impact of the original vinyl, constrained as the format was to about forty-five minutes. The complete mix doesn't punch your face as mercilessly as the sequencing from the original LP.

During the first hour of Amazing Journey, some footage is shown from The Who early on from a relentless tour of England under the direction of record producer Shel Talmy. The band had turned to amphetamines to get through it with the result being that the live show disintegrated. Pete Townshend is shown playing John Entwistle's bass and vice versa. The sound is rubbish and Roger Daltrey walks off the back of the stage in disgust. Daltrey relates that backstage he went off at the others about it, a fistfight ensued and he was thrown out of the band.

A few weeks later he was rehired and put on "probation" under the condition that he never yell at them like that again.

The Who were not particularly palsy with each other like the Beatles and the attitude, for a very long time, was that Townshend, Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon were the stars of the show, with Daltrey just up front. After Tommy, the dynamic changed. Daltrey became the emotional interpeter of Townshend's writing, his savage and triumphant yell at the climax of "Won't Get Fooled Again" from Who's Next the most distinguishing moment in heavy rock and roll.

Throughout Amazing Journey is footage of Pete Townshend doing his famous windmill. It's been copied over in computer games and sometimes one sees it done half-heartedly or in a slipshod way by others. No one but Townshend has ever done it in a memorable manner and it yields a sound that makes The Who entirely unduplicatable in guitar rock. It is an irreducible piece of the big Br-a-a-a-a-a-a-ng! that Townshend is known for.

And the thing about the Townshend windmill is that it hurts when you do it right. Any old fool can windmill their arm and bounce the palm of their hand or fingers off the guitar's strings.

But Townshend does and did a vicious and wild upstroke against the strings. If one tries that for a set, it rips the bejeezus out of the fingernails and cuticles. Flesh and blood are left hanging upon the instrument. And so hardly anyone can do it except for Pete Townshend.

Included with the DVD set is a videotape of The Who's show in Chicago in 1979. About halfway through "Sparks" and after battering his black Schecter Telecaster, Townshend breaks the high E string. He continues for the rest of the number, shooting off slabby licks, keeping the guitar in tune through a mix of brute force and art.

Previously: Computer game appeals to the pathetic and annoying.

"Former Navy Secretary [under Bill Clinton] Richard Danzig will make stops in South Carolina [today] to talk about U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's plans to keep America safe and restore its international reputation," read a press release from earlier this week.

"Danzig will answer questions from honor students at Myrtle Beach High School Friday afternoon and headline a community gathering at the Horry County Public Library in Conway that evening ... Danzig is the Sam Nunn Prize Fellow in International Security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He is also a consultant to the Department of Defense on terrorism, with a focus on bioterrorism."

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow informs readers Richard Danzig is many things -- a learned man, a lawyer, a former Rhodes scholar.

What he probably is not, however, is an expert on terrorism in the real world.

During his government tenure under the Clinton administration, Danzig was singlemindely focused on the threat of catastrophic bioterrorism. And the terrorism Danzig was concerned with had nothing to do with what was going on in the real world. It was all about potentials for apocalyptic attacks, the kinds of which have not taken place and which today lack little, if any, resemblance to terrorist threats as they are carried out.

In an analysis of the threat of bioterrorism published by Milton Leitenberg in 2005, the author wrote that potentials for attacks were "grossly oversimplified" during 1997. As they still are today, ten whole years later.

"Former Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig's 1997 and 1999 papers contain an example," continued Leitenberg.

"[A kilogram] of anthrax, depending on meteorological conditions and means of delivery, has the potential to kill hundreds of thousands of people in a metropolitan area," wrote Danzig [as cited by Leitenberg].

"[Biological] weapons are so potent and cheap ... the technology is readily available ... so many of our enemies have biological warfare capabilities ..." continue some Danzig quotes.

"The years between 1995 and 2000 were characterized then, by -- spurious statistics (hoaxes counted as biological events); unknowable predictions, gross exaggeration of the feasibility of successfully producing biological agents, except in the case of recruitment of highly experience professionals, of which there was still no evidence as of 2000; the apparent continued absence of a thorough threat assessment; and thoughtless, ill-considered, counter-productive and extravagant rhetoric," concluded Leitenberg.

And after 9/11, virtually all attempts at thoughtful analyses of bioterrorism potentials, as well as evaluations of what terrorists might be able to do based upon objective scrutiny of their documents and materials, were overcome in favor of what Leitenberg calls "fact-free analysis."

In the late Nineties, Richard Danzig's advice and counsel on bioterrorism fit under this umbrella. And it would seem that in 2007, he is not particularly well chosen as someone who would explain Barack Obama's "plans to keep America safe [from terrorism] and restore its international reputation."

Danzig to stump for Obama. Press release.

Leitenberg source: Assessing the Biological Weapons and Bioterrorism Threat.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

EXPENSIVE GUITAR FOR NINNIES: Made by Gibson USA, not Chinese slave labor

"Ever get mad trying to figure out why your version of "Voodoo Child" doesn't sound like Jimi Hendrix?" asked some dimwit at Reuters in the lede to "First robot electric guitar tunes itself."


"Help is at hand from what is described as the world's first robot guitar -- an electric guitar that not only keeps itself in tune even after string changes but also allows players to access six nonstandard tunings at the push of a button," continues the story.

Except it's not the first "robot guitar" which features non-standard tunings at the push of a button. Those not familiar with non-standard tunings may be scratching their heads. Slide guitar as well as two famous bands -- the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin -- and many of their songs gives the answer.

Line 6's Variax, a guitar containing a computer with emulations of a number of vintage instruments, shipped a year or so ago with non-standard tunings enabled through a rotary switch. Gibson USA's offering seems to be a somewhat lesser but much more expensive spin on the Variax.

"Gibson says the robot guitar is aimed at amateurs who have a hard time keeping their guitars in tune, as well as professionals who now use technicians during concerts to keep about 100 guitars tuned to different keys," reported Reuters, stretching one's credulity even further.

Amateurs who cannot tune a guitar, or keep it in tune, tend not to buy guitars which cost $2,500 US, the price of Gibson's robotic offering. They buy slave labor guitars made in China, which cost around $100 US and come in cardboard box.

And DD has never actually seen one band on stage with a guitarist or guitarists who kept one hundred guitars tuned to different keys. Sounding straight out of a piece of This is Spinal Tap left on the editing room floor, one reckons there may actually be one or two fruitcakes in mega rock bands who keep one hundred guitars fanatically tuned to different keys but, if so, they certainly don't advertise it.

"Gibson said the robot guitar is the biggest advance in electric guitar design in more than 70 years," claimed Reuters, writing dictation taken directly from Gibson USA's p.r. fugleman.

That's a matter of opinion, boyos, not fact.

In recent history, Gibson's innovations have always flopped. No one wants tricks from the famous guitar maker, only classic instruments with set necks, thank you.

Innovations in guitar design tend to have come from other companies, one famous example being Steinberger. (The curious reader will note the "Steinberger" link points to Gibson. Ned Steinberger innovated design with his headless instruments and his company was sold to Gibson in 1986. Steinberger's new company is called NS Design. The story sort of repeats the history of Leo Fender who founded Fender Musical Instruments. Fender was an innovator and sold his company, at which point it no longer innovated. Fender continued making guitars under the company names of Music Man and G&L.)

The original.

The Los Angeles Times is a fine newspaper, sometimes even unintentionally. Its Calendar features section likes to showcase the work of reporters who work out their regret at washing out of a graduate studies program in the liberal arts at Gobble-Wallah University over more immediate journalism like the crime beat or the adventures of the Marine Corps in Dayala.

On Monday, reporter Dean Kuipers reverently interviewed some piece of upper class rubbish from England named Will Self.A long walking tour of the compounds and wastelands of LA ensued.

DD has only defaced the copy slightly. Can you tell where?

Author Will Self strode off a plane and into the Alaska Airlines arrivals hall at LAX on a recent afternoon, his long legs fairly gulping the yardage. He barely slowed down long enough to indicate that he didn't want to look at a map.

Self wanted to walk all the way to his hotel in downtown Los Angeles, where he was staying a few days to talk about his new book, "Psychogeography." The book is a series of short pieces about his use of walks as a literary-cum-political practice in the spirit of derive -- that's French -- a perceptual and experiential technique endorsed by Situationist radical Guy DeeBore in 1958.

The idea, to DeeBore, was to use a purposely aimless stroll -- enhanced by strong drink -- to liberate oneself from the tyranny of the deterministic universe whose plot points were work, home and market. Self has a related but different goal: His walks, he said, are about "liberating cities both at a personal and political level. They're about assaulting people's idea that there are places, like compounds and wastelands, not worth being in or traveling through."

Self is best known for his twisted, imaginative fiction including "The Theory of Insanity" and "So Pitifully Sodden." But he has been doing these walks for about eight years and more recently for a column he writes, "Psychogeography," in the Independent newspaper in London. He is both sincere and blunt about his shortcomings as a flaneur -- that's French -- the city stroller so beloved by Charles Baudelaire.

"I'm full of it," he said.

An apple confronted us from the battered concrete of southwest Los Angeles. Who had discarded it in time for our walk in the mid-day sun?

It was not a particularly hot day, but the miles of concrete from LAX to the Watts Towers seemed to suck the cosmic juice out of the sun and slather it red upon one's neck. The rays belched upon us as Self loped along past the airport's hooker hotels, halting to snap a photo of a porn shop. The distance unpacked and took on a different scale, measured not in songs on the radio or in landmarks but what Self describes in his book as "the metronomic rhythm of my legs, parting and marrying, parting and marrying, parting and marrying." Suddenly what matters is the texture of the asphalt, the color of the fast food wrappers drifting by as trash, the beleaguered looks on people's faces.

But this kind of hidden beauty isn't what we are looking for. The flaneur -- that's French -- moves through all environments in thrall to the picturesque, a 19th century ideal of beauty embraced by the Romantic poets, not just a word.

"They'll go into ecstasies over that manhole cover," said Self. "But I don't want the picturesque. That's why I took a picture of the porn shop. Pictures of a place that sells moving pictures of people having sex with tools. It is an act that only exists in doing it."

Self is looking for an internal state. "It is closer to Buddhist notions of satori," he added. "It is much more an internal state. It's a lot to do with not thinking."

Self is the guy infamously tossed off former Prime Minister John Major's campaign plane in 1997 for snorting heroin in the bathroom while on assignment. When he detoxed, he started walking wastelands.

"It's the antithesis of drug experience," Self said. "Addicts are the hard line determinists of the world. Walking is the opposite of that. Whatever happens, happens."

Sometimes s--- happens, too. "Psychogeography" is less than satisfying after Self's bent but ultimately compelling "Book of Dave," about a cabby's diary that becomes a sacred text 500 years in the future. One devours Self's toothsome descriptions of walkabouts in wastelands looking for the poetic beauty of Blake, or the alien insights of Baudrillard, or even the cultural love letter of Kerouac's "On the Road." But the reader cannot find such things.

It is as if viewing urban wastelands had rendered him intellectually pooped.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

WAL-MART TRANKS AND POP ROCK SAVINGS SPECIAL: Aqua-Dots and The Eagles in aisle eight

Not only can you get the Eagles new double CD, "Long Road Out of Eden," at Wal-Mart, but if you're quick and store employees are slow, you can buy up some Aqua Dots, the toy beads set that turns to GHB in your stomach.

One suggested use: Invite that girl who has been denying your advances over for a listening party. Put a couple beads in her drink while she's listening to the Eagles in your living room. Soon she'll be as pliant as putty!

Of course, Aqua Dots, one of the most popular Christmas toys in the nation, are made by slave labor in China. Buy 'em with The Eagles' pop rock CD, not yet determined to be poisonous or made by slave labor.

"Last month, Wal-Mart named its 12 top toy picks for this holiday season. On the list were Spider-Man action figures, Elmo, a game based on “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader” and various other toys," wrote the Wall Street Journal last week. "And, unfortunately, the 'Aqua Dots Super Studio,' which it said combines 'creativity and crafting to create multiple designs — just add water!' "

You'll certainly be feeling creative upon listening to the Eagles and popping Aqua Dots.

In a Wal-Mart Oct. 1 press release, a Wal-Mart official said, "You really can’t go wrong with any of these toys," reported the Journal.

When DD was a kid growing up in Schuylkill County, PA, you could get music by the Eagles in every record store. In fact, you could buy records at the Pine Grove general store, called Burke's, before it burned down and was rebuilt sans much of its original stock. It was just a ten minute walk from the Smith house on American Legion Boulevard.

It's a reflection on how broken and unpleasant the United States has become in 2007 to realize that there's no way to get the Eagles' new record in Pasadena.

Over the past seven years, the citizens of Los Angeles and its suburbs have been fairly successful at keeping Wal-Mart out of the area. After many well-distributed news stories and documentaries on the unfair practices and toxic nature of America's Store, civic action has made Wal-Mart largely persona non grata here.

It's well known that Wal-Mart products come from China (among other nation's with pliant but impoverished labor pools) and that the company's vendors either employ slave labor, or when Western/American intermediaries, sanction it by looking the other way.

"The Chinese government’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine also identified the factory that manufactured [Aqua Dots beads,] the Wangqi Product Factory in the southeastern Chinese city of Shenzhen, and said the factory’s export license had been suspended," reported the New York Times today.

"The Chinese response to the poisonous toy beads represents an unusually swift reaction, and a contrast with other recent cases of recalled products from China, when the Chinese government has moved more slowly and been more defensive."

"The toxic glue ingredient used by the Shenzhen factory reportedly costs less than one-third what the ingredient that was supposed to be on the beads costs," continued the newspaper.

To make the slave labor toy cheaper, a cheap poison was chosen as a substitute glue. "The United States heavily regulates the ingredient so as to prevent kitchen chemists from using it to produce GHB ..." continued the Times.

DD dragged out a double-CD of Eagles hits last night and reflected on the music, noting bandmembers have no significant reputations as humanitarians or people who stand for things which are right as opposed to really wrong and bad.

If you're looking for messages in "Heartache Tonight," "Already Gone," "In The City," "Life in the Fast Lane," and many others, you can't find them. There aren't any.

What the Eagles were good at was crafting meticulously carved pop songs, perfect for classic rock radio, movie music and television shows. The Eagles were easy to like but because they succeeded quickly, rising to omnipresence as a de facto "America's band," they became polarizing. Hating the Eagles became a sport for many music fans.

It makes shrewd sense that the Eagles would tie themselves to Wal-Mart, one of the most repellent companies in this country. Although it is not where all the Eagles' audience shops, it's where a great deal of it does.

In any case, the Wal-Mart shopper is the quintessentially stupid white trash middle class/lower class American. And that demographic really digs the Eagles, too.

The Eagles have staked their album sales to that consumer segment and if I were them, I might do the same. In the US, the record business has become so ineffective, fractured and crippled by young people who view stealing music as a civil right, there is some sense to putting your record in a store where it could be bought with a cartload of other cheap goods. Some of the "savings" one makes on buying Wal-Mart's goods can be diverted to an impulse buy, "Long Road Out of Eden."

Impulse buying always worked for me when shopping for pop rock records as a kid and college student.

If this entered into any of the reasoning behind putting "Long Road Out of Eden" exclusively at Wal-Mart, it worked. The record smashed into the number one sales slot this week, pasting the new offering by white trash Britney Spears, even forcing Billboard magazine to make an exception in its reporting. The trade magazine traditionally excludes CDs sold only in one bigbox chain, a practice which would have made "Long Road Out of Eden" a ghost number one.

It's with a little sadness that DD realizes there's no "Long Road Out of Eden" in fine Pasadena shops. The Eagles started on Sunset in Hollywood and it's just not quite right that the place of "Life in the Fast Lane" no longer counts as much of a sales stop.

In Schuylkill County, Pennsyltucky, however, the Eagles remain in good hands.

Census demographics show Schuylkill County is still as it was when I lived there, maybe worse: Primarily stupid white trash middle/lower class America. Only ten percent of its citizens have a college education, ten points lower than the state average.

Citizens of Schuylkill County will gladly shop at a store which puts their neighbors out of business. And they are simply too dumb and unfocused to be much bothered by poisonous and defective slave labor consumer goods. If some children got sick from eating Aqua Dots, well that's just the an acceptable risk for the right to have dollar underwear.

To give you a better look at how crippled the citizens of Schuylkill Country are, try to get your head around the fact that they'll patronize a business that embodies the destruction of their community.

Growing up in Pine Grove in the Seventies exposed one to one of Schuylkill County's few employment opportunities -- other than the military -- after big coal went bust: The garment industry.

Pine Grove had Penn Dye and Gold Mills, strong dye finishing and garment-making businesses. Local little league teams were even named after both firms.

The garment industry in Schuylkill County was essentially crushed by NAFTA. Further outsourcing of the business to China has made conditions worse. About seventy five percent of the Schuylkill County jobs in garment making were lost or went overseas to cheap labor between 1994 and 2006.

Gold Mills used to be in the business of making America's garments. No longer. It's a minor employer, located in Pine Grove on a rather substantial tract of land -- thirty acres on the banks of the Swatara River, all of it now polluted with unacceptable amounts of organic solvent.

"We basically don’t do apparel anymore," said a Pine Grove plant manager to the Pottsville Republican newspaper earlier this year. "It was a business you couldn’t make any money in in the United States. What happened was back in 2000 and 2001 our business was about two-thirds apparel and about one-third industrial fabrics. Our costs couldn’t match even the prices the companies were buying the industrial fabrics at."

In patronizing Wal-Marts, the citizens of Schuylkill County work hard at putting themselves out of work for the privilege of buying made-in-slave-labor-China underwear.

However, the county's citizenry is not JUST stupid.

It's also bigoted and riddled with hypocrisy. In Schuylkill County, cheap illegal labor is desired to build things, like a new Wal-Mart store. And it is also desired that those who furnish such labor be arrested and deported when finished.

"Federal agents on Thursday rounded up more than 100 suspected illegal immigrants working at a construction site in Schuylkill County," reported a local radio station last year. "The raid took place near Minersville, where a Wal-Mart distribution center is being built."

"One hundred twenty people were taken into custody. That amounts to about half the work force at the construction site. They were put on busses and taken to a processing area. The government will determine what will be done with the workers from there."

And in May, the Schuylkill County Commissioners approved a special grant for taxpayer subsidized bus services to a Wal-Mart store between Tamaqua and McAdoo.

"Life in the fast lane/Everthing all the time...Life in the fast lane, uh-huh!"

Sunday, November 04, 2007

FUTURE TO BE DANGEROUS: We should make some changes, sez essay by Army men

"Learning From Our Modern Wars: The imperatives of preparing for a dangerous future," by Peter Chiarelli and Stephen Smith (no relation) of the US Army, appears in the Sept-Oct issue of the Military Review here.

The authors recommend changing the ways of the military and the nation in advance of future troubles. It's worth a read not only for what the authors say but for what they can't quite bring themselves to say, too.

One of the more important points the authors try to address is the level of commitment which the nation brings (and will have to bring in the future) to its wars of choice.

The authors do not refer to future conflicts as wars of choice. They view them as wars of necessity spawned from a complex and dangerous world.

"Some might seek to avoid the hard choices complexity entails by concluding we are ill-suited to employ our national power in such multi-dimensional environments," they write.

"They would argue that we cannot afford to intervene in another Iraq. But this argument is like those made against entering into another of Europe's wars after the experience of World War I: While tempting it is unrealistic and invites risk."

However, writing from history and comparing Iraq to WWI or WWII? That doesn't fly for me. World War I, for example, left an entire generation decimated in England, France and Germany. The United States in Iraq has nothing on Verdun and The Battle of the Somme, two of the most dreadful -- perhaps THE most dreadful -- battles in human history.

This brings us to another point in the essay.

"Our current problems raise the legitimate question of whether the US ... can successfully prosecute an extended war without a true national commitment," it reads (page 4).

"History is replete with examples of countries that tried to fight wars in the absence of popular support and without committing their national resources. These countries often found themselves defeated on battlefields far from home."

The authors avoid mentioning the draft, a most rock solid example of national commitment.

Let DD come at the problem from a different angle, one using an example from yesterday's sports results.

"Navy sinks Notre Dame, 46-44," reads the LA Times. "It's over. After 44 years and three overtimes."

Navy beat crappy Notre Dame, a 1-8 team whose only victory came over another doormat, UCLA.

Week after week, the best college football teams -- the best college sports teams -- are not those of the service academies. If a service academy football team wishes to qualify for even a second or third tier bowl game after six wins, it has to schedule soft and hope for some luck.

The service academies attract good people. But they're certainly not regularly competitive with any common bigtime university college football squad. In fact, they are uncompetitive in any area of endeavor they share with the big American university system. The statistics say the best and the brightest don't see warfighting and nation-building after an invasion as part of their future.


It's a good metaphor for the lack of commitment to the war in Iraq, theoretical future conflicts, or "small wars." In the US, the working "commitment" is: "Include me out! You go do it and see that I'm not bothered."

No one makes a case for national commitment. Instead, they go in exactly the opposite direction as fast as possible.

DD watches college football on TV every Saturday. One sees hundreds of thousands in stadiums across the country. There's no evidence of a national commitment to warfighting and struggle. If there is any commitment, it's one that asks not to be inconvenienced in the pursuit of weekend entertainments.

You know, dammit, the difference between the US warfighting effort in World War II --as opposed to now and in the future -- was just on television in Ken Burns' "The War."

So if warfighting in a dangerous world will be critical to the future of the nation, one of the ways to ensure positive change is to put machinery in motion that will make everyone consider their commitment to any war effort. In fact, such machinery must be put in place or the problem of attaining national commitment cannot be solved.

The only way to do this is the draft. The draft is now a social and political taboo. As such, "Learning From Our Modern Wars" doesn't deal with it. (Using the Adobe reader, there are zero instances of the word "draft" in the .pdf file.)

Heck, even when some politician -- David Obey (D - Wisconsin) -- tries to get a war tax enacted, a sure way to get some small measure of national commitment to seep into the populace, it's struck down in a trice.

One can't mount a convincing argument about national commitment for the underwriting of success in present and future wars without coming to grips with the fact that the system has been made so that the average citizen is insulated from having to make even a slight choice about levels of such commitment.

And since the average citizen has no virtually no say in the conduct of the war, anyway, or -- more importantly -- whether we even choose to get into one or stay out, the nation's leadership exhibits a regular moral and intellectual bankruptcy in its demands on when and how wars should be prosecuted.

What if there was a requirement for a national plebiscite prior to engaging in a war of choice?

"Perhaps the most decisive factor that will determine who emerges victorious in current and future wars is which side can gain a consistent advantage in the holistic information environment that plays out ... near and far from the front lines," the authors continue.

"Perception has a nagging tendency of how our enemies, our allies and our own societies view war, often regardless of what is actually happening on the ground. If we are unable to do a better job than our enemies of influencing the world's perception, than even the most brilliantly conceived campaign plans will be unlikely to succeed."

In effect, the US military's use of the media and Internet to get out its message is busted, argue the authors.

"To address this situation, we must develop solutions for improving media access to the battlefield and to our activities without compromising the media's independence or our operational security."

One totally agrees. It is an excellent suggestion.

"Time and again, the military in Iraq under Gen. Petraeus ... has aligned itself with the most extreme right-wing blogs and plainly partisan 'journalists,' and has either excluded or expressed outright hostility towards everyone else," wrote Glenn Greenwald at Salon recently. (Greenwald's article reveals quite an eyeful here.)

Friday, November 02, 2007

WAR BOOK/WAR MOVIE DEALS: Intelligence-insulting crap, so Hollywood demurs

Today's Calendar section in the LA Times featured "Iraq outside the greenlight zone," a piece on how Hollywood's not thrilled to make movies from books on the Iraq war.

"Getting books about the war made into films has become a struggle," opens the article.

That's not hard to intuit. Any movie made off an optioned book coming off the Iraq war will have to deal with dissonance in the theatre, if it can even get people into the theatre.

One must make the risky assumption that average Americans might want to see a movie entitled "Curve Ball," about the dissembling Iraqi petty crook who was one of our nation's so-called primary intelligence "assets" prior to the war.

How do you turn a national embarrassment and loser who no one has seen into ninety or one hundred twenty minutes that leaves patrons talking about it with their neighbors and friends?

You probably can't. There's no help from the preponderance of mainstream TV news that has already dealt with "Curveball."

People often look to movies to have morals, sometimes even in splatter films. Anyone who has heard of Curveball knows there are no morals in this story. And many people would assume that any movie which requires a character or characters to ascribe depth and morals to a "Curveball" to be tortured in the extreme.

The only reason why "Curveball" is being made is because Bob Drogin, a reporter for the LA Times and the author of book it's being optioned from, must have a powerful agent.

In Santa Barbara last weekend, DD browsed the books on the Iraq war and purchased Cobra II, mentioned earlier this week.

Drogin's "Curveball" was also on the shelves. And it was pretty much dead-on-arrival in stores, along with many brethren on the Iraq war.

For instance, how many books on the glory of commando operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, written by the semi-literate-special-ops-man-turned-Hemingway, do we need? Ten, twenty, thirty? More?

That's a lot of potential movie fodder going against the grain of what the majority perceive to be a lost war and ink stain on the national character.

"The Bomb In My Garden" is also said to be coming to theatres, optioned from the book of the same name by someone called Kurt Pitzer.

DD laughed out loud when reading about the conceit of it in the newspaper.

"The Bomb In My Garden" is the autobiography of "Mahdi Obeidi, [Saddam Hussein's] former nuclear scientist..."

Mahdi Obeidi, huh?

Naturally, there's another serious disconnect at work. Saddam Hussein didn't have the bomb, or any weapons of mass destruction, when we attacked him.

This piece -- here -- was about the best the so-called "bomb in the garden" story could do.

Naturally, there never was a bomb in the garden. Obeidi just had pieces of a gas centrifuge and plans which had been buried for years.

"[Obeidi] told me that he never worked on a nuclear program after 1991," reported CNN.

Of course, at the time the story ran -- in June of 2003 -- US government teams were still desperately trying to find evidence of WMDs.

However, the writing was on the wall.

Even though Mahdi Obeidi, who few Americans remember, tried to justify a war that was coming unbuttoned even as he was blabbing to American journalists, it didn't stick. In a New York Times op-ed piece, one that pimped "The Bomb in My Garden," Obeidi wrote: "Threat is always a matter of perception, but our nuclear program could have been reinstated at the snap of Saddam Hussein's fingers."

Even CNN had to admit of Obeidi and his buried crap: "Find is not smoking gun."

Would you pay ten dollars to see a biopic about this old duffer? We f-----' doubt it.

Who will play Iraqi old duffer/nuclear scientist, Mahdi Obeidi?

It's not an inconsequential question for Hollywood.

The Los Angeles Times piece lends some insight into how it's going down.

It has to be a movie about someone more sympathetic. How 'bout the journalist who got Mahdi Obeidi to America? Yeah, that's the ticket!

And it will be done by Johnny Depp's production company, Infinitum Nihil.

Perhaps Johnny Depp can be had to play the journalist, doing a variation on his riff off gonzo Hunter Thompson in "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas" mixed with a little of the annoying but good-hearted drug pusher, George Jung, from "Blow."

"The [Mahdi Obeidi] book appeared to be a good fit for Depp's production company," wrote the Times.

"But the story had to be expanded beyond Obeidi's account and focus on Pitzer's efforts to help the scientist and his family flee Baghdad."

Telephone calls were made to Los Angeles "[and] I could tell that drama captivated them," said Pitzer, somewhat self-servingly to the newspaper.

Another book being made into a movie is "Thunder Run," by David Zucchino. Zucchino is also a LA Times reporter. That makes two of them with movies, including the author of "Curveball."

"Thunder Run" did not burn up the charts.

"The narrative focuses on the men who commanded and battled in the tank battles as the Americans fought their way to Iraq's capital city," reads one blurb for "Thunder Run" from the publishing industry. "It is often not a pretty picture, nor one for the faint of heart, because Zucchino unhesitatingly and graphically describes the violent and grisly fates that befell hundreds, if not thousands, of Iraqi Republican Guard troops and fedayeen militiamen, their Syrian allies (at the border) and the unfortunate civilians who were killed or wounded by the deadly high-tech American armored vehicles and their well-trained crews."

Yeah, that sure was just great, wasn't it? (Incidentally, Cobra II devotes one chapter to the subject of the Thunder Run.)

Most of any potential movie audience knows the punchline to this story. The US government and military ran into the endzone and ripped down the goal posts well before the game was over.

Many readers may get the motivations for these potential war pics by now. They're hardly about "You've read the book, now see the movie!"

And they're not about making good films, stories which uplift while getting people communally into the theatre. They're about maximizing book projects, squeezing some extra blood from stones that didn't yield so much on the first try.

The original from the LAT.

Here's the basic outline for the absolutely spell-binding "Bomb in My Garden."

From a magazine article in Mother Jones, it contains the usual copy on the story of the danger of unsecured scientists and nuclear proliferation. The script is always the same and while there's truth to it, it has been repeated so often it's no longer interesting.

Yes, Virginia, there are scientists who work in other countries for state-run nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and when things go bad they all want to come to America.

And then you get the book deal for some of the most famous so that they may furnish their tell-alls and the monotonous handwringing about how these elegant scientists -- we should grab them and pay them to work for us at once, so they don't run off and work for our many other enemies.

DD thinks most people, after hearing this script once or twice inwardly squirm and turn away. The idea, essentially, is to bribe someone into being a good boy. It also has the look and feel of a shakedown.

How many US scientists in possession of potentially dangerous knowledge get bonus pay and other incentives and embellishments so they don't go over to the dark side?

Anyway, dear readers, get a load of these made-for-the-big-screen moments:

"Between its unemployed scientists and the disappearance of large amounts of WMD-related materials from former weapons sites, Iraq now poses a nightmare scenario, according to Ray McGovern, who spent 27 years analyzing intelligence for the CIA and afterward cofounded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. 'The danger is much more acute, both from the proliferation side and the terrorism side,' McGovern says. 'Before we invaded, there was no evidence that Iraq had any plan or incentive to proliferate. They didn't even have a current plan to develop WMDs. They just hadn't been doing it. Now, my God, we have a magnet attracting all manner of foreign jihadists to a place where the WMD expertise is suddenly unprotected. It just boggles the mind."

"In the weeks after the invasion, I got to know [Mahdi] Obeidi quite well. He was no Dr. Strangelove. He loved science and the pure logic of an engineering challenge..."

"He said he detested Saddam ... "

They always detest their maximum leaders. (See Ken Alibek et al.)

Scintillating possibilities for human drama here.

Can see first line in potential movie review at the LA Times in 2008: "Although he was Saddam's Dr. Strangelove, all Mahdi Obeidi wanted to do was to come to the United States with his family and pursue the American dream. 'The Bomb in My Garden' tells the story of Obeidi's flight from war-torn Iraq, first dodging bombs and bullets in the rubble-strewn streets of Baghdad, then probing the corridors of Washington, DC, where the intrepid scientist and his journalist friend struggled to inform policy makers about looming nuclear catastrophe despite walls of bureaucratic indifference."

"There are a number of people who could be brought here, at least temporarily, and make positive contributions to this society," [Obeidi] said. "These are very educated and skillful scientists. Surely this great nation could absorb a few more talented people ..."

OK! Book deals, movie options and scientific welfare for everyone so they don't work at blowing us up!

Knowledgeable readers may know there was one exception to the rule. Gerald Bull.

Gerald Bull was a scientist who worked developing high performance artillery for various projects sponsored by the Pentagon and Canada.

When these projects dried up, the CIA helped to arrange for the sale of his expertise to South Africa. When he was later arrested and jailed for illegal arms dealing to South Africa, the CIA let him be hung out to dry.

Upon emergence from jail, Bull went to work developing a "supergun" -- a giant artillery piece -- for Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Upon hearing of it, Israeli forces assassinated him, effectively ending the project.

Although books were written and one TV movie made -- The Doomsday Gun -- starring Frank Langella as Bull, the scientist was -- in a manner of speaking -- disinvited from his pursuit of the good life.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

IT'S A DANGEROUS WORLD: Hitlers, Iran, extremist groups, traitor Dems, WMDs from garden shops

"Unfortunately, on too many issues, some in Congress are behaving as if America is not at war," Bush said during a speech at the [far right] Heritage Foundation.

"This is no time for Congress to weaken the Department of Justice by denying it a strong and effective leader [who will allow to continue to torture prisoners by waterboarding them] ..." said Bush, as reported by the Associated Press today.

"Now we're at the start of a new century, and the same debate is once again unfolding, this time regarding my policy in the Middle East ... 'Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them. And the question is, will we listen?"

Whenever the horrendous administration of George W. Bush wishes to push the current war, pimp its methods, or lobby for a new war, Hitler is invoked.

If there is an enemy or future enemy of the United States, it is always compared to Hitler and Nazi Germany. And the Bush administration is the lonely Winston Churchill, warning that the new Mr. Hitlers -- last week, Iran and its leaders -- must not be appeased.

If you do not support George W. Bush's requests or landmine-masquerading-as-nominee-for-attorney-general, you are an appeaser in the war on terror and want the new Hitlers to win.

And you are probably trying to stab the country in the back right now. I know I am.

Glenn Greenwald regularly explains the practice. And here is one recent post.

Consigned to page A19 of today's Los Angeles Times, probably because it's no longer particularly newsy or surprising:

"Under siege in April 2006, when a series of retired generals denounced [Don Rumsfeld] and called for his resignation in newspaper op-ed pieces, Rumsfeld produced a memo after a conference call with military analysts. 'Talk about Somalia, the Philippines, etc. Make the American people realize they are surrounded in the world by violent extremists,' he wrote."

When it is time to whet the appetite for launching a sneak attack on a much smaller nation, many Americans now know that the much smaller nation must begin to appear regularly on the front pages of the daily newspaper. This is to prepare the polity with justifications for the potential sneak attack or trumped-up incident/circumstance used to preface the sneak attack.

"Wider Iranian threat feared," claimed the Los Angeles Times, above the fold, on Wednesday.

Iranians may seize diplomatic personnel, said anonymous officials to the LATimes. This raises "the danger of an escalation..."

"An on the ground clash could be sparked, say current and former officials, by a confronatation along the 900-mile-long border between Iran and Iraq, or in the waters of the Persian Gulf. Or it could be ignited over one of the periodic US attempts to arrest those members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iraq."

Iran is itching for a fight. And when and if we smite the Iranians, they'll darn well deserve it because they wish to destroy us and all that is good.

An expert from a think tank is produced to say that the US military does not want war with Iran.

"The military is going to be cautious about going after Iranians in Iraq, operations on the border, or training camps in Iran itself ... I think they realize this could escalate. It's the kind of war the military itself doesn't want."

There you have it.

The US military is trying to avoid attacking Iran or Iranians, but it just might happen, anyway. Heck, at least they tried to stop it by being cautious. You know they'll go the last mile to head off war and there won't be any slip-ups.

DD blog gamed an "escalation" with the Revolutionary Guard a couple months ago. And we pointed to it earlier in the week here.

You'll need Point of Attack 2, an uncommon computer wargame, to duplicate the simulation.

What, don't you want to see how we take a stand against the new Hitler and his minions?

Everyone knows that America's officials and generals never dissemble when it comes to going to war.

In Cobra II, Michael Gordon's and Bernard Trainor's account of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, it is said on page 59:

"In late May, a reporter asked [Tommy Franks] how many troops he would need for an invasion of Iraq. 'That's a great question and one for which I don't have an answer because my boss has not yet asked me to put together a plan to do that..."

"...[For] Franks, even the cleverest hair-splitting could not reconcile his remarks at CENTCOM during the last six months," wrote Gordon and Trainor.

While cleaning out the garage this morning, DD came across "Operation Just Cause: The Storming of Panama" by Thomas Donnelly, Margaret Roth and Caleb Baker. On the back, Ralph Peters, author of the increasingly valuable and spellbinding book, "Red Army and the War in 2020," meted out some kudos.

The book's title -- what with the word "storming" and all -- made Ronald Reagan's little war against Manuel Noriega seem more stirring than it was. However, DD did not remember much of the book and in mistakenly believing it to be a good read, sat down to skim it for half an hour.

"At 1:03 AM on December 20, 1989, over 700 US Army Rangers descended onto Tocumen military airfield, near Panama City" -- and that was only the jacket copy. "[The Rangers] moved swiftly from the runway to the airfield terminal, overpowering entrenched defenses and taking 54 prisoners ... the first battle of Operation Just Cause had become a stunning victory!"


Honestly though, "The Storming of Panama" was a real dud. There's no way to dress up anything about the US military crushing one of the nation's more pathetic and odious former toadies, one who fell out of favor in Panama.

However, "Operation Just Cause: The Storming of Panama" did contain one unintentionally hilarious part. Its final two paragraphs.

"Like it or not, Operation Just Cause gave soldiers a glimpse of what to expect if the military is to assume a greater role in post-combat civic action projects," wrote the authors.

"Not every people whose leader the United States seeks to overthrow will provide as friendly a laboratory as Panama did for training in stability operations. The job of rebuilding a larger or more hostile nation can only be more difficult."

" 'We need to put a lot of time and effort and resources into it,' says Lt. Col. Johnny Brooks, commander of the 4/17 Infantry. 'You need to expose your soldiers to as many situations as possible. It's a matter of education.' "

"Some chemical and biological agents can be manufactured in the home with items that can be purchased at a garden supply store," wrote the Houston Chronicle, about a week or so ago. "Law enforcement officials say they want to train first-responding officers to recognize that seemingly-innocent household products can be deadly when combined."

Remember readers, you can kill thousands with all those noxious plants, growth powders and slug baits sold down the street. Why do they even allow such stores to exist? Geez, it's a dangerous world.

THINKING ABOUT TERROR MADE ILLEGAL: In England and coming to Germany

A proposal to scan suspect hard drives causes unease in [Germany]," read a recent frontpage story in the Los Angeles Times. Positioned boldly above the fold, the reporter, Kim Murphy, and editors recognized the potential keen interest in anything having to do with the implementation of snooping in "My Documents".

In the United Kingdom it's no longer surprising to find that in the absence of significant physical evidence, documents, weblinks and cached pages found on suspects' hard disks are enough to send them over on terror charges.

In the conviction of Scottish student Mohammed Atif Siddique, a source recently informs that publicized terror writings on the man's computer existed as links on pages - never mounted on the web - pointing to copies of jihadi materials published on the scholarly site, Project for the Research of Islamist Movements.

If one is to nip terror in the bud, goes the reasoning, then it follows that one ought to be able to reach out and secretly snoop on the virtual material stored on the hard disks of suspected terrorists.

"What if terrorists were planning to use a nuclear weapon?" continues the script.

Wouldn't you want your government to have the tools to look inside the computers of plotters before having to raid their apartments, potentially tipping them off and accelerating the attack?

That's the reasoning put forward in the LA Times news report, delivered via German counter-terror men who want to have the capacity to put trojan horses on computers in that country, programs to scan those under suspicion.

Invoking the threat of a nuclear weapon is the most common trump card played. It destroys all reasonable thinking. If you're not for unlimited surveillance, you're for the terrorists and their plans. And when the next bomb goes off, the blood will be on your hands.

Read what's wrong with this picture at El Reg here.

And you surely won't want to miss UK Teenager Hooked on Terror Beef.