Monday, March 30, 2009

POTATOES OF DEATH


Suitable for silly poster.

Today's pic is worth a good scoff. "Ahhhhh!" -- bioterror potatoes of death have been distributed throughout America, according to sources in the US government. The FDA is rapidly mobilizing. Throw all your potatoes out, warns the TV! Well, not really.

But it's the kind of stupidity people come up with when they're thinking about terrorism from the redoubt of the reality free: the belief that anything could be a target at anytime, that society is fragile and helpless -- that it's easy for terrorists to do anything they desire.

The original story which used the graphic is here. (It's only worth a look for the art.)

"[New rules] under consideration on Capitol Hill would expand the bioterrorism reporting requirements to cover farms and restaurants, which are currently exempt," it reads.

If implemented, such rules will immediately degenerate into simple harassment and the collection of fees and fines from various small places in every town, USA. There is no reason, for example, to require Tops -- a popular sandwich shop in Pasadena -- to be involved in terrorism reporting and tracking. It will never be a target of bioterrorism any more than the Creekside Brewery in San Luis Obispo, a small company harassed into installing bioterror-proof fermenting tanks.

All the scrambling to craft and enforce new rules has been brought about by Stewart Parnell's Peanut Corp. of America. In this way, the man was not only a menace to public health but also a catalyst for a very American over-reaction in the wrong direction. What was wrong in the case of Peanut Corp. of America, for example, has some similarity to the problem faced with AIG's worming its way into everything in the economy. Peanut Corp. was a supplier of peanut products which became too big and intertwined with the food chain. It wormed its way into furnishing peanut products everywhere, conducting its business with no oversight or due diligence.

But instead of giving the FDA more resources and the power to immediately seize and close or dismember such businesses, so as to create a social environment which strongly discourages the food industry from acting in such a manner, onerous measures are concocted and forced on the exceedingly small players at the grass roots level. Notice, being diligent with the food supply so as not to harass the small business in everytown is still not the same thing as simply letting the market take care of itself.

The general history of food tampering is dominated by deliberate poisonings. And there is no reason to believe record-keeping at the atomic level stops the determined mentally ill sociopath from trying to murder his wife or some kids who make fun of him in the cafeteria line. Historically, this is fact and was discussed a week or two ago here.

"Certainly an historical absence of evidence does not preclude suppositions that terrorists may intentionally contaminate the food supply ... What it does tell us is 'that undertaking a major attack on the food chain is much more difficult than at first it may be believed,'" reads one quote taken from one analysis discussed in that posting.

However, rationale thinking about such matters is not the American way. Instead of thinking about how to trace and immediately eliminate the businessmen who would poison customers and clients while lunging for profit, everyone must be made to practice fine note-taking security, the chefs in the fried-food kitchen made to pass security checks.

DD has routinely seen ridiculous articles on food security as a result of 9/11.

"It is simple ... for one person to intentionally contaminate the food supply and have a major impact," wrote one science-writer at Newsweek a couple years ago, repeating the script, custom-made to cloud thinking.

"The list of chemicals that could poison food is almost endless," she continued. What is more true and illuminating would have been to that many chemicals are toxic and that poisoners have employed many but that the level of intentional malicious food poisoning is trivial when compared to the yearly incidence of death from naturally-occurring food and waterborne illnesses.



Protecting the cheese from bioterror

Thursday, March 26, 2009

SLAP IN THE FACE



Today for your consideration, Slap In the Face: My Obsession with GG Allin, an indie comic/memoir by Justin Melkmann. As a student at Lehigh University in the late Eighties, Melkmann was obsessed with super-filth rocker GG Allin. Allin's music and terrifying reputation provided inspiration and outlet at an engineering school where the student body was full of corporate fascists-in-waiting and power-drinking strongmen. Lehigh also happened to be a DD alma mater.

Melkmann was introduced to Allin's music while on the community staff of WLVR, LU's student-run radio station in Bethlehem. The DJ who first introduced Melkmann to Allin was Rich McInerney, who for a short time was the driver and all-around associate of the Dick Destiny & the Highway Kings band. Small world!

Originally, Melkmann was interested in doing an underground movie on his hero and later a comic book biography, to be entitled Last in Line for the Gang Bang. Both were blocked by circumstance, so Melkmann made Slap In the Face a trenchant observation on life. Parts of it are also a snapshot of the way it was at Lehigh. During the period depicted in the comic the south side of Bethlehem was a slum seasoned with hardware stores, small eateries and dive bars, with the school for an upper class of people who acted like a lower class occupying the side of the facing mountain.

"In the fall of '87 I began my four year sentence at the Pennsylvanian frat-infested jock trap known as Lehigh University," Melkmann writes.

"Dude, I got into the fag-bashing house!" shouts a Lehigh student in the same panel. Harsh to be sure, but about right.

The second half of Slap In the Face finds Melkmann off for greener pastures, transferring out of Lehigh for Sarah Lawrence College, a move which immediately improves his disposition. More women, many more women than at Lehigh, one imagines. GG Allin dies by drug misadventure but his music is carried on by brother Merle Allin in The Murder Junkies, with the artist along for the ride and collecting material for the dead man's biography. Of course, this has Melkmann rubbing elbows with some fairly dire characters from weird old urban and suburban America, excellent material for loving illustration.

"Slap in the Face" is hysterically funny, more so if you were there for even a bit of it. At the end, Melkmann is in New York with a day job in the media, joining a band to pursue his punk rock dreams by night. More adventures seem imminent.

"If someone had told me that when I was a miserable 18-year old GG Allin enthusiast that this was how things would turn out I never would have believed it," he writes.

A second Melkmann comic, entitled Earaches and Eyesores, is a collection of works previously published in the magazine, New York Waste. Promising "adorable substance abuse" and "frightening sexual encounters," it is utter truth in advertising. I recommend it, too.

The blog of Melkmann comics.

And here.



Related:

Previously published on GG Allin.
THIS IS A TEST

Blogger blues.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

THE PARASITIC NATURE OF 'DEFENSE' AGAINST BIOTERRORISM

One of the common features on this blog has been discussion on the breadth of bioterror defense in this country and its connection with predator state security policy. The bioterror defense establishment in this country can now be loosely defined as a lobby and industry, one which exists to enrich and expand itself through the taxpayer. Its growth has deformed sensible thinking about the actual nature of the risk and pulled national health priorities in a bad direction. And during this time the only bioterror attack carried out was perpetrated from within the US biodefense infrastructure.

This was recently demonstrated again during a debate at the James Martin Center for Non-Proliferation Studies here. DD wasn't there but a video of it has been placed on the web along with materials from the presentations of the two debaters, Milton Leitenberg and Richard Danzig. Readers may already be familiar with Leitenberg as a historian of BW and critic of the rise and expansion of the bioterror defense infrastructure in this country. Danzig, explained here in current profile -- is one of the more vocal, active and influential voices predicting catastrophic bioterrorism. (Hat tip for Jason at Armchair Generalist for getting to this first. DD would have missed it, otherwise.)

Two snapshots of slides from Leitenberg's presentation are particularly damning. In a better world and more sanely run country, they would end the debate over whether or not more money and devices are needed to fight bioterrorism. They graphically illustrate the level of risk and parasitic nature of biosecurity in this country.



Readers will note the ballooning of money and effort to fight theoretical bioterror threats, juxtaposed against funding to fight chronic illness.

The next slide also speaks for itself.



Despite argument enders like this, the biodefense industry lumbers on. It does so because it has never been required to have any anchor in reality. If you are pushing defense against bioterrorism, you can simply make threats up and not be rebuked for it. Your career will, in fact, flourish and the bioterror defense industry will reward you richly.

As for change during the Obama administration, this may be unlikely. It is certainly not an encouraging thing when the proposed head of the FDA, Margaret Hamburg, comes from the bioterror defense industry lobby. As profiled here, she has written this howler and been taken seriously: "[Information] on how to obtain and prepare bioweapons is increasingly available through the Internet."

And this is one of those examples (of which there are way too many) of an 'expert' making it up. One simply cannot train to be a bioterrorist by downloading texts from the Internet.

Much of the work DD has done over the past five years has gone toward convincingly refuting that belief by doing something none of the people caught claiming the opposite have ever bothered with: Collecting the plans and recipes of alleged Islamic terrorists and documents seized in terror investigations and analyzing them with an eye toward whether they would actually even might remotely work. And they don't.



Your daily example of making s--- up about bioterrorism is here -- furnished by someone at the Hudson Institute.

"The warnings of the U.S. Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism were underscored by subsequent media reports that dozens of members of Al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an al-Qaida affiliate in Algeria, died earlier this year when their attempt to develop a biological weapon went awry," writes someone who's pulling your leg. "The resulting contamination allegedly killed the researchers at their mountain laboratory hideout."

This weird rumor on al Qaeda and plague was debunked on the ProMed mailing list two months ago. But its presence in the 'think-tank' piece, authored by an 'expert' on terrorism and homeland security, illustrates one can just about write or say anything one wants on the threat of bioterrorism.

Monday, March 23, 2009

NOBODY TOO SMALL TO HARASS WITH PREDATOR STATE SECURITY

A story about the Department of Homeland Security requiring mule-drivers along the Delaware River to have biometric security cards, called TWICs, is here. The story went nationwide when reporters got wind of Congressman Charlie Dent (R-PA) haranguing Janet Napolitano on the issue at a Homeland Security Committee meeting. Generally, the Dept. of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administration blow off everyone with complaints. And they apparently did so when first approached by Dent, forcing him to buttonhole Napolitano, confronting her with the potential for public mockery.

"After [being] last month, Dent raised the issue at a Homeland Security Committee hearing ... He showed Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano a photo of the canal boat in action and personally vouched for the mules [named Hank and George]," reported the Morning Call newspaper.

"Now, Hank and George, while [they] sometimes are ornery, they are not terrorists," said Dent, according to a Congressional transcript.

"Obviously, this is a picture designed to say, 'Isn't this absurd that they be required to have TWIC cards,'" responded Napolitano who promised to work with the small company which uses mules to tow tourist barges.

"The credentials would cost about $100 for each of the canal boat ride's four to five seasonal operators," added the newspaper. The business is a non-profit.

The Los Angeles Times ran a frontpage story on Sunday echoing the item and adding that a part-time ferry crew on the Tred Avon River off the Chesapeake Bay had also been harassed into obtaining TWIC cards.

"Oxford [MD] is not an area where we expect to see much in the way of terrorism," the ferry's owner told the Los Angeles newspaper.

Predator state security includes harassing people in places which will never be nexuses of terrorism. It always requires additional papers and fees collected to finance the companies which make ID cards for Homeland Security, items meaninglessly certifying one against databases of alleged terrorists, criminals and people the government deems suspicious or inappropriate.

Pointless and vexing security measures:

Saving cheese-eaters from bioterrorists

Making a micro-brewery bioterror proof

Sunday, March 22, 2009

US SMASHING AL QAEDA!

Until the next frontpage story delivered by anonymous sources.

News from the front in the 'war on terror' always follows predator state approved practice, particularly anything having to do with ... Predator drones. The news is often contradictory and, even when taken from one daily newspaper, defying of logical narrative. It fits whatever form the storyteller wishes it to take, furnishing a framework of propaganda for the confusion of all.

About two weeks ago the Los Angeles Times published a frontpage story with the following theme: "US efforts to identify and thwart the growing threat posed by Pakistani extremists who enjoy easy access to the United States -- and already have a significant presence here -- are being undermined by the government of Pakistan, according to current and former US and Western counterterrorism officials."

Terrorists were one airplane ticket away from striking in the United States, it was claimed. (See the DD write-up here.

That story, written by reporter Josh Meyer, featured virtually no recognizable sourcing. One actual named source, Juan Carlos Zarate, was a national security flunky from the Bush administration.

Today's LA Times article was entitled "US airstrikes stagger al Qaeda" and it was about how the use of Predator drone pinprick assassinations have -- allegedly -- crippled the organization.

It featured ZERO named sources. All the quote on the success and extent of the Predator drone campaign was furnished by alleged insiders granted anonymity for the piece. Written by Greg Miller, the story had only one named 'expert' in it: Juan Carlos Zarate, the Bush administration natsec functionary featured in the last LA Times story on what was going on in the 'war on terror.'

"You can imagine a horizon in which al Qaeda proper no longer exists," Zarate told the LATimes.

Two weeks earlier, Zarate had told the newspaper: "[There] are [Pakistani Lakshar-e-Taiba']-tied individuals in this country [the United States] we need to be worried about."

In a manner of speaking, Zarate is a spouter of colorful rumor and whatever it is you would like to hear, really, in reference to your day's story on terrorism. On another level, he was furthering the Bush administration line that (1), the Obama adminstration was not keeping us safe -- there were Lakshar-e-Taiba terrorists in our country -- and; (2), that the increased pace of Predator drone stikes, started by the Bush administration, was smashing al Qaeda.

DD invites readers to review Zarate's bio.

At a famous think-tank here, it's a standard piece of Center for Security and International Studies sclerosis, crediting one laugh-out loud book no one not plied with cash money would read voluntarily. It's entitled Forging Democracy: A Comparative Study of the Effects of U.S. Foreign Policy on Central American Democratization. Yeah, they love the US in Central America for forging democracy.

In addition, there are standard paragraphs with the aim of getting you to think that Zarate, while in the Bush administration, was fighting terror and upholding freedom. Note this: "Mr. Zarate also led the U.S. government’s global hunt for Saddam Hussein’s assets, resulting in the return of over $3 billion of Iraqi assets." Yes, and this transpired in 2004 when, as everyone knows, the US was simply the most widely appreciated and beneficent of occupying powers in Iraq.

In this case, see the CSIS as a place for tools from the previous administration to be stored until, perhaps, they can get back into a position of power.

Getting back to today's Times piece on Predator drone attacks, one can believe all the anonymous quote. Maybe it is all true.

Or, perhaps one could believe some of it but be unable to tell those pieces which are reliable and those which are reaching or rubbish.

Or one might consider it an effort to plant stuff on the front page of a big newspaper, material aimed at offsetting the significant impression that the USA is accomplishing very little with its Predator strikes other than killing people in the wrong place at the wrong time and stirring up a potential future hornet's nest of resentment.

"[Militants] have begun turning violently on one another out of confusion and distrust, US intelligence and counter-terrorism officials say," writes Miller. "This year has been a very hard year for them ... They're losing a bunch of their better leaders," one anonymous source tells the Times.

"Abu Khabab Masri, who was described as the leader of al Qaeda's chemical and biological weapons efforts," was eliminated a few months ago by Predator attack, reported the newspaper. What is known is that -- with regards to the war on terror --al Qaeda had an interest in chemical and biological weapons, but no real capability. And that's just a fact. So claims that the US government actually offed a chemical and biological weapons leader by Predator must be seen as suspect, unless such claims are amended to say that a potentially petty nuisance was killed.

LA Times original.

On the other hand, Biden warns of resurgent al Qaeda

Different measures of success, or the lack of it:

400 girls schools closed in Swat.

Recent opinion from Dawn -- an English language newspaper in Pakistan.






Predator state security -- the series.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

WHAT WOULD RORSCHACH DO?

Updated


Break one of DD's little fingers for this likeness?
'Can't ignore. Serious business. Slur on reputation.'


DD reads a frontpage story in the Los Angeles Times on whimpering coming from AIG executives and others: "On Wall Street, where outsized pay is a significant attraction, staffers worried that Congress could rewrite a compensation system ... Top executives [scrambled to calm employees and lobby Congress]."

In the 1985 NYC world of the Watchmen, Rorschach only dealt with the city's underbelly. His favorite activity was putting the squeeze on ex-felons at Happy Harry's and beating to death those he ran across in the act of perpetrating violent crime. One scene from the comic shows him readying his cravat for use in strangling someone interrupted while raping a woman in an alley. When Rorschach finally comes to blows with a 'better class' of person, Veidt, he is easily defeated. Refusing to compromise on his black and white sense of right and wrong, he's put to death in the snow at the bottom of the world by Dr. Manhattan.

So it's hard to know what Rorschach would think is right for Wall Street. Because he avidly reads The New Frontiersman, a raggedy-ass newspaper from the extreme right, he would not be sympathetic to over-compensated business executives.

Since Rorschach's sense of morality defined him, compelling him into the streets to destroy the wicked without mercy or hesitation, it is inspiring to think of what he might do to the shadowy bonus recipients of Wall Street. Would he throw one down an elevator? Handcuff another to a stanchion in an apartment, leave a hacksaw within reach, and set the room ablaze with gasoline? Would he "put fourteen in the hospital needlessly" while squeezing the name and address of their boss from them? Would he crush one of their skulls out of sight in the men's room?

In the United States, it has not yet come to that. However, if the men of Wall Street are seen to be beyond punishment and another round of rip-off and malfeasance is allowed to occur, as potentially described by Paul Krugman in the New York Times today, all bets will be off. Many will feel the need for Rorschach's relentlessly logical pursuits.

Update:

On the other hand, Rohrschach had no fondness for liberals or others thought to be soft and morally ambiguous, those he thought equally responsible for the collapse of the alternate history 1985 America in Watchmen. He could be just as likely to take a look at the toxic decay foaming up out of the gutters of Wall Street, threatening to drown everyone not at the top and upon hearing screams for help, just whisper, "No..."



'Shut up. Will break arm. Not joking.'

The fatuous piece of the day, courtesy of the New York Times: "AIG Revenge Is All the Rage, But It Isn't Healthy."

Don't get angry. It's bad for you, writes troll Allen Salkin, perhaps hoping many on Wall Street will link to his piece, or Twitter it about, saying: "Finally, someone who's willing to explain why populist rage is misdirected and we shouldn't be torn limb from limb at some point in the near future." And a very successful piece of troll handiwork it was, too.

Quotes:

"Reader mail sent to the NYT in response to articles about these executives' formerly high-flying lives repeatedly mentioned the guillotine and suggested it was 'time to bring back the tumbrel'..."

"There is something a little scary about all this rage -- and not just to those who are on the receiving end, some who have hired security."

"Maybe it's time to take a deep calming breath."

" 'We need to all collectively repent,' said Rabbi Levi Brackman, a co-author of 'Jewish Wisdom for Business Success.'"

"Standing on your head can also help, said Carlos Menjivar, a teacher at the Jivamukti School, where attendance is up 30 percent since November."

"Indulging in rage anchors you in the past, said John Osborne, an instructor of the Apex course, a corporate seminar in stress management and security."

"We should be angry if there's an injustice, but it has to be channeled and dealt with in an appropriate way," said some staff psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic. "[Avoid] drugs and alcohol."

Seriously.

Suggestion: Break little and index fingers. Then drop down elevator shaft. Include you.

Friday, March 20, 2009

TAKE ADVICE FROM NINNIES

Another in an infrequent series

This just in, hot off the press of a newspaper in Bumblefu--, TX:

"Around the world, up to two billion people have died — depending upon whose count one uses — and in the United States alone deaths could total one third of the population," reports a local newspaper for a small town in Guadalupe County.

Yes, it's time for another weekly bioterror scenario. Forget about the real catastrophe, another 600,000 plus out of work nationwide thanks to American big business financial terrorists.

We've read it thousands of times before, but nothing gets the blood rushing in newsmedia USA like thinking about s--- that's never going to happen and how more money and time has to be taken to stop it.

It's a pandemic -- bioterrorism -- that threatens mankind, even down to Seguin, Texas, wherever that is.

"Were it to happen tomorrow, though, local officials would fail in [their efforta] because they lack the local volunteers needed to try to stop the outbreak," it continues.

Yes, another paleful of fail, because we are never properly prepared for bioterrorism or pandemic flu. (Incidentally, local newspapers reported last week this year's flu season was exceptionally mild in southern California.)

"[Two local officials] are preparing for a May 2 dress rehearsal of a pandemic disaster at [a local school]," reports the newspaper. "Volunteers will set up and operate a 'drive through' in which they will take a practice run at registering, screening and pretending to inoculate 100 volunteers so they can identify whatever problems might come up and prepare to meet them ... The same procedures with minor changes would apply to any similar emergency, such as an outbreak of smallpox or an anthrax or ricin attack ... "

"Were Guadalupe County to attempt to handle such traffic in one lane in five locations, each line would be 41 miles long, said [one official]. For San Antonio, the lines would be more than 2,000 miles long — the distance from Calgary, Alberta to San Antonio."

Doomed, as usual. How long is the line at the local soup kitchen these days?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

BIOTERROR HAGFISH


Get yer degree in handcuffing and detention, homemade cures,
bioterror detectors, and lessons on how to save yourself from
things that'll never happen in your neighborhood.


DD has regularly commented on the industries aiming for solid growth when everyone else has fallen on hard times. You're looking at these hagfish, streamed out down the page in Google ads next to DD's news feed on bioterrorism.

Teaching and training in how to detain and handcuff illegal aliens, the homeless or anyone else who looks suspicious. How to use scanning equipment, wear night vision goggles, interpret intelligence badly and write sclerotic opinion pieces on emerging threats no one else is quite able to see. Selling bioterror detectors to the police forces of the Pine Grove Pennsyvanias of the country, any town out in the forest with a population of about 2,500. So, like, they're safe from bioterrorism. The kind that no one attacked us with except the crazy angry US biodefense researcher from Fort Detrick. Development of robots drones to launch pinprick assassinations of scruffy-looking strangers around the world, possibly people just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Anything, really, that advertises it will protect you while giving nothing back to the welfare and growth of general society.

As one vision of the future, it could be solid.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

TAKE ADVICE FROM NINNIES

This afternoon CNN came up with the answer for the unemployment blues in America. In less than fifteen minutes, simple: Facebook! If everyone who's lost a job would just say so on the pre-eminent social networking site and keep working that, others around the country would see their pleas for help and do something. There's no shame. Crisis fixed!

It's no surprise there are ninnies in the prominent chairs of the mainstream media. CNN's top simpletons in this particular bit were Ali Velshi and Campbell Brown. After asking how many people got jobs through Facebook, three or four anonymous answers were whipped out: One free-lance spot and two other full-time jobs, maybe. Problem solved, a two and a half minutes of good news. Chin up, unemployed. Just friend everyone you can on Facebook.

A journalism prof from Columbia University, Sree Srinivasan, was furnished as an expert.

"Every year he instructs new Journalism School students and faculty on the better use of the Internet," reads his Wiki bio, presumably self-written. "His Internet seminars for new students are a staple for the school's summer curriculum ... He teaches Internet workshops called 'Smarter Surfing: Better Use of Your Web Time.'"

One wondered if Sree's students ask him how he can recommend careers in journalism when newspapers are going under, shedding jobs almost as fast as they can be reported. One can see Sree recommending budding journalists vie for work at the website of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which just went out of business except for its website, going from 150 jobs to about twenty. All one needs to do is be one of the lucky in the game of new media musical chairs! Or all the Columbia journalism students could work for free for a few years. Good for the soul, y'know, build connections, teach a solid Protestant work ethic, that sort of thing.

Did Sree have anything practical or useful to say about unemployment? No. Perhaps he was pondering what he could add to his Wikipedia bio.

"In 2004, Newsweek magazine named him one of the 20 most influential South Asians in the U.S.," it reads. And "In July 2007, India Abroad named him one of the 50 most Influential Indian Americans in the U.S."

Campbell Brown wrapped the segment with priceless information on the two economies showing most growth in the world: Azerbaijan, because of oil, and Macau.

Macau is where all tyrants, crooked bankers and corrupt financiers of the world launder their lootings. Recent times have apparently been great for business. Campbell Brown did not explain this, tee-hee.
HARASSED INTO THE GLORIOUS FUTURE

After reading three stories a day on Twitter, all generally aimed at convincing readers that if one didn't have a Twitter feed one was totally out of it and bound for hardcore lifelong loserdom, DD joined.

My Twitter tweets are here. I have one follower, not a promising start. So don't expect much.




Other matters: TV ratings for last week show ABC's Handcuff USA to be a gratifying failure. For last week, Homeland Security USA showed five million viewers on Monday night. That put at #65 among one hundred rated shows in a Los Angeles Times list. It is less than a quarter of the audience than "Dancing with the Stars," ABC's top-rated reality show.




Handcuff USA -- from the archives.
POLISHING A TURD

Jason at Armchair Generalist has posted on the Sci-Fi Channel's developing new image here. It involves changing a mediocre logo into a bad one and a meaningless two word slogan.

In any case, DD watches Sci-Fi channel on cable quite a bit. And despite the much-written of hit, Battlestar Galactica, it often pushes the limit on what constitutes wretched. In fact, it's very frequently 'reality show' wretched, in ways easily rivalling ABC's Handcuff USA.

Take, for instance, the network's elevation of Ghost Hunters. Ghost Hunters is a mindlessly repetitive reality show in which a baseball-capped white trash crew goes to haunted houses. With an armory of Radio Shack-bought electronic sensors and night vision goggles, most of it is shot in annoying grays or greens. On the adverts for Ghost Hunters, of which there are many, anytime there is a noise or a cold draft in an empty dark house, it's evidence of the supernatural.

DD dares you to sit through more than ten minutes of it if you read this blog even semi-regularly. Try to imagine what kind of people find it absorbing and edgy. Then take it a step further and think of what it might be like sitting in a restaurant, sharing a meal and conversation with them.

Ugly, innit?

Then there's the acquisition of professional wrestling. Think of your usual steroidal manbull vaseline-slick ranters sans someone even faintly as amusing as Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, a man who no longer wishes to be associated with this manner of entertainment. Johnson, of course, now makes movies for the delight of children, which tells you something -- something awful -- about the demographic Sci-Fi is servicing with ECW pro wrestling.

Perhaps you're thinking now: Why do Sci-Fi geeks like shitty pro-wrestling? Well, they probably don't. But those who run the channel are hedging their bets in much the way the Discovery and A&E channels did years ago. They moved away from high brow biographies and documentaries for the raw realism and wallop of shows about virile men who administer tattoos, work as bounty hunters, build variations on the choppers in Easy Rider, perform stoop labor, clean sewers, etc. The audience is those who, three years ago, moved out of double wides for houses with subprime mortgages in Orange County or the Inland Empire. And who are now back in trailers.

Now, I also know you're thinking "meth cookers!" No, that's moved upscale to Breaking Bad and it's sophisticated entertainment -- like Big Love, an HBO show about how funny and perplexing it is to be a polygamist. These are shows for people who religiously read and take seriously the Calendar section of the Los Angeles Times.

But I've gotten away from the thread -- the damnable decay of the Sci-Fi channel.

Saturday night, for example, is unwatchable.

The Sci-Fi channel regularly plugs it as 'the most dangerous night on television,' based upon the general premise of the featured Saturday night in-house movie. The idea is simple and numbing: Cheesy computer-generated monster is discovered by a crew of the hapless and two 'stars.' The hapless are destroyed. At the end, the monster is overcome with the two 'stars' left standing.

These movies are simply awful. Consider, or don't, a movie called Kaw -- a piece in which a flock of computer-generated diseased crows escape from a government weapons lab and ravage a town. Think The Birds without any actors, suspense or, even, real birds.

Another bit of dogshite which had to be seen to be believed was the Sci-Fi's idea of Beowulf. Old Chariots of Fire actor Ben Cross plays King Hroogar of the Danes and Grendel is played by a M1-tank-sized CG monster. Story: The Danes drink a lot. Grendel shows up when they're drunk and rips them apart. For about half of it, the Danes never cotton to the fact that they die when they're walking drunk or blacked out on the floor.

This was recycled in another Sci-Fi Saturday night special -- or perhaps it was the other way around -- in which Cross plays a Nazi scientist who creates supersoldiers. The supersoldiers looked suspiciously like the Grendel monster, except with jackboots and SS helmets. This was so atrocious it's title has been wiped from DD's memory.

Did you know the old Anaconda movie is in its third sequel? No? It was made for the Sci-Fi channel and starred David Hasselhoff.

Why are these movies worse than the old B-versions kids used to watch after school in the Sixties?

That's easy.

One, they're in color. You can see in great detail how bad the ridiculous computer-generated monsters look, and how they don't fit the screen action. At least old rubber monster suits had people in them and interacted with the heroes and villains. And black and white TV helped to cover up many imperfections. Second, the old B-types were after school entertainment. They didn't pretend to be anything they weren't, like something to hang your rep on in primetime on a Saturday night.

Have you ever wondered what Mitch Pileggi has been doing since he lost his Director Skinner gig on X-Files?

He wound up on the endless Stargate franchise, part of Richard Dean Anderson's MacGyver empire. The Stargate series, finally cancelled, lived years beyond its freshness date, vacuuming up the crumbs -- bit players like Beau Bridges and Pillegi from the carpet of old TV. Pillegi also starred in a Sci-Fi Saturday night special about killer ants.

If you're really a Sci-Fi channel masochist, you also know Stargate drafted two actors from Farscape -- Ben Browder and Claudia Black -- not that it helped. Farscape, much better, had ended years earlier.

While Stargate has finally been cancelled, it lives on in endless reruns.

Sci-Fi also practices the buying up of cancelled major network stuff.

Take "Invasion," which lasted for about eight episodes last year before being cancelled in mid-stride. So the viewer is left with even more abridged viewing. Sci-Fi aired a full three episodes of it, kind of like getting to watch the first 45-minutes of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and then having someone come in, turn on the lights and say, "Well, that's it, show's over, folks!"

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

PROTECTING CHEESE-EATERS FROM BIOTERRORISTS

By now you're numbingly familiar with idiotic security measures brought about as a result of the war on terror. For example, two weeks ago readers learned of a microbrewer in San Luis Obispo badgered into hardening his brewing tanks against bioterrorists. (See here.)

This week, a food writer at the San Francisco weekly writes about how US security measures wiped some cheeses off the shelf, also out of fears of bioterrorism. Keep repeating to yourself: It was an American in the bioterror defense industry who was the big bioterrorist, putting anthrax in the mail, not food. And the only thing which has been screwing with food safety is American big business.

"After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government responded in many ways that bore no rational relation to terrorist threats: invading Iraq, making it harder for Chinese nationals to get or renew student visas, X-raying our shoes at airport security checks,"
writes Robert Lauriston
. "Perhaps the most absurdly tangential of these was the Bioterrorism Act of 2002, which did zip to prevent terrorists from smuggling in bioweapons, but effectively removed raw-milk cheeses aged less than 60 days from the American market.

"Such cheeses had technically been banned for years, but, since the rules were laxly enforced, determined shoppers could sometimes track them down. Raw-milk Camembert de Normandie, Reblochon, and Crème Fraiche d'Isigny, for example, were often available in the Bay Area's better cheese shops. After the Bioterrorism Act went into effect in 2003, they disappeared."

When a food writer derisively dismisses defenses against bioterrorism, one begins to realized that a large number of people, from all walks of life, now know a lot of stuff brought to town for the war on terror is a racket. As said repeatedly here, it's consistant with predator state security, something -- like biosecurity -- which started with good intent but which now exists primarily to enrich the people, organizations and companies involved in it, without actually providing any meaningful security or give back value to society. (See this example and This one for another joke: Worthless penny stock-picking services recommending people invest in two small companies involved in bioterror defense, one of which -- DOR Biopharma -- is developing a ricin vaccine. Keep in mind, no one ever dies from ricin poisoning in the US.)

At the SF Weekly, food writer Lauritson goes on to describe how a French company, Herve Mons, is trying to sell a bioterror-safe version of its raw camembert.



Predator state security -- from the archives.
SHAKE YOUR HANDCUFF USA MONEYMAKER



Jailing relative non-criminals constitutes a solid revenue stream in southern California. The above graphic, xeroxed from today's Los Angeles Times story, here, illustrates how local police departments use the power of the jail to boost budgets, courtesy of the US government.

Use of the Pasadena City Jail to hold illegal aliens netted growth of almost $200,000for the local police department between 2007-2008. In Glendale, the operation of Handcuff USA shows a tripling in income.



Handcuff USA -- from the archives.

Monday, March 16, 2009

WHICH PART OF 'TORTURE' DON'T THEY UNDERSTAND?

The employment of torture by the Bush administration, so recently described in numbing detail by Mark Danner writing in the New York Review of Books here is unimpeachable fact.

Danner writes how the United States of America voluntarily became monstrous after 9/11, in the process playing directly into the hands of al Qaeda and those who wished the rest of the world to believe the worst about the country.

Will Danner's article be the straw the finally breaks the camel's back? The camel, in this case, being the current DC ruling class received wisdom that the country only has time to look forward, not revisit the past with inquiries that might return conclusions that those who led the nation gladly made themselves war criminals. And that whether or not torture is proper is merely a political and semantic argument to be waged between the right and left.

Revisiting an old Associated Press piece from 2006, a reader comes across one George W. Bush's many lies and distortions relating to such matters, congruent with Danner's assertion that the President frequently lied to the press and public about the country's use of torture.

"Bush reminds Americans US is at war," reads the story's title.

"For example, Bush cited what he called 'a grisly al Qaeda manual' found in 2000 by British police during an anti-terrorist raid in London, which included a chapter called Guidelines for Beating and Killing Hostages," reported AP.

This after the US government had already approved and employed the beating and torture of prisoners at black sites.

Back then, DD wrote:

"Upon scanning Guidelines for Beating and Killing Hostages,' [in the al Qaeda manual] it is found: 'Religious scholars have permitted beating . . . In this tradition, we find permission to interrogate the hostage for obtaining information. It is permitted to strike the non-believer who has no covenant until he reveals the news, information and secrets of his people.'"

In this manner, the United States government invoked the same process, instead employing Jhn Yoo to craft the "torture memo," one arguing that it was proper and legal to torture those captured in the 'war on terror.'

The same manual Bush cited in 2006 as proof of the evil nature of our enemies also contained a chapter on what the jihadist might encounter should he be captured and interrogated.

The manual wrote that captives should expect to be tortured through various methods, including but not limited to being beaten, stripped naked, hung by the hands for long periods of times and having cold water poured over them. These were all methods employed by the US government to torture its captives, all detailed in Danner's account at the New York Review of Books.

However, the al Qaeda manual referred to by George W. Bush in 2006 was written in the late Eighties. It was used to describe what methods of interrogation captives might face if they were caught by other governments in the Middle East, not by the United States of America.

"[Let] no one think that the aforementioned techniques are figments of our imagination, or that we copied them from spy stories," it reads.

"On the contrary, these are factual incidents in the prisons of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and all other Arab countries. Those who follow daily events and read the newspapers and journals would be amazed to learn that."

The United States, as a torturing government, was conspicuously absent from this document. And this was probably because our country was, at the times of its writing, not known to torture its captives like the human rights-abusing regimes of the Arab world.

In 2006 when George W. Bush cited Guideline for Beating and Killing Hostages, it was employed as a fixture in a manipulative political argument. It was September and just before mid-term Congressional elections. It was pulled out to make the veiled argument that Democrats were weak when it came to defending the country from terrorists, that they did not understand the nature of the threat.

What we now understand clearly is that the US under the Bush administration beat its prisoners using the same corrupt reasoning employed by those who wrote Guidelines for Beating and Killing Hostages many years before in a different country.

"If you doubt the threat of terrorist aggression you are not only fools, but you deserve the destruction that you receive as your reward for non-vigilance," wrote some anonymous guardian, angry that the hypocrisy had been pointed out here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

TEST FOR RENEWAL OF FEEDS

Broken rss and atom blues.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

ENDING PREDATOR STATE FOOD 'SAFETY'

Today Barack Obama essentially characterized the food safety system in the US as broken, a good first step toward ending predator state disregard for it.

"President Barack Obama has said the US food safety system is a 'public health hazard' and in need of an overhaul," reported the Beeb today here.

It was a remarkable turn around. A year ago, with the Bush administration still in power, it was still OK for US businesses to sicken and kill Americans with tainted food and drugs. Trivial money was tossed at the FDA, an agency left to atrophy as spending at the Dept. of Homeland Security ballooned.

Obama's position is in stark contrast to recent ideas on how to 'fix' food safety in the US by not fixing it, offered by predator state cheerleaders and buffoons at the Wall Street Journal and a right-wing think tank. (See here.)

It's nuts to do anything, recommended the WSJ. Food safety will take care of itself.

"[Authorize] private companies to inspect food, along the lines of Underwriters Laboratories for electrical appliances or kosher certification for food," wrote someone dangerously incompetent from the redoubt of an institute for high button right wing cranks.

"The president said recent underfunding and understaffing at the FDA had left the agency unable to conduct annual inspections of more than a fraction of America's 150,000 food processing premises," continued the BBC. "That is a hazard to public health. It is unacceptable. And it will change ..."

The only potentially cautionary note was in the naming of "[Dr. Margaret Hamburg], a bioterrorism expert who was an assistant health secretary under President Bill Clinton" to lead the FDA.

DD will say why.

Everyone -- that is, EVERYONE -- who has claimed interest in bioterrorism and operated from cabinet or assistant secretary positions in the US government over the past decade has generally been wrong about everything they attempted to predict.

Example: "Since 2001, [Hamburg] has been vice president for biological programs at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a foundation dedicated to reducing the threat to public safety from nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons," reads part of a biography at the National Institute of Health. "She is a leading advocate for changes in the nation's public health policies and infrastructure, from local health departments to the highest levels of government, to meet the challenges presented by modern bioterrorism."

See here for a sample of the standard hack's dishwater on the menace. "Hamburg highlighted critical issues that remain to be addressed as America and the world prepare to deal with a threat once thought to be 'the stuff of science fiction or Tom Clancy adventure novels,'" it reads. "Today's 'A-list' of threats includes anthrax, smallpox, plague, tularemia, viral hemorrhagic fevers and botulism."

"Truth is, probably no single terrorist attack -- no matter how horrifying and catastrophic could threaten the very stability of our society and institutions the way that biological weapons could accept, perhaps, for a nuclear attack," Hamburg goes on here. "Yet compared to nuclear weapons, biological weapons are relatively inexpensive and easy to produce ... What is more, information on how to obtain and prepare bioweapons is increasingly available through the Internet."

It's an appalling collection of all the fact free memes on the subject: Bioweapons are easy to make and the information can be downloaded from the Internet.

This country has many pressing problems. But one of these "challenge" is not reorganizing the health system to simply thwart bioterrorism. In the last ten years, the only bioterrorist in action, the anthrax mailer, was an American from inside the bioterror defense industry.

And in materials from the public record, government bioterrorism experts have been principally responsible for creating the meme that it would be easy for terrorists to poison the food supply. Reality has, at this juncture, shown the opposite.

Indeed, Barack Obama's statements on revitalizing food safety are welcome. However, the appointment of someone who has simply been part of the catastrophic-bioterrorism-is-coming US government expert mafia does not guarantee that change will come. Food safety in this country has not been undermined by bioterrorism; it has been suborned by corporate self-interest and greed.



Related:

Food tampering in the real world

Feigning interest in fixing food safety

Friday, March 13, 2009

ZEPPELIN UBER ALLES

Years ago DD did a weekly column for the Village Voice called "Weapon of the Week." Its purposed was to lampoon American-made weapons and gadgets that were alleged to be wondrous in the run up to war with Iraq. And I was regularly cursed out anonymously in e-mail for doubting the supreme greatness of our arms tech. But the logic of "Weapon" stood the test of time. And everything and everyone who was in it is now disgraced. (Example: This bit of completely reprehensible dogshite here.)

Today, then, behold the "absolutely revolutionary" US super-zeppelin for future spying on weak countries that can't do anything about it and whose protests can be ignored.

"It is constant surveillance, uninterrupted," brags a military man for the Los Angeles Times here.

The ISIS dirigible project fit the old WeaponOTWeek main criterion: It contains empty-headed boasting by the garbage truckload.

"The things we had to do here were not trivial; they were revolutionary," a p.r. lady for DARPA, Jan Walker, tells the newspaper. Reporter Julian Barnes takes it all down like a good stenographer.

"It is absolutely revolutionary," air force scientist Werner J. A. Dahm babbles.

Yes, but will it fix the banks and our broken nation?

Wait, there's lots more. The super dirigible will stay in the air for ten years over places, like, Afghanistan or Pakistan or Somalia -- anyplace that's thought to be not spied on from above enough.

A prototype will cost $400 million and is supposed to be delivered by 2014. By which time almost everyone will be out of work or have seen their lives go up in smoke some way from economic catastrophe. But we'll have the big spy blimp to snoop on anyone we like from 65,000 feet.

It would seem sure to be just another among many golden promises, one that -- if it shows up -- will just seem like another load of superfluous lead, increasingly cementing the national reputation as a sort of musclebound but brainless man who occasionally goes berserk over something only he can see and then unloads a knuckle sandwich on someone, always preferably small and weak.

DD can imagine the sky blimp's sales pitch, a slam dunk: Boy, if we'd just had the spy blimp around, we would have found Saddam's WMD's before they were taken to Syria. Man, if we'd just had the spy blimp around, we would have been able to track and take out Osama bin Laden as he left Tora Bora. Holy moly, when we have the spy blimp around we'll be able to [fill in the blank with whatever crap you like about some other country.]

Like everything else that was originally in Weapon of the Week, it means paychecks for those who give our society the most, you know, the people who make landmines, incendiary bombs, etc. In this case, that means workers at Northrop Grumman or Lockheed.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

OBSERVE AND REPORT


Ahhhh, I'm in a Seth Rogen movie!

Sitting in the theater for a matinee showing of Watchmen yesterday, your host saw the trailer for Seth Rogen's "Observe and Report," another movie about a mall copper. It featured a bit with a dumb overserved blond girl sicking up and requesting a mint. That'll draw 'em in, a real laff riot, something fourteen-year-old guys haven't yet seen in platoons at fraternity parties or on spring break. Why is Ray Liotta in this movie? Because he did "Operation Dumbo Drop" or has an overly broad sense of humor? Which?

Obviously, you won't see DD in line, but the choice of tunes for the trailer was redeeming, including The Yardbirds' "Over Under Sideways Down" and Patto's "The Man."

The latter is worth ear time if only because the album it originated from -- a 1970 piece -- sold only 5000 copies, a low score to scrape out at a time when almost anything hard rocking and bluesy could do five times as much with zero advertising.

For the "Observe and Report" trailer, "The Man" was edited from 6:20 to about two minutes, its four minute intro of cocktail jazz vibes surgically removed, leaving only blooz shouter Mike Patto's "I saw the man!" gospel exhortations and the crunching guitar of Ollie Halsall.

On the album, "Hold Me Back" immediately follows -- a boy's ode to a thirteen-year old. "Thirteen summers passed by your door/You face time to score/Don't turn on your neighbor-boys!" Further, "You keep on bringin' what you ain't got for sale!" Yow! Something to put lead in the pencil and smoke in the head when heard for the first time, still energetic and fresh forty years later.

At the time Patto was considered a quirky progressive band which over describes it by quite a bit. Most of the songs on the LP are raw and smoking blooz rock with occasional jazz fusion guitar solos, intros and straight shreds by virtuoso Halsall. A few years later he'd be dead from a drug overdose, singer Patto following soon after from leukemia. The bass player was also paralyzed in a car crash.

Boy, that's sure a happy story.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

AN AWKWARD POSITION

"15,300 government workers have access to agents of bioterror" is a line that couldn't have been published in the mainstream media a year or two ago. That it is one today in a blog entry at the great middle of US newspapering, USA Today, is evidence of the embarrassing position this country finds itself in.

Succinctly: After screaming about biological attacks by outside terrorists for years, the most effective act of bioterrorism during the so-called "war on terror" originated in the US biodefense research infrastructure. Taxpayer dollars produced the finest bioterrorist money could buy, not al Qaeda.

The only other conspicuous misuse of dangerous materials with application in bioterrorism also came about despite the US government's select agent control regime, a program specifically put in place to oversee and regulate the production and proliferation of dangerous materials. It is described here and involved the production of botulism toxin, or botox, by a US-lab (named List in Campbell, CA) directly involved in furnishing dangerous substances and complexes for research use in the biodefense research milieu. This toxin was ordered by two criminals and diverted for use in the cosmetic surgery industry. The diversion was only discovered when a number of people were paralyzed by the toxin so severely they had to be placed on life support.

In any case, the USA Today line comes from just published government reports on the explosive expansion of bioterror research facilities in this country, which isn't exactly a big secret.

Two years ago, few critical words could be heard about risks involved in this build-up, namely the increased potential for mischief by disturbed or malicious individuals within such programs. This risk became impossible to ignore with the exposure of Bruce Ivins, a scientist at the heart of the country's lead biodefense research lab, Fort Detrick, as the presumed anthrax mailer.

"In an awkward and disturbing irony, the most significant bioterrorism incident in the U.S. to date — i.e., the 2001 anthrax attacks — apparently originated in a U.S. military laboratory that was engaged in biological defense research," a quote from Steven Aftergood's Secrecy blog here also puts a fine point to it.

"High containment laboratories play a critical role in the biodefense effort, offering the hope of better responses to an attack and a better understanding of the threat posed by bioterrorism," states a new Congressional Research Report entitled "Oversight of High-Containment Biological Laboratories: Issues for Congress."

"However, they also could increase the risk of a biological attack by serving as a potential source of materials for training," it continues.

Permeation of the second statement into a vehicle for policy discussion like the Congressional Research Service simply wasn't possible a few years ago. Any reasoning which called for a more deliberate pace of build-up within the biodefense industry in academia and the private sector was, for practical purposes, disallowed. (For an example, see here.)

To be sure, finding a way to oversee and regulate this expanded network of laboratories will present many technical and political challenges, not least of which is the general and often legitimate scientific antipathy to any outside meddling with research. On the other hand, one possibility that "[experts] suggest ... training in best practices be increased and that scientists develop more robust self-policing," as something proffered by a trio of scientists from the biodefense industry, seems a little too lacking in substance.

It must also be noted that the increased number of people working in biodefense has not led to any specific "better understanding of the threat of bioterrorism." In fact, just the opposite has been the case, at least in the public domain, where until recently the only viewpoint allowed was that bioterrorism was easy, catastrophic and inevitable. And the same biodefense infrastructure completely struck out when analyzing al Qaeda's potential for mounting a biological attack.



Related:

Censored scenes from a Congressional WMD report

It's not too late to join the bioterror gold rush

The amazing endless bioterror pork conveyor.
HIGH BUTTON MAN AMONG MEN


Neil Strauss, in this week's episode of 'The Dilettante'


Here's another for your bookshelf devoted to schlock for the gilded age demographic, repackaged as something everyone might need in time for the fall: Neal Strauss's 'Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life.'"

As part of a piece of hagiography in today's Calendar section of the Los Angeles Times, readers are told "Strauss [a former ghost-writer for books on Motley Crue and Jenna Jameson] has learned to do over the past three years [what to do] should society collapse."

With reporter Susan Carpenter present, he buys a shotgun -- a 900 dollar Remington Wingmaster. The reader is told all the manly things Strauss has learned. It reads as clueless found humor, the book supposedly survivalist lit from an ex New York Times rock-critic instead of the usual white American neo-Nazi. You know, stuff for people who were never in the Boy Scouts of America, in a sports training camp, at pigeon shoots or taken to stay at a military base for a few weekends a year.

"[He] lived in a shelter made of leaves and made fire using nothing but sticks and his shoelaces," writes Carpenter. "But it is also empowering. Strauss has only done what a lot of people might consider if they had the time and money." Seriously?

"[Strauss] has even secured citizenship in another country. It took more than a year and half a million dollars, but now he's a citizen of ... St. Kitts. (Really, the publisher paid for that? Or is it just a tall tale for effect? And who would actually pay half a million, anyway, if it was their money?)

"Strauss has also taken edible plant walks and learned how to fish and sail a boat."

By this point the reader is ready to hear that Strauss was also taught how to dig a slit trench and empty a bag of lime into it after doing his business.

"[Strauss's] goats paw the refrigerator, roaming and defecating freely inside the house and around the slate patio that rings his swimming pool," it reads.



Related:

DD has bagged on previous Carpenter articles, too. See here and here.

Monday, March 09, 2009

FRONT PAGE NEWS: TERRORISTS COULD BE READY TO STRIKE


Terror cells all over the country! Not AIG or
Citigroup or Bank of America ...


"US efforts to identify and thwart the growing threat posed by Pakistani extremists who enjoy easy access to the United States -- and already have a significant presence here -- are being undermined by the government of Pakistan, according to current and former US and Western counterterrorism officials," reported the LA Times on the frontpage here.

Danger! Danger! Not from terrorists ready to strike, but from a national news story larded with "authorities say"-type claims, fill-ins from Congressional testimony and absence of any concrete who, what, when, why or how. Number of sources actually named on first page? Zero.

Where do the terrorists have a significant presence in the US? No one says.

"Militants from 'less well-known terrorist groups ... are merely an e-ticket away from the United States," reads a box-out quote, regurgitating public domain testimony from FBI director Robert Mueller III.

Out pops an old George W. Bush administration official to deliver some rumint: "Juan Carlos Zarate, the deputy national security adviser for counter-terrorism to the Bush administration" tells the newspaper: "there are [Lashkar-e-Taiba]-tied individuals in the country we need to be worried about."

Then an old terror case from five years ago is trotted out, sans the five years ago part: "Nearly a dozen Americans, including many members of the so-called Virginia Jihad Network have been convicted in US courts of training at Lashkar camps." (They used to be called the Paintball Terrorists but that sounded pathetic and was changed to the more serious and professional-seeming VJN.)




Incidentally, the map used for effect in this post is from a Congressional report issued a few years back. At the time, DD added the "Map of the United States of al Qaeda" caption because its purpose was to show how the country was dripping in infiltrators and provocateurs.
FOOD TAMPERING & POISONING IN THE REAL WORLD

When it comes to assessing the likelihood of terrorists striking our country's food supply, exaggeration and hyperbole have always ruled the day. For a graphic example of what the discussion has typically been like, consider this post describing one famously awful and embarrassing US government-sponsored food security industry get-together on the topic a couple years ago.

So it comes as a bit of surprise when one sees something realistic, an assessment not larded down with goofball intelligence-insulting PowerPoint slides designed to bash the audience over the head with tales of approaching doom. Sadly, it's not a surprise to see that it comes from overseas, where others may not be so influenced by the rotted and broken quality of American threat assessment.

And that brings us to G. R. Dalziel's "Food Defense Incidents: 1950-2008: A Chronology and Analysis of Incidents Involving the Malicious Contamination of the Food Supply Chain." Presented by the Centre for Excellence in National Security at Nanyang Tech in Singapore, it is here.

As a tabulation of incidents of poisoning around the world, it is packed with interestingly monstrous vignettes on the blackmailing, revenge-minded and psychotic poisoner's of the world (and the wanna-be's). The reader learns "Ana Luyong sold cassava fritters laced with insecticide to a group of schoolchildren in SE Philippines. Initially denying it, she said that the type of cassava used has a particularly high level of naturally occurring cyanide, but tests found Coumaphos, [an] organophosphate insecticide on frying pans and cooking oil." Twenty-eight died and 130 were injured in 2005.

"In 2005, glass and needles were found in at least five loaves of Kingsmill brand bread loaves, apparently contaminated in the factory, in the United Kingdom."

Happily, the monograph devotes no time to one of our favorite national security hobbies, predicting what would be easy for terrorists.

"In the United States, food borne illnesses resulting from food safety breakdowns are estimated to kill 5,000 and hospitalize 300,000 every year," it reads near the end. "The World Health Organization estimates that food and waterborne diarrhoeal diseases ... kill approximately 1.8 million people annually ... This is in contrast to the 391 fatalities 4,355 injuries since 1950 from malicious food contamination ...

"Certainly an historical absence of evidence does not preclude suppositions that terrorists may intentionally contaminate the food supply ... What it does tell us is 'that undertaking a major attack on the food chain is much more difficult than at first it may be believed.'"

And your host even makes an appearance with a pithy quote on page 7.


Recently:

The Annals of Eat S--- And Die

No Solution is the Solution

Looking the other way on food and drug contamination -- as a national practice.

Feigning interest in fixing food protection

Sunday, March 08, 2009

ANTHRAX HOAXING -- THE WHITE MALE CRANK'S BURDEN


Today the Los Angeles Times published a feature on something regular readers of this blog already know about -- the explosion in hoax anthrax powder mailers since 9/11.

Like the demography of ricin kooks -- those who download recipes for it from the Internet and commence to puttering around with castor seeds -- the anthrax powder hoaxers are generally all stupid white men from the fringes, almost always on the extreme right and with some story or grievance to vent. (One of the men recently convicted apparently thought of hoaxing as revenge over having lost his shirt in a recent bank collapse.) In the LA Times article, an FBI man labels them "knuckleheads." And like the ricin kooks, the powder hoaxers, when caught, all get sent over with little delay.

The Times story is notable for extending the tale of one of the latest, a man named Marc Keyser who has apparently been mailing hoaxes around for years, trying to explain it off as an attempt to gain publicity for a book -- "Anthrax Shock & Awe Terror" -- and his blog. (The government indictment is here. An earlier story on Keyser, at the Sacramento Bee is here.)

And Keyser's message? It's not so fresh: Anthrax terror is a really big menace and not enough attention is being paid to the threat.

Using this fractured illogic requires one to believe there's been some shortage of spending on bioterror defense in this country. And that people wishing to write bioterror novels and articles warning of the danger aren't a dime a dozen nuisances, the opposite of reality. And that sending anthrax hoaxes to a 120 or so media outlets is a way to lift the scales from the nation's eyes concerning the gravity of the bioterror problem.

The Times' story on anthrax hoaxers is one of few sources. By the end of it, there's a brief quote from Milton Leitenberg explaining how we came to be in this state of affairs.

"I think all of our screaming about bioterrorism has been counterproductive," Leitenberg told reporter Bob Drogin.

Paradoxically, the USA newsmedia has not been without fault in this matter. It has always been easy for experts peddling imminent and catastrophic bioterrorism to get their views publicized. Scare sells and experts ready to tell us what must be done and spent to keep safe are thick on the ground. However, until recently, it's been virtually impossible to hear more moderate and critical voices.

By way of example, as late as 2005, Milton Leitenberg and I worked at countering a very damaging opinion in the New York Times on the ease with which bioterrorists could kill hundreds of thousands of American by making milk a vehicle for botulism. In the evidence and indications gathered from actual terrorists, there simply was nothing to support it. The NY Times would not consider a rebuttal. And the Washington Post, which had requested a brief letter to the editor on the matter, spiked our contribution after it had been submitted.

Eventually, the critique was published by Steven Aftergood's Secrecy Project here.

So, in fact, more reasonable views have always been around. And the long-time lack of reason in this matter -- a by-product of predator state security policy and actions -- certainly contributed to an atmosphere of fear in which powder hoaxing could flourish.


The White Male Crank's Burden, warning about bioterrorism -- fresh and piping hot from the letters page of the Washington Post.


". . . [Vice president] Dick Cheney's warning last month of the 'high probability' of terrorists attempting a nuclear or biological attack missed the most probable half of that threat assessment," opines a letter writer named, wait for it, Chuck Woolery. "The biological threat, either from terrorists or nature's pandemics, deserves far more media coverage and public attention.

"Biological weapons are infinitely cheaper and easier to make than nuclear weapons, and they are infinitely easier to deliver anonymously to their target. We can barely protect people from contaminated peanut butter, and most Americans have no idea of the human and economic catastrophe that a weaponized strain of smallpox could create. Intentionally inserted into a nationally distributed batch of ice cream, it would kill more Americans than a limited nuclear exchange ... Mass death in America from a bioterrorism attack, natural pandemics or a bioweapons lab accident seems inevitable."



Note: One might reasonably regard large parts of the bioterror defense industry like AIG's Financial Products division. That is, in the business of selling 'bad paper' insurance policies for poor loans -- the terror widget/research equivalent of credit default swaps. And it's not backed up by any collateral so when the taxpayer money is exhausted, there will be little or nothing to show for it, zero to claw back.

LA Times original here.



Predator state security -- from the archive.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

BROKEN STUB WRENCH BLUES


The broken 'made in China' stub wrench: Metaphor
for the US in 2009


We're getting a dose of what security means in the predator state: A fallen over economy and mass-firings. In the past eight years, our leaders were good at making us look the other way. See the Islamic terrorists! They want to destroy our way of life!

But underneath our noses, a different story unfolded, one of a place that made no sense, a land that worked hard at destroying a way of life all by itself.

Let's employ a bit of a fable to define it: The tale of the broken stub wrench, pictured above.

In southern California, everyone has embedded lawn sprinklers. And sometimes, the sprinkler heads are damaged, like when your neighbor runs over one with his SUV. When that happens, you have to replace the fractured sprinkler. And that job requires that you remove a broken piece of it, called a stub, from the water pipe outlet which serves the sprinkler.

There is a tool for doing this and it is called a stub wrench.

DD did not have a stub wrench when this happened to a sprinkler in his yard last summer. So I went to the hardware store on Colorado Street in Pasadena to buy one. That stub wrench is pictured above. It was made in China.

For a stub wrench to work, it has to be a little like a corkscrew. That is, you have to be able to twist it into the broken plastic stub of the sprinkler head. Burrs on the tip of it dig into the stub, allowing you to untwist the broken piece from the outlet coupling, thus removing it. Then you can screw in a replacement sprinkler.

This stub wrench had no burrs and DD didn't notice until he got home. No matter how I tried to make it work, no dice.

So DD went back to the hardware store and marveled at an entire shelf of 'made in China' stub wrenches, all the same, all guaranteed not to work, all with the name of an American company on them. But they were cheap, only about three dollars a piece.

It was an astounding display, not only because of the broken-before-buying quality of the goods, but also because it was obvious that people who bought them never complained. So these non-working items just stayed in stock and were never removed, a Ponzi pay-and-get-ripped-off scheme on the micro-scale, a metaphor for the entire economy, now collapsed but still sitting on the shelf in its polystyrene shrink wrap -- broke. I could only wonder that the reason the stub wrenches weren't removed was that people who bought them, perhaps not being familiar with how stub wrenches were supposed to work, felt that the problem lay with them. If the stub wrench did not function, it was because they did not know how to use it. So they just gave up and asked a plumber or a yard man to do the job.

DD is sure that at the beginning of the great downturn this is how many mass fired Americans felt, too. It wasn't the screwed-up policies and corrupt economic ways of the country that were at fault. It was them, for not being efficient and cheap enough to justify their continued employment. We've been conditioned to feel that way by years and years and years of newspaper articles, business books, and experts pontificating on the meaning of employment in America. If you were fired, it was because you allowed yourself to become obsolete, a lazy person without proper skills, worthless and inefficient.

Surely, as more than a half a million are fired each month, this belief is changing. How high can unemployment go? Ten percent? Fifteen? What happens when 1 or 2 Americans in every ten are out of work and with no obvious prospects?

But back to the stub wrench. DD imagines China isn't much like southern California. And whatever region the stub wrench is manufactured in, there are very few lawns with embedded sprinkler systems. I am certain that those making the stub wrenches for a daily wage cannot afford such things. And whether or not the stub wrench does not work, to them, is immaterial. It just matters that they get to make them, courtesy of an American company which probably used to make them twenty years ago, but doesn't anymore. The former owners of the company are now retired and don't know their company turned evil, fired its workers and sold off its tool-making equipment so that it could resell something non-functional.

You would think that such a practice would ensure a company goes out of business. But it hasn't worked that way for a long time. Up until late last year, you could literally always produce rubbish in lots of industries -- whether it be an actual physical good -- or something like a financial 'product', and get away with it.

Freakish examples of this exist wherever one turns.



Take Fender's new series of "roadworn" guitars, also shown above.

In the past couple of years, Fender -- which is the American-made electric guitar icon -- has seen its business expand in an unusual way. Artificially beat-up guitars -- called 'relics', outrageously priced, grew to be ten percent of its business, selling to the wealthy who wanted an instrument that looked like Eric Clapton had played it for two decades.

But these artificially worn guitars were way too expensive for average musicians who bought 'Fender' guitars which had been offshored and manufactured in China, Vietnam, or Mexico. So the problem to be 'solved': How to sell 'worn' guitars at a price that would draw more in.

So, just before Christmas, Fender tooled up to make less expensive 'roadworn' classic 'American' guitars in Mexico. Keep in mind, at one time in the far distant past, Fender used to be a big employer in Fullerton, California. The company WAS the sound of early American rock and roll.

Now a big part of its business consists of what amounts to "gilded age"-type buys, items with a faddy snob appeal, sold to the fickle and vain, a customer base that could just as well blow away in the wind some day. Like now.

All through the entire US, virtually nothing worthwhile is made. Even toilet seats, which used to be made here, are made in China and rebranded by an American company which used to make them, but which fired everyone and ... Those toilets seats which DD has purchased blister and peel in months, when -- as a child in Pine Grove -- the American-made one never had to be replaced.

For the sake of compressing the wages of the middle class for decades, manufacturing of goods which defined the United States, was stopped and moved overseas. And we didn't complain because the cheaper goods were affordable under this wage compression. Energy, housing, and US-made autos, which are necessities, ballooned.

Of course, America does still make some things. Food -- people have to eat. So we use illegals to do that.

The formerly good 'ol US makes land mines and phosphorus incendiary bombs in Pine Bluff. So Arkansas is probably doing OK. We make fighter jets, big submarines and guns. (This leads the cynic to muse that if only we could declare a larger war and move to full mobilization...)

America does cable TV monopoly really good. It resells made-in-China T-shirts, baseball caps and mugs with clever sayings on them. It leads the world in social networking sites and Internet search. And social networking businesses will grow because an economic collapse is a boon for them.

Has there been a week in the past couple of months when a daily newspaper or an Internet news site didn't admonish you to get LinkedIn or Facebooked and start harassing strangers into being your 'friends' unless you wanted to be a hardcore loser for the rest of your life? No, of course not.

"Who’s going to put me to work?" some poor sod tells the New York Times. "Where’s the work at? It’s just a great big black hole."



And what about the broken sprinkler? I found a real stub wrench, also not made in the US (it came from Mexico), and fixed it. Then the neighbor ran over it again.



Predator state security.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

THIS IS A TEST
DOWN & OUT IN THE TOP 100 OR HANDCUFF USA?

"Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor will release the country's latest unemployment figures, which will no doubt be grim," reported a columnist at Poynter.

"By some estimates, 4.2 million jobs have been lost since the recession began in December 2007. Almost certainly, the situation will get worse."

Reading through the statistics, almost everyone is hosed. Even traditionally strong and expanding jobs in health care for the maintenance of the doddering American cohort have slowed a bit as people put off elective procedures and families postpone transfers to senescent warehousing.

Mass firings tracking at bls.gov is your host's favorite widget. It furnishes tip-top data. Check the first box on the page and let 'er rip. The result is astoundingly bleak.

However, as has been posted here previously, job opportunities are OK if you can qualify for work as part of Team Handcuff USA.

"U.S. Customs and Border Protection recruiters will look to Orlando, Fla. to meet its goal to hire a diverse cadre of approximately 11,000 new employees this year," reported a Dept. of Homeland Security dispatch on February 29.

"[A] one-day recruiting event seeks to identify qualified applicants for a variety of law enforcement positions as well as mission and operations support roles."

"Successful Border Patrol candidates will complete a rigorous screening process, which includes a written examination and structured interview, language aptitude or Spanish proficiency test, along with a physical fitness test and medical examination ... Training is provided and includes a 55-day basic training program upon successfully passing a Spanish proficiency exam in the academy; all others will complete a 40-day Spanish immersion course upon completing basic training. All training is conducted in Artesia, New Mexico."

Look to daily episodes of Homeland Security USA for worker profiles. Generally, you have to be bigger than the people you handcuff, detain, and jail. And you must speak Spanish, because almost everyone you'll be processing is smaller, weaker, browner and Mexican. Military experience is a plus -- from the battlefield to the border crossing detention center, so to speak.

As February rolled in, Fortune magazine ranked the 100 best companies to work for in 2009. As an example of cheerleading while the house burns down, it was first rate.

Outside of the usual companies near Mountainview, CA (Google, naturally), it was list of those damned by trivial crap presented as giddy praise.

In at number 9, Goldman Sachs: "Wall Street survivor turned itself into a bank holding company in September and laid off some 3,000 people across the globe by year-end. Top seven officers agreed to forgo bonuses, but rest of staff was in line to receive performance bonuses, albeit at a lower rate."

Nugget Market, at number 10, will create a whopping 173 new jobs this year.

"Sales have yet to slump at this crazy-fun supermarket chain, which in 81 years has never had a layoff," cheered Fortune editors. Crazy fun!

Adobe Systems at 11: "Software innovator known for its egalitarian culture was not immune to the slowdown but got kudos for humane treatment of 600 [mass fired] staffers."

Robert W. Baird, an investment consulting firm in Milwaukee ranked highly, too.

"This Midwest-based employee-owned investment advisor thrived despite the meltdown, hiring more than 200 people in 2008," reported Fortune. Maybe you were one of the 200!

Principal Financial Group of Des Moines lost 139 jobs last year but ranks as the 17th best company to work at in the US: "CEO Larry Zimpleman got a thumbs-up for weekly e-mails he sent during height of the financial upheaval to keep employees up-to-date and reassure them the company was healthy. 'Hearing from you was exactly what I personally needed,' said one staffer."

Zappos.com of Henderson, Nevada, was the 23rd best company to work for. "After he cut 8% of the staff, the CEO received several glowing letters from departing employees," reported Fortune.

Starbucks was right behind at 24 because, "Despite closing 600 stores and laying off 1,200 employees, Starbucks remains an attractive workplace, especially for part-timers ..."

Quicken Loans of Livonia, MI, shed 2,000 jobs but still ranked high because "[it] still offers perks (like short days once a week)..."

An accounting firm named Plante & Moran was inside the top fifty US companies at 42.

As for perks: "Employees from all 17 offices gather one day every year to hear updates on the firm and mingle ... Latest event was attended by more than 1,200 staff members."

MITRE Corp., a national security consulting and services giant in McLean, VA (it staffs the intelligence agencies) was in at #66 because the "CEO of this nonprofit government researcher makes only 18 times what lowest-paid staff member earns."

Only eighteen times! Excelsior!

DD would include more. But you might die of laughter.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

THE ANNALS OF EAT S--- AND DIE

"Will tainted peanuts land anyone in jail?" asks the Atlanta Journal Constitution here.

That an article like this was even published in 2009 is remarkable. Two years ago, no one batted an eye when a number of American companies mowed down pets with melamine-contaminated food. And nothing happened a year later when Baxter International put a number of people to death with adulterated heparin furnished by producers in China.

"Former investigators said laws governing food adulteration date to the 1938 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act," continued the newspaper. "The act defines adulterated product as food that was 'prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby it may have become contaminated with filth, or whereby it may have been rendered injurious to health.'"

And that applies to Peanut Corporation of America.

"The provision offers two types of adulteration charges — misdemeanor and felony," the newspaper explained. "Intent defines the difference. A felony charge means the food was knowingly contaminated and put on the market anyway."

"I would be shocked if they indicted before the end of the year," one attorney told the newspaper.

This reflects the trend in food safety prosecutions, which have gone forward only slowly in the past. If they have gone forward at all.

Chemnutra, a company which is being investigated for its role in the contaminated pet food scandal, was indicted last year. However, the federal prosecutor who brought the case has since moved on to Wall Street lawyering and little seems to have transpired.

"“At this point nobody really cares about the corporation being prosecuted," the attorney consulted by the AJC said. "The question is individuals and then, which individuals?"

"At this point nobody really cares about the corporation being prosecuted."

Bloomberg news notes their has been a "philosophical shift" among giant food-processing companies. Heretofore, they'd all been strongly in the predator state camp, a position which requires they maintain they'll police themselves.

However, it is now easy to sense a populist sentiment in the country, a desire to hang big businesses which have been caught in various things causing either death, injury or general screwing-over of the public for the sake of their own enrichment.

"In a 'philosophical shift,' foodmakers support the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, said Scott Faber, vice president of federal affairs for the Washington-based Grocery Manufacturers Association," reported Bloomberg here.

"The companies want government to help prevent contamination in addition to detecting it..."

"What’s happening now is a question of survival," one professorial type told the news service. "The more the public becomes concerned about of all things their food supply, particularly for their children, the more there will be demand for regulation of the industry."

One short year ago, such companies -- which include Kellogg, Kraft (which has also seen its products tainted with melamine) and General Mills -- would have still lobbied against any regulation. Nothing changed, even when people were slain. It is fair to say the qualities (or lack of them) of the administration of George W. Bush made the practice of doing nothing fruitful for industry. But now the climate has shifted. Whether opportunity is seized and lasting change enacted is still, however, only theoretical.

Previously:

Doing nothing and getting away with it as 'food safety' solutions.

Monday, March 02, 2009

SOLID GROWTH FOR HANDCUFF USA

Updated

While significant portions of America are losing retirement savings to staving off homelessness after mass firing, Handcuff USA is the one segment of the economy with Depression-proof growth. (But no growth for this sad sack who worked in security. Sadly, his security employment was not the right kind of security industry employment -- federal barriers, detentions and prisons.)

If you are looking for a job, prospects are good for those who can handcuff, search, detain and jail. And because more and more of this type of work is needed for application to non-criminals, expansion will be strong.

In today's Los Angeles Times, the opinion pages touch upon a few discouraging and bleak encouraging statistics, numbers which DD will augment with additional information in the days ahead.

"[Immigration and Customs Enforcement] arrested 96,000 illegal immigrants from 2003 to 2008," reads the opinion piece. "The number, although large, wasn't surprising."

"What does raise eyebrows, though, was that almost three-quarters of those arrested ... did not have criminal records. In other words, the agency, brawny with hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding and a [whopping] 1300 percent increase in staffing, was nabbing lots of waiters and car-washers, whose only crime beyond their illegal entry was to have ignored a deportation order. Not exactly high security threats."

If readers have followed DD's reviews of the ABC network's reality show -- Homeland Security USA -- they know what to watch for a weekly demonstration.

Detention USA doesn't find terrorists or visibly show much of what might make Americans safer. It does, however, illuminate a machine-like process: The detaining of a lot of people who can't speak English -- almost always weaker, smaller and browner -- than we are. And there is a deep, deep reserve of them to be handcuffed, detained, sometimes jailed or fast-track deported. There are so many of them, there are thought to be 11 million illegal immigrants in the US, that any job in homeland security, border patrol, prisons, or immigration and customs will be a secure one, no matter how deep and wide the depression.

Since the trend has been to expand applications of Handcuff USA to non-criminals in all segments of society, the disasters from the financial sector will also aid growth. It can probably be inferred with reasonable certainty that those without income will find themselves in circumstances putting them in contact with Handcuff USA much more often than those who haven't yet been mass fired.



Related:

Predator state security

More on traffic ticketing as means for extorting funds from non-criminals.
INSPIRING CONTEMPT FOR SECURITY MEASURES

Today's item shows how measures for allegedly protecting people from terrorism frequently cross over into irrationality and bureaucratically mandated harassment. While doing nothing that wasn't already being done with regards to the safety of a consumable.

"Two [San Luis Obispo] brewers were eager to open their new pub, but first they were told they had to protect the beer from terrorists," wrote the alternative weekly, New Times SLO, a few days ago.

"As far as they can tell, they may be the only guys in the country who have been forced to fortify their brewing tanks, and no one can give a clear answer why."

The full story -- "Federal regulations force microbrewery to get terrorist-proof" -- is here.

One can furnish a rating on the potential for radical terrorism in San Luis Obispo, a quiet California central coast tourist destination.

There is none. One is more likely to be stung to death by bees than be the target of a terrorist attack in SLO.

The [federal Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau] forced [Creekside Brewery owners] to better protect their product," continued the piece. "Exactly why they had to do that isn’t quite so obvious ... It took some prodding, but [the owner] said the [TTB representative] finally told him the wall was needed to prevent someone from poisoning the beer. What’s more, she told him it was a post-Sept. 11 measure that fell under the supervision of the Department of Homeland Security ... New Times tried to track down precisely which anti-terrorism precautions required that the tanks be behind walls, with no luck."

"Paul Gatza of the national Brewers Association said the Creekside case is the only one he is aware of nationwide where the tanks had been forcibly terrorist-proofed."

What follows within the story is the display of a thicket of agencies and representatives, all pointing in each other's direction. Upon examination, it becomes obvious that many US government officials cannot know the nature of security regulations or even the various responsibilities and limits of agencies said to be allied in the war on terror.

"[Art Resnick] of the TTB believed the security rules for breweries were derived from the Bioterrorism Act of 2002, which he believed to be enforced by the Food and Drug Administration under Homeland Security," continued New Times SLO.

As readers have noticed over the past year or so, the FDA has no power to enforce any safety rules, anti-terror or otherwise. It can only do inspections and make reports, the latter of which can have a major effect, if a food or drug is found to be poisonous. This has been made abundantly clear in the Peanut Corporation of American scandal.

Keep in mind, the business motivations between a microbrewery and a peanut product manufacturer supplying the entire country are rather different. The first, like a winemaker, wishes to furnish a premium consumable at an upmarket price for a niche clientele. The latter wishes to supply something cheap at a maximum profit margin to as many other corporate customers as possible. And so the potential exposure to the public is quite different between the two.

"FDA spokesman Michael Herndon said the administration does not regulate alcohol," reported the newspaper.

"It gets even more puzzling," continued the article. "Herndon said the Bioterrorism Act does not reference breweries. When asked again, [a Homeland Security official] re-emphasized that Homeland Security does not deal with alcohol regulations ... The Bioterrorism Act, while it is intended to protect food from being spiked with poisons, does not require physical security barriers."

In the case of the salmonella outbreak caused by Peanut Corporation of America, the Bioterrorism Act could only be used to enforce the seizure of PCA records.

"So what’s the real terrorist threat at microbreweries?" asks the SLO reporter.

None worth mentioning, since it is difficult to poison beer fermentation, even accidentally. One can make bad beer or something no one wishes to drink, but the first people to know are brewmasters who are, in a manner of speaking, the security pointmen.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

TASTELESS NEWS BY ROBOT


No, don't show more, please.

Google's news tab illustrates the problem with page selection and design by software robot. The above screenshot, taken a few minutes ago, graphically illustrates this.

No editor or page designer at a respectable newspaper would ever pass such a thing. Yet, there it is, a stupid, pointless and crass illustration flown in and aligned next to news stories on a norovirus infection on a cruise ship.

In case, like, someone didn't know what diarrhea was.



Gone after awhile. But here's the original, squirted out snagged by Google.
ENRAGED FUTILITY METAL FOR THE BLEAK COLLAPSE


16's 'Scott Case' CD -- most appropriate
US album art, ever.


Back in 2007, your host wrote a collection of reviews for eMusic called "Stoner Rock." eMusic had the idea that grab-bags of a dozen reviews were cool and that they could be used to more quickly funnel the music service's subscribers to downloads.

One of the albums I reviewed for "Stoner Rock" was 16's Scott Case.

Republishing (and I'll explain why in a moment):

Cochlea-shattering dB levels, s-l-o-w guitar riffs, bandmembers who look like they walked off the set of Billy Jack (even the [occasional] girls), speaker cabinets stacked until the stage groans under the weight and an aesthetic that prizes atmosphere over catchy tunes: That's stoner rock — a genre that peaked around 2000 and collapsed soon after ...

16 weren't properly heard in their prime. Chalk it up to poor distribution and a mighty sound that didn't exactly fit the style, being far more violent in riff and concussion than the great stoner mean. 16 smoked in an unfastened way, like the guy with an irrational number of burning cigarettes stuffed in his maw on the album cover. If 16 were consumers of trashbag dope, they had to have chased it with trailer park blow-your-teeth-out crank shipped in from [soCal's] Inland Empire. Vocals are insane shouting so it's impossible to tell what the band is on about, but the conviction, or impression that the frontman was about to suffer a collapse, comes across. Riffs pummel on "Red Tool Box" and "Apollo Creed," and while you can't tell if the latter is about a boxer, your ears are given a cauliflower.

The original list on eMusic is here. But the discerning will notice something wrong. It says "dozen" but there are only ten records in this bunch. This is because everything on eMusic serves only to herd the users to buy downloads available on eMusic. If an artist or label takes back permissions on a piece from its catalog, and eMusic must remove it, then it quietly sanitizes its website.

However, the real version still exists in the WayBack machine here.

Anyway, that brings us back to 16. Scott Case was minted around '93-'94 on Pessimiser Records.

In 1996, 16 (or Sixteen), returned with "Drop Out" on the same label.

"Heavy crunching riffs that will leave you on the floor in a stupor smelling the vomit and the cigarettes in the carpet," writes one excitable boy on Amazon.

This good Samaritan and Amazon reseller offers the CD to you for the sum of $101.40. And that's probably 100 dollars more than 16 netted in profit on its first two records.

In the intervening years, 16 would issue more. "Blaze of Incompetence" came next, and then something entitled "Zoloft Smile."

But in 2009 the great wheel of life has turned in such a way that 16's globally ignored but enraged and bleak cursed-out stoner metal is right-on-time for the collapse.

16' current release is "Bridges to Burn," on Relapse. And it is as if the fifteen or sixteen years between it and "Scott Case" never happened. The delivery is exactly the same with only two exceptions: First, the shouted curses and imprecations are discernible without a lyric sheet. And, second, 16's drummer, who was always sneaky with a rock groove, is even better at it now.

And they speak for themselves, giving you the exact flavor of the band, ideal accompaniment for our coming long march of fail.

"Quit! Throw in the towel! Wait for the sequel," rants the CD's first cut, "Throw In the Towel."

"You made me suffer, now we hate each other. You let me down again!" goes the easy-to-remember chorus of "You Let Me Down Again."

"I'm living on nickels and dimes. This is not what I had in mind! What went wrong with you?" 16's singer asks someone, perhaps Uncle Sam, in "What Went Wrong?"

"When you look at your life now, do you like how it turned out? No. When will this end? You missed the boat" -- an anthem for the six hundred thousand tossed out of work in February, "You Missed the Boat."

"Fade away and don't come back ... Wander astray, move into a shack," a new Ogden Nash for 2009 in "Thorn In Your Side."

Best hard rock record for the first quarter, hands down. Seriously.

Unfortunately, is there anyone left to buy it?