From the bleak tale of 30-year-old Preston Rhoads of Oklahoma City, the country’s latest but certainly not last ricin kook:
A federal affidavit and search warrant just unsealed this afternoon lays out a possible motive behind the alleged murder plot that has Preston Rhoads behind bars.
The 14-page affidavit reveals how Rhoads reportedly asked a former co-worker to kill his pregnant girlfriend and her unborn baby.
Authorities said Rhoads texted a former co-worker telling him he had something serious to discuss with him.
The friend jokingly stated that he can “make people disappear.” Rhoads responded via text, saying not to joke about that if you can’t deliver.
During a face-to-face meeting, the co-worker said Rhoads showed him a vial and claimed it was Ricin. That same co-worker said Rhoads told him he downloaded a manual explaining how to manufacture the poison.
The co-worker said, while at Rhoads’ home, he found what he believed to be equipment to make ricin in the bathroom.
The affidavit reveals Rhoads wanted to use ricin to harm the girlfriend, because he felt it could not be easily traced.
And where do people learn ricin “[can't] be easily traced”?
Unfortunately, from tv, Google and their smartphones.
Google search is not your friend. Google search relevance is, in many cases — including this one, determined by the wisdom of crowds of idiots. And they know this in Mountain View. Which is probably one reason, among a host, that they won’t talk to anyone on the telephone.
If you are looking for recipes for ricin, Google will give worthless web pages to you, either fine pieces of misinformation, or even more efficiently, perfect as materials for running afoul of the law.
Google will return articles on ricin, perhaps written by a know-nothing journalist at Slate, who explains helpfully how you don’t have to a terrorist to be good enough to make ricin.
Google will not show you any articles or much of the real record on how everyone who “makes ricin” is found out and their neighborhood stormed, with eye-watering speed, by a joint federal and state anti-ricin task force.
Google will not return you any articles that inform you that texting on the matter to others through your smartphone is a known process by which the anti-ricin squad is summoned.
What can you do? I give up.
Remember, as Kurt Saxon, one of the nation’s first and foremost ricin kooks, wrote in the late Eighties (but updated for 2014):
“It is bad to poison your fellow man [and wife], blow [them] up or even shoot [them] or otherwise disturb [their] tranquility. It is also uncouth to counterfeit your nation’s currency and it is tacky to destroy property as instructed in [the chapter] Arson and Electronics …
“But some people are just naturally crude … It is your responsibility, then, to be aware of the many ways bad people can be harmful …
“It is right to share with your enemies, the knowledge in this wonderful [ricin manual Google helped you find so you could download it with your smartphone and text your pals about it] …”
Post this on Instagram or Pinterest! Text the link to your friends with your smartphone! Or just use SnapChat! They’ll think you’re as clever as Walter White!
At GlobalSecurity.Org, rearranged and with all the push-buttons for “sharing” so others in the national security megaplex might know of a decent book:
Readers of this blog know the topic of cyberwar reasonably well. The national mythology on it has been deadening and invariant for virtually two decades. Festung America has always been threatened with devastation from cyberspace.
Clever hackers, then terrorists, then armies of cybersoldiers based in all countries wishing ill of the US have been claimed to have the power to stop the electricity, to destroy the US economy by striking Wall Street, to poison water and create horrific accidents through the remote manipulation of industrial control systems.
Today authors Bill Blunden and Violet Cheung have produced something of a first on the subject, a comprehensive book on it that isn’t like all previous works on the matter. The genre of cyberwar books can be explained in less than half a dozen words: Fictions passed off as non-fiction. Blunden and Cheung’s new book, Behold a Pale Farce (TrineDay, trade paperback), strength is reality. That makes it rather unique in the field.
All of it, tweezed for minor improvements, here.
Authors Bill Blunden and Violet Cheung have produced something of a first, a comprehensive book on cyberwar that isn’t like the rest. Behold a Pale Farce’s (TrineDay, trade paperback) strength is reality, a feature that makes it entirely unique in its field.
Readers of this blog know the topic of cyberwar reasonably well. The national mythology on it has been deadening and invariant for virtually two decades. Festung America has always been threatened with devastation from cyberspace.
Clever hackers, then terrorists, then armies of cybersoldiers based in all the countries wishing ill of the US have been claimed to have the power to stop the electricity, to destroy the US economy by striking Wall Street, to poison water and create horrific accidents through the remote manipulation of industrial control systems.
Illustrative as fas back as 1998, this excerpt (which I had something to do with) from Steven Aftergood’s Secrecy Bulletin at the Federation of American Scientists:
[George Smith, author of the Crypt Newsletter] has written a useful corrective entitled “An Electronic Pearl Harbor? Not Likely” which appeared in the National Academy of Sciences journal Issues in Science and Technology (Fall 1998) …
Some of the best-informed observers are quick to acknowledge that Smith’s critique is on target.
“I certainly agree that the notion of an electronic Pearl Harbor specifically, and more generally of information warfare, has been hyped to the point of nausea,” said the vice president of one intelligence contractor that has multi- billion dollar annual revenues from its work in information technology. “This is but the latest of many fads in ‘the Community’,” he told S&GB, “and like most of its predecessors, [it] has just enough substance to require that serious attention be paid, but not nearly as much substance as the Cassandras of the Community would have us believe.”
About fifteen years and “digital Pearl Harbor,” “digital 9/11,” whatever the name for it was trending, never happened. Even though it has been declared, as this book chronicles, a number of times.
But in the same period the Cassandras won almost total victory. The mainstream news collapsed as an agency capable of even mildly critical examinations of the subject. The only people with any say, the only people published where large numbers of eyeballs would see them, were those who hyped always coming Cyber-Armageddon.
As a consequence, books on the broad subject of cyberwar have been, universally, crap. And the reason is simple: Publishers would not stomach critical examinations.
Blunden writes about this as it impacted the publication of Behold a Pale Farce:
While I’ve read about many of the filtering mechanisms of the propaganda model and witnessed its operation from afar, I never thought that I’d encounter them directly. This changed in late 2011 when out of the blue, I received an e-mail from a senior editor at a well-known technical publisher … Having viewed my slides on cyberwar from SFSU’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Event the editor wanted to know if I was interested in authoring a book on the topic. Shortly after … I signed a contract and feverishly began the process of putting material together.
Four or five months later the editor ominously summoned your author and co-author to his office for a meeting. He announced that both he and the founder of the publishing house were very concerned about the tone of the book. The editor complained at length about the potential hazards of push back, particularly with regard to the coverage of former Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell. I was sending a message that would directly challenge the narrative being spread by powerful interests … He also protested rather loudly that there were some things he couldn’t sell.
This is true. How do I know?
Full disclosure: Blunden and Cheung used me as a reference to their publisher. And I was subsequently contacted by them for my opinion on the potential for it.
I told the publisher exactly what I’ve said many times previously. To reiterate, cyberwar books have, generally but fairly speaking, all been rubbish, exercises in threat inflation and hyperbole for the sake of titillation, reputation and the pushing of the accepted national security narrative. Another way of putting it: They’re p.r. servanting for the benefit of those on the receiving end of always increasing spending on cyberwar offense, cyberspying and aggressive militarized surveillance of the internet.
At one point I was informed via company e-mail about how one publisher wished to send an early copy of the book off to an employee of Science Applications International Corporation.
This was laughable, no way to do a book of any kind.
Science Applications (or SAIC, for short) is a very large and very secretive Pentagon contractor. Everywhere you find the US military or American spying agencies, you find SAIC.
However, one thing SAIC is not known for is book writing and editing. In fact, suggesting SAIC as an arbiter of a book such as Pale Farce was a smoke signal that a publisher wished it buried in a deep hole.
Now let’s return again to 2010 and the character, Mike McConnell, former Director of National Intelligence and VP at Booz Allen Hamilton.
Why do I call him a character? Because that’s what he was and is, a kind of slippery fellow who was central to shaping public and policy-maker views on cyberwar. I’ll get to him a bit more further in.
Between 2009 and 2010 I tabulated the names of people and company hyping cyberwar in the mainstream press as well as the number of times they appeared.
Here’s the table:
1. Alan Paller, SANS — 84
2. McAfee — 80
3. James Lewis, CSIS — 47
4. Booz Allen Hamilton — 38
5. Symantec — 31
6. Mike McConnell, Booz Allen — 25
7. Paul Kurtz, Good Harbor — 11
8. Richard Clarke, Good Harbor 4
In terms of security vendor businesses, the list condenses to a small number of players controlling the debate all through 2009: SANS, McAfee, and Booz Allen Hamilton, the latter which jumps to number three on the list with 63 hits in major stories if you add McConnell’s total.
In 2010, McConnell was not only on 60 Minutes selling the nation’s near catastrophic vulnerability to cyberwar, but also in the opinion pages of The Washington Post.
Here’s McConnell’s now infamous lead-in paragraph:
The United States is fighting a cyber-war today, and we are losing. It’s that simple. As the most wired nation on Earth, we offer the most targets of significance, yet our cyber-defenses are woefully lacking.
By June of that year McConnell, along with Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard, had been invited to a well-publicized debate over whether or not the threat of cyberwar had been exaggerated. Marc Rotenberg and Bruce Schneier were on the opposite, or affirmative side, that it was.
The debate was an (ahem) farce. McConnell and Zittrain were declared the winners by a substantial margin of audience vote. The threat of cyberwar was not exaggerated. It was a triumph for obeisance to argument from authority.
Here’s a bit from the transcript, a part in which Schneier mentions
McConnell’s Post piece (he’s being a bit sarcastic):
So we’re here today to debate the motion that the threat of cyberwar is grossly exaggerated. And … in preparing, read a book full of articles and have some choice quotes. Mike McConnell said in an op-ed in the Washington Post in February of this year that the United States is fighting a cyberwar today and we’re losing. So, cyberwar is going on right now in our country.
The McConnell quote was accurate and the audience laughed.
But here’s Mike McConnell, cyberwar exaggerator but very important person in the national security megaplex, a few minutes later:
When Bruce spoke at the beginning he said, “Mike McConnell said the US is fighting a cyberwar today, and we are losing.” That’s not in fact exactly what I said. Wat I said is if we were in a cyberwar, we would lose. And I was making that statement somewhat metaphorically.
McConnell’s lead paragraph in the Post, published just a few months earlier, again as a matter of fact was not a metaphor. It was quite succinct.
But you can’t win a debate where one of the parties simply denies an accurate quote and gets audience points by insisting he said quite some other thing.
And that was state of the narrative in cyberwar. The press died on the subject. Michael McConnell’s threat exaggeration was what always carried the day.
What’s changed? What makes Blunden and Cheung’s Behold a Pale Farce the right book at just the right time?
Edward Snowden came along. Paradoxically, Snowden was employed by Mike McConnell and Booz Allen as a contractor for the National Security Agency during the big expansion of the American cyberwar machine that took place during the years of cyberwar hype.
Since Snowden, Mike McConnell has gone silent.
Behold a Pale Farce is a book not just of computer security vulnerabilities, misdeeds and astonishing exploits, but one also of the strategic national security industry environment in which they transpired.
It is a study in the US government’s and arms contractors’ employment of propaganda on the alleged threat of cyberwar until there was no longer a debate on the subject. The press became willing stenographers to power. And the power resided in the agencies and private sector businesses that built the American cybermilitary and cyberspying infrastructure, what Blunden and Cheung call “the Deep State.” The result: Total escape from oversight. Until Edward Snowden. Sort of.
Last week, two Pulitzers were handed out, one to the Washington Post and one to The Guardian, in the United Kingdom, for journalism deemed to be a great public service, a consequence of the Snowden papers liberated from the National Security Agency.
I say the Snowden affair and the steady release of NSA documents brought real change. But only “sort of” for Americans domestically.
Internationally, Snowden’s materials utterly demolished the US national security propaganda campaign on China’s much publicized cyber-stealing of the America’s economic future.
A week or so ago, for the New York Times, an Obama administration official, anonymously, was compelled to admit we no longer had any moral standing to argue from the high ground about it.
Michael McConnell is gone from newspapers. At some point he was probably made to squirm while answering now classified questions about his firm’s hiring and screening process for Edward Snowden.
Internationally, the electronic Pearl Harbor meme has been made absurd. You can’t scream someone is planning to cyber- sneak attack the country when you’re caught sneaking into everyone else’s networks for spying (this was always obvious, of course, we’re going to spy, everyone else does it!) and the writing and dissemination of software boobytraps.
Domestically, it’s been another story. Despite disturbed noises in Congress and from the White House, there’s been no change. There has been only theater, purely for public consumption.
Up until his retirement you could still find National Security Agency director Keith Alexander publicly dissembling and complaining that something needed to be done about Edward Snowden. Didn’t you know, as 60 Minutes told us, that the NSA was saving us from the Somali pirates with people who could solve Rubik’s cube puzzles in under a minute?
The authors of Pale Farce frame the span of manipulations well, using Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s 1988 analysis, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media as a guidepost. Orwell, on the perversion of language, comes in for a few mentions, too.
The authors point out, correctly, there’s nothing new in what’s happened. The power of money, political access and propaganda were used as they always have been, to subvert reasoned control and democratic values.
What’s one of the more alarming results? The sad realization that the US has helped create and accelerate a cyber-arms race, a lucrative global and national market where our arms manufacturers are now happily engaged in producing software to destroy the privacy and civil liberties of ordinary citizens.
In addition, Farce provides a nicely detailed and richly footnoted chronology of most of the globally and nationally significant computer security failures and scandals of the past decade. These are woven into broad tapestries, discussions on global computer crime and the constant and inherent vulnerability and error — via people, software and hardware — in the networked world.
Summing up, if you’re interested in a book on cyberwar, Blunden and Cheung’s is the one to read. And it is perfectly timed.
Unlike the rest of our so-called “books” on cyberwar (take this best-selling example), Behold a Pale Farce: Cyberwar, Threat Inflation & the Malware Industrial Complex, won’t badly date if another Edward Snowden comes along. It is a true chronicle, a slice, of our technological history.
There’s also one last reason to get it. Another full disclosure : I’m in it. Some of my best lines, too.
“Nobody in the great mass that is not the 1 percent or in the service of the same cares about attacks on the American financial system. They do, on the other hand, wish our financial system would stop attacking them.” — GS, page 224
The now familiar scene: A joint ricin beatdown task force comes to another quiet American neighborhood, this time in Oklahoma City.
Preston Rhoads, 30, of Oklahoma City, is the latest ricin kook, investigated and arrested by the FBI and local police after a tip of some kind implicated him in a murder-for-hire plot. When authorities entered his house, it was declared a no-go zone in the neighborhood.
From the wire:
Test results have confirmed ricin was a substance found in the home of murder-for-hire suspect Preston Rhoads.
A law enforcement source confirmed with News 9 the substance tested 100% positive for the deadly toxin. However, the substance was only found inside the home and police officers were not exposed.
Oklahoma City Police and FBI agents say Rhoads was planning a murder before they searched his home on Thursday. The FBI says it processed his place for hazardous materials after finding the unknown substance, now identified as ricin.
At Rhoads’ home on N. McKinley, the health department has posted a sign saying the home is unsafe and warns people to stay away.
As in the case of Georgetown student Danny Milzman, Rhoads — although much older — was described as a perfect son by distraught friends and family members.
And, indeed, what profiling material exists upon the net supports this view.
Smiling faces of many friends adorn his Facebook page. And a self-made video of Rhoads on Vimeo shows an affable young man describing his career and education as a creator of digital art.
Rhoads art business homepage can be found at evilpreston dot com, although there is absolutely nothing evil about it. And on Twitter he comes off as normal although 140 character tweets furnish little in the way of material for a definitive judgment.
This makes four cases in which young American men have been taken down by the FBI and joint anti-terrorism squads in ricin beefs this year. That is one more than in 2013. And I thought that was a bumper crop year.
Readers are invited to discuss their thoughts on why and how so many Americans regularly become mentally ill, the condition unrecognized by friends and family until the anti-ricin squad shows up in the neighborhood without warning,
I’ve cataloged it for fifteen years and I don’t understand it anymore.
Why does this country produce such a regular surplus of ricin kooks?
The mass media, which has made ricin good fun and storytelling for the sake of entertainment and titillation; the dime-a-dozen national security “experts” produced by the infrastructure erected during the war on terror and their exaggerated cant on weapons of mass destruction and the ease of making them, all have much to answer for.
But don’t hold your breath waiting for one.
Again, with GlobalSecurity.Org (smirk) hat on, I make the case for a diversion track specifically designed for first-timers arrested and convicted in ricin cases.
Is Preston Rhoads more for the legacy of Kurt Saxon’s The Poor Man’s James Bond and Maxwell Hutchkinson’s blighted Poisoner’s Handbook?
Time will tell.
My 2006 version of an illustration from Saxon’s The Poor Man’s James Bond.
“It is bad to poison your fellow man, blow him up or even shoot him or otherwise disturb his tranquility. It is also uncouth to counterfeit your nation’s currency and it is tacky to destroy property as instructed in [the chapter] Arson and Electronics …
“But some people are just naturally crude … It is your responsibility, then, to be aware of the many ways bad people can be harmful …
“It is right to share with your enemies, the knowledge in this wonderful book …” — Kurt Saxon
If you ever gave money to PBS, you should read this and consider stopping.
One of its stories was featured in the Google News tab a day or so ago. I read it, did a slow burn, but figured it wasn’t worth saying anything about. That was until a reader posted and a Crooks and Liars piece on the Kochs hit my virtual windshield.
In essence, it’s a comment rescue, beginning now.
Going in, you must understand that the business news shots on PBS are called by a reporter/editor named Paul Solman. Solman is someone whose belief system in the economy has been blown to hell by the proof that Keynsian thought and modeling on the current economic crisis for everyone but the wealthy is still valid.
So, Solman is an asshole American libertarian. And none of that tribe accepts any of the work of serious macroeconomics experts who have been studying and writing about the Great Recession.
And so, early in the week, PBS dug up David Graeber, an Occupy Wall Street activist, so that he might react to the idea of a universal wage for all Americans.
And it is something that almost sounds reasonable, for a moment. Only almost, though.
The only part of it worth reproducing is the tell — the first paragraph, and it’s not Graeber’s doing.
Written by Paul Solman, here it is:
Editor’s Note: Conservative proponents of the guaranteed income want a lump sum payment (Charles Murray suggests about $11,000 to all adults) to replace existing social welfare programs and downsize American bureaucracy. But some leftists oppose those government welfare agencies, too, London School of Economics professor David Graeber says. The leftist critique of private and public bureaucracies, Graeber explains, is that they “employ thousands of people to make us feel bad about ourselves” …
With a basic income, everyone would have access to the market. Workers (including those government paper-pushers) could pursue the work they want, while society as a whole would benefit from their scientific breakthroughs and artistic talents.
There are so many things wrong with this straight off, it’s difficult to know where to begin.
So I’ll start with the bigot.
You’ll see the name Charles Murray cited.
Murray is a quack sociologist/writer very popular on the hard right because he’s written books about how not-white people don’t work hard enough, have inferior culture/family values, and that is why they are poor.
Recently he came up with the idea of a universal credit, pinched from the Tories in the United Kingdom. This, so the welfare bureaucracy can be dismantled.
This invention was quickly adopted by our favorite, Paul Ryan, and I’ve spoken of it previously.
The reason the extremist GOP loves it is because it puts all social welfare programs in one package. And they can then be killed in one stroke.
That first paragraph also mentions it as a base survival payment of $11,000 a year.
This is laughable in many parts of America where, annoyingly, many millions of people live. Here in SoCal, $11,000 doesn’t even cover a year of rent, let alone food, clothing, electricity, water, gas and, optionally, a car, which is very hard but not impossible to get along without.
So in the very first part of the story, the PBS editor has tossed a debunked white supremacist (he has a file at the Southern Poverty Law Center) at the audience.
So we have the contrived economic ideas of the bigot and a basic
universal payment that doesn’t cover the cost of basic living in the country. And this is delivered to the PBS audience as something reasonable, as something “leftists” might even be able to accept.
Just so everything else can be thrown out for a hard right every-man-for-himself libertarian paradise.
Why? Crooks and Liars has an idea and it’s because plutocrat and all-around-reviled-person David Koch is on the board of WNET, the “flagship” station of PBS.
The truly insidious feature of this report isn’t Murray, per se. It is the way they present the idea as being something the left can sign onto. This is the new libertarian strategy: Find wedge issues that they presume they can dupe liberals into agreement, then use those dupes to recruit more followers.
As for me, I just think it’s because Paul Solman is, to repeat, a standard American libertarian asshole. The problem would be solved if he moved on to the Ludwig von Mises or Cato Institutes or Reason magazine.
But maybe Crooks & Liars is right. In that case, David Graeber was the dupe.
And that’s because it’s difficult to understand how Graeber, advertised as an Occupy activist, got twisted up in it. Occupy, after all, was one of the arch enemies of the tribe of hard right libertarian/GOP/Tea Party/Kochs.
In any case, the conversation goes from very bad to very bad as well as ludicrous. By the end, it seems like a bad drug trip.
Friedrich Hayek gets mentioned, another libertarian touchstone.
Then comes another wonderful rationalization, just tossed out for consideration as something called the “John Lennon argument:” That moment when Brit pop rock went to pot because the art student dole, a type of base income, was thrown out for workfare in the UK.
In the entire thing there isn’t one mention that all Americans can’t be expected to become entrepreneurs for themselves in “the market.”
And that millions and millions of them wouldn’t even want to be part of a system like that, anyway. Rather, they wish jobs in which they work for others at a living wage, not all craving to be small businessmen, artists, deep thinker/philosophers like Jacques Derrida (go ahead, read all of it, they actually mention him), writers and John Lennons in waiting.
The word “parasites” is also referenced twice, once directly and once indirectly.
There are always some people who will want to be parasites, the audience must always be informed.
“Parasites” needs a definition.
Is it everyone who isn’t wealthy?
Or everyone working a job that still needs social assistance to survive?
Or is it everyone who gets social assistance and still can’t survive?
Not the dead, though. They’ve stopped being parasites.
From PaulKrugzilla, over the weekend:
“[The] concentration of wealth at the very top — the 0.1% — is fully back to Gilded Age levels … [and] a lot of wealth at the top is held in offshore tax havens …At the commanding heights of the US economy, hiding a lot of one’s wealth offshore is probably the norm, not the exception.”
Three years since the news of GE paying zero and the “Taxavoidination” jingle.
And what’s changed? Not a thing. That would be socialism!
Ha-ha-ha-ha! Offshore! No tax, to the max.
Ex-NSA chief Keith Alexander, a man in the mold of E. Howard Hunt.
From Politifact, via this blog, a week or so ago:
During his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to “ensure that his administration develops a Cyber Security Strategy that ensures that we have the ability to identify our attackers and a plan for how to respond that will be measured but effective.”
In the year since our last ruling, the attention devoted to cybersecurity has only increased, partly due to well-publicized breaches of customer data but especially from revelations about National Security Agency surveillance of electronic and telephone traffic.
On Feb. 12, 2013, Obama signed an executive order on “Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity,” which called for the implementation of a cybersecurity framework launched one year later …
“On one hand, we had the Obama administration working for development of increased cybersecurity through its ‘framework’ initiative,” said George Smith, a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org. On the other hand, Smith said, the administration was “allowing the NSA to aggressively pursue initiatives that destroy the security and trust in global as well as domestic networks.”
In building the biggest cyberwar machine in the world under the leadership of NSA chief Keith Alexander, the United States government put itself squarely in an untenable and amoral position when it comes to computer security on the global networks.
While outwardly working the media on the need to strengthen national and private sector computer security, using the language of dire predictions and apocalyptic scenarios, behind the scenes its offensive cyberwar and spying operations were actively working to make networks untrustworthy.
The Edward Snowden affair exposed the hypocrisy in all its embarrassing detail.
Prior to Snowden, one could find Keith Alexander making speeches on computer security on how his agency wanted to protect the country by forming an active layer of defense between the national cyber-infrastructure and all putative threats.
With the news of the Heartbleed vulnerability this week, and a Bloomberg story which asserted the NSA knew of the bug for two years, the country is shown just precisely how untrustworthy and predatory the agency was under Keith Alexander.
From Bloomberg, yesterday:
The NSA has faced nine months of withering criticism for the breadth of its spying, documented in a rolling series of leaks from Snowden, who was a former agency contractor.
The revelations have created a clearer picture of the two roles, sometimes contradictory, played by the U.S.’s largest spy agency…
Ordinary Internet users are ill-served by the arrangement because serious flaws are not fixed, exposing their data to domestic and international spy organizations and criminals, said John Pescatore, director of emerging security trends at the SANS Institute …
“It flies in the face of the agency’s comments that defense comes first,” said Jason Healey, a former Air Force cyber officer told Bloomberg. “They are going to be completely shredded by the computer security community for this.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t new. Computer security experts not connected to the US government warned that in creating a global black market in which the agency bought analyses of network and computer vulnerabilities for use in its offensive cyberwar and spying operations, America was conducting operations that could in no way be reconciled with its oft-stated public position of being for strengthening computer security.
In this, the US has made itself the exceptional nation. And not in any good way.
To illustrate, from the New York Times, a couple weeks ago:
In the months before Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s arrival in Beijing on Monday, the Obama administration quietly held an extraordinary briefing for the Chinese military leadership on a subject officials have rarely discussed in public: the Pentagon’s emerging doctrine for defending against cyberattacks against the United States — and for using its cybertechnology against adversaries, including the Chinese.
The idea was to allay Chinese concerns about plans to more than triple the number of American cyberwarriors to 6,000 by the end of 2016 …
But the hope was to prompt the Chinese to give Washington a similar briefing about the many People’s Liberation Army units that are believed to be behind the escalating attacks on American corporations and government networks.
So far, the Chinese have not reciprocated …
The Pentagon plans to spend $26 billion on cybertechnology over the next five years — much of it for defense of the military’s networks, but billions for developing offensive weapons …
Moreover, disclosures about America’s own focus on cyberweaponry — including American-led attacks on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and National Security Agency documents revealed in the trove taken by Edward J. Snowden, the former agency contractor — detail the degree to which the United States has engaged in what the intelligence world calls “cyberexploitation” of targets in China …
“We clearly don’t occupy the moral high ground that we once thought we did,” said one senior administration official.
Which is something of an understatement.
What, then, is Keith Alexander’s legacy?
Nothing good. I thought about it for a bit and one name that comes to mind is E. Howard Hunt, a career CIA officer and, later — more famously, one of the Nixon White House “plumbers” who ran the Watergate burglary and other clandestine operations for that administration.
Hunt strongly thought he was always serving his country. Before he was put away for almost three years for crimes connected to Watergate he stood before the Senate in 1973, wounded and distraught:
“I am crushed by the failure of my government to protect me and my family as in the past it has always done for its clandestine agents. I cannot escape feeling that the country I have served for my entire life and which directed me to carry out the Watergate entry is punishing me for doing the very things it trained and directed me to do.”
New York Times journalist Tim Weiner described Hunt with a proper degree of superciliousness in a review of his biography, AMERICAN SPY: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate, and Beyond, published posthumously:
Hunt wanted to believe he fit the popular image of the C.I.A.’s founders — the American aristocrats, the tough young veterans of the last good war, the daring amateurs who set out to save the world.
Hunt, it turned out, was among the worst of them. He was a liar, a thief and a con man — all admirable qualities for C.I.A. officers who served overseas during the cold war, aspiring to the British definition of a diplomat: a gentleman who lies for his country abroad. Fine when Hunt was station chief in Uruguay. Dangerous when put to work in Washington.
Hunt closes by arguing that “the C.I.A. needs to clandestinely produce television programs, movies and electronic games” to recruit talented young Americans, citing Fox’s “24” as a model. Great idea — get me Rupert Murdoch! He wants “the PlayStation generation” to revive “the principals [sic] and ideals” — sigh — of the C.I.A.’s founding fathers, to go “back to the heart and souls of the ‘daring amateurs.’ ”
This comes from the man who helped bungle both the Bay of Pigs and the Watergate break-in. It is not sound counsel.
‘[Hunt] drew no distinction between orchestrating a black-bag job at a foreign embassy in Mexico City and wiretapping the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate complex,” wrote Weiner in his obituary for the New York Times.
Does anything sound familiar?
Keith Alexander is not E. Howard Hunt. He did not botch the Bay of Pigs operation or help overthrow a foreign government, as Hunt did to Jacobo Arbenz, the elected president of Guatemala in 1954.
Today, however, Alexander is more powerful. Alexander also never has to worry about suffering the fate of E. Howard Hunt.
There won’t be any serious Senate investigations and no chance at criminal exposure. Mostly, because that’s not how our country works anymore.
“I think it’s wrong that — that newspaper reporters have all these documents, 50,000 or whatever they have and are selling them and giving them out as if these — you know, it just doesn’t make sense. We ought to come up with a way of stopping it. I don’t know how to do that. That’s more of the courts and the policy-makers. But from my perspective, it’s wrong, and to allow this to go on is wrong.” — Keith Alexander, 2013
The above quote is taken from Bill Blunden and Violet Cheung’s Behold a Pale Farce: Cyberwar, Threat Inflation & the Malware Industrial Complex.
It is the first book on the subject of cyberwar that I will be able to highly recommend. And that spans around fifteen years of them.
The reason for this, the short one, anyway, is that all books published in America on cyberwar have been total crap, works of mostly mislabeled fiction.
This is quite easy to see, today, doubly so in light of the past year.
Behold a Pale Farce is not crap. It is a carefully researched reality-based examination of the subject and a review of it will post tomorrow or Monday.
From Ted Nugent’s column at World Net Daily, today:
As the November election looms, the Democratic political hit machine and RINOs will do their best to malign the tea party as racists, bigots, homophobes, jingoists, anti-government zealots who are composed of Timothy McVeigh-types.
Meanwhile, there is a gathering storm of Americans who are raising their political pitchforks and don’t even know what the tea party is or what it believes …
These Americans are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take this anymore. No amount of spinning, bobbing and weaving, or smoke-and-mirrors political tricks are going keep these frustrated Americans from the polls.
A political storm is brewing. Good. It’s about time.
Old Steel Knees is WhiteManistan’s most popular and public bigot and, unconsciously, he describes himself very well.
But sometimes he’s too much for parts of it, even in Texas.
A couple of weeks ago the town of Longview canceled a Nugent show scheduled for the 4th of July. To do it they had to eat 16 thousand dollars, paying off Nugent not to show.
And this is because Nugent has a history of suing venues that drop him for shooting off his mouth. One you begin making open negotiations with the devil, you’re on the hook. (More on this a little further on.)
From the Dallas Morning News, in late March:
The city of Longview paid $16,250 to end contract negotiations with controversial rocker Ted Nugent, who was under consideration as the headliner for its Fourth of July celebration in East Texas.
Longview’s payoff last month came after Nugent’s earlier comments and song lyrics became an issue during a campaign swing with Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott.
In January, Nugent called President Barack Obama a “subhuman mongrel” …
City spokesman Shawn Hara said the controversy surrounding Nugent was just one factor that led the city to call off negotiations. The amount paid was about half Nugent’s performance fee.
There were “a variety of reasons: cost, structure, is it the right musical act for this type of event — a city-sponsored, family-oriented overall event,” he said. “They decided no, we don’t want to move forward, it is not the right act for this. At that point we decided to end discussions.”
Mayor Jay Dean said Nugent’s act didn’t fit with the family-oriented program the city wanted.
Nugent promptly exploded, this in addition to chiseling the town out of 16 thousand:
If city officials are saying Ted Nugent’s shows are not family friendly, the rocker said Tuesday, “Somebody has bamboozled the good citizens of Longview.”
“The lie that my concerts are inappropriate for any city anywhere is absurd,” Nugent said in an email response to questions. “My family friendly concerts are legendary and will continue to be all summer long in 2014.”
“Those that hate me are following the Saul Alinsky playbook on how to dismantle, fundamentally transform the greatest nation and quality of life the world has ever known,” he said. “Those that hate me hate America, plain and simple.”
Nugent did not respond Tuesday to questions about published comments he made last week that Longview Mayor Jay Dean is racist and dishonest.
“I hear from reliable sources that the mayor is a racist and was offended that my band performs mostly African-American-influenced music,” Nugent was quoted as saying in a column that appeared Saturday in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Everyone knows ol’ Uncle Ted is the ultimate Independence Day rockout with the ultimate all-American, soul music, rockin’ soundtrack of defiance, liberty and freedom. We shall carry on. We are the good guys. Clueless, dishonest people like the mayor are the bad guys.”
This week Longview was able to cover Nugent’s hostage fee with a donation drive:
A fundraising group led by Mayor Jay Dean has recouped the $16,250 the city paid to end negotiations with rocker Ted Nugent as a potential headliner for Longview’s Independence Day show …
City officials have said they pulled the plug after learning of the talks in March, a few weeks after Nugent was drawing increasingly negative attention for comments he made about the president and his own background.
To get out of negotiations with Nugent’s booking agency, the city had to pay a portion of his contract fee — $16,250 …
On Wednesday, [a Longview representative] said numerous companies including Longview Regional Medical Center and Good Shepherd Medical Center, as well as many individuals, had contributed to the effort.
Readers get a good horselaugh from Nugent describing himself as a family-oriented act. YouTube is rife with video of Steel Knees, on television and on tour, using profanity to condemn his enemies from the president to random women producers on network television.
From this blog’s unrivaled archives (the originals may be gone at America’s dailies, but we keep ‘em:)
Ted Nugent’s appearance at the Benton Franklin fair in Kennewick, WA, [in the summer of 2010] brought on fear and loathing in the locals. Shocked, they were just shocked — by Ted’s foul language, heard for miles around, courtesy of the rock ‘n’ roll megawatt PA …
Here are some excerpts from the letters page at the Kennewick paper (note the absence of what generally shouts his obscenities in connection with — the president, other Dem politicians — it’s just the profanity they noticed):
“What rock did they find Ted Nugent under? I am very angry at the choice of words used during his concert. I understand that Ted Nugent is like this — but at a fair with children?”
“I have never been so astonished and mad as I was on the evening of Aug. 26 when my wife and I attended the Benton Franklin County Fair.
“Ted Nugent was performing (?) onstage, cursing, shouting obcenities [sic], screaming at the top of his voice, etc. All while in the presence of many young children.
“This is an insult to our society … ”
And, delightfully, here.
Oooh, still more, from 2011 (excerpting from media coverage):
From a Peoria newspaper: “When [Ted Nugent] shares his political views? That’s entertaining, too, in a borderline frightening way.
“He railed on government in general and the president in particular. He invited his audience to storm down to Springfield and take it over. Right after an f-bomb-laced barrage, he remarked that it was nice to see children in the audience …”
From a Niagara Falls newspaper: “Nugent is ranting at a furious pace, cramming in more obscenities in three minutes than a roomful of cursing sailors, and undoubtedly saying something shockingly funny, or just shocking.
“On Tuesday, many of Nugent’s rants were directed at Canadian visitors. Standing in front of a huge backdrop of the Stars and Stripes, Nugent invited Canadian visitors to “taste freedom.” Nugent later quipped, “I love you Canadians, it’s your government that is (fucked) up.” I am paraphrasing of course, but you get the picture.”
Steel Knees has something of an encapsulated mentally ill mind. The part of his brain that believes himself a family-oriented entertainer is completely isolated from that part that spews curses every four or five words. One begins to wonder if he even hears himself or if part of his cognitive function edits out the f-bombs somewhere in the tangle of ganglia between and behind the mouth and ears.
As for suing people who drop him for being ugly in public, one of the most famous cases, well prior to Nugent’s American fame as a public bigot, came in Michigan in 2003.
Again, from the unsurpassed archives of this blog:
In mid 2003 Nugent had a big gig lined up at the Muskegon Summer Celebration in Michigan. He then went on a radio show in Denver to do his inimitably Ted thing. The radio hosts pulled the plug on him.
The result — Nugent summarily dropped by the concert. Billboard, at the time:
“Derogatory racial remarks made by veteran rocker Ted Nugent have cost him a gig at the Muskegon Summer Celebration. Festival officials canceled his concert following an interview last week with two Denver disc jockeys in which the DJs said he used slurs for Asians and blacks.”
Three months later Nugent sued the Muskegon concert officials for defamation. In his complaint, it was linked to a tortured argument about violation of his 14th Amendment rights and breach of contract, which had deprived him of an $80,000 guarantee.
The Billboard image/article is here in a parcel of articles and comes from the case files entered by Nugent’s legal team. (DD has more and may get to them in a future post.)
The lawsuit became a celebrity trial in Michigan during the course of which Nugent’s defamation claim was tossed out. Nugent eventually took the stand, saying the DJs had misinterpreted his use of the n-word in a conversation. Nugent said he had related a story about how an African American had told him, after watching him in performance: “If you keep playing … like that, you’re going to be an ‘n word’ when you grow up.”
Whether this was all Nugent said during the course of the radio appearance was not determined. No tape of it existed, apparently.
“Unmentioned at the trial were news accounts of Nugent’s use of the other [derogatory] words [for Asians],” reported the Muskegon Chronicle in 2005.
Nugent was successful in his breach of contract suit with the Muskegon festival and was eventually paid his guarantee.
Internet technology has improved some things. Because of it Ted Nugent will never again be able to mount a defamation suit against anyone.
Media Matters notes The Toledo Blade newspaper showing regret over booking Ted Nugent this summer:
The director of a summer event sponsored by the The Blade of Toledo, OH, says the scheduled appearance of Ted Nugent is sparking a backlash from members of the community who take issue with the conservative commentator and musician’s virulent commentary.
“All things being equal I wouldn’t bring in a guy who is aggravating people, that is not my intention,” said Mike Mori, The Blade’s sales director, who is also event director for the Northwest Ohio Rib-Off, a four-day food and music event the newspaper has been running for four years. “It seems like this thing has kind of ballooned in the last couple months. I will probably think long and hard about inviting him next year.”
But Mori told Media Matters if he cancels Nugent’s appearance this year, he still has to pay him the full fee, which he declined to reveal but said is more than $50,000.
“I have to pay him that even if it rains,” Mori said. “I wish the guy would just not say the things he does, he brings a big audience, he’s from Michigan, he packs the place. If everyone hated him, nobody would come. He does have a following, it’s a tough situation. I try to have a diverse type of a line-up.”
Sean Parker, one of the “inventors” of Napster, thanks musicians for sharing their music so he could have this beautiful wedding.
From RockNYC Live and Recorded, one of the first pieces I’ve written on music in years, continuing riffs I made here last week:
Streamed music is regarded as a commodity of little value. And, very quickly, it’s developing into a worthless good, the kind of “stuff” produced in the economy of the old USSR. That’s my takeaway from an essay posted earlier on rock nyc and it’s apt, I think.
One can add a few things to the assessment.
The other side of this digital coin is those who benefit from it.
Here’s who gets fabulously wealthy off the deal: The owner of the pipe, in a perverted utility model where people or the essence of them in art, if you will, not water, are what’s shared at low price. Water, however, doesn’t care about or suffer from rock bottom pricing, that it gets nothing back. Water can’t be destroyed. People, their work and lives, however, can.
Do read all of it.
I’ve become expert on having my stuff distributed by others in the sharing economy, you know, the chiseling system in which the tools of technology take everything for a few at the top of the economic pyramid while everyone else gets shit.
“Arrogance,” my first record in 1985, became part of the “music blog pirating whole records” fad. (Using Google and DD it’s easy to find. If you take a peak you’ll find that, as noted previously, those performing the public service of gifting your work to the world always know precisely who and where you are when they take it.)
You will recall the rock music blogger nerds who quickly realized no one wanted to read their crap. But they could depend on Google to deliver them audiences of people searching for the semi-popular and obscure in their vinyl and CD collections if they ripped them to the Internet. Those “music bloggers” with a little good fortune were even able to peddle ads from miscellaneous internet swine ™, under the radar.
When Blogger and the powers that be stepped on a lot of that it was just moved to YouTube where Google monetized it with digital overlay and film advertisements.
On the corporate American side, Tribune — ahem, the Morning Call newspaper — took all my pre-web journalism, most of which was freelance (without a contract or any rights given on ownership), a lot of work, and put it on their website where it’s peddled with ads from miscellaneous internet swine ™.
And, last week, I wrote of the philanthropic gift of my 20-year old book, The Virus Creation Labs, to the web in its entirety.
From music to prose, the digital economy sure has been great to me. As it has been to so many.
“The Other Side of the Digital Coin” came about as a reaction to an earlier essay dealing with the social attitude toward digital music.
“The problem with [digital music] streaming is just about precisely that: nobody owns it, it has no life outside itself and its value is so minimal the majority of the world can’t make a living from it,” it reads.
Those who do make a living from it, grand ones, are those who own the means of distribution and who developed the technology for it.
See photo of Sean Parker, above. Boy, he’s sure made the good life for everybody.
And that brings up another thing about the marvelous inventors and programmers of our advancing world.
Some of them really seem to believe the bathwater that in making it convenient for everyone to have digital stuff, like music, they’ve made a better world, that they’ve fixed something that was broken.
You see this
miscellaneous internet swine ™ creepy tech geek megalomaniac world view all the time.
Today from the New York Times, on an HBO sitcom about tech start-ups alleged to be funny:
Rather than money or power, what motivates Richard and the other coders of “Silicon Valley” — to the extent that they’re motivated at all, which is sometimes debatable — is something quite prosaic. They seem to be in love with the intellectual puzzle of creating better code, and they genuinely believe that their technologies will benefit humanity.
This sounds hackneyed, and the show does use some of the tech set’s soaring, world-changing rhetoric for comic grist. Yet, in a way that feels unusual on TV and the movies, “Silicon Valley” buys into the central dogma of Silicon Valley: Finding new methods to make everything faster, cheaper, more convenient and more efficient will be good for the world.
“This sounds hackneyed” is right. Instead what happened is the opposite.
The technology has empowered those with the most to grab even more.
And there are now some obvious and easy measurements on how well the idea of furnishing abundance and convenience through coding for the global networks have made the world a better place.
You’ll recall the old idea from the early days of Napster and the beginnings of “free” music: The creators would benefit from gaining exposure to a new and appreciative audience they didn’t have and their boats would be lifted thereby. That was about fifteen years ago. Hilarious, in view of how things have turned out.
Jesus of America’s work is never done! Just over a month ago he was telling fables about how the poor are better off when you take their food and what little health care they may have away.
Stoned for it, Jesus of America just laughed at Pontius Paul and all the nail drivers, saying slyly, “Wait until next month!”
And, good as his word, next month is here with Jesus of America’s ten year budget which cuts 2 trillion from health care reform and almost 1 trillion from Medicaid and food stamps while giving more gold to those at the top. Jesus of America sayeth: “Don’t feed the poor, they are just too lazy, they’ll never work at all.” Share the love of Jesus of America far and wide!
Pontius Paul Krugman:
The latest Paul Ryan budget is getting a lot of well-deserved flak, and so is Ryan himself. The combination of cruelty and raw dishonesty is so obvious, it’s hard to see how anyone can fail to see what’s going on.
But Ryan hasn’t changed; his budgets have always been like this, and so has he.
The last time, about a month ago — if that, I mentioned Jesus of America would be back in no more than six months, probably less.
Much less, actually.
No amount of nails can stop him, no virtual lance in the side.
It’s impossible to stop Jesus of America.
And that’s because he’s one of the son’s of God in WhiteManistan. They love his spiritual teachings.
If Jesus says it, they know it must be true. So now it’s time to whip the poor (as it always is), they know what to do!
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