Krugman Discovers Ted Nugent Hiding in GOP Health Plan

Posted in Extremism, Predator State at 1:43 pm by George Smith

From an old Ted Nugent column on healthcare reform, at Human Events, the extreme right website/magazine for assorted lunatics:

Let’s get one thing straight about health care. The biggest problem with health care is not the assured escalating costs, but rather that too few Americans actually care about their health. Look around you if you doubt me. We are the most blubber-infested, obese nation in the history of the world. Not only do many Americans eat far too much, others still suck on cancer sticks, others drink too much, and yet others fail to do anything to improve their health.

Yet still some of these bloodsuckers have the audacity to believe someone else should pay for their health care when they obviously do not care about their health. Is this the Planet of the Fat Apes or America?

A dose of truth: health care is not a right. It is a personal responsibility. If you don’t give a damn about your health care, how dare you demand another free man to pay for it. Only the bloodsuckers need feel guilty.

Here’s the short version: Sick people are bloodsuckers. They wouldn’t be sick if they didn’t eat too much, drink alcohol, or spend what little money they have on drug habits.

It’s stupid, heartless and blunt. But it’s what the GOP believes. Health care is only for people who deserve it, like Ted Nugent.

Krugman, today, in a column entitled Afflicting the Afflicted:

The states with the weakest regulations — for example, those that allow insurance companies to deny coverage to victims of domestic violence — would set the standards for the nation as a whole. The result would be to afflict the afflicted, to make the lives of Americans with pre-existing conditions even harder.

While some people would gain insurance, the people losing insurance would be those who need it most. Under the Republican plan, the American health care system would become even more brutal than it is.

There’s another line from Ted Nugent’s explication of what health care ought to be.

It concerns how businesses and the government are run and it’s a real rib-tickler:

If a business was run the way our bandit politicians have run our government, the owners of the business would be charged with any number of crimes.

“Bank of America Corp’s (BAC.N) investment banking chief Thomas Montag received $30 million in total pay in 2009, driven by the company’s buyout of Merrill Lynch, according to the company’s proxy filing on Friday,” it is read here today.

“The compensation for the senior executive team of the largest U.S. bank by assets highlighted the pay curbs tied to the $45 billion in U.S. government aid the bank repaid in December 2009.”

Cult Chieftain Flogs Book: Richard Clarke — threat or menace?

Posted in Cyberterrorism, Extremism at 10:34 am by George Smith

“How vulnerable would the U.S. be if a global cyberwar broke out today?” writes some cyberwar fugleman at a Forbes blog.

“Vulnerable enough, according to Richard Clarke, former anti-terrorism czar under Presidents Bush and Clinton, that he rates our odds behind even those of our most Luddite adversary: North Korea.”

For the Cult of Cyberwar, even the most backward country becomes a deadly menace to the United States. Simply because it is such a backward country! Brilliantly nefarious!

Plus — Richard Clarke has a new book to sell. So it’s a good hook.

“That’s because, as Clarke writes in a new book, Cyberwar: The Next National Security Threat And What To Do About It, cyberwarfare preparedness isn’t just a matter of training a crack team of superhackers. It’s also a matter of how porous a nation’s cyberborders are. American corporations and government agencies are more integrated into the Internet than their counterparts in North Korea, where most of the country has access to only a tightly controlled Intranet known as Kwangmyong.”

A tidbit is then sampled from the Clarke book. Here is a sentence of it:

Moreover, North Korea has so few systems dependent upon cyberspace that a major cyber war attack on North Korea would cause almost no damage.

Clarke’s book is said to offer a “handy chart” on national cyberwar capabilities across the globe. How one determines such a thing is presumably beyond dispute.

“Earlier this week, former NSA director Mike McConnell told a congressional hearing that the U.S. would likely lose a cyberwar and followed up with a lengthy editorial in the Washington Post,” in case you missed it everyplace else.

The Paller-scope is called into play:

As SANS research director Alan Paller told us at the time, we shouldn’t underestimate the cyber capabilities of countries with undeveloped or even stone-age economies: “We have this view of our enemies as being unsophisticated cave dwellers, and we’re dead wrong. It’s an idea that could get us into very deep trouble over the next few years.”

“Richard Clarke, the world’s most famous security expert, has a new book entitled Breakpoint, wrote DD back in 2007.

“A techno-thriller, it takes its place among its equivalents, romance fictions for American men, a genre for combining combat action porn with loving trademarked descriptions of weapons. The men in this story get hard over firearms, scotch and a chardonnay named Kistler … Clarke [was] the last cyberczar among cyberczars, the only TV-genic one, ever.

“For Breakpoint, Clarke [returned] to his cyberczar roots. But in this story, someone gets to do something about the digital mayhem, not just scream ‘electronic Pearl Harbor,’ make policy recommendations no one listens to and be keynote speaker at security conventions.

“Clarke supplies a team of outside-the-bureaucracy do-gooders: a dauntless central heroine, one NYPD cop for muscle and one hacker, a nebbish named Soxster. Soxter’s purpose is to be the magic wand, no more and no less. Whenever there are villains to be traced, or information needed when the group is against the wall in the race against the terror clock, Soxter furnishes both so the story may proceed.”

The rest of it is here.

Richard Clarke is among the best DD has ever seen at flogging it.

His peddling of the coming of cyberwar is years long, stubbornly dogged and personally eminently successful.

From 1999, back when DD began noticing, this in Signal magazine on the coming of ‘electronic Pearl Harbor’ (note — this was eleven, that’s eleven, years ago):

In the August ’99 issue of Signal magazine, Richard Clarke said there was “a very real possibility of an electronic Pearl Harbor.”

“Without computer-controlled networks, there is no water coming out of your tap; there is no electricity lighting your room; there is no food being transported to your grocery store; there is no money coming out of your bank; there is no 911 system responding to emergencies; and there is no Army, Navy and Air Force defending the country . . . All of these functions, and many more, now can only happen if networks are secure and functional.”

It’s a handy citation and was last used in one of the always popular Cult of Cyberwar pieces last year here.

Richard Clarke is so great, he even made me famous for a day! That’s hard to do! And that even got my picture on the frontpage of the Village Voice!

That story, also vaguely connected to the Cult of Cyberwar and US politics, is here in “I, Vermin from Under Rock.”


[Clarke] bequeathed the nation a haystack of quotes leading idiots to believe terrorists were going to devastate us through computer networks.

That was by 2006. It’s probably up to about six haystacks worth now.

Cult of Cyberwar — from the archives.


Cult of EMP Crazy: The kid’s angry and won’t take it

Posted in Crazy Weapons, Extremism at 2:41 pm by George Smith

It is fashionable amongst the commentariat to ignore any information larger than a tweet, but this should frighten you out of your wits: a major, very recent report on the very high probability of total economic destruction of any (yes, any) advanced country by a single nuke-tipped SCUD from a lightly modified freighter offshore.

It’s a big report, but you can just read the preface and crap your pants. 7 mb pdf

(Link to report read thousands of times deleted.)

To respond to your dismissal with any more science that is already placed in front of your unseeing and apparently evidence-canceling eyes is a waste of time. You don’t believe in Compton electrons, SCUDs, or nanosecond pulses. I guess I wasted my time at Florida State working on the linear accelerator, and at Navy A school in electronics.

You know it all. Every opinion is biased, anything scary is just someone working for a lobby.

It’s a shame what was done to Bobby Bowden.


Time to act on Iran now, Mr. President, because they could bring on EMP doom with a SCUD in a tub — about the hundredth time this year.

Cult of Cyberwar: When Booz Allen’s Mouthpiece Attacks

Posted in Cyberterrorism at 2:13 pm by George Smith

Smiling Mike McConnell, one of the most famous salesmen-in-chiefs of the cult of cyberwar. Committed to hiring computer security specialists from the clutches of the government then leasing them back at premium rates for the benefit of Booz Allen business.

From today’s news, Mike McConnell of Booz Allen’s cybersecurity sales unit, again making a putsch/pitch on the coming of cyberwar catastrophe:

If the United States fought a war in cyberspace today it would lose, the nation’s former top intelligence official has told a Senate Committee.

“We’re the most vulnerable, we’re the most connected, we have the most to lose, so if we went to war today in a cyber war we would lose,??? Michael McConnell, who previously served as the director of national intelligence, told the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on Feb. 23.

McConnell told the panel that although the United States has made progress on cybersecurity, the country hasn’t made a national commitment to understanding and securing cyberspace. He predicted a catastrophic event would be needed to move the country toward a pre-emptive posture to mitigate the threat.

“We’re not going to do what we need to do; we’re going to have a catastrophic event [and] the government’s role is going to change dramatically, and then we’re going to go to a new infrastructure.???

This — sampled from GCN — was echo’d in similar form at many other news outlets.

“McConnell joined a number of former government officials who have warned of cyber vulnerability,” reported Businessweek.

“A bipartisan group of ex-federal officials said on Feb. 16 after a simulated cyber attack that the U.S. was unprepared to respond to the real thing.”

In this, the publication was referring to a dog and pony show which ran constantly over the weekend on CNN. A cyberwargame was played, one which the United States lost. Catastrophe descended.

However, long-time readers know that such cyberwar games are always rigged so that we experience catastrophic failure.

Difficult to take seriously, its bipartisan panel consisted of people chosen for name value, a couple even being exceptionally odd in this area because they would not seem to have ever been remotely interested in cybersecurity.

These two: Former White House press secretary Joe Lockhart and a befuddled-looking, even by low US standards, John Negroponte.

“[Negroponte] is currently a research fellow and lecturer in international affairs at Yale University’s MacMillan Center,” says his Wiki bio, perhaps generously written by one of his student interns.

Jason at Armchair Generalist latched onto this earlier today in “Cyber Warfare — It’s the New WMD.”

The CNN farce, called Cyber Shockwave, was delivered with the position that cyberattacks are somehow like WMDs.

How this was so wasn’t really explained except by the claims of cyberwar catastrophe put forward in a number of mock news broadcasts aired for the special.

“I find it somewhat amusing that [Michael Chertoff suggested] we ought to treat cyber-terrorism as seriously as we do WMD terrorism,” writes Sigger. “DHS’s record on preparing for WMD terrorism is really not that good.”

Another quote, furnished all the way from the UK by Tim Stevens here noted the differences in cyberwar peddling in his country and over here:

[Cybersecurity] as an element of national security and a subject of political concern seem to be playing out very differently in the US and its main European ally. Whereas the UK is cautious in projecting concern into the public domain, some elements of the US hierarchy seem very determined to make this a public issue of the highest priority. The discourse is different, and is being mediated in starkly contrasting manner.

Which brings us right back to the way it has been handled in the US.

Just like every other very important national security special interest group issue: Catastophe is predicted, and everything is covered with a thick and obvious crust of exaggeration-from-important-person and manipulation. The media and Congressional hearings are the stage for this natsec theatrical production.

The next table comes from DD’s tabulation on Cult of Cybersecurity narrow sourcing and how just a small number of large corporate computer security business interests drive the debate.

Here is the unscientific master list, taken from a search on cybersecurity/cyberwar through newspaper databases over the past year, current only to January 19:

1. Alan Paller, SANS — 84
2. McAfee — 80
3. James Lewis, CSIS — 47
4. Booz Allen Hamilton — 38
5. Symantec — 31
6. Mike McConnell, BA — 25
7. Paul Kurtz, Good Harbor — 11
8. Richard Clarke, Good Harbor 4

‘Control values’:

1. Gene Spafford, Purdue 25
2. Marcus Ranum 0

In terms of security vendor businesses, the list condenses to a small number of players controlling the debate in 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 a country as large and complicated as the United States there are many many computer security businesses. And there are also many computer security experts in the academy — scientists and engineers who have published books and papers on the subject.

Yet in the current national ‘debate,’ they’re all missing or excluded.

The ‘experts’ called upon to shape and dictate the entire discussion can be counted on the fingers of one hand. They hold the keys to all knowledge.

SANS has already been addressed.

It’s a security training business and its director, Alan Paller, is the man who knows everything.

When a newsman wants to know what evil China is up to today in cyberspace, Paller is the man to call. (If he’s busy, one goes for James Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.)

And this is why DD blog has the Paller-Scope.

In February, the master list condensed even more.

This happened when McAfee, number two on the list, bought the Center for Strategic and International Studies to provide ‘research’ atesting to the belief that cyberattacks are about to result in horribleness everywhere — proven by polling corporate businessmen who read the news about horrible cyberattack everywhere.

One illustrative citation:

Globally, widespread cyberfacilitated bank and credit-card fraud has serious implications for economic and financial systems and the national security, …

Power plants, oil refineries and water supplies increasingly dependent on the Internet are under relentless attack by cyber spies and thugs, according to a McAfee report.

The “Critical Infrastructure in the Age of Cyber-War” analysis by the US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said the price of “downtime” from major attacks exceeds six million dollars a day.

“If cyberspace is the Wild West, the sheriff needs to get to Dodge City,” concluded the study commissioned by McAfee, which sells computer security software.

From earlier today at PC World:

The Internet was designed as a global commons that polices itself, but that model has failed, [James Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies] added. “Instead, we’ve got the Wild West.”

“The days of the Internet Wild West are over, said James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert and senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies,” reported the Associated Press at the same time.

When messaging, it is always important to have a consistant and well-rigged script. And to not deviate from it.

This was all delivered in the context of legislation which would, theoretically, “require a national licensing and certification program for cybersecurity professionals … it would be illegal to provide some cybersecurity services without being licensed and certified.” (The latter from PC World.)

Two things stand out, aside from the stilted abuse of the Wild West simile.

First, CSIS being pocketed to provide convenient research to McAfee is much like the model of AHIP, the research group put together by the health insurance industry to provide studies on all the things that must be done for the health insurance industry.

Second — legislation which requires “a national licensing and certification program for cybersecurity professionals [making it] illegal to provide some cybersecurity services without being licensed and certified” stands to most efficiently transfer profits to the large corporate businesses furnishing cybersecurity training and services to the government and the rest of the country.

In other words, it cements and mandates the businesses of McAfee, Booz Allen and the rest of our collection of debate drivers from the Cult of Cyberwar.

Some readers may have noticed this business model for fixing things has some common philosophy with healthcare reform which mandates everyone buy health insurance without providing a public option, cost limiting or any guarantees that the purchased new excellence in computer security is actually any different than it is now.

Narrow-sourcing and kings of cyberwar quote.

Cult of Cybersecurity — from the archives.

Zazi Shnazi

Posted in Extremism, War On Terror at 10:14 am by George Smith

Like peroxide bombs, whenever the oafish failed al Qaeda man, Najibullah Zazi is in the news, hits at DD blog go up.

And he’s been in the news this week. Because he’s admitted guilt and is telling it all, and probably making some up, to authorities — perhaps so he doesn’t spend ALL of the rest of his life in some dungeon.

The government is naturally interested in tracking down confederates and finding out the precise nature of his doings in Pakistan.

“A man who admitted plotting to bomb the city’s subway system wanted to do so with the help of at least two other bombers during rush hour, when the most people could be killed, police said Tuesday,” according to news wires.

” ‘This was particularly disturbing,’ ” police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. “It was [Najibullah Zazi’s] intention to be on trains during rush hour period and to kill New Yorkers. No question about it.”

Whether Zazi could have actually done so remains an open question as he has told authorities he flushed his explosive ingredients down the toilet when the noose began tightening upon him.

Zazi’s news history indicated he was fairly clueless, casting about on the Internet for methods on how to make explosive from beauty parlor supply store chemicals. DD would estimate that barring evidence showing the actual existence of it actually being in his hands, rather than just a collection of necessary materials, there was a better than even chance he was going to fail.

If so, he would still have been a really big nuisance, much like the underpants bomber.

But being a nuisance and the wrong religion today are the only ingredients needed to tip the US into frenzies of counterproductive action.

DD wrote about this extensively last year.


One country stands alone in DD blog web statistics: Pakistan. The only thing net surfers from Pakistan land on at dickdestiny dot com are posts which reference peroxide bomb plots, jihadist recipes and documents for making poisons like cyanide or ricin, dirty bomb schemes, and other cases involving incarcerated members of al Qaeda.

The interest is invariant and monochromatic. Because it is this way, from the viewpoint of DD blog, Pakistan always look like it has a subset of young men interested in nothing but jihad and terrorism — a close fit with the real world. And because there are no other colorations in this interest, it can be observed for a trend.

It’s a bleak picture, considering the figures represent people only interested in terrorism and reading of it.

While the numbers are small, they are regular and constant.

They show DD that various things — the escalation of Predator drone bombings/assassinations in 2009, the expansion of the US embassy, more CIA operation in the country and greater treasure thrown at the Pakistani government — are not making Pakistan nicer or less filled with potential trouble. The level of animosity as shown by local interest has only increased, sometimes surprisingly so. If this is the US government’s ongoing strategy for Pakistan, there is polling proof here that it is not working. In fact, it is having the opposite effect: More really angry young Muslim men.

The only good news here is a point DD has made previously.

Since the beginning of the war on terror, the US mainstream media has created an artificial reality concerning it, one in which terrorists are assumed to be MacGyver-like characters, capable of making WMDs from just about anything — very easily.

All they need is to access the Internet, to download information which will make the manufacture of poisons and explosives only a little harder than adding tequila and crushed ice to margerita mix.

And because the media and our government and private sector experts have propagated this meme on a regular basis, “Peroxide Bombs, Easy to Make!” and other texts like it have serendipitously floated to the top tier in search requests on the subject, making them virtual tools with which to gauge interest.

Fortunately for us, we live in world constrained by physical reality, not by what others wish it to be or think it is in the press. If we did not, reason stands to tell us bomb and poisoning plots would be commonplace in the west, not the recent historical pattern in which a handful of failed and aspirational plots are uncovered, marked by rare but globally well-known success.

Zazi, having allegedly been ‘trained’ Pakistan and motivated by the US war in Afghanistan, is a ringing example of the phenomenon described above.

“Trends in Terror Prep Net-surfing,” the story with Google metrics outlining the nature of it is here and also mirrored here at GlobalSecurity.

With lots of graphs and stuff.

Google Analytics statistics on hits for peroxide bomb and related searches from Colorado to this domain before and during the unraveling of the Zazi plot in the news last year. Aurora cluster driven by news that this was where Zazi was attempting his machinations.

The Story of Oafish Zazi from the archives.


No Fighting In the War Room

Posted in Phlogiston, Rock 'n' Roll at 5:04 pm by George Smith

The above is a snap from SAC Command Post, a short film made by the Air Force. One fashioned to apparently counter perceived bad publicity from the movie Dr. Strangelove.

It is here at the nuclear archive at George Washington Uni.

It’s a wonderful 18 minute snapshot from a time long gone. You could watch it back to back with Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom!

The end result is something Kubrick could have used as warm-up while the crowd seated itself prior to a showing of Strangelove. Rather than counter anything, it nicely seasons the premise of his movie which is, perhaps, why SAC Command Post never even remotely climbed into national consciousness like the former.

Full of old analog equipment and telephones, it harkens back to a time when the US actually was a world leader with a working government.

The movie opens portentously: The Strategic Air Command has the power to immediately strike back at any aggressor who would dare to start a general war.

The Soviet Union is neither mentioned nor pictured anywhere in the film.

A few teasers:

SAC, guarded by vigilant dogs so no one crazy can interfere!

A general reads his daily paper before being called to alert!

The SAC controller shows a bit of anxiousness under the cameras. Chosen for lantern jaw.

It’s only a test!

That ‘impact’ counter doesn’t go high enough.

Nothing can go worng wrong between the gold and the red telephone sets.

Again, SAC Command Post is here.

Yes, gentlemen, they are on their way in and no one can bring them back. For the sake of our country and our way of life I suggest you get the rest of SAC in after them, otherwise we will be totally destroyed by Red retaliation. So let’s get going, there’s no other choice. God willing, we shall prevail in peace and freedom from fear and in true health through the purity and essence of our natural fluids. — General Jack Ripper, Strangelove

Dr. Strangelove is one of DD’s favorite movies. It and the mythos of the Strategic Air Command resulted in this song, “Strategic Air Command”, on the second Highway Kings album, Brutality.


US Can Don’t or More Dept. of Fiction

Posted in Predator State, Why the World Doesn't Need US at 10:19 am by George Smith

“U.S. communications regulators will unveil on March 17 a blueprint aimed at bringing fast affordable Internet access to more than 90 million Americans being held back by fees and technology,” reported Reuters today.

Cue big horselaugh.

Such a promise must be anathema to current US Internet service providers, regularly bent on advertising connection speed ‘bargains’ that aren’t bargains at all — marketed as as ‘bundling.’

Reuters continued:

The Federal Communications Commission said on Tuesday that the long-awaited National Broadband Plan will try to help connect 93 million Americans to high-speed Internet to find jobs, access educational and healthcare services, and reduce household energy costs … The FCC, which in August started a series of fact-finding workshops, will submit its recommendations to Congress on March 17, in an effort to lift the United States out of the 19th spot behind Japan, Korea and France — the leaders in a 2008 world ranking for broadband speed.

One could spend hours musing how the GOP might reframe any US government effort to improve broadband in the country as tyrannical and un-Constitutional. Or consider the words of little Tommy Friedman on Sunday, advising that everyone will have to cope with having much less of everything. Except him.

It will never get to that, though. The US is not a ‘can do’ country. It’s not much a leader in anything except on what can’t be done.

To succeed would require an actual investment in infrastructure upgrading, creation of a resource not shaped by current Internet access sale as an unfairly priced commodity rather than a utility which must be delivered to all cheaply, and a dedication to see something happen that was good for the civilian population, not the free market.

Readers will note the prescription/prediction, safely moved into the distant future so no one will remember the big words a year from now,

“Last week [an FCC official] said he wants Internet service providers to offer a minimum connection speed of 100 megabits per second by 2020,” it was told.

As opposed to the greater than one order of magnitude less crap you have now.

The future of FAIL in the US is immense. FAIL holds such an advantage in the way things are done now that nothing can impede it much. Certainly not promises and talk from someone in the FCC.


California = US continued

Posted in Phlogiston, Rock 'n' Roll at 9:38 am by George Smith

From Krugman today:

At this point, then, Republicans insist that the deficit must be eliminated, but they’re not willing either to raise taxes or to support cuts in any major government programs. And they’re not willing to participate in serious bipartisan discussions, either, because that might force them to explain their plan — and there isn’t any plan, except to regain power.

But there is a kind of logic to the current Republican position: in effect, the party is doubling down on starve-the-beast. Depriving the government of revenue, it turns out, wasn’t enough to push politicians into dismantling the welfare state. So now the de facto strategy is to oppose any responsible action until we are in the midst of a fiscal catastrophe. You read it here first.

This is the paradigm set by California mentioned yesterday here.

Paradoxically, the Governator — Arnold Schwarzenegger — was on CNN on Sunday night calling his party The Party of No. And it wasn’t in the context of a compliment.

There is a great deal of irony in that the Reagan-worshipping Schwarzenegger is now just the kind of government politician the great mean of the GOP despises.

While Schwarzenegger will inherit a lasting reputation as a terrible governor, it was his own party in Sacramento which did him in.

In Washington, the blame can be spread around a little more generously. While the GOP blocks everything, the Democrats and President are equally contemptible for allowing them to succeed doing just that.

The world no longer needs a US when the superpower is run this badly.

Many years ago, when Schwarzenegger was made governor, I wrote this in the context of some spoof tunes about the situation.

The Gropinators explain the politics behind the big man’s success, using rock and roll. Our leader’s election came not through reasoned judgment, but a good old angry and mentally ill snapout, a desire of the polity to strike, to lash out, to schlag — someone in government. We weren’t going to take it! Take what? Who cares? But someone, like Gray Davis, had to be made to pay and Arnold was the benefactor. Lyric: You sent him to Sac-ra-men-to; No rotten car tax, no, no! We sent ‘im to Sac-ra-men-to; We’re not gonna take it, no, no! Arghhh! Danger! Get out of the way, we might have to hit you.

Sound familiar?

Schwarzenegger was elected by the public on his promise to eliminate the car tax. He did so and forced a refund for everyone in the state who had ever paid it. The shortfall caused by that overturned the state government’s finances and precipitated the current catastrophe. The California legislature — effectively ruled by the minority GOP, like the US Senate — blocked all efforts by Schwarzenegger to do anything palliative.

The comedy song, “I Think We Should Make a Carla Sandwich,” which was about the publicizing of the governor’s reputation as a serial groper — in particular, one woman named Carla, prior to his installment is here.

Real Arnold vocals, too. If you don’t laugh, you’ll surely have to cry.


Dept. of Magic: 60 Minutes

Posted in Phlogiston at 11:44 pm by George Smith

Sunday night, 60 Minutes and Lesley Stahl delivered a blank box, said to be ready to change the world.

This is not so surprising. Everyone in 2010 USA knows the country is overrun by rascals gaming the news for their own benefit.

That’s where John Doerr, the smartest venture capitalist in the world — known for saying really grand things about whatever he’s involved in — comes in.

DD used to see his name all the time in synthetic biology stories, so you already know where this is going.

In other words, if Doerr is involved, you get great-sounding pap that never really delivers.

Here, in a press sheet from another of his favorites:

Biotechnologies, Inc., a privately-held company applying advances in synthetic biology to produce high-value pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals and biofuels, has raised $20 million in a first round of venture funding.

The Series A financing was led by Khosla Ventures, with additional participation from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), and Texas Pacific Group Ventures (TPGV). The company also announced the appointment of John G. Melo, previously president of US Fuels Operations for BP, as CEO. Also joining the Amyris board at this time are Samir Kaul, general partner, Khosla Ventures; John Doerr, general partner, KPCB; and Geoff Duyk, managing director, TPGV.

Amyris Biotechnologies uses synthetic biology techniques to create new metabolic pathways in industrial microbes to produce novel or rare chemicals. Amyris’ primary project to date has focused on the use of synthetic biology to address supply and cost constraints limiting the use of the anti-malarial drug artemisinin. With the new funding (and CEO), Amyris will work on producing biofuel molecules—ethanol, butanol, or other hydrocarbons.

Greentech could be the largest economic opportunity of the 21st Century. Novel renewable energy sources will be key. John Melo is the perfect CEO to help Amyris innovate and lead in renewable fuels. At BP, he ran a multi-billion fuel operation with early commercial success with ethanol. John’s insights, skills, and relationships are highly complementary to the deep technical talent of the Amyris founders. —John Doerr, KPCB

That was four years ago. Malaria remains stubbornly unlicked by John Doerr and Amyris. The reliable ticket to controlling it is mosquito netting. And green fuel delivered by synthetic biology, ending global warming, is still maddeningly elusive.

But now for 60 Minutes Doerr is pimping a company that makes a fuel cell called “the Bloom Box.”

It was, of course, delivered as a game changer, without ever really explaining how it works.

However, if one looked at transcript, the figures leaking out on the newest magic were not particularly impressive.

“[The man who runs the Bloom Box company, some ex-NASA guy named Bloom] installed [his] boxes [at one company], each one costing $700-800,000,” reported 60 Minutes.

“Four units have been powering a Google datacenter for 18 months,” continued the news program. “They use natural gas, but half as much as would be required for a traditional power plant.”

Still dependent on fossil fuel for electricity. And not even close to being even one order of magnitude better than electricity from a ‘traditional power plant.’

“John Donahoe, eBay’s CEO, says its five boxes were installed nine months ago and have already saved the company more than $100,000 in electricity costs,” continued 60 Minutes.

5 Bloom boxes x $750,000 = $3,750,000

Bloom boxes save eBay $100,000 every nine months.

$3,750,000 / $100,000 = 37.5

37.5 x 9 months = 337.5 months

337.5 months / 12 = 28.12500

The investment in eBay’s magic Bloom boxes will break even in a short 28 years.

Groundbreaking stuff.

“I like to say that the new energy technologies could be the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century,” John Doerr told Lesley Stahl.

“Asked if the Bloom box is intended to get rid of the grid, Doerr told Stahl, ‘The Bloom box is intended to replace the grid … for its customers. It’s cheaper than the grid, it’s cleaner than the grid.'”

Get your King James version of the Bible on CDs for only $19.95.

Last week — in the Dept. of Magic

California = US = Broken & Irresponsible

Posted in Predator State at 5:52 pm by George Smith

California makes up at least ten percent of the US GDP. Since it is so large, it only makes sense that it’s the same as the country as a whole in 2010. Irresponsibly run, almost broken beyond repair.

A good example of the dysfunction is Meg Whitman’s run for governorship.

The video is her campaign commercial, which runs frequently. Here, some wag has posted it to YouTube, apparently when it interrupted an comedy skit.

Whitman is a standard 2010 GOP candidate. Anti-big government, anti-tax — which actually got California into its current mess, anti everything but sycophants wishing to kiss her ass.

Like many very wealthy people, it’s a trait that serves reasonably well in 2010 US. It banks on a solid belief among many in the citizenry that it’s good practice to be lickspittle to rich people, to blindly accept everything they suggest, because as my idiot mother used to put it irrefutably: “If you’re so smart, howcum you ain’t rich?”

The corollary to that would then seem obvious.

In Whitman’s commercial, one immediately notices the pics of her on the covers of magazines, underlining the message that here is someone who’s rings deserve kissing.

Whitman’s two big recommendations are to cut spending and ‘fix education.’

In this, she also hews to ruling orthodoxy in 2010 US. That the two prescriptions are incompatible in 2010 California is not important.

Her motto is “Mean what you say, say what you mean.” That this is senseless and hysterical when coming from her means nothing. She was, after all, on the cover of business magazines and the head of eBay.

In an editorial in Canada’s Globe and Mail recently, one columnist described California thusly:

Mired in partisan bickering, the state has shown itself incapable of managing its finances in recent years. It’s now facing a $20-billion (U.S.) budget shortfall in the current fiscal year, and another big gap in 2011. Even with brutal planned cuts to government services and dramatic tax hikes, Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has asked for nearly $7-billion from Washington to fill the gap – a sum he is unlikely to get.

The reason for this, unmentioned, is the affliction in Sacramento is the same one infecting the US government. As in the US Senate, an overwhelming majority is required to pass legislation. This has allowed the GOP — the minority part in the state — to block everything. And so California cannot be governed.

Whitman espouses fixing education in California but it was tax revolt which broke that in the state. And it is the current GOP-controlling minority which gums up everything now.

In fact, spending has been cut radically in California. One of the very noticeable results has been the continued firing of teachers.

From March of last year, this notice from the state:

Districts are handing out the notices of potential layoff to teachers and other staff in response to the state budget crisis. The recently enacted state budget included $11.6 billion in cuts to public education budget over the next 15 months.

“School districts up and down this state are sending out pink slips to tens of thousands of hard-working, dedicated teachers, administrators, and school staff,” O’Connell said. “Cuts of this magnitude will have devastating effects in our classrooms across the state.”

The recently enacted budget cuts come on top of several years of reduced support in the state budget for public education. Last year, roughly 10,000 teachers received pink slips and an estimated 5,000 ultimately lost their jobs.

“Before the current cuts were enacted, California already ranked 47th in the nation in per-pupil spending,” O’Connell said. “These current cuts are sure to push us further down the scale.

And from today, a random newspaper article from somewhere else in the state:

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Education will vote Tuesday night on a resolution that calls for the elimination of nearly 125 full-time positions, and more than half of them will be young elementary school teachers fresh out of college.

The recommended layoffs, including the dismantling of the district’s Adult Education program and its ESL classes, are expected to save the district $13.5 million in the 2010-11 budget.

The anticipated job losses are a direct result of the state’s recent cutbacks in education due to the fiscal crisis playing out across the entire state, said Laura Boss, a spokeswoman for the district.

Whitman’s strategy is a standard GOP line, more nicely-put Ted Nugent-like philosophy, suitable for framing: If we can just get rid of all the welfare leeches, parasites in state government, and a bunch of undeserving union-protected teachers, that will fix things.

“What has struck me about Whitman is how normal she seems,” writes courtesan Fred Barnes at the Weekly Standard. “She’s rich. She donated $30 million to Princeton to build a sixth college on campus (dubbed Whitman College).”

The Wall Street Journal says:

Ms. Whitman, a Republican gubernatorial candidate in California, is fashioning herself as the latest crusader promising to crack down on abuses of the welfare state, which is nowhere more corrupt and costly than in the Golden State … California is twenty years behind the curve on welfare reform, and Ms. Whitman may be the first candidate in a generation with a concrete plan to replace lifetime welfare with work and dignity.

One peruses the abstract of a paper, entitled “A desperate means to dignity: Work refusal amongst Philadelphia welfare recipients”:

Sentiments favoring a sweeping overhaul of the United States’ social welfare system culminated in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) in 1996 – a law that mandates states to move almost all recipients from cash assistance on welfare to paid work. This ethnographic study examined work refusal among women who left menial jobs to return to welfare, or to subsistence by other means. Seventy interviews and 18 months of participant observation revealed a pattern of confrontations with authority figures at various job sites as well as resentment of the subservience often demanded of workers in the lowest tiers of the primary economy. Confrontations in training programs and at work afforded impoverished women the chance to express their resentments about being relegated to unrewarding, low income work and to maintain vestiges of even a defiant dignity in the face of a hostile social order.


“Indeed, to lead now is to trim, to fire or to downsize services, programs or personnel,” writes little Tommy Friedman at the New York Times today.

“We’ve gone from the age of government handouts to the age of citizen givebacks, from the age of companions fly free to the age of paying for each bag … The president needs to persuade the country to invest in the future and pay for the past — past profligacy — all at the same time. We have to pay for more new schools and infrastructure than ever, while accepting more entitlement cuts than ever, when public trust in government is lower than ever.”

Little Tommy fails to mention his role during the past few years which included cheerleading for the Iraq War and being an expensive trained parrot for superwealth and big business while advocating that everyone else — but him, presumably — will now have to eat their peas and make do with much much less.

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