Pennsyltucky Newspaper Funnies

Posted in Extremism, Rock 'n' Roll at 10:33 am by George Smith

Many years ago, I used to write for the Morning Call newspaper in Allentown, PA. And I still refer to it from time to time.

The newspaper, like many small provincial operations, was mad to publicize any and all locals, no matter how odious they might be. If they were from town, the reasoning was, they had to be great. Plus they’d always buy a couple copies of the newspaper if they could see themselves in it.

The news about the arrests of the Christian white identity nuts looking to spark a revolution for the bringing down of the US government took me out to the website of the Hutaree.

There — right up front — was a link to the Hutaree’s favorite rock band, Poker Face.

My colleague, Chuck, also noticed on the I Love Music chat board (link in the Blogroll section). He pointed out the band was from Bethlehem and that he’d listened to a number of promotional CDs from them over the years.

Now, this ain’t gonna be the rare occasion of me making nice. It’s another example of how the Lehigh Valley is home to a large assortment of far right kooks with views on politics and anyone who’s not like them characterized only by fear and unreasoning hostility.

The Morning Call newspaper had a free-lancer review Poker Face in November of last year. It’s here.

Poker Face, explained the newspaper, was making a political statement in hard rock.

Here’s a ‘political statement’ on the Hutaree, such as it is — a no-comment with comment, from the Poker Face website yesterday:

At the present time, Poker Face has no comment on the situation developing/unfolding with the Hutaree folks.

But given the governments track record against we the free, it makes us suspect government motives first, not the Hutaree.

The band, the website explains, “has been dubbed the leading truth/freedom band in the Union … this four piece band has made it their mission to expose the lies & scandals coming out the Union’s Capitol.”

For the Morning Call, Dave Howell wrote this unintentionally hilarious bit:

There is a goofy brilliance on “Peace or War: Songs for the Revolution,??? and I mean that as a compliment. In a time when so many bands sound alike, these guys are following their own road.

Having worked there this is not really a surprise.

The Morning Call is a place where many, but by no means all, of the employees are half-assed shucks incapable of noting even painfully obvious details about the subjects they choose to cover.

Yes, Poker Face is definitely following a unique road, one many decent people might choose not to even tepidly recommend.

Sparked by natural intellectual curiosity, colleague Chuck spent more time than was perhaps wise on Poker Face material.

And I defer to him, on I Love Music, for this:

As for Poker Face, what I called “flirting with Anti-Semitism” above might be understating things, given their complaints about “how many treasonous dual loyalist Jews have gotten away with their SPYING crimes,” not to mention, uh, “the fraud of the holocaust.” (And in re: Oklahoma, they call [Tim McVeigh], “Tom McVay,” say he was a Patsy.)

Lyric snips, displayed on the website, taken from various tunes:


Litton, Merck & Glaxo, Phizer Lilly J& J…. CDC, FDA NIH & AMA Time, Warner, AOL, Viacom & Disney ….. Exxon, Mobil, Amoco, Texaco Ford, Rand, Heritage, Rockefeller, Carnegie ….. Illuminati, Fabians, Jacobins, Club of Rome Darwin, Karl Marx, Gramsci, Albert Pike ….. TriLats, Bilderberg, CFR are the whores
GATT, NAFTA, IMF, World Trade, & World Bank .. WACO, OKC Gordon Khal,& Ruby Ridge WACO, OKC Gordon Khal,& Ruby Ridge, Were JFK & RFK murdered by our CIA Were JFK & MLK murdered by our CIA, Were JFK & RFK murdered by our CIA

It’s actually Gordon Kahl — the organizer of a chapter of the anti-Semitic group called Posse Comitatus, one responsible for shootouts with government men in which two of the latter were killed.

From “FinCen,” a song apparently aimed at the US government’s financial crimes enforcement unit:

I think we’ve had just about enough
It won’t take to much to set things off
Down, you’re going down
I know my brothers back me up

Don’t, you, tell
Tell me what to do

You suck the life force from men’s souls
You offer nothing, to the fold

From “Freedoms on the Run”:

Welcome to this New world Circus
Coming to a homeland near you
Jack Boots and Billy clubs are GAY fashion
Marching to Obamas Commie-Fascist nation

Help me to stuff these fucks in a box
They wont, they wont be missed at all
Imagine, this world free from their disease
Some day, there will be true rest and peace

Another great line from Dave Howell is this:

Far from churning out the usual banal relationship and partying songs, this rocking foursome concentrate on politics, which are libertarian to the max.

If only.

Libertarian isn’t quite the word one reaches for upon seeing that a violent old dead member of the Posse Comitatus is a hero. Or for people who think heavily armed white Christian identity fanatics are always being framed by the government.

And anyone who sings about ‘commie-fascists’ is just a little too dumb for that political categorization.

It’s disrespectful to the Cato Institute people, dontcha think?


American Cults

Posted in Crazy Weapons, Extremism at 8:09 am by George Smith

Survivalism expert Jim Rawles discussed the mindset of preparedness in an uncertain world, and the wild cards to prepare for including solar flares, EMP attacks & global economic collapse …

Part of what made Mark Thompson’s write-up for TIME magazine on electromagnetic pulse doom so wretched was the omission of how many far right kooks subscribe to it. When a journalist does this he’s dishonest, trying to cover up those inconvenient details which strip an issue of respectability and take it into the land of nuts.

The box quote is from a recent post to YouTube of a recording from Coast to Coast, the nationwide radio show that caters to listeners who believe in ghosts, big feet, UFOs, chem trail poisoning and the coming end.

For the past two years, electromagnetic pulse doom has been a regular feature of it, too. And one can frequently hear William Forstchen there, for his book — One Second After — which deals with an EMP attack throwing America back to the time of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Forstchen is connected with Newt Gingrich, another member of the Cult of EMP Crazy, one fond of pushing the author’s book because he wrote a foreword for it.
Amusing one-star reviews of the book are here on Amazon.

Forstchen’s book is only fiction.

However, there is a far right kook portion of this country’s populace that is obsessed with end times mythology and survivalism. The Coast to Coast guest tries to make the point that the Christian white identity crazies who comprise ninety-nine point eight percent of it somehow share common ground with tree-huggers and hippies.

When the mainstream media covers these stories, the pieces are linked to the arrival of Barack Obama as president of the United States. And more and more, one sees experts from the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that tracks extremism in the US, consulted when small groups of these people are carted off to jail.

The electromagnetic pulse doomers are not generally potential criminal nuisances. But they share much with the Hutaree including an increasingly insane rage over the Obama administration.

Some, like the Hutaree, are obsessed with the apocalyptic ending of civilization. Fortschen’s book, for example, is hardly the only example. Here is another entire series of Christian sermonizing built into an extended parable about the end brought on by an electromagnetic pulse. (And still another here, including a rant about the president.)

Reasonable people see the connections. The far right is a home for these types. It is welcoming and inclusive to them in 2010. The raging gripes about the descent of the US government into tyranny and the coming of the end are part of the mainstream daily noise.

Back in September, sampling from the old blog:

Stockpile! Obama will bring on the end of things. The masses — me included — will come rushing out of LA, head north and try to steal your stuff. Buy ammo or books on how to make landmines and makeshift claymores, so you can defend your stuff from those of us who would take it without paying in silver or gold.

“[Some white Americans, all Republicans] think an electromagnetic pulse — EMP for short — set off by a hostile nation exploding a nuclear device in space could fry computer chips — shutting down everything from toasters and cell phones to trucks moving food, medicine and other essentials around the nation,” reports the Oregonian.

[A precious metals] dealer, said some of his customers ‘are actually making sure they have a vehicle that’s not going to be impacted by an EMP.'”

“Failure of the power grid is a common theme — say if huge federal deficits trigger inflation and workers abandon their jobs, or if solar flares damage the grid the way they fused telegraph lines in 1859.”

“[Some fellow in the countryside] has factored predatory gangs into his plans to flee to his Snake River hideout with his wife … and their supplies.”


Cult of EMP Crazy: Mainstreamed by TIME magazine

Posted in Crazy Weapons, Extremism at 3:46 pm by George Smith

Not that it will work.

TIME magazine has just demonstrated it is as lame as your longtime perception of it.

Today, writing about the Cult of EMP Crazy, Mark Thompson does the usual bad dog journalist thing of imagining there must be some relative merit to the Cult — and that the truth must be somewhere between it and the people who have reasonably been brushing off Roscoe Bartlett for over a decade. (And the Heritage Foundation for the last couple of years.)


If America needs a new threat around which to organize its defenses, try this one: Bad guys explode nuclear weapons miles above U.S. soil, sending out an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that fries the electronic guts of everything in America. The nation’s financial and transportation systems collapse, hospitals and the Internet go dark, water and electrical grids freeze and runaway Toyotas with electronic throttles are finally brought to a stop. “The EMP resulting from the blast would cause widespread damage, devastating the economy and resulting in the deaths of millions of Americans,” the hawkish Heritage Foundation warned last week, launching a call on Congress to establish an EMP Recognition Day.

The Heritage Foundation. Hawkish.

Calling the Heritage Foundation ‘hawkish’ is like calling a blue whale “big-ish.”

But wait, Thompson’s clowning gets better:

“Despite repeated warnings, Congress has taken virtually no action to prepare or protect against an EMP attack,” write the Heritage Foundation’s Jena Baker McNeill and James Jay Carafano. “In order to facilitate a national discussion regarding the EMP threat, Congress should establish March 23 as EMP Recognition Day” — not coincidentally, that’s the date of Reagan’s famous 1983 speech launching his missile-defense initiative. Leaving aside the contradiction of urging Congress to concentrate attention and resources on a threat that most in Washington consider an infinitesimal probability, the whole notion seems rooted in some visceral need for foes with diabolical destructive abilities. There’s something almost pathetic about cowering in the shadow of such a threat, instead of shrugging it off with the resilience that was typical on the American frontier.

As its own contribution to EMP Recognition Day, the Heritage Foundation — sounding more like the Green Party than the conservative think tank that it is — is urging lawmakers to shut down congressional cafeterias, walk to work, shut off their BlackBerries and turn off the lights. “If Congress took these four steps for one day,” the Heritage Foundation says, “all members would understand the magnitude of the dangers posed by an EMP attack.” (They’ll also be slimmer, healthier and more mellow.)

[Crap deleted for the punch line]

Like with taxes and health care, the debate over the EMP threat is polarizing.

The line asks readers to believe the unbelievable — that a sizable number of Americans have an opinion on electromagnetic pulse doom, like they do on real daily news, like health care reform, as opposed to extremist right-wing manufactured stuff, like EMP.

It also leaves out all the self-impeaching details on the true nature of the Cult of EMP Crazy: That it’s not only the property of the missile defense/bomb Iran lobby, but also exclusively GOP far right and home to birthers, the nuts pastor of a superchurch hoping for end to come so Jesus can take his flock to heaven, a congressional staffer who used to push the non-existent threat of suitcase nukes, and still another fringe GOP congressman who is a birther, to name a few.

TIME also highlites James Carafano, who’s work includes recommending we fight pirates with lasers, that ‘cash for clunkers’ cut into needed missile defense, and this gem of nose gold, even fresher than the Electromagnetic Pulse Memorial Day he recommended last week:

An enemy detonates a nuclear weapon over the Pentagon. In four seconds, the blast wave reaches the Jefferson Memorial. It collapses in an instant. Scorching hot winds, at 300 miles an hour, scour every person and vehicle off the Memorial Bridge. The fireball, bright as a thousand suns, quickly reaches the Capitol building. The structure shakes, yet stands. But inside, everything flammable — from clothes to curtains — bursts into flames.

Soon, 40 square miles are covered by roaring flames. Fingers of fire stretch as far as eight miles from the blast.

The D.C. area is home to 5.3 million people. All who haven’t died within the first hour of the attack are in desperate need.

It’s not a happy scenario. And Washington’s doing nothing to improve it.


Cult of Cyberwar: I’ve already seen this movie

Posted in Cyberterrorism at 1:27 pm by George Smith

Everyone in the political class and mainstream media acts like the current news about cyberattack on the nation is unique.

It’s not.

There was a paroxysm on it back in 2003 when the first strategy to secure cyberspace was unveiled.

At the time, I was asked to comment on an old article addressing it in the National Academy of Science’s Issues in Science & Technology magazine.

Here’s the thing:

“Cybersecurity: Who’s Watching the Store?” is a very welcome appraisal of the nation’s de facto laissez-faire approach to battening down its electronic infrastructure. Authors Bruce Berkowitz and Robert W. Hahn’s examination of the National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace is timely and accurate in the assessment of its many shortcomings.

Less delicately stated, the strategy does nothing.

It is curious that it turned out this way, because one of its primary architects, Richard Clarke, had worked overtime since well before 2000 ringing alarm bells about the fragility of the nation’s networks. At times, Clarke’s message was apocalyptic: An electronic Pearl Harbor was coming. The power could be switched off in major cities. Cyber attacks, if conducted simultaneously with physical terrorist attacks, could cause a cascade of indescribable calamity.

These messages received a considerable amount of publicity. The media was riveted by such alarming news, but the exaggerated, almost propagandistic style of it had the unintended effect of drowning out substantive and practical debate on security. For example, how to improve after-the-fact, reactive, and antiquated antivirus technology on the nation’s networks, or what might be done about spam before it grew into the e-mail disaster it is now never came up for discussion. By contrast, there was always plenty of time to speculate about theoretical attacks on the power grid.

When the Bush administration’s Strategy to Secure Cyberspace was released in final form, it did not insist on any measures that echoed the urgency of the warnings coming from Clarke and his lieutenants. Although the strategy made the case that the private sector controlled and administered most of the nation’s key electronic networks and therefore would have to take responsibility for securing them, it contained nothing that would compel corporate America to do so.

Practically speaking, it was a waste of paper, electrons, and effort.


Senior Fellow


Pasadena, California

The most recent iteration of this is the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 which just passed in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

I’ll talk about it in more detail in a future post, but a couple things immediately jump out. They revolve around what the Congressional committee is said to have ‘found.’

The ‘findings’ are simply requotes from the chieftains of the Cult of Cyberwar.

I’ve written about this repeatedly during the year and the Senate deviates not one iota from the script delivered by the cult. (For background see here on the practice in which only a few select ‘experts’ dominated the entire national discussion on the topic, as well as here and here more recently.)

The same people that comprise the Cult of Cyberwar make up the frontispiece of the legislation: Mike McConnell, James Lewis, Alan Paller and a partner of Richard Clarke’s, Paul Kurtz.

Here are the salient pieces:

Paul Kurtz, a Partner and chief operating officer of Good Harbor Consulting as well as a senior advisor to the Obama Transition Team for cybersecurity, recently stated that the United States is unprepared to respond to a ‘cyber-Katrina’ and that ‘a massive cyber disruption could have a cascading, long-term impact without adequate co-ordination between government and the private sector.’

Alan Paller, the Director of Research at the SANS Institute, testified before the Congress that ‘the fight against cybercrime resembles an arms race where each time the defenders build a new wall, the attackers
create new tools to scale the wall. What is particularly important in this analogy is that, unlike conventional warfare where deployment takes time and money and is quite visible, in the cyber world, when the attackers find a new weapon, they can attack millions of computers, and successfully infect hundreds of thousands, in a few hours or days, and remain completely hidden.’

According to the National Journal, Mike McConnell, the former Director of National Intelligence [and the head salesman for Booz Allen Hamilton’s cybersecurity unit], told President Bush in May 2007 that if the 9/11 attackers had chosen computers instead of airplanes as their weapons and had waged a massive assault on a U.S. bank, the economic consequences would have been ‘an order of magnitude greater’ than those cased by the physical attack on the World Trade Center. Mike McConnell has subsequently referred to cybersecurity as the ‘soft underbelly of this country.’

The Center for Strategic and International Studies report on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency concluded that (A) cybersecurity is now a major national security problem for the United States, (B) decisions and actions must respect privacy and civil
liberties, and (C) only a comprehensive national security strategy that embraces both the domestic and international aspects of cybersecurity will make us more secure. The report continued stating that the United States faces ‘a long-term challenge in cyberspace from foreign intelligence agencies and militaries, criminals, and others, and that losing this struggle will wreak serious damage on the economic health and national security of the United States.’

This one above is deceptive because it’s James Lewis incognito. One wagers his name was not included so that readers will conclude their was more variety and depth to the research than there actually was. Lewis is cited a second time in the very next finding.

The selection of Congressional ‘findings’ is remarkable for how narrow-sourced it is.

The question is not whether or not the state of security on the Internet is fragile and often totally lacking. And because of this country’s daily transaction with it, the issue is deserving of serious work and attention. It is.

The more accurate observation is that the United States is a really big country with many, many cybersecurity experts in academia and in the private sector.

And they’re not present in this selection of staged material. The remedies and problems are described by a smaller number of people than the fingers on one hand. As a thought exercise, one can contrast this with the over year-long process of securing healthcare reform, and the national debate over it, such as it has been.

The failure of the first strategy to secure cyberspace was that the government took no role. It was designed to be this way.

Everything was left to the market. And Richard Clarke and James Lewis were two guys who were instrumental in that.

Now it’s seven years later and there’s much lip service paid to the realization that it was worthless. And so there is now an aim to make government conduct some kind of leading role.

However, the current state of the legislation is generally vague on how this is going to be done, or how it even departs from regular practice. Except for some trival areas, so far.

If one reads the bill closely there is also an insistence on “creating a market for cybersecurity risk management, including the creation of a system of civil liability and insurance (including government reinsurance).”

Only heaven and the staffers know what this means. However, when one talks about creating a ‘market’ for cybersecurity risk management, it sounds suspiciously like what exists now. Very little government role or regulation but cybersecurity risk management furnished by big corporate cybersecurity vendors, who assess and manage risk independently and according to what best suits their profit margins.

All for now.

The bill is here.

Red State Cult of EMP Crazy Watching

Posted in Crazy Weapons, Extremism at 10:25 am by George Smith

While there is no one in policy-making position in the current US administration who even remotely cares about electronic pulse doom or the notional threat it is said to pose, the Cult of EMP Crazy is so vigorous it has true believers all over the country.

And if there was a demographic study or poll to test the water, DD would theorize EMP Crazy — when not being exploited by the missile defense lobby — aligns with Tea Party membership and the irrational belief that the US will soon collapse from a combination of socialist tyranny, apocalyptic attack from overseas and the ruination of its currency.

EMP Crazy, as now owned by the GOP — the party of the irrational far right — seems to grow in appeal in this demographic the more ridiculous and extreme it becomes.

For today’s bit from the front lines, into this rather standard brew is popped Nicola Tesla kooky-ness and the belief that he could trigger earthquakes with electromagnetic rays. This idea, while it may sound odd and utterly nonsensical, is not uncommon in US extremism.

A little more disturbing is that the person giving the lecture — a four hour one — is employed as an emergency response specialist from the Emergency Operations Training Academy, an adjunct of the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Training Adminstration.

From a Del Norte, New Mexico, newspaper:

During a recent free seminar, a New Mexico woman explained how a single solar flare incident, or one 10-kiloton nuclear blast 300 miles in the atmosphere over the state of Kansas, could destroy a century’s worth of accumulated technology in this country.

The force created by a flare or a nuclear explosion— or even some other solar incident— is called an electromagnetic pulse, (EMP).

It would easily knock out all major power sources, land line and cell phone communications, emergency service telecommunications, erase all electronic digital data and even disable all forms of transportation dependent on any sort of electronic ignition devices.

A simple power outage could become much more once those trying to call their local utilities provider or start their car would soon discover. If a nuclear device exploded from a 300-mile distance above the earth, it would create only a brief light flash, probably unseen by most.

Virginia Silcox, a Training Specialist II with the Emergency Operations Training Academy in Albuquerque, New Mex., laid out the scenario of an immediate return to the 19th century to a small audience in Del Norte earlier this month.

During the four-hour seminar, Silcox gave a PowerPoint presentation followed by a detailed discussion and the construction of actual Farraday cages used to protect electronics … Basically the EMP attack was first known as Nicola Tesla’s death ray, Silcox said, technology some speculate was stolen from Tesla following his death in 1943.

Tesla used a little black box in his Colorado Springs laboratory in the early part of the 20th century and created an actual earthquake in the city while testing his vibration technology equipment there.

Going, going, gone

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:26 am by George Smith

Today marks my official parting with the old Blogger version of this page. The posts from it won’t go away. But it will become the equivalent of a petrified tree.

Google Blogger will turn off FTP-publishing on May 1, perhaps sooner.

I started with the application in 2006. It seemed like a good idea for about a year and half. However, Blogger’s FTP publishing became progressively shakier and fragile.

As annoying as it was to me — as seen here — Blogger employees eventually copped to it being equally annoying to them. At which point they decided to pull the plug.

The migration to WordPress in the last month was easy. But Google Blogger’s decision put a hit on readers, as everyone who was using FTP finds out.

Favors don’t come easy, if they come at all, on the web. And you’re always under threat of being obsoleted or upgraded out of existence.

Blog readers, I’ve found, are a bit like cats. They’re not fond of changes in scenery and location. Adding a new address to ‘favorites’ or even something as simple as reading the new URL for a different page inside the domain is often a bridge too far.

In any case, by 2009 the old blog had brought in well over a quarter of a million readers. Not bad for an mix of national security, music and personal idiosyncracy postings.

For example, this completely whimsical post on Joan Jett is still serendipitously one of the old blog’s highest downloads.

It’s always neck-and-neck with Peroxide Bomb, Easy to Make.

Two distinct audiences there: One which loves rock and roll, many of them girls. And one which is into homemade bombs from the war on terror, all guys. The alpha to omega with quite a bit in between.

The old page — here — now has a permanent redirect which brings you here in five ticks. I may stretch it out a bit at a later date depending on various statistics.

Therefore, if you haven’t done so already and you are here from the redirect, reset your reading habits. Or we can agree to part, too.

The pro is that now that I’m used to not logging into Blogger, I don’t miss it. The application never figured out how to make my block quotes look good.

Old fun with Blogger.


Survived the Road to Ruin

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll, Sludge in the Seventies at 4:26 pm by George Smith

Cherie Currie’s “Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway” is a series of close escapes.

I remember it as an autobiography aimed at teenagers, originally published in 1989. Back then, it was also a string of short-of-death misadventures, collisions with drugs, alcohol and unpleasant sex without a suitable ending.

As the basis for the indie movie, “The Runaways,” it’s received a radical face-lift, one without which the movie would have probably been either undoable or unwatchable.

Currie was a striking young girl when she was picked by manager Kim Fowley to front the Runaways. And the best parts of this life story have to do with her time in the band and its successes rather than failures.

The book also serves as something of a cathartic score settler. A lot of people get theirs.

And that’s the good thing about being given the opportunity to write. The long arm of the word can reach out and collar those who may have thought they were beyond a good rattling.

There’s Runaways guitarist Lita Ford, portrayed as a humorless ranting bully, ever more angry at the difference between her looks and Currie’s, the latter always getting the lion’s share of the photography. There’s an awkward moment where Currie attributes this to Ford’s love of cheeseburgers and beer while on the road.

Best seat in the house?

A lot didn’t make it to the movie.

There are two totally skin-crawling episodes of violence and rape and one slimy adventure in which Currie is inveigled into going back to an English pop star’s apartment by manager Fowley after an important gig.

It’s a jump-on-the-grenade-for-the-team moment and readers can guess what’s involved. It’s white satin sheets and that time of the month and if you have the book, you’ll feel uncomfortable and splashed with a bit of collateral filth. No punches are pulled in this one.

The pop star in question sounds suspiciously like Cliff Richard, who had the hit “Devil Woman” in the US in ’76 which puts things in the right time frame, although I may be guessing wrong.

Returning to Fowley, he’s again the villain set in cartoonishly bad incident after incident, with one chapter devoted to a sex education tutorial for the band, conducted in a seedy motel room.

This part contains the most arresting if vulgar line in the book:

He looked like he was trying to crawl right up inside of her.

Now you don’t see that everyday in something from HarperCollins.

Remember what I said about much of the book not being doable in the movie? And many reviewers commented on the daring kiss scene between Currie and Jett in the film — something not in this book.

While not elegant in the slightest, a literary cup of tea, or even among the best biographies in the world, it’s a vivid, entertaining and brutally honest read. One imagines that consultations, careful wording and much negotiation have made it almost lawsuit proof. Plus it has a happy ending: Currie has a new lease on life and the opportunity to build on whatever the book and movie may send her way, something that just wasn’t there when the first edition was published.

Until Joan Jett does the same, this is the you-are-there history of the Runaways in print.

Currie will be at Vroman’s in Pasadena tomorrow, Perhaps more on it over the weekend.

As for the soundtrack CD to The Runaways, it’s a good introductory to the band for complete novices, an idealized musical anthology. Four Runaways tunes out of seven were redone for the movie.

Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart sub vocals for Currie and Joan Jett on “Cherry Bomb,” “California Paradise,” “Queens of Noise” and “Dead End Justice.” The songs don’t suffer for it. Inspirational singing was never part of the appeal of the Runaways.

In “Neon Angel,” Currie said Fowley put it this way while in session for the debut LP:

Don’t think that because we’re in the studio you have to start trying to sing in tune or anything … This isn’t high art. You aren’t a fucking opera singer or some dog shit like that.

The songs only needed to project “rock and roll authority.” And they did.

Still do. “Dead End Justice,” in particular, sounds even more slamming done in 2010. It’s a killing riff. If you don’t hear it, you’re not much for raw rock ‘n’ roll.

One of those homemade fan videos with the CD cut glued on to a couple photos is here on YouTube. It probably won’t last long.


Bioterror defense cozy sole-source deal backfires

Posted in Bioterrorism at 9:24 am by George Smith


Bioterror defense in the US is a good way to make big money.

As such, it’s done the American way, creating the impression of cozy dealing and business doublecross.

There is continual growth opportunity in vaccine and nostrum-making. Bruce Ivins saw to it.

But the anthrax vaccine biz is also very tangled. Its history shows bitter struggle between a small club of rivals, routine retaliatory and delaying government contract protests and regular efforts to drive each other to financial ruin.

The latest news is on PharmAthene, one of the major players in the Alliance for Biosecurity and what has become known more vulgarly as the “Murtha/O’Toole favor factory.”

Michael Goldfarb coined the name at the Weekly Standard and described it thusly back in January:

Several months ago we warned that Tara O’Toole who recently became Under Secretary for the Science and Technology Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security would reward her friends resulting in millions of dollars in gifts to John Murtha cronies who supported her nomination.

And it now appears the Murtha/O’Toole favor factory has begun production. In February 2008, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a request for proposal (RFP) for a second-generation anthrax vaccine. This RFP was issued to be a re-procurement for a contract that had been canceled in 2006 for the same vaccine. And on December 7, HHS canceled the RFP.

After further review, it is becoming all too clear why this happened. Just as the year was closing and no one was paying attention, O’Toole’s friends at PharmAthene were awarded a sole-source contract, which has resulted in their stock nearly doubling

However, just this week a potential monkeywrench was thrown into the works.

From a Pharmathene press release on the 19th, one which caused its stock to sag:

PharmAthene, Inc. (NYSE Amex: PIP), a biodefense company specializing in the development and commercialization of medical countermeasures against chemical and biological threats, announced today that pursuant to the Federal Acquisition Regulations and pending a ruling in a protest recently filed by a competitor the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), has suspended work under the modification the Company announced on February 23, 2010 to its existing contract with BARDA for the research and development of SparVax(TM). June 11, 2010 is the deadline to rule on the protest.

David P. Wright, President & Chief Executive Officer, commented “We are confident that BARDA has complied with all applicable legal and contractual requirements in entering into the modifications with PharmaAthene and that the contract modification for SparVax(TM) will be upheld once a ruling on the protest is issued. In the meantime, funding under the original NIH contract transferred to BARDA in April 2009 will continue to support ongoing advanced development activities for SparVax(TM) until a decision is reached. We are disappointed that a competitor – whose primary motivation should be protecting our citizens from bioterrorist threats – has chosen to pursue a path intended to delay development of a key medical countermeasure for our nation’s biodefense arsenal.”

“PharmAthene Loses More Than 7.5%, Halts Work on Contract With BARDA Due to Protest,” reads one headline from a newswire broadcast.

But who is this competitor? PharmAthene’s press releases on the matter decline to say.

DD is betting it is Panacea Biotec, a Mumbai-based company and big vaccine maker which used to be a generous investor in PharmAthene.


Much crap deleted in update.

All credit to commenter for correction. My bad.

See here:

“Dick – you are way off on this story. Emergent Biosolutions filed the protest. You can check your facts by calling either Emergent or Pharmathene investor relations. the protest documents are public record. They filed on an obscure technicality.

“You might also ask why Emergent filed? They had nothing to gain as it was a contract renewal – not a competitive award. Did anyone file protests on Emergent’s contract extensions for their drug Vaxgen?

“If you are patriot Dick, you’ll understand that our country needs more companies in bioterror defense space. Emergent ran one company out of town – thus Vaxgen. Tried with others… and is now messing with Pharmathene. Open your eyes and check your facts.”

From a story in The Annapolis Capital:

PharmAthene, a biodefense firm whose headquarters are located downtown at One Park Place, is one of possibly just three companies in the world working on a more advanced vaccine, said David P. Wright, the company’s president and chief executive officer.

Two of those companies are based in Maryland. Emergent Biosolutions, a biodefense company based in Rockville, is in early development stages of a second-generation vaccine.

Emergent’s history with anthrax vaccine making was written up by David Willman at the Los Angeles Times in 2007.

Emergent, another Alliance for Biosecurity firm, engaged in battle with VaxGen, still another rival — based in San Francisco, which threatened its business as supplier of the anthrax vaccine now used by the US government.

“America’s sole supplier faced oblivion if its rival’s product was adopted,” reads the subhed at the Los Angeles Times. “It was time to call on its connections.”

The vaccine — BioThrax, and Emergent’s prime money-maker, has a long history of being criticized for the length of the innoculation regime and adverse effects, a potency requiring booster shots, and shelf-life limitations which it has fought to extend.

“The manufacturer, Emergent BioSolutions Inc. of Rockville, Md., prevailed in a bitter struggle with a rival company [Vaxgen] that was preparing what federal health officials expected to be a superior vaccine,” wrote Willman in 2007. “The episode illustrates the clout wielded by well-connected lobbyists over billions in spending for the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism program.”

A whispering campaign, fueled by lobbyists for Emergent, explained the Times, resulted in the competence of Vaxgen’s efforts being undermined. And a subsequent government revision in standards for its vaccine development delivery run and scientific problems within it crippled the firm’s ability to deliver on time.

This eventually resulted in the cancellation of Vaxgen’s second generation anthrax vaccine contract.

By 2008, Emergent had acquired that VaxGen anthrax vaccine in a fire sale brought about by the latter company’s financial collapse.

According to the San Francisco Business news:

VaxGen Inc. finished selling the assets of its anthrax vaccine program for $2 million.

The buyer was Emergent BioSolutions Inc., based in Rockville, Md … Emergent sells the only FDA-approved anthrax vaccine … Emergent aims to develop the vaccine to meet a request for proposals from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which seeks to stockpile 25 million doses of anthrax vaccine for bioterrorism defense.

Paradoxically, in early 2009 a biodefense industry competitor protest was filed against Emergent’s second generation anthrax vaccine bid to the US government, stalling the business.

“Emergent is awaiting an HHS decision on its bid last year to sell 25 million doses of a separate anthrax vaccine to the agency — a negotiation process that has been delayed by a protest … ” reported the Washington Business Journal from that time here. This contributed to a significant earnings drop report for Emergent during a quarter.

US government requests for proposals on a second generation anthrax vaccine have, up until now at least, been an on-and-off again process, confusing to follow.

In late 2009, the US government cancelled its original second RFP for such a vaccine, after issuing a re-procurement RFP in 2008 for a bid cancelled in 2006.

PharmAthene was then awarded the sole-source contract for the 25 million dose second gen anthrax vaccine contract at the end of last year. Which brings the story full circle, it seems.

For now.

Protest filings in the conducting of business re vaccine development against bioterrorism

2006: Emergent/DOR (both Alliance for Biosecurity firms) denied protest against DynPort Vaccine here. Complaint: Improper sole source contracting award.

2009: Panacea Biotech — see crossed-out cite above — protest that its second generation anthrax vaccine proposal was unreasonably excluded from US competitive range here. Judgment: Denied.


Cult of EMP Crazy: Congress should make an EMP Memorial Day

Posted in Crazy Weapons, Extremism at 5:13 pm by George Smith

Paul Krugman once mocked the Heritage Foundation’s quality of research in a post lampooning one of the right wing agency’s many choice recommendations: “Pentagon should battle pirates and terrorists with lasers.”

But the Heritage Foundation always finds a way to raise the bar.

And the latest Heritage feat of intellectual heavy lifting is to recommend that Congress establish an official Electromagnetic Pulse Recognition Day today.

I hear you thinking: “Ah, DD, now I know you’re really bullsh—— me!”

No way. I’m not clever enough to make up crap like that.

While more than half of Congress basks in the afterglow of a most momentous piece of legislation, Heritage has not been letting the grass grow under its feet — setting two of its always busy experts to writing an ‘analysis’ calling for an EMP Recognition Day because:

The likelihood of an EMP attack is disconcerting.

And because it makes anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s SDI — the original missile defense initiative.

To get in the right mood on EMP Recognition Day, the Congress could, according to the Heritage Foundation:

1. Close all cafeterias.

2. Walk to work.

3. Turn off Members’ Blackberries.

4. Shut off the lights.

That’s because after an electromagnetic pulse attack American technologic civilization will have ended, so these steps are a soft way of mimicking that.

As for the part where “within one year of such an attack, 70 percent to 90 percent of Americans would be dead” — that, quite obviously — can’t really be adequately duplicated.

DD thinks maybe Roscoe Bartlett could lay silently under a shroud on the floor of the House for the entire day, though. But that’s about it for the 70-90 percent dead thing.

“March 23 should be designated as EMP Recognition Day on the Hill,” Heritage insists.

If only they could have waited until April 1 — next Thursday.

Because the Cult of EMP Crazy is such a vigorous lobby, it has achieved a set of unusual consequences.

Jason at Armchair Generalist discusses the recent Joint Operating Environment report from the US military, one which contains a couple of surprising paragraphs on the always coming but never arriving menace of non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse weapons, a development which some in the military actually seem to think might be likely.

By way of context, here is a ‘predictive analysis’ from the Air Force in 2005, on presumed electromagnetic pulse weapon threats in 2010. That went well.

Sigger includes some rumination from a deputy secretary of defense on wild German plans to launch V2’s at New York after towing across the Atlantic on submersible barges.

EMP Crazy and Ivins Denier

Posted in Bioterrorism, Crazy Weapons at 12:20 pm by George Smith

Maryland GOP Congressman Roscoe Bartlett has the great distinction of not only being one of the chieftains of the Cult of EMP Crazy but, now, also a member of the anthrax conspiracy club.

Aiding Rush Holt, Bartlett is a co-sponsor of a rider attached to the recent intelligence funding bill. The rider asks the administration to authorize an ‘independent investigation’ of the anthrax mailings. And the President has promised to veto the Congressional funding authorization if that rider — as well as others — are not removed.

The Frederick, MD, newspaper recently put it this way:

The administration is citing U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett’s amendment to investigate the FBI’s handling of the 2001 anthrax case as one of many concerns with the bills. Bartlett is a Republican from Frederick who represents Western Maryland.

The House of Representatives adopted the anthrax amendment last month, which was proposed by Bartlett and Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., who represents the district from which the anthrax letters were mailed.

The amendment asks the intelligence community’s inspector general to look into whether intelligence suggesting foreign influence in the anthrax attacks was overlooked.

The Senate never adopted the amendment, and the investigation would not take place unless the Senate agrees to it during a conference committee to sort out the differences in the two bills.

Therefore, the possibility exists for it just to go away or be ignored, in the same way as everyone has dealt with Bartlett’s idiosyncratic — or nuts, if you like — obsession with electromagnetic pulse doom.

Nevertheless, the Frederick newspaper goes on to mention the conspiracy thought on the subject (although it does not label it as such):

FBI records, released through the Freedom of Information Act, show that employees at Fort Detrick’s U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases mention Iraq as possibly having access to the strain of anthrax used in the attacks. They also discuss foreign scientists visiting the labs, and Ivins said a number of times he thought the strain could have ended up in Britain and other countries.

Iraq. Really, now.

Science employed in the FBI anthrax investigation traced the anthrax used in the mailings to a master flask — a gold standard reservoir of spores — under the control of Bruce Ivins.

Bartlett is up for re-election in November. Removing him from Congress would be salutary, comparable to the passing of a minor kidney stone. However, despite being known for very little except a gratifyingly unsuccessful decade-long effort to protect the country from electromagnetic pulse attack, Bartlett has proven surprisingly durable.

Nevertheless, the Democratic Party will try to have him replaced this year after a number of candidates are sorted.

From a Cumberland, MD, newspaper:

A Democratic candidate for the 6th Congressional District said nine-term incumbent Roscoe Bartlett should retire.

Casey Clark, 40, of Hampstead, said someone in office as long as Bartlett “should have a stellar record.???

“I don’t know that there’s anything you can point to that Roscoe Bartlett’s done,??? Casey said. “Frankly, after 18 years, you should have a stellar record.???

The Heritage Foundation is keen on him, though.

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