03.22.10

The Real Life Charles Xavier

Posted in Cyberterrorism at 5:15 pm by George Smith

The Paller-Scope’s gaze looks upon journalists and hackers alike, in much the way Cerebro is used by Professor X to keep a watchful eye on good and evil mutants.

Paller is kind of a real-life version of Professor Charles Xavier, the X-men comic-book character who heads a school designed to find and nurture young mutants with supernatural powers. — Newsweek


“Journalists are among the most important people in cyber security because until the public fully understands the threat, the nation will never act to solve the problem,” said Alan Paller, the SANS Institute’s director of research. SANS sponsored the awards and is considered the largest and most trusted source of information security training and certification in the world. — a SANS press release about ‘journalism awards’ handed out by Alan Paller


Among those who are pushing this [hacker] recruitment drive is Alan Paller, co-founder of Sans Institute cyber-security school. Alan initiated a Cyber Challenge last year in which participants were required to hack into servers. Some of the participants were hired by National Security Agency, while the FBI and Air Force too decided to offer internship to future winners.

A potential flip side to such competitions is that, the skills they learn could be turned against the law. However, Alan, while admitting it as an inherent risk, says that its worth it in the face of a shortage of experts and defending the country from incessant cyber attacks. — some vendor conference


Disobeying a standing rule is often adequate grounds for dismissal, said Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute, a security certification and training organization. But the question that also needs to be asked here is why the state of Pennsylvania has not publicly disclosed the security incident that Maley spoke about at the RSA conference, Paller said.

Rather than try and keep a lid on the incident, “public officials have the responsibility to tell the world [about such events],” Paller said. — Computerworld


Attention, amateur hackers: Uncle Sam wants you to help fight cyber-crime — and he’s getting pretty desperate, too. As cyber-attacks become more complex and virulent, the U.S. government has poured billions of dollars into securing our nation’s digital borders. Problem is, it’s facing a severe shortage of manpower. Out of the roughly 20,000 “elite” cyber-experts that the U.S. needs, there are only about 1,000 currently fighting the good fight. Faced with this dearth of expertise, and with a national training program that’s proven to be flawed, governmental agencies and private companies alike have broadened their recruitment wingspan in an effort to dig out whiz-kid diamonds in the rough.

One of the people spearheading this revamped recruitment initiative is Alan Paller, co-founder and research director of the Sans Institute cyber-security school, and who, according to Newsweek, is “kind of a real-life version of Professor Charles Xavier.” — some miscellaneous apple-polisher perhaps angling for an award next year


The Paller-Scope — from the archives

Tea & Strumpets

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll at 1:56 pm by George Smith

Kim Fowley wouldn’t be Kim Fowley if he wasn’t ready for The Runaways movie promotion with some product of his own devise.

And more’s the pity, the mainstream press has declined to bite.

All this falls under the name of Black Room Doom, Fowley’s newest project — a fake rock band/movie/art/music shtick — starring young girls. And the man himself.

Even though you might not, I’d buy a record with stuff like this on it. Well, maybe at least half of it. It occurs I may be admitting too much here.

The pieces are short bits of dirt rock art for discerning porn store shoppers, suitably inappropriate and uncomfortable, as much funny and catchy as they are icky. (No X-bits but may thematically be injurious at work if caught viewing them.)

Iggy Pop can’t make stuff this entertaining these days, you betcha.

If Joan Jett and The Runaways can have retrospective packages, surely there must be room on the plate for “Cheerleader for the Damned” and “Road Hog,” too.

And this — “Kim Vincent Fowley” may be the best autobiographical rock song, ever. At least this week, easy.

Not exactly Edward Jenner

Posted in Bioterrorism at 10:05 am by George Smith

Edward Jenner was a benefactor to mankind.

As a country doctor in the west of England, Jenner discovered vaccination. Indeed, the word vaccination — was taken by Jenner from the Latin word for cow, “vacca,” stemming for his discovery that women infected with cowpox — a lesser disease than the killer smallpox — acquired immunity to the latter.

So by scraping pus from cowpox sores on cows and administering it to people, Jenner invented the first vaccination by live virus.

More recently, there was news from the US-funded war on terror on the planned acquisition of 20 million doses of a new smallpox vaccine for the national stockpile.

The FDA has granted approval to Bavarian Nordic’s new and modern smallpox vaccine. BN, a Danish company, is one of the firms from the Alliance for Biosecurity, a small bioterror defense consortium put together after 9/11 to facilitate the transfer of BARDA-funding to private industry.

The CDC page on smallpox vaccination notes there is already enough smallpox vaccine “in the stockpile to vaccinate every person in the United States in the event of a smallpox emergency.”

That vaccine is a live virus preparation, its nature well-explained at the CDC.

The last vaccination against smallpox in the US occured in 1972. DD can even recall his smallpox vaccination as a child. It resulted in a big itchy scab and left a small scar. Kids were keen to look at each other’s scabs, as I recall.

This was back in those quaint days when people didn’t become apoplectic at the tyrannical idea of the government doing something good for their general well being. Fox News, if it had existed in the Sixties and Seventies, would have doubtless condemned smallpox vaccination as an attack on personal liberties and unconstitutional, much like the locals used to get inflamed over fluoridation.

“Shares in Bavarian jumped as much as 22 percent to their highest level since January 2008 and traded 13 percent up at 247 Danish crowns at 0923 GMT,” reported Reuters.

Schuylkill County hicktown ‘D’ votes ‘no’

Posted in Stumble and Fail at 7:37 am by George Smith

Unsurprisingly, Democratic Congressman Tim Holden — who represents the old hometown of DD, Pine Grove in Schuylkill County, voted ‘no’ on healthcare reform.

To be elected as a “Democrat” in Schuylkill County, two things must always occur. You have to be a Republican under the thin layer of cover and the actual GOP man or woman running against you must either be ineffective or have the image of a criminal.

Schuylkill County is solidy GOP, demographically old white and getting older, so the primary narrative would have been the one transmitted by the party and Fox News: The blacks, kids and other miscellaneous underserving leeches are going to get your piece of the healthcare pie.

The Pottsville Republican, the newspaper in the county seat, didn’t even run the healthcare story as top news on its website.

There was, however, this:

The health care overhaul bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives Sunday night will impact Schuylkill County’s health care system possibly with cuts in Medicare, the Schuylkill Health System’s president and chief operating officer said after the vote.

“It’s obviously hard to tell exactly what is in the bill,” John E. Simodejka said, adding the bill will have an impact on county health care beginning in October.

“All health care is local,” Simodejka said. “However, Schuylkill County has a higher percentage of the population on Medicare and health care providers will see a greater impact than other areas. We will see Medicare cuts as a provider and will have to plan for reductions in payment” …

[Congressman Tim Holden] said President Obama called him Thursday and he gave the president his reasons why he is against the bill.

In a recent story in The Republican-Herald, Holden said the Senate bill does not address the concerns that lead to his “no” vote in November.

Holden said the Senate bill’s provisions against federal funding for abortions are weaker than those in the House bill, another deal breaker for his support.

However, Obama indicated Sunday he would issue an executive order preventing the spending of federal money for abortions.

On March 16, about 10 people, a mixture of local residents and out-of-the-area members of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, a coalition of groups that advocates for health care reform, protested at Holden’s office.


In the valley over

The Lehigh Valley Biblical Anti-Union ex-Union Man Grandpap is, naturally, Old Testament in the way only he can be.

It’s the triumph of Darwinism, evolution, secular humanism and atheism, all rolled into one.

People will be “dispatched by pill.”

Lots of the sky has turned the color of sack cloth-style preaching.

03.21.10

Twisted Steel & Sex Appeal

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll, Sludge in the Seventies at 2:17 pm by George Smith

A lot of people are not even aware of the Runaways,” Jett said of the all-girl teenage band. “This will introduce them. They can go back to the music and hear for themselves.” — UPI

Fair enough.

About ten people were in Pasadena’s Laemmle 7 on Firday afternoon when DD went to see the first showing of “The Runaways.”

Almost everyone was younger than your host but none seemed disappointed by the pic.

The Runaways were always obscure. The only reason most big city newspaper pop writers know of them now is because they’ve seen Joan Jett.

Surprisingly, writer Sia Michel couldn’t even get the punch line in Creem’s infamous review of the band’s ’76 debut into a recent New York Times feature on the movie:

“These bitches suck,” courtesy of Rick Johnson. “Their vocals recapitulate the history of minor mouth pain …” it was added.

In 1976 The Runaways was a raw and underproduced record at a time when many hard rock LPs were rapidly escalating in terms of overproduction and bloat.

It was virtually perfect, tonally, for what was delivered. By modern standards of sex appeal, and what’s delivered in The Runaways movie trailer, 1976 photos of the girls in the band on the back cover were even gamey looking.

One of my favorite parts of the original record is “Dead End Justice” — a short skit which has appeal if you like a bare parable about bad girls breaking out of SoCal juvie and one of ’em going down on the jailbreak. The extended ‘act’ part of it is cut out of the version of the movie although the re-enactment keeps the grimace-worthy lyric: “He beat me with a board, it felt just like a sword.”

Everyone scream!

“Cherry Bomb,” “American Nights,” “You Drive Me Wild” and “Is It Day or Night” are other stellar tunes on it. They work off good hooky riffs and and have a brutality that wasn’t on a lot of hard rock records that year.

If you want an acting experience from The Runaways movie, only Michael Shannon as Kim Fowley, the band’s artistic director, producer and manager, delivers one. He’s the movie’s villain, a piece of shouting and gesticulating twisted steel, overbearing show business and glam rock fashion.

At one point, the actress playing Cherie Currie’s twin sister, Marie, comments on his sleazy character: “I heard he even has a jacket made of dog fur.”

That made me laugh.

By any standard, Fowley must be delighted with the way he is portrayed. Near the end of the movie, Shannon plays him in gay pinkish suit and lipstick, crossing his legs suddenly as an exasperated elegant woman might while making a point. He steals whatever scene he’s in.

As executive producer, Joan Jett did Fowley a solid favor.

In the mid-Seventies Fowley indeed was a colorfully arch and oily side presence in rock magazines, when either pushing the Runaways or aggressively promoting related nobodies like the Hollywood Stars or Venus & the Razorblades. (Inspirational lyric: “Let ’em eat cake, I’ll eat dog food!” from, logically, a song called “Dog Food.”)

The movie writes out bassist Jackie Fox for on legal CYA-ism, omits Kari Krome and pre-Bangles Micki Steele and pretty much skips the entire US experience outside of one introductory tour in favor of going to Japan, where the band was met with hysteria.

It’s worth noting this was around the initial discovery of the curious fact that all American hard rock bands were met with Beatles-like hysteria in the land of the rising sun — something which was cannily employed as a morale builder for major label acts down on their luck.

From start to finish, the music in The Runaways is great. Although there’s nothing really new on the CD except for a couple Runaways tunes sung by Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart, it will — by default — be one of my favorites this year. And that’s because nobody performs hard rock like it anymore.

Except Joan Jett, which doesn’t really count for the purposes of this post.

How does Dakota Fanning do as Cherie Currie?

She pulls off what’s required but she’s not Currie. Too delicate and willowy to be very convincing. Instead of looking bigger than life, astonishingly unnerving and a bit sweaty in the infamous corset, as did Currie, Fanning looks like a second-tier lingerie model.

Many will still recall Currie as the glammy and loose but doomed girl in Foxes, which still runs semi-regularly on cable. One always had the feeling she wasn’t acting, except for the part at the end where she died by misadventure.

Since ample footage of Fanning and Currie are on YouTube, don’t take my word for it.

After Queens of Noise, their second album, the Runaways were basically dead in the US market. Much poorer hard rock bands were routinely better treated.

Currie would leave and two more records would be delivered in a bit of extended going through the motions. A live album, recorded in Japan, which was quite good, wasn’t even released domestically. Which only showed the record label was interested in cutting losses.


“Cherry Bomb” from the movie.

Note big difference between Fanning and archival footage of Currie in Japan, singing “California Paradise.” The Runaways stomp and boogie as good as the guys. And like any truly decent hard rock band, they weren’t afraid to risk being taken for fools.


Kim Fowley’s “International Heroes” from 1973, the poor man’s “All The Young Dudes.”

03.19.10

Anthrax: From ‘Science’ to conspiracy

Posted in Bioterrorism at 9:54 am by George Smith

Yesterday, Science magazine published a news article entitled: “Silicon Mystery Endures in Solved Anthrax Case.”

Here.

“What about the silicon?” asks the piece.

That question has confounded investigators throughout the probe into the 2001 anthrax letter attacks, which the U.S. government formally concluded in February. Scientists inside and outside the government say there is clear evidence that the high levels of silicon found in the anthrax came not from anything added to “weaponize” the anthrax spores—as researchers had suggested early in the probe—but from the culture in which the spores were grown. That evidence may have settled the issue of whether the anthrax was weaponized, at least for scientists familiar with the case. But it raises a different question: Why did the mailed anthrax have such a high proportion of spores with a silicon signature in comparison to most other anthrax samples?

Whatever the answer turns out to be, it won’t change the FBI’s “conclusion that the attacks were the sole handiwork of now-deceased U.S. Army researcher Bruce Ivins.”

The magazine might also have added it won’t change the minds of those who simply don’t believe Ivins did it, or that he did not work alone, or that because the mailed anthrax was ‘weaponized’ Ivins could not have done it because he did not have the know-how, three beliefs, among others, which make up the hard kernel of anthrax case conspiracy theory.

Paradoxically, it was a news article in Science magazine in 2003 which bundled all the rumors of weaponization in one authoritative spot, laying the foundation for much of this.

Written by Gary Matsumoto and entitled “Anthrax Powder: State of the Art?”, it engaged in a speculation on how the mailed anthrax was weaponized.

It is here.

Near the top of the old article, one reads:

[One group of people] thinks that the powder mailed to the Senate (widely reported to be more refined than the one mailed to the TV networks in New York) was a diabolical advance in biological weapons technology. This diverse group includes scientists who specialize in biodefense for the Pentagon and other federal agencies, private-sector scientists who make small particles for use in pharmaceutical powders, and an electronics researcher [in Texas] …

The piece continued with an almost maniacal rumination on how things like “polymerized glass” or “Aerosil” had possibly been mixed with the anthrax in the crafting of a diabolical weapon.

Who could have done it? Battelle (or as it has been puckishly expressed, the Umbrella Corporation) or perhaps Dugway, the article implied, hastily adding “None of this argues that Battelle or any of its employees made the Senate anthrax powder.”

The FBI science exhibit on the Ivins case in 2008 attempted to put this to rest, delivering a set of facts Science magazine repeated again yesterday.

“We found no additives; no exogenous material on the outside of the spores,” said Joseph Michael, a materials scientist at Sandia National Laboratory in 2008. “We did have the opportunity to look at weaponized material to compare it to the letter material and they were very different. And [in] the weaponized material the additives appear on the outside of the spore. Again, in the letter materials the silicon and oxygen were co-located on the spore coat [which is] within the spore. In fact, we found some vegetative cells that were going through the sporulation process and the spore within the mother cell had this same signature.”

From Science, yesterday:

Examining the spores under a scanning electron microscope, [an Army group of] scientists detected silicon and oxygen and concluded that the spores had been coated with silica to make them float easily, enhancing their power to kill.

A more detailed analysis by Joseph Michael and Paul Kotula of Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, contradicted that conclusion. Studying individual spores with a transmission electron microscope, they found that the silicon was located within the spore coat, well inside the cell’s exosporium (outermost covering). By contrast, when they looked at surrogate spores weaponized with silica, the silicon was clearly outside the exosporium.

In 2008 it wasn’t enough to dampen the conspiracy theories. And one does not really expect anything to change now.

From the beginning of a Register story on the FBI exhibition in 2008:

The posting to the net of a transcript of the FBI’s briefing to the press on the science behind the anthrax case is remarkable for two things: first, for its explanation of the development of microbial forensics and the team of scientists behind it; and second, for the determination of some members of the press to run off on a conspiracy theory hinging upon whether or not the anthrax was ever weaponized.

As to the second part, the FBI and its team of independent scientists unequivocally said it wasn’t, after repeated badgering by one journalist – unnamed in the transcript – who insisted other scientists at Ft. Detrick and the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology had determined the anthrax to be weaponized because silica was allegedly seen on the surface of the spores.

Dr Joseph Michael, a materials scientist at Sandia National Laboratories who had, with others, analyzed the anthrax powders in depth, flatly denied this. “They are mistaken,” the man replied to repeated questioning.

That journalist in question was the one who had written the news piece for Science in 2003.

Student science choice: Help fat people or shoot sharks with EMP

Posted in Phlogiston, Why the World Doesn't Need US at 8:11 am by George Smith

People wonder if the US has lost its mojo.

Well, yes. Yes it has.

There is daily proof, often from the grassroots. Here is some, beyond satire — school science projects in Delaware.

“I surveyed like 50 people and asked them if they had ever been discriminated at an amusement park because they were too short or overweight, and there actually are a lot of people who are too overweight for rides,” she said. “There were like 30 of them who were too big for at least one ride.”

Some people have to stand in line in the sun for a couple of hours before they find out they are too big to fit. Having adjustable belts could rectify that, [someone named] Meekins said.

“I don’t understand why every theme park can’t do that,” [the person named Meekins] said.

Or, there’s this:

Schoolmate Ben Ross also chose a summertime subject for his senior project: “Shark Repellent Technology.”

“I found out what sharks are allergic to is magnets. Not necessarily allergic to, but most sensitive to,” he said. “Sharks have what’s called electric sense in the tip of their nose. That’s what helps them attack prey. I figured I could make buoys that could line the shore. Then I could place an electromagnetic pulse generator on each buoy to keep sharks away during the summer.

“I figured I could turn it off from dusk to dawn, because that’s when sharks normally feed,” he added.

Well, other than they don’t really work there’s the thing that lotsa people often swim in the ocean at night.

Anti-shark electromagnetic pulse rays. This is what it’s come to?

Here.

What’s the matter with a chemical volcano , trial and error composition of gunpowder, or learning what a guinea and feather tube illustrates?

03.18.10

Achtung Cheaters! The Paller-scope is watching…

Posted in Cyberterrorism at 10:19 am by George Smith

Montgomery County school officials have not yet closed gaps in their computer system that allowed students at a high-performing Potomac high school to change dozens of grades using a device that can be bought from Amazon.com for $69. And other school systems, including Fairfax County, remain just as vulnerable, school officials said Tuesday.

At least eight students at Winston Churchill High School are believed to have used the readily available device to obtain teachers’ passwords for the school system’s grading system. The school system, Maryland’s largest, has determined that the grades of 54 students were improperly changed in 35 teachers’ records.

From the Washington Post here.

“That’s the first hack that every kid who becomes a criminal has done,” Alan Paller, “director of research at the SANS Institute,” told the newspaper. “Right now, attack software is so good that the average user in a small business or a school cannot protect himself and still get his job done.”


Previously in the Paller-Scope from the archives.

Cult of Cyberwar Chieftain Admits Cult Has Overdone It

Posted in Cyberterrorism, Extremism at 9:45 am by George Smith

One of the headmen of the Cult of Cyberwar, James Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, admits the cult has overdone it in recent months.

This in a short essay, “The Cyber War Has Not Begun,” here.

Lewis writes:

No nation has launched a cyber war or cyber attack against the United States … Pronouncements that we are in a cyber war or face cyber terror conflate problems and make effective response more difficult.

This is a bit like seeing the town whore swearing she’ll attend regular meetings of the Church Universal and Triumphant. One can’t help but be impressed — but only in a jaundiced way — wondering how long this ‘conversion’ will last.

Lewis, readers have seen, has been one of the chieftains of the Cult of Cyberwar. And DD blog’s survey of citations of his name, and a few others, in media databases over the past few months shows his footprint clearly.

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

 

Here, we don’t split hairs over the precise syntax used by each of the Cult of Cyberwar’s chieftains. Lewis cannot escape that he was one of the major contributors to the bad state of affairs to which he now says nay.

If readers have followed this specialized topic, they know this in response to US cyberczar Howard Schmidt’s recent statement to Wired that the United States was not in a cyberwar. And this was in the context of Booz Allen Hamilton’s Mike McConnell, who had been in the mainstream media repeatedly over the past few months — from 60 Minutes to the editorial pages of the Washington Post — mercilessly pimping the idea that the country was in a cyberwar and that it was losing.

DD has written about this a number of times, most recently here and here.

A couple things lend themselves to helpful repeat use:

In the case of Mike McConnell’s list of citations, one remarkable feature [was] that not a single reporter writing these things identified him as the chief salesman of Booz Allen’s cybersecurity business operation. It’s a computer security business which rides on stories about looming cyberwar and the national shortage of computer security workers, to be trained on the taxpayer dime and then poached so that they can be leased to the government by Booz Allen and its competitors.

All this, even though the big aimed-at-the-US-government consulting and contracting business gleefully flogs McConnell and whatever he’s saying or doing on its homepage daily.

And here:

What could be better than to have a VP on 60 Minutes telling everyone about the lurking menace of cyberattack, being able to feature that on your homepage right next to your links for cybersecurity job staffing for positions like “Defense Intelligence Critical Infrastructure and Homeland Defense Analyst” or “Iranian Cyber All-Source Analyst”? In case that country is planning to cyberattack us.

“Booz Allen Hamilton, a leading consulting firm, helps government clients solve their toughest problems with services in strategy, operations …” reads the website.

One sees the work afoot here. It could not be more obvious. One has the right to make a good living and there is no better place to present a sales pitch refined into a story of national menace then at 60 Minutes.

As for the James Lewis’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, it sold itself to one of the country’s biggest computer security vendors recently, for the sake of providing ‘research’ on the universal menace of cyberattack throughout the country.

And this was encapsulted in another vignette taken from the archives of recent national news:

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.

The Wild West analogy is one of James Lewis’s favorites. And while there may be truth in it, it’s purpose has been to merely feed hyperbole on the subject.

Well sorry, the man can’t have it both ways now.

James Lewis can complain that the manipulative hyperbole on cyberwar on the media isn’t helpful and that the US is now not in a cyberwar. But he should also have mentioned that he’s been one of the primary contributors to the hype. And that the selling of the services of the think tank shop one works out of to a large computer security vendor, for the purpose of furthering the message of cybercatastrophe, is also not much in the way of a confidence builder.

So why is the US not in danger of being crippled in a a cyber-ambush staged by another country?

Lewis answers this question in his essay, but even that is a fairly obvious revelation.

We’d start bombing the hell out of them. With or without ironclad proof of some other country’s complicity has never been an impediment to violent action in recent history.

Bioterror defense industry mouthpieces left forlorn

Posted in Bioterrorism at 7:51 am by George Smith

The most in-the-news duo of fuglemen for the US bioterror defense industry, the small operation known as the Graham-Talent WMD commission, will no longer be the Graham-Talent commission when its federal lease on life is not renewed this year. In short order.

It couldn’t come soon enough.

During 2008-09 the Graham-Talent Commission acted as an instrument of Tara O’Toole’s biodefense shop, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Center for Biosecurity.

Writing here in December, we summarize:

More accurately, [the commission’s public faces] — Bob Graham and Jim Talent — are little more than fuglemen for the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a small consortium of biodefense firms called the Alliance for Biosecurity. And the ‘commission’s’ top two staffers are indistinguishable from the Center for Biosecurity.

The special interest group known as the Graham-Talent commission, though, does have a script it efficiently delivers.

It’s an apocalyptic one, a dire and extreme claim delivered free of correspondingly extreme or convincing evidence in support of it. It lives on the idea that if enough people can be rounded up to repeat it in press, it will be taken as fact by others who should perhaps know better.

And that script, delivered through the end of 2009 for the purposes of bonking the Obama administration over the head on the nation’s unpreparedness for bioterrorism was this, as taken from an example in USA Today:

“[Anthrax spores] released by a crop-duster could ‘kill more Americans than died in World War II’ and the economic impact could exceed $1.8 trillion in cleanup and other costs.”

An anthrax attack, in other words, would make World War II and the economic collapse seem like walks on a sunny day.

The Graham-Talent bioterror defense industry lobby regularly astro-turfed this substance-free meme into the mainstream press.

For the Miami Herald, Bob Graham, in an opinion piece:

“Is the biothreat overblown?” Graham asked. (The correct answer is “Yes.” And he has been one of the parties overblowing it.)

“No,” continued Graham’s opinion piece. “Just two or three pounds of anthrax scattered over a major city could kill more Americans than the number who died in World War II, according to the National Counter Terrorism Center. Cleanup and other economic costs could exceed $1.8 trillion.”

And in various other newspapers, various third and fourth tier right-wing pundits like Cliff May and Deroy Murdock delivered the same item.

“In an October 21 progress report, [Graham-Talent] cautioned that ‘a one-to two-kilogram release of anthrax spores from a crop duster plane could kill more Americans than died in World War II,’ specifically, 380,000.” — Murdock

“A scenario perhaps even more frightening: terrorists using biological weapons, setting off epidemics of smallpox, Ebola virus or other hemorrhagic fevers; a crop duster spreading 10 pounds of anthrax causing more deaths than in World War II.” — May

But despite the pliant and suggestible nature of various newspaper editors, the general public would seem to have virtually no interest in this much foretold catastrophe.

Which is sort of good news, considering the amount of effort Graham-Talent brought to the table in trying to manipulate opinion.

Another matter worth noting is the gracelessness with which parties in the bioterror defense industry deal with each other. Having done so much for the cause of the O’Toole shop, the UPMC Center for Biosecurity, you’d think those folks — with their plan for a big bioterror defense installation — might have thrown some money at Graham-Talent.

Where’s the love?

But perhaps they’ll still come through.

“One wonders which pharmaceutical firms will fund this ‘non-profit’ organization,” writes Jason Sigger today at Armchair Generalist. “Interestingly, the commission is not going to address the nuclear weapons or proliferation prevention aspects of its report, but only the issue of biopreparedness.”

“We’re not a lame duck. We’re not going away,” was one promise, delivered by the commission’s executive director before a women’s group in Washington, DC.

« Previous Page« Previous entries « Previous Page · Next Page » Next entries »Next Page »