Album Art

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll at 12:05 pm by George Smith

Album art for US of Fail. Now we only have to find someone to put it out.

Big version at Mark Smollin’s place, Artscape, here.

Would anyone be interested in T-shirts?


The Rogue Company

Posted in Bioterrorism, War On Terror at 4:39 pm by George Smith

Americans are used to helplessness when a corporation goes rogue. But what if you were actually helpless — inert flesh tied to a table in a business plan run amok? Toay’s post takes us to a small firm, one from the heart of the bioterror defense research industry.

Its name: List Biological Laboratories in Campbell, CA.

To set the stage it is necessary to take readers back to a small newspaper article from November 2004.

From the Palm Beach Post:

Two weeks after four Floridians were paralyzed with knockoff Botox, the laboratory that manufactured the botulinum toxin unhesitatingly sold its poisonous product to a federal undercover agent over the phone.

Campbell, Calif.-based List Biological Laboratories didn’t verify the buyer’s identity or his made-up statements that the botulinum would be resold to research institutions, according to a federal search warrant affidavit obtained Thursday.

The FBI raided List, effectively halting the company’s sale of botulinum toxin, apparently to anyone with a good story.

“Agents … seized ‘growing procedures,’ computer records, customer lists and all List documents relating to Toxin Research International,” reported the Post. Toxin Research International — or TRI — would turn out to be two scammers with a plan to resell botulinum toxin produced by List Biological Laboratories. Reused illegally as the popular Botox, it would poach into Allergan’s effective monopoly on the drug in the United States and net a hefty profit.

The plan exploded when another Florida man named Bach McComb bought botulinum toxin from List. He then put himself and three patients in the hospital with botulism, a condition which would have killed all four had they not been sustained on ventilators.

Botulinum toxin, nature’s deadliest poison, eats part of a key protein in human nerve endings. When this happens in very small doses, it removes frown lines.

When it happens in full blown botulism, the victim loses the ability to move, to smile, to even speak. Eyelids droop, become flaccid. Speech is slurred as the toxin eats at the synapses.

The body, turned to unresponsive meat, must be sustained by artificial means until the damaged nerve endings are slowly healed.

The four suffering from botulism were slabbed, kept alive in hospital by machines. The made-in-America product took them right to the edge of the abyss and gave them a good look down.

McComb, a doctor in Florida whose medical license had been suspended for overprescription of painkillers, had bought a 100 microgram vial of highly purified botulinum toxin — a dangerous amount if incompetently used — from List Biological Laboratories.

He injected himself and three others with aliquots taken from it in treatment for wrinkles. Three to four days later, he and his patients were on hospital ventilators for survival. McComb’s girlfriend took the worst of it, needing six months on life support, saying in a videotaped statement for a criminal trial that her body wasted away until it was unrecognizable.

A scholarly paper subsequently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association described the poisonings as equivalent to “21 to 43 times the estimated human lethal dose by injection.” The vial from which McComb took his injections was thought to contain enough material for 14,286 fatal doses.

But how did this get started?

The simplest of all motivations. Greed.

In 2003, two con-artists in Arizona in pursuit of profit in the anti-aging industry began ordering the most poisonous substance known fresh from List Biological, then a dedicated purifier of biochemicals and toxins used in counter-terror research.

Chad Livdahl and Zahra Karim had set up a series of shell companies in Tucson with the aim of acquiring botulinum toxin cheaply and repackaging it as “Mimic Botox.”

The “Mimic Botox” would be shilled to cosmetic surgeons, fraudulently misrepresented as Botox, competing with Allergan’s property, the only company that could sell Botox in the US as a trademarked and licensed drug. With more profit in the equation than purchase of Allergan’s product allowed.

The scam worked.

Using the front company Toxin Research International, Livdahl and Karim ordered thousands of 5 nanogram vials of botulinum toxin from List Biological Laboratories sight unseen and promptly diverted it for resale to a collection of websites, as well as through anti-aging seminars.

Through this effective bit salesmanship, TRI established demand in the US’s first botulinum toxin black market.

According to the US government’s indictment (full text here), Livdahl and Karim paid List about $30,000 for the botulinum toxin shipment, subsequently making about one and a half million dollars in profit through the operation.

The plan came apart when McComb and his patients landed in the hospital. The FBI raided List. Livdahl and Kahrim were arrested, tried and convicted, getting nine and six years respectively, for fraud and misbranding a drug.

McComb pled guilty in 2005 to charges of administering unapproved drugs. He entered a Florida court using a walker, seemingly crippled from the side effects of botulism, according to a newspaper report. He was given three years in prison.

But although the government was looking to file charges against List Biological Laboratories, the company escaped the formal grasp of justice.

“Toxin Research International obtained the botulinum toxin from Campbell-based List Biological Laboratories, but investigators from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could not establish that List had done anything illegal,” reads a San Jose Mercury News article from 2006.

“List sells products designed to be used in scientific and medical research, and no charges were filed against the company.”

The article outlined the US government’s continued roll-up of clients and associates in the Toxin Research International network, revealing the hot demand for American black market Botox.

“In June, a New Mexico doctor was indicted on federal charges of fraud after giving the fake Botox to 120 patients,” informed the newspaper. “Earlier this month, an Oregon doctor was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for using two kinds of fake Botox, from Toxin Research International and a Chinese company, on more than 800 patients. An Idaho doctor also was sentenced to six months in prison in mid-December for using botulinum toxin from Toxin Research International.”

Technically, List Biological Laboratories was part of the US government’s select agent control regime. It is a program designed to prevent select agents — like botulinum toxin or anthrax — from getting into the hands of bad people.

However, there are no obvious laws preventing professional malfeasance
and escape from oversight with regards to the select agent program.

In all the news on the black market Botox incident, no employees from List Biological Laboratories appeared in the press. The person (or persons) at List who sold botulinum toxin to Livdahl, Karim and McComb were never identified. The corporate culture when the company turned rogue and its product escaped from prudence, propriety, good sense and oversight have never been elucidated or described. No firings were announced.

What happened to the people who made the botox that put four people in hospital, severe enough poisonings to have killed the victims without intervention? Where did these parties go, if anywhere? Are they still scientists and lab assistants in good standing?

Mum’s always been the word. List ran for cover.

If the four poisoned by List Biological’s botulinum toxin had died, that would have made one less fatality than the number killed in the anthrax mailings.

Both incidents had to do with select agent misuse. The anthrax mailings led to a spectacular explosion in US bioterror defense spending.

List Biological Laboratories, like many other small firms in the bioterror defense industry, benefited and grew during this go-go period, a time when the US government was spending money like there was no tomorrow on bioterror defense research.

It was apparently a giddy time for List Biological Laboratories, a history to be discussed in a moment.

For two of those poisoned by List’s misused research botulinum toxin, there was only the civil court.

In June of 2007, the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported:

A South Florida couple that suffered debilitating injuries from deadly anti-wrinkle shots has settled a civil lawsuit against the supplier of the lethal toxin.

Eric and Bonnie Kaplan, of Palm Beach Gardens, were among four people who almost died of botulism poisoning in 2004 after they were injected with a toxin more than 2,850 times the lethal dose at an Oakland Park clinic …

The terms of the settlement, finalized on the eve of a trial that was scheduled to begin Monday in Broward Circuit Court, include a confidentiality clause, said attorneys for both sides. The settlement is between the Kaplans and List Biological Laboratories of California, which supplied the raw botulinum toxin …

While neither side would discuss the amount of the settlement, the Kaplans revealed last year that they had previously rejected a $1 million settlement offer from List.

It’s the by now typical corporate remedy.You can have the blood money under the condition you never speak of this again.

List had been badly damaged by the FBI raid and botox case publicity. The extent of the damage would not become visible until the company filed for bankruptcy late last year.

“Campbell, Calif.-based List Biological, a biotechnology company which produces and researches bacterial toxins, files for Chapter 11 with $1 million to $10 million in both total assets and liabilities,” read a small item on December 11, published in the Daily Deal.

Throughout the year, List’s bankruptcy case has been proceeding through a San Jose court.

Paradoxically, List’s bankruptcy filing put an end to another civil suit brought against it, one by one of its infamous clients, Bach McComb. That legal stay — in pdf form — is here.

The List bankruptcy case is an argument by the company that it should be allowed to continue business as it reorganizes.

Part of it, for example, is a stay to keep its utilities — gas, electric, garbage and Internet — plugged in. That request is here.

List Biological’s creditors list, which has been furnished to the court a couple times, includes not only the many businesses it is in debt to but also the names of those convicted in the botox case.

These include Toxin Research International and Bach McComb, as well as Gayle Rothenberg and Saul Gower.

Rothenberg and Gower were a wife and husband team operating a big cosmetic surgery operation in Houston, tried and convicted in yet another complicated chapter in this case.

List lays out an initial argument for its survival in a request for a cash collateral loan so that it may continue operation during the bankruptcy proceedings.

That request is here.

Part of the justification for it is stated in a part entitled “History and Events Leading to the Debtor’s Bankruptcy Case.”

“In 1988, botulinum toxin became of great interest to List Bio Labs and the Company developed the technology to produce commercial sale botulinum toxin for the research reagent business,” it explains.

“As a result of its acknowledged expertise in this area, List Bio Labs was engaged by Allergan, Inc., in the early 1990’s to provide assistance … and to produce clinical grade botulinum toxin. The relationship ensued that led, ultimately to the licensure of the manufacturing facility as well as to the active ingredient in Botox being produced at the facility.”

By 2004, greatly increased government spending on bioterror defense research had led to ballooning demand for select agents.

List moved to a new location and expanded its laboratory production facility.

“With this new expanded facility, List Bio Labs is prepared to exploit its biological product expertise and expand the contract manufacturing part of the business,” attests the company.

“List Bio Labs is known for providing resources to biological and medical scientists and to the biodefense community. The Company success has been based on the List Bio Labs name recognition and our focus on quality products.”

If the reader grimaces while noticing weasel-wording, it only means that you’re still sane.

List’s arguments get much better. They imply the company’s value lies in things like its production of Botox and its strict adherence to safety and the select control regime.

Without mentioning that the reason List is in bankruptcy is because it turned bad with regards to these matters.

The above snapshot has List arguing there was an upgrade in the protocols of the select agent program in 2003. And the company’s infrastructure for agent handling was or is in national compliance. This at the time when List was either selling or about to sell botulinum toxin, a select agent, to Toxin Research International. By 2004, it had sold to Bach McComb and the resulting botulism cases brought the FBI down upon it.

While some bankruptcy court readers may be impressed by List’s various claims about its employees being approved by the select agent program there’s nary a mention the company is in this mess precisely because it sold select agent to bad people.

Who is behind List Biological Laboratories? Their names and faces have never been shown in newspaper stories.

For the purposes of this article, the company president is Karen R. Crawford, one of the five equity holders in List. One of the other holders is List scientist Linda Eaton. Along with List’s director of research and development, Nancy Shine, the three appear to be the principals in the company’s sales push for its botulinum toxin research preparations and related products over the past few years and during the period when the company’s troubles started.

Their accumulated poster sessions on select agent materials, on-line here at List, go from 2003 to 2009 — just before the company filed for bankruptcy.

And here is a patent filing by all three from 2003 for a substrate used in testing for the activity of botulinum toxin.

The value of this to the company becomes clear when one realizes the counter-bioterror research boom is partly aimed at finding quick detection for materials which the US thinks could be used by terrorists.

In fact, this List special product — called Snaptide — was cited as a possible answer for rapid detection of botulinum toxin in foods, milk specifically, in a theoretical bioterror attack scenario published in the prestigious journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

In this paper, published in November 2004, the author posited 100,000 poisoned individuals through the purposeful contamination of milk with botox — a near Biblical catastrophe, of sorts. It was an overcooked thought experiment in terror theatre and received great publicity.

Nevertheless, the timing of the paper’s reception at PNAS — in one of those very strange twists of fate — dovetailed with List’s sale of botox to Bach McComb and the four near fatal botulism cases the same month.

In financial statements about List delivered regularly to the court, Crawford, Shine and Eaton are List’s highest earners.

For example, during the weekly pay period beginning March 22 and ending April 2, they earned $4348.08, $3957.12, 3840.71 — respectively. List has a little under thirty employees with salaries ranging from Crawford’s high down to somewhat less than a quarter of that for an office assistant.

With address listed in court documents, Crawford lives in a relatively posh abode worth about $2.2 million, according to Zillow. It would seem to feature a nice-looking swimming pool and attached Jacuzzi.

These things, as limited as they are, limn aspects of List and its brain trust.

And while legitimized botox production is a proven money maker, in the final analysis, there is no compelling argument to be made for List’s survival. If it were broken up and its physical and intellectual assets sold off in a firesale with the remains going to creditors, it would be no big loss to science or the biodefense research effort in the US.

There will always be others to take such a company’s place, to develop purified or custom biochemical preparations for research purposes. List is only unique with regards to the trouble it has been embroiled in.

On the other hand, there would be a symbolic balancing if the firm was brought to an end.

Perhaps they apologized in private.

Perhaps it has been sworn, cross the hearts and hope to die, that this will never happen again. Never! Our bad. But now the company is good again. Really!

But just because there wasn’t something with which to charge people isn’t much of a reason for List not going down with the rest of those in this illness-inducing and disgraceful case, anyway.

Post note: The US government — specifically the Defense Threat Reduction Agency — paid to find out the level of threat that might be posed by overseas black market botox production being suborned by terrorists. And it was all over the news recently.

It’s worth noting the inspiration for analyzing such a problem — the diversion of botox to bad people — was minted here in the US, courtesy of the biodefense research industry. First.

In fact, mundane reality may reproduce the American model — the incidental poisoning of a few people here or there, lining up for black market de-wrinklings, overdosed by the careless and incompetent greedy wanting their piece of the beauty industry action.

List fights to save its laboratory equipment from Wells Fargo bank.

List’s Vice President and another one of the firm’s five equity holders, Debra Dye, writes the bankruptcy court, in attempt to defend the company against the Wells Fargo move on its equipment here.

Much of the argument on the firm’s value and history is exactly the same as the information first logged in the company’s petition for a cash collateral operating loan. A cut-and-paste job.

A section once again implies the firm is an important part of the US bioterror defense effort:

Many of the List Bio Labs products support the national bio-defense effort and for that purpose the Company has provided reagents to an NIAID [National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — ed] funded reagent repository as a subcontractor.

The arguments are to minimize the market value of List’s lab equipment, bought on a business loan from Wells Fargo. So as to apparently lessen the debt load upon reorganization.


Cult of EMP Crazy: Wonder weapon sacked as potential publicity disaster

Posted in Crazy Weapons, War On Terror at 7:49 am by George Smith

Over at Armchair Generalist, J notes the US military has withdrawn the Active Denial System, formerly known as the Sheriff, aka the Hummer mounted millimeter wave pain ray — from Afghanistan.

He writes:

[The] US military is pulling its “less-than-lethal” Active Denial System out of Afghanistan after just deploying it there a short while ago. This is due more to policy and perception issues than technical issues.

He’s not entirely pleased with the decision for reasons made perfectly clear if you go to AG. It’s supposed to be a non-lethal weapon, after all.

Be that as it may, I’ve written about the pain ray off and on for a long time, starting at the Village Voice in the old Weapon of the Week column. And the tale of the ADS escaped DoD’s very stage-managed publicity. In observing how this story unfolded, the reasons for the weapon’s withdrawal become clear.

This from 2002, when DoD was just beginning to tout it as a wonder weapon:

The Department of Defense’s bland name for this electronic heat ray is the Vehicle-Mounted Active Denial (VMAD) system, a mouthful of jargon that yields few clues about the weapon’s nature. Allegedly designed for an Orwellian task—”humanitarian missions”—the VMAD is a giant version of your microwave oven, without the safety box surrounding it. The generals want to move it around on a humvee.

Official propaganda on the device is that it makes one’s skin only lightbulb hot, enough to force a person to run but not enough to cook him. Of course, there is no proof this can be achieved, because the results of tests on people are classified. It’s safe, insist the inventors, the air force’s Directed Energy Directorate in Albuquerque.

But anyone with first-hand experience broiling hot dogs and other non-robust meats in their tabletop microwave might be chary of such an assertion. Struck by the heat ray, “Sssss,” went the eyeball.

What is the microwaver’s target? It must be unarmed civilians, because as described, the VMAD wouldn’t seem to offer much against terrorists or regular soldiers ready to fire back with conventional weapons. What is certain is that the Pentagon’s microwave projects lack oversight and common sense. In one manic, grandiose claim, the Defense Department calls VMAD “the biggest breakthrough in weapons technology since the atomic bomb.”

The lust for military microwaving has also been a sinkhole for tax dollars. While much of the work remains deep in the shadows, the Directed Energy Directorate (DED) does allow that $40 million went out the door for the VMAD over the last decade. An additional $15 million was awarded to ITT Industries for research on high-power microwaving applications in bombs and other types of ray guns.

Microwaving facilities pictured as part of the Directorate also look to have cost a small fortune. One 27,000-square-foot concrete monolith is worth $9 million, resulting in a “cost-effective and timely capability.”

Vendors capitalizing on the VMAD include Raytheon, CPI (Communications and Power Industries), and Veridian Engineering—a tech firm menacingly cited for its part in researching “biological effects.”

The hype on the Sheriff, as it was called then, was so thick a German television crew asked me just before the outbreak of war in Iraq if the Pentagon would use the “death ray.” This was the perception overseas. Back in 2002.

Over the years, DoD’s publicity campaign for the ADS was always the same.

Noxious and intelligence-insulting, it boiled down to:

Recruit some journalist to be the gimp in a strapped down chicken test, the piece of meat to be left out standing in the field as a target.

In return the reporter got to visit wherever the pain ray was stationed — in the past couple years, Moody AFB in Georgia — to write a story about how great the thing was.

The pain ray was always said to be a revolution in military less-than-lethal technology. It was something needed by our boys, pronto!

Richard Machowicz of Futureweapons was one strapped down chicken a couple years ago. Even 60 Minutes was recruited.

In 2008, on the 60 Minutes advertisement for the ADS, from el Reg:

The omega in our story is another weapon that’s never done anything but win the hearts and minds of its handlers and the journalists commissioned to write about it after it had shot them. Just prior to the war, the Vehicle Mounted Active Denial System, since shortened to just Active Denial System, was ridiculously hailed by people in the Department of Defense as the biggest breakthrough in weapons technology since the atomic bomb. From there, it’s been almost all downhill for the Hummer-mounted pain gun that heats the top layer of skin with millimeter waves.

It had been hoped that the ADS, nicknamed The Sheriff, would arrive in Iraq in time to aid pacification and occupation operations. But a peculiar thing happened.

In their quest for publicity, the weapon’s minders worked out a system whereby reporters would be given the opportunity to be burned and awed by it in return for cheerleading notices. The practice worked but not in the way ADS pushers had hoped. Many stories, all glowing, were generated. But at the same time, the US gained a world reputation as a nation that tortures prisoners. This cognitive dissonance erased the value of the ADS publicity scheme. A Hummer-mounted ray gun that agonizes people, even if only non-lethally, is seen as a potential instrument of America-style torture, one aimed at unarmed foreigners.

Since the beginning of the Iraq war, the ADS has been regularly promised and every year it has failed to show, left to languish by Pentagon men who probably don’t want to see their careers go down in flames over it. Moved from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, the ADS has had progressively less money devoted to it, a sign that at least a part of the DoD wishes it would go away. Its liabilities include factors ranging from possible foreign public relations nightmare to its being recently described on “60 Minutes” as against the ingrained culture of a military that wants weapons which kill people as fast as possible.

The Air Force resorted to something of a Hail Mary pass for it earlier this month, farming the ADS out to “60 Minutes” where, as usual, it was described as a wonder weapon, one that could have solved a multitude of big woes that are now water under the bridge, like the blasting of Fallujah. “Pentagon officials call it a major breakthrough which could change the rules of war and save huge numbers of lives in Iraq,” claimed CBS News’ David Martin. Like many who had so bravely gone before him, Martin allowed himself to be shot by the ADS in return for a puff piece explaining that the reason it wasn’t already in Iraq saving lives was because of lack of proper backbone among Pentagon leaders.

In five years of war, the ADS became politically untenable. “You don’t ever, ever, ever want a system like this to be thought of as a torture weapon,” Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Sue Payton told “60 Minutes.” Payton also told the news operation she “loved” the ADS and “started giggling” after being shot by it, adding another negative – a whiff of craziness – to the stigma of the pain ray.

Since the war began, few ADS stories have been complete without indication that it was going to Iraq soon. This time it’s for summer fun. The bright side is that if it continues true to form, it’s just another in a five year-long list of assorted threats and promises never quite delivered as billed.

The ADS program was also contaminated by the Pentagon’s reliance on kooks. And its inability to control them once they’ve been released from active duty.

From 2008, also at el Reg:

The US military’s pain ray, aka the Active Denial System, is a certified excrement magnet. In March Reg readers learned that the US Air Force wonder weapon is still being pitched as a game changer in Iraq, a prediction that’s never even been close to being tested.

ADS defenders claim the Pentagon, afraid that using it would be a public relations disaster, won’t give the non-lethal pain ray, a gun that shoots millimeter waves, the green light. It’s something the US would use to torture foreigners, preferably smaller and not as well-armed as our boys.

Ah, but maybe it’s not just a pain ray – maybe it’s a death ray, too! And it’s been hiding in plain sight under cover of a non-lethal weapons program.

The deliverer of the death ray claim was Dave Gaubatz, a former Air Force man who had done security for the ADS. Unfortunately for the military, Gaubatz also became a public relations liability as a civilian.

Seeing undercover Muslim subversion everywhere in the US, Gaubatz via TPM:

[Said] in September 2008 on a now scrubbed blog post at www.jihadishere.blogspot.com that: “We are now on the verge of allowing a self admitted ‘crack-head’ to have his finger on every nuclear weapon in America.”

But back to the ADS and what was written at el Reg:

[The] interesting [death ray] allegation comes by way of a man named Dave Gaubatz, and FrontPage magazine.

Gaubatz, described as a former veteran of the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations, informed FrontPage that 60 Minutes, as well as everyone else, had been fed a crock on the pain ray. It was originally designed, he said, as a straight lethal ray gun and it’s been operational for years. It was ready for use in Iraq where it could have slain the enemy and saved American lives. And 60 Minutes made a big mistake by not getting the truth of this and “putting our soldier’s lives in danger everyday.”

“Each day that goes by and another soldier dies should weigh heavily on every member of 60 Minutes,” said Gaubatz.

Well into the weird, Gaubatz explained that journalists have all been fed a story about the non-lethal weapon. This is true, but only to a point – one not yet in crazy world. Then the narrative jumps the cliff. The journalists are culpable because they’re “liberals who know less about the Ray Gun [yep, that’s in caps] than they do basic fundamentals of war.”

And readers now see what happened to the Active Denial System.

Although the Pentagon’s careful publicity campaign for it spanned many years and many journalists, it backfired badly.

While various big name reporters were consenting to be shot by the ADS, in order to transmit stories on the great new non-lethal wonder weapon, the rest of the world — not being stupid — perceived it much differently.

That message: The US had invented a nefarious device to be sent to the Muslim world for the agonizing of civilians. Just another instrument of torture.

One imagines very few sane US military leaders would want to see their careers incinerated upon publicized or leaked news on use of the wonderful pain ray on civilians in Afghanistan.

So the ADS — while sent there for a brief period — never fired a shot, according to reports. And has now been shipped home for obvious reasons.

There’s a book in this story. One on how really stupid ideas, packaged in futurism, whizz-bang technology, the hype of sycophants and the belief in American exceptionalism in all things, blow up when the rest of the world doesn’t agree to drink the Kool-Aid.

Or, more simply: Just because you can make such a thing doesn’t mean you should.

The Department of Defense also commissioned the programming of a war game to model use of the pain ray. I had a copy of the game, played it and reported on the technical aspects of it here.


No rest for the Nuge

Posted in Extremism, Ted Nugent at 9:07 am by George Smith

I was hasty in judgment that a copy editor had been working extra hard on Ted’s essays at the Washington Times.

Today the Nuge went right back to referencing Mao Zedong in the White House.

This in a column on how all taxes on the wealthy should be suspended:

The death tax should be eliminated permanently, capital gains slashed to next to nothing, and the George W. Bush tax cuts made permanent.

If it occurs to Ted that the far right policies he espouses have destroyed the middle class in this country, he never shows it.

Paradoxically, that was his audience. And the bottom-out-of-sighters who follow him around during his tour of Indian gaming casinos now were also part of it.

With less and less income, they will see to it that Ted continues to keep ticket prices lean. And that he plays only country fairs where his show is included with the price of admission and establishments where the teetotaler can watch from the stage as others drink a lot.

In Ted’s WaTimes column, the former Motor City Madman complains that no one in the White House knows how to run a business.

Ted knows this because he doesn’t know how to run one.

Take tednugent.com.

On his website, Ted thinks he can charge for the same columns we read for free at the WaTimes and Human Events. That’s just plain dumb.

Playing your fans for fools, Ted. Tsk, tsk.

See here.

Ted calls these things his “SpiritWild Writings” and he wears an Indian headdress. Perhaps this explains his new penchant for playing casinos.

Once again, it’s worth emphasizing that Ted’s extremist politics are aimed at wiping out his old audience. He wants to live in a country where there’s no taxation, no government except for the military and absolutely no paying for a social contract or anything associated with a civilized western nation that has a middle class.

There may be a bit of sense to this.

If Ted thinks that in a few years most of his bread will be buttered by writing polemics and books as a crazy old antic butler for the upper class, it’s not a bad strategy to recommend things that endear you to them as often as possible.

In other pertinent news, Yahoo published a survey including statistics showing the accelerating destruction of what’s left of the the middle class.

It’s depressing stuff, although not anything you really didn’t already know:

Wealth and power are rapidly becoming concentrated at the top and the big global corporations are making massive amounts of money. Meanwhile, the American middle class is being systematically
wiped out of existence as U.S. workers are slowly being merged into the new “global” labor pool.

What do most Americans have to offer in the marketplace other than their labor? Not much. The truth is that most Americans are absolutely dependent on someone else giving them a job. But today, U.S. workers are “less attractive” than ever. Compared to the rest of the world, American workers are extremely expensive, and the government keeps passing more rules and regulations seemingly on a monthly basis that makes it even more difficult to conduct business in the United States.

So corporations are moving operations out of the U.S. at breathtaking speed. Since the U.S. government does not penalize them for doing so, there really is no incentive for them to stay.

Damn those benefits like health insurance and all those pesky regulations for keeping the local environment clean and seeing that people do not get an entirely shitty deal.

“Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009 … Approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010 – the highest rate in 20 years,” it reads..


Rock ‘n’ Roll for Friday: Overture to US of Fail

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll, Sludge in the Seventies at 9:55 am by George Smith

Overture to the United States of Fail

In .wav format, so it’s a longer download than your average tune. In Cinerama.

Logo by friend and co-conspirator Shmokin’ Mark Smollin who came up with a bunch for me to look at yestiddy. Thanks!

Nugent copy editor works overtime — but it doesn’t help

Posted in Extremism, Ted Nugent at 7:57 am by George Smith

Today’s Nugent column at the WaTimes is remarkable for one thing.

For the first time in many weeks, the Nuge does not mention the “Mao Zedong fan club.” Plus no run-on sentences as eye-poppingly awesome as the critter the Nuge gave birth to two weeks ago.

A copy editor may have been working extra hard. Or perhaps another ghost-writer was hired to give Ted a bit of a hand.

However, it didn’t help a great deal.

Ted is plagued by paranoid conspiracy thinking, nicked — as usual — from the broadcasts of Glenn Beck. He is, as you’ll see, determined to get the word out that he’s being attacked using methods from all those on the Beck-approved enemies list.

For instance:

[The] Democratic machine will work overtime once again to demonize conservatives and the Republican Party as jingoists, racists, anti-civil-rights, anti-immigration, anti-minority and even anti-Mexican. I know, as I previously have been the target of its vicious personal lying attacks and smear campaigns straight out of the playbook of Richard Andrew Cloward, Frances Fox Piven and Saul Alinsky.

Ted’s the real McCoy in rock guitar, a total original. In prose, he’s a weak imitator, always working to make a good impression at Fox News.

Teacher, teacher! I just worked Mr. Beck’s three most hated people — Richard Andrew Cloward, Frances Fox Piven and Saul Alinsky — into a single sentence!

See here. An old lady is persecuting you, Ted? Really now. That’s a new low.

Here’s Piven, framing it in 2009, after being demonized by Beck.

Excerpted from the YouTube interview:

The idea is to say everything would be nice in American society if it weren’t for these Columbia professors. If it wasn’t for their nasty scheming, no financial crisis. Can you think of anything sillier than to attribute the financial crisis to an article published in a low circulation magazine in 1966?

However, Nugent’s current column is primarily aimed at describing another massive conspiracy — how the Obama administration and Democratic Party will enslave and destroy Mexican immigrants, just like it did with black society.

And that Republicans are, therefore, the best friends of Mexicans because they don’t want that:

[Look] at what the Democrats have done to black America over the past 50 years. What once was a proud, strong people now lies in ruin because of Fedzilla programs designed specifically to enslave and destroy instead of liberate and build. Amazingly, black Americans still overwhelming vote for Democrats. Be wise and learn from their mistakes.


More scenes from Ted’s summer tour of assorted firetraps and casinos

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll, Ted Nugent at 11:43 am by George Smith

Ted Nugent’s summer tour of rib shacks and an astonishing number of casinos is being shot by amateur videographers and posted to YouTube.

Presumably, they’re devoted fans.

Here’s a Ted rant, deployed nightly, just as described by a Houston newspaper reporter days ago.

“All the children get a free machine gun,” roars Ted. The mayor of Chicago is a piece of shit. Is Chicago in Canada? On the president: “I have a love song for the rookie clueless piece of shit.” “This song is for all the motherfuckers that are fucking with me all the time … hey Barack,” etc.

And then he goes into a cursing instrumental he coined at a happier time in 2000, “Klstrfuckme.” Performed with somewhat less vigor than I have on record.

And here is a video, taken from the Pasadena rodeo near Houston, of a biographical short Ted projects behind hisself during shows. At about 1:30 you’ll notice the startling appearance of Martin Luther King amidst the imagery of camo and shooting stuff. You can date the various stills by eyeballing Ted’s middle, which spreads as he nears 2010. It’s like using carbon-14, only easier.

Jump on the grenades at your discretion.


Cult of EMP Crazy well-repped at Breitbart’s Big Peace

Posted in Crazy Weapons, Extremism at 8:24 am by George Smith


Andrew Breitbart, he of the fabricated race-baiting scandal which resulted in the Obama administration’s cowardly firing of Shirley Sherrod yesterday, has also launched a national security website — Big Peace.

It looks to be as full of made-up rubbish as everything else he has done, which according to Media Matters, is plenty:

That’s right. Breitbart, delusional nut that he is, thinks that his and Frank Gaffney’s “reputations” will help “provide a check and balance” that will keep the site from publishing “false information or propaganda.”

Good grief.

Breitbart’s “reputation” is that of a liar whose websites run wild with fringe conspiracy theories. Gaffney himself fits right in, with a record of pushing bizarre, obviously false claims

Gaffney is a card-carrying original member of the Cult of EMP Crazy from when Pennsy GOP kook Curt Weldon was in the House of Representatives. Weldon was and is also part of the Cult. And he was also certain that Soviet suitcase nukes were on the loose.

However, Weldon was run off the reservation permanently by voters when the FBI started investigating him for influence peddling in 2006. But Gaffney thought he was tops.

From 2006, I wrote at the Register:

“The nightmare scenario is this: A rogue nation like North Korea or a stateless terrorist like Bin Laden gets hold of a nuclear weapon and decides not to drive it into a large city but rather to launch it on a Scud-type missile straight into the atmosphere from a barge off the East Coast,” claimed Gaffney.

Seem familiar?

Many years ago, Gaffney was not quite so famous as the crank he is now. He just hated on arms control, non-proliferation pacts and peace. The right-wing GOP noise machine changed that, giving him bigtime amplification, allowing him to reveal his much broader tastes.

“You may remember Gaffney from his crackpot claim earlier this year — published on Breitbart’s Big Government, no less! — that the Missile Defense Agency’s ‘new’ logo ‘appears ominously to reflect a morphing of the Islamic crescent and star with the Obama campaign logo,’ which Gaffney identified as a ‘nefarious’ ‘symbolic action’ that he suggested represented an ‘act of submission to Shariah,’ continued Media Matters.

Gaffney is also a birther. He’s now such a prominent nut, Rachel Maddow preached about him to the choir on yesterday’s show on MSNBC — about his latest WaTimes column on Elena Kagan, which put her in a turban.

At Big Peace, the Cult of EMP Crazy is listed:

James Carafano , head water-bearer at the Heritage Foundation.

Peter Huessy of EMPAct America.

Dan Pipes from the Bomb Iran lobby.

And — of course — Sun Tzu.

Wait. The last bit is a DD joke. Sun Tzu was never a member of the Cult of EMP Crazy. But he is part of Big Peace. Go ahead, click that link. Don’t worry about feeding the trolls.

Big Peace was announced with a bang, according to Media Matters.

To DD, it wouldn’t seem to matter so much. Its many gobble-wallahs from the far right have already been getting whatever needs to be written published in many other older crank venues like the WaTimes, Family Security Matters, blogs at the Heritage Foundation, Human Events, the Examiner and World Net Daily.

Its very practical function is as another glorified spam machine, the standard tool of the GOP.

Hard to watch warning: DD jumped on the grenades so you don’t have to.

Lonely Frank Gaffney, ranting and screeching at the EMPAct America conference. Turn down the volume. Eleven views and rising fast.

Lonely Frank, lamenting — in 2009 — the Obama administration’s fascination with health care reform and energy policy, instead of electromagnetic pulse attack. Which would result in the “cratering” of the United States.

Curt Weldon at EMPAct America. SCUD in a tub, electromagnetic pulse doom presents us with a “moral dilemma.” Lose some weight, already.


Extremism in Defense of Rock ‘n’ Roll was no Vice: Then Ted went off the rails

Posted in Extremism, Ted Nugent at 12:39 pm by George Smith


As said, an unauthorized book on Ted Nugent as a portrait in US extremism occurred to me while recently looking over the the stuff in the blog tab I’ve archived on the guy.

It looked like a good basis for an outline because Nugent publicly shows a form of destructive and irrational extremism which has always been present on the fringes of society. But which how now been mainstreamed with barely anyone blinking an eye.

Nugent’s politics are essentially the same as the white ricin kooks I used to write about years ago.

His is the philosophy of the survivalist nuts who wrote things like The Poor Man’s James Bond, a stupidly mean series of books — always found on the bookshelves of loner white weapons freaks bound for jail, packed with articles on how to make guns, bombs, ammo, poisons, incendiaries and boobytraps in case the tyrannical government was coming for you.

Part of the come-on adorning the back of Kurt Saxon’s Poor Man’s James Bond reads thusly:

Also, in the event that our nation is invaded by Foreign Devils, it is up to you to destroy them with speed and vigor. Or — and perish the thought — if our Capitol should fall to the enemy within, I expect you to do your duty.

Ten years ago that was still the domain of the total crackpot, someone who had to self-publish to get the word out. Not so, anymore, as a listen to Ted Nugent and Alex Jones proved in about fifty seconds over the weekend.

Nugent now signs off a growing number of his columns with blandishments to go “varmint hunting” with “no bag limit.” He tacks it to the election in November, just so you know he’s speaking figuratively.

But, if you take the guy’s words seriously — and he certainly does, one naturally wonders if Nugent only tacks on the voting part because an editor makes him. Or as an act of self-preservation because he still has a hunch he’d be crossing a line of civilization he’d never be able to retreat back over if he didn’t.

Beset by paranoid conspiracy thinking, Nugent either parrots virtually everything that’s on Glenn Beck — a man who in the passing of a day continually links the Obama administration to Nazism and/or communism. Or in GOP memos issued for any given week.

But Beck is a much much larger force than Nugent, who as a commentator and pundit, exists only at the behest of Fox News, where he gets thrown scraps for being a colorful character.

I do know that at one time Nugent was a mainstream rock star in every sense of the word.

So in this man there is a radical reversal of fortune or ways and means in his life. And it coincidentally mirrors the decline of manufacturing and the growing desperation of the middle class.

To where now Nugent’s musical audience is almost exclusively non-payers from Paul Fussell’s bottom-out-of-sight demographic. And his bread-winning, aside from his live shows, is alms from the political audience where he’s a convenient carnival servant to the big celebrities from the extreme right.

Much more recently, like now, one sees Nugent as a a barnacle in the latest John Rich video.

Rich, of country megastar band Big & Rich, is now on a year or two long solo act kick, apparently so as not to have the psychedelic hippy, Big Kenny, always at his stage right.

And an article at Gibson guitars on Rich’s new song, “Country Done Come to Town,” is here. (The video is embedded here, too. By all means, watch it.)

It’s an amusing modern country tune and Nugent features prominently, well shot at angles minimizing his spreading middle third.

A vid about a power-drinking party hearty, Nugent takes his place as part of the festivities (which look like a beer endorsement), elbowing away from the bar in a move that looks just like what you’d expect from a thirsty shot drinker. Mr. Rage On About the Virtue of Teetotalism must have taken the day off.

The modern country audience — at least the imagery of it — is a natural one for Nugent. In fact, it was his audience in the late Seventies, in a harder form. But now Uncle Ted’s way up around the bend and the country music power structure is conservative in the sense that it won’t stomach too negative public politicking or abide the crazy and mean. With the latter only given dispensations for super freakishness in quick cut video or tucked away in hidden CD “bonus” cuts for purposes of hardy-har-har. (See Brad Paisley and Little Jimmy Dickens or anything involving Two Foot Fred.)

One sees Nugent’s plight pretty clearly.

He’s infamous but not as bankable as his musical talent deserved to make him. Nugent can be a spokesperson for Massey, the much vilified coal company, or a good ol’ boy with no lines in a straight-to-video Toby Keith movie, someone who gets fifteen minutes on Alex Jones, or be the star of a low budget reality show no one watched — where he injured his leg in a chainsaw misadventure.

There is a pathos to it, a description to which Nugent would probably strongly object.

The Toledo Blade ran an interview with Nugent over the weekend, another advance story stemming from his tour of third-tier concert venues this summer. But Nugent is nothing if not a gamer, more than willing to do his own publicity. And when he stifles old and crazy Ted for a few moments the results are often not bad:

Having marked his 6,000th concert in 2008, Nugent acknowledged in an interview by e-mail that he’s lost most of the hearing in his left ear from playing guitar in front of walls of speakers all those years, “and I limp pretty bad after double knee surgery due to the meniscus-smashing amplifier leaps for 40 years too. Ouch!” he said.


Nugent’s guitar and loin cloth have been on display in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, but despite The Nuge’s relentless touring and career sales of 30 million albums, the Motor City Madman has yet to be inducted into the hall.

“I often feel like an Indian up on the hill overlooking my sacred hunting grounds desecrated by white idiots,” he said.

“Political clowns” on the selection committee have disrespected rock pioneers — citing Hall of Fame inductees Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry as examples — by electing “anti-rockers like Patti Smith, ABBA, and Grandmaster Flash into the same institution. That is just plain rude,” he said.

On Sunday night, Nugent was playing a third tier dump in Oklahoma called Cain’s Ballroom. Cain’s was famous for being one of the venues the Sex Pistols played on their only tour of the US before breaking up.

Manager Malcolm McClaren purposely booked the band through the heart of redneck America, putting them in open combat with the locals. At the end of the tour in San Francisco, the band disintegrated.

The first of three YouTube videos show Nugent onstage at Cain’s on Sunday night. It’s as dire and claustrophobic as any video from the back of the crowd in a firetrap can be.

The next is a professional news clip of the Sex Pistols at Cain’s in 1978. Hang on for the reaction of the locals at the end.

Now you’re wondering, “Where was Ted in 1978?”

Headlining California Jam II. Punk rock had nothing on him.

Getting old is hard on everyone. Some manage it better than others.

Asphalt roads are so overrated

Posted in Extremism, Stumble and Fail, Why the World Doesn't Need US at 8:59 am by George Smith

This morning’s post by Digby was depressing but spot on, particularly if you grew up where DD did:

Maybe we need to realize that our old arguments about how Americans are so accustomed to living the good life that they would resist the natural consequence of this new feudalism aren’t going to work. This anti-tax fervor has passed out of the political realm and into the religious. When people would rather that their kids choke on dirt than pay taxes, I’m guessing that pointing out that their unwillingness to pay taxes will result in tainted meat and dangerous drugs won’t convince them. Living in a primitive state is a sign of their devotion.

For a hard core in Pine Grove, Pennsyltucky, in the late Sixties and early Seventies, this was exactly how they thought. However, better minds generally prevailed in the running of the state.

That’s not so any longer and it’s why the peoples of other western nations now laugh at the idea of America. They know that come the November elections, the United States government will — after a mercilessly brief period — go back to fast-tracking the less-than-half- of-the-country-delusion that being the biggest banana republic, ever, is great.

All because the president wasn’t quite strong enough.

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