12.31.10

The Year’s Threats to US Security

Posted in Bioterrorism, Extremism, Stumble and Fail, War On Terror at 3:37 pm by George Smith

As the year ends, I’d summarize the greatest threats to the nation as those of our own making.

al Qaeda hasn’t the manpower or resources to destroy the security of average Americans.

However, traditional American institutions have proven more than up to the task.

A striking illustration of fail over the last ten years is illustrated by my first choice — the now irrational size of the investment in homeland security, shown in the graphic.

The original version, larger, is here at a blog post entitled “Digging Into the Changing Regulatory State.”

Post 9/11 and upon the creation of the Dept. of Homeland Security the sudden reallocation of resources and growth in jobs and investment made sense.

As 2011 begins, however, the current state is shocking. The graph represents a now atrocious diversion of resources away from the middle class and into security aimed at protecting the country from external threats.

At the expense of everything else the government does domestically.

This expenditure does not aid innovation. It does not provide any path forward the country will need to combat its current problems. It does not fix infrastructure. It does not guarantee decent education. It does not make the national food supply safe from bad business and keep people from getting sick. It does not repair the middle class.

It just stands as a continuous investment in protection, walls, devices and restriction. Now entirely out of proportion to threats.

And the more that is invested in security the less there is to protect as the rest of the country withers.

In the last year we have also seen the emergence of the argument that more security, particularly cybersecurity, is needed to defend — most gallingly — Wall Street, bankers and big business.

But in news story after news story, everyone has seen that Wall Street is not good for main street.

The admonishments to defend it, by sending more money into the security apparatus at the expense of the middle class, is still more political dynamite.

The question that has to be asked is easy: Why do institutions now seen to be attacking the American way of life need more defending? And why should we pay for it?

The second threat, in no way lesser and to which the first is linked, is the fast growth of economic inequality.

Economic inequality and mass unemployment have given us very bad government, desperation and fear. These are, in turn, now proven fertilizer for even more destabilizing right wing extremism.

And it has left the country without the leadership needed to prevent slippage into permanent status of banana republic with the world’s most powerful military and security infrastructure.

Now there are regular cries for austerity, for even more cannibalization of government functions which protect the middle class. Famously, such calls seem to take no account of the actual conditions of austerity placed upon everything but homeland security in the last ten years.

And this leads directly to my next example.

I give you the case set by Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his illness-provoking egg farms.

Although most Americans still do not know his name, DeCoster is a living model of the Dickensian character now common in American business. In 2010, DeCoster was more threatening to Americans shopping in supermarkets nationwide than any jihadi terrorist a decade after 9/11.

DeCoster is a current standard-setter: A corporate boss successful at bringing about the biggest mass food poisoning incident in US history.

And this did not happen by accident.

Looking again at the above graph, one immediately notices the virtual total destruction of any government role in “consumer safety and health” and “industry specific regulation” relative to homeland security.

It is no coincidence that the Austin “Jack” DeCosters of the country have flourished. By conducting business the way they do, they exhibit a tacit understanding that the public can be menaced by unsanitary and disease-causing practices in pursuit of the bottom line because what exists of the regulatory process is ignorable.

What regulatory processes still existed at the local level were busy issuing DeCoster with certificates of healthy business even as the corporation was sending poisoned eggs all around the country.

Again, it cannot be emphasized too strongly that it is no random event when half a billion eggs are tainted and thousands of people become ill.

It is a direct consequence of malfeasance in corporate agribusiness.

It is the consequence of decisions to run a business as cheaply as possible, to take steps knowing full well that such practice exposes one to substantial risk — in this instance the causation and distribution of disease — but that an adverse outcome can just be written off as overhead under the current state of regulation.

In 2007, it was Stewart Parnell of the Peanut Corporation of America.

In 2008, it was the boffins of Baxter pharma shipping in counterfeit heparin from China.

And this woeful state of affairs stands in stark contrast to the constant exhortations for more spending against the marginal threat of bioterrorism.

While the Republican Party was unable to prevent passage of the Food Modernization Act during the lame duck session of Congress, the existence of the new legislation does not, in and of itself, guarantee change.

We will have to wait and see what becomes of the Jack DeCosters. What other corporate American time-bombs and landmines are waiting to explode?

And the last internal threat is again tied to the others.

The Republican Party is a threat to security. And not solely because of its descent into right-wing extremism or its desire to torpedo a nuclear arms reduction treaty because it despises the president.

As the party that denies science, one that will put people in committee chairmanships overseeing science and technology issues in the House who are basically opposed to science whenever it contradicts their political views, the GOP poses a threat to America’s future.

You can’t have a forward-looking and capable nation with people in power who truly believe global warming and evolution are hoaxes.

In 2010, the Pentagon concluded global warming was a serious security threat, a destabilizing one. It has been an issue the Department of Defense has mulled over for the better part of a decade.

And then there’s the current GOP.

12.28.10

Rare Earth Epic Fail (continued)

Posted in Made in China, Stumble and Fail at 10:55 am by George Smith

Sez the New York Times:

HONG KONG — China’s commerce ministry announced on Tuesday in Beijing a steep reduction in export quotas for rare earth metals in the first months of next year, a move that threatens to cause further difficulties for manufacturers already struggling with short supplies and soaring prices.

The reduction in quotas for the early months of 2011 — a 35 percent drop in tonnage from the first half of this year — is the latest in a series of measures by Beijing that has gradually curtailed much of the world’s supply of rare earths.

China mines more than 95 percent of the global supply of the metals, which are essential for smartphones, electric cars, many computer components and a range of military hardware. In addition, the country mines 99 percent of the least common rare earths, the so-called heavy rare earths that are used in trace amounts but are crucial to many clean energy applications and electronics.

Once the US was a world leader in rare earth mining, as documented in a Department of Energy report DD blog commented on before the holidays.

Now it doesn’t have a single mine although the economy depends on the material. As do US companies, like Apple, which have their all their electronics kit made overseas. (In a related matter, the US also experienced a road paint shortage this year because of two factors: The economic collapse laying off workers, and the additional shipping of all critical materials production overseas.)

The rare earth story is just another dismal chapter demonstrating shortsighted national leadership over the last ten years. And a complete anathema in corporate America to employing American labor in a US environment at any time because it’s simply more immediately profitable to do it overseas.

This has led to a serious dilemma, one with real negative impacts on the nation’s long-term economic and strategic postures.

The New York Times article notes that with China having cornered the rare earth business, the rest of the west is waking up to the fact that it will have to restart mining it abandoned.

This was noted in DoE’s report on the subject, which also explained the US would start to rely on mines in Australia and Canada.

Predictably, stock jumped in Molycorp, the US company that owns the only rare earth mine, in Mountain Pass, CA, which it will attempt to bring on-line next year after mining was killed there early in the decade.

“The Mountain Pass facility, which [Molycorp] bought from Chevron (CVX.N) in 2008, has not mined or milled rare earth oxides since 2002, according to an S1 that the company filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission this spring in association with its initial public offering,” reported Reuters.

“The company is modernizing and expanding the facility, but does not plan to reach full planned production rates before 2012.”

It’s stock has quadrupled over the past year, as a consequence of China’s actions and the US epic fail with regards to mining the elements.

Allergic to Americans

Posted in Made in China, Stumble and Fail at 9:17 am by George Smith

A feature from today’s Associated Press lines underscores the fact the US business is allergic to American labor.

This is not a secret.

For example, it’s just fact that readers now the iconic maker of formerly ‘American’ guitars and amplifiers, Fender Musical Instruments, employs more Chinese than it does US civilians. And Gibson, its rival, runs five factories in China but only one big one here — in Nashville.

The economic crack-up, AP reports, has only accelerated the flight to foreign labor. Emerging markets and countries are where the profit lies. The US, in the doldrums, is not an appealing place to do business. Demand is off.

Long term and with regards to our history, this will have extremely bad effects for the security of the nation.

Having ceded all manufacturing of consumer goods to foreign shores, it will continue the beggaring of its civilian labor force. Which in turn will make the quality of life slip, reducing opportunity and educational vigor, in turn killing innovation. The country will be shriveled for the sake of overseas profits. The generation of thousands of apps for mobile phones will not restore the middle class or make the US a world leader again, in anything.

The implications of this are scary. And the AP deals carefully with the idea that Americans — not just people on the left — may come to realize that American business is not their friend. That it is, in fact, a perhaps irreversibly destructive force in their lives.

It’s also political dynamite. The collapsed hopes of millions have given birth to unstable and often irresponsible government as well as one party that has very clearly decided its future lies only with the wealthy. And that the more quickly it can transfer national treasure into the hands of the same, to loot what is left, the better.

Reports AP:

More than half of the 15,000 people that Caterpillar Inc. has hired this year were outside the U.S. UPS is also hiring at a faster clip overseas. For both companies, sales in international markets are growing at least twice as fast as domestically.

The trend helps explain why unemployment remains high in the United States, edging up to 9.8 percent last month, even though companies are performing well: All but 4 percent of the top 500 U.S. corporations reported profits this year, and the stock market is close to its highest point since the 2008 financial meltdown.

But the jobs are going elsewhere. The Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, says American companies have created 1.4 million jobs overseas this year, compared with less than 1 million in the U.S. The additional 1.4 million jobs would have lowered the U.S. unemployment rate to 8.9 percent, says Robert Scott, the institute’s senior international economist.

“There’s a huge difference between what is good for American companies versus what is good for the American economy,” says Scott.

“Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria worries that the trend could be dangerous,” it continued. “In an article in the November issue of the Harvard Business Review, he says that if U.S. businesses keep prospering while Americans are struggling, business leaders will lose legitimacy in society.”


Readers will have noted the paradox inherent in UPS’s overseas “hiring” in Yemen, earlier this year.

And DHL’s flight from the US was well documented in Glenn Beck’s Xmas travesty in Wilmington, Ohio, here, where he prescribed prayer and self-reliance for the locals.

12.24.10

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a terror alert

Posted in War On Terror at 4:56 pm by George Smith

Christmas eve affords an opportunity to consider one of the prime movers of the new American economy: security.

Thanks to the underwear bomber, my pick for the most influential terrorist ever, Xmas is a time for terror alerts based on gossip. Today’s choice: insulated beverage containers, thermoses.

And, conveniently, Paul Krugman has been working through some statistics on the alleged explosion in government employment.

This is the latest and most popular GOP extremist myth; for example, it regularly features in Ted Nugent’s atrocious columns at the Washington Times.

The spurt in government hiring in the spring was the drafting of census enumerators nationwide. Once the collection part of the census was over all of these workers were let go.

Wrote Krugman today:

But anyone paying attention knew why public employment had risen — and it had nothing to do with Big Government. It was, instead, the fact that the federal government had to hire a lot of temporary workers to carry out the 2010 Census — workers who have almost all left the payroll now that the Census is done.

Is it really possible that the authors of those articles and speeches about soaring public employment didn’t know what was going on? Well, I guess we should never assume malice when ignorance remains a possibility.

The only other bulge in government hiring over the past decade has been in homeland security.

In fact, homeland security has been recession proof. Border patrol is still hiring. And it is fairly simple to find regular job postings for DHS at jobs.gov.

The differences between the numbers of “regulatory workers” added for homeland security and “consumer safety and health” — shown here (click that link!) — is staggering.

The divide is an order of magnitude on the side of homeland security.

For anyone who has been paying attention over the past decade, consumer safety and health just haven’t been important. And it shows in the regular news of mass food poisonings.

However, there are always more layers of experts and analysts in homeland security to find enemies, overseas and domestically.

Paradoxically, the great bulge in hiring and work in security has not moved the country forward. Homeland security does not contribute to innovation. It does not provide new ideas. It is not energy efficient.

It does, of course, provide lots of money for basically not-very-productive gadgets and machines churned out by the private sector. These machines do not put money in your pocket. In fact, the opposite.

However, it does provide jobs and salaries. And the people spend that money, contributing to demand for goods and services in the national economy.

“Homeland Security accounts for over 80% of the increase in government regulatory-designated employees during the past 11 years,” stated the Rortybomb blog in November.

al Qaeda, by contrast, doesn’t have nearly the same manpower. And this is why the terrorist group’s much publicized strategy — US death by one thousand cuts — is shit.

They simply don’t have the manpower to implement it. Never will, either.

12.23.10

A man after Ted Nugent’s heart

Posted in Ted Nugent at 12:54 pm by George Smith

This just in from a Houston Press blog, an item about a Corpus Christi man arrested on animal cruelty charges for shooting cats with bow and arrow:

The saga began when a 26-year-old woman found a (still living) “gray and white cat with an arrow through it.” She contacted police and told them about a neighbor in her apartment complex who she said “has a history of shooting at animals with a bow and arrow from his back patio,” according to a press release from the Corpus Christi Police Department.

When officers talked to the 20-year-old [Kevin Shumake], according to the release, he “admitted to shooting the ‘wild cats’ in the complex.” Officers arrested him and found “bow and arrow equipment” in his apartment. They then called animal control officers to try to catch the injured cat, which “fled into a field. While searching for the cat, officers found a dead black and white cat named ‘Batman,’ with two arrows through it.”

The woman who called the cops, as well as her young daughter, “became very upset, as they considered ‘Batman’ their cat,” according to the release …

It is, of course, no surprise to read of such random cruelty perpetrated against pet animals.

What makes the story interesting, and you must clink the link to see the picture, is its coincidental connection to Ted Nugent. A photo included with the news piece shows Nugent with his bow and arrow kit, smiling, with the caption that even “the Nuge don’t bow-and-arrow no pussycats.”

This may have been true at one time. Or maybe not.

But, as readers know, the Nuge recently advocated shooting cats in a column for the Washington Times.

“[I] have instructed my family, friends, hunting buddies and casual passers-by to blast every feral cat they see,” Nugent wrote for the newspaper.

As DD discussed, the problem with taking charge of controlling the feral cat population in such a manner inevitably leads to the shooting of someone’s beloved pet. Because, in the field, it is difficult to distinguish feral cats from pets.

Which is one of many reasons shooting cats is illegal in most places in the United States.

In any case, the Houston Press blog item on the random cat shooter nabbed by police generated an additional comment on Nugent, here.


Ted wishes happy holidays and Merry Xmas to readers of Ammoland. With a vintage and humorous clip from David Letterman.

12.22.10

Ted unintentionally funny

Posted in Extremism, Ted Nugent at 11:05 am by George Smith

Working hard to guarantee Mexican-American voters detest the Republican Party:

America should launch the “Please Go Home” initiative for those 20 million or more illegals in America as soon as possible.

The “Please Go Home” initiative isn’t jingoistic or racist as the real vicious racists will proclaim. It is fundamental, logical immigration common sense.

The GOP will disagree with my proposed initiative because they believe that, to win future elections, they need to attract Mexican-Americans to the GOP. The GOP undoubtedly believes my initiative will further alienate Mexican-Americans. The Democrats will despise the initiative because they benefit politically from these folks.

It’s got to suck to be bought and paid for …

If the vast number of illegal Mexicans in America pack their bags and head back home, there will surely be an economic impact. Prices for food and other services will probably go up.

Prices for food and other services will probably go up. Savor that one. After all, Ted’s writing it from deep inna heart of Texas.

And at the Washington Times, Nugent compares himself to Thomas Jefferson. Because Thomas and him were/are extremists:

Like our Founding Fathers, I’m an extremist, and I wear my extremist label proudly. I buff it daily so that it shines extremely bright.

It’s Ted the parrot, another strike-out column repeating Tea Party orthodoxy he learnt just last year: Only Tea Party Americans understand the Constitution and the Founding Fathers.

Everyone else — lefty schnook socialist pond scum.

Again, the second column isn’t worth your time. While Ted insists Thomas Jefferson would be branded a radical today, he never gets around to presenting anything that would make you think that ol’ TJ was quite the extremist like Ted.

For instance, there’s nothing obvious in the historical record to indicate TJ might have endorsed shooting cats within city limits.

And there’s nothing in Jefferson’s history to compare with Nugent’s non-speaking role as an outdoorsman sidekick who shoots various Mexicans with his bow and arrow in Toby Keith’s criminally unappreciated easy to fall asleep on the couch to Beer For My Horses.

12.21.10

First public show in …

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll at 9:39 am by George Smith

Almost twenty years, I think. From Artscape in Pasadena, on Dec. 12.

Of course, the original is in color and the big Hiwatt is cropped out. But I like the old newspaper tint. It fits.

12.20.10

Whoopie Cushion Terror News

Posted in War On Terror at 5:13 pm by George Smith

Amorphous terror plot detected.

So speaketh CBS news, on material apparently leaking out of the Department of Homeland Security.

The terrorists want to use ricin and cyanide to poison.

Yes, we’ve known this for years. They really really want to do it. And, so far, such wishes have never amounted to anything.

The primary reason: It’s easier to shoot someone, or perhaps, run them over with a car, if one is going do attempt killings of this nature.

Reads CBS:

In this exclusive story, CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports the latest terror attack to America involves the possible use of poisons – simultaneous attacks targeting hotels and restaurants at many locations over a single weekend.

A key Intelligence source has confirmed the threat as “credible.” Department of Homeland Security officials, along with members of the Department of Agriculture and the FDA, have briefed a small group of corporate security officers from the hotel and restaurant industries about it.

“We operate under the premise that individuals prepared to carry out terrorist acts are in this country,” said Dec. of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on Dec. 6, 2010.

The plot uncovered earlier this year is said to involve the use of two poisons – ricin and cyanide – slipped into salad bars and buffets.

Of particular concern: The plotters are believed to be tied to the same terror group that attempted to blow up cargo planes over the east coast in October, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

At the beginning of December, DD and others discussed DHS’s resurrection of the mubtakar of death, an al Qaeda contraption designed to generate cyanide gas.

Memos on it were in circulation again. And that post is here.

And in November, the al Qaeda pdf mag, Inspire, wishfully recommended the use of, you guessed it, ricin and cyanide.

The news report conveys no information to indicate the plot was anything more than aspirational talk. Which it may have been. But most likely not, concerning al Qaeda’s history with such things.

There has always been a steady stream of jihadi documents circulating plans and recipes for poisoning.

Was CBS’s news ‘exclusive,’ then? Not really.

CBS also trots out a run-of-the-mill scientist to show how easy it would be to poison someone with cyanide.

And DD just happens to have covered attacks on food for sometime.

Which affords an oppotunity to look at this post — from three years ago — on a survey by a university in Singapore, on the history of food poisoning:

Happily, the monograph devotes no time to one of our favorite national security hobbies, predicting what would be easy for terrorists.

“In the United States, food borne illnesses resulting from food safety breakdowns are estimated to kill 5,000 and hospitalize 300,000 every year,” it reads near the end. “The World Health Organization estimates that food and waterborne diarrhoeal diseases … kill approximately 1.8 million people annually … This is in contrast to the 391 fatalities 4,355 injuries since 1950 from malicious food contamination …

“Certainly an historical absence of evidence does not preclude suppositions that terrorists may intentionally contaminate the food supply … What it does tell us is ‘that undertaking a major attack on the food chain is much more difficult than at first it may be believed.‘”

Which is not the same as impossible.

Still, the decade-long history of US threat machinery overstatement and strategic leaking on terrorism threats must also be considered.

And there has been a huge national effort made to counter what is always said to be an “easy” to attack food supply and/or hospitality industry — to absolutely no visible benefit for the middle class.

Appearances of people in the news, or reporters just going on extemporaneously about what they have been told, on alleged attacks on the food supply have never been in short supply, either.

However, the largest historical number of food poisonings have been brought on by US agribusiness, all in the past three years.

These outbreaks of foodborne illness have all been perpetrated by people who ran their companies knowing their way of doing things was likely to be seriously hazardous but still willing to deal with regulation and control as just an annoying part part of doing business, with poisonings as part of the overhead.


In slightly related matters, the Senate passed the Food Safety Modernization legislation.

Remarkable.

It’s arguably more relevant to national public safety and security than CBS’s alleged scoop.

Nugent: Last week it was endorsing Palin, this week — Newt Gingrich

Posted in Ted Nugent at 2:07 pm by George Smith

One of the things established by the Ted Nugent tab is that the man is often completely without ideas. Not just big ones. Or even the occasional middling-sized one.

No, he’s so empty it’s often a challenge to write an even remotely interesting column.

When this happens, Ted flails.

So one week it’s endorsing shooting cats. Probably because he saw a few wandering through the bushes at Old Mean Spirit Wild ranch in Crawford. And that was really annoying.

Next, it was wishing himself happy birthday. Probably because he was fondly looking forward to his cake on the dining room table at Old Mean Spirit Wild ranch in Crawford.

After that, it was to call for the destruction of the Department of Energy. Probably because there was nothing happening at Old Mean Spirit Wild ranch in Crawford on the day the piece was due.

This week: An entire column saying almost nothing except the usual, tepidly. The government is needing destroying. Also, the Department of Energy. Kill it twice.

And who is the go-to guy we need to do this?

Newt Gingrich, sez Ted.

“He’s a forward-thinking, smart, idea guy,” writes Uncle Ted. Without giving one example of forward-thinking smart idea-ness.

I’d say go read it here. But it’s a grenade ya don’t need to jump on.

DD thought that ridiculing Ted (or at least his copy editor) out of the habit of run-on sentences would improve his composition. No such luck. It just took out some filler.

Highway Patrol revisited

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll at 12:45 pm by George Smith

For the recent gig at Artscape in Pasadena, DD redid “Highway Patrol” from the first Highway Kings album, back in 1985.

Highway Patrol!

And in the immortal worlds of Broderick Crawford from the original series, Highway Patrol: “See the Highway Patrol again in action next week. Until then, remember, leave blood at the Red Cross, not on the highway.”

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