Who to believe?

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Permanent Fail at 8:22 pm by George Smith

The Nobel laureate:

Bear in mind that the unemployed aren’t jobless because they don’t want to work, or because they lack the necessary skills. There’s nothing wrong with our workers …

Or the very special good boy tweeting out of Twitter:

“US has less extreme version of same. UK’s econ emerg: flatlining living standards, unskilled men.???

“Instead of a determination to do something about the ongoing suffering and economic waste, one sees a proliferation of excuses for inaction, garbed in the language of wisdom and responsibility.” writes Krugman, indirectly explaining the thinking of the very special good boy, David Leonhardt.

The Empire’s Dog Feces: Mistaking arms manufacturing research for innovation

Posted in Crazy Weapons at 3:14 pm by George Smith

Good news, lads! Good news! Smaller flying androids and freedom bombs for everyone worldwide, courtesy of Douchebag Engineering Applications, Inc Raytheon.

In yet another sign the US is an intellectually bankrupt nation, the front page of the LA Times today featured a story on “mini-weapons” development.

Passing off the mutton of crap inventions that, on balance, make people’s lives demonstrably worse worldwide as the lamb of innovation in the service of saving taxpayer dollars, the Times story reads:

Under mounting pressure to keep its massive budget in check, the Pentagon is looking to cheaper, smaller weapons to wage war in the 21st century.

A new generation of weaponry is being readied in clandestine laboratories across the nation that puts a priority on pintsized technology that would be more precise in warfare and less likely to cause civilian casualties. Increasingly, the Pentagon is being forced to discard expensive, hulking, Cold War-era armaments that exact a heavy toll on property and human lives …

Engineers in Simi Valley at AeroVironment Inc. are developing a mini-cruise missile designed to fit into a soldier’s rucksack, be fired from a mortar and scour the battlefield for enemy targets.

And in suburban Portland, Ore. Voxtel Inc. is concocting an invisible mist to be sprayed on enemy fighters and make them shine brightly in night-vision goggles.

These miniature weapons have one thing in common: They will be delivered with the help of small robotic planes …

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll note that this story is probably going to be the worst you’ll read all week.

Most people might find difficult to swallow the raft of rationalizations and falsehoods used to sell the Pentagon’s private sector welfare arms development wing.

Will reduce civilian casualties!




“Raytheon does not yet have a contract for [the 13-lb smart bomb] and is building it entirely with its own money, it reads’

” ‘We’re proactively anticipating the military’s need,’ said [a Raytheon man] who is testing the technology at the Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.”

If you needed proof that there will never be a dividend from the killing of Osama bin Laden or even a slight diminution in war footing, that’s it.

Sure there’s talk about trimming the Pentagon budget.

All of it pretty much bullshit.

When a company like Raytheon is running off weapons development on its own dime, it’s counting on the taxpayer being very likely to foot the entire bill retroactively.

And that means war for as long as you’re alive.

“In a similar fashion, drone-maker AeroVironment in Simi Valley didn’t wait for the government when it started to build its Switchblade mini-cruise missile to seek and destroy nearby targets,” the story continues.

AeroVironment has featured in this blog before. It is a company that would cease to exist if it weren’t for government arms development welfare.

In this post AeroVironment nerd droids demonstrate the flying hummingbird robot, which actually more closely resembles a whirring toilet paper roll core that’s painted green.

And here the company is the beneficiary of US flying drone sales to the pantywaist but corrupt military of Pakistan.

Is there some other goodness that I have missed here?

On hand as “expert” is Michael O’Hanlon, the notorious Brookings man and discredited Iraq war cheerleader. Again, it helps to remember that you never get fired, even if you’re a quack, at America’s national security think tanks.

In a very measurable way O’Hanlon is owed a bit of favor from America’s arms developers. Since he was one of the purveyors of philosophical cover justifying war in Iraq, his work has certainly been helpful in expanding the amount of money spent on weapons development and manufacturing.

“Collateral damage is unacceptable in modern warfare,” the quack informs the Times.

That readership which gets erections over unlimited military tech will be thrilled.

But in the real world not covered by the US government’s big arms manufacturing WPA projects, there’s this:

Housing prices fell in March to their lowest point since the downturn began, erasing the last little bit of recovery from the depths achieved two years ago, according to data released Tuesday … Housing is in persistent trouble, industry analysts say, not only because so many people are blocked from the market — being unemployed, in foreclosure or trapped in homes that are worth less than the mortgage — but because even those who are solvent are opting out.

The annoying private sector debt overhang thing.

Arms manufacturing, naturally, remains untroubled.

Palin dodges Gettysburg (crowd) — for obvious reasons

Posted in Extremism at 12:57 am by George Smith

Good news, lads! She made it on Tuesday!


DD grew up in Pennsy. Gettysburg has always been lame. It was a de facto class trip way too many times at Pine Grove Area School District.

Gettysburg was the high water mark of the South in the Civil War.

And Robert E. Lee wound up — using an inexact forward-looking reference — like Paulus at Stalingrad.

It was an uninteresting famous battle. Because it’s the only Civil War battle most Americans know it has taken on mythic proportion.

Meade, one of the Union’s many mediocre generals, broke Lee’s back.
At Gettysburg, the South was poorly led.

In a related matter, much of Pennsy — between Philly and Pittsburgh — remains similar to Alabama. It’s very red with only a couple exceptions.

However, that doesn’t mean big crowds in Pennsylvania would rally to see Sarah Palin at Gettysburg.

Gettysburg and Palin = public relations nightmare.

Particularly after being allied with bikers on Memorial Day. Something the mainstream media has declined to notice.

Palin showing up as part of a big hoop-de-doo, with her demographic, would have had to feature an explanation on why she thought the South was noble. Her core audience in Pennsy has a significant component flying Confederate flags. It’s not minor but still shunned as untouchable.

The national news coverage of Palin doing her thing with bikers this weekend also dodged one sticky detail.

DD played biker bars for years in Pennsy.

Bikers are extreme right-wingers bigots. Period. They are overwhelmingly white undereducated power drinkers and not particularly representative of the broad American melting pot. While they tend to be romantically portrayed by Hollywood as strong and vibrant men of action, they’re more fairly described as undesirables in any voting demographic.

Many of them are still, in their minds, refighting the Civil War. (See Hunter Thompson or ask DD in e-mail.)

They are often quite fond of displaying Confederate flags, too. Ralph “Sonny” Barger was never known for empathy and tolerance or as a student of Dale Carnegie courses on how to make friends and influence people.

Gettysburg was a Union victory. Guys in biker colors, some with Confederate patches. Sounds like such a great match.

Gettysburg was not, as has been portrayed in a unintentionally annoying teaser for some dramatization on cable this Memorial Day weekend, a melting pot in which two armies fought and generated a future better nation.

The South lost a bloody battle and it was the beginning of its long end.

And just how many African American still-sore-over-the-Vietnam-War Harley gangs have you seen in your lifetime?

Gettysburg and Sarah Palin just after a biker rally. Hah-hah, gimme a break.

That would have been something I’d have paid to see — political cyanide.

Tuesday, when this addendum is being written has Palin in Gettysburg, apparently to much smaller fanfare:

The sun was barely up Tuesday morning when supporters and reporters gathered in front of Sarah Palin’s bus in a hotel parking lot, hoping to catch a glimpse of the former Alaska governor, whose third day of her East Coast tour is expected to include stops at the Civil War battlefield here and possibly later at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.

That lack of clarity is not stopping an outpouring of support in Gettysburg. Notes from well-wishers were taped to the door of the Sarah PAC “One Nation” bus, and by 6:45 a.m., two adoring fans were already posing for pictures in front of the bus. The young women, who refused to give their names, said they had waited for three-and-a-half hours on Memorial Day at a battlefield monument where Palin was ultimately a no-show for several hundred fans.

Two local news vans and a CNN bus were already on the scene early Tuesday morning.


Guitar Center Memorial Day Sale: Made In China

Posted in Made in China, Permanent Fail at 3:13 pm by George Smith


Every Memorial Day features sales. Locally, this weekend Guitar Center ran television ads for theirs, all the bargains made in China.

Get your rock on, they beckoned. Courtesy of all the offshored rock and roll gear manufacturing in the last decade.

Ultra low low prices to compensate for the beggaring of the US middle class, the abandonment of domestic non-military manufacturing except for arms and that thing called private sector debt overhang.

So for the sake of Guitar Center’s Memorial Day Sale, the graph that shows the increasing slope of trade imbalance, a picture of US offshoring during the decade when permanent war arrived.

And a measure of the social cost in the state of war which, on Memorial Day, is unstoppable:

Buried in the numbers in the area under the curves, all the rock and roll equipment production, stuff once invented and made here, sacrificed to China.

Check your picnic equipment. Any of it made here?

How ’bout the charcoal?

I suppose Memorial Day would not have been complete without an opinion expressed by the “token” critic, Andrew Bacevich, the one person in this vast nation for the last ten years given a dispensation to write the obvious in big news publications:

[The American people] accept it. Since 9/11, war has become normalcy. Peace has become an entirely theoretical construct. A report of G.I.s getting shot at, maimed, or killed is no longer something the average American gets exercised about.

He continues on a theme I’ve had for awhile. It doesn’t matter what anyone says because nothing can be done about the state of affairs.

Not to put to fine a point on it, the national security apparatus successfully removed the democracy organ.

Creepy Bruce — the book

Posted in Bioterrorism, Rock 'n' Roll at 8:24 am by George Smith

Creepy Bruce, the anthraxer and country music artist.

On Sunday, the LA Times published an excerpt from David Willman’s upcoming book, Mirage Man: Bruce Ivins, the Anthrax Attacks and America’s Rush to War.

There’s nothing new here but it does personalize Ivins’ psychotic behavior with a special focus on his obsession with a national sorority, various revenge plots, and his ability to hide all this from his family and co-workers in the anthrax labs at Fort Detrick.

The Times story, with the drop line — “Bruce Ivins, who became a respected Army scientist and an authority on the laboratory use of anthrax, had a penchant for vendettas, especially against women” — reads:

He roamed the University of Cincinnati campus with a loaded gun. When his rage overflowed, the brainy microbiology major would open fire inside empty buildings, visualizing a wall clock or other object as a person who had done him wrong … Several years earlier, a Cincinnati student had turned him down for a date. He had projected his anger onto the young woman’s sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma. There was a Kappa house in Chapel Hill, N.C., and Ivins cased the building. One night when it was empty, he slipped in through a bathroom window and roamed the darkened floors with a penlight.

The story includes still another picture of Ivins singin’ and playin’ behind his beloved keyboards.

DD blog, readers recall, brought you the exclusive story and music from Creepy Bruce’s vanity pressed 45, done under the name of Bruce Ivins & the Country Boys.

And a couple months back, published here:

Ivins — [a psychiatric] panel concluded, should not have been hired by USAMRIID/Fort Detrick. He had a history of criminal and psychotic behavior dating back to his days as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of North Carolina.

While there he continued an obsession with a women’s sorority and one member of it. The obsession arose when Ivins was rejected by a girl from Kappa Kappa Gamma while at the University of Cincinnati, a rejection that seemed to have curdled his entire life.

In the case of one sorority girl, which the report refers to as KKG#2, Ivins went so far as to steal her lab research notebook, an act of sabotage aimed at screwing up her work toward a Ph.D.

The panel concluded Ivins compartmentalized his life, showing himself only to be a benign eccentric, an antic clown juggler at parties and keyboard player at church, to professional associates at Fort Detrick.

That panel concluded Ivins was most probably the anthrax mailer.

In related news, McClatchy officially became one of the news organs of anthrax denial earlier in the month when it published a long piece on the alleged use of silicon in the preparation of the mailed anthrax.

The silicon story — long pushed by a couple of fringe anthrax gumshoes and scientists — will probably never die. The FBI and a national lab made reasonable efforts to elucidate the silicon found in the anthrax spores but, in the end, none of it has made any difference due to the handling of the case and mythology which has grown around it.

Readers unaware of the fine details only need to know that it is used as part of an argument to exonerate Ivins. Ivins, the reasoning goes, could not have been the anthrax mailer because he knew nothing of the use of silicon in the weaponization of anthrax spores.

The government and other scientists have long maintained the spores were not weaponized and that anthrax spores, when effectively dried, are plenty dangerous, silicon or not.

In February, scientists from the National Research Council, in their study of the science of the anthrax mailings, concluded:

The NRC report did put another spike through the heart of the idea that silicon was added to the mailings to Leahy and Daschle for purposes of weaponization and dispersion.

It won’t kill the crazies who continue to pursue the argument. But that’s more due to the nature of the people who cleave to it.

“Silicon was present in the letter powders but there was no evidence
of addition of dispersants,??? Gast said.

And the report reads:

“The bulk silicon content in the Leahy letter could be completely explained by the amount of silicon incorporated in the spores during growth …

“The inability of laboratory experiments to duplicate silicon characteristics of the latter samples is not surprising given the uptake mechanism (in the anthrax microbe).”

Because of the horrific nature of the anthrax mailings, the fumblings in the case, its long duration and conspiracy-theory thinking entrenched within broad parts of the American polity, efforts to dismiss the official judgment that Ivins was the anthrax mailer will probably continue for years.

The eerie outsider country music of Bruce Ivins:

Pass Me By (If You’re Only Passing Through)

Bruce Ivins was All Shook Up.


Palin Patrol

Posted in Phlogiston, Rock 'n' Roll at 10:38 am by George Smith

From the AP:

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin rumbled through Washington on the back of a Harley as she and her family began an East Coast bus tour Sunday that renewed speculation that Mrs. Palin would join the still-unsettled Republican presidential contest.

Wearing a black leather jacket and surrounded by a throng of cheering fans, Mrs. Palin and family members jumped on bikes …

The Highway Kings had a biker rock song for such an occasion, “Highway Patrol.”

Here’s my remake from last year, set to a more oom-pah beat, which suits Palin quite nicely. (Turn it up for best effect.)

You have to admit, Palin has the eye and look to pull off imagery to leave everyone slack-jawed. Amercan cameras love her.

Last year it was a grizzly bear, this weekend a Harley-Davidson. Just actin’ naturally.

Oil speculation, discovered too late

Posted in Permanent Fail at 9:50 am by George Smith

The tragedy of WikiLeaks is obvious in the continuing news mined from CableGate.

One might now consider the agency as a big powerful animal driven by the cult of personality that’s Julian Assange.

But fame, that trouble with women and monetization through contemptuous big media killed it.

However, the carcass — due to the sheer volume of Cablegate — still has bubbles of gas in it. And the gas escapes from time to time, making a stink like a dead skunk in the middle of the road during high summer.

And such is the case with the news mined by the McClatchy chain from Cablegate, showing Saudi oil ministers informing the US government in 2008 that speculators were causing an oil bubble.

Midweek, Matt Taibbi wrote about it on the Rolling Stone blog:

When oil prices surged to a ridiculous $147 a barrel in the summer of 2008, conventional wisdom held that normal supply and demand issues were the cause. Both the Bush administration (in the form of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission) and most of Wall Street (through both media figures and market analysts) blamed such factors as increases in oil demand from the Chinese industrial machine, and the failure of Americans to conserve, for the surge in crude prices …

Well, thanks to Wikileaks, we now know that when the Bush administration reached out to the Saudis in the summer of ’08 to ask them to increase oil production to lower prices, the Saudis responded by saying they were having a hard time finding buyers for their oil as it was, and instead asked the Bush administration to rein in Wall Street speculators.

According to the McClatchy report, the Wiki cables show that Saudi ministers repeatedly told Bush administration officials that increasing production might be counterproductive.

The cables show that at the height of the bubble, in May 2008, U.S. officials met in Riyadh with the Saudi assistant petroleum minister, Prince Abdulazziz bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, who told the U.S. he was “extremely worried” that high prices would destroy the demand for crude.

“Aramco is trying to sell more, but frankly there are no buyers,” he reportedly said, referring to the Saudi state oil company. “We are discounting buyers.”

“The cables also show that the Saudis urged the Americans to enact reforms to rein in Wall Street, calling for speculative limits and other changes,” Taibbi adds.

The tragedy, again, is that this is emission from the dead dog.

Bank of America and its ecology of corruption was supposed to be next. That’s gone well.

Someone else was going to step in and replace WikiLeaks.

Public announcements and great enthusiasm followed.

Now the parade is over and all the bunting has come down.


Jobs creation plan: Make it easier to hire more convenience store/gas station attendants

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Permanent Fail at 8:51 am by George Smith

A pathetic story on job creation plans for the dead but still flopping fish middle class economy reveals the Obama plan is lame, and the GOP plan is what you already know — give more money to rich people.

One unintentionally laughable segment:

Both the Obama administration and congressional Republicans released plans yesterday that they say will create jobs. The administration said it would scrap or scale back hundreds of unnecessary and burdensome regulations affecting everything from the environment to worker safety. White House officials claimed that this measure would save businesses hundreds of billions of dollars, making it easier for them to hire workers.

For instance, under the new guidelines, the Environmental Protection Agency will no longer require states to install systems to protect against fuel emissions at gas stations–a problem that has mostly been fixed by improvements in vehicle technology.

I think we can all agree stimulating gas station/convenience store hiring through deregulation must be part of quite an amazingly ambitious plan.

And I can’t help myself. Mustgobacktothe NYT Timesgolden boy for wisdom on all things.

D. Leonhardt writes:

For one thing, there are specific forces holding back growth. Oil prices, though down in the last few weeks, are still 40 percent higher than a year ago and continue to siphon money away from the American economy to overseas economies. When I filled my gas tank last weekend, it cost $74, more than I think I have ever paid.

Gas is costing him more than ever says the sport with the six figure salary.

“State and local governments continue to cut jobs,” he continues.

“These specific problems worsen the broader insecurity of both households and business executives — insecurity that is typical in the wake of a financial crisis.”

Boy howdy! Remarkable!

David Leonhardt, we note, has 5,627 followers on Twitter, all through the magic of US innovation, the kind that has globally networked and lubricated the sucking up to your celebrity betters, in any field of endeavor.

A sampling of tweets:

“US has less extreme version of same. UK’s econ emerg: flatlining living standards, unskilled men.”

Sayeth the Yale man.

“Top colleges too focused on affluent, not meritocratic enough.”


Bein’ elite is hard to beat. Oot-greet.


A heartwarming tale of family and food

Posted in Extremism, Phlogiston at 1:50 pm by George Smith

Brussels sprouts, terrible things, in my book.

And they’re part of the basis for this afternoon drive-by entertainment piece on the world’s most bitter foods and who has choked them down in Guinness book record-breaking amounts.

The blurb reads:

You won’t find the bitterest taste in nature — it was created in a lab by accident. Bitter foods are inedible for some people, others barely notice — but kids are the most sensitive of all…

I find Brussels sprouts inedible and the science of it is very briefly explained here:

According to ABC (Australia), a genetics study coming out of the University of Barcelona currently published in the journal Biology Letters focuses on one particular [human] gene in the sequence that, when present, makes an individual sensitive to the taste of the organic compound phenylthiocarbamide.

This chemical is present in Brussels sprouts as well as cabbage and broccoli, and importantly from an evolutionary perspective, in many poisonous plants.

More explanation, from an another source:

Love them or hate them, around 40% of the sprouts produced for the UK market are consumed in the weeks up to and including Christmas day. But the varieties on the table today are very different from those that we would have been eating in the past, according to Peter van der Toorn, head of R&D in the leafy vegetables section at agrochemicals major Syngenta.

‘We don’t have real bitter tasting sprouts anymore,’ Van der Toorn says. ‘Our product range has moved to a series of “classic??? tasting varieties and another series of super mild tasting varieties. But even the classic tasting sprouts are not as bitter as they were …

Some of the glucosinolates present in Brussels, for example, include glucoraphanin, glucobrassicin, sinigrin and progoitrin. Sinigrin and progoitrin relate to the bitter taste on eating Brussels sprouts. However, the story is complicated as a mixture of glucosolinates and other compounds are involved in the bitterness and flavour of Brussels, and this taste experience varies from person to person.

‘There are genetic differences between individuals that make us more or less sensitive to these bitter flavours,’ Mithen explains. ‘These genetic differences affect the expression of taste receptors that make the individual more or less sensitive to some of the compounds in Brussels.’

I’m apparently one of those people who perceive Brussels sprouts as irredeemably horrid. If force fed them, I gag.

Which is just what my mother used to do to me back in the Sixties.

When I was a kid dinner featuring Brussels was really to be dreaded. Just the odor of them cooking evoked a vague nausea.

My mother, never a reasonable person, took my perception that they were revolting as a personal affront. She would set the timer on the stove to five or ten minutes and threaten that I needed to eat the things before the alarm dinged.

If I couldn’t eat them, and such was almost always the case, the punishment was a leather belt and the rest of the evening confined to the bedroom.

“Look at the kid, he’s gagging, he’s gagging!” cackled the parents, insane with anger at the temerity of my reaction at the dinner table. Over forty years later it’s still fresh in the mind.

Good times, good times.

The Empire’s Dog Feces — The crown jewels of social programs for arms developers

Posted in Permanent Fail at 12:34 pm by George Smith

From Foreign Policy, where the important writers can always be depended upon to direct you to the back of your hand (or how to grab you ass, if you prefer:)

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

And from somewhere else:

The Death Ray that incinerates social programs for the sake of Boeing.

The Doomsday Cannon that will never be anything but a nice dog & pony show.

The Invisibility Cloak, which DARPA androids have convinced the US goverment is real and can be used on an M1 tank.

How to create jobs, other than those making weapons, according to the GOP, this week:

The federal government is spending and borrowing so much that the United States will soon go broke. Washington’s spending binge has put our nation in debt, eroded economic confidence and caused massive uncertainty for private sector jobs creators (except in arms manufacturing).

So kill Medicare.

Death rays, yes. Old folks, no. We’re never broke when it comes to the former and its less grandiose brethren.

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