10.31.11

Made In China — more cyberwar, with satellites

Posted in Cyberterrorism, Made in China at 4:10 pm by George Smith

Three years ago US Landsat satellites were diddled.

A piece at GovExec explains the events at length. And China gets most of the blame although I was unwilling to go quite that far:

China may have been flaunting its scientific capabilities by meddling with U.S. Earth observation satellites in past years, according to space and computer security experts.

Two unusual incidents involving signals targeting a U.S. Geological Survey satellite in 2007 and 2008 were referred to the Defense Department for investigation, USGS officials said Monday. NASA also experienced two “suspicious events” with a Terra observational satellite in 2008, officials at the space agency confirmed. An annual report from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission slated for release Nov. 16 is expected to characterize the events as successful interferences that may be linked to the Chinese government.

“I would say they were demonstrating the science and technology to be able to see what they could gain from it,” said Charles Vick, a senior analyst at GlobalSecurity.org who has been briefed on other government reports about China’s cyber skills. “To a degree one would think that [getting caught] was part of the mentality. It’s a warning. We could do this and a few other things.”

Since the event appears to have been trivial and is now three years old — AND is being publicized at a time when budget-cutting fever is in, I explained to the journalist one of the potential reasons were finding out about it.

Ammo for rationalizations on positive cyberwar/cyberdefense spending. Which readers know is always in vogue.

The journalist agreed this was one sound explanation and nicely addressed it near the end of the piece:

As hackers target U.S. computers with increasing intensity and frequency, the White House on Friday took the unusual step of asking Congress to pass stalled cybersecurity legislation. At first the Obama administration was the slow actor, taking a year to tell Congress which pending measures the president would enact. Now, with pressure to pass other bills, including a Dec. 23 deadline for deficit reduction legislation, the House and Senate are unlikely to agree on comprehensive reforms this year, experts say.

Obama cyber czar Howard Schmidt on Friday tried to light a fire, writing on the White House blog, “Unfortunately, time is not on our side. Since the White House delivered the administration’s proposal to Congress, a number of new security breaches have been reported. We need congressional leaders to move forward with a cross-committee and bipartisan approach.”


“The time is ripe to make proposal into law, and give the government and private sector the extra tools needed to fight those who would harm us,” Schmidt wrote on a White House blog.

Saideth me:

George Smith, a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, said he would be surprised if the Chinese government was behind such sloppy execution, speculating that this may have been practice for a more aggressive attack.

“It would seem unusual to me that they would fiddle with satellites — which gets up the United States’ antennae — and then get caught with it,” he said. “That doesn’t rule out that this was a nation state doing a test run” …

As to why the government is making these sensitive events public now, Smith pointed to the federal government’s push for additional cyber defense funding.

Decent article covering all the bases and quoting from a variety of sources on different sides of the line. Read it here.

Stuff from China — a post in pix

Posted in Decline and Fall, Made in China, Rock 'n' Roll at 10:31 am by George Smith


Chinese-manufactured Stratocaster electric guitar, famous around the world. Invented here in California, promoted worldwide by rock ‘n’ roll, now made in much greater number there than here. Those we still make are for the wealthy and major label musicians. Everyone else, including me, gets the China-made copy. The parent company, Fender, keeps a domestic business that’s mostly a custom shop, goods designed by people with good opinions of self-worth but who are not so strong in the way of improvement or innovation.


Same as above. In the Seventies there was a real big Fender factory in
soCal. Now they’re all in China. The blue box, an Adrenalinn III, is not made in China, although its computer chips are. Shot at Studio Dick D.


The real China toilet that inspired “China Toilet Blooz.” The seat blistered as above one week out of its box. It was the third we bought in Pasadena So we left it.

Truly, corporate America has been so very bad for most Americans in the last decade, all brand loyalty should be well and truly dead.

The human thing to do is not even buy Fender-branded guitars made in China, but to get another less famous brand doing the same pieces. In the pic above, it’s a Jay Turser.

In fact, one might encourage Chinese business to simply dispense with their American partners and replace them with new names including the multi-nationals out. If possible.

I’d support that.

Weapons, of course, are mostly all still made here.



Wood ducks and one Canada goose who blutzed into the photo looking for a handout, at the Arboretum in Arcadia. Not made in China.

Defense and arms manufacturing jobs as protected labor

Posted in Decline and Fall, Made in China at 10:06 am by George Smith

Krugman goes full bore on defense spending as Keynesian jobs programs today:

A few years back Representative Barney Frank coined an apt phrase for many of his colleagues: weaponized Keynesians, defined as those who believe “that the government does not create jobs when it funds the building of bridges or important research or retrains workers, but when it builds airplanes that are never going to be used in combat, that is of course economic salvation”…

Faced with this prospect, Republicans — who normally insist that the government can’t create jobs, and who have argued that lower, not higher, federal spending is the key to recovery — have rushed to oppose any cuts in military spending. Why? Because, they say, such cuts would destroy jobs …


Appeals to confidence have always been a key debating point for opponents of taxes and regulation; Wall Street’s whining about President Obama is part of a long tradition in which wealthy businessmen and their flacks argue that any hint of populism on the part of politicians will upset people like them, and that this is bad for the economy. Once you concede that the government can act directly to create jobs, however, that whining loses much of its persuasive power — so Keynesian economics must be rejected, except in those cases where it’s being used to defend lucrative contracts.

So I welcome the sudden upsurge in weaponized Keynesianism, which is revealing the reality behind our political debates. At a fundamental level, the opponents of any serious job-creation program know perfectly well that such a program would probably work, for the same reason that defense cuts would raise unemployment. But they don’t want voters to know what they know, because that would hurt their larger agenda — keeping regulation and taxes on the wealthy at bay.

And it’s worth adding that arms manufacturing jobs have been the only ones that are protected.

You can throw away all manufacturing to China. You can throw teachers and other government workers to the wolves.

But you can never go after the laborers in the weapons shops.

It is a profoundly unfair state of economy.

And I’ve written about it at length previously.

10.30.11

Know your weapons

Posted in Phlogiston, Rock 'n' Roll at 9:18 am by George Smith

Warm-up before going to a Halloween party as myself, with guitar, to play a few songs.

Honeytone $20 9-volt battery driven made-of-plastic-in-China amp from Guitar Center, not priceless that’s for sure. But handy and a conversation starter. And it sounds just barely OK if you know what you’re doing.

Was going to post a photo of the original China Toilet Blooz toilet seat, which didn’t make the video. Maybe later.


Posting will be light. Spending time with a friend debilitated by a hard regimen of chemotherapy. Once again, reality shows there’s been no innovation. Unless you call carrying a fannypack purse/pump for the poison strapped to you a wonder. The poisons aren’t new or better since the Eighties. And they’re still very much toxic.

10.28.11

Keynsian jobs programs — defense spending — threatened

Posted in Decline and Fall at 2:57 pm by George Smith

I’ve long referred to much arms contracting in the US as Keynsian jobs programs. All labor in them is protected, everyone else can go to hell.

The Republican Party, and a surprising number of Democrats, don’t care if jobs for making all sundries in US stores are all from China, domestic non-military production gutted.

On the other hand, all jobs in defense manufacturing are sacrosanct. Cut defense spending and immediately the cry is heard, “But that will cost jobs!”

Yes, yes it will.

From Krugman today:

Ah, so now we have a new principle of economics: government spending can’t create jobs, but cuts in government spending can destroy jobs — as long as the jobs are in the defense sector …

One thought here is that a Keynesian is an Austrian whose campaign contributors are about to lose a lucrative contract. But it also harks back to Keynes’s point, when he suggested burying bottles full of cash in disused coalmines, so that private enterprise could dig them back up and create jobs in the process …

10.27.11

Lethal non-lethals, the potential to turn private sector homeland security loose on OWS, and other matters

Posted in Crazy Weapons, Decline and Fall, War On Terror at 12:08 pm by George Smith

The last decade, as well spawning many bad big things, gave birth to entire industries devoted to making bad, if only in ways a magnitude smaller or so than economic collapse.

Chief among these was the private-sectoring of homeland security. Across the country, small shops set up everywhere to sell security and intelligence contracting to state and city governments.

The businesses, often called terrorism research businesses and intelligence fusion centers, are probably already taking a bead on Occupy Wall Street and selling themselves to authorities only too willing to take advantage of such services. All in the name of the grand phrase, public safety.

Last year I wrote about one such company briefly, uncovered by the local newsmedia in Pennsylvania, when it began distributing terrorism reports naming various progressive groups, and the indie film-maker auteur responsible for Gasland (the expose on the natural gas “hydro-fracking” industry.)

Reprinting from it:

What to do if you’re in the business of counter-terrorism in, say, a place like Pennsylvania? And there just aren’t enough jihadists around to fill a decent report for the state government client. Answer: Reclassify democratic activity as trouble. Problem solved!

From my old homestate of Pennsylvania, this bit of unintentional dark humor, courtesy of the Associated Press:

Information about an anti-BP candlelight vigil, a gay and lesbian festival and other peaceful gatherings became the subject of anti-terrorism bulletins being distributed by Pennsylvania’s homeland security office, an apologetic Gov. Ed Rendell admitted.

Also in the anti-terrorism bulletin: “[Events] likely to be attended by environmentalists …”

And who was getting the funding for this valuable intelligence on the state of homegrown terrorism?

Something called the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response, in Philadelphia, to the tune of $125,000 …


On page 11 of the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response’s sample May 2009 anti-terrorism briefing, the organization lumps a number of equally surprising activities under the topic “Domestic/Eco-Terror Alerts.”

Among these, “the Rainforest Action Network is holding training at campuses across the [continental United States]. The training is designed to inspire ecological activity — from legitimate canvassing to illegal direct actions.”

The very legit Rainforest Action Network is here. It looks like a happy place.

In another posting, the company’s Terrorism Research bulletin, entitled “Actionable Intelligence Briefing,” reads: “Ecological activists in [San Francisco, Phoenix, Tuscon and Sonora} will be protesting the intent of Mexico to build a toxic waste dump on land belonging to the O’odham Indians.”

Other “domestic/eco-terror alert” entries include notes on protests of the Bank of America bailout scheduled for Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office, “a protest march … held by people opposed to the closing of some schools in New York City, “eco-activists” from Earth First! holding a summer training camp, institute analysts noting an appearance by Karl Rove as an opportunity for “anarchist groups,” as well as a variety of anti-war and anti-cruelty-to-animals protest events.

The anti-terrorism briefing booklet makes a practice of classifying people and groups who protest corporate activities as anarchists.

“Working with organizations that refuse to surrender their domestic or international operations to terrorism,” reads the pamphlet.

Terrorism, in this case, seeming to broadly rope in constitutionally protected activities contrary to the interests of corporate and government clients.

What would actually be surprising would be if companies like this, all fruit of the homeland security boom, weren’t already working OWS. Readers, and many Americans — generally, know there is certainly no shortage of people at the top of national government, as well as at the bottom of local townships, willing to immediately renew contracts to local goons promising to keep them appraised on people alleged to be causing civil unrest.

Invariably, all these businesses are spin-offs from the national security infrastructure, employing ex-law enforcement, military and intelligence
men only marginally interested in rights, due process of law and democracy. On a much smaller level, they follow the business practices of the big mercenary army/private security companies like Blackwater.

And they have exploded with taxpayer funding during the past decade.

It’s worth adding that private security has a long history of misuse in this country. The employment of the Pinkertons against the Molly Maguires in Pennsylvania in the late 1800’s comes to mind.


Another small homeland security industry now of importance is the one devoted to “non-lethal” weaponry in the United States. Small and large businesses, as well as the big arms developers, got involved in peddling various new arms to the government and police forces, all using the argument that technological advances would allow for non-bloody crowd control.

The most public example was The Sheriff, a high-powered microwave gun mounted on a Hummer and developed by Raytheon. The Sheriff took over a decade of taxpayer investment and an incredible public relations effort to push it (one that failed spectacularly) as a revolutionary weapon which could be used to disperse crowds.

Publicly, it was a disaster. The Sheriff was taken to Afghanistan a year or so ago and quietly brought back without firing one microwave shot in anger. It was, and still is, simply viewed as a device for torturing people who can’t fight back.

At which point in time Raytheon began peddling a much smaller mounted version of it for use in the California prison system.

The essential point to be made is a simple one. All the arguments for the development and use of “non-lethal” weapons rely upon the success in getting people to believe there is some magic point of force application in which people are not irrevocably injured or killed.

In real life, this point is imaginary. It does not exist. And there is no scientific method that can be used to find or elucidate it. As any perusal of the literature on use of tasers, rubber bullets and tear gas quickly reveals.

However, the argument remains seductive particularly when governments or law enforcement need rationalizations for using force short of bullets on the unarmed.

What the “non-lethal” weapon does is set the bar downward for the use of force. When one equips a military or law enforcement agency with weapons which the average soldier or policeman believes will not hurt people because they have been told there is a science to them making them safe, the problem becomes obvious.

With the images of tear gas and people wounded in Oakland and other protests flashing around, you can bet there are at least pitches being made to sell use of more non-lethal weaponry. The only consolation is one of coincidence. Economic collapse has made it much harder for local government to buy the newer non-lethal weapons developed during the war on terror. The money is no longer there.

An example of the companies involved in this kind of thing was written about a couple of months ago here.

One motorized crowd control system, it generates loud screeching noise with the idea that ear pain makes people run away, was deployed in Pittsburgh where it has been mostly just a nuisance.

It came out of the idea that sound could be used to shatter the ear drums of “terrorists” on airplanes, without killing passengers.

If common sense is telling you that such a thing is fairly dubious, you’re not alone. However, that has never impeded the development of such things.

When still free-lancing for the Village Voice, I wrote a little about this.

Two examples from the war on terror, The Electrocuting Water Cannon and The Sonic Pain Stick are at the links.

From the Electrocuting Water Cannon:

[The company] certainly has expertise in this [non-lethal] area. It has manufactured something called the Sticky Shocker, a technological annoyance that looks like the giant cocklebur from hell. It’s designed to lodge on people with “tenacious glue” and barbs in order to dispense stunning volts.

Although the latest hazard to humanity hasn’t been tested on live subjects, Jaycor material claims it is voltage-regulated according to some Underwriters Laboratories standard of acceptable partial electrocution. One can only wonder at the way such a remarkable standard was arrived at—perhaps by dropping hair dryers or radios into bathtubs occupied by volunteers?

It is patently obvious that a vehicle-mounted shocking water hose is an atrocious mechanism that would instantly doom the career of anyone who ordered its use on American streets.

While this particular thing no longer appears to be around, the logic behind is still alive and well.

10.26.11

The moment the 1 percent — Wall Street and corporate America — officially became security threats

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Extremism at 3:25 pm by George Smith

Captured on video, a young war vet hit with a tear gas round or flash bang grenade, and sent to the emergency room with a brain injury.

It’s worth saying none of the one percent have been punished like this fellow who was simply being part of an essentially peaceful national protest against inequality and mass unemployment. Not one of them has been dragged through the street or treated harshly and attacked by the peace-keeping forces.

It is unsurprising this has happened. The entire history of squashing dissent in the last ten years for the sake of plutocracy more or less guaranteed an inevitable overreaction by police somewhere.

The question once the protests started and refused to voluntarily move for anti-mess ordnances used against the poor was where it would happen first.

The primary threats to US security are all internal.

This is a a topic you have never seen taken up by the national threat apparatus and its culture of lickspittle shoeshine men in the think tanks. They’ll never touch it unless it’s to come down on the side of the “rule of law,” neatness and imagined potentials for cultivation of “homegrown” terror.

The internal security threats — corporate America’s business interests being incongruent with genuine democracy, justice and stability — have been significant. It’s just that it has taken massive economic failure and someone being wounded by a tear gas round for everyone to get the unpleasant message.

10.25.11

Quashing protest with anti-mess ordnances

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall at 1:52 pm by George Smith

One challenge facing OWS is the anti-democratic use of cleanliness ordnances to break up groups and encampments.

This AP story delivers the basics: employing a handful of stories about the smell of urine, common in cities, and other petty things involving alleged attraction of rats and being unable to guarantee safety, to destroy a democracy movement spanning the country.

The first graph:

Fed up with petty crime, the all-night racket of beating drums, the smell of human waste and the sight of trampled flowers and grass, police and neighbors are losing patience with some of the anti-Wall Street protests around the U.S.

In Oakland, Calif., police in riot gear fired tear gas and bean bags before daybreak Tuesday to disperse about 170 protesters who had been camping in front of City Hall for the past two weeks, and 75 people were arrested.

The mayor of Providence, R.I., is threatening to go to court within days to evict demonstrators from a park.

And businesses and residents near New York’s Zuccotti Park, the unofficial headquarters of the movement that began in mid-September, are demanding something be done to discourage the hundreds of protesters from urinating in the street and making noise at all hours.

Noise.

‘[The grass is getting damaged, and they want to close the restrooms and begin preparing the park for winter,” reads one concern in Providence.

If damaged grass and wanting to “close restrooms” are the best one can come up with, then there’s essentially no significant complaint other than the powers at be are now angry the protests have gone on too long.

In college towns across the USA during football season, every weekend is a potpourri of waste, damaged grass, regurgitated booze, noise and the smell of urine far beyond the scale of OWS protests.

The complaints voiced in the AP story are penny ante considering what the movement stands for. However, dissent has long been conditioned out of many in the US culture of lickspittle. Business that pollutes on a grand scale, however, is OK.

When no one is breaking the law one of the first things authority tries to do is redefine breaking the law downward.

This almost always means getting at people for making a mess, loitering, urinating (wooahh, now that’s something that never happens in cleanly American gathering places) too much eating in public, being noisy (which would seem required for democracy) or attracting vermin (and getting stupid people to believe that a plague might break out if something isn’t done).

There are the kinds of laws which are traditionally enforced all the time around the country, rather selectively, when those in control wish to harass unpopular property owners or chase the homeless from place to place.

In the past few decades such things have been used to criminalize just being poor in the US. OWS protests, paradoxically, are inspired by inequality, unfairness and poverty.

These kinds of practices and the people who call for them also justify a rebellion.

System infiltration by tools

Posted in Crazy Weapons, Decline and Fall at 7:58 am by George Smith

It’s no secret mainstream journalists have a hard time describing complex realities with even remote accuracy. Today’s breed can’t even get history when it’s right at their fingertips on the web.

Best example, right now, Associated Press’s story on the disassembly of a large Cold War bomb, the B53.

Here:

The last of the nation’s most powerful nuclear bombs — a weapon hundreds of times stronger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima — is being disassembled nearly half a century after it was put into service at the height of the Cold War.

The final components of the B53 bomb will be broken down Tuesday at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo …

According to the American Federation of Scientists, it was 600 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, at the end of World War II.

The reporter, Betsy Blaney, gets the name of FAS wrong.

She neglects to mention the yield of the B53 — 9 megatons or the equivalent of 9 million tons of TNT. (By contrast, the Hiroshima bomb was 12-15 kilotons, or 12-15 thousand tons of TNT.)

The B53 was a thermonuclear device (which means fusion triggered by a fission “fuse”). The Little Boy at Hiroshima, as many know, was an atomic fission bomb. Details, but important ones and easy to make clear. There’s a big difference between the two, one obviously germane to the story of nuclear weaponry, a bit gone entirely missing from the Associated Press story.

AP’s story is so poor the best the reporter comes up with is a factoid about 300 lbs of explosive needing to be taken part. In a bomb that weighed 8-10 tons and blew up with the force of 9 megatons.

The news agency even failed at accurately doing the simplistic, “Hey, lookit the big old bomb!” story.

The B53.

10.24.11

Today’s situational funnies

Posted in Phlogiston, Rock 'n' Roll at 12:13 pm by George Smith

YouTube continues to send DD blandishments, all for monetization of the slide show and video satires of the tunes shown here.

Naturally, since most of these are satire, or coupled with imagery aimed at lampooning various subjects, they run afoul of YouTube’s strict copyright limitations which basically make it technically verboten to use another corporate owner’s imagery to hoist them on own petard.

Which is why they get the view counts in the first place.

By no means are these songs “hits.” But they do get views and, apparently, the algorithms notice.

Second situational funny, the constant juxtaposition of “The Pothead Anthem” by Janis Joplin — at the top of the “recommended videos” column — on an increasing number of my properties. (See here. I’m so lucky.)

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