02.29.12

He looked good, even in JC Penney

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll at 3:50 pm by George Smith

The little girls thought so.

Davy Jones, Monkee — 1945-2012.

Instead of the more popular “Daydream Believer,” this is “Valleri,” a psychedelic favorite of mine as a little kid, from The Birds, the Bees & the Monkees. Nothing but a simple vamp, given seasoning with acid fuzz and a trippy guitar fill.

The J C Penney joke is a reference to the advertising gig, later regretted, the Monkees’ record company landed with the company. The Monkees were subsequently kitted out in what department store America thought would be hot hipster pop star clothes for kids.

Oil company funny business explained

Posted in Decline and Fall at 3:25 pm by George Smith

The Congressional Research Service recently published a report entitled “Financial Performance of the Five Major Oil Companies, 2007-2011.”

Such reports are requested by Congress, usually as ammo for hearings or background for some other type of activity in which various members of Congress pontificate and, perhaps, even legislate. However, CRS reports do not tell which members ordered them. And Congress does not make them available to the public.

Which is why Steve Aftergood’s Secrecy blog does. And the oil company report is here.

One part of the report reads:

The incentive of higher and rising oil prices in 2007-2008 and 2010-2011 did not result in observably higher production of the five oil companies. Similarly, the disincentive of lower or falling oil prices did not result in observably lower production by the companies … The five major oil companies seemingly have not behaved in accord with market economic theory with respect to output adjustments in relation to changing prices. That theory depends on the responsiveness of firms to price signals to expand output in times of higher and or rising prices and to provide reductions to output during lower and or falling prices. In this way price volatility in the market is reduced while keeping supply matched to demand.

The report observes that oil companies do not obey market economics and that the “oil market … is difficult to fit into the model of free market adjustments.”

Perhaps the five largest oil companies could be viewed as a power unto themselves. Like a cartel.

The CRS report does not furnish material useful in blaming the president for precipitously rising gas prices. It gives no obvious opening to those who might think of appealing to oil companies for help in the matter, like increasing production. And, in view of its statistics, it furnishes no obvious information elucidating why oil companies receive tax breaks and constant government energy policy subsidies.

“Bringing new oil supplies on the market can be a double-edged sword for oil producers,” continues the report.

“While the oil companies need to expand their reserve bases to replace losses due to production they … may find it not in their best interest to expand available supply too much, too quickly. When oil supplies flood the market and excess capacity rises to excessive levels, the price of crude oil can tumble. A sharp decline is not in the interest of oil company profits … ”

The illogic, then, of allowing “excess capacity rising to excessive levels”
seems indisputable. If somewhat vexing and evil.

“The capital expenditures of the [oil companies] have not succeeded in increasing their production of oil and natural gas,” concludes “Financial Performance of the Five Major Oil Companies, 2007-2011.”

“They have been successful in providing returns to their shareholders.”

The report, again, is here.

We can thank Steve Aftergood and the Secrecy blog for making its analysis available to all.

02.28.12

Doomsday Preppers take over Wyoming

Posted in Extremism, Imminent Catastrophe at 10:01 am by George Smith

When you watch too much Doomsday Preppers you get brain damage. When you get brain damage you think too much about total collapse. When you think too much about total collapse you want to print new money, hoard gold and raise a small army. When you try raising a small army you blow off thumb. Don’t blow off your thumb. Leave the state of Wyoming’s Republican Party. Or just leave Wyoming.

The extreme is the mainstream.

From the wire, more precisely, the Wyoming Star-Tribune, three days ago:

State representatives on Friday advanced legislation to launch a study into what Wyoming should do in the event of a complete economic or political collapse in the United States.

House Bill 85 passed on first reading by a voice vote. It would create a state-run government continuity task force, which would study and prepare Wyoming for potential catastrophes, from disruptions in food and energy supplies to a complete meltdown of the federal government.

The task force would look at the feasibility of Wyoming issuing its own alternative currency, if needed. And House members approved an amendment Friday by state Rep. Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, to have the task force also examine conditions under which Wyoming would need to implement its own military draft, raise a standing army, and acquire strike aircraft and an aircraft carrier.

After this story went nationwide yesterday, public derision caused the bill to be rewritten sans the bit about an aircraft carrier. For DD’s Euro-readers, Wyoming is a land-locked state.

By comparison:

population of Wyoming 538,000
population of Pasadena, CA 137,000
population of LA County 9.8 million

I’m betting Pasadena has more books and more people with advanced degrees than Wyoming.

In any case, this isn’t new.

Down through the ages the hinterlands have been filled with unthinking, easily influenced paranoids. If you still watch Glenn Beck, or read his publication — The Blaze, you’d think the country was going to collapse next week.

National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers has monetized the kooks and televised them nationwide. The country is coming to an end, they all insist.

In decades past in Allentown, PA, I was sent to cover a local municipal meeting of a local ‘burg just prior to the first Gulf War. There, a couple of the local townsmen talked of emergency preparations for a town of about three thousand, in case Saddam Hussein destroyed the local interstate with a Scud missile.

It was hard to not fall out of the chair.

On Paphlagonia, utilized as a literary device in the world of ancient Greece for describing the not-too-sharp locals who hunted bear for a living in a far-off place :

Paphlagonians were drawn in crowds by the news. Only their outward appearance distinguished them from sheep. The thick and uncultured natives of Pontus and Paphlygonia were easily deceived … Alexander, who had medical training, prescribed ointments made of bear’s fat as one of his quack remedies … [Real Paphlagonians were] shod in heavy leather clogs, they belched garlic fumes. Garlic, as well as a readiness to believe false oracles, was an insulting leitmotif that went back to Aristophanes …

Reads Toward the Rhetoric of Insult:

Paphlagon is so named because he is allegedly of Paphlagonian ancestry (Paphlagonia, at the eastern limits of the known world, is like Al Capp’s Slobbovia …)

02.27.12

Stratfor on PETA

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism at 4:26 pm by George Smith

When trivial e-mails show your analysts are looking at PETA for Coca-Cola, you look bad. When you look bad, your schedule clears out. When your schedule clears out, you grow a scraggly beard. When you grow a scraggly beard, people think you’re a beggar. Don’t be a corporate flunky carpetbeggar, gossiping about PETA for Coca-Cola. Use net search for good things.

One of the WikiLeaks posts from the Stratfor people doing trivial net search on People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals, for corporate flunkies at Coca-Cola. Presumably because Coca-Cola gets criticized by organizations that monitor corporate cruelty toward animals.

The post:

Hi Van,
I’m checking with our analysts to find out what information we already
have on the subject. I’ll get back to you soon with more information.

Best regards,
Anya

Van C. Wilberding [senior manager for Coca Cola] wrote:

Hi Anya,

Thanks again for your help with respect to the Korean Peninsula
situation.

We are now looking at PETA and the potential for protests at the
Vancouver Olympics and related events. (Please see the following
questions below.) We’d like to schedule a time for a conference call
with you and/or your analyst(s) on this topic.

— How many PETA supporters are there in Canada?
— How many of these are inclined toward activism?
— To what extent will US-based PETA supporters travel to Canada to
support activism?
— What is PETA’s methodology for planning and executing activism?
(Understanding this better would certainly help us to recognize
indicators should they appear.)
— To what extent is PETA in Canada linked to PETA in the US or
elsewhere?
— To what extent are the actions of PETA in one country controlled by
an oversight board/governing body?
— To what extent could non-PETA hangers-on (such as anarchists or ALF supporters) get involved in any protest activity?

Please let us know what works in terms of timing of the conference call.

Thanks again,

Van
Coca-Cola: LIVE POSITIVELY – Our Company and leaders have supported education for more than 100 years. Learn about our education programs around the world.

It’s not much of a secret that thousands and thousands of assholes work for big US corporate multi-nationals. However, it is always illuminating to see how venal they are, that they have trivial intelligence operations hiring other flunkies to provide hearsay on groups which many Americans would view as good people — or at least NOT security threats. Unless you’re Ted Nugent.

Another post:

Interesting, thanks Fred.

Fred Burton wrote:

The FBI has a classified investigation on PETA operatives. I’ll see what
I can uncover.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

That’s some nugget of intel nose gold.

“[The] professional intelligence community is acknowledging us as being the gold standard of intelligence,” wrote Stratfor CEO George Friedman in another well-publicized post.

The series of PETA mails — brief.

A kind of Bigfoot of warfare

Posted in Crazy Weapons at 1:19 pm by George Smith

A no byline story on the website of the South Korean newspaper, the Chosun Ilbo, discusses the always said to be coming but never quite arriving electromagnetic pulse bomb.

It earns the quote of the day, of sorts:

A military officer who asked to remain anonymous on Sunday claimed South Korea has developed basic technology that will one day allow it to produce a so-called electromagnetic pulse bomb capable of paralyzing all electronic equipment. The bomb is a kind of Bigfoot of warfare.

“But another military source said the technology is a long way from being usable as a weapon,” concludes the paper.

File under: Cult of Electromagnetic Pulse Crazy, SK office.

Do they have Sasquatch south of the 38th parallel?

Apparently not.

Ricin vaccine orphaned

Posted in Bioterrorism, Ricin Kooks at 12:02 pm by George Smith

Today, from the newspaper of Denton, TX, a story mentioning how the ricin vaccine fell in and out of favor.

Readers of the blog know it as the always coming but never arriving product of Soligenix, a now near worthless company from the old Alliance for Biosecurity. DD blog last mentioned the firm here.

Before 9/11 there was virtually no interest in a ricin vaccine. The main reason for this is that no one actually needs such a thing except those who research ricin, or the few weird crazies every year who pound castor seeds.

However, after 9/11 and anthrax, funding for bioterror research and nostrums to be used against all the diseases and toxins said to be about to descend upon us exploded.

Over ten years on, with little to show for any of it, some of the research and firms involved have hit a brick wall. Some, although not all, are out of favor. Budgets are busted and the country often has other newer problems to spend money on.

The ricin vaccine came out of research into using the toxin in targeted chemotherapy against certain cancers. And the interesting part is excerpted:

Less than a half-hour drive down the freeway from Sellers’ oncology treatments, researchers at the Cancer Immunology Center in Dallas search for a cure for cancer. Despite the physical proximity, Sellers and other chemotherapy patients are more than a decade displaced from the work of researchers down the road.

As professor and researcher, Dr. Ellen Vitetta, the immunology center’s director, has worked to discover new treatments for an array of incurable diseases for more than three decades. In 2000, after more than a decade of research to genetically engineer and modify a toxin to target tumor cells, her team realized the cancer research had brought them to the doorstep of a vaccine for something else — ricin, an extremely toxic protein found in the castor bean.

While continuing the tumor-targeting research, Vitetta’s team hoped government interest in the vaccine would lead to an increase in grant money that could be applied toward the lab’s primary goal of cancer research. For a while, it did.

But after 12 years, numerous papers and two clinical trials, both the vaccine and the cancer treatments that inspired it sit on freezer shelves in the Dallas lab — a sort of purgatory for promising research that falls out of favor, Vitetta says.

“If I can’t get money for [the research] and I can’t get money for the trials, there’s no choice but to hang it up and let it sit until it comes back into vogue again,” she says.

In the freezer room at Vitetta’s lab, half a dozen 6-foot-tall freezers sit side by side, housing decades of unfunded work at 80 degrees below zero, hoping at some point in the future to be resuscitated. Some drugs, like the poison vaccine, show promise in clinical trials but become victims of federal funding cuts that leave the center no choice but to consign them to the freezer …

Vitetta licensed production of ricin vaccine to DOR BioPharma, now Soligenix. Readers know that in over a decade Soligenix hasn’t brought a single thing to market. And now the company is virtually in the toilet.

Live by the fad funding and hype that runs the bioterror defense industry, die by it.

WikiLeaks does Stratfor

Posted in Cyberterrorism at 10:01 am by George Smith

Today WikiLeaks published the stolen internal e-mails of the private intelligence firm Stratfor, taken last year by Anonymous.

They are here — along with a preamble pointing out some of the archive’s highlights.

The 2012 archive is the easiest place to start. There’s much to sift, as is the nature of these types of e-mail dumps, and it will take weeks, one assumes, to tease out the most interesting bits.

Initially, among other things, it shows some corporate spying flunky using the Stratfor network to monitor the Yes Men, the well-known activist group of pranksters which has targeted various American multi-nationals. Most notably, Union Carbide/Dow, by famously posing as company officials offering redress to the victims of the lethal industrial accident in India in 1984.

One sees the Yes Men’s public itinerary, its Twitter feed and so on, copied to the representatives of the firms it has embarrassed.

Whoever’s paying for the alleged dirt — well — let’s just say they’re not getting much for their cash money. The e-mail spill makes the firms involved, like Dow, only look more trivially venal and evil than originally thought, if that’s still possible in 2012.

Also on display, an apple-polisher explaining how great it is to be an unpaid intern at Stratfor, this embedded in a longer post on an alliance with Goldman Sachs to use the firm’s insider intelligence “to trade in a range of geopolitical instruments, particularly government bonds, currencies and the like.”

One of the posts detailing it is here.

In the same mail, Stratfor head George Friedman exhorting the faithful with news of the company’s predictions to the US Marine Corps:

We have also been asked to help the United States Marine Corps and other government intelligence organizations to teach them how Stratfor does what it does, and train them in becoming government Stratfors. We are beginning this project by preparing a three-year forecast for the Commandant of the Corps. This is a double honor for us. First, the professional intelligence community is acknowledging us as being the gold standard of intelligence. Second, we are being asked to use our honest and unhedged views to support what is for Stratfor- an American company-its homeland. Again, as with StratCap, there is no tension. We will tell the U.S. government precisely what we tell our readers and we think ourselves. Our first lesson to the government is that intelligence organizations exist to make decision makers uncomfortable, not to make them feel better about their decisions. I didn’t come this far to compromise on that.

I guess it is good to know that Stratfor believes it’s mission in helping secure the homeland somehow is served by collaborating with Goldman Sachs in leveraging insider information as part of the processes the big bankster company achieved a reputation for — shady investment advice/complex financial instruments. Getting into the “Doing God’s work” game, eh?

Two other observations gained from the 2012 archive: (1) Stratfor’s kinda cheap; and (2), being perceived as a spying firm for corporate interests is bad for the reputation.

“I am not the smartest cat in the sandbox, but I showed up as an intern everyday and showed eagerness to learn and to work, and I got rewarded for it,” writes one analyst. “Just don’t want ya’ll to be discouraged by the lack of pay …”

“Our cash position is not spectacular by any means …” reads part of a memo from Stratfor’s George Friedman.

“Intelligence organizations exist to make decision makers uncomfortable,” reads the mail.

While not the US government or Bank of America, today Stratfor’s decision makers were, I suppose one can say, discomfited by WikiLeaks.

02.26.12

Proof people who voted GOP once liked sex

Posted in Phlogiston, Psychopath & Sociopath, Rock 'n' Roll at 2:54 pm by George Smith

Ruby Starr, who has since left us, keeps pulling her very short skirt/something down so her bottom won’t show on national TV.


Yep, juvenile. How else to deal with someone like this?

Rick Leprosy officially doomed

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 11:28 am by George Smith

From the Sunday NY Times:

“Republicans being against sex is not good,” the G.O.P. strategist Alex Castellanos told me mournfully. “Sex is popular.”


“It makes the party look like it isn’t a modern party,” Rudy Giuliani told CNN’s Erin Burnett, fretting about the candidates’ Cotton Mather attitude about women and gays. “It doesn’t understand the modern world that we live in.”

Being the subject of national cartoons on a daily basis is your death knell. Do see it.

But will Leprosy still make the cover of Time or Newsweek?

AP studies drone strike casualties

Posted in Bombing Paupers at 10:57 am by George Smith

Pine View Farm once again has tipped me to the AP’s long new piece on drone casualties in Pakistan.

The news agency story is that civilian casualties are much less than thought by the Pakistani populace at large. Nevertheless, the perception that drone strikes kill more prevails, fueling hatred of the US.

Both premises are understandable.

It’s reasonable for a civilian population to be aggravated by attacks which cannot be fought, which come by surprise by a more wealthy and powerful country that is hated and envied.

It’s also not surprising that drone strikes, yes, do kill more militants than civilians. They’re not a strategic air campaign by B-52s over North Vietnam.

Nevertheless, the AP’s argument that drone strikes kill less civilians is drawn a little too finely, particularly since the agency goes to some length to account for all the civilians killed. It’s a significant number.

Excerpted:

American drone strikes inside Pakistan are killing far fewer civilians than many in the country are led to believe, according to a rare on-the-ground investigation by The Associated Press of 10 of the deadliest attacks in the past 18 months.


Indeed, the AP was told by the villagers that of at least 194 people killed in the attacks, about 70 percent — at least 138 — were militants. The remaining 56 were either civilians or tribal police, and 38 of them were killed in a single attack on March 17, 2011.

Excluding that strike, which inflicted one of the worst civilian death tolls since the drone program started in Pakistan, nearly 90 percent of the people killed were militants, villagers said.


[In 2011] a drone fired missiles at the guest room of a large compound in Hasan Khel, a village in the mountains dominated by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a Pakistani militant commander fighting foreign troops in Afghanistan.

The strike killed 25 people, including 20 militants, three children and two women, said Mamrez Gul, who owns a shop near the site of the attack. The militants were staying in the guest room, and the civilians were sleeping in a nearby room that was also destroyed by the blasts. A funeral was held for the women and children, but the bodies of the militants were taken away, said Mamrez Gul.


One London-based group, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, has published drone casualty figures based on media reports, witness testimony and other information. It said strikes have killed between 2,383 and 3,109 people, of whom 464 to 815 were civilians. That implies the percentage of militants killed was roughly 70 to 80 percent.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s breakdown aligns reasonably with the percentages offered today by the Associated Press.


Another AP story mirrors others on the push to expand and extoll drone industry and surveillance in the US.

Most of it focuses on all the allegedy wonderful uses of the machines.

Some of the instances are absurd pieces of prototype robotics, loved by the tech press, but which will probably wind up as nothing by apocrypha.

There’s the alleged hummingbird drone by a local SoCal company, a thing which performs nothing like a hummingbird. I’ve dumped on previously here.

“Drones come in all sizes, from the high-flying Global Hawk with its 116-foot wingspan to a hummingbird-like drone that weighs less than an AA battery and can perch on a window ledge to record sound and video. Lockheed Martin has developed a fake maple leaf seed, or ‘whirly bird,’ ” reads the AP report.

Indeed, small remote controlled fliers pop up in the news from time to time.

Last week it was reported anti-pigeon shoot activist Steve Hindi was in the news for an incident in South Carolina.

Hindi has been after pigeon shoots since at least the late Eighties. He’s been successful at it and his crew of protesters also dispersed the South Carolina shoot. In retaliation, the South Carolina pigeon shooters downed his remote-controlled observer, demonstrating you can fight back — or shoot skeet — against the smaller, unarmed and much cheaper models.

From the wire:

“Seconds after [the drone] hit the air, numerous shots rang out,” Hindi said in the release. “As an act of revenge for us shutting down the pigeon slaughter, they had shot down our copter.”

He claimed the shooters were “in tree cover” and “fled the scene on small motorized vehicles.”

Coincidentally, many years ago I covered the Labor Day pigeon shoot in Hegins, PA, and it is mentioned here and here.

The locals beat Steve Hindi and his followers at that event but he had the last laugh. The Hegins shoot was eventually halted.

But back to the so-called wonderfulness of domestic drones.

I’m betting the price breakdown is simple. If the drone is tiny and innocuous, a small remote-controlled model plane or helicopter with a camera, it will remain cheap and small businesses will (and do) buy them for various tasks. The big arms manufacturers really won’t be interested in that end of the market because, well, it’s not rich enough.

However, those drones developed using taxpayer money filtered through defense spending will never be cheap. They will be sold/leased to police forces and local governments through grants/subsidies handed out by homeland security.

I wrote about it here at GlobalSecurity.

An their contribution to employment and the middle class economy will be negligible:

In a Monday post at the Secrecy Blog, entitled “DoD Envisions ‘Routine’ UAS Access to US Airspace,” Steve Aftergood includes a claim by a member of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International drone industry lobbying group:

“Over the next 15 years more than 23,000 … jobs could be created in the U.S. as the result of UAS integration into the [National Air Space.]”

When industry trade groups are boosting something they always include job creation claims as enticements.

Using simple arithmetic it is easy to put such claims in perspective.

Using the drone industry’s own figure on job creation,. that’s 1,533 and one third jobs/year. Spread over a country the size of the United States at 311.5 million.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the employment/population ratio is 58 percent, which means 180.7 million people in the labor force this year.

Here’s the calculation:

1,533.33 divided by 180,700,000 = 8.48550083 × 10-6

That is, drone work is projected to contribute 8.48 x 10 to the MINUS SIXTH POWER, in terms of relative percentage to the current labor force.

And the inimitable and very singable official Dick Destiny drone song is here. You should post it on your website. It’s more pleasant and humorous than watching any tech nerd idiot video of little flying machines.

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