03.30.12

Doing God’s work (continued)

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 1:04 pm by George Smith

Two weeks ago, the Goldman Sachs man spilling it on the opinion pages of the New York Times:

“Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence …”

Now for the million dollar book offer and tour of tv news programs.

Today:

Greg Smith, the former Goldman Sachs executive who condemned the powerful investment bank in a scathing New York Times opinion column, has landed a deal to write a book about his 12 years at the firm, according to media reports on Friday.

Smith, who resigned from Goldman earlier this month, set off a bidding war when he met with several major publishers earlier this week about a book that would include details of what Smith has described as a toxic culture at the famous Wall Street firm, said a publishing industry source.

The final deal was first reported in Friday’s New York Post, which said Grand Central publishing, an imprint of the Hachette Book Group, paid a $1.5 million advance for the book.

NY Times quote from the book deal winner:

My proudest moments in life — getting a full scholarship to go from South Africa to Stanford University, being selected as a Rhodes Scholar national finalist, winning a bronze medal for table tennis at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, known as the Jewish Olympics — have all come through hard work, with no shortcuts.

It’s really hard not to lose all faith.

03.29.12

You can’t polish the turd

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 3:30 pm by George Smith

Pink slime and Beef Products, Inc. are on the ropes. So politicians who aren’t very popular have been recruited to burnish the image.

Public relations men gather, offering advice they know won’t work.

It’s black comedy watching the calamity unfold. And a bit reassuring, knowing this is going down to defeat unless the company can find a way to get it back into hamburger on the sly.

Excerpted:

Top elected officials in key beef-producing states Thursday toured the sole remaining plant in the country where “lean, finely textured beef” — otherwise known as “pink slime” — is manufactured. They were there to show support for the much-maligned filler and the jobs they say its production creates …

Meat industry supporters including Govs. Terry Branstad of Iowa and Rick Perry of Texas planned to tour the plant Thursday and sample the product.

“It’s the perception problem. They have this moniker now and they can’t seem to get the slime off of them,” said Marcia Horowitz, senior executive vice president at Rubenstein & Associates. Ideally, a new name would be both “accurate and non-scary,” she said, although she would shy away from using the word “beef” …

Both Horowitz and Johansson speculated that the beef industry might make a play for consumers’ heartstrings.

“Focus on jobs,” Horowitz said. The Associated Press reported that some 650 Beef Products employees found themselves out of work when the company shut down its other facilities. Since meat containing the filler is cheaper, Horowitz said a focus on affordability could also be a good strategy.

“Nostalgia is popular right now,” Johansson said. “Get back to the nostalgia of beef and how American it is.”

Nostalgia, pink slime, and “how American it is”? Certainly, it is totally American. In a very current give-us-money-for-this-crap-because-we-say-so predatory way.

Here are some possible hooks for re-invigorating the brand:

Please buy it or we’ll fire Joe the Ammonia Gas Technician.

Taking the grist out of gristle.

Perfect for the food stamps budget!

It’s this or E. coli O157:H7. Think of your children.

It’s sinful to let any of the cow go to waste. People are starving in
Korea, don’t you know?!

Only socialists, commies and scientists don’t like it!

Ammonia, it’s what’s in your baby’s diaper after a day or two cooking in the pail.

Pink slime is yet more mess proving that those who manufacture odious things in America cannot be made to see them that way, even when their corporate noses are rubbed in it by mass opprobrium.

Art = life

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 12:25 pm by George Smith

Music for the unpleasant themes of our time. No Norman Vincent Peale-isms, love songs, homilies or uplifting messages. Get your hate on because it’s good for you, a sane response to the condition of living in the USA.


“Apple’s reasons for hoarding so much of its money also raise questions … Apple executives said this week that they had lobbied Washington for tax concessions that would relieve them of much of their tax liability if they repatriated the cash. That smacks of corporate welfare and hardly induces sympathy for a company that is minting money, particularly at a time of such big fiscal deficits.

“More broadly, Apple has come to exemplify the conspicuous wealth – both corporate and personal – that is coursing through Silicon Valley.

“The social obligation this creates has so far been ignored … Apple and its peers stand apart in their financial resources yet with their extended global supply chains, they have multiplied jobs abroad rather than at home. Silicon Valley’s success has largely failed to reverberate to the wider benefit of the society that created it …

“[Apple’s] wealth throws into sharp relief the conditions endured by workers at its Chinese suppliers.” —from the Financial Times

From the Financial Times, a compendium of book reviews on national decline and losing it to China:

Americans seem to want to read about national decline. The more dire the prediction, the more heated the prose, the more colourful the book title, the better. Conservative commentator Mark Steyn’s jeremiad After America: Get Ready for Armageddon made it to number four on the New York Times’s bestseller list. Peter D Kiernan’s Becoming China’s Bitch briefly topped the Amazon chart …

The book’s title [Becoming China’s Bitch: And Nine More Catastrophes We Must Avoid Right Now] might lead the reader to expect a provocative tract on US-Chinese relations. In fact, this is just one of a huge number of topics that the writer yokes together under the general theme of impending catastrophes that threaten America. In a losing battle to structure his thoughts, Kiernan makes a great many lists. He starts with “five factors that freeze us”, preventing America from dealing with its problems. These are the media, lobbyists, think-tanks, religion in America and its political parties – which seems pretty comprehensive. He then moves on to 10 “impending catastrophes” that he would like to see dealt with, only the first of which concerns America’s relationship with China. This he describes, obscurely, as “a co-dependency which is decoupling”.

Kiernan’s writing is dazzlingly bad …

Travelling around the world as a reporter and columnist, I have found that an erosion of US economic and political power, and a shift towards China, is already palpable … Europe’s leaders are appealing to Beijing, rather than Washington, for emergency financial assistance. In Africa, a continent is being transformed by Chinese investment. Even in the Americas, Chinese influence is growing: Brazil now does more trade with China than with the US.

From a Reuters poll:

The most common reason cited by voters of all political stripes for the rising cost was oil company greed.

Overall, 36 percent of respondents said “oil companies that want to make too much profit” deserve the most blame for higher energy prices. Twenty-eight percent of Republicans said so, as did 44 percent of Democrats and 32 percent of independents.

Twenty-six percent of all respondents said a range of factors was equally to blame, including oil companies, politicians, foreign countries that dominate oil reserves and environmentalists who want to limit oil exploration.

From The Daily Ticker today:

“There is no justification for the current gas prices. This is all about speculation by the people who are speculating on the price of oil and gas,” [says an ex-Senator]. “We could shutdown excess speculation in commodity markets. This government should do that.”

[Then he peddles his book.]

Former Senator Dorgan, a long-time clean energy advocate, joined The Daily Ticker’s Aaron Task to discuss U.S. energy policy (or lack thereof), which is the subject of his new fictionalized thriller, Blowout. It is the first in a two-book series, which the senator calls an “eco-thriller.”

The premise: “What if we were right on the edge of discovering a new source of energy that costs very very little, who would try to stop it and why and how,” he explains.

In “Blowout,” Dorgan writes of a team of scientists who are testing microbes that “eat their way” through coal, leaving dirty waste and methane behind. If successful, coal could be mined and produced without the polluting the atmosphere, which leads to climate change.

[“A Congressional Research Service 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.'” — DD blog.


There was an album including all these tunes. But I didn’t have enough money to put it on CD. iTunes, and all it’s second tier imitators, require tithing — more accurately, micro-bribes.

Paying Apple anything to dispense rock n’ roll is anathema. And I’m hardly the only person who thinks so.

Lots of people used to wish for the end of the rule of big record companies. They were granted their wishes. But the result has been like getting what you want in Wishmaster.

There was no real practical option but to give the last record away free, too. Because Steve Jobs and Apple destroyed the album market at a fundamental level, redirecting the profit stream of popular music from recording giants to Cupertino nerds through their technologies of iKit mediated theft creative destruction. Jobs was not innovative in this. He did not create the digital music file format. Jobs’ gift to consumers was a mass storage device for a higgledy-piggledy collection of tunes as a consumer bauble pretty enough for people to covet above everything else. Vulture capitalism and algorithm-greased cutting of throats in the recording industry came built-in with the iPod.

As a bonus, they helped take out the pleasure of going to record stores and few ten thousand businessmen and employees who made, on average, modest livings.

In 1985 I was able to make a record and sell it.

Now a patronizing random asshole gives it away on the Internet, too. (It’s the first link in Google!) Go to the link and leave him some superciliousness in the comments section for me.


Malware and Google

Posted in Cyberterrorism at 10:28 am by George Smith

Yesterday, GlobalSecurity.Org was flagged as a site “that may harm your computer” by Google. I was off and on it during the day, porting the Yellow Fever post to the SITREP blog.

When Google flags your domain as harmful you take a hit.

So what was the deal? Hard to say with certainty.

Initial indications were a malware redirection attack put in through an iframe and ad server.

Iframes are used to run advertisements and attackers always use them to put invisible or nearly invisible windows on a page which get the browser to make a request to a malicious site.

The anti-virus software maker, Sophos, explains it in technical terms here.

Excerpting:

When the page loads, [the iframe] element causes the browser to request … content from the ad server. Ordinarily, this content would just contain the relevant ads, but when the ad server has been compromised, it also contains a malicious JavaScript …

[The malicious] iframe points to an exploit site, which proceeds to [probe] client vulnerabilities and infect the user with malware.

Any websites that take ads from third parties are vulnerable and it’s a common occurrence. The damage is done and the remedy is to remove the compromised adserver scripts and code from the domain.

DD is intimately familiar with web-served malware.

So the Google flag was a surprise. During the afternoon, when the warning was issued, I noticed no malicious code served to my computer. I have a number of things in place which fairly immediately allow me to see suspicious activity generated by malware that is not yet detected by anti-virus software.

And there’s the rub. The anti-virus software site linked to above describes the malware and says it flags some such attacks. But because anti-virus software can only block those signatures it already carries, there is always a time in which new attacks get through.

This is what all the makers of malicious code exploit. It is a game of continual catch-up and clean-up.

This attack, indeed almost all current malware attacks, render this article on home clean-up of viruses quaint.

The article, on Yahoo, is essentially a recommendation to get all the free anti-virus software you can, once you’re infected, and run it.

Eventually, you’ll have something that will remove the malware. And if you’re still stuck you’ll have to pay someone to finally get rid of it.

It illustrates, with some hard finality, that malware is beyond management by the average user. The risk and existing hazards have to be dealt with by layers above. Malware attacks are administered beyond the intervention and knowledge of, for argument’s sake, virtually all users.

In the cases of domains flagged by Google, the webmasters and administrators have to cope with it.

Yesterday, Google was the only place flagging GlobalSecurity.Org. However, as the biggest and most important entity, functionally it’s the only one that matters. If Google blacklists you, you suffer.

I was not served any malware while on the site. However, that doesn’t mean there was a problem.

I scanned the domain with Wepawet, a UC Santa Barbara web app that probes for malicious code and embedded exploits. The first result in very late afternoon returned an almost benign report. There were a couple elements, the report indicated, which could not be interpreted. Later in the evening these warnings were gone, too, apparently after Globalsecurity had removed an applet that Google’s diagnostics had flagged as malicious.

It was also possible that it was a false positive, a very annoying reality of the current worldwide model of computer security. It is an ineradicable feature of modern computing.

For a couple months Globalsecurity has been running a Javascript clock that displayed a countdown to Israel’s bombing of Iran. If you use the site, you would have seen it at the top of the page.

“Yesterday Google decided the script was malware,” John Pike told me in e-mail.

The malware flag is now removed from GlobalSecurity.Org.

Whatever had actually transpired — I have no samples of malicious code downloaded to my machine to look at — Google’s response time was pretty good.

Monetizing the kooks

Posted in Extremism, Imminent Catastrophe at 8:48 am by George Smith

You’ve already seen, or read about, National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers, a show capitalizing on the demographic of white kooks preparing for the fall of American civilization — and a small audience of other people you don’t want to meet who enjoy watching them, similar to those who love video of hockey fights that bring in the crowd or football players suffering career-ending hits.

The preppers are needy. So they require a dating site tuned to their interests, just like everyone else.

While I’m not convinced there’s any money in it, someone is giving it it the old college dig-a-slit-latrine try:

[A] site called Survivalist Singles has entered the online dating scene, catering specifically to this niche community of “preppers,” “survivalists” and “doomsdayers.”

Survivalist Singles, which officially launched in 2010, boasts the slogan, “Don’t face the future alone.” Its ranks are growing — quadrupling to about 1,640 members from around 400 at the end of 2010.

Members of the site range widely in their doomsday beliefs, said Andrea Burke, a 45-year-old middle school art teacher from Montana who took over the site from its previous owner last summer.

“Most will agree that something is brewing that may change life as we know it, whether it be a collapse of the economy, an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) or other natural or government disaster,” Burke said.

Love for less than a box of bullets, or something similar, is the motto.

The dilemma faced by preppers is plain. The image projected is poor because they’re … kooks. A Bible-beating white guy/militia man in Wyoming, the Dakotas, Idaho, Utah, the Piedmont or the wastelands of Texas who dresses in camo is a hard sell.

“It’s hard to connect with someone … You can’t explain why your truck is packed like you’re always ready for an expedition …” reads one quote from a user looking for connection.

“Some members, though, have already found love on the site … Iron Ranger … found his soul mate, or “twin flame,” only two days after joining Survivalist Singles … They live six hours away from each other so they have only met in person twice …” reads another.

Familiarity breeds contempt, as the saying goes.


“When you have somebody within single digit feet of you … the dynamics of that situation are just going to be a wee bit different than somebody 25 yards away, who you have a clear shot at …”

Gals and guys like the Patriot Nurse, not everyone’s daisies, but if you dig close-in lethal combat training to dispatch the parasites coming for your stuff …

03.28.12

Yellow Fever

Posted in Cyberterrorism, Made in China at 1:44 pm by George Smith

This week’s news cycle has been especially full of natsec experts and government men speaking of the threat of Chinese attacks in cyberspace.

One pro forma example, from CNET:

It’s no secret the U.S. and China are waging a clandestine cyberwar. National Security Agency director Gen. Keith Alexander says it’s hitting home hard.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, Gen. Alexander said that China is stealing a “great deal” of the U.S. military’s intellectual property, adding that the NSA sees “thefts from defense industrial base companies.” According to a story in Information Week, he declined to provide any information on those attacks.

Enemies, a new book on the history of the FBI by Pulitzer winning journalist Tim Weiner, is illuminating on many fronts, including this one, by dint of sweeping perspective.

While I will get to a more complete review in the coming days, Enemies chronicles the intelligence wars between the FBI, acting as an intelligence agency and counter-terrorism operation, first as a much smaller bureau against German operatives during World War I, later against the Nazis and the Japanese, to the Cold War against the Soviet Union, and in the Eighties and Nineties against the Chinese.

The intelligence wars are unsurprising. It is equally unsurprising that foreign powers have always engaged in extensive operations to obtain military and corporate secrets in the US. All through the history of the republic.

Somehow we survived them.

Broader minds with more comprehensive eyes toward history might then view the current convulsions of news, crystallizing about the utterances of experts and ex-government men who may not even be remembered when a future history like Enemies is written four decades hence, as nothing more than business as usual.

If there were a public debate today with the US middle class on the subject, what do you think would concern people more — the volcanic loss of jobs to China caused by major shifts in the US economy, or, secrets stolen from the “military industrial base”?

We have the answer. It’s jobs and the concomitant loss in economic prosperity. Period.

In another piece, this from the Wall Street Journal, Shawn Henry, the FBI’s “top cyber cop” states hackers are winning everywhere.

Reads the WSJ:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s top cyber cop offered a grim appraisal of the nation’s efforts to keep computer hackers from plundering corporate data networks: “We’re not winning,” he said.

Shawn Henry, who is preparing to leave the FBI after more than two decades with the bureau, said in an interview that the current public and private approach to fending off hackers is “unsustainable.” Computer criminals are simply too talented and defensive measures too weak to stop them, he said.

In Enemies, Weiner’s history recounts many instances throughout a span of around eighty to ninety years in which the FBI waxed and waned in its intelligence and counter-terrorism operations.

Under J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI was a powerful secret police and America’s premier intelligence agency. But Hoover faltered badly near the end of his career and life as scandals over illegal operations and civic unrest due to the Vietnam War spread across the land.

Over the course of the presidencies of Johnson, then Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan, the FBI was roiled, increasing in power or decreasing in capability, depending on many factors, among them the strength and wisdom of its leadership and the American political landscape, whether engaged in renewal or feeding a national paranoia that saw plots, terrorists and spies to be smashed everywhere.

In this it is no different than the news today. Enemies, some very small, some credible and large, and many made of whole cloth, always threatened the country.

Weiner’s Enemies chronicles many famous and relatively unknown men in the FBI, all of whom played some important role in national security, intelligence and counter-terror operations in the US.

There is not a single instance in the book of the now commonplace event in which government men leave for more lucrative positions in the national security private sector. Many of the figures in Enemies, like a Shawn Henry, were very serious in their thinking that the US was constantly at threat. And perhaps losing.

However, unlike our current models, they did not seem to share the trait of leaving for more money when there were still battles to be fought.

Before concluding, one claim by Richard Clarke, published in The Smithsonian yesterday, deserves a second look.

It reads:

Clarke, who says there have been war games on precisely such a revived confrontation, now believes that we might be forced to give up playing such a role for fear that our carrier group defenses could be blinded and paralyzed by Chinese cyberintervention.

A better journalist than The Smithsonian’s might have blinked and asked Clarke how exactly does one stop or blind a carrier group through “cyberintervention.”

It is not snark to suggest that someone ask for an explanation of how such thing could be done.

So, again — anybody, how do you stop a carrier group with “cyberintervention”?

There is no mention of “cyberintervention” or anything similar to it in a recent Congressional Research Service report entitled China Naval Modernization Implications for US Navy Capabilities — Background and Issues for Congress.

How do you use cyberwar or “cyberintervention” to stop reconnaissance aircraft and fighter bombers from eyeballing targets? How does “cyberintervention” prevent a barrage of Tomahawk missiles from hitting plotted stationary targets or those acquired by a variety of observing assets? How does “cyberintervention” stop the bombers and attack submarines?

These aren’t stupid questions.

What is stupid is believing there’s some reasonable logic at work in a statement suggesting one can just do away with the biggest military in the world through “cyberintervention.”


To put it in a better perspective, and to underline how any critical sense seems to have gone out the door in interviews of this nature, would you believe if an authority figure like Richard Clarke told you he could jump to the Moon?

Why not? Explain the difference between the two claims.

03.27.12

Richard Clarke sings the China Toilet Blooz

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism, Made in China at 4:34 pm by George Smith

For Smithsonian magazine, Richard Clarke makes what the magazine’s reporter thinks an audacious statement.

Now keep in mind the 1 percent and their shoe-shiners have never looked at the China trade deficit from the aisles of Target or Wal-Mart.

For some reason Clarke believes American companies giving everything over to China is astonishing stuff, a development people are not concerned enough about. They need to be told.

So you’ve a snapshot of our culture of lickspittle in action. Tough old mutton everyone’s chewed through many times repackaged as new fresh veal cutlets.

Clarke in the Smithsonian:

The vision Clarke has is of a modern technological nightmare, casting the United States as Dr. Frankenstein, whose scientific genius has created millions of potential monsters all over the world. But Clarke is even more concerned about “official” hackers such as those believed to be employed by China.

“I’m about to say something that people think is an exaggeration, but I think the evidence is pretty strong,” he tells me. “Every major company in the United States has already been penetrated by China” …

“My greatest fear,” Clarke says, “is that, rather than having a cyber-Pearl Harbor event, we will instead have this death of a thousand cuts. Where we lose our competitiveness by having all of our research and development stolen by the Chinese. And we never really see the single event that makes us do something about it. That it’s always just below our pain threshold. That company after company in the United States spends millions, hundreds of millions, in some cases billions of dollars on R&D and that information goes free to China….After a while you can’t compete.”

It’s not below your pain threshold if you’re among the 99 percent.

Wait, there’s more, the US military could be embarrassed militarily.

“Say there was another confrontation, such as the one in 1996 when President Clinton rushed two carrier battle fleets to the Taiwan Strait to warn China against an invasion of Taiwan,” reads the magazine. “Clarke, who says there have been war games on precisely such a revived confrontation, now believes that we might be forced to give up playing such a role for fear that our carrier group defenses could be blinded and paralyzed by Chinese cyberintervention.”

“Clarke now wants to warn us, urgently, that we are being failed again, being left defenseless against a cyberattack that could bring down our nation’s entire electronic infrastructure, including the power grid, banking and telecommunications, and even our military command system,” reads the script.


Get the pies. Imagine Richard Clarke on the stage.

Victor von Doom and the Cult of EMP Crazy

Posted in Crazy Weapons at 3:34 pm by George Smith

From the mists of time and the old archive of Crypt Newsletter material, a summary of amusing stories on electromagnetic pulse weaponry in the mainstream news. All of it over a decade old.

While it’s not for laymen, a quick read gives some historical perspective on why electromagnetic pulse weapons are the technology that’s always been coming but never quite arriving. They comprise a tech Bigfoot surrounded and nurtured by an environment of gullible fools, superstitious people, national defense paranoids, charlatans and mountebanks.


Calling Victor von Doom — published 1999

From the Josef K Guide to Tech terminology:

EMP gun: n. Always suspected but never seen, the EMP — electromagnetic pulse — weapon is the chupacabra of cyberspace. Accordingly, it is said to be responsible for much nettlesome corporate computer and bank failure, almost always in countries where such things cannot be verified.

Usage: Pelham was amused when the overly gullible newspaper reporter published his frank lies about Russian computer programmers knocking over international banks with emp guns made from stolen Radio Shack equipment.

————

One of the most persistent fairy tales propagated in information warfare circles is the urban legend of the electromagnetic pulse gun. When it shows up in the mainstream media, courtesy of Reuters or the Associated Press, it looks something like this:

Dateline BRUSSELS — Criminals can use the Internet to create powerful electromagnetic weapons that threaten society with chaos and destruction, a Latverian military officer warned Friday.

“Underground sites on the Internet contain instructions on how to put together dangerous weapons that use electromagnetic or high-energy pulses that cripple computer systems, telephone systems and alarms, according to Victor von Doom, chief engineer at the Defense Materials division of the Latverian armed forces’ electronic systems division.

“High-tech goods found everywhere in the world can be used to create powerful weapons using recipes found on the Internet,” said von Doom at a meeting of the International Association Of Quack Computer Consultants in Europe.

“The problem is spreading from Russia, von Doom said.”

Pretty scary. But sensational garbage that was actually published by one of the wire news services. Crypt News only changed the names of the parties involved.

[For a more recent example from the newsmedia, consider 20/20’s coverage of radio frequency weapons in the “Postscript.”]

Crypt News took the time to talk to some scientists at Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque. Neal Singer pronounced it an interesting urban legend. Sandia, of course, is one of the national laboratories responsible for weaponization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The lab has also done extensive research into shielding against and generation of electromagnetic pulse effects.

Awareness of electromagnetic pulse effects happened in 1962 when a 1.4 megaton nuclear weapon was detonated in Test Shot Starfish. The Starfish shot was conducted 400 kilometers high above the mid-Pacific and the electromagnetic pulse from it destroyed satellite equipment and blocked high frequency radio communications across the Pacific for 30 minutes. “Strings of street lights in Oahu went out and hundreds of burglar alarms set off when the pulses overloaded their circuits,” wrote William Arkin in “S.I.O.P.: The Strategic U.S. Plan for Nuclear War.” A scientist at Lawrence Livermore, Nicholas Christofilos, had predicted this effect earlier in the rear, calculating that high energy particles from a nuclear burst high in the atmosphere would become trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field, producing a series of lightning-like pulses.

Since then, the idea of using electromagnetic effects as a death ray, of sorts, produced without a messy 1.4 megaton nuclear explosion, has become increasingly interesting to fans of the weird quack-science of non-lethality and, for some reason, computer security experts and teenage hackers. For example, Crypt Newsletter frequently receives poorly spelled advertisements put together by teenagers advertising schematics for electromagnetic computer death rays for about $5.00 cash U.S. These, along with instructions for turning the telephone handset into an electric chair, software for melting the circuitry in a PC, and recipes for poisoning enemies with arsenicals — come dirt cheap on pink photocopying paper or cheesy-looking pamphlets sold at “Survival Books” in north Hollywood.

Interestingly, Winn Schwartau did much to embed the myth of the emp weapon in the mainstream imagination with his 1994 book “Information Warfare.” In it, Schwartau wrote of secret U.S. missiles used against Iraq in the Gulf War to short circuit communications through bursts of microwaves. It was an interesting mistake based on a more prosaic reality having nothing to do with emp weapons. In the Gulf War, the Navy used a few Tomahawks containing spools of carbon filament. The filament was deployed across Iraq’s power lines and stations by the Tomahawks, causing black-outs by short circuit around Baghdad.

Since 1992 the tale of the emp gun has been seized upon by hackers rather too eager to sell gullible journalists on a pseudo-reality of imposing feats of technical legerdemain. (For example, mention of it as a hacker tool contaminates Alvin and Heidi Toffler’s “War and Anti-War,” published in 1993. The EMP gun appearances are also cyclical, many times attached every year to Winn Schwartau, Inc.’s information warfare conventions in Washington, DC. Journalists attend these types of things and report that the EMP gun has just been invented. Almost like clockwork — appearances in the media, be it 1997, 1998, 1999, even mere months apart, such reporters have almost no memory on subject — and the EMP gun is “invented” anew, rising from its own ashes, another phoenix of mystifying electronic danger that puts us all at risk. However, what is usually “invented” is little more than a glorified stun baton that can make a television screen blink or a radio speaker emit static at about ten paces.)

In another such story, “Hack Attack,” published as a cover feature in a 1996 issue of Forbes ASAP magazine, a number of “dangerous ex-hackers” played the game, “Let’s lie to the journalist.” The emp-weapon-used-against-Iraq myth was deployed:

Forbes writer: Have you ever heard of a device that directs magnetic signals at hard disks and can scramble the data?

Dangerous ex-hackers, in unison: Yes! A HERF [high energy radio frequency] gun.

Dangerous ex-hacker A: This is my nightmare. $300: a rucksack full of car batteries, a microcapacitor and a directional antenna and I could point it at Oracle . . .

Dangerous ex-hacker B: We could cook the fourth floor.

Dangerous ex-hacker A: . . . You could park it in a car and walk away. It’s a $300 poor man’s nuke . . .

Dangerous ex-hacker A, on a roll: They were talking about giving these guns to border patrol guards so they can zap Mexican cars as they drive across the border and fry their fuel injection . . .

Dangerous ex-hacker A, really piling it on: There are only three or four people who know how to build them, and they’re really tight lipped . . . We used these in the Persian Gulf. We cooked the radar installation.

In other parts of the article the “dangerous ex-hackers” discuss the ease of building what purports to be a $300 death ray out of Radio Shack parts and car batteries. In a rare moment of intellectual honesty and self-scrutiny the “dangerous ex-hackers” admit there are a lot of “snake oil salesmen” in the computer security business.

The sticking point of the legend, according to Sandia’s Singer and others Crypt News interviewed, is the generation of militarily interesting amounts of electromagnetic pulse. To generate the effects ascribed to the notional weapon requires power fluxes that would kill everyone triggering the device and everyone in the vicinity of the detonation and target. Far easier to use Tim McVeigh’s fuel oil-soaked fertilizer truck bomb.

John Pike, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Space Policy Project puckishly commented, “[This] is sorta like Dr. Strangelove saying that a Doomsday Machine ‘would not be dificult’! It is easily within the reach of even the smallest . . . nuclear power.”

Nevertheless, the myth of electromagnetic pulse weapons remains powerful, gaining lodgment in the damndest places. Indeed, in Crypt Newsletter 42 one article discussed how a U.S. Army course on information warfare in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, was instructing about them in its sub-lecture devoted to weaponry.

Now, Crypt News provides a thumbnail list of the myth’s characteristic hearsay.

1. The EMP gun is always seen in remote places, as in “Boris Badenov, a computer security consultant, said criminal hooligans had destroyed a bank network in Dvinsk with an emp gun and escaped with 8 millions rubles in blackmail money.”

2. The EMP gun is always developed by adjunct professors, fringe military reservists, or hackers. For example: “Glip Popple, an adjunct professor of information warfare at the Technical University of Gobble-Wallah in Australia, said he had built a working emp gun for $2,000,” or “Uber-Fiend, a hacker for a group calling itself Karn Evil 9, told Reuters correspondents he had built a 12 gigaJoule electromagnetic pulse projector.”

3. EMP guns are always secret, protected by classification, as in, “W. E. van Azathoth, a computer scientist genius working for the northern Virginia company Nefari US Electronics, had written a working paper on constructing emp weapons from four bags of sour cream and onion potato chips, a roll of aluminum foil and a positronic hammer — it was immediately seized and classified by the National Security Agency.

4. Sometimes only unnamed “experts” talk about EMP guns, as in: “Experts have revealed to Associated Press reporters that U.S. banks lost $90 billion due to electromagnetic pulse attacks in 1996 — the assaults untraceable, the perpetrators — unknown.”

5. Illicit EMP gun blueprints are on the Internet. Usage: “This reporter was told by a very highly placed Pentagon consultant that plans for EMP guns were on the Internet and that teen hooligans and criminal gangsters had obtained them.”

6. Infrequently, an “EMP gun” — more accurately, anything that can emulate the electromagnetic emissions of a large, unshielded electric motor — will be demonstrated on assorted pieces of electronic equipment at conversational range. Results will be trivial or unremarkable and the demonstrator, often someone with a cargo cult-like devotion to the memory and work of Nikola Tesla, will dress them up as quite the opposite. Invariably, the demonstrations are conducted by people or agencies who just “coincidentally” happen to offer consulting services to defend against EMP guns.

Indeed, it must be considered that in a country where a googly-eyed eunuch can persuade a large group of educated adults to poison themselves in preparation for hitching a ride on a flying saucer and a significant portion of the citizenry cannot be convinced that aliens didn’t land at Roswell, the EMP gun must be a lead pipe cinch to sell.

Postscript: Interestingly, an EMP gun inventor, David Schriner, showed up on ABC’s 20/20 in mid-February 1999 to demonstrate the effects of it for an overawed Diane Sawyer. After donning fancy protective suits and unusual-looking copper mesh headgear, Schriner tested his weapon on Sawyer’s corvette and a white limousine. At a range of about 5-10 feet and with the weapon pointed directly into the automobiles’ open engine compartment, Schriner’s electromagnetic pulse gun made Sawyer’s idling corvette . . . run roughly. [Crypt News notes it can make any car’s engine stop permanently, not just hesitate, at a range of five feet with a sledgehammer aimed directly into an open engine compartment.] Once, said Sawyer, the electric locks in her car’s doors went up and down, too. While Sawyer stood well away from her car, farther away from it than Schriner’s contraption, electronic videocameras inside the car continued to work during the firing of the “weapon.”

During the segment, Sawyer claimed “results” of testing of electromagnetic pulse on a Cobra helicopter at Junction Ranch in China Lake were “classified.” Curiously, Crypt Newsletter covered the results of this test which were published on the Web over a year ago by the government.

Besides David Schriner’s demonstration of a short range microwave’s ability to occasionally stall an idling, parked car at extremely close range, Sawyer’s story — like all Crypt News has seen on the subject, relied a great deal upon hearsay.

Now, here comes the tricky part.

Sawyer also claimed on 20/20: “Russian criminals have used an RF weapon, we’re told, to disarm security and rob a bank.”

Crypt Newsletter repeats from the top of the story:

“Pelham was amused when the overly gullible newspaper reporter published his frank lies about Russian computer programmers knocking over international banks with emp guns made from stolen Radio Shack equipment.”

And:

“Boris Badenov, a computer security consultant, said criminal hooligans had destroyed a bank network in Dvinsk with an emp gun and escaped with 8 millions rubles in blackmail money.”

Read carefully: Crypt Newsletter made these statements up in 1997 as humorous examples — jokes — to be used as material for this article. In the context of this piece, they are amusing fictions.

Apparently, Crypt Newsletter’s jokes about EMP guns have traveled sufficiently far away from their original source to wind up gulling Diane Sawyer on 20/20 in 1999.

Update: March 03, 1998: One of Diane Sawyer’s sources for the 20/20 broadcast was Victor Sheymov, a KGB defector who advertised himself as a communications expert. Sheymov told Sawyer the KGB has used a microwave weapon to start a fire in the U.S. embassy in 1997 for the purposes of annoyance and in hope that firemen would be summoned. Using the firemen as cover, the idea was to plant listening devices in the embassy.

Sheymov said the same thing before the House Joint Economic in February 1999, describing what can only be characterized as trivial effects of alleged Russian EMP gun use:

Sheymov: Another example of a [EMP] attack was the KGB’s manipulation of the United States Embassy security system in Moscow in the mid-80s. This was done in the course of the KGB operation against the Embassy which targeted the U.S. marines there. The security system alarm was repeatedly falsely triggered by the KGB’s induced [radio frequency] interference several times during the night. This was an attempt to annoy and fatigue the marines [sic] and to cause the turning of the “malfunctioning” system off.

Woo – a ringing alarm and, next, an alleged minor fire — pretty scary stuff. Surely the cloth a national emergency is woven from.

Sheymov: Additional example of an [EMP] attack was when the KGB used it to induce fire in one of the equipment rooms in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in 1977. A malfunction was forced on a piece of equipment. It caught fire, which spread over a sensitive area of the Embassy. The KGB tried to infiltrate its bugging technicians into the sensitive area under the cover of the firefighters who arrived immediately after the fire started.

Subsequent to his appearance on 20/20, Sheymov was placed on the payroll of the National Security Agency where what was unclassified trivial testimony for TV reporters is, apparently, now classified. [Crypt Newsletter asks the question: How does one measure the incentive for alleged KGB defectors to embroider their stories for American handlers in hopes they will be put on a taxpayer-derived salary?]

[Many years ago Sheymov also started a trivial computer security firm, very little of which actually appears to exist.

“A security firm headed by a former KGB agent has come under fire for claims its forthcoming products provide the ultimate solution to computer security problems,” reads a short news piece from 2001.]

Update — March 23, 1999: Yellow Peril — The EMP gun hallucination is now intermingled with the hysteria over Chinese spying.

In a mid-March Newsweek story on alleged Chinese penetration of the U.S. network of nuclear bomb-making national laboratories, magazine reporters write:

“[The Chinese] may also have stolen secrets about U.S. efforts [emphasis added] to devise a nuclear weapon tailored to create an electromagnetic pulse; a man-made lightning bolt that would short out anything in an enemy nation that uses electricity.”

By the 19th, the Newsweek rumor had quickly mutated into a tale of stolen electromagnetic pulse guns, courtesy of the New York Times.

Initially, during a White House press conference, President Clinton was asked by a Fox News reporter:

“Mr. President, you said just a short while ago that no one has reported to you they suspect Chinese espionage at U.S. nuclear labs during your administration, sir. But sources tell Fox News, and we are reporting this evening, that China stole the technology for electromagnetic pulse weapons from several nuclear labs during your first term in office, sir, and that the Chinese have successfully tested these weapons in China. And the sources also say that the administration, at least, was aware of this.

“Can you tell us, sir, were you not personally aware? Are you concerned about this? And what will be your administration’s response to the report?”

This raises an interesting question. How can the President determine if a weapon is stolen if it is not known to exist?

Ambushed by phlogiston, the President nevertheless gamely tried to answer:

President Clinton: “Well, you didn’t say what the source of what they sold was. You say they ‘stole, is that the word you used?”

Fox reporter: “Yes, sir, the technology for EMP weapons, from four of the 11 nuclear labs.”

The President susbsequently said he knew nothing of the matter and that he forgot little of what went on during national security briefings.

By Saturday, the New York Times had picked it up. This time, the statements on EMP guns, not nuclear weapons tuned for EMP broadcast, was attributed to the standard EMP red herring, the anonymous government source.

The reader will notice the confusion and chronic abuse of anonymous sourcing common to all of these stories.

From the New York Times: “When asked by a reporter from Fox News about whether China stole information from the labs about a nuclear device called an electromagnetic pulse warhead, during his tenure, the president said he knew nothing about that.”

“A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Friday night that intelligence reports show that China is satisfied that it has obtained the technology to develop a so-called electromagnetic gun. That gun, the official said, shoots an electromagnetic pulse.”

“It is not a nuclear weapon, however,” continued the Times, “and is different from the electromagnetic pulse warhead in the U.S. nuclear arsenal.”

In June 1997, the House Joint Economic Committee entertained testimony from a retired general, Robert Schweitzer, who claimed China was attempting to obtain EMP gun technology from Russia. During the same hearing, a great deal of effort was spent in bloviation about the Red Chinese peril.

In early 1999, a KGB-defector named Victor Sheymov claimed on national television that the KGB had used EMP guns to attack the U.S. embassy in Moscow, causing an alarm system to ring and the instigation of a minor fire. As a result, Sheymov was hired as a consultant to the National Security Agency.

One month later, amidst more Yellow Peril hysteria, the Chinese are accused of stealing not only the plans for a standard nuclear weapon, but also electromagnetic pulse guns, which have not been demonstrated to exist, and — maybe — plans for a nuclear weapon-tuned to create maximum EMP. [Perhaps the NSA should be paying “the national labs” for consultation?]

The reader may notice how none of these rumors, or news reports, appear to be on the same page.

Update — April 11, 1999: The war against Yugoslavia has spawned its own EMP weapon chupacabras.

Rumors of new weaponry in use by the US Air Force floating around the Usenet and in and out of mainstream news organizations which should know better appear to stem from a brief article of extremely suspect credibility originally published by the Moscow ITAR-TASS news service on March 29.

In “US Uses [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] as Test Site for New Bomb,” reporter Anatoly Yurkin writes:

“The USA is using Yugoslavia as a testing ground for its latest secret offensive weapons. The ITAR-TASS correspondent was told today at the Defence Ministry that, besides cluster bombs, which are extensively being used during the air strikes, the American bomber crews are using experimental samples of the latest aircraft bombs, the specifications of which differ considerably from those of conventional offensive weapons.

“This aircraft bomb was developed in secret laboratories in Los Alamos, where the first American nuclear bomb was created. The new weapon is designed to disrupt the enemy’s radio-electronic equipment. When it explodes, it generates an electric impulse, similar to the electromagnetic waves during a nuclear explosion. In its military specifications this bomb is a cross between a conventional weapon and a nuclear one, which provides grounds for regarding it as a weapon of mass destruction.

“It is reported that the US air force is using two strategic B-2 bombers, developed with the ‘Stealth’ technology, to test the latest American aircraft bomb.”

Crypt Newsletter reminds its readers that “official Russian news agencies” like ITAR-TASS have much in common with editorial practices at tabloids like the Weekly World News and National Enquirer. Traditionally, intelligence analysts have regarded it as a good source of fairy tales.

For example, on December 16, Komsomolskaya Pravda, like ITAR-TASS, one of “Russia’s largest circulation and most outspoken dailies,” published a feature entitled: “Electronic ‘Hiroshima’ Already Hidden in Moscow; 21st Century Wars Will Be Like Computer Horror Games.”

An interesting and rather amusing myth passed on by the Russian news agency was framed around the appearance of Richard Pryce, one of two British hackers who broke into the Department of Defense’s Rome Labs installation at Griffiss Air Force Base in 1994. Pryce and his [accomplice], claimed the Russian article, launched a “[space] shuttle” remotely and switched all of “New York’s traffic lights to green.”

In the same piece, the EMP weapon chupacrabras is invoked.

However, instead of U.S. bombers using it over Yugoslavia, the situation is quite the opposite: The Russian military will use EMP bombs, which it calls “beer cans,” to destroy U.S. “supercomputers.”

One hallmark of the EMP weapon chupacabras is its extreme flexibility.

One month it can be your secret weapon; the next it can be your enemy’s.

Updated — September 9, 1999: Schwartau, Inc’s. annual information warfare convention in Washington, DC., rolled out the same electromagnetic pulse gun demonstration David Schriner deployed for Diane Sawyer on 20/20 in February 1999. The primary difference was if you had a television and could tune to Sawyer in February, the demo was free, but if you went to Schwartau, Inc. in September it cost you $1000 or so. (Oops, better hope your boss who gave you use of the company credit card for it isn’t reading this.)

Schwartau, Inc’s. blurb for its $1000-buck-a-seat infowar convention read: “On Sept. 9 at InfowarCon-99, the first ever (Crypt News emphasis added) public conference demonstrations of an 1870 technology developed by Heindrich Hertz [sic] generates powerful electromagnetic effects on modern technology.”

First ever, Crypt Newsletter adds, only since an identical dog-and-pony show in February 1999 on primetime network TV.

From the 20/20 transcript of Diane Sawyer’s piece on David Schriner’s Tesla ray in February of 1999:

DIANE SAWYER (voice over) But will it work? We take precautions with our cables and computerized cameras by enclosing them in copper shielding. [David] Schriner and his assistant use copper mesh masks to protect their eyes and face.

DAVID SCHRINER: Ray one is ready for testing.

DIANE SAWYER: The first target, two computers. The objective — to crash them.

DAVID SCHRINER: Going hot!

DIANE SAWYER : Every short burst has the energy of 100 radio stations, a million watts. Watch the computer on the left. In just three seconds, it crashes. And a few seconds later, so does the other one.

Pants-wetting stuff: “first ever” crashing of a PC at about ten paces and guys in funny-looking copper wire hats. Add this to KGB officer Victor Sheymov’s claims (made in the same Diane Sawyer 20/20 broadcast in February) about the same “first ever” technology being used to set off a burglar alarm and start a small fire at the US embassy in Moscow a couple decades ago — still surely the whole cloth national security emergencies are woven from.



The Cult of EMP Crazy, DefCon 1999. Virtually unwatchable, no matter how much booze you’ve consumed.

Fresh and hot from the brains of tech douchebags

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 9:09 am by George Smith

There’s a reason to not read Wired. And it’s the slight feeling of nausea that is acquired from intelligence-insulting news of tech geek start-up companies with no business plan or application except selling dubious services to the Silicon Valley demographic of shoe-shiners for the 1 percent.

However, one can’t always avoid Wired-ism. The “scoops” are ported to other news services, where they cater to those who delight in the indomitable genius of American innovation.

Today:

[A] startup called Tacocopter has exceeded all expectations by coming up with a plan that would completely eliminate the middleman from food delivery. How does Tacocopter propose to deliver food? With an unmanned drone helicopter, of course.

According to Wired, Tacocopter is a Silicon Valley startup that came up with the business plan to deliver tacos via unmanned drone helicopters. The idea behind Tacocopter is simple in theory — using an application on a smartphone, a customer would order and pay online. A GPS location would also be transmitted and the drone helicopter would then be sent out with the food to deliver the tacos to the consumer at that location …

Tacocopter’s website launched in July 2011, but the site has only recently garnered attention, receiving more than 14,000 Facebook likes and almost 4,000 retweets. So what’s preventing you from getting on your phone right now and ordering tacos from a quadricopter? The system isn’t a reality yet.

Unfortunately, there are several obstacles preventing Tacocopter from taking off, according to Star Simpson, the MIT graduate who originally came up with the idea …

This bit magically combines the technology of trivial iPhone applications for personal gratification and annoying little robotic flying machines.

Last week, in fresh and hot from the brains of tech douchebags, the story of MIT-er Rajat Suri and the “Presto!”


Don’t forget to vote again. As part of my best practices pledge, I promise to never make anything for my own benefit that would de-job minimum wage food service workers and deliverymen.

Worthless bioterror defense company yearly report

Posted in Bioterrorism, Ricin Kooks, War On Terror at 8:50 am by George Smith

Soligenix, the old Alliance for Biosecurity firm that occasionally appears on the blog, published a statement on its activities in the year 2011 today.

A number of things stick out.

First, the company’s profit this year resulted all from a “non-refundable” cash payment, licensing purchase by a firm that must now consider itself extremely unlucky, Sigma-Tau Pharmaceuticals.

“The increase in revenues was a result of a $5.0 million non-refundable license fee from Sigma-Tau Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Sigma-Tau) in connection with the expansion of Soligenix’s existing North American commercialization rights to orBec …” reads the Soligenix statement.

“Christopher J. Schaber, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of Soligenix stated, ‘In 2011 we saw the unfortunate stoppage of our Phase 3 trial of orBec …’ ” it reads further on.

Oof, Sigma-Tau Pharmaceuticals! They bought busted goods and there’s no warranty.

[We] have restructured the organization by decreasing headcount with a continued focus on cash management and research …” continues the Soligenix report.

The firm has also moved onward with research on development of anti-radiation sickness medicine.

Sadly, this is not good news for dogs.

“On February 21, 2012, the Company announced further promising results from its continuing preclinical study of SGX202 (oral BDP) in a canine gastrointestinal acute radiation syndrome (GI ARS) model,” states the Soligenix missive. “The new study results indicate that dogs treated with SGX202 starting 24 hours after exposure to lethal doses of total body irradiation (TBI -1.61%, news) demonstrated statistically significant (p=0.04) improvement in survival when compared to control dogs …”

Grim reading. Particularly when considering the firm’s track record of unparalleled and glorious success.

Soligenix, formerly DOR BioPharma, is a company that pretty much exists because of the war on terror. Post anthrax, funding for bioterror defense took off.

Soligenix acquired licensing for the development, testing and manufacture of a vaccine for ricin from a researcher who had come up with it as a result of her work looking at the poison from the standpoint of a potential use in cancer treatment.

However, while a totally go-go industry through the middle of the decade, some funding for bioterror defense has now fallen by the wayside, due to the the economic crash of 2008, resulting austerity, and disinterest. Most of the companies in the old Alliance for Biosecurity have languished, producing nothing.

A huge bioterror defense research and vaccine facility planned for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center championed by Tara O’Toole, old leader of biodefense lobbying (now at DHS) wound up canceled. UPMC’s bioterror defense program seems to have other troubles, too.

The ricin vaccine, although still the subject of some press releases, is — for practical purposes — orphaned for now.

Work on anthrax remains protected. However, the dirty tricks competition between the companies fighting over the taxpayer’s money has virtually guaranteed it produces nothing, corporate welfare for one or two stagnant firms.

Earlier this year, DD blog posted on Soligenix’s efforts to prop up its stock price after news of cancellation of trials for one of its potential products rendered it virtually worthless.


Stock slump: Bioterror defense company Soligenix falls on hard times.

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