Just Weird

Posted in War On Terror at 8:25 am by George Smith

The mainstream media quickly uncovered dead Boston bomber/terrorist Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s YouTube channel.

It is here.

The FBI and national security agencies would, of course, be quite interested in combing over it, and translating various videos linked to by Tsarnaev, in efforts to understand his background. It’s a process that could take days although the broad strokes are apparent almost immediately.

Presumably they have already made a mirror of it.

One of his “favorites” was a disturbed Russian video of someone badgering a pet chameleon set to religious chanting.

A Washington Post blog entry shows a snapshot here.

I am willing to bet Tsarnaev had zero subscribers prior to that screenshot.

The channel now has a steadily increasing trickle of fans. See for yourself. The number ticks up as you refresh the page.


Ricin — odds and ends

Posted in Bioterrorism, Ricin Kooks at 2:14 pm by George Smith

The Congressional Research Service updated its review on ricin poison for quick reference. Steve Aftergood of the Secrecy blog has put it on-line here.

It is of generally good quality although the authors have a slight case of the disease of national hedging on how easy ricin is to make.

Yesterday, I put unequivocal evidence, from a domestic ricin case, of what a castor powder mixture contains on the web and stated flatly that ricin recipes on the internet fail to change it in any significant matter.

It has been reposted at GlobalSecurity.Org here along with a host of other very legitimate resources on the topic.

From the CRS report, Ricin: Technical Background and Potential Role in Terrorism:

The quality of [instructions for making ricin] varies. Some directions would produce only crude preparations while others would produce nearly pure ricin. Even the crude preparations have been considered deadly.

They all produce crude preparations, a mix of proteins and polypetides, including ricin, that comprise the 5 percent component of proteinaceous material in the castor seed.

Crude castor powder can be deadly, if eaten. Eating a castor seed, specifically — chewing it, can cause death or a bad incident.

But not always, as discussed here in January of last year:

The National Institute of Health furnishes a report on a single case of poisoning by castor bean in Oman, where a patient used one to mistakenly treat a cough.

Apparently, some old methods of “traditional” medicine employ castor seeds. And the castor seed does not usually poison unless it is chewed, a factor pointed out by the journal article.

It reads:

In various countries castor beans are the base of many traditional remedies. Our patient believed that they could treat his cough. Ingested castor beans are generally toxic only if ricin is released through mastication or maceration …

And from the abstract, the outcome is summarized:

“Increasing the awareness of the population to the dangers of ricin would be a way to avoid the utilisation of castor seeds in traditional therapies. Here we are reporting a case of mild poisoning after ingestion of a single castor bean. The patient, who presented at Nizwa Hospital, Oman, fortunately recovered completely as the ingested dose was quite small.”

And many years ago it was not uncommon to find castor powder, of course containing ricin, used by gardeners in attempts to control pests.

Again, from this blog:

Castor seed powder was frequently used as fertilizer in this country. In the periodical called Timely Turf Topics, the publication of United States Golf Association Green Section, an issue from November 1942 reported that the country was using over 80,000 tons of castor seed mash as fertilizer annually. The Golf Association Green Section periodical was devoted to providing information to golf green managers on the maintenance of beautiful grass turf. During World War II, nitrates were diverted for the war effort, necessitating use of alternative fertilizers, of which castor seed mash was one.

In the November 1941 issue of Timely Turf Topics, the association grapples with the problem of controlling mole crickets in southern golf courses.

“It is reported that turf in some sections of Georgia and Florida has just experienced the worst infestation of mole crickets in a number of years,” reads the issue. “Attempts to eradicate them from turf by the use of well-known poison bait as well as by treatments with arsenate of lead, ground tobacco stems and castor meal have not been successful in several localities this fall.”

The point to be made is that people once worked with large quantities of the grind of castor seeds in this country without dropping like flies.

Pure or nearly pure ricin can only be produced using the methods of protein chemistry. Of course, such procedures exist in the scientific literature. They have been beyond the capability of that demographic that messes with castor seeds.

Continuing with the CRS technical report on ricin:

“Many experts believe that ricin would be difficult to use as a weapon of mass destruction. Ricin needs to be injected, ingested, or inhaled by the victim to injure. Biological weapons experts estimate that 8 metric tons would be required to cover a 100 km2 area with enough toxin to kill 50% of the people. Thus, using ricin to cause mass casualties becomes logistically impractical even for a well-funded terrorist organization.

“Furthermore, some experts have stated that the required preparatory steps to use ricin as a mass casualty weapon also pose significant technical barriers that may preclude such use by non-state actors.”

This is certainly right. Eight metric tons of pure ricin, or even close to pure — like, say 50 percent, is not doable. Never has been. Eight tons of such a material is an absurd and incomprehensible amount.

Active proteins, which is what ricin is, are perishable, even more so when you do things to them that take them out of their natural circumstances.

The US military fiddled with ricin many decades ago. There is no compelling evidence it was successful.

The idea was to make a ricin bomb, a foolish undertaking on its face.

Proteins — bluntly, meat — react the same way to shearing, tearing, explosions, heat and fire just like the good stuff on the grill as raw hamburger. They are cooked.

I wrote on the US Army’s ricin patent for GlobalSecurity in 2004. From it, the germane portion:

The authors of the patent only vaguely grasp that during purifications, proteins are degraded by rough-handling and heat. They admit that their preparations were damaged by exposure to steam (“…considerable detoxification results”) in the text of the patent, which would be natural to expect in the practice of protein chemistry. And they mill and grind their rough preparation, noting “… dry ball and hammer milling … produced considerable detoxification perhaps due to the generation of excess heat.”

Such results would, for example, provide evidence to a good scientist that making a ricin bomb or artillery shell might be counterintuitive, shearing forces from blast and vigorous heating generally being unavoidable in such things.

Again, Ricin: Technical Background and Potential Role in Terrorism is here.

In a somewhat related matter, the German news magazine Spiegel Online published an article entitled, Poisonous Instructions: FBI Has Recipe for Ricin on Website, a now typical case of trying to throw a scare into readers.

It reads:

Star, arrow, rune, figure eight — at first glance, it looks like nothing more than a series of hieroglyphics strung together on the website of the FBI, the federal investigating authority of the United States. But it’s an easy-to-follow recipe for the deadly poison ricin, handwritten in a code that even laymen can decipher.

The text was published in March 2011 on the pages of the Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit (CRRU). There it served as an example of the work of the bureau’s decoding experts. Curiously enough, no secret is made of the document’s contents

For the rest of it the reader gets what everyone does on ricin. The combination of journalists wishing for eyeballs, a scary story of behavior that superficially looks incomprehensible, and the usual performing experts who state that the recipe is effective.

It’s an industry of fear, mutually beneficial to both parties.

Indeed, the FBI’s puzzle was solved on the web by an interested crypt-analyst blogger here on tax day.

The blogger correctly characterized the nature of the recipe:

The enciphered recipe is very crude, producing only a mash form that is not further purified for dangerous potential. Similar recipes in terrorist “cookbooks” are “deemed incapable of achieving a good product for causing a large number of casualties by any exposure route, mainly because of the low content of toxin of the final extracts.”

Having originally posted the plain text of it, the blogger later redacted the material.

Nevertheless, DD blog saw a copy and it is one of the old ricin recipes. Specifically, it’s origin lies in Kurt Saxon’s The Poor Man’s James Bond, Vol III.

The former American Nazi Party member and self-publishing survivalist/author writes on the back of this book:

“It is bad to poison your fellow man, blow him up or even shoot him or otherwise disturb his tranquility. It is also uncouth to counterfeit your nation’s currency and it is tacky to destroy property as instructed in [the chapter] Arson and Electronics …

“But some people are just naturally crude … It is your responsibility, then, to be aware of the many ways bad people can be harmful …

“Also, in the event that our nation is invaded by Foreign Devils, it is up to you to destroy them with speed and vigor. Or — and perish the thought — if our Capitol should fall to the enemy within, I expect you to do your duty.

“It is right to share with your enemies, the knowledge in this wonderful book …”

Hat tip to Pine View Farm for the head’s up on the Spiegel piece.

Again, The Ricin Kook, today at GlobalSecurity.Org.

Like this blog, as well as Congressional Research Reports, it contains much thoughtful and expertly derived and delivered information, the product of years of careful study. And I have a Ph.D., even if you don’t like the nickname and are afraid it will bring ridicule if mentioned in polite company.

Twitter “The Ricin Kook” in tweets, spread it in e-mail to your friends, share and “like” it on Facebook, post it to Reddit or your blog. Help make is a useful addition to public information on the subject.

What can be the harm? Perhaps someone important will see it and I will be empowered to write a fine book on the subject.


The Ricin Kook

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Ricin Kooks, WhiteManistan at 8:29 pm by George Smith

And you needed proof the last decade hadn’t psychologically destroyed significant parts of the United States?

Behold “bioterrorist” Paul Kevin Curtis, an absurd celebrity imitator, in the case of the picture, Hank Williams, Jr., who also sends hate mail to the president.

Can you say the magic word? I know you can. WhiteManistan. Again.

The wholly embarrassing and lousy truth of our latest homegrown eccentric shit magnet.

And — yes, yes by God — he is crazy.

Pure ricin vs. castor powder, explained

Posted in Bioterrorism, Culture of Lickspittle, Ricin Kooks at 11:07 am by George Smith

Protein stained analytical gel electrophoresis of a pure ricin standard versus pellet from ground castor seed, submitted in a recent US case.

The above scan shows why no one has made pure ricin from recipes found on the net during the entire span of the war on terror. And it puts to the lie the brain dead assertion, repeated much by the media in the last 24 hours, that ricin is easy to make.

The scan is an analytical SDS gel electrophoresis of soluble pellet samples taken from a castor seed. It was produced by a government-approved lab and part of the evidence in a US ricin case. It was sent to me last year as part of a consultation for a defense lawyer.

SDS polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis is a common and now old analytic tool used in protein chemistry.

Ricin is a protein.

With this procedure one can visualize proteins of interest as stained bands on a gel matrix. The above gel shows a pure ricin marker, or lab standard, in the second row from the left.

The next several lanes are taken up by the result of using the procedure on the powder from a castor seed. You will notice the big difference. The samples contain ricin and a lot of other things, at the top, bottom, in between and right next to the actual band for ricin.

Those are all contaminants consisting of other large proteins and mixes of polypeptides, some degraded, some not, in a small sample of castor powder, all a natural part of it.

The ricin recipes found on the internet do nothing but produce degreased castor powder. They do not selectively purify for ricin or, indeed, do anything that changes the basic composition of castor powder.

This is what experience in protein chemistry and biochemical preparations tells us. At least, that’s what it told me. Protein chemistry was a specialty, part of my doctoral training, and I supervised a lab course in protein preparations during the end of my span as a graduate student many years ago.

Journalists, on the other hand, have never listened to such reasoning for the last twelve years.

Relentlessly, they have built a received wisdom that ricin is easy to make. And that all one has to do is get a recipe from the internet, castor seeds, and start work.

However, during the war on terror purifying ricin has never been within the reach of those interested in it.

The only place that pure ricin has ever existed during this time is in analytical labs and research establishments funded by the US government to produce things like a ricin vaccine.

As a consequence, this junk knowledge — like many other junk knowledges — permeates US life so thoroughly it is now commonly seen in tv dramas and movies on terrorism plots and criminal endeavors.

Often they make good viewing. But they’re always all bullshit.

Castor powder, containing some ricin, does not lend itself to making a good weapon. However, castor powder can be a poison if enough of it is surreptitiously put into a serving of food.

Nevertheless, years of irresponsible journalism coupled, along with the say-so of selected “experts” in the homeland security and national security worlds, have created an environment in which it is easy to use the mention of ricin to strike fear.

And this environment is noted by others. In the US, castor bean fiddling is overwhelmingly the domain of crazy or angry white guys from the extreme right. They constitute the vast majority of arrests and convictions.

(From NBC News, a few minutes ago: “Federal agents on Wednesday arrested a suspect in the mailing of letters to President Barack Obama and a U.S. senator that initially tested positive for the poison ricin … The suspect was identified as Kenneth Curtis of Tupelo, Miss., federal officials told NBC News.” Cue the crazy/angry serial letter writer to Congress part. Points off for NBC trying to insinuate that castor powder in a letter could be a deadly inhalation hazard. No link. The latter is a new twist which shows the media and committees of reporters and editors will go through some contortions to keep the news potentially fearsome.)

Part of the castor seed interest in this demographic stems, too, from the origin of ricin recipes in the self-published Eighties literature of the neo-Nazi survivalist fringe in America.

“Popularized” in volumes like The Poor Man’s James Bond and The Poisoner’s Handbook, ricin recipes went viral, first being turned into digital documents, then spread around the world.

Others have also believed what they read in newspapers: call it America’s received wisdoms in the war on terror.

And in doing so, al Qaeda, as well as a couple of other minor players, have for years shown wishful interest in the same recipes and castor seed fiddling. But no one has been able to fashion a ricin weapon.

In America, when you’re arrested with castor seeds and a ricin recipe, you go to jail.

The other feature of ricin-tainted letter mailing shows the lack of expertise, in a laughable way, of those always involved.

Ricin isn’t a contact poison.

However, it does get the attention of all and a long stay in the custody of the state.

Ricin is a deadly poison and fairly easy to make, but it’s a crude and clumsy weapon, according to bioterror experts.

A letter sent to President Barack Obama tested positive for ricin, officials said Wednesday, and it was sent by the same person who mailed a letter that tested positive for the poison to Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker. — NBC News, today

“Bioterror experts” and NBC, thanks.

From yesterday.

From the inimitable Ricin Kooks archive.

Another case in point, from ABC News. In this instance, the chosen scientist repeats the easy-to-make recipes from the Internet meme, then comments on the consequences of the received wisdom he’s just passed on:

“[Clements] said ricin is relatively simple for a chemist to make in small amounts, considering crude instructions are available on the internet …

“Think weapon of mass disruption rather than weapon of mass destruction,” he said. “You don’t need to kill a lot of people to scare a population. In that case, you don’t need sophisticated delivery and dispersal systems, just a press and politicians more interested in spreading fear than information.”

The man also delivers comment on ricin weaponized as an inhaled weapon, which no one has ever done during the war on terror. Indeed,
the only things testing the toxicity of inhaled pure ricin are lab animals sacrificed during the now decade-long effort to develop a ricin vaccine.

Number of cases recovering purified ricin during the war on terror: 0

Number of deaths from ricin used in terror plots: 0

Number of men arrested in the US, for messing with castor seeds: about a dozen, one of them recently deceased.

From “The American way of bioterror — an A-Z of ricin crackpots,” published at the Register in 2008:

It takes a special kind of American to be fascinated by ricin, and last week the latest, Roger Von Bergendorff, was indicted in the District Court of Nevada. Bergendorff possibly qualifies for an award in failed Darwinism, being the only person in recent times to have seemingly accidentally poisoned himself with the protein toxin, but not quite effectively enough for the FBI to have nothing to do except attend his funeral.

The US government’s complaint against Bergendorff, filed on April 15 paints a common picture: loser dude on the fringes of society, indigent but with still enough money to have two unregistered guns with silencers, castor seeds, a standard collection of anarchist poisons literature and castor powder – or “crude” ricin as the FBI puts it.

Bergendorff told the FBI his production of ricin was an “exotic idea” …

The ricin perps of the past few years are not the Hollywood picture of evil. There is no Anton Chigurh – the psychopathic assassin who storms through Texas in the movie “No Country for Old Men” armed with a sniper rifle and a pneumatic hand-held piston for smashing skulls – among them. They’re a gallery of weirdoes, some of them dangerous in an inept manner, but generally more hazardous to themselves. Not to put too fine a point on it, they’re damaged goods, and one can say from experience that, contrary to Bergendorff’s hazy assertion, making ricin from castor seeds is not an “exotic idea” but a tiresome one. It’s common and banal, attractive only to lonely nuts, obsessed self-styled outdoorsmen, stupid as well as crazy gun collectors and incompetent criminals. Since 9/11, every complaint involving ricin has received national recognition, averaging a couple incidents a year. No fatalities have resulted …

A self-defeating and nihilistic interest exists in the poison, as if every red-blooded, disappointed and frustrated American kook has a defiant right to possess a recipe on their hard disk and a packet of castor seeds nearby, perhaps next to an unregistered handgun equipped with a silencer made out of a vegetable. This ensures a constant trickle of criminal apprehensions and prosecutions, a process the government handles efficiently, depositing ricin crackpots where they belong. Bergendorff, like everyone else before him, is headed for prison for an indefinite period, a just sentence when considering that, unintentionally or not, the ricin crackpot’s major contribution is to frighten the locals when the gendarmes and hazmat teams descend on the neighborhood …

More resources, by me during the war on terror, at GlobalSecurity.Org:

The Recipe for Ricin: Examining the legend

UK Ricin Ring Trial finds no terror.

More on the London ricin trial.

Playtime recipes for poisons: The actual recipes from the London ricin trial.

al Qaeda and alleged ricin bomb-making in Yemen — another study in faulty understanding.


Do not succumb to ricin hysteria

Posted in Ricin Kooks at 3:50 pm by George Smith

It took somewhat less than a half hour for the news media to start lighting up with the usual received wisdom/disinformation on ricin.

From the Washington Post:

Federal officials discovered Tuesday a poison-laced letter sent to Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), uncovering the material at an off-site location where congressional mail has been screened since anthrax-laced letters were sent to Capitol Hill in 2001.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and other senators exiting an FBI briefing on the Boston attacks, told reporters that the letter was tested at the facility and came up positive for ricin. Officials gave no indication why the letter was sent to Wicker, a low-profile senator in his second term.

In 2004, three Senate office buildings were closed after preliminary tests found ricin delivered through the mail system in the Senate majority leader’s office. At the time the AP wrote, “Twice as deadly as cobra venom, ricin, which is derived from the castor bean plant, is relatively easily made and can be inhaled, ingested or injected.” But investigators later said the test may have picked up non-toxic byproducts of the castor bean plant used in paper production.

Purified ricin has never been accomplished by anyone known to be fiddling with castor seeds during the long years of the war on terror.

And no terror weapon has ever been made with it.

Castor mash, or powder, which contains ricin, is trivial to make. But all the recipes found on people who have ground (or thought about grinding castor seeds) does not purify ricin. And this can be seen in castor seed powder protein separations using gel electrophoretic methods. (A photo of which I may post one of these days if the rubbish level on the matter continues to rise.)

False positives have been known to occur with ricin tests.

Famously, the London ricin plot, written about extensively by me for GlobalSecurity.Org, involved an initial false positive, an impression that was not corrected for years.

And in another case to which I was privy, a false ricin positive was returned on a possession of a drug addict subsequently convicted in the US for — as the judge awkwardly put it — “[doing something] that was a substantial step toward the production of a biological toxin.”

That case is here and the defendant’s lawyer told me, years ago, that the ricin positive occurred on remainders of the man’s marijuana stash.

Naturally, you can’t find this useful information anywhere else. So you should pass my name around.

Updated, April 17.

Or refer people to the voluminous amount of material under the Ricin Kooks tab.


Another really lousy day

Posted in Ricin Kooks, Rock 'n' Roll at 3:13 pm by George Smith

Not much comment after reading the news.

Consider this really shitty bit concerning the “title track” of the first new Iggy & the Stooges album with James Williamson in almost 40 years, reported in interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

(Could they pick a worse subject than the Georgia ricin beans gang?!):

The title track, [Ready to Die], was inspired by an incident at a Georgia Waffle House. “There were three old dudes there, about the age of the Stooges,” says Iggy. “There were all pensioners with John Deere caps and flannel shits and everything. They would sit around the Waffle House down there plotting to blow up government offices. The waitress who brought them their pancakes overheard it and called the Feds. I though it was so poignant, but also funny. They wanted some meaning in their life. I started writing, and even had a line about ‘get off my lawn!’ But it didn’t hold water when I went to record it because it was too much of a cheap shot at these people. We kept the chorus that goes ‘I’m shooting for the sky because I’m ready to die.’ It’s basically about how depressed and lonesome you get dealing with modern life.”

Iggy and Williamson get about everything wrong on the details, not that it matters much. But it’s still a shame. (Disclosure: I was consulted for one of the scheduled trials of two of them men involved, and by newspapers that covered it.)

Poignant and funny are not words I’ve ever used to describe these types of, unfortunately, not uncommon things. And I would have never figured old extremists caught in a domestic terror beef as subject material for a Stooges tune.

She Devils On Wheels

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Phlogiston at 11:57 am by George Smith

Always been a fan of crap outlaw biker movies. Therefore it seemed right to pick the opening bit of the trailer from “She Devils on Wheels” by Herschel Gordon Lewis as beginning and end for “Letter to the Taxman.”

Reviewed in the East Bay Express:

Lewis’ She-Devils on Wheels (1968) was an attempt to cash in on that era’s biker-pic craze, with the gimmick that the eponymous motorcycle gang, a club called the Man-Eaters, was composed entirely of women who used men as sex objects. It has everything you look for in a drive-in movie: cheap production values, rotten acting, stupid writing, inept direction–the works. Think sub-Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! In fact, take practically any biker flick you have ever seen and turn it up a notch on the Dumb-O-Meter. This film defines the word “nadir.” And yet, somehow, abstract concepts appear much more clearly when glimpsed from the rock-bottom of human experience. Filmed in “Blinding Color” in South Florida with a cast of actual female bikers, She-Devils wastes quite a bit of time with long-held shots of bikes going down two-lane roads, but when the action heats up sufficiently it’s a model of compressed violence and paranoia.

Led by Queen (Betty Connell) astride her full-dress hog, the gals hold drag races on an abandoned airport runway, with the winners getting first pick of the “studs”–a group of nonbiker guys who seemingly exist to service the Man-Eaters–back at the clubhouse. (Enthuses one of the girls: “You treat men like slabs of meat!”) Two of the club members in particular draw Queen’s attention: the petite, scatterbrained club mascot, Honey-Pot (Nancy Lee Noble), who rides a pathetic little Honda scooter; and Karen (Christie Wagner, along with Noble the only professional actor in the bunch), who is under suspicion for the crime of becoming emotionally attached to stud Bill (David Harris). Both these plotlets resolve themselves in true biker-pic style, à la H.G. Lewis: Honey-Pot gets stripped, smeared with paint and motor oil, forced to pull train for the studs, and ends up battered to death, while Karen is compelled to drag her innamorato Bill to a pulp behind her bike. After which she finds another boyfriend.

Brutal as all this sounds, it should be pointed out that Lewis’ brand of splatter–outrageous in the ’60s–is pretty tame by today’s standards. That’s probably why it’s so much fun. Victims generally get daubed with stage blood; special effects are as primitive as the dialogue; and no one, even in the clubhouse orgy scene, so much as loses her bra.

“Angry feminists–not to mention fans of gigantic, dominant women–will no doubt thrill to scenes of the Man-Eaters hassling cops (“Dirty muther-fuzz!”), duking it out with a macho group of guys called the Joe Boys (the girls win, natch), and gaining climactic revenge on the leader of that club, Joe Boy himself (John Weymer), by stringing a wire across a road between two telephone poles, then taunting Joe Boy into chasing them on a bike,” adds the movie critic.

Of course, there is a theme song, “Get Off the Road.”

Josie Cotton (famous for “Johnny, Are You Queer?”) thought so highly of it, she did her own version and video here.

“This picture is not for children, this picture is not for the squeamish, this picture is not for those who think women sit by the fireplace knitting socks,” goes the voice-over.

“The Man-Eaters! Tougher than the men they hate.”

The Gold Bugs

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Fiat money fear and loathers at 8:57 am by George Smith

My since long exited drummer was a gold bug. That is, he was a Fed hater, a true believer in the idea that the US should return to the gold standard and that “fiat money” was a fraud. Perhaps not that strongly, but enough to think the escape from gold and the Fed were the cause of lots of economic problems.

If you’re still checking, Mark, I still love you. That’s the arrangement of “Letter to the Taxman” we played.

Coincidental with the crash in gold is one for Bitcoins.

I’ve briefly addressed Bitcoins before here.

“Sounds like a Ponzi scheme,” said my departed old friend Don, about two years ago. More recently, one of the Internet mags, Slate or Salon, said the same.

Bitcoin enthusiasts have the same underlying mania as old-time goldbugs, an intense dislike of government, a toxically libertarian ethos. Like traditional goldbugs, they’re also hoarders.

Krugman has ragged on the virtual currency a few times over the years.

Today he devotes a column to it, hilariously calling Bitcoin “The Antisocial Network:”

What is bitcoin? It’s sometimes described as a way to make transactions online — but that in itself would be nothing new in a world of online credit-card and PayPal transactions. In fact, the Commerce Department estimates that by 2010 about 16 percent of total sales in America already took the form of e-commerce.

So how is bitcoin different? Unlike credit card transactions, which leave a digital trail, bitcoin transactions are designed to be anonymous and untraceable. When you transfer bitcoins to someone else, it’s as if you handed over a paper bag filled with $100 bills in a dark alley. And sure enough, as best as anyone can tell the main use of bitcoin so far, other than as a target for speculation, has been for online versions of those dark-alley exchanges, with bitcoins traded for narcotics and other illegal items.

But bitcoin evangelists insist that it’s about much more than greasing the path for illicit transactions. …

The similarity to goldbug rhetoric isn’t a coincidence, since goldbugs and bitcoin enthusiasts — bitbugs? — tend to share both libertarian politics and the belief that governments are vastly abusing their power to print money. At the same time, it’s very peculiar, since bitcoins are in a sense the ultimate fiat currency, with a value conjured out of thin air.

It is momentarily amusing to peruse pictures of Bitcoin-mining rigs, the piles or racks of computers the enthusiasts use to carve the currency out of “thin air.” Actually, it takes electricity. Lots and lots and lots of electricity.

Since Bitcoin has been in the news during the past week, I’ve often thought of what would happen if I interviewed my fellow shoppers at Baja Ranch in Pasadena about it.

I am certain security would be summoned.

Another way of characterizing Bitcoin hoarders is to note the Winklevoss twins are two.

Call them the Nelson Bunker Hunts of Bitcoin.

The Winklevosses are famous for being in a pistachio commercial, that as a consequence of their legal brouhaha with Mark Zuckerberg over who originated the idea for Facebook.

In relation to that, Lawrence Summers once described the Winklevosses, in a brief comment that seems very broadly broadly applicable to Bitcoin true-believers.

This makes good sense because … well, just look for yourself.

And here.

You vs. them

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 7:47 am by George Smith

What you get: Audit. But without the snazzy tune.

What corporate America gets today: “profit shifting,” tax havens, legal tax evasion, government rewards.

It’ll be a good time.

Tax evasion news in the Guardian.


Biker chicks, whips, taxes

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 4:31 pm by George Smith

Fistful of garage riff, screaming guitar, whippings, bad girls and an audit. If it was a senseless and cheap cult movie you’d want in.

I redo “Internal Revenue Boogie” every couple of years. This is the arrangement I used live.

2009 version.

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