04.28.14

Where did the The Aluminum Can Man go?

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 2:23 pm by George Smith

From 2012, an interview with one of the founders of Bain Capital, on a book that he and the interviewer thought might rise to the very top, a vituperative argument that inequality was good.

The NYT:

Ever since the financial crisis started, we’ve heard plenty from the 1 percent. We’ve heard them giving defensive testimony in Congressional hearings or issuing anodyne statements flanked by lawyers and image consultants. They typically repeat platitudes about investment, risk-taking and job creation with the veiled contempt that the nation doesn’t understand their contribution. You get the sense that they’re afraid to say what they really believe. What do the superrich say when the cameras aren’t there?

With that in mind, I recently met Edward Conard on 57th Street and Madison Avenue, just outside his office at Bain Capital, the private-equity firm he helped build into a multibillion-dollar business by buying, fixing up and selling off companies at a profit. Conard, who retired a few years ago at 51, is not merely a member of the 1 percent. He’s a member of the 0.1 percent. His wealth is most likely in the hundreds of millions; he lives in an Upper East Side town house just off Fifth Avenue; and he is one of the largest donors to his old boss and friend, Mitt Romney.

Unlike his former colleagues, Conard wants to have an open conversation about wealth. He has spent the last four years writing a book that he hopes will forever change the way we view the superrich’s role in our society. “Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong,” to be published in hardcover next month by Portfolio, aggressively argues that the enormous and growing income inequality in the United States is not a sign that the system is rigged. On the contrary, Conard writes, it is a sign that our economy is working. And if we had a little more of it, then everyone, particularly the 99 percent, would be better off. This could be the most hated book of the year.

Not hated, but ignored although the author, on various pages, seems to have planted the idea it was a great seller.

On Amazon, 23 one-star reviews, all rather well written. Check used prices for a chuckle.

Edward Conard, who you still don’t know, last seen going down with HMS Romney.

Do read the tortured discussion of how his investments improved the aluminum can and, thereby, the price of soda pop for the rest of us.

“I worked with the company that makes the machine that tapers that can … That means the economy can produce more cans with the same amount of resources. It makes every American who buys a soda can a little bit richer because their paycheck buys more.”

Blessed are the job creators, they can always hire way more waiters.

Yep, still LickSpittleCoin

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Fiat money fear and loathers at 1:41 pm by George Smith

From the WSJ:

Bitcoin Latest Price: $460.89, down 7.9% (via CoinDesk)
Crossing Our Desk:

– Beijing still seems to matter for the price of bitcoin. Given that trading in the digital currency has dried up considerably since China first started cracking down on banks’ interactions with bitcoin businesses in December, you’d think the market’s capacity to be surprised might have similarly dried up.

But here we are, once again, with reports of some negative statements by officials at the People’s Bank of China and bitcoin’s international price is down sharply. Specifically, today’s $40 drop …


Get your painting of BitCoin Elvis now. Hurry!


BitCoin grifters arrive in Washington for its cheap power, hydroelectric, mostly built by the government, many years ago.

From the Spokane Spokesman:

When two Stanford University grads wanted to start a bitcoin company, they looked for the lowest power rates in the country.

A map comparing energy rates led them to Central Washington, where hydroelectric dams churn out electricity that costs industrial customers less than 2 cents per kilowatt.

HashPlex, the business launched by Bernie Rihn and George Schnurle, is one of several bitcoin mining companies operating or preparing to launch in Grant, Chelan and Douglas counties …


In a warehouse near Wenatchee in Douglas County, Everett entrepreneur Dave Carlson runs a bitcoin business called MegaBigPower. It’s one of three MegaBigPower sites, including one in Poland.

Inside the 5,000- square-foot building are long rows of racks and shelves holding computer boards connected by cables to hundreds of other computer servers that keep track of what the boards are doing.

Carlson has been featured in several major publications, where he’s said his business is likely the largest bitcoin mining business in the United States.

Like Rihn, he doesn’t want to disclose his specific location.

Sing us the song about the democratizing power of BitCoin tech again, won’t you please?

Laundered: Computer Security for the 1 Percent

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism at 1:08 pm by George Smith

At GlobalSecurity.Org:

Memo to American cyberwarriors: You can’t rehab your lousy reputation by planting stories on how you saved banksters in big newspapers.

Illustrating that global cybersecurity policy and action in the US is purely for the benefit of the 1 percent, Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post wrote a story on leaked details of a concerted Iranian attack on American banks in 2012 a couple weeks ago.

All of it.

04.25.14

Yep, still AssholeCoin

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Fiat money fear and loathers at 2:37 pm by George Smith


The Rise and Rise of BitCoin, via Winkdex: Or the graph or the hoarders slowly trying to unload their holdings onto other libertarian tech geek suckers.

Note steady downward slope since apex of BitCoin mania.

In other news, BitCoin Elvis of Temple City, was given $20,000 in BitCoin by Reddit BitCoin altar boys for a YouTube press release in which he asserted that he was not, in fact, BitCoin Elvis. Again. Thanks for the 20k, though. (No link)

And from the wire, the BitCoin satellite network, which doesn’t exist yet but so (?):

One private venture is aiming to launch a cluster of tiny satellites that would broadcast the latest bitcoin transactions from orbit.

“To me, it’s really about resilience and lowering costs,” Jeff Garzik, the man behind the start-up Dunvegan Space Systems, told Space.com. This week, Garzik announced that his company contracted the private space venture Deep Space Industries, Inc. to develop nanosatellites for the project dubbed BitSat.

Primarily, Garzik hopes the BitSat network will have a democratizing effect, making bitcoin data available to people living in off-grid locations or outside Western nations in places where an Internet connection is costly.

Garzik has a fundraising target between $2 million and $5 million to get the first BitSats off the ground. He’s hoping to raise those funds (in bitcoins) through a Kickstarter-like campaign.

Off-grid being tech geek libertarian code speak for “I’m going to have a place with my rules like the Republic of CyberBunker or SeeLand or any sea-steading micro-nation-type thing.”

Micro-nationers gotta be able to have BitCoin and access to the blockchain.

Next up, the intriguing trailer of the fan documentary, The Rise and Rise of BitCoin, by Daniel and Nicholas Mross, two aspiring Winklevosses.

Viewers will notice the BitCoin movie shows all the tech geek white guys into it (except for the one non-white masked guy who’s selling drugs on Silk Road).

One of the characters in the trailer, another crypto-currency coding genius, again points out the commonly held notion that BitCoin is all about the democratizing power of technology. Because there’s nothing that says democracy more than a money that’s concentrated all in the hands of speculators and hoarders and which can only be “mined” by ridiculous assemblies of machines average people can’t afford.

An excerpt from a review in the Hollywood Reporter:

Between interviews with entrepreneurs, Libertarians who’ve embraced the currency in order to get off the grid and U.S. government officials tasked with assessing virtual currency’s relevance to money laundering and funding terrorism, the film charts the currency’s fast-rising price in U.S. dollars and watches as Dan Mross invests plenty of money in his mining operation. Some chunks of this narrative are chronologically vague, a not-insignificant failing given how quickly things change on the Bitcoin scene. And most viewers will want a little more detail about our guide’s personal experience with the currency. Having bought in so early, is he now rich? How much did he spend on all those specially-engineered servers in his basement?

Make way, BitCoin ist die Zukunft, coming to you today! The future’s brimming with promise and the promise is heading our way.


And just for fun, a picture from the Winklevoss West palace in the Hollywood Hills.

Purchase made possible by the cash chiseled from Zuckerberg.


WhiteManistan’s New Most Public Bigot

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Ted Nugent, WhiteManistan at 11:59 am by George Smith

Cliven Bundy and Co., well done by Mark Fiore as a folk tune set to “Home on the Range.”

Here.

Wonderful stuff and done before Bundy’s outburst about how African-Americans might have had it better back when they still knew how to pick cotton.

True to form, WhiteManistan’s favorite bigots never know how to shut it. Today, this — excerpted — from a Cliven Bundy official explanation:

I am trying to keep Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream alive …

I am standing up against their bad and unconstitutional laws, just like Rosa Parks did when she refused to sit in the back of the bus.

In this he borrows a chapter from the book of old Steel Knees, Ted Nugent.

About once a year, sometimes more, Nugent regularly calls Rosa Parks and MLK his personal heroes or calls himself a rock and roll son of African Americans. Then he calls the president a subhuman mongrel or a chimpanzee, which is OK.

On Thursday, Nugent devoted his latest column to his standard script: African-Americans in the inner cities are responsible for all the gun violence in America, responsible gun owners need more guns to protect themselves and it’s all the fault of the liberal Democrat government that gives people stuff they don’t deserve, thereby corrupting them.

All of it as a preface to an NRA convention in Indianapolis next week, which Nugent — I assume — will be attending via teleconference. Since he’s either on crutches or in a wheel chair.
(Update: From an Indianapolis news bit: “Rock legend Ted Nugent will be present Sunday to address 2nd Amendment issues and sign his latest book.” We’ll see. Good photos or video will tell something about his condition.)

Nugent’s column did not make news this week, eclipsed as it was by the spectacle of WhiteManistan’s new most public bigot.


Home, home on the range deep inna heart of WhiteManistan.

04.24.14

Security for the 1 percent

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism at 2:32 pm by George Smith

Illustrating that global cybersecurity policy and action in the US is purely for the benefit of the 1 percent, Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post wrote a story on leaked details of a concerted Iranian attack on American banks in 2012 a couple weeks ago.

Keep in mind while reading anything from the linked Post piece, the Iranian response, if it was that country’s clandestine effort, came after the US/Israeli launching of the 2010-2011 Stuxnet malware campaign into the networks and controlling machinery of its nuclear program.

From me, now semi-famously:

Nobody in the great mass that is not the 1 percent or in the service of the same cares about attacks on the American financial system. They do, on the other hand, wish our financial system would stop attacking them.

From the Washington Post:

In the spring of 2012, some of the largest banks in the United States were coming under attack, with hackers commandeering servers around the world to direct a barrage of Internet traffic toward the banks’ Web sites.

The assaults, believed to have been launched by Iran, were bringing the sites down for hours at a time and disrupting customer business — the first significant digital assault of its kind undertaken against American industry’s computers by a foreign adversary.

It “was a wake-up call,” recalled an official from a large Internet service provider for the banks …

With regards to bad stuff alleged to have happened, or be happening, to the United States, in national security speak, it’s always “a wake-up call.” It works like this. You secretly and persistently kick your smaller, less resourceful and poorer enemy in the nuts and no one complains. When he strikes back by hurling a couple bags of dog excrement at you, it’s “a wake-up call.”

One supposes your position depends on where you stood, with regards to the bank assault.

The Post:

The attacks on the banks were launched shortly after the expansion of U.S. sanctions against Iran, and whoever was behind them was impressively skilled …

By September 2012, financial institutions including Wells Fargo, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase were grappling with waves of electronic traffic that had crept up from 20 gigabits per second to 40, 80 and ultimately 120 gigabits per second. It was at least three times the volume of traffic that most large banks’ Web sites were initially equipped to handle.

Banks were spending tens of millions of dollars to mitigate the problem.

In the Nakashima/Post piece there is not a single mention of the Stuxnet virus and its offspring, or any discussion by administration officials and sources in the real context of the time, that Iranian attacks on bank websites were seen as retaliation for an escalating American/Israeli malware campaign against that country.

That’s your standard garden-variety journalistic malfeasance, right there, partners.

Instead, an anonymous official describes the American response to Iran as “gentle and precise.” In contrast to Stuxnet, which was designed to wreck an Iranian uranium separation centrifuge operation.

This week, with review posts on Bill Blunden and Violet Cheung’s Behold a Pale Farce book on cyberwar and the malware industrial complex, the roots of the national security complex’s propaganda campaign in this area were outlined.

Nakashima’s Post story is another in kind, a piece to revive imaginary characteristics of reason and restraint on the part of US cyberwar/cyberdefense operations through the issue of a new load of fresh clean laundry.

Instead of striking into Iran’s networks directly in retaliation, because, as the story reads, our cyberwar capabilities are so much stronger than Iran’s, a response was concocted to be “gentle and precise.”

Thank you, former NSA director Keith Alexander. In one stroke, his image redeemed. That horrid Edward Snowden mess can be left behind.

American officials and workers in cybersecurity at a variety of agencies “reached out” to 120 foreign countries, allies, and enlisted their aid in squelching the Iranian assaults in a group effort that disarmed the botnet networks used in the distributed denial of service attacks against American banks.

Grand and stirring stuff! American mega-banking websites were saved! Victory was ours in the Battle of BofA!

You, national security dudes and Post editors, thought rigging publishing a story about how US megabanks were bailed out by the government (again), from website attacks, by little Iran is something to pat yourself on the back over? Seriously?

Oh me, oh my, “the banks were spending tens of millions of dollars to mitigate the problem.”

To repeat, your position on the Battle of BofA depended on where you stood.

I’m a big bank client. So are friends. I didn’t notice any problems with my bank’s website during the great cyber-assault.

However, I also didn’t notice any slow down or change in how quickly and efficiently my bank went into my account for the usual administrative and other miscellaneous fee collections during the same time period. That’s digital and software-mediated, too.

The vast majority of Americans didn’t know of, and wouldn’t have given a shit if they did, about the attacks on bank websites and how they were staunched by US and allied cyberdefense.

As a story, the Post’s is entirely in the genre of computer security for the 1 percent. A great story of doings of no benefit to anyone but those at the top of pyramid.

Almost seems a shame the newspaper won that Pulitzer for Edward Snowden’s material last week, doesn’t it?

Party like Walter White, invite the anti-ricin squad

Posted in Bioterrorism, Culture of Lickspittle, Ricin Kooks at 9:53 am by George Smith

Walter White toasts you, new young ricin men.

American mass media and Google are not your friends. Together, they’ve created a peculiar and abnormal environment which manifests in increasingly unusual pathologies.

Google search now judges the most relevant materials to be those selected through crowd-sourcing by idiots. And so it is elementary to find worthless recipes for ricin with a smartphone app in an instant, along with lots of information that guarantees young men who are broken in some way a quick visit from a federal and state joint anti-terrorism task force.

Today, Preston Rhoads, 30 of Oklahoma City, makes the second young American in 60 days to have been tabbed as influenced by Walter White, Breaking Bad and its secondary plot of ricin poisoning. Rhoads is the fourth young man arrested this year in connection with ricin-kookism, already up one from three arrests in the 12 months of last year.

The first was young Danny Milzman, a student at Georgetown University, of whom much has already been written here.

Walter White said ricin was a fine poison, untraceable. And it is on the net in hundreds of places. Therefore, it must be true.

The prison sentence that would result from a conviction in the Rhoads case is probably around fifteen years.

From the wires in OKC:

Court documents state an Oklahoma City man arrested in a murder plot mentioned a popular television show before revealing he had Ricin.

Federal agents said Preston Rhoads was planning on killing his pregnant girlfriend and her unborn fetus with the deadly toxin.

The Oklahoma Department of Health told News 9 the state has never had a documented case of Ricin toxicity

The use of Ricin was a plot line in the hit television series, Breaking Bad. Ricin is a potentially deadly toxin made from castor beans. The federal search warrant stated Preston Rhoads asked a friend about the show just moments before showing the friend a vial.

In three of the four ricin cases this year, the young men now in jail talked to a friend or showed them their castor powder concoctions.

Either because they have a subliminal desire to go to jail or because the country won’t know how clever you are with ricin poison, like Walter White, if you don’t tell someone about it. Or both.

Oh, and like Preston Rhoads, ask the buddy if he would like to deliver a pizza to your girlfriend and put your powder on it. Most friends would respond well to such a request, don’t you think? Would Jesse have done it for Walter if he wanted to poison Skyler?

In a very small way it may be satisfying to see how a character and story have so indelibly inspired a special cohort of the American citizenry. But if I were Bryan Cranston, the script writers and the show’s science advisor, I’d actually be kinda bummed at this point. And I enjoyed Breaking Bad. (Google, on the other hand, doesn’t bum out about anything. Part of its function is to raise digital road spikes, oil slicks and cinder blocks hidden in paper bags to the top positions in search on the information superhighway.)


Earlier, on this channel:

The hit TV show “Breaking Bad” and its dark plotlines played an outsized role in a federal courtroom in Washington this week …

In the case of the Georgetown student, defense attorneys have said Milzman was a troubled 19-year-old struggling with depression. He created the ricin, his lawyers said, because he wanted to hide his suicide plans from his family. If he became ill from the substance, no one would know that he had killed himself.

But the federal prosecutor argued that Milzman’s statements about “Breaking Bad” suggested otherwise. She told the judge that the show’s protagonist produced ricin not to commit suicide, but to kill someone else. A friend said Milzman was such a big fan of the show he knew the name of each episode by heart. [Italicized — from the WaPost.]

The judge asked if Milzman was such a big fan of the show, why had not the prosecutors brought it up on the day another judge had ordered the young man released to psychiatric treatment in a DC hospital?

The government’s lawyer responded she had been unfamiliar with the show.

“I was not as familiar with the show then as I am today,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Maia Miller …


Public service announcement


This blog’s 2006 rendition of the illustration that accompanied Kurt Saxon’s ricin recipe from The Poor Man’s James Bond, one of the original sources of web “manuals” on how to make it. Use your smartphone to share it on social media with your friends! They’ll think you’re as clever as Walter White! Then the armored car circus will visit your neighborhood!

04.23.14

Career security for the anti-ricin squad: Google & the ricin recipes

Posted in Bioterrorism, Culture of Lickspittle, Ricin Kooks, WhiteManistan at 1:08 pm by George Smith

From the bleak tale of 30-year-old Preston Rhoads of Oklahoma City, the country’s latest but certainly not last ricin kook:

A federal affidavit and search warrant just unsealed this afternoon lays out a possible motive behind the alleged murder plot that has Preston Rhoads behind bars.

The 14-page affidavit reveals how Rhoads reportedly asked a former co-worker to kill his pregnant girlfriend and her unborn baby.

Authorities said Rhoads texted a former co-worker telling him he had something serious to discuss with him.

The friend jokingly stated that he can “make people disappear.” Rhoads responded via text, saying not to joke about that if you can’t deliver.

During a face-to-face meeting, the co-worker said Rhoads showed him a vial and claimed it was Ricin. That same co-worker said Rhoads told him he downloaded a manual explaining how to manufacture the poison.

The co-worker said, while at Rhoads’ home, he found what he believed to be equipment to make ricin in the bathroom.

The affidavit reveals Rhoads wanted to use ricin to harm the girlfriend, because he felt it could not be easily traced.

And where do people learn ricin “[can’t] be easily traced”?

Unfortunately, from tv, Google and their smartphones.

Google search is not your friend. Google search relevance is, in many cases — including this one, determined by the wisdom of crowds of idiots. And they know this in Mountain View. Which is probably one reason, among a host, that they won’t talk to anyone on the telephone.

If you are looking for recipes for ricin, Google will give worthless web pages to you, either fine pieces of misinformation, or even more efficiently, perfect as materials for running afoul of the law.

Google will return articles on ricin, perhaps written by a know-nothing journalist at Slate, who explains helpfully how you don’t have to a terrorist to be good enough to make ricin.

Google will not show you any articles or much of the real record on how everyone who “makes ricin” is found out and their neighborhood stormed, with eye-watering speed, by a joint federal and state anti-ricin task force.

Google will not return you any articles that inform you that texting on the matter to others through your smartphone is a known process by which the anti-ricin squad is summoned.

What can you do? I give up.


Remember, as Kurt Saxon, one of the nation’s first and foremost ricin kooks, wrote in the late Eighties (but updated for 2014):

“It is bad to poison your fellow man [and wife], blow [them] up or even shoot [them] or otherwise disturb [their] 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 …

“It is right to share with your enemies, the knowledge in this wonderful [ricin manual Google helped you find so you could download it with your smartphone and text your pals about it] …”


Post this on Instagram or Pinterest! Text the link to your friends with your smartphone! Or just use SnapChat! They’ll think you’re as clever as Walter White!

Laundered: Pale Farce, cyberwar & the propaganda machine

Posted in Crazy Weapons, Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism at 12:39 pm by George Smith

At GlobalSecurity.Org, rearranged and with all the push-buttons for “sharing” so others in the national security megaplex might know of a decent book:

Readers of this blog know the topic of cyberwar reasonably well. The national mythology on it has been deadening and invariant for virtually two decades. Festung America has always been threatened with devastation from cyberspace.

Clever hackers, then terrorists, then armies of cybersoldiers based in all countries wishing ill of the US have been claimed to have the power to stop the electricity, to destroy the US economy by striking Wall Street, to poison water and create horrific accidents through the remote manipulation of industrial control systems.

Today authors Bill Blunden and Violet Cheung have produced something of a first on the subject, a comprehensive book on it that isn’t like all previous works on the matter. The genre of cyberwar books can be explained in less than half a dozen words: Fictions passed off as non-fiction. Blunden and Cheung’s new book, Behold a Pale Farce (TrineDay, trade paperback), strength is reality. That makes it rather unique in the field.

All of it, tweezed for minor improvements, here.

04.21.14

Reviewed and recommended: Behold a Pale Farce

Posted in Crazy Weapons, Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism at 4:32 pm by George Smith

Authors Bill Blunden and Violet Cheung have produced something of a first, a comprehensive book on cyberwar that isn’t like the rest. Behold a Pale Farce’s (TrineDay, trade paperback) strength is reality, a feature that makes it entirely unique in its field.

Readers of this blog know the topic of cyberwar reasonably well. The national mythology on it has been deadening and invariant for virtually two decades. Festung America has always been threatened with devastation from cyberspace.

Clever hackers, then terrorists, then armies of cybersoldiers based in all the countries wishing ill of the US have been claimed to have the power to stop the electricity, to destroy the US economy by striking Wall Street, to poison water and create horrific accidents through the remote manipulation of industrial control systems.

Illustrative as fas back as 1998, this excerpt (which I had something to do with) from Steven Aftergood’s Secrecy Bulletin at the Federation of American Scientists:

[George Smith, author of the Crypt Newsletter] has written a useful corrective entitled “An Electronic Pearl Harbor? Not Likely” which appeared in the National Academy of Sciences journal Issues in Science and Technology (Fall 1998) …

Some of the best-informed observers are quick to acknowledge that Smith’s critique is on target.

“I certainly agree that the notion of an electronic Pearl Harbor specifically, and more generally of information warfare, has been hyped to the point of nausea,” said the vice president of one intelligence contractor that has multi- billion dollar annual revenues from its work in information technology. “This is but the latest of many fads in ‘the Community’,” he told S&GB, “and like most of its predecessors, [it] has just enough substance to require that serious attention be paid, but not nearly as much substance as the Cassandras of the Community would have us believe.”

About fifteen years and “digital Pearl Harbor,” “digital 9/11,” whatever the name for it was trending, never happened. Even though it has been declared, as this book chronicles, a number of times.

But in the same period the Cassandras won almost total victory. The mainstream news collapsed as an agency capable of even mildly critical examinations of the subject. The only people with any say, the only people published where large numbers of eyeballs would see them, were those who hyped always coming Cyber-Armageddon.

As a consequence, books on the broad subject of cyberwar have been, universally, crap. And the reason is simple: Publishers would not stomach critical examinations.

Blunden writes about this as it impacted the publication of Behold a Pale Farce:

While I’ve read about many of the filtering mechanisms of the propaganda model and witnessed its operation from afar, I never thought that I’d encounter them directly. This changed in late 2011 when out of the blue, I received an e-mail from a senior editor at a well-known technical publisher … Having viewed my slides on cyberwar from SFSU’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Event the editor wanted to know if I was interested in authoring a book on the topic. Shortly after … I signed a contract and feverishly began the process of putting material together.

Four or five months later the editor ominously summoned your author and co-author to his office for a meeting. He announced that both he and the founder of the publishing house were very concerned about the tone of the book. The editor complained at length about the potential hazards of push back, particularly with regard to the coverage of former Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell. I was sending a message that would directly challenge the narrative being spread by powerful interests … He also protested rather loudly that there were some things he couldn’t sell.

This is true. How do I know?

Full disclosure: Blunden and Cheung used me as a reference to their publisher. And I was subsequently contacted by them for my opinion on the potential for it.

I told the publisher exactly what I’ve said many times previously. To reiterate, cyberwar books have, generally but fairly speaking, all been rubbish, exercises in threat inflation and hyperbole for the sake of titillation, reputation and the pushing of the accepted national security narrative. Another way of putting it: They’re p.r. servanting for the benefit of those on the receiving end of always increasing spending on cyberwar offense, cyberspying and aggressive militarized surveillance of the internet.

At one point I was informed via company e-mail about how one publisher wished to send an early copy of the book off to an employee of Science Applications International Corporation.

This was laughable, no way to do a book of any kind.

Science Applications (or SAIC, for short) is a very large and very secretive Pentagon contractor. Everywhere you find the US military or American spying agencies, you find SAIC.

However, one thing SAIC is not known for is book writing and editing. In fact, suggesting SAIC as an arbiter of a book such as Pale Farce was a smoke signal that a publisher wished it buried in a deep hole.

Now let’s return again to 2010 and the character, Mike McConnell, former Director of National Intelligence and VP at Booz Allen Hamilton.

Why do I call him a character? Because that’s what he was and is, a kind of slippery fellow who was central to shaping public and policy-maker views on cyberwar. I’ll get to him a bit more further in.

Between 2009 and 2010 I tabulated the names of people and company hyping cyberwar in the mainstream press as well as the number of times they appeared.

Here’s the table:

1. Alan Paller, SANS — 84
2. McAfee — 80
3. James Lewis, CSIS — 47
4. Booz Allen Hamilton — 38
5. Symantec — 31
6. Mike McConnell, Booz Allen — 25
7. Paul Kurtz, Good Harbor — 11
8. Richard Clarke, Good Harbor 4

In terms of security vendor businesses, the list condenses to a small number of players controlling the debate all through 2009: SANS, McAfee, and Booz Allen Hamilton, the latter which jumps to number three on the list with 63 hits in major stories if you add McConnell’s total.

In 2010, McConnell was not only on 60 Minutes selling the nation’s near catastrophic vulnerability to cyberwar, but also in the opinion pages of The Washington Post.

Here’s McConnell’s now infamous lead-in paragraph:

The United States is fighting a cyber-war today, and we are losing. It’s that simple. As the most wired nation on Earth, we offer the most targets of significance, yet our cyber-defenses are woefully lacking.

By June of that year McConnell, along with Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard, had been invited to a well-publicized debate over whether or not the threat of cyberwar had been exaggerated. Marc Rotenberg and Bruce Schneier were on the opposite, or affirmative side, that it was.

The debate was an (ahem) farce. McConnell and Zittrain were declared the winners by a substantial margin of audience vote. The threat of cyberwar was not exaggerated. It was a triumph for obeisance to argument from authority.

Here’s a bit from the transcript, a part in which Schneier mentions
McConnell’s Post piece
(he’s being a bit sarcastic):

So we’re here today to debate the motion that the threat of cyberwar is grossly exaggerated. And … in preparing, read a book full of articles and have some choice quotes. Mike McConnell said in an op-ed in the Washington Post in February of this year that the United States is fighting a cyberwar today and we’re losing. So, cyberwar is going on right now in our country.

The McConnell quote was accurate and the audience laughed.

But here’s Mike McConnell, cyberwar exaggerator but very important person in the national security megaplex, a few minutes later:

When Bruce spoke at the beginning he said, “Mike McConnell said the US is fighting a cyberwar today, and we are losing.” That’s not in fact exactly what I said. Wat I said is if we were in a cyberwar, we would lose. And I was making that statement somewhat metaphorically.

McConnell’s lead paragraph in the Post, published just a few months earlier, again as a matter of fact was not a metaphor. It was quite succinct.

But you can’t win a debate where one of the parties simply denies an accurate quote and gets audience points by insisting he said quite some other thing.

And that was state of the narrative in cyberwar. The press died on the subject. Michael McConnell’s threat exaggeration was what always carried the day.

What’s changed? What makes Blunden and Cheung’s Behold a Pale Farce the right book at just the right time?

Edward Snowden came along. Paradoxically, Snowden was employed by Mike McConnell and Booz Allen as a contractor for the National Security Agency during the big expansion of the American cyberwar machine that took place during the years of cyberwar hype.

Since Snowden, Mike McConnell has gone silent.

Behold a Pale Farce is a book not just of computer security vulnerabilities, misdeeds and astonishing exploits, but one also of the strategic national security industry environment in which they transpired.

It is a study in the US government’s and arms contractors’ employment of propaganda on the alleged threat of cyberwar until there was no longer a debate on the subject. The press became willing stenographers to power. And the power resided in the agencies and private sector businesses that built the American cybermilitary and cyberspying infrastructure, what Blunden and Cheung call “the Deep State.” The result: Total escape from oversight. Until Edward Snowden. Sort of.

Last week, two Pulitzers were handed out, one to the Washington Post and one to The Guardian, in the United Kingdom, for journalism deemed to be a great public service, a consequence of the Snowden papers liberated from the National Security Agency.

I say the Snowden affair and the steady release of NSA documents brought real change. But only “sort of” for Americans domestically.

Internationally, Snowden’s materials utterly demolished the US national security propaganda campaign on China’s much publicized cyber-stealing of the America’s economic future.

A week or so ago, for the New York Times, an Obama administration official, anonymously, was compelled to admit we no longer had any moral standing to argue from the high ground about it.

Michael McConnell is gone from newspapers. At some point he was probably made to squirm while answering now classified questions about his firm’s hiring and screening process for Edward Snowden.

Internationally, the electronic Pearl Harbor meme has been made absurd. You can’t scream someone is planning to cyber- sneak attack the country when you’re caught sneaking into everyone else’s networks for spying (this was always obvious, of course, we’re going to spy, everyone else does it!) and the writing and dissemination of software boobytraps.

Domestically, it’s been another story. Despite disturbed noises in Congress and from the White House, there’s been no change. There has been only theater, purely for public consumption.

Up until his retirement you could still find National Security Agency director Keith Alexander publicly dissembling and complaining that something needed to be done about Edward Snowden. Didn’t you know, as 60 Minutes told us, that the NSA was saving us from the Somali pirates with people who could solve Rubik’s cube puzzles in under a minute?

The authors of Pale Farce frame the span of manipulations well, using Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s 1988 analysis, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media as a guidepost. Orwell, on the perversion of language, comes in for a few mentions, too.

The authors point out, correctly, there’s nothing new in what’s happened. The power of money, political access and propaganda were used as they always have been, to subvert reasoned control and democratic values.

What’s one of the more alarming results? The sad realization that the US has helped create and accelerate a cyber-arms race, a lucrative global and national market where our arms manufacturers are now happily engaged in producing software to destroy the privacy and civil liberties of ordinary citizens.

In addition, Farce provides a nicely detailed and richly footnoted chronology of most of the globally and nationally significant computer security failures and scandals of the past decade. These are woven into broad tapestries, discussions on global computer crime and the constant and inherent vulnerability and error — via people, software and hardware — in the networked world.

Summing up, if you’re interested in a book on cyberwar, Blunden and Cheung’s is the one to read. And it is perfectly timed.

Unlike the rest of our so-called “books” on cyberwar (take this best-selling example), Behold a Pale Farce: Cyberwar, Threat Inflation & the Malware Industrial Complex, won’t badly date if another Edward Snowden comes along. It is a true chronicle, a slice, of our technological history.

There’s also one last reason to get it. Another full disclosure [1]: I’m in it. Some of my best lines, too.


[1]. Example:

“Nobody in the great mass that is not the 1 percent or in the service of the same cares about attacks on the American financial system. They do, on the other hand, wish our financial system would stop attacking them.” — GS, page 224

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