01.24.15

Ricin sting: The USPS is not behind the TOR network

Posted in Bioterrorism, Ricin Kooks at 2:27 pm by George Smith

America is ricin happy, mesmerized by the mystique and allure of the poison found in castor seeds. Or at least a very small but unique demographic in it is.

The next item shows the FBI, unsurprisingly, is still looking at black market sites on the “Dark Web.” And, in a first, its agents have conducted a ricin sting, posing as a seller of poisons on one of these sites, allegedly netting a man who wished to buy “ricin pills.” For resale.

Reuters:

A Manhattan man tried to buy the biological toxin ricin from an undercover agent posing as a drug vendor on an online black marketplace, U.S. authorities said in criminal charges unsealed on Tuesday.

The man, Cheng Le, has been in federal custody since he was arrested on Dec. 23 …

The criminal complaint against Le said he used an unidentified black marketplace located within the “dark web,” a space on the Internet in which users’ true identities remain hidden while they communicate. Le allegedly contacted an agent who had taken over an online identity that had been previously used by a trafficker in illicit materials and asked to buy several lethal doses of ricin, a highly potent toxin derived from castor oil plant seeds …

The complaint said Le wanted the agent to send the ricin to a shipping store near his apartment where he maintained a postal box. He appeared to have plans to resell the ricin to buyers looking for ways to commit murder without being detected, and later asked the agent to put the ricin into pill form …

The man was “taken into custody after picking up delivery of a fake ricin pill,” reads a report from the Associated Press.

Apparently it is not widely known that when selling things from the “dark web,” the USPS is not part of the TOR network. And that in cyberspace the old aphorism is still true: Nobody knows if you’re a dog, or in this case, the Department of Justice.

01.21.15

Computer Security for the 1 Percent: What The Prez said

Posted in Cyberterrorism at 3:23 pm by George Smith

“No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism. So tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information. That should be a bipartisan effort. If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable. If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.”

Same old.

First, Congress generally won’t pass anything the President recommends, in this case CISPA.

Second, you can’t conflate shutting down networks, “stealing our trade secrets,” and civilian privacies. In the United States the only things that have mattered on the national stage are protecting the properties of the corporate sector, Wall Street and the military; secondarily, ameliorating the embarrassment and liability caused when a huge corporate system is breached and its data spilled.

Everyone else is on their own.

Anyway, you can’t have a secure global network when a limitlessly funded wing of the national defense has, as one of its main functions, the subversion and undermining of network security for its own uses and agenda.

Someday, expect a cyber-Bruce Ivins:

Normally, internship applicants need to have polished resumes, with volunteer work on social projects considered a plus. But at Politerain [a training program for the NSA's malware programs], the job posting calls for candidates with significantly different skill sets. We are, the ad says, “looking for interns who want to break things.”


Potential interns are also told that research into third party computers might include plans to “remotely degrade or destroy opponent computers, routers, servers and network enabled devices by attacking the hardware.” Using a program called Passionatepolka, for example, they may be asked to “remotely brick network cards.” With programs like Berserkr they would implant “persistent backdoors” and “parasitic drivers”. Using another piece of software called Barnfire, they would “erase the BIOS on a brand of servers that act as a backbone to many rival governments.”

An intern’s tasks might also include remotely destroying the functionality of hard drives.

Volunteer work on social projects. Good joke, that.

01.20.15

I have much to learn from you, Obergruppenfuhrer

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 12:47 pm by George Smith

“I have much to learn from you, Obergruppenfuhrer.” If you’re not a younger fan boy of all things science-fiction or a member of the reviewing web press, that’s the line that sticks with you from the pilot of Amazon Prime TV’s The Man in the High Castle. And it comes in a scene where said Obergruppenfuhrer, an “American Nazi” in full SS regalia, patiently explains to an underling that a bloody and comatose man hanging from hooks is being beaten to death so his corpse will appear to the resistance movement as if he never gave up the goods.

“The Man in the High Castle” is a tv adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s old alternative history sci-fi novel in which Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan win the Second World War and partition the US into three regions — the west going to Japan, the Rockies being a neutral zone, and the east belonging to the Reich.

I read it when I was a teenager and although it won a Hugo Award for Dick in 1962, it’s not one of my favorites among many others of his.

In terms of fortune Hugos didn’t count for much back then and Dick struggled financially up until a very short time before his death in 1982 when money starting coming in due to the sale of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as the basis for the Blade Runner movie.

Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle is beautifully shot, dark and moody. But swastikas everywhere — arm bands on local every government officer, on road signs, even on pay telephones, and Americans dressed in jackboots, Wehrmacht and Waffen SS uniforms couldn’t help but remind me of an old episode of Star Trek, Hogan’s Heroes and Ilsa — She Wolf of the SS.

The plot moves slowly.

All there is to know as backstory is that Hitler is dieing of Parkinson’s disease and when he does, the Reich will end its peace with Imperial Japan, that a resistance is being kept alive by the smuggling of old film news reels entitled The Grasshopper Lies Heavy which show the Allies winning the war, and that a Japanese ambassador in San Francisco knows something very bad is coming because he casts the sticks and reads the I Ching, a Japanese Ouija board.

“Watching our conquered citizenry suffer under a cruel draconian rule that we’ve never had to endure, even if imagined, was still creepily potent,” wrote one very young and enthusiastic reviewer. (No link).

As far as American dystopia’s go, what’s shown in The Man in the High Castle is bullishly average, particularly against other recent tv series like Fringe and The Strain, the latter which also has a Nazi Obergruppenfuhrer. Besides, it’s not a stretch to think of Americans giving up and tolerating rule by dictatorship as long as they have jobs, cars and get to be on the security force carrying guns, now, is it?

There’s another unintentionally funny part, too. As armed to the teeth as this country is, there’s a conspicuous absence of the tools of “2nd Amendment remedies” in this version of 1962 America. The couple of freedom-fighters, main characters, we see just aren’t of the types that are convincing.

Yes, that’s a bit of nit-picking. But Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle isn’t good. Dick’s book didn’t have much an ending in 1962 and that wasn’t always a liability in many of his stories. However, now the 1962 setting, which was his present, is very dated in the context of American life and that makes The Man in the High Castle look artificial although there’s nothing visibly wrong with the sets. Its America, instead of teeming with people, is abandoned and relatively empty. Even the Nazi-fied period music is poor, more like camp to be precise. “Edelweiss” in NYC or SF in 1962? Please.

There might have been a way to re-imagine Dick’s book but this isn’t it. And considering what’s seen in the pilot, none of it bodes well for this television production, good graphics and Ridley Scott as executive producer or not.

Avoid.

01.19.15

WhiteManistan’s movie

Posted in Bombing Paupers, Culture of Lickspittle, War On Terror, WhiteManistan at 3:41 pm by George Smith

I’m not surprised Clint Eastwood’s movie about Chris Kyle, American Sniper, broke box office records this weekend.

Are you?

Only a minority of Americans have been involved in the forever war. But reverence to the military and service is a deep part of WhiteManistan’s character, I’d say strongly influenced by a universal nagging guilt.

So when a movie on the forever war comes along, particularly one made by Clint Eastwood, it has a great chance of success.

WhiteManistan hasn’t had many war movies to stir a righteous enjoyment in the last decade. I skipped Zero Dark Thirty but did see Lone Survivor which I didn’t think was anything special.

Americans have the military they deserve, one that runs itself with little or no oversight. In payment we’ve been asked to stay out of its way, pretend to like it, swallow the ill will and tragedies that are the consequences years later, give it any resources it needs and keep believing that all of it [fill in the blanks with your favorite myths, received wisdoms and stuff].

Buy me a ticket and I’ll review it here.

It’s 20 dollars in Pasadena.





Good-looking commercial mythology, seen watching football on Sunday.

If I had a dime for every play…

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, The Corporate Bund, WhiteManistan at 3:03 pm by George Smith

I’d still have only eighty dollars.

“President Barack Obama will use his State of the Union address Tuesday night to stake out a populist vision of tax reform and new middle-class benefits [to be paid for by a capital gains tax increase on the wealthy] — and practically dare Republicans to say no,” writes Politico.

Indeed, they have taken that dare & already said “NO!” It’s just theater.

And the President will be booed by half the room, as well he should be, because we voted for the other side a couple months ago and that wasn’t theater. Even though a polling says his popularity is at some kind of high.

So share this song [1] in defense of the swag of wealthy Americans. It never gets old. I even made the lyrics scroll so you can sing along!


1. I know you would never share it. I write it to be irritating. I’m fully aware that me asking someone to share something from here on the Internet is like asking for a new car.

The Real Rock & Roll High School

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 12:56 pm by George Smith

Bigger.

Dateline — Westport, October 1966 and the British invasion! The Yardbirds featuring the not yet super-famous rock guitar gun-slingers Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck had landed in Connecticut!

The Westport Staples High School auditorium was the famous rock group’s first appearance in the United States.

How did it happen?

It’s a remarkable story told in “The Real Rock n Roll High School: True Tales of Legendary Bands That Performed in Westport CT,” compiled by Staples grad Mark Smollin and the students who were there.

In 1966 Staples students Dick Sandhaus and Paul Giambacinni wanted to make their high school days special. And they had a subscription to Billboard magazine. So with the audacity of kids they pitched the idea of bringing the new cutting edge of pop music, rock bands in the charts, to Staples. And the principal bought it! As long as the two could keep the stars to an initial down payment of 750 bucks.

They did.

And so they booked the Beau Brummels, a California band then climbing
the US charts with a single entitled “Laugh Laugh.” The Staples auditorium was filled to capacity with screaming fans, kicking off what would be a long tradition of big name rock bands appearing there.

Tour promoters and record labels realized Westport’s high school was a great stage, one where the teen fans would show up and bands would get a warm reception.

So along came The Yardbirds, Cream, Sly & the Family Stone, The Doors, The Animals, Pete Seeger, Blues Image and many more.

The illustration in this post, excerpted from the book, is a collage of snapshots taken at the Yardbirds show.

In late summer I copy-edited The Real Rock and Roll High School. It is a good book, one of a kind describing a part of history from the beginnings of classic rock, something that happened nowhere else.

I thought of it as an oral history, a richly illustrated scrap book and fond high school memoir filled with pop art, concert posters, ticket stubs, local newspaper clippings, and many photos taken by students.

It was fun to do and obviously a labor of love.

In the process it also exposed the limitations of ebooks and publish-on-demand at Amazon CreateSpace.

If you read the standard news on do-it-yourself publishing, Amazon is the be-all and end-all, the perfect place for everything: Publishing platform, print-on-demand, ebook distribution and the website where you will build a career and following in front of the largest potential audience.

Not so fast.

Amazon CreateSpace can’t handle books like The Real Rock n Roll High School.

And the reasons are actually pretty simple. Amazon’s technology isn’t up to the challenge of sophisticated and complicated pages loaded with color photos, black and white imagery and text. It cannot make such a volume into an ebook for Kindle, either.

That’s not something you read in Amazon’s fine print. The author of The Real Rock n Roll High School had to find out the hard way that Amazon’s self-publishing couldn’t produce a good quality physical or electronic copy of a color dependent mixed-media volume on good paper, the likes of which you can still find by the hundreds and thousands in old brick-and-mortar stores across the country.

So how do you do it? Old school. The hard way, like book publishers have done for centuries. It turns out there are some things traditional book printing is still much better at.

Is there a digital copy of the book available? Yes, of course. As a .pdf, a form in which it looks very good.

But you don’t really need Amazon for that now, do you?

Here is the ordering page.

01.17.15

Rock Obit: Kim Fowley, Lord of Garbage & Dog Food, 75

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 12:38 pm by George Smith

At RockNYC:

Never speak ill of the dead. And so it has been for Kim Fowley, Hollywood impresario, producer, self-promoter and talent scout for the crass just-for-the-sake-of-it, third or fourth-tier glam rock artist, all of it over the span of half a century. In the obituaries everyone’s come out with praise and fond memories of a life goodly lived.

As organizer/producer of the Runaways alone, that would have been enough. In the last dozen years Fowley was a major character in three movies, two on the Runaways (one, the big famous Hollywood production with Michael Shannon with the vulpine producer, the other the not-so-famous documentary, Edge Play) and one about Rodney Bingenheimer, “Mayor of the Sunset Strip,” If Bingenheimer was the mayor, Fowley, as it appeared, could have certainly been its animal control officer.

“[Fowley] sometimes claimed to have been born in the Philippines in 1942 (many accounts say he was actually born in Los Angeles), which would have placed him there during the vicious Japanese occupation in World War II,” Billboard wrote dryly in a recent obit. So what if it’s fiction?

It’s a good detail and who would care if all the plaster stuffing up the cracks between the facts of Fowley’s art and business is somewhat made up?

The consensus of the death notices is that Fowley relished being thought of as a bad man with a heart-of-gold, that, perhaps, he wished he’d been American tv famous. But you get the idea he kind of knew it would never happen with bands like Venus & the Razor Blades, The Orchids (the Runaways redone), the Quick, the Hollywood Stars and, yes, the Runaways. Not even with enough albums to asphyxiate an elephant, a number of them big sellers in name. Not in Seventies America.

At least that’s what it looked like back in the Rust Belt while paging through Creem, Circus and Rock Scene magazines. Fowley always got great publicity. Heck, it was still great entertainment!

And so you see the print, the concept, the photos, the minor desecrations of American middle class pieties for short, amusing and sometimes almost anthem-like tales of garbage spied in the streets were actually better than the reality.

“Punk-a-Rama” and “Dog Food” as in, they ate it in place of cake, by Fowley project Venus & the Razor Blades read and looked great. And then the record arrived. You kept it but after scoring five years later you’d only played it ten times.

Fowley had hits. “Alley Oop,” a novelty by the Hollywood Argyles. “Nutrocker” by B. Bumble & the Stingers. The latter probably earned him the most money when Emerson, Lake & Palmer covered it on a vilified but stentorian live tribute to Mussorgsky sold at a promotional bargain price, “Pictures at an Exhibition.”

Believe me, laugh now, but that moved units in 1971.

As for Fowley’s glam rock trip, “International Heroes,” from 1973, again — looked real good on paper and in early rushes. There he is in gender-bender lipstick and eye-shadow, the poor man’s Ziggy Stardust but perhaps with a disease.

“Kim Fowley’s new album … will place him in the ranks of David, Mott, Alice and Lou in the hearts and palms of the American teenager,” reads Capitol’s press. In the palms? All right!

But you’re going to have to listen to it in the clips before crossing that bridge.

And you can see ‘em here, believe me, you’ll want to, they’re short, along with the rest.

Or go to YouTube and type Kim Fowley. There’s no shortage of material. The man was made to be the video platform’s Ed Wood.

01.10.15

Everything old is always new again in the Culture of Lickspittle

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll, Shoeshine at 12:06 pm by George Smith

Nothing bad ever goes away for good here. Like turds, these things just float back up to the top of the great public punch bowl of life, again and again.

Mitt Romney wants to be President, again.

It’s hard!”

The guy, of which who said it, died.

01.08.15

Jesus of America: Proven by poll/science

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, The Corporate Bund, WhiteManistan at 3:09 pm by George Smith

What you already knew, what I made a sermon and a song about, reported by one of the Culture of Lickspittle’s shoe-shine class poor man’s intellectuals at the Washington Post’s “Wonk blog”:

Most of America’s richest think poor people have it easy in this country, according to a new report released by the Pew Research Center. The center surveyed a nationally representative group of people this past fall, and found that the majority of the country’s most financially secure citizens (54 percent at the very top, and 57 percent just below) believe the “poor have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.”


[And a] quarter of the country … feels that the leading reason for inequality in America is that the poor don’t work hard enough.

Now go listen to the sermon, Jesus of America, and tell me it’s not better than anything you can read on the matter.


“[He] is not the one who fed the poor loaves and fishes. This is not the Jesus who liked lepers. He found the liberty, the land of liberty and freedom; we told him what to do.

Jesus of America says don’t feed the poor; if you do, they’ll come right to your door. They’re gonna wind up like stray cats, around your door on the floor, begging for loads of kibble and rich food. Everyone knows they’re just selfish animals.

That’s what Jesus said.

And remember, it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a poor man to get into the kingdom of Heaven.


Buy a copy of the album, Loud Folk Live, five bucks — cheap. Or review a copy. Or talk about it. Or something. Or not.


The New York Times continues its series, more or less described as Wrestling with the problem of WhiteManistan, in Sunday’s edition entitled, “Is Life Better in America’s Red States?”

The answer is “Yes.” But with a deadly qualifier.

It’s cheaper to live in the neo-Confederacy but it’s based on destructive model that ends in national entropy in the collapsed democracy. The economic success of New Dixie, if you can call it that, depends on continually depressed and compressed labor costs coupled with fossil fuel mining booms.

The latter also threatens quicker ruin from global warming.

The Times contributor recognizes this as a serious problem with national, even global, consequences:

But fracking and sprawling your way to growth aren’t a sustainable national economic strategy.

The allure of cheap growth has handed the red states a distinct political advantage. [The red state] economic system may be outmoded and obsolete, but it is strong enough to blight the future. The Democrats may be able to draw on the country’s growing demographic diversity and the liberal leanings of younger voters to win the presidency from time to time, but the real power dynamic is red.

“Despite their longstanding divisions, red state and blue state economies depend crucially on one another,” writes Richard Florida for the newspaper.

Florida seems to imagine there must be a solution. We must somehow learn to go forward.

But you can’t really speak the truth about WhiteManistan in a big newspaper. It’s too depressing.

There is no way forward in my lifetime. The division is permanent. The present is blight. The question is how fast it worsens in the coming years. And how much money one has to be insulated from the consequences.

01.06.15

DOA: Thor as a hacker

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:50 pm by George Smith

Before Xmas Michael Mann’s “Blackhat” was an object of ridicule here, another way too obvious product from the Culture of Lickspittle

Blow up a Chinese nuclear reactor, research advisors courtesy of US cyberdefense officials! Just brilliant.

The first thing in the trailer — a quote from Leon Panetta on the likelihood of “cyber-Pearl Harbor — showing the people who made the movie have lost their grip.

Wait for the unintentionally hilarious moment, near the end, when a big red emergency banner reading “NSA Breach” appears on screen.

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