Archive for the ‘US’ Category

Is there a drone bubble? It’s not clear whether this is more like the .com bubble, when a lot of useful stuff was built but a couple of years too early, or more like the housing bubble, when a lot of stuff was built in the wrong places to the wrong standards at the wrong prices and will probably never be worth much. It’s the nature of a bubble, of course, that it’s precisely at the top of the bubble that the commitment to it is greatest.

One of the things the RQ-170 incident tells us about is some of the operational limitations of the drones. Typically, they are piloted in the cruise from locations that may be a long way off, using satellite communication links, but when they land, they do so under local control via line-of-sight radio link from their base. This allows us to set some bounds on how much of a problem link latency really is, which will take us circling back to John Robb’s South Korean gamers.

Gamers are famous for being obsessed with ping-times – the measurement of round-trip latency on the Internet – because it’s really, really annoying to see the other guy on your screen, go to zap’em, and get zapped yourself because it took longer for your zap to cross the Internet than theirs. Typically you can expect 40 or so milliseconds nationally, 60-80 inter-continentally…or several hundred if a satellite or an old-school cellular operator with a hierarchical network architecture is involved. A sat hop is always clearly identifiable in traceroute output because latency goes to several hundred ms, and there’s a great RIPE NCC paper on using the variations in latency over a year to identify the satellite’s geosynchronous (rather than geostationary) orbit as the slant-range changes.

On the other hand, roundtrip latency across an airfield circuit a couple of miles wide will be negligible. So we can conclude that tolerable latency for manoeuvring, as opposed to cruising, is very little. Now, check out this post on David Cenciotti’s blog from January 2010. Some of the Israeli air force’s F-15s have received a new communications radio suite specifically for controlling UAVs.

You might now be able to guess why even drone pilots are going through basic flight training. Also, this post of Cenciotti’s describes the causes of six recent hull losses, all of which are classic airmanship accidents – the sort of thing pilot training is designed to teach you to avoid.

That said, why did all those drones get built? The original, 1980s UAV concepts were usually about the fact that there was no pilot and therefore the craft could be treated as expendable, usually in order to gain intelligence on the (presumably) Soviet enemy’s air defences by acting as a ferret aircraft, forcing them to switch on the radars so the drone could identify them. But that’s not what they’ve been doing all these years.

The main reason for using them has been that they are lightweight and have long endurance. This is obviously important from an intelligence gathering perspective, whether you’re thinking of over-watching road convoys or of assassinating suspected terrorists (and there are strong arguments against that, as Joshua Foust points out). In fact, long endurance and good sensors are so important that there are even so-called manned drones – diesel-engined, piloted light aircraft stuffed with sensors, with the special feature that they fly with intelligence specialists aboard and provide a much faster turn-around of information for the army.

Their limitations – restricted manoeuvre, limited speed and payload, and high dependence on communications infrastructure – haven’t really been important because they have been operating in places and against enemies who don’t have an air force or ground-based air defences and don’t have an electronic warfare capability either. Where the enemy have had man-portable SAMs available, as sometimes in Iraq, they have chosen to save them for transport aircraft and the chance of killing Americans, which makes sense if anti-aircraft weapons are scarce (and surely, the fact of their scarcity has to be one of the major unreported news stories of the decade).

But then, the war in Iraq is meant to be over even if the drones are still landing in Kurdistan, and the US may be on its way to a “pre-1990” military posture in the Gulf. This week’s strategic fashion is “Air-Sea Battle” and the Pacific, and nobody expects anything but the most hostile possible environment in the air and in the electromagnetic spectrum. And the RQ-170 incident is surely a straw in the wind. Also, the Bush wars were fought in an environment of huge airfields in the desert, and the ASB planners expect that the capacity of US bases in Japan and Guam and the decks of aircraft carriers will be their key logistical constraint. (The Russians aren’t betting everything on them either.)

I think, therefore, it’s fair to suggest that a lot of big drones are going to end up in the AMARC stockpile. After the Americans’ last major counter-insurgency, of course, that’s what happened. The low-tech ones are likely to keep proliferating, though, whether as part of the Royal Engineers’ route clearance system or annoying the hell out of Japanese whalers or even playing with lego.


The fact that a majority of this year’s graduates from USAF basic pilot training are assigned to drone squadrons has got quite a bit of play in the blogosphere. Here, via Jamie Kenny, John Robb (who may still be burying money for fear of Obama or may not) argues that the reason they still do an initial flight training course is so that the pilot-heavy USAF hierarchy can maintain its hold on the institution. He instead wants to recruit South Korean gamers, in his usual faintly trendy dad way. Jamie adds the snark and suggests setting up a call centre in Salford.

On the other hand, before Christmas, the Iranians caught an RQ-170 intelligence/reconnaissance drone. Although the RQ-170 is reportedly meant to be at least partly stealthy, numerous reports suggest that the CIA was using it among other things to get live video of suspected nuclear sites. This seems to be a very common use case for drones, which usually have a long endurance in the air and can be risked remaining over the target for hours on end, if the surveillance doesn’t have to be covert.

Obviously, live video means that a radio transmitter has to be active 100% of the time. It’s also been reported that one of the RQ-170’s main sensors is a synthetic-aperture radar. Just as obviously, using radar involves transmitting lots of radio energy.

It is possible to make a radio transmitter less obvious, for example by saving up information and sending it in infrequent bursts, and by making the transmissions as directional as possible, which also requires less power and reduces the zone in which it is possible to detect the transmission. However, the nature of the message governs its form. Live video can’t be burst-transmitted because it wouldn’t be live. Similarly, real-time control signalling for the drone itself has to be instant, although engineering telemetry and the like could be saved and sent later, or only sent on request. And the need to keep a directional antenna pointing precisely at the satellite sets limits on the drone’s manoeuvring. None of this really works for a mapping radar, though, which by definition needs to sweep a radio beam across its field of view.

Even if it was difficult to acquire it on radar, then, it would have been very possible to detect and track the RQ-170 passively, by listening to its radio emissions. And it would have been much easier to get a radar detection with the advantage of knowing where to look.

There has been a lot of speculation about how they then attacked it. The most likely scenario suggests that they jammed the command link, forcing the drone to follow a pre-programmed routine for what to do if the link is lost. It might, for example, be required to circle a given location and wait for instructions, or even to set a course for somewhere near home, hold, and wait for the ground station to acquire them in line-of-sight mode.

Either way, it would use GPS to find its way, and it seems likely that the Iranians broadcast a fake GPS signal for it. Clive “Scary Commenter” Robinson explains how to go about spoofing GPS in some detail in Bruce Schneier’s comments, and points out that the hardware involved is cheap and available.

Although the military version would require you to break the encryption in order to prepare your own GPS signal, it’s possible that the Iranians either jammed it and forced the drone to fall back on the civilian GPS signal, and spoofed that, or else picked up the real signal at the location they wanted to spoof and re-broadcast it somewhere else, an attack known as “meaconing” during the second world war when the RAF Y-Service did it to German radio navigation. We would now call it a replay attack with a fairly small time window. (In fact, it’s still called meaconing.) Because GPS is based on timing, there would be a limit to how far off course they could put it this way without either producing impossible data or messages that failed the crypto validation, but this is a question of degree.

It’s been suggested that Russian hackers have a valid exploit of the RSA cipher, although the credibility of this suggestion is unknown.

The last link is from Charlie Stross, who basically outlined a conceptual GPS-spoofing attack in my old Enetation comments back in 2006, as a way of subverting Alistair Darling’s national road-pricing scheme.

Anyway, whether they cracked the RSA key or forced a roll-back to the cleartext GPS signal or replayed the real GPS signal from somewhere else, I think we can all agree it was a pretty neat trick. But what is the upshot? In the next post, I’m going to have a go at that…

…from the sea

What’s wrong with PROFIT?! Death to all Marxists! Hey, I usually try to remain calm, but this is getting unnerving. Everyone with any sense knew there would be an epic wingnut freakout after the US elections – the structural forces made it inevitable, after all the time spent denying plate tectonics – but who imagined that the tactical triggering event would be the healthcare bill? I was thinking in terms of carbon tax, or something that could be presented as a racist issue – immigration, perhaps.

But there you have it; you really can turn these people on and off like a tap and turn them on anything, like a hose. If there’s one remark I never want to hear again after the last few years, it’s the one about “if you don’t believe in God, you’ll believe in anything”.

Meanwhile, things like this happen:

“We are working taxpaying jobs, paying taxes, and we can’t get insurance because we make $6.55 an hour,” said Laura Head, 32, of Rogersville, Tenn., the first person in line Friday for the first day of the Remote Area Medical clinic, an annual three-day event offering free medical care. “This is really a great beneficial thing, but it doesn’t have to be this way; we could all have insurance.”

A single mother of three who mows yards and moves trailers for a living, Head said she arrived at the fairgrounds Tuesday, to camp out at the fairgrounds until the health fair began Friday morning. Her motivation was simple: severe, constant pain.

Close to two years ago, her boyfriend smashed her teeth, she said – but, without the $6,000 needed to have the teeth pulled she has endured infection after infection, making literally 100 visits to the emergency room for antibiotics and pain medication.

Back in February, 2008, I blogged about the French Navy dropping off a load of school books for New Orleans during a port call. I’m beginning to think that someone should write the story about one of their new Mistral-lclass Batiments de Projection et Commandement doing a free clinic on the tank deck, like the US Marines do from their LHAs in West Africa, as part of a semi-acknowledged drive for political influence in a zone of potential pre-insurgency and instability.

Or would the redcoats be more shocking? Albion would be the obvious ship, just for the name.

Bruce Schneier and Jason Sigger, usually sensible sources, both mock a study by some thinktank or other which raises the supposed possibility of hackers “using the Internet to start a nuclear war”.

As they both point out, the possibility of anyone getting access to the actual command and control firing chain with metasploit is so remote as to be ridiculous, and we’d do much better to worry about tidying up old radioisotopes in Russia, and perhaps not having quite so many nuclear bombs.

My only objection is that we have, in fact, lived through a serious attempt to do just that, immediately after Lashkar e-Toiba terrorists attacked the centre of Bombay in December, 2008. As you might expect, they didn’t try to get control of nuclear weapons from the command line.

Instead, they attempted to use the Internet to influence the political leadership – they placed a call to the Pakistani president’s office, spoofing the calling line identification message in order to give credibility to their effort to pose as the Indian foreign minister. My technical analysis is here; the Indian government’s investigation later showed that the attackers set up a VoIP network with nodes in the US and Austria for their own use.

Presumably the idea was to provoke the Pakistanis into doing something that would destabilise the situation, causing the Indians to respond and thus triggering Pakistani mobilisation for real. The Guns of August, 2.0, with Princip using a Linksys SIP handset.

Clearly, there is still a need for the existing nuclear states to help the new ones establishing solid command and control procedures, including the communications elements that make them work; one of the problems of international crises is that the system to be secured suddenly gets a whole lot bigger, as other systems – in this case the diplomatic/protocol bureaucracy – become closely connected to it.

It’s not the early 80s hackers of War Games we need to worry about – instead it’s essentially trolls, provocateurs, empowered by the technology available to today’s spammer.

It strikes me that the possibility of ambiguous identity is a hard one to grasp; for a very long time, it was safe to say that such a message was unlikely to be a fake, and if it was, it was probably faked by a proxy for the real enemy. Consider the case of 4chan vs. AT&T.

AT&T null-routed the server which carries the bulk of 4chan’s content; everyone freaked; AT&T claimed that a denial of service attack was coming from that IP range. But it was hardly likely that the 4chan crowd, of all people on the Internet, would have been daft enough to launch a denial of service attack from their own machine – DOSs have essentially always been distributed over many, many hacked computers (DDOS, for Distributed Denial of Service) since the first botnets emerged in the early 00s, this being harder to counter, offering much more stolen computing power, and being much more difficult to trace to its source.

A detail in the Ars Technica story explains it all. One of the sources cited mentions “persistent ACK scans” – when a computer wants to start a TCP connection, as used for the Web, to another, it sends a message called a SYN to the receiving party, which if it gets the message and wants to reply, sends a message called an ACK to the address provided in the SYN. If received, the sender replies with a SYN-ACK and then starts transferring data.

4chan was experiencing a DDOS attack itself at the time. Putting these bits together, it’s clear that the attackers were altering the source header in the packets they threw at 4chan to point to a machine somewhere in AT&T’s network, so that every one received generated a further packet thrown at the AT&T machine. This is a classic; it gets you two attacks for the price of one, it conceals your own position, and it brings the possibility that AT&T might go ape and do the job for you. If the first target is especially big, you could also use it to magnify the volume of traffic, in a so-called reflector attack.

It’s surprising and depressing that they weren’t aware of that; no more surprising and depressing, however, than the way so many people have been willing to believe patently false information just because it’s “secret”.

Two things. Marty Lederman of popular legal blog Balkinisation has just become the first blogger in good standing to join the Obama Administration. He’s going to be Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Council.

That’s repellent schreibtischtäter John Yoo’s old job. I repeat, old Organ Failure Yoo has been replaced by Liberal Q. Weblog. That is, I think, change you can believe in. My advice; nothing dinky, Klotzen nicht Kleckern. Just seal the entire building in an evidence bag, like a forensic Christo.

Meanwhile, I wasn’t bothering with the inauguration, but look at this: people are posting to NANOG reporting downstream Internet traffic as much as double normal levels, even on networks that are 80% commercial customers rather than eyeballs. Apparently it’s coming through on port 8247, which is the one CNN’s streaming service uses. Apparently, some sysadmins are running their own mirrors of one stream or other and blocking the rest.

This BBC Radio 4 documentary about the British nuclear deterrent and the people who operate it is absolutely cracking. Not surprisingly, the man behind it is none other than Professor Peter Hennessy (can we call him Henn-dawg yet?).

One of the things that stands out is the amount of desperate psychological coping going on. The forms vary; the RAF V-Force crews of the 1960s, who were not only expected to carry in the warheads themselves but also very likely to ditch the aircraft somewhere beyond, also had to taxy the Vulcans out for every mission past the school playground. Their wives were more than familiar with the desperate QRA launch scenarios; it seems remarkable that anyone could put up with that.

One day at RAF Cottesmore, the public-address speakers, which were wired directly to the Bomber Controller telebrief feed from High Wycombe, went click just as a group of families visited, and everyone ran like hell to the flight line without even waiting for the voice from headquarters, still less saying a word. We’re talking about 1950s telecoms and electronics here – it must have gone click ten times a day.

A different style from this barely contained hysteria was reserved, indeed still is, for the top civil service and since 1969, the Royal Navy submariners; here, they deal with a much slower and more considered form of killing and dying. It’s a neurotic rather than a hysterical scenario: what can I tell them? what will they think? am I doing the right thing?

Was, for example, Denis Healey doing the right thing, in the High Wycombe bunker during 1960s transition to war exercises as one of the Prime Minister’s deputies for retaliation, when he repeatedly pretended to give the authorisation to scramble the V-force – although in fact, he had decided that should it come to that he wasn’t going to launch? (Keighley Man Saves The World.)

Interestingly, James Callaghan, despite the conventional wisdom, was very clear that he would certainly have pressed the button – or rather, his half of the button. One thing that seems to be clearer in the memory of the top officers Hennessy interviews than has been in the past is the duality of civilian and military control – as no civilian can give a military order, the PM or the deputy can only authorise, not order, the launch. (You thought our constitution was weird? Wait ’til you see our nuclear command authority.)

There is a logical AND gate – rather as NATO shared weapons are subject to the dual-key arrangement between NATO and the host-nation, and Soviet ones were to split control between the military (for the aircraft or missile) and the Communist Party/secret police (for the warhead fusing), UK nukes are subject to a dual-key arrangement between the civilian and military authorities. Another of Hennessy’s interviewees, Lord Guthrie, the Chief of Defence Staff who read Tony Blair in on the nuclear files, made clear that he thought this was very much a real constraint on both parties.

An odd feature of the whole thing was the repeated suggestion that, had the UK been devastated by Soviet missiles and the deterrent not been used, the remaining subs or aircraft might have been turned over to Australia. This would have been a challenging redeployment for the V-Force, to say the least, although they did exercise Far Eastern deployments. Of course, the submarines would have had no such difficulty. In this weird way, the last remnants of imperial feeling were to be saved from the ashes, and the deterrent’s true role – to maintain credible independence from the United States – would be maintained under a slightly different flag.

Ah, the Americans. They have a sort of shadow presence in the whole thing. One thing that the broadcast makes clear is that yes, there is a UK national firing chain as well as the NATO SACLANT one. They visit the cell in the Navy’s bunker at Northwood which handles the link between the Government and the extremely-low frequency transmitters – two crypto officers independently authenticate the message from the Cabinet Office and retransmit it via multiple redundant routes. They each need codebooks from two safes, neither of which can be opened at once, and which are permanently monitored by armed Marine Commandos. We hear a simulated authentication; interestingly, the crosstalk suggests that there is a specific distinction between a NATO and a UK national signal.

But each submarine, as she collects her load-out of rockets from King’s Bay, Georgia, also picks up an American shakedown crew for the test launch down the Eastern rocket range from a spot off Cape Canaveral, and the actual handle the submarine Weapons Engineering Officer pulls is the butt end of a Colt .45.

In all, however, it was a story of people in an insane situation working hard at staying sane.

After the show, I looked up some news and saw this. Jamie Kenny deals with it here, but the facts are worth repeating. Some random just rang up Mr 10% and claimed to be the Indian foreign ministry, and threatened war. Pakistan responded by increasing air force readiness; fighters were placed on combat air patrols. We don’t know what happened with the Pakistani nuclear weapons, which are delivered by aircraft; did the F-16s load up and move to the runway’s end?

Pakistan apparently believes it really was the Indians; the Indians claim it was some maniac with a telephone. The Pakistanis also say it came from a phone number at the Indian foreign ministry. This is fairly meaningless – not many bulk SIP carriers, and not that many old fashioned telcos, check or filter the Caller Line Identification strings, and software like the Asterisk free IP-PBX will let you send whatever CLI you like. After all, the head of the Islamic Students’ Movement of India is supposedly a geek.

The answer to this is of course the one the MI6 station chief in Moscow in 1962 used when the secret signal he gave Oleg Penkovsky for use in the event he learned of a nuclear attack came down the phone: do nothing. The crisis was on its way down; Penkovsky had been missing for days, and was presumably in the hands of the MVD. Therefore Frank Roberts decided to ignore the signal. Few feedback loops of such criticality can’t do with some more damping.

More China convergence blogging. Declan McCullagh reports on efforts by the US and China to sneak something nasty into the ITU standardisation process, through a committee that doesn’t publish its documentation or let anyone else in the room. But the Chinese appear to be the ones leaning forward;

The Chinese author of the document, Huirong Tian, did not respond to repeated interview requests. Neither did Jiayong Chen of China’s state-owned ZTE Corporation, the vice chairman of the Q6/17’s parent group who suggested in an April 2007 meeting that it address IP traceback.

A second, apparently leaked ITU document offers surveillance and monitoring justifications that seem well-suited to repressive regimes: A political opponent to a government publishes articles putting the government in an unfavorable light. The government, having a law against any opposition, tries to identify the source of the negative articles but the articles having been published via a proxy server, is unable to do so, protecting the anonymity of the author.

Now that’s what I call a use case! The standards group in question includes someone from the Chinese ministry of telecoms and an NSA official whose biog appears to be secret, as well as someone from Verisign; who is hilariously quoted as saying that:

“The OSI Internet protocols (IPv5) had the capabilities built-in. The ARPA Internet left them out because the infrastructure was a private DOD infrastructure.”

(Trust me, if you know your Internet history, it’s hilarious.) The poor darling, still wishing for someone to bring back OSI. And the representatives of the Chinese Communist Party conspiring away with the NSA.

Oh well; it’s not as if it’s going to work. Viz:

“Since passage of the Patriot Act, many companies based outside of the United States have been reluctant to store client information in the U.S.,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington. “There is an ongoing concern that U.S. intelligence agencies will gather this information without legal process. There is particular sensitivity about access to financial information as well as communications and Internet traffic that goes through U.S. switches.”

But economics also plays a role. Almost all nations see data networks as essential to economic development. “It’s no different than any other infrastructure that a country needs,” said K C Claffy, a research scientist at the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis in San Diego. “You wouldn’t want someone owning your roads either.”

Read the whole damn thing; it’s one of the best reported stories on the Internet infrastructure I’ve ever seen, they spoke to the right people (Renesys, k c claffy, Odlyzko), and the conclusions are interesting to say the least.

The Renesys rankings of Internet connections, an indirect measure of growth, show that the big winners in the last three years have been the Italian Internet provider Tiscali, China Telecom and the Japanese telecommunications operator KDDI.

Firms that have slipped in the rankings have all been American: Verizon, Savvis, AT&T, Qwest, Cogent and AboveNet. “The U.S. telecommunications firms haven’t invested,” said Earl Zmijewski, vice president and general manager for Internet data services at Renesys. “The rest of the world has caught up. I don’t see the AT&T’s and Sprints making the investments because they see Internet service as a commodity.”

If the “American Internet” is ending, it’s because they don’t deserve it any more.

Via Calculated Risk, galleries of repossessed houses in Los Angeles. This one can stand for a common theme.

It’s hardly got any windows on the street side at all! Just two huge garage doors. Those doors are a common feature throughout the show – houses whose outward appearance is totally dominated by monster garages, like a great big fat ugly gob. Anything human in the architecture skulks behind the garage, as if ashamed. It’s as if cars designed these buildings for their own use – realising, of course, they needed to make provision for the people, but sadly not being quite able to understand their needs.

This is, of course, not irrelevant to why they are already down one-third of their value. Perhaps we need a word for the opposite of architecture?

Douglas Farah reckons the Russians are trying to press the US State Department to press for Viktor Bout’s release, or rather his extradition to Russia, which would amount to the same thing. It’s an interesting suggestion, although usual caveats apply to a story sourced to Bill “WMD to Syria!!” Gertz. I can imagine them pitching it as a sort of grown-ups’ conspiracy, driven by the prospect of sensational revelations.

Just how sensational might be judged by this fine piece of work by the South African Mail & Guardian on the Khalid Rashid case, from back in 2006 (I blogged). Meanwhile, everyone’s worried about the fact Bout was offering portable SAMs for sale. I’m not at all surprised that he could source them; hell, he had in the past sold complete attack helicopters. Further, the weapons used in an attempt to bring down an Israeli Boeing 757-300 in Kenya originated in Bulgaria via Somalia, at a period when Irbis Air Co was sending off several flights a day from the UAE to northern Somalia and to ports on the Yemeni coast.

The Economist has a good story on the whole affair; they take the line that Russia has decided to be more helpful on the arms trade, pointing to the arrest of Monzer al-Kassar and the extradition of Yar Klein. That can await early confirmation, as far as I’m concerned. The Economist also points out that it’s worrying that he apparently thought he could still use Bulgaria and Romania as he did in the late 90s, now they’ve joined the EU; some interesting reports are coming out of Romania, for example here. And if anyone could translate this one I’d be very much obliged.

In other news, Bout’s brother Sergei, founder of CET Aviation in Malabo back in the 90s, appeared on Russian radio protesting Viktor’s innocence and asking “How could the American authorities behave in such an unprincipled way?”. He must be the last man on earth who couldn’t answer that one.

Meanwhile, z-list wingnut barkie and professional fuckwit Gateway Pundit tries to sneak in on the glory as part of a smear. Glad I’m not you. (In fact, he has given me the germ of an interesting idea. More soon.)

This New York Observer interview with Ann Coulter is being heavily blogged (sample), but I think there is an important point that’s being missed here.

If you follow the link, you’ll see that the reporter adopts the old trick of shutting up and letting the subject natter; this is a classic of journalistic craft, as most people (and especially most people in public life) like talking about themselves. Not just that, the main reason why people of power or influence consent to speak to you is because you’ll print what they say. So saying nothing is often effective.

It’s also a tactic that appeals to essentially moderate reporters faced with radical (in any direction) interviewees; rather than engaging with their beliefs, let them gabble into your notebook. With any luck they will say something newsworthy, or better yet, embarrassing. But I wonder whether it is appropriate to the times?

The downside of it, of course, is that whatever they say gets rebroadcast; for example, look at this:

Jimmy Carter got the whole thing started, Bill Clinton let it build, build, build, build, build. He wouldn’t deal with it, because he had no credibility on deploying the military. He was a pot smoking draft dodger, and so when he was presented with credible evidence that this or that country was behind a terrorist attack, he’d just have to look the other way: “No, don’t let me hear that. Call in Monica!”

The expected reaction on the part of the reporter is “God almighty – they believe this stuff?” or perhaps “The poor woman – is she all right?” All of which assume there is a sufficient infrastructure of public reason to let this stuff go through to the wicketkeeper; it’s essentially a sort of condescending assumption that The Crazies are safely marginalised.

Surely everyone knows that Jimmy Carter “got the whole thing started” in that he sent arms to Afghanistan in order to defeat the Soviet Union, and that Bill Clinton deployed the US military to Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti and Kosovo? Or that his response to the al-Qa’ida mid-90s campaign was to bombard targets in Sudan and Afghanistan? That it’s still the case that no-one has come as close to killing Osama bin Laden than when the cruise missiles of Operation INFINITE REACH landed on his camp, half an hour after he left it?

But here’s the rub; if you don’t rebut, or better refute, this kind of crap, it just floats through into the public water supply. And once there’s enough crap out there, everyone gets a bit. I really wonder to what extent US hard-right ranting is intended to elicit this response.