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I've seen this problem off and on with my Sandisk 256mb usb stick. I haven't figured out if it is kernel related, but I think it may be the usb-storage driver doesn't quite have the correct timings. On some distros I work with, it comes right up, others give me the same error some of the time.
Try removing the drive and waiting a few seconds, then reinsert it. Wait for the lights to stop flickering and check dmesg to see if it stabilized. Another thing to try, is reformating the drive on a windows system. HP has a usb stick formatting tool that works with this drive.