07.20.17

40 year slump bills — opioid statistics and desparation

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Made in China, WhiteManistan at 12:30 pm by George Smith

At the New York Times, Thomas Edsall publishes a sobering statistic:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2014 that the number of opioid prescriptions outnumbered the number of people in 12 states. All 12 of these states voted for Donald Trump: Arkansas, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Also, the continuing study of the counties in the Rust Belt states that flipped voters from Obama to Trump:

The question that persists six months after Mr. Trump’s inauguration is why six key states — Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, along with 220 counties nationwide — flipped from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016. Why did these voters change their minds? These are men and women who are, in the main, still working, still attending church, still members of functioning families, but who often live in communities where neighbors, relatives, friends and children have been caught up in disordered lives.

Schuylkill County, where I grew up in Pennsylvania, was one of these counties.

And heroin overdoses were then unknown there. Not anymore.

In June, Schuylkill County Coroner Dr. David J. Moylan III said the possibility of 60 drug-related deaths is something he thought would be a reality in the county.

[In 2015], 26 people died in drug-related deaths. Twelve of those involved heroin and three were fentanyl related.

County coroner data as of Friday show of those 54 [2016 deaths] so far, fentanyl was involved in 27 of them.

I’ve made the argument before that opioid drug death and the lack of answer for it indicate the country is headed for very profound disruption and failure.

The accumulating costs of throwing half the country to the dogs in the 40 year slump.

07.12.17

China crunch

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China, Rock 'n' Roll at 1:06 pm by George Smith

Seven years ago, in front of a real applauding audience in Pasadena.

Another evergreen theme. Seven years gone and again, something that could be a national creed.

Dig the guitar hero and listen for the made-in-China blues harp.

TURN IT UP!

07.11.17

Song for Warren Buffett to sing to his pals

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Made in China, Predator State, Psychopath & Sociopath, Rock 'n' Roll at 4:27 pm by George Smith

“Rich” + “tax” + “break”.

The national tune that never gets old.

Warren Buffett thinks the Republican health care bill has an alternative purpose: to help the already-wealthy make even more money.

The famed investor and world’s second-richest person had some choice words about the legislation currently being debated by the Senate, suggesting it could be called the “Relief for the Rich Act” during an interview with PBS NewsHour Tuesday.

My tunes, evergreen. Seriously. As good as Iggy & the Stooges, easy.

The unplugged version.

I gave up fighting. I’m with the tenor of the country. Take away my Medicaid. I am undeserving.

Remember, you can download the unplugged version for your gadget. Send it to a friend, even.

Now, please start a campaign to raise money for a Mitchell electric/acoustic guitar — 149 dollars at Guitar Center.


On a slightly more serious note: Can you believe this tuneage is fives years old and HAS ONLY BECOME MORE REAL? IT’S VIRTUALLY THE NATIONAL CREED.

A reader on guitar sales: You get old & die

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China, Rock 'n' Roll at 12:00 pm by George Smith

In response to Electric guitars have the blues:

Fred’s Music in Reading, where I would hang out religiously, closed. Supposedly he “retired. But I think it’s more due to no sales anymore. Live bands don’t exist. Show me a club in Reading that has live rock and roll=none. It’s dead. Once our generation passes, and that will be soon, rock is dead. Or when the Stones cease to exist, that is the end of Rock.

Just like High end Audio, or stereo systems, are dead. All kids use now is the stupid phone and earbuds. Remember you could walk into Boscov’s, and find a stereo section that had Marantz, AR, Dual, Kenwood? Good stuff. Nowadays high end audio is solely sustained by boomers, like me. After we’re dead it’s gone.

07.05.17

Electric guitars have the blues

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China, Rock 'n' Roll at 2:48 pm by George Smith

A reader points out a recent story in the Washington Post: Why my guitar gently weeps: The slow, secret death of the six-string electric. And why you should care.

Written by Geoff Edgers, it’s a good piece that touches on some subjects and people I’ve written about over the years, with special focus on the loss of sales of the primary middle class instrument of my generation: the electric guitar.

Today the electric guitar faces challenge from all sides. The most influential being the US economy just isn’t what it used to be. After 2007, it collapsed for a great part of the US middle class. And the electric guitar was and is an iconic MIDDLE class luxury buy.

Today there are two forces, one noted at a musical instrument seller’s convention (NAMM) by the reporter, glut and, two, lack of demand. The US economy has been sputtering along since the “recovery” at a paltry 2 percent growth rate. Sales of goods beyond necessities (of which the guitar is an example) have been hurting for a long while. Fender and Gibson, the primary American producer of electric guitars, are businesses caught in the doldrums with signficant debt overhang:

In the past decade, electric guitar sales have plummeted, from about 1.5 million sold annually to just over 1 million. The two biggest companies, Gibson and Fender, are in debt, and a third, PRS Guitars, had to cut staff and expand production of cheaper guitars. In April, Moody’s downgraded Guitar Center, the largest chain retailer, as it faces $1.6 billion in debt. And at Sweetwater.com, the online retailer, a brand-new, interest-free Fender can be had for as little as $8 a month.

I get a copy of the Sweetwater Pro Gear catalog. It’s a perfect example of glut, Sweetwater not being the only guitar rock business, businesses all selling the same thing to the same limited number of people at a time when there’s not a lot of cash to go around. The people hurting in middle America, in the heartland, those who voted for the President, are the potential buyers of electric guitars and times just aren’t what they used to be. There’s pain out there and it filters over into all manner of businesses, not just the sales of electric guitars. Middle age (or older) wasteland, call it. (Which is to say things would probably not be so grim if the economy was better for everyone, not just people in the right professions on the coasts).

At the music merchants’ convention in Anaheim, Edgers interviews George Gruhn. Ten years ago I touched on Gruhn as an American speculator in antiquities of sorts, in this case the electric guitar. It was in an article for the Los Angeles Times, one on conspicuous consumption just before the great economic crash. The items of interest were Gibson Les Paul electric guitars, ’59 vintage models, selling for a quarter of a million dollars and up:

Part of the Los Angeles Times’ new contemporary coverage of America is its glorification of conspicuous consumption. Weekly, features writers find the most annoying examples of Grotesquus Americanus. Then it proceeds to portray whatever herd of manipulators it has found as something swell. The point of it is to make you feel stupid or envious while marveling at the business acumen and immense good fortune of others.

Today’s example were men who hoard late-Fifties/early Sixties Gibson Les Paul Standard guitars painted in sunburst finishes.

An example of the ridiculous prices the instrument fetches is here at Gruhn Guitars, run by reseller/guitar collector/speculator …

Business in fantastically priced Les Pauls was apparently great. There was even a link, now dead, to Gruhn’s website whereupon you could see a picture of a Les Paul selling for 275,000 USD. And while this small part of the antiquities business may still be solid, the rest of the world of electric guitar has gone upside down. Paradoxically, it will not surprise readers that the expansion of sales of “cheaper guitars” has meant the offshoring to China and other Asian rim countries. Again, the mirroring of the US economy as a whole.

For the Post, Gruhn says the current business is “unsustainable.” This is obvious. There’s no actual market to allow the survival of hundreds of luthiers or electronic tinkerers making an endless supply of custom fuzztones in the United States.

Gruhn thinks its because there’s a lack of guitar heroes, as contrasted with days of yore.

Guitar heroes. They arrived with the first wave of rock-and-roll. Chuck Berry duckwalking across the big screen. Scotty Moore’s reverb-soaked Gibson on Elvis’s Sun records. Link Wray, with his biker cool, blasting through “Rumble” in 1958.

This is only maybe half right.

Gibson dies by their premium prices, in direct competition with luthiers and another maker in exactly the same space, Paul Reed Smith. This is at a time when demand hollowed out the middle. There’s the low end and a high end, and the high end is the smaller of the two.

The other side is boring old classic rock radio, now oldies stations although they’re not called that.

Jimmy Page / The Rolling Stones/ Clapton / Slash / Jeff Beck /Pete Townshend / Heart / Journey / Van Halen still have their radio exposure. Keep in mind none of the glory days musicians can make records anyone will pay money for. Digital cratered everything but their back catalogs. No one wants a new Ted Nugent record but he can still summer tour and Cat Scratch Fever still gets played on radio. Stubbornly, though, that radio territory is strictly out of reach of any new artists playing rock and roll.

Country music is one exception. Lots of classic rock and roll went to country and it’s not an accident a lot of guitar manufacturing, like Gibson, is in Nashville. Country music still features guitar heroes. One of them is a woman — Taylor Swift.

On the other hand, Link Wray never got played. He died an expat in Denmark, I think. In Europe he had an audience.

I play “Rumble”. People know that but it wasn’t on the radio during Zep or the Who’s heyday. Polydor even tied a release of “The Link Wray Rumble” to a blurb by Pete Townshend. The recommendations didn’t help. The record didn’t rise in the charts. “Rumble” wasn’t on the radio in 1974.

Even more tiresomely, the internet and freetardism has atomized the market, again — glut — has become a problem with everything making it impossible to record and make money in the the old way of development.

Couple it with the rupture of demand. The cash just isn’t there.

And sitting in front of a smartphone or laptop isn’t fun when playing guitar. It’s work. Not the same as playing along to an old record player.

Again — the Washington Post piece.


1. Rumble. A tribute. Note famous fight scene from They Live, wherein the thuds and cries are timed to the riffage.

03.31.17

Trade and the mouthpiece of the meritocracy

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China at 12:23 pm by George Smith

Since the advent of Trump the New York Times has gone all in for defending the meritocracy status quo. Partof the duty is taken up in defense of global trade. It’s all good. Tariffs are bad.

Today the newspaper delivers a ‘splainer that’s part of the effort in Who Wins and and Who Loses if Trump Puts up Trade Walls:

This [tariff installing] approach could result in higher barriers to imports that would end America’s decades-long status as the world’s most open large economy. This could lead to slightly higher prices in the United States for everything from Chilean grapes to iPhones to gasoline. But it could also provide a boost to companies and workers who make things in the United States and sell them abroad.

Heavens, more expensive iPhones! And Chilean grapes! I know for a fact grapes are grown in California. I’ve seen them!

The Times goes to great lengths to show that trade is good even though it has done bad things to the American worker. Unfortunately, the Times’ own illustrations mostly refutes its approach. The trade deficit is shown as hu-u-u-ge with China. And getting worse. China is, unlike this country, protectionist. It uses value added taxes on imports to protect its own manufacturing base, something the US does not do.

Economist Dean Baker has spent most of the last twelve months soundly debunking the NYT establishment line. And he did it again this week here:

The extraordinary plunge in manufacturing jobs in the years 2000 to 2007 was due to the explosion of the trade deficit … It is incredible how acceptable it is for our elites to lie about trade rather than deal with the issue candidly. “

“This level of dishonesty separates trade out from most other areas of public debate,” Baker states flatly.

You know what I think.

03.02.17

Slap Shot: 40th anniversary

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Made in China at 1:03 pm by George Smith

The past weekend was the 40th anniversary of the movie Slap Shot, now considered a classic. At the time of release it was more-or-less critically shunned. Over the decades opinions were revised upward.

There was a good deal of coverage of a celebration in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
For example:

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — The streets of this small town are littered with relics from the iconic movie “Slap Shot” filmed here 40 years ago.

There’s the statue of the dog that, in the movie, saved the people of fictitious Charlestown from the 1938 flood. There’s the park in the center of town with the fountain where Paul Newman and Lindsay Crouse shared a memorable scene. There are familiar storefronts. The Aces restaurant is still in operation. The steel mills are still standing. Then there’s the Cambria County War Memorial ice rink.

People in this town take pride in the movie, but Johnstown is somehow different than it was 40 years ago.

It’s depressing.

The rust-belt town took a massive hit to its economy when Bethlehem Steel Corporation, America’s second-largest steel producer, closed its mill in 1982. The town’s population was well over 70,000, but after the mill closed, the downturn began.

“The steel mill left. The jobs left. The people left,” said Johnstown police Capt. Chad Miller.

And the more upbeat:

No one embedded with the Hollywood royalty at tonight’s Oscars or even in the global television audience is likely to spare a stray thought for the worst injustice in the history of the Academy Awards, probably because almost no one shares the following opinion:

“Slap Shot” got jobbed.

A loving cinematic monument to the raw essence of hockey, framed by the ribald lawlessness of the minor league game in the 1970s, the film that starred Paul Newman as an end-of-the-line player/​coach and Johnstown, Pa. as itself was released 40 years ago this weekend.

As you might never imagine from Saturday’s commemorative celebration in and around the Cambria County War Memorial, home of the long-defunct Johnstown Jets on whom Nancy Dowd’s rollicking script was not-all-that-loosely based, “Slap Shot” was not Best Picture of 1977.

Somehow.

“Star Wars?”

And:

“Now make sure when you’re watching this, you’re drinking a grape and orange, but none of that stinkin’ root beer,” actor Dave Hanson said.

And back at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena, fans got the chance to meet and greet with the Hanson brothers and other cast members.

“It’s fun to talk to people all over the United States, I said, and Canada,” actor Steve Carlson said. “It’s their favorite lines, their favorite movie.”

Carlson, one of the three famous Hanson Brothers, says it’s a very special event to be a part of.

“This is where one of the greatest sports movies of all time, you know, one of the greatest hockey movies of all time (was filmed,) so it’s great to celebrate it in a place that we started at,” Carlson said.
Dave Hanson agrees.

“It’s always a treat to come back here for any reason, but to be able to come back to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of “Slap Shot” is just a special treat,” Hanson said.

“Hey, the boys are back in town man. We’re putting on the foil,” Carlson said.

And last, here:

I’ve been storing up the energy to for a review of “Slap Shot,” the Seventies movie with Paul Newman as the player coach of the Charlestown Chiefs (modeled on the Johnstown Jets) of western Pennsylvania. I have an old videotape and have had it on replay. “Slap Shot” can also be viewed through the lens of America’s forty year slump, a movie framed at the time big business resurrected a devotion to unrestricted preying on its human labor, and — as it turned out — hundreds of millions of future livelihoods.

The backdrop for “Slap Shot” is the perfect picture of it. The steel mill is set to close in “Charlestown,” laying off thousands.

“Ten thousand people put on waivers,” says Ned Braden (Michael Ontkean), the Charlestown Chiefs’ leading scorer, to Paul Newman, as both stand outside the steel mill waiting for a ride from Lily (Lindsay Crouse), Braden’s wife.

“What’s going to happen to them?” Newman, as Reggie Dunlop, the Chiefs’ player/coach asks.

It’s every man for himself, replies Braden.

Or the beginning of the root hog or die economy in the Rust Belt. Donald Trump should have marked it last Saturday.

12.03.16

The Blues Have Got Me By the Throat

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China, Phlogiston, Sludge in the Seventies at 12:52 pm by George Smith

Consider it a 15-minute radio show.

Photographic proof of why she lost: At home cavorting with suck-up multi-millionaire classic rock celebrities. Left to right: Jimmy Buffett, Jon Bon Jovi, HRC, Sir Paul McCartney.




Featuring the inimical Blind Poison Castorseed.

12.02.16

This meme needs to die, along with the liberals and swells who push it

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Made in China at 4:47 pm by George Smith

American swells are having a shared nervous breakdown. And the only thing they can think of to fight back against the national rebuke they just suffered is to invoke one of the Democratic Party’s most played out ritualistic memes.

It begins with the invocation: “Those jobs aren’t coming back.” And from there one naturally proceeds to wisely waving the hands while lecturing lessers (and the choir which nods approvingly) on the need for more smarts, more school, more skills, or retraining camp as I like to call it.

Here, from a Las Vegas newspaper, by way of Pine View Farm:

Wait until Trump tries to come through on one of his central promises: to bring back millions of high-paying manufacturing jobs to the U.S.

There is no shortage of economic experts who say it’s a fantasy.

Why?

Because U.S. manufacturers already are producing a lot of goods. They’re just doing it with fewer people …

The remedy that’s been prescribed for decades:

[Investing] in training programs to ensure Americans are prepared to work in modern digital factories.

It also would require Trump to swallow a couple of harsh realities. The first is that a lot of the people whom he promised to put back to work in factories will have to find work in some other field. The government could help them, Muro pointed out, by establishing a national wage-insurance program that would replace a portion of a worker’s lost wages for several years as he or she trained …

The same prescription, ad nauseam, until it’s enraging. Which is much of the reason why Trump is president.

Now let us here again the swami implying workers are now too stupid for “modern digital factories.”

What modern digital factories might these be? Is not steel-making still basically steel-making?

Bangladesh is “modern digital factories?” The crap in the dollar store where I shop, all produced in “modern digital factories?”

And if one isn’t ready to work in the modern digital factories, there is retraining camp. Which has apparently been tried for years, the threadbare results of which can now be gleaned from the public record of decline.

By way of recent news, the NY Times and a reporter in West Virginia:

“At the Huddle House on Route 119, Kayla Burger, 32, a waitress, has worked three jobs since her husband lost his; they take home less than a quarter of the roughly $100,000 he used to earn. She took an offer for miners’ wives to train as phlebotomists, but with so many miners out of work, the phlebotomy market was flooded. She also substitute teaches and cooks at the school.”

How many people are needed to blood when the local economy is el busto? How many when not?

Check what such jobs pay. They don’t compared to what was lost. I covered this year’s ago in a blog piece on the stupid belief, held as holy grail, that everyone would retrain to be teeth scrapers, vision checkers and bed pan techs.

But there’s no dislodging the belief among the haves that it’s just a matter of lack of skills and smarts in the unfortunate is just a matter of not getting the proper schooling, not a general collapse in the structure of the economy, a collapse caused by policy decisions. That is, no dislodging of the belief until the shoeshiner for the status quo finds he or she has been dismissed for lack of worth.


Blast from the past, or, yes, I am right!

You may ask, “Why this focus on the dreadful US economy and prospects for the middle class, Dick?”

Well, mass unemployment leads to political instability, as we’ve seen.

Political instability is a serious threat to everyone’s security.

If you don’t address it satisfactorily, soon Victoria Jackson’s “There’s a Communist In the White House” has half a million views on YouTube, along with everything that suggests. 10/07/10 with Barack Obama, president

What about all that skills for the future and the global market crap? Are things better? Happy now?! (Me giving you a poke in the chest.)


As usual, Dean Baker has something to say about trade, manufacturing and how it pertains to our current dystopian situation.

“You need not be a fan of Donald Trump to say that trade has had a big impact on manufacturing jobs …” he begins.

An excerpt:

There are three points worth making here. The first is a simple logical one, we have a trade deficit of around $500 billion a year, a bit less than 3.0 percent of GDP. This is basically all due to a deficit in manufactured goods (we have a surplus on services). Does anyone believe that the extra imports associated with the trade deficit are not associated with jobs? Can $500 billion worth of manufactured goods be produced without hiring people? (This matters much more in a context where we face secular stagnation, meaning there is not enough overall demand in the economy.)

The second point is that our trade deficit has not always been this large …

Anyhow, this explosion in the trade deficit coincided with a sharp decline in manufacturing employment.

“Anyhow, we should not look to combat Donald Trump by following his tendency to ignore reality,” continues Baker. “Yes, trade has cost manufacturing workers jobs.”

There are remedies, he adds. One of his is lowering the value of the dollar. Baker has even more to say here on the 1,000 jobs saved at Carrier.


Before wrapping it up, what’s the latest talent/character trait/quality America’s interpreters of the job market say citizens looking for work are lacking?

Soft skills.

What are soft skills?

Getting to work on time. Dressing nicely. Not being too ugly-looking, diseased or old. “People” skills.

Dig deeply into the syntax and linguistics of the news and this is what soft skills means: Capability as a polite and well-dressed bootlick. The term “critical thinking” comes up a bit, but here? Have you been knocked out by the level of critical thinking exhibited in the USA in the last ten years or more? C’mon, who’s buying that?

11.29.16

China Razor Blues

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Made in China at 1:36 pm by George Smith

There’s a wideheld assumption in the establishment that outsourced manufacturing of household goods to China has produced something much cheaper but equivalent to what middle class Americans were used to in the early Seventies.

Globalism good! You can buy more!

It’s true but only to a point that overlooks a very noticeable downside. Yes, I can buy 10 disposable razors at the dollar store for 99 cents. But they are not as good as the disposable razors I used in college.

In fact, I can always count on the first use of a new 10 cent Chinese razor to nick me. Nine times out of ten, it takes one shave before the razor doesn’t constitute a hazard. I’m not sure what the manufacturing trick/cheapnis is that guarantees it, but it’s real.

The shoddiness of certain types of Chinese goods is apparent if you must buy them all the time. Socks from the dollar store last about two washes before they sprout holes. A 25 dollar pair of faux leather plastic-wedded-to- rubber men’s shoes lasted a month before cracking and becoming unwearable.

This is our America, not likely to change, a place to be endured and coped with as it gets progressively and inexorably worse.

Not made in China

Or outsourced. “The China Toilet Blues,” from Old White Coot. Harp by Blind Poison Castorseed.

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