Community college as a verb (continued)

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Permanent Fail at 4:17 pm by George Smith

An old friend from the Lehigh Valley saw the link to the Community College as a verb post on Facebook and had this to say:

I remember losing my chemical processing job to NAFTA in the mid nineties in PA. Went to community college to brush up on some math courses but economics sent me back out to the work force. Lo and behold, those same chemical processing jobs now had an associate degree attached to the same responsibilities I had for 10 years after I got out of the Navy in 1986. So to do the same job I had as a Teamster and being trained in house at the plant I worked at I now had to go to college to able to apply for that job and put myself into dept with student loans at the age of 35. A nice little kick in the balls.

Building for decades, the US economy is really a story about contempt.

That nice ‘f—you’ was being put into place all through the country.

It’s the plain dishonoring of credentials and experience, all so people can be de-skilled, de-jobbed and compelled to spend money enrolled in courses to learn things they have already learned, sometimes more than once.

I ran across it when I graduated from Lehigh, multiple times.

Schools and businesses stopped honoring any type of credentials and experience when and wherever it was convenient, which was usually when you walked in their door.

I had been teaching a lab course in microbiology at Northampton Community College in period of around ’89-91, not long after leaving Lehigh University. It was suggested to me, by an old Lehigh advisor, that I might pick up an educational certification at Moravian College in Bethlehem. So I inquired and was given a list of courses I would have to take. I had a Ph.D. in chemistry from across town, and was told I would have to take introductory microbiology, a course I had been teaching, as well as other basic chemistry courses, which I also had taught as part of paying the freight for the doctorate.

I already had three degrees in chemistry and you can only imagine how shocking and infuriating it was to hear, as a young person who had recently graduated with the highest qualification one could get in chemistry, that one would have to take beginner’s courses again.

I asked the benighted woman who was talking with me, surely this could not be true, that the school would not honor any degreed credit from other very well known places. She just froze up and said I’d have to take the things again.

Maybe she was incompetent or crazy or something was really wrong that day. It brought everything to a bad halt. There was no point in having a conversation or to make plans on continuing education.

My impression, for the last thirty years, has been American business and schooling has made it their business to just deny people what they have learned as part of a racket to force many out of the workforce. It is a convenience, to obviously push desperate people into spending more and more money on “retraining.” Anything that will discredit labor and ability is thrown at you.

And we have a media and population, a good deal of which has been propagandized into believing whatever someone tells them along these lines.

You must retrain, even for minimum wage pay.

On Amazon’s digital sweat shop, Mechanical Turk, you can easily find many 2 and 5 cent jobs for which it is claimed you “are not qualified.” Don’t believe me? Go look.

It’s all part of the environment of demeaning labor and talent so it can be had as the cheapest of commodities. In addition, the national industry of predatory re-training schools is well established. For fees, always more fees and loans, we are promised revitalization.

And then when we finish up, typically, there’s no job or something that pays mininum wage or less, at which point you can be told again you need more re-training, your credentials are crap.

The continuing selling of this in bad times is playing with fire. At some point a large number of people will have lost interest in believing anything. They’ll be convinced, because it cannot be ignored, they’re in a society where work for living pay is a privilege awarded to those with only the right connections. And that those who have that privilege think of everyone else as inferior. This is what brings down entire countries.

You cannot sustain a system and philosophy that cynically condemns and cannibalizes decades worth of work and people for the benefit of a very few. The ax of history will eventually come to chop it down.

In a related, census data released on recovery from the end of the recession in 2009 has still lagged. No one who really got hit is yet back to what they were earning or worth before the troubles started.

But of particular interest is this brief bit on the alleged value of schooling, at the New York Times:

In the recession and its aftermath, many people went back to school, earning associate or bachelor’s degrees. Such credentials have helped, the new data shows, but they have been no guarantee against loss of income.

Households headed by people with only a high school diploma have seen their post-recession income decline by 9.3 percent, to $39,300 in June of this year, the report said. For households headed by people with an associate degree, median income declined by 8.6 percent in those four years, to $56,400. And among households headed by people with a bachelor’s degree or more, median income declined by 6.5 percent, to $84,700.

And, finally, a bit from today’s New Yorker website, more anecdotal contempt for people, everyone except a small slice. It’s been conditioned into the DNA.

At one of the country’s annual gatherings of music money and excess, SXSW in 2012, the brilliant stunt of paying poor people 20 bucks to be wi-fi lampshades:

“At last year’s South by Southwest technology conference, in Austin, the marketing agency BBH set up thirteen homeless volunteers as wireless transmitters, for twenty bucks a day. They lugged mobile Wi-Fi instruments around the city, searching for crowded conference areas, wearing shirts that identified themselves as homeless hotspots.”

Of course it was met with dismay. But who would even think of it except those who view contempt for others as normal part of daily life? People as ambulatory furniture and cheap stuff at that. At SXSW, one of the big hot money flows in the music biz.

The rest of the NYer piece is the usual high-button hand-wringing about the poors, hung on the hook of pop-art begging signs for the homeless, delivered with a slightly detached air of what-can-be-done-ism.

Nothing. Nothing can be done and nothing will be done.

The New Yorker writer can’t capture the smiling contempt of the year-old stunt of using homeless people as walking wi-fi “hot spots.”

This picture, on the web portal for it, does.

The brief smiling profiles of cleaned-up homeless people, adorning a PayPal button for donations on what the tens of thousands of music tourists and journalists in Austin thought might be fair to pay for wireless access. Two dollars for 15 minutes, another lousy deal, was the suggested amount in the fine print.

And the website with smiling faces or homeless people was not designed for twenty bucks a day.


What he said

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China, Permanent Fail at 2:22 pm by George Smith


Consider the changing identity of the most valuable company in America. For a long time, it was GM, then Exxon, then IBM. These were companies with huge visible production activities …

But now it’s Apple, which has hardly any employees and does hardly any manufacturing. The company tries, through fairly desperate PR efforts, to claim that it is indirectly responsible for lots of US jobs, but never mind. The reality is that the company is basically built around technology, design, and a brand identity.

There was an old Dilbert in which the pointy-haired boss explained that the company had discovered that despite its slogan, people weren’t its most important asset — money was, and people only came in at #8 or something. Actually, in Apple’s case market position is its most important asset.

There are a couple of obvious implications from this change in the nature of corporate success. One is that profits are no longer anything remotely resembling a “natural” aspect of the economy; they’re very much an artifact of antitrust policy or the lack thereof, intellectual property policy, etc. Another is that a lot of what we consider output is “produced” at low or zero marginal cost.

Smartphones and mobile computing haven’t been transformative for the American populace, at least from what I can see at Baja Ranch everyday. Everyone has an iPhone with apps for every social networking site and more processing power than many older PCs. But they still can’t earn enough to get out of the WIC, SNAP and EBT programs.

Every day it becomes easier to detest Apple and the rest of America’s “tech” industry.


A quarter of all adult Americans are mentally ill

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Permanent Fail at 8:28 am by George Smith

Infrequently this blog comments on social phenomenon that seem to indicate large numbers of Americans are increasingly mentally ill.

While diagnosis of mental illness in the entire population can never be achieved as an absolute, the Congressional Research Service has released a report which attempts to collate data on the matter.

One its leading summations is displayed.


It comes as little surprise that a quarter of American adults, perhaps more, are mentally ill. National conditions logically seem to predispose for it. And anecdotal evidence is manifest weekly, if not every day.

The United States, it is often said, is truly the exceptional country.

Prevalence of Mental Illness in the United States, by the Congressional Research Service, has been put on-line by Steven Aftergood at the Secrecy blog. Along with stuff about the strategic bomber force, terrorism, inflation and that global warming thing half of Congress maintains is a hoax.


Political Entertainments

Posted in Extremism, Permanent Fail at 12:04 pm by George Smith

Mitt Romney will get tough on Iran and deploy two aircraft carriers to the region,

While Barack Obama has . . . kept two carriers off Iran for the past two years.

Romney would sort out the Syrian opposition and give them the support they need!

Meanwhile . . . (the CIA is currently on the border trying to do just that.)


Todd Akin, on the lack of science behind evolution:

I don’t see it as even a matter of science because I don’t know that you can prove one or the other. That’s one of those things. We can talk about theology and all of those other things but I’m basically concerned about, you’ve got a choice between Claire McCaskill and myself. My job is to make the thing there. If we want to do theoretical stuff, we can do that, but I think I better stay on topic.

If you count the number of Republicans who are profoundly anti-science, they stack up like cord wood. Every time you turn around — the last was this weekend — there will be some videotape of a Republican Party heevahava going on about the perfidy of scientists, the satanic deception of evolution, weird and offensive explanations of women’s reproductive biology, how one can pray the gay away, and the gigantic hoax of global warming

Indeed, the GOP lines the House Science committee with them showing only how the party is composed of extremists and nitwits, people who are toxic to progress and enlightenment.

And that’s the entire point.



Posted in Permanent Fail, War On Terror at 1:12 pm by George Smith

From the wire:

The U.S. military trainers handed the new recruit, Mohammad Ismail, his AK-47 to defend his remote Afghan village. He turned around and immediately used it, spraying the Americans with bullets and killing two — the latest of nine U.S. service personnel gunned down in two weeks by their supposed Afghan allies.

The shooting in western Farah province was not the only such attack Friday. Hours later a few provinces away in Kandahar, an Afghan soldier wounded two more coalition troopers.

One turncoat attack per month raised eyebrows last year. One per week caused concern earlier this year. But when Afghan forces turn their guns on international trainers twice in a day — as they now have two weeks in a row — it’s hard to argue there’s not something going on …

“There’s no positive spin on this,” said Andrew Exum, an analyst with the Washington-based Center for a New American Security who has advised the top U.S. generals in Kabul.

And he used to be a military blogger.

“I have never heard of anything in Vietnam comparable to what we have recently experienced in Afghanistan,” said James McAllister, a political science professor at Williams College in Massachusetts who has written extensively about the Vietnam War.

Neil Sheehan. David Halberstam. Bernard Fall … James McAllister. Doesn’t ring a bell.

“We took some fire — fire from South Vietnamese soldiers who probably felt the Americans had betrayed them,” writes Philip Caputo, at the end of “A Rumor of War.”

Exhibition of short term memory problems, too:

Officials say an American soldier has died after an attack on U.S. troops in northern Iraq.

They say two policemen opened fire on U.S. soldiers visiting an Iraqi police station. An Iraqi interpreter was also killed. Three Americans were wounded.

It was the fourth such shooting in the Mosul area in just over a year purportedly involving Iraqi security forces …

BAGHDAD – Two U.S. troops were killed Saturday by an Iraqi soldier who apparently smuggled real bullets into a training exercise and opened fire, raising fresh concerns about the nation’s security forces as the Americans prepare to leave by the end of this year …

Afghanistanization — from the archives.



Posted in Decline and Fall, Permanent Fail at 7:48 am by George Smith

Tuesday marked the third anniversary of the last increase in the federal minimum wage. For the last three years, while the prices of gas and milk have risen steadily and the richest 1% have enjoyed huge tax breaks, the federal minimum wage has remained frozen at $7.25 an hour, which amounts to just $15,080 a year — as long as you get paid for any time you take off. That’s more than $7,000 below the federal poverty line for a family of four. As a result, the purchasing power of the minimum wage has slowly eroded — in just three years, its real value has sunk to $6.77 per hour, a nearly 50-cent drop.

The Bush tax cuts, which are simply the perquisite of the moment for the 1%, allow for the richest to prosper at the expense of middle-class and low-income workers. While CEOs make millions and their corporations make billions as part of a so-called economic recovery, the majority of Americans are struggling to make ends meet. This struggle is exacerbated by the low federal minimum wage. As middle-class jobs are increasingly replaced by low-wage work, however, this is the economic reality for a growing number of Americans.

Unless Congress raises the federal minimum wage, economic security for workers in low-wage jobs, the fastest-growing sector, will disappear. It is incumbent on members of Congress to raise the federal minimum wage …


In the interest of fairness can we have the anti-labor Labor Day essays and demonstrations now?


Capitalism’s ‘Sacrifice Zones’

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Permanent Fail at 12:47 pm by George Smith

We are watching these corporate forces which are supra-national … reconfigure the global economy into a form of neo-feudalism. We are rapidly becoming an oligarchic state with an incredibly wealthy class of overlords … [it is called] inverted totalitarianism, it’s not classical totalitarianism, it doesn’t find its expression through a demagogue or a charismatic leader but though the anonymity of the corporate state that purports to pay fealty to electoral politics, the Constitution, to the iconography and language of American patriotism, but internally has seized all levers of American power … as to render the citizen impotent.

After World War I “American society became enveloped in the psychosis of permanent war where in the name of anti-communism we could effectively banish anyone in the society who questioned power in any serious kind of way.”

From two to twenty-four minutes will give you the full measure. “In theological terms, these are forces of death … I know what happens when wheat prices increase by 100 percent, children starve,” Chris Hedges tells Bill Moyers, on his view of US financialism.

It’s very discouraging. It’s also impossible to pull away.


Memorial Day

Posted in Permanent Fail, War On Terror at 8:30 am by George Smith

The general American attitude toward war: Our troops are the greatest as long as I don’t have to serve and I promise to make appreciative mouth noises or go to parades on key days of remembrance … The honest approach: Admitting you don’t give a rat’s ass about Memorial Day as long as you get hot dogs and hamburgers. I don’t buy the argument that anyone’s fought for my freedoms in the last ten years.

The military, our political leadership, and the people all wanted a fighting force that was unrepresentative of the nation and only a sliver of the population. One that would insulate the country from Viet Nam-style war protest because the sacrifice is not shared.

And that’s what they have.

And this is impolite and churlish but accurate:

The US military, despite being the largest, most well-equipped and capitalized of any in world history, is BAD. It smashes weakling countries and bombs the guilty as well as the innocent who have nothing in the desperate places of the world, delivering it all with a special brand of American pomposity that tolerates no soul-searching or regret.

It is thought to be led by men deemed the best and the brightest. So best and bright the majority of Americans cannot name one general, admiral, or even the guy who led the force that invaded Iraq a decade ago.

And, finally, making my point, Elisabeth Bumiller at the New York Times, interviewing officers, whose names you don’t recognize and won’t remember, who have written books no one will read who isn’t required to as part of a West Point course, drawn from battles no one who wasn’t there knows about. (Note that we’ve been at war so long a child who lost a father on 9/11 is now graduating from cadet school. That’s serious evidence of fail.)

If these guys are scholars of anything making arguments worth consideration by anyone outside their insular profession of national war-making, I’m Ernest Hemingway.

Good news, lads! Good news. It’s Memorial Day.


Shunning Jesus of America (continued)

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Permanent Fail at 10:53 am by George Smith

I guess it’s predictable that Paul Ryan (for foreign readers, the fellow pictured prominently in the above video) is now trying to say he was never an Ayn Rand fan. This because religious scholars have bricked him on passing off his austerity plans to cut foodstamps to the poor as informed by his Catholic faith. Rand was notorious for reviling religion.

And Ryan has made himself an equally notorious liar.

In the Catholic faith there are two types of sin: venal and mortal. Mortal sins queer your relationship with God. You have no chance to ascend into Heaven with one on your soul. You will go to Hell. But the sacraments of Confession and Penance allow you to take care of that, making your soul, once again, white as a new sheet.

Breaking any of the ten commandments is a mortal sin. However, lying is a bit more subtle in interpretation. Lying can be venal or mortal, depending on the gravity and depth of the truth intentionally deformed or misinterpreted by the lie.

Has Paul Ryan committed a mortal sin? Yeah, probably, since it’s such a big issue reaching into every corner of American society.

However, the news archive of the Internet won’t let him get away with it — except in GOP circles. Evidence of any kind makes no difference there, ever.

From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in Wisconsin, a reporter covering Ryan and his district wrote this three years ago (the article is not a hit piece):

Ayn Rand economics

At the Rand celebration he spoke at in 2005, Ryan invoked the central theme of Rand’s writings when he told his audience that, “Almost every fight we are involved in here on Capitol Hill is a fight that usually comes down to one conflict – individualism versus collectivism.”

In that struggle, Ryan argued that shifting Social Security (which he called a “collectivist system”) toward personal investment accounts was not only good policy, but would change the political landscape, according to a recording of the event made by its host, The Atlas Society.

“If we actually accomplish this goal of personalizing Social Security, think of what we will accomplish. Every worker, every laborer in America will not only be a laborer but a capitalist. They will be an owner of society. That’s that many more people in America who are not going to listen to the likes of Dick Gephardt and Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, the collectivist, class-warfare-breathing demagogues,” said Ryan.

The Atlas Society has a presence on YouTube although its contributions do not go back to 2005. There are, however, a good number of videos of people posing for the camera and saying: “I am John Galt.”


Blessed are the job creators (continued)

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Permanent Fail at 5:31 pm by George Smith

An excellent and very long interview with economist Joseph Stiglitz, who won a Nobel in 2001, is now available at The European Magazine.

It deals with economic austerity in Europe, policy which has brought on more collapse and increasing social unrest.

Quite a bit is covered. However, Stiglitz does address the severe condition of this country:

What is happening to most citizens in a country? When you look at America, you have to concede that we have failed. Most Americans today are worse off than they were fifteen years ago. A full-time worker in the US is worse off today than he or she was 44 years ago. That is astounding – half a century of stagnation. The economic system is not delivering. It does not matter whether a few people at the top benefited tremendously – when the majority of citizens are not better off, the economic system is not working …

We are facing a very difficult transition from manufacturing to a service economy. We have failed to manage that transition smoothly. If we don’t correct that mistake, we will pay a very high price. Already, the average American is suffering from the failed transition. My concern is that we have set in motion an adverse economics and an adverse politics. A lot of American inequality is caused by rent-seeking: Monopolies, military spending, procurement, extractive industries, drugs. We have some economic sectors that are very good, but we also have a lot of parasites. The hopeful view is that the economy can grow if we rid ourselves of the parasites and focus on the productive sectors. But in any disease there is always the risk that the parasites will devour the healthy body parts. The jury is still out on that …

It will require a strong third party or civil society to do something about this.

It is unusual but welcome to see the word “parasites” used in association with “monopolies,” “military spending,” and “extractive industries,” the latter which includes Wall Street.

Very fundamentally, Stiglitz is telling the interviewer that America can’t be a decent country, in any sense, where the majority is left to exploit or rot for spoil and the sole benefit of those at the very top. Plus, the the evil-doers may win.

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