03.02.17

The Red Scare

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall at 3:22 pm by George Smith

I’ve not much to say about the return of the Red Scare as a substantial force driving the US. For the Democrats who refuse to accept their candidate was lousy, it’s a dog-ate-my-homework excuse. For everyone else in opposition, it’s a many-pronged effort to reignite the Cold War, potentially move toward starting a hot one with a nation still a nuclear superpower and a tool to stifle dissent and label anyone who fails to “see” it a Russian sympathizer, traitor and fool. An enemy of freedom, too. Keep in mind freedom here means freedom to shop.

Normon Solomon has this to say about Truthdig and it’s hard to argue with the logic:

Consider these words from President Trump at his February 16 news conference:

* “Look, it would be much easier for me to be tough on Russia, but then we’re not going to make a deal. Now, I don’t know that we’re going to make a deal. I don’t know. We might. We might not. But it would be much easier for me to be so tough—the tougher I am on Russia, the better. But you know what? I want to do the right thing for the American people. And to be honest, secondarily, I want to do the right thing for the world.”

* “They’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are we. If we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”

* “By the way, it would be great if we could get along with Russia, just so you understand that. Now tomorrow, you’ll say ‘Donald Trump wants to get along with Russia, this is terrible.’ It’s not terrible. It’s good.”

Rather than being applauded and supported, such talk from Trump is routinely depicted as further indication that—in Krugman’s words—Trump “is in effect a Putin puppet.”

And how could President Trump effectively allay fears and accusations that he’s a Kremlin flunky? How could he win cheers from mainstream newsrooms and big-megaphone pundits and CIA headquarters? He could get in a groove of decisively denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin. He could move U.S. military forces into more confrontational stances and menacing maneuvers toward Russia.

This, entitled by a line that everyone wishes they could have written: Trump Can Prove He’s Not a Putin Puppet by Blowing Up the World.

Add what you will in the noise about how Russia allegedly has taken over the US via the Trump administration but it’s developed into a most dangerous kind of bullshit. The increase in the defense budget desired by Trump — 54 billion — exceeds the Russian defense spending on its own.

War with Russia. Always a bad idea now turned into a supposedly good idea mostly thanks to the collapse of the Democratic Party’s many failures.

The Red Scare.

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.

02.02.17

More on the H-1B brigade

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall at 2:41 pm by George Smith

“New bill [in] the US House of Representatives mandates minimum wage of H1B visa holders at $130,000,” reads the headline of an Indian business publication.

“India’s information technology (IT) sector will face temporary setback to move workers from India to the US with the bill …” it starts.

But the devil’s in the details which are still a bit unclear.

The problem with the tech industry and the granting of H-1Bs in the US is not that there haven’t been enough American workers with the skills. The argument was a lie.

The tech industry uses H-1Bs to hire younger foreign nationals, primarily from India, to replace older more experienced Americans who are paid more.

A few cases became notorious last year in which a big company, like Disney, used an outsourcing firm to hire H-1Bs to replace their American workers who were then compelled to train them for the jobs they were being severed from. Essentially, use of H-1Bs has always been about getting rid of American workers for cheaper labor as to improve the bottom line.


“Why do such low proportions of US STEM graduates land STEM jobs?” the man asks.

By boosting the salary to 130,000 this bill purports to stop that. The caveat is in the finer details which today’s stories don’t get at. Are there loopholes?

For example, for this to work I’d assume the 130,000 salary requirement would have to be applied across all categories of IT and Infosystem jobs which would mean no downward exceptions or wiggle room for entry level positions or jobs tortuously defined to select only for the young and foreign.

Anyway, the point is you’ll be able to sort of tell if it’s a good bill if the tech industry becomes seriously unhappy and lots of stories start showing up about how “Trump” or Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat (who’s generally been in the industry’s pocket), are throwing away the nation’s competitiveness because, again, there are supposedly NOT ENOUGH Americans with “skills.”



The bog standard swelled head tech industry cant

Posted originally to my Facebook page, here are some comments from the pro-outsourcers.

Having worked at this industry I have noted that barring a few American Universities, [the] rest dish out pretty average graduates. Silicon Valley can still afford $130K for average engineers while the rest of the country cannot. Does that mean that companies will stop eroding profits?? The answer is NO they will ship the job offshore. Trump should NOT have messed with the Tech industry. Tech industry is the only domain which keeps US ahead of the rest. He has to think of other ways to curb the body shoppers.


Personal experience, but I interviewed ~30 candidates at an engineering fair a couple of years ago. 29 were foreign nationals, and the one American by far had the worst skills. There absolutely is more foreign-born talent than American, if nothing else simply by the numbers of China+India graduating a far higher number of engineers than we do.


H1-Bs, always young and smart, just looking for a great life in the land of the free

Here’s where it gets ugly. The story that will predominantly feature in the mainstream will be on how the lives and/or dreams of H-1B applicants and current holders may be upended/ruined/spoilt by a revision of H-1B granting rules.

The Guardian story, ‘My worst nightmare’: high-skilled tech workers fear Trump visa crackdown, is a good example.

Karthik Sridhar and his wife recently sold their car and other assets in India, eager to start a new life in Silicon Valley. The founder of an artificial intelligence startup, who moved to Palo Alto, hasn’t seen his spouse and five-year-old daughter since last summer and was hopeful they could reunite this month in California …

“I’m trying to create jobs here,” the 36-year-old said on Tuesday, sitting inside a busy co-working building in San Francisco where tech startups share office space. “Everything is up in the air now … We didn’t know there was going to be complete disdain for existing rules and regulations and policies.”

Here is his company. It’s typical tech industry/start-up pitchman’s stuff: “We send out a deeply personalized e-mail … super-intelligent backbone for e-commerce.”

But it isn’t until you get deep into the Guardian piece that you read about another kind of disdain for existing rules and regulations:

Critics of the H-1B program, including Democrats, have argued that reforms would be welcome given that research has shown that large contracting firms have exploited the program to deploy lower-paid contractors, which can hurt wages and displace US jobs.

And then it’s back to the “worst nightmares.”

The problem, as it exists, is that the US tech industry, corporate America, has very much made employment a zero-sum game. For someone to win, others must definitely lose. In fact, the Silicon Valley philosophy has always been some variation on it: Someone else must always lose for innovation and disruption.

And the story they have been allowed to program is that it is the American worker who is made to lose.

Yes, there are “worst nightmares.” They’ve been experienced by thousands, even millions, of Americans already. They’ve had their lives boiled down, assets liquidated, their futures blighted. When you include all the fine details, the Guardians’ subjects, although presumably good people, suddenly don’t seem the tragic figures after all.

01.30.17

Brainless Memes, Steve Jobs and the fall of the United States

Posted in Bombing Paupers, Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall at 4:09 pm by George Smith

I’m sick of iPhone Steve Jobs as offspring of immigrants posters/signage. Maybe you are too. “We’d have no Apple or iPhone if it weren’t for Steve, the son of a Syrian migrant,” goes the bleat. You’d have to use Samsung or LG!

It qualifies as yet another brainless meme of the moment, picked up and passed around like some convenient aphorism from the Bible, something that professes to explain exactly why Trump’s immigration ban is bad with as few words and troublesome thinking as possible.

Jobs is a poor, make that a wretched, choice. As a human being he was an obvious louse.

Jobs had no obvious interest in being decent to others. His iPhones are famously made in China in a giant complex (paradoxically owned by absentee Korean tech plutocrats) where the conditions were so bad workers committed suicide by jumping off the roof in desperation.

And here’s another kick in the ass: Steve Jobs and Apple were/are notorious abusers of the H-1B immigrants for specialty positions visa program. Along with the rest of the tech industry, they use H-1Bs to procure workforces of younger foreign computer engineers and programmers who can be paid less than older Americans they’ve been hired to replace. It much improves the bottom line.

For examples, just read the recent news and see who’s being profiled. Green card holders, H-1B tech-workers, like these interviewed by the Guardian.

So today, the tech industry is embarrassed and in pain, as it should be. You see, its CEOs aren’t the unbending democracy-loving geniuses they like to imagine themselves to be. They’re just lickspittles to power. Naturally, they’ll get over it. They’re nothing if not capable of blowing with the wind. [1]

Before the election they tended to see Trump as a long shot, an idiot, someone who couldn’t possibly beat Hillary Clinton. And they most noticeably chastised PayPal-billionaire Peter Thiel for his support of the candidate.

But after Trump was elected they changed their tune, crawling on their bellies for a big corporate tax break, for even more H-1Bs, for any bribes they could cadge. And so they’ve been caught flatfooted by Trump’s latest move, people not to be taken seriously when it comes to defending alleged American principles.


However, the immigration crisis is a moment when you can potentially see the American experiment’s possible end coming into sight.

In Volker Ullrich’s Hitler: Ascent 1889-1939, he describes a moment near the end of the book when Germany left the company of the world’s civilized nations. It was the Night of Broken Glass when chancellor Hitler’s minions organized a nationwide attack on Jewish businesses leaving windows on the street, property destroyed and odious art and graffiti on shop fronts.

It was at that point that Hitler’s regime doomed itself.

Truth be told, the United States we’ve known for the last fifteen or more years has been steadily accumulating atrocities globally, showing its will and readiness to leave the maintaining of a decent civilization to other better places.


Finally, the popular story this weekend has focused on all the fine-looking and smart young people caught in the network of airport Homeland Security holding areas. Who, among all the civil servants involved, rebelled and took no part. Of this, we did not read.

While these are compelling news stories they still leave much of the approaching storm unseen. There is, by example, the war crime perpetrated by US Special Forces in Yemen this weekend. Organized and strategized by President Obama, left to Trump to greenlight, a strike which slaughtered civilians, including an eight-year old girl, for the sake of so-called intelligence-gathering.

You could also read commandos “fought and killed female fighters of an al-Qaida affiliate in the raid Saturday in Yemen in which a team member was killed, three were wounded and three injured, the Pentagon said Monday.”

“[A spokesperson] said the SEALs saw the women running to fighting positions as the team approached an enemy compound in Yemen’s interior.”

The attack was a cluster-f from start to finish as well as a war crime. This is no longer hidden. Keep in mind, the mission had been devised by the Obama administration. It is not the singular property of the Trump administration which merely went ahead with it.


We are all immigrants now etc

[1]. As predicted, the tech industry blows with the wind. By late in the day they were all ready to jump to the defense (but not jump too high) of their H-1Bs the world over. “Googlers” even staged a worldwide walkout, a big 2000 strong. A paltry amount in the scale of Alphabet finance — 2 million in matching money — was pledged to the cause by Google corporate. By contrast, Google corporate spent 5 billion on a corporate stock buyback in 2016 — a predator economy stunt of no social value but popular with American big businesses.

Why, even Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook had great grandparents who came from Europe! I bet you didn’t know that! My grandparents came from Hungary. I bet you didn’t know that, either!

01.06.17

Abandon ship

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, WhiteManistan at 3:36 pm by George Smith

The Democratic Party hasn’t begun to accept how badly the bottom has been ripped out.

Quotes from the New York Times, yesterday:

They are part of a growing movement in rural America that immerses many young people in a culture — not just conservative news outlets but also home and church environments — that emphasizes contemporary conservative values. It views liberals as loathsome, misinformed and weak, even dangerous …

While many blame poor decisions by Mrs. Clinton for her loss, in an environment like this, the Democratic candidate probably didn’t matter. And the Democratic Party may not for generations to come. The Republican brand is strong in rural America — perhaps even strong enough to withstand a disastrous Trump presidency.

Rural conservatives feel that their world is under siege, and that Democrats are an enemy to be feared and loathed.

Loathsome and loathed. There are no stronger words.

An interesting sidenote is that the column’s writer, Robert Leonard, references J. C. Watts, an exCongressman.

That’s Julius Ceasar Watts, an African American, who was a star football player for the Oklahoma Sooners.

There are two social tides running here, both bad for the Democratic Party.

If the Party ever sends its current staffers and stars, the people who were all inspired by Barack Obama, out to the heartland shires, they’re going to get fried. (Not literally. More a possibly permanent persona non grata-type thing, a shunning.)

Or if they think a coalition including a smaller number of the we/us college-educated whiteys from the right colleges can eke out a win if just enough of the rest of white America dies, they’re done, too.

12.28.16

Downfall

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Extremism at 2:47 pm by George Smith

From a book I’m reading over the holiday, “Hitler: Ascent – 1889 – 1939” by Volker Ullrich. You’ll notice there are still a good many differences between these passages and the psychology of 2016-17 America. Still, the Volksgemeinschaft and “storms of applause” resonate.

Excerpted:

“The psychological consequences [of 1930] were overwhelming. The trying experiences of the post-war period of turmoil and hyperinflation had left many Germans without the emotional strength to deal with an economic crisis that exceeded everything that had come before. An apocalyptic mood of hopelessness began to take hold, even among those segments of the populace that were not primarily affected by the Depression. Faith in democratic institutions and democratic political parties dissolved, and anti-parliamentary sentiment, already rife in the Weimar Republic, was given a huge boost. Those in power appeared to have no solutions to the crisis, and the more helpless they seemed to be, the greater the demand became for a ‘strong man,’ a political messiah who would lead Germany out of economic misery and point the way towards renewed national greatness.”


“Hitler’s campaign speeches followed the same pattern. He began with a polemic against the Weimar ‘system’ which he blamed for Germany’s decline and decay, comparing Western parliamentarianism to a ‘worn-out tailcoat.’” Democracy, Hitler claimed, was fundamentally unable to solve Germany’s problems ecause it privileged the rule of the majority over ‘“the authority of personality.’ Hitler then went after the other political parties, which, he claimed, represented only special interests and never the people as a whole. ‘Twelve years of unlimited rule by the old parliamentary parties have turned Germany into an object for exploitation and made it the laughing stock of the entire world,’ Hitler thundered. The NSDAP, he told his audience, represented a ‘new popular German movement’ that overcame class conflicts and the selfish interests of specific social castes: “There is only one movement that recognises the German people as a whole, rather than individual groups, and that movement is ours.” In this respect, the NSDAP was a model for what Hitler had in store for all of Germany: the creation of a Volksgemeinschaft, a racially defined ethnic-popular community. This Hitler defined as a form of social ‘organisation that no longer knows proletarians, bourgeois, farmers, artisans, etc. but rather is constituted by people from all parts of Germany and all groups of [its] population.’ The idea of the Volksgemeinschaft seems to have particularly fascinated Hitler’s audience. He could count on storms of applause every time he invoked it. The concept was inseparably linked with the promise of national revival …”

The author continues, noting further on that it was still be no means certain that Hitler would attain power three years later.

12.19.16

Observation: What’s the matter with Democrats?

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall at 2:04 pm by George Smith

From my POV, the Democratic Party is a chicken with its head cut off. I keep getting emails from allegedly local Democratic Party forces. They’re to sign up for meetings to plan “resistance.”

The nearest ones are in Orange County, laughable when you see where Pasadena is. And the numbers are worse. Would you drive from northeast of LA to Irvine to meet with four people to discuss how to form a “resistance” in California. How about eight?

I suspect we don’t need to meet and clutch pearls together in California.

The party does need to find people, and not just the old usuals, to go out to the places in the states where they’re loathed. There will be psychological casualties in the war but they’re going to have to take the punishment and reverse some of the hostility. And they better get to it soon.

“Other Democrats, Obama said, have not been as visible in rural parts of the country and as such, the party has lost touch with those voters,” the President told NPR over the weekend.

“What I am interested in is just developing a whole new generation of talent,” he said.

I agree with him. The young eventually might get the country out of its crisis of leadership. Tall order for short people, though.

On the other hand, I’m 60, white and my demographic isn’t dying quite fast enough, sorry to tell you sir. And the majority went for the other guy, although I didn’t. And the next age tier down went for the other guy too. And they’re going to be alive even longer.

So keep the enthusiasm over the young. But at some point the Democrats are going to have to junk the idea that they can keep throwing people like me away.


Case study: Here’s Old king Bill

“President-elect Donald Trump ‘doesn’t know much,’ former President Bill Clinton told a local newspaper earlier this month, but ‘“one thing he does know is how to get angry, white men to vote for him,’ ” reads Politico.

The guy who once won “angry white people” in a landslide doesn’t realize he’s gone upside down.

Only Hitler, apparently, can speak truth to ex-power. Why? Because he’s Hitler.

12.15.16

“Half of the US got nothing”

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall at 5:12 pm by George Smith

Of the handful of people I know face to face the majority haven’t done particularly well over the last few decades. A smaller number have done OK. They have not exceeded their parents.

But we’re all educated and to my knowledge the majority vote among us was for the famous career civil servant sandbag of the wealthy class. Here I’ve called it the 40 year national slump.

It’s been the experience for my friends. There was never a time when things were getting better unless you consider slight variances in the rate of decline being the equivalent of up.

There’s been the experience of precarious work or no jobs at all. Micro-contract work. Piece work. Free-lance labor with every year a reduction in rates. Layoffs as various industries consolidated. Diminishing opportunities, uncertain futures and certainly no real increases in purchasing power except for a select few. For years, no health insurance or the kind of policy that’s just a rip-off, coverage only for things virtually guaranteed to be bankrupting and terminal.

Want to see my SNAP card?

“Half of the US got nothing” in the last 30 years was the intro to an explosive piece on the NYT homepage last week. That’s 117 milion people. Even the cheerleaders for the plutocracy couldn’t candy coat although they did try.

So why did a tidal wave of “screw you” win the White House for Trump? You figure it out.

The US is now unstable. And it is definitely not a democracy. You could say we’ve had it coming. There’s certainly an argument for it. I prefer to think of it as a bill for mistakes, miscarriages and manipulations in leadership and their role in setting the rules of the economy. The social cost is of epic proportion.

The NYT:

Even with all the setbacks from recessions, burst bubbles and vanishing industries, the United States has still pumped out breathtaking riches over the last three and half decades.

The real economy more than doubled in size; the government now uses a substantial share of that bounty to hand over as much as $5 trillion to help working families, older people, disabled and unemployed people pay for a home, visit a doctor and put their children through school.

Yet for half of all Americans, their share of the total economic pie has shrunk significantly, new research has found.

This group — the approximately 117 million adults stuck on the lower half of the income ladder — “has been completely shut off from economic growth since the 1970s,” the team of economists found. “Even after taxes and transfers, there has been close to zero growth for working-age adults in the bottom 50 percent.”

There was one cheerleader for the system trying to strain lemonade from an ocean of urine: N. Greg Mankiw. In the interest of balance, I’d call him the rich man’s economist.

“As troubling as some may find inequality, it is not necessarily the fault of a rigged system, said N. Gregory Mankiw, an economist at Harvard … ” reads the Times.

“Inequality is a symptom of a variety of things,” Mankiw told the newspaper.

So well said.

Mankiw was briefly a subject of a talk given by Barbara Ehrenreich, author of “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America,” mentioned here a month or so ago:

Ehrenreich: “A certain cleaning staff would go through the garbage to find the Chinese food containers left behind by Harvard students that still contained sme food in them because you could take them home to your kids … whoah. Meanwhile, at the other end at Harvard you had a guy named Greg Mankiw, who was an economics professor, who made it his mission to point out why low wage people couldn’t have higher wages. It would destroy the economy, pure and simple.

“I always debated him on the radio. And in the years since 2002, traveling around the country talking about these issues on different college campuses I began to get the impression the whole purpose of economics departments was to teach kids that whatever is going on in the economic status quo is perfect and how it has to be, so shut up.

“Some fresh guy [would] stand up, ‘Well, we learned in economics, you can’t raise wages.” But [you] can make $100,000 or whatever.

“I began to get really impatient and even, in some places, to go so far as to say, ‘What the hell do they teach at this university?’ Because if they taught math you could figure out that on six dollars/hour you’re not going to live anywhere in the environs of Cambridge, Mass., or any property of any other major university. That’s simple.”


“[Less educated] white voters had a solid economic rationale for voting against the status quo — nearly all the gains from the economic recovery have passed them by,” reads the Times in a related piece.

“There are almost nine million more jobs than there were at the previous peak in November 2007, just before the economy tumbled into recession. But the gains have not been evenly distributed.”

It’s a continuing piece of received wisdom, courtesy of the swells. It was just the “less educated.” If you were educated, you did well.

No, it was many of the well-educated too. And until the establishment, or the people controlling the opinion and analysis big reads begin to get this, the anger will not be abated. The country will continue on into instability, rocked by irrational electoral jolts and setbacks.

Merry Christmas.


Quotable

“We’ve been told in rural America ‘f— you’ by the Clintons before with NAFTA, and with further banking deregulation … and told ‘f— you’ when they said the tech revolution would spread jobs across rural America …” – Dave “Mudcat” Saunders

“Things never got that much better for them. Trade a union job for a fast food or retail job that pays half, and life is pretty bleak. Things got better in cities. Things got better on the West Coast. It would be pretty easy to believe that everything was getting better everywhere but York. They told people to learn to code, but you try to teach a 55-year-old trucker or bricklayer to code and you tell me how far you get.” — Brenden Gallagher, here

12.10.16

Black Humor is Life

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall at 3:37 pm by George Smith

On Friday, from the NYT Dealbook:

“The longtime second-in-command at Goldman Sachs, Gary D. Cohn, will help guide President-elect Donald J. Trump’s economic policy along with a former Goldman partner, Steven Mnuchin, who has been nominated for Treasury secretary … Mr. Cohn is a longtime Goldman employee who was helping to guide the firm before and during the financial crisis [the brought on the global Great Recession.]”

By way of contrast: A Citigroup bankster picked Barack Obama’s cabinet.

Which do you prefer?

In honor, “Let Lloyd Explain It,” formerly “Let’s Lynch Lloyd Blankfein,” Lloyd being the present first-in-command at Goldman Sachs.

Featuring the inimical Blind Poison Castorseed on harp.

12.04.16

There is no software to fix our empty heads and broken souls

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall at 4:40 pm by George Smith

“The flood of ‘fake news’ this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation,” wrote Craig Timberg at the Washington Post.

A week later Timberg was publicly incinerated on the net for a follow-up piece on a “black list” said to expose web news and opinion sites that were alleged tools of the Russian government. Included in the list were sites I link to and read regularly, including TruthDig and Truthout. The former is Robert Scheer’s publication (Scheer being ex- of the LA Times),. It regularly runs columns by Chris Hedges, Robert Reich and Bill Boyarsky, the latter an old city and politics reporter and opinion writer for the Times when I first moved to southern California.

While Timberg was toasted, the whine on fake news has continued unabated, accompanied by the idea that somehow the powers that be of technology ought to do more to eliminate it. I find this hysterically amusing, if bleakly so.

The old Crypt Newsletter website at Northern Illinois University was once censored by the early web yen for net nanny browser filters and scanners peddled to Americans who wished to protect their children from bad shit.

In terms of fake news my brain tells me countries like Russia, Israel, us, have always used elaborate misinformation operations. Often it was (or is) difficult to tell whether they’ve worked at all because it’s hard to distinguish linguistic signal from noise.

Specifically, with primary regard to Facebook and lesser social media platforms, how do you measure whether “fake news” made a difference or, rather, it just furnished more of a “product” polarized sides wanted to read and share in their own stovepipes? And social media is very stove-piped. Users of it stove-pipe themselves, in fact. It’s what they want.

The fake news I see consists of bon-bons of “content” needing little effort or thought to create for audiences that crave such things.

Almost any bit of it is instantly gobbled up because each side is so estranged from the other they believe their opposites to be virtually subhuman. In such a social system it’s trivially easy to feed any bit of atrocious nonsense about the opposing side to consumers inclined to hanker for it. (And so it has turned out.)

I voted for Clinton. And on Facebook, a couple ‘friends’ liked something called Occupy Democrats. I regularly saw shares that I considered “fake news” from OD. If I had to generally describe them, they were quickly pumped out picture memes caricaturing the other side as parasitic trailor park slobs in wife-beater T-shirts. The common emotion they aimed to evoke, always contempt.

So I asked FB to “hide” them using its widgets and ticked the extra box that indicated I wanted to see no more from the group. Yet ticking that box did not work.

There’s one technical solution. And FB, unsurprisingly, had furnished an option that did not work.

Anyway, when did it become received wisdom that the majority of Americans have to have a technical fix applied to something because they apparently lack bullshit detectors?

My hunch, looking forward, is that “fake news” on FB and social networks will be to hard to map in any significant way, not only because it’s hard to define the difference between giving an audience more of what it wants and the catalysis of a result, but also because FB and social networks, from their operations side, are not transparent and unlikely to become so.

It’s really not in their interest to curb “fake news.” It’s what much of their user base lives on. It’s on-line oxygen.

And here at the end I’m again going to point out it’s not a tech problem.

From William L. Shirer in “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich:”

“It was surprising and sometimes consternating to find that notwithstanding the opportunities I had to learn the facts and despite one’s inherent distrust of what one learned from Nazi sources, a steady diet over the years of falsification and distortions made a certain impression on one’s mind and often misled it. No one who has not lived for years in a totalitarian land can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime’s calculated and incessant propaganda. Often in a German home or office or sometimes in a casual conversation with a stranger in a restaurant, a beer hall, a cafe, I would meet with the most outlandish assertions from seemingly educated and intelligent persons. It was obvious that they were parroting some piece of nonsense they had heard on the radio or read in the newspapers. Sometimes one was tempted to say as much, but on such occasions one was met with such a stare of incredulity, such a shock of silence, as if one had blasphemed the Almighty, that one realized how useless it was to try to even make contact with a mind which had become warped …”

Shirer was talking about what had happened to a populace that lived within an entirely controlled media, fed news that fit only the whims of the Hitlerites in the demonization of others.

Somehow we have arrived at the same place without having a media that was authoritarian controlled. This is a truth that’s going to be awful hard for a lot of people to swallow.

We don’t have a state-run media and much good journalism is still being done. However, good journalism now has little or no effect.

But the reason for that is not a simple technical explanation, a massive flooding misinformation job run by Russian agency, but the underlying social and economic problem that has festered for decades and brought the country to the brink of failure.

It happened in the Third Reich. If in a different manner unique to our specific weaknesses, it’s happened here.


I know a little about tribes, their stove-pipes, and what they want to hear:

The anger was instantly gripping. A prime ingredient was the rage foaming, apparently, from Democrats, who avidly read Drudge so as to be able to intimidate and beat to death troublemakers. They were so over-the-top, it was funny enough to reduce one to tetany. It’s certainly a misconception that Democrats are eloquent, sophisticated, sensitive, and therefore beyond the knavish dirt commonly attributed to the “right-wing attack dog.” Last week, I found no difference between the two.

“It is obvious that a man who has a sense of patriotism”—Clarke, my dear correspondent meant—”is being attacked by an ass, and a fop. You are another example of Total [sic] lies the likes of which the press has not seen since the days of Goebels [sic]. Do the country a favor, and kill yourself.”

No Russians or social networks needed.


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