10.21.16

Bomb Russia

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism, Shoeshine at 1:44 pm by George Smith

“A massive cyberattack is blocking your favorite websites,” blares the LA Times, right now.

Twitter, Tumblr, Netflix and music-streamer Spotify, the discussion site Reddit, Airbnb and the Verge. Imagine not being able to hear your fremium music, or tweet or watch Netflix.

The attack was “impactful,” said a comsex expert to the LAT.

You realize cyberwar could cause the empire to fall over. The Department of Homeland Security is “investigating.” The government is looking for someone to retaliate against, probably Russia, because an attack in cyberspace is just like an attack in the real world, according to the debate. Arch-fiends!

So listen to “The Cyberwar Boogie,” featuring ex-cyberwar czar Richard Clarke, saying, “it’s big ol’ DOS,” which is what it was. Today. Poor man’s Jimmy Riddle-eafing included.

Sidebar related story: Cybersecurity expert [name redatced] was silenced by a huge hacker attack. That should terrify you.

Terrify.

10.18.16

Always too late

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Shoeshine at 3:33 pm by George Smith

Three years ago the six-figure explainers were ambivalent about the stupendous frauds corporate America has imposed on the economy in the name of the bottom line. To say they were serious villains was to be anti-capitalist, to not understand finance.

Now it’s all changed. And today, we have David Leonhardt, going from NYT economics reporter, defender of the riches, [1] to opinion page writer, wealthy whitemansplaining how, yup, American corporate tax dodgers are leeches.

This is about like seeing the town whore signing up for Church Universal and Triumphant correspondence courses. You can’t help but be slightly impressed while at the same time wondering how long it will last or if its really just a frantic hedge against a coming time of bloody pitchforks and raging bonfires.

Leonhardt:

The most affluent and powerful parts of our society have too easy a time legally avoiding taxes…

How does Amazon get away with this? A tangle of tax breaks and loopholes, some enacted in the name of creating jobs despite meager evidence that they do. For many companies, the key move is opening offices in a low-tax country like Ireland and then claiming that much of their business flows through those offices.

Put all these tax breaks together, and you end up with our system. AT&T and General Electric each paid a combined tax rate of only 18 percent since 2007, according to the S&P data. Coca-Cola, Apple and IBM paid 17 percent, and Alphabet (Google’s parent) is at 16 percent. Boeing is at 8 percent, Facebook at 4 percent…

The inequities contribute to the great American stagnation …

And the national stagnation has set great anger loose to roam the land with the result — Donald Trump! And it now every good American’s duty to join the fire brigade and send the man down to defeat before we can get on with fixing things:

[The] stagnation looms over life. It breeds political dysfunction, and it helps explain why so many Americans aren’t swayed by facts. When you have been struggling for decades, you tend to lose faith in society’s institutions and their sober-minded experts.

Without that faith, all of our other problems become harder to solve …

Obviously, the past year has highlighted the depth and breadth of the frustration. It takes different forms and crosses demographic and political boundaries…

Most dangerously, Donald Trump has captured a presidential nomination with one of history’s oldest tricks — using economic frustrations to attract political support by igniting ethnic hatred …

The country’s immediate task is to reject Trump — for each of us to help ensure that his deeply un-American campaign remains un-American. I’d encourage everyone to find one concrete way over the next four weeks to play a part.

Fuck that guy and his blandishments. And his behavior is part of the why behind the revenge vote, the desire to throw a monkey wrench into the unbalanced engine of rigged America, the desire to be a group Samson bringing down the temple on top of himself and the Philistines.

So last night a friend graciously took me out to dinner. And in the course of our conversation she came and asked, “Do you want Trump to win?”

And I paused before saying “No.” I told her I’d thought about not voting at all, the favored candidate being what she is — more of the same that has led to this.

Anyway, Dick Destiny electric folk was there before everybody else with “Taxavoidination.” And you can still have it, free, without even signing up.

Download and listen or I’ll contribute to killing the dog.


[1] Old Leonhardt, defender of the status quo:

Most voters in [the United States and Europe] have yet to come to grips with the notion that they have promised themselves benefits that, at current tax rates, they cannot afford …

The increasing claims come from the aging of the population, while the slowing growth of available resources comes from a slowdown of economic expansion over the last generation. A complex mix of factors, varying by country, has slowed growth, and the slowdown has been exacerbated everywhere by the worst financial crisis and global recession in 70 years.

And here, chronicling the losses of poor rich man, John McAfee:

Any major shift in the financial status of the rich could have big implications. A drop in their income and wealth would complicate life for elite universities, museums and other institutions that received lavish donations in recent decades. Governments — federal and state — could struggle, too, because they rely heavily on the taxes paid by the affluent.

Perhaps the broadest question is what a hit to the wealthy would mean for the middle class and the poor …

If anything, these economists say, any problems the wealthy have will trickle down, in the form of less charitable giving and less consumer spending. Over the last century, the worst years for the rich were the early 1930s, the heart of the Great Depression.

Other economists say the recent explosion of incomes at the top did hurt everyone else, by concentrating economic and political power among a relatively small group …

But if the rich have done well in bubbles, they have taken enormous hits to their wealth during busts. A recent study by two Northwestern University economists found that the incomes of the affluent tend to fall more, in percentage terms, in recessions than the incomes of the middle class. The incomes of the very affluent — the top one ten-thousandth — fall the most.

Over the last several years, Mr. McAfee began to put a large chunk of his fortune into real estate, often in remote locations. He bought the house in New Mexico as a playground for himself and fellow aerotrekkers, people who fly unlicensed, open-cockpit planes. On a 157-acre spread, he built a general store, a 35-seat movie theater and a cafe, and he bought vintage cars for his visitors to use …

In 2007, Mr. McAfee sold a 10,000-square-foot home in Colorado with a view of Pike’s Peak. He had spent $25 million to buy the property and build the house. He received $5.7 million for it. When Lehman collapsed last fall, its bonds became virtually worthless. Mr. McAfee’s stock investments cost him millions more.

One day, he realized, as he said, “Whoa, my cash is gone.”

His remaining net worth of about $4 million makes him vastly wealthier than most Americans, of course.

10.15.16

On the Money with the Old White Coot

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Shoeshine, The Corporate Bund at 12:37 pm by George Smith

Today: “TREATING THE WHOLE voting thing as a formality, serious political players are now pondering how exactly President Hillary Clinton can pass what Sen. Elizabeth Warren has called ‘a giant wet kiss for tax dodgers’ … So even as regular Democratic voters are concentrating on beating Donald Trump, the serious people of Washington are quietly putting the wheels in motion for what those same voters will find to be a highly unpleasant 2017 surprise.”

from The Intercept, D.C. Hivemind Mulls How Clinton Can Pass Huge Corporate Tax Cut

None of this surprises even the slightest. Expect the worst, then go out out and embrace it with open arms.

But you can have a free download for the offshore corporate tax holiday, coming soon, courtesy of the “Old White Coot” soundtrack!

And remember, this is my retraining program!

10.14.16

Voters apparently don’t believe the training/re-training shtick either

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Shoeshine at 11:49 am by George Smith

From Pew:

As the demand for high-skilled workers continues to grow, American voters express relatively little confidence in either major party presidential candidate when it comes to their ability to help American workers prepare to compete in today’s economy …

When asked what kind of job Donald Trump would do when it comes to helping Americans get the skills and training they need to get a well-paying job, roughly three-in-ten voters say he would do an excellent (15%) or good job (16%). A solid majority say Trump would do only a fair (18%) or poor (47%) job.

Hillary Clinton’s ratings are similar.

The titling for this post is a little off. And that’s due to the questions posed by Pew.

What I’d like to see are answers to whether or not voters have taken to retraining over the past couple of decades and whether or not it has worked for them. My suspicions are that many have re-trained. And they’ve either gotten nowhere, been ripped off or had to settle for positions of much lower pay than before they were persuaded to participate in new training for great jobs of the future.

You know what I think. Do you know why I post the tuneage? Reprogramming. And it’s the only retraining I can afford.

Right to left: Jimmy Buffett, Jon Bon Jovi, HRC, Paul McCartney. Not undergoing training for jobs of the future.


This week’s Gold Cup Culture of Lickspittle Moment

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll, Shoeshine at 11:29 am by George Smith

Laugh at all the special bootlicks and shoeshiners, n.B., the New Yorker and music journalists.

The gold cup winners:

The writings and posts on Bob Dylan winning a Nobel by people who’d have a hard time naming even one of the many scientists in the last 70 years or so who won Nobels for work that pushed civilization much farther ahead than lyrics from classic rock and pop.

Yay, Bob.

10.12.16

And who does this remind you of today? The next president

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Shoeshine at 1:09 pm by George Smith

I was house-sitting a couple days ago and one of the books on hand was a copy of Roger Ebert’s movie reviews. (Rates are pretty cheap if you’re in Pasadena. I’ll go for some cheap cava, a steak, charcoal to grill it, a few books and unlimited access to whatever’s on your tv while sitting. I take care of all security and your pets’ needs.)

On Roger & Me, Michael Moore’s breakout work, his documentary to still lead all others:

“Roger & Me” does have a message to deliver– a message about Corporate Newspeak and the ways in which profits really are more important to big American corporations than the lives of their workers. The movie is a counterattack against the amoral pragmatism of modern management theory, against the sickness of the “In Search of Excellence” mentality.

Moore has struck a nerve with this movie. There are many Americans, I think, who have not lost the ability to think and speak in plain English– to say what they mean. These people were driven mad by the 1980s, in which a new kind of bureaucratese was spawned by Ronald Reagan and his soulmates– a new manner of speech by which it became possible to “address the problem” while saying nothing and yet somehow conveying optimism.

Hillary Clinton, who barring the end of the world, I’m assuming will be the next president of the United States is just the person described in the above cut-out.

You can read her election book, “co-authored” with Tim Kaine, or sift through the e-mails dumped by Wikileaks and others and it’s all the same. Someone who never met a situation or position that couldn’t be finessed with language, someone saying she’s a centrist, a pragmatist, or constructing a private position that has to differ from a public position because “Abraham Lincoln,” the movie.

It is part of what I call the Thomas Frank blues, the recognition that the Democratic Party, as it’s running in this election cycle, stands only for the status quo of money and so-called meritocracy. And that four years from now it will be the same, the national rage worse, inequality greater, more war and social unrest, no progress on anything, but with the wealthy and the president still proclaiming the country to be stronger than ever, first in everything, the indispensible nation.

Said another way, from the Conversation:

The Democratic Party in America bears a significant share of the blame for the rise of Donald Trump. As Thomas Frank describes in his book, “Listen, Liberal: Whatever Happened to the Party of the People?” It has become too much the party of the “Professional Class”- those with graduate degrees – and has all but abandoned its historical role as the party of labor and the little guy.

History suggests that the inchoate rage Trump is tapping into may solidify into something far more ominous than a wall on our southern border. Hillary Clinton seems constitutionally incapable of addressing that rage constructively; I have my doubts that she is even capable of understanding or empathizing with it. That means it is up to those who do understand it to make our voices heard in a way that can’t be ignored.

And an especially interesting assessment from Andrew Bacevich, who employs H. L. Mencken so well it demands rereads:

It was now Clinton’s turn to show her stuff. If Trump had responded to Holt like a voluble golf caddy being asked to discuss the finer points of ice hockey, Hillary Clinton chose a different course: she changed the subject. She would moderate her own debate. Perhaps Trump thought Holt was in charge of the proceedings; Clinton knew better.

What followed was vintage Clinton: vapid sentiments, smoothly delivered in the knowing tone of a seasoned Washington operative. During her two minutes, she never came within a country mile of discussing the question …

In contrast to Trump, however, Clinton did speak in complete sentences, which followed one another in an orderly fashion. She thereby came across as at least nominally qualified to govern the country, much like, say, Warren G. Harding nearly a century ago. And what worked for Harding in 1920 may well work for Clinton in 2016.

Of Harding’s speechifying, H.L. Mencken wrote at the time, “It reminds me of a string of wet sponges.” Mencken characterized Harding’s rhetoric as “so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.” So, too, with Hillary Clinton. She is our Warren G. Harding. In her oratory, flapdoodle and balderdash live on.

Free Tradin’

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Made in China, Shoeshine at 12:00 pm by George Smith

Hillary Clinton Said She Made The Argument For Openness In Trade Since American And Foreign Manufacturers Wanted Access To Markets Oversees. “I thought I was doing pretty well. I’m making the case, making the argument for openness, fairness, transparency, claiming, look, Malaysia manufacturers want access to markets overseas as much as American manufacturers, Indian firms want fair treatment when they invest abroad, just as we do, Chinese artists want to protect their creations from piracy, every society seeking to develop a strong research and technology sector needs intellectual property protection to make trade fair as well as freer. Developing countries have to do a better job of improving productivity, raising labor conditions, and protecting the environment, on and on.” [06262014 HWA Remarks for GTCR (Chicago, IL).docx, p. 5]

Clinton Said That The United States Saw Fewer Jobs With Greater Competition With Free Trade But Thoughtful Policies In The 1990s Saw An Economic Boom. “But certainly increasing productivity, fewer jobs is the simplest, greater competition from abroad as the world began to really open up and I think there was a reversal to some extent fueled by technology but also fueled by thoughtful policies in the 90’s where there was this, you know, economic boom that created 22 million new jobs and lots of people, you know, took advantage of that.” [05162013 Remarks to Banco Itau.doc, p. 44-45]

Hillary Clinton Said Her Dream Is A Hemispheric Common Market, With Open Trade And Open Markets. “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.” [05162013 Remarks to Banco Itau.doc, p. 28]

Hillary Clinton Praised TPP. “Greater connections in our own hemisphere hold such promise. The United States and Canada are working together with a group of open market democracies along the Pacific Rim, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Chile, to expand responsible trade and economic cooperation.” [Canada 2020 Speech, 10/6/14]

Clinton: “People At The Heart Of The Private Sector Need To Keep Making The Argument That A More Open, Resilient Economic System Will Create More Broadly Shared Prosperity.” “I think we all, not just public officials or outside analysts, but people at the heart of the private sector need to keep making the argument that a more open, resilient economic system will create more broadly shared prosperity than state capitalism, petro-capitalism or crony capitalism ever will.” [Clinton Remarks to Deutsche Bank, 10/7/14]

Hillary Clinton Said Scrap Recycling Demand From Asia Was Helping Improve Our Trade Balance And Fuel Our Economic Recovery. “I’m also delighted to learn that scrap products are a key export for the United States. By helping meet the demands for raw materials from emerging economies in Asia and elsewhere, you’re improving our trade balance and fueling our economic recovery. We’re talking about 20 to 30 billion in exports every year. And I looked at the program for this conference and was fascinated by all of the different issues that that leads you to study and learn about.” [Hillary Clinton Remarks at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Convention, 4/10/14]

Clinton: “When My Husband Was Elected In His First Two Years He Made A Lot Of Changes. […] He Passed NAFTA, Alienating A Lot Of The Democratic Base.” “But, I think it’s important to go back just for another historic minute. When my husband was elected in his first two years he made a lot of changes. And he passed a tax program to try to get us out of the deficit and debt situation that we were mired in after 12 years of quadrupling the debt. He passed really strong gun control laws, taking on the NRA, no easy matter to do in American politics. He passed NAFTA, alienating a lot of the Democratic base. We fought for healthcare reform unsuccessfully.” [Remarks for CIBC, 1/22/15]

Originally.

Riding the elevators on Wall Streets

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Shoeshine, The Corporate Bund at 11:51 am by George Smith

Lloyd Blankfein Joked “I’m Proud That The Financial Services Industry Has Been The One Unifying Theme That Binds Everybody Together In Common.” “So it’s important that people speak out and stand up against it, and especially people who are Republicans, who say, look, that’s not the party that I’m part of. I want to get back to having a two-party system that can have an adult conversation and a real debate about the future. MR. BLANKFEIN: Yeah, and one thing, I’m glad—I’m proud that the financial services industry has been the one unifying theme that binds everybody together in common. (Laughter.)” [Goldman Sachs Builders And Innovators Summit, 10/29/13]

Hillary Clinton Said She Would Like To “See More Successful Business People Run For Office” Because The Have A “Certain Level Of Freedom.” ““SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s a really interesting question. You know, I would like to see more successful business people run for office. I really would like to see that because I do think, you know, you don’t have to have 30 billion, but you have a certain level of freedom. And there’s that memorable phrase from a former member of the Senate: You can be maybe rented but never bought. And I think it’s important to have people with those experiences. And especially now, because many of you in this room are on the cutting edge of technology or health care or some other segment of the economy, so you are people who look over the horizon. And coming into public life and bringing that perspective as well as the success and the insulation that success gives you could really help in a lot of our political situations right now.” [Goldman Sachs Builders And Innovators Summit, 10/29/13]

Hillary Clinton Said There Was “A Bias Against People Who Have Led Successful And/Or Complicated Lives,” Citing The Need To Divese Of Assets, Positions, And Stocks. “SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. Well, you know what Bob Rubin said about that. He said, you know, when he came to Washington, he had a fortune. And when he left Washington, he had a small— MR. BLANKFEIN: That’s how you have a small fortune, is you go to Washington. SECRETARY CLINTON: You go to Washington. Right. But, you know, part of the problem with the political situation, too, is that there is such a bias against people who have led successful and/or complicated lives. You know, the divestment of assets, the stripping of all kinds of positions, the sale of stocks. It just becomes very onerous and unnecessary.” [Goldman Sachs Builders And Innovators Summit, 10/29/13

Originally.

10.04.16

Old Davos Man

Posted in Decline and Fall, Shoeshine, WhiteManistan at 1:18 pm by George Smith

The country has changed radically since Bill Clinton was president. Is he annoyance or nuisance? You decide.

Today he’s taking it in the teeth for dissing Obamacare. In doing so he pits people like me, who have health care for the first time in decades, against a middle class he says is being ripped off by it.

You’ll recall Bill and the person currently running for President, his spouse, failed abysmally at getting healthcare for everyone decades ago.

In the intervening period, Bill has been the president most successful at monetizing his time in office. Which also happens to be why the Clintons are so detested by so many at this point in time.

From much earlier in the year here:

Bill Clinton’s legacy is trashed. Out on the stump he’s been dogged by protesters who’ve pointed out his tough-on-crime administration led to an explosion in the prison population, ruining the lives of millions of black Americans. So he loses his temper, wags his finger and looks worse. Others point out his trade deals and bank deregulation accelerated inequality and the destruction of middle class jobs.

So the Big Dog is now a bit rabid. He jJust can’t accept others don’t share the belief he’s the American hero he thinks he is.

Campaigning yesterday, he tried to make a joke:

“One of the few things I really haven’t enjoyed about this primary: I think it’s fine that all these young students have been so enthusiastic for [Hillary’s] opponent and [he] sounds so good: ‘Just shoot every third person on Wall Street and everything will be fine.’”

Probably not something to say when Bernie Sanders just got after his wife for her three-quarters of a million buck speeches to Goldman Sachs. Again.

“The inequality problem is rooted in the shareholder-first mentality and the absence of training for the jobs of tomorrow.” This is Bill Clinton’s answer.

Bill Clinton ran an administration that custom-designed policy that just happened to serve “shareholder first.”

Paradoxically, Clinton won with many white voters who will almost universally vote for Donald Trump on election day.

While West Virginia voted for him by “large margins,” according to Wiki, in 1992 and 1996, today it’s radioactive to the Clintons.

09.14.16

Not now, I’m watching porn and having a polish

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Shoeshine at 2:34 pm by George Smith

The Grave Social Ill of unemployed stupid white guys will, I predict, continue to gain in popularity.

So, to refresh, from Nicholas Eberstadt’s Labor Day weekend piece at the WSJ:

What do unworking men do with their free time? Sadly, not much that’s constructive. About a tenth are students trying to improve their circumstances. But the overwhelming majority are what the British call NEET: “neither employed nor in education or training.” Time-use surveys suggest they are almost entirely idle—helping out around the house less than unemployed men; caring for others less than employed women; volunteering and engaging in religious activities less than working men and women or unemployed men. For the NEETs, “socializing, relaxing and leisure” is a full-time occupation, accounting for 3,000 hours a year, much of this time in front of television or computer screens …

The male retreat from the labor force has exacerbated family breakdown, promoted welfare dependence and recast “disability” into a viable alternative lifestyle. Among these men the death of work seems to mean also the death of civic engagement, community participation and voluntary association.

In short, the American male’s postwar flight from work is a grave social ill.

John Podhoretz, a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan and five-time Jeopardy gameshow champion adds at the New York Post, in other words, a brilliant man:

Men have been withdrawing from the workforce across two generations in a steady downward pattern that continues no matter the economic circumstances of the moment. They have left the workforce even though work itself has gotten easier — hours shorter, labor less physically taxing.

Make no mistake; these aren’t “discouraged workers.” They’re un-workers. Only “about 15 percent of the prime-age men who did not work at all in 2014 stated they were unemployed because they could not find work. In other words, five out of six of prime-age men gave reasons other than a lack of jobs for their absence from the workplace” ..

Eberstadt: “These men appear to have relinquished what we think of ordinarily as adult responsibilities not only as breadwinners, but as parents, family members, community members and citizens. Having largely freed themselves of such obligations, they fill their days in the pursuit of more immediate sources of gratification.”

And this part I really like:

What do the un-working have in common? They’re not married. They’re largely undereducated. And, most telling, they have a history of entanglement with the criminal justice system.

Economist Dean Baker has been taking this one on for the past week or so at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Today, with colleague Cherrie Bucknor, he covers more ground:

Most importantly, there has been a sharp drop in labor force participation rates. As a result, in spite of the relatively low unemployment rate, the employment rate is still close to 3.0 percentage points below its pre-recession level. This story holds up even if we restrict ourselves to looking at prime-age workers (between the ages of 25–54), with an EPOP that is close to 2.0 percentage points below pre-recession levels and almost 4.0 percentage points below 2000 peaks.

The response of the proponents of higher interest rates has been to attribute this drop to a problem with prime-age men rather than a lack of demand in the economy. For example, Tyler Cowen argued that less educated men were watching Internet porn and playing video games rather than working. The problem with this explanation is that the decline in EPOPs is comparable for non-college educated men and women. There is also a decline in EPOPs since 2000 for both college educated men and women, albeit a smaller one than for their less-educated counterparts.

The EPOP is the Employment-to-Population ratio.

Back to Bucknor and Baker:

Since there is a drop in prime-age EPOPs for all groups, this would seem to suggest that the main problem is a lack of demand and not some new difficulty that some relatively narrow group of workers has in dealing with the labor market. Before going through these trends, it is worth making an additional point; this decline in EPOPs was not expected before it happened …

The more fundamental issue is that it is difficult to explain a drop in EPOPS for all workers, regardless of education levels, as being a problem of workers lacking skills or a desire to work. This looks pretty clearly like a story of weak demand. In other words, the problem is not them; it is us, where “us” is the people who make economic policy.


Tyler Cowen, from the original:

Keep also in mind that the decline in labor force participation probably comes from structural factors …

Maybe employers just aren’t that keen to hire those males who prefer to live at home, watch porn and not get married. Is that more of a personal failure on the part of the worker than a market failure?


Keep in mind there is plenty of other evidence for a partial collapse of norms among some of the lower earners in the U.S. It has been detailed in numerous books. I am claiming that some of that labor is now perceived as being of lower quality, which is entirely possible.

Additional impetus for the unworking stupid men watching tv shtick is its attachment to whether or not full employment has been achieved so interest rates can be raised.

If it’s only stupid lazy men who are unemployed, then there’s nothing to be done. The economy has recovered and it’s time to raise the rate so inflation doesn’t creep in and damage the hoards of rich people.

However, if all groups are still seeing underemployment, then the men who are grave social ills argument loses some of its juice.

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