08.20.16

The Retraining Scam

Posted in Census, Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China, The Corporate Bund at 2:47 pm by George Smith

In from the Snake Oil for What Ails You Desk: I’m a registered Dem and retraining is the swill the Party’s neoliberal leaders have peddled for the last 20 or so years. Back to school with you.

It’s the only answer the Democratic Party has had for people shed by de-industrialization and the conversion of the economy to financialization. It’s a theme that is one of the central planks in Thomas Frank’s book, Listen, Liberal, on how the Democrats abandoned populism and the working class for wealth and “meritocracy,” a buzzword better described by phrases like winner take all, root hog or die and fuck you if you didn’t go to the right school or have money.

A recent web piece publishes some acerbic bits on the retraining scam:

“Job retraining has proven to be a failure over the last two decades …The record is pretty clear … We’re creating a lot of [false] hope where hope doesn’t exist.”


Peter Navarro, an economics and public policy professor at the University of California, Irvine, called job-retraining programs a “cruel joke” on American workers.

“The problem we have is there’s a fundamental mismatch of skills Americans have [and] opportunities,” he said. “You can retrain these people all you want. But if there are no jobs for them, what’s the point?”

The blog has covered it in the past, often sarcastically:

[Retraining] reforms may quickly clear the way for the jobless to enroll in community college, making courses available to train them for a multiplicity of jobs.

Such jobs will include but not be limited to: test-tube cleaning, shelving and getting reagents, learning to use a Metler balance, mucous, surgical drain and breathing pipe maintenance, teeth scraping, gram-staining, changing oxygen tanks for those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, blood pressure-taking, temperature taking, enema giving, supervision of administration of Fleet’s Phospho-Soda, cleaning up messes in hospitals and clinics, airport security, turnstyle security, public transit security, frisking, pat downs and strip searching, simple detentions, immigration status checking, herding, temporary staffing, manning the metal detectors at court houses, X-ray smock fitting, checking dosimeters, wheelchair-bound patient moving, massage, bed pan emptying, restraining and strapping the old and mentally ill into chairs in various warehousing environments, bed sore monitoring, security work in privately administered prisons, embalming, corpse dressing, using word processor and accounting software, installing anti-virus software, transcribing, bank tellering, cafeteria work, how to wear a sterile smock, simple sterile procedures, transfers and transport of pees and poos in the clinical lab setting, refrigerated organ transport, transport of organs reclaimed from cadavers, preparing cadavers for organ reclamation, selling door to door, telemarketing, on-line promotion and astro-turfing, using Blogger, search engine optimization, building a network with Twitter, repeat calling debt collection, data entry and processing tax returns, using Adobe Acrobat or Photoshop and using Microsoft Powerpoint.

Robert Titman, an expert on the economic impact of continuing education at the City College of Gobble-Wallah in Birmingham, Alabama, predicted that in the next two years the US would see a big economic boom from the new highly educated and skilled workforce. The country would leap to the forefront in retraining the unemployed, providing a leading example for the rest of the world, he said.

Economic recoveries and good outcomes always promised by retraining initiatives haven’t panned out, so to speak.

“Job retraining tends to be popular with politicians … it often amounts to little more than a public relations sop,” it reads.

More seriously, from 2013:

Again, this is about contempt. Contempt for Americans seen in the implication that people aren’t fit to work and cannot read or do arithmetic.

The problem is not, as it appears when shopping Baja Ranch, that people don’t know how to read and do arithmetic. They do! They do fine with cash registers, counting out money, reading stocking lists, preparing foods behind the counter, reading labels, using scales and so on. The problem is being paid too little for a fair day’s work.

In fact, there was no shortage of Americans who tried to get jobs in the 2010 census. Almost all of them, as far as I could tell, had a basic grasp of reading and math.

However, there’s always room for another scam at the bottom. Now that Americans can afford even less, they can have a certification dangled in front them, one that promises a future job, if and when they take some courses and pay to take a test that proves they have reading comprehension and the basic ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide.

From 2011, harshly:

An organization called “Skills for America’s Future, a business and community-college partnership based at the Aspen Institute in Washington and Colorado,” it is said is working to retrain and place Americans.

“Companies it already works with to link students with 21st-century job skills range from Accenture to UPS to Gap Inc,” it continues. (Boldface mine.)

Twenty-first century job skills? To drive UPS delivery?! To be an “outsourcing service” consultant for Accenture? Working in retail [at] young people’s denim mall stores is a 21st century skill for which people need training?

Training on not to steal from the cash register and how to resort all the clothes properly and put them back where they belong after a day of customers rummaging through them?

This is repellent rubbish. It is the stench of rot, of cynically coming to the conclusion that there’s nothing to be done but sell people on the idea that they’re inferior and need even more vocational training for the low wage jobs of the future. Another way of putting it is to piss in a jar and tell people to drink up because it’s lemonade.

And:

In Michigan domestic manufacturing, except for cars and tanks, has disappeared. Electrolux, in Greenville, closed its plant, destroying employment in the town. All the jobs went overseas.

So to re-training camp, Montcalm Community College, to get people ready for the jobs of the future! In this case, solar panel manufacturing.

Problem, the jobs of the future are too few. And American companies still ship the jobs out.

Reports the LA Times:

“Solar panel technology was invented in the United States. So was the key technology for advanced batteries for electric vehicles, for which Michigan is also developing a number of factories.

“But in each case, sales and production are tiny compared with European countries.

“Even if clean technologies were to bloom, it’s not clear that they would produce large numbers of new jobs.”

“[The] U.S. usually has left matters to the private sector, and its multinational companies have moved tens of thousands of jobs overseas,” it reads.

It’s not the training. That is a rationalization.

In fact, a company could train people to do its work as easily, or even more quickly, than a community college. The US guitar and amplifier manufacturing industry didn’t send all its jobs to China because that country has community college training its workers to make rock and roll consumer electronics.

It’s all bullshit. The Los Angeles Times doesn’t state this. However, the story makes clear that re-training camp has a pretty good failure rate.

In 2016 it has become part of the explosive political environment. That it has failed so utterly is also one of the driving forces that has led to the rise of Donald Trump.

A lot of people just don’t believe anything establishment politicians say about the economy, jobs and the future. Furthermore, rage results when you hear still more of it.


And I covered that, in storytelling, quite ably:


Over the years, the retraining and community college scam — it’s a lot.

08.19.16

The Song Remains the Same

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China, The Corporate Bund at 1:14 pm by George Smith

From the Fairness Desk, quoting from the Intercept:

“U.S. corporations have by now stashed over $2.1 trillion in profits overseas (including Apple’s $181 billion), thereby starving the U.S. of revenue we could use to repair our collapsing infrastructure. What they want is for Americans to get so desperate that Congress is willing to deeply slash the corporate tax rate for “repatriated” money.

“This will deliver a one-time jolt of tax revenue, at the cost of sending the message that everyone who possibly can should use tax avoidance schemes like Apple’s in the future…Hillary Clinton has hinted that she’ll push for exactly this in her first 100 days in office, while Donald Trump has said explicitly that he wants to make it happen. Moreover, in the interview Cook also notes he’s gotten advice on how to handle this issue from both Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and Bill Clinton.

“So get ready for a tsunami of fairness, headed your way next year.”

Apple feels the current corporate tax rate to be “unfair.” “It doesn’t go that the more you pay, the more patriotic you are,” said Apple’s Tim Cook to the WaPo (here by way of The Intercept).

08.08.16

Perpetual warmongers flee to Clinton

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Psychopath & Sociopath, The Corporate Bund at 2:29 pm by George Smith

You can’t be a Commie symp anymore.

But, better still, you can be a Russian Manchurian candidate or a Russian symp, particularly if you think pushing missile batteries in NATO always closer to Moscow is a lousy idea. It’s genuinely fascinating how my party became more cynically paranoid and pro-pre-thermonuclear war than the other side.

GOP & center-right Strangeloves are now welcome after ridicule by the nuts guy.

The same people who wholeheartedly supported or made the most horrendous mistakes in the last fifteen years:

[If] there’s a common theme to this most recent wave of GOP dissenters, it’s just how eerily close they sound to Hillary Clinton’s talking points.

“He is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood,” the GOP national security leaders said in the letter. “He does not encourage conflicting views. He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate personal criticism. He has alarmed our closest allies with his erratic behavior. All of these are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be president and commander in chief, with command of the US nuclear arsenal.”

Trump is a cat’s paw of Putin. WikiLeaks, The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald, others are all in the tank for Russia to influence the US infection. If you’re not pro-HRC, you’re for Russian hackers.

“[Let’s] hope the unlikely unity extends beyond the neocons and with any luck, lasts longer than the election,” writes the explainer at The Guardian.

A most Culture of Lickspittle historical moment.

06.29.16

And the Elites Condemn As They Must?

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Extremism, The Corporate Bund at 2:18 pm by George Smith

Let’s call it “Ask the Crybaby.”

It’s the news phenom in which US reporters ask Brit-expats, almost always wealthy, what they think of Brexit. The old blog term for it was Shoeshine, that being what the well-off will say or think in support of those at the very top. A high button performance in kickdown on the classes below the chosen and their servants.

From Brattleboro, Vermont, Peter Solley, a Brit hack session producer/musician from the era of classic rock:

I was shocked. Absolutely shocked … I’m ashamed to call myself English. I see no positive future for the United Kingdom. They’ve taken something that created the longest lasting peace since World War II and just thrown it away.”

Solley runs a snob ice cream gelato company.

In fairness, the newspaper goes on to interview one person with a bit of a different viewpoint.

For the sake of timeliness I’m reading Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis’ latest book, “And the Weak Suffer What They Must?” on the EU. Obviously written before Brexit, it’s fair to say Varoufakis saw it coming.

Britain didn’t always have it so great and the City of London, its financialization engine, wasn’t its sole place of super successful economic activity. Things were hard before the EU was called that, the Seventies, when it was the European Communities. Even Margaret Thatcher was not a fan at all, being ridden out of power by peers who wished to be in on the administration of a newer monetary order.

Varoufakis’ book is a history of the EU, its early precursors and the economic policies and tides that have led to where it is today.

There are a numbr of reasons for its genesis, prime among them being the Paul Volcker-devised Nixon shock that did away with the Bretton Woods system.

It’s a complicated story.

But very briefly and incompletely Bretton Woods instituted a system in which the US made the dollar a euro-dollar. The purpose was to re-initialize the economies of Europe after World War II. Germany was in ruins. France had been occupied, turned into a vassal state, and been a battleground, too. And Britain was encumbered with crushing debt. The US used Bretton Woods to back the European reconstruction of currencies and value with gold set at a rigid price in which one ounce was an absolute guarantee of 35 US dollars.

But by the early Seventies, Germany and Japan had been rebuilt, going from deficit to surplus nations. The US had been the supreme global surplus nation, controlling the currents of the world economy. No longer was it the single pole of the engine.

The rise of Germany and Japan meant the US went from being a surplus to a deficit nation. This, along with gold speculation by German bankers and the French, destabilized Bretton Woods.

Paul Volcker, then the head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank analyzed what had happened and developed a scheme for keeping America’s upper hand in the global economy. It would no longer honor Bretton Woods. It uncoupled the gold pledge, raised global interest rates and instituted tight money.

Varoufakis explains:

“High interest rates are wonderful for those living on unearned income, the so-called rentiers, but not so good for manufacturers who see their investment costs skyrocket and the purchasing power of their customers plummet. For this reason, combining high returns to financial capital (requiring high interest rates) with high profit rates for American businesses (requiring low interest rates) was never going to be easy, and Volcker knew this. It was a combination that could only come about if another way of providing that profit could be found. And one way to do that would be to reduce wages. On the one hand, the Fed would push interest rates through the roof while, at once, the federal government would turn a blind eye, indeed promote, policies that crushed the real wage prospects of American workers …

“Soon, the fate of America’s working class was to infect the circumstances of weak citizens in Britain, in France and, by the 1990s, even in Germany …

“Disintegration was in the air and the majority of people in a majority of countries eventually acquiesced to the notion that labor was overvalued and overprotected, manufacturing was overrated, while finance was undervalued and in need of unshackling. Everything became increasingly reducible to its financial value.”

Varoufakis’ book is fascinating, particularly as a history in which the European economic engine is assembled in a jerrybilt way as a substitute for Bretton Woods, but regularly misfiring and bringing misery, plagued by the monetary policies of its leading nations, primarily here set by German bankers and their autocratic agendas. The story Varoufakis tells is surely not one at all favored by the current rulers of the EU and American economic machines.

So while the institutional complainers, the shoeshine boys of the ruling elites, go after the the alleged misinformed and nativist flaws of the Leavers, they really don’t know a lot more about what they’re talking of than those they’ve condemned so vehemently. Of course, from their short term point of view, Brexit is bad.

Historically, perhaps something like this was slated to happen. And if a similar political earthquake transpires here, it can’t be unexpected. At least that’s the impression Varoufakis’ reasoning gives me.

Varoufakis continues, mid-book:

When John Connally crudely explained to President Nixon, relying on Volcker’s underlying analysis, that “all foreigners are out to screw us and it’s our job to screw them first,” what he meant was that the Bretton Woods balancing act was becoming imbalanced by the surpluses of countries like Germany and Japan.

Impervious to the global responsibility that comes with large trade surpluses, these foreigners were trying, childishly, to take advantage of the United States’ commitment to global balance, the result being a complete collapse of the postwar equilibrium. Like immature children that know not what is good for them, European governments and Japan, sporting increasing surpluses, were taking advantage of America’s difficulty in maintaing order with detrimental results for everyone.


Volcker’s 1978 Warwick speech had given the Europeans ample warning. He effectively threw down the gauntlet to Bonn, Paris, London and Tokyo. Between the lines he was foreshadowing the second phase of America’s postwar global dominance. In 1971, Volcker implicitly told his audience, America dismantled the monetary system whose integrity Europeans had foolishly undermined. Its next move would be to bring about a highly imbalanced global system that the United States controlled fully because, rather than in spite, of America’s twin deficits (its trade deficit and its federal government budget deficit).

The price for that new system, which would extend America’s dominance, was high: weak people and fragile countries were, once more, left to their own devices, suffering not what was globally optimal but that which they “must” in a world economy unrestrained by New Deal–like rules and institutions. Politics would become toxic, social solidarity would weaken, international relations would turn nastier, abject poverty would multiply in Latin America and Africa. Nonetheless, the United States was bound to emerge as a net beneficiary of this painful “disintegration”…

I can’t do the book all the justice it deserves. At best, I have cherry-picked pieces with which I have great affinity. Yet there is much food for thought here from every angle and you must read “And the Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe’s Crisis and America’s Economic Future” yourself.


The morning after “Brexit” our “elites” were wringing their hands in opinion pages everywhere over how Leave delivered to Britain’s “elites” an epic punch in the face.

But did you notice that while the “elites” were doing all the explaining, excusing and bemoaning, there was no initial invitation to let any people who felt they had to throw that punch to the public speakers table?

For examples of the shunning of the common pariahs, you only needed to look at the opinion pages of the New York Times. One of the six-figure explainers, Roger Cohen, delivered no less than two condemnations.

From the first, it’s final bit: “My nephew wrote on Facebook that he had never been less proud of his country. I feel the same way about the country I grew up in and left.”

Ashamed and shamed, from the gold-plated opinion-maker to the upper crust Facebook lad to the hoity-toity ice cream vendor.

But where was opinion from the winning side? Missing entirely.

A day later, Owen Jones, author of “Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class” was in the Guardian:

“Above all else, it was about immigration, which has become the prism through which millions of people see everyday problems: the lack of affordable housing; the lack of secure jobs; stagnating living standards; strained public services. Young remainers living in major urban centres tend to feel limited hostility towards immigration; it could hardly be more different for older working-class leavers in many northern cities and smaller towns.”

The sentiments are familiar. The “social problem” is here, too, quite obviously so.

The betters have had years to extend a hand. Telling people to suck it up, get more education and not be bigots because your station comes inevitably as a result of your choices and talents. That worked for awhile. Now it’s seen for what it always was, a fob.

This is what destroyed the GOP. And it’s what threatens the Democratic Party and the predicted inevitable presidency of Hillary Clinton. They have no answers, either. In fact, they’re pretty much all right with how things have turned out, Brexit, a mere inconvenience in this hemisphere.

We have to work together, not tear each other down, they say. The words are hollow.

03.02.16

Just sayin’

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, The Corporate Bund, WhiteManistan at 2:58 pm by George Smith

Excerpt’s from George Orwell’s review of “Mein Kampf”:

“What he envisions … a continuous state of 250 million Germans with plenty of ‘living room’ (stretching to Afghanistan or thereabouts), a horrible brainless empire in which, essentially, nothing ever happens except the training of young men for war and the endless breeding of fresh cannon-fodder.”

“He had crushed the labor movement and for that the property-owning classes were willing to forgive him almost anything.”

“[His] is the fixed vision of a monomaniac and not likely to be much affected by the temporary maneuvres of power politics.”

“[The slogan] ‘Better an end with horror than a horror without end’ is a winner. Now that we are fighting against the man who coined it, we ought not to underrate its emotional appeal.”


What the mainstream media and Gawker didn’t get over the weekend in having a good Twitter laugh about tricking Donald Trump into quoting Mussolini: The people who are going to vote for him don’t care. In fact, they’ll find it affirming, (1) because they don’t really know anything about Il Duce if they knew about him at all, and (2), they’ll agree with Trump, it’s a quote that’s great for re-tweeting.

So no prize to Gawker or anyone else smirking when there’s a 50-50 chance the election will throw them to the Devil and merciless statistics in November.


From Truth-out today, on a matter I covered for over a decade:

But as much as the Republican Party created Trump, it shares parentage with the transpartisan national security complex. Politicians, generals, CIA directors, think tank warriors and terrorism “experts” have been dinning a message of fear into our heads for a decade and a half, a fear that works on many voters like catnip on a feline.

The author continues:

The fear, of course, can only be exorcised by a policy of nonstop militarism. Congratulations, patricians of the Beltway: However disdainful you are of the vulgarian Trump, you helped put him where he is today …

I’d estimate the odds at about fifty-fifty that this country ends up with something resembling a fascist political system, if not in 2017, then at some point in the next decade. We may never hear it called that: The prestige media have up to now mostly maintained an embargo on words like “fascist” or “authoritarian”; it will be fascinating to see at which point in the coming year – if at all – the embargo is lifted. No, we won’t have black uniforms and goose-stepping. In the US cultural vernacular, it would be more like Lee Greenwood played on an endless loop, with patriotic ceremonies even more lugubrious and hypocritical than the ones now at professional sporting events.

So when you read those stories about how Michael Hayden went on Maher to claim the military wouldn’t follow some of Donald Trump’s orders were he President, to these you should say: Bullshit it won’t.

The Wehrmacht’s general staff, those that survived, was said to have many principled men who detested the Fuhrer. And that made such a difference.

The point to be made is not that the United States is like the Third Reich.

When it fails big time, it will do so in a way unique to itself, of its history. But people haven’t changed. Americans, US military men, don’t have some special DNA or secret patent trumping the regular human condition. They make the same historical mistakes, again and again, always thinking we’ll be different this time because …


Yes, Trump is about racism, Islamophobia and making America great “again.” But you’re missing the point if you don’t see that supporting him is also about saying fuck you to the political class, if not the political system. Of course, there are more constructive ways to do this. — Barbara Ehrenreich, on Facebook

The revenge vote is going to be strong. Four decades of slump is a long time to have been keeping a lid on the growing rage. Hillary Clinton will never understand it.

11.05.15

The Future Looks Blight (Chapter 2)

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, The Corporate Bund at 4:17 pm by George Smith

Welcome to the great blue collar die-off. That’s the name Barbara Ehrenreich has given to the health news that the life expectancy of middle-aged white people without a college education has decreased, the result of an increase in mortality now equivalent to the death toll due to HIV/AIDS. She knows, having done the definitive work on what has been done to this class in our lifetimes. (“How does one survive on six or seven dollars an hour?” asks one character in the linked video. A No-Prize if you can identify the smarmy guy who says it.)

The economy of the corporate dictatorship has come home to roost for a portion of white America, and it’s class based, a factor the New York Times linked piece doesn’t really get around to until near the end of the piece. Affluent middle class whites haven’t show up in the awful statistics so much. (Yet.)

Nevertheless, the life expectancy for this slice of America’s white tribe is still above that for African Americans, who’ve never faced anything but the grinding wheel of the national economy. However, life expectancy for the same classes in other Western developed nations is on the rise, It is only here where we are so exceptional.

None of this can really be much of a surprise although one of the doctors interviewed by the Times concludes, “It seems so sad.”

I’ve written about the bleak trends in WhiteManistan for a couple years. The Forty Year Slump entry sums up much of what I thought, having experienced it, first hand:

When I was entering college, Alcoa aluminum closed the biggest extrusion plant in the world in Cressona, PA, where my father worked. He escaped lay-off and was transferred to a small soda bottle-cap manufacturing plant outside Lancaster, a three hour drive every day.

The metal-working plants closed. A recession was in full swing when I graduated from college in Reading, PA. There were no jobs so I enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Lehigh.

During the Reagan years, the nation’s economic policies destroyed Bethlehem Steel. The center of Allentown and the south side of Bethlehem turned into slums. I saw it happen. The people voted for the man who was killing their future. So did the rest of the country…

When you rip the economic heart out of a community it takes a lot down with it.

I’ve never known a time when the road wasn’t downhill. I suspect most people have the same impression unless they’re of the top slice. The better educated, and with more good fortune, were better at clinging to the diminishing number of seats in the country’s economic version of musical chairs.

But give the statistics a little more time. As more scientists begin looking into the matter, we’ll see more. And in the next few years, perhaps even a little sooner, the same thing is going to come for the college-educated white class. The plutocrats are going to winnow them out and part with even less to those left over, for the privileged work of keeping the lights on and the toilets clean.

And then, like those described in this week’s news, they, too, will self-medicate until death with drink, drugs, suicide and other causes of mortality when masses are permanently ejected from ways to make a living. Dispair and distress will tighten their grip as the country descends into a paradise of all against all. Politically, there’s no reason to expect any change, no radical steps taken to reverse the serious systemic problems that have led us to this point, and certainly not in the next eight years, even if the not-insane party takes the White House.


From the Seattle Times, today:

The average age of the homeless people who have died this year has been 48. Most have been male and white. There were 12 deaths in January, more than in any other month.

Forty-four of the deaths have been by accident or natural causes, seven by suicide and four by homicide. There were 20 deaths classified as involving drugs, alcohol or both.

Murray and Constantine attributed homelessness here to several factors, including what the mayor described as a heroin epidemic “across this nation and in this city.”

The mayor also mentioned, “jobs lost during the Great Recession that have never returned” and inadequate state funding to help people with mental illnesses.


Political theorist Sheldon Wollin died in late October, notes the New York Times, at 93.

In his last book, Wollin described the United States as an example of inverted totalitarianism.

Reads the Times, in its final paragraph on the man:

With time, he took the view that corporate power and political power were becoming so closely intertwined in the United States, and the public so apathetic, that genuine participatory democracy was at best a remote possibility, expressed in rare “fugitive” expressions of the popular will.

“Democracy in the late modern world cannot be a complete political system,” he wrote in a 1994 essay, “and given the awesome potentialities of modern forms of power, and what they exact of the social and natural world, it ought not to be hoped or striven for.”

His last book reflected this dark interpretation of politics in the United States. It bore a sobering title: “Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.”

Perhaps Wollin would say, too, that the decline in life expectancy of America’s white tribe is not at all unexpected, given his analysis of where we are.

Democracy Inc, is here for download, at Cryptome. (And, yes, your host has read it. Although a slightly heavy lift, you should, too.)

10.28.15

The result of decades of corporate parasitism in higher education

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, The Corporate Bund at 3:08 pm by George Smith

A short video explains what universities and community colleges have been polishing since when I left with a doctorate thirty years ago. In fact, my first job straight out of school was in this developing mechanism.

Now it’s a nationwide parasitic machine, one that reduces a majority of the teaching staff to penury, migrant workers hired and let go at will, serving at school after school, never getting anywhere. And it’s all for the sake of those at the top and the handfuls of full tenured research stars. Make no mistake, though, it didn’t happen in a vacuum. The greed and hubris in the privileged faculty had much to do with it, too.

This has never been a secret and its one of the cold, hard facts that shows the common bleats about America facing a shortage of scientists and engineers, or that Americans are not educated enough and must be prepared for a life of constant retraining are self-serving falsehoods.

10.21.15

The Future Looks Blight

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, The Corporate Bund at 11:57 am by George Smith

A few statistics from the Global Wealth Report, under the title US Inequality at its Ugliest:

1. At the Bottom: Of the Half-Billion Poorest Adults in the World, One out of Ten is an American …


3. In the Middle: The US is the Only Region Where the Middle-Class Does Not Own Its Equivalent Share of Wealth

Table 4-2: North America has 38.8 percent of its people in the middle class, but they own just 21 percent of the wealth.

Tables 4-4, 4-5: The wealth-deprived North American middle class is largely a U.S. phenomenon, as Mexico’s relatively small (percentage) middle class has over double its share of wealth, and Canada’s middle class, from a population a little over a tenth of the size of the U.S., has about 20 percent less than its share, compared to the U.S. with 50 percent less.

Table 6-1: U.S. median wealth is just 1/7 of average wealth, which implies a skewing of wealth toward the top. Among other major nations, only Russia is worse.

Global Wealth Report, p. 34: “A shortfall of the wealth share of the middle class below its population share is also evident in many individual countries outside North America, including every one of the G7 nations. Figure 4 shows that the shortfall is most acute in Switzerland, Singapore and the United States; but in Australia, Hong Kong SAR and Sweden the mean wealth of the middle class is also more than one-third lower than the average for the whole population…In contrast, for middle and low-income countries – such as Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and Mexico – the share of the middle-class wealth exceeds its population share (see Figure 4). This difference signals that in such countries members of the middle class are not ‘in the middle.’ Rather, they are towards the top of the distribution and there are relatively few people above them. The same is true for the world as a whole.”


4. In the Upper-Middle: For a Full 70% of Americans, Percentage Ownership of National Wealth is One of the Lowest in the World

Table 1-5: The bottom 70% of Americans own just 6.9 percent of the wealth, a percentage far below all other major nations.

The entirety is here, along with a link to the Swiss Bank analysis from which the figures are extracted.

09.22.15

Peanut butter poisoner/businessman gets life

Posted in Bioterrorism, Predator State, The Corporate Bund at 2:51 pm by George Smith

Stewart Parnell, CEO of Peanut Corporation of America, was effectively sent to prison for life for a salmonella epidemic caused by his company’s shipping of contaminated peanut butter in 2008. He was given 28 years in prison. The outbreak sickened over 700 and killed nine people outright.

Parnell’s brother, also in the business, was given 20 years, a lower-level flunky, five.

The sentences are, by far, the toughest ever handed down to food company executives.

At the time, DD blog wrote about Parnell more than once.

Some excerpts:

Stewart Parnell, Peanut Corp., before Congress. Where is his turban and beard? Where’s his video found on the
Internets by our government, like all the rest of those frightening guys from other countries shaking their fingers and ranting in Arabic at the netcam? Where are the experts from CSIS or Brookings saying what a dangerous fellow he is? Where are our tough lawmakers squeezing the truth from him? Talk, you! His hometown newspaper said he was a good football player in high school, though. Oh, where did it all go so wrong?


In the predator state, the bad company led by bad men will literally poison the public. And they won’t stop until people are killed. In the predator state system, still that’s not even enough to get them dragged from the street.

A year ago Baxter International and another US company it did business with killed people by selling tainted heparin. Heparin is a necessary drug in US medicine and it used to be made here. But in the rush for profits, like many other US businesses, both companies subcontracted their formerly in-house work to China, where there were people willing and malicious enough to deliver a cheaper counterfeit substance, a derivative of chondroitin sulfate, used to mimic heparin. The counterfeit material sickened hundreds and killed a number of people outright. There were news stories and vows of reform. And then nothing happened; it was back to business as usual in the predator state. It was no time to get in the way of commerce!

Today readers have the spectacle of the house hearings in which Peanut Corporation of America’s CEO, Stewart Parnell, is seen as willfully urging his employees to get his salmonella-laced peanuts out the door.

“[Parnell] gave instructions to nonetheless ‘turn them loose’ … ” reports the Atlanta Journal & Constitution. At the time, Parnell was engaged in finding a laboratory that wouldn’t return a positive salmonella test, kind of like fishing through a high school bundle of failed exams, looking for the lone good one, the coincidental exception…


The wheels of justice grind slowly.

The Bush administration spent a great deal of time in office building up homeland security defenses against mostly-imagined threats in biological and chemical terrorism.

On the domestic side it did all it could to destroy food safety by getting rid of regulators.

The years of the Bush presidency could be characterized in many ways, all bad, one being the recurring feature of a surprising number off mass illnesses caused by contamination in food products.

For example, the killing of a large number of beloved pets by mass distribution of melamine as an adulterant in their food.

In this climate, the Peanut Corporation of American, run by Stewart Parnell, caused one of the biggest outbreaks of salmonellosis in the country’s history. The outbreak killed nine people and sickened hundreds.

By contrast, anthrax bioterrorist Bruce Ivins killed five and made 17 others very ill.

It wasn’t until 2013, five years after the outbreak, that a grand jury indicted Parnell and his associates. Family members of those killed in it remarked that they thought the sentence was appropriate but that it had come way too late.

Parnell’s defense protested the severity, commenting that Austin “Jack” Decoster, a CEO who had caused the biggest egg recall in American history for another recent disease outbreak, received only a couple months in prison. Parnell’s defense has a point.

On the other hand, the salmonella epidemic caused by Decoster’s Quality Egg/Wright County Egg did not kill anyone straight-off, although it sickened more — estimates range from 1,600 — 56,000. Decoster, it’s clear, was just lucky.

Decoster, like Stewart Parnell, is a truly Dickensian character and the blog covered the news in a series of posts entitled Eat Shit Farms.

As the story unfolded, an unsurprising picture emerged, that of an American businessman who had used lawyers and evasions to fight off food regulations on egg production for years. Because it could get away with no regulation, Decoster’s Quality Egg became a dominant national business with which could undersell competing egg farmers in other states where local oversight was stronger.

California, it turned out was an example. Egg farmers had to immunize their herds against salmonella, which added a couple pennies to the price of eggs. DeCoster’s egg farming operation avoided this.

Subsequent photography of Quality Egg showed other major health problems, the build-up of chicken excrement until the sides of the building bulged out from the pile being an unforgettable example.

From news article on Jack Decoster’s sentence in April of this year for the disease outbreak in 2010:

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Two former egg industry executives were sentenced to three months in jail Monday for their roles in a major 2010 salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands.

Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son, Peter DeCoster, faced up to a year in jail on charges of shipping adulterated food. They will remain free while appealing their three-month sentence.

Prosecutors said the sentence sends a strong message about the importance of following food safety rules…

“There’s a litany of shameful conduct, in my view, that happened under their watch,” Bennett said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked 1,939 illnesses to the outbreak, but officials estimate that up to 56,000 people may have been sickened.

09.04.15

Labor Day: American big shots attack it every year

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, The Corporate Bund at 2:34 pm by George Smith

Let’s take a moment to honor the regular Labor Day tradition in which public demonstrations, opinion pieces and the news are used to shit on workers.

American politicians, corporate leaders and plutocrats, from big-names to nobodies, line up with bits and little dances in which they pretend to praise the meaning of the day by calling your attention to something, somebody, or some group having to do with labor. And those named deserve your hate because they stand in the way of business and the corporate Bund!

The enemy can be teachers. Or unions and dues. It can be a riff on the fun big lie: the country was built on small business; yea, verily, small business is our lifeblood.

It can be praise for a billionaire who has been very bad to American workers in pushing legislation that has made them into ants for stepping on. It can be straight bootlicking for corporate wealth and ease. There will always be a scapegoat and it will always be maximum bullshit served with a big helping of mean passed off as concern.

Let’s see who’s first out of the gate this year!

Bruce Rauner, GOP governor of Illinois:

Big Labor union bosses in your state enjoy a special privilege allowing them to expand their ranks through compulsion. Union bosses can impose a monopoly bargaining contract which virtually always includes a forced-dues clause that requires every employee (even the ones who did not vote for the union) to pay tribute to the union bosses, just for the privilege of having a job.

While forced unionism is just plain wrong; coercing workers into subsidizing union officials also holds back a state’s economy …

So as you celebrate the coming three-day weekend, consider the benefits of Right to Work.

From a small newspaper in Minnesota, the standard let-us-all-now-praise-Labor-Day thing ending with the sentiment that there can be no jobs without business and so it is always necessary to think about what can be done to make thing’s better for corporate America:

Monday is Labor Day — a day to celebrate the achievements of our nation’s working men and women…

[But, but, but, but…]

Yes, Monday is a time to celebrate work. But work cannot take place if there are not jobs, and there can’t be jobs without business and industry. When business and industry create jobs, it spurs the creation of more jobs and the growth of the economy.

If our nation’s and our state’s leaders are serious about creating jobs, they need follow local officials’ lead to be business- and industry-friendly…

From the Penn State Daily Collegian, another piece on the atrocity of paying union dues, from a Right To Work for Less advocate:

With Wisconsin joining the ranks in March of this year, there are now 25 Right to Work states in America; states that have outlawed Big Labor union bosses’ ability to force workers to pay them fees as a condition of employment.
The absence of forced unionism gives Right to Work states an economic leg-up.

Perhaps not coincidentally, this appears to be a canned anti-labor Labor Day column, also used by GOP governor Rauner. Admire the efficiency. One anti-labor piece penned by some chamber of commerce enemy of the people can be cut and pasted with different by-lines.

Some old f— who tells unbearable stories that have no meaning in 2015, from Connecticut:

My Uncle Del once told me, “Bobby, I’ve never worked a day in my life.” What he meant by that was that he loved his job, found it fun and liked his co-workers. He was a quality control inspector at several aircraft manufacturers from when he left the Army Air Force after WWII until he retired. What I took from his comment was that if you find a job you love, you’ll never have to work. That’s why it’s so important to be incredibly honest and ask yourself what do you really like to do? Do you want just money, or a profession that serves your soul as well as your pocketbook. If you’re lucky, get an education and training, work hard and pay attention and one day you’ll be able to say the same thing my uncle did.

Here’s one from Texas that works in an attack on illegal immigrants as day laborers:

We know it’s Labor Day, but let’s talk about day labor.

One thing we know for certain about the local day-labor market: Employers will continue a don’t-ask, don’t-tell hiring practice for unauthorized immigrants regardless of what the law says. The question is whether Dallas will continue tolerating the existence of disorganized, unwelcome ad hoc recruitment centers on street corners and convenience-store parking lots, or adopt the more orderly concepts used by Garland, Plano and other cities.

This newspaper has long supported the expansion of government programs like e-Verify to hold employers to the letter of the law. A major magnet for illegal immigration has been the willingness of employers to look the other way, even when they suspect they’re hiring an unauthorized immigrant.

Day-laborers, well, they suck, because they’re illegal, hang out in parking lots, snarl traffic and are often homeless.

And, yet another attack on immigrants. They ruin Labor Day!

With the approach of the Labor Day bookend of summer, this series of columns on the economy, employment and immigration (all written in early July to avoid Internet dead zones while traveling) will include more specifics on 1) immigration’s impact on wages, 2) the boon to Democrats through illegal immigration, and 3) the diminished state of economic freedom in America…

I hope Republicans will see through candidates that verbally kowtow to the pro-immigrant activists. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, for instance, is not intimidated, as he calmly insisted to a hysterical illegal worker, that America’s laws apply to everyone and immigration laws, particularly, do not exempt anyone.

Democrats, to a man or woman, won’t reject the illegal immigration activists because, as I have correctly asserted, these groups are on path to be lifelong Democrats; many of them come from pro-authoritarian, anti-private gun ownership cultures and are easily persuaded to accept government hand-outs (I mean benefits). Democrats already benefit from illegal aliens in Congress—I’ll explain how next week.

And just in time for the weekend, The Pasadena Chamber of Commerce wants no minimum wage increase here:

At its August meeting, the Board of Directors of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, without objection, voted to strongly oppose increasing the minimum wage in Pasadena. Citing two studies performed for the Chamber and a peer-review of that work, Board members, representing small, medium and large businesses in diverse sectors of our local economy, cited potential negative impacts on the local economy, risks to employment, impacts on the local retail, hospitality and healthcare industries, as well as youth employment, in making their decision. Pasadena Chamber Board members clearly understood that imposing the Los Angeles minimum wage model in Pasadena would harm workers, local small businesses and pose a threat to our local economy.

Of course, there are pro-labor Labor Day opinions this year, some prominent. There could hardly not be. It’s no longer possible to ignore how badly workers, and the civilian populace in general, have been treated.

Nevertheless, I’d expect more of the usual anti-labor sermonizing passed off as holiday ice cream through the weekend. Add them up if you can stand it. Be on the watch for the opinions of the presidential types, particularly on Monday. If they weren’t surrounded by security at all times, they’d face barrages of dog excrement for their philosophies.

What do you think will be on the menu?

How salt-of-the-dirt (sic) American small business is? More right-to-work-for-less? Should we take the miraculous lessons of [some Silicon Valley tech tycoon]? Are not more tax breaks and bribes needed for corporate America to make jobs? More illegal and legal immigrant bashing? How great is it to live in America this weekend, shopping for goods in Labor Day promotions, made overseas by slave labor? A pack of lies and fraud from the American Enterprise Institute? How many fabricated stories from the six and seven figure earners about how their dads or moms opened a penny-candy store with nothing but hope and a prayer? Perhaps the old sidestep: More Americans will be driving this weekend than ever and don’t drink because the police are conducting a special Labor Day crackdown?

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