11.26.12

CAHY: American manufacturing

Posted in Bombing Paupers, Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Predator State at 9:17 am by George Smith

From the wires:

Raytheon, one of the world’s largest military contractors, opened the doors today to its newest missile factory, a state-of-the-art facility that will produce weapons for the United States and its [toadies].

According to Raytheon, the Huntsville, Ala. plant, located at the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal, will produce Standard Missile-3 and Standard Missile-6 interceptors. The first SM-6s should be delivered in early 2013, while the SM-3s should be ready a quarter later.

The facility is said to be among the most advanced missile production plants in the world, utilizing laser-guided transport vehicles for moving missile components around.

“At new Raytheon plant, America’s missiles come to life,” reads the Raytheon advertisement attached to the piece.

How many Standard missiles were fired at the enemy in anger in the last decade?

Zero.

Because al Qaeda and the Taliban have no air force or navy.


Here is a piece at the New York Times, published last week, in which the reporter investigates domestic non-military manufacturing, where one reads about lousy American workers not fit for the jobs because of “skills mismatches”:

The secret behind this skills gap is that it’s not a skills gap at all. I spoke to several other factory managers who also confessed that they had a hard time recruiting in-demand workers for $10-an-hour jobs. “It’s hard not to break out laughing,” says Mark Price, a labor economist at the Keystone Research Center, referring to manufacturers complaining about the shortage of skilled workers. “If there’s a skill shortage, there has to be rises in wages,” he says. “It’s basic economics.” After all, according to supply and demand, a shortage of workers with valuable skills should push wages up. Yet according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of skilled jobs has fallen and so have their wages.

In a recent study, the Boston Consulting Group noted that, outside a few small cities that rely on the oil industry, there weren’t many places where manufacturing wages were going up and employers still couldn’t find enough workers. “Trying to hire high-skilled workers at rock-bottom rates,” the Boston Group study asserted, “is not a skills gap.” The study’s conclusion, however, was scarier. Many skilled workers have simply chosen to apply their skills elsewhere rather than work for less, and few young people choose to invest in training for jobs that pay fast-food wages. As a result, the United States may soon have a hard time competing in the global economy …

Paul Krugman, in pointing it out, was more supercilious:

Whenever you see some business person quoted complaining about how he or she can’t find workers with the necessary skills, ask what wage they’re offering. Almost always, it turns out that what said business person really wants is highly (and expensively) educated workers at a manual-labor wage … So what you really want to ask is why American businesses don’t feel that it’s worth their while to pay enough to attract the workers they say they need.

In reading James K. Galbraith’s The Predator State, one would call this the dominance of American manufacturing by corporate reactionary predators.

This has installed a race to the bottom in labor in a country where unions have been destroyed in the private sector and no standards for fair compensation are allowed to exist.

Noticeably, one could see it during the summer when new and tough anti-illegal immigration enforcement in red states resulted in immigrant workers leaving US southern agriculture, where profitability and cheap prices have been maintained by making wages rock bottom.

Inevitably, farmers lined up to complain to the mainstream media that American workers would not take these jobs. At one point, you could find pieces in which criminals on parole or probation were offered as a potential workforce. Even they would not work in the fields.

From September:

Ralph and Cheryl Broetje rely on roughly 1,000 seasonal workers every year to grow and pack over 6 million boxes of apples on their farm along the Snake River in eastern Washington. It’s a custom they’ve maintained for over two decades. Recently, though, their efforts to recruit skilled labor, mostly undocumented immigrants, have come woefully short, despite intensive recruitment efforts in an area with high rates of unemployment.

The Broetjes, and an increasing number of farmers across the country, say that a complex web of local and state anti-immigration laws account for acute labor shortages …

“The United States farmer is still the most efficient in the world, and if we want to be in charge of our food security and our economy and add favorably to our balance of payments, we need to support a [slave] labor force for agriculture,” said some douchebag to Time magazine.

Back in 2007, Galbraith explained it as predatory business practice in which agriculture, having no need to respond to standards in labor, pressed wages to the bottom. No one, except the desperate from Mexico, regularly wishes to work stoop labor in fields, being sprayed by pesiticides, for much less than a living wage.

“Imposing standard and enforcing them, is thus the general response to the Predator State,” which is just a collision of reactionary forces within business who seek to maintain competitiveness and profitability without technological improvement, without environmental control, without attending to product or workplace safety,” writes Galbraith.

“They are the forces behind deregulation, behind tort reform, and behind the assault on unions… ”

Galbraith asks, rhetorically, “Are their example?” Yes, the countries of northern Europe which have established wage protections and more successful economies despite regulation. Germany, for example, has more generous labor and wage agreements in automobile manufacturing, standards which are enforced. However, news stories in the US media indicate that when German automotive giants set up shop in the United States, they revert to predatory US business practice and rely on plants in anti-labor “right-to-work” southern states.

Arms manufacturing in the US is a different matter. It is protected and paid for by the US taxpayer.

“In short, the populist directive is to raise American wages, create American jobs and increase the fairness and security of our economic system, especially for citizens and legal residents, but also for all who seek work within our borders,” writes Galbraith near the end of The Predator State.

“You want higher wages? Raise them. You want more and better jobs? Create them.”

Raytheon missile manufacturing, of very little intrinsic social value other than decent jobs with pay, is an example.

Corporate America relies primarily on the equation in which compensation is always compressed and subtracted. My grandfather, who raised his family in a row home in the Frankford area of Philadelphia was a machinist who worked in manufacturing. Unlike the manufacturing workers being sought in the New York Times piece, he was able to earn a decent pay.

When I saw him, that was in the Sixties and Seventies.

09.12.12

Baby, Eat Pink Slime — or we’ll sue

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Predator State at 10:01 pm by George Smith

UPDATED

Whenever you think corporate America can’t be more odious/ludicrous, you are surprised:

“(AP) LINCOLN, Neb. – Beef Products Inc. plans to file a defamation lawsuit in the wake of a publicity storm over a meat product that critics have dubbed ‘pink slime.’ The Dakota Dunes, S.D.-based company said Wednesday that it will announce a lawsuit Thursday. A company executive and lawyer refused to name the defendant … The term ‘pink slime’ was coined by a former U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist.”

Baby eat pink slime, damn you, or we’ll nuisance litigate!

Beef Products, Inc. took a savage hit in the marketplace when it’s reason for being was rejected by the American consumer.

In a reasonable world, they’d have taken their hiding and disappeared.

But the USA isn’t a reasonable world. Corporations are mechanistically vindictive, encouraged to operate as if godly. The ‘inventor’ of pink slime knows what’s best.

The company will only be interested in suing someone with deep pockets. That means either ABC, the company that broadcasts Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, the program that generated viral media destroying pink slime in the market. Or the US government, specifically the USDA.

This isn’t about getting the product back into its market position. That can’t happen. The squeezed-out pink mess won’t go back in the tube. It’s about revenge and getting a payoff to go away.


Predictably, the target is ABC:

Beef Products Inc. filed a defamation lawsuit Thursday against ABC News for its coverage of a meat product that critics have dubbed “pink slime,” alleging that the network misled consumers to believe the product is unhealthy and unsafe …

The reports cited in the lawsuit include 11 that aired on television and 14 that appeared online in March. Webb said the reports had “an enormous impact” on the company, forcing it to close three of its four U.S. plants and lay off more than 650 workers. Webb said the network also published a list of chain grocery stores that had stopped selling the product, and that this pressured others to end their business relationship with BPI.

The company states that television connected with the pink slime biz caused a loss of 80 percent of its business, claiming the impact “catastrophic.”

Can you reinstate your company in the public mind in court? No.

Ultimately, it’s more self-made bad publicity for Beef Products, a company trying to punish others and extract its pound of … pink flesh … for rejection.


Not doing much for the image.

05.31.12

Seussian

Posted in Phlogiston, Predator State at 9:05 am by George Smith

In this country of ours, so proud, strong and free,

We did things and made things the whole world could see.

But times, they have changed, now we needn’t get dirty,

Since Wall Street makes things so many find purty.

Run, don’t walk to this week’s animation by Mark Fiore.

Seussian? I think so.

05.23.12

Disaster, graphed

Posted in Decline and Fall, Made in China, Predator State at 10:41 am by George Smith

Paul Krugman uses graphs to present economic data on balance of trade fail and rising inequality, putting spikes through arguments that predatory US business practice — Gordon Gekko-ism — is good.

Rising inequality, presented as a ratio against a scale where 100 is absolute inequality. The US GINI coefficient, or number on that scale, is in the 40’s, the highest of western societies but comparable to many Third World Nations.

Balance of trade fail.

03.19.12

Submitted with comment — brown into pink

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Predator State at 9:14 pm by George Smith

Consider imagery for pink slime, pulled up by Google.

However, the next bit will really date you.

Pulled from YouTube, it’s a segment from the now very old movie, “The Groove Tube.” I thought this was hysterical when I was … about fourteen or fifteen.

“Among other characteristics, it had the strength of steel, the flexibility of rubber, and the nutritional value of beef stew. This revolutionary substance, developed at Uranus, is Brown 25.”

Perhaps the people at Beef Products don’t realize whatever they do they’re now part of a national joke focused on stuff that makes people go “Ewww, gross!”

“Things come out a little differently” for the makers of pink slime. Thirty eight years after the “Uranus Corporation,” art into life.

03.15.12

CAHY: Innovative meat product (continued, 3)

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Predator State at 1:33 pm by George Smith

One of the reasons for the blog’s interest in “pink slime” comes from experience working with microorganisms that produced collagenase, an enzyme that degrades the connective tissue protein, collagen.

To do rapid qualitative screening for collagenase production, or just to quickly and cheaply assay for the presence of the enzyme in samples, we used large amounts of fetal calfskin collagen.

And the way it was prepared is not too dissimilar from how Beef Products, or corporate America, processes garbage into a food product of marginal value.

Our collagen source had to be replenished once every year and a half so. That involved getting the hide from a freshly slaughtered fetal calf.

A local slaughterhouse provided them, free, I think. Maybe it’s all used as profit margin now.

The fetal calf hide would be put in a plastic bucket of water with a small amount of microbial growth inhibitor thrown in. It would be allowed to sit for a day or two. This would loosen it up, making the hair easier to debride.

We let it rot a little, so to speak.

Everytime the lab did this there would be a new batch of student assistants and one would be “volunteered” to help prepare it.

The hide would be taken out of the vat, put on an aluminum table/sink, and the hair removed with scrapers. If it was the first time you ever did it, you gagged a lot. The smell was not pleasant and you either got used to it, or breathed through your mouth, or suffered until your gag reflex got burned out for the day, or something like that.

Scraping the hair off the hide and rinsing it took about an hour.

Another couple hours were spent cutting the hide — now looking like what it was, pink flesh — into strips. Then the strips were slowly fed into a coarse meat grinder to make chunks. The work took most of the morning, or afternoon, depending on when you started.

The chunks were thrown into big vats of acetic acid. The acetic acid vats were then kept in a cold room for years, serving as the reservoir of collagen which was, when it started, in the flesh.

Acetic acid rendered the collagen into a slow-flowing gel after a week or two. When one needed a quantity for lab work, one took a beaker, dipped it into the vat of chunks, took out some, and squeezed the chunks through a cheese cloth.

The collagen gel was expressed, caught in another beaker, the remnants of the acetic acid dialyzed away with phosphate buffer.

When the gel collagen was ready you could pour it into a glass or plastic petri dish and put it in an incubator at body temperature. There it would firm up into a solid white layer of what sort of looked like very white, slightly quivering shiny flesh. It would have been great in horror movies.

Typically, one could put little round assay pads on the plate, impregnate the pads from samples drawn from liquid growth medium from bacterial samples of interest, and wait for a couple hours.

If collagenase was present the collagen would clear (dissolve, actually) into protein fragments and water around the pads, leaving a halo.

If you left the collagen plate in the incubator long enough, it dried out, leaving a fairly tough circle of dried insoluble cross-linked collagen which, to the touch, felt a bit like paper.

“Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings,” or “pink slime” reminded me of fetal calfskin collagen. It was not a food but it was also, loosely speaking, a meat trimming.

The marine bacteria with which we worked found it very nourishing. And the acetic acid, like ammonia with “pink slime,” kept it microbe free before use.

CAHY: Innovative meat product (continued)

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Predator State at 10:59 am by George Smith

A piece from the wires, furnished by ABC News, illustrates the corporate practice of taking what’s functionally garbage and perverting the use of descriptive language to sell it:

ABC News has the learned that on Thursday the U.S. Department of Agriculture will announce that starting this fall, schools will be able to choose whether or not they buy hamburger that contains lean finely textured beef known as ” pink slime …”

“It kind of looks like play dough,” said Kit Foshee, who, until 2001, was a corporate quality assurance manager at Beef Products Inc., the company that makes “pink slime.” “It’s pink and frozen, it’s not what the typical person would consider meat.”

Foshee said that he was fired by BPI after complaining about the process used to make the filler, and the company’s claims about it. Since then, he has spoken out against the product.

J. Patrick Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute, defended the practice as a way to safely use what otherwise would be wasted.

“BLBT (Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings) is a sustainable product because it recovers lean meat that would otherwise be wasted,” he said in a statement.

However, the substance, critics said, is more like gelatin than meat, and before BPI found a way to use it by disinfecting the trimmings with ammonia, it was sold only to dog food or cooking oil suppliers.

But Boyle said, “The beef trimmings that are used to make BLBT are absolutely edible” and Janet Riley, senior vice president of public affairs for AMI, said there was no reason to label beef that contains “pink slime.”

“What are you asking me to put on the label, its beef, it’s on the label, it’s a beef product, it’s says beef so we are declaring … it’s beef,” she said.

May things are edible but still best not eaten. Some people eat dog food when they can afford nothing else. Hair, hide and hooves are part of a cow. Are they beef if they are ground finely enough and resuspended as an ammoniac gel?

Therein lies the rub. The parts of the cow used for “pink slime” come from the parts of the cow that used to be tossed away because they were too heavily contaminated with bacteria, coming as they do from on or near the cow’s surface. This is the “why” of ammonia-treated slime, the compound being used to disinfect the material. (It would seem to be even a couple steps further down than the infamous and much-joked about “potted meat product.”)

In the intervening period the product was marketed as a kind of meat extender and disinfectant — falsely so — and has no found its way into 70 percent of packaged ground meat sold in supermarkets.

Obviously, a very large market. And it is unlikely all Americans will immediately learn enough about it to start shunning pre-packaged ground beef, another product of corporate America’s race to the bottom, repackaged as some kind of value-laden gift.

Concludes the piece:

There is only one way to know for certain that “pink slime” is not in your beef: If your meat is stamped USDA Organic, it’s pure meat with no filler.

Otherwise, you can’t know from the packaging because “pink slime” does not have to appear on the label. And the USDA is giving no indication it will force meat packers to lift the veil of secrecy any time soon.

Yesterday’s post pointed to a 2009 NY Times piece that explained such pre-packaged hamburger has regularly been found to be the culprit in mass food contaminations, poisonings and recalls. However, Beef Products’ “pink slime” enjoyed a kind of working exemption from blame.

“Pink slime’s” makers insisted it was ammonia-disinfected and that was all that was necessary to absolve it from corporate responsibility in any cases of contaminated ground beef.

The blog has regularly post items on how corporate America becomes a security threat to average Americans. Mass food poisonings and recalls regularly enuse, because of the overweening pursuit of profits at the expense of safety, good sense, and regard for the final customer

The most recent examples — Jack Decoster’s infamous egg farm/salmonella mills, the salmonella-flavored peanut butter manufactured by Peanut Corp and sold nationwide, and melamine-poisoned pet food.

In all cases, the predatory business model is followed because the penalties or lack of them were affordable to the business as minor costs.

One can almost think of “pink slime” in the same way as Chinese-made melamine. It’s a cheap extender, increasing the profit on hamburger by using something much more worthless to pump up the weight.

“Pink slime,” it stands to reason, already caused food poisonings, if only because it is such junk, it’s alleged disinfectant properties diluted when added to mass batches of pre-packaged hamburger.

Up until now, the product has generally escaped great scrutiny and resulting opprobrium. This may be changing.

10.05.11

Failed State: As defined by food stamp use

Posted in Decline and Fall, Predator State at 4:57 pm by George Smith

The party of the plutocrats is marked by its loathing for many things, among them food stamps. If you search the public record over the past two years it’s clear the Republican Party, as it exists now, thinks people on food assistance are vermin.

From Newt Gingrich to Ted Nugent, it is abundantly clear.

DD came up with some eye-popping statistics to frame the astonishing number of people on food stamps in our nation.

By itself, the number is huge. Still, it becomes even more depressing when the magnitude of it is put in context.

Food stamp usage in the US is a symbol of national economic failure so systemic it takes your breath away. It is rock solid proof the US economy does not provide jobs which earn a fair living for a polyglot cohort that dwarfs entire western nations.

If food stamp distribution were disrupted in this country, the result would be hunger. Hunger great enough to cause riots. And the immediate loss of the vast pool of money food stamps inject into private sector food sellers would trigger yet another severe economic collapse.

Between 44 and 45 million Americans use food stamps.

Let’s look at the populations of selected western countries:

Population of Norway 4.8 million
Sweden 9.3 million
UK 61.8 million
Spain 45.9
Greece 11.2

Three quarters of England fit in the US basket of food stamp recipients. Or Sweden, Norway, and Greece combined with a good surplus left over. Or 99 percent of Spain.

If you add up the populations of the 50 states, starting with the least,
the number of people on food stamps in the US is a number that roughly includes the summed populations of:

Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Maine, Idaho, Nebraska, West Virginia, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Arkansas,
Kansas, Mississippi, Iowa, Connecticut, Oregon, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Kentucky.

That’s 26 states.


Food stamp use cuts across a wide swath of American society.

This shows that even when one excludes the unemployed, a mass of jobs large enough to fill foreign nations provide work which is not compensated well enough to make a decent living.

“Working hard but still struggling to make ends meet?” reads a food assistance website run by the state of New York. “Food stamp benefits can help you put food on the table … Food stamp benefits help low-income working people.”

Such jobs are essentially slave labor in which ruinous corporate wages are offset by government subsidy.

One can look at it as a process in which corporate America depressed wages for a fair day’s work, maximizing profit by shoving part of the cost of a barely subsistence wage onto the government, and by extension, the taxpayer.

This can only be seen as entrenched predatory behavior.

Take, for example, the national security machine. Since the onset of the war on terror, US defense contractors enjoyed an immense boom. They are among the biggest and wealthiest companies in the world.

But here we read something on the number of families of US soldiers on food stamps (from the Newman Times-Herald, Newman, GA):

Lately a lot of complaints have been made about the food stamp program. Let’s take a look a one group that gets food stamps — 14,000 military families were on food stamps in 2000.

The Pentagon does not keep track of any military families that are on food stamps. President Bush in 2001 decided to authorize a $500 subsistence pay increase that was taxable in order to help military families get off food stamps. It did not work. Military families increased on food stamps because food stamps are non-taxable.

From 2008 to 2009 military families were using food stamps at twice the rate as civilians, 25 percent to 13 percent. About $31 million of food stamps were used in nationwide commissaries.

From July 2009 to March 2011 in Oklahoma, where there are four military bases — Fort Sill, Tinker AFB, Vance AFB, Altus AFB — $1.8 million in food stamps was spent.

President Obama, in the 2010 Defense Authorization Bill, increased the food subsistence program for military families to $1,100 and made it non-taxable to help get families off food stamps. But will it?

The military pay scale does not match cost of living anywhere in America. So if the U.S can only pay men and women who volunteer to serve and protect our freedom a wage that reflects poverty, how can anyone complain about someone else getting food stamps?


15.9 percent of the population of Texas is on food stamps. If you believe the opinions of the GOP, they are all leeches.


The GOP’s view of food stamp use can be summed in various repellent quotes from Ted Nugent.

Here he is on CNN, with Piers Morgan, earlier this year:

Nugent: The America [Obama] doesn’t … people are using food stamps for something other than good nutrition. You gotta be kidding me. We got a bunch of idiots out there that are absolutely raping and pillaging an otherwise positive humanitarian system.

Morgan: My issue about you and the welfare thing is it showed — to me it showed no sense of compassion for people who have genuine problems. Who genuinely need it.

NUGENT: Well, you see –

MORGAN: Your judgment, if you don’t mind me saying, is all encompassing. All sweeping. You think they’re all on the fiddle.


From a column, in January of this year, at the Washington Times:

Food stamps are for wusses, and the master wussy Democrats have seen to it. It’s easier to be a lazy lump …

[Wusses] need to be weeded out and excommunicated. America needs hard-charging warriors, not weak wusses.


Historically, food insecurity is linked to civil unrest and conflict.

The food stamp program in the US serves a great purpose. And as a result not too many Americans think of ours as a place where violent food riots could erupt.

08.31.11

More Music for the Class War

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Predator State at 10:55 am by George Smith


There’s a good sight gag Easter Egg buried in this one. Watch for it.

This, a new recording of “Let’s Lynch Lloyd Blankfein” for max fittage to the slideshow vid.

From the New York Times, in related matters having to do with US CEO’s making more in rewards than their firms pay in income taxes:

The authors of the study, which examined the regulatory filings of the 100 companies with the best-paid chief executives, said that their findings suggested that current United States policy was rewarding tax avoidance rather than innovation.

“We have no evidence that C.E.O.’s are fashioning, with their executive leadership, more effective and efficient enterprises,” the study concluded. “On the other hand, ample evidence suggests that C.E.O.’s and their corporations are expending considerably more energy on avoiding taxes than perhaps ever before — at a time when the federal government desperately needs more revenue to maintain basic services for the American people.”

The study comes at a time when business leaders have been lobbying for a cut in corporate taxes …

“We pay our taxes and we have added 5,000 more U.S. manufacturing jobs that were incentivized by tax benefits,” he said.

07.08.11

This will work

Posted in Decline and Fall, Predator State at 10:15 am by George Smith

Internet Service Providers to attack the little people through a campaign of annoyance, stupidly conveyed via news short from Rolling Stone:

Americans who illegally download music, movies and games may soon find their internet access grinding to a halt. The nation’s top internet providers – including Verizon, Time Warner Cable, AT&T, Cablevision and Comcast – have agreed to a new system in which users suspected of digital copyright infringement will be given a series of six warnings by email or other means. Repeat offenders would be threatened with progressively severe punishments, culminating in reduced connection speed or having service cut off entirely. Customers will be allowed to contest each warning.

The internet carriers hope to deter piracy through annoyance …

Of course, no one will be punished for downloading pirated material from a Google property … like YouTube, one assumes. Lest the entire business model collapse.

Country music artist Colt Ford’s new album, pirated in entirety to the YouTube cloud.

The entire debut by JaneDear Girls, pirated to YouTube. Up for months now.

All of Donovan’s hit singles from the Sixties, pirated to YouTube. Last I heard, they weren’t public domain.

DD could go on. And on. And on.

The only working rule in effect here is if the group or individual is a current big seller, their legal fixers and YouTube will work to keep their albums from being uploaded. So that the videos can be monetized through Vevo.

What would happen if ISP’s blocked YouTube, for the annoyance of users into stopping their downloading/streaming of pirated content?

Rhetorical, of course.

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