02.24.11

In the US, junk jobs equals ‘innovation’

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China, Permanent Fail at 8:22 am by George Smith

Latest from the Yahoo news laugh-line, a sucker bait article on jobs to get you out of the office cubicle.

Numero uno is the somewhat less than overwhelmingly popular answer questions on-line for a penny gig invented by Amazon, Mechanical Turk.

At Yahoo it’s called “virtual question answerer.”

The Wiki entry on Mechanical Turk:

Because [these questions] are typically simple, repetitive tasks and users are paid often only a few cents to complete them, some have criticized Mechanical Turk as a “virtual sweatshop.”[11] Because workers are paid as contractors rather than employees, requesters do not have to file forms for, nor to pay, payroll taxes, and they avoid laws regarding minimum wage, overtime, and workers compensation. Workers, though, must report their income as self-employment income. In addition, some requesters have taken advantage of workers by having them do the tasks, then rejecting their submission in order to avoid paying. However, at least some workers on Mechanical Turk are people who are middle class and do the work for fun.

Other top jobs for the economy that makes nothing, preferring to buy all its goods from China:

Professional Twitter-er, cable box recovery man (because everyone’s now hip to the fact that cable companies suck with rip-off pricing), astro-turfer for products made in China (called a “brand ambassador”), traveling bedpan technician/physical therapist, suck-up for corporate America’s remaining products (called a ‘focus group participant’), video game tester and — wait for it — the ubiquitous cellphone app developer.

Also tutoring for very low wages. Because the economic crash has resulted in teacher lay-offs nationwide.

Unintended hilarity: Article running in section called “Financially Fit.”

Win The Future!

02.23.11

The Power of Decision — a short review

Posted in Imminent Catastrophe at 12:10 pm by George Smith

By way of J. at Armchair Generalist, I’m tipped to “The Power of Decision,” a 1958 in-house USAF movie on how it might wage all-out strategic nuclear war against the Soviet Union.

The National Security Archive, which has released the footage onto the web, describes it thus:

“The Power of Decision” may be the first (and perhaps the only) U.S. government film depicting the Cold War nightmare of a U.S.-Soviet nuclear conflict. The U.S. Air Force produced it during 1956-1957 at the request of the Strategic Air Command. Unseen for years and made public for the first time by the National Security Archive, the film depicts the U.S. Air Force’s implementation of war plan “Quick Strike” …

In 1958, there were still no underwater-launched ballistic missile submarines. And the only true intercontinental ballistic missile in the US arsenal was the Atlas rocket.

Late in “The Power of Decision,” a number of Atlas launches are shown. (I may have even spied an old Thor launch, too.) Early cruise missiles using liquid propellants like the Hound Dog and the Rascal are also shown taking part in the imagined war.

But the bulk of the counter-attack against a Soviet Union first strike is carried out by B-47, B-52, and B-58 bombers of the Strategic Air Command.

In counter-attack after counter-attack, SAC destroys the Soviet Union, achieving air supremacy. The enemy knows we have him, remarks one general during the last reel.

Of course, the US does get it’s hair mussed. Sixty million killed and wounded. New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, DC, Pittsburgh and other major cities are totally destroyed.

Unsurprisingly, since it is a dry internal US movie on strategic nuclear war, none of the characters show any emotion at all during the conflict. Their’s is a distant analog world of Bakelite telephones, tube circuitry, wall-sized sliding maps maintained by soldiers on wheeled platforms, white boards with various tallies and old television sets.

Communication, when it inevitably breaks down as more and more bombs explode, is said to be “spasmodic.”

No doubt, this was very optimistic.

At the National Security Archive here, the movie is about an hour long.


US tries to cover up anti-terror software widget fraud

Posted in Permanent Fail, War On Terror at 9:40 am by George Smith

It’s been my take that the US government, as well as the military, can be very gullible when it comes to the claims of terror-sniffing capabilities from the private sector.

A recent story in the New York Times is a case in point.

It reads:

For eight years, government officials turned to Dennis Montgomery, a California computer programmer, for eye-popping technology that he said could catch terrorists. Now, federal officials want nothing to do with him and are going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that his dealings with Washington stay secret.

Read the story. And you’ll find the claims made by the developer are frankly unbelievable. More unbelievable is that anyone accepted them, even to the point of the Bush administration going on alert and canceling international flights because of warnings, by this man, on non-existent plots.

It’s humiliating, confidence-breaking stuff and it’s obvious why all parties involved want to keep it a secret.

There has always been a paranoia associated with Arab news agencies. But the news that US authorities thought al Jazeera was hiding terror messaging in its crawl bar, messaging so cleverly hidden only this man and his vaporware software could see it is crushing.

It also illustrates an absolute lack of critical thinking coupled with a child-like belief in magical solutions.

Also revealed — the fact that once you get into the inner circles of anti-terror contracting, you seem to be able to get away with telling people just about anything, even in the complete absence of persuasive evidence. Other than some made-up dog-and-pony show.

The New York Times story is here.

Hat tip to Secrecy blog for linking it.


02.22.11

Made In China: N-hexane poisoning for the makers of the King of all Music’s kit

Posted in Made in China at 6:46 pm by George Smith

Steve Jobs, the King of All Music and Phones, the man Barack Obama consulted on how to create more jobs, revealed n-hexane poisoning in its Chinese suppliers, according to the New York Times today.

The Chinese workers who were poisoned told the Times they’d never heard from Apple or the King of All Music.

“Instead, they said the contractor — a Taiwanese-owned company called Wintek — had pressed them and many other affected workers to resign and accept cash settlements that would absolve the factory of future liability, charges the company denied,” reported the Times.

“The Wintek injuries underscore the challenges Apple faces in trying to source goods from China, which dominates electronics manufacturing with low-cost labor and highly efficient factories that often operate around the clock,” continued the Times.

“But China is also known for factories that routinely flout labor and environmental laws.”

The NYT article contains various meaningless statements from Apple and descriptions of the symptoms of n-hexane poisoning in Chinese workers making the company’s kit.

It does not include any information on what Steve Jobs, the King of All Music and Phones, might have told the President about creating US jobs at the posh dinner held for that purpose.

Nugent hears GOP dogwhistle, hates on Wisconsin protesters

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Extremism, Ted Nugent at 4:58 pm by George Smith

DD is surprised it took Ted Nugent almost a week to begin hating on the Wisconsin teachers. His contempt for unions, particularly those serving the middle class of his old home state, Michigan, is well known. And his loathing of auto-workers is probably one of a few reasons the person once known as the Motor City Madman is now living near Waco, TX.

While he can still fill the occasional theater near Detroit, most of the people in the state no longer have any use for him.

A few minutes ago, from Uncle Ted, at the WaTimes:

So many teachers in Milwaukee have called in sick to protest this widely supported bill that Milwaukee schools have shut down. The teachers should be fired or at least forced to sit in the corner and wear dunce hats and apologize for this juvenile stunt … Wanting their fantasy cake of unaccountability and eating it too, the unions and their ignorant, brainwashed sheep are whining and protesting …

What kind of lowlifes would call in sick when they are not? Look and see.

Previously, I’ve tried to explain the spite of Ted Nugent. Most of it revolves around his disappointing story. His career declined, as so many do, through no fault of his own. So he reinvented himself as a blighted old white man with a bullhorn.

A couple months ago, I described it thusly:

Suggesting churches give up what he implies is loot in gold and silver is an unusually new and surprising low, even for someone like Ted Nugent.

When I started the Ted Nugent tab … I wondered what had shriveled him so much.

Here was a guy who had everything in the Seventies (and for a chunk of the Eighties). And as his career declined he folded like cardboard. Unable to reinvent himself gracefully in old age, he turned into a mouthpiece for the extreme right’s most vicious social policies, nothing more than a convenient gasbag for the Washington Times, or someone good for three minutes on Fox News.

Nugent fled Michigan for Crawford, Texas, starting a column for the Waco Tribune, where he was also run off for being uncharitable and rude.

Those who have read the entries on Nugent in this blog have seen the man in his words, ranting on obscure Internet radio programs and television shows. There he is, the strict law-and-order dude and mighty hunter, complaining bitterly and vituperatively over trivial troubles that were entirely his own doing in California. Opining that he’s been victimized by various conspiracies.

What motivates Ted Nugent is vindictiveness … He never recovered from losing his place at the top of the heap, a process all rock stars must inevitably go through. Many handle it with struggle and embarrassment. Others deal with it quietly and gracefully. A few die from it.

However, Ted Nugent decided he’d take it out on the values of the people who put him in the arenas during the high tide of classic rock. And he lost even more, gaining only a reputation as a panderer for people with fortunes which make his place in life look very small.
.

Here are some Ted quotes, amazingly published for Labor Day:

Unionized public employees with their sweetheart deals at taxpayer expense are one significant reason why some cities and states are in such dire financial condition.

Unionized public employees have better deals than the taxpayers who are funding them. Federal employees make twice as much as their private-sector peers. This is all beyond bizarro.

===

Unionized public employees with their sweetheart deals at taxpayer expense are one significant reason why some cities and states are in such dire financial condition.

And here’s some standard Ted contempt for auto-workers:

Taxpayers should not be held accountable to bailout the automobile industry or any other industry for that matter. There is constitutional authority for the decades of poor management decisions, forecasting and labor deals that have put GM, the U.S.’s largest automobile maker, perilously close to going belly up.

======

While the [United Auto Workers] may believe GM, Ford and Chrysler are in business to provide automotive workers a salary and other costly benefits, the reality is that car companies are in business to make a profit. Period. Write that down.

The UAW’s costly benefit demands over the years coupled with weak automotive management who historically caved into the UAW’s demands put the automotive bolts, so to speak, to the shareholders and, to a certain degree, has put the Big Three on the path to possible extinction.

====

Bailing out GM with billions of taxpayer dollars is the wrong approach. GM is not too big to fail. What GM may be is too unprofitable to stay in business.

Have you gotten the idea that Ted’s pretty much a lost cause in Michigan?

It is not just the middle class Nugent despises. There’s literally no one (or nothing) too small or weak for him to hate on.

Here Nugent goes after cats. Seriously.

Predictably, here he attacks Social Security.

Here Nugent hates on some old lady whose methods, he says, are used to attack him. Really.

And here’s Ted as an MC for Don Blankenship, Coalstock and Massey Energy. A few months later all those men died in a Massey mine and Blankenship became one of the most vilified corporate figures in the country.

It’s impossible to exaggerate the wild mean spirit of Ted Nugent since he limns it so well all by himself.


Eat S— & Die: US uses rubbish jihad docs on poisoning to distribute malware

Posted in Cyberterrorism, Extremism, War On Terror at 1:40 pm by George Smith

The e-mail dump from HBGary Federal, carried out by the Anonymous hacking group, has most famously exposed corporate plots to attack and discredit WikiLeaks, Glenn Greenwald and ThinkProgress.

Perhaps less publicized was Ars Technica’s story on the corporate development of malware for the US government.

The publication introduces the story:

On November 16, 2009, Greg Hoglund, a cofounder of computer security firm HBGary, sent an e-mail to two colleagues. The message came with an attachment, a Microsoft Word file called AL_QAEDA.doc, which had been further compressed and password protected for safety. Its contents were dangerous.

“I got this word doc linked off a dangler site for Al Qaeda peeps,” wrote Hoglund. “I think it has a US govvy payload buried inside. Would be neat to [analyze] it and see what it’s about. DONT open it unless in a [virtual machine] obviously… DONT let it FONE HOME unless you want black suits landing on your front acre. :-)”

The attached document, which is in English, begins: “LESSON SIXTEEN: ASSASSINATIONS USING POISONS AND COLD STEEL (UK/BM-154 TRANSLATION).”

It purports to be an Al-Qaeda document on dispatching one’s enemies with knives (try “the area directly above the genitals”), with ropes (“Choking… there is no other area besides the neck”), with blunt objects (“Top of the stomach, with the end of the stick.”), and with hands (“Poking the fingers into one or both eyes and gouging them.”).

But the poison recipes, for ricin and other assorted horrific bioweapons, are the main draw. One, purposefully made from a specific combination of spoiled food, requires “about two spoonfuls of fresh excrement.” The document praises the effectiveness of the resulting poison: “During the time of the destroyer, Jamal Abdul Nasser, someone who was being severely tortured in prison (he had no connection with Islam), ate some feces after losing sanity from the severity of the torture. A few hours after he ate the feces, he was found dead.”

It immediately caught DD’s eye because al_Qaeda.doc has been jihadi sucker bait for about a decade.

It’s a well-known fragment taken from the old Manual of Afghan Jihad, a copy originally seized from an old member of the Taliban in England and subsequently typed by the US and British government into a number of similar forms, and presented over the course of the war on terror as evidence at a number of terror trials.

A larger form of it, sans the poisons recipes, was even sequestered on a White House server during the Bush administration, part of an unintentionally hilarious argument made by that president that al Qaeda used torture but that the US did not.

I put the same fragment on the old DD blog years ago in connection with ongoing discussions on these matters, most notably because it was connected with the infamous London ricin trial and the resulting verdict, a time span between 2005-2006.

It is here.

Since it has been an object of keen interest, it’s no surprise the US government might use it in an archive as bait to pass malicious rootkit software.

However, it should be noted that, over the years, it is not just the random wanna-be jihadis and terrorists who have been attracted to it. Even seeding it onto a “dangler site for jihadi peeps” probably guaranteed that not just “bad guys” would get it.

In fact, there has long been an array of US private sector intel businesses, not necessarily adept at computer security and defending themselves from malware, who scour such sites for these things. So they can sell them to their clients. Or back to the US government.

It’s also worth mentioning that the poison-making recipes in it are rubbish.

The “two spoonfuls of excrement” formula is basically the old crap recipe for botox, first published on the fringes of the neo-Nazi survivalist right in the US in the Eighties, specifically in Maxwell Hutchkinson’s “The Poisoner’s Handbook.”

The definitive story on that, along with screen snapshots and pictures, is here.

The recipe for ricin, actually just a procedure for pounding and degreasing castor seeds, originally stems from Kurt Saxon’s Poor Man’s James Bond.

“According to Hoglund, the recipes came with a side dish, a specially crafted piece of malware meant to infect Al-Qaeda computers,” reported Ars Technica.

“Is the US government in the position of deploying the hacker’s darkest tools—rootkits, computer viruses, trojan horses, and the like? Of course it is, and Hoglund was well-positioned to know just how common the practice had become. Indeed, he and his company helped to develop these electronic weapons.

“Thanks to a cache of HBGary e-mails leaked by the hacker collective Anonymous, we have at least a small glimpse through a dirty window into the process by which tax dollars enter the military-industrial complex and emerge as malware.”

The rest of the Ars Technica story is here.

(Thanks to RMS for the tip.)

Cult of EMP Crazy: Local disparages Franks

Posted in Crazy Weapons, Extremism, Imminent Catastrophe at 10:45 am by George Smith

Trent Franks wasted no time in picking up the mantle of EMP crusader and anthrax denier Roscoe Bartlett (R – Maryland), initiating another bill to protect the nation from the fate of being hurled back to the time of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Readers just stepping in should know the Cult has regularly tried to get bills through Congress, always failing. Bartlett’s last attempt, in 2010, was sent to the dumper by Lisa Murkowski.

In a manner similar to Roscoe Bartlett, Trent Franks is a nuisance as a Congressman. And his new legislation won’t survive, either. But no one will be around to note its passing when someone more significant than the junior GOP pest from Arizona nixes it.

Having the odious Franks as a leader of a caucus to protect the country from electromagnetic pulse doom might be seen as a setback for the Cult. He’s not a man to inspire much interest and collegial enthusiasm.

Writes the Kingman Miner newspaper:

U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, (R-Ariz.) introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives Friday to protect the U.S. power system from electromagnetic attack. The bill has been assigned to the House Energy and Commerce and House Budget committees.

One commenter writes:

Only a moron like Franks would write a bill like this. Of all the things to be concerned about, a bill about sun spots. How about a bill to decentralize the grid to allow local power generation. How about a bill to create 1000 jobs in Mohave County — jobs that are not real estate agents. Franks is about as irrelevant as a Congressman could possibly be.

02.21.11

Sit home, shrivel up, die

Posted in Permanent Fail at 2:09 pm by George Smith

Toles

H/t From Pine View Farm.

On Scapegoating — continued

Posted in Permanent Fail at 9:41 am by George Smith

Frank at Pine View Farm continues on the riff that scapegoating — not a word he uses — is at the root of GOP exploitation of anti-labor sentiment.

It relies on rallying the private sector middle class workers against their public sector counterparts. Since private sector livings have been squeezed so hard by the corporate plutocracy, they’re prey to the idea that public-sector unionized workers are being parasites off their wages.

The answer, which should be explained more and isn’t, is to ask them why their wages have squeezed so. And to work to restore to them what has been steadily taken away since the age of Reagan.

Pine View Farm, and quote from the Boston Globe:

Republicans are framing an issue of non-government employees vs. government employees fighting over a shrinking pie. Current events in Wisconsin illustrate this.

If employees’ share of the pie is shrinking, doesn’t it make sense to consider whose share of the pie has been increasing.

Renee Loth considers this in the Boston Globe (emphasis added).

“The problem is that wages and benefits for private-sector workers have collapsed. ‘People are squeezed,’’ said Harris Gruman, executive director of the Service Employees International Union state council. ‘Working-class people who’ve lost their own benefits are subsidizing workers in the public sector who still have these things. It’s an unsustainable situation politically.’

“The answer, Gruman quickly adds, is not to strip government workers of their health and security — a beggar-thy-neighbor approach that lowers everyone’s standard of living — but to improve the prospects of others. ‘The resentment is misplaced,’ he said. “You need to increase private-sector unionization so those workers can start getting decent benefits again.’’

And resentment it is. DD wrote about it earlier, again triggered by PVF. And I regularly read the columns of the horrid Ted Nugent. Nugent is all about resentment. Without it, he has no material for his columns.

From January:

Lamentable articles in the New York Times have outlined Republican and Wall Street efforts to attack state unions as root causes of our economic troubles. It seems to do no good to say that unions have been under public attack for a long time and that they’ve been crippled by US business interests.

Those with the money rely on scapegoating and resentment to fuel sentiment against them. The mental equation appealing to baser emotion is simple one: Because those in the private sector have had it very hard, then the middle class union workers left — mostly in state and federal government — need punishing as well.

There have been other ways to describe it, Nitzschean Ressentiment, being one: “[Because] (I or we) have suffered, it is appropriate and good that even more suffer.”

This is pure scapegoating, rationalized as austerity and belt tightening. The President helped fuel it last year when he fecklessly announced federal employee wage freezing after election losses.

My view, from seeing the protests on television, is that once neighbors see the faces of the protesters, even if they’re not public-sector union workers, they’re far less likely to fall prey to GOP machinations in the state. And maybe more likely to join them on the line. Or at least wish them good luck from the comfort of the home.

Add a small measure of doing DD performances at Artscape — nobody in the small audiences, which must surely include some middle class Republicans, complain when we do “Middle Class Blues,” “China Toilet Blooz” or “Lloyd Blankfein.”

They have either been beggared personally or have friends who’ve fallen on very hard times. And they don’t mind when you suggest going after the real villains instead of the neighbors.

There are people whose incoherent rage over union workers is almost inexplicable.

Here we have the Lehigh Valley Conservative, a right wing lunatic blog in my old PA stomping grounds, an ex-union man who can be counted upon to foam at the mouth over what’s going on in Wisconsin.

The LVC kook is a great example of the people the GOP anti-labor dogwhistles are exquisitely tuned for.

The man hates on the Wisconsin protesters who, he sez, are on the dole:

The situation in Wisconsin is out of hand. The teachers are playing hooky from their teaching responsibilities and are actually busing the students to protest against the Governor at the Capitol. They have no right to do that. The Democrats are fleeing out of state so they don’t have to vote to bring the issue to a close. They are on the public dole along with the teachers and union leaders and yet they are AWOL. The teachers should be given an ultimatum to show up in class or be fired.

And that is what a union exists for. You can’t fire even half of a state’s school teachers. They are not immediately replaceable and have the power of a collective.

From January, again:

In his book, Class, Paul Fussell had a few things to say about scapegoating and how it is tied to bitterness in the working class. And how easily it turns people on each other. Or perhaps I’m reading too much into it. The book, after all, was written many years ago.

However, I’ve mentioned it from time to time on this domain. And it seems appropriate to close from something back in 2008 on the old blog.

Class war, Fussell noted, was never far from the surface in the United States.

Now it has erupted. But we’re still losing because Wall Street and the Republican Party are adept at turning … loathing at the wrong targets.

“Inflation, unemployment, a static economy” have set into stone conditions in which “the mass of Americans now find themselves” moving down, he wrote. “There used to be room at the top.” Now there’s plenty of room at the bottom, vicinities near which many of us will become acquainted with, sooner than later.

How to earn the most money: Have no socially redeeming value

Posted in Permanent Fail at 7:50 am by George Smith

A story indirectly celebrating the fact that the US doesn’t make anything but hookers, the unemployed and beer, that latter which is owned by Belgium, this article on the firms that pay the most.

It’s all financial services, legal manipulation and maximizing global warming and dirty water: Three legal firms, two energy companies, a small cancer-drug “biopharma” firm that doesn’t make anything anyone uses but which appears to be good at raising capital.

And Goldman Sachs:

Everyone knows Goldman Sachs pays big salaries and jaw-dropping bonuses, but the firm’s other benefits are nothing to sneeze at either. Case in point: Goldman has funded employees’ retirement plans every year for more than 65 consecutive years. The current contribution is a dollar-for-dollar 401(k) match, up to 4% of salary, that maxes out at $9,800. Everyone is guaranteed at least $6,000 a year, regardless of what they put in.

Nearly 40% are lucky enough to have access to “wealth creation opportunities” that enable them to reap bounty from the firm’s investments. And more than 38,550 current and former Goldman employees have received stock since the firm’s IPO in 1999.

The DD band performed “Let’s Lynch Lloyd Blankfein” at Artscape in Pasadena on Saturday night.

It was applauded when I explained who Lloyd Blankfein was in the intro.

Everyone seems to understand Goldman Sachs is one of the villains. But they don’t know the people who run it which, perhaps, is part of the problem. However, once you tell them they’re modern Frankensteins or vampire squids …

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