05.27.11

Sifting Mark Zuckerberg’s dingleberries

Posted in Phlogiston at 9:33 am by George Smith

The man who brought the apex of high school social order and circle jerk to the world wide web, Mark Zuckerberg, dispenses more wisdom:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is buzzing in Yahoo! Search for an unusual reason: his eating habits. The social network pioneer told Fortune Magazine that he is challenging himself to eat more responsibly and sustainably. He’s not separating himself from meat; he’s getting closer to it. “The only meat I’m eating is from animals I’ve killed myself,” the 27-year-old billionaire told Fortune. “It’s easy to take the food we eat for granted when we can eat good things every day.” So far he’s slaughtered a goat, slayed a pig, and boiled a live lobster. The response around social media has been positive. Many say they applaud his thoughtful way of eating.

He’s not separating himself from meat, he’s getting closer to it. Hmm, emulating Ted Nugent.

Brilliant stuff.

The once famous Iraq War quack — now diminished — argues for continued jobs program there

Posted in Permanent Fail, War On Terror at 9:07 am by George Smith

Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution was once ubiquitous in the nation’s newspapers. Along with Ken Pollack, he was instrumental in providing allegedly independent scholarly expert judgment on why Iraq needed to be invaded.

Eventually history had its way with him. As it did with all of the neo-cons who provided sophistry in cover for the war.

Now this Google page aggregation sums O’Hanlon up perfectly.

While you don’t get fired at the nation’s war-pushing think tanks when you screw up royally, the real estate you’re invited to scribble on goes from high rent to slum.

Today, O’hanlon’s on the opinion page of the Washington Times, the newspaper for DC’s extreme right, sharing space with the usual tumbleweeds blowing through that neighborhood — Medicare must be destroyed, Newt Gingrich is a genius, Obama is the greatest enemy Americans have ever known, etc.

What’s the subject?

The Pentagon’s jobs program for Iraq must be preserved.

It reads:

Consider a few examples from Iraq. The task force helped Iraqi banks set up electronic funds transfer capabilities at 233 private banks. About 100,000 jobs were restored in Iraq after the invasion as the direct result of task force interventions. At least $2 billion in investment licenses were issued for new business development by an Iraqi government agency that the [Pentagon’s jobs program task force] helped set up. Dozens of international companies, including Boeing, GE, Case New Holland, Google and Microsoft, have begun work in Iraq as a result.

Then he makes the pitch for the same in Afghanistan because it is a mineral goldmine, a story flogged in 2010 to keep up enthusiasm for involvement in the place.

“Do we really want to concede the foreign role in developing mineral interests in Afghanistan, estimated at more than $1 trillion in value, to Chinese companies because American firms don’t have access to compete themselves?” write O’Hanlon at the WaTimes.

Our economy hates you — but not if you’re in the war business

Posted in Bombing Moe, Permanent Fail, Predator State at 6:49 am by George Smith

Our leaders, notably Congress and the administration, are increasingly desperate to rationalize reasons for little recovery in the middle class and high unemployment. So they look to Wall Street, which is doing fine, and economists to tell them it’s all the little people’s fault.

Structural unemployment is what it’s called. It’s an argument that makes the case that rotten is the new good, that nothing can be done because the country has moved on and the unemployed are so because they lack what the country needs for the future. So corporate America has decided to discard them.

They lack the necessary skills.

Except the American middle is not lacking in skills. Working for the census last year made this abundantly clear. The census’ labor, taking a great deal from those knocked into unemployment by the Great Recession, had all kinds of skills and varied training. And they were largely educated. You could not characterize them narrowly — as flawed in their education and training — which is what structural unemployment arguments always try to do.

Today’s news — from this article — delivers all the rancid goods needed to justify walking away from the national mess in the three minutes time it takes to read it.

For example: “Swonk believes that one of the lasting outcomes of the recession will be a skills shortage driven by educational inequality.”

Which, from experience, is rubbish.

The very next graf has one source disputing it, a position also taken by Paul Krugman:

Bart Hobijn, an economist at the San Francisco Federal Reserve, argues against the skills mismatch theory for driving up natural unemployment. Hobijn recently studied the unemployment rate among recent college graduates — who are theoretically resistant to the effects of a skills shortage — and found that they were faring just as poorly in the labor market as others, implying that skills mismatch isn’t having much of an effect on the natural unemployment rate.

Then the man finds a different reason to explain recalcitrant hiring. It’s the extended unemployment benefits, he reasons. The implication that it made people to lazy too find minimum wage work compounded by the fact that employers don’t like hiring low wage workers because, wait for it … they are lazy crap. Although the words “lazy” and “crap” don’t enter the discussion.

This article from US News — on a college-educated 24-year-old girl who fell into homelessness — reveals there’s absolutely nothing going in this country right now to fight the problem.

It’s a story of totally wasted human capital, people discarded not because of failure and incapability on their part, but because inequality in this country has led to inefficiency.

The US is great at making weapons and parasite economy stuff — financial services and monetized networked circle jerks (Facebook, Twitter, etc) — and virtually nothing else. And these industries don’t broadly spread their riches to the overall populace. The good fortune comes only to those directly connected to them — a feature of countries which are either saddled with or adopt rising levels of inequality.

One can marvel at the stubborn optimism of the 24-year old, of the ability to get a book contract, and the revelation of information that it’s important to hold onto your laptop. Or you’ll really be in a world of hurt.

Read it. It’s one example of a nation that’s given up on its people.

On the other hand, if you’re in arms manufacturing, things are jolly good.

Weeks ago I predicted Raytheon and others would get great numbers from our Bombing Moe adventure, even once we abandoned the job. Others, like Little Tommy Atkins, for instance, would shoot off all their nice American-made smart bombs and missiles. But Mo would still stubbornly refuse to die or run away, presenting them with the need to order even more from America’s armorers.

And such has been the case. Business at Raytheon has been wunderbar.

From a press release:

Raytheon Company (NYSE:RTN – News) announced today that its Board of Directors has declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.43 cents per outstanding share of common stock. The cash dividend is payable on August 11, 2011 to shareholders of record as of the close of business on July 6, 2011.

Raytheon Company, with 2010 sales of $25 billion, is a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, homeland security and other
government markets throughout the world. With a history of innovation spanning 89 years, Raytheon provides state-of-the-art [missiles] and [war] support services. With headquarters in Waltham, Mass., Raytheon employs 72,000 people worldwide.

05.26.11

Likes the Stones

Posted in Phlogiston, Rock 'n' Roll at 2:09 pm by George Smith

Michigan’s GOP rep from Livonia, Thaddeus McCotter, may or may not run for President.

However, McCotter’s brief appearance in the news this week does present an opportunity to write about someone who is not the usual run-of-the-mill Republican mortal-enemy-of-the-middle-class.

For example, McCotter is not anti-union, which is a requirement if you want to be part of the Tea Party and its GOP appendix.

In fact, he supports Detroit and US manufacturing as this video makes clear.

McCotter is shown in 2009 playing in his brother’s band, Dr. Zaius & the Bright Eyes, the name entirely chosen, rather humorously, from Planet of the Apes. (Follow the links.)

And here, at OpenSecrets, is McCotter’s political expenditures list with three entries for paying Zaius & the Bright Eyes at three political affairs. (Three gigs, $600 per pop.)

Likes Detroit, plays guitar.

A sort of anti-matter version of Ted Nugent.

While Nugent obviously plays guitar he can now regularly be found hating on unions, Detroit and the auto industry. (Although Ted still calls himself the Motor City Madman, it’s been proven by science — namely through citation of his own words here — that he detests these three things.)

McCotter is also possessed of an Al Haig-like zen for quote, as this recent story in the Detroit News makes clear:

The Livonia Republican said he’s “seriously” mulling a decision to join the Republican presidential field since candidates have failed to understand the importance of manufacturing. He said he wants to develop a growth agenda that will lead to prosperity and jobs.

Born in Detroit and valuing a strong manufacturing base, McCotter said he would take the Michigan message to America.

His decision should come “very soon.” “It’s going to be a very quick yes or no,” and not an announcement to form an exploratory committee, he said.

McCotter said it’s too soon to determine whether seeking a higher office would mean he’d bow out of a reelection bid for the House of Representatives, a seat he’s held since 2003.

Why would you make a decision on something you haven’t decided,” he asked.

Need further proof of amusing deviation from orthodoxy?

Here’s McCotter in a short, seemingly intentionally cracked but enjoyable segment for the right wing Human Events website, called Rock Solid with Thaddeus McCotter:

Quite delightfully, he’s no Lee Atwater.

Supports US manufacturing. Likes the Stones. Could be something out of the ordinary here.

Business as usual: Defense spending bill

Posted in War On Terror at 1:15 pm by George Smith

Even though bin Laden is dead, you’d never know it by looking at proposed Pentagon appropriations.

Sure, some Congressman make noise, a trivial bit of legislation on Libya which probably has no chance is passed by the House, and the Associated Press reporter writes like it’s a new tomorrow.

But it means nothing.

War-spending and footing aren’t going anywhere. The national security infrastructure won’t have it, the political leadership is captured or actively complicit, and the American people — as much as they are sick of this endless national export — have been removed from the equation.

AP:

The Republican-controlled House on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a $690 billion defense bill that limits President Barack Obama’s authority on reducing nuclear weapons and deciding the fate of terrorist suspects.

On a 322-96 vote, the House approved the broad defense blueprint that would provide a 1.6 percent increase in military pay, fund an array of aircraft, ships and submarines and increase health care fees slightly for working-age military retirees …

[Here’s one of the more laughable parts of today’s theatrical presentation, elicited after a modest proposal to draw down troops in Afghanistan was defeated.]

“It’s more than people are weary,” Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., sponsor of the amendment, said shortly after the vote. “They’re frustrated and not quite sure what we’re doing there. We got (Osama) bin Laden.”

In another sign of exasperation with war, the House overwhelmingly backed a measure to the bill barring any taxpayer dollars for U.S. ground forces or private security contractors in Libya with the exception of those involved in rescue missions of U.S. service members. The vote was 416-5.

The business of war is, along with Wall Street, America’s most protected business.


But for everyone else:

The latest U.S. growth estimate for the first quarter showed an unrevised 1.8 percent rise, but that was below expectations, and corporate profits unexpectedly shrank while weekly jobless benefit claims rose.

Scareware comes to the We Fart Sunshine crowd

Posted in Cyberterrorism at 11:49 am by George Smith

From the wires:

The fact that Mac users have fallen victim to “scareware” scams — the kind that have long plagued Windows users — shouldn’t come as a surprise … Mac users, for all their pretensions otherwise, are as fallible as the next person.

What is surprising is that it took so long.

The story references MacDefender, scareware that works exactly likes the Windows malware it’s modeled on.

How does it wind up on Mac systems?

Simple. The user winds up on a malicious website that puts up a phony message that their system is infected.

Want us to clean it up for you, huh, huh?

[Click]

And MacDefender is installed. Then the extorting begins.

It’s a big money business on Wndows machines.

Anyway, scareware — been there, done that, as part of my ‘research’ for what would become “The Virus Creation Labs” book.

It was fifteen years ago and there was no way to monetize such programs. There was no global on-line payment network, nothing like that on the early Internet. Instead, much of the action in cyberspace could also be found on old antique things like the Fidonet and Usenet.

Urnst’s Scareware programs weren’t malware. They didn’t do anything but display virus-like activity on the monitor.

But because they were made to deceive users, anti-virus software developers immediately put detection for them as viruses into their scanners.

Today, anti-virus scanners will still detect them as viruses. If you click on the link and your anti-virus scanner is programmed to look inside archived files, it will give you a warning. If you extract the files — you won’t be able to run them unless you can open a DOS box — your scanner will have a fit.


In 1994 most malware still spread only two ways, one very slow, but efficient. Puckishly called “sneaker net,” it was by sharing floppies and diskettes.

The other way, which was how Urnst’s Scareware circulated, was basically the same way Mac scareware spreads. You had to be tricked into downloading and running it from bulletin board nodes.

Tales from the Trouser Snake Jungle

Posted in Phlogiston, Rock 'n' Roll at 9:08 am by George Smith


Good news, lads! Good news! He’s unbelievably frisky and voracious in appetites!

Once your manly power is exposed to the world it can only grow bigger. A monster escapes from the lab to roam the land. The locals build great legends around it. Are they actually true? Who can say and does it even matter?

Delightfully convenient, from the Philly News:

GIGI GOYETTE was on “Extra” last night, telling former Philadelphia news anchor Jerry Penacoli about her no-longer-secret lust affair with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

According to the former child star, the pair met on a Malibu beach in the late 1970s, when Arnold was best known as an oiled-up muscleman in a thong

Gigi told “Extra” they met for many secret romps, sometimes in the very hotel where Maria Shriver was staying with their children.

“Arnold is a very physical and sexual man,” she said, “with a voracious appetite that likes a lot of physical attention.”

* The London Sun went a step further, claiming Gigi landed in the hospital because Arnold liked his romps rough. A Sun source said after one “Raw Deal,” Gigi said she was left “hurt and embarrassed.”

Too much Vienna Wiener?

“[Gigi] said Arnold was unbelievably frisky and that she had to go to hospital he was so rough. She was embarrassed turning up with an injury like that,” a “friend” said.

Too much Vienna Wiener? Boy, what you’d give to have been able to write that line for a daily newspaper?!

Even better now — Hey Cutie — the new song, still guaranteed fresh three days from the oven, with featured Arnold singing.

Into the tunnel!

05.25.11

Best companies to work for in the economy that makes nothing

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Permanent Fail at 2:27 pm by George Smith

In at number 2 on a list of 25 compiled by US News and the Glassdoor website, MITRE Corporation, which one can think of as a private sector arm of the government’s national security and intelligence apparatus.

Hysterically, the journalists at US News don’t even mention it, instead choosing only to describe the company this way — it’s great if you have children, which is probably true:

The MITRE Corporation, which is based in Bedford, Mass., and McLean, Va., employs about 7,000 scientists, engineers, and support specialists, according to the company’s website. “Employees can adjust their hours around their children’s schedules,” an employee wrote on Glassdoor. “I don’t miss a thing with my kids’ lives, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”

And why would MITRE be in McLean? It seems not to have occurred to these whipsmart journalists.

In any case, two of the top five companies to work for, MITRE and United Space Alliance, wouldn’t exist without government contracts and the taxpayer.

So much for corporate America’s best and the love of the free market over guaranteed defense subsidy and jobs programs.

Facebook is number 7.

And none of the company’s in the top 25 make any durable goods.

Three of the top twenty five make nothing at all, being devoted only to
the parasite economy — business consulting, stock trades and financial instruments. Slalom (6), Scottrade (20) and FactSet (4), respectively.

Sheetz, a convenience store/gas station chain that provides minimum wage living jobs, is inexplicably rated #13 in the country for work life balance.

One assumes this is because working a lot for very little is the new standard of excellence.

Lloyd’s a Superstar

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 11:18 am by George Smith

Really.

That line, describing the CEO of Goldman Sachs, played by one of the the little bald guys from Sex In the City, is the level of dialogue in HBO’s Too Big To Fail, its dramatization of the behind-the-scenes dealings between the US government and Wall Street in 2008.

The telemovie actually attempts to portray Henry Paulson and the bankers of Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Chase as sometimes decent people, first as a fractious group, then at the end struggling together to avoid global economic collapse.

Once seen it can only be explained as a vanity project for the New York Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin, its executive producer.

Re Sorkin and yesterday’s post on snobs and the spoil for everyone at the top, he’s one who “Too Big to Fail” also seems to apply to. From his Wiki bio:

Sorkin graduated from Scarsdale High School in 1995 and earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University in 1999 … Sorkin has written, co-written or contributed to approximately 2000 articles for The Times, including more than 120 front-page articles and about 150 DealBook columns.

Jeebus.

Too Big To Fail is an unintentional credulity-straining trudge. At times it seems like every scene with Billy Crudup’s portrayal of Tim Geithner comes with the latter playing handball, tennis or jogging while using his cell phone to inform William Hurt’s Henry Paulson of whatever is his latest plan to save the world.

The character playing Citi’s Vikram Pandit will make anyone who watches TV even semi-regularly laugh.

One imagines the casting meeting.

Because they needed a guy who looked Indian: “Get me the guy in that Fiber One snack bar commercial!”

Every time he was on screen a little voice in my head kept saying, “Cardboard no! Delicious, yes!”

Too Big To Fail isn’t totally awful in the way of SyFy Channel is on Saturday evening.

But the people who made it, as well as the actors, are exhibits of those who suffer from such big egos they can’t see a movie that turns Henry Paulson and his small office staff of yes-people into the sole saviors of the world economy is, by definition, annoying.

In real life the characters vary between the narrow extremes of odious and/or repulsive. That being the case, anything in the movie that doesn’t reflect that becomes even more patience straining. So multiple scenes of Hurt/Paulson’s wife rubbing his troubled back or saying he’ll pull through just make you want to punch all the people who made this.


Hurt/Paulson, saving the world one mobile phone call at a time in Too Big To Fail.

My take was that Too Big To Fail wasn’t made for any average audience to enjoy. It’s purpose was to burnish Andrew Ross Sorkin’s famous person resume and fulfillment for HBO’s desire for cable TV awards from critics. The latter can always be depended on to provide print blowjobs.

And such is the case.

On Metacritic, Too Big To Fail gets a green 67.

Ken Tucker, a rock critic at entertainment weekly is a good example of the phenomenon, someone who admires the reality-warping portrayal of assholes:

Tim Geithner, chairman of the Federal Reserve, is portrayed by Billy Crudup as a sweaty weasel who’d make a deal with anyone, on any terms, if it took the pressure off him.

When Matt Taibbi saw Too Big To Fail he probably shit his pants. (Here he wipes his feet on another Times business reporter.)

05.24.11

Who better to tell us about how top schools are only for the elite than the VIP snob from the same

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 9:34 pm by George Smith

David Leonhardt from the New York Times, who won a Pulitzer for “commentary,” on how the top schools in the US are — big surprise — only for the top economic slice:

Like it or not, these [snob] colleges have outsize influence on American society. So their admissions policies don’t matter just to high school seniors; they’re a matter of national interest … For all of the other ways that top colleges had become diverse, their student bodies remained shockingly affluent. At the University of Michigan, more entering freshmen in 2003 came from families earning at least $200,000 a year than came from the entire bottom half of the income distribution. At some private colleges, the numbers were even more extreme.

And who better to write such a piece than someone who knows the smell of his own hole.

David Leonhardt’s entry at Wiki:

Born in New York, Leonhardt graduated from Horace Mann School in Riverdale, New York in 1990, and then continued his studies at Jonathan Edwards College, Yale University, graduating in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science degree in applied mathematics. At Yale, Leonhardt served as editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News.

Next assignment: The wealthy get all the spoil in the US by the journalist who enjoys the modern spoils system. Second Pulitzer material, surely.

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