They spend it all on liquor

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 3:42 pm by George Smith

“The poor don’t pay enough/They spend it all on liquor.”

I just can’t understand why all the big explainers now examining the hardness of the American heart and economic inequality don’t have a Dick Destiny record.

Not played on NPR, I guess.

From the New York Times:

As the year ends, this argument is playing out in two of the most meanspirited actions left on the table by the least-productive Congress in modern history. The House, refuge of the shrunken-heart caucus, has passed a measure to eliminate food aid for four million Americans, starting next year. Many who would remain on the old food stamp program may have to pass a drug test to get their groceries. At the same time, Congress has let unemployment benefits expire for 1.3 million people, beginning just a few days after Christmas.

These actions have nothing to do with bringing federal spending into line, and everything to do with a view that poor people are morally inferior …

No doubt, poor people drink beer, watch too much television and have bad morals … They are poor because they are weak [reads the ideology].

It’s now to call the United States “Dickensian” because it’s obvious. It has a mean streak one hundred miles wide.

But it’s combined with an apathy and the talking servant class now all going on about how bad it is (as opposed to the subject of terrorism, which dominated for over a decade as a diversion while domestically conditions were quickly growing worse).

However, none of the explainers have any skin in the game.

Having spent the last three months on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, I can tell you there’s a certain bleakness to filling out numerous university psychology, social science, and political science surveys on inequality in America and one’s attitudes toward who deserves what and the shibboleths of capitalism for 50 cents and 20 minutes to half an hour of work, implemented by tenured professors who earn upwards of 80,000 a year. Regardless of any web eyewash on the subject, no meaningful numbers do this work as a fun hobby or just because they feel like wasting some time on the lap top while watching their favorite evening television shows.

So you can understand any cynicism in the belief that things won’t get better until way more people suffer misery and social disruptions start. Until then, inequality, the mean-spiritedness of right wing extremists and government policy are still too much good as edutainment, fertile ground for scholastic inquiry using crowd-sourcing and the opportunity to wring one’s hands in print from the vantage point of economic security.

Case in point, my representative — Adam Schiff, posted on his Facebook page that the Republican Party was not doing anything to extend unemployment benefits on the recently passed Continuing Resolution government appropriations bill.

Then Schiff went and voted “Yes” for it, anyway, along with a majority of the Democratic Party in the House.

Did you know how generous corporate America is, at the ground level, right now? A bit rhetorical, I know.

I’ll tell you, anyway. Von’s, part of the national Kroger supermarket chain, perhaps views as local philanthropy the giving away of some of its expired bread at a local food bank I use. I get a loaf or two of it.

What’s it like? Very hard as is stale bread’s nature. You can revive it somewhat with the use of a microwave and watery food or a damp paper towel.

And so for obvious reasons, there’s going to be a fund raiser / tip jar running until after Christmas. It’s been a tough year.

Footnote: If you’ve already pitched in beer/bad morality subsidies, that’s enough, and you have my profuse thanks.

Wealthiness leads to Godliness

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:59 pm by George Smith

That’s what Jesus taught.

Fiore. Jesus Rebranded.

Then go listen to Jesus of America, part of the LP you’ll never see reviewed because I won’t pay the toll to Apple/Rhapsody/whomever required to stock it.


The sharing economy (a continuing series)

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Fiat money fear and loathers, Made in China at 1:39 pm by George Smith

From a Facebook colleague:

Move over, Goldman Sachs. At the rate things are going, and assuming there’s a lot more extreme weather this winter, we may soon be able to add the ride-sharing firm Uber to the list of institutions loathed by nearly everyone, with the exception of those so rich as to pay no attention to what they’re being charged for things …

The more drivers who leave Yellow, say, for Uber, the nearer we get to a world in which only the rich can get around. Which, of course, may not be a bad idea, the rich invariably being nobler, harder-working, nicer-smelling, and generally more virtuous than lazy, malodorous good-for-nothings who can’t afford Samsung Galaxies or iPhones.

From my point of view, I can’t see Uber making much of a dent in southern California. Too many poor people and it’s not semi-pro want-to-be an unregulated cab driver nation waiting to happen.

It may take a couple years for it to sink in that you can’t rule the world from your smartphone everywhere, though.

Uber as a way to redeem your economic viability in West Virginia or Mississippi? Give me a break.

It is pleasurable to see bitcoin have its ass kicked by the world’s second largest economy, China. What countries will follow?

After crashing twice in the past few weeks, both due to China’s moves preparing for the elimination of the digital currency’s use, it’s still easy to imagine that bitcoin hoarders will work hard to push the value of it up again.

Which will only underscore its volatility, demonstrating that bitcoins are only for those who already have real money liquidity and the ability to purchase and sell large amounts of them quickly for speculative purpose. It’s a money for digital goldbugs who increase their worth by gaming it.

Bitcoins and bitcoin wallets are of no use to the hoi polloi who must use money to buy prosaic shit like food.

You can, however, buy a Tesla with bitcoins.

These things being the case, the Coinpunk will probably not conquer the world of tyrannical banking with his ultimate bitcoin wallet. And he just lost half his operating capital in the short term.

“A few drug users aside, no one appears to be buying [bitcoins] as a way to buy things,” reads the Economist, today.

Remember — these is much that can be delved in the blog archives using the search bar. It is great for finding stuff on the sharing economy, the new tech system of systems for reducing everyone to penury, for instance.


The pure milk of American kindness

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Psychopath & Sociopath, WhiteManistan at 11:35 am by George Smith

The NRA filled everyone with hot lead.

Revisit the psychotic hate in the YouTube comments. And you begin to see why it’s turned out this way a year later.


The perfect gift on Friday the 13th — music

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 10:56 am by George Smith

Welcome to the US of Penitentiary; we all get there, eventually.
We lock up the poor for all the rich; and we do it right, without no hitch.

Welcome to the United States of Greed; it’s the only country you’ll ever need. If you’re into frauds and useless devices — Uncle Sam, the best of choices!

We do dances, brand new dances, all for the titans of finances…
Predator loans, iPhones and drones! Plus we got lotsa crazy people…

Welcome to the United State of Punishment
Our biggest export is excrement

Now we think freedom’s lame
Because what you need is a life of pain

Welcome to the United States of Security
We’ll inspect you now for purity!

If you have gold and your a– don’t smell
We won’t bomb you straight to Hell.

We do dances, brand new dances, all for the titans of finances…
Predator loans, iPhones and drones! Plus we got lotsa crazy people…

Welcome to the US of Penitentiary
Everyone comes here, eventually!

Yes I know the rent is steep
But the whores and beer are really cheap…

Most appropriate. Do follow the links (they open in a new tab) while listening to the catchy tune!

Rock on and have at it.

And here’s the tip jar.

Need an MP3 for your devices? Of course you do. Click here.


Blessed are the job creators …

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 10:06 am by George Smith

At 2:11 — Blessed are the job creators, they can always hire way more waiters…

From economic tax expert and Pulitzer winner David Cay Johnston at al Jazeera:

Prosperous American families have adopted the same approach to wages for servants as big successful companies, hiring freelance outside contractors for all sorts of functions — from child care and handyman chores to gardening and cleaning work — to reduce costs.

Instead of live-in servants, who were common in prosperous U.S. households before World War II, better-off families now outsource the family cook, maid and nanny. It is part of a problem in developed countries around the globe that is getting more attention worldwide than in the U.S.

We are falling backward in America, back to the Gilded Age conditions of a century and more ago when a few fortunate souls grew fabulously rich while a quarter of families had to take in boarders to make ends meet. Only back then, elites gave their servants a better deal …

That is just what the United States has today — a top 10 percent doing well (the top 1/10th of 1 percent exceptionally so), while the bottom third remains desperate for work. But outsourcing has changed circumstances for the worse for those who would do a servant’s work today …

More than half of fast-food workers are on some form of welfare …

Johnston runs the numbers and goes on to write that America’s servant class has a worse deal because it has to pay for its own transportation and living space, which eats up much of what it earns. In the Gilded Age, the country’s families provided housing for its servant class.

This is much like the arrangement found on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

The jobs pay so little — one example being the eight tenths of cent per pool to count swimming pools in Los Angeles by Benedikt Gross and Joseph Lee — that electricity costs to run the PC (if the work was done in the US) ate up anywhere from more than half to all of the profit earned doing the work.

All are immoral systems which have been normalized as acceptable in present day America.

You can have an MP3 of Rich Man’s Burden and its “Blessed are the job creators …” bit for your devices. Click here.

Please help it along. A great song for our time, it deserves a good audience.


Digital sweat shop labor and your PC’s need for electrons

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 2:33 pm by George Smith

Resurrected from “Comments” here, the profits from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk sweat shop work scaled against the cost in electrons:

The average PC will consume about 150 – 200 watts. I have no idea what the prices per kWh are in the US, but i assume it’s pretty hard to just break even when doing these jobs. — Christoph

We can figure that one out. From the Department of Energy, we can get a figure on PC power usage.

270 watts per hour including monitor.

The average price of electricity in Los Angeles County is available through the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s 20 cents a kilowatt hour, as opposed to national average of about 12 cents

Ideally, with all the sifting and non-suitable human intelligence tasks one must sift through to find the number one can do, my best can do between 45 cents and a dollar an hour, not more.

That assumes looking for jobs that pay 40 cents and upward a task although you can enlarge the pool somewhat by going to 30 or 20 cents.

Often one sees stories where it is claimed the average pay is 1 dollar or $1.50 or something even a little higher for Mechanical Turk work.

But I’ve found these claims to be personally ludicrous. There is simply no regular way to make that using what’s delivered as available work, the failings or features of Amazon Mechanical Turk’s front end and what you have to do to identify, accept and get such work done.

So I’m averaging 45 cents an hour. The cost of electricity through the pc and monitor takes about a third of that, so Christoph was pretty close.

If I had worked identifying the swimming pools of Los Angeles for Benedikt Gross and Joseph Lee and done the modest number of a 50 count, performed in — say — two hours, for which the rate would have paid 40 cents, I would have made this.

Two hours on PC = 540 watts = .54 kilowatt

0.54 kilowatt x 20 cents / kilowatt hour = 11 cents.

40 cents – 11 cents = 29 cents net profit.

That is, I would have made 40 cents under their rate, more than a quarter of it nullified by the cost of electricity to run the PC during that period. Using the average cost of a kilowatt hour in the US, say 12 cents, a US Mechanical Turk worker, all other things being equal, would have made the princely 33 cents net profit, with seven cents shaved off for electricity to run the machine.

You can jiggle the numbers a few different ways, for instance, and assume you could have counted swimming pools on digital photography more swiftly, thus driving the use of electricity per lot down. However,
the order of magnitude of the net profit — miniscule — cannot be changed and because it is so small the overhead of running the PC in the household while doing the work always shaves too many pennies off jobs that only earned a handful of them.

Amazon Mechanical Turk is a demonstration of what an immoral labor market with absolutely zero worker protections is like. It is easy to understand why the tech industry and corporate America would like this type of crowd-sourcing machine.

Note: Here are some Mechanical Turk worker comments on the LA swimming pool research at Turkopticon. One hundred jobs paid 3 cents a job, which would have brought in three dollars for an unspecified period of time.

If the researchers paid $350 total for their Mechanical Turk counting of 43,123 pools we can estimate that 100 hits paying 3 cents a hit for three dollars was .8 percent of the total.

0.8 percent of the total is 345 swimming pools or false positives, or 3.4 – 3.5 per job/human intelligence task. At three cents a job, that comes out to roughly eight tenths of a cent a swimming pool, jiving nicely with the blog’s estimation of the cost yesterday.

If the work was done in the United States, the electricity cost of running the PC during the count would have taken anywhere from a bit over a quarter to a fifth of the total profit from the work.

The Jeff Bezos digital sweat shop — from the archives.
The face of innovation.



US Cyberspies infiltrate online games, inflate threat

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism at 6:23 pm by George Smith

Why did/does this blog provide a service? Because back in 2007, I labeled claiming terrorists were using on-line games to train national security threat inflation and quack work.

But the US cyberwar machine has always overdone things. Enemies are always everywhere. And even though they’ve been wrong about everything in the last decade, nothing impedes their manias.

From the New York Times, again courtesy of Edward Snowden:

Not limiting their activities to the earthly realm, American and British spies have infiltrated the fantasy worlds of World of Warcraft and Second Life, conducting surveillance and scooping up data in the online games played by millions of people across the globe, according to newly disclosed classified documents.

Fearing that terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly, move money or plot attacks, the documents show, intelligence operatives have entered terrain populated by digital avatars that include elves, gnomes and supermodels.

The spies have created make-believe characters to snoop and to try to recruit informers, while also collecting data and contents of communications between players, according to the documents, disclosed by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. Because militants often rely on features common to video games — fake identities, voice and text chats, a way to conduct financial transactions — American and British intelligence agencies worried that they might be operating there, according to the papers.

Online games might seem innocuous, a top-secret 2008 N.S.A. document warned, but they had the potential to be a “target-rich communication network” allowing intelligence suspects “a way to hide in plain sight.” Virtual games “are an opportunity!” another 2008 N.S.A. document declared.

But for all their enthusiasm — so many C.I.A., F.B.I. and Pentagon spies were hunting around in Second Life, the document noted, that a “deconfliction” group was needed to avoid collisions — the intelligence agencies may have inflated the threat.

May have inflated the threat. Get rewrite and go for historical accuracy. They always inflated the threat.

Why where so many “hunting around” in Second Life?

Cue Internet and dog joke, paraphrased: “In cyberspace nobody knows you’re just another asshole from the US national security megaplex.”

Anyway, from 2007 — why, here, of course:

“One radical group, called Second Life Liberation Army, has been responsible for some computer-coded atomic bombings of virtual world stores [in the on-line fantasy game called Second Life] in the past six months,” wrote a reporter for the Australian, today.

“On screen these blasts look like an explosion of hazy white balls as buildings explode, landscapes are razed and residents are wounded or killed.

“With the game taking such a sinister turn, terrorism experts are warning that [Second Life] attacks have ramifications for the real world. Just as September 11 terrorists practised flying planes on simulators in preparation for their deadly assault on US buildings, law enforcement agencies believe some of those behind the Second Life attacks are home-grown Australian jihadists who are rehearsing for strikes against real targets…”

Entitled “Virtual Terrorists,” alert reader Cubic Archon tipped your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow to this bit of titillating terror infotainment dressed up as real news.

Of course, it is not good scary terror infotainment unless experts are on hand to inform you that it has been a subject of quiet concern for some time. But now the danger has become too great, the threat impending, and they must speak!

“Terrorist organisations al-Qa’ida and Jemaah Islamiah traditionally sent potential jihadists to train in military camps in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Southeast Asia,” continues the Australian. “But due to increased surveillance and intelligence-gathering, they are swapping some military training to online camps to evade detection and avoid prosecution.”

“Rohan Gunaratna, author of Inside al-Qa’ida, says it is a new phenomena that, until now, has not been openly discussed outside the intelligence community.

“But he says security agencies are extremely concerned about what home-grown terrorists are up to in cyberspace. He believes the dismantling and disruption of military training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan after September 11 forced terrorists to turn to the virtual world.”

” ‘They are rehearsing their operations in Second Life because they don’t have the opportunity to rehearse in the real world.'”

Intelligence and law enforcement agencies in the US and Australia are so concerned they have established their own reality world games in a bid to gain the same experiences as the virtual terrorists.

“Monash University academic and former Office of National Assessments intelligence officer David Wright-Neville agrees that online games and virtual worlds are being used by potential terrorists to hone their knowledge base … Intelligence analyst Roderick Jones, who is investigating the potential use of the games by terrorists, says [Second Life] could easily become a terror classroom.”

Are you ready to your local anti-terror forces stamp out the on-line game? Or are your eyes rolling over yet another ad hoc squad of experts ready to say anything to a news organization in the process of concocting another exciting fraud from the terror wars?

“Basically, we have a succession of inaccuracies about Second Life in the first place (e.g. you can’t leave ‘a trail of dead and injured’ there, even virtually, given that there’s no permanent death or injury built in; the ‘Second Life Liberation Army’ was a media publicity stunt,” writes Cubic Archon in e-mail.

He added that the news piece offers “ridiculous sourceless commentary.”

Archon finds the next claim laughable.

“Kevin Zuccato, head of the Australian High Tech Crime Centre in Canberra, says terrorists can gain training in games such as World of Warcraft in a simulated environment, using weapons that are identical to real-world armaments.”

“World of Warcraft is a fantasy game,” the e-mailer points out. “So, in the real world, terrorists are going to be attacking with magic swords and fireball spells?”

Since Archon makes good points about the meretriciousness of claims that terrorists can use Second Life as a way to plan attacks, DD turns the real estate over to him:

“I am a fairly long-term user of Second Life and, while it has some great potential for certain types of teaching and real-world modeling – it’s used increasingly by architects, for instance – this is about as credible a threat as the one about school shooters building models of their school in Counterstrike and using them to rehearse attacks. Bouncing about in an online simulation isn’t combat training.

“And the idea that it is being used by al Qaeda to recruit, any more than, say, Myspace, is sourceless nonsense. There are all sorts of ‘comedy’ names and groups in Second Life, and it would surprise me immensely if people hadn’t started up al Qaeda type groups, perhaps with virtual explosive belts, to satirise the media obsession with them. To be honest, this sort of article almost makes me want to do that myself – or maybe build a replica of Pearl Harbour and start bombing it from virtual aeroplanes.

“You know, it would be terrific if Second Life was really as good and realistic as it is portrayed here, that you could actually learn how to do something as complex as build explosives or field-strip a rifle from the comfort of your own bedroom, but unfortunately it isn’t.”

Supplying related URL’s, Archon writes: “Another past example came from Threatswatch.org here. [This] was quite roundly panned by Second Life users in comments and on various blogs.”

Continues the Australian: “US terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman, from think tank RAND Corporation, says … ‘We have to contest this virtual battle space in much the same manner as we are very successfully doing in other traditional forms.'”

The item on terrorists and Second Life, from Threatswatch, back in 2007:

A Daily Brief item today pointed out some disturbing developments in the virtual world of Second Life. While at first glance one might be dismissive of developments in the “fake” world, a closer look indicates that Second Life has the potential to enhance the terrorist threat.

The FBI and others recently began pointing out their shift in thinking that terrorist threats to the homeland will come from al-Qaeda sleeper cells such as the 9/11 hijackers and instead will come from self-radicalized individuals and groups. The so-called “Ft. Dix Six” are such a group, having allegedly used (at least in part) various terrorist resources online for motivation and training. Anti-terror raids in the UK and elsewhere note that those arrested are often in possession of computers that contain radical Islamic literature as well as information on how to perform pre-operational planning, use small arms, and conduct small unit tactics.

There are those who dismiss self-radicalized, self-trained groups as amateurs who are unlikely to ever conduct a successful terrorist operation, though events of so-called “sudden Jihad syndrome” over the past five years suggest that even self-taught sad-sacks can kill or maim. Still, there is a big difference between someone who has actually trained to fight an armed conflict or conduct intelligence operations and someone who has merely read about how it is done.

Second Life bridges that gap.

In Second Life you can practice intelligence tradecraft; you can test your elicitation skills, pass off (hopefully unnoticed) notes and packages, and meet in private with co-conspirators. You can sit down in a classroom and learn how to field-strip a rifle or pistol, conduct fire-and-maneuver drills, or run through an urban combat scenario. You can send and receive money to help fund your operation and you can conduct “legitimate” business that ends up funding terrorism. Static online training materials or even interactive-but-text-based Jihadist discussion forums cannot match the rich and substantial – if one may be excused for adopting a marketer’s language – content.

Second Life has the potential to elevate the professionalism of terrorism training. It is not real-life, but it isn’t reading comic books either.

Bottom line: You could have predicted US cyberwarriors and terrorist hunters were going to charge into on-line gaming undercover. Seeing threats everywhere, even when virtually none exist, has always been their business.

What many people didn’t realize, or refused to recognize at the time, was that the national threat assessment apparatus, from the private sector to the intelligence agencies, feeds on itself.

It recites its little stories and has always actively worked to put them into the news. And when their rumors, half-baked suppositions and crazed paranoid mutterings are published and made respectable they become a citation in someone’s pitch to start terrorist-hunting operations, in this case in on-line gaming.

From 2007 to Edward Snowden’s papers in 2013.

National Pain Gods

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 3:58 pm by George Smith

Krugman in “The Punishment Cure:”

“[It’s] part of a general pattern of afflicting the afflicted while comforting the comfortable … So the odds, I’m sorry to say, are that the long-term unemployed will be cut off, thanks to a perfect marriage of callousness — a complete lack of empathy for the unfortunate and bad economics.”

“Rich Man’s Burden,” then, is our perfect national song for 2013. Art perfectly illustrating life, pithy, catchy and lots of other good things, all of it just right for the holiday season in America.

Throw a $1.25 in the cup. It would be the same I can make, on average, per day through Mechanical Turk. If it makes enough I might even be able to pay the bribe iTunes requires to stock it.

The poor don’t pay enough it, they spend it all on liquor/If we stopped it all right now, we’d get rich a whole lot quicker.

The digital sweatshop letter the LA Times didn’t print

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 3:29 pm by George Smith

Hello: Your interesting Column One — Mappers Spot all the Pools in LA Basin — informed that 43,123 pools in the Los Angeles basin were counted by the digital sweatshop house, Mechanical Turk. And it cost researchers Benedikt Gross and Joseph Lee $350.

I thought you might like to know what that came out to so I ran the arithmetic. Each swimming pool was counted on MTurk for eight tenths of a cent. If you counted 1000 pools for the research project, you made $8.11.

That’s a lot of swimming pools to count, even for someone working in a digital sweat shop. But if you only counted a much more reasonable 50 Los Angeles swimming pools in Google pictures, you made 40 cents for your work.

The newspaper informed it cost $3700 to publish Gross and Lee’s swimming pool research. That’s over ten times what the researchers paid Mechanical Turk workers, most of whom are American.

Along with loss of privacy, the digital world seems to be taking away quite a bit of earning power, too. How much would it have cost to count the swimming pools at a minimum wage, or using hand’s-on grad student labor?

Just saying, low wage jobs being in the news these days and all.

LA pool researcher Joseph Lee.


Note: Here are some Mechanical Turk worker comments on the LA swimming pool research at Turkopticon. One hundred jobs paid 3 cents a job, which would have brought in three dollars for an unspecified period of time.

If the researchers paid $350 total for their Mechanical Turk counting of 43,123 pools we can estimate that 100 hits paying 3 cents a hit for three dollars was 0.8 percent of the total.

0.8 percent of the total is 345 swimming pools or false positives, or 3.4 – 3.5 per job/human intelligence task. At three cents a job, that comes out to roughly eight tenths of a cent made for each swimming pool, jiving nicely with the letter’s estimate.

If we assume one could identify, say 50 swimming pools from photography, in two hours of work on Mechanical Turk (or the rate of about one a little over every two minutes while clicking and working through the MTurk interface), we can further figure how much it actually cost the worker in electrons to do the job. It is not an insignificant number.

If the work was done in the United States, because the rate of pay is so low in the digital sweat shop called Mechanical Turk, the electricity cost of running the PC during the count would have taken a decent chunk from the work which paid in handfuls of pennies.

Example: Earnings from counting 50 swimming pools in digital photographs in two hours.

50 swimming pools x 0.8 cent / pool = 40 cents.

Here we estimated the cost of electricity to be 20 cents a kilowatt hour in Los Angeles county. For counting 50 swimming pools in 2 hours, we further estimated the PC expended 0.54 kilowatt hours worth of electrons costing 11 cents for the counting on Mechanical Turk.

40 cents profit – 11 cents power cost = 29 cents profit for counting
swimming pools on the digital sweat shop, Mechanical Turk.

If the cost of electricity is assumed to be the lower than LA county
national average, 12 cents, a somewhat larger profit is generated.

40 cents profit – 7 cents electricity (the national average) = 33 cents net profit for two hours of work.

The numbers can be run for any amount of swimming pools counted
in the Mappers Spot all the Pools in LA Basin.

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