Making a Pile in the Culture of Lickspittle

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 12:44 pm by George Smith

Apple, with regard to music (now almost everything, actually) is similar to a disease for which finding the cure is fiendishly difficult. It’s tech malaria, with the efficiency and presence of the common cold thrown in. (Amazon fits the bill, too, but I’ve already spent a lot of time on the Empire of Bezos.)

The pic above is Apple’s Eddie Cue, the architect of the company’s recent deal to acquire Beats, the streamed music and half-assed tech company of which Dre, record mogul Jimmy Iovine and will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, are equity partners.

This is what Cue had to say, as reprinted from RockNYCLiveand Recorded:

“Music is dying???, says Apple executive Eddie Cue, the man responsible for the Apple buy out of Dre and Iovine’s beats …

It is hard to know where to begin with this stuff but let’s start by saying OK, music is dying, how the hell does Apple buying Beats change anything at all?

Eddie Cue is being silly. If he means that the music business is dying, well, welcome to 2002, now fuck off.

Cue’s worth the derision. And read the whole thing, The Apple/Beats Deal For Dummies,” here. It’s short but effectively captures the nut of it.

Apple felt the need for a streaming music service because those services, the most famous of which is Spotify, are cutting into iTunes’ lunch. Streaming music, as opposed to downloading files of it, left Apple out of the mix.

In terms of being good for music or artists, neither are. People get paid less and less, unto virtually nothing, courtesy of the technology. Only those who own the services make the piles.

However, in paying $3 billion dollars to get a really-not-that-good music streaming company that started as a maker of unremarkable name-branded headphones, you have a really good example of how gargantuan piles of money are made in the Culture of Lickspittle.

Our world, any part of it, music or otherwise, hardly required Jimmy Iovine, Dr. Dre and will.i.am to be turned into tech billionaires for little more than being there.

It’s a working example of the central thesis of Thomas Piketty’s Capital, the one that says a big pile of money trumps everything, even world growth, because our social economic structure just makes big piles of cash bigger faster than everything else by dint of their nature as big piles.

So you can think you want about the latest scam as some kind of new tech coup of wonderfulness and disruption but if Iovine, Dre and company are the faces of innovation, I’m Ernest Hemingway.

An interview at Fortune with will.i.am underscores how nothing instantly becomes worth a billion dollars. The only thing necessary is to just be on the receiving end as the river of money goes sloshing by from A to B.

In the process people are seen to turn from human beings with good qualities, the making of music that has made millions happy, into model plutocrats. Someone already very wealthy is given another king’s ransom for, essentially, zip, a null that has only the most trivial social potential for good.

In one effortless step they’re catapulted into the realm of compensation of the maligned American corporate CEO, you know, the class that’s now the constant symbol of advancing inequality.

At Fortune, will.i.am is interviewed and extolled, for vesting into the billionaires club for just being himself. This is described as “tireless promotion.”

The quotes are fatuous. It’s remarkable anyone even sat still for them.

“This is the craziest rollercoaster I’ve ever been on,” will.i.am tells the interviewer of the couple of weeks it took to make the Apple/Beats deal.

In 2003, will.i.am tells the journalist he saw camera phones in the audience: “[And] I tell Jimmy, ‘We need to make hardware. The world has changed. Hardware, hardware, hardware, hardware.’ ”

So what’s world-changing hardware, hardware, hardware?

A headphone. That he didn’t make. Never mind the only reason the transaction occurred is because of Beats transition into a digital music service from one that sold unspectacular but high-priced headphones and speakers.

“It’s not just good for the company, it’s good for the culture,” continues will.i.am.

“You have to look at it like, How is it good for kids in inner cities first? How do kids in inner cities not only dream about being athletes and musicians, but now, entrepreneurs, and bringers of new, disruptive, cool, lifestyle products.”

I think we can be certain, new disruptive lifestyle products will not and do not solve impoverishment and zero opportunity in America.

It was Steve Jobs genius, well after Apple was virtually destroyed in the PC and corporate network business by Microsoft, to remake iStuff as “lifestyle products.”

And such lifestyle products they were and are, priced well more than what they’re worth, but which people have to own because they are the electronic convenience baubles of our age.

iStuff has certainly not increased opportunity or empowered everyone to be their own entrepreneur. Polls show, although hardly ever well-publicized, that the majority don’t even want to be “entrepreneurs.”

Live in the distressed section of Pasadena, like me, and everyone owns smartphones, many of them Apple “lifestyle products.” They act as sole connections to the global networks, one of the major conduits of entertainments, and the only phone service.

Although often hyped as modern Philosopher’s Stones, capable of transmuting your leaden life into gold, they are not. Ownership doesn’t make you a small businessman, a self-made man or woman, a maker of new and upcoming “products.”

What, the Fortune interviewer asks, did Jimmy Iovine “want [will.i.am] available for?”

Answer: “I still don’t know, to this day.”


In honor of WhiteManistan’s gun bullies

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Psychopath & Sociopath, WhiteManistan at 12:08 pm by George Smith

Because there’s no such thing as excess in the Free Republic of Douchebags. And they’ve been busy the last few days. (Yes, yes, click that link.)

The Play Toys of the Culture of Lickspittle

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 11:47 am by George Smith

“What still doesn’t exist in the marketplace is a fantastic end-to-end user experience!”

“When we started working on this project we gave ourselves this provocation: What if you could send a 3D print to someone as easy as sending a text message?”

“We want to make this as easy as downloading an app to your phone. Having a curated library is important because everything on there [thousands of plans and renderings for plastic knick-knacks] is gonna be good!”

“You can add shapes to it. You can adorn it with your initials.”

I could go on. Near the end, encapsulated: Create meaningful relationships with plastic objects.

Count on people to throw half-a-million or more their way.

Gaily colored plastic things for setting on coffee tables, for the people who ride the Google bus, or whoever pass for them near you.

Last week, it was candy, cookies and pancakes.

Making abundant nothings for those who already have abundance.


Busking in honor of America

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, WhiteManistan at 2:56 pm by George Smith

From Krugman, yesterday:

Our political discourse is dominated by reverse Robin-Hoodism — the belief that economic success depends on being nice to the rich, who won’t create jobs if they are heavily taxed, and nasty to ordinary workers, who won’t accept jobs unless they have no alternative. And according to this ideology, Europe — with its high taxes and generous welfare states — does everything wrong …

[But] Europe started doing much better, while America started doing much worse. France’s prime-age employment rate overtook America’s early in the Bush administration; at this point the gap in employment rates is bigger than it was in the late 1990s, this time in France’s favor. Other European nations with big welfare states, like Sweden and the Netherlands, do even better.

Krugman links to Portuguese economist Antonio Fatas, who in a blog post, shows how the labor market in the US is very poor for prime age works, in stark contrast to Europe and many other countries.

Fatas concludes: “In fact, with the exception of Portugal, Greece and Ireland, the US is the country with the worst labor market record for this age group if we compare the 2012 to the 2000 figures.”

Read it. Shown in charts, during the the past decade, the US has become the best at being almost the worst.

The ol’ American exceptionalism, again.

In honor of this, I whipped up the busking version of Rich Man’s Burden today.

Sing along for the sorrows of the Koch brothers, all the wealthy now feeling so persecuted. Drown the misery with some Colts.

And feel free (but not at all obligated) to toss a couple coins in the virtual guitar case, a half-six worth maybe.

Blessed are the job creators, they can always hire way more waiters.


Inside the mind of the Isla Vista lunatic

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 12:52 pm by George Smith

“Every time I go out, I have to see these young couples. And I get jealous of them. They remind me of exactly of what I am missing out in life — sex, love, companionship. I desire those things. I desire girls. I am sexually attracted to girls. But girls are not sexually attracted to me and there’s a major problem with that, a major problem. That’s a problem that I intend to rectify. I, in all my magnificence and power, I will not let this fly. It’s an injustice that needs to be dealt with.”

The Isla Vista lunatic, 22-year old Elliot Rodger, put his pathological psyche into rambling videos, all on YouTube, made in the days just prior to his killing spree on Friday night at UC Santa Barbara.

All set against beautiful vistas, almost all of them in Santa Barbara, Roger lays out his grievances against girls and the unfair world, but mostly against girls for never wanting to have sex or anything else to do with him. Set against the setting sun overlooking the ocean, or on a beautiful hillside in Montecito in “Why do girls hate me so much?,” Roger repeats his message over and over.

One video is a morning drive to school a week or so ago set with “Walking On Sunshine” by Katrina & the Waves playing in the car, another a cruise through the main drag of Montecito, just south of Santa Barbara, to “Oh Sherrie” by Steve Perry.

In all, Rodger appears methodical, possessed by a calm hatred of women who are simply seen as objects, and patently insane. He had a script and never wavered. His family apparently saw them, knew of his problems and informed authorities, but nothing could be done.

Rodger calls himself magnificent, awesome, frequently. He boasts of his BMW and makes it a star in the video entries. He owns a 300 dollar pair of sunglasses and dresses nice. He is sophisticated but “girls” are not attracted to him. Rodger has had to “rot” in “bleak and sad loneliness.” The objects of his desire shun him for “obnoxious slobs,” in the parks, around town, at the local Trader Joe’s: “Every day I must be insulted by the sight of all these lesser men walking around with beautiful girls.”

It’s a macabre tour of the beautiful places in Santa Barbara, some of it set to a couple of sunny pop music hits from the Eighties, your narration by a madman whose plan was to tell everyone what he was about to do and, especially — why, repeatedly, knowing no one would see them until after.

Rodger’s selfie videos are The Sorrows of Young Werther as a short movie narrated ala American Psycho. Except instead of just killing himself after being spurned by the girl he pines for, the young man creates a video diary, then goes to a college sorority and guns down women in a drive-by. (He also stabbed three of his male roommates to death.)

“Right now I’m taking a walk through the park … and I’m just contemplating about my life and how it’s been unfair for the last eight years, ever since I hit puberty. Ever since I started desiring girls. But they never desire me back.

Life has been a living hell since then. I’ve been all alone. Right now it’s spring break. Everyone else my age is outside with their friends and their girlfriends. Here I am taking lonely walks through a park. But still, I have to admire the beauty of this place. Look at it. Magnificent, isn’t it?

“This is the park I usually come to. It’s quite close to where I live in Santa Barbara. Whenever I come here I true to develop a sense of peace, a sense of escape from my troubles in life. Even though I’m lonely here, the serenity of it all just makes me try and forget about it.”

Another disturbing feature, for this blog, is recognizing all the places in Rodger’s videos because I’ve been to them. Santa Barbara and its environs are popular getaways, all being somewhat less than a two hour drive from here, even on busy days.

No links. Some trivial flat-footing on YouTube shows them all. Roger had a plan and knew it would be this way.


Innovation in the Culture of Lickspittle

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 2:24 pm by George Smith

The United States isn’t really particularly great at making stuff.

However, it is easy to name where we still hang onto the top spot: weapons of mass destruction, bombers, heavy guided bombs and missiles, armed drones. No awards given for the “Designed in U.S.A. / Made in China” labels that come up with other things, mostly in consumer electronics, though.

Then there’s this bit of viral news from tech, one of the favorite sources of joy in the Culture of Lickspittle.

Yay, PancakeBot. Will you be able to buy it with BitCoin?

Last year, it was the 3D-plastic gun. Since then, cakes, cookies, pizza and candy.

“Unfortunately you can’t buy one of these badboys just yet, but if you don’t mind putting in some extra effort, it’s totally possible to build one yourself,” writes some publicist masquerading as a journalist at DigitalTrends.

It’s the future of breakfast, insists the piece.

“PancakeBot’s creators have developed a version made from Legos and an Arduino microcontroller, and have posted the building instructions online for free,” it adds.

That’s great. Whatever will we get for free, next?

You’ll note that “free” in the Culture of Lickspittle long ago ceased meaning what traditionalists stupidly still think it does.

“Drew’s fascination with technology began at an early age – shortly after he licked a 9-volt battery for the first time,” reads the bio at DigitalTrends. (No link.)


Call out the cyber-soldiers of the National Guard

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism at 9:56 am by George Smith

It’s no longer particularly eye-opening that the US government views almost every problem, domestic and global, as something that could be helped by more militarization.

However, it is dismaying that when much of the rest of the world wants much less militarized US national security presence on the global networks, the polar opposite moves smoothly ahead domestically.

More teams of “warriors” often seem to be the only answer to just about everything in cyberspace, down to defending some a police department in Albuquerque after hackers compromised its network with malicious phishing e-mails, a now common place and fairly trivial occurrence nationally and globally.

A reader informs that California has taken up an offer from the National Guard to scan its network computers for vulnerabilities and to conduct penetration testing.

Excerpts from a piece posted at National Guard dot mil explain the background, which is being ramped up nationally:

With cyber attacks occurring more frequently and becoming more complex, the National Guard is stepping up its efforts to defend critical infrastructure networks and develop the next generation of Cyber Warriors.

More than 300 Soldiers, Airmen and civilians from 35 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the District of Columbia converged at the National Guard Professional Education Center for the 2014 Cyber Shield Exercise from April 22 to May 2. While the scenarios they encountered were simulated, the malicious attacks came fast and furious, representative of what network defenders face in the real world.

The Guard’s CNDTs not only protect the National Guard’s information highway but also are mandated with assisting federal and state governments to provide vulnerability assessments and help protect their networks. Just as they are available to governors to respond to natural disasters, each individual CNDT is prepared to answer the call. In March, the New Mexico Army National Guard responded to a cyberattack in Albuquerque.

“We act as advisors to the governor,??? said Col. Raphael Warren, G6 for the New Mexico Army National Guard and officer in charge for the 2014 Cyber Shield Assessment Team. “We had an incident where the activist group Anonymous attacked the Albuquerque Police Department and we [took] that opportunity to get some insight into how those attacks occurred.???

Unlike federal troops who are bound by the Posse Comitatus Act, Guard Cyber Warriors can assist local and state law enforcement.

There is always a money side, too.

The National Guard dot mil piece makes it quite clear the need for militarized cyber-defense is also about searching for justifications for expanded budgeting, including joint programs for continuing education of “cyber warriors” at local schools.

“[The National Guard Public Education Center] and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) are exploring a partnership to provide improved course content development, internships, certificates and degrees for PEC instruction, reads the piece. “Coupled with UALR’s certified and accredited instruction, PEC will continue to be instrumental in providing skilled cyber warriors to support a wide range of federal and state cyber missions.”

“It’s a win-win that way and the money that we’re spending that is already been put on the table is a double benefit,??? one of the Guard’s cyber-soldiers added.


Jailhouse rock: Tupelo’s J. Everett Dutschke gets 25

Posted in Bioterrorism, Ricin Kooks at 9:55 am by George Smith

J. Everett Dutschke’s band, Robodrum, playing his song, “Superhero,” in 2012.

A 25 year prison sentence marks the end of the trail for one of country’s strangest fellows, ricin mailer and industrious outsider musician, J. Everett Dutschke, the only castor bean pounder to ever be a finalist in a Budweiser beer Battle of the Bands. (Last year, Budweiser quietly disappeared its YouTube video of Dutschke and his band performing in St. Louis as part of the brand’s promotion. However, as seen above there is still home video of Robodrum, performing in Tupelo, just prior to the development of his castor powder mailing plan.)

From AP:

A Mississippi man who pleaded guilty to sending letters dusted with the poison ricin to President Barack Obama and other officials was sentenced Monday to 25 years in prison.

James Everett Dutschke was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock in Aberdeen after telling the judge May 13 that he had changed his mind about wanting to withdraw his guilty plea in the case.

From last week:

[Dutschke] reportedly recanted his confession and launched into a rant against Kevin Curtis, the Elvis impersonator he attempted to frame for the letters, comparing him to Barney the Dinosaur. Then Dutschke compared himself to an Olympic gymnast.

Dutschke then said that he would happily empty the contents of the letters he is accused of sending into a peanut butter sandwich and eat it to prove it was not poison.

However, the summer of 2012 had J. Everett Dutschke and Robodrum in St. Louis, competing to win a Budweiser Light Battle of the Bands.

It resulted in what’s now the one and only example of an American accused of bioterrorism in a ritzy promotional video sponsored and paid for by the King of Beers

In make-up, glitter and sunglasses, Dutschke sings he doesn’t need any fancy women, he just needs his guitar because he’ll blow your house down in “Big Bad Wolf,” a song from a Robodrum album of the same name. “Enjoy Responsibly” reads the big beer vendor’s subtitling on the video.

From Bean Pounding: J. Everett Dutschke and the strange saga of outsider music and bioterrorism.


Computer Security for the 1 Percent Day

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism at 10:58 am by George Smith

PARIAH comes true! Send it to your friends!

US national computer security apparatchiks hit a new low

When you want to distract the media from Edward Snowden’s documents, restore the image of the NSA and relaunch cyberwar hype for the benefit of defense contractors, you do a show trial indictment of the Chinese.

You make sure it has no real weight and accuse five Chinese generals in a building in Shanghai of cyberspying and stealing corporate secrets from big US companies, and suggest they be handed over for a trial. Much for our amusement and greater merriment.

“The Justice Department said that the men were indicted on May 1 by a federal grand jury in Pennsylvania,” reads the New York Times.

Go Pennsylvania! Show the Chinese!

Now all us Americans who either have crap jobs or no jobs and are needing food stamps will know where to point the finger of blame: The Chinese army that is stealing our corporate secrets.

“[The government indictment and demands], however, were largely symbolic as the Chinese government, which said on Monday that the facts behind the charges were made up, is unlikely to turn them over,” continued the Times.

Later in the day, an analysis at the Times gets to the heart of the US dilemma (or hypocrisy, depending on your POV):

[The] Chinese have already rejected both the facts and the argument, and they used the revelations last year by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden to press their response that the distinction between spying for commerce and spying for national security is a tiny one, and distinctly American.

Documents released by Mr. Snowden have revealed that the American government pried deep into the servers of Huawei, one of China’s most successful Internet and communications companies. The documents made clear that the N.S.A. was seeking to learn whether the company was a front for the People’s Liberation Army and whether it was interested in spying on American firms. But there was a second purpose: to get inside Huawei’s systems, and to use them as a conduit to spy on countries that buy its equipment around the world.

Huawei officials said they failed to understand how that differed in any meaningful way from what the United States has accused the Chinese of doing.

Naturally, US national security apparatchiks/very-important-people won’t have it.

However, when in their own company presumably some of the gang realize the problem they have created for themselves and that today’s action is unlikely to solve it in any meaningful way.

It also raises the prospect of tit-for-tat.

Indicting PLA generals on computer crimes puts pressure on other countries which may have agreements in place to detain foreign nationals accused of such crimes by the US when they pass through their territory.

These countries, and many others, may be partially or even entirely unenthusiastic about cooperating in such matters considering the damage done to the American reputation by the Snowden affair.

Knowing this, the Chinese, or any other country, might choose to indict an American general, such as the head of the NSA or the chief of Cyber Command, for actions revealed in the Snowden materials, for the development and dissemination of malware like Stuxnet, or any other intrusion it detects on the networks that its experts think or insist points to US operations.

In this way, the show trial held today could backfire in interesting ways in the next couple of years.

The US government has not come close to making a compelling case that Chinese stealing of American secrets has hurt the US economy. If the theft has, no economists of note have discerned it or even chosen to comment on the matter in their daily publishings on the state and progress of the national economy.

The statistics, or raw numbers of hacking intrusions and documents accessed in corporate America no matter how large, as reported by the media or selectively distributed for-special-eyes-only reports, do not make the case.

Paradoxically, it all comes down to matters of trust. How much trust is to be put into agencies which have worked to damage trusted networks?

Sherlock Holmes: Don’t you trust your own Secret Service?

Mycroft Holmes: Naturally not. They all spy on people for money.

— Sherlock, A Scandal in Belgravia

To keep things in perspective, from Krugman today:

By any normal standard, economic policy since the onset of the financial crisis has been a dismal failure.

Much of Mr. Geithner’s book is devoted to a defense of the U.S. financial bailout, which he sees as a huge success story — which it was, if financial confidence is viewed as an end in itself. Credit markets, which seized up after Lehman fell, mostly returned to normal during Mr. Geithner’s first year in office. Stock indexes rebounded, and have hit new records. Even subprime-backed securities — the infamous “toxic waste??? that was poisoning the financial system — eventually regained a significant part of their value … [Tim Geithner] was, if you like, all for bailing out banks but against bailing out families.

And refusing to help families in debt, it turns out, wasn’t just unfair; it was bad economics. Wall Street is back, but America isn’t, and the double standard is the main reason.


Quote of the day

Posted in Ricin Kooks at 1:40 pm by George Smith

From a Mississippi newspaper:

“There is no obscurity after you’ve gone international and been framed in a presidential assassination plot by a karate instructor who works for your brother.” — Paul Kevin Curtis, originally arrested by the FBI after being framed by alleged ricin maker, J. Everett Dutschke.

According to the newspaper, Curtis’ career as an Elvis impersonator collapsed after his arrest and release in connection with the ricin case in Tupelo.

Currently, he and supporters are trying to raise $50,000 to fund a documentary on the matter, entitled “I Didn’t Do It.”

“The filmmakers working with Curtis say that beyond telling the bizarre, intertwined story, their film also will raise questions about what happens when federal law enforcement crashes down on an innocent man,” reads the newspaper.

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