Six Californias Billionaire snarfs up BitCoins

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 1:51 pm by George Smith

BitCoin, the digital currency only for wealthy libertarian tech nerds, inheritance billionaires, speculators, hoarders and black markets, burnished the reputation today when venture capitalist Tim Draper was reported as having bought 19 million dollars worth of them, about 30,000, at the US government’s auction of the digital money recovered from the closed website, Silk Road.

From the wire, Draper’s statement:

“Bitcoin frees people from trying to operate in a modern market economy with weak currencies … With [this] newly purchased bitcoin, we expect to be able to create new services that can provide liquidity and confidence to markets that have been hamstrung by weak currencies. Of course, no one is totally secure in holding their own country’s currency. We want to enable people to hold and trade bitcoin to secure themselves against weakening currencies.”

Because, after all, escaping from the debasement of currencies like the dollar, is what BitCoin is about. This morning the Winkdex reported the value of a BitCoin at $641.

Readers may remember Draper is the billionaire behind the 2016 ballot initiative to split California into six states, the one he lives in to be named “Silicon Valley.”

“We need to reboot and the Six Californias initiative would bring government much closer to the people,??? Draper told a news agency a couple weeks ago.

Draper [wants] “people to have a choice, to be local to their state government and to be able to get a refresh so that schools, streets and waterways could improve, poverty would decrease and businesses would want to keep jobs here.”

Which translates as freeing the tech titans of “Silicon Valley” from the big drag of everyone else.

The video is Draper singing “The Riskmaster,” a song he delivers frequently at conferences to handfuls of like-minded libertarian tech nerds in attendance to beg him for money for their start-ups. In this instance it is at Hero City, part of his Draper University of Heroes. (Yes, it’s redundant.)

And no, I’m not making it up.

“It’s just after breakfast, and the superheroes are gathering in a cavernous white-walled room amid a sea of brightly colored beanbag chairs,” reads a NY magazine profile from last year. “Once assembled, they place their hands over their hearts, face the portraits of Thomas Edison and Bill Gates hung high on the wall, and begin reciting their daily oath.”


“I will promote freedom at all costs!??? says Tim Draper, a venture capitalist with a microphone slung over his ear and a “Save the Children??? tie brightening up his suit.

“I will promote freedom at all costs!??? the heroes echo back.

In lieu of diplomas, Draper U. students receive masks and capes printed with their superhero nicknames and are instructed to jump on each of a series of three small trampolines placed in a line in front of them. While bouncing from trampoline to trampoline, they’re told to shout, “Up, up, and away!???

The school’s purpose is to train students, usually the children of wealthy people, on how to maintain their optimism and act like heroes of capitalism in the building of start-ups.

Pure gold.


More on vulnificus season: Students get involved

Posted in Bioterrorism, Culture of Lickspittle at 11:43 am by George Smith

In 1982 there was virtually no interest in the flesh-eating microbe, Vibrio vulnificus. When I left school, doctorate in hand, there were probably only a handful of people working on it worldwide. On interviews in which I presented a seminar on it, there was never any enthusiasm. No one wanted to hear a thing. The research, the entire stay at grad school, was regarded as virtually nothing.

Yesterday, from the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville:

More than 40 Florida residents showed up at hospitals last year with a certain bacterial infection, and soon the words “flesh-eating disease??? screamed across headlines.

The bacteria, which killed 11 people, is always an underlying concern, but sometimes officials don’t know how prevalent the bacteria is in local waters.

A Jacksonville University class went out on the St. Johns River on Monday to get an idea of how much of the bacteria exists in the waterway.

There’s no guarantee the study will find much bacteria or any at all, said Anthony Ouellette, a JU assistant professor of biology. The goal of the project is to check out a public safety concern while teaching his students real-world research methods.

Forty-one Floridians developed the infection in 2013, including one in Duval County, one in St. Johns County and one in Nassau County, and 11 people died, according to the Florida Department of Health.

“If we do have an upsurge at some point,??? [the professor leading the student sampling experiment on the water] said, “having background numbers for what naturally exists in these habitats is important.???

Out on the St. Johns River on Monday, Marshalluna Land balanced a dropper over a sampling well as the boat swayed.

The JU marine biology graduate student carefully diluted the salt water so she and her peers would be able to filter out the bacteria and other microbes for study.

As a side observation on the value of the social network, I posted a link to my V. vulfnificus season summary on FB and it was ignored, except for one comment, an inappropriate “Yummy!”, something I had to gently chide the person over.

This is not to say science isn’t dealt with on the social networks. I often see posts to my feed about some aspect of science pre-masticated by the media, shared by people with no science background in my “friends” list. But it always has to fit into their political or philosophical worldview or be of a current famous scientist in the news.

Basic science at the grass-roots level has virtually no meaning for most Americans. That’s a pity and the entire country’s loss.

Perhaps Upworthy needs to handle it.

Previously — on the vulnificus beat.

Best quotes from today’s Culture of Lickspittle

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 11:13 am by George Smith

On Facebook and it’s experiment:

“Only a fraction of our connections on social media are people we love. The rest are people we already probably dislike.”

Better, on what Facebook should do next, or what it already does, if you catch my drift:

Notifications of career success from an acquaintance who is in the same field as you, but younger

Mushy “Happy anniversary, baby!” notes from your ex’s new significant other

Cute snapshots of your friends’ young child who they say is doing so well since they opted not to get him vaccinated

Triumphant posts of celebration from people who root for a different team/candidate than you

Memes involving a photo of a beach or flower overlaid with encouraging platitudes with at least two obvious typos

Do you think you were part of the Facebook experiment? From this end, all I can tell you is that I dislike virtually everything FB puts in my feed. If I hand out a “like,” it’s from courtesy and a desire to be seen as civil.

The group mechanization of manipulation, sincerity trolling, favored figure or agency bootlicking and “upworthiness” isn’t something with which I have anything in common. I suspect there are hundreds of thousands of people who are the same. Like me, at one time now in the past, we were persuaded the social networks were good.

From Truth-Out, a long but not at all unreadable bit from Noam Chomsky:

In the 1950s, President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles explained quite clearly the dilemma that the U.S. faced. They complained that the Communists had an unfair advantage. They were able to “appeal directly to the masses??? and “get control of mass movements, something we have no capacity to duplicate. The poor people are the ones they appeal to and they have always wanted to plunder the rich.???

That causes problems. The U.S. somehow finds it difficult to appeal to the poor with its doctrine that the rich should plunder the poor.

From the New Yorker:

Early in the past century, there was a true socialist movement in the United States, and in the postwar years the Soviet Union seemed to offer the possibility of a meaningful alternative to capitalism. Small wonder that the tycoons of those days were so eager to channel populist agitation into reform. Today, by contrast, corporate chieftains have little to fear, other than mildly higher taxes and the complaints of people who have read Thomas Piketty. Moguls complain about their feelings because that’s all anyone can really threaten.

I believe this is more accurate than Nick Hanauer’s semi-regular essays on how “the pitchforks” will eventually come out.

Hanauer is the venture capitalist who has made a second career as a celebrity billionaire, one who is on the side of the little people.

Being a well-heeled spokesperson for those ground underfoot is the new really cool gig. In the past, I wrote this:

I recently watched Robert Reich’s Inequality for All documentary and Hanauer is all through it, the wealthy and wise-sounding man (venture capitalist, author, activist, philanthropist, true patriot and civic leader, according to his bio) delivering the same clarion call: Inequality is wrecking the country, the wealthy need to be taxed more, the people need to be paid more.

The documentary’s Hanauer bits are taken from his home. In the back of the shot, an acoustic guitar is tastefully set …

Here are framing questions for this post: How many people maimed by the American economy have been given the marquee treatment by the big newsmedia for the sheer audaciousness of their thinking about our trying times?

Hanauer, last week, with the same message in a big essay at Politico on how “pitchforks” will come for the “plutocrats” unless more the spoil is more fairly doled out. Of which I only excerpt the remarkable lead:

You probably don’t know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, co-founded and funded more than 30 companies across a range of industries—from itsy-bitsy ones like the night club I started in my 20s to giant ones like Amazon.com, for which I was the first nonfamily investor. Then I founded aQuantive, an Internet advertising company that was sold to Microsoft in 2007 for $6.4 billion. In cash. My friends and I own a bank. I tell you all this to demonstrate that in many ways I’m no different from you. Like you, I have a broad perspective on business and capitalism. And also like you, I have been rewarded obscenely for my success, with a life that the other 99.99 percent of Americans can’t even imagine. Multiple homes, my own plane, etc., etc. You know what I’m talking about …

The Wonder-filled World of WhiteManistan & Gun Bullies

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, WhiteManistan at 10:28 am by George Smith

Last year, it was bullet-proof tactical puffer vests for children:

With his new line, MC Kids, Caballero offers backpacks and jackets for kids, including some in girlie pink and stamped with fluttering fairies, that are also outfitted with bulletproof plating to stop the slugs from an Uzi. Caballero, 46, said that in his 20 years of business, there had never been a demand in Colombia for bulletproof children’s clothing.

But the United States is a different market: a country where there are about as many firearms as people, Caballero pointed out, and where mass shootings have simply prompted some to stock up on weapons and seek other forms of protection.

And you can see them as part of this video, even more relevant now.

And this week, a long report from deep inna heart of WhiteManistan, Texas, described by Rolling Stone as “falling into the hands of gun nuts, border-sealers and talk-radio charlatans [where] George W. Bush would practically be considered a communist.”

The article is more fair than the lead-in’s implication. Even it’s subjects, most woefully, one of the leaders of Open Carry Texas, might find parts of it a truthful portrayal.

This excerpt, perfectly describes the upside-down world of paralytic, dangerous and paranoid white America in 2014:

Open Carry Texas received even worse press after two dozen heavily armed members, some carrying AK-47s, crashed a meeting of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a gun-control group formed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. The Moms had gathered at a Mexican restaurant in suburban Dallas. Even though the Open Carry members never left the parking lot, the damage was done: As any PR novice would have warned, you simply don’t bring guns to a mom fight.

This week, Target issued a statement that bringing guns to shop for sundries was no longer allowed, looking specifically aimed at Open Carry Texas in Tarrant County.

“It’s also interesting to report that nearly everyone I met [for this story] turned out to be far quirkier, politically, than any caricatured preconceptions might lead you to guess,” writes the Rolling Stone journalist.

While journalistic comparisons between the rise of the Tea Party and the rise of Occupy Wall Street – as two ends of the spectrum responding to economic collapse and elite betrayal – feel like clichéd false [equivalence] by this point, there’s an unruly, anarchistic feel to this crowd that reminds me of the time I spent in Zuccotti Park.”

Readers know there’s no shortage of WhiteManistan blog video on the rise of Gun Bully America. They are invited to enjoy again, Gun Nut Folk Tune and Hey Joe and to sh-a-a-a-a-r-e in the great network of social media where the cream always rises to the top.

Made months to over a year ago, working documentary proof that things can always get worse. And do.


Yep, Corporate America still working out improved ways to hate you

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 1:20 pm by George Smith

Three years later, no change. Listen to the updated busking version, below.


[Walgreen’s is ]considering moving the company’s headquarters to Switzerland as part of a merger with Alliance Boots, a European drugstore chain.

Why? To lower Walgreen’s tax bill even further.

Alarmingly, dozens of large United States companies are contemplating the increasingly popular tax-skirting tactic known as an inversion …

In Walgreen’s case, an inversion would be an affront to United States taxpayers. The company, which also owns the Duane Reade chain in New York, reaps almost a quarter of its $72 billion in revenue directly from the government; it received $16.7 billion from Medicare and Medicaid last year.

“It is unconscionable that Walgreen is considering this tax dodge — especially in light of the billions of dollars it receives from U.S. taxpayers every year,??? Nell Geiser, associate director of Change to Win Retail Initiatives, a union-financed consumer advocacy group, said in a statement.

Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness, called it “unfair and deeply unpatriotic if the company moves offshore while continuing to make its money here, leaving the rest of us to pick up the tab for its tax avoidance.???

The Times story goes on to explain the tax avoidance move for Walgreen is being pushed by the 1 percent, “large investors.”

Despite all the bribes and favors extended by the state government of Illinois, Senator Richard Durbin of the company’s home state, and taxpayers the company responded with meaningless boilerplate: “Our management team and board are making significant progress evaluating the proposed transaction determining the timing and structure, the combined management team, additional synergy and cost reduction initiatives and potential changes to our future capital structure.”

“Given all of the benefits Walgreen has received over the years as a United States corporate citizen, it remains curious why [Mr. Wasson, Walgeen CEO], would seek a new passport,” writes the Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin.

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