The Scamming Economy: Red hot tech innovation

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, The Corporate Bund at 1:39 pm by George Smith

Tech industry start-ups love the operation of the sharing scamming economy.

At its base is a smartphone driven global network that reduces people to pieceworkers. That is poverty level pay work akin to jobs from the 18th and 19th century, only made new through the smartphone and the desktop for the 21st.

Old piecework slavery is now called being a micro-entrepreneur. Perhaps micro because the compensation is microscopic.

From the San Jose Mercury News we get a press release for it, dressed up as business news, tipped by Frank from Pine View Farm.

The essentials:

What’s often known as the “sharing economy” — represented by legions of Airbnb hosts, drivers for Lyft and Uber and countless other micro-entrepreneurs — has increasingly gone mainstream, creating thousands of jobs and new business models in the process.

Now Peers, a San Francisco-based organization that has advocated for sharing economy startups during various regulatory battles, is pivoting to focus on a growing issue: the myriad needs of the workers involved.

How does someone who earns money as an independent contractor deal with taxes? What happens when a car-sharing driver gets in an accident? Is there a mortgage broker who will work with someone who has income from three sharing economy sources? And how does a sharing-economy worker plan for retirement?

“There’s a new class of worker, and by some estimates it’s 2 million workers globally making $10 billion a year,” said Shelby Clark, executive director of Peers. “We think there are major gaps for workers in the sharing economy, and we want to create solutions.”

Solutions, indeed. What the fugleman from Peers is counting on is nobody in the readership pausing to do a brief calculation.

So let’s do it for them.

If you consider Shelby Clark’s figure of earnings accurate even though there is no reason to do so, 10 billion divided by 2 million equals $5,000/year.

In the United States, where the cost of living is high, that optimistic new piecework wage, technology enabled, boils down what’s left of the middle class to well below the poverty level.

Where can you live in the US on $5,000/year?

Certainly not in southern California.

Piecework jobs have always existed. Corporate America has a love affair with them because they do away with labor protections, paying of benefits and decent pay for a days work.

Most recently the Economic Hardship project, a journalism effort led by author Barbara Ehrenreich, developed this story, published in Elle called Hypereducated and on Welfare.

The people in the story don’t need the sharing economy and smartphone apps to provide work, to lift them up. They already have work that takes up all their time, provides no security, no benefits, and leaves them broke.

An excerpt:

Much political rhetoric these days is devoted to the importance of broadening access to college—and there is plenty of evidence that it’s still better financially to have a degree than not—but in the postcrash world of 2014, a good education may not keep you from hovering near the poverty line. The number of people with graduate degrees receiving food assistance or other forms of federal aid nearly tripled between 2007 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census. More specifically, 28 percent of food-stamp households were headed by a person with at least some college education in 2013, compared with 8 percent in 1980, according to an analysis by University of Kentucky economists.

In the US, people earning the kind of money theoretically attributed to the sharing economy are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, EBT (food stamps), WIC (women, infants and children food program) and the Obamacare Medicaid expansion.

These services make up part of America’s poor social safety net. But altogether they are much better than any clip job services offered by tech industry start-ups.

People beneath the poverty line certainly can’t pay mortgages and they don’t get and can’t afford to pay extra for workman’s compensation, another cracked rip-off proffered in the Mercury News piece.

Pay day loans, dollar stores and food banks are what people who drop into the $5,000/year category use. These services exist for the poor. There is no improvement to be gained from trivial Silicon Valley start-ups entering the same area.

Indeed, how would a smartphone app that deducts a fee for use fit into a dollar store economy other than as another fee squeezed from the working poor?

In the Nineties when I first moved to southern California I had a job sifting quarterly federal tax returns for the Internal Revenue Service.

Normally, this had been a civil service job. But the IRS had outsourced some of it in California to Manpower, making you a more poorly payed contract worker. A pieceworker. With no benefits.

Like the snake-oil salesman of the sharing economy, Manpower offered the contract employees what it call “benefits” and “services.” You could buy a health insurance policy through them, deducted from your wage, already reduced from what full civil service employees with benefits received.

It was a junk insurance program that paid zero except a bit in a catastrophic illness which inevitably would lead to your death. These types of policies, theoretically, were outlawed by Obamacare.

And earlier this year I posted on the tech business, Captricity, that received a contract from the FDA that reduced digitization of documents to piecework performed by crowd-sourcing on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

Think of it this way: It was the exchanging of civil service labor with pieceworkers earning nickels and dimes for the same process.

From it:

Marvel at the promotional video uploaded by the Empire of Bezos to showcase “Amazon Web Services.” It’s awesome in that it has the FDA’s Chief Health Informatics Officer, Taha Kass-Hout, going on for four minutes about the miracle of “turning manual submissions from the public into machine-readable information with 99.7% accuracy” without once mentioning Mechanical Turk or that the work is performed by digital sweat-shopping.

Instead Kass-Hout relates how the FDA had a “19th century problem” of backlogged paperwork …

It’s truly Orwellian, releasing a stink of vague obfuscation so that people who don’t know a thing about what’s going on in the background are led to believe it’s just another marvelous technical wonder on the road to the glorious future…

The Obama administration has put on a public populist face, one that chides the Republican Party and corporate America for allowing inequality to balloon and the compensation of workers to flat-line. And here is the man from the FDA, talking about a technical work-around that simply relies on paying people virtually nothing for record transcription work.

Implemented by a crappy and very small tech firm in the Silicon Valley, one that laughably maintained a blog with a post entitled “Evidence-Based Research to Combat Global Poverty.”

“We think there are major gaps for workers in the sharing economy, and we want to create solutions,” the person from Peers tells the Mercury News reporter.

“The Peers website allows people to find work in the sharing economy and manage their new lives as micro-entrepreneurs,” continues the newspaper. “Peers links to scores of sharing economy startups, including Vayable, where you can earn money by leading cultural experiences for travelers, and Urbansitter, a platform for nanny and baby sitting jobs.”

Much like TaskRabbit, another sharing economy start-up and old-fashioned Craigslist. And, of course, a tech platform that allows you to earn cash for stuff you don’t need anymore has always existed: It’s called eBay. Or the yard sale, of which there are many, in Pasadena.

Poverty wage workers have always been provided with services with which to liquidate their lives. Clip job service additions courtesy of the tech industry are not progress, innovation or wonderful.

“How does a scamming sharing economy worker plan for retirement”? asks reporter Dana Hull.

Pieceworkers can’t plan for retirement. How does one have a retirement on a couple insecure free-lancer jobs, with no benefits, that earn, at best — $5,000/year, plan for retirement?

It’s utterly ridiculous.


Pariah state

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, WhiteManistan at 10:31 am by George Smith

The new Confederacy, much like the old.

Frank at Pine View Farm points to an honest but devastating analysis of the problem of WhiteManistan.

Excerpted from Racial Divide: The Tragedy of America’s first black President, from Der Spiegel:

The American problem has many different facets, but it is accurate to say that it is mostly white men who shoot young African-Americans in the service of the state.

The [Republican Party’s] most radical supporters viewed Obama’s speeches and proposed legislation as nothing more than a black man’s attempt to exact revenge against the country’s white majority. Even if they don’t always say so, Obama’s opponents have always felt that his actions represent a threat to white people, whether he launched a federal investment programs aimed at economic stimulus or proposed making the healthcare system a little fairer.

You’ll notice the map from Der Spiegel showing a majority of African Americans still living in the old Confederacy.

And that is where they have now been virtually completely eliminated from power. They have elected representation but that representation is minority, for practical purposes, banned from legislating or having any say in government in 2014. That’s an apartheid state within the state.

That poison, the toxin of old Dixie is spread throughout the country. No state, not even California, is totally free of it.

What Der Spiegel does not mention is that the party of Abe Lincoln is the party that has inflamed the white tribe against the first African-American president, the agency that has concentrated and focused the belief that it is American white people who have been victimized by the president, that it is they who have been subjected to a systemic racism.

This goes back to the end of the Civil War. The armies of the south were defeated, its territory overrun, its agriculture and trade in ruins. And it engendered a burning resentment, a sense of victimization that could not be erased.

This is well described in this bit from the documentary Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story.

Lincoln was assassinated and Reconstruction slowly failed.

Today, the Republican Party is, whether broadly recognized or not, the party of John Wilkes Booth.


It’s your civic duty…

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 2:08 pm by George Smith

To support Loud Folk Live.

In a country as fucked up and dismaying as the United States in 2014, it is genuinely a record to notice, an antidote to the Culture of Lickspittle.

Now, an anti-thesis, a standard and soul-destroying thing packaged as fun, something to encourage people to do for the good of their employer:

Last week [Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp’s] award-winning TEAM ROCK STARS Team Building/Entertainment Program hosted a great group from ESPN/Disney at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip.

The group arrived at 4 p.m. and following an all-star band performance of Queen’s “We will Rock You,” they were surprised to learn that they were going to be broken up into groups to rewrite the lyrics of the infamous song with their own lyrics about their company sales meeting. ESPN’s meeting planner’s commented, “In the past 9 years, this team building program was the most innovative, creative and entertaining. Rock Camp blew us away!” And her division president was all smiles and agreed with her comments. — “The best team building program out there.” — PEOPLE Magazine

“Your dream lives.”

That’s $250 dollars/person for any corporation that wants to see some of its employees rewrite the lyrics to “We Will Rock You” as praise for the business. And then to compel them to sing it on the Sunset Strip at the House of Blues.

Such an exercise is designed to be dignity-destroying.

But this is not and is orders magnitude better! Loud Folk Live tunes — The National Anthem, Rich Man’s Burden, Puta and Jesus of America — at the links.

Five bucks for a digital copy sent to your e-mail — cheap, LOL satirical, catchy, toe-tapping, as well as lots of other wholesome things.

Black People Protection Act

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Ted Nugent, WhiteManistan at 10:29 am by George Smith


There’s a really long list of people who need a shit ton of reparations, don’t you think?

Predictably, WhiteManistan’s klassic rock kleagle, horrid’s horrid, explains it’s “a scam:”

Only to these off the cliff denial cultists does “Hands up, don’t shoot” make any sense, even though no one can site [sic — jesus, there’s no limit to the talent] an instance where a black man had his hands up and got shot by a white cop.

In the world of the racist race-baiting industry, no one will ever let facts get in the way of their scam …

And though each and every black life indeed matters to everyone I know, clearly they don’t merit a protest, an inquisition, a grand jury probe or the time of day …


EMP Crazy Protection Act

Posted in Crazy Weapons, WhiteManistan at 4:36 pm by George Smith

Hat tip to Steve Aftergood for pointing out the latest and most pathetic accomplishment of the Cult of Electromagnetic Pulse Crazy, aka the House Congressional EMP Caucus. (Which was a name the mainstream media could use to get around having to explain that they were, well, electromagnetic pulse crazies.)

Yesterday it was responsible for passing a bill entitled “The Critical Infrastructure and Protection Act,” which — if you took the title seriously — sounded like big stuff.

However, the title was just to mislead. The “act” was simply a request that the Department of Homeland Security begin more research studies on the threat of electromagnetic pulse attack and potential steps for thwarting it.

Deep in the fine print — the bill would have no regulatory power and called for no no new authorizations.

Translated: A feeble attempt to carve out some high-button welfare funding for the same small coterie of right-wing kooks who’ve flogged the menace of electromagnetic pulse for the last fifteen years. And who still appear as representatives of the disbanded “EMP Commission” and assorted related functions, like the lobbying group EMPAct America, in columns and news pieces at fringe right-wing publications.

The best name for the bill, and an honest one, would have been the EMP Crazy Protection Act.

If you want actual names in the cult, simply read through the archives. It’s literally the chronicle of a ton of dog excrement stuffed in a hundred pound bag.

This legislation, like everything else sponsored by EMP Caucus leader Trent Franks of Arizona, will be dead in the Senate. Not going to get to the President.

Indeed, as far as the Cult of EMP Crazy is concerned it has been all down hill stumbling since its leading light, pol emeritus Roscoe Bartlett, was sent into retirement in 2014. (Although he never actually got anything done, either.)

Summarized from that article, the decade-spanning nature of the whole unpleasant movement:

[The] paranoid and steeped-in-authoritarianism mythology of electromagnetic pulse doom was turned into a highly-professionalized and tenacious industry, built on the exploitation of a thick seam of WhiteManistan kook-ism and its love of end-times stories in which the virtuous are saved and the sinners destroyed. It’s a profitable business.

That niche business is “prepper” survivalism.

It’s the selling of property off the grid where one’s family can ride out the collapse of American civilization, the peddling of the equivalent of heroic romance novels on said calamity, and the taking of the show on the road and getting the ticket punched at Tea Party gatherings in red states where the cult can indulge the fantasy of electromagnetic pulse doom as a states’ rights issue.

Running parallel with “The National Infrastructure Protection Act” was sister House legislation making Social Security safe from Nazis.

All four of them.

No, I am not making it up.

Wrote someone at the New York Times:

This is what our elected leaders are doing? At a time when Congress is ignoring immigration reform, stumbling and bumbling over a whole pack of wars, threatening to shut down the government once again, failing to provide adequate living wages to working Americans and adequate unemployment benefits to non-working Americans, letting the bridges and highways fall apart, and so many other things?


Reckoning will come to WhiteManistan (open-ended)

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, WhiteManistan at 3:35 pm by George Smith

Every week, the country flirts more and more with massive breakdown in the trust of police forces, justice and fairness. Real bedrock stuff.

Good people everywhere are appalled. Yet nothing is allowed to change. Systemic paralysis reigns. The body is poisoned, its ideologies and beliefs corrupt, but the rotting status quo is maintained.

The President knows it and said so. Count on WhiteManistan, once again, to do virtually everything wrong in the next few days.

From Reuters, on the lack of indictment of a black man choked to death in New York, for the crime of being black and selling cheap cigarettes on the sidewalk:

A New York City grand jury has decided not to charge a police officer who killed an unarmed black man with a chokehold while trying to arrest him for illegally selling cigarettes, the local district attorney said on Wednesday …

Staten Island resident Eric Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, died on July 17 after police officers tackled him and put him in a chokehold. The city’s medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.

New York City police prepared on Wednesday for protests that could potentially paralyze major roads and tunnels in the city.

Daniel Skelton, a black 40-year-old banker, told the news service: “A black man’s life just don’t matter in this country.”

Grand jury ham sandwich? Ricin trial for student

Posted in Bioterrorism, Ricin Kooks at 9:14 am by George Smith

What the calling of a grand jury on 24th November in Oshkosh in the case of college student Kyle Allen Smith is hard to determine.

Initially I thought it indicated a slight difference in the trajectory of ricin cases in the US.

Apparently not.

It took a few hours, maybe minutes, maybe a day (the news coverage was very poor and confused) for the judge in the case to declare Smith would stand trial.

From the wire:

a Green Bay federal judge ruled there was enough evidence against 21-year-old Kyle Smith [to try him on a ricin complaint].

Prosecutors say Smith, a senior majoring in biology at UWO, admitted he knew what he was making and shouldn’t have been making it. According to Smith defense attorney William Kerner, Smith never intended to use ricin on humans. Kerner adds that the ricin powder found in Smith’s home was castor bean meal, which is used across the country and falls under different laws and regulations.

The judge ruled Smith would remain in jail. No lab equipment was found in his home, it was said.

In the past there was a decent-sized industry producing castor meal and castor oil, the first for fertilizer and occasionally as ineffective pesticide, the latter for lubrication, in this country.

Accordingly, there was federal regulation 173.955 governing the transport of castor powder.

It is here and shows no particular requirements that would lead one to think it was regarded as a serious hazard.

A recent regulation sheet shows castor to be at the same level of control it was when I first wrote of the matter back in 2008.

And emergency telephone number must be provided on the bill of lading and now, as then, the material was in the same category as this list of transportable commodities:

Battery powered equipment.

Battery powered vehicle.

Carbon dioxide, solid.

Castor bean.

Castor flake.

Castor meal.

Castor pomace.

Consumer commodity.

Dry ice.

Engines, internal combustion.

Fish meal, stabilized.

Fish scrap, stabilized.

Krill Meal, PG III.

Refrigerating machine.

Vehicle, flammable gas powered.

Vehicle, flammable liquid powered.

Wheelchair, electric.


It’s the season for Jesus of America

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, The Corporate Bund at 3:13 pm by George Smith

As usual, it’s the perfect season for shining American character, its reverse-Robin Hood-ism, you know, the theology that teaches it is virtuous to grind tax the poor while rewarding the wealthiest.


Since Romney’s defeat, some Republicans have gently urged their party to ease up … their campaign to force low-income workers to pay more taxes. But adding the cultural-legal panic to the preexisting class-war panic was apparently enough to turn the GOP’s grudging acceptance of the low-income tax breaks into full-scale opposition …

So first Republicans made the tax breaks for business permanent, while allowing the tax breaks for low-income workers to expire at the end of 2017. Since they would no longer be tied to tax breaks for the more affluent constituencies that have influence with Republicans, this would mean they would almost certainly expire. Families earning $10,000 to around $25,000 a year would lose nearly $2,500 a year — a punishing blow to the working class.

The Democratic Party, lousy with high-button body lice OK with giving more to America’s superior class expressed admiration for the idea, Harry Reid and Charles Schumer of New York being its biggest endorsers. The President threatened a veto and, the New York magazine writes, the Democrats “beat a hasty retreat.” For now.

But you know it is always the perfect season the pure milk of American kindness.

And it is best heard in the magnificent sermon delivered at the beginning of Jesus of America from Loud Folk Live.

It is here and you should tick up the numbers and take time to irritatingly jam it down the throat share it with everyone you feel to be a deserving friend!

It’s also the shopping season! Why, just yesterday was Cyber Monday in which everyone was urged most urgently to buy on-line in a deluge of e-mail and web advertising blandishments.

So you can have the e-version of Loud Folk Live for a measly 5 bucks and have your own personal version of the sermon here.

[He] is not the one who fed the poor loaves and fishes. This is not the Jesus who liked lepers. He found the liberty, the land of liberty and freedom; we told him what to do.

Jesus of America says don’t feed the poor; if you do, they’ll come right to your door. They’re gonna wind up like stray cats, around your door on the floor, begging for loads of kibble and rich food. Everyone knows they’re just selfish animals.

That’s what Jesus said.

Remember, wealthiness — next to Godliness, that’s what Jesus teaches. Jesus of America says “Guns, not butter!” The rest is all for naught.

Jesus of America says never feed the poor, they’re just too lazy, they’ll never work at all. Jesus of America says tax the weak and sick! They’re always going to be that way, never worth a lick.

— from the Book of WhiteManistan, 1: 1-5


Computer Security for the 1 Percent (continued)

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism, The Corporate Bund at 4:03 pm by George Smith

In this week’s chapter of computer security news from corporate America of no value to 99 percent of the people who live here:

Security researchers say they have uncovered a cyber espionage ring focused on stealing corporate secrets for the purpose of gaming the stock market, in an operation that has compromised sensitive data about dozens of publicly held companies.

Cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc, which disclosed the operation on Monday, said that since the middle of last year, the group has attacked email accounts at more than 100 firms, most of them pharmaceutical and healthcare companies.

Victims also include firms in other sectors, as well as corporate advisors including investment bankers, attorneys and investor relations firms, according to FireEye.

The cybersecurity firm declined to identify the victims.

How can you tell if you’re a computer security servant for the corporate dictatorship and its precious loot?

1. Part of your business plan is to find hackers targeting Wall Street, the “stock market,” company e-mail folders of bloated, parasitic American financial and business titans (and their flunkies), etc.

2. Your business is leasing computer security services to Wall Street, big companies on the “stock market,” and trying to secure the e-mail folders of bloated, parasitic American financial and business titans (and their flunkies).

3. Your business is news writing about the great problem of potential wealth stealing by hackers targeting Wall Street, big American corporations, and the invasion of e-mail folders belonging to bloated, parasitic American financial and business titans (and their flunkies).

You good computer security servant, you! A grateful nation thanks you.

From the Keepin’ It Real in the Corporate Dictatorship desk:

Amid empty talk in Washington about corporate tax reform, the study said the seven companies, which in 2013 reported more than $74 billion in combined U.S. pre-tax profits, came out ahead on their taxes, gaining $1.9 billion more than they owed.

At the same time, the CEOs at each of the seven companies last year was paid an average of $17.3 million, said the study, compiled by two Washington think tanks.

The seven companies cited were Boeing Co (BA.N), Ford Motor Co (F.N), Chevron Corp (CVX.N), Citigroup Inc (C.N), Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N), JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and General Motors Co (GM.N) …

Earlier this month, on the protecting-the-shit-of-the-plutocrats-or-the-country-will-fall beat:

The huge cyberattack on JPMorgan Chase that touched more than 83 million households and businesses was one of the most serious computer intrusions into an American corporation. But it could have been much worse.

Questions over who the hackers are and the approach of their attack concern government and industry officials. Also troubling is that about nine other financial institutions — a number that has not been previously reported — were also infiltrated by the same group of overseas hackers, according to people briefed on the matter…

“It was a huge surprise that they were able to compromise a huge bank like JPMorgan,” said Al Pascual, a security analyst with Javelin Strategy and Research. “It scared the pants off many people.”

Several financial regulators have warned that a coordinated attack on the banking system could set off another financial crisis.

I’ll bet. I want to see another financial crisis. Don’t disappoint us now.

Priceless quote:

The push by government officials is a stark acknowledgment of the vulnerability of financial institutions — even after they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to protect themselves — to an attack if one of their vendors is not fully prepared. The problem is causing some security consultants to privately consider whether the sprawling financial firms with operations across the globe may be “too big to secure.”

Hundreds of millions of dollars to protect themselves! Why, that’s only an order or more of magnitude less than the money Uncle Sam paid them back on its tax returns in 2013.

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