06.30.16

Listen, Snob

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall at 12:18 pm by George Smith

I see Trump and Brexit supporters being sniffed at by sober commentators for being “anti-expert,” as if that were proof of insanity. I’ve been anti-expert since the 1970s, when feminists took on the medical profession for various forms of unnecessary surgery, hazardous contraceptives and other abuses of women. In fact, it’s my anti-expertism that turned me against Hillary, whose idea of “health reform” in 1993 was to gather a bunch of guys in suits for secret deliberations, which of course led nowhere. — Barbara Ehrenreich, on FB

As an aside, those sniffing at “anti-expertism” 98 percent of the time are guilty of believing only people of their immediate tribe and pay grade are smart enough to be them.


For as long as I’ve read her, Barbara Ehrenreich has been an — ahem, expert — on the increasingly lethal character of the American way of life.

From above:

“A certain cleaning staff would go through the garbage to find the Chinese food containers left behind by Harvard students that still contained sme food in them because you could take them home to your kids … whoah. Meanwhile, at the other end at Harvard you had a guy named Greg Mankiw, who was an economics professor, who made it his mission to point out why low wage people couldn’t have higher wages. It would destroy the economy, pure and simple.

“I always debated him on the radio. And in the years since 2002, traveling around the country talking about these issues on different college campuses I began to get the impression the whole purpose of economics departments was to teach kids that whatever is going on in the economic status quo is perfect and how it has to be, so shut up.

“Some fresh guy [would] stand up, ‘Well, we learned in economics, you can’t raise wages.” But [you] can make $100,000 or whatever.

“I began to get really impatient and even, in some places, to go so far as to say, ‘What the hell do they teach at this university?’ Because if they taught math you could figure out that on six dollars/hour you’re not going to live anywhere in the environs of Cambridge, Mass., or any property of any other major university. That’s simple.”

Small beer — no one will care

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China at 8:58 am by George Smith

Today, the NY Times ran a gotcha piece: Donald Trump Has Long Benefited From Trade Practices He Now Scorns

The major problem with it is the piddly findings. Trump is a builder and and a tycoon whose fortune comes from high-end services to the wealthy, not manufacturing. Perhaps he pays poorly but he’s not an outsourcer on the scale of a General Electric or Apple. (Or Tesla. Special case, follow link at end.)

The Times dings Trump for his line of “suits, ties and cuff links.”

Meh. They do not look to be particularly successful in the mass market.

“Mr. Trump also invested in a line of crystal bearing his name to go with his Trump Home line,” continues the Times. “The collection was produced in Slovenia, the home of his wife, Melania.”

Here. “The items in this collection are no longer available,” it reads. Well, maybe they’re somewhere else.

The Times shows its strongest evidence in his hiring of groups of laborers from eastern European nations for construction and service, a practice that is now common in American business and which is generally, as shown by the San Jose Mercury News, in direct violation of US labor law. (See this series concerning Tesla and Elon Musk.)

Perhaps Donald Trump has already lost the election. But if he has not, this magnitude of sin, when stacked against the general anger and grievance aimed at US trade policy and corporations, just doesn’t matter.

06.29.16

And the Elites Condemn As They Must?

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Extremism, The Corporate Bund at 2:18 pm by George Smith

Let’s call it “Ask the Crybaby.”

It’s the news phenom in which US reporters ask Brit-expats, almost always wealthy, what they think of Brexit. The old blog term for it was Shoeshine, that being what the well-off will say or think in support of those at the very top. A high button performance in kickdown on the classes below the chosen and their servants.

From Brattleboro, Vermont, Peter Solley, a Brit hack session producer/musician from the era of classic rock:

I was shocked. Absolutely shocked … I’m ashamed to call myself English. I see no positive future for the United Kingdom. They’ve taken something that created the longest lasting peace since World War II and just thrown it away.”

Solley runs a snob ice cream gelato company.

In fairness, the newspaper goes on to interview one person with a bit of a different viewpoint.

For the sake of timeliness I’m reading Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis’ latest book, “And the Weak Suffer What They Must?” on the EU. Obviously written before Brexit, it’s fair to say Varoufakis saw it coming.

Britain didn’t always have it so great and the City of London, its financialization engine, wasn’t its sole place of super successful economic activity. Things were hard before the EU was called that, the Seventies, when it was the European Communities. Even Margaret Thatcher was not a fan at all, being ridden out of power by peers who wished to be in on the administration of a newer monetary order.

Varoufakis’ book is a history of the EU, its early precursors and the economic policies and tides that have led to where it is today.

There are a numbr of reasons for its genesis, prime among them being the Paul Volcker-devised Nixon shock that did away with the Bretton Woods system.

It’s a complicated story.

But very briefly and incompletely Bretton Woods instituted a system in which the US made the dollar a euro-dollar. The purpose was to re-initialize the economies of Europe after World War II. Germany was in ruins. France had been occupied, turned into a vassal state, and been a battleground, too. And Britain was encumbered with crushing debt. The US used Bretton Woods to back the European reconstruction of currencies and value with gold set at a rigid price in which one ounce was an absolute guarantee of 35 US dollars.

But by the early Seventies, Germany and Japan had been rebuilt, going from deficit to surplus nations. The US had been the supreme global surplus nation, controlling the currents of the world economy. No longer was it the single pole of the engine.

The rise of Germany and Japan meant the US went from being a surplus to a deficit nation. This, along with gold speculation by German bankers and the French, destabilized Bretton Woods.

Paul Volcker, then the head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank analyzed what had happened and developed a scheme for keeping America’s upper hand in the global economy. It would no longer honor Bretton Woods. It uncoupled the gold pledge, raised global interest rates and instituted tight money.

Varoufakis explains:

“High interest rates are wonderful for those living on unearned income, the so-called rentiers, but not so good for manufacturers who see their investment costs skyrocket and the purchasing power of their customers plummet. For this reason, combining high returns to financial capital (requiring high interest rates) with high profit rates for American businesses (requiring low interest rates) was never going to be easy, and Volcker knew this. It was a combination that could only come about if another way of providing that profit could be found. And one way to do that would be to reduce wages. On the one hand, the Fed would push interest rates through the roof while, at once, the federal government would turn a blind eye, indeed promote, policies that crushed the real wage prospects of American workers …

“Soon, the fate of America’s working class was to infect the circumstances of weak citizens in Britain, in France and, by the 1990s, even in Germany …

“Disintegration was in the air and the majority of people in a majority of countries eventually acquiesced to the notion that labor was overvalued and overprotected, manufacturing was overrated, while finance was undervalued and in need of unshackling. Everything became increasingly reducible to its financial value.”

Varoufakis’ book is fascinating, particularly as a history in which the European economic engine is assembled in a jerrybilt way as a substitute for Bretton Woods, but regularly misfiring and bringing misery, plagued by the monetary policies of its leading nations, primarily here set by German bankers and their autocratic agendas. The story Varoufakis tells is surely not one at all favored by the current rulers of the EU and American economic machines.

So while the institutional complainers, the shoeshine boys of the ruling elites, go after the the alleged misinformed and nativist flaws of the Leavers, they really don’t know a lot more about what they’re talking of than those they’ve condemned so vehemently. Of course, from their short term point of view, Brexit is bad.

Historically, perhaps something like this was slated to happen. And if a similar political earthquake transpires here, it can’t be unexpected. At least that’s the impression Varoufakis’ reasoning gives me.

Varoufakis continues, mid-book:

When John Connally crudely explained to President Nixon, relying on Volcker’s underlying analysis, that “all foreigners are out to screw us and it’s our job to screw them first,” what he meant was that the Bretton Woods balancing act was becoming imbalanced by the surpluses of countries like Germany and Japan.

Impervious to the global responsibility that comes with large trade surpluses, these foreigners were trying, childishly, to take advantage of the United States’ commitment to global balance, the result being a complete collapse of the postwar equilibrium. Like immature children that know not what is good for them, European governments and Japan, sporting increasing surpluses, were taking advantage of America’s difficulty in maintaing order with detrimental results for everyone.


Volcker’s 1978 Warwick speech had given the Europeans ample warning. He effectively threw down the gauntlet to Bonn, Paris, London and Tokyo. Between the lines he was foreshadowing the second phase of America’s postwar global dominance. In 1971, Volcker implicitly told his audience, America dismantled the monetary system whose integrity Europeans had foolishly undermined. Its next move would be to bring about a highly imbalanced global system that the United States controlled fully because, rather than in spite, of America’s twin deficits (its trade deficit and its federal government budget deficit).

The price for that new system, which would extend America’s dominance, was high: weak people and fragile countries were, once more, left to their own devices, suffering not what was globally optimal but that which they “must” in a world economy unrestrained by New Deal–like rules and institutions. Politics would become toxic, social solidarity would weaken, international relations would turn nastier, abject poverty would multiply in Latin America and Africa. Nonetheless, the United States was bound to emerge as a net beneficiary of this painful “disintegration”…

I can’t do the book all the justice it deserves. At best, I have cherry-picked pieces with which I have great affinity. Yet there is much food for thought here from every angle and you must read “And the Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe’s Crisis and America’s Economic Future” yourself.


The morning after “Brexit” our “elites” were wringing their hands in opinion pages everywhere over how Leave delivered to Britain’s “elites” an epic punch in the face.

But did you notice that while the “elites” were doing all the explaining, excusing and bemoaning, there was no initial invitation to let any people who felt they had to throw that punch to the public speakers table?

For examples of the shunning of the common pariahs, you only needed to look at the opinion pages of the New York Times. One of the six-figure explainers, Roger Cohen, delivered no less than two condemnations.

From the first, it’s final bit: “My nephew wrote on Facebook that he had never been less proud of his country. I feel the same way about the country I grew up in and left.”

Ashamed and shamed, from the gold-plated opinion-maker to the upper crust Facebook lad to the hoity-toity ice cream vendor.

But where was opinion from the winning side? Missing entirely.

A day later, Owen Jones, author of “Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class” was in the Guardian:

“Above all else, it was about immigration, which has become the prism through which millions of people see everyday problems: the lack of affordable housing; the lack of secure jobs; stagnating living standards; strained public services. Young remainers living in major urban centres tend to feel limited hostility towards immigration; it could hardly be more different for older working-class leavers in many northern cities and smaller towns.”

The sentiments are familiar. The “social problem” is here, too, quite obviously so.

The betters have had years to extend a hand. Telling people to suck it up, get more education and not be bigots because your station comes inevitably as a result of your choices and talents. That worked for awhile. Now it’s seen for what it always was, a fob.

This is what destroyed the GOP. And it’s what threatens the Democratic Party and the predicted inevitable presidency of Hillary Clinton. They have no answers, either. In fact, they’re pretty much all right with how things have turned out, Brexit, a mere inconvenience in this hemisphere.

We have to work together, not tear each other down, they say. The words are hollow.

06.27.16

Pasadena Elvis Presley Film Festival: “Blue Hawaii”

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll at 4:10 pm by George Smith

One of Elvis Presley’s most successful movies, Blue Hawaii from ’61 was a big box office draw, its soundtrack album gold the next year.

Do you like ukuleles in your rock ‘n’ roll? Hawaii-nized styles? If so, you’ll like the show tunes more than I did. In 2016 they’re mostly embarrassing, songs for a movie backing band of natives bopping around on bongos in back of Presley. “Ito Eats,” a tune about one of the more heavy set eating half a dozen fish or more on the beach will break a cold flopsweat out on the back of your neck.

Angela Lansbury plays what must have been one of her most excruciating roles, ever, as Elvis’s (Chadwick Gates) mother, a southern woman played as a grating ninny who’s onscreen way too much. Her Chinese servant boy is named Ping Pong. Jeezus.

Having given you the crap first, it’s fair to say Blue Hawaii must have been great for tourism, the state’s Chamber of Commerce loving it all the way. It’s a good triptych, the cinematography from the last island in the line, Kauai, great.

Elvis’ love interest, Maile (pronounced “Miley”), played by Joan Blackman, is easy on the eyes as are all the girls, teenage tourists, the unstated feature of the film that’s an inoffensive story about Elvis stumbling into a travel business with his girlfriend while trying to avoid his helicopter parents. Keep your eyes open for Beverly, obviously not a teenager even though playing one, who dances up a storm for the little bit she’s onscreen.

The hit here is one of the indispensable parts of the Presley catalog, “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” The rest is a bit of lite rock ‘n’ roll, Elvis ala Perry Como, and, you know, throwaway ukulele stuff to be taken or left, mostly left.

The Elvis Presley Film Festival.

Unfortunately, it’s that time of year …

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall at 11:21 am by George Smith

Every year, Vibrio vulnificus infections begin with the arrival of summer. When I worked with the organism, it was the lab’s take that it was fairly common in estuarine and beach waters along the Gulf Coast. Infections, catastrophic ones, happened in those with underlying medical conditions.

Upticks in V. vulnificus infections in recent years are probably attributed to more vulnerable people being in the water during summer months and possibly increased growth of the organism during the same period when conditions are especially favorable to it.

The problems started on May 12, when Kelly Kohen Blomberg was in the Gulf of Mexico near Grand Isle, a barrier island known for fishing…

[Small scratches] had turned into an oozing, gaping wound — and Blomberg had to head back to the hospital to get a skin graft and have dead tissue surgically removed. She’s now had two surgeries and there’s still a gaping hole in her foot, though doctors are hoping the skin graft will take so the wound can start healing over.


A Father’s Day celebration on the Texas Gulf Coast has left a Central Texas man, Adrian Ruiz, fighting to keep his leg after it became infected with a flesh-eating bacteria, friends and relatives said Thursday …

But on Monday afternoon, he was admitted to the intensive care unit at Seton Medical Center Hays. He was diagnosed with an infection of Vibrio vulnificus, a flesh-eating bacteria that has spread through his right leg …

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that earlier this week, 50-year-old Brian Parrott, a Houston-area man, lost part of his leg after contracting the same bacterial infection in the waters off Galveston Island.


Why it does what it does. I did that.

Every year, V. vulnificus infects and hospitalizes more people than ricin, a poison in castor seeds, has killed in the last 20 years. (Score, ricin deaths by terrorism and/or crime = ZERO; by suicide = 1.) The United States spends more money on countermeasures and vaccines for ricin than it does on V. vulnficus.

Just so you know the priorities and whose bread gets buttered.

06.26.16

And if you gaze long into the abyss…

Posted in Bioterrorism, Culture of Lickspittle, Ricin Kooks at 2:51 pm by George Smith

The abyss also gazes into you.

Words to take seriously if you’re reading about the so-called Dark Web.

Tipped by the always timely Pine View Farm, I send you to a tech podcast at the Guardian, entitled “Inside the darknet” by Chips and Everything.

As far as it goes, not bad, although the professed need to have lawyers with you when browsing through TOR made me laugh a bit. Plus, it was my understanding that TOR was at least partially underwritten as a potential tool for whistleblowers in foreign countries.

What the tech podcasters don’t know, or chose not to mention, is that the FBI, as well as British law enforcement, have infiltrated the darknet, posing as buyers as well as sellers in sting operations. It’s an open secret because if you’ve followed the newspaper listings on various criminal cases (just look in the Ricin Kooks tab), you’ll see this has been so.

Most recently, in the news, a handoff from the FBI to the Brits in the case of Mohammed Amer Ali, a Liverpool man, who thought he was buying ricin.

Ali was actually dealing with the FBI:

Mohammed Ammer Ali, 32, carried out extensive research on the “dark web”, eventually arranging to buy 500 milligrams of the lethal substance.

But, unknown to him, his online vendor was in fact an FBI agent who tipped off UK police.

Detectives organised for a “controlled delivery” – with a fake consignment of ricin being sent to Ali’s Liverpool home in February 2015.

The next day, Ali was arrested and his home searched by officers clad in chemical protection suits …

It was a fairly standard case if you follow the newspaper’s timeline. The only stickout point is the nature of the so-called ricin shipment.

The theoretical amount, alleged to be enough to kill 1,400. No such amount of pure ricin has ever been accumulated. It is a number with no traction in reality.


And if perhaps think I’m commenting only from second-hand information, full disclosure: I’ve been expert consultant to a federal public defender’s office in a case that involved sale and purchase of materials vended on the darknet.

More stuff you never liked

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll, War On Terror at 1:33 pm by George Smith

From the archives: A tune from the 2004 musical, “Iraq ‘N’ Roll.” Came with an authentic Iraqi Freedom WMD leaflet dropped by the US Air Force, among other things, including a T-shirt. Prior to universal freetardism, actually sold in stores — Amoeba on Sunset, a shop in Pasadena, and one in Bethlehem.

Sold out and rare. Downloadable, of course.


Stumbled in here by accident? Confused? Outraged? Look up “satire,” “social criticism.”

06.25.16

Are there enough Rust Belt counties?

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall at 3:12 pm by George Smith

The people in my peer group of the educated and urban, a group I find myself increasingly at odds with this year would say, no, there aren’t enough Rust Belt counties to hand the presidency to Donald Trump.

A Politico article, touched down in Cambria County, PA, collects some anecdotal and statistical evidence. They visit Johnstown, the place of Slap Shot and the Charlestown Chiefs, previously used as for framing purposes here.

The locals have this to say:

Today Karlheim—blue-eyed, 58, and graying around the temples—spends his days behind the wheel of a giant coal truck, but the declining coal industry has hit Karlheim hard. He’s making $10,000 less than he was just three years ago, he said, and he’s worried about his mortgage. “How do you make those payments?” he asked. This spring, after years of not voting for anyone, in either party, in any presidential election, his anxiety compelled him to cast a vote in the Democratic primary. For Bernie Sanders.

His vote helped the socialist from Vermont beat Hillary Clinton in the county—while Trump won big, claiming more votes than either Democratic candidate …

And he has some bad news for the former secretary of state.
While there are some things that worry him about the GOP nominee—“We don’t know his background,” Karlheim said, and “He’s a bit outspoken.”—he likes that Trump is talking about jobs. “That’s what we need,” which is why, Karlheim said, “In the big election … I’m going for Trump.”


“In the past, people here have turned to the Democrats,” said Chris Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion in Allentown, Pa., 200 miles to the east. “They were the ones who looked after working-class interests, in their minds. But there is a belief that that isn’t the case anymore—and now they’re shopping around for an alternative.”

The interior, and environs around Pittsburgh, will go for Trump the article continues. But it may not be nearly enough to offset the weight of Clinton voters in “more affluent” southeastern Pennsylvania.

A picture of Johnstown’s steel mill could just as well have been looking at Bethlehem Steel from the bridge over the Lehigh River in south Bethlehem when I was there.

It comes down to class war. The Democratic Party has no interest in those left behind by the decades-long shocks of globalization. It’s all right with the consequences.

The presidency of Hillary Clinton will be an anathema to those left behind, despite her statement that “there’s a need for us to pull together to solve the challenges of our country …”

For the Clinton’s, that hasn’t been true for a long time. The words are fine-sounding but unbelievable.

Take California Back!

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 12:17 pm by George Smith

Timely, from 2003. Eventually, even Arnold was excommunicated by the GOP. When he made governor, the party was still half-sane.

The first recording I did in California. Got it mentioned in the Los Angeles Times, too, pre universal freetardism. Downloadable.

06.23.16

Pasadena Elvis Presley Film Festival: The Trouble With Girls

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 12:18 pm by George Smith

It’s 1969 and Elvis has already taped his comeback special. After years of inexplicable and/or inexcusable dog crap — “Speedway,” “Clambake,” “It Happened at the World’s Fair,” “Kissin’ Cousins,” to name some — he knows it will restore his image. So The Trouble With Girls, a disjointed farce, features Elvis with confidence restored, a perpetual smile plastered across his face.

As Walter Hale, manager of a Chautauqua (think traveling omnibus show with quack lecturers, actors, musicians and supervisors ready to host a local talent show wherever the traveling group arrives), Elvis wears a white suit, smokes a cigar and jovially tries to keep his favorite dancer and piano player, Marlyn Mason, from quitting over management’s opposition to unionization.

The cast is all-star. Dabney Coleman is a sleazy town pharmacist. He sells illegal fireworks to two children to get the goods off his hands and sexually harasses his assistant, Sheree North. John Carradine and Vincent Price play Chatauqua lecturers, the latter who goes on endlessly about morality after gypping a cab-driver. Joyce van Patten has a bit part as an unbalanced long-distance swimmer brought along to tell the landlocked residents of Radford Center the finer points of crossing the English Channel.

In fact, there are two cases of sexual harassment hiding in The Trouble With Girls, one with Elvis’ on his piano player, and the second with Coleman preying on his assistant (North) which eventually results in her killing him in self-defense.

The latter is used as a comedic climax in which the Chautauqua troop tries to sober up a very intoxicated and distraught North so she can confess to a big crowd from the town. Depending on your mood, The Trouble With Girls is either awkward and occasionally tasteless, or mildly amusing. The internet informs it was paired as a double matinee paired with a Raquel Welch film. That would have made a long afternoon.

Presley looks like he’s having a good time through it all, though, and the music, which was only a few songs worth, doesn’t add or substract.


Previously, in the Pasadena Elvis Presley Film Festival.

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