09.30.16

Dummkopf

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Extremism at 12:33 pm by George Smith

A friend pointed me to a new biography of Adolf Hitler, reviewed by Michiko Kakutani at the New York Times. In writing about Hitler: Ascent 1889-1939 by Volker Ullrich, Kakutani goes out of her way to insert Donald Trump into almost every paragraph without naming him. It’s that transparent.

Since the majority of American mainstream pundits, newspaper and web, are as lousy with history as those in the general population, there’s been a great outpour from the culture of lickspittle on how clever it is.

Factor in the hysteria over a Trump victory in November now gripping the swells. It virtually dictates a goose-step parade of crap-dumpling social media picture memes, pull-the-wings-off-flies sneering and more Hitler comparisons between now and election day.

Hitler is a book I’ve just started to read (obtained on the digital theft line — I will accept a hardback copy, too).

And it would be good to recall Trump still doesn’t have anywhere near the reputation for extreme political and street violence beating up the opposition Hitler possessed prior to being named chancellor in 1933. No failed revolt in a big city or state; no jail time in which to write a Mein Kampf.

People were intimidated, killed, disappeared, their houses and stores smashed, their belongings stolen by Hitler’s paramilitaries, the SA and the nascent SS. And Dachau was opened in 1933, a little after he was named chancellor but a year before he made himself reichsfuhrer.

I don’t say it’s necessary to read Mein Kampf but if you dig into a little of it — well, let’s say Trump couldn’t write a book like that, although he claims to have written a few bestsellers on how to use greed with skill.

Trump has no complicated ideas, other than terrible asshat ones, that vanish or change in instants. Hitler had many, well outlined, and he never wavered from them.

Relatively early in Mein Kampf, Hitler expresses his rage, in dense prose, at being poor while simultaneously cultivating a murderous contempt for “elites,” that disregard growing enormously while in Vienna as a struggling young man where fine arts college masters thought so little of his talents they wouldn’t let him take an entrance exam.

Hitler became a bitter homeless bum. But, to put it mildly, that was not the end of it.

Unlike Trump, Hitler never had any interest in money or becoming a businessman.

This essay, Hitler Comparisons Give Trump Too Much Credit, from a small newspaper, is another good way of addressing a hysteria — one practiced only by … dummkopfs [sic].

Designated Survivor: Awkward cognitive dissonance

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, War On Terror at 11:54 am by George Smith

On the latest Designated Survivor, Kiefer Sutherland as President Tom Kirkman is confronted with a crisis: Michigan, Michigan (!) under the governor, cast to vaguely look like the guy who poisoned Flint, won’t recognize the federal government and its governor has ordered a pogrom against Muslims which results in the a young man being beaten to death by batons, captured on smartphone. Plus there’s a general roundup of Muslims, one vignette with a B-list character getting a stop-and-frisk.

Kirkman gets the governor to order his police force to stand down and release its prisoners by telling a lie, that undercover Feds have been jailed and must be set free to continue their investigations.

Remarkable that the President can make a video conference call and get this done. Too bad the country can’t jump into the Hollywood script and order a stop to street executions, eh?

The second installment of Designated Survivor continues down its awkward path of unintentional cognitive dissonance. I’m sure Sutherland and a few other cast members are acutely aware of it, too.

09.28.16

Kid with castor beans brings the ricin squad

Posted in Bioterrorism, Culture of Lickspittle, Ricin Kooks at 12:54 pm by George Smith

From a Texas news station:

“The Athens Fire Department assisted in the weekend raid of an Athens home.

“Fire Chief John McQueary explained their involvement.

” ‘There was a situation that our HAZMAT team, they’d like us to be involved with to support federal agents…’

“McQueary describes the decontamination role his team played. ‘Our role for the Athens Fire Department was to decon their agents when they got out… Deconning is outside the hot zone.’ The hot zone of a product suspected to be ricin.

“Homeowner Richard Fulton said in a statement that his teenage son had been attempting to make ricin out of castor beans … “

Before 9/11 and Homeland Security, there were no ricin squads. Now they’re everywhere. And though it may be hard to believe castor bean harvesting used to big agribusiness in the US. Fields of castor bean plants existed and they were not lethal. People worked in castor bean processing plants. [1] AND THEY DID NOT DIE.

Those places in the world that still harvest castor don’t care about the weird war-on-terror mythologies Americans have built up concerning castor beans and ricin.

But kids, don’t get the ricin squad called to your house. It will put everything in plastic bags and tubs and haul it away.


[1]. Health Aspects of Castor Bean Dust: Review and Bibliography provides something of a look back at castor oil and castor mash production in the United States through a looking glass of health effects associated with milling. The most noticeable were allergic reactions and asthma due to a potent small allergen, separate from ricin, but also found in castor bean mash.

Allergic reactions to the dust could be severe. The government recommended control measures and the wearing of goggles in plants that milled large quantities of castor seeds

Severe clusters of allergenic illness were associated with large quantities of very powdery dust produced after treatment with organic solvents to remove the oil component.

Much less often, ricin intoxication occured, apparently due to “incautious” consumption.

No significant hazard was associated with farming castor plants.

While castor oil was the primary product, castor mash was also diverted for use as fertilizer. In 1957, castor bean agriculture and milling was done in nine states, which included a region in southern California. The review contains some medical citations of allergic reactions and eye irritations associated with use of castor as fertilizer.

Readers of the pamphlet will note the huge piles of castor powder on the docks in Marseille, France. Their existence resulted in a large outbreak of allergic illness when the wind, or “Mistral,” went the wrong way.


And, now, the only rockin’ blues song on ricin ever. Pure Americana because that’s what castor bean religion and the ricin squad are — American as, um, pie. “Ricin Mama,” then, from the “Old White Coot” LP, an absolutely true story.

09.27.16

One tremendous headache

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism, Extremism, Made in China at 1:10 pm by George Smith

Blacked out for a few minutes during the middle of the debate.

I’ll be voting for HRC despite her being a pedant who talks nonsense about reviving the middle class through the fostering of small business. Sell your curios on eBay, in other words. Innovation!

Everything Trump said except the opening bits on trade and globalism sounded like gobble.

I blacked out again when the debate got to cyberwar, Putin being behind hacking us poor Dems and Trump going on about his 10-year old son being good with computers. Neither of the candidates has anything worth listening to on the subject. A few extra points off for HRC who assuredly knows about Stuxnet and our cyberwar with Iran but who insisted upon putting up a facade indicating the country’s behind in capability.

Blanked for a third and fourth time when it got to arguing about who was more likely not to use nuclear weapons first against a theoretical enemy. Trump seemed to say he would adhere to no-first-use then appeared to reverse himself seconds later.

Still unanswered, how to fix the wreckage caused by “free trade” in the US. Clinton had nothing for it last night. Expected nothing, got nothing.

However, since she’s going to be president she ought to have to keep answering for it, not just send her husband out the next day as cover:

“Mr. Clinton, who was president 1993 through 2000, acknowledged that the international trade deals have not always worked out as well as planned.” [the Toledo Blade]

“Not always worked out as well as planned,” accurate but like saying, “Deepwater Horizon was a bad oil spill.” It kinda leaves a lot out.

From Politico:

“Her opponent blamed NAFTA, but that’s not really what happened. You want to know what happened? It’s really important you understand this, because any president who wants to trade with other countries has got to take this into account.”

Clinton said Carrier wanted to break the union in a rush toward profits and in turn blew off an offer from employees to try to save the Midwestern plant from going to Mexico.

“They wanted to break the union, make the money in a hurry and give it to their activist shareholders, we used to call them raiders, and give it to their CEO. So an American president, until we go back to being a stakeholder country, where corporations take account not just their most active shareholders, but their workers, their communities and their customers and their future, we have to be a lot more careful,” Clinton said. “And that is something we have all learned.”

The Clintons would love to squirm out of this by throwing up a dust screen of nit-picky details. Economists, and authors like Thomas Frank, have written quite a bit about how NAFTA was made to give corporate wealth power at the expense of labor.

In this case, Bill Clinton is being slippery and it’s because his wife is extremely vulnerable in this area.


So it’s a choice between the teacher’s pet and the class clown. Between Reese Witherspoon and Jack Black.Barbara Ehrenreich, today


And do listen to all 90 seconds of China Toilet Blues from “Old White Coot.” It helps me out, if only psychically.

09.26.16

Not now, I’m playing a game. Then I’m going to watch porn

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall at 11:34 am by George Smith

It’s a Grave Social Ill: The phenomenon of “unworking men” in America, first developed by Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute over the Labor Day weekend.

Millions of men, like me, undereducated, who won’t work and have dropped out of society. Economist Tyler Cowan jumped on it the following week, adding that it’s not only that the men are uneducated but that they are addicted to net porn, too.

And today the WaPost chimes in: It’s men who are addicted to video games. They won’t work!

“Izquierdo represents a group of video-game-loving Americans who, according to new research, may help explain one of the most alarming aspects of the nation’s economic recovery: Even as the unemployment rate has fallen to low levels, an unusually large percentage of able-bodied men, particularly the young and less-educated, are either not working or not working full-time …Yet in the new research, economists from Princeton, the University of Rochester and the University of Chicago say that an additional reason many of these young men – who don’t have college degrees — are rejecting work is that they have a better alternative: living at home and enjoying video games…”

An alarmist aspect and prospect!

Except Dean Baker blows it all up by noting the statistics don’t support any of itit. It’s not just “undereducated” men, like me, who have seen unemployment increases, it’s women, too. Oops.

It’s lack of demand in a sluggish, or stagnant American economy, Baker thinks. And the Post, like many of the swell leaders of our great corporate dictatorship, always has a detail ready to bayonet the wounded on the battlefield, because, you know, they deserve it:

As is widely known the Washington Post never misses an opportunity to blame the victims of policy for bad outcomes, rather than rich and powerful folks who design policy. We are treated to yet another example of this charade with the Post running a major article that claims that video games are a major reason that fewer young men are working today than 15 years ago.

He’s right, probably. Still, I kind of fancy being thought of as part of a demographic deemed a grave social ill.

09.23.16

Designated Survivor

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 2:31 pm by George Smith

So far, the only reason to watch is Kiefer Sutherland. You saw the teaser: A bomb destroys the political leadership during a state of the union address and continuity of government hoists the Secretary of HUD, Tom Kirkman, the only man offsite to the White House.

Sutherland is cast as a gentle soul, a nobody who’s been cut loose by the President for being too vociferous about affordable housing or something, the very day of the bombing that makes him President. Before the hour’s up you get to see him show he has the usual Sutherland-character steel interior.

Personally, I would have made him from anywhere but the Ivy League, for a change. Cornell. Why not a Kent State or Delaware?

“Designated Survivor” left me with a feeling of time and reality out of joint. Another drama about America’s many enemies, known and unknown, striking a terrible blow and the world immediately extending its sorrows — except for the Iranians. Always the Iranians.

Really, if I were the leader of a foreign country and I saw it happen in real time, I’d probably find there’s a jam up on the line to the White House with everyone pleading that their country not be rubble-ized in the next couple months.

There’s the smart and intrepid FBI field analyst/agent, finding the bomb or bombs that did the deed were common on the Afghan battlefield. But she cautions there might be more to come. A campaign.

Which would stink. No more black box overpowering and unknowable enemies of the US anymore, please. It just doesn’t work.

Which brings it back to Sutherland. Tom Kirkman is a nice guy. He looks like he’s getting ready to be presidential, tougher than Harry Truman, perhaps. Maybe he’ll even get into a fire or fistfight before too long. I bet they even work cyberwar into it.

They have no clue

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall at 12:56 pm by George Smith

Today I point you to a discussion of the “science of Clinton” at 538, Nate Silver’s organ. For this, big data and the all-understanding brains seem to be absent.

Fivethirtyeight convenes four alleged experts in science to chat about what Clinton’s proposals mean for science:

Our participants are: Erica Fuchs, professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University; Elizabeth Mann, a fellow at the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institute; and Maryann Feldman, distinguished professor of public policy at the University of North Carolina and the director of the National Science Foundation’s Science of Science and Innovation Policy program. The moderator is Maggie Koerth-Baker, senior science writer at FiveThirtyEight.

What they produce is the usual futurism of 3D-manufacturing, uniquely (that means just for you) genetically engineered vaccines and drugs (this is particular balderdash that’s been predicted since the advent of Alvin Toffler) and, well, here (italics mine:

Advanced materials: Imagine intelligent clothing (pushed at Wired twenty year ago), creating plastic shapes with a beam of light, building veins or infant hearts (Posits we can be gods. Not going to happen.)

Additive manufacturing: Casually referred to as 3-D printing, but imagine not just in plastics, but also metals, semiconductors, food — changing materials layer by layer.

Specialized medicine: Custom vaccines and medicine tailored to your genetic makeup. (Posits we can be gods. Lethal irresponsible experimental cocktails, in reality.)

You had perhaps read the news that Google Glass was a big flop. Not here:

In the long term, we might imagine a postal worker being directed over Google Glass how to additively manufacture on your doorstep the sneakers you ordered 5 minutes ago.

It pegs the crap meter in a most spectacular manner.

If you read tech web zines every day this probably seems quite reasonable. After all, it’s been the stuff they’ve peddled for the last ten years, easy.

Mostly, it’s a lot like reading the web’s military news sites where they write quite seriously about how the US will, in the near future, deploy powerful lasers and rail guns. Powerful lasers, if by powerful you mean something that can set a skiff on fire with some work, or shoot down a small drone made of plastic at short range.

Rail guns of interest won’t happen because of the power constraints, the hazard associated with it, and the unavoidable metallurgy of gun parts that will fail quickly or immediately and spectacularly under high stresses of heat and released energy. These aren’t going to be the 16-inch naval rifles engineered for the old Iowa-class battleships.

Anyway, I’ve gotten a little away from the initial subject.

Naturally, there is retraining, a lot of it:

Policy can incentivize training for the new jobs that are created.


Maggie: Wait, wait. Seriously? Then what happens to the people who are stuck in crappy jobs now?

Erica: Thank you for helping me clarify. What drove my response was the speed of technology change. While basic research or science investments can take a long time to create industries, technology change is very rapid. The jobs and the knowledge relevant today are not the same jobs or knowledge [that will be] relevant tomorrow. [If you] set up programs to improve today’s jobs, those programs will be out of date before they are implemented. We must set up programs that prepare workers for the jobs and knowledge needed next month, next year.

Imagine an assessment and training application — accessible anytime, anywhere — that Uber drivers could access on their iPhones with Google Cardboard to train them for the next job needed by the economy …

Google Glass, Google Cardboard — jeezus. Is Google dispensing cash gifts?


Maryann: It’s an old claim. The truth is that there will be job displacements, but we think we will all be better off. Economic theory dictates compensating the losers, and this is an area that policy needs to address.

Maggie: Can you talk about “compensating the losers”? What would that look like? Education and job training? Or something more structural?

Maryann: Extending unemployment benefits, providing relocation and job-training assistance.


“We are going to see a revolution in personalized medicine and better health as a result of the Human Genome” says one of them.

Actually, the statistics in the last eight years seem to show health deteriorating in large segments of the American population. There is no magic wand of science made to fix it.

You can read the rest and come to your own conclusions here.

I’m unsure what, if anything, Hillary Clinton’s policies on science have to do with it. Maybe it sounds good. Who knows?

09.19.16

Not now, I’m watching porn and having a polish (continued)

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall at 3:49 pm by George Smith

Dean Baker had a great line today in his continuing takedowns of the stupid-men-who-don’t-work meme peddled by the henchmen for the cause of raising rates so inflation doesn’t come and somewhat devalue the hoards of the riches crowd:

But the rate hike crew decided the problem is that millions of men are no longer suited for the labor market. One economist even argued that these men have opted for internet porn and video games over work.

It’s touching to see economists talking about the problems of men without jobs.

Baker conginues to hammer the point that the meme overlooks the fact that it’s not just men who aren’t working: “In fact, the drop in employment among less-educated prime-age women has actually been larger than the drop among less-educated prime-age men.”

It’s part of a piece that also notes it’s the dubious anniversary of the failure of Lehman Brothers, a collapse that heralded the onset of the Great Recession, something none of the country’s highly regarded establishment economists saw coming:

In other words, our leading economists had no clue about what was going on in the economy at the time of the crash, they got the recovery completely wrong, and they still don’t seem to have a clue today. But they are good at making up stories about the lack of marketable skills of less-educated workers.

It’s a grave social ill.

The Opinion of Free-Trade Hating Cat

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China at 2:43 pm by George Smith

Free-Trade Hating Cat sez: “I will never again sleep or lay upon an air-conditioner not made in America. I curse Carrier and all like them. This window a/c box is from the time when we still made stuff. I checked.

“And another thing! So-called free-trade resulted in the great cat murder of 2007, when shitty corporate American scum conspired with a Chinese firm to pump up cat and dog food with melamine filler, a plastic poison that caused painful death and heartbreak! I wasn’t alive them but I know an old-timer in the neighborhood who was and he told me it was horrible and he was lucky to still be alive.

“I hate globalism and what it has done to millions of cat owners! Rowrr!”

09.14.16

Both were Americans

Posted in Bioterrorism, Ricin Kooks, War On Terror at 3:48 pm by George Smith

From an Associated Press story on August 23rd, on exotic weapons and emerging technologies in the hands of terrorists:

UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday that technological advances have made it easier for terrorist and criminal groups to obtain materials needed to make weapons of mass destruction, and some are actively trying to obtain nuclear, biological and chemical weapons to target civilians …

Gregory Koblentz, director of the Biodefense Graduate Program at George Mason University, said there are several emerging technologies that present challenges to international efforts to curb WMDs, including gene editing.

“Instead of gene drives being used to eliminate disease, they could be used to introduce new diseases into plant or animal populations,” he told the council.

Other potentially dangerous emerging technologies include the use of drones and the use of the Dark Web, which can only be accessed using special encryption software, guaranteeing anonymity to its users.

Koblentz said that in 2014 the U.S. arrested two people who had sold the toxins abrin and ricin — ricin is classified as a chemical weapon under the Chemical Weapons Convention — to customers in Austria, Canada, Denmark, England, India and the United States via a Dark Web marketplace called Black Market Reloaded.

“The global reach and anonymity of the Dark Web provides a new means for criminals and terrorists interested in dual-use equipment or materials to do business,” he said.

Black Market Reloaded was fairly quickly infiltrated by US law enforcement. Agents subsequently used identities on it to initiate sting operations involving the promised sale as well as the buying of poisons like ricin and abrin.

The two arrested on the Dark Web, specifically — users of Black Market Reloaded, were both Americans. Jesse Korff and James Christopher Malcolm.

Both accepted plea deals from the federal government with Malcolm sentenced to five years, Korff much longer.

Both were connected to the case of Ryan Chamberlain for which I served as a science consultant to the defense.

Considering the nature of the investigations and the results (there were about half a dozen arrests coming off BMR), the continued belief that the Dark Web provides anonymity in such instances is rather laughable.

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