05.16.17

Infamous old words: The Nebulous Menace vs the NSA’s Ugly Conduct

Posted in Crazy Weapons, Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism at 1:20 pm by George Smith

In 2013:

While some recent estimates have more than 90 percent of cyberespionage in the United States originating in China, the accusations relayed in the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on Chinese military capabilities were remarkable in their directness. Until now the administration avoided directly accusing both the Chinese government and the People’s Liberation Army of using cyberweapons against the United States in a deliberate, government-developed strategy…

This from, The Nebulous Menace: Shoeshine at its Best, a piece onthe meme of the year, that US coporate intellectual property was being carted away en masse by Chinese cyberwarriors.

The passage of time always affords for the changing of boogeymen pointed out by the American national threat industry. Today it’s Russia and even fresher, maybe North Korea, as responsible for the now famous global ransomware attacks.

You might take North Korea as a convenient distraction for the root of the problem, the NSA’s malware industrial complex, ultimately responsible for the ETERNALBLUE vulnerability, a NOT NEBULOUS menace, at the heart of the problem.

Paradoxically, from the South China Post:

More than 4,300 Chinese educational institutions were infected by the WannaCry ransomware that spread across the globe last Friday, according to Chinese cybersecurity giant Qihoo 360’s Threat Intelligence Centre. Almost 30,000 organisations across the country were affected in all.

But the Ministry of Education’s China Education and Research Network (Cernet) said just 66 out of 1,600 Chinese universities were affected, rejecting reports of widespread damage in higher-education computer systems as “malicious” hype.

Cernet said the 66 universities were affected mainly because their operating systems were not regularly upgraded rather than any major security shortcomings …

Students in campuses affected by the ransomware, however, told of their horror finding their experiment data encrypted and half-completed theses files lost, which could affect their graduation, according to Chinese media reports.


Also from The Nebulous Menace, another wote illustrating why this blog was read:

American business ceded its property to the Chinese industrial base for immediate profit in pursuit of the very cheapest unprotected manpower. This was long before Chinese espionage became an issue the national security megaplex decided to exploit for the purpose of parasitic rent-seeking.

Who are you going to find on the street who cares if Chinese cyberwarriors from a building in Shanghai are into American businesses? They’ve already lost their jobs or much of their earning power. And their access to the Internet is a smartphone made in China.

Take a day off from the memes. Corporate America isn’t hiring, haven’t you heard? It’s not because of mass Chinese cyber-spying.

05.08.17

David Bowie’s Sound + Vision deluxe set (Ryko), 28 years on

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 11:34 am by George Smith

Over a weekend I pulled out my copy of David Bowie’s Sound + Vision CD box set on Rykodisc, from 1989. While at the Morning Call newspaper, I’d received it for a big feature the paper published on it. Ryko was probably very happy; the art covered almost the entire front page of the section. It signifies a time when people went for these types of physical extravaganza music packages enthusiastically. They even paid good money for them. I still easily feel the appeal; looking at the art etched on the giant box and photos while listening imparted something you just can’t get from today’s “procedure.” This was there in the room with me, not off in the cloud, streamed like a subscription or glued sketchily together with unavoidable advertisting courtesy of a Google subsidiary. The nerds of tech do no one favors.

Ground control to major Bowie fanatics! On Monday, “Sound + Vision,” a lavishly packaged, three-compact-disc collection containing some of David Bowie’s back catalog, will appear in area record stores.

“Sound + Vision,” which lists for about $60, kicks off Rykodisc’s ambitious program calling for the re-marketing of the Thin White Duke’s work from 1969’s “Space Oddity” to “Scary Monsters” in 1980 on RCA. Although it certainly isn’t difficult to locate Bowie’s music on vinyl and tape in record stores, this will mark the first time that the artist’s vintage material will be available in superlative form, on CD. Most listeners have already forgotten RCA’s subpar CD re-issues from a few years back; those copies which can be found on cassette and vinyl are the last of RCA’s claim on the artist.

From the standpoint of a collector, “Sound + Vision” isn’t quite the proverbial gold mine, but it does feature a number of selections previously unavailable, although not unfamiliar, to Bowie aficionados.

Among the “must-have’s”:

– 1969’s original demo of “Space Oddity.”

– A cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City,” nipped from the 1975 “Station To Station” sessions.

– A 72-page booklet containing unreleased photos and liner notes by former Rolling Stone magazine editor and MTV’s “Week In Rock” correspondent Kurt Loder.

– A bonus video disc, available only in the box CD format, featuring live work from a Spiders From Mars date in Boston in 1972 and a video of “Ashes To Ashes.” All are playable on standard CD machines regardless of their video capability.

Although fervid Bowie collectors will probably have to purchase the set in two or three of the configurations, Rolling Stone senior writer David Fricke says, “To a collector, it’s not a bounty. But for those with the disposable income that this is aimed at, the fact remains that up to now there has been no classic Bowie on CD. If you want ‘Ziggy,’ if you want some ‘Station To Station’ on CD – this is your chance.”

Those with that “disposable income” which Fricke alludes to may find this a package difficult to turn down. Ryko is banking on just that; with a list price of close to $60, the company is hoping that the extravagant title will be just the thing music-conscious yuppies are going to crave through the fall and into the Christmas season. A schedule for the re-release in CD format of the back catalog covered by the breadth of “Sound + Vision” has not yet been established. But the company anticipates the appearance of “Space Oddity,” “The Man Who Sold The World” and “Hunky Dory” early in 1990, depending upon the success of the initial title.

None of this has come easy. Bowie’s RCA catalog has long been recognized as one of the most coveted in rock. Last year, “Changes-OneBowie” and “The Rise & Fall Of Ziggy Stardust” were voted the two most wanted CD titles in a Billboard magazine article authored by former Creem editor Dave DiMartino. An artist of Bowie’s stature conceivably could have gone with any label. His choice of the independent Rykodisc confirms that the company has established a reputation for attention to quality, detail and content not rivaled by the majors. Those in possession of such Rykodisc releases as The Mothers of Invention’s “Absolutely Free” (among many other Frank Zappa titles) and Jimi Hendrix’s “Live At Winterland” and “Radio One” already know this.

Billboard’s Los Angeles bureau chief DiMartino unequivocally says, “It’s a victory for the label. A lot of love and effort went into the project; everything has sounded A-1.

“It’s a fact that Ryko didn’t offer Bowie the most money. It was a case, in this instance, of having the best interests of the artist at heart. Also, from a sales standpoint, it shouldn’t impinge upon the success of the later releases. In fact, it kind of makes you want to go back to those original albums and listen to them once again.”

If you’ve bought the hype or if you’re an inveterate Bowie addict, what are you getting, exactly, in “Sound + Vision”? What you’ll find are three discs which chronicle the period 1969-1980 and not surprisingly, decrease in interest, just as Bowie’s career did as it neared “Lodger.”

The first disc encompasses Bowie’s entry into the marketplace and much of his tenure with The Spiders From Mars. The demo version of “Space Oddity” is refreshing in its own hippie naivete; “Black Country Rock” again reveals Bowie’s fascination with the work of fellow glam-rock traveller Marc Bolan. The inclusion of The Spiders’ rendition of Chuck Berry’s “Round And Round,” which originally appeared in 1973 as the B-side to “Drive In Saturday” (also included), is the highpoint of the set in that it reveals just how good a hard-rock band The Spiders From Mars (led by guitarist Mick Ronson) really were. Ronson’s guitar work exemplifies the best of the Ziggy period band: The tone is like no one else’s, blaring and excessive in terms of context but not in terms of actual notes played.

The disc also features “John, I’m Only Dancing,” which was inadvertently released as a single at the time of “Aladdin Sane” (how a single is “inadvertently” released by a record company is anyone’s guess), plus live versions of “Ziggy Stardust,” The Velvet Underground’s “White Light/ White Heat,” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide,” all collected from “Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture.” The latter selections are curious and somewhat schlocky considering that the band’s best live work occurred in 1972 (the critical pillorying of “The Motion Picture” reflected that fact).

Fricke confirms this when he says, “A bootleg from Santa Monica in 1972 is one of the best examples of Bowie and The Spiders onstage. I’d pay for that on a wax cylinder if I had to.

“However, the live Ziggy from Boston in ’72 (included on the video CD with “Changes,” “John, I’m Only Dancing” and “The Supermen”) was that prime band.”

The second disc’s stellar cuts are the unreleased “1984/Dodo,” which proved to be Bowie’s last recording with The Spiders; the original single version of “Rebel Rebel,” with the artist himself playing all instruments, including the lacerating guitar signature; and covers of “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” (with Aynsley Dunbar’s best Keith Moon imitation) and “Don’t Bring Me Down,” from “Pin Ups.” The remainder of the disc reprises material from the lackluster “David Live,” “Young Americans” and “Station To Station,” including the 1975 Springsteen cover, which qualifies only as a momentary curiosity.

The third disc focuses on Bowie’s collaboration with Brian Eno and although described as “compelling” by Loder in the liner notes, it is anything but. DiMartino sums up by saying, “The work with Eno, which at the time sounded novel, isn’t really so earth-shaking. Bowie has always been a chameleon and with Eno in tow, ‘The Lodger’ sounded too much like The Talking Heads.”

Leery of getting caught in the same binds that plagued the Bruce Springsteen boxed set, Ryko has no plans to overship “Sound Vision,” with initial estimates hovering around 135,000 units split roughly 60, 30, and 10 percent between CDs, cassettes and LPs. The LP box will list at approximately $10 more than the CD version. But it will include clear pressings, direct metal mastering, and rice-paper sleeves. — September 22, 1989, George Smith, the Allentown Morning Call


Imagine: CDs, cassettes, LPs, metal mastering, rice paper sleeves! The CD box is etched with a famous photograph of Bowie with a guitar. For the CD version, the four separate CDs came with booklet art made to mirror and accent the box’s etch through the clear plastic cover when the entire package was assembled.

You just shake your head at what was lost.

05.04.17

The Trooth

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Permanent Fail at 2:01 pm by George Smith


American exceptionalism: Relearning the lost art of home tooth take-outs.

It seems perfect to match my tale of tooth removal with fresh news of the House’s successful vote to repeal and replace Obamacare. Here in California I’m a recipient of that but truth, or trooth, be told there’s a lot that allegedly landmark legislation doesn’t cover.

My Obamacare policy came on the expansion of Medicaid in California. And Medicaid doesn’t cover teeth, really.

I’ll cut to a great relevant quote and bring up a recent NYT piece which ran a day or two after I pulled the tooth, above:

He knew that he needed to. It hurt to chew. A couple of teeth had grown discolored, so he tried not to smile broadly. His daughter kept urging him to get a checkup.

The reason he didn’t: money.

Medicare has never provided dental care, except for certain medical conditions, and California’s Medicaid program covers only some services, at reimbursement rates so low that most of the state’s dentists do not accept Medicaid patients at all.


Many Americans find it difficult to obtain adequate dental care, but the problem is particularly acute among older Americans …

At the West Center, where the average patient lives on $850 a month, “they often haven’t seen a dentist in 10 or 20 years,” Dr. Becerra said. “They’d end up in the E.R. when the pain got unbearable.” She has seen patients who have pulled their own teeth.

When I graduated from Lehigh with a Ph.D. I had a pretty good oral record. No cavities at all. All through youth, regular dental care and visits, no problem. It was something pretty much every kid in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, received.

However, over the next few years and then permanently, it was all unraveled. If you didn’t latch into a good corporate dental plan through employment, or hitchhike on a spouse’s, you were pretty much fucked as the masters of the United States decided that dental care for everyone was too much of an expensive option.

So if you were a freelance worker, or someone with spotty employment, you could buy one of those worthless health insurance policies since outlawed by Obamacare. If you had one, you found out what it was like. It didn’t cover anything short of catastrophic leading to terminal illness and then not even all of that.

Trips to the dentist were expensive on piece work and freelance incomes. So they didn’t happen.

Are things better? Only sort of. Obamacare remedied some of the problems. No teeth, though. Trooth!

I suspect tens of thousands of people have similar policies under Obamacare, whether implemented by the state or through the still much disliked health insurance sector. Teeth, however, are not peripherals. Which only shows that healthcare in the US is still handled as a rigged market of commodity services.

But back to the story.

If you’d have told me on graduation that some day, not soon but in the distant future, I’d be holding one of my molars in the palm of my hand, posing it for a smartphone pic, I woudn’t have known what to say.

I remember trips to places like colonial Jamestown and Williamsburg where you could walk the old American dirt street and stop in the mock dentist’s office. A person in wig was often there to tell you the dentist was often located close to the bar so the patient could sort of be numbed with some strong drink before getting in the chair for an extraction.

“Har, har!” the parents, now long dead, and us kids would laugh. We lived in modern America. Something that primitive — inconceivable! They believed that thngs would always get better and I was still way too young to know better.

And that’s my story for today’s Obamacare repeal. Selah!

05.02.17

Block of Bleak

Posted in Bombing Paupers, Culture of Lickspittle, Shoeshine at 12:15 pm by George Smith

Chris Hedges, at TruthDig, a lede graf no one ele could write:

The idiots take over in the final days of crumbling civilizations. Idiot generals wage endless, unwinnable wars that bankrupt the nation. Idiot economists call for reducing taxes for the rich and cutting social service programs for the poor, and project economic growth on the basis of myth. Idiot industrialists poison the water, the soil and the air, slash jobs and depress wages. Idiot bankers gamble on self-created financial bubbles and impose crippling debt peonage on the citizens. Idiot journalists and public intellectuals pretend despotism is democracy. Idiot intelligence operatives orchestrate the overthrow of foreign governments to create lawless enclaves that give rise to enraged fanatics. Idiot professors, “experts” and “specialists” busy themselves with unintelligible jargon and arcane theory that buttresses the policies of the rulers. Idiot entertainers and producers create lurid spectacles of sex, gore and fantasy.

There is a familiar checklist for extinction. We are ticking off every item on it.

Hedges is truly old school. For the last couple of years his prognostications on the American empire have been unremittingly bleak. Unfortunately, they’ve also been accurate.

Not so accurate but unintentionally and bleakly humorous is one of Hedges old colleagues at the New York Times, Roger Cohen:

[Trump] prefers guns to diplomats. Militarism and mercantilism constitute a new policy, unconstrained by any consideration of what the United States stands for in the world or the values its alliances have defended since 1945.

This is a radical departure…

Militarism and mercantilism … a new policy. ORLY!? Surely you must be joking, Mr. Shoeshine.

Cohen is upset that Trump has ripped any pretense of a mask off global Amrican conduct. Truth has upset him.

Of course, we’ve supported “strong men” before. Stalin, for example, mentions Cohen. Which should have you falling out of your chair, going back as it does 60 years and neatly omitting the half dozen or so murderous assholes Barack Obama sold weapons to during his eight years in office in the much more current time frame.

What did Chris Hedges think of Roger Cohen?

It’s plain as can be in the historical record:

I was covering the war in Yugoslavia. Roger Cohen [another marquee-name, roving correspondent for the Times] dropped into Sarajevo as soon as the ceasefire started.

He was based in Paris at the time. He had been my predecessor in the Balkans. He asked me what stories I’m working on, and I say, “I’m doing this and this and this and so on.” So then I go off into Bosnia somewhere, and while I’m gone, he stole my stories. He was gunning for a Pulitzer for his Balkans reporting.

He took what you had written?

No, I hadn’t written them yet. He took my story ideas and did them. We later had a dinner in Paris with all the Times foreign correspondents. Roger—who’s a snake—says to me in front of all the other foreign correspondents and the foreign editor, in this kind of saccharine voice, “Chris, I heard you’ve been saying things about me behind my back?” And, I said, “No, Roger, there’s nothing I’ve ever said behind your back I wouldn’t say to your face. You’re a shit.”