07.26.17

The 40 year slump — in cities

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall at 1:59 pm by George Smith

Here, portrayed in thumbnail sketches, Wall Street/24-7’s 50 worst cities in the US, ranked at MSN.

Detroit is the expected number one. But there are some surprises — Miami Beach and Atlanta — for wide disparities in wealth. The rest mostly display hollowed out heartland names, Kansas City, St. Louis, Memphis, Rochester, Indianapolis, Rochester, Buffalo, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Youngstown, Cincy, Rockford (home of Cheap Trick!) all familiar, sent into irreversible decline by deindustrialization. Interior cities in Massachusetts don’t share in any of the growth of the Boston mega-nexus where Harvard, MIT and big pharma reign supreme. It literally is two states.

Reading, PA, is included in the thirties, a once pretty city in the countryside suffering a steady loss in population and fortune since the bankruptcy of the Reading railroad, a coal and steel shipper in 1971. The other winner in Pennsylvania is Philly.

None of the cities listed show any real prospects, a reflection of how the American empire has geniunely declined on the domestic front. It is not a picture of a country poised for any type of recovery.

07.20.17

40 year slump bills — opioid statistics and desparation

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Made in China, WhiteManistan at 12:30 pm by George Smith

At the New York Times, Thomas Edsall publishes a sobering statistic:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2014 that the number of opioid prescriptions outnumbered the number of people in 12 states. All 12 of these states voted for Donald Trump: Arkansas, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Also, the continuing study of the counties in the Rust Belt states that flipped voters from Obama to Trump:

The question that persists six months after Mr. Trump’s inauguration is why six key states — Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, along with 220 counties nationwide — flipped from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016. Why did these voters change their minds? These are men and women who are, in the main, still working, still attending church, still members of functioning families, but who often live in communities where neighbors, relatives, friends and children have been caught up in disordered lives.

Schuylkill County, where I grew up in Pennsylvania, was one of these counties.

And heroin overdoses were then unknown there. Not anymore.

In June, Schuylkill County Coroner Dr. David J. Moylan III said the possibility of 60 drug-related deaths is something he thought would be a reality in the county.

[In 2015], 26 people died in drug-related deaths. Twelve of those involved heroin and three were fentanyl related.

County coroner data as of Friday show of those 54 [2016 deaths] so far, fentanyl was involved in 27 of them.

I’ve made the argument before that opioid drug death and the lack of answer for it indicate the country is headed for very profound disruption and failure.

The accumulating costs of throwing half the country to the dogs in the 40 year slump.

07.15.17

Atlas Shrugged Care

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 11:27 am by George Smith

Courtesy of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, it’s the return of junk health insurance, more or less outlawed by Obamacare.

Explained at the New York Times, the policies that have been revived are just like my old policy prior to Obamacare. You couldn’t tell what it covered until you got sick. Then you discovered it didn’t cover anything.

From the Times:

These plans are “just the classic example of insurance that disappears exactly when you need it,” said Jay Angoff, a former state insurance official in Missouri and New Jersey, who also worked in the Obama administration overseeing the insurance marketplace … “We’re really moving back to a market where people are going to have a hard time reading through their plan options.”

This manner of cruelty is part of the DNA of the American way. And it makes my ditties evergreen.

This will never lack for appropriateness.

07.12.17

China crunch

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China, Rock 'n' Roll at 1:06 pm by George Smith

Seven years ago, in front of a real applauding audience in Pasadena.

Another evergreen theme. Seven years gone and again, something that could be a national creed.

Dig the guitar hero and listen for the made-in-China blues harp.

TURN IT UP!

07.11.17

Song for Warren Buffett to sing to his pals

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Made in China, Predator State, Psychopath & Sociopath, Rock 'n' Roll at 4:27 pm by George Smith

“Rich” + “tax” + “break”.

The national tune that never gets old.

Warren Buffett thinks the Republican health care bill has an alternative purpose: to help the already-wealthy make even more money.

The famed investor and world’s second-richest person had some choice words about the legislation currently being debated by the Senate, suggesting it could be called the “Relief for the Rich Act” during an interview with PBS NewsHour Tuesday.

My tunes, evergreen. Seriously. As good as Iggy & the Stooges, easy.

The unplugged version.

I gave up fighting. I’m with the tenor of the country. Take away my Medicaid. I am undeserving.

Remember, you can download the unplugged version for your gadget. Send it to a friend, even.

Now, please start a campaign to raise money for a Mitchell electric/acoustic guitar — 149 dollars at Guitar Center.


On a slightly more serious note: Can you believe this tuneage is fives years old and HAS ONLY BECOME MORE REAL? IT’S VIRTUALLY THE NATIONAL CREED.

A reader on guitar sales: You get old & die

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China, Rock 'n' Roll at 12:00 pm by George Smith

In response to Electric guitars have the blues:

Fred’s Music in Reading, where I would hang out religiously, closed. Supposedly he “retired. But I think it’s more due to no sales anymore. Live bands don’t exist. Show me a club in Reading that has live rock and roll=none. It’s dead. Once our generation passes, and that will be soon, rock is dead. Or when the Stones cease to exist, that is the end of Rock.

Just like High end Audio, or stereo systems, are dead. All kids use now is the stupid phone and earbuds. Remember you could walk into Boscov’s, and find a stereo section that had Marantz, AR, Dual, Kenwood? Good stuff. Nowadays high end audio is solely sustained by boomers, like me. After we’re dead it’s gone.

On the NSA & its malware

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism at 10:08 am by George Smith

The NSA leaking malware that comes back to bite everyone, in the news.

The Virus Creation Labs.

Been there. Done that. Seen it all.

At Good Reads.

Computer code changes with the times. The social behavioral code of human beings who do malware doesn’t.

People writing about the NSA’s ability to write malware should focus less on the fancy names — the Equation Group, Tailored Access — credited to the coders and more on how little they differ from those who walked the same ground many years earlier. The affection for special group names is a giveaway.


Selected quote from the New York Times…

In an email … Michael Anton, a spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House, noted that the government “employs a disciplined, high-level interagency decision-making process for disclosure of known vulnerabilities” in software, “unlike any other country in the world.”

Mr. Anton said the administration “is committed to responsibly balancing national security interests and public safety and security,” but declined to comment “on the origin of any of the code making up this malware.”

What makes them so special? Who decides who the deciders are? In 1994 the idea that virus-writers, amateurs or professionals be consulted over such matters would have struck the anti-virus business as insanely funny.

Any system the believes this at the same time it has pressured old school anti-virus man Eugene Kaspersky into revealing his source code is seriously screwed up.

[The] government has blamed others. Two weeks ago, the United States — through the Department of Homeland Security — said it had evidence North Korea was responsible for a wave of attacks in May using ransomware called WannaCry that shut down hospitals, rail traffic and production lines. The attacks on Tuesday against targets in Ukraine, which spread worldwide, appeared more likely to be the work of Russian hackers …

Blame-shifting.

“I’m not sure we understand the full capability of what can happen, that these sophisticated viruses can suddenly mutate into other areas you didn’t intend, more and more,” Mr. Panetta said. “That’s the threat we’re going to face in the near future.”

Anyone with any sense knew this about computer viruses and malware back in the early Nineties, perhaps earlier. Viruses tended to get into the most unexpected places.

In the past two months, attackers have retrofitted …

Twenty some years ago this is what over half of The Virus Creation Labs was about.

Mr. Panetta was among the officials warning years ago of a “cyber Pearl Harbor” that could bring down the American power grid. But he and others never imagined that those same enemies might use the N.S.A.’s own cyberweapons.

That’s because Mr. Panetta never read The Virus Creation Labs. And he was always wrong about cyber-Pearl Harbor, too.

But armed with the N.S.A.’s own tools, the limits are gone.

“We now have actors, like North Korea and segments of the Islamic State, who have access to N.S.A. tools who don’t care about economic and other ties between nation states,” said Jon Wellinghoff, the former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

American exceptionalism: The hubris that our malware writers are somehow better, self-restrained good-guys, superior to all others. Hilarious. Read The Virus Creation Labs.


Some other citations.

The original teaser in Computer underground Digest, 1994.

07.10.17

On Iggy & the Stooges

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 12:44 pm by George Smith

From the book Gimme Danger: The Story of Iggy Pop, by Joe Ambrose:

Use the hand-pointer in the window to scroll down to the end of the “Jeff Wald”-graf.

07.05.17

Electric guitars have the blues

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China, Rock 'n' Roll at 2:48 pm by George Smith

A reader points out a recent story in the Washington Post: Why my guitar gently weeps: The slow, secret death of the six-string electric. And why you should care.

Written by Geoff Edgers, it’s a good piece that touches on some subjects and people I’ve written about over the years, with special focus on the loss of sales of the primary middle class instrument of my generation: the electric guitar.

Today the electric guitar faces challenge from all sides. The most influential being the US economy just isn’t what it used to be. After 2007, it collapsed for a great part of the US middle class. And the electric guitar was and is an iconic MIDDLE class luxury buy.

Today there are two forces, one noted at a musical instrument seller’s convention (NAMM) by the reporter, glut and, two, lack of demand. The US economy has been sputtering along since the “recovery” at a paltry 2 percent growth rate. Sales of goods beyond necessities (of which the guitar is an example) have been hurting for a long while. Fender and Gibson, the primary American producer of electric guitars, are businesses caught in the doldrums with signficant debt overhang:

In the past decade, electric guitar sales have plummeted, from about 1.5 million sold annually to just over 1 million. The two biggest companies, Gibson and Fender, are in debt, and a third, PRS Guitars, had to cut staff and expand production of cheaper guitars. In April, Moody’s downgraded Guitar Center, the largest chain retailer, as it faces $1.6 billion in debt. And at Sweetwater.com, the online retailer, a brand-new, interest-free Fender can be had for as little as $8 a month.

I get a copy of the Sweetwater Pro Gear catalog. It’s a perfect example of glut, Sweetwater not being the only guitar rock business, businesses all selling the same thing to the same limited number of people at a time when there’s not a lot of cash to go around. The people hurting in middle America, in the heartland, those who voted for the President, are the potential buyers of electric guitars and times just aren’t what they used to be. There’s pain out there and it filters over into all manner of businesses, not just the sales of electric guitars. Middle age (or older) wasteland, call it. (Which is to say things would probably not be so grim if the economy was better for everyone, not just people in the right professions on the coasts).

At the music merchants’ convention in Anaheim, Edgers interviews George Gruhn. Ten years ago I touched on Gruhn as an American speculator in antiquities of sorts, in this case the electric guitar. It was in an article for the Los Angeles Times, one on conspicuous consumption just before the great economic crash. The items of interest were Gibson Les Paul electric guitars, ’59 vintage models, selling for a quarter of a million dollars and up:

Part of the Los Angeles Times’ new contemporary coverage of America is its glorification of conspicuous consumption. Weekly, features writers find the most annoying examples of Grotesquus Americanus. Then it proceeds to portray whatever herd of manipulators it has found as something swell. The point of it is to make you feel stupid or envious while marveling at the business acumen and immense good fortune of others.

Today’s example were men who hoard late-Fifties/early Sixties Gibson Les Paul Standard guitars painted in sunburst finishes.

An example of the ridiculous prices the instrument fetches is here at Gruhn Guitars, run by reseller/guitar collector/speculator …

Business in fantastically priced Les Pauls was apparently great. There was even a link, now dead, to Gruhn’s website whereupon you could see a picture of a Les Paul selling for 275,000 USD. And while this small part of the antiquities business may still be solid, the rest of the world of electric guitar has gone upside down. Paradoxically, it will not surprise readers that the expansion of sales of “cheaper guitars” has meant the offshoring to China and other Asian rim countries. Again, the mirroring of the US economy as a whole.

For the Post, Gruhn says the current business is “unsustainable.” This is obvious. There’s no actual market to allow the survival of hundreds of luthiers or electronic tinkerers making an endless supply of custom fuzztones in the United States.

Gruhn thinks its because there’s a lack of guitar heroes, as contrasted with days of yore.

Guitar heroes. They arrived with the first wave of rock-and-roll. Chuck Berry duckwalking across the big screen. Scotty Moore’s reverb-soaked Gibson on Elvis’s Sun records. Link Wray, with his biker cool, blasting through “Rumble” in 1958.

This is only maybe half right.

Gibson dies by their premium prices, in direct competition with luthiers and another maker in exactly the same space, Paul Reed Smith. This is at a time when demand hollowed out the middle. There’s the low end and a high end, and the high end is the smaller of the two.

The other side is boring old classic rock radio, now oldies stations although they’re not called that.

Jimmy Page / The Rolling Stones/ Clapton / Slash / Jeff Beck /Pete Townshend / Heart / Journey / Van Halen still have their radio exposure. Keep in mind none of the glory days musicians can make records anyone will pay money for. Digital cratered everything but their back catalogs. No one wants a new Ted Nugent record but he can still summer tour and Cat Scratch Fever still gets played on radio. Stubbornly, though, that radio territory is strictly out of reach of any new artists playing rock and roll.

Country music is one exception. Lots of classic rock and roll went to country and it’s not an accident a lot of guitar manufacturing, like Gibson, is in Nashville. Country music still features guitar heroes. One of them is a woman — Taylor Swift.

On the other hand, Link Wray never got played. He died an expat in Denmark, I think. In Europe he had an audience.

I play “Rumble”. People know that but it wasn’t on the radio during Zep or the Who’s heyday. Polydor even tied a release of “The Link Wray Rumble” to a blurb by Pete Townshend. The recommendations didn’t help. The record didn’t rise in the charts. “Rumble” wasn’t on the radio in 1974.

Even more tiresomely, the internet and freetardism has atomized the market, again — glut — has become a problem with everything making it impossible to record and make money in the the old way of development.

Couple it with the rupture of demand. The cash just isn’t there.

And sitting in front of a smartphone or laptop isn’t fun when playing guitar. It’s work. Not the same as playing along to an old record player.

Again — the Washington Post piece.


1. Rumble. A tribute. Note famous fight scene from They Live, wherein the thuds and cries are timed to the riffage.

06.28.17

Reviewed: American Anarchist & Control Room

Posted in Crazy Weapons, Culture of Lickspittle at 3:26 pm by George Smith

Control Room, now streaming on Hulu, takes viewers back to 2004 and the rise of al Jazeera as the Arab world’s first top rank Western-style news organization covering Iraqi Freedom. Relevant 13 years later, the original is from 2004 because Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and a couple other American toady nations have demanded Qatar suppress the news channel. In Control Room, it’s Central Command in Doha, the President and the US military against it for having the temerity to transmit both sides of the conflict, not just a sanitized US-approved version.

Control Room climaxes with a news event that has passed into obscure history: the US military’s attack on al Jazeera’s Baghdad operation as the city was being occupied, the result of which killed one of the agencies camera men. Two other journalists were also killed when the US military struck a Reuters/international news facility separately.

It’s menacing footage. Al Jazeera’s control room witnessing from afar as a US A-10 begins a missile attack run.

The bombing closed al Jazeera’s office in Baghdad and effectively ends the documentary. Al Jazeera is a small tv station arrayed against the most powerful military on the planet and it made that military angry. Message sent.

The reporters from al Jazeera are pros. They do their job, cynically noting behind the scenes the mishandling of the war as the US attempts to shape coverage. There is video American POWs (protested by the US military). But it was OK to show Iraqi POWs and dead men. There is more of American and British troops kicking down the doors of residences while Iraqis cower inside. Compared to today, when the latest news is a puff piece on America’s Otto Skorzenys and their commando operations are said to confer considerable advantages to the US side, al Jazeera was just doing its job.

Are there wars? Yes, certainly. Does the big American press cover them anymore? Not really. It takes too much effort to fight the war machine and the domestic audience doesn’t care.

At one point, one of al Jazeera’s editorial decision makers, a man who chain smokes like the character Nathan Thurm in old Saturday Night Live sketches, cynically notes that the pulling down of the statue of Saddam Hussein is (obviously to an Arab audience) an engineered stunt with an American-tanked in crowd of young men. Where are the women and neighbors another producer drily notes.

“David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, said in a statement that the demand ‘represents a serious threat to media freedom if states, under the pretext of a diplomatic crisis, take measures to force the dismantling of Al Jazeera,’ reads a news short today. At al Jazeera.

Paradoxically, David Kaye began his career at the US State Department.

Other affairs that have now faded into a distant fog: the folly of the production of a deck of playing cards with the faces of wanted Hussein regime leaders. (There are none made available to the press.) The Jessica Lynch rescue that wasn’t. (“Her Iraqi guards had long fled, she was being well cared for – and doctors had already tried to free her.” — the Guardian). A military spokesman’s absurd insistence that as Baghdad was being looted and the US military stood by that Iraqis should rise themselves and protect stuff. And, at the end, Mission Accomplished.

By the end of Control Room, remember this was in 2004, there is the dawning recognition that we’d triggered an epic human catastrophe still to unfold.


A poignant documentary of William Powell, the author of The Anarchist Cookbook, is currently streaming on Netflix. American Anarchist traces Powell’s life in simple interview from the age of 19, when angered by the Vietnam War he set about to write it, to a long segment in which he expresses “remorse” over the bloody path of mayhem, plots and murder to which its pages may have contributed.

Anyone who has become familiar with American far-right anarchist listerature is also aware that Powell’s cookbook is the volume with the biggest footprint — 2 million copies sold world wide; uncountable copies now distributed by the web.

Indeed, The Anarchist Cookbook has had many offspring, some of which like the Mujahideen’s Poisons Handbook (contructed from the American volume, The Poisoner’s Handbook) have been dealt with quite closely on this blog.

And as everyone who walked the territory of the web in the mid-Nineties, the electronic versions were everywhere, to such an extent that they became things investigators looked for when prosecuting domestic as well as international cases of terrorism and murder.

What will stun the viewer is that Powell was largely unaware of it all. He took up a career in teaching in the far reaches of the world and with his wife, leading training couses on how to teach and reach children who aren’t motivated by traditional pedagogy. In so doing he spent much time in Africa, noting at one point that his family didn’t even have a television and so news from America was virtually non-existent.

This does not deter the interviewer who doggedy walks Powell through the laundry list of very bad people who were fond to be in possession of his book. As the documentary proceeds its clear that the black history of it in bombings and shootings have weighed heavily upon him and his wife.

In 2000 Powell disowned the book on Amazon. Thirteen years later, for the Guardian, he asked that those publishing it cease doing so. Did he, however, do enough? I think so but the answer is left to every viewer.

In the mid-Eighties Powell could not possibly have known what would happen with The Anarchist Cookbook. He believed it be a poorly written fad book on bomb-making, violence and sabotage that was fading in popularity. Powell, along with everyone else, didn’t see what cyberspace and the nascent web would do for the book: Make it easily available to everyone, not just to visitors of odd bookshops, survivalists and gun show anti-government fanatics. Digital existence bundled the book into its growing family of recipes-for-death literature and made the whole mix easily searchable on the web.

For example, one of its lesser offspring mentioned above, the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook, no longer in the dark but mainstream (virtually), for everyone, like it or not.

The majority of Powell’s life was spent in loving education of the world’s impoverished, very very far from the path taken by The Anarchist Cookbook in America. And American Anarchist leaves no room for doubt that this vocation was very dear to his heart.

As a good man and sadly, The Anarchist Cookbook trailed Powell into death, of which the world did not become aware until movie reviewers saw it as a note at the end of America’s Anarchist in March of this year, that its subject had died a short time after the interviews took place.


1. From the New York Times:

The book, a precursor to more recent publications like “The Mujahideen Poisons Handbook” and “Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla,” was at times angry, but it also came with cautionary notes (“This book is not for children or morons”)…

2. The Mujahideen Poisons Handbook — here, here and here.

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