04.06.17

Wry wisdoms too good to pass up

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 11:45 am by George Smith

[The] gains to the winners from trade are larger than the losses to the losers. This means that we should be able to compensate the losers and make everyone better off.

[But] compensation to the losers is invariably a joke. They don’t get s**t, and then we call them names when they vote for Trump. — Dean Baker, from Yes Folks, Trade Deficits Really Can Create Unemployment


I might add that the usual prescriptions, “like creating green jobs…new [projects] to lay broadband fiber nationwide to boost jobs and productivity” [this from the Washington Post] are still shit.

People need the high velocity money that came with middle manufacturing work. There will never be enough high-paying green jobs that workers can step into to pick up the slack. And retraining doesn’t work. You would get better results by simply dropping money on the populace, impossible in this place. Which means the country, practically speaking, is incapable of saving itself.

In addition, the idea that the private sector might cause some surge in the “laying of broadband to boost productivity” is politically and economically laughable in 2017 America.


On music

“Most listeners will abandon anything too jarringly different before [30 seconds of it play] so there’s an incentive for artists to draw on a small pool of bankable writers, producers and styles. ‘I call it the shit-click factor,’ says [Chart UK’s James] Masterton. ‘If a record is too challenging, then people will say, What’s this? It’s shit, and click on to the next one. There used to be room on the charts for something dynamic and exciting … I can’t see the circumstances right now where that could happen.’” — from The Guardian, no link.

Time flies on the down escalator

Posted in Crazy Weapons, Culture of Lickspittle at 9:40 am by George Smith

Another musical measuring stick in the Culture of Lickspittle. Half a decade in and things are, astonishingly, much worse than when The National Anthem was written. Even the fictitious movie poster can’t quite do the national apathy and horror justice. Bombing paupers is our most famous character trait.

04.05.17

Root hog then die — proven by science

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Shoeshine, WhiteManistan at 2:00 pm by George Smith

Deindustrialization, globalism and the US EQUALS lethal. “Deaths of despair” — proven by science. File under “Trump and the big fail, reasons for.”

From the intro:

In “Mortality and morbidity in the 21st century,” Princeton Professors Anne Case and Angus Deaton follow up on their groundbreaking 2015 paper that revealed a shocking increase in midlife mortality among white non-Hispanic Americans, exploring patterns and contributing factors to the troubling trend.

Case and Deaton find that while midlife mortality rates continue to fall among all education classes in most of the rich world, middle-aged non-Hispanic whites in the U.S. with a high school diploma or less have experienced increasing midlife mortality since the late 1990s. This is due to both rises in the number of “deaths of despair”—death by drugs, alcohol and suicide—and to a slowdown in progress against mortality from heart disease and cancer, the two largest killers in middle age.

“The authors suggest that the increases in deaths of despair are accompanied by a measurable deterioration in economic and social wellbeing, which has become more pronounced for each successive birth cohort,” it continues.

Shorthand: Root hog then die. The economic model for the United States and its cost to the middle class.

As such the increasing mortality is a symptom of national failure. Of the installation of an every man for himself economy for the majority while the top slice has rewritten the rules governing the economy to redistribute all wealth into its own maw.

Unsurprisingly, it’s now difficult to overlook. And that’s primarily because of another symptom, the election of Donald Trump in what can be described as a scream of pain and revenge against the system, no matter how unproductive and disastrous the result.

Having said that, careful consideration would lead one to believe it is not a problem that can be quickly solved. If it can be solved by this United States.

As long as death rates continue to rise, the country will be essentially ungovernable, lurching from crisis to crisis to anarchy and breakdown as all faith in a shared prosperity and ruling institutions go up in smoke.

If the researchers continue their work I would expect them to find in the coming years that the entire white cohort, not just the non-colleged educated, experiences the same decline.

At this blog I had a category, not used often, for that cohort: Shoeshine. The Shoeshine were those colleged educated workers, living in the cities, still deemed necessary to do the gut administrative work for America’s plutocrats. In other words, the over-educated high button services help.

As per one obvious example:

Shoeshine: Those people you know on Facebook who’ve been spending their time clutching their pearls and condemning all the other white people, not them of course, who voted for Trump.

Another great example: Paradoxically, all those at big web media who’ve been allowed to write about the “deaths of despair.” You’ll have noticed that very few, if any, of those actually dieing the “deaths of despair” get chosen to write about their first-hand experience. That would be cutting too close to the bone. Only the social cosmetic services help gets the privilege.

So you see that it hasn’t yet occurred to most of The Shoeshine that they’re living on borrowed time. Eventually, the root hog then die economy will come for them, too, although it may take a few more years.

This blog has been called Escape from WhiteManistan. That needed revision. There is no escape.


Quote of the Day, from economist Dean Baker on his Beat the Press blog: “The main economic story of the last four decades is the massive upward redistribution of income that has taken place. The top one percent’s share of national income has more than doubled over this period from roughly ten percent in the late 1970s to over twenty percent today. And, this is primarily a before-tax income story, the rich have used their control over the levers of economic power to ensure that an ever larger share of the country’s wealth goes into their pockets. (Yes, this is the topic of my book, Rigged [it’s free].)

I called it the 40 Year Slump, from living it in the Rust Belt.

It remains one of the best things from this blog:

I’ve been storing up the energy to for a review of “Slap Shot,” the Seventies movie with Paul Newman as the player coach of the Charlestown Chiefs (modeled on the Johnstown Jets) of western Pennsylvania. I have an old videotape and have had it on replay. “Slap Shot” can also be viewed through the lens of America’s forty year slump, a movie framed at the time big business resurrected a devotion to unrestricted preying on its human labor, and — as it turned out — hundreds of millions of future livelihoods.

The backdrop for “Slap Shot” is the perfect picture of it. The steel mill is set to close in “Charlestown,” laying off thousands.

“Ten thousand people put on waivers,” says Ned Braden (Michael Ontkean), the Charlestown Chiefs’ leading scorer, to Paul Newman, as both stand outside the steel mill waiting for a ride from Lily (Lindsay Crouse), Braden’s wife.

“What’s going to happen to them?” Newman, as Reggie Dunlop, the Chiefs’ player/coach asks.

It’s every man for himself, replies Braden.

They realize it’s the end for the Chiefs. No money, no ticket sales. What there are of the fans won’t be spending what they have left at War Memorial ice hockey arena.


I grew up through that systemic result in Pennsylvania.

From the mid-70’s to today, one unrelenting slump.

It never got better. More jobs were always lost. People made less and less money. There were no moments when anything turned around.

Occasionally, because of presidential propaganda, people felt better about it.

Largely, we bought the swill about “trickle down economics,” the need to squash labor unions, that firing thousands of people was “right-sizing” to get lean, mean and efficient, that life would be a different set of opportunities in which you’d go back to school or be trained four or five times, every ten to fifteen years, this so you would fit the workforce of the glorious future!

All convenient lies. And that’s only a fraction of it.

Over half a decade on the down escalator

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 11:28 am by George Smith

Astonishingly, it’s been six years since “Taxavoidination” was made.

It’s been a great measuring stick in the Culture of Lickspittle. Six years ago there was this big noise and outrage of how mega-corporate America was ripping off the government. Atrocity! Outrage! Pay your taxes! Surely things would change. And then the big no, the big wall, the resumption of the great downward slide. Things have gotten progressively worse for everyone I know.

Selah!


The dancing elephant is just a serendipitous bonus.

04.04.17

Critical merit, diversity — negatives when it comes to success in comics

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, WhiteManistan at 12:44 pm by George Smith

Two pieces of news on Marvel properties have some relevance to our current national predicament this week. First up, news that nobody cared about the horrid reviews Iron Fist on Netflix gathered during its roll out. Almost unanimously condemned for not casting the lead character, Danny Rand, as an Asian American, subsequent viewing statistics seemed to indicate it was a Netflix blockbuster:

“Marvel’s Iron Fist” drew some of the most scathing reviews that any Netflix series has earned. But the critical dog pile apparently did little to dampen enthusiasm for the show.

The superhero drama’s March 17 premiere was the most binge-watched this year for a Netflix drama, according to data from research firm 7Park Data, which measures number of streams on subscription video services. The company found that 54.7% of “Iron Fist” streams on the premiere date were of episodes three or higher. The average hour-long show on Netflix has a binge score of 46.9%.

“Iron Fist” also accounted for 14.6% of all Netflix streams on March 17 — the highest percentage of any series premiere that 7Park measured, topping “Stranger Things” (4.0%), “Marvel’s Luke Cage” (12.8%), “Marvel’s Daredevil” Season 2 (13.8%), and “Orange is the New Black” Season 4.

You’ll recall the hilarious Guardian opinion by Kendra James last week. Iron Fist was rotten because all its white characters sucked. But not its two not-white supporting women.

“Iron Fist was the first Marvel TV series to receive critical scorn,” reads The Independent.

The paper’s original review: “A rich, privileged white guy with more arrogance than brains loses everything.”

As a rich, privileged white guy he immediately did what we know most privileged white guys do at big corporations: make their lifesaving drugs available at cost and vow to shutter a plant that was said to be dumping carcinogens into the locals’ water.

Hmmm. Sarcasm.

Fast forward to now. Sales of Marvel comics are off and one of its managers opines:

[Speaking] at the Marvel retailer summit about the studio’s falling comic sales since October, David Gabriel told ICv2 that retailers had told him that fans were sticking to old favourites. “What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity,” he said. “They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not.”

He added: “I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales … Any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up.”

The piece is accompanied by clip art of Riri Williams, the African American teenage girl who’s the new Invincible Irom Man while Tony Stark lies in a coma.

Williams makes for a dull Iron Man (she’s named Ironheart) and since classic Iron Man generally depends on its brute force approach, Stark in armor beating adversaries half to death with his fists and repulsor rays, you can see this news from sales must have some Marvel editors breathing a sigh of relief. Stark’s coma will be shortened and Riri Williams quietly offloaded to a separate intermittent title or reduced to sidekick status.

And make no mistake, Riri Williams’ Iron Man is a poor one. Totally unready and unbelievable as someone who wins battles with armored fists, so far her trick has been to write computer viruses that cause her foes to crash. It’s not sustainable in the classic Marvel sense.

None of this matter in the moment, though. Social media and features writers immediately forced Marvel’s David Gabriel to say he really didn’t mean what he said. The wise people of the web insisted diversity isn’t what’s hurting Marvel in 140-character chunks. Too many titles and Captain America as a Hydra Nazi were. Never mind that the multiplication of Marvel titles has been mostly clustered around diversity characters.

Example:

America Chavez, a Latina and lesbian superhero, saves an alien planet, enrolls at Sotomayor University and punches Adolf Hitler in the first issue of her new Marvel comic book series. But what’s being celebrated as most fantastic in this comic is that Gabby Rivera, a young-adult author who is gay and Latina herself, is writing the adventures of America.

Keep in mind the New York Times didn’t get excited at all about the resurrection of the Iron Fist comic title. In its premier issue the character, angry, middle-aged and white, spends most of the page time breaking the jaws and assorted bones of other unnamed martial arts gangsters in dingy bars. And that’s not critically cool at all.

So here’s one possible interpretation and it’s guaranteed unpopular. Diversity comic titles get good press. They’re guaranteed clickbait. But the titles don’t sell like Marvel’s old white legacy stars.

The sooner Marvel sends its social outreach to the bench, the better for sales. Not to fear, no character’s loss is ever really permament.


The mainstream rags on Marvel.

03.31.17

Trade and the mouthpiece of the meritocracy

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China at 12:23 pm by George Smith

Since the advent of Trump the New York Times has gone all in for defending the meritocracy status quo. Partof the duty is taken up in defense of global trade. It’s all good. Tariffs are bad.

Today the newspaper delivers a ‘splainer that’s part of the effort in Who Wins and and Who Loses if Trump Puts up Trade Walls:

This [tariff installing] approach could result in higher barriers to imports that would end America’s decades-long status as the world’s most open large economy. This could lead to slightly higher prices in the United States for everything from Chilean grapes to iPhones to gasoline. But it could also provide a boost to companies and workers who make things in the United States and sell them abroad.

Heavens, more expensive iPhones! And Chilean grapes! I know for a fact grapes are grown in California. I’ve seen them!

The Times goes to great lengths to show that trade is good even though it has done bad things to the American worker. Unfortunately, the Times’ own illustrations mostly refutes its approach. The trade deficit is shown as hu-u-u-ge with China. And getting worse. China is, unlike this country, protectionist. It uses value added taxes on imports to protect its own manufacturing base, something the US does not do.

Economist Dean Baker has spent most of the last twelve months soundly debunking the NYT establishment line. And he did it again this week here:

The extraordinary plunge in manufacturing jobs in the years 2000 to 2007 was due to the explosion of the trade deficit … It is incredible how acceptable it is for our elites to lie about trade rather than deal with the issue candidly. “

“This level of dishonesty separates trade out from most other areas of public debate,” Baker states flatly.

You know what I think.

03.27.17

Flipping out over Iron Fist

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, WhiteManistan at 1:44 pm by George Smith

I enjoyed Marvel’s “Iron Fist” on Netflix. Since the early reviews were all horribly negative I figured I’d like it. I could care less Danny Rand wasn’t Asian. Doesn’t the script make it obvious? Rand was the first “outsider” Iron Fist.

Iron Fist’s maker, the character is four decades old and minor in the Marvel pantheon, said he didn’t care, either. It was apparently the worst thing he could do: Another Stan Lee age white guy reiterating that the kung fu master was white, yes, and he didn’t care that it was cast that way.

Currently, the new Iron Fist comic — on issue number one — well, the hero is still very white and old school Marvel. Like almost all decades old Marvel characters.

So someone named Kendra James writes another hit piece at the Guardian, so over the top it’s to laugh.

Here are some of the better lines:

Marvel’s latest Netflix show is a staggering disappointment but despite its star’s assertions, it can’t be blamed on our growing distaste for rich white privilege …


No one in Iron Fist has earned anything – whether it’s their money, their powers or even our grudging respect.
(Actually, Danny Rand, once he inherits over half his dad’s company, immediately declares the firm’s drug that cures elephantiasis in Africa will be sold at cost, a move that horrifies board members. That’s worth respect considering the way corporate America prices drugs. And he pays to improve his girlfriend’s dojo.)


Avengers: Age of Ultron was a movie entirely about why more white men should be told “No.”


[All the white characters] stand in stark contrast to Claire and Colleen, two women who wield skills that they’ve had to perfect over the course of their lives. The idea that Colleen has had to work at her skill, martial arts, while Rand relies mostly on a given power is obvious throughout the series. (According to the story he was in a plane crash that killed his parents and spent many years as a kid getting beaten with sticks during martial arts training before he became Iron Fist).

The Guardian publishes often great investigative journalism. And Owen Jones alone, infrequently in the opinion section defending the working class and ridiculing England’s toffs, is reason enough to turn to it daily.

But the Iron Fist takedown is lousy reviewing and so late to the party it’s only a me too. It’s such a poor piece of work it crosses over into unintentional humor. The critic’s analysis: Iron Fist is a terrible show, not because Danny Rand is distastefully white and wealthy but because … uh, he’s white, rich and undeserving, compared to the girls. And all the other white characters stink, too. But the not-white girls are great. Did I tell you that?

By the way, the new Invincible Iron Man, who is an African-American teenage girl named Riri Williams, has nothing on the original. I’ve read this is a lousy opinion to have. Eventually it will flop and Stark will be back from the near dead.

03.16.17

Otto Skorzeny would have frowned on SEAL Team 6

Posted in Bombing Paupers, Culture of Lickspittle, War On Terror at 12:38 pm by George Smith

After World War II, Hitler’s top commando, Otto Skorzeny — the man who rescued Il Duce, became a globe-trotting businessman and general purpose p.r. man and re-entry resource for old Nazi soldiers. He even promoted movie-making on them to slight success. While a biographical war movie about himself was deep-sixed, Skorzeny was successful in helping gather interest for making a Hollywood blockbuster, The Battle of the Bulge, a partial character study of a leading German panzerman, and getting a retired Wermacht officer a job as a consultant to it.

Robert Shaw, years later better known as “Quint” in Jaws, was cast as ruthless German army tank commander “Martin Hassler.” But “Hassler” was a dodge. The part was originally to be Jochen Peiper, a Waffen SS tank commander whose unit was responsible for the Malmedy massacre of American prisoners of war. Realizing members of the VFW-American Legion wouldn’t think highly of such a movie, the Peiper part was replaced by a composite ringer, Hassler, who was portrayed in the regular Germany army. The Battle of the Bulge was an atrocious bomb redeemed by the odd twist that it can now be viewed as comedy, a monument to stumblebum movie-making employing Hollywood’s A-list.

Starring Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson and Telly Savalas as American heroes, the battle starts in the winter. Or at least shows snow and pine trees. By the end though all historical pretense is abandoned. A climactic tank battle takes place on what looks like a dusty summer plain — in Franco’s Spain. Where there were plenty of American tanks to use as German panzers.

Today the Intercept reports on another messed up operation by SEAL Team 6 in Yemen, one that was aborted before action:

NAVY SEALS attempted to conduct another raid inside Yemen earlier this month but aborted the mission at the last minute, according to a senior U.S. military official.

Members of SEAL Team 6 deployed to Yemen in early March for a ground assault targeting suspected members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a group U.S. officials view as the most dangerous branch of the terrorist organization. The aborted mission followed a botched January 29 raid in the village of al Ghayil, in al Bayda province. That raid left a Navy SEAL dead and two others seriously injured, and killed more than two dozen Yemeni civilians, including at least 16 women and children.

But why Otto Skorzeny, the reader may ask. Why not? If you need a reason: Because SEAL Team 6 has degenerated into nothing more than a deadly and never-ending shaggy dog story.


On Otto Skorzeny:

In a bunch Skorzeny’s men ran into the entrance of the hotel and collided with a stream of Italian soldiers, struggling with their weapons and helmets, trying frantically to get outside. The Germans cut right through them and booted the support from beneath a machine gun set up in the hall.

Skorzeny ignored the Italians. He butted his way through them: they were too close and too intermingled with his own men to allow him to use his machine pistol safely. He ran up the nearest flight of stairs, and at the first turn of the landing saw Mussolini, guarded by two young Italian officers.

Skorzeny hesitated. The two Italians were similarly hesitant. Lieutenant Schwerdt came through the door behind the CO. At the nearest window two faces appeared, surmounted by the brimless German paratroop helmets. His men had shinned up the lightning conductor. The Italian officers realized that they hadn’t a chance of fighting it out, and raised their hands in surrender.

The Italians were hustled out and Skorzeny posted Schwerdt as the Duce’s new bodyguard. Now dragging in the two men, Holzer and Benz, he stared out at the scene below. Radl, followed by his team, was running towards the hotel, and behind them crawled Obersturmführer Menzel, who had broken his ankle during the landing. Some way off the men from Glider No. 5 were also rushing towards the hotel …

There was some bewildered shouting, then a bareheaded, moustached colonel appeared.

‘I ask your immediate surrender,’ Skorzeny said in French. ‘Mussolini is already in our hands. We hold the building. If you want to avert senseless bloodshed you have sixty seconds to go and reflect.’ Skorzeny waited anxiously, watching the terrain for signs of further Italian resistance. But he need not have worried. Before the minute was up, the Italian colonel reappeared, and in both hands he carried a glass of red wine. With a slight bow he proffered the big German commando the token of surrender. ‘To the victor,’ he said simply.

Skorzeny thanked him and drank the wine; he was thirsty anyway. Outside there was the sound of cheers. Someone had flung a white bedsheet out of an upper window as a sign of capitulation, and the hotel was theirs.

Skorzeny thanked him and drank the wine; he was thirsty anyway. Outside there was the sound of cheers. Someone had flung a white bedsheet out of an upper window as a sign of capitulation, and the hotel was theirs.

At last Skorzeny had time for Mussolini. The Duce was unshaven and wearing a blue-grey suit that was too big for him, but there was no mistaking the joy in his broad face. Skorzeny clicked to attention. ‘Duce,’ he proclaimed formally, realizing that this was an historic moment, ‘I have been sent by the Leader to set you free.’

From Otto Skorzeny: The Most Dangerous Man in Europe by Charles Whiting.


According to The Intercept’s ongoing coverage of SEAL Team 6, the commandos had a favorite Nazi soldier, or group of them. But they weren’t real, rather being just characters in some paperbacks about ex-Waffen SS men performing atrocities in Viet Nam.

03.14.17

Otto Skorzeny didn’t fight a forever war

Posted in Bombing Paupers, Culture of Lickspittle, War On Terror at 12:45 pm by George Smith

Otto Skorzeny, the Third Reich’s top commando, didn’t go on missions for fifteen years. After the war ended he became a globe-trotting businessman, consultant and something of an ombudsman and one man p.r. operation for old Nazi soldiers. But more on this a bit later.

From the New York Times a couple days ago when Andrew Bacevich, one of the few military men who writes honest pieces on the state of the greatest nation in world history, contributed:

What are we to make of the chasm between effort expended and results achieved [in Afghanistan]? Why on those increasingly infrequent occasions when Afghanistan attracts notice do half-truths and pettifoggery prevail, rather than hard-nosed assessments? Why has Washington ceased to care about the Afghan war?

The answer, it seems to me, is this: As with budget deficits or cost overruns on weapons purchases, members of the national security apparatus — elected and appointed officials, senior military officers and other policy insiders — accept war as a normal condition.


That our impulsive commander in chief may one day initiate some new war in a fit of pique is a worrisome prospect. That neither President Trump nor anyone else in Washington seems troubled that wars once begun drag on in perpetuity is beyond worrisome.

Andrew Bacevich is just about the best writer we have on the modern US military and its never-ending employment in decade-and-a-half-long campaigns.

When “worrisome” is the best word NYT editors will let him employ in describing the state of everlasting war that runs itself, everything can be said to be broken. Language fails. There really is no way out and no end in sight.


From Hitler’s Warrior, on Otto Skorzeny (he’s not the book’s primary subject):

Thw SS colonel was still in touch with Otto Skorzeny, who was wheeling and dealing in the scrap metal business from Spain when not jet-setting with his wife, Ilse, to South America, Paris or the Alps. Even if unspoken, Skorzeny always made it known to Jochen Peiper that should things get too bad in Germany, there was always a haven for him under Franco’s protection in Madrid. For his part, Skorzeny was living completely open, unafraid, and a publicity hound. Amazingly Skorzeny was working with a literary agent in Los Angeles, attempting to bring his life story to the big screen in Hollywood: Commando Extraordinary! Warner Brothers and United Artists nearly bit on the script. But such cinematic planning halted suddenly when focus groups revealed a shortcoming in brilliant contrast to the box office smash of George C. Scott as Patton; the new story would glorify a Nazi hero! In the end Skorzeny’s efforts to portray himself as an apolitical commando hero disintegrated…

Times have changed.

03.13.17

Otto Skorzeny didn’t pilot a drone

Posted in Bombing Paupers, Culture of Lickspittle, War On Terror at 11:15 am by George Smith

Headline at The Guardian: US retires Predator drones after 15 years that changed the ‘war on terror’.

Superseded by more capable “Reaper” drone.

Fifteen years with no end in sight. Empirically determined, not a war winning weapon.

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