The tech nerd pest’s commonplace notion that an “app” is the answer to every problem in the world is a natural for our culture of lickspittles.
This week the perfect item for the progressive gadget nerd is Buycott, an app made in the child’s belief that the Koch Brothers can be undermined if we could just all check what products their multi-billion dollar business empire puts in supermarkets.
Fight back! Wave your Buycott equipped iJunk over the bar codes and don’t buy AngelSoft toilet paper people! That will fucking show them!
With the Koch Brothers vanquished and the Citizens United decision only an unpleasant fading memory, the world will be at your swiping fingertip.
App developers will turn their attention to vanquishing all bad things through automated on-line petitioning and smartphone waving.
As Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg solved the problem of global organ donation over a bottle of posh wine with his wife, so will apps available on iTunes do away with malaria, the need for 48 million Americans to be on foodstamps and the regime of Bashar Hafez Assad. (I even have a name for the last one: RUSyriass.)
With national deployment of Buycott the grip of corporate America will loosen and worker’s rights will undergo a new renaissance.
“Buycott is still working on adding new data to its back end and fine-tuning its information on corporate ownership structures,” reads one helpful piece at Forbes. “Most companies in the current database actually own more brands than Buycott has on record. The developers are asking shoppers to help improve their technology by inputting names of products they scan that the app doesn’t already recognize.”
Crowd-sourcing will triumph. Once the word is out, millions of users will see to it that Buycott’s database is complete, comprehensive and error free! Just like everything that’s done by flash mobs united by social technology.
Newton — Pine Grove Municipal Swimming Pool Splash Party, ca. ‘71-’72.
Taken by my father, George C. Smith, Jr., a Polaroid of my rock n roll band, Newton, at a Pine Grove swimming pool splash party. He could never get anything right, cutting his son almost entirely out of the picture. Did it occur to him to back up a couple steps or take an angle?
It’s the only thing left, besides some childhood books, of my old life in Pine Grove, PA. I’d forgotten about it until this week when I opened a trade paperback, bought a few years ago in Pasadena, and it fell out. I’d been using it as a bookmark. The polaroid is still nice and stiff after forty-some years.
Credits, from left to right, classmate Rodney Felty, Mike Pijar on drums, Ray Symons and me. Harry Brommer, an old friend and the pool’s handyman, built the stage we played on. Part of the reason we got the gig was because two of us were lifeguards AND I had a Fender Vibrolux Reverb amp. John Herber, the swimming pool supervisor had had a band in that played through Fender “reverb” amps the year before and liked the sound.
It was an uncharacteristically cool summer night and most of the audience did not swim at all.
Both my parents are dead now — George Jr., the keepsake photographer, and Mary Elizabeth Smith. The photo doesn’t make me miss them.
They had the good luck to be part of the time when the middle class was at its height in the USA. The first college graduates in their families, they found jobs straight out of Penn State, my father as an accountant for Alcoa Aluminum, my mother as a school teacher at Pine Grove Area.
They had no debt, lived in apartment for about one year before moving into a new home in the freshly-minted Legion Acres subdivision of the Pine Grove borough.
My mother was able to quit her career as a school teacher to have children and start it right up again a few years later, scarcely missing a beat. Alcoa Aluminum felt the early wave of the great de-industrialization of America and closed the largest extrusion plant in the world in Cressona, PA. My dad’s job was spared. He quickly transferred to a small bottlecap producing facility near Lancaster.
I visited it once, a pathetic place, mostly automated where you had to wear plastic ear plugs all day. Alcoa, it seemed, could still domestically make soda pop bottlecaps at a profit in the late Seventies.
I never liked my parents much. Besides the outward physical similarity in looks, I had nothing in common with them. They were mediocre. Although they had a good start they were ill-suited to raising children, mostly because they lacked empathy and warmth. They took what society and time gave them, doing just what everyone else they knew did.
That was OK. America is and was a huge country, one where you can’t have a vibrant civilization (which we don’t have) where everyone has to be at the very tip-top of the global totem pole in coveted skills.
They didn’t have to deal with the stupid lies we’re fed daily by the 1 percent and Tom Friedmans of the country. My parents thought the United States would always be the best place in the world. They were full of aphorisms about it.
“Time is money,” George Jr. always said, a lesson he learned from business. Yes, in corporate America your time is worth less and less money, maybe almost nothing.
Neither my father nor my mother liked writing, or music, or language and thought, or reading. (Paradoxically, my mother became a reading teacher later in her career. She did not read books and took mine when she needed to put something in her middle school classroom library.)
And they didn’t understand science at all although they believed it was very important I be trained as a scientist.
So as I got older the family disconnection always worsened. It was happening when I was playing guitar in Newton at the Pine Grove swimming pool.
Whose kid was I? Not theirs. We shared nothing, not a single blessed value. What, when, who or why? There were no answers.
So I’m looking at the swimming pool photo, again this week: Half-assed but good enough for three-quarters.
I’ve outlived the man who took it. My father died in the mid-Eighties, younger than I am now. Not a moment in our lives has been the same. DD came along a few years after he was gone. We would not have been pals.
Another ugly paradox: Corporate health care gave him the best benefits to be had, no questions asked. These kept him alive for five years after cancer struck. Congruent with modern America, I’ve had no health insurance for a number of years. Before that I had a program familiar to many, one that only pays for treatment of catastrophic illness, one that will eventually kill you. No treatments for the dozens of things people normally need to go to the doctor for.
This is what my parents had for life. It was not because they were spectacular examples of American exceptionalism, because they had some mythic work ethic, some always fresh and absolutely essential worth in the machine. It was because they came into the economic system before it had turned into a grinder that would gradually pit all against all. The country had enough leaders who believed a great society should not just be a matter of fortune at birth and root, hog or die.
You never can tell what an old photo will trigger in the head.
Something you miss? Or a distant condition already vanishing when the photo is taken, then quickly gone, the flickering half-life of a short-lived isotope, a fluke.
In the age of Google the memory of a family name is framed by the member who’s the best writer. Often not the person you want it to be.
Why, living under the perpetual smog column from the superhighway that bisects my beloved Pasadena!
And Thursday is the morning for four hours of apartment complex leaf blower action.
A new acquaintance recently visited Pasadena for a national convention of art museum librarians. The weather, as usual, was great and she remarked in a message to me that being very fair, she was going to put on sun block before hitting Colorado.
I told her not to worry much about sunburn. In twenty years, I’ve never been sunburned anywhere within a mile of the highway, at best, reddened a little. Can’t happen. In the middle of summer, average days, the mountain disappears. Reflective particulates, an invisibility cloak.
Now, Santa Barbara — on the other hand. Fifteen minutes anytime after 11:00 am, fried.
You don’t really think a few lines of computer code are going to crash the world down around are ears, do you? I’m disappointed, I’m disappointed in you, Sherlock …
I knew you’d fall for it. That’s your weakness. You always want things
to be clever. — Jim Moriarty, The Reichenbach Fall
Took a while to get to it but the New Yorker ran such a thoroughly insipid piece on the matter of cyberwar, it deserves mention for its slapdash collection of pasted-together assertions and idiotic anecdotes.
The distinction between a war with guns and a war with bits is blurring.
(But did the New Yorker writer ask for the opinions on the matter from those bombed or shot?)
Throughout the conflict in Syria, rebels have used YouTube to foment outrage and to tell their stories. A sentence can tell you that blood flows in the streets, but a handheld camera can show it.
The government in Damascus meanwhile has sent out malware and published its own videos …
The so-called Syrian Electronic Army spun the U.S. stock market into a panic by hacking into the Twitter account of the Associated Press …
More recently, hackers broke into the Twitter feed of The Onion [and posted something inane] …
The Internet has helped to open up [Iran] in recent years, as Evan Osnos has written. But the government remains far more lion than wildebeest.
(As Evan Osnos has written. Of course!)
On shutting off the Internet: It’s terrible for business, creates chaos, and enrages the world.
(Did shutting off the Internet in Syria enrage you or appear to enrage many of your friends? Do you think it enraged the President?)
Last year, the security firm Renesys published a study on just how hard it would be to shut off the Internet in countries around the world. Sixty-one were at “severe risk …”
Cyberwar explained, allegedly. Or, rather, cyberwar discussion as a squirt of intellectual air-freshener for the posh.
“Nicholas Thompson is a grandson of Paul Nitze, one of the subjects of his most recent book, which gave him unprecedented access while researching his book. In March 2013, Thompson received a 21st Century Leader award from the National Committee on American Foreign Policy. He is also an acoustic guitarist and has released three albums of original instrumental music.” — Wikipedia
“This biographical article is written like a résumé … Please help improve it,” reads the site.
It’s hard to believe a guy volunteered to tell this story to the New York Times (although the personal business stimulus may be valuable):
SAN FRANCISCO — In the month since two men violently shoved him to the ground and stole his iPhone 5, Dalton Huckaby has almost completely stopped calling his mother. It usually takes him a full day to text his friends back. Nothing personal, but Mr. Huckaby is just too frightened to take his replacement iPhone out in public.
“I never thought this would happen to me,” said Mr. Huckaby, 39, a personal trainer, who since the robbery, which he called an iCrime, has become the kind of person who patrols his neighborhood streets in San Francisco warning strangers about the dangers of using their smartphones out in the open.
“Happen to see about the horrible violence you incurred …” reads the Facebook page.
The New York Times has advice to keep you and your iPhone out of the grasp of predators:
BE LIKE A DOLPHIN Dolphins sleep with one eye open, to stay semi-alert to lurking predators and unexpected danger. If you need to use your phone in the wilds of the subway or sidewalk, do so discreetly, reserving at least a portion of your cognitive capacity for minding what is happening around you. Avoid leaving your phone on the table at restaurants, bars and coffee shops where it can easily be snatched …
That’s the weekend’s top Culture of Lickspittle entry. And while street heists for consumer electronics are unfortunate, they’re not uncommon. And I doubt that using one example as intellectual air freshener for the haves and its servant class is particularly helpful.
Particularly with the art and phraseology that came with this one.
“It took a well-coordinated and very busy industrious criminal gang — a directed mob,” said George Smith, senior fellow with Washington, D.C.-based think tank GlobalSecurity.org.
“If you have such a similar mob you can put together, you can think about trying to duplicate this type of thing,” Smith said. “But you’ll have to have some startup capital, since it’s not quite something you can just walk out the door and assemble off the cuff.”
“The picture of two of the New York errand boys flaunting their stack of bundled cash in the car won’t strike anyone as being from the high end of innovation and thinking,” Smith pointed out.
Hiring local petty criminals to do the dirty work also increases the risk of exposure, said Sean Sullivan, a security adviser with the F-Secure security firm in Helsinki, Finland.
“The need to have lots of money mules to withdraw all the cash seems to be the big complication in getting away with the crime. That leaves a trail for law enforcement” …
Or, as a commenter on Slashdot wryly observed, “This is not how bank fraud should be done. The right and proper way is to become too big to fail, too big to jail, rig the LIBOR rates, create systematic rigging, award oneself huge salaries and bonuses, threaten worldwide economic collapse, hold governments to ransom and get huge bailout money.”
Global banking, apparently particularly in the Middle East, can’t secure itself. And it is probably quite prone to criminal recruitment of insiders.
The larger issue looming is how does one secure a financial system the average person, or worker, has no faith in?
In the US, bankers and giant banks are now among the most hated. How do you save or batten down a system when attacks on the system are met with public indifference?
Infamous plastic 3D gun-printing schnook Cody Wilson had more good things happen to him this week when a division of the US government ordered him to take down his digital gun plan for violating the ITAR.
It was promptly rehosted on the Pirate Bay. And I am sure his many libertarian supporters banged their keyboards in joy while opening thier Bitcoin wallets for more philanthropic donations to the cause.
Anarchy! Liberty! Death to all fascists! Except us.
Wilson, who continues to call his operation a non-profit company, as if it’s performing a service to mankind had this to say to one of the tech rags:
“This is the conversation I want,” Wilson said. “Is this a workable regulatory regime? Can there be defense trade control in the era of the Internet and 3D printing?”
“The future of distributed technologies in the Internet is that no one has control of the information,” he told Mashable. “This is more than guns now, man, this is about the Internet, this is about information.”
Well, I don’t know, Cody. Can you make highly enriched uranium on your 3D printer? Perhaps a short range ballistic missile?
All right, let’s make it easy. A small plastic cluster bomb. Something that fairly easily explodes into bits of plastic shrapnel when triggered.
The United States has the highest rate of first-day deaths in babies than any other industrialized nation, according to a report released this week by the humanitarian group Save the Children …
Babies born to the poorest mothers are 40 percent more likely to die than babies born to wealthy mothers, said Miles …
The health dangers that poor and minority women face—like a high rate of premature birth and low birth weights—are compounded by the difficulties they have getting high-risk care in the United States, Miles said.
But questions remain about why the United States is in a league of its own for first-day deaths. “We can really only explain about half of the discrepancy,” Miles said, “and more research is needed.”