Zuckerberg, in the pages of the Washington Post, a few weeks ago:
Today’s economy is very different. It is based primarily on knowledge and ideas — resources that are renewable and available to everyone. Unlike oil fields, someone else knowing something doesn’t prevent you from knowing it, too. In fact, the more people who know something, the better educated and trained we all are, the more productive we become, and the better off everyone in our nation can be.
This can change everything. In a knowledge economy, the most important resources are the talented people we educate and attract to our country. A knowledge economy can scale further, create better jobs and provide a higher quality of living for everyone in our nation.
Many people can grasp why this isn’t really true anymore.
In a global knowledge economy everyone knowing the same thing around the world has and does disempower huge classes of people who helped pay for the invention, development and deployment of the network that distributes it worldwide.
And how this is done is easy to see.
Where the cost of living is high, as it is in the United States relative to China or India or somewhere else, the knowledge the American workers possess — even though it may be the same as those in other countries — is more costly to employ.
Therefore, the value of our knowledge in body has crashed, even though it is the same as elsewhere. It is uncompetitive not because of lack or inferiority, but because of where we live.
And this is really what Mark Zuckerberg and others like him are about. They want cheaper educated labor, always.
However, Mark Zuckerberg is not even particularly accurate in terms of the needs of the United States. He overlooks one of the giant engines of the California economy because it just doesn’t contain the kind of people who are of any consequence to his wealth or business.
Take this bit, written by ex-California Arnold Schwarzenegger, the same week:
The [state of California] produces more than half of the fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the U.S., with an output of $43.5 billion last year. Californians don’t rely just on the food produced by the state’s farms; they rely on the revenue and the jobs too. Agriculture employs more than 1.5 million people in California.
And who are many of these people employed in the California field, many more than employed in the Silicon Valley?
Well, they’re the brown people without the legal smartypants visas meritocratic KnowledgeStan’s Mark Zuckerbergs want. And these agricultural knowledge workers do not earn top dollar. No one in powerful American giant business stands for them in the Washington Post although it is easy to find those who hate on them. But they cannot be dispensed with, like lots of other American workers with knowledge who are deemed too expensive to employ because you still need people to go into the fields and do s— while being sprayed by crop dusters.
Silicon Valley software, programming genius, social networking, the cloud, Big Data and my new favorite phrase — “the Internet of things” — can’t eliminate the need for their work in this country.
But did you know Mark Zuckerberg and his wife solved the world problem of organ donation, just over a couple glasses of posh wine?
I suggest reading Paul Krugman’s The Aged of Diminished Expectations but it was done way before he was famous.
“The problem with poverty is that it has basically exhausted the patience of the general public,” he wrote.
That was in 1992, the book’s fifth printing, and things were lousy but not 2013 lousy. Krugman spent some time discussing inequality and the explosion in the poverty level.
“[Any] systemic initiative to raise the incomes of the poor seems unlikely for many years … The growing gap between the rich and poor was arguably the central fact about economic life in America in the 1980s. But no policy changes now under discussion seem likely to narrow the gap significantly.”
Indeed, nothing changed. Everything got worse.
There is another factor that has been at work as a kind of salve groupthink, as long as I can remember.
It’s an obvious social trope, an American shibboleth: Poverty is a condition that exists for you as a matter of moral choice, a personal deficiency. Basically — sin. You are unclean, deficient, bad, of low character, if you are poor in America.
Poverty is defined for almost half, maybe more than half the people in this country, as a personal choice, an evil one. And therefore nothing should be done about it because to do so is to aid in evil. The growth in poverty, the need for more food stamp subsidization, then, only means that more and more people are forsaking character, rectitude and natural godly American ways, mores and traditions.
Books become bestsellers, repugnant nobodies are transformed into celebrities and wisemen, politicians made into warrior kings on it.
It doesn’t matter what the statistic show. If corporate profits have risen to astronomical levels while wiping out everyone else, it is of no consequence.
Facts don’t matter, only the twisted pseudo-morality of alleged right thinking.
Hand in hand with this has been a decades long corruption of language for the express purpose of embedding the idea that wealth and poverty are personal choices. And woe to those who choose badly because all the information is out there, perhaps in career training, or advice from a column, or if you’re really lucky, a lecture from the wealthy, for you to attain great success.
To this end the Microsoft Network and Yahoo, and everyone else — run weekly pieces, paid for by career services and such, on what jobs pay the most, and which careers to avoid.
These are all about filling corporate America’s immediate term needs. Period. You read “top 5″ paying jobs columns for a few weeks and they’re always the same.
There’s a reptilian and repellent nature present and one quickly comes to detest the nobody writers and editors who are responsible.
Underlying it all is the phony ethos — and ethos is not a good word, it doesn’t get at the inner poison — that one is primarily defined by one’s job, the circumstance of always having a job, and how much that jobs earns.
Which dovetails with the entrenched belief that to have a low-paying job that leaves one in poverty, again, is a personal choice.
For instance, take the reconfiguration of the old word “equity” in America. It meansquality of being just or fair in a system. But now the usage is commonly set to what a billionaire’s stake is in whatever he owns. (Indeed, if you just use the word “equity” in Google, all that comes back is the secondary business meaning, corporate American media has so corroded it. Investopedia’s definition, of all things, is the third ranked by the search engine. You’d think the word was coined just for the billionaire class in the US.)
Two weeks ago I read one of these careers and jobs columns and the author had come up with five things the really wealthy are said to understand better than the proles.
Number one was equity.
Equity is not something one just goes out to pick up.
Yet that is what the piece indicated. Equity, it implied, was maybe something you could acquire, like an education, or experience, only with much more effort, and maybe not at all if you weren’t or aren’t smart enough.
Those not-billionaires who did not understand equity, as a consequence, could never be truly that successful.
In reality, you have to buy it, or be contracted into it, as by inheritance. And it’s millionaire/billionaire expensive.
Who do you know, in their jobs, or anything else, have ever been in a position to get equity?
So here is a deep perversion of language, made so for the benefit of an intrinsically unfair system, the exact opposite of its original meaning.
In the new American usage, but not the dictionary’s first usage, equity also equals virtue.
Equity was the very essence of the rotting heart of Mitt Romney, which he and the billionaires who supported him interpreted as virtue. Romney was born into equity.
Even though the public demonstrably didn’t see the virtue in it, this astonished the man and his family.
Equity has come to mean the ability to ruin a vast holding and everyone under the top tier involved in that holding for the sake of getting more, for attaining equal or even more equity in something else. Then rinse and repeat.
Equity is what you count on, or counted on at Facebook, to make you an instant multi-millionaire in an inflated IPO.
Equity is an essential part of the rigged economic game, something that the 1 percent has, not something large numbers of Americans have access to. Equity means nothing to people whose 401k’s have taken a beating and ruined plans for retirement.
Equity means one thing for the topmost, quite another for everyone else.
Wouldn’t we all like to have equity?!
Again, choosing again from Paul Krugman’s 1992 work, The Age of Diminished Expectations:
Why does unemployment matter? Partly because high unemployment means that potential productive workers are not being used … because high unemployment brings persistent poverty. Beyond this, however, the availability of jobs plays a key role in how our society hangs together. A society in which young people can routinely expect to get jobs on leaving school, and to remain gainfully employed except for occasional spells for their adult lives, is going to be a very different place from one in which work is a privilege that is unavailable to many people — even if the welfare state is generous to the unemployed …
And this, because it is such an unpleasant description of where we are now — America is definitely a society that no longer holds together at all — has made it attractive for many to cling to the idea that being down is a personal matter, a sinful one.
Since my graduation from Lehigh, this condition has been the norm. Recessions, business fluctuations beyond control and always diminishing job prospects. Inequality increasing, compensation decreasing, much of the time without being noticed or remarked upon except with the usual condemnations that someone has had it coming because they’ve lived high on the hog for too long and they’ll have to learn the hard way it’s time to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
Last week’s job statistics showed more people just leaving the workforce, on which Barbara Ehrenreich commented on her Facebook page:
The bright side of today’s unemployment stats: The labor force participation rate is declining, meaning that fewer people are falling for the old “job” scam, you know– show up every morning, work your butt off and every couple of weeks we’ll make a contribution toward your bus fare and lunch money.
Corporate profits versus ours. Something’s burning up the charts and it’s not you.
Proven by science, or at least by the Congressional Research Office, the legislative analytical arm looks into ‘profit shifting’ by American multi-national corporations. Profit-shifting is the practice of using global tricks to declare the majority of profits in tax haven countries while investing virtually zero in hiring and infrastructure in the same places.
This is the utilization of small nothing-nations like Bermuda, Luxembourg and Switzerland, to launder profit so that tax payment to Uncle Sam are avoided. In such a way one has read news of US oil giants with central shell offices in Zug, Switzerland, or Apple routing its iTunes and iJunk store purchases through Luxembourg.
This is not new and the Congressional Research Service does not phrase it so indelicately. But it is good that the agency has analyzed the trend — which is upward — and reported the truth in “An Analysis of Where American Companies Report Profits: Indications of Profit-Shifting,” ably distributed by Steven Aftergood and his Secrecy blog here.
“The analysis appears to show that American companies report earning profits in tax haven or tax-preferred countries that, when compared to more traditional economies, appear to be disproportionate to hiring and capital investment in those countries,” reads the CRS report summary. “Profits reported by American companies also appear to be disproportionate to national output in the tax haven countries, and in some countries, these reported profits actually exceed total economic output.”
In other words, the financial structures of Bermuda, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland and others appear to have been modified and used exactly because they enable tax avoidance as international parasite nations.
Again, “An Analysis of Where American Companies Report Profits: Indications of Profit-Shifting,” at Secrecy blog here.
Cyberattacks come first. Hurricane Sandy gets second billing.
Proclamation 8910 of November 30, 2012
Critical Infrastructure Protection and Resilience
By the President of the United States of America
Every day, Americans across our country–from
entrepreneurs and college students to families and
community leaders–rely on critical infrastructure to
travel and communicate, work and play. The assets and
systems we depend on are essential to our way of life,
and during Critical Infrastructure Protection and
Resilience Month, we maintain our commitment to keeping
our critical infrastructure and our communities safe
Our Nation’s critical infrastructure is complex and
interconnected, and we must understand not only its
strengths, but also its vulnerabilities to emerging
threats. Cyber incidents can have devastating
consequences on both physical and virtual
infrastructure, which is why my Administration
continues to make cybersecurity a national security
priority. As we continue to work within existing
authorities to fortify our country against cyber risks,
comprehensive legislation remains essential to
improving infrastructure security, enhancing cyber
information sharing between government and the private
sector, and protecting the privacy and civil liberties
of the American people.
Physical threats also put our Nation’s most important
assets at risk. Destruction caused by devastating
storms and other natural disasters this year
underscored our reliance on our critical
infrastructure. Yet, these tragic events also
demonstrated once again the strength and resolve of the
American people when we work together to recover and
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the
United States of America, by virtue of the authority
vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the
United States, do hereby proclaim December 2012 as
Critical Infrastructure Protection and Resilience
Month. I call upon the people of the United States to
recognize the importance of protecting our Nation’s
resources and to observe this month with appropriate
events and training to enhance our national security
Back at the end of 2010 I enumerated a year end list — the biggest threats to the nation’s security. They were all internal and that old list is here.
All the threats still exist. But number 4 on the list — the Republican Party — has climbed to the top. And that is because since December 2010, the stakes have become higher, the disasters greater. Even less has been done.
At the time:
The Republican Party is a threat to security. And not solely because of its descent into right-wing extremism …
As the party that denies science, one that will put people in committee chairmanships overseeing science and technology issues in the House who are basically opposed to science whenever it contradicts their political views, the GOP poses a threat to America’s future.
You can’t have a forward-looking and capable nation with people in power who truly believe global warming and evolution are hoaxes.
During the past election, global warming was a third rail issue. The President would not speak of it.
In fact, about the only thing he would talk about with any connection to it was how avid a developer of fossil fuels he would be. And Mitt Romney made a joke of global warming it at the Republican National Convention.
And then came Sandy, a storm so violent it delivered notice that in the future there would be more of the same.
The nation’s lifelines — its roads, airports, railways and transit systems — are getting hammered by extreme weather beyond what their builders imagined, leaving states and cities searching for ways to brace for more catastrophes like Superstorm Sandy.
Even as they prepare for a new normal of intense rain, historic floods and record heat waves, some transportation planners find it too politically sensitive to say aloud the source of their weather worries: climate change.
Political differences are on the minds of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, whose advice on the design and maintenance of roads and bridges is closely followed by states. The association recently changed the name of its Climate Change Steering Committee to the less controversial Sustainable Transportation, Energy Infrastructure and Climate Solutions Steering Committee.
Still, there is a recognition that the association’s guidance will need to be updated to reflect the new realities of global warming.
In the immediate future, global warming is going to cost life. It means the continuing destruction of infrastructure on a national scale. We can only cope with it.
But at this time the gift of the Republican Party has made movement on the issue, except in sneaking inches by government agency, impossible. The GOP has successfully convinced almost half the nation to share in its dangerous know-nothing-ism, aided and abetted by reactionary mega-corporate interests, plutocrat money and the fossil fuel industries which choose to maintain a status quo at the expense of everyone else.
“[Several] climate scientists say sea level along New York and much of the Northeast is about a foot higher than a century ago, mostly because of man-made global warming, and that added significantly to the damage when Sandy hit,” wrote the AP.
Yet, “In conservative states, the term ‘climate change’ is often associated with left-leaning politics … Planning for weather extremes is hampered by reluctance among many officials to discuss anything labeled ‘climate change’ … The Obama administration has also shied away from talking publicly about adaptation to climate change. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s office refused to allow any department officials to be interviewed by The Associated Press …”
It is not a bipartisan issue. The Republican Party and its bankrollers are entirely responsible for paralyzing a national response to global warming and accurate assessment and preparation for catastrophic weather. Democratic politicians won’t address it because to speak of it immediately mobilizes millions of dollars against them in re-election campaigns, all furnished by the radical right.
If it were Switzerland, Luxembourg or Andorra perhaps this would not matter. But we are not those countries and it very obviously does matter.
And it should come as a source of great outrage to the American people that the Republican Party would appoint a science-denier, Lamar Smith of Texas, to chair that body’s science panel. One can look at it as purely a political step taken to help guarantee paralysis as a national response.
The paralysis also infiltrates security and mainstream pundits.
“The U.S. must meet challenges such as climate change … says Patrick Doherty,” reads the caption under a photo of wreckage.
“Climate change is already with us,” Doherty writes. “Superstorm Sandy, the Derecho, Arctic melting, and droughts in the Midwest, India, China, and Russia this past year confirm the scientifically proven trend.”
Nowhere in the piece does Doherty acknowledge the political obstacle, the Republican Party, which has made dealing with it, even in some small ways, virtually impossible.
In fact, Doherty points to a column from Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, as something which may carry good advice on meeting American challenges. His use is to imply how the US could mobilize business capital by, for example, giving a corporate tax break to America’s big multi-nationals. But the Blankfein column is more interesting for how anti-solving problems it is.
For the first time in several generations, it has become clear that abundant domestic energy resources are within our reach, and that we have the technology to responsibly and safely extract it. The government needs to work with the private sector to implement effective and far-reaching policies to develop these resources.
That’s what you call a gold-plated recommendation for expanded use and mining of fossil fuels. Call it the accelerate-and-exacerbate-global warming answer to the problem of climate change. Blankfein, of course, does not have to worry about this. When climate change turns the Manhattan neighborhood of Goldman Sachs into a skyscraper version of Stiltsville in the Biscayne Bay, he will be gone.
You also might not have noticed that we’re barreling toward a “world of unprecedented heat waves, severe drought, and major floods in many regions.” Here in Washington, we’re too busy to pay attention to such trifles …
Meanwhile, evidence mounts that the legacy we pass along to future generations will be a parboiled planet.
But even Robinson can’t bring himself to write that it’s the GOP that has derailed the matter in the US.
To his credit he recommends the President do something:
And this is why President Obama should devote his next State of the Union address to climate change. He understands the science and knows the threat is real. Convincing the American people of this truth would be a great accomplishment …
The President has won re-election. There is no further political cost the GOP can extract from him. Telling the people about global warming in no uncertain terms is something he can do. Barack Obama can spell out who has blocked action, the very anti-science beliefs of the Republican Party, who supports them, and what the consequences have been at the federal and local level.
What was the Obama administration’s effort to battle climate change, or at least increase informed recognition of it, in the last year?
“Fueled by global warming, polar ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are now melting three times faster than they did in the 1990s, a new scientific study says,” reads a story, today, from the AP.
“Greenland is really taking off,” National Snow and Ice Data Center scientist Ted Scambos told the news agency. Scambos is a a co-author of the paper referenced by the AP and published in the peer-reviewed journal, Science.
So if many in our country think that putting a modern Republican in power is a way to move the place forward, to help it deal with the very complex global problems with which it is currently faced, they’re one with entropy, which is the falling apart of everything, from order to disorder, until there is nothing left. That’s a tragedy and we should not delude ourselves that such actions, behaviors or opinions defend anything worthwhile.
Raytheon, one of the world’s largest military contractors, opened the doors today to its newest missile factory, a state-of-the-art facility that will produce weapons for the United States and its [toadies].
According to Raytheon, the Huntsville, Ala. plant, located at the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal, will produce Standard Missile-3 and Standard Missile-6 interceptors. The first SM-6s should be delivered in early 2013, while the SM-3s should be ready a quarter later.
The facility is said to be among the most advanced missile production plants in the world, utilizing laser-guided transport vehicles for moving missile components around.
“At new Raytheon plant, America’s missiles come to life,” reads the Raytheon advertisement attached to the piece.
How many Standard missiles were fired at the enemy in anger in the last decade?
Because al Qaeda and the Taliban have no air force or navy.
The secret behind this skills gap is that it’s not a skills gap at all. I spoke to several other factory managers who also confessed that they had a hard time recruiting in-demand workers for $10-an-hour jobs. “It’s hard not to break out laughing,” says Mark Price, a labor economist at the Keystone Research Center, referring to manufacturers complaining about the shortage of skilled workers. “If there’s a skill shortage, there has to be rises in wages,” he says. “It’s basic economics.” After all, according to supply and demand, a shortage of workers with valuable skills should push wages up. Yet according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of skilled jobs has fallen and so have their wages.
In a recent study, the Boston Consulting Group noted that, outside a few small cities that rely on the oil industry, there weren’t many places where manufacturing wages were going up and employers still couldn’t find enough workers. “Trying to hire high-skilled workers at rock-bottom rates,” the Boston Group study asserted, “is not a skills gap.” The study’s conclusion, however, was scarier. Many skilled workers have simply chosen to apply their skills elsewhere rather than work for less, and few young people choose to invest in training for jobs that pay fast-food wages. As a result, the United States may soon have a hard time competing in the global economy …
Whenever you see some business person quoted complaining about how he or she can’t find workers with the necessary skills, ask what wage they’re offering. Almost always, it turns out that what said business person really wants is highly (and expensively) educated workers at a manual-labor wage … So what you really want to ask is why American businesses don’t feel that it’s worth their while to pay enough to attract the workers they say they need.
In reading James K. Galbraith’s The Predator State, one would call this the dominance of American manufacturing by corporate reactionary predators.
This has installed a race to the bottom in labor in a country where unions have been destroyed in the private sector and no standards for fair compensation are allowed to exist.
Noticeably, one could see it during the summer when new and tough anti-illegal immigration enforcement in red states resulted in immigrant workers leaving US southern agriculture, where profitability and cheap prices have been maintained by making wages rock bottom.
Ralph and Cheryl Broetje rely on roughly 1,000 seasonal workers every year to grow and pack over 6 million boxes of apples on their farm along the Snake River in eastern Washington. It’s a custom they’ve maintained for over two decades. Recently, though, their efforts to recruit skilled labor, mostly undocumented immigrants, have come woefully short, despite intensive recruitment efforts in an area with high rates of unemployment.
The Broetjes, and an increasing number of farmers across the country, say that a complex web of local and state anti-immigration laws account for acute labor shortages …
“The United States farmer is still the most efficient in the world, and if we want to be in charge of our food security and our economy and add favorably to our balance of payments, we need to support a [slave] labor force for agriculture,” said some douchebag to Time magazine.
Back in 2007, Galbraith explained it as predatory business practice in which agriculture, having no need to respond to standards in labor, pressed wages to the bottom. No one, except the desperate from Mexico, regularly wishes to work stoop labor in fields, being sprayed by pesiticides, for much less than a living wage.
“Imposing standard and enforcing them, is thus the general response to the Predator State,” which is just a collision of reactionary forces within business who seek to maintain competitiveness and profitability without technological improvement, without environmental control, without attending to product or workplace safety,” writes Galbraith.
“They are the forces behind deregulation, behind tort reform, and behind the assault on unions… ”
Arms manufacturing in the US is a different matter. It is protected and paid for by the US taxpayer.
“In short, the populist directive is to raise American wages, create American jobs and increase the fairness and security of our economic system, especially for citizens and legal residents, but also for all who seek work within our borders,” writes Galbraith near the end of The Predator State.
“You want higher wages? Raise them. You want more and better jobs? Create them.”
Raytheon missile manufacturing, of very little intrinsic social value other than decent jobs with pay, is an example.
Corporate America relies primarily on the equation in which compensation is always compressed and subtracted. My grandfather, who raised his family in a row home in the Frankford area of Philadelphia was a machinist who worked in manufacturing. Unlike the manufacturing workers being sought in the New York Times piece, he was able to earn a decent pay.
When I saw him, that was in the Sixties and Seventies.
Many have commented here about me being used by women, or controlled by women, or the reverse – I am taking advantage of gullible, naive women. Many have commented that these women were only with me because of my money – a fact that I have to agree with. I am wealthy and living in a country of extreme poverty. Parents here “promote” attractive daughters to men with money constantly. It helps the families through “trickle down”.
Sam, and others, can verify if they choose, that I am not foolish enough to believe that many young women could love a 67 year man. Being loved does not interest me much. Loving does. I truly love, not with a desire to possess or control, but with compassion and empathy. I care immensely, about many people. What they may or may not feel for me is their own issue.
Up front, before Sam and I became intimate, I explained to Sam that I did not expect her to love me. I only expected honesty to the degree that she could muster it. She tells me many times a day that she loves me and I smile. I take is a sweet gesture, since it is spoken with sweetness. I do not believe that anyone can ever know another’s heart.
McAfee’s comment policy, which seems wise, all things considered:
We are posting nearly everything. Comments like “please kill yourself” and “how long have you been shagging that whore” are sent immediately to the trash. Questions that have been asked, and answered, dozens of times likewise go to the trash. All spam goes to the trash. Everything else is posted.
I think that’s enough. Proceed at risk of your own brain damage.
I suspect my Ernest Hemingway/Hunter Thompson allusion on Sunday was correct. Add a little Peter Matthiessen crazy, too, I think.
Matthiessen is most famous for Far Tortuga, a novel of a group of sailors turtle fishing in the Caribbean. Many years ago I interviewed him briefly. He was a bit tight, which seemed a not uncommon condition.
McAfee cannot write like any of these men. But the idea that he would, maybe, like to be taken as such and sell his story as a graphic novel of intrigue, life on the run, drugs and an abundance of impoverished but libertine young poon in the Third World, is crystal clear.
Look at the artist’s portrait. Am I wrong?
Read to the foot of the blog and you will note McAfee’s aggravation at Gizmodo which he accuses of stealing his on-line diary and publishing it.
“I emailed Joel [Gizmodo reporter] and asked whether moral imperative shouldn’t dictate that he send the money he received from Gizmodo to me,” McAfee writes plaintively. “After all, it was my effort, my photos, my time, my words. Shouldn’t I get the money? He did not respond.”
John McAfee had always been good with the press. In 1992 it was that facility that catapulted the McAfee name in anti-virus into daily newspapers on the back of the Michelangelo scare.
I wrote about it for the American Journalism Review (later incorporated into the Virus Creation Labs).
Weeks after M-Day, many antiviral software vendors and some reporters still insist the coverage prevented thousands of computer users from losing data. John Schneidawind of USA Today says “everyone’s PC would have crashed” had the media not paid much attention to Michelangelo. The San Jose Mercury News credited the publicity with saving the day. One widely quoted antiviral vendor, John McAfee of McAfee Associates, says the press deserves a medal …
One vendor who played a key role was McAfee, one of the nation’s leading antiviral software manufacturers and founder and chairman of the nonprofit Computer Virus Industry Association (CVIA). It was McAfee who told many reporters that as many as 5 million computers were at risk. He says he made the projection based on a study that found the virus had infected 15 percent of computers at 600 sites. Both Reuters and the Associated Press sent the figure around the world.
McAfee says he didn’t present it the way it was reported. “I told reporters all along that estimates ranged from 50,000 to 5 million,” he says. “I said, ‘50,000 to 5 million, take your pick,’ and they did.”
While many articles failed to disclose or merely mentioned in passing the fact that McAfee’s antiviral software company has sold more than 7 million copies of its Viruscan and expects revenues of more than $20 million this year, McAfee scoffs at the idea that he or other vendors hyped the threat to generate sales. “I never contacted a single reporter, I never sent out a press release, I never wrote any articles,” he says. “I was just sitting here doing my job and people started calling.” He maintains that the coverage of Michelangelo cost him money. “It was the worst thing conceivable for our business, short-term,” he says. “We offer share-ware [where users are trusted to pay], so we got tons of calls” from non-paying customers.
“Before the media starts to crucify the antivirus community,” he continues, “they should look in the mirror and see how much [of the coverage] came from their desire to make it a good story.” But he adds quickly, “Not that I’m a press-basher.”
Schneidawind’s and AP’s efforts after March 6 to track Michelangelo found only a few thousand afflicted computers worldwide, including 2,400 erroneously reported to be at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The institute actually had only 400 computers infected with any virus; few had Michelangelo. A Philadephia Inquirer reporter got it wrong, says institute spokesman Paul Hassen, and it spread like wildfire. “That was the first time I’ve been that close to a feeding frenzy,” he says. Perhaps the most embarrassed news organization was CNN, which on March 6 staked out McAfee’s offices in Santa Clara, California, waiting for a doomsday that never came.
Soon after the clock struck midnight on March 6, many reporters seemed to suspect they’d been had. The Los Angeles Times, which had quoted McAfee’s 5 million figure on March 4, carried a Reuter story three days later that reported the “Black Death” had turned out to be more “a common cold.” AP downgraded its “mugger hiding in the closet” to a mere “electronic prank.”
AP Deputy Business Editor Rick Gladstone says the wire service quickly downplayed the story after its initial reports and included comments from the ICSA’s Rutstein, who said the threat from the virus had been exaggerated. “Our big oversight was to quote McAfee’s 5 million figure in the beginning of the coverage, but we backed off that,” Gladstone says, adding that his staff “felt somewhat vindicated” when relatively few computers were affected on March 6. “Some of us in the press were suckered,” he says.
Later, USA Today’s reporter admitted to me that John McAfee had always been helpful in talking with the press on computer virus issues. Because of that there was a feeling, the reporter said, that “we” owed him.
Who the editorial “we” meant was not precisely defined.
John McAfee was genuinely facile with the media. However, that was on the business of computer viruses. It is not at all clear that splashing a story of “love,” suspected murder, an as yet undetermined amount of prevarication, eccentricities and perversion in the Internet media will turn out favorably.
McAfee’s attitude has also undergone something of a metamorphosis.
The world press certainly has not helped. Autonomous and self-serving, the press does what it does best – sensationalize. And my character and the recent events of my life have been sensationalized to the max.
Times have changed. These things often turn out badly.
Anyway, McAfee’s anti-virus success was dictated, not on the technical merits of SCAN, but on the peg that shareware provided an in at corporate America. SCAN just had to be ubiquitous, easy to use for the standards of the time, and mostly reliable.
The home users who were anti-virus utility early adopters often worked in budding IT departments. When management inevitably realized they had people using SCAN, they figured they’d better start paying for it in site licensing and contracted support.
And McAfee’s competition in the American marketplace was not particularly strong.
Primarily, there was the Norton Anti-virus from Symantec and Central Point Anti-virus of Central Point Software. The latter came to be recognized as one of the worst anti-virus programs, ever. It wound up licensed to Microsoft which peddled a bowdler-ized version of it, now infamously known as the Microsoft Anti-virus, for old DOS and Windows PCs. Central Point eventually went out of business.
So by the late Nineties the two players with unbreakable positions in anti-virus in the US were McAfee and Symantec/Norton.
Of course, there were many other very good shareware anti-virus programs. Almost all went out of business or were bought and killed by competitors.
Over the last several years, Mr. McAfee began to put a large chunk of his [anti-virus] fortune into real estate, often in remote locations. He bought the house in New Mexico as a playground for himself and fellow aerotrekkers, people who fly unlicensed, open-cockpit planes. On a 157-acre spread, he built a general store, a 35-seat movie theater and a cafe, and he bought vintage cars for his visitors to use.
He continued to invest in financial markets, sometimes borrowing money to increase the potential returns. He typically chose his investments based on suggestions from his financial advisers. One of their recommendations was to put millions of dollars into bonds tied to Lehman Brothers.
For a while, Mr. McAfee’s good run, like that of many of the American wealthy, seemed to continue. In the wake of the dot-com crash, stocks started rising again, while house prices just continued to rise. Outside’s Go magazine and National Geographic Adventure ran articles on his New Mexico property, leading to him to believe that “this was the hottest property on the planet,” he said.
But then things began to change.
In 2007, Mr. McAfee sold a 10,000-square-foot home in Colorado with a view of Pike’s Peak. He had spent $25 million to buy the property and build the house. He received $5.7 million for it. When Lehman collapsed last fall, its bonds became virtually worthless. Mr. McAfee’s stock investments cost him millions more.
One day, he realized, as he said, “Whoa, my cash is gone.”
His remaining net worth of about $4 million makes him vastly wealthier than most Americans, of course. But he has nonetheless found himself needing cash and desperately trying to reduce his monthly expenses.
From everywhere, allegedly John McAfee, on the drug called “bath salts”, sometime about a year ago on-line:
I think it’s the finest drug ever conceived, not just for the indescribable hypersexuality, but also for the smooth euphoria and mild comedown.
It was obvious that they were parroting some piece of nonsense they had heard on the radio or read in the newspapers. Sometimes one was tempted to say as much, but on such occasions one was met with such a stare of incredulity, such a shock of silence, as if one had blasphemed the Almighty, that one realized how useless it was to try to even make contact with a mind which had become warped and for whom the facts of life had become what Hitler and Goebbels, with their cynical disregard for truth, said they were. — William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — The head of Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group says he will invite dozens of American engineers to his factories in China to learn about manufacturing.
News reports here say Terry Gou told a business meeting on Wednesday that he did not believe President Barack Obama could succeed in moving production lines back to the U.S. because Americans have outsourced those jobs for too long.
But Gou says he hopes the Americans can learn how factories are operated so they can return home to set up facilities with automated equipment to resolve the lack of skilled laborers.
Foxconn employs 1.2 million people in China to assemble products for Apple Inc. and other global firms. It has introduced more robots in China over the past two years as it faces soaring wages there.
["I assume said training also involves advice on where to put the suicide nets..." adds Chuck in e-mail. Couldn't resist.]
The short news piece contains an internal contradiction. Introduction of automation so as not to pay higher wages is not congruent with a lack of skilled labor.
In fact, anyone who has read the stories on iJunk manufacturing at Foxconn knows that it is hardly skilled labor.
And in the US it has been repeatedly demonstrated that unemployment is the result of lack of demand, rather than labor skills mismatching.
Paul Krugman has dealt with the issue again and again. It is one of those zombie stories used to explain away the need for doing anything about the recession, as accepting the present as the new normal.
Lazear goes through the data, and finds overwhelming evidence of inadequate demand, little if any evidence of structural problems.
I was especially struck by his data on “mismatch” (which everyone I know calls mishmash): the extent to which there appears to be a misalignment between where the workers are and where the jobs are. In the early stages of the Lesser Depression some data seemed to suggest a sharp rise in mismatch; it was left for us demand-siders to argue that this was actually a cyclical, not structural issue, and not fundamental to the employment problem. Now Lazear informs us that sure enough, mismatch was cyclical, and has in fact come way down even though unemployment remains high …
What all this tells us is that the vast suffering still going on is gratuitous — that we could end this quickly with appropriate monetary and fiscal policies. Unfortunately, between the GOP and the Very Serious People (who love, just love, the idea that it’s structural), it won’t happen any time soon.
Timely as ever. First simple video, too, actually.