When I put that question in striking bold yesterday I got to thinking about what has happened in the last fifteen to twenty years. The time period encompasses my writing and work on various matters having to do with security ranging from the old origins of malware to chemical and biological weapons.
That started, depending on where I choose to pick an event, either in the administration of the first Bush, or a little later, with the presidency of Bill Clinton. Long enough to have something to say in terms of perspective, I think.
A number of things are very clear and profoundly disappointing.
The US has always been burdened by an excessively large analytic structure in national security, one in which the primary function is very much not analytic. It’s purpose is to arrive at justification for whatever leadership wishes to do.
That in itself is a major problem and it is at the very roots of the phenomenon that I call shoeshine.
Shoeshine is the work of a managerial and interpretive class of American labor, generally upper middle class, one that is employed to come up with stuff, rationalizations, justifications, all for the convenience to those at the very top in American national and business leadership. Shoeshine has virtually no social value except as employment. It keeps people in work and they can, of course, buy stuff in the economy.
But, fundamentally, shoeshine is a government in collaboration with the private sector employment jobs program that produces nothing of any material value for the vast majority of Americans.
For example, assertions that China is spying away American wealth in cyberspace are signally not important for any Americans except those generating them and the people paying for it to be disseminated. They have no meaning. There are no statistics, except the numbers of news stories and memorandums produced. But there is a big structure that has been employed to embed this information in American culture.
And it has not just been with China.
It goes on to encompass the bogus rhetoric that constantly speaks of the American financial system being threatened by devastating cyberattack, of the electricity being turned off nationwide, of calamities brought on by alleged digital assaults that require one to believe they can rival the destructive power of natural disasters.
Add to it the now impossible to reverse received wisdom that people in the sandy wastes of some poor country you barely know can easily make weapons of mass destruction. Or whatever reasons are given this week for piling up more dead with drone strikes. There really is no end to it.
And there is immorality to this because, at its heart, it’s the human machinery of rationalizing destruction.
However, when I started this there was a class of middle and upper middle class managerial and interpretive workers, smaller, which pushed back.
It was a class that inhabited philanthropic non-profit agencies devoted to such things as the furtherance of public understanding on national security issues, interpretation of treaties and global compliance and arms control.
With eight years of the Bush administration and another four with Barack Obama in charge, that’s all virtually swept away. Agencies I used to call when I was a newspaper reporter for independent from the national line information either became stunted versions of their former selves are ceased operations altogether.
Readers will have also noticed that, in the last decade, the United States isn’t even remotely interested in arms control, unless for the convenience of beating up on Iran and North Korea, and launching a clandestine war against the former.
Arms control was actually perverted into an excuse for invading Iraq.
The US is for arms proliferation big time, the best, as long as we’re doing the selling.
The world wide web, blogs, Wikileaks, whatever you want to name, didn’t fill the vacuum. Almost everyone just quit. They had to. All the money, what small amounts there were, went away. The only money spent for analysis of national security issues now is all on the other side. And its function is simply to pay people to come up with enemies lists and memos to be publicized on who is attacking us and who we are to be frightened of.
Over this period I had acquaintances who also did the progressive critical side of the coin. They wrote blogs or ran websites, worked for little agencies trying to do their part.
As the national security megaplex ballooned they either faded away or went to work for it. If they went to work for it, they went silent, never to speak again. Worried about careers, some even pulled down their old works.
And I was not being at all facetious when I mentioned earlier in the week that the state of rational discussion on cyberwar had been so degraded by this long process of attrition that it is mostly reduced to 140-character Twitter tweets.
The best people can come up with is a short (not too long so as to bore the audience) indignant squawk on social media.
It was the occupational role of managers and engineers (the professional managerial class), along with many other professionals, to manage, regulate, and control the life of the working class. They designed the division of labor and the machines that controlled workers’ minute-by-minute existence on the factory floor, manipulated their desire for commodities and their opinions, socialized their children, and even mediated their relationship with their own bodies.
At the same time though, the role of the PMC as “rationalizers” of society often placed them in direct conflict with the capitalist class. Like the workers, the PMC were themselves employees and subordinate to the owners, but since what was truly “rational” in the productive process was not always identical to what was most immediately profitable, the PMC often sought autonomy and freedom from their own bosses.
This class grew rapidly from the 1930s to about the mid-Seventies when the “capitalist class” reasserted control and began to cut it back with waves of layoffs tied to de-industrialization.
Technological advances and, most recently, the Internet, have continued to hack at it.
What’s left is now also employed, keeping jobs as long as possible, in cannibalization, boiling down other sections of the economy, finding ways other people can be cast off.
“Then, in just the last dozen years, the PMC began to suffer the fate of the industrial class in the 1980s: replacement by cheap foreign labor,” they continue.
That part of the managerial interpretive class that cannot yet be replaced is in American financial services and the national security megaplex. For the defense infrastructure, it’s been a relatively safe harbor of jobs for those whose work is to furnish information conveniences and processes for the very top of the pyramid.
It is not a mystery why their work has not even the slightest connection to the lives of great numbers of other Americans.
WTF is wrong with these people is that counter-reality and satisfying the political needs of their uppers is what they must do to earn a good living in view of the increasingly throttled prospects offered by this country.
And so they have been transformed into the bleak concrete of a predatory process and structure. In this structure it is imperative they not understand anything which conflicts with the purpose of the job and that they not give a shit about that. Or, if they do, to at least stuff it.
People who work at the Pasadena office of the California Department of Motor Vehicles provide more value daily than the shoeshine workers in national security. Whether you like standing in line waiting your turn or not, the public sector employees get things done that are necessary so that you can drive a car in California. And that’s important to everyday people.
One of the easiest ways to evaluate how this structure’s frankly idiotic, paranoid and self-serving fantasies have broken off with reality is also their presence in (or contamination of) entertainment.
You can compare their weird and estranged myths to the parallel proliferation of zombie and vampire movies, tv shows, books and comics.
Cyberwar is as present during the week in scripts for television and movies, maybe more so if not as successfully, as zombies. So is apocalyptic chemical and biological warfare. Add electromagnetic pulse armageddon.
All of these, propagandized into American culture by the managerial corps of national security shoeshiners to such an extent they’ve become silly popular primetime diversions, crap that has virtually nothing to do with day-to-day life over the last two decades.
In this climate, the Peanut Corporation of American, run by Stewart Parnell, caused one of the biggest outbreaks of salmonellosis in the country’s history. The outbreak killed nine people and sickened hundreds.
By contrast, anthrax bioterrorist Bruce Ivins killed five and made 17 others very ill.
A federal grand jury indicted four former employees of a peanut company linked to a 2009 salmonella outbreak that killed nine people and sickened hundreds, leading to one of the largest recalls in history.
The 76-count indictment was unsealed Wednesday in federal court in Georgia. It charged the former employees of Virginia-based Peanut Corp. of America with conspiracy, wire fraud, obstruction of justice and others offenses related to contaminated or misbranded food.
Named in the indictment were company owner Stewart Parnell, his brother and company vice president Michael Parnell, Georgia plant manager Samuel Lightsey and Georgia plant quality assurance manager Mary Wilkerson.
FDA inspectors found remarkably bad conditions inside Parnell’s processing plant in Blakely, Ga., including mold and roaches, and the company went bankrupt after the recall …
Stewart Parnell, who invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before Congress in February 2009, once directed employees to “turn them loose” after samples of peanuts had tested positive for salmonella and then were cleared in a second test, according to e-mail uncovered at the time by congressional investigators.
The indictment cited emails sent between defendants talking about contamination in the product.
Stewart Parnell was subsequently eclipsed by Austin ‘Jack’ Decoster, an Iowa egg farmer with a history of violations who caused the biggest recall of eggs in US history when his products delivered Salmonella enteriditis in 2010.
Decoster’s egg farms were directly responsible for sickening 1,500 — 2,000, or more, and the recall of almost 400 million eggs.
DD blog covered some it in the series puckishly entitled Eat Shit Farms, here.
Trivia note: Bart Stupak became momentarily famous for trying to attach an anti-abortion amendment to the Affordable Care Act. He subsequently declined to run again, apparently frazzled by the enmity directed at him from women’s reproductive rights organizations. Stupak is now a lobbyist.
The U.S. Navy SEAL who shot and killed Osama bin Laden is speaking out for the first time since the May 1, 2011, raid on the al-Qaida leader’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
In an interview with Esquire, the former SEAL—identified as “The Shooter” due to what the magazine described as “safety” reasons—said he’s been largely abandoned by the U.S. government since leaving the military last fall.
He told Esquire he decided to speak out to both correct the record of the bin Laden mission and to put a spotlight on how some of the U.S. military’s highly trained and accomplished soldiers are treated by the government once they return to civilian life.
Despite killing the world’s most-wanted terrorist, he said, he was not given a pension, health care or protection for himself or his family.
“[SEAL command] told me they could get me a job driving a beer truck in Milwaukee,” he told Esquire.
Plus, he said, “my health care for me and my family stopped. I asked if there was some transition from my Tricare to Blue Cross Blue Shield. They said no. You’re out of the service, your coverage is over. Thanks for your 16 years. Go f— yourself.”
Not even good for driving a beer truck, which would seem recession proof.
Unfortunately, there are millions more already in line.
The good news: The Esquire notice will get him a book deal and some offers. If he can’t write, a ghost will be furnished. Hardly anyone else gets that opportunity.
Funny how the Ted Nugents of the country never want for work.
Not much of a surprise from the New York Times, a quick piece on corporate hiring in the economy that produces little. Corporate America is now hiring primarily through connections, which leaves anyone out of work for a long time discarded. America has always hated the unemployed.
It also points out that resumes sites like Monster and Careerbuilder are largely a waste of time.
One of the questions, or rather assertions from the crowd:
Online job search is a waste of time. Once you have given up as I have, how is one expected to go out and try to put on a positive face when all one faces is no positive direction? Everything in the United States is a scam.
For many, it’s a very accurate observation. Much of daily life is filled with scams from corporate America and to survive everyone must go about the task of trying to always avoid the tricks and traps. And the past four years have made it abundantly clear that no will exists anywhere in the country — except maybe in the writings of Paul Krugman — to lessen unemployment, decrease inequality, and raise the pay and declining living standards of average Americans. In fact, these are things that are vigorously opposed in the current system.
Of course, the headhunter couldn’t admit this was so. But he couldn’t actually lie in front of everyone, either, so he had to talk in a circle:
No, everything is not a scam. There are a lot of companies that are hiring, but there are more that are nervous about investing in more personnel in a volatile economy. It’s understandable: So much is in flux today that companies hesitate to spend money, and they over-compensate by insisting on “perfect hires” …
First, we already know that applying for jobs online is largely a waste of time …
The “hiring expert” who insisted not everything was a scam emphasized the importance of knowing someone on the inside, of having a network. Then he conceded most people didn’t have the luck or resources to cultivate such relationships. And not tackled was the hard fact that once you’ve been unemployed nobody wants to know you — which is the same as having no “network.”
Economists and other experts say the recession has severed networks for many workers, especially the long-term unemployed, whose ranks have remained high even as the economy recovers.
“You’re submitting your résumé to a black hole,” it reads at one point.
Although the phenomenon has intensified it’s not unique. When I was being trained in chemistry, none of the undergraduates (the bachelors and masters candidates) I worked with got first positions by sending out resumes in response to ads in the trade journals like Science and C&E News. It just didn’t happen. They could all use their rejection notices as wallpaper.
When they got hired it was always through leveraging someone they already knew at a company, or pleading with a relative who worked at a firm to get them an in.
Human resource departments were simply barriers.
The New York Times piece spends a lot of time discussing hiring at Deloitte & Touche, one of the big parasite consulting and accounting firms of the country, a business that encompasses everything but which contributes very little observable to the social good.
Another firm mentioned hiring more and more by acquaintance is a national rent-a-car company.
If a rent-a-car company is run by people so venal and stupid that it thinks that the only good employees for standing behind a counter and working a scheduling and tracking program on a computer network, moving cars around a parking lot and handing out keys can be obtained only by digging through the friends of current workers, it speaks volumes about their regard for people, including their own.
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.
Whenever you think corporate America can’t be more odious/ludicrous, you are surprised:
“(AP) LINCOLN, Neb. – Beef Products Inc. plans to file a defamation lawsuit in the wake of a publicity storm over a meat product that critics have dubbed ‘pink slime.’ The Dakota Dunes, S.D.-based company said Wednesday that it will announce a lawsuit Thursday. A company executive and lawyer refused to name the defendant … The term ‘pink slime’ was coined by a former U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist.”
Baby eat pink slime, damn you, or we’ll nuisance litigate!
Beef Products, Inc. took a savage hit in the marketplace when it’s reason for being was rejected by the American consumer.
In a reasonable world, they’d have taken their hiding and disappeared.
But the USA isn’t a reasonable world. Corporations are mechanistically vindictive, encouraged to operate as if godly. The ‘inventor’ of pink slime knows what’s best.
The company will only be interested in suing someone with deep pockets. That means either ABC, the company that broadcasts Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, the program that generated viral media destroying pink slime in the market. Or the US government, specifically the USDA.
This isn’t about getting the product back into its market position. That can’t happen. The squeezed-out pink mess won’t go back in the tube. It’s about revenge and getting a payoff to go away.
Beef Products Inc. filed a defamation lawsuit Thursday against ABC News for its coverage of a meat product that critics have dubbed “pink slime,” alleging that the network misled consumers to believe the product is unhealthy and unsafe …
The reports cited in the lawsuit include 11 that aired on television and 14 that appeared online in March. Webb said the reports had “an enormous impact” on the company, forcing it to close three of its four U.S. plants and lay off more than 650 workers. Webb said the network also published a list of chain grocery stores that had stopped selling the product, and that this pressured others to end their business relationship with BPI.
The company states that television connected with the pink slime biz caused a loss of 80 percent of its business, claiming the impact “catastrophic.”
Can you reinstate your company in the public mind in court? No.
Ultimately, it’s more self-made bad publicity for Beef Products, a company trying to punish others and extract its pound of … pink flesh … for rejection.
One of the reasons for the blog’s interest in “pink slime” comes from experience working with microorganisms that produced collagenase, an enzyme that degrades the connective tissue protein, collagen.
To do rapid qualitative screening for collagenase production, or just to quickly and cheaply assay for the presence of the enzyme in samples, we used large amounts of fetal calfskin collagen.
And the way it was prepared is not too dissimilar from how Beef Products, or corporate America, processes garbage into a food product of marginal value.
Our collagen source had to be replenished once every year and a half so. That involved getting the hide from a freshly slaughtered fetal calf.
A local slaughterhouse provided them, free, I think. Maybe it’s all used as profit margin now.
The fetal calf hide would be put in a plastic bucket of water with a small amount of microbial growth inhibitor thrown in. It would be allowed to sit for a day or two. This would loosen it up, making the hair easier to debride.
We let it rot a little, so to speak.
Everytime the lab did this there would be a new batch of student assistants and one would be “volunteered” to help prepare it.
The hide would be taken out of the vat, put on an aluminum table/sink, and the hair removed with scrapers. If it was the first time you ever did it, you gagged a lot. The smell was not pleasant and you either got used to it, or breathed through your mouth, or suffered until your gag reflex got burned out for the day, or something like that.
Scraping the hair off the hide and rinsing it took about an hour.
Another couple hours were spent cutting the hide — now looking like what it was, pink flesh — into strips. Then the strips were slowly fed into a coarse meat grinder to make chunks. The work took most of the morning, or afternoon, depending on when you started.
The chunks were thrown into big vats of acetic acid. The acetic acid vats were then kept in a cold room for years, serving as the reservoir of collagen which was, when it started, in the flesh.
Acetic acid rendered the collagen into a slow-flowing gel after a week or two. When one needed a quantity for lab work, one took a beaker, dipped it into the vat of chunks, took out some, and squeezed the chunks through a cheese cloth.
The collagen gel was expressed, caught in another beaker, the remnants of the acetic acid dialyzed away with phosphate buffer.
When the gel collagen was ready you could pour it into a glass or plastic petri dish and put it in an incubator at body temperature. There it would firm up into a solid white layer of what sort of looked like very white, slightly quivering shiny flesh. It would have been great in horror movies.
Typically, one could put little round assay pads on the plate, impregnate the pads from samples drawn from liquid growth medium from bacterial samples of interest, and wait for a couple hours.
If collagenase was present the collagen would clear (dissolve, actually) into protein fragments and water around the pads, leaving a halo.
If you left the collagen plate in the incubator long enough, it dried out, leaving a fairly tough circle of dried insoluble cross-linked collagen which, to the touch, felt a bit like paper.
“Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings,” or “pink slime” reminded me of fetal calfskin collagen. It was not a food but it was also, loosely speaking, a meat trimming.
The marine bacteria with which we worked found it very nourishing. And the acetic acid, like ammonia with “pink slime,” kept it microbe free before use.