Designated Survivor

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 2:31 pm by George Smith

So far, the only reason to watch is Kiefer Sutherland. You saw the teaser: A bomb destroys the political leadership during a state of the union address and continuity of government hoists the Secretary of HUD, Tom Kirkman, the only man offsite to the White House.

Sutherland is cast as a gentle soul, a nobody who’s been cut loose by the President for being too vociferous about affordable housing or something, the very day of the bombing that makes him President. Before the hour’s up you get to see him show he has the usual Sutherland-character steel interior.

Personally, I would have made him from anywhere but the Ivy League, for a change. Cornell. Why not a Kent State or Delaware?

“Designated Survivor” left me with a feeling of time and reality out of joint. Another drama about America’s many enemies, known and unknown, striking a terrible blow and the world immediately extending its sorrows — except for the Iranians. Always the Iranians.

Really, if I were the leader of a foreign country and I saw it happen in real time, I’d probably find there’s a jam up on the line to the White House with everyone pleading that their country not be rubble-ized in the next couple months.

There’s the smart and intrepid FBI field analyst/agent, finding the bomb or bombs that did the deed were common on the Afghan battlefield. But she cautions there might be more to come. A campaign.

Which would stink. No more black box overpowering and unknowable enemies of the US anymore, please. It just doesn’t work.

Which brings it back to Sutherland. Tom Kirkman is a nice guy. He looks like he’s getting ready to be presidential, tougher than Harry Truman, perhaps. Maybe he’ll even get into a fire or fistfight before too long. I bet they even work cyberwar into it.

They have no clue

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall at 12:56 pm by George Smith

Today I point you to a discussion of the “science of Clinton” at 538, Nate Silver’s organ. For this, big data and the all-understanding brains seem to be absent.

Fivethirtyeight convenes four alleged experts in science to chat about what Clinton’s proposals mean for science:

Our participants are: Erica Fuchs, professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University; Elizabeth Mann, a fellow at the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institute; and Maryann Feldman, distinguished professor of public policy at the University of North Carolina and the director of the National Science Foundation’s Science of Science and Innovation Policy program. The moderator is Maggie Koerth-Baker, senior science writer at FiveThirtyEight.

What they produce is the usual futurism of 3D-manufacturing, uniquely (that means just for you) genetically engineered vaccines and drugs (this is particular balderdash that’s been predicted since the advent of Alvin Toffler) and, well, here (italics mine:

Advanced materials: Imagine intelligent clothing (pushed at Wired twenty year ago), creating plastic shapes with a beam of light, building veins or infant hearts (Posits we can be gods. Not going to happen.)

Additive manufacturing: Casually referred to as 3-D printing, but imagine not just in plastics, but also metals, semiconductors, food — changing materials layer by layer.

Specialized medicine: Custom vaccines and medicine tailored to your genetic makeup. (Posits we can be gods. Lethal irresponsible experimental cocktails, in reality.)

You had perhaps read the news that Google Glass was a big flop. Not here:

In the long term, we might imagine a postal worker being directed over Google Glass how to additively manufacture on your doorstep the sneakers you ordered 5 minutes ago.

It pegs the crap meter in a most spectacular manner.

If you read tech web zines every day this probably seems quite reasonable. After all, it’s been the stuff they’ve peddled for the last ten years, easy.

Mostly, it’s a lot like reading the web’s military news sites where they write quite seriously about how the US will, in the near future, deploy powerful lasers and rail guns. Powerful lasers, if by powerful you mean something that can set a skiff on fire with some work, or shoot down a small drone made of plastic at short range.

Rail guns of interest won’t happen because of the power constraints, the hazard associated with it, and the unavoidable metallurgy of gun parts that will fail quickly or immediately and spectacularly under high stresses of heat and released energy. These aren’t going to be the 16-inch naval rifles engineered for the old Iowa-class battleships.

Anyway, I’ve gotten a little away from the initial subject.

Naturally, there is retraining, a lot of it:

Policy can incentivize training for the new jobs that are created.

Maggie: Wait, wait. Seriously? Then what happens to the people who are stuck in crappy jobs now?

Erica: Thank you for helping me clarify. What drove my response was the speed of technology change. While basic research or science investments can take a long time to create industries, technology change is very rapid. The jobs and the knowledge relevant today are not the same jobs or knowledge [that will be] relevant tomorrow. [If you] set up programs to improve today’s jobs, those programs will be out of date before they are implemented. We must set up programs that prepare workers for the jobs and knowledge needed next month, next year.

Imagine an assessment and training application — accessible anytime, anywhere — that Uber drivers could access on their iPhones with Google Cardboard to train them for the next job needed by the economy …

Google Glass, Google Cardboard — jeezus. Is Google dispensing cash gifts?

Maryann: It’s an old claim. The truth is that there will be job displacements, but we think we will all be better off. Economic theory dictates compensating the losers, and this is an area that policy needs to address.

Maggie: Can you talk about “compensating the losers”? What would that look like? Education and job training? Or something more structural?

Maryann: Extending unemployment benefits, providing relocation and job-training assistance.

“We are going to see a revolution in personalized medicine and better health as a result of the Human Genome” says one of them.

Actually, the statistics in the last eight years seem to show health deteriorating in large segments of the American population. There is no magic wand of science made to fix it.

You can read the rest and come to your own conclusions here.

I’m unsure what, if anything, Hillary Clinton’s policies on science have to do with it. Maybe it sounds good. Who knows?


Not now, I’m watching porn and having a polish (continued)

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall at 3:49 pm by George Smith

Dean Baker had a great line today in his continuing takedowns of the stupid-men-who-don’t-work meme peddled by the henchmen for the cause of raising rates so inflation doesn’t come and somewhat devalue the hoards of the riches crowd:

But the rate hike crew decided the problem is that millions of men are no longer suited for the labor market. One economist even argued that these men have opted for internet porn and video games over work.

It’s touching to see economists talking about the problems of men without jobs.

Baker conginues to hammer the point that the meme overlooks the fact that it’s not just men who aren’t working: “In fact, the drop in employment among less-educated prime-age women has actually been larger than the drop among less-educated prime-age men.”

It’s part of a piece that also notes it’s the dubious anniversary of the failure of Lehman Brothers, a collapse that heralded the onset of the Great Recession, something none of the country’s highly regarded establishment economists saw coming:

In other words, our leading economists had no clue about what was going on in the economy at the time of the crash, they got the recovery completely wrong, and they still don’t seem to have a clue today. But they are good at making up stories about the lack of marketable skills of less-educated workers.

It’s a grave social ill.

The Opinion of Free-Trade Hating Cat

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China at 2:43 pm by George Smith

Free-Trade Hating Cat sez: “I will never again sleep or lay upon an air-conditioner not made in America. I curse Carrier and all like them. This window a/c box is from the time when we still made stuff. I checked.

“And another thing! So-called free-trade resulted in the great cat murder of 2007, when shitty corporate American scum conspired with a Chinese firm to pump up cat and dog food with melamine filler, a plastic poison that caused painful death and heartbreak! I wasn’t alive them but I know an old-timer in the neighborhood who was and he told me it was horrible and he was lucky to still be alive.

“I hate globalism and what it has done to millions of cat owners! Rowrr!”


Both were Americans

Posted in Bioterrorism, Ricin Kooks, War On Terror at 3:48 pm by George Smith

From an Associated Press story on August 23rd, on exotic weapons and emerging technologies in the hands of terrorists:

UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday that technological advances have made it easier for terrorist and criminal groups to obtain materials needed to make weapons of mass destruction, and some are actively trying to obtain nuclear, biological and chemical weapons to target civilians …

Gregory Koblentz, director of the Biodefense Graduate Program at George Mason University, said there are several emerging technologies that present challenges to international efforts to curb WMDs, including gene editing.

“Instead of gene drives being used to eliminate disease, they could be used to introduce new diseases into plant or animal populations,” he told the council.

Other potentially dangerous emerging technologies include the use of drones and the use of the Dark Web, which can only be accessed using special encryption software, guaranteeing anonymity to its users.

Koblentz said that in 2014 the U.S. arrested two people who had sold the toxins abrin and ricin — ricin is classified as a chemical weapon under the Chemical Weapons Convention — to customers in Austria, Canada, Denmark, England, India and the United States via a Dark Web marketplace called Black Market Reloaded.

“The global reach and anonymity of the Dark Web provides a new means for criminals and terrorists interested in dual-use equipment or materials to do business,” he said.

Black Market Reloaded was fairly quickly infiltrated by US law enforcement. Agents subsequently used identities on it to initiate sting operations involving the promised sale as well as the buying of poisons like ricin and abrin.

The two arrested on the Dark Web, specifically — users of Black Market Reloaded, were both Americans. Jesse Korff and James Christopher Malcolm.

Both accepted plea deals from the federal government with Malcolm sentenced to five years, Korff much longer.

Both were connected to the case of Ryan Chamberlain for which I served as a science consultant to the defense.

Considering the nature of the investigations and the results (there were about half a dozen arrests coming off BMR), the continued belief that the Dark Web provides anonymity in such instances is rather laughable.

Not now, I’m watching porn and having a polish

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Shoeshine at 2:34 pm by George Smith

The Grave Social Ill of unemployed stupid white guys will, I predict, continue to gain in popularity.

So, to refresh, from Nicholas Eberstadt’s Labor Day weekend piece at the WSJ:

What do unworking men do with their free time? Sadly, not much that’s constructive. About a tenth are students trying to improve their circumstances. But the overwhelming majority are what the British call NEET: “neither employed nor in education or training.” Time-use surveys suggest they are almost entirely idle—helping out around the house less than unemployed men; caring for others less than employed women; volunteering and engaging in religious activities less than working men and women or unemployed men. For the NEETs, “socializing, relaxing and leisure” is a full-time occupation, accounting for 3,000 hours a year, much of this time in front of television or computer screens …

The male retreat from the labor force has exacerbated family breakdown, promoted welfare dependence and recast “disability” into a viable alternative lifestyle. Among these men the death of work seems to mean also the death of civic engagement, community participation and voluntary association.

In short, the American male’s postwar flight from work is a grave social ill.

John Podhoretz, a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan and five-time Jeopardy gameshow champion adds at the New York Post, in other words, a brilliant man:

Men have been withdrawing from the workforce across two generations in a steady downward pattern that continues no matter the economic circumstances of the moment. They have left the workforce even though work itself has gotten easier — hours shorter, labor less physically taxing.

Make no mistake; these aren’t “discouraged workers.” They’re un-workers. Only “about 15 percent of the prime-age men who did not work at all in 2014 stated they were unemployed because they could not find work. In other words, five out of six of prime-age men gave reasons other than a lack of jobs for their absence from the workplace” ..

Eberstadt: “These men appear to have relinquished what we think of ordinarily as adult responsibilities not only as breadwinners, but as parents, family members, community members and citizens. Having largely freed themselves of such obligations, they fill their days in the pursuit of more immediate sources of gratification.”

And this part I really like:

What do the un-working have in common? They’re not married. They’re largely undereducated. And, most telling, they have a history of entanglement with the criminal justice system.

Economist Dean Baker has been taking this one on for the past week or so at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Today, with colleague Cherrie Bucknor, he covers more ground:

Most importantly, there has been a sharp drop in labor force participation rates. As a result, in spite of the relatively low unemployment rate, the employment rate is still close to 3.0 percentage points below its pre-recession level. This story holds up even if we restrict ourselves to looking at prime-age workers (between the ages of 25–54), with an EPOP that is close to 2.0 percentage points below pre-recession levels and almost 4.0 percentage points below 2000 peaks.

The response of the proponents of higher interest rates has been to attribute this drop to a problem with prime-age men rather than a lack of demand in the economy. For example, Tyler Cowen argued that less educated men were watching Internet porn and playing video games rather than working. The problem with this explanation is that the decline in EPOPs is comparable for non-college educated men and women. There is also a decline in EPOPs since 2000 for both college educated men and women, albeit a smaller one than for their less-educated counterparts.

The EPOP is the Employment-to-Population ratio.

Back to Bucknor and Baker:

Since there is a drop in prime-age EPOPs for all groups, this would seem to suggest that the main problem is a lack of demand and not some new difficulty that some relatively narrow group of workers has in dealing with the labor market. Before going through these trends, it is worth making an additional point; this decline in EPOPs was not expected before it happened …

The more fundamental issue is that it is difficult to explain a drop in EPOPS for all workers, regardless of education levels, as being a problem of workers lacking skills or a desire to work. This looks pretty clearly like a story of weak demand. In other words, the problem is not them; it is us, where “us” is the people who make economic policy.

Tyler Cowen, from the original:

Keep also in mind that the decline in labor force participation probably comes from structural factors …

Maybe employers just aren’t that keen to hire those males who prefer to live at home, watch porn and not get married. Is that more of a personal failure on the part of the worker than a market failure?

Keep in mind there is plenty of other evidence for a partial collapse of norms among some of the lower earners in the U.S. It has been detailed in numerous books. I am claiming that some of that labor is now perceived as being of lower quality, which is entirely possible.

Additional impetus for the unworking stupid men watching tv shtick is its attachment to whether or not full employment has been achieved so interest rates can be raised.

If it’s only stupid lazy men who are unemployed, then there’s nothing to be done. The economy has recovered and it’s time to raise the rate so inflation doesn’t creep in and damage the hoards of rich people.

However, if all groups are still seeing underemployment, then the men who are grave social ills argument loses some of its juice.

Hot rock track from Old White Coot

Posted in Phlogiston, Rock 'n' Roll, WhiteManistan at 12:27 pm by George Smith

Download and collect ’em all.

Or listen to LP while it’s built.


From Facebook

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, WhiteManistan at 1:02 pm by George Smith

I’m on Facebook, where I have a few friends. Think low forties. They’re almost all from my tribe, the people who will be voting Democratic in November.

Except now we disagree on doing your duty for civilization and the necessity of winning the war of good vs. evil at all costs. Whereas no one is particularly fond of mulling over in detail the history that’s brought the moment. No, I don’t think George Takei is brilliant for using celebrity to make viral a meme, an easy joke about half the deplorables having to look up the word.

So, from FB, I crib myself, with a few corrections to make it look better:

I’ve been told it’s impossible to make a principled vote for anybody but Hillary Clinton. Even not voting is a signal that one wants Trump.

As for Jill Stein, the media has taken it to her. She went to Russia. She’s kooky. Stein never won anything but some dogcatcher-like position. Which is kinda like me.

Plus there’s the Original Sin of Naderism. You must do everything in your power to keep Trump out of power or be a pariah forever. The situation has been made volcanic.

Tell people long and loud enough they must eat it and do a certain thing or they are “deplorables” who brought about the end of civilization. And then we’ll wait for the roll of the dice on whether Nate Silver’s statistics will deliver us into the land of milk and honey, whether the f— you vote was missed and how much the command messages resonated.

And, you bet, I’m acutely aware that as Escape from WhiteManistan I’ve spilled quite a lot of digital ink on the deplorables. While I’m not about to recant it, I’ve come to think that decades of writing people off have come with a steep cost that’s now due. And it will dog and corrupt the country even more for some time. How long, no one can say.

Domain does not exist

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, The Corporate Bund at 12:34 pm by George Smith

Imagine my surprise on Sunday upon finding I know longer existed. Something had whisked dickdestiny.com off the net. (Perhaps you didn’t even notice. It’s not like I get a lot of traffic.)

My hosting account was still there. My directory structure and files intact. All bills paid. But something had taken the domain out of DNS look up.

It was Tucows, the large domain registrar in Toronto. It handles domain name upkeep for my provider. Or it was my provider. (Which was unlikely since I get every other notice from them.) Or both.

I’ve been at dickdestiny for 16 years. And after all this time, some robot or procedure or someone at Tucows had decided I needed to verify that I indeed was who I was. Even though the bills have been paid, on time, for over a decade and a half.

And their corporate e-mail telling me I had to confirm that I am who I am never arrived. So Tucows pulled the plug.

And I had to waste two hours on Sunday talking to my provider to get it straightened out, to return from the dead, to “verify” that I am who I am. After sixteen years.


You can alays count on a Corporate Fuck All to come out of nowhere and foul things up.

Shit happens. Accidents bring chaos. Stuff blows up. It may be in Canada, but the corporate American way of just doing something to you, has spread everywhere.


Technical problems

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, The Corporate Bund at 12:00 pm by George Smith

Just so you know. Became aware of outage. You can alays count on a Corporate Fuck All to come out of nowhere and foul things up.

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