07.23.14

Internets make you feel crummy

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, The Corporate Bund at 1:02 pm by George Smith

Proven by science quote of day (no link):

“Austrian researchers … found people feel crummy any time they’re on Facebook for too long, no matter what kind of stuff pops up.”

I wouldn’t leave all the glory to Facebook. Much of the 2014 web makes you feel crummy.

I started publishing on the net, an e-mail newsletter in 1990 or so. A bit later I started posting to a university site, NIU’s Critical Criminology Department server, when most people were still using the first browsers, even image-less, like Lynx. So it’s a legitimate observation.

Part of the feeling crummy phenomenon is the complete corporate takeover of all aspects of the web. This has given everyone an environment in which Google search is a winner-take-all proposition with only the illusion of millions of choices. The practical reality is that only the top half of the screen in the first page of results matters.

Much of everything else has devolved into pushes to buy things and ubiquitous, inescapable advertising. Most big newspaper sites are now like bad television, news magazines and the Los Angeles Times being a very good working examples.

The actual news text furnished by journalists makes up a minor part of what is sent to visitors/readers. The rest of the bandwidth is reserved for squirting even more HD advertising and idiotic video on whatever’s trending at you.

This brings us to viral content, a feel good buzzterm which really means manipulative trolling, much of it to make you subconsciously feel bad or inferior for not doing something or appreciating the wild and amusing miracles of the day. This, obviously, so the viral sites can net millions of users, what might be thought of as internet plankton, to lure venture capitalists into giving them millions in cash money while they attempt to come up with a way to monetize it more, the latter usually be selling still more HD advertising or by the not-so-subtle pushing of corporate services and products.

From the AP:

US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has a hot stock tip for you: stop throwing so much money at anything that calls itself a social network.

Specifically, the Fed thinks the “valuation metrics” for “smaller firms in the social media” sector “appear substantially stretched.” And it’s not hard to see why.

Yo, an app that only lets you send messages that say “yo,” just received $1 million in funding. Cynk, a nonexistent social network for buying friends online, somehow – fraudulently – got a $6 billion valuation despite having no assets and no revenue.

And now NBA star Carmelo Anthony is pivoting to a second career as a venture capitalist with his own seed fund. As he told the Wall Street Journal, he has “long been interested in technology.”

You should feel crummy after being exposed to the internet every day for hours. It just shows you haven’t gone insane.


I’ve commented before on how parasitic web engineering is for the average user. In my experience, most of the code delivered to you has only one purpose. It’s to tie up your machine while it squeezes whatever it can from your web presence and private data.

A good working example is SoundCloud. And you can do a little experiment to see what I mean.

Travel out to the link I posted a day or so ago (or if you don’t want to listen to Dick Destiny’s tune, choose another to your liking).

Set the tune to play and bring up the Task Manager on your PC. When I do this, using the latest edition of Mozilla-Firefox, I immediately see that Soundcloud starts executing so much code on the client side that it hogs most of the processing power. Mind you, this is only to stream MP3 audio, the actual file of which was only between four and five megabytes.

Now minimize the window.

Voila. The processor immediately drops back to a normal rate. So most of the activity SoundCloud sends to you has nothing to do with vending audio at all, it’s all on the video and miscellaneous end, junk parasitic code that torques the engine of your machine.

Browser extensions like NoScript and NotScript, the latter which I use, also illustrate the predatory nature of the web. When you start using them and look at what they’re blocking, you’re given a nice course in what the corporate web is doing to you.

In other words, you’re being worked over by grasping corporate web design, none of it for your benefit.


And from the Department of Speaking of Which

My hosting provider runs a script that can’t be turned off, one to collect web statistics for the benefit of, ahem, my alleged small business. It polls clients every few seconds.

Perhaps you have noticed it.

I have nothing to do with it and don’t use any statistics it provides. If you use a no-script extension on your browser, you’ll see it. Block it.

It will not affect the usability of the blog.

07.21.14

‘Merica’s Rock n Roll Bigot loses another gig

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Ted Nugent, WhiteManistan at 7:09 pm by George Smith

WhiteManistan’s most public bigot, Ted Nugent, lost another gig today. This brings the total of cancellations this year to four, all as a result of Nugent’s infamous reputation as a purveyor of hate speech.

From the AP:

WORLEY, Idaho (AP) — A Native American tribe has canceled an Aug. 4 concert by Ted Nugent at its casino.

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe on Monday said that the cancellation of the concert at the casino in the northwest Idaho city of Worley was because of the rocker’s “racist and hate-filled remarks.”

The tribe says it booked Nugent without realizing he espoused “racist attitudes and views.” The tribe did not detail which of Nugent’s specific views it opposes.

The last sentence is hilarious. There’s so much hate speech from Nugent documented on the web it’s now an intelligence-insulting task to show it to people who don’t want to see it, anyway. Anyone who says they haven’t heard the worst of it is in the position of covering their backside.

Nugent has made his a big part of his business being a public hate-monger for WhiteManistan and the Tea Party. He should be made to own it completely.

He has the right to free speech. But in the world of entertainment, one can exert pressure on businesses, or concert venues, that book him. Bars, casinos, small theaters in the heartland and county fairs are not, primarily, venues for the spouting of all view points.

They’re entertainment businesses, period. And they must exist within the standards of the community they’re local to. And if people choose to tell them, again and again, that Ted Nugent does not fit even generously elastic community standards in a civil society and the business should either distance itself from him or risk paying a price for flouting such things for the sake of money, then that is a legitimate tactic.

It’s an unpleasant job to go over the long list of Nugent’s public statements and video captures. That doesn’t excuse anyone from corporate America in the music business from due diligence on it.

Want to buy the nationally famous hate-monger for a day? Live with the ill will, bad karma and potential bad result.

Music for Monday

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll, The Corporate Bund at 2:45 pm by George Smith

hatesyou2s

Johnny Pantywaist performed live in Pasadena over the weekend.

You’ll surely enjoy the loud electric folk of the Dick Destiny Band, in this case the Modern Gothic tale of an attack on Rupert Murdoch by a clumsy man with a shave cream pie.

A psychedelic three minute diversion after another day of open hostility in the Corporate Bund.

You can throw a couple dollars for strong beer or guitar strings in the tip jar here at the bottom of the page, but are not obligated. Or if you are in the area you can as to come see up perform such ditties for free every week.

07.19.14

Saturday in the Corporate Bund

Posted in The Corporate Bund at 12:44 pm by George Smith

Today’s speech from the White House, an excerpt:

“This week, Vice President Biden will release a report he’s been working on to reform our job training system into a job-driven training system. And I’ll visit a community college in L.A. that’s retraining workers for careers in the fast-growing health care sector. Because every worker deserves to know that if you lose your job, your country will help you train for an even better one.”

BFD.

Since the president can’t do anything in the paralyzed system, he flogs the same half-dead horse he’s flogged for as long as he’s been elected: “We’ll community college our way back to a solid economy.”

Or, translated: “Now that corporate America has devalued labor to a critical level and you’ve lost your middle class job to automation or offshore cheapness, you can retrain for two years for a job as a nurse’s assistant, medical billing specialist, tooth scraper or limited mobility physical therapist that pays a lot less but with job security since 99.8 percent of the soon-to-be geriatric boomers aren’t going to be going anywhere except into hospitals and retirement communities near you.

The real answer is simple but undoable in our state of corporate fascism: Mandate the raising of payment so people can afford to live no matter the work they do and cut the contemptible US business propaganda that workers don’t have skills, are stupid and always need retraining because everyone overseas is better.


The Washington Post:

Ever since the job market began to recover in 2010, the decline in the unemployment rate has come with a big fat asterisk. The unemployment rate has been going down, the argument goes, but largely because people have stopped looking for work …

The report has no definitive answers for why workers appear to be disappearing, but it has two overarching theories:

The first theory is that higher levels of long-term unemployment as a result of the Great Recession are causing more workers to exit and remain outside the labor force. A well-chronicled feature of the economic recovery has been the very large numbers of Americans unemployed for more than six months — 3.1 million in June. The report highlights other economic research that has shown that jobless Americans have lower odds of finding a job the longer they’re unemployed. And a big part of the reason is that employers discriminate against those with long spells of joblessness …

The report’s second theory essentially boils down to the idea that the participation rate is lower because when the recession started, the labor market was already much weaker than was widely recognized. Nearly every demographic group saw labor force participation declines ahead of the recession. It was especially problematic for men, who have been beaten down by declines in manufacturing, advances in workplace automation and expanding trade.

Personal note: All week I’ve been getting e-mail for a raffle to see the President in LA at his community college stop, just contribute to enter.

07.18.14

Life in Corporate Taxavoidination

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, The Corporate Bund at 4:08 pm by George Smith

We live in corporate Taxavoidination.

For the past two weeks, mainstream journalism has glommed onto covering US businesses moving swiftly to merge with foreign equivalents, specifically in countries where the economy is rigged to encourage legal corporate tax cheating by American businessmen. They’ve published so much the White House has been moved to ask for legislation, a request that hasn’t a chance of going anywhere, to stop it.

Two phrases keep cropping up, economic patriotism, and corporate patriotism, as in “why ain’t there any?”

Who would think there is such a thing living in this country for the last two or three decades? Who is surprised at its non-existence? Corporate patriotism? It’s to laugh, something to say with a sneer.

The article I’m about to excerpt and link to is entitled “America’s unrequited corporate love affair,” by Timothy Noah. It’s the latest in the official college of explainers’ discovery of the renouncement of status as American for tax purposes as the to do thing in the corporate fascist state.

But what’s this about unrequited love? Who loves big American corporations? How do they inspire love in us? Disgust, fear, contempt and anger seem far more common.

Are America’s corporations loved because they haven’t fired you yet, only increasing your workload by a third or even 100 percent without paying any more over the last ten years? Are they loved because they only filched twenty dollars from your bank account this week in administrative and courtesy fees rather than forty? Are they loved because they bankroll politicians who are climate change deniers which is better than bankrolling one who would try to cancel the food stamp program and make new law so that people who default on debt because they have been put out of work can be quickly put in jail?

Have you ever heard anyone say “I love [Big Pharmaceutical Company] or [Boeing] or [Verizon]“?

We do know the groupies of the world of Silicon Valley tech uber alles love Apple. But Apple doesn’t love them back. Apple hates everybody, except the financial instruments of Luxembourg and Ireland where it launders its money. It hates the people that assemble its phones so thoroughly they started committing suicide, then rioted. That’s a case of global corporate Stockholming, where the tormented are conditioned into a sick love for their tormentors.

The news piece is decent but not anything you haven’t seen commented on previously. In the last four years corporate tax avoidance through off-shoring maneuvers has so distorted the economic landscape of the country even the business news media can’t whitewash it.

From MSNBC:

Consider Heather Bresch, the daughter of Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and the chairman of generic drug maker Mylan, who announced plans this week to reincorporate in the Netherlands. “Until now, Ms. Bresch ran an unabashedly proud American company based in a Pittsburgh-area suburb,” a July 14 New York Times story notes. In 2011, the Times points out, Esquire magazine named Bresch “Patriot of the Year” for her prominent role in promoting the Food and Drug Administration Safety in Innovation Act, passed in 2012, which tightened regulations on imported drugs.

Why would a U.S. industry executive be deemed patriotic for advocating a law that, however worthy, improved her company’s competitive position against foreign imports? Try not to be distracted by that excellent question. The salient point is that Bresch had a family connection in Congress and made effective use of it. Now she’s thanking the U.S. government by repatriating her company to the Netherlands to dodge taxes.

Bresch told the Times that she doesn’t want to play the inversion game, but has to because Congress won’t lower corporate tax rates. In fact, Obama’s proposed tax reform plan, currently stalled in Congress, would lower the corporate rate from 35% to 28%, and 25% for manufacturers. But as Bresch told the Times, Mylan already pays an effective tax rate of 25%. Reincorporating in the Netherlands will lower that to 21%, and eventually to the high teens.

Speaking in defense of corporate fascism and predation over the land, a writer of entrepreneurial self-help books delivers this at Yahoo Finance:

So this might be a reasonable way to way to define economic patriotism: Pay what you owe and nothing more, while finding other ways to show support for your nation and your countryfolk. If you’re a businessperson who profits by operating in America, set up mentoring programs to help young people get ahead, or go out of your way to hire the underprivileged, or find some other way to give back.

This is bad writing on many levels. At the core, it’s intelligence-insulting and bald-faced deception.

Who expects American corporations to set up mentoring programs that aren’t excuses to wring free labor internships out of young people? And what, pray tell, does corporate America do to hire the underprivileged when the message for the last decade is that the labor pool is unskilled and too stupid to fulfill its needs?

The answer to that is simple and obvious. Corporate America hires the underpriviliged and everyone else at rates of pay that don’t add up to a living wage.

Anyway, only some weird and warped corporate boot-lick uses the word countryfolk in a piece aimed at arguing maintaining the corporate status quo is the patriotic thing.

“[If] you’re an ordinary voter, you can show your economic patriotism by demanding the government adopt policies that make America indisputably the best place to start and run a business, instead of a winded giant that seems unable to keep up with the rest of the world,” recommends Yahoo’s Rich Newman, author of Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success.

And the best way to make America a place to start and run a business is to always lower the corporate tax rate. It’s the best argument: If American corporations are engaged in massive tax avoidance and financial legal frauds which fail to serve even the slightest social good, change the rules so they pay even less.

Now do your patriotic duty and click up the number on Taxavoidination, either version. Don’t thumb your nose, now. I can tell.


07.17.14

Vulnificus season illnesses drifting in

Posted in Bioterrorism at 2:45 pm by George Smith

From the Hattiesburg newspaper:

René Olier went fishing June 5 just the way he had for 50 years. He stopped to get live bait and set out for an area south of Cat Island.

The 63-year-old returned about 2:30 p.m. feeling fine, his wife, Linda Olier, said, but woke up in the night with chills. Probably just from being in the sun all day, they thought.

The next morning, though, he started having gastrointestinal distress and pain near the hand he’d used to scoop bait. Probably from all the horse flies, he thought. She went to get Benadryl from a nearby store and by the time she got back his arm was visibly swollen …

Luckily, the Oliers’ daughter had written a Facebook post about his condition. A friend, whose father lost his leg to Vibrio after getting cut on a crab trap, was able to recommend a doctor.

René Olier was transferred to Memorial Hospital at Gulfport, where the affected tissue was removed. But by the next morning, his organs were failing.

“(The doctor) said he’s not gonna live through the night unless we amputate his arm,” Linda Olier said, but the procedure saved his life.

It’s a terrible illness. No one gets through it easily. A week earlier, the newspaper mentions, another man lost his life.

“Mississippi had 12 reported cases in 2012,” reads the newspaper.

Previously, here.

How it eats you, through science, many years ago.

Today’s dose of the Rock n Roll Bigot

Posted in Ted Nugent, WhiteManistan at 1:21 pm by George Smith

It’s all the fault of the poors, especially those people in the cities. Ted Nugent hates them all, especially what they did to Detroit. “Have you been to Detroit lately?” he asks in his latest column at the advocating-rebellion-right-wing news site, WND. “No wonder the movie Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is such a big hit.”

Further:

We shake our heads in abject confusion and disbelief at the vacant claims by the left and liberal Democrats that capitalism is bad and that America is greedy when it is universally known that at least half of the country is subsidized by the producers. There simply is no more generous, giving, loving society on earth than hardworking Americans …

As the Democrats continue to get away with their crimes, the squawking poor just keep on getting poorer, and as is always the case, they have no one to blame but themselves. Stupid is as stupid does. Brainwashing only works if you give up your brain and your soul to the brainwashers.

Another mind-boggling conundrum is the fact that America’s so-called poor live a life far better than do real poor people around the world and have luxuries they can only dream of.

With their cell phones, automobiles, microwave ovens, air-conditioning, new clothes, manicures and pedicures, bling-bling, clean water, more food than they can eat, pretty much redistributed everything handed to them, they still whine how America should be more like those other countries.

As a matter of fact, if you live in a poor neighborhood in urban America, you know that people don’t have a lot of things someone as repellent as Ted Nugent thinks they do. As for “clean water,” Nugent seems to have the missed the disaster of Detroit shutting off water service. However, this is hardly surprising, considering the source.

A great many below the poverty line, or very close to it, in Los Angeles County do not have cars. They rely on public transportation, bicycles, sometimes taxis, and walking.

A lot have air-conditioning as renters but don’t use it when it’s most needed in the southern California summer because it really runs the electricity bill higher. Instead, they are outside or on porches, perhaps using a fan, trying to stay cool in the evening after the sun has set.

As for “bling-bling”? I don’t see it, ever. But, Ted, that’s him being what he is, one of WhiteManistan’s most popular public racists.

“Listen to my SHUTUP&JAM! CD,” Nugent concludes “It’s the soundtrack to take back America.”

Not exactly but I suppose sales could use a push.

Here’s a Nugent at a recent show in Anaheim. The first minute and a half is given over to a standard profane rant about Nancy Pelosi and California gun law.

From an Orange County Weekly review, largely favorable, of the show:

Perhaps it was the fact that this show was in Orange County, but, for as much of a rocking show as Nugent puts on, there were very few youths present at The Grove. The audience essentially consisted of the same metalheads, rock ‘n rollers, and swivel-hipped girls that had likely gone to his concerts 30 years ago …

Nugent was pretty vocal about the African American roots of his music, and played “You Shook Me,” yet I did not see a single black person in the theater…He is likely his own biggest fan …


In Maine, an experienced hunter strongly condemns criticizes Nugent for getting involved in trying to defeat an anti-bear-baiting referendum:

Disturbingly … Ted Nugent has spoken out in opposition to a fair and sporting bear hunt. Nugent is from Michigan and is known for sticking his nose — and his loud and offensive mouth — in other states’ business. He has supported all sorts of unethical practices, including hunting within fenced enclosures and remote Internet hunting …

Most of us Mainers are familiar with the old saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but it is broken. Our bear management sadly has gone astray. And Ted Nugent is the poster-child for how not to fix it. Nugent illegally baited deer in California and illegally killed a bear in Alaska …

I’ve hunted bear in Maine for the last 25 years, taking as many bears in that time. I know the woods well and am a skilled enough tracker to find a bear when I want rather than relying on lazy and cruel tactics.

The red, white and blue acoustic Ted Nugent acoustic guitar with his autograph, put on eBay to raise money to help defeat the anti-bear-baiting referendum still has not sold.

At a starting bid of $7,000, it’s a plainly lousy deal.


From Google, the “Ted Nugent + bigot” collection.

Johnny Winter — passes at 70

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll at 11:16 am by George Smith

Sad, in Zurich.

A Los Angeles Times piece this morning noted in the early 70’s Winter “helped drive a germinating boogie rock movement.” Certainly true. Johnny Winter was all over big stages, as part of the Blue Sky roster of artists (think the Edgar Winter Group and Rick Derringer), he was one of the most influential and widely-seen hard rockers of that time.

And he looked the part, as seen in the segment from Don Kirshner: Top hat, glam rock platform shoes, a big white beard, well before ZZ Top took the image, only accentuating his albinism. And, of course, volume, big amplifiers and an unrelenting beat.

A nasty heroin put him on the bench for awhile and he returned around ‘76 with “Still Alive & Well,” written by Rick Derringer and the title of the Winter album it appeared on. Johnny Winter would relapse to alcohol or drugs from time to time, the last crisis being in the mid-90s, I think.

But he got through it all, returning to the stage seated although it was clear his health had deteriorated.

I have half a dozen or so of his records and like them all, “Let Me In,” from 1991 being the favorite. The boogie rock is at its peak on a live album on Blue Sky in ‘76 in front of a stadium crowd. That band minus a second guitar player is on display on the 20-minute segment from Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. Dig the bass player rocking the fake fur lady’s hat.

Another seller was an earlier live album with Derringer in Johnny Winter And although I like the debut studio record, self-titled, more.

I interviewed Winter in 1991 when he was in Allentown at the Fairgrounds opening for George Thorogood. He was quite the Texas gentleman.

Here it is, reprinted from here:

Johnny Winter talks with the kind of Texas drawl that makes you think he’d be a good neighbor, the kind you could share a beer with.

The tall, pale guitarist says that he had recorded a song about drinkin’ for “Let Me In,” his new disc on Point Blank, but he decided to leave it off because … well, you know how that kinda thing got George Thorogood in hot water.

Winter said he’s never heard Thorogood’s “If You Don’t Start Drinkin’ (I’m Gonna Leave).” “But I’ve heard plenty about it,” he laughed.

Asked if he thought that anyone would have made a fuss about this song if it had been recorded five years ago, Winter said he didn’t think so.

Which makes one think about what’s going on with rock ‘n’ roll these days. Don’t rock bands advertise beer? And where do you often see them perform? Smoky bars, right? And what’s served in bars? Think about these things too much, and your head will throb.

So it’s time to move on and say why Johnny Winter’s opening for George Thorogood at the Allentown Fair tomorrow night. Mainly, it’s in support of “Let Me In,” as fine a rock record as you’ll hear this year.

It should be a good show. After all, there’s lots of cool stuff from the disc that Winter can play. For instance, “Barefootin’,” which was a great cover when Brownsville Station performed it as the B-side of “Smokin’ In The Boys Room” many years ago. It still sounds pretty good on “Let Me In.”

And one could yell for “Sugaree,” where Winter plays some lowdown stop-’n-start guitar boogie riffs that sound real fine in the summer time.

There’s plenty of blues on the record, too, so the purists that regularly rag Winter about whether he’s a rocker or a bluesman can still get their bile pumpin’ over whether “Let Me In” is more “blooz” or more “rock.”

“I was getting s— about that in the ’60s,” said Winter. “I don’t really understand it — you’ll always have someone who isn’t comfortable unless there’s a title on it. But it’s just the way I play.”

Which brings to mind his last album, “Winter of ‘89.” Produced by Terry Manning, some of it had a ZZ Top throb to it that made the purists scream blue murder. Actually, the record wasn’t bad — there was the usual helping of fierce playin’ and singin’ that you can find on just about every Johnny Winter album.

“It was an attempt to be more commercial,” said Winter. “But it wasn’t that good an experience. I did my part and left and then the producer did his. I like to get more involved in the recording, so we didn’t get along too well.”

Why does Winter have to be “more commercial”? It’s hard to figure out, considering the big draw he was in the ’70s with records like “Still Alive And Well,” “Second Winter” and “Saints And Sinners.”

Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Winter recorded for Alligator, an independent blues label for most of the ’80s. You do that kind of thing too much and businessmen start calling you uncommercial.

But Winter made his first and only video for Alligator. And then it went and got aired on MTV, but it was hard to tell if that helped much because fans of Winter apparently don’t watch MTV.

Although it’s up to Point Blank, his new label, Winter said he’d like to make another. “The one I did was fun. We found a guy who hadn’t done any videos, just commercials, and he agreed to do it. I couldn’t bitch. I don’t know anything about it.

“He’d say, `Walk over here,’ and then I’d do what he said.”

Which seems like a sensible way to make a video when you take a gander at those on MTV –most of which are “tasteless and horrible,” according to Winter.

It is indeed hard not to like Winter. You can listen to his guitar-playin’ of which much great stuff has been written. You can remember when he used to wear a neat top hat, or you can recall that he’d been laboring in Texas backwaters for 10 years before one paragraph in Rolling Stone magazine made him “the next big thing” more than two decades ago.

It was just a short blurb and, Winter said, “It surprised me to death. It was just what this one guy said. I couldn’t believe it; it still seems impossible.

“And then the same record company people that I’d been trying to talk to for 10 years were all calling me at once.”


A documentary, released this year, to what seems like virtually no distribution.

07.16.14

The FDA’s Open Digital Sweatshop Initiative

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 2:40 pm by George Smith

Marvel at the promotional video uploaded by the Empire of Bezos to showcase “Amazon Web Services.” It’s awesome in that it has the FDA’s Chief Health Informatics Officer, Taha Kass-Hout, going on for four minutes about the miracle of “turning manual submissions from the public into machine-readable information with 99.7% accuracy” without once mentioning Mechanical Turk or that the work is performed by digital sweat-shopping.

Instead Kass-Hout relates how the FDA had a “19th century problem” of backlogged paperwork, adverse drug reactions submitted by the public, health professionals and doctors, paper that needed transcription into machine-readable form. There’s a stream of jargon and techno-gobble about “the cloud” and database language coupled with pretty digital icons of documentation whizzing by with not a single admission of the reality that the job is not implemented by machines at all, but by the equivalent of human hamsters running the wheels at Mechanical Turk for pennies.

It’s truly Orwellian, releasing a stink of vague obfuscation so that people who don’t know a thing about what’s going on in the background are led to believe it’s just another marvelous technical wonder on the road to the glorious future.

Taha Kass-Hout ought to be ashamed of himself although that’s a bit much to hope for.

The Obama administration has put on a public populist face, one that chides the Republican Party and corporate America for allowing inequality to balloon and the compensation of workers to flat-line. And here is the man from the FDA, talking about a technical work-around that simply relies on paying people virtually nothing for record transcription work.

The blog mentioned this previously, in connection with Mechanical Turk, and here is a recap:

At a time of great unemployment, poverty wages and increasing inequality, the Food and Drug Association has committed to employing Mechanical Turk digital sweat-shop labor through a private sector sub-contractor. Pure and simple, it is the use of taxpayer money in the nullification of people for the siphoning of the money to corporate America. Think of it as anti-stimulus. (What percentage of Mechanical Turk workers are in the food stamp program? Rhetorical. There are no statistics as the service and the businesses that use it are non-transparent.)

Plus human beings working for twenty or thirty cents a job are more reliable and so much cheaper than crappy optical character recognition software …

At a time when the economy is not producing jobs or a living for many Americans, the government response should not be to fill a labor need by leveraging desperation digital sweat shop labor.

This is wrong. The US government, specifically the Food and Drug Association, should hire Americans and get the job done, not resort to machine-like digital chiseling through a third party because it is allegedly swamped by a work load. Alternatively, it can use tax dollars to buy more automation and keep the work within the agency.

There are many paper shuffling and data entry jobs in the US government, all performed by civil servants. And a lot of that work, without labor protections, could simply be turned over to digital crowd-sourcing in network sweat-shops.

The government must still pay workers according to some set of civilized standards. And in no cases can the federal government refuse to pay civil servants if it doesn’t like the cut or result of their work on any given day. Yet that is the model put in place when a federal agency transfers data transcription to labor on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. On Mechanical Turk, below subsistence pay workers can be denied mere dimes if their work is deemed sub-standard. And there are no appeals.

This isn’t where the government should be leading. And whoever came up with the idea at the FDA needs some bad publicity and brush-back.

And I’m not sorry to say I will supply bad publicity when able.

Captricity, which is the firm that does this for the FDA, is a small firm in Berkeley.

Reads its website:

Extract structured data from paper forms. Even handwriting! Fast. Secure. 99%+ accurate

Ninety-nine percent accurate. For pennies on the job and the ability to deny payment through Mechanical Turk if the sub-standard is turned in, I should hope so.

Here is the Captricity blog.

You may especially enjoy, if only in a perverse way, the entry entitled “Evidence-based Research to Combat Global Poverty.”

And do tell us, how do you combat global poverty by using workers paid at astonishingly sub-poverty levels to transcribe administrative information and research on populations in poverty in endemically poverty-stricken countries?

Boy, that’s a brain-twister. But I’m sure they have an answer in the Silicon Valley.

Even the President could no longer ignore Taxavoidination

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 1:45 pm by George Smith

Merging offshore in a country with an rigged economy engineered for corporate tax cheating is the new hip for the riches. So much so, it’s spawned articles in the major media, enough that the Obama White House apparently decided it could no longer stand to be seen doing nothing.

From today’s New York Times:

In letters sent to four lawmakers, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said the administration supported a quick fix that would halt the trend of so-called inversions, in which United States companies buy a smaller competitor and reincorporate overseas to save money on taxes.


Since May, Minneapolis-based Medtronic agreed to acquire Covidien for $43 billion, and Pittsburgh-based Mylan agreed to acquire assets from Abbott Laboratories. Both companies plan to reincorporate in Europe as part of the deals. AbbVie, based in Chicago, won preliminary approval on Monday from the Irish drug maker Shire for a $53 billion deal that would be the biggest of the year.

But if congressional leaders act, these deals could be in jeopardy. Many of the recent inversion deals include clauses that would allow the buyer to back out of the deal if the laws change to prevent them from reincorporating abroad.

The administration appears to believe that potentially scuttling these deals would be worth pushing through immediate changes to stop inversions.

The bad news is that the administration is offering the carrot of a reduction in taxation to 20 percent to our corporate multi-mega-cheats.

In any case, the Republican Party would never allow anything to threaten the tax avoidance of corporate America.

In fact, one might count on a different proposal, one to lower the tax rate even below 20 percent and to simultaneously further ease offshore tax avoidance.

In a white paper pointed to earlier, economist and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz writes of the American corporate tax rate:

“[American corporations] recognize that public spiritedness will not induce them to pay their fair share of taxes or to create jobs in the US.
Only bribes will do that. So they seek to lower the corporate income tax
rate and to impose taxation only on production in the US.”

Stiglitz recommends seven steps, the first of which is “Raise the corporate tax rate.” Note to Obama administration: “Raise” is not spelled l-o-w-e-r.

This is to be coupled with “tax credits for corporations which invest in the US and create jobs.”

The rest are here, an interlocking of penalties and disincentives set to change the environment in which corporate America has gamed the system.

Also worth reading, most for standard shamelessness in behavior, is a piece on the “patriot” CEO of one of the pharmaceutical firms planning a tax evasion move.

The reader may note one does not usually think of American titans of business as patriots in 2014, particularly those that are the
leaders of giant generic drug firms.

Nevertheless, from the Times:

Heather Bresch grew up around politics. Her father is Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia and a former governor. She has heard him say repeatedly, “We live in the greatest country on Earth,” as he did in countless political advertisements. And it appeared to rub off on her: Ms. Bresch was named a “Patriot of the Year” in 2011 by Esquire magazine for helping to push through the F.D.A. Safety Innovation Act.

Ms. Bresch is the chief executive of Mylan, the giant maker of generic drugs.


But on Monday, Ms. Bresch announced plans to renounce her company’s United States citizenship and instead become a company incorporated in the Netherlands, where the tax rates are lower…

Still, there’s something morally disconcerting about a company like Mylan, which is a beneficiary of United States taxpayers who pay for Mylan’s drugs through Medicaid and Medicare, leaving the country, in part, to pay less in taxes…

President Obama has proposed a top corporate rate of 28 percent, and a rate of 25 percent for manufacturers. However, that number would appear to be too high to hold on to the likes of Ms. Bresch. Even 20 percent — some Republicans have floated that number — might still be too high.

One might assume the White House has read the articles in the Times and decided to cave on the original 28 percent, moving it in the direction more likable, but still too high, for predatory corporate America.

Which, unfortunately, isn’t surprising.

As for being a patriot, if it’s Esquire magazine that did the awarding, it certainly must be so.

The partial biography of a patriot, from Wiki:

Bresch, the daughter of West Virginia U.S. Senator and former West Virginia governor Joe Manchin, earned her undergraduate degree from West Virginia University.[2] She was an MBA student at West Virginia University until 1998. In 2007, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Bresch claimed to have an MBA degree from West Virginia University, but that when asked the university disputed that. Soon after, the university awarded her an MBA despite her having completed only 26 of the required 48 credits. Following release of a report commissioned by the university (and written by a panel of faculty members from WVU and other universities), the university announced in April 2008 that it would rescind Bresch’s degree …

Michael Garrison, WVU President at the time [Bresch said her degree was "awarded" by allowing the substitution of business experience for missing credit hours], was reported to be “a family friend and former business associate of Bresch”[13] and a former consultant and lobbyist for Mylan.

Another newspaper, in West Virginia, is particularly scornful of Heather Bresch. The word patriot doesn’t come up.


Naturally, I know I can depend upon you to do your patriotic duty and click on “Taxavoidination”, the busking and hot sauce rendition.


In a slightly related matter, it would seem I need a new category tag for this kind of thing. White it is Culture of Lickspittle material, particularly in its description of bootlicking for the benefit of American business, it could use another catch-all, too. Any clever suggestions?

« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »