Saturday, 31 May 2014

DouDou Linux

How to turn a Pentium III PC 500MHz with a mere 256MB of RAM into a "Ferrari" which can outrun a much more powerful PC running Windows 7.

Most people would just throw away such an "obsolete" PC, when it could usefully serve out the rest of its life as a learning "toy" for children.

Some people get terrified when they see this. "No it's not Windows", they say. "It's too hard to use", say others.

However, they forget that children still have fluid minds, with a curiosity which leads them to want to explore all new things intuitively, which is why children can adapt so readily to devices such as smartphones and tablets, even though they may not even know or understand the technology behind them.

Instead, it's such naysayers whose minds are ossified, thickened, hardened, rigid and unable to flow.

Thus they are enslaved to everything Microsoft. In their mind, they think - "A PC of any brand must come with Microsoft Windows and Microsoft OfficeSuite" - Now that's like saying that a mini-compo or fancy digital music player can only play songs by Justin Bieber and no one else.

Like a music or video player, a computer is just a piece of electronic hardware, designed to run software - i.e. human coded instructions which make it do what programmers want it to do, much like a music player will play any kind of music its user puts on it, or any video player will play any video its user decides.

(Click on these screencaps to enlarge)

Prefer a more adult look. Well just switch.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The 16th May public briefing on KIDEX which was aborted on public demand

Petaling Jaya residents carry banners challenging Selangor State, Chief Minister Tan Sri. Khalid Ibrahim to come meet us on his support for the proposed Kinrara-Damansara Expressway (KIDEX).
The Malaysian Insider reports on the aborted meeting and issues at hand follows below.
Pictures and videos are mine and readers are free to download and share.
Chaos stops dialogue on controversial Kidex expressway
May 16, 2014

A storm of shouts, heckling and theatrics stopped a meeting between Petaling Jaya (PJ) residents and the developer of a controversial elevated expressway from Kinrara to Damansara, held at the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) banquet hall tonight.

The meeting was a no-go the moment that an officer from Kidex, the developer of the highway, used the term "townhall meeting" in her opening remarks as the master of ceremony to describe the gathering.

This immediately sparked tensions between the 200 residents and the company's representatives which saw some members of the crowd jumping to their feet to halt the meeting from proceeding to discuss the RM2.4 billion project.

According to several MBPJ officials, residents and elected representatives in the audience who took to the microphone, the crowd objected to tonight's gathering being classified as a townhall meeting as the company had no legal right to hold one.

PJ residents are objecting to the 14.9-kilometre expressway as 3,784 lots are affected by a land sale freeze. The developers have said that only 380 lots will be acquired.

Reports said for its length, the Kidex is the country’s most expensive highway yet at RM148 million per kilometre to construct.

The 7.7km fully-elevated Ampang-Kuala Lumpur Elevated Highway (Akleh) was completed in 2001 for RM98 million per kilometre. Kidex costs 50% more per km. Both AKLEH and the future Kidex are two-lane dual carriageways.

Another project, the partly elevated and much wider Duta-Ulu Klang Expressway (Duke) cost even less to construct at just RM65 million per kilometre while the Kidex costs 2.3 times that.

Kidex chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Nor Idrus said the company was holding the gathering to meet demands which it claimed had been put on them by MBPJ.

One of those demands, Mohd Nor said, was to hold a “town hall meeting” to present the proposed highway project to residents and gather their feedback.

The inflamed emotions tonight reflect the deep resentment among PJ residents to the multi-billion project, which will transform the landscape of one of the densest cities in Malaysia.

The expressway, which billed as a sky way, will tower over houses, schools and some of the busiest highways in the Klang valley as weaves itself from Kinrara in the south to Bandar Utama in the north. The residents' opposition to the project is stiff and made more severe by feelings that they have been betrayed by the politicians they had elected into the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) Selangor government.

The drama at tonight’s meeting started soon after the master of ceremony used the word town hall meeting which prompted resident Mak Khuin Weng, to immediately stand up to object.

“This is not a MBPJ meeting. We have already been told that this is not an MBPJ as the MBPJ should be with us and not with you. This is a public meeting with Kidex and not with MBPJ.”

The audience erupted in applause for Mak and boos for Kidex.

A few residents, who were also activists in the Say-No-To-Kidex committee, then stormed to the table where the company’s representatives and its consultants were sitting to demand that the concessionaire firm retract its use of the term.

The activists then argued and bickered with the company’s representatives including Mohd Nor.

MPBJ enforcement personnel were rushed in to pry apart fist-waving residents from exasperated company officials. The audience held up banners that said “No to Kidex” and shouted “No to Kidex”.

Things seemed to settle down when MBPJ councillor Lee Suet Sen took the microphone to clarify and assure residents that the gathering was not a formal town hall meeting.

Lee explained it was merely a briefing by Kidex officials and an opportunity for residents to forward their concerns to the developer.

“This is not part of the statutory process to amend the local draft plan. Kidex has yet to convince MBPJ that this is a good project for the residents.”

The company then backed down from using the term “town hall meeting”. Kidex chief executive officer Mohd Nor then said the gathering would be a briefing for residents on the project.

“We will not proceed with the town hall meeting. If you all want, we can still do a briefing tonight.”

But another resident then harangued the company over why notice for the meeting was sent at the last minute and why was it only given out to resident associations and People Volunteer Committees (Rukun Tetangga).

A resident, who gave his name as Charles from Section 5, said the notice should have been posted on billboards through-out the affected areas a week in advance so that as many residents can attend.

When the company’s responses failed to pacify the audience, one of its officers then declared that the briefing was over.

When met afterwards, MBPJ councillor Lee explained that a legal town hall meeting can only be held by the local council itself and its residents in order to get public feedback for a proposed project.

This is a necessary step under the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 to amend the council’s draft local plan and be approved by a local council.

But to date Lee said, MBPJ refuses to hold a town hall meeting until it receives documents from Kidex concerning assessments of how traffic will be affected by the project.

“We don’t want to have a town hall meeting without all the information about the project because then we cannot address the residents’ concerns.” – May 16, 2014.

Footnote: Charles corrected himself mid-speech and said he's from Section 14, Petaling Jaya. - IT.Scheiss

What happened at Kidex briefing – David Yoong
May 18, 2014

The Kidex briefing called by Kidex at the MBPJ Civic Centre on Friday was widely reported as a heated affair between Petaling Jaya residents and Kidex officials.

The Say No to Kidex (SNTK) committee would like to put on record that we had put in every effort to stave off the confrontation that occurred on Friday night with letters, emails and electronic messages to the council, councillors and our elected representatives to ensure that the meeting that was being called for had no legal implications whatsoever and that it was strictly a briefing.

However, the presence of MBPJ engineering department director Ismail Shafie on stage with Kidex officials and the emcee's announcement that the meeting "is part of the due process in the implementation of Kidex into the Selangor State Structural Plan” dictated otherwise.

This was not what the invitation said and to attempt to frame it in such a manner was disingenuous of both Kidex Sdn Bhd and MBPJ.

Kidex Sdn Bhd CEO Datuk Mohd Nor Idrus himself proved the point when he said the meeting was part of the demand they had to fulfil from the Selangor government to hold a public consultation hearing and that he would rather not have a consultation if he could get away with it.

"When he asked me, Datuk, to do a briefing, I said 'No' because I'm required, I'm instructed by the (Selangor) state (government) to have this town hall meeting... because we are not in the position to invite the YBs, ADUNs, councillors because it is not us... If possible, I don't want to have a town hall meeting.”

To further back up Kidex's assertion that it was indeed a valid town hall meeting, they produced a letter from Ismail stating clearly that the town hall meeting was called on behalf of MBPJ and that it was with the agreement of MBPJ deputy mayor Puasa Md Taib and councillor Lee Suet Sen.

For Kidex, the meeting was only a matter of fulfilling the requirements set by the Selangor government and pushing the project forward with an additional agenda to include the project in the Selangor State Structure Plan.

The Selangor State Structure Plan is not a document to be trifled with as it is a statutory document that has numerous legal implications, one of which is the understanding that anything mentioned within becomes a promise that would be implemented by the government.

What was actually transpiring at the time had been totally contradictory to what was promised by the politicians and the SNTK committee had no choice but to intervene and call for a point of order, which we could not present without shouting as the microphones next to the residents were turned off and subsequently removed.

The SNTK committee wish to reiterate that we are not intentionally confrontational but were provoked into action because of the attempt at misrepresentation that would have hoodwinked Petaling Jaya residents of their rights.

We would like to impress upon the Selangor assemblymen and the MBPJ councillors that the sequence of events leading up to the confrontation painted them as either not in control of their own government (at best) or untruthful (at worst).

As ratepayers, we deserve an answer to the conduct of the local council and expect the full investigation into the miscommunication. – May 18, 2014.

* David Yoong is secretary of the Say No To Kidex committee.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

Video: Petaling Jaya Section 14, Roads 1 to 14 Resident's Association, Protem Secretary Selve Sugumaran gives an earful to Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) engineering department director Ismail Shafie over the council's involvement with the KIDEX expressway development company's public briefing on the KIDEX expressway at the Petaling Jaya Civic Centre banquet hall at 8.00pm, 16th May, 2014.

The MBPJ had issued a letter describing the private event held at an MBPJ facility as a "town hall meeting", when in fact it was a public briefing by a private company which booked a hall at an MBPJ facility.

The public objection was over the MBPJ director sitting at the same table as KIDEX company officials.

There were many front row seats amongst the audience reserved from MBPJ councillors and officials, though many of these reserved seats were empty.


The MBPJ official subsequently left the hall after bring told off for involving the council with what essentially was an event organised by a private company.


Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Chop, chop, chop to raise the share price

Hewlett-Packard was a pioneer of the Silicon Valley, having begun as the quintessential garage start-up, which in the minds of some, had a rather romantic, counter-cultural flavour, as opposed to the predominant suit and tie corporate culture represented by IBM in the computing and information technology world. The Hewlett-Packard company was founded auspiciously on 1 January, 1939, shortly before the start of World War II.

In its heyday, Hewlett-Packard was largely engineering-oriented, and made quality products which were designed to last and to be easy and quick for engineers and technicians to service. I once came across a Hewlett-Packard reel-to-reel tape drive backup in Telekom Malaysia's telex & teleprinter exchange. It looked something like this model HP-7970 and I was very impressed by its highly modularised design, where its nine individual plug-in read/write circuit cards and tape tension arm photo disk were laid out in such a way as to be easily accessibly and quickly replaceable and adjustable by a technician standing up, unlike comparable Digidata and Pertec tape drives which I had to service and maintain back in the 1980s, which required me to be a contortionist like Houdini.

After all, technician time and customer downtime is money, and Hewlett-Packard had it all well figured out.

In 1998, Hewlett-Packard offered me an HP Vectra VE desktop PC, a fixed asset which they disposing of a "firesale" price of around RM1,800 and I bought it, even though I could have got a brand new clone for less. I was equally impressed by the Vectra's design which made it easy to add and remove hard disks and other peripherals. I used it for my work for many years.

However, Hewlett-Packard has not been the same following its merger with Compaq in 2002. I bought a Hewlett-Packard HP520 notebook in 2007 and some years later discovered that one of its two RAM slots was not working when I upgraded my RAM.

Moreover, I discovered that its original 80GB hard disk had bad sectors three years later when I installed Ubuntu Linux 10.04 LTS and its hard disk monitoring software alerted me to a failing hard disk. I rarely used this notebook, except when I went on overseas assignments. I finally replaced the hard disk with a 500GB hard disk.

Then in 2012, its internal Intel WiFi adaptor failed, which I replaced with a working unit for very much less than the RM500 plus RM250 service charge, the Hewlett-Packard service centre quoted me for a replacement.

This is part of what Wikipedia has to say about the Hewlett-Packard & Compaq merger:-

"While supporters of the merger argued that there would be economies of scale and that the sales of PCs would drive sales of printers and cameras, Walter Hewlett (son of co-founder Bill Hewlett) was convinced that PCs were a low-margin but risky business that would not contribute and would likely dilute the old HP's traditionally profitable Imaging and Printing division. David W. Packard (son of co-founder David Packard) in his opposition to the deal "[cited] massive layoffs as an example of this departure from HP’s core values...[arguing] that although the founders never guaranteed job security, 'Bill and Dave never developed a premeditated business strategy that treated HP employees as expendable.'" Packard further stated that "Fiorina’s high-handed management and her efforts to reinvent the company ran counter to the company’s core values as established by the founders". The founders' families who controlled a significant amount of HP shares were further irked because Fiorina had made no attempt to reach out to them and consult about the merger, instead they received the standard roadshow presentation as other investors."

The founder's families wanted to retain the company's core founding values, which treated its employees as valuable human assets and not disposable like used toilet paper or sacrificial lambs on the alter of the share price in the "Temple of the Dollar" as my old buddy Kynen once described a shopping mall.

However, this is where the Hewlett-Packard company is 12 years after its merger with Compaq, with layoffs after layoffs in succession in repeated bids to keep profits, hence share prices up.

The bottom line though is that finance capital cares not for production of value but just in how an asset can be bled for money, just like a vampire drains the blood of its victim in parasitic manner.
This is the contradiction between productive capitalism and finance capitalism as well described by Vladimir Lenin in his pamphlet, Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism published in April, 1917, and by other political-economic scholars and analysts.

Lenin's solution was socialism and the replacement of the capitalist political, economic and social order with the socialist political, economic and social order.

Also, in the Confucian social hierarchy,  the merchant is ranked lowest in the social order, since they do not create anything but merely trade in things for profit.


The Confucian social hierarchy was (theoretically) the social organization of China and occasionally Japan, Korea and Vietnam for the last two thousand years. It is not a caste system, since it does not lock people into an occupation based on birth (At least, not in China. In Japan, it was used as such at various points), but just as an idea of what occupations and activities are intrinsically important to society.

The list is similiar to other social orders, for example the one in Plato's Republic or the Vedic caste system. However, it has some key differences.

  1. Shi are at the top of the list. These people are often translated as scholars. Their job is to coordinate projects, lead people, keep records and transmit knowledge. More important then these functions is the fact that these people keep perform the highest function of human life: showing a respect for ritual, and respect for human nature and learning. This, theoretically and often in practice, was the glue that held society together, catastrophes and wars not being able to overcome it.
  2. Nong were the peasents, although not at all in a perjorative sense. Confucianism placed a great value on the production of food, both because this was believed to be the natural order, and because "mei you nongren, mei you chi de dongxi", "If you don't have farmers, you don't have anything to eat". Being a nongren also doesn't at all suggest that a person is indentured or bounded to the land, or even poor, although in practice the nong were often just that.
  3. Gong is translated as "work", although the meaning of it actually comes closer to "craft". The gongren, the workers, produced all the nonagricultural tools and implements that people needed to survive. Mencius pointed out that if everyone had to make their own tools, no one would have time to grow food. Therefore, since peasents needed spades and scholars needed brushes, craftspeople were neccesary. But since when it came down to it, a plate of rice was more important then a hammer, craftspeople were not as immediatly neccesary as farmers.
  4. Shang were the business people, the merchants. And since merchants didn't actually create anything, but just brought it into one place (while making a hefty skim off the top), merchants were considered to be only one step above parasites on society. Of course, in reality, it was often the merchants who were in charge of society, since they had the money, which both gave them power, and allowed their children to study to become scholars.

What is just as interesting is who is left off the list. While such categories as actors, prostitutes, criminals and the like would be expected to be left off, the exclusion of soldiers is different then most other social hierarchies. In India and Plato, the soldiers were the second class of citizens, in China they are classless, considered to be an unavoidable embarrassment. Of course, it was possible to be a member of the scholar class and lead a military contingent, but that was considered to be a scholar or administrator, not a soldier.


Also left out of the Confucian social hierarchy are the bankers and finance capitalists, whom I'm sure would have been ranked the lowest of the low, despite their obscene wealth. I guess there weren't many of them around during Confucius' time.

The original Hewlett-Packard of its founders was a company based upon the asset value of scholars and workers but the latter day Hewlett-Packard is beholden to financial imperatives such as share prices and its employees (human assets) are suffering the consequences.

Story of Hewlett-Packard's continued layoffs follows below.

Hewlett Packard To Cut 16,000 More US Jobs

((Ian King)  Chief Executive Officer Meg Whitman, still struggling to turn around Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ), is opting for more job cuts, a move that boosted shares the most in six months.

After reporting an 11th straight quarter of declining sales, Whitman is propping up profit by paring as many as 16,000 more employees, on top of 34,000 already announced. While she has stabilized Hewlett-Packard after years of management upheaval and presided over a 39 percent share climb since taking over in 2011, the company is facing its third straight drop in annual revenue.

Consumers are buying fewer personal computers and printers as they embrace smartphones and tablets, and companies are opting to use more software via the Internet or building their own machines. By shedding workers, Whitman is lowering expenses, which will free up cash for investment in new businesses and enable her to report better profit.

“It clearly gives them more cushion to work on the revenue growth,” said Abhey Lamba, an analyst at Mizuho Securities USA Inc., who has the equivalent of a hold rating on the stock. “It’s going to be challenging to deliver that revenue growth.”

Profit excluding certain costs in the period ended April 30 was 88 cents a share and revenue fell 1 percent to $27.3 billion, the Palo Alto, California-based company said in a statement yesterday. Analysts had on average predicted profit of 88 cents and sales of $27.4 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Seeking Growth
Hewlett-Packard shares gained 5.5 percent to $33.54 at 11:46 a.m. in New York, the biggest intraday increase since Nov. 27. Through yesterday, the stock had been up 14 percent so far this year, compared with a 2.4 percent gain in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Net income in the fiscal second quarter rose 18 percent to $1.27 billion, or 66 cents a share, from $1.08 billion, or 55 cents, a year earlier. The company’s one percent year-over-year revenue decline in the second quarter was the closest it’s come to growing since 2011.

The company’s 1 percent revenue decline in the second quarter was the closest it’s come to growing since 2011. Sales shrank 1 percent in the first three months of the year and analysts are predicting they will fall by the same amount again in the current period.

“We want to become a growth company — this is the second quarter of basically flat revenue,” Whitman said in an interview yesterday.“While you may say that’s not very exciting, it’s way more exciting than the historical declines we’ve had for the last eight quarters. The fact that we’re stabilizing revenue is encouraging and positions us well for the future.”

Final Cuts
The job cuts announced yesterday don’t reflect worsening demand for the company’s products, the CEO said on a conference call. Whitman said she doesn’t anticipate the need for further cuts. Hewlett-Packard had 317,500 employees at the end of October.

For the third quarter, Hewlett-Packard forecast that profit, excluding amortization, restructuring charges and other costs, will be 86 cents to 90 cents a share. That compares with the averageanalyst estimate for 90 cents.

Industrywide global PC shipments dropped in the first three months of 2014 as consumers in emerging markets opted for smartphones and tablets, while corporate demand helped slow the pace of decline. Quarterly shipments fell 4.4 percent to 73.4 million units, IDC said. Hewlett-Packard’s market share rose to 16 percent, making it the No. 2 vendor after Lenovo Group Ltd., Gartner Inc. said last month.

Real Gains

Second-quarter revenue in the personal-systems unit, which includes PCs, rose 7.4 percent to $8.18 billion, boosted by sales of business computers. Printing-division sales fell 4.3 percent to $5.83 billion.

One of Silicon Valley’s oldest companies, the manufacturer’s product range spans from PCs and home printers to the servers, networking gear and software used by corporations. Hewlett-Packard has fallen behind in mobile computing at a time when consumers have migrated to smartphones and tablets made by Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.

Hewlett-Packard’s enterprise-computing unit, which includes servers, had sales of $6.66 billion. Within that division, revenue from servers based on Intel Corp. technology rose 0.8 percent. Storage sales were down 5.7 percent, while networking revenue climbed 6.5 percent.

The enterprise-services division posted a 7 percent decline in sales to $5.7 billion.

“I don’t know that we’ve seen much that makes one feel that they can actually grow again,” said Rob Cihra, an analyst at Evercore Partners Inc. He has the equivalent of a hold rating on the stock.

Michelle Chen blasts the "move up the value chain" liars

A few evenings back, I had occasion to say a few words to my friend's friend in New York via Skype.

He's an information technology professional, a white guy, most probably a systems administrator in his early 40s who's been unable to find work after many applications over a long time.

Now these are the kind of people who are supposed to be "up the value chain", in demand and should be able to find work easily but he said that the profession is saturate and he plans to take up a course in accountancy.

Perhaps he's being polite and did not want to say that the kind of jobs he did have mostly been outsourced to lower wage countries like India or that they've gone to H1B visa holders who have come to the United States.

Do I hear someone say that he should "move up the value chain"?

How much further up the value chain can he move, since the higher one moves up, the fewer opportunities there usually are. I mean like if everyone obtains a PhD, you'll find PhDs in IT cleaning toilets.

"Move up the value chain" is a lie.

Best of luck to this guy in his pursuit of accountancy.

In another case, my childhood friend and old schoolmate, now resident in Switzerland was recently laid off from Hewlett-Packard.

He has been a computer systems administrator with several major corporations, including IT multinationals for most of his working life.

OK! He can attend courses to "move up the value chain" but after that, who will hire someone in his late 50s?

The article by Michelle Chen which follows below debunks this "move up the value chain" nonsense.

I'm sure the guy in New York would still be thriving had he gone into producing bagels in New York, whilst my friend would be thriving had he started an Ipoh char koay teow restaurant in Zurich.



Who’s Really To Blame for Unemployment?
BY Michelle Chen

Guided by the mythology of the “American dream”—the idea that, given the opportunity, the deserving will excel and rise above their peers—politicians often attribute unemployment to a mystical “skills gap.” If people can’t find a job, the logic goes, they clearly weren’t fit to be hired. As a consequence, many legislators tout specialized training programs or education reforms as possible solutions to America’s seemingly intractable jobs crisis. But a new study shows that blaming the “skills gap” for unemployment makes about as much sense as blaming a mass famine on “excess hunger.” 

A recent analysis by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute shows that elevated unemployment is due to a general lack of demand in the job market, fueled by overarching economic decline. In other words, this is not a problem that can merely be addressed by retraining workers or revamping the education system.

In the report, economist Heidi Shierholz outlines this economic imbalance by comparing unemployment at different levels of education. Her results reveal that workers are suffering across the board: 

Workers with a college degree or more still have unemployment rates that are more than one-and-a-half times as high as they were before the recession began. In other words, demand for workers at all levels of education is significantly weaker now than it was before the recession started. There is no evidence of workers at any level of education facing tight labor markets relative to 2007.

Moreover, the report continues, there are no specific job sectors that appear to be especially “tight.” So it’s not that the economy especially favors, for example, radiologists or software engineers; bosses seem to be shutting the door on workers of all sorts:

T]he unemployment rate in 2012 in all occupations is higher than it was before the recession. In every occupational category demand for workers is lower than it was five years ago. The signature of a skills mismatch—workers in some occupations experiencing tight labor markets relative to 2007—is plainly missing.

Indeed, when comparing the job-opening-to-job-seeker ratio across different categories, EPI found that “unemployed workers dramatically outnumber job openings in all sectors. There are between 1.4 and 10.5 times as many unemployed workers as job openings in every industry. ... In no industry does the number of job openings even come close to the number of people looking for work.”

They found similar evidence of stagnation in the number of hours that people are working and in wage rates—both of which also suggest that there has been no significant jump in demand for more labor in specific job areas.

And this isn’t the first time we’ve seen research debunking the “skill gap” rhetoric. Last year, various analyses of the so-called STEM fields (high-paying professions geared toward science, technology, engineering and math) showed that these much-hyped occupations, which policymakers and the media have tended to revere as potential saviors for U.S. industry, are not exactly lacking qualified U.S. applicants. Rather than hire those skilled workers, however, many managers are opting to fill their openings with "guestworkers," who are essentially brought in on employment visas as a reliable supply of temporary labor linked to specific firms. According to EPI, these guestworkers are also generally paid less attractive wages than their peers in comparable positions. 

In addition, a recent study focused on Wisconsin workers came to similar findings about supply and demand in the workforce. After crunching the 2012 numbers on jobs that require various levels of education, urbanologist Marc Levine concluded in that report, “Even if every unemployed person were perfectly matched to existing jobs, [more than] two-thirds of all jobless workers would still be out of work.” That’s a gap that no amount of extra training will fill.

Schierholz does note that in a dynamic, churning economy, there will always be some “mismatch” between job-seekers and job openings; individuals typically get turned down for positions for which they lack the right skills or experience. But these specific incompatibilities are not enough to explain the dramatic rise in unemployment in the past few years. And the issue before lawmakers now, she says, is how to curb those plummeting jobs numbers.

Rather than focus on grooming workers for specific sectors as a jobs program, EPI therefore recommends another $600 billion stimulus from Washington to help restore state budgets after the deep cuts that severely undermined opportunities and income among public servants during the recession. Another solution for workers would be a New Deal-style launch of infrastructural construction projects, which could immediately create job openings and pump aggregate economic activity. Extending unemployment benefits could also help re-energize the slumped economy, EPI says, by keeping those without a steady income from falling further into poverty.

However, thanks to the current legislature's general reluctance to take measures that smack of expanding welfare or enact proactive policy interventions to create government-supported jobs, Schierholz isn’t optimistic that Congress will actually put these stimulus reforms into action. 

"We actually could do this. The economics is pretty straightforward,” she tells In These Times. Unfortunately, she adds, “Generally, a big fiscal expansion is just not in the cards. So we are instead going to be languishing in this sluggish recovery for a while. It's going to be four or five years before we get back to something that looks like health in the labor market."

So when viewed in historical context, what is commonly deemed the “skills gap” in Washington looks more like a gap in knowledge about how the economy actually works. If legislators' idea is to break out of America's downward spiral, they shouldn't blame workers for not having what it takes to "deserve" to be employed. Instead, policymakers ought to acknowledge the fundamentals of matching people with jobs: it's not just about their usefulness to the economy, but whether the economy is healthy enough to make use of them.

Michelle Chen

Michelle Chen is a contributing editor at In These Times, a contributor to Working In These Times, and an editor at CultureStrike. She is also a co-producer of Asia Pacific Forum on Pacifica's WBAI. Her work has appeared on Alternet,, Ms., and The Nation, Newsday, and her old zine, cain. Follow her on Twitter at @meeshellchen or reach her at michellechen [at] inthesetimes [dot] com.

How computer games and gadgets are used to make people complacent and dumb

In his article  on how kleptocrats fleece Americans, Prof, James Petras mentions how the IT gadgets and computer games are used to make people complacent - an opiate of the masses.

Here are some excerpts from the article:-

"Video games allow Americans who know they no longer have influence on political decisions and whose living standards are in decline, to vicariously exercise power and realize favorable outcomes on their mobiles. Purchasing mobiles, video games and other gadgets enrich billionaires’— so-called “high tech” capitalists – and convert citizens into impoverished consumers. They inhabit a bubble of illusions and passivity in the face of growing economic inequalities and political-cultural impoverishment."

"Looking only at the mega-swindles, involving hundreds of billions of dollars, we would include Enron, the Information Tech “bubble” of the 1990’s to 2000, the Home Mortgage fraud, the Barron, Lehman and Bear Sterns scam."

"Kleptocratic activities have become ‘routinized’ and based on advanced technology and have created highly respected billionaires. Even as I write today (4/14/14) the FT reports that ‘insiders at some of the hottest private and publically traded web companies sold big personal stakes before the slump in stock companies’ (my emphasis) taking advantage of a bubble of their own creation (“pump”) to reap billions at the expense of small investors. Tell it to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, and Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook, who sold at the pre-slump peak, prior to the tech bubble bursting."

"The shrinking of public involvement, the narrow focus of isolated individuals manipulating computerized gadgets , the replacement of face to face public engagement by impersonal electronic communications, are an expression of the decline of social living standards."

Now here are some notable comments:-

"Queen Victoria: “Give my people plenty of beer, good and cheap beer, and you will have no revolution among them.” The Serfs never rebelled. In fact, they went peacefully from their middle class (at the time) life in country villages to the Satanic Mills of the Industrial Revolution. (Reference: The Great Transformation by Karl Polanyi.)"

"Me: Yes, yes, yes; Rome had its 'bread and circuses,' tell us something we don't know? BTW, there's nothing élite about criminals; we've always known about 'spivs in suits,' US 'business-persons' were always more than a bit suspect, with a sub- (very sub-) class who required one to count one's fingers after a hand-shake (if one could even bear to get that close.) Then, there are the fractional-reserve banksters, and the filthy 'print, print, print' fiat/petro-$s"

Now an optimistic comment on the way out of this mess.

"The right is powerful.....but once the working gets organised with non sell out leaders.....then we will see something. Or there may just be a war.............capitalism's solution to their crisis."

Ukraine is an example, it could be the trigger for nuclear war and World War Three.

Welcome to the Information and Services society promoted by charlatan paperback writers and "futurists" whom the IT and business media, as well as business and management CON-sultants held up as prophets descending the mountain bearing divinely inscribed tablets in hand.

BTW. I met the Senior Editor-in-Chief of a major business newspaper in a coffee shop yesterday afternoon and he regards IT as a topic which is declining in importance.

Article follows below.

Happy May Day!

Yours trully


Multiple Ways Kleptocrats and Militarists Fleece Americans

American living standards are plunging and it’s not simply because they are paid less, work longer (or shorter hours) under highly stressful workplace conditions and pay a higher percentage of their income for health and pension coverage.

By James Petras

April 29, 2014 "ICH" - The ‘workplace’ is only one of several locations where American working people are experiencing a sharp decline in living standards. The new oligarchical Kleptocrats and political elites have elaborated new ways to fleece Americans. These include:

(1) Increased costs and declining quality of internet, cable and other communication systems.

(2) Intensive pervasive and perpetual surveillance by punitive espionage agencies eroding personal freedoms and violating the confidentiality of personal, political and business decisions affecting everyday life.

(3) Large scale, repeated financial swindles by the most active and influential private and publicly trading investment companies resulting in the loss of hundreds of billions of dollars in pensions and savings for tens of millions of middle and working class investors.

(4) Increases in taxes and charges, including sales taxes, social security deductions, medical co-payments and reductions in social services … This is a result of the government’s commitment to finance US corporate investments and bail-outs. Big business hoards their cash holdings abroad to avoid taxes on overseas profits. To pay dividends they borrow. The growth of corporate debt, concentrated in a few large corporations, holds the US taxpayer liable for any present or future collapse of the financial markets. This corporate-induced ‘hoarding of capital’ compromises present and future living standards. It plays a major role in the deterioration of employment, wages, social services and public infrastructure.

(5) The astronomical growth of state spending on wars of conquest, financial giveaways propping up right-wing dictatorships and building a vast network of global military bases, proxy wars and other empire building measures reduce living standards of Americans. By militarizing everyday life, citizens are subject to mindless repetitive propaganda designed to lower their mental capacity. State terror-mongering propagandists in the mass media distract citizens from their declining living standards. Political elites bully citizens to continue ‘sacrificing’ basic living standards. Video games reproduce the worlds of war and terror, reflecting the real world policies of the ruling class.

Video games allow Americans who know they no longer have influence on political decisions and whose living standards are in decline, to vicariously exercise power and realize favorable outcomes on their mobiles. Purchasing mobiles, video games and other gadgets enrich billionaires’— so-called “high tech” capitalists – and convert citizens into impoverished consumers. They inhabit a bubble of illusions and passivity in the face of growing economic inequalities and political-cultural impoverishment.

The Political Bases of Declining Living Standards

The case of Comcast, the communication monopoly’s seizure of internet, is illustrative of how politics and plunder converge. Comcast TWC, the largest communications company, presently will control 40% of the US broadband and one-third of the US cable television market. By controlling the internet, Comcast will monopolize the principal means of communication of most Americans. The Federal Communications Commissions (FCC), which is supposed to regulate the industry and prevent price gouging monopolies, is “dominated by senior former industry officials” (Financial Times, (FT) 4/14/, pg. 9). Almost every elected national politician from Obama down has received substantial campaign funds from Comcast. During Senate hearings on Comcast’s bid to monopolize the internet through the take-over of Time Warner Cable, Comcast CEO David Cohen smirked and brushed off the Senators puff-questions. FCC complicity, Senatorial whitewashing of the private monopoly, is only part of the story. The internet was developed largely by public funds as was Google’s search engine: the public sector took the risk and the private monopolists , in this case Comcast, harvest the profits.

Comcast charges Americans several times greater then what it costs to use the internet in Sweden, South Korea, Singapore and elsewhere. Yet, US average internet speed is as little as a tenth as fast as that in Japan. In other words the hundreds of millions of US citizens who rely on the internet spend more money for less internet quality in their work day and everyday life. Their work life is intensified, their free time is reduced and their living standards are diminished. With greater concentration of ownership, come greater inequalities in power and income, and a greater disparity of living standards. All of which is obscured by the main beneficiaries – the communication barons and their political cronies.

Declining Living Standards in the Era of the Police State

‘Living’ in the deepest and most intimate sense of the term, means the ability to share ideas, feelings and experiences with individuals, families, friends and citizens without the intrusive and pervasive presence of a punitive state apparatus. When a state spy apparatus intercepts, collects, files, analyzes and makes a police evaluation of citizen’s communications, scientists refer to it as a police-state. The gigantic growth of a police state and its permeation of civil society has dramatically changed for the worse the fundamental bases of inter-personal life and communications. Police state rule, has sharply deteriorated cultural, social, political and economic living conditions. The ‘standards’ for living have been harshly reduced. The ‘legal’, but arbitrary, executive prerogatives of the state have been enhanced. The parameters of the basic rights of citizens have shrunk. As police state expenditures grow and the subjects of surveillance increase, so do budgets and taxes.

Kleptocracy: The Highest Stage of Capitalism

Marx and Marxists for the greater part of the 20th century, focused on capital’s exploitation of labor and the resources of overseas colonies and neo-colonies. In the 21st century a new more dynamic and totally parasitic form of economy has emerged based in the dominant financial sector. Kleptocrats engaged in large-scale, perpetual financial swindles and the pillage of the public treasury greatly impoverish small investors, and the pension funds of employees and workers.

For the better part of two decades, major financial institutions have been engaged in systematic large scale swindles, involving the sale of fraudulent financial packets (dubbed ironically “securities”), profiteering based on insider trading and other illicit activity which is prejudicial to productive activity, investors, tax payers, salary, and wage workers.

Every major investment banks in the US and Europe has been repeatedly investigated, fined and rarely prosecuted. They pay a relatively light fine and return to criminal activity. Looking only at the mega-swindles, involving hundreds of billions of dollars, we would include Enron, the Information Tech “bubble” of the 1990’s to 2000, the Home Mortgage fraud, the Barron, Lehman and Bear Sterns scam. In the run-up to the 2008-9 financial crash , Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, Bank of America were part of the “pump and dump” of low grade home mortgage bonds and equities. The swindlers are recidivists and are so because of the complicity of top Government officials at every moment. State officials design the rules promoting Kleptocracy (deregulation), suspend safeguards, provide tax incentives, and eliminate risk via trillion dollar bailouts of the biggest investment kleptocrats when the swindlers cannibalize their assets and run out of new victims to swindle.

Under kleptocratic capitalism the apex of the system is occupied by the top fifty investment banks, hedge funds and speculators who ‘make markets’. They determine what ‘stocks or investment objects are targeted, to be pumped or dumped, at what rate and for what period of time. The entire activity of the kleptocratic elite has nothing to do with financing the ‘real economy’. Kleptocrats creates paper ‘values’ – paper assets at paper prices, for real victims and huge profits. The kleptocratic system operates like a chain. Kleptocratic speculators extract the savings and investments of a second tier of financial houses. They draw on real resources: savings, trust and pension funds. The second tier speculators are the ‘bag men’ for the dominant kleptocrats and they receive a minor share of the booty in exchange for conning the savings of producers. They write the prospectus to entice investment funds; they formulate the promise of lucrative returns. They send progress reports to clients in exchange for ‘commissions. They also ‘take the rap”, when the crises hits and bankruptcies, foreclosures and scams unfold.

The pension funds, the individual trusts and savings of workers and employees, resulting from decades of creating value in the real economy, forms the base of the pyramid. They have no influence on the political officials who promote, protect and bailout the kleptocrats. Under the kleptocratic elite ideology of “too big to fail”, the state eliminates all the risk for the klepto’s and imposes the losses on the second tier, who pass the losses on to the wage and salaried workers as taxpayers, via trillion dollar transfers from Treasury. Investors suffer via the loss of equity; workers via the loss of jobs, homes, income and social services. Given the vast chasm between the perpetual fraudulent transactions in the mega paper economy and the daily work routines at the bottom, there is great uncertainty, volatility, and insecurity in the work-life of the wage and salaried classes. The uncertainty and capriciousness of the ‘normal’ capitalist economic cycle, is vastly exacerbated by the turbulence caused by the mega-swindles, endless frauds and crooked trades, endemic to the kleptocratic stage of capital.

Kleptocrats and Militarists Together: They Shall Overcome

Just as kleptocrats rule the paper economy, political confidence men and women engage in imperial wars prejudicing the real economy. Imperial militarists extract wealth from the Treasury (the taxpayer) via perpetual political swindles. Imperial invasions and interventions of sovereign countries are ‘sold’ to the taxpayers as “wars on terror”; non-nuclear Iran is sold as a nuclear threat; the violent overthrow of the democratically elected Ukraine government by a pro Washington junta is sold as a “democratic transition”. Just as the kleptocracy’s “driving force” is repeated, large scale swindles, so the governing militarist elite’s “driving force” is the perpetual need to engage in warfare.

The ‘bridge’ between the kleptocrats and the militarists is the respectable financial press (Financial Times (FT), the Wall Street Journal(WSJ). They publicize and praise high level paper transactions (buy outs and mergers) and encourage imperial warfare everywhere and all the time. They editorialize in favor of wars which destroys lucrative trade and investment markets in the real economy because they are aligned with the kleptocrats linked to the paper economy. The Financial Times should change its name to the Military Times. The editors and columnists have supported wars destroying the Libyan, Iraq, Syrian and Ukrainian economies and back sanctions prejudicing trade with Iran. The financial press no longer promotes market relations of the real economy; it is embedded in the paper economy of the kleptos.

Kleptocratic activities have become ‘routinized’ and based on advanced technology and have created highly respected billionaires. Even as I write today (4/14/14) the FT reports that ‘insiders at some of the hottest private and publically traded web companies sold big personal stakes before the slump in stock companies’ (my emphasis) taking advantage of a bubble of their own creation (“pump”) to reap billions at the expense of small investors. Tell it to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, and Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook, who sold at the pre-slump peak, prior to the tech bubble bursting

Domestic Corporate Debt and Overseas Corporate Tax Havens

According to Standards and Poor (S and P), the rating agency, “the biggest US companies have added significantly to their debts during the past three years, at the same time as corporate cash piles have increased” (FT 4/14/14). The total cash holding of the 1,100 companies rated by S and P rose by $204 billion to 1.23 trillion between 2010-13. However, during the same time span their gross debts grew fivefold, rising from $748 billion to $4 trillion. Their net debt (gross debt minus cash holdings) rose 24 percent to $2.78 trillion. By holding cash overseas, US corporations avoid domestic taxes – increasing fiscal pressures, the tax burden on domestic producers and workers, heightening the regressive nature of the tax system Secondly, by loading up on domestic debt, the corporate elite crowds out local borrowers. Piling up debt increases corporate vulnerability to bankruptcy if and when interest rates rise. The corporate elite evading taxes via overseas cash piles include Apple, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Chevron, and Merck among others. All told the top 25 multi nationals account for 43 percent of the total debt (FT 4/14/14).

Hoarding profits overseas avoids taxes. High domestic indebtedness results from the need to pay dividends and inflate returns to big shareholders. In other words, corporate elites escape taxes and increase economic insecurity for domestic job holders, both of which contribute to a decline in the material and psychological dimensions of ‘living standards’.

Kleptocracy and Militarism: Declining Living Standards

The rise of a powerful kleptocratic economic elite which ‘interpenetrates’ and shares power with a militarist political elite have joined forces to pillage the productive economy and the US Treasury. Their powerful links are the main reason for heightening class inequalities, political and social insecurities. They have driven American society into a permanent state of crises and wars. Over the past quarter century, Americans have lived through two major economic crashes, prolonged periods of stagnation and declining income, three major wars and a multitude of overt and covert military operations – all of which have eroded living standards.

Military propagandThe shrinking of public involvement, the narrow focus of isolated individuals manipulating computerized gadgets , the replacement of face to face public engagement by impersonal electronic communications, are an expression of the decline of social living standards.a saturates the mass media and permeates all mass spectacles. Stock reports, dominate the economic news. Investment speculators and swindlers are presented as cultural heroes. The gap between elite opinion and interests and those of the majority of citizens widens.

This leads politicians to greater dependence on billionaire campaign funders. The electoral process is unabashedly and totally controlled by the economic oligarchy. The vast majority of Americans recognizes and publically admit their total lack of political influence on all public issues of interest including those privileging the kleptocrats and the warlords.

The deeply felt and pervasive malaise resulting from social impotence in vital spheres of life is the clearest expression of the decline of political living standards. The shrinking of public involvement, the narrow focus of isolated individuals manipulating computerized gadgets , the replacement of face to face public engagement by impersonal electronic communications, are an expression of the decline of social living standards. The rise of ethno-religious chauvinism among klepto-elites is matched by the political warlords’ reliance on systematic deception and espionage of American citizens. Warlords and kleptocrats are enclosed in privileged living enclaves, including the private appropriation of former public spaces, but their intrusion into private communications define the diminished world of everyday life for the most Americans. Life expectancy may have increased but human life has decreased, drastically, over the past quarter of a century.


Blood and gore does not drip off the Saville suited clever inside trader. They never see or hear their victims, nor do they have an interest in them, except to fleece them collectively and anonymously.

America is ruled by a division of labor. The financial speculators, corporate tax evaders, investment bankers – the kleptocratic ruling class– pillage the treasury and productive economy. Their political counterparts manipulate, distract and police their exploited victims – to ensure that they submit or are intimidated if they protest.

When they political elites come up short, there are the new “opiums of the people’ videos, painkillers, terror threats, entertainment and sports spectacles.

But citizens are restless– as living standards continue to decline. Nobody believes in bailing out speculators because they are ‘too big to fail”. Nobody trusts the political leaders who lied their way to twelve year wars, adding others along the way. No one follows media pundit extremists in defense of kleptocrats and warlords. Passive resistance is widespread because it is clear to most Americans that living standards are in a free fall. Time awaits a popular backlash. Will it happen in our lifetime?

James Petras is a retired Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York and adjunct professor at Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who has published prolifically on Latin American and Middle Eastern political issues.

Studying the Moribundity Index

Some of you may have seen these pictures before.

About a month or so ago, I took my friend, a veteran journalist in business and finance, for a tour of the mall in Millennium Square in Section 14, Petaling  Jaya and he was taken aback at seeing for himself, the number of empty and shuttered shop lots, deeper in from the seemingly vibrant restaurants overlooking Section 14 and the occasional stench of the smelly river (more like a glorified sewer) flowing by in front. I'd sent him pictures of these shuttered shows in Millennium Square but he said that he thought that I was exagerating in the pictures and that the reality which he sees is even more shocking.

I then asked whether he'd like to go to SStwo Mall nearby but he said another time, or the shock would be too much for his heart.

Anyway, below are some pictures I took in SStwo Mall in late November last year (2013).

What do you think is behind those fancy colourful billboards?

Real vibrant and happening place I must say.

This Thai restaurant was not open whenever I was there. Dunno, maybe it opens at night or on weekends or on certain days only but it was not open whenever I passed by.

This upmarket pub, the e-Library in the mall's courtyard has a sign saying "renovation in progress" but it still displayed a local authority license for 2012, so must have been under renovation for almost a year or even longer.

Now why does this happen to certain malls whilst others thrive?

It could be the location but SStwo mall is surrounded by high-rise flats and apartments.

It could also be due to competition nearby from Tropicana City Mall, the Jaya 33 mall cum office complex, the Jaya One office cum entertainment complex with supermarket.

OR is it a sign of an economic recession, as people spend less as prices rise?

Anyway, Malaysia isn't that badly off as far as moribund malls go. Here are 84 pictures of dead malls in the good ole' US of A - the "land of the free and the home of the brave" and also home of the Silly Con Valley.

Well, if you think IT.Scheiss is crazy and obsessed, there are whole websites dedicated to dead malls in the U.S., for example:-

They even have a You Tube channel dedicated to dead malls.

Even Wikipedia has an entry on dead malls

Of course the term moribund means neither alive nor dead or you could say half-dead, as opposed to completely dead.

So a moribind mall is neither alive nor dead or as the Chinese would say "um sang, um sei".