30 September 2007

Happy Senator Larry Craig Resignation Day

Almost missed noting it.

Of course, he's still in the senate, in all his foot tapping glory (hole).

Schadenfreude.

Microsoft Excel Cannot be Trusted to Add 2 and 2

Or at least it's not able to compentently multiply 77.1 by 850.

The answer is 65535, binary 1111111111111111, or 16 full bits. This should have been caught.

Friends don't let friends buy Microsoft (I'm posting this from an XP machine).

Edwards’s Backs off a Bit on Public Financing

Edwards is now saying that he won't use public financing in the general if the Republican does not too.

My guess is that a bunch of his supporters just told him how stupid it was, but he is still disarming in the primary. My assessment stands, put a fork in him, Edwards is done.

From the article, I also realize that Joe Trippi is on his team...he is so doomed.

Another Republican Leaving House

Representative Terry Everett (R-AL) Will Retire.

This happened in 1994, where there was a flood of Democratic resignations. Basically, it's not as fun being in the minority.

Geeky Tech Content: The iPhone Makes Windows Look Like Fort Knox

OMFG!!!! Apple® has come out with a system that is less secure than Windows.

The iPhone®, which runs an Apple® version of Unix® runs everything as root.
1) Every process runs as root. MobileSafari, MobileMail, even the Calculator, all run with full root privileges. Any security flaw in any iPhone application can lead to a complete system compromise. A rootkit takes on a whole new meaning when the attacker has access to the camera, microphone, contact list, and phone hardware. Couple this with "always-on" internet access over EDGE and you have a perfect spying device.
So, unlike your home computer, this is more vulnerable, and it can be set to listen in and photograph you with a remote compromise.

This is the NSA's wet dream, you've bugged yourself.

FDIC Shuts Down NetBank

This will be the first of many, and proves that online business (NetBank was an online bank) obey the same economic laws as other businesses.
NetBank Inc., an online bank with $2.5 billion in assets, was shut down by the government on Friday because of an excessive level of mortgage defaults.

It was the largest savings and loan failure since the tail end of the industry's crisis more than 14 years ago. Federal regulators appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. as a receiver for Alpharetta, Ga.-based NetBank.
This is just the beginning.

United States Hands Ahmadinejad a Win

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to the US a weak man. His promises on the economy are unfulfilled, his ability to govern a joke. He left a hero to the Iranian people and probably a hero to much of the Arab world too.
Bollinger clearly had an American audience in mind when he denounced the Iranian leader to his face as a "cruel" and "petty dictator" and described his Holocaust denial as designed to "fool the illiterate and the ignorant." Bollinger's remarks may have taken him off the hook with his domestic critics, but when it came to the international media audience that really counted, Ahmadinejad already had carried the day. The invitation to speak at Columbia already had given him something totalitarian demagogues -- who are as image-conscious as Hollywood stars -- always crave: legitimacy. Bollinger's denunciation was icing on the cake, because the constituency the Iranian leader cares about is scattered across an Islamic world that values hospitality and its courtesies as core social virtues. To that audience, Bollinger looked stunningly ill-mannered; Ahmadinejad dignified and restrained.

Back in Tehran, Mohsen Mirdamadi, a leading Iranian reformer and Ahmadinejad opponent, said Bollinger's blistering remarks "only strengthened" the president back home and "made his radical supporters more determined," According to an Associated Press report, "Many Iranians found the comments insulting, particularly because in Iranian traditions of hospitality, a host should be polite to a guest, no matter what he thinks of him.
It's more than that the Presidency of Iran is a very weak office. One need only look at his the failure of predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, an erstwhile reformer, to engage in even the most mild of anti-corruption activities.

Newt Not Running

Newt is Out. It's a pity, if just because the progression of the Republican Presidential primaries into the absurd is slowed.

29 September 2007

Supreme Court to Review Republican Voter Suppression Laws

The bogus Republican voter ID laws, specifically.

Anyone want to guess about how Alito and Roberts, political hacks who lied their asses off to get confirmation are going to vote on this?

Expect to see about 50 years of civil rights legislation rolled back.

Chemical-weapons hysteria causes cholera

Chemical-weapons hysteria causes cholera. It appears that the US authorities about Chlorine truck attacks that water is not being properly chlorinated, and cholera is spreading.

NPR Tells White House That He Doesn't Get His Choice of Toady to Interview Him

The White House offered NPR an interview with George W. Bush, with the stipulation that Juan Williams (Softball Interviewer, Toady to Right Wingers, and Incompetent) interview him. NPR said no interview unless they chose the interviewer, so the White House had him interview Bush on....wait for it....Fox News.

I never how Juan Williams has managed to keep a job. I have never heard him do a story, or an interview, competently, and he brushed off Clarence Thomas's sexual harassment without revealing that he himself was a sexual harasser.

My conclusion is that he has been coasting on his book Eyes on the Prize* for about 25 years.

*I bet you were expecting me to accuse him of an being an affirmative action hire, but I don't think that he is. I think that he has gotten his job because on the fact that he was prominently competent once (never to be repeated).

State Department Obstructs Congressional Investigation

The State Department has instructed Blackwater not to cooperate with congressional investigators.

Absent a claim (which would be bogus) of executive privilege, this is a felony.
The State Department official, Kiazan Moneypenny, wrote Blackwater VP Fred Roitz to "advise" him of Blackwater's obligations under the terms of State's contract. Among them: "all documents and records (including photographs) generated during the performance of work under this contract shall be for the sole use of and become the exclusive property of the U.S. government." These obligations, according to the contract, exist in perpetuity -- not just until the contract expires. As a result, Moneypenny told Roitz to make "no disclosure of documents or information generated under [the contract] unless such disclosure has been authorized in writing by the Contract Officer."
Miss Moneypenny (gotta love that name) mentions that she has communicated this previously.

Sounds like the notoriously closed-mouthed mercenaries are too talkative for the State Department.

Nouriel Roubini Says that He Was Too Optimistic on Housing

Nouriel Roubini is an economist, a good one, and he's been one of the voices in the wilderness about the housing bubble popping, and now he has a post up, I Was Way Too Optimistic on the Housing Recession..., that bears reading.

He's been a housing bear, and a consistent voice of reality, and the housing market has exceeded his worst case scenario.

Go read it.

Canadian Dollar Passes US Dollar

Checkhere.

It was about $1.001 US: $1.00 CDN at mid-day.

28 September 2007

Put a Fork in Him, John Edwards is DONE

Edwards will be using public financing.

This is because he has no money left.

He was the presidential candidate I most liked, but it's over, so I can say that now and not "jinx" him.

He is credible on the war, and on issues of social justice, more credible than the alternatives, and it's over.

Damn.

California Electoral Vote Theft Initiative Fails

The Republicans were attempting to allocate California electoral votes by congressinal districts, handing 20 votes to the Republicans. They just flamed out. No support, no money.

Good.

Dollar Falling off a Cliff

We have another new low for the dollar. It hit $1.4234:€1.00 this afternoon. Its previous high was $1.4189:€1.00.

It was only a week or so ago that it broke $1.40:€1.00, this is a precipitous drop, and it will eventually force interest rates up...a lot.

Mychal Bell of 'Jena 6' released on bail

Great News.

That being said, that racist cracker DA still has to be dealt with.

Understanding Religious Anger

I found this quote courtesy of the Group News Blog, and it bears repeating in as many places as possible. Bishop Spong is a very wise man, and he explains in some very profound ways the politics of rage, and religion as an excuse for rudeness and rage.
Understanding Religious Anger

One of the things that always surprises me is the level of anger, often expressed in acts of overt rudeness, which seems to mark religious people. It appears so often that I have almost come to expect it, or at the very least not to be surprised by it. A recent episode simply made the connection between religion and anger newly indelible in my consciousness.

It occurred last spring when I attended, at their invitation, the graduation ceremonies of a well-known university. Indeed, I was to receive an honorary degree. There was much conviviality connected with this event. We were entertained royally by the president of the university and his wife. We saw former classmates. Families gathered to share this transitional moment with a graduating son or daughter. It seemed to be a very pleasant occasion.

When the procession formed to begin the ceremonial walk into the arena, there was a panoply of color marking the assembly. The black caps and gowns of academia were bedecked with bright and varied hoods, representing the doctorates earned by the members of the faculty and reflecting the school colors of the awarding universities. Harvard's crimson was immediately identifiable, as well as the unique form of the doctoral hoods from the storied universities of Cambridge and Oxford. My place in this lineup was in the company of some of the university's deans. While we waited for the signal to begin the procession, I introduced myself to my nearest companions. They were all cordial until I introduced myself to the Dean of the Medical School. It was not a time for small talk for this man. He could not have possibly known that he and I would be together in the procession, so what followed was clearly spontaneous and unplanned. He obviously had strong feelings about me and could not miss this exquisite opportunity to give expression to them. I had never met this man before this moment, but my expectation was that one whose career in medicine had been so successful that he had become the dean of a major medical school would have a broad perspective on life. I was wrong. He was bitter and small-minded, caught more in his narrow religious agenda than in his academic excellence. We had barely unlocked hands in our introductory handshake when he said, "I wish I did not feel this way but I think what you have done to the Church is both reprehensible and destructive. I regret that this university has decided to honor you today." I was taken aback not by the content of his remarks, since I have dealt with threatened religious people many times before, but by the inappropriateness of his comments. This was neither the time nor the place for this tirade. I was after all an invited guest in his world. Yet, he simply could not contain his feelings. I tried to parry his comments by saying something like: "I'm sorry we don't have time to discuss this here, but you must realize that the world has undergone a vast intellectual revolution in the last 500-600 years and if the Church is to stay in dialogue with that world then the Church must also change. However, this Dean was in no mood to let go; he had the bit between his teeth. "You totally ignore the truth of those first 1,300 years of Christian history," he retorted, his anger still rising. "Would you want to practice medicine in today's world equipped only with the medical knowledge available in the first 1300 years of Christian history?" I enquired. At that moment the conversation ended because the music started, the stately procession began its journey into the stadium where literally thousands were gathered. As we walked in silence I could not help but wonder at the rudeness of this Dean, who had so great a need to express his anger that he violated the good manners of his university. I learned later that this doctor was part of a conservative Christian congregation. Somehow, religious convictions seem to give people permission to be rude.

A similar incident occurred in the summer of 2005, when I was the guest lecturer at the Highlands Institute for American and Philosophical Thought in Western North Carolina. I had been there for the past three summers, and had always met with a warm and positive reception. However, on this particular night, a local fundamentalist decided to achieve his fifteen minutes of fame. About midway in the lecture, this man stood up and drew sufficient attention to himself that I stopped speaking and enquired if there was something wrong. "I'm feeling sick," this gentleman replied. So I responded, "There is nothing I'm saying tonight that is more important than your health, so let me pause until you get whatever help you need." "You don't understand," he retorted, "I'm sick of you." Somehow this man felt that his religious convictions justified his interruption of a lecture attended by more than 250 people. It never occurred to him that this behavior was rude to me, rude to the audience and that it reflected little more than his own anger. I learned later that he was a member of the Community Bible Church and that he had been encouraged to take this action by fellow members of his fundamentalist church. Once again if one is acting 'in the name of God,' both anger and rudeness are apparently justified.

Those two experiences set me to thinking about the relationship between religion and anger. It is far closer than most people seem to realize. Sometimes the sweet piety of religion serves to hide anger even from the awareness of the angry one, though it is obvious to everyone else. Is it anything but anger when religious people describe what is in store for those who do not believe their way? Is the threat of hell, which is spoken so freely in religious circles, not a projection onto God of the anger inside the one consigning another to a place of eternal torment? Is there much difference between a person saying in hostility: "Go to hell!" and a preacher threatening a congregation with that same destiny? When one looks at the history of religious persecution, which has included such things as excommunication, torture, and the burning of heretics at the stake, there is ample evidence of hostility associated with Christianity. When one adds to that the Crusades designed 'to kill the infidels,' a history of anti-Semitism, and the wars between Catholics and Protestants, the picture of religion as a source of anger in human society, victimizing people in every generation, becomes clear.

In moments of social upheaval, religious anger becomes very apparent. Most of the anger that was displayed during the movement to emancipate women came from the Christian Church. Most of the anger displayed in the current struggle over justice for gay and lesbian people emanates from the Christian Church. It is very hard to deny that underneath the sounds of religious conviction, there is a boiling cauldron of anger that seems to be an unrecognized part of the religious experience. Step one, therefore, is to recognize it. Step two is to understand it.

Religious anger seems to manifest itself first and most stridently in those religious traditions that claim to possess absolute certainty. It is only when one believes that one possesses the whole truth of God that one finds the need to persecute those who do not accept your version of truth. What that behavior reveals is that the frightened human psyche needs the certainty of religion, no matter how narrowly defined, in order to feel secure. Christianity has developed many security-giving idols inside its traditional formulations, infallible popes and inerrant scriptures being two of them. How rational, for example, is it for anyone to say: "Since my God is the true God and your God is, therefore, a false God, I have the right to hate you, to persecute you or even to kill you?" Yet all of these expressions of anger are found inside the Christian Church.

The second thing that religious anger reveals to me is that organized religion feeds the expression of self-hatred in its people. There is certainly much self-negativity in traditional Christianity with its doctrines of 'the Fall,' its emphasis on the depravity of human life, the need to be rescued, and the guilt-producing idea that "Jesus died for my sins." The liturgies of Christian churches are constantly calling their worshipers such things as 'a wretch,' 'a worm,' 'one unworthy to gather up the crumbs under the divine table,' all interspersed with the plea to God to 'have mercy, have mercy, have mercy.' Are these not expressions of self-directed religious anger?

If one absorbs negativity from any source long enough, one cannot help but become negative. When one is denigrated in worship over a sustained period of time, one inevitably projects this denigration onto others as anger. It is necessary for survival. Does this not help us to understand why prejudice is greater among religious people than among non-religious people; why slavery, segregation and other overt forms of racism have been the pattern of that region of our country that we call 'the Bible Belt;' and why the 'Religious Right' even today is more supportive of war as an instrument of national policy than any other segment of our national population? Each of these attitudes reflects religiously justified violence.

Has religion in general and Christianity in particular degenerated to the level that it has become little more than a veil under which anger can be legitimatized? What happened to that biblical proclamation that the disciples of Jesus are to be known by their love? How does religious anger fit in with the Fourth Gospel's interpretation of Jesus' purpose to be that of bringing life more abundantly?

Perhaps the time has come to recognize that Christianity was never meant to be about religion; it is to be about life. The achievement of personal security is the goal of religion. The ability to live with integrity in the midst of the insecurity of life is the goal of Christianity. Religion seeks to control life with guilt. Christianity seeks to free people to be all that they can be. There is a vast difference. Perhaps it will take the death of religion to open us once again to the meaning of Christianity, even 'Religionless Christianity.' For the purpose of Jesus was not to make us religious but to make us fully human.

John Shelby Spong
All emphasis mine, and it's not limited to Christianity.

FWIW, piety does not make this sort of anger and rudeness necessary, as evidenced by the tremendously welcoming and joyous nature of Chabad-Lubovich, but by the same token, you find this present in many strains of Jewish Orthodox practice.

Donna Edwards for Congress (MD-4)

Another endorsement for the primary in a true blue district (MD-4 will go Democrat until the apocalypse).

She ran against Al Wynn in the primary last year, and almost beat him.

Wynn is pro-War, he voted for the energy bill givaway to Exxon et al, he's a bad guy, and may have stolen the last election (voting machines from his stronghold delivered votes days late).

Go to her siteDonna Edwards for Congress", and check her out.

Democracy for America has officially endorsed her.

Supreme Court to Consider Patent Exhaustion

My guess would be that they will once again reverse the Federal circuit court that does patents, as they have done so repeatedly in the past few months. If they were not likely to overrule, I would think that they would not have elected to review this.

The case is straightforward, LG has patents on chip designs, which it licensed to Intel. Intel has sold these chips to a number of Taiwanese manufacturers, and then LG sued these computer manufacturers for patent infringement.

The Federal Circuit Court allowed the suit to proceed, and the Taiwanese manufacturers claim that:
Lawyers for the Taiwanese companies, meanwhile, responded in court filings that once Intel sold the chips, LG's patent had run its course under the legal doctrine of "patent exhaustion." As a result, LG cannot enforce the patent against downstream purchasers, Quanta and the others said.
My view: The patent court went overboard again.

Patent exhaustion has been the law of the land, and for that matter the world, for years, and the consequence of its reversal would be catastrophic.

Our IP system is well and truly broken.

Would Someone Please Sleep With Ralph Nader

It's clear that this sanctimonious virgin desperately needs to be he needs to be f%$#ed as he is prepping for another presidential run.

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon's Former Campaign Chairman Pleads Guilty to Tax Charges

Maryland is not Sweden, and the plea by Dale G. Clark for not reporting computer consulting fees is no surprise.

Clark is a close friend and frequent staffer of Dixon.

He will also "cooperate in the state prosecutor's probe into no-bid contracts at City Hall", which implies that her honor is at least being looked at.

Seeing as how she has been reprimanded by the ethics commission at least twice for improperly employing relatives, we may be approaching a "pass the popcorn" moment in Baltimore City Hall.

I'm rather dubious about any involvement by Martin O'Malley, as they already tried to dig up stuff in his race for the Governor, and the best they could come up with was making up rumors about marital problems, and that was with a political hack in the US Attorney's office up here.

Paul Krugmen Gets it on Bill O'Reilly

Of course, Bill O'Reilley is not an uneducated immigrant from Ukraine, and this was circa 1930.
Pinkt vi Menschen
...
Anyway, what it reminded me of was an often retold family story: my great-grandmother visited Coney Island and was surprised to see black families enjoying themselves at the beach. “Pinkt vi menschen”, she said – just like people.

But she was an uneducated immigrant from Ukraine, and this was circa 1930.
Of note, Uncle Tom Juan Williams, Fox News toady and sexual harasser, is defending all this.

Big surprise that.

27 September 2007

I'm Sorry Senator Edwards, but You are Wrong!

In the debate last night, Edwards said the following about troops in Iraq:
I cannot make that commitment. But I -- well, I can tell you what i would do as president. When I'm sworn into office, come January of 2009, if there are, in fact, as General Petraeus suggests, 100,000 American troops on the ground in Iraq, I will immediately draw down 40,000 to 50,000 troops; and over the course of the next several months, continue to bring our combat out of Iraq until all of our combat are, in fact, out of Iraq.

I think the problem is -- and it's what you just heard discussed -- is we will maintain an embassy in Baghdad. That embassy has to be protected. We will probably have humanitarian workers in Iraq. Those humanitarian workers have to be protected.

I think somewhere in the neighborhood of a brigade of troops will be necessary to accomplish that, 3,500 to 5,000 troops.
I like John Edwards, but he is wrong.

We do not need the forced labor built monstrosity of an diplomatic compound that we currently have in Iraq. It's not an embassy, it's an imperial outpost.

It can be moved to a more secure location, and it should be, and if there is none, then it should be closed, like the US Embassy in Somalia.

NASA Launches Dawn Probe to Asteroid Belt

The Dawn mission to Ceres and Vesta has been launched.

It's the first mission to renedez vous with more than one body, and an ambitious application of ion drive technology.

For more on the tech, see here

Schadenfreude: We'll Have Larry "Wide Stance" Craig to Kick Around For a While

Criag is saying that he's going to stay in office, at least for a while.

That sound you hear is Jon Stewart's, Jay Leno's, and David Letterman's writers cheering.

Song Going Through My Head All Day

Talking Heads, Road to Nowhere. This song, and watching Stop Making Sense*, were where I learned that David Byrn actually had a decent conventional singing voice.

At least it's a song I like.

Consider this an open thread.

*The best rock and roll concert film ever.

Senate Passes Hate Crimes Bill and Welds it to the Defense Authorization Bill

So there won't be a veto of the hate crimes bill. Sexual orientation is now mentioned.

All of the Democrats, the one Socialist (Sanders), and the one "Connecticut for Lieberman" senators voted Aye, as did nine Republicans:
  • John Warner (VA)
  • Richard Lugar (IN)
  • Susan Collins (ME)
  • Olympia Snowe (ME)
  • George Voinovich (OH)
  • Arlen Specter (PA)
  • Norm Coleman (MN)
  • Judd Gregg (NH)
  • Gordon Smith (OR)
This meant that it was a veto proof majority, 60 votes. Vitter and Craig voted no.

I'm pleasantly surprised at Gregg and Voinovich.

9104.98 Smoots to Work as the Crow Flies

Well, those wacky folks at Google Maps have added a new feature, you can measure straight line distances by almost any unit you can imagine.

Just go to "My Maps", then "Distance Measurement Tool" followed by "I'm feeling geeky" and select from the drop-down menu.

I'm fond of Smoots...I've been on the bridge, and seen the original, and the new smoots after the reconstruction.

Republican Congressional Campaign Committee Broke

The Republican Congressional Campaign Committee has $1.4 million in the bank, and $4 million in debt, as compared to the DCCC, which has $22 million in the bank, with $3 million in debt.

So in addition to being morally bankrupt, the Republicans are literally bankrupt too.

Heh.

Democrats Lead Republicans on Terror Issues

According to the latest Gallup poll.

It's been two years since Katrina. If the Republicans can't act competently in the face of a problem faced a dozen times in the past 50 years, why should they be able to handle terrorism?

Joe Biden Gets It.

In yesterday's debate, he had the money quote, "Rudy Giuliani doesn't know what the heck he's talking about. He's the most uninformed person in American foreign policy that's now running for president."

26 September 2007

The Senate's Sense About Iran

It got approved with 76-22-2, with John McCain and (once again) Barack Obama not voting, but it was modified significantly.

Original Language:
“It is the sense of the Senate . . . (3) that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies; [and] (4) to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy described in paragraph (3) with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies” (my emphases).
According to Andrew Kent (linked above), this was dropped, though I am not clear if the bolded sections, which are in the original, or the whole paragraphs were dropped.

As it stands, it calls the Iranians bad people, though it does call the Republican Guard a terrorist organization.

Senator Ben Nelson (DINO-NE) Can Go Cheney Himself

Ben Nelson told the committee chair that he would vote to approve Hans von Spakovsky for the Federal Elections Commission, so he was passed to the senate for a full vote.

"Clever Hans" is the Bush Administration's minority voter suppression guru. Specifically:
  • attempted to intimidate Justice Department employees
  • stifle their appeals
  • single-handedly disenfranchise thousands of Arizonans
  • Overrode his staff to approve the Tom Delay redistricting.
  • Overrode his staff to approve the Georgia Poll Tax voter ID plan
  • Gave false testimony (later modified in written answers) to the committee about it

More here and here.

White House Releases English as a Second Language Guides

Funny.
Election Central | Talking Points Memo | Oops — White House Releases Bush's Pronunciation Guides: "A guide was given not only for an admittedly tough one like Kyrgyzstan ('KEYR-geez-stan'), but also for Nicolas Sarkozy ('sar-KO-zee'), which seems pretty simple to pronounce as it is."

Nominee for US Attorney General Represented Iranian Front Group

Absolutely bloody amazing. This is not the gang that can't shoot strait, it's the gang that does not know how to pull a trigger.

Iraq Government Finally Gets to Work on Something Useful

They are drafting a law regulating mercenaries military contractors.

It's a problem, it is viewed as a problem by all ethnic groups, it appears to be moving toward a resolution, and it's not a sell out to US oil companies.

The Press in Canuckistan Gets It



It's a clickable image, and the article is a good read.

U.S. Sues Illinois to Let Employers Use Immigrant Databases

The state of Illinois has passed a law forbids employers from enrolling in the federal worker verification database program, and the feds have filed suit against this.

This is one case where Michael Chertoff is right. (I can't believe that I said that)

The law pre-empts a federal one, which is unconstitutional, and prohibiting employers from making an honest attempt to verify that their employers are, in fact, legal is simply crazy.

I tend to be a bit of a hard liner on immigration*, but I think that an objective of making it easier for employers to verify that job applicants are not breaking the law is a basic goal of any society. Illegal aliens do not have an inherent right to work in the US.

That being said, the database is buggy and slow, and needs to be fix.

*I favor going after employers who negligently employ illegals hard (think forfeiture), and offering bounties by way of green cards for illegals who rat these employers out.

Rating Agencies and Appraisors and Free Market Failure

It appears that Congress is getting ready to bash the rating agencies. We've seen similar things with real estate appraisers, though more at the local level.

What we are seeing here is a basic failure of a largely unregulated part of the market. Moody's, S&P, and your local appraiser are all in a similar situation. If they look too closely, their customer will go to another appraiser or rating agency, hence you have unrealistic ratings on securities and unrealistic appraisals on houses.

The financial markets cannot police themselves.

GE Transportation Systems is Testing Ground for Executives

It appears that GE wants to give their executives a bit of hands on experience with manufacturing, so they send them to GE Transportation Systems in Erie, Pa.

I find it interesting because I worked there for two years. It was interesting work, I got paid to watch them smack two locomotives together at about 3 mph (Uncle Fester, eat your heart out), but Erie sucks wet farts from dead pigeons.

When I was there, Jack Welch was doing his level best to kill the place, because he personally hated the local head of the union, Jimmy Nelson, and now it's the hot place for corporate climbers.

Then again, Bob Nardelli, of Home Depot infamy was head of GETS for a while.

I was lead engineer on the blower cab for the AC6000, among other things.

Real Estate Continues to Crater

We now havelowest sales level in 5 years, and the steepest price drop in 16 years, a 4.3% drop from July, and the Case-Shiller index showing a 4.5% price drop. Foreclosures have more than doubled, and we have a 10+ month inventory.

Blue Cross Calls a Miscarriage an "Elective Abortion" and Denies Claim

We need socialized medicine now, but first, lets kill all insurance executives.
Here are the last few paras of the story from the Consumerist:
On, Sep, 21 2007 I received a statement for BCBS that they were denying all of the claim. I called them and asked why they were denying the entire claim, and was told by Jane, "We do not cover ELECTIVE abortions. If you chose to terminate your pregnancy for non-health threatening reasons, BCBS will not cover it." WTF!!!??? I asked her, "Are you saying that my records state that I had an ELECTIVE abortion, in an ER at 12 o'clock in the morning?" It was then, I think it clicked in Jane's mind what she was dealing with and told me how sorry she was. I lost my cool and even started crying. I had a miscarriage not an abortion, and being treated in such a condescending way by BCBS really ticked me off. Thinking what an incredibly huge screw up, BCBS will be right on it trying to fix this, well you would be wrong. I was told to call the hospital and have them fax over my records stating I didn't have an elective abortion. Who the heck can get an elective abortion in a busy ER at 12am, anyway?

Mind you we have had Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City for less than three months, they have denied every claim we have submitted to them. EVERYONE! Even though all claims are clearly covered under our policy, is this the going to be the norm dealing with BCBS? Any help would be very much appreciated!

-Tonya Gullino

Will No One Rid Me of These Troublesome Ninjas?

Women dressed as Ninjas rob a gas station with swords. I smell movie. Either some sort of Thelma and Louise thing, or pr0n.

UAW Strike is Over

Obviously the agreement needs to be approved by the membership, but this is likely.

25 September 2007

Maryland Politics: Slots

Ever since before Paris Glendenning left office, Maryland has been in a situation where the state has a structural deficit. Basically, Glendenning beat Ellen Saurbreey in a VERY close race in 1994, and proceeded to implement her cockamamie tax proposals at the height of the dotcom boom in order to score political points, and in so doing left the state with a structural deficit.

The governor following Glendening, Bob "Bad Hair" Ehrlich (R-Cluelessville) who had defeated Glendenning's Lt. Governor, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (Possibly the worst candidate in the history of...well...history, and definitely in the history of the Kennedys).

He was a big fan of slots, and it was the central plank of his campaign, as a way to close the deficit, which ignores the mathematical reality of the situation. He also was completely clueless, not having even the remotest plan about how to implement slots, so his first proposal when he was governor was so bad that the racetracks (horse, not NASCAR) who were the primary beneficiaries of his plan were aghast.

So, it went back and forth, between the House Speaker Mike Busch generally being opposed to slots, and Senate Leader Mike Miller generally supporting them.

Both houses passed slots bills in 2005, but they were very different. The Senate provided for gambling at the racetracks, and the house bill had (largely) state owned machines at state owned sites along I-95 towards Delaware (where there are slots) and in Western Maryland towards West Virginia (where there are also slots), the theory being to catch Maryland residents before they spend that money out of state.

Disclosure: I am opposed to slots, not because I oppose gambling, but because I think that an over reliance on "sin" revenue casts taxes as something for bad people to pay, as opposed to dues that everyone pays to be a member of society.

Well, now that Martin O'Malley is governor, both the legislature and the executive are willing to face reality, and as such there are going to be some revenue increases, both taxes and slots.

Truth be told, slots are going to be a pretty small part of the picture revenue wise, but Mike Miller is retiring, and feels the need to get slots implemented as part of his "legacy".

O'Malley has been in negotiation with the legislature, and his plan includes income tax increases at the higher brackets, increases in the sales taxes, and an increase in the gas tax to take into account Ehrlich's raiding of the transportation budget.

The funny thing is that his slots plan is largely identical to the house plan of 2005.

Logistically, it makes sense, put the slots on the way to where people are going, and let the state own them so as to get the most revenue (though there is about $100 million to subsidize horse racing annually* and $6 million a year would go to help problem gamblers).

It also ends up placing the slots in largely rural and largely Republican areas. (heh)

The question now is whether O'Malley will submit this on its own, which would get a lot of Republican votes, or as part of a whole revenue package, which forces the Republicans to choose between slots (which they like, since people are already doing it out of state anyway) and the tax increases (which is all they have left to campaign on).

My money is on it coming out together, to shiv the 'Phants, though the charitable explanation is that it will be harder to get this through the house, so you go with something that they have already passed.

Amazingly enough there are not yet any allegations of graft, which in Maryland is no small thing.

*I know, kind of silly to prop up a dying business, but horse racing in Maryland has a bizarre attachment to some folks, as leg two of the Triple Crown is at Pimlico, and all.
Short for Elephants...Republicans that is.

Republican Whines About Moveon Ad, But Can't Name Last Soldier to Die in Her District

His name was Private Jeremy S. Bohannon. Hat tip to Oliver Willis on the Catch.

Truth be told, I did not know his name either, but I'm not being sanctimonious about screeching about Moveon.org. Let's get the troops home.


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Finally, an Endorsement From Me

Mark Pera for Congress (Il-03).

The Illinois 3rd district is very solidly Democratic (+10% dem), and the incumbent, Dan Lipinski is one of the worst Bush Dogs out there. He's pro war, favors criminalizing abortion, and supported federal intervention in the case of Terri Schiavo.

As an aside, this is a "safe" endorsement for me, because even if my jinx* holds true, it's still a vote for Speaker Pelosi.

Besides, Lipinski is a Democrat that we can simply do without.

*Yes, I know that superstitions are silly, and I frequently belittle people for them, but this, and the Hope Diamond are where my rationality deserts me.
I wouldn't take that cursed diamond if you paid me.

Bob Herbert Gets is: Republicans are Racist Scum

Read his article, The Ugly Side of the G.O.P. - New York Times.

Here is an excerpt:
...

Dr. Carolyn Goodman, a woman I was privileged to call a friend, died last month at the age of 91. She was the mother of Andrew Goodman, one of the three young civil rights activists shot to death by rabid racists near Philadelphia, Miss., in 1964.

Dr. Goodman, one of the most decent people I have ever known, carried the ache of that loss with her every day of her life.

In one of the vilest moves in modern presidential politics, Ronald Reagan, the ultimate hero of this latter-day Republican Party, went out of his way to kick off his general election campaign in 1980 in that very same Philadelphia, Miss. He was not there to send the message that he stood solidly for the values of Andrew Goodman. He was there to assure the bigots that he was with them.

“I believe in states’ rights,” said Mr. Reagan. The crowd roared.

In 1981, during the first year of Mr. Reagan’s presidency, the late Lee Atwater gave an interview to a political science professor at Case Western Reserve University, explaining the evolution of the Southern strategy:

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger,’ ” said Atwater. “By 1968, you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

...

Patrick Leahy Cuts Admiral Mike McConnell a New One

The Chairman of the Judiciary Committee lit into the Director of National Intelligence before his opening statement.

And well he should, McConnell is suggesting that oversight is aiding terrorists.
...Leahy pointed to a line in McConnell's prepared statement suggesting that "some" do not appreciate the threat posed by al-Qaeda, and, visibly angry, warned him against accusing "any Senator on this panel" of playing fast and loose with national security.

And he called on McConnell to end his "irresponsible" repeated comments that debating changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act will mean that "some Americans are going to die."


Oregon Deems Family's Last Name Offensive

The Udink's license plates have been confiscated by the Oregon DMV, they were Udink1, Udink2, and Udink2.

While I understand how this could be construed as not nice, but it's not like the family was named "phuque". Udink is a relatively common Dutch name.

And Now the White Supremacist Trash Enter Jena

Here.

And they are threatening the families.

How much do you want to bet that the good citizens of Jena will keep their stores open for this.

Rudy's Particularly Egregious Pimping of 9/11

Some git by the name of Abraham Sofaer is holding a $9.11 For Rudy" Fundraiser for the Guiliani campaign.

Allow me to say ewwwww!

We Now Know Karl Rove's New Client

It's Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, who yesterday said that, Civil war has been averted in Iraq and Iranian intervention there has ceased to exist.

Ari Fleischer would be proud of him.

Microsoft Admits that Vista Sucks Wet Farts from Dead Pigeons

Of course, they don't say it straight out, but Microsoft is now offering a "rollback to XP" tool for some corporate accounts.

I'm never one for buying Microsoft software until at least a year after it comes out, but this is un-bloody-believable.

24 September 2007

Apple Threatens iPhone Users

Apple is now claiming that iPhones that have been hacked to be usable with non AT&T phone services may shut down when the push out their next software update.
"This has nothing to do with proactively disabling a phone that is unlocked or hacked," Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, said in an interview. "It's unfortunate that some of these programs have caused damage to the iPhone software, but Apple cannot be responsible for ... those consequences."
Bull. Apple is threatening its users for what they do to their phones, and just as with the iPods, it's setting out to break the phones, and the hacks.

No Nuclear Weapons Technology in Syria

Accordiong to Raw Story, the Israeli airstrike two weeks ago did not target a nuclear weapons facility, but was insteaddirected at a short range ballistic missile (SCUD type) missile depot. It was apparently brought on by a weapons handling accident in which chemical weapons were released, killing around 50 people.

It was thought to be an attempt to place chemical warheads on the missile.

Considering the paucity of the Syrian nuclear effort, one small research reactor that produces medical isotopes, one wonders who was spreading the rumor of nuclear weapons activity.

Pay Per View Review

Our previous cable service was plain vanilla, no cable box, so now we get pay per view, and we checked out a movie list night, Happily N'Ever After, one of the more recent CGI movies to hit the small screen.
Cast:

George Carlin: The Wizard (Sort of)
Andy Dick: Mambo
Sarah Michelle Gellar: Ella
Michael McShane: Rumplestiltskin
Freddie Prinze Jr.: Rick
Wallace Shawn: Munk
Patrick Warburton: Prince Humperdink
Sigourney Weaver: Frieda

George Carlin is amusing, but he has perhaps 3 minutes screen time in this retelling of the Cinderella story, which is juxtaposed with the metaphysics of fairy tales.

Patrick Warburton and Wallace Shawn do a journeyman job of playing...Patrick Warburton and Wallace Shawn, and they are amusing.

For once, Andy Dick is not repellent

Sigourney Weaver is a wonderful evil stepmother, easily the strongest performance of the movie, with Weaver at her scenery chewing best. What's more, she is the sexiest animated character since Jessica rabbit, and far more interesting, both libidinally and in terms of character development.

but the two leads, Gellar and Prinze are somewhat lackluster.

Freddy Prince, who plays Rick, performs well as the Prince Humperdink's dogsbody and dishwasher, but Gellar's performance as Ella is rather lackluster. Some of this is not her fault, as the character is written to be a bit of a ninny.. It doesn't help that the stepmom is way hotter.

The plot, and plot device are a bit contrived, but I enjoyed it, and more importantly, my kids enjoyed it.

It's amusing, if fluffy, and the hidden movie references will amuse the adults watching with their kids.






And of course, the happy ending.

Sounds Like the UAW Strike is On.

Sounds like they are expecting that there will be a strike, but perhaps it's posturing, sometimes the rhetoric ratchets up just before a settlement.
UAW shocked by GM’s failure to recognize worker contributions; sets strike deadline for 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 24

The UAW announced today that due to the failure of General Motors to address job security and other mandatory issues of bargaining, the union has set a firm strike deadline for 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 24.

“We’re shocked and disappointed that General Motors has failed to recognize and appreciate what our membership has contributed during the past four years,” said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger. “Since 2003 our members have made extraordinary efforts every time the company came to us with a problem: the corporate restructuring, the attrition plan, the Delphi bankruptcy, the 2005 health care agreement. In every case, our members went the extra mile to find reasonable solutions.

“Throughout this time period," said Gettelfinger, "it has been the dedication of UAW members that has helped GM set new standards for safety, quality and productivity in their manufacturing facilities. And in this current round of bargaining, we did everything possible to negotiate a new contract, including an unprecedented agreement to stay at the bargaining table nine days past the expiration of the previous agreement.”

“This is our reward: a complete failure by GM to address the reasonable needs and concerns of our members,” said UAW Vice President Cal Rapson, director of the union's GM Department. “Instead, in 2007 company executives continued to award themselves bonuses while demanding that our members accept a reduced standard of living.

“The company’s disregard for our members has forced our bargaining committee to take this course of action,” said Rapson. “Unless UAW members hear otherwise between now and the deadline, we will be on a national strike against GM at 11 a.m. EDT on Monday, Sept. 24th.”

The UAW negotiating team will remain at the bargaining table, Rapson said, throughout the night and up until the 11 a.m. deadline.
Nothing yet on CNN about a strike starting, though.

Update: it appears that the balloon has gone up. The UAW is now on strike against GM.

Unfortunate Headlines

Or maybe just too truthful: What Catherine the Great can teach CEOs.

They've already done to the shareholders and workers what she did to her horse*.

FWIW, Jay Winik, the author of this book, also does not have a good handle on what Catherine the Great was as a ruler. Look up Potemkin villiages.

*Yes, I know that the story is false. She died of a stroke while sitting on the chamber pot.

Pirate Bay Files Criminal Complaint Against Media Companies

The leaked emails from MediaDefender, the Frank Nitti to the RIAA and MPAA's Capone, have revealed a systematic program of hacking and computer vandalism, and Pirate Bay has filed criminal complaints against Swedish subsidiaries of music and movie studios.

For all their talk of law and order, the media distributors have demonstrated a fairly clear "the law for thee and not for me" attitude.

Whiskey Foxtrot Tango: Bush Calls Obama Intellectually Lazy?

No really. An anonymous senior Bush administration official has called Barack Obama "intellectually lazy".

The author of the article is right wing hack Bill Sammon, but still, the idea that someone working for George W. Bush would call anyone intellectually lazy is un f$%#ing believable.

George W. Bush has Terri Schiavo beat in the intellectual laziness department.

Blackwater Caught on Video Making

Well, it looks like the Iraqi government has a tape of Blackwater opening fire on civilians unprovoked.

Illegal Political Prosecutionsin Bush DoJ Started in 2001

This is an impeachable offense, pure and simple:
In the last two weeks, two sources, one of them inside of the Justice Department, have told me that a scheme was hatched in the upper echelons of the Bush Administration shortly after it took office in 2001 or early in 2002. The project identified John Edwards and Hillary Clinton as likely Democratic challengers to President Bush, and identified prominent trial lawyers around the United States as the likely financial vehicle for Edward’s rise. It directed that their campaign finance records be fly-specked, and that offenses not be treated as administrative matters but rather as serious criminal offenses.

...
The deliberate use of the state security apparatus to target opponents and their supporters is illegal, and was the sort of circumstance that was specifically envisioned by the founding fathers as a reason for impeachment now.

All Hat and No Cattle, and Afraid of Horses

Well, it appears that Texas' most prominent entry into the phony cowboy sweepstakes, George W. Bush is afraid of horses.

One wonders if there is anything in his life that is authentic.

More Belgian Breakup Issues

Basically, this is about nationalist and ethnic tensions between the Flemish (Dutch speaking) and Wallooon (Francophone) seem to be increasing, and currently the winners of the most recent elections on June 10 have been unable to form a government.

It will be interesting to see how the EU will handle this if these disputes in Belgium end up with a dissolution of the nation, particularly with regards to Brussels, which is nominally multi-ethnic and bi-lingual, but is more of a French speaking island in Dutch speaking Flanders.

As an aside, this sort of increased ethnic division and governance problems are a direct result of proportional representation, which encourages people to self identify along narrow sectarian lines.

23 September 2007

Fujimori is Going Down

This dictatorial murderous rat bastard will see justice, because the Chilean supreme court has unanimously supported his extradition to Peru.

One hopes that more world leaders are held to account for their misdeeds, including our own.

Burma's angry monks 'excommunicate' junta by refusing donations - Independent Online Edition > Asia

I have to say that refusing alms as a protest is rather beyond my cultural experience, but it appears that this is a rather powerful protest in the context of Burmese Buddhism. This is both perplexing and interesting.

On the other hand, this statement from the monks is quite clear to my Western eyes, "The violent, mean, cruel, ruthless, pitiless kings – the great thieves who live by stealing from the national treasury – have killed a monk at Pakokku and also arrested reverend clergymen by trussing them up with rope. They beat and tortured, verbally abused and threatened them."

One hopes that the junta is overthrown sooner rather than later.

Just Got Verizon™ Fios

A lot of confirmation and moving to a new ISP, which is a bit of a pain.

On the other hand, we've got PPV and a few hundred more channels (BBC America looks interesting) and about 20x the bandwidth for the same price as cable and internet, so it's a net plus.

Lots of fiddling about to be done still though.

Yom Kippur

The Jewish day of atonement. Unless medically contraindicated, you are to fast* fast, and to meditate on where you have failed to measure up this year, and how you might be better next year.

The fast went quite well for me. My feet bothered me more than my stomach.

Just before the fast, we ate a meal of home made chicken pot pie which was rather nice.

Natalie, our 10 year old daughter actually fasted until about 2:30 in the afternoon, which was quite impressive.

We got together with some neighbors for a break the fast which was a lot of fun too/

*This means no food OR water for about 25½ hours. Judaism is not a religion for wimps.
Were I to post the list here, it would overload your browser.
You do not want to start a day without water with something spicy.

21 September 2007

Yom Kippur Starts This Evening

It's a 25 hour fast, no food or water, starting a bit after 6:30...Needless to say, I will be off line.

Here is some cat art to muse on.
All your base are belong to us.

Why Markets Cannot Be Relied on to Police Themselves

Prudent Bear has put it better than I ever could* in his post, When markets lose their mind.

His point:
Subprime mortgages themselves exemplify irrational markets, yet the participants’ activities at each stage were economically in their own rational interest:

  • Low income consumers took on mortgages they had no prospect of affording because they believed from the experience of others that house prices would rise sufficiently to bail them out. In any case being often near bankruptcy the potential profit from successful speculation appeared to them greater than the potential loss from default.
  • Mortgage brokers sold subprime mortgages because they got a commission for selling them and were not responsible for the credit risk.
  • Investment banks packaged the subprime mortgages into multiple-tranche mortgage backed securities because they received fat fees for doing so and again had no real responsibility for the credit risk.
  • Rating agencies gave the upper tranches of mortgage debt favorable ratings, because they made a great deal of money from providing ratings for asset backed securities, needed to keep in the favor of the investment banks who brought them this attractive business, and had mathematical models (either their own or the investment banks’) “proving” that the default rate of the securitized mortgages would be low.
  • Investment bank and rating agency mathematicians produced models “proving “ that default rates would be low, ignoring the real-world correlations between defaults on low quality consumer debt, because they were well paid to do so – the alternative was to return to a miserable cheese-paring existence in academia.
  • Finally the investors bought asset backed securities because they could achieve a higher return on them in the short term than their borrowing costs, and could tell their funding sources (in the case of hedge funds) or bosses (in the case of foreign banks) that they were taking very little risk because of the securities’ high rating.
I do think that his post is incomplete in one area, which is in explaining how so many people with decent credit got caught up in this too.

US Once Again Pisses off Kurds

The Kurds are as close as we come to having an ally in the region, and we seem to be determined to piss them off.

We just arrested an Iranian from a trade delegation.
But the Kurdistan Regional Government in a statement called the arrest "illegitimate," said the man was a member of a trade delegation that had been invited to Sulaimaniyah by the local government and demanded that he be released.
This sort of stuff keeps going on. There is no learning curve.

My Thoughts on Jena

I haven't really commented on this, but I've gotten a couple of comments to the effect of, "Isn't this a tempest in a teapot."

The Answer is Hell No!!!

Let's roll tape:

  • Some black kids hang out under a "white" tree, and nooses are hung on it the next day.
  • The principal wants to expel the f$#@s who did this, but the school board makes it a two f$#@ing day suspension.
  • The black students decide to sit quietly under the tree as a non-violent protest.
  • The police are called in, and the DA threatens the black kids (and it's clear that is what he did) at a school assembly.
  • Tensions are inflamed with at least two instances of groups of white kids beating down a black kid, no prosecutions.
  • The same school board that allowed the noose hanging perps to walk refused to allow black students and parents to testify before them.
  • In the fight in question, the kid who was beaten up, but is not even kept over night.
  • The students involved in the fight are charged by the same DA who threatened them with attempted murder.
  • The one student who has made it to trial maintains that he wasn't even there, but his public defender refuses to call any witness and the all white jury convicts him of aggravated assault.
  • That conviction has been overturned because an appellate judge basically said, "are you out of your f$#@ing mind charging this kid as an adult."
You're right, it's just some uppity n***ers, no discrimination here.

A Good Take on the Fed's Actions

How Long Before This is Hacked?

I dunno, 15-20 minutes?
NBC unveils self-destructing, ad-addled anti-iTunes service
Published Thursday 20th September 2007 19:29 GMT"
By Cade Metz in San Francisco
Published Thursday 20th September 2007 19:29 GMT

Less than a month after its very public breakup with Apple iTunes (http://www.theregister.com/2007/08/31/apple_and_nbc_go_at_it/), NBC Universal has announced its own rights-restricting video download service.

With the new NBC Direct, due for beta testing sometime in October, you'll have the power to download shows like "The Office" and "Heroes" immediately after they're broadcast on national television - without paying a penny. But don't get too excited. You can't view these videos on more than one Windows PC. They're riddled with commercials you can't skip. And they self-destruct after seven days.

....
You got a love it. Take all the worst features of bloody mindedly stupid DRM, and wrap it all up in one tight package.

The Investigation Against Tom Delay is not Over

By way of Tom Delay's chief of staff, Ed Buckham, who has been hit with a Federal grand jury subpoena for his payroll records.

One hopes that this will eventually lead to the Bugman getting rolled up in all of this.

Blackwater Broke a Guy Out of Prison?

Well, it turns out that theIraqi government has had repeated problems with Blackwater's actions, with a number of incidents, including breaking Iraqi Electricity Minister Ahyam al Samarrai out of a Green Zone jail in December. Samarrai had been awaiting sentencing on charges that he had embezzled $2.5 billion that was intended to rebuild Iraq's decrepit electricity grid.

This is getting out of hand.

New Haven Acknowledges That They Were Morons (Sort Of)

Remember when I wrote about members of a 60+ year old running group being prosecuted under terrorism statutes for marking a trail? The local constabulary were talking about pressing charges for the "Hash House Runners", a "Drinking group with a running problem". For marking a running path with flour.

When the doctor who marked the path saw the commotion, he explained what it was, and offered to eat some of the flour, but these folks still kept freaking out, despite the fact that the FBI had sent out a notice about the "Hash House Runners" saying that they were not a problem some tome previous.

There has been a settlement, with the doctor and his sister doing some community service.

If I were them, I'd tell them to pound sand, and file suit against the city for malicious prosecution. They've run these races in Washington, DC without incident.

Overfishing Leads to EU Ban on Tuna Fishing

Bluefin Tuna stocks are seriously threatened, "The EU must keep the ban agreed today in place indefinitely until independent scientific evidence demonstrates that sustainable fishing is possible."

Fishing grounds all over the world are under serious pressure.

20 September 2007

Braking: FBI Taped Ted Stevens In Anti-Corruption Sting

Ted Stevens, perhaps the most odious Senator in the history of the body, is going down.
FBI Agents Taped Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens As Part of Corruption Sting

MATT APUZZO
AP News

Sep 20, 2007 19:15 EDT

The FBI, working with an Alaska oil contractor, secretly taped telephone calls with Sen. Ted Stevens as part of a public corruption sting, according to people close to the investigation.

The secret recordings suggest the Justice Department was eyeing Stevens long before June, when the Republican senator first publicly acknowledged he was under scrutiny. At that time, it appeared Stevens was a new focus in a case that had already ensnared several state lawmakers.
More as it comes, but right now, pass the popcorn.

Why Do Bill Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, et al. Hate Israel?

It appears that "Israeli officials warned the George W. Bush administration that an invasion of Iraq would be destabilising to the region and urged the United States to instead target Iran as the primary enemy, according to former administration official Lawrence Wilkerson."

No surprise there. I've always said that some of Israel's biggest fans are more dangerous to it than its worst enemies.

American Home Mortgage Goes After Retirement Funds - Credit Market * US * News * Story - CNBC.com

Bankrupt American Home Mortgage is attempting to seize as much as $27 million that former employees set aside from paychecks for retirement, according to an attorney representing them.

Let's be clear, this is the exception, not the rule. These folks were crooked, and hoped that housing appreciation would cover their tracks.

Henry Wasman and the Case of the Inspector General Who Didn't

Henry Waxman has founc another winner in the Bush Administration, this tiem, it's the Inspector General for the State Department.

Case in point, When asked to investigate allegations of slave labor in the construction of the Iraqi Embassy, he interviewed only those employees that the contractor hand picked for him to interview.

At the rate this guy is going, he'll soon be Cheney's chief of staff.

Ion Drives for Spy Sats

DARPA is looking at ion-drive spy satellites. Truth be told, this is not surprising.

One of the limiting factors on many spy satellites is the amount of propellant available, and if you can use a very high impulse (rocket fuel economy) for station keeping and scheduled moves, you can either make a lighter vehicle, which means more for the same price, or one with much hhigher flexibility and operational life.

Boing Has More 787 Production Problems on the Horizon

While they should be starting test flights only a few months late, November or so, further deliveries could be slowed because of shortages oif the fasterners used in the aircraft.

It won't be as late as the Airbus A380, but it's probably going to be 3-5 years before they are back on schedule.

Russians Working on Hybrid Nuclear Submarine?

The Russians haven't had a secret ship program in years, so this is interesting:
Submarine: Military Secret Shows Up on the Internet - Kommersant Moscow

Municipal authorities in Sarov, Nizhny Novgorod Region, accidentally revealed the design for the latest Russian submarine when it posted an account of a meeting with its commander on its website. The high level of secrecy surrounding the submarine suggests that it is a unique experiment on the part of scientists and the military.

On September 6, the official site of the city of Sarov (www.adm.sarov.ru) reported on a visit to the city by the commander of the submarine Sarov Capt. 1st Rank Sergey Kroshkin. In the text, it stated that the Sarov was still in the stocks at the Severodvinsk but “the chief commander of the Navy has set the task of finishing work by the end of the year.” The number of the submarine project was given: 20120 and its technical and tactical characteristics as well. those data indicate that the new submarine is very similar to the Project 877 Paltus (Halibut) diesel submarine, but its water displacement is greater (3950 vs. 3050 tons).
The article further goes on to surmise that this submarine has a mini-nuclear reactor on board, so that it can function much in the same way as some of the new conventional boats out there that can stay under water for over a month.

It makes sense. While one could not deploy any great distance with a 500-1000 kw reactor, your time underwater once on station wound be nearly limitless (by comparison, the Seawolf is somethere in the 50,000 kw MW range and has a top speed of over 35 kts).

No Blackwater, No Ground Movement In Iraq.

The State Department has suspended all ground travel in Iraq, because the Iraqi government has shut down Blackwater's mercenary operations.

Yep, the surge is making the place safer.

Is it Just Me, or Does This Sound Like the Start of a 1050s Sci-Fi Flick?

A meteorite crashes to earth, strange fumes incapacitate people who come near.

It sounds an awful lot like those awful 1950s movies, doesn't it?

Another GOP Retirement

GOP Congressman Jerry Weller. If you've heard the name before, it's because he is married to the daughter of Guatamalan dictator (and brutal butcher) Efraín Ríos Montt, and he has engaged in some very dodgy land deals Latin America.

Saudis Appear To Drop Dollar Peg on Riyal

The Saudis have been pegging the Riyal to the Dollar for years. One of the things that this requires is that the interest rates in the two countries remain the same, otherwise there are pressures for them to move relative to each other.
The Saudis have made it clear that they will not follow the recent Federal Reserve rate cuts.

This will place further downward pressure on the dollar, and make it more likely that other Arab oil Sheikdoms will follow suit. Kuwait actually preceded them on this action, breaking the peg in May.

Rice Denied Audience with Pope

In August, the Pope denied US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice an audience, citing that "Benedict XVI is on holiday".

This is clearly not the case. Rather, this is a fallout of disagreements over the war in Iraq, and her previous dealings with representatives of the Pontiff:
No one will say so officially but the refusal may also have been prompted by Ms Rice’s stance in 2003, when she was Mr Bush’s national security adviser. On the eve of the Iraqi conflict, it was Ms Rice who said bluntly that she did not understand the Vatican’s anti-war stance. She treated John Paul II’s envoy, Cardinal Pio Laghi, with a coolness that bordered on disrespect when he was sent to Washington on 2 March 2003 on a desperate mission to avert military intervention. Clearly, the incident has not been forgotten.
It should come as no surprise to any person with half a brain, which apparently does not include Ms. Rice, that when you treat people with disrespect, they are disinclined to help you in the future.

Hybrid PDE-turbine engine

GE is bench testing the concept, which basically involves using a pulse detonation engine (PDE) in place of the high pressure turbine.

Basically, a PDE is a pulse jet, like that of the V-1 "Buzz Bomb", but instead of igniting the fuel normally, where the flame front front progresses at subsonic speeds, it detonates the fuel (the flame front moves at supersonic speeds).

What I've read mostly is its potential to replace high speed turbojets, but this shows that it could be applied to civil high bypass engines by replacing the HP compressor and turbine.

Hush a Boom

The Ar Force is currently deploying bombs with greatly reduced shrapnel effects.

This is identical in concept with the "paper bomb" in Tom Clancy's Clear and Present Danger, though as an old Bullwinkle fan, I tend to think of the silent explosive that was a major part of one of their story lines.

Chinese Commuter Jet Boasts Novel Aerodynamic Feature

The Chinese commuter airliner, the ARJ21 is using tight integration between the engine and wing to boost aerodynamic performance.

The plane has a DC-9 configuration (see picture below), and they are hoping to get a 1% increase in l/d ratios by integrating the engines airflow and with the wings.

Essentially, this means that the inlet air to the engines will boost the energy of the airflow over the wing.

It's an interesting concept, but given the fact that if this aircraft achieves even modest success, there will be stretched variants, where the engines will be further from the wing, one wonders if this technique can still work as the gap between engine and wing grows.

19 September 2007

Harry Reid: Defeat Of Webb Bill Proves GOP Cares More About Bush Than Troops

I like the way that the Majority leader of the Senate puts that:
“In blocking this bipartisan bill, Republicans have once again demonstrated that they are more committed to protecting the President than protecting our troops. They have shown they will allow President Bush’s flawed war strategy to continue to strain our military rather than allow the availability of troops to dictate our operations. And they believe it is in our national security interest to push our brave troops and their families beyond their breaking point.

“Democrats disagree. We care deeply about rebuilding our badly overextended military and ensuring our troops have the time to properly train, prepare for and recover from battle. And Democrats remain committed to repaying in some small measure the sacrifices our brave troops are making every day.”

Schadenfreude: Scaife's Divorce Edition

It's nice to see the rat-bastard who spent somewhere on the order of a hundred million dollars chasing Clinton's penis getting his:
Scaife's Wife Gets Giant Settlement After Messy Divorce -- Claims Newspaper is 'Hobby'

PITTSBURGH The estranged wife of billionaire and newspaper owner Richard Mellon Scaife, the Pittsburgh banking heir turned media mogul, was awarded $725,000 a month in temporary support during their acrimonious divorce, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Sunday.

Scaife, 75, and his second wife, Margaret Ritchie Battle Scaife, are battling on several fronts, from how to assess and divide his wealth to custody of a yellow Labrador retriever named Beauregard, the newspaper said.
Piece of advice, dude: there isn't a dog out there worth 725 grand a month. LET HER HAVE IT.

The funny part is this dispute about assets:
A judge may also have to decide whether the $20 million to $30 million a year she claims he spends to support the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review constitutes a business loss, as he contends, or spending on a hobby, as she sees it. Scaife owns the newspaper - a rival to the Post-Gazette - along with the Tribune-Review of Greensburg and several smaller dailies and weeklies.

.....

Records filed in the case suggest Scaife has spent $140 million to $244 million, depending on whom you believe, to subsidize the Tribune-Review since its inception in 1992. Scaife's other papers are generally profitable, the divorce papers state.

....

Margaret Scaife's alimony could grow higher depending on how Judge Alan Hertzberg views his income. He has asked for briefs due Thursday before making a final decision on the temporary award, which was set on a preliminary basis by a hearing officer last year.
Calling the Tribune-Review a hobby may be reasonable, depending on the legal fine points, but I would never call it a newspaper.

UC Irvine Reverses Stupid Move and Rehires Chemerinsky as Dean of Law School

University of California, Irvine, is starting a law school, and they got a bit of a feather in their cap when they got Erwin Chemerinsky as their first dean.

He is a highly respected legal scholar and lawyer, and he was tapped as dean, but the offer was rescinded by the Chancellor, Michael Drake about a week ago.

Since then, this has gotten a lot of publicity and a lot of outrages even from the right wing side of the legal community, and now the decision has been reversed.
According to Chemerinsky, Drake had said he was pulling back the job offer because of pressure from conservatives over his outspoken liberal politics. The chancellor denied it.

In a conference call with reporters, the chancellor and new dean agreed that Chemerinsky would enjoy absolute academic freedom and would continue to write opinion articles on a wide range of issues, not just legal education as Drake suggested last week.

"Chancellor Drake reaffirmed in the strongest possible way the academic freedom that I would have, as all deans and faculty members do," Chemerinsky said. He later noted that he was aware that his role as dean also would require him to build a broad base of support. Before he was ousted, the dean had sought conservatives for some slots on his board of advisors.

Drake declined to discuss his decision to drop Chemerinsky, and he was vague on the reasons behind his turnaround. "Circumstances change; knowledge comes in," Drake said.
I'm fairly sure that when we get to the bottom of this, that we will discover that some of the Governator's conservative appointments to the UC Regents had a hand in this.

More Haditha Massacre Coverup

Once again, an a junior officer who knows enough to rat out more senior officers scates.
Capt. Lucas M. McConnell of Napa was granted immunity and ordered to cooperate with officials looking into the November 2005 killings, the Marines said in a press release.

....

Lt. Gen. James Mattis dismissed dereliction of duty charges against McConnell on Sept. 12. and determined that "administrative measures" were an appropriate punishment, the Marines said.
Seriously.

A sergeant gets jail, but a captain, who would be in a position to finger a colonel, who might in turn finger generals...nothing.

This is an excercise in ass covering.

Everyone Ride the SLUT

"Yes, it's an unfortunate acronym", he said, laughing his ass off.

The Seattle Department of Transportation is constructing a streetcar line for South Lake Union.

While its official name is the "South Lake Union Streetcar", it appears to have started out as the "South Lake Union Trolley", which is what everyone calls it.

Great T-Shirts though:


Also, I like transit cars, though I prefer those with their own right of ways (i.e. no traffic lights)

NOW We See Insider Trading Investigations at Hedge Funds

So, the SEC has finally noticed that the cow is gone, and they are endeavoring to close the barn door.

When you have huge sums of money, detailed information, and NO supervision, insider trading is really a given, not a surprise.

Krugman Rips Greenspan a New One

Yep, for the first time in a couple of years, I'm able to read his stuff right off the NY Times web site, so I give you Sad Alan’s Lament, in which Paul "When does this man get his much deserved Nobel Prize" Krugman completely owns Alan "Bubbles" Greenspan.

$Canadian Approaches Parity with $US

I just checked, and 0.9866$US=1.$CDN.

5 Years ago it was around US 63 ¢ for a Canadian dollar.

Oh Ghod!!! I'm Completely Owned



The September 18 issue, clickable image

The Fred Thompson Clown Show Continues

This time, our good Freddie Dalton Thompson* is calling for oil drilling in the Everglades.

In response to a question about drilling there, he said, "Gosh, no one has told me there is any major reserves in the Everglades," and "No one prefers to drill at all anywhere".

Way to go Freddie. The clown show continues.

That being said, this is in the tradition of Ronald Reagan, who spent an awful lot of time claiming that trees cause pollution.

*Yes, his birth certificate says "Freddie", not Fred or Fredrick".

John Warner is an Ass

John Warner has been telling Jim Webb that he supports his troop relief bill, which requires that soldiers stand down for at least as long as they are deployed to a combat zone.

Today, he introduced a Warner Introduced a non-binding "Sense of the Senat" Version of Jim Webb's amendment to the military authorization bill.

Not only that, but he did not tell Senator Webb about his intentions.

Wanker.

Jesse Jackson, Please STFU

What is happening to the Jena Six in Louisiana is a racist bigoted miscarriage of justice. There Jesse Jackson and I agree.

The Democratic party should be doing more about this. There Jesse Jackson and I agree.

The presidential candidates should be doing more about this. There Jesse Jackson and I agree.

That being said, when Jesse Jackson critics Barack Obama for “acting like he’s white” , he's jumped the shark.

I'm not in a position to discuss whether or not Senator Obama has a special obligation to address this issue, but I am saying that ALL the presidential candidates should address this, and come out against the bigoted, vindictive, and (conveniently) Republican political establishment in Jena, Louisiana.

This isn't "acting white". This is simply being timid, and it can be addressed to all the presidential candidates, and to the Democratic party establishment in Louisiana too.

Surprise, Blackwater Mercs Fired Indiscriminantly at Civilians

No big surprise there, though this is this is the Iraqi Government* Report.

Turns out that without their mercenaries, the State Department is on lockdown in Iraq. They have suspended all land travel.

It also appears that rules of engagement given by State to Blackwater appear to be rather close to "shoot first and ask questions later."

*Yes, I know that "Iraqi Government is an oxymoron".

Salad is Bad for You

Or at least it is when you combine it with "self regulation", because Dole has recalled 5,058 bags of salad mix.

More bad E Coli. Of note, a lot of this is literally bulls^%$, or at least cow waste, and these strains of E Coli are not natural for cows. It's when we feed them a corn laden diet that their digestive tract was never designed to handle, their waste becomes hyper acidic, and this pathogen loves these conditions.

What the Hell Were the Israeli Defense Forces Thinking???

I came across this in Aviation Week's "Washington Outlook" news sumary:
During last year’s fighting in Lebanon, the Syria listening post monitored private cell phone conversations from Israeli soldiers that gave Hezbollah enough information to locate and identify ground units even though Israeli military radios remained secure.
They let their soldiers go into battle wearing cell phones???? They let their soldiers use them?

What the hell were they thinking? Even if the phone is "off" you can turn it on remotely (it's a method of bugging people).

They let their soldiers carry emitters that painted targets on their backs!!

Behind Schedule and Over Budget, Lockheed Attemps to Sell Reduced Testing for JSF.

LM is claiming that they can save money by "streamline" testing by using lessons from the F-22.

This is bulls*&%.

What they are really saying is that they are behind schedule and over budget, and that they are going to attempt to field these aircraft without proper testing in order to save money and time.

It is a request for a bailout, with shortcomings being fixed under a later cost plus contract.

Small, Cheap, AESA Radars Available for RPVs.

Truth be told, I could see these entering civil aviation as weather radars too, and with a bit of software, you could put it on a cruise missile, and you could follow terrain, and jam radars searching for you.

The PicoSar(Shown below) weighs less than 25 pounds and is about the size of a toaster.

It has a range of about 12 miles and can track ground targets, and it appears to run cool enough that it does not need liquid cooling.



With some decent software, you could probably gang a bunch of these together for better resolution, or use it for stealthy radar antenna.

I'm waiting for someone to apply a low performance (cheap) version of this technology to satellite TV receivers. It could adjust to gusts in fractions of a second.

White House Starving Corruption Investigation

Big surprise this, the office of special counsel which was tasked with investigating Karl Rove's various corrupt misdeeds, will have to curtail operations because they have no money to operate.

It appears that Special Counsel Scott Bloch turned in his budget before the investigation.

Bloody typical.

Strange Bedfellows, Schadenfreude Edition

It should come as no surprise that the ACLU is supporting Senator Craig's attempt to withdraw his guilty plea.

Additionally, there is a good point made by the ACLU:
Anthony Romero, the ACLU’s executive director, argued that police sting operations sometimes trap innocent people. He said police must show that sex was to occur in public, not just that someone was soliciting sex.

“If the police really want to stop people from having sex in public bathrooms, they should put up a sign banning sex in the restroom and send in a uniformed officer to patrol periodically,” Romero said.
Let's be clear if crude come ons were a crime, the cops would be arresting 20% of the people in your average singles hangout bar.

Another One Bites the Dust

Congressman Rep. Jim Ramstad (MN-03) To Retire is not running for reelection.

Expect to see a lot more of these. There are those who don't want to lose, and there are those who are unhappy with being in the minority again, and (of course) those under investigation.

Is There Some Sort of Fix in on the "Duke" Cunningham Invegation?

This is weird. Thomas Kontogiannis, who has already admitted to bribing disgraced former Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham was out on bail and money laundering, and as such he was not supposed to leave the country.

It turns out that he did leave the country, he went to a vacation resort in Greece, and the judge was ready to revoke bail and to lock him up, when an assistant U.S. Attorney said at a hearing this morning that the man's recent trip to Greece was at the direction of federal agents.

This is beyond weird.

I'm wondering if someone in the DoJ wanted to send Kontogiannis a message about not fingering too many Republicans, and thought that they could do so more easily in Greece.