31 January 2008

Natalie's Audition at Sudbrook

My daughter, Natalie, is in 5th grade, and so will be going on to middle school next year.

She decided that she wanted to audition for a spot at the Sudbrook arts-magnet middle school. And today she auditioned.

I don't know what happened, parents are not allowed in the auditions.

Natalie has a lovely voice, though she needs training to project her voice, and she is studying violin.

Democracy for Baltimore Meeting Tonight, 7:30pm

7:00 for meet, greet, and eat.

We are hoping to have a representative of the Donna Edwards Campaign
in the MD-4 Congressional district.

At the Cosi Cafe, 9177 Reisterstown Road, Owings Mills, MD 21117

Directions: Located in the Valley Village Plaza Strip Mall, On
the Corner of Reisterstown and McDonough (to the west) and Craddock
(to the east) Roads, diagonally across from the McDonough Road
Proifessional Center.

Free Wireless Internet Available
Closing Time: 9:00 pm.


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Anne Applebaum is Stupid

Really, really, really stupid.

This time, she is claiming that capitalism created beautiful young Russian women.

I went to school with Russian emigres. I've seen what they look like. It was good.

There was no change in appearance. It's just that access to the west was restricted to the well off before the fall of the FSU, and the well off mean middle aged, at least.

Anne Applebaum knows Russia, and I don't. Anne Applebaum has been to Russia, and I haven't. But based on my reading of her work through the years, she does not "hang" with us ordinary plebes, she hangs with the movers and shakers.

Russian women, as the saying goes, "clean up good".

20 Years ago, that did not mean YSL or Chanel's "little black dress". I don't know what Russian fashion was, but it sucked by western standards, though according to my dad, it sucked a lot less in Leningrad than it did in Moscow, at least in 1973.

Of course, Ms. Applebaum is so intent on showing the virtues of the klepto-capitalism that is Russia, she reduces what a woman is to her market value for her appearance.

C-Block Bidding: We Have A Winner, Actually TWO Winners

And one is the American wireless user, because whoever won, and the FCC has not announced a winner yet, will pay $4,713,823,000, more than the $4,600,000,000 required by the FCC in order for open access rules to apply.

The FCC has not announced a winner, and the bidders themselves are technically still gagged, but my guess is that it was not Google. They were willing to bid to win, but they were more interested in getting the open access, and why spend $113,823,000 more than the minimum to get that.

Of course, considering my record on predictions.....

Gains of the Surge Turning Into Ashes

Iraq has gotten me quoting Elvis Costello, you know, "I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused".

The Iraqi insurgency is releasing a new movie, a surge of their own.

We are back on the down slope.

Clean Coal, Toxic Water

Note that I have just added the Washington Independent to my blogroll...It's a good source for news and commentary.

Check out this article on the toxic waste of "clean coal".
According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s own research, coal ash dumping can lead to higher rates of cancer, developmental problems in children and adverse effects in women of child-bearing age. Despite the fact that coal ash contains mercury, lead, arsenic, chromium, cadmium, selenium, beryllium, and other toxic metals, the EPA has yet to categorize coal ash as hazardous waste. In addition, coal ash has been found to be up to 100 times more radioactive than nuclear waste, due to the concentrations of uranium and thorium that increase 10-fold after coal is burned.

Trouble in the Russian Arms Export Business

It appears that there has been a near freeze in weapons sales to China.

According to the report, this is driven by an incoherence in Russian technology transfer policy, which has seen extensive development and production deals with India, and very little with China, which has honked off the Chinese military establishment.

Broder Calls Out George F. Will By Name

One of the rules of OP/ED bloviating is that if you disagree with another contributor to the editorial page, you never mention them directly.

Calling them out by name is unheard of.

Well, David S. Broder, the sultan of intellect free conventional inside-the-beltway thinking, just broke that rule, and calls out the bow-tied one.
Unelected conservative ideologues -- such as Rush Limbaugh and George F. Will-- can mutter in frustration, but Republican politicians recognize what was written here as long ago as last Dec. 2: "If the Republican Party really wanted to hold on to the White House in 2009 . . . it would grit its teeth, swallow its doubts and nominate a ticket of John McCain for president and Mike Huckabee for vice president -- and president-in-waiting."
Matthew Yglesias makes much of this, but I disagree.

This is not a sudden abrogation of the rules. Instead it is a conflict between two rules:
  • The unwritten first rule of the op-ed page -- you do not talk about other writers on the op-ed page
  • John McCain is a straight shooter, and a good guy, and we love him.
In critiquing John McCain, George Will simply joined the Ancient, Hermetic, and Occult Order of the Shrill, and you are supposed to call out the "shrill" ones by name.

If True, the Republican Nomination Is Done

TPM has a report that Romney has not bought any air time in the Feb 5 states, though there are some reports that they are starting to do so now.

If true, Romney has given up, and I don't think that Huckabee can take his place,

New Rule: Our Troops, No Midieval Clerics Get the Power to Judge People

Sayed Pervez Kambaksh has been sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Hi crime, he "he downloaded a report from a Farsi website which stated that Muslim fundamentalists who claimed the Koran justified the oppression of women had misrepresented the views of the prophet Mohamed", and "distributed the tract to fellow students and teachers at Balkh University."

He was not allowed a lawyer. He was not allowed to speak.

We've turned the most secular government in the Arab world into an ethnically cleansed theocracy, and because of the resources we pulled from Afghanistan to do that, Afghanistan is heading back towards becoming...well...Afghanistan.

Heck of a job, Bushie.

Economics Update

First-time jobless claims skyrocket to 375 thousand. Last week was 306 thousand, so it's about a 20% increase, and well over the consensus estimate of 320 thousand first time claims, though week to week data points are always noisy.

That being said, Consumer spending slowing in December, up only 0.2% from November is a lot less noisy, and at least as scary. First, 0.2% is a drop in real dollars, and second, this was December, the height of greed and excess season.

And in the "another day, another downgrade department", S&P is looking at downgrading about $500 billion more in mortgage related securities.

We are not near the bottom.

30 January 2008

Tom Davis (R-VA) Out

His wife, a state senator, lost in 2006, and I guess he figures that it's a sign or something.

Buh by.

Signs of the Apocalypse: Jim Cramer Trashes "Laissez Fair"

Yes, this is the Cramer of "Mad Money", and yes, he is generally to the right of Atilla the Hun, he supported Alan Keyes in 2008, and at a speech at Bucknell University, he condemned laissez fair politics:
"Do not be fooled by the sirens of laissez faire," he told a packed audience at Bucknell University's Weis Center for the Performing Arts in the continuing national speakers series, "The Bucknell Forum: The Citizen & Politics in America."

"Ever since the (President) Reagan era, our nation has been regressing and repealing years and years worth of safety net and equal economic justice in the name of discrediting and dismantling the federal government's missions to help solve our nation's collective domestic woes," he said. "We call it deregulation … a covert attempt to eliminate the federal government's domestic responsibilities."
When Jim Cramer is forced to come to his senses, you know something is whack.

And Now Bush is Maintaining that He Can Ignore Congress on Spending

In the National Defense Authorization Act for 2008, Congress prohibited the use of federal funds to "to establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq" or "to exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq." it also,
....requires intelligence agencies to turn over "any existing intelligence assessment, report, estimate or legal opinion" requested by the leaders of the House and Senate armed services committees within 45 days. If the president wants to assert executive privilege to deny the request, the law says, White House counsel must do so in writing.

Finally, Bush's signing statement raised constitutional questions about a section of the bill that established an independent, bipartisan "Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan" to investigate allegations of waste, mismanagement, and excessive force by contractors.
Bush's response, "Nyah, nyah, nayh, I'm president", in a signing statement.

A prohibition on spending by the congress is legally binding on a president, even it makes his job "hard work".

This is why having impeachment on the table is a necessary thing:

NOT ON THE TABLE! NOT ON THE TABLE!
\

Confronting the State Secrets Privilege

The folks at FAS have an interesting post on the House Judiciary committee reviewing abuses of the state secrets privilige.

Basically, it's the wide latitude that courts give the executive to claim that something is too secret for them to be sued, you know, things like torture, kickbacks, and other forms of corruption.

Lots of meaty stuff there.

I wish [the enemy] would just blow mine up so I could be done with it.

The words of a soldier on the Stryker mobile gun system deployed to Iraq.

The reviews from the soldiers are in, and they hate it.

Your military industrial complex at work.

Problems in Florida Voting, Big Surprise

Simply put, government under conservatives does not work, as shown with the voting problems.

Even after what happened in 2000, it did not get fixed.

Screen Actors Guild Strike Update

The short version of this letter to the membership of the SAG is that the Directors Guild of America cut a deal that sucked.

This is not surprising, the DGA is a weak and stupid union, and they have gotten too small a cut, and allowed the producers to define their accounting too loosely.

Economics Update

The Fed cuts rates by 50 basis points.
The discount rate is now at or below the inflation rate, well below the inflation rate using real world inflation.

There are no longer any monetary tools to use that will work, it has to be fiscal (spending), because any lower, and the Fed is paying people to borrow money.

Still, it makes sense, as GDP growth in the 4th quarter was only at a .6% rate annual rate. When you consider the fact that inflation is (at least) 3%, this means that real GDP is falling at more than a 2% rate.

The dollar has fallen currently at $1.4761:€1.0000, and $1.0003:$1.0000 CDN, so the Canadian dollar is above unity again.

And the credit crunch is spreading all over the world, the Swiss bank UBS AG has reported its biggest loss ever, in US real-estate related issues.

We also have Morgan Stanley using some serious weasel words to not call its write downs a loss, when it, "reclassified $7 billion of funded assets and $279 million in unfunded assets from Level 2 to Level 3."

Of course, the fact that the FBI has dropped some subpoenas on their asses isn't good news eithr.

Lever 3 assets are ones in which buyers are not easy to find, and it's rapidly getting to the point where the buyers are getting harder to find than straight Republicans.

It looks like the bond insurers will be downgraded below AAA, which in addition to closing off a lot of their business, and making it harder to raise capital, will likely force investment banks towrite down $70 billion more.

Iraq Forever

Remember Bush's comments about troop cuts in Iraq?

He's "recondidering troop cuts".

To Bush and His Evil Minions, winning is staying in, whatever the consequences, because it makes them feel like they did not dodge the draft in the 1960s.
Four months after announcing troop reductions in Iraq, President Bush is now sending signals that the cuts may not continue past this summer, a development likely to infuriate Democrats and renew concerns among military planners about strains on the force.

Mr. Bush has made no decisions on troop reductions to follow those he announced last September. But White House officials said Mr. Bush had been taking the opportunity, as he did in Monday’s State of the Union address, to prepare Americans for the possibility that, when he leaves office a year from now, the military presence in Iraq will be just as large as it was a year ago, or even slightly larger.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mr. Bush wanted to tamp down criticism that a large, sustained presence in Iraq would harm the overall health of the military — a view held not only by Democrats, but by some members of his own Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Fruits of Operation Iraqi Freedom: Afghanistan Risks Becoming Failed State

So says the study co-chaired by retired Marine Corps Gen. James Jones and former U.N. Ambassador Thomas Pickering.

We have no resources there, because we are tied down in Iraq.

Don Young (R-AK) Opens Legal Defense Fund

I'm pretty sure why Alaska now appears to be the most corrupt state in the nation, their petro-economy, and now their sole congressman, Don Young is opening a legal defense fund.

The whole state of Alaska has about the same population as the city of Baltimore, but they make Maryland look like Norway, both in absolute, and per capita, terms.

Senator Mitch "Private Handjob" McConnell Gets Wealthy Opponent

McConnell is getting a number of opponents, with Bruce Lunsford throwing his hat into the ring, this gets him, "Andrew Horne and another wealthy candidate, businessman Greg Fischer", all competing in the primary to face him in the general.

This is a campaign Democrats should make a priority, for the following reasons:
  • Payback for what they did to Daschle, who my spell checker flogs as "Schlemiel".
    • The campaign against Daschle in 2004 was unprecedented, the parties don't go after each other's leaders, and payback is deterrence.
  • McConnell has been the most obstructive minority ever, and he has no respect for the Senate.
  • Mcconnel is consistently polling below 50%, and that makes him vulnerable.
I have no clue who to support in the primary, but I'm not giving money to the DSCC so that they can waste money Landrieu in the ethnically cleansed Louisiana.

Whoever wins though, will go on my Act Blue page.

Crap. Edwards Leaving Race

Announcement at 1:00pm, according to the pickle.

No endorsement yet.

Damn.

Florida Primary Night Quote of the Day

The generally repulsive Joe Scarborough said that, "McCain's Platform Is 'Less Jobs And More Wars'."

Props to Joe. Is Lori still dead?

Depressing: Arlo Guthrie Endorses Racist Nutbag Ron Paul

Yep, Arlo Guthrie has endorsed Paul, a man who thinks the only thing that government should do is protect private property.

That sound you hear is Woody spinning in his grave.

Have I Mentioned Lately that Albert Wynn is a Complete Tool?

He's trying to claim that organizations that have endorsed Donna Edwards are somehow breaking the law.
"There seems to be a vast, dare I say, left-wing conspiracy designed to circumvent campaign finance laws," Wynn told reporters during a conference call. "Within this scheme, her supporters are coordinating efforts to exceed fundraising limits and engaging in illegal campaign activities."
Here's hoping that you are unemployed come January.

Two More Rats Abandoning a Sinking Ship

Two more Republican Congressmen are not standing for reelection, Kenny Hulshof of Missouri and Ron Lewis of Kentucky.

Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out.

The End of the Rudy Clown Show

If anyone out there knows of a source, or sources, of the metaphysical nutrient Schadenfreude sufficient to replace the Rudy clown show, please tell me.

He's dropping out and endorsing the sick, old man.

Are Telcos Trying to Sabotage Open Access Spectrum Auction

It appears that bidders on the C-Block spectrum are colluding to keep the bid price low enough to eliminate open access rules.

Though $8.66 billion has been raised in 12 rounds by the auction so far, it still has a long way to run before it loses steam -- more than 1000 separate bids were submitted in Tuesday’s closing round. The D block still has plenty of time to attract more bidders, particularly as the price of the C block and other regional licenses escalate. (For complete auction results see the FCC’s Auction 73 page)

Such escalation, though, appears to be exactly what the C-block participants are bent on preventing. The C-block bidders slowed down their pace Tuesday, taking turns bidding on the license every other round. That not only prevented the license from crossing the $4.6 billion reserve threshold, it also served to knock down the minimum bids required to take the lead in consecutive rounds. According to the FCC’s rules, the minimum bid falls each round a license fails to attract a new bidder. The strategy has definitely slowed down the momentum of C-block bidding, but even at the rate of one bid every other round, the license will clear the reserve ceiling in the next two days. To secure the top bid in Wednesday’s open Round 13, a participant will have to pony up $4.29 billion.

Also the Block D auction seems to be stalling, my guess is that this is a result of Cyrene Call corruption issues. This block is supposed to be shared with public safety agencies, with said agencies having complete control in an emergency, and to be open access.

29 January 2008

House Passes 15 Day FISA Extension

Here.

Technically, it's the Orwellian named Protect America Act, but still, the 'Phants had this won, and got obnoxious.

Call your congresscritter. No Telco Immunity.

The Republican Anthem

Catchy toon. More vids at Spiffworld, the composer is Jonathan Coulton

Bush's Phoney War on Earmarks

When Republicans were in power, he never batted an eyelash at earmarks, which are something like ¾% of the budget, but now he's decided it's a good time to go to war against them.

Oh...me bad...He's thinking that NEXT fiscal year is a good time to start this "war on earmarks", so he's just "announcing" them at this SOTU speach.

Even the Republicans are calling weak:
But if he was seeking to placate the fiercest foes of earmarking, he failed. Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) called Bush's plan "weak." Thomas A. Schatz, president of the conservative Citizens Against Government Waste, labeled it "fiscal snake oil."
Well, I guess it meats steroids.

Charlie Pierce Speaks

Charlie Pierce on Altercation:
As I was watching the debate the other night -- the Democratic one where Anderson Cooper came on afterwards and got to pretend to be Angelo Dundee -- I was struck by Senator Obama's resolute assertion that he was the candidate that can come to Washington and work with "independents and Republicans" to get things done. (One of his new ads has him sitting next to Dick Lugar, a Republican senator only slightly more relevant today than is Arthur Vandenberg.) I was struck even harder by it as I watched the Democratic Senate go supine, selling out poor Chris Dodd and the Constitution, and concocting retroactive alibis for the Telecom giants in a week where we finally got the empirical count of prewar Iraq lies. Here's my deal with His Barackosity. Take the list of Republican congresscritters, House and Senate. Make me a list of 10 of them with whom you think you can work to achieve anything close to the progressive goals you have said you want to achieve. Give me an honest run, and I guarantee you that you can't do it. You may get "something done" but it's not going to have anything to do with anything resembling the values of the party you seek to represent. This is a party that has to be forcibly disenthralled from its lunatic base.
Let's make it clear, Obama has a fairly unique background, and he's a bright guy, he was the head of the bleeding Harvard Law Review.

He has been dazzling people for years to convince them to get his way, and if someone does not hate you with a blinding white hot passion, it frequently works.

Republicans live on that level of hate.

They hated Bill and Hillary, etc. too.

Kentucky: Breathalyser Code Must Be Turned Over to Defense

This is a good decision. The idea that one is allowed to present a number from a black box which no one in the court can fully understand is ludicrous.
Excerpts from the Court of Appeals of Kentucky's opinion:
A subpoena may be quashed only upon a showing that compliance therewith would be unreasonable or oppressive. We do not believe the commonwealth and CMI have made this showing.

The request is not unreasonable because its purpose is to challenge the validity of the breath alcohol readings produced by the Intoxilyzer 5000 instrument, which is anticipated to be used at trial in support of the Commonwealth's DUI charge against House. The reading was also used to support the aggravating factor of driving with a breath alcohol reading of .18 or more.

Relevant evidence is admissible unless excluded by some other rule. Because a flaw in the computer source code of the Intoxilyzer 5000 would be consequential to the accuracy of the reading intended to be relied upon by the commonwealth, such evidence is relevant and admissible. Accordingly, requesting the computer code to test the verity of the readings produced by the instrument is not unreasonable.

Prison study to investigate link between junk food and violence

Nope, this is not a punchline. It's an actual study that they are conducting in the UK.
The university will lead the £1.4m study in which 1,000 males aged 16 to 21 from three young offenders' institutions in England and Scotland will be randomly allocated either the vitamin-and-mineral supplements or a placebo, and followed over 12 months.

In a pilot study of 231 prisoners by the same researchers, published in 2002, violent incidents while in custody were cut by a more than a third among those given the supplements. Overall, offences recorded by the prison authorities fell by a quarter.
It certainly would explain the relatively high crime in the US.

We have effectively been giving borderline nutrition to the poor, and it shows up in crime statistics, just like Nixon's removal of lead paint from the market correlates to the crime drop of the 1990s.

Economics Update

Economic schizophrenia, Consumer Confidence Falls, But Durable Orders Jump. Mr. Benanke is not sleeping well tonight.

Home ownership rate has biggest drop ever. A 1.1% drop in the percentage of occupied homes.

Everyone's favorite not-so-whiz kid, Jerome Kerviel, is claiming that his superiors at French Bank Societe Generale knew of his activities, but took no action because it pumped up its profit numbers.

The First Bank Failure of 2008, the Douglass National Bank of Kansas City, Missouri.

The FBI has initiated investigations of 14 firms regarding subprime irregularities. Kind of makes the FBI sound like Metamucil.
They did not identify the companies. But the probes reached across the industry to include developers, subprime lenders, companies that securitized loans and investment banks that held them, said Neil Power, head of the FBI's economic crimes unit.
Contrywide: $422 million Q4, and 1/3 of its sub-prime mortgages are delinquent. Well I got this prediction right.

McCain and Clinton Win Florida

Large margin for Clinton, about 4% for McCain.

McCain winning depresses me.

It's not about his ability to win the election, he's a sick old man who wants eternal war, it's that the Heathers known as the Washington press corps won.

Turkish Ultranationalists Arrested

One of the dirty secrets of Turkey has been that there have been paramilitary ultra-nationalist hit squads operating with the tacit approval of the Turkish state security apparatus.

Well, 13 have now been arrested by Turkish authorities. My guess is that the new religious leadership in Istanbul, such as Erdogan, see the ultra-nationalists as a personal threat (they are correct), and so they are cracking down.

What's with George W. Bush and Bald Guys????


President Bush, shown greeting Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) just before his State of the Union address, made eliminating lawmakers' pet projects, or earmarks, the center of the domestic agenda he laid out in the speech. The executive order cracking down on earmarks, however, would not go into force until fiscal 2009. (By Rich Lipski -- The Washington Post)

Does this explain Jeff Gannon?

Seriously. One of the questions of the Jeff Gannon/Jim Guckert "man whore in the White House" thing is who was he doing.

Bush seems to have a thing for bald guys...Like Mr. Guckert.

The scuttlebutt (pun not intended) was that it was Rove, but maybe it was someone in a higher position.

And now I need this:



It's not a revulsion about gay sex. It's revulsion about Bush sex.

Taking Tips in Africa

Well, after many years, two studies have shown that circumcision reduces AIDS transmission by about 60%. There has been anecdotal data for years.

This answers a question I've always had, why is the US AIDS rate relatively low when the US public health infrastructure sucks, and you have Talibaptists everywhere campaigning against condoms?

The answer is dumb luck. Through historical accident, the US probably has the highest circumcision rate this side of Israel (Moslems do it too).
Unfortunately, studying wasn’t enough. It wasn’t until last March, when the National Institutes of Health stopped the African circumcision trials—it was no longer ethical to continue them, because circumcision was clearly beneficial—that the World Health Organization and other agencies did an about-face.

Top Gear, the Best Show Ever

Duration 7:36

In certain parts of America now, people have started to mate with vegetables.


Blast from the Past

Click image for full size.



The Most Banal Moment of Election 2008

Yes, the good Reverend Gastric Bypass (Huckabee), is criticizing Captain Goodhair (Romney) because he took the skin off his chicken at a KFC before eating it.

While I agree that the skin is the best part, this is silly.
  1. You are arguing over how someone eats fried chicken.
  2. It's not real fried chicken, its KFC.
  3. Huckabee does not eat fried chicken himself to keep his weight down.
  4. You are arguing over how someone eats fried chicken.
  5. It's not real fried chicken, its KFC.
Dumbasses.

Bankrupt Your Company, Get a Better Paying Job Somewhere Else

The Times has a story that has got me thinking that all of Wall Street is one giant criminal conspiracy.

People keep falling up.

High (low) points cut and pasted from the article:
  • UNDER the stewardship of Dow Kim and Thomas G. Maheras, Merrill Lynch and Citigroup built positions in subprime-related securities that led to $34 billion in write-downs last year. The debacle cost chief executives their jobs and brought two of the world’s premier financial institutions to their knees.
  • Mr. Maheras, who left his job as co-president of Citigroup’s investment bank ... has had serious discussions with several investment banks, including Bear Stearns, about taking on a top management position, people who have been briefed on the situation said. And he has also been approached by investment firms willing to back him to the tune of $1 billion or more if he decides to start his own hedge fund, these people said.
  • Mr. Kim, who until this spring was a co-president at Merrill Lynch with oversight of the firm’s trading and market operations, has been crisscrossing the globe in recent months raising money for his new hedge fund, Diamond Lake Capital.
  • Zoe Cruz, the Morgan Stanley co-president who was forced to leave her job after $10.8 billion in subprime losses, has been approached by investment banks, hedge funds and private equity funds about a senior management role.
  • John Meriwether. Ousted from Salomon Brothers in 1991 for his role in a bond trading scandal, he became a co-founder of Long Term Capital Management, the hedge fund that nearly collapsed in 1998, rattling markets worldwide. He has since founded a second fund, JWM Partners, with assets of around $3 billion.
    • So he was fired for corruption, and then he went on to found LTCM, which the Federal Reserve had to structure a bail out for, and he's got another hedged fund?
  • More recently, Brian Hunter, the energy trader at Amaranth Advisors whose disastrous bets led to the disintegration of that $9 billion hedge fund, is now advising a private equity fund called Peak Ridge on starting a hedge fund. Howard A. Rubin, a trader at Merrill Lynch, who lost $377 million in 1987, quickly landed a job at Bear Stearns, where he had a successful career.
I used to think that somehow or other, GW Bush's history of failing upwards was the exception. It's not. It's the rule. Our financial markets are irredeemably corrupt.

Fallout of US Attorney Firing Scandal

We have more politically motivated prosecutions, this time of pathologist Cyril Wecht, and that of attorney Geoff Fieger. (I've noted to the prosecutions in Mississippi ( here and here) and Don Siegelman before.)

In the case of Wecht:
Prosecutors plan to prove that Wecht used county resources in his private business, defrauded private clients with bogus travel invoices, and submitted falsified mileage receipts to surrounding counties. His attorneys say the charges are either false or amount to minor infractions, such as the improper use of fax machines.

The initial indictment charged 84 counts, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Stallings recently dropped more than half of them to "streamline" the case for the jury. Wecht's attorneys called the gutted indictment signs of a rush to judgment and shoddy investigating.

In the two years since the indictment, Wecht's attorneys have attacked prosecutors for alleged political biases, although the judge won't allow them to argue political motives to the jury.

They have even accused the judge of bias. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied their request for a new judge while chiding Schwab for admitting 300,000 pages of documents into evidence over the objections of the defense.
So we have an intensely sloppy prosecution, over an amounts that are miniscule, they are including misuse of the office fax machine.

And the US Attorney is involved.

With Feiger, best known as Kevorkiann's lawyer, but also a major Democratic party contributor (shades of Mississippi), you have a number of irregularities:
  • The U.S. Attorney two aids , were recused , and the Judge has had to compel the office to give the reasons to Feiger's lawyers.
  • The size of the raid by the FBI is such that the Judge has directed the FBI to give examples of similarly sized raids.
  • Prosecutors violated rules in not getting DoJ authorization of the investigation.
  • Typically, the FEC handles such probes.
There will be decades of fallout of the corruption and politicization of the DoJ by Bush and His Evil Minions.

France and India Define Special Nuclear Relationship

Not much of a surprise.

Considering the American record on nuclear power, the terms over budget and behind schedule come to mind, the negotiations between France and India on nuclear power should come as no surprise.

They will get the job done right, and given the direct involvement of the French government, if the contractors screw up, they won't go running to the government to get their money, as a number of US plants built in India have (IIRC one tied to Enron).

So, Bush's agreement with India probably won't generate a whole bunch of business for US companies, and it makes us less safe too...lovely.

Spamford Wallace's Is Back, Like a Cockroach

While I do not ensorse such things as Assassination markets, Wallace's latest identity theft/spam escapade leads me to believe that I would have a hard time voting to convict on any Jury upon which I sat.

I'd say that this guy is like a cockroach, but I think that he is far hardier.

I don't think that Polonium 210 would take him out.

I Was Wrong on the Next Gen DVD Wars

El Reg is reporting that Woolworths stores to stop selling HD DVD.

Umm...there are still Woolworths out there?

28 January 2008

Obama Fundraiser Tony Rezko Arrested

No clue as to what this means. The prosecutor got his bail revoked.

He's accused of, "conspiracy, influence peddling and demanding kickbacks from companies seeking Illinois state business".

Whether fair or not, we will hear a lot of him in the next few days.

Economics Update

New home sales plummet. New home sales were down 26% from 2006, the biggest drop ever, surpassing the 23% decline posted of 1980.

Regulators opposes oppose increasing the GSE's lending limit, with the director of OFHEO, James Lockhart saying, "We are very disappointed in the proposal to increase the conforming loan limit as we believe it is a mistake to do so in the absence of comprehensive GSE regulatory reform."

I agree, the solution to too many people hanging themselves is not more rope.


Adblock

CBS News reporter Steve Croft has an interesting report on the mess on 60 minutes (click to view, but there is a 30 second ad at the beginning). Too narrow in scope, the big sh$%pile is about more than subprime.

European hedge funds are suspending redemptions.

Why India (and China) Won't Catch Up With The West Soon

While this article on issues with India's procurement of a military helicopter purchase, it acutally shows a deep problem throughout Indian society that can be extrapolated to most of the emerging Asian economies. (Paid subscription required)
The illegal use of middlemen, impending 2009 elections and regional geopolitical issues are all likely to slow India’s weapons acquisition process just as the world’s industry is gaining unprecedented access to what is expected to be a $40-billion market.

India’s army is the most recent casualty. The government halted the acquisition of 197 Eurocopter AS550 C3 Fennec helicopters as replacements for 1970s-vintage Chetak and Cheetahs when allegations surfaced that middlemen had been used to seal the deal. Indian law prohibits their involvement in military procurements.
As corrupt and self-serving as the Western and Russian defense industries are, you don't find this as the rule. It's the exception.

In the West, they shave the rules, in much of the developing world, the rules are observed, at best, in the breach.

I think that this will present a barrier to further development at some point.

Newsweek's Bearish Economists

Newsweek has an article where, "Fifteen key economists, policymakers and strategists weigh in on a week of volatility and economic turmoil," including Nouriel Roubini who is my favorite bear economist. It's a good read.

Request for Information: Eglin Steel

It's a very high strength steel, wiki here.

I'm looking at a hobby application, so I need a bit more information, like suppliers I can get a quote from, mechanical properties when dead soft, and corrosion resistance.

Anyone have more info out there?

No, I didn't Watch the SOTU.

It makes me what you would call "metaphysically ill" to listen to him.

Seeing as how I'm feeling a bit queasy today, something has not sat right in my stomach, I don't want to start screaming at the TV.

Some Interesting Insights on How Obama Gets It Wrong

Read all 4 articles. Even if you are a big Obama supporter, they ware well worth reading.

First, as always is Paul Krugman, who teaches an important lesson, don't pick a useless fight with someone who buys ink by the truckload. He looks at Bill Clinton's election of 1992, and he finds the message of Barack Obama to be a classic example of people who neither know, or understand, their history.

He makes the point, an accurate one, that Clinton ran as an agent of change and an outsider from Washington, and notes that the partisanship of that era was the result of, an "all out assault from conservatives determined to use any means at hand to discredit a Democratic president".

He makes the point that the deliberate vagueness of Clinton in his 1992 campaign was a mistake, which, "left the business of producing an actual plan until after the election".

His warning is that, "Otherwise, even if a Democrat wins the general election, it will be 1992 all over again."

He's right.


Then, on Open Left, we have a number of very good critiques of Obama and his (mis)understanding of history.

First up, Paul Rosenberg explaining why the history is wrong.
In the wake of the disasterous Bush presidency there are two possible responses. One is that, just like the last time conservatives controlled the country--1920-1932--they are destroying the country. The second is that both sides are to blame. They're both fighting, instead of solving the problems we face. Obama represents the second response, and he is, quite simply, utterly, totally and dangerously wrong. Whatever his intentions may be, action based on this worldview cannot fundamentally reverse the damage that movement conservatism has done to our country. Because of the fierceness of movement conservative opposition, his worldview demands that we change things only modestly in the grand scheme of things.
Then we have Rosenberg (again, it's a 2-fer) explaining why it's wrong through rhetorical analysis. He takes a typical Obama quote, "....The believer condemns the non-believer as immoral, and the non-believer chides the believer as intolerant", and explains a very simple point: what if someone is actually intolerant? What if one side is simply wrong, and the other is right?
Some are lying. And some are telling the truth.

And when Obama condemns both equally, as equally destructive?

That's a lie, too. However rhetorically neat it may be.
He's arguing, effectively to my mind, that in embracing the idea that the problem is not the problem, but that the dispute is the problem, he is enabling those who would be the least moral and least tolerant and least honest amongst us.

Chris Bowers looks at Obama too, and it's not pretty:
Second, Obama puts forth one of his central arguments that change has not happened because we are bitterly divided:

[about 5:10 in] We are looking to fundamentally change the status quo in Washington. It's a status quo that extends beyond any particular party. And right now, that status quo is fighting back with everything it's got, with the same old tactics that divide and district us from solving the problems that people face, whether those problems are health care that folks cannot afford or mortgage they can not pay.(…)

[about 6:40 in] We are up against decades of bitter partisanship that cause politicians to demonize their opponents instead of coming together to make college affordable or energy cleaner.
The lack of affordable health care, the ongoing mortgage crisis, the lack of renewable energy, and the cost of college were caused by bitter partisanship? That just doesn't make any sense to me. The failure to pass progressive solutions on all of those areas of policy might be due to partisanship, but it is due to Republicans in the Senate and the White House staunchly opposing solutions to all of these problems. Unless one believes that Republicans oppose solutions on these issues simply out of spite and resentment from the vicious attacks we Democrats have sent their way, I have a difficult time seeing how partisanship that goes beyond one party is responsible for the lack of positive legislation on these issues.

Senate FISA Vote Update

Well, according to FDL, read the live blogging there, I cannot do justice to it, nothing is going to come out of the Senate. The 'Phants are still blocking it.

Of interest, however, is that both Arlen Specter (R-PA) and
Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) will be voting with the Democrats.

Specter, of course, makes noises, and toes the line, and Rockefeller has been the champion of retroactive telco immunity.

It's odd.

I do not know what is going on, but this is very, very odd.

FWIW, Sens. Mark Pryor (D-AR), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) voted with the Republicans to end debate and amendments on the bill.

FWIW, Landrieu is up next year in LA, but she will lose, as the ethnic cleansing of New Orleans has ensured that.

No money to the DSCC. Give directly to races, because otherwise, it will go to folks like Pryor, Lincoln, Nelson, and Landrieu.

It's wasted money.

I Need to Send Dick Cheney a Hard Hat

But first, I have to magnetize it.

U.S. Spy Satellite, Power Gone, May Hit Earth - New York Times

Just a second, the Secret Service is knocking at my door.

I'm Gonna Live Forever

Any my lovely wife will outlive me by millennia, if this study that says married couples that express anger outlive those that suppress anger.

I'm just sayin'.

Listening to Santorum

Mike Lux overheard him on a train ride, seriously hating on John McCain.

Best quote:
He was saying that there are people like Susan Collins who vote moderate sometimes, but at least she is a team player who always plays with the team and never plays against the conservative side even if she has to give the liberals a vote because she's from Maine.
Go read it.

And In the "Real America"

Daniel Dean Thompson, a man at the heart of the effort to strip out profanity from PG-143 and R rated DVDs, has been arrested for paying 14-year-olds for sexual favors.



Once again confirming that the blue nose brigades are driven by their own personal demons more than anything else.

Signs of the Apocalypse: Press Call Out "Straight Talker" McCain on Bald Faced Lie

McCain lies about Romney's position on the Iraq war*, and Time's Michael Scherer calls him out on it.

I'm stunned.

What happened to the media's role as "fluffer" for John McCain?

Bush Threatens Veto on FISA Extension, Reid Calls Him "Shamefully Irresponsible"

Bush is ratcheting up the rhetoric on the "give the phone companies a blow job" version of the FISA update, and Harry Reid is pushing back.

Bush is threatening a veto of an extension of the so called "Protect America Act", because, even though it protects phone companies for current warrantless domestic spying, it does not indemnify them for prior spying, some of which began in February 2001, more than 7 months before 911.

Let's be clear. Indemnification is not about getting phone companies to cooperate. It is about helping phone companies conceal the details of this activity, so that Bush and His Evil Minions will never face legal consequences of their law breaking.

Well, $%#@ that.

Faster, Better, Cheaper, So It's Opposed By the Military Industrial Complex

Noah Shachtman reports on a new concept in weapons systems procurement competition. and the pushback that it is getting from defense contractors and their pet politicians.

It's about the Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM), a missile system, designed to replace the Hellfire and Maverick missiles. (It's probably a family of missiles, as the 50 kg Hellfire has a 8-9 kg warhead, and the 200-300 kg Maverick has a 57-135 kg warhead).

They are going to select two different groups to compete the missile program, which is not surprising, but they will base the competition on actual physical prototypes, as opposed to paper proposals.
.... Last September, Young issued a policy that went beyond competitive bidding and resurrected an old idea: competitive proto-typing.

.......

But Young’s memo decried a pattern among “many troubled programs” that were pushed forward before they were ready, wasting time and billions of dollars. The problem, in part, was that defense officials often made decisions “based largely on paper proposals that provided inadequate knowledge of technical risk and a weak foundation for estimating develop- ment and procurement costs,” he wrote ..... hence, the decision to change the acquisition strategy for the JAGM program before it proceeded too far, too fast.
The defense contractors are apoplectic over this, which to my mind shows that it's a good idea.

Earlier verification through prototype may add a few bucks, and a few months, early in the process, but it will likely result in better, and cheaper, products.

27 January 2008

Stocks Tanking in Asia

It really looks like that Fed rate cut helped a lot, huh?

Trading day is half over, and stocks are down over 2%.

Breaking: Clinton and Obama to Show Up to Oppose Cloture on FISA Update

Care of Firedoglake, they will both show up to vote against cloture on the "give the phone companies a blow job" version of the FISA update.

Good for them, or more accurately, their pollsters. Someone told them that this was more important than a fund raising meeting.

Telco immunity is about Bush and His Evil Minions&trade covering up their illegal wiretapping activities that started before 9/11.

Good Analysis of Pushback (Bushback) Against Bush

I noticed that Americans United for Change will be spending $8.5 million on ads to keep Bush's approval numbers down for the rest of his term.

My first reaction was that this was a waste of money, public disapproval has never prevented Bush from doing the wrong thing. After all, he has a year left, and who cares.

Steve Benen, of the Carpetbagger, sets me right, and he makes the point that the Republicans have welded themselves to Bush for at least this election cycle, and they won't begin to extricate themselves from his toxic embrace until after tie 2008 elections.

It's true, the weaker Bush is, weaker 'Phants are, and there is this little bon mot of Mr. Benen.
And, one assumes, if John McCain gets the Republican nomination, this initiative, coupled with a ubiquitous picture of McCain hugging Bush, should help tilt the scales a little.
True.

I just wish that I hadn't been drinking when I read that. Steve Benen ows me a screen cleaner.

Edwards Calls for Action Against Telco Immunity

Edwards is calling on people to call their Senators to act against Telco immunity.

Clinton and Obama???

crickets.


I guess it's tough to do the job you have sworn to do in the Senate when you are busy campaigning for Prez.

What is going on With FISA

Firedog Lake asks What The F*!k Is Up With FISA?

Reid is now saying that if there is not an extension, than there will be nothing when the current misbegotten bill expires on February 1.

According to Think Progress, this is Reid's Statement:
The White House threat to veto a short extension of the Protect America Act is shamefully irresponsible. The President is simply posturing in advance of Monday’s State of the Union address.

When it comes to providing a strong long-term Foreign Intelligence Surveillance bill, Democrats in Congress are focused on solutions, while Republicans are obviously playing politics.

The House has already passed a FISA bill, and the Senate was ready to pass its own bill until Republicans blocked all amendments. At the same time, Democrats are ready to extend current law for as long as necessary, but Republicans are blocking that extension and the White House is threatening a veto.

It is shenanigans like this that make Americans so eager for change. We hope the American public will remember these Republican stunts when they go to the polling booth this November.

In any event, current law ensures that no ongoing collection activity will be cut off on February 1. There will be no terrorism intelligence collection gap. But if there is any problem, the blame will clearly and unequivocally fall where it belongs: on President Bush and his allies in Congress.
The 'Phants overreached. They were going to get everything that they wanted this, so they wanted this, and a pony...OK, it wasn't a pony, they wanted to be able to humiliate the Democrats too.

Paul Krugman Runs the Numbers On the Stimulus Package

The TOP 40% of the nation gets 58.1% of the money.



This is not bipartisanship. It is capitulation.

Noonan Says That Bush has Destroyed the GOP

Of course, she opens up with a slam against Bill Clinton, though she forgot to pimp her friendly dolphins.

That being said, there is one paragraph about Bush that I find amusing:
This is absurd. George W. Bush destroyed the Republican Party, by which I mean he sundered it, broke its constituent pieces apart and set them against each other. He did this on spending, the size of government, war, the ability to prosecute war, immigration and other issues.
Bush had inflicted damage on the GOP, but this has not been a failure of George W. Bush, but an artifact of his success.

He has been remarkably successful in producing results in the Republican agenda:
  • Never ending war.
  • Fear of those who appear different from us.
  • The privatization of essential government services.
  • A widespread belief that the government cannot work.
The problem, is that the Republican agenda has consequences:
  • It has destroyed the US Army.
  • It has destroyed the US Marines.
  • It has destroyed our respect worldwide.
  • It has destroyed our economy.
  • etc.
George W. Bush did not destroy the Republican Party, no has he wounded our nation for years to come, movement conservatism has.

Bank's Solution for the Credit Crunch: F$%k the Small Depositor

Yep, they banks are looking at implementing new larger fees on holders of small accounts.

I guess that they need to stick it to the little guy because of all the money that they are losing on the high rollers that they gave exotic mortgage packages to.
Today, the average ATM fee is $1.78, while five years ago it cost a little more than a $1 to retrieve money from a bank with which you didn't have an account.

In some areas, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Wachovia fees have hit $3 for non-customers.
Bankers and the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, the first up against the wall when the revolution comes.

On Whether Y. Pestis Caused the Black Death

I discussed this on the Usenet* group Rec.Org.SCA about three years ago.

I was watching something on the Discovery Channel, and some people were making arguments that the Black Death could not have been Yerisnia Pestis, because some of its characteristics were simply completely at odds with what is observed in modern Bubonic Plague outbreaks.

Looking back at the archives, my assessment was that it was likely a variant of the Plague with a higher affinity for lung tissues (I mention the Marmot sub-variant as an example).

In any case, Tara C. Smith just did a 4 part blog series on Y. pestis as the black death, which thoroughly convinces me that Y. pestis was Black Death.
It's a very good read.

*Originally called UUCP, it was a system for bouncing public BBS type messages through the internet. You can still access it, and it works fairly well, but the signal to noise ratio degraded to the point of near uselessness when AOL gave it's (l)users access to the system during the Eternal September, with the inevitable tragedy of the commons.

More on Fascist Catholic Archbishop in St. Louis

Saint Louis University's basketball couch Rick Majerus tells fascist Archbishop to piss off regarding said cleric's suggestion that disciplinary action be taken against him because he showed up to a Hillary Clinton rally, and made pro-choice statements.

Ignoring the towering idiocy of demanding that a basketball coach towing anti-woman, anti sex line of Archbishop Raymond Burke, there is also the matter, rasied in my last post on this issue, that St. Louis University just won a court case regarding a tax financing for a new sports arena because they had demonstrated they were not, "controlled by a religious creed".

This is not the first time that this moron has damaged both the reputation and the institution of the Catholic Church:
Burke has spoken out before against Catholics or Catholic institutions that stray from church doctrine. During the 2004 election, he said he would not administer Holy Communion to presidential candidate John Kerry, a Catholic, because he supported abortion rights.

Last year, Burke dropped his seat on the board of a charity that let singer Sheryl Crow perform at a benefit concert. Crow supports abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research.

On Tuesday, Burke said he would ask Saint Louis University officials to take "appropriate action" against Majerus after the coach gave a TV interview at the Clinton rally during which he said he was Catholic and pro-choice.
In 1942, the Bishop of Father Coughlin to STFU. Perhaps it might be advisable for someone in Burke's chain of command to do the same.

Michelle Malkin, Are Her Children in Danger?

She has two children, and we've already had instances of what can only be called deranged behavior, such as her stalking of the Graeme Frost family.

Well, now she is saying that she is claiming that John McCain is an agent of George Soros. (H/T Whisky Fire for the catch)

I read Whiskey Fire, and I was amused, and then I read her article, and I was frightened.

Not of George Soros, as was her intent, and not of her wit or intellect, which honestly does not impress me.

I was frightened that in a few years, she would snap, and we would see another one of those stories where the police break down the door, and find that she has drowned her children in the bathtub.

It's probably not fair, after all, my writing is not indicative of sanity, but I just get this sense that we're going to read this story in the paper.

Anyone know of a way to help?

I'm sorry, but going to CPS based on my gut, no matter how ample, is just wrong, particularly considering how often my predictions are wrong.

But it's like watching a slow motion train wreck.

26 January 2008

Final SC Results

98% Reporting: Obama 55%, Clinton 27%, Edwards 18%

Of note is the fact that Democrats out polled Republicans 521,078 to 442,918, in one of the more Republican states in the nation.

Foot Tapping Republican Opposition to Bush's ATF Pick

Yes, everyone's favorite foot tapping senator Larry Craig, and as well as Senator Crap Crapo oppose him because he enforces the law.

They have both put "holds" on his nomination, because as acting head of the ATF, "The ATF stripped the license of Red's Trading Post in Twin Falls, Idaho, in March after an audit found numerous record-keeping violations over a five-year period," though this license is still in effect pending litigation.

Senate Democrats Mull Adding Retirees to Rebate Plan, Extending Jobless Benefits

Senate Democrats are looking about, "giving retirees tax rebates, extending unemployment benefits, boosting heating subsidies for the poor and temporarily increasing food stamp payments."

This is great politics!!!, and here's why:
  • Republican or Democrat, the Senate is smarting at having not been involved in the negociations, and there is a bipartisan consensus, in fact a near unanimous consensus that the Senate's prerogatives should be respected in that body.
  • Getting more money to retirees is a politically powerful thing, because senior citizens vote.
  • There is widespread political support for extending unemployment benefits in the real (i.e. outside of DC) world.
  • Increasing food stamp payments will be seen as being good for American farmers, who figure prominently in a number of red states.
  • Heating subsidies for the poor is also very popular nationwide.
On a policy level, if they were to strike the business tax credits, which will take months to have any effect, and are very inefficient, that would be a good thing.

Fatah Refuses Egyptian Offer of Talks with Hamas

Notwithstanding the Israeli disengagement there, I think that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recognizes how inconsequential and how screwed up Gaza is, and so he is snubbing the Egyptian offer of mediating talks with Hamas because he does not want the region.

That makes three governmental entities that have said they don't want anything to do with it now.

Ignoring Israeli-Palestinian issues, Gaza has nothing going for it as a geographical entity.

Let's see what you have by way of pluses and minuses with Gaza:

Minuses:
  • Overpopulated.
  • No economy to speak of.
    • This is independent of the blockade. There is simply thing there in the way of meaningful economic development.
  • Not enough drinkable water, the water in Gaza is increasingly saline, and now well beyond UN health standards, as a result of over subscription of the aquifer, and subsequent infiltration from the Med.
    • BTW, this has their only industry, agriculture, living on borrowed time.
  • Medieval social structure, even by the standards of Arab society, with clan loyalties trumping everything else.
Pluses:
  • Ummmm.....Maybe a decent soccer team?

Lame Even By Republican Standards

One of Freddie Thompson's former campaign staff is calling for a, "boycott of all shows and products affiliated with martial arts thespian Chuck Norris because of his endorsement of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee."

The lamitude* of this snollygoster, "Darrel Ng, a former traveling press secretary for Thompson" just boggles the mind.

*I know that lamitude is not not a real word.
But "snollygoster" is a real word.

Obama Projjected Winner in SC

Looks like he did fairly well too, around 52% to around 33% for Clinton, and around 15% for Edwards from the CNN page right now.

Better Now Than in The General Obama-Rezko Edition

More Obama-Rezko stuff; this time it's the fact that the Obama campaign has not returned all the Rezko related donations.

Truth be told, I don't find this particularly meaningful from a policy or corruption position, but I do see it as significant from from a political perspective.

As I've said before, one of my concerns about Obama (ignoring the whole gay baiting McClurkin thing) is that he has never been in a serious campaign against a Republican.

He has always run in a dead girl/live boy* safe Democratic district, except for his Senate campaign, which was against Alan Keys, who is so obviously seriously mentally ill that it counts as the same thing.

What he is getting now is less than one one thousandth of what the Republicans would throw at him in the general election, and the his response, and that of his campaign, has generally been pretty good.

Besides, getting this cleared up in the primary, is better than waiting for the general.

*Edwin Edwards, when discovering that he would be facing David Duke in the Louisiana governor's race, said that the the only way that he would lose were if he were, "caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy".

$750 Million for Hypersonic Demonstrator

DARPA is getting$750 million for its "Blackswift" hypersonic demonstrator.

It's performance is fairly mild as hypersonics go, about Mach 6-7, but it will take off and land under its own power, and use conventional hydrocarbon, as opposed to cryogenic fuels, so the utility of such a craft is significantly more than a lot of the other demonstrators.

It won't need fuel tanks that are basically Dewar flasks, and it's tanks should be much smaller, since hydrogen is much less dense than conventional jet fuel.

It integrates a turbine for low speed propulsion, using an, "inward turning inlet"





As you can see, this concept looks a bit less "tubby" than hydrogen powered systems/

The John Edwards "Grown Up" Ad

I think that this is an effective ad.

25 January 2008

When Not To Hyphenate Your Name

This is an open thread, and I'll see both of you Saturday night.

When not to hyphenate (H/t to Old Pinko):

Edwards Runs Ads Claiming to be from the "Adult Wing of the Democratic Party"

I am amused.

When all is said and done, this may hurt Clinton, but this will kill Obama.

Clinton is running on the ticket that, "She may be a scary bitch, but she's our scary bitch", while Obama is running against his own message.

In any case, I have not seen the ad, so if someone finds it on Youtube, put it in the comments.

Economics Update

Profits are still tanking, we now have Commerce Bank and Harley Davidson way down, and I see Harley as a real bellwether of a recession.

When middle aged guys don't feel secure enough to buy their toys, it's game over.

And we have another insurance downgrade, this time Security Capital is downgraded by Fitch.

And we have Nobel winning economist Joseph Stiglitz warning that we may sliding into a 1930s type 'liquidity trap'.

Reports of Corruption in FCC D Block Auction

Once again, I would direct you to Harold Feld's "Tales of the Sausage Factory", here, and here, with a backup from Morningstar and News.com.

The short story is as follows, a company was formed, Frontline, to bid on the portions D block auction.
Frontline actively lobbied for the partnership with public safety agencies, and based its entire business model on such a network.

The idea was that whoever built the network would then sell access at a discounted basis to the public safety community. Any spare capacity would then be sold to the commercial wireless industry.

Frontline was expected to bid for 10 megahertz of spectrum, which would give the winner a national license with which they could build a next-generation wireless broadband cellphone and communications network.

...


O'Brien also told Frontline that in addition to negotiating for public safety agencies, Cyren Call intended to become the "monopoly buyer" of broadband service on the network once it was complete.

Under this arrangement, Frontline would be obliged to negotiate with Cyren Call when discussing terms of how the network would be built, and then be forced to sell the bulk of the access to Cyren Call once it was up and running.
OK, this seems straightforward, if a bit involved, but the FCC added something else, "In order to ensure the winner of the D-block license cooperates with the public safety community, the FCC rules say if it is deemed the licensee wasn't negotiating in "good faith" it could be forced to forfeit more than $100 million and lose all rights to the spectrum it had acquired."

But the FCC gave no direction as to what it meant. So it was completely vague.

It gets worse, Cyren Call, an organization set up by Morgan O'Brien (the Billionaire who founded Nextel) was negociating "on behalf of the public safety community", but it is clear that his end goal was that he be the one of control of this spectrum, and so he was throwing around outrageous demands, such as a $500 million dollar fee.

He deliberately scared off Frontline's investors so that he could be in control, despite the fact that he was representing the public safety providers and had a fiduciary responsibility to them.

One of the Joys of the Internet: Finding People Smarter Than Me

I don't know his name, but the person known as "the Scanner" is one of them.

He has an ingenious proposal for dealing with the issue of bailing out financial institutions that are drowning in the "Big Sh%$pile".
Here’s my proposal. I offer it at no charge to any member of Congress, presidential candidate or editorial writer willing to bear the calvary of getting the stink-eye next time at Harry Cipriani. If it becomes necessary to bail out the monoliners to prevent a depression, there will be terms. For once, the highly-paid beneficiaries of a taxpayer-financed bailout will not get off scot-free.

Congress shall specify that no bailout will take place unless and until (a) every bailed out monoliner and (b) every financial institution holding a bailed-out policy certifies that its employees have voluntarily agreed to accept a 25% federal income tax surcharge on every dollar earned above $200,000 for a period of 5 years. A young hotshot earning $300,000 would see $25,000 added to his tax bill. An elder pulling down $1 million would owe an extra $200,000. Since some of the biggest Wall Street multinationals are policyholders, and since this would apply to every one of their employees over $200,000, we could be talking about a lot of people and a lot of money. It could even go some way towards making the bailout pay for itself.

Politically, it’s a winner. Fiscally, it’s sound. It’s extraordinarily well-targeted to precisely the assholes who got us into this mess in the first place. John Edwards: Have your staff contact me through the comments box.
My only difference would be that I would go for a higher surcharge, perhaps something like 50%.

Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) to Retire

Another Republican has decided not to stand for reelection.

There have been 22 retirees so far.

Part of it is an increasingly difficult political environment, but it's also that being in the minority is much less fun, particularly if you have been in the majority.

Egypt begins closing Gaza border, five killed in airstrikes - 3rd Update : Middle East World

Now that the Israelis are saying, fine, "you broke the border, you own it", to Egypt, it appears that Egypt has started cracking down on the border.

Gaza has no real economy, not enough water, no resources, and a bunch of very pissed off residents, so it's no surprise that it's becoming a hot potato.

Senate Looking at Well Endowed Schools

Get your mind out of the gutter, this is about the Senate is looking at tuitions exploding as university endowments skyrocket.

It's a legitimate question. The US government spends billions sending students to increasingly expensive colleges and universities, but these same not for profit institutions are amassing increasingly large endowments as they hike costs for the students.

As Richard Vedder noted, there is a whole lot of excess going on in higher education.

The example that he gives is Whitman College at Princeton, a residence hall that, "cost $388,571 per room unit, nearly identical to what Donald Trump spent on his luxury resort Ocean Club Panama."

The explosion in college costs started during the Vietnam War, where the alternative to college was combat, and it has continued unabated for the next 40 years, helped along by collusion among the top schools in tuition and financial aid.

Simply expanding student loan and grand programs make this worse. Regulation is needed to ensure that the managers educational institutions don't take the money and build monuments to their own egos.

Constitutional Issue for Bush and His Evil Minions "Iraq Forever" Plan

Bush's intent to make permanent and binding security arrangements with Iraq without congressional approval do appear to be unprecedented.

There were formal treaties for Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, and NATO, and when Reagan entered into security arrangements with Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, this was submitted to the congress for approval.

You know it's out there when Dana Freaking Rohrabacher is saying that this is "arrogant".

Tape Probe Update: One Hacked Off Judge

Judge Richard W. Roberts of the DC court has given the Justice Department 3 weeks to explain how the tape destruction in November 2005 did not violate his July 2005 order not to do so.

Signs of the Apocalypse: Financial Times Columnist Calls for Regulation of Bankers' Pay

Martin Wolf, a columnist and editor for the Financial Times, is calling for regulations regarding the remuneration of banking executives.

Basically, he sees the current pay structures of banking, with enormous bonuses for short term results, as being a major factor in the current banking/credit crisis.

Further, he sees banking as an industry with an amazing talent for, "privatising gains and socialising losses."

He says, "My attitude to the banking industry is not a prejudice. It is a 'postjudice'.", or to be translated into more prosaic language, he learns from the mistakes he observes, and prior behavior colors his attitude towards the industry.
It is the nature of limited liability businesses to create conflicts of interest – between management and shareholders, between management and other employees, between the business and customers and between the business and regulators. Yet the conflicts of interest created by large financial institutions are far harder to manage than in any other industry.

That is so for three fundamental reasons: first, these are virtually the only businesses able to devastate entire economies; second, in no other industry is uncertainty so pervasive; and, finally, in no other industry is it as hard for outsiders to judge the quality of decision-making, at least in the short run. This industry is, in consequence, exceptional in the extent of both regulation and subsidisation. Yet this combination can hardly be deemed a success. The present crisis in the world’s most sophisticated financial system demonstrates that.
Basically, he is saying that these institutions are immature and short sighted in outlook, but they possess the ability to destroy the output of the most of the rest of society, and so they need aggressive regulation.

Word up.

NYT Endorses Clinton and McCain

I've just finished reading the New York Times endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

They basically buy into the "experience" meme, and I think that they also don't see any "there" there for Obama.

Their reasons for not endorsing Edwards, are pretty mainstream, basically the alibis rich and comfortable people use because so they don't care about his issues.

I would disagree with them on "changing the tone of the campaign".

Honestly, since Obama has taken a more combative turn, I have been more impressed with him as a candidate, if just because it shows some facility for dealing with the Republican Slime Machine.

If you want a good read though, I would suggest that you read the Times endorsement of McCain.

It's not that they say such lofty things about McCain, but rather the degree to which they go after the Rudolph Giuliani clown show:
Why, as a New York-based paper, are we not backing Rudolph Giuliani? Why not choose the man we endorsed for re-election in 1997 after a first term in which he showed that a dirty, dangerous, supposedly ungovernable city could become clean, safe and orderly? What about the man who stood fast on Sept. 11, when others, including President Bush, went AWOL?

That man is not running for president.

The real Mr. Giuliani, whom many New Yorkers came to know and mistrust, is a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man who saw no need to limit police power. Racial polarization was as much a legacy of his tenure as the rebirth of Times Square.

Mr. Giuliani’s arrogance and bad judgment are breathtaking. When he claims fiscal prudence, we remember how he ran through surpluses without a thought to the inevitable downturn and bequeathed huge deficits to his successor. He fired Police Commissioner William Bratton, the architect of the drop in crime, because he couldn’t share the limelight. He later gave the job to Bernard Kerik, who has now been indicted on fraud and corruption charges.
Meow!!!!