30 June 2008

On Olbermann's Special Comment

Really, REALLY weak.

The logic was circuitous, and and the fire was just not there.

I believe that Charlie Pierce was right when he worried that Keith may be wearing out the batteries on hiss special comments.

While I think that it was accurate, it was just a realistic listing of what was going on politically, without any of the fire that you normally get.

on edit:

You can get a clip and a transcript of the special comment at Crooks and Liars. Interestingly enough, unlike most of his special comments, it reads better than it shows.

Our Broken IP System

Well, we are now finding that major technology players are forming patent cartels in order to defend themselves against patent trolls.

They have created Allied Security Trust, a non profit, that will aggressively buy up anything that might look like a valid patent to protect its members, currently, Verizon, Google ., Cisco , Ericsson, Sony, and Hewlett-Packard Co.

They throw a bunch of money in the pot, and they get a non-exclusive to whatever Allied Security Trust buys, and then the patents are resold.

It's about a $5 million buy in.

As a start, congress needs to ban patents on software and business plans, which were never necessary, and on genes and species (though not gene splicing technologies) because it is unconscionable.

Additionally, they should change the law to allow people who think that a patent is invalid to file suit, as opposed to waiting for a suit to be filed, because, much like civil rights law, where a suit can be filed against a law without a complaint filed by the authorities, this allows people to fight the chilling effects of bad patents.

It would also help if the special patent appeals court were disbanded, as it has gone off the rails, which is why the Supreme Court is slapping it down on a regular basis now.

Economics Update

I've been saying this for a while, but as I am an engineer, not an economist, dammit,*, but still, I have to wonder why it's taken so long for the Bank for International Settlements to see that the world economy is in serious trouble, with a possibility of a world wide recession.

When one considers spiking oil prices and a new record for gasoline prices, the news is not going to be good.

Given the dollar's rather unclear future, along with increased Euro-Zone inflation, which implies more rate hikes, and hence downward pressure on the dollar, things are pretty twitchy out there.

The Chicago Purchasing Manager Index is up, to 49.6 from 49.1 last month, but any number below 50 still represents a contraction.

We can wait for tomorrow's Institute for Supply Management's June manufacturing survey to get a better picture.

*I LOVE IT when I get to go all Doctor McCoy!!!

Wes Clark Completely Owns John McCain

His statement on Face the Nation, "I don’t think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president," is both devastating and complex.
  • It plays into the views of most servicemen and ex-servicemen, that the "flyboys" are a bunch of pampered over appreciated folk.
  • It compares to JFK's statement on his heroism, "It was unavoidable, they sank my boat".
  • Clark's position as a general and a soldier allows him to put McCain's record on the table.
  • It raises McCain's actual record, which is not so good, he almost made negative ace, which is now on the table.
  • It takes one of the central pillars of his public personae, and challenges it.
After all that, finding out that Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr accusing the Republican Party and John McCain of being lying jackals is sort of an anti-climax, but it's nice to see him piling on.

Ron Arad as Olmert's Political Tool

Well, it looks like the deal to swap swap child murderer Samir Kantar for the remains of two Israeli soldiers has hit a snag, Olmert is insisting that there can be no deal without the return of Ron Arad.

The first thing that I will say is that I think that these deals for hostages are counter productive, even moreso when the hostages are dead. Releasing Samir Kantar, who killed a 4 year old girl, for some bones is indefensibly stupid.

Bring Ron Arad into the question however, creates an entirely new dynamic.

Arad has been Israel's Judge Crater, Amelia Earhart, etc., and his status, and there is some evidence is that he is still alive, has been a focus of public concerns for over two decades now.

If he stands tough and there is no deal, Olmert wins politically, because of the public interest in the Arad manner. If he stands tough and gets back bones, he wins politically for the same reason. If Arad comes back alive, Olmert wins the next election even if he is in prison.

It is a masterful political move.

Lousy statecraft, but very good politics.

Romney Leading McCain VP Candidate

I am hoping for this.

I am not hoping for this because I think that Romney would be a bad candidate, I am hoping for this because the press hates Mitt Romney so much that they heckled him during their campaign, and I want to see what the press does if McCain chooses him, because it is a slap in their face.

McCain Outspending Obama 2:1 in Missouri

Seeing as how Missouri is a potential battleground state, why the hell is McCain outspending Obama $224,696 to $115,054?

Obama has more than twice as much cash on hand, so it makes one wonder what the strategy here is.

US-EU private data sharing agreement at hand: report - Yahoo! News

Just lovely:
The United States and European Union are close to an agreement to share private data of their citizens, including credit card information, travel history and internet browsing information, The New York Times said Saturday.
6 Months to go, and Bush is still doing his level best to leave as much of a mess behind as possible.

Polish MP Says Missile Defense Deal Basically Done

Yep, with 6½ months to go in the Bush regime, it appears that Poland may have completed an agreement to place a US ABM system in their country.

As I've said before, it's diplomatically disastrous and it's poorly located to deal with the stated threat, Iran.

Bush and His Evil Minions want the missile site there because they want a hostile and threating Russia, because they feel that it benefits them politically.

The Onion, September 27, 2000


Link

8 years, and nothing has happened to fix this.

Nostradamus has nothing on these folks.

Deleveraging: Defined as Getting Out of Debt Before Creditors Realize that You Are Broke

The major banks are deleveraging, reducing their debt to asset ratio.

They are worried that in the event or a run, they could go into Bear Stearns style meltdown, and that if Congress of the SEC start increasing margin requirements, that they will be caught flat-footed.

Additionally, the leverage that they retain is being moved to longer term loans, which insulates them from a panic, at the cost of higher interest rates.

We still have a way to go down as this all unwinds, but one consequence will be higher interest rates, as the availability of money decreases, and supply and demand drives the price higher.

Peshawar, Pakistan Under Islamist Militant Threat

So, as a result of the backlash starting from Jimmy Carter buying a civil war in Afghanistan in the 1970s, we now have a city of more than 3 million in Pakistan that is at real risk of a military takeover.

In Pakistan, we have a nuclear armed failing state. Delightful.

You Know That Dobson Is Losing It When His Fellow Winger Evangelicals Call Him Out

Peter Wehner, a man who has been at the forefront of putting religion in the public sphere, just called out James Dobson as an ignorant twit regarding his recent rants regarding Barack Obama.

It appears that Dobson's main beef is the phrase used by Barack Obama in a speech, "And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson's, or Al Sharpton's?"

His motivation for his rant is largely because he is offended by being compared to Sharpton.

Still, I get the sense that, now that they see the Republican party heading into some very bad years, the Republican party Washington, DC establishment wants to start slapping down the most ignorant and arrogant members of the Christo-fascist community, particularly Mr. Dobson.

Birth of a Super Villain


Click picture for original

Your Late Nite Zimbabwe Update

Well, Officials: Mugabe has won his phony election, and has been sworn in.

It also that Tsvangirai has hardened his stance a bit, saying that there will be no unity government with the MDC as a junior partner.

Bush is calling for more sanctions, but they are not enough. If Bush were to threaten sanctions against banks with subsidiaries doing business in Zimbabwe, the cash that the ZANU-PF uses to reward loyalists, and Mugabe would be out in a week.

Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu has declared that the "international community has the right now to override the sovereignty argument of the country."

As a first step, he would shut down commerical air transport from Zimbabwe, which would mean that, "Mugabe and his sidekicks would not be able to -- as they are now -- escape the rigors of their own policies."

29 June 2008

Old Pinko's Says

Or more accurately, to what Old Pinko links to on Tim Russert.

I know nothing of the man as a person, but as a journalist, some of the reviews are out from some people in the know, and they are not pretty.

I'm sure that Olbermann will take the opportunity to make them "Worst Persons in the World".

In a related nowt, it also appears that Olbermann will have a special comment tomorrow, where he promises to address (that means alibi) his disgraceful behavior excusing Obama's sellout on Telco Immunity.

I'll have a review of it tomorrow night.

Charlie Went to a Cub Scout Meeting Today

He's interested.

I'm conflicted. I last donned a uniform related to the Boy Scouts of America in 1975, and I won't do so again as a scout master or an assistant, given their anti-Gay bigotry.

As to his participation, I keeping my own council for right now.

A400M Rollout Video

Not too much information, just some aircraft pr0n.

Dick Cheney Tried to Sabotage DPRK Nuke Deal

So not shocked.

The usual suspects amongst the Neocons, Pearle, et al, are in a rage over this.

God is Beyond Our Comprehension, So Many Use Him to Justify Hate

So at best, we only see bits and pieces of the totality that is called in Kabbalistic thought the Ein Sof, and what see reflects far more on us than it does on the nature of the divine.

For conservative Anglicans, it appears that when they look for God, all they find is hate, because that is all that they look for:
Conservative evangelicals representing half of the world's Anglicans launched a new global church yesterday, challenging the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury and vowing to rescue people from the forces of "militant secularism and pluralism" created by a "spiritual decline" in developing economies.

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, Foca, will sever ties with the main churches in the US and Canada, whose leaders they accuse of betraying biblical teaching. Foca architects will tomorrow go to the conservative evangelical church of All Souls, in central London, to discuss global Anglicanism and English orthodoxy.

Hundreds of disgruntled clergy, representing many Church of England parishes, will be in the audience and the speakers will include the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, and the Archbishop of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi.
So much training in theology, and all they can think to do is to search scriptures for reasons to hate.

Retired Anglican Bishop John Shelby Spong asks more generally, "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?"

The answer is, "yes", and for these people, this is all that religion is for them.

Manhattan Office Rents Fall

If commercial real estate is falling in Manhattan, it's falling everywhere.

In this case, it appears that subleases are a large part of the drop.

John McCain, Tax Deadbeat

Cindy McCain owns a condo in San Diego County in which an elderly aunt of hers lived, and she has neglected to pay property taxes on the property for the past 4 years.

When they were finally contacted by Newsweek on the matter, they claimed to have made the payments in the past few days.

One wonders how screwed up Mrs. McCain's financial empire is, if they cannot manage to pay property taxes for 4 years.

Sy Hersh: Bush and His Evil Minions&trade Escalating Covert Ops In Iran. Goal: Create Casus Belli

Seeing as some in the administration *cough* Dick Cheney *cough* they see this as a win, win, I find the idea that they are funding military and terrorist actions in Iran to be credible.

My guess would be is that if an American special ops soldier were captured by Iran, they would consider it to be a lucky break for them, because it would allow them to strike.

It reinforces their view that American military might is the only way to conduct foreign policy, and they believe that it would benefit Republicans in November.

Keith Olberman Gets Owned by Glenn Greenwald and John Dean

Glenn Greenwald savaged Keith Olbermann because he is endorsing Obama's sellout as clever politics, when earlier he had one of his vaunted "special comments" denounced telco immunity as textbook Fascism.

Olbermann promptly went on Kos, and called Glenn Greenwald names, and asserted that John Dean said that a President Obama could prosecute the telcos criminally.

There are two problems with this assertion:
  1. Nothing prevents a Bush pardon on this, and given the language Bush is using on the civil immunity, such a pardon is almost certain.
  2. John Dean did not say that a President Obama could president the telcos criminally. I saw the interview. What he said was that the had not yet seen anything that would prevent this in the bill.

In fact, we now know that :
I said that when I read the bill, and talked to the folks at the ACLU who had been following it, that it was not clear. I raised it when appearing on Countdown with the hope that someone might figure it out. But that is the nature of this badly drafted bill that it is not clear what it does and does not do, and the drafters are not saying.

But even if the bill is unclear there is no question the Bush Administration is not going to do anything to the telecoms, so the question is whether a future DOJ could -- and here there is case law protecting the telecoms. But there may be language buried in the bill that protects them as well but it can only be found by reading the bill with a half dozen other laws which I have not yet done.

I made no declarative statements rather I only raised questions that jumped at me when reading the 114 page monster.
(emphasis mine)

For Keith Olbermann to laud Obama's decision to sell out, and to suggest that Dean supports this action, when on his own show, Dean called telco immunity a, "grave assault on the Constitution".

It's not OK when Bush does it, and it's not OK when Obama goes along with, Mr. Olbermann.

USAF May Have Improperly Lobbied Congress on BRAC

It appears that they lobbied Senators Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Daniel Inouye (D-HI) to insert language allowing the services to veto joint bases decisions made by the commission.

Once again, it looks like the USAF's real core competency is gaming the federal budget process.

According to the article, it looks like the USAF then used this language to blackmail the other services at joint bases more control and more of the budget.

Where Can I Get Some for My Car?

A company called Inframat was showing a series of coatings the Eurosatory show that are supposed to greatly reduce the IR signature of objects. So it could be used to hide a tank:



More accurately, it could be used to hide a second tank:


The company also makes IR suppressive fibers that can be used in uniforms and cammo netting, and claims to have an anti radar coating in development that gets you -15 dB to - 25 dB signature reduction at 8.8 - 10.5 GHz. It's not full stealth, but it would make ECM much more effective.

Gripen Sales Stragegy

Saab sees as many as 500 Gripens being sold worldwide.

I tend to agree. I think that the Gripen is the Mirage III of this era, offering the equivalent performance of its counterparts for somewhere around half the price.

There are some tradeoffs in payload and range, though less so for the heavier variant they are now offering, but the new aircraft out there are too damn expensive.

This Ties into My Ballistic "Carrier Killer" Post

Basically, we have an enthusiastiac endorsement of an unmanned combat air vehicle launched from carrier decks:
Imagine a Navy strike plane launching off the catapult as its carrier begins steaming out of its San Diego naval base. The jet refuels over Hawaii, then again over Guam; it gets updated targeting data from its mother ship 6,000 miles away and launches its strike on an enemy nuclear missile silo in East Asia — all in one sortie.

Sound impossible?

And, oh, it could turn around and land on another carrier in the Red Sea after taking some surveillance photos of a suspected terrorist training camp in Pakistan and beaming them down to commanders in Bagram.

That’s just the half of what a naval unmanned combat drone could potentially do, says a new report from a respected Washington, D.C.-based defense think tank. Why land on the carrier in the Red Sea? Why not tank over the Med, fly up to the Arctic and beam back radio transmissions from an ongoing Russian war game, then fly back to its mother carrier now a few hundred miles from its home port?
Given the increasing effectiveness of conventional submarines and anti-ship missiles, this is one way to ensure that a carrier is able to provide support from relative safety.

Of course, you could do the same thing if you launched that drown from an airfield in San Diego, and it could do the same thing, and not buy the carrier at all.

Well, Now, Isn't That Special?

More chocolatey goodness in the FISA bill:

The FISA law currently being debated in the Senate redefines weapons of mass destruction in a very broad way. Jason Sigger looks at Under title VII, section 110:
`(1) any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas device that is designed, intended, or has the capability to cause a mass casualty incident;

`(2) any weapon that is designed, intended, or has the capability to cause death or serious bodily injury to a significant number of persons through the release, dissemination, or impact of toxic or poisonous chemicals or their precursors;

`(3) any weapon involving a biological agent, toxin, or vector (as such terms are defined in section 178 of title 18, United States Code) that is designed, intended, or has the capability to cause death, illness, or serious bodily injury to a significant number of persons; or

`(4) any weapon that is designed, intended, or has the capability to release radiation or radioactivity causing death, illness, or serious bodily injury to a significant number of persons.'
(emphasis mine)

Two things of note:
  1. Significant number of persons is a very vague term, and a pipe bomb at a bus station might qualify under the law, even though the term was defined in the late 1940s to apply only to those things capable of causing A-Bomb levels of destruction.
  2. It defines an incendiary device as a WMD, which means that a WP 155mm howitzer round or an incendiary bomb are now defined as WMDs, a definition that the US military has been fighting against for years.

India and France Examine Joint Venture for Advanced SAMs

If this pans out, then the European missile consortium MDBA will have scored a major sales coup.

India is looking to upgrade its 70s vintage SAMs purchased from the USSR, and the market is in the thousands.

New Orion Ground Landing Configuration

Well, NASA dropped ground landings from their new Orion capsule, because it was too expensive, but they felt that there was still the need for an emergency gound landing capability (Paid Subscription Required), so as opposed to an air bag collar around the base, they will place a smaller number of air bags on the "corner" of the capsule.


I think that I'll fly Russian, thank you very much.

So Now The Europeans Sound Like Washington State Congressmen

There is no evidence that this is happening yet, but US merchants of death are worried that it might(paid subscription required):
Access to the European defense market for U.S. companies could be one of the first areas where the GAO decision will leave its mark. One senior U.S. industry official developing business opportunities in Europe says there’s concern that European countries will react by excluding U.S. products for consideration in competitions on their home turf.

If the Northrop Grumman/EADS North America team were to be stripped of the tanker contract, it would have “unpleasant” implications for the transatlantic security relationship on a broader scale, notes Giles Merritt, director of the Security & Defense Agenda, a Brussels-based think tank. “Europe will be in a distinctly unfriendly frame of mind” when it comes to matters such as troop commitments to Afghanistan and other initiatives that would require burden-sharing, he states.
Let's be clear. This is not yet happening. What's going on is that Americans are afraid that the Europeans will act like them.

28 June 2008

So Do We Go With Silver Bullets or a Wooden Stake?

Aviation journalist Stephen Trimble notes that the B-52 dedicated standoff jammer has been resurrected.

This idea has risen, and been killed a number of times, the last time in 2006.

I'm wondering if this is not an attempt to pull the B-52 from the bomber force so that the path for the USAF's next generation bomber is clearer.

Future Combat System Reworked

Basically, this is an acknowledgment that the program as currently was ill conceived (see here and here).

They will be accellerating the small airborn and ground vehicles, and soft pedaling the armored vehicles:
The moves will shift the focus of the overall FCS effort to infantry brigades instead of armored units. The Army will also work to get large numbers of robots and miniature aerial drones -- both of which are designed for use in crowded urban areas -- out to forces in Iraq and Afghanistan by late 2010, instead of in 2015 or 2016 as initially planned.
This is an admission that it will be infantry, and not armored units that will be necessary in the most likely future war fighting scenarios.

The manned ground vehicles will be small and lighter, and so in a number of ways inferior to their predecessors, so this should come as no surprise.

USAF Acquisition Officials Believe Tanker Purchase Can Go Forward Without Rebid

It appears that people in the USAF who have seen the whole GAO report do not believe that it will require a complete rebid of the contract.

I'm not sure if this means that the errors are small, or if the Airbus bid was that much better, or that they need the tanker right now, or some combination of all of the above:
"Their finding is that the full document is quite different from the summary," issued last Wednesday, said a source familiar with the issue. The source said Air Force leaders believe much of what was challenged is “procedural” and can be resolved without rebidding the deal.
We should know in the next week.

China Closing In On Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile

It's derived from their CSS-5 intermediate range missile and uses technology similar to that of the Pershing II, which had a CEP in the single digit meter range.

The current version has a range around 1800 km and a nuclear warhead that weighs around 600 kg. I imagine an anti-ship (carrier killer) version would have a similar range and a similar weight warhead.

In any case if one of these hits a flight deck at mach 4 or so, the warhead is guilding the lily.

Army Duplicating AF Capabilities to Get Needed Response

It looks like Bob Gates is not the only one who thinks that the USAF is refusing to carry its weight in a counter-insurgency campaign. The army has found it necessary to expand its own aviation services to meet its needs.

New Israeli Anti-Kassam Missile System

The system is called David's Sling (paid subscription required), and it makes no sense at all.

The system's features:
  • A "Stunner" interceptor missile, with two stages and a 3 pulse motor for the interceptor.
  • David's sling has it's own radar.
  • Stunner has two seekers, a radar and an infrared seeker for terminal homing (see funky nose profile below)
  • Potential integration with Rafael's Spyder air defense system.
  • A maximum range from 180 to 300 km.
  • A blast-fragmentation warhead.
  • Detection to intercept of 38 seconds.
So, you've got a missile that weighs somewhere north of 500 pounds (bottom pic for scale), and will probably cost something well north of $¼ million a piece, and they will use it to intercept Kassams and Katyushas that cost something less than $100 and $1000 each respectively.

That's sounds like a really good trade....not.





Boeing Completes Electrical Power On Testing

This is a good sign, though I believe that the electrical systems are actually not holding back the program, it's structures and fasteners.

Still given that the 787 is replacing most of the pneumatic systems powered by bleed air with electrical ones, this successful test is good news for them.

June is looking good for Boeing.

27 June 2008

Death of a legend

Ayveq, the masturbating walrus dead at 14.

Really Classy

Grover Norquist: Obama is "Kerry With a Tan"

Clinton's Healthcare Expert Hired by Obama Campaign

It appears that Neera Tanden has been hired by Obama to work on his campaign as director of domestic policy.

This is some very friendly signaling from the Obama campaign to hillary supporters:
She was a key architect of, among other things, Clinton's health care plan, whose more aggressive push for universal coverage through mandates was probably the key domestic policy difference between the Democrats.
My guess is that all these imagines slights that we have heard about over the past are more figments of the imaginations of the Beltway Boyz than anything else.

Classic Right Wing Smear Job

Yep, we have Rupert Mordoch's New York Post going front page on an article about CPS reporter Lara Logan having an affair in Baghdad.

Imagine that, a war correspondent in theater having an affair.

In any case, I agree with Will Bunch. Lara Logan is being smeared for her criticism of Iraq war coverage, which she has been highly critical of.

This started when she said on the Daily Show, that, "If I were to watch the news that you're hearing in the United States, I'd just blow my brains out. 'Cause it would drive me nuts."

Zimbabwe Vote Proceeds

And it appears that it's not enough that Mugabe and his thugs forced Tsvangirai out of the race, that they are now using violence to force people into the ballot booths:
In some other suburbs of Harare, the capital, residents said they had been rounded up Thursday night, forced to chant pro-Mugabe slogans until daybreak and then force-marched to the polls. They were told to copy the serial numbers off their ballots so it could be confirmed later that they had voted for their 84-year-old president.
(emphasis mine)

The interesting thing is that I think that I'm more disgusted with South African President Thabo Mbeki than I am with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

As near as I can figure out, Mbeki is Mugabe's butt boy because he is afraid that what is happening in Zimbabwe, where the trade union movement became the basis for a popular political movement, will happen in South Africa, where the trade unions have become increasingly hostile to the ANC and its IMF driven cheap labor policies.

Economics Update

Consumer spending jumped 0.8% in May, largely driven by the income tax rebates, though one wonders how much of that spending went into people's gas tanks.

What's more, given that oil hitting a new record, even if retail gasoline is edging a bit lower, it's highly unlikely that the giant sucking sound coming from our cars will change.

What's more, this is continuing to drive the dollar lower.

At the core of the American economy, we have been living beyond our means for many years, and there will be some painful adjustments.

DPRK Demolishes Cooling Tower at Yongbyon

Despite the best efforts of Dick Cheney and John Bolton, who have always wanted war with North Korea, it looks like an agreement has been forged, as the DPRK has demolished the cooling tower at their Yongbyon reactor.

The things that they are asking for, formal recognition, trade, and some aid are much cheaper than war.

Republithugs Put HMOs Above Medical Care

So now, the Republicans are blocking paying doctors through Medicare in order to protect their HMO friends:
But Senate Republicans (and President Bush) don’t like the way the bill finds money for docs by cutting subsidies to Medicare Advantage, the privately administered Medicare plans.
If they needs subsidies, then, "Medicare Advantage, the privately administered Medicare plans", are less efficient than big government, and hence are government waste, which should be abolished.

The cloture vote failed 58:40, and it needs 60 votes. Kennedy was not there because he has cancer, and McCain was not there because he doesn't give a damn about doing his job as Senator.

When Republicans complain about earmarks, they are looking at amounts that are in total less than 1/10 of this.

I hope that the Democrats pound them mercilessly on this until election day.

Just Send Out the Congressional the Sergeant of Arms and Lock Him Up

Because if the members of the House Judiciary Committee expect US Attorney General Michael Mukasey to comply with a subpoena regarding documents connected to political scandals*, they have the political acumen of Little Orphan Annie©.

You have to vote on the subpoena, but once the deadline passes, have him arrested.

*DoJ foot dragging on the New Hampshire phone jamming, the US Attorney firings, political interference in the Civil Rights Division, etc.

House Kills Offshore Drill Bill

F%$@ You John McCain.

Iran Is an Odd Place

They still enforce a death penalty for homosexuality, but they are one of the most transsexual friendly governments in the world, and now I find that Iran's policy towards drugs and addiction is geared to a remarkable degree towards treatment, rather than punishment:
In a country where the discussion of some social and cultural issues, like homosexuality, can be all but taboo, drug addiction has been widely acknowledged as a serious problem. It is talked about openly in schools and on television. Posters have encouraged people to think of addiction as a disease and to seek treatment.

Iran's theocratic government has encouraged and financed a vast expansion in the number of drug treatment centers to help users confront their addictions and to combat the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, through shared needles.

.....

Iran's government, trying to curb addiction's huge social costs, has been more supportive of drug treatment than any other government in the Islamic world, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

.....

But two decades later, it recognized that this approach had failed. A sharp increase in the crime rate and the number of people infected with HIV, both directly linked to a surge in narcotics use, persuaded the government to shift strategies.

....

.... After a 25 percent surge in HIV cases, the government began distributing free needles in prisons in 2000.

....

"There are so many options that no addict can claim that there is nowhere to go for help," said Dr. Mohammad-Reza Haddadi, a physician and researcher at the National Center for Addiction Studies. "It is much cheaper and healthier for them to go to these centers for methadone than to drug dealers."
They realized that a war on drugs wasn't working, and they changed.

The fact that the Iranians are more sane on drug policy than either mainstream party should be an embarrassment to Americans.

Japanese Inflation Spikes

Which matters to us because it means that it is likely that their central bank will raise rates, placing further downward pressure on the dollar.

Of course, their CPI data shows a 1.5% inflation rate, and their central bank rate is ½%, so both are nowhere near the US rate.

Airbus A400M Rollout Yesterday

I agree with Bill Sweetman's assesment (see also here), that this is a sweetspot for tactical airlift.

Looking at the picture's, it's clear that the aircraft is about twice the size of a C-130, and half the size of a C-17, and it's got a lot of tire, which translates to good rough field performance.

The only real competitor out there is the AN-70 (picture below), which carries about 10 more tons, but has somewhat shorter ranges at a similar load out, but the Russians and the Ukrainians need to fund it past the one remaining prototype (see bottom picture).

Comparison:


A400M

An-70

Empty Weight (kg)

70,000

66,230

Max Gross Weight(kg)

145,000

141,000

Speed (km/h)

780

780

Max Payload (kg)

37,000

47,000

Range w/20 t Payload

6,600

3,300

Ferry Range (km)

8,000

9,300



I would note that with its contra-rotating props, the An-70 is a lot louder, and would therefore likely be unacceptable for the partners in EADS, France, Italy, Germany, and Spain.

Also, there are provisions for aerial refueling the An-70 in the pictures that I've seen.

On the minus side for the A400M is that it's engines are behind schedule, and so it will be a while before it flies and ships.

A400M


A400M


AN-70

But Isn't That Surrendering to Terrorists?

At least that's what Dick Cheney and John Bolton say about the idea of opening up an official American Interest Section in Terhan.

Not much of a Craplinologist*, but it appears that Cheney lost on this, big time.

*Where "Crap" is the Bush administration. It derives from the phrase "Kremlinologist".

Boeing Owned Senators Hold Hostage Appointment of USAF Chief of Staff

Not very surprising.

The Senators and Representatives from Boeing Washington State and Kansas have promised to do whatever they can to get the tanker contract back too Boeing.

Alt-A Loans Join Subprime in Default

Alt-A loans are technically prime loans, though they are low quality prime loans that bridge the gap between sub-prime and regular prime loans, and their performance tanked in May, with delinquencies greater than 60 days, roll rates*, and loss severity all rising.

There never was a sub-prime crisis. There is a housing crash.

*Roll rates capture the number of loans moving from current to delinquent each month.

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?*

Stanford University's law and business schools just completed a review of the various corporate governance rating firms, "which include the Corporate Library and RiskMetrics Group's ISS Governance Services", and conclude that their ratings on corporate governance have little to do with whether a company is actually well run.

This is not surprising. When we look at the credit rating firms such as S&P, Moody's, etc. we see a very similar pattern.

A private ratings agency is always at risk from conflicts of interest.

*Most commonly translated from the Latin as "Who Watches the Watchmen".

26 June 2008

To the Recent New Visitors

The ones who came through image searches for the EADS A400M military transport.

I post on a lot of things. If you want to see my posts on thing military or aviation, I would suggest using the tags, Aviation, Defense, Defense Procurement, Engineerng, Military, Missile Defense, Missiles, NASA, NATO, Naval, Nuclear Weapons, technology, Transportation, and UAV.

Fisa and Housing Bills Delayed

It looks like they won't be voted on until after the Independence Day recess.

So Now We Know 1/3 of Home Sales are "Distressed"

At least that's what CNBC columnist Diana Olick gets from her the National Association of Realtors.

1/3 of all sales are short sales, REOs, and foreclosures.

We are not even close to the bottom of the market.

Unbelievably F&%$ing Bad Ideas: London Stock Exchange Edition

So it appears the bright young (but evil) men from Lehman have been talking to the bright young (but evil) men from the London Stock Exchange, and they will be working together to make our world a worse place:
London Stock Exchange Group said Thursday that it would create a pan-European trading system in partnership with Lehman Brothers, as the exchange sought to regain its leading role in the region.

The deal creates a system for so-called dark liquidity pool trading. The exchange, known as the LSE, said the trading facility, to be named Baikal, would be open to other investors and was expected to begin operating in the first quarter of 2009. Lehman, based in New York, operates its own dark pool network. It is bringing sophisticated trading technology and an established customer base to the table.

........

Dark liquidity pools are off-market trading networks where large orders can be executed anonymously, without divulging prices to public exchanges. Off-market trading has always existed in the form of over-the-counter transactions, but the technology now exists to bring investors together electronically in anonymity. Dark liquidity in European equities is growing rapidly, according to the LSE, and currently accounts for around €12 billion, or nearly $19 billion, in daily trading value.

.......

.....

David Shrimpton, head of equity market development at the London Stock Exchange, said that the LSE was hoping to bring other investors aboard as partners, and the response to the announcement had been "very positive."

He said it might be possible for a quite a few trading systems to co-exist. "You've got 50 broker dark pools in the U.S.," he added, "and they share about 10 percent of the market."

.....
Yep. There's a recommendation. Let's get into a new anonymous and unregulated type of exchange pioneered by the Americans, whose toxic financial products currently threaten to poison the world financial systems.

Evil, unregulated, dangerous, and will likely be disasterous.

DFA Meeting Tonite

Democracy for Baltimore on 7/26/08:
Meeting starts at 7:30pm, but some of us, me at least, will be there by 7:00pm, for a half hour of grabbing a bite to eat and talking.

I will be wearing a "Dean for America" T-shirt, so I should be easy to spot.

We will meet at the Cosi Cafe, 9177 Reisterstown Road, Owings Mills, MD 21117, Phone: 410-654-9182

Directions are as follows: 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 Professional Center.

Wi-Fi is Available.
Closing Time: 9:00 pm.

Barack AWOL Obama on FISA

Just so you know, what is likely the real FISA cloture vote passed 80 to 15.

Voting against Cloture

Biden (D-DE)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Dodd (D-CT)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Harkin (D-IA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schumer (D-NY)
Wyden (D-OR)

Not Voting:

Byrd (D-WV)
Clinton (D-NY)
Kennedy (D-MA)
McCain (R-AZ)
Obama (D-IL)


He couldn't even be bothered to show up.

McCain never shows up to vote. Byrd is sick. Kennedy has a brain tumor. Hillary Clinton is...well a Clinton.

What is your excuse, Mr. Obama?

Very Wise:

Jim Henley of Unqualified Offerings notes the following about the surge:
The pretended meaning is, The US increased troop strength in Iraq for a period of time beginning in 2007. The actual meaning is, the US increased troop strength WHILE ramping up a program to pay off Sunni resistance leaders WHILE Iraq’s warring ethno-religious factions finished completely remaking Iraq’s demographic patterns, owing to tens-to-hundreds of thousands of dead and millions of exiled and internally displaced, WHILE the US turned the capital into a warren of barricades. The net result of all those changes has been a less obtrusively violent Iraq for the time being, and the whole arrangement is 'The Surge' in practice, but the cheerleaders talk as if it was all due to The Surge in pretense. Meanwhile Iraq’s 'calm' would count as calamity almost anywhere on earth but Darfur or Zimbabwe.
Very well said, young man.

Economics Update

Weekly Jobless claims hold steady at 384,000, though the less volatile 4 week moving average went up a bit, 2,250 to 378,250.

In energy, we have oil hitting a new record. It has broken $140/bbl.

Retail gasoline is flat today.

Existing home sales are up for 2nd time in 10 months, though I think that a lot of that may be short sales and REOs.

We have the latest figures for Q1 GDP, and they show that GDP increased at a 1% annual rate. Note that core inflation was 2.3%, and 1% minus 2.3% does not give one a positive number.

It's more spending on food and fuel, not real growth.

All this news has the dollar down a bit, and I'm sure that European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet strongly implying more rate hikes did hastened the decline.

Zimbabwe:

We are getting some decent news now, specifically that MDC Secretary Tendai Biti was released on bail pending his treason charge, and Mugabe is suggesting negotiations following the runoff election.

Honestly, I don't see Mugabe backing down until he is dead or in custody though, particularly since he is insisting that the election, which he has turned into a bloody farce, should be held on schedule.

I'm not sure why Morgan Tsvangirai is walking away from his earlier call for armed peace keepers, but he is juxtaposing this with a 24-hour deadline to enter into good faith negotiations with him.

I think that Tsvangirai may be playing to Mugabe's allies in the ZANU-PF, with comments to the effect that Mugabe is "self-destructing".

The implication here is that if he does, then the rest of the ruling structure is at risk too.

It also appears that South Africa's ANC has finally be forced into doing the right thing, as they are finally condemning what is going on there.

My guess is that Nelson Mandela's calling the events in Zimbabwe a, "Tragic Failure of leadership", left them no other choice.

Another Banking Disaster Looming on the Horizon

It turns out that a lot of banks, particularly smaller ones, look likely to get hammered by construction loans that allow developers to delay making payments.

They are called interest reserve loans, and they may be one of the next bubbles to pop:"

In essence, the banks pay themselves until the loan becomes due or the property generates cash flow."


That's a scary quote, and what it means is that a loan can continue to be reported as a "performing" loan, even though payments are not being made and the underlying property is not selling.

Sounds awfully familiar. A financial instrument predicated on the idea that property prices always go up, and never go down.

The good news is that the small banks seem to be a bit more proactive in recognizing and addressing the problem:
More banks are starting to change how they use interest reserves. Integrity Bank has stopped using interest reserves on loans used only for purchasing land without immediate plans for construction and loans on projects that have been delayed or abandoned. David Edwards, who joined Integrity in December as chief credit officer as part of a management shake-up at the bank late last year, said: "There is nothing wrong with the use of interest reserves. It depends on whether the borrower has hard cash [put up front], and whether the project is active or not."

Towne Bank, of Mesa, Ariz., has eliminated funding interest reserves. "Realistically, you never know whether a borrower can keep the loan current if you are the one who's making the payment," Patrick Patrick, who became chief executive of the bank in February.

HomeTown Bank, also ordered to change interest-reserves practices early this year, now is part of SunTrust Banks Inc., of Atlanta. A spokesman declined to comment.

Supreme Court Rules Strikes Down DC Gun Laws

And Scalia wrote the majority opinion, so the guys at SCOTUSBlog were write.

It is still unclear to me where this places other laws.

It appears that the court has kept the door open for some restrictions on gun ownership, such as automatic weapons, felon status, etc.

Conrad Black Convictions Upheld on Appeal

It looks like the right wing media mogul turned felon will remain in prison.

They have him on tape taking 13 boxes of documents to his car and driving off, so my guess is that the obstruction of justice beef will stick.

An Interesting Sidebar to the Israeli Bombing in Syria

First, Israel is alleging that Syria had a deal with Iran to send some of the spent fuel back to them for Plutonium processing, and second, the raid may have been what led to the current talks.

First, it appears that the fact that Bashir Assad remained in power following the bombing gave the Israelis confidence that he was actually in control, and second, it appears that the bombing reminded the Syrians that the "gang that can't shoot straight" show that occurred in the Lebanon war is the exception, not the rule.

Together, both articles paint an interesting picture.

Hatfill Gets $4.24 Million

It's not enough.
The Federal Government pursued him for 5 years over bogus Anthrax mailer allegations, and leaked his name to a reporter.

Now that the government has settled, it's clear that Toni Locy, the reporter was burnt by her source, and as such she no longer has an obligation to protect him.

So, Where is Reid on Telco Immunity?

Like many things with Harry Reid, it's kind of confusing. He is a wheels within wheels kind of guy.

Reid is co-sponsoring cosponsoring the amendment to strip telco immunity, but as this is sure to be filibustered, it not going to happen.

He also says that he's going to vote against the whole bill.

So at least nominally, Reid is on the side of Dodd, Feingold, Wyden and Boxer.

I think that all this is far less noble than one might imagine. I agree with Emptywheel's analysis, that his objections are less about the merits of the bill than they are about holding back any approval until the Housing Bill and Iraq Supplemental, which has, "Webb's GI bill and an extension to unemployment benefits" have passed and have been signed into law.

Oops! Missed this on Economic Update

It looks like the foreign currency markets thought the Fed was not aggressive enough regarding rate hikes, since the dollar is down against the Euro.

Not surprising, since the ECB, the Fed's counterpart, is already raising rates, and has signaled that it will continue to do so.

25 June 2008

Because Barack Obama Doesn't Care About the Rule of Law

And because he thinks that the precedent will benefit him when he is president.

And because he no longer needs the votes of people who oppose this new FISA bill and telco immunity.

At the beginning of the year, they would vote for Clinton, Edwards, or Dodd, but now? Who can they vote for, Bob Barr?



Weasel.

Same As It Ever Was.....Same As It Ever Was.....Same As It Ever Was.....

Worldwide War Pigs notes a profound lack of originality at the USAF:


Strategic Air Command


Air Force Cyber Command


Curtis LeMay must be scrolling over in his grave.

Alan "Bubbles" Greenspan Speaks

And he's saying that the US economy is on the brink of a recession.

Just now? Why do we listen to this charlatan any more?

Finally!

The Obama campaign is finally talking about McCain's lawbreaking on campaign finance.

McCain got loans on the basis of his opting into campaign finance, which means that he is bound by the spending limits, so he has been in felony violation of the law for well over a month now.

It took them long enough.

Economics Update

Just a few weeks ago, analysts were saying that the worst of the banking problems were over, but now they are saying oops! The banking downturn still has a way to go, so their "buy" message was premature.

This is not surprising, considering that analysts are low looking at something like $30 billion in additional losses just for WAMU for home mortgages, commerical loans, and credit cards.

I think that the only bank's revenue remaining stream is check bounce fees, it appears.

Not surprising, considering that real estate is still crashing, with mortgage applications continuing to crater, and new home sales falling 40% from this time last year (and off 63% from the 2005 peak).

It's no wonder that the changes in regulation allowing for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to repackage jumbo loans has had little effect, with the GSEs choosing instead to focus on repurchasing some of their own mortgage backed securities, which serves to minimize potential losses.

In terms of Jumbo loans, those over $417K, Fannie wrote $24 million and Freddie wrote $220 million since they could in March.

By comparison, in April alone, they spent $32.4 billion to buy back their old securities.

Nothing is moving until the players have a reasonable assurance that this is not all smoke and mirrors that they are dealing with.

Of course, the whole housing bubble breaking is not just academic. It now appears that a lot of the early babl boomers will have very little to live on retirement because of the housing crash.

In the wonderful world of energy prices, oil is down a bit on high inventory levels, and retail gas prices continue their downward path.

This lack of confidence, and lack of money, is probably why durable goods orders remain anemic.

Is Scalia Writing the Gun Control Legislation Opinion?

That's the guess of SCOTUSblog, who notes that Scalia has yet to write a majority opinion this session.

I believe that it can safely be said that if Scalia is writing the majority opinion, then all gun control is doomed.

Cheney should shoot Scalia in the face.

I Wish That I Had Come Up with This Lede

John Paczkowski, in discussing the fact that Nokia has purchased mobile phone operating system vendor Symbian, and is releasing the OS as open source, as an alternative to Google's Android, opens with, "Nokia Announces Symbianese Liberation Army."

I wish I had thought of that, you bastard.

This is a Wicked Good Idea

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA, or "T") is putting free WiFi on its commuter boats.

This follows a successful test on the Worcester-Framingham commuter rail line.

Having relied on the "T" for a bit over a year, 1982-1983, I'm surprised that they came up with something this sensible.

Too Stupid for Silverware

New York Times Columnist Thomas L. Friedman is a complete pratt. Really....
That also helps explain why Iraqis initially never took ownership of their governing institutions, like the Coalition Provisional Authority, or C.P.A. They never fought for it. It was handed to them. People have to fight and win their own freedom, and that’s what gives their institutions legitimacy.
Anyone who does not understand that the CPA was a US institution, enforced at the barrel of a rifle by the US military, and answerable only to Bush and His Evil Minions is too stupid to cut his own meat.

It's Been a Busy Few Days in Zimbabwe

It turns out that Tsvangirai's withdrawal from the runoff has, if anything, intensified ZANU-PF thuggery.

Of course, in response, you have the African National Congress coming out in favor of doing nothing about all this. Increasingly, I believe that there are elements in the ANC who believe that Mugabe's fate will be theirs one day, and so they will support him to the bloody end.

Morgan Tsvangirai is calling for international isolation and armed peace keepers before a fair election can be held.

I will say that when the most effective action taken on all this so far is Queen Elizabeth II stripping Mugabe of his knighthood, you know that the regional and international response is pretty pathetic.

Barack Obama has condemned Mugabe, and has talked with Tsvangirai on the phone.

Truth be told, this surprises me.

I don't think that there is really any electoral advantage in all this.

Countrywide Shareholders Approve Takeover as the Police Close In

OK, it may be a bit of an exaggeration. It's true that Coutrywide's shareholders approved the Bank of America takeover.

And as to the question as to whether BoA got a good deal, or whether they come to regret it, I would note that the state attorneys general of Illinois and California have both filed suit for what amounts to fraud and deceptive business practices against the mortgage lender.

Countrywide's founder, Angelo Mozilo, aka "the Tanned One", must be breathing a sigh of relief.

Fed Holds Rates Steady

I think that I was right, no rate change, but the words accompanying the decision are a bit more hawkish on inflation.

FRB: Press Release--FOMC statement--June 25, 2008

Release Date: June 25, 2008
For immediate release

The Federal Open Market Committee decided today to keep its target for the federal funds rate at 2 percent.

Recent information indicates that overall economic activity continues to expand, partly reflecting some firming in household spending. However, labor markets have softened further and financial markets remain under considerable stress. Tight credit conditions, the ongoing housing contraction, and the rise in energy prices are likely to weigh on economic growth over the next few quarters.

The Committee expects inflation to moderate later this year and next year. However, in light of the continued increases in the prices of energy and some other commodities and the elevated state of some indicators of inflation expectations, uncertainty about the inflation outlook remains high.

The substantial easing of monetary policy to date, combined with ongoing measures to foster market liquidity, should help to promote moderate growth over time. Although downside risks to growth remain, they appear to have diminished somewhat, and the upside risks to inflation and inflation expectations have increased. The Committee will continue to monitor economic and financial developments and will act as needed to promote sustainable economic growth and price stability.

Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; Timothy F. Geithner, Vice Chairman; Donald L. Kohn; Randall S. Kroszner; Frederic S. Mishkin; Sandra Pianalto; Charles I. Plosser; Gary H. Stern; and Kevin M. Warsh. Voting against was Richard W. Fisher, who preferred an increase in the target for the federal funds rate at this meeting.

Israel Closes Gaza Crossings Following Rocket Attacks

Well that was a quick truce.

If you expect to be disappointed, the Middle East will never disappoint.

$2 billion in Unaccounted Aid in Pakistan

Typical. Money that was supposed to be spent on counter-terrorism was spent on...lord knows what.

Of course Pakistan has been spending our money down south, to counter the Indians, as opposed to up north, where the Taliban is, anyway.

Once again, I am compelled to make the repeat the wisest thing that I've read this century:
But it does inspire in me the desire for a competition; can anyone, particularly the rather more Bush-friendly recent arrivals to the board, give me one single example of something with the following three characteristics:
  1. It is a policy initiative of the current Bush administration
  2. It was significant enough in scale that I'd have heard of it (at a pinch, that I should have heard of it)
  3. It wasn't in some important way completely f#$@ed up during the execution.
Seriously. I've yet to see anything wiser yet, and I'm using the loose definition of the 21st century which includes the year 2000.

Bush Administration to Pull DPRK from Terror Watch List

It's actually quite refreshing that Bush and His Evil Minions are acutally doing something to deescalate the diplomatic situation with North Korea.

Not surprisingly, Cheney, et al, are steadfast against this.

The fact is that the North Koreans are not crazy, they are paranoid, and when you have Cheney lobbying for a military attack, that's just being a realist.

Hopefully, this will be a step towards formal diplomatic relations. The only thing keeping the regime in power is paranoia and distrust of the USA.

My Prediction on Fed Rate Setting

Even if inflation were not an issue, and it is, they would not cut rates, because they have already cut them so far that the market is no longer effected by this.

The economic news lately has been awful, so they won't raise rates.

Thus, they will do nothing, though my guess is that their statement will be more hawkish on inflation.

We will know in about 14 hours.

Charlotte House Prices Fall

Whenever the housing crash is discussed, Charlotte is mentioned, since it was one of the largest metropolitan areas not experiencing a price drop.

Yhe other shoe has now dropped. Charlotte area house prices dropped year over year for the first time in 17 years.

I do think that Charlotte's market is healthier, and will remain healthier, than the US market as a whole, but the housing crash will hit everywhere.

High Gas Prices Put Crimp in Exurban Life

While I think that the predictions of a rapid decline in far suburbs is premature, it's clear that increases in fuel costs, and hence the cost of commuting have driven some changes in attitudes regarding distant suburbs.

I disagree with land use expert Christopher Leinberger, who says, "Many low-density suburbs and McMansion subdivisions, including some that are lovely and affluent today, may become what inner cities became in the 1960s and '70s - slums characterized by poverty, crime and decay," if just because these McMansion subdivisions were remarkably poorly constructed, and the houses will not survive long enough to become slums.

I would expect, however, that as the exurbs were first into the housing crash, they will be the last out, and the land values won't reach the relative levels that they had to more urban neighborhoods ever again.

Update on Telco Immunity

It comes as no surprise that Dodd and Feingold are announcing that they will filibuster the bill as it stands.

What is interesting is that Nancy Pelosi is suggesting that more debate on the bill would be "healthy", which appears to indicate that perhaps she's seeing the response out there, and is regretting her decision to help Hoyer ram this through.

Republicans are Calling for George Bush to Bomb Iran if Obama Looks Likely to Win

The most prominent supporter of this is nepotism beneficiary Bill Kristol, but nutjob Daniel Pipes is saying this too.

They couch it by saying that this "might" happen, but they really lobbying the Bush Administration to bomb Iran.

What's more, I think that they are specifically lobbying for bombing Iran just before the general election.

Indiana???

Survey USA has Barack Obama up by two points over John McCain in Indiana.

Indiana??? If that holds to the general, we have nothing to worry about.

Additionally, dispite the very serious people in DC trying to claim that the Newsweek poll giving Obama a 15 point lead, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll gives Obama holds 12-point lead over McCains.

Let's hope that Barack doesn't screw this up.

24 June 2008

A Brilliant Solution in Zimbabwe

In a New York Times OP/ED, Peter Godwin muses on what to do about the brutal war that Mugabe is waging on his own people.

He notes that the international community should delegitimize the Mugabe regime, and take steps to recognize the government in exile.

Then he has his moment of genius:
Of course, South Africa could use its economic power to draw Mr. Mugabe’s rule to an end in weeks rather than months. Yet Mr. Mbeki has steadfastly refused to act, providing a protective cloak for Mr. Mugabe’s repression. And just a few weeks ago, even as opposition members were being tortured, Mr. Mbeki visited Zimbabwe, allowing himself to be garlanded at the airport and displayed on state-run TV with a broadly grinning Mr. Mugabe. In the United Nations Security Council, where South Africa currently has a seat, Mr. Mbeki has opposed attempts to put the political situation in Zimbabwe on the agenda.

If Mr. Mbeki’s cost-benefit calculus has been such that he hasn’t seen it necessary to take tougher action, perhaps it’s time to change that calculus. Perhaps, for example, now is not the time for you to book a safari to South Africa. Or for you, or any institution that manages your funds, to make new investments in the country.

Most important, there is the FIFA soccer World Cup, for which South Africa is to act as host in 2010. That may seem like a long way off, but South Africa is already investing huge amounts both financially and politically, for what is supposed to be its triumphal coming-out party. Maybe Zimbabwe should become to the South Africa-hosted World Cup what Tibet has been to the Beijing Olympics — the pungent albatross that spoils every press conference and mars every presentation with its insistent odor.

Perhaps it’s time to share the Zimbabweans’ pain, to help persuade Mr. Mbeki to bear down on its source by threatening to grab the world’s soccer ball and take our games elsewhere.
I don't follow soccer, so I was unaware that the World Cup would be in South Africa.

This is brilliant, and people should start lobbying FIFA now to change the venue.

About Those Gitmo Detainees "Returning to the Fight"

In the most recent Supreme Court decision on Gitmo, Scalia noted that 30 former detainees had, "Returned to the Fight".

Well, thanks to Sabin Willett, whose firm has represented some of those detainees, writing in the Boston Globe, we now have a definition of what this means:
It is a serious allegation, so the lawyers looked into it. It turns out that clients of our firm, who were sent to Albania in 2006, were two of the 30. What fight had they returned to? Abu Bakker Qassim had published an op-ed in The New York Times. Adel Abdul Hakim had given an interview. These press statements were deemed hostile by the Department of Defense.

Surely the Pentagon was joking? They weren't.

So I can't speak for the other 28, if indeed there are another 28, but for the two men I do know about, giving hostile interviews constituted "returning to the fight."
The basic institutions of state security in the United States have become very profoundly pathological indeed.

From a Man Who Advocates Beating Children and Pets....

James Dobson, is suggesting that Barack Obama distorts biblical values, this from a man who advocates beating children and pets.

It appears that this attack was the result of Obama raising a very valid point, "Even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson's or Al Sharpton's?"

Which is a valid point.

Apparently, Dobson feels that Sharpton is a racist, and thus that Obama was tarring him as a racist.

If the show fits dude. A quick google finds many quotes where Dobson claims black genetic inferiority, revulsion toware mixed race marriage, etc.

Bizarro World: I Agree With Ramesh Ponnuru

Writing in The Corner, he notes that while Time Magazine reporter Massimo Calabresi suggests that the FISA update drew attacks from both sides, Mr. Ponnure notes that he hadn't, "heard much unhappiness being expressed from righties," and that, "If that's what they [Democrats] want to tell themselves, fine. It sure looks like they got rolled."

Ponnuru is completely correct. The right has been unable to contain their glee over this abomination, and Mr. Calabresi is either very stupid, or allowed Steny Hoyer to hypnotize him.*

*Just in case the mouth breathers from The Corner come over, let me be clear, the hypnosis bit is a joke...

Justice Department's Felonious Hiring Under Bush and His Evil Minions

The DoJ inspector general is now reporting that Bush political appointees used political affiliation in their hiring practices.

It started under Ashcroft, and got worse under abu Gonzalez.

Not a surprise.

The question is what to do about it in January of 2009. There needs to be a real house cleaning.

GAO: Surgee No Workee

The GAO has just issued a report on the surge, and it has determined that, "The American plan for a stable Iraq lacks a strategic framework that meshes with the administration’s goals, is falling out of touch with the realities on the ground and contains serious flaws in its operational guidelines."

You mean Bush and His Evil Minions screwed it up???? I'm shocked.

Once again, I am compelled to make the repeat the wisest thing that I've read this century:
But it does inspire in me the desire for a competition; can anyone, particularly the rather more Bush-friendly recent arrivals to the board, give me one single example of something with the following three characteristics:
  1. It is a policy initiative of the current Bush administration
  2. It was significant enough in scale that I'd have heard of it (at a pinch, that I should have heard of it)
  3. It wasn't in some important way completely f#$@ed up during the execution.
Seriously. I've yet to see anything wiser yet, and I'm using the loose definition of the 21st century which includes the year 2000.

FHA Still Backing Zero Money Down Home Loans

It's called the DAP, Down-payment Assistance Program, and it allows buyers to purchase a home with no down payment, even though FHA regulations require 3% down.
The offers -- including "100% financing" -- are made possible due to down-payment assistance programs run by nonprofit organizations. These programs are funded largely by home builders and also by private homeowners desperate to sell. The seller-funded groups provide enough down-payment money to buyers that they can qualify for a mortgage backed by the Federal Housing Administration, which requires at least a 3% down payment.
Basically, realtors and builders set up non-profits, and the home seller contributes to the non-profit to cover closing costs and down payments, which are made as grants to the buyers.

Of course, that money from the seller gets tacked onto the selling price. So if a condo were to sell for $100K, they would sell it for $110K, with 7K covering closing costs, and 3K covering the down payment required by the FHA.

Net effect: the buyer has no skin in the game.

They now account for 34% of downpayments on FHA loans.

Thankfully, the current FHA overhaul in Congress eliminates this...for a while, at least.

In any case, how about letting the pictures do the talking:


Zimbabwe

Morgan Tsvangirai says that he will leave the Dutch embassy shortly, and the UN Security Council is now saying that the violence has made the runoff election a sham.

Needless to say, it does not help that the African National Congress has explicitly rejected any international intervention, though the Congress of South African Trade Unions has called Mugabe's regime illegitimate.

As Will Bunch says, the only way to get a meaningful intervention there is to find massive oil reserves, so perhaps the MDC needs to start drilling.

Energy and Speculation...A Problem....Not So Much

Well, we have analysts saying that oil and gas are have had twice their price doubled by speculation, but I think that this is a load of crap. I agree with Paul Krugman, that the effects are smaller than that. If you were to argue that there were a 5% effect on the price over the short term, I would buy that, but 50% is way out of ling.

Krugman had a nice picture on the relationship between oil futures, contracts for later delivery, and spot prices, where the oil is delivered immediately:
Simply put, there would be more of a spread if there were more of a speculative effect.

That being said, market volatility, which aggressive speculation exacerbates, does a lot of damage otherwise, so I do support some of the measures that the Congressis considering in order to reign in excessive speculation.

That being said, at its core, we have demand for raw materials outstripping supply. That's why we are seeing things like a 96% jump in iron ore prices, a market in which there are no futures contracts.

And When We Talk About Rats Leaving a Sinking Ship

We cannot leave out the retirement of Leonard Downie Jr. as the Washington Post's Executive Editor, though I would argue that the WaPo is a sinking ship because of the aforementioned rat, as he not only piloted the Post into the ice berg, but has repeatedly backed up and run it into said block of ice again...and again...and again.

He will be out September 8.

As to what has happened to the Post, go to this link, and look for the phrase Washington Post Death Spiral Watch. Their OP/ED page gives the WSJ a run for its money on stupidity and lying, and their political coverage seems to have sprung full blown from Karl Rove's wet dreams.

It may be better when he's gone, but I doubt it. I think that Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate coverage was the exception, and not the rule, at the post, which has had a history of sucking up to the "very serious people" inside the beltway for a very long time.

Rats Leaving a Sinking Ship

This time, it's Republican New York State Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, who has announced his retirement.

The 'Phants have a 1 seat majority in the state senate, and I think that Bruno knows that this will change and that the Senate will go Democratic in 2008.

Hopefully, a redistricting at the state senate level will follow, because that body is ridiculously gerrymandered, since the Dems will then hold both state houses and the governor's mansion.

While the Republicans Continue to Try and Kill Amtrak

The British just added 5 rail lines in response to exploding demand caused by rising fuel prices.

Amtrak has seen demand soar too, but, having been starved of resources for the past 3 decades, they lack the resources to meet much of this demand.

An Update on Regina Thomas (GA-12)

I just wanted to note that about a week ago, the Regina Thomas act blue page was under $5,000, and now she is at $35,713.00 $36,039.00. The campaign web page is here.

This is because the incumbent in the district, Bush Blue Dog John Barrow, is one of the major proponents of the FISA capitulation, and he has ardently advocated for telco immunity, and taken lots of telco money to boot.

Georgia's 12th district has its primary on July 15. John Barrow is white in a district where 70% of the primary voters are black, and State Senator Regina Thomas is black, so knocking him off in the primary is possible, though it won't be easy.

Barrow currently has $1,311,478 cash on hand, 55% of it from PACS, so the amount that Thomas has may not be enough.

The good news is that Barack Obama's endorsement of Barrow has increased interest in Thomas:
In an effort to control my enthusiasm, I asked Thomas about the depressing news that Barack Obama endorsed Barrow and recorded a radio ad, which caused outrage this week on many blogs. Thomas would have none of it. "That's the best thing that happened to me!" she countered. "People are angry about this! Here's a man who has not served his district, and Obama is messing in our local businesss. I'm getting emails from Illinois, Pennsylvania, even Taiwan! A man in his 80's with a small retirement was sending a check to Obama each month, and now he's sending it to me. The response is incredible," she said.

I asked if there were any polls. "We haven't had the money for a poll, but Barrow took a poll and he didn't like the results, because he got Obama to make the ad. He refuses to show up for debates, and is sending surrogates who look like me. But people aren't fooled, they see right through it. Why is he afraid to debate me?" she asked.
(emphasis mine)

Things seem to be trending her way, and there are still 3 weeks to the primary, so check her out.

Dems To Try to Block Iraq No Bid Oil Contracts

They are threatening to, "cut off financing for as-yet-unspecified programs in Iraq that are not directly in support of U.S. troops," but in the end, they will once again collapse like a bunch of overcooked broccoli to George W. "@9% Approval" Bush.

Even though it is clear that these deals would "deepen political tensions in Iraq and put our service members in even greater danger," when push comes to shove, I expect more capitulation from the Dems.