31 January 2009

Well, Paint My Ass Purple, and Call Me Shirley

OK, so I lost a memory stick that I've had for about 1¼years, Sandisk USB 2 Micro Cruzer 1Gb Pendrive U3.

It's no big deal, really. I had all the data elsewhere, so I pick up a new drive, the 4GB variant for about $12 at the Radio Shack®, which is a lot cheaper than the $50 or so that I recall paying for the 1GB version.

Wouldn't you know it, the next day, I find my old drive.

Actually, I didn't find it, Sharon* did, in the dryer.

It had gone through the wash, AND the dryer, and it looked little worse for the wear. The printing on the case was a bit worn, but that could have happened over the past 15 months sitting in my pocket.

So, I leave it out and open for a day to ensure full drying, and I put it in my computer, and ALL THE DATA IS THERE.

Needless to say, this product has my seal of approval.

*Love of my life, light of the cosmos, she who must be obeyed, my wife.

People Make a Living At This???

Let me rephrase: Really Stupid People Make a Living At This???

Because it appears that Pajamas Media, a sort of Blogads for right wingers blew through its venture capital, and has told its bloggers that it is dumping them, because the next big thing is, "Internet television called Pajamas TV," for which even stupider people will actually pay to listen to right wingers with faces made for radio.

The soon-to-be former members of Pajamas Media, such as Jeff G. of Protein Wisdom, are in full whine:
What this means is that as of April 1, I am officially out of work. So save going to a pay model, this site will likely have to shut down.

Small price to pay for helping PJM pick up an audience and credibility during its “formative years.”
I do this blog mostly to make regular notes for my annual newsletter (it's about 5% of the content), and I've gotten a bit of money from Google ads, a $107.24 check in October, and I've been blogging since May, 2007.

The idea that someone could make a living at this is just a complete mind f%$#.

H/T TBogg, for letting me know that, "Nobody could have anticipated that Pajamas Media would sucker the rubes and then destroy teh intertubes."

Republicans Formally Come Out in Favor of Syphilis

Mark Steyn supports Syphilis and other STDs because they might prevent people from having sex outside of wedlock:
Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, is on TV explaining the (at this point the congregation shall fall to its knees and prostrate itself) "stimulus." "How," asks the lady from CBS, "does $335 million in STD prevention stimulate the economy?"

"I'll tell you how," says Speaker Pelosi. "I'm a big believer in prevention. And we have, er… there is a part of the bill on the House side that is about prevention. It's about it being less expensive to the states to do these measures."

Makes a lot of sense. If we have more STD prevention, it will be safer for loose women to go into bars and pick up feckless men, thus stimulating the critical beer and nuts and jukebox industries. To do this, we need trillion-dollar deficits, which our children and grandchildren will have to pay off, but, with sufficient investment in prevention measures, there won't be any children or grandchildren, so there's that problem solved.
I really cannot read this as anything but an endorsement of STDs, and this is not The Onion.

H/t Booman Tribune.

Scary Picture of the Day

Jess Bachman give us this chart explaining the current unemployment rate.

Zoinks!

He's an impoverished graphic designer with some neat posters for sale.

Rumors of FCS Cuts

According to this report, half of the FCS-MGVs models would be significantly delayed, with only the NLOS-C (howitzer), C2V (command post), RSV (reconnaissance), and the Infantry Carrier Vehicle (ICV) staying in the pipeline.

This would mean that the MCS (tank), both medical variants, the mortar carrier, and the FRMV* recovery vehicle would be placed in limbo.

This makes sense. The howitzer is the most advanced, being given an aggressive development schedule following the demise of the Crusader, and the C2V and RSV are most heavily tied into the net-centric warefare.

As to the ICV, it carries a 9 person infantry squad, as opposed to the 6 person capacity of the Bradley (because if its manned turret), and the army has found this inconvenient in combat operations, to say the least, because it meant dispatching 2 IFVs if you wanted to send a full squad somewhere, so it actually would be a significant improvement over its predecessor.

Of course, there are a lot of unmanned turrets on the market now, and you could get the same for less by retrofitting them to the Bradley.

*Full disclosure, I worked on the Future Recovery and Maintenance Vehicle, FRMV, "wrecker" variant of the FCS-MGV from 2003-2006 at United Defense (later BAE Systems after the Carlyle Group sold me to buy Dunkin Donuts).
Future Combat Systems-Manned Ground Vehicle. These are the ones that are the tanks and APCs. As opposed to the various unnmanned vehicles, networking technologies, etc. that form the full FCS along with the MGVs.
Yes, I have worked everywhere. Maybe I can't hold down a job, but more likely this has been my role as "technical hit man", where you are parachuted in to take care of a specific need.

Military Industry Complex Bullsh%$: FCS Armor Edition

It appears that the good folks at Aberdeen Proving Ground just set up a petting zoo for the press with a dog and pony show on the high tech armor for the manned ground vehicles (FCS-MGV).

I have no doubt that this armor will be more effective on a per unit weight and a per thickness basis, but the following is a flat out lie:
All these materials had apparently been used in the search to create the “B” armor for FCS. They are using what is called B-1 armor now and plan to come up with two more variants, using B-3 as the main armor once the FCS vehicles make it to LRIP in fiscal 2013. B-1 provides, a very careful public affairs officer told me, protection roughly equivalent to the Chobham armor on the Abrams tanks. The next variants should be much lighter and provide even greater protection.
(emphasis mine)

Simply put, you are not going to get higher armor levels out of a 25-30 ton vehicle than you do out of a 70 ton vehicle, the laws of physics.

It could be that they are factoring in the effects of an active protection system (which could be easily retrofitted to legacy vehicles) and greater situational awareness (which also could be easily retrofitted to legacy vehicles), but if they are, they are ignoring the realities of modern combat (IEDs, EFPs, and an insurgent enemy who has information superiority).

In other words, it's a lie.

Hypersonic Engine Tests Continue Despite Blackswift Demise

Facet Common Inlet
It looks like DARPA is continuing to develop turbine/ramjet hypersonic propulsion systems, (paid subscription required) called the Turbine-based combined-cycle (TBCC), despite the cancellation of the Blackswift demonstrator last month.

Williams International XTE88 (Histed)
The concept remains the same, a turbine to get the vehicle off the ground and through Mach 1, with some level of cocooning beyond that as a Ram/Scram jet takes over.

DARPA is continuing to test the Falcon combined-cycle engine technology (Facet) developed for Blackswift, along with the high-speed turbojet engine development (Histed).

Basically, they are looking at integrating previously pieces, inlet, combustor and nozzle primarily, into a complete engine system.

Following this, they intend to combine Facet and Histed.

Obviously it is a non trivial issue to test the engines throughout their range without a flight test.

Alkali Laser?

It looks like General Atomics has snagged a $667,000 contract to develop a high power alkali laser. (paid subscription required)

As I noted last week, they are already working with the USAF on solid state lasers (HELLADS), but this is a different technology, a "diode-pumped alkali-vapor laser" (DPAL), which may be more efficient, and would likely be easier to cool, as the alkali-vapor could just be conveyed to a heat exchanger.

Airbus to NO-Bid for Air Force One

Not a surprise, Airbus participating in a bid for Air Force One would have been incindiary, so their declining to bid on the program makes good business sense, though I think the fact that there is now only one bidder is bad for taxpayers.

It will likely jack up the cost of Boeing's bid by 10-25%.

Robert Gates Says Procurement Cuts Necessary

He says that we have to close the “Money Spigot” and he's refused to endorse FCS or the next-generation bomber.

Good. They are useless in any foreseeable near term conflict, though some of the technologies, particularly with regard to communications could be folded into military operations.

New Helos Finally Enter Russian Service

With development beginning in the 1970s, the Mi-28N and the Kamov Ka-52 attackers, and the more recent Ansat-U training helicopter, are finally entering Russian service in meaningful numbers.

The Mi-28 "Havoc" was intended to replace the Mi-24 "Hind" in the 1980s, and the Ka-52, a derivative of the single seat Ka-50 attack helo, which was the winner, and then the loser, against the Mi-28 over the past few decades looks to serve as a scout attack helo.

It looks like both will eventually, the radar is still in development, be equipped with millimeter radar guided missiles, much link the longbow.

30 January 2009

Friday Cat Blogging: Ted Stevens Memorial

It Won't Pass, But I Support It

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has proposed a bill that would cap salary, bonuses and stock options at $400,000.00/year, the salary of the President of the United States, for any company that took federal bailout money.

It's not gonna happen. It's political grandstanding.

And I like it....A lot....

Iceland Looking to Join EU

Or possibly to just adopt the Euro as its currency.

It looks like they may be making an application in the next few months.

One complication is that the new governing coalition would be at odds over this, with the Social Democrats favoring it, and the Left Greens opposing it.

There will be an election in May, and I think that the Left Greens will do well, if just because the Social Dems were previously in coalition with the Independence Party, and so had a hand in creating the laissez-faire policies that have left them in a lurch.

Economics Update

The gross domestic product (GDP) fell at an annual rate of 3.8% in the 4th quarter of 2008, the biggest drop since the first quarter of 1982.

This is better than expected, but probably worse than it sounds.

First, the Fed Funds rate had peaked at almost 20% in 1981, and was still at 15% in early 1982. The Fed was trying to create a recession to short circuit inflation. (See graph pr0n)

Also, I agree with Barry Ritholtz of The Big Picture when he says, "The advance GDP data was released. I expect the revisions will make this even worse."

Meanwhile, Calculated Risk's Credit Crisis Indicators are showing improvement, most notably with treasury yields increasing, which implies that there is more competition for that money from other borrowers and lenders.

That being said, we are in a very weird place economically when an increase in interest rates is good news.

There are some dark spots in the indicators, the Chicago Purchasers’ January Index fell to 33.3, the lowest level since March, 1982....There it is again.....1982, and the Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) fell to a record low in December, which means that we aren't seeing much buying on a wholesale or a retail level.

In energy, oil is up on concerns about the refinery strike, and in currency, the dollar is up on low Euro Zone inflation numbers, which suggest that the ECB might cut rates again.

Rank and File House Dems Want Tax Cuts Out of Stimulus

After the stimulus proposal got no Republican votes at all, it appears that the rank and file house Democrats are telling their leaders that they have no interest at all in making nice:
Rank-and-file Congressional Democrats had been willing to give Republicans the business tax cuts and other provisions they wanted in the stimulus. That is, up until every single one voted against the bill on the House floor Wednesday.

Now, in both the House and the Senate, angry members are lobbying Democratic leaders to yank those tax breaks back.
I would agree. All that kowtowing to the 'Phants does is make your policy prescriptions worse.

There is no common ground on which to negotiate. Republicans at the national level, particularly in the House of Representatives, have no interest in making things better while they are in the minority.

The ‘Good Bank’ Solution

Willem Buiter at the Financial Times writes to endorse the idea of creating government owned and operated lending facilities to replace the insolvent banks:
There is an alternative solution to the problem of valuing the toxic assets. It would not involve nationalising the existing banks. Instead the state would create one or more new ’good’ banks - all state-owned and state-funded to begin with. Effectively, some or all of the existing banks would become bad banks. The good banks would acquire the deposits and the good assets of the bad banks or legacy banks. The good assets are, by definition, easy to value. The creation of multiple good banks may be desirable to encourage competition. One could even create a good bank for every existing bank: New Citi, New RBS, New ING etc.
I posted this a 10 days ago, but he writes better.

The basic point is that the banking industry does not have to be preserved. What has to be preserved is transparent access to credit.

Zimbabwe Update

It looks like the MDC will join the ZANU-PF in a unity government.

Unfortunately, it appears that the MDC will have no control of the state security apparatus, so I'm wondering if this will be as hollow as Nkomo entering government.

Of course, right now, government actually has to work, with current cases of cholera estimated to be in excess of 60,000, and the currency so debased that foreign currencies will now be allowed to be officially used in commerce.

I think that 5 years from now, there will be no Zimbabwean dollar at all.

The EU has tightens sanctions on prominent ZANU-PF members, but I don't thing that this will amount to much

Hey! I Voted Against That Guy!

Three Times!

Twice as Robert Leroy "Bob" Ehrlich, Jr.'s Lt. Governor, and once for the Senate when he ran against Ben Cardin.

Now Michael Steele has been elected chairman of the RNC.

My take on him is that he is really, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY stupid.

He is, after all the guy who compared stem cell research to the Holocaust.....to the Baltimore Jewish Council.

The frightening thing is that he might have been the smartest one there, what with Ken Blackwell, Katon Dawson, etc. being on the ballot.

I don't think that he will make a lick of difference though.

Richard Pearle Was Right

The Iraqis have erected astatue dedicated to George W. Bush, in Tikrit of all places:



It's in honor of the journalist who threw a shoe at him actually, and I don't think that I've seen a picture of Iraqis looking so...so....happy in a very long time.

No, this is not The Onion.

The Road to 60 Through the Commerce Department?

We are hearing reports that New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg (R) is being considered for Secretary of Commerce.

This is interesting for a number of reasons:
  • Secretary of Commerce is typically low profile, the last, and possibly only "Rock Star" Secretary of Commerce was Herbert Hoover.
  • Gregg is a sitting senator in a state that has become reliably blue, so this might be preferable to his standing for election in 2010.
  • The governor of New Hampshire is John Lynch, who is a Democrat, and would likely appoint a Democrat to the post.
If this is true, then, once the Norm Coleman clown show is done, we would have 60 votes against a filibuster, assuming, of course, that Joe Lieberman doesn't knife the Dems in the back.

The Minnesota Election Trial Continues to be the Norm Coleman Clown Show

Well, we just had another example of one of Coleman's hand picked witnesses saying something that they shouldn't, though this time, it was under cross, as opposed to direct, examination.

Peter DeMuth admitted that the Coleman challenge team cherry picked him, even though they have maintained that there has been no such activity:
Upon cross-examination by Franken attorney Kevin Hamilton, DeMuth said he was contacted by the Republican Party and told about the problem. "They asked me if I knew my absentee ballot had been rejected. I said no," said DeMuth. "They asked me if I was a supporter of Norm Coleman, and I said yes, and they proceeded to ask me if I would like to go further."

Let's think about this for a moment: Over the last several days, the Coleman camp has said repeatedly that they are not cherry-picking who they're helping out, that they don't know who the people they're advocating for actually supported, and for all they know they're helping out Franken-voters.
This is becoming really pathetic.

I'm not sure why Norm Coleman and His Evil Minions&trade are doing this...My best guess, based on nothing, is that they figure that they will have a donation list that they can use in the future that is, as Rod Blagojevich would say, is "Bleeping Golden."

Senate Passes SCHIP Expansion

One interesting thing is that 'Phant support for the bill has plummetted, because the prior times that they voted, they knew that Bush would veto, so there was no chance of it becoming law.

The Republican Party, opposing healthcare for children since 1945.

The GOP claimed that it was about providing healthcare to the children of legal immigrants, but really, it's another case of their opposing a program because it will work, albeit imperfectly, as it will still leave about 5 million children without health insurance.

A similar measure has already passed the house.

29 January 2009

Geithner Needs to Work for the People of the United States of America

Barry Righolts of The Big Picture puts his finger on what is bothering me about Geithner:
  • You no longer work for the Banks: The NY Fed is a private corporation, doing the bidding of the FOMC and its private sector owners — primarily, the primary dealers. In other words, the President of the NY Fed works for the biggest commercial and investment banks in New York. That is no longer operational for you.
  • As Treasury Secretary, your immediate boss is the President, and your ultimate charge are the citizens of the United States, and the finances of the country.
  • When any conflict comes into play between the nation and the banks, you as Treasury Secretary are on the side of the Nation.
  • You cannot serve two masters, especially when they are in direct conflict with each other.
In its most basic form, all this talk about nationalization being somehow beyond the pale is really about people who do think that whatever is good for the banks is good for the county, and Geithner and Summers are both on that side....Or they are for now.

The question is not, "How do we save the banks," it's, "How do we get normal access to credit going again with a minimal impact on the taxpayer," and throwing trillions at banks for their sh%$pile assets does not serve the nation or the taxpayers.

Major Oil Refinery Strike Possible

Talks between Royal Dutch Shell and the United Steelworkers do not appear to be going well, and a strike would idle about ½ the Gasoline refining in the United States.

The contract expires on Sunday, and if they go on strike, we can expect to see a significant spike in gasoline prices.

Needless to say, the 'Phants would then be screaming for Obama to invoke Taft-Hartley, though I do not think that this would happen.

Rod Blagojevich Convicted By State Senate

So he has been removed from office, and Pat Quinn, the Lt. Governor, assumes his powers.

Good. Not only do we have cloture, but I don't have to struggle with spelling "Blagojevich" any more.

Activity Declined in Every State in December

For the first time ever, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia has released a report showing a decline in the coincident index in all 50 states.

Not only are we in a recession, but every single state is individually in a recession, for the very first time.

Look at 1982, when Paul Volker was doing his best to crush wages, and still, there were 7 states whose economies were expanding.

This is going to get very very bad.

Bad Bank: Baltimore Edition

Regulators are telling Suburban Federal Savings Bank to find a buyer or face a takeover.

If it is seized, it would be the first bank failure since 1992 in Maryland.

The star marks the bank.

Obama Considering Ditching Karzai

Not a bad idea, since Karzai and his people are about the only people on the face of the earth worse at governance than Bush and His Evil Minions:
The Bush administration’s close ties to the corrupt and ineffective Karzai government kept it in power long past its expiration date. During his tesimony, Gates wouldn’t say corruption reached into the “highest” levels of the Afghan government when prodded by one senator, settling for a more political “high levels” of government.

Since the Afghan people view the government in Kabul as corrupt, our propping it up does us no favors. Which is one of the reasons why Obama’s choice for Afghanistan/Pakistan special envoy, Amb. Richard Holbrooke, is such welcome news. Speaking last year at CSIS, Holbrooke made it clear he views Karzai as part of the problem, not the solution. He said the U.S. must stop trying to bolster the Karzai government in Kabul, which he called “weak and corrupt,” and focus more on governance in the provinces. “I don’t believe you can have a strong unitary government running the country from Kabul, its going to be a loosely governed country.” There is little risk of Afghanistan fragmenting, like so many feared might happen in Iraq, he said, as Afghans do not have “separatist tendencies.”
Gee, you think?

FWIW, I do not think that this was malice on the part of Bush, just an unwillingness to admit error.

I'm beginning to think that the willingness to admit error is among the rarest, and most beneficial, traits in a politician.

Nationalize the Banks, Because Crony Capitalism Ain't Working

New bank bailout could cost up to $2 trillion

My Driveway Will Be Much Cleaner

The Baltimore Examiner will cease publication on February 15.

It's a free, and right wing, rag, that has continued to leave papers on my driveway whether I want them or not.

I'm not surprised. They set up shop in an expensive area, basically across the street from the Camden Yards ball park, and for a freebie paper, particularly one that sucked on the journalism side, they spent too much money on stuff like that.

Here is the memo to staff from management.

Iraq Denies License to Blackwater

Iraq has notified the State Department of their decision, and the U.S. government will not renew their contract.

Hopefully, this is the start of a more general withdrawal of the use mercenary forces by the U.S. government.

Of course the problem is not limited to combat contractors (mercenaries), it's also increasingly obvious that the explosion of contractors throughout the bureaucracy has created an explosion of fraud, waste, and abuse.

The Romans as Inspiration in the Banking Crisis

Should Barnabas Francus hold the next hearing of his House banking committee atop this cliff?
Tom Ricks notes the similarities between the current financial crisis and the financial crisis of the Roman Empire in 33 CE.

It appears that regulations limiting the amount of interest charged caused a collapse of lending, and from there it became a collapse of property values.

Finally, Emperor Tiberius disperses something over 100 million sesterces to the banks with explicit instructions to lend to anyone who can provide collateral that is double the amount borrowed.

It is a little different, it's not an insolvency problem, it's an illiquidity problem, and as I have noted before, the prescription is rather different.

That being said, one of the things that Tiberius did does look rather appealing:
Tiberius also raised funds by accusing Sextus Marius, the richest man in Spain, of incest -- almost certainly a trumped-up charge -- and then having him thrown headlong from the Tarpeian Rock (see below), a cliff at the edge of Rome's Capitoline Hill. "Tiberius kept his gold mines for himself," Tacitus notes.
I want a bigger cliff though.

Speaking of Insubordination

The presiding judge at Gitmo, Army Colonel James Pohl, is refusing to suspend one of the trials, and has scheduled the arraignment for February 9:
Hours after taking office last week, Obama ordered Guantanamo prosecutors to seek 120-day delays in all pending cases to give his administration time to decide whether to scrap the widely criticized tribunals created by the Bush administration to try suspected terrorists outside the regular U.S. court system.

But the judge, Army Colonel James Pohl, said the law underpinning the tribunals gives the presiding judges sole authority to delay cases. He ruled that postponing proceedings against Abd al Rahim al Nashiri would harm the public interest in a speedy trial.
Note that al Nashiri appears to be one of the "high value" defendants who was water boarded, and he has been held for over 5 years...so much for speedy trials.

Seriously, Bush and His Evil Minions did their level best to politicize every level of government, including the military.

This will be poisoning the military and the civilian bureaucracy for decades to come.

Obama Needs to Tell Ray Odierno to STFU

Because it's clear that General Odierno is doing his level best to box Obama in on Iraq:
Among those consulted by the president was Gen. Ray Odierno, the top commander in Iraq, who has developed a plan that would move slower than Mr. Obama’s campaign timetable, by pulling out two brigades over the next six months. In an interview in Iraq on Wednesday, General Odierno suggested that it might take the rest of the year to determine exactly when United States forces could be drawn down significantly.
This is borderline insubordinate.

A president needs his generals to tell him, and congress, the truth, but you don't want them spouting off to the press in order to make your job more difficult.

If this is not slapped down now, it will only get worse.

Senators Levin and Grassley Move to Regulate Hedge Funds

The Hedge Fund Transparency Act would force hedge funds to register with regulators, file annual disclosures, and cooperate with SEC investigators.

It's a start.

The most worrisome thing, Madoff not withstanding, is not how hedge funds can break the law, but how much of what they do is legal, since a lot of it appears to be market manipulation and insider trading to my untrained eye.

White House Denies Non-Prosecution Promise

An unnamed Holder aide is denying that he made any promise not to prosecute torture:
Eric Holder has not made any commitments about who would or would not be prosecuted. He explained his position to Senator Bond as he did in the public hearing and in his responses to written questions.
So it appears that Kit Bond's statements to the Washington Times are now in dispute.

I really think that Eric Holder and Barack Obama both need to publicly disavow the news report.

Headline of the Day

LBO Firms Face Lending Drought as ‘Adult Supervision’ Returns

So you mean that the leveraged buyouts weren't an artifact of "adults" soberly evaluating the business case?

I'm stunned.

Why Media Consolidation is a Bad Thing

You know that when you go to a new city, you find a different alternative weekly.

What you may not know is that most of them are owned by one company, Village Voice Medis, and VVM has decided to drop all the comics that it is currently running from these publications.

So consolidation gets us a stupid and self-destructive decision, because the conglomerate has to hit "the numbers" for Wall Street, and then it immediately propagates throughout most of the media markets in the US.

Economics Update

Well, the jobless numbers are out, and they are not pretty with initial claims running at 588,000,continuing claims rising 159,000 to 4.776 million, which is the highest number recorded since the 1967, when they started collecting the data, and the 4 week moving average rose by 24,250 to 542,500.

Additionally durable goods orders fell by 3.7% in 2008.

And if you are wondering if there is a segment of the banking industry that won't need a bailout, stop wondering.

There isn't a segment of the banking industry that is not in trouble, as regulators are not moving to inject capital into credit unions, which are traditionally the most conservative, and the safest of the bank like institutions.

The fact that new home sales have fallen to the lowest level ever recorded (recording started in 1963) probably has a lot to do with this.

Also, freight truck tonnage is cliff diving. (H/T Calculated Risk)

Meanwhile, the most healthy of the Big 3 (Big 2½) auto makers, Ford, just reported a larger-than-expected $5.9 billion loss in the last quarter.

In international finance New Zealand is aggressively dropping its benchmark interest rates too, with their central bank 150 basis points (1½%) to the record low of 3.5%.

About the only good news is that it appears that deflationary expectations are easing, as the spread between 10 year Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS)and 10 year nominal securities has risen about 1% for the first time since November 10.

Meanwhile, the dollar was mixed today, and oil fell on the housing news.

28 January 2009

A Good Way Of Making Statistics Accessible

Itulip.com has this 4 minute video:

Google Sets Trap for Cable ISPs

Well, I'm not sure if it is a trap, per se, since they announced its creation with a press release, but it certainly is a shot across the bow directed primarily at Comcast.
Google Inc on Wednesday unveiled a plan aimed at eventually letting computer users determine whether providers like Comcast Corp are inappropriately blocking or slowing their work online.

....

Google will provide academic researchers with 36 servers in 12 locations in the United States and Europe to analyze data, said its chief Internet guru, Vint Cerf, known as the "father of the Internet."

Google Inc on Wednesday unveiled a plan aimed at eventually letting computer users determine whether providers like Comcast Corp are inappropriately blocking or slowing their work online.

The scheme is the latest bid in the debate over network neutrality, which pits content companies like Google against some Internet service providers.

The ISPs say they need to take reasonable steps to manage ever-growing traffic on their networks for the good of all users. Content and applications companies fear the providers have the power to discriminate, favoring some traffic over others.

Google will provide academic researchers with 36 servers in 12 locations in the United States and Europe to analyze data, said its chief Internet guru, Vint Cerf, known as the "father of the Internet."
My guess is the first thing that they will discover is that Comcast is crippling competing VOIP applications, I've already heard reports of this anecdotally.

Bringing in Cerf was a masterstroke of publicity.

Canada: the Libs Cave

So the liberals wimp out, and Michael Ignatieff, showing all the moral courage and intellect he showed when he supported the invasion of Iraq gives Stephen Harper's merry bunch of radicals a "Get out of Jail Free" card, as New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton so ably noted.

What did he get? It appears that he got a statement from the Canadian finance minister that he was, "open to opposition suggestions."

Ignatieff does not get it, but he just sold the country down the river, and the coalition cannot be reformed in the foreseeable future, so the Conservatives get to continue their goal of making Canada just like Texas.

Judiciary Committee Votes to Approve Eric Holder

The vote was 17-2.

Full Senate approval as Attorney General looks to be a cinch.

Not One Republican Vote

The stimulus package passes the house without even 1 'Phant vote. So much for bitartisanship.

One of the nice things is that the Nadler amendment passed, adding $3 billion to mass transit.

Iceland's Conservatives Out for the First Time in 20 Years

No surprise at the change in government.

The free-market mousketeers ran the country into the ditch, so the new government will be led by the Social Democrats, and will include the Left Green Party.

I believe that we are going to see a lot more of this over the next few years.

US Unions Gain Members for 2nd Straight Year

I think that these gains are an artifact of a new world view by workers, they've always believed that management was a bunch of cheap and contemptible greed-heads, but now, with just about every business out there showing evidence of incompetent and unethical behavior, the idea that they could trust management to do what is best for the firm has fallen by the wayside too.

Economics Update

Well, the FOMC meeting ended, and they relased statement saying that they will stay at zero interest rates for some time.

Additionally, they are looking at, "Unconventional Measures," which appear to include buying longer term Treasuries.

It appears that one of those steps is that they will write down a significant of the mortgage backed securities that they picked up in the Bear and AIG bailouts, a sort of voluntary "cram down".

Europe seems to have stabilized, at least for now, with consumer sentiment steadying.

Meanwhile, mortgage applications fell sharply, as interest rates have risen, from 4.88% at the beginning of the year to 5.22% now, in anticipation of ballooning deficits.

Of course, if reports that Moody's is considering cutting GE's triple-A credit rating, are true, we're in for another big shock.

Both oil and the dollar inched up today.

Politically Kosher: Don't Mix Meat and Milk

Sometimes, the pork in the stimulus package is beef.

In this case it was an attempt by the Dairy industry to have the government purchase about 300,000 of milk cows and sell them to slaughter houses in order to arrest the recent declines in the cost of milk.

The dairy farmers wanted this, but the beef farmers did not, and when all was said and done, it ended up on the cutting room floor, but not before I made hay of the situation.

Don't have a cow, man!

U.S. House Panel Approves Wimpolicious Cramdown Provision

Most notably, the bill , which puts us in a rinse, lather, repeat situation.

As the late Tanta (I miss her) said, "Just Say Yes To Cram Downs":
In fact, I have some sympathy with the view that mortgage lenders "perform a valuable social service through their loans." That's why, when they stop doing that and become predators, equity strippers, and bubble-blowers instead of valuable social service providers, I like seeing BK judges slap them around. Everybody talks a lot about moral hazard, and the reality is that you're a lot less likely to put a borrower with a weak credit history, whose income you did not verify and whose debt ratios are absurd, into a 100% financed home purchase loan on terms that are "affordable" only for a year or two, if you face having that loan restructured in Chapter 13. If you are aware that your mortgage loan can be crammed down, I'm here to tell you that you will certainly not "forget" to model negative HPA in your ratings models, and will probably pay more than a few seconds' attention to your appraisals. You might even decide that, if a loan does get into trouble, you're better off working it out yourself, via forbearance or modification or short sale, rather than hanging tough and letting the BK judge tell you what you'll accept. That would be a major bummer, right?
Without the cramdown provision going forward, you have created moral hazard, and the lenders will do the same stupid things, over, and over, and over again.

Russia May Not Deploy Missiles to Kaliningrad

We have reports that the Russians are offering not to deploy missiles on the Polish border, but we also have official Russian denials of those reports.

My guess is that the truth is somewhere in between, with the leak intended as to jump start negotiations on the matter.

George Soros Slams Bad Bank Concept

George Soros has come out against the "Bad Bank" rescue scheme. He thinks that it will not save banks, but instead create "Zombie Banks", the walking dead which will not be able to offer meaningful credit, so he proposes a "Nationalization Lite".

I prefer the real nationalization, but I agree that the "Bad Bank" concept won't fix anything.

By way of background, the current version of this is that the FDIC will buy toxic assets, at maturity value from banks, as opposed to current market value.

So, at its core it means overpaying the banks for their assets, so that $750K mortgage on a Miami condo currently worth $150K is purchased as if the underlying assets are still valued at $750K.

You can't buy at market value, because the banks would then be insolvent, which is why more and more people are suggesting that the banks be taken over, and then the government would handle disposal of those assets.

It's what the FDIC has done for years, and the RTC did with the S&L crisis, and what the Swedes did in the 1990s, and the government turned a profit in about 4 years.

It's welfare for the rich.

Cello Scrotum A Hoax

It appears that a noted British doctor made up the condition and submitted it to the British Medical Journal in 1974, in response to reports, which she thought were a prank/hoax, of a condition called, "guitarist's nipple", which is or is alleged to be a chafed nipple from resting the guitar there.

Normally, I wouldn't have cared, but I played cello when I was 9 and 10, before switching to trombone, so the hed made me want to read it.

Stating the Blatantly Obvious

It appears that Mssrs. Geithner and Summers are concerned about the increasing calls for bank nationalization:
Explicit nationalization of financial companies has little support among key Obama officials, sources said. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and top White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers think governments make poor bank managers and cannot efficiently manage a vast number of institutions, according to some of their associates.
Because, as Atrios notes, "Has it occurred to no one that bank managers also make poor bank managers?"
Another danger is that by taking over a substantial portion of a bank's stock and wiping out the investment of the firm's other shareholders, the government could also precipitate a sell-off across the banking system as investors flee, fearing they could be next.
No, investors will flee because they believe the banks to be insolvent, because the US government won't seize solvent banks. Even the Swedes didn't do that during their banking meltdown in the 1990s.

The real problem is that the regulators, Geithner, Rubin, and their mentor Robert "Soon to be Indicted" Rubin, have gone native.

Eric Holder Just Became a War Criminal, Will Barack Obama Follow? [With Update: Senate Dems Deny]

Update: Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee have just denied that Holder said any such thing. I'd like to see Holder deny this too.

If this report in the Washington Times is accurate, Eric Holder just agreed not to prosecute people who engaged in torture:
Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, a Republican from Missouri and the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in an interview with The Washington Times that he will support Eric H. Holder Jr.'s nomination for Attorney General because Mr. Holder assured him privately that Mr. Obama's Justice Department will not prosecute former Bush officials involved in the interrogations program.

Mr. Holder's promise apparently was key to moving his nomination forward. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 17-2 to favorably recommend Holder for the post. He is likely to be confirmed by the Senate soon.

Sen. Bond also said that Mr. Holder told him in a private meeting Tuesday that he will not strip the telecommunications companies that cooperated with the National Security Agency after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks of retroactive legal immunity from civil lawsuits--removing another potential sticking point among GOP senators.
When the United States ratified the Convention against Torture in 1994, it created an obligation to affirmatively act to prevent torture, and to prosecute torturers and co-conspirators through, "effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction," including taking steps to "ensure that all acts of torture are offenses under its criminal law".

If the report is true, and note that it's the Washington Times quoting Kit Bond, so the possibility that the reporter or the Senator is lying is most assuredly non-zero, so, Holder could have said something as innocuous as, "There is such a thing as prosecutorial discretion," and Kit Bond could have related this as, "there will be no prosecutions."

Certainly, the Republicans have in the past fabricated promises in the hope that they would become accepted as the status quo.....It's called poisoning the well.

That being said, if what Mr. Bond related is a true description of the discussions, then Eric Holder has entered into an illegal conspiracy to coverup torture, which is, under the convention against, a violation of the Convention against Torture in and of itself.

The pertinent sections of the convention are below (all emphasis mine, and but I'm an engineer, not a lawyer, dammit!*):

Article 2
  1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
  2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
  3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

Article 4
  1. Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.
  2. Each State Party shall make these offences punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature.
Article 5
  1. Each State Party shall take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over the offences referred to in article 4 in the following cases:
    1. When the offences are committed in any territory under its jurisdiction or on board a ship or aircraft registered in that State;
    2. When the alleged offender is a national of that State;
    3. When the victim is a national of that State if that State considers it appropriate.
  2. Each State Party shall likewise take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over such offences in cases where the alleged offender is present in any territory under its jurisdiction and it does not extradite him pursuant to article 8 to any of the States mentioned in paragraph I of this article.
  3. This Convention does not exclude any criminal jurisdiction exercised in accordance with internal law.
Article 7
  1. The State Party in the territory under whose jurisdiction a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is found shall in the cases contemplated in article 5, if it does not extradite him, submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.
  2. These authorities shall take their decision in the same manner as in the case of any ordinary offence of a serious nature under the law of that State. In the cases referred to in article 5, paragraph 2, the standards of evidence required for prosecution and conviction shall in no way be less stringent than those which apply in the cases referred to in article 5, paragraph 1.
  3. Any person regarding whom proceedings are brought in connection with any of the offences referred to in article 4 shall be guaranteed fair treatment at all stages of the proceedings.

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

The Norm Coleman Clown Show

So, first the Coleman campaign submitted false documents to the judges, and now their own witnesses are admitting to completely bollixing up their absentee ballots:
One of the voters was Douglas Thompson, who admitted under oath that his girlfriend filled out his absentee ballot application for him, signing his name with her own hand and purporting to be himself. His ballot was rejected because the signature on his ballot envelope (his own) did not match the signature on the application (his girlfriend's).

...

Another one of the voters, an older man named Wesley Briest, initially responded that he voted at the polls -- not by absentee. Then Coleman attorney James Langdon showed him his absentee ballot envelope, reminding him that he did not go to the polls, too. Upon cross-examination by Franken lawyer Kevin Hamilton, Briest admitted that his wife, who served as the witness on his ballot, did not fully complete the witness section of the absentee ballot.
Jeebus, the stupid, it burns!

1000 Words on Republican Bipartisanship

Back to 1980*

The FDIC Proposes is suggesting interest rate caps on banks that are not "Well Capitalized" under accounting rules:
The FDIC recommended banks be limited in tapping higher- cost sources of funds, such as brokered deposits, and be barred from paying rates that exceed a national average plus 75 basis points. The agency also said premiums paid to insure deposits should be based on risks faced by the banks that fail to meet regulatory requirements.
The bank industry lobbyists are screaming, "Nationalization," of course, but that's what they do whenever there is an attempt to regulate.

It really is amazing just how much every rollback of New Deal regulations has resulted in disaster.

*That's when statutory limits on interest rates for deposit accounts were repealed.
That was when Jimmy Carter was President. The regulatory origins of this crisis, as well as the Savings and Loan debacle, start with him
Yet another reason I hate "Saint Jimmy."

27 January 2009

Mad Magazine Still Has it Now and Again

You know, I just got the news that Mad Magazine is going quarterly from monthly, which unfortunately means that it's circulating the drain.

Still, it appears that they still have comedic chops:

This is just as funny, in a Mad Magazine kind of way, as when the Onion says, "Black Man Given Nation's Worst Job".

It's also a reason why I shouldn't be President. I'd be mainlining bat guano right now.

Click pic to go to Mad.

My First Take on Obama’s Broadband Plan

I like it, because the telecommunications companies don't:
The grants would be conditioned on companies building so- called open-access networks, which would allow other companies to offer competing service over the same lines.
The telcos want free money, which is what they got when the Clinton administration was trying to build out what they still called the, "information superhighway," and they used the money for mergers.

They spent very little time or effort making broadband widely available, they used the money to reinforce their monopoly advantages.

I could be wrong, but if the incumbent providers don't like it, it's a pretty good indication that this is good policy.

Conyers Subpoenas Rove

This should get interesting, because we likely have an Attorney General, or will shortly, who might actually enforce a Congressional subpoena.

My guess as to the end game is that he will show up and then refuse to answer questions, but Rove sees himself as the smartest guy in the room, and if he talks, he'll lie.

If he lies, that's a federal crime.

This is A Feature, Not a Bug: Papal Edition

So, Pope Benedict has reversed the excommunication of a Holocaust Denier Bishop, Richard Williamson, in an attempt to make nice with the so called "Traditionalist Schism" in the church.

Just in case you are wondering, this is who this Pope is. It's the same as his infamous Regensburg speech where he called Mohammad's teachings, "evil and inhuman", only this time he won't have to backtrack, because there is only one Jewish state, and they aren't going on Pogroms against Catholics over this.

And in case you are wondering who Bishop Williamson is, he is the guy who thought that the movie The Sound of Music was too anti Nazi.

Because They Still Won't Vote For It

So while Barack Obama is meeting with Republicans to get support for the stimulus package, John Boehner has already instructed his caucus not to vote for it.

A bright spot in all this is the report that Obama told the 'Phants at a meeting to go pound sand on low income tax cuts.

They are claiming that it's "Welfare", though Ronald Reagan called it the "Earned Income Tax Credit," and strongly supported it.

H/t Americablog for the pic.

My Gut Versus One of the Experts in the Field

Karl Case, co-creator of the Case-Shiller index, is says that he expects housing to bottom out by the end of this year.

I disagree. First, you always get overshoot when a bubble collapses, and there are too many shadow foreclosures out there, where banks have not listed the properties, or are delaying foreclosures because their hands/balance sheets are full.

If I had an investment decision on it, I'd probably go with Karl Case, but I don't, so I'll stick with my prediction.

You may see a bottom in the worst hit places, like California, which is down 42% year over year (!), sooner than that, but a too much "wealth" has simply been destroyed for a recovery this year.

I do not expect an uptick until sometime after 2012.

Economics Update

The lede on most business sections was good news, that home sales rose in December, as you can see on the top chart, but as the bottom chart clearly shows, home prices continue to fall.

Prices are down 15.3% year over year, and sales in 2008 are down 13% from 2007 sales.

The real question is how much of this is foreclosures and other REOs creating a market for bottom feeders, because the percentage of foreclosures relative to sales is way up.

Of course, interest rates have gone up a bit for mortgages, as they have in Treasuries, and this might further reduce home sales.

We also have the Conference Board’s index of leading economic indicators rising for the first time in 6 months, but it appears that this is entirely because of increasing money supply, as the Fed cranks up the presses.

The National Association of Business Economics' (NABE) quarterly industry poll shows a far more pessimistic view of the path forward, with the worst numbers since they started the survey in 1982.

Israel's central bank cut its benchmark rate by 75 basis points to 1%, on indications of a recession there.

In currency, the dollar fell, largely on good news on UK bank bailouts, and in energy oil was down about 6 bits, on reports of high inventories.

Mike McConnell in Snap Resignation

The 2nd Director of National Intelligence announced his resignation today, effective immediately, even though his replacement, Dennis Blair, has not yet made it through confirmation.

This is odd. Giving his history of lying about domestic surveillance and torture, my guess is that someone found something he had done, and he was told that he had to leave the building immediately.

Then again, my gut is frequently wrong, and even if it's right, this sort of dirty laundry rarely gets aired out.

26 January 2009

Election Update

It's the first day of the Minnesota Election trial, and the Judges just threw out Coleman's evidence, and told him to submit originals, rather than certified copies, because their copies of ballot envelopers were discovered to have been altered.

Good way to piss of the judges.

Why Carbon Cap and Trade is a Fraud

I've always said that it is rife in opportunities for gaming the system and abuse.

We now can say that the system has already been gamed and abused:
China dams reveal flaws in climate-change weapon

By JOE McDONALD and CHARLES J. HANLEY – 1 day ago

XIAOXI, China (AP) — The hydroelectric dam, a low wall of concrete slicing across an old farming valley, is supposed to help a power company in distant Germany contribute to saving the climate — while putting lucrative "carbon credits" into the pockets of Chinese developers.

But in the end the new Xiaoxi dam may do nothing to lower global-warming emissions as advertised. And many of the 7,500 people displaced by the project still seethe over losing their homes and farmland.


.....
This is not a but, it's a feature. If you want Wall Street and its worldwide siblings to run this shell game, this is what is called "value added".

This is why a carbon tax is the way to go.

Not Enough Bullets: Dick Fuld Edition

After driving Lehman Brothers into the ground, he just sold his Florida mansion to his wife for $10.

He's burying assets with his wife so that he will be "poor" when people and regulators go after him.

I think that this would be a good time for the US Attorney to start investigating whether this is a criminal conspiracy to defraud potential litigants.

Bolivians Plebiscite Ratifies New Constitution

Evo Moralez got the new constitution he wanted for Bolivia:

Bullet points
  • President can now hold 2 consecutive terms.
  • State ownership of water resources. (There was a water privatizaiton fiasco, where people were charge something like 1/3 of the monthly salary for water)
  • Reserved spaces in the legislature and bureaucracy for the Indian population.
  • Guarantees reproductive rights.
  • Removes Catholicism as the state religion.
  • Limits on the size of new landholdings.
  • Expands the states control of the economy.
  • Tightens state control of energy resources.
Generally, it looks like a good thing, though I am always dubious of mandates of ethnically allocated slots in either government or bureaucracy.

Because They Have No Other Place to Go

The New York Times looks at increasing calls for nationalizing the banks, and wonders how you could find qualified people to run the banks, since pay would obviously be less:
Some of Mr. Obama’s advisers have asked who the government would get to run the banks. Many of the most experienced executives are tainted by the decisions they made during the age of excess. And how would the government attract the best talent if it demanded that they take minimal pay — a political reality in the current environment?
There are two answers to to this:
  • Unless they want to go to Dubai, no one is hiring.
  • The people with a track record on this have all failed miserably. The last thing that you want is Wall Street experience.
Seriously, I've yet to see a good argument against replacing senior management at the banks with first year liberal arts majors.

NY Times and Gatehouse Settle Linking Lawsuit

This is actually a potentially big deal for the net.

Gatehouse, which publishes community newspapers, sued the New York Times, because the Boston Globe, which it owns, was generating "Google News" style links, which show the hed and the first sentence or so.

Basically, the Times agreed not to link, but maintains its right to do so.

Complicating the issue was that the Globe tech folk went out of their way to avoid technical measures that Gatehouse put up to prevent this.

The Best William Kristol New York Times OP/ED Ever

Or at least the best 6 words in one of his columns, "This is William Kristol’s last column."

The Times did not renew his contract.

Unsurprising, as his columns, hell, his first column, generated a fairly large number of corrections for misstatements of basic fact.

He will be moving to the Washington Poat, where he will be doing a monthly column, as opposed to his weekly column at the Times.

It's a better fit for Kristol. Any paper that publishes Charles Krauthammer doesn't worry about whether facts stated by their columnists has a basis in reality or truth.

Economics Update

Consumer confidence just fell again, and hit an all time low, 37.7, the lowest number since the Conference Board started keeping records in 1967.

What with the Case-Shiller index showing a November home price drop of 18.2% year over year, and California home prices falling a staggering 42% year over year along with word of that there have been 519,895 job cuts announced since election day.

It's all a major bummer.

We do have a report that Obama will direct his TARP funds toward consumers, as opposed to the corruption orgy under Bush and His Evil Minions, which is good news, but it looks like Fannie Mae will need another $16 billion of that.

Meanwhile, Sweden, which handled its early 1990s banking crisis about as well as anyone, it was able to wrap up its intervention years ahead of schedule and with a profit, is looking at injecting cash into its banking system again.

Russia is looking at doing the same for its banks.

In any case, the lousy consumer confidence numbers have had the effect of driving oil down, and scaring people into fleeing to the safety of the dollar, which drove the buck up.

Buh Bye Kenny Boy

Kenny in this case is Bank of America’s CEO Kenneth Lewis, whose tenure is increasingly precarious following negative impacts of his ill conceived purchases of Countrywide and Merrill Lynch.

I know that we are interesting times when some of my predictions start coming true.

No Files?

So, in their eagerness to torture people, it appears that Bush and His Evil Minions never bother to assemble files on the Guantanamo detainees, which makes an evaluation, much less a fair trial of the detainees.

As Hilzoy notes, "It takes, well, a special kind of administration to detain people for years on end without bothering to assemble case files on them. I'm just glad they're finally gone."(emphasis original)

Notwithstanding Bush's insistence that the military commissions were the only way to try these folks, this makes it clear that they never wanted trials, just torture.

How bad was it? Here are the last two 'graphs of the WaPo article:
In a court filing this month, Darrel Vandeveld, a former military prosecutor at Guantanamo who asked to be relieved of his duties, said evidence was "strewn throughout the prosecution offices in desk drawers, bookcases packed with vaguely-labeled plastic containers, or even simply piled on the tops of desks."

He said he once accidentally found "crucial physical evidence" that "had been tossed in a locker located at Guantanamo and promptly forgotten."
This is not a serious attempt at competent prosecution or trial.

25 January 2009

For an $11 Million Advance, She'd Better Be Nekkid!

Sarah Palin is shopping a book, and the word is that she is looking for an 8 figure advance.

(on edit)

My apologies for this mental image.

Jeebus! Ben Stein is a Loser

You know, as much as I hate Thomas Friedman's fictitious cab drivers who says what he wants, Ben Stein's use of real people close to him in order to make a point is worse.

He uses them to depict the "real America", much as Friedman does, only they are at least as Stein depicts them, are simply malevolent human beings, and he does not understand that this.

Case in point is his high school friend, who seems to be engaging in a form of arms length prostitution:
NOT long ago, a woman in California called me for advice. She is divorced, with two children, and has a series of interlocking financial problems.

She lives in a lovely home in a stylish inland enclave. It has an interest-only mortgage of about $2.2 million that requires a payment of $12,000 a month, very roughly. It was last appraised at $2.7 million, but who knows if it’s now worth anything remotely close to that price.

The woman, whom I’ve known since she was a teenager, has no job or other remunerative employment. She has a former husband, an entrepreneur whose business has suffered recently. He pays her $20,000 a month, of which roughly half is alimony and half child support. The alimony is scheduled to stop this summer.

She has a wealthy beau who pays her credit card bills and other incidentals, but she is thinking of telling him she is through with him. She has no savings and has refinanced her home repeatedly, always adding to indebtedness and then putting the money into a shop she owns that has never come close to earning a dime. Now she is up all night worrying about money. “Terrified,” as she put it. She wanted me to tell her what to do.
He calls her a "sweet woman," but she is anything but this.

She is a user of other people, and a stupid one, because, while she has achieved success with her use of other people, she has not planned in any way for her future.

She is a parasite, and a particularly nasty one.

So, Mr. Stein thinks that she is the "real America", and is thus indicative of how we all have gone wrong....When she was getting nearly $¼ of a million a year for having had sex with, and born children for, a wealthy "entrepreneur."

It's a toxic mix of entitlement and evil, and he thinks that she is a sweet woman.

Of course, then he brings up his son:
...... And all of this is compounded again because my handsome son, age 21, a student, has just married a lovely young woman, 20. You may have seen on television the pudgy, aging face of their sole means of support.

...

To not be able to eat at any restaurant he feels like eating at is just not on his wavelength
. Of course, that’s my fault. (I have learned that everything bad that happens anywhere is my fault.) And I hope to be able to leave him well enough provided for to ease his eventual transition into some form of self-sufficiency.
(emphasis mine)

So first, he knows a, "sweet woman," who thinks nothing of relying on alimony to maintain an inflated lifestyle, and now he admits that he has raised a son with no concept of limits in terms of money because it is, "just not on his wavelength".

The rich feel that they are entitled because for the past 28 years, America has said that wealth is an artifact of virtue, and these is the people that Ben Stein thinks is America.

Boeing Jumps into Danish Fighter Competition

Where its Super Hornet joins the Gripen NG and the JSF.

I think that the fix is in for the JSF, bribery and coercion offsets and diplomatic considerations making any other choice highly unlikely.

The Gripen is still the cheapest alternative, but the F/A-18 E/F is not only flying, but actually in service, and so is even more of a know quantity than the Gripen.

But like I said, there is a very hard full court press going on with this aircraft.

China Releases 2008 Defense White Paper

Not surprisingly it shows an increase in spending, and far more focus on the application of the military in non warfare situations than the US military.

The Chinese see the use of their military in peacekeeping and aid situations as a necessary adjunct to their diplomacy, while the US military does its level best to stay within the bounds of "kinetic" warfare.

Certainly, China sees its military as a way to increase its diplomatic status and prestige.

Still, it's an interesting picture of what really is the only near term meaningful military rival.

24 January 2009

John Stewart is a Natural Treasure

Seriously.

Another One Bites the Dust

Another Friday, another failed, and seized, bank: 1st Centennial Bank of Redlands, CA

Reports that Gaza Death Toll May Be Lower Than Reported

While my original source, Ynetnews, should be viewed with a jaundiced eye, their report that death figures were inflated is from the respected Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera, which as best as I can tell is a well respected center to center-left paper based in Milan.

They quote a doctor as saying that deaths are likely in the 500-600 range (Google translation, original Italian version) , along with indications that a much higher number of the casualties were combatants than has been previously reported.

This is not uncommon following such a conflict, when people presumed dead start heading home.

Additionally, the dynamics in terms of public relations battle would tend create a situation where the Palestinians would be inclined to over report deaths in the first few days.

There is a historical precedent, the battle of Jenin, where the initial reports of casualties were as high as 500 , and eventually were determined to be 52 to 56.

I do not expect to see a 9.6:1 differential between initial and final numbers here, though.

Laurent Nkunda Captured by Rwandan Army

His arrest, see also here, comes as a bit of the surprise, as he was always close to the Rwandan army, and his pursuit of the remnants of the genocidal Hutu Interahamwe militias were certainly in agreement with the Rwandan government.

It appears that this might be some sort of quid quo pro, with Congo allowing Rwanda to send in troops to take out the Hutu militias in exchange for neutralizing Nkunda.

Eurocopter to Offer UH-72 Variant for ARH Contract

After the Army canceled the Bell proposal because of delays and cost overruns and put out proposals for new bids, we are now seeing Eurocopter enter the fray.

As they are already delivering the UH-72A Lakota (EC145) to the US army, they may have a leg up on competitor Boeing.

Bell could reenter the competition too, but seeing as how their helo was canceled following a 4 year day and a threefold increase in development costs, I don't think that they will.

Rumors that EADS Will Abandon A400M Transport

They have suspended production and the prototype is yet to fly, though the engine has finally taken to the air in the C-130 testbed, and now the Financial Times Deutschland is reporting that EADS is considering walking away from the contract.

I'm not sure how that would work, but EADS is facing some fairly substantial penalties for the delays, and

My guess is that the rumors, and the dire statements made by EADS executives, are an attempt to move negotiations on delays in their favor.

Land-Attack Variant of BrahMos Missile: Fail

The Mach 2.8 290 km missile missed the target, though the rest of the flight profile was successful.

It was originally developed for naval use, and the terminal guidance would be the biggest change.

There are reports that part of this test was to validate it carrying a nuclear warhead, just in case you were wondering if real peace were in danger of breaking out between India and Pakistan.

Here We Go Again

New submissions for the CSAR-X search and rescue helicopter contract.

This thing seems to have been in bid or being contested for like this whole century.

JSF Breaks Nunn-McCurdy Limits

Which means that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is massively over budget.

They have finally gotten to the point where they cannot use accounting tricks to cover this up.

I expect the unit cost to rise sharply now, and be near that of the F-22.

A number of people have been predicting this, most notably the House Appropriations Committee, who have been pushing for more Super Hornets, and the DoD, who were trying to accellerate purchases, doubtless to beat this announcement. (paid subscription required)

Bad Day at the Office

An air-to-air refueling mishap for an Italian AMX attack aircraft.

There appear to have been no injuries, but I rather imagine that the pilot got a healthy ribbing when he got back to base.



H/T Worldwide War Pigs.

Gripen NG Supercruises

On Wednesday, the Gripen NG prototype sustained Mach 1.2 at 28,000 feet without the use of afterburners, though it did use reheat to get to Mach 1.2, and then went full military power to settle to a speed, which it held until it "ran out of test area."

No idea on how long the test ran, but my guess would be something on the order of 10-30 minutes total.

Gripen International Press Release

23 January 2009

Top 10 Reasons to Watch Battlestar Galactica

Letterman

Mein Furher, I Can Walk!!!!

It's kind of anti-cat blogging on Friday, because cats are cute, and evil.

So the evil matches up, but the cute...not so much.

H/T Thin White Duke at by invitation only Stellar Parthenon BBS for both the picture, and the title.

Props to My Cousin

Who I've never met, Dianne Feinstein*, it appears that even though Obama has issued an executive order banning torture, she is proceeding with legislation to make it the law of the land:
Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California and chairwoman of the committee, said that despite the executive orders she still planned to press for legislation mandating a single standard for military and C.I.A. interrogators. Such a law would be harder to reverse than Mr. Obama’s executive order, which he could alter or cancel at any time by issuing a new order.
Cool.

*Full disclosure, my great grandfather, Harry Goldman, and her grandfather, Sam Goldman were brothers.

More Calls for Swedish Style Nationalization

And the press is beginning to cover just how well it worked, and it worked very well....A lot better than what the current free market mousketeers are trying here.

George Soros is pushing for something that it kind of halfway in between the two approaches, and I disagree. Solomon's division of the baby gets one a dead baby:
The hard choice facing the Obama administration is between partially nationalising the banks, or leaving them in private hands but nationalising their toxic assets. Choosing the first course would inflict great pain on a broad segment of the population – not only on bank shareholders but also on the beneficiaries of pension funds. However, it would clear the air and restart the economy.
That being said, George Soros is right about an awful lot.

DNI Would Minimize Contractors

Adm. Dennis Blair, the nominee for Director of National Intelligence, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that, "one of his first duties if confirmed will be to transfer to federal employees any 'inherently governmental' work being done by contractors:
Blair said the government should rely on contract interrogators only in special circumstances, such as when a suspect speaks an obscure dialect.

"My strong preference is that interrogators in the intelligence world be a professional cadre of the best interrogators in the business," Blair told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence during his nomination hearing.

Committee chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she supported Blair's call to reduce the intelligence community's reliance on contractors. She referred to a 2007 Office of the Director of National Intelligence study that found that 27 percent of the intelligence work force is comprised of contractors, and an individual contractor costs the government $80,000 more on average than a career employee.

"I find this unacceptable," Feinstein said. "Hiring contractors to interrogate detainees and contract psychologists to evaluate [them] is just the wrong thing for the government to do."
Now if only we can apply this to the rest of the government, particularly the DoD.