31 January 2010

A Good Plan View of the PAK-FA

Click for full size
H/t ELP Defens(c)e Blog
What is apparrent from this view:
Edge Alignment.
  • Relatively flat central belly area.
  • Straight through engine air path (which implies radar blockers, as in the F-117 and F/A-18E/f).
  • The flaps on the leading edge of the leading edge extensions.
  • Metallic skin on rear portion of engines.
  • Su-27 style "stinger, with a relatively large radome.
  • Landing gear appears robust.
  • Trapazoidal (stealthy) air inlets with splitter plates.
I think that the metal on the rear fuselage around the engines are an indication that whatever signature reduction techniques that they want to apply, they are not all on this model, so it reinforces my earlier assessment that this is not a representative prototype, but rather more of a validation model for the configuration.

Hopefully, This is as Close as I Ever Come to Pledge Week

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Charlie in front of the control room

Pledge drive studio while programming is going on

Pledge drive during requests for donations

Control room for studio

Control room for satellite up and downlink

Server room
Charlie just had a tour of the Maryland Public Television (MPT) studios, courtesy of his cub scout troop.

As the crow flys, it's only about a mile away from us.

It's pledge week at MPT, which meant that there was no escaping it on a tour.

We swung by twice. the 1st time, the regularly scheduled program was showing, and the 2nd time, they were in the break doing their pledge fund stuff, and I couldn't change the channel.

One of the things that I notices, and it really wasn't much of a surprise, is that the studio is actually rather a lot smaller than it appears on TV.

Seeing as how square footage costs money, this is really not surprising: You see the same thing with the Star Trek bridge in the Smithsonian.

As to Charlie's thoughts on his visit to MPT, he thought that it was an OK way to kill an hour.

A final note, I need to remember to clean my cell phone camera lens before take pictures.

Our Supreme Court

Click for full size
We're Beatrice
I have no clue as to who did the Photoshop® of this, but whoever did this, let me say, "Well Done, Sir".

30 January 2010

What Krugman Said

So says the Shrill One, and so say we all:
Put it this way: if our financial system is so high-strung, so manic-depressive, that low rates for a few years can inflate a monstrous bubble, while a few discouraging words from high officials can send them into a tailspin, this doesn’t make the case that policy must walk on eggshells, forgoing any attempt to fight prolonged unemployment. Instead, it makes the case for much, much stronger financial regulation.
I would only add that one of the metrics that should be used in financial regulation is proportion of GDP. There must be a conscious effort by regulators to keep the financial industry from becoming the tail that wags the dog of our economy.

FCS-MGV* Successor to Have Tracks

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Tracks vs wheels

Linked band track
One of the lessons from Stryker in Afghanistan is that they are too road bound which creates regular predictable routes, which makes them more vulnerable to IEDs.

When juxtaposed with their relatively thin armor, the consequences are unfortunate:
What doesn’t work is the Stryker in Afghanistan, says Scales. The 5th Stryker Brigade, operating in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar area, has taken heavy casualties, losing some 21 of the eight-​​wheeled vehicles and two dozen soldiers killed. “The vehicles have proven to be too thinly armored to survive the very large explosive power of Taliban IEDs and too immobile to maneuver off road to avoid them,” Scales writes.
I would also add that, for a given envelope, tracked vehicles are more space efficient, since the wheels on something like a Stryker are large, have significant travel, and the front (and sometimes rear) wheels sweep out a larger volume as an artifact of their pivoting to steer. (see picture)

Also, tracked vehicles are a lot better in urban conflict, because they can go over something like a junked car road block, while wheeled vehicles cannot, and because they can pivot steer, their maneuverability in close quarters is superior.

The downside of tracks is operational cost and road speed.

It's why it's rather cramped in Strykers.

Unfortunately, it appears that they are still fixated on some sort of "very quiet" track system:
“The lesson of contemporary wars is that IEDs can best be defeated by designing a vehicle capable of avoiding them,” he writes, in other words a vehicle that can go off road across rough terrain so that it isn’t limited to predictable routes. That means the future GCV must be tracked. It must also be quiet enough to be somewhat stealthy, Scales argues, which would imply a rubberized band track.
This is an area that I worked on extensively on the FCS-RMV, since, as a recovery vehicle, it would have to perform field repair, and from this perspective, band track, basically a continuous rubber band is a complete disaster.

First, with link track, every vehicle can carry a few extra links, and if there is damage to one, or two, they can repair it themselves. Additionally, they can short track, shorten the track by pulling links, and reroute the it so that one or more road wheels are not in the path.

By contrast, if a band track is broken, the crew can't repair it, the replacement has to take part as a whole (as opposed to feeding the track a link at a time around the drive and road wheels), and it's a unit, which when stored is huge, as in large enough that you need a truck to carry it to where ever you need to go to do the repairs.

There is a solution, called segmented band track, which splits the difference, so, for example, as opposed to rigid links, the tread would be made with (for example) 10 flexible treads that are linked together with pins (bottom pic), which splits the difference.

It is hoped that this will combine the simplicity of transport of link track with the light weight, lower noise, lower vibration, less wear on the road, and higher performance of continuous band track.

I will say that one of the things that should be avoided, at least on the basis of my experience with the FRMV specifically and the FCS-MGV generally, is to make a fetish of commonality between different vehicles performing different roles.

In the FCS program, almost every vehicle carried significant weight and cost penalties as a result of having a common chassis.

Commonality in systems is good, but if you take it to chassis design, you have start increasing weight and cost of the systems to attain this.

*Future Combat Systems - Manned Ground Vehicle.

Sikorsky’s X2 Looks to Break 250 MPH Early This Year

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Soon to hit 250 MPH?
Sikorsky is looking at taking the coaxial rotor compound helicopter to more than 250 miles per hour soon:
Sikorsky expects to exceed 250 kt. with its X2 Technology coaxial-rotor compound helicopter demonstrator early in the year, resetting speed expectations for rotorcraft that have been stuck at around 150 kt. for decades.

A modern reinterpretation of Sikorsky’s XH-59A Advancing Blade Concept (ABC) testbed, which reached 238 kt. in the 1970s, the X2 combines fly-by-wire control, integrated engine/rotor/propulsor system, variable-speed rotor, high-lift/drag rigid blades and active vibration control to realize the speed potential of a coaxial rotor while retaining the hover agility of a helicopter.
The ability to auto-rotate in an emergency is a big plus too.

It works by offloading the retreating blade, and so preventing retreating blade stall, which occurs when the relative speed of the blade versus the air at higher speeds falls.

The issue has always been the complexity of the flight controls, the X59A required two pilots, and vibrations, which appear to be satisfactorily addressed through active digital flight control system on the X2.

I've always favored it over the tilt rotor concept, it appears to be both simpler and more redundant, and the rotors are not a compromise between lift and propulsion that they are in something like the V-22.

Earlier posts

Why I Prefer Working for the Marine Corps

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Launching the MICLIC
I have done worked for both the US Army, on the recovery vehicle for the now-canceled Future Combat System, and for the Marine Corps on the EFV (Called the AAAV when I worked on it) amphibious landing craft.

I found that the Marine Corps requirements, as well as their personnel, were much more straightforward and matter of fact.

A case in point is the Assault Breacher engineering and mine clearance vehicle, which clears a path through mines launching, the Mine Clearing Line Charge (MICLIC), 1,750 lbs of C4 on a 100 meter rope to clear a path.

It was developed after the Army's Grizzly was canceled.

The Grizzly was much more sophisticated, with a dozer blade/plough, which would automatically maintain the desired depth, and turn over and predetonate mines, it had an automated turret, and when reviewed by the military, they found over 50 flaws that they thought made the vehicle dangerous, and potentially life threatening.

There was also the problem that creating an automatic plough to clear a lane is a non-trivial operation. The Assault Breacher has a far less ambitious blade on the front, which is not intended for quite that level of speed or automation, and because of this, it actually works.

While the EFV is still a bit of a mess, I think that its goal was too ambitious, in general the Marines look for good enough, as opposed to the ultimate in whiz bang, so they get the job done.

Russia Looks to Joint Venture With Chinese for Mi-26 Successor

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Proposed Mi-46
The Russians make the largest production helicopter in the world, the Mi-26 "Halo", and they have been considering an updated helo in the same (humongous) size range for some time.

Now, it appears that they are looking to do a joint venture with the Chinese to develope a 20T payload class helicopter. (paid subscription required)

Seeing as how the helicopter originally flew in 1977, and has been in service since 1983, there is a lot of room for improvement.

Just updating the transmission to modern aluminum alloys in the transmission and going with a more modern rotor system would probably add about 10% to payload and range performance, but that would be an upgrade rather than a completely new design.

A completely new variant might be based on the canceled Mi-46, though that was about a 12 tonne class machine.

I think that the reason for a joint venture has more to do with a potential market, they want to sell to the Chinese, than it does to any real technical or development advantage that they might gain.

Death Spiral, JSF Edition

It appears that the UK's order of JSF's may be reduced by as much as 50% because of cost and schedule issues:
The Ministry of Defence may be forced to halve its order for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) at the next Strategic Defence Review, according to a report in the Guardian.

The UK had ordered 140 of the aircraft for use by the RAF and on the Royal Navy's proposed new carriers, but the newspaper reports that "a consensus has emerged" that the number of fighters ordered is unsustainable. Delays and cost increases on the JSF programme are said to mean the MoD could be looking to order just 70 of the fighters.

Harrier and Tornado squadrons may also suffer further cuts, the report says, identifying a "huge shift" in spending that is being considered for the Strategic Defence Review following the next general election.
It's really not surprising.

Given today's fiscal environment, and the enormous cost of the JSF, it comes down to a choice of between buying the JSF for a military that lacks the resources to do anything with them, or cutting back and allowing the funds to go to things like ground forces.

Some More on the Pak-FA

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H/t Douglas Barrie at Ares

First, is that the wheels are large, and I would assume relatively low pressure, implying, as is consistent with Russian doctrine, that it is intended to operate from poorly prepared fields.

The second is that it has relatively small all moving vertical stabilizers, which implies to me that thrust vectoring might be a part of further development, though there was no evidence of such in the initial videos.

Also, the wheels were never retracted, but this is not a surprise on a first flight.

There is also what appears to be a not-particularly-lo IRST on the nose.

Also, if you look at the somewhat more detailed video, it appears that the leading edge of the leading edge extensions (a mouthful that). Aerodynamically, it appears to me to be rather similar to the leading edges of the inlets on an F-15, which pivot down for better pressure recovery at high angles of attack.

Also, lots of rivets on a closer look in the new video, which implies that this is, as I originally surmised, a demonstrator rather than a true prototype.

Urban Air Mule Demonstrates Hover

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Looks a bit Buck Rogers
So, the Israeli ducted fan cargo UAV concept has finally left the ground.

This appears to have validated the basic control systems, as well as the software.

It appears that the most likely route to success will be on an eventual autonomous ambulance (bottom pic), particularly since the ducted fan arrangement eliminates those pesky rotors which can strike buildings and people.

Here is my original post on this.

Russian R-77 (AA-12 Adder) Upgrade Tests are Complete

Blah, blah, blah!
It appears that the upgrades involve significant changes (paid subscription required):
The upgraded R-77 is both heavier and longer than the basic missile. It weighs 190 kg. (418 lb.) rather than 175 kg., and is 3.71 meters (12.17 ft.), rather than 3.6 meters, in length, according to company data.

The increased range is at least in part due to improved aerodynamics. A company executive says the radome shape has been refined, while a “boat-tail” configuration has been introduced at the rear to help drag reduction. Adapting the missile to fly lofted trajectories would also increase the maximum launch range. The executive adds that the active radar seeker has been improved. The manufacture of the RVV-SD seeker is believed to still be Istok.
It also looks like they may be moving away from the unique lattice fins, so as to improve range, at the cost of a slight loss of agility, and the need for larger actuators to move these surfaces.

Considering that the IR guided R-73 (AA-11 Archer) already out ranges the Sidewinder for dogfight applications, this may be a reasonable trade-off.
A further development of the basic R-77 design, previously associated with the Article 180 designation, is also underway, though manufacturer TRV remains unwilling to discuss the program. It is likely that the missile’s signature lattice fins have been replaced with a conventional design, with further range improvements included. This is possibly based on the introduction of a dual-, rather than a single-pulse, solid-rocket motor.
With a weight of 190 kg, as opposed to the 152 kg, physics would seem to dictate that it would have superior range and terminal energy to the AIM-120 AMRAAM, even with the "egg crate" fins.

The use of a lofted trajectory may very well be something that can be retro-fitted through software, which might allow for significant improvements in range for the existing inventory.

I will suggest that this story seems to indicate that reports of a ramjet powered R-77M1 on Wiki are premature.

Report: Brazilian Military Prefers Gripen

According to this report, the Brazilian President's first choice, the Dassault Rafale, is actually ranked 3rd:
Brazil's F-X2 fighter programme could be the subject of further delays, after a summary of the air force's 30,000-page evaluation report was leaked to one of the country's leading newspapers.

The Folha de São Paulo newspaper reported that the air force's F-X2 procurement programme committee has ranked Saab's Gripen NG as its first-choice candidate for the deal, initially for 36 aircraft, due to its lowest acquisition and operating costs. It is followed closely by Boeing's F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Block II.
I think that part of this is higher level diplomacy, with President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva believing that closer relations with France are more important than those with Sweden (that's a no-brainer), and his belief that allying with Dassault will provide more opportunities to the Brazilian aerospace industry.

The Rafale is certainly not the low cost solution, it's low production numbers mean that acquiring the aircraft will necessarily be expensive, and the Gripen is ½ the size of its competitors, with ½ the number of engines, so it will be much cheaper to operate.

I would also note that, given Swedish requirements for austere field operations, it would likely be better suited to operating from some hole-in-the-wall air strip in the Amazon jungle.

F-35 Update

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H/t ELP Defens(c)e Blog
So, the F-35 B has finally engaged its lift fan in flight, (video below) which is a step toward, but considering the fact the aircraft flew only 10% of the scheduled test flights in 2009, I guess you take what you can.

The bigger news is about the F-35 C model, where a study has been released showing that it will be significantly more expensive to operate than its predecessors:
Moreover, NAVAIR estimates the total of 680 short take-off and vertical landing F-35Bs and carrier-variant F-35Cs, ordered by the US Marine Corps and USN, respectively, will cost $30,700 to fly each hour. This compares to $18,900 for the Boeing AV-8B Harrier II and Boeing F/A-18A-D, the aircraft types the Joint Strike Fighter will replace.

Although NAVAIR projects the F-35 will fly 12% fewer flight hours than the AV-8B and F/A-18A-D fleets, the agency expects the modern aircraft to cost as much as about 25% more to operate at peak rates, the briefing says.

The unexpected cost increases mean the F-35 "will have a significant impact on naval aviation affordability", the NAVAIR document concludes.
Note that this is competing against an F/A-18 with 2 engines, and roughly the same level of installed thrust and weight.

In fact, it is more expensive to operate than the F-15 Eagle, which is significantly larger, but costs only $30,000/hour to operate and only slightly less than that of the F-22, which is nearly twice the size, and costs $44,000/hour to fly. (scroll down)

When the inevitable costs escalation is included, and part of the hourly cost is the amortization of the initial purchase, I think that the "smaller cheaper" F-35 will be nearly the cost of the F-22.

I do not consider this an argument for the F-22, just an argument for a 2nd tier that costs less (inflation adjusted) than an F-4 Phantom to operate.

The US has air dominance because it dominates the situational awareness in any potential conflict, which is done with things like advanced communications, AWACS, etc., not a plane that can break mach 1 in a vertical climb.

Lockheed-Martin's response is that the study is "not definitive," which is defense contractor speak for, "I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for your meddling kids."

29 January 2010

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?!?!? I Agree With Ben Stein?!?!?!

I must be wrong.

But Ben Stein, the most overrated intellect in America is saying that Goldman Sachs has been ripping off its clients, and that it is wrong:
That is, it, Goldman, has a legal duty to not take advantage of the people to whom it acts as a fiduciary. It also has that duty because of the way it presents itself to the world -- with all of its leaders' talk about the Goldman Sachs "culture". They don't present that culture as the value system of Louis "Lepkele" Buchalter of Murder, Incorporated or of Meyer Lansky or Bugsy Segal or The Purple Gang. They sell the company as a prestige house with solid, client-driven values. If they act to betray that trust, it's illegal.
Either something is profoundly wrong with the universe, or Matt Taibbi and I are wrong about the squid.

I'll go with the universe hiccuping.

I guess that Ben Stein gets to be right once a millennium, but don't ask me when he was right in the 1900s.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. First National Bank of Georgia, Carrolton, GA
  2. Florida Community Bank, Immokalee, FL
  3. Marshall Bank, N.A., Hallock, MN
  4. Community Bank and Trust, Cornelia
  5. First Regional Bank, Los Angeles, CA
  6. American Marine Bank, Bainbridge Island, Wa
Full FDIC list

BTW, here it is in chart with a handy, dandy least-squares trend line:

[on edit]: Updated with late failure in Washington State and tweaked graph for readability.

Why US Broadband Sucks

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The Phone Company*
Let's look at Maine, where the terminally incompetent telco Farpoint is aggressively lobbying against Maine accepting a $24.5 million grant from the federal government to build out broadband networks:
Last month, NTIA gave Great Works internet in Maine $24.5 million toward a fiber optic network. The grant is a classic public/private partnership for a middle mile project that includes, among others the University of Maine.

Fairpoint, Maine's primary rural LEC, has objected to this “undue competition with the private sector.” This would be funny, given how Fairpoint has become the poster child for the failure of the private sector to deliver on its big promises to rural communities. But Fairpoint's talking points have ended up in legislation filed by Maine State Senator Lisa Marrache (D-Waterville) and Maine State Rep. Stacey Fitts (R-Pittsfield). Despite the fact that middle mile build out will help companies like Fairpoint (while also helping their competitors), we get the usual ideologically-driven nonsense about how the public sector ought to know its place and leave the driving to the all-knowing and super-efficient firms like Fairpoint — assuming Maine's rural residents like the prospect of waiting for a bankrupt company [Yes, literally. Farpoint went Chapter 11] to satisfy its creditors and bring them broadband.
While this money would improve access and service for everyone, it would make it easier for companies to compete against Farpoint, the incumbent, so they are fighting this tooth and nail, because their service has been so unbelievably horrible that they know that they will hemorrhage customers if anything near free and fair.

That's what this is all about.

There is more money in locking out competitors than there is in improving service, so US broad band, driven by private interests, is slower, more expensive, less reliable, and less accountable.

Damn, sounds a lot like out healthcare system.

*The President's Analyst, see IMDB and Wiki.

Deep Thought:

Murray Hill Incorporated is Running for Congress

How About Paying Them More?

Yawn, another day, another report saying that the dearth of US citizens interested in majoring in technical fields is a national security threat:
Sure, we’re all plugged in and online 24/7. But fewer American kids are growing up to be bona fide computer geeks. And that poses a serious security risk for the country, according to the Defense Department.

The Pentagon’s far-out research arm Darpa is soliciting proposals for initiatives that would attract teens to careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), with an emphasis on computing. According to the Computer Research Association, computer science enrollment dropped 43 percent between 2003 and 2006.
Umm ………… Hello?!?!?!?

You are asking how to encourage people who have the proficiencies to go into a technical field to do that, as opposed to, for example, becoming a banker or a stock broker.

But, of course, like the Cylons, they have a plan:
The agency doesn’t offer specifics on what kinds of activities might boost computing’s appeal to teens, but they want programs to include career days, mentoring, lab tours and counseling.
Like that will work: Ignore the poor pay and benefits, and the fact that your barista at Starbucks® used to be in IT, but after he got laid off the last time, he couldn't find another job, because he only knows C++, not C#, because being a computer programmer or an engineer is just so f%$#ing cool.

By definition, people who have the wherewithal to go into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are people who can count.

If you want them to take a technical major, you have to promise better pay and benefits.

Duh …………

Economics Update

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Worst post-Depression recession
H/t Economic Policy Institute
So, US GDP grew at a 5.7% annual rate in the 4th quarter, according to the advance estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Some points: First, 5.7% is a spectacularly good number, the best in about 6 years, second, I expect that as more data comes in, future revisions will be downward, third, much of this growth was from a low "deflator" number, basically meaning that the numbers were juiced by the extraordinarily low inflation numbers, and fourth, as Krugman notes, it was an inventory blip, with over half of the growth being restocking of depleted inventories, not real growth.

Even with this number, as the graph pr0n shows, we are still down from peak more than any other recession since WWII.

Still, the Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers was up more than forecast, to 74.4, and given that consumer spending is most of our economy, it is a big deal.

As to energy and currency, the GDP numbers did what was expected, with the dollar strengthening, and the stronger dollar pushing oil down.

[on edit]
Just in, in 2009, wages and benefits rose the least since statistics began to be kept in 1982.

Funny Headline of the Day

EU-funded think tanks defend their credibility

It's not just that they are government funded, it's the whole idea of think-tanks and credibility being juxtaposed.

Maybe the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Manhattan Institute, and of course the original wanker think tank, the Brookings Institution, have soured me on the whole concept.

I just see them as exercises in cronyism.

Think tanks have no credibility.

[on edit]
There are any number of advocacy organizations that do good things, but they aren't think tanks, they actually work in the context of the regulatory process to get things done, rather than just crank out paper for whoever pays their bills.

A good example is Public Knowledge, where they spend a lot of time actually doing things like making arguments before the FCC on regulatory issues.

There are good people in think tanks, but they do their good work elsewhere.

Seriously, This is What is Wrong with America

Ben Bradley's wife, otherwise known as Sally Quinn, is a fixture in Washington, and Jamison Foser has a good rundown on just what exactly she is:
You cannot caricature Sally Quinn. Don't even try. It simply can't be done. No matter how hard you try to exaggerate her preening self-regard and utter frivolity, she comes right along and shows herself to be worse than you could possibly imagine.

Quinn -- who gained fame when The Washington Post was forced to retract her false claim that Jimmy Carter's national security adviser unzipped his fly during an interview -- makes the extraordinary claim in her January 26 column that Carter lost his re-election campaign due to his failure to attend Washington dinner parties. Not only that -- according to Quinn, Ted Kennedy ran against Carter because of it:…
She is a failed newspaper reporter (see above), a failed TV reporter, I saw her on the CBS Morning News in the 1970s, and a failed novelist, and is now a serial party girl and hostess.

As was noted some years back in Salon Magazine, "She would go to the opening of an envelope."

Basically, she married into Washington, DC royalty, in the person of former Post Editor-in-Chief Ben Bradlee, and then did her best to become the queen bee of the Washington social circle.

So, what does this mean? It means that when she writes about why things happen in Washington, DC, it's because they don't kiss the ass of the party crowd:
  • Carter lost his bid for reelection, and got a primary challenge from Ted Kennedy, because he and Rosalynn didn't go to the the Washington parties.
  • Watergate took down Nixon because he didn't go to the the Washington parties, so he had no support from people like Sally Quinn.
  • The Republicans attempted coup masquerading as an impeachment investigation against Bill Clinton because he and Hillary didn't go to the the Washington parties.
  • George W. Bush was bad, because, "The Bushes almost never went out and the president was in bed by 9:30, even when they entertained, which was rare," so they did not go to the the Washington parties.
  • That Barack Obama is icky, because he's making people work so hard that they do not have time to go to the the Washington parties.
Beginning to see a pattern?

I am beginning to pine for Madame la Guillotine.

Anti-Abortion Terrorist Convicted of Murder

The Jury deliberated only 37 minutes before convicting him of 1st degree murder, which means that they basically voted to convict while waiting to get into the jury room:
In a trial that never became the referendum on abortion that some abortion foes wanted, Scott Roeder, a 51-year-old airport shuttle driver, was convicted today of murdering George Tiller, one the nation's few physicians who performed late-term abortions.

The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for only 37 minutes. Roeder faces life in prison after being convicted of first-degree murder.

Roeder also was convicted on two counts of aggravated assault for threatening to shoot church ushers Keith Martin and Gary Hoepner as he fled Reformation Lutheran Church after murdering Tiller.
This guy needs to be prosecuted under federal statutes too, and locked up under the most severe restrictions possible at the SuperMax until he breaks, and gives up his accomplices, because it's clear that they wound him up, and pointed him at tiller.

Russian PAK-FA Flies

Click for full size
Here is a decent quality picture
The aircraft made its first flight at Komsomolsk-on-Amur, duration about 45 minutes, the Sukhoi's air field near Russia's Pacific coast.

Note that this is more of a demonstrator than anything else, and by way of comparison, the BAE EAP, the demonstator for the Eurofighter Typhoon, first flew in August 1986, but entered service in August 2003, a 17 year lag.

To the degree that I can get a look at the cockpit arrangement, and it's a couple of times that I have paused the videos (below), it appears that the canopy has not gotten any sort of stealth treatment yet.

There also appears to be a fair amount of edge alignment.

This, along with the visible smoke trails from engines, implies to me that this is more a demonstrator than a prototype

The the 2nd video makes that fairly clear that they are staying with the straight inlets and widely spaced inlets of the Flanker and Fulcrum, , so I'm not sure how they keep RCS down. There might be radar blockers in the inlets.

Interesting, they retain the widely spaced straight through inlets of the Flanker and Forger. I wonder how they reduce the RCS, perhaps radar blockers in the inlets.

Also, it appears that agility is a larger priority, as it has a cranked delta wing, which tends to improve nose authority at higher angles of attack.

I wonder if they are operating under the assumption that sensor fusion and increased processing power will mitigate stealth going forward, or they may have decided that lowering RCS to improve jamming efficiency was a more economical path forward than going with extreme stealth.

H/t ELP Defens(c)e

28 January 2010

On Paywalls and Newspapers

Newsday got bought out by the Dolan family, the folks who own Cable Vision, and they promptly put the website behind a subscription wall.

Do you know how many people are willing to buy a $5 a week subscription to the Long Island newspaper?

Well, after 3 months, they have 35 subscribers, so I think that their newsroom outnumbers the web page subscribers.

I think that the folks at the New York Times are in for a world of hurt.

Their pay wall is a bit different, you get a few stories before having to pay, but what it will mean to folks like me is that I won't link to them unless they have a big exclusive. It's just not worth it to me.

As it currently stands, I do link to them frequently as a paper of record.

Now, I'm sure that the loss of the eyeballs of my reader(s) does not mean much in the scheme of things, but when their OP/EDs were behind a pay wall, they completely fell off the screen on the internet.

Economics Update

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H/t Calculated Risk
It's what Atrios calls "Jobless Thursday", and while the number of people filing for initial unemployment claims fell, it was less than forecast, claims fell t0 470,000, not the estimate of 450,000, the 4 week moving average rose, and the number of continuing claims fell by 57,000 to 4.6 million.

On a brighter side (above link) orders for durable goods did rise in December, as did orders for capital goods, and while the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago's economic activity index of fell in December, the 3-month moving average rose.

Personally, I tend to place more credence in the transportation based indices, and so the fact that the Baltic Dry Index, an index of shipping costs, fell to a 3 month low, to be the thing that I would hold onto, which makes me bearish ………… Then again, I'm always bearish.

Since I missed the economics update yesterday, I should note that the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee kept its benchmark Fed Funds rate 0.25%, effectively 0%, and while their statement was significantly more upbeat than last time, they are still signaling that the rates will remain low for some time.

Meanwhile, in real estate, Freddie Mac issued a report showing that mortgage delinquencies jumped in December, and new-home sales fell again in December, in yet another indication that the recent activity was an artifact of the tax credit, as opposed to any real market turn around.

One interesting data point, again from Freddie, is that the ratio of people cashing out from their houses to those lowering balances or rates hit an all time low, meaning that people were refinancing to lower their payments, and not using their homes as an ATM.

In the long run, this is a good thing, but in the short run, it runs headlong into the paradox of thrift.

In the more general world of finance and banking, we are seeing skittishness about things like the Greek financial problems, and so there is a flight to quality, which has increased demand for US Treasuries, which has driven the rate on the 1-month treasury to a negative interest for the first time in 10 months, interestingly enough, the T-bill auctions seem to indicate that it's Americans who are fleeing to quality, as the last auction had robust demand, but foreign buyers seemed to be backing off, at least the foreign central banks.

In consumer debt, credit card charge-offs fell a little in December, which indicates that people are a bit more able to pay off their debt, though the fact that Chase had a "payment holiday" may be a large reason for this.

In the old standards of energy and currency, crude oil fell slightly, while the dollar hit a 6½ month high against the Euro, largely on concerns that Greece will go the way of Ukraine, the Baltic States, or Iceland.

Of course, since Greece is in the Euro zone, when none of the other nations were, that is where it gets pretty hinky.

Full FOMC statement after the break:

J.D. Salinger Dead at 91

It bears noting, though I do not particularly care from a literary perspective.

I hated Catcher in the Rye.

OK, I Didn't Live Blog the SOTU

Though thankfully, because of my Eastern European Jewish heritage, I have no hangover.

That being said, I watched, and drank every time he cock-punched the DFH's,* so most of my thoughts are probably not that valuable, or coherent.

That being said, he did call for the repeal of the Military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, and now Valerie Jarrett is saying that he is, "committed to getting it done."

Now, let's see what happens when Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman get all pissy about it.

See video (11:35, and the interview with Jarret starts at about 3:05, and the exchange on DADT is at about 10:45)

*Dirty F%$#ing Hippies.


The Senate votes to reappoint Bernanke.

Remember all that hopey-changey stuff about protecting consumers and transparency? It's done, or mostly done.

It will be fully done when the Grayson-Paul bill to audit the Fed is defeated.

Senate Approves Debt Ceiling Increase

To $14.3 trillion.

Thankfully, that's one opportunity for the "centrists" to engage in juvenile guerrilla theater that has gone away.

Well, All Signs Point to a Senate Appointment of Ben Bernanke Soon

The current whip count has more than 50 Senators voting for him, and because Wall Street wants him, it appears that arms are being twisted in the Senate to get Senators who vote against him to vote for cloture, because, I guess, a stimulus package to reduce unemployment, or a fix to America's broken healthcare plan, both of which required 60 votes to clear the Senate are less important than reappointing Wall Street's lapdog at the Federal reserve.

Paul Krugman nails it in one sentence
I can hardly think of anything more calculated to solidify the view that Wall Street doesn’t have to play by the rules that apply to everyone else.
We have had reports of a number of Senators, including Barbara Boxer, who now appears to have a contentious reelection bid ahead of her.

I think that the two are tied together: Voting for Bernanke is voting for Wall Street, and your opponent can make hay of it.

Harry Reid took a slightly lower key approach, announcing his support for Helicopter Ben late on a Friday evening, so it would not get much press, and the wording is intended to make it sound conditional (it's not). Faint praise indeed.

FWIW, if you vote for cloture, your opponent will make just as much hay of it.

Interestingly enough it is the arguments for his reappointment that make the best argument against his reappointment.

For example, we have a story saying that a Bernanke defeat would rattle Wall Street and so might precipitate a double dip recession.

It's wrong on a number of levels, not the least of which is that we are going to have a double dip recession anyway, because, between new defaults in residential and commercial real estate and the increase in oil prices, the so-called recovery that we have seen won't happen.

The bigger point though is the reason that Bernanke leaving the post would rattle the financial markets is because that they feel that if they screw up royally, then Bernanke will bail them out by pumping money into the system or slashing rates.

Wall Street is looking at a "Bernanke put," which much like his predecessor's "Greenspan put," (both described at the same link) create moral hazard and encourage risk taking.

It's pretty clear that Ben Bernanke is aggressively lobbying Senators to get reappointed, see his promises of transparency in the Federal Reserve that he made in a meeting with Dick Durbin, but it is just as true that all the moves toward transparency and consumer protection will end once he is reappointed and the audit bill is killed.

At this point, I think that the only chance that he won't be reappointed lies with the accusations by Senator Jim Bunning and Darryl Issa that Bernanke is lying about his involvement in the AIG fiasco, and relying on those two lying chowder-heads is not something that I am particularly sanguine about.

Jon Stewart is a F%$#ing Genius

I think that he highlights nicely the stupidity, hubris, and absolute lack of value of the big banks and the markets.


27 January 2010

The Racism of Our Press

Whenever someone flings a shoe at someone as a gesture of contempt, the press seems compelled to note that this action is an Arab gesture of contempt.

As Matthew Yglesias notes, when commenting on a shoe throwing incident involving Sudanese President Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, throwing shoes means, "you suck!" in every society out there:
My continuing question about this shoe-throwing business is in what culture, exactly, is it not the case that throwing a shoe at a guy giving a speech is a sign of contempt? I recall going as far back as when shoes were thrown at Iyad Allawi media types calmly explaining that this is an insult “in Arab culture.” But is the message really so unclear that we needed to break out our handy-dandy Arab cultural translation manual for? I think one thing that makes the shoe-toss such an effective gesture of protest against figures in the global news is that the message is loud, clear, and unambiguous to an audience from any culture. You’re talking to an audience, I’m in the audience throwing a shoe at you—it’s disrespectful.
You see, young Yglesias, the press is, or believes that their audience is, full of racists, and so they feel the need to describe the behaviors of brown people as if they were tour guides on safari.

Howard Zinn 1922-2010

He was 87.

He was a liberal, some say radical, historian with a gift for polemics.

He will be missed.

Can We Please Give Texas Back to Mexico?

There is an author named Bill Martin, who wrote a political treatise called Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation

There is another author named Bill Martin, who wrote a children's book called, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

They are different authors, but it appears that the the right wing morons who control the State Board of Education did not realize this:
What do the authors of the children's book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and a 2008 book called Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation have in common?

Both are named Bill Martin and, for now, neither is being added to Texas schoolbooks.

In its haste to sort out the state's social studies curriculum standards this month, the State Board of Education tossed children's author Martin, who died in 2004, from a proposal for the third-grade section. Board member Pat Hardy, R-Weatherford, who made the motion, cited books he had written for adults that contain "very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system."

Trouble is, the Bill Martin Jr. who wrote the Brown Bear series never wrote anything political, unless you count a book that taught kids how to say the Pledge of Allegiance, his friends said. The book on Marxism was written by Bill Martin, a philosophy professor at DePaul University in Chicago.
You see the phrase, "Brown bear, brown bear, what do I see?" is just so similar to, "that would in effect overturn the imperialist system, and that would depend on creating, as Mao saw, self-reliant economies, not liable to exploitation."

The stupid, it burns us!!!!!

H/t La Figa

I am not Live-Blogging Obama's State of the Union Speech

Because I am going to be playing Atrios's drinking game:
Drink when he says "Some on the left..."
100 proof Slivovitz. Pray for me.

Tax Sanity from Oregon

Having gone to high school in Portland, I am shocked that Oregonians have passed initiatives increasing taxes on the wealthy and large corporations, measures 66 and 67, by large margins.

This is surprising for Oregon?

I'm sure that a lot of you are saying, but it's Oregon, it's liberal, and you would be wrong.

In the 1920s, Oregon was the most Klan dominated state ever, and on taxes:
The double-barreled victory is the first voter-approved statewide income tax increase since the 1930s. Other states, facing similar budget woes, are watching the outcome closely because Oregon, after all, is a state that capped property taxes and locked a surplus tax rebate program into the constitution.

The last time voters approved a tax increase was 2002, when they agreed to bump up tobacco taxes to help pay for the Oregon Health Plan. Voters rejected income tax increases twice in recent years.
People in Oregon, which has a vociferous anti-tax streak in the electorate, have realized that if you want services, you have to pay for them.

More notably, it's a broad based tax.

Cigarette taxes are seen as punishment for bad behavior, while the income taxes are seen as dues for being a part of society.

This is a big deal because it's not a sin-tax, or a lottery, it's a real broad based tax.

Here's a Surprise

Remember those GMO herbicide resistant crops?

You know, the ones that would allow for more productivity because you could spray them with weed killer, and only the weeds would die?

Well, not so much:
The authors of the report, entitled “Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use,” used US Department of Agriculture data to look at America’s three largest genetically engineered crops – soybeans, corn, and cotton. They found that the amount of herbicides used on them has increased from 1996 to 2008 by approximately 7 or 8 percent, with a particularly sharp increase from 2005 on.

In particular, the amount of Roundup that is used on genetically engineered crops has multiplied several times during the time period, says the report’s main author, Charles Benbrook, who's the chief scientist at the Organic Center.

“This big increase in herbicide is driven largely by the emergence of Roundup-resistant weeds,” Dr. Benbrook says. But “industry is still saying to the public that genetic engineering [has] reduced herbicide use.
So, you have a new technology, one that rewards the over-use of herbicides in the short term, and in the long term, you end up creating resistant weeds.

<snark>Hoocoodanode? After all, when hospitals massively overused antibiotics, and farmers started putting in their feed, there was no similar incident of antibiotic resistant pathogens. </snark>

Is Joe Biden Suggesting that He Might Rule the Filibuster Unconstitutional?

He's coming down very hard on the filibuster, and I'm wondering if he is sending a signal that, as President of the Senate, he is prepared to rule that the filibuster is unconstitutional:
"As long as I have served ... I've never seen, as my uncle once said, the Constitution stood on its head as they've done. This is the first time every single solitary decisions has required 60 senators," he said at a Florida fundraiser, according to the pool report. “No democracy has survived needing a super majority."
The author of the story seems to think that this is an attempt to create a groundswell for using reconciliation to fix healthcare, but I think that Biden might be suggesting something even more radical.

I think (hope) that he is prepared to kill the filibuster.

The interesting thing here, is that the "Centrists" must be crapping their pants over this possibility, since their real agenda is to do nothing ever, and a change to the filibuster rules would make it much more difficult to do nothing ever.

Just Primary Her

Yes, once again, another Senate "sentrist" appears to be determined to ensure that nothing good will pass the senate:
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D[INO]-AR) will oppose Dem efforts to move health care legislation through Congress using budget reconciliation, hurting Dems' chances for using the controversial parliamentary maneuver to pass a reform bill.

"I am opposed to and will fight against any attempts to push through changes to the Senate health insurance reform legislation by using budget reconciliation tactics that would allow the Senate to pass a package of changes to our original bill with 51 votes," Lincoln said in a statement on Tuesday. "I have successfully fought for transparency throughout Senate deliberations on health care, and I will continue to do so."

"I will not accept any last-minute efforts to force changes to health insurance reform issues through budget reconciliation, and neither will Arkansans. We have worked too long and too hard on this reform effort - we need to get it right," she said.
By "We", of xourse, she means "her", and she does not want a process that diminishes her ability to f%$# with people's lives, because she wants someone kissing her ass.

Matthew Yglesias is right when he calls out the Senate "centrists", and notes that they "seem prepared to resume their customary role as the villains whose consistently egomaniacal and self-destructive behavior has badly damaged the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans."

Saab Auto to Survive

I think that the folks at GM have finally realized that they could either close down the company, pay the costs for that, and secure the undying enmity of a lot of potential future customers, or sell it to someone for a bag of magic beans.

In this case, "someone" is the Dutch sports car manufacturer, and the magic beans are $74 million in cash and $326 million in preferred shares, which, for a company that can manufacture about 100,000 cars a year, is a pittance.

I've always liked the cars, though I've never owned one, and I think that this is a positive.

26 January 2010

God Bless The Onion

They published a guest column from Rush Limbaugh, "I Don't Even Want To Be Alive Anymore."

Just go read it.

Economics Update

Well, the news has been pretty good today with the American Trucking Association Truck Tonnage Index rising in December, and the Conference Board's consumer confidence index rose sharply in January, while across both ponds, the UK GSP rose in the 4th quartter opf 2009, indicating an possible end to their recession, and Japanese exports rose for the first time since the Lehman collapse.

I will note that ex-consumer confidence, these could be temporary blips from the need to restock inventories.

In the old standards of oil and currency, oil fell, largely on concerns about a downgrade on Japanese sovereign debt, while the dollar was mixed, up vs the Euro and Pound, but down vs. the Yen, and I'm just confused about that.

Mostly, I think that the markets are holding their breath waiting for the Fed's meeting this week to finish.

More College Republican Bull Sh%$

Remember James O'Keefe, he dressed up like a pimp, and got those videos of ACORN helping him and his "Ho" buying a whore house.

I believe that at the time, I thought that I didn't have much to add, and besides, College Republican guerrilla theater bullsh%$ just wasn't particularly interest, so I limited my self to the bill of attainder that Congress passed.

Well, James O'Keefe has now taken College Republican antics straight to the felony level, by attempting to wiretap the office of Senator Mary Landrieu with three friends, Joseph Basel, Stan Dai and Robert Flanagan.

They pretended to be phone repair guys, and they tried to tap phones, so it appears to be a clear case of, "entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony," which can get you 10 years, and if they have more evidence of tapping equipment, then the jail time can go to 20 years.

Oops! It's all fun and games until someone puts an eye out, I guess.

The kicker on all this, Robert Flanagan is, "the son of William Flanagan, who is the acting U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana."

Any wonder what political discussions are like in the Flanagan house?

Do you wonder, just a little bit, if maybe Flanagan the elder might be inclined to make politically motivated prosecutions? Do you wonder even a little?

This is why the decision not to review the illegal political hirings at the DoJ was a bad idea.

It sounds hopey-changey to let bygones to be bygones, but what this means is that the legal toxic waste that are Bush DoJ hires remains on site.

Sent to My Senators, Re: Bernanke (Please Vote No)

I sent them the following:

I am writing to ask you to vote against reappointing Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Additionally, I am requesting that you support a filibuster of his nomination.

While I believe that he is a very talented economist, I believe that his outlook, and his prior performance, make him unsuited for continued service in this position.

First, and most importantly, he has made it clear that he will not move on unemployment if it means moving away from a 2% inflation target by the Federal Reserve.

His statements saying that his goal was to preserve, "the anchoring of inflation expectations," is simply dangerous and wrong in the midst of the worst downturn since the Great Depression.

By expressly stating that he will choose to ignore the 2nd mission of the Federal, the maintenance of full employment, he has shown himself to be ideologically unsuited to the post.

Given that unemployment is at 10% by the U-3 measure, or 17.3% by the more representative U-6 measure, and there is little if any indication that there will be significant improvement in the jobless rate this year, this is short sighted and destructive.

Additionally, his fierce opposition to reforms of the financial system, particularly his opposition to the Financial Consumer Protection Agency (FCPA) shows that he is out of touch with the need to protect consumers from predatory institutions marketing dishonest financial instruments.

His suggestion that the Federal Reserve would fulfill this role, when it had that role pre-crisis, and refused to act on credible evidence of fraud and deception, is simply nonsense.

This is further compounded by his position on transparency at the Federal Reserve, where he is clearly stonewalling every effort for investigators to understand the nature of the financial meltdown of 2008.

The unwillingness to come clean on the failures that might have happened at the Federal Reserve Board and the regional banks means that there will be no meaningful disclosure, and without disclosure, no lessons will be learned, and this cycle will be repeated, particularly given his record of being an enthusiastic cheerleader for the housing bubble, and the associated dodgy mortgage bubble, before they popped.

The primary argument for his reappointment is that if he is not reappointed, it will somehow shake the financial markets, and trigger another disaster.

This analysis assumes two things:
  1. That he has been thoroughly captured by Wall Street, and so the large investment banks are demanding that he kept to serve their interests, and not those of the people.
  2. That he is simply indispensable, and as Charles de Gaulle said, "The graveyards are full of indispensable men."
If there are lessons to be learned from Alan Greenspan's disastrous tenure, it is that the "Greenspan Put", where the expectation of bailout created moral hazard that led to reckless behavior, and that the "Rock Star" Fed Chair is to be avoided at all cost.
I followed up with a phone call to both offices.

Economics Update (a Day Late)

So, we now have some idea just how much the new home buyer tax credit artificially inflated the market, because existing home sales fell 16.7% from November to December.

Since existing home sales are recorded at closing, and in order to qualify for the tax credit, the sale had to close before the end of November, this (seasonally adjusted) number shows that just anemic residential real estate is.

In overseas central banks, the Bank of Japan has kept its benchmark rate at 0.1% (effectively 0%) as they continue to fight what is now a nearly 20 year long deflationary spiral.

In energy, oil was up slightly, while in currency, the US dollar fell slightly.

The Boys from Brazil

Or maybe Crawford, TX, and Bush's pig farm.

OK, so this picture is captioned, "Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, also known as Joe the Plumber, right, appears with Arkansas Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Conrad Reynolds."

Does Mr. Reynolds look familiar, as in Boys from Brazil familiar?

The Republicans are cloning George W. Bush.

Tekeli Li!!!! Tekeli Li!!!! Tekeli Li!!!!


H/t Jollyreaper at the by invitation only Stellar Parthenon BBS for the catch.

25 January 2010

Cute, and True: 1000 Words on Volker and Obama

What gives this verisimilitude is that Obama is riding this backwards.

H/t The Big Picture

Ali Hassan al-Majeed AKA "Chemical Ali" Hung

No comment, but it deserves notice.

Oh, For Pete's Sake!!!!

Well, I'm listening to Olbermann, and Barack Hoover, or maybe it's Herbert Obama, I'm not sure which, is suggesting his latest bold initiative: A domestic spending freeze, which means that, with inflation, it's a domestic spending cut.

So, is actually trying to screw up the economy and get a Republican House, Senate and White House in 2012?

Unemployment is still rising, and he's so eager to pander to Republicans, who would hate him even if he were white, that he's determined to play Herbert Hoover, and cut the budget in the middle of a recession.

I'm beginning to think that he's actually Mitch McConnell's evil twin.

[on edit]

Original Courtesy of Quentin Tarantino, with typography by mdaisey
This has been confirmed by the Washington Post, and Maddow had White House advisor Jared Bernstein on, he said that they won't freez/cut everything, just the bad and wasteful stuff ………… During a recession……… With unemployment still climbing ……………

And they are going to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff because it works so f%$#ing well in Congress today.

Seriously, I have to evoke Samuel Jackson from pulp fiction again, because the idea that they will "only" cut the wasteful stuff projects the idea that they are trying to f%$# me like a bitch because they think that I am stupid.

Hell, it's an insult to the intelligence of Sarah Palin.

Just Read Some Guy With a Website

Here is the link to his latest comic.

It's brutal.

Olbermann vs. Stewart

Jon Stewart called out Keith Olbermann, complete with a Special Comment style rant, and to his credit, Keith Olbermann included the whole bit in his broadcast, and replied, "You're right, I've been a little over the top lately………Sorry."

I count it as manning up, though his one complaint, that he wants to be interviewed by Stewart, is completely legitimate. It would be a lot of fun.


24 January 2010

What the Hell is it With South Carolina

First they start the Civil War, then there is the entire Confederate flag thing, which is followed by the Governor who makes the phrase, "hiking the Appalachian Trail," suspect, and now we have their Lieutenant Governor, and candidate for Governor calling for a eugenic program to exterminate poor people:
GREENVILLE - Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer has compared giving people government assistance to "feeding stray animals."

Bauer, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor, made his remarks during a town hall meeting in Fountain Inn that included state lawmakers and about 115 residents.

"My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better," Bauer said.

In South Carolina, 58 percent of students participate in the free and reduced-price lunch program.
I know Southerners of all stripes, and whether they are young or old, or conservative or liberal, they are generally very offended by what they see as the insinuation that Southerners are somehow stupid as a people.

They are correct, of course, there are some stupid people in any group that you define.

That being said, electing Andre Bauer to any office, including dog catcher or head of the PTA, would tend to reinforce that unfortunate stereotype.

Jim Camer Must Hate Jon Stewart

Jim Cramer claimed that the Scott Brown victory drove markets up on Tuesday, but the markets closed before the polls did, but stocks actually fell when they got the news, on Wednesday.

Scroll forward to about 7:50 for complete pwn463 (ownage), or hell, just watch the whole thing, it's Jon Stewart:

H/t Calculated Risk

Tefillin of Mass Destruction

Click for full size

You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes

--Deuteronomy 6:8
So a plane was diverted to Philadelphia on a New York to Kentucky flight because of concerns of the straps and boxes that a Jewish Teen was wearing as he prayed:
Jewish teen’s prayers spark airliner scare
Flight is diverted after religious item is mistaken for a bomb, police say

updated 9:18 a.m. ET, Fri., Jan. 22, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - A Jewish teenager trying to pray on a New York-to-Kentucky flight caused a scare Thursday when he pulled out a set of small boxes containing holy scrolls, leading the captain to divert the flight to Philadelphia, where the commuter plane was greeted by police, bomb-sniffing dogs and federal agents.

The 17-year-old on US Airways Express Flight 3079 was using tefillin, a set of small boxes containing biblical passages that are attached to leather straps, Philadelphia police Lt. Frank Vanore said.
You know, the guy wearing Tefillin is among the people least likely to be an Islamic bomber.

Now This is An Interesting Phenomenon

The Dallas, TX alternate weekly, the Dallas Observer, has the story of a guy with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt from the collapse of the real estate bubble (and short sighted greed, but I repeat myself) who is now earning money by suing debt collectors who contact him and forget to cross their "i"s and dot their "t"s:

He [Craig Cunningham of Northeast Dallas ] leans forward to lift some paperwork out of a plastic tub on the coffee table. The phone rings, and he answers with a soft voice. It's just a friend, and soon he hangs up. He's waiting for a particular type of phone call—one from a representative of a debt collection agency or a credit card company, whom he'll try to ensnare like a Venus fly trap. It's not unlikely that Cunningham's next call will be from a bill collector, since he's between jobs—except for being in the Army Reserve—and owes $100,000 in debts.

While most Americans with unpaid bills dread the collector's call, Cunningham sees them as lucrative opportunities. Many collection and credit card companies, intentionally or not, violate little-known consumer rights laws, and Cunningham's favorite pastime is catching them doing so and then suing them. In fact, it's a profitable side job.

Call it ironic, but the only house on the block that appears to be the foreclosed end to some sad financial story is in fact the home of one of the debt collection industry's emerging and persistent threats. Cunningham calls himself a private attorney general—someone who files private lawsuits in the public interest. Debt collectors call him a credit terrorist.

I do not think that he is a terrorist, but I do think that Mr. Cunningham is a slime, not because he's using the small print to make money from, and avoid debt, that is, after all, the game, but because he went and used things like student loans in his attempts to juice his credit score [go to the full article] in an attempt to become wealthy without really working.

I know that some would argue that becoming wealthy without work or other productive activity is the American way, but it's slimy, and if it is the American way, then the American way over the past 30 years has become slimy and parasitic.

The way that he gets money is that the the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which forbid debt collectors from violating federal or state laws, and provides for statutory damages for each instance, so if a collector threatens to garnish wages in Texas, where it is illegal, they are liable, even if the caller is in Butte Montana or Bangalore, India.

So, for example, when a collection agency started leaving pre-recorded messages on his mobile, a violation of the, and refused to stop when he asked, while refusing to show that the bill (a tiny Comcast bill), both violations of the TCPA and FDCPA, and the collection agency has

CMI has countersued Cunningham, and even asked the court for a protective order from Cunningham: "Plaintiff Craig Cunningham (herein "Plaintiff") has filed suit against a business, Credit Management, LP (herein "CMI"), and twenty-seven (27) of its employees in their individual capacities," reads the motion for a protective order filed in Northern District of Texas in December 2009. "Defendants move for a protective order to protect Defendants from the annoyance, oppression, undue burden and expense of objecting and responding to improper, repetitive and irrelevant discovery requests."

In December, Cunningham was called in for a six-hour deposition, the longest he's ever sat through, at which the lawyers printed out pages of his online comments to accuse him of acting like a lawyer. Plus, CMI insists that they didn't violate any laws and that Cunningham is acting in bad faith. Although the company already offered Cunningham money to settle the case, Cunningham refused, asking for much more than the "industry standard," as Cunningham calls it, of $3,500.

"If they don't pay a bunch of money, if they don't feel pain, they will not change," he says.

A big win in his case against CMI could go a long way toward clearing Cunningham's debts—if he ever chose to pay them, that is.

"I took outsize risks, and I got burned," he says. "When myself and some other fellow small investors were losing their assets, nobody cared."

Up until now, everything was about making easy money for Cunningham. Now, it's about justice—or at least what he sees as justice.
He's right about that point: All those people who scream about how the small print, and the rule of law, matter for the small debtor, seem to think that it's somehow evil to expect large debtor and their agents.

I see courts being more amenable to claims like Cunningham's in the future, and that is not a bad thing.

H/t The Big Picture.

23 January 2010

US Military 1 - Jesus 0

Click for full size

Picture h/t Dating Jesus
Remember Trijicon, the company that was busy painting targets on the back of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan included references to Christian bible verses on the optical sites (don't call them sniper scopes) that are being used by our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Well, while the Army may have downplayed the importance, the Marine Corps, made it clear that these markings would materially effect their current and future contracts, and so the "Scopes for Jesus" company has agreed to stop engraving the bible references, as well as providing tools to remove the references on their existing sights:
Trijicon, the gunsight maker that has imprinted Bible verse numbers on its scopes, has announced that it will no longer imprint the verses on the sides of scopes intended for the U.S. military, and will also provide clients with the kits to remove the Bible verse numbers from existing scopes.

An ABC News report earlier this week revealed that the Michigan-based company, which has a contract to provide up to 800,000 scopes to the U.S. military, prints references to New Testament chapters and verses in code next to the model numbers of its scopes. The scopes are used by the U.S. Marine Corps and Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by U.S. allies in those countries, and for the training of Afghan and Iraqi troops.
There now, that wasn't so hard, was it.

My original post on this.

This is Harsh

Jimmy Kimmel bitch slaps Jay Leno:

It's brutal.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!! (on Saturday)

Delayed because of my being away from home.

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. Premier American Bank, Miami, FL
  2. Bank of Leeton, Leeton, MO
  3. Charter Bank, Santa Fe, NM
  4. Evergreen Bank, Seattle, WA
  5. Columbia River Bank, The Dalles, OR
Great Googly Moogly, 5 banks.

Full FDIC list