28 February 2011

Quote of The Day

From the list 25 Guys to Avoid on Wall Street:
Avoid the guy who offers his clients 'a very special opportunity' to invest in anything. He has a problem with cocaine.
I will note the parallel between this guy and just about every 'very special episode' of a TV series with young characters.

They both involve drug abuse.

End the War, Bitch

The official hed is that the Democratic National Committee has passed a resolution calling for an accelerate withdrawal from Afghanistan, but when you consider the fact that the sitting president, who has doubled down on escalation, and soft pedaled any exodus for both Iraq and Afghanistan, reclassifying soldiers there as "non-combat" and directing a torrent of private military contractors (mercenaries) into both nations, it is pretty clear that this was a deliberate challenge to Barack Obama.

Kathleen Parker Quits Parker Spitzer on CNN

Well, now that she is leaving, perhaps I can check out the successor show without the right wing idoocy for "balance":
Kathleen Parker has been dropped from "Parker Spitzer," and the show is being replaced by a new show called "In The Arena," the network announced Friday.

In a memo to staff, CNN President Ken Jautz said that "In The Arena" would be an "ensemble" show, with "several newsmakers, guests and contributors joining Eliot Spitzer each night." Among the regulars will be former Fox News anchor E.D. Hill and National Review writer Will Cain.
(emphasis mine)


Then again, it maybe not.

The interesting thing here is that when Kathleen Parker took a temporary leave for medical reasons, the show's ratings doubled.

Where Spitzer has credibility is his experience in dealing with Wall Street lawbreaking, and by larding the show up with "balance", it makes it worse TV.

I'll probably check it out at some point, if just because I can't stand Lawrence O'Donnell, who is opposite to their time slot.

Is there a site online where I can see CNN streaming?

Normally, I Don't Follow the Oscars

Good question

And the trailer
But Charles Ferguson, the director of the documentary The Inside Job, upon accepting his award for best documentary, raised an obvious point:
Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after our horrific financial crisis caused by financial fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that's wrong.
It's a good question, and, considering the timing of the crisis, it really started in September 2008, and there was no way that anything but damage control could be done over the next few months, the answer has to be, "Because Barack Obama does not want a single financial executive to go to jail."

There are some issues that were mismanaged by the Bush administration, they had no intention to reign in excessive bonuses, for example, but the only way that major figures, such as the recent decision to no-bill Angelo Mozillo, is if there was a conscious decision not to apply to the rule of law at the highest level.

This is very similar to, and as least as damaging in the long term as, his conscious to allow the worst excesses of torture, perjury, and civil rights violations for Bush and His Evil Minions.

This is corrosive to society.

27 February 2011

The Irish Elections, and What it All Means…

Former Prime Minister, and former Fianna Fail head, Brian Cowen, in an unintentionally apt photograph
So, Fianna Fail, having been in government for 60 of the past 79 years, has been tossed out by a resounding margin.

They fell 59 seats to 18 in Parliament, and the Green party, its coalition partner, lost all of its seats, while Fine Gael picked up 19 seats to 70, the Labour Party picked up 16 seats to 36, Sinn Fein(!) picked up 9 to get 13, the United Left Alliance (a coalition of various socialist parties) picked up 5 seats, and the new "New Vision" Party picked up 1 seat.

This is obviously a crushing defeat for Fianna Fail, and for the bank coddling policies, where the indemnified not just the depositors, but the banks' bond holders, thereby committing the Irish taxpayers to what can only be called "debt slavery".

What is interesting here is that Fine Gael is actually a further right party than Fianna Fail, and what the voters were really calling for were basically three policies:
  • F%$# the Irish banks.
  • F%$# the foreign banks that hold Irish debt.
  • F%$# the banks.
Whether this electoral landslide has any long term effects has to do with whether the people who voted for real change actually see it.

While there is both a moral and treaty obligation to make the account holders whole (up to something around €20,000), the idea that the Irish are impoverishing themselves in order to prop up foreign bond holders, largely British and German, who received higher returns than they would have at home because of the higher risk, banks is clearly something that the average Irishman finds unacceptable.

A lot of people are talking about how this is a seismic reshaping of the Irish body politic, but I doubt it.

My guess is that Fianna Fail will be back in the majority in the next election, because now that the opposition has control of government, we will see half measures, and coddling of both the Irish banks and their foreign creditors, which will result in a tsunami in the other direction in the next elections.

As has been noted, a, "deeply indebted economy with just 1.8 million people at work cannot underwrite private banking liabilities of €200bn."

If Fine Gael, (and one their likely coalition partner Labour) do not understand this, and do not force haircuts on the bond holders through threat of default (which has the added benefit of transferring the pain to the feckless Angela Merkel ), the voters will turn on them.

For a recent political case study on the wages of timidity in this sort of a crisis, one need only look to the US, and the Democratic Party under the leadership of one Barack H. Obama.

26 February 2011

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

It's a fairly slow week, with only one bank, and one credit union

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.

  1. Valley Community Bank, St. Charles, IL
Full FDIC list

And here are the credit union closings:
  1. NYC OTB Federal Credit Union, New York, NY
Full NCUA list

I suppose that the OTB credit union closing was inevitable, as New York's OTB, state run Off Track Betting, was shut down recently because they could not make a profit. 

So, here is the graph pr0n with last years numbers for comparison (FDIC only):

And since it's early in the year, here is a detail of the first few weeks:

I don't want to know what they put in coffee

Not worth almost $25 US
But the Covent Garden based creamery is selling breast milk ice cream:
When a well-stocked ice cream parlour says they sell every flavour, there are usually limits.

But one restaurant in London is selling breast milk ice cream which is being served to customers in a cocktail glass.

Icecreamists, based in Covent Garden, have named the £14 dish Baby Gaga.

Victoria Hiley, 35, from Leeds provided the first 30 fluid ounces of milk which was enough to make the first 50 servings.

But the company are looking for more women to provide breast milk - and are providing £15 for every ten ounces extracted using breast pumps.

The recipe blends breast milk with Madagascan vanilla pods and lemon zest, which is then freshly churned into ice cream.

A costumed Baby Gaga waitress serves the ice cream in a martini glass filled with the breast milk ice cream mix. Liquid nitrogen is then poured into the glass through a syringe and it is served with a rusk.
A rusk is a sort of biscotti, apparently.

On the Boeing Win

It will be called the KC-46A, and it appears that it was all about the relative size of the two aircraft:
A congressional source said Boeing was the “clear winner.” Lynn repeated the mantra and told reporters during the press briefing “that I think what we can tell you is Boeing was the clear winner” when asked how close was the competition.

The difference between the two bids may have come down the difference in fuel consumption, speculated Loren Thompson, defense consultant and analyst at the Lexington Institute. “The Airbus plane burns over one ton more of fuel per flight hour than the Boeing plane. Multiply that by 40 years and that’s a lot of money,” Thompson said. Boeing has argued for some time that its fuel consumption rate would save taxpayers “tens of billions” of dollars over the life of the program.
The first part is true, the 767 consumes less fuel per flight hour, but, and this is the reason that no one is buying it commercially any more, it costs more per pound of payload, or, one would assume, pound of fuel offloaded to tankers.

The Pentagon is saying that they are expecting a challenge, though I think that this less likely from EADS than it is from Boeing.

As to why Boeing won, I think that it comes down to the following:
  • If the primary criteria is lifetime cost per aircraft sortee, i.e. a simple price shootout, then the smaller 767 wins.
  • Boeing has a lot more Congressional support than EADS does, because they have been cultivating Congress for decades.
  • EADS's position is such that it less likely to make a formal challenge to the award, I figure about 30% for EADS, as versus 90% for Boeing, because they do not have the existing relationships with the Congress and the DoD, and so are more concerned about creating enemies.
In the greater scheme of things, if this was just a price shootout, that might be a good thing, if further competitions, on systems that are more exclusively military in development, it might be a good thing.

In any case, you can read Boeing's press release here.

Too True

This has a core of truth to it
Full disclosure, I've never worked at the Pentagon, but I've worked on a number of doomed Pentagon projects, most notably MEADS and the Future Combat Systems, and there is much to to be desired in the ways that we make our own weapons of mass destruction.

I'm just saying.

25 February 2011

Worlds Best License Plate

So, of course, the DMV took it back:

Bowling With Cats

I gotta try this with my cat.

Goatse is Everywhere

You might see a Claddagh ring, basically a Celtic wedding ring, but I see Goatse.

If you've ever seen Goatse, you know what I mean.  If you haven't, you can read about at the Wiki link above, but do not try to find the pictures.

You will be changed forever.

H/t Blivet at the by invitation only Stellar Parthenon BBS.

Friday Cat Blogging

Pgilbert glad when he got his new electric cat:

Not my cat

24 February 2011

Court Rules for Assange Extradition

A British court has ruled that Julian Assange should be extradited to Sweden.

He says that he will appeal, but my guess is that he's going to Sweden in the end.

This is a very bizarre case, about an even more bizarre man, but make no mistake, Wikileaks is providing a service of very real value to the world.

Not Enough Bullets

RBS bankers get £950m in bonuses despite £1.1bn loss:
More than 100 bankers at Royal Bank of Scotland were paid more than £1m last year and total bonus payouts reached nearly £1bn – even though the bailed-out bank reported losses of £1.1bn for 2010.

The chairman, Sir Philip Hampton, said the number of millionaires was lower than a year ago and said a quarter of the group's 18,700 investment bankers would not receive a bonus from the £950m payout pool agreed with UK Financial Investments, which controls the taxpayer's 83% stake in the bank. Unions were baffled that any bankers were getting bonuses.
The unions are not the only ones who are baffled.

Roger Ailes Suborned Perjury

Judith Regan, who literally f%$#ed Bernie Kerik at ground zero in Manhattan, settled for a few million dollars after being fired by Rupert Murdoch, and got an apology, in which News Corp formally disavowed the original accusation of anti-Semitism that was the ostensible reasoning for her firing.

Well, now we know why Newscorp caved, because Fox News chief Roger Ailes got caught on tape advising her to lie to federal investigators:
It was an incendiary allegation — and a mystery of great intrigue in the media world: After the publishing powerhouse Judith Regan was fired by HarperCollins in 2006, she claimed that a senior executive at its parent company, News Corporation, had encouraged her to lie two years earlier to federal investigators who were vetting Bernard B. Kerik for the job of homeland security secretary.

Ms. Regan had once been involved in an affair with Mr. Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner whose mentor and supporter, former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, was in the nascent stages of a presidential campaign. The News Corporation executive, whom she did not name, wanted to protect Mr. Giuliani and conceal the affair, she said.

Now, court documents filed in a lawsuit make clear whom Ms. Regan was accusing of urging her to lie: Roger E. Ailes, the powerful chairman of Fox News and a longtime friend of Mr. Giuliani. What is more, the documents say that Ms. Regan taped the telephone call from Mr. Ailes in which Mr. Ailes discussed her relationship with Mr. Kerik.

It is unclear whether the existence of the tape played a role in News Corporation’s decision to move quickly to settle a wrongful termination suit filed by Ms. Regan, paying her $10.75 million in a confidential settlement reached two months after she filed it in 2007.
Yeah, it's "unclear".

Would not have come up, except for the fact that Regan fired her lawyers just before the settlement, and they were accusing her of doing so to avoid paying a contingency fee, and in the lawsuit, her lawyers' affidavits mistakenly became part of the public record:
“In fact,” the complaint said, “a senior executive in the News Corporation organization told Regan that he believed she had information about Kerik that, if disclosed, would harm Giuliani’s presidential campaign. This executive advised Regan to lie to, and to withhold information from, investigators concerning Kerik.”

Mr. Redniss, in his affidavit, referred to “a recorded telephone call between Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox News (a News Corp. company) and Regan, in which Mr. Ailes discussed with Regan her responses to questions regarding her personal relationship with Bernard Kerik.”
It appears that Fox in general, and Ailes in particular, found supporting Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign to be imperative, and so told her to lie in order to keep the dirt off of Rudy.

An interesting side note to all of this:
The court records examined by The New York Times this week, which have subsequently been taken out of the public case file, also reveal another interesting footnote. After Ms. Regan fired her lawyers, a seemingly unlikely figure came forward to help settle the case: Susan Estrich, a law professor and a regular Fox commentator whose book Ms. Regan had published, according to Ms. Regan’s affidavit.
Susan Estrich has been an absolutely useless horror show on the American body politic since she handed the presidency to George H.W. Bush on a silver platter as Michael Dukkakis' campaign manager.

Deep Thought

This is not my deep thought, but it just has to be shared.

H/t JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBs.

Boeing Wins Tanker Contract

Just heard, and I'll try to tease out more detail for the weekend.

I'm kind of surprised, the Airbus A330 is a better plane, that's why the 767 is at the end of life, but the A330 is still selling,  but then again, I was kind of surprised when EADS won in the first competition, because of the dynamics of a foreign firm winning such a high stakes competition.

If Boeing had lost, I would have said that a challenge was a dead nuts certainty, but EADS is I think rather less likely to do so, if just because the potential blow-back is bigger.

23 February 2011

Scott Walker Started as a Tragedy, and is Finishing as a Comedy

So, the Republican Party's next "Great White Hope," Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's assault on the right to unionize, has gone from the Republican's best plan for tearing down the base of the Democratic party to a rather unpopular farce.

First, attempts in Indiana Republicans to ape* Wisconsin led to Indiana lawmakers fleeing the state to stop the effort.

I don't know what this sh%$ is doing for the economies of Wisconsin and Indiana, but it sure is boosting the hospitality industry in Illinois.

Also, it is becoming increasingly apparent that these actions are unpopular, the polls are pretty strongly against it, and Republican notables are backing away from the idea, with Indiana governor Mitch Daniels telling the 'Phants in his legislature to kill the bill, and Florida governor, and über-Teabagger, Rick Scott coming out against the idea.

So it already looks like this strategy is playing a lot like the 1995 government shutdown, and now Scott Walker got punked by the editor of the Buffalo Beast, who pretended to be David Koch.

The interesting take aways here is that he's not seeing any need to compromise and is planning to:
  • Dock the state Senator's pay.
  • Looking at going after them on ethics violations, and a possible felony, if they took food or lodging assistance from unions. (FWIW, he accepted an invite from "David Koch" for a flight out to California and being put up there later in the call)
  • That he's intending to organize a "summit" of some sort with the Democrats, and use their presence to push the vote through while they are in the room with him (it's a quorum/recess game).
  • Discussed planting "troublemakers" with the activists to either create bad press, or provide an excuse to crack down.
So, he's now on tape admitting that he cannot be trusted to negotiate in good faith, the quote is:
I would be willing to sit down and talk to him, the assembly Democrat leader, plus the other two Republican leaders—talk, not negotiate and listen to what they have to say if they will in turn—but I’ll only do it if all 14 of them will come back and sit down in the state assembly…legally, we believe, once they’ve gone into session, they don’t physically have to be there. If they’re actually in session for that day, and they take a recess, the 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they’d have quorum…so we’re double checking that. If you heard I was going to talk to them that’s the only reason why. We’d only do it if they came back to the capital with all 14 of them…
So he's been caught on tape admitting that he would basically launch a sneak attack during peace talks, good luck getting anyone to trust you ever again.

*No offense intended to primates. I'm using the verb form, and I can understand how simians might find comparing them to Republicans to be offensive.

The (legal in Wisconsin) tape of the phone call and the transcript after the break:

Stay Classy David Petraeus

In response to allegations of civilian casualties in response to military operations in Konar province, America's favorite showboating general claimed that Afghan parents probably burnt their own children for propaganda purposes:
To the shock of President Hamid Karzai's aides, Gen. David H. Petraeus suggested Sunday at the presidential palace that Afghans caught up in a coalition attack in northeastern Afghanistan might have burned their own children to exaggerate claims of civilian casualties, according to two participants at the meeting.


The U.S. military "did have initial reports that the feet and hands of the children appeared to have been burned," Smith said. "We have observed increased reporting of children being disciplined by having their hands and feet dipped into boiling water. No one is claiming this is the case in this instance, but it may well be."

Petraeus apparently had suggested something along these lines at the national security council meeting Sunday, remarks that "really bothered everyone," including Karzai, one participant said.

"He claimed that in the midst of the [operation] some pro-Taliban parents in contact with a government official decided to create a civilian casualty claim to pressure international forces to cease the [operation]. They burned hands and legs of some of their children and sent them to the hospital," a second participant said.
I know that Petraeus sees his mission as continuing the various "Forever Wars," because it keeps that old Pentagon gravy train rolling along, but this is beneath contempt.

Maybe, instead of coming up with alibis for civilian casualties, he should try to reduce the number.

22 February 2011

Deep Thought

Not blogging tonight, because I am dealing with installing Windows 7, SP 1 on this machine, and installing a new printer/scanner/fax (It was as cheap as a flatbed scanner, but came with a document feed, so even though we won't be using either the fax or printer, it made sense) on the desktop.

At time like this, I think, "F%$# it, I should get myself a Macintosh."

But then reality hits, and I realize that I'm already way too arrogant and obnoxious, and if I got a Mac, I'd make Muammar Qaddafi look Mahatma Ghandi.

21 February 2011

Credit Ain't Due Here…

The Obama administration has finally repealed the Bush Administration's "Conscience Rule," which allowed healthcare providers to refuse to provide service on moral grounds:
The decision guts one of President George W. Bush's most controversial legacies: a rule that was widely interpreted as shielding workers who refuse to participate in a range of medical services, such as providing birth control pills, caring for gay men with AIDS and performing in-vitro fertilization for lesbians or single women.

Friday's move was seen as an important step in countering that trend, which in recent years had led pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for the emergency contraceptive Plan B, doctors in California to reject a lesbian's request for infertility treatment, and an ambulance driver in Chicago to turn away a woman who needed transportation for an abortion.
Bush implemented this toward the end of his term, and it took Obama 2 years to repeal it?

Well, it appears that they wanted to split the difference yet again:
Soon after Obama assumed office, administration officials said they agreed the regulation was too broad and announced plans to rescind it. But officials indicated that instead of simply invalidating the rule, they would seek to replace it with a compromise. The announcement triggered more than 300,000 comments, which officials have spent months reviewing. The Federal Register notice announcing the decision cites concerns raised by both sides in the comments but concludes that most of the provisions were unnecessary and potentially problematic.

The rule will retain a provision that empowers the HHS Office of Civil Rights to investigate any complaints by workers who believe their rights under existing federal law were being violated. The office is currently investigating a complaint from a nurse who claims she was forced to perform an abortion in New York.
I think that crap like this comes from the top, and I think that Barack Obama is personally opposed to a woman's right to choose, but finds the politics unavoidable, so feet are dragged, until the absolute minimum is begrudgingly done.

Very weak tea, and the absolute minimum that Obama could do without engendering a backlash from the base.

Now We Know What Gives Timothy Geithner an Erection

Noam Scheiber interviewed Geithner, and gave us this gem:
I asked Geithner if he had a grand vision for the postcrisis landscape—for, say, a less bloated financial sector with a smaller role in the economy—and a map for how to get there. Could he be a figure like George Marshall, who helped win the World War and then remade Europe so that it couldn’t happen again?

Geithner hunched his shoulders, pressed his knees together, and lifted his heels up off the ground—an almost childlike expression of glee. “We’re going, like, existential,” he said. He told me he subscribes to the view that the world is on the cusp of a major “financial deepening”: As developing economies in the most populous countries mature, they will demand more and increasingly sophisticated financial services, the same way they demand cars for their growing middle classes and information technology for their corporations. If that’s true, then we should want U.S. banks positioned to compete abroad.

“I don’t have any enthusiasm for … trying to shrink the relative importance of the financial system in our economy as a test of reform, because we have to think about the fact that we operate in the broader world,” he said. “It’s the same thing for Microsoft or anything else. We want U.S. firms to benefit from that.” He continued: “Now financial firms are different because of the risk, but you can contain that through regulation.” This was the purpose of the recent financial reform, he said. In effect, Geithner was arguing that we should be as comfortable linking the fate of our economy to Wall Street as to automakers or Silicon Valley.
And then he smoked a cigarette, and asked if was good for me.

H/t David Dayen.

Sorry for that image.

Silvio Berlusconi Is Like

Charlie Sheen with diplomatic immunity:

If John Stewart was Italian, Berlusconi would already be in jail.

He's Not Just CIA, He's Blackwater

And it appears that he was working as a contractor for the CIA, and former, and perhaps currently, worked for Blackwater or Xe.

It should also note that the New York Times has been told by the government that it has permission from the US government to confirm his CIA connections.

Permission from the government? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? (Glenn Greenwald is somewhat more articulate on this issue.)

So he's a contractor, and considering his background, perhaps the appellation "mercenary" would be appropriate, said the contractor (working as an engineer, not a shooter).
In any case, the fact that they are admitting this means that both CIA and the State Department are very worried about this.

Libya is Burning

I don't have much to add, so I'll point you to the Guardian.

It's clearly an end game:
  • Two pilots were ordered to bomb protesters, and defected to Malta.
  • Border guards are abandoning their posts.
  • Reports of naval fire and aerial bombardment of some neighborhoods in Tripoli.
  • Bizarre statements from Qaddafi and his son(s).
 This is not going to be pretty, but it is completely outside of my intellectual strengths, such as they are.

Unfortunately, unlike Egypt, there are not a lot of press on the ground, so what is coming out is sketchy.

God Bless The Onion

Embarrassed Republicans Admit They've Been Thinking Of Eisenhower Whole Time They've Been Praising Reagan.

Just go read it.

20 February 2011

A Non-Surprise About the Most Over Rated Man in America

When Colin Powell spewed his lies about Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction, his staff had already warned him that the information was complete crap.

In one case, he personally made up dialog that did not exist, and in others, he used reports that flagged the data as "Weak" and "not credible".

Not a surprise.

Here is hoping that at some point in the not-too-distant future, Powell's reputation experiences the same sort of reevaluation that Alan "Bubbles" Greenspan has.

Mozilo Skates…

The Department of Justice, no doubt looking forward rather than backward, had dropped its criminal investigation of former Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo:
Federal prosecutors have shelved a criminal investigation of Angelo R. Mozilo after determining that his actions in the mortgage meltdown — which led to $67.5-million settlement against him — did not amount to criminal wrongdoing.

As the former chairman of Countrywide Financial Corp., Mozilo helped fuel the boom in risky subprime loans that led to the crippling of the banking industry and the near-collapse of the financial system.

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles began probing Mozilo in 2008, and four months ago he agreed to pay a $22.5-million fine and to repay $45 million in what the government said were ill-gotten gains to former Countrywide shareholders. The payments settled a civil action by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
As Atrios notes, what this really means is that if you want to run a criminal enterprise, make sure that everyone has a piece of it, because, "If Everybody Is Guilty Then Nobody Is."

Matt Taibbi is right, our society is now run by people who have declared criminals to be untouchable before the law.

More Adventures of People with Small Penises in the Pentagon

The USAF is looking for a 2000 lb missile replacement for its 5000+ lb guided free-fall bombs for bunker busting and the like, to quote Shrek, I think that someone is compensating:
Penetrate faster, harder with new AFRL weapon


An Air Force Research Laboratory fact sheet with a 2011 time-stamp for public release approval tells us that a 2,000lb-class weapon with 5,000lb-class penetration capability could be available within three years.

"Future fighters will be able to deliver bunker-busting capabilities currently associated with the bomber fleet," the fact sheet says.

I found the fact sheet for the High Velocity Penetrating Weapon (HVPW) in the AFRL munitions directorate booth at the Air Warfare Symposium a few days ago. The document reveals the USAF has shifted its focus on next-generation penetrator technology on a couple of different levels.
The folks at the USAF do seem to spend a suspiciously large amount of time talking about "penetrators", don't they?

BTW, running the numbers, the kinetic energy of a 2500 kg system at 300 m/s (about 650 mi/h), is 112.5 MJ, so for a 1000 kg system, you would need a velocity of only (475 m/s) 1800 m/s km/h (1080 mi/hr) to get the same kinetic energy.
(added correction in red  D'oh!!!)

Development Costs of F135 Rise, Marginal Unit Cost Falls

The Pentagon and Pratt & Whitney have negotiated a cost reduction for the next 37 engines that they deliver, but the non-recurring R&D Costs go up:
Pratt & Whitney has reached an informal agreement with government officials to slash 16% off the total price of the next batch of 37 engines to be ordered for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

At the same time, the company acknowledges the cost of the overall F135 engine development programme will grow by about $1 billion to support a three-year extension of flight tests and to improve the engine's performance and durability.
If you assume $15 million per engine, it means that this cost, assuming that this continues across the production run (it won't, particularly with the GE/Rolls F136 out of the picture) would end up saving money after the delivery of about 450 engines.

This is taking money out of one pot, and add it to another in the best case, and more likely it's a stealth price increase.

19 February 2011

Here's a Shocker

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was bankrolled by the Koch brothers Josef Stalin derived fortune:
Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker, whose bill to kill collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions has caused an uproar among state employees, might not be where he is today without the Koch brothers. Charles and David Koch are conservative titans of industry who have infamously used their vast wealth to undermine President Obama and fight legislation they detest, such as the cap-and-trade climate bill, the health care reform act, and the economic stimulus package. For years, the billionaires have made extensive political donations to Republican candidates across the country and have provided millions of dollars to astroturf right-wing organizations. Koch Industries' political action committee has doled out more than $2.6 million to candidates. And one prominent beneficiary of the Koch brothers' largess is Scott Walker.
Seriously, these guys are to the conservative wackdoodle movement as Gaëtan Dugas was to AIDS.

*No seriously, Koch Industries made its money building refineries for Josef Stalin.

Like Father, Like Son……

This is bad hair!

and him too!
I was putting Charlie to bed and he had a bit of bed head, and I just had to share the picture.

Charlie has a real knack for bad hair days, just like his dad.

U.S. Vetoes UN Resolution On Settlements

This is rather unsurprising.

I favor a 2 state solution, one along the other ethnic separations out there, which means parts of pre-1967 Israel will become a part of a future Palestinian state, because at it's core what is going is is negotiations over ethnic land divisions, and under those terms, some areas near the West Bank, and parts of the Galilee which are overwhelmingly Arab, would necessarily move in that direction.

Whether or not this sort of separation occurs, full rights should be extended to non-Jews, by which I mean something along the lines of the US civil rights act, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of ethnicity.

Another full right that should be extended to the non Jewish (and non Druze) population in Israel is conscription: As it stands now Arabs are not required to serve, which, among other things, prevents the formation of social ties that normally occur during mandatory service, and which frequently help in later life. (aka "Old school ties).

As to the veto, I am increasingly of the opinion that any foreign involvement in the diplomacy between the Palestinian government and Israel is counter-productive, because it leads the negotiators to spend too much time playing to outside entities, whether it be the US, UN, EU, or Arab governments, and not enough dealing with each other.

One reality here that needs to be accepted is that at some point in the next few decades, Hamas will win an election (they already have) and take power (they weren't allowed to after the election).

This may be scary, but the current principals in this matter need to suck it up and accept reality.

Because It Worked So Well in Egypt

Libya has cuts off the Internet:
Internet service has been cut off in Libya for a second consecutive day as protesters step up demonstrations against longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi, a U.S. company that monitors Internet traffic said on Saturday.

Massachusetts-based Arbor Networks said data collected from 30 Internet providers around the world showed that online traffic in and out of Libya was disconnected abruptly at 7:15 p.m. EST on Friday after two partial interruptions earlier that day.
I kind of figured that Bahrain would go first, because it's a predominantly Shia country ruled by a Sunni king, but I may have been wrong.

I Predicted This 12 Years Ago

The Pentagon has killed the MEADS surface to air missile system:
The Pentagon announced today it would kill MEADS, an anti-missile program once declared the highest priority weapon system for the United States and its allies to build together.

The Army has tried several times before to kill the program, which uses the Patriot interceptor, but has always been overruled before by the Office of Secretary of Defense. Germany and Italy have made major political and industrial commitments in pursuit of MEADS and they will doubtless let America know just what they think of this decision.
I did some very preliminary work on MEADS about 12 years ago. Essentially, because, unlike the PAC-3, it did not exactly need to have 4 missiles to fit in a 4-pack that had the same form, fit, and function as the larger Patriot PAC-2, which allowed for some logistical enhancements.

At the time, I said that the program was doomed, because it was a multinational program, and, like the Roland SAM, it would be dropped by the US military, because the opportunities for cushy consulting gigs for retired generals would be too small.

I was right, and I am not alone in my jaundiced assesment of the decision:
To get expert perspective on MEADS’ demise, we contacted Frank Cevasco, one of the top international defense consultants and someone who has closely followed MEADS for more than a decade. While a senior Pentagon official he and colleagues at OSD pushed the Army to create a program office to manage a future extended air defense program, which eventually became MEADS. He said he does not represent any of the companies involved in the program.

Cevasco said at least part of the cost overrun can be attributed to a plan to replace Patriot with MEADS on a one-for-one basis. “I was told that doesn’t make sense as a MEADS fire unit has substantially greater geographic coverage than Patriot. I agree there would be additional costs associated with integrating MEADS with a separate Army command and control system, a requirement that was levied on the program unilaterally by Army about two years ago. Moreover, a portion of the cost overruns and schedule slippages can be attributed to the Army and DoD technology disclosure community who refused to allow the MEADS industry team to share key technology. The matter was resolved but only after intervention by senior OSD officials and the passage of considerable time; and, time is money with major weapons system development programs,” he said in an email.

Bottom line for Cevasco: “Army has done its best from the every beginning to sabotage the program, preferring to develop a US-only solution funded by the US (with funds provided by the good fairy).”
The military funds fairy is named either Obama or Gates, your choice.

Big Surprise: Boeing's 787 Outsourcing Cost Money Instead of Saving It

To the tune of billions of dollars:
The airliner is billions of dollars over budget and about three years late. Much of the blame belongs to the company's farming out work to suppliers around the nation and in foreign countries.
It should be noted that aircraft manufacturers do not make money off of the sales of aircraft, but rather on spares and support down the road, and in outsourcing, Boeing has thrown that revenue stream to its suppliers, an act that Atrios calls, "obviously insane," additionally, it makes the entire process of creating an aircraft more riskier, because you have less control over whether tab A fits in slot B, or, as Felix Salmon notes, it's like, "picking up pennies in front of a steamroller".

Boeing was told that this was an issue by a senior fellow, L.J. Hart-Smith in 2001, (also here, where the PDF cuts and pastes better) and but chose to ignore it:
The inescapable problem with outsourcing work that could be done in-house is that it necessarily increases the tasks and man-hours to carry out the work way above those needed to perform all assembly, including most subassemblies, at one site. Experience in the electronics industry has shown that out-sourcing work to regions of low labor rate is only a transitory phenomenon. The reason why the rates were low was that there had previously been no work there. Once the work became available, hourly rates increased, so that the primary electronic companies kept moving the work to yet another as-yet-under-developed area, and the cycle was repeated. This may be cost-effective for small items, with production lives of only a few years at most, but it is inappropriate for large aircraft that may need spare parts throughout a service live in excess of 50 years (80 or more for some military aircraft) and for which the manufacturing program itself may last 40 or 50 years. There are so many aircraft components that must be out-sourced, such as engines, avionics, and systems, because today’s prime aircraft manufacturers are no longer equipped to undertake such work themselves, that the retention of a determinable minimum fraction of the structures work is a pre-requisite to developing sufficient cash to develop new products. Without new products, as distinct from derivatives, all companies will go out of business, no matter what their line of business.

The correctness of the author’s position on these matters is easily confirmed by two facts. It was the suppliers who made all the profits on the extensively out-sourced DC-10s, not the so-called systems-integrating prime manufacturer. (The same thing has happened on aircraft assembled by Boeing, in Seattle, too.) Also, when plans were being formulated for the proposed MD-12 very large transport aircraft, almost all potential suppliers indicated a preference for being subcontractors rather than risk-sharing “partners”. Could they have known more about maximizing profits, minimizing risk, etc., than the prime manufacturer who sought their help even though it could borrow money at lower rates of interest than potential suppliers could? The DC-8 was manufactured and assembled almost entirely within the Long Beach plant, with only the nose coming from Santa Monica. That policy was changed after the acquisition of the former Douglas Aircraft Company by the former McDonnell Aircraft Company, but the change did not improve the company’s profitability. It is time for Boeing to reverse this policy.
(emphasis original)

So, McDonnell, a company which was a complete failure in the commercial arena (only 1 project, a failed bizjet), took over what was the number two (and had been the number 1) commercial aircraft manufacturer in the world, and implemented its defense contracting monopsony* driven business model, where it failed, and then Boeing bought McDonnell Douglas, and implemented their failed business model.

Boeing bought MACDAC, but MACDAC took over Boeing, and set the tone for its corporate culture, despite the fact that it was largely a failed company, having lost the JSF competition, and having only 2 major programs that it had initiated, the F-15 and the C-17 over the past 30+ years (the F/A-18 was initiated by Northrop).

One good thing that has come of this is that it will make a fascinating case study for the size of operations for economists, as Paul Krugman rather smugly notes:
In Boeing’s case, they outsourced far too much, only to find that they were getting parts that didn’t do what they were supposed to — and also to find that the subcontractors were seizing a lot of the rents. They discovered, in effect, that there are times when it’s better to rely on central planning than to leave things up to the market.

Obviously this isn’t always true. There’s a tradeoff. But that’s the point — and it’s this tradeoff that determines how big firms should be. Boeing has now provided a clear motivating example. Their loss, the economics profession’s gain.
Heh.  Here's hoping that I'm never a good case study for some academic.

*A monopsony is the flip side of a monopoly. Instead of having only one seller and many buyers, a monopoly, you have only one buyer and many vendors, in McDonnell's case, the US military.

House Votes to Kill F136 Engine

While I expect to see some continued efforts by GE, Rolls Royce, and their supporters, I think that this is the death knell for the F136 engine:
The U.S. House of Representatives today voted to kill funding the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter backup engine made by General Electric Co. and Rolls Royce Group Plc.

By a vote of 233-198, the House voted to cut $450 million for the engine from legislation funding the Pentagon for the remainder of the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.

It is the first time in more than four years of votes that the House has come out against the GE-Rolls Royce engine for the F-35, the stealth fighter made by Lockheed Martin Corp. In May, 2010, the House voted 231-193 to continue the program.
This is important for a number of reasons.

First, with this defeat on the table, the onus now falls on the supporter of the F136 to bring the engine back, which is hard.

Second, and more importantly, House Speaker John Boehner, whose district, and neighboring districts, directly benefit from the engine, could not whip the votes necessary to support the engine.

Like I said, the engine is toast.

In the long run, this is a bad thing, because leaving Pratt & Whitney as a monopoly supplier for the engine is likely to increase costs, and reduce performance, a lot down the road.

That being said, I do experience no small amount of amusement because Boehner got seriously served on this.

18 February 2011

That's Gonna Leave a Mark

Well, you would know about that.
Well, the is a case where someone gets completely Pwn36 (owned) on live TV.


Here is a Real Brain Teaser*

H/t Barry Ritholtz.

*No apologies for the pun.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.

  1. Habersham Bank, Clarkesville, GA
  2. Citizens Bank of Effingham, Springfield, GA
  3. Charter Oak Bank, Napa, CA
  4. San Luis Trust Bank, FSB, San Luis Obispo, CA ⇐ I missed this one last night.
Full FDIC list

And here are the credit union closings:
  1. Family First Federal Credit Union, Orem, UT
Full NCUA list

So, here is the graph pr0n with last years numbers for comparison (FDIC only):

And since it's early in the year, here is a detail of the first few weeks:

This year is shaping up a LOT like last year so far.  It's a bit early to be definitive, but it does look like bank failures are tracking ahead of what we saw at this point last year.

Not Enough Bullets

So, BP is whining because it thinks that Ken Feinberg's slow walking of meager settlements is too generous:
In the eight months since Kenneth R. Feinberg took over the $20 billion fund to compensate victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, he has been attacked by many of those filing claims and by coastal state politicians who argue that the process is opaque, arbitrary and slow. Many of them have also argued that Mr. Feinberg’s recently published estimates of future damage to those in the gulf are too optimistic, and thus his offer of compensation in a final settlement is too low.

Now he is getting complaints from another quarter: BP.

The oil giant is arguing that if anything, Mr. Feinberg’s proposed settlements are too generous. The planned payments far exceed the extent of likely future damages because they overstate the potential for future losses, the company insists in a strongly worded 24-page document that was posted on the fund’s Web site Thursday morning.
And after that, BP murdered its parents, and asked for mercy because it was an orphan.

Heck of a Job Boehner

As part of their continuing resolution, the GOP have voted to defund planned parenthood, the healthcare law, gutting the social security administration, and forbidding the EPA from regulating mercury pollution.

This was all pretty standard. Obama has threatened a veto, and Reid has said that it will never see the light of day, so they can get in their votes, and not see much blowback.

What surprises me though is that they lost on a vote to defund the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB):
Sixty House Republicans joined with every Democrat to beat back an anti-union amendment on Thursday that would have defunded the National Labor Relations Board, a New Deal-era independent agency that arbitrates labor disputes. The sixty defections come as the Midwest GOP governors in Wisconsin and Ohio are launching direct assaults on public employee unions.

Nine high-ranking Republican members of the Education and the Workforce Committee broke with their party to support the agency, including the chairman, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.). GOP hostility toward organized labor is not a new phenomenon, but the hostility has intensified since Republicans took control of the House; the party went so far as to rename what had been called the Education and Labor Committee, replacing "labor" with "the workforce."
The fact that, "piling up losses in a chamber where the majority party typically rules with an iron fist," is telling.

The Republican Party has been anti-union since Abraham Lincoln.  Support for organized labor one of the things that (used to) distinguish between conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans.

Still the fact that Boehner, and  Cantor could not successfully whip the vote on this is telling.

Boehner is clearly the weakest house speaker in decades, possibly since Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neil 1981-3.

My guess is that the nut job in Wisconsin is spooking some of the Republicans in Wisconsin, and neighboring, states.

Wisconsin is beginning to look a lot like MacArthur's assault on the bonus army, and some people on the 'Phant side realize that this will not end well.

Judge Who Accepted Bribes to Jail Children is Convicted

Mark Ciavarella, Jr. who took kickbacks from private prisons to sentence children to confinement, has been found guilty of racketeering, money-laundering conspiracy, fraud and filing false income tax returns, though not of bribery:
A federal jury on Friday found a former Pennsylvania judge guilty in a so-called kids-for-cash scheme, in which he took money in exchange for sending juvenile offenders to for-profit detention centers.


The jury found him not guilty, however, of seven counts of extortion and 10 counts of bribery.

The former judge faces a maximum sentence of 157 years in prison. The jury also ruled he must forfeit $997,600.
I think that the jury felt that they had to find proof that he would not have sent these kids away if he hadn't been paid, i.e. what was in his head at the time, which is impossible.

Maybe I'm a bit old fashioned, but the fact that hid the money, that whole money laundering and racketeering bit, is pretty good evidence that he knew what he was doing is illegal, but I wasn't in the court room.

Here is hoping that the judge sentences him to the max.  What Ciavarella did was truly beneath contempt.

Wisconsin Seems Even More Like Egypt Now……

So, we are seeing huge, and growing, protests, with a teacher sickout to attend the protests growing, it has now shuttered both the Madison and Milwaukee school systems, and the Democrats in the state Senate have left the state, to prevent quorum for voting on the bill, while, in a bit of traditional religious silliness, religious leaders are offering sanctuary for them if they return to the state:
Religious leaders in Illinois and Wisconsin are offering sanctuary to Wisconsin Democrats as they boycott a vote on a Republican bill that would strip public workers of nearly all their collective bargaining rights.
Actually though the most surprising development is that Barack Obama has actually felt the need to make a declarative statement on all this, as opposed to trying to make nice, and split the difference, calling it an, "assault on unions."

What, Obama isn't trying to split the difference and being hopey-changey?  That's like a f%$#ing sign of the f%$#ing apocalypse.

It would be nice if we would see some more of this, because the Republicans aren't getting any more reasonable in response to his standard modus operandi.

17 February 2011

Just Who, and What, Is Raymond Davis

He's currently being investigated for a double murder in Lahore, Pakistan, and the US government is claiming that he has diplomatic immunity, and so must be released.

There are a number of peculiarities here. As constitutional lawyer
Scott Horton notes, the issuance of a diplomatic passport does not convey diplomatic immunity, the host country formally recognize and accept their diplomatic status.

Also, it's unclear if he was a diplomatic or a consular officer and if the latter, then the charge, double murder, would certainly not be covered by any immunity.

In fact, immunity might not apply in either case, since the Vienna convention does not apply to serious crimes, like, for example, murder.

Additionally, thanks Dave Lindorff of Eurasia review for this, it appears that Mr. Davis was not a consular or embassy employee, but rather the employee of a defunct security firm, Hyperion Protective Consultants, LLC, which makes his status even more suspicious.

Also, when caught, he had at least two guns in his car, a number of cell phones and batteries, and a telescope.

Linhoff also reports that the two Pakistanis were shot in the back, and that he has received reports that they were not just two guys on a motorbike, but in fact operatives of Pakistan's security service, the ISI.

Given the circumstances, and the fact that a heavily armed strike team in the SUV rushing from the US consulate to try to snatch him from police immediately following the incident, and running down and killing a person in the process, I would be inclined to believe that whatever he was doing there had nothing to do with diplomacy.

One interesting factoid in all of this is that his arrest has corresponded to an unusual lull in drone strikes, which would be consistent with his having a senior managerial role in those operations:
A mysterious halt to U.S Predator strikes on Pakistan after the Raymond Davis incident in Lahore has led to intense speculation the American "diplomat" was connected to the Drone program even as Washington and Islamabad are going eyeball-to-eyeball over his status.

Davis, 36, was apprehended by Pakistani police after he shot dead two Pakistanis on a busy Lahore thoroughfare on January 27, four days after the last drone U.S Drone strike in Pakistan. There has not been a single strike in the 25 days since then, making it the third-longest period of inactivity since the U.S ramped up the Predator program to take out terrorists infesting Pakistan's frontier regions, according to Long War Journal (LWJ), a blog that tracks U.S Predator attacks.

Speculation is now rife that Davis was somehow connected to the Predator program since he was reportedly carrying a GPS, telescope, camera and assorted equipment not usually associated with thoroughbred diplomats. Pakistani authorities have also accused him of unauthorized travels to the Frontier region and being in touch with extremist elements in Waziristan, which suggests he might have been coordinating the attacks with U.S moles in the region.

While Davis claimed that he shot the two Pakistanis in self-defense when they were trying to rob him, some reports have said they were ISI tails assigned to follow him because the Pakistani intelligence felt he had crossed certain unspecified "red lines." Those red lines may have involved discovering the Pakistani establishment's links with terrorists group, a pursuit which led to the death of Wall Street Journalist Danny Pearl.
I'm thinking that Hyperion Protective Consultants, LLC, is about as real as Brewster-Jennings was for Valerie Plame, and that he works for the CIA, some other TLA (three letter agency), or a contractor hired by some arm of the US government.

It would explain why heads have been exploding at Foggy Bottom (State), and probably Langley (CIA) as well, for the past few weeks.

Nothing to See Here, Move Along…

The National Academy of Sciences has reviewed the FBI's forensic claims regarding Bruce Ivins and the Anthrax mailing investigation, and has politely called bullsh%$ on this:
The National Academy of Sciences is just out with a 190-page review [1] of the forensic science behind the FBI's investigation of the 2001 anthrax letter attacks. The takeaway: Some of the evidence cited to identify Army microbiologist Bruce E. Ivins as the perpetrator isn't as conclusive as the FBI has claimed.

In particular, the panel of experts said it "did not definitively demonstrate" that the source of the anthrax was spores taken from a flask controlled by Ivins, a microbiologist who did vaccine research at the U.S. Army Institute for Medical Research of Infection Diseases in Maryland. Nor did scientific data generated for the FBI "rule out other sources" for the anthrax, the panel's report says.
Considering the record on the investigation, the you can review their tactics to the prior "person of interest" in this situation (Stephen Hatfill, who was exonerated and received a cash settlement) and be rather surprised that he didn't top himself as well.

16 February 2011

Why Our Real Enemy is England

First, the royal wedding, and now this!
"Lie back and think of England," that's what the web site says.

Royal wedding commemorative condoms.

Between this and reality TV, the Western civilization does not deserve to exist.

Unsurprising News of the Day

Bernie Madoff is now saying that the banks were complicit or willfully blind with regard to his Ponzi scheme:
In his first interview for publication since his arrest in December 2008, Mr. Madoff — looking noticeably thinner and rumpled in khaki prison garb — maintained that family members knew nothing about his crimes.

But during a private two-hour interview in a visitor room here on Tuesday, and in earlier e-mail exchanges, he asserted that unidentified banks and hedge funds were somehow “complicit” in his elaborate fraud, an about-face from earlier claims that he was the only person involved.


In many ways, however, Mr. Madoff seemed unchanged. He spoke with great intensity and fluency about his dealings with various banks and hedge funds, pointing to their “willful blindness” and their failure to examine discrepancies between his regulatory filings and other information available to them.

“They had to know,” Mr. Madoff said. “But the attitude was sort of, ‘If you’re doing something wrong, we don’t want to know.’ ”
There's a surprise.

The banks generated big fees by sending their customers to someone that they thought might not be on the up and up, and "surprise", they made a point of not turning over the rocks?

Why is only Bernie going to jail?

How Is Wisconsin Like Egypt?

You know, I'm not entirely sure how they are alike, but recently elected wingnut governor Scott Walker looks like he might be joining Hosni Mubarak is some form of internal exile soon.

You see, in his new budget, he proposed completely gutting the right of public sector employees to unionize, forbidding unions from requiring that dues be paid, forbidding them from negotiating about pensions, healthcare, or even asking for a pay hike above that of inflation, and requiring an annual recertification vote.

He then followed this up with a threat to use the national guard against strikers, and there were somewhere between 10 and 30 thousand protesters in the capital, Madison.

We are already hearing calls for Walker to be recalled, but state law requires that a year follow his swearing in before petitions can be turned in, so that's off the table for about 10½ more months.

Because it Pisses off Democrats. That's why.

Medicare fraudster, and Florida governor, Rick Scott has decided to cancel a high speed rail project between Orlando and Tampa Florida:
Florida's congressional delegation, state officials and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer are pushing back against Gov. Rick Scott's decision Wednesday to reject $2.4 billion in federal stimulus money to build a high-speed train between Orlando and Tampa.

"This is a century-type decision that needs to be vetted," Dyer said. "I don't think it was given a fair hearing."

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood intends to meet either in person or by phone Friday with Florida elected officials, likely including Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Reps. John Mica, R-Winter Park, and Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, to discuss ways of keeping the project alive even as California, New York and Washington state offered to take some of the money.

And some officials were bitterly critical of Scott for pulling the plug even before bids had gone out to build the 84-mile system. Eight consortia of companies from 11 countries had indicated they would be willing to put up some or all of the state's $280 million share of the project, while the bid terms would have required them to absorb cost overruns and any operating losses for 20 years.
So, let's look at this, it would:
  • Cost the state little or no money.
  • Losses and cost overruns are someone else's problem.
  • Disney wanted it for their Disney World Theme park.
  • It would have created 23,000 construction jobs.
So, why did he cancel it?  Because in so doing, he's pissing off Democrats and liberals.

When looking at Republican policy making, one needs to realize that there is an imperative, pissing off Democrats, that frequently subordinates good policy, and sometimes even good politics.

Basically, Republicans are dicks.

No, they aren't dicks, a dick has a head.

The Only Answer is that Some People Are Above the Law

The great Matt Taibbi Asks, "Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail?," and he doesn't have an answer per se, but he does explain the consequences of the fact that the banksters are untouchable:
The mental stumbling block, for most Americans, is that financial crimes don't feel real; you don't see the culprits waving guns in liquor stores or dragging coeds into bushes. But these frauds are worse than common robberies. They're crimes of intellectual choice, made by people who are already rich and who have every conceivable social advantage, acting on a simple, cynical calculation: Let's steal whatever we can, then dare the victims to find the juice to reclaim their money through a captive bureaucracy. They're attacking the very definition of property — which, after all, depends in part on a legal system that defends everyone's claims of ownership equally. When that definition becomes tenuous or conditional — when the state simply gives up on the notion of justice — this whole American Dream thing recedes even further from reality.
This is the America that we live in, and Barack Obama and Timothy Geithner like it that way.

It really is a pity that the other side is so thoroughly contemptible, because there appears to be no good option.

Read the whole thing.

Bad Day at the Office…

I know that it was German defense posture to land and launch aircraft from the autobahn as a backup to bombed air fields during the cold war, but doing it in the F104? That is nuts!

15 February 2011

Just When You Thought that Republicans Could Not Get Any More Evil…

Republicans in South Dakata are pushing a law to legalize the murder of abortion providers:
A law under consideration in South Dakota would expand the definition of "justifiable homicide" to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus—a move that could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions. The Republican-backed legislation, House Bill 1171, has passed out of committee on a nine-to-three party-line vote, and is expected to face a floor vote in the state's GOP-dominated House of Representatives soon.

I don't mean to state the obvious, but it's pretty clear that there no middle ground here to negotiate. You would sooner get meaningful consensus from Osama bin Laden.

Props to Obama on Generic Drugs

Obama's budget achieves a fair amount of costs savings by shortening the exclusivity period for drugs and ending payments from big pharma to generic drug manufacturers not to manufacture their drugs:
Big pharmaceutical companies could face increased competition from generic drugmakers under two proposals put forth by the Obama administration on Monday despite earlier savings extracted from drugmakers as part of last year's healthcare law.

President Barack Obama, as part of his 2012 budget proposal, called for cutting the number of years drugmakers could exclusively market brand-name biologic drugs to 7 years from 12.

He also set his sights on ending controversial "pay-for-delay" deals that affect traditional, chemical drugs by giving the U.S. Federal Trade Commission power to block them. Under such pacts, brand-name and generic drugmakers settle patent challenges with payoffs that delay lower-cost rivals from reaching the market.
I'd feel a little bit better about this if he also wasn't cutting home heating aid to the poor in the same budget though.

Not Enough Bullets

No, but apparently we look like a bitch

This episode of Sesame Street is brought to you by the letter "B", as in bullet, and banker …
So, Citi's CEO, the incomparably incompetent Vikram Pandit, is saying that if if regulators reign in debit card fees, they will have to stick it to poor people:
U.S. banks may cut their services to the poorest Americans as a result of new U.S. financial regulations, including federal caps on debit card processing fees, Citigroup Chief Executive Vikram Pandit said Tuesday.

New U.S. laws, including the Dodd-Frank financial regulation act passed last year, "will change banking," Pandit said in prepared remarks due to be delivered at an investors' conference in New York Tuesday.
This makes me want to go all Samuel L. Jackson/Pulp Fiction on his ass …… OK, I want to go all Samuel L. Jackson/Pulp Fiction on his ass dressed in an Elmo suit, but that last bit is just me …… Or at least I think (hope) that the last bit is just me.

Let's be clear here the debit card fees are a fee levied disproportionately on the poor, and he's saying that if he can't f%$# the poor like a bitch, then he won't serve them?

This guy has a job because he f%$#ed so badly no one wants to take his job, because they would have to fix his mess, and so he, and the whole rotten bank, live off of TARP money, back door Treasury Department subsidies, and the largess of "Helicopter" Ben Bernanke's Federal Reserve, and he has the nerve to suggest that he is anything but a leech at the public tit.


14 February 2011

Shirley Sharrod Finally Sues Andrew Breitbart

About damn time:
Former USDA official Shirley Sherrod has filed a lawsuit against conservative firebrand and web entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart. The suit stems from the notorious video Breitbart posted online last year, showing an out-of-context excerpt from a speech Sherrod gave to the NAACP Freedom Fund in March 2010. The clip suggested she had used her position at the Department of Agriculture to discriminate against white farmers. The media devoured the Breitbart's version of story so voraciously that the NAACP denounced Sherrod and the Obama administration fired her. The charge was, in fact, entirely untrue.

Sherrod argues in the lawsuit that the clip "damaged her reputation and prevented her from continuing her work." Breitbart, meanwhile, denounced the suit, saying he "categorically rejects the transparent effort to chill his constitutionally protected free speech."
Let's be clear, as a public official at the time, Shirley Sharrod has a very high burden of proof, so I do not know her chances of prevailing, but even if she wins, it is highly unlikely that she will get anything unless she takes action in advance to ensure that the real assets of his operations are secure.

His real assets would walk out of his office tommorow, on a memory stick, we are talking about things like his subscriber database, so if I were her lawyer, I would suggest that she move to have the court appoint a special master to oversee this data, to ensure that it doesn't walk out the door.

Then again, I'm an engineer, not a lawyer, Dammit.*

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

God Bless The Onion

Don't be drinking anything when you read the rest of This:
U.S. Authorities Can't Really Fault Al-Qaeda For Deadly Bombing Of Carnival Cruise Ship
'Those Things Represent Everything That's Wrong With America,' Officials Say

February 9, 2011 | ISSUE 47•06

WASHINGTON—Following Monday's deadly terrorist attack on a Carnival Cruise Line ship, U.S. officials have had difficulty issuing a stern condemnation of the incident, saying that while any act of terrorism is inexcusable, they couldn't completely blame al-Qaeda for wanting to blow up what is essentially a giant, floating symbol of everything that is truly god-awful about America.

OMFSM, this is funny!

13 February 2011

Bad Day at the Office

It just goes to show you that jet wash can be a real bitch (About 20 s into the vid):

H/t the DEW Line

12 February 2011

Vasimr Electric Propulsion System Heading Out to ISS

NASA will be sending the variable specific impulse magnetoplasma rocket (Vasimr) up to the International Space Station (Paid subscription required) for tests and validation. (Earlier posts)

It's expected to put out about 5.7 Netwons, about a pound, with an ISP (fuel economy) of somewhere between 10 and 30 times that of chemical propellants.

While a pound does not seem like much thrust, it's more than enough for station keeping and orbital, or for that matter interplanetary, maneuvering, as you can get the thrust for months, rather than hours, and compared to other electric thrusters systems, like the ion drive used on the Dawn Probe, it provides a lot more thrust. (Dawn has a thrust of only 90mN, about 1/50 that of the Vasimr).

11 February 2011

If I Were Single, I Would So Avail Myself of this


It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.

I would note that this trend seems to be hewing fairly close to last year's pattern so far,
  1. Sunshine State Community Bank, Port Orange, FL
  2. Peoples State Bank, Hamtramck, MI
  3. Badger State Bank, Cassville, WI
  4. Canyon National Bank, Palm Springs, CA
Full FDIC list

And we have the first credit union closing of the year:
  1. Oakland Municipal Credit Union, Oakland, CA

Full NCUA list

So, here is the graph pr0n with last years numbers for comparison (FDIC only):

And since it's early in the year, here is a detail of the first few weeks:

What if HP Lovecraft wrote Dilbert?

I was doing a Google search, and found this:

Clearly the British Isles Must Be Invaded For Their Own Protection

Click for full size

Yes, These Are Royal Wedding Commemorative Condoms
I came across a web page titled, "Lie back and think of England," in which someone is flogging condoms commemorating the royal wedding.

Clearly they have forfeited any right to self governance.

Needless to say, this does not apply to the Republic of Ireland, who do not have the Royals as head of state, though their dealings with their banks does make one wonder about whether they are suited for self government, but that is a post for another day.

Deep Thought

This reminds me of a cartoon of Smokey the Bear shooting the FTD man while shouting, "Remember, only you can prevent florist flyers."

H/t JR the Stellar Parthenon BBS

Mubarak Flees Cairo, Soon to Go to R'Lyeh* Riyadh

Well, it looks like something between a popular uprising and a military coup just took place in Egypt, as Hosni Mubarak has resigned as President and left the capital:
Egypt erupted in a joyous celebration of the power of a long repressed people on Friday as President Hosni Mubarak resigned his post and ceded control to the military, ending his nearly 30 years of autocratic rule.

Shouts of “God is Great” competed with fireworks and car horns around Cairo after Mr. Mubarak’s vice president and longtime intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, announced during evening prayers that Mr. Mubarak had passed all authority to a council of military leaders, bowing to a historic popular uprising that has transformed politics in Egypt and around the Arab world.

Protesters hugged and cheered and shouted, “Egypt is free!” and “You’re an Egyptian, lift your head.”

“He’s finally off our throats,” said one protester, Muhammad Insheemy. “Soon, we will bring someone good.”

The departure of the 82-year-old Mr. Mubarak, at least initially to his coastal resort home in Sharm el-Sheik, was a pivotal turn in a nearly three-week revolt that has upended one of the Arab’s world’s most enduring dictatorships. The popular protests — peaceful and resilient despite numerous efforts by Mr. Mubarak’s legendary security apparatus to suppress them — ultimately deposed an ally of the United States who has been instrumental in helping to carry out American policy in the region for decades.
The country is now being run by a "council of military leaders," but they have made strong assertions that they will return the country to civilian rule, and something resembling a representative democracy, in a timely manner, but, there have been lots of promises throughout the Arab world about reform of governance, and they generally have not panned out.

Time will tell, I guess.

*"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn," (In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming) as the fictional "Mad Arab", Abdul Alhazred, would say.
And yes, I appreciate the irony of referring to the "Mad Arab" in the context of the overthrow of an Arab despot.

10 February 2011

Truth in CGI

A "deadbeat" home owner and a bankster debate on Xtranormal

H/t Trit at by invitation only Stellar Parthenon BBS.

Unsurprising News of the Day

In the last election, the City banks, the London equivalent of Wall Street, supplied half the campaign donations for the Tories:
Financiers in the City of London provided more than 50% of the funding for the Tories last year, new research has revealed, prompting claims that the party is in thrall to the banks.

A study by the Bureau for Investigative Journalism has found that the City accounted for £11.4m of Tory funding – 50.79% of its total haul – in 2010, a general election year. This compared with £2.7m, or 25% of its funding, in 2005, when David Cameron became party leader.

The research also shows that nearly 60 donors gave more than £50,000 to the Tories last year, entitling each of them to a face-to-face meeting with leading members of the party up to and including Cameron.

The study shows the impact that Michael Spencer has had on party funding. He was appointed by Cameron as Tory treasurer in an attempt to reduce the influence of Lord Ashcroft, the party's former deputy chairman. Spencer was asked by Cameron to increase the number of relatively small donations of £50,000 to curb the influence of large donors such as Ashcroft, and for these smaller donations the City was place to look.
Relatively small donations of fifty thousand quid? That's like eighty thousand US Dollars!

This might explain why their proposals to reign in bankster pay are so toothless.

It's Jobless Thursday

Well, it's Jobless Thursday, and the initial unemployment claims numbers are good, they fell to 383,000, a 36,000 drop, with the less volatile 4-week moving average falling to 415,000 from 431,000, and continuing claims fell by 49K to 3.89 million, though extended and emergency claims rose by 84K to 4.64 million.

I hope that this is a part of a trend, but much of this may be driven by the extreme weather that we have seen recently, which has the effect of delaying people trying to get to the unemployment offices.

Of particular concern is the rising emergency and extended claims, because there are large numbers of people, the so-called "99-ers" who have run out of benefits completely, and are so not caught in any of these numbers.

The Football is Pulled Away Again…

Who knew that Lucy Van Pelt was an 82 Year Old Egyptian President?
In a move that stunned observers, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak refused to step down, and instead delegated his powers to his VP, Omar Suleiman, who is also doing duty of the state intelligence services, which, unsurprisingly, does not bode well for the prospects of democratic reform.

Note here that he did not "transfer" his authority, he "delegated" it, which means that he can take the powers back whenever he wants:
President Hosni Mubarak told the Egyptian people on Thursday that he would delegate authority to Vice President Omar Suleiman but that he would not resign, enraging hundreds of thousands gathered to hail his departure and setting in motion a volatile new stage in the three-week uprising.

The declaration by Mr. Mubarak that he would remain president appeared to signal a dangerous escalation in one of the largest popular revolts in Egypt’s history, and some protesters warned that weeks of peaceful rallies might give way to violence as early as Friday.

The 17-minute speech itself underlined a seemingly unbridgeable gap between ruler and ruled in Egypt: Mr. Mubarak, in paternalistic tones, talked in great detail about changes he planned to make to Egypt’s autocratic Constitution, while crowds in Tahrir Square, with bewilderment and anger, demanded that he step down.

Mr. Mubarak seemed oblivious. “It’s not about me,” he said in his address. When he was done, crowds in Cairo waved the bottoms of their shoes in the air, a gesture intended to convey disgust, and shouted, “Leave! Leave!”
This is not going to end well.

09 February 2011

And Now for Some Non Congressional News…

George W. bush canceled a speaking engagement in Europe because he feared that he would be arrested for torture:
Former U.S. President George W. Bush has cancelled a visit to Switzerland, where he was to address a Jewish charity gala, due to the risk of legal action against him for alleged torture, rights groups said on Saturday.

Bush was to be the keynote speaker at Keren Hayesod's annual dinner on Feb. 12 in Geneva. But pressure has been building on the Swiss government to arrest him and open a criminal investigation if he enters the Alpine country.

Criminal complaints against Bush alleging torture have been lodged in Geneva, court officials say.

Human rights groups said they had intended to submit a 2,500-page case against Bush in the Swiss city on Monday for alleged mistreatment of suspected militants at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. naval base in Cuba where captives from Afghanistan, Iraq and other fronts in the so-called War on Terror were interned.
Well, it's nice to know that there are still a few nations out there that take crimes against humanity seriously.

Unfortunately, I'm not living in one of those nations.