28 February 2013

Our So Called Press Turned Down Bradley Manning's Leaks

I am so not shocked.

Bradley Manning just pled guilty on ten counts of misusing classified information, for his release of documents to Wikileaks, though he continues to maintain that he was not aiding the enemy.

What is most interesting that in his statement, Manning said that he want to the New York Times, Washington Post, and Politico, and was blown off:
While he was on leave from Iraq and staying in the Washington area in January 2010 he contacted the Washington Post and asked would it be interested in receiving information that he said would be "enormously important to the American people". He spoke to a woman who said she was a reporter but "she didn't seem to take me seriously".

The woman said, according to Manning's account, that the paper would only be interested subject to vetting by senior editors.

Despairing of that route, Manning turned to the New York Times. He called the public editor of the paper but only got voicemail.

He then tried other numbers on the paper but also got put through to voicemail, and though he left a message with his Skype contact details, nobody called him back. Manning added he had also contemplated going to the website Politico, but harsh weather prevented him.
What's more, there is an allegation that The Washington Post had, and sat on, the collateral murder video:
But the WikiLeaks Twitter account (and by the way, mark me down as saying it’s a safe bet that Julian Assange is its primary scribe) also let loose this officious-looking tweet earlier today:
Statement: Washington Post had Collateral murder video for over a year but DID NOT RELEASE IT it to the public.
Curious. I asked Kris Coratti, the Washington Post’s communications director, what was up. She emailed me this flat denial:
The Washington Post did not have the video, nor did we sit on anything.

There is a wrinkle to this tale. David Finkel, a Washington Post reporter, did elaborately describe the events of the day partially captured by the video in “Good Soldiers,” his book published in September 2009, based on his time embedded with an infantry battalion on the ground near the shootings. (WikiLeaks published its version of the video in April 2010.)
So a few years before Wikileaks got it, Finkle was writing descriptions which clearly imply that he had seen the video.

Finkle's defense is that whatever he had, was just for his book, not the paper:
Finkel gave me a call this morning, ready to add a bit more context.

“The idea that The Washington Post possessed something, or sat on something, is just absurd,” said Finkel.

“I was primarily there as a book author. I was on book leave from The Washington Post,” Finkel told me. “I’m not trying to be oblique here, but that was my role there.”
So, the guy who was, and is, employed the The Washington Post, makes what sounds like direct quotes from the videos, was somehow in Iraq on his own ticket, and had nothing to do with the paper when he saw the videos.

Yeah, right.

For the Times and Politico, it's pretty clear that Manning did a half-assed job of contacting them, but it's also pretty clear that WaPo knew of the video for years before it showed up on Wikileaks.

27 February 2013

F%$# the F%$#ing Yankees

The New York Yankees are claiming in court that they should hold the trademark on the term evil empire, at least as it applies to baseball:
Fans of the New York Yankees might bristle when they hear their team referred to as the "Evil Empire." But the team itself doesn't seem to mind, at least judging from a recent legal dust-up over the phrase.

A panel of trademark judges in Washington, D.C., earlier this month denied a request from a private entrepreneur, known as Evil Enterprises, Inc., to register the trademark for the phrase "Baseballs Evil Empire."

Evil Enterprises wanted the exclusive right to market merchandise using that phrase, which was coined in regard to the Yankees by Larry Lucchino, the president and chief executive of the Boston Red Sox, back in 2002. Upon learning that the Yankees had signed sought-after Cuban pitcher Jose Contreras, Lucchino was widely reported as saying: "The evil empire extends its tentacles even into Latin America."

Evil Enterprises initially applied for a trademark back in July of 2008.

But the Yankees objected, arguing that they had the rights to the phrase—at least when used in connection with baseball.
This is a level of truth telling by the Yankees that rivals that of the satirical publication The Onion.

Quote of the Day

If All Science Were Run Like Marijuana Research, Creationists Would Control Paleontology
—John Henry Schwarz, Harold Brown Professor of Theoretical Physics at Caltech
Interestingly enough, this guy one of the giants in the creation of string theory, which I'm not sure helps his credibility.

Scalia: Blacks Only Get to Vote When We Say So

It appears that Antonin "Fat Tony" Scalia thinks that protecting people from having their right to vote stolen is "Racial Entitlement":
Then, it is reenacted 5 years later, again for a 5-year term. Double-digits against it in the Senate. Then it was reenacted for 7 years. Single digits against it. Then enacted for 25 years, 8 Senate votes against it. And this last enactment, not a single vote in the Senate against it. And the House is pretty much the same. Now, I don’t think that’s attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this. I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It’s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.
Yes, preventing bad people from violating other people's right to vote is "racial entitlement."

What a repulsive bigoted excuse for a human being.

26 February 2013

In Death, Robert Bork Admits to Rank Hypocrisy

It turns out that he took a bribe from Richard Nixon to fire Archibald Cox during the Watergate scandal:
Robert Bork says President Richard Nixon promised him the next Supreme Court vacancy after Bork complied with Nixon’s order to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973.

Bork’s recollection of his role in the Saturday Night Massacre that culminated in Cox’s firing is at the center of his slim memoir, “Saving Justice,” that is being published posthumously by Encounter Books. Bork died in December at age 85.

Bork writes that he didn’t know if Nixon actually, though mistakenly, believed he still had the political clout to get someone confirmed to the Supreme Court or was just trying to secure Bork’s continued loyalty as his administration crumbled in the Watergate scandal.

President Ronald Reagan nominated Bork to the high court in 1987. The nomination failed in the Senate.
Robert Bork, in addition to being f%$# nuts, was a corrupt Cox sacker.

Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster that he die not make it to the Supreme Court.

In Your Face, Wayne LaPierre

There was a primary to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. in the Illinois 2nd Congressional district, and it ended up a referendum on gun laws, and the pro-gun control candidate won it in a walk:
Riding a wave of “super PAC” spending that helped catapult her to the front of a crowded Democratic field, Robin Kelly, whose campaign called for tougher national gun laws, clinched her party’s nomination Tuesday in a special primary election for the House seat vacated by Representative Jesse L. Jackson Jr.

The outcome of the contest, which had been unexpectedly cast into the center of the national gun debate, was welcome news for Michael R. Bloomberg, the mayor of New York and a staunch gun-control advocate. He poured more than $2.2 million into attacking Ms. Kelly’s chief opponent, Debbie Halvorson, this month.

Flooding Chicago airwaves, Mr. Bloomberg’s super PAC, Independence USA, ran a series of advertisements criticizing Ms. Halvorson for opposing certain gun control measures and endorsing Ms. Kelly as the alternative candidate.

………

In Illinois’s Second Congressional District, which includes parts of the South Side of Chicago and southern suburban counties, Mr. Bloomberg’s super PAC financed a wave of mailers and television advertisements that criticized Ms. Halvorson, a former House member, for having gotten an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association in earlier elections and for opposing bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazine clips.

………

Last week, the Illinois State Rifle Association responded to Mr. Bloomberg’s effort by sending out mailers asking its members in the district to vote for Ms. Halvorson on Tuesday. Ms. Halvorson said she had not asked for the endorsement.

She was considered a front-runner after Mr. Jackson resigned in November, just weeks after his re-election. He pleaded guilty last week to one count of fraud for spending campaign money on personal expenses and celebrity memorabilia.

………

In he victory speech, Ms. Kelly, a former state representative who has worked as a chief of staff for the Illinois state treasurer, told supporters they had sent “a message that tells the N.R.A. that their days of holding our country hostage are coming to an end.”
Your mouth to God's ear, Ms. Kelly.

The Germans Used the Euro to Exported Inflation

Paul Krugman looks at the German economy at the start of the Euro, and compares it to the Spanish economy now, and observes that the Germans painlessly devalued relative to Europe as the Euro created inflation in the periphery:
1. Thanks to the giant housing bubble, Spanish costs got much further out of line than Germany’s ever did, so the required adjustment is much bigger.

2. Germany got to do its adjustment in the face of a relatively strong European economy; Spain is being asked to adjust in the face of a depressed Europe sliding back into recession.

3. In part because of this difference in overall macro conditions, but also because Germany doesn’t have a housing boom and is actually engaging in a bit of austerity on its own, the burden of adjustment this time around is falling much more on deflation by the overvalued country.

………

You can see just how much harsher Spain’s adjustment is, and how much less help it’s getting from rising wages in the rest of the eurozone. Basically, Germany is refusing to do for Spain what Spain did for Germany in the past.

And the result of all that is incredibly high unemployment.
German banks fueled speculative bubbles in the periphery, which raised costs relative Germany, and so made Germany's labor markets relatively cheap.

I'm beginning to think that ending the Euro is the only way to save the EU.

Quote of the Day

Even though, as the headline shows, I have little Italian, and less Italian politics, I’m so chuffed that Beppe Grillo did well in yesterday’s Italian elections — even though he was neither a wizened, permanently tanned, and shamelessly unrehabilitated whoremonger nor a Goldman Sachs alumnus (sorry for the redundancy) — that I thought I’d do a wrap-up before conventional wisdom completely congeals. Alert readers will, of course, correct and amplify this post in comments!
—Lambert Strether of Corrente on the recent Italian elections.
(emphasis mine)

Of course, the whoremonger is Berulusconi, and the Goldman Sachs alum is Monti.

The election results were as follows:
Italy's center-left coalition won the most votes in the parliamentary election, mustering 110,000 more votes than its traditional rival, final data from the Interior Ministry showed early Tuesday.

The victory came thanks to inclusion of the SVP party, a regionalist movement that has long ruled the German-speaking South Tyrol region.

Pier Luigi Bersani's center-left coalition had 29.54% of the total vote while Silvio Berlusconi's center-right coalition had 29.18% of the vote.

Under Italy's electoral law, the winner of the most votes wins 340 of the 630 seats in the lower house, while losers split the rest proportionally.

"It's too close to call," said Angelino Alfano, the head of Mr. Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, signaling he may demand a closer scrutiny of the vote tally.

In fact, Italy's two main coalitions of the past 20 years together claimed less than half of all eligible votes, and their combined total fell more than 10 million from the last national vote in 2008.

Turnout was the lowest in Italian history at 75%, but the big surprise was Beppe Grillo's Five-Star Movement, an anti-establishment party born only three years ago, which took 25.55% of the vote. Activists in his party said they had no interest in negotiating "little stitched-up backroom deals."

Outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti's centrist coalition won 10.56% of the vote as support for the two veteran politicians he chose to ally with collapsed. Gianfranco Fini, once Mr. Berlusconi's virtual dauphin, won 0.465 of the vote while Pierferdinando Casini's UDC party, which claims to be the heir of the Christian Democrat party that ruled Italy for decades, won 1.78%, final data showed.
I would disagree with the assessment on Monti's lack of performance.

This vote, albeit one with low turnout by Italian standards, was about a rejection of austerity and German Hegemony in the EU.

Of course, it did not help that Monti was completely clueless about  how widely loathed the very serious people are loathed: (H/t Paul Krugman)
There was a symbolic moment in the Italian elections when I knew that the game was up for Mario Monti, the defeated prime minister. It was when in the middle of the campaign – in the midst of an anti-establishment insurgence – he took off to Davos to be with his friends from international finance and politics. I know his visit to the elite gathering in the Swiss mountains was not an issue in the campaign, but it signaled to me an almost comic lack of political realism.
(emphasis mine)

Yes, sipping champagne with the rich ratf%$#s who ruined the world economy, and then end up even richer, that's a productive use of your time.

I'm with Simon Johnson on this:  We need to break the back of the privileged class that broke the world as a first step to fixing the world.

The so-called "Technocrats" like Monti are just water carriers for these folks, and as such, are a part of the problem, not a part of the solution.

What PZ Myers Said

He suggests that the buying spree of hospitals by the Catholic church is a stealth assault on reproductive rights and needs to be stopped:
Imagine if you lived in a town where the only hospital was owned by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and you were in a car accident — you’ve got a ruptured spleen, you’re bleeding internally, and your life is at risk. The surgeon is going to go in and stitch up and cauterize everything, but you’re warned that they don’t keep any kind of blood supply in the hospital, and they refuse to do blood transfusions — they have an in-house professional ethicist (who is a Jehovah’s Witness, of course) who rejects the morality of exchanging sacred blood, and the administrators have signed an agreement with the church to never, under any circumstances, carry out blood transfusions.

If you need a blood transfusion, they say, don’t worry, the ambulance will take you to a different hospital…50 miles away. You, unfortunately, are in shock, you’ve got a gusher pouring blood into your body cavity, and this is not an option. You get to die.

………

So why are Catholics allowed to buy up and impose Catholic dogma on hospitals? Is it because their ignorant dogma does the greatest harm to women (especially those slutty ones who have sex) and bizarre rules about reproduction don’t directly harm men?

But Catholics are buying up hospitals all over the country. They’ve got declining attendance, they’re closing churches, they’re having trouble recruiting priests, but they’ve still got buckets of money, and they’re using that money to impose control in another way — by taking over your health care.
His conclusion is 100% spot on:
Don’t let Catholics control your hospitals. Keep the church out of your health care decisions. Make Catholic Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs) illegal — individuals may follow them at their personal discretion, but no health care facility gets to impose them on their patients, especially when they defy the law.
Your religious freedom does not include the right to impose your views on me.

Sorry, But I Think the Lede Was Buried Here

Yes, the Senate finally got around to voting on, and approval, Hagel, but they bury the part about a Democratic Senator supporting a filibuster of John Brennan as Director of the CIA:
The chances for Mr. Brennan remained good, though his confirmation was not expected to be entirely smooth, as both Republicans and Democrats have raised objections over the agency’s use of drones to kill American citizens suspected of terrorism. Republicans also see the Brennan vote, like the fight over Mr. Hagel, as leverage to press other issues with the White House.

Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said on Tuesday that he favored a longer confirmation process to force the White House to disclose more about the drone program. “There’s an old saw that after somebody is confirmed, they don’t even owe you a holiday card,” he said. “This is the time for vigilant oversight.”

Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, has called for similar disclosures on drones and has threatened to use “every procedural option at my disposal” to hold back Mr. Brennan’s nomination.
That's half way down the New York Times article.

Meanwhile, Tina Brown's Daily Beast prominently features this on their web site:
If you’ve followed the drawn-out saga surrounding John Brennan’s nomination to be CIA director—with all the questions it has raised about drones and targeting of American citizens—you may have noticed something odd: one of the Senate’s longtime liberals, Ron Wyden of Oregon, has appeared to be very much on the same page as Rand Paul of Kentucky, arguably the most ardent Tea Partier on Capitol Hill.

It turns out this isn’t just a fleeting alliance. For some time now, Wyden and Paul—along with two other senators, Republican Mike Lee of Utah and Democrat Mark Udall of Colorado—have been working together to try to curb the broad authorities the Obama administration has asserted in the war on terror. The advent of this group, which calls itself the Checks and Balances Caucus, is certainly not the first time in political history that the libertarian right has allied with the civil-liberties-minded left. Yet at a moment when inter-party cooperation is almost nonexistent in Washington, any bipartisan alliance—especially one that includes some of DC’s most committed ideological opposites—is both unusual and noteworthy.
I do hope that Wyden has the guts to back up a filibuster by Paul, because the administration needs to be forced to be more open about these policies and their legal justifications.

As God as My Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly

So not the f%$#ing Onion, but they are dosing mice with Tylenol and dropping them from helicopters on Guam:
Something about this just does not sound like a good idea. In the coming months, toxic mice will rain down on the jungles in Guam. They are the solution to the intrusion of the brown tree snake which has wiped out much of Guam’s native bird species after first arriving on the island in U.S. naval ships after World War II. With an estimated 2 million of the snakes on the island, the military has decided to carpet bomb the island with dead mice laced with lethal painkillers. Italy carpet bombed one its islands with poison to combat a similar rat problem. The brown tree snakes have been cutting power lines and even biting residents. However, there is the obvious problem of other animals eating the mice. To reduce this problem, the scientists have developed a flotation device with streamers designed to catch in the branches of the forest foliage, where the snakes live and feed. Yet, if anything goes wrong, we have replaced a brown tree snake problem with an army of airborne paratrooping zombie toxic mice with addiction problems.
What the hell?

Seriously, someone has jumped the f%$#ing shark!

25 February 2013

Obamacare Fail

Employers are required to cover children, but not spouses, and they are looking at canceling coverage on spouses to save money:
By denying coverage to spouses, employers not only save the annual premiums, but also the new fees that went into effect as part of the Affordable Care Act. This year, companies have to pay $1 or $2 “per life” covered on their plans, a sum that jumps to $65 in 2014. And health law guidelines proposed recently mandate coverage of employees’ dependent children (up to age 26), but husbands and wives are optional. “The question about whether it’s obligatory to cover the family of the employee is being thought through more than ever before,” says Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health.

While surcharges for spousal coverage are more common, last year, 6% of large employers excluded spouses, up from 5% in 2010, as did 4% of huge companies with at least 20,000 employees, twice as many as in 2010, according to human resources firm Mercer. These “spousal carve-outs,” or “working spouse provisions,” generally prohibit only people who could get coverage through their own job from enrolling in their spouse’s plan.

Such exclusions barely existed three years ago, but experts expect an increasing number of employers to adopt them: “That’s the next step,” Darling says. HMS, a company that audits plans for employers, estimates that nearly a third of companies might have such policies now. Holdouts say they feel under pressure to follow suit. “We’re the last domino,” says Duke Bennett, mayor of Terre Haute, Ind., which is instituting a spousal carve-out for the city’s health plan, effective July 2013, after nearly all major employers in the area dropped spouses.

But when employers drop spouses, they often lose more than just the one individual, when couples choose instead to seek coverage together under the other partner’s employer. Terre Haute, which pays $6 million annually to insure nearly 1,200 people including employees and their family members, received more than 20 new plan members when a local university, bank and county government stopped insuring spouses, according to Bennett. “We have a great plan, so they want to be on ours. All we’re trying to do is level the playing field here,” he says.
It's a race to the bottom. Whee!

This was foreseeable.  

Adverse selection/the race to the bottom are the most salient feature of our current healthcare clusterf%$#.  To assume that insurance providers would not avail themselves of every opportunity to benefit from this is policy malpractice.

But Of Course

The National Futures Association, the organization responsible for "self-regulating" the industry, wanted to ban Jon Corzine from the group for life.

They had a problem though, it turns out that the former head of the non-bankrupt MF Global was not a member:
The comedian vowed to avoid “any club that would accept me as one of its members.” Mr. Corzine, the former Democratic senator who ran MF Global until it collapsed in 2011, faced expulsion from a group to which he did not even belong.

The National Futures Association, the futures industry’s self-regulatory group, convened on Thursday to consider a lifetime ban of Mr. Corzine. Two of the group’s newest board members championed the plan as retribution for Mr. Corzine’s role in the demise of MF Global, which improperly took $1.6 billion from its customers before filing for bankruptcy.

If a majority of the board members voted yes, the group would have moved to hold a hearing over Mr. Corzine’s status before enacting the ban.

But when the board emerged from its meeting late on Thursday, the group issued a cryptic statement suggesting that Mr. Corzine could not be so easily ostracized because of, well, a small flaw in the plan: “Mr. Corzine is not currently a member of N.F.A.,” the board’s chairman declared in the statement.

………

His plan to expel Mr. Corzine grew from mounting frustration over the slowly developing federal investigation into MF Global. After more than a year of investigating Mr. Corzine, regulators and criminal investigators have not filed any charges, feeding concerns that Mr. Corzine will escape unscathed.
Of course, he's going to emerge unscathed.

Silly rabbit, consequences are for little people.

Tell Me That This Is Not a Bribe

Jack Lew, Obama's nominee for Treasury Secretary, appears to have a deal with his current employer, Citigroup, that looks an awful lot like a bribe:
Jack Lew is the nominee for Treasury secretary whose own bonus as an investment banker was bailed out by the Treasury Department when it rescued Citigroup Inc. (C) in 2008. He owes much to America’s taxpayers. He should also be grateful to Citigroup for agreeing to let him rejoin the government without suffering much for it financially.

An intriguing revelation from Lew’s Senate confirmation hearing last week was that he stood to be paid handsomely by Citigroup if he left the company for a top U.S. government job, under his 2006 employment agreement with the bank. The wording of the pay provisions made it seem, at least to me, as if Citigroup might have agreed to pay Lew some sort of a bounty to seek out, and be appointed to, such a position.

………

Lew’s employment agreement with Citigroup said his “guaranteed incentive and retention award” wouldn’t be paid if he quit his job, with limited exceptions. One was if he left Citigroup “as a result of your acceptance of a full-time high level position with the United States government or regulatory body.” This applied if he left “prior to the payment of any incentive and retention award for performance year 2008 or thereafter.” Such an award wasn’t guaranteed but would be consistent with the company’s practice, the document said.

A similar provision concerned his stock-based compensation. If Lew left in 2008 or afterward to accept a high-level U.S. government position, all of his outstanding equity awards, including restricted stock, would vest immediately, the document said. Alternatively, Citigroup had the option of paying Lew the cash equivalent of any shares he forfeited upon leaving. The terms didn’t mention other kinds of public-service work, such as a midlevel U.S. government job, a position in municipal or state government, or working at a nonprofit organization such as a university.
The payoff here is very clear: You go and work for the government, and you are our boy, bought and paid for.

First, the Cayman Islands accounts, and now this.

This guy is going to be an even bigger creature of the Wall Street banksters than than Geithner was.

This is deeply corrupt, in reality if not by law, but I think that the Obama administration sees this as a feature, not a bug.

To Be Fair, You Cannot Say this in The New York Times

Krugman talks about Monti and his catastrophic embrace of austerity when he was installed by the European Union.

What I want to point out is this rather interesting paragraph buried toward the end of his OP/ED
For Mr. Monti was, in effect, the proconsul installed by Germany to enforce fiscal austerity on an already ailing economy; willingness to pursue austerity without limit is what defines respectability in European policy circles. This would be fine if austerity policies actually worked — but they don’t. And far from seeming either mature or realistic, the advocates of austerity are sounding increasingly petulant and delusional.
(emphasis mine)

It's an odd turn of phrase, "The proconsul installed by Germany," and I'm wondering if he is making an oblique reference to Vidkun Quisling.

Of course, were he to make a direct reference to the infamous Norwegian collaborator in the pages of The Times, at least in the terms of current policy and politics, he would not be in the pages of The Times for much longer.

24 February 2013

Why the Mathematics of Finance are Crap

I will give you this (admittedly old) example from Global Economic Intersection, which explains in very simple terms, how much of finance is much closer to a confidence scheme that we would like to imagine:
"If Timmy brings 100 marbles to school and lends them to his classmates at 5% interest for the day, and the classmates diligently work to trade and earn and win enough marbles to pay their debts, how many marbles will Timmy collect at the end of the day?"

The banker will promise a 5% return, and my guess is that a lot of you thought the same thing.

Only it's not true.

Most of the pupils are of the linear thinking neoclassical persuasion steeped from the cradle in "banker arithmetic", so they sharpen their pencils and calculate that Timmy will receive 105 marbles in total principal + interest. "Profit drives the marble economy", Teacher correctly explains, "which is why the classmates were all so busily engaged working for marbles." And the pupils agreed it would be great fun participating in a marble economy where you could exercise your talents to get out more than you put in.

But little Warren had failed to cram his head into the neoclassical pencil sharpening box where you learn banker arithmetic and he exclaims, "But there ARE only 100 marbles, so unless Teacher adds marbles into the room, Timmy can only get back as many marbles as he put in. So the correct answer is Timmy will get back 100 marbles and some of his classmates will default on their debts and suffer a life of stupid unemployed poverty because Teacher says "We must live within our means." and she refuses to add the needed marbles even though she owns the marble factory that produces unlimited marbles at virtually no cost."
Yes, his is a metaphor for the Euro Zone, and the Austrian school ratf$#@s who make up the Bundesbank.

Read the rest.

Deep Thought



H/t I f%$#ing love science

23 February 2013

Boeing 787 Faces More Battery Problems


Bummer of a birth mark, Boeing
They have found swelling in another 787 battery:
Cells in a second lithium-ion battery on a Boeing Co 787 Dreamliner forced to make an emergency landing in Japan last month showed slight swelling, a Japan Transport Safety Board (JTSB) official said on Tuesday.

The jet, flown by All Nippon Airways Co, was forced to make the landing after its main battery failed.

“I do not know the exact discussion taken by the research group on the ground, but I heard that it is a slight swelling (in the auxiliary power unit battery cells). I have so far not heard that there was internal damage,” Masahiro Kudo, a senior accident investigator at the JTSB said in a briefing in Tokyo.

Kudo said that two out of eight cells in the second battery unit showed some bumps and the JTSB would continue to investigate to determine whether this was irregular or not.
Ummmm....I spent a few months working for a battery manufacturer. This is not a good sign.

Boeing purchasing McDonnell Douglas, and deciding to let McDonnell Douglas's failed management then take over the firm is bearing bitter fruit.

It's Refreshing to See an Honest CEO………

OK, it's not real, it's the comedy stylings of Brian Firenzi and Maria Del Carmen, but this is what we should see from CEOs.


Academe Would Be So Much Better if This Were True

FAQ: The “Snake Fight” Portion Of Your Thesis Defense

A sample:
Q: What does it mean if I get a small snake that is also very strong?

A: Snake-picking is not an exact science. The size of the snake is the main factor. The snake may be very strong, or it may be very weak. It may be of Asian, African, or South American origin. It may constrict its victims and then swallow them whole, or it may use venom to blind and/or paralyze its prey. You shouldn’t read too much into these other characteristics. Although if you get a poisonous snake, it often means that there was a problem with the formatting of your bibliography.
Go read.

H/t Lindsay Beyerstein.

22 February 2013

A Whole Orchestra in Just 4 Strings

This is a live performance of Won't Get Fooled Again by The Who, but they isolated Entwhistle's base (probably from the mixing board).

This is amazing.  Pure genius.



H/t Boing Boing

Win.



Dr. Who Played on Floppy Drives.

My Flight Left Over 4 Hours Late


I also spent about 2 hours on the tarmac waiting for a gate to open up to deplane.

Of course, this means that I missed my connecting flight.

I'm booked on a flight that leaves in 5 hours, and wait listed for one that leaves in 2 hours.

If I were stupid, this would be where I would make an angry, but not serious, statement about what should happen to the good folks at USAir, and their lackadaisically maintained fleet of  aircraft.



Of course, this would pique the interest of the good folds in Fort Meade, and I would end up getting to know FBI special agent Body Cavity Search.

So I will leave our at, "Their mother was a hamster, and their father smelled of elderberries."

Posted via mobile.

Waiting to Board a Flight to Portland

(Via Phoenix)

Flying out for my Dad's 80th birthday party.

Flying back Sunday.

I decided to leave my laptop at home, so my posting will be very light (I've posted some timeless stuff to show up later).

Posted via mobile.

21 February 2013

How Many Jobs Does the Keystone Pipeline Create?

Only 20.

Call me a political Little Orphan Annie, but I think that if you have to lie this much, it's probably not a good idea:
TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s Keystone XL oil pipeline, heralded by supporters as a major job creator, will add few permanent positions once the $7 billion project is built.

The number of people needed to operate and maintain the 1,661-mile (2,673-kilometer) pipeline may be as few as 20, according to the U.S. State Department, or as many as a few hundred, according to TransCanada.

“I don’t see a big jobs impact,” Stephen Fuller, director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, said in an interview. “It gets the oil into refineries that already exist. It’s like replacing a bridge on the highway.”

The debate in Washington has focused on short-term construction and manufacturing jobs, rather than on permanent ones. Estimates for construction and manufacturing employment range from 2,500 to 20,000, depending on assumptions of how much of the project’s budget will be spent in the U.S. The company says some of the steel will be made in Canada and India.

TransCanada Vice President Robert Jones said permanent jobs would be “in the hundreds, certainly not in the thousands,” in a Nov. 11 interview on CNN.

Calgary-based TransCanada says construction will create 20,000 “new, real U.S. jobs.”
What a surprise, TransCanada is a bunch of lying sacks of sh%$.

And the bitumen that they will be extracting is an ecological disaster as well.

It's Jobless Thursday!!!!

Not good news. Initial unemployment claims rose by 20K to 362K, as did the 4-week moving average and continuing claims, though extended claims fell, probably because of exhaustion of benefits.

Of more concern is that the Fed's Open Market Committee minutes came out, and it looks like they are losing their nerve on quantitative easing:
The Federal Reserve signaled it may consider slowing the pace of asset purchases as officials extended a debate over whether record monetary easing risks unleashing inflation or fueling asset-price bubbles.

Several participants at the Federal Open Market Committee’s Jan. 29-30 meeting “emphasized that the committee should be prepared to vary the pace of asset purchases, either in response to changes in the economic outlook or as its evaluation of the efficacy and costs of such purchases evolved,” according to the minutes of the gathering released yesterday.
This is not the right time for the Fed to take its head off the accelerator pedal.

It Still Tastes Better Than Dr. Pepper

That being said, I understand why guests at the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles were squicked out when a body was found in its rooftop water tank:
Guests of a downtown hotel where missing Canadian tourist Elisa Lam was found dead in a rooftop water tank expressed horror at the discovery.

Lam's body was discovered by a worker at the Cecil Hotel checking out complaints of weak water pressure, police said.

"I'm really disgusted," said Annette Suzuki, a San Francisco resident staying at the hotel. "Wouldn't you be if there was a dead body in the water tank you're drinking from?"

As authorities were searching for clues at the scene of the discovery Monday evening, Pippa Beaumont, 26, of South Africa was rushing out of the hotel with her luggage in tow.

She had planned to stay at the hotel but decided not to when she learned a body had been found in one of the hotel's water tanks.
In Los Angeles, the water drinks you.

20 February 2013

Firewood Versus Honey Boo boo

I'll go with the aesthetic sensibilities of the Norwegian people:
The TV program, on the topic of firewood, consisted mostly of people in parkas chatting and chopping in the woods and then eight hours of a fire burning in a fireplace. Yet no sooner had it begun, on prime time on Friday night, than the angry responses came pouring in.

“We received about 60 text messages from people complaining about the stacking in the program,” said Lars Mytting, whose best-selling book “Solid Wood: All About Chopping, Drying and Stacking Wood — and the Soul of Wood-Burning” inspired the broadcast. “Fifty percent complained that the bark was facing up, and the rest complained that the bark was facing down.”

He explained, “One thing that really divides Norway is bark.”

One thing that does not divide Norway, apparently, is its love of discussing Norwegian wood. Nearly a million people, or 20 percent of the population, tuned in at some point to the program, which was shown on the state broadcaster, NRK.

In a country where 1.2 million households have fireplaces or wood stoves, said Rune Moeklebust, NRK’s head of programs in the west coast city of Bergen, the subject naturally lends itself to television.

“My first thought was, ‘Well, why not make a TV series about firewood?’” Mr. Moeklebust said in an interview. “And that eventually cut down to a 12-hour show, with four hours of ordinary produced television, and then eight hours of showing a fireplace live.”

………

But the real excitement came when the action moved, four hours later, to a fireplace in a Bergen farmhouse.

Perhaps you have seen a log fire burning on television before. But it would be very foolish to confuse Norway’s eight-hour fireplace extravaganza on Friday with the Yule log broadcast in the United States at Christmastime.

While the Yule log fire plays on a constant repeating loop, the fire on “National Firewood Night” burned all night long, in suspensefully unscripted configurations. Fresh wood was added through the hours by an NRK photographer named Ingrid Tangstad Hatlevoll, aided by viewers who sent advice via Facebook on where exactly to place it.

For most of the time, the only sound came from the fire. Ms. Hatlevoll’s face never appeared on screen, but occasionally her hands could be seen putting logs in the fireplace, or cooking sausages and marshmallows on sticks.

“I couldn’t go to bed because I was so excited,” a viewer called niesa36 said on the Dagbladet newspaper Web site. “When will they add new logs? Just before I managed to tear myself away, they must have opened the flue a little, because just then the flames shot a little higher.
Yes, this is deliciously weird, but this is a hell of a lot less pathological than the American regime of reality programing.

China Moves Toward Carbon Tax

It looks like the Chinese have learned a lesson from their recent near lethal smog incidents in Beijing:
China’s Ministry of Finance has announced that the country will levy a tax on carbon emissions, reports Xinhua. Policy experts in the United States and Europe have long argued that a carbon tax is the most effective way to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses, but implementing one in most large industrialized countries has always seemed politically infeasible.

In the same announcement, China’s Ministry of Finance said that direct taxes on resources, including coal and water, will also be forthcoming.

Details on the carbon tax are scant, but previous reports indicated that it would come into force by 2015 and might start at 10 yuan ($1.60) per tonne of carbon, rising to 50 yuan ($8) per tonne by 2020. Notably, the tax would be collected by local tax authorities, and not municipal environmental protection bureaus.
BTW, I did some quick back of the envelope calculations.

If you look at the weight of carbon in a gallon of gasoline (4.2 lbs of carbon per gallon based on a chemical formula of C8H18), 10 yuan per gallon is a bit less than ⅓ of a penny a gallon, and 50 yuan, about 1⅔ cents a gallon.

It's not a whole bunch of money, though it's probably about twice that per BTU for coal, but it's a start, which puts it ahead of the United States.

Also I approve of a carbon tax, because, unlike cap and trade, it does not prevent Wall Street from using "financial innovation" to rip the rest of society off.

We Are Doomed

It appears that data from the Large Hadron Collider shows that we will be swallowed up by an alternate reality in the next 10 billion years or so:
Scientists are still sorting out the details of last year's discovery of the Higgs boson particle, but add up the numbers and it's not looking good for the future of the universe, scientists said Monday.

"If you use all the physics that we know now and you do what you think is a straightforward calculation, it's bad news," Joseph Lykken, a theoretical physicist with the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, told reporters.

Lykeen spoke before presenting his research at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston.

"It may be that the universe we live in is inherently unstable and at some point billions of years from now it's all going to get wiped out," said Lykken, who is also on the science team at Europe's Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator.

………

"This calculation tells you that many tens of billions of years from now, there'll be a catastrophe," Lykken said.

"A little bubble of what you might think of as an ‘alternative' universe will appear somewhere and then it will expand out and destroy us," Lykken said, adding that the event will unfold at the speed of light.

Scientists had grappled with the idea of the universe's long-term stability before the Higgs discovery, but stepped up calculations once its mass began settling in at around 126 billion electron volts - a critical number it turns out for figuring out the fate of the universe.

The calculation requires knowing the mass of the Higgs to within one percent, as well as the precise mass of other related subatomic particles.

"You change any of these parameters to the Standard Model (of particle physics) by a tiny bit and you get a different end of the universe," Lyyken said.
Or maybe not.

It's kind of irrelevant to most of us, except perhaps theologians.

19 February 2013

Another Day………

Another mass shooting, this time California.

4 Dead.

This is a Good Thing


Map courtesy of the Kaiser Family Foundation
Notwithstanding the statements of the Obama administration that it was essential that the states should run their own health insurance exchanges, it's good news that the Federal Government will run 26 of 50 of the exchanges:
Friday was a very important day for health policy days. It was the last day for states to tell the federal government whether they wanted any part in running the Affordable Care Act health exchanges come 2014.

The federal government did not get many takers. Some of the most closely watched states, including Florida and New Jersey, decided to leave the entire task to the federal government. All told, the federal government will run 26 of the state health exchanges. It also will partner with seven states, where state and federal officials take joint responsibility for the marketplace. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia will take on the task themselves. Here’s what that looks like in map form, via the Kaiser Family Foundation.

………

The big question moving forward is: Does this split matter? Is it better or worse for the federal government to be running the majority of the state health exchanges?

In the health policy world, there are essentially two schools of thought on this. The first is that states opting out of the exchanges is horrible for the Obama administration. All along, Health and Human Services has urged states to move forward on their own. Now, HHS has the massive task of setting up 26 separate state exchanges.

………

That is the pessimist’s take on the federal government’s very big workload. But there’s also an optimist’s take, one that suggests that federal oversight of most Affordable Care Act marketplaces will ultimately strengthen the health overhaul.

Remember, House Democrats originally wanted one national health exchange, where everyone in all 50 states could purchase coverage. That idea was nixed in the Senate bill, which aimed to give states a larger role in setting up the Affordable Care Act.

In a way, all these states turning over their exchanges to the federal government brings Obamacare a little closer to the more liberal House bill, which had the federal government running one big marketplace. It allows the White House to have more control over setting up its signature legislative accomplishment. It also creates some economies of scale, as HHS can develop one template exchange that all 26 states it handles will use.
I'm not sure why the Obama administration was so big on the state run exchanges.

My guess was that they are worried about the inevitable teething problems, and wanted as many opportunities as possible to spread the blame around.

The state based insurance system has resulted in a lot of oligopolies in healthcare, and has allowed the insurance corporations to purchase legislators and regulators, so I see this as an unalloyed good.

It moves us away from the inevitable race to the bottom that will occur in state based systems.

When Charles F%$#ing Krauthammer is the Voice of Reason, You Have Jumped the Shark

Jumping C. Megladon*


This is one big shark that he jumped.
With Frikken Lasers!
The White House press corps(e) is mad as hell and they are not going to take it any more.

They have been stonewalled by the Obama administration for the last time?

What was it? The secret kill list? The use of the CIA and the NSA to spy on US citizens? The secret negotiations for the the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Nope. The press is livid that they did not get a press availability when Obama played a round of golf with Tiger Woods:
The White House pushed back Tuesday against complaints from the press corps that the administration was too restrictive last weekend in denying reporters and photographers a glimpse of President Obama playing golf with Tiger Woods during his vacation in Florida.

Press secretary Jay Carney said he sympathizes with the press corps’ bid for greater access, but he disputed suggestions that Obama has been more off-limits than his recent predecessors.

Carney said Obama has held 35 news conferences in which reporters were permitted to ask questions, compared to 19 by George W. Bush to this point in his presidency. And Obama has granted 591 interviews, including 104 with television networks, Carney added.

………

Later that afternoon, the White House confirmed that Woods was among Obama’s foursome after a reporter for Golf World Magazine and the Golf Channel had published the news on his Twitter feed hours earlier.

After several reporters, including Fox News correspondent Ed Henry, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, complained about the lack of access, Obama spoke with reporters aboard Air Force One on Monday evening on the way back to Washington. But that conversation was off the record.
Do you know how stupid this is?

It's so stupid and over the top that lunatic and long distance psychotherapist Charles Krauthammer thinks that this is whiny inconsequential bullsh%$:
Charles Krauthammer is blasting the media for complaining about a lack of access to President Barack Obama over the weekend while he golfed with Tiger Woods, calling it “the biggest non-story” since the Kardashian weddings.

“If the guy wants to play golf, the guy deserves a couple of days off. He wants privacy — big deal. This is the biggest non-story that the media have created since the Kardashian weddings,” Krauthammer said on Fox News on Monday. “I don’t understand what the story is and what the outrage is.”
Seriously, Charles Krauthammer is correct.

I cannot f%$#ing believe that I f%$#ing just f%$#ing said f%$#ing that.

*The largest shark, and likely largest predator fish ever. It died out some 1.5 million years ago. The Genus is still in dispute, between either Carcharodon (Great White) or Carcharocles (broad toothed Mako). But in either case, you are jumping C. Megladon, you have jumped the biggest shark ever.

No

Can Police Be Trusted With Drones?

This has been another episode of simple answers to simple questions.

If you want context, you merely need to Google the abuses by police departments of thermal scanners, access to utility bills, and the 4th amendment in general.

But of Course

Senate Minority Leader Fooled by Report in Military Version of The Onion

Well turtles are not known for their intellect.

18 February 2013

It's a Start

In the primary to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr. in Congress, a leading candidate has been forced out largely because of her high ratings from the NRA:
Illinois State Sen. Toi Hutchinson dropped her bid to fill the Congressional seat of former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. on Sunday after her moderate views on gun safety made her a target of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s political action committee, Independence USA.

In what will be the first election since the shooting in Newton, Connecticut, the $2 million ad buy criticized Hutchison and another candidate for receiving an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA). “In the race for Congress, the big issue? Fighting gun violence. Debbie Halvorson and Toi Hutchinson both earned an A from the NRA, they can’t be trusted,” the ad began before endorsing former state Rep. Robin Kelly who supports background checks and banning assault weapons.

Guns have become a central issue in the primary, as Kelly attacked her opponents’ views on gun safety and “pointed out that Hutchinson received a 92 percent rating from the NRA” and does not support a statewide concealed carry ban. She also urged all candidates to “sign on to a five-point pledge to reduce gun violence: banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines, closing the gun show loophole, supporting Illinois’ conceal carry ban, and refusing support from ‘organizations that oppose reasonable gun safety legislation.’”
A few years ago, it would have been unthinkable that a high rating from the NRA would be used against a candidate, but the recent behavior of the organization, in particular the batsh%$ insane pronouncements of their CEO, Wayne LaPierre, have, when juxtaposed with the Newtown shootings, made the organization increasingly toxic.

This is good.

The New York Times Notices that the Bank Settlements are Bullsh%$

You see, they are making modifications to 2nd mortgages while continuing to foreclose on 1st mortgages.

This might sound like a meaningless difference, but banks are given credit for modifying a 2nd mortgage, but in the event of a foreclosure, they are subordinate to 1st mortgages, and so are wiped out.

This means that the foreclosure modification means nothing, though the banks get credit for it anyway:
In January, federal regulators announced an $8.5 billion agreement with 10 mortgage servicers to settle claims of foreclosure abuses, including bungled loan modifications and the wrongful evictions of borrowers who were either current on their payments or making reduced monthly payments.

Under the deal, announced by the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the mortgage servicers will pay $3.3 billion to borrowers who went through foreclosure in 2009 and 2010 and an additional $5.2 billion to reduce the principal or the monthly payments of borrowers in danger of losing their homes.

………

The problem involves second mortgages, which millions of homeowners took out during the housing bubble. It’s estimated that as much as a quarter of all mortgage debt in the United States is in the form of second mortgages. Some of these loans were taken out to finance home improvements; others were part of a subprime product known as an “80/20 mortgage,” in which 80 percent of the purchase price was covered by a first, adjustable-rate mortgage, and the remainder by a second mortgage, often with a much higher interest rate.

The second mortgages have given the banks a loophole: each dollar a bank forgives goes toward fulfilling its obligation under last year’s settlement. But many lenders have made it a point to almost exclusively modify secondary loans while all but ignoring the troubled, larger primary mortgages.

It’s a real problem: when it comes to keeping your home, it’s the first mortgage that counts.

………

Why would a bank forgive a second mortgage completely but move forward with foreclosure on the first mortgage?

Surprisingly, such a tactic often makes sense for banks. When a lender forecloses on a first mortgage, the house in question is typically sold at auction. If the house is worth less than the loan amount, the bank gets only part of its money back. But after the sale, of course, there’s no asset left to pay off any of the second loan. The holder of that second loan — which has lower priority than the holder of the first — gets nothing.

So a lender can forgive a second mortgage — which in the event of foreclosure would be worthless anyway — and under the settlement claim credits for “modifying” the mortgage, while at the same time it or another bank forecloses on the first loan. The upshot, of course, is that the people the settlement was designed to protect keep losing their homes.
I would note here that the author, Elizabeth M. Lynch who is a lawyer who provides free civil legal aid,is being rather charitable:  she thinks that the banksters are taking advantage of loopholes in the settlement.

I believe that the intention of the deal on the part of the Fed and the OCC was to create a meaningless "Potemkin Agreement".  They never intended to create better behavior.

Their goal was to indemnify the banks and to generate some propaganda to deflect moves toward real accountability.

17 February 2013

Speculation About the Pope's Abdication Gains Mainstream Currency

The speculation about why the Pope is stepping down has hit Reuters:
Pope Benedict's decision to live in the Vatican after he resigns will provide him with security and privacy. It will also offer legal protection from any attempt to prosecute him in connection with sexual abuse cases around the world, Church sources and legal experts say.

"His continued presence in the Vatican is necessary, otherwise he might be defenseless. He wouldn't have his immunity, his prerogatives, his security, if he is anywhere else," said one Vatican official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"It is absolutely necessary" that he stays in the Vatican, said the source, adding that Benedict should have a "dignified existence" in his remaining years.

Vatican sources said officials had three main considerations in deciding that Benedict should live in a convent in the Vatican after he resigns on February 28.

Vatican police, who already know the pope and his habits, will be able to guarantee his privacy and security and not have to entrust it to a foreign police force, which would be necessary if he moved to another country.

"I see a big problem if he would go anywhere else. I'm thinking in terms of his personal security, his safety. We don't have a secret service that can devote huge resources (like they do) to ex-presidents," the official said.
It could be nothing, but my guess is that we are going to hear the drip, drip, drip of all of this for months.

I actually have a bit of sympathy for him.  Benedict was left with the mess that John Paul created.  (It's pretty clear that JPII gave then Cardinal Ratzinger instructions to cover up the allegations when he was head of the Inquisition Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.)

An Interesting Take on Mali

It turns out that north Mali has something in common with the antebellum South, a pervasive and systematic system of slavery:
The insurgents who have fled from invading French troops in Mali have been taking with them some of their most important possessions — slaves.

The Tuareg tribes that overran Mali's military with the help of Arab extremist groups aligned with al-Qaeda have long held slaves and many of the captives are from families that have been enslaved for generations.

"It's no way to live, without your freedom," said Mohammed Yattara, a former slave who ran away from his Tuareg masters years ago.

"You depend on them for everything. If they tell you to do something, you have to do it, or they will beat you," he said as he sat with the chief of the village of Toya and among men and women who were descendants of slaves or former slaves.
One of the artifacts of slavery is that its abolition has the effect of destroying a lot of wealth held by the elites, and the elites tend not to view this favorably.

For some historical perspective, note that the first war in North America over the issue of slavery was the War of Texas Independence, and the slave holders won.  (Yes, this was the primary causus belli was slavery, so the Mexicans were the good guys, but they lost, so the Texans wrote the history.)

H/t DownWithTyranny.

16 February 2013

This is the Best Dungeons and Dragons Hack I've Seen

As near as I can figure out, it was originally discussed here:

Just When You Thought that the JSF Could Not Get Any More f%$#ed………

We now find out that they bought into Lithium Ion batteries for the fighter, the technology that has grounded the 787:
The Pentagon said it plans to continue using lithium-ion batteries on the new F-35 fighter jet despite problems with similar batteries that have grounded Boeing Co’s new 787 airliner and are causing Airbus to rethink their use on its A350 jet.

Joe DellaVedova, spokesman for the Pentagon’s $396 billion F-35 program office, said on Tuesday that the lithium-ion batteries used on the new radar-evading fighter were made by different manufacturers than those used on the 787, and the jet’s battery systems had been rigorously tested.

“The bottom line is the lithium-ion batteries used on the F-35s have been through extensive tests and have redundant systems to protect the aircraft and battery compartments; they are considered safe,” DellaVedova said.

DellaVedova said there had been some irregularities with the lithium-ion batteries not starting properly in cold temperatures that were being addressed, but no issues affecting flight safety had come up during years of testing.

All 50 Boeing Dreamliners in commercial service were grounded worldwide on January 16 after a series of battery-related incidents, including a fire on board a parked 787 at Boston’s Logan International Airport and an in-flight problem on another airplane in Japan.

The groundings have cost airlines tens of millions of dollars, with no solution yet in sight, and have sparked growing concerns among aerospace industry executives about whether the powerful but delicate backup energy systems are technically “mature”, or predictable.
Why am I not surprised?

When you cross reference "advance technology", "unproven", and "risky", the Venn diagram of the intersection is the JSF.

Un-Dirtyword Believable

OK, I get the fact that the military needs for some sort of citation for excellence in playing video games operating drones, but the idea that such a citation would outrank a bronze star, which is awarded for personal courage on the battlefield, is beyond stupid:
The Pentagon is creating a new high-level military medal that will recognize drone pilots and, in a controversial twist, giving it added clout by placing it above some traditional combat valor medals in the military’s “order of precedence.”

The Distinguished Warfare Medal will be awarded to pilots of unmanned aircraft, offensive cyber war experts or others who are directly involved in combat operations but who are not physically in theater and facing the physical risks that warfare historically entails.

The new medal will rank just below the Distinguished Flying Cross. It will have precedence over — and be worn on a uniform above — the Bronze Star with Valor device, a medal awarded to troops for specific heroic acts performed under fire in combat.

………

The new medal will be awarded for specific acts, such as the successful targeting of a particular individual at a critical time.

“Our military reserves its highest decorations obviously for those who display gallantry and valor in actions when their lives are on the line and we will continue to do so,” Panetta said.
This is screamingly stupid.

It speaks to a culture in the Pentagon that sees itself as an officer corps that increasingly resembles strutting peacocks.

Moving in the Wrong Direction

So, the recession lowered the salaries of the 99%, and raised them for the 1%:
Incomes rose more than 11 percent for the top 1 percent of earners during the economic recovery, but not at all for everybody else, according to new data.

The numbers, produced by Emmanuel Saez, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, show overall income growing by just 1.7 percent over the period. But there was a wide gap between the top 1 percent, whose earnings rose by 11.2 percent, and the other 99 percent, whose earnings declined by 0.4 percent.

Mr. Saez, a winner of the John Bates Clark Medal, an economic laurel considered second only to the Nobel, concluded that “the Great Recession has only depressed top income shares temporarily and will not undo any of the dramatic increase in top income shares that has taken place since the 1970s.”
We need to raise the minimum wage, raise taxes on the rich, and reign in the financial industry, and we need to do that right now.

Or maybe guillotines.  I could go for  then too,

15 February 2013

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. Covenant Bank, Chicago, IL

Full FDIC list

We are seeing a lot less action this year.

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

How is Responding to the State of the Union Like Being a Member of Star ship Security?

Seriously, do I need to explain this one?



For those of you don't get the reference, you should watch Star Trek, but I will direct I will direct you to this picture for context, courtesy of DC at the Stellar Parthenon BBS:

14 February 2013

Stay Classy, Teabaggers

Yes, the fine folks at Freedomworks, produced a video with two female staffers playing Hillary Clinton and a Panda having sex:
An internal investigation of FreedomWorks—the prominent conservative advocacy group and super-PAC—has focused on president Matt Kibbe's management of the organization, his use of its resources, and a controversial book deal he signed, according to former FreedomWorks officials who have met with the private lawyers conducting the probe. One potential topic for the inquiry is a promotional video produced last year under the supervision of Adam Brandon, executive vice president of the group and a Kibbe loyalist. The video included a scene in which a female intern wearing a panda suit simulates performing oral sex on Hillary Clinton. [Author's note: The previous sentence contains no typos.]

………

In one segment of the film, according to a former official who saw it, Brandon is seen waking from a nap at his desk. In what appears to be a dream or a nightmare, he wanders down a hallway and spots a giant panda on its knees with its head in the lap of a seated Hillary Clinton and apparently performing oral sex on the then-secretary of state. Two female interns at FreedomWorks were recruited to play the panda and Clinton. One intern wore a Hillary Clinton mask. The other wore a giant panda suit that FreedomWorks had used at protests to denounce progressives as panderers. (See here, here, and here.) Placing the panda in the video, a former FreedomWorks staffer says, was "an inside joke."

Another FreedomWorks staffer who worked there at the time confirms that "Yes, this video was created."
Seriously, these guys are showing less maturity than your average 13 year old boys in a locker room in a farting contest.

It's Jobless Thursday?

The numbers were better than forecast, with initial claims falling by 27K to 340,000, though the less volatile 4-week moving average rose slightly to 352,500, with continuing claims falling to 3.11 million.

Not too shabby.

WE NED MOAR GUNS CUZ OV TEH BLAHS*

I am of course referring to National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre's OP/ED on the right wing cesspool known as The Daily Caller, where he said that we all need more guns because of scary dark people:
Following President Obama’s call for a vote on proposed gun safety legislation in his State of the Union speech, Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, on Wednesday issued a call-to-action for gun owners to prepare for post-apocolyptic-style scenarios and rally against the gun control movement.

………

“Latin American drug gangs”:

Latin American drug gangs have invaded every city of significant size in the United States. Phoenix is already one of the kidnapping capitals of the world, and though the states on the U.S./Mexico border may be the first places in the nation to suffer from cartel violence, by no means are they the last.
(Emphasis Original)

Seriously, does the radical right do anything but find exciting new ways to scream the "N-Word".

*This refers to an iundident with Rick Santorum said that, "I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.," and then claimed that he had said "blah people."

I'm Conflicted about Christopher Dorner

Basically, I'm inclined to believe his accusations about his firing, you are rarely going to go wrong by overestimating the venality and corruption of the Los Angeles police force*, but his victims were innocent, and at best only vaguely rated related to the specifics of his complaint, and he was f%$#ing murdering people.

I will leave you with the conclusion of Ta-Nehisi Coates:
I don't really know how anyone, with any sort of coherence, adopts Christopher Dorner as a symbol in the fight against police brutality, given how he brutalized those two human beings. I cannot understand, except to say that sometimes our own anger, our pain, becomes so blinding that we fail to see the pain of others. This is the seed of inhumanity, and inhumanity is the seed of the very police brutality which we all deplore.

In my time here I have blogged relentlessly about police brutality. It's an important and legit issue. When cops brutalize innocent black people, they erode the contract between citizen and country. But the case against police brutality enjoys more eloquent, and more moral, voices than a coward who ambushes innocent people in a parking garage. We don't need a Jesse James. No one needs a Jesse James.
I'm still hoping that there will be an independent investigation of the circumstances of his firing though.

If there is any truth to his accusations, it is an indication of deep and systematic problems with the LAPD.

*The LAPD of Jack Webb never really existed.

Surrender Your Privacy for the Good of the State Comrade

The good folks at the Orwellian named Department of Homeland security has decided that they can seize and search your electronics without cause:
The Department of Homeland Security’s civil rights watchdog has concluded that travelers along the nation’s borders may have their electronics seized and the contents of those devices examined for any reason whatsoever — all in the name of national security.

The DHS, which secures the nation’s border, in 2009 announced that it would conduct a “Civil Liberties Impact Assessment” of its suspicionless search-and-seizure policy pertaining to electronic devices “within 120 days.” More than three years later, the DHS office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties published a two-page executive summary of its findings.

“We also conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits,” the executive summary said.

The memo highlights the friction between today’s reality that electronic devices have become virtual extensions of ourselves housing everything from e-mail to instant-message chats to photos and our papers and effects — juxtaposed against the government’s stated quest for national security.
Civil rights? How September 10th of you.

I do not like what our country is becoming.

13 February 2013

Unsurprising

Click for full size


This screen shot is from 2002!
Someone took a look at the record, and confirmed that the Tea Party was created by the Koch brothers and big tobacco:
A new academic study confirms that front groups with longstanding ties to the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers planned the formation of the Tea Party movement more than a decade before it exploded onto the U.S. political scene.

Far from a genuine grassroots uprising, this astroturf effort was curated by wealthy industrialists years in advance. Many of the anti-science operatives who defended cigarettes are currently deploying their tobacco-inspired playbook internationally to evade accountability for the fossil fuel industry's role in driving climate disruption.

The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health, traces the roots of the Tea Party's anti-tax movement back to the early 1980s when tobacco companies began to invest in third party groups to fight excise taxes on cigarettes, as well as health studies finding a link between cancer and secondhand cigarette smoke.
You can see a link to the old web page at the Wayback machine, but I don't recommend it. It's flash hell.

So the Teabaggers are both Koch suckers, and stooges for big tobacco.

Heady brew.

Where Losers Go to Decompose

Former half term Senator Scotty Brown has joined Fox News.

Dick Cheney Pissed off Jon Stewart………


Daym!
Recently, Dick Cheney was interviewed, and Jon Stewart and his writers had the stomache to listen to listen to him go on and on about how Barack Obama has weakened America.

I now know what that sound I heard earlier, it was the staff of The Daily Show licking their chops.

He notes that Cheney was a sh%$#y vice president, and he was wrong on everything, and followed this by a video medley Grand Moff Cheney's greatest hits, like, "We'll be welcomed as liberators", "There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction," and the ever popular favorite "I think that they are in the last throes of the insurgency."
Even if Obama wanted to take our standing in the world down a peg, he couldn’t, ’cause the Bush-Cheney administration left him with no peg room… the previous administration had left us in a bit of a cash crunch, and by ‘previous administration,’ I mean these motherf%$#ers.
Ouch.

No, I Did Not Watch the State of the Union

I just don't like listening to him, so I read the official transcript.

Rather unsurprisingly, he wants to throw mama from the train put forward "entitlement reform", and he is patting himself on the back about the successes Obamacare (time will tell, but I doubt it), and killing bin Laden.

He also waxes eloquent over lowering the deficit, because austerity has worked so well where it has been tried. (Not)

He also proposed infrastructure repair, but that's not going to go anywhere.

I think that the most substantive proposal he made was to raise the minimum wage to $9.00/hour in stages through 2015.

As compared to his promise from the 2008 campaign, raising the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011, this barely keeps up with inflation.

At least he is proposing an automatic inflation adjustment.

The real problem is that the minimum wage has plummeted relative to median and mean wages over the past 40 years



Source of data.

Based on this chart, it would appear that the minimum wage needs to increase by about 20% immediately to hit the trend (mid to upper 40% range), but the reality is that boosting the minimum wage has a big effect on boosting the lower half of the wage scale, so it probably needs to go up by about 40% to return to trend in the longer term.

Note also how the lines for median (50th percentile) and mean (average) have diverged.  This is an artifact of the increasingly inequality in our society.

I call this the "Bill Gates walked into the room, so we are now all millionaires" effect.  It makes the mean and the median diverge.

Setting the minimum wage to slowly, and automatically, converge to 45% of the minimum wage over the next half decade or so would serve to do a lot to reverse the income inequality .

12 February 2013

Facepalm

In its infinite wisdom, the International Olympic Committee has dropped wrestling from its sports:
For wrestling, this may have been the ultimate body slam: getting tossed out of the Olympic rings.

The vote Tuesday by the IOC's executive board stunned the world's wrestlers, who see their sport as popular in many countries and steeped in history as old as the Olympics themselves.

While wrestling will be included at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, it was cut from the games in 2020, which have yet to be awarded to a host city.
Wrestling has been a part of the Olympics since the Greeks held the original ones starting in 776 BCE.

So, they will keep Dressage (horse dancing) and beach volleyball but they will dump wrestling.