23 March 2018

Would You Like to Play Global Thermonuclear War?

The Trump administration has announced that John Bolton will be the next chairman of the National Security Council, replacing H.R. McMaster.

Even among the Neocons, John Bolton is known as a foaming at the mouth war monger, and I would expect him to aggressively lobby for military strikes against the DPRK and Iran.

This will not end well:
President Trump named John R. Bolton, a hard-line former American ambassador to the United Nations, as his third national security adviser on Thursday, continuing a shake-up that creates one of the most hawkish national security teams of any White House in recent history.

Mr. Bolton will replace Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the battle-tested Army officer who was tapped last year to stabilize a turbulent foreign policy operation but who never developed a comfortable relationship with the president.

The move, which was sudden but not unexpected, signals a more confrontational approach in American foreign policy at a time when Mr. Trump faces mounting challenges, including from Iran and North Korea.


Mr. Bolton, an outspoken advocate of military action who served in the George W. Bush administration, has called for action against Iran and North Korea. In an interview on Thursday on Fox News, soon after his appointment was announced in a presidential tweet, he declined to say whether Mr. Trump should go through with a planned meeting with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un.
We are all gonna die.

Live in Obedient Fear, Union Brothers

Scotland Yard has admitted Special Branch officers passed information to a controversial network that blacklisted construction workers.

It follows a six-year battle to find out if the Metropolitan Police supplied the intelligence on trade unionists.

The force says its investigation had "proven" the allegation, which will be investigated by a public inquiry.

Workers who say they were unfairly barred from jobs have already received millions of pounds in compensation.

In 2016, the union Unite reached a settlement with construction firms that resulted in 256 workers sharing more than £10m in compensation.

At the heart of the claims, which were made by hundreds of workers, was evidence that firms accessed a "blacklist" that logged workers' trade union activities.

The list was used by dozens of construction firms to vet those applying for work on building sites.

When the files were found to contain details of individual's political activities, the workers demanded that Scotland Yard disclose whether undercover police had colluded in supplying intelligence.


In a letter to the workers' lawyers, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin said the findings of the Metropolitan Police's internal investigation, completed two years ago, were so sensitive that they were sent directly to the then commissioner.

The letter states: "Allegation: Police, including Special Branches, supplied information that appeared on the Blacklist, funded by the country's major construction firms.

"The report concludes that, on the balance of probabilities, the allegation that the police or Special Branches supplied information is 'proven'.
This scheme did not spring full grown from the forehead of  the Yard.

Politically connected builders leaned on elected officials, who in turn leaned on law enforcement.

Hopefully, this will be investigated more deeply.


Belgium is planning to acquire a replacement for its F-16 fleet, and the leader in this contest is the F-35 mistake jet.

It now turns out that the government concealed options from the lawmakers to get the procurement approved:
Belgium’s future fighter program has been thrown into turmoil after it emerged that cheaper options to extend the life of the country’s F-16 Fighting Falcons had been deliberately hidden from ministers.

The scandal, which has already resulted in the suspension of several military officers and civil servants, came to light after the leaking of a Lockheed Martin assessment dated April 2016 to several Belgian news outlets on March 20. The documents suggested the country’s F-16s could be upgraded and given another six years of operational life, making a new fighter purchase less urgent than government officials had previously contended.

Defense Minister Steven Vandeput told the country’s Parliament that he had not been made aware of the report about the potential life extension option.

“If this report actually exists, if its content is accurate, and if the defense [ministry] has decided not to share it, there is a problem,” Vandeput told a Belgian radio station.
Yes, it is a problem.

Welcome to the military-industrial complex, Belgium.

This is an Excellent Idea

In New York, there are proposals to prevent employers from requiring workers to stay connected to the job when they are off of work:
New Yorkers are used to having their happy hours interrupted with emails or calls from the boss.

But a new proposal being floated in the City Council could give them the right to hit ignore.

A measure protecting private-sector employees from penalties for ignoring after-hours or weekend work communications is gaining steam among New York Democrats, while drawing concern from business groups.

Councilman Rafael Espinal (D., Brooklyn) introduced the bill in the New York City Council on Thursday, and state Sen. Diane Savino (D., Staten Island) is working on her own version to introduce in the state legislature.

“It’s important for workers to be able to draw a line between their work lives and personal lives,” said Mr. Espinal.

Mr. Espinal’s legislation is modeled after the “Right to Disconnect” law that passed in France last year. His legislation would make it illegal for an employer with more than 10 workers to require employees to access their work-related communications outside of normal work hours. It would prohibit employers from taking action against employees for not responding. It doesn’t apply to government workers.

Proponents says such a law would help labor regulations adapt to the smartphone era, when people’s leisure and office hours are often blurred.
I would also suggest requiring that people who are on call be paid for on call time.

Basically, all of this is employers taking from employees in order to cover for their own lack of organization skills.

Applying Software Ethos to the Real Word

I am referring, of course to Elon Musk and Tesla Motors.

The author draws analogies to the bad old days of the US auto industry, where shipping was more important than shipping it right:
The idea that Silicon Valley could reinvent the auto sector the way Apple reinvented mobile phones is an appealing one, and by some metrics Tesla has done just that. The Silicon Valley automaker's distinctive product features -- blistering performance, long-range batteries and slick touchscreen interfaces --have beguiled legions of fans and investors, giving the impression that the future of the auto industry had suddenly arrived.

But recent reports call that glowing future into question. After 15 years, it's increasingly clear that Tesla has nothing to offer in the area that, as the tech analyst Horace Dediu puts it, is where "almost all meaningful innovation occurs": the production system.

Throughout its history, Tesla has been plagued by poor manufacturing quality and missed production deadlines. And now, CNBC's Lora Kolodny has the scoop on Tesla operations tasked with "reworking" and "remanufacturing" poor quality cars and parts, illustrating a deeper problem than the poor quality itself. By reworking vehicles after they come off the line at its Fremont, California, assembly plant at a dedicated remanufacturing facility in nearby Lathrop -- and even reportedly in its service centers -- Tesla is taking automotive manufacturing back to dark ages.

Once upon a time, this was the standard practice for Detroit's automakers. Driven by logic derived from Henry Ford's manufacturing system, U.S. automakers kept production cranking in order to maximize efficiencies of scale, and then repaired defective cars after they rolled off the line. Though many factors contributed to the decline of the Big Three in the 1970s and 80s, the inefficiency and apathy entrenched in company culture by this approach to quality was one of the most important.

In contrast, Toyota's cars may not have had the dramatic, chrome-draped designs or V8 performance of American competitors, but the legendary Toyota Production System (also known as TPS, or "lean") did away with rework, and its dependable, high-quality cars eviscerated Detroit's market share. By systematically eliminating all forms of waste -- "muda" -- from its manufacturing, Toyota found that both capital efficiency and quality benefited enormously from building cars right the first time.


Tesla seems either uninterested in or oblivious to the historical lesson here. On last quarter's earnings call, chief executive Elon Musk told analysts that Tesla doesn't see TPS as a model for his company, even as he reiterated his goal of "productizing" Tesla's factories.
Manufacturers have learned that it's better to get it right the first time over the past few decades, computer programmers, not so much.

Hence we see the bloated software that is as full of bugs as it is full of new features that no one really needs.

Rinse, lather, and repeat, and we have Elon Musk's Tesla.

22 March 2018

A Cool Idea That Isn't Going Anywhere

Saab is once again is considering marinizing the Gripen fighter for carrier use.

Technically, the airframe is already well suited to carrier use, but who is going to buy it?

The only countries that operate, or will operate, carriers with arrester gear are the US, France, China, Russia, Brazil, and India.

That's a small market, since only Brazil and India won't buy their own aircraft, and that is a very small production:
Based on the in-development Gripen E, the model would be capable of operating from aircraft carriers configured either for short-take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) or catapult-assisted take-off but with arrested recovery (CATOBAR) operations.

"We have a fully certified design that has been signed off by Saab management for the maritime version of Gripen," says Tony Ogilvy, head of marketing for the Gripen M. "It's in our portfolio, but it is only a design. We have not taken it to the next critical step, which will require a customer."

Ogilvy's background is carrier aviation. During a three-decade career in the UK Royal Navy he flew Blackburn Buccaneers for 12 years and British Aerospace Sea Harriers for six, including from several of the service's carriers. He contends that Saab's model-based systems engineering approach offers a "very high level of fidelity" that should, if a Gripen M customer is obtained, result in a concept demonstrator that works well first time.


Given that Sweden has no plans for aircraft carriers, the two potential markets for the Gripen M are Brazil and India.

The Brazilian air force has ordered 28 single-seat Gripen Es and eight two-seat F-model examples, being developed with Embraer. Its new fighters will be delivered between 2019 and 2024, including eight single-seaters and seven twin-seaters built in Brazil.

The nation's navy is also interested in replacing its retired aircraft carrier, the Sao Paolo, although this requirement has yet to be fully defined. Should Brazil's plans for such a new vessel gain traction, it could provide an opportunity for the Gripen M.

In India, Saab, Boeing and Dassault have responded to a request for information for 57 carrier-based fighters. India has one STOBAR-configured ship, equipped with RAC MiG-29Ks, and has plans for an additional example. Longer term, it has plans for a more potent CATOBAR carrier, potentially using General Atomics' electromagnetic aircraft launch system, as opposed to conventional steam catapults.
There is a whole flock of ducks that need get in a row before Saab can even think about putting in a serious bid.

Not gonna happen.

Cool idea though.

Another School Shooting………

This time, in Maryland, Saint Mary's County yesterday.

Seriously, why is this even news any more?

It happens every week or so.

Quote of the Day

Saying that Russia has undermined American democracy is like me – middle-aged, five foot nine, and unblessed with jumping ability – saying that the Brooklyn Nets Russian-born center Timofy Mozgov undermined my potential career in the National Basketball Association.

Paul Street on Counterpunch.
If we are really worried about our democratic process being compromised, we need to look at the corporate media, the entrenched elites, the feckless punditry, and the political consultant class first.

They've done a way better job at compromising democracy than Vladimir Putin.

Hell, they may very well have done a better job at compromising democracy than Benito Mussolini.

This May be the Best Twitter Exchange Ever

In response to attacks from Chris Cuomo proxies yesterday, actress, and now candidate for the Democratic Nomination for Governor, Cynthia Nixon Tweeted the following:

The response from Twitter user @mecreature was one for the ages:

MeC owes me a screen wipe, and we owe MeC a major book deal.

21 March 2018

Quote of the Day

Clinton’s boast that she won where the economy is vibrant partially explains why she lost: There are too few of these vibrant areas left to win national elections.
David "D-Day" Dayen
He gives a pretty good explanation on why Clinton's open contempt for the Americans who have been left behind by the "new economy" touted by her husband and his ilk was so politically damaging.

There is Symmetry Here

It appears that pedophiles are concealing child pornography within the blockchain ledger that accompanies bitcoin, which means that if you have bitcoin, you may also have possession of kiddie porn:
German researchers have discovered unknown persons are using bitcoin’s blockchain to store and link to child abuse imagery, potentially putting the cryptocurrency in jeopardy.

The blockchain is the open-source, distributed ledger that records every bitcoin transaction, but can also store small bits of non-financial data. This data is typically notes about the trade of bitcoin, recording what it was for or other metadata. But it can also be used to store links and files.

Researchers from the RWTH Aachen University, Germany found that around 1,600 files were currently stored in bitcoin’s blockchain. Of the files least eight were of sexual content, including one thought to be an image of child abuse and two that contain 274 links to child abuse content, 142 of which link to dark web services.

“Our analysis shows that certain content, eg, illegal pornography, can render the mere possession of a blockchain illegal,” the researchers wrote. “Although court rulings do not yet exist, legislative texts from countries such as Germany, the UK, or the USA suggest that illegal content such as [child abuse imagery] can make the blockchain illegal to possess for all users.”
When the crypto currency was invented by "Satoshi Nakamoto", it was seen as a step toward a mythical Libertarian paradise.

Now it appears to be a step toward a libertarian reality.

People Are Saying That This Will Be the End of Facebook ………

The whole issue with Cambridge Analytica and Facebook is a big deal, and it appears that at the privacy violations that ensued were a deliberate artifact of Facebook's business model.

That this business model has been completely contemptuous of user privacy has been clear since Mark Zuckerberg was at Harvard.

While the consequences could be severe, literally involving penalties exceeding a trillion (yes, that is a "t") dollars in accordance with a consent degree that was agreed to a few years back, the chance of meaningful penalties, or meaningful legislation is near zero.

Given the hostility of the Republican Party to regulation and consumer protections, and the Neoliberal Obama/Clinton wing of the party is so enamored of internet firms as to take any promises from tech executives at face value, meaningful government action is as likely as Jeff Sessions joining Black Lives Matter.

I expect a small fine and some theatrics at Congressional hearings, but not much else.


It's close, but it appears that Dan Lipinski has won the primary in Il-3.

I'm so glad that I do not live there, because I would have to vote with that homophobic right wing rat-f%$# phony Democrat, as the Republicans candidate is a Neo-Nazi Holocaust denier. (disavowed by the establishment party, but Mandy Rice-Davies Applies)

20 March 2018

This Amuses Me

We always knew that former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was corrupt and venal, but I never expected that he would actually be taken into custody.

Even more amusing is that appears that the money that he from Moammar Gaddafi, before he engineered his ouster and murder, is what will get him taken down.

Considering the blow-back from the Libya debacle, and he and Cameron were the prime movers for this, it does mean that he's done in French politics:
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was taken into police custody Tuesday over allegations he illegally accepted 50 million euros ($68.5 million) from the government of the late Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi to finance his successful 2007 presidential campaign.

The detention of Sarkozy — France’s president between 2007 and 2012 — represented a major development in what is likely to become an explosive political scandal.

Sarkozy has repeatedly denied allegations that he took money from Gaddafi, slamming the accusations as “grotestque” and “crude ma­nipu­la­tion .”

Although an investigation began in 2013, Tuesday marked the first time authorities have questioned Sarkozy on the matter. Under French law, authorities can hold a suspect in custody for up to 48 hours before deciding whether there are sufficient grounds to launch a formal investigation.

Brice Hortefeux, who served as France’s interior minister under Sarkozy, was also questioned by police Tuesday, although not taken into custody.
It could not happen to a more deserving rat f%$#.

I really hope that he does some jail time, unlike, for example, his predecessor Jacques Chirac, who merely received probation.

Tweet of the Day

It's a valid point: Putin is clearly a dedicated capitalist, and Jeremy Corbyn is not.

H/t naked capitalism