30 April 2008

Pumpkinhead is Very Petty

And it appears that he has gotten Arianna Huffington blackballed from any interviews on her book tour on any NBC property.

She said not nice things about him in her book, Right is Wrong: How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded the Constitution, and Made Us All Less Safe.

Note: I do not have one of those Amazon reference accounts. The link is a freebie, because Arianna is always entertaining, and Russert is a complete whore.

Heady Brew

It appears that the hedge fund Cerberus is looking to buy mercenary outfit Blackwater.

Hedge funds and mercenaries, working together.

The sheer synergy of evil present in this concept just buggers the mind.

At least, there is symmetry.

Nouriel Roubini on the GDP Numbers

As promised, some more commentary, Courtesy of Nouriel Roubini, on why the Q1 GDP numbers are a contraction:
  • The obvious one is that when inflation exceeds growth, fewer goods and services are bought or delivered, which is what has happened in the past 2 quarters.
  • Increasing inventories of unsold resulted in a +0.8% to the GDP numbers, which is not economic growth, though it can lead to increased growth.
    • My analysis of this tidbit is that this is actually increased hoarding of things people believe are inflating rapidly.
  • Residential spending was recorded to have dropped an astonishing 26.7%, and that this number does not include cancellations on new homes, so it's even bigger.
  • Durable and non durable goods sales contracted.
Go read the whole thing.

Iraq as Performance Art

Well, it looks like Maliki is promising to disarm all militia forces, using the Iraqi and US armies if possible, in order to put an end to criminality and ethnic cleansing.

Maliki is a leader of a militia force that has been leinked to criminality and ethnic cleansing, and his closest ally, the ISCI, formerly SCIRI, is known to have performed the bulk of the ethnic cleansing.

Is it just me, or does this begin to sound like the role playing game "Paranoia"?

In any case, in response to Maliki's challenge, someone murdered the nephew of Iraqi interior ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf's, and hung his hang body from electric pole.

All things considered I never want to see the Iraqi version of the Ashton Kutcher's MTV program Punk'd.

It appears however, that the residents of Sadr City would not be fans of an Iraqi Kutcher, as the death toll in April is near 1000.

Once Again, Will No One Rid Me of This Turbulent Spammer?

Yep, it's Spamford Wallace, yet again, and he has finally lost the lawsuit that MySpace filed against him, by default. I wrote about this suit 9 months ago.

He apparently refused to respond to the court, so there was a default judgment.

If I were a judge, I'd have had his ass thrown in jail for contempt.

If I were a juror in the trial of his murderer, I might vote to convict.

Economics Update

The big news, as it is on any day when the fed meets, is the decision, which was to cut the federal funds rate by 25 basis points. Of note that that they are no signaling no more cuts.

Of course, with the rate at 2%, it's not like they can really cut much further.

Then we got the GDP numbers for the first quarter of 2008. The number is that U.S.GDP increased at an 0.6% annual pace, though this will likely drop when a final reading is released.

I will provide more detail, but the spin that this is not a contraction is false" initial reading, will fall. Also, we've already had 0.6% so far this year, we will likely see 3-4% inflation even with the bogus government data, it would be closer to 10% with honest data, and 0.6%-3%=-2.4% that's a recession.

I, with the aid of the good doctor Roubini, will provide more detail in a later post.

Oil prices have dropped, which should come as no surprise. The spikes of the past few days were as the result of short term news, though the trend still seems to be up.

In real estate, we have
ortgage application volume falling 11.25% last week, and we have an analysis from Barclays Capital that upwards of half of Alt-A and subprime mortgages will be under water by year's end, and they are predicting a fair amount of "jingle mail" as a result.

Have I Mentioned that I Love Mark Morford?

In a Heterosexually yours in a chaste and biblically appropriate kind of way, as the General would say.

Laura Bush, docile doormat
Behold, the ideal Republican wife: Prim, sexless, nearly useless, lets the men do the real thinkin'. Hot!

Go read.

They Want to Execute Him Because it Would Be Embarrassing for Him to Die of Natural Causes in Prison

That is really the crux of this trial, and his lawyers have been refused adequate security.

He is on trial for the execution of food merchants for price gouging in 1992, when he was foreign minister.

He turned himself into the American military in 2003, and has since been held without trial, so they want him tried before he dies in custody.

One of the lessons of all this is just how much the US government is willingly subverting the principals of Nuremberg in order to achieve politically expedient results.

Whither Us Defense Contractors?

Dov S. Zakheim and Ronald T. Kadish, senior executives at Booz Allen Hamilton, the government and defense consulting firm, have written a blistering editorial criticizing the defense consolidation of the 1990s, and the role of the government, in particular the Clinton administration, in encouraging this.

While I agree with their assessment of the facts, that there was an extraordinary level of consolidation in the 1990s, and that no savings have yet materialized, and that defense procurement is an over budget and behind schedule mess, I disagree with their basic thesis, that somehow deconsolidating the defense industry will help.
These moves highlight an unfortunate reality: The United States is approaching an "arsenal system" for developing and producing its weapons -- that is, one in which the government manufactures its own weaponry. It's an antiquated model with modest benefits, but the way things are going even those will probably be lost.
I have worked off and on in defense since 1992, and I have not seen any significant change.

With the US government spending more than the rest of the world on defense, it means that we are merely seeing the consequences of an effective monopsony (single buyer market, the reverse of a monopoly).

We already have a market without meaningful competition, and when you have for profit institutions without competition, you do not save money.

What's more the self-dealing, how many retired generals work for defense contractors after, and other corruption and pork barrel aspects to not bode well for the future.

I'm not sure how to fix this, but the use of private defense contractors is not working, so perhaps an arsenal model will work.

I will note that the one part of the Soviet economy that produced reasonable quality products efficiently was their defense industry, which was precisely the arsenal model that they disparage.

More A400M Delays

It looks like the first flight of the EADS A400M airlifter will will be delayed again (paid subscription required).

Once again, it is all problems with the engine, with the C-130 testbed not ready yet to fly, and the #1 aircraft will not be flying with final the high pressure compressor, which is in redesign:
The CEO admits that a number of issues could push the flight date out further. The most critical involves the software on the full-authority digital engine control which he said is three times as complex as that on the Airbus 380. Feedback from engine ground tests and static tests, which started in March, will also be critical. ­Suarez says the engine will total 1,200 hours on the bench by the end of May.
I would assume that the FADEC also includes blade pitch.

Of course, if they had bought the AN-70, it would be already for flying for less money, and if they had gone with the US engine proposal they might be flying already.

The #1 airframe is basically complete except for the engines.

29 April 2008

The Rule of Men, Not the Rule of Law

We now see some letters from Bush and His Evil Minions to Congress saying that they could torture who they wanted whenever they wanted, because they were motivated by a noble cause, because their intent was to prevent terrorism, "rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse."

I don't think that a single nation among the torturers has ever adopted it as a technique because it gave them the jollies*, they have done for precisely the reasons that you give. They wanted information, and to prevent acts that they deemed lawless.

We need to send these folks to the Hague for a fair trial in 2009.

*Dick Cheney excepted, of course. It gives him a stiffie.
Apologies for that mental image.

IDF Ramps Up Ground Forces Training

This increase in focus in training ground forces, which accompanies an increase in the status of ground forces is not surprising.

The conclusion of the Winograd report*, which reviewed the 2006 Lebanon campaign was quite clear:
The military has abandoned the doctrine that stressed precision stand-off firepower over maneuver warfare, arguably the biggest mistake Israel made in the conflict.
It should be noted that the doctrine that they are abandoning is the central doctrine of the US military, particularly the USAF, and it is why you are seeing changes as a result of the experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In fact, when one looks at the failures of the US military, at their core have been a consistent over-reliance on air power, whether USAF fast jets or slower helicopters.

*Warning, the format is some sort of mutant flash called NTXbook.

McCain Knows Nothing of Foreign Policy

And Fareed Zakaria is too much of a coward to say so
In his speech McCain proposed that the United States expel Russia from the G8, the group of advanced industrial countries. Moscow was included in this body in the 1990s to recognize and reward it for peacefully ending the cold war on Western terms, dismantling the Soviet empire and withdrawing from large chunks of the old Russian Empire as well. McCain also proposed that the United States should expand the G8 by taking in India and Brazil—but pointedly excluded China from the councils of power.
Let's be clear on this one of the reasons that Russia is increasingly hostile to the West is that we have repeatedly lied to them.

We promised no Western expansion of NATO. We lied.

And then there was that whole privatization thing, which was sold as a way to prosperity for the whole society, as opposed to a campaign of rape and pillage that would have made Genghis Khan proud.

Now he's talking about breaking another promise.

McCain is an idiot who has spent his life poking people in the eye, and unsuited to be president.

Russia and Ukraine Plan to Restart An-124 Production.

I think that it is cool.

For most of the forces out there, what they need is strategic airlift capability, not tactical, and honestly, the An-124 pretty much owns the field, and will for the foreseeable future, as the only potential competitor in terms of size, the A-380 is far more restricted in terms of airports, if just because with its low wing, it will Hoover debris off an austere strip.

As the article notes, Anotov has some real problems, noting the fact that the An-70, which is a great tactical airlifter*, is languishing, and wondering if Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation might be looking at a corporate takeover.

*Once you replace the avionics with western equivalents, and allow one of the large western turbine manufacturers to license produce with higher quality materials to improve reliability.

Crossing the Olbermann Event Horizon

I enjoy watching Olbermann, though I differ with him on one matter, I do not think that Hillary Clinton is the devil incarnate, but NPR's reporter Ken Rudin, who compared Hillary Clinton to Ales Forrest, the deranged character played by Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction:
But after comparing Senator Clinton to the insane, murderous, kidnapping, stalking, knife-wielding, suicidal, bunny-boiling character of Alex Forrest, who has to be drowned and shot to be finally stopped in Fatal Attraction, even the harshest critic of Senator Clinton is probably beginning to think, you know, that might be a little harsh. Maybe an apology is in order.
I'm just sayin' if you've lost Keith Olbermann because you are hating too much on Hillary Clinton, you have crossed some sort of metaphysical event horizon, you aren't going to get out, and all you can look forward to is for tidal forces to rend you into subatomic particles.

I'm just sayin'.

Watch it below.

Obama was Stupid, Clinton is Being F%$#ing Stupid

Hillary will be on the O’Reilly Factor on Wednesday and Thursday.

Please, I ask one thing....Find a way to use the word Falafel.

Economics Update

Well, the consumer confidence index fell to its lowest level in 5 years, what's more, the Frog consumers are bumming more than they have in 20 years.

Sarkosy is not going to find a lot of support for making the French economy more "Anglo-Saxon" right now.

In real estate, foreclosures jumped 23% in 1Q of 2007, which is on a pace for a 200% increase in foreclosures in 2008, while the Case-Shiller Home Price index fell 13% year over year in February.

This is not over. It's not close to being over.

In the ever entertaining Countrywide sage, the mortgage lender posted a $893 million first-quarter loss.

I still wonder when some Bank of America investor finally starts screaming about a proxy fight over their purchase of Nationwide. Every day, the deal looks worse and worse.

As to energy, oil is down, but gasoline is up.

Zimbabwe Update

To my mind, the best development this far is the fact that the UN Security council is to be briefed by MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti. Thabo Mbeki has been doing his level best to keep this off the security council agenda, and for that matter for anywhere where meaningful action might useful, for reasons that continue to escape me.

Interestingly enough the UN did a bit of good here, with somewhere in excess of 200 detained MDC supporters were released once the meeting was on the agenda.

The election in parliament was not close enough to be stolen, MDC has the majority, and the two branches of MDC have, at least for now, decided to reunite.

Mugabe's security forces appear to escalating attacks on members of the opposition, indicating that this will be a long road to hoe.

The US has come down firmly in favor of an MDC led government, but given the credibility of the US State Department, the obvious response is , "With what army?"

The recount of the votes in the presidential election has been delayed again.

In related news, the head of the electoral commission has renamed himself Godot. (Humor. If you don't get it, read a bloody book)

Thoughts on Obama and Wright

Let's be clear, there are any number of Rabbis whose services I attend, but I've yet to see a problem that I really needed to go to them for, because I think that Rabbi Hillel's distillation of Torah while standing on one foot * pretty much covers the situations that I've encountered.

I like most of the Rabbis I've met. But I disagree with some of the things that they believe.

In terms of what Wright's opinions mean about Barack Obama, the answer is that it means very little. It is only among the Christofascists who expect parishioners to act in lock step with their pastor.

That being said, the assault by the right wing on this is not swift boating. It's Willie Horton.

Truth be told, swift boating was far more benign than Willie Horton.

The purpose of swift boating was to attack Kerry on his (only) strength as a candidate. The purpose of Willie Horton was to create an association Michael Dukkakis and a violent black criminal. It's goal was to make him a black rapist.

Obama's problem as a candidate, largely as a result of his skin color, is that he cannot be an angry candidate, because America fears the "Angry Black Man", and Wright is an explicit attempt to make him into such.

It's unfair. It has very little to do with the facts. The only thing that is important is if/how Obama puts this issue to bed.

*You can see the story here. The end state is that Hillel said, ""You want to learn a great deal quickly, don't you? Very well, I shall teach you the Torah while you stand on one foot. This is our Holy Torah: 'What is hateful to you, do not do unto others.'"
They have almost all been way too hawkish on Israel, even though I consider myself an Israel hawk.

And the Morons Win the Pennant

It looks like Congress, knuckling under to knuckle heads, will continue to fund the fraud that is abstinence only education.

The reputable studies all show no effect on teen sex or pregnancy, and there are indications that it may increase the incidence of STDs, but the anti-sex right won't let facts get in their way on their jihad against common sense.

The problem is that there is no political upside to being honest with our children.

More Signs (and Pictures) that Official Government Inflation Stats are BS

We are starting to see more articles, like this at San Diego Union Tribune, noting that official government inflation statistics are a crock.

I will note that the changes in 1983 to a large degree took housing out of the picture, which is why Alan "Bubbles" Greenspan was so bullish on real estate*, and those in 1998 used hedonic mumbo-jumbo to create the illusion of low inflation.

If you assume that inflation is 2% more than official numbers over the past 35 years, prices have doubled relative to official inflation at 3¼% more, it's triples, and at 4%, it quadruples.

We may be seeing a tremendous drop in the standard of living of the average American over that time that has been deliberately masked by our government.

*It allowed him to call inflation in a necessity, housing, an increase in wealth. If memory serves, Greenspan was at the center of both adjustments

City's plan to relocate residents meets resistance - Apr. 24, 2008

It appears that the 50 or so remaining residents in Youngstown's abandoned neighborhoods are refusing to move, even with the offer of $50,000 payments.

I think that the obvious thing to do here is eminent domain. These green spaces are to be created for the benefit of the city, so as not to have to pay for utility service and police patrols to these areas.

Declare the green spaces a park, and take them to court. This is a legitimate public need.

Obviously, the use of eminent domain could be a political problem, so as an alternative, you could set up a special utility district in the neighborhoods intended for demolition.

When these folks get their bills to account for the real costs of their water, sewer, street lights, etc., they would likely leave.

And in the War We Are Losing Because We're too Busy Losing the War in Iraq

Afghan president Hamid Karzai was nearly assassinated in Kabul at a military parade celebrating Mujahadeen Day, the expulsion of the Soviets from the country.

It appears that this occurred despite the city being flooded by security forces prior to the event.

Bush Court Confirms: Voting While Black is a Offense

They voted 6-3 to uphold Indiana's voter discrimination identification law.

It was actually 3 opinions each supported by 3 justices, and some legal analysts claim that there is hope, since one of the concurring opinions asked for evidence of voter disenfranchisement, but I see that as a vain hope.

While I see Stephens ruling against the law if there is evidence, it is telling that there is no evidence of the sort of vote fraud that the law was intended to prevent having ever occurred in Indiana, and I see Roberts and Kennedy simply moving a bit to the right each time that such a challenge occurs.

28 April 2008

Gripen Sales Pitch to Norway

Now that Sweden has rolled out the advanced Gripen demonstrator, they are aggressively marketing it to Norway.

Among other things, Sweden is offering co-development on some of the technologies, and a promise to upgrade their Gripens to this standard should Norway buy them.

My money is still on the steamroller that is the JSF, at least until deliveries start showing late and more expensive than previously anticipated, my guess is a price tag 2/3 that of the F-22 ($120 million a pop) as versus the $50-60 million for the Gripen.

At that point, the Gripen will look very attractive to countries that are taking a wait and see approach.

Yep, the Gripen is my fighter obsession right now. In an age of ever spiralling costs, it's half a generation ahead of the F-16 at around the same prime price, though even with the additional fuel and thrust, it will be smaller and lighter.

What Republican Rule Has Given Us

OK, I'm a member of a by-invitation-only BBS, and one of the members Hoop, wondered why the candidates don't tell the American public the truth about how badly America as a nation has been screwed up by republican policies, he thinks that:
This is an opportunity that comes knocking but once a lifetime.

Yet both Democratic candidates are like deer in the headlights when it comes to outlining an economic picture of the future of the US.

Perhaps they're not the leaders they portend to be.
So I thought about for a bit, and said to myself, "OK, let's see...as an honest leader with vision, here is what an honest candidate with vision would say.
  • 20 0f the last 28 years have had Republicans in the White House and their goal has been to bankrupt the country so that we can not take of our poor or needy and so that the ordinary folk live hand to mouth and cannot work together for a better life. They have done this because they and their rich friends and supporters do better when ordinary people are powerless.
    • And they have succeeded.
  • They have also decided that it is in their interest to keep the American people afraid of external threats, so they are on a constant quest to find and create new enemies to scare us, so we won't review their policies, and so we will spend our money on guns and prisons.
    • And they have succeeded.
  • They have aggressively created a fear of people who don't look like us and of random criminal violence against us in order to make us waste money on putting more people in prison than any other society in the history of human kind.
    • And they have succeeded.
  • They have put roadblocks in front of attempts to create meaningful energy independence, because it requires a large military to protect those supply lines.
    • And they have succeeded.
  • They have created a system of world trade that ignores the rights of the people and makes it secondary to the profits of the banker.
    • And they have succeeded.
  • They have systematically attempted to replace the public good with the concept of corporate profit in our society.
    • And they have succeeded.
  • They have mounted an aggressive assault on the standard of living of ordinary Americans through low wage policies.
    • And they have succeeded.
  • They have masked this drop in standard of living by coming up with even more obscure ways for people to go into debt, (including College debt) so that they create the illusion of well being while being a slave to that debt.
    • And they have succeeded.
  • They have steadfastly destroyed meaningful attempts to help people get basic medical care.
    • And they have succeeded.
  • They have attempted to replace a society in which the manufacture of useful items, into one where parasites make money by trading between each other to the detriment of our population and our industrial base
    • And they have succeeded.
Because of this, while [insert candidate here] is in office, we sill see:
  • Oil leave the dollar standard, and its price going to more than $200/bbl.
  • The dollar plummeting against foreign currencies.
  • Inflation in the double digits for the foreseeable future.
  • Food shortages nationwide, as transportation becomes increasingly expensive.
  • Many of the suburbs becoming abandoned ghost towns, because those transportation costs.
  • Civil disorder and unrest.
  • The collapse of our hideously expensive military under its own weight.
  • Your children and your parents dying for want of proper medical care.
At this point I guess that the candidate could say, "I offer you nothing but blood, sweat and tears," and while the historians might like that, the voters certainly would not.
Maybe it should wait for the inauguration, because if you say it before the elections, you will make Barry Goldwater's defeat look like a ride at the kiddie park.

Ron Paul Still Freaking Out Mainline Republithugs

It appears that the Ron Paul zombies are nothing if not organized. They pushed through a rules change which would allow the Paulites to select most of the delegates, and the state Republican party recessed to prevent it from happening.

It's a pity Paul is not younger. He'd be giving the Republican party headaches for years to come.

Too Batsh&# Insane for the Constitution Party

Yes, even that merry band of Christofascists have that Alan Keyes just isn't their type, so instead, they nominated wingnut talk show host Chuck Baldwin for president.

When the Talibaptists eschew the most priminent right wing nut-job in the United States, he disowned his daughter for being gay, you it means that you are either too crazy, or too black for them.

For Mr. Keyes, it's probably both.

OK, this Is Corruption, and if it is Not Criminal, it Should Be

Dean Baker notices the following bit of self-admitted corruption in a New York Times article on former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin:
Mr. Rubin encouraged Goldman to move into more treacherous markets like proprietary trading and commodities trading. Even so, he now says he was always concerned about the dangers posed by risky futures and derivatives trades, having seen how the pell-mell use of futures contracts exacerbated the 1987 stock market crash.

Shortly before leaving Goldman to head up President Clinton’s National Economic Council, Mr. Rubin says, he met with Richard B. Fisher, the chairman of Morgan Stanley, to discuss the idea of imposing stricter margin requirements on futures trading. Mr. Rubin says the idea died after the Chicago Board of Trade told him “we will make sure Goldman Sachs never trades another future on the C.B.O.T. if this went ahead.”
Bob Rubin just said that he changed his recommendations policy for the benefit of his company in has capacity as head of the National Economic Council. This is completely corrupt, and he is freely admitting it.

Where is one of Bush's DoJ political vendettas when you need them?

Washington Post Misses the Point, Quelle Surprise

This time, it's about the aggressive policy to outsource civil service positions to private contractors, where they say that the zeal of Bush and His Evil Minions is because they ,"entered office with a deep skepticism of government. He saw competitive sourcing as a way to improve agencies' performance."

Any objective evaluation of Republicans, and government, including Bush, shows that they have no interest at all in improving agencies performance. One need only read their own declarations. They find government programs, with the exception of the state security apparatus, to be evil, and to the degree that it is less efficient, they see this lack of effectiveness as an independent good.

Contracting out government work is not about efficiency, it's about patronage and rewarding contributors. It frees up money to shovel to one's supporters.

Ranks of Southern Baptists Are Shrinking

We now learn that both baptism and total membership in the Southern Baptists appear to be on the decline. It appears that not just Jimmy Carter is disenchanted with their increasingly strident stands of secular political issues.

While it is clear that the founding fathers demanded a separation of Church and State because they thought that organized religion was toxic to good governance*, there is also the issue of blowback when an a religion spot welds itself to a political party that is in the descendance.

In a very real way, they have been done in by the same thing that crippled them after the Civil War, when their origin as a sect was driven by their support of slavery.

It could be argued that the negative consequences of the circumstances of their founding led to the sect, and its worshipers, being held in some distrust until the 1960s or 1970s, with the best guess as to the definitive end of this status being Carter's election as president in 1976.

The lesson to be learned is the lesson that Molière so eloquently demonstrated in 1664, that religion can often be a convenient refuge for scoundrels.

*Ask the brave anti-Mullah activists in Iran. They would agree too. Organized religionis completely toxic to good governance,

McCain Faults Bush Response to Gulf Storm - New York Times

Gee, John McCain has finally found a place where there is a bit of light between him and Bush and His Evil Minions, specifically the clusterf%$# known as hurricane Katrina.

When this was all going on, the very day Katrina hit, George W. Bush was at your brthday party eating your cake, you fs$#ing moron.


No, I Haven't Worked There

Though I am currently working on similar projects, basically end of life stuff in the nuclear fuel process.*

In any case, I'm glad not to be working on a new shelter for the Chernobyl reactor. It's a no win situation. Even if you get it right, no one will know for years and years while the costs continue to mount.

Truth be told, "Even if you get it right, no one will know for years and years while the costs continue to mount," is a good metaphor for civilian nuclear power in general.

Price tag $1.4 billion and climbing.

*No specifics. My client company's business (I'm a contractor) is their business, and it is unethical, as well as unwise, to discuss this in detail.
I feel no similar compunction about commenting about how a co-worker resembles Captain Jean Luc Picard. Since this does not, nor could it be construed as sensitive or compromising information.

Well Hello Dalai Lama

Well, China is now saying that it will hold talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama, and I just could not resist the pun.

The Dalai Lama has welcomed the opportunity to talk, though state run media seems to indicate that the Chinese are not quite as eager to talk as they are eager to be thought of as willing to talk, with the standard "running dog" screeds continuing.

My guess is that in the end, nothing meaningful happens, and that the Chinese claim that the Tibetans were unreasonable.

In the United States, Any Cop Can Shoot Any Black Man in the Line of Duty, and Get off Scott Free

Let's be clear about this a crime was committed when police pumped 50 bullets into Shawn Bell's car.

At the very least, a refusal to test police for blood alcohol level, some of whom were on duty, and drinking, as part of their undercover work was obstruction of justice.

One of the pertinent quotes is, "Detective Michael Oliver, who fired 31 bullets the night of the shooting." That means that he emptied a clip into the car, reloaded, rechambered a round, and emptied another magazine, assuming he started with one in the chamber, and a 15 round clip.

So, you have drunk vice cops on a sting looking for a few strippers who might go a little bit too far, and its open season on black folks, and an acquittal by a judge who knows that if he wants to go higher, he will need the support of the police department when considered for a promotion.

The depressing thing is that when all is said and done, the New York City PD is one of the best in the nation.

God Bless America.

FBI Wants to to Seize Control of the Backbone to See if You Gamble or Watch Pr0n

Really, I'm serious on this, though this could come as no surprise. It is the organizational imperative for law enforcement to ask for permission to spy on everyone all the time without oversight, as FBI Chief Mueller states:
I think legislation has to be developed that balances on one hand, the privacy rights of the individual who are receiving the information, but on the other hand, given the technology, the necessity of having some omnibus search capability utilizing filters that would identify the illegal activity as it comes through and give us the ability to preempt that illegal activity where it comes through a choke point as opposed to the point where it is diffuse on the Internet
(Emphasis Ars Technica)

Obvious issue that the US does not own the internet, and it appears from his statements that he wants to be able to shut down the traffic with no judicial review, whether it be a BBS that they determine to be "terrorist", or illegal betting in the form of an office "March Madness" pool, or fantasy baseball.

They will also be able to monitor what you buy at an online bookstore, and the content of your emails.

What's more, in an increasingly politicized Justice Department, the possibilities for selective prosecution just boggle the mind.

27 April 2008

Economics Update

I think that the best indication that we are well into a recession is that unpaid utility bills, as well as service cutoffs, are going through the proverbial roof. People can't afford the mortgages, or the utilities, or so it seems.

BTW this is a very good pictorial representation of the credit freeze:

Click pic for PDF. (H/t econobrowser)

Oil hit an all time high, less than a dime less than $120/bbl, which means that inflation is still a problem, but don't tell helicopter Ben, because the markets have already priced in another rate cut from the Fed.

As I've said before, it won't matter, the fed is pushing on a string, but the fact that the Euro zone looks to be in for a round of slow growth and inflation, aka stagflation, with inflation of over 3% (their goal is 2%), so they will likely raise rates, as the ECB does not have maintaining employment as a part of its charter, just controlling inflation.

Rates going up in Europe should push the dollar down, which is why I find it confusing that the done better against the Euro in the past three days than it has since 2005, but I'm not sure how long this will last, as Japanese investors are moving away from US treasuries, which is significant, as they are the largest holders of US treasuries.

In real estate we have a new record for vacant homes in the US, 2.9%, the highest level since record keeping began in 1959.

Note that this does not include rental properties, and it's pretty grim.

For those of you who are considering picking up something cheap in foreclosure, be warned, trash outs are way up Trashouts, here are stories from Massachusetts and Nevada.

We are talking serious stuff, sinks and bathtubs ripped out, and in some cases, vandalism along the lines of cement down the pipes. Factor that into a sales price.

I would also argue that it's likely that we may shortly start seeing violence against people who purchase at auction, so do not enter into this likely.

Passover Finally Over

After 8 days, I'm seriously jonesing for some Chametz (leavened bread products).

Additionally, with my Orthodox Mother in Law here, we were in full no light switches, etc. mode for 4 of the 8 days of Pesach (actually 5 of 9, when one considers that Shabbat immediately preceded Pesach).

It's a relief to be able to eat normal food again, though I feel kind of guilty at being relieved.

Years in the desert vs. a few days of eating bad food, I feel kind of wimpy complaining about it.

25 April 2008

Off for the Next Two Days, So Here is a Question to Ponder

Last two days of Passover are Yom Tovim, so I'm off* again.

So here is my question:
Is It Just Me, Or is the Whole World Going to Hell in a Handbasket?

We are having a food crisis, an energy crisis, the economic meltdown, etc., and everything seems to be collapsing at the same time.

Are we heading for some sort of really scary triple witching hour?

Because I have this feeling that something big and awful, at least for the US is barrelling down at us.

*Truth be told, I'm always a little bit off.

Krugman Nails it Again

As usual, Krugman gets to the heart of the matter
The question Democrats, both inside and outside the Obama campaign, should be asking themselves is this: now that the magic has dissipated, what is the campaign about? More generally, what are the Democrats for in this election?

That should be an easy question to answer. Democrats can justly portray themselves as the party of economic security, the party that created Social Security and Medicare and defended those programs against Republican attacks — and the party that can bring assured health coverage to all Americans.

They can also portray themselves as the party of prosperity: the contrast between the Clinton economy and the Bush economy is the best free advertisement that Democrats have had since Herbert Hoover.

But the message that Democrats are ready to continue and build on a grand tradition doesn’t mesh well with claims to be bringing a “new politics” and rhetoric that places blame for our current state equally on both parties.

And unless Democrats can get past this self-inflicted state of confusion, there’s a very good chance that they’ll snatch defeat from the jaws of victory this fall.
His basic point is a valid one the voters are not looking for reform. They are looking for the policies that make their lives better.

To the degree that a candidate makes reform the message to the exclusion of policy, there is an emptiness that can be exploited.

Level 3 Asset Bingo

Here is an interesting commentary on the rather dubious nature of some of the assets on wall street.
Here's Rule No. 1 from Wall Street's public-relations playbook: If the company you run has big losses on hard-to-value assets, scream your head off about the accounting rules.

And what if the squishy values result in huge gains instead, as they have in the not-so-distant past? Rule No. 2: Stay mum about it for as long as the rules allow.
Basically he is noting that the various brokerages are booking a lot of profits on level 3 assets, but level three assets have no regular market to independently determine value, so we are back to smoke and mirror.

Go read, if you dare.

Stupidest F&%$ing Guy on the Planet is Fired

Yes, Georgetown has decided not to renew Douglas Feith's contract
Speaking of Iraq, the Georgetown Hoya newspaper last week quoted a student saying she was 'displeased that university officials have not asked' former Pentagon undersecretary Douglas Feith'to return to teach next year.'

Asked about Feith's status, Robert Gallucci, dean of Georgetown's foreign service school, told us that when Feith was hired -- something that caused an uproar among the faculty -- it was understood he 'was on a two-year appointment.' Any decision not to renew should not be seen as 'a judgment on his performance,' Gallucci said, noting that Feith's students' 'course evaluations were really good.'
Good move.

A better one would have been never to hire the son of a bitch.

Food Crisis Update

Rice just went above US$25/100 pouns in Chicago for first time, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has joined other UN officials in calling this a crisis in very dire terms.

A writer in the bloody Wall Street Journal saying that Americans need to hoard food, because of possible shortages.

Completely Owned

Economics Update

The dollar is doing better now, $1.5613:€1.0000, as I type this, which is about 3% stronger than when it was above $1.60.

I put down most of the movement over the past week to people betting on what the Fed will do in interest rates, and the consensus that it will not cut.

Oil, however, just went up again, as did gasoline, because of reports of a pipeline attack in Nigeria. The reality is that supplies are so tight that even a minor disruption causes a minor panic.

The New York Times has discovered that the housing crisis has moved to tony Greenwich, CT. And so they cover it with wringing hands, because it interests their readers.

For the rest of us, the fact that the mosts states are having financial meltdowns, and many are near broke, because of falling tax revenues, are a matter of greater concern.

Also, Consumer confidence is at a 26 year low. That's as in 1982, when we were at 10% unemployment, and so consumers are scaling way back on spending.

In a sign of the apocalypse, Moody’s is downgrading some more of the Alt-A mortgage backed slop. Who knew that a ratings firm would actually do its job.

It's been a busy day for AMBAC, the monoline insurer, with a report that it may need to seek more capital after posting a $1.66 billion dollar loss for the quarter. Further confirming this report is the fact that their interim CEO is saying that there are no liquidity issues and that its ratings are solid.

S&P is back stopping Ambac on this explicitly stating that the loss will not lead to a downgrade.

Of course if the ratings agencies, or for that matter the financial markets, were at all honest, most the monoliners would already be rated as junk.


The major Sunni parties have agreed in principle to rejoin the Iraqi government, and Moktada al-Sadr has called on his supporters to "to wage open war against the Americans" but forbade them from "raising a hand against another Iraqi citizen."

I'm not sure how this will all play out.

Since it's Iraq and Maliki, both of whom have never failed to disappoint, I think that any concessions on the part of ISCI and Dawa would be primarily as a a part of a deliberate strategy to isolate Sadr in time for the elections, so wonders how long this Sunni-Shia rapproachment last, given that it is clearly seen as short term by Malki.


Well, it looks like things are going to get worse, Zimbabwe police raided MDC, and the independent electoral observer, offices in Harrare, looking for evidence of an "attempt to overthrow the country".

This does not look like it will end well.

Hopefully the talk of immunity for Mugabe in exchange for stepping down, talk in which Mugabe has taken no part, will amount to something.

This has been on a gentle slope down for weeks, but I think that there is a cliff up ahead.

This is Most Unfortunate

It appears that the UK's Office of Government Commerce's new logo will be modified.

Some people have noticed a problem, see here:

Do you see the problem?

OK, tilt your head to the left......

A bit more.....

Nope a bit more.....

See it?

Needless to say, someone there need to take this issue well "in hand", and get a "firm grip" on the situation.

Obviously, if this is what fourteen thousand quid buys from a graphics house in the UK, there is a problem somewhere.

House Financial Services Committee Passes Housing Bill Out of Committee

Barney Frank's bill is better than the Senate version, but I think that any bill that does not allow for restructuring of mortgages through bankruptcy is a lose.

New Chinese Boomer Deploys to Hainan Island

The Chinese appear to aggressively moving towards some sort of submarine based deterrent according to this report by the Federation of American Scientists.

They have a satellite picture (commercial resolution) of one of the boomers at a dock:

There appears to be significant development at the Yulin naval base to accommodate this, including tunnels and a demagnetization facility.

The reports that the island is very near the edge of the continental shelf, which means that the subs could get into deep water quickly, which is typically where you want a boomer, except, of course for the fact that US boats have been doing deep water for the past 50 years.

If China gets a meaningful SSBN deterrent, it represents a threat to US military power, though it is probably a stabalizing factor, because it prevents a nut like Lynne Cheney from going postal on a nuclear level on them with nuclear weapons.

And In the Conuing Tradition of Fanboi Pimping for SAAB

It appears that SAAB has a pretty competitive entry into the smaller AEW field, the Saab 2000 Airborne Early Warning (AEW) system:

SAAB had previously created a system for the Swedish Military based based on a slightly smaller member of this turboprop family.

The E-2 C/D from Northrop Grumman, and the IAI's Conformal AEW (CAEW) based on the Gulfstream G550 airframe are its nearest competitors.

Senator Domenici Admonished by Ethics Committee

Means very little, basically they just sent him a stern letter over his attempt to politically pressure US Attorney David Iglesias.

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory, the Democrats on Healthcare

The battle on reasonable access to healthcare for all has not even been joined, and Congressional Democrats are already walking away from success.

Jeebus, these guys need a spinal transplant.

Things Looking Good for Zack Space

He won election in Ohio's 18th district after Bob Ney withdrew following corruption allegations, and now CQ has upgraded the district from "Leans Democratic" to "Democrat Favored".

Space has $1 million in the bank, as versus $36k for his Republican opponent.

I'm really beginning to think that 2008 will be worse than 2006 for the 'Fants.

A lot of this is because the people who vote for power will now vote Democratic.

Then again, we know how my predictive powers work.

In a Blow to Fans of Franz Kafka

Magistrate Judge Schenkier of the Chicago Federal Court has ruled that the government must tell people if they are on the federal terrorism watch list.

The government argued that telling people that they were on the list would reveal state secrets.

Of course when people have petitioned the courts to be removed from the list, the government has argued that they have no standing, because they don't know if they are on the watch list.

I think that the body cavity searches are a pretty good indicator though.

Liberty City 7 6 To Be Tried For Third Time - Miami News Story - WPLG Miami

This is getting ridiculous. A bunch of sad sacks wanted some uniforms so that they could play soldier, the were contacted by a paid informant, and while they though that they were scamming him, he was scamming them, and the FBI, to get an al Queida payoff, but they will try these bozos again.

They are trying to get a conviction based on the fact that these guys are black and scary, which might work if they weren't utterly pathetic instead of scary.

This is Not About Oil Production, It Is About Privitization

I was wondering how long it would take, but the PAN and its ilk have been salivating at the possibility of privatizing Mexico's state owned oil industry for decades, and now they are trying to make public theft of state assets a reality.

State ownership of the oil industry is a core value of the Mexcan body politic, so much so that there is a national holiday to commemorate the nationalization of the industry. It is considered to be a pillar of national sovreignty.

The reason that PAN loves the idea of privatization is because it will provide the opportunity to generate huge salaries and consulting commissions to the pale skinned Mexican elites who went to university at places like Harvard and Brown.

The facts are simple:
  • Mexican oil production is dropping.
  • Mexican oil revenues are at an all time high because of high oil prices.
  • It cost nothing to leave unexplored oil where it is right now.
  • There is no need to rely on big oil for the technical expertise to get at that oil.
When the Oil industry downsized and consolidated in the 1980s and 1990s, thousands of petroleum engineers and the like were without jobs, and many of them found positions with the oil services industry, which now arguably more technically capable than the big oil.

If they want these fields developed, the Mexican government could contract with companies with Halliburton and Slumberger*, and get the job done without signing over future earnings. What's more they would get more local employment out of it, because big oil tends to employ lots of expats to get the job done.

The claims that Pemex "lacks the money and expertise" to get this done are driven by a desire among Mexican conservatives to sell $100 of oil for $1 today, because them and theirs will get an additional 50¢ in sweetheart deals.

Pemex does have problems, but these can be fixed.

*Full disclosure, one of my step mom's life long friends is one of those Slumbergers.

Must Read On Bond Ratings and Mortgage Crisis

Roger Lowenstein is a very concise analysis of just how what Atrios and I call the "Big Sh%$pile"* got the high ratings from Moodys necessary for the debt to be resold.

I think that it explains the process in a clear and concise way, though I think that he is far too easy on Moodys.

The process involved is inherently corrupt, since the issuers get to choose their ratings agency.

I would argue that much of this was covered in "Best PowerPoint Ever", which makes it rather more clear just how corrupt this game was.

*Only the distinguished gentleman from Philadelphia does not mask out the last two letters of the word "Sh%$"

Northrop Grumman Wins BAMS

The Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) has just been awarded to NG, beating Lockheed-Martin/General Atomics and Boeing/General Dynamics.

BAMS! Northrop Wins Billion-Dollar UAS Deal | Danger Room from Wired.com

Basically it's a large drone and sensor suite optimized for maritime work. NG and LM/GA's bids were fairly typical (see picture below), and Boeing/GD had presented an "optionally manned" modified Gulfstream biz jet.

As the norm these days, I expect a challenge

24 April 2008

Obama Just Did Something Mindboggling Stupid

I don't care what the calculus behind this is, his decision to appear on Fox News Sunday is very very stupid.

Because top line Democrats no longer appear on their show, Fox has lost credibility, and they know it, and now Obama is sitting down because he thinks that he's somehow going to charm them into liking him.

Even if they weren't dishonest excuses for journalists, this would not happen. Journalists are small people who hold grudges over stuff like this, and they buy ink by the hogshead,* so this is a lose-lose.

It's sh%$ like this that makes me wonder if he's not ready for prime time.

*OK it's hundreds of TV stations, but the analogy holds....

Gripen Demo Rollout

Well, SAAB has rolled out its Gripen demo, with more thrust*, more fuel, and more carrying capacity, see here and here.

There should be a meaningful (i.e. carrying a meaningful air-to-air load) supercruise, in addition to the greater payload and range in the strike configuration.

Additionally there are some developments in parallel in avionics, most notably an AESA radar.

Here you can see how the landing gear has been moved outboard to the win root to allow for more internal fuel and a second pylon on the fuselage.

Also here:

In addition to being the best value of the current generation of fighters, I also think that it's just plain cool:

*Cheaper engine too. The RM-12, a GE F404 derivative is actually more expensive than the roughly 25% more powerful GE F414.

Signs of Sanity Appearing with Regard to the GSEs

It appears that both the Treasury Department and Congress are bedcoming concerned about the increasing exposure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to a potential meltdown, and are looking at increased regulations to prevent this.

Considering the fact that they are the 2nd and 3rd largest borrowers in the world, after the US government, the effects of their needing a bailout are enormous.

On the other side of this are people who want to bolster the housing market, and tighter GSE regulation goes in the other direction, and the fact that they have been aggressively lobbying Congress for years.

Hopefully, this time the bears win, or we may see a trillion+ dollar bailout.

Yeah, I Worked Here Too-II

I saw this article on BAE Systems selling Family of Medium Tactical Vehicle (FMTV) trucks to Jordan, and I saw, Sealy, TX, and realized that I worked there when they were Stewart and Stevenson Tactical Vehicle Systems.

Economics Update

Unemployment claims fell again, note my standard caveat about noisy measures though.

Note also that new-home sales are unbelievably grim. An 8.5% drop month to month is falling off a cliff, but this is following the numbers being revised downward for the month of February.

If that doesn't scare you, there is a Credit Suisse research report that suggests that there will be 6.5 million foreclosures by 2012:
The foreclosures could put 12.7 percent of all residential borrowers out of their homes, Credit Suisse analysts, led by Rod Dubitsky, said in the report. That compares with a foreclosure rate of 2.04 percent in the last quarter of 2007, they said, citing Mortgage Bankers Association data.
That is one out of 8 residential borrowers.

That's too bearish for even me, and I'm the biggest bear out there.

In terms of non-residential real estate measures, we have the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) dropping to its lowest level ever, suggesting that commercial real estate's about to tank too, and orders for durable goods, items expected to last 3 or more years, fell 0.3% from February, worse than expected.

The drop in unemployment claims triggered a drop in treasuries and a strengthening of the dollar, because it makes it less likely that the Fed will cut rates at its next meeting.

Truth be told, the Fed cutting rates won't do much anyway, as is shown by mortgage rates continued upward path.

The Fed has lowered rates below the effective inflation rate, and so their rates have decoupled from the commercial rates.

Your Semi-Regular Dose Zimbabwe Elections

Well, it looks like China has backed down, and the An Yue Jiang will be heading back without having offloaded its weapons shipment to Mugabe and his goons.

The article also notes that Jendayi Frazer, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs is saying that Tsvangirai was the "clear victor" in the race, but given the credibility of the US foreign policy apparatus, this means next to nothing for the principals or the surrounding government.

The recount continues apace with ZANU-PF being awarded one MCD seat so far. If they flip 9, and I think that the electoral commission is doing their level best to make that happen, then the MDC loses its parliamentary majority.

We are starting to see proposals for a unity government being floated, but I see that foundering on the shoals of control of the state security apparatus, which Mugabe will not give up.

Jacob Zuma is one of the people floating this, but he is also ratcheting up the rhetoric with regards to Mugabe and the ZANU-PF too.

I'm not sure how much of this is internal ANC politics, truth be told.

Over the past month, I appear to have gotten about 10 visits from South Africa and Zimbabwe, so if someone has a local perspective, I would appreciate it.

US Claims DPRK-Syria Nuclear Ties

Sounds familiar *Cough* Iraq *Cough*? Don't worry, we have video taped evidence, so there can be no question that...what????

Oh, we don't have a video tape. We have a video presentation of a PowerPoint presentation, so what we have is something that is very close to Colin Powell's infamous UN presentation (full disclosure, I know people who were involved int he technical end of the production):
A US official, requesting anonymity, told AFP: "There are still photographs of the facility as part of the video, but it's a video presentation, like a Powerpoint presentation. It's not a video of the facility."
Just to remind everyone, we have no credibility on this:
Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha yesterday angrily denounced the U.S. and Israeli assertions. 'If they show a video, remember that the U.S. went to the U.N. Security Council and displayed evidence and images about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I hope the American people will not be as gullible this time around,' he said.
From your mouth to God's ear.

Hillary is Raising Good Money, Will She Throw It After Bad Money

First, we have Clinton raising $10 million in the day after the Pennsylvania, and from a few days before, we have reports of significant indebtedness to her coterie of advisors.

This picture is just the amount owed to Penn's firm, which is money that has been supremely poorly spent.

I think that it is highly unlikely that Clinton will outraise Obama through the rest of the primaries, and so this sh$# needs to stop for her to be viable.

Truth to be told this this sh$# needs to stop for all Democrats.

There is a professional parasite class inside the beltway, and it is paid on commission, so we get too much advertising, not enough ground game, and no interest in being more efficient, since increases in efficiency reduce their paycheck.

Their names are Penn, Shrum, Brazile, Begala, Grunwald, Trippi, etc.

They go on press shows where they puff themselves, and their overpriced consultancies, up and do little for candidates.

They don't have faces for TV. Mark Penn looks like a bloody poster child for sex without partners.

If there is one good thing about Karl Rove, it's that when he worked for Bush and His Evil Minions, he stayed in the background.

These people are part of the corrupt, venal, self serving, elitist, and incompetent DC beltway community, and the elected leaders Democratic party need to put a leash on these idiots.

The Republicans have done so for some time, starting well before Ed Rendell got purged for his walking around money comments.

It's time for Democrats to start winning because of their senior campaign staff, not in spite of their senior campaign staff.

Telco Immunity Update

First, it appears that Steny Hoyer is working a capitulation compromise on a FISA update, but interestingly enough, the Vichy Blue Dog Dems are not in the least bit interested in talking to Republicans about immunity.

What the Vichy Blue Dog Democrats realize, and what the Quisling Hoyer does not, is that their constituents have their back.

When the Vichy Blue Dog Dems went home, they were not inundated by angry phone calls, they were given high fives for standing up to the least popular president ever.

Not one step back.

Insurer Problems on a Much Smaller, and Much Larger Scale

This is about health insurance, and obviously these policies, whose payouts typically max out at less than a million dollars, are smaller than the monoliner's policies, but this is the tip of the iceberg.

UnitedHealth Group is taking a major hit because fewer and fewer employers can afford to buy its product.

The healthcare crisis is real and ongoing, and we are going 90mph towards a brick wall.

Food Crisis Update

I guess the part of the story we expect is this:
The rising prices are "threatening to plunge more than 100 million people on every continent into hunger," Josette Sheeran, executive director of the United Nations' World Food Program, said on the agency's Web site Tuesday.
Foreign starvation, hand wringing over biofuels, etc.

Nothing to worry about here, we're Americans...right???


We are seeing severe shortages of rye flour, with no domestic supplies being available around July, and there are currently only 27 days wheat supply.

Additionally, we are seeing panic buying, which is forcing big box retailers to restrict bulk purchases of rice, so that they don't run out.

We already have hunger in the US, just look at our overburdened food pantries, and it is going to get worse.

G.O.P. Votes for Discrimination and Bigotry

This is no surprise. Bigots are the core constituency of the Republican party, so they killed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which would have eliminated the loophole which allows employers to discriminate against their employees on the basis of race, sex, religion, and national origin risk free.

That sound you hear is Abraham Lincoln spinning at 57,423 rpm.

Eddie Haskell David Petraeus to Head CENTCOM

Great. This is a man who has staked his personal reputation in Iraq, and now they want him to allocate resources between Iraq and Afghanistan. I wouldn't expect much perspective here.

Even more disturbing are his lies regarding Iran, which implies that Bush and His Evil Minions now have someone who be willing to attack Iran without question.

Furthermore, this will create a problem for an eventual Democratic nominee, because It's clear that Petraeus will be a voice for Iraq forever, otherwise he looks like the charlatan he is, and there will be political blowback if they try to remove him from the post.

My hope would be that the hearings for his appointment would be scheduled for sometime in late January, 2009.

Signs of the Apocalypse: The WaPo Editorial Board Gets TWO Right in the Same Year

This time, they are going after the Republicans, and McCain for killing improvements in the GI bill.

The got one right 2½ weeks ago too, in addition to one in 2007.

H/t Brad Delong.

Drip, Drip, Drip, on L'Affaire Abramoff

This time, it's Robert Coughlin, former deputy chief of staff of the DoJ criminal division, who has pled guilty to accepting bribes.

My guess is that it's going to go much higher, at least if the next Prez decides to pursue it.

One Possible Answer to What the Republican October Surprise Will Be

GMU Professor Jeremy Mayer suggests that it will be an overseas arrest for war crimes of some prominent Bush administration official.

While I think that they are war criminals and should be tried, the reaction of the American public will be bellicose and jingoistic, playing to the base lizard brain of hatred, bigotry, and fear of the other that is at the core of Republican electoral success.

Remember Lt. William Calley. A poor officer and a murderer who shot a little boy in the back, but to the American public, he was a hero.

That Shining Penitentiary on the Hill

The US has 5% of the worlds population, and 25% of the worlds prisoners.

We imprison a greater proportion of our population than the despots of the world.

Are our streets safer? Nope.

Is crime less??? Nope. (and that's not considering the high dollar value of the Wall Street variety).

Lower taxes? Only if you're rich.

I guess as Americans, we just need someone to hate.

The Department of Homeland Imbicility

This time, it's the $20 million high-tech fenceless border fence, which is now being dumped less than three months after being implemented as a technology demonstrator.


Microsoft to Customers: Drop Dead, DRM Edition

Once upon a time, there was a company called Microsoft, and it was a bad company.

One day, they created a music shop, called MSN music, which was even worse.

Then the bad people at Microsoft created the the Zune* store, anddecided to Dump MSN Music.

So, effective August 31, 2008, Microsoft is pulling the DRM keys on the music:
MSN Entertainment and Video Services general manager Rob Bennett sent out an e-mail this afternoon to customers, advising them to make any and all authorizations or deauthorizations before August 31. "As of August 31, 2008, we will no longer be able to support the retrieval of license keys for the songs you purchased from MSN Music or the authorization of additional computers," reads the e-mail seen by Ars. "You will need to obtain a license key for each of your songs downloaded from MSN Music on any new computer, and you must do so before August 31, 2008. If you attempt to transfer your songs to additional computers after August 31, 2008, those songs will not successfully play."

This doesn't just apply to the five different computers that PlaysForSure allows users to authorize, it also applies to operating systems on the same machine (users need to reauthorize a machine after they upgrade from Windows XP to Windows Vista, for example). Once September rolls around, users are committed to whatever five machines they may have authorized—along with whatever OS they are running.
So you bought it, you paid for it, and now you have nothing.

This isn't just Microflaccid, this is what the music and movie industries want to be their business model.

You buy the music, and then they change the rules, and make you buy it again.

*Yes, this was bad too.
And probably overpaid for it.

View From North of the Border

Murray Dobbin has an interesting perspective on the "harmonization" and "integration" of Canada with the US, Americanize Me? No Thanks. He thinks that it's ill advised, and his first example is quite illustrative:
Now we find out that despite recommendations from the Canadian Pediatric Society and the Canadian Cancer Society that Health Canada dramatically increase the recommended daily does of Vitamin D, the federal agency refuses to do so. Why? Because it is committed to "harmonizing" Canadian nutrition standards with those in the United States.
The interesting thing about Vitamin D is that there are two sources for this, diet, and sunlight, as the human body manufactures it when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet.*

Given the specifics of Canada, further north, less sunlight, the idea that they would need more dietary D is abundantly clear.

More generally, he finds America as a government completely dysfunctional, America as a society paranoid morass generally bereft of morality, and America as an economy as an "emerging economic basket case on pace to self destruct."

It's a good read, particularly for Canadians who need to deal with Stephen Harper style boneheads.

*It's why we have white people in the world. The layer in the skin that manufactures vitamin is beneath the pigment layer, so paler people make more Vitamin D for a given amount of sunlight, so in light starved regions, it favors the pale.
I Agree

WTF, 49% of the Vote? By a Dem? In MO-1?

Well, they just had a special election in Missouri's 1st congressional district.

No one got an outright majority, but the Democrat, Travis Childers, got 49% of the vote to the Republican Greg Davis's 46%.

There is still a runoff, but note that in this this district Bush beat Kerry 62.24% to 37.03% in 2004.

The fact that a Democrat was going to the runoff is encouraging. The fact that the Democrat won the plurality of the votes is astonishing, particularly considering the fact that the RNCC outspent the DNCC by more than 2:1.

The cynic in me wonders how Dems will screw this up in the next 4-½ months. It will be difficult, but somehow they will manage.

The Microsoft Office "Standards" Clown Show

Microsoft Office documents do not comply with the ISO's newly adopted OXML* Standard.

It appears that Microflaccid's "Embrace, Extend, and Extinguish" also covers standards developed by Microsoft for the benefit of their marketing department.

It's part of their DNA.

*When it became an "ISO standard" the 2nd "O", for "Office", was dropped.

23 April 2008

Airbus Has a Neat Concept, but a Bogus Patent

Airbus has filed a patent for what it considers an innovative trijet design.

What they are arguing is that three smaller engines will weigh less than two larger ones, that the noise from the third engine will be mitigated by the "trough" created by the tail configuration, and that the smaller engines will allow a shorter and lighter landing gear.

I don't think that it's going anywhere, because the two jet/three jet question has been answered now for some time, the additional maintenance, etc. just ain't worth it.

As to the supposedly innovative idea of using the tail to mask the signature of rear mounted engines:

It's been around for a while.

Possible Coverup in Duke Cunningham Affair

The trial of Thomas Kontogiannis, the money man/money launderer of the Duke Cunningham scandal, appears under some sort of government blackout.

The government is saying that the details of the case, which are normally public record, are government secrets, because the government says so.

So very little of the plea has been revealed.

Given the history of the state secrets privilege, it was created in the 1950s, and the US government lied to the court in the case establishing the precedent, United States v. Reynolds, I'm inclined to think that this is more Bush DoJ shenanigans.

They are probably covering up for other corrupt Republicans, Rep. Lewis comes to mind.

Me Bad. Hillary Wanking on Autism Too

You can read it here:
I am committed to make investments to find the causes of autism, including possible environmental causes like vaccines. I have long been a supporter of increased research to determine the links between environmental factors and diseases, and I believe we should increase the NIH’s ability to engage in this type of research. My administration will be committed to improving research to support fact-based solutions, and I will ensure that the NIH has the staff and funding to fully explore all possible causes of autism.
Just to be clear: the vaccine-autism link is a hoax.

The doctor who came up with it was in cahoots with the lawyers, and he had a patent on a junk science alternative.

He is now in the process of having his license to practice medicine stripped.

Economics Update

Today, since they've been off the update for a while, I'd like to welcome back a monoliner insurer, specifically AMBAC which lost even more money than forecast, $3.6 billion.

However, they are looking to turning things around. Specifically, they have their "lawyers and forensic experts"looking at 17 big money losing contracts, targeting (it appears) Bear Stearns and First Franklin. The max losses were originally seen at 10-12%, and now they are staring down the barrels of over 80%, so they may have a good case.

We'll be seeing a lot more of this, and insurers won't be paying out in the near term without this sort of teardown of the contract and investment looking for evidence of deception of some sort.

In related news, bondholders recovery on bankruptcy has plunged, with B+ bonds going from around 42¢ on the dollar to less than 10¢.

This is not a liquidity crisis. It is an insolvency crisis.

The Fed, however, is still treating this as a liquidity crisis, because there is no cure for an insolvency crisis but the dissolution of the entities involved, and it will auction another $75 billion in Treasuries in exchange for pieces of the big sh%$pile.

Speaking of the sh%$pile Moody’s just downgraded 1,923 residential mortgage backed securities in the past to days.

It's likely to get worse. Robert Shiller, who is one of the creators of Case-Shiller housing index, believes that house prices will fall more than 30% from their high, and likens this to the slump associated with the Great Depression.

In terms of the more general economy, we have UPS saying that it's seeing a dramatic slowing in the U.S. economy, and in its business, and Target's write offs on its credit card sales are soaring. They are at an annualized rate of 8.1% for March (ouch) up from a rate of 6.8% in February (ouch x2).

In currency, we already know about the Dollar cracking the $1.60 barrier, but now we are seeing a price hike driven by this, with Airbus raising prices on its planes.

We're going to see a lot more currency driven inflation.

Obama Just Pissed Me Off

I have been an involuntary student of conditions on the Autism spectrum by virtue of my son having Aspergers (see here, here, and here), so I have looked at the evidence (see here and here) and it is clear that there is no link.

I've also lambasted people who are putting their community and children at risk, because they are stupid and unthinking, which would, of course, include McCain's claim that there is an explicit link.

Well, now we have Obama saying that the science is not yet settled on Autism and vaccines. While he does so in the context of promising additional funding for early interventions (BTW, Hillary was first on suggesting funding for this), by promoting this junk science, junk science that has sickenes thousands of children in the US every year, he pisses me off.

There are (very small) risks to vaccines, which is why the US government has a vaccine fund, but Autism is not one of them.

The anti-vaccine folks should be treated with nothing but disdain, much like the nut-job Mullahs in Northern Nigeria who sabotaged the polio eradication project because they thought it a secret plan to sterilize them.

Begich Makes It Official, He's Running Against Stevens in Alaska

Mark Begich will be running against Ted Stevens.

It's been pretty much a done deal since February, and considering the fact that Stevens has gone from Uncle Pork to criminal in the voters minds, it's a reasonable chance for a Dem pickup.

It helps that Begich is Mayor of Anchorage, as he will have an organization there, and around 45% of Alaska's population live in the city, and around 57% of the population lives in the greater Anchorage metro area.

His campaign site is here.

Congresscritters Missing the Forest for the Trees

So, Reps. Neil Abercrombie, D-HI, Lynn Westmoreland, R-GA have decided that a Congressional investigation of the college football bowl system is warranted.

They are missing the bigger point, which is that the US taxpayer is funding NCAA Division I sports are not a non profit activity, they are a for profit activity in which a cartel of institutions have conspired to prevent their employees, so-called "student atheletes", from being paid, and for which alumni donations are tax deductible.

Even Now, Bush and His Evil Minions Can Leave Me Dumbstruck

Every time that I think that the Bush Administration can't get any more self serving venal and incompetent, they rais the bar.

This time, it's the worst National Security Adviser ever, shortly to be the worst Secretary of State ever, Condoleeza Rice, who has just basically called Muqtada al-Sadr a c@cks#cker.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice mocked anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as a coward on Sunday, hours after the radical leader threatened to declare war unless U.S. and Iraqi forces end a military crackdown on his followers.

Rice, in the Iraqi capital to tout security gains and what she calls an emerging political consensus, said al-Sadr is content to issue threats and edicts from the safety of Iran, where he is studying. Al-Sadr heads an unruly militia that was the main target of an Iraqi government assault in the oil-rich city of Basra last month, and his future role as a spoiler is an open question.

"I know he's sitting in Iran," Rice said dismissively, when asked about al-Sadr's latest threat to lift a self-imposed cease-fire with government and U.S. forces. "I guess it's all-out war for anybody but him," Rice said. "I guess that's the message; his followers can go too their deaths and he's in Iran."
This from a woman unwilling to announce her visits to Iraq in advance, who spends her whole time in a heavily fortified walled city, and has something like 1000 soldiers, and an equal number of mercenaries protecting her.

Un f#$@ing believable.