31 May 2008

A Good Debunking of a Panglossian Financial Press

A few days ago, I read a fairly typical don't worry, be happy article on CNN by Paul La Monica.

After perusing it for a while, and I shook my head, and thought, "Moron", but decided not to pursue it on my blog. It just seemed be the all to ordinary whistling past the grave yard that one sees in far too much of the financial press.

Yesterday however, I got an email from Paul Lamont, who I have cited before here, who runs Lamont Trading Advisors, who sees their mission as being to prepare clients for a, "major bear market".

He has a very nice rebuttal to Mr. Lamonica's article, noting that:
  • Lamonica's use of unemployment as a metric is disingenuous, as it is a lagging indicator. [I would add that the unemployment stats are also highly massaged these days as compared to 1933].
  • The absence of deflation is not a difference, inflation continued until 1931 in the great depression, and the same applies to commodity inflation and inflationary concerns.

  • That the recent bounce back of the stock market is actually rather similar to what happened in the great depression, with the eventual bottom occurring because the banking system froze up:
Go and read his article, I wholeheartedly approve, though I do differ on one point: I see the continuing economic crisis mirroring those that occurred in Asia, Argentina, etc. where you see sudden and catastrophic devaluation of the currency (i.e. inflation), as opposed to the 1930s style depression.

That's why I have 30% of my 401(k) in overseas index funds.

DNC Rules Committee Awards Half Delegates

This was the most likely outcome.

It's not exactly half the delegates. Each delegate gets a half vote, and the uncommitted delegates in Michigan will be awarded to Obama.

We'll see in the next few days how this plays out.

Brazil Also Lodges OOXML Complaint

I think that the Bum's rush on OOXML pushed by the US and Microflaccid may end up backfiring:
Now Brazil has become the latest country to put the boot in by objecting to what it claimed was a flawed BRM that saw processes rushed through in favour of Microsoft gaining approval for its document format.


Marcia Cristina de Oliveira, manager of the standardisation process at the ABNT claims in a letter to the ISO (a copy of which is provided by Andy Updegrove here) that “the Brazilian delegation was not allowed to present an important proposal regarding the legacy binary mapping.

“Brazil had tried to present this proposal, during the debates, on the first day of the meeting... On Friday, when USA ended their part of presentation and asked for Brazil to present its part of it, the convenor denied this opportunity to Brazilian delegation.”

According to Updegrove, that’s quite a serious allegation. “While this latest appeal overlaps the South African objections in part, it also raises new concerns, some of which are particular to the interests of Brazil, rather than applying to the process as a whole. "As a result, it raises not only additional issues, but also ones that present a categorically different basis for appeal as well,” he said.
Interestingly enough, OOXML is already out of compliance, as the standard, DIS 29500, is supposed to be published no more than one month after approval.

Eurofighter Now Offering AESA Radar for Typhoon

Though Eurofighter is claiming that its Captor-M mechanically scanned radar offers superior performance.

I'm a bid dubious of that claim, though mechanically scanned radars are clearly cheaper.

Dutch Parliament Throws a Monkey Wrench into JSF Acquisition

The government won approval to buy their first two F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, but they cannot spend more than 10% of the money allocated until they conduct a, "the government conducts a new, open and transparent evaluation of alternatives to the JSF," with the involvement of experts outside their ministry of defense.

I think that this all comes down to the increasing realization that the JSF is going to cost a lot more than was initially promised.

Dutch Industry Getting Cold Feet on JSF

In 2002, the Dutch government agreed to invest €858 million in developing the JSF, "on condition that it would not cost more than buying an aircraft off the shelf", with significant offsets to the local aerospace industry.

As a part of this contract, the Dutch aerospace industry agreed to cover any shortfalls in funding, but this number has grown signifantly from the €191 estimated in 2002, and inudstry wants to renegotiate the deal, claiming that, "financial benefits of the project are now far greater than originally thought and that the deal will benefit the taxpayer at the industry's expense".

Basically, they are saying that are getting hosed by cost escalation on the project, which is almost certainly true, and it will be getting a lot worse if the program continues in its current form.

Neat Tech: FCS Edition

In this case, this is actually a potentially useful military technology, specifically what is called the Unattended Ground Sensors (UGS) system.

These are a family of disposable/deployable sensor ranging in size from something a bit smaller than a shoe box to about the size of a cigarette pack:
The UGS come in two forms, the Tactical UGS and the Urban UGS. Tactical have four different versions, including the ISR node, which contains magnetic, seismic, and acoustic sensors; the Gateway node which is a communications relay system; an Electro-optics node with an EO camera for the day and an infrared camera for night; and a Radiological/Nuclear node. The Tactical UGS are about a foot long and several inches wide (exact specs are classified), and are typically partially buried so they aggressor units can’t see them while passing by. Urban UGS are smaller, and are placed on walls inside buildings to monitor rooms already cleared by soldiers. The two UGS send data back to the Gateway, which then processes the information and send its out through the FCS communications system.
The basic objective of the technology is to create a networked picture of the battlefield.

Situational awarness is frequently the most important part of winning a battle, but when one considers that any foreseeable conflict in the immediate future will be a counterinsurgency operation, where US forces would be operating at an information disadvantage that will not be helped by this sort of technology.

Russian Advanced Helo Concepts

The Russians are looking at advanced high speed helicopter concepts too (Paid Subscription Required):

Mil Mi-X1
Among the concepts are:
  • The Mi-X1, a 5 ton class aircraft with a top speed of around 450-500 km/h.
  • The Kamov Ka-92 which uses a coaxial rotor with retreating blades offloaded, much like Sikorsky's X2 demonstrator.
  • The Ka-90, which has a rotor which folds down along the fuselage for high speed (700 km/h) flight.

30 May 2008

Yes, Myanmar, There is a Panty Clause

Not sure if I can add much to this:
Panties sought for Myanmar protest

Two Canadian human rights group in Quebec are calling for women to mail panties to Myanmar's embassy to protest the ruling military junta.

The Quebec Women's Federation and the activist group Rights and Democracy claim the secretive military leaders in the country formerly known as Burma are superstitious and believe contact with women's underwear will usurp their power, CTV News reported.


NY Exchange Raises Margin Requirements for Trading

This should dampen some of the volitility, if just because money is expensive right now, and if you have to put more up front, you can't trade as much.

My guess is that with all the allegations of market manipulation, NYMEX wants investors to have more skin in the game.

April New Home Sales Increase Probably Not Increase

Again, we have the inestimable Barry Ritholtz to thank.

It turns out that April's sales were the same as the initial March numbers, but March was revised downwards, creating an increase.

Economics Update

CNN is reporting that Consumer spending was flat relative to inflation, which really is not true, since the CPI is crap, and because consumer spending includes food and energy, which are going through the roof, so everything else was down.

It looks like there will be more downward pressure on the dollar, as Euro-zone inflation is at 3.6%, which means that the ECB will definitely not cut rates, and might raise them, though the dollar strengthened slightly today.

BTW, the report of the improved growth in the intermediate report on US GDP? It's really a contraction, as Barry Righoltz notes, the gains weredefense spending, inventory builds, and exports, with the rest of the economy at -0.4%.

Go to his site for the chart pr0n.

In energy, oil rebounded a bit from yesterday's fall to $127.35/bbl, and retail gasoline hit a record yet again.

Comment Problems

People have been seeing some weird codes in, and having some problems with, the HaloScan comments. This has been resolved, but not by me:

From: HaloScan Support Thu, May 29, 2008 at 4:56 PM
To: Matthew Saroff
Thanks for contacting Haloscan Support
- The issue has been resolved. If you continue to see these messages ,please contact us.

RIAA Employed Terrorist Takes Down Web TV Network

MediaDefender, a criminal software firm employed by media companies to engage in illegal attacks on sites that they deem infringing, just took down the completely legal web broadcasting firm Revision3, which is, conveniently enough, a direct competitor to MediaDefender's parent company.

It Revision3 uses BitTorrent to distribute its programming, but only its own stuff, but MediaDefender hacked in using a back door to place their own material on the server, and when this back door was shut down after it was discovered, a massive (8000/second) DDOS attack occurred.

At this point they say that they lack the resources to sue, but I've sent them an email saying that I would throw in a few bucks for a legal fund.

Political Kangaroo Court

Col. Peter Brownback, the judge on the Omar Khadr case, has been dismissed by the Pentagon:
U.S. Army Col. Peter Brownback, 60, a Vietnam veteran who once admitted he was under pressure from Washington concerning Khadr's case, was relieved of his duties yesterday and replaced by another military judge.

There was no comment from the Pentagon or the U.S. Office of Military Commissions last night concerning the short email announcing Brownback's departure.

There had been speculation that Brownback had wanted to return to retirement, but most observers had assumed it would be at the end of Khadr's trial.

Khadr's military lawyer, U.S. navy Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler, said the announcement took him by surprise and suggested that the motive for the military judge's removal was political. Brownback had refused to set a trial date for Khadr, which Kuebler said angered those eager to have his case wrapped up before a change in the U.S. administration.

"The timing is certainly suspicious," Kuebler said yesterday. "They're trying to get to trial as quickly as possible. The one thing you can say in (Brownback's) favour was that he was holding the government's feet to the fire."
If you recall, he was 14 at the time of his alleged crimes, and as a child soldier, in civilized worlds, though apparently not in the US military tribunal system, he would be adjudged a victim, not a criminal.

In related news, It appears that the government is pulling out all the stops to make sure that the trials of the alleged 911 conspirators are a part of the presidential campaign:
The U.S. military attorneys included the claim in a 20-page brief asking the military judge to dismiss the capital charges against alleged al Qaeda kingpin Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other Guantánamo detainees.

The document includes an e-mail from a civilian member of the prosecution team proposing to set the trial date for Sept. 15, the Monday after the seventh anniversary of the suicide attacks.

''Not coincidentally,'' the defense attorneys say, ``that would force the trial of this case in mid-September, some seven weeks before the general elections.''
This means that the defense will be given about 3 months to prepare for 5 death penalty cases where much of the evidence is classified, which is clearly inadequate.

Bankruptcy Judge Rules that Liar Loans are Dischargeable

Basically, he ruled to quote Tanta, " If you make a "liar loan," the Judge is saying here, then you cannot claim you were harmed by relying on lies. And if you rely on an inflated appraisal, that's your lookout, not the borrower's."

If this sets a precedent, there will be a whole series of loans that will be up for grabs in bankruptcy proceedings, as it should be.

Sadr and Sistani Call for Referendum on Iraqi Status of Forces Deal

Sadr is no surprise, but the fact that Sistani is demanding the plebiscite to members of the Iraqi government, though he has not gone public, is a very big deal.

There are now reports that the Iraqi government wants to put off finalizing the deal until next year, which means next administration,

JP Morgan Buys Bear Stearns

Buh bye Bear.

Deliberately Bad Real Estate Reporting

You have an article titled California Home-Price Cuts End Sales Losing Streak, noting that home sales were up 2.5% in April.

That's the lead. While one can be heartened by the fact that it is the first increase in 30 months, in any normal market, April is always bigger than March. The problem is that real estate reporting is hostage, so what should have been the lead, the fact that median home prices fell 32% year over year, is in the 2nd 'graph, and there is no mention of the year over year home sales numbers, which are down 19%.

Bankers Starting to Use LIBOR Alternatives

As a result of concerns about the accuracy of the London Interbank Offered Rate, it appears that a number of financial institutions are casting about for an alternative metrid.

This is big, because it reflects the fact that even the most mundane, and until recently rock solid, standards of the financial industry are no longer reliable, which is why money is not flowing, and is unlikely to flow.

This appears to be a slow motion car wreck that we are watching in the financial markets.

George Bush Authorized Plame Leak

Emptywheel has the scoop, and it's pretty convincing.

McCain Staffers Questioned in Rick Renzi Corrupt Land Deal

They have beeninterviewed in connection with the corrupt land swap deal. It appears that the prosecutors have requested documents from McCain, but that he has not yet turned them over.

Reporter Says Upper Management at Networks Prohibited Real Journalism in Run Up to War

On Anderson Cooper, Jessica Yellin said that network execs killed stories critical of Bush and the invasion of Iraq.

I am so not surprised.

Two Snaps Up for Barack Obama

Barack Obama has stated that if elected, in his first 100 days he will hold a comprehensive review of all Bush executive orders, and overturn those that he feels are unconstitutional.

PTSD by the Numbers

I came across this on Eric Alterman's Altercation, in one of the letter from Ken G of Cherry Hill, NJ that he published, detailing the basics of combat related psychological stress:
Studies during World War II determined that the average rifleman in combat maintained peak efficiency up to about 90 days of cumulative combat. Thereafter, efficiency decreased and ultimately, if not otherwise wounded, they became "psychiatric casualties" after 200 to 240 cumulative days in combat. Once they became "psychiatric casualties," soldiers could be treated and made useful again in rear echelon duties but they were rarely able to become effective combat rifle men again. It was further determined that "Rest and Recuperation" (R & R) could "stop the clock" on the cumulative days of combat, but it could not "turn back the clock." In other words, whether a rifleman served in combat for 240 consecutive days or for 240 single days with R & R in between, they were still likely to become psychiatric casualties. Interestingly, studies during the Vietnam War initially did not seem to support the figures calculated in World War II. However, further study determined that actually the figures from World War II were correct, but, since in Vietnam a soldier was invariably a target to insurgent snipers and mortar barrages and bombs whether on a search and destroy mission or at base camp or on R & R in Saigon, the "combat clock" continued to tick even during times that were seemingly non-combat. In others words, it is not the least bit shocking that most of the men who served as riflemen for a one-year tour in Vietnam suffered from some level of PTSD upon completion of their tour.
Note that the surge required 15 months tours, so people in the military and the administration knew that they were breaking the bulk of the soldiers who are so deployed.

Larry Craig to Write Book

My guess is that the title will be Zen and the Art of Bathroom Etiquette.


29 May 2008

The New McScarfyism*

It started innocently enough, with an ad from Dunkin' Donuts:

Rachael Ray, who gets pictured eating in so many places that I expect the Phoenix Mars lander to snap a picture, doing an add for Dunkin' Donuts frozen drinks.

Notice the paisley silk scarf? So did Michelle Malkin (sorry, no link to her, ever), and she claimed that it was the Arab headdress known as the Keffiyeh, and that Dunkin Donuts was "hate couture", and an endorsement of Jihad.

Well, the donut and coffee purveyor, did not do the sane thing, which would be to suggest that Malkin needs her meds adjusted, but pulled the ad and issued an apology, once again showing how American business capitulates to Jihadists.

Why am I calling Malkin a Jihadist? Let's compare Ray and run the numbers:
  1. Woman's parents were born and raised in the country which has had the longest Islamist insurgency, the Phillipines?
  2. Woman born in the United States to parents who were not legal residents at the time, giving them a leg up in getting their green card, aka the, according to Malkin, an "Anchor Baby".
  3. Uses threats and intimidation against perceived enemies, including the publication of names and addresses.
  4. Wears a Keffiyeh.

It's pretty clear to me which one is a Jihadist.

In any case, I am now boycotting Dunkin Donuts for capitulating to a terrorist.

*Credit where credit is due. I did not come up with this term. Tritumi at SP gets credit for this.

Economics Update

The economy grew more than previously estimated in Q1 of 2008, at an 0.9% annual rate adjusted for CPI, as opposed to the previously reported 0.6%. Note that this still a contraction, as inflation, even the official bogus CPI understates true inflation by well over 1%.

Not surprisingly, treasuries fell, as the revised numbers show more potential for inflation.

New jobless claims rose +4000 to 372,000, just above the estimate of 370,000, which, to me at least, reinforces my thoughts on the trajectory of the economy.

Crude oil prices fell to $126.62/bbl, but retail gasoline hit another record. That's 22 straight days.

The FDIC issues a very grim report on banks, with bank profits falling by more than 50% and "problem" banks on the rise.

This is, of course, largely tied into the real estate bubble, which appears to be popping in Britain (yet again), with prices falling 2.5% over the last month, and 4.7% year over year.

In the US, I think that those people expecting a turn around will be disappointed, as 30 year fixed mortgage just topped 6%, with indications of more to come, particularly since selling the loans will become harder, as S&P just lowered the ratings on 1,326 Alt-A residential mortgage back securities (RMBS).

Whoever Did This Will Have American and Iraqi Blood on Their Hands

There are allegations that US troops are handing out coins with Christian bible verses to the residents of Fallujah, which the military has now confirmed:

U.S. Marines are handing out this coin,
imprinted with a Gospel verse, to Fallujah residents.

At the western entrance to the Iraqi city of Fallujah Tuesday, Muamar Anad handed his residence badge to the U.S. Marines guarding the city. They checked to be sure that he was a city resident, and when they were done, Anad said, a Marine slipped a coin out of his pocket and put it in his hand.

Out of fear, he accepted it, Anad said. When he was inside the city, the college student said, he looked at one side of the coin. "Where will you spend eternity?" it asked.

He flipped it over, and on the other side it read, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16."
The U.S. military confirmed Thursday that a Marine in the Iraqi city of Fallujah was passing out coins with Gospel verses on them to Sunni Muslims, a U.S. military spokesman in Fallujah told McClatchy Thursday.
A single Marine, a lone gunman, whatever.

I call bullsh$#. If someone did this, than dozens of people knew that it was being done.

New York to Recognize Same-Sex Unions From Out of State

Kudos to Governor Patterson for directing state agencies to, "all state agencies to begin to revise their policies and regulations to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, like Massachusetts, California and Canada."

That sound you hear is wingnut heads exploding, as they just got outmanouevered.

This will doubtless be statute in 2009, when the NY State Senate goes Democratic.

DNC Lawyers Rule That Only Half of FL and MI Delegates Can Be Seated

Honestly, I think that awarding them half their delegates is probably the best way to go.

It still leaves the question as to how the Michigan undeclared delegates are selected though.

Saturday's DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting should be rather interesting.

Dallas and Minneapolis Fed Presidents Hint at Increasing Interest Rates

This development is in no way surprising. Evidence of inflation, even if the CPI data has been massaged to meaninglessness, is everywhere, and the seasonal adjustment in July will yield some truly awful numbers.

Ahmadinejad Foe Elected Speaker of Parliament

This is not at all surprising. Except to the degree that he inflames the west, Ahmadinejad appears to be considered the George W. Bush of Iran, a complete loser and not too bright.

Ali Larijani, the new speaker, was previously the chief negotiator for Iran's nuclear program, but should not be considered a moderate:
Larijani, who has also been a culture minister and head of the state-run broadcasting operations, has emerged as a powerful politician in recent years, running against Ahmadinejad for president in 2005. He was a critic of the country's nuclear policies under the reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, and opposed the decision to suspend uranium enrichment. Yet his position moderated after he became the nuclear negotiator in 2005 and tried to press back against Ahmadinejad's radical approach, which had left Iran increasingly isolated.

He is considered close to Ayatollah Khamenei, who has the final word on state matters. Larijani remained Ayatollah Khamenei's representative at the Supreme National Security Council despite his October resignation.

Bank of America Cans Countrywide CEO

Something weird is going on. Bank of America just fired David Sambol, Countrywide's president and chief operating officer (technically, he's retiring), when they had previously said that he would head their combined mortgage operation.

My guess that someone uncovered some more "chocolaty goodness" at the center of Countrywide...only it wasn't chocolate.

It might also be some sort of attempt to queer the deal on BoA's part, because they realize that it's a really bad idea.

Viacom Going Postal On YouTube

The DMCA is pretty clear on this. If someone posts something to an internet service, and they get a notice, and then take it down, it's no harm, no foul.

This appears to be YouTube at a glance, but Viacom is now claiming, "that YouTube is guilty of public performance of such content due to the way it presents and plays the videos", because it allows for embedding and sharing (actually referrals) to the material.

This is going to get very, very ugly.

Nepal to Become Republic

The Constituent Assembly there has voted to abolish the monarchy.

This is a good thing. The real question is what will happen when the Maoists actually start facing a competent political opposition, which should happen in the next 5-10 years.

What Was the First Concert You Attended?

Jessica Valenti asks, "What's the first concert you attended?"

Not counting events where the band was secondary, it was John Entwhistle on a solo tour, backed up by a pretty decent band called Rat Race Choir, who did a set on their own before he came on.

The opening act was called Gotham City, and was a bad Heart clone.

At The Channel, in Boston.

Poll: Gay Marriage Ban Likely to Fail in California

Good news for civil rights:
The Field Poll survey found 51 percent against approving a possible November ballot measure to prohibit gay marriage, with 43 percent in favor. A slightly differently worded question on the same issue found 54 percent opposed and 40 percent in favor.
Once again, the right wing is on the wrong side of history and morality.

McCain's Economic Guru Lobbying for Swiss Bank

Olbermann broke the story of Phil Gramm was a lobbyist and vice-chairman for UBS, the Swiss bank embroiled in the problems of the subprime market.

Straight talk express, my ass!

Finally!!!! SEC Looks At Prime Enabler of the Big Sh%$pile!

The SEC is looking at how the ratings agencies do business:
The U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) is looking into the workings of the three main credit rating agencies, prompted by their handling of the subprime crisis and a report of computer errors at Moody's .

"We sent letters to Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch asking for them to get back to us on aspects of their methodology," said Erik Sirri, director of the SEC's trading and markets division.
The basic problem, however, is that they are paid by the people that they rate, creating an inherent conflict of interest.

This is at the core of many of the problems that we are seeing now. The felons are running the prison.

African Leaders Get the Finer Points of Free Trade

At a summit, they complained that these deals allow for barriers to their products while requiring those of the industrialized nations into their markets.

Cotton is a classic case of this, where US subsidies allowed under the current regime undercut what would otherwise be competitive 3rd world supplies.

That's because "free trade" deals are really not about free trade. They are about establishing an economic regime that favors stake holders such as investors and IP holders.

If you look at the economic development of the US though, it was built on what is now called "piracy" of European, largely British, technologies.

The Cops Got Their Dope Back

The unwitting drug mule found the dope in his suitcase, and called police.

The "first of the story" is here.

Sadr to Oppose US-Iraq Basing Agreement

The fact that he opposes the agreementand calling for regular protests should come as no surprise. Sadr is the only real Iraqi nationalist amongst the Shia leaders, with Dawa and the ISCI being pretty much in the pocket of Iran.

It is also a position which is likely very popular in Iraq, as all independent assessments show that Iraqis as a whole want the US out, and this agreement is clearly a part of Bush's "Iraq forever" policy, and would keep troops and bases in Iraq for decades.

28 May 2008

If A Taser Can End Atrial Fibrillation, It Can Kill Too

We have the case of a belligerent patient in a Connecticut hospital, who was brought in with atrial fibrillation brought on from a jump into an ice covered lake.

When he would not control himself, security tasered him, and it corrected his irregular heartbeat.

This is what a medical defibrillator does, and it can kill people too, just like the taser, though the defibrillator has not been called an instrument of torture by the UN's Committee Against Torture
The use of TaserX26 weapons, provoking extreme pain, constituted a form of torture, and that in certain cases it could also cause death, as shown by several reliable studies and by certain cases that had happened after practical use.

UBS Tells Private Bank Team Members Not To Go To US

Because they believe that there is a significant risk of arrest should they do so.

These are the people that John McCain's economics guy, Phil "Mr. Personality" Gramm, lobbied for, and they know that they are crooks.

Signs of the Apocalypse: Francis Fukuyama Supports Barack Obama

Seriously, Francis Fukuyama's endorsement of Barack Obama is something akin to the Union of Bullfighters endorsing the ASPCA.

Fukuyama was one of the signers of the infamous PNAC letter, which called for Clinton to invade Iraq and spread democracy through the middle east in 1998, so this is just whack.

Goldman Sachs Calls It, " Alice-in-Wonderland Accounting"

Goldman Sachs is saying that it will leave the Institute of International Finance because of its calls for relaxed financial standards.

When Goldman f$#@ing Sachs says that the accounting is too dicey for them, you know that something is seriously wrong.

Basically, it all comes down to "level 3 assets", those for which there is no ready market. This is the stuff that Atrios calls the big sh%$pile.

In any case, the IIF wants to implement rules that, "would enable financial companies to cushion the blow of financial crises by valuing illiquid assets using historical, rather than market, prices".

Meaning that they want to value this sh^% as it was valued a few years ago, when everyone thought that there had to be a pony somewhere.

Corruption at its finest.

And the Son of WIPO Looks to Set Up a Reign of IP Terror

A copy of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has been leaked online, and it appears that once again the regulators miss the point.

IP protections are not property. They are liberty that we take from every member of society in the form of temporary exclusive licenses, because the society as a whole benefits from the creativity encouraged by these licenses.

The leaked copy of the proposal is here, courtesy of Wikileaks.

Economics Update

Oil is up again today, to $131.03/bbl, even though demand is falling, and retail gas prices hit a record for 21st straight day, $3.944/gallon.

I think the only question is whether it will break $4/gal before June.

Paradoxically enough, the dollar strengthened, despite the higher oil prices.

Finally, we're seeing a drop in mortgage applications, because rates are rising.

Rates will go up eventually, and when they do, the housing market will get even more ugly.

Nope, No Bribery Here.....

So we now have $150,000 in cash going to olmert:
A Long Island fund-raiser and businessman testifying in a corruption investigation told an Israeli court on Tuesday that he gave $150,000, mostly in cash, to the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert. Skip to next paragraph Enlarge This Image Pool photo by Uriel Sinai Morris Talansky, an American businessman, before testifying on Tuesday in Jerusalem.

It is no surprise therefore that Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, is calling for Ehud Olmerd to step down.

Gripen Demo Testbed Makes First Flight

The flight lasted 30 minutes, took place yesterday and was uneventful.

You can see the differences between the demo and the stock Gripen in this photo:

Notice that the inlets are slightly reshaped, and the wing roots increased to include the repositioned landing gear.

Obama on Auschwitz and Buchenwald

This should not be a big deal, but when Barack Obama recalled his uncle liberating Auschwitz a few days back, he actually meant Buchenwald.

Needless to say, the 'Phants are all over this.

Welcome to the bigs, Mr. Obama.

McCain Calls for Reductions in US Nuke Arsenal

While this is a refreshing change from the Bush administration's policy of nukes forever, it's also loaded with caveats and absent any real specifics, so it won't go anywhere.

OOXML Standard Now Under Protest

South Africa has filed a formal objection, based, it appears, on the balloting procedure, which it calls "flawed", and on the technical issues, which it felt were not properly resolved.

GSE's Eliminate Declining Market Category

Previously, Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac required larger down payments (5% vs 3%) for areas that they designated "declining markets", but they are dropping this classification, claiming that their improves underwriting systems make it unnecessary.

As a cynic, my guess what really happened is that they've discovered that most of the US is now a "declining market".

More Food Safety Problems

It turns out that the private food labs that we depend on to test imports may be colluding with the importers who pay them to do the test in order to allow suspect food into the US.

Imagine that. You outsource food safety to private companies who are paid by the people that they are supposed to test, and they bend over backwards to please their real customers, as opposed to the American people.

Senate Considers Bill to Reign In Contractors

About bloody time.

Should go further though....They are a problem throughout the government, not just in Iraq.

Senate Poll Numbers

All are from Rasmussen Reports™.

Election 2008: Kentucky Senate: Lunsford (D) 49% McConnell (R) 44%

This surprises me....I'd love to see Mitch McConnell get bounced, and this is a very bad number for him

Election 2008: Minnesota Senate: Coleman (R) 47% Franken (D) 45%

Franken took a hit over his tax issues, but most undecideds break against the incumbent, so I still think that there is a good chance for a pickup. If there is a debate, I think that Franken will clean Coleman's clock.

Election 2008: Kansas Senate: Roberts 52% Slattery 40%

I'm stunned that this one is so close. Kansas doesn't send Democrats to the Senate. Slattery could win this, but he has to get everything right.

Corruption Among Border Patrol on Rise

This is not a surprise. As enforcement efforts increase, smugglers will naturally turn to corrupting enforcement officers as a way to do business.

Note that this isn't all just that though:
When the Homeland Security Department was created in 2003, the internal affairs unit was dissolved and its functions spread among other agencies. Since the unit was reborn last year, it has grown from five investigators to a projected 200 by the end of the year.
Once again Bush and His Evil Minions manage to completely f^%$ up the execution.

Note that the best way to reduce corruption is to make sure that the border guards are well paid and have good working conditions. Underpaid and abused employees are more receptive to graft.

Wake Forest drops SAT Requirement

Speaking as someone who did fairly well on my SAT, I find the increasing number of schools who have dropped the SAT (and ACT) to be a welcome development.

Filling in little bubbles with a number 2 pencil has very little to do with the quality of one's mind, and the Kaplan prep courses mean that rich kids whose parents can drop a grand are basically gaming the test, and the system, to their own advantage.

Not Good News

The IAEA is saying that Iran is not coming clean on its nuclear weapons research program that it terminated a few years back.

I'm beginning to wonder if the Mullahs want a US attack, because it would secure their position for the next 20 years.

Acid Seawater as a Result of Globan Warming

One of the issues with most of the models of global warming is that they have been wrong most of the time.

The problem is that they have been wrong because they've been too conservative, and each time new data comes out, it's worse than predictions.

Now we are seeing Acidified seawater showing up in Pacific coastal waters about a century ahead of schedule.

Basically, as ocean water heats, it absorbs more CO2, and this turns the water more acid.

The measurements found a pH of 7.6, as opposed to the normal 8.1

Right to Resell Software Reaffirmed

The court case, Timothy Vernor v. Autodesk, Inc., was fairly simple: Mr. Vernor bought old copies of Autocad, one at a garage sale, and three from an architectural firm, and Autodesk sued, claiming that he violated the terms of the license.

Mr. Vernor asserted the right of first sale, which allows a person who has purchased a copyright work to resell it, but Autodesk claimed that it was not a sale, but a license.

The judge was having none of it, see here, here, and here, and ruled on behalf of Timothy Vernor, noting that Autodesk does not require an annual payment, or to return it when done.

Additionally, Autodesk was done in by their own sales literature and web site, which referred to purchase options for buying the sortware.

Note that this is bigger than it sounds:
If Jones's ruling is upheld on appeal, it will have important consequences for the software industry, where the legal fiction that software is merely licensed is widely employed. In addition to discouraging the market for used software, software firms have also attempted to use the "licensed, not sold" theory to enforce restrictions on reverse engineering that would otherwise be fair use under copyright law. If software is sold, rather than licensed, then no license is required to install and use the software, and the terms of shrink-wrap licenses may not be legally binding.
Of course, the vendors could get around this by going with a real annual license, but in the real world of PC software, with a very few exceptions, you would eliminate 90+% of your customers if you did that.

I Guess You Can't Help Anyone Without Stomping on Civil Rights These Days

Case in point, the housing bailout bill that just passed the Senate creates national fingerprint registry:
Buried in the text of the revised legislation, approved by the Senate Banking Committee by a 19-2 vote this week, is a plan to create a new national fingerprint registry. It covers just about everyone involved in the mortgage business, including lenders, "loan originators," and some real estate agents.

27 May 2008

McClellan's New Tell-All Actually Tells All

Or at least a lot more than you would expect from the guy who job was to Bush's liar in chief*.

To be fair, at least from the excerpts on Politico, he does a lot more blaming of Bush's staff than Bush himself, but still, the allegations are explosive:
  • He accuses Bush of relying on propaganda to sell the war.
  • Basically calls the press a bunch of lap dogs.
  • Admits that the administration was clueless on Katrina
  • That Rove, Libby, and possibly Cheney lied to him about l'affaire Plame.
I'm not going to buy the book, paying Republicans only creates more Republicans, but I'm definitely going to borrow it at some point.

*To be fair, this is the job description of every press secretary.

I'd Like To Think That This Would Have Made Him Happy

Martin Luther King, Jr's only grand child was just born, Yolanda Denise King, daughter of Martin Luther King III and Arndrea Waters King.


So, Joe Lieberman has decided to headline Pastor John Hagee's next "Christians United For Israel" summit on July 22.

He is gladly sharing the stage with a man (Hagee) who in addition to calling Catholicism as being "the Great Whore" said that Hitler, and the Holocaust, were heaven sent, and Joe Lieberman has called him a man of God and compares him to Moses (see video below).

Joe Lieberman is so wrapped up in his twisted vision of his own sanctimony and his own revenge fantasies against those who he thinks have wronged (most recently the Democrats for not nominating him for President or renominating him for Senate.)

There appears to be nothing beyond Joseph Lieberman's (yimach shmo) small and petty goal of self-aggrandizement.


*Kapo, not to be confused with Capo. They were Jewish trustees in the prison camp, and did the Nazi's dirty work there, frequently with a level of brutality and sadism that stunned even their Nazi warders.
Capo is short for Caporegime, which, to quote the Wiki means , "The head of a branch of an organized crime syndicate who commands a crew of soldiers and reports directly to a boss or an underboss."

Carlyle Group to Buy/Split Booz Allen (Yep, I Worked for Them*)

It looks like Carlyle group will buy Booz Allen and spin off their commercial business.

About 75% of their staff, and so I would assume business is in government services, and they thought that the two groups were going in different directions, particularly after 911, when government work ramped up rapidly.

Assuming that a Democrat gets into the white house, my guess is that they will one day rue this decision, as the privatization of is a racket, and if it is reviewed by anyone other than right wing ideologues, it's going to be cut back significantly.

Then again, we all know about my predictive powers.

*I worked at United Defense for two years, which was owned by the Carlyle Group, and then a year more at BAE Systems, which bought them out.

Brought to You By the Japanese Ministry of Tourism

Due to a screw up by Japanese customs agents 142g (about 5 oz) of Marijuana was placed in a passenger's bag at Narita Airport.

They were running tests on the dogs, and used a real suitcase instead of a dummy one....oops....

UN Climate Program Scammed by Big Oil

It appears that the UN's clean development mechanism is being gamed by energy companies top the tune of billions of pounds.
Leading academics and watchdog groups allege that the UN's main offset fund is being routinely abused by chemical, wind, gas and hydro companies who are claiming emission reduction credits for projects that should not qualify. The result is that no genuine pollution cuts are being made, undermining assurances by the UK government and others that carbon markets are dramatically reducing greenhouse gases, the researchers say.

The criticism centres on the UN's clean development mechanism (CDM), an international system established by the Kyoto process that allows rich countries to meet emissions targets by funding clean energy projects in developing nations.
People love market based solutions on emissions because they claim that it forces money back into more energy saving technology.

It doesn't. It pushes the actors toward cheating and market manipulation, both of which are cheaper. Taxes are easier to administer, and harder to cheat on.

The real reason that all these people favor carbon trading is because they people who drew up the regulations went to Harvard or Oxford or some other elite school, and a trading scheme allows people like them, who went to the same schools, to make money.

Really and truly, when you look at these schools, it raises a question, which is how much are they about education, and how much are they, as Maynard Handley says, "That the primary value of a Harvard undergrad education is perceived by most of the people involved to be networking --- it's how you get to meet the future great and good, and thus substantially increase your chances of being hired by Bill Gates when he starts his new company, or by some future president."

It's all about insiders dealing to insiders.

Economics Update

Well, the Oracle of Omaha very bearish on the economy. Warren Buffett is predicting a long and deep recessions.

This is not all that surprising a conclusion seeing as how consumer confidence index fell to 57.2, well below the prediction of 60, and the lowest number since October 1992.

On the brighter side, the dollar has strengthened a bit, and crude prices have fallen, though Gas prices hit a new all time high for the 20th time in 20 days.

Even if oil prices moderate, the bond prices are falling because of inflation fears.

Basically, if you expect inflation, you don't want to hold a bond with a fixed interest rate, and so if you want to sell your bond, the buyer wants a bigger discount.

In real estate, we have home prices falling an eye popping 14.1% year over year:
The S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas fell 2.2 percent in March from February and plummeted a record 14.4 percent from March 2007.

Economists expected prices for the 20-city index to fall 2.0 percent on month and 14.0 percent from a year earlier, according to the median forecast in a Reuters survey.
This is ugly for anyone who wants to buy a home, and the fact that we are seeing skyrocketing property tax delinquencies means that people who want to stay in their houses may find that municipal services are shrinking.

In banking, we have UBS saying that the mortgage bloodletting is not over, and US savings & loans setting aside $7.6 billion against potential losses in the home market, so if anyone is telling you that this has bottomed out, don't believe them.

A330 MRTT Winning on World Market

This article (Paid Subscription Required) notes that the A330 is racking some very impressive sales, even when not considering the US tanker buy, with purchases by Australia (5 tankers), the UK (14 tankers), the UAE (3 tankers), and Saudi Arabia (3 tankers).

For the last two, it is the UAE's first foray into tankers, and a major move away from US equipment for the House of Saud.

It looks like the Japanese and Italians, who bet on the US selecting the 767, may be the odd men out on all this.

They would be anyway, as the Boeing tanker proposal was significantly different from that they bought.

Poppy Cultivation Makes for Tough Choices in Afghanistan

Found in a rather odd place, specifically an Aviation Week defense blog, is the realization by experts that the poppy eradication program is bolstering the Taliban.

Seeing as how the current plan is to threaten people and burn their crops if they are caught with poppies again, I can't imagine why this would be a problem.

This really needs to be addressed on the demand end, but with the biggest market for Heroine, the USA, hopelessly mired in a punitive "war on drugs", that ain't happening in the foreseeable future.

Sistani Will Object to US-Iraq "Security Accord"

In which "Security Accord" means permanent bases:
Iraq's most revered Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has strongly objected to a 'security accord' between the US and Iraq.

The Grand Ayatollah has reiterated that he would not allow Iraq to sign such a deal with "the US occupiers" as long as he was alive, a source close to Ayatollah Sistani said.
While this report is from a source that could best be described as partial, Iranian funded TV network, it jibes with reports that he has been quietly approving action against US and coalition forces.

As I've said before, I think that Sistani has been reticent, because he is concerned that occupying forces to do what the British did, put the Sunnis in charge, if the Shia are too strident, but that he believes that permanent bases cross a line.

According to this report, he said this to the Prime Minister in conversations, so if this leaked out, it came from Sistani's camp, not Maliki.

Refuting George Washington, Bush and His Evil Minions say, "Let There Be Kings"

That's what they are asking for in the Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a legal resident of the United States who was arrested on US soil.

They are claiming that the President can wave a wand, and call anyone an enemy combatant, and detain them without trial or access to counsel forever.

If the president has this right, than we have no rights.

They claim that he's a major terrorist, but they are unwilling to try him.

It's clear that the political fallout of a successful prosecution would be positive Bush and the Republicans, which implies very strongly that they have no case whatsoever.

First Up Against the Wall When the Revolution Comes

It turns out that investment bankers in "the City", London's equivalent of Wall Street, received £13bn bonuses this year.

Obscene bonuses when they are losing their clients money hand over fist....Gotta love Anglo-Saxon klepto-capitalism.

Norman Finkelstein Refused Entry Into Israel

Finkelstein, author of, The Holocaust Industry, which argues that the Jewish establishment has exploited the Holocaust for political gain, has been refused entry into Israel:
The Shin Bet said Finkelstein "is not permitted to enter Israel because of suspicions involving hostile elements in Lebanon," and because he "did not give a full accounting to interrogators with regard to these suspicions."
He did have contacts with Hezbollah operatives in Lebanon a few months ago , he published articles about that, so it's inevitable that he would be questioned on entry.

As to whether he was forthcoming, we are in a he said/she said situation.

26 May 2008

US Air Force Association Scare Video

It's about 12 minutes long, and it's a USAF general's wet dream.

What's not mentioned is that the current USAF training and doctrine have hurt, rather than helped in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that the next generation fighters that they tout are simply too expensive to field or use in reasonable numbers.

Quote of the Day: Movement Conservatism

From Thers of Whiskey Fire:
Movement conservatism started off as a racket. Movement conservatism has always been about exacerbating and then profiting from existing cultural, social, and economic resentments. There was never any fall from an original ideological Eden. The corruption was there from the start. Packer is quite right to emphasize how the political and popular success of movement conservatism owes everything to its legitimization of a politics of resentment that arose in the 1960s. Movement conservatism has nothing without Hatred of the Liberal, a point reinforced not least by the image with which Joyner chooses to adorn his post.
Actually, if you look at Bill Buckley's pro segregation essays in the 1950s, the promulgation of hate for political power starts about a decade earlier.

It got its start from hating FDR, and folks like Buckley patted themselves on the back for being able to put a pseudo intellectual gloss on hate and greed.

Schadenfreude of the Day: Bush/McCain Fundraiser Moved to Smaller Venue Because of Weak Ticket Sales

You have to love it when in John McCain's home state, a fund raiser with George W. Bush does not generate enough ticket sales to fill the Phoenix Convention Center:
Sources familiar with the situation said the Bush-McCain event was not selling enough tickets to fill the Convention Center space, and that there were concerns about more anti-war protesters showing up outside the venue than attending the fundraiser inside.

Another source said there were concerns about the media covering the event.

Bush's Arizona fundraising effort for McCain is being moved to private residences in the Phoenix area......
Hey, my dad has a barn, let's put on a musical!!!!

Not!!!! Heh!!!

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Warns Troops to Stay out of Politics

I'm not clear if what Admiral Mike Mullen's, "open letter to all those in uniform", means, but it is a highly unusual step.

It could be exactly what it says, a statement that, "The U.S. military must remain apolitical at all times and in all ways....It is and must always be a neutral instrument of the state, no matter which party holds sway."

It could be a slap at those Generals **cough** Petraeus **cough**, who have pimped themselves out to Bush and His Evil Minions war, or it could be an attempt to de-legitimize the protests of retired military officers, or it could mean exactly what it says.

My guess is that it's an attempt at damage control. I see it as a recognition that the politicization of the military in the past 7 years will have dire consequences if not kept in check during the presidential election.

Leader of the FARC is Dead

Obviously, this is a Ibig deal for Columbia, though it's not clear how it will all shake out.

It appears that he died of natural causes.

South Africa/Zimbabwe Update

Morgan Tsvangirai has now returned to Zimbzbwe, and is campaigning in the runoff.

Meanwhile, Mugabe has changed his campaign tactics, trying to work with small groups, as opposed to his previous mass rallies, and he's railing against both Tsvangirai and the US ambassador to Zimbabwe, which I think is a prelude to some more violence and intimidation from his "war veterans".

Meanwhile, in South Africa, Thabo Mbeki is calling the violence against refugees in his country a "disgrace".

Of course, the largest group of refugees, those from Zimbabwe, were as a direct result of his policies supporting Mugabe, and the tensions are a direct result of their numbers.

Disco for Math Geeks

Very funny...if you have the math.

Math majors cannot dance.

25 May 2008

Damn! Forgot My Anniversary!!!

Luckily, not my marriage, my blog. My wife* is far less forgiving about such things.

I did a test post of footnotes on may 1, and my first real post on May 9 which described why I was blogging.

This will be up here for a couple of days, so scroll down.

1 year, 4088 posts, and I'm half way to getting my first ad revenue check, which will go towards pampering my wife*.

*Love of my life, light of the cosmos, she who must be obeyed, my wife.

Nice Takedown of Alan "Bubbles" Greenspan

I was given a link to, "Immoral Hazard" on Rense.com, and a quick google led me to the original article at https://www.gmo.com/websitecontent/JGLetter_ALL_1Q08.pdf (pdf).

Go read both, though all the obvious caveats about Rense.com apply.

Bob Barr Gets Libertarian Nomination

As the article dryly notes, the last two Libertarian candidates each drew less than 400,000 votes.

Still it should be mildly amusing.

Nuclear Waste Import Standoff

This is a nice rundown of the sh^% storm coming down about the importation of nuclear waste from Italy for processing and disposal.

Obviously, it all has to go somewhere, and the proliferation issues involved with it staying somewhere unsafe bear some careful thought.

Beyond that, I have no comment....I am currently working in the biz, though not on this specific project, and it would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment.

IPOs Still Can't Find Funding

That's the gist of this article. Banks can't resell the loans to make the deals, so they don't make the loans, and so the deals do not go through.

The usual suspects say that it's the bottom of a trough, though I wonder if there isn't a lot further down to go.

French Defense Procurement Faces Draconian Cuts

It currently looks like France will be engaging in large wholesale cuts in its defense procurement, with the, "Rafale (from 294 to 200), a second aircraft carrier (PA2) (cancellation), and FREMM multimission frigates (17 to 12)", being target for significant cuts.

At its core, someone needs to recognize that new weapons systems have become too damn expensive, with costs outpacing the ability to pay for them.

Innovative Helo Update

Flight International is reporting that Sikorski's X2 technology demonstrator is doing ground tests on its rotor system, and that Boeing's A160T helo drone set an endurance record (18.7 hours) this month.

The former uses coaxial blades to offload the retreating blades, and allows for increased top speed, and the latter uses a variable speed rotor to increase efficiency to match the needs of the specific flight regime.

X2 technology demonstrator

A160 T

A Point on the Bear Stearns Bailout

In the Washington Independent, Jonathan Macey asks a very important question, one that I missed completely: If Bear Stearns was too big to allow it to fail, why was it not broken up under antitrust laws?
In fact, there are plenty of tools at the regulators' disposal to deal with systemic risk and other catastrophes before a cataclysmic event occurs. In particular, the purpose of the antitrust laws is to promote and protect competition and make sure that no single firm grows so large that it threatens the entire economy.
I'm kind of embarrassed to have missed this.

I would also note that if regulators want to be proactive, the best solution for everyone right now is to break up the large investment banks so that they aren't too big to fail.

Go read.

Completely Bogus Government Statistics: Seasonal Adjustments to Inflation Edition

I point you to some good work by Barry Ritholtz, who notes:
For example, crude energy materials "only" advanced 4.1% in April, with crude petroleum gaining 4.5 % and natural gas prices rising 4.3%. After the seasonal adjustments, these prices appeared rather odd: They showed energy prices falling by 0.2%, while gasoline costs dropping 4.6%.
It turns out that this all goes back into the numbers in July.

According to this article, if prices were flat, we would still see a 16.3% increase in July....Not pretty.

Chinese Nuclear Deployment Area Found in Central China

Given the range, and location, of these missiles, my guess is that they are primarily directed toward India, with whom China has had border disputes for some time.

FHA to Change Loan Standards

Seeing as how the FHA is a big part of the Congressional mortgage bailout bill, the fact that the FHA is making major changes to how it approves loans could be very significant.

Basically, it comes down to their using FICO scores to determine premium rates for their mortgage insurance, which is a major change.

House Dems Looking to Short Circuit the Preemption Doctrine

Over the past few years, an obscure legal concept called the preemption doctrine, has gained increasing currency in the Federal courts.

Basically, the concept is that if a medical product gets FDA approval, that this strips the consumer of any right to sue should it prove defective, even if deliberate wrong doing or a cover-up can be shown (think Viiox).

There has been a big push for this by Bush and His Evil Minions, because they believe that poor people should not be able to inconvenience large companies.

In fact, the FDA supported consumer lawsuits as a way to help keep medical companies on their toes until 2002.

It now appears that Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is looking at eliminating this argument legislatively. He has started to hold hearings.

Point man for the Republicans is Connecticut's 2nd most prominent prostitute*, Christopher Shays, who vehemently argued the administration's position, "juries of laymen shouldn't be usurping the rigorous decision-making process of federal scientists."

Seeing as how politically appointed laymen are, "usurping the rigorous decision-making process of federal scientists", throughout the Bush administration, this seems to me to be awfully weak tea.

In any case, I would expect legislation some time in 2009.

*Number 1 is Joe Lieberman....Come on, get with the program.

Should College be Necessary?

Frequently, this question is phrased as, "Is college necessary?", but to any observer, it is clear that the answer to that question is, "Yes".

Increasingly, degrees, or more advanced degrees, are required for positions that in earlier times did not require this.

"Professor X", who serves as an adjunct professor at a community college and a private liberal arts school, asks this question, and he concludes that the current educational requirements of our job market are unecessary.

An argument that the goal of universal College Education is not in the best interest of society.

The thesis is that much of education is a racket, with the modern American workplace as a co-conspirator. I agree.

Absurdity in IP, Hippo Birdie Two Ewes

I found this as an interesting followup to yesterday's Dr. Who based, "Knitting Needles of Mass Destruction", we have the lowdown on the “Happy Birthday” song:
"Happy Birthday to You" is the best-known and most frequently sung song in the world. Many - including Justice Breyer in his dissent in Eldred v. Ashcroft - have portrayed it as an unoriginal work that is hardly worthy of copyright protection, but nonetheless remains under copyright. Yet close historical scrutiny reveals both of those assumptions to be false. The song that became "Happy Birthday to You," originally written with different lyrics as "Good Morning to All," was the product of intense creative labor, undertaken with copyright protection in mind. However, it is almost certainly no longer under copyright, due to a lack of evidence about who wrote the words; defective copyright notice; and a failure to file a proper renewal application.
Original paper here.

24 May 2008

What Jesse "The Body" Ventura Said

On gay marriage, he said,"Love is bigger than government. Who the hell are we as a government to tell people who you can fall in love with? I think it‘s absurd that fact it‘s even being debated."

You can see the whole video of him Pwning Pat Buchanan and the transcript at Crooks and Liars.

Biden Cuts Lieberman a New One

His OP/ED in the Wall Street Journal, is in response to Lieberman's OP/ED saying that Democrats hate America.

It's very nicely done, and I think that it is an indicator that he is throwing his hat in the ring for VP.

On Hillary Clinton's Bats$#@ Insane Comments

I read Clinton's comments, and thought that they were really, REALLY, stupid.

Yesterday, I saw Olbermann's comments, and while I agree with his basic take on the comments, that they were a very, very bad thing, I think that he was plainly overwrought.

With the possible exception of an editorial board meeting of the National Review, Olbermann's MSNBC is perhaps the most intense pool of Hillary hatred in the media, though it is not an isolated phenomenon, you hear complaints about this everywhere from the local paper to NPR.*

So I've been thinking about it for the past 24 hours, and I've finally got a bit of a take on what she said, and the reaction to it among the traditional and internet political commentariat.

First and formost, this something that we are ALL thinking about. Every one of us, and we are unwilling to say it aloud, because it terrifies us.

Simply put, there are thousands of people who are looking at their guns, and wondering if they should, "Stop that uppity n***er", and we all know that.

I don't think that Hillary should have said this...I don't think that anyone should have said this.

What's more, I don't think that any Democrat should have even made an Eagleton reference.

Her explanation, that, People have been trying to push her out of the race since Iowa, is factually true, and may explain but does not justify her comments.

As strange as it seems, I think that she is not talking about Bill Clinton in 1992, nor was she really talking about the assassination of JFK. She was talking about Eugene McCarthy, who by most objective measures "won" the 1968 nomination process, after RFK was killed, at least the primaries, only to have it pried from him by the party bosses.

So this is where I think that statement came from, but that don't make it right.

*This is why Clinton's 3am ad was called racist, as was the statement that the nomination is for President (aka LBJ), and not leader of a civil rights movement (MLK), because I think that a lot of people inside and outside of the media, including Tweety, Pumpkin Head, and Olberman were looking for a reason to hate her.
Truth be told, after losing McCarthy's behavior showed him to be an embarrassment to the party and the nation **cough** World Series **cough**, and I don't think that Hillary Clinton will do that.

Lockheed Patents 'Spooky Radar'

It's years away from fruition, but it appears that Lockheed has secured on a radar that uses quantum entanglement.

Basically, under some conditions in quantum mechanics, two particles are linked, instantaneously at significant distances from one another.

Makes my head hurt, which I stick to the larger world, where Newtonian mechanics serve just fine.

Anywoo, those of you who are more into this can go to Wired's Danger Room for a more complete set of links, but the money quote from the patent applicstion appears to be this:
The ability to propagate radar signals at frequencies that are independent of the resolution frequency may allow quantum radar system 100 to attain near zero attenuation rates in the atmosphere, and greatly diminished attenuation rates in other media including foliage, building materials, earthen layers, etc. Quantum radar system 100, thus, can be adapted to visualize useful target details through background and/or camouflaging clutter, through plasma shrouds around hypersonic air vehicles, through the layers of concealment hiding underground facilities, IEDs, mines, and other threats--all while operating from an airborne platform or other suitable platform. Quantum radar system 100 may also improve the performance of advanced image processing and pattern recognition systems, as well as defeat most RF signature management systems when the propagation frequency is tuned to the resonant wave length of the target.

Airbus A350 Updates

We have some rumors that the A350 is significantly overweight, to the tune of about 8 tonnes.

I'm inclined to believe that it is overweight at this point, much of the work in development at this point is about refining the design and saving weight, but 8 tonnes on an aircraft with an empty weight somewhere around of 105 tonnes, even at this relatively early stage, seems to be excessive.

Related to this, Airbus is announcing that it will be able to, "finalise the A350 XWB's 'aero-lines'" in July, but that it will continue to "refine" the wing of the A350-1000, the largest, and last to be delivered, variant over the next two years.

Airbus is claiming no "major" changes for the -1000 wing, simply mods to the pylons and the high lift devices (flaps and slats), but with 20% greater max gross weight, I'm inclined that some more significant differences may creep in over the next 2 years.

Canada Cuts Back on JSF Purchase

We now have a report that Canada is cutting back its next gen fighter buy from 80 to 65, and it's now stressing that it has not settled on the F-35 as that aircraft, even though the Canadian defense establishment and defense industry are incredibly tied into the program.

My guess is that they are looking at what the JSF will cost, and "examining their options".

Indian AWACS

You have a report on India's efforts to improve its surveillance and command control assets, where they appear to be heading towards a two tiered system.

First they are developing an AWACS system based on the IL-76/A-50 with Israel's phased array Phalcon system in a conventional, though non-rotating dome:

They are also looking at procuring a smaller, somewhat less capable system, likely the EMB 145 Erieye:

The theory here is that this allows them to have more assets available at any given time, with the more capable assets only needing to be deployed where the improved capabilities (range, endurance, and more radar operators) are required.

And the Lines Between UAVs and Munitions Blurs

I think that this is one of the points missed in this coverage of the first flight by a "loitering munition" by MBDA.(Paid Subscription Required)

The line between a UAV, either controlled or autonomous, which carries a munition, and a munition which loiters over the area looking for target, appears to be the ability to recover.

The technology is likely already there to cross that line.

Spirit AeroSystems Snags Airbus A350 Fuselage Section 15

Sprint just signed a contract with Airbus to design and build this component. (See picture below)

The kicker is that until 2005, Spirit was Boeing, but they spun the company off to appease shareholders, and now the expertise, including experience with the complex composite structures it developed for the 787, will be benefiting Airbus.

Boeing's aircraft's current business model appears to be similar to the Lead System Integrator (LSI) concept that has consistently underperformed in all of its large defense related contracts so badly that Congress is looking to ban the practice.

Are Fannie and Freddie Going to Go Belly Up, and Will We Bail Them Out

Remembering that the GSEs are, after the US Government, the 2nd and 3rd largest borrowers in the world, one wonders if they are in trouble, if so, how badly, and what happens if things go pear shaped.

Read it, and take your time to absorb the information. It is a primer, but is by no means simple.

The basic rundown is that:
  • The GSEs are not insolvent yet
  • The taxpayers would have to bail them out if they were
  • Unless things get much worse, they will hold onto their AAA ratings.
  • Their level 3 (no is sure what they are worth) asset exposure is actually pretty light.
  • Their accounting may be a little bit more than one would like.
The question he doesn't answer, and that neither he nor I can answer, is how much worse things will get, and whether the GSEs will need a bailout as a result.

Me, I'm a bear.

The End of the US as World Colossus

Kevin Phillips suggests that the United States may be facing a collapse of empire, as Holland did in the 1700s, and Britain did in the first half of the 1900s:
There is a considerable literature on these earlier illusions and declines. Reading it, one can argue that imperial Spain, maritime Holland and industrial Britain shared a half-dozen vulnerabilities as they peaked and declined: a sense of things no longer being on the right track, intolerant or missionary religion, military or imperial overreach, economic polarization, the rise of finance (displacing industry) and excessive debt. So too for today's United States.


The most chilling parallel with the failures of the old powers is the United States' unhealthy reliance on the financial sector as the engine of its growth. In the 18th century, the Dutch thought they could replace their declining industry and physical commerce with grand money-lending schemes to foreign nations and princes. But a series of crashes and bankruptcies in the 1760s and 1770s crippled Holland's economy. In the early 1900s, one apprehensive minister argued that Britain could not thrive as a "hoarder of invested securities" because "banking is not the creator of our prosperity but the creation of it." By the late 1940s, the debt loads of two world wars proved the point, and British global economic leadership became history.
He then makes the caveat that the predictions of doom for Great Britain started well before any collapse, with peaks in such concerns in the 1860s and 1890s, when the collapse of empire was primarily a post 1918 phenomenon.

It's a valid point, but we are operating on internet time, and the degree of leverage is further, and capital is far more mobile.

He also notes that we have already experienced periods where the fall of America was predicted, in the early 1970s, and the early 1990s.

I'm a bear, as I've repeatedly noted, and I've noted that a number of factors, particularly the rise of the Euro as an alternative reserve currency, make make it much more likely that the US will lose its status as the financial capitol of the world.

Go read the whole article. It's only about 1200 words.

Knitting Needles of Mass Destruction

It appears that a avid knitter has posted patterns online for various Dr. Who characters, and got a trademark takedown notice from the BBC.

It should be noted that trademark, unlike copyright for instance, is not for the benefit of the holder, but for the benefit of the consumer, to avoid confusion between products.

In fact, there is a specific exemption on this issue:
So, not only could Mazzmatazz potentially defend against the BBC takedown notice by claiming that her reinterpretation of the monster figures from the show is just that — a creative reinterpretation that doesn’t infringe any trademark, she might also be able to turn around and go after the people who used her pattern to create and sell little monster dollies on eBay. She could, in sum, achieve a win-win. That is, if the entire situation weren’t so ludicrous to begin with. After all, are the “unscrupulous individuals” who used the pattern that Mazzmatazz herself posted online to knit Doctor Who dolls and sell them online really making significant enough revenue that the BBC itself should be threatened?
I think that we have two lines, the the first IP lawyers and license holders insisting, either through legislation, regulation, and court precedent on an increasingly expansive definition of what is covered and what is prohibited, and the public and the political class, who are increasingly concerned about the degree to which this is being taken.

I think that the turning point was BlackBerry v. NTP, because when the Judge issued an injunction, BlackBerry's (in retrospect remarkably savvy) response was that it could not separate government and commercial users, and so it would shut down the entire network, which included many members of Congress and Federal Judges, along with most of the Congressional aides and court clerks.

When the movers and shakers in IP regulation were going to be bitten, and bitten hard, on this, suddenly NTP's demands became more reasonable, but the seed of doubt on IP triumphalism was sown.

23 May 2008

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani Issues Fatwah Allowing Armed Resistance Against US Troops

This is rather significant, and I agree with M. Duss his explicit approval of anti-US violance is being driven by the criticism he has invreasingly recieved about his silence regarding the brutality of American tactics.

Juan Cole goes rather deeper into what is going on, and notes that Sistani's relative silence may very well be driven by the consequences of the Shiite uprising in 1920, which had the British putting Sunnis firmly in power as a proxies.

As noted here his Fatwas have seen very limited release, basically face to face with no real record of them otherwise.

If it gets more vocal, not only will US forces have to leave, but it will look like the evacuation of Saigon.

Yang Passes

Robert Lynn Asprin, Aka Yang the Nauseating, May 22, 2008, at home.


John McCain, Not So Cancer Free

Though the title of the story, McCain appears cancer-free, healthy, would imply otherwise.
McCain's most recent exams show a range of health issues common in aging: He frequently has precancerous skin lesions removed, and in February had an early stage squamous cell carcinoma, an easily cured skin cancer, removed. He had benign colon growths called polyps taken out during a routine colonoscopy in March.
There's a campaign slogan: John McCain: Cancer Free Since February.

The Fall of the House of Bush

That's the subtext to Congress making changes to Bush's proposed Latin American drug enforcement plan.

In addition to cutting dollars, some of the money was also conditioned on meeting human rights goals.

I think we are seeing the collapse of political power at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

It's realized that Bush is a lame duck, and one so unpopular that you want to have him campaign for your opponent.

City of Vallejo, California files for Bankruptcy

It is the largest municipal bankruptcy in California history.

Court Says US Currency Must Have Blind Friendly Features

Already covered the real story, but this cartoon was too good not to show.

Just in Case You Are Wondering if the Housing Market Has Hit Bottom

It hasn't. Look at this own/rent chart, courtesy of The Big Picture:

And what this chart also shows is that you get overshoot.

30 Former Officials Became Corporate Monitors - NYTimes.com

Over the past few years, Bush and His Evil Minions have aggressively expanded a program called, "deferred prosecutions" where the companies avoid a court case by paying a fine and agreeing to supervision.

Well, it now appears that in addition to helping along one goal of the Bush adminsitration, slaps on the wrist for corporate law breakers, they have gotten a twofer by creating lucrative private contracts for former political allys, in the form of "corporate monitors".

You may recall that John Ashcroft got a $52,000,000.00 contract to do this, for example.

5 Years In, the Pentagon Still Cannot Count

They just audited $8.2 billion in Iraq spending, and once again no oversight to the people paid.

Money quote:
those results meant that almost 95 percent of the payments had not been properly documented.

Economics Update

The employment data is done for the week, so we have energy news, where Oil, after breaking $135/bbl then settling around #131, is now back above $132/bbl, and gas prices are trending up again, though some of the latter is no doubt due to the upcoming 3 day weekend.

The dollar is trending down against all major currencies, hitting $1.5755:€1.0000, a bit below the $1.60 record, but not by much.

In real estate, we have existing home sales falling 1% in April, no signs of the foreclosure rate abating, and inventories soaring.

Is it any wonder that mortgage lenders are tightening standards to where they were a few deccades back?

This credit tightening is going to take an economy already in recession*, and throw it down a well.

On the brighter side, it appears that the municipal bond market has finally shaken itself out a bit, recovering from the auction rate security implosion of a few months back.

*Yes, I know that it's not official yet, but we know the reality when it bites us on the ass.

It Sucks to be Zimbabwe Right now

They are looking at 1,000,000% inflation, which means that prices double every roughly 30 days.

On the bright side, Morgan Tsvangirai is to return tomorrow, so that he can start campaigning.

The Americans Leave Sadr City, and the Violence Ends

As this Washington Post article notes, U.S. Absence Seems To Make Difference:
Sadr City is a largely impoverished section of Baghdad that is home to about 2 million people, many of whom support the anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a onetime backer of Maliki who has become his chief rival. Sadrist officials negotiated the entry of Iraqi troops, apparently winning agreement that U.S. forces would stay out.
This is not by accident. While the American public is shielded from this, it is clear that American deployment stirs up nationalistic violence, and it is also clear that, notwithstanding US protestations of precision, the carpet bombing of whole neighborhoods that provide any level of threat make the violence a couple of magnitudes worse beyond that.

We need to leave now.