31 August 2008

Boeing and SPEEA Call Names

It appears that Boeing management is unhappy with the SPEEA press releases regarding Boeing's senior executive pensions and its use and of the H1b program.

Boeing complained that they issued the press release without waiting for a response, and SPEEA executive director Ray Goforth says that Boeing never responds to replies for information.

I'm inclined to believe the SPEEA in all this.

Background here.

Neat Tech: Coanda Effect Aircraft

In the UK, a company called GFS (which stands for -- I kid you not -- Geoff's Flying Saucer), has been flying a small UAV, and expects it to be able to fly autonomously by years end.

The technology is pretty neat, it uses the Coandă effect, the tendency of a fluid to follow a surface, to generate lift.

The UAV is small, Max TOW is 18.5 kilos, but it does show one advantage over a conventional lift propeller, greater volumetric efficiency, because there is no big honking hole down the center of mass for the air.

Additionally, by tailoring the vanes on the body, you can eliminate torque issues, meaning that you have a single prop, rather than two counter rotating, which is smaller and lighter.

Additionally, they are looking at other applications, starting with a small manned vehicle:

30 August 2008

Sikorsky's ABC Helo Flies

And earlier than expected, reports were that it wasn't to leave the ground until sometime in 2009.

In any case, it made a 30 minute test flight (also see here).

This was a fairly conservative flight, basic maneuvering with the tail propulsor shut down, as can be seen in the pics.

They plan to expand the envelope to a speed of 250kts, and then make a decision as to whether to manufacture helos with the technology.

Eclipse Aviation Lays Off Workers

Looks like they will cut about 650 employees, ending up with about 1100.

They have had real problems getting their production model to work, a just in time system that resembles the big auto makers, and I'm not at all surprised by this development.

Boeing Drags Its Heels on Air Force Bid - Seeking Alpha

Well, it's now clear that Boeing wants a 6 monthextension on the bidding process. It's clear to them that a simplw resubmit would put them at a disadvantage, so they are looking at making significant modificiation, something like moving to the 767-400, or 777.

Usurprisingly, Northrop-Grumman thinks that any extension is a bad idea.

The request puts the USAF between a rock and a hard place, as it would push the program into the next administration, which is likely to make significant cuts in military procurement.

Meanwhile, Stephen Trimble notes that a delay might have some real benefits for Northrop Grumman too. The KC-30 bid was based on the Airbus A330-200 passenger airliner, but since the bid was made, airbus has flown an A330-200 freighter, which would be a bit better airframe for the role.

Additionally, it looks like that A330-200F would be able to use the GE GEnx-2B engine, which promises double digit percentage increase in fuel economy.

Northrop declines to rule out platform switch for new KC-X bid

Tanker questions: GEnx upgrade for KC-30? KC-747 vs KC-A380? - The DEW Line

29 August 2008

If this is Friday, the FDIC Must Be Shutting Down Another Bank

Integrity Bank, Alpharetta, GA

I'm off for Shabbos now.

Well, Now We See the Ron Fournier Influence Over the AP

Another day, another AP hitjob.

Kos noted that Charles Babington had to have written the piece bashing Obamas speech was finished. 603 words, edited, proofed, and posted online 23 minutes after Obama finished...and he got the length of the speech wrong.

Olbermann condemned the Babington piece, and told him to "find new work".

The always reliable Editor and Publisher has a good rundown, and includes the factoid that, "Even as Babington was hitting Obama for a lack of specifics, AP was transmitting a second piece by another reporter, Jim Drinkard, that offered a detailed look at seven specific policy proposals in the speech (and expressed doubts about all of them)."

Note that Ron Fournier just wrote a piece Analysis: Palin's age, inexperience rival Obama's (no links to the AP...I'm still boycotting them for going after bloggers, see here.

Light Posting for a While

Software problem of some sort.

John McCain Picks Dick Cheney in Drag*

What we know about Sarah Palin, McCain's VP pick is that she's less corrupt than you average Alaska Republican. That's not saying all that much.

She does have a scandal all her own though, specifically that she ordered the head of the Alaska state police to fire her ex-brother-in-law after a messy custody battle with her sister, more details here.

That is Valeria Plame without the national security aspects.

I hope that the Democrats are talking about 24-7 for the next few days, but it's unlikely.

*Don't complain. My first thought was, "Dick Cheney with t*ts", which is even a worse image.
Oops....sorry for that image.

I Think Obama's Speech Deflated this Concern

I have always had a concern that Barack Obama might be too focused on nobility to take it to his opponents, or as David Kurtz puts it
One thing I've come away from here in Denver, in talking to various people, is the sense that the Obama campaign has become consumed with its brand as an end in itself. They did such a good job of packaging hope, optimism, and change that they are now resistant to any campaign strategies or tactics that might, in the eyes of some people, damage the brand.

They remind me of the classic car aficionado who beautifully and meticulously restores a vintage sports car but can't bring himself to risk actually driving the thing.
While it is not to be his advantage to be the hatchet man of his campaign, that's Biden's job, it's clear that he is able to take it to John Sidney McCain III.

I think that this needs to be a regular part of his campaign, and I think that this will be a regular part of his campaign.

28 August 2008

That's It, I'm Flying Russian

Or maybe European when they develop a manned space craft, but I'm not doing NASA.

Why, do you ask, am I down on NASA?

Because they had a virus infestation on the laptop computers on the space station, and because the virus spread around via a contaminated USB "thumb" drive because no one thought to turn off autorun on the computers.


Economics Update

Well, the big news is that the US GDP rose by an adjusted 3.3% rate in Q2. The initial estimate was 1.7%, and the estimate for this, the 2nd cut on GDP numbers was 2.7%.

Of course, inflation ran at a 4.2% rate, which puts it back into negative territory, though the economists typically use the "core" rate, 2.1%, even though purchasing energy and food is included in the GDP numbers.

This is reinforced by the weekly unemployment numbers, with new claims down by 10,000 this week, but, "continued claims are now above 3.4 million for the first time since 2003."

What is going on is that the real estate asset bubble was concealing the fact that productivity from 2000 through 2007, but middle class income fell.

We were working harder for less money, and going into debt because our houses were appreciating.

Things ain't great in Europe either, with European retail sales falling, though German unemployment fell, even while the German economy contracted....I really don't get that one.

We do have good news on the monoliner insurers, with MBIA getting a juicy insurance deal thanks to the help of the New York State Insurance Superintendent.....Smells like a backdoor bailout to me.

In the world of home mortgages, it appears that numbers showing a mortgage application increase may be garbage, because they do not account for multiple applications from one person, which is what tends to happen when lenders get pickier about issuing loans.

Finally, oil is down, the dollar is up, and gas prices are down again, more than 45¢ off their peak.

Georgia, Russia, and the End of US Hegemony, and Updates

First, Seumas Milne has a very good article noting that the US is no longer the "hyperpower" it was in the mid 1990s, and Russia just showed it in its recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The US military is too overstretched to do anything meaningful there, even if Russia did not have somewhere around 2000 nuclear warheads, and on the diplomacy side, countries now require an indication that it serves their national interests when they are asked to follow the US on a military adventure.

The US is still the only remaining world power, but Russia is one of a dozen or so regional powers who are now able to challenge the us in their regions.

In a very real way, it is the end of empire.

Russia has rebuilt its military into a credible fighting force over the past decade. 10 Years ago, the Georgian military would have still lost by dint of numbers, but they would have held out for weeks, and not collapsed in a day.

I will also note that I think that Putin believes it when he says that United States encouraged Georgia to attack South Ossetia. I believe it too, and I imagine that in a decade or so, we will have historians confirming the fact.

For what it's worth, we now have evidence that diplomats don't have to be Bush political appointees to be complete idiots, case in point, Daniel Fried, who is claiming that Russian military actions are a sign of weakness, "But being angry and seeking revanchist victory is not the sign of a strong nation. It is the sign of a weak one."

So, that would make invading Iraq....What?

Meanwhile, the US military is looking at ways to rebuild the Georgian military, which strikes me as imprudent, at best.

It was the military aid which convinced the Georgians that they could start this military adventure in the first place.

The EU is warning Moscow to stay out of the Ukraine, but I really don't think that Russia is looking at rolling up the Ukraine.

I could see that situation developing if a Ukrainian nationalist comes to power and starts trying to ethnically cleanse the region, but I don't see anyone being stupid enough to do this.....At least no one on the scene right now is stupid enough.

That being said, the reaction of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) regarding the recognition of those provinces, where Russia is a member, was decidedly tepid, and the Asian former Soviet Republics who are its members (with China) are among those most likely to be supportive.

And in the comedy as foreign policy department, Georgia is calling for the UN Security Council to take action against Russia.....Ummmm....What part of "veto" don't you understand?

For what it's worth, we now have a report, albeit a self serving one from South Ossetia's prosecutor general on the numbers of casualties from the initial Georgian assault, 1,692 killed.

I would take that with a serious grain of salt. It probably is more than the 130 stated by other sources though.

Rearranging Deck Chairs on the Titanic

Fannie Mae has made a number of changes in senior management, replacing the chief financial officer, chief business officer, and chief risk officer.

27 August 2008

Georgia: Dueling Presidents

Kind of like "Dueling Banjos", only it's both Medvedev and Saakashvili, both writing an OP/ED for the Financial Times.

I think that they are both very sparing with the truth, but one sounds like a mealy mouthed politician, and the other sounds like a complete tie chewing nutjob.

Medvedev's bullet points:
  • The Ossetians and the Abkhazians wanted independence.
  • Upon independence, Georgia stripped Abkhazia and South Ossetia of Autonomy, and engaged in brutal military operations against ethnic minorities.
  • That the West encouraged Saakasvili to make broad claims against the region.
  • That the recognition of an independent Kosovo encouraged secessionist movements in Georgia.
  • Following the recent conflict, he felt compelled to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia's independence.

Saakashvili's bullet points:
  • Russia intends to redraw the map of all of Europe.
  • Russia was issuing passports to Abkhazians and South Ossetians to get a claim on these regions.
  • That the Russians were actively ethnically cleansing Georgians using, "using arson, rape and execution."
  • That the Russians were already invading when the Georgians attacked South Ossetia.
  • That the Russians have designs on Ukraine, Muldova.
  • That Moscow is determined to wipe out democratically elected governments in its "near abroad".
These are both self serving statements from men, they are both less than completely frank.

One of them, however, sounds nuts.

Now John Sidney McCain III has Lost Jake Tapper

When Jake Tapper is calling the sick old man a liar, "This is a dishonest representation of Obama's words," you that McCain is losing the wanktacular inside the beltway crowd.

GSE Update

Two bits of news about Fannie Mae and Freddie MAC that bear notice:

First, it appears that the credit default swaps, think insurance with a bunch of corruption thrown in, on the GSEs could face a 5 year delay in pay-outs in the event of a government bailout, and S&P lowered the rating on subordinated debt as a result to BBB+ from A-.

Also it appears that the foreign investors who largely bankrolled the GSE's business during the housing boom are retrenching, meaning that it will be harder for them to find additional financing.

Homophobic Hotel Owner Faces Blowback

It appears that despite protestations to the contrary, Douglas Manchester's 6 figure contribution to the California hate amendment banning gay marriage has raised concerns about potentially significant business setbacks for his hotel.

Background here.

Hate is not an American value, and Americans should not patronize bigots.

Obama Campaign Kills Kucinich's Best Line

They edited out, "They're asking for another four years -- in a just world, they'd get 10 to 20." (emphasis mine)

I would have added, "without the possibility of parole", but it's a good line, and it should not have been cut.

Economics Update

Yesterday, I talked about a historically high housing inventory, well, now we have the numbers, 4.67 million, an 11.2 month supply.

Mortgage applications are up this week, but not enough to indicate any sort of resurgence of the housing market.

We have seen an increase in orders for durable goods, but this is almost entirely export driven, which means that US consumption is flat, and if the dollar strengthens further, it's mixed today we lose what is currently the only major driver of economic growth.

Of course, with the ECB policy makers all pointing in different directions, likely because Germany's inflation rate is down, it's not surprising that nothing much is moving in currency right now.

Banking is not looking good period, what with FDIC troubled bank list growing, "117 with $78 billion in assets - up from 90 banks, $26 billion in assets in 1st quarter."

The credit markets are still frozen, with Merrill Lynch and Wachovia seeing their rates skyrocket as they attempt to rollover bonds, and Fannie Mae just sold short term debt with a spread of 89 basis points vs. US treasuries, which may be a record.

Also, the FDIC is now saying that the IndyMac failure will have a bigger price tag than earlier predicted.....Are we looking at the FDIC needing a bailout?

And it isn't just banks having problems, personal bankruptcies are surging, with the number of filings in the 2nd quarter the highest since the 4th quarter of 2005, when people rushed to beat the new law.

In energy, oil is up on hurricane Gustav, and gasoline is down again.

Georgia: Can We Just Say that Russia Won, and Be Done with It?

We have NATO demanding that Russia rescind its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia without explaining why Kosovo is legal, and Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not.

Because I said so is not a good argument in foreign policy.

Meanwhile, Medvedev is talking to the China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan about their recognizing the break away provinces.

I think that China will wait, but that one or two of the FSU central Asian naations will go along.

Kosovo is refusing to back sovereignty, which is not surprising.

In terms of the purely legal aspects of the situation, they are very similarly, but the Kosovars were targeted with an organized campaign of Genocide, while the Georgians went with a brutal program of imperialism, and there is a difference morally.

In any case, the independence of Kosovo, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia are really more about the "great game" between the US and Nato and Russia than they are about concern for the people in those regions....on both sides.

Meanwhile, Serbia said, I told you so," which is not unexpected.

40% of UK Energy Now Generated by Tapping Orwell's Spinning

Top Republican Admits That GOP Is Running "Ministry Of Truth" Against Obama.

What the heck can I add to that.

Talk Harriet, Talk

A federal judge has denied a stay on the House Judiciary Committee's subpoena to Harriet Miers.

I still say that they should send out the House sergeant at arms, and take her to the House basement prison cell in handcuffs, and let her sit there until she testifies.

Truth be told, there is a part of me that wouldn't be averse to water boarding, temperature extremes, stress positions, and sleep deprivation either, but that would be wrong, that's for sure.

26 August 2008

Hillary's Speech at the Convention

She said the right things, the speech was OK, but not great, but certainly competent.

She did a good job of going after McCain, and I don't think that there should be any complaints.

Listened via C-SPAN's web feed....No pundits....Highly recommended way to listen.

U.S. Airstrikes Kill 90 Afghans

The UN has confirmed this, and it is another indicator of how ill suited and ill prepared the 4 US fixed wing air forces* for counter insurgency.

They killed 90 civilians, and probably created 3x that number of insurgents.

*USAF, USN, and USMC but particularly the USAF.

Hagan Leading Dole

Public Policy Polling: NC Senate: Hagan Leads:

Kay Hagan 42
Elizabeth Dole 39
Chris Cole 5

I'm sure that the thousands of hemophiliacs that she killed as head of the American Red Cross appreciate this.

Hagan was down 14 points 2 months ago, and remember, undecideds typically break 2/3 against the incumbent.

Seen on a Billboard On the Way to the Republican National Convention

H/t Crooks and Liars.

Bush and His Evil Minions&trade Frack it Up Again: DPRK Nukes Edition

Because Bush/Cheney is unwilling to take the DPRK off a terror watch list, as it has promised, they have stopped dismantling their facilities, and are threatening to reconstitute them.

Because Cheney wants to swing his dick around*, about the only thing remotely like a positive foreign policy accomplishment is about to go down the drain.

It's behavior like this which make North Korea a paranoid nuclear power. It makes them believe that the US is just waiting to attack them.

*Sorry for that image.

It's Always Florida Isn't It?

Yes, it's a story from February, but once again, the state of Florida is f$#@ing with the right to vote.
A little-known legal opinion issued days before Florida's presidential primary has slammed the door on public oversight of the final vote tally in Florida elections.

The closure comes because of questions posed by Sarasota County Election Supervisor Kathy Dent, whose controversial District 13 congressional race drew national scrutiny in 2006.

Attorneys for the Florida Department of State say county election supervisors can eject outside observers from central computer rooms as they receive and add precinct results.

Their ruling hinges on where votes are actually counted, a process that state law requires be open to observers. They contend that "tabulation" occurs at individual precincts and that computers in the central room are merely "accumulating" those results.

What is more, the opinion states, observers and the public can be excluded from watching the local canvassing boards that must certify those vote counts -- as long as there is alternative access, such as listening over a speaker system.
Florida: still a banana republic.

Now, They are Saying that the Euro-ABMs are About Russia

And they are now saying that Congress must fund the missiles in Poland and the radar in the Czech Republic to protect from Russia.

As I've said before, the purpose of the missile system is to antagonize the the Russians, for partisan political gain....And now they are admitting it.

Maliki Says Hard and Fast Deadline in Iraq

And it appears that there will be no "they aren't permanent, the US will leave before the sun dies" superbases" either:
“It is not possible for any agreement to conclude unless it is on the basis of full sovereignty and the national interest, and that no foreign soldiers remain in Iraqi soil after a defined time ceiling,” Mr. Maliki said in a speech to Shiite tribal leaders in Baghdad’s Green Zone.
George W. Bush, you are completely Pwn3d.

MoveOn.org Targets Ron Fournier for Bias

He's head of the AP's Washington bureau.

He previously interviewed for a job with McCain, and he's thoroughly in the tank for him, and he's been in the tank for the 'Phants for years.

He wrote a mash note to Karl Rove over the Pat Tillman phoney story, when he had done no stories on either Tillman nor Rove.

More details here.

Here's hoping that he finds a new line of work, because he ain't a journalist, he's a PR flack.

Russia Recognizes South Ossetia and Abkhazia

This was inevitable once Georgia invaded.

Russia has been waiting for the opportunity for quite some time.

I would note that unless Georgia renounces all claims to the provinces now, they are ineligible for NATO membership, because the process requires undisputed borders.

Bush and His Evil Minions are doubtless happy, because they think this makes a good political club domestically.

Economics Update

Well, once again, we have the financial press, trumpeting so called good news, that US home prices did not fall as fast as the previous month, even though the year over year decline was 15.4%.

They are noting that home sales are up a bit, but they neglect to note how many of these sales are short sales and REO (foreclosure, basically) sales.

The numbers that I've seen are around 20-30%, and no one notes that inventory is still at historical highs.

On the brighter side, consumer confidence is up, largely on the fact that Gasoline has fallen over 10% over the past few weeks, as it did again today, though oil is up over concerns regarding hurricane Gustav.

Everyone is expecting a fully coupled worldwide slowdown, and so the Dollar is now at a 6 month high, even though we are seeing signs of commodities bouncing back, at least that's what the market in copper is showing, with contracts for immediate delivery being rather higher than those for 3 months delivery.

I would also note that Fannie and Freddie are slowing the rate of mortgage purchases for their portfolio, which means two things, that mortgages will be harder to get and more expensive, and that they are "deleveraging", which is finance speak for trying to get themselves out of the hole that they have dug.

I Agree with John Stewart

Basically, he is calling the political reporters a bunch of wankers:
As Comedy Central's "Daily Show" descends on Denver for four days of coverage, Jon Stewart took after the "established" media for getting too cozy with candidates and regurgitating campaign spin when it comes to political coverage.

In a breakfast with reporters, Stewart directed most of his ire at the 24-hour cable news networks, which he called "gerbil wheels," and said the media at-large had "abdicated" to what he called the "slow-witted beast."

He said the never-ending television news cycle creates a "false sense of urgency" and forces reporters to "follow the veins that have been mined," instead of pursuing serious and in-depth reporting.
Seriously, I get to a point where I can't take it any more, and use the mute button too much, and then I can't stand their faces, and I change the channel watch Alton Brown on Food Network, and check in with the blogs.

Yesterday, I did keep checking in because I felt that Kennedy deserved the eyeballs, but during political coverage, even Maddow and Olbermann get on my nerves, because they spend so much time repeating themselves.

And Now Phil "You're All Whiners" Gramm Will Bankrupt the FDIC

It appears that Gramm-Leach-Bliley created an instrument called a Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service (CDARS) that allows you to deposit money in a one bank, and the CD is divided across a network, allowing for, "FDIC insurance on deposits of up to $50 million."

Yet another way that Phill Gramm is a cancer on the body politic and the economic fabric of America.

When the Wall Street Fracking Journal Comes Out Against Patents, Something is Changing

You know that the current IP regime, and the drooling morons at the USPTO have jumped the proverbial shark.

The first reform that should be made is to treat patents like civil rights lawsuit, in that you can challenge a law as a violation of civil rights before anyone is charged, because of the chilling effects on society.

Bank of America, and The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Specifically Countrywide Financial, whose merry band of crooks have embroiled Bank of America in another action from a state attorney general, this time in Indiana, claiming, "deceptive and misleading practices in thousands of loans."

What the hell were the management at BoA thinking when they paid for this open cesspool.

Thoughts on Last Night's DNC

It was great to see Teddy Kennedy, and he looked remarkably fit.

As to the rest, I just can't stand the coverage, and they have all the spontaneity of an ant farm.

Funny Strange, Not Funny Ha Ha

Mithras notes:
Know What's Funny?
Upper middle class white liberal bloggers who think that their political opinions matter to people trying to win an election. That is really funny.
Actually, I've now thought of something even funnier (again, funny strange, not funny ha ha): Why upper class white conservative pundits keep trying to give electoral advice to Democrats.

As to my giving advice to anyone, this upper middle class Jewish blogger's opinions don't even matter to my Sharon*....And they matter to my 11 year old daughter even less, but she takes after her mother at her age.

My almost 9 year old son though, he cares what I think....but we are both science geeks, and we talk science, and I am an engineer.....But he keeps asking me about things like quantum entanglement (really), and I have to tell him, "call uncle Stephen, he's the physicist."

Actually, they all respect my cooking skills though, which is some consolation.

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

Farmer's Almanac Predicts Cold Winter

If true, this will be bad news when juxtaposed to skyrocketing heating costs, particularly for those in the Northeast who rely on heating oil.

As if Things Didn't Already Suck for Georgia

Dick Cheney will be visiting Tbilisi next week, which should be unpleasant for everyone involved.

Cindy McCain is going there too, doubtless to provide tips on make-up, face lifts, and shoe purchases, in addition to her obvious expertise in drug abuse.

Unsurprisingly, the Russian Duma voted to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent, but there has not yet been a definitive statement by Medvedev, as the formal recognition of a state is the president's and not the Duma's prerogative, though I expect one shortly, because of the Kosovo precedent.

The US is warning that this is "unacceptable", and I expect that the Russians will consider this with just as much seriousness as the US considered similar Russian warnings on Kosovo.

I supported, and continue to support, the independence of Kosovo, but one of the negative consequences was that it provided a precedent of secession of regions in Europe, and it's entirely possible that we may see a similar movement in the Crimea in the next few years as a result.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and France are saying that Russia remaining in the so-called buffer zones is a violation of the cease fire, and Russia is maintaining that these are called for under agreements negotiated in the 1990s, and are thus covered by the cease fire.

My prediction: I expect formal recognition of the two breakaway regions as sovereign nations by Russia in the near future, and significant distancing from Georgia, or at least from Saakashvili by the West. It's already happening in "Old Europe", and I would expect it to occur in the US in January.

Nuclear Suppliers Group Throws Monkey Wrench into Indo-American Civil Nuke Deal

Which I consider to be a good thing.

The idea that somehow the technical know-how that the French and the US nuclear industries are so interested in exporting to India won't flow to their weapons' program is naive at best.

Right now, the US is lobbying the 45 nation NSG to grant a waiver to India, even though it will not sign the NNPT.

This approval is necessary for the Indo-US deal to go through, and the NSG is looking at adding conditions to the waiver such as periodic reviews, a more intrusive inspection regime of civilian nuclear power plants, and a cancellation of the waiver in the event of additional Indian weapons testing.

India has said that it would reject any such conditions though, so it's unclear where things go from here.

Honestly, I see this as phenomenally bad policy being pushed by the US Nuclear power industry, and being supported by Bush and His Evil Minions because they are reliable Republican donors.

25 August 2008

And if You Believe This, I have a Bridge for Sale.

The Iraqi government is now claiming that a "rogue unit" is to blame for raids on Sunni politicians and the "Awakenening" movement.

This is despite the fact that they normally answer directly to prime minister Nouri al Maliki.

WaMu Offering Desperate for Cash

That's really the only reason that they would offer 5% for 12 Month CDs, because attempts to secure money from the markets cost a lot more, and they need it now.

Most banks are paying less than 4%, and WaMu ain't some web only operation trying to build market share.

They are in trouble.

Best Slam of John McCain Evah!!!!

Courtesy of Roger Ailes

The McCain campaign keeps emphasizing that McCain was a prisoner in Vietnam, as proof of his qualification for the Presidency.

Well, so was Gary Glitter, and I'm not voting for him either
I don't think that I will ever say anything so funny.

Mr. Ailes owes me a screen cleaner.

Zimbabwe: Something Good Happened Today

Well, as announced by Mugabe, the Zimbabwean parliament met today, and as feared, some (2) of the MPs were detained by the police, though one was released later.

That being said, what did happen once they were seated was surprising, Lovemore Moyo, of the MDC Tsvangerai won the election for speaker in a secret ballot, 110 to 98, which means that MDC Mutambara voted against Mugabe, as did at least one ZANU-PF member, though ZANU-PF won the Senate presidency, though since most of those members are appointed by Mugabe, or by provincial governors appointed by Mugabe, this came as no surprise.

Economics Update

The Philly Fed chief is calling for higher interest rates, because of inflation concerns.

The fact that there are now closings of marginal mines and the like would also indicate that the commodity plunge of the past 6 weeks or so is going to bottom out soon.

Though, truth be told, I'm not sure that it will make much of a difference, as the the fact that spread between LIBOR and the Fed Funds rate is 78 basis points, near an all time high, and an indicator that the Fed has largely lost control over interest rates in the rest of the economy, as well as indicating that the credit system is still frozen up.

Mean while, in real estate, we have bad news presented as good news, with stories trumpeting an increase in existing home sales in July, and soft pedaling a 7% year over year house prices.

Why is this National Association of Realtors (NAR) Bulls$#@?????

Because, Seasonally adjusted it's ignoring seasonal adjustments July and August are always big months, particularly for parents who do not want their children to change schools mid year. It's actually the worst seasonally adjusted numbers since 2000.

This is why 75% of Americans have negative view of economy, because the financial press is a bunch of Pollyannas, who ignore the the fact that aggregate weekly hours have been experiencing continuous negative growth on a month-to-month basis since January 2008.

Meanwhile, among the Wall Street Banks, we are now getting reports of a dead pool for Lehman CEO Dick Fuld. He's expected to be out within a year, which does not bode well for the company as a whole.

Meanwhile, Robert Rubin is stepping down from his position chairman of the board's executive committee, though he will remain on the board, which probably means something, but I do not know what, but considering Citi's record, I'm assuming bad news.

Meanwhile, oil is up today, even though the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline has resumed flow, but gasoline prices continues their downward course.

Thedollar is mixed today.

Coalition in Pakistan Collapses

Nawaz Sharif has withdrawn his Pakistan Muslim League-N party from its coalition with the Pakistan People's Party.

It's not surprising. The one thing that Sharif demanded from the start was the restoration of all judges, and the refusal of PPP party head Asif Ali Zardari to reinstate all the judges, particularly Iftikar Muhammad Chaudhry.

They also agreed to reduce the power of the Presidency, and to have a non-partisan candidate for the office.

What this is really about in my mind is that Zardari is remarkably corrupt, even by the standards of Pakistani governance (as if that concept is not a mind f&%$), his nick name is "Mr. 10%", and he is afraid that Chaudhry, who by all accounts is honest and non-partisan, will invalidate the grant of immunity for his corruption.

To be fair, it wasn't just him who was corrupt. His late wife, Benazir Bhutto, was hip deep in all of this too, but since she went to Harvard, and spoke excellent English, she was labeled a democratic hope for Pakistan.

Real Estate Appraisers Still Being Pressured

Here, here, and here.

I'm not sure how to set this up such that lenders and realtors cannot pressure appraisers, but something needs to be done.

And the Wild Blue Yonder Boys Screw Up in Afghanistan

Karzai just condemned a USAF led airstrike in Afghanistan and fired two commanders in the region.

A representative of the Karzai administration nails it:
"This puts us in a very difficult position," said a government official, who asked not to be identified because of the delicacy of the matter. "It provides propaganda to the Taliban, and if they don't take responsibility, it actually helps the Taliban."
Of course, even when coalition troops engaging in a training exercise are targeted by pilots hopped up on amphetamines, or a pilot joy riding below altitude minimums kills 20 people in a cable car, there is at best a slap on the wrist (note that the latter were Marines, not USAF).

The three US air services need to stop behaving in a way that aids the insurgents.

Big Three Welfare Queens

They are looking for $25 billion in federal loans.....at 4.25%......about 1/3 of what they are paying now....with the government having an option to defer any payments 5 years.

In 1980, Ronald Wilson Reagan rode into the white house on the story of a welfare mother who drove a Cadillac.

Now it appears that the welfare recipient is Cadillac, with John Dingell and the rest of the whores in Michigan backing it.

If they want a bailout, then shareholders and senior management need to lose, and lose big.

FDCI Closed Another Bank Friday

Damn....Always happens when I'm offline for Shabbos.

Must be FDIC policy to only close banks on Fridays after close of business.

This time, it's The Columbian Bank and Trust, Topeka, KS.

24 August 2008

Georgia Again

Obviously, what makes the news in the US is that the USS McFaul delivered aid to Georgia, but in the grand scheme of things, that means very little.

I think of more import is that fact that Saakashvili is a nut-job relegated to chewing his own tie...Really...see the vid at end.

First, he is promissing to rebuild his army and retake South Ossetia and Abkhazia. That's clearly not going to happen. Both areas will be declaring independence, and will be recognized by Russia, in the next 18 months, and probably before January 21.

We also have him flat out lying about the original Georgian offensive into South Ossetia, claiming that the Russians had already moved tanks in, and I honestly think that he believes that.

Certainly there are issues of provocations on both sides, but the idea that somehow Georgia was forced to invade South Ossetia and launch an artillery barrage on its capital has no relationship to reality.

Of course, it doesn't help that the Georgian parliament has extended martial law, which I think at this point will be used against political opponents, and not either the Russian military or Ossetian or Abkhazian militias.

Interestingly enough this article in Newsweek provides some insight into the dynamics between Georgia and the West:
It would have been hard not to be charmed by Mikheil Saakashvili. Young, dynamic, Western-educated and -oriented, he was among the most intriguing characters to move onto the global stage after the collapse of the Soviet Union.


....Soon after, I met the president again at his newly built residence in Tbilisi. He had dark rings around his eyes and he alternated between enormous, if not misplaced confidence that his Western allies would help him, and rather childish despair about Russia's view of him personally. He said he had heard that Russian officials play billiards with the word MISHA written on the black ball, and asked the reporters assembled at his home, "What is going on in Russia? Am I hated there?" That evening he seemed traumatized by this. With his head in his hands, and pear juice and brandy running down his chin, he pleaded: "Does anybody know what Russia is up to?"
This is Western Tribalism at it's finest: He spoke good English. He went to an elite technical school, Columbia University, so despite the fact that he unleashed riot police on protesters, and seized opposition media outlets, he has to be a good guy.

We see the same thing in Iraq: The representatives of ISCI, a proxy for Iran, speak fluent English, and affect American manners, so they must be the representatives of western style democracy.

The West in general, and America in particular, must get over this little bit of chauvanism.

Perhaps the most extreme example of just how far this short-sightedness takes us is this piece of doggerel from Richard Holbrooke, who claims that somehow the Russians have lost because Saakashvili is still nominally in power, when it is clear that he is a dead man walking.

He is an indicator of just how morally and intellectually bankrupt the foreign policy establishment is in Washington, DC.

Rule Number 1 of US Defense Procurement

Is that if it's a joint program with the Europeans, then the Department of Defense will screw around with it, and try to kill it. (paid subscription required)

Case in point is MEADS, which packages an improved Patriot PAC-3 missile with extensive European involvement, and now the Pentagon wants to reorganize the program. (paid subscription required)

I kind of knew the program was doomed when I worked a (very little) bit on in in 1998. Jointness is the kiss of death for the Pentagon.

Give me a Fracking Break!!!!!

We now have Robin Leach excusing John McCain for not knowing how many homes he has, because he would, "call it honest confusion."

Let's see....Robin Leach, former host of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, is defending John McCain for not being able to remember how many homes he owns....Seriously, ou cannot make this sh&% up...really.

This is beyond even the Nostradamus-Like genius of The Onion.

F-22 Communications Link Delayed

As I've mentioned before, the F-22 Raptor is the roach motel of data. Data goes in, but it doesn't get out.

The USAF has been looking at adding software to its radar to allow it to communicate via the AESA transmitter modules in its radar.

Well, it now appears that USAF had placed the program on hold, my guess is because Iraq is sucking up too much money.

Hypersonic Test Rocket Crashes

It was the first flight of the ALV-X1 rocket, and the Hypersonic Boundary Layer Transition (HYBOLT) and the Sub-Orbital Aerodynamic Re-entry Experiment (SOAREX) were lost when the rocket lost 27 seconds into flight.

Huh....I guess some times rocket science is rocket science.

Israel-based X-Band Radar Will Be Off-Limit to Israelis

About 2 weeks ago, I wrote about Israel getting an advanced X-band radar to aid in their missile defense efforts.

Well in a turn that could have come out of The Onion, it appears that if the radar is installed, it Israeli personnel will not be allowed on the premises, which would mean that foreign troops would be based in Israel, a reversal of long held policy.

12 Years to Modify a Bloody Helicopter?

We are talking about the UH-1Y and AH-1Z programs, which entailed a new propulsion pack, 4 bladed rotor, and avionics.

12 years...and 140% over budget......I need a tax refund.

Boeing Goes a la Carte on C-17B

Boeing has proposed a whole series of upgrades to create a C-17B, in a desperate attempt to keep the line open, and they are going to offer them on an individual basis.

The upgrades are:
  • Upgraded engines.
  • Doubled slotted flaps.
  • Additional tires on the main landing gear.
  • A central tire inflation system.
  • Improved avionics.
  • An electronic warefare system.
They are offering them individually for two reasons, some of them could also be sold as simple upgrades to the existing fleet, and because all together, they might be considered a new development program, which means that the groundlings at the Pentagon would have to spend a few years writing up specifications.

At its core, of course, this effort is really about keeping the line open as quietly as possible.

23 August 2008

So It's Biden

All in all, not a bad choice. Thank God it Wasn't Evan Bayh.

Biden will make an excellent attack dog during the campaign, though he is a bit too hawkish in terms of foreign policy for my taste.

A380 Separation Distance Reduced

One of the concerns about the A380 is that it is a large plane, and wingtip vortices grow as an aircraft does, so separation standard was established to prevent trailing aircraft from being destabilized by the these phenomena.

Airbus thought the standard was was excessive, and following tests, the standards have been relaxed, from, "6nm separation for a heavy aircraft such as the 747, 8nm for medium or small aircraft in the A320 category and 10 nm for light category aircraft," to 4nm, 5nm, and 6nm, the same as a Boeing 747.

Russia Accuses US of Illegal Arms Trading

Interestingly, we are not talking about arms control treaties or UN resolutions here.

We are talking about violations of Russian licenses on their designs, which I find interesting because it dovetails into two of my geek areas of interest, defense procurement, and IP law.

It appears that licenses granted by the Soviets, and later the Russians on things like AK's and RPG's were for domestic production only, and did not include the right to sell internationally, so the US is breaking the law by selling the weapons to the security apparatus of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Somehow, I imaging that the US trade rep will not address this as strongly as they would bootleg albums from She Who Must Not Be Named being sold by Chinese street vendors.

Pratt and Whitney Moves GTF Tests to A340

The testing is actually a big more than a marketing gimmick, because the original test aircraft, a Boeing 747 SP used old noisy engines, and as such acoustic data for the Geared Turbo Fan was hard to get, though I'm sure that working with Airbus on this will help in future sales.

They are claiming a "near double-digit" improvement in fuel economy.

UK Looking at Rolling Landing to Address JSF Performance Shortfalls

Basically, the F-35B STOVL appears to be a bit light in bring back weight, so the Royal Navy is looking at landing at slow speed,shipboard rolling vertical landing (SRVL).

The aircraft would land at an air speed of somewhere around 60 kt airspeed (the ship would be doing 25 kts, so the deck speed would be 35 kts) to allow for an additional ton or so of fuel or ordinance brought back at landing.

Grob Aerospace Files Bankruptcy

The delays in certification and testing, along with a backer pulling out, have resulted in them filing for reorganization as they attempt to complete their all-composite Jet program, the SPn.

22 August 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: Ridley Scott Edition

Judge Rules that Companies Must Consider Fair Use Before Issuing DMCA Takedown Notice

This is a very good thing.

In the case in question, a parent uploaded a video of their kid dancing to a song by Prince, and because there was 30 seconds of the song in the background, Universal Music issued a DMCA take down notice.

The Judge said that they can't simply determine that it is their material, but whether it is legal or not:
"Fair use is a lawful use of a copyright," the judge wrote. "Accordingly, in order for a copyright owner to proceed under the DMCA with 'a good-faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law,' the owner must evaluate whether the material makes fair use of the copyright."

The video of the kid is below...It's 30 seconds long, and I can't even recognize the song.

The judge says that, "The Court has considerable doubt that Lenz will be able to prove that Universal acted with the subjective bad faith," but if I were on the jury I'd vote for the muthas to fry.

Fed Chairman Calls for More Financial Regulation

He was vague on specifics, but described the need in a speech at the Fed's economic symposium.

I agree that more regulation is needed, but I do not agree with what appear to be his suggestions.

Bailout should not be what is done when an institution is too big to fail, that creates perverse incentives. Nationalization, where investors and share holders are wiped out to the greatest degree possible should be.

Additionally, I would modify anti-trust law to add "too big to fail" to the reasons for a breakup.

Finally, I believe that the complex secularization mathematics should be severely restricted.

All that "innovation" in the financial markets has gotten us the mess that we are in now.

Senate Republicans Short on Reelection Cash

And they are freaking out about it so much that NRSC chair John Ensign is publicly complaining about his fellow Senators not raising campaign funds.

The problem is that the rich rat f*%$ers of America have decided that George W. Bush is bad for business, and you guys have welded yourselves to him.

My heart bleeds.

Bush Still Pushing to Have Your Daughter Carry Her Rapist's Baby

As I mentioned in an earlier post, see my earlier post, All Your Uterus Are Belong to Us, Bush and His Evil Minions&trade are determined to make sure that Abortion will be unavailable, even if it is legal.

So, they are pushing ahead with a modified plan now, and they have changed the definition, so that contraception is no longer abortion, but it still allow a doctor to refuse to give birth control information to a woman, for example.

These folks are more like the Mullahs in Iran than they admit.

Al Franken Tied With Norm Coleman in MN Senate

Franken is actually ahead by one point, 41% to Coleman's 40%, with a margin of error of 3.6%, which is very good news, as undecideds typically break at least 2/3 for the challenger.

BTW, here is Franken's latest ad.

Funny Signs of the Apocalypse


That's the funny part. The sign of the Apocalypse is that the beltway pundits are starting to notice that most of McCain's sentences are a noun, a verb, and POW.

We have Newsweek's Howard Fineman, Time's Anna Marie "Wonkette" Cox, and Politico's Ben Smith all saying, "Give it a rest".

About bloody time.

Public Company Accounting Oversight Board Ruled Constiturional

This is a victory in the fight against the Peter Pan accounting that has gotten the financial markets into so much trouble.

The U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the board did not violate the separation of powers clause.

Georgian Fallout on Israel-Russian Relations

Well, it looks like Israel-Russia relations are a little bit cool now, because of Israel's arms sales to Georgia, though, as I mentioned earlier, the Israelis shut that down when they thought war was likely.

On the bright side, it appears that they will be holding talks on the middle east, which implies a continued relationship.

On the not so bright side, we have rumors of increased Russian arms sales to Syria, including the advanced long range S-300 system, though Syria has denied this.

We also have a report (Ynetnews, not sure of the quality of the source) that the US is pressuring Turkey to shut down the Israel Syria talks that it is hosting, because Syria took Russia's side in the Russo-Georgian war.

It's petty and stupid if true, and considering that we still have Condi Rice running state, I am therefore inclined to believe it.

Federal Judge Rips the Texas Courts a New One on Capital Case

It appears that Federal Judge Orlando Garcia is upset at the state of the death penalty in Texas, and said so in his ruling granting a stay for Jeffery Lee Wood.

The judge described the positively Kafkaesque system under which he was determined to be competent for execution, as, "an insane system," because it required that he prove that he was insane before the state would grant him a lawyer and a psychologist to prove that he was insane.

In addition to his not pulling the trigger, he was driving the getaway car, the man has a long history of mental problems and retardation.

I understand why the Judge finds this insane, but he does not understand Texas. People there do not care if someone is innocent, or insane, they just want a needle put in as many arms as possible.

The entire state is nuts.*

*I lived in Texas from 1992-1994, and 1996-2001.

Americans Increasingly Sick of Religion in Politics

I'm not surprised. As anyone who has followed Bush and His Evil Minions knows, religiously based government does not work.

The Iranian people know that too, which is why they are increasingly restive under the Mullahs.

Chart pr0n:

I would note that there appears that only the 2 data points show a real shift, so we could be dealing with sampling or question issues.

Of interest is that more people are now saying that politicians talking religion makes them uncomfortable too.

Iraq Looks to Head Back Down Toilet

One of the reasons that violence and US troop deaths have dropped in Iraq is because of the "Sunni Awakening", where people in Sunni dominant areas stopped supporting the insurgency, either because of US salaries, or because they were sick and tired of al Qaeda in Iraq, and started patrolling as part of the "Awakening Councils".

Well, it now appears that Iraqi prime minister Nouri al Maliki has decided to send his own bully boys after the leaders of the Sunni citizen patrols, and refusing to integrate them into the state security forces.

It appears that Maliki is going after Sadr too, which is not surprising, as the Sadrists are more popular in many areas than either the Iranian backed ISCI and Maliki's Dawa party.

Measles Cases Skyrocket Because of Bad, Ignorant Parents

Yep, it's those vaccination flat Earthers again, with measles cases to date this year being three times more than all of last year.

I will note that a significant number of the cases are infants who are too young to get the vaccine, so the loss of herd immunity because of these harms the helpless whose bear no blame.

There is no correlation between thimerosal in particular, or vaccines in general, and autism.

While correlation does not prove causation, lack of correlation does prove causation.

What's more the (hopefully soon to be stripped of his license) doctor who came up with the theory has a history of making up his own facts, and has a financial interest in alternatives to vaccines.

My earlier posts on the subject here.

I will note that my son is on the autism spectrum, he has Aspergers, and my wife, a special education professional trained to look for such things, spotted the first indicators in his first weeks of life. No vaccine problems there.

Georgia Update

It appears that the Russian pullout is in fact happening, though they are taking up stations in their buffer zones, and they blew up military installations on the way out.

The UN Security council is currently deadlocked, with the Russians demanding that force to reunify the provinces be specifically forbidden, and the US demanding that it not be, and that "Georgian territorial integrity" be specifically affirmed in the document.

I also heard (no link, radio report) rumors that both South Ossetia and Abkhazia will be declaring independence at some point in the near future.

Economics Update

Well, it appears to be a slow news day, with the only major news being that it appears that the ratings agencies are trying to get their sh&% together, as yesterday Moody's started uprating government bonds, and today Moody's downgraded its ratings for Fannie and Freddie preferred stock.

As to commodities and currency, oil down, gasoline down, and dollar up.

OK, Maybe I was Wrong to Dismiss the Oil Speculation Theories

I've been dismissive of accusations that speculation is responsible for most of the oil price run up.

I have always suggested that arbitrage might cause excessive volatility, but have been dubious on the idea that speculators are responsible for most, or even much, of the current oil price run up.

Unlike electric power, where one can shut down a plant to juice the market, you can't hide all that oil, you have to pay to put it somewhere

Well, the CFTC just discovered that Vitol, a company that thought to primarily be in the business of hedging oil for large consumers, like Southwest Airlines, to save costs, has been aggressively holding huge amounts of futures contracts as a speculative investment too, at one point holding about 11% of all trades on the New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex).

So the CFTC now pegs the percentage of speculative, i.e. non-consuming, trading at around 81% of volume.What's more the CFTC found out about this by mistake.

I still believe that the primary cause of the run-up was supply and demand lines crossing, but with this level of speculation, and this level of leverage, it's reported that Vitol could have purchased over $8 billion in oil futures for less than $1 billion, it's possible that there were issues of excess volatility and over-shoot on the price of oil.

Friendly Fire Alleged in Deaths of French troops

I'm sure that this will be resolved over the next few months, but the allegation that the French deaths in Afghanistan were the result of a NATO air strike play into everyone's worst stereotypes.

Anthrax Update

First, we have an editorial in Nature, one of the most prestigious scientific publication in world, suggesting that the data provided this far by the FBI has been incomplete and not properly reviewed. They strongly suggest that the FBI is using selective information releases to make their case, and I agree.

Meanwhile, this breathless article detailing the efforts to identify the sample genetically seems to be exactly what the editors of Nature are objecting to.

I again would note that none of the information provided by the FBI has shown how the samples might have been weaponized, a capability that was not present at Bruce Ivin's lab.

Georgia News

It appears that by late last yearIsrael scaled back arms sales to Georgia last year, because they saw a war between Georgia and Russia brewing.

Based on what I've read at this point, it appears that, with the South Ossetians, there was no one within 1500 km who did not know that the Georgians were preparing for an invasion of the breakaway province.

Meanwhile, Georgia is suffering economically, both as a result of transportation disruptions and a flight of foreign capital.

Meanwhile, in response to NATO's downgrade of relations, the Russians have frozen cooperation with NATO, which includes things like anti-drug operations and supply routes to Afghanistan.

On the military side, while the Russian counter-offensive was clearly successful, there are accusations that the Russian Air Force was unprepared, with little or no effort made in the initial stages of the war to take out surface to air missile and radar sites.

Mikhail Gorbachev has written a blistering editorial excoriating the west and the western media, that he feels was in the pocket of Georgia.

It looks like the promised Russian pullout is procedeeding, albeit slowly, though Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili is claiming that the pullout is widening the occupation of Georgia.

I think that it's clear at this point, despite Saakashvili's fluent English and his Columbia University degree, which counts for way more than it should in US diplomacy, he's just a bit.....well....nuts.

21 August 2008

Debate Dates and Formats Set

Details here.

On September 26th, October, 7 and 15 for the presidential candidates, and Oct 2 for the Veeps.

FTC Institutes New Regs Requiring Written Opt-In for Robo-Calls

This, of course, will effectively kill the odoriferous putrescence that is robo-calls.

By December, all Robocalls must have a key or voice activated opt-out, and by the following September, robo-calls are prohibited, unless the marketer has "the prior express written agreement of the recipient to receive such calls."

Prior business relationships have been eliminated as an exception, though medical calls related to HIPAA, and calls by non-profits to members have an exception, though the latter requires automated opt-out.

Note that political campaigns can still inundate you with robo-calls though.

Just When You Thought that Zimbabwe's Path Could Not Get Any More Twisted

Well, it appears that Robert Mugabe has stated his intent to reconvene the Zimbabwean parliament, because it seems that Arthur Mutambara splinter faction holds the margin for a majority, even though yjr MDC-Tsvangerai is very clear that this will jeopardise the power sharing talks.

As if this was not Mugabe's goal in the first place.

For what it's worth, I rather like this article, The bullying black Englishmen, and how it adds a new layer to the already complex interactions going on here.

Basically the authors thesis is that the bad actors in this drama, Mugabe, Mbeki, and Matambara, all of whom were educated in the West, see Tsvangerai, who was not, as unworthy of power by virtue of this:
With his humble origins and poor school record, Tsvangirai lacks not only the lofty Western educational qualifications that his three opponents display in their wordy speeches, witticisms and articles, but their sartorial style.

Bulging out of his cheap suits, Tsvangirai seems uncomfortable alongside the three Savile Row dandies, who are said by some close to the negotiations to despise the former trade unionist and principal Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader.
It appears that every society has its despised minority, and in southern Africa, it's Africans.

Hans "der Novotenfuhrer" von Spakovsky Hired by Civil Rights Commission

No, this is not The Onion.

He has been hired by Civil Rights Commissioner Todd Gaziano has hired him as a consultant.

A man whose entire life has been dedicated to keeping N*gg*rs from voting.

Surprise, Commissioner Todd Gaziano works for the Heritage Foundation.

Banks Object to Credit Card Regulation

There's a big surprise, they want to continue to treat their customers like garbage.

This bill is pretty mild:
  • Requires 45 days' notice of interest rate increases
  • prohibits companies from changing the terms of the contract at any time for any reason, so called "Universal Default".
  • Makes issuers mail billing statements 25 days before the due date, instead of the current 14-day minimum.
  • Require that payments be applied to all balances proportionally, as opposed to the lowest (often introductory) rate first.
But even this very weak tea is too much for the banks.

McCain Owns Too Many Houses to Keep Track Of

He was asked how many houses he ownsin an interview and re replied that he would have a member of his staff get back to him.

He does not know how many homes he, well, really Cindy, owns, but as I've mentioned before, they also neglect to pay the property taxes in a timely manner.

The quip of the day, though goes to Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, who suggested that the reason that McCain could not answer the question was because, "He Couldn't Count High Enough."


BTW, in the, "It didn't take very long," department, the McCain campaign is already going the noun, verb, and POW route
He [spokesman Brian Rogers] also added: "This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years -- in prison," referring to the prisoner of war camp that McCain was in during the Vietnam War.
It's amazing how quickly they move to self parody....I just hope that the American public does not buy it.

John Sidney McCain is truly a pathetic old man.

Economics Update

Ummm....This is not a day for pleasant economic news.

First, the Leading Economic Indicators indicate a bigger slowdown than anticipated, dropping 3x more than expectations, and then the Philly Fed index fell for the 9th straight month.

Employment isn't good either. While new unemployment claims fell, the 4 week rolling average rose, and in any case at 432,000 claims (seasonally adjusted, which is the elephant in the room), it's still too damn high.

If you are a monetarist, then we have more bad news, because the growth rate for M3 has dropped off a cliff (chart pr0n below):

Note that this is a graph or the rate of growth, not the money supply, so the effect on the overall money supply is less than it appears, but, "As a rule of thumb, the data gives a one-year advance signal on economic growth, and a two-year signal on future inflation."

The chart is a rolling 3 month average of the annual rate, and the rate for May-July is 2.1%, indicating a contraction of the M3 money supply in real terms, which would suggest downward pressure in housing and financial markets.

We also have the Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index of commodities making the biggest weekly jump in over 30 years and oil up by 6 bucks, along with the dollar falling which seems to indicate that the past few weeks might just have been profit taking...a breather before an ascent to the summit, though
gasoline is down over a dollar today.

UK Court Rules that British Government Must Provide Gitmo Defendant With Evidence of His Own Torture

This is good news from a legal perspective, but it bothers me, because the circumstances are so Kafkaesque:
A British court ruled on Thursday that the government must disclose evidence to a defendant being held at Guantanamo Bay, a decision that carried with it implicit criticism of U.S. government detention policies.

In its ruling, the High Court said Britain's Foreign Office must provide Binyam Mohamed, a British resident detained in Pakistan in 2002 and now held at Guantanamo, with information relating to his time in detention.

His lawyers say the material supports his claim to have been "extraordinarily rendered", tortured and forced into a confession on terrorism charges.

A Washington Pundit Uses the "L" Word

And I don't mean in a conversation about Rachael Maddow's new job at MSNBC.*

I mean that Jonathan Alter just called John McCain a liar

His final graph:
But when he resorts to these kinds of falsehoods, and casts such aspersions on his opponent's patriotism, John McCain is no longer putting his country first. If he were, he would recognize that the interests of the nation require a relatively truthful campaign. To fulfill his image of himself, McCain should stop lying about his opponent. For a man with his claims to honor and integrity, that's not too much to ask.
This is a word that you never see in political writing. Ever.

I'm beginning to think that the sick old man is losing his base, the Beltway pundits.....Please make this so.

*No offense intended toward the talent Ms. Maddow. She has been out, and proud, for years.

Report: U.S. and Iraq Set Troop Deal

It's not much slower than Barack Obama's timetable, but I'll believe it when I see it.

The Bush admin is still maintaining that it does not have to go to Congress, but it does have to go before the Iraqi parliament.

Me, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.

MoveOn.org Targeting Liddy Dole

Looks like they will be dumping around $½ million into the Senate race.

If they were smart, they would go after the fact that she refused to test blood for HIV when she was head of the American Red Cross, and killed a significant portion of the hemophiliacs in the US as a result, as clotting factor is made from blood.

Go after her strength.

Ratings Agencies Begin to Upgrade Government Bonds

At least Moody's is.

For years, corporate debt has been rated higher than equivalent government debt, and once the monoliner insurers started to implode, municipalities realized how much of a racket it was, with the ratings agencies using a stricter standard, so that the government debt had to use insurers where the rater's brother-in-law worked.

Took long enough, and I'm sure that the fact that various Attorneys General were looking into this, and that there was a bill in congress, had nothing to do with the change.

Stephanie Tubbs Jones (R-OH) Dead


Friends Don't Let Friends Read Amity Shlaes

Seriously, this analysis of the housing crisis is hacktacularly incoherent.

I'm just saying.

Amity Schlaes: Missing the forest for the tapioca pudding since 1982.

Comcast to Throttle Web Access During Times of Heavy Use

In response to a spanking from the FCC regarding throttling users based on applications 24-7, Comcast will start throttling heavy internet users during times of high network utilization, which is what they should have done in the first place.

There now, that wasn't so hard, was it.

Their real problem, of course, is an architecture that is inadequate, but we know what cable companies do when there is a choice between screwing the customer, and fixing the real problem.

FedEx Faces Massive Judgements on Misclassified Employees

FedEx has been classifying its drivers as independent contractors for years, despite the fact that it, "tells its ground-service drivers when to work, what to charge customers and what kind of socks and shoes to wear," and it looks like a federal judge is about to rule against them opening them up to billions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages, and possibly even more in back taxes.

What's more, it's likely to see successful unionization efforts once reclassification is completed.

This is an increasing problem nationwide, and one would hope that there will be a crackdown soon.

Cuomo Hints that Brokers are in Crosshairs of Auction-Rate Investigation

Now New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is strongly implying that he will be going after brokerages, in addition to his already having gone after investment banks, on misleading investors as to the nature, and risk, of auction rate securities.

It's depressing that when scandals break out in the financial system, that the Federal government seems to be completely uninvolved, and that state authorities have to enforce the law.

What Chris Bowers Said

In reswsponse to the news that Lieberman would speak at the Republican convention, Mr. Bowers noted:
I believe this is what some Senate Democrats were waiting for before deciding to strip Lieberman of his committee chair next year. I still remain skeptical that they will actually strip him of his committee chair, since it will demonstrate self-respect and a willingness to stand up to conservative Democrats. This just isn't something you see much of from our representatives in Congress, particularly the latter.
I agree. If I would argue that not only should he be stripped of his committee chairmanship, but of his seniority too.

Of course, that would require a spine, an unlikely event.

Penny Pritzker Needs to STFU

Ms. Pritzker, Barack Obama's campaign finance chairwoman was, as I've noted earlier, chairman of the board for Superior Bank of Chicago, the bank that pioneered the subprime and predatory loans as a business model, that collapsed in 2001.

It's likely that at some point this will become an issue, but to the degree that she invites reporters to cover her, as she clearly does here, she makes it even more likely.

The article is innocuous enough, it really is quite favorable, but it raises her public profile, which makes her a more likely target.

Given the current state of affairs in banking and housing, I cannot imagine anyone, in any campaign, who would not use her background against any campaign with which she was associated.

She needs to keep her head down.

20 August 2008

John McCain Endorses Reintroducing the Draft

There hasn't been a correction or clarification yet.

Of course, the "completely fair" Andrea "Bubbles" Mitchell, and the rest of the Beltway bunch will figure out a way for it not to be him being confused, or actually suggesting that he would restart the draft.

Bush Administration Gets Slapped Down in Court....Again

This all seems to have happened in the past 6 months or so. I'm wondering if the judiciary has just gotten sick of them, or if lame duck syndrome changes the thinking of judges.

In this case, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decided that the Bush EPA was full of it when they tried to prevent state and local governments from monitoring power plant pollution.

Seriously, it seems that the courts are finally getting around to reversing blatantly illegal crap that has been going on for years...Do the wheels of justice just grind this slow, or some members of the Judiciary realizing that this is not a boat that they want to hitch their anchor to?

Hulk Denied Change of Venue

Ted "The Hulk" Stevens wanted his corruption trial moved to Alaska, but since the crimes were committed in DC, the judge said no.

Hulk go to jail.

Not Dick Cheney, Sargent Shriver

It appears that there is a rumor that Caroline Kennedy's name is being floated as a VP pick for Obama.

She is on the selection committee, and the author of the article, Alexander Mooney, draws a comparison to Dick Cheney, who was on the selection committee.

The problem is that she ain't Dick Cheney. It would be another Kennedy affirmative action hire, like Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in Maryland, or Sargent Shriver for McGovern's running mate after Tom Eagleton bowed out.

Please, God no.

John Sidney McCain III: Wrong on Everything

I'm not sure what surprises me more, that someone in the press said this, that it came from the Startlegram (Fort Worth Star-Telegram my paper when I lived in Arlington, TX), or that the people who wrote this are senior members of the conservative CATO institute, which is heavily funded by the usual suspects, including Richard Mellon Scaife, but Ted Galen Carpenter and Malou Innocent get it completely when they say that , "Indeed, the record indicates that McCain’s own judgment is alarmingly bad.

They describe him as a, "Clear and present danger in the Oval Office."

I'm wondering if conservatives are starting to tiptoe for the exits regarding the sick old man.