31 May 2010

Sikorsky X2 Breaks 181 Kts

Click for full size
Photo: Sikorsky, By Way of Ares
Sikorsky's X2 advancing blade helicopter has sustained a cruise at 181 kts, and has done so at very low vibration levels, the show stopper for Sikorsky's XH-59A ABC helo in the 1970s, are a good sign.

This is about 40 kts faster than most conventional helicopters, and faster than almost any other helicopter out there.

They hope to make it to 250 kts, and they have yet to install the center hub fairing, which should further reduce drag, and the transmission is really not optimized for the mission, which implies that with some minor changes, performance could be improved:
The prototype is designed with no clutch between the main rotors and propulsor, which requires the pilot to increase forward speed through the variable pitch control on the six-bladed rear propeller. Once in the 180kt realm, the X2's computer will automatically slow the main rotors and increase collective pitch to prevent tip speeds from entering high-drag transonic region, with Bredenbeck correspondingly increasing propulsor pitch to increase the X2's speed as the propulsor also slows.
One of the things that blows my mind here is this vehicle has tested so well, so far, without any wind tunnel testing:
Weiner credits configuration maturity to Sikorsky's advanced analytical tools given that the company did not perform windtunnel tests of the design before flight-testing. He says windtunnel tests would likely precede the design for a production model, the first of which could be a systems development and demonstration vehicle for the US Army's potential competition to replace the Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior later this decade.
(emphasis mine)

Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Ensign Liebowitz Beam Down. Who Isn't Coming Back?

Answer: Al Qaeda's number 3 guy:
Al-Qaeda's third-ranking operative, an Egyptian who was a founding member of the terrorist network and a key conduit to Osama bin Laden, has been killed in Pakistan, according to a statement Monday from al-Qaeda that U.S. intelligence officials believe is accurate.

A U.S. official said there is "strong reason" to believe that Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, known as Sheik Saeed al-Masri, was killed, apparently by a CIA drone strike in Pakistan's tribal belt within the past two weeks.
I've seen this episode before.

Deep Thought

There is no oil spill in the Gulf.

BP has just decided to enter the market for sunscreen on a huge scale.

I'm Not Sure if This is Real, or Just a Corporate Pissing Contest…

But Google is ditching Microsoft® Windows® completely. No one in the enterprise is going to be allowed to have it on their company machines anymore:
Google is phasing out the internal use of Microsoft’s ubiquitous Windows operating system because of security concerns, according to several Google employees.

The directive to move to other operating systems began in earnest in January, after Google’s Chinese operations were hacked, and could effectively end the use of Windows at Google, which employs more than 10,000 workers internationally.

“We’re not doing any more Windows. It is a security effort,” said one Google employee.

“Many people have been moved away from [Windows] PCs, mostly towards Mac OS, following the China hacking attacks,” said another.

New hires are now given the option of using Apple’s Mac computers or PCs running the Linux operating system. “Linux is open source and we feel good about it,” said one employee. “Microsoft we don’t feel so good about.”
Obviously with a bit more than 10,000 employees, one would assume that there somewhere around 20K licenses floating around, which is a small part of Microsoft's market, but it's also a poke in the eye.

Obviously, Google will move its employees to its online apps Google Docs at some point in the future, which might be a greater threat to Bill Gates's revenue streams

What an Unbelievable Clusterf%$#

The Israeli Defense Forces have intercepted a convoy of ships intending to run the Israeli blockade on Gaza, and at least 9 deaths have been reported.

Considering that at least one of the passengers in the convoy was a Nobel Peace Prize winner, it looks like this an absolute disaster for Israel, and a victory for the "Free Gaza Movement".

My first thought is that, on the part of Israel, "It is worse than a crime: it is a mistake,"* because there will be significant negative repercussions for years on Israel's foreign policy and public diplomacy.

It's particularly problematic because the ship was Turkish flagged, and many of the passengers and crew were Turkish, which will serve to further worsen relations with the only majority-Islamic nation which has warm diplomatic relations with Israel.

If there is something that people on both sides of the Israel/Palestinian issue can agree on, it is that Benyamin Netanyahu's fascination with "looking tough" for his personal political advantage has always resulted in serious damage to the interests of Israel.

The "Free Gaza Movement" is not friend of Israel, nor would I expect them to be, and I think that a significant portion of their leadership has little interest in any potential de-escalation. If this were a significant interest of theirs, they would not have refused to bring letters and a package to Giliad Shalit, but realistically, work toward de-escalation is not really a big consideration for any of the 3rd party non-state actors who choose to involve themselves in the politics of this matter. (AIPAC can go Cheney themselves)

Still, I wonder how much the old saying, "luck is a residue of design," might figure in the events of this morning in terms of the planning of this convoy.

Certainly, if the report that the boarding party was sent in carrying just pistols and paint ball guns‡ is true, there are any number of people involved in this operation who should be fired by the IDF forthwith.

On a related note, I have had a back and forth on by invitation only Stellar Parthenon BBS, regarding whether the interception itself was illegal, since it took place in international water, and I have concluded that with a formally announced blockade, it probably was.

The interdiction of shipping with armed boarding parties in international waters is routine for both drug smuggling and human trafficking.

Still, it's a stupid thing, and the deaths are senseless.

*Joseph Fouché
Branch Rickey
And the source (Debka) is a thoroughly unreliable one.

30 May 2010

More PAK-FA/T-50 Video and Photo Pr0n

Things of note:
  • The prototype is clearly not stealthy, as the air data probes appear to my untrained eye to be retroreflectors.
  • The control surfaces on the leading edge of the inlets are pretty big.
  • The all flying tails are very obvious.
  • Visibility out of the cockpit is not quite as good as the F-22, but roughly equivalent to the F-35.
  • Russians hug a lot more than Americans (2nd vid)

H/t The DEW Line

Mark Twain's Autobiography to be Published

When he died, Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, left instructions that his notes for an autobiography not be published for 100 years.

Well, time's up, he died in 1910, and plans are being made to publish the 5000 some odd pages of his notes intended for his memoir:
The creator of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and some of the most frequently misquoted catchphrases in the English language left behind 5,000 unedited pages of memoirs when he died in 1910, together with handwritten notes saying that he did not want them to hit bookshops for at least a century.

That milestone has now been reached, and in November the University of California, Berkeley, where the manuscript is in a vault, will release the first volume of Mark Twain's autobiography. The eventual trilogy will run to half a million words, and shed new light on the quintessentially American novelist.
It goes on my to be read pile.

29 May 2010

Elections Have Consequences, Lib-Dems in UK Coalition Edition

I'm pretty sure that one of the conditions for the Liberal Democrats to enter into a coalition with the Tories was that a hard date be set for a withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the recent statement by the Defens(c)e Minister would appear to confirm this:
Senior British officials, including new Foreign Secretary William Hague arrived in Afghanistan May 22 with a warning that Britain wants to withdraw its troops as soon as possible.

Hague, Defence Secretary Liam Fox and International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell are set to meet President Hamid Karzai in their first visit to the country since a new coalition government took power in London this month.


In an interview with The Times newspaper before arriving in Kabul, Fox made clear the visit would focus on speeding up the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan, and that no new troops would be deployed.

"We need to accept we are at the limit of numbers now and I would like the forces to come back as soon as possible," he was quoted as saying.

"We have to reset expectations and timelines.

"National security is the focus now. We are not a global policeman. We are not in Afghanistan for the sake of the education policy in a broken 13th-century country. We are there so the people of Britain and our global interests are not threatened," Fox said.
Another contributing factor is that the Afghanistan adventure is phenomenally unpopular in Britain, so a continued trip down the path in the Hindu Kush is politically suicidal, notwithstanding any "special relationship".

Clarke and Dawe Explain: The Euro

It's supposed to be jumor, but much like The Daily Show, these jesters from Oz offer trenchant analysis.

OK, Now We Know that He Was Insane

Blah, blah, blah!
We now have a report that George W. Bush told former Argentine President Néstor Kirchner that the Marshall Plan was a screwed up "Democrat plan", and that the real way to help the economy is to start a war for some reason or other:
KIRCHNER: I said that a solution for the problems right now, I told Bush, is a Marshall Plan. And he got angry. He said the Marshall Plan is a crazy idea of the Democrats. He said the best way to revitalize the economy is war. And that the United States has grown stronger with war.

STONE: War, he said that?

KIRCHNER: He said that. Those were his exact words.

STONE: Is he suggesting that South America go to war?

KIRCHNER: Well, he was talking about the United States: ‘The Democrats had been wrong. All of the economic growth of the United States has been encouraged by wars.’ He said it very clearly.
(emphasis original)

This is why we cannot afford to have a military that is so overwhelming that we can invade any non-nuclear power on earth without a 2nd thought.

It's like giving an 11 year kid with ADHD a loaded gun, and, if anything, the Sarah Palin/Teabagger wing of the Republican Party is even more delusional than Bush/Cheney.

It is inevitable that the minority party will eventually win, and when they do, these will be seriously disturbed people with a world view that could destroy the nation and the world.

Continuing to maintain a tool, and extending it with something like the "invasion in a box" Sea Basing concepts that are in development is a clear and present danger.

Top Kill Fail

So the blow out, and the resultant oil spill, continues unabated.

But BP needs to be in charge, because they know what to do to fix this.

Hemlines Come Way Down, Stock Market to Follow

The latest from the Paris fashion scene
The New York Times reports that hemlines are falling this season, by a LOT, and Calculated Risk reminds us that, "in 1926, economist George Taylor suggested the "Hemline Index"; he observed that hemlines moved with stock prices".

We are completely screwed.

More after break:

Another Navy Ship Building Program Has its Cost Soar

The CBO looks SSBN(X), the successor to the Trident boats, and estimates that the cost will increase from $7.2 billion to $8.2 each:
The Congressional Budget Office is out with a new estimate of the Navy’s latest 30-year shipbuilding plan, issued in February. While that new plan reduces the total number of ships purchased between 2011 and 2040, and thus shipbuilding costs, CBO says the annual price tag is still much higher than the total shipbuilding funds the Navy has received in recent years.

The Navy’s new plan calls for buying 276 ships between now and 2040; the previous 30 year plan called for 296 new ships. Still, with the annual shipbuilding budget at around $15 billion (the average for the past three decades), the Navy can’t afford to buy all of those ships, CBO said.
We need to start with cost targets as the most important driving requirement for defense procurement programs, followed by schedule, and any other issues must be secondary, or this sort of cost creep will continue ad infinitum.

The GCV Looks Like the Troubled Child of FCS

Click for full size
Yes, I know that this is a 1/24 plastic model
When the Future Combat System was canceled, it was done for cost growth, schedule slips, and concerns about a number of the technologies.

The army still feels that it needs a vehicle to succeed its Bradley, and so we now have the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV).

Well, the military has begun the source selection process.

Here's the kicker, they are expecting it to weigh 50 tons, as versus the 30-35T of the current Bradley.

There are some improvements, most notably the ability to carry a full 9 person infantry squad, but you could do that with the Bradley if you were to retrofit a remotely operated turret, as the current turret takes up about 1/3 of the usable internal space, you could fid a full squad.

With weight comes cost, fuel consumption, and, in the long run, fewer vehicles.

What's more, it appears that the 50 ton IFV is actually a 70 ton IFV:
Two days before industry proposals were due, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army, provided new details about the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) program, saying the new vehicle could weigh up to 70 tons, but only if the threat environment required it.

"We're looking at a vehicle that ranges in weight between 50 and 70 tons," Chiarelli said May 19 at the Army's armor conference.
What he is suggesting is that in a high threat environment, and we know now that this means IEDs, not enemy tanks, you would bolt on armor to improve the survivability of the platform.

This is complete and utter bullsh%$.

If you add 20 tons to a 50 ton vehicle, it means that you have to size the propulsion, transmission, fuel stowage, etc. to accommodate that weight, which means that your 50T vehicle is going to get even heaver.

Otherwise, the vehicle at 70T will have the mobility of a motorized wheel chair.

Just go and fit the Bradley with the CTI 40mm remotely operated turret, and use advantages in non-metallic armor to improve the survivability.

You will probably end up at around 40T, so there would need to be a bit of an upgrade to the engine and suspension, but you will still save at least half the cost.

Once again, the US Army is well into a development death spiral.

X-51 Video Pr0n

Well, the USAF has finally launched the X-51A Waverider to much self-congratulation, claiming it to be the first Mach 6 air breathing aircraft demonstration.

The thing is, it wasn't for two reasons, the Australians got to Mach 10 on their tests at the Woomera range, and the test was a failure, with the engine appearing to flame out at Mach 5.

X-51 hypersonic scramjet test: Flameout at Mach 5? • The Register:
The X-51A didn't fulfil that potential yesterday, however. Having lit up it burned for around 200 seconds, reaching approximately Mach 5 and climbing to 70,000 feet. According to a statement issued by Boeing (whose Phantom Works plant built the Waverider):
Something then occurred that caused the vehicle to lose acceleration. At that point, the X-51A was terminated as planned.
It's possible to speculate that the flame in the Waverider's SJY61 scramjet, built by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, simply blew out. Project officials are still happy with the test, and seem confident that they will be able to achieve the designed speed before running out of test craft - there are three more.
This may actually be more significant that the folks at the USAF/DARPA are letting on.

The real intended breakthrough for the X-51A was that, unlike the Woomera tests, it used a hydrocarbon fuel, it started on ethylene and switched to JP-7, rather than the hydrogen used in earlier tests.

If there are problems sustaining combustion with hydrocarbon fuels, this could be something that slows down the program a lot.

In either case, here is some video Pr0n.

Actual Launch Video

Computer Animation

28 May 2010

This is Amazing

Amazing, The Raven
10 Years ago, if you wanted to come even close to approaching something like this, you would have a team of hundereds, and a budget for a 6 minute short of something north of a million.

If you go to the film-makers channel, they have a "behind the scenes" video, and there are a remarkably small number of people doing this.

I see a fairly large number of computer controlled cameras, including variants/clones of the Stedicam, so it's more than just CGI.

The ability to use computer controlled stabilized cameras means that you can setup and shoot scenes in an afternoon that would have taken weeks in the past.

According to one source, it was shot on a $5000 budget, which would have been impossible with conventional, non computer controlled cameras.

It reminds me of some of the work I do with castings, where tooling for a complex casting now costs less than $50K, while 15 years ago, in would cost something north of $½ million.

That being said, this is a great short, but I would be very dubious of it being any more enjoyable as a full length movie.

I think that adding character development and exposition would likely weaken the impact.

Fitch Downgrades Spain's Sovereign Debt

They downgraded Spain from AAA to AA+.

This means quite a lot to Spain, as it will have to pay more interest on it's debt, despite the fact that one of the lessons of the financial meltdown is that the ratings agencies are full of it.

Nice racket.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. Bank of Florida - Southeast, Fort Lauderdale, FL
  2. Bank of Florida - Southwest, Naples, FL
  3. Bank of Florida - Tampa, Tampa, FL
  4. Granite Community Bank, NA, Granite, CA
  5. Sun West Bank, Las Vegas, NV
Full FDIC list

I would assume that these banks of Florida are all affiliated, but it's still another 4 a 5 bank week.

(Sun West came in late, so I have updated)

So, here is the graph pr0n with trendline (FDIC only):

About Fracking Time

Australia is suing Japan in the International Court of Justice over their whaling:
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia said Friday it will challenge Japan's whale hunting in the Antarctic at the International Court of Justice, a major legal escalation in its campaign to ban the practice despite Tokyo's insistence on the right to so-called scientific whaling.
My guess is that they will argue that Japan's "research" is a fig leaf for a commercial activity.

The Australians are right, of course.

You Know, When a Republican Plagiarizes Barack Hussein Obama

He loses the primary, even when his opponent is a Puerto Rican by birth, which, in the Republican party makes him a despised minority:
State Rep. Raul Labrador handily defeated Vaughn Ward 48%-39% in Tuesday’s Idaho primary, and will go on to challenge Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick this November.

Ward, the establishment favorite, had a six-to-one money advantage over Labrador, and had a heavy television presence while Labrador ran only radio spots. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin also campaigned for Ward in the closing days of the race.
(emphasis mine)

And I really love the fact that another of Sister Sarah's anointed got pasted.


Ward also faced plagiarism allegations on his campaign Web site and in his speeches. Politico reported that Ward’s kick-off campaign speech in January closely mirrored that of President Barack Obama’s 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention.

He was also dinged by the Pentagon for appearing in uniform in a campaign ad, and was forced to take down the ad.
Truth be told, I'm not sure if Palin would have endorsed Ward but for the fact that his opponent was Hispanic.

There have been enough reports of Sarah Palin's disdain for minorities, particularly Alaskan Eskimos and Indians to make one wonder about how she feels about non-whites.

Still, heh.

Deep Thought

If Goldman Sachs is seeking a 9 figure settlement with the SEC, reports are $250 million, then they really should paying at least a 12 figure settlement.

Well, Obama is In a Conundrum

The Defense appropriations bill that recently passed the Senate has a (sort of) repeal of the discriminatory Don't Ask Don't Tell law.

It also has funding for the F136 alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which the White House opposes, so now the Pentagon staff is throwing around a veto threat on this issue:
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program: The Administration strongly objects to provisions of the bill which could limit the procurement of the 42 aircraft requested in the President’s FY 2011 Budget. The onerous restrictions impose unacceptable schedule and budget risks on the JSF program. While the Department believes the restructured development schedule is achievable, failure to achieve any one of the criteria would affect the procurement decision with significant impact on unit cost, production ramp, and TACAIR force structure. The Department’s F-35 procurement request is in line with independent manufacturing studies, risk review recommendations, and the FY11 request reflects an optimized production. If the final bill presented to the President contains provisions that would seriously disrupt the F-35 program, the President’s senior advisors would recommend a veto.
(emphasis original)

If Obama is looking for an excuse to kill DADT because of cowardice, this would be it.

If Obama really wants to repeal DADT this year, than he has a decision to make.

So, which is it, the lady or the tiger?

Warren Buffett Subpoenaed

He was invited to speak before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, and politely declined, so now he has been subpoenaed to testify:
When Warren Buffett testifies before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission next Wednesday, it will be because he was subpoenaed. If you don't know how a subpoena works, this one begins with capital letters, "YOU ARE HEREBY COMMANDED to appear and give testimony."

As Buffett characterizes it, "This is an offer you can't refuse."


But ah, it was. Buffett could by then see the likely end of this argument. But he was also determined to stick to his belief that the "private interview," followed by hearings, would neither be beneficial to anyone nor a good use of his time. So Buffett told Cohen in a phone call that he would not be volunteering to testify -- and if that meant a subpoena was in the cards, let it happen.

The subpoena -- that command in capital letters -- came on May 25. But the continuing, urgent wish of the commission to avoid coercion was contained in an accompanying letter, also dated May 25, that "respectfully" requested Buffett's testimony at a hearing on June 2 in New York City.
My guess is that the net effect here is that the board won't get its private interview, and so won't know what he intends to say until he testifies in public, which might make for some good theater.

On a more salient legal note, now that Buffet has been compelled to testify, he can say anything, and not be held liable for those statements, since it is compelled testimony, which might make it even better theater.

Personally, I think that Buffet should bring the Geico Gecko with him. (Buffet owns Geico)

Economics Update (Friday Morning Edition)

Click for full size
Home sales up, but prices are down

And inventory is rising again
Yes, I know, I haven't been posting this regularly.

Yesterday's miss was due to thunderstorms.

In any case, yesterday was jobless Thursday, and initial unemployment claims fell slightly, by 16,000 to 460,000, which was worse than expected, with the 4 week moving average rising slightly, and continuing claims fell, though, as I frequently note, people who move from continuing claims to emergency claims fall out of that number.

We also now know that mass layoffs rose in April.

additionally, we are seeing more of that whole "paradox of thrift" thing, with personal income rising, but spending remaining flat, which implies that an increase in consumers buying crap that they really don't need won't be our economic salvation.

Also note that the US GDP in the 1st quarter was revised downward, to an annual growth rate of 3% from 3.2%.

I think that he Obama's already anemic stimulus package is running out of steam.

In real estate, the flight from the Euro has pushed the 30-year fixed mortgage rate to a record low, which, along with the recently expired home buyer tax credit, drove existing home sales higher, though inventories are increasing as well, and prices are falling once again, which implies that a resurgence in the housing bubble won't be our economic salvation..

In terms of more general metrics, the consumer confidence index rose slightly, as did the Chicago Fed Activity Index, and the Chicago Fed Midwest Manufacturing Index.

I just wish that the PTB were as concerned about 9.9% unemployment as they are about a twitch in the DJIA that ran for about an hour.

Just F%$#ing Marvelous

It looks like my extended unemployment benefits , as well as those of a few million wanting-to-be-working Americans, will expire as Congress rushes out the door to take their vacation recess:
The House of Representatives Friday was to vote on a reduced package of safety-net spending and tax measures that would raise taxes on fund managers, but it likely was too late to avoid disrupting jobless benefits for hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Democrats, who say the bill would lower the country's 9.9 percent unemployment rate, had hoped it would clear Congress this week to ensure that jobless benefits and other safety-net provisions do not expire. But the Senate was set to leave town for a week-long break without taking action.

As a result, hundreds of thousands of jobless Americans will probably lose the weekly payments that help them cover their bills as they look for work in a sluggish economy.

Congressional wrangling has delayed such benefits at least four times in the past year. Democrats say they will restore the benefits when they return in early June.
To whoever is slow walking this, and to whoever is letting them slow walk this, "Go Cheney Yourself."

27 May 2010

Its a Death Trap, It's a Suicide Rap

Rupert Murdoch has decided that Times of London and the Sunday Times will go behind a pay-wall.

I generally think that this is a bad idea since:
  • People haven't paid for content from news publications for over a century, it's been advertising supported, with the cover/subscription price covering only a portion of the actual cost of printing.
  • Putting general interest content behind a firewall tends to remove it from the Internet consciousness, which drives subscriptions and ad revenue down. (See the New York Times' abortive attempt with their OP/EDs)
That being said, I think that Murdoch's plans go way beyond a simple pay-wall, and straight into crazy town, because, as the New York Post, a Murdoch publication that I would like to see vanish into pay-wall obscurity notes, observes, the Times of London won't just be going behind a pay-wall, they will also lock out the search engines almost completely:
The UK's Times and Sunday Times are putting up search walls in addition to pay walls.

The papers, which plan to start charging users for access to their newly redesigned Web sites in late June, will prevent Google and other search engines from linking to their stories.

Although they are not the first papers to erect pay barriers around their content, the papers are going a step further by making most of their site invisible to Google's Web crawler. Except for their homepages, no stories will show up on Google.

The papers are betting that loyal readers will covet access to scarce content. Critics say the move will make it tougher to attract new readers who discover content by searching the Web.
This isn't just a misbegotten business plan, it's an attempt to force payment for links, and it ain't gonna work, at least not unless Murdoch can convince various legislatures to make linking illegal, a course of action that I find profoundly unlikely, since it essentially bans the web.

I Went and Done It

For about the past 15 months, I've had a beard, closely cropped when I get a haircut, rather more rustic in between.

Well, I've decided to shave it off. Hopefully, it makes me look a bit younger.

26 May 2010

Once Again, the White House Does the Right Thing, When Forced To……

And then they weaken it significantly.

In this case, the White House is now behind repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell this year, because it's clear that it's going to hit the floor of the House, and probably the Senate, and while they have been fighting against this behind the scenes, Obama and His Minions don't want to fight against this in public.

The thing is, in order to get Obama's tepid support, they have created a repeal of DADT that does not repeal DADT:
Discussions around what that repeal measure would include were ongoing as Levin continued to lobby his colleagues. But a couple concessions designed to pacify Gates were being considered: allowing the Pentagon to complete its study before implementation proceeded and potentially requiring a stamp of approval (e.g. a certification letter) from military leadership and/or the president.

But by the time repeal advocates were invited to the White House on Monday morning to be briefed on a new compromise, a third concession had been added. There would be no nondiscrimination mandate. In other words, even after the law is repealed, it will not be replaced at any point with a policy that explicitly states gays and lesbians are allowed to serve openly in the military.
So, the repeal of DADT is just putting the policy back in the hands of Barack Obama, who will doubtless delegate to Robert Gates, who appears to be the most hostile person to gays serving currently working in the Pentagon.

Not feeling hopey changey.

Why Senior Management at BP's Should Be In a Deep Dark Hole

Click for full size
The Crime Scene
Hours before the Deepwater Horizon exploded, representatives of Slumberger*, who had been called in to perform a "Cement Bond Log (CBL) " test.

Slumberger, much like Halliburton, is primarily an oil services firm, though it's rep is as the Cadillac of the service companies, and is, unlike Halliburton, considered to be highly ethical.

Well, they were getting ready to run the test, about 6 hours before the blowout and explosion, and they look at the numbers, and say shut down the operation now, and when the BP management says, "no", they ask to be flown off, and BP refuses, so they call in a Slumberger helicopter to get the hell out of dodge:
BP contracted Schlumberger (SLB) to run the Cement Bond Log (CBL) test that was the final test on the plug that was skipped. The people testifying have been very coy about mentioning this, and you’ll see why.

SLB is an extremely highly regarded (and incredibly expensive) service company. They place a high standard on safety and train their workers to shut down unsafe operations.

SLB gets out to the Deepwater Horizon to run the CBL, and they find the well still kicking heavily, which it should not be that late in the operation. SLB orders the “company man” (BP’s man on the scene that runs the operation) to dump kill fluid down the well and shut-in the well. The company man refuses. SLB in the very next sentence asks for a helo to take all SLB personel back to shore. The company man says there are no more helo’s scheduled for the rest of the week (translation: you’re here to do a job, now do it). SLB gets on the horn to shore, calls SLB’s corporate HQ, and gets a helo flown out there at SLB’s expense and takes all SLB personel to shore.

6 hours later, the platform explodes.
Note that we do have confirmation that this cement bond log test was never conducted:
BP hired a top oilfield service company to test the strength of cement linings on the Deepwater Horizon's well, but sent the firm's workers home 11 hours before the rig exploded April 20 without performing a final check that a top cementing company executive called "the only test that can really determine the actual effectiveness" of the well's seal.

A spokesman for the testing firm, Schlumberger, said BP had a Schlumberger team and equipment for sending acoustic testing lines down the well "on standby" from April 18 to April 20. But BP never asked the Schlumberger crew to perform the acoustic test and sent its members back to Louisiana on a regularly scheduled helicopter flight at 11 a.m., Schlumberger spokesman Stephen T. Harris said.


Schlumberger's Harris said the contractor was ready to do any such wireline tests, but was never directed to do so. The team had finished doing tests on the subsea layers of earth being drilled five days earlier and hadn't done any work since, Harris said.

In fact, Harris said there was no time to get the company's wireline testing equipment off the rig before it exploded.
So BP's side of the story is that they hired the most expensive, top of the line, oil field services company out there to run a test, and never bothered to let them complete what they had paid for, and the time line is a bit different.

But what is clear is that Slumberger left, and they left their very expensive equipment in their haste to get off the platform, because they saw a disaster coming, and they could not stop it.

H/t Thom Hartmann.

*Full disclosure, one of my step-mother's oldest and dearest friends was a Slumberger, yes, one of those Slumbergers.
Basically, as they drill a well, they add fluid (mud) to balance the pressure so that it does not erupt out of the well head. When a well is "kicking", it means that the pressure is not properly balanced and the oil/gas/water is blowing out the mud. See the Wiki.

25 May 2010

I Need Help With a Prank

Renovation of the door is called for
I need a group of people who know how to handle themselves around tools, and can look like they know what they are doing.

What I am planning to do is generate a false work order and then install revolving doors at RNC headquarters:
The departures began in earnest about two months ago, shortly after reports of the RNC spending nearly $2,000 in donor money at a nightclub called Voyeur West Hollywood, an establishment where "impromptu bondage and S&M 'scenes'" are "played out on an elevated platform by scantily clad performers throughout the night."

The heads have been rolling ever since, even in departments that had nothing to do with the controversy.

It's been tough to keep track of the staff shake-ups. The party's finance chief and deputy finance director were recently forced out, as were three members of the RNC's communications team. Those announcements came on the heels of departures from the party's chief of staff, a top RNC strategist, and Alex Castellanos, who was brought on to help shape the party's message. All of this has unfolded since late March.

The party may want to consider revolving doors at RNC headquarters.
Well, I saw that bit of snark, and decided that it's time to make it reality.

I want a crack team to go there, show up with a work order, and install an actual revolving door.

Yes, I am really serious here, or, at least I think I am.

Hey kids, let's put on a show in dad's barn with mom's costumes!

My guess is that we will get caught, and likely arrested, but if anyone knows a producer for The Daily Show, we can probably get on that.

One of the Reasons that I Read WallStreetJackass

Because he finds things like this.


Credit Where Credit is Due

The White House has come out against letting auto dealers cheat their customers.

To quote the first few 'graphs of the official statement:
Later this afternoon, the Senate will vote on a motion to instruct conferees on the Brownback Amendment. That basically means members of the Senate will cast a nonbinding vote on whether or not they think the House and Senate conferees should consider carving out a loophole for auto dealers that make auto loans from the financial reform bill.

The President has been clear on this issue, repeatedly urging members of the Senate to fight efforts of the special interests and their lobbyists to weaken consumer protections. The fact is, auto dealer-lending is an $850 billion industry, which is larger than the entire credit card industry and they make nearly 80 percent of the automobile loans in our country.

Is there any question that these lenders should be subject to the same standards as any local or community bank that provides loans?
This is the right thing to do.

Hoisted from the comments

In a discussion of raising marginal tax rates, reader DJ wrote:
Interestingly enough, raising taxes on the rich does not result in prosperity either, it only serves to drive the economic activity out of the country derived from the holdings of the rich. The 90% tax rate in the depression only served to drive milliona[i]res out of the country.
Note here, that on the basis of his comments, DJ knows what he's talking about and has a good grasp of the facts.

The fact that he made this comment is an indication of the truth of the old Mark Twain quote, "A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."

DJ has assumed that self serving statements from people who don't want their taxes raised actually have a basis in reality.

The myth that rich people did, and will again, "go Gault," is just that, a myth.

First, and most importantly, the 90+% tax rate was not implemented until 1944-1945 (and then again in 1951-63, not times of slow GDP growth).

Second, there is no evidence that millionaire's fled the country during the depression. The case is generally made that the recession of 1937 was caused by this, but only by people like Amity Shlaes (who is not to be trusted, see below) in her execrable book The Forgotten Man.

They suggest that because Roosevelt pursued tax evaders, it triggered the recession of 1937, because they went "Gault" and withdrew their money from the economy and put it in their mattresses.

Of course, the fact that neither Keynes, who blamed the tightening of fiscal policy by the government (which did include a tax hike) nor Friedman who blamed the tightening of monetary policy by the Fed, viewed this argument with anything but scorn, and this is the alpha to omega of honest economic thought.

Additionally, in order for people to flee the US income tax (after the first $91,400) you have to renounce your citizenship, which also precludes the ability to make campaign donations, which makes the regulatory arbitrage that generates this income, particularly in finance, which is where most of the tax rates increase would fall.

Essentially, if they leave the country and renounce their citizenship, the government guaranteed infinite ATM that they have goes away, because the Congress will no longer feel compelled to do their bidding.

I would also note that while the top 1% of earners account for 23.5% of income (2007), they account for less than 20% of spending (2008, they do quintiles, so it's an approximation, and I don't want to tease it out any further), so a dollar going to a rich pig is much less stimulative than a dollar going to a dollar going to someone in the bottom 4/5 of the population.

There is a legitimate question as to whether or not we should raise taxes on the rich today because we are still in a depressed economy, though I favor it.

That being said, many of our long-term structural problems come from the fact that income distribution is increasingly unequal, and the the use of high marginal tax rates is one of the best ways to change this.

I would also note that if the "geniuses" at Lehman, Bear Stearns, and Citi withhold their ideas for "financial innovation" as a result, we are all the better for that.

As to Amity Shlaes, who is typical of the people supporting the "going Gault" hypothesis, and arguably one of the most prominent proponents:
  • She has no background in economics (degree in English)
  • She is in idiot who lets her ideology dictate the facts (she was fired by the Financial Times for repeatedly submitting stories about the heroism and competence of Bush and His Evil Minions during Katrina).
  • In order for her to justify her conclusions about 1937, she states as fact things that are unequivocally false.

My Apologies to Roger Parloff

When I suggested that he link to the article in question, he had already linked to the article in question.

I missed it.

I am a complete pratt.

24 May 2010

Anti-Vacc Fraud Doc Gets Medical License Pulled

The General Medical Council, the physicians' regulatory body in the UK, has revoked the medical licens(c)e of Andrew Wakefield and his colleague John Walker-Smith, though the 3rd participant in the study, was exhonerated when it was determined that he stopped doing tests when he determined that they were unethical.

The first two "doctors" subjected children to excruciating tests like lumbar puncture without any review from ethics committees,

For a devastating cartoon version of the facts, which details how Wakefield did this because he was bought and paid for, see here.

Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that he will get what he really deserves, which is a very long time in gaol.

Earlier posts on the subject.

Speaking of Series Finalies

My wife is watching the last episode of 24 as I type this.

I consider it to be poorly written torture and espionage porn, though it is well directed, its pacing reminds me of the first Taking of Pelham 123 movie with Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw, which is high praise from me.

Still, I don't watch it, after about 5 minutes, I find myself numb.

Apologies to Declan McCullagh

In an earlier post, regarding an article where a quote:
"Don't be silly," McLaughlin responds. "No one's backed away from anything. . . . Isn't . . . the author of the article, an anti [net neutrality] zealot?"
I put 2 and 2 together, and got 5. I said that it was clearly CNET reporter Declan McCullagh.

Well, it was not Mr. McCullagh.

It was someone else, and here is (my best guess) his article.

It sounded as if was something that came from Mr. McCullagh, who is a somewhat-saner-than-Rand-Paul libertarian, but I was wrong.

I had an exchange with the author, Roger Parloff, who told me who the author was, and that he felt that naming the author would require space for a response, which would have crowded out other information in an article with a limited length.

Perhaps the solution here is for online articles from dead tree publications, Fortune Magazine in this case, would be better served by providing links under such circumstances.

It's bloggy, but I've always been a fan of hyperlinks, or their old school predecessor, the footnote.

In any case, I was wrong, and I apologize to my reader(s) and Mr. McCullagh.

Deep Thought

I never watched, nor was interested in watching, the television show Lost.

I don't know what happened, but I have read that some fanboi (and fangrrl) have been profoundly disappointed.

I feel some schadenfreude at all the fans who were disappointed by the series finale.

I guess that makes me a bad person.

It's Official: Andrew Cuomo to Run for New York Governor

Not a surprise, and he is clearly the front-runner, since Republicans like George Patacki, who could at least pretend to be sane, can no longer make it through the primary process in the Republican Party in New York State.

23 May 2010

Not Sure What this Means

Or if it means anything, but a Republican candidate, Charles Djou,won the special election in Hawaii's 1st district, largely because it was winner take all election, and two Democrats split the vote:
In Hawaii, Djou received 67,610 votes, or 39.4 percent. He was trailed by Hanabusa, who received 52,802 votes, or 30.8 percent. Case received 47,391 votes, or 27.6 percent.
I would add to this the fact that Djou courted the teabaggers, and it increasingly looks like those folks have run out their string, and people are realizing that there is an awful lot of racism at the bottom of that cesspool.

I find the election results in PA-12, John Murtha's old district, a week ago, where a Democrat won despite being behind in the polls a bit more indicative, but I am not an unbiased observer.

Nevada Banns Chicken Suits from Polling Places

The headline is actually rather more interesting than the story.

You see, like most states, Nevada bans electioneering within a certain distance, 100 feet in this case.

This applies to things like campaign T-shirts, buttons, etc.

Well, because of Republican front runner Sue Lowden's statements about bartering chickens for medical services, state elections officials have banned chicken costumes and chicken memorabilia from the "no electioneering" zone:
Nevada banned people wearing chicken costumes from polling places around the state on Friday.

The state election commission does not want the costumes or other poultry-related memorabilia to prevent mocking of Republican Senate candidate Sue Lowden, who wants to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D).
I approve of their decision. The presence of chicken related items is electioneering in this context, so their decision is correct in both the strict legal sense, and in the more general context.

Still, it's a weird hed, ain't it?

22 May 2010

Toward A Cleaner Internet

Watch the whole thing
Yes, this is what the cleen 'Net folks really want.


Lies Conservatives Give Us

Like the one that higher marginal tax rates stunts the economy and hurt the ordinary people.

Paul Krugman looks at the data, and notices that median family income stalled out once we started cutting the top tax rate:
You can see why: the facts are embarrassing. Here’s a rough-cut version. The blue line, left scale, shows median family income in 2008 dollars; the red line, right scale, shows the top marginal tax rate, a rough indicator of the overall stance of policy. Basically, US postwar economic history falls into two parts: an era of high taxes on the rich and extensive regulation, during which living standards experienced extraordinary growth; and an era of low taxes on the rich and deregulation, during which living standards for most Americans rose fitfully at best.
I would also add that the flattening of income growth also happened as more and more of these families became two earner families.

So the addition of the 2nd earner also masked a very real drop in wages of ordinary people.

We want the marginal rate back above 75, and we want the lower taxes on unearned income, capital gains and dividends, to be reversed.

Money does not trickle down, it bubbles up, and money that goes to paying billions to hedge fund managers and other criminals is money that is taken from ordinary families who play by the rules and work for a living.

Dutch Hammer First Nail in JSF Coffin

The Dutch Parliament has voted to cancel its procurement of the F-35 Lightning II JSF (also here):
Proposal 1 (SP):
The government not be permitted to contract any new obligations with the JSF program

Proposal 2 (Labour)
Cancelling the contract for the First LRIP3 test aircraft and get the money back from the US for the long lead items. Not buying/ signing contract for the Second LRIP4 test aircraft. Cancelling the participation in the MOU-IOT&E (Initial Operational Test and Evaluation)

Proposal 3 (Green Left)
Because the Evaluations of the F16 replacement in 2002 and in 2008 were based on wrong estimates and unreliable data, there needs to be a new evaluation done with new RFPs (Requests for Proposal).

All three proposals were approved by the Netherlands Parliament.
The Dutch were perhaps the heavily involved nation after the British on this program, and the fact that these motions passed, at least passed a 1st reading is telling.

This happened because the MPs believe that they program is late and over budget to such a degree that any program of offsets or technology transfer does not matter because the cost and schedule issues puts them in a situation with a hollow force that they cannot afford to actually operate the aircraft, or, for that matter, their military.

They understand the budget requirements of the Euro zone, and they realize that they are not willing to cut their social safety net, among the most generous in Europe, to support mindless wasteful military spending.

This is Not the Onion

The Staten Island Republican Executive Committee has backed drunk-driving bigamist and former Congressman Vito Fossella to run again for in the 13th district. (see also here)

The County committee still has the final call on this, but he is now the front runner.

If The Daily Show ain't on this like white on rice, Then they are way off their game.

Can We Please Give Texas Back to Mexico?

The Texas Board of Education has adopted standards rehabilitating Joe McCarthy, attacking the establishment clause of the 1st amendment, mandating coverage of Phyllis Schlafly, etc.

If I were a on the board of any major university, I would reject the judgment of accreditation body which gave their stamp of approval to any school system adhering to these "standards".

More, "Looking Forward, Not Backward," from the Obama DoJ

There will be no criminal prosecutions of the people who created the clusterf%$# that took down AIG:
Federal prosecutors will not bring criminal charges against current and former American International Group Inc. executives for their role surrounding financial contracts that nearly brought down the insurer about two years ago, according to people familiar with the matter.

The decision brings to a close a criminal investigation that, while mostly under wraps, was widely followed. The September 2008 bailout of AIG was one of the biggest and most shocking of the financial crisis, as trading by a noninsurance unit brought down one of the most iconic financial companies world-wide.

The probe focused on Joseph Cassano, who headed a London-based unit of AIG called Financial Products, people familiar with the matter have said. Other executives at the unit, Andrew Forster and Tom Athan, also were targets of the investigation, these people said.
Seriously, at this point, we should be referring anything with the slightest possibility of conviction to a grand jury for indictment.

Anything else encourages more wrongdoing by the Wall Street boys, much in the same way that Obama's policy of not prosecuting torturer, but pursuing the whistle-blowers encouraging more torture.

I Suppose that this Was Inevitable

Could it be ………… Satan?
GameStation, a UK video games retailer, has entered the final frontier of click-through licensing, it has added ownership of users immortal souls as one of the conditions of the agreement:
Popular UK video games retail company GameStation has claimed that the retailer legally owns the 'immortal souls' of thousands of online shoppers thanks to a clause in the 'Terms and Conditions' documents, which, sadly most customers don't read before purchasing an item online.

GameStation reported that, as a part of the April Fool's day gag, the retailer changed the online 'Terms and Conditions' form and added the so-called 'Immortal Soul' clause, which read that “By placing an order via this web site on the first day of the fourth month of the year 2010 Anno Domini, you agree to grant us a non transferable option to claim, for now and for ever more, your immortal soul.”
Unsurprisingly, very few people notices, and very few opted out of this requirement:
GameStation also offered customers a chance to reclaim their souls by clicking on the 'opt out' button at the end of the document.

However, out of the 8500 customers that visited the retail site on that day, only 12 percent of them managed to read the 'Immortal Soul' clause and swiftly saved their souls from damnation by opting out.
I think that it is clear that to the degree that Satan exists in the manner of Zoroastrian/Christian concept,* he is kicking himself for not having come up with this earlier.

*The idea of Satan being an entity in direct opposition to God is largely a Zoroastrian concept, which was adopted by Christianity. In Judaism, Satan is a title which means adversary, though perhaps a better translation is prosecutor, and is more the inclination to do evil than the guy with the horns and tail.

Remember the Laptop Spycam Cased in Lower Merion, PA

I've been kind of remiss in all of this, but the final analysis is that someone working at the Lower Merion school district) there took thousands of pictures of minors without any justification. (Background here)

Basically, the school supplied laptops took thousands of pictures of children to whom the computers were assigned, including some that involved children in a state of partial undress, and the school district's information systems coordinator took the 5th when questioned.

As always, there are emails:
Back at district offices, the Robbins motion says, employees with access to the images marveled at the tracking software. It was like a window into "a little LMSD soap opera," a staffer is quoted as saying in an e-mail to Carol Cafiero, the administrator running the program.

"I know, I love it," she is quoted as having replied.
What's more, the behavior is so egregious that the school district's insurer is balking at covering legal fees:
A New York insurer that issued a $1 million liability policy to the Lower Merion School District is balking at the school board's request that it cover any legal costs and payments associated with the civil rights lawsuit challenging the district's secret laptop tracking program.

In a suit filed in federal district court in Philadelphia, Graphic Arts Mutual Insurance Company contends that none of the seven claims made by Harriton High School sophomore Blake Robbins in his invasion of privacy lawsuit amount to "personal injury" as defined in the coverage that the district bought last year.
So, a vice principal got a copy of some of the pictures, of a kid eating Mike & Ikes candy, which she thought were drugs, the school district scrambled to buy insurance, and the behavior seems to have been egregious enough that the insurer is claiming, albeit indirectly, that the Lower Merion SD's claim is fraud.

This is pretty much what an independent investigation of this cluster f%$# determined too.

What is abundantly clear is that the taking of these pictures constituted an invasion of privacy, that there was a reasonable expectation that this created what is technically child porn, and that a significant number of school staff, both in and out of the Information Systems department, knew that this was going on.

No prosecutions yet, but there should be.

Yet Another Service Sabotaging Itself

In this case, it's the Marine Corps, which is slipping the date of the 1st flight of its CH-53K heavy lift helo by 2 years for no apparent reason:
The first flight of the U.S. Marine Corps’ heavy lifter CH-53K helicopter has slipped two years to 2013, while its initial operational capability (IOC) has slid three years to 2018, officials have confirmed to AVIATION WEEK.

The date slips come as no surprise to the Marines and the CH-53K program office at Naval Air Systems Command (Navair). In January 2009, program manager Capt. Rick Muldoon submitted a Program Deviation Report for the aircraft’s critical design review (CDR) to the Pentagon acquisition headquarters. The CDR is now slated for September, representing a year’s delay.
There is no indication of technical problems or of development issues that would justify this.

So, why is this happening?

It appears that it is happening because the helo largely meets or exceeds the payload and range capabilities, though not the speed, of the V-22 Osprey and as such, it is a threat to Marine Corps procurement plans for the tilt rotor and foreign sales:
Why slow the program? When delivered, the new fly-by-wire CH-53K will, in theory, transport 27,000 pounds of external cargo out to a range of 110 nautical miles, nearly tripling the thirty-year old CH-53E’s lift capability under similar environmental conditions–all while fitting under the same shipboard footprint.

The CH-53K will also provide unparalleled lift under high and hot conditions while maintainability and reliability enhancements to the CH-53K will decrease recurring operating costs over the current CH-53E (the CH-53K aims at a more reasonable $10,000 dollars per flight hour while the CH-53E costs twice that). Survivability and force protection enhancements will also increase protection dramatically, for both aircrew and passengers. What’s not to like?

The CH-53K was an unsung showpiece for those preaching the virtues of incremental development, and, as a result, appetite for the platform has grown by about 30 percent, with the program of record expected to increase from156 aircraft to 200.

But, in the process, the CH-53K has become something of a MV-22-killer. Is this the problem?
Ummm ……… Yes?
The CH-53K is steadily eating away at the V-22 Osprey market. In late 2009, the Marine Corps decided to go with the CH-53Ks to replace their 40-year old CH-53D fleet (MV-22 Ospreys were originally slated to replace the CH-53D). At about the same time, Israel decided to forego the Osprey for the CH-53K, killing the Osprey’s best hope of snaring an international buyer. And with the Osprey 65% availability and the MV-22s high operating costs of about $11,000 dollars an hour, the CH-53K posed a serious threat to the MV-22 program.

Even worse, studies from the Pentagon demonstrated that a CH-53K-equipped big-deck amphib provided a lot more logistical support for embarked Marines than the MV-22, suggesting the mix of embarked MV-22s and CH-53Ks needed tweaking (and possibly fewer MV-22s).
(emphasis mine)

Much in the same way that the USAF is scrambling to retire legacy F-16s and F-15s so as to make the F-35 JSF a dire need, the Marine Corps is slow walking the CH-53K in an attempt to protect their orders, and possibly encourage foreign orders, for the ruinously expensive Osprey.

The program is being delayed because it is too successful.

This is what is wrong with defense procurement in the US Military in a nutshell.

21 May 2010

Blue Danube Cluck

I love the Muppets:

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. Pinehurst Bank, St. Paul, MN
Full FDIC list

So it appears that the rapid pace of closures may be moderating somewhat.

And here are the credit union closings:
  1. Convent Federal Credit Union, New York, NY
Note that this credit union has nothing to do with Nuns, it was served members of the Convent Avenue Baptist Church.

It's a tiny institution, with fewer than 300 members.

Full NCUA list

So, here is the graph pr0n with trendline (FDIC only):

Good Politics, Good Policy

The Democrats in the New Jersey statehouse have passed a bill to raise income taxes on people earning more than $1 million a year, and predictably, the wingnut governor is promising a veto:
Lawmakers in New Jersey’s Democrat- controlled Assembly voted to raise income taxes on residents earning at least $1 million a year, as Republican Governor Chris Christie said he’d veto the bill.

The chamber passed the measure 46-32 in a vote that broke down along party lines. Of 33 Republicans, 32 voted no. The Senate approved the bill 23-17 along party lines, setting up a showdown with Christie, 47, as the deadline approaches to have a balanced budget in place when the fiscal year ends on June 30.

“We’ve got a lot of people who can’t afford to pay their taxes” and need the rebates that the measure may restore, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver said before the vote. “Six- hundred thousand older adults would be better off.”
So now you have the Democrats lining up against Goldman Sachs traders, who get paid obscene amounts to screw their clients and other counter-parties with the guarantee of taxpayer money should they fail.

The optics are perfect, and the policy of making the wealthy pay for the damage that they cause, which has the side effect of providing a less recessionary impact on the state economy, is just plain good policy.

This is a win-win, and Dems should jam up Republicans like this more often.

Words that I Never Thought That I Would Say (UK Edition)

God bless the Tories.

It appears that they will be doing a real investigation of the UK government's involvement with US Sponsored Torture:
A judge will investigate claims that British intelligence agencies were complicit in the torture of terror suspects, William Hague, the foreign secretary, said tonight.

The move was welcomed by civil liberties campaigners and may put pressure on the Labour leadership candidate and former foreign secretary David Miliband, who was accused by Hague, while in opposition, of having something to hide.
This is a far better policy than aiding and abetting the Bush/Cheney cover-up, "looking forward, and not back," which is espoused by Barack Obama and His Evil Minions.

Here's hoping that they uncover some of the misdeeds of Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Don Rumsfeld in the process.

Google's Screen for Today

And yes, this is an actual working Pacman game, in honor of its 30th anniversary.

Why I Read Joe Steffen's Blog

If you know nothing of Maryland Politics, you don't know who Joe Steffen is.

He's a Republican political operative, formerly Bob Ehrlich's aide, who is currently on the outs with the party, who is also known by his nickname, the "Prince of Darkness."

I think of him as Lee Atwater writ on a state wide basis.

That being said, he tends to be rather more chatty about the comings and goings of Republican party politics in the state (In fact, it was imprudent postings on a BBS that were traced back to him which got him fired by "Bad Hair Bob" some years back), and so, despite my profound disagreements with him on issues of policy, I read his blog and I hear a lot of good inside baseball.

Case in point, he outs Republican party stalwart David Nawrocki for sending campaign emails from his work account.

It seems like a minor thing, until you realize that Nawrocki works for the Social Security Administration, which makes his email a criminal violation of the Hatch act.


This is why I blogroll people and subscribe to their RSS feeds. It's not because I agree with them, but because they can teach me things.

Journalists Protecting Their Own

In an otherwise ordinary article about how former Googlers in the Obama White House continue to talk with current Googlers, we have the following exchange:
In January, for instance, Google's vice president and "chief Internet evangelist" Vint Cerf anxiously wrote to McLaughlin about the worsening chances for net neutrality -- the notion that Internet Service Providers should be barred from favoring their own content or from offering "fast-lane" services to premium-paying customers. "Has there been so much flack from the Hill that you guys feel a need to back away" from a commitment?, asked Cerf, attaching a CNET article by a well-credentialed business consultant who was advancing that thesis.

"Don't be silly," McLaughlin responds. "No one's backed away from anything. . . . Isn't . . . the author of the article, an anti [net neutrality] zealot?"

"Yes, he is," Cerf wrote. "Just wanted to confirm he's full of biased baloney."

"Absolutely," McLaughlin replied.
If you go through the article, you will never see that name of the journalist in question, Declan McCullagh, who was best described as a "Draw by crayon libertarian," by the inestimable Andrew Orlowski of The Register.

I deduce it from the Clues, "CNET," "anti [net neutrality] zealot," and "Biased Baloney," if you are familiar with McCullagh's oeuvre.

What is almost certain is that if the principals in this story were talking about a statement by a lawyer given to over-the-top statements, (Geoff Feiger, for example) you would have seen the name in the story.

It's not in this story, because it is seen as inappropriate for a journalist to call out another journalist by name, even in the context of a quote someone else.

This attitude is corrosive to journalism.

20 May 2010

On to Conference Committee

The Senate passes the Financial Reform Bill.

The banks must be relieved. If the bill had been delayed any further, it would have gotten tougher.

It was a Pizarro world bill in a good way.

Unfortunately, I don't see it getting any tougher in conference.

Another Shoe Drops on Blumenthal

The Stamford Advocate quotes him as saying, "I wore the uniform in Vietnam," which sounds particularly damning, though there is not video or audio tape at this time.

Seriously, the primary is in a few weeks, Connecticut Dems, time to switch horses.

It's more than just a misstatement or two, because saying things like this:
"I wore the uniform in Vietnam and many came back to all kinds of disrespect. Whatever we think of war, we owe the men and women of the armed forces our unconditional support."
Appears to be at the core of his public personae. It's his version of, "A noun, a verb, and 911." Every 3rd word out of his mouth is something like this, or like the largely apocryphal spitting stories, and as such this makes him seriously damaged goods.

If he does not lose the primary, he just got the state party endorsement, he will very likely lose the general.

H/t The Plum Line.

Lame, Even By Republican Standards

Will Bunch notices that Pennsylvania State Attorney General, and Republican nominee for governor, Tom Corbett, has issued subpoenas to determine who is making nasty tweets and blog posts about him:
Corbett's actions here look like one of the most stunning abuses of power I've seen in a while -- not just in Pennsylvania but anywhere.

A blog focused on exposing the alleged "hypocrisy" of Attorney General Tom Corbett and the Twitter account associated with that blog could soon be enjoying a bounce in reader interest, thanks to a subpoena ordered by Corbett's office earlier this month.

Corbett, who won a primary against Rep. Sam Rohrer Tuesday and will be the Republican nominee for governor in November, subpoenaed Twitter representatives to appear as grand jury witnesses to “testify and give evidence regarding alleged violations of the laws of Pennsylvania.''

The case could gain viral attention, since the subpoena calls into question the right to free speech, specifically from anonymous posters on the World Wide Web.
Maybe I'm missing some nuance here but at first blush it looks like the anonymous owners of these two Twitter accounts and blogs are doing nothing more than exercising their 1st Amendment rights of free speech to criticize Corbett's public actions. If Corbett believes that he has been libelled by any of the blog or Twitter posts, he is within his rights to personally sue them (a difficult case for him to win, as a public figure). But that is a far different thing from using the power of the state and the grand jury.
Bunch further updates with a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story, where a they imply that the blogger/bloggers are a defendant in a case, but in a quick reading of the blog, there is no mention of the case, just a litany of accounts of unethical behavior by Mr. Corbett.

This is clearly an attempt at retaliation against critics.

Economics Update

Click for full size
This is not an expanding home market
H/t Calculated Risk
Well, so much for green shoots, it's jobless Thursday, and new claims rose by 25K this week to 471,000, with the 4 week moving average rising by 3K to 453,500, though the continuing claims number fell by 40K to 4,630,000.

It should be noted that the continuing claims number does not count those on emergency UI, like yours truly.

Additionally, it should be noted that the Conference Board's Index of Leading Economic Indicators posted its 1st drop since March 2009. It should be noted that this is a volatile metric, and a folks who know economics generally want at least 3 months up or down before they declare a trend.

Additionally, real estate is looking dicey.

We have, "One in 7 US homeowners late paying or in foreclosure," actually 14.01%, in the 1st quarter of the year, with 10% of home owners late 90+ days, and the AIA's Architecture Billings Index shows continued contraction in April, though this indicator for future commercial construction is did improve in comparison to March.

Additionally, mortgage purchase applications fell to a 13 year low, even as low rates kick-started the demand for refinancing.

Note that this is despite near record low mortgage rates.

We are also seeing continuing erosion in the prices of commercial property.

On the plus side, the Philadelphia Bank of the Federal Reserve's Manufacturing Activity Index rose in May, and Japan's economy grew faster than expected.

On the inflation side, the CPI fell by 0.1% in April, and the core rate, which excludes food and energy, has risen .9% over the past 12 months, which is actually worrying, as it indicates a risk of a deflationary spiral/lost decade.

Cloture Successful on Financial Reform

Cantwell of Washington and Feingold of Wisconsin continued to vote against cloture, but Republicans Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, and as well as Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who voted against cloture yesterday, voted for cloture, and with Harry Reid switching his vote, it means that the debate has been ended on the bill, and it can proceed to a vote.

It's better than the status quo, but still crappy, which is what Barack Obama would call "post partisan," I guess.

11 Seconds?

The New York Times has an article about high frequency traders, and how they handled the Flash Crash.

It appears that they might have made it worse, because a lot of them just sold everything and shut down their computers when the market drop started.

That's not a big deal, that's what happens when you are in the middle of a panic, even one that only lasts about 15 minutes.

What shocks me is this:
These are short-term bets. Very short. The founder of Tradebot, in Kansas City, Mo., told students in 2008 that his firm typically held stocks for 11 seconds. Tradebot, one of the biggest high-frequency traders around, had not had a losing day in four years, he said.
(emphasis mine)

I don't know what is more disturbing, the fact that these guys are buying and selling stocks 5½ times a minute, or the fact that they always make money.

Either they are front-running, they have access to inside information, or they are a Ponzi scheme, just like Bernie Madoff, and my guess is that it's the former. High frequency trading makes its money by seeing large trades, and then using shortcuts to buy before the buy, or sell before the sale.

I thought that this was illegal, and if it is not, then it should be.

Some speculation is unavoidable in any system where you have open investment, but there have to be limits.

H/t The Big Picture, who believes that the claim is "bullsh%$".