31 December 2016

About F%$#ing Time

It looks like after about a 30 year run, people are beginning to realize that hedge funds are basically a scam:

In Trump, Mercer and his fellow hedge funders had much to extol. Tapping into the wealth he amassed at his wildly profitable firm, Renaissance Technologies, Mercer and his daughter Rebekah (dressed that evening in Black Widow leather) had helped vault Trump to the American presidency. Trump, more than any other president-elect, has sought out hedge fund types, from Steven Mnuchin, his choice for Treasury, to David McCormick, a leading contender at Defense, heralding a new lucrative era for American finance.

But Trump or no Trump, this year marked the beginning of the end of hedge funds as we’ve known them. Their investors are joining a growing revolt, spurred by years in which fund managers grew rich while producing little in the way of returns. In 2016, big money clients finally decided to bail. “Let them sell their summer homes and jets and return those fees to investors,” one New York City official said in a nod to the populist wave that swept Trump into the presidency.

“There has been a massive blowback from public pension funds and private endowments,’’ said Craig Effron, who co-founded his Scoggin Capital Management nearly 30 years ago. An investor told him recently that many chief investment officers are so fed up that they would prefer to entrust their cash to a trader who charged no management fee, over one who did, even if they expected the latter to make them more money.

Public retirement plans from Kentucky to New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island have decided to pull money from hedge funds. So did a state university in Maryland and other endowments. MetLife Inc. and other insurers followed suit. Money-losing firms were forced to reduce their fees. Client withdrawals ($53 billion in the last four quarters) drove some managers out of business, including veteran Richard Perry, who until recently had managed one of the longest-standing and better-performing firms.
Hedge funds largely traded on regulatory arbitrage, using a limited membership to skirt regulatory attention, and in the early days, they achieved impressive returns by exploiting what they called "Market Inefficiencies". (People would call it insider trading, burning businesses down for the insurance money, and front running)

Over the past 30 years, the number of firms have grown, so there are more firms chasing returns, and since the financial crisis there has been more supervision, so their fees, typically 2% of assets under management plus 20% of any gains, have increasingly been seen as excessive, particularly since there have been given stories in the financial and mainstream media about how their opaque structure has led to a lot of self dealing.

30 December 2016

Yeah, This is My Take Too

I'm with Matt Taibb when he says, "Something About This Russia Story Stinks," and that this bears some very real similarities with the failure of US media before the invasion of Iraq:
In an extraordinary development Thursday, the Obama administration announced a series of sanctions against Russia. Thirty-five Russian nationals will be expelled from the country. President Obama issued a terse statement seeming to blame Russia for the hack of the Democratic National Committee emails.

"These data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government," he wrote.

Russia at first pledged, darkly, to retaliate, then backed off. The Russian press today is even reporting that Vladimir Putin is inviting "the children of American diplomats" to "visit the Christmas tree in the Kremlin," as characteristically loathsome/menacing/sarcastic a Putin response as you'll find.

This dramatic story puts the news media in a jackpot. Absent independent verification, reporters will have to rely upon the secret assessments of intelligence agencies to cover the story at all.

Many reporters I know are quietly freaking out about having to go through that again. We all remember the WMD fiasco.

"It's déjà vu all over again" is how one friend put it.


But we don't learn much at all about what led our government to determine a) that these hacks were directed by the Russian government, or b) they were undertaken with the aim of influencing the election, and in particular to help elect Donald Trump.

The problem with this story is that, like the Iraq-WMD mess, it takes place in the middle of a highly politicized environment during which the motives of all the relevant actors are suspect. Nothing quite adds up.

If the American security agencies had smoking-gun evidence that the Russians had an organized campaign to derail the U.S. presidential election and deliver the White House to Trump, then expelling a few dozen diplomats after the election seems like an oddly weak and ill-timed response. Voices in both parties are saying this now.


Now we have this sanctions story, which presents a new conundrum. It appears that a large segment of the press is biting hard on the core allegations of electoral interference emanating from the Obama administration.

Did the Russians do it? Very possibly, in which case it should be reported to the max. But the press right now is flying blind. Plowing ahead with credulous accounts is problematic because so many different feasible scenarios are in play.

On one end of the spectrum, America could have just been the victim of a virtual coup d'etat engineered by a combination of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, which would be among the most serious things to ever happen to our democracy.

But this could also just be a cynical ass-covering campaign, by a Democratic Party that has seemed keen to deflect attention from its own electoral failures.

The outgoing Democrats could just be using an over-interpreted intelligence "assessment" to delegitimize the incoming Trump administration and force Trump into an embarrassing political situation: Does he ease up on Russia and look like a patsy, or escalate even further with a nuclear-armed power?


We ought to have learned from the Judith Miller episode. Not only do governments lie, they won't hesitate to burn news agencies. In a desperate moment, they'll use any sucker they can find to get a point across.
(emphasis mine)

It's not just me and Mr. Taibbi who sees the evidence presented as thing, both reporters on the technical side of the national security beat, and William Binney the creator of the NSA's data dragnet is profoundly unimpressed with the report:

I expected to see the IP’s or other signatures of APT’s 28/29 [the entities which the U.S. claims hacked the Democratic emails] and where they were located and how/when the data got transferred to them from DNC/HRC [i.e. Hillary Rodham Clinton]/etc. They seem to have been following APT 28/29 since at least 2015, so, where are they?

Further, once we see the data being transferred to them, when and how did they transfer that data to Wikileaks? This would be evidence of trying to influence our election by getting the truth of our corrupt system out.

And, as Edward Snowden said, once they have the IP’s and/or other signatures of 28/29 and DNC/HRC/etc., NSA would use Xkeyscore to help trace data passing across the network and show where it went. [Background.]

In addition, since Wikileaks is (and has been) a cast iron target for NSA/GCHQ/etc for a number of years there
should be no excuse for them missing data going to any one associated with Wikileaks.


Too many words means they don’t have clear evidence of how the data got to Wikileaks.
The continuing (for lack of a better term) red baiting by elements of the Democratic Party who failed but want to keep their "Phony Baloney Jobs" is rather deafening.

Obama finally took actions, expelling a few diplomats and shutting down two Russian facilities used largely by vacationing embassy staffer's children, and in a tit for tat, Putin responded by inviting diplomatic children to (Orthodox) Christmas and New Years parties at the Kremlin.

Wait, that's not a tit-for-tat retaliation:
On a day when everyone expected him to go low, Russian President Vladimir Putin took the high road, bowing out of a growing diplomatic showdown with the administration of President Obama in a gambit to woo his successor, Donald Trump.

In a rare, and calculated, break from the diplomatic tradition of reciprocal punishment, Putin opted to do nothing after the United States said it would expel 35 Russian diplomats and close a pair of Russian-owned properties in retaliation for Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Putin said he would wait to see how U.S.-Russian relations develop under the new Trump administration before planning “any further steps” on the issue.

Until Putin’s surprise decision Friday, all signs pointed toward the familiar, hard-nosed Kremlin response of years past. In 2012, when Russia was slapped with U.S. sanctions over the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, Putin shot back by signing a ban on all foreign adoptions of Russian children, just days after Christmas, sparking outrage.

But this time, with the Kremlin bidding farewell to Obama and betting that a friendly Trump administration will bring fresh opportunities to escape sanctions and make a grab for greater power status, Putin waxed magnanimous.

“We will not create any problems for U.S. diplomats,” Putin said in a statement late Friday afternoon. “We will not expel anyone. We will not prevent their families and children from using their traditional leisure sites during the New Year’s holidays.”

Instead of sending the U.S. diplomats home, Putin invited their kids over for “the New Year and Christmas children’s parties in the Kremlin.”
Obama just got trolled something fierce.

I Revisit One of My Earliest Posts

In the Pan

Close-up Showing Non Stick Properties and Crust
The month that I started my blog, I posted my recipe for baked spaghetti and cheese.

I referred to it as the The Ultimate Comfort Food.

On a lark, I decided to try cooking it in a preheated (350°F, heated in the oven) cast iron pan.

It turned out marvelously well.

I used two pans, one of which had a slightly less robust seasoning.

There was a small amount of sticking, but only in a few places, but the outside crust was glorious.

My basic technique was to heat the pans in a 350°F oven, and cook the spaghetti to very al dente/slightly underdone.

You then rinse the pasta in cold water to stop the cooking.

While this was all going on, I was making the melted cheese mixture (see above link).

Once the pasta and sauce was done, I mixed them together using the mark-1 human hand (with gloves, because otherwise this will be under your fingernails for a week).

I then took the pans out of the oven, sprayed with some oil , and put in the pasta/cheese mixture and pressed it down until it was flat and at the level of the edge of the pan.  (There is some rather satisfying sizzling)

Cook at 450°F for 30-45 minutes. (Yes, it cooks a bit faster)

Unlike the aforementioned recipe, there is no need to cook covered, and then uncover.

I love playing with cast iron.

You might also want to do this in a dutch oven.

29 December 2016

Deep Thought

Seen on Facebook.

A Lot is Going on in Syria

First, as I am sure most of you are aware, the evacuation of Aleppo is complete, and the Assad Regime has full control of the city:
The evacuation of civilians and fighters from the last rebel-held part of Aleppo concluded on Thursday after long delays because of frigid weather, putting all of Syria’s industrial capital back in the hands of President Bashar al-Assad’s forces for the first time since 2012.

The last buses carrying residents from eastern Aleppo left the city late Thursday night, according to the Syrian state news agency.

Tens of thousands of people have been removed from eastern Aleppo since Dec. 15. Before the last buses left on Thursday, the Red Cross said that 34,000 people had left the city, including 4,000 fighters who had left in their own vehicles the previous night.

A separate convoy was waiting to carry residents out of two pro-government villages in neighboring Idlib Province that have been surrounded by rebels for years. It was unclear late Thursday whether the convoy had completed its trip.

The seizure of all of Aleppo by Mr. Assad and his allies signals a turning point in the nearly six-year conflict.
Rather unsurprisingly, despite representation in western media, upon entering East Aleppo, evidence of mass torture and mass executions were found:
Russian military forces have discovered mass graves in eastern parts of the Syrian city of Aleppo, with many of the bodies reportedly showing signs of torture.

Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a spokesperson for the Russian defense ministry, announced the horrifying discovery on Monday. “Many of the corpses were found with missing body parts, and most had gunshot wounds to the head,” he said, according to RT, a Russian state-owned news network.

Until recently, the eastern portion of Aleppo, once Syria’s largest city and industrial and financial center, was under the control of so-called “moderate” rebels, many of whom have received both intelligence and material support from the United States and its allies in the Middle East.

Last week, Russian and Syrian military forces oversaw the evacuation of civilians from eastern Aleppo. Prior to that, the rebel-held portion of the city had been controlled by two main factions, Jabhat al-Nusra, a terrorist group with ties to al-Qaida also known as the Nusra Front, and Ahrar al-Sham, another extremist group that receives U.S. support despite being designated a terrorist organization.


Russian forces also found massive stockpiles of weaponry abandoned by fleeing rebel groups. “In one small area, three tanks, two cannons, two multiple rocket launchers and numerous homemade mortars were found,” reported RT.
In related news, a Syrian refugee was charged with war crimes in Sweden for his role in executing captured Syrian government soldiers:
A former Syrian opposition fighter has been charged with breaching international law over the execution in 2012 of seven soldiers loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, the Swedish prosecutor's office said on Thursday.

The 46-year-old man, who was arrested in March, appears in a video showing the killings, the prosecutor's office said.

The man, who was not named, denies any crime.

"The soldiers were captured and defenseless when this happened," prosecutor Kristina Lindhoff Carleson said in a statement.

While this was going on, Russia, Iran and Turkey met for cease fire negotiations.  Notably, the US, NATO, and the UN were not included, which is rather unsurprising, considering that those three entities have remained committed to replacing Assad.

What's more, it appears that these negotiations have born fruit, with cease fire coming into effect across Syria, though it it's success is still not certain:
A cease-fire announced by the Syrian government went into ­effect across the country early Friday as part of a broader deal that includes a return to peace talks to end more than five years of war.

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reestablished control over the northern city of Aleppo earlier this month, forcing rebels to flee what was once their largest stronghold and handing the government a victory that appeared to bring the war’s endgame into view.

The Assad government, backed by Russia and Iran, is now in its strongest position since the start of the war, while rebel groups are mostly boxed into the northwestern province of Idlib and hold no strategically significant urban areas.

The Syrian military declared in a statement issued Thursday that the “comprehensive” cessation of hostilities follows “victories and advances” by the armed forces.

Russia and Turkey, which brokered the deal, said they could guarantee compliance from the government and its armed opposition, respectively, after weeks of negotiations.


The Syrian army said the cease-fire excluded “terrorist organizations,” notably the Islamic State but also the country’s al-Qaeda affiliate, an influential component of what remains of Syria’s armed opposition. The caveat suggested that the fighting could continue in Idlib, now the rebels’ final bastion.
ISIS and al Qaeda (al Nusra/al-Sham) aren't just an "influential component" of Syrian opposition. They are the bulk of viable rebel military forces.

As I have stated before, there is no moderate opposition. They are all salafist Sunni extremists, sponsored by Turkey, the House of Saud, and the Persian Gulf Potentiates.

Turkish President Erdogan is claiming that he has evidence to prove that the US is supporting terrorist organizations, including al Nusra, Daesh, and the YPG:
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said "it's very clear" that the US-led coalition is supporting terrorist groups in Syria, Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS/ISIL) among them.

"They give support to terrorist groups including Daesh (Arabic for IS)," Erdogan said.

Saying that the US have accused Turkey of supporting IS, speaking at a press conference on Tuesday the Turkish leader blamed the US-led coalition for assisting terrorists themselves.

Apart from IS, he also mentioned Kurdish People's Protection Units in northern Syria (YPG) and Democratic Union Party (PYD) as groups supported by the coalition.

"We have confirmed evidence, with pictures, photos and videos," he added.
Best evidence is that he is right on two of those three counts, our military haxs supported Kurdish fighters, and the CIA has been supporting (at least indirectly through its completely incompent grooming of "moderates") al Nusra.

Our policy, which largely consists of incompetent CIA operations running at cross purposes to military and diplomatic efforts that are in large part intended to slavishly follow the dictates of the House of Saud.

28 December 2016

This is Just Sick

Ummm ……… Ewwwwww!
I understand that the nature of military tends to be manifest in some level of irreverence towards the realities of war, but dressing up like Santa Claus to drop bombs on people is a whole new world of tasteless:
Islamic State got no reprieve from American pilots over the 2016 Christmas holiday. U.S. aviators delivered bombs rather than presents to the terrorist group in the Middle East.

On Dec. 26, 2016, the U.S. Air Force released two pictures of an F-16 from the Vermont Air National Guard’s 134th Fighter Squadron on a mission over Iraq or Syria. Over the Christmas weekend, members squadron were flying strikes against Islamic State from Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates.

The jet had a full load of eight GPS-guided Small Diameter Bombs under its wings along with air-to-air missiles for self defense. But the most eye-catching detail was an unusual piece of gear the pilot was wearing — an iconic red-and-white hat over his or her helmet.

“F-16s are providing … close air support during Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, a multinational effort to weaken and destroy Islamic State,” the official caption explained.

“Many pilots wore a traditional red ‘Santa’ hat while flying on Christmas Day.”
Rudolph with your bomb so bright, won't you bomb some Daesh tonight.

Why Independent and Powerful Inspector Generals Are Essential to the Functioning of All Democracies, Part MMMMMMMDCCXXXIV

Blah, blah, blah!






Case in point, the US Air Force revoking a revoking clearance to retaliate against whistleblower:
It appears some Air Force brass wish their subordinates would fly a little farther under the radar, especially when airing their office’s dirty laundry.

In 2011, an Air Force whistleblower had his security clearance revoked after pestering his supervisor about fraud and waste within the agency, according to a Defense Department Inspector General report. The Inspector General’s investigation concluded in December that his supervisor retaliated against the civilian employee for disclosing the infractions.

The heavily redacted report, which MuckRock requested following on an announcement in the January newsletter of the Department of Defense Inspector General, found that the supervisor accused the whistleblower of being a mentally unstable drug abuser in addition to revoking his security clearance for the offense of reporting that colleagues were allowed to leave work hours early and lie on their time cards.

The Air Force civilian employee — referred to as “Complainant” throughout the heavily redacted report — began notifying his superiors of the timecard abuse in January 2010, according to the report.


Even though that complaint circumvented the Air Force chain of command, it was considered a protected communication under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, which safeguards communications from service members reporting violations of laws or regulations.

But less than two weeks after the complainant went to the Inspector General, his supervisor — an Air Force lieutenant colonel, per the January newsletter — revoked access to classified information and areas.

Even though that complaint circumvented the Air Force chain of command, it was considered a protected communication under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, which safeguards communications from service members reporting violations of laws or regulations.

But less than two weeks after the complainant went to the Inspector General, his supervisor — an Air Force lieutenant colonel, per the January newsletter — revoked access to classified information and areas.


A year the reprisal claim was filed, however, the Inspector General concluded that the supervisor “could not provide any evidence to support these allegations,” and that the clearance revocation was reprisal.

The IG investigation concluded by recommending that the Air Force restore the whistleblower’s clearance, as well as “Consider taking appropriate corrective action against [redacted supervisor’s name].”
This sort of behavior is typical of any sort of hierarchical institution, and it is why it is essential to have some sort of independent agency which can investigate allegations of wrongdoing.


Why Homer Simpson Might Be God:

27 December 2016

The 4th Amendment Doesn't Become Null and Void Just Because You Have an Easier Time Violating It

The title is a comment from the Techdirt article quotes GC for the DNI, Robert Litt, who claims that since computers can automatically scan your email easily, the 4th amendment does not apply:
Reuters has an interesting piece looking at how many experts are concerned that mass surveillance efforts by the federal government are making a mockery of the 4th Amendment. The focus of the article is on the scan of all Yahoo email that was revealed back in October, but it certainly touches on other programs as well. The concern is easily summarized by Orin Kerr:
"A lot of it is unrecognizable from a Fourth Amendment perspective," said Orin Kerr, a former federal prosecutor and Georgetown University Law School expert on surveillance. "It's not where the traditional Fourth Amendment law is."
But, have no fear, the General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Robert Litt, says there's a reason for that, and it's all technology's fault. We've covered Litt and his somewhat nutty views on the 4th Amendment and surveillance in the past, so the following isn't new. But Litt's main defense of basically all of the NSA's various abuses and mocking of the 4th Amendment is "it's technology's fault." He's quoted twice in the article, and both times, it's all about the tech. First up, an argument that the traditional 4th Amendment doesn't apply, because technology:
"Computerized scanning of communications in the same way that your email service provider scans looking for viruses - that should not be considered a search requiring a warrant for Fourth Amendment purposes," said Litt.
Later he is mentioned as making a similar argument. 
ODNI's Litt wrote in a February Yale Law Review article that the new approach was appropriate, in part because so much personal data is willingly shared by consumers with technology companies. Litt advocated for courts to evaluate "reasonableness" by looking at the entirety of the government's activity, including the degree of transparency.
Indeed, we've pointed to Litt making similar arguments many times in the past and it all comes down to "Well, people share this stuff with Facebook/Google/Yahoo, etc.," so what's the big deal?
Litt's argument is morally reprehensible and intellectually vacuous:  It is pure bullsh%$.

Choosing to use Google or Yahoo, with all of its attendant privacy compromises is a choice.

The NSA or the FBI spying on us is not a choice.  It is the government imposing itself into our private business.

The constitution is SUPPOSED to make the job of the state security apparatus more difficult.\

Live with it, or take a job making pastry.

Man, Does 2016 Suck Wet Farts from Dead Pigeons

Now Carrie Fisher and Richard Adams.

This year has so much Fail.

26 December 2016

Why I am Dropping Krugman From my Blogroll

I am sure that he won't give a sh%$, but over the course of 2016, he has been thoroughly in the tank for Clinton, not just as a candidate, but in terms of buying into the Clinton (Bill and Hillary) world view.

I've been considering dropping him for a while, but I wanted to make sure that this was grounded in a more reasoning.

I didn't quite get there, but Tim Duy has, and his evisceration of Krugman convinced me:
Paul Krugman on the election:
The only way to make sense of what happened is to see the vote as an expression of, well, identity politics — some combination of white resentment at what voters see as favoritism toward nonwhites (even though it isn’t) and anger on the part of the less educated at liberal elites whom they imagine look down on them.

To be honest, I don’t fully understand this resentment.
To not understand this resentment is to pretend this never happened:
“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?” she said to applause and laughter. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.”
Clinton effectively wrote off nearly half the country at that point. Where was the liberal outrage at this gross generalization? Nowhere – because Clinton’s supporters believed this to be largely true. The white working class had already been written off. Hence the applause and laughter.

In hindsight, I wonder if the election was probably over right then and there.

Krugman continues:
In particular, I don’t know why imagined liberal disdain inspires so much more anger than the very real disdain of conservatives who see the poverty of places like eastern Kentucky as a sign of the personal and moral inadequacy of their residents.
But they do know the disdain of conservatives. Clinton followed right along the path of former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney:
It was the characterization of “half of Trump’s supporters” on Friday that struck some Republicans as similar to the damning “47 percent” remark made by their own nominee, Mitt Romney, in his 2012 campaign against President Obama. At a private fund-raiser Mr. Romney, who Democrats had already sought to portray as a cold corporate titan, said 47 percent of voters were “dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims” and who “pay no income tax.”
There was, of course, liberal outrage at Romney.


That Krugman can wonder at the source of the disdain felt toward the liberal elite while lecturing Trump’s voters on their own self-interest is really quite remarkable.

I don’t know that the white working class voted against their economic interest. I don’t pretend that I can define their preferences with such accuracy. Maybe they did. But the working class may reasonably believe that neither party offers them an economic solution. The Republicans are the party of the rich; the Democrats are the party of the rich and poor. Those in between have no place.

That sense of hopelessness would be justifiably acute in rural areas. Economic development is hard work in the best of circumstances; across the sparsely populated vastness of rural America, it is virtually impossible. The victories are – and will continue to be – few and far between.

The tough reality of economic development is that it will always be easier to move people to jobs than the jobs to people. Which is akin to telling many, many voters the only way possible way they can live an even modest lifestyle is to abandon their roots for the uniformity of urban life. They must sacrifice their identities to survive. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile. Follow the Brooklyn hipsters to the Promised Land.
It's more than an indictment of the Clintons:  It's typical of the post New Deal Democratic Party.

I'm done with this wing of the party, and I am done with Krugman.

Your Boxing Day Video

It's Dame Hellen Mirren and she mentions Boxing Day, at her imperious and profane best:


How entering the public domain turned It's a Wonderful Life from a flop into a classic:

25 December 2016

Same as It Ever Was………

It appears that ground troops are back in combat in Iraq:
U.S. forces assisting Iraqi troops to retake Mosul from Islamic State are embedding more extensively, a senior commander said on Friday, a move that could accelerate a two month-old campaign which has slackened after quick initial advances.

More than 5,000 American service members are currently deployed in Iraq as part of an international coalition that is advising local forces in a bid to recapture the third of the country the jihadists seized in 2014 when Iraq's army and police dropped their weapons and fled.

Coalition advisors were initially concentrated at a high-level headquarters in Baghdad but have fanned out over the past two years to multiple locations to stay near advancing troops.

Now, as Iraqi forces controlling around a quarter of Mosul - Islamic State's last major stronghold in Iraq - proceed deeper into the northern city and encounter fierce counter-attacks that render progress slow and punishing, U.S. troops are stepping up their involvement.


"We have always had opportunities to work side-by-side, but we have never been embedded to this degree," he
[U.S. Army Colonel Brett G. Sylvia, commander of Task Force Strike] said. "That was always a smaller niche mission. Well, this is our mission now and it is big and we are embedded inside their formations."
Obama said that he would get us out of Iraq.

Not so much.

Just When You Thought That Trump''s Staff Could Not Get Any Worse………

It appears that Henry Kissinger will be working with the Trump administration:

Now, as Donald Trump signals that he wants a more cooperative relationship with Moscow, the 93-year-old Kissinger is positioning himself as a potential intermediary — meeting with the president-elect in private and flattering him in public. Like Trump, Kissinger has also cast doubt on intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia sought to sway the election in Trump's favor, telling a recent interviewer: “They were hacking, but the use they allegedly made of this hacking eludes me.”

Some have expressed surprise that the urbane, cerebral former top diplomat would have any affinity for the brash, shoot-from-the-lip Trump. But seasoned Kissinger watchers say it’s vintage behavior for a foreign policy realist who has cozied up to all sorts of kings and presidents for decades. And in fact, Trump may wind up an ideal vessel for Kissinger -- the architect of detente with the Soviets in the 1970s -- to realize his longstanding goal of warmer ties between the two Cold War adversaries.

For years, Kissinger has argued that promoting a greater balance of power between the U.S. and Russia would improve global stability. But skeptics fear this approach will sacrifice other values and reward bad behavior by the Kremlin, including its alleged election meddling, its invasion of Ukraine and its support for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. There’s also the question of how Kissinger himself would personally benefit from a new reset with Russia: Aside from the reputational boost of having easy access to two major world leaders, the former secretary of state's secretive consulting firm, Kissinger Associates Inc., could get a bump in business.

“I think Kissinger is preparing a diplomatic offensive,” said Marcel H. Van Herpen, a Russia specialist and Putin critic who directs the Cicero Foundation, a Dutch think tank. “He’s a realist. The most important thing for him is international equilibrium, and there’s no talk of human rights or democracy.”
I did not think that it was possible Donald Trump could further disappointment me.

I was misinformed.

Observing the Holiday in the Manner of My People

We had Chinese food for Christmas.

No movie though.

24 December 2016

You Had One Job!

It appears that the big donors people who donated over a billion dollars to the Clinton campaign are demanding answers about how it all went pear shaped:
When Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine greet the very top fundraisers and donors to their failed campaign at New York’s Plaza Hotel on Thursday evening, many of them will have one question in mind: Where’s the autopsy?

The call for a deep and detailed accounting of how Clinton lost a race that she and her donors were absolutely certain she’d win didn’t begin immediately after the election — there was too much shock over her defeat by Donald Trump, and overwhelming grief. Her initial conference call with top backers, which came just days after the outcome, focused primarily on FBI Director Jim Comey’s late campaign-season intervention.

But in the weeks since, the wealthy Democrats who helped pump over $1 billion into Clinton’s losing effort have been urging their local finance staffers, state party officials, and campaign aides to provide a more thorough explanation of what went wrong. With no dispassionate, centralized analysis of how Clinton failed so spectacularly, they insist, how can they be expected to keep contributing to the party?

“A lot of the bundlers and donors still are in shock and disbelief by what happened. They’re looking for some introspection and analysis about what really happened, what worked and what didn’t,” said Ken Martin, chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and a top campaign bundler himself. "It may take some time to do that, but people are still just scratching their heads."

Or, in the words of a Midwestern fundraiser who’s kept in touch with fellow donors, “A lot of people are saying, ‘I’m not putting another f%$#ing dime in until someone tells me what just happened.’”
Here are a few of my suggestions for rules  to follow in an "autopsy":
  1. Make sure that the incompetents lose their jobs and have to find a career outside of politics
  2. See rule number 1.
As to outcomes, I hope that Clinton machine is extracted root and branch from the Democratic Party.

    We are Unbelievably Screwed

    The temperature at the North Pole will be about 50 degrees above normal:
    For the second year in a row, the Arctic is facing a late December heat wave (at least by Arctic winter standards). Temperatures are forecast to soar about 50°F above normal, which would bring them near the freezing point at the North Pole.

    As isolated data points, the back-to-back winter warm-ups would be weird. But taken in the larger context, it’s part of anunsettling trend for a region that is being rapidly reshaped by climate change.

    A quick recap: Arctic sea ice hit its lowest peak recorded in March (besting the record set in 2015), hit it second-lowest extent recorded in September, and started shrinking in November — at a time when ice should be growing — following a heat wave.
    50 degrees?!?!?

    I think that even in a best case scenario, the harm in the decades ahead will be on an almost unimaginable scale.

    Happy Chanaukah

    Yes, this is a Menorah Bong

    Happy Chanukah to all, and to all a good bite!

    Have some pictures of weird menorahs.

    23 December 2016

    This is a Sign of Institutional Collapse

    It turns out that the shortage of drone pilots in the US military is so unable to meet the basic training needs of even its drone trainers:
    American military power in the 21st century relies on the mighty drone. The flying robots watch America’s enemies from the skies — and sometimes blow them apart with Hellfire missiles.

    There’s a logic to using drones. Putting a robot in harm’s way is a lot better than putting an actual person in the same place.

    America can always build another drone. It’s a lot harder to replace a good pilot.


    he U.S. Army and the Air Force both need a lot of pilots and technicians to keep the drones flying — literally tens of thousands of people altogether — but it hasn’t been easy filling those job slots. Worse, the two branches started cutting corners during training, according to the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, a congressionally-mandated watchdog.

    Often, the Army wasn’t even sure if its pilots were qualified to fly drones. On top of that, it was approving new flight instructors who haven’t finished their own training.


    But the less obvious answer is that no one wants to pilot drones. It’s an awful job where a pilot — instead of sitting in a cockpit — sits inside a metal box in front of a computer screen for hours. Drone pilots are overworked, over-stressed and pissed off.

    No wonder the Pentagon can’t find good pilots.

    In May 2015, the GAO released its most recent report on the sorry state of America’s drone force. Concerned about drone pilots’ lackluster training, the agency talked to pilots and instructors and pored over the training logs and materials.

    The findings were scary.

    “Most Army [drone] pilots are not completing all of their unit training,” the GAO explained. Further, “the Army does not have visibility over whether [drone] pilots … have completed training.”


    The Air Force was no better. The flying branch’s pilots were so overloaded that they don’t have time to finish required training.

    “According to Air Force officials,” the GAO wrote. “Some Air Force UAS pilots have not completed their continuation training because they spend most of their time conducting operational missions due to shortages of UAS pilots and high workloads.”
    More than equipment, more than any technological superiority, wars are won with training, tactics, and readiness.

    Case in point, the F4F Wildcat, which achieved a 6:1 favorable kill ratio against the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, despite the fact that it was markedly inferior aircraft. (Slower, less maneuverable, etc.)

    This was because of better training, situational awareness, and tactics.

    And now our training infrastructure is breaking down.

    The Stupid, It Just Never Ends

    It appears that Donald Trump has decided not to make John Bolton Assistant Secretary of State.

    It appears that he did not get the job because the Donald does not like facial, and the American Mustache Institute is pissed off:
    The American Mustache Institute is bristling at President-elect Donald Trump’s reported prejudice against facial hair.

    Addressing allegations that former United Nations ambassador John Bolton was passed over for secretary of state because of his mustache, the AMI staff banded together to defend one of their own and denounce the rumored act of discrimination. After referencing Trump’s long history of superficial statements — from his hosting of “The Apprentice” to his misogynistic comments about former pageant queen Alicia Machado — the AMI let things get hairy.

    “The paradox, of course, is that Mr. Trump’s orange face and spaghetti squash mane would, theoretically through his own Clark Gable paradigm — who ironically had a mustache — would make Mr. Trump himself unfit to serve in a position of leadership,” the AMI staff wrote. “But beyond the esthetic and ongoing pattern of his embrace of an alt-right-like discrimination, the Mustached American community is deeply troubled by a new administration erecting yet another obstacle towards a level playing field for people of Mustached American heritage.”

    The AMI added that “our quarrel is not political as we are a non-partisan institution of learning, thought and facial hair militancy.”
    I honestly cannot tell the difference between reality and parody any more, but I think that this is real, only it sounds like a parody.

    We live in Bizarro world.

    22 December 2016

    Doctor Who - "The Ballad of Russell and Julie" Wrap Party Special - YouTube

    You may recall the image of David Tennant, Doctor number 10, smoking many cigarettes simultaneously.

    Frequently, it is a GIF, with a caption of "I can't do it!"

    It turns out that it was a part of a video, a musical number, done with Catherine Tate (Donna Nobel) and John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness) as an appreciation to Russell T. Davies and Julie Gardner when they left the series,

    And here is the video:

    Quote of the Day

    There are unquestionably many factors behind this result. But I want to focus on the biggest one that was completely under Democrats' control. It is the same thing that killed the Republicans of Hoover's generation: gross mishandling of an economic crisis. Democrats had the full run of the federal government from 2009-10, during the worst economic disaster in 80 years, and they did not fully fix mass unemployment, nor the associated foreclosure crisis. That is just about the most guaranteed route to electoral death there is.
    Ryan Cooper
    From the beginning, the Obama has been more concerned with coddling Wall Street, as opposed to dealing with problems that the banksters caused for Main Street.

    In terms of the foreclosure crisis, they actually aided and abetted the criminals.  (See Geithner, Timothy, "Foaming the runway.")

    Much like Hoover, they continued to insist that the economic orthodoxy that caused the economic meltdown was the solution to the problems.

    Obama actually went softer on corporate criminals than George W. Bush.

    Is it any wonder that the Democratic Party is a political Super Fund site right now?

    21 December 2016

    This is Literally the Smallest Surprise of the Year

    Remember when Barack Obama said that Snowden should have gone through "Proper channels" to report abuses by the NSA?

    Well, it turns out that Snowden's "Proper Chanel" was just fired for illegal retaliation against a whistle-blower:
    NSA oversight and whistleblowing through proper channels: both pretty much worthless.

    Members of the intelligence community and members of its supposed oversight have said the same thing repeatedly over the past few years: oh, we'd love to cut Edward Snowden a break, but he should have taken his complaints up the ladder, rather than outside the country.

    During a day-long conference at the Georgetown University Law Center, Dr. George Ellard, the inspector general for the National Security Agency, spoke for the first time about the disclosures made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

    In addressing the alleged damage caused by Snowden’s disclosures he compared Snowden to Robert Hanssen, a former FBI agent and convicted spy who sold secrets to the Russians.


    “Snowden, in contrast, was manic in his thievery, which was exponentially larger than Hanssen’s. Hanssen’s theft was in a sense finite whereas Snowden is open-ended, as his agents decide daily which documents to disclose. Snowden had no background in intelligence and is likely unaware of the significance of the documents he stole,” Ellard suggested.
    These are the words of the "proper channel." Ellard went on to state that had Snowden approached him with his concerns he would have pointed to the series of judicial rubber stamps that backed up the government's post-9/11 national security assertions as they approved more and more bulk surveillance.

    That Inspector General -- the official channels, the oversight -- is now (mostly) on his way out of the agency for actions undertaken in direct conflict with his position, as reported by the Project for Government Oversight.
    [L]ast May, after eight months of inquiry and deliberation, a high-level Intelligence Community panel found that Ellard himself had previously retaliated against an NSA whistleblower, sources tell the Project On Government Oversight. Informed of that finding, NSA’s Director, Admiral Michael Rogers, promptly issued Ellard a notice of proposed termination, although Ellard apparently remains an agency employee while on administrative leave, pending a possible response to his appeal from Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.
    "Bring your complaints through the proper channels," said the proper channel, all the while making sure whistleblowers regret blowing the whistle. Ellard still has an appeal left to reclaim his position as a dead end for whistleblowers, but it seems unlikely the agency will be interested in welcoming a liability back into the fold. Ellard didn't just violate standard government policies on workplace retaliation but a fairly-recent presidential directive as well.
    It's a pity that there isn't criminal liability attached to such behavior.

    Tweet of the Day

    Oh Snap

    Doubtless, you have heard various right wingers suggesting that we should replace the income tax with a VAT (Value Added Tax), and they have explained that a VAT is basically a national sales tax.

    The truth is that while it is similar in overall effect, a VAT is administered in a very different way:  Rather than levying a tax at the time of retail sale, they levy a tax on each amount of value added at each step of the process, so there is a paument when the ore is mined from the ground, then a payment on the value added by refining, and a payment on (in this case) a steel mill making sheet and plate, and so on, and so on, and so on, until you have (in this case) a car.

    It is structured that way because there is a real problem with tax evasion in many European countries, and a VAT is almost impossible to evade.

    Well, as a result of the decision of the London Employment Tribunal to classify Uber drivers as employees 8 weeks ago, it appears that the serial criminal of the taxicab industry is going to get completely hosed on unpaid and future VAT:

    But it also has a further – and rather more fundamental – tax problem.

    Let me explain. And for clarity I’ll reduce the argument to its essentials:

    1. before the Employment Tribunal, Uber contended that it simply acted as a booking agent for drivers. The Tribunal disagreed. It found, applying a normal contractual analysis, that Uber engaged drivers and supplied transportation services to passengers;
    2. what does this mean in terms of VAT? Well, for VAT, you start with the normal contractual analysis. But national tax authorities can also go beyond that analysis to discern the underlying “economic and commercial reality of the transactions” (as the case law puts it). I don’t, for the purposes of my argument, need to take that extra step. If the VAT analysis follows the contractual analysis then the following points apply. But the VAT test is wider than the contractual one – and even if Uber’s appeal against the Employment Tribunal decision succeeded it could still have a VAT problem;
    3. as things stand, and applying the reasoning of the Employment Tribunal decision, Uber seems to be making VATable supplies to passengers of transportation services. And those services are standard rated. In practice, this means that, of every £100 charged to an Uber customer, Uber would have a so-called ‘output’ tax liability of £16.67 (being the VAT on such sum net of VAT as, when VAT is added, gives you £100). And it would need to hand that sum over – less any ‘input’ tax – to HMRC;
    4. output tax is the VAT you charge your customers. And input tax is the tax you are charged by your suppliers. It’s the difference – the tax on the value that you add – that you hand over to HMRC. But does Uber have any input tax? Your employees don’t charge you input tax. Uber might have some external costs on which VAT has been charged – but not many. On the assumption (see (1) and (2) above) that the VAT reality of Uber’s business is that it is engaging drivers and supplying transport services to passengers, the vast majority of its expenditure will be the money it pays to drivers. But (with perhaps a tiny number of exceptions) drivers don’t charge Uber VAT on their fares. Indeed, they are incentivised to earn less than the VAT registration threshold. If they earned more, they would have to hand over 16.67% of their profits to HMRC in VAT;
    5. if you assume that Uber has no material input tax to set against its output tax, that would mean that, of every £100 of fares Uber has collected, it has a liability to pay VAT to HMRC of £16.67. It seems as though Uber racked up about £115m in fares last calendar year. This would mean it had a VAT liability of just under £20m for London for that year. But HMRC can go back four years or, sometimes, more. There is no suggestion in the accounts of the relevant Uber entity – Uber London Limited – that it was aware it had this risk;
    6. ………
    7. we should watch with care what actions, if any, HMRC take. I should have absolute confidence that HMRC will properly investigate the potential NIC and VAT liabilities of the Uber structure. I don’t.

    I'm inclined to agree on item 9.

    The psychopaths at Uber seem to have the ability to make regulatory and tax authorities look the other way, which is a pity.


    Why PETA Is A Giant Nest Of Lies: (They lie about much of what they do in horrific ways)

    Seriously, 90% kill rates in their shelters?

    20 December 2016

    Different Priorities

    Blah, blah, blah!

    Detail of Weapons Bay
    The Japanese are working on their own stealth fighter, and they appear to be favoring a large weapons load over agility: (Paid subscription required)
    With each published design iteration, Japan’s proposed indigenous fighter appears to be large, perhaps matching the size of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.

    Actually, it is even bigger.

    Drawing up a concept that emphasizes weapon load and endurance over maneuverability, designers at the Japanese defense ministry have come up with an aircraft that is longer than the F-22 and has a considerably greater wingspan. It is low in profile, however, to minimize radar reflections from the side.


    Official drawings of the proposed aircraft and the model used for weapon-ejection testing show that 26DMU has few differences from the previous iteration, 25DMU. Bulges under the wing roots have been given a revised shape, maybe for aerodynamic reasons. On the model the tips of the main plane are straight, compared with a slightly pointed design on 25DMU. But the major features are unchanged. The design still has two belly bays each holding three big missiles, side bays with one short-range missile each, a wide and shallow fuselage, heavily canted tail surfaces and a large wing of high aspect ratio for efficient cruise and loitering.


    The miniature missiles in the left belly bay of the model, which had an opened door for the tests, were Meteors with cropped fins, presumably of the design developed by MBDA for internal stowage in the Lockheed Martin F-35. The bay was only just large enough to hold three Meteors, mounted side by side and slightly staggered for tighter lateral packing. If Japan were willing to accept a rocket-propelled air-to-air weapon, the bay could also accommodate three missiles using the airframe of the Mitsubishi Electric AAM-4. Based on the Raytheon AIM-7 Sparrow, the AAM-4 has about the same length as the Meteor, 3.7 m (12 ft.).
    Note that the AAM-4 and AIM-7 Sparrow are larger than the AIM-120 AMRAAM, having a body diameter of roughly 200mm, as opposed the 175mm.

    The superior range of the AIM-120 comes from two things: Improvements in propellant, which could apply to the larger missiles as well, and improvements in flight profile during flight (more the 2nd than the first. By way of example, by updating avionics, the range of the SM-2 Standard was doubled by avionics changes which allowed it to take an indirect path to the target).

    I guess is that the Japanese expect to deal with an opponent **cough** China **cough** at a significant distance from base without tanker support, so they need to carry more fuel and carry more missiles, because of potential threats from both long range interceptors (J-20 and Flanker derivatives) as well as very long range surface to air missiles (one would assume something north of 300 km, as the Russian SA-21 [S-400] exceeds 400 km).

    By contrast, the F-22 was designed to fly from bases in the UK , the Netherlands, and Germany to engage Warsaw Pact aircraft at or behind the East-West German border, so there is a greater priority on agility.  (Then again, the Raptor didn't enter service until after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, which says something about how weapons procurement programs take on a life of their own.)

    Hubris — Ate — Nemesis*

    There is new information about the Clinton campaign emerging, and it reveals profound arrogance juxtaposed with an inability to find their ass with both hands. One would hope that this would bear negatively on future employment prospects in electoral politics for senior campaign staffers:
    Ever since election night—when Hillary Clinton tanked and Donald Trump became the next leader of the free world—the most prominent allies and alumni of Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign have maintained a succinct message for Team Hillary: We. Told. You. So.

    In the final months of the brutal and chaotic 2016 campaign, there were plenty of Democratic activists freaking out about Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania (the three states that ultimately cost the Democrats the White House) and Clinton’s fatal shortcomings there. Many of them were envoys of the Sanders camp who wanted to help fix those problems, including Clinton’s difficulties with the block of the mythical “white-working-class,” economically anxious voters who Sanders had championed during the primaries.

    “They f%$#ing ignored us on all these [three] battleground states [while] we were sounding the alarm for months,” Nomiki Konst, a progressive activist and former Sanders surrogate who served on the 2016 Democratic National Committee platform committee, told The Daily Beast. “We kept saying to each other like, ‘What the f%$#, why are they just blowing us off? They need these voters more than anybody.’”

    According to Konst and multiple other people involved with these discussions, the Clinton campaign agreed to a meeting with a cadre of Sanders surrogates during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in July. The purpose of the meeting, which included Clinton’s national political director Amanda Rentería and Team Hillary’s progressive outreach coordinator (and former Sanders senior aide) Nick Carter, was to address the concerns many Sanders camp alums were voicing about Clinton’s strategy going into the general election against Trump. Carter declined to comment on this story.


    “We were saying we are offering our help—nobody wanted [President] Donald Trump,” Konst continued, noting that the “Bernie world” side was offering Clinton’s team their plans—strategy memos, lists of hardened state organizers, timelines, data, the works—to win over certain voters in areas she ultimately lost but where Sanders had won during the primary.

    “We were painting them a dire picture, and I couldn’t help but think they literally looked like they had no idea what was going on here,” she continued. “I remember their faces, it was like they had never f%$#ing heard this stuff before. It’s what we had been screaming for the past 9 months… It’s like [they] forgot the basics of Politics 101.”


    Assurances were then made with various Clinton senior staffers that they would follow through with subsequent meetings and phone calls to address these gaps and warnings. Instead, meetings were canceled and “rescheduled” into oblivion.

    “We not only screamed about this, we wrote memos, we begged,” Jane Kleeb, Nebraska Democratic Party chair and another Sanders booster who was at the DNC meeting, said. “I spent a good chunk of time writing memos about how [Bernie’s surrogates] could be utilized on the campaign trail, about ‘issue voters,’ about the environment, Black Lives Matter, Dakota Access Pipeline, rogue cops, you name it… I was [also] talking specifically about rural communities, and how [Hillary] completely ignored and abandoned anything that we cared about.”


    “The Clinton campaign believed they had the strongest and brightest people in the room… and they had no concept of why people would choose Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton,” Kleeb continued. “They mocked us, they made fun of us. They always had a… model that was supposed to save the day. We were street activists and they don’t get that. And that’s a fundamental divide. They ran a check-the-box, sanitized campaign. And voters don’t think like that. You don’t win elections that way.”


    “A ham sandwich could beat Donald Trump,” Melissa Arab, a Michigan delegate for Sanders, told The Daily Beast during a protest outside the Democratic convention in July. “And Hillary cannot beat Donald Trump.”
    (%$# mine)

    "Strongest and brightest" is not the proper term. The proper term is "Best and the brightest", who, after all did SUCH good job in Vietnam.

    I suppose that I could psychoanalyze why this happened, but I am an engineer, not a psychologist, dammit.

    *The cycle of the classic Greek tragedy: Hubris — Ate — Nemesis translated to Arrogance — Insanity — Destruction.
    Apologies to fans of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aeschylus, etc. for conflating their works and the Clinton campaign.
    I love it when I get to go all Dr. McCoy!

    19 December 2016

    My Heart Bleeds Borscht for You C%$# Suckers

    It appears that the advertising industry is having a major butthurt over EU requirements that people have a modicum of control over information that is collected about them:
    Europe's new privacy regime is likely to disrupt global digital advertising by preventing companies from using an individual's data unless they have direct consent from the consumer.

    The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) doesn't come into force until May 2018, but when it does it will have a profound effect on businesses. The regulation will apply to data about every one of the EU's 500 million citizens, wherever in the world it is processed or stored.

    Stephan Loerke, CEO of the World Federation of Advertisers, said, "I'm surprised more marketers have not woken up to the implications of GDPR. The new regulations will be a significant challenge for the ecosystem and it's difficult to forecast how technology will adjust."

    Put simply, targeting and tracking companies will need to get user consent somehow. Everything that invisibly follows a user across the internet will, from May 2018, have to pop up and make itself known in order to seek express permission from individuals.


    Companies can be fined as much as 4% of global revenues for breaching the regulations. They must also report hacking incidents within 72 hours and ensure parental consent for under-16s.
    This is all common sense stuff, and it's done everywhere else, but the only folks don't want to do it, because ……… Internet.

    Would you like some cheese with that whine?

    I am With Marcy Wheeler on This

    In the New York Times, noted national security journalist Marcy "Emptywheel" Wheeler observes that. "I Despise Donald Trump, but He's Right to Be Skeptical of C.I.A. Leaks."

    She also calls out the Gray Lady for its fake news in the lead-up to the Iraq war, in its own pages.

    I'm thinking that the editors had a fit over that:
    Trump is not quite right when he claims that, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” Neither the entire intelligence community nor even everyone at the C.I.A. was wrong about the Iraq intelligence. Rather, leaks like the ones we’re seeing now ensured elected officials didn’t hear from the skeptics who got it right.

    That time, as members of Congress were demanding the Bush administration show its case for war, anonymous officials told this newspaper that aluminum tubes purchased by Iraq could only be used for nuclear enrichment. By the time Congress got a report, a month later, saying that might not be the case most members never read it; they had already been convinced that the case for war was a “slam dunk.” 


    These leaks are important. By all means, take them seriously. But they raise questions about why the C.I.A. wants to short-circuit the deliberation Obama ordered as much as they raise alarm about Putin’s role in Trump’s victory. Letting the C.I.A. dictate outcomes with leaks corrupts any democratic accountability it has.

    Putin must not get to pick our next president. At the same time, elected representatives — whether Congress, President Obama, the 538 electors or the person who takes a vow to protect and defend the Constitution on Jan. 20 — must maintain control over our powerful intelligence community, even while alarming leaks attempt to wag the dog
    (emphasis mine)

    Her theory (see her blog) is that someone in the CIA is trying to obscure the likely origins of Russian operations: Hostile actions taken by the US state security apparatus, particularly the CIA, intended to destabilize and overthrow Russian allies.

    It's pretty clear that the CIA never stopped making war on Moscow after the end of the USSR, and it appears that the Russian state security apparatus is now returning the favor.

    Tweet of the Day

    As much as I hate the hacks at Morning Joe, they are right.

    Barack Obama was a catastrophe for the Democratic party.

    So was Bill Clinton. (lost the house for the first time in nearly 40 years)

    So was Jimmy Carter. (Lost the Senate for the first time in over 20 years)

    We need to stop electing people who spend all their time pretending to be Republicans.


    Walter White as Trump's nominee to run the DEA:

    18 December 2016

    Tweet of the Day

    H/t naked capitalism

    They've Been Working This for Years

    The tough part is integrating unsteady combustion in a constant flow turbine

    The detonation front moves helically around the combustion chamber
    Conventional turbine engines use combustors that rely on deflagration (burning).

    Theoretically, if you can burn the fuel through detonation (explosions), you can get a significant improvement in efficiency.

    That being said, this is hard to do, but Aerojet Rocketdyne has a new way to approach detonation technology: (paid subscription required)
    For over 70 years, jet engines have powered airplanes ever more safely and efficiently. But, despite higher core temperatures and pressures, and the introduction of efficient propulsion concepts like the geared fan, conventional gas turbines may be running out of runway.

    A fundamental change in the way a gas turbine combusts air and fuel in its core could open a path to a new era of jet engine development, however. Long pursued by propulsion researchers as a potential game-changing thermodynamic technology for gas turbines, the concept of pressure-gain combustion appears to be finally making headway.


    Unlike current gas turbines in which air is compressed, mixed with fuel and combusted at a constant pressure, the air and fuel mixture in a pressure-gain engine is detonated in a wave that rapidly compresses the mixture and adds heat at a constant volume. Because detonations produce extremely high pressures, the unsteady constant volume combustion process creates pressure gain in the burner, offering potential improvements of more than 15% in thermal efficiency and fuel consumption.

    But getting a detonation engine to deliver these efficiencies is extremely difficult. Despite at least two decades of experimentation with various pressure-gain combustion devices, researchers have yet to demonstrate a detonation engine that operates in a practical way, either as a means of augmenting current gas turbines or as a propulsion system in its own right.

    Now, Aerojet Rocketdyne hopes to change this with the RDE. To be studied with the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) of the U.S. Energy Department, the RDE is a simple combustion chamber contained in an annular ring that uses most of the compression for efficiency gains by allowing the detonation wave to propagate continuously around the curved edge of the chamber.


    Proving the ability of the unsteady combustor to interact efficiently with the turbine is crucial to the viability of the RDE, which differs from some alternative pressure-gain concepts such as tube-configured pulse detonation engines (PDE). These configurations fire intermittently because the fuel/air mixture needs to be renewed between detonation waves. Although PDEs have been developed and even were test-flown in 2008, Aerojet Rocketdyne selected the RDE as a more promising option because it is “a very elegant solution,” says Claflin. “It has minimal moving parts and the combustion process is continuous, unlike a PDE, which has valves cycling on and off at high rates.”
    Most of the work on PDEs has dealt with their being a successor to conventionally combustion ramjets, though it's rather similar to the pulse jets used on the V-1 "Buzzbombs".
    The RDE comprises an annular ring with nozzles at the inlet end that inject a mixture of fuel and air axially from a high-pressure plenum. The mixture is ignited once to begin the detonation process, which propagates circumferentially around the combustion chamber. The gas expands in azimuth and axially, while the exhaust and injection systems both operate axially. Because the detonation propagates in azimuth around the annular chamber, the kinetic energy of the inflow is reduced and the RDE uses most of the compression for gains in efficiency. “It is an unsteady process, but the axial flow is continuous and we end up with very-high-power densities because of it,” adds Claflin.
    I rather think that the first applications will be for stationary equipment, power plants and the like, but until we see some real complete hardware out there doing actual work, whether it's generating electricity or powering an aircraft.

    Until then, I take it as a technology that is always just around the corner.