31 July 2018

Sometimes, You Have to State the Obvious

Someone has made an obvious point, that despite exhortations from "Moderates" in the Democratic Party, "Party Unity is for Rubes."

Basically, it's a one way street, and in order for the democratic wing of the Democratic Party fix the party, the corporatists need to experience the consequences of bad faith behavior:
The question of how hostile the left should be to the Democratic Party is as old as the hills, but it becomes especially acute when the Republicans are in power: after all, with so many harmful policies for working-class and minority communities coming down the pike, isn’t it best for the left and the Democrats to join arms against a common enemy rather than engage in a “circular firing squad”? That argument played out in the pages of Dissent this week: in a response to Gabriel Winant’s excellent piece on the new working class, which was highly critical of the Democrats, Dissent editor and left historian Michael Kazin writes a plea for left unity with the Democratic Party:

For now, it’s crucial that leftists not spend their energy attacking mainstream Democrats, either present or past, as hopeless “neoliberal” sellouts. It is hard enough to defeat the odious plans that Trump and the Republican Congress want to impose on the nation. If we are engaged in a furious internal battle, it may become impossible. Instead, we should emulate Keith Ellison and Bernie Sanders—who have played down their differences with the likes of Tom Perez and Chuck Schumer—and train our fire at the enemy without and not at vital, if not always reliable, Democratic allies.

Kazin recites a perspective one hears often, particularly in the wake of the intensely divisive 2016 primary—mainly from the Democratic center but also from those on the left, like Kazin, who believe that resisting Trump, rather than settling internecine ideological scores, should be our main focus.

For a contrasting view on the subject of party unity, we need only look to the example of a prominent Democratic politician by the name of Barack Obama. In the aftermath of an extraordinarily fractious primary campaign that left the Democrats deeply divided between Clinton and Sanders supporters, the Sanders side recruited Keith Ellison to run for DNC chair. Ellison looked poised to cruise to an easy victory; for Obama to support him or at least stand aside would have been a powerful symbolic affirmation that whatever had happened during the primaries, Democrats now stood united in opposition to the Republican agenda.

So naturally Obama immediately recruited a challenger to Ellison from the ranks of his own administration and pressured the DNC electors to quash the Ellison candidacy, thus affirming his own faction’s control of the party machinery at the cost of party unity at a historical nadir of the Democrats’ power.

What did Obama understand that Kazin didn’t? He understood that party unity is a story for rubes. It’s a feel-good line for pundits and a convenient thing for the rank-and-file to believe, but not something practical politicians take seriously.


Doesn’t this permanent internecine warfare render a party ineffective against its opponents? To answer that question one need only look to the Republicans. The Republican Party is an ideologically diverse coalition incorporating ethnonationalist populists, billionaire libertarians and family-values evangelical conservatives, and since the advent of the Tea Party its factional strife has been far deeper and more intense than the Democrats’. The Koch network and the Tea Party movement have been conducting what amounts to an incredibly well-financed all-out civil war with the Republican establishment, doing things like primarying Eric Cantor, felling John Boehner and forcing Republican Congressional leadership to drive the nation to the brink of default. (Imagine if the Sanders wing of the Democrats successfully primaried Nancy Pelosi or shut down the government over single-payer.) Yet if this has hurt the GOP electorally, it’s hard to see how; in the same timespan that this civil war has intensified, the Republicans have achieved a level of electoral dominance over their Democratic opponents not seen in a century.


Kazin may well prefer a centrist Democratic administration to a Republican one—I certainly do—but that’s not the choice we’re faced with now. Allowing the centrists to run things unopposed is what got us here. Only the progressive left offers a way forward in the fight against Trump, because only the progressive left can build the coalition to beat him—but to do so we’ll need to reshape the Democratic Party, which means seeing off those who control it now. Fighting the Clinton-Obama wing of the Democratic Party isn’t a distraction from beating the GOP: it’s a vital first step.
If one looks at the history of the Democratic Party over the past few years, this whole "New Democrat" thing has been a disaster, both electorally and in terms of policy.

To quote Harry S Truman, "Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican."

What Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Said

Writing in the Guardian, the basketball hall of famer excoriates the NFL for their incoherent and hypocritical actions on the national anthem:
Whew! What a tumultuous year for your league. Slipping attendance and ratings. Continuing concussion controversy. Lawsuits from cheerleaders who refuse to shut up and smile. Domestic violence accusations against players. The Papa John’s founder mouthing off about something or other. Players taking a national anthem knee (NAK, for short). President Trump’s “problematic” rambling. Commissioner Roger Goodell under siege from, well, everybody. Bet it makes you fellas long for the good old days when all you had to worry about was Janet Jackson’s nip slip. Where’s faithful Hodor when you need someone to hold the door against relentless attackers?

Then you made it worse.

In May, you implemented a childish policy about how grown men must respond to the national anthem: a player can stay in the locker room during the anthem, but if he takes the field and then protests, the team and the player can be fined. Oh, Dear Owners. You stood at the precipice of history tasked with deciding whether to choose the principles of the US Constitution over profits of commerce, patriotism over pandering, morality over mob mentality, promoting social justice over pushing beers. Sadly, you blinked. Courage, it seems, is expected only of players.
It is a well deserved condemnation. 

Read the rest.

I'm Think that Politics is Trumping Normal Defense Procurement

The IAF is is negotiating contract with Boeing for their KC-46 tanker in a non-competitive process, despite the fact that the Airbus alternative looks to be about 20% less, and a domestic conversion of surplus 767 would be about 50% less.

Assuming that Binyamin Netanyahu hasn't found a way to profit personally from the deal, (he's currently the target of multiple corruption investigations) it is pretty clear that politics, and not military exigencies is driving this deal:
The Israel Air Force and the Ministry of Defense are planning to procure 4-6 new planes for airborne refueling from US company Boeing without asking Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP.B1) or Airbus for a price bid or asking them to take part in a tender. These are the only three companies in the world that manufacture an air refueling aircraft or convert passenger and cargo planes to a refueling configuration.

The air force's refueling missions are currently based on outdated Boeing passenger 707s manufactured over 50 years ago and converted to refueling configuration. These planes, called Ram by the air force, receive regular maintenance from IAI.

The IDF has been preparing for years for a huge deal to procure new planes for airborne refueling missions, but the process has been repeatedly postponed, primarily due to more urgent procurement programs. The Ministry of Defense is now saying that there is no avoiding a procurement deal because of the very advanced age of the existing refueling aircraft and the possible expansion in the volume of the air force's refueling missions, with an emphasis on remote theaters, such as Iran.

Israel is casting eyes at Boeings new KC-46 airborne refueling aircraft, which are in use by the US air force. Sources in the sector say that these planes cost $250-300 million. An Airbus 330 converted for aerial refueling missions costs $200-250 million, while an IAI refueling aircraft based on the Boeing 767 and converted from passenger or cargo configurations costs $100-130 million, half the price of the new plane to be sold to Israel by Boeing.


Defense sources have found it difficult in recent days to conceal their alarm about the emerging deal between the Ministry of Defense and Boeing without a tender proceeding or transparency and without consideration of the long-term effect on IAI. Conversion of planes is done at IAI's Bedek Aviation Group's facilities and hundreds of its employees are involved. Defense sources warned that giving preference for a new and very expensive like that of Boeing over an "as good as new" and cheaper aircraft from IAI would deal the Israeli company a severe blow. "It is not just the money and the livelihood of many hundreds of employees," a local industry source said. "Procurement of planes from IAI by the Israeli air force has great global marketing significance, because the IDF is regarded as an advanced, very professional, and esteemed army. If it procures a system, it validates it and gives it something like a quality standard, followed by additional deals that are usually larger."
This really is profoundly odd.

30 July 2018

Tweet of the Day

As the Scorpion Said, "It's in My Nature."

It looks like after a massive tax cut that has not, and will never, trickle down to ordinary folks, Trump and his Evil Minions have decided to give even more money to the overprivileged:
The Trump administration is considering bypassing Congress to grant a $100 billion tax cut mainly to the wealthy, a legally tenuous maneuver that would cut capital gains taxation and fulfill a long-held ambition of many investors and conservatives.

Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said in an interview on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit meeting in Argentina this month that his department was studying whether it could use its regulatory powers to allow Americans to account for inflation in determining capital gains tax liabilities. The Treasury Department could change the definition of “cost” for calculating capital gains, allowing taxpayers to adjust the initial value of an asset, such as a home or a share of stock, for inflation when it sells.

“If it can’t get done through a legislation process, we will look at what tools at Treasury we have to do it on our own and we’ll consider that,” Mr. Mnuchin said, emphasizing that he had not concluded whether the Treasury Department had the authority to act alone. “We are studying that internally, and we are also studying the economic costs and the impact on growth.”
They really seem to subscribe to the Leona Helmsley theory of taxation, "We don't pay taxes; only the little people pay taxes."

Epic Fail by Koch Suckers

Yes, Bernie Sanders is thanking the Koch Brothers
In the wholly owned Koch industries subsidiary formerly known as George Mason University, their even more owned think tank known as the Mercatus Center released a study on Medicare for all.

They headlined that it would cost the federal government $32 tillion over the next 10 years. What they relegated to the small print was that it would save $34 trillion over the same period.

The US could insure 30 million more Americans and virtually eliminate out-of-pocket health care expenses while saving $2 trillion in the process, according to a new report about Medicare for All released by the libertarian Mercatus Center.

In the report, Charles Blahous attempts to roughly score Bernie Sanders’s most recent Medicare-for-All bill and reaches the somewhat surprising (for Mercatus) conclusion that, if the bill were enacted, the new costs it creates would be more than offset by the new savings it generates through administrative efficiencies and reductions in unit prices.

……… The net change across the whole ten-year period is a savings of $2.054 trillion.

When talking about Medicare for All, it is important to distinguish between two concepts: national health expenditures and federal health expenditures. National health expenditures refer to all health spending from any source whether made by private employers, state Medicaid programs, or the federal government. It is national health expenditures that, according to the report, will decline by $2.054 trillion.

Federal health expenditures refer to health spending from the federal government in particular. Since the federal government takes on nearly all health spending under Medicare for All, federal health expenditures will necessarily go up a lot, $32.6 trillion over the ten-year period according to Blahous. But this is more of an accounting thing than anything else: rather than paying premiums, deductibles, and co-pays for health care, people will instead pay a tax that is, on average, a bit less than they currently pay into the health care system and, for those on lower incomes, a lot less.


But the real game here for Mercatus is to bury the money-saving finding in the report’s tables while headlining the incomprehensibly large $32.6 trillion number in order to trick dim reporters into splashing that number everywhere and freaking out. This is a strategy that already appears to be working, as the Associated Press headline reads: “Study: ‘Medicare for all’ projected to cost $32.6 trillion.”


But even if you take the report’s headline figures at face value, the picture it paints is that of an enormous bargain. We get to insure every single person in the country, virtually eliminate cost-sharing, and save everyone from the hell of constantly changing health insurance all while saving money. You would have to be a fool to pass that offer up.
The real problem that Mercatus has with Medicare for all is that people named Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch will be paying more in taxes than they will personally get in benefits, so it must be fought tooth and nail.


A good primer on MMT:

29 July 2018

Exclusive: Unmasking The F-15X, Boeing's F-15C/D Eagle Replacement Fighter - The Drive

Envelope expansion tests of Saudi F-15S

That's a lot of ordinance
It appears that Boeing and the USAF are working on a proposal to procure new F-15 Eagles.

Unlike Boeing's earlier "Silent Eagle" proposal, which had significant stealthy features, this variant is geared toward carrying as much as possible:
Last week, the aerospace-defense community was overwhelmingly intrigued by a report from Defenseone.com that said Boeing was pitching a new variant of its 45-year-old F-15 Eagle line of fighters to the United States Air Force. Still, next to nothing is known about this initiative, including where it came from and what it entails exactly. Although it has been framed as a Boeing solicitation to the USAF, the opposite is actually true—the USAF began the discussion over a year and a half ago. Since then, ongoing talks have been kept incredibly hush-hush, along with the details of the aircraft involved—until now.


The F-15X came out of a quiet USAF inquiry to Boeing and Lockheed Martin about fielding an aircraft that could seamlessly plug into their existing air combat infrastructure as part of better-defined high-low capability mix strategy—one intended to specifically help counter the service's shrinking force structure.


The result of those discussions is the F-15X. Our sources describe the aircraft as a single seat variant of the latest F-15 advanced Strike Eagle derivative—the F-15QA destined for Qatar—but it will also integrate many of the features and upgrades that the USAF intends (or intended as it may be) to include on its nearly four-decade-old F-15C/D fleet. And no, the aircraft is not a repackaging of the semi-stealthy F-15 Silent Eagle concept that Boeing floated nearly a decade ago. The F-15X features no low-observable enhancements of any kind.


With the help of the company's new AMBER missile carrying racks, the F-15X will be able to carry a whopping 22 air-to-air missiles during a single sortie. Alternatively, it could fly with eight air-to-air missiles and 28 Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs), or up to seven 2,000lb bombs and eight air-to-air missiles. We are talking crazy weapons hauling capabilities here. Keep in mind that the F-15C/D Eagle can carry eight air-to-air missiles currently, and the penultimate Eagle variant that is currently being built, the F-15SA, can carry a dozen.

What the F-15X doesn't include is a high price. The War Zone has learned that Boeing intends to deliver the F-15X at a flyaway cost well below that of an F-35A—which runs about $95M per copy. And this is not just some attempt to grab business and then deliver an aircraft that costs way more than promised. Our sources tell us that Boeing is willing to put their money where their mouth is via offering the F-15X under a fixed priced contract. In other words, whatever the jets actually end up costing, the Pentagon will pay a fixed price—Boeing would have to eat any overages.


The F-15X could also act as a weapons truck for stealthy fighters operating forward of their position into more highly contested airspace. This will become an especially critical capacity as ultra-long-range weaponry becomes too large for stealth fighters' weapons bays or to be carried in relevant numbers by smaller fighters.
It appears that the USAF has come to realize that the stealthy airframes that it has been acquiring are profoundly limited in the types ans quantities of munitions that they carry, and that the F-15 can carry a lot of stuff.

Also, it appears that the unit cost of the new F-15s would be competitive with planned upgrades of the C/D model aircraft, and that the per hour operational cost of new Eagles would be lower than F-22s, F-35s, and existing F-15s, so they might help with the budget as well.

It sounds like it might be a good idea, but I am dubious that the Air Force will implement it, because they are looking to cannibalize much of their existing force to pay for the F-35.

The Return of Taxi Medallions

New York City is looking at numerical limits on ride share vehicles because of the congestion that they caused.

If this sounds familiar, it is exactly the same justification that was used for the originally taxi medallion systems, that an unlimited number of hacks on the road would result in massive congestion issues:
New York City officials are moving to cap the number of vehicles driving for Uber and other ride-hailing services as part of an aggressive move to address mounting concerns that their explosive growth has led to worsening congestion and low driver wages.

The legislation being considered by the City Council would make New York the first major American city to set a limit on ride-hailing vehicles, which in a relatively short period of time have transformed the transportation networks in cities across the world. Mayor Bill de Blasio, while stopping short of fully endorsing the proposal, suggested that the time had come to rein in the industry.

The proposal supported by the City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, would halt the issuance of new for-hire vehicle licenses, except for vehicles that are wheelchair accessible, while the city conducts a yearlong study of the industry.

It is the second attempt by New York City — Uber’s largest United States market — to cap the company’s vehicles after a failed effort by Mr. de Blasio in 2015. Since then, the number of for-hire vehicles in the city has surged, rising to more than 100,000 vehicles, from about 63,000 in 2015, according to the city.
 Truth be told, they really don't need another study, there already has been a study done:

The explosive growth of Uber and Lyft has created a new traffic problem for major U.S. cities and ride-sharing options such as UberPool and Lyft Line are exacerbating the issue by appealing directly to customers who would otherwise have taken transit, walked, biked or not used a ride-hailing service at all, according to a new study.

The report by Bruce Schaller, author of the influential study "Unsustainable?" which found ride-hailing services were making traffic congestion in New York City worse, constructs a detailed profile of the typical ride-hail user and issues a stark warning to cities: Make efforts to counter the growth of ride-hailing services, or surrender city streets to fleets of private cars, creating a more hostile environment for pedestrians and cyclists and ultimately make urban cores less desirable places to live.


Schaller found that while options such as UberX add 2.8 new vehicle miles for each mile of personal driving they eliminate, the inclusion of options such as UberPool and Lyft Line adds to traffic at only a marginally lower rate: 2.6 new miles for every mile of personal driving reduced.


"Shared rides add to traffic because most users switch from non-auto modes," the report says. "In addition, there is added mileage between trips as drivers wait for the next dispatch and then drive to a pickup location. Finally, even in a shared ride, some of the trip involves just one passenger (e.g., between the first and second pickup)."
Ride sharing runs into the Tragedy of the Commons:  Roads are a publicly held resource, and individual actors attempting to maximize their own personal benefit are damaging that resource.

Unfortunately, privatizing and/or abusing the commons seems to be America's primary growth industry these days.

The Term is, "Pear Shaped"

Transfers to Turkey of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 would be barred temporarily under a compromise defense policy measure agreed to on Monday, according to House and Senate aides.

Turkish receipt of the fighter jets would be held back until the Pentagon submitted an assessment within 90 days of the measure’s enactment on U.S.-Turkish relations, the impact of Turkey’s planned acquisition of Russia’s advanced S-400 missile defense system and the ramifications for the U.S. industrial base if Turkey is dropped from the international F-35 program.


Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had warned Congress against cutting off transfers of the F-35. In a letter to lawmakers this month, Mattis said he agreed “with congressional concerns about the authoritarian drift in Turkey and its impact on human rights and rule of law.” But he said an F-35 cutoff would risk triggering an international “supply chain disruption” that would drive up costs and delay deliveries of the fighter.

Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey plans to buy about 100 F-35s, joining the U.K. and Australia as the top international customers. At least 10 Turkish companies are building parts and components, such as the cockpit displays, for other partners, according to Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed.

The compromise measure crafted by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees also would let the president waive a requirement to impose sanctions on countries and entities doing business with Russia for as long as 180 days if the party involved is taking steps to distance itself from a commercial relationship with the Russian defense and intelligence sectors, according to committee aides and a Democratic summary of the bill.
There is a lot of talk about how this is because of Erdogan is an authoritarian who is destroying the democratic structures in Turkey, and because security issues over the the S-400 purchase.

I call bullsh%$ on this.

It's really about how the buying a Russian SAM system, means that western defense contractors, (Particularly US ones) are not getting a cut of the business.

28 July 2018

Tell Me Something I Don't Know

It turns out that one of the alleged benefits of an open office, greater workplace collaboration, does not exist.

In fact, open offices actually reduce cooperative behavior:

Organizations’ pursuit of increased workplace collaboration has led managers to transform traditional office spaces into ‘open’, transparency-enhancing architectures with fewer walls, doors and other spatial boundaries, yet there is scant direct empirical research on how human interaction patterns change as a result of these architectural changes. In two intervention-based field studies of corporate headquarters transitioning to more open office spaces, we empirically examined—using digital data from advanced wearable devices and from electronic communication servers—the effect of open office architectures on employees' face-to-face, email and instant messaging (IM) interaction patterns. Contrary to common belief, the volume of face-to-face interaction decreased significantly (approx. 70%) in both cases, with an associated increase in electronic interaction. In short, rather than prompting increasingly vibrant face-to-face collaboration, open architecture appeared to trigger a natural human response to socially withdraw from officemates and interact instead over email and IM. This is the first study to empirically measure both face-to-face and electronic interaction before and after the adoption of open office architecture. The results inform our understanding of the impact on human behaviour of workspaces that trend towards fewer spatial boundaries.
So not a surprise.

I've lived most of my professional life in cube farms, and, aside from the cost savings from packing people in cheek by jowl, the benefits of open office are a myth.

Playing to Lose

For the past 40 years, the Democratic Party has made what the Republicans would do to the Supreme Court a major portion of their political appeal.

It has been a major argument for supporting corporatist Democrats: Even if they are against unions, support Wall Street looters, etc., because they would fight with the rest of the party to keep reactionary whackdoodles off of the Supreme Court.

Well, it now appears that Chuck Schumer has decided that promises are for suckers:
The top Democrat in the Senate has vowed to fight President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee with everything he’s got. Just don’t expect him to crack down on his red-state Democrats who go rogue and back Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh.

“Punishment is not how this place works,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) said in an interview this week.

Schumer is trying to stay upright on a nearly impossible political balance beam he has wobbled across throughout Trump’s presidency, caught between his party’s demanding left flank and centrist Democrats whose survival in ­November’s midterm elections will decide the Senate majority. No other congressional leader has experienced dueling pressures so acutely.

Although anger against Trump has reached a fever pitch in the Democratic Party and activists are clamoring for all-out war against Kavanaugh, Schumer has opted not to use hardball tactics to pressure moderates from Republican states to join the resistance.
Yes, eliminate what is literally the only reason to vote for craptastic hypocrites like Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp, but at least your (never to be used) powder will be kept dry.

Seriously, I can think of no better way to demoralize your base.

Cowardice is both bad policy and bad politics.

Different Sorts of Maggots

In looking at the mass layoffs at the New York Daily News, Mike the Mad Biologist explains just how private equity firms like Bain Capital make their money, and the answer is, "Looting."

In an online discussion, JR noted that, "A bit of creative destruction is a good thing.  If you compare the business cycle to ecology, there's a purpose to death, decay, the carrion eaters. It's all part of the cycle of life. ……… Never mind that they're now packing assault rifles for the express purpose of creating more carrion to eat. This is not balance, this is chaos and there will be a reckoning."

My response was that you have to draw a distinction between maggots.

The green bottle fly maggot eats only dead tissue, and has proven an effective therapy for hard to heal wounds, while the screw worm maggots, specifically that of Cochliomyia hominivorax,* eat only living tissue, and has been the subject of eradication efforts around the world for their devastating impact on livestock.

He has a list of the techniques involved:
  1. Buy off the existing management.
  2. Buy a majority stake in the company.
  3. Cement your control of the company by putting your own guys in charge.
  4. Move jobs to Mexico, China, etc. earning the adoration of Wall Street.
  5. Change the return assumptions of the pension plan, and transfer money back to the company as returned earnings.
  6. Borrow a f%$# load of money.
  7. Because of the above, you profit numbers look good, so issue huge dividends to the owners, primarily the PE firm, but also the old board members.
  8. Go public again.
The net result is that the Mitt Rmoneys of the world make a lot of money, and a company is public with an unsustainable (or nearly unsustainable) debt load, and devastated communities.

Mike notes that this is what has happened with the Daily News and what has happened to Univision, where viable companies are destroyed by looting.

It's also why "New Democrat" style politics and economics no longer have support of the Democratic Party base:
Note to ‘centrist’ New Democrats: this is one reason why part of your base, the part that ten to twenty years ago called it self ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’, is now radicalized and increasingly calling itself ‘social democratic’ or ‘socialist’ (AAAAAIIIIEEEE!!!). When people lack agency, including economic agency, they get angry–because anger is the appropriate emotion.
The behavior of PE firms, and the behavior of the "centrist" Democrats are what used to be called, in a more innocent era, "Eating your seed corn".

It may have taken a while, but the reckoning is coming.

*My apologies to Cochliomyia hominivorax maggots for comparing them to Mitt Rmoney. This is for illustrative purposes only.

27 July 2018

Welcome to the 3rd World

And it's getting worse
The United States is the most dangerous place to give birth in the devoted world.

It appears that many hospitals skip basic procedures.

My guess as to the reqson, "Because ……… Profit."

It's a hell of a way to run a railroad:
Every year, thousands of women suffer life-altering injuries or die during childbirth because hospitals and medical workers skip safety practices known to head off disaster, a USA TODAY investigation has found.

Doctors and nurses should be weighing bloody pads to track blood loss so they recognize the danger sooner. They should be giving medication within an hour of spotting dangerously high blood pressure to fend off strokes.

These are not complicated procedures requiring expensive technology. They are among basic tasks that experts have recommended for years because they can save mothers’ lives.

Yet hospitals, doctors and nurses across the country continue to ignore them, USA TODAY found.

As a result, women are left to bleed until their organs shut down. Their high blood pressure goes untreated until they suffer strokes. They die of preventable blood clots and untreated infections. Survivors can be left paralyzed or unable to have more children.
Silly rabbit, decent health care is for socialists.

Except for Canada, everyone else,s rates are falling, and Canada under Harper was big into market driven solutions.

Correlation is not causation, but it is a reason for further investigation.

The Jihad Against Plastic Bags (Literally)

Al Shabab, the Islamist terrorist group, has banned plastic bags:
Over the years, the Shabab, a terrorist group in East Africa that has pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda, have banned music, cinemas, satellite dishes and humanitarian organizations.

This week, they added a new item to the prohibited list: plastic bags.

Residents of areas controlled by the terrorist group, which operates out of Somalia, will no longer be able to use plastic bags, out of respect for the environment.

The announcement — by a group better known for suicide attacks that have killed and maimed thousands — prompted a flurry of mocking memes on the internet, some calling the Shabab the first eco-friendly terrorist organization.

The statement banning the use of plastic bags was published on Somalimemo.net, a pro-Shabab website that is believed to be run by the terrorist group’s media office. The website aired an audio recording from Mohammed Abu Abdullah, the Shabab’s governor in the Jubaland region, who said that plastic bags “pose a serious threat to the well-being of humans and animals alike,” a statement that was repeated in a Twitter message posted on a Shabab-associated account.
This real.

This is the New York Times, not the Onion.

Truth be told though, the difference is increasingly hard to discern.

26 July 2018

How Convenient

Remember how Stormy Daniels was arrested by cops for allow patrons to touch her in a strip club?

Remember how this law had never been enforced before?

Remember how the DA promptly dropped charges?

Well, we now know that the cops planned to bust Daniels in advance: (Getting a 403 errir right now, a cached copy is here.)
In an exclusive investigation, the Advocate has obtained emails from a whistleblower from inside the Columbus Police Department that outline the arrest of Stormy Daniels earlier this month may have been pre-planned days before she ever arrived in town.

Columbus Police arrested the adult entertainer — who claims to have had an affair with then-private citizen Donald Trump in 2006 — on July 12. Police said that Daniels violated an Ohio law by “touching” club-goers, who were actually undercover VICE officers. The charges were dismissed 12 hours later after Daniels hired Columbus defense attorney Chase Mallory. Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein said the elements were not met in the charges and that is why the cases were tossed out. Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs apologized and called it a “mistake.”


A whistleblower from the City of Columbus contacted the Advocate with numerous emails between several high-ranking Columbus police detectives and VICE officers.

Inside the emails are news clippings discussing Daniels’ planned appearance in Columbus, pictures of Daniels with President Donald Trump, videos of her dancing, and even a map to the club where she would be performing, all sent days before she would pull into town on her tour bus.

The bulk of the emails that the whistleblower provided are from the email account of Detective Shana Keckley. Keckley was one of the lead-arresting officers the night that the “sting” operation went down.

“It is clear that Keckley and her fellow officers were there because of Stormy and only because of Stormy,” the whistleblower told the Advocate in an interview.

Police said that Daniels was caught up in an investigation into human trafficking and prostitution the night she was arrested, but the emails released draw questions as to if Keckley and others targeted Daniels.
How convenient!

Court Rules against Dressing up as an Indian

In a unanimous decision, an appellate court has resoundingly rejected the legal claim that sovereign immunity, as argued by a Native American tribe, can act as a shield for a patent review process.

On July 20, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found in a 3-0 decision that the inter partes review (IPR) process is closer to an "agency enforcement action"—like a complaint brought by the Federal Trade Commission or the Federal Communications Commission—than a regular lawsuit.

IPR is a process that allows anyone to challenge a patent’s validity at the United States Patent and Trademark Office—it was used famously in 2017 to reject the "podcasting patent."

"This win is a victory in our ongoing efforts to stop patent abuses by brand companies and to help drive access to more affordable medicine," Mylan CEO Heather Bresch said in a statement on July 20.

"Today's ruling reaffirms that Allergan's attempt to leverage the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe for patent protection represents another inappropriate tactic to delay the availability of generic medicines for patients who need them."
This case, Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, Allergan Inc. v. Mylan Pharmaceuticals et al, really began in September 2015. That was when Allergan, a pharma company, sued rival Mylan, claiming that Mylan’s generics infringed on Allergan’s dry eye treatment known as Restasis.


By 2016, Mylan initiated the IPR. But Allergan, in an attempt to stave it off, struck a strange deal, transferring ownership of the six Restasis-related patents to the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, based in Upstate New York, near the Canadian border.

As part of that deal, Allergan paid $13.75 million to the tribe, with a promise of $15 million in annual payments—if the patents were upheld, that is. (According to The New Yorker, Allergan stood to make $1 billion annually for its monopoly product.)


The Mohawk Tribe attempted to end the IPR, citing sovereign immunity, which was denied. The tribe struck at least one other similar deal with a firm known as SRC Labs, which sued Amazon and Microsoft.

Due to the July 20 ruling, Mylan's IPR process will now go forward.
The inter partes review (IPR) process is an administrative review of patents that is faster, cheaper, and far less amenable to lame-ass patents than the federal courts.  (Particularly those federal courts in the Eastern District of Texas.)

This is yet another blow against the business of patent trolling.

It's a Damn Shame

I have mentioned how it seems to me that Rachael Maddow is having a full Mort Sahl styl meltdown on MSNBC.

I'm wrong, it's the whole f%$#ing network:
As FAIR has noted before (1/8/18, 3/20/18), to MSNBC, the carnage and destruction the US and its Gulf Monarchy allies are leveling against the poorest country in the Arab world is simply a non-issue.

On July 2, a year had passed since the cable network’s last segment mentioning US participation in the war on Yemen, which has killed in excess of 15,000 people and resulted in over a million cases of cholera. The US is backing a Saudi-led bombing campaign with intelligence, refueling, political cover, military hardware and, as of March, ground troops. None of this matters at all to what Adweek (4/3/18) calls “the network of the Resistance,” which has since its last mention of the US’s role in the destruction of Yemen found time to run over a dozen segments highlighting war crimes committed by the Syrian and Russian governments in Syria.

By way of contrast, as MSNBC was marking a year without mentioning the US role in Yemen, the PBS NewsHour was running a three-part series on the war, with the second part (7/3/18) headlined, “American-Made Bombs in Yemen Are Killing Civilians, Destroying Infrastructure and Fueling Anger at the US.” The NewsHour’s Jane Ferguson reported:

The aerial bombing campaign has not managed to dislodge the rebels, but has hit weddings, hospitals and homes. The US military supports the Saudi coalition with logistics and intelligence. The United States it also sells the Saudis and coalition partners many of the bombs they drop on Yemen.
455 to 0.  That makes the Washington Generals record against the Harlem Globetrotters look impressive.

It's understandable though, as FAIR notes, "In any event, it’s not like any Yemenis are going to pull ads, turn down appearances, or phone Comcast higher-ups complaining. So, who cares?"

Bust Them Up into 1000 Pieces

I am referring to Facebook, of course.

They've been at again.

Specifically, they have been actively aiding its advertisers in discriminating:
Though Facebook announced a voluntary plan to update its controversial advertising-filter system earlier this year, Washington state announced a firmer plan for the social media company on Tuesday.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced a legally binding plan that will force Facebook to "make significant changes to its advertising platform by removing the ability of third-party advertisers to exclude ethnic and religious minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, and other protected groups from seeing their ads."

Ferguson also declared the end of his office's 20-month investigation into Facebook's advertising practices on Tuesday, which coincided with an Assurance of Discontinuance (PDF) filed in King County Superior Court.


One sample ad for a restaurant, as described by Ferguson's office, "excluded African-American, Asian-American, and Latinx ethnic affinity groups." When reached by Ars Technica, the attorney general's communications director, Brionna Aho, was unable to provide copies of the fake ads and directed Ars to a public records request process. Ferguson's announcement included a screenshot of the site's advertising-purchase interface, which included "ethnic affinity" labels.

The announcement pointed to Facebook's assurances in February 2017 to "improve enforcement of its prohibition against discrimination in advertising" and then cited additional ProPublica reporting that showed Facebook had not held up its end of the bargain. As Ferguson's office writes:


After acknowledging another Facebook filter change in light of that last ProPublica report, Ferguson's office expressed continued concerns about Facebook's ability to block discriminatory advertising. Even after those November 2017 changes, Washington state investigators were still able to "exclude people [from seeing advertisements] based on several other protected classes, such as sexual orientation, religious affiliation, and veteran status" and apply these discriminatory filters to ads for "public accommodations and insurance." (Ferguson's statement defines "public accommodations" as "all businesses open to the public.")

Thus, Tuesday's Assurance of Discontinuance includes two key, legally binding provisions: Facebook can no longer "exclude ethnic groups from advertisements for insurance and public accommodations" or "provide advertisers with tools to discriminate based on race, creed, color, national origin, veteran or military status, sexual orientation, and disability status."
I would note that this is not limited to Facebook.

There are a whole bunch of people who are offering micro-targeting of advertisements on the internet, and the ability to engage in bigotry in without any human contact.

Let me just say, "Muck Fark Zuckerberg."

Be Still My Beating Heart

After years of failing to meet obligations attached to its merger with Time Warner Cable, the NY Public Service Commission is threatening to revoke Charter Communications license to operate in New York State:
Charter Communications could lose its authorization to operate in New York State because of its failure to meet merger-related broadband deployment commitments, a key government official said.

NY Public Service Commission (PSC) Chairman John Rhodes said that "a suite of enforcement actions against [Charter] Spectrum are in development, including additional penalties, injunctive relief, and additional sanctions or revocation of Spectrum's ability to operate in New York State," according to a PSC announcement last week.

Charter agreed to expand its network in exchange for state approval of its 2016 purchase of Time Warner Cable (TWC). New York officials say that Charter has failed to meet its commitments, even though Charter claims it has. Rhodes accused Charter of "gaslighting" and noted that the PSC has already ordered Charter to stop making misleading claims about its broadband deployment progress.

Last week's PSC announcement said:
Charter has continually failed to meet its commitments to the state, including its obligation to timely extend its high-speed broadband network to 145,000 unserved and underserved homes and businesses. Charter has also continued to make the false claim in advertisements and other public statements that it is exceeding its obligations to New York State, notwithstanding that the Commission has previously directed Charter to cease its misleading campaign and has referred the matter to the New York Attorney General for appropriate action. Charter's claims are simply false and the Commission will not stand idly by while Charter deceives the public and its shareholders. Charter's own data shows a gaping hole between its commitments and its performance. New York will not tolerate Charter's gaslighting its own customers into believing it is meeting its promises.
 I so want this to happen, because, like all of America, I hate the cable companies.

Tweet of the Day

Gee, ya think?

I Support this Law

I recognize the distinguished gentleman from Wisconsin as being absolutely brilliant.

25 July 2018

Clearly Adopting New Deal "Leftist" Policies Will Be a Death Knell for the Democrats

The Democratic Party establishment clearly subscribes to the philosophy of Boies Penrose, "Yes, but I'll preside over the ruins."

Tweet of the Day

The first thing a good lawyer tells his client is to shut the f%$# up.

Physician, heal thyself.

H/t Atrios.

This Takes Guts

Silvia Foti set about writing a biography of her grandfather, Jonas Noreika, a hero of the resistance in Lithuania, and she discovered that her father was a Nazi collaborator who directed the extermination of Jews in a number of cities, and she has written about this:
Eighteen years ago, my dying mother asked me to continue working on a book about her father, Jonas Noreika, a famous Lithuanian World War II hero who fought the Communists. Once an opera singer, my mother had passionately devoted herself to this mission and had even gotten a PhD in literature to improve her literary skills. As a journalist, I agreed. I had no idea I was embarking on a project that would lead to a personal crisis, Holocaust denial and an official cover-up by the Lithuanian government.


That is the book I started to write. My mother had collected a trove of material that included 3,000 pages of KGB transcripts; 77 letters to my grandmother; a fairytale to my mother written from the Stutthof concentration camp; letters from family members about his childhood; and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles. A few months into the project, I visited my dying grandmother, who lived a few blocks away. She asked me not to write the book about her husband. “Just let history lay,” she whispered. I was stunned. “But I promised Mom,” I said. She rolled over to face the wall. I didn’t take her request seriously; I thought she was simply giving me a pass because she knew how taxing the project was for my mother.


From Vilnius, Ray and I traveled as honorary guests to Šukoniai, the northern town where our grandfather was born, to see the grammar school named after him. We were shown the modest building of white bricks and oak trim. The school director, a roly-poly man with disheveled white hair, enthusiastically grabbed our hands, telling us how pleased he was that we had come to host the ceremony in homage to our grandfather. He had heard I was writing a book. I asked him, “How did you decide to name the school after our grandfather?” Stroking his chin, he answered, “It was during a meeting of the County Board. We wanted to pick a new name instead of the Russian one we had. Your grandfather’s surfaced immediately.” Then he pulled Ray and me aside so the others couldn’t hear. “I got a lot of grief at first when we picked his name. He was accused of being a Jew-killer.”

Ray and I were aghast. Accused of being a Jew-killer? I looked around the room, at the teachers and the principal. Who were these people? Who was my mother? My grandmother? Who was I? My mind whirled: There must be some mistake. The director stroked my arm in reassurance. “I’m getting more support than ever over choosing your grandfather’s name. All of that is in the past.”


In 2013 I spent seven weeks in Lithuania. I hired a Holocaust guide, Simon Dovidavičius, director of Sugihara House, a museum honoring Chiune Sugihara, who helped 6,000 Jews escape to Japan during WWII. We became an unlikely pair, investigating the life of my grandfather. I showed him all the monuments on my grandfather; he showed me pits of where Jews were buried because of my grandfather. I gave him the book published by the Genocide Museum stating my grandfather was a hero; he gave me Holocaust books stating my grandfather was a villain.

Dovidavičius was the first to suggest that my grandfather conducted the initial akcija (action) during World War II before the Germans arrived. It coincided with Operation Barbarossa on June 22, 1941, when Hitler invaded Russia, the same day Lithuania began its uprising with the Germans against the Soviets, marking the start of a Holocaust there, where 95 percent of its 200,000 Jews were murdered, the highest percentage of any country in Europe. (About 3,000 Jews remain in Lithuania today.)

Within three weeks, 2,000 Jews had been killed in Plungė, half the town’s population, and where my grandfather led the uprising. This preceded the January 1942 Wannsee Conference, when Nazi Germany decided to make mass-murder its state policy. Put in more chilling terms, Dovidavičius claimed that my grandfather, as captain, taught his Lithuanian soldiers how to exterminate Jews efficiently: how to sequester them, march them into the woods, force them to dig their own graves and shove them into pits after shooting them. My grandfather was a master educator.

I resumed the investigation. I sought out Damijonas Riaukia, a colleague of my grandfather during the five-day uprising. He was a 17-year-old in 1941. “Didn’t my grandfather have anything to do with the killing of the Jews?” “He wasn’t here,” he answered. “He had nothing to do with it. It was the Germans.” By this point I suspected a cover-up, but I needed proof.


By the end of the trip I came to believe that my grandfather must have sanctioned the murders of 2,000 Jews in Plungė, 5,500 Jews in Šiauliai and 7,000 in Telšiai.


Gochin has identified more than 100 relatives killed in the Lithuanian Holocaust. Our independent research has shown that my grandfather murdered Gochin’s relatives. We decided to join forces.

While I had been focused exclusively on my grandfather over the past two decades, Gochin had launched a movement in Lithuania to expose multiple men lauded as heroes by the Genocide Museum who played a role in the Holocaust. Three years ago, he launched a campaign to remove my grandfather’s plaque from the Vilnius Library of the Academy of Science building. Despite wide media coverage and a petition signed by 19 prominent Lithuanian politicians, writers, and historians, the government refused to remove the plaque. This month, Gochin presented a 69-page exposé on my grandfather, charging the government with a cover-up of the Holocaust. I’m trying to play my small part in Gochin’s movement by offering an affidavit of support describing my research on my grandfather.

In the face of tremendous resistance by the Lithuanian government, the effort to convince it to acknowledge its role in the Holocaust will be long and hard. The souls of 200,000 Jews buried in Lithuanian soil demand such a reckoning.
It's one thing look into family history and find some skeletons, most families do, it's another to face it head on and tell people that you have genocidal monsters in your family tree.

This could not have been easy.

Pass the Popcorn

This is a happy constitutional scholar
A judge has ruled that the emoluments lawsuit against Donald Trump can proceed:
A federal judge on Wednesday rejected President Trump’s latest effort to stop a lawsuit that alleges Trump is violating the Constitution by continuing to do business with foreign governments.

The ruling, from U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte in Greenbelt, Md., will allow the plaintiffs — the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia — to proceed with their case, which says Trump has violated little-used anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution known as emoluments clauses.

This ruling appeared to mark the first time a federal judge had interpreted those constitutional provisions and applied their restrictions to a sitting president.

If the ruling stands, it could bring unprecedented scrutiny to Trump’s businesses — which have sought to keep their transactions with foreign states private, even as their owner sits in the Oval Office.

Messitte’s 52-page opinion said that, in the modern context, the Constitution’s ban on emoluments could apply to Trump — and that it could cover any business transactions with foreign governments where Trump derived a “profit, gain or advantage.”

“This includes profits from private transactions, even those involving services given at fair market value,” Messitte wrote.
I am intensely amused by this, though I am not as over the moon about this as Zephyr Teachout,who has maintained that anti-corruption is actually a prominent foundation of the US Constitution.

It will be fun to watch Donald Trump squirm over this.

24 July 2018

Finance Ruins Everything

The New York Daily News has has just fired half of its reporters:
This past spring, Michael Ferro resigned as chairman of publicly traded media-looting hell-company Tronc, Inc., just ahead of the publication of sexual harassment allegations against him. As a parting gift, Tronc paid him $15 million, voluntarily bundling up the total value of a three-year consulting contract into one lump payment expensed against the company’s earnings and putting itself $14.8 million in the red for the first quarter. Today, Tronc gutted the New York Daily News, laying off at least half of its editorial staff to cut costs. In a society not crippled and driven completely insane by capitalism, motherf%$#ers would go to prison for this.

When people talk pejoratively about “class warfare,” they almost never are referring to things like the above sequence of events. But what happened to the Daily News at the hands of Tronc is class f%$#ing warfare, a massive redistribution of wealth from the paper’s working people to a disgusting handsy sh%$bag multimillionaire, in a decision made far above those working people’s heads by a small handful of executive- and investor-class vampires. The journalists who lost their livelihoods today in effect had their salaries and benefits re-routed to Michael Ferro’s bank accounts. Against their wills, they were made to pay him for being a f%$#ing pig.

Versions of this are happening all across the media industry: Ownership parasites writing checks to themselves and each other that must be cashed out of the livelihoods of real people with no say in the matter. Deadspin’s parent company, Univision, recently bought out dozens of people across our network of sister sites—originally they’d intended layoffs, before negotiating with our union—not because we’re doing unprofitable work, but simply as a means of passing along the outrageous debt the company’s owners took on when they purchased Gizmodo Media Group in the first place. Next they’ll sell us off—altogether or piecemeal, as best suits their wallets and nothing else. It is, pretty much exactly, the F%$# you, pay me! sequence from Goodfellas, playing out in real time.
I really do think that there needs to major changes to corporate bankruptcy codes to make this sort of behavior a bit less remunerative.

Something is Profoundly Odd Here

On Business Insider, I came across a story about Silicon Valley venture capitalist Masha Drokova.

There were a number of things that did not seem right, she is a 28 year old woman who wants founders of her unicorns to have a rewarding life and romance.

First, she is 28, second, she is a woman, third, she did not go to Stanford, and fourth, she wants her founders to find stable romantic relationships:
"Everyone is more productive when they fall in love," says Masha Drokova.

Drokova is the founder of Day One Ventures, a San Francisco-based firm focused on early-stage investments. The 28-year-old runs her firm differently than that of the average Silicon Valley venture capitalist: She considers investing in companies to be a deeply holistic undertaking, often forming close, personal relationships with her portfolio companies' founders.

"If I don't have a human connection with someone, I won't do business with them," says Drokova. "For me, it's never just about the money. I'm going to know most of my founders for the next five or 10 years. If you don't have a personal connection with a person, it's likely that your business relationship will fall apart."

Often, Drokova's close-knit business relationships evolve beyond a purely professional context. "I'm friends with the founders of my portfolio companies," she says. "I enjoy spending time with them and learning about them."


"It's often very simple things that help," says Drokova. "Meditating, eating healthy food, taking care of their physical health."

For some stressed-out founders, Drokova recommends mediation classes, podcasts, and self-developmental courses like Vipassana and sexual energy retreats.


"My founders are much more grounded when they're in relationships," says Drokova. "They take on this new energy. They're more focused."

To aid her founders along in the pursuit of romance, Drokova has played the part of matchmaker to a number of her portfolio company entrepreneurs.

"It's not necessarily matchmaking," says Drokova. "I just introduce them to my friends."
My sense, confirmed by a friend in the tech biz is that this is highly unusual. He rather pityily noted that this was, "Horsesh%$," and that, "The one thing SV venture firms don’t want is founders having a life."

The hedge fund is rather small, around $30 million, but even at that level, I cannot see it having any meaningful support from the Silicon Valley crowd, who are not what one would call pro-social.

Perhaps Russian exiles, Drokova has had a falling out with Putin (at only 28, precocious!), and there is a lot of Russian emigre money out there, so that could be the source.

It does not seem to me to be smart money, but then again, neither were the titans of industry who invested in Theranos, and separating investors people from their money is a viable business plan.  Ask Goldman Sachs, who have been doing just that for 148 years.

Hunter S. Thompson is Smiling Somewhere

It's a review of OZY Fest 2018 from Rolling Stone magazine by  Matt Christman and Will Menaker of very left Chapo Trap House podcast, who referred to it as a, "Neoliberal Nightmare.".

It is a thing of beauty, and my favorite bit was reading about Rose McGowan throwing serious shade at guest of honor Hillary Clinton:
After taking a time out in the advertorial screening room/safe space presented by Volvo, I caught some of Rose McGowan’s talk on #MeToo. What her analysis of sexual harassment and assault was lacking in materialism, she more than made up for in purity of hate. I like to think she was throwing some subtle shade on the queen when she referred to the Weinsteins of the world as “superpredators.” Maybe it’s just my love of Jawbreaker talking, but Comrade McGowan might join the revolution yet.
It WAS shade, and it WASN'T subtle.

This is the Most Epic Travel Reimbursement Voucher Ever

Yes, this is a reimbursement voucher from Aldrin for his trip to the moon.

23 July 2018

This is Intriguing

Harold Feld, Sr. VP and lawyer at Public Knowledge, has an interesting way to measure excessive market power for anti-trust purposes, that one can measure the the cost of exclusion:
In my last blog post, I explained my working definition for what constitutes a “digital platform.” Today, I focus on another concept that gets thrown around a lot: “dominant.” While many regulations promoting consumer protection and competition apply throughout a sector, some economic regulations apply to “dominant” firms or firms with “market power.” Behavior that is harmless, or potentially even positive when done by smaller companies or in a more competitive marketplace, can be anticompetitive or harmful to consumers when done by dominant firms — regardless of the firm’s actual intent.

For reasons discussed in my previous blog posts, defining what constitutes “dominant” (or even identifying a single market in which to make such a determination), presents many challenges using the traditional tools of analysis favored by antitrust enforcers and regulators. I therefore propose that we use the cost of exclusion (“COE,” because nothing in policy is taken seriously unless it has its own acronym) as the means of determining when we need to apply regulation to “dominant” firms. That is to say, the greater the cost to individuals and firms (whether as consumers or producers or any of the other roles they may play simultaneously on digital platforms), the greater the need for regulations to protect platform users from harm. If a firm is “too big to lose access to,” then we should treat that firm as dominant.
It's not the only potential standard for antitrust, but, particularly in the context of large digital platforms, it provides an additional tool to justify regulating large dominant firms.

Now if only antitrust can put the ahistorical and dishonest writings of  Robert Bork behind it.

Deep Thoughts

The coldest place on the face of the earth is a grocery store after you run in from the parking lot on a torrential downpour.

A Public Service Announcement

When Mark Penn says something mind buggeringly stupid, do not say, "F%$# him with a Narwhal."

Narwals are beautiful and intelligent creatures, and they don't deserve that.

Some Fact Checking Please

For once, the title, "This Porcelain Is Tougher Than It Looks," is correct, but the article gets the basics wrong:
Wallace Chan, the Hong Kong jeweler behind some of the world’s most exclusive gems, sat in a sunny Manhattan hotel room a few weeks ago, talking about his latest creations.

He displayed one, a large blue ring topped with a diamond — and began whacking it aggressively against the wooden coffee table.

Bang! Mr. Chan, 62, just smiled. Then he rapped it again.

The ring was primarily made of porcelain, a ceramic normally used for rose-strewn tea sets and figurines of pouting milkmaids, and such treatment should have reduced it to a handful of shards on the hotel room carpet.

But this wasn’t just any old porcelain. It was a porcelain seven years in the making, which Mr. Chan invented and which he says is five times harder than steel.

The material — called for the time being, a little unimaginatively, Wallace Chan Porcelain — is made of specially chosen ingredients that Mr. Chan treats like the equivalent of a state secret out of fear of industrial espionage (the jewelry world is, apparently, a paranoid place). But the ingredients are, he said, almost devoid of impurities.
All high fire (vitrified) clays, like porcelain, and most of the low fire clays, are MUCH harder than steel.

Ordinary glass is harder than steel, which you can demonstrate if you (very) carefully try to drill window glass.

On the Mohs Scale, steel is typically in the 4-4½ range, and porcelain is around 7. (Talc is 1 & diamond 10 on the Mohs Scale)

What Mr. Chan has done is create a TOUGHER ceramic, which is important, but VERY different from a HARDER ceramic.

He does this, as the article reveals, by making small (but important) changes in the formulation of porcelain, and firing it at a higher temperature, which further reduces voids in the resulting fired ceramic.

It's pretty much the same process used by people trying to put ceramics in things like jet turbines, though he seems to have come up with a technique that does not require the elaborate tooling used for those applications.

My guess his recipe is that, "Almost devoid of impurities," is the most important bit.  

Ceramics yield very little, which means that stresses at any crack tips are very high because there is little local yielding, so the elimination of inclusions are critical to toughness and tensile strength.

Good for Mr. Chan, but someone needs to give the reporter a class in material science 101.

Tweet of the Day

A very well deserved take-down of David Brooks.


It appears that Trevor Noah really pissed off much of France in his World Cup Comments:

22 July 2018

Shades of the B-70 Bomber

The prototype today

The XB-70 in 1960

Have a video

A slightly clearer view
Nasa is investigating wings that fold down in flight to reduce drag and increase stability: (paid subscription required)
Folding the tips of a wing in flight can increase stability and reduce drag, NASA flight tests have shown. Now researchers plan additional flights to test control laws that actively adjust wing fold in flight to minimize drag. They are also proposing a project to test wing folding in supersonic flight.

The Spanwise Adaptive Wing (SAW) project, a rapid feasibility assessment under NASA’s Convergent Aeronautics Solutions (CAS) program, showed folding the outer sections of the wing in flight improved directional stability and control. In a new aircraft design, this would allow tail size and drag to be reduced.
One of the interesting bit of tech here is the actuator for wing folding.

As opposed to the rather large and heavy hydraulic actuators used by the Valkyrie, they are using memory metals and heating:
The tests involved NASA’s subscale unmanned prototype-technology evaluation and research aircraft (PTERA), essentially an 11%-scale Boeing 737, with the outer 15 in. on either side of its 176-in.-span wing hinged to fold up or down by up to 75 deg. The sections were folded in flight using shape memory alloy (SMA) actuators built into the hinge lines.


SAW is built around torsion actuators made of an alloy that, when heated electrically, “remembers” and returns to its original twisted shaped, and in doing so moves the wingtip. The PTERA uses an actuator with a single SMA tube that produces 500 in.-lb. of torque. NASA Glenn has ground-tested a 5,000 in.-lb. actuator with nested SMA tubes. This was used to fold the outer wingbox of the F/A-18 wing.


NASA Glenn has developed the nickel-titanium-hafnium shape-memory alloy and is working to scale up the tubes to sizes never before produced. “Glenn is working with the material supplier, pouring melts and breaking records,” says Moholt. “They are working to make sure it scales, with the right crystalline structure.”

The raw SMA stock is provided to Boeing, which gun-drills the tubes and assembles them into an actuator. The 20,000 in.-lb. SAW actuator has 12 0.5-in.-dia. tubes, each with a gear at the end driving a ring gear that moves the wing. Boeing is also “training” the SMA actuators, a process that requires thousands of thermal cycles.

The SAW project ends in September. The team is proposing a follow-on project that would demonstrate SMA wing folding on a supersonic aircraft. Folding the wingtips down in supersonic flight generates compression lift from shockwaves under the wing and can dramatically reduce induced drag, says Moholt. This was used in the North American XB-70 bomber. Folding the tips down also increases lateral stability and control in supersonic flight, allowing a smaller tail.
Also, at supersonic speeds, the drooped wingtips capture the shock-wave from the bottom of the aircraft, and can increase lift.

It's a neat piece of kit.

James Comey is Not Our Friend

He's always been a sanctimonious asshole.

Don't lionize him because Trump hates him.

I Agree with a WaPo OP/ED

In a guest editorial, an assistant professor at my alma mater makes what should be an obvious point, that jokes about a gay relationship between Trump and Putin is neither funny nor appropriate.

I agree wholeheartedly:
Trump is astonishingly ill informed about foreign affairs. He undermines the U.S. intelligence community at the peril of our safety and institutional integrity. He is ineffectual, and even dangerous, in his foreign policy. Gay romance metaphors do not convey this reality — they obscure it. We should indict the conditions giving rise to these narratives and seriously consider the costs of linking gay sexuality with failure, security risk and shame.

The Return of Indentured Servitude

Colleges are looking at the future, and the future is eternal peonage of their students:
As more students balk at the debt loads they face after graduation, some colleges are offering an alternative: We’ll pay your tuition if you offer us a percentage of your future salary.

Norwich University announced Tuesday that it will become the latest school to offer this type of contract, known as an income share agreement. Norwich’s program is starting out on a small scale, mainly for students who do not have access to other types of loans or those who are taking longer than the traditional eight semesters to finish their degree.

“Norwich University is committed to offering this new way to help pay for college in a way that aligns incentives and helps reduce financial barriers to degree completion,” said Lauren Wobby, the school’s chief financial officer and treasurer.
The word here is, "Dystopian."