30 April 2014

I Got my Ass Owned

When I wrote about evidence that Poland training Right Wing Paramilitaries from the Ukraine, I relied (and noted at the time) that the story came from a translation of a Polish weekly by a 911 truther.

Well, it appears that the original source, the Polish publication Nie is a news and PARODY publication, much along the lines of Le Canard Enchainé, which has both broken news, and done parody.

As Thierry Meyssan notes, "This article is based on information obtained by the Polish opposition. I erroneously cited as my source the satirical weekly Nie, which published a pastiche mixing truths and non-truths. The data it provides needs to be verified."

Needless to say, 911 truthers are inherently unreliable sources, so without alternate credible sources, I will not publish.

Note also that Google translate is not adequate for many foreign sources for verification.

My apologies.

We are Having a Spot of Weather

Clip Image for Slide Show
Normally, I would not write about this, but a city block of street in Baltimore just slid into a rivine:
A nearly 120-year-old retaining wall that has troubled Charles Village residents for decades collapsed Wednesday amid a month's worth of rain, dumping street lights, sidewalks and half a dozen cars onto the CSX rail tracks below.

No injuries were reported. City officials evacuated 19 adjacent homes along East 26th Street and urged residents to avoid the area in case of lingering instability.

The landslide halted CSX rail traffic through what is a main artery to the port of Baltimore. The track carries cargo containers handled by rail at the state's Seagirt Marine Terminal, a substantial economic engine for the region.
I think that I also saw animals pairing up 2 by 2.

Another Day, Another Shooting

This time at a Fedex in Kennesaw, Georgia:
A FedEx Corp package handler armed with a shotgun opened fire at a shipping facility in suburban Atlanta early on Tuesday, injuring six people before killing himself, apparently with his own weapon, police and hospital officials said.

Three people were in critical condition, two of them with life-threatening injuries, after being shot by the 19-year-old gunman just before 6 a.m. EDT at a FedEx warehouse near the airport in Kennesaw, Georgia, about 30 miles northwest of Atlanta, police and hospital officials said.

The shooter, identified as Geddy L. Kramer of Acworth, Georgia, drove up to the security guard shack at the warehouse and shot the guard before entering the warehouse where he shot the other five people, according to police.

FedEx employee Liza Aiken told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution she was correcting addresses on packages when she saw a colleague dressed in black and armed with a knife, gun and a cartridge belt strapped across this chest.

"He had bullets strapped to his chest like Rambo," she told the newspaper. "He looked like he was heading into war."
The kicker, Kennesaw, Georgia has a mandatory gun law, which requires heads of households to own a firearm and ammunition:

Gun law

The town is noted for its unusual gun legislation. In 1982 the city passed an ordinance [Sec 34-21][19]
(a) In order to provide for the emergency management of the city, and further in order to provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants, every head of household residing in the city limits is required to maintain a firearm, together with ammunition therefore.

(b) Exempt from the effect of this section are those heads of households who suffer a physical or mental disability which would prohibit them from using such a firearm. Further exempt from the effect of this section are those heads of households who are paupers or who conscientiously oppose maintaining firearms as a result of beliefs or religious doctrine, or persons convicted of a felony.
Gun rights activist David Kopel stated that there is evidence that this gun law has reduced the incident rate of home burglaries citing that in the first year, home burglaries dropped from 65 before the ordinance, down to 26 in 1983, and to 11 in 1984.[20] The overall crime rate had decreased by more than 50% between 1982 and 2005.[21] Another report observed a noticeable reduction in burglary from 1981, the year before the ordinance was passed, to 1999. A 2001 media report stated that Kennesaw's crime rates continued to decline and were well below the national average, making citizens feel safer and more secure.[22] The city's website says that the city has the lowest crime rate in Cobb county.[23]
Remember what Wayne LaPierre said about the defense against a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun?

Not so much.

29 April 2014

Muck Fyhrvold

Nathan Myhrvold founded Intellectual Ventures, and proceeded both directly, and through a shadowy shell companies, has proceeded to use dodgy patents, and threat of expensive litigation to extort money from businesses.

Well, we have just had a on the first case that IV put its own name on, and Myhrvold's baby went down in flames:
Intellectual Ventures (IV) is the world's biggest patent-licensing company and boasts of having collected tens of thousands of patents since it was founded in 2000. It's raised about $6 billion from investors over the years, and to recoup that money, it started filing lawsuits over patents a few years ago. In 2013, it launched a new salvo, filing 13 lawsuits against major US banks, including Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Capital One.

The Capital One case ended last Wednesday, when a Virginia federal judge threw out the two IV patents that remained in the case. It's the first IV patent case seen through to a judgment, and it ended in a total loss for the patent-holding giant: both patents were invalidated, one on multiple grounds. (An IV case against Motorola went to a jury, but it ended in a mistrial, and no new trial has been scheduled.)

The case was just weeks away from a jury trial, but US District Judge Anthony Trenga didn't let it get that far. In an opinion published Wednesday, Trenga found that IV's patents were simply abstract ideas: "nothing more than the mere manipulation or reorganization of data," he wrote. "At most, the patents describe a more efficient system or method for performing tasks than could be done without a computer, i.e. monitoring expenditures according to preset limits (the '137 Patent) or determining what would appeal to a particular user from a particular website (the '382 Patent.)"
Unfortunately, I can think of no way to make Myhrvold's business model, and those of other patent trolls illegal (as in go to jail), but perhaps we can see some meaningful changes to the law to make this behavior legally untenable.

I hope that Monsanto's in the crosshairs as well.  In many ways, they are worse, because, our lives do not depend on the CWV code on a credit card, but they do depend on food.

H/t Crooks and Liars.

Chock Full of Awesome

Seen on Facebook

This Should Have Happened Years Ago

Donald Sterling has been banned from the NBA for life and must sell the LA Clippers.

I do not know whether this will survive the inevitable court challenge (If the NBA were smart, they would make an above market value offer to get this sh%$ off the table).

Still, I think that the big point was made by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, that we have known that Sterling was a racist dirtbag for years:
Yes, I’m angry, too, but not just about the sins of Donald Sterling. I’ve got a list. But let’s start with Sterling. I used to work for him, back in 2000 when I coached for the Clippers for three months. He was congenial, even inviting me to his daughter’s wedding. Nothing happened or was said to indicate he suffered from IPMS (Irritable Plantation Master Syndrome). Since then, a lot has been revealed about Sterling’s business practices:
  • 2006: U.S. Dept. of Justice sued Sterling for housing discrimination. Allegedly, he said, “Black tenants smell and attract vermin.”
  • 2009: He reportedly paid $2.73 million in a Justice Dept. suit alleging he discriminated against blacks, Hispanics, and families with children in his rentals. (He also had to pay an additional nearly $5 million in attorneys fees and costs due to his counsel’s “sometimes outrageous conduct.”)
  • 2009: Clippers executive (and one of the greatest NBA players in history) sued for employment discrimination based on age and race.

What bothers me about this whole Donald Sterling affair isn’t just his racism. I’m bothered that everyone acts as if it’s a huge surprise. Now there’s all this dramatic and very public rending of clothing about whether they should keep their expensive Clippers season tickets. Really? All this other stuff I listed above has been going on for years and this ridiculous conversation with his girlfriend is what puts you over the edge? That’s the smoking gun?

He was discriminating against black and Hispanic families for years, preventing them from getting housing. It was public record. We did nothing. Suddenly he says he doesn’t want his girlfriend posing with Magic Johnson on Instagram and we bring out the torches and rope. Shouldn’t we have all called for his resignation back then?


Make no mistake: Donald Sterling is the villain of this story. But he’s just a handmaiden to the bigger evil. In our quest for social justice, we shouldn’t lose sight that racism is the true enemy. He’s just another jerk with more money than brains.
I got nothing to add, really.


Here is a drink that you will never see on Maddow, the Alien Brain Hemorrhage: (H/t JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS)

Why is this Woman Still a Part of Our Political Discourse?

Sarah Palin just said that, "Waterboarding Is How We Baptize Terrorists."

No, I am not paraphrasing, this was a direct quote:
With her legitimate political career all but unsalvageable, Sarah Palin has embraced her new role as a carnival barker. Speaking over the weekend at the National Rifle Association "Stand And Fight" rally at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Palin attempted an Ann Coulter routine meant to offend anyone not white and at least a little racist. “Not all intolerant, anti-freedom leftist liberals are hypocrites,” she offered before endorsing torture. “I’m kidding — yes, they are!” Zing — plus 1,000 patriot points.

And then her centerpiece joke, which really had very little to do with the gun nuts directly. “If I were in charge …” — wistful pause — “they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.” The crowd erupted.
How I long for the day that she is relegated to the ash heap of history.

28 April 2014

Firefly Ran 1 Season, and Bank of America Still Exists?

In the latest f%$#-up, Bank of America had to suspend its stock buyback and dividends because the "misfigured" its capital levels:
Bank of America Corp said on Monday that regulators had suspended its plan to buy back more shares and raise its dividend after the bank realized it had miscalculated a measure of the capital on its books.

The second-largest U.S. bank said fixing the mistake reduced a capital level by $4 billion, or about three-quarters of the extra money that the Federal Reserve had approved its returning to shareholders over the next year.

News of the gaffe sent the bank's shares down 6.3 percent on Monday to close at $14.95, in the biggest one-day decline in the stock since November 2012.

The announcement illustrates how difficult it is to determine appropriate capital levels for the biggest banks, particularly under hypothetical stress situations that regulators consider. Bank of America now has to submit its request to return more capital to shareholders for a third time, and the Fed itself previously erred in projecting the bank's minimum capital ratios under a stressed scenario.

The previously approved increase in the bank's dividend would have been the first since the financial crisis, and raising it has been a focus of top executives. Banks historically paid out relatively high dividends, spurring retirees and other investors seeing income to buy their shares.

Banks failed to cut their dividends even as their earnings shrank during the financial crisis, burning up valuable capital and leaving them more vulnerable as the housing market deteriorated. In response, lawmakers have given regulators much more control over banks' plans to return funds to shareholders.

The Fed said Bank of America has 30 days to submit a new plan that corrects the errors and ensures no further reporting problems if it would like to return more money to shareholders over the next four quarters.
Seriously.  Just how f%$#ed up does a bank have to be to have the Federal Reserve, an organization which has not just been captured by the finance industry, but which is in part owned by the by the finance industry, to reverse a decision to increase dividends?

BTW, does anyone actually believe that it "miscalculated" its capital ratio?

My guess is that there were a bunch of stock options vesting, and this accounting "error" facilitated top execs cashed in.

This bank is too corrupt, or too incompetent, to continue to exist in its current form.

Fed press release after the break:

Quote of the Day

Yes, I know Michele Bachmann is from Minnesota and Steve King is from Iowa, but all this proves is that in the 150 or so years since the Civil War, the vituperative Confederate agenda of anti-Americanism has managed to spread its irresistible redneck poison into benighted pockets across the country. Kind of like Waffle House.
Chuck Thompson
(Emphasis mine)


The Nexus of Sports and Racism, and Clueless Conservative Bloggers

Normally, I would not comment on the the recent racial diatribe of LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling, but the right wing blogs, who have spent the past few years claiming that there is no more racism, decided that the sports mogul is proof that racism does continue to exist ……… in the Democratic Party.

The problem is that none of them bothered to look at his party registration:

Over the weekend, while nation-wide attention was focused on the racist comments reportedly made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, some conservative commentators were focused on something else: Sterling's party affiliation.

Specifically, certain conservatives were taking the media to task for supposedly ignoring Sterling's ties to the Democratic Party. But a bit of context was missing. Sterling is a registered Republican.

A search of The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder's website using Sterling's name, date of birth, and address turns up a Republican registration, and the registrar-recorder's office confirmed the information to TPM on Monday. (The initial tip came to TPM from public records compiler eMerges.)


By Monday afternoon, The National Review had updated its piece on Sterling's political ties. The correction read as follows:

"An earlier version of this post identified Sterling as a Democrat. Although his political donations appear to have been exclusively to Democrats, his official party affiliation is not known. A Clippers representative did not respond to requests for his present political affiliation."
You f%$#ed up.  He is a registered 'Phant, and if you had practiced journalism 101, you would have found this out.

Admit it, and move on, wankers.

The Bunco Wing of the Republican Party

There is a wing of the Republican party which is dedicated to fleecing some of their not particularly too bright follower.

I discussed this a while back with the case of Linda Chavez and her husband Christopher Gersten, who set up a PAC where 99% of the costs went to overhead (them).

Well, it looks like the Tea Baggers have gotten into the act:
When the Tea Party Patriots threw its support last month behind Matt Bevin, the underdog conservative challenger trying to unseat top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, President Jenny Beth Martin vowed the group would be “putting our money where our mouth is.”

So far, its super PAC has mustered just $56,000 worth of mailers in Kentucky on Bevin’s behalf — less than half the amount it has paid Martin in consulting fees since July.

The Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, which blew through nearly $2 million on expenses such as fundraising, polling and consultants in the first three months of this year, is not alone in its meager spending on candidates.

A Washington Post analysis found that some of the top national tea party groups engaged in this year’s midterm elections have put just a tiny fraction of their money directly into boosting the candidates they’ve endorsed.

The practice is not unusual in the freewheeling world of big-money political groups, but it runs counter to the ethos of the tea party movement, which sprouted five years ago amid anger on the right over wasteful government spending. And it contrasts with the urgent appeals tea party groups have made to their base of small donors, many of whom repeatedly contribute after being promised that their money will help elect conservative politicians.

Out of the $37.5 million spent so far by the PACs of six major tea party organizations, less than $7 million has been devoted to directly helping candidates, according to the analysis, which was based on campaign finance data provided by the Sunlight Foundation.
I'm not sure why, but when you peruse ads at right wing sites, Worldnet Daily and Glen Beck are among the worst offenders, are chock full of what appears to be transparently deceptive sales pitches.

The Democratic Party establishment lies to its supporters, but they aren't trying to sell overpriced gold coins and the like.

I'm not sure where there is a cultural difference.  I would think that grifting would cross cultural lines.

Natalie is Fine

Back from the ER.

She is breathing fine now, but being up this morning will be a real bear.

Posted via mobile.

27 April 2014

Spending the Whole Day Rescuing People

Finding lost USB sticks, disinfecting in-laws computers, and now I'm dealing with Natalie having a bad asthma attack.

I'm beginning to think that I should start wearing spandex costumes.  (REALLY sorry for that mental image)

Posted via mobile.

26 April 2014

Oh, Not this Sh%$ Again

Jeb Bush is now saying that he is thinking about running for President in 2016:
Jeb Bush on Wednesday was the most vocal he’s been about considering a run for the White House in 2016.

The Republican told a crowd of about 200 people at a Catholic Charities fundraiser in New York that he is “thinking about running for president,” according to an attendee.

The response came to one of the first questions posed to Bush at the Union League luncheon. After his answer, the room went wild, and then someone said they hoped he would take the step.
Please, God, make it stop!

Another Bush?

Haven't they done enough to destroy this country?

Mazel Tov!

Google has fired the head of its Google+ effort, and will be redirecting its resources:
When Vic Gundotra, the head of Google+, suddenly announced his departure from Google today, many were left wondering "why" and what it meant for the future of Google+. He didn't give a reason for leaving, but according to a report from TechCrunch, the likely reason is a major shakeup for Google's social network.

In short, Google seems to be backing away from the original Google+ strategy. The report states that Google+ will no longer be considered a product that competes with Facebook and Twitter, and that Google's mission to force Google+ into every product will end. With this downgrade in importance comes a downgrade in resources. TechCrunch claims that 1000-1200 employees—many of which formed the core of Google+—will be moved to other divisions. Google Hangouts will supposedly be moved to Android, and the Google+ photos team is "likely" to follow. "Basically, talent will be shifting away from the Google+ kingdom and towards Android as a platform," the report said. The strange part is that both of these teams create cross-platform products. So if the report is true, there will be a group inside the Android team making iOS and Web apps, which doesn't seem like the best fit.

A Google spokesperson gave Ars the same statement the company gave TechCrunch: “Today’s news has no impact on our Google+ strategy—we have an incredibly talented team that will continue to build great user experiences across Google+, Hangouts, and Photos.” On Gundotra's announcement post, Larry Page wrote "we’ll continue working hard to build great new experiences for the ever-increasing number of Google+ fans."

Despite Google's denial, it makes sense for the company to back away from Google+. The social network hasn't gained the massive userbase it would need to rival Facebook, and the aggressive integration strategy has been universally hated by users. As Google gets bigger and bigger, it faces harsher scrutiny, and few things the company has done have been more disliked than Google+. According to the report, Google+'s YouTube takeover was seen as "a rocky move" even inside the company.
The G+ strategy was driven by abject terror of Facebook, and the change in direction implies that Google is no longer driven by this.

My guess is that Google sees something in the reams of data that they accumulate showing that Facebook's "threat" is of less concern.

In any case, I'm just glad that they won't continue to break their other apps in order to foist Google+ on the rest of us.

Why a French Economist has So Many Wingers Terrified

Paul Krugman has an interesting OP/ED on Thomas Piketty's book Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

Picketty makes the assertion that capital demands rates of return greater than that of the underlying economy, and that, over the long run capital will extract more and more of the overall economy, to the detriment to wages and labor.

As Krugman notes, this work has the apologists for the rent seekers apoplectic:
“Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” the new book by the French economist Thomas Piketty, is a bona fide phenomenon. Other books on economics have been best sellers, but Mr. Piketty’s contribution is serious, discourse-changing scholarship in a way most best sellers aren’t. And conservatives are terrified. Thus James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute warns in National Review that Mr. Piketty’s work must be refuted, because otherwise it “will spread among the clerisy and reshape the political economic landscape on which all future policy battles will be waged.”

Well, good luck with that. The really striking thing about the debate so far is that the right seems unable to mount any kind of substantive counterattack to Mr. Piketty’s thesis. Instead, the response has been all about name-calling — in particular, claims that Mr. Piketty is a Marxist, and so is anyone who considers inequality of income and wealth an important issue.

I’ll come back to the name-calling in a moment. First, let’s talk about why “Capital” is having such an impact.

Mr. Piketty is hardly the first economist to point out that we are experiencing a sharp rise in inequality, or even to emphasize the contrast between slow income growth for most of the population and soaring incomes at the top. It’s true that Mr. Piketty and his colleagues have added a great deal of historical depth to our knowledge, demonstrating that we really are living in a new Gilded Age. But we’ve known that for a while.

No, what’s really new about “Capital” is the way it demolishes that most cherished of conservative myths, the insistence that we’re living in a meritocracy in which great wealth is earned and deserved.

For the past couple of decades, the conservative response to attempts to make soaring incomes at the top into a political issue has involved two lines of defense: first, denial that the rich are actually doing as well and the rest as badly as they are, but when denial fails, claims that those soaring incomes at the top are a justified reward for services rendered. Don’t call them the 1 percent, or the wealthy; call them “job creators.”
Needless to say, the defenders of oligarchy are unamused by this.

The book, which, if reports are true, uses rather traditional economic tools, makes a compelling argument that excessive wealth is not synonymous with virtue.

I'm putting Capital in the Twenty-First Century on my summer reading list.

Imagine That, Military Technology Developed Over 20 Years Sees Countermeasures Developed

Bill Sweetman, writing in Aviation Week, observes that the F-35's stealth capabilities, when juxtaposed with its limited jamming suit are inadequate: (Paid Subscription Required)
Using secrecy to squelch debate is undesirable. Using bogus secrecy to do it is, to borrow the British civil service’s strongest term of opprobrium, unhelpful.

It’s reasonable, if misguided, to argue that the U.S. military has all the EA-18G Growlers that it needs. It does not make sense first to maintain that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will not need electronic-attack (EA) support, but then simply to cite “its combination of stealth and advanced sensors” in support of that statement, while withholding comment on any details. And that is what Lockheed Martin has been doing. (The JSF project office is not commenting at all on the issue.)

Two characteristics of the JSF that bear on this debate have been raised by Boeing and recent think-tank papers. One is the fighter’s susceptibility to detection by very-high-frequency (VHF) radars, and the other is the extent of its EA, or jamming, capability.

They are not secret at all. The F-35 is susceptible to VHF detection and—as Boeing’s charts suggest—its jamming is mostly confined to the X-band, in the sector covered by its APG-81 radar. These are not criticisms of the program but the result of choices by the customer.

To suggest that the F-35 is VHF-stealthy is like arguing that the sky is not blue—literally, because both involve the same phenomenon. The late-Victorian physicist Lord Rayleigh (photo) gave his name to the way that electromagnetic radiation is scattered by objects that are smaller than its wavelength. This applies to the particles in the air that scatter sunlight, and aircraft stabilizers and wingtips that are about the same meter-class size as VHF waves.

The counter-stealth attributes of VHF were discussed here a few months ago (AW&ST Sept. 16, 2013, p. 30). They were known at the dawn of stealth, in 1983, when MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory ordered a 150-ft.-wide radar to emulate Russia’s P-14 Oborona VHF early warning system. Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth division should know about that radar—they built it.

VHF-stealth starts with removing the target’s tails, as on the B-2, but we did not know how to do that on a supersonic, agile airplane when the JSF specifications were written.

Neither did the technology to add broadband active jamming to a stealth aircraft exist in 1995. Not only did stealth advocates expect jamming to fade away, but there was an obvious and (at the time) insoluble problem: To use jamming, you have to be certain that the radar has detected you. Otherwise, jamming is going to reveal your presence and identify you as a stealth aircraft, since the adversary can see a signal but not a reflection.

We can be sure that onboard jamming has not been added to F-35 since. Had the JSF requirements been tightened by one iota since the program started, its advocates would be blaming that for the delays and cost overruns.

What the JSF does have is an EA function in the radar and an expendable radar decoy—BAE Systems’ ALE-70—which may be free-flying or towed, most likely the former. Both are last-ditch measures that would be used to disrupt a missile engagement, not to prevent tracking.
Potential opponents have known of stealth for over 30 years, and the mathematics of this technology have been public for even longer, so the use of lower frequency radars (as is the case of the confusingly name VHF) along with advances in computer power and phased array radars, imply that the effectiveness of stealth has been mitigated.

This is why the USAF putting its eggs in on basket, stealth, is concerning.

I Would Expect to See More of This………

Ecuador has expelled a military contingent from the US embassy:
Ecuador has ordered 20 U.S. Defense Department employees attached to the U.S. Embassy in Quito to leave the country next week, U.S. officials confirmed, further straining an already rocky relationship between President Rafael Correa and the Obama administration.

The Ecuadorean government made the request on April 7, asking the U.S. embassy in Ecuador to end the activities of the Security Cooperation Office by Wednesday, said Jeffrey Weinshenker, an embassy spokesman. He said that the civilian and military workers had been mainly engaged in joint programs with Ecuador to fight human smuggling and the drug trade.


In an email, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Angela Cervetti said, "[the U.S.] regrets that the outcome will severely limit our bilateral security partnership. Our close military cooperation over the past four decades has resulted in significant advances against drug trafficking, human trafficking, terrorism, and other transnational crime."

But the Ecuadorean embassy in Washington characterized the closing of the Security Cooperation Office as part of an agreement with the Obama administration. "A core group of U.S. military attaches will remain, as typical for normal bilateral relations," an embassy statement said.

In January, Mr. Correa had said that Pentagon workers were used to "infiltrate" Ecuador. The order ousting the Americans came days after Mr. Correa wrapped up a U.S. tour that included talks at Yale and Harvard universities and television interviews where he described himself as a "modern socialist" who wanted to improve relations with the U.S.
When juxtaposed with this:
Correa said he became aware of what he described as a bloated US military presence in his country after learning that four Pentagon personnel were aboard an Ecuadoran military helicopter that came under fire in October near the border with Colombia.
When you consider things like the role of the US Army School of the Americas, which educated generations of military juntas and coups in Latin America, it has to be a legitimate matter of concern for any government that military personnel and contractors are operating in military operations without the knowledge of the sponsoring government.

This is particularly of concern for someone like Correa who is not particularly friendly to the US agenda in that part of the world, particularly when one sees the sort of activities that the US engages in its neighbor Venezuela, where it is clear that there is an active attempt to destabilize the government.

25 April 2014

The Rich are not the Best of Us, they are the Worst of Us

An interesting study finds that the more money you have, the more likely you are to ignore rules and endanger others:
What defines low socioeconomic status? Objectively, it means fewer economic resources and educational opportunities, less access to elite schools and clubs, more subordinate positions in the workplace, and increased levels of stress. For the upper-class, it’s just the inverse: more resources, more leisure, less stress.

From the realities facing each group, you might assume that members of the lower-class would be more focused on meeting their own survival needs and, thereby, prioritize their needs over those of others. As a result, you might also expect them to be less trustworthy as compared to members of the upper-class who, given their greater resources, have the luxury to trust. But if you do, you’re missing a central point about how trust really works. Trust isn’t a luxury. It’s a tool we need to get by when we can’t make it on our own; it’s a means of survival for those who must depend on others. Viewed this way, predictions about trust and class get turned on their heads.


To relate that to social class, consider this experiment. You’re standing on a corner in downtown San Francisco. It’s a four-way stop, meaning cars are supposed to pause before entering the intersection. As you’re sipping your latte, you look to your left before stepping off the curb. The car approaching is a shiny BMW. Do you cross? How about if it’s a Ford Fusion? The model of trust I’ve been describing suggests you might want to pause if it’s the BMW. There’s really only one way to tell, though. You’ve got to put yourself out there. And that’s just what Paul Piff and colleagues from the University of California at Berkeley did.

As cars approached this busy intersection in San Francisco, a researcher would enter the crosswalk. Unbeknownst to drivers, he also noted the make of their car and their perceived age and gender. The main datum for each car was whether the driver paused to let the researcher cross at the stop sign (as is required by the California Vehicle Code) or sped up to cut him off and thereby proceed more quickly toward the driver’s goals. Paul and colleagues divided drivers into five SES categories based on their cars—think Hyundais on one end and Ferraris on the other. The results were quite remarkable.

At the lowest end of the class gradient, every single driver stopped to let the pedestrian entering the crosswalk continue on his way. Midway up the class ladder, about 30 percent of drivers broke the law and cut off the pedestrian so that they could keep going. At the upper end of SES, almost 50 percent of drivers broke the law to put their own needs first. At the most basic level, these findings offer a provocative warning. When you’re vulnerable, upper-class individuals are more likely to disregard the trust you place in them if doing so furthers their own ends.
This is the first of a number of tests executed by Professor Piff did.

The better off someone was, the more likely to act in a completely self-absorbed and untrustworthy manner.

It applied to cars, lying to a potential job applicant about a job, or cheating at a gambling game.

It is precisely the opposite of the Calvanist ethos that grips the right wing.

It's a Start………

The IRS has revoked the 501(c)3 tax exempt status of The Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty, a right wing group that has routinely engaged in illegal electioneering.

The kicker is that Center is in part a political advocacy group formed by Ginny Thomas, wife of Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas:
Under the tax code, it’s illegal for a charity to engage in electoral politics. In its response to the IRS, the Patrick Henry Center said its statements could be interpreted differently by different people, and that many of them did not advocate voting for or against a candidate.

The center’s most recent tax return disclosed $343,503 in revenue for tax year 2012. In recent years, it’s become aligned with the Tea Party movement, contributing to at least one of the groups targeted for extra scrutiny by the IRS beginning in 2010. Also in 2010, the Patrick Henry Center merged with Liberty Central, an advocacy group headed by Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese serves on the center’s board.

The IRS’s revocation means contributions to the Patrick Henry Center are no longer tax deductible.
I incorporated a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization in the early 1990s, and I recall the sh%$ I had to go through to incorporate.

I was originally turned down, because the examiner thought that the organization was better suited to 501(c)7 status, a membership organization, as opposed to a charity, which would lose tax exempt status and (more importantly to us) a special low postal rate. (Had to explain some terminology we used in my appeal,k and it worked)

In retrospect, I believe that the examiner morally right on this, though my application was was within the parameters of existing law and regulation.

It's just that and the rules that the IRS is not enforcing are way too lax, and more observed in the breach than in actual enforcement.

It's nice to see that this is changing.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. Allendale County Bank, Fairfax, SC

 Full FDIC list

It's shaping up to be a pretty mild year.

The Ultimate 2nd Stringer

I am referring, of course, to Earl Morrall, who died today:
Earl Morrall stepped in when the 1972 Miami Dolphins needed him most. And then he willingly stepped aside, earning enduring admiration from his teammates and coach Don Shula.

Morrall, who started 11 games during the Dolphins’ perfect season and spent 21 years as an NFL quarterback, died Friday at age 79. He had been in failing health for some time.

“There would be no perfect season, and probably no Super Bowl win in 1972, without Earl Morrall,” Bob Griese said Friday.

When Griese broke his ankle in 1972, Morrall came off the bench and started the final nine games of the regular season. Morrall won praise from Shula for returning to the sideline without complaint when Griese came back to play in the final two postseason games, including the Super Bowl to cap the only perfect season in NFL history.

Morrall also played for the 49ers, Steelers, Lions, Giants and Colts, winning three Super Bowl rings. He came off the bench to replace an injured Johnny Unitas and help the Colts win the Super Bowl to cap the 1970 season, and he was the backup to Griese on the Dolphins’ 1973 championship team.

Morrall also was the starting quarterback opposite Joe Namath in the 1969 Super Bowl after guiding the Colts to the conference title and winning the league’s MVP award. He struggled in that famous 16-7 loss to the Jets, throwing key interceptions, and was benched during the second half for Unitas.
Morrall as the steady backup was sort of a fixture of my youth.

24 April 2014

No Blogging for You!

I just got back from picking up my mother in law to the airport.

She visited my sister in law in Memphis over Passover.

Unfortunately, this means that I will have to delay my brilliantly satirical essay about how conservatives are stunned and chagrined to discover that their favorite welfare cheat rancher is a bigot who liked slavery because it kept them in their place.

Posted via mobile.

23 April 2014

Thanks, Obama

You know, this is to be expected. Obama appoints an industry lobbyist to head the FCC, and the FCC ends network neutrality: (See also here)

The following can be attributed to Michael Weinberg, Vice President at Public Knowledge:

"The FCC is inviting ISPs to pick winners and losers online. The very essence of a "commercial reasonableness" standard is discrimination. And the core of net neutrality is non discrimination. This is not net neutrality. This standard allows ISPs to impose a new price of entry for innovation on the Internet. When the Commission used a commercial reasonableness standard for wireless data roaming, it explicitly found that it may be commercially reasonable for a broadband ISP to charge an edge provider higher rates because its service is competitively threatening.

"It is hard to see how the commercial reasonableness standard, which inherently offers less protection than the standard in the previous Open Internet Rules, can serve the same policy goals. Additionally, approaching discrimination on a case-by-case basis creates less certainty than clear rules and disadvantages small businesses and entrepreneurs. The Commission should instead seek to find a way to ensure true net neutrality, including protections against discrimination by ISPs for commercial purposes. The DC Circuit Court opinion made it clear that the only way to achieve net neutrality is to reclassify internet access as a telecommunications service."
What a thought: Obama's FCC chair does not have the guts to reverse the that it made under the Bush administration to classify if ISP's service as information services, as opposed to telecommunications services, which meant that they were not common carriers.

It also refused to appeal the DC Court of Appeals decision to the Supreme Court.

And they did this because ……… Regulatory capture, I guess.

It certainly fits in with Obama cozying up to malefactors in dysfunctional markets as opposed to trying to fix those markets. (Obama care, Banksters walking free, The Droning of Brown People, the NSA, etc.)

Oh well, when the Kochs take over the internet, maybe they will give Obama a medal.

Naah ……… I'm just sh%$#ing you ……… They'll find a trumped up charge to throw him in jail.

H/t Kevin Drum for the pic.

Happy Birthday Bill

Shakespeare turns 450 today.

Posted via mobile.

22 April 2014

911 Truther Links Polish Government to Right Wing Paramilitaries in Ukraine

There are reports that the Polish government gave military training to fascist militia members from the Ukraine:
The Polish left-wing weekly Nie (No) published a startling witness account of the training given to the most violent of the EuroMaidan activists.

According to this source, in September 2013, Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski invited 86 members of the Right Sector (Sector Pravy), allegedly in the context of a university exchange program. In reality, the guests were not students, and many were over 40. Contrary to their official schedule, they did not go to the Warsaw University of Technology, but headed instead for the police training center in Legionowo, an hour’s drive from the capital. There, they received four weeks of intensive training in crowd management, person recognition, combat tactics, command skills, behavior in crisis situations, protection against gases used by police, erecting barricades, and especially shooting, including the handling of sniper rifles.

Such training took place in September 2013, while the Maidan Square protests were allegedly triggered by a decree suspending preparations for the signing of the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement, which was issued by Prime Minister Mykola Azarov on November 21, i.e. two months later.

The Polish weekly refers to photographs attesting to the training, which show the Ukrainians in Nazi uniforms alongside their Polish instructors in civilian clothing.
Let me be clear: this source is highly dubious.

I know nothing of the Polish weekly Nei, and the machine translation is anything but clear, but I do know that the author of this article, Thierry Meyssan, is a 911 truther, and hence highly suspect.

That being said, if there is one thing that is certain about "Tradecraft", as some are wont to call covert activities, it is that Poland would not do something like this without explicit support and approval from the US state security apparatus.

After all, they supported the CIA's establishment of torture sites following 911.

So the short form is that if this report is accurate, and that is a big if, then the CIA or the State Department had to give support and approval.

Hopefully someone with a bit more journalistic credibility will look into this.  (It's one of the reasons that I put "911 Truther" in the hed: it is simply not credible at this time).

Why the Boy Scouts Leadership Need to be Fired, and it Offices Should Moved from Texas to a Civilized Place

There is was a boy scout troop in the Seattle area whose leader is openly gay, and BSA ejected him from the scouts.

When the church at which his troops were based refused to discharge him, because they oppose discrimination, and the BSA closed down those troops:
Church Pledges to Resist BSA’s Demand and Remain Open and Inclusive; Scouts for Equality Deplores Boy Scouts’ Callous Act as a Discriminatory Attempt to put Politics before Boys

In a startling and discriminatory move, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) revoked the charter of Seattle Troop 98 and Pack 98 for its refusal to remove gay Scoutmaster Geoffrey McGrath. The BSA revoked the charter of Rainier Beach United Methodist Church’s (RBUMC), a Seattle church whose two Scouting units serve a neighborhood with few other positive opportunities for local youth.

“The Boy Scouts’ decisions only serve to hurt a group of boys who need the values and leadership of someone like Scoutmaster McGrath,” said Zach Wahls, Executive Director of Scouts for Equality, a national organization dedicated to ending the BSA’s ban on gay members and leaders. “Unfortunately, the BSA’s decision calls into question its commitment to leadership and values by perpetuating an outmoded policy rooted in fear and discrimination. History will show that today’s announcement is a self-inflicted wound.”

The controversy surrounding Troop 98 emerged in March, when an NBC News report on the inclusive troop prompted the BSA to question the sexual orientation of Scoutmaster Geoffrey McGrath. McGrath, abiding by the Scout’s commitment to trustworthiness, acknowledged his sexual orientation to the BSA, which in turn, responded by revoking McGrath’s status as Scoutmaster.

Since then, support for McGrath has been overwhelmingly positive. The entire Seattle City Council, as well as more than 20 Washington State legislators, have expressed their support for Rainier Beach United Methodist Church’s right to determine its own leadership for McGrath’s ability to remain a Scoutmaster. Most important, RBUMC Rev. Dr. Monica Corsaro has stood by McGrath and has refused to remove him from his post. BSA is taking this action in direct contradiction to the inclusive religious beliefs and wishes of Rainer Beach Methodist Church.
It makes no sense to support the BSA until the leadership gets its head out of its collective asses.

If they are sponsored by your house of worship, or your church, you should consider finding some other organization that better represents a moral view of our society.


Here is a video about how to make smoked salmon at home:

FWIW, if you are bit less ambitious, you can make Gravlox.

21 April 2014

I Want to be Sephardic

First, there is the food.

They got olive oil, we got schmaltz.

They sit on the spice road, and we got ……… schmaltz.

Over Passover, they get to eat rice and beans, legumes are known as kitniyot, which Ashkenazic rabbis have ruled could be made into something too close to flour, though this does not apply to things like chestnuts, whose flour is actually used to make pastries. (Go figure)

Well, Rabbis have now declared marijuana to be kitniyot, and hence forbidden on Pesach, so no 420 on 4/20:
It’s that time of the year again — Passover and 4/20, the unofficial marijuana celebration day. On the same day.

The celebration of all things green poses a particular problem for the chosen people. Namely, is smoking pot kosher for Passover?

Sorry to disappoint, but it seems not.

In 2007, Israel’s Green Leaf Party, which supports the legalization of marijuana, declared that cannabis is among the substances Jews are forbidden to consume during Passover.

“You shouldn’t smoke marijuana on the holiday, and if you have it in your house you should get rid of it,” Michelle Levine, a spokeswoman for the party, said at the time.

Why? Because hemp seeds are considered to be kitniyot.

While biblical law prohibits eating leavened foods, rabbis have since extended the rules to apply to foods like beans, corn and rice. Hemp seeds, found in marijuana, falls under that category. So voila, no Mary-Jane for you — if you’re Ashkenazi that is.

Sephardic Jews have traditionally been allowed to eat kitniyot during Passover, so when it comes to 4/20, they’re in the clear.
I'm seriously bumming, even if I have not indulged in over 20 years. (The joys of a pee in a cup career)

H/t my hairier brother, who posted this to Facebook.

Speaking of Torture………

Eco-terrorist sentenced to read Malcolm Gladwell.

Tekeli li!

Our Clusterf%$# in Guantánamo

As has been obvious since their founding, the military tribunals at Guantánamo are completely dysfunctional, and the latest problem, where the FBI has been infiltrating the defense teams is getting even worse:
The major fissure concerning the controversial military commissions at Guantánamo Bay is no longer between civil liberties and national security. It’s between the commissions and the intelligence services, with the future of the 9/11 war crimes tribunal hanging in the balance.

On one side are both the commission prosecutors and defense attorneys, all of whom grapple in different ways with bringing justice to defendants who spent years in the brutal black box that was CIA custody. The prosecution in particular is laboring to send the message that, after years of stop-and-start proceedings, the commissions are now a viable, professional complement to federal courts.

On the other side are the CIA and the FBI, which have gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent information about the detainees – particularly about their torture in CIA custody – becoming public. The intelligence and law enforcement agencies’ equities at Guantánamo, at a minimum, conflict with the successful military prosecution of the detainees. At worst, they undermine the venue meant to provide a final dispensation for alleged post-9/11 war crimes.

And the agencies may now have overplayed their hand.

Last week, defense attorneys for 9/11 co-defendant Ramzi bin al-Shibh revealed that the FBI surreptitiously compelled a classification specialist assigned to them to sign documents indicating he would inform on the defense teams.
They have also bugged defense conference rooms, seized control of the muting system at the trial without the knowledge of the of the judge, and they are preparing to defy that judge's order for details on the CIA's torture program.

If the military tribunals were anything close to a real trial, the charges would have already been dismissed because of malfeasance on the part of the government.

For f%$3's sake, just move this to the Federal Courts, where the jurist are capable of finding their posteriors with either, or both, hands.

Times Ombud Calls Out Shoddy Financial Reporting

The New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan criticizes their coverage of Bank of America's latest financial results, because they completely ignored the massive fines for fraud:
Reading The Times’s coverage of Bank of America’s quarterly loss last week, I almost felt sorry for the financial behemoth. It has mortgage troubles, you see. It has onerous legal costs.

“The disappointing news shows how Bank of America is still paying for its mortgage problems nearly six years after the financial crisis,” the article said.

I thought of sending a small check to help or at least conveying my sympathy.

I really should have remembered what this is all about because it was only last month that Bank of America settled a lawsuit that claimed the bank had committed mortgage fraud. The cost of the settlement? More than $9 billion. Bank of America was one of the banks that sold mortgage securities backed by subprime mortgages, which went south during the housing and financial crises – in many cases driving American consumers into financial ruin.

Some Times readers wrote to me about it, pointing out that there was more to the story. They hadn’t forgotten what happened, it seemed. Jamison Wilcox, for example, noted in an email that he was “dismayed to see the term ‘legal costs’ given a vague and euphemistic meaning – and repeated in a headline – as a short replacement for the specific identification of monies paid out … as a legal consequence of wrongful conduct by a corporation or bank.”


The language certainly isn’t overheated. In fact, nowhere in this article is there any straightforward mention of what really caused these legal troubles and costs.

It says only this: “At the heart of the additional legal expenses was a $6.3 billion settlement that the bank announced last month to settle a lawsuit arising from troubled mortgage-backed securities it bundled and sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before the financial crisis.” (The bank also agreed to buy back $3.2 billion in mortgage securities, bringing the penalties to $9.5 billion.)

Bundles and troubles and costs, yes. Fraud accusations, not so much.
I do not think that this will make a difference, though.

This is Symptomatic of a Crisis in the Culture of the Military

Air Force pilot Joshua Wilson, who blew the whistle on problems with the F-22 oxygen system, is having his career systematically destroyed in retaliation:
The Air Force has spent tens of millions of dollars over the past two years correcting problems with its premier jet fighter - issues that Capt. Joshua Wilson helped expose by speaking up, both to his bosses and on national television.

Since then, Wilson's career as an F-22 Raptor pilot has stalled. A member of the Virginia Air National Guard's 149th Fighter Squadron, Wilson hasn't been permitted to fly the jet since early 2012. He's fighting disciplinary actions that he sees as retribution for going public.

"I'm a fighter pilot. I worked my entire life to get in the cockpit and to that job," said Wilson, who is 37. "Right now, I'm fighting the Air Force when I should be fighting our enemies."

Almost two years ago, Wilson and Maj. Jeremy Gordon told CBS's "60 Minutes" that the F-22 had a defective oxygen system that was endangering pilots.

The veteran aviators, dressed in their Virginia Air National Guard flight suits, shared their personal accounts of mid-flight oxygen deprivation that left them disoriented. Other pilots had similar life-threatening experiences but were reluctant to speak publicly, they said.


Back at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia Air National Guard leaders were also taking action. Even before the "60 Minutes" segment aired in May 2012, the squadron's leadership began a series of punitive measures against Wilson.

In April 2012, they stopped his planned promotion to major, and they threatened to take away his wings, jeopardizing his military career.

They also forced him out of his full-time desk job with the Air Force's Air Combat Command at Langley.

During that time, Wilson alerted the Department of Defense's office of inspector general, which is investigating. He and his lawyers say the Virginia Air National Guard's actions are reprisal for speaking out.
This is a direct outcome of the up or out system that our uniformed military used.

By making a single disagreement or conflict with a superior officer a career ender, they have created a risk and conflict averse culture where careerism trumps doing the right thing.

I Can Do This Pissing in a Bucket of Bleach………

After screwing it up by using Fascists to stage an at best marginally effective coup in the Ukraine, it looks like the Obama administration is
trying to use new dodgy allegations of chemical weapons use to try to create support for US action:
The United States has indications of the use of a toxic chemical, probably chlorine, in Syria this month and is examining indications that the Syrian government was responsible, the US State Department said on Monday.

"We have indications of the use of a toxic industrial chemical" in the town of Kfar Zeita, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

"We are examining allegations that the government was responsible," she told reporters.

Earlier this month the Syrian regime and opposition forces accused each other of carrying out a chemical attack in Kfar Zeita, located in the embattled country’s western-central province of Hama.

Opposition activists reported that dozens of residents suffered from symptoms of suffocation after air units loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad targeted the town with explosive barrels allegedly containing toxic material.

Yesterday, French President Francois Hollande said that his country had "information" that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad has continued using chemical weapons, although Paris lacked proof, AFP reported.

"We have a few elements of information but I do not have the proof," AFP quoted Hollande as telling the Europe 1 radio station.
And yes, you can create chlorine gas by peeing in a bucket of bleach.

Unlike the (blatantly false) allegations that the Syrian insurgents lacked the capabilities to make Sarin, making chlorine gas is pretty simple: (Pee has a low yield)
  1. Run DC current through sea water.
  2. Collect the oxygen and chlorine off of the anode.  (This is why, in chemistry class, they used something other than table salt, typically Epsom salt or lye).
  3. Either cool the mixture to less than -40°, or pressurize it at room temperature to more than about 100 psi. (or some combination of the two)
  4. When the chlorine condenses into a liquid, VERY carefully collect  it, and put in munitions.
Note that the provenance of the the Sarin is unclear, with Seymour Hersh detailing how the Obama administration chose to very suppress significant facts to in order to justify their abortive attempt to create a justification for a bombing campaign.

Hersh's latest, The Red Line and the Rat Line, details how many inside and outside of the US state security apparatus are accusing Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan of actively aiding the Islamist rebels in Syria develop chemical weapons capability.  (It appears that he objects both to Syria's secular character, and wants the country to be a client state of Turkey).

Note that we have tapes of senior Turkish security officials planning an attack on Suleiman Shah Tomb, technically Turkish soil, so as to justify direct Turkish (and possibly NATO) intervention.

Count me as tremendously dubious of the latest chemical weapons revelations.

20 April 2014

First, You Eliminate the Competition, Then You Refuse to Release Price Data for Competitive Reasons

I knew that the taxpayers would come to regret cancelling the alternate engine for the F-32, the F136, but I did not expect it to happen so soon:
After a long battle to edge rival General Electric out of the F-35 engine market, Pratt & Whitney succeeded in 2011. GE announced it would shelve the F136 after the Pentagon refused to fund it for four years, leaving Pratt in the coveted position of a sole-source engine supplier for the largest international fighter program ever.

Three years later, though, Pratt states that its position with its F135 engine is so potentially competitive it cannot comply with the customer's request to publicly share the target contract pricing data. At issue is Pratt's hope for more government funding by garnering a piece of a $1 billion next-generation fighter engine. Although proposed by the Pentagon, this program has yet to be funded by Congress.

“We have already made significant progress in advancing this technology and anticipate a competition will be held to develop this engine. Releasing engine pricing and cost data on the F135 would impact our ability to compete for this potential next-generation fighter engine program,” says Pratt spokesman Matthew Bates.

Senior Pentagon officials have, however, been urging Pratt to release at least some data in a transparency push for the highly scrutinized F-35. Bates cites a 40% drop in engine pricing since the first low-rate-initial-production (LRIP) lot in 2006. But the rate of cost reduction “slowed down when [Pratt] got the monopoly,” said Rear Adm. Randy Mahr, deputy program manager of the F-35. “We are trying to get that information out . . . But, I can't force somebody to go ahead and report something that by law they are not” required to report. Mahr made his comments at the Sea Air Space 2014 conference here this month. “This is a subject of legal debate but the Department of Defense feels this information should be in the public domain,” according to one defense official who requested to talk on background owing to the sensitivity of the issue.

The last known engine price for the F135 was cited by Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan for the third lot. The F-35A/C propulsion system cost $14 million. The F-35B, which includes a Rolls-Royce lift-fan designed for short takeoff and vertical landing, cost $38 million. He is frustrated at Pratt not bringing down F135 costs as predicted. “Pratt is not meeting its commitment,” Bogdan says. “It is as simple as that. Some of their business base has dried up on other programs and projects [and] they are spreading them right where they can, and I don't like that.”

Pratt & Whitney has declined numerous requests from Aviation Week over many months to release either its pricing data or its contractual cost targets.
I predicted that the long term budget consequences of eliminating the 2nd engine would be negative, and that the F-35 advocates' desire to lower front end costs would be swallowed up by the price increases resulting from creating an engine monopoly.

And Our Forever War Continues………

Under the laws of war, once the war is over, the POWs are set free. Well, not this time:
Typically, when a war ends, so does the combatants’ authority to detain the other side’s fighters. But as the conclusion of the US war in Afghanistan approaches, the inmate population of Guantánamo Bay is likely to be an exception – and, for the Obama administration, the latest complication to its attempt to close the infamous wartime detention complex.

In December, when President Barack Obama and his Nato allies formally end their combat role in Afghanistan, US officials indicate there is unlikely to be a corresponding release of detainees at Guantánamo who were captured during the country's longest conflict.

The question has been the subject of recent internal debate in the Obama administration, which is wrapped up in the broader question of future detention policy.

Already human rights groups and lawyers for the detainees say they anticipate filing a new wave of lawsuits challenging the basis for a wartime detention after the war ends – the next phase in more than a decade of attempts to litigate the end of indefinite detention.

For the White House, the Justice Department and the Pentagon, the complicating factor is the unique legal authority undergirding the Afghanistan war.

Passed by Congress days after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the Authorization to Use Military Force cleared the legal path for the invasion of Afghanistan – and much more.

Known as the AUMF, its broad language blessed not only the Afghanistan war, but a global battle against al-Qaida without an expiration date. Subsequent interpretations of the AUMF broadened the definition of the adversary to include al-Qaida’s “associated forces”.
If they are not released when the war is over, then try them in civilian courts.

This state if nebulous never-ending war is destroying us.

Osama bin Laden is sitting somewhere laughing.

19 April 2014

Conservative Politics in a Nutshell


Case in point, the Tory proposal to sell British taxpayer's data to private firms because it's a good way to throw some vig in the direction of your supporters, in the hope that it will eventually flow back to you:
The personal financial data of millions of taxpayers could be sold to private firms under laws being drawn up by HM Revenue & Customs in a move branded "dangerous" by tax professionals and "borderline insane" by a senior Conservative MP.

Despite fears that it could jeopardise the principle of taxpayer confidentiality, the legislation would allow HMRC to release anonymised tax data to third parties including companies, researchers and public bodies where there is a public benefit. According to HMRC documents, officials are examining "charging options".

The government insists that there will be suitable safeguards on personal data. But the plans, being overseen by the Treasury minister David Gauke, are likely to provoke serious worries among privacy campaigners and MPs in the wake of public concern about the government's Care.data scheme – a plan to share "anonymised" medical records with third parties.

The Care.data initiative has now been suspended for six months over fears that people could be identified from the supposedly anonymous data, which turned out to contain postcodes, dates of birth, NHS numbers, ethnicity and gender.
Seriously, John Kenneth Galbraith had it nailed when he said that, "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."

It's all about looting, and it is all justified under the rubric of the Gordon Gekko quote, "Greed is good."

And More Christie Corruption and Cronyism Raises its Head

As a result of "Bridgegate" Chris Christie's deals are getting a lot more scrutiny.

Now it appears that Christie threw a $300 million dollar pension deal to a supporter in violation of state anti-corruption laws:
A PandoDaily investigation has discovered evidence that Gov. Chris Christie’s pending deal to award a $300 million pension management contract to a controversial hedge fund is in violation of state anti-corruption laws.

New Jersey state pay-to-play statutes prohibit state contractors from directly or indirectly financially supporting the election campaigns of state officials. Those statutes also explicitly prohibit the use of outside groups or family members to circumvent that ban.

Additionally, separate Department of Treasury rules appear to prohibit public pension contracts from being awarded to investment firms whose employees have made significant financial contributions to political entities organized to operate in New Jersey state elections. Those laws also bar investment firms doing business with the state from making contributions “for the purpose of influencing any election for State office.”

Yet, late last month, the New Jersey State Investment Council moved to award a controversial $300 million investment contract to Chatham Asset Management, despite the fact that Chatham’s principal, and a woman living at his address and sharing his surname, donated more than $50,000 to a Republican election group that oversaw major portions of Gov. Christie’s 2013 re-election operation. The proposed investment is already highly controversial given the hedge fund also reportedly owns a stake in the Atlantic City casino, Revel.

Craig Holman of the watchdog group Public Citizen, which originally lobbied for the pay-to-play statute, said that the $300m offer “appears to be not an indirect violation, but a direct violation of the law.”
What's more, Chatham is providing free space to a charity chaired by Mary Pat Christie, the first lady if the great state of New Jersey:
As part of that investigation we have also learned that Chatham made a large in-kind donation to the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund, which is chaired by the governor’s wife, Mary Pat Christie. That charity has been plagued by allegations that it is a stealth conduit for corporations to buy influence and circumvent campaign finance regulations.

In an interview with Pando, a spokeswoman for the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund acknowledged that Chatham Asset Management housed the 501(c)3 organization from November 2012 to February 2013, a total in-kind donation value of approximately $15,000.

For his part, Gov. Christie has denied that the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund would be used as a way to wield influence with him. At a 2013 press conference, he said donors to the charity “know, because they know me, that it will not one iota affect the way I execute my job as governor or any decisions I have to make as governor regarding the use of public money.”
Drip, Drip, Drip.

Japan's to Fly Stealth Demonstrator

Click Pix for Slide Show
Japan is looking to have a stealth demonstrator flying within the year:
Japan’s defense ministry’s Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI) is planning to unveil the country’s advanced technology demonstrator-experimental (ATD-X) plane within months; the lightweight stealth aircraft is scheduled to make its maiden flight later this year, Japan’s defense minister Itsunori Onodera has confirmed. ATD-X is positioned to become Japan’s next generation stealth fighter, replacing 94 locally produced F-2 that entered service in the year 2000. Speaking to the foreign affairs and defense committee of Japan’s upper house, Onodera said the indigenous fighter demonstrator is few months behind schedule.

Powered by two afterburning turbofans each developing 11,023 pounds each (5,000kg), the aircraft is designed for maximum takeoff weight of 28,659 pounds (about 13 tonnes). With a wingspan of 9 meters (29.85 feet), and overall length of 14.174 meters (46.5 ft) the ATD-X (dubbed ‘Shinshin’) will be smaller than the F-35 and much smaller, compared to Chinese or Russian stealth fighters.
I cannot see any space for any meaningful internal stowage, so I would guess that it is in the same category as Have Blue, basically a technology demonstrator, or they are contemporaneously developing some sort of stealthy external carriage.

This is an Interesting Concept

When one looks at doing more with less from a naval perspective, repurposing an existing hull for a new mission seems like a good way to get the capabilities that you need.

Case in point, Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard is shown a mockup of an LPD converted to a missile platform:
Among the many striking displays at the recent Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition was this marvel -- an amphibious warfare ship adapted for Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD), with three times the radar size and missile capacity of current BMD vessels, as well an electromagnetic rail gun that can launch shells to the edge of space.

The concept from Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) is based on the hull of the LPD-17 San Antonio Class, a component of the three-ship “Amphibious Ready Groups” that stage Marines at forward, sea-based positions. In this incarnation, HII has removed the Marine’s berthing, vehicles, helicopters and landing craft, and installed air defense equipment with greater range and capacity than any ship in the fleet.

Atop the superstructure is a massive S-band phased array radar, over 21 feet on each side. Compare that to the 12.5 ft. diameter of the SPY-1 radars aboard Ticonderoga Class Cruisers and Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers. For radars, larger size means greater range and better resolution and these arrays have three times the area of those which equip current BMD vessels.

Starting behind the superstructure and continuing along the periphery to the stern is a vertical launch system (VLS) with 288 cells to carry surface to air missiles (SAMs), Tomahawk cruise missiles or Vertical-launch Anti-submarine rockets (VLAs). For comparison, Ticos have 122; later Burkes 96 and earlier Burkes 90. So, that’s triple the average missile load to start, with plenty of room to install more. Plus, the ship is taller than the surface combatants, which means it can hold future missiles of greater length and range.

Forward of the superstructure, you see what looks like a standard five inch gun, the kind one finds on the Ticos and Burkes. But an engineer responsible for this design explains that’s not what it represents. In fact, it’s an electromagnetic rail gun.
Certainly, there is a lot of capability there.

The well deck of an LPD has a lot of volume, and assuming that the necessary power and maintainability issues can be resolved, it could be promising.

The potential inclusion of a rail gun is troubling though: It is precisely this sort of "bleeding edge" technology that creates the delay-price increase-quantity reduction death spiral.

Of course, this is just an industry proposal right now.

18 April 2014

Economics Says that You Should Throw Money at the Problem

It appears that the shale/fracking boom had created a wee labor shortage:
How high is demand for welders to work in the shale boom on the U.S. Gulf Coast?

So high that “you can take every citizen in the region of Lake Charles between the ages of 5 and 85 and teach them all how to weld and you’re not going to have enough welders,” said Peter Huntsman, chief executive officer of chemical maker Huntsman Corp.

So high that San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, offers a four-hour welding class in the middle of the night.

So high that local employers say they’re worried there won’t be adequate supply of workers of all kinds. Just for construction, Gulf Coast oil, gas and chemical companies will have to find 36,000 new qualified workers by 2016, according to Industrial Info Resources Inc. in Sugar Land, Texas. Regional estimates call for even more new hires once those projects are built.

The processing and refining industries need so many workers to build new facilities in Texas and Louisiana because of the unprecedented rise over the last three years in U.S. oil and gas production, much of it due to shale. Labor shortages, causing delays in construction, threaten to slow the boom and push back the date when the country can meet its own energy needs, estimated by BP Plc to be in 2035.
So, in the next two years, you need 36,000 welders.

It's pretty simple if you want to frack your world:
  • Pay to train your welders.
  • Pay your welders more.
  • Treat your employees better than the other guy.
This sh%$ ain't rocket science.

The problem is that the "processing and refining industries" want workers who are well trained on someone else's dollar that are cheap, and readily disposable.

What they want fails economics 101.