31 March 2014

This is so F%$#ing Epic, Words Desert Me

H/t Dr. Dot, massuse to the stars.

Shave the Whales

The International Court of Justice in The Hague has just made formal the blatantly obvious and ruled that Japan's so-called "research" whaling has nothing to do with research, and so is illegal:
The decision to ban Japan’s annual whaling drive off Antarctica, handed down by the United Nations’ highest court on Monday, was a hard-won victory for conservationists who long argued that Tokyo’s whaling research was a cover for commercial whaling.

The ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague halts a Japanese program that has captured more than 10,000 minke and other whales in the Southern Ocean each year since 1988 in the name of biological research.

Japan may not be ready to lay down its harpoons entirely. Though the ruling is final, it allows the Japanese to continue to hunt whales under a redesigned program, said Nanami Kurasawa, who heads a marine conservation group in Tokyo.

And the court’s decision does not affect smaller hunts that Japan carries out in the northern Pacific, or coastal whaling carried out on a smaller scale by local fishermen.

“It’s an important decision, but it also leaves the Japanese government a lot of leeway,” Ms. Kurasawa said. “The Japanese government could start research whaling again but under a different name, and it would be out of the ruling’s purview.”

In a 12-to-4 judgment, the court found that Japan was in breach of its international obligations by catching and killing minke whales and issuing permits for hunting humpback and fin whales within the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, established by the International Whaling Commission.

Reading a summary of the judgment, the presiding judge, Peter Tomka of Slovakia, said that the latest Japanese program, which was expanded in 2005, had involved the killing of thousands of minke whales and a number of fin whales, but that its “scientific output to date appears limited.” The ruling suggested that Japan’s whaling hunt was based on politics and logistics, rather than science.
The driving force behind Japanese whaling is stupid, brutal, and mindlessly destructive nationalism, something which the residents of Nanking may recall.

And they will continue to butcher porpoises in local waters.

But it is a start.


Yesterday, we had a blizzard.

Today, it's 20°C (68°F) without a cloud in the sky.

This weather is completely whack!

At least out makes my wait at the bus stop more pleasant.

Posted via mobile.

30 March 2014

Obama Does Zen: He Learns the Sound of One Hand Clapping

And even that guy sounds profoundly unenthusiastic
Barack Obama had a joint news conference with the Dutch PM, and when he talked about American support for human rights, the audience response was profoundly underwhelming:
Responding to a question at The Hague’s for the Nuclear Security Summit, President Obama concluded the event with an anti-climactic few moments in which he looks to Prime Minister Rutte, seemingly expectant of some way to wrap-up the event without applause.

“The good news is that I’m very confident that it can be achieved, and I’m also confident that the core values that America has always believed in, in terms of privacy, rule of law, individual rights; that has guided the United States for many years and will continue to guide us into the future,” Obama concluded, before nodding and looking to Prime Minister Rutte.

Obama is seen nodding at Prime Minister Rutte again, seeking confirmation that the conference has ended he says, “okay.”

Despite only the rustling sounds of people standing to exit, a single person can be heard slowly – but steadily – patting out a few claps to conclude the event.

“Thank you very much everybody, thank you again,” says the president, as he walks off stage with Prime Minister Rutte.
Trust me, the when you slice the bullsh%$ that thick, people notice.

I do not think that people in the current establishment in DC realize just how compromised our image is world wide, and how much damage this will do to future attempts to prosecute our agenda in a multilateral manner.

The biggest threat to the United States these days are our state security and foreign policy apparatuses.

My Hunch Seems to Have Been Vindicated

I have always felt that the Black Death in Europe was from something significantly different from the Bubonic Plague as we know it now, if just because the speed of the spread was astonishingly fast (something more than 20 miles a day in Britain).

Well, a study now indicates that it was likely a variant of Yersinia pestis that was genetically predisposed to go pneumonic, meaning that the transmission would have been far faster than the flea borne variants that we see today:
It was already known as perhaps the bleakest episode in British history.

Now, new research suggests the Black Death was even more lethal than was previously thought.

The findings go further to exonerate rats as being responsible for the outbreak, which swept the country in the middle of the fourteenth century, killing vast swathes of the population.

Instead, the study claims the disease was passed directly from human to human and was, in fact, pneumonic plague – a more virulent and infectious form than bubonic plague, which has historically been blamed.


The same bacteria – which is almost identical to the strain still found on four continents – is responsible for both bubonic and pneumonic plague, but the experts taking part in the show concluded that the latter, which is spread by the fleas of infected rats, would not have been able to have the devastating impact caused by the Black Death.

Dr Tim Brooks, an expert in infectious diseases from Public Health England who is based at Porton Down – the Wiltshire site used by the government for dealing with biological threats – said: “As an explanation, for the Black Death in its own right, it is simply not good enough. It cannot spread fast enough from one household to the next, to cause the huge number of cases that we saw during the Black Death epidemics.”

Instead, he identified what he considers was a mutation from the bubonic plague, borne on rats, to the pneumonic variant, whereby it spread to the lungs of sufferers, who then passed it on to others, by coughing.
This makes sense, though there are alternate ways for it to spread so quickly, such as it being carried by bird borne parasites.

It is almost certain that it was Y. pestis though.

I Do Not Know Whether to be Impressed or Horrified

Scientists at the University of Michigan have developed a night vision contact lens:
The University of Michigan has developed a prototype contact lens that enhances night vision by placing a thin strip of graphene between layers of glass. The graphene — a form of carbon — reacts to photons, which makes dark images look brighter.

The development of the lens still has quite a ways to go before soldiers can scrap those heavy goggles. Right now the graphene only absorbs 2.3 percent of the light. Those percentages have to rise before true night vision can be achieved.
It's kind of neat, but wicked creepy.

When Someone Defines Tolerance as Accepting His Own Bigotry, He is a Hypocrite and a Fool

Case in point, the self-immolation of Mozilla because they chose to hire an homophobic bigot as CEO:
Mozilla named a new chief executive this week to lead the non-profit Web organization as it tries to keep its Firefox browser relevant in the mobile age. The appointment has proved controversial in more ways than one.

Three Mozilla board members resigned over the choice of Brendan Eich, a Mozilla co-founder, as the new CEO. Gary Kovacs, a former Mozilla CEO who runs online security company AVG Technologies; John Lilly, another former Mozilla CEO now a partner at venture-capital firm Greylock Partners; and Ellen Siminoff, CEO of online education startup Shmoop, left the board last week.

The departures leave three people on the Mozilla board: co-founder Mitchell Baker; Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, and Katharina Borchert, chief executive of German news site Spiegel Online.

The three board members who resigned sought a CEO from outside Mozilla with experience in the mobile industry who could help expand the organization’s Firefox OS mobile-operating system and balance the skills of co-founders Eich and Baker, the people familiar with the situation said. They did not want to be identified because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

Mozilla spokesman Mike Manning confirmed the three remaining board members, but he declined to comment further on Friday. He did not immediately respond to a request to speak to Eich and Baker.


The board departures are not the only source of early pressure on the new Mozilla CEO. Some employees of the organization are calling for Eich to step down because he donated $1,000 to the campaign in support of Proposition 8, a 2008 California ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in the state.

“I do not support the Board’s appointment of @BrendanEich as CEO,” Kat Braybrooke, a curation and co-design lead at the organization, wrote on Twitter on Thursday:
The problem is that Brendan Eich have $1000 to the H8 amendment, aka Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage initiative in California, and when this was revealed, his response was to suggest that people should be more tolerant about this.

That is complete bullsh%$.

While I agree with 1st amendment argument  protecting his right to engage in this sort of speech, it is wrong to suggest that his opponents should accept him to, "make Mozilla a place of equality and welcome for all."

Social, opprobrium is precisely the sort of response that comes from an open marketplace of ideas.

Shoot Me Now!!!

It's March f#@$ing 30, and it is SNOWING HEAVILY!

Snow, in Baltimore, and it its almost April!

What the f#@$ing f#@$???

Posted via mobile.

29 March 2014

Here is a Bit of Neat Tiny Aviation Tech

AugustaWestland is looking at variable geometry rotors using a miniscule (1-2% of chord) trailing edge flap which can be extended of retracted under different conditions:
Dan Gurney, American racing car driver and constructor, is providing inspiration to European helicopter manufacturers, with AgustaWestland planning in 2015 to fly an active rotor incorporating the aerodynamic device that carries his name.

The Gurney flap (see diagram) is a small tab set perpendicular to the flow at the trailing edge of a wing. It has the effect of increasing lift with minimal impact on drag. In the early 1970s, he first used the eponymous device on the rear wing of a racing car to increase downforce.
In the interest of accuracy, the Gurney flap, also known as a wickerbill, was actually independently invented by a number of people as far back as 1931
Fixed Gurney flaps are used extensively on helicopters to increase the effectiveness of horizontal and vertical stabilizers over a wide angle-of-attack range. Now, with funding from Europe's Clean Sky research program, AgustaWestland is to use active Gurney flaps to increase the performance of helicopter rotor blades.

Rotor design is a compromise between hover and forward-flight requirements, and the ability to squeeze more performance from conventional blades is reaching its limits. “In the 1980s and '90s we saw big gains. Now they are smaller. We have more powerful computational tools, but are only getting incremental gains,” says Simon Spurway, AgustaWestland principal engineer. “The next step is active rotors.”

Under Clean Sky's Green Rotorcraft program, Airbus Helicopters is leading work to see how much further a conventional blade can be passively optimized. The manufacturer also is heading a project to develop active blade twist, which Spurway says poses fail-safe design challenges. AgustaWestland, meanwhile, is in charge of the active Gurney flap project.

Projecting from the lower surface close to the trailing edge, and just 1-2% of blade chord in height, the flap produces counter-rotating vortices that increase pressure on the lower, pressure side of the airfoil and decrease pressure on the upper, suction side. The vortices help the boundary stay attached to the trailing edge and increase the maximum lift coefficient for only a small penalty in drag coefficient.

In forward flight, rotor blades experience different conditions as they rotate. On the advancing side, forward speed adds to rotational speed and increases lift. On the retreating side, forward speed subtracts from rotational speed, and blade pitch must be increased to maintain lift. As airspeed rises, the retreating blade begins to stall and the pilot must add power to overcome the rising drag.

Retracted on the advancing side, the active Gurney flap is deployed on the retreating side to delay the stall. Covering the middle section of the blade, the flap locally improves lift and allows the outer section of the retreating blade to be offloaded. This reduces the power required to maintain airspeed and lowers fuel consumption and emissions, an overall goal of Clean Sky.
Flaps on rotors are not new. Kaman's helos have been using servo flaps as alternative to hub based actuators for years, but the application of Gurney flaps, along with their use to handle issues of the different lift modes and retreating blade stall, is new.

This Comes as No Surprise

Maryland is dumping its healthcare exchange, and replacing it with Connecticut's technology:
Maryland officials are set to replace the state’s online health-insurance exchange with technology from Connecticut’s insurance marketplace, according to two people familiar with the decision, an acknowledgment that a system that has cost at least $125.5 million is broken beyond repair.

The board of the Maryland exchange plans to vote on the change Tuesday, the day after the end of the first enrollment period for the state’s residents under the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

Marylanders will be able to use the exchange even as it is being overhauled. The first enrollment period opened Oct. 1 and closes Monday for insurance coverage that kicks in this year. A second open enrollment period starts Nov. 15.

Like Maryland, Connecticut was one of the first and most enthusiastic states to embrace the idea of building its own insurance exchange rather than using a federal site to implement the law’s sweeping changes in health-care coverage.

But unlike Maryland, where the system crashed within moments of launching and has limped along ever since, Connecticut’s exchange has worked as smoothly as any in the country.
I do think that this means that I have to reevaluate my assessment of O'Malley as the front-runner in the "Not Hillary" presidential primary.

Still, the fact that Maryland has decided to end its attempt and move to a working system, and that it did so before Oregon, Minnesota and Hawaii, all of whom have similar problems, was the right thing to do.

I Love a Good Aviation Mystery

Some Aviation Buffs took some photos of what they thought were B-2's over Texas.

It appears that they weren't B-2's:
Sitting on a secret is a hard thing to do - and not only for me but the Pentagon as well.

But now the secret is out and the speculation is running rampant on the Internet, so it's time to tell the story behind Aviation Week & Space Technology's Bill Sweetman's story:


As aircraft bums are want to do in their spare time, on March 10th I found myself at Amarillo International Airport with my grandson and three other "Interceptors" enjoying a a nice spring-like afternoon photographing military jets doing practice approaches and sipping ice tea at our hangout the Old English Field House restaurant located at Rick Husband International Airport on the far east side of Amarillo.


I recognized the voice immediately whom (because of his government job) I will refer to as "Tom."

"What's up Tom?" I answer.

"Hey - Steve are you still out at the airport?" he asks.

"Yes - I was just about to head home." I replied.

"Look out to the southwest - there are three planes flying in formation - you can see their contrails."

I told the rest of the gang and we headed to the front of Old English to (as we say in Texas) take a gander.

They weren't hard to spot. The sky was severe-clear and the three contrails stood out like white chalked exclamation points across a deep blue sky.

The three aircraft were approaching from the southwest and they weren't in a hurry. They seemed to be heading right for the airport.

We readied the lenses on our cameras and hoped to get a clear shot of them coming overhead.

Since we are all aircraft spotters - we knew they most likely weren't commercial aircraft and had to be military, hoping maybe they were something cool like an F-22 or F-15s that we often see flying over the Amarillo VOR but have yet been able to coax down for some gas and grub.

Both Dean Muskett and myself were shooting with similar lenses - a 70 to 300mm zoom, I with my Nikon and he with his Canon.


Dean and I reviewed our photos on our cameras to try and identify the aircraft type.

"That's a B-2" Dean said excited. "It's a flight of three B-2s."

I looked at mine, zoomed in, but I wasn't so sure. Something about it looked odd. The shape wasn't quite right but on my tiny LCD frame in bright daylight I couldn't really see it well.

I rushed home and imported the photos into my computer. I then looked at the frames where the aircraft was flying in and out of the lead contrail and zoomed in using Photoshop.

My grandson (who was leaning over my shoulder watching me work) jumped when I shouted. "The trailing edge is wrong!" I must have said it three times.
It goes on, and he notes that the airspace around this formation was cleared for about 150 miles, and reviewing his aviation band scanner, came across a call sign, "SIENNA," which appeared to correspond with the flight.

His guess is that it is a stealth transport.

I'm dubious on that. I think that a stealth transport program would be too big, it would be a major competition between Boeing and LM, to be anywhere near black.

I do think that, whatever it is, that the USAF, whoever, scheduled this flight did so with the intention that Mr.Douglass, or some other aviation buff, to get those pics so to float out whatever it is.

28 March 2014

Now We Know Why Bill DiBlasio Turned Down a few Charter Applications

You may have read about the battle between Bill DiBlasio and political hack/Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz over the allocation of public spaces for some of her schools, with New York Governor and complete tool, Mario Cuomo rather unsurprisingly taking her side.

What you may not be aware of is that the DiBlasio administration approved 36 of 45 applications, and 5 of 8 for Success Academy.

What you may also not know is that the requests by Moscowitz would have taken space from a puclic school literally doing therapy for disabled students in the halls:
From now on, she will apply four criteria in reviewing proposed co-locations. She won’t put elementary and high schools in the same building. She won’t keep approving small schools that only require more high-paid supervisors to run them. She won’t approve co-locations that require expensive renovations of school properties.

And, most importantly, she won’t allow reduced services or seats for special education students.

“These are the most vulnerable and highest needs kids in our system,” Fariña said, but “they were the first kids to lose space or be moved” under the prior administration.

No one is happier about her policy change than the parents and staff at the Mickey Mantle school, a program for autistic and emotionally disturbed children that was slated to lose space and seats to the proposed expansion of Success Academy.

“Our school already lost a music, a theater arts and an art room the past few years,” said Barry Daub, principal at Mickey Mantle. Those losses happened to make room for Harlem Success 1, launched in the same building in 2006.

Mickey Mantle would have lost enrollment and even more space if Fariña had approved the Success Academy expansion.

“We would be doing physical and occupational therapy in the halls,” Daub said..
(emphasis mine)

Charter advocates don't care.

More often than not, they do not serve the disabled community.  They lack the resources to do so, and they have absolutely no interests in developing those capabilities.

They just want to make sure that the senior executives, and their Wall Street backers stay on the gravy train. (Moscowitz, who has fewer than 7000 students in her schools, is paid more than the New York City Schools Chancellor, who manages more than a million students)

Drip, Drip, Drip

Christie appointed Chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, David Samson, has resigned as a result of scandals that came to light following the "Bridgegate" scandal:
Gov. Chris Christie on Friday announced the resignation of the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — the highest-ranking public official to step down during the scandal over lane closings at the George Washington Bridge — as he embarked on an aggressive campaign to re-establish himself on the national stage.

The chairman, David Samson, an éminence grise in New Jersey politics and a cherished adviser to Mr. Christie, had been under fire for his role in the lane closings since January, when emails suggested that he was more concerned about the political ramifications for Mr. Christie than drivers stuck in traffic. That was followed by a steady beat of accusations about conflicts of interest between his role at the Port Authority and his law practice.

With those conflicts under investigation by federal authorities, he had declined to cooperate with an internal investigation Mr. Christie had commissioned.
First, let me criticize the editor at the New York Times: When a reporter uses the term, "éminence grise," (which means behind the scene power) even at the Gray Lady, it is the job of the editor to take out his red pen, and scrawl "BS" all over this.

"Éminence grise", seriously?

On a slightly more serious note, while I do not know if Chris Christie will be frog marched out of the New Jersey's Governor's Mansion in handcuffs, his putative presidential campaign is done.

The fallout from "Bridgegate" and the subsequent developments are peeling his allies away from him like one would peel an onion.

Note also that the press's man crush on Jabba the Governor has ended, which can be shown by the latest NY Times editorial, from the board, which leads with, "The only thing wrong with the resignation announcement on Friday of David Samson, Gov. Chris Christie’s top appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was that it took so long."

When People Say that Addressing Inequality is Just Class Warfare, They are Either Lying of Stupid

As Paul Krugman notes, we know of specific policies (taxes, shareholder say on pay, etc.) to address inequality, but no one has cracked the secret to sustainable growth that raises all boats:
The usual answer to this is to point out that we don’t actually know much about how to produce rapid economic growth — conservatives may think they know (low taxes and all that), but there is no evidence to back up their certainty. And on the other hand, we know how to make a big difference to income distribution, especially how to reduce extreme poverty. So why not work on what we know, as at least part of our economic strategy?
He further notes that economic growth rates do not effect levels of child malnutrition, but inequality does:
But even this argument may be conceding too much. A new study finds that in poor and lower-middle-income countries, one of the most crucial aspects of well-being, child malnutrition, isn’t helped at all by faster growth:


Yes, rapid growth is good, but it doesn’t solve all problems even if you know how to make it happen, which you don’t.
We do know that the conservative prescriptions produce, inequality, speculation, bubbles, and panics.

The reason that we continue to hear these arguments is because it serves the rich and their lackeys, not because it has ever demonstrated that it has any relation to reality.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

I missed it last week, I was too busy being sick, but on the 21st the NCUA closed down the 4th credit union of the year, Parsons Pittsburg Credit Union of ​Parsons, ​KS.

27 March 2014

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is Toast

There has been a lot going in Turkey.

There is a recording that allegedly has the Turkey's PM taking about a corruption coverup with his son.

About a week ago, when this went viral, Turkey blocked Twitter, and today, they blocked YouTube.

There is a point in every scandal when its target goes a little bit nuts, and Erdogan has hit this point.

This stage is characteristic of the end-game.

I don't know whether it will be his party, or the opposition, or the Turkish military who will take him down, but down he will be taken.

I'm Selling My Comic Collection

I just realized that not only had I not read them in a long time, but that I had not taken them out of the box this century.

I just finished inventorying them, my notable comics are:
  • Cerebus, 1-58, 61, 64, 81, 83, 86, 89, 91, 93, 97, 99, and a few after 100
  • Damage Control, 2-4
  • Fantastic 4, 81
  • Boris the Bear 1-3, 11, 12, 19, 
  • Bager, various between 24 & 64
  • Nexus, various between 40 & 74
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (unfortunately 2nd printing)
  • The Tick, 1-3,6,7
  • Zot! 11-30
More than 200 comic books in all.

Anyone know who would be a good person to sell all for these for me on consignment?  I know that eBay offers "Sell it for me," but I am also considering one of the local outfits that does this.

26 March 2014

Too True

The results of a new parenting study are reporting that, "If American parents read one more long-form think piece about parenting they will go f%$#ing ape sh%$.


Click on the link, and read the rest.

Best Amazon Comment Ever

Senator Ted Cruz, nutjob Joe McCarthy look alike, has written a coloring book.

No this is not The Onion. You can actually buy at Amazon.

And because it Amazon, there are reader comments, and the negative reviews are amusing, but I like this one the best:
So, after reading many reviews that mentioned what good toilet paper this book made, I was super excited to order my copy. Unfortunately, after receiving mine in the mail I was immediately disappointed. I don't know, perhaps I accidentally received a used copy, but mine was completely worthless for this purpose as every single page was already completely covered with crap...
It's juvenile, but so is a United States Senator writing a f%$#ing coloring book.

H/t Neo at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

I am Not Sure If It's That He's Got Brains or Balls

In the end, it does not matter.

Senator Mark Begich has decided to ignore the inside the beltway consensus, and campaign on expanding Social Security:
Senator Mark Begich of Alaska is embroiled in one of the toughest reelection fights in the country. His solution, in part: To campaign on a proposal that’s far outside the mainstream of what appears to constitute respectable Beltway discourse on entitlements.

That would be the idea of expanding Social Security benefits, rather than cutting them.

Senator Begich is one of a small but growing group of Democratic lawmakers who support the idea of lifting or changing the payroll tax cap, so higher earners pay more, while adopting a new measure for inflation that would increase benefits for all seniors. This is in contrast to the “Chained CPI” proposal that would use an index leading to a benefits cut, which Obama has championed. The idea behind expanding benefits is that large percentages of seniors’ income goes to costs that have risen faster than inflation, like medical care and housing.

Dems have been perhaps overly willing to get drawn on to GOP austerity turf by debating spending cuts. But Begich makes a startling suggestion: Talking about expanding Social Security benefits is good politics for Dems.
It's also good policy.

Pete Peterson has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to sell the lie that real men cut grandma's pension, and the bought and paid courtier class inside the Beltway function as his amplifier.

To quote Dwight David Eisenhower:
Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.
The mania in DC for cutting Social Security is just plain nuts, and the more Democrats who get that, the better.

Here is Hoping That This Holds Up on Appeal

The regional director of the NLRB has just ruled that Northwestern football players are employees, and so are allowed to unionize:
In a stunning ruling that has the potential to revolutionize college athletics, a federal agency said Wednesday that football players at Northwestern University can create the nation’s first college athletes union.

The decision by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board means the board agrees that football players at the Big Ten school qualify as employees under federal law and therefore can legally unionize.

The Evanston, Ill-based university argued that college athletes, as students, do not fit in the same category as factory workers, truck drivers and other unionized workers. The school plans to appeal to labor authorities in Washington.

Outgoing Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter took a leading role in establishing the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA), which would take the lead in organizing the players. The United Steelworkers union has been footing the legal bills.

Colter, whose eligibility has been exhausted and who has entered the NFL draft, said that nearly all of the 85 scholarship players on the Wildcats roster backed the union bid, though only he expressed his support publicly.

CAPA attorneys argued that college football is, for all practical purposes, a commercial enterprise that relies on players’ labor to generate billions of dollars in profits. That, they contend, makes the relationship of schools to players one of employers to employees.
The top level of college sport is thoroughly corrupt and exploitative of "Student Athletes", and it time for the cartel that keeps those students in peonage to pay the piper.

At the very least, one hopes that the students get insurance coverage of their chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

25 March 2014

Not Enough Bullets………

The hedge fund vultures have outdone themselves, the first example are the pukes who are buying shares in the in the 1983 Marine Corpse bombing in Beirut:
Iran is still a pariah in the international community, but one hedge fund thinks it will eventually pay $1.8 billion as ordered by a U.S. court.

RD Legal Capital hopes to raise up to $100 million to buy the rights to payments from families of the 241 U.S. Marines killed in a terrorist attack in Lebanon in 1983. A federal court in 2007 found Iran liable for the truck-bomb attack, which led to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from war-torn Lebanon.

Iran, of course, is not on the best of terms with the U.S., and the two countries do not have diplomatic relations. Still, Iran’s central bank is appealing the $1.8 billion verdict against it.

Victims’ families agreed to allow RD to buy stakes in the judgment. The firm will not buy out any of the beneficiaries, instead investing only in pieces of each of the 151 claims. The Iran fund is RD’s first ever focused on a single case, The Wall Street Journal reports.
And then there are the vulture funds who are buying into the abject misery and death that the banksters (and the Germans) have caused in Greece and Portugal:
Yield-hungry investors are flocking back to Greek and Portuguese markets, shunned by international buyers for four years, as the outlook for the bailed-out countries improves and alternatives look more expensive or increasingly risky.

Portuguese and Greek shares and bonds have been the best performers in Europe in 2014, and funds invested in them are making a killing, Thomson Reuters data shows.

Investors say they are driven by economic improvement, which provides fresh impetus to an initial bounce triggered by the European Central Bank's pledge in 2012 to save the euro.

Potential investment alternatives are also less tempting. Tensions between the West and Russia and global growth concerns cloud the outlook for similar-yielding emerging markets, while a 1-1/2 year rally has shrunk returns elsewhere in euro zone debt.

"It's not so much an interest-rate-driven rally but much more a structural shift and a perception that the euro crisis is behind us," said Franz Wenzel, chief strategist at AXA Investment Managers, which manages assets worth about 550 billion euros ($760 billion).

After nearly crashing out of the euro zone in 2012, Greece's recession is easing, while the Portuguese economy is already rebounding. Lisbon is due to exit its international bailout in about two months.
As much as Timothy Geithner might disagree, there has to be well defined limits to what is a legal financial speculative instrument.

These people are F%$#ing ghouls.

I Really Hope That This Happens

The Supreme Court has declined to hear a case from Delaware which effectively makes arbitration hearings there open to the public:
The Supreme Court on Monday cleared the way for the public and the press to sit in on arbitration of business disputes in Delaware, when a state judge acts as the arbitrator. That was the result of the Court’s denial of an appeal by a group of Delaware judges, seeking to keep those proceedings closed to the public. If business firms do not like having a public audience, that could limit or even kill a four-year-old Delaware experiment.

That was one of several denials of review in significant cases. In addition, the Court agreed to add to its decision docket for next Term a new case on the appeal rights of state prisoners in federal habeas courts. It also sought the U.S. government’s views on the deadline for filing a lawsuit claiming that the manager of a retirement plan made faulty investment decisions, and on the right of an investor to sue over the filing of a defective stock registration statement, when the investor acquired an interest in the stock before such a statement existed.

The Court offered no explanation, as usual, when it decided against reviewing the Delaware arbitration case, Strine v. Delaware Coalition for Open Government.

Ordinarily, arbitration proceedings are not public events, because they are a way to resolve private legal disputes without the formality of a court trial and without much of the expense of hiring trial lawyers and of paying for pre-trial and trial maneuvering. Delaware’s legislature wanted to keep arbitration a closed matter when it decided, in 2009, to allow state judges to take on the task of arbitrator in a closed system.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled, however, that this would turn arbitration into something like a civil courtroom trial, so they had to be open to the public and the press under a string of Supreme Court precedents on the right of First Amendment access to court proceedings.
Considering Delaware's history of whoring for shady corporate entities, I expect to see a rewrite of the law to once again favor corporations, but it's nice to see some more push-back against the corrupt and blatantly unfair arbitration which we are saddled with in the United States.

If I Were Glenn Greenwald, I'd Watch My Back Around Pierre Omidyar

A while back Mark Ames wrote of the ties between the founder of First Media, who now employs Glenn Greenwald, and the CIA and State Department's clandestine activities to destabilize the Ukraine.

Now, Paul Carr follows up with an analysis of Pierre and Pamela Omidyar’s pattern of regular  visits to the Obama White House:
Speaking to the Daily Beast, documentary maker Jeremy Scahill mentioned his boss explicitly when comparing the cozy relationship between other news organizations and the White House. First Look, he insisted, would be different…

I think that the White House, whether it is under Republican or Democrat, they pretty much now [sic] who they are dealing with. There are outlets like The Daily Beast, or The Huffington Post that have risen up in the past decade, but they are very quickly just becoming part of the broader mainstream media, and with people that have spent their careers working for magazines or newspapers or what have you, and the White House believes they all speak the language on these things. With us, because we want to be adversarial, they won’t know what bat phone to call. They know who to call at The Times, they know who to call at The Post. With us, who are they going to call? Pierre? Glenn?”
Scahill’s question is a good one — and it’s also very easy to answer: If the White House has a problem with First Look, it’s a pretty safe bet they’ll pick up the phone and call Pierre Omidyar.

After all, according to records made available under Obama’s 2009 transparency commitment, Omidyar has visited the Obama White House at least half a dozen times since 2009. During the same period, his wife, Pamela Omidyar, who heads Omidyar Network, has visited 1600 Pennsylvania Ave at least four times, while Omidyar Network’s managing partner, Matthew Bannick, has visited a further three. In all, senior Omidyar Network officials made at least 13 visits to the White House between 2009-2013. (In fact the logs indicate that, on several occasions, Omidyar visited the White House more than once in the same day. To avoid unfairly inflating the numbers, I’ve removed same-day duplicates from all the totals cited in this article.)

To put the numbers in perspective, Omidyar’s six visits compare to four visits during the same period by NBCUniversal chief Stephen Burke, two by Fox News boss Roger Ailes, two by MSNBC’s Phil Griffin, one by New York Times owner Arthur O Sulzberger, and one each by Dow Jones’ Robert Thompson, Gannett/USA Today’s Gracia Martore and Omidyar’s fellow tech billionaire turned media owner, Jeff Bezos.

In fact Pando could only find three media titans who had earned more White House visitor loyalty points than Omidyar: CNN’s Jeffrey Zucker (7), former Post owner Donald Graham (9) and queen of all media, Arianna Huffington (11). According to records, neither The Daily Beast’s Tina Brown or Barry Diller were invited at all — nor, by the way, was Rupert Murdoch.

Even compared to other major tech leaders, Omidyar is a special case. LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman visited the White House twice during the same period, as did Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Omidyar also beat out Marissa Mayer (5), Eric Schmidt (5), John Doerr (4), Dick Costolo (3), Evan Williams (3), Jack Dorsey (2), Larry Ellison (1) and poor old Reed Hastings who wasn’t invited at all, until this week. According to records, other people not important enough to make it through the door include Pando investors Marc Andreessen and Peter Thiel.


Serbia, Georgia and Burma are, of course, all places where USAID-backed pro-US color revolutions were successful. And now we have Omidyar Network investing in USAID’s newest overseas programs, “advancing U.S. national security interests” in USAID’s words.
Carr reveals Omidyar's extensive and ongoing ties to the US state security apparatus' involvement in the intelligence operations, Scahill says that Omidyar is aggressively involved with the day to day operations of First Media's magazine, The Intercept, "Pierre writes more on our internal messaging than anyone else."

This is not proof that Omidyar is somehow in cahoots with the CIA or the Obama administration, but it does mean that neither Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, Dan Froomkin, nor Matt Taibbi should trust him any further than they could throw him.

As James Reisen of the New York Times observed, the Obama administration, is "The Greatest Enemy Of Press Freedom That We Have Encountered In At Least a Generation."

Why We Need Unions, Aggressive Anti-Trust Enforcement, and Former CEOs Behind Bars

Because without all of these, those in power conspire to impoverish and humiliate the rest of us:
Back in January, I wrote about “The Techtopus” — an illegal agreement between seven tech giants, including Apple, Google, and Intel, to suppress wages for tens of thousands of tech employees. The agreement prompted a Department of Justice investigation, resulting in a settlement in which the companies agreed to curb their restricting hiring deals. The same companies were then hit with a civil suit by employees affected by the agreements.

This week, as the final summary judgement for the resulting class action suit looms, and several of the companies mentioned (Intuit, Pixar and Lucasfilm) scramble to settle out of court, Pando has obtained court documents (embedded below) which show shocking evidence of a much larger conspiracy, reaching far beyond Silicon Valley.

Confidential internal Google and Apple memos, buried within piles of court dockets and reviewed by PandoDaily, clearly show that what began as a secret cartel agreement between Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt to illegally fix the labor market for hi-tech workers, expanded within a few years to include companies ranging from Dell, IBM, eBay and Microsoft, to Comcast, Clear Channel, Dreamworks, and London-based public relations behemoth WPP. All told, the combined workforces of the companies involved totals well over a million employees.

According to multiple sources familiar with the case, several of these newly named companies were also subpoenaed by the DOJ for their investigation. A spokesperson for Ask.com confirmed that in 2009-10 the company was investigated by the DOJ, and agreed to cooperate fully with that investigation. Other companies confirmed off the record that they too had been subpoenaed around the same time.

Although the Department ultimately decided to focus its attention on just Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit, Lucasfilm and Pixar, the emails and memos clearly name dozens more companies which, at least as far as Google and Apple executives were concerned, formed part of their wage-fixing cartel.
Heads, I win, tails, you lose, klepto-capitalism at its finest.

The fact that the victims of this organized wage-theft conspiracy are well paid does not make it better, neither does the fact that many of the people involved are techno-libertarians, which does not make it just that they are a victim of their own laissez-faire philosophy.

The DoJ has secured a settlement, slap on the wrist fines, and no one will go to jail.

At the most, there will be a court judgement, and penalties, but the executives in question won't pay that, they are indemnified by their corporations, so it's shareholders, pension funds and the like, end up paying for this.

This is contemptible.

Yes, they Are Completely Insane in Georgia

Georgia has just legalized the carriage of handguns pretty much everywhere:
Pro- and anti-gun forces do not agree on much, but they do agree on the breathtaking sweep of the Georgia legislation allowing guns in bars, schools, restaurants, churches and airports that is now awaiting the signature of Gov. Nathan Deal.

Americans for Responsible Solutions, founded by Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who was critically wounded in a mass shooting in 2011, calls it “the most extreme gun bill in America” and the “guns everywhere” legislation. The National Rifle Association, which lobbied for the bill, calls it “the most comprehensive pro-gun” bill in recent state history, and described the vote at the Capitol on Thursday as “a historic victory for the Second Amendment.”


The bill was opposed not only by gun-control groups, but also by the state’s police chiefs association and restaurant association, Episcopal and Catholic churches, and the federal Transportation Security Administration. A majority of Georgians also opposed it, according to several polls.
Guns in bars, guns in elementary schools, decriminalizing trying to bring guns on planes.

What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

This is the Coolest Photograph Ever

And, no, this is not a picture of a shirtless Vladimir Putin.

If you don't understand, you can see the context here.

This is so f%$#ing chocked f%$#ing full of  f%$#ing awesome that it f%$#ing blows my f%$#ing mind.

What can I say, but f%$#, this is amazing.

H/t DC at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

24 March 2014

Flight MH370 Sort-Of Found

Basically, the telemetry data from the 777's motors was subjected to additional analysis, and Doppler shift allowed them to locate the track of the plane to southwest of Perth, Australia:
Inmarsat leveraged a “groundbreaking but traditional mathematics-based process” to analyze data from other flights that use its satellite network and establish a pattern that helped investigators nail down Malaysia Airlines Flight 370’s (MH370) final flight path as traveling south over the Indian Ocean, an Inmarsat executive explains.

Inmarsat’s initial analysis, handed over to investigators on March 11, helped investigators establish the now-famous northern and southern arcs as possible flight corridors for MH370 after it dropped off radar on March 8 over the Andaman Sea.

Inmarsat VP External Communications Chris McLaughlin says the company continued to analyze its data, and concluded on March 23 that the aircraft’s last known position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, well southwest of Perth.

“What we discovered and what we passed to the investigation ... is that the southern path predicted fits very well with the path that’s been indicated by our pings,” McLaughlin says. “To all intents and purposes, there’s no way [the aircraft] went north.”

A key calculation done by Inmarsat was determining the “Doppler shift” in the ping, or the slight change in the frequency of the signal caused by the movement of the aircraft relative to the satellite in space.

“From that process – a compression or an expansion of the wavelengths – you can determine whether the aircraft is getting closer or farther away,” McLaughlin explains. “It’s been a groundbreaking but traditional mathematics-based process that was then peer-reviewed by others in the space industry, and indeed contributed to by Boeing.”
It increasingly looks to be some sort of horrible accident, and not malice, with the most rational theory being an electrical fire followed by a diversion to the nearest airport, and then extended operation on autopilot: (The author is a pilot, and it is the only explanation that makes sense)
There has been a lot of speculation about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Terrorism, hijacking, meteors. I cannot believe the analysis on CNN; it’s almost disturbing. I tend to look for a simpler explanation, and I find it with the 13,000-foot runway at Pulau Langkawi.

We know the story of MH370: A loaded Boeing 777 departs at midnight from Kuala Lampur, headed to Beijing. A hot night. A heavy aircraft. About an hour out, across the gulf toward Vietnam, the plane goes dark, meaning the transponder and secondary radar tracking go off. Two days later we hear reports that Malaysian military radar (which is a primary radar, meaning the plane is tracked by reflection rather than by transponder interrogation response) has tracked the plane on a southwesterly course back across the Malay Peninsula into the Strait of Malacca.

The left turn is the key here. Zaharie Ahmad Shah1 was a very experienced senior captain with 18,000 hours of flight time. We old pilots were drilled to know what is the closest airport of safe harbor while in cruise. Airports behind us, airports abeam us, and airports ahead of us. They’re always in our head. Always. If something happens, you don’t want to be thinking about what are you going to do–you already know what you are going to do. When I saw that left turn with a direct heading, I instinctively knew he was heading for an airport. He was taking a direct route to Palau Langkawi, a 13,000-foot airstrip with an approach over water and no obstacles. The captain did not turn back to Kuala Lampur because he knew he had 8,000-foot ridges to cross. He knew the terrain was friendlier toward Langkawi, which also was closer.


For me, the loss of transponders and communications makes perfect sense in a fire. And there most likely was an electrical fire. In the case of a fire, the first response is to pull the main busses and restore circuits one by one until you have isolated the bad one. If they pulled the busses, the plane would go silent. It probably was a serious event and the flight crew was occupied with controlling the plane and trying to fight the fire. Aviate, navigate, and lastly, communicate is the mantra in such situations.

What Does Chris Christie and the FBI Have in Common?

They just both ran investigations of themselves which cleared them completely at taxpayer expense:
With his office suddenly engulfed in scandal over lane closings at the George Washington Bridge, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey two months ago summoned a pair of top defense lawyers from an elite law firm to the State House and asked them to undertake an extensive review of what had gone wrong.

Now, after 70 interviews and at least $1 million in legal fees to be paid by state taxpayers, that review is set to be released, and according to people with firsthand knowledge of the inquiry, it has uncovered no evidence that the governor was involved in the plotting or directing of the lane closings.

The review is the first of multiple inquiries into a scandal that has jeopardized Mr. Christie’s political future. It will be viewed with intense skepticism, not only because it was commissioned by the governor but also because the firm conducting it, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, has close ties to the Christie administration and the firm’s lawyers were unable to interview three principal players in the shutdowns, including Bridget Anne Kelly, the governor’s former deputy chief of staff.

But lawyers from the team who led the inquiry are prepared to vigorously defend their work, which they described as an unfettered look into the inner workings of an administration known to prize loyalty and privacy.
This is perhaps the only internal investigation with less credibility than the FBI, today, at least.

What Do the FBI, and Joe DiMaggio Have in Common?

An unprecedented streak.

The FBI has now found that all the shootings since 1993, all 150 151, investigated by the FBI, have found the FBI blameless.

Ending an interrogation in its investigation of the Boston Marathon bombing with a dead body and a host of new questions was not the sort of thing the FBI wanted.

But on May 22, an FBI agent shot Ibragim Todashev – a 27-year old former mixed-martial arts fighter and associate of one of the suspected bombers – seven times, killing him. The agent had just completed a lengthy interrogation of Todashev in his Orlando apartment, part of an inquiry into the already-dead bombing suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. One of the bullets appears to have entered through the top of Todashev’s head.

The FBI’s story, doled out through anonymous leaks, changed several times in the weeks that followed. First, Todashev, who had voluntarily endured hours of questioning, lunged at the FBI agent with a knife, or even a sword. Then it was a length of pipe. Other accounts had him knocking over a table. At least one account held that Todashev was unarmed. The version that currently stands is that Todashev wielded a metal pole – or, perhaps, a broomstick.

Little is known about that mysterious pole-slash-broomstick: its heft, its dimensions, its use. Yet it is likely to be a major difference between vindication and damnation of the FBI’s handling of the case. A Florida prosecutor examining the case is expected to publish the results of an long-awaited investigation into Todashev’s death on Tuesday morning.

Unknowns accumulate in the Todashev shooting. Two Florida detectives reportedly aided the FBI interrogation, and their role during the shooting remains unclear. Florida’s autopsy report, available since July, was barred from release by the FBI. The bureau’s months of silence over the case have compounded the questions it faces.

But the FBI has already reached its conclusion. An internal FBI inquiry vindicated the agent, whose name is not public, months ago. That’s typical for the FBI – between 1993 and 2011, its agents fatally shot 70 people and wounded another 80, and the bureau found no major improprieties in any of those cases, according to records obtained by the New York Times last year.


The Florida prosecutor conducting that independent investigation, Jeffrey Ashton, batted away reports on Friday that he has already exonerated the special agent who shot Todashev. He still may, and the bureau has to be hoping he will. The worst outcome for the bureau in the Todashev shooting would be for Ashton to contradict its findings and effectively indict its integrity.
So, the FBI says that everything in hunky dory, and the subtext of this article is that they are leaning on the local prosecutor who is investigating locally.

Just lovely.

So Not a Surprise. The CIA F%$#ed Up, and then Covered it Up

In Newsweek, of all places, we have Jeff Stein explaining part of why the CIA is trying to suppress and discredit the Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture.

Rather unsurprising, torturer and tape destroyer Jose Rodriguez figures prominently in all of this:
The hotel bar TVs were all flashing clips of Senate intelligence committee chair Dianne Feinstein denouncing the CIA for spying on her staff, when I met an agency operative for drinks last week. He flashed a wan smile, gestured at the TV and volunteered that he'd narrowly escaped being assigned to interrogate Al-Qaida suspects at a secret site years ago.

"I guess I would've done it," he said, implying you either took orders or quit. But everybody in the counterterrorism program knew what was going on in those places, he said, and he was glad the agency found something else for him to do at the last minute. "Look what's happened."

Four years after Feinstein launched her probe of that interrogation program, her committee and the CIA are locked in a death-struggle over what can be released from the panel's 6,300-page, still-classified report. The impasse is bringing renewed attention to statements by former CIA and FBI agents that buttress the committee's all-but-official conclusion that the agency exaggerated the interrogation program's successes and minimized its abuses.

In early 2008, for example, the committee heard from Ali Soufan, one of the FBI's top former counterterrorism agents, who has since gone public with his criticism of the enhanced interrogation techniques, or EITs, that CIA contractors had used on top Al-Qaida captive Abu Zubaydah. "The staffers present were shocked," he wrote in his memoir, The Black Banners. "What I told them contradicted everything they had been told by Bush administration and CIA officials. When the discussion turned to whether I could prove everything I was saying, I told them, 'Remember, an FBI agent always keep his notes.' "

A Lebanese-American who was decorated by both the FBI and Defense Department for his counterterrorism work, Soufan laid out a case for the committee that CIA officials, chiefly Jose Rodriguez, the former CIA counterterrorism boss who ordered the destruction of interrogation videotapes, lied about the value of torturing detainees-to the point of altering the dates on documents to show a cause-and-effect that didn't exist.

"In this area, it's not a question of memory but of factual record," he later told the New Yorker's Amy Davidson. "There are now thousands of pages of declassified memos and reports that thoroughly rebut what Mr. Rodriguez and others are now claiming. For example, one of the successes of the EITs claimed in the now declassified memos is that after the program began in August 2002, Abu Zubaydah provided intelligence that prevented José Padilla from detonating a dirty bomb on U.S. soil, and identified Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks. Mr. Rodriguez has been repeating this claim.
This is why the CIA is terrified.

They are not afraid that their immorality will be revealed, they are afraid that their incompetence and mendacity will be revealed.

They are afraid that meaningful oversight will reveal that there are no adults in the room, which will lead to ……… meaningful oversight.


The 2nd member of the Arisia founding "Gang of Five", Mary Robison, just died.

It was at her New Years Day party where I made the joke that started the con.

I did not mean it seriously, honest. It was a John Swift-like (I wish) essay called, "A Modest Proposal on NESFA and Boskone."

I never expected anyone to take it seriously.

Tom Fish died last year, so it's just Chris Shuldiner, Brian Cooper, and me who are left.

I always figured that I would go first, even though I was the youngest (by only a LITTLE).

BTW, I just realized that the essay is not visible on "The Google", so I am posting it here, where it will be indexed. (After the break)

I printed it out on a dot matrix printer, and seeing as how I do not have a dot matrix font on my blog, it is in Courier.

If you don't get the context, which dates back to 1988 fandom bullsh%$ or so, count yourself lucky, and do not Google it.

Out Like a Lamb, My Ass!

They are predicting snow tomorrow.

Seriously.  It's the Spring, and it's f%$3ing Baltimore!!!
WWUS41 KLWX 250030
830 PM EDT MON MAR 24 2014

830 PM EDT MON MAR 24 2014

This is completely whack!

Ear Worm is not Necessarily a Pejorative

I woke up this morning, and had a song that I could not get out of my head.

Thankfully, it was IMNSHO, the best song from The Who album Face Dances, Tricky Day.

Have a Youtube link, because my so does not support embeds.


Posted via mobile.

23 March 2014

I Did Not Know This

I was aware that the Chinese had developed the JF-17 for Pakistan, and that it was dirt cheap, but I did no know that it is technically a MiG-21 derivative:
In 1989, the Chinese Chengdu Aerospace Corporation unveiled a major upgrade for its locally-made F-7 jet fighter, a licensed copy of the classic Soviet MiG-21. The new F-7 variant moved the engine air intake from the nose tip to the sides of the fuselage, making room in the nose for a more powerful radar.

Twenty-one years later, this upgrade—now named JF-17 Thunder—is flying combat missions with the Pakistani air force, so far its sole user. Further enhanced with a new wing, a cutting-edge intake design and a new, more powerful engine, the JF-17 is Pakistan’s most important front-line fighter—and a remarkable extension of a basic plane design dating back to the 1950s.

In essence, the JF-17 is the ultimate MiG-21. In a sector increasingly dominated by American-made stealth fighters, European “canard” planes and variants of the Russian Su-27, the JF-17 is an outlier—a highly evolutionary plane that doesn’t try to be revolutionary.
(emphasis original)

The report is that the agility is similar to that of early model F-16s, which is to say better than that of later, heavier, models.

I'm not sure how much of the original MiG-21 remains.  The fuselage immediately behind the cockpit looks vague similar, as does the landing gear arrangement, but the wing, horizontal tail, and vertical tail are completely different.

At $25 million a pop, it's dirt cheap, and the new engine should improve range, though considering  the limited range of the MiG 21, this is not a high bar to clear.

It's a lot smaller than most of the other fighters currently in production.  It's the size of the Gripen, and smaller than the successor Gripen E/F, though both of those aircraft have significantly greater payload and range.

If I were a budget despot, it would be on my list.

22 March 2014

I Guess It's Just a Recovery Weekend

I think that I am FINALLY getting over this damn cold.

Posted via mobile.

20 March 2014

Just Read The Onion's Obituary Is the Definitive One

Fred Phelps is dead, or as The Onion says, "Fred Phelps, Man Who Forever Stopped March Of Gay Rights, Dead At 84."

You have finally made the world a better place Mr. Phelps, by leaving it.

The First Law of Holes is………

If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. (This is generally attributed to British politician Denis Healey)

Well two weeks after Randa Jarrar wrote a bigoted screed on non-Arabs belly dancing, and was pilloried for this, (I called her a bigoted moron) she writes a followup where she doubles down on her repellent thesis.

Rather uncharitably, my first reaction was a bit of smug self-satisfaction when she appeared to specifically mention my blog, "Other men on racist blogs called me a moron."

Needless to say, I stand by my analysis of her earlier post, and her most recent article further reinforces the truth behind the Denis Healey quote.

The interesting thing is that from an aesthetic perspective we generally agree on the aesthetics of Middle Eastern dance, we both agree that the westernized cartoonized version of Middle Eastern dance, what I call "Cabaret", is crap. (Of course, 90% of everything is crap [Sturgeon's law])

Further we would agree that many, probably most, of the public performances of Middle Eastern dance in the west are crap.

I would go a bit further, and note that the same applies to public performances in Egypt, Turkey, Lebanaon, Syria, etc.

But there is a difference between objecting to the Disneyfication of an art form and saying that some ethnic group should not be allowed to practice that art.

Furthermore in she goes there, and explicitly states that, "It's not possible," for her to be a racist, one would assume because she is an Arab.

Bigotry much?

Finally, one of the commenters on this thread posted a Scribd document describing the history of Middle Eastern dance.  It' is worth a read.

I've attached it after the break.

I'm Back………

Basically 24 hours flat on my back being sick.

This is the first sick day that I have taken since………longer than I can remember.

19 March 2014

No Blogging Tonight

I have a cold and a fever, and not in a cool Peggy Lee kind of way.

Posted via mobile.

18 March 2014

Deep Thought

When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease. All kinds of social customs and economic practices, affecting the distribution of wealth and of economic rewards and penalties, which we now maintain at all costs, however distasteful and unjust they may be in themselves, because they are tremendously useful in promoting the accumulation of capital, we shall then be free, at last, to discard. Of course there will still be many people with intense, unsatisfied purposiveness who will blindly pursue wealth-unless they can find some plausible substitute. But the rest of us will no longer be under any obligation to applaud and encourage them.
— John Maynard Keynes
Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren (1930)
H/t Neo at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

The Koch Suckers at the Cato Institute Just Came Out Against Investor-State Dispute Settlements

Yes, Cato has come out against the the ISDS, that secret court that allows private entities to sue countries under arbitrary rules slanted in favor of investors.

This is kind of like Ford recommending General Motors pickup trucks for consumers:
Faced with an increasingly vocal opposition to a landmark EU-US trade agreement, a growing number of backers of the deal are starting to ask a simple question: might the future of transatlantic trade be better served if one of its most controversial provisions was simply dropped?

Almost nine months after negotiations opened with great hope and fanfare, opponents of the mooted Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, are rallying against a plan that would allow private investors to use the pact to sue governments if they felt local laws threatened their investment.
Environmentalists worry that it would allow big US oil companies to challenge France’s anti-fracking laws and other environmental regulations, while consumer groups fret that it would open the EU’s sacrosanct ban on genetically modified organisms to a challenge from American agribusiness.

The concerns in Europe over the inclusion of an “investor-state dispute settlement”, or ISDS, mechanism grew so loud earlier this year that Karel De Gucht, the EU’s trade commissioner, announced he would suspend negotiations on the relevant text to hold public consultations.

But in recent weeks, as both sides have been preparing for Monday’s resumption of negotiations in Brussels, the opposition has spread beyond the traditional sceptics.

In a paper released last week, Daniel Ikenson, director of the trade programme at the conservative Cato Institute, argued that the investor protection measure had become too toxic. And that in order to defuse the growing opposition, negotiators should simply drop what seemed like a superfluous provision.

“ISDS is not even essential to the task of freeing trade. So why burden the effort by carrying needless baggage?” Mr Ikenson wrote in his paper, which called for the US to drop ISDS provisions from its push for a 12-country Pacific Rim deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well.
Cato, and the Kochs, are all about enforcing the primacy of the holders of capital over that of democratically elected government, so this turn around is a big deal, and it's a good thing.

In an era of historically low tariffs, these increasingly anti-sovereignty provisions in trade deals are being viewed with well justified suspicion.

The old argument, "Because ……… Free Trade," is simply no longer enough to justify trade deals with draconian IP and investor protections.

It's a welcome side effect of the financial meltdown.

Oh Crap

Russia has annexed the Crimea.

This is going to be a complete clusterf%$3 for everyone involved, particularly the people of the Ukraine, about whom all the actors profess to care.

There is a lot of blame to allocate:
  • Some of it goes to Vladimir Putin, because, after all, he is the one sending troops.
  • Some of it also goes to the EU, which is so hell bent on expansion that it ignored the nature of its premature attempts to bring the Ukraine into its its orbit because ……… Europe.
  • Viktor Yanukovych for his abject corruption and venality.
  • Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko for their abject corruption and venality, which is what got Yanukovych elected.
  • The oligarchs, because ……… oligarchs.
That being said, the decision to support and bolster the Fascists in the Svoboda party and the Right Sector militia, and make them the tip of the spear in the protests that drove Yanukovych from power after a deal had already been cut, tripping every switch in Russian psyche, that wasn't any of them.

That was us.  That was neocon Victoria "F%$# the EU" Nuland and our State Department, and our CIA, and our front groups like the National Endowment for Democracy that put the Fascists in control of the defense and interior portfolios in the new government.

The Neocons have been wrong about everything since before they were Republicans, when they were staffers for Scoop Jackson's (D-WA) staff, and yet they continue to drive our foreign policy decisions.

Where are the "Adults in the Room" who are supposed to keep the metaphorical firearms out of the metaphorical hands of metaphorical children (neocons)?

Theoretically, Barack Obama, who won the primaries, and later election as president, over his opposition to "stupid wars", and so should be keeping these people's hands away from the reigns of power.

The fact that Nuland was promoted from spokesman to Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs by Secretary of State John Kerry, but Obama is in charge, and the decision to place a former Cheney aide in such a position is ultimately his decision.

Or, to stretch a metaphor to its breaking point, the Cossacks work for the Czar, which is kind of ironic, because the Cossacks actually come from the Ukraine.

17 March 2014

And I Would have Gotten Away With it Too, if it Weren't for You Meddling Voters

The very rich seem to think that democracy is a drag, because it gets in the way of their making even more money by privatizing essential public functions:
The newest bit of “wisdom” for public education comes to us from Netflix Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings, who is a big charter school supporter and an investor in the Rocketship Education charter school network. At a meeting of the California Charter Schools Association on March 4, he said in a keynote speech that the problem with public schools is that they are governed by elected local school boards. Charter schools have boards that are not elected and, according to his logic, have “a stable governance” and that’s why “they constantly get better every year.”

Here’s a transcript of part of the Hastings speech, published on stoprocketship.com (and you can watch the video below):
And so the fundamental problem with school districts is not their fault, the fundamental problem is that they don’t get to control their boards and the importance of the charter school movement is to evolve America from a system where governance is constantly changing and you can’t do long term planning to a system of large non-profits…The most important thing is that they constantly get better every year they’re getting better because they have stable governance — they don’t have an elected school board. And that’s a real tough issue. Now if we go to the general public and we say, “Here’s an argument why you should get rid of school boards” of course no one’s going to go for that. School boards have been an iconic part of America for 200 years. So what we have to do is to work with school districts to grow steadily, and the work ahead is really hard because we’re at 8% of students in California, whereas in New Orleans they’re at 90%, so we have a lot of catchup to do…So what we have to do is continue to grow and grow… It’s going to take 20-30 years to get to 90% of charter kids….And if we succeed over the next 20 or 30 years, that will be one of the fastest rates of change ever seen around the world for a large system, it’s hard. [applause]
Actually, all charter schools don’t have stable governance and all of them aren’t getting better every year (plenty close because of their lousy governance) and even charter advocates have called for changes to improve governance structures. What Hastings is suggesting is that democratic elections themselves create unacceptable instability in governance of public education.
Note that Hastings has invested millions in Rocketship charger schools, and while they claim to to be a not for profit, stoprocketship.com does provide numerous links that seem to indicate that much of their activities are structured so as to provide profits for its principals and those who make contributions.

No wonder Reed Hastings thinks that voters are annoying.  It makes the grifting too hard.

Note that this is not limited to education, where charter schools do not (when comparing apples to apples) outperform the public school system, and where in the extreme case (New Orleans 90% charters) we are seeing increasing cases of malfeasance and misfeasance requiring greater oversight.

It also applies to things like trade deals, or the Simpson-Bowles commission.

Even if this actually resulted in good policy, it would be wrong, but when you look at things like NAFTA, CAFTA, TPP, TTIP, etc., it is clear that all it does is that it creates an orgy of corruption and rent seeking.

When you decide to take democracy out of the mix, and run this stuff "like a business", someone gets the profit, and ain't the taxpayer.