31 July 2015

Safe Journey, Roddy.

"Rowdy" Roddy Piper, nee Roderick Toombs, has died of a heart attack at age 61.

To the degree that I've followed wrestling, I had a house mate who was big into it, it was after Piper's move to acting, so I do not have much of a comment on this, but I do recall his performance in the iconic John Carpenter film They Live:
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper, the kilt wearing trash-talker who headlined the first WrestleMania and later found movie stardom, died Friday. He was 61.

The WWE confirmed the death. The wrestling organization provided no additional details.

Piper, born Roderick Toombs in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, is the second WWE Hall of Famer to die this summer, following the June death of Dusty Rhodes. ………

In addition to his celebrity in the ring, Piper appeared in John Carpenter’s 1988 cult classic “They Live.” In that film, he delivered the memorable line: “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass — and I’m all out of bubblegum.”
If you haven't seen They Live, do so.

It is a rather irreverent commentary on the Reagan era, and is perhaps even more relevant now.

Live in Obedient Fear, Citizen!

The Obama administration’s central strategy against strong encryption seems to be waging war on the companies that are providing and popularizing it: most notably Apple and Google.

The intimidation campaign got a boost Thursday when a blog that frequently promotes the interests of the national security establishment raised the prospect of Apple being found liable for providing material support to a terrorist.

Benjamin Wittes, editor-in-chief of the LawFare blog, suggested that Apple could in fact face that liability if it continued to provide encryption services to a suspected terrorist. He noted that the post was in response to an idea raised by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., in a hearing earlier this month.

“In the facts we considered,” wrote Wittes and his co-author, Harvard law student Zoe Bedell, “a court might — believe it or not — consider Apple as having violated the criminal prohibition against material support for terrorism.”
Our state security apparatus is truly lawless, and this is an inherent feature of these instutions.

In order to prevent them from doing this, there needs to be meaningful civilian oversight, and transparency.

Unfortunately, very few people in the civilian power structure want anything to do with meaningful oversight or transparency.

Science, Bitches

2 Words: Laser Bacon:
A team of Harvard scientists has paved the way for a deadly laser pig weapon by demonstrating that, with a little encouragement, pig fat cells can be made to lase.

According to MIT Technology Review, Seok Hyun Yun and Matjaž Humar stimulated spheres of fat inside porcine cells with an optical fibre, causing them to emit laser light.

Handily, pig cells contain "nearly perfectly spherical" fat balls, which are conducive to lasing by resonance when supplied with a suitable light source. The team has also cheated the effect by injecting oil droplets into other cells.


Since the bacon laser technique also involves the use of injecting fluorescent dye into the fat cells, the Harvard team could surely have saved themselves some work by using a glow-in-the-dark pig as a test subject. Better still, they could knock up a transgenic shark with fluorescent pig fat cells in its skin, and turn that into one almighty frikkin' laser.
This is just so chock full of awesome.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!

This one is too weeks late,but credit union failure number 7, Lakeside Federal Credit Union of ​Hammond, Indiana.

It actually happened on the 16th. My bad.

Here is the Full NCUA list.

We now have 1 more credit union failure this year than we have had bank failures, which is odd.

Normally, we have about twice as many bank as credit union failures.


30 July 2015

Normally, I Avoid Super Hero Racial Casting Issues, But………

In the new Fantastic Four movie, Sue Storm (later Storm-Richards), the Invisible Girl, and Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, are being played by Kate Mara and Michael B. Jordan respectively.

Ms. Mara and Mr. Jordan are both talented actors with impressive CVs, but she is white, and he is black, and Sue and Johnny Storm are brother and sister.

I went to the Wiki page, and Papa Storm is played by Reg E. Cathey, a black character actor, so I am assuming that Sue is adopted, (well, duh!) and that there will be which means that there will almost certainly be 10 minutes of back story to explain this in the film.

If not, you are going to have a lot of stupid people demanding back story anyway.

My problem is that when one reintroduces a series, this is the sort of sh%$ that you don't need.

There is a going to be a Lot of back-storying in this film anyway (The first Thor movie was pretty much just backstory, for example, which left me unimpressed), and I think this adds thing that don't need to be there.

As I noted in my comparison of Captain America and Thor, (link) backstory cannot take precedence over plot and character, and this choice by the director and/or producer points that they have not learned this lesson.

So I think that this points to bad cinematic decision.

And don't get me started on the fact that Ben Grimm is not wearing pants. The Thing wears pants.

Today's Must Read, from Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman makes an interesting observation in the case of the lion killing dentist from Minnesota, and it has nothing to do with the ethics of killing things for your personal amusement, and everything to do with the fact that "Skin in the Game" does not work to control healthcare costs:
Wonkblog has a post inspired by the dentist who paid a lot of money to shoot Cecil the lion, asking why he — and dentists in general — make so much money. Interesting stuff; I’ve never really thought about the economics of dental care.

But once you do focus on that issue, it turns out to have an important implication — namely, that the ruling theory behind conservative notions of health reform is completely wrong.

For many years conservatives have insisted that the problem with health costs is that we don’t treat health care like an ordinary consumer good; people have insurance, which means that they don’t have “skin in the game” that gives them an incentive to watch costs. So what we need is “consumer-driven” health care, in which insurers no longer pay for routine expenses like visits to the doctor’s office, and in which everyone shops around for the best deals.

But what if even the underlying premise, that individual choice will hold down costs, is all wrong?

As it turns out, many fewer people have dental insurance than have general medical insurance; even where there is insurance, it typically leaves a lot of skin in the game. But dental costs have risen just as fast as overall health spending, and it may be that the reduced role of insurers actually raises those costs. According to the post,

In the rest of medicine, insurers have an important function in limiting costs and promoting quality. The market power of Medicare and major national insurance companies allows them to insist on better rates for their customers when they negotiate with doctors and hospitals.
“There’s been less presence from all kinds of insurance payers in the dental sector,” explained Andy Snyder, who is in charge of oral health at the nonpartisan National Academy for State Health Policy. “Medicare does not cover routine dental services, and private dental coverage is far less common than private medical coverage. So, the dental industry has faced less of the cost containment and quality improvement pressures that the rest of the health care sector’s experienced over the last couple of decades.”
So more skin in the game is not just useless but actually counterproductive.

29 July 2015

Finally, a White Prosecutor Indicts a Cop for Murder under the Color of Law

Warning: This is a video of a police officer shooting a man in the head without provocation
University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing has been indicted for felony murder:
A white police officer who gunned down an unarmed black man in Cincinnati, Ohio, has been indicted for murder by a grand jury, as the county prosecutor described the shooting as the “most asinine act” he had ever seen committed by a police officer.

Samuel DuBose, 43, was killed on 19 July by a single shot to the head fired by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing during a routine traffic stop, in which DuBose was pulled over for not having a front license plate.

Tensing had maintained he was “dragged” by Dubose’s vehicle after the two entered into a physical altercation and was forced to shoot, but Hamilton County prosecutor Joseph Deters said body-camera evidence completely contradicted this account.

In a frank assessment of the officer’s conduct, Deters said Tensing had “purposely killed” DuBose and that he “should never have been a police officer”.


Deters, who was visibly angered at points during the press conference, continued: “He [Tensing] wasn’t dealing with someone who was wanted for murder, OK? He was dealing with someone who didn’t have a front license plate. This is, in the vernacular, a pretty chicken-crap stop, all right? And – I could use harsher words.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” he added. “This is the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make, totally unwarranted.” Deters also said the death reflected poorly on the university police department and had advised Cincinnati police chief Jeffrey Blackwell that the force be disbanded and replaced with a new city police precinct on campus.
If the university police department, it would be a good thing, because it's not just this guy, two of his fellow officers obstructed justice to protect him:
Police officers in Cincinnati appear to have corroborated a false account of the fatal shooting of Samuel DuBose in the immediate aftermath of the incident, a detailed analysis of body-camera video released on Wednesday shows.


A Guardian analysis of the nearly 28 minutes worth of Tensing’s body-camera footage released by the prosecutor’s office also shows the aftermath of the shooting and reveals that on three occasions, two other police officers repeat Tensing’s account that he was dragged by DuBose, and one of these officers claims to have witnessed it occurring.

Tensing repeats, multiple times throughout the footage, the claim that he was dragged by DuBose’s vehicle. But at five minutes and 44 seconds into the video, he states: “I think I’m OK. He was just dragging me.”

To which a second officer, who stands out of the frame, replies: “Yeah, I saw that.”

Tensing continues: “I thought I was going to get run over. I was trying to stop him.”

Then, at six minutes and 54 seconds into the footage, while Tensing is seemingly conversing with the same officer, he states: “He was dragging me, man.”

The officer replies, “Yeah.” To which Tensing continues: “I got my hand and my arm caught inside.” The officer then replies, “Yeah, I saw that.”


The Hamilton County prosecutor’s office did not reply to a question from the Guardian after Deter’s press conference over whether any other officers were being investigated in relation the incident.
The officers engaged in felony conspiracy, indict them as well.

We need to go zero-tolerance/broken window on this sh%$.

F%$# Me, I Agree with Jeff Bezoa

Yes, the founder of Amazon, a company whose treatment of its workers makes Walmart look like an organic food cooperative has banned PowerPoint presentations:
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is not a fan of PowerPoint presentations.
Anytime an Amazon worker has an idea to discuss, they're asked to structure their pitch in the form of a four-to-six-page memo, which the company calls a "narrative."

They then take their pitches to team meetings, where the first 20 minutes or so are spent reading the memo. After, the presenter fields questions from the rest of the team.


Pete Abilla, an early Amazon employee and current director of digital, content, and demand generation at HireVue, shared Bezos' email in a recent post on his employer's blog.


A little more to help with the reason "why."

Well structured, narrative text is what we're after rather than just text. If someone builds a list of bullet points in word, that would be just as bad as powerpoint.

The reason writing a 4 page memo is harder than "writing" a 20 page powerpoint is because the narrative structure of a good memo forces better thought and better understanding of what's more important than what, and how things are related.

Powerpoint-style presentations somehow give permission to gloss over ideas, flatten out any sense of relative importance, and ignore the innerconnectedness of ideas.
OK, I am now feeling some grudging respect for that wanker.  He absolutely nails the deep banality that is inherent in PowerPoint.

I don't like feeling grudging respect for him.

Why Alabama is a Punch Line

Alabama is seeking to terminate the parental rights of a woman incarcerated in Lauderdale County, Alabama so has to force her to carry a child to term that she wants to abort:
Alabama officials are currently seeking to prevent a pregnant prison inmate from obtaining a legal abortion by stripping her of her parental rights, in a case where a lawyer has been appointed to represent the interests of her fetus.

An unnamed woman, who is referred to in court documents only as Jane Doe, is asking for permission to travel to Huntsville to end her pregnancy. She says she was unable to get an abortion before she was taken into custody and is now feeling desperate. “I am very distraught, and do not want to be forced to carry this pregnancy to term,” she wrote.

Jane Doe — who has to get permission from the court to be transported to the nearest clinic because prison officials consider abortion to be a non-emergency procedure — is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, which argues that it would be “cruel and unusual punishment” for the state of Alabama to deny her constitutional right to abortion.

Now, as Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly prepares to argue against this request, he is asking the court to strip Doe of her parental rights so that she will no longer have the right to end her pregnancy. In a hearing to determine the outcome of the case, which is expected to be decided by Friday, the state court appointed an attorney — known as a “guardian ad litem” — to serve on behalf of Doe’s fetus.

“It appears to me that what the state is attempting to do is turn Jane Doe into a vessel, and control every aspect of her life, forcing her to give birth to a baby, which she has decided she does not want to do,” Randall Marshall, one of Doe’s attorneys, told the Huffington Post. “The case has certainly moved to this new dimension, but welcome to Alabama.”
Yeah, welcome to Alabama.

The kind of gleeful evil doing by the District Attorney here is of biblical proportions.  We are talking Amalek and Sodom and Gemorra here.

This ratf%$# is trying to destroy a helpless (she is pregnant and in jail) woman to inflict his warped morality.

Why doesn't DA Connolly go to Syria and fight for ISIS, they are clearly his ideological bedfellows.

This Is so F%$#Ing Cool………

For the past week or so, there have been rumors that divers in Sweden finding a sunken Russian sub, possibly related to the contretemps late last year when the Swedes were hunting what they thought was some sort of Russian submersible.

The story of the discovery is way cooler than that:
Sweden said on Tuesday the wreck of a submarine found off its coast appeared to be a Czarist-era Russian vessel that collided with a Swedish ship about a century ago.

"We are most likely talking about the Russian submarine the Som (Catfish) which sank after a collision with a Swedish vessel in 1916 during World War I and before the Russian revolution," the Swedish Armed Forces said.

Speculation had been swirling about the origins of the vessel after Swedish divers announced Monday that a submarine had been found about 1.5 nautical miles off the coast of central Sweden.

The announcement came nine months after a high-profile hunt for a mystery submarine in Swedish waters, suspected to be Russian, and some speculated that the divers had chanced upon a modern Russian vessel.

The Swedish military however quashed rumors and said the vessel was old, referring to the design of the submarine and the lettering on the outer shell seen in the pictures of the wreck taken by the divers.

The military added it did not think a full technical analysis was necessary.


Stefan Hogeborn, a diver with the Ocean X Team that made the discovery, said the mini-sub was "completely intact" with "no visible damage to the hull" and the hatches were closed.

"It is unclear how old the submarine is and how long it has been laying at the sea floor, but the Cyrillic letters on the hull indicate that it is Russian," he said in a statement on Monday.

Ocean X Team said the vessel was around 20 meters (66 feet) long and 3.5 meters wide (11.5 feet), adding it was planning a new expedition to study the wreck more closely.
Right now, I so want to fly to Sweden and go SCUBA diving in the Baltic.

You have a submarine, history, and the marvelous preservative properties of the Baltic.

This is like the biggest military history-gasm this decade.

I am seriously getting my geek on here.

28 July 2015

Labour is Determined to Suck the Life out of Their Party

In the UK, the political party formerly known as Labour has been spooked by the popularity of Jeremy Corbyn, who is surging in the race to be the next party leader, because he is talking like he were actually a member of the Labour Party, instead of being a Tory lite like Tony Blair.

It appears that the party has taken a page out of Jeb Bush's vote suppression playbook in 2000:
Harriet Harman, the interim Labour leader, has defended the integrity of her party’s leadership election system amid claims it has been infiltrated by hard left extremists as well as Conservatives out to discredit the process.

She said “rigorous due diligence” was being undertaken by Labour staff, and the new electoral system introduced in 2014 was less open to manipulation than its predecessor, which freely allowed opponents of Labour to vote without any checks.

She also disclosed a new email was being sent to local branches setting out how they could check whether bogus applicants were trying to join the party as registered supporters.

Labour has been hit by allegations that the party, by offering a vote to anyone paying a £3 fee, has left itself vulnerable to mass infiltration, mainly by hard leftwingers but also by Tories.

When signing up as a registered supporter – rather than joining as a party member – people must agree to the declaration: “I support the aims and values of the Labour Party, and I am not a supporter of any organisation opposed to it.” More than 20,000 new full members have joined the party since the leadership nominations closed. It is a good chance that most are genuinely enthused, and many are likely to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.
Let me get this straight:  People are willing to pay money to associate themselves with the Labour Party, and you are trying to suppress their votes?

What is the next dumbass policy you are going to try?  Maybe going out of your way to piss off people in the Labour strongholds in Scotland?

Oh ……… wait ……… They already did that, probably losing everything north of Hadrian's wall for a generation.

This is worse than a crime, it is a mistake.

Eric Arthur Blair Has to Be Spinning in His Grave over This………

Eric Arthur Blair
Aka George Orwell
It appears that while the Department of Justice saw no need to call Dylan Roof, who targeted a black church with the explicit goal of keeping black people down, is not a terrorist, while animal rights activists who leg minks out of cages are terrorists:
The FBI on Friday announced the arrests in Oakland of two animal rights activists, Joseph Buddenberg and Nicole Kissane, and accused the pair of engaging in “domestic terrorism.” This comes less than a month after the FBI director said he does not consider Charleston Church murderer Dylann Roof a “terrorist.” The activists’ alleged crimes: “They released thousands of minks from farms around the country and vandalized various properties.” That’s it. Now they’re being prosecuted and explicitly vilified as “terrorists,” facing 10-year prison terms.
To call this "Orwellian" is an understatement, and I am coming from the perspective of being hostile to most of the goals of the PETA and its ilk.

These folks, are assholes, and they should be charged, but charging them with terrorism is nucking futs.

F%$# Me, I Agree with Donald Trump

On Monday, Trump fired off a tweet telling Rattner: "I think you should have gone to prison for what you did, I guess Obama saved you."

He ended the tweet telling Rattner to watch: "I will win!"

It was unclear what activity Trump was referring to that should have landed Rattner in jail. Trump did not respond to CNNMoney's request for comment.

In 2010, Rattner did pay $10 million in fines when he settled with the New York state attorney general for his alleged involvement in a pension fund scheme. While Rattner was never charged criminally, some others who were involved in the same scheme, such as former New York comptroller Alan Hevesi, did not.
Yes, he should have gone to jail.

Much like a stopped calendar, Donald Trump is right once a year.

27 July 2015

Good. Now How About Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon Too?

In response to his knowingly shipping Salmonella tainted peanut butter, prosecutors are asking for a life sentence for former president and CEO of Peanut Corporation of America:
Stewart Parnell--the former Peanut Corporation of America owner that was convicted last year for knowingly shipping Salmonella-contaminated peanut butter from his Georgia plant--may be sentenced to life in prison if prosecutors have their way. The U.S. Probation Office concluded that the scope of Parnell’s crimes--including conspiracy, obstruction of justice and wire fraud-- “results in a life sentence Guidelines range.”

After a two month trial, Parnell was found guilty of knowingly shipping the contaminated products to food processors across the U.S. This is reportedly the first federal felony conviction of its kind in relation to food safety, making it an unprecedented case.

In 2008 and 2009, the peanut butter outbreak spread throughout 46 states, ultimately leading the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to announce one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history. Nine people died and more than 700 fell ill. Parnell nor any co-defendants were ever charged in relation to any consumer illnesses or deaths resulting from the tainted peanut butter.


Parnell--age 61--is scheduled to be sentenced on September 21 by a federal judge in Albany, GA. Although prosecutors are recommending a life sentence, the judge is free to impose a lighter sentence.

A 17 to 21 year sentence was recommended for brother Michael Parnell. Mary Wilkerson--the plant quality control manager--may get 8 to 10 years in prison based on prosecutors’ recommendation.
Here is a suggestion for the judge: Imagine that Mr. Parnell is a black man caught dealing crack, and that he had 3 priors, all of them non-violent drug offenses.

 That should be good for about 60 years.

Or, perhaps you could imagine that he is a black man accused of selling loose cigarettes in New York City. 

That carries the death penalty these days.

An Outbreak of Sanity. Now Get the Drivers Some Anti-Psychotic Drugs………

Boston has dropped their Olympic bid:
Deep skepticism here about whether taxpayers would be stuck footing the bill for the Olympics has doomed Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Games and raised questions about whether any other major American city might be willing to take on the risk.

The United States Olympic Committee said Monday that it was withdrawing Boston as its proposed bid city because resistance among residents was too great to overcome in the short time that remained before the committee had to formally propose a bid city by Sept. 15.

“We have not been able to get a majority of the citizens of Boston to support hosting the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Scott Blackmun, the chief executive of the U.S.O.C., said in a statement as he raised the white flag. “Therefore, the U.S.O.C. does not think that the level of support enjoyed by Boston’s bid would allow it to prevail over great bids from Paris, Rome, Hamburg, Budapest or Toronto.”
Here is the sticking point:
Voters told pollsters that they were most concerned about having to pay for cost overruns. But they were also dismayed by what they considered as Boston 2024’s lack of transparency and the sense that a small cabal of business leaders who stood to profit seemed to be running the show in secrecy. And they questioned whether much-need improvements in transportation, housing and education would get done if the city were so focused on the Olympics.

Mr. Wallechinsky, the historian, said that the U.S.O.C. should “take a good hard look at themselves” and conduct an investigation into “how they could have picked Boston in the first place.” He said one of the worst moments came when the U.S.O.C. watched as Boston 2024 said that its bid, which was not initially disclosed to the public, called for no public financing; the U.S.O.C. knew that was not true, he said, as the public found out later after news outlets obtained the bid.
So, they lied to the people of Boston, and the USOC wanted Boston to guarantee to cover the costs of any f%$#-ups that the looters, "Small cabal of business leaders who stood to profit," managed to extract from the process.

They are now looking at LA, but the last time that LA hosted, they ignored the bling, and reused existing facilities, and that eliminates the possibilities for graft that drive the International Olympic Committee since Juan Antonio Samaranch (An actual card-carrying fascist, he served in the Franco regime in Spain) took over the presidency of the organization in 1980.

The 2024 Olympics will not be in the US.  Most likely, it will be in a totalitarian state, since the financially ruinous exercises in narcissistic self-aggrandizement seems to built into the DNA of that form of government.

My guess is that the 2024 Olympics will be held in Pyongyang. (Just kidding, but my last joke in this vein was Arisia)

Deep Thought

If you have a spouse, you must have this image on your phone.

It is the best way to respond to "Honey Do" texts.

Posted via mobile.

26 July 2015

Some Times I Hate Computers

I just spent about 6 hours fixing a problem with my printer and speakers.

25 July 2015

Just When I Thought That My Outrage Meter Could Handle It………

I discover that a former cop tried to conduct a Minstrel Show to fundraise for the cops indicted in the death of Freddie Gray:
A Glen Burnie venue on Wednesday abruptly canceled a planned fundraiser for the six Baltimore police officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray after the scheduled entertainment — a former Baltimore officer singing in blackface — drew sharp criticism.

Bobby Berger, 67, who was fired from the city police force in the 1980s after his off-duty performances in blackface drew the ire of the NAACP, had said he wanted to revive the act to help the families of the officers.

He said he had sold 600 tickets at $45 each to the bull roast scheduled for Nov. 1 at Michael's Eighth Avenue, where he and several singers planned to perform as guests dined.

In his performances, Berger impersonates Al Jolson, a white entertainer from the 1920s, '30s and '40s best remembered for his blackface performance of "Mammy" in the film "The Jazz Singer."

But after news of the event began spreading Wednesday, Michael's posted a statement on its website saying the event would not be held there.

"No contract was signed with Mr. Berger," the venue wrote. "Michael's does not condone blackface performances of any kind. As an event venue, it has not been the practice of Michael's Eighth Avenue to pre-approve entertainment that is planned as part of a contracted event. This policy will be carefully and thoughtfully reviewed."

Berger's plans drew criticism earlier in the day from the NAACP, the city police union and an attorney representing one of the officers charged in the Gray case.


Michael Davey, an attorney who works with the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police, said the union was unaware of the event.

"We don't endorse it. We do not support it, and we will accept no funds from anything involving this event," Davey said.

The police union issued a statement Wednesday saying it has "much respect" for Berger and another retired officer organizing the event but does not condone "any performance representing the iconic racist figure that is Al Jolson" or any fundraising for the officers that does not come directly through the union.
When you have the f%$#ing police union saying that they won't have anything to do with a fundraiser for indicted cops, you clearly have a problem with race.

The human race never ceases to amaze me.

Deep Thought

When you have an ear worm, a song that you cannot get out of your head, sleep can be difficult.

When the song is Happy Jack by The Who, sleep is f@$&ing impossible.

Posted via mobile.

24 July 2015

I Need Some Pictures to Understand This

Click for big honking image slideshow

Saber Engine

Schematic of engine
Reactions Engines, the British company working on a partially air breathing cryogenic engine which would power a single stage to orbit spacecraft, Skylon, as well as a hypersonic transport, the A2.

This project has taken a major step forward with both the European Space Agency and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) have found the basic concept sound, including a heat exchanger that cools the incoming air by hundreds of degrees in a fraction of a second without choking up without being choked with frost:
It is a well-established truism in aerospace that leaps in propulsion technology almost always precede major advances in spacecraft or aircraft design.

As the clamor for affordable access to space continues to grow, there is mounting interest in the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (Sabre) concept under development by U.K.-based Reaction Engines. This hybrid powerplant is designed to bridge the infamous power gap between air breathers and rockets, potentially enabling a vehicle to accelerate from a standing start on the runway all the way to low Earth orbit.

Such an engine could power high-speed aircraft, suborbital craft or even multi- and single-stage-to-orbit vehicles. Even more encouraging to Sabre proponents is that, while earlier attempts to harvest oxygen from the atmosphere succumbed to thermodynamic reality, the Reaction design continues to pass muster with experts in Europe and the U.S. The company’s most recent—and possibly most valuable—vote of confidence comes from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), which analyzed Sabre under a cooperative research and development agreement.

AFRL’s validation followed a detailed study of the entire concept, particularly the precooler heat exchanger technology, which allows for the practical extraction of oxygen from the air without clogging up the mechanism with frost and ice. Reaction unveiled initial details of the methanol-based frost-control system at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Hypersonics and Spaceplanes conference in Glasgow in early July.

AFRL program manager Barry Hellman says analysis “confirmed the feasibility and potential performance of the Sabre engine cycle. While development of the Sabre represents a substantial engineering challenge, the engine cycle is a very innovative approach and warrants further investigation.” As a result, Reaction Engines and AFRL plan to continue collaborating on Sabre, with potential follow-on work focusing on evaluation of various air-breathing-powered vehicle concepts and testing of specific engine components.

The AFRL study will also evaluate other potential uses for the Sabre’s heat exchanger technologies, including looking at broader defense applications. “The question to answer next is what benefit the Sabre could bring to high-speed aerospace vehicles compared to other propulsion systems,” says Hellman. “AFRL is analyzing vehicle designs based on the Sabre engine concept. We are also considering testing their heat-exchanger technology at Mach 5 flight conditions in a high-temperature wind tunnel.”

While AFRL acknowledges that Sabre’s original target—a single-stage-to-orbit space access vehicle dubbed Skylon—remains technically “very risky as a first application,” Hellman says: “Sabre may provide some unique advantages in more manageable two-stage-to-orbit configurations.”


The precooler chills the incoming air from more than 1,000C (1832F) to -150C in less than 1/100th of a second, before passing it through a turbo-compressor and into the rocket combustion chamber, where it is burned with subcooled liquid hydrogen fuel. For higher altitude operation and the jump to orbit, the engine switches to an onboard liquid oxygen supply and runs as a conventional closed-cycle rocket engine (AW&ST Nov. 26, 2012, p. 47).
What this means in the short term is not space travel, but it does mean that they are far more likely to get government and private sector funding.

Good folks at Av Week have a description of how Reaction Engines made this work, but I cannot make heads nor tails of it:

But after endorsement of the basic technology from the European Space Agency and, more recently, the U.S. Air Force’s Research Laboratory, the company’s synergetic air-breathing rocket engine (Sabre) concept is being taken far more seriously. Designed to power a vehicle from a standing start to Mach 5.5 in air-breathing mode, and from the edge of the atmosphere to low Earth orbit in pure rocket mode, the Sabre engine with a heat exchanger at the heart of the design is attracting widespread interest for potential application on a range of atmospheric and space vehicles.

With patents pending and negotiations with new industrial partners apparently at an advanced stage, Reaction Engines has made the surprise decision to unveil the first details of the critical technology at the core of its hybrid hypersonic propulsion system.


“It is pretty mind-bending stuff,” says Reaction Engines technical director and chief designer, Richard Varvill. Speaking at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics International Space Planes and Hypersonics conference here, he says the system counters the frost that precipitates out of the air as it becomes saturated with increasing relative humidity during the rapid cooling process. The precipitation “looks like the white feathery frost you’d see on a cold winter’s day. Unfortunately, that frost is sufficiently mechanically strong that it can bridge the gaps between the tubes and will block the matrix solid in about 3 sec. flat if you don’t do anything about it.

“So—surprise, surprise—we use an anti-freeze, and in this case it is methanol. But we use the methanol in a rather sophisticated way, with the objective of minimizing the amount you need. Also we don’t want to spray the methanol in and leave it in the air flow because we are actually cooling down the air to the point at which the methanol would freeze itself,” he says.

To do this, Reaction Engines has “borrowed a trick from the chemical process industry,” says Varvill. “We inject the methanol at one of the coldest points, and we effectively get the mix of water and methanol to flow forward in the matrix—against the direction of the airflow.” He concedes this seems counterintuitive, but explains the system generates an effective reverse flow by catching the water-methane mix and reinjecting it further upstream. “We have multiple injection and extraction points in the matrix, but the overall effect is the mix of methanol and water is actually flowing forward in the matrix against the airflow direction.”

The reasoning, he says, is that the condensate composition at the cold end of the matrix is nearly all methanol, and as it flows forward the methanol picks up the water. “At the inlet [of the matrix] it is nearly all water, so the composition is more methanol-concentrated at the cold end than it is at the warm end," Varvill says. "That then reduces because you have extracted most of the water at the warm end, and that reduces the absolute amount of methanol you need to throw into the pre-cooler to stop it freezing.” And because the amount of liquid water reduces so does the relative humidity. “Eventually you end up with a situation where you have extracted all the water vapor as liquid from the airflow, and that leaves you essentially with dry air below 215K. The partial pressure of the water vapor at this point is so low that you can allow it to pass through the heat exchanger and it does not freeze.”


Reaction Engines decided to go public on the frost-control technology because of pending patent applications. “The trigger for patenting was the awareness that to execute this program we are going to have to involve other companies,” says Mark Thomas, the former chief engineer for technology and future programs at Rolls-Royce and now managing director at Reaction Engines. “You can’t keep trade secrets very long in that situation, so it is better to be protected formally and legally on the clever stuff.”
This is all going on while the engine is moving faster than mach 5, though it is slowed to subsonic speeds (the cooling allows the system to avoid the complexities of a scramjet, the shock cone in the inlet is the tell here).

I would really like to see an animation of this, because for the life of me I cannot see how they get coolant to flow forward against that sort of air flow.

It's weird, but it is a good kind of weird.

23 July 2015

So Not a Surprise

The Pension Trustees of New Jersey decided that the huge private equity fees being paid to Christie supporters needed to be investigated.

Now we discover that the Christie administration is slow walking the investigation:
When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was preparing to launch his presidential campaign this spring, he faced a big potential headache: New Jersey pension officials had voted to investigate secret taxpayer fees that the Republican governor’s administration paid to Wall Street firms. But Christie’s administration may have found a stopgap solution: stall.

Four months after state pension trustees’ vote, the retirement system’s chairman told International Business Times that Christie’s aides have so far prevented the probe from getting off the ground.

“They are throwing up obstacles, as many as they can find,” said Tom Bruno, who leads the N.J. Public Employees' Retirement System's board of trustees. Bruno says Christie’s Treasury Department has prevented the probe from going forward until Christie’s appointees on the State Investment Council give their blessing.

The investigation was supposed to evaluate the higher fees that have accompanied the administration’s shift of billions of dollars of pension money into hedge funds, private equity and other so-called “alternative” investments. Despite federal and New Jersey “pay to play” rules, some of those fees have been paid to firms whose executives donated to GOP groups affiliated with Christie. But with New Jersey having no independently elected auditor, treasurer or attorney general, pensioners must ultimately rely on the Christie administration to approve an investigation of its own decisions affecting thousands of retirees.


Pension trustees demanded the audit in April following a series of reports from International Business Times spotlighting a massive increase in pension fees paid to private financial firms -- some of whose executives have made campaign contributions to Republican groups affiliated with Christie. In March, IBTimes reported that the Christie administration had failed to disclose potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in fees the state had been paying since Christie took office in January 2010.


Last year, after the initial disclosures, Christie’s then-State Investment Council Chairman Robert Grady resigned amid questions about political favoritism in awarding pension contracts. This year, Christie’s state treasurer, Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff, resigned in June, a month after a testy legislative hearing in which state lawmakers raised questions about the undisclosed fees paid by the pension system under Christie.

The pension trustees’ push for a full audit of the pension system follows moves by the Christie administration that appeared to obscure or conceal details of the system’s finances and oversight decisions.

After financial experts raised questions about the accuracy of the pension performance data in 2014, Christie’s administration rejected repeated open records requests for documents that would show how it calculated the figures. When in the same year it was revealed that Massachusetts Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker donated $10,000 to the New Jersey Republican Party months before his financial firm received a New Jersey pension deal, Christie’s aides blocked the release of the findings of the government’s pay-to-play investigation until after Baker’s closely fought election.

Meanwhile, in the pension system’s most recent annual report, Christie’s aides changed the way they tabulated pension management fees to make it seem as if the fees had decreased -- when, in fact, they had jumped to $600 million.


The state’s investment strategy has not, however, generated higher returns for taxpayers and retirees. Last year, a study by Wilshire Associates found that the New Jersey pension fund’s investment return has trailed the median for pension funds throughout the country.


On Wednesday, however, the State Investment Council said the pension’s returns have been lower than expected so far this year.  
I so hope that he ends up in jail, but given his background as a former US Attorney, I fear that he has surrounded himself with plausible deniability.

Bad Day at the Office


Subsequent fire
During an exercise, SM-2 standard missile exploded on launch, damaging the Aegis Class destroyer, The Sullivans:
A US Navy guided missile destroyer was damaged by a surface-to-air missile that exploded shortly after launch during an exercise off the U.S. Atlantic coast on Saturday USNI Reports. 
 The US Navy confirmed that a Raytheon made Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) test missile exploded after suffering a malfunction as it was fired from the guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) during a planned missile exercise off the coast of Virginia. There were no injuries and only minor damage to the port side of the ship resulting from missile debris. The ship returned to Naval Station Norfolk for assessment.
Thankfully, there were no injuries.

BTW, the explosion appears to be of the missile booster, not the warhead.

In descending order, the likely causes of this are:
  • Cracks in the propellant, causing an uncontrolled burn.
  • A flaw in the engine casing.
  • A flaw in the nozzle.
  • Something else (Yeah, I know it's kind of a catch all)
What the navy is probably doing now, in addition to collecting bits of the missile and figuring out what happened, is pulling all the missiles from that production lot for inspection, and they will probably increase inspections more generally.

My (slightly) informed guess (I used to work on missiles at Lockheed-Martin Missiles and Fire Control) is that this was an older missile, and that cracks developed over time as a part of the aging process, but opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.

Is This Even News Anymore?

Breaking: I just heard on the TV that there was a mass shooting in a Louisiana Theater.

This is not news any more.  This is just Thursday.

F%$# the NRA.


3 Dead, including the shooter.

Nice That This Has Made The Times

It appears that the mainstream media is finally noticing that a big problem in US healthcare is prices, and not people taking their children to the doctor for a case of the sniffles:
As complaints grow about exorbitant drug prices, pharmaceutical companies are coming under pressure to disclose the development costs and profits of those medicines and the rationale for charging what they do.

So-called pharmaceutical cost transparency bills have been introduced in at least six state legislatures in the last year, aiming to make drug companies justify their prices, which are often attributed to high research and development costs.

“If a prescription drug demands an outrageous price tag, the public, insurers and federal, state and local governments should have access to the information that supposedly justifies the cost,” says the preamble of a bill introduced in the New York State Senate in May.

In an article being published Thursday, more than 100 prominent oncologists called for support of a grass-roots movement to stem the rapid increases of prices of cancer drugs, including by letting Medicare negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies and letting patients import less expensive medicines from Canada.

“There is no relief in sight because drug companies keep challenging the market with even higher prices,” the doctors wrote in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings. “This raises the question of whether current pricing of cancer drugs is based on reasonable expectation of return on investment or whether it is based on what prices the market can bear.”


“The industry has used R&D costs for the justification, but anyone who is reasonably sophisticated understands those are sunk costs and have little to do with pricing,” Mr. Rother said. “The more important information is any calculation of value. If the drug actually cures people, then what costs in health care are you saving?”

Dr. Jerry Avorn, a professor at Harvard Medical School and critic of some drug company practices, said the industry “has brought this on itself by charging prices that are so astonishing, it makes citizens wonder, ‘Where did this figure come from?’ ”
Yes, it does make citizens wonder.

What could help is ending evergreening, where a company uses a compliant FDA and US Patent Office to extend their legal monopolies, or the insane way in which the orphan drug act is used to grant legal monopolies on drugs that are literally thousands of years old.  (For example Colchicine has been in use for at least 3500 years, and when the company got exclusivity, it raised the price by a factor of 50)

The problem with drug prices, as well other medical prices, is that we have structures in place that allow corporations, which are by their very nature designed to function as sociopaths to extort excessive rents.

And we are exporting this model to the rest of the world through out trade deals like the TPP and TTIP, which will put the health of citizens in the signatory nations at the same sort of risk that exists here.

Today's Must Read

Joschka Fischer, the former Foreign Minister for Germany has an OP/ED titled, "The Return of the Ugly German," and it has to be read.

I will give you 2 paragraphs, and tell you to go read:
Germany has been the big winner of European unification, both economically and politically. Just compare Germany’s history in the first and second halves of the twentieth century. Bismarck’s unification of Germany in the nineteenth century occurred at the high-water mark of European nationalism. Militarism became intimately associated with German power. Indeed, Germany’s public philosophy, unlike that of France, Great Britain, or the United States, never incorporated a civilizing ideal to justify the use of military power.

The foundation of the second, unified German nation-state in 1989 was based on Germany’s irrevocable Western orientation and Europeanization. And the Europeanization of Germany’s politics filled – and still fills – the civilization gap embodied in German statehood. To allow this pillar to erode – or, worse, to tear it down – is a folly of the highest order. That is why, in the EU that emerged on the morning of July 13, Germany and Europe both stand to lose.
H/t Naked Capitalism.

This is Just F%$#ing Evil

And, of course, the targets of such an action are the poor, the mentally ill, and minorities, so the fact that the Senate version of the transportation bill will includes a measure that will cut off social security benefits to everyone who has an outstanding warrant:
The large transportation funding bill moving through the Senate would end Social Security benefits for 200,000 people who have an outstanding felony arrest warrant—but have never been convicted by a court, or have a warrant for violating probation or parole, according to disability rights advocates tracking the legislation.


“There are two key issues here,” said T.J. Sutcliffe, income and housing policy director for The Arc, a national disability rights organization. “One is that the Social Security Trust Fund should not be used for unrelated purposes, no matter how important. And the other is Congress is considering cutting off benefits to 200,000 people who rely on Social Security and SSI [disability] benefits, who, in the case of arrest warrants have never been convicted.”

The proposal surfaced in the Senate on Tuesday in a package of amendments (page 949, Section 52303) being added to a transportation bill. The House’s version of the bill only would have extended funds for several months, while the Senate is looking at a six-year proposal—which becomes a vehicle for many other languishing bills.

Slightly different versions of a bill to punish people with outstanding felony warrants, or warrants for violating probation or parole, were introduced in both chambers. Disability and low-income advocates were quick to criticize the proposals, saying that they will punish people who rely on Social Security with little law enforcement benefit.

“It would not help law enforcement secure the arrest of people they are seeking for serious crimes,” explained Justice In Aging. “Law enforcement is already notified of the whereabouts of every person with a warrant for a felony or an alleged violation of probation or parole who turns up in the Social Security Administration (SSA) databases.”

The anti-poverty law group listed 10 reasons why the proposal was unduly punitive and would have very draconian consequences:
  • “Those most likely to lose benefits are generally those most in need.
  • A significant number of people will become homeless when they lose their benefits.
  • Some people have had benefits cut off while residing in nursing homes.
  • A very high percentage of those who will lose their benefits are people with intellectual disabilities or mental illness.
  • An unusually high percentage of those who lose benefits are African-Americans.
  • Many will lose Medicare outpatient (Part B) coverage because of inability to pay the quarterly premium.
  • Eliminating what may be their only source of income does not help resolve these issues.
  • Many people never know that a warrant has been issued for them as warrants are often not served on the individual.
  • These warrants are often not easily resolved since many of those who lose benefits live far from the issuing jurisdiction.
  • SSA will have increased administrative costs for processing appeals and requests for waiver of recovery of overpayments.
“A majority of those affected who are receiving benefits based on disability fall into these categories,” it said. “Large numbers of those who will lose benefits had warrants routinely issued when they were unable to pay a fine or court fee or probation supervision fee.”
OK, it's not, "Just F%$#ing Stupid", it's evil AND stupid.

What the hell is wrong with these people?

22 July 2015

Well, I Don't Give to NPR Anyway

My brother made an interesting observation about the NPR obituary for Theodore Bikel: There was no mention whatsoever of the fact that Bikel was Jewish:
There is a word missing from NPR's obituary for Theodore Bikel (Theodore Bikel, Who Starred In Broadway's 'Fiddler On The Roof,' Dies).

That Jew. Or for the squeamish, Jewish.

The piece was delivered (and one assumes written) by Lynn Neary, described as having" develop[ed] NPR's first religion beat. [And] As religion correspondent....covered the country's diverse religious landscape".


The closest NPR came to hinting that Bikel might have a Jewish connection was that his family fled Vienna to the Palenstine Mandate. All NPR chose to say was that Bikel's family fled.

I am curious why it was so hard for NPR to say the word Jew, or even Jewish?
It is interesting.

I will note that I have been leery of NPR's religion beat reporters since the ties between NPR religion reporter Barbara Bradley Hagerty and the religious right hit the blogosphere over a decade ago.

Please note, I don't think that there is some sort of secret agenda in what NPR is doing here:  I think that public broadcasting is being driven by their abject terror of what the Congressional Republicans might do to them.

It's been that way since Gingrich was speaker.

One final note:  Nice catch by my bro.  I missed the omission completely.

Aka Stephen Saroff      o o  The Bear who Swims      
                         oo    oo

Out F%$#ing Standing!

I have been out of work for the past few months, and tomorrow I start a new job at Nozilizer, a company that makes No2 based sterilizers.

As is my wont, I am not going to be blogging about this new job, because this is a way for me to end up on unemployment list.

Even better, it is less than a 10 minute walk from the Lexington Market Metro stop, so I won't be using my car to commute.

Time for a hearty "Boo Yah!"

21 July 2015

The Latest in Patent Abuse

Colgate just filed a patent on Indian herbal recipes that have existed for thousands of years:
India has successfully blocked two patent claims of US consumer goods major Colgate-Palmolive, which wanted intellectual property right (IPR) cover on two oral compositions made from Indian spices and other herbs.

One patent battle took almost seven years, after the New York-based company filed a claim at the European Patent Register on September 29, 2008, for a composition containing botanical extracts from three herbs, including cinnamon, a common kitchen spice across India, known here as “dalchini”.

India opposed the claim using the traditional knowledge digital library (TKDL) database, created in the last decade to fight biopiracy.

The database, maintained by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), submitted its plea in May 2011, and the European patent office ruled in India’s favour last month.

Two years after filing the first patent claim, Colgate-Palmolive moved another application in 2010 before the European patent office, seeking protection for another oral composition containing nutmeg, ginger, “Bakul” tree, camphor, cinnamon, turmeric, Indian banyan, black pepper, long pepper, Neem and clove. The solution is for treating oral cavity diseases.


The digital database, containing Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha formulations, and known medicinal properties of Indian herbs, was created following India’s successful IPR battles on haldi (turmeric), neem and Basmati rice.

The Union Commerce Ministry spent Rs 7.61 crore in 2000 as legal fee to reverse a patent examiner’s decision on basmati rice. “Going by that standard, the TKDL has saved upwards of Rs 500 crore so far, and more to come. In the next step, the government should not only add many more ancient books to the TKDL database but also incorporate knowledge from manuscripts,” said Gupta, who retired in 2013.
There needs to be some sort penalty when firms file fraudulent, because this sort of crap is endemic.

Oh, Please!

The police in the Freddie Gray murder are now claiming that their statements were extracted under duress, because they felt that their jobs were on the line:
Three of six Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray argued in court filings this week that they provided statements to police investigators under duress because they feared losing their jobs.

Two of the officers said that when investigators asked them to provide statements about the circumstances surrounding Gray's arrest, they were led to believe they were doing so as witnesses — not as suspects.

Another said she provided a statement without being advised of her Miranda rights, then was ordered to return five days later to be read her rights and provide another statement.

Now those statements are key evidence in the case. Defense attorneys for Lt. Brian W. Rice, Officer William G. Porter and Sgt. Alicia D. White — all charged with manslaughter — have asked that those statements be suppressed, which would prevent prosecutors from using them in court.
So, they are claiming that they feared losing their jobs, just like brokers interview by the SEC are, and that the police never said that they were target, which the is a tactic that has been ruled legal by the Supreme Court dozens of time.

I do understand that the lawyers for the cops

What a Surprise: Poles are Worrying about a New German Conquest

In response to the largely German driven takeover of Greece, Polish support for joining the Euro has fallen off a cliff:
Once, it was an exclusive club that nearly all of Europe aspired to join. Now, in the wake of Greece’s latest financial crisis and the hard-line response from many of the Continent’s powers, becoming a partner in the European common currency seems less and less appealing to many of the countries lined up for their chance.

From Poland to the Czech Republic to Hungary and points farther south and east, joining the euro is increasingly seen as rife with risks and costs — including a substantial surrender of sovereignty — that outweigh the benefits. And while many of the countries that have not yet adopted the single currency had doubts before the Greek crisis flared, the heavy penalties incurred by Athens to stay in the eurozone have made the trade-offs even clearer and the political leanings against membership more pronounced.

The qualms about partnership in the currency raise further questions about the ability of the European Union to maintain momentum toward its long-held and oft-stated goal of ever-closer union. More than any other policy, the single currency was intended to bind the members economically and politically while reducing the chances of conflict, and the decline in enthusiasm for the union has tracked a more general reassessment of European integration.

The doubts are now playing out primarily in the countries that most recently joined the European Union, primarily in Central and Eastern Europe. Lithuania became the 19th and newest adopter of the euro in January.


With such political attitudes hardening, the prospect of Poland’s or any other country’s adopting the euro anytime soon appears quite remote, said Sebastian Plociennik, an analyst for the Polish Institute of International Affairs who focuses on European integration and economic issues.
This is not a surprise.

The EU was all about preventing another horrific war in Europe, particularly another attempt by Germany to conquer Europe.

So now, other nations which bound by treaty to join the Euro at an indeterminate time are thinking that the proper time is, "When hell freezes over."

This has set back EU integration, and Euro adoption by decades.

Not this Sh%$ Again!

Interest-only mortgages: They're baaack:
They were the villains of the housing crash. Federal regulators called them toxic. Now interest-only mortgages are making a comeback, but these are not the loans of yesteryear or yester-housing booms.

"I think it's opening the door back to responsible lending, giving people choices," said Mat Ishbia, president and CEO of Michigan-based United Wholesale Mortgage, the second-largest lender through brokers in the nation.

The company announced Monday it is now offering interest-only loans through brokers, with significant safeguards. Borrowers must put 20 percent down, ensuring that they have the "skin in the game" that so many did not during the heady days of the housing boom. They must have at least a 720 FICO credit score, which is well above average, and they must qualify on what the payments will be once they're adjusted higher, not at the starter rate.

"These people can afford these mortgages. They're savvy homeowners," said Ishbia. "We're giving them the choice. It is no more risk to us. We actually think it's less risk."

United Wholesale Mortgage does not hold the loans but sells them to investors. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-backed mortgage giants, do not buy these types of loans.
Yeah, This Time, It Will Be Different!

Notwithstanding the myths of the housing crash, the GSE, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, actually had a smaller role in mortgage securitization as the housing bubble came expanded like a supernova.

It was the private loan investors that were at the core of the last real estate collapse, and now they are back, and investing in insane mortgage products.

It's déjà vu all over again.

Asshole of the Day

Wesley Clark.

Mr. Clark, why do hate America?

20 July 2015

Internet Firm Going Public, but Not in a Good Way

It appears that, Ashley Madison the dating site for people who want to cheat on their spouses, has gone public ……… prematurely, and much like their clients, prematurely is not a word that you want to hear:
Large caches of data stolen from online cheating site AshleyMadison.com have been posted online by an individual or group that claims to have completely compromised the company’s user databases, financial records and other proprietary information. The still-unfolding leak could be quite damaging to some 37 million users of the hookup service, whose slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair.”

The data released by the hacker or hackers — which self-identify as The Impact Team — includes sensitive internal data stolen from Avid Life Media (ALM), the Toronto-based firm that owns AshleyMadison as well as related hookup sites Cougar Life and Established Men.

Reached by KrebsOnSecurity late Sunday evening, ALM Chief Executive Noel Biderman confirmed the hack, and said the company was “working diligently and feverishly” to take down ALM’s intellectual property. Indeed, in the short span of 30 minutes between that brief interview and the publication of this story, several of the Impact Team’s Web links were no longer responding.


In a long manifesto posted alongside the stolen ALM data, The Impact Team said it decided to publish the information in response to alleged lies ALM told its customers about a service that allows members to completely erase their profile information for a $19 fee.

According to the hackers, although the “full delete” feature that Ashley Madison advertises promises “removal of site usage history and personally identifiable information from the site,” users’ purchase details — including real name and address — aren’t actually scrubbed.

“Full Delete netted ALM $1.7mm in revenue in 2014. It’s also a complete lie,” the hacking group wrote. “Users almost always pay with credit card; their purchase details are not removed as promised, and include real name and address, which is of course the most important information the users want removed.”
On NPR, a representative of ALM said that they were using DMCA take-down notices to keep the information off the web, but that makes no sense at all, because a data is not copyrightable, though there may be some trade secret protections that apply.

In either case, there was a bit of schadenfreude for me when I heard about this.

I can understand how some people might look for someone to cheat with, you see this in the personal ads of the alternative press regularly, but making a whole site for this is just really creepy.

H/T Yves Smith.

Not Enough Bullets

I just heard that the head of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein is now a billionaire:
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. made hundreds of partners rich when it went public in 1999. Its performance since then has turned Lloyd Blankfein into a billionaire.

The chief executive officer of the Wall Street bank for the past nine years, Blankfein has seen his net worth surge to about $1.1 billion as the firm’s shares quadrupled since the initial public offering, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. As the largest individual owner of Goldman Sachs stock, he has a stake in the company worth almost $500 million. Real estate and an investment portfolio seeded by cash bonuses and distributions from the bank’s private-equity funds add more than $600 million.
All that money is because he was bailed out by the taxpayer.

He should have gone to jail like Depression era NYSE boss Richard Whitney, who was jailed, and after his release, worked on a farm.

This guy should be making license plates for the next few years, and thereafter, he should be banned from the securities industry for life.

These guys should frog marched down Wall Street in handcuffs.

We should make a parade of this, so that for the next few years, the bankster "Whiz Kids" will think twice before adding "innovations" that serve no purpose beyond lining their own pockets.

Yeah, I am So Confident in the Safety of the Keystone XL Pipeline

Up in Alberta, land of the Tar Sands, a brand new bitumen pipeline has just ruptured, causing a major oil spill:
One of the largest leaks in Alberta history has spilled about five million litres of emulsion from a Nexen Energy pipeline at the company's Long Lake oilsands facility south of Fort McMurray.

The leak was discovered Wednesday afternoon.

Nexen said in a statement its emergency response plan has been activated and personnel were onsite. The leak has been stabilized, the company said.

The spill covered an area of about 16,000 square metres, mostly within the pipeline corridor, the company said. Emulsion is a mixture of bitumen, water and sand.
BTW, that high tech brand new (1 year in operation) pipeline?

The warning system failed as well:

This is what happens when the private industries capture the government that is supposed to regulate it.

John McCain needs to Man the F%$# Up

I understand the freakout over Donald Trump impugning John McCain's war record:
“He’s not a war hero,” Mr. Trump said during an appearance at the Family Leadership Summit. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
Of course, considering the record of Republicans on this:
  • George W. Bush and Karl Rove starting a whispering campaign in the 2000 primaries that McCain had collaborated with his North Vietnamese jailers.
  • Belittling Al Gore's service in Vietnam.
  • Calling Max Cleland, a silver star recipient who lost three limbs in Vietnam a coward.
  • Mocking John Kerry's service by sporting band-aids with purple little purple hearts on them at the 2004 Republican presidential convention.
The idea that now somehow it is beyond the pale for people to mock someone's military service, when Republicans have been doing so for more than a decade, is ludicrous.

Republicans have been mocking opponents military service for over a decade.

That pretty much the whole Republican Presidential field are having the vapors over Donald Trump is a mark of both hypocrisy and a terminal lack of self awareness.

The fact that "The Donald" makes this clear to any cogent observer amuses me.

Not a Surprise, Given the History

Given the history of the Ukrainian antisemitism, and even by the standards of the worst times of the Czarist regime it was extreme, this should come as no surprise:

There were times when the Jewish population of the Crimean peninsula exceeded 65,000. Now it”s around 10,000 out of 2 million, but it suddenly looks like this number has a chance to increase dramatically.

The tumultuous events around Crimea slipping out of Ukraine’s control divided the Ukrainian Jewish community. From the very first days, Crimean Jews threw their lot with Russia. “In Crimea, some Jews feel safer after Russian intervention,” reported Jewish Telegraphic Agency on March 4, 2014, less then a week after Russian ‘little green men’ put Russian flag in Sevastopol. “While many Ukrainian Jews have strongly condemned the Russian military incursion into Crimea,” JTA continued, “others see the intervention as restoring order in the wake of violent revolution that overthrew the pro-Russian government of President Viktor Yanukovych.”

Since then, Crimean Jews en masse exchanged their Ukrainian passports for Russian ones, and to the chagrin of their co-religionists elsewhere in Ukraine, asked the West and to put an end to the ‘unjust’ sanctions imposed on Russia over Crimea.

International Business Times reported in the beginning of July that Russian president Vladimir Putin was urged to allow as many as 40,000 Jewish people who left Crimea during the reign of the Soviet Union to return to the now Russian-held peninsula and to ease the complex procedures that come with being repatriated to Russia in hopes of revitalizing Crimea. This initiative was led by Leonid Grach, the chairman of the regional public organization “Crimean Forum For the Defense of the Constitutional Rights of the Citizens.”
While there is clearly a propaganda aspect to all of this, it appears that Moscow is doing its best to shout this from the heavens, but the feelings here amongst the Crimean Jewish community are almost certainly genuine.

The history in the Ukraine is really that bad.

I am F%$#ing Getting F%$#ing Robocalls over this F%$#ing Sh%$?!?!?

Earlier today, I got a robocall.

This is not particularly unusual, despite my number being on the FTC's do not call list, but this one was exhorting me to call my Congressman to support the Iran nuclear weapons deal.

This upcoming election season is going to be complete hell.

What Tom Tomorrow Said

Sparky has a dialog with the devil.

It's a cartoon, so I really cannot summarize it in a meaningful way, but it describes the upcoming political season to a "T"

19 July 2015

Why the Germans Shouldn't Run the EU

It turns out that the economy of North Korea grew faster than the EU's economy last year:
North Korea’s economy expanded by 1.0% to $29.85 billion (£19 billion) in 2014, according to Reuters citing analysis from South Korea’s central bank.

That's just better than the 0.9% growth recorded in the Eurozone last year.

The Bank of Korea (BoK) report that “the increase in economic activity was attributed mainly to growth in services and building while farming, mining and manufacturing saw slower growth.”

Growth in services, making up around 31.3% of total economic output, accelerated to 1.3%, up from 0.3% in 2013, with retail sales, food, and accommodation, logistics and communications all expanding from a year earlier.


North Korea does not release official economic data, hence the reliance on the BoK analysis to estimate economic output.
EU growth is pathetic.

What's more the EU's hegemon and chief predatory exporter, Germany, experienced a GDP growth roughly double that of the EU as a whole.

German policies with regard to the EU, and particularly with regard to the Euro zone, are about benefiting the nation at the expense of its neighbors.

German domination was a bad idea in 1935, and it's a bad idea in 2015.

The Turks Insist That There Was No Armenian Genocide

I wonder how they explain a Turkish official taunting starving Armenian children with a piece of bread in 1915.

I do not understand why Turkey continues insist that there was no Armenian Genocide, or why some Turks maintain insist that there was a genocide of Turks by the Armenians, but the only thing that they get from this behavior is a loss of credibility.

It's enough to make every decent human being quote Joseph Welch.*

*Joseph Welch is best known for an exchange with Senator Joseph McCarthy in which he said, "You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

What a Surprise

We now have a $1,000,000,000 cost overrun on the new Boeing Tanker:
Boeing is, once again, taking a charge on its books to keep the U.S. Air Force’s KC-46 aerial refueler program on track.

The after-tax charge is $536 million; that is $835 million before taxes. The lion’s share - $513 million – comes from Boeing Commercial Airplanes, which is providing the 767 baseline platform, while Boeing Military Aircraft, a division of Boeing Defense Space and Security, is paying $322 million. More detail is expected in an earnings call for the second quarter scheduled for July 22.

The past two years of Boeing KC-46 charges amount to a pre-tax burden of $1.26 billion for the program.

This most recent overrun is a result of technical problems with the tanker’s complex integrated fuel system, which provides fuel to fly the KC-46 as well as to receivers taking on fuel from a centerline boom or wing-mounted pods. The fuel system is the heart and soul of an aerial tanker, and Boeing’s extensive experience building tankers was a major selling point in its bid against Airbus for the KC-X competition. The problems arose as the company “prepared for and conducted test and verification of that system during the second quarter,” the company’s July 17 announcement says. Multiple Boeing spokesmen declined to say when the test problems came to light beyond pointing to the second quarter, or April – June.

On May 26, however, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney told Aviation Week the program appeared on track. “If there were any cost overruns [anticipated] we would tell you. Could things go wrong? A test [anomaly] that would cause a delay or an extra charge? It’s a possibility. But it’s not what we see today. We have a high degree of confidence,” he said.

This raises the question of when the design failures came to light and when they were briefed up the company’s chain of command. The spokesmen declined to provide input on this point, citing the forthcoming earnings call.

“[Boeing is] working through the qualification process of the complete KC-46 weapon system, and not surprisingly the integrated fuel system is a large part of that effort,” said Brig. Gen. Duke Richardson, program executive officer of tankers for the Air Force. “With EMD-1 exiting fuel dock and preparing to return to flight and the entry of EMD-2 into fuel dock, Boeing continues to make solid progress. While we have more heavy lifting coming up, we believe it is achievable and do not see any technical showstoppers.”

Boeing took a $272 million after tax charge - or $425 million pre-tax – last summer due to an inadequate design for wiring bundles on the aircraft. The Air Force requires redundancies and “safe separation” between some wiring components in the militarized 767, and the design fell short, prompting an extensive redesign and months-long delay to the first flight of the tanker.


Following last year’s charge, Pentagon procurement chief Frank Kendall predicted more overruns, to the chagrin of the company. “Boeing has taken a pretty large loss that they recently booked against the tanker. We expected that. There’s potential for additional loss that Boeing would have to absorb. But there’s a lot of business for Boeing at the end of this, and that’s one of the reasons we did it this way. They have a business case to finish the program and deliver the tanker,” he told Aviation Week in November.
How the f%$# does Boeing, which pretty much invented the airborne tanker, manage to f%$# up making a tanker out of a design that has its origins from about 40 years ago, when Israel has already deployed and sold 767 tanker conversions to foreign customers, and the Airbus A330 tanker is currently flying with 4 nations.

How the hell do you have a 22% cost overrun on crap like this?

This is happening because Boeing knows that the Washington State Congressional delegation has its back, so they delivered an unrealistic bid, and executed it poorly, because it is a heads Boeing wins tails the taxpayers lose.