Month: August 2008

Neat Tech: Coanda Effect Aircraft

In the UK, a company called GFS (which stands for — I kid you not — Geoff’s Flying Saucer), has been flying a small UAV, and expects it to be able to fly autonomously by years end.

The technology is pretty neat, it uses the Coandă effect, the tendency of a fluid to follow a surface, to generate lift.

The UAV is small, Max TOW is 18.5 kilos, but it does show one advantage over a conventional lift propeller, greater volumetric efficiency, because there is no big honking hole down the center of mass for the air.

Additionally, by tailoring the vanes on the body, you can eliminate torque issues, meaning that you have a single prop, rather than two counter rotating, which is smaller and lighter.

Additionally, they are looking at other applications, starting with a small manned vehicle:

Sikorsky’s ABC Helo Flies

And earlier than expected, reports were that it wasn’t to leave the ground until sometime in 2009.

In any case, it made a 30 minute test flight (also see here).

This was a fairly conservative flight, basic maneuvering with the tail propulsor shut down, as can be seen in the pics.

They plan to expand the envelope to a speed of 250kts, and then make a decision as to whether to manufacture helos with the technology.

Boeing Drags Its Heels on Air Force Bid – Seeking Alpha

Well, it’s now clear that Boeing wants a 6 monthextension on the bidding process. It’s clear to them that a simplw resubmit would put them at a disadvantage, so they are looking at making significant modificiation, something like moving to the 767-400, or 777.

Usurprisingly, Northrop-Grumman thinks that any extension is a bad idea.

The request puts the USAF between a rock and a hard place, as it would push the program into the next administration, which is likely to make significant cuts in military procurement.

Meanwhile, Stephen Trimble notes that a delay might have some real benefits for Northrop Grumman too. The KC-30 bid was based on the Airbus A330-200 passenger airliner, but since the bid was made, airbus has flown an A330-200 freighter, which would be a bit better airframe for the role.

Additionally, it looks like that A330-200F would be able to use the GE GEnx-2B engine, which promises double digit percentage increase in fuel economy.

Northrop declines to rule out platform switch for new KC-X bid

Tanker questions: GEnx upgrade for KC-30? KC-747 vs KC-A380? – The DEW Line

Well, Now We See the Ron Fournier Influence Over the AP

Another day, another AP hitjob.

Kos noted that Charles Babington had to have written the piece bashing Obamas speech was finished. 603 words, edited, proofed, and posted online 23 minutes after Obama finished…and he got the length of the speech wrong.

Olbermann condemned the Babington piece, and told him to “find new work”.

The always reliable Editor and Publisher has a good rundown, and includes the factoid that, “Even as Babington was hitting Obama for a lack of specifics, AP was transmitting a second piece by another reporter, Jim Drinkard, that offered a detailed look at seven specific policy proposals in the speech (and expressed doubts about all of them).”

Note that Ron Fournier just wrote a piece Analysis: Palin’s age, inexperience rival Obama’s (no links to the AP…I’m still boycotting them for going after bloggers, see here.

John McCain Picks Dick Cheney in Drag*

What we know about Sarah Palin, McCain’s VP pick is that she’s less corrupt than you average Alaska Republican. That’s not saying all that much.

She does have a scandal all her own though, specifically that she ordered the head of the Alaska state police to fire her ex-brother-in-law after a messy custody battle with her sister, more details here.

That is Valeria Plame without the national security aspects.

I hope that the Democrats are talking about 24-7 for the next few days, but it’s unlikely.

*Don’t complain. My first thought was, “Dick Cheney with t*ts“, which is even a worse image.
Oops….sorry for that image.

I Think Obama’s Speech Deflated this Concern

I have always had a concern that Barack Obama might be too focused on nobility to take it to his opponents, or as David Kurtz puts it

One thing I’ve come away from here in Denver, in talking to various people, is the sense that the Obama campaign has become consumed with its brand as an end in itself. They did such a good job of packaging hope, optimism, and change that they are now resistant to any campaign strategies or tactics that might, in the eyes of some people, damage the brand.

They remind me of the classic car aficionado who beautifully and meticulously restores a vintage sports car but can’t bring himself to risk actually driving the thing.

While it is not to be his advantage to be the hatchet man of his campaign, that’s Biden’s job, it’s clear that he is able to take it to John Sidney McCain III.

I think that this needs to be a regular part of his campaign, and I think that this will be a regular part of his campaign.

Economics Update

Well, the big news is that the US GDP rose by an adjusted 3.3% rate in Q2. The initial estimate was 1.7%, and the estimate for this, the 2nd cut on GDP numbers was 2.7%.

Of course, inflation ran at a 4.2% rate, which puts it back into negative territory, though the economists typically use the “core” rate, 2.1%, even though purchasing energy and food is included in the GDP numbers.

This is reinforced by the weekly unemployment numbers, with new claims down by 10,000 this week, but, “continued claims are now above 3.4 million for the first time since 2003.”

What is going on is that the real estate asset bubble was concealing the fact that productivity from 2000 through 2007, but middle class income fell.

We were working harder for less money, and going into debt because our houses were appreciating.

Things ain’t great in Europe either, with European retail sales falling, though German unemployment fell, even while the German economy contracted….I really don’t get that one.

We do have good news on the monoliner insurers, with MBIA getting a juicy insurance deal thanks to the help of the New York State Insurance Superintendent…..Smells like a backdoor bailout to me.

In the world of home mortgages, it appears that numbers showing a mortgage application increase may be garbage, because they do not account for multiple applications from one person, which is what tends to happen when lenders get pickier about issuing loans.

Finally, oil is down, the dollar is up, and gas prices are down again, more than 45¢ off their peak.

Georgia, Russia, and the End of US Hegemony, and Updates

First, Seumas Milne has a very good article noting that the US is no longer the “hyperpower” it was in the mid 1990s, and Russia just showed it in its recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The US military is too overstretched to do anything meaningful there, even if Russia did not have somewhere around 2000 nuclear warheads, and on the diplomacy side, countries now require an indication that it serves their national interests when they are asked to follow the US on a military adventure.

The US is still the only remaining world power, but Russia is one of a dozen or so regional powers who are now able to challenge the us in their regions.

In a very real way, it is the end of empire.

Russia has rebuilt its military into a credible fighting force over the past decade. 10 Years ago, the Georgian military would have still lost by dint of numbers, but they would have held out for weeks, and not collapsed in a day.

I will also note that I think that Putin believes it when he says that United States encouraged Georgia to attack South Ossetia. I believe it too, and I imagine that in a decade or so, we will have historians confirming the fact.

For what it’s worth, we now have evidence that diplomats don’t have to be Bush political appointees to be complete idiots, case in point, Daniel Fried, who is claiming that Russian military actions are a sign of weakness, “But being angry and seeking revanchist victory is not the sign of a strong nation. It is the sign of a weak one.”

So, that would make invading Iraq….What?

Meanwhile, the US military is looking at ways to rebuild the Georgian military, which strikes me as imprudent, at best.

It was the military aid which convinced the Georgians that they could start this military adventure in the first place.

The EU is warning Moscow to stay out of the Ukraine, but I really don’t think that Russia is looking at rolling up the Ukraine.

I could see that situation developing if a Ukrainian nationalist comes to power and starts trying to ethnically cleanse the region, but I don’t see anyone being stupid enough to do this…..At least no one on the scene right now is stupid enough.

That being said, the reaction of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) regarding the recognition of those provinces, where Russia is a member, was decidedly tepid, and the Asian former Soviet Republics who are its members (with China) are among those most likely to be supportive.

And in the comedy as foreign policy department, Georgia is calling for the UN Security Council to take action against Russia…..Ummmm….What part of “veto” don’t you understand?

For what it’s worth, we now have a report, albeit a self serving one from South Ossetia’s prosecutor general on the numbers of casualties from the initial Georgian assault, 1,692 killed.

I would take that with a serious grain of salt. It probably is more than the 130 stated by other sources though.

Georgia: Dueling Presidents

Kind of like “Dueling Banjos”, only it’s both Medvedev and Saakashvili, both writing an OP/ED for the Financial Times.

I think that they are both very sparing with the truth, but one sounds like a mealy mouthed politician, and the other sounds like a complete tie chewing nutjob.

Medvedev’s bullet points:

  • The Ossetians and the Abkhazians wanted independence.
  • Upon independence, Georgia stripped Abkhazia and South Ossetia of Autonomy, and engaged in brutal military operations against ethnic minorities.
  • That the West encouraged Saakasvili to make broad claims against the region.
  • That the recognition of an independent Kosovo encouraged secessionist movements in Georgia.
  • Following the recent conflict, he felt compelled to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s independence.

Saakashvili’s bullet points:

  • Russia intends to redraw the map of all of Europe.
  • Russia was issuing passports to Abkhazians and South Ossetians to get a claim on these regions.
  • That the Russians were actively ethnically cleansing Georgians using, “using arson, rape and execution.”
  • That the Russians were already invading when the Georgians attacked South Ossetia.
  • That the Russians have designs on Ukraine, Muldova.
  • That Moscow is determined to wipe out democratically elected governments in its “near abroad”.

These are both self serving statements from men, they are both less than completely frank.

One of them, however, sounds nuts.

GSE Update

Two bits of news about Fannie Mae and Freddie MAC that bear notice:

First, it appears that the credit default swaps, think insurance with a bunch of corruption thrown in, on the GSEs could face a 5 year delay in pay-outs in the event of a government bailout, and S&P lowered the rating on subordinated debt as a result to BBB+ from A-.

Also it appears that the foreign investors who largely bankrolled the GSE’s business during the housing boom are retrenching, meaning that it will be harder for them to find additional financing.

Economics Update

Yesterday, I talked about a historically high housing inventory, well, now we have the numbers, 4.67 million, an 11.2 month supply.

Mortgage applications are up this week, but not enough to indicate any sort of resurgence of the housing market.

We have seen an increase in orders for durable goods, but this is almost entirely export driven, which means that US consumption is flat, and if the dollar strengthens further, it’s mixed today we lose what is currently the only major driver of economic growth.

Of course, with the ECB policy makers all pointing in different directions, likely because Germany’s inflation rate is down, it’s not surprising that nothing much is moving in currency right now.

Banking is not looking good period, what with FDIC troubled bank list growing, “117 with $78 billion in assets – up from 90 banks, $26 billion in assets in 1st quarter.”

The credit markets are still frozen, with Merrill Lynch and Wachovia seeing their rates skyrocket as they attempt to rollover bonds, and Fannie Mae just sold short term debt with a spread of 89 basis points vs. US treasuries, which may be a record.

Also, the FDIC is now saying that the IndyMac failure will have a bigger price tag than earlier predicted…..Are we looking at the FDIC needing a bailout?

And it isn’t just banks having problems, personal bankruptcies are surging, with the number of filings in the 2nd quarter the highest since the 4th quarter of 2005, when people rushed to beat the new law.

In energy, oil is up on hurricane Gustav, and gasoline is down again.