Month: April 2011

India Shortlists Rafale and Typhoon for MMRCA Shortlist

Well, I was wrong in my guess that MiG would win this.

But India has narrowed the bid to the French and the British:

The United States lost a hard-fought competition to supply a new generation of fighter jets to India, which has listed two European manufacturers as the finalists for an order estimated to be worth $10 billion.

The decision was a blow for President Obama, who had pushed hard for this and other defense deals during his visit to India in November as part of his agenda to deepen and broaden the United States’ relationship with India. The American ambassador to India, Timothy J. Roemer, who separately announced on Thursday that he would resign from his post for personal reasons, said the United States was “deeply disappointed by this news.”

While political and economic relations between India and the United States have been warming for years, American arms makers have struggled to win big contracts here. After decades of frosty relations during the cold war, which pushed India to rely extensively on the Soviet Union for military hardware, many in the Indian defense establishment are still wary of American intentions and United States military aid to Pakistan, India’s main adversary.

The American bid to build the fighters came from Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Boeing had offered its F/A -18 jets, and Lockheed Martin pitched its F-16 planes. But India instead narrowed the list to the Rafale fighter from Dassault and the Eurofighter Typhoon jet made by a consortium of European companies. Russian and Swedish bids were also turned down.

I’m not sure what the calculus here.

These aircraft are clearly more capable in terms of payload and range than the Rafale (which is the light weight of the bunch) and the F-16, and faster than the F-18 (so is just about everything flying with an afterburner), and likely more reliable than the MiG.

My handicapping of the race? I think that Dassault is desperate for an export sale, and so will be willing to take a hit up front, and when this is juxtaposed with the fact that the IAF already has experience operating the Mirage 2000, I would give it a slight edge.

It’s Bank Failure Friday!!!!

It’s odd, we’ve had alternating weeks of feast and famon.

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.

  1. First National Bank of Central Florida, Winter Park, FL
  2. Cortez Community Bank, Cortez, FL
  3. First Choice Community Bank, Dallas, GA
  4. The Park Avenue Bank, Valdosta, GA
  5. Community Central Bank, Mount Clemens, MI

Full FDIC list

And here are the credit union closings:

  1. Utah Central Credit Union, Salt Lake City, UT

Full NCUA list

So, here is the graph pr0n with last years numbers for comparison (FDIC only):

The Roberts Court Whores for Corporate America Again

They just ruled that companies can use arbitration clauses to require that each claim be settled individually, making it impossible for companies to be meaningfully punished for cheating large numbers of customers a few bucks at a time.

Unsurprisingly, it was AT&T that was cheating its customers, to the tune of $30 a pop, that was the defendant in this case.

I’m with Breyer on this:

But the dissenters said a practical ban on class action would be unfair to cheated consumers. Justice Stephen G. Breyer said the California courts had insisted on permitting class-action claims, despite arbitration clauses that forbade them. Otherwise, he said, it would allow a company to “insulate” itself “from liability for its own frauds by deliberately cheating large numbers of consumers out of individually small sums of money.”

But I would have been more frank. I would have said that the Scalia, et al, were creating a license to steal.

Economics Update

It’s Jobless Thursday, and initial claim hit a 3 month high, 429 K, with the 4-week moving average rising, though continuing and extended claims fell.

The numbers have been disappointing, which is not surprising, since the economy grew at an anemic 1.8% annual rate in the 1st quarter.

The problem is that too many people in power (see Geithner, Timothy, for one) think that the economy is recovering fine because the banksters are making lots of money, so they are concerned about the deficit and inflation, as evidenced by this story with its hand wringing about inflation rising, but even though it’s still well under the 2% (I would argue for 6% right now) that the Fed says that we need.

BTW, if you want to read it, here is the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee statement for you to read.

Why Not Gus Frerotte?

The most wanktastic representative in the Democratic caucus, Heath Shuler, had got himself a primary challenger, Cecil Bothwell:

North Carolina Blue Dog Democrat Heath Shuler is getting a primary challenge.

Councilman Cecil Bothwell, who originally said he would run as an independent, has changed his mind on the advice of friends and supporters, according to The Asheville Citizen-Times.

“I originally believed that the best way to address issues too long ignored and to challenge the corporate power over the national parties was to run as an independent,” he said. “But I’ve heard from hundreds of people, from WNC to Washington, DC, who believe the most likely path to success is up the middle instead of trying for an end-run.”

He’s not on Act Blue yet, but when he is, I will add him to my Act Blue page.

He’s actually an interesting guy, the only openly Atheist politician I know of, according to his Wiki Page.

Obama Releases “Long Form” Birth Certificate

I guess this will make the birthers shut up………Not!!!

My thoughts on this are perhaps best expressed by Cthulhu*:

He f%$#ing caved to the GOP thugs, AGAIN. His BC is sufficient for him to get a license, a passport, and for every god-damned govt function we can think of.

I wanted to see Obama do the same as inn the movie “The American President“, where he calls the phonies out, and declares he is the president, and he’s off to take care of business, f%$# you microbrained idiots.

Of course, that was just a movie, reality is a lot more depressing.

*No, not the unspeakably malevolent super-being, the contributor to the Stellar Parthenon BBS.
OK, I’ve never seen the two of them together, so Cthulhu might actually be the Cthulhu, but the mere fact that he is on a BBS, interacting with humans would seem to mitigate against this.
Yes, I know, this is the internet, where no one knows if you are a dog.

Who Lent Harry Reid a Pair of Testicles?

Because he has just announced that he will be forcing a vote on the Senate floor on the Paul Ryan budget, which dismantles Medicare:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said it’s definite: He will scheduled a vote on House Republicans’ fiscal 2012 budget plan, which passed the House on a party-line vote earlier this month and includes the proposal to make Medicare a voucher-style health-care program for seniors.

The move could create an awkward situation for some Senate Republicans, who would anger conservative constituents by voting no, but could alienate independents by voting yes. Sen. Susan Collins, a centrist Republican from Maine, said last week she’ll oppose the budget.

Senate Republicans “seem to be in love with the [Rep. Paul] Ryan budget, they’re going to get an opportunity to vote on the Ryan budget,” Mr. Reid said. Asked if he thought the Senate would defeat the House GOP budgetary plan, Mr. Reid said “I hope so.”

An “awkward situation”, yes, I guess it is.

BTW, the Senate rules does not allow a filibuster of the budget.

Vermont Senate Passes Single Payer Healthcare

The Vermont state Senate has now passed the single payer healthcare bill, and, assuming no problems in conference committee, will shortly head to the governor’s desk, where he has promised to sign it.

Of course, the whole thing is dependent on getting a waiver from HHS, and I’m dubious of that bit, because Obama has shown himself to be the FIRE (Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate) sector’s bitch, and you can be sure that the insurance companies will be trying to do whatever they can to drive a stake through the bill’s heart.

Pass the Popcorn, Wikileaks Again

Wikileaks has now released about 700 documents on what is going on in the Guantánamo Bay gulag, and the picture is one of a completely incompetent and immoral process.

Cases in point:

Given the totality it’s not the documentation, it’s not surprising that the New York Times strongly condemned the whole process:

The internal documents from the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, published in The Times on Monday were a chilling reminder of the legal and moral disaster that President George W. Bush created there. They describe the chaos, lawlessness and incompetence in his administration’s system for deciding detainees’ guilt or innocence and assessing whether they would be a threat if released.

(emphasis mine)

It is refreshing to see the editorial page of the “paper of record” excoriate our gulag in the Caribbean, but unfortunately, they don’t go further, and ask why there have been no prosecutions of the lawless incompetent torturers.

Well, Now We Know Why He Quit

It turns out that John Ensign made his resignation effective the day before he was to testify under oath before the Ethics Committee:

Senator John Ensign’s resignation letter allows him to leave office just one day before he was to have to answer questions under oath about whether a $96,000 payment to the family of his former lover was illegal and designed to keep the affair from becoming public, according to people familiar with an investigation of Mr. Ensign’s activities.

That formal testimony, scheduled for May 4, was the final step as Senate investigators prepared for what were almost certain to be Senate ethics charges against Mr. Ensign, Republican of Nevada. Mr. Ensign’s resignation is effective May 3.

To paraphrase King Kong, it was cowardice and hypocrisy that killed the beast.

And In the World of the Surreal…

The CIA is touting its green credentials by revealing that they generate heat by burning shredded documents:

A press release from the CIA explains that their “burn after reading” practice conserves energy because the exhaust from their incinerator generates steam to heat water at CIA headquarters. Says the CIA:

In addition to saving fuel, that process reduces the amount of waste–which would otherwise be destined for landfills–by nearly 1,000 tons per year. The CIA increases its recycling efforts each year, annually collecting over three tons of plastic, glass, cardboard, aluminum, construction debris, and other waste.

I dunno, I find this kind of …… odd.

About Bloody Time.

A US Federal Appeals Court has overturned the dismissal of manslaughter charges against the Blackwater (now Xe) mercenaries who massacred 14 Iraqis in 2007:

The U.S. won a bid to revive its manslaughter and weapons case against four former Blackwater Worldwide security guards accused in the 2007 deaths of 14 Iraqi civilians at a Baghdad intersection.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington today reversed the decision of a lower-court judge, who dismissed the charges because statements the men made to State Department investigators may have influenced the grand jury.

“In sifting the record as to taint of the evidence before the indicting grand jury, the district court made a number of systemic errors based on an erroneous legal analysis,” said the appeals court.

Basically, the State Department promised immunity to each of the guards for their statements, and this is what led the dismissal, and the appellate court said that the immunity of each mercenary’s statements applied only to prevented their use against that specific person, and not all of them, so the lower court had to refer to each indictment, and see whether the their own statements were used against them.

The lower court judge basically issued a blanked ruling saying that if Merc A said something that implicated Merc B, it was tainted, and the appellate court said no.

Hopefully this leads some of these guys to rat out on their associates.

You can read a good analysis here.

Because Running the Government By, and For, the Banksters is Depressing

It’s why Americans are more pessimistic about the economy and their future than they have been in years:

Americans are more pessimistic about the nation’s economic outlook and overall direction than they have been at any time since President Obama’s first two months in office, when the country was still officially ensnared in the Great Recession, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Amid rising gas prices, stubborn unemployment and a cacophonous debate in Washington over the federal government’s ability to meet its future obligations, the poll presents stark evidence that the slow, if unsteady, gains in public confidence earlier this year that a recovery was under way are now all but gone.

Capturing what appears to be an abrupt change in attitude, the survey shows that the number of Americans who think the economy is getting worse has jumped 13 percentage points in just one month. Though there have been encouraging signs of renewed growth since last fall, many economists are having second thoughts, warning that the pace of expansion might not be fast enough to create significant numbers of new jobs.

The dour public mood is dragging down ratings for both parties in Congress and for President Obama, the poll found.

The Republicans must be high fiving each other in private about this, a bad economy presages a Republican takeover of the Senate, and possibly the White House.

Truth be told, when the good least bad guys Washington, DC think that everything is fine because banksters are doing better, even though unemployment is almost 9% (over 15% for the more accurate U-6), the American public is in the right frame of mind, we are unbelievably screwed.

Koch Whores

Koch Industries is now explicitly coercing its workers about who they vote for:

On the eve of the November midterm elections, Koch Industries sent an urgent letter to most of its 50,000 employees advising them on whom to vote for and warning them about the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country should they choose to vote otherwise.

The Nation obtained the Koch Industries election packet for Washington State [1]—which included a cover letter from its president and COO, David Robertson; a list of Koch-endorsed state and federal candidates; and an issue of the company newsletter, Discovery, full of alarmist right-wing propaganda.

Legal experts interviewed for this story called the blatant corporate politicking highly unusual, although no longer skirting the edge of legality, thanks to last year’s Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which granted free speech rights to corporations.

“Before Citizens United, federal election law allowed a company like Koch Industries to talk to officers and shareholders about whom to vote for, but not to talk with employees about whom to vote for,” explains Paul M. Secunda, associate professor of law at Marquette University. But according to Secunda, who recently wrote in The Yale Law Journal Online about the effects of Citizens United on political coercion in the workplace, the decision knocked down those regulations. “Now, companies like Koch Industries are free to send out newsletters persuading their employees how to vote. They can even intimidate their employees into voting for their candidates.” Secunda adds, “It’s a very troubling situation.”

This is what happens when people who earned their fortune through the genetic lottery think that they own the people who work for them.

Truly repugnant.


Do you want to guess?

Is it in Missippi, or Alabama, or maybe Arkansas?

Nope, it’s in New York State, just an hour from Times Square. It’s Kiryas Joel, which has a mind boggling 70% poverty rate: (number 2 only has a 56% rate)

The poorest place in the United States is not a dusty Texas border town, a hollow in Appalachia, a remote Indian reservation or a blighted urban neighborhood. It has no slums or homeless people. No one who lives there is shabbily dressed or has to go hungry. Crime is virtually nonexistent.

And, yet, officially, at least, none of the nation’s 3,700 villages, towns or cities with more than 10,000 people has a higher proportion of its population living in poverty than Kiryas Joel, N.Y., a community of mostly garden apartments and town houses 50 miles northwest of New York City in suburban Orange County.

About 70 percent of the village’s 21,000 residents live in households whose income falls below the federal poverty threshold, according to the Census Bureau. Median family income ($17,929) and per capita income ($4,494) rank lower than any other comparable place in the country. Nearly half of the village’s households reported less than $15,000 in annual income.

About half of the residents receive food stamps, and one-third receive Medicaid benefits and rely on federal vouchers to help pay their housing costs.

Kiryas Joel’s unlikely ranking results largely from religious and cultural factors. Ultra-Orthodox Satmar Hasidic Jews predominate in the village; many of them moved there from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, beginning in the 1970s to accommodate a population that was growing geometrically.

Normally, I am not inclined to tell people that they need to get off their asses, and get a real job, but in this case, I’m going to say get off your asses and get a job.

Kiryas Joel is a hole in the map created by cynical New York politicians in order to pander, and since then it has been used to suck up various welfare payments, so that able bodied residents could game local government for handouts.

Judaism is very clear about this:  Studying is good, but there is also an obligation to work and support a family.