Happy new year, everyone.
Happy new year, everyone.
It’s New Years, and I decided to check out Rye. (Jim Beam)
Next year, I’ll do Scotch.
Yes, our, “market based solution,” continues to overprice and under perform:
San Antonio is the seventh-largest city in the United States, a progressive and economically vibrant metropolis of 1.4 million people sprawled across south-central Texas. But the speed of its Internet service is no match for the Latvian capital, Riga, a city of 700,000 on the Baltic Sea.
Riga’s average Internet speed is at least two-and-a-half times that of San Antonio’s, according to Ookla, a research firm that measures broadband speeds around the globe. In other words, downloading a two-hour high-definition movie takes, on average, 35 minutes in San Antonio — and 13 in Riga.
And the cost of Riga’s service is about one-fourth that of San Antonio.
The United States, the country that invented the Internet, is falling dangerously behind in offering high-speed, affordable broadband service to businesses and consumers, according to technology experts and an array of recent studies.
In terms of Internet speed and cost, “ours seems completely out of whack with what we see in the rest of the world,” said Susan Crawford, a law professor at Yeshiva University in Manhattan, a former Obama administration technology adviser and a leading critic of American broadband.
The problem is the market based solutions. It’s more profitable to create and extract monopoly rants than it is to provide better and cheaper service, so they do that.
It’s economics 101.
The free market mousketeers screw us again.
You may have received an email describing Silver pockets full that goes something like this:
August, next year, will have 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays. This happens only once every 823 years. The Chinese call it ‘Silver pockets full. ” So: send this message to your friends and in four days money will surprise you. Based on Chinese Feng Shui. Whoever does not transmit the message … may find themselves poor.
This is August 2014:
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
This is August 2025:
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
We are now starting to see reports that Obama is planning to reign in the intelligence agencies:
Before he left for Hawaii, the president was sending signals that government surveillance programs need an overhaul to restore the public’s faith on issues of national security.
Before President Obama left for his 17-day vacation in Hawaii, White House officials made it clear that his holiday reading would consist of a lot more than beach novels to escape the stresses of Washington. He’d also be studying a 300-page report on how to rein in the government’s controversial surveillance programs that had just been delivered to him by a high-level panel of experts.
Sure, Obama has gotten in plenty of rounds of golf with his presidential posse, as well as impromptu trips to shave ice joints and leisurely strolls along the islands’ stunning beaches with his family. But weighing on him throughout the winter getaway has been one of the most consequential national security decisions of his presidency: whether to adopt a set of recommendations that would represent the most dramatic curbing of the intelligence community’s eavesdropping powers since the Vietnam War.
Still, behind the scenes, Obama’s counterterrorism polices have continued to tug at his conscience. He has prodded his aides to re-address unfulfilled promises and occasionally chastised himself for not acting more in accordance with his personal convictions. His recent vow to “go back at” closing Guantanamo has led to the most sustained progress toward closing the detention facility since the first year of his presidency.
This, “If only the Czar knew,” bullsh%$ is precisely that, 10 pounds of sh%$ in a 5 pound bag.
Obama has been consistent on these issues, he has moved to expand powers for the executive, on the theory that because he is a good guy, there is nothing to worry about.
It is why I call him the, “Worst Constitutional Law Professor ever™“.
Harold Simmons, age 82, who funded, among other things, the despicable “Swift Boating” of John Kerry.
Did you hear about the attack on a power plant in California?
No, it was not a cyber attack, it was guys with guns:
When U.S. officials warn about “attacks” on electric power facilities these days, the first thing that comes to mind is probably a computer hacker trying to shut the lights off in a city with malware. But a more traditional attack on a power station in California has U.S. officials puzzled and worried about the physical security of the the electrical grid–from attackers who come in with guns blazing.
Around 1:00 AM on April 16, at least one individual (possibly two) entered two different manholes at the PG&E Metcalf power substation, southeast of San Jose, and cut fiber cables in the area around the substation. That knocked out some local 911 services, landline service to the substation, and cell phone service in the area, a senior U.S. intelligence official told Foreign Policy. The intruder(s) then fired more than 100 rounds from what two officials described as a high-powered rifle at several transformers in the facility. Ten transformers were damaged in one area of the facility, and three transformer banks — or groups of transformers — were hit in another, according to a PG&E spokesman.
“These were not amateurs taking potshots,” Mark Johnson, a former vice president for transmission operations at PG&E, said last month at a conference on grid security held in Philadelphia. “My personal view is that this was a dress rehearsal” for future attacks.
I am inclined to agree with Mr. Johnson.
We’ve spent billions on cyber defense for an attack on the grid which has never occurred, anywhere in the world, but physical attacks on power stations by insurgents have been occurring since power plants first existed.
Of course, it’s not the current business model for the for-profit portion of out state security apparatus, so not a whole bunch of money there.
François Holland has gotten court approval for a 75% tax on €1 million:
French President Francois Hollande received approval from the country’s constitutional court to proceed with his plan to tax salaries above 1 million euros at 75 percent for this year and next.
Under Hollande’s proposal, companies will have to pay a 50 percent duty on wages above 1 million euros ($1.4 million). In combination with other taxes and social charges, the rate will amount to 75 percent of salaries above the threshold, the court wrote in a decision published today.
“The companies that pay out remuneration above 1 million euros will, as expected, be called upon for an effort of solidarity on remuneration paid in 2013 and 2014,” the Economy Ministry said in an e-mailed statement.
A first proposal to put the change into law was turned down by the constitutional court in December last year because the tax applied to individuals and not households. The country’s top administrative court said any rate above 66 percent would be rejected as confiscatory.
Hollande revived the plan this year, making it apply to salaries and be paid by employers rather than individuals. The total amount is limited to 5 percent of a company’s revenue.
I’m not sure if “company’s revenue” means total revenue (turnover) or profit (net revenue).
Hopefully the former.
€1 million is about $1.3 million, and I’m fine with that. It’s a sin tax, like those on alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, (in Colorado) and gambling.
If there is anything that the financial crisis shows, it is that excessive compensation is at least as corrosive as society as anything mentioned above.
If you look at direct and indirect subsidies to the big banks, it appears that taxpayers are paying for the Bankster’s bonuses:
Earlier this year, Bloomberg calculated that the top 10 U.S. banks receive a $83 billion a year in subsidies from the government, due to their cheap cost of funding & the preferential treatment creditors give them because they assume the government sees them as TBTF.
In November, a NYT analysis of a Johnson Associates survey found that the top eight U.S. banks set aside $91.44 billion for bonuses in 2013.
Note that this does not include other subsides (hello, Federal Reserve, etc.)
To paraphrase Samuel L. Jackson, I’m sick of these motherf%$#ing bonuses in this motherf%$#ing economy.
H/t Crooks & Liars.
In this case, it is reports that the, “NSA diverted computers and laptops from shipping facilities to install spyware.”
Seriously, how does this not constitute an unreasonable search and seizure?
Der Spiegel reported on Sunday that the NSA’s “Tailored Access Operations” (TAO) has been diverting desktops and laptops shipped to U.S. consumers and installing spyware on them.
According to the report, the process, which TAO calls “interdiction,” involves intercepting packages on their way from manufacturers like Dell, Cisco, and Seagate, and installing bugs or spyware on them at a “secret workshop.”
The packages are then reintroduced into the delivery pipeline and arrive at their destination without the consumer ever realizing their machine has been compromised.
Our state security apparatus is completely out of control.
The New York Times has just finished a nearly year-long investigation of the attach on the consulate in Benghazi, and found, “No evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault.”
Months of months of faux-Republican outrage, all for nothing:
Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault. The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.
A fuller accounting of the attacks suggests lessons for the United States that go well beyond Libya. It shows the risks of expecting American aid in a time of desperation to buy durable loyalty, and the difficulty of discerning friends from allies of convenience in a culture shaped by decades of anti-Western sentiment. Both are challenges now hanging over the American involvement in Syria’s civil conflict.
The attack also suggests that, as the threats from local militants around the region have multiplied, an intensive focus on combating Al Qaeda may distract from safeguarding American interests.
Additionally, it appears that concerns about supporting US private investing in Libya led the State Department to soft pedal security concerns:
The diplomat, David McFarland, a former congressional aide who had never before met with a Libyan militia leader, left feeling agitated, according to colleagues. But the meeting did not shake his faith in the prospects for deeper involvement in Libya. Two days later, he summarized the meeting in a cable to Washington, describing a mixed message from the militia leaders.
Despite “growing problems with security,” he wrote, the fighters wanted the United States to become more engaged “by ‘pressuring’ American businesses to invest in Benghazi.”
Of course, the militiamen were naive. The US does not pressure American businesses to invest, they pressure the locals to give sweetheart deals to American businessmen, but the theory is similar.
Perhaps the State Department should reorient its priorities.
Following the ruling by District Judge Richard Leon in Washington stating that the NSA domestic spying program was illegal, in the New York District, District Judge William H. Pauley III ruled that the program was legal:
A federal judge in New York ruled Friday that the massive collection of domestic telephone data brought to light by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is lawful, rejecting a challenge to the program by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The decision marked a victory for the government less than two weeks after a District Court judge ruled against it, finding that the NSA’s program was almost certainly unconstitutional. If the split in rulings continues through the appeals process, it is likely the Supreme Court will have to decide the issue.
In a 53-page opinion, U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III said Friday that the program, which collects virtually all Americans’ phone records, represents the U.S. government’s “counter-punch” to eliminate the al-Qaeda terrorist network and does not violate the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure.
Pauley endorsed the assertion made by government officials that if the United States had the phone data collection program before 2001, they might have had a better chance at preventing the Sept. 11 attacks.
“The government learned from its mistake and adapted to confront a new enemy: a terror network capable of orchestrating attacks across the world,” Pauley wrote. “It launched a number of counter-measures, including a bulk telephony metadata collection program — a wide net that could find and isolate gossamer contacts among suspected terrorists in an ocean of seemingly disconnected data.”
He added: “This blunt tool only works because it collects everything.”
Yes, this ruling is as cowardly and delusional as it sounds. As Charlie Pierce observes, “It cannot be easy issuing an important ruling while hiding under your bed.”
I would also note that this ruling does not appear to address any real constitutional issues, and it relies on facts not in evidence. (The judge implies that the program has produced intelligence successes, when it has not.)
The Washington Post‘s technology reporter has called the ruling, “Kafkaesque.”
It should also be noted that some of the claims made by the government are flat out wrong. For instance, the NSA has real time data as to the countries of both callers.
What’s more there are increasing indications that the NSA’s “drinking from a fire hose” strategy is actually harming its intelligence capabilities:
William Binney, creator of some of the computer code used by the National Security Agency to snoop on Internet traffic around the world, delivered an unusual message here in September to an audience worried that the spy agency knows too much.
It knows so much, he said, that it can’t understand what it has.
“What they are doing is making themselves dysfunctional by taking all this data,” Mr. Binney said at a privacy conference here.
The agency is drowning in useless data, which harms its ability to conduct legitimate surveillance, claims Mr. Binney, who rose to the civilian equivalent of a general during more than 30 years at the NSA before retiring in 2001. Analysts are swamped with so much information that they can’t do their jobs effectively, and the enormous stockpile is an irresistible temptation for misuse.
This is not about safety.
Rather it emerges from a miasma of political expedience, cowardice, and the increasingly for-profit nature of our state security apparatus.
A hundred and twenty five years after their publication, a Federal Court judge has told the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to go Moriarty themselves, and declared that the Sherlock Holmes universe is unequivocally in the public domain:
In the more than 125 years since he first appeared, Sherlock Holmes has popped up everywhere from fan fiction set in outer space to screen adaptations like CBS’s “Elementary,” set in contemporary Manhattan. But now, following a legal ruling, the deerstalker-wearing detective is headed to another destination: the public domain.
A federal judge has issued a declarative judgment stating that Holmes, Watson, 221B Baker Street, the dastardly Professor Moriarty and other elements included in the 50 Holmes works that Arthur Conan Doyle published before Jan. 1, 1923, are no longer covered by United States copyright law, and can therefore be freely used by others without paying any licensing fee to the writer’s estate.
The ruling came in response to a civil complaint filed in February by Leslie S. Klinger, the editor of the three-volume, nearly 3,000-page “New Annotated Sherlock Holmes” and a number of other Holmes-related books. The complaint stemmed from “In the Company of Sherlock Holmes,” a collection of new Holmes stories written by different authors and edited by Mr. Klinger and Laurie R. King, herself the author of a mystery series featuring Mary Russell, Holmes’s wife.
Mr. Klinger and Ms. King had paid a $5,000 licensing fee for a previous Holmes-inspired collection. But in the complaint, Mr. Klinger said that the publisher of “In the Company of Sherlock Holmes,” Pegasus Books, had declined to go forward after receiving a letter from the Conan Doyle Estate Ltd., a business entity organized in Britain, suggesting that the estate would prevent the new book from being sold by Amazon, Barnes & Noble and “similar retailers” unless it received another fee.
But the judge rejected what he called the estate’s “novel legal argument” that the characters remain under copyright because, it claimed, they were not truly completed until Conan Doyle published his last Holmes story in 1927.
This is a good thing.
There needs to be limits to the rent seeking related to IP.
Holmes is already in the public domain in its native Britain, and any further royalties extracted by the estate does nothing to encourage the, “Promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts,” which is the Constitutional justification for our IP regime.
In this case, it is the heavily subsidized orthodox in Israel:
In mid-December, a report by the National Insurance Institute and the Central Bureau of Statistics reported that Israel’s poverty rate was shamefully high: 23.5 percent. It found that one-fifth of families — and one-fifth of retirees — in Israel are officially poor, as well as one-third of children.
Israel’s income gap is one of the highest in the world (following Chile, Mexico, Turkey and the United States). Israel, as O.E.C.D. reports have already indicated more than once, somehow manages to be a “start-up nation,” with high economic growth; yet, at the same time, it remains a backward nation with many extremely poor families.
The publication of the annual poverty report gave rise to two or three days of heated discussion. Aryeh Deri, the head of the Shas Party, called it a “poverty storm.” Shas relies on lower-income religious voters, and the report was an opportunity for a politician to demonstrate his outrage. Yet the storm quickly abated.
Israelis already know the numbers, and most have already formed opinions on this topic. Many middle-class Israelis are convinced that the poor themselves are at fault — and unless they do something about it, there’s not much that the state can do for them.
Two segments of Israel’s population stand out as the poorest of the poor: “ultra-Orthodox Jews” and “Muslim-Arabs.” Unemployment rates for ultra-Orthodox Jews (mostly ultra-Orthodox men) and Arabs (mostly Arab women) are very high. So are birth rates. The result: 59 percent of the ultra-Orthodox (also known as Haredim) are poor. Similarly, 58 percent of Arab Israelis are poor. Other groups with notably high rates of poverty are the elderly and new immigrants — but the numbers for these two groups are much lower, 23 percent and 17 percent, respectively.
Israel’s poverty doesn’t solely stem from the lack of full participation of these two groups in its economic life. But the high visibility among the poor Haredis and Arabs influences the never-ending public debate about how to put an end to poverty.
Kindling a sense of social solidarity among middle-class Israelis toward members of these groups is difficult for several reasons. First, the ultra-Orthodox and Arabs don’t mix much with most Jewish Israelis (both these groups refrain from military or other national service). Second, to be blunt, Israelis know that Haredis and Arabs are disproportionately represented in the underground economy (namely, by evading taxes). Finally, to a large extent they are poor because of choices they make — preferring their traditions over participating in the modern Israeli economy. Simply put: For Haredi Jewish men, the choice is generally to study the Torah and have many children (while the women have to provide for the families). For Muslim Arabs, it is to keep women at home and have many children (while the men go to work).
Only when unemployed Haredi men and Arab women go to work and black-market tax evaders are forced to pay taxes will the middle and upper classes be more open to thinking about a redistribution of wealth. Right now, the majority of Israelis have good reason — or good excuse — to object to any redistributive attempts to take from them and give to others.
I would argue that many of these problems are the issues of a segregated society.
The Heridim and Arabs live lives almost completely separate from mainstream society.
The Heridim have separate religious schools in which students are not provided with the tools to succeed in a mainstream society, and the Arabs are educated in “separate but equal” (they are not) schools in where teaching is in Arabic rather than Hebrew.
Furthermore, neither the Ultra-Orthodox nor the Arabs (the Druze excepted) do national (typically military) service, which serves as a touchstone for cultural cohesion.
Putting an end to both of these practices would go a long way toward fixing the problems with Israeli society.
Unlike the competition, (shown) it appears that Saab/Boeing appears to be going with a clean sheet design:
Boeing and Saab have signed an agreement to jointly develop and build an all-new aircraft for the U.S. Air Force’s T-X trainer competition, aimed at a replacement for the service’s 540-plus T-38 trainers. Boeing will be the prime contractor, but both companies will invest in the new aircraft, which will compete with three candidates based on non-U.S. off-the-shelf aircraft: the BAE Systems Hawk, offered by partner Northrop Grumman; the Alenia M-346, with General Dynamics as the prime; and the Korean Aerospace Industries T-50, proposed by development partner Lockheed Martin.
Although Boeing and Saab are giving no details of the design—which in any case is described as flexible, depending on an Air Force requirement that has yet to firm up—it will not be based on Saab’s Gripen, beyond incorporating “some Gripen DNA,” an industry source says. This shows that the two companies expect to offer a smaller and cheaper aircraft than the Gripen-sized T-50.
On the other hand, Saab’s expertise is in high-performance aircraft, pointing toward a fast and agile trainer that can produce pilots ready to handle complex fighters with no two-seat versions, like the F-22, F-35 and (so far) the JAS 39E.
Discussions between Saab and Boeing were reported in September but have been underway for “much longer,” a Saab source says. Saab’s demonstrated capability in designing aircraft for flexible, affordable production is the key to the agreement, says an industry source. At the Paris air show in June, Saab President/CEO Hakan Bushke said the company had reduced production costs on the Gripen C/D even while slowing annual production to 8-12 units from 28, and that the larger JAS 39E would be cheaper still. “Bushke has made no secret of the fact that Saab is highly profitable at such rates,” says a Saab official.
The fact that the expertise that the Swedes bring to the table is the ability to deliver on time and on budget is yet another case of the the almost 400 year fallout from the sinking of the Vasa.
While Saab is adamant that the trainer will not be a Gripen E derivative, I’ve always thought that if you took the base Gripen, pulled the afterburner off of the F-404 (Volvo RM-12), and pulled out the radar, and removed some hard-points, they could have a decent trainer, though the direct operating cost would almost certainly be more than the that of the Hawk, which has about ½ the installed thrust of the Gripen.
Looking the competitors, with installed thrust varying by almost a factor 3, one can not help but think that the requirements of the program are not clear to the bidders.
Considering the history of multi-service fighter programs, the F-111 comes to mind, but there is also the JPATS, JSTARS and the Osprey tilt-rotor, it should surprise no one that Rand Corp’s analysis of the such programs shows that there are no savings. In fact, it shows that developing aircraft variants separately is less expensively than a common aircraft with service-specific variants.
The theoretical savings are a mirage:
A Rand Corp. report produced to guide future U.S. Air Force program plans has concluded that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program will cost more than three single-service programs would have done. That conclusion drew a sharp riposte from Lockheed Martin, which accused the report’s authors of using “outdated data” that overstated the F-35’s projected operating costs by a factor of two.
Lockheed Martin based its criticism on numbers that cannot be found in the report. The company declined to give a source for those numbers, stating that they were “government data.” The Joint Strike Fighter program office distanced itself from the argument, saying it had “no real issues” with the report, and did not confirm any of the company’s figures.
Rand’s Project Air Force team produced the report, which was requested in 2012 by then-commander of Air Force Materiel Command Gen. Donald Hoffman, as it became clear the JSF would be running many years behind the schedule that was planned up to 2010.
The study was based on historic data up to November 2011, including the fiscal year 2010 selected acquisition report (SAR). Rand, a think tank founded by the Air Force and still closely associated with the service, did not use the fiscal year 2011 SAR (issued in March 2012) which disclosed a three-year slip in development and actually reported higher cost projections than the 2010 report.
Because the JSF program is incomplete, and because no other joint fighter program has been completed as planned, the researchers used data from a variety of programs—from the F/A-18E/F and F-22 fighters to the T-6A turboprop trainer and E-8C surveillance platform—to gauge the historical cost increases in joint and single-service programs.
They did not focus on absolute costs, but on the percentage growth of estimated costs between the launch of a full-scale development program (Milestone B; MS B) and points five and nine years after MS B, the latter corresponding to the most recent JSF data available in late 2011.
Researchers compared the actual growth of F-35 estimates at the nine-year mark with growth rates for three separate programs based on historic growth with the F-22, the most comparable single-service fighter program. The same adjustments were applied to O&S costs, although a later and higher estimate of F-22 operational costs (at 14 years after MS B) was also included.
The study’s conclusion: The JSF estimated life-cycle cost (LCC) in 2010 was already higher than that of three single-service programs. “Under none of the plausible conditions that we analyzed did JSF have a lower LCC than the notional single-service programs.” The report does not recommend any changes to the JSF program, but advises the Air Force to avoid joint projects in future.
Of course, this does not answer why this is so.
One could argue that it is typically ambitious of joint programs, since the military’s goal of getting more bang for the buck is almost always more bang, not less buck, but if that were the case, the JPATS, the T-6 Texan II, where an extant turboprop trainer was adapted to a tri-service primary trainer would not have had a greater cost growth than the T-45 Goshawk, a naval advanced trainer, where an advanced jet was fully navalized to to land on carriers, but it did have a greater percentage cost growth.
When you further add the specifics of the JSF, specifically the Marine Corps requirement for STOVL, which f%$#s up the other variants in some very profound ways.
Needs to be seen
Sorry for the autoplay.
I did not know that Newsind.com’s videos autoplay. I fixed it by changing “widgetId=1” to “widgetId=2“.
Pope Francis’ condemnations of unbridled capitalism are far too mild.