Month: March 2014

Shave the Whales

The International Court of Justice in The Hague has just made formal the blatantly obvious and ruled that Japan’s so-called “research” whaling has nothing to do with research, and so is illegal:

The decision to ban Japan’s annual whaling drive off Antarctica, handed down by the United Nations’ highest court on Monday, was a hard-won victory for conservationists who long argued that Tokyo’s whaling research was a cover for commercial whaling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The driving force behind Japanese whaling is stupid, brutal, and mindlessly destructive nationalism, something which the residents of Nanking may recall.

And they will continue to butcher porpoises in local waters.

But it is a start.

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

And even that guy sounds profoundly unenthusiastic

Barack Obama had a joint news conference with the Dutch PM, and when he talked about American support for human rights, the audience response was profoundly underwhelming:

Responding to a question at The Hague’s for the Nuclear Security Summit, President Obama concluded the event with an anti-climactic few moments in which he looks to Prime Minister Rutte, seemingly expectant of some way to wrap-up the event without applause.

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

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

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

“Thank you very much everybody, thank you again,” says the president, as he walks off stage with Prime Minister Rutte.

Trust me, the when you slice the bullsh%$ that thick, people notice.

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

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

My Hunch Seems to Have Been Vindicated

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

Well, a study now indicates that it was likely a variant of Yersinia pestis that was genetically predisposed to go pneumonic, meaning that the transmission would have been far faster than the flea borne variants that we see today:

It was already known as perhaps the bleakest episode in British history.

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

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

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


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

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

Instead, he identified what he considers was a mutation from the bubonic plague, borne on rats, to the pneumonic variant, whereby it spread to the lungs of sufferers, who then passed it on to others, by coughing.

This makes sense, though there are alternate ways for it to spread so quickly, such as it being carried by bird borne parasites.

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

I Do Not Know Whether to be Impressed or Horrified

Scientists at the University of Michigan have developed a night vision contact lens:

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

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

It’s kind of neat, but wicked creepy.

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

Case in point, the self-immolation of Mozilla because they chose to hire an homophobic bigot as CEO:

Mozilla named a new chief executive this week to lead the non-profit Web organization as it tries to keep its Firefox browser relevant in the mobile age. The appointment has proved controversial in more ways than one.

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

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

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

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


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

“I do not support the Board’s appointment of @BrendanEich as CEO,” Kat Braybrooke, a curation and co-design lead at the organization, wrote on Twitter on Thursday:

The problem is that Brendan Eich have $1000 to the H8 amendment, aka Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage initiative in California, and when this was revealed, his response was to suggest that people should be more tolerant about this.

That is complete bullsh%$.

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

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

Here is a Bit of Neat Tiny Aviation Tech

AugustaWestland is looking at variable geometry rotors using a miniscule (1-2% of chord) trailing edge flap which can be extended of retracted under different conditions:

Dan Gurney, American racing car driver and constructor, is providing inspiration to European helicopter manufacturers, with AgustaWestland planning in 2015 to fly an active rotor incorporating the aerodynamic device that carries his name.

The Gurney flap (see diagram) is a small tab set perpendicular to the flow at the trailing edge of a wing. It has the effect of increasing lift with minimal impact on drag. In the early 1970s, he first used the eponymous device on the rear wing of a racing car to increase downforce.

In the interest of accuracy, the Gurney flap, also known as a wickerbill, was actually independently invented by a number of people as far back as 1931

Fixed Gurney flaps are used extensively on helicopters to increase the effectiveness of horizontal and vertical stabilizers over a wide angle-of-attack range. Now, with funding from Europe’s Clean Sky research program, AgustaWestland is to use active Gurney flaps to increase the performance of helicopter rotor blades.

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

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

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

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

Retracted on the advancing side, the active Gurney flap is deployed on the retreating side to delay the stall. Covering the middle section of the blade, the flap locally improves lift and allows the outer section of the retreating blade to be offloaded. This reduces the power required to maintain airspeed and lowers fuel consumption and emissions, an overall goal of Clean Sky.

Flaps on rotors are not new. Kaman’s helos have been using servo flaps as alternative to hub based actuators for years, but the application of Gurney flaps, along with their use to handle issues of the different lift modes and retreating blade stall, is new.

This Comes as No Surprise

Maryland is dumping its healthcare exchange, and replacing it with Connecticut’s technology:

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

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

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

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

But unlike Maryland, where the system crashed within moments of launching and has limped along ever since, Connecticut’s exchange has worked as smoothly as any in the country.

I do think that this means that I have to reevaluate my assessment of O’Malley as the front-runner in the “Not Hillary” presidential primary.

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

I Love a Good Aviation Mystery

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

It appears that they weren’t B-2’s:

Sitting on a secret is a hard thing to do – and not only for me but the Pentagon as well.

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


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


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

“What’s up Tom?” I answer.

“Hey – Steve are you still out at the airport?” he asks.

“Yes – I was just about to head home.” I replied.

“Look out to the southwest – there are three planes flying in formation – you can see their contrails.”

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

“That’s a B-2” Dean said excited. “It’s a flight of three B-2s.”

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

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

My grandson (who was leaning over my shoulder watching me work) jumped when I shouted. “The trailing edge is wrong!” I must have said it three times.

It goes on, and he notes that the airspace around this formation was cleared for about 150 miles, and reviewing his aviation band scanner, came across a call sign, “SIENNA,” which appeared to correspond with the flight.

His guess is that it is a stealth transport.

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

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

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

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

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

What you may also not know is that the requests by Moscowitz would have taken space from a puclic school literally doing therapy for disabled students in the halls:

From now on, she will apply four criteria in reviewing proposed co-locations. She won’t put elementary and high schools in the same building. She won’t keep approving small schools that only require more high-paid supervisors to run them. She won’t approve co-locations that require expensive renovations of school properties.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(emphasis mine)

Charter advocates don’t care.

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

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

Drip, Drip, Drip

Christie appointed Chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, David Samson, has resigned as a result of scandals that came to light following the “Bridgegate” scandal:

Gov. Chris Christie on Friday announced the resignation of the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — the highest-ranking public official to step down during the scandal over lane closings at the George Washington Bridge — as he embarked on an aggressive campaign to re-establish himself on the national stage.

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

With those conflicts under investigation by federal authorities, he had declined to cooperate with an internal investigation Mr. Christie had commissioned.

First, let me criticize the editor at the New York Times: When a reporter uses the term, “éminence grise,” (which means behind the scene power) even at the Gray Lady, it is the job of the editor to take out his red pen, and scrawl “BS” all over this.

Éminence grise“, seriously?

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

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

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

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

As Paul Krugman notes, we know of specific policies (taxes, shareholder say on pay, etc.) to address inequality, but no one has cracked the secret to sustainable growth that raises all boats:

The usual answer to this is to point out that we don’t actually know much about how to produce rapid economic growth — conservatives may think they know (low taxes and all that), but there is no evidence to back up their certainty. And on the other hand, we know how to make a big difference to income distribution, especially how to reduce extreme poverty. So why not work on what we know, as at least part of our economic strategy?

He further notes that economic growth rates do not effect levels of child malnutrition, but inequality does:

But even this argument may be conceding too much. A new study finds that in poor and lower-middle-income countries, one of the most crucial aspects of well-being, child malnutrition, isn’t helped at all by faster growth:


Yes, rapid growth is good, but it doesn’t solve all problems even if you know how to make it happen, which you don’t.

We do know that the conservative prescriptions produce, inequality, speculation, bubbles, and panics.

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

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is Toast

There has been a lot going in Turkey.

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

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

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

This stage is characteristic of the end-game.

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

I’m Selling My Comic Collection

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

I just finished inventorying them, my notable comics are:

  • Cerebus, 1-58, 61, 64, 81, 83, 86, 89, 91, 93, 97, 99, and a few after 100
  • Damage Control, 2-4
  • Fantastic 4, 81
  • Boris the Bear 1-3, 11, 12, 19, 
  • Bager, various between 24 & 64
  • Nexus, various between 40 & 74
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (unfortunately 2nd printing)
  • The Tick, 1-3,6,7
  • Zot! 11-30

More than 200 comic books in all.

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

Best Amazon Comment Ever

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

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

And because it Amazon, there are reader comments, and the negative reviews are amusing, but I like this one the best:

So, after reading many reviews that mentioned what good toilet paper this book made, I was super excited to order my copy. Unfortunately, after receiving mine in the mail I was immediately disappointed. I don’t know, perhaps I accidentally received a used copy, but mine was completely worthless for this purpose as every single page was already completely covered with crap…

It’s juvenile, but so is a United States Senator writing a f%$#ing coloring book.

H/t Neo at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

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

In the end, it does not matter.

Senator Mark Begich has decided to ignore the inside the beltway consensus, and campaign on expanding Social Security:

Senator Mark Begich of Alaska is embroiled in one of the toughest reelection fights in the country. His solution, in part: To campaign on a proposal that’s far outside the mainstream of what appears to constitute respectable Beltway discourse on entitlements.

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

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

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

It’s also good policy.

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

To quote Dwight David Eisenhower:

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

The mania in DC for cutting Social Security is just plain nuts, and the more Democrats who get that, the better.