Month: January 2018

How Special

Trump’s head of the CDC, Brenda Fitzgerald, has resigned.

It has to do with the fact that she couldn’t do her job, because she had active investments in opioid tracking systems and in cancer detection systems and actively invested in tobacco companies.

Doing this while running a organization dedicated to eliminating the scourge of tobacco is a rather perverse way to hedge one’s bets:

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resigned on Wednesday, in the middle of the nation’s worst flu epidemic in nearly a decade, because of her troubling financial investments in tobacco and health care companies that posed potential conflicts of interest.

Alex Azar, the newly appointed secretary of Health and Human Services, announced the resignation of the director, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald. An agency statement cited her “complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all her duties as the C.D.C. director.”

The statement continued: “Due to the nature of these financial interests, Dr. Fitzgerald could not divest from them in a definitive time period. After advising Secretary Azar of both the status of the financial interests and the scope of her recusal, Dr. Fitzgerald tendered, and the secretary accepted, her resignation. ”


The resignation was announced less than a day after Politico reported on Tuesday that Dr. Fitzgerald, 71, had traded in tobacco stocks even after taking the position at the public health agency. Her financial investments and potential conflicts of interest were a source of concern in recent months for some members of Congress, especially when she had to recuse herself from appearing before them on certain agency matters.

A former Georgia health commissioner, Dr. Fitzgerald was appointed to the federal agency last July by Tom Price, a fellow Georgian who served as Mr. Trump’s first H.H.S. secretary — until he too was forced to resign under fire, for traveling extensively on private jets and expensing more than $400,000 for those trips to the government. Both Dr. Fitzgerald and Mr. Price had controversial investments in health care and drug companies; Dr. Fitzgerald also had financial interests (along with her husband) in several major tobacco companies.

In a September ethics agreement, she said she would divest from many stocks, including the tobacco holdings, that might pose a conflict of interest. The companies included CVS Health, Quest Diagnostics, AbbVie, Merck, and Zimmer Biomet Holdings. But she also said that she and her husband, Dr. Thomas Fitzgerald, were unable to divest from some holdings because of legal or contractual restrictions. Those were GW Ventures and Greenway Messenger, which are limited liability companies formed to invest in Greenway Health LLC, an electronic health information company, and Isommune, a biotech company focusing on early cancer detection.

Did I forget to mention that, while Georgia health commissioner, she got funding from Coca Cola to run an anti-obesity program that downplayed the role of sugar?

To quote Elvis Costello, “Oh, I used to be disgusted, and now I try to be amused .”

The Chinese are Copping a Major Attitude

The Chinese built a headquarters building for the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethopia.

It seemed like a generous thing, until they discovered that everything in the building was engineered to spy on its occupants and then phone home.

Seriously China, who do you think you are, the United States?

In 2012, the Chinese government “graciously offered” African States a gift and constructed the African Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa. The act of soft diplomacy proved to be a rather self-serving maneuver to spy on the activities and discussions being conducted by leaders of the exclusive continental group.

In Addis Ababa, ministers and heads of states meet twice a year to discuss major continental issues. While strict security measures give the impression that that building is closely monitored and secured, an unseen security threat was present from 2012 until 2017. The threat was from none other than those who built the headquarters: the Chinese. An investigation conducted by “Le Monde Afrique” exposed Chinese espionage efforts.

According to the report, for five years, between midnight and 2 a.m., computer servers were reaching a peak in data transfer activity. A computer scientist noticed the oddity of the situation. The organization’s technical staff later discovered that the AU servers were all connected to servers located in Shanghai.

Every night, the secrets of the AU were being stored more than 8,000 km away by what was thought to be a diplomatic ally of Africa.

I am reminded of the adage about social media, “If the product is free, you are the product .

NIMBY Bullsh%$

A law is working its way through the California that would required towns to allow higher density housing near to major mass transit projects.

The mayor of Berkeley is calling it, “A declaration of war against our neighborhoods.”

No, it isn’t. It’s a common sense requirement to ensure that expensive mass transit projects benefit more than a few:

New proposed legislation, introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener and co-authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner, that would require California cities to allow denser, taller housing developments near transit hubs and bus lines, has ignited controversy in Berkeley and nationally.

With some limitations, SB 827 would eliminate restrictions on the number of houses that can be built within a half-mile of BART and within a quarter-mile of major bus routes, including Muni and AC Transit. It would also block cities from mandating parking requirements.

Skinner said the bill would help supply much-needed housing in Berkeley and the state.

“In the Bay Area alone, we’ve added thousands more jobs than we have housing units,” she said. “More housing is essential to reduce the pressure that lack of supply is causing in all our communities. And there’s no more logical place for housing than near transit.”

But the bill has drawn strong opposition from many who believe it would deprive cities of their rights to control their own zoning and could also lead to unwanted density. In fact Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín characterizes the bill as “a declaration of war against our neighborhoods.”

Here is the deal, your honor: If you want transit in your neighborhoods, then your neighborhoods have to be transit friendly, and the first 3 requirements of transit friendly neighborhoods are density, density, and density.

Longer Range, More Payload, Superior Performance, Lower Cost, What’s Not to Love?

The Israeli Air Force is inclined to order an advanced variant of the F-15 instead more F-35s.

Even if there are things that the F-35 can do that the F-15 can’t, you want to minimize spending on silver bullets:

The Israel Air Force is to decide in a few months between purchasing a third squadron of F-35 fighter jets or the F-15I, which, while less advanced, has other advantages.

The acquisition requires the approval of the General Staff and a ministerial committee, but the recommendation of the air force generally carries the day.

IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, who reportedly is leaning toward the F-15, is to submit a recommendation in May.

Israel and the United States agreed last year on the purchase of 50 F-35 fighters, two squadrons, from Lockheed Martin, with delivery completed by 2024.


Senior IAF officers, including the force’s previous commander, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, have lavished praise on its capabilities. One of its most important operational capabilities is stealth, the ability to not show up on enemy radar.

But in order employ its stealth capabilities, the F-35 must fly with its bombs inside the plane’s belly, which limits its carrying capacity. If the bombs are carried on the outside of the plane, its stealth capabilities are impaired.

The F-15, though older, has two advantages over the F-35: a longer flight range and the ability to carry larger bombs. Another factor in its favor is that it’s built on a different platform, which means the air force would have a mix of planes rather than relying on a single model.

The F-15I is also cheaper to operate than the F-35. But the plane is currently being upgraded by the manufacturer, Boeing, and its purchase price is expected to rise in any future deal. Thus it could end up costing the same as the F-35 does next time around.

I gotta figure that there are elements in the IAF who are seriously worried that some crucial features of the F-35 will go completely titsup when the sh%$ hits the fan.

My money would among the items worrying IAF planners is its the JSF’s ill-starred Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS).

Why I Tend to Favor Russia in its Dispute with the Ukraine

Because as bad as Russian antisemitism is, the Ukraine has more antisemitic incidents than the rest of the former Soviet Union combined, and this has been so since the days of the tzars:

In its main annual report on anti-Semitism, Israel’s government singled out Ukraine as unusual in Eastern Europe for the alleged increase in attacks there, triggering protest by Kiev.

The allegation appeared in the anti-Semitism report for 2017 that the Ministry for Diaspora Affairs under Education Minister Naftali Bennett published last week, ahead of the Jan. 27 International Day of Holocaust Remembrance.
“A striking exception in the trend of decrease in anti-Semitic incidents in Eastern Europe was Ukraine, where the number of recorded anti-Semitic attacks was doubled from last year and surpassed the tally for all the incidents reported throughout the entire region combined,” the report said.

The report did not name the total number of incidents reported but a ministry spokesperson queried by JTA said that throughout 2017, more than 130 incidents of anti-Semitism had been reported, including violent assaults, in Ukraine. The data came from Jewish communities and Nativ, an Israeli government agency that used to be part of the intelligence services but today deals exclusively with issues connected to aliyah, or immigration by Jews and their relatives to Israel.

The report also said that 2017 was the second consecutive year that Ukraine had the largest number of anti-Semitic incidents of any other country from the former Soviet Union.

Note that current Russian government isn’t erecting statues to, naming streets after, and marching to honor dead genocidal maniacs who collaborated with the Nazis either.

While we are at it. f%$# the current Polish government for planning to literally making it illegal to acknowledge the historical FACT that there were large numbers of Poles who enthusiastically collaborated with the Nazis and helped execute the Holocaust, including some members of the Polish resistance.

Russia comes out as the best of an REALLY bad lot in that part of the world on issues of glorifying Nazis and denying the reality of what some of its populace did during WWII..

Tweet of the Day

Just received my ticket for the State of the Union. Looks like @BetsyDeVosEd was in charge of spell checking… #SOTUniom

— Raul M. Grijalva (@RepRaulGrijalva) January 29, 2018

I’ve verified this on Snopes, it is true.

I swear, the Trump administration couldn’t organize a piss-up in a brewery, but this is probably a good thing, because it makes them less effective at prosecuting their agenda.

Bummer of a Birthmark, Recep

It appears that even Cypriot Turks, for whom Turkey is a shield against ethnic cleansing by the Greek Cybriots, are taking to the streets against Recep Tayyip Erdoğan:

Thousands of Turkish Cypriots chanting “we want our country back” have taken to the streets of Nicosia despite heavy rain, after calls for a mass demonstration against Ankara’s heavy-handed policies towards the breakaway republic.

Tensions with the Turkish government mounted this week after a mob of hardliners attacked the office of the Turkish Cypriot newspaper Afrika for running a front-page article critical of the country’s military offensive against Kurdish militants in Syria.

Led by the nationalist Grey Wolves, they went on the rampage after the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, criticised the newspaper’s stance as “immoral” and “shameless”.

Beneath the headline “one more occupation from Turkey”, Afrika drew parallels with Ankara’s 1974 military operation in Cyprus when Turkey seized the island’s northern third.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe condemned the attack as an assault on free press and freedom of speech.

Ahead of the protest on Friday, Sener Elcil, a trade unionist, told the Guardian: “The attack was very violent and very humiliating for Turkish Cypriots, who no longer feel secure in their own country.” At least 5,000 people were believed to have taken part.

“In Turkey, all the intellectuals, journalists and writers have been imprisoned. There is no opposition, but in Cyprus there are people who believe in democracy and peace,” he said.

If history is any indication, an overreaction in Cyprus by Turkish troops might very will go pear shaped in a hurry, and if Turkish troops are expelled from Cyprus, that would be the end of Erdoğan.

One can only hope.

This is Ingenious

Comparison of various cycles


Pressure Profiles

Diesel engines have been getting a lot of bad news recently, but there is a another form of compression ignition that has been lurking in the laboratory for years.

A diesel compresses the air, and then squirts in fuel, which ignites in the hot air.

The other form of compression ignition compresses a fuel air mixture until it all ignites simultaneously.

Theoretically, this could result in superior fuel economy and low levels of pollution.

This is a tremendously difficult thing to do since things like this, since the line between ignition and nothing is a very fine line, and things like ambient temperature, barometric pressure, etc. can cause premature ignition, i.e. pinging, which hits the inside of an engine like a hammer.

Nissan has come up with an innovative way to fix the timing, they have added a spark assist so that they can control the timing.

As opposed to a conventional spark ignited engine, where the flame front progresses from the spark, in their “Skyactive X®” technology, and the initial local ignition kicks up the pressure and temperature enough for the compression ignition to kick in.

Mazda is now has a car with this technology on the road:

Despite rumors to the contrary, the internal combustion engine is far from dead. Recently we’ve seen several technological advances that will significantly boost the efficiency of gasoline-powered engines. One of these, first reported back in August 2017, is Mazda’s breakthrough with compression ignition. On Tuesday, Mazda invited us to its R&D facility in California to learn more about this clever new Skyactiv-X engine, but more importantly we actually got to drive it on the road.

The idea behind Skyactiv-X is to be able to run the engine with as lean a fuel-air mixture (known as λ) as possible. Because very lean combustion is cooler than a stoichiometric reaction (where λ=1 and there is exactly enough air to completely burn each molecule of fuel but no more), less energy is wasted as heat. What’s more, the exhaust gases contain fewer nasty nitrogen oxides, and the unused air gets put to work. It absorbs the combustion heat and then expands and pushes down on the piston. The result is a cleaner, more efficient, and more powerful engine. And Skyactiv-X uses a very lean mix: a λ up to 2.5.


This is known as homogeneous charge compression ignition, or HCCI, an idea that Kyle Niemeyer covered in depth for us back in 2012. HCCI has some other advantages, too. On top of burning cooler and with fewer pollutants, the combustion event happens faster, with a higher pressure peak, so you get more work out of the same energy. All of that sounds pretty wonderful, so you’re probably asking yourself why every gasoline engine on the road doesn’t just use HCCI.

Unfortunately, it has been one of those ideas that worked in the lab but couldn’t ever quite be translated into a production engine. The biggest problem has always been controlling exactly when during the engine cycle compression ignition occurred, something that you want as close to top-dead center as possible.


Obviously, this wasn’t without challenges. The fuel:air mix needs to be a little richer near the spark for it to ignite than you want it to be throughout the rest of the cylinder. These need to be distinct regions to avoid λ dropping to 2 or below (which won’t undergo compression ignition). That’s achieved by swirling the air inside the cylinder and generating a vortex effect, where the calm center has a low enough λ to ignite by spark, surrounded by a high λ region that then undergoes compression ignition.

Mazda’s next challenge was to prevent pre-ignition, or knock. Higher compression ratios increase the potential for knock, which is why higher compression ratio engines usually also require more expensive, higher octane fuel that is knock-resistant. Now, technically, compression ignition is knock, but if it occurs before you want it to—at top dead center—bad things can happen, because a combustion event will exert downward pressure on the piston as it’s moving up on a compression stroke.

The solution here was to use less time to heat the fuel:air mix. There’s a small initial injection of fuel at first, then the bulk of the fuel is introduced into the cylinder as late as possible during the compression stroke. This is done using multiple orifice injectors to increase atomization and mixing of fuel and air.

If all that wasn’t enough, there’s the added problem of keeping track of compression ignition. In the past, this has been one of the hardest problems for HCCI engines to solve. Ideally you want combustion to happen at the same point in the engine cycle each time—about four degrees after top dead center. But as ambient conditions change—a cold day in Denver versus a hot one in Houston—the time needed for the fireball to reach sufficient pressure also changes. So the engine ought to be able to change spark timing to keep the peak pressure at the right spot.

It’s basically an ingenious use of the stratified charge engine to create an HCCI engine.


More Mistake Jet Follies

It’s supposed to dominate the skies, it’s supposed to provide close air support to the troops on the ground, and it’s supposed to have unparalleled reliability and availability.

Not so much:

Efforts to improve the reliability of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 are “stagnant,” undercut by problems such as aircraft sitting idle over the last year awaiting spare parts from the contractor, according to the Pentagon’s testing office.

The availability of the fighter jet for missions when needed — a key metric — remains “around 50 percent, a condition that has existed with no significant improvement since October 2014, despite the increasing number of aircraft,” Robert Behler, the Defense Department’s new director of operational testing, said in an annual report delivered Tuesday to senior Pentagon leaders and congressional committees.

The F-35 section, obtained by Bloomberg News, outlined the status of the costliest U.S. weapons system as it’s scheduled to end its 16-year-old development phase this year. Starting in September, the program is supposed to proceed to intense combat testing that’s likely to take a year, an exercise that’s at least 12 months late already. Combat testing is necessary before the plane is approved for full-rate production — the most profitable phase for Lockheed.

Pentagon officials including Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and chief weapons buyer Ellen Lord have highlighted the need to reduce the F-35’s $406.5 billion projected acquisition cost and its estimated $1.2 trillion price tag for long-term operations and support through 2070. Still, the Defense Department is moving to accelerate contracting and production for the fighter despite the persistence of technical and reliability issues disclosed in the current phase of development testing.

16 years in development, and it still does not work.

This has all gotten so dysfunctional that I’m waiting for a horse to be appointed to the Senate.


Why Do Cats Miaow?

Corruption Much?

The New York City police union, like many other departments and police unions, issues “Friend/Relative of a cop” cards, they serve as “Get Out of Jail Free” cards.

Because of extensive reselling by the boys in blue, the union has slashed the number of cards that it issues, and the cops are pissed off.

They want their baksheesh, I guess:

The city’s police-officers union is cracking down on the number of “get out of jail free” courtesy cards distributed to cops to give to family and friends.

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association boss Pat Lynch slashed the maximum number of cards that could be issued to current cops from 30 to 20, and to retirees from 20 to 10, sources told The Post.

The cards are often used to wiggle out of minor trouble such as speeding tickets, the theory being that presenting one suggests you know someone in the NYPD.

The rank and file is livid.


A source said Lynch ordered the cutback to stop the sale of the cards, which were being hawked on eBay last week for as much as $200.

Banana republic much?

This Business Will get out of Control. It Will get out of Control and we’ll be Lucky to Live Through It.

A prankster who created the joke Cryptocurrency PonziCoin has called it off, because too many people want to keep giving him money:

People will never cease to amaze and the level of stupidity that human beings express sometimes surpasses any that we have seen before. It is one thing to fall for a Ponzi Scheme that was disguised as something legitimate but when someone takes the extra effort of warning you that you may lose all your money and you still jump in with your two feet, that is on you.


With the sudden spiral of cryptocurrency in the world, we have already seen quite a number of people lose money through fake ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings) and collapsing platforms, but people never learn and to prove this, a San Francisco based developer, Rishab Hegde, “jokingly” built a cryptocurrency based on Ethereum and named it PonziCoin – an exact copycat of what happened back in 2014.

Rishab Hedge went ahead to warn the investors on the coin that it was a Ponzi Scheme, “The world’s first legitimate Ponzi scheme,” reads the coin’s landing page. The bliss does not end there, the developer adds more warnings in the Frequently Asked Questions section:

Q: Is this a scam?

A: Yes, it’s as much a scam as 99% of the ICOs out there, but it’s more transparent about it 🙂


Now here’s the major news; People actually invested in the Ponzi scheme. Maybe with the hopes of being the early investors and cashing out before everything collapses. After around 8 hours, PonziCoin had attracted attention and the platform had collected around 250 Ether coins ( valued at more than $25,000).

Mr Rishab seems to have gotten cold feet due to the attention and he decided to pull the plug on PonziCoin, leaving investors out it the cold and possibly making away with their money since none of the investors got a payout on their investment. An update on the website reads:

This has gotten crazy out of hand, I apologize but we will no longer be selling PonziCoin on this site because this was a joke. I cannot terminate the contract but I will not be selling any coins that I own.

Tulips, Schmulips, this is a REAL bubble.

A Correction

Today I opened up my email, and I had a demand letter from GIP Development SARL, a firm that IP licensing and regulation management.

I will not be reposting this email, as it was listed as confidential, but they had a complaint about a post of mine regarding vulture funds targeting Argentine bonds.

I made an error, and have corrected my post.

In researching the vulture funds, I conflated two different, but similarly named financial firms that turned up in my google search.

Dr. Dirk Markus has no connection to Aurelius Capital Management LP, the vulture fund in question. 

He is  the CEO of Aurelius Equity Opportunities, which is a completely unrelated financial firm, and is not involved with the attempted looting of Argentina in any way.

My apologies for calling for his arrest and extradition to Buenos Aires.

As an aside, this is the first time that I have gotten anything this close to a cease and desist letter from a lawyer, and on some deep and perverse level it makes me feel important.

Gawd, I am so unbelievably lame.

Signs of the Apocalypse

Jonah f%$#ing Goldberg is the voice of reason (I cannot believe I just said that) on the GOP’s demonization of the FBI: (I also cannot believe that I am linking to the National f%$#ing Review)

He’s saying that this stuff is overheated, and people should wait until we have more data.

When Jonah Goldberg is the voice of reason on any issue, you have entered the Twilight Zone.

This Is a Truly Sick Burn

Donald Trump contacted the Guggenheim Museum and asked to borrow a Van Goch to hang in the Presidential Residence.

The museum declined his request, but offered a recently closed exhibit:

The emailed response from the Guggenheim’s chief curator to the White House was polite but firm: The museum could not accommodate a request to borrow a painting by Vincent van Gogh for President and Melania Trump’s private living quarters.

Instead, wrote the curator, Nancy Spector, another piece was available, one that was nothing like “Landscape With Snow,” the 1888 van Gogh rendering of a man in a black hat walking along a path in Arles, France, with his dog.

The curator’s alternative: an 18-karat, fully functioning, solid gold toilet — an interactive work titled “America” that critics have described as pointed satire aimed at the excess of wealth in this country.

For a year, the Guggenheim had exhibited “America” — the creation of contemporary artist Maurizio Cattelan — in a public restroom on the museum’s fifth floor for visitors to use.

But the exhibit was over and the toilet was available “should the President and First Lady have any interest in installing it in the White House,” Spector wrote in an email obtained by The Washington Post.


This is Brilliant

Trump is trying to add a question to the 2020 Census about citizenship status, likely for a court challenge to reduce Congressional representation for blue states by depressing immigrant responses.

Thankfully, this process is rather involved.

Gerard Magliocca looks at the question, and comes up with a brilliant question to add to the census:

I have a separate suggestion. If we are going to add new questions to the census about citizenship, then I would propose reviving one that was asked in the 1870 census. The modern version would ask all citizens above the age of 18 whether their right to vote has ever been “denied . . . or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion or other crime.” This is language from of Section Two of the Fourteenth Amendment, which states that if states deny or abridge suffrage to presumptively eligible voters to excess then their representation in Congress shall be reduced.

It’s never gonna happen, but that made my day.

Kudos to Montana

The Big Sky State has become the first red state to draft net neutrality regulations in response to the FCC repeal of net neutrality:

Montana will require Internet service providers to follow net neutrality principles in order to receive state government contracts.

Governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat, today signed an executive order imposing that requirement beginning July 1, 2018.

“There has been a lot of talk around the country about how to respond to the recent decision by Federal Communications Commission to repeal net neutrality rules, which keep the Internet free and open,” Bullock said. “It’s time to actually do something about it. This is a simple step states can take to preserve and protect net neutrality. We can’t wait for folks in Washington, DC, to come to their senses and reinstate these rules.”

Seriously, Montana?

I’m thinking that this issue may be an albatross around the neck of the Republicans.