09/28/2015 archive

The kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful I’ve ever known.

Still a failure.  Let’s just lie about it shall we?

U.S. Air Force instructs airmen on exactly how to praise the F-35

by  Clay Dillow, Fortune Magazine

September 25, 2015, 4:40 PM EDT

The Pentagon’s embattled F-35 jet fighter program received some much-needed good press last week when a group of U.S. Air Force F-35 pilots heaped praise upon the aircraft. This week those remarks-made at an event showcasing the fighter aircraft at Andrews Air Force Base-appear somewhat less genuine.

An eight-page internal Air Force memo marked “not for public release” is nonetheless making the public rounds this week, potentially erasing any P.R. bump last week’s showcase may have imparted on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. Simply titled “Public Affairs Guidance,” the document details how airmen should “articulate the capabilities of the aircraft and (explain why we need the F-35)” to members of the news media, lawmakers, and other “opinion leaders”.

One particular response in the leaked media script directly addresses an earlier leaked memo unearthed and partially published by defense blog War is Boring. In that memo, an F-35 pilot details the many shortcomings (and defeats) of the F-35 when pitted in mock air-to-air “dogfights” with a much older F-16-one of the many older combat jets the F-35 is slated to replace. The memo instructs airmen to repeat the assertion the Air Force made at the time: That the F-35 is designed to attack stealthily from a distance rather than up close, and that the mock air-to-air trials in question weren’t even designed to evaluate the F-35’s dogfighting skills (the editors at War is Boring who saw the leaked memo say otherwise).

This summer alone the program has had to defend itself against both the leaked dogfighting memo and a scathing analysis from think tank National Security Network. The security analysis concluded that the F-35 will perform poorly against “near-peer” enemies and suggested the Pentagon find a way to reduce its planned purchase of more than 2,400 jets for the Navy, Marines, and Air Force.

The program faces another potential image challenge in the days ahead as Congress continues battling over the U.S. federal budget. If the gridlock continues, a government shutdown or a continuing resolution capping defense spending at fiscal 2015 levels would almost certainly derail the Pentagon’s plan to ramp up F-35 production in the next year.

The Pentagon needs that production boost in order to push down the per-aircraft price and fend off the oft-repeated criticism that at roughly $100 million per copy (depending on which version) the F-35 program is simply too expensive.


Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.- Margaret Mead

It’s too early to celebrate the end of TPP (secret meetings next week) or the stopping of Keystone XL (sure, Hillary’s against it… now) BUT Shell Oil is done drilling in the Arctic this season and says they’ll never come back.

Shell abandons Alaska Arctic drilling

Terry Macalister, The Guardian

Monday 28 September 2015 04.27 EDT

Shell has abandoned its controversial drilling operations in the Alaskan Arctic in the face of mounting opposition.

Its decision, which has been welcomed by environmental campaigners, follows disappointing results from an exploratory well drilled 80 miles off Alaska’s north-west coast. Shell said it had found oil and gas but not in sufficient quantities.

The company has come under increasing pressure from shareholders worried about the plunging share price and the costs of what has so far been a futile search in the Chukchi Sea.

Shell has also privately made clear it is taken aback by the public protests against the drilling which are threatening to seriously damage its reputation.

Ben van Beurden, the chief executive, is also said to be worried that the Arctic is undermining his attempts to influence the debate around climate change.

His attempts to argue that a Shell strategy of building up gas as a “transitional” fuel to pave the way to a lower carbon future has met with scepticism, partly because of the Arctic operations.

A variety of consultants have also argued that Arctic oil is too expensive to find and develop in either a low oil price environment or in a future world with a higher price on carbon emissions.

In a statement today, Marvin Odum, director of Shell Upstream Americas, said: “Shell continues to see important exploration potential in the basin, and the area is likely to ultimately be of strategic importance to Alaska and the US. However, this is a clearly disappointing exploration outcome for this part of the basin.”

“Shell will now cease further exploration activity in offshore Alaska for the foreseeable future. This decision reflects both the Burger J well result, the high costs associated with the project, and the challenging and unpredictable federal regulatory environment in offshore Alaska.”

Shell Will Stop Drilling In The Arctic

by Samantha Page, Think Progress

Sep 28, 2015 9:25am

“This is a victory for everyone who has stood up for the Arctic. Whether they took to kayaks or canoes, rappelled from bridges, or spread the news in their own communities, millions of people around the world have taken action against Arctic drilling,” Greenpeace USA executive director Annie Leonard said in a statement.

Leonard took the opportunity to call on President Obama to prohibit any future drilling in the area.

“Today, President Obama can also make history by cancelling any future drilling and declaring the U.S. Arctic Ocean off limits to oil companies. There is no better time to keep fossil fuels like Arctic oil in the ground, bringing us one step closer to an energy revolution and sustainable future,” she said.

Shell backtracks on controversial Arctic drilling plan

By Yanan Wang, Washington Post

September 28 at 6:37 AM

(A) serendipitous moment arrived for environmentalists early Monday, when Shell announced that it will abandon its drilling venture in the Arctic waters off Alaska’s coast for the “foreseeable future.”

“Shell has found indications of oil and gas in the Burger J well,” said a company statement referring to its exploration in the Chukchi Sea, “but these are not sufficient to warrant further exploration in the Burger prospect. The well will be sealed and abandoned in accordance with U.S. regulations.”

“That’s incredible. That’s huge,” the Anchorage World Wildlife Fund’s Margaret Williams told the AP. “All along the conservation community has been pointing to the challenging and unpredictable environmental conditions. We always thought the risk was tremendously great.”

The Breakfast Club (Apocalypse!)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgOr not (sigh).

You know, whenever one of these warnings about the end of the Universe, or Earth, or even just the Tri-State area (were you aware that we got issued an erroneous Tsunami alert last week?), and I have a deadline, there is always a fair part of me that hopes it’s true just so I can avoid writing.

It’s a hateful, horrible task that sucks out your soul photon by photon and I do love it so.

The ‘Super’ Blood Moon Non-Apocalypse Is Upon Us

By Chas Danner, New York Magazine

September 27, 2015

(M)uch of the U.S. will be able to witness the rare convergence of a total lunar eclipse and a so-called “supermoon,” which is when the moon appears a whopping 7 percent larger because it’s at the closest point of its orbit of the Earth.

A lunar eclipse is also referred to as a “blood moon,” due to the reddish-brown color the eclipsed moon gets after the sun’s light is filtered through the particulates in our atmosphere. Put another way, as Plait adds, “If you were standing on the Moon, it’s like you’re seeing every sunrise and sunset on Earth all at once,” or put even another way, its like projecting all the crap in our atmosphere onto the surface of the moon. Bonus: Tonight is a harvest moon as well.

Tonight is thus a harvest-super-blood moon, as well as the possible end of the world if you’re a believer of fringe religious theories suggesting that. But while astrophysicists are certain the world will end some day, NASA insists that won’t be tonight.

And here we all are still, fixed in our orbits like the Moon.  This is what I did for entertainment last night-

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Yup.  Four hours doing squats behind a camera in the dark only it wasn’t so dark because I was in a parking lot behind a school that was brightly lit and under 24 hour a day surveillance as the helpful sign informed me.  I only got busted by the cops twice.

The first time they came by it was me and my camera and the Officer very helpfully suggested I must be out to watch the Blood Moon.

Why yes.  Yes I am.  Pay no attention to my home made digital clock (I’m not the tidiest of solderers).

I got there early, but right on time the SUVs with the kidlings arrived to see the show.  They paid very little attention, preferring to play flashlight tag (very distracting) and throw balls (even more distracting if you weren’t ready to think quick).

I admit it’s a rather slow moving event for a child, I on the other hand was quite busy, especially during those times when it was too dark for the viewfinder and you had to take Aperture Priority shots just to line up the camera.

I took over 300 photos of which I’ve identified 5 that are almost acceptable.  In addition to the pointing problem focus is also an issue, as far as I know my camera decides what it likes.

10:45 was peak eclipsish and everyone packed up the rug rats and headed home.  I bitter ended because I was (correctly) not confident in the quality of any of my shots.  The cops rolled around again when everything was as desolate as it was when I arrived.

How did it go?

Ok I guess.  Don’t believe them when they say that this is it until 2033.  There will be other Eclipses and other Super Moons, just not the two together.

Sports AND Entertainment

My family reads my blogs (yes, I have one) and my cousin’s kids as I think I’ve mentioned are big Nationals fans.  Therefore I will just quietly mention that The New York City Metropolitans are National League East Champions and link to this.  

It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.  Then it’s just fun.

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. –Aristotle

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: The Blackmail Caucus, a.k.a. the Republican Party

John Boehner was a terrible, very bad, no good speaker of the House. Under his leadership, Republicans pursued an unprecedented strategy of scorched-earth obstructionism, which did immense damage to the economy and undermined America’s credibility around the world.

Still, things could have been worse. And under his successor they almost surely will be worse. Bad as Mr. Boehner was, he was just a symptom of the underlying malady, the madness that has consumed his party. [..]

John Boehner was a terrible, very bad, no good speaker of the House. Under his leadership, Republicans pursued an unprecedented strategy of scorched-earth obstructionism, which did immense damage to the economy and undermined America’s credibility around the world.

Still, things could have been worse. And under his successor they almost surely will be worse. Bad as Mr. Boehner was, he was just a symptom of the underlying malady, the madness that has consumed his party.

For me, Mr. Boehner’s defining moment remains what he said and did as House minority leader in early 2009, when a newly inaugurated President Obama was trying to cope with the disastrous recession that began under his predecessor.

Dean Baker: The ongoing epidemic of corporate crime

Volkswagen is just the latest scandal from an epic decade of white-collar criminality

Even those who have little respect for the state of corporate ethics must have been surprised by the news from Volkswagen. It turns out that the largest car company in world deliberately designed software to allow its cars to deceive emissions testing in the United States. [..]

We may never know the details of how the top brass at Volkswagen thought it would be a good idea to cheat on emissions tests, but they obviously decided that the savings from going this route was worth the risk of detection and the potential punishment. And if the only punishment is a stretch of unemployment for people who have spent years in high-paying jobs, they are probably right.

The fate of the Volkswagen executives responsible for this fraud is likely to rest largely in the hands of the German legal system, but it is unlikely that they would face serious consequences if they were in the U.S. legal system. Corporate crime is rarely taken seriously, even when it results in avoidable deaths, whether they are caused by excess emissions because of Volkswagen’s decision to circumvent the law or by GM’s cover-up of faulty ignition switches or by Toyota’s cover-up of faulty floor mats that made cars accelerate.

Larry Beinhart: [How journalism helps lunacy become reality

If the US is to return to a ‘fact-based world,’ reporters need to recommit to objective reality

After the second prime-time Republican presidential debate on Sept. 16, The New York Times published an astonishing editorial. It said the candidates must be “no longer living in a fact-based world” and described what they said as “a collection of assertions so untrue, so bizarre that they form a vision as surreal as the Ronald Reagan jet looming behind the candidates’ lecterns.”

It was about time that someone as authoritative as The New York Times editorial board said it as bluntly as that.

One of the things that made the editorial so striking is that the news coverage of the same events, in the same paper as well as in the rest of the media, treated what the candidates said as almost entirely unremarkable.

That prompts interesting questions. Why was this only an editorial? Why wasn’t it in the news? Shouldn’t it be newsworthy that the leading contenders for the Republican nomination are “no longer living in a fact-based world” and that what they say is “untrue … bizarre … surreal”?

Robert Kuttner: Et Tu, Janet Yellen?

Barely a week after Fed Chair Janet Yellen cheered her many admirers by fending off pressures to raise interest rates in a weak recovery, Yellen reversed course. In a long, dense, technical lecture at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst on Thursday, Yellen concluded by indicating that the Fed is likely to raise rates by the end of 2015 after all.

So what’s at work here? Obviously, economic conditions did not change between September 17 and September 24. Workers’ wages continue to be flat, despite a gradual reduction in the official unemployment rate. The inflation rate continues to be well below the Fed’s official target of 2 percent, with indications that it will go lower. Economic conditions outside the United States continued to be soft and getting softer in Europe, China, and much of South America, suggesting a drag on growth.

Why, then, does it make sense not to raise rates in September but to hike them in December, when a rate increase three months from now is just as likely to slow the recovery?

Robert Reich: Why We Must End Upward Pre-Distributions to the Rich

You often hear inequality has widened because globalization and technological change have made most people less competitive, while making the best educated more competitive.

There’s some truth to this. The tasks most people used to do can now be done more cheaply by lower-paid workers abroad or by computer-driven machines.

But this common explanation overlooks a critically important phenomenon: the increasing concentration of political power in a corporate and financial elite that has been able to influence the rules by which the economy runs.

Charles M. Blow: Jeb Bush, ‘Free Stuff’ and Black Folks

At a campaign event in South Carolina on Thursday, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush was asked how he planned to include black people in his campaign and get them to vote for him.

Bush responded, “Our message is one of hope and aspiration.” But he didn’t stop there. He continued: “It isn’t one of division and get in line and we’ll take care of you with free stuff. Our message is one that is uplifting – that says you can achieve earned success.” [..]

The problem isn’t refusal to work, but inability to find work that is stable and pays a living wage, thereby pushing them out of need and eligibility.

Bush’s comment also hints at the role of black men without acknowledging the disastrous toll racially skewed patterns of mass incarceration have taken on the fortunes of black families by disproportionately ensnaring black men.

All history and context are cast aside in support of a specious argument: That the black community is plagued by pathological dependence and a chronic, self-defeating posture of victimization.

On This Day In History September 28

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 28 is the 271st day of the year (272nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 94 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1928, the antibiotic Penicillin was discovered. It’s discovery is attributed to Scottish scientist and Nobel laureate Alexander Fleming in 1928. He showed that, if Penicillium notatum  was grown in the appropriate substrate, it would exude a substance with antibiotic properties, which he dubbed penicillin. This serendipitous  observation began the modern era of antibiotic discovery. The development of penicillin for use as a medicine is attributed to the Australian Nobel laureate Howard Walter Florey together with the German Nobel laureate Ernst Chain and the English biochemist Norman Heatley.

However, several others reported the bacteriostatic effects of Penicillium earlier than Fleming. The use of bread with a blue mould (presumably penicillium) as a means of treating suppurating wounds was a staple of folk medicine in Europe since the Middle Ages. The first published reference appears in the publication of the Royal Society in 1875, by John Tyndall. Ernest Duchesne documented it in an 1897 paper, which was not accepted by the Institut Pasteur because of his youth. In March 2000, doctors at the San Juan de Dios Hospital in San José, Costa Rica published the manuscripts of the Costa Rican scientist and medical doctor Clodomiro (Clorito) Picado Twight (1887-1944). They reported Picado’s observations on the inhibitory actions of fungi of the genus Penicillium between 1915 and 1927. Picado reported his discovery to the Paris Academy of Sciences, yet did not patent it, even though his investigations started years before Fleming’s. Joseph Lister was experimenting with penicillum in 1871 for his Aseptic surgery. He found that it weakened the microbes but then he dismissed the fungi.

Fleming recounted that the date of his discovery of penicillin was on the morning of Friday, September 28, 1928. It was a fortuitous accident: in his laboratory in the basement of St. Mary’s Hospital in London (now part of Imperial College), Fleming noticed a petri dish containing Staphylococcus plate culture he had mistakenly left open, which was contaminated by blue-green mould, which had formed a visible growth. There was a halo of inhibited bacterial growth around the mould. Fleming concluded that the mould was releasing a substance that was repressing the growth and lysing the bacteria. He grew a pure culture and discovered that it was a Penicillium mould, now known to be Penicillium notatum. Charles Thom, an American specialist working at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was the acknowledged expert, and Fleming referred the matter to him. Fleming coined the term “penicillin” to describe the filtrate of a broth culture of the Penicillium mould. Even in these early stages, penicillin was found to be most effective against Gram-positive bacteria, and ineffective against Gram-negative organisms and fungi. He expressed initial optimism that penicillin would be a useful disinfectant, being highly potent with minimal toxicity compared to antiseptics of the day, and noted its laboratory value in the isolation of “Bacillus influenzae” (now Haemophilus influenzae). After further experiments, Fleming was convinced that penicillin could not last long enough in the human body to kill pathogenic bacteria, and stopped studying it after 1931. He restarted clinical trials in 1934, and continued to try to get someone to purify it until 1940.