Friday, November 18, 2011

Last Call

The laser like focus by House Republicans on creating jobs anything but creating jobs continues as this week they've spent hours grilling Energy Secretary henry Chu about his job...

The hearing was filled with political attacks through five hours of questioning. Republicans scolded Chu and fired questions at him about what he knew and when he knew it, often cutting him off as he answered. One after another accused him of breaking the law.

...want Eric Holder to lose his job over what "gunwalker" programs his Bush-era predecessors set up...

Forty Republicans sent a letter to President Obama on Thursday pushing him to ask for Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation.
The letter, spearheaded by Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), highlights Holder’s role in the botched gun-tracking operation known as Fast and Furious, which was run under the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). 
...killed high-speed rail job creation across the country as another budget hostage....

Republicans trumpeted what they said was the death of the president's six-year, $53 billion plan, saying the future of fast trains lies along the Northeast Corridor, The Hill writes. The funding was eliminated in a deal with Democrats on a spending bill for the Transportation Department and other agencies. The measure cleared the House by 298-121 and the Senate by 70-30 on its way to Obama's desk.
...and now plan to make job-killing austerity enshrined in the Constitution through a time-wasting vote that will never pass.

The House of Representatives plans to vote Friday on a constitutional amendment mandating a balanced federal budget — an effort expected ultimately to fail, but one that could have lingering political impact.

This week in job creation, brought to you by the Republican Party.  If the One Percent ain't happy, ain't nobody going to get a damn thing.

Faster Than A Speeding Neutrino

The "are neutrinos faster than light" controversy continues to speed along.  Last month I noted there was a major red flag in readings for the test that showed neutrinos could beat Einstein's speed limit:

When it comes to relativity, frame of reference is everything. The satellite in this experiment was moving from West to East, tilted 55ยบ in reference to the equator. Taken from this vantage point, the distance between the source of the neutrinos at CERN and the detector in Italy are actually changing. The excellent Physics arXiv blog at MIT’s Technology Review quotes van Elburg as saying, “From the perspective of the clock, the detector is moving towards the source and consequently the distance travelled by the particles as observed from the clock is shorter.”

Van Elburg says that this would throw off the experiment’s timing by 32 nanoseconds on each end of the experiment, for a total of roughly 64 nanoseconds of error in the experiment overall. This would mean that neutrino speed is quite similar to that of light, but not faster.

But now scientists have conducted more readings accounting for this time frame reference shift:

To account for this, the beams sent by CERN in this latest experiment were around three nanoseconds shorter, with large gaps of 524 nanoseconds between them, meaning the scientists at Gran Sasso would time their arrival more accurately.

"In this way, compared to the previous measurement, the neutrinos bunches are narrower and more spaced from each other," the scientists said. "This permits to make a more accurate measure of their velocity at the price of a much lower beam intensity."

Jacques Martino, director of the French National Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics, who worked on the second experiment, said that while this test was not a full confirmation, it did remove some of the potential systematic errors that may have occurred in the first one.

"The search is not over," he said in a statement. "There are more checks of systematics currently under discussion."

So it seems even when correcting for the clock, neutrinos still appear to be faster than light in the latest experiment.  If this continues to hold true it's going to revolutionize physics...but there's still a long way to go on this one.

Light-years, even.

Sexy Eyes? That's A Flogging

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Saudi women with attractive eyes may be forced to cover them up, the news website Bikya Masr reported, in a move that could mark the latest repressive measure taken against women by the Islamic state.

A spokesperson for Saudi Arabia's Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV), Sheikh Motlab al Nabet, said the committee had the right to stop women revealing "tempting" eyes in public.

The CPVPV has repeatedly been accused of human rights violations. Founded in 1940, its function is to ensure Islamic laws are not broken in public in Saudi Arabia.

In 2002 the committee refused to allow female students out of a burning school in Mecca because they were not wearing correct head cover, report said. The decision contributed to the high death toll of 15 people who were killed in the fire.
Here's a way to stop temptation: keep your dick in your pants or I'll cut it off.  I'd choose that over having to hide my face, my eyes, my arms, anything that might be a temptation.  I cannot wrap my head around what other women in this world are forced to go through.  Who gets to decide if their eyes are too sexy?  The same committee that has been investigated for violation of human rights?

Jesus.  It makes me want to go on Weight Watchers, work out so I have a rock hard body, and strut naked through their streets in a bulletproof bubble.  Then the old farts could drop of heart attacks and women freed to show their face in public.

Wired Columnist Says Google Has "Uphill Climb" For Cloud Dominance

John Stokes of Wired recently attended a Google event, and has some pretty interesting insights into the future of Google and cloud computing.  At times he praises, at times he criticizes, but his main point is that right now the ever-popular Gmail is Google's key to dominance.  And of course, he's absolutely right.  Right now, the vast majority of people who use a single Google service are on Gmail.  He even brings in Metcalfe's Law and shows where Google will struggle.  I see his point, but I don't think they will struggle as much as he thinks.

Rather than bombard users with a suite of productivity, Google makes sure they are visibly available while keeping their focus on the one service that every Internet user has: email.  By integrating email with chat and smart phones, they have taken that service and made it portable and universal.  They are just now working out any kinks in your email being a portal into the Google universe, and are in no hurry to launch.  The more people who sign up for Gmail give them power, geeks enjoy having an edge, and regular users are growing more frustrated with expensive and glitchy commercial products.  One targeted advertising campaign can start the landslide.  I imagine it would go something like this: Do you really type enough to warrant spending hundreds of dollars for the software? If not, come to Google!

Google was definitely aware of this Gmail-centric dynamic, as evidenced by the fact that Google VP of Product Management Dave Girouard kept insisting to attendees and the press that “email isn’t dead yet!” and stressing just how critical it still is to the enterprise. So there was some nervousness there around the fact that Gmail is to Google’s cloud offerings what AdWords is to Google’s bottom line—i.e., it’s the bread-and-butter, and everything else is sort of nascent and aspirational.

Now, to be clear, the assembled CIOs were asked in a panel if they were using the non-Gmail parts of Google Apps, and they answered in the affirmative to varying degrees. But it was obvious that none of them did a Google migration based on, say, the docs or the spreadsheet. Time and again their remarks came back to how many disparate email systems Gmail had replaced, and how much money that was saving. CIOs are converting their employees to Google Apps in order to get away from the headache of legacy email systems, and in the process they’re also trying to entice employees to switch from Microsoft Office to Google’s competing offerings.
It’s worth thinking about why Gmail is the main way that Google is getting into the enterprise. Email is a communication network, and as such it obeys Metcalfe’s Law, which says that the value of a communication network is proportional to the square of the number of users. So every person who signs up for an email account anywhere on the Internet adds in a nonlinear fashion to the aggregate value of “email” as a network.
In general, all businesses everywhere communicate internally and externally via a critical Microsoft Office “network” that runs on top of the email network in the form of document attachments. Any of those businesses can move to Gmail without losing access to that incredibly large and valuable Office network, but they cannot move to Google Apps’ other offerings without losing access it. So Metcalfe’s law actually works against Google’s efforts to migrate users from Office to Google Apps.
The only thing I think he overlooked here is new growth.  When the economy swings back and new businesses begin to boom, through consultants and cheaper IT labor (IT professionals have struggled with huge competition in the job market) businesses will start on the free and well advertised Google network.  You know, the one that works easily with different operating systems, Android phones, tablets and laptops?  Yeah, that one.  Virtually everyone will have a Gmail so you avoid the issue of having to have multiple accounts to collaborate.

Microsoft's outrageous licensing fees will be their downfall.  Those who have resented being stuck with the bill are actively seeking alternatives.  Google's other side services have time to develop and be competitive with Office.  If they can match or outperform Microsoft Office, we'll have a winner.

Cuban Stupidity Crisis

(CNN)While campaigning in Miami on Wednesday, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, who's taken heat over his knowledge of foreign policy, dodged questions on issues related to Cuba.
Asked by a reporter if he supported the "wet-foot, dry-foot policy," which allows Cuban immigrants to stay in the United States once they get in, Cain responded: "Wet-foot, dry-foot policy?"

The Miami Herald reports that Cain's handlers then intercepted the questioning and rushed Cain away from the press. When he came back later, Cain didn't answer another question about the topic, instead saying, "Gotta run, gentleman," the newspaper reported.
In a speech earlier in the day, Cain seemed to outline his approach to Cuba without going into specifics.
"One of my principles is: Go to the source closest to the problem," Cain said. "I want to get from Cuban leaders [in South Florida] a solution of what we should do."
Cain, whose campaign surge kicked off in Florida about seven weeks ago when he won a closely-watched straw poll in the state, drew enthusiastic crowds throughout the day at different stops.
Later at Versailles Restaurant, located in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, a reporter asked about President Barack Obama's decision to scale back some travel restrictions to Cuba, to which Cain reportedly said that was a "gotcha question."
Surrounded by much fanfare, Cain enjoyed a pastry at the restaurant's bakery, asking at one point with his mouth full, "How do you say 'delicious' in Cuban?"
A supporter quickly answered back: "Delicioso." The word is in Spanish, as there is no "Cuban" language.
"Delicioso," Cain repeated, while still chewing. "Delicioso."
The depth of his stupidity knows no bounds.  Neither does his ego.  His vision of a president doesn't even include knowing what is going on regarding foreign policy.  He tells the poor it's their fault for being poor, and is backed by Donald Trump.

At this point, I can't even think of a single positive thing to say about this man.  Begone from my headlines, sir! 

It Was Always About Demand

This Bloomberg article is making the rounds in the econ blogs as Atif Mian and Amir Sufi investigate the causes of recession.  It gets into the weeds a bit but it's a good read (emphasis mine):

Our research suggests that 65 percent of the job losses from 2007 to 2009 came from the drop in household spending induced by the collapse in home prices and its effect on a highly levered household sector.

The first observation we made was that there was a large amount of variation across the U.S. in household-debt levels just before the recession began. In areas that experienced strong increases in home values, debt skyrocketed from 2001 to 2007. However, there were many places that avoided the housing boom and experienced no significant house-price appreciation. In these areas, household-debt levels remained steady in the years before the recession began.

By examining the differences in household balance sheets as of 2006, we were able to tease out how the weak ones are affecting the economy. In a study with Kamalesh Rao of MasterCard Advisors, we showed that areas of high debt experienced a severe shock to house prices and spending from 2007 to 2010.

For example, in U.S. counties in the top decile of the household-debt distribution, house prices fell 30 percent from 2006 to 2009 and spending dropped 15 percent from 2007 to 2009. The consumption decline was across the board; even grocery spending was significantly lower in U.S. counties with severe debt problems

In other words, the housing depression created the larger recession that by all accounts we're still in, and what the housing depression continues to do is eliminate demand in all other sectors.  I have always argued that this was a demand-driven recession, not a supply side one as many conservatives continue to scream about.

Where the two schools of thought differ the most is whether or not the government should do anything.  Conservatives say that government interference in itself caused the housing depression, so we must now have government do nothing to fix it.  That's like saying "an innocent bystander was killed in a police shootout with criminals, let's get rid of police."

The last 30 years has so destroyed the American middle class that finally we ran out of power to buy things.  The Republicans want to remedy this by reducing that buying power even more.  Without consumption in a consumption-driven economy, you get what we have right now, a weird bifurcated economy with falling prices on big ticket stuff and rising prices on staples and commodities basically rowing in opposite directions on the economic rowboat, in addition to recovering prices on the really, really high end stuff.

Which is why all the nonsense about "we're spending too much" is idiocy.

We The People Versus Michele Bachmann

This is what happens when "facts optional" Republicans go out into the country to face actual citizens instead of heavily managed campaign stops and invitation-only meetings where critics aren't allowed:  you find out just how ignorant these Clown Car Kids are.  Take Shelly Bachmann, for instance.

With the air of a college instructor, Michele Bachmann essentially gave college students a Conservative 101 on the economy, national and foreign affairs and other important issues on Thursday in Iowa. But when the Republican presidential candidate took questions, some students turned the tables on their lecturer, peppering her with tough questions.

The Minnesota congresswoman appeared at a town hall at Drake University in Des Moines. Campus Republicans sponsored the event and helped pack the room.

But a few students who support President Barack Obama spotted in the crowd before the event began foretold of tense exchanges ahead. At least two of them sat onstage just inches away from Bachmann - one of them wearing a T-shirt with the president's image.

And it got bad, fast.  College kids aren't morons.

"You used the line of 'bullet to the head' for the American military," one student said.

"Part of the super committee, is that there would be mandatory cuts on either side - on entitlement programs and the military spending aspect of it. I would classify it as a bullet to the American family head if our entitlement programs in this country were cut drastically," the student added. "For the people who depend on that - that are in an unemployed situation where they need federal aid.they're the most vulnerable."

Bachmann responded by reiterating that the nation is spending too much.

Another student asked: "You said that you wanted to increase offshore drilling and just drilling in general for oil. So that you could decrease the price of oil in the near future. Don't you think that would kind of just be beating a dead horse instead of trying to find a reasonable solution for the long term?"

Bachmann reiterated her stance that the U.S. has tremendous energy resources, "But the problem is, even our own Department of Energy, won't let us access them."

Another student questioned Bachmann on national service programs, such as AmeriCorps: "You've gone on record as opposing those. So just wondering, if elected president, you might make that a part of your agenda? And if you think it's a good idea, during this economy, to take away opportunities for young people to serve their country?"

"Well it isn't the idea of young people not serving their country," Bachmann said. "The point is, we're broke. I don't know if you all have gotten that message yet from me this morning," Bachmann said.

Arguably the most tense exchange came as Bachmann restated her opposition to "Obamacare."
As she criticized specifics of the nation's health care law, one student shouted: "So screw the sick and homeless?"

"Who said that?" Bachmann asked.

"You have," the student said.

"You could not be further from the truth," Bachmann shot back. "You're looking at someone who lived below poverty. Have you ever lived at that?"

Bachmann continued: "I know what I had to do. I got a job. That's what you need to do. You need to figure out how to get a job and make your way."

And all she has for them is "get a job you lazy college pukes!"   God forbid she gave an answer that wasn't a bitter condemnation of these kids as the privileged class (unlike Bachmann and her farm subsidies and Congressional health care) or that wasn't a GOP talking point.

No wonder she's at, what, 6% in the polls?   It's all she is, a joke.


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