Saturday, October 6, 2012

Interrogations And False Confessions

The Guardian, via nc links:
Depriving a person of sleep removes their ability to think and act coherently. They have delusions and hallucinations, and the desire for sleep becomes so desperate that a person deprived of it will often do almost anything for reprieve – including, as happened in the Central Park case, admitting to murder.
The Central Park Five all took back their confessions upon being formally arrested. They were kids who had been kept awake for nearly two days and interrogated without attorneys present; they were told if they confessed, they could go home. The stories they told in their confessions were inconsistent with each other and with the physical evidence. Several of the boys said they stabbed the victim, but there were no knife wounds. Their stories varied on the location of the crime, the description of the victim and the timeline of the crime itself. There was little physical evidence tying them to the rape and beating. They were prosecuted and convicted anyway.
In the meantime, Matias Reyes, the man who actually raped and nearly killed the Central Park jogger, continued on his spree of serial rapes throughout New York City. Reyes had violently assaulted several women before the Central Park rape, including his own mother; the same year he committed the Central Park assault, he was also actively breaking into women's apartments and stabbing out the eyes of his victims so that they couldn't identify him after he raped them. He killed at least one of them.
In 2002, while in jail for rape and murder, Reyes admitted to the Central Park rape. DNA evidence tied him to the crime.
It goes on to say that after the defendants were exonerated, the police chief still claimed what the cops did was legit.  I don't understand how you could use such flimsy confessions as evidence in a trial when most of it didn't add up.  If several guys claimed to stab the victim, but there were no stabbing wounds, what's up with that?  They got confused?  Our legal system suffers from some extremely serious maladies.

College Football Trophies So Far

Last week, Iowa captured Floyd of Rosedale. This week,Michigan State won the Old Brass Spittoon and Miami (OH) and Cincinnati battle for the Victory Bell while Northern Illinois and Ball State play for the Bronze Stalk.

MIT Architecture

I'm impressed by the science and potentially useful applications in this work, but the artsy fartsy shit does nothing for me.  If you can develop materials or design methods which can make these architectural features but also make more efficient and practical wind turbine blades or motor drives or automobiles or self-draining streets (those foaming concretes) or whatever, then you've got something I'm really interested in. But architects are so different from me


MIT Architecture from Paper Fortress on Vimeo.

The Problem With Democrats

Mobutu Sese Seko:
But this has always been Obama. Transformative "bipartisanship" works in elections like 2008, after a genuine national catastrophe, where there are no incumbents. Change wins because any change is mandated. What nobody expected was that he actually believed his bipartisanship line. And he still seems to believe in bipartisan change—despite four years of being called a Muslim Commie Nazi—when he's the incumbent against whom "change" works, when he's seen the Republican leader in the senate literally pledge that his party would lift no finger to create ameliorative legislation, lest it result in Obama's reelection.
In 2008, it was just dangerous naiveté. The American right spent eight years under Clinton creating insurrectionary militias in wait for black helicopters, United Nations occupation, one-world socialist government and Clinton becoming Dictator for Life. And Clinton was a white dude from the south who liked doinking plus-sized women with feathered hair. What the fuck did Obama think those people were going to do with a black guy? The only explanation for the persistence of his attitude now is hubris—a dim, ineradicable faith in the transcendence of his own oratory, in spite of the fact that it's a mush-mouthed, knives-out, meathead reality that drafts the budget every year.
Watching the left-wing establishment's response to the debate only confirmed their complicity in what transpired in it. THEY BUILT THIS. They give a token quadrennial handjob to unions, before kicking them back to the curb—then have the audacity to be peeved that their candidate doesn't mention unions in a domestic policy debate. They rely on the fact that women and homosexuals have no other choice—then act stunned that they neither group is used as important leverage in a domestic policy debate. They take cash from the same Wall St. ghouls as the GOP—then seem aghast that a candidate spends no time embracing "the 99%." Well, no shit: to quote the vapid poster they probably tacked up next to Klimt's "The Kiss" in their dorm rooms a thousand years ago, Obama became the change you want to see in the world.
Obama's greatest failures have been in the lack of financial reform, the increase in use of drones and Bush-era surveillance techniques and the lack of willingness to actually do anything to try to address housing issues and joblessness.  Unfortunately for all, the GOP would be even worse on all of these, with a war in Iran on top of it.  There has to be a large enough coalition of sensible folks from both parties to overcome the loons and the financial and business titans and their sycophants in each party.  Unfortunately, for this to happen, we will probably need the Republicans to be in charge and run the country in the ground even worse, and for average folks to needlessly suffer even worse than they are now.  In other words, it will get worse before it gets better.

Mike Lofgren On The GOP

at Truthout:
Bill Moyers: Why did you leave the party? You'd been a Republican, what, all your life?
Mike Lofgren: I left the party because it was becoming an apocalyptic cult. Because you cannot govern a country of 310 million people that is the greatest economic power on earth and the greatest military power on earth as if it's a banana republic. You can't govern it with people who think that Obama was born overseas or who believe in all manner of nonsense about climate change. They don't even know, apparently, where babies come from, if we're to believe Todd Akin.
Bill Moyers: What do you mean "apocalyptic cult"?
Mike Lofgren: Well, I mean it literally in some cases. There's a very strong element in evangelical or fundamentalist religion that said the apocalypse is coming. And one sort of sees it subliminally in people like Michele Bachmann when the debt ceiling crisis came to a head and people were warning that we would be downgraded. And if we actually defaulted, we would possibly have to lower our standard of living and credit from abroad could dry up. And her attitude was sort of, "Bring it on. If we're all going to abide in the bosom of the Lord, by and by, it really doesn't matter whether we default."
I'll give a non-cult Amen to that. 

A Fact-Free Debate Win

This is hard to debate against:
Independent fact checkers have not been particularly kind to Mitt Romney since Wednesday's first presidential debate in Denver. But one of the candidate's claims turned out to be so far off the mark that he had to be corrected by his own aides — a fact not unnoticed by the Obama campaign.
Romney's claim was this, part of what turned out to be a highly detailed discussion of health care: "No. 1, pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan."
By pre-existing conditions, Romney was talking about the ability for people who already have medical problems — diabetes, for example, or even things like allergies — to buy health insurance. Starting in 2014, the federal Affordable Care Act says insurance companies can no longer reject people with bad health histories — nor can they charge them more.
That's already true in Massachusetts under the law Romney signed as governor. But Romney's current plan for the nation, should he be elected president, wouldn't necessarily guarantee that same protection.
"Actually, governor, that isn't what your plan does," President Obama told Romney at the debate Wednesday. "What your plan does is to duplicate what's already the law."
The president was referring to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. It's a 1996 law that says, among other things, that once you have health insurance you can continue to purchase it, as long as there's no interruption in your coverage of more than 63 days.
For most folks, repeating lies forcefully sounds damn impressive.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Student-Athlete Speaks The Truth

At least someone is being honest about big-time college football:

Just pay the dudes, give them access to classes if they want them, and call it what it is, a development league for the NFL.

Robert Gates On Israel

From Sullivan:

Amazing that Goldblog doesn't insinuate that Bob Gates is an anti-Semite for saying what this blog has been saying for the past four years:
In a meeting of the National Security Council Principals Committee held not long before his retirement this summer, Gates coldly laid out the many steps the administration has taken to guarantee Israel’s security -- access to top-quality weapons, assistance developing missile-defense systems, high-level intelligence sharing -- and then stated bluntly that the U.S. has received nothing in return, particularly with regard to the peace process. Senior administration officials told me that Gates argued to the president directly that Netanyahu is not only ungrateful, but also endangering his country by refusing to grapple with Israel’s growing isolation and with the demographic challenges it faces if it keeps control of the West Bank.
Netanyahu is also endangering this country and its citizens if he launches a unilateral war on Iran. That's not an ally; it's a one-way street. We give the Israelis everything they ask for and they give the US nothing in return.
Amen.  Robert Gates is one of the best choices W ever made.  I'm tired of evangelicals' translations of the Bible being the basis for one party's view of what our nation's foreign policy should be.  Netanyahu and Likud are a greater threat to Israel's long term survival than Iran is, and evangelicals are enabling Likud's idiocy.

Romney Calls The President Bro



Or is that some sort of programming glitch? It reminds me of this:

A Puzzling Sign

I saw two signs in eastern Champaign County that said, "Phase one, tax.  Phase two, kill."  Can anyone explain WTF this means?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Crushing Defeat or Rope-A-Dope?

For a number of reasons, I decided to skip actually watching the debate and track it secondhand.  It was kind of interesting that way.  The reaction was a majority opinion that Romney crushed Obama, and looked more Presidential.  Some others thought Romney came off as rude and domineering, but effective.  As much as it sounds like Obama got Romney to take the opposite side on positions from where he has been campaigning, does anyone think that maybe the plan was to be able to put together which Mitt is the real Mitt ads?  I'm not sure that that would explain the President's inability to effectively counter Romney's positions during the debate, especially considering it was exactly the style Romney used in the primary debates, but if it was the trap Obama's team thought would be effective, I think Romney took the bait.  I won't be surprised if there's an ad up today or tomorrow featuring Mitt recently saying the exact opposite of what he said in the debate, followed by the debate quote followed by "Which is it, Mitt?" or something along those lines. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Congratulations, Miguel Cabrera

USA Today:
There were no such thing as cellphones, Twitter and even the Internet the last time it happened, but Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown feat Wednesday still seemed lost in the dark ages.

Cabrera became the first player in 45 years to win baseball's Triple Crown, and only the 14th player in history, but the conclusion to what became an inevitable feat this week hardly resembled a coronation.

Three national baseball writers were in attendance to document the event Wednesday in Kansas City, Mo., where a sparse crowd dutifully recorded Cabrera's at-bats with their smartphones.

ESPN, however, did not cut in to Cabrera's at-bats, sticking with live coverage of the New York Yankees' chase for a division title.
That is an amazing accomplishment. Some sporting feats are just amazing.

The Good Ol" Bad Ol' Days

Charles Pierce reminisces about the shitty Red Sox of his youth, and his time with his grandpa listening to the games:
t's weeks like this that I miss my grandfather, and he's been dead since 1965. Unfiltered Camels and quart-bottles of Narragansett Lager finally got him one afternoon in the parking lot of the sign-painting company he owned in downtown Worcester, Massachusetts. (There's an arena on that spot now. His old shop was right about where the visitor's locker room was.) Old Charlie Gibbons was the guy who taught me how to watch baseball, specifically Red Sox baseball, specifically bad Red Sox baseball. He had seen so very much of it.
His life as a fan had started promisingly enough. He and his father rode the train from Worcester into Boston for a couple of games during the 1918 World Series between the Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs. What could possibly go wrong from there, what with that Ruth kid standing them on their heads the way he could? So he spent the next 47 years watching this team and, by the time he died, they were so terrible that they would finish the season 62-100.
I was his regular Sunday companion for the last five of those years. Well, me and the quart of 'Gansett and the cigarettes, anyway. He would sit in a bilious green leather recliner — one of the very first La-Z-Boys, if I recall correctly — and I would sit in a round armchair and we would watch an exercise in utter public futility. This wasn't the hyped-up "Curse of the Bambino" nonsense. He never mentioned 1946, or 1949. Johnny Pesky and Enos Slaughter never came up, though he'd lived through those moments, too. This was summer after summer of damned near hilarious incompetence. One day, in fact, I learned a new word. Frank Malzone butchered a ground ball at third base, and my grandfather erupted in a gerund that was heretofore unfamiliar to me, but that seemed important enough to my grandmother that she hustled me out of the house and into the backyard. Old girl had surprising lateral movement, I'll give her that.
Now that is what baseball is all about.  The whole thing is entertaining, almost as entertaining as watching the Red Sox suck ass. It reminds me of the terrible post-1981 Reds and the Bengals from 1991-2004.  Or the Cubs from 1908 until the present.  Or the Pirates from 1993 until the present.  Sometimes misery is more entertaining than success.

Sketch of the Day

Via Betty Cracker at Balloon Juice:


That is awesome.

The Shot Heard 'Round The World

61 years ago today.  For current baseball history, today Miguel Cabrera looks to be the first baseball Triple Crown winner since 1967.

A Job Creator's Manifesto

James Kwak:
I know that business success depends as much on luck as on innovative ideas and hard work. I know that the amount of money you make is not an indication of your value as a person or even of the value of your work.
I know that life is unfair. I know that there are people who live by the rules, pay their bills, and work hard, yet cannot afford to retire comfortably. I know that there are people who become disabled in the prime of their careers; who pay for long-term care for their parents; who struggle to pay the medical bills for their sick children; who are laid off in the depths of a recession and are unable to find new jobs.
I believe that to remain a great nation, we must do two things.
First, we must preserve the equality of opportunity that makes it possible for any American to dream of success or, at least, to look forward to a better future. We must invest in our educational system, from pre-school programs that help bridge the gap between rich and poor to public universities that train the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. We must fight discrimination in all its forms so that our society can benefit from the talents of all its members. We must ensure equal access to justice for all people, not just those who can afford good lawyers.
Second, we must recognize that not everyone will be financially successful and we must maintain a real safety net for people who need help. A society where the lucky few reap prodigious financial rewards is one where many will fall short of their dreams through no fault of their own. We must insure all people against disability, against sickness, against hunger, and against homelessness.
Wow.  Humility and common sense aren't dead yet, and entrepreneurs aren't all entitled assholes.  I am glad people are standing up to the conservative job creator myth.

Corporations, the Other Welfare Queens

James Surowiecki:
From the days of high tariffs and giant land grants to the railroads, business and government have always been tightly intertwined in this country. But, in recent decades, what you could call the corporate welfare state has become bigger. Energy companies lease almost forty million acres of onshore land in the U.S. and more than forty million offshore, and keep the lion’s share of the profits from the oil and natural gas that they pump out. In theory, this is O.K., because we get paid for the leases and we get royalties on what they sell, but in practice it often works differently. In 1996, for instance, the government temporarily lowered royalties on oil pumped in the Gulf of Mexico as a way of encouraging more drilling at a time of low oil prices. But this royalty relief wasn’t rescinded when oil prices started to rise, which gave the oil companies a windfall of billions of dollars. Something similar happened in the telecom industry in the late nineties, when the government, in order to encourage the transition to high-def TV, simply gave local broadcasters swathes of the digital spectrum worth tens of billions of dollars. In the mining industry, meanwhile, thanks to a law that was passed in 1872 and never rewritten, companies can lease federal land for a mere five dollars an acre, and then keep all the gold, silver, or uranium they find; we, the people, get no royalty payments at all. Metal prices have soared in the last decade, but the only beneficiaries have been the mine owners. In other cases, the government offers direct subsidies, like those which have helped keep many renewable-energy projects afloat. Farmers, despite food prices at record highs, still get almost five billion dollars annually in direct payments, along with billions more in crop insurance and drought aid. U.S. sugar companies benefit from the sweetest boondoggle in business: an import quota keeps American sugar prices roughly twice as high as they otherwise would be, handing the industry guaranteed profits. The tax code, too, is a useful tool for helping businesses. Domestic manufacturers collectively get a tax break of around twenty billion dollars a year. State and local governments give away seventy billion dollars annually in tax breaks and subsidies in order to lure (or keep) companies. The strategies make sense for local communities keen to generate new jobs, but, from a national perspective, since they usually just reward companies moving from one state to another, they’re simply giveaways.
That includes me.  Another group I didn't see mentioned is the defense industry.  Lockheed-Martin gets 80% of its revenue from government contracts.  Any talk of defense cuts is met with the statement that those cuts will cost jobs.  Guess what, cutting government spending anywhere costs jobs, but for conservatives, only defense jobs are important.  Same with foreign aid.  Aid for Israel is fine, since they just funnel that money to the defense industry.  Money for foreign countries to do anything else?  Bad.  I don't get it.

Teddy Roosevelt Finally Wins



Washington Post on Teddy ending his Washington Generals/Cubs/Pirates/Browns streak of ineptitude:
To the list of momentous firsts accomplished during this crazy joyride of a Nationals season — first winning record, first playoff berth, first division title, first injection of Natitude — add this: for the first time, Teddy Roosevelt won the fourth-inning Presidents Race. Yes, after more than 500 attempts since the popular race debuted at RFK Stadium in the summer of 2006, the giant-headed mascot depicting the 26th President finally crossed the finish line first.
The moment came Wednesday afternoon, during the regular-season finale against Washington’s longtime nemesis, the Philadelphia Phillies.
Wearing a red headband and bright gold shoes modeled after those made famous by world’s fastest man Usain Bolt, Teddy got off to a slow start, trailing Abe, then Jefferson, then Washington.
But a green blob intended to resemble the Phillie Phanatic felled the three leaders in the right field corner, and Roosevelt strolled home by himself as the crowd roared and began chanting his name (really).
He then ripped off his usual jersey, revealing a red “Natitude” t-shirt, and soaked in the cheers.
I figured Teddy would win sometime soon, but i was expecting it to be in the playoffs.  

Racism Isn't Dead

I was sitting at the bar in a restaurant in Northeastern Ohio last night, getting some supper.  An approximately fifty-year-old guy came in and sat down beside me.  I was staring up at a television which was playing an ad criticizing Josh Mandel (who is a lying sack of shit).  The other guy said, "We have to get him out of office."  I thought he meant Josh Mandel, but before I could respond, the guy followed up with something along the lines of, "He isn't worth a shit.  Now I'm not racist (always followed by something racist) but, I've worked with a lot of blacks over the years, and none of them was ever worth a shit."  I managed to say something about both sides not being worth a damn, and then started fiddling with my phone.  After a quiet stretch, the guy said something about not meaning to offend me.  I denied a little too vociferously that I wasn't offended, but I was just stunned by the exchange.  Rarely does one so blatantly say something so racist.  I'm still not sure what made the guy say that when a Mandel ad was on tv, but I'm assuming he just saw a political ad and assumed it was about Obama.

Patent Court Part Of Problem

Ars Technica, via Ritholtz:
The Federal Circuit was able to reshape patent law in part because the Supreme Court took a hands-off approach to the subject during the new court's first two decades. The high court rarely reviewed Federal Circuit decisions and most of the cases it did take were focused on jurisdictional questions rather than the substance of patent law.
But by the turn of the millennium, the Federal Circuit's patent-friendly stance had begun to generate a wave of patent litigation and bad press so large that it couldn't be ignored. Research would eventually find that by the turn of the century, patent litigation had become so expensive that the patent system was actually acting as a net disincentive to innovation outside of the pharmaceutical industry. The same researchers estimated that patent trolls cost the economy between $29 billion and $83 billion per year.
So, under newly-appointed Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court stepped up its oversight of the Federal Circuit's work. The justices did not like what they found. Between 2006 and 2008, the Supreme Court decided at least four major patent cases. In all four cases, the high court overruled a patent-friendly decision from the Federal Circuit. Three of the rulings were unanimous; the fourth was decided 7-1.
In one decision, the Supreme Court reiterated the need to use common sense when evaluating the obviousness of a patent. Another ruling made it harder for a patent holder to get an injunction against an infringing product. A third decision prohibited patent holders from "double dipping" by demanding patent licenses from two different firms in the same supply chain (say, a memory maker and the computer company who used that memory in its products). The final decision limited the reach of patent law over software installed on a computer overseas.
After that judicial beat-down, the Federal Circuit took some token steps to bring its decisions in line with Supreme Court precedents. In 2008, in an apparent bid to mollify the Supreme Court, the Federal Circuit overturned its own State Street decision, which had launched the software patent gold rush a decade earlier. But the Federal Circuit has continued to exhibit a strong pro-patent bias, which has forced the Supreme Court to continue overturning pro-patent rulings from the court.
Interesting.  You don't often see too much analysis of the patent court of appeals.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

An American in Brazil

From Al-Jazeera, via Big Picture Agriculture:
Phil Corzine, a fourth-generation farmer from Illinois, is living the American dream, but it's happening on dusty soy farms in the interior of Brazil, rather than the cornfields of Iowa.
Corzine, 53, owns or manages seven farms in Goias and Tocantins states in the agricultural heartland of Brazil.
He started farming in Brazil in 2004, and now his company, South American Soy, has 100 foreign investors from the US, is worth about $6m, and has started to turn a profit the past two years.
"I could have never dreamed I would be down here managing a farm in Brazil. It's quite a leap from where I started," Corzine told Al Jazeera, while watching tractors off in the distance churn up soil preparing the land for a soybean season.
For Corzine, the difficulties of navigating Brazil's bureaucracy and the poor infrastructure are offset by cheap and plentiful farmland that is a fraction of the cost of the US.
A productive, sought-after piece of farmland in the US sells between $12,000 and $15,000 an acre, Corzine said, while a comparable piece of land in Brazil costs between $500 and $1,500 per acre.
"I can buy a lot more land down here with a lot less money," Corzine said. "For example, a 5,000-acre track of farm pasture with sufficient rainfall for soybeans is hard to find for sale in the US right now. And that is what I have down here in Brazil, and there is a lot more of it available here. So it's price and availability that drives what we are doing."
Better him than me.  Even though my neighbors tell me Obama is ruining America, I'd much rather be here than there., no matter how profitable farming may be down there.

An All-American Song?



Weekend Edition Sunday:
The song "I've Been Everywhere" was a hit for a string of country stars: Hank Snow in 1962, later Lynn Anderson, then Asleep at the Wheel and Johnny Cash. An all-American classic, right? Think again.
It was actually an Australian who, 50 years ago, wrote the song while trying to come up with a new opener for his act.
"At that time, 1959 it was, there were a lot of tasteless rock numbers on the radio, and I thought, aw crikey, I should write one," Geoff Mack says.
He was in a van, looking at the road maps, and noticed that a lot of the towns' names rhymed. A song was born.
"So I came back to Sydney, and I did it around the club for a while, and that's all it was,' he says. "I never thought anybody would be the least bit interested in it."
Then one night, he heard Leslie "Lucky Star" Morrison singing his song on the radio.
"I couldn't believe it. And it was No. 1 on the Top 40 for 15 weeks," he says.
Festival Records asked him to write other versions, with town names in America, New Zealand and England.
"The English one was easy because I could almost do that without an atlas. The American one, I needed an atlas and a magnifying glass," he says. "Two hours work, and I'm still living on it 50 years later. How lucky can you get?"
I didn't know that.  The song is a good one, though.

The New Oilmen

Bryan Curtis compares Jerry Jones and Mark Cuban to the legendary Texas oilmen of the past:
"I want me some glory hole!" Jones declared at a July press conference.
As soon as those words escaped his mouth, Cowboys PR man Rich Dalrymple stepped in and explained that Jones was using a term from his former career as an oilman. What he meant — to quote yet another Papa John's commercial — was: "I've tasted greatness and I'm hungry for it again."
But the slip was revealing, because Jones was signaling a shift that he — along with Mark Cuban, T. Boone Pickens, and others — has accomplished. When we used to talk about an utterly shameless, super-rich, "larger than life" Texan, we talked about an oilman. Now, we're more likely talking about the owner of a sports franchise. J.R. has given way to J.J. The Texas sports owner is the new über-Texan, the man who embodies the state's gonzo mythology.
In his book The Big Rich, Bryan Burrough marks off 1986 as the end of the decades-long reign of Texas's "Big Four" oil families. But if Burrough was worried wheeler-dealers were being "replaced by a faceless plutocracy … somehow lacking some of that boisterous Texas joie de vivre," he needn't have been. In the winter of 1989, Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys.
Jerry Jones is a jackass.  A very successful, very lucky jackass.  But his team sucks, so ha. Also, he might want to refer to the urban dictionary.

Cow Engineering

Scientific American:
 
People allergic to whey may be able to drink newly engineered milk without the unpleasant digestive consequences, according to research released October 1.
A team of New Zealand researchers genetically engineered a cow named Daisy to produce milk free of β-lactoglobulin protein that can cause allergic skin, digestive and respiratory reactions predominantly in infants.
"Since the protein is not produced in human milk, it's not surprising that this protein may be recognized as a foreign protein in infants and cause allergies," study author and scientist at AgResearch in New Zealand Stefan Wagner told LiveScience.
Studies show that about 1 in 12 infants develops an allergic response to whey, but most infants are able to outgrow their allergy.
Strange.  I didn't know about the whey allergy.  So would people who are allergenic buy milk from a genetically engineered cow?

How Sustainable Is Shale Gas?

Solid Shale speculates that the pressure for drilling for shale gas in New York is going down because the promise of shale gas may be overhyped:
Instead, I speculate that evidence is piling up in the courts, in Washington, and on Wall St., that changes the calculus markedly.  Here are some ideas about what evidence may be behind a slightly different trim to the sails of the ship of state:
– Chesapeake Energy’s business model is being questioned… by, among others, its own stockholders, some of whom have brought suit.  Fortune has run a number of articles on this, and there are some damning quotes directly from Aubrey McClendon that seem to prove that flipping leases has been a more important component of the plan than selling natural gas.  There is a wider understanding, also, of the “drilling treadmill” that Deborah Rogers discusses in Energy Policy ForumThis line of evidence is very well substantiated by the behavior of the gas drillers in the face of record low prices.  A Saudi Prince, who does not need the money, judiciously stops production when the price tanks.  Continued development in the face of gas prices in the cellar suggests that the confidence in the gas asset in the ground may not be as high as it once was…. and/or that debt service is driving drilling new wells, which then require debt service…
– This squares very nicely with the study from the USGS, indicating that gas in the ground has been massively over-estimated, meaning that in-ground natural gas assets (which the SEC indulgently allows gas companies to estimate for themselves with no oversight) are vastly over-valued.
I always thought that Chesapeake might have been running a pump and dump with their gas leases in the Marcellus and Utica shales. I also didn't believe the 100 year supply hype.  I may be wrong, but we'll see.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Homer Votes

Catching On To Paul Ryan

Andrew Sullivan on Paul Ryan's reputation as the Republicans' deep thinker:
The WaPo piece rightly exposes him as a rigid Randian ideologue whose adherence to that theology almost single-handedly killed the S-B Commission and the already-slim chance of a Grand Bargain between Boehner and Obama. On slashing taxes, he is deeply serious. On the deficit, he is deeply unserious. Ryan in so many ways is the antithesis of a conservative. He's ideological, not pragmatic. He wants to reshape society so drastically he resembles the most fanatical lefty. Whereas a tory would want the lowest taxes compatible with a balanced budget, Ryan favors the lowest taxes, period.
So we return to another possible era of GOP-supply-side-fantasy-fueled debt. How anyone can have lived through the last thirty years and still think like that tells you something about Paul Ryan's intellectual acumen. So does the fact that he claims to be both a Randian and a Catholic. Not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree our Paul.
Amen.  Ryan is a fraud.  It is time people with functioning noggins are finally taking notice of this fact.

The History of Gorilla Glass

Wired, via Ritholtz:
Don Stookey knew he had botched the experiment. One day in 1952, the Corning Glass Works chemist placed a sample of photosensitive glass inside a furnace and set the temperature to 600 degrees Celsius. At some point during the run, a faulty controller let the temperature climb to 900 degrees C. Expecting a melted blob of glass and a ruined furnace, Stookey opened the door to discover that, weirdly, his lithium silicate had transformed into a milky white plate. When he tried to remove it, the sample slipped from the tongs and crashed to the floor. Instead of shattering, it bounced.
The future National Inventors Hall of Fame inductee didn’t know it, but he had just invented the first synthetic glass-ceramic, a material Corning would later dub Pyroceram. Lighter than aluminum, harder than high-carbon steel, and many times stronger than regular soda-lime glass, Pyroceram eventually found its way into everything from missile nose cones to chemistry labs. It could also be used in microwave ovens, and in 1959 Pyroceram debuted as a line of space-age serving dishes: Corningware.
The material was a boon to Corning’s fortunes, and soon the company launched Project Muscle, a massive R&D effort to explore other ways of strengthening glass. A breakthrough came when company scientists tweaked a recently developed method of reinforcing glass that involved dousing it in a bath of hot potassium salt. They discovered that adding aluminum oxide to a given glass composition before the dip would result in remarkable strength and durability. Scientists were soon hurling fortified tumblers off their nine-story facility and bombarding the glass, known internally as 0317, with frozen chickens. It could be bent and twisted to an extraordinary degree before fracturing, and it could withstand 100,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. (Normal glass can weather about 7,000.) In 1962 Corning began marketing the glass as Chemcor and thought it could work for products like phone booths, prison windows, and eyeglasses.
Yet while there was plenty of initial interest, sales were slow. Some companies did place small orders for products like safety eyeglasses. But these were recalled for fear of the potentially explosive way the glass could break. Chemcor seemed like it would make a good car windshield too, and while it did show up in a handful of Javelins, made by American Motors, most manufacturers weren’t convinced that paying more for the new muscle glass was worth it—especially when the laminated stuff they’d been using since the ’30s seemed to work fine.
There's a lot of cool glass manufacturing data in the story.  The whole accidental discovery story is pretty neat, too.