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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Torture Report


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Stoop Snooping in Brooklyn

Cat Greenleaf is an entertainment reporter for NBC, New York. She hosts a popular and widely syndicated half hour television show called Talk Stoop. The show is filmed on the front stoop, or steps, of Cat's brownstone home in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Esther Zuckerman of the Village Voice reported that:
Her red door near the corner of Wyckoff and Court Streets is the backdrop for her NBC New York show Talk Stoop, in which she conducts casual conversation with celebrities while, of course, sitting on the stoop.
About Cat and her stoop talking, Wikipedia added:
This distinct combination of her stoop and sipping coffee with celebrities gives a causal comfortable atmosphere, and allows her guests to really open up.

Greenleaf's signature look goes right along with the causal atmosphere she gives her show. She is always wearing sneakers, even with dresses...

The show is broadcast in nine cities (NY, DC, Chicago, Philly, Miami, Dallas, LA, San Francisco, and San Diego), and seen by a reported 13 million people a week...
Anyway, just out of curiosity if you bothered to check out Google Map's Street View feature, from a June 2011 version, you would find that it took a beautiful picture of Cat Greenleaf sitting with a Talk Stoop guest in front of her house at 12 Wyckoff Street in Brooklyn. Also, there is Cat's English Bulldog, Gracie, lounging perfectly on the top step. The picture could not have been posed better.

Google Street View closeup of Cat Greenleaf interviewing a guest for Talk Stoop
Google Street View of Cat Greenleaf's Talk Stoop

Google Street View of Cat Greenleaf interviewing a guest for Talk Stoop, 12 Wycoff St., Brooklyn
Google Street View captures Talk Stoop show in progress
Google Street View Captures Talk Stoop from June 2011
Another Google Street View of Talk Stoop, from June 2011

Google Street View blurs out the faces of people to protect their privacy. But there is certainly no mistaking the red door. And there is Cat Greenleaf, who always sits on the left, and her guest, hard to tell who it is from Street View, sitting to the right, along with Gracie the Bulldog all in plain Street View. A nearby camera man looks to be filming a background shot, and perhaps a director or friend is the person facing the stoop.

Upon further research, it can be deduced that the guest in the white outfit that Cat Greenleaf is interviewing is Alexandra Pelosi. Pelosi is an American journalist, documentary filmmaker, and writer based in New York City. She is the daughter of Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Paul Pelosi.

This episode of Talk Stoop is listed as Season 3, Episode 28, Storytellers, which aired on August 20, 2011. Here are several screenshots from the Talk Stoop: Alexandra Pelosi segment:

Talk Stoop, Cat Greenleaf interviews Alexandra Pelosi, Episode 28, Aug 20, 2011
Introduction shot from Talk Stoop, Alexandra Pelosi interview
Talk Stoop, Cat Greenleaf interviews Alexandra Pelosi, Episode 28, Aug 20, 2011
Cat Greenleaf interviews Alexandra Pelosi on her stoop in Brooklyn for Talk Stoop
Talk Stoop, Cat Greenleaf interviews Alexandra Pelosi, Episode 28, Aug 20, 2011
Cat Greenleaf talking to Alexandra Pelosi on Talk Stoop, aired Aug. 2011
Talk Stoop, Cat Greenleaf interviews Alexandra Pelosi, Episode 28, Aug 20, 2011
Cat Greenleaf gives someone the evil eye, Alexandra Pelosi interview, Talk Stoop
It's pretty clear by the outfits and the cars on the street that this is the episode of Talk Stoop that Google Street View captured when their vehicle drove by 12 Wyckoff Street, Brooklyn, in June 2011.

Here is the video of the Talk Stoop: Alexandra Pelosi, episode via NBC New York:

You need to use the historical imagery feature of Google Street View to find the June 2011 view. The latest version of Google Street View from October 2013 does not show anyone on Cat's stoop, just her red front door.

12 Wyckoff Street in Brooklyn, June 2013
By the way, that blurring feature, does not protect your privacy that much. Just ask the Frenchman, from a few years ago, who was photographed by Google urinating in his front yard. He wrongly assumed that his fence was high enough to give him some privacy. His town found out about his choice of toilet and he sued Google over the invasion of his privacy and the public humiliation. The urinating Frenchman lost his case in March and was ordered to pay Google's legal costs.

Google Street Viewing has become a world wide nosy neighbor, a virtual busy body. Some say it's eroding our privacy:
It might be hard to feel sorry for this Frenchman, as one commenter wrote: “Before, he was the laughingstock of his village; but thanks to his legal action and his lawyer, he has become the laughingstock of all of France.” But it’s one more example of how privacy, even in our own yard—and for whatever silly reason we may desire it—has become a quaint concept of the past.
Therefore, don't forget Google is watching you, and me, and what happens on stoops in Brooklyn. Vive la Street View.
New York Times:
Welcome, I’ve Cleaned a Step for You --

IT may be Brooklyn’s most televised stoop since the Huxtables’. Claire Danes, Hilary Swank and Andy Garcia have sat there. So have Ashanti, Ray Davies and Pete Wentz.

And if Cat Greenleaf, the host of a surprise breakout show called “Talk Stoop” has her way, the stoop outside her humble Cobble Hill three-story town house will become a regular stop on the city’s celebrity P.R. circuit, next to David Letterman’s desk, Charlie Rose’s table and Barbara Walters’s couch...
Official Google Blog:
We've gathered historical imagery from past Street View collections dating back to 2007 to create this digital time capsule of the world...

If you see a clock icon in the upper left-hand portion of a Street View image, click on it and move the slider through time and select a thumbnail to see that same place in previous years or seasons...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tastytrade: A Shill with Skills

Tastytrade is a online financial network that started broadcasting in 2012 and which claims to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 to 60,000 daily viewers watching its shows on the internet. They also state that they are on a mission to reach 100,000 viewers by the end of 2015. Tastytrade promotes itself as "a real financial network" that will teach people how to make options trades in their brokerage accounts and make money.

The Shill Financial Network

In fact, tastytrade (they do not use capital letters) is not "a real" financial network as they claim, but instead it is a very clever version of the gambler's shill or tout. A gambling joint uses shills to make winning at the gaming tables appear more likely than it actually is. Street peddlers running illegal three-card monte and shell-games are notorious employers of shills. The age old strategy of promoting the excitement, the action, and most of all the winning at the gaming tables has migrated to online brokers like TD Ameritrade. Tastytrade does not hide the fact that it has a so called marketing arrangement with TD Ameritrade. But, they do not provide any details about what their financial incentives are with TD Ameritrade. However, the evidence is that tastytrade's side of the deal simply requires them to generate more assets under management and commission revenue for Ameritrade. In other words, tastytrade's real mission is to get their shill act on and entice customers to make more trades and put more money towards trading. Given the internet's ability to track everything, the tastytrade numbers must be looking very good at TD Ameritrade, because tastytrade now employs over 50 people at its new multi-million dollar Chicago headquarters. Tastytrade has also released new gaming trading software called dough, that is designed to increase the trading action and generate even more commission revenue.

Options day trading is rebranded as investing by tastytrade
Options day trading is rebranded as "investing" by tastytrade
Tastytrade is working day and night to get mom and pop investors to ditch their tightfisted buy and hold the index fund mentality. You can forget Warren Buffett and the Bogleheads of Jack Bogle. Today on the tastytrade network it is all about the derivative plays, volatility, and the options action. Do you hear the sound of those chips dropping on every earnings play that comes along? "Trade small, trade often" is the often repeated slogan of tastytrade. That means that investors should now become options day traders. They need to follow a strategy of managing their winners and just letting the losing trades go. They also need to be careful and not lose too much on any one trade. It is advertised as a formula that is fun, straightforward to learn, accessible by anyone, and most importantly of all, it is profitable. But, please don't worry about the commissions, that is just the small cost of doing business. The tastytrade on-air personalities dismissively refer to commissions as merely "resort fees," which makes them sound like a sunny place. When in fact, it is where shady people will shank you.

The ring leader of this shill network is Tom Sosnoff. He runs the show at tastytrade and he commands most of the air time on the network. He was formerly a Chicago floor trader and was one of the founders of the thinkorswim brokerage, which was acquired by TD Ameritrade in 2009. As a poster boy for the sedentary pursuit of trading profits the pasty Sosnoff is a sickly, stuttering, egomaniacal master of the trading con. The con is that every mom and pop investor can be turned into a trading wiz by using the strategies, software and techniques that tastytrade espouses. Everyone and anyone can make trading profits by selling options premium in high volatility underlyings. Also, a little futures scalping on the side between options trades makes for a higher level of excitement and engagement and that in-turn leads to better trading. So says Tom Sosnoff the master shill.

Supertrader, Super shill

Karen the Supertrader
Karen the Supertrader
Tastytrade showcases the apparent amazing success of "Karen the Supertrader." As the tastetrade website writes:
"Karen is a retail, do-it-yourself investor that has turned a few thousand dollars into millions in a number of years managing her own money. She trades using tastytrade strategies and now manages a large fund."
Karen the Supertrader's real name is Karen Burton and her hedge fund is Hope Investments, LLC, of Brentwood, Tennessee. Her very limited SEC filing info is here. Her success story serves as a well baited hook to lure others into the options trading pool. However, be careful as Sosnoff warns when talking about Karen's trading strategies. She takes on more risk of loss with naked short options positions than even the great Sosnoff could stomach. But, the tastytrade sell/shill is that through practice and following their techniques, you too can become a successful options trader like Karen.

Tastytrade also sells 24x7 access to all of the trades that Sosnoff makes himself, through a mobile app called Bob the Trader. While Sosnoff often declares that he is for full transparency in all things financial, he does not disclose the dollar size or profitability of any of his thousands of trades. So just take his word for it and assume that Sosnoff makes lots of money from trading.

Piss Poor Results

Tastytrade has very few documented examples of how well its options trading strategies really fare when implemented. In the few cases we do have, the results have been piss poor.

One example of the tastytrade method in action is on their show: Where Do I Start - Back to Cool. The show is hosted by Sosnoff's sidekick and alter ego Tony "the Bat" Battista and features novice tastytrader Katie McGarrigle, who is on the the tastytrade support staff. It airs daily for twenty minutes, from 11:40 - 12:00 EST. The bottomline is that this year has not gone well for Tony and Katie. Tony recommended taking options positions in oil futures (/CL), and the QQQ and SPY ETF's that blew up Katie's account. Three bad trades essentially wiped out the net profits from hundreds of smaller trades. In the parlance of tastytrade: the Bat took Katie down, and how. Her account as of November 14th, 2014 was down 15.75% for the year. This is hardly a ringing endorsement of the tastytrade method as the path to financial security. Something ain't right when a veteran of 25+ years of trading underperforms the market by over 26%, when using the tried and true tastytrade methods. Ameritrade, of course, took thousands of dollars in commissions out of Ms. McGarrigle's pocket, but the exact amount is not disclosed. See the account summary here below:

There is an old trading expression: "Eat like a bird, shit like an elephant." Unfortunately that is exactly what the tastytrade method did to Katie's account. Three big crappy trades, more than wiped out all the hard earned small bird gains. Not good.

Another example of the tastytrade method falling flat was viewed in segment called Anatomy of an Account that aired on November 12, 2014. The problem being diagnosed on that show was why after 11 months and and 131 trades, 110 of which were winners, for a very high 83.9% winning percentage, was a women's IRA account not showing any profits? See the screenshot below.

Sosnoff's takeaway from this women's case was that she just needed to "tweek things" and basically take on more risk. There was no mention of the in and out commissions eating all the gains, because again that is just the cost of doing business the tastytrade way.

A tastytrader's IRA Account has lots of winning trades but no profits

Despite the cheer leading and hype, the learning curve for the tastytrade method is really steep and expensive: hundreds of trades, lots of time starring at your screen. But, it is oh so very profitable for tastytrade's broker partner, Ameritrade. Turning tens of thousands of long term investors into options day traders is the holy grail for a brokerage firm. Ameritrade's stock performance reflects how well this strategy is playing out. Ameritrade stock was up over 13.5% for 2014 (through Nov. 17, 2014), and up 107% since January 1, 2013. This is phenomenal growth fueled in part by the big influx of new day traders that tastytrade has brought into the commission casino.

You can see visible evidence of the hundreds and thousands of commissions that tastytrade is funneling into TD Ameritrade's commission casino everyday. One tastytrade network show is called Good Trade - Bad Trade, which airs daily from 10:45 - 11:00am EST. During this segment Tom Sosnoff looks over various options trades and then implements the one best "good trade" in realtime. If you look at the options volume before, during and after Sosnoff makes his trade, you will often see hundreds of tastytrade viewers piling into Sosnoff's trade. It is a wonder to behold. This large wave of trading requires Sosnoff to use large and highly liquid stocks so that all of his tastytrade nation can easily follow him into the trade and feed the commission beast. There is no track record of how successful this daily "Good Trade - Bad Trade" has been over the last three years, but Sosnoff would of course tell you that it has been very profitable.

Crappy Market Prognosticator

Another big problem with Sosnoff is that he is a crappy market prognosticator.  However, despite being directionally wrong, and putting his viewers on the wrong side of the market, Sosnoff miraculously escapes his bad directional assumptions and still claims to make money. This year Sosnoff has been bearish as the market has climbed a wall of worry. Many of his viewers, who have followed Sosnoff's bearish proclivities have gotten crushed this year. Mr. Battista and Ms. McGarrigle are a prime example of how following a bearish assumption in a whippy bull market will bust your account. But, Mr. Sosnoff skates through all the carnage that his lousy market forecasts inflict with hardly a hint of scratch, or a draw down to his own account. Amazing.

For example, in his May 12th, 2014 daily morning email alert, called the "Cherry Bomb," Sosnoff wrote: "So, get ready – and yes, we’re still in the 1800 before 1900 insanity camp." Meaning that he thought the S&P 500 index would go down to 1800 before it went up to 1900. That day the index closed at 1896.65, up 18.17 from the previous day's close.

On May 16th, with the S& P index at 1870.85 he repeated the call, when he wrote: "Careful, stay small and we still think 1800 before 1900." The market (S& P 500) opened that day at 1871, a week latter on May 23rd it closed at 1900.53, and never looked back as it shot to 1989 by July 23rd. Sosnoff was bearish the entire 5% ride up.

As the pain of being a bear during this summer's bull run increased, Sosnoff used his Cherry Bomb of July 7th, 2014, to commiserate with his followers:
I took a step back this weekend just to review last week’s emails. The general theme was ‘I feel like I’m doing everything right but I can’t seem to make any money and I’m not sure why’ to ‘I bet small, I stayed small but I’m dying with very little theta, too many short deltas and I don’t know how to stop the bleeding.’ The first question is easy. You are doing everything right! Sometimes it’s very difficult to make money regardless of your level of ‘correctness.’ ...
Yes indeed, it is not easy to make money especially when following tastytrade and Tom Sosnoff. On Tuesday, November 18th, 2014, with the S& P 500 index closing at 2056.08, Sosnoff was more bearish than ever during his show. Unfortunately anyone heeding his market advice this year has been crushed.

Tastytrade - only 16% of its traders are market performers or better?

The following is a very optimistic educated guess on how the viewers of tastytrade are really doing. It would not be surprising if the actual trading results for tastytraders was much worse than this assumption. The assumption is based on the normal distribution, which is the basis for what drives much of tastytrade's probability based trading.

Small percentage of tastytrade members beat market

The bottomline for tastytrade and TD Ameritrade is that traders are more profitable than investors. There is no difference between winning traders and losing ones, they all contribute to the massive commission revenue that tastytrade's shilling is driving to TD Ameritrade.

Shill with Skills

All of tastytrades promotions and shows are designed to sell investors on the idea that they can become elite traders. It is a powerful message, financial empowerment by building know-how, that has attracted a large and loyal audience. However, when you dig below the surface you will find tastytrade is really just about generating millions of dollars in commissions for TD Ameritrade. Rebranding options day trading as "investing" is grossly wrong. Day trading is not investing, it never was, and it never will be. Tastytrade is just a new age financial shill with some new skills.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Philae's landing on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Cartoon reenactment of the Philae spacecraft landing on the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet, November 12, 2014.
Via xkcd.com:

Rosetta to Philea... Well, it's been a fun 10 years together.

Philae: I really hope harpoons work on comets

Philae... rocks should be full of pockets where ice used to be... we think

Philae: I've got a gyroscope...

Philae ... no pilots needed

This picture of Phlae falling away is beatiful

Philae... 10 minutes to landing

Philae ... holding breath

Hey, Earth! It's Phlae

Philae: I am taking pictures...

Philae? Are you Ok?

Philae: I did it.

Philae? Is Everthing Ok? ...
Best guess of actual Philae landing scenario:

Wikipedia: Rosetta (spacecraft)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Capt. Oba the Japanese Samurai 'Fox'

The story of Imperial Japanese Army Captain Sakae Oba and his holdout with 46 men in the mountains of Saipan for 514 days after US forces seized the island during World War II is a remarkable tale. Oba's story became well known in Japan after a movie about his exploits was released.

Battle of Saipan:

A total of 46 men laid down their arms when the final order to surrender reached them. A movie called 「太平洋の奇跡−フォックスと呼ばれた男−」“Taiheiyou no Kiseki ~Fox to Yobareta Otoko” (Miracle in Pacific – The man who was called Fox) about these survivors and their 512 day resistance was released in Japan on 11 February 2011.

The surrender of Capt. Oba and the troops of the last Japanese garrison on Saipan
Frank J. Davis World War II Photographs -- 18 images depicting the surrender of the famous "hold-out" Japanese forces under the command of Captain Oba in December

Sakae Ōba (21 March 1914 – 8 June 1992)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Firing the Misfiring MythBusters

The Discovery Channel has fired three cast members from MythBusters. On the season's last episode, which aired Thursday, August 21st, 2014, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman tersely announced that Grant Imahara, Kari Byron, and Tory Belleci would no longer be on the show.

Was the firing of these three popular hosts done for pure cost-cutting motives as some have suggested? Or was it the "Build Team's" infamous cannon ball accident in 2011, which resulted in a cannon ball blasting through a Dublin, CA neighborhood, that contributed to their dismissal?

Mythbusters "Build Team" fire cannonball through Dublin, CA house
Yahoo TV:
'Mythbusters' Fires Three Cast Members: Show Is Going in 'New Direction'

Grant Imahara, Adam Savage, Kari Byron, Jamie Hyneman, Tory Belleci
Mythbusters fans were shocked by a huge twist at the end of Thursday night's season finale — that "Build Team" members Kari Byron, Tory Belleci, and Grant Imahara would no longer be part of the Discovery Channel show going forward.

"It's not only the end of this episode, it's not only the end of this season — it is also the end of an era," host Adam Savage announced.

Co-host Jamie Hyneman added, "This season we're going back to our origins with just Adam and me."

It's an abrupt change for fans, who've grown to love the Build Team over the past 10 years.
Wikipedia has a good account of the infamous cannon ball accident:
On December 6, 2011, while conducting the "Cannonball Chemistry" experiment, the MythBusters crew accidentally sent a cannonball through the side of a house and into a minivan in a Dublin, California neighborhood. Although the experiment was being carried out at the Alameda County Sheriff's Bomb Range under the supervision of the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, the errant projectile went over its intended target of water barrels and instead soared 700 yd (640 m) into a neighboring community, striking a house and leaving a 10 in (25 cm) hole, before striking the roof of another house and smashing through a window of a parked minivan. No one was hurt by the rogue cannonball.

A producer of the show visited the house to apologize, followed by Savage and Hyneman; Savage later stated that production of the series would not be suspended because of the incident. Savage and Kari Byron returned to Dublin High School on February 22, 2012, to participate in a moderated panel session at Dublin High School's Engineering and Design Academy Open House during National Engineers Week 2012, in part to help repair relations with the community. The sold-out event attracted an audience of over 1,000.

During the airing of the experiment on November 11, 2012, the Build Team apologized for the accident and explained that they suspended testing after the accident in order to assess damage and start an investigation. The testing resumed several months later, at a rock quarry in a much more remote area.
Episode 195 – Cannonball Chemistry – Myth statement: Some 15th-century cannoneers used stone cannonballs instead of iron ones, to deliver the same damage but disintegrate on impact so the enemy could not reuse them.
ABC News 7:
MythBusters Cannonball Mishap hits house, car, mini van and road, Dublin California accident

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Gotta Love Pie in the Sky American Optimism

Yonatan Zunger / Google+:
John Oliver had a great piece talking about income inequality in the US, and how people perceive it. The key point, which he does a great job of explaining, is how people perceive laws which protect the rich at their own expense as being in their favor, in case they might become rich in the future: there's a profound psychology behind that. As he puts it, "I can clearly see this game is rigged... which is what's going to make this so sweet when I win this thing!"

There are actually many deeper levels to this thought which he doesn't go in to, but which also affect us deeply. The belief that "most people who want to get ahead can make it if they are willing to work hard" -- held by 60% of Americans according to a Pew study -- has as its other side the implication that if you don't get ahead, that means you personally failed.

Apart from the obvious implications this perspective has for policy (are the poor poor because they didn't try hard enough?) this has individual consequences. Michael Kimmel pointed out a very interesting one in the context of gender: to be a (white) man in the US (especially if you come from a "traditional" American home) carries with it a very strong version of this norm, that if you work hard, play by the rules, don't whine, don't ask for things, and so on, you'll succeed: the reward will be a good job, a home, a family, the respect of other men. This is the social status of maleness: it has nothing to do with your genitals, it has to do with being accepted and respected as a man. That's just the same sort of thing that John Oliver is talking about, but with extras on it: it's a belief that if you work hard, and sacrifice a lot, you'll succeed, and thus get the respect of your peers.

So what happens, in this story, if the economy is in the dumps, or if the factories close, or for any one of twenty other reasons you don't succeed? Not only do you not succeed, but you lose your status as a man: which is to say, you lose one of the things that's most core to your self-identification. You lose (you expect) the respect of your peers. The problem with this vision is that it ties absolutely everything up into one basket, and tells you that success or failure is entirely your fault. Which would be a lot better if that were actually true; but (coming back to the economics again), it really isn't, especially today. Most people could never afford to buy the house they grew up in -- not because of anything they did, but because of the relative trajectories of real estate prices and wages. Houses simply cost a lot more than they once did, which is another way of saying that wealth (things you own) is steadily becoming more valuable than your labor. Which is great if you inherit the house, but not so great if you don't -- or if, say, you lose that house in a foreclosure, which therefore not only costs you your home, but that large asset which can give you income (e.g. in the form of not having to pay rent yourself) in the future.

The myth that we "have never been a nation of haves and have-nots; we are a nation of haves and soon-to-haves" (as Sen. Rubio puts it) is captivating, but it doesn't actually make economic sense: Unless the total wealth of the country is increasing quickly enough for literally everyone to be getting not just richer, but enough richer to make a qualitative class leap, it would be physically impossible for this to work. And -- as John Oliver points out, and really, why are you reading this instead of listening to him? He's much funnier than I am -- that belief can be used by crafty politicians to fleece you.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pack'n Them In – New Airbus Seating Arrangement

This new patented seating scheme for packing in more passengers per plane by France's Airbus looks painful. Propping up obese Americans on a bicycle seat in the sky will be an interesting experiment in consumer behavior. This has to be used only for short duration flights, right?

New Airbus Aircraft bicycle seating patent
Airbus Operations, the aircraft manufacturer, has requested a patent for a bicycle-like seat to squeeze in more passengers per plane. (Airbus Operations)

Hugo Martin / LA Times:
Airbus seeks patent for bicycle-like airline seat --
“In effect, to increase the number of cabin seats, the space allotted to each passenger must be reduced,” the patent application states. 
US Patent 2014/159444 -- Seating Device Comprising a Forward-Foldable Backrest

US Patent 2014/159444 - Seating Device - Forward-Foldable Backrest
USA Today:
Boeing to pack fliers tight on high-density 737 model
Already squeezed for space on many flights, economy class passengers may soon lose another two inches of legroom when the fly on no-frills airlines.

That comes after Boeing confirmed on Sunday that it's planning to offer a "modified" high-density version of its popular 737 that will seat up to 200 passengers -- 11 more than on the comparable current model of the 737. The high-density version of Boeing's 737 MAX 8 jet will be targeted to bare bones, low-cost carriers that want to squeeze as many customers as they can onto their flights...

And the The Wall Street Journal adds fliers "should expect less legroom as a result, as each seat will be spaced 29 inches apart, about 2 inches less than current economy seating."...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

John Oliver: Stop Calling It Net Neutrality; It's 'Preventing Cable Company F**kery'

Tech Dirt nicely summarizes how John Oliver on his CNN show, "Last Week Tonight," analyzes the important Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision regarding Net Neutrality.

Tech Dirt:
John Oliver: Stop Calling It Net Neutrality; It's 'Preventing Cable Company F**kery' --

Not surprisingly, it's both insightful and hilariously funny. He mocks how the FCC has made the issue sound incredibly boring. He mocks telco industry lawyers claiming it's "not about fast lanes and slow lanes" but "fast lanes and hyperspeed lines." Oliver summarized that quote simply as "bullshit." He shows this graphic of Netflix's speed on Comcast before and after it agreed to pay up, and directly compares it to a mafia shakedown. He highlights how the broadband companies (though he unfortunately lumps telco companies in as "cable companies") have basically bought off Washington DC, amusingly comparing an FCC run by a former lobbyist regulating the cable industry to an Australian couple hiring a dingo to babysit.


PC Magazine:
John Oliver's Net Neutrality Plea Crashes FCC Website --

The Federal Communications Commission last month launched a 120-day public comment period regarding proposed net neutrality regulations. Now, thanks in large part to comedian John Oliver's call to arms, the agency is drowning in public opinion.

On Monday, the FCC twice tweeted about technical difficulties with its online comment system "due to heavy traffic."

Perhaps because, during Sunday's episode of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (below), the host suggested that Internet trolls turn their attention from YouTube videos of dancing 3-year-olds to the fight against a changing Web.

Those still struggling to understand net neutrality and the FCC's proposed changes can watch Oliver's 10-minute refresher course below. "The point is, the Internet in its current form is not broken," he said. "And the FCC is currently taking steps to fix that."
Boing Boing:
It's not Net Neutrality that's at stake, it's Cable Company F**kery -- 
John Oliver was incandescent on the subject of Net Neutrality, Time Warner and Comcast on Saturday...

Friday, May 2, 2014

KT Surreal

Kyle Thompson is a photographer from Chicago, Illinois. His style, as he describes it, is surreal conceptual photography; the creation of a surreal world in order to depict concepts.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Putin is Right, Crimea Belongs in Russia

On March 18, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the Russian parliament and gave a historic speech that outlined his reasons for the annexation of the Crimea region of the Ukraine.

1954 Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet "About the transfer of the Crimean Oblast"
1954 Soviet Decree transferring Crimea to Ukraine
If you read the speech (see below), you will find that Putin makes an extremely strong case on why Crimea should be part of of Russia. He is right, history is on his side when he says the Crimea should be considered an "inseparable part of Russia." It was an accident of history that Nikita Khrushchev arbitrarily transferred the Crimea from Russia to the Ukraine on February 19, 1954, because of some Soviet era political deal.

If you are cynical you could assume that Putin himself helped orchestrate the riots in Kiev and elsewhere in Ukraine in order to create the political chaos he used as cover for his move into Crimea. However, he would not be the only one to orchestrate political events in order to justify an invasion and the redrawing of borders. Putin points out this is exactly what the US and NATO did in 1999 with their unilateral separation of Kosovo from Serbia.

The US and the European Union should find a way to gracefully accept Russia's "reunification" of Crimea and move on. They should also immediately give the Ukraine tangible support and a strongarm diplomatic recommendation that they do not escalate the military situation. If the Ukraine cuts off food and utilities to Crimea they are only giving Putin reasons to carve out a chunk of eastern Ukraine in order to form a land bridge that will support and protect the Crimea peninsula.
Vladimir Putin speech to Russian Parliment about Crimea
Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federal Assembly, including State Duma deputies, members of the Federation Council, regional governors and civil society representatives, at the Kremlin in Moscow March 18, 2014.
The Russian president speech that gave his reasons for the annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine (via PraguePost.com)

March 18, 2014, The Kremlin, Moscow — PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN:

Federation Council members, State Duma deputies, good afternoon. Representatives of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol are here among us, citizens of Russia, residents of Crimea and Sevastopol!

Dear friends, we have gathered here today in connection with an issue that is of vital, historic significance to all of us. A referendum was held in Crimea on March 16 in full compliance with democratic procedures and international norms.

More than 82 percent of the electorate took part in the vote. Over 96 percent of them spoke out in favor of reuniting with Russia. These numbers speak for themselves.

To understand the reason behind such a choice it is enough to know the history of Crimea and what Russia and Crimea have always meant for each other.

Everything in Crimea speaks of our shared history and pride. This is the location of ancient Khersones, where Prince Vladimir was baptized. His spiritual feat of adopting Orthodoxy predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilization and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The graves of Russian soldiers whose bravery brought Crimea into the Russian empire are also in Crimea. This is also Sevastopol – a legendary city with an outstanding history, a fortress that serves as the birthplace of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Crimea is Balaklava and Kerch, Malakhov Kurgan and Sapun Ridge. Each one of these places is dear to our hearts, symbolizing Russian military glory and outstanding valor.

Crimea is a unique blend of different peoples’ cultures and traditions. This makes it similar to Russia as a whole, where not a single ethnic group has been lost over the centuries. Russians and Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars and people of other ethnic groups have lived side by side in Crimea, retaining their own identity, traditions, languages and faith.

Incidentally, the total population of the Crimean Peninsula today is 2.2 million people, of whom almost 1.5 million are Russians, 350,000 are Ukrainians who predominantly consider Russian their native language, and about 290,000-300,000 are Crimean Tatars, who, as the referendum has shown, also lean towards Russia.

True, there was a time when Crimean Tatars were treated unfairly, just as a number of other peoples in the USSR. There is only one thing I can say here: millions of people of various ethnicities suffered during those repressions, and primarily Russians.

Crimean Tatars returned to their homeland. I believe we should make all the necessary political and legislative decisions to finalize the rehabilitation of Crimean Tatars, restore them in their rights and clear their good name.

We have great respect for people of all the ethnic groups living in Crimea. This is their common home, their motherland, and it would be right – I know the local population supports this – for Crimea to have three equal national languages: Russian, Ukrainian and Tatar.


In people’s hearts and minds, Crimea has always been an inseparable part of Russia. This firm conviction is based on truth and justice and was passed from generation to generation, over time, under any circumstances, despite all the dramatic changes our country went through during the entire 20th century.

After the revolution, the Bolsheviks, for a number of reasons – may God judge them – added large sections of the historical South of Russia to the Republic of Ukraine. This was done with no consideration for the ethnic make-up of the population, and today these areas form the southeast of Ukraine. Then, in 1954, a decision was made to transfer Crimean Region to Ukraine, along with Sevastopol, despite the fact that it was a federal city. This was the personal initiative of the Communist Party head Nikita Khrushchev. What stood behind this decision of his – a desire to win the support of the Ukrainian political establishment or to atone for the mass repressions of the 1930’s in Ukraine – is for historians to figure out.

What matters now is that this decision was made in clear violation of the constitutional norms that were in place even then. The decision was made behind the scenes. Naturally, in a totalitarian state nobody bothered to ask the citizens of Crimea and Sevastopol. They were faced with the fact. People, of course, wondered why all of a sudden Crimea became part of Ukraine. But on the whole – and we must state this clearly, we all know it – this decision was treated as a formality of sorts because the territory was transferred within the boundaries of a single state. Back then, it was impossible to imagine that Ukraine and Russia may split up and become two separate states. However, this has happened.

Unfortunately, what seemed impossible became a reality. The USSR fell apart. Things developed so swiftly that few people realized how truly dramatic those events and their consequences would be. Many people both in Russia and in Ukraine, as well as in other republics hoped that the Commonwealth of Independent States that was created at the time would become the new common form of statehood. They were told that there would be a single currency, a single economic space, joint armed forces; however, all this remained empty promises, while the big country was gone. It was only when Crimea ended up as part of a different country that Russia realized that it was not simply robbed, it was plundered.

At the same time, we have to admit that by launching the sovereignty parade Russia itself aided in the collapse of the Soviet Union. And as this collapse was legalized, everyone forgot about Crimea and Sevastopol – the main base of the Black Sea Fleet. Millions of people went to bed in one country and awoke in different ones, overnight becoming ethnic minorities in former Union republics, while the Russian nation became one of the biggest, if not the biggest ethnic group in the world to be divided by borders.

Now, many years later, I heard residents of Crimea say that back in 1991 they were handed over like a sack of potatoes. This is hard to disagree with. And what about the Russian state? What about Russia? It humbly accepted the situation. This country was going through such hard times then that realistically it was incapable of protecting its interests. However, the people could not reconcile themselves to this outrageous historical injustice. All these years, citizens and many public figures came back to this issue, saying that Crimea is historically Russian land and Sevastopol is a Russian city. Yes, we all knew this in our hearts and minds, but we had to proceed from the existing reality and build our good-neighborly relations with independent Ukraine on a new basis. Meanwhile, our relations with Ukraine, with the fraternal Ukrainian people have always been and will remain of foremost importance for us. (Applause)

Today we can speak about it openly, and I would like to share with you some details of the negotiations that took place in the early 2000s. The then President of Ukraine Mr Kuchma asked me to expedite the process of delimiting the Russian-Ukrainian border. At that time, the process was practically at a standstill. Russia seemed to have recognized Crimea as part of Ukraine, but there were no negotiations on delimiting the borders. Despite the complexity of the situation, I immediately issued instructions to Russian government agencies to speed up their work to document the borders, so that everyone had a clear understanding that by agreeing to delimit the border we admitted de facto and de jure that Crimea was Ukrainian territory, thereby closing the issue.

We accommodated Ukraine not only regarding Crimea, but also on such a complicated matter as the maritime boundary in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait. What we proceeded from back then was that good relations with Ukraine matter most for us and they should not fall hostage to deadlock territorial disputes. However, we expected Ukraine to remain our good neighbor, we hoped that Russian citizens and Russian speakers in Ukraine, especially its southeast and Crimea, would live in a friendly, democratic and civilized state that would protect their rights in line with the norms of international law.

However, this is not how the situation developed. Time and time again attempts were made to deprive Russians of their historical memory, even of their language and to subject them to forced assimilation. Moreover, Russians, just as other citizens of Ukraine are suffering from the constant political and state crisis that has been rocking the country for over 20 years.

I understand why Ukrainian people wanted change. They have had enough of the authorities in power during the years of Ukraine’s independence. Presidents, prime ministers and parliamentarians changed, but their attitude to the country and its people remained the same. They milked the country, fought among themselves for power, assets and cash flows and did not care much about the ordinary people. They did not wonder why it was that millions of Ukrainian citizens saw no prospects at home and went to other countries to work as day laborers. I would like to stress this: it was not some Silicon Valley they fled to, but to become day laborers. Last year alone almost 3 million people found such jobs in Russia. According to some sources, in 2013 their earnings in Russia totaled over $20 billion, which is about 12% of Ukraine’s GDP.

I would like to reiterate that I understand those who came out on Maidan with peaceful slogans against corruption, inefficient state management and poverty. The right to peaceful protest, democratic procedures and elections exist for the sole purpose of replacing the authorities that do not satisfy the people. However, those who stood behind the latest events in Ukraine had a different agenda: they were preparing yet another government takeover; they wanted to seize power and would stop short of nothing. They resorted to terror, murder and riots. Nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites executed this coup. They continue to set the tone in Ukraine to this day.

The new so-called authorities began by introducing a draft law to revise the language policy, which was a direct infringement on the rights of ethnic minorities. However, they were immediately ‘disciplined’ by the foreign sponsors of these so-called politicians. One has to admit that the mentors of these current authorities are smart and know well what such attempts to build a purely Ukrainian state may lead to. The draft law was set aside, but clearly reserved for the future. Hardly any mention is made of this attempt now, probably on the presumption that people have a short memory. Nevertheless, we can all clearly see the intentions of these ideological heirs of Bandera, Hitler’s accomplice during World War II.

It is also obvious that there is no legitimate executive authority in Ukraine now, nobody to talk to. Many government agencies have been taken over by the impostors, but they do not have any control in the country, while they themselves – and I would like to stress this – are often controlled by radicals. In some cases, you need a special permit from the militants on Maidan to meet with certain ministers of the current government. This is not a joke – this is reality.

Those who opposed the coup were immediately threatened with repression. Naturally, the first in line here was Crimea, the Russian-speaking Crimea. In view of this, the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol turned to Russia for help in defending their rights and lives, in preventing the events that were unfolding and are still underway in Kiev, Donetsk, Kharkov and other Ukrainian cities.

Naturally, we could not leave this plea unheeded; we could not abandon Crimea and its residents in distress. This would have been betrayal on our part.

First, we had to help create conditions so that the residents of Crimea for the first time in history were able to peacefully express their free will regarding their own future. However, what do we hear from our colleagues in Western Europe and North America? They say we are violating norms of international law. Firstly, it’s a good thing that they at least remember that there exists such a thing as international law – better late than never.

Secondly, and most importantly – what exactly are we violating? True, the President of the Russian Federation received permission from the Upper House of Parliament to use the Armed Forces in Ukraine. However, strictly speaking, nobody has acted on this permission yet. Russia’s Armed Forces never entered Crimea; they were there already in line with an international agreement. True, we did enhance our forces there; however – this is something I would like everyone to hear and know – we did not exceed the personnel limit of our Armed Forces in Crimea, which is set at 25,000, because there was no need to do so.

Next. As it declared independence and decided to hold a referendum, the Supreme Council of Crimea referred to the United Nations Charter, which speaks of the right of nations to self-determination. Incidentally, I would like to remind you that when Ukraine seceded from the USSR it did exactly the same thing, almost word for word. Ukraine used this right, yet the residents of Crimea are denied it. Why is that?

Moreover, the Crimean authorities referred to the well-known Kosovo precedent – a precedent our western colleagues created with their own hands in a very similar situation, when they agreed that the unilateral separation of Kosovo from Serbia, exactly what Crimea is doing now, was legitimate and did not require any permission from the country’s central authorities. Pursuant to Article 2, Chapter 1 of the United Nations Charter, the UN International Court agreed with this approach and made the following comment in its ruling of July 22, 2010, and I quote: “No general prohibition may be inferred from the practice of the Security Council with regard to declarations of independence,” and “General international law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence.” Crystal clear, as they say.

I do not like to resort to quotes, but in this case, I cannot help it. Here is a quote from another official document: the Written Statement of the United States America of April 17, 2009, submitted to the same UN International Court in connection with the hearings on Kosovo. Again, I quote: “Declarations of independence may, and often do, violate domestic legislation. However, this does not make them violations of international law.” End of quote. They wrote this, disseminated it all over the world, had everyone agree and now they are outraged. Over what? The actions of Crimean people completely fit in with these instructions, as it were. For some reason, things that Kosovo Albanians (and we have full respect for them) were permitted to do, Russians, Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars in Crimea are not allowed. Again, one wonders why.

We keep hearing from the United States and Western Europe that Kosovo is some special case. What makes it so special in the eyes of our colleagues? It turns out that it is the fact that the conflict in Kosovo resulted in so many human casualties. Is this a legal argument? The ruling of the International Court says nothing about this. This is not even double standards; this is amazing, primitive, blunt cynicism. One should not try so crudely to make everything suit their interests, calling the same thing white today and black tomorrow. According to this logic, we have to make sure every conflict leads to human losses.

I will state clearly - if the Crimean local self-defense units had not taken the situation under control, there could have been casualties as well. Fortunately this did not happen. There was not a single armed confrontation in Crimea and no casualties. Why do you think this was so? The answer is simple: because it is very difficult, practically impossible to fight against the will of the people. Here I would like to thank the Ukrainian military – and this is 22,000 fully armed servicemen. I would like to thank those Ukrainian service members who refrained from bloodshed and did not smear their uniforms in blood.

Other thoughts come to mind in this connection. They keep talking of some Russian intervention in Crimea, some sort of aggression. This is strange to hear. I cannot recall a single case in history of an intervention without a single shot being fired and with no human casualties.


Like a mirror, the situation in Ukraine reflects what is going on and what has been happening in the world over the past several decades. After the dissolution of bipolarity on the planet, we no longer have stability. Key international institutions are not getting any stronger; on the contrary, in many cases, they are sadly degrading. Our western partners, led by the United States of America, prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun. They have come to believe in their exclusivity and exceptionalism, that they can decide the destinies of the world, that only they can ever be right. They act as they please: here and there, they use force against sovereign states, building coalitions based on the principle “If you are not with us, you are against us.” To make this aggression look legitimate, they force the necessary resolutions from international organisations, and if for some reason this does not work, they simply ignore the UN Security Council and the UN overall.

This happened in Yugoslavia; we remember 1999 very well. It was hard to believe, even seeing it with my own eyes, that at the end of the 20th century, one of Europe’s capitals, Belgrade, was under missile attack for several weeks, and then came the real intervention. Was there a UN Security Council resolution on this matter, allowing for these actions? Nothing of the sort. And then, they hit Afghanistan, Iraq, and frankly violated the UN Security Council resolution on Libya, when instead of imposing the so-called no-fly zone over it they started bombing it too.

There was a whole series of controlled “color” revolutions. Clearly, the people in those nations, where these events took place, were sick of tyranny and poverty, of their lack of prospects; but these feelings were taken advantage of cynically. Standards were imposed on these nations that did not in any way correspond to their way of life, traditions, or these peoples’ cultures. As a result, instead of democracy and freedom, there was chaos, outbreaks in violence and a series of upheavals. The Arab Spring turned into the Arab Winter.

A similar situation unfolded in Ukraine. In 2004, to push the necessary candidate through at the presidential elections, they thought up some sort of third round that was not stipulated by the law. It was absurd and a mockery of the constitution. And now, they have thrown in an organised and well-equipped army of militants.

We understand what is happening; we understand that these actions were aimed against Ukraine and Russia and against Eurasian integration. And all this while Russia strived to engage in dialogue with our colleagues in the West. We are constantly proposing cooperation on all key issues; we want to strengthen our level of trust and for our relations to be equal, open and fair. But we saw no reciprocal steps.

On the contrary, they have lied to us many times, made decisions behind our backs, placed us before an accomplished fact. This happened with NATO’s expansion to the East, as well as the deployment of military infrastructure at our borders. They kept telling us the same thing: “Well, this does not concern you.” That’s easy to say.

It happened with the deployment of a missile defense system. In spite of all our apprehensions, the project is working and moving forward. It happened with the endless foot-dragging in the talks on visa issues, promises of fair competition and free access to global markets.

Today, we are being threatened with sanctions, but we already experience many limitations, ones that are quite significant for us, our economy and our nation. For example, still during the times of the Cold War, the US and subsequently other nations restricted a large list of technologies and equipment from being sold to the USSR, creating the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls list. Today, they have formally been eliminated, but only formally; and in reality, many limitations are still in effect.

In short, we have every reason to assume that the infamous policy of containment, led in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, continues today. They are constantly trying to sweep us into a corner because we have an independent position, because we maintain it and because we call things like they are and do not engage in hypocrisy. But there is a limit to everything. And with Ukraine, our western partners have crossed the line, playing the bear and acting irresponsibly and unprofessionally.

After all, they were fully aware that there are millions of Russians living in Ukraine and in Crimea. They must have really lacked political instinct and common sense not to foresee all the consequences of their actions. Russia found itself in a position it could not retreat from. If you compress the spring all the way to its limit, it will snap back hard. You must always remember this.

Today, it is imperative to end this hysteria, to refute the rhetoric of the cold war and to accept the obvious fact: Russia is an independent, active participant in international affairs; like other countries, it has its own national interests that need to be taken into account and respected.

At the same time, we are grateful to all those who understood our actions in Crimea; we are grateful to the people of China, whose leaders have always considered the situation in Ukraine and Crimea taking into account the full historical and political context, and greatly appreciate India’s reserve and objectivity.

Today, I would like to address the people of the United States of America, the people who, since the foundation of their nation and adoption of the Declaration of Independence, have been proud to hold freedom above all else. Isn’t the desire of Crimea’s residents to freely choose their fate such a value? Please understand us.

I believe that the Europeans, first and foremost, the Germans, will also understand me. Let me remind you that in the course of political consultations on the unification of East and West Germany, at the expert, though very high level, some nations that were then and are now Germany’s allies did not support the idea of unification. Our nation, however, unequivocally supported the sincere, unstoppable desire of the Germans for national unity. I am confident that you have not forgotten this, and I expect that the citizens of Germany will also support the aspiration of the Russians, of historical Russia, to restore unity.

I also want to address the people of Ukraine. I sincerely want you to understand us: we do not want to harm you in any way, or to hurt your national feelings. We have always respected the territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state, incidentally, unlike those who sacrificed Ukraine’s unity for their political ambitions. They flaunt slogans about Ukraine’s greatness, but they are the ones who did everything to divide the nation. Today’s civil standoff is entirely on their conscience. I want you to hear me, my dear friends. Do not believe those who want you to fear Russia, shouting that other regions will follow Crimea. We do not want to divide Ukraine; we do not need that. As for Crimea, it was and remains a Russian, Ukrainian, and Crimean-Tatar land.

I repeat, just as it has been for centuries, it will be a home to all the peoples living there. What it will never be and do is follow in Bandera’s footsteps!

Crimea is our common historical legacy and a very important factor in regional stability. And this strategic territory should be part of a strong and stable sovereignty, which today can only be Russian. Otherwise, dear friends (I am addressing both Ukraine and Russia), you and we – the Russians and the Ukrainians – could lose Crimea completely, and that could happen in the near historical perspective. Please think about it.

Let me note too that we have already heard declarations from Kiev about Ukraine soon joining NATO. What would this have meant for Crimea and Sevastopol in the future? It would have meant that NATO’s navy would be right there in this city of Russia’s military glory, and this would create not an illusory but a perfectly real threat to the whole of southern Russia. These are things that could have become reality were it not for the choice the Crimean people made, and I want to say thank you to them for this.

But let me say too that we are not opposed to cooperation with NATO, for this is certainly not the case. For all the internal processes within the organisation, NATO remains a military alliance, and we are against having a military alliance making itself at home right in our backyard or in our historic territory. I simply cannot imagine that we would travel to Sevastopol to visit NATO sailors. Of course, most of them are wonderful guys, but it would be better to have them come and visit us, be our guests, rather than the other way round.

Let me say quite frankly that it pains our hearts to see what is happening in Ukraine at the moment, see the people’s suffering and their uncertainty about how to get through today and what awaits them tomorrow. Our concerns are understandable because we are not simply close neighbours but, as I have said many times already, we are one people. Kiev is the mother of Russian cities. Ancient Rus is our common source and we cannot live without each other.

Let me say one other thing too. Millions of Russians and Russian-speaking people live in Ukraine and will continue to do so. Russia will always defend their interests using political, diplomatic and legal means. But it should be above all in Ukraine’s own interest to ensure that these people’s rights and interests are fully protected. This is the guarantee of Ukraine’s state stability and territorial integrity.

We want to be friends with Ukraine and we want Ukraine to be a strong, sovereign and self-sufficient country. Ukraine is one of our biggest partners after all. We have many joint projects and I believe in their success no matter what the current difficulties. Most importantly, we want peace and harmony to reign in Ukraine, and we are ready to work together with other countries to do everything possible to facilitate and support this. But as I said, only Ukraine’s own people can put their own house in order.

Residents of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, the whole of Russia admired your courage, dignity and bravery. It was you who decided Crimea’s future. We were closer than ever over these days, supporting each other. These were sincere feelings of solidarity. It is at historic turning points such as these that a nation demonstrates its maturity and strength of spirit. The Russian people showed this maturity and strength through their united support for their compatriots.

Russia’s foreign policy position on this matter drew its firmness from the will of millions of our people, our national unity and the support of our country’s main political and public forces. I want to thank everyone for this patriotic spirit, everyone without exception. Now, we need to continue and maintain this kind of consolidation so as to resolve the tasks our country faces on its road ahead.

Obviously, we will encounter external opposition, but this is a decision that we need to make for ourselves. Are we ready to consistently defend our national interests, or will we forever give in, retreat to who knows where? Some Western politicians are already threatening us with not just sanctions but also the prospect of increasingly serious problems on the domestic front. I would like to know what it is they have in mind exactly: action by a fifth column, this disparate bunch of ‘national traitors’, or are they hoping to put us in a worsening social and economic situation so as to provoke public discontent? We consider such statements irresponsible and clearly aggressive in tone, and we will respond to them accordingly. At the same time, we will never seek confrontation with our partners, whether in the East or the West, but on the contrary, will do everything we can to build civilized and good-neighborly relations as one is supposed to in the modern world.


I understand the people of Crimea, who put the question in the clearest possible terms in the referendum: should Crimea be with Ukraine or with Russia? We can be sure in saying that the authorities in Crimea and Sevastopol, the legislative authorities, when they formulated the question, set aside group and political interests and made the people’s fundamental interests alone the cornerstone of their work. The particular historic, population, political and economic circumstances of Crimea would have made any other proposed option only temporary and fragile and would have inevitably led to further worsening of the situation there, which would have had disastrous effects on people’s lives. The people of Crimea thus decided to put the question in firm and uncompromising form, with no grey areas. The referendum was fair and transparent, and the people of Crimea clearly and convincingly expressed their will and stated that they want to be with Russia.

Russia will also have to make a difficult decision now, taking into account the various domestic and external considerations. What do people here in Russia think? Here, like in any democratic country, people have different points of view, but I want to make the point that the absolute majority of our people clearly do support what is happening.

The most recent public opinion surveys conducted here in Russia show that 95 percent of people think that Russia should protect the interests of Russians and members of other ethnic groups living in Crimea – 95 percent of our citizens. More than 83 percent think that Russia should do this even if it will complicate our relations with some other countries. A total of 86 percent of our people see Crimea as still being Russian territory and part of our country’s lands. And one particularly important figure, which corresponds exactly with the result in Crimea’s referendum: almost 92 percent of our people support Crimea’s reunification with Russia.

Thus we see that the overwhelming majority of people in Crimea and the absolute majority of the Russian Federation’s people support the reunification of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol with Russia.

Now this is a matter for Russia’s own political decision, and any decision here can be based only on the people’s will, because the people is the ultimate source of all authority.

Members of the Federation Council, deputies of the State Duma, citizens of Russia, residents of Crimea and Sevastopol, today, in accordance with the people’s will, I submit to the Federal Assembly a request to consider a Constitutional Law on the creation of two new constituent entities within the Russian Federation: the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, and to ratify the treaty on admitting to the Russian Federation Crimea and Sevastopol, which is already ready for signing. I stand assured of your support.
Putin speech to Russian parliment about Crimea. March 18, 2014
Putin addressing Russian Parliament
Historical claim shows why Crimea matters to Russia --
Crimea became part of Ukraine only in 1954. Crimea was historically part of Russia, and (Nikita) Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine in a gesture that mystified some people.
Crimea crisis: Russian President Putin's speech annotated
Putin: Crimea similar to Kosovo, West is rewriting its own rule book

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Irony Inside the Actors Studio

Short, ironic, and hilarious - Louis CK, Sean Penn, and Bradley Cooper...

Louis CK's opinion on inside the actors studio, wait for it.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Sweetheart Come Smile with Me...

It took some digging to find the "da da da", but here is the bhangra/pop love song, Tunak Tunak Tun or simply "Tunak", by Indian artist Daler Mehndi released in 1998.

English subtitles are provided in this version. An interesting historic footnote: this music video was the first made in India using bluescreen technology.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Stuck in Gov. Chris Christie's Traffic Jam

Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Fallon lament getting stuck in Governor Chris Christie's traffic jam. 

The cruelest cut: Springsteen goofs on Christie over Bridgegate -- ... Exit question: Jimmy Fallon does a better Springsteen than Springsteen, doesn’t he?

LA Times:
Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Fallon mock Chris Christie's 'Bridgegate' -- ... In 2012, CBS News reported that Christie had been to more than 100 Springsteen concerts and when they met for the first time in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Christie said he wept after hugging the rock star.

Washington Post:
Represented below is a composite of how commuters travel into Manhattan from New Jersey over the George Washington Bridge, and how during a four-day closure last September (9-12) the flow pattern was disrupted.

Gov. Chris Christie Traffic Jam

Lyrics to Fallon/Springsteen "Gov. Chris Christie Traffic Jam"
In day the day we sweated out on the streets / Stuck in traffic on the GWB
They shut down the toll booths of glory / 'Cause we didn't endorse Christie
Sprung from cages on highway 9
We got three lanes closed / So Jersey get your ass in a line
Oh baby / This Bridgegate was just payback / It's a bitch slap, to the state Democrats
We gotta get out while we can
We're stuck in Governor Chris Christie's Fort Lee, New Jersey traffic jam

Governor let me in / I wanna to be your friend / There'll be no partisan divisions
Let me wrap my legs 'round your mighty rims / And relieve your stressful condition

You have Wall Street masters stuck check-to-check with blue collar truckers
And man I really gotta take a leak / But I can't
I'm stuck in Governor Chris Christie's Fort Lee, New Jersey traffic jam

[Guitar instrumental]

One, Two, Three, Four

The highway's jammed with pissed off drivers with no place left to go
And the press conference went on and on

It was longer than one of own damn shows

Someday Governor, I don't know when
This will all end, but 'til then

You're killin' the workin' man
Who's stuck in the Governor Chris Christie Fort Lee, New Jersey traffic jam

Who whoa whoa!
Who whoa whoa!

I gotta to take a leak / I really gotta take a leak

Down in Jersey Land