Monday, June 25, 2007

Now, THAT'S a "MaxxForce" engine!

BigLorryBlog:It's what Biglorryblog has been saying all along--MAN's vee-eight BIG banger has got the power 680hp of it!
It's big it's's been predicted by Biglorryblog for ages and now it's finally here. Or it will be in time for the RAI Show. Yes the long-awaited V8 'Big banger' from MAN (which is also used by the crane maker Liebherr) has finally broke cover with 680hp and 3,000 throbby newton meters of torque on tap. Thus the MAN V8 'leapfrogs' the Volvo FH16 660 by a 'massive' become 'the most powerful series truck in Europe'.

Now, International has a worthy big brother to those 11 and 13 liter motors they're buying from MAN. Be a nice way to displace some of those CATs from under the hood of the 9900i's they flog as a premium truck (premium in our context means the basic design hasn't changed in 20 years). I only wonder if they have the guts to do it. By the way those MAN cabovers sure would make a nice 9800 series.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

High Fuel Prices Pinching Schools

Bartlesville, OK Examiner-Enterprise: Rising Fuel Costs Affect School Districts
Rising fuel costs in recent years have affected local school districts as hopes for increased funding — to pay for these rising costs — are met with meager operational funding increases for this next school year.

Local school administrators compare the amounts their districts spent on fuel in 2003 to the amounts spent today.

In 2003, the Bartlesville Public Schools district paid $55,745 for diesel and $15,306 for gasoline. So far this year, the district had spent a total of $158,266 on fuel — $106,980 for diesel and $51,286 for gasoline.

The increase is probably enough to pay for a teacher's salary and benefits. That's a big chunk to lose from a small school district's budget. The hard thing is there isn't that much that realistically can be done with the vehicles to boost fuel economy. The low number of miles a small city bus will run makes the per mile cost of hybridization impractical. Given School Bus safety standards weight cutting opportunities are very limited. I could see using automated manual transmissions or well trained drivers and manual transmissions in place of the normal Allison automatic but there are problems there as well (unfamiliar tech and a shrinking pool of people willing to use a manual). School busses are usually specced with a pretty small motor so there isn't much to cut there.

There isn't much in the way of alt-fuels tech that's ready to roll. Tulsa used to use Compressed Natural Gas for their busses but given high and volatile Natural Gas prices in the last few years that's not a winner. I suppose an ethanol fueled gasser might almost make sense for low mileage runs in states that subsidize E85. It wouldn't do better from an MPG stance but you'd probably save $10K in initial costs, come out about even on maintenance, and be buying a bit cheaper fuel (of course that depends on the state continuing to subsidize it).

There are other tweaks around driver behavior (no idling, doing pretrips, progressive shifting, and planning ahead) but those are probably marginal changes (less than 5%).

The real meat of the issue is going to come to either raising taxes (for districts that control their own funding),cutting funds from somewhere else in the budget, or reducing service.

The China Effect

Jeffrey Saut: Curves
As for China, we have long-stated that China will continue to favor the U.S. until they no longer need us. To wit, China is importing technology from us that would have taken them years to develop on their own. China also has a vested interest in keeping the U.S. consumer alive and spending. Still, our sense is that once China has sucked this country dry of its proprietary technologies, the recycling of its tradable-goods dollars will wane.

at least American businesses are not alone:
World Trucks Blog: Volvo CNHTC Deal Set to Dissolve
Trebles all round in Gothenburg we assume. The Volvo-CNHTC JV has been a dog. In fact, it’s been rather embarrassing to watch the Swedish leg get lifted higher and higher. As one-way deals go, it’s been textbook. Last year, a magnificent 200 vehicles were moved, and we assume that CNHTC has higher hopes for its own Howo product – which bears a striking resemblance to Volvo’s own vehicles. Farcical.

So Volvo stands to lose up to SEK 500 / £36.6 / €55.32 / $72.04 million on the deal. We say it’s lucky to get out with a pair of shoes still on its feet – this was an ill-conceived, badly executed nonsense, and the shareholders should be celebrating on the one hand, whilst beating AB Volvo's management into a bloody pulp with the other. Should make for a good session tomorrow (Friday) when AB Volvo reports its 2006 numbers.

Now we wait to see what lessons have been learned as the DongFeng deal gets inked. Let us observe - and merely as an aside - that when supping with the Devil, the use of a long spoon is appropriate.

So our industries are busy sowing the seeds of their own destruction. Of course given how the corporate chieftain class thinks one quarter ahead at most that's not surprising.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Why Democrats will falter after 2008

Adbusters: The American Left's Silly Victim Complex

David Sirota, author of Hostile Takeover: How Big Money and Corruption Conquered Our Government – and How We Can Take it Back, is a guy who frequently appears on television news programs defending the “left” in TV’s typical Crossfire-style left-right rock-‘em-sock-‘em format. Like a lot of people who make their living in this world, he’s sometimes frustrated with the lack of discipline and purpose in American liberalism. And like Sanders, he worries that there is a wide chasm between the people who speak for the left and sponsor left-leaning political organizations, and the actual people they supposedly represent.

“Perhaps what the real issue is that the left is not really a grassroots movement,” he says. “You have this donor/elite class, and then you have the public . . . You have these zillionaires who are supposedly funding the progressive movement. At some point that gets to be a problem.”

Sanders agrees, saying that “where the money comes from” is definitely one of the reasons that the so-called liberals in Washington – i.e. the Democrats – tend not to get too heavily into financial issues that affect ordinary people. This basically regressive electoral formula has been a staple of the Democratic Party ever since the Walter Mondale fiasco in the mid-eighties prompted a few shrewd Washington insiders to create the notorious “pro-business” political formula of the Democratic Leadership Council, which sought to end the party’s dependence upon labor money by announcing a new willingness to sell out on financial issues in exchange for support from Wall Street. Once the DLC’s financial strategy helped get Bill Clinton elected, no one in Washington ever again bothered to question the wisdom of the political compromises it required.

Within a decade, the process was automatic – Citibank gives money to Tom Daschle, Tom Daschle crafts the hideous Bankruptcy Bill, and suddenly the Midwestern union member who was laid off in the wake of Democrat-passed NAFTA can’t even declare bankruptcy to get out from the credit card debt he incurred in his unemployment. He will now probably suck eggs for the rest of his life, paying off credit card debt year after year at a snail’s pace while working as a non-union butcher in a Wal-Mart in Butte. Royally screwed twice by the Democratic Party he voted for, he will almost certainly decide to vote Republican the first time he opens up the door to find four pimply college students wearing I READ BANNED BOOKS t-shirts taking up a collection to agitate for dolphin-safe tuna.

But money and campaign contributions aren’t the only reason “liberal“ politicians screw their voters.

“It’s also a cultural thing,” Sanders says. “A lot of these folks really don’t have a lot of contact with working-class people. They’re not comfortable with working-class people. They’re more comfortable with environmentalists, with well-educated people. And it’s their issues that matter to them.”

The problem the Democrats have is they do not have an agenda that reaches beyond their base beyond ending the war.

Healthcare reform will be constrained by the Industry donors. What can be accomplished without turning off the money spigot is unlikely to be something to build a new deal size coalition out of.

Environmental issues are popular until the cost of a lot of these issues are made public. For the Berkeley crowd, killing the domestic auto industry as collateral damage is really not a bad thing at all. That fact will not be lost on UAW members and other victims of the Greening of America,

Gay Marriage is fading as an issue. Once you pass it, there really isn't too much left to do.

Abortion, also known as the issue that dare not speak its name, is a tar baby pols on both sides dance around.

Democrats could do a lot of good, they have to build a broader coalition. That means engaging with the real issues working Americans are facing, not just "feeling their pain." Then there is the issue of corporate cash and the corrosive effect on the Democratic soul. One pro-oligarch party is enough, thank you very much.

The biggest mistake in Iraq

Firedoglake:Losing Never Cost So Much
The US military, in short, sucks at insurgency, occupation and colonial style warfare. It is brilliant at battlefield operations outside of major urban centers and is probably, as a whole, the premier battlefield supremacy army in the world today. The Gulf War showed that very clearly. And, indeed, if the US military had blown into Baghdad, toppled the regime and left in 6 months, everyone would still be trembling in fear.
What the US has, then, is a decapitation military. It’s very good at knocking off governments, but not so good at guaranteeing what happens afterwards.

The biggest political mistake the administration made in Iraq was trying to run it. Americans do not have the Patience for long wars that do not involve an existential threat. John Mueller points out that
American troops have been sent into harm's way many times since 1945, but in only three cases -- Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq -- have they been drawn into sustained ground combat and suffered more than 300 deaths in action. American public opinion became a key factor in all three wars, and in each one there has been a simple association: as casualties mount, support decreases. Broad enthusiasm at the outset invariably erodes.

If we had taken down the regime, did our WMD search, tossed the keys to Chalibi, and bailed the political and (more importantly) geopolitical consequences would have been much smaller. Iraq still would have gone to hell after the fact (and Chalibi probably wouldn't have lived real long) but it would be an embarrassment, not a catastrophe, and our military would still look omnipotent. Now Iran is cheerfully building nukes while inflicting the death of a thousand cuts on the US military. The Norks are playing nuclear rope-a-dope again. Our soaring debt has set us up for another round of economic pain, ala the stagflation 70s. Meanwhile the army will need several years of retooling to get "unbroken".

I like Ike

Christian Science Monitor op-ed: How Eisenhower solved illegal border crossings from Mexico

George W. Bush isn't the first Republican president to face a full-blown immigration crisis on the US-Mexican border.

Fifty-three years ago, when newly elected Dwight Eisenhower moved into the White House, America's southern frontier was as porous as a spaghetti sieve. As many as 3 million illegal migrants had walked and waded northward over a period of several years for jobs in California, Arizona, Texas, and points beyond.

President Eisenhower cut off this illegal traffic. He did it quickly and decisively with only 1,075 United States Border Patrol agents - less than one-tenth of today's force. The operation is still highly praised among veterans of the Border Patrol.

.......America "was faced with a breakdown in law enforcement on a very large scale," Mr. Brownell said. "When I say large scale, I mean hundreds of thousands were coming in from Mexico [every year] without restraint."

Although an on-and-off guest-worker program for Mexicans was operating at the time, farmers and ranchers in the Southwest had become dependent on an additional low-cost, docile, illegal labor force of up to 3 million, mostly Mexican, laborers.

........In 1954, Ike appointed retired Gen. Joseph "Jumpin' Joe" Swing, a former West Point classmate and veteran of the 101st Airborne, as the new INS commissioner.

Influential politicians, including Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson (D) of Texas and Sen. Pat McCarran (D) of Nevada, favored open borders, and were dead set against strong border enforcement, Brownell said. But General Swing's close connections to the president shielded him - and the Border Patrol - from meddling by powerful political and corporate interests.

One of Swing's first decisive acts was to transfer certain entrenched immigration officials out of the border area to other regions of the country where their political connections with people such as Senator Johnson would have no effect.

Then on June 17, 1954, what was called "Operation Wetback" began. Because political resistance was lower in California and Arizona, the roundup of aliens began there. Some 750 agents swept northward through agricultural areas with a goal of 1,000 apprehensions a day. By the end of July, over 50,000 aliens were caught in the two states. Another 488,000, fearing arrest, had fled the country.

By mid-July, the crackdown extended northward into Utah, Nevada, and Idaho, and eastward to Texas.

By September, 80,000 had been taken into custody in Texas, and an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 illegals had left the Lone Star State voluntarily.

Unlike today, Mexicans caught in the roundup were not simply released at the border, where they could easily reenter the US. To discourage their return, Swing arranged for buses and trains to take many aliens deep within Mexico before being set free.

Tens of thousands more were put aboard two hired ships, the Emancipation and the Mercurio. The ships ferried the aliens from Port Isabel, Texas, to Vera Cruz, Mexico, more than 500 miles south.

The sea voyage was "a rough trip, and they did not like it," says Don Coppock, who worked his way up from Border Patrolman in 1941 to eventually head the Border Patrol from 1960 to 1973.

Mr. Coppock says he "cannot understand why [President] Bush let [today's] problem get away from him as it has. I guess it was his compassionate conservatism, and trying to please [Mexican President] Vincente Fox."

There are now said to be 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens in the US. Of the Mexicans who live here, an estimated 85 percent are here illegally.

......General Swing's fast-moving campaign soon secured America's borders - an accomplishment no other president has since equaled. Illegal migration had dropped 95 percent by the late 1950s.

Several retired Border Patrol agents who took part in the 1950s effort, including Mr. Edwards, say much of what Swing did could be repeated today.

"Some say we cannot send 12 million illegals now in the United States back where they came from. Of course we can!" Edwards says.

Why I am I not surprised that with 10 times the resources Bush is thwarted by a problem only 4 times the size that Ike faced? Of course it is not just a matter of competence, but of will. Ike had an unfair advantage though, he wasn't a politician (ever notice how we're developing our own "royal" families) and he wasn't in bed with (or one of) the CEOs. Bush is trying to provide political cover for the immigration bill by "cracking down" on illegal immigration. We've got decades of evidence about how the Plutocrats in our ingrown Political caste will act when the heat is off though. Is it any wonder that we don't trust the D.C. crowd when they claim to be serious about border security?

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Web just got TiVO'd

Watched coverage of Apple's WWDC event. One of the new features of Leopard will be the ability to "cut out" part of a web page and have an auto updating "widget" on the desktop. So I could go to CNN's website, pick my favorite section and snip it and have that part of the page auto updating on my desktop. Most likely the user won't be including any of the ads in the "snipped" section. In a way this is the ultimate end of the ad blockers, user doing like they do with their TiVOs choosing the content they want and excising ads and filler(ie all the content they don't want).

I've seen plenty of complaints about Rupert Murdoch bidding for Dow Jones, but the business case for ad sponsored content is going away. Eventually most media might revert to sponsors much like the medieval artists, wealthy people with outsized egos who will own newspapers as trophy assets and employ journalists to paint a picture of the World as they see it.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


RedState: Sunday Morning Talk Shows
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was host Tim Russert's guest on MTP [Meet The Press].... Powell said that he would close Gitmo "this afternoon" and put its inmates into our general prison population. He said that it was "too early" to say if he would support the Republican Presidential nominee but that he was advising Barack Obama on foreign policy matters. He would not rule out returning to public service at some future date.

I wonder if Powell regrets not getting on the Democratic ticket back in 2000? His legacy, and the world might have both been the better for it (assuming Gore would listen to him). Now he is one of many who lent their credibility to the Bush drive to war and were left wishing they'd asked for a deposit.

Is it Cynicism or Realism?

Andrew Bacevich:I lost my son to a conflict I oppose. We were both doing our duty

To whom do Kennedy, Kerry and Lynch listen? We know the answer: to the same people who have the ear of George W. Bush and Karl Rove - namely, wealthy individuals and institutions.
Money buys access and influence. Money greases the process that will yield us a new president in 2008. When it comes to Iraq, money ensures that the concerns of big business, big oil, bellicose evangelicals and Middle East allies gain a hearing. By comparison, the lives of U.S. soldiers figure as an afterthought.
Memorial Day orators will say that a G.I.'s life is priceless. Don't believe it. I know what value the U.S. government assigns to a soldier's life: I've been handed the check. It's roughly what the Yankees will pay Roger Clemens per inning once he starts pitching next month.
Money maintains the Republican/Democratic duopoly of trivialized politics. It confines the debate over U.S. policy to well-hewn channels. It preserves intact the cliches of 1933-45 about isolationism, appeasement and the nation's call to "global leadership." It inhibits any serious accounting of exactly how much our misadventure in Iraq is costing. It ignores completely the question of who actually pays. It negates democracy, rendering free speech into little more than a means of recording dissent.
This is not some great conspiracy. It's the way our system works.

Sadly, I think this is the reality. The bitter irony is that in a system premised on "all men are created equal" some are "more equal than others" (to borrow from a critique of another failed system).

Friday, June 08, 2007

I'm a member of the authoritarian left: Who Knew?

Your political compass
Economic Left/Right: -6.00
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: 2.26
Political Compass

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Deindustrailization has Consequences

Defense Industry Daily: 17,000 MRAP Vehicles to Replace Hummers?
After 4 years of combat in an arena that featured IED land mines as the #1 threat, the US military's success in fielding limited numbers of blast-resistant Cougar and Buffalo vehicles finally drew the attention of senior military officials, and the civilian politicians to whom they report. The military's order of MRAP (Mine-Resistant, Ambush Protected) vehicles went from 1,000 vehicles in 2006, to 4,100 later that year, and soon thereafter to 7,774 vehicles. Within that expanded order, however, only 2,500 were for the Army; 3,700 were for the US Marines, who vowed to make every patrol vehicle operating "outside the wire" in Iraq's Anbar province an MRAP vehicle.

.....The House Armed Services Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee under Chairman Gene Taylor [D-MS] and Ranking Member Roscoe Bartlett [R-MD] recently proposed, in coordination with Chairman Abercrombie [D-HI] of the Air and Land Subcommittee, proposed $4.1 billion for MRAP vehicles for full House Armed Services committee consideration, re: the FY 2008 "request for ongoing military operations" (supplemental).

Even this request, however, was in the context of fulfilling the $8.4 billion order for 7,774 vehicles within the goal of a 2-year time frame. Now the Army is looking to add from 15,000-17,000 vehicles for production from FY 2008 - FY 2010.

Which raises the question of how the manufacturers, whose production lines are currently built for 100 vehicles or so per month, will manage. At present, 400 vehicles per month appears to be the most any MRAP manufacturer has promised to produce, and that's assuming production growth over the course of the contract. A total of 23,000-25,000 vehicles in 2 1/2 years is likely to prove something of a challenge, therefore, even with several vendors participating. Even, one might add, with BAE Systems $4.53 billion purchase of production at Armor Holdings.

America used to be known as "The Arsenal of Democracy", now 4 years in we don't have production capacity to get the tool our troops need into the field. The change is partially due to a lack of mobilization (which is part and parcel of the low commitment war), but also stems from the limited industrial capacity available in the specialty heavy truck manufacturing industry.

Given our ever declining manufacturing capacity and our dependence on the Middle East for oil (we were an oil exporter in WW2) it seems like an open question if we could manage another war effort like World War 2.

God forbid, but if we wound up in a confrontation with China we would need many more supplies than it would ever make sense to have in the warehouses. Even in Iraq, supplies are being depleted faster than they can be replenished. It will take years to rebuild the armed services' inventories of helicopters, trucks, tanks, and equipment great and small. We have been steadily exporting steel mills and factories and even in full mobilization it would take years to rebuild that infrastructure.

Not to mention that the willingness of some Middle Eastern Nations to sell us oil in a conflict might be suspect. Also Iran is strategically located to disrupt oil traffic through the Straits of Hormuz. Having spent substantial effort on learning how to make bunkers that are resistant to air attack (which Israel was kind enough to test for them), removing the garrote from the Gulf could well take a substantial amount of time and effort(the Iranians learned from the Tanker War, and not entirely the lessons we would have wished for them to learn). Then we have to get it from point A to Point B. China is unlikely to be able to launch a substantial Blue Water Naval presence in the near term, but are working to add to their abilities in that area. Even a handful of subs could be a pretty significant annoyance, tying up resources hunting them and escorting maritime transport.

Tying into both of these is our crumbling infrastructure. The Backlog of deferred maintenance on the roads, rails, and canals that vital goods will be traveling on would be another expensive distraction. Also we burn more fuel than we need to moving goods and people around the country. If we need to conserve fuel, rail and water transport win hands down. Rail has been steadily shedding capacity seeking to reduce cost and shift the supply/demand balance in their favor. Locks are aging, and waterways generally only draw attention when the spill over their banks. When these are offline being patched or running below capacity we are going to have to run multitudes of trucks increasing our oil and infrastructure costs.

Oddly enough, all of the "make work" projects during the depression may have improved our readiness for the second World War by reducing the number of urgent infrastructure needs when the war started.