The beached whale ORCA: a campaign consultant con job?

I am a firm believer in Hanlon’s Rule (actually Heinlein’s Rule): “Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity/incompetence”, but at times that faith gets shaken. Such as by the ORCA fiasco (see AceBusinessInsiderWaPo , CNETComputerWorldPolitico, and Breitbart) which may very well have cost Romney the election. RedState (via Althouse) now has more on how the campaign acquired this turkey. Go read it all and weep: it is a horrifying story of nest-feathering by consultants, arrogance, and campaign decisions based on bogus statistics and poll numbers from the turkey’s droppings.

The result of all of these false numbers and inaccurate ground reports is simple: Mitt Romney was ill-prepared for the actual numbers on election day and his false sense of confidence directly translated into how the campaign operated in the closing weeks. In the words of one source, it was a con job. As David Mamet famously said, “If you’re in the con game and you don’t know who the mark is … you’re the mark.” Mitt Romney had no idea what was coming.

And thanks to the greed and hubris of a few we are now stuck with four more years of the worst administration in living memory. Thanks for worse than nothing.

UPDATE: More here from Bethany Mandel. And more on the company: seems to consist of a bunch of execs and marketers and… two coders, one of which actually used to work for Al Gore. I might have been able to overlook the latter, but on principle I avoid IT companies that are “all hat and no cattle” (or all jacket and no bomber) like the plague.

Jerry Pournelle on Japanese nuclear disaster

I have been too busy in real life to do more than post links to my twitter feed over the last week or so, and reports from Japan about the nuclear incident following the tragic earthquake (thus far the 5th most intense in documented history) and resulting tsunami were too conflicting and sensationalist to write about. Let me however give the word to the inimitable Jerry Pournelle (on what is arguably the original weblog, now in its 666th week):

We are now down to an absolute worst case of two Tsar Bomba fallout equivalent from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. Note that we are talking about fallout only: there is no danger whatever of an actual nuclear explosion. The media are breathlessly telling of a nuclear cloud approaching the United States. NPR proclaims that no nukes is good nukes. The Union of Concerned Scientists will cheerfully furnish you with as gloomy a forecast as you’d like whether you ask for their view or not.

In fact the situation is slowly coming under control. Fukushima Daiichi sits on the coast amidst a scene of almost unimaginable destruction, in freezing weather, with high winds. Every road, water pipe, and power line is gone. Debris litters the passageways to the plant. Fukushima Daiichi was protected by a 20 foot sea wall. Most of the surrounding countryside wasn’t protected by a sea wall at all.

At reactor four the fuel rods were in a spent fuel pond: the reactor was shut down in December. The pond was on the roof of the reactor building, which seemed like a good idea at the time, and could withstand an 8.0 quake, and being on the roof had a really short path from the reactor to the storage pond. All was well, until the quake cracked the pool wall. Well, that’s all right, we pump in water. Only there’s no power because the reactors scrammed at the first large tremor. That’s all right, the diesels kick in and the water pumps start up. Only now there’s a tsunami. Well, that’s all right, there’s a twenty foot sea wall. Only the tsunami is 23 feet, and maybe there has been some subsidence of the land level due to the quake. Water rushes into the complex. Back at reactor 4: the water is flowing out of the spent fuel rod pool. The rods stand on end, 14 feet tall, with about 40 feet of water in the pool. The water is flowing out. Everyone is worrying more about the three reactors which are scrammed but which still contain the fuel rods. Those rods are really hot: they are full of just created fission products, some with half lives in minutes to hours so producing a lot of heat. Over in four all the really hot stuff — fission products — has decayed out. But the water is leaking. Temperatures are going up.

At some point the water in the four tank boils furiously near the zirconium rod containers. Superhot steam plus zirconium metal produces very fast rusting. This is also known as oxidation. Rapid oxidation is often called burning. The oxygen in the water is stripped off to become zirconium oxide. That leaves hydrogen (contaminated with some tritium since we still have neutrons and beta products coming from the radioactive decay of the fission byproducts). Hydrogen gets out into the room enclosing the spent fuel pool. It mixes with oxygen from the outside. It ignites. There is an explosion that blows off the roof of the rooftop spent fuel enclosure building. Water continues to leak from the pool.

The remedy is to get water into that pool, but we still don’t have much power for pumps, nor water supply, because we are still surrounded by devastation, and we still have the problem of the reactors that have just been scrammed and are really really hot because they have recently created fission products in them.

But we can call in helicopters to drop water into the now-exposed pool.  That ought to work only there is a 20 knot wind, so not all the water dropped can get into the pool, and much goes downwind in a televisible display plume.

And there we are. The good news is that the wind is blowing the results out to sea. The bad news is that a plume hundreds of miles long develops and in that plume are detectable — not dangerous but detectable — levels of radiation, and out there away from the destruction, not hampered by the devastation of the earthquake and tsunami, are a lot of  news people desperate for a story, and —   I leave the rest as an exercise for the reader. Detectible soon becomes potentially dangerous levels, and it’s hundreds and hundreds of miles, and a Union of Concerned Scientists expert will now tell you about it all.

I can’t say that this won’t be worse than Chernobyl, but so far we have no stories whatever of anyone off the plant site injured, which makes this a TMI story, not a Chernobyl story. And that’s the way things are at Noon on Thursday as best I can tell. Here’s the headline:

Japan nuclear crisis deepens as radiation keeps crews at bay

Race is on to restart cooling systems with emergency power after dropping water on damaged reactors has little effect

To the best of my knowledge the Japanese crews are winning the race. This will end up worse than TMI because many of those in the plant will be injured, and some may be killed: I understand that some workers have voluntarily exceeded their annual badge limits and by a lot because they thought their work was critical. At TMI there were no off site injuries, and the worst to the workers was that they exceeded their badge limits and were sent away. At Daiichi there have so far been no off site injuries, but some to many of the plant workers have exceeded their badge limits. In addition six or more have mechanical injuries, some from the hydrogen explosions, one from a heart attack. Pray for them.

Indeed. Jerry puts in a well-deserved plug to the MIT Nuclear Information Hub. weblog, which is now frequently updated with lots of relevant info. Get thee over there.

And just to give some perspective on the scale of the disaster caused by the tsunami, have a look at this video sent to me by Mrs. F2. At first the combination of new agey background music and what deceptively seems like shots of a peaceful tide rolling will throw you off, but as the images zoom in the devastation is revealed for what it is, and the continuing background music creates a chilling, Lalo Shifrin-esque emotional counterpoint.


Declaration of Independence, Twitter style

Depressingly, a Marist Poll revealed that 40% Of 18-29 Year-Olds Don’t Know Why We Celebrate The 4th Of July. []

So perhaps, it has to be explained in a way that will “reach” the Twitter/SMS generation. In honor of Independence Day, Slate started a contest on Twitter to summarize the Declaration of Independence in 140 characters or less. (That length would also fit an SMS.)

You can see the results in real-time here:

Some personal picks:

badanes Our Rights from Creator (h/t @JLocke). Life, Liberty, PoH FTW! Your transgressions = FAIL. GTFO, @GeorgeIII. -HANCOCK et al #TinyDeclaration

chrispreilly Dear king, you are fired. We will govern ourselves. God created us & gave us rights. We have our reasons. #TinyDeclaration

scotters Hate to do this publicly and to this extent King George, but we’ve had enough of your high taxes. We’re done. Bye. #TinyDeclaration

FreeRangeMom We are reluctant to take this step, but because the King is grievously unfair, we declare ourselves to be independent #TinyDeclaration

ericinva Dudes…@KingGeorge is totally killing our buzz. So, like, everyone unfollow him, ‘kay? #TinyDeclaration

mpsever England, bro, we’re breaking up the band. Gonna work on a solo project for a bit. May tour Europe in 1940s. You can open. #tinydeclaration

prmros RT @TheIncumbent: @TheRealKingGeorgeIII We’re closing our @13colonies acct. We’re now @USofA. PS ur off our #ff list. #TinyDeclaration

dr_bombay yes, we can haz Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness etc. – Independence FTW! PS: bring it, @KingGeorge3 — it is ON, buddy. #TinyDeclaration

dmataconis Hey @KingGeorge, we got these rights that even a blind man can see. You violated them. So, f**k off. #TinyDeclaration

bdeak17 We both knew where this long distance relationship was going. Face it, we are different pple now, we want to try new things #TinyDeclaration

ericinva Hey, @KingGeorge, we’re done with you. #blocked #TinyDeclaration

danielstroud Dear G III R- We get MPs or you get the business end of our muskets. Now put that in your cup & drink it. (Not) Yours, TJ #tinydeclaration

CatRey We’re not gonna take it. No! We ain’t gonna take it! We’re not gonna take it- Anymore. #twistedsister #tinydeclaration

NEHgov Dear George, it’s not you. It’s U.S. #TinyDeclaration See T.J’s rough draft at NEH-funded PAPERS OF THOMAS JEFFERSON

Happy Fourth of July Weekend!

On Being a 21st-Century Peasant – Reason Magazine

Ron Bailey fisks an article in which a jounalist without scientific qualifications (not automatically unqualified — except the New Class uses this argument often against the rest of us) calls for humanity to return to a subsistence farming lifestyle: On Being a 21st-Century Peasant – Reason Magazine.

Commenter “John” nails it:

The other thing that amuses me is that we end up in some kind of subsistence peasant lifestyle either way. If we ignored these clowns, [yet] all of their gloom and doom predictions turned out to be true, we would end up in the same place that we would be in if we had followed their advice, except of course that they wouldn’t be in charge.


“We con the world” and the parody defense

Last week the “We con the world” video by the team (lama she-tit`atzben levad/why should you get aggravated by yourself?) became a viral success. Following complaints by Warner Music for copyright infringement, YouTube took down the video, only to be rewarded for its effort by dozens of copies elsewhere (including on and on YouTube itself [example]).
Clearly, YouTube has never heard of the parody defense — this type of parody for nonprofit (in this case, political) purposes has long been recognized as “fair use” in US jurisprudence.
Turns out, there is even a Supreme Court ruling that explicitly recognizes even for-profit parodies as fair use:,_Inc.

The story in brief: the rap group 2 Live Crew requested permission to record a parody of Roy Orbison’s classic “Pretty woman”. Permission being denied, they went ahead and recorded one anyhow, adding their trademark raunchy lyrics. Only after the recording became a hit were they sued. Eventually, the case made its way to SCOTUS.

The court found unanimously for 2 Live Crew. Under US copyright law, four criteria determine whether “fair use” applies:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The Supreme Court then found the aforementioned factors must be applied to each situation on a case by case basis. ‘”The fact that parody can claim legitimacy for some appropriation does not, of course, tell either parodist or judge much about where to draw the line. Like a book review quoting the copyrighted material criticized, parody may or may not be fair use, and petitioner’s suggestion that any parodic use is presumptively fair has no more justification in law or fact than the equally hopeful claim that any use for news reporting should be presumed fair.”

When looking at the purpose and character of 2 Live Crew’s use, the Court found that the more transformative the new work, the less will be the significance of the other three factors. The court found that, in any event, a work’s commercial nature is only one element of the first factor enquiry into its purpose and character, quoting Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U.S. 417. The Supreme Court found the Court of Appeals analysis as running counter to this proposition.

Justice Souter then moved onto the second § 107 factor, “the nature of the copyrighted work”, finding it has little merit in resolving this and other parody cases, since the artistic value of parodies is often found in their ability to invariably copy popular works of the past.

The Court did find the third factor integral to the analysis, finding that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that, as a matter of law, 2 Live Crew copied excessively from the Orbison original. Souter reasoned that the “amount and substantiality” of the portion used by 2 Live Crew was reasonable in relation to the band’s purpose in creating a parody of “Oh, Pretty Woman“. The majority reasoned “even if 2 Live Crew’s copying of the original’s first line of lyrics and characteristic opening bass riff may be said to go to the original’s ‘heart,’ that heart is what most readily conjures up the song for parody, and it is the heart at which parody takes aim.” The Supreme Court then looked to the new work as a whole, finding that 2 Live Crew thereafter departed markedly from the Orbison lyrics, producing otherwise distinctive music.

Looking at the final factor, the Supreme Court found that the Court of Appeals erred in finding a presumption or inference of market harm (such as there had been in Sony). Parodies in general, the Court said, will rarely substitute for the original work, since the two works serve different market functions.

A case could be made that the 2 Live Crew version is a crime against music: however, it is not the function of the courts to regulate taste. The point of all this: if a parody defense was successful in this case, a fortiori the “We con the world” video should not have been a problem.

Quite amusingly, the majority opinion has the lyrics of both the original and the parody attached. Thus the “2 Live Crew”s sophomoric doggerel can be found in any major law library 🙂