Brooklyn subway stop named for British bank

Turnabout is Fair Play, eh?

The British are coming, the British are coming — to Brooklyn? By subway? Barclays has paid $300 million for the naming rights to the New Jersey Nets arena.

New York’s struggling Metropolitan Transportation Authority has sold the naming rights to the second-busiest subway stop in Brooklyn. The Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street Station will now have the name of a British bank, Barclays, added to it…

One straphanger said, “A London Bank shouldn’t be the name of this train station; it’s something that belongs to the public domain…”

Though the Atlantic-Pacific subway station is the first in New York for which naming rights have been sold, across the country, there have been several cases of public transportation systems using naming rights to increase revenue.

In 2003, the Las Vegas monorail system signed a 12-year, $50 million deal with Nextel to put its name on the station in the Las Vegas Convention Center. The Cleveland Bus System sold station names to two hospitals for $1.1 million a year.

Selling everything that ain’t nailed down is the American Way. Selling the name of what is nailed down is just another part of the same lack of standards.

I can’t afford a railroad stop on the new RailRunner Express. Though I kind of like the sound of the warning horn on the diesel locomotive that makes it to Lot 4 on an easterly wind some mornings.

Wonder if the county will let me name the perpetual pothole that tops the first rise up our road from the county road? We could name it Eideard Canyon or some such. $20?

Robert McNamara is dead. Good riddance.

The Italians got it right with Mussolini

Robert McNamara, the architect of the Vietnam War who later made a public reversal on the conflict and said it should never have been fought, died today. He was 93 years old.

As secretary of defence under John F Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, McNamara was instrumental in pushing the US into war in Vietnam and managing the conflict, even as he acknowledged in private that he had doubts about America’s ability to defeat the insurgent nationalists who had driven out the French.

Doubts or not, he supported the lies that prolonged and widened the war.

McNamara left government in 1968, roughly midway through the war that would ultimately claim more than 58,000 American lives and more than one million Vietnamese lives. A former executive at Ford, he moved onto a successful 12-year run at the World Bank.

He did nothing useful. He tried to garner forgiveness for his cowardice and complicity.

Toyota will roll mass-production plug-in hybrid in 2012 models

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Less than three years: that’s the wait time left for a plug-in hybrid from Toyota at commercial scale, according to reports this weekend from Japan’s Nikkei. The news that Toyota plans to start churning out at least 20,000 to 30,000 plug-in hybrids in 2012 comes just one month after the company first detailed plans to lease plug-in hybrids based on the latest Prius model with lithium-ion batteries.

Toyota’s plans to move forward with mass production of its plug-in hybrid vehicle within the next few years — at a price comparable to Mitsubishi’s planned electric vehicle, according to the Nikkei’s sources — represents another major milestone for a technology that’s widely seen as the future of electric car batteries…

Battery makers also may face a changing competitive landscape as a result of Toyota’s plug-in hybrid ambitions. As we noted last month, the plug-in hybrid lease program announced in June marked the first time that Toyota is using lithium-ion batteries (as opposed to nickel-metal hydride) for propulsion in one of its vehicles. Mass deployment of lithium-ion batteries (developed and manufactured by Toyota’s joint venture with Panasonic, Reuters reports) in the upcoming plug-in model — and in the all-electric Toyota FT-EV subcompact also slated to launch by 2012 — could mean a massive competitor, but potentially also new opportunities.

Those opportunities could result from Toyota’s lithium-ion and plug-in plays increasing pressure on competing automakers to turn to startups. The idea would be to secure a quick fix for technology in an attempt to speed plug-in models to market (something Daimler described as part of the reasoning for its investment in Tesla Motors). On the other hand, with mass-scale production, ramped-up battery production from Toyota’s joint ventures with both Panasonic and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. (which now makes the nickel-metal hydride batteries for the regular hybrid Prius and aims to start out capacity for lithium-ion batteries this year) could present tough competition for smaller startups without the same manufacturing capacity or resources.

Interesting, useful news from the widespread perspectives of motorhead – and investor – in my own household. Earth2Tech is a source I check on a daily basis. All the GigaOm sites are productive and interesting to geek investors. If I wasn’t such a cheapskate, I’d sub to GigaOm Pro.

Plug-in hybrids are the concept I’ve championed for years – back to the first Prius conversions. They make the most sense for families like mine where the typical top-out of a day’s driving for work and errands is about 40 miles.

BTW – most of the green geeks are being sucker-punched by this announcement just like Honda was by the 2009 Priuses. If you believe the publicized price and range, electric or otherwise, is cast in stone – go invest your hard-earned dollars in the Chevy Volt. Har!

Colombian footballer resents name-calling. Kills fan.

Do you think retaliation is limited to South American footballers?

A Colombian soccer player shot a fan with a handgun after being called “lousy”, police said on Sunday.

Javier Florez, a midfielder for the Atletico Junior team of the Caribbean city in Barranquilla, ran from the scene of the shooting but soon turned himself in to authorities.

Witnesses told police Florez shot Israel Castillo with a handgun after the 27-year-old electrician called him a “maleta” or lousy in Colombian parlance.

Atletico Junior lost the Apertura Championship final to a team called Once Caldas late last month.

Wait till Michael Owen confronts his first irate Mancunian. Does he have a license to carry?

Dance through a rogue programmer scandal at Goldman-Sachs?

While most in the US were celebrating the 4th of July, a Russian immigrant living in New Jersey was being held on federal charges of stealing top-secret computer trading codes from a major New York-based financial institution—that sources say is none other than Goldman Sachs.

The allegations, if true, are big news because the codes the accused man, Sergey Aleynikov, tried to steal is the secret code to unlocking Goldman’s automated stocks and commodities trading businesses. Federal authorities allege the computer codes and related-trading files that Aleynikov uploaded to a German-based website help this major “financial institution” generate millions of dollars in profits each year.

The platform is one of the things that apparently gives Goldman a leg-up over the competition when it comes to rapid-fire trading of stocks and commodities. Federal authorities say the platform quickly processes rapid developments in the markets and uses top secret mathematical formulas to allow the firm to make highly-profitable automated trades.

The criminal case has the potential to shed a light on the inner workings of an important profit center for Goldman and other Wall Street firms. The federal charges also raise serious questions about the safeguards Wall Street firms deploy to protect their proprietary trading systems.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations, in charging Aleynikov, says he began working for the major financial institution in May 2007 as a computer programmer and left in early June. That would appear to match the description of a man named Serge Aleynikov, as it is listed on the social networking website LinkedIn.

The bio information for Aleynikov on LinkedIn says he joined Goldman in May 2007 and was vice president for equity strategy. The bio says he was responsible for “development of a distributed real-time co-located high-frequency trading platform.” In his own words, he goes on to describe the platform as “a very low latency (microseconds) event-driven market data processing, strategy and order submission engine.”

The case against Aleynikov may explain why the New York Stock Exchange moved quickly in the past week to alter its methodology for reporting program stock trading. Goldman often was at the top of the chart–far ahead of its competitors.

If you’re going to rely on the latest and greatest in silicon-based technology to get an edge on the competition, you had better do a leading edge job at security, human resources, checking back on whoever you hired to get that edge – and the folks you trust to do the checking.

Looks like someone was snovered at Goldman-Sachs.

Thanks, Justin

Alternative plan would get NASA to moon cheaper, sooner

Like a car salesman pushing a luxury vehicle that the customer no longer can afford, NASA has pulled out of its back pocket a deal for a cheaper ride to the moon. It won’t be as powerful, and its design is a little dated. Think of it as a base-model Ford station wagon instead of a tricked-out Cadillac Escalade.

Officially, the space agency is still on track with a 4-year-old plan to spend $35 billion to build new rockets and return astronauts to the moon in several years. However, a top NASA manager is floating a cut-rate alternative that costs around $6.6 billion.

This cheaper option is not as powerful as NASA’s current design with its fancy new rockets, the people-carrying Ares I and cargo-lifting Ares V. But the cut-rate plan would still get to the moon.

The new model calls for flying lunar vehicles on something very familiar-looking – the old space shuttle system with its gigantic orange fuel tank and twin solid-rocket boosters, minus the shuttle itself. There are two new vehicles this rocket would carry – one generic cargo container, the other an Apollo-like capsule for astronaut travel. Those new vehicles could both go to the moon or the international space station.

What’s most remarkable about this idea is who it came from: NASA’s shuttle program manager John Shannon. He recently presented it to an independent panel charged with reviewing NASA’s costly spaceflight plans. And he was urged to do so by a top NASA administrator.

It shows that top officials in NASA, an agency of engineers who regularly make contingency plans, worry that their preferred moon plan is running into trouble, space experts said…

The Shannon plan – called the Shuttle-Derived Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle – would only be able to carry two astronauts at a time instead of three or four. That might mean less of a moon base, Shannon said.

Whatever the final plan, Shannon said it all comes down to this: “I would like us to be in the lunar business.”

RTFA and wonder which variant gets the support of NASA, which gets past Congress – and which gets past the beancounters after all.

Whatever became of British leadership in political sex scandals?

The British may have mixed feelings about the achievements of Mark Sanford, the pious, married Republican governor of South Carolina. Highlights from Mr Sanford’s correspondence with his Argentinian lover, María Belén Chapur, have continued to impress romantics, even after extracts were read out on the Today programme, with satirical emphasis. For example: “Have you been told lately how warm your eyes are and how they softly glow with the special nature of your soul…?”

However, after so long without a significant British political affair, the sudden emergence of a sexual hypocrite of Sanford’s stature reminds us what we have lost. How did this happen? Did we, like Victorians in the days of Empire, take effortless British pre-eminence in sex scandals for granted? Last century, when Parkinson, Mellor, Yeo, Archer, Clark, Shagger Norris, Currie and Major made Tory politics synonymous with non-stop sexual farce, it was justly said that no European country came close to the Anglo-Saxons for hypocrisy. Just two years ago the US journalist James Wolcott praised Britain’s record in the pages of Vanity Fair. “Comparing Washington sex scandals with those of Britain’s political class is enough to cause any red-blooded American to blush with shame,” he said.

How could his country ever compete, he wondered, with the nation that produced Profumo, and, more recently, that celebrated string of liaisons at the Spectator, where staff members diligently hoovered up anything that had not already been slept with by the magazine’s tireless publisher, Kimberly Fortier? It was like our handmade shoes. Where else would you find this bespoke, traditional quality? “British sex scandals, like ours, are often rooted in a dolour of middle-aged malaise,” wrote Wolcott, “but they’re also animated by spite, spicy details, vanity, revenge, bitter comedy and bawdy excess – the complete Jacobean pantry.”

But in reality we were already punching above our weight. Blunkett’s dreary little folly was to have wangled a nanny’s visa. Robin Cook’s primary mistake was to fall foul of the Alastair Campbell code of conduct. As for that blundering comic turn John Prescott, his storyline almost demanded that he grunt his way into Tracey Temple’s diary: “He can be a randy old sod… coz he wanted sex again.”

Since then, the most notable British politicians prepared to sacrifice their reputations in this way have been Ron Davies and Mark Oaten, neither of whom had to atone, à la Profumo, with several decades in the East End. When Mr Jacqui Smith appeared, with his porn habit, it was a point of honour, on every side, to insist that it wasn’t the smut we resented, oh no, not remotely, so much as having to pay for it. A tolerance born out of indifference, shamelessness or maybe, even, maturity, was recently codified by Justice Eady with his ruling that Max Mosley’s elegantly costumed whacking parties were nobody’s business but his own.

It is surely a melancholy reflection of our stalled voyeuristic tradition that the bawdiest aspect of the current Spectator is an excitable part work on political scandal whose cover boy is, with dull inevitability, Profumo. Today it is Americans such as Sanford who act out the political complications of unblemished family values…

The shame of a fallen empire.

Given our predilection for bible-thumping, I think we probably surpassed the Brits at hypocrisy by 1950. It took another half-century for the sexy bits to catch up, that’s all.