Daily Archive: 09/28/2012

Sep 28 2012

Parasite

noun

  1. an organism that lives on or in an organism of another species, known as the host, from the body of which it obtains nutriment.
  2. a person who receives support, advantage, or the like, from another or others without giving any useful or proper return, as one who lives on the hospitality of others.
  3. (in ancient Greece) a person who received free meals in return for amusing or impudent conversation, flattering remarks, etc.

Sep 28 2012

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: Europe’s Austerity Madness

So much for complacency. Just a few days ago, the conventional wisdom was that Europe finally had things under control. The European Central Bank, by promising to buy the bonds of troubled governments if necessary, had soothed markets. All that debtor nations had to do, the story went, was agree to more and deeper austerity – the condition for central bank loans – and all would be well.

But the purveyors of conventional wisdom forgot that people were involved. Suddenly, Spain and Greece are being racked by strikes and huge demonstrations. The public in these countries is, in effect, saying that it has reached its limit: With unemployment at Great Depression levels and with erstwhile middle-class workers reduced to picking through garbage in search of food, austerity has already gone too far. And this means that there may not be a deal after all.

Peter Z. Sheer: Republicans Lost the War With Women the Moment They Declared It

A new Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll has the voting women of Ohio giving Barack Obama 25 points over Mitt Romney. In Pennsylvania, women prefer Obama by 21 points and in Florida the president has a 19-point advantage, according to the same poll. That might have something to do with the war on women Republicans have been accidentally waging this summer. Well, the war is not accidental-it’s quite intentional-it just wasn’t meant to be this public.

Let’s talk about women.

My grandmother didn’t think her daughter needed to go to college. Mom could find a husband to provide for her. She went anyway and worked her way through school until she got herself a “copyboy” job at the Los Angeles Times at a time when women, if they were hired to write at all, wrote about clothes and food.

New York Times Editorial: The Wait for Postal Default

While House members are back home campaigning straight to Election Day, voters might want to alert them that the United States Postal Service is about to default on a $5.6 billion loan obligation – mainly because the House took off without allowing the service to modernize its archaic business practices.

This was one of the simpler, cost-free tasks before Congress, and the Democratic Senate did its job in April in passing a Postal Service reform bill. But the Republicans in the House, who never stop calling for government to be run like a business, failed to act, thereby denying the Postal Service innovations that would allow it to be run like, yes, a modern delivery business.

Mike Edwards and Danny Oppenheimer: Eliminate the Electoral College

The Electoral College is one of the most dangerous institutions in American politics today.

The primary impact of the Electoral College is to give the citizens of some states more influence over the presidential election than citizens of other states. If you live in a Battleground State you are showered with attention. Your issues gain traction at the national level. You have political power. But if you happen to live in a Red State or a Blue State — as do roughly 79% of Americans according to Nate Silver’s electoral map — then you are pretty much out of luck. Your vote doesn’t matter. And when we say “your vote doesn’t matter,” we can actually quantify this. According to the Princeton Election Consortium a vote in Nevada this year (a small battleground state) is over one million times more likely to have an impact on this election than a vote in New Jersey (a large Blue state).

This is horribly unjust. It makes a mockery of the principal of “one man, one vote”; it doesn’t matter if we all get one vote when some votes are worth more than others.

Robert Reich: Romney’s Goal for the Companies Bain Acquired: “Harvest Them at Significant Profit”

Here’s a video of Romney in his early years at Bain, explaining his purpose in acquiring companies was to “harvest them at significant profit.”

No one should be surprised. After all, Bain Capital wasn’t in the business of creating jobs. It was in the business of creating profits.

The two goals aren’t at all the same — as Americans whose jobs have been eliminated or whose wages and benefits have been cut know all too well.

For years, higher corporate profits have come at the expense of fewer jobs and lower wages. Business leaders and financiers have been “harvesting” like mad, leaving most Americans behind in the dirt.

Romney’s main selling point to voters is his so-called “business experience.” Yet America can’t afford this sort of “business experience” in the White House.

To the contrary, we need someone who doesn’t see the economy as profits to be harvested, but as people who need more and better jobs.

Andrew Rosenthal: Will Waterboarding Make a Comeback?

Last September, Mitt Romney’s advisers were so determined to attack President Obama from every direction and to revive long-discredited neo-con theories about interrogation that they actually encouraged the candidate to come out strongly pro-torture in his presidential campaign.

In what The Times’ Charlie Savage describes as a “near-final draft” of a memo, Romney advisers denounced Mr. Obama’s executive order on interrogation (which instructed interrogators to hew to the Army Field Manual, i.e. to legal techniques). They also urged Mr. Romney to pledge that, upon taking office, he would rescind that order.

Sep 28 2012

Julian Assange at the United Nations General Assembly

(h/t Kevin Gosztola @ Firedog Lake)

(Transcript from OpEd News)

Sep 28 2012

Is LIBOR Fixable?

Some regulators think LIBOR, the benchmark for short term interest rates that is fixed by a group of bankers in London, can be fixed. Others feel it is irreparably damaged and was a myth from the start.

Libor Rate ‘Needs A Complete Overhaul,’ But Not To Be Scrapped, British Officials Say

Britain’s top financial watchdog delivered a 10-point plan to fix Libor but stopped short of scrapping the benchmark interest rate in a much-awaited reform of a system plagued by scandal.

“The system is broken and needs a complete overhaul,” said Martin Wheatley, head of the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

Wheatley acknowledged problems with London interbank offered rates, but said Libor is so deeply entrenched in the financial system that it cannot be easily replaced. [..]

CHARGES OF MANIPULATION

Multiple banks have been accused of trying to manipulate Libor, a series of rates set daily in London. Barclays in June agreed to pay $453 million to U.S. and British authorities to settle allegations that it tried to move Libor to help its trading positions.

Wheatley’s programme for reform includes auditing banks that contribute data used to calculate the rates, to ensure they are not submitting false rates to benefit trading positions. [..]

SHRINKING THE NUMBER OF RATES

Rates that are infrequently referenced in trades, such as Australian and Canadian dollar rates, will be phased out, Wheatley said. Maturities that are infrequently used, such as four, five, seven, eight, 10 and 11 months, will also be ended.

The reductions will shrink the current number of Libor rates set daily to 20 from 150. Rates that are rarely traded are easier to manipulate.

More banks will be required to submit their borrowing rates. [..]

The Myth of Fixing the Libor

There were two implicit assumptions in Libor. One was that banks were virtually risk-free, or at least that their risk was small and would not vary much over time. The other was that there was a way to actually calculate what the rate was. Both assumptions turned out to be wrong.

Libor rates are calculated each day by the British Bankers’ Association, a trade group that makes good money from licensing the use of Libor rates. [..]

The scandal made clear that those reports were faked before and during the financial crisis by at least some of the banks. But what is not as widely appreciated is that there is substantial evidence that the deception goes on. Banks continue to report figures that strain credulity, both in their level and in their lack of volatility from day to day or week to week. [..]

The bank regulators believed the fiction. Banks that owned AAA-rated floating rate assets needed to keep virtually no reserves on hand to back them.

We all know what happened. It turned out that risks were far greater than had been realized. Banks failed or were bailed out. Investors in AAA securities suffered major losses.

Libor was manipulated by bankers long before the financial crisis, and it is still based on calculations that have little basis in reality. Mr. Wheatley assures us that more regulation can deal with conflicts of interest. There will, he promises, be a “clear code of conduct” and “clear rules,” enforced by a regulator with “extensive powers.”

Pollyanna lives.

Some folks just cling to their myths.

Sep 28 2012

On This Day In History September 28

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 28 is the 271st day of the year (272nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 94 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1928, the antibiotic Penicillin was discovered. It’s discovery is attributed to Scottish scientist and Nobel laureate Alexander Fleming in 1928. He showed that, if Penicillium notatum  was grown in the appropriate substrate, it would exude a substance with antibiotic properties, which he dubbed penicillin. This serendipitous  observation began the modern era of antibiotic discovery. The development of penicillin for use as a medicine is attributed to the Australian Nobel laureate Howard Walter Florey together with the German Nobel laureate Ernst Chain and the English biochemist Norman Heatley.

However, several others reported the bacteriostatic effects of Penicillium earlier than Fleming. The use of bread with a blue mould (presumably penicillium) as a means of treating suppurating wounds was a staple of folk medicine in Europe since the Middle Ages. The first published reference appears in the publication of the Royal Society in 1875, by John Tyndall. Ernest Duchesne documented it in an 1897 paper, which was not accepted by the Institut Pasteur because of his youth. In March 2000, doctors at the San Juan de Dios Hospital in San José, Costa Rica published the manuscripts of the Costa Rican scientist and medical doctor Clodomiro (Clorito) Picado Twight (1887-1944). They reported Picado’s observations on the inhibitory actions of fungi of the genus Penicillium between 1915 and 1927. Picado reported his discovery to the Paris Academy of Sciences, yet did not patent it, even though his investigations started years before Fleming’s. Joseph Lister was experimenting with penicillum in 1871 for his Aseptic surgery. He found that it weakened the microbes but then he dismissed the fungi.

Fleming recounted that the date of his discovery of penicillin was on the morning of Friday, September 28, 1928. It was a fortuitous accident: in his laboratory in the basement of St. Mary’s Hospital in London (now part of Imperial College), Fleming noticed a petri dish containing Staphylococcus plate culture he had mistakenly left open, which was contaminated by blue-green mould, which had formed a visible growth. There was a halo of inhibited bacterial growth around the mould. Fleming concluded that the mould was releasing a substance that was repressing the growth and lysing the bacteria. He grew a pure culture and discovered that it was a Penicillium mould, now known to be Penicillium notatum. Charles Thom, an American specialist working at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was the acknowledged expert, and Fleming referred the matter to him. Fleming coined the term “penicillin” to describe the filtrate of a broth culture of the Penicillium mould. Even in these early stages, penicillin was found to be most effective against Gram-positive bacteria, and ineffective against Gram-negative organisms and fungi. He expressed initial optimism that penicillin would be a useful disinfectant, being highly potent with minimal toxicity compared to antiseptics of the day, and noted its laboratory value in the isolation of “Bacillus influenzae” (now Haemophilus influenzae). After further experiments, Fleming was convinced that penicillin could not last long enough in the human body to kill pathogenic bacteria, and stopped studying it after 1931. He restarted clinical trials in 1934, and continued to try to get someone to purify it until 1940.