Daily Archive: 03/15/2012

Mar 15 2012

2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship: Round of 64 Day 1 Evening

I used to sing it a capella.

So the Huskies are a 9 seed and it’s better than they deserve.  Calhoun is very ill and they’re facing 2 years of sanctions.  And they’re leaving the Big East because a mediocre Throwball team is considered more important than an Arena filling Hoopies program.

Thanks for nothing UConn.

Did I mention defending National Champions?

UConn Huskies

UConn Husky, symbol of might to the foe.

Fight, fight Connecticut, It’s vict’ry, Let’s go. (go. go. go)

Connecticut UConn Husky,

Do it again for the White and Blue

So go--go--go Connecticut, Connecticut U.

C-O-N-N-E-C-T-I-C-U-T

Connecticut, Conneticut Husky, Connecticut Husky

Connecticut C-O-N-N-U!

Time Network Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
6:30 pm TBS 1 Kentucky 32-2 16 Western Kentucky 16-18 South
7 pm CBS 5 Wichita State 27-5 12 VCU 28-6 South
7 pm TNT 7 Gonzaga 25-6 10 West Virginia 19-13 East
7:30 pm True 3 Baylor 27-7 14 South Dakota State 27-7 South
9:30 pm TBS 8 Iowa State 22-10 9 Connecticut 20-13 South
9:30 pm CBS 4 Indiana 25-8 13 New Mexico State 26-9 South
9:30 pm TNT 2 Ohio State 27-7 15 Loyola Maryland 24-8 East
10 pm True 6 UNLV 26-8 11 Colorado 23-11 South

This schedule looks impossible to me but I have 2 sources.

Mar 15 2012

Goldman Sachs “Old Days” Not So Rosy Either

A Goldman Sachs executive resigned in a lengthly and scathing op-ed in the New York Times. Greg Smith worked at Goldman Sachs for 12 years, rising to executive director and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. His latter shreds Goldman Sachs policies and employees:

   To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for […]

   How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.

   What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s “axes,” which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit. b) “Hunt Elephants.” In English: get your clients – some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t – to trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym.

Smith lays the blame for this climate of greed at the feet Goldman’s CRO, Lloyd Blankfein and the company’s president, Gary Cohn.:

When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.

Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone asks, like Forbes, should clients fire Goldman:

Banking, and finance, is a business that has to be first and foremost about trust. The reason you’re paying your broker/money manager such exorbitant sums is because that’s the value of integrity and honesty: You’re paying for the comfort of knowing he has your best interests at heart.

But what we’ve found out in the last years is that these Too-Big-To-Fail megabanks like Goldman no longer see the margin in being truly trustworthy. The game now is about getting paid as much as possible and as quickly as possible, and if your client doesn’t like the way you managed his money, well, fuck him – let him try to find someone else on the market to deal him straight.

These guys have lost the fear of going out of business, because they can’t go out of business. After all, our government won’t let them. Beyond the bailouts, they’re all subsisting daily on massive loads of free cash from the Fed. No one can touch them, and sadly, most of the biggest institutional clients see getting clipped for a few points by Goldman or Chase as the cost of doing business.

Speaking at the Atlantic Economy Summet in Washington, DC, former Federal Reserve Chairman, Paul Volker, said that Smith’s letter proves the need for the his rule

“[Trading] is a business that leads to a lot of conflicts of interest. You’re promised compensation when you’re doing well, and that’s very attractive to young people. All these firms can attract the best of American graduates, whether they’re philosophy majors or financial engineers, it didn’t make any difference,” Volcker said.

“A lot of that talent was siphoned off onto Wall Street. But now we have the question of how much of that activity is really constructive, in terms of improving productivity in the GDP,” Volcker said. “These were brilliant years for Wall Street by one perspective, but were they brilliant years for the economy? There’s no evidence of that. The rate of economic growth did not pick up, the rate of productivity did not pick up, the average household had no increase in their income over this period, or virtually no increase.”

Volcker noted that commercial banks hold the money of average Americans, and are insured by the federal government. “Should the government be subsidizing or protecting institutions that…are essentially engaged in speculative activities, often at the expense of customer relations?”

Yves Smith at naked capitalism, who also has been at the Atlantic conference weighed in that those good old days of the ’90’s weren’t as “rosy” as Smith remembers:

Earth to Greg: the old days were not quite as rosy as you suggest, but it is true that Goldman once cared about the value of its franchise, and that constrained its behavior. So it was “long term greedy,” eager to grab any profit opportunity but concerned about its reputation. I knew someone who was senior in what Goldman called human capital management, and even though, in classic old Goldman style, he was loath to say anything bad about anyone, he was clearly disgusted of Lloyd Blankfein and the crew that took over leadership after Hank Paulson, John Thain and John Thornton departed. Before the firm before had gone to some lengths to preserve its culture and was thoughtful about how to operate the firm. One head of a well respected investment bank told me in the mid 1990s: “It isn’t that Goldman has better people. All the top firms have good people. It’s that they make the effort to manage themselves better than anyone else.” That apparently went out the window when Blankfein came in. My contact said all his cohort cared about was how much money they could make in the current year.

Wall St. responded defensively calling Smith a “small timer” having a “midlife crisis“. That “crisis” so far has lost Goldman $2.5 billion in its market value:

The shares dropped 3.4 percent in New York trading yesterday, the third-biggest decline in the 81-company Standard & Poor’s 500 Financials Index, after London-based Greg Smith made the accusations in a New York Times op-ed piece.

Stephen Colbert “disapproves” of Greg Smith, after all Lloyd Blankfeid said Goldman was just doing “God’s work.”

Mar 15 2012

President Obama’s happy numbers and the reality-based community

A few days ago the BLS released some new employment numbers and as soon as they were released, the spinning began.  Bloomberg reported that the new numbers augured well for President Obama’s re-election:

A surge in new jobs last month that held the U.S. unemployment rate to 8.3 percent highlights a strengthening economy that bolsters President Barack Obama as he approaches the November election .

The jobs report “is another plus for the president,” said Stu Rothenberg, editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report in Washington.

“These numbers suggest the economy is moving in the right direction,” he said. “It’s likely to make people more optimistic, and that’s always, always good for an incumbent president.”

Amidst all of the spinning, the reality-based community ought to be asking itself, “do these numbers really mean anything?”

Mar 15 2012

2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship: Round of 64 Day 1 Afternoon

It blows my mind that Syracuse is a #1 seed.  They’re not that good.  Oh well, Beoheim will find a way to screw it up from the foul line just like he always does.  7 footer Fab Melo will not be playing AND they have the coveted trueTV spot.  Go Orange.

Last Night’s Results

Result Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
71-59 16 * Vermont 24-11 16 Lamar 23-12 Mid West
65-54 12 * South Florida 21-13 12 California 24-10 Mid West

Round of 64 Day 1, Afternoon

Time Network Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
Noon CBS 6 Murray State 30-1 11 Colorado State 20-11 West
12:30 pm True 8 Kansas State 21-10 9 Southern Miss 25-8 East
1:30 pm TBS 4 Louisville 26-9 13 Davidson 25-7 West
2 pm TNT 4 Wisconsin 24-9 13 Montana 12-16 East
2:30 pm CBS 3 Marquette 25-7 14 BYU 26-8 West
3 pm True 1 Syracuse 31-2 16 UNC Asheville 24-9 East
4 pm TBS 5 New Mexico 27-6 12 Long Beach St. 25-8 West
4:30 pm TNT 5 Vanderbilt 24-10 12 Harvard 26-4 East

A better fight song

I know it’s very bad form to quote one’s own reviews, but I would like to mention something that The New York Times said about me a year ago which I’ve always treasured — they said:

Mr. Lehrer’s muse is not fettered by such inhibiting factors as taste.

Now we come to that peculiar bit of americana known as the football fight song. I was reminded not too long ago, upon returning from my lesson with the scrabble pro at the Harvard Club in Boston, in the days of my undergraduacy long ago when there used to be these very long Saturday afternoons in the fall with nothing to do — the library was closed — just waiting around for the cocktail parties to begin. and on occasions like that, some of us used to wander over to the… I believe it was called the stadium, to see if anything might be going on over there. and one did come to realize that the football fight songs that one hears in comparable stadia have a tendency to be somewhat uncouth, and even violent, and that it would be refreshing, to say the least, to find one that was a bit more genteel. And here it is, dedicated to my own alma mater, and called Fight Fiercely, Harvard.

Fight fiercely, Harvard, fight, fight, fight! Demonstrate to them our skill.

Albeit they possess the might, nonetheless we have the will.

How we shall celebrate our victory, We shall invite the whole team up for tea (how jolly!)

Hurl that spheroid down the field, and fight, fight, fight!

Fight fiercely, Harvard, fight, fight, fight! Impress them with our prowess, do!

Oh, fellows, do not let the Crimson down, Be of stout heart and true.

Come on, chaps, fight for Harvard’s glorious name, Won’t it be peachy if we win the game? (oh, goody!)

Let’s try not to injure them, but fight, fight, fight! (let’s not be rough though)

And do fight fiercely! Fight, fight, fight!

Mar 15 2012

2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship: Round of 64 Day 1 Afternoon

It blows my mind that Syracuse is a #1 seed.  They’re not that good.  Oh well, Beoheim will find a way to screw it up from the foul line just like he always does.  7 footer Fab Melo will not be playing AND they have the coveted trueTV spot.  Go Orange.

Last Night’s Results

Result Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
71-59 16 * Vermont 24-11 16 Lamar 23-12 Mid West
65-54 12 * South Florida 21-13 12 California 24-10 Mid West

Round of 64 Day 1, Afternoon

Time Network Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
Noon CBS 6 Murray State 30-1 11 Colorado State 20-11 West
12:30 pm True 8 Kansas State 21-10 9 Southern Miss 25-8 East
1:30 pm TBS 4 Louisville 26-9 13 Davidson 25-7 West
2 pm TNT 4 Wisconsin 24-9 13 Montana 12-16 East
2:30 pm CBS 3 Marquette 25-7 14 BYU 26-8 West
3 pm True 1 Syracuse 31-2 16 UNC Asheville 24-9 East
4 pm TBS 5 New Mexico 27-6 12 Long Beach St. 25-8 West
4:30 pm TNT 5 Vanderbilt 24-10 12 Harvard 26-4 East

A better fight song-

I know it’s very bad form to quote one’s own reviews, but I would like to mention something that The New York Times said about me a year ago which I’ve always treasured — they said:

Mr. Lehrer’s muse is not fettered by such inhibiting factors as taste.

Now we come to that peculiar bit of americana known as the football fight song. I was reminded not too long ago, upon returning from my lesson with the scrabble pro at the Harvard Club in Boston, in the days of my undergraduacy long ago when there used to be these very long Saturday afternoons in the fall with nothing to do — the library was closed — just waiting around for the cocktail parties to begin. and on occasions like that, some of us used to wander over to the… I believe it was called the stadium, to see if anything might be going on over there. and one did come to realize that the football fight songs that one hears in comparable stadia have a tendency to be somewhat uncouth, and even violent, and that it would be refreshing, to say the least, to find one that was a bit more genteel. And here it is, dedicated to my own alma mater, and called Fight Fiercely, Harvard.

Fight fiercely, Harvard, fight, fight, fight! Demonstrate to them our skill.

Albeit they possess the might, nonetheless we have the will.

How we shall celebrate our victory, We shall invite the whole team up for tea (how jolly!)

Hurl that spheroid down the field, and fight, fight, fight!

Fight fiercely, Harvard, fight, fight, fight! Impress them with our prowess, do!

Oh, fellows, do not let the Crimson down, Be of stout heart and true.

Come on, chaps, fight for Harvard’s glorious name, Won’t it be peachy if we win the game? (oh, goody!)

Let’s try not to injure them, but fight, fight, fight! (let’s not be rough though)

And do fight fiercely! Fight, fight, fight!

Mar 15 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”.

Robert Reich: The Widening Wealth Divide, and Why We Need a Surtax on the Super Wealthy

Let Santorum and Romney duke it out for who will cut taxes on the wealthy the most and shred the public services everyone else depends on.

The rest of us ought to be having a serious discussion about a wealth tax. Because if you really want to know what’s happening to the American economy you need to look at household wealth – not just incomes.

The Fed just reported that household wealth increased from October through December. That’s the first gain in three quarters.

Good news? Take closer look. The entire gain came from increases in stock prices. Those increases in stock values more than made up for continued losses in home values.

Paul Krugman: The Republican Party’s Long Decline Leads to Irrationality

The economist Brad DeLong notes that the Republican Party we now see in the primaries has been building for a couple of decades: “I went to Washington in 1993 to work for what we called Lloyd Bentsen’s Treasury as part of the sane technocratic bipartisan center,” Mr. DeLong wrote in a blog post on Feb 28. “And it took me only two months – two months! – to conclude that America’s best hope for sane technocratic governance required the elimination of the Republican Party from our political system as rapidly as possible … Nothing since has led me to question or change that belief – only to strengthen it.”

I can’t help thinking of my own decade-plus in the journalistic trenches. Early on in my tenure at The New York Times, I felt I had no choice but to point out the inconvenient truth that the official line of the commentariat was all wrong. George W. Bush was not a nice, blunt, honest guy who happened to be a conservative; he was a serial liar pursuing a hard-line agenda, who, among other things, deliberately misled the United States into war.

Gail Collins: The Senate Overachieves

Good news, frustrated American citizens! Congress is not a clogged up, hidebound legislative slug after all.

Bills were flying through the Senate on Wednesday like great flocks of geese soaring into the turbines of a passenger jet.

First, the senators passed legislation that would keep all the federally financed highway programs from coming to a screeching halt when money runs out at the end of this month. (Completely unnecessary disaster averted!)

Then, the party leaders came to an agreement on easing a bottleneck of uncontroversial judicial nominations. (People with no enemies cleared for hiring!)

Jeremy Scahill: Why Is President Obama Keeping a Journalist in Prison in Yemen?

On February 2, 2011, President Obama called Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The two discussed counterterrorism cooperation and the battle against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. At the end of the call, according to a White House read-out, Obama “expressed concern” over the release of a man named Abdulelah Haider Shaye, whom Obama said “had been sentenced to five years in prison for his association with AQAP.” It turned out that Shaye had not yet been released at the time of the call, but Saleh did have a pardon for him prepared and was ready to sign it. It would not have been unusual for the White House to express concern about Yemen’s allowing AQAP suspects to go free. Suspicious prison breaks of Islamist militants in Yemen had been a regular occurrence over the past decade, and Saleh has been known to exploit the threat of terrorism to leverage counterterrorism dollars from the United States. But this case was different. Abdulelah Haider Shaye is not an Islamist militant or an Al Qaeda operative. He is a journalist. [..]

For many journalists in Yemen, the publicly available “facts” about how Shaye was “assisting” AQAP indicate that simply interviewing Al Qaeda-associated figures, or reporting on civilian deaths caused by US strikes, is a crime in the view of the US government. “I think the worst thing about the whole case is that not only is an independent journalist being held in proxy detention by the US,” says Craig, “but that they’ve successfully put paid to other Yemeni journalists investigating air strikes against civilians and, most importantly, holding their own government to account. Shaye did both of those things.” She adds: “With the huge increase in government air strikes and US drone attacks recently, Yemen needs journalists like Shaye to report on what’s really going on.”

Mark Weisbot: America’s Subversion of Haiti’s Democracy Continues

When the “international community” blames Haiti for its political troubles, the underlying concept is usually that Haitians are not ready for democracy. But it is Washington that is not ready for democracy in Haiti.

Haitians have been ready for democracy for many decades. They were ready when they got massacred at polling stations, trying to vote in 1987, after the fall of the murderous Duvalier dictatorship. They were ready again in 1990, when they voted by a two-thirds majority for the leftist Catholic priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, only to see him overthrown seven months later in a military coup. The coup was later found to have been organized by people paid by the United States Central Intelligence Agency.

Theresa Brown: Hospitals Aren’t Hotels

YOU should never do this procedure without pain medicine,” the senior surgeon told a resident. “This is one of the most painful things we do.”

She wasn’t scolding, just firm, and she was telling the truth. The patient needed pleurodesis, a treatment that involves abrading the lining of the lungs in an attempt to stop fluid from collecting there. A tube inserted between the two layers of protective lung tissue drains the liquid, and then an irritant is slowly injected back into the tube. The tissue becomes inflamed and sticks together, the idea being that fluid cannot accumulate where there’s no space.

I have watched patients go through pleurodesis, and even with pain medication, they suffer. We injure them in this controlled, short-term way to prevent long-term recurrence of a much more serious problem: fluid around the lungs makes it very hard to breathe.

Mar 15 2012

On This Day In History March 15

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.

March 15 is the 74th day of the year (75th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 291 days remaining until the end of the year.

In the Roman calendar, March 15 was known as the Ides of March.

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress to urge the passage of legislation guaranteeing voting rights for all.

Using the phrase “we shall overcome,” borrowed from African-American leaders struggling for equal rights, Johnson declared that “every American citizen must have an equal right to vote.” Johnson reminded the nation that the Fifteenth Amendment, which was passed after the Civil War, gave all citizens the right to vote regardless of race or color. But states had defied the Constitution and erected barriers. Discrimination had taken the form of literacy, knowledge or character tests administered solely to African-Americans to keep them from registering to vote.

“Their cause must be our cause too,” Johnson said. “Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.”

The speech was delivered eight days after racial violence erupted in Selma, Alabama. Civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King and over 500 supporters were attacked while planning a march to Montgomery to register African-Americans to vote. The police violence that erupted resulted in the death of a King supporter, a white Unitarian Minister from Boston named James J. Reeb. Television news coverage of the event galvanized voting rights supporters in Congress.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. §§ 1973 – 1973aa-6 is a landmark piece of national legislation in the United States that outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans in the U.S.

Echoing the language of the 15th Amendment, the Act prohibits states from imposing any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” Specifically, Congress intended the Act to outlaw the practice of requiring otherwise qualified voters to pass literacy tests in order to register to vote, a principal means by which Southern states had prevented African-Americans from exercising the franchise The Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat, who had earlier signed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law.

The Act established extensive federal oversight of elections administration, providing that states with a history of discriminatory voting practices (so-called “covered jurisdictions”) could not implement any change affecting voting without first obtaining the approval of the Department of Justice, a process known as preclearance. These enforcement provisions applied to states and political subdivisions (mostly in the South) that had used a “device” to limit voting and in which less than 50 percent of the population was registered to vote in 1964. The Act has been renewed and amended by Congress four times, the most recent being a 25-year extension signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2006.

The Act is widely considered a landmark in civil-rights legislation, though some of its provisions have sparked political controversy. During the debate over the 2006 extension, some Republican members of Congress objected to renewing the preclearance requirement (the Act’s primary enforcement provision), arguing that it represents an overreach of federal power and places unwarranted bureaucratic demands on Southern states that have long since abandoned the discriminatory practices the Act was meant to eradicate. Conservative legislators also opposed requiring states with large Spanish-speaking populations to provide bilingual ballots. Congress nonetheless voted to extend the Act for twenty-five years with its original enforcement provisions left intact.

Mar 15 2012

My Little Town 20120314: The Halls

Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River.  It was a rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

When I was a lad there were two general stores in town, the one that Gene and Katy Pittman ran and the one up the street that Mr. and Mrs. Rutledge owned.  Gene and Katy had the smaller one, and it was literally a mom and pop outfit.  The Rutledge’s store was quite a bit larger and had a greater variety of things, like clothes, than the other one.

The Rutledges employed Mr. Hall as a butcher.  Mr. Hall was at the time around 60 or so.  They lived only a few blocks from my grandmum, and Mrs. Hall was the classic stay at home spouse, but she did teach piano lessons in her home.  They were really nice people, and Mr. Hall was into radio in a big way.  I was also interested in radio, so we would sit in his shop and he would show me how to repair them.  He did that as a sideline business and he also collected antique radios.