Daily Archive: 03/20/2012

Mar 20 2012

2012 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship: Round of 32 Day 2

No reason Baylor and Notre Dame should not advance in the early session.  Duke and St. John’s in the evening.

Time Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
7 pm 1 Baylor 35-0 9 Florida 19-12 Mid West
7 pm 5 St. Bonaventure 30-3 13 Marist 25-7 South
7 pm 4 Georgia Tech 25-8 5 Georgetown 23-8 Mid West
7 pm 1 Notre Dame 31-3 8 Cal Berkeley 24-9 South
9:30 2 Duke 24-5 7 Vanderbilt 23-9 West
9:30 4 Penn State 25-6 5 LSU 23-10 East
9:30 3 Delaware 30-1 11 Kansas 19-12 Mid West
9:30 3 St. John’s 23-9 6 Oklahoma 20-12 West

Mar 20 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”.

New York Times Editorial: You Scratch My Back. …

With their eye on campaign cash, President Obama and lawmakers from both parties have decided they can all get more from corporate constituents if they cooperate to enact legislation that big donors want.

The legislation is the JOBS Act, or Jump-Start Our Business Start-Ups Act, which passed the House with White House support this month and will be voted on this week in the Senate. JOBS, named in Orwellian fashion, is not about jobs. It is about undoing investor safeguards in federal law, including parts of the Sarbanes-Oxley law and other landmark protections, so that companies can raise money without having to follow rules on disclosure, accounting, auditing and other regulatory mainstays.

Simon Johnson: Fiscal Affairs: A Colossal Mistake of Historic Proportions: The “JOBS” Bill

From the 1970s until recently, Congress allowed and encouraged a great deal of financial market deregulation — allowing big banks to become larger, to expand their scope, and to take on more risks. This legislative agenda was largely bipartisan, up to and including the effective repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act at the end of the 1990s. After due legislative consideration, the way was cleared for megabanks to combine commercial and investment banking on a complex global scale. The scene was set for the 2008 financial crisis — and the awful recession from which we are only now beginning to emerge.

With the so-called JOBS bill, on which the Senate is due to vote Tuesday, Congress is about to make the same kind of mistake again — this time abandoning much of the 1930s-era securities legislation that both served investors well and helped make the US one of the best places in the world to raise capital. We find ourselves again on a bipartisan route to disaster.

Dean Baker: Medicare Costs Too Much and They Better Not Cut It

There is an old story about two men in a retirement home. The first declares, “the food in this place is poison.” His friend agrees and adds, “and the portions are so small.” This exchange perfectly captures the Republican approach to Medicare.

The Republicans, led by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, have argued that Medicare threatens to bankrupt the country. They have pointed to cost projections showing the program more than doubling relative to the size of the economy over the next three decades. The Republicans say that the country cannot afford this expense and scream about huge debt burdens for our children.

The Republicans’ concern might lead people to believe that they would support measures to contain Medicare costs. But if you thought that was the case, you would be wrong.

Richard H. Carmona, M.D.: Arizona Effort to Block Contraception Simply Bad Health Policy

A recent push to block women from getting access to contraception shows the Arizona legislature is not operating from an evidence-based or reality-based point of view.

The legislature’s recent actions actively create problems rather than trying to solve them. And, at best, they are wasting our time.

Whenever I’ve had to make a major decision as a doctor, cop or for a company I’ve worked for, I ask myself: What is the value proposition here? Will my decision bring added value to the population I have the privilege to serve?

These questions are clearly not being considered by the folks I like to call the “chronic politicians” at our state capitol and in Washington.

Robert Naiman: With Larry Summers’ World Bank Bid in Trouble, Mexico Insists on Open Process

Early last week the New York Times reported that despite all the previous fine rhetoric about the G20 and consultation and open process, the U.S. Treasury Department had decided to rule by decree and impose its own candidate for the next president of the World Bank, the G20 be damned. U.S. officials informed G20 officials that the U.S. intended to “retain control of the bank,” as the Times put it. According to the Times, the G20 countries grumbled but showed no sign of being willing to fight Treasury. The U.S. candidate would be a “lock,” the Times said, “since Europe will almost certainly support whomever Washington picks.”

Since the International Monetary and the World Bank were created, the U.S. and Europe — which control around half of the voting shares of these institutions — have colluded behind closed doors to determine the institutions’ top leaders, with Europe selecting the head of the IMF with U.S. support and the U.S. selecting the head of the World Bank with European support. In recent years, developing countries have complained loudly about this practice — a practice which would be illegal if the World Bank were subject to the Illinois Open Meetings Act — and under pressure the World Bank has adopted governance reforms that are supposed to guarantee an “open, merit-based process” in selecting the president. But Treasury was claiming that there wasn’t going to be any open process, it was going to be Treasury diktat.

Robert Kuttner: Our Muddled China Policy

Last week, speaking at the White House, President Obama announced that he was joining the European Union in filing a major trade complaint against China, for its export controls on so-called “rare earth” minerals. These are used in everything from micro-electronic devices like smartphones to flat-screen televisions, hybrid car batteries, energy-efficient lighting and wind turbines. China dominates world production of rare earths and refuses to allow their export and sale to follow normal commercial principles.

Despite this get-tough stance, however, the administration’s main trade initiative towards Asia is a little known pending agreement, the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. This deal, which the White House hopes to conclude by year’s end, would sidestep the mercantilism of China and other Asian nations that is displacing U.S. manufacturing; it would do nothing to raise labor or social standards, and would make the outsourcing problem worse.

John Nichols: Instead of a CEO, How About Electing a Labor Leader?

When you think about it, the whole idea of running local, state or national government “like a business” makes a lot less sense than running things like a labor union. Unions are democratic institutions that have a responsibility to watch out for their members and to the broader community. They are invested in the cities and states where they work because they can’t pull up stakes and relocate overseas. And they have a dramatically better record of evolving with the country-toward an embrace of women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights-than the robber barons and their monopolies.

Union leaders manage major organizations and deal with negotiations, contracts, budgets and the challenges of balancing economic and human demands. The difference is that they tip the balance toward humanity, as opposed to the false construct that says “corporations are people, my friends.”

Once upon a time, the idea of electing a union leader as a legislator, a member of Congress, even a president, was commonplace. Both Eugene Victor Debs and Ronald Reagan learned their leadership skills as union leaders. Unfortunately, as the years passed, the political and pundit classes embrace of MBA presidents (George Bush) and CEO contenders (Mitt Romney). It has not worked well for the republic or its component states.

Mar 20 2012

It’s Still the Economy, Stupid

One of the reasons that the Republicans lost so badly in 2006 and 2008 and the reason the Democrats took such a dive in 2010 was the economy. Since then the job approval rating of Congress has plummeted with the Republicans fairing worse than the Democrats but only slightly. In regards to the economy the public in general doesn’t think that President Obama is doing such a great job, either. People are worried about jobs, good jobs not deficits. Deficit and the national debt are not what is holding back the economy, it’s jobs.

The Republicans in the House seem to be intent on killing more jobs with its latest suicide pact that would cut everything from taxes for the wealthy, food stamps, destroy Medicare, and spending cuts. As Roger Hicky in his Huffington Post article point out, the Republican budget clearly rejecting what the American public wants.

The only thing that could save Republicans would be if Democrats, like Oregon Senator Ron Widen or House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, persuaded their party to ignore American public opinion and join with the GOP in destroying Medicare, cutting Social Security, and slashing public spending in a way that cripples the economy and rewards the wealthy. That’s what the Ryan Republican budget would do, and Democrats — and Americans who believe in majority rule — need to explain the extreme nature of this budget to the American people. [..]

So, the brand-new Ryan Republican budget, so very like last year’s Ryan budget, is already unpopular with the American majority, in all of its major elements. Progressives and Democrats should immediately publicize its many unpopular pieces so the public knows about them all. We should immediately demand to know whether the Republican candidates for president embrace it. And we should keep a wary eye out for Democrats who are willing to give the Republicans cover. When the Paul Ryan Republicans — enemies of everything the American majority believe in — are putting a gun to their heads and are about to pull the trigger, progressives should get out of the way and publicize the results — from now until the November elections.

It is obvious from the results of these kinds of cuts in Europe, austerity budgets don’t work. The Occupy Wall Street movement changed that conversation six months ago.

If Obama and the Democrats are smart, they’ll listen to the American public, sit back and let the Republicans pull the trigger.

Up Date: Ezra Klein, writing in the Washington Post, sums up Ryan’s latest version of a “budget plan” in one sentence:

Ryan’s budget funds trillions of dollars in tax cuts, defense spending and deficit reduction by cutting deeply into health-care programs and income supports for the poor.

The last I checked that isn’t going to win them any elections but you never know when the Democrats will ride into save the day. Calling Ron Wyden.

Mar 20 2012

President Obama’s Propaganda Wars

In the last week or so two news stories have broken that are both quite important and remarkably underreported.   First is the story about the issuance of an official accusation by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture that the Obama administration has engaged in cruel and inhumane treatment of Bradley Manning and the rapporteur cannot say whether torture has occurred because of the refusal of the Obama administration to grant him the usual and customary access to Bradley Manning for evaluation purposes.

Second, there is a journalist, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, who is being held in a Yemeni gulag at the behest of President Obama.  Despite the fact that major human rights and journalism organizations are standing up and calling out the President on this, the issue has gotten little attention from the mainstream press.

These two stories add to the growing body of evidence of the Obama administration’s extraordinary actions to chill the speech of journalists and whistleblowers in an effort to control information about US actions in the Global War on Terror.

Mar 20 2012

On This Day In History March 20

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 20 is the 79th day of the year (80th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 286 days remaining until the end of the year.

March 20th is also the usual date of the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, and the autumnal equinox in the Southern Hemisphere when both day and night are of equal length, therefore it is frequently the date of traditional Iranian holiday Norouz in many countries.

On this day in 1854, Republican Party is founded in Ripon Wisconsin.

The Republican Party emerged in 1854, growing out of a coalition of former Whigs and Free Soil Democrats who mobilized in opposition to the possibility of slavery extending into the new western territories. The new party put forward a vision of modernizing the United States-emphasizing free homesteads to farmers (“free soil”), banking, railroads, and industry. They vigorously argued that free-market labor was superior to slavery and the very foundation of civic virtue and true republicanism, this is the “Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men” ideology. The Republicans absorbed the previous traditions of its members, most of whom had been Whigs; others had been Democrats or members of third parties (especially the Free Soil Party and the American Party or Know Nothings). Many Democrats who joined up were rewarded with governorships. or seats in the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives. Since its inception, its chief opposition has been the Democratic Party, but the amount of flow back and forth of prominent politicians between the two parties was quite high from 1854 to 1896.

Two small cities of the Yankee diaspora, Ripon, Wisconsin and Jackson, Michigan, claim to be the birthplace of the Republican Party (in other words, meetings held there were some of the first 1854 anti-Nebraska assemblies to call themselves by the name “Republican”). Ripon held the first county convention on March 20, 1854. Jackson held the first statewide convention on July 6, 1854; it declared their new party opposed to the expansion of slavery into new territories and selected a state-wide slate of candidates. The Midwest took the lead in forming state party tickets, while the eastern states lagged a year or so. There were no efforts to organize the party in the South, apart from a few areas adjacent to free states. The party initially had its base in the Northeast and Midwest. The party launched its first national convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in February 1856, with its first national nominating convention held in the summer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

John C. Fremont ran as the first Republican nominee for President in 1856, using the political slogan: “Free soil, free labor, free speech, free men, Fremont.” Although Fremont’s bid was unsuccessful, the party showed a strong base. It dominated in New England, New York and the northern Midwest, and had a strong presence in the rest of the North. It had almost no support in the South, where it was roundly denounced in 1856-60 as a divisive force that threatened civil war.

Historians have explored the ethnocultural foundations of the party, along the line that ethnic and religious groups set the moral standards for their members, who then carried those standards into politics. The churches also provided social networks that politicians used to sign up voters. The pietistic churches emphasized the duty of the Christian to purge sin from society. Sin took many forms-alcoholism, polygamy and slavery became special targets for the Republicans. The Yankees, who dominated New England, much of upstate New York, and much of the upper Midwest were the strongest supporters of the new party. This was especially true for the pietistic Congregationalists and Presbyterians among them and (during the war), the Methodists, along with Scandinavian Lutherans. The Quakers were a small tight-knit group that was heavily Republican. The liturgical churches (Roman Catholic, Episcopal, German Lutheran), by contrast, largely rejected the moralism of the Republican Party; most of their adherents voted Democratic.