Daily Archive: 03/23/2012

Mar 23 2012

2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship: Regional Semifinals Day 2

It’s hard to get enthused about tonight’s games.  Richard has no interest in the tournament now that MSU is out and made a point of telling me it was the worst game they played all season (I wouldn’t know).

This is the Cinderella side of the bracket and any real upsets will come tonight, but I don’t expect any.

Bear down you Bears of old Baylor U

We’re all for you, GO BEARS!

We’re gonna show dear old Baylor spirit through and through

We’re gonna fight them with all our might you Bruins bold

And win all our victories for the Green and Gold.

B-A-Y-L-O-R, Baylor Bears Fight.

Oh, and Sepang Qualifying at 4 am on Speed.

Last Night’s Results-

Result Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
64-63 1 *Syracuse 33-2 4 Wisconsin 26-9 East
44-57 1 Michigan State 29-7 4 *Louisville 28-9 West
81-66 2 *Ohio State 29-7 6 Cincinnati 26-10 East
58-68 3 Marquette 27-7 7 *Florida 25-10 West

Tonight’s Action-

Time Network Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
7 pm CBS 3 Baylor 29-7 10 Xavier 23-12 South
7:30 pm TBS 1 North Carolina 31-5 13 Ohio 29-7 Midwest
9:30 pm CBS 1 Kentucky 34-2 4 Indiana 27-8 South
10 pm TBS 2 Kansas 29-6 11 NC State 24-12 Midwest

Mar 23 2012

A New Head For The World Bank & It’s Not Summers

In a surprise announcement President Barack Obama nominated Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim to head up the World Bank:

Dr. Kim’s name was not among those widely bandied about since Mr. (Robert B.) Zoellick announced his plans to move on last month. Highly respected among aid experts, Dr. Kim is an anthropologist and a physician who co-founded Partners in Health, a nonprofit that provides health care for the poor, and a former director of the department of H.I.V./AIDS at the World Health Organization. [..]

Dr. Kim, who was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 2003, was born in Seoul, South Korea, in 1959 and moved with his family to the United States when he was 5. He graduated from Brown University in 1982, earned an M.D. from Harvard University in 1991 and received a Ph.D. in anthropology there in 1993.

He was the first Asian-American to head an Ivy League institution when he took the Dartmouth post in 2009.

While working with Partners in Health in Lima, Peru, in the mid-1990s, Dr. Kim helped to develop a treatment program for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, the first large-scale treatment of that disease in a poor country. Treatment programs for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis are now in place in more than 40 nations, according to Dr. Kim’s biography on Dartmouth’s Web site. He Kim also spearheaded the successful effort to reduce the price of the drugs used to treat this form of tuberculosis.

The United States traditionally selects the head of the World Bank and Europe the leader of its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund, since they were founded during World War II.

Apparently, Dr. Kim was suggested by former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was present with the President and Dr. Kim at the Rose Garden press conference. Though Dr. Kim will certainly be the front runner for the position, he isn’t the only candidate:

Angola, South Africa and Nigeria put forward Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Nigerian finance minister and former World Bank official.

José Antonio Ocampo, the former finance minister of Colombia and a United Nations official, is rumored to be another candidate.

Jeffrey Sachs, the development economist and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, has put himself forward for the position.

If there are more than three candidates, the board will announce a “short list” and the new head will be named in time for the April meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Dr. Kim is an excellent choice with experience in global development and management. He is well known and well liked. We wish him luck.

Mar 23 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: A Broader Right to Counsel

The right to a jury trial is extolled as a fixture of American justice, but a vast majority of people charged with crimes never see a trial. Plea bargaining defines the criminal justice system: 97 percent of federal convictions and 94 percent of state convictions come through guilty pleas negotiated between prosecutors and offenders.

The Supreme Court has previously ruled that the Sixth Amendment gives a criminal defendant a right to an effective lawyer during plea-bargain negotiations and when the defendant gives up the right to a trial and accepts a plea offer. In two related 5-to-4 decisions this week, the court extended that constitutional guarantee to cases in which the defendant rejects a favorable plea offer – and goes to trial – because of ineffective counsel.

Paul Krugman: Paranoia Strikes Deeper

Stop, hey, what’s that sound? Actually, it’s the noise a great political party makes when it loses what’s left of its mind. And it happened – where else? – on Fox News on Sunday, when Mitt Romney bought fully into the claim that gas prices are high thanks to an Obama administration plot.

This claim isn’t just nuts; it’s a sort of craziness triple play – a lie wrapped in an absurdity swaddled in paranoia. It’s the sort of thing you used to hear only from people who also believed that fluoridated water was a Communist plot. But now the gas-price conspiracy theory has been formally endorsed by the likely Republican presidential nominee.

Before we get to the larger implications of this endorsement, let’s get the facts on gas prices straight.

Timothy Egan: The Church Lady State

When people complain about liberal overreach they always bring up the nanny state. You know, sorting your garbage to see if a banana peel slipped in with a cellophane wrapper; energy-efficient light bulbs; neutered language in the public square to make sure no one is ever offended.

But all of the above is a mere teardrop in the Amazon compared to what your freedom-hating Republican Party has been doing across the land to restrict individual liberty.

They want the state to follow you into the bedroom, the bathroom and beyond. They think you’re too stupid to know what to do with your own body, too ignorant to understand what your doctors tell you and too lazy to be trusted in a job without being subject to random drug testing. Your body is the government’s business.

Joan Walsh: GOP Rides Paul Ryan’s Road to Ruin (But Will Dems Blow Opportunity?)

His snake oil-castor oil budget is a gift to Dems, but only if they give up on “grand bargains” with extremists

Most Democrats rejoiced when the newly elected House Tea Party extremists got behind Paul Ryan’s tax-slashing and program-cutting budget plan almost a year ago. The budget had no chance of passing the Senate, but it committed Republicans to unpopular spending cuts, including to Social Security and Medicare, and continued the party’s slavish devotion to tax protection for the top 1 percent. That’s why many liberals were horrified by reports that the White House was entertaining comparable budget-cutting proposals to resolve the debt-ceiling crisis last summer. Not only was it bad policy, it was terrible politics, sacrificing the huge advantage Republicans had conceded when they backed Ryan’s plan, especially his assault on Medicare.

Ellen Brown: The Shadow Bailout: How Big Banks Bilk US Towns and Taxpayers

Wall Street Confidence Trick: The Interest Rate Swaps that Are Bankrupting Local Governments

The “toxic culture of greed” on Wall Street was highlighted again last week, when Greg Smith went public with his resignation from Goldman Sachs in a scathing oped published in the New York Times.  In other recent eyebrow-raisers, LIBOR rates-the benchmark interest rates involved in interest rate swaps-were shown to be manipulated by the banks that would have to pay up; and the objectivity of the ISDA (International Swaps and Derivatives Association) was called into question, when a 50% haircut for creditors was not declared a “default” requiring counterparties to pay on credit default swaps on Greek sovereign debt.

Interest rate swaps are less often in the news than credit default swaps, but they are far more important in terms of revenue, composing fully 82% of the derivatives trade.  In February, JP Morgan Chase revealed that it had cleared $1.4 billion in revenue on trading interest rate swaps in 2011, making them one of the bank’s biggest sources of profit.

Robert Borosage: The Ryan Budget vs. A ‘Budget for All’

Who pays the bill for Wall Street’s mess?

On Tuesday, House Republicans rolled out their budget plan in the Washington version of a Hollywood movie opening. There was a star turn for Budget Chair Paul Ryan at a conservative think tank. Gaseous rhetoric — “liberties endangered, time to choose” — fouled the air. There were dueling videos, and furious salvos of partisan messaging. And a backup document — the “Path to Prosperity” (pdf) — festooned with tables for wonks to wallow in.

And yesterday, with fewer trumpets and less fanfare, the Congressional Progressive Caucus release its budget plan — A Budget for All.

Each of the two documents is designed to define a message. Their contrasts help clarify the real choices the country faces. Federal deficits exploded after Wall Street’s excesses blew up the economy. The questions now are who gets the bill and when does the payment start? Ryan’s Republican budget and the CPC’s offer starkly different answers that would take the country in starkly different directions.

Brendan Fischer: ALEC and NRA Behind Law That May Protect Trayvon Martin’s Killer

A Florida law that may protect the man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February is the template for an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) “model bill” that has been pushed in other states. The bill was brought to ALEC by the National Rifle Association (NRA), and fits into a pattern of ALEC bills that disproportionately impact communities of color.

Florida’s “stand your ground,” or “castle doctrine,” law could prevent the prosecution of George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old “neighborhood watch” vigilante who shot the unarmed Martin as the teen returned from a trip to 7-11 with an iced tea and a pack of Skittles. The law, also pushed by its supporters under the name the “Castle Doctrine,” changes state criminal justice and civil law codes by giving legal immunity to a person who uses “deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.” It also bars the deceased’s family from bringing a civil suit.

Mar 23 2012

The JOBS Act, Only It Doesn’t

The Senate passed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, JOBS Act, with a bipartisan vote of 73-26, with all the “no” votes coming from Democrats. The legislation will make it easier for small businesses to use the Internet to raise small investments from lots of people, a technique known as “crowdfunding.” :

The legislation combines six smaller bills that change Securities and Exchange Commission rules so small businesses can attract investors and go public with less red tape and cost. It eases rules on advertising and permits startups to use the Internet and other social media to solicit a large number of small-scale investors.

So why is this not such a good bill? Basically, as Mark Gongloff of Huffington Post explains, because it rolls back “investor-protection regulations, some of which date back to the 1930s, and some of which have been passed as recently as 2002 in the wake of Wall Street shenanigans from the 1990s tech bubble to Enron.”

The bill purports to make it much easier for small firms to raise money, either through private “crowdfunding,” essentially raising money online, or by going public. At its heart is the persistent myth, relentlessly propounded by Wall Street, that there are a million Facebooks out there waiting to thrive and create jobs if only the government would just get the heck out of the way. [..]

Investment banks can now issue research reports on the companies they take public — meaning we’ll be back to the days when analysts can pump up “POS” stocks they then dump on unwitting customers — removing a prohibition set by Sarbanes-Oxley in 2002.

Web sites can pitch new companies directly to investors, raising the specter of “boiler rooms” preying on your grandmother to pry away her retirement money.

To give Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) some credit, he did manage to get one amendment passed that would provide some investor protections:

required companies that use crowdfunding to provide financial statements to investors. Companies seeking between $100,000 and $500,000 in capital would have to get independent accountants to review these statements. Audited financial statements would be required for companies seeking more than $500,000 in capital.

The amendment also limits the total amount that a company can raise through crowdfunding to $1 million. The House bill would allow companies to raise up to $2 million, if they provide audited financial statements.

In addition, the amendment requires Internet intermediaries — the web sites that will offer crowdfunding investment opportunities to the public — to register with the SEC.

An amendment that would have tightened certain shareholder definitions, and prevented public companies from “going dark” if their shareholder number falls below a certain threshold, failed to pass a straight majority vote.

Dan Primack at CNN’s Fortune best describes what does and doesn’t matter about the bill and states his the reason for his opposition:

Emerging growth companies: Okay, this is where I move from ambivalence to opposition. The idea here is to make it easier for small private companies to go public, by reducing the costs associated with such an action. It does so by reducing certain existing investor protections, including one that prevents investment banking analysts from offering pre-IPO research on their firm’s own clients. Here is what I wrote on the subject, back in January:

   Going public is not supposed to be a cakewalk. We’ve already been through an IPO environment where all you needed was a clever URL and a fuzzy mascot, and the results weren’t pretty. I’m not suggesting that last year’s issuers are all future members of the Fortune 500, but shouldn’t a successful listing signal to retail investors that experienced institutions took a hard look at the issuer and considered it worthy of consideration? How can that still be true if those institutions get to see only two years of audited financial statements instead of three? Or if analysts working for a company’s underwriting bank can publish pre-IPO research (albeit with a disclaimer)?

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) gives his scathing criticism of the bill, calling it the “Con Job Bill”:

“The so-called ‘JOBS Act’ is an extremely anti-consumer, anti-investor, and anti-jobs bill.  As currently drafted, the bill is opposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission chairman (as well as past SEC chairmen appointed by both political parties); AARP; the AFL-CIO; the Consumer Federation of America; Consumers Union; and the Council of Institutional Investors, among many others.  There is good reason for the opposition.

“At best, this bill could make it easier for con artists to defraud seniors out of their entire life savings by convincing them to invest in worthless companies.  At worst, this bill has the potential to create the next Enron or Arthur Andersen scandal or an even worse financial crisis.

“Have we learned nothing?  Deregulating Wall Street led to the worst financial crisis since the 1930s.  Now the same people who caused this horrible recession are telling us that more Wall Street deregulation will create jobs.  Give me a break.  I strongly support providing small businesses with the tools they need to create jobs.  Sadly, that’s not at all what this bill will do.”

Calling this the “JOBS” Act is a misnomer because, as Yves Smith notes at naked capitalism, “In reality, the only jobs it is likely to create will be due to the resulting explosion in stock scamsters and bucket shop operators.”

And there is no worry that this bill will pass in the House. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has schedule a vote for early next week.

Here come the “Penny Stocks.” Good job, Barack

Mar 23 2012

On This Day In History March 23

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 23 is the 82nd day of the year (83rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 283 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1775, Patrick Henry voices American opposition to British policy

During a speech before the second Virginia Convention, Patrick Henry responds to the increasingly oppressive British rule over the American colonies by declaring, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Following the signing of the American Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, Patrick Henry was appointed governor of Virginia by the Continental Congress.

Patrick Henry (May 29, 1736 – June 6, 1799) was an orator and politician who led the movement for independence in Virginia in the 1770s. A Founding Father, he served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779 and subsequently, from 1784 to 1786. Henry led the opposition to the Stamp Act of 1765 and is well remembered for his “Give me Liberty, or give me Death!” speech. Along with Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine, he is remembered as one of the most influential exponents of Republicanism, promoters of the American Revolution and Independence, especially in his denunciations of corruption in government officials and his defense of historic rights. After the Revolution, Henry was a leader of the anti-federalists in Virginia who opposed the United States Constitution, fearing that it endangered the rights of the States, as well as the freedoms of individuals.

American Revolution

Responding to pleas from Massachusetts that the colonies create committees of correspondence to coordinate their reaction to the British, Henry took the lead in Virginia. In March 1773, along with Thomas Jefferson and Richard Henry Lee, Henry led the Virginia House of Burgesses to adopt resolutions providing for a standing committee of correspondents. Each colony set up such committees, and they led to the formation of the First Continental Congress in 1774, to which Henry was elected.

Patrick Henry is best known for the speech he made in the House of Burgesses on March 23, 1775, in Saint John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia. The House was undecided on whether to mobilize for military action against the encroaching British military force, and Henry argued in favor of mobilization. Forty-two years later, Henry’s first biographer, William Wirt, working from oral testimony, attempted to reconstruct what Henry said. According to Wirt, Henry ended his speech with words that have since become immortalized:

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, Give me Liberty, or give me Death!”

The crowd, by Wirt’s account, jumped up and shouted “To Arms! To Arms!”. For 160 years Wirt’s account was taken at face value, but in the 1970s historians began to question the authenticity of Wirt’s reconstruction.[8] Historians today observe that Henry was known to have used fear of Indian and slave revolts in promoting military action against the British, and that according to the only written first-hand account of the speech, Henry used some graphic name-calling that failed to appear in Wirt’s heroic rendition.

In August 1775, Henry became colonel of the 1st Virginia Regiment. At the outset of the Revolutionary War, Henry led militia against Royal Governor Lord Dunmore in defense of some disputed gunpowder, an event known as the Gunpowder Incident. During the war he served as the first post-colonial Governor of Virginia and presided over several expeditions against the Cherokee Indians, who were allied with the British.

Henry lived during part of the War at his 10,000-acre Leatherwood Plantation in Henry County, Virginia, where he, his first cousin Ann Winston Carr and her husband Col. George Waller had settled. During the five years Henry lived at Leatherwood, from 1779 to 1784, he owned 75 slaves, and grew tobacco. During this time, he kept in close touch with his friend the explorer Joseph Martin, whom Henry had appointed agent to the Cherokee nation, and with whom Henry sometimes invested in real estate, and for whom the county seat of Henry County was later named.

In early November 1775 Henry and James Madison were elected founding trustees of Hampden-Sydney College, which opened for classes on November 10. He remained a trustee until his death in 1799. Henry was instrumental in achieving passage of the College’s Charter of 1783, an action delayed because of the war. He is probably the author of the Oath of Loyalty to the new Republic included in that charter. Seven of his sons attended the new college.