Daily Archive: 03/27/2012

Mar 27 2012

2012 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship: Regional Finals Day 2

So the big local story is that Geno had a blistering team takedown after the 77-59 victory over Penn State.  They didn’t play hard enough.

That’s how he rolls folks and why UConn is arguably the #1 program in the country.

Do they have enough this year?  The regular season was not outstanding and they’re not exactly laden with stars, but they do have a program and tradition and even if unsuccessful tonight are easily the best Basketball team in Connecticut.

As in they would kick the Men’s team’s ass if they let them.

To me the great threat is Notre Dame who are lean and hungry and not intimidated by Geno and the Huskies so if they go down tonight, hey… that’s how you play Survivor.  Alas I expect they will advance which will cause me anxiety in the Championship.

UConn Husky, symbol of might to the foe.

Fight, fight Connecticut, It’s vict’ry, Let’s 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, Connecticut Husky, Connecticut Husky

Connecticut C-O-N-N-U!

Did I mention a cappela?  Both games on ESPN.

Yesterday’s Results-

Result Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
77-58 1 *Baylor 38-0 2 Tennessee 25-9 Mid West
81-69 1 *Stanford 34-1 2 Duke 26-6 West

Tonight’s Action-

Time Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
7 pm 1 UConn 31-4 2 Kentucky 27-6 East
9 pm 1 Notre Dame 32-3 2 Maryland 30-4 South

Mar 27 2012

Drones? Of What Drones Doth Thou Speak?

President Barack Obama: “Drones? Drone attacks? Mr. Holder, do you know anything about this?

United States Attorney General Eric Holder, “I’ve never heard of drones, Mr. President. Leon, what do you hear from the generals?

Former Director of the CIA and current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, “No, Eric, I have no information about drones. Perhaps, Director Petraeus would know about these drones”

The three men look around the room for CIA Director David Petraeus. He’s  nowhere to be found.

That fictional conversation never took place but the Obama administration would now like us all to believe that they cannot even confirm or deny the existence of a drone program at all without seriously damaging national security. Huh? They really don’t expect anyone to accept that statement that was made in response to an ACLU lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act requesting the “the government to disclose the legal basis for its use of predator drones to conduct “targeted killings” overseas. In particular, the ACLU seeks to find out when, where and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, and how the United States ensures compliance with international laws relating to extrajudicial killings.

Glenn Greenwald in an in depth article at Salon dissected this laughable “defense” of national security about predator drones, targeted assassinations and Obama’s taking “Bush’s secrecy games one step further“:

What makes this so appalling is not merely that the Obama administration demands the right to kill whomever it wants without having to account to anyone for its actions, choices or even claimed legal authorities, though that’s obviously bad enough [..]

What makes it so much worse is how blatantly, insultingly false is its claim that it cannot confirm or deny the CIA drone program without damaging national security.

Numerous Obama officials – including the President himself and the CIA Director – have repeatedly boasted in public about this very program. Obama recently hailed the CIA drone program by claiming that “we are very careful in terms of how it’s been applied,” and added that it is “a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists, who are trying to go in and harm Americans, hit American facilities, American bases and so on.” Obama has told playful jokes about the same drone program. Former CIA Director and current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also likes to tell cute little jokes about CIA Predator drones, and then proclaimed in December that the drone program has “been very effective at undermining al Qaeda and their ability to plan those kinds of attacks.” Just two weeks ago, Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech purporting to legally justify these same drone attacks.

“Cute little jokes”? Is that like President George W. Bush’s “cute” little video looking for weapons of mass destruction in the Oval Office? I don’t think the people who have lost family and friends and had their lives destroyed by America’s misadventures in the Middle East think this is amusing.

And just where is the secret? Everyone in the world is talking about the predator drone program that has killed more innocent people than Al Qaeda operatives and put the US relationship with ally Pakistan on very thin ice. Just this weekend there was a long article in The Washington Post with an unnamed CIA official who was directing drone attacks in Pakistan:

Roger, which is the first name of his cover identity, may be the most consequential but least visible national security official in Washington – the principal architect of the CIA’s drone campaign and the leader of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. In many ways, he has also been the driving force of the Obama administration’s embrace of targeted killing as a centerpiece of its counterterrorism efforts.

Glenn further notes that this fixation of the Obama administration on secrecy, as evidenced by its increased prosecution of whistleblowers, is a means to protect itself from rule of our laws. He quotes from President G.W.Bush DOJ lawyer Jack Goldsmith, who defended executive authority and secrecy powers but recognized that Obama was taking this too:

First, it is wrong . . . for the government to maintain technical covertness but then engage in continuous leaks, attributed to government officials, of many (self-serving) details about the covert operations and their legal justifications.  It is wrong because it is illegal.  It is wrong because it damages (though perhaps not destroys) the diplomatic and related goals of covertness.  And it is wrong because the Executive branch seems to be trying to have its cake (not talking about the program openly in order to serve diplomatic interests and perhaps deflect scrutiny) and eat it too (leaking promiscuously to get credit for the operation and to portray it as lawful).

This can be filed under the “You’ve Got To Be Kidding” defense.

Drones? What drones? Hmm. Ask Iran, maybe they know something about this drone thing.

Mar 27 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”.

Joe Nocera: Government’s Not Dead Yet

I met up recently with my old mentor, Charlie Peters, the founder, editor and driving force behind The Washington Monthly, where I worked in the late-1970s. Charlie is a supreme idealist who believes deeply in the good that government can do. He saw it growing up with Roosevelt’s New Deal and then again as a member of Sargent Shriver’s Peace Corps, where he served as the agency’s first director of evaluation.

Now 85, Charlie still believes that that government can make a difference in people’s lives. Knowing that many Americans have turned against this idea, he is writing a book “to give evidence that it has happened – and to show it can happen again,” he told me. The New Deal and the Great Society were eras when “money was not the driving force in choosing a career,” he said. “Passion was. People wanted to be able to do something about the country’s most pressing problems – and government was the place to do that.”

As Charlie spoke, it occurred to me that there is one agency in today’s government where you can still see that passion: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Last week, I went to Washington to spend some time with some of the bureau’s new employees.

Dean Baker: The Paul Ryan Rorschach Test

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan did a great public service when he released his budget last week. By throwing a piece of total garbage on the table and pretending it is a real budget plan, he allowed us to see who in Washington is serious about the budget and who just says things that will push their agenda.

It is easy to see that Ryan himself could not possible be serious about the document he put out as a “Path to Prosperity.” The Congressional Budget Office analysis of the plan, which was prepared under Representative Ryan’s direction, shows that all categories of government spending outside of health care and Social Security will shrink to 3.75 percent of GDP by 2050.

Robert Reich< Health Care Jujitsu

Not surprisingly, today’s debut Supreme Court argument over the so-called “individual mandate” requiring everyone to buy health insurance revolved around epistemological niceties such as the meaning of a “tax,” and the question of whether the issue is ripe for review.

Behind this judicial foreplay is the brute political fact that if the Court decides the individual mandate is an unconstitutional extension of federal authority, the entire law starts unraveling.

But with a bit of political jujitsu, the president could turn any such defeat into a victory for a single-payer healthcare system — Medicare for all.

Here’s how.

E.J. Dionne, Jr.: The Right’s Etch A Sketch Imperative

Clarifying moments are rare in politics. They are the times when previously muddled issues are suddenly cast into sharp relief and citizens are given a look behind the curtains of spin and obfuscation.

Over the last week, Americans were blessed with three separate clarifying moments.

Rep. Paul Ryan made absolutely clear that he is not now and never was interested in deficit reduction. After a couple of years of being lauded by deficit hawks as the man prepared to make hard choices, he proposed a budget that would not end deficits until 2040, but would cut taxes by $4.6 trillion over a decade while also extending all of the Bush tax cuts, adding another $5.4 trillion to the deficit. Ryan would increase military expenditures, and then eviscerate the rest of the federal government.

Oh yes, Ryan claims he’d make up for the losses from his new tax cuts with “tax reform,” but offered not a single detail. A “plan” with a hole this big is not a plan at all. Ryan’s main interest is in cutting the top income tax rate to 25 percent from the current 35 percent. His message: Solving the deficit problem isn’t nearly as important as (1) continuing and expanding benefits for the wealthy, and (2) disabling the federal government.

John Nichols: How ALEC Is Creating Florida-Style Messes in Other States

Wisconsin is a rod-and-gun state, with a hunting history that has fostered traditions of broad gun ownership and respect for the right to bear arms.

So how did Wisconsin get saddled with a “Castle Doctrine” law that mirrors some of the worst aspects of the Florida legislation that’s now at the center of the controversy over the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Not because sportsmen and women, law enforcement officers, legal scholars or grassroots citizens decided Wisconsin should borrow bad ideas from distant states.

Wisconsin has a “Castle Doctrine” law because the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate-funded group that aligns special-interest organizations and corporate donors with pliable legislators, made the Florida law “model legislation.” Then ALEC-aligned political insiders such as Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder, a national ALEC task-force member, and Governor Scott Walker, an ALEC alumnus, introduced, passed and signed “Castle Doctrine” legislation-despite warnings from Wisconsin law enforcement leaders and responsible gun owners that it was a poor fit for the state.

Ari Berman: Minnesota’s War on Voting

Last year, Republicans introduced legislation in thirty-four states to mandate government-issued photo IDs to cast a ballot. Nine GOP states have passed voter ID laws since the 2010 election, including Pennsylvania earlier last month. Minnesota, another important battleground state, could be next.

Last year, Minnesota Democratic Governor Mark Dayton vetoed a bill from the GOP legislature that would have given the state the strictest voter ID law in the nation, prohibiting passports, military IDs and student IDs as valid documentation. Now the legislature is bypassing the governor by approving a constitutional amendment for voter ID that will go on the November ballot. The House and Senate have each passed their own versions of the legislation; once agreed upon, the measure will go on the 2012 ballot. If approved by voters, the 2013 legislature will implement the particulars of the law.

Mar 27 2012

The System is Blinking Red

This past week two related stories broke, James Bamford’s article on the NSA’s “Stellar Wind” project in Utah which will dramatically enhance the governments ability to store and process intercepted communications and records and Eric Holder’s announcement that the US will now keep and analyze information gathered about Americans or U.S. residents for 5 years, 10 times the previously allowed period.

These are both somewhat ominous stories.  In describing the Stellar Wind project former senior NSA official and whistleblower, William Binney put it, “We are this far from a turnkey totalitarian state.”  The extension of time announced by Eric Holder for retention and analysis of records increases Americans jeopardy of having their information misused or misinterpreted by agencies that have repeatedly done so and Americans (including Senator Ted Kennedy) have found themselves wrongfully placed on no-fly lists or worse, find their homes bugged and burgled, and their phones wiretapped leading to them being arrested and jailed in error, as happened to Brandon Mayfield.

The details of the Mayfield case illustrate some of the problems with “human factors” in intelligence work:

From the Wikipedia article linked above:

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Mayfield was concerned for the safety of his children and wife, and according to his father, he suspected that he was under surveillance by the federal authorities. In the weeks before his arrest, Mayfield’s family was under the impression that their house had been broken into at least twice, although nothing was stolen. According to court documents, the FBI used National Security Letters in order to wiretap his phones, bug his house, and search his house several times.

Fingerprints on a bag containing detonating devices, found by Spanish authorities following the Madrid commuter train bombings, were initially identified by the FBI as belonging to Mayfield (“100% verified”). According to the court documents in judge Ann Aiken’s decision, this information was largely “fabricated and concocted by the FBI and DOJ”. When the FBI finally sent Mayfield’s fingerprints to the Spanish authorities, they contested the matching of the fingerprints from Brandon Mayfield to the ones associated with the Madrid bombing. Further, the Spanish authorities informed the FBI they had other suspects in the case, Moroccan immigrants not linked to anyone in the USA. The FBI completely disregarded all of the information from the Spanish authorities, and proceeded to spy on Mayfield and his family further. …

Before his arrest, Spanish authorities informed the FBI in a letter from April 13, that they reviewed the fingerprint on the bag as a negative match of Mayfield’s fingerprint, though this letter was not communicated to Mayfield’s attorneys. On May 19 the Spanish authorities announced that the fingerprints actually belonged to an Algerian national, Ouhnane Daoud; Brandon Mayfield was released from prison when the international press broke the story the next day – May 20, 2004. A gag order remained in force for the next few days. By May 25, the case was dismissed by the judge, who ordered the return of seized evidence and unsealing of documents pertaining to his arrest.

The FBI conducted an internal review of Mayfield’s arrest and detention, concluding that although he was not arrested solely due to his religious beliefs, they may have contributed to investigator’s failure to take into account the Spanish concerns over fingerprint identification. The FBI issued a press release announcing the report’s conclusion that they had not misused the USA PATRIOT Act in the investigation.

Mar 27 2012

On This Day In History March 27

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 27 is the 86th day of the year (87th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 279 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1939, March Madness is born.

The University of Oregon defeats The Ohio State University 46-33 on this day in 1939 to win the first-ever NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The Final Four, as the tournament became known, has grown exponentially in size and popularity since 1939. By 2005, college basketball had become the most popular sporting event among gamblers, after the Super Bowl. The majority of that betting takes place at tournament time, when Las Vegas, the internet and office pools around the country see action from sports enthusiasts and once-a-year gamblers alike.

For the first 12 years of the men’s tournament, only eight teams were invited to participate. That number grew steadily until a 65-team tournament format was unveiled in 2001. After a “play-in” game between the 64th and 65th seeds, the tournament breaks into four regions of 16 teams. The winning teams from those regions comprise the Final Four, who meet in that year’s host city to decide the championship.

March Madness is a popular term for season-ending basketball tournaments played in March, especially those conducted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and various state high school associations. Fans began connecting the term to the NCAA tournament in the early 1980s. Evidence suggests that CBS sportscaster Brent Musburger, who had worked for many years in Chicago before joining CBS, popularized the term during the annual tournament broadcasts. The phrase had not already become associated with the college tournament when an Illinois official wrote in 1939 that “A little March Madness [may] contribute to sanity.” March Madness is also a registered trademark, held jointly by the NCAA and the Illinois High School Association. It was also the title of a book about the Illinois high school tournament written in 1977 by Jim Enright.

H. V. Porter, an official with the Illinois High School Association (and later a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame) was the first person to use March Madness to describe a basketball tournament. Porter published an essay named March Madness in 1939 and in 1942 used the phrase in a poem, “Basketball Ides of March.” Through the years the use of March Madness picked up steam, especially in Illinois, Indiana, and other parts of the Midwest. During this period the term was used almost exclusively in reference to state high school tournaments. In 1977 the IHSA published a book about its tournament titled March Madness.

Only in the 1990s did either the IHSA or NCAA think about trademarking the term, and by that time a small television production company named Intersport, Inc., had beaten them both to the punch. IHSA eventually bought the trademark rights from Intersport and then went after big game, suing GTE Vantage, Inc., an NCAA licensee that used the name March Madness for a computer game based on the college tournament. In a historic ruling, “Illinois High School Association v. GTE Vantage, Inc.” (1996), the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit created the concept of a “dual-use trademark,” granting both the IHSA and NCAA the right to trademark the term for their own purposes.

Following the ruling, the NCAA and IHSA joined forces and created the March Madness Athletic Association to coordinate the licensing of the trademark and investigate possible trademark infringement. One such case involved a company that had obtained the Internet domain name marchmadness.com and was using it to post information about the NCAA tournament. After protracted litigation, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held in March Madness Athletic Association v. Netfire, Inc. (2003) that March Madness was not a generic term and ordered Netfire to relinquish the domain name. (This domain name is currently being used to redirect into the main NCAA.com web site.)

In recent years, the term “March Madness” has been expanded to include all conference tournaments in college basketball, with the term “The Big Dance” being used more frequently when specifically referring to the NCAA Tournament. March Madness has also has been used generally to describe all basketball tournaments across the country that occur in the month of March – high school and college, male and female.

The coverage and live blogging of all the 2012 Men’s and Women’s NCAA Championship are happening here at The Stars Hollow Gazette.

Mar 27 2012

2012 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship: Regional Finals Day 1

No Mercy.  Geno doesn’t have any and neither do I.  Tonight’s Regional Finals are on ESPN.

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.

It would be nice if Stanford also went down though Duke is no pushover.  And what did I tell you?  You have to watch out for the Fighting Irish.

Also this year’s seeders did an excellent job.  No upsets either.

Yesterday’s Results-

Result Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
81-74 2 *Maryland 30-4 3 Texas A&M 24-10 South
79-35 1 *Notre Dame 32-3 5 St. Bonaventure 31-3 South
77-59 1 *UConn 31-4 4 Penn State 26-6 East
79-62 2 *Kentucky 27-6 11 Gonzaga 28-5 East

Tonight’s Action-

Time Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
7 pm 1 Baylor 37-0 2 Tennessee 25-8 Mid West
9 pm 1 Stanford 33-1 2 Duke 26-5 West