08/01/2012 archive

9th Circuit ruling favorable for Occupiers to hold police, gov’ts accountable for excessive force

A three judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals filed an unanimous ruling in Nelson v. City of Davis. The student plaintiff, Timothy Nelson was seriously and permanently injured by the excessive use of force by police in a 2004 incident at UC Davis.

The Court found that the police actions violated a basic constitutional right, the Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable seizure and invalidated qualified immunity for the police, meaning that police could be held liable for damages.  This ruling should offer considerable support to Occupiers pressing suit against police and governments for their often brutal and excessive use of force against peaceful protesters.

How To Lose a Slam Dunk

What was should have been an open and shut case against a mid-level executive with Citibank over the banks’s sale of risky collateralized debt obligations (CDO) somehow was lost by Security and Exchange Commission lawyers.

The Securities and Exchange Commission had accused Brian Stoker, a former midlevel Citigroup executive, with negligence related to his role in creating exotic mortgage securities known as collateralized debt obligations, or C.D.O.’s. In a lawsuit filed last October, the government said that Mr. Stoker, who prepared sales materials for C.D.O.’s, knew or should have known that he was misleading investors by not disclosing that Citigroup helped select the underlying mortgage securities in the C.D.O. and then placed a large bet against it.

The jury rejected the S.E.C.’s case, concluding that Mr. Stoker was not liable under the securities laws. In addition to handing up its verdict, the jury also issued an unusual statement.

This verdict should not deter the S.E.C. from investigating the financial industry, to review current regulations and modify existing regulations as necessary,” said the jury’s statement, which was read aloud in the courtroom by Judge Jed S. Rakoff, who presided over the two-week trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

Citibank has already entered an agreement to pay $285 million to settle a civil suit filed by the SEC about the CDO’s. As part of the agreement, Citibank would not have to admit to any wrong doing. Judge Rakoff has rejected that deal and told the parties to prepare for a trial. That ruling is being appealed.

Mr. Stoker’s lawyer depicted him as a “scapregoat” who was merely doing what he was told. Stoker knew full well that the CDO’s were very risky but failed to warn investors who lost over a billion dollars, but he was following instruction from the higher ups. Seriously? The Nuremberg defense is now acceptable?

As Yves Smith observes the SEC showed abject incompetence in prosecuting Stoker:

The SEC’s performance in the case at issue, SEC v. Stoker, was such a total fail that the odds are high that any motivated member of the top half of the NC readership would have done a better job of arguing this case pro se than the SEC did. Even though this case was argued before a jury (ooh, scary! They might go into My Eyes Glaze Over mode on CDO details), the basic issues were simple. The CDO squared that Citigroup director Brian Stoker marketed to investors was presented as having its assets selected by an independent asset manager. This is crucial. Just as investors in mutual funds understand they are hiring a fund management firm, and they compete on track records, so to were managed CDOs sold on the notion that the managers were serving the interests of the investors. And this is particularly important for CDOs, since the fact that the final asset list is made available shortly before closing makes it pretty much impossible for investors to evaluate a CDO on their own even if they had the skills and motivation. [..]

So what did the SEC’s strategy appear to be? This seems to have been a parallel to the approach in the Goldman suit against Goldman’s Fabrice Tourre: to target an non-executive and get him to roll the higher ups. But Tourre and Stoker were both enough made men to be willing to fight. Stoker had a $2.2 million guarantee for 2007. Guys like that do not want to lose their access to the industry meal ticket.

So what was Stoker’s defense? That he was being scapegoated, and Citi should really be on trial. Huh? In prosecutions, whether other parties are being charged is irrelevant. The question at hand is: did the party on trial engage in the conduct in question or not? Saying, “I was only the car driver in the robbery, I didn’t enter the convenience store” does not get you off of being an accessory to a crime. It’s pretty bloomin’ obvious that Stoker misrepresented the deal to investors. He had held securities industry licenses; he knew what the standards were.

It’s fairly obvious from day one of this entire case against Citibank that the SEC was trying very hard to let them off the hook. It is past time that the SEC was staffed with people who are more willing to regulate the banks and up hold the law. I have some heavy doubts that will ever happen under this administration or any other, now or in the future.

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”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Yves Smith: Will Romney Repeat the Palin Strategy and Choose Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi for VP?

The woman who punted on the foreclosure crisis makes the short list. Word is, she’s dumber than Palin.

This election, despite Romney’s shambolic Presidential campaign (his London gaffes were epic), he’s running neck and neck with Obama. The fact that he has any hope is due to Obama’s fealty to big corporate interests, particularly banks, and his neoliberal instincts. In early 2009, with the financiers cowed and desperate, and the country eager for a new direction, Obama could have taken far more decisive steps to right the economy. But again and again, Obama has sold out ordinary citizens, from folding on a proposal to end the preferential treatment of incomes of private equity magnates (they structure their deals to get capital gains treatment when they have no capital at risk), to pushing through a mortgage settlement that did perilous little for borrowers but served as a back door bailout to banks, or his enriching Big Pharma and the health care insurer though the ACA.

But Romney may be determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of a possible victory. Business Insider reports that the newest addition to the list of possible VP candidates is…Florida’s Pam Bondi. We’ve refrained from writing about her at NC merely because there seemed to be far more important targets. But contrast her conduct as the AG of one of the ground zeros of the foreclosure crisis, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada. Shortly after the robosigning scandal broke, Masto got legislation passed that made it a crime (a felony) to file improper paperwork with the courts, subject to 10 years in jail and fines of $10,000 per violation. (Note that this legislation did not change the legal requirement for foreclosure; it simply criminalized failure to comply. What did Bondi do? She fired two staffers in her office who were taking document fraud seriously.

New York Times Editorial: Three Rulings Against Women’s Rights

At a time when abortion rights and women’s access to affordable contraception are threatened by political attacks, judges in three newly decided federal cases failed to preserve constitutional protections for women.

On Monday, Judge James Teilborg of the United States District Court in Phoenix upheld an Arizona law signed by Gov. Jan Brewer in April that bans all abortion procedures at 20 weeks from a woman’s last menstrual period, which is about 18 weeks after fertilization.

It is the most aggressive of the previability abortion bans passed recently by a handful of states. It defies binding Supreme Court precedent that prevents states from banning abortions before a fetus can survive outside the womb, which generally occurs at about 24 weeks.

Margaret Nosek: Happy Birthday to Medicare

With all the commotion surrounding the Supreme Court and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it would be easy to overlook an important birthday: Today is the 47th anniversary of Medicare, the public health insurance program that covers our nation’s seniors and people with severe disabilities.

It’s a birthday that deserves to be celebrated, including here in the Lone Star State. Medicare provides 48 million Americans – about 3 million of them in Texas – with reasonably good access to health care, thereby easing their suffering, prolonging their lives, and reducing financial pressures on them and their families. Before Medicare was enacted in 1965, most retired older people were at risk of financial ruin when they got sick. Medicare changed that picture, and our state and nation are much better for it.

The Medicare program is not perfect, of course. It has burdensome co-pays and deductibles, and its benefits could be better. But it remains immensely popular, and it’s not hard to figure out why. A new study in the journal Health Affairs found that “Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and older are more satisfied with their health insurance, have better access to care, and are less likely to have problems paying medical bills than working-age adults who get insurance through employers or purchase coverage on their own.

Katrina vanden Heuvel:

Like a caveman frozen in a glacier, Mitt Romney is a man trapped in time – from his archaic stance on women’s rights to his belief in Herbert Hoover economics.

And now it appears his foreign policy is stuck in the past, as well. [..]

Romney’s world is one of special relationships, particularly with Britain, Israel and Poland – the three nations he’s visiting. It’s also a world of special enmities – against Iran – and unending suspicions – about China and Russia. For Romney, there are three types of countries: countries that are with us; countries that are against us; and countries that will be against us, sooner or later.

If this seems like foreign policy out of a 20th-century history book – or the George W. Bush neocon playbook – that’s because it is. A President Romney wouldn’t bring about “another American century.” Rather, he would return us to some of the worst policies of the last century.

Jennifer Granholm: Fiscal cliff dive only way out

“Going over a cliff” sounds deadly. Free fall. Air below. The landing could spell disaster.

Or it could bring a cool blast of sweet relief.

The Congress is staring over a fiscal cliff. One that we’re warned will pull down our nation on Dec. 31 if there’s no agreement to extend the Bush tax cuts or avert automatic spending cuts that Congress agreed to in the debt ceiling debate in the summer of 2011 – cuts weirdly named, like the title monster in a B horror film, “The Sequester.” The Sequester will kidnap a helpless victim, with the initials D.C., and threaten to push her over the cliff. Bwaahahahaha!

The fiscal cliff is exciting to both actuaries and Democrats. The Congressional Budget Office and many progressives, including Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), see the cliff as an opportunity: If Grover Norquist-induced pledge intransigence prevents House Speaker John Boehner’s tea party caucus from compromising, the rational solution is to allow the tax cuts to expire and the sequester cuts to take place – then resolve the problem immediately after the new Congress begins on Jan. 3, 2013.

Bryce Covert: Will Women Get Pushed Off the Fiscal Cliff?

Remember that time when Congress almost defaulted on our debt? It may seem like a distant nightmare, but we’re still living with repercussions from the debt ceiling showdown. In order to get Congress to lift the ceiling a year ago, President Obama struck a deal that will cut $2.4 trillion in spending over ten years and formed a Congressional committee that was supposed to recommend ways to cut another $1.5 trillion from the deficit. If the committee failed to come up with the cuts, sequestration would kick into gear, with $1 trillion in cuts evenly split between defense and non-defense spending come January 2. The latter never came to fruition, so we’re now on a collision course with the former.

These automatic cuts, known as sequestration, have (unsurprisingly) become a political hot potato. They’ve even trickled into the campaign trail. But if the cuts move forward, the pain won’t just be political. They’ll hurt everyday Americans-but not across the board. Women are going to shoulder a disproportionate amount of the burden. While the defense lobby has been loudly pushing back on the $500 million to be slashed from its budgets, the $500 million cuts from domestic programs could be devastating, especially for women.

Maureen Dowd: Gadding of a Gawky Gowk

When Barack Obama went abroad in July 2008, searching for some foreign policy cred, European leaders smothered him with love and respect.

More than 200,000 Germans thronged to the Victory Column in Berlin, hailing him as “Redeemer” and “Savior.” In a joint press conference in Paris, a smitten Nicolas Sarkozy was so touchy-feely that even Obama looked a little embarrassed.

“You must want a cigarette after that,” I teased Obama on the plane to London later.

Poor Mitt Romney had no such magic carpet ride. He insulted the British and infuriated the Palestinians while pandering to the Israelis and American Jewish voters, including donors like the Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson who tagged along.

Significant Error

Bank official admits economists were to blame for recession

A top economist at the Bank of England has admitted that his profession should share the blame for the financial crisis and recession.

By Philip Aldrick, Economics Editor, The Telegraph

12:01AM BST 01 Aug 2012

Andy Haldane, executive director for financial stability at the Bank (of England), said economists misled policymakers in the years before the crisis by promoting a “blinkered” view of the world based on the assumption their theories were unfailingly correct.

He said the error was not driven by economists seeking financial gain but “the quest for certainty”. But their error was to think of the assumptions used to build economic models as cast-iron laws.

“A concept gets formalised and then gets socialised and then believed as an almost theological doctrine,” he said. “The notion of not knowing, of imperfect information, of uncertainty, got lost from economics and finance for the better part of 20 or 30 years.

“I think one of the great errors we as economists made was that we started believing the assumptions of economics, and saying things that made no intellectual sense. We started to believe that what were assumptions were actually a description of reality, and therefore that the models were a description of reality, and therefore were dependable for policy analysis.

“With hindsight, that was a pretty significant error.”

(h/t Naked Capitalism)

Just in case you think this will have any effect on faith cult not science voodoo academics-

Greenspan – I was wrong about the economy. Sort of

Andrew Clark in New York and Jill Treanor, The Guardian

Thursday 23 October 2008

A long-time cheerleader for deregulation, Greenspan admitted to a congressional committee yesterday that he had been “partially wrong” in his hands-off approach towards the banking industry and that the credit crunch had left him in a state of shocked disbelief. “I have found a flaw,” said Greenspan, referring to his economic philosophy. “I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by that fact.”

It was the first time the man hailed for masterminding the world’s longest postwar boom has accepted any culpability for the crisis that has engulfed the global banking system.

“I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organisations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms,” said Greenspan.

They have learned nothing at all.

Who To Listen To

Paul Krugman, The New York Times

July 30, 2012, 9:03 am

One thing that’s striking in Portes’s discussion – and something I very much agree with – is the irrelevance of formal credentials. As we’ve debated how to deal with the worst slump since the 1930s, a distressing number of economists have taken to arguing on the basis that they have fancy degrees and you don’t – or in some cases that well, you may have a fancy degree too, and even a prize or two, but in the wrong sub-field, so there.

But all this counts for very little, especially when macroeconomics itself – or at any rate the kind of macroeconomics that has dominated the journals these past couple of decades – is very much on trial.

Humans Did It

A skeptical physicist ends up confirming climate data

by Brad Plumer

Back in 2010, Richard Muller, a Berkeley physicist and self-proclaimed climate skeptic, decided to launch the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project to review the temperature data that underpinned global-warming claims. Remember, this was not long after the Climategate affair had erupted, at a time when skeptics were griping that climatologists had based their claims on faulty temperature data.

Muller’s stated aims were simple. He and his team would scour and re-analyze the climate data, putting all their calculations and methods online. Skeptics cheered the effort. “I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong,” wrote Anthony Watts, a blogger who has criticized the quality of the weather stations in the United Statse that provide temperature data. The Charles G. Koch Foundation even gave Muller’s project $150,000 – and the Koch brothers, recall, are hardly fans of mainstream climate science.

So what are the end results? Muller’s team appears to have confirmed the basic tenets of climate science. Back in March, Muller told the House Science and Technology Committee that, contrary to what he expected, the existing temperature data was “excellent.” He went on: “We see a global warming trend that is very similar to that previously reported by the other groups.” And, today, the BEST team has released a flurry of new papers that confirm that the planet is getting hotter. As the team’s two-page summary flatly concludes, “Global warming is real“.

While Prof Muller admitted that global warming was very real, he was still a skeptic as to its cause. Until now:

The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic

by Richard A. Muller

CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.

(Richard A.) Muller’s research was intended to prove the opposite. The physicist and his team even took the most common arguments raised by climate deniers, putting them to the test to see if skeptics’ claims had merit. It’s why the Kochs got out their checkbook in the first place.

But Muller is now telling his benefactors what they don’t want to hear (a.k.a., the truth): the climate crisis is real and it’s caused by human activity. Whether humanity chooses to deal with the reality of the crisis remains to be seen, but we can’t say we weren’t warned.

On This Day In History August 1

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.

Click on images to enlarge

August 1 is the 213th day of the year (214th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 152 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1981, MTV, Music Television, goes on the air for the first time ever, with the words (spoken by one of MTV’s creators, John Lack): “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.” The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” was the first music video to air on the new cable television channel, which initially was available only to households in parts of New Jersey. MTV went on to revolutionize the music industry and become an influential source of pop culture and entertainment in the United States and other parts of the world, including Europe, Asia and Latin America, which all have MTV-branded channels.

In MTV’s early days, its programming consisted of basic music videos that were introduced by VJs (video jockeys) and provided for free by record companies. As the record industry recognized MTV’s value as a promotional vehicle, money was invested in making creative, cutting-edge videos. Some directors, including Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Three Kings) and Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), worked on music videos before segueing into feature films. In the 1980s, MTV was instrumental in promoting the careers of performers such as Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince and Duran Duran, whose videos played in heavy rotation.

XXX Olympiad- Day 8

More Dancing Horsies and a Tiara

Broadcast Schedule

This is the complete schedule for today.  It covers from 6 am to 6 am.

Time Network Sport Competitors
6 am Vs. Table Tennis (Men’s quarterfinal)
7 am Vs. Badminton (elimination round) elimination
7 am Bravo Tennis (round of 16 Singles, start Mixed Doubles) all
7:30 am Vs. Cycling (Women’s) all
9 am Vs. Archery (Women’s) elimination
9 am MS Fencing (Women’s Sabre) all
9:30 am Vs. Men’s Football BRA v NZL
10 am NBC Cycling (Men’s Time Trial) (Medal) all
11 am NBC Swimming (Men’s 200m Back, 200m IM, Women’s 4x200m Free, 200m Breast, 100m Free) all
11 am Vs. Women’s Water Polo HUN v CHN
11 am MS Boxing (Bantam, Heavy, Super Heavy weight) elimination
11:30 am NBC Men’s Beach Volleyball USA v LAT
noon MS Men’s Football JPN v HON
noon Vs. Men’s Football MEX v SUI
12:30 pm NBC Swimming (5 events) all
1 pm NBC Women’s Water Polo USA v ESP
1:30 pm MS Fencing (Women’s Sabre) (Bronze Medal) all
1:30 pm Vs. Boxing (Bantam, Heavy, Super Heavy weight) elimination
2 pm Vs. Archery (Men’s) all
2:30 pm NBC Canoe/Kayak (Men’s Whitewater K1) (Medal) all
2:30 pm Vs. Men’s Football GBR v URU
3 pm NBC Women’s Volleyball USA v CHN
3 pm Vs. Women’s Beach Volleyball BRA v CZE
3:30 pm MS Fencing (Women’s) (Medal) all
3:30 pm MS Men’s Football SEN v UAE
4:30 pm NBC Rowing (Women’s Pair, Quad Sculls, Men’s 8 (Medal) (5 more events) all
4:30 pm Vs. Archery (Men’s) all
5 pm MS Women’s Beach Volleyball CZE v AUS
5 pm CNBC Boxing (Bantam, Heavy, Super Heavy weight) elimination
5 pm Vs. Women’s Basketball USA v TUR
7 pm MS Table Tennis (Women’s Singles final) (Medal)
8 pm NBC Prime Time (Swimming and Diving Finals, Men’s Gymnastics All-Around (Medal), Beach Volleyball) all
12:30 am NBC Late Night (Cycling (Women’s Time Trial), Rowing (3 finals)) (Medal) all
1:30 am NBC Prime Time repeat all
3 am CNBC Boxing repeat elimination
4 am Vs. Men’s Basketball FRA v LTU
5:30 am Vs. Women’s Field Hockey USA v AUS

All this is sourced through the NBC Olympics broadcast schedule.  Competition starts again at 6 am tomorrow.  

Competitions designated by (Medal) will award winners that day.  ‘all’ means not specified.  Sometimes NBC especially does mashups and doesn’t include event or competitor information.  Elimination means no round robin, one and done.

These schedules are a place for you to make sure you don’t miss a sport you like and share your observations.  Have fun today!

At London Olympics, empty seats have organizers scrambling, giving away tickets to children and soldiers

By Karla Adam, Washington Post

Published: July 29

A day after the city reveled in the splendor of Danny Boyle’s critically acclaimed Opening Ceremonies, many locals were piqued Saturday when television footage showed empty seats at some of the most popular sporting events, including swimming and gymnastics, that they had been told were sold out. Such scenes ignited speculation that corporate sponsors had been provided tickets they weren’t using, leaving the public on the outside looking in.

The International Olympic Committee moved quickly to quash those rumors, saying sponsors had been allocated about 8 percent of available tickets, while at the same time they tried to determine exactly whom the unused seats belonged to.

On Sunday, many venues appeared full, but there were reports of empty seats at the Basketball Arena, where the U.S. men beat France, and Greenwich Park, where Zara Phillips, the queen’s granddaughter, was competing in equestrian.

On a rainy day at Wimbledon, Doreen Beeton stood on Henman Hill lamenting the half-filled Centre Court she saw on a giant video scoreboard. She believes many sponsors who were provided with tickets have no interest in the early-round matches.

Scrambling to calm the furor, London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe said off-duty military and students already accredited for the Olympic Park would be offered the abandoned seats. British troops already were attending women’s gymnastics Sunday morning, Coe said.

This isn’t the first time organizers have come under fire for ticketing mishaps. Earlier this month, they withdrew 500,000 tickets for soccer matches following meager demand in large stadiums dotted around the country. They also announced in July they were offering refunds to thousands of ticket holders in the 10-meter platform diving event because the position of their seats meant that the divers would briefly jump out of view.

Faisal Lalani, 48, who had tried and failed last year to get tickets for swimming, came to the Olympic Park on Sunday hoping to snag one of the unused tickets he read about.

Standing outside of the entrance to the Olympic Park, with grandiose views of the Aquatics Centre and Orbit tower, he said, “I feel cheated.”

Badminton Doubles Pairs Face Match-Throwing Probe

By MIKE CORDER Associated Press

LONDON August 1, 2012 (AP)

Four women’s badminton doubles pairs, including the reigning world champions from China, faced a disciplinary hearing Wednesday after being charged with trying to throw their matches at the London Olympics to secure an easier matchup in later rounds.

World doubles champions Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang of China and their South Korean opponents Jung Kyun-eun and Kim Ha-na were booed loudly by the crowd Tuesday after dumping serves into the net and making simple errors like hitting the shuttlecock wide.

The problem was repeated in the next women’s doubles between South Korea’s Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung and Indonesia’s Meiliana Jauhari and Greysia Polii. Both teams were also warned for deliberately losing points in a match the Koreans won 18-21, 21-14, 21-12. The capacity crowd vented their displeasure on them, too.

“If we’re not playing the best it’s because it doesn’t matter – if we’re the first or the second (in the group) we’re already through. The most important thing is the elimination match tomorrow.”

You get no points for advancing to Q2, 17th or first.  Might as well save the tires.