Daily Archive: September 17, 2011

Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

Our regular featured content-

These weekly featured articles-

The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is an Open Thread

I Am Troy Davis

Photobucket

On September 21, 2011, the State of Georgia plans to kill Troy Davis by lethal injection.  Again.  This is the fourth time the State of Georgia has scheduled Davis for death.  In 2007 he was spared with less than 24 hours notice.  In September 2008, the hearse was waiting at the door and he was less than two hours away from the gurney.  A month later the execution was halted three days before execution.  And now, the rollercoaster from hope to despair has come to September 21, 2011.

Troy Davis’s conviction stems from the 1989 death of a Savannah police officer, Mark Allen McPhail.  The rollercoaster, for Troy Davis and his family and for the family of the officer, has been lurching back and forth for 22 years.  And with each year, doubt about the conviction has grown as witnesses have recanted and as jurors speak their unresolved doubts.  Lurking in the background is alarming possibility that the wrong man is waiting for the needle and that the real murderer has escaped.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports:

With only days before his scheduled execution, an effort to spare convicted killer Troy Davis is gathering thousands in rallies, vigils and other last-minute events from Atlanta to Peru to Berlin.

Citing doubts about his guilt, national leaders of the NAACP and Amnesty International led hundreds in a protest Friday against executing the man a Georgia jury said killed a Savannah police officer in 1989. Amnesty International declared a Global Day of Solidarity for Troy Davis, with 300 events across the United States and the globe, including in New York, Washington D.C., San Diego, Paris and Oslo.

Former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu are among those calling for his execution to be halted. And this week, Davis supporters presented 663,000 petitions to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles asking for his life to be spared.

Troy Davis has one last chance to ask for leniency. The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, which has the sole authority in Georgia to commute death sentences, will meet Monday to consider Davis’s case.

That means that this weekend is the last opportunity to sign a petition and to stand with more than 600,000 others for sparing Troy Davis.

The petition is here.

Details about the case are here from 2006 and here from 2008.

An excellent first person view is here (h/t OPOL).

——

cross-posted from The Dream Antilles

On This Day In History September 17

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September is the 260th day of the year (261st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 105 days remaining until the end of the year.

On September 17, 1787, the Constitution was signed. As dictated by Article VII, the document would not become binding until it was ratified by nine of the 13 states. Beginning on December 7, five states–Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut–ratified it in quick succession. However, other states, especially Massachusetts, opposed the document, as it failed to reserve undelegated powers to the states and lacked constitutional protection of basic political rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press. In February 1788, a compromise was reached under which Massachusetts and other states would agree to ratify the document with the assurance that amendments would be immediately proposed. The Constitution was thus narrowly ratified in Massachusetts, followed by Maryland and South Carolina. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the document, and it was subsequently agreed that government under the U.S. Constitution would begin on March 4, 1789. In June, Virginia ratified the Constitution, followed by New York in July.

On September 25, 1789, the first Congress of the United States adopted 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution–the Bill of Rights–and sent them to the states for ratification. Ten of these amendments were ratified in 1791. In November 1789, North Carolina became the 12th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Rhode Island, which opposed federal control of currency and was critical of compromise on the issue of slavery, resisted ratifying the Constitution until the U.S. government threatened to sever commercial relations with the state. On May 29, 1790, Rhode Island voted by two votes to ratify the document, and the last of the original 13 colonies joined the United States. Today, the U.S. Constitution is the oldest written constitution in operation in the world.

About those Space Shuttles.

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Yikes! ISS crew endures comms blackout during re-entry

By: William Harwood, CNET

September 16, 2011 6:33 AM PDT

A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying three of the International Space Station’s six crew members suffered an unexpected communications blackout just before plunging back into Earth’s atmosphere, completing a nail-biting descent in radio silence with repeated calls from flight controllers near Moscow going unanswered.

Finally, recovery crews spotted the Soyuz TMA-21’s braking parachute, communications with ground crews were established and the spacecraft touched down in Kazakhstan at 9:59 a.m. local time Friday (8:59 p.m. PT Thursday), tipping over on its side as it closed out an expedition lasting 164 days since launch April 4 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.



There was no immediate explanation for the communications dropout. The repeated, unanswered calls from mission control near Moscow were eerily reminiscent of the fruitless calls to the shuttle Columbia during the orbiter’s ill-fated descent to Earth in 2003.



Engineers have traced the Soyuz-U engine failure to a kerosene fuel line blockage that disrupted the operation of a turbopump used to feed propellants to the main combustion chamber. A Russian commission investigating the failure reportedly has raised questions about quality control. But it’s not yet clear how that issue will be resolved.

Cartnoon

This week’s episodes originally aired October 4, 2003.

Shiver Me Dodgers Episode 13 Part 1 Season 1

Exchange Traded Funds

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Lots of people think, as I did until recently, that ETFs are relatively low risk, low cost investments that track well understood and popular market indexes like the S&P 500 without forcing individual investors to actually assemble a portfolio of the underlying assets.

Not so much.

Terry Smith has put together a list of 4 problems with ETFs as they are traded today of which I think #3 is the biggest-

Because you can exchange trade these funds, they are used by hedge funds and banks to take positions and they can short them. Because they can apparently rely upon creating the units to deliver on their short, there are examples of short interest in ETFs being up to 1000% short i.e. some market participant(s) are short 10 times the amount of the ETF. If the ETF is in an illiquid sector, can you really rely upon creating the units as you may not be able to buy (or sell) the underlying assets in a sector with limited liquidity? The danger of allowing short sales which are a multiple of the value of a fund in an area where it may not be possible to close the trades by buying back the stocks are clear, but amazingly, during the debate in which I have been engaged by various cheer leaders for ETFs, they have claimed that there is no such risk in shorting ETFs. They clearly do not understand the product they are peddling, and if they can’t what chance has the retail investor got?

In other words leverage is creating notional supply in excess of the actual supply of an asset which leads to illiquidity when the demand exceeds it.

I’m sorry, you can’t buy anymore X at any price.

Now economists would argue that there is always a price at which a supply of X is available and on certain theoretical levels they are correct, but there is a practical level at which the price becomes too expensive and someone, somewhere is either deprived of the item they had a contract to purchase OR is forced to spend lots of money making good those promises.

This is apparently what happened at UBS.

The $2 Billion UBS Incident: ‘Rogue Trader’ My Ass

Matt Taibbi, Roling Stone

POSTED: September 15, 8:39 AM ET

Investment bankers do not see it as their jobs to tend to the dreary business of making sure Ma and Pa Main Street get their $8.03 in savings account interest every month. Nothing about traditional commercial banking – historically, the dullest of businesses, taking customer deposits and making conservative investments with them in search of a percentage point of profit here and there – turns them on.

In fact, investment bankers by nature have huge appetites for risk, and most of them take pride in being able to sleep at night even when their bets are going the wrong way. If you’re not a person who can doze through a two-hour foot massage while your client (which might be your own bank) is losing ten thousand dollars a minute on some exotic trade you’ve cooked up, then you won’t make it on today’s Wall Street.



In the financial press you’re called a “rogue trader” if you’re some overperspired 28 year-old newbie who bypasses internal audits and quality control to make a disastrous trade that could sink the company. But if you’re a well-groomed 60 year-old CEO who uses his authority to ignore quality control and internal audits in order to make disastrous trades that could sink the company, you get a bailout, a bonus, and heroic treatment in an Andrew Ross Sorkin book.

In other words, “rogue traders” are treated like bad accidents and condemned everywhere from the front pages to Ewan McGregor films. But rogue companies are protected at every level of the regulatory structure and continually empowered by dergulatory legislation giving them access to our bank accounts.



Sooner or later, this is going to blow up in our faces, and it won’t be one lower-level guy with a $2 billion loss we’ll be swallowing. It’ll be the CEO of another rogue firm like Lehman Brothers, and it’ll cost us trillions, not billions.

‘Rogue trader’? That’s the same as ‘rogue reporter’

The ‘rogues’ are those who get caught while people presiding over systems that go wrong say: ‘How deplorable’

Michael White, The Guardian

Friday 16 September 2011 06.40 EDT

A “rogue trader” in a City of London bank is really like a “rogue reporter” on the News of the World. He’s the one who gets caught and sent to jail when the people who presided over the system that allowed him to lose $2bn – or, in Clive Goodman’s case, to hack some royal phones – say “how deplorable” before business as usual is restored.



Have we learned nothing? Apparently not. Adoboli is 31, with less visible expertise and experience than his evident ambition to make money. Who left him in charge of the tea money? Yet he was able to lose $2bn in a corner of the investment market known as exchange traded funds (ETFs), which even the FT is having a struggle explaining to its more ignorant readers (bank chairmen, people like that) in today’s edition.

Apparently, they’re the hottest thing since the collateralised debt products that blew up Lehman and others in 2008. The FT columnist Gillian Tett says she wrote a column in May warning that ETFs were heading for a scandal, but not quite this soon.

A rogue trader at UBS or a rogue bank?

by John Gapper, Financial Times

September 15, 2011 3:45 pm

Given the recent history of UBS, it is fair to ask if Kweku Adoboli is a rogue trader or his employer is a rogue bank.



(T)he bank’s entire senior layer of management was forced out following its involvement in the 1998 collapse of Long-Term Capital Management, the US arbitrage hedge fund run by John Meriwether. UBS had pressed to be closely associated with an operation it regarded as smartly and safely run.

There are similarities between the products relating to the LTCM case and the trading desk on which Mr Adoboli worked. As Izabella Kaminska of FT Alphaville points out, banks’ Delta 1 desks traded and hedged exchange-traded derivatives in  ways that involve complex – and difficult to monitor – risk-taking. Mr Kerviel worked on SocGen’s Delta 1 desk.

Late Night Karaoke

Random Japan

Photobucket

AND THE WINNER IS…

A Japanese director named Takahisa Zeze won an Innovation Award at the Montreal World Film Festival and captivated the crowd when he started his acceptance speech with the words, “I am Japanese. Are you doing good?”

Another attending Japanese filmmaker in Montreal, Masato Harada, was doing pretty well as his movie Chronicle of My Mother took the Special Grand Prix.

In the wake of entertainer Shinsuke Shimada’s abrupt retirement from his TV career over ties to the yakuza, one top police official noted in The Yomiuri Shimbun, “It seems many showbiz types’ first interaction with crime groups comes when they ask the gangs to solve problems for them, such as collecting unpaid appearance fees or breaking off relationships with members of the opposite sex.”

Former Japan soccer coach Zico has a new gig after the Brazilian legend was named coach of Iraq’s national team.

Meanwhile, the unfortunately named Dunga, another former Brazilian soccer star who, like Zico, once played in the J. League, was also reported to be getting a new job.

Dunga was set to take the helm of a club team in Qatar.

Popular Culture (“Music”) 20110916: Ray Stevens

Those of you that read this regular column know that I sometimes give space to what I do not like.  More often I write about things that I do like, but just to mix it up, now and then I have to be the author of a critical piece.

This is one of those.  The career of this hack has been rife with nothing but luck and I think that he has been more detrimental to musical art than he has contributed.  Why would I take on one of the most honored icons of pop music?  Because he is a shallow and an opportunistic person.  Can you say Tea Partier?  Sure you can.

His entire life is pretty much a lie.  We shall start with his name, and go further.  Ready?

Democrats: Racing Down The Rabbit Hole

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

To join the Tea Party. Nomura economist Richard Koo gives decent marks to Obama’s jobs plan,:

Arguing need for longer-term fiscal consolidation is irresponsible

The insistence that fiscal consolidation is necessary in the longer term is like the doctor who, faced with a patient who has just been admitted to the intensive care ward, repeatedly questions the patient about his ability to afford the treatment. This is both lacking in decency and irresponsible.

If the patient loses heart after learning the cost of the treatment, he may end up spending even longer in the hospital, leading to a larger final bill. Completely ignoring the policy duration effect of fiscal policy and constantly insisting on longer-term fiscal consolidation was what prolonged Japan’s recession.

For instance, it was because Japan’s policymakers refused to give up the medium-term fiscal consolidation target of achieving a primary fiscal balance by 2011 that the government stumbled from fiscal stimulus to fiscal retrenchment and back again and, ultimately, was unable to meet its fiscal targets even once in the last 20 years.

That is why Japan’s recession lasted as long as it did and why the nation’s debt has risen to some 200% of GDP.

What digby said:

With some notable exceptions, most people still believe that that there will be a hangover of debt which will have to be dealt with at some point. But the confidence fairy died some time back and the only other reason for worrying about it at this point is to get some Shock Doctrine benefits out of the current situation. But as Koo points out, this actually hurts the economy even more.

Paul Krugman eulogizes the “confidence fairy’s” death:

Photobucket

In the first half of last year a strange delusion swept much of the policy elite on both sides of the Atlantic – the belief that cutting spending in the face of high unemployment would actually create jobs.

Herr Professor points out that past analysis  of austerity measures by the IMF is contradictory and even worse in the current economic climate:

   The reduction in incomes from fiscal consolidations is even larger if central banks do not or cannot blunt some of the pain through a monetary policy stimulus. The fall in interest rates associated with monetary stimulus supports investment and consumption, and the concomitant depreciation of the currency boosts net exports. Ireland in 1987 and Finland and Italy in 1992 are examples of countries that undertook fiscal consolidations, but where large depreciations of the currency helped provide a boost to net exports.

   Unfortunately, these pain relievers are not easy to come by in today’s environment. In many economies, central banks can provide only a limited monetary stimulus because policy interest rates are already near zero (see “Unconventional Behavior” in this issue of F&D). Moreover, if many countries carry out fiscal austerity at the same time, the reduction in incomes in each country is likely to be greater, since not all countries can reduce the value of their currency and increase net exports at the same time.

   Simulations of the IMF’s large-scale models suggest that the reduction in incomes may be more than twice as large as that shown in Chart 2 when central banks cannot cut interest rates and when many countries are carrying out consolidations at the same time. These simulations thus suggest that fiscal consolidation is now likely to be more contractionary (that is, to reduce short-run income more) than was the case in past episodes.

Like Dr. Krugman and digby said, we’re doing it wrong.

Older posts «

Fetch more items