February 4, 2012 archive

Feb 04

Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

Regular Features-

These Weekly Features-

This is an Open Thread

The Stars Hollow Gazette

Feb 04

Irony kills me

ckm has so many gems, I feel like going on a looting spree six days a week!  But this one especially broke my moral restraints:

Irony: A restored copy of the Magna Carta, one of four bearing the seal of King Edward I in 1297, will be put on display in Washington, D.C.

Apparently, “the rights of Man” are owned by a billionaire philanthropist and distributed across the empire.  That’s fucking sucking priceless.

Feb 04

Cartnoon

Duck Dodgers, Season 3 Episode 1.  This episode originally aired March 11, 2005.

Till Doom Do Us Part Part 1 of 3.

Feb 04

A Global Lost Generation

  When Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia he set in motion a series of events that would topple governments across the Arab world. Because of the worlds-shaping events that followed, it is almost forgotten that the reason Bouazizi comitted suicide was simply his frustration and anguish over not having a job and a future.

 Across the world today, Bouazizi’s pain is being felt by a global generation. It isn’t limited to any one country, region, or continent. Almost the entire world has turned its back on the youth of the world in one way or another.

  It’s not a situation that the global economy or political system is capable of dealing with, and the consequences will continue to echo long after most of us reading this have passed on.

Feb 04

On This Day In History February 4

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

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.

February 4 is the 35th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 330 days remaining until the end of the year (331 in leap years).

On this day in 1789, George Washington becomes the first and only president to be unanimously elected by the Electoral College. He repeated this notable feat on the same day in 1792.

The peculiarities of early American voting procedure meant that although Washington won unanimous election, he still had a runner-up, John Adams, who served as vice president during both of Washington’s terms. Electors in what is now called the Electoral College named two choices for president. They each cast two ballots without noting a distinction between their choice for president and vice president. Washington was chosen by all of the electors and therefore is considered to have been unanimously elected. Of those also named on the electors’ ballots, Adams had the most votes and became vice president.

George Washington (February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799) was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander in chief of the Continental Army in 1775-1783, and he presided over the writing of the Constitution in 1787. As the unanimous choice to serve as the first President of the United States (1789-1797), he developed the forms and rituals of government that have been used ever since, such as using a cabinet system and delivering an inaugural address. As President he built a strong, well-financed national government that avoided war, suppressed rebellion and won acceptance among Americans of all types, and Washington is now known as the “Father of his country”.

In Colonial Virginia, Washington was born into the provincial gentry in a wealthy, well connected family that owned tobacco plantations using slave labor. Washington was home schooled by his father and older brother but both died young and Washington became attached to the powerful Fairfax clan. They promoted his career as surveyor and soldier. Strong, brave, eager for combat and a natural leader, young Washington quickly became a senior officer of the colonial forces, 1754-58, during the first stages of the French and Indian War. Indeed, his rash actions helped precipitate the war. Washington’s experience, his military bearing, his leadership of the Patriot cause in Virginia, and his political base in the largest colony made him the obvious choice of the Second Continental Congress in 1775 as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army to fight the British in the American Revolution. He forced the British out of Boston in 1776, but was defeated and nearly captured later that year when he lost New York City. After crossing the Delaware River in the dead of winter he defeated the enemy in two battles, retook New Jersey, and restored momentum to the Patriot cause. Because of his strategy, Revolutionary forces captured two major British armies at Saratoga in 1777 and Yorktown in 1781. Negotiating with Congress, governors, and French allies, he held together a tenuous army and a fragile nation amid the threats of disintegration and invasion. Historians give the commander in chief high marks for his selection and supervision of his generals, his encouragement of morale, his coordination with the state governors and state militia units, his relations with Congress, and his attention to supplies, logistics, and training. In battle, however, Washington was repeatedly outmaneuvered by British generals with larger armies. Washington is given full credit for the strategies that forced the British evacuation of Boston in 1776 and the surrender at Yorktown in 1781. After victory was finalized in 1783, Washington resigned rather than seize power, and returned to his plantation at Mount Vernon, proving his opposition to dictatorship and his commitment to republican government.

Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention that drafted the United States Constitution in 1787 because of his dissatisfaction with the weaknesses of Articles of Confederation that had time and again impeded the war effort. Washington became the first President of the United States in 1789. He attempted to bring rival factions together in order to create a more unified nation. He supported Alexander Hamilton‘s programs to pay off all the state and national debts, implement an effective tax system, and create a national bank, despite opposition from Thomas Jefferson. Washington proclaimed the U.S. neutral in the wars raging in Europe after 1793. He avoided war with Britain and guaranteed a decade of peace and profitable trade by securing the Jay Treaty in 1795, despite intense opposition from the Jeffersonians. Although never officially joining the Federalist Party, he supported its programs. Washington’s “Farewell Address” was an influential primer on republican virtue and a stern warning against partisanship, sectionalism, and involvement in foreign wars.

Washington had a vision of a great and powerful nation that would be built on republican lines using federal power. He sought to use the national government to improve the infrastructure, open the western lands, create a national university, promote commerce, found a capital city (later named Washington, D.C.), reduce regional tensions and promote a spirit of nationalism. “The name of AMERICAN,” he said, must override any local attachments.” At his death Washington was hailed as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen”. The Federalists made him the symbol of their party, but for many years the Jeffersonians continued to distrust his influence and delayed building the Washington Monument. As the leader of the first successful revolution against a colonial empire in world history, Washington became an international icon for liberation and nationalism. His symbolism especially resonated in France and Latin America. Historical scholars consistently rank him as one of the two or three greatest presidents.

Feb 04

Late Night Karaoke

Feb 04

The Failures of the SEC & Continued Protection of the Big Banks

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Nothing surprising about the revelation in today’s New York Times that the SEC has failed to get tough with the big banks but it does highlight how Occupy Wall St. has change this conversation in the traditional media that is now taking a more critical look at what is wrong with the economy and why. Despite all the whining from the agency that it doesn’t have the resources or the tools, when in fact it does but has refused to use them against the biggest and repeat offenders. The SEC has repeatedly granted waivers to the laws and regulations that stop fraud:

JPMorganChase, for example, has settled six fraud cases in the last 13 years, including one with a $228 million settlement last summer, but it has obtained at least 22 waivers, in part by arguing that it has “a strong record of compliance with securities laws.” Bank of America and Merrill Lynch, which merged in 2009, have settled 15 fraud cases and received at least 39 waivers.

Only about a dozen companies – Dell, General Electric and United Rentals among them – have felt the full force of the law after issuing misleading information about their businesses. Citigroup was the only major Wall Street bank among them. In 11 years, it settled six fraud cases and received 25 waivers before it lost most of its privileges in 2010.

The SEC also does keep an organized data base of the waivers it granted, so in its investigation the NYT’s had do some digging but found some very telling facts about the SEC’s failures to protect investors while protecting the big banks from lawsuits and prosecution:

JPMorganChase is among the big Wall Street firms that have been granted multiple waivers with nearly every settlement of S.E.C. fraud charges. Last July, it agreed to pay $228 million to settle civil and criminal charges that it cheated cities and towns by rigging bids with other Wall Street firms to invest the money raised by several municipalities for capital projects.

JPMorgan received three waivers related to that case for privileges that it otherwise would have lost. But the S.E.C. said the company’s fraudulent actions didn’t involve misleading investors about JPMorgan’s business. [..]

Despite six securities fraud settlements in 13 years, JPMorgan rarely if ever lost any special privileges. It has been awarded at least 22 waivers since 2003, with most of its S.E.C. settlements generating two or more. In seeking the reprieves, lawyers for JPMorgan stated in letters to the S.E.C. that it should grant a waiver because the company has “a strong record of compliance with the securities laws.”

JPMorgan isn’t the only big bank that has received a pass on fraud from the SEC, Bank of America has been a recipient of favored status:

In 2009, the S.E.C. was negotiating with Bank of America over charges that it had failed to disclose to shareholders that billions of dollars in bonuses were being paid to Merrill Lynch executives just as Bank of America was bailing out the firm.

Because the S.E.C. charges involved fraudulent statements by both Bank of America and Merrill Lynch about their financial status, the merged company was in danger of losing its special privileges for both offerings and forecasts. [..]

It settled the case by agreeing to a $150 million payment. The S.E.C., however, decided not to charge the bank with fraud, which could have endangered the bank’s special status. Instead, the S.E.C. charged Bank of America with violating disclosure rules for shareholder materials and proxies, and Bank of America kept its privileges.

It took years before the SEC finally took action against Citigroup for its violations of rules and regulations but in 2010. That only happened because Citibank blatantly lied to its investors about the amount of risk it was carrying on its balance sheets. In its disclosure the bank stated that it was only holding $13 billion in risks when in reality it was $50 billion. It settled the case for $75 million but because of the falsification of its financial statement it lost the ability to insulate itself from lawsuits over mistaken predictions about its business and had to wait weeks for the SEC’s approvals to make itself eligible to sell stocks, bonds and other securities to the public. Prior to those sanctions Citibank had settled six fraud cases and received 25 waivers. Meanwhile JPMorgan, Gold Sachs and others have avoided sanctions and continue their fraudulent practices.

Yves Smith at naked capitalism in pointing out the significance of this article makes this observation:

What the article does not make quite clear is the SEC rationale for this double standard. I’d hazard that it’s that big financial players are often in the market raising funds, and restricting their access is, well, just a bit too mean since they are money junkies. Just look how hard it was for Citi when it fell out of the SEC’s most favored nations status and lost its ability to use so-called “shelf registrations” to sell stock and bonds:

   And the companies continue to use rules that let them instantly raise money publicly, without waiting weeks for government approvals. Without the waivers, the companies could not move as quickly as rivals that had not settled fraud charges to sell stocks or bonds when market conditions were most favorable.

OMG, if you break the law, you might be put at a competitive disadvantage! Can’t have that, now can we?

She concludes:

[..] As we have said, one of basic rules of regulating is to make sure the regulated know you are not cowed by them. When I was a young person working on Wall Street, investment banks were afraid of the SEC. By contrast, this article reveals, as many have suspected, that regulators have plenty of tools to bring banks to heel. They choose not to use them.

The SEC does have a defense of sorts, which is (as we have recounted) that Congress has cut off funding when it merely tried to be tough in defending retail investors from abuses under Arthur Levitt in the 1990s. The passivity of the SEC is a symptom of elite corruption. A reform-minded President could choose to cross swords with Congress and defend the agency against harassment for tough minded enforcement. But that would be in a parallel universe where the banks were not in charge.

It was the Occupy Wall St. movement and a handful of state attorneys general who have changed the conversation from protecting the 1% to investigating them and looking at their practices and the agencies that regulate them with a more critical eye.

Feb 04

Random Japan

Photobucket

Clever darlings

        The woman accused of harboring Aum Shinrikyo fugitive Makoto Hirata for 17 years says she made up her pseudonym-Kyoko Yamaguchi-by combining the names of popular actress-singers Kyoko Koizumi and Momoe Yamaguchi.

   A survey by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government found that 9 percent of expectant mothers failed to undergo pre-delivery health checks “because they didn’t realize they were pregnant.”

   As part of efforts to prepare Tokyo for a major earthquake, JR East has stockpiled water bottles and blankets for 30,000 commuters, while Tokyo Metro is storing relief supplies for 100,000 others.

   Two rare crested ibises injured on Sado Island recently are believed to have been attacked by falcons. The incidents are puzzling, as falcons normally only attack animals smaller than themselves.

Feb 04

Popular Culture (Music) 20120203: A Brief History of The Who. 1976

Last time we looked at 1975, and if anything 1976 was a bit more settled for The Who in some respects.  Most of their time was spent doing a huge tour, with multiple Atlantic Ocean crossings.  There were a couple of reasons for that.

Likely the largest reason was that the dispute betwixt the band and Kit Lambert was still in litigation, and it was sort of difficult to release old material, and new material was still being written.  They were stuck in a way just to perform live.  That was to my personal advantage, and more on that is to come later.

One the whole, the band were probably at their best musically in 1976.  The exception was Moon, who was beginning to accelerate his decline both personally and musically, but that did not come out until sort of late in the year.