July 29, 2012 archive

Jul 29

Subterranean Serfdom Blues

too_big

     Bankers in the basement,            

     Mixing up the medicine,

     I’m on the pavement,

     Thinking about the government.

     The pols in the empty suits,

     Acolytes of Abramoff,

     Say we got a deficit,

     Want to get it paid off.

     Look out kid,

     It’s something you did,

     God knows when,

     But you’re a parasite again.

     Better blink away the pepper spray,

     Duck back down the alley way,

     Your job creator master,

     To pay for his disaster,

     Wants ninety dollar bills,

     You only got ten.

     Obama comes fleet foot,

     Asking for our input,

     Talking ’bout transparency,

     Freedom and democracy,

     But taps our phones anyway,

     Get used to it, ’cause many say,

     They must watch us every day,

     Orders from the NSA.

     Look out kid.

     Look out, look out, look out.

Jul 29

Olympic Coverage Criticism

Conventional Media

NBC criticised over Olympics 2012 TV fumbles

Matt Williams, The Guardian

Sunday 29 July 2012

(A)fter taking a online shellacking over perceived failings in its opening ceremony coverage, host Meredith Vieira belatedly mentioned on Saturday night’s show a memorial segment it had failed to air live the previous night.

But it was the decision to not show some of the action live on TV that drew the apparent ire of online complainers.

New Media

Smug American Elitism at the Olympics Opening Ceremony

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Saturday July 28, 2012 1:11 pm

It is a running joke that Americans learn geography or about countries outside the United States only when the US military decides to invade a country. Presumably, this is why NBC broadcasters Bob Costas, Matt Lauer, and Meredith Viera announcing the Olympics opening ceremony would be sharing trivia about each country, especially information that Americans might be able to understand even if they were terribly uneducated. But that should be no justification for the candor of the commentary during the broadcast of the Opening Ceremony, which was frankly an example of smug American elitism and often outright condescension.

For example, Bob Costas said North Korea’s greatest athletic achievement belongs to “dear leader Kim Jong-Il who, according to his official biography, carded 11 holes-in one, not over a lifetime but over the first round he played.



This went on for just about every other country. “Churchill never met Idi Amin,” Costas said as Ugandan athletes walked in the stadium. An anecdote about Kuwait mistakenly playing the Kazakhstan national anthem in the film Borat was shared as Kazakh athletes made their entrance. He mentioned the animated movie franchise Madagascar as Madagascan athletes strode by the camera. And, of course, like a school boy learning the country’s name for the first time or a character in a Christopher Guest film, he said, “There are some countries whose names just make you smile,” as Djibouti walked by.

The comments were not limited to quips that fell flat. Costas’ introductions of many of the countries seemed to highlight the worst aspects of each country’s history or inadequacies in the country that Costas himself may or may not have experienced personally. He said, Egypt is in “a transition of some sort,” and added, “From military dictatorship to Jeffersonian democracy? Not quite.” He noted that Kiribati does not have regularly scheduled flights to Honolulu. He ominously reminded audiences that world leaders are keeping a “wary eye” on Pakistan. He described how Australia was “originally founded as a penal colony.”



Coupled with the fact that NBC cut out the ceremony’s memorial of the 7/7 terror attacks in London and Saudi Arabia’s first female athletes entering, NBC’s presentation of the opening ceremony was appalling, hokey, and downright imbecilic. Broadcasters of the American idiocracy were in true form.

It is not like Americans are given much exposure to people or culture in countries outside of the United States. They are consistently indoctrinated with this idea from all politicians that they are citizens of the Greatest Nation on Earth. So, perhaps, it is not surprising that broadcasters on NBC would reinforce this predominant ideology of exceptionalism in our society. But is it too much to expect that NBC announcers would, for the few seconds that these countries go by, not offer smug or sneering remarks that call out the imperfections of each country’s current politics or past history?

Jul 29

“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In 1998, then Citigroup Chairman and CEO Sanford “Sandy” Weill orchestrated the merger of Travelers Group and Citibank in what was, at the time, considered the largest merger in history. The merger was technically illegal because still in existence was a law known as Glass-Steagall,  a 66-year-old law that had separated commercial banking from investment banking. That merger and the repeal of the  Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, Mr. Weill now says were a mistake. He made this stunning pronouncement on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“What we should probably do is go and split up investment banking from banking, have banks be deposit takers, have banks make commercial loans and real estate loans, have banks do something that’s not going to risk the taxpayer dollars, that’s not too big to fail,” Weill told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

He added: “If they want to hedge what they’re doing with their investments, let them do it in a way that’s going to be mark-to-market so they’re never going to be hit.”

He essentially called for the return of the Glass-Steagall Act, which imposed banking reforms that split banks from other financial institutions such as insurance companies.

“I’m suggesting that they be broken up so that the taxpayer will never be at risk, the depositors won’t be at risk, the leverage of the banks will be something reasonable, and the investment banks can do trading, they’re not subject to a Volker rule (the Volcker rule explained), they can make some mistakes, but they’ll have everything that clears with each other every single night so they can be mark-to-market,” Weill said.

Some of the reactions to Mr. Weill’s about face were not so kind, feeling that this took a lot of “chutzpah” on his part as the prime architect at shattering Glass – Steagall,  “helping create monstrously large institutions that appear impossible to regulate, manage and, in recent years, value

{..}This is rich coming from the man who hung a portrait with the words “The Shatterer of Glass-Steagall” in his office. Nor did he shoulder any of the blame for creating a mega-bank that stumbled from crisis to crisis before sucking down a $45 billion taxpayer bailout.

Such chutzpah may make his message easy to dismiss. But the point has been resonating for a while across the political spectrum. For critics like Paul Krugman, smaller financial institutions would wield far less political influence. Others lament that the financial reforms of the Dodd-Frank Act don’t do enough to protect the financial system from another calamity. Meanwhile, some conservatives are starting to think that a more radical split might be preferable to the mess of new regulations coming down the pike, such as the Volcker Rule.

As Charles Gasparino, Fox Business News contributor, formerly with CNBC, and author of “The Sellout“, observed:

It’s a shame it took mountains of sleaze, tremendous shareholder losses, a financial crisis and taxpayer bailouts for Weill to see the light because there are many valid reasons to break up the banks. We had a financial crisis (and subsequent taxpayer bailouts) largely because of enormous risk taking at the mega-banks like Citigroup, which led others to blindly copy the firm’s risk taking model until the entire system blew up in the fall of 2008.

Even so, it’s hard to take Weill seriously. First this is a man with an ego the size of the bank he created. People who know him say he needs media attention like an alcoholic needs a stiff drink, and he’s gotten precious little of it since retiring from the banking business six years ago. Yesterday made him feel like the same old Sandy again.

Then there’s his record as a banker, which should banish him from ever dispensing advice on the business he helped destroy.

Over at naked capitalism, Yves Smith sees the real significance of the Weill’s flip a bit differently:

It’s a reminder that talk of reform is cheap and without consequence. Would any of these former Big Names who would love to be hauled out of mothballs (ex John Reed, who never liked the limelight and I believe in genuine) be serious about advocating change if they thought it really might happen? This isn’t a sign of a break in the elites, this is at best pandering to the 99%, or adopting a faux provocative position to get some media play. Look at how the British regulators, who have been at least willing to talk tough about banking and pushed hard for a full split between depositaries and trading firms, are in deer in the headlights mode over the Libor scandal. This isn’t just being caught out at having missed a big one; there is an astonishing inability to leverage what should be seen as a God-given opportunity to put reform back on the front burner.

When I see someone like Weill or Dick Parsons putting a big chunk of their ill-gotten gains to fund lobbying or a think tank promoting tough-minded financial services reform, I’ll give the backers their due for making a sincere and serious effort to undo the considerable damage they have done. But absent that, this career death-bed conversion is a hollow and insulting gesture.

Yes, breaking up these big banks that are too hard to regulate is the right thing to do but I suspect, damn near impossible unless it all comes crashing down taking the banksters with it.

Jul 29

Plugging Intelligence Leaks or How to Cover Up War Crimes

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The Senate Intelligence Committee passed an intelligence authorization bill, Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. The bill, co-sponsored by the chair of the committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), passed the committee by a vote of 14 – 1 would:

[..] authorize intelligence funding to counter terrorist threats, prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, enhance counterintelligence, conduct covert actions and collect and analyze intelligence around the globe. [..]

The legislation includes a title on preventing unauthorized disclosures of classified information to improve the government’s ability to prevent and detect unauthorized disclosures that harm national security and investigate and punish those responsible. [..]

The approved bill includes a series of provisions to prevent leaks, including:

   

  • A requirement the executive branch notifies Congress when making certain authorized disclosures of intelligence information to the public;
  • A requirement for the Director of National Intelligence to improve the process for conducting administrative leaks investigations, including a requirement to proactively identify leaks and take administrative action when necessary;
  • A restriction on the number of intelligence community employees authorized to communicate with the media;
  • A provision to improve non-disclosure agreements and the penalties for non-compliance;
  • A prohibition on current and former intelligence officials entering into certain contracts with media organizations;
  • A report from the attorney general on possible improvements to the criminal process for investigating and prosecuting leaks; and
  • A provision to improve the intelligence community’s ability to detect insider threats.

The bill was a response to the recent high level leaks about cyber warfare against Iran, Obama’s “kill list” and a CIA underwear bomb plot sting operation in Yemen that Sen. Feinstein said came from the White House. A good portion of the bill is directed at curbing “leaks” that come from intelligence employees who talk to the media either with or without the permission of the White House. The details of these restrictions are vague and ill defined, as Kevin Gosztola at FDL points out:

Jul 29

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Health and Fitness News, a weekly diary which is cross-posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette. It is open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

Cool-as-a-Cucumber Salads

Melon, Cucumber and Tomato Salad

When it’s as hot as it has been in so many parts of the country lately, hydrating foods like cucumbers are especially appealing. Cucumbers are a very good source of vitamin C and caffeic acid, compounds that help the body prevent water retention, a problem that many of us suffer from on hot summer days. [..]

Lately I’ve been buying Persian cucumbers more than any others. I like the small size, the absence of big seeds and the thin skin. I also love the locally grown Japanese cukes I’m buying at the farmers’ market. At other times of year I settle for the hothouse European variety, but they can’t compare with what you can get right now at your farmers’ market. Seek out unwaxed cucumbers so you won’t need to peel them and can benefit from their skin, a rich source of fiber and a good source of potassium and magnesium.

~Martha Rose Shulman~

Melon, Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Melon and cucumber go well together in this refreshing combination; they’re closely related botanically.

Cucumber and Radish Raita

This can be spicy or not, depending on what you are serving it with and your taste for heat.

Cucumber and Israeli Couscous Salad

I love this tabbouleh-like mixture because of all the herbs and refreshing flavors, and also because of the nice contrast in textures.

Blender Cucumber Yogurt Soup With Cumin and Paprika

This is so refreshing that I like to pour it into a glass and drink it as I would a lassi.

Turkish Shepherd’s Salad

What distinguishes this summer salad are all the fresh herbs and the sumac and red pepper used to season it. You can buy these spices at Middle Eastern markets or from online retailers like Penzey’s.

Jul 29

Cartnoon

Baby Bottleneck

Jul 29

Open Thread: Rule Britannia

Photobucket

Jul 29

Rocky Anderson on the Olympics

From Up w/ Chris Hayes

Jul 29

On This Day In History July 29

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.

Click on images to enlarge

July 29 is the 210th day of the year (211th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 155 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1858, the Harris Treaty was signed between the United States and Japan was signed at the Ryosen-ji in Shimoda.  Also known as the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, it opened the ports of  Edo and four other Japanese cities to American trade and granted extraterritoriality to foreigners, among other stipulations.

The treaty followed the 1854 Convention of Kanagawa, which granted coaling rights for U.S. ships and allowed for a U.S. Consul in Shimoda. Although Commodore Matthew Perry secured fuel for U.S. ships and protection, he left the important matter of trading rights to Townsend Harris, another U.S. envoy who negotiated with the Tokugawa Shogunate; the treaty is therefore often referred to as the Harris Treaty. It took two years to break down Japanese resistance, but with the threat of looming British demands for similar privileges, the Tokugawa government eventually capitulated.

Treaties of Amity and Commerce between Japan and Holland, England, France, Russia and the United States, 1858.

The most important points were:

   * exchange of diplomatic agents

   * Edo, Kobe, Nagasaki, Niigata, and Yokohama‘s opening to foreign trade as ports

   * ability of United States citizens to live and trade in those ports

   * a system of phttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraterritoriality extraterritoriality] that provided for the subjugation of foreign residents to the laws of their own consular courts instead of the Japanese law system

   * fixed low import-export duties, subject to international control

The agreement served as a model for similar treaties signed by Japan with other foreign countries in the ensuing weeks. These Unequal Treaties curtailed Japanese sovereignty for the first time in its history; more importantly, it revealed Japan’s growing weakness, and was seen by the West as a pretext for possible colonisation of Japan. The recovery of national status and strength became an overarching priority for the Japanese, with the treaty’s domestic consequences being the end of Bakufu (Shogun) control and the establishment of a new imperial government.

Jul 29

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

Syria: Opposition in call to arm rebel fighters

 The head of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) has called for foreign states to arm rebel fighters.

The BBC   29 July 2012

Abdulbaset Sayda was speaking as Syrian forces continued their assault on rebel-held areas of the city of Aleppo.

Mr Sayda also said that President Bashar al-Assad should be tried for “massacres” rather than be offered asylum.

Western nations have warned of a potential bloodbath in Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city.

“We want weapons that would stop tanks and jet fighters. That is what we want,” AFP quoted Mr Sayda as saying at a news conference in Abu Dhabi.

He urged Arab “brothers and friends to support the Free [Syrian] Army”.

Rebels have so far not received any overt foreign military support.




Sunday’s Headlines:

Syrian war of lies and hypocrisy

Pussy Riot, Russia’s prosecuted girl punk band, says: ‘Putin is scared of us’

Plea to end ethnic clashes

Hunger soars in Zimbabwe

Developing countries lead the way in deploying mobile technology

Jul 29

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