April 3, 2013 archive

Apr 03

Hear, hear.

Brittney Griner Deserves A Real NBA Tryout, Not A Publicity Stunt

By Travis Waldron, ThinkProgress

Apr 3, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told ESPN this morning that his team would consider drafting Brittney Griner, the 6-foot-8 standout for Baylor University’s women’s basketball team, in the second round of June’s NBA Draft.

“If she is the best on the board, I will take her,” Cuban told ESPN’s Tim McMahon Tuesday night. “I’ve thought about it. I’ve thought about it already. Would I do it? Right now, I’d lean toward yes, just to see if she can do it. You never know unless you give somebody a chance, and it’s not like the likelihood of any late-50s draft pick has a good chance of making it.”



That chance, however, should be a real one, not a publicity stunt aimed at selling tickets, as the Jazz selection of Harris admittedly was. The perception of female athletes is already too skewed by an inherently sexist world of sports to give Griner a cynical shot – or worse yet – a cynical spot on the team. Take, for instance, the immediate reaction ESPN received when it promoted Cuban’s comments on Twitter with the hashtag #GrinerNBA.



The disgusting responses #GrinerNBA received aren’t just aimed at Brittney Griner, though. They’re emblematic of a sports culture, particularly among fans, that simultaneously objectifies the appearances of female athletes and rejects them as incapable athletes. It’s no secret that the bodies of female athletes (and women in general) are objectified in ways that men’s bodies rarely, if ever, are. And women like Griner who don’t fit the “sexy” model are instantly judged as not sufficiently feminine. That helps foster stereotypes of female athletes that create problems in their own sports and drive women and girls not to sports but away from them. It also prevents us from seeing women like Griner as the phenomenal athletes they are, from appreciating their skills and accomplishments as athletic triumphs and not as diminished products because of how they look or because they aren’t playing the men’s game.

That we have so far to go in viewing Griner and other female athletes on their own merits, both as sportswomen and as people, is precisely why her NBA tryout, if it happens, can’t be a cynical stunt. Her success or failure should be based on her merits alone, and if it is, neither Griner nor the NBA will be any worse because of it. Cuban seems sincere. That’s good, because a real chance, no matter success or failure, will continue the fight to slowly break down the barriers and perceptions that face female athletes.

Apr 03

Can you hear me now?

Wall Street wins again

By David Dayen, Salon

Wednesday, Feb 13, 2013 12:26 PM EST

A year ago, President Obama gestured toward the first lady’s box at the State of the Union address at Eric Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York.  Schneiderman had just agreed to co-chair the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities working group, an initiative between state and federal law enforcement officials and bank regulators, designed to investigate and prosecute fraudulent Wall Street activity that led to both the creation of the housing bubble and its collapse. In exchange, Schneiderman dropped his objections to a settlement over some of the banks’ fraudulent post-crash activity, particularly around fraud in foreclosure processing.



Schneiderman’s “task force” (a generous appellation) was merely a politically motivated shell organization grafted onto that public relations strategy.  This was evident almost from the moment of the announcement, but the coalition of self-proclaimed bank accountability advocates, who had backed the administration into a corner over the lack of prosecutions, decided to align with Schneiderman and his kabuki task force, losing whatever leverage they may have had.  If those same groups who feel “betrayed” and “lied to” had stayed on the outside and shamed those in power into action, we would probably have more accountability today.



Maybe these groups who claim to be interested in accountability should have recognized the value of what pressured the White House to set up the diversionary tactic of a task force in the first place: public shaming.  Last month’s Frontline documentary “The Untouchables” has had arguably more of an impact on reviving moribund financial fraud cases than anything else.  Within a couple of weeks of its premiere, the head of the criminal enforcement division, Lanny Breuer, announced he would step down.  Then, DoJ suddenly decided to sue credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s over its conflict of interest in rating clearly fraudulent securities as safe assets, a case it had been investigating for two years.  You can view this as an accident of timing; it seems more like a direct response.  Shaming has done far more than a pretend task force, though that’s admittedly a low bar.  You would think outside pressure groups would have recognized the virtue of outside pressure instead of trying to play an inside game.

President Obama didn’t mention the task force in this year’s State of the Union, though he did say that homeowners now “enjoy stronger protections than ever before.”  He also made reference to a Burmese man, who, in reference to a presidential visit to Rangoon, reportedly said, “There is justice and law in the United States. I want our country to be like that.”  Hopefully they don’t get news about the “task force” in Rangoon; I wouldn’t want to burst the man’s dreams.

The Greatest Disappointment

By Mike Lux, Crooks and Liars

April 01, 2013 06:00 PM

So there are two questions that Obama loyalists might ask about this report. The first is whether all this negativity is truly deserved. The second is, why are Wall Street accountability activists so obsessed with this issue?

On the first question, I am sad to say the answer is mostly yes. If I had been writing the report, I would have been more positive about the accomplishments of CFPB, would have given the administration more credit on a few things in terms of Dodd-Frank and a few of the appointments they have made, would have pointed out that Republicans are doing everything they can to starve regulatory agencies of resources, and being the loyal Democrat I am, I would have written the report more diplomatically. But when you add up all the results of the Obama administration’s dealings with Wall Street, it is hard to avoid the fact that life hasn’t changed much at all for the big banks, and that they continue to make money hand over fist while the rest of the economy is stuck in the mood. It is hard to think of any one of the report’s bullets listed above that aren’t accurate. Most damning of all are these absolutely true words in the report’s conclusion:

“The irony in all this is that the areas in which the Obama Administration has been found most wanting by critics for its handling of Wall Street accountability are not the result of intractable differences with a Congress hamstrung in inaction. Instead, they are areas almost wholly under the sole control of the Administration through its executive powers, and carried out largely through cabinet agencies.

On the second question, the reason Wall Street activists are so obsessed with the lack of toughness toward Wall Street is that Wall Street is ground zero for the rest of the problems in our economy. These monstrously huge mega-banks completely dominate our economy, siphoning off money that might otherwise go into productive uses in the mainstreet economy so that the big bankers can keep speculating away. And when they screw up in ways that hurt the rest of us, even when they blatantly violate the law, the fact that they are never seriously punished means they have no incentive to stop. Until the Obama administration fixes this problem, the rest of the economy is going to keep suffering, and the risk of future financial meltdowns will keep growing.

Et tu digby?

It means something that Mike would write this. He’s been trying hard for a long time to give the administration the benefit of the doubt on this. It’s tough to go up against Wall Street. But there was no longer any other way to look at this once we heard the Attorney General say this under questioning from the Senate:

I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy, and I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large.

Evidently, federal law enforcement is yet another area in which the Executive Branch has no power — or, at least, feels it is injudicious to use it. This instance of presidential impotence is especially difficult because it pretty much says that even if the congress were to make new laws, the Justice Department still couldn’t enforce them because of these alleged threats to the economy. So we’ll just have to put up with the looting and wait for the house of cards to collapse again. Because otherwise the house of cards will collapse.

The lesser of two evils IS STILL EVIL!  Dave and Cenk were on it.  Where were you?

Apr 03

Cartnoon

Apr 03

On This Day In History April 1

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.

April 3 is the 93rd day of the year (94th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 272 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1948, President Harry S.Truman signs Foreign Assistance Act.

President Harry S. Truman signs off on legislation establishing the Foreign Assistance Act of 1948, more popularly known as the Marshall Plan. The act eventually provided over $12 billion of assistance to aid in the economic recovery of Western Europe.

In the first years following the end of World War II, the economies of the various nations of Western Europe limped along. Unemployment was high, money was scarce, and homelessness and starvation were not unknown in the war-ravaged countries. U.S. policymakers considered the situation fraught with danger. In the developing Cold War era, some felt that economic privation in Western Europe made for a fertile breeding ground for communist propaganda.

The Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program, ERP) was the large-scale economic program, 1947-1951, of the United States for rebuilding and creating a stronger economic foundation for the countries of Europe. The initiative was named after Secretary of State George Marshall and was largely the creation of State Department officials, especially William L. Clayton and George F. Kennan. Marshall spoke of urgent need to help the European recovery in his address at Harvard University in June 1947.

The reconstruction plan, developed at a meeting of the participating European states, was established on June 5, 1947. It offered the same aid to the Soviet Union and its allies, but they did not accept it. The plan was in operation for four years beginning in April 1948. During that period some US $13 billion in economic and technical assistance were given to help the recovery of the European countries that had joined in the Organization for European Economic Co-operation. This $13 billion was in the context of a U.S. GDP of $258 billion in 1948, and was on top of $12 billion in American aid to Europe between the end of the war and the start of the Plan that is counted separately from the Marshall Plan.

The ERP addressed each of the obstacles to postwar recovery. The plan looked to the future, and did not focus on the destruction caused by the war. Much more important were efforts to modernize European industrial and business practices using high-efficiency American models, reduce artificial trade barriers, and instill a sense of hope and self-reliance.

By 1952 as the funding ended, the economy of every participant state had surpassed pre-war levels; for all Marshall Plan recipients, output in 1951 was 35% higher than in 1938.[8] Over the next two decades, Western Europe enjoyed unprecedented growth and prosperity, but economists are not sure what proportion was due directly to the ERP, what proportion indirectly, and how much would have happened without it. The Marshall Plan was one of the first elements of European integration, as it erased trade barriers and set up institutions to coordinate the economy on a continental level-that is, it stimulated the total political reconstruction of western Europe.

Belgian economic historian Herman Van der Wee concludes the Marshall Plan was a “great success”:

   “It gave a new impetus to reconstruction in Western Europe and made a decisive contribution to the renewal of the transport system, the modernization of industrial and agricultural equipment, the resumption of normal production, the raising of productivity, and the facilitating of intra-European trade.”

George Catlett Marshall (December 31, 1880 – October 16, 1959) was an American military leader, Chief of Staff of the Army, Secretary of State, and the third Secretary of Defense. Once noted as the “organizer of victory” by Winston Churchill for his leadership of the Allied victory in World War II, Marshall served as the United States Army Chief of Staff during the war and as the chief military adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. As Secretary of State, his name was given to the Marshall Plan, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.

Apr 03

TPP: Expansion of Corporate Power

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership continued under wraps in Singapore earlier this month.

The 16th round of negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) began in Singapore today, as trade delegates and private stakeholders from 11 participating countries gather to discuss this the contours of Pacific trade. EFF and many others are deeply concerned about TPP, because it appears to contain an intellectual property (IP) chapter that would ratchet up IP enforcement at the expense of digital rights. The TPP could turn Internet Service Providers into copyright cops, prompt ever-higher criminal and civil penalties for sharing content, and expand protections for Digital Rights Management. The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has announced that they plan to complete the TPP by the fall of this year.

We say “appears to contain” because the negotiations have been carried out in secret: our understanding of the U.S. proposal is based primarily on leaked texts from February 2011. However, there have been some additional leaks, like those following the USTR announcement that the TPP would include exceptions and limitations to copyright. Despite the USTR’s effort to suggest that introducing fair use into the TPP was its idea, the leaked negotiating text made it clear that the U.S. was likely pressured into agreeing to exceptions and limitations as a concession. The leak also showed that the U.S. and Australia opposed any fair use that would extend to the “digital environment.” Thus, it appears the USTR continues to lobby for ever more stringent international IP standards without much regard for the collateral damage to the public interest.

The AFL-CIO is also concerned that TPP would have a negative impact on basic labor rights, including free association and collective bargaining:

For example, regarding labor rights, the “Outlines of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement” released in November 2011 reads: “TPP (Trans-Pacific FTA) countries are discussing elements for a labor chapter that include commitments on labor rights protection and mechanisms to ensure cooperation, coordination, and dialogue on labor issues of mutual concern,” but fails to mention core labor standards (as determined by the International Labor Organization) or even whether the labor provisions in the final agreement will be enforceable.

Margaret Flowers, a congressional fellow with Physicians for a National Health Program and a pediatrician based in Baltimore and Kevin Zeese, activist lawyer and co-director of It’s Our Economy, discussed the agreements impact on  labor, environmental, and internet rights with Paul Jay of the Real News Network.

TransPacific Partnership Will Undermine Democracy, Empower Transnational Corporations

by Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Truthout | News Analysis

On critical issues, the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) being negotiated in secret by the Obama administration will undermine democracy in the United States and around the world and further empower transnational corporations. It will circumvent protections for health care, wages, labor rights, consumers’ rights and the environment, and decrease regulation of big finance and risky investment practices.

The only way this treaty, which will be very unpopular with the American people once they are aware of it, can be approved is if the Obama administration avoids the democratic process by using an authority known as “Fast Track,” which limits the constitutional checks and balances of Congress.

If the TPP is approved, the sovereignty of the United States and other member nations will be dissipated by trade tribunals that favor corporate power and force national laws to be subservient to corporate interests.

Apr 03

Energy Secretary Nominee a Shill For Big Oil and Fracking

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The Department of Energy, like the Treasury Department and Justice, has become a revolving door for shills for oil and fracking companies. Pres. Barack Obama’s nominee for Energy Secretary, Ernest Muniz to replace out going Secretary Steven Chu, is no different.

President Obama’s pick to run the Department of Energy has been a highly paid consultant for a private equity firm heavily invested in the oil and gas sector while running MIT’s premier energy research center, according to financial disclosure documents.

Ernest Moniz, who has directed the MIT Energy Initiative since it was established in 2006, has earned at least $75,000 since 2008 advising Riverstone Equity Holdings LP, which according to government filings has $2.5 billion invested in a variety of fossil fuel production and storage companies in the United States and abroad.

Amy Goodman at Democracy Now discussed Prof. Muniz’s nomination with Kevin Connor of the Public Accountability Initiative and ProPublica reporter Justin Elliott, who have both authored investigations into Moniz’s ties to industry.

Energy secretary nominee Ernest Moniz has deep ties to oil, gas, and nuclear industries

by John Upton, Grist

The Republican minority in the Senate loves to obstruct confirmation of President Obama’s Cabinet nominees, but it isn’t saying boo about the man who appears set to become the nation’s next energy secretary.

That might be because Ernest Moniz has friendly relations with a number of dirty energy companies – the kind of companies that generously fund so many senators’ campaigns. [..]

Moniz also directs the MIT Energy Initiative, which gets significant corporate funding from BP, Saudi Aramco, Shell, Chevron, and a number of utilities that operate nuclear plants.

At the same time, Moniz has stressed the importance of moving away from coal and has promoted and called for more funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency. That’s earned him praise from the Natural Resources Defense Council. But other environmental and watchdog groups are campaigning against his nomination because of his industry ties. [..]

Moniz is also coming under criticism for a big report on natural gas released by the MIT Energy Initiative in 2011. It called the environmental impacts of fracking “challenging but manageable,” endorsed natural-gas exports, and talked up gas as a “bridge fuel” that could help the country move away from dirtier fossil fuels and toward clean energy (a controversial notion).

The Energy and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Moniz April 9. MIT has said that Prof. Muniz is not giving interviews, and the White House didn’t respond to requests for comment.  

Apr 03

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament 2013: Regional Final Midwest

Ok, so it was a big upset, but the biggest EVAH!?

Total Perspective Vortex.

It’s all about the Zaphod baby.

Results

Seed Score Team Record Seed Score Team Record Region
(2) 74 Tennessee 27-7 (6) 59 Oklahoma 24-11 Midwest
(1) 82 Baylor 34-2 * (5) 81 Louisville 26-8 Midwest

Matchup

Time Network Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
9 ESPN (2) Tennessee 27-7 * (5) Louisville 26-8 Midwest

Apr 03

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament 2013: Regional Final South

Results

Seed Score Team Record Seed Score Team Record Region
(1) 93 Notre Dame 34-1 (12) 63 Kansas 20-14 South
(2) 53 Duke 32-2 (6) 45 Nebraska 25-9 South

Matchup

Time Network Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
7 ESPN (1) Notre Dame 34-1 (2) Duke 32-2 South

Apr 03

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