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This is an Open Thread
Feb 29 2012
Feb 29 2012
The Pirates of Penzance was the only Gilbert and Sullivan opera to have its official premiere in the United States. At the time, American law offered no copyright protection to foreigners. After their previous opera, H.M.S. Pinafore, was a hit in London, over a hundred American companies quickly mounted unauthorised productions, often taking considerable liberties with the text and paying no royalties to the creators. Gilbert and Sullivan hoped to forestall further “copyright piracy” by mounting the first production of their next opera in America, before others could copy it, and by delaying publication of the score and libretto. They succeeded in keeping for themselves the direct profits of the first production of the opera by opening the production themselves on Broadway, prior to the London production. They also operated U.S. touring companies. However, Gilbert, Sullivan, and their producer, Richard D’Oyly Carte, failed in their efforts over the next decade, to control the American performance copyrights over their operas.
Hail, Hail the Gang’s All Here!
The “stage business” is not properly conveyed by mere reading or listening but is faithfully transmitted by our modern minstrels from the debut on New Year’s Eve 1879.
Feb 29 2012
Bending the Tax Code, and Lifting A.I.G.’s Profit
By ANDREW ROSS SORKIN, The New York Times
February 27, 2012, 8:55 pm
Last week, the American International Group reported a whopping $19.8 billion profit for its fourth quarter. It was a quite a feat for a company that was on its death bed just a little over three years ago, so sick that it needed a huge taxpayer bailout.
But if you dug into the numbers, it quickly became clear that $17.7 billion of that profit was pure fantasy – a tax benefit, er, gift, from the United States government. The company made only $1.6 billion during the quarter from actual operations. Yet A.I.G. not only received a tax benefit, it is unlikely to pay a cent of taxes this year, nor by some estimates, for at least a decade.
(O)fficials said A.I.G.’s tax benefit would help taxpayers because it would raise the insurer’s share price. That may be true, but that assumes that the government is able to sell its shares and exit its investment. That’s still a big “if.”
Why Treasury is being so nice to AIG
By Felix Salmon, Reuters
February 28, 2012
But there’s something else going on here too, which is the optics of the AIG bailout. The New York Fed today announced that it had finally exited its Maiden Lane II portfolio – the toxic securities bought at a discount from AIG in the 2008 bailout – at a healthy profit of $2.8 billion. It held on to those securities in May 2011, when AIG itself offered to buy them back at a much more modest profit for the Fed. And when forced to choose sides between AIG and the Fed in 2011, Treasury sided with AIG. At all times, Treasury wants what’s best for AIG’s share price, so that it can, hopefully sooner rather than later, sell off its entire 77% stake in the company at some kind of profit.
It’s already taken longer than Treasury would have liked: there was a feeling when I spoke to Millstein that the sale of AIG might be reasonably imminent, and yet here we are, more than 16 months later, and we don’t seem to be all that much closer to such an event. So unless and until AIG gets sold, expect Treasury to continue to shower it with as much regulatory forbearance as it can possibly corral.
I’m sure there are a lot of people at Treasury who would dearly love the company to be fully privatized before the election, and there’s essentially no chance that’ll happen if the share price is much below the break-even point of $29 per share. We’re close, now, and I’m sure that Treasury wishes that AIG had managed to buy back those Maiden Lane II assets on the cheap so that the share price could have been even higher. There’s still time to privatize AIG while Tim Geithner is still Treasury secretary. And Treasury will do everything it can to make that happen, if it can do so without exiting at a loss.
Feb 29 2012
Is anyone surprised that the White House has given its blessing to Transcanada’s Keystone XL pipeline plan to build an portion of the oil pipeline from Oklahoma to Texas despite rejection of the company’s earlier application in January? After all the protests last year to stop the construction and the Republican congressional maneuvering to force the president’s decision, it certainly appears that the Republicans and the oil companies will win but that shouldn’t be a surprise considering this president’s penchant for siding with the ruling class against the best interests of the country’s needs. This project won’t create jobs or reduce the price of gas, not now or in the future:
“As the President made clear in January, we support the company’s interest in proceeding with this project, which will help address the bottleneck of oil in Cushing that has resulted in large part from increased domestic oil production, currently at an eight year high. Moving oil from the Midwest to the world-class, state-of-the-art refineries on the Gulf Coast will modernize our infrastructure, create jobs, and encourage American energy production,” Carney said in a statement. [..]
But if the argument for building Keystone is to generate new oil within the United States and bring down gas prices, TransCanada’s plans don’t deliver. In fact, environmental groups say, TransCanada’s plans for Keystone mean more domestic oil will head overseas and a potential spike in gas prices. [..]
Kim Huynh, speaking for Friends of the Earth, accused the president of trying to have it both ways by touting his commitment to clean energy “while simultaneously shilling for one of the dirtiest industries on Earth” by endorsing the pipeline’s construction.
“What the administration seems to be missing is that the southern segment of this pipeline would exacerbate air pollution in refinery communities along the Gulf Coast and threaten our heartland with costly spills — all for oil that likely won’t make it to Americans’ gas tanks,” Huynh said in a statement.
Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director of the International Program at the National Resources Defense Council, wrote in blog post:
So what exactly has TransCanada proposed today? TransCanada announced that it has let the State Department know that the company will submit a new application for a presidential permit for the northern portion of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from the border crossing in Montana to Steel City, Nebraska on the Kansas border where an already existing part of the pipeline starts. TransCanada would supplement this application with the proposed route through Nebraska after that has been determined in cooperation with Nebraska. But there is some question as to how long this would take since Nebraska does not currently have laws in place to do this assessment. TransCanada will then apply separately to the various federal and state permits for the southern portion of the pipeline from Cushing Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast.
Raw tar sands oil going from the Midwest to the Gulf for refining means serious pipeline safety issues for landowners and environmental justice impacts of tar sands refining. Concerns of Texas landowners over TransCanada’s high-handed attempts to take their land through eminent domain will all remain the same in the case of an Oklahoma to Texas tar sands pipeline.
And the southern route pipeline will still provide the main service to oil companies that Keystone XL would provide: it will divert tar sands from the Midwest to the Gulf, raising American oil prices and likely also gasoline prices. An Oklahoma to Texas tar sands pipeline will mean more tar sands converted to diesel and available for export overseas. It will mean less tar sands remaining in the US, even while Americans bear the risks of the pipeline.
Bill McKibben, who has led protests against Keystone XL, gave the following response to the news:
“Transcanada’s decision to build its pipe from Oklahoma to Texas is a nifty excuse to steal some land by eminent domain. It doesn’t increase tar sands mining because there’s still no pipe across the Canadian border, but it’s the usual ugly power grab and land grab by the fossil fuel industry — we’ll do what we can to stand by our allies in that arid and beautiful land.”
The plight of Texas land owners was highlighted in Brain Buetler’s Talking Points Memo:
Julia Trigg Crawford, 53, of Lamar County, TX faced similar pressure. On Friday, a judge voided a temporary restraining order she’d secured against TransCanada on the grounds that the company is threatening to build the pipeline across a portion of her 600 acre property that archaeological authorities say is teeming with Caddo nation artifacts. It also threatens a creek she uses to irrigate her land and wells her family uses for drinking water.
“I do not want my place to be a guinea pig on this,” she told my by telephone. Those practical concerns lay atop a more fundamental question of whether a for-profit company should be able to seize private land for profit.
“I’m looking out my window every hour,” Crawford said. “While they don’t have a permit to build anything, they have the right to start construction…. A foreign for profit pipeline was allowed to condemn my land without my being allowed to talk to a judge.” [..]
The result: protests in Paris, Texas against the pipeline, on Crawford’s behalf.
“You could check off 20 different kinds of boxes, politically, professionally, temperamentally,” Crawford said. “We had Occupiers, Tea Partiers. This is about rights as a landowner.”
A Nebraska landowner, Randy Thompson told TPM in the same article how he was harassed by Transcanada after he withdrew his permission to survey his farm land in 2007.
“Once I found out a little bit more about what was going on, I rescinded that permission,” Thompson told TPM by phone on Sunday. “[W]e did meet with them once, maybe a couple times. We told them, you don’t have a permit yet, so we absolutely do not want this thing on our property. So until you actually get a permit we have no reason to have any further discussion about this. They continually called me, like once a month or whenever they felt like it. Kept the pressure on us. Made us an offer, $9000. Whatever the offer was, we just don’t want the damn thing on our property.” [..]
“In July 2010, we got a written letter from TransCanada, they told us if you don’t accept this within 30 days, we’re going to immediately start eminent domain proceedings against you,” Thompson said. “They didn’t say anything about a permit. I tried to contact the Governor’s office. All I got back was a form letter talking about the pipeline.”
If the White House thought for even a nanosecond that this would blunt Republican criticism of Pres. Obama, they are as deluded as the Republicans who say this will reduce the price of gas:
House Speaker Boehner, R-Ohio, said he will continue to stress that the Obama administration is blocking construction of the entire pipeline, which would carry oil from the tar sands of western Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas.
“The president is so far on the wrong side of the American people that he’s now praising the company’s decision to start going around him,” Boehner said in a statement.
“But he can’t have it both ways,” Boehner said. “If the president thinks this project is good for America, he knows how to make it happen right away. Until he does, he’s just standing in the way of getting it done.”
The only thing that completing the southern portion of the pipeline will do is ease the glut of oil that is being stored in the Midwest. It won’t lower the price of gas because that oil will be exported to the global market where it will be resold at a higher price. That will drive up prices in the Midwest where gas prices have been kept low because of the lack of the pipeline.
The reality is oil prices will continue to be artificially high by the saber rattling over Iran. The best and easiest way for the President to immediately lower gas prices is to stop the phony rhetoric of a war with Iran. Repeat it loud and often, Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon. That’ll work better than any environmentally unsafe pipeline.
Feb 29 2012
The assault on women is not isolated to the Virginia legislature. There are currently bills in 27 states that require unnecessary procedures to obtain an abortion. The only purpose for those procedures is to humiliate women seeking a procedure they have a right to obtain.
Virginia officials backed off last week from requiring vaginal ultrasounds before abortions, but state legislators are still expected to pass a bill that mandates abdominal ultrasounds and adds other significant requirements for women seeking abortions.
In recent years, this common diagnostic tool has taken a greater role in abortion-related legislation. Seven states require ultrasounds before abortions. Twenty states regulate some aspect of ultrasound exams, including requiring abortion providers to give women the option to view the image or listen to the fetal heartbeat if an ultrasound is performed.
Eleven other states have legislation pending. If all of the measures pass, more than half of the states will have laws governing ultrasound exams before abortions. “I think we’re in the middle of a wave of ultrasound bills,” said Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst with the Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health.
As David Dayen at FDL News Desk explains these requirements force the woman to make an extra trip to the doctor at her own expense. Ultrasounds are rarely medically necessary in the first few weeks of pregnancy. There is only one reason for it to be require: to heap shame and guilt on the woman getting her to stop the abortion. In the states where this is mandated, there has been no precipitous drop in abortion rates.
In Michigan, House Bill 4433 would expand the state’s already-present requirements for pre-abortion ultrasounds. If passed (a likely outcome in Michigan’s strongly anti-choice state government) the law will require pre-abortion ultrasounds to be conducted with the “most technologically advanced ultrasound equipment available,” further defined as the equipment which “is capable of providing the most visibly clear image of the gross anatomical development of the fetus and the most audible fetal heartbeat.” While the bill states that a woman be given the “option” to view the ultrasound or not, it also mandates that the monitors must be turned toward the woman, so that her only way of not viewing the image is to close her eyes or turn her head away. The bill also requires that the professional performing the ultrasound give a detailed description of the fetus’ current developmental stage, and must offer the woman a printed ultrasound image.
Requiring transvaginal ultrasounds would violate women by invading their bodies. Turning an ultrasound monitor toward a woman and attempting to force her to view the images even if she does not want to see them is an act of emotional and psychological violation. Both are medically unnecessary and needlessly cruel and patronizing. And neither should ever be mandated by a state’s government.
While the procedure may provide the physician with needed information there is no reason to force the woman to view the screen, hear the fetal heartbeat or the a detailed description of the fetus. A woman who has made the decision to terminate her pregnancy is not going to change her mind at this stage. Using hack psychology has no medical value and is just another assault on her person.
Since all the publicity about the Virginia bill mandating state rape with a transvaginal untrasound, there is increasingly vocal and organized opposition to these bills as Rachel Maddow highlighted
If you really want to raise your blood pressure and have a strong stomach, you can read the transcript of a live interview with Gov. Bob McConnell from WTOP. I won’t elaborate.
Feb 29 2012
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 29 is the 60th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 305 days remaining until the end of the year.
February 29, known as a leap day in the Gregorian calendar, is a date that occurs in most years that are evenly divisible by 4, such as 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016. Years that are evenly divisible by 100 do not contain a leap day, with the exception of years that are evenly divisible by 400, which do contain a leap day; thus 1900 did not contain a leap day while 2000 did. Years containing a leap day are called leap years.
On this day in 1940, Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar
On February 29, 1940, Gone with the Wind is honored with eight Oscars by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. An epic Southern romance set during the hard times of the Civil War, the movie swept the prestigious Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Cinematography, Art Direction, Film Editing, and Actress categories. However, the most momentous award that night undoubtedly went to Hattie McDaniel for her portrayal of “Mammy,” a housemaid and former slave. McDaniel, who won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award, was the first African American actress or actor ever to be honored with an Oscar. [..]
Her most famous role was as Mammy in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind. Directed by Victor Fleming and based on the best-selling Margaret Mitchell novel of the same name, the movie remains the highest-grossing movie of all time when inflation is taken into account. Although she was honored with an Oscar, liberal African Americans sharply criticized McDaniel for accepting a role in which her character, a former slave, spoke nostalgically about the Old South.
McDaniel’s film career declined in the late 1940s, and in 1947 she returned to radio as the star of the nationally broadcast The Beulah Show. In the program, she again portrayed an effervescent Southern maid but in a markedly un-stereotypical manner that won praise from the NAACP. In 1951, while filming the first episodes of a television version of the popular show, she had a heart attack. She recovered to do a few more radio programs but in 1952 died of breast cancer at the age of 57.
Feb 29 2012
I’m a total sucker for chords and bass notes
Picking off pieces of the chord. Just listening to the bass
On Stevie Wonder’s “I wish” makes me wanna dig for gophers, and make future love tonight! That’s right, that’s right!
You might as well
Just toss a lure into the waters and watch my gills
Vibrate with solemnity. D7/F#. Descending notes, C/Bb. Oh, and Elton’s G#dim7 puts me on my knees on Bennie and the Jets.
When you throw in the combos
you might as well just stick me in a barrel and start shooting with a large gauged gun
If Desperado is not one of the greatest pop songs of all time,
And we’re talking lyrics and chords and bass, and yep, I’m including The Squeeze as generally great song- writers and Linda Ronstadt’s specific version,
Then I am a snuffleapplegaus. You better let somebody love you (G, B7/F#, Em),
Let somebody love you (C, G/B, Am), Let somebody love you (G/D, B7/D#, Em), before it’s too late (Am7/D), prior to collapsing into sevenths and sixths. Good lord. And Get a mother fucking job. That is some sweet-assed, trance-inducing song-writing.
I read the news today, oh boy.
Feb 29 2012
I don’t expect you to care about the Insane Clown Posse any more than I do, but I was born in Michigan so I suppose I should say something about it.
On the Yuper side my Grands had one of the very first cable companies since reception was extremely bad. On the Troll side my Greats were early investors in GM and Smuckers and basically cut off my Grandad because he married a poor crippled girl.
We visited Troll side most often and it’s flat. The big ski hill is a mountain of garbage and you can see the weather coming for miles and miles. Gran knew Mike Moore and didn’t like him, thought he was a smart ass.
One thing a lot of people don’t internalize is that Michigan has a large population of Dutch Reformed Calvinists of the George C. Scott Hardcore type which explains their swing state status. I’ve been to Grand Rapids and I found most of the people to be pleasant enough, but we didn’t talk politics.
Arizona has more Mormons than you think (like Nevada).
Whatever happens I’m pretty sure we can count on continued hilarity.