March 27, 2012 archive
Mar 27 2012
Mar 27 2012
On his March 23 program, Bill Moyer had a fascinating interview with Andrew Bacevich, West Point graduate, Vietnam vet and author of The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism on how America needs to start moving beyond war:
Nine years after Baghdad erupted in “shock and awe,” we’re once again hearing in America the drumbeat for war in the Middle East. Now, the bull’s-eye is on Iran. But what we need more than a simple change of target is a complete change in perspective, says Andrew Bacevich, a West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran-turned-scholar who’s become one of the most perceptive observers of America’s changing role in the world. [..]
“Are we so unimaginative, so wedded to the reliance on military means that we cannot conceive of any way to reconcile our differences with groups and nations in the Islamic world, and therefore bring this conflict to an end?” Bacevich tells Moyers.
Bacevich also answers the question of whether Iran is a direct threat to America with a definitive no. “Whatever threat Iran poses is very, very limited,” he tells Moyers, “and certainly does not constitute any kind of justification for yet another experiment with preventive war.”
But it is the last five minutes of the hour interview served up by Moyers that bring into perspective the foreign policies of President Barack Obama and how he has not only adopted the neocon policies of American exceptionalism but is publicly on board with them.
BILL MOYERS: We have to hope a copy of Andrew Bacevich’s new book makes its way to Barack Obama. He could use a dose of the reality served up in its pages. A reality quite contrary to the book the President has been waving around in public for all to see. This book: The World America Made, by Robert Kagan. Kagan’s a well-known figure inside the Beltway, that matrix of think tanks, policy intellectuals, and research centers that have so long and faithfully served to uphold the empire. In it, Kagan dismisses what he calls “the myth of American decline,” and compares the United States to Jimmy Stewart’s character in the Frank Capra movie It’s a Wonderful Life. America is to the world, Kagan contends, what Stewart was to the town of Bedford Falls.
HARRY in It’s a Wonderful Life: To my big brother George, the richest man in town.
BILL MOYERS: Which without him would have fallen into unseemly hands and disrepute, as the world would have without America. To think otherwise, he writes, is “wishful thinking.”
Not surprising that President Obama, according to The New York Times, has “brandished Mr. Kagan’s analysis in arguing that America’s power has waxed rather than waned.”
And just who is Robert Kagan? Well, he served in the State Department when Reagan was president. He advised John McCain in 2008 and these days is special advisor on national security and foreign policy to Mitt Romney.
MITT ROMNEY: Let me make this very clear, as President of the United States, I will devote myself to an American century and I will never, ever apologize for America.
BILL MOYERS: Oh, yes, back in the late nineties, six years after the first Gulf War and four years before 9/11, Robert Kagan and fellow neo-conservative Bill Kristol founded the Project for the New American Century and signed a letter to then-President Bill Clinton urging him to get rid of Saddam Hussein once and for all – by any means necessary.
In 2002, Kagan wrote, “A devastating knockout blow against Saddam Hussein, followed by an American-sponsored effort to rebuild Iraq and put it on a path toward democratic governance, would have a seismic impact on the Arab world — for the better.” Hindsight is 20-20, as the saying goes, and nine years later we look back and see with perfect clarity how well Jimmy Stewart’s America delivered in Iraq. Talk about wishful thinking.
So next time President Obama’s looking for a book to read, better he pick up a copy of this one: The Short American Century: A Postmortem. In it, several distinguished historians – including Andrew Bacevich – urge us to take off the rose-colored glasses and see the world as it is. It is not a movie.
Iran is not a threat. Yet here we are, the bullseye is Iran and President Obama repeating neocon analysis.
H/T to a close friend who brought the Moyers’ video to my attention. He knows who he is. 😉
The full transcript is below the fold
Mar 27 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.
March 27 is the 86th day of the year (87th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 279 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1939, March Madness is born.
The University of Oregon defeats The Ohio State University 46-33 on this day in 1939 to win the first-ever NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The Final Four, as the tournament became known, has grown exponentially in size and popularity since 1939. By 2005, college basketball had become the most popular sporting event among gamblers, after the Super Bowl. The majority of that betting takes place at tournament time, when Las Vegas, the internet and office pools around the country see action from sports enthusiasts and once-a-year gamblers alike.
For the first 12 years of the men’s tournament, only eight teams were invited to participate. That number grew steadily until a 65-team tournament format was unveiled in 2001. After a “play-in” game between the 64th and 65th seeds, the tournament breaks into four regions of 16 teams. The winning teams from those regions comprise the Final Four, who meet in that year’s host city to decide the championship.
March Madness is a popular term for season-ending basketball tournaments played in March, especially those conducted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and various state high school associations. Fans began connecting the term to the NCAA tournament in the early 1980s. Evidence suggests that CBS sportscaster Brent Musburger, who had worked for many years in Chicago before joining CBS, popularized the term during the annual tournament broadcasts. The phrase had not already become associated with the college tournament when an Illinois official wrote in 1939 that “A little March Madness [may] contribute to sanity.” March Madness is also a registered trademark, held jointly by the NCAA and the Illinois High School Association. It was also the title of a book about the Illinois high school tournament written in 1977 by Jim Enright.
H. V. Porter, an official with the Illinois High School Association (and later a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame) was the first person to use March Madness to describe a basketball tournament. Porter published an essay named March Madness in 1939 and in 1942 used the phrase in a poem, “Basketball Ides of March.” Through the years the use of March Madness picked up steam, especially in Illinois, Indiana, and other parts of the Midwest. During this period the term was used almost exclusively in reference to state high school tournaments. In 1977 the IHSA published a book about its tournament titled March Madness.
Only in the 1990s did either the IHSA or NCAA think about trademarking the term, and by that time a small television production company named Intersport, Inc., had beaten them both to the punch. IHSA eventually bought the trademark rights from Intersport and then went after big game, suing GTE Vantage, Inc., an NCAA licensee that used the name March Madness for a computer game based on the college tournament. In a historic ruling, “Illinois High School Association v. GTE Vantage, Inc.” (1996), the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit created the concept of a “dual-use trademark,” granting both the IHSA and NCAA the right to trademark the term for their own purposes.
Following the ruling, the NCAA and IHSA joined forces and created the March Madness Athletic Association to coordinate the licensing of the trademark and investigate possible trademark infringement. One such case involved a company that had obtained the Internet domain name marchmadness.com and was using it to post information about the NCAA tournament. After protracted litigation, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held in March Madness Athletic Association v. Netfire, Inc. (2003) that March Madness was not a generic term and ordered Netfire to relinquish the domain name. (This domain name is currently being used to redirect into the main NCAA.com web site.)
In recent years, the term “March Madness” has been expanded to include all conference tournaments in college basketball, with the term “The Big Dance” being used more frequently when specifically referring to the NCAA Tournament. March Madness has also has been used generally to describe all basketball tournaments across the country that occur in the month of March – high school and college, male and female.
The coverage and live blogging of all the 2012 Men’s and Women’s NCAA Championship are happening here at The Stars Hollow Gazette.
Mar 27 2012
Anger at Goldman Still Simmers
By GRETCHEN MORGENSON, The New York Times
Published: March 25, 2012
Copper River relied on Goldman to handle its negative bets, known as short sales, in compliance with securities laws. These regulations require that before a short sale can be made, the shares must be borrowed; Mr. Cohodes said his fund had paid Goldman approximately $100 million to borrow shares over many years.
In his testimony, Mr. Cohodes said he and his partners at Copper River had even come to wonder if Goldman had in fact borrowed the shares for the firm. Without the shares, Copper River faced losses, while Goldman could have come under regulatory scrutiny.
Along with a handful of traders at smallish firms, Goldman’s securities lending unit has been cited by regulators for lapses. In 2010, the S.E.C. sued Goldman on accusations that it “willfully” had failed to preborrow shares as required for its short-selling clients in January 2009, shortly after Copper River went out of business. The improprieties involved 385 short sales in which the firm had not located shares for its brokerage clients to borrow.
Goldman paid $450,000 to settle the case without admitting or denying the accusations.
Failing to borrow shares on behalf of customers is illegal because of concerns about market manipulation. But it can also leave a brokerage firm’s client who is short a stock dangerously exposed to an escalating price in the shares. If a stock shorted by an investor began to trade higher and the shares were not borrowed, closing out the transaction would require the fund to buy them in the open market. That could propel the already rising price of the shares even higher, adding to the costs of the trade.
On the Meaningless of Contracts and the New Optionality
Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism
Monday, March 26, 2012
With a rise in an options-based view of business, it isn’t hard to see how a pernicious dynamic sets in. It used to be that only occasional scumbags would behave this way, and you’d write it off as bad luck and a reminder to do a decent amount of due diligence on new customers. But when this sort of behavior becomes common, the cost of doing business escalates since no one can trust anyone’s commitments. You can see this now in the way many types of contracts have changed. It used to be possible to do business with a short agreement. In many fields, they’ve now become excruciatingly long, since the odds of them being litigated is correctly seen as higher, so nailing down all sorts of possible outcomes is more important. And longer agreements means more protracted negotiations. It amounts to a tax on commerce.
And this pattern is particularly devastating to small businesses. It’s comical to see the Administration talk up the need to help entrepreneurs yet gut the rule of law to help banks.
We can see the damage of the breakdown of the norms of commerce. The private label securitization market, which functioned fairly well when originators and servicers acted in accordance with their agreements with investors, is now dead. The securitization market, which was 60% private label prior to the crisis, is now effectively 100% government guaranteed (there was all of one private label deal last year). Various reform proposals have been suggested; some have been well thought out enough that past investors reacted positively. But of course, the sell side nixed anything far-reaching enough to make a real difference. The investors I know say there won’t be a private label securitization market ex root and branch changes for at least ten years.
So it looks like Marx is being proven correct, that capitalism sows the seeds of its own destruction, although not by the route he envisaged, that of a worker revolt. Instead, it comes about via the capitalists turning on each other to try to secure an even better deal.
Mar 27 2012
I am from Massachusetts, that mandatory health insurance state. I have not had medical insurance since 2008. I have not been to a dentist since 2008. I have not had a real job since 2008. Out of my three kids one is insured only due to Mass Health which is actually a good deal if you are financially destitute. My other daughter has a watered down United Health Care policy which sucks and my son is the all time winner with the supreme suck policy offered by WalMart. All of which I suppose are better than nothing.
The wife is pissed because a 57 year old is blasting down trails on horseback with his 5 months pregnant daughter. Yeehaw, time is short my dear, gotta enjoy it. Oh, yeah we did stop so I could smoke a butt too. Not sure what yuppie town we were in or if that was fucking illegal either.