Monday Reads

library reading room NYPLGood Morning!

There’s more than just a bit of March madness in the air and you don’t have to be watching basketball to catch it.  It seems that the Republican Party’s Teabots have decided to boycott Fox News for being too liberal.  Yes, you read that right.  Fox is not fair and balanced towards their viewpoints so off with th eir heads!!!!

Among the demands the protesters have is that Fox News “be the right-wing CBS News: to break stories, to break information, and to do what news organizations have always done with such stories: break politicians,” that the network have at least one segment on Benghazi every night on two of its prime-time shows; that Fox similarly devote investigative resources to discovering the truth of Obama’s birth certificate; and that the network cease striving to be “fair and balanced.”

“We need Fox to turn right,” said Hjerlied. “We think this is a coverup and Fox is aiding and abetting it. This is the way Hitler started taking over Germany, by managing and manipulating the news media.”

The descriptions of the boycotters and their preferences for conspiracy sites is pretty obvious. Poor Fox and the Republican Party Establishment just cannot shove these loonies back into their boxes.

Agreement has been reached on what to do with Cyprus and its unstable banks.  The agreement will not be put to a vote of parliament.

Cyprus will close down one of its two biggest banks and restructure the second one as part of an international bailout, Cyprus and underwoodinternational lenders agreed on Tuesday.

Bank depositors of up to 100,000 euros will not suffer any losses but bigger depositors will contribute to recapitalizing the bank that is to be restructured – Bank of Cyprus.

Shareholders, bondholders and those who held deposits above 100,000 euros in Laiki bank, which will be closed down, will cover the cost of the resolution, euro zone ministers and the International Monetary Fund decided.

Depositors with more than 100,000 euros in the Bank of Cyprus will see their money above that threshold frozen until it is clear how much of it will be needed to recapitalize the bank so that it can reach a capital ratio of 9 percent.

Here’s some discussion of what the Cyprus fallout could be around the world by Marshall Auerback.  Moody’s says Cyprus is still at risk of default, euro zone exit should these steps resolve the current crisis.  So, what type of precedent does this set for such a risky move with no real guarantee of success?

Regardless of the ultimate form this bailout takes, it is increasingly hard to view Cyprus as a “one-off,” which has no implications for us here in the US. What Cyprus has demonstrated is that even with deposit insurance, your deposits are not in fact a risk-free guaranteed asset, but actually simply another branch in the creditor tree in relation to your bank if it fails. That was made abundantly clear by no less than the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the central bankers’ bank back in the heart of the financial crisis. The BIS noted that bank failures had become increasingly expensive for governments and taxpayers and therefore recommended an “Open Bank Resolution,” which would ensure that, as far as possible , “any future losses are ultimately borne by the bank’s shareholders and creditors.” (See primer on the Open Market Resolution concept by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.)

Why does this matter? Because, you, as a depositor are legally considered a “creditor” of your bank, not simply a customer who may have entrusted your entire life savings with the very same institution.

The science editor at BBC News wonders why there is such a fuss about extinction which leads to the question “would the world be a better place if we still had velociraptors? But, is natural extinction different than man-caused extinction?

We are certainly far better off without velociraptors slashing their way through our cities. Our streets are safer with no sabre-toothed tigers. And imagine trying to swat one of those monster prehistoric insects like a vulture-sized dragonfly.

The question of extinction most recently surfaced at the talks on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) – the treaty meant to save endangered species from the devastating effects of trade.

The slaughter of rhino, the decimation of elephant, the forlorn last stand of the tiger – all had their profiles raised as the delegates in Bangkok negotiated their fate.

And anyone hearing the protests and the campaigns, and the shocking statistics about the losses, might be forgiven for thinking that extinction was some new kind of evil that was not invented until rapacious and uncaring mankind came along.

I should state right now that some of the most ghastly examples are indeed entirely the result of man’s activities, sometimes unwittingly, sometimes carelessly.

hepburn readingWe’re seeing slow, drawn out, death-by-lobbying of the hopes for better gun safety laws.  The NRA is pushing the meme that gun-free zones–like the Sandy Hook School–attract mass murderers.  Mark Follman takes on this myth.

Ever since the massacres in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., this idea has been repeated like some surreal requiem: The reason that mass gun violence keeps happening is because the United States is full of places that ban guns.

Second Amendment activists have long floated this theme, and now lawmaker sacross the nation are using it, too. During a recent floor debate in the Colorado legislature, Republican state Rep. Carole Murray put it this way: “Most of the mass killings that we talk about have been affected in gun-free zones. So when you have a gun-free zone, it’s like saying, ‘Come and get me.'”

The argument claims to explain both the motive behind mass shootings and how they play out. The killers deliberately choose sites where firearms are forbidden, gun-rights advocates say, and because there are no weapons, no “good guy with a gun” will be on hand to stop the crime.

Sound bite sophistry

With its overtones of fear and heroism, the argument makes for slick sound bites. But here’s the problem: Both its underlying assumptions are contradicted by data. Not only is there zero evidence to support them, our examination at Mother Jones of America’s mass shootings indicates they are just plain wrong.

Among the 62 mass shootings over the past 30 years that we studied, not a single case includes evidence that the killer chose to target a place because it banned guns. To the contrary, in many of the cases there was clearly another motive for the choice of location. For example, 20 were workplace shootings, most of which involved perpetrators who felt wronged by employers and colleagues. Last September, when a troubled man working at a sign manufacturer in Minneapolis was told he would be let go, he pulled out a 9mm Glock and killed six people and injured another before putting a bullet in his own head. Similar tragedies unfolded at a beer distributor in Connecticut in 2010 and at a plastics factory in Kentucky in 2008.

Or consider the 12 school shootings we documented, in which all but one of the killers had personal ties to the school they struck.librarian reading

Or take the man who opened fire in suburban Milwaukee last August: Are we to believe that a white supremacist targeted the Sikh temple there not because it was filled with members of a religious minority he despised, but because it was a place that didn’t allow firearms?

Despite the momentum in Congress of the NRA, Mayor Mike Bloomberg is going to spend beaucoups bux trying to get a better outcome.

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg wants new gun control legislation so bad that he’s set to spend a staggering $12 million of his own money on ads targeting US senators in a dozen states.

As the New York Times reports, Bloomberg’s new wave of ads, which begin on Monday, support universal background checks for nearly all gun purchases, but do not mention a ban on assault weapons. The ads, run under the auspices of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group funded and co-chaired by Bloomberg, will target Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Patrick Toomey (R-Penn.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

Bloomberg’s $12 million ad buy further cements his position as the main political force challenging the clout of the National Rifle Association. For decades, the NRA has used its money and manpower to oust politicians who support any new regulation of guns in America. The threat of NRA attacks helped stifle any effort at new gun laws, including requiring background checks for most gun purchases and reinstating the ban on assault rifles, which expired in 2004. Now, by pumping money into Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Independence USA, his super-PAC, Bloomberg hopes to counter the might of the NRA, while giving cover to pro-gun-control legislators.

Today, SCOTUS hears arguments on California’s Prop 8 and will begin to hear arguments on the constitutionality of DOMA.

California Attorney General Kemala Harris gave an impassioned, pithy defense of marriage equality during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday morning in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s hearing on whether California’s Proposition 8, which overturned the state’s marriage equality law, is itself constitutional.

Asked by CNN’s Candy Crowley to explain why she was refusing to defend the state’s proposition, Harris insisted that the measure undermined the fundamental rights of gay Americans, taking away their equal protections under the law:

I am absolutely against a ban on same-sex marriages because [bans] are simply unconstitutional. And it is one thing to read the polls, which we have discussed which show again that a majority of Americans are in favor of same sex marriage, but it is more important to read the Constitution. And the Constitution of the United States dictates, I believe, under every court precedent that we have discussed in terms of describing marriage as a fundamental right that the same-sex couples that are before the United states supreme court — Mrs. Windsor, Miss Perry — be allowed to have equal protection under the laws as any Americans when it comes to their ability to join themselves with their loving partners in marriage and raise their children. And 61% of Californians are in favor of same-sex marriage.

Harris is considered an up and comer to the national political scene.  You can follow the link above to see the interview.  We will be following the arguments closely today and will keep you updated as things happen.

So. that’s it for me this morning.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?