Daily Archive: 03/25/2013

Mar 25 2013

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament 2013: Day 3 Late Evening

Time Network Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
9:30 ESPN2 (2) California 23-9 (10) South Florida 22-10 West
9:30 ESPN2 (4) Georgia 26-5-1 (5) Iowa State 24-8 West
9:30 ESPN2 (4) South Carolina 25-7 (12) Kansas 19-13 South
9:30 ESPN2 (3) Texas A&M 25-9 (6) Nebraska 24-8 South

Mar 25 2013

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament 2013: Day 3 Early Evening

This bracket has the only 2 teams I’m really interested in.  Michigan State out of sentiment, I have no idea how they played this season, and the Lady Huskies out of residence.

Geno’s team stunk this year, there’s no more polite way to put it, and they certainly don’t deserve their number 1 seeding.

Since I’m not sure how far either will advance, here are their fight songs-

These are the short versions you’ll hear during time outs.  The full version of the Michigan State Fight Song was arranged by Leonard Falcone who I studied Euphonium under for a time.

He thought I was hopeless and he was absolutely right.

Time Network Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
7:05 ESPN2 (1) Connecticut 30-4 (8) Vanderbilt 21-11 East
7:15 ESPN2 (3) UCLA 26-7 (6) Oklahoma 23-10 Midwest
7:10 ESPN2 (2) Tennessee 25-7 (10) Creighton 25-7 Midwest
7:20 ESPN2 (4) Maryland 25-7 (5) Michigan State 25-8 East

Mar 25 2013

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament 2013: 3/23 Results

* == Upset

Seed Score Team Record Seed Score Team Record Region
(8) 60 Vanderbilt 21-11 (9) 54 Saint Joseph’s 23-9 East
(6) 78 Oklahoma 23-10 (11) 73 Cent. Michigan 21-12 Midwest
(4) 72 Maryland 25-7 (13) 52 Quinnipiac 30-3 East
(7) 56 Syracuse 24-8 * (10) 61 Creighton 25-7 Midwest
(1) 105 Connecticut 30-4 (16) 37 Idaho 17-16 East
(3) 66 UCLA 26-7 (14) 49 Stetson 24-9 Midwest
(5) 55 Michigan State 25-8 (12) 47 Marist 26-7 East
(2) 83 Tennessee 25-7 (15) 62 Oral Roberts 18-13 Midwest
(3) 71 Texas A&M 25-9 (14) 45 Wichita State 24-10 South
(4) 74 South Carolina 25-7 (13) 52 South Dakota St. 25-8 South
(5) 72 Iowa State 24-8 (12) 60 Gonzaga 27-6 West
(2) 90 California 23-9 (15) 76 Fresno State 24-9 West
(5) 52 Colorado 25-7 * (12) 67 Kansas 19-13 South
(6) 73 Nebraska 24-8 (11) 59 Chattanooga 29-4 South
(4) 70 Georgia 26-5-1 (13) 50 Montana 24-8 West
(7) 70 Texas Tech 21-11 * (10) 71 South Florida 22-10 West

Mar 25 2013

A Back Door For Gutting Regulation

Gaius Publius of Americablog succinctly defined one of those vague terms that we heard so often since the banking crisis began in 2007, Credit Default Swaps (CDS) :

Credit default swaps are pure casino bets. They were originally designed as a form of insurance against bond and other credit defaults (“I’ll pay you a monthly fee and you pay me my losses if these bonds default.”)

It’s a simple concept, but CDSs soon evolved. Turns out you don’t have to actually hold the bonds to insure them. This means that one guy can sit at a table with a bunch of bonds (or bundles of mortgages), while another guy can insure them. Meanwhile, at 50 other tables, 50 more guys can buy the same “insurance” on the same bonds from anyone who will sell it to them. Keep in mind, only the first guy actually holds the bonds. The other guys just know they exist.

That’s 50 side-bets on one set of bonds. Placing side-bets on someone else’s property is like betting on a ball game you’re just watching. Like I said, pure casino money.

Do you see the problem? One guy’s bonds default and suddenly 51 guys in that room, everyone who sold “insurance,” they’re all wiped out. Why? Because the dirty secret of derivatives bets is that the people offering the “insurance” rarely have the money. They’re betting that they can collect “insurance” fees forever and the defaults will never come. That’s what happened with mortgage-backed bets in 2007, and that’s what’s happening today.

In 2010, the Democratic held Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall St. Reform and Consumer Protection Act to rein in the worst practices of the banks and Wall St. Needless to say, it is overly complicated, inadequate and has yet to be fully implemented.

That has not stopped the now Republican held House, along with some Democrats, to end some of the regulations. Less that week after Sen. Carl Levin released a scathing report on the $6.7 billion loss (pdf) of JP Morgan Chase in the infamous “London Whale” deal, the House Agriculture Committee, go figure that logic, approved seven bills that would gut regulation of the derivatives market and once again, if the banks lose, the tax payer makes good the losses. Sound familiar? Does TARP ring a bell? The housing market crash?

In his Salon article David Dayen asks if JP Morgan is a farmer?

It turns out that the Agriculture Committees have held jurisdiction over derivatives since the mid-19th century, when farmers used derivatives to achieve stability over future prices. Traders still use derivatives for corn and other commodities, but the world of derivatives has grown far more sophisticated over the decades. Nevertheless, congressional committees zealously guard their jurisdictions, and so a bunch of lawmakers from rural states get to determine a major aspect of financial policy. [..]

To see how this all works, just look at the hearing on these derivatives bills, held last week. When Ag Committee chairman Frank Lucas wasn’t openly parroting industry scare tactics about energy price spikes from regulation, he called on a list of witnesses that included four industry trade group representatives and one public advocate from Americans for Financial Reform, Wallace Turbeville. (He did great (pdf).) Or for an even clearer indication, read these PowerPoint slides created for Ag Committee staff by the Coalition for Derivatives End-Users, an industry-backed lobbyist organization. This extremely one-sided perspective on the issue simply becomes the default position for committee members and their staffs, an example of the “cognitive capture” in D.C. that sidelines alternative voices. And it all happens under the radar.

One of the Democratic House members who is sponsoring these bills, is Rep. Jim Himes, a former Goldman Sachs vice president who represents the Connecticut bedroom communities of Wall Street traders. It’s not hard to imagine why he defended his support of these bills when asked by the press. The Democratic members of the committee who voted with the 25 Republicans to send these bills to the House floor are: Pete Gallego (TX-23); Ann Kuster (NH-2); Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18); Mike McIntyre (NC-07); David Scott (GA-13); and Juan Vargas (CA-51).

These are the bills that were passed by the committee:

H.R. 634 (pdf), the Business Risk Mitigation and Price Stabilization Act of 2013

·       H.R. 677 (pdf), the Inter-Affiliate Swap Clarification Act

·       H.R. 742 (pdf), the Swap Data Repository and Clearinghouse Indemnification Correction Act of 2013

·       H.R. 992 (pdf), the Swaps Regulatory Improvement Act

·       H.R. 1003 (pdf), To improve consideration by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission of the costs and benefits of its regulations and orders.

·       H.R. 1038 (pdf), the Public Power Risk Management Act of 2013

·       H.R. 1256 (pdf), the Swap Jurisdiction Certainty Act

Even if these bills all get passed, they will never see the light of day in the Senate.

Sheila Bair, the longtime Republican who served as chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) during the fiscal meltdown five years ago, joins Bill to talk about American banks’ continuing risky and manipulative practices, their seeming immunity from prosecution, and growing anger from Congress and the public.

“I think the system’s a little bit safer, but nothing like the dramatic reforms that we really need to see to tame these large banks, and to give us a stable financial system that supports the real economy, not just trading profits of large financial institutions,” Bair tells Bill.

Mar 25 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: Hot Money Blues

Whatever the final outcome in the Cyprus crisis – we know it’s going to be ugly; we just don’t know exactly what form the ugliness will take – one thing seems certain: for the time being, and probably for years to come, the island nation will have to maintain fairly draconian controls on the movement of capital in and out of the country. In fact, controls may well be in place by the time you read this. And that’s not all: Depending on exactly how this plays out, Cypriot capital controls may well have the blessing of the International Monetary Fund, which has already supported such controls in Iceland.

That’s quite a remarkable development. It will mark the end of an era for Cyprus, which has in effect spent the past decade advertising itself as a place where wealthy individuals who want to avoid taxes and scrutiny can safely park their money, no questions asked. But it may also mark at least the beginning of the end for something much bigger: the era when unrestricted movement of capital was taken as a desirable norm around the world.

David Dayen: Banks Are Too Big to Fail Say … Conservatives?

Intellectuals on the right are coming around to the idea that our biggest financial institutions could use a little regulation.

Members of the Federal Reserve don’t usually make the rounds at partisan gatherings. But amid the tri-cornered hats and “#StandWithRand” buttons of last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)-the largest annual gathering of conservatives in the country-was Richard Fisher, president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank. In a Saturday morning speech, Fisher quoted Revolutionary War hero Patrick Henry, who once said that while “Different men often see the same subject in different lights,” such quibbling had to be set aside in a time of “awful moment to this country.”

Fisher described the current time as an era of economic injustice in which the nation’s largest banks threaten our financial stability and act with immunity. He said that the Dodd-Frank financial reform law did not go nearly far enough to fix the problem, and that mega-banks still profited from being “Too Big to Fail.” His solutions included a proposal to limit the total assets held by the biggest financial institutions, keeping them at a size that would make them “small enough to save.” And he called on citizens of all political stripes to join him in this cause. “The American people will be grateful to whoever liberates them from a recurrence of taxpayer bailouts,” Fisher concluded. It was an indication of just how bipartisan the support for breaking up the big banks has become.

Dean Baker: Neither the NYT nor Washington Post Has Heard About Unemployment

It’s apparently hard to find out about the state of the U.S. economy in the nation’s capital. That is the only way to explain the fact that in their articles on the budget passed by the Senate last night neither the NYT or Washington Post said one word about how the budget would affect the economy over the next decade. [..]

However, neither the NYT or Post could be bothered mentioning the millions who are suffering unemployment as the direct result of government policy. Instead the NYT told us in the first sentence that the budget will:

“trim spending gingerly and leave the government still deeply in the debt a decade from now.”

Shea Howell: Thinking for Ourselves: On Disaster Capitalism in Detroit

The appointment of Kevyn Orr as the Emergency Manager of Detroit is a sad day for democracy. There is a growing understanding that the financial crisis justifying this move was manufactured by the withholding of state funds, the drive to protect the $474 millions paid to banks, and the desire to wrest control of the city away from its people and put it into the hands of the corporate elite. Further, we know that nowhere in the state have emergency managers solved any structural problems. Nor have they improved services. They have sold off city assets, shifted common responsibilities for public health, safety, and the general good into private hands for windfall profits. They have set aside contracts for immediate services and compacts made across generations. [..]

The anguish of this moment is beyond words. It forces us to look deeply into our own history to find ways to remind one another of the kind of future we wish for ourselves and our children.

Bill McKibben: Confronting a Senate Beholden to ‘Big Oil’

An update on the battle to stop the Keystone XL pipeline

After a very chaotic week on Capitol Hill, I wanted to write you with an update on what happened in the Senate on Friday.

First and foremost: the oil industry’s Senators did not manage to pass legislation that would force President Obama to build Keystone XL.

Because you – people all across the country – jumped into action this week, they backtracked and instead held a vote on a nonbinding resolution that says it would be nice to build the pipeline, but doesn’t actually do much about it. For that vote, they got the stomach-churning number of 62 Senators to vote with them. As usual, the ones who had taken the most money from the fossil fuel industry lined up to cast their votes-the cosponsors of the bill, on average, had taken $807,000 in dirty energy money.

Jared Bernstein: Got Any Spare Change (Theory)?

As I’ve written many times, my experiences on the road and in the media often leave listeners and viewers saying “wow, those are really convincing, cogent, and well-documented arguments… but what should we do with them?” To which I do not have satisfactory answers.

To the contrary, I suspect the Koch brothers are perfectly happy to have folks like me running around arguing about the correct deflator to use or the percent of the Ryan budget’s spending cuts affecting low-income programs, while they continue to buy “research” that says otherwise and policies that exacerbate inequality.

That doesn’t mean we give up on factual analysis. It’s what we do best and I will not be convinced that facts are irrelevant.

Mar 25 2013

On This Day In History March 25

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 25 is the 84th day of the year (85th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 281 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in history, two tragic fires occurred in New York City. In 1925, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire claimed 146 lives and 79 years later, in 1990, the Happy Land fire killed 87 people, the most deadly fire in the city since 1911.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City on March 25, 1911, was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers, who either died from the fire or jumped to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent immigrant Jewish women aged sixteen to twenty-three. Many of the workers could not escape the burning building because the managers had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits. People jumped from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers.

The factory was located in the Asch Building, at 29 Washington Place, now known as the Brown Building, which has been designated a National Historic Landmark and a New York City landmark.

Fire

The Triangle Waist Company factory occupied the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors of the Asch Building on the northwest corner of Greene Street and Washington Place, just to the east of Washington Square Park, in the Greenwich Village area of New York City. Under the ownership of Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, the factory produced women’s blouses, known as “shirtwaists.” The factory normally employed about 500 workers, mostly young immigrant women, who worked nine hours a day on weekdays plus seven hours on Saturdays.

As the workday was ending on the afternoon of Saturday, March 25, 1911, a fire flared up at approximately 4:45 PM in a scrap bin under one of the cutter’s tables at the northeast corner of the eighth floor. Both owners of the factory were in attendance and had invited their children to the factory on that afternoon. The Fire Marshal concluded that the likely cause of the fire was the disposal of an unextinguished match or cigarette butt in the scrap bin, which held two months’ worth of accumulated cuttings by the time of the fire. Although smoking was banned in the factory, cutters were known to sneak cigarettes, exhaling the smoke through their lapels to avoid detection. A New York Times article suggested that the fire may have been started by the engines running the sewing machines, while The Insurance Monitor, a leading industry journal, suggested that the epidemic of fires among shirtwaist manufacturers was “fairly saturated with moral hazard.” No one suggested arson.

A bookkeeper on the eighth floor was able to warn employees on the tenth floor via telephone, but there was no audible alarm and no way to contact staff on the ninth floor. According to survivor Yetta Lubitz, the first warning of the fire on the ninth floor arrived at the same time as the fire itself. Although the floor had a number of exits – two freight elevators, a fire escape, and stairways down to Greene Street and Washington Place – flames prevented workers from descending the Greene Street stairway, and the door to the Washington Place stairway was locked to prevent theft. The foreman who held the stairway door key had already escaped by another route. Dozens of employees escaped the fire by going up the Greene Street stairway to the roof. Other survivors were able to jam themselves into the elevators while they continued to operate.

Within three minutes, the Greene Street stairway became unusable in both directions. Terrified employees crowded onto the single exterior fire escape, a flimsy and poorly-anchored iron structure which may have been broken before the fire. It soon twisted and collapsed from the heat and overload, spilling victims nearly 100 feet (30 m) to their deaths on the concrete pavement below. Elevator operators Joseph Zito and Gaspar Mortillalo saved many lives by traveling three times up to the ninth floor for passengers, but Mortillalo was eventually forced to give up when the rails of his elevator buckled under the heat. Some victims pried the elevator doors open and jumped down the empty shaft. The weight of these bodies made it impossible for Zito to make another attempt.

The remainder waited until smoke and fire overcame them. The fire department arrived quickly but was unable to stop the flames, as there were no ladders available that could reach beyond the sixth floor. The fallen bodies and falling victims also made it difficult for the fire department to approach the building.

The Happy Land fire was an arson fire which killed 87 people trapped in an unlicensed social club called “Happy Land” (at 1959 Southern Boulevard) in the West Farms section of The Bronx, New York, on March 25, 1990. Most of the victims were ethnic Hondurans celebrating Carnival. Unemployed Cuban refugee Julio Gonzalez, whose former girlfriend was employed at the club, was arrested shortly after and ultimately convicted of arson and murder.

The Incident

Before the blaze, Happy Land was ordered closed for building code violations in November 1988. Violations included no fire exits, alarms or sprinkler system. No follow-up by the fire department was documented.

The evening of the fire, Gonzalez had argued with his former girlfriend, Lydia Feliciano, a coat check girl at the club, urging her to quit. She claimed that she had had enough of him and wanted nothing to do with him anymore. Gonzalez tried to fight back into the club but was ejected by the bouncer. He was heard to scream drunken threats in the process. Gonzalez was enraged, not just because of losing Lydia, but also because he had recently lost his job at a lamp factory, was impoverished, and had virtually no companions. Gonzalez returned to the establishment with a plastic container of gasoline which he found on the ground and had filled at a gas station. He spread the fuel on the only staircase into the club. Two matches were then used to ignite the gasoline.

The fire exits had been blocked to prevent people from entering without paying the cover charge. In the panic that ensued, a few people escaped by breaking a metal gate over one door.

Gonzalez then returned home, took off his gasoline-soaked clothes and fell asleep. He was arrested the following afternoon after authorities interviewed Lydia Feliciano and learned of the previous night’s argument. Once advised of his rights, he admitted to starting the blaze. A psychological examination found him to be not responsible due to mental illness or defect; but the jury, after deliberation, found him to be criminally responsible.

Found guilty on August 19, 1991, of 87 counts of arson and 87 counts of murder, Gonzalez was charged with 174 counts of murder- two for each victim he was sentence maximum of 25 years. It was the most substantial prison term ever imposed in the state of New York. He will be eligible for parole in March 2015.

The building that housed Happy Land club was managed in part by Jay Weiss, at the time the husband of actress Kathleen Turner. The New Yorker quoted Turner saying that “the fire was unfortunate but could have happened at a McDonald’s.” The building’s owner, Alex DiLorenzo, and leaseholders Weiss and Morris Jaffe, were found not criminally responsible, since they had tried to close the club and evict the tenant.