March 24, 2014 archive

March Madness 2014: Women’s Round of 32 Day 1

Yesterday’s Results

Seed School Record Seed School Record Score Region
4 * Maryland (25 – 6) 13 Army (25 – 8) (90 – 52) South
7 * Louisianna State (20 – 12) 10 Georgia Tech (20 – 12) (98 – 78) South
5 * Michigan State (23 – 9) 12 Hampton (28 – 5) (91 – 61) West
3 * Penn State (23 – 7) 14 Wichita (26 – 7) (62 – 56) West
5 * Texas (22 – 11) 12 Penn (22 – 7) (79 – 61) South
2 * W. Virginia (30 – 4) 15 Albany (28 – 5) (76 – 61) South
4 * N. Carolina (25 – 9) 13 UT Martin (24 – 8) (60 – 58) West
6 Dayton (23 – 8) 11 * Florida (20 – 12) (69 – 83) West
3 * Louisville (31 – 4) 14 Idaho (25 – 9) (88 – 42) South
8 Georgia (20 – 12) 9 *St. Joseph’s (23 – 9) (57 – 67) MidWest
6 Gonzaga (24 – 10) 11 * James Madison (29 – 5) (63 – 72) MidWest
1 * S. Carolina (28 – 4) 16 CSU Northridge (18 – 15) (73 – 58) West
1 * UConn (35 – 0) 16 Prairie View A&M (14 – 18) (87 – 44) MidWest
6 * Iowa (27 – 8) 11 Marist (27 – 7) (87 – 65) South
3 * Texas A&M (25 – 8) 14 N. Dakota (22 – 10) (70 – 55) MidWest
8 Middle Tennessee (29 – 5) 9 * Oregon State (24 – 10) (36 – 55) West

Today’s Games-

Time Network Seed School Record Seed School Record Region
6:30 ESPN2 2 Stanford (31 – 3) 10 Florida State (21 – 11) West
6:30 ESPN2 2 Duke (28 – 6) 7 DePaul (28 – 6) MidWest
6:30 ESPN2 1 Notre Dame (33 – 0) 9 Arizona State (23 – 9) East
6:30 ESPN2 3 Kentucky (25 – 8) 6 Syracuse (23 – 9) East
9:00 ESPN2 2 Baylor (30 – 4) 7 California (22 – 9) East
9:00 ESPN2 4 Nebraska (26 – 6) 12 BYU (27 – 6) MidWest
9:00 ESPN2 4 Purdue (22 – 8) 5 Oklahoma State (24 – 8) East
9:00 ESPN2 1 Tennessee (28 – 5) 8 St. John’s (23 – 10) South

Saturday’s Results below.

A Filthy Business


25 Years After Exxon Valdez, BP Was the Hidden Culprit

By Greg Palast, TruthDig

Posted on Mar 23, 2014

Two decades ago I was the investigator for the legal team that sold you the bullshit that a drunken captain was the principal cause of the Exxon Valdez disaster, the oil tanker crackup that poisoned over a thousand miles of Alaska’s coastline 25 years ago on March 24, 1989.

The truth is far uglier, and the real culprit-British Petroleum, now BP-got away without a scratch to its reputation or to its pocketbook.

And because BP’s willful negligence, prevarications and fraud in the Exxon Valdez spill cost the company nothing, its disdain for the law, for the environment and for the safety of its workers was repeated in the Gulf of Mexico with deadly consequences, resulting, two decades later, in the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Just this month, the Obama administration authorized BP to return to drilling in the Gulf.

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Third Wayism

Hoyer: Congress should lay ‘groundwork’ for grand bargain budget deal

By Mike Lillis, The Hill

March 24, 2014, 06:00 am

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer will call on Congress Monday to lay the “groundwork” for a budget “grand bargain,” warning that a failure to do so risks upending the United State’s status as the world’s premier economic power.

“Short of reaching a big deal, we can still leverage opportunities before us to make progress toward the goal that proponents of a such a deal have long sought,” Hoyer will say Monday during a budget forum in Washington sponsored by Third Way, according to the prepared remarks. “If we’re going to show the world that America is serious about tackling our problems head-on, Congress will have several opportunities this year to work in a bipartisan way to fix structural problems in our budget.”

Congress is running low on must-past legislation that might provide a vehicle for some of the controversial budget changes of the order Hoyer is urging. And even Republican plans for sweeping fiscal reforms, such as Rep. Dave Camp’s (R-Mich.) recently unveiled tax policy overhaul, have been largely ignored by GOP leaders, who don’t want to highlight party divisions in a high-stakes election year.

“It’s at this moment – when we don’t have a crisis breathing down our necks – that we have the best chance to lay the groundwork for the hard decisions we will need to make,” he will say.

Hoyer said a package of expiring tax benefits – known collectively as the “tax extenders” – offers Congress one such opportunity for fiscal reform, while a must-pass transportation bill provides the chance for new infrastructure investments.

The Most Important Point of All Was Ignored

by Joe Firestone, New Economic Perspectives

Posted on March 23, 2014

SS is not bankrupt now, it has $2.6 Trillion in Treasury IOUs in the SS “trust fund” accumulated because Treasury has used FICA collections to “pay for” other Federal spending since 1983, when the Government began to collect more from workers and employers than was paid out to beneficiaries. The accumulated IOUs, projected interest on them, and future FICA collections are projected as being enough to “cover” 100% of SS benefits until 2033, and then 75% of benefits thereafter. 100% of benefits could be “covered” from 2033 on, if the payroll tax cap on Social Security were to be removed.

Huntsman (and Hoyer) is conflating the SS “Trust Fund” running out of money in 2033, with SS running out of money. The first is happening as it was always planned to happen when the Reagan Administration and Congress agreed to raise FICA payments to almost double the amount previously paid, for the boomer generation to cover its retirement benefits; but the second depends on what Congress will do in the future to close the gap between current projected FICA revenues and projected benefits.

These two are different because the Government can do various things to close that gap. Huntsman mentions only cutting benefits or moving the SS retirement age to either 70 or even 75, so that enough will be left in the fund to close the revenue/benefits gap. But there are other ways of doing this easily; most notably removing the payroll tax cap so that the well-off, or those who are prospering, will pay the same share of their income into Social Security as most of the rest of us, and/or there can also be gradual small increases in the employee and employer contributions that will close the projected gaps indefinitely.Other points of less importance, and moral arguments, which from my point of view are among the most important, about the right to a decent secure retirement for the elderly are made, as well.

But, there is one point, the most important one of all, which is not made in all these “progressive” push back arguments against Abby Hunstman’s right wing Petersonian “Fix the Debt” rant. That is the point that there is no entitlement crisis and no emergency, and neither an increase in payroll taxes, nor robbing from “future generations” is necessary to close the projected gap after 2033 because Congress can pass legislation providing for annual automatic funding of expected costs for all SS and Medicare trust funds.

That’s done now for Supplementary Medical Insurance (Medicare Part B), and Prescription Drug Benefits (Medicare Part D), and the same practice using similar legislative language can be extended to the SS Old Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and Disability Insurance (DI) trust funds. End of story. Once that is done, no gaps between SS revenue and benefits can be projected by institutions, such as CBO, under current law.

You may doubt this solution by pointing out that legislation like this just pushes off Huntsman’s Social Security solvency problem to the Treasury at large, rather than its being SS’s problem, but it doesn’t solve the real insolvency problem. Only it does, because the Government as a whole has no fiscal solvency problem, since it can always use its authority to create the reserves in the Treasury spending accounts to pay all its bills including all those exceeding its revenues.

The customary way of creating such reserves is to sell Treasury debt instruments, destroying reserves in the private sector, and getting the Fed to place an equal amount of reserves in its accounts. But, there is another way it can be done under current law, and still other ways open to Congress, if they want to pay all the SS benefits they would have guaranteed by the proposed change in the law that would solve this faux problem.

The way any gap appropriated by Congress can be closed under current law, is to use Platinum Coin Seigniorage (PCS) to do it. As many of my readers know, I’ve explained how this would work in my e-book. But, the basic idea is that coin seigniorage can be used by the Treasury to require the Fed to use its reserve creation authority to place reserves in Treasury accounts, without Treasury engaging in any additional taxing or borrowing.

So, this capability coupled with Congress providing for annual automatic funding would end the Huntsman, Peterson, Bowles, Simpson, Ryan, (Hoyer,) and Obama revenue gap problems with Social Security and all other entitlements, for that matter, without these poor folks having to worry about taxing the rich, like them. And, if Congress doesn’t like that alternative way of placing reserves in Treasury’s accounts so it can spend Congressional appropriations, then it can always just go ahead and place the Fed within the Treasury Department, giving the Secretary the direct authority to order the Fed to fill its accounts with enough reserves to cover any revenue shortfalls, without either raising taxes or issuing more debt instruments.

So, these are the easy ways to end the faux crisis which won’t befall us anyway until 2033. Why won’t the “progressives” pushing back against Abby Huntsman mention solutions like these? Why do they, instead, always propose solutions that will raise taxes on the wealthy? Are they afraid to let the people know that the Government isn’t like a household and doesn’t have the same financial problems they have, just written large? Are they so insistent on solutions that will tax higher income and wealthy people, because they must kill the two birds of full employment and greater equality through taxing with a single stone?

I like the eliminate the Fed option.  Fed independence of Treasury is the merest chimera of a fiction anyway except to the extent that it is a creature of and toady to the Banks.


Rank Hypocrisy

Some Facts About How NSA Stories Are Reported

By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept

23 Mar 2014, 6:41 AM EDT

Who created the uber-nationalistic standard that the only valid disclosures are ones involving the rights of Americans? Are we are all supposed to regard non-Americans as irrelevant? Is the NSA’s bulk, suspicionless surveillance of the private communications of hundreds of millions of human beings inherently proper simply because its victims aren’t American citizens? Even more extreme: are American journalists (and whistleblowers like Snowden) supposed to keep the public ignorant of anything and everything the US Government does to people provided those people aren’t blessed with American citizenship? Do you condemn whoever leaked the existence of top secret CIA black sites to Dana Priest on the ground that it didn’t involve violations of the rights of Americans? It makes sense that US government officials view the world this way: their function is to advance the self-perceived interests of the US government, but that’s not the role of actual journalists or whistleblowers.

The public interest from the Huawei story is obvious. It demonstrates that the NSA has been doing exactly that which the US Government has spent years vocally complaining is being done by China. While the US has been telling the world that the Chinese government is spying on them through backdoors in Huawei products, it’s actually the NSA that has been doing that. It also yet again gives the lie to the claim that the NSA does not engage in economic espionage.

It shows massive deceit and hypocrisy by US officials: with their own citizens and to the world. DOJ official Jack Goldsmith, often a government and NSA defender, understood this point perfectly, writing yesterday that “The Huawei revelations are devastating rebuttals to hypocritical U.S. complaints about Chinese penetration of U.S. networks, and also make USG protestations about not stealing intellectual property to help U.S. firms’ competitiveness seem like the self-serving hairsplitting that it is.”

Leak Shows NSA Breached Huawei’s Internal Servers, Grabbed Executive Emails And Source Code

by Tim Cushing, TechDirt

Mon, Mar 24th 2014 3:36am

As Karl Bode pointed out in an earlier story about the US government warning Americans away from Huawei network equipment, many of the Huawei spying allegations can be traced back to its main competitor, Cisco. Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel sees the NSA’s Huawei spying as little more than a way for it to protect some of its main collection points.

If there’s been no evidence uncovered that Huawei equipment is being deployed with Chinese government-friendly backdoors, then the NSA is engaged in self-serving corporate espionage, one that keeps Cisco — and consequently, the NSA — in wide circulation.

Even if you believe this is exactly the sort of thing our intelligence agencies should be doing, it’s hard to ignore the inherent hypocrisy of the government’s words and actions.

While the revelations that the NSA is surveilling a foreign company deemed untrustworthy by government officials are hardly surprising, the whole situation is tainted by the US government’s hardline against Huawei. Many accusations have surfaced over the last decade but have remained unproven, even as the US government has locked Huawei out of domestic contracts and persuaded other countries to seek different vendors. This isn’t passive monitoring being deployed to detect threats. This is an active invasion of a private company’s internal network in order to subvert its hardware and software, all of which will likely benefit its largest competitor, either directly or indirectly. The NSA isn’t Cisco’s personal army, but their mutual goals (widespread Cisco deployment) are so closely aligned, the agency might as well be.

How the NSA Deals with a Threat to Its Backbone Hegemony

By emptywheel

Published March 22, 2014

Now, for what it’s worth, the NYT story feels like a limited hangout – an attempt to pre-empt what Spiegel will say on Monday, and also include a bunch of details on NSA spying on legitimate Chinese targets so the chattering class can talk about how Snowden is a tool of Chinese and Russian spies. (Note, the NYT story relies on interviews with a “half dozen” current and former officials for much of the information on legitimate Chinese targets here, a point noted by approximately none of the people complaining.)

But the articles make it clear that 3 years after they started this targeted program, SHOTGIANT, and at least a year after they gained access to the emails of Huawei’s CEO and Chair, NSA still had no evidence that Huawei is just a tool of the People’s Liberation Army, as the US government had been claiming before and since. Perhaps they’ve found evidence in the interim, but they hadn’t as recently as 2010.

Nevertheless the NSA still managed to steal Huawei’s source code. Not just so it could more easily spy on people who exclusively use Huawei’s networks. But also, it seems clear, in an attempt to prevent Huawei from winning even more business away from Cisco.

I suspect we’ll learn far more on Monday. But for now, we know that even the White House got involved in an operation targeting a company that threatens our hegemony on telecom backbones.

On This Day In History March 24

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.

March 24 is the 83rd day of the year (84th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 282 days remaining until the end of the year.

March 24th is the 365th and last day of the year in many European implementations of the Julian calendar.

On this day in 1989, Exxon Valdez runs aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

The worst oil spill in U.S. territory begins when the supertanker Exxon Valdez, owned and operated by the Exxon Corporation, runs aground on a reef in Prince William Sound in southern Alaska. An estimated 11 million gallons of oil eventually spilled into the water. Attempts to contain the massive spill were unsuccessful, and wind and currents spread the oil more than 100 miles from its source, eventually polluting more than 700 miles of coastline. Hundreds of thousands of birds and animals were adversely affected by the environmental disaster.

It was later revealed that Joseph Hazelwood, the captain of the Valdez, was drinking at the time of the accident and allowed an uncertified officer to steer the massive vessel. In March 1990, Hazelwood was convicted of misdemeanor negligence, fined $50,000, and ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service. In July 1992, an Alaska court overturned Hazelwood’s conviction, citing a federal statute that grants freedom from prosecution to those who report an oil spill.

The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska, on March 24, 1989, when the Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker bound for Long Beach, California, struck Prince William Sound‘s Bligh Reef and spilled 260,000 to 750,000 barrels (41,000 to 119,000 m3) of crude oil. It is considered to be one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters. As significant as the Valdez spill was-the largest ever in U.S. waters until the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill-it ranks well down on the list of the world’s largest oil spills in terms of volume released. However, Prince William Sound’s remote location, accessible only by helicopter, plane and boat, made government and industry response efforts difficult and severely taxed existing plans for response. The region is a habitat for salmon, sea otters, seals and seabirds. The oil, originally extracted at the Prudhoe Bay oil field, eventually covered 1,300 miles (2,100 km) of coastline, and 11,000 square miles (28,000 km2) of ocean. Then Exxon CEO, Lawrence G. Rawl, shaped the company’s response.

Timeline of events

Exxon Valdez left the Valdez oil terminal in Alaska at 9:12 pm on March 23, 1989, bound for Long Beach, California. The ship was under the control of Shipmaster Joseph Jeffrey Hazelwood. The outbound shipping lane was obstructed with small icebergs (possibly from the nearby Columbia Glacier), so Hazelwood got permission from the Coast Guard to go out through the inbound lane. Following the maneuver and sometime after 11 p.m., Hazelwood left Third Mate Gregory Cousins in charge of the wheel house and Able Seaman Robert Kagan at the helm. Neither man had been given his mandatory six hours off duty before beginning his 12-hour watch. The ship was on autopilot, using the navigation system installed by the company that constructed the ship. The ship struck Bligh Reef at around 12:04 a.m. March 24, 1989.

Beginning three days after the vessel grounded, a storm pushed large quantities of fresh oil on to the rocky shores of many of the beaches in the Knight Island chain. In this photograph, pooled oil is shown stranded in the rocks.

According to official reports, the ship was carrying approximately 55 million US gallons (210,000 m3) of oil, of which about 11 to 32 million US gallons (42,000 to 120,000 m3) were spilled into the Prince William Sound. A figure of 11 million US gallons (42,000 m3) was a commonly accepted estimate of the spill’s volume and has been used by the State of Alaska’s Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and environmental groups such as Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. Some groups, such as Defenders of Wildlife, dispute the official estimates, maintaining that the volume of the spill has been underreported. Alternative calculations, based on an assumption that the sea water rather than oil was drained from the damaged tanks, estimate the total to have been 25 to 32 million US gallons (95,000 to 120,000 m3).

Identified causes

Multiple factors have been identified as contributing to the incident:

   * Exxon Shipping Company failed to supervise the master and provide a rested and sufficient crew for Exxon Valdez. The NTSB found this was wide spread throughout industry, prompting a safety recommendation to Exxon and to the industry.

   * The third mate failed to properly maneuver the vessel, possibly due to fatigue or excessive workload.

   * Exxon Shipping Company failed to properly maintain the Raytheon Collision Avoidance System (RAYCAS) radar, which, if functional, would have indicated to the third mate an impending collision with the Bligh reef by detecting the “radar reflector”, placed on the next rock inland from Bligh Reef for the purpose of keeping boats on course via radar.

In light of the above and other findings, investigative reporter Greg Palast stated in 2008 “Forget the drunken skipper fable. As to Captain Joe Hazelwood, he was below decks, sleeping off his bender. At the helm, the third mate never would have collided with Bligh Reef had he looked at his RAYCAS radar. But the radar was not turned on. In fact, the tanker’s radar was left broken and disabled for more than a year before the disaster, and Exxon management knew it. It was (in Exxon’s view) just too expensive to fix and operate.” Exxon blamed Captain Hazelwood for the grounding of the tanker.

Economic and personal impact

In 1991, following the collapse of the local marine population (particularly clams, herring, and seals) the Chugach Alaska Corporation, an Alaska Native Corporation, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It has since recovered.

According to several studies funded by the state of Alaska, the spill had both short-term and long-term economic effects. These included the loss of recreational sports, fisheries, reduced tourism, and an estimate of what economists call “existence value”, which is the value to the public of a pristine Prince William Sound.

The economy of the city of Cordova, Alaska was adversely affected after the spill damaged stocks of salmon and herring in the area. Several residents, including one former mayor, committed suicide after the spill.

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