Media

It’s his ESPN fantasy draft, but Matthew Berry is obsessed…

“That Rebecca Black “Friday” video. It haunts me. Why does she have to get down to the bus stop to catch the bus if her friends are picking her up? How are they driving? They are 13. Why does she have to ride in the middle of the back seat — the least desirable of all seat assignments — if she is actually taking the time to consider where she should sit? And then at night, why are all the friends different? The morning kids are good enough to give her a ride to school, but not party with her? What’s that about? And why is she still singing about where to sit? She’s chosen a seat. Is she conflicted about her seat choice? And — as she sings — they’re going so fast, why isn’t she wearing a seat belt? What’s with the awkward friend with braces who sits next to her in the car and seems to move out of rhythm to the beat of the song? Why is she acknowledged in the song but the girl on the left isn’t? What’s wrong with her? And why aren’t they in any of the other scenes? Were they dropped off before the party? Do they no longer want to party party (yeah) party party (yeah)? Did she get confused and forget that Friday is before Saturday and after Thursday? Does anyone? Why the need to talk about the calendar in the song? Why is an adult in his mid-30s suddenly rapping to a 13-year-old girl? About driving and noticing her school bus, which she doesn’t even ride? They don’t look related, so why the interest in her? Does he have nothing better to do? He’s alone in his car. Is he lonely? Does he have no friends? Is his interest in Rebecca’s life because he has no friends or does he have no friends because they are weirded out by his interest in Rebecca’s life?

“When she sings “we we we so excited,” why the sudden use of incorrect grammar? Did she skip that day in English class because she was learning which days come after which days? Not to get all stick-in-the-mud, but where are the parents at the party? They are all 13 years old. There’s (correctly) no booze, so what do they do at this party? Besides have fun fun fun fun? And stand around watching her sing? And she’s standing in front of a tree raised up above her friends singing. How is she suddenly that much taller than them? Is there a stage in front of the tree in case someone at the party decided to sing outdoors? Do people sing at these parties all the time? Seriously. I need to discuss this with someone for two days straight. So. Many. Questions.”

http://sports.espn.go.com/fantasy/baseball/flb/story?page=mlbdk2k11_mock3

Economics / Socioculture

Two legal cases I’m just now catching up to (shame on me): the discrimination class-action lawsuit against WalMart, and the Missouri legislature’s efforts to weaken whistleblower protection laws.

“At stake is whether the suit can go forward as a class action that could involve 500,000 to 1.6 million women, according to varying estimates, and potentially could cost the world’s largest retailer billions of dollars.
“But the case’s potential importance goes well beyond the Wal-Mart dispute, as evidenced by more than two dozen briefs filed by business interests on Wal-Mart’s side, and civil rights, consumer and union groups on the other.
“The question is crucial to the viability of discrimination claims, which become powerful vehicles to force change when they are presented together, instead of individually. Class actions increase pressure on businesses to settle suits because of the cost of defending them and the potential for very large judgments.
“Columbia University law professor John Coffee said that the high court could bring a virtual end to employment discrimination class actions filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, depending on how it decides the Wal-Mart case.
“Litigation brought by individuals under Title VII is just too costly,” Coffee said. “It’s either class action or nothing.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/28/walmart-sex-bias-suit-hea_n_841335.html

“When legislators or lobbyists talk about a bill in the Missouri General Assembly that would weaken protection for whistleblowers, they often call it the “Enterprise bill.”
“The reason is that Enterprise Rent-a-Car of Clayton has made it a top legislative priority for the past five years, ever since the firm lost a whistleblower lawsuit filed by its fired corporate comptroller, Thomas P. Dunn.
“The Senate-passed version of the whistleblower provision is expected to come up in the House soon after the members return from recess. The bill would remove whistleblower protection from an employee who warned a company it was about to violate a law. Under the bill, whistleblower protection would kick in only after the company had actually violated the law. So a whistleblower would not be protected while trying to prevent illegal conduct.
“Why would anyone want to wait until a nuclear plant melts down or Deepwater Horizon blows up before extending protection to a whistleblower who could prevent a disaster like that?” asked Matthew Ghio, one of the lawyers who represented Dunn. “Dunn blew the whistle (at Enterprise) before any of the accounting scandals at Enron or WorldCom that involved Arthur Andersen. There still would be an Arthur Andersen today if Tom had worked there.”

http://gatewayjr.org/2011/03/25/so-called-enterprise-bill-would-weaken-protections-for-whistleblowers/

Economics

It’s going to be a long, slow, painful process to incorporate Dodd-Frank into today’s financial wealth-producing sausage factory.

“Regulators in Washington, in Basel, Switzerland, and elsewhere have failed to agree on rules for the much-touted “resolution authority” in the new law. Theoretically, this rule is supposed to give the United States the right to liquidate or unwind a failing firm, no matter how big, without the systemic crash that nearly followed the Lehman bankruptcy of September 2008. The rule is still just a draft, however, and so far it doesn’t look very workable internationally.
“Citibank is a $1.8 trillion company, in 171 countries with 550 clearance and settlement systems,” says one senior Federal Reserve Board regulator who would speak frankly only on condition of anonymity. “We think we’re going to effectively resolve that using Dodd-Frank? Good luck!” He calls the failure to clarify resolution authority one of the law’s “major failings.”
“Dodd-Frank has its defenders, of course. FDIC head Sheila Bair—the regulator most responsible for implementing the resolution authority—says that the rule is still being developed, along with the 250-odd other Dodd-Frank regulations and studies in process. In an interview with National Journal last week, Bair sternly warned Wall Street against overconfidence and defended the government’s stance. “The first thing everybody needs to understand about [the rule] is that it puts the burden on the institution itself to show it can be resolved. It’s not our obligation to show whether Citi or any large institution can be resolved” or broken up in a crisis, said Bair, a tough critic of banks, who plans to leave her job by summer. “If they’re not able to rationalize their legal structure or the resolvability of financial operations,” she said, the FDIC and the Fed will have the power to order structural changes and the divesting of assets.
“Serious questions remain, however, about whether the Fed, FDIC, or other regulators will ever have the know-how—or backbone—to demand that firms divest themselves of dubious or risky assets. “Bottom line: Nobody on Wall Street believes that these big institutions are no longer too big to fail,” says Dan Senor, a New York City hedge-fund manager who doubles as an informal Republican advisor in Washington. “No one believes they would not be bailed out and backstopped in some way by the government. That’s just the reality.” Senor, a graduate of Harvard Business School, adds: “No one on Wall Street believes you can look at the financial statements of these big companies and understand them. They’re incomprehensible. They were incomprehensible before the crisis, and they’re incomprehensible today. So how [are] the SEC or other regulators going to be able to do it?”
“Bair says that the major international financial institutions would be well advised to remember that “the law is the law,” and that it would be dangerous indeed to assume that firms like Citi are too big to fail. “If I were an investor, I would not assume that whatsoever,” she says. “I think some of these large entities try to make it sound more complicated than it really is. I don’t know that’s the case.… Most of these international operations are concentrated in major jurisdictions where we have a good bilateral relationship.”

http://nationaljournal.com/magazine/vikram-pandit-s-citigroup-growing-out-of-washington-s-control–20110328?page=1

Sports

A few months ago, Washington Redskins owner and textbook asshole Dan Snyder filed a libel suit against Dave McKenna of Washington’s City Paper for this A-to-Z guide to why Dan Snyder is,…well…, a textbook asshole. Why anyone on the eastern seaboard, or the U.S. in general, would give this guy a dime of their money is beyond me. Some highlights:

Bankrupt Airline Peanuts: What Snyder was selling to fans at FedExField. During the 2006 season, vendors offered shelled nuts in royal blue and white 5 oz. bags adorned with the Independence Air logo. Problem: The airline had gone under about a year earlier. The supplier told Washington City Paper that it stopped shipping the airline’s nuts “before Independence Air went out of business.” A spokesman for the Peanut Council told City Paper that to prevent rancidity, the recommended shelf life of a foil bag of out-of-shell peanuts was “about three months.”

Hill, Pat: Down-on-her-luck 73-year-old grandmother—and five-decade Redskins season-ticketholder—who was sued by the Redskins in 2009 because she could not afford to keep up payments on the 10-year, $50,000-plus club seats contract she’d signed.

Knott, Rene: D.C. sportscaster who in 2000 was forced to do live reports from the Redskins Park parking lot while peers filmed inside the practice facility. Knott’s employer, WJLA-TV, was the only local network affiliate that did not pay Snyder to become a “media partner” of the team.

Labor Laws: Something Snyder has had trouble with. In 2006, Snyder was sued by a former nanny, Juliette Mendonca, who told a Montgomery County court that when she pointed out she was being shortchanged and asked for proper recompense, Snyder screamed, “I pay you more than my Redskins Park people! I can’t afford to pay you like this!” The court ordered Snyder to pay Mendonca $44,880. In 2008, Snyder faced a lawsuit from a group of FedExField ticket office employees who weren’t being paid for extra hours. The team argued that the Redskins ticket office wasn’t covered by standard overtime laws, citing a 1932 exemption for “amusement and recreation employees” in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The exemption, however, was meant to cover lifeguards and greenskeepers, not office employees. Snyder settled the suit with the employees earlier this year. James Rubin, a Montgomery County attorney who represented the ticket sellers, says that he was shocked to learn during the case that Snyder now requires all employees to sign a document waiving their right to sue him “as a condition of employment.”

Market Segments: How Snyder viewed cancer patients and diabetics during his marketing days. In a 2000 interview for a PBS show called CEO Exchange, Snyder told host Jeff Greenfield that his business depended on coming up with “$5 million niches” that he could sell goods and services to. Asked for examples of his methodology, Snyder said, “We were looking at trend lines. We saw that the aging baby boomer demographics were coming on strong. That meant there’s going to be a lot more diabetic patients, a lot more cancer patients, etc. How do we capture those market segments?”

Official Mattress of Six Flags: Anatomic Global. Over time, Snyder had shown his sponsorship mania by inking deals that gave Six Flags an official mayonnaise and the Redskins an official carpet installer. In June 2009, weeks after the theme park chain filed for bankruptcy, Snyder signed a deal for an official mattress. In the few months before his removal from the board, Snyder actually started selling the mattresses at his theme parks ($1,299 for a queen size).

Pentagon Flag Hat: A Redskins cap sold for profit by Snyder to “commemorate September 11” in time for the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Ads boasted that the $23.99 caps, really just black Redskins hats with a red, white, and blue Pentagon sewn on the side, were “expected to be worn by the Redskins coaches.” No other NFL team put 9/11 commemorative products for sale during the 2006 season, for profit or otherwise. Snyder had previously added a $4 “security surcharge” to the ticket prices soon after the attacks.

Ringing Endorsement”: What Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen gave ex-Broncos coach Mike Shanahan during private conversations with Snyder last year. Bowlen had fired Shanahan after the 2008 season with three years remaining on a massive contract. With Bowlen’s blessing, Snyder hired Shanahan, thereby taking Bowlen off the hook for about $7 million of the money that was still owed on his contract.

Several Million Dollars”: Amount Snyder was paid by StubHub as part of the Redskins’ 2008 deal with the online ticket clearinghouse, according to StubHub spokesman Sean Pate. At the time, Snyder had been taking tickets away from season ticketholders for violating team’s policy against reselling tickets. The Washington Times reported that the team even repossessed six tickets from the Braloves, a D.C. family that had had them “since the 1940s,” after Redskins detectives found that they’d put some tickets up for sale on eBay.

Smith, Bruce, Rear End Of: The only thing fans who bought the first run of Snyder’s Dream Seats had a great look at. Before the 2000 season, Snyder installed 1,488 field level seats at FedExField. To that point in football history, the front rows were regarded as the worst vantage point in a stadium, since the players on the sideline block the view, and were priced accordingly. Snyder charged $3,000 per Dream Seat.”

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/articles/40063/the-cranky-redskins-fans-guide-to-dan-snyder/

The McKenna / City Paper Legal Defense Fund:

“Whatever we raise will be used to pay our legal costs, and whatever we don’t spend fighting Snyder’s lawsuit, we’ll give to a local charity in the spirit of this fund. This is about showing Snyder you support our right—and anyone’s right—to write the truth about him, or any powerful public figure, even if it’s not flattering.
“Please don’t send us money you can’t afford to spare; we know what the economy is like, and we value your moral support just as much as your financial support. City Paper is not a non-profit organization, which means contributions to our legal defense fund are not charitable donations and are not tax-exempt for federal, state, or D.C. income tax purposes.”


http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/legaldefense

Economics / Socioculture

Has housing bottomed? Not even close

“If you want to know where the housing market is headed, keep an eye on inventory. That’s the whole ball of wax. When inventory balloons, prices go down. At present, inventory is rising (8.9 month’s supply) which means that prices have further to fall. But these figures don’t include the vast shadow inventory that the banks are holding off-market. Many analysts think there could be another 5 to 6 years of inventory stacked up on bank’s balance sheets. The Wall Street Journal’s Mark Whitehouse takes an even grimmer view. He thinks the backlog could be in the vicinity of 9 years.
“Prices are falling, home equity is drying up, foreclosures are at record highs, and the incentive to “walk away” and let the bank take the mortgage-loss has never been greater. All of the mortgage modification programs have been a total failure. The Fed purchased $1.7 trillion of garbage mortgage-backed securities (MBS) from the banks, but hasn’t lifted a finger to help homeowners. All of the pain from the $8 trillion housing bubble has all been shunted onto the backs of ordinary working people.”

http://www.counterpunch.org/whitney03252011.html

Foreign Policy

There are actually two devils we know in Libya, and we seem to be enabling the wrong one…

“Amid the apparent absence of any plan for post-Gaddafi governance, an ignorance of Libya’s tribal nature and our poor record of dealing with tribes, American government documents conclusively establish that the epicenter of the revolt is rife with anti-American and pro-jihad sentiment, and with al-Qaeda’s explicit support for the revolt, it is appropriate to ask our policymakers how American military intervention in support of this revolt in any way serves vital U.S. strategic interests.”

http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn03252011.html