Guest Post: SCOTUS to PCAOB: Do Not Go to Jail; Do Pass Go and Go, Go, Go

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 , , , 1 Comments

Editor's note: Since JDA is still enjoying the sights and sounds of New York this week, our favorite anti-IFRS-in-the-US academic, The Summa's Professor David Albrecht, was kind enough to provide some words on the SCOTUS PCAOB decision yesterday. For more from Prof Albrecht, check out The Summa or stalk him on Twitter.

Some of you love all things SOX. Oops, that’s Sarbanes-Oxley instead of White or Red. Some of you hate all things SOX (especially if you are a Yankee fan and are thinking about Boston).. Those that hate Sarbanes-Oxley are trying either to maim it, or kill it.

Maiming is a fait accompli, given that a provision was added to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act exempting companies with market caps of less than $75 million from 404-b requirements (auditors must opine on internal controls).

Homicide has always been the back-up. The hired guns are Beckstead and Watts, LLP (which has a history of serving small publicly-traded and development-stage companies), and a supporting group, the Free Enterprise Fund. It all started when the PCAOB inspected Beckstead and Watts, issued a negative review of its auditing procedures, and started a formal investigation that potentially could result in fines and/or no longer being permitted to serve SEC registrants. Beckstead and Watts (along with ally Free Enterprise Fund), sued the PCAOB, asking that it be declared unconstitutional and its actions nullified. If successful, Beckstead and Watts would prove conclusively that payback is truly a bitch.

Smaller corporations have been rooting for the lawsuit, while pushing for Congressional passage of the exemption. Audit firms have been ambivalent. Large firms were able to get rich from internal control consulting. Small firms are bleeding from compliance costs. There are a lot of smaller corps and small audit firms rooting for maiming and killing.

Today, the Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS) issued its decision. A small part of SOX is declared unconstitutional. But the beauty of the legal system is that it really doesn’t matter, the offending part of SOX is just excess verbage. Remove it, and the PCAOB is allowed to continue in existence doing whatever it has been doing for the past seven years.

Beckstead and Watts, LLP, and the Free Enterprise won, but there is no prize for them. SCOTUS says that the constitutionality issue has no bearing on PCAOB operations. The case is remanded back to the U.S. district court, but most likely there will be no relief for Beckstead and Watts.

PCAOB, you are now cleared to roam about the country, inspecting audit firms to your heart’s content.


Hello, Beautiful

Monday, June 28, 2010 0 Comments

It's about 1,000 degrees in New York and I'm sweating like a little hipster pig but the company is good, the people are fairly nice and oh look, it's the National Debt Clock.

All this time I had no idea it was so conveniently located right next to an IRS office. Perfect.


Will the PCAOB be Out of a Job Next Week?

Friday, June 25, 2010 , , , 2 Comments

Alright, the odds of that happening are highly unlikely. Let's hope the SCOTUS is too busy to take care of this in the beginning of the week and the PCAOB gets its ass handed to it Thursday or Friday when I am back at work.

WebCPA's Debits & Credits:

The high court is expected to hand down its ruling in that case and several other high-profile cases this Thursday or next Monday, or possibly later next week. But there isn’t much time left as the Supreme Court traditionally ends its term in June, and the confirmation hearings for court nominee Elena Kagan are due to begin next Monday. Kagan argued the government’s case on behalf of the PCAOB as solicitor general, which would make it awkward for the court to rule against her arguments on the week of her confirmation hearings.

Even if the Supreme Court bows and allows the PCAOB to stand as is, it might work against us for that whole globalization thing we're trying to pull off:

Even France’s official stock market regulator, the Autorite des Marches Financiers, seems to be wary of the PCAOB, reiterating an earlier ruling this week that the board does not have the right to inspect auditing firms in France, according to Dow Jones Newswires. If the U.S. Supreme Court throws down the gauntlet at the PCAOB too, it would certainly not be a great week for the beleaguered board.

The bright side for the PCAOB, like I said, is that Jr Deputy Accountant will be out of town this week and therefore mostly away from the computer and not up their asses. Cheers, kids, now go find some little audit firms to screw with.


Chris Dodd Learns a Lesson in Congressional B*tchfighting

In reality, Dodd has actually written the how-to when it comes to political bitchfighting so this is nothing new to the esteemed gentleman from Connecticut. Especially since he's the biggest bitch of them all.

Ahem. Turns out financial reform is not going as swimmingly as Dodd would like. Give 'em hell, dissenters, the outcome of this bill could decide just how heavy a yoke your grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren carry on behalf of the banks.


Dodd flashed his own frustration at how some lawmakers have asked for changes to the legislation without intending to vote for the final product.

"I'm all for improving the bill and listening to ideas," he said, "but at some point, people have to let me know that they're going to actually be there."

He echoed comments he made to reporters late Wednesday evening, after another long day of trying to corral enough votes to send the landmark legislation to the president.

"My pockets are filled with notes," Dodd said of the messages he gets from colleagues seeking changes to the bill when he heads to the Senate floor. "When I come back, I feel like a bulletin board. . . . Every time I ask the question, 'Will you be supportive of the bill?' I get these blank stares. People tell me they want to improve the bill, but they don't want the bill."

Those wouldn't be Federal Reserve Notes stuffed in Dodd's pocket now would they? Pffft.

The bitches have skipped working on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for the moment and moved on to hammering out how they want to handle derivatives. We wish them the best of luck with that cluck mission. Really.


Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Enron's Skilling But Won't Touch an Appeal

Thursday, June 24, 2010 , 0 Comments

Sooo.... what good does this do Jeffrey Skilling exactly?


The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the convictions of former Enron chief executive Jeffrey K. Skilling and former Hollinger International chief executive Conrad M. Black “flawed,” finding fault in interpretations of the statutes used to prosecute the two men.

The justices sent both cases back to lower courts for review. The conviction of Mr. Black was vacated and remanded because it was based on the precedent set by Mr. Skilling’s conviction.

Thus far, this is the most progress Skilling has seen towards overturning his conviction but the SCOTUS isn't interested in actually overturning anything, just clarifying a tad.

Damn dude, should have faked a heart attack like your buddy Ken.


Medvedev Sends Out His Virgin Tweet from Twitter HQ in SF

Thursday, June 24, 2010 , , 0 Comments

 Pic credit: Carrot Blog

Awww, how cute, Russian president Dmitri Medvedev sent out his very first tweet yesterday as @KremlinRussia. The account has already been verified by Twitter (duh, he was standing right there in the office) and it didn't take long for Medvedev's crew to start tweeting like mad, racking up 17 tweets in a little over 24 hours. Slow it down there, killer!

Apparently "Всем привет! Я в Твиттере и это мое6 первое сообщение!" translates to "Hello everyone. I am now in Twitter, and this is my first message" and Medvedev feels compelled to follow just three accounts; the White House, Barack Obama and the English-language version of Kremlin Russia.

No @Schwarzenegger? Awww... and what about @ZimbabweBen? That dude could really use some legit friends since half of Congress unfollowed him.


TLP: This May Sound Familiar

Thursday, June 24, 2010 , , 0 Comments

stimulus south carolina
Would it be filthy to say Nikki Haley has a little Mark Sanford in her? I'd only mean it in the best way possible. Besides, the "I-did-Nikki" stories are already played out in South Carolina politics.

Now that she's the Republican nominee to succeed Sanford as governor (and you know he can't wait for his term to end), Haley is getting to discuss her positions talk about what she'd do if elected. Top of the list: stimulus payments, a Sanford classic.

Newly-minted South Carolina Republican gubernatorial nominee Nikki Haley showed her conservative bona fides Wednesday in an interview that aired on CNN's John King, USA.

"Absolutely not," Haley said when asked by CNN Chief National Correspondent John King whether, as governor, she would accept additional economic stimulus funds from Democratically-controlled Washington. "You know, that's the problem that we've had right now, is government is trying to be all things to all people. What we need to understand is, this is not about losing teachers, this is not about losing law enforcement, this is not about what you spend, it's about how you spend."
Very admirable approach. And Sanford no doubt would approve. But Darling Nikki will need to find a better argument than Sanford used if it comes to that.


Mortgage-Backed Securities Gone Wild

Thursday, June 24, 2010 , 1 Comments

Seriously deep discount on MBSs
No job? No problem!

When Pimco says it's insane, it's insane.

Business Week:

Mortgage securities with U.S.-backed guarantees are trading at record high prices on speculation homeowner refinancing will fail to accelerate and as supply of the bonds remains limited.

The average price of $5.2 trillion of bonds guaranteed by government-supported Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or federal agency Ginnie Mae climbed to 106.3 cents on the dollar yesterday, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Mortgage Master Index. That’s up from 104.2 cents on March 31, when the Federal Reserve ended its program purchasing $1.25 trillion of the debt.

Gee I wonder what on Earth would make speculators feel that way?


TLP: Does Congress Get 'Injury Time'?

Thursday, June 24, 2010 , , 0 Comments

financial reform congress
Let the metaphors begin ...

The most sweeping changes to U.S. financial laws since the Great Depression may be a top Obama administration priority, but they took a backseat to Landon Donovan’s World Cup heroics Wednesday.

Top congressional Democrats huddling on Capitol Hill Wednesday to pin down the last details of the financial overhaul legislation paused to watch the closing moments of the U.S. soccer team’s match against Algeria. Meeting attendees, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, were rewarded for delaying the high-stakes negotiations on Wall Street reforms after Donovan buried a rebound into the back of Algeria’s net in the first minute of injury time.

Victory for the U.S in hand, negotiators quickly turned back to a less vuvuzela-worthy topic: derivatives.
I guess we'll see how inspirational the win turns out to be.


It Turns Out It was Al Gore's Sex Drive Burning Holes in the Ozone Layer All Along

Thursday, June 24, 2010 4 Comments

 Who knew Gore even had one?


This is Why You Shouldn't Pay Your Mortgage

Thursday, June 24, 2010 , , , 3 Comments

If you don't, Fannie Mae won't turn you in or tear your house down, they'll just make it so you can't get another one for seven years.

What's seven years? Now's a good time to rent, especially once new "homeowners" realize they can't afford their mortgage payments and need a little help with the bills. Not that they care, it's totally worth the $8000 tax credit I'm sure.


Fannie Mae said Wednesday it would "lock out" borrowers from getting a new loan for seven years if they default on a mortgage they could afford to pay.

The move represents the latest effort by the mortgage industry to prevent a new wave of losses that could result if more borrowers who can afford their monthly payments instead opt to "strategically" default on loans, because they owe far more than their homes are worth.

"Walking away from a mortgage is bad for borrowers and bad for communities, and our approach is meant to deter the disturbing trend toward strategic defaulting," said Terence Edwards, Fannie's executive vice president for credit portfolio management.

That's asking nicely but I don't see a 7 year embargo on your non-mortgage-paying ass as all that horrible of a punishment if they're trying to be threatening about it.

Remember when you didn't want to be the one guy on the block not paying his mortgage? Oh the humiliation. Now where's the guilt and shame? Replaced by failing Obama administration programs, "free" money and a race to shed the debt and break free.


Try Being Stuck on a Hot Ass Airplane in Connecticut

Thursday, June 24, 2010 0 Comments

No, serious, you should try it, it sounds fun.

I don't need to be reading this stuff days before hopping on a plane, but that's hoping I get through TSA. Last time, I managed to get to Dallas and back with no government-issued photo ID but it wasn't easy. This time, I have the government picture ID so will therefore be trying to get more "inappropriate" items in my carry on. I'm not talking anything that isn't allowed by TSA (I learned my lesson with the fake plastic bullet belt in Richmond), I'm talking about making things exciting for the TSA in this t-shirt with this stashed in my bag. xoxo, TSA, love you.


Derivatives "Reform" or "Let's Just Pretend It Isn't a Problem but Act Like We Fixed It" ?

 Pic credit: MTTS

A-ha! I fucking love "reform" in this country. God bless America!


Three of the five U.S. banks that dominate swaps trading already perform most transactions outside their depository institutions and would face minimal disruption from a congressional proposal to reorder the derivatives business, financial statements and banking records show.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. would be hit hardest by the proposal, crafted by Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln, to wall off swaps desks from commercial banks. JPMorgan had 98 percent of its $142 billion in current value derivatives holdings inside its bank in the first quarter of this year while Citigroup had 89 percent of $112 billion, the records show.

Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., each of which entered the commercial banking business in 2008 in the midst of the financial crisis, would be less affected. Morgan Stanley kept just over 1 percent of its $86 billion in derivatives holdings in its bank in the first quarter, and Goldman Sachs Group’s held 32 percent of its $104 billion. Bank of America Corp., which absorbed broker-dealer Merrill Lynch in 2009, had 33 percent of its $115 billion in its bank.

Now might be a good time to introduce a handy chart that shows the latest OCC data on derivatives exposure, or, more specifically, shows the concentration of said derivatives exposure among FIVE banks. You know, that would be the five banks that Blanche Lincoln might have wanted to target with this "reform" plan of hers. Just sayin, cue chart:

And let's see, just who are those five banks?

JP Morgan, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Citi, and Wells Fargo eh? Well four out of five ain't bad except that fifth is a bitch, how on Earth does Goldman get to weasel out of this?

From the OCC report:

The report shows that the notional amount of derivatives held by insured U.S. commercial banks increased by $8.5 trillion (or 4.2 percent) in the fourth quarter to $212.8 trillion. Interest rate contracts increased $7 trillion to $179.6 trillion, while credit derivatives increased 8 percent to $14 trillion.

The report also noted that:
  • Banks hold collateral to cover 67% of their NCCE. The quality of the collateral is very high, as 81% is cash (US dollar and non-dollar).
  • Derivatives contracts are concentrated in a small number of institutions. The largest five banks hold 97 percent of the total notional amount of derivatives, while the largest 25 banks hold nearly 100 percent.
  • Credit default swaps are the dominant product in the credit derivatives market, representing 98 percent of total credit derivatives.
  • The number of commercial banks holding derivatives decreased by 35 in the quarter to 1,030.

The above chart is meaningless if you aren't intimately acquainted with these firms' RBC numbers so let's instead use something we all know: dollars. Keep in mind these are expressed in millions, and as we all know millions of millions are trillions. Moving on, let's peek at the top 25 commercial banks:

So that's $78 TRILLION for JP Morgan, with Bank of America lamely limping behind at $44 trillion. The bank holding company top 25 is even better:

So um what was that about "reform" again? Good luck with that!


Surprise, Surprise, the FOMC Doesn't Budge on Extended Period

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 , , 2 Comments

If you're actually shocked by this news, you really need to start paying better attention.

Via the Board:

Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in April suggests that the economic recovery is proceeding and that the labor market is improving gradually. Household spending is increasing but remains constrained by high unemployment, modest income growth, lower housing wealth, and tight credit. Business spending on equipment and software has risen significantly; however, investment in nonresidential structures continues to be weak and employers remain reluctant to add to payrolls. Housing starts remain at a depressed level. Financial conditions have become less supportive of economic growth on balance, largely reflecting developments abroad. Bank lending has continued to contract in recent months. Nonetheless, the Committee anticipates a gradual return to higher levels of resource utilization in a context of price stability, although the pace of economic recovery is likely to be moderate for a time.

Prices of energy and other commodities have declined somewhat in recent months, and underlying inflation has trended lower. With substantial resource slack continuing to restrain cost pressures and longer-term inflation expectations stable, inflation is likely to be subdued for some time.

The Committee will maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and continues to anticipate that economic conditions, including low rates of resource utilization, subdued inflation trends, and stable inflation expectations, are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for an extended period.

The Committee will continue to monitor the economic outlook and financial developments and will employ its policy tools as necessary to promote economic recovery and price stability.

Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; James Bullard; Elizabeth A. Duke; Donald L. Kohn; Sandra Pianalto; Eric S. Rosengren; Daniel K. Tarullo; and Kevin M. Warsh. Voting against the policy action was Thomas M. Hoenig, who believed that continuing to express the expectation of exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for an extended period was no longer warranted because it could lead to a build-up of future imbalances and increase risks to longer-run macroeconomic and financial stability, while limiting the Committee’s flexibility to begin raising rates modestly.

Told you so.


TLP: Is Orrin Hatch High?

drug test unemployedLook at the cute little entrepreneurs

The Utah senator wants to drug-test the unemployed, you know, just to make sure. Well, fuck, that's a lot of people when the unemployment rate is around 10 percent. And also, isn't being out of work the perfect time for that sort of thing? Anyway.

Hatch has been talking this idea up with The Huffington Post:

Utah voters have reacted enthusiastically to Sen. Orrin Hatch's legislation to drug test the unemployed and those receiving other forms of government cash assistance, the Utah Republican told the Huffington Post after introducing his measure last week.

"A lot of people are saying, 'Hey, it's about time. Why do we keep giving money to people who are going to go use it on drugs instead of their families?'" Hatch said.

The goal, he said, is to get users into treatment.

"Now, it doesn't do away with food stamps. And it does get the help for them that they really need. And if they get the help, then they're right back on to the cash," he said.

Got to love Hatch's polling sample of Utah voters. No surprise about the enthusiasm, but, uh, maybe some of them could stand to undergo a piss test.


Tobacco is a Big Business for the Government (Duh)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 2 Comments

How Much is the Government Making Off of Tobacco? (via the Turbo Tax blog. No kidding)


The UK Seeks to Solve Its Budget Problems By Taking It Out of Brits' Arses (Naturally)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 , , 2 Comments

Sorry, that headline shouldn't read "asses", it should read "wallets" but "asses" sounds so much more ominous. (And actually now reads "arses" thanks to my astute friend Dan from


Chancellor George Osborne's 2.5% VAT rise is to help balance Britain's books, but many shoppers at Europe's biggest urban retail centre are not convinced it is a price worth paying.

The increase in VAT from 17.5% to 20% from 4 January received a mixed reaction from people at Westfield in west London.

As news of the biggest package of tax increases and spending cuts in a generation filtered down to the streets, some were incensed, others unsurprised.

Kelly Byrne, a senior sales assistant at a clothing store, said the VAT rise was unfair on ordinary people "in basic jobs, on basic wages".

As I've said all along, America, pay attention because we're generally just a few months behind.

If you live in the UK, just stop buying the shit. There has to be a way around it, the idiots always leave a big fat gaping way around it. You are offered voluntary (sales) taxes and involuntary (property/income) taxes, why feed into the voluntary when they become too much to handle? Fuck them. The involuntary are bad enough, like when they tax your unemployment check that comes from them. Can I please borrow a government mathlete or tax expert to explain that one to me?

The GZA feels me on that.


Bernanke Owes China, Was Just Recently Able to Visit

Business Week:

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s efforts to keep U.S. prices and employment from falling may get a helping hand from China’s decision to let its currency gain against the dollar.

Greater yuan flexibility will eventually raise prices of goods imported to the U.S. after a decline in the consumer price index for two straight months and as some Fed officials voice concern about inflation slowing too much. The move should also eventually increase U.S. exports of aircraft, steel and wheat to China, said Charles Lieberman, a former New York Fed official.

Well FUCK that's hilarious, I thought they were pressuring China because it was the right thing to do! No one could have suspected that things would appear to work out in Bernanke's favor.

Should also and will eventually are words to be wholly ignored when spoken by economists, who tend to miss the slightest shiver because they're too fixated on the broader picture. Or get too obsessed with one event (like ZB getting off on the first GD and now navigating GD II like a giddy fucking schoolgirl) and totally blow off everything else. You know what I'm talking about.

I'll believe it when I see it.

Funny, Bernanke was pretty much banned in China up until this little meet and greet.


TLP: Well, It Is Lovely Hiking Weather

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 , 0 Comments

sanford vacation
You'd think with all the other craziness going on in South Carolina politics that Gov. Mark Sanford could get away for a couple of days.

Sanford, who also is honorary governor of this website, just because, took a vacation without necessarily telling everyone where he was. It happens.

The AP plays catch-up on HuffPo:

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is back in the office after again taking a vacation without telling the lieutenant governor where he was.

Sanford spokesman Ben Fox would not say Tuesday where the governor was, except to say he's been off.

Last June, Sanford disappeared and then returned to the state to say he had been in Argentina visiting a woman he later called his "soulmate." Sanford and his wife, Jenny, divorced in March.

Fox says Sanford spent most of the Father's Day weekend with his four sons and just took Monday off.

Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer said Monday no one told him where the governor was. Fox says the office doesn't do that because Sanford remains in contact with staff.
In any case, as much excitement as Sanford brought to the governor's office, the potential seems exponentially brighter in the years ahead. It's all up to you, South Carolina voters.


The Governator Celebrates Our New Russian Park Service

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 , , 0 Comments

 Awesome, don't even have to do any PhotoShop...

I am more than familiar with the area around the Fairmont, where the hell did these asshats find a place to park while they sold our state parks to the Russians?

SF Gate:

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at his side, toasted a groundbreaking international partnership to help state parks Tuesday -- and announced plans for a state trade mission to Russia which he said would be "very beneficial" for both parties to build partnerships in business and high tech.

There was business, diplomacy and celebrating in the evening, as Schwarzenegger welcomed and regaled Medvedev for the ceremonies and meeting at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco Tuesday.

The governor told the Chronicle in an interview that he was especially pleased that Medvedev chose California as his first stop in the United States, and that the Russian president was at his side to witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Russian-based Renova Group of Companies that will preserve California's Fort Ross State Historic Park, a Russian-American settlement dating from the 1800s.

"Russian private investment will help the state,'' Schwarzenegger said. "It's a great collaberation. [sic]"

First of all, let's not rag on the Chronicle for letting "collaberation" slip... in an Online publication... that would presumably contain some sort of spell check. And it is entirely possible that Schwarzenegger spoke it spelled wrong.

Second of all, do I even need to make the "vodka for pot" joke?


It Ain't Over Til (Non Tax Credit Influenced) Home Sales Say It's Over

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 , , 1 Comments

6:20am June 22nd: Ahead of the Bell: May home sales likely rose (AP)

11:42am June 22nd: Existing-home sales dip 2.2% in May
Unsold inventories fall but remain very high, realtors' data show


(For the record, the economists said home sales would rise in May. Pfffft shows what they know.)


Yeah, Forcing Tourists to Pay to Access San Francisco Sights is a GREAT Idea

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 , , 0 Comments

Psst, San Francisco has a bit of a budget problem in case you didn't get that memo.

SF Gate:

Out-of-town visitors will have to start paying an admission fee to San Francisco's tranquil and well-tended Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park, now that the Board of Supervisors signed off on the proposal after months of heated public debate.

San Francisco residents will continue to get free entry. The charge, set to go into effect in late July or early August, will be $7 for adults. Discounts will be offered to seniors and youths.

The total price for a family will be capped at $15. The money-making initiative is expected to generate $250,000 a year for the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, officials say.

I've never been but it doesn't look like I have to hurry up and go since San Francisco is deciding to take it out of tourist asses and not mine. Way to encourage them to come visit our city that relies so heavily on recession-battered hospitality money. FAIL.

I talk a lot of shit about them but even I understand that you have to at least BE NICE to the tourists. Come on now.


Tim Geithner Has Completely Forgotten the Point of TARP, Calls it a Success

Tuesday, June 22, 2010 , , , 0 Comments

Maybe Tim Geithner was too busy scheming on backroom bailouts running the NY Fed around the time TARP was passed but it appears as though he has forgotten that its original intention was to foster improved credit conditions for US consumers. OK wait, its truly original intention was to buy up crap assets but that got ditched shortly after it was passed so let's go with "bank lending" instead. Either way, he seems to be confused as to the definition of "working".

CNN Money:

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner defended the government's bailout of the financial system on Tuesday, saying it has been a "critical" part of the economic recovery and will ultimately cost less than expected.

Geithner is testifying before the Congressional Oversight Panel, the main watchdog for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. The government enacted TARP in 2008 at the height of the financial crisis. The program is due to expire in October.

While the economy remains challenged, Geithner said TARP and other "extraordinary actions" taken to combat the financial meltdown "have helped stabilize the financial system and restore economic growth."

So what WAS the goal, exactly, Timmy? Free money for the bankers? Some kind of sick money laundering operation using the sick banks to buy up Treasury debt? You tell me since you're the one who seemed to think it worked out the way it was supposed to.

I'll be over here waiting for credit markets to unfreeze whenever you're ready to talk.


TLP: Even The Middle Seat May Not Seem So Bad

Tuesday, June 22, 2010 , , 0 Comments

business travel costs
Tough economic times don't ordinarily result in more perks for the corporate drones. Usually, things go the other way: smaller bonuses, fewer trips, an extra-close review of the expense account. All those things that help the bottom line or make sure there still is a bottom line.

But some companies are taking an approach in their travel policies that may make employees hope that the recovery remains just out of reach a while longer.


Long before the economy foundered, Energizer Battery Company was looking for ways to cut its travel costs. After all, two-thirds of the company’s 5,000 to 6,000 employees travel for work, many of them overseas.

Its solution was an incentive program: it pays employees to fly coach, instead of business class, when traveling overseas.

“What we do for all locations except for Asia is we share the difference in the ticket price for up to $2,000,” said Doris Lee Middleton, the human resources and travel services manager at Energizer. “For Asia, it’s $3,000.”

Now, with the weak economy forcing them to make tough budget decisions, other travel managers are trying variations of the incentive program.

“Companies are always looking for creative ways to get more value out of their travel programs,” said Michael Steiner, executive vice president of Ovation Corporate Travel, one of the nation’s largest travel management companies.
Business travel is one of those things that cuts two ways. Next time you're in an airport, look around. Who's fucking hating it because this is the fifth trip this month and can't even remember what city it is. And who's on a bit of a junket, glad to be out of the office and just maybe has found a way to build a little something extra into company business? One will be happy to collect some cash to make up for getting on another plane. The incentive for the other traveler has nothing to do with money.


Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums is No One's B*tch, He's Got People for That

Tuesday, June 22, 2010 , 0 Comments

Fight the power!... uh... wait, aren't YOU the power?!

It appears that Oakland mayor Ron Dellums has been MIA in recent meetings between the City of Oakland and its police officer's union and now we know why: he ain't no union bitch, he's the CEO!


“I am the CEO of the city,” he told KTVU. “The President of the United States does not sit down and negotiate with unions. I have a staff to do that.”

What a prick. He should have plenty of time to sit down and negotiate with the TV when Oakland finally gets smart and fires his ass. After they fire 200 Oakland cops, of course.

Update: It doesn't end with Dellums' boneheaded "I'm the CEO" comment.

SF Gate:

"Who the (blank) are you to decide what my role is?" a raging Dellums told Shandobil in a phone call Monday, after the Oakland-based reporter showed up at City Hall to ask why Dellums has been seen at high profile boxing matches lately while being a no-show at major budget meetings and city council sessions where Oakland's fiscal crisis is Topic A.
How tacky. That might not be the best way for a guy facing a re-election battle to behave but maybe that's just me and my high standards judging again. Then again, Dellums still hasn't said whether or not he's going to be running again so we'll go ahead and assume that's a "no".


Alright, Who Lost the Fed Financial Accounting Manual?!

So cute that the Board of Governors would find it here on Jr Deputy Accountant.

Oh here it is!

New Fed Financial Accounting Manual Shows Creative Ways to Cook the Fed's Books. Erm, "Guidance"


TLP: A Completely Different Meaning For 'Opportunity Cost'

Tuesday, June 22, 2010 , , , 0 Comments

canadian animal crime
Whatever happened to the days when a "crime of opportunity" meant cleverly nabbing a purse that was left unattended in, oh, a department store dressing room or perhaps a Starbucks? In this economy, some thieves seem to be going for bigger prizes.

A zoo in Canada has pleaded for the safe return of a tiger and two camels that were stolen in transit last week.

Bowmanville Zoo, in Ontario, has even offered $2,000 (£1,325) for a picture of the animals being given water.

A $20,000 reward offered since Saturday has failed to produce any leads on the whereabouts of Jonas, a Bengal tiger, and camels Todd and Shawn.

They were in a trailer being moved from Nova Scotia to the zoo when their vehicle was stolen near Montreal.

The Ford truck hauling the trailer was found abandoned in Quebec early on Saturday. ...

Police believe it was an "opportunity crime", with the thieves being unaware what the cargo was.
Finding themselves the new owners of Todd and Shawn would certainly have been a shock for the Canadian crooks. But fresh meat on the other side of an open trailer door may have provided a wholly new and exciting sort of opportunity for a surprised Bengal tiger. Rawwwwr.


Is Gavin Trying to Sell San Francisco Water or Himself?

Watch him go! (via the LA Times):

“San Francisco has some of the best water in the world,” Newsom said in a statement from the mayor's office Monday. “Grab a reusable bottle, and fill it up. You’re being good to your body, your pocketbook and the environment all at once.”

(for the record, I drink the stuff and I'm still alive. Screw bottles. Then again, I'm from Milwaukee and you can't really top what happened to our water in 1993.)


TLP: Live From Atlanta, Smelly Pirate Hookers

Tuesday, June 22, 2010 , , , 0 Comments

No surprise that CNN is dumping the AP. Too costly and the AP material CNN has been paying for is out there anyway, all over the Web. Just click, cut-and-paste, make a call, rewrite and, like magic, brand-new news.

It's an old trick, which CNN is tarting up by saying that CNN, which has been in operation for 25 years, would now be the "primary source of all content for all of our platforms and services." Baby steps, kids, baby steps.

When The Lazy Paperboy worked as a newspaper reporter, it was great entertainment to stand around the newsroom teevee and watch the local stations read our stories on the air. Word for word. One after the other. Then we went drinking.

Stay classy, CNN.


CNN Breaks Up with the AP

Tuesday, June 22, 2010 , 0 Comments

pic credit: schill via Flickr

While CNN says it will not be using AP's content anymore "to become less dependent on outside news sources", it's good to know that this is really a money thing and Turner Broadcasting will continue to gather news recon the new, free way: via the Internet.

When information and news is coming at you 24 hours a day, the necessity of value-added content becomes all that much more critical to media. Where's the value for CNN? They don't have to pay AP for the actual words and can keep combing blogs and news sites for what they want to cover. You can only do so much in this economy.

CNN said it will no longer use material from the Associated Press in the television network's news coverage.

The decision, announced Monday in a memo from CNN Worldwide President Jim Walton, is the latest of a series of moves by the 24-hour news station, owned by Turner Broadcasting System Inc., to become less dependent on outside news services.

Those efforts began in 2007 when the news organization made a significant investment in news gathering, adding 75 people including 12 new correspondents. The following year, the network began selling its own wire service, CNN Wires, in part to offer newspapers a cheaper alternative to the AP. In early 2009, CNN dropped the AP service on and CNN Radio.

The latest move means "CNN newsgathering will be the primary source of all content for all of our platforms and services," Mr. Walton wrote. He added that to support the new model, CNN will expand its CNN Wires team.

The AP says they've tried to make content as cheap as they can, essentially, and find it unfortunate that CNN just can't afford them. Break ups are never pretty, especially when there is money involved.


White House Budget Director Calls it Quits

Tuesday, June 22, 2010 , 0 Comments

Maybe the White House can pull a Board of Governors and convince Orszag to stick around for a few more months, at least until they get things a little settled with his replacement.

(Who in the hell would want the job of White House budget director?! Haha SUCKER!)


Peter R. Orszag will leave his job as the White House budget director in July, according to someone familiar with his plans, making him perhaps the first official to leave the Obama cabinet and removing a major player from President Obama’s economic team.

The latest on President Obama, his administration and other news from Washington and around the nation. Join the discussion.

Mr. Orszag, an economist who previously spent nearly two years as director of the Congressional Budget Office, somewhat reluctantly accepted Mr. Obama’s invitation to join the cabinet after the 2008 election and never planned to stay more than two years. Typically, budget directors do not. While the president recently urged Mr. Orszag to remain, the calendar for drafting the next budget weighed in favor of Mr. Orszag’s leaving sooner. So did Mr. Orszag’s personal calendar: He is getting married in September.

It can't have anything to do with Orszag (spell check, HuffPo) knocking up one chick and then getting engaged to another months later, does it? No, can't, that's too old a story. It HAS to be that this administration is just too fucked up and he can't take it anymore.

The jokes for this one write themselves so I will refrain, it's just too easy.


Psst, Any Victory for Frankenscience Monsanto is NOT a Victory for Farmers

Monday, June 21, 2010 , 0 Comments

Careful when choosing your words, "victory" wouldn't have been the first word I'd have thought of when reading this:

The Supreme Court Monday lifted a judge-imposed nationwide ban on genetically modified alfalfa Monday, handing a victory to Monsanto Co. in a long-running dispute over the seeds.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture now must complete a study examining whether the seeds will harm the environment before approving them for planting, a process that could go into next year.

In a 7-1 decision, the high court ruled that a California federal judge went too far when he issued an order preventing farmers nationwide from planting Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa seed—which is resistant to the company's herbicide--until the government studied its effects on other plant life.

"This is a great day for farmers, as they can look to the government to set the regulatory rules as opposed to individual litigants," said David Snively, Monsanto's general counsel.

The genetically modified crop myth is old news. Monsanto tells you this is how it ought to be and year after year farmers are subsidized by the government and forced to buy their crap that doesn't grow like actual crops used to grow long before I was ever born. Maybe you too. They've been fucking with our food for quite some time.

These freaks have nearly total control over what you put in your mouth and further "intervention" into food items (even if one reserved for guinea pigs and cattle) has a direct impact on how you live your life. Down to what you could end up putting in your car someday if these pricks stop monkeying with the stuff.

Alfalfa hay is a major crop supporting U.S ruminant livestock industry, particularly dairy. Several cellulosic feedstocks will be needed to meet current ethanol production goals.

Alfalfa has considerable potential as a feedstock for production of ethanol and other industrial materials because of its high biomass production, perennial nature, ability to provide its own nitrogen fertilizer, and valuable co-products. Alfalfa stems are an excellent feedstock for cellulosic ethanol via fermentation or gasification. Fractionation processes can produce alfalfa leaf meal (ALM) with protein content comparable to protein in dried distiller’s grains. Adding high value products from either fraction of alfalfa from non livestock uses will add value to alfalfa biomass use for biofuel. When a biomass-type alfalfa is grown under a biomass management system with less dense seeding and only two harvests per year, compared with standard hay-type alfalfa production practices, total yield of alfalfa increases 42%, leaf protein yield is equal, and potential ethanol yield from stems doubles.

Alfalfa grown in rotation with corn to produce biomass for ethanol production reduces nitrogen loss from leaching and denitrification of corn with minimal reduction in profitability of corn.

Schedule F has it rough.


Place Your Bets on Who Will Swim Upstream at This Week's FOMC Meeting

Monday, June 21, 2010 , , , 0 Comments

Gee, I wonder.

Happy first day of Summer, kids, and don't go expecting that rate hike just yet.

Business Week (June 3)
Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank President Thomas Hoenig said the U.S. economic recovery has the momentum to sustain itself and called for an increase in the target federal funds rate to 1 percent by the end of the summer.

“The first step toward a more normal policy is to move policy rates off zero, back toward neutral,” Hoenig said today in a speech in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. “With the improvements in market conditions and liquidity, and with an improving outlook, the FOMC would be prepared to raise the funds rate target to 1 percent by the end of summer.”

Yes, yes, that's Summer of 2012 if we're lucky. I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that Hoenig's esteemed colleagues are practicing the dirty looks they'll be giving him tomorrow as we speak. He must be referring to some alternate universe FOMC because the one I am thinking of isn't even considering raising rates until at LEAST doomsday, if not later.

ZIRP 4ever!!!1!


Hiding Consumer Protection at the Fed, Boneheaded Idea of the Century

So this is what I want to know: Did the Senate like the idea of immunity, self-funding or secrecy more? Surely putting consumer protection at the Fed didn't seem like a good idea because that would be the wisest place for it from the consumer's perspective. As we all know, the Fed could give a rat's ass about the "consumer" since they routinely erode purchasing power from the consumer's dollar each and every year as a rule.

With Barney Frank on board, the plan sounds all that much more suspicious.


U.S. Representative Barney Frank, the lead negotiator on the financial-overhaul legislation, has accepted the Senate’s proposal to house a new consumer protection bureau at the Federal Reserve.

Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, will make the concession as part of a package of changes to be debated tomorrow, Steve Adamske, spokesman for the Massachusetts Democrat, said today. Frank had supported creating a standalone agency, an idea included in the financial bill passed by the House in December.

President Barack Obama originally made a standalone agency a centerpiece of his proposal for revising the government’s oversight of Wall Street. Under the Senate plan, the bureau would have independent authority to write and enforce rules about consumer lending in mortgages, credit cards and other financial products while being housed at the Fed.

“The way the Senate provision is drafted, it does give the bureau a significant degree of independence,” said Gilbert Schwartz, a former Fed attorney and a partner at the law firm Schwartz & Ballen LLP in Washington.

Seriously, can someone explain to me the benefit of this? To the consumer, I mean, not to the idiots who write these rules and somehow keep getting re-elected despite not giving a flying rat's ass about what their constituents want.

Nearly 2 full years after the entire financial system ground to a halt, this is the best they can do? Sorry but this is just sad.

If they pull this one off, what's to stop them from hiding everything in the Fed? Hey, I have a GREAT idea! Let's put Social Security and Medicare in there too! Then we don't have to come up with the cash to cover those $2 trillion in IOUs we've been stuffing in the Social Security "trust" AND we can cockblock any attempts to investigate by using the ole "the Fed is independent" line! It can't possibly go wrong!


OMG! Obama Holds the Border Hostage Ahead of Immigration Reform

Monday, June 21, 2010 , 3 Comments

This is one of those cases where Obama is dealing with a mess left by his predecessors, who felt compelled to leave our borders wide open (conspiracy theorists will tell you that was intentional to advance the North American Union agenda) and doing a really crappy job of resolving the situation. Too little too late and now he's got to convince the Republicans that he's all about "reform" when they aren't willing to budge on the slightest issue, let alone one of the largest problems facing our nation today.

Gee, good thing our economy is in the shitter otherwise we'd really be beating off those illegal immigrants with a stick eh? It's not Mexico-US we need to worry about, it's Canada-US once we start fleeing North ifyouknowwhatI'msayin.

Unfair and unbalanced FOXnews

President Obama is refusing to secure the border until Congress reaches a breakthrough on comprehensive immigration reform, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl said at a recent town hall meeting.

The No. 2 Senate Republican, in a video clip posted on YouTube showing the senator speaking to a local Tea Party crowd on Friday, said the president told him during a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office that he was concerned he wouldn't win GOP support on immigration legislation if he took care of border security first.

"The problem is, he said, if we secure the border, then you all won't have any reason to support comprehensive immigration reform," Kyl said, as the crowd in the room gasped loudly. "In other words, they're holding it hostage."

Now that's low.

If you ask me, it's becoming a non-issue. Let's just keep destroying the dollar and making America inhabitable and pretty soon the problem will be magically solved as Mexicans will prefer home to whatever crap it is we have going on over here. We're almost there.


TLP: Wait Until PETA Finds Out

immigrant jobs
Not that it's right to hire illegal immigrants, but who else is clamoring for jobs at the meatpacking plants of Fremont, Nebraska?

AP via The Huffington Post:
Angered by a recent influx of Hispanic workers attracted by jobs at local meatpacking plants, voters in the eastern Nebraska city of Fremont will decide Monday whether to ban hiring or renting property to illegal immigrants.

The vote will be the culmination of a two-year fight that saw proponents collect enough signatures to put the question to a public vote. If the ordinance is approved, the community of 25,000 people could face a long and costly court battle. Either way, the emotions stirred up won't settle quickly.

"Even if we say 'no' ... we still need to say, 'How do we get along with each other now?'" said Kristin Ostrom, who helps oversee a campaign against the measure.

Across the nation, people have been outraged by – and demanded action against – the poor enforcement of federal laws to prevent illegal immigration. A law recently introduced in Arizona requires police to question people on their immigration status if there's a "reasonable suspicion" they are illegal.
Fremont's unemployment is 4.9 percent, about half the national rate. Not bad in this economy. Is this the prime job opportunity in town? Are the residents itching to take this work on?
Workers called stunners use mechanical or chemical devices to make the animals unconscious before they slaughter them. When the animal is unconscious, shacklers hoist it to an overhead rail belt. Animal stickers then cut the jugular vein and let all the blood drain from the carcass, or dead body. The overhead rail then brings the carcass to steamers, de-hairing machine tenders, singers, and shavers, who remove the hide, hair, and dirt, and clean the carcass with water and brushes. Then carcass splitters cleave the carcass open and remove the innards. After eviscerators and offal separators separate the edible and inedible parts from the carcass, they send the split sides to a chilling room for twenty-four to forty-eight hours. After chilling, meatcutters, or butchers, cut the heads off the carcasses. Using cleavers, saws, and knives, they slice beef and lamb into various sizes, such as quarters, forequarters, and hindquarters. They ship some meat this way to wholesalers or other customers.
Maybe it is the best job in town.


The FCC Finally Tries to Catch Up to the Internet

Monday, June 21, 2010 , 0 Comments

I'm scared.

ars technica:

If you're looking for the Armageddon version of net neutrality analysis, search no further than a  new study released by New York Law School's Advanced Communications Law & Policy Institute. The assessment, titled Net Neutrality, Investment & Jobs, damns the Federal Communications Commission's proposed net neutrality rules as "destabilizing" and suggests they could "place the nation's economy at even greater risk."

See also: FCC to toughen internet rules [BBC]


TLP: Hey, At Least It's Spelled Right

joe wilson vandalism
Got to love politics. And this stunt shows an impressive attention span.

The Huffington Post:
An unknown vandal -- or vandals -- defaced a poster and wall in front of Rep. Joe Wilson's (R-S.C.) South Carolina campaign office Wednesday night, writing the very words which made him famous.

When the Wilson for Congress staff came into work on Thursday morning, they found that someone had spray painted "YOU LIE" in large letters in front of the West Columbia office.

"We have no idea who did this," DeRoy told WTOC-TV, but then blamed Democrats.

"It's pretty obvious there's probably a fair amount of 'donkey dung' probably on this incident," he said.

Wilson, who was elected in 2001, made the phrase famous by shouting it at President Obama during a speech to a joint session of Congress last year.

Police are investigating the incident.
Whoever pulled this off remembered Wilson's outburst for 10 fucking months. Not bad recall. Unless, you know, whoever did this was especially familiar with the matter.


San Francisco to Solve Its Budget Problems By $5 and $10ing Us to Death

Monday, June 21, 2010 , , 0 Comments

Fees proposed by our friends at San Francisco City Hall to make up for massive budget deficits lead me to two conclusions: 1) My nearly 14 year old cat is staying at her Peninsula pet hospital with a Peninsula address should she become - God forbid - too old to live comfortably and require... uh... you know. 2) If I ever get into a car accident in the city and need to go to the hospital, I'm calling a cab and not 911. Last time an ambulance came to peel me out of my vehicle in San Francisco, I was 9 months pregnant (2 weeks before my due date) and was asked by rescue personnel if I could crawl out of the passenger side window since the driver's side had shifted in the collision and wouldn't open. Shoulda taken a cab then too.

Anyway. SJ Mercury News runs AP on San Francisco's genius plan to save our sad financial state:

A looming budget deficit means residents and visitors in San Francisco may pay more for some city services.

Mayor Gavin Newsom has included more than a dozen new or higher fees in his proposed $6.5 billion budget plan that includes charging pet owners $25 to euthanize their cat or dog and increasing fees for street artist permits and food-permits for caterers.

City supervisors are due to debate some of the fees this week.

"Nobody wants to do this, but it's one of the options we're relying on more," said the mayor's budget director, Greg Wagner.

San Francisco is facing a $483 million budget deficit heading into the new fiscal year beginning July 1. Unlike new taxes, fees do not require approval from voters.

Among the proposals to close the budget gap is charging drivers for crash scene clean-up. An at-fault driver could face a charge from the Fire Department for $498 to pick up broken glass and spilled gasoline.

The Fire Department is also proposing to charge more for an ambulance ride and basic life support services. If the Board of Supervisors approves that plan, costs for those services would increase from $184 to $1,642. The charge for treatment at the scene of an accident would go up to $365, from $15.

Not to mention turning the SFMTA into a money laundering operation that would directly transfer cash from SFers and stupid tourists who can't read complicated parking signs into city coffers.

It isn't pretty and the parking situation is the rawest nerve.

Good thing we counted all those parking spots. Oh, and that's 441,541 if you're counting yourself. If you're circling your own 5 block radius looking for parking for an hour after coming home from work, however, it feels more like 15.

I will not be sticking around much longer.


Free Stuff for People Who Could Afford It But Won't Buy It is "Social Responsibility"

Monday, June 21, 2010 , 0 Comments

See, it's this idea that makes me want to throw up. This is your mentality, America, babysitting the down-trodden, broke and lazy. Why would they want to change?!

Here's the short version of this plea: Our "clients" spend $3000 a year on cigarettes but they won't spend $45 a week on nicotine patches so FOR THE LOVE OF GOD we have to keep providing them for free, please don't cut us off! Oh the humanity!

via the Jamestown Post-Journal (NY):

To the Readers' Forum:

I want to express my sincere concern about the possibility of eliminating the program to offer free NRT (nicotine replacement therapy/patches, gum and lozenges) to our community. As healthcare professionals, we teamed up with the Tri County Tobacco Control Program to offer these products to our patients and their families to assist in a quit attempt to stop the use of tobacco products.

In the past 18 months, we have provided NRT products to 163 people. They are always very grateful for the help as most have tried many times to quit unsuccessfully. Others have stopped into our clinic in the Riverwalk Center to get free NRT help here. We never turn anyone away.

*A pack a day smoker spends approximately $ 3,000 per year on cigarettes. Additional healthcare costs for a smoker are substantially higher and over a lifetime, cannot be measured.

* Many of the people who need this assistance are lower income and would not consider purchasing these products if they were not free.

*Children and others in the same household who suffer from the effects of second hand smoke can breathe easier.

*An individual's ability to heal from injury is greatly impacted by smoking. Smokers tend to have a higher incidence of infection and significantly slower recovery from surgery or an injury.

*NRT can double the chances of quitting for good.

*One in every five deaths in the US is smoking related.

*Smoking is the No. 1 preventable cause of death.

Nicotine is a very powerful drug and the people I talk with every day report that they wish they had never started. To eliminate this effective program is misguided and insensitive to the needs of so many who have been victimized by the tobacco industry.

Please find the necessary dollars to balance the state budget in programs that have been shown to be unsuccessful, riddled with fraud and overlap other similar programs. Social services are a necessary part of our governing system but the waste and unchecked programs that continue to exist should be the first place Albany looks for the short-fall of funds to balance the budget. It is what any household would do when funds are reduced.

If you or a loved one has successfully quit smoking as a result of this program, please take a moment to share your concerns with: Assemblyman Joseph Giglio at 373-7103 or Assemblyman William Parment at 664-7773 today.

Judi Goerke

Patient Development Director

Chautauqua PT, OT & SLP Professionals


Judi, it's REALLY cute and heart-warming that you think these people are entitled to government help but, uh, you realize smoking is a non-essential indulgence right? We're not talking about saving the whales or stopping rainforest clear-cutting, we're talking about grown adults spending their money on death sticks (as a death stick consumer myself, I have sympathy for the whole "but it's horribly addictive" argument but you won't see my heart bleeding all over the floor).

Aren't cigarettes $11 a pack in New York? If you're stupid enough to pay that (says the girl who pays $7 in California), you certainly don't deserve a handout as a reward.


TLP: Better Than Some Asshat Paying For Smokes And Funyuns With A Check

credit card fees
Apparently, there are places that still strongly encourage the use of cash. (My dear JDA has vented on occasion about the MO of San Francisco merchants.) But the trend is clearly toward electronic payments — credit and debit cards. While that's convenient for the consumer, businesses pay a price. And they're not happy about it.

The Huffington Post:
Navdeep Bassi is tired of sending money to Wall Street for nothing. Over the past year, the owner of four 7-Elevens in Orange County, California, has been haranguing his customers about the swipe fees he is forced to pay big banks and major credit card companies, asking them to sign a petition in opposition to the fees.

"When we told them how much we pay, they are very supportive," Bassi said as he crossed Constitution Avenue, headed for the U.S. Capitol on Thursday morning. "They keep coming back to us, asking us what is happening."

Bassi may have good news for his customers when he returns. What is happening is that a coalition of merchants are on the brink of defeating the combined lobbying muscle of Wall Street, community banks and credit unions, which enjoy a system that functions to skim the profits from small businesses across the country.

Bassi convinced 6,000 people to sign on in the store where he works most often. His four stores combined collected 11,000 signatures. In September, the merchants coalition delivered 1.7 million signatures to Washington, said Keith Jones, a top 7-Eleven lobbyist, who is escorting Bassi and two fellow 7-Eleven franchisees around the halls of Congress Thursday following a rally of more than 100 small business owners from across the country. Bassi, said Jones, pulled in more signatures than any other merchant.
Retailers complain about customers who use plastic to make small purchases, with the fees wiping out whatever profit stores might hope to make. But studies — seriously, I'm not entirely lazy — show that consumers tend to spend more when they wield a card than when they're laying out cash. Convenience, it seems, goes both ways.


TLP: I Guess We'd See How Big A Booze Bottle Can Be

costco liquor sales
Costco wants to capitalize on the tendency of Americans to want more more MORE by seeking to change liquor distribution laws and gain the opportunity to sell booze in the same way it hawks triple-packs of Peter Pan, giant tubs of ice cream and an annual supply of Charmin (provided you don't also score the gallon jug of prune juice.)

Costco Wholesale Corp., eager to sell alcohol as freely as it does toilet paper, is backing an effort to shake up liquor distribution laws in its home state of Washington.

The giant warehouse club has thrown its weight behind a proposed ballot initiative that would eliminate numerous post-Prohibition-era rules and privatize retail liquor sales in the state.

The effort is being closely watched by producers, distributors and retailers of beer, wine and liquor across the U.S. because it would mark the most sweeping overhaul of any state's alcohol trade regulations in years and could presage similar proposals in other states. Distributors, for their part, object to the proposed changes, because it would threaten their protected position as middlemen.

Washington is one of about 20 states that maintain some form of a liquor monopoly. Costco wants that to change, and wants businesses to have more freedom in the way they buy and sell hard liquor as well as wine and beer. The discount-retail giant, based in Issaquah, Wash., went so far as to have its own employees collect signatures from customers in its warehouse stores to get an initiative put on the November ballot. Consumers would benefit by paying lower prices, Costco says.

Costco essentially wants to be able to do with alcoholic beverages what it and other big-box retailers do with other consumer products. It wants, for instance, to be able to buy alcohol in large volumes at a discount and take delivery of these orders at a central warehouse. For now, it must make separate purchases of wine and beer for each of its stores, and pay distributors the same price that a corner grocery store pays.
The initiative Costco is backing would undo what the company calls "antiquated" rules that date to the end of Prohibition. Opponents of the change say those rules discourage, ahem, overconsumption. Anybody who wants to get fucked up is going to get fucked up. They can pick booze or they can pick Bud. This is pretty much a matter of price and choice and control.

I've been to Costco and seen my fellow shoppers. Concerns about overconsumption might be more appropriate in the bakery.


TLP: Is There Such Thing As 'Controversially Canadian'?

Friday, June 18, 2010 , , , 1 Comments

canadian tv news
The owners of the right-wing Toronto Sun say Canadian teevee needs a little conservative competition and have announced plans to go on the air next year with a "hard news and straight talk" alternative to what they call sleepy cable options. Sun News will be modeled on a successful French-language network also owned by Quebecor.

Toronto Star:
Kory Teneycke, a former communications director to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and now Quebecor Media vice-president, said, “We’re taking on the mainstream media.”

“We’re taking on smug, condescending, often irrelevant journalism, we’re taking on political correctness. We will not be a state broadcaster, offering boring news by bureaucrats for elites and paid for by taxpayers,” said Teneycke, who resigned last week as a CBC pundit.

“We will be unapologetically patriotic, we will offer the type of raw debate that Canadians only find today in coffee shops and around the dinner table,” he said, deriding the politic discourse on existing networks as “play fighting.”

“Sun News will be controversially Canadian. CBC News Network and CTV News Channel … have failed to win over Canadians despite their obvious advantages of incumbency. ... Canadian TV news today is narrow, it’s complacent and it’s politically correct. It’s bland and boring. Our aim is not to bore people to death, we’ll leave that to the CBC.”
Talking smack, Canuckistan-style. Beauty, eh? Sounds like Fox News. Just don't say that to Sun News — they say that's unfair labeling and amounts to hoser competitors "taking a shot" to try to get viewers to dismiss the new network.

Gotta love it: picking a fight by accusing the competition of picking a fight. But, really, which American network would try that?


Oh, You Mean Like the Same Fed Audits We Already Have? Way to Go, Congress!

Thursday, June 17, 2010 , , , , 2 Comments

 Pic credit: The Onion

Idiots. First of all I take issue with the fact that WaPo titled this article "Lawmakers agree to expand audit of Federal Reserve" because basically all they did was decide to look deeper into emergency lending programs (most of those banks are probably kaput by now anyway) and make it appear as though GAO audits of the Fed are something new.

I remind dear reader that each regional Fed bank issues an annual report just like any other bank that is audited by the Big 87654. I also remind dear reader that we already know who got TARP money. And that the GAO has a handful of Fed audits going on AS WE SPEAK that will, like the audits before them, mean little since the Fed follows its own accounting rules and not GAAP. As any accountant will tell you, we perform audits each year to ensure the comparability of financial statements for the sake of investors. Since there is no comparing Fed statements and there are no investors (excluding the banks with mandated stock holdings in the Fed banks they are regulated by), basically all we're doing is jerking off with our left hands pretending it is someone else doing the jerking.

You aren't going to fall for this, are you?


Lawmakers on Wednesday reached a compromise to allow expanded audits of the Federal Reserve, part of an effort to shine light on the central bank's emergency lending during the financial crisis while safeguarding its independence in setting monetary policy.

In another marathon session to hash out differences over sweeping new financial regulations, members of a House-Senate conference committee agreed to grant the Government Accountability Office broad authority to examine the operations of the Fed and to require additional disclosures from the central bank.

The compromise expands on language from the Senate bill that would grant the GAO authority to audit the Fed's massive emergency lending programs and compel the agency to release details about the firms that benefited from those programs during the crisis.

The new language broadens those audits to include the Fed's discount window and its purchases and sales of government securities, requiring the central bank to disclose details about such transactions within two years after they occur. "The Fed is going to be a lot more transparent," said Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.).

The bottom line is that Congress doesn't even know what the Fed is and if you tried to tell them, they'd run away scared and crying to Mommy.

You're a joke, Congress. It took you two years to get the authority to look into emergency lending programs by the agency which is paid IN INTEREST every year to issue our worthless paper currency? Suckers. How many of the banks on that list have failed already?

What you should REALLY be asking is why the Fed feels it is appropriate to loan money at nothing to the banks just so they can purchase Treasurys and not fuel growth by lending to business owners. But wait, that would make things really inconvenient in Washington since we'd have to figure out another way to pay our bills so scratch that, just keep letting Zimbabwe Ben ride ZIRP out as long as humanly possible, regardless of what impact this has on our overall economic health.

Maybe Congress is the left hand and ZB is the big swinging dick, who can say?