TLP: Who Says Democrats Don't Care About Creating Jobs?

kennedy brothel
Maybe this was overdoing it, but he did have two brothers. You can look it up.

AP via HuffPost:
An FBI file contends that a young Edward M. Kennedy arranged to rent a brothel for a night while visiting Chile in 1961, a year before he was elected to the Senate.

The previously redacted State Department memo, dated Dec. 28, 1961, was released by Judicial Watch, a Washington-based organization that said it obtained it through a Freedom of Information lawsuit.

According to the memo, the Massachusetts Democrat made arrangements to rent the brothel "for an entire night" in Santiago earlier in 1961. "Kennedy allegedly invited one of the Embassy chauffeurs to participate in the night's activities," according to the memo.

One State Department official described Kennedy as "pompous and a spoiled brat," according to the memo. Kennedy was making a fact-finding trip to several Latin American countries. "Kennedy met with a number of individuals known to have communist sympathies," the memo said.

Kennedy was a 29-year-old assistant district attorney in Boston at the time of the trip. He was elected to the Senate in 1962 and served more than four decades until his death in 2009.
Makes you wonder about the conversations Teddy had in the Senate lounge with Harry Reid.


Twitter Trolls Find Your Tone Offensive, Mr Culberson

As one such Twitter troll, I have to say I am offended. Lazy bastards, what else do they have to do?

Rep. John Culberson has had it with all the noise on Twitter.

“There’s a lot of trolls on Twitter,” the Texas Republican told POLITICO. “I just got to the point that I was sick and tired of it.”

And he’s not the only one on Capitol Hill who’s fed up with the din.

In 140 characters: “Social media is absolutely a pain in the a—,” a Capitol Hill aide confessed to POLITICO recently. “But that’s the nature of our business.”

First of all, can we PLEASE stop with using "there's" instead of "there are" already? There's is a short version of there is, which wouldn't make sense to say in this context as trolls is plural. And these are the people running our country? I'm ashamed.

I should really tweet about it.


Where Did the Money Go?

(shred credit, The Lazy Paperboy, who thinks he is clever)

I've been saying this for nearly three years now, even before I realized that the money truly did vanish. The funniest part? Bernanke and Co. still don't seem to get that part and THEY went to skool for this.

I love you, Mogambo Guru:

“Hey! Screw you, you crooked bastard bankers that caused all this economic mess by creating So Damned Much Money (SDMM) over the decades that it produced bubbles in the stock market, the bond market, the housing market, a gigantic financial services industry, an enormous derivatives market and a monstrous, suffocating increase in the size and oppressiveness of local, state and federal governments!

“Now it’s my turn to screw you in a fit of Unthinking Mogambo Revenge (UMR)! I ain’t paying you back the money I borrowed! Thus, your fiat money literally disappears! This is why, if you will remember, I said ‘screw you!’ at the beginning of my harangue! Hahahaha!”

Please read The Well-Traveled Funds of Fed Money Creation via Daily Reckoning in full. Or not, I really don't give a shit, it's your life.

For the bazillionth time: it's GONE. It never existed. It is never coming back. And worse, they can't seem to make it reappear, even magically, long enough to convince us it still exists. Oh dear, no wonder we're so thoroughly fucked.


TLP: We Were Supposed to Do What?

online sales tax
Online shopping has a lot of advantages. Lots of retailers to choose from, pretty good selection, no need to deal with traffic or gas or all those annoying people out shopping in stores. Prices are usually competitive and, oh yeah, there's no sales tax, at least in practical application.

Well, guess what? Like a million other things, it seems that this little freebie nobody seemed to give a shit about is fucking things up.

What do your 2010 online holiday shopping purchases have to do with the budget gaps many states are struggling to fill right now? In the eyes of some state and federal legislators, the sales tax that is not being collected by many online merchants is revenue that could help stem the bleeding of state treasuries.

What most shoppers don't know is that they should be paying taxes on most online purchases, even when the retailer doesn't collect.

Because of two decades-old Supreme Court decisions, a state cannot require "remote sellers" — any business without a physical presence in that state — to collect and remit sales tax. Despite this, sales tax is still due in most states, and it's the purchaser's responsibility to pay it.

In instances when online retailers don't collect sales tax, 45 states (and the District of Columbia) require residents to calculate and remit the tax directly to their local taxing authority. When a sales tax is paid in this manner it's called a "use tax," and it's not new. Use tax laws have been on the books in most states much longer than the internet has been around, let alone "one-click" shopping.
A few weeks ago, the WSJ ran an article on this issue and cited a study by University of Tennessee economists that projected a loss of $10 billion to state and local governments this year from uncollected taxes for online shopping. Surprise; they now think that figure will be higher.

Some retailers are fighting back. The Lazy Paperboy went to a bookstore recently looking for a new book. Sure, I have a Kindle and enjoy thumbing my way through an adventure. But sometimes, you want the hefty, meaty version to hold in your hands. The book wasn't in stock, so I said I'd order online. Same company and cheaper, it looked like, too. But the sales clerk offered to order it for me at the online price and ship it to me for free, flat out saying that collecting sales tax (as well as the sale) mattered to the store. So I pay the sales tax, which is less than the online shipping would have been, and the store gets a sale. Win-win.

And that always makes for a happy ending.


The Federal Reserve Is to Blame For Everything Wrong in the World

Though that headline may sound like a JDA original, it actually wasn't me who insisted as much. It was George Melloan via the WSJ a week ago:

Mr. Bernanke has made it clear that his policy is to inflate the money supply. His second round of quantitative easing—the controversial QE2 policy to systematically purchase $600 billion in Treasury securities with newly created money—serves that aim. But even for the U.S. it is uncertain that Mr. Bernanke can hold to his 2% inflation target. Oil is going up. Foodstuffs are going up. And when the Fed sneezes money, the weak economies of the world, and the poor masses who are highly vulnerable to price rises in the necessities of life, catch pneumonia.

The turmoil in Iran is reminiscent of another period when the Fed was on an inflationary binge, the late 1970s. The Iranian oil boom had brought many thousands of peasants out of the villages into the cash economy in population centers like Tehran. On top of the disorientation resulting from that change itself, Iranians were then victims of an outbreak of inflation and a sharp decline in the purchasing power of the rials in their pay envelopes. Confused and angry, they supported the clerical revolution that unseated the shah and has been a thorn in America's side ever since.

Today's Iranian revolt has similar causes and, if successful, could be the flip side of 1979, a nation again friendlier toward the U.S. But there is no guarantee of that, or that states now friendly, like Bahrain, will remain so after an Egyptian-style upheaval.

Indeed, it is unlikely that Americans themselves will escape the inflationary consequences of current Fed policy. Aside from the rise in oil and foodstuffs, higher prices of manufactured goods are in the offing. China's inflation rate is hovering at 5%. MKM Partners, a research and trading firm, last November reported that an internal study at Wal-Mart, a big importer from China, showed that the huge retail chain's prices are edging up at an annual rate of 4% a year. That recent trend showed up in last week's consumer-price index report.

Psst, that's Doctor Bernanke to you, bitch, and he isn't the only one who has said inflation is the policy. Not actual inflation, just inflating, and too bad if the rest of the world doesn't like it.

Worse, he's poking at China as if they aren't going to notice.

Do these people realize that everyone is watching and we all saw what they did there?


Why I'm Convinced We're All Doomed

Monday, February 28, 2011 0 Comments

God frowns upon stupidity, people (and so do I). He may have made you that way but He didn't send His only son to die so you could slaughter the English language.

Repent. Before it's too late.


A Game 23% of America Does Not Need to Play

Saturday, February 26, 2011 , 0 Comments

North Carolina's Urban Ministries of Durham has partnered with ad agency McKinney to create what I believe is a completely new kind of game - the "I'm a broke American and can hardly survive" challenge, SPENT, dares you to survive a month through car problems, bills, toothaches and near starvation (by our standards).

Said UMD about the release

This latest adventure, Spent, is beyond what UMD could ever imagine. Spent is not just a social networking campaign, but an immersive online experience created and donated by McKinney. Raising awareness of the complex issues involved with poverty and homelessness and galvanizing the support needed to address those issues, are important components of our work. Our ongoing partnership with McKinney and their creation of this game are very important to us because they provide creative opportunities to engage new audiences and to enlist new support for the work we do each day.

They've also taken to foursquare, creating locations around Durham such as "dumpster in the alley" and "under the overpass" to bring awareness to homelessness. Interesting tactic.

So? Do you have what it takes to survive on nothing? Play SPENT here.


Taxed to Death

 April 15, in picture form

The following article is dated April 15, 1999 but don't let the fact that it is 12 years old keep you from getting it. In fact, this article is more relevant today than ever.

Funny, in 1999 I used my tax refund check to get me out of Wisconsin forever at the ripe old age of 18. And now, at 30, I write about tax issues for a living. How the hell did that happen? And how the hell are we now in a worse tax situation than we were back then? Oh yeah, fucking inflation, the most scandalous tax of them all. The inflation rate in the U.S. from April 1999 to January of 2011? A whopping 32.50% and let's keep in mind that's using the bullshit CPI numbers that don't include food or energy. Ouch.

Check out Ralph Reiland via Mises Daily:

It ain't over on April 15! If you stop, for example, for a $10 pizza on Thursday night to celebrate being done with the IRS for another year, the taxman will be right there to grab a slice or two. On top of paying the sales tax, you'll also be picking up a major chunk of what the government charges the pizza shop owner for local property taxes, unemployment insurance taxes, federal payroll taxes, federal and state and local income taxes, and worker's compensation taxes. Altogether, according to a study by the Americans for Tax Reform, that comes to $3.80 on a $10 pizza for the omnipresent taxman.

If you pick up a Bud six-pack to go with the pizza, there's another 43 cents of each beer dollar that goes straight to the taxman for excise taxes, income taxes, property taxes, etc. For something stronger, say Jack Daniels, the taxman's share is $7.20, on average, out of every $10. Go lighter and just drink a Pepsi and it's 35 percent of what you pay that goes for taxes at all levels. Add some Marlboros and it's 75 percent of the retail price that's funneled directly into the state's coffers. Get home and hit the light switch and another $26 out of every $100 on the electric bill goes for government rather than electricity.

If you're flying the next day, the taxman is up early and waiting at the airport, pocketing $40 on every $100 airline ticket. And he's there in the hotel lobby when you land, snatching $43 on every $100 of the hotel bill. Go out to dinner and it's another $28 of every $100 of the tab that ends up with the government rather than with the restaurant, the farmers, truckers and everyone else who worked together to produce the meal.

At each and every stop, in items large and small, the greedy hand of government has its sticky fingers in every pocket. With bread, a recent study by Price Waterhouse shows that 30 different taxes imposed on the production and sale of a loaf of bread account for 27 percent of the average retail price. Buy some new tires and it's $36 on every $100 that goes to the taxman. On the price of a new car, an Americans for Tax Reform study shows that total taxes reach 45 percent of the showroom sticker price. Add some gas and 54 percent of what you pay for a fill-up goes for 43 different federal, state and local taxes rather than to the oil producer and retailer.

Related from R. Thomas Herman via the Reynolds Center for Business Journalism, who says "most reporters would rather undergo root-canal surgery than cover a tax story":

For an idea of what the IRS considers frivolous, go to the IRS site and type “frivolous” in the search box.

No need. I will say, however, that I'm honored to be a part of the handful of freaks in media sick and twisted enough to cover taxes. You know, when I'm not all up in central banking.

Don't tell 18-year-old me this is where we end up, she'll send that check back and tell the IRS to stick their refund right up their... well, you get it.


Busy Saturday? There's Always Rallying to Save the American Dream

 pic credit: i am bored

It's sad that no one has told MoveOn that the American Dream was securitized and sold off to European municipalities and hedge funds in 2006 but for those of you in the Capital Wasteland with nothing to do on Saturday, why not head down to Dupont Circle and protest anyway?

Oh the liberals are so cute when they get all worked into a lather about this stuff. I almost want to go down there and give them all hugs.

Here's the RSVP

Congress has been taken over by corporate lackeys who want to destroy the American dream. The American dream is about fairness and equal opportunity not bank rolling financial institutions with our tax dollars. I pay my taxes and you pay your taxes so why bail out financial institutions and then give them a pass on paying their taxes. The Supreme Court was wrong to give an institution the same rights as individuals and Congress is wrong to enact laws that allow financial institutions to not pay taxes. Now we have Republican governors treading on the rights of the middle class by attempting to take away our collective bargaining rights. Do not let them succeed.

We're standing up for the American Dream and saying that now is not the time to start slashing middle-class jobs in the middle of a recession, in Wisconsin, or anywhere in America. Be there to tell the politicians: Before you shut down the government and punish middle-class working Americans, why not first make the richest of the rich pay their fair share in taxes, just like everyone else?

This is US doing our part in DC to stand in solidarity with those filling up Statehouses around the country. See you there!

Unfortunately JDA is busy Saturday morning barely earning a living wage for "The Man" but will try to show up with the camera, popcorn and an offensive, correctly-spelled, conservative sign after the festivities get going. I anticipate my clever readers will help with suggestions. I've got Sharpies, poster board and a seemingly unlimited supply of shredded money. Go!


TLP: Bad News for Paperboys

newspapercredit: HBO

Lots of newspapers have made the switch from print to digital and now pretty much exist online. There's a "newspaper" in the Maryland suburbs of D.C. that is taking that shift a step further. Next week, Rockville Central readers will be able to find news only on Facebook.

So why not read about it neither place, but somewhere else entirely? Like Harvard's Neiman Lab:
Say you run a community news site. In your spare time. And Patch has moved into your neighborhood. How do you, with limited resources but a desire to keep contributing to your community, stay competitive?

One site’s solution: Take the “site” out of “news site.” Starting March 1, Rockville Central, a community news outlet for the DC-area city of Rockville, Maryland, will move its operation to…its Facebook page. Entirely to its Facebook page.

“There are always two different conversations going on,” Cindy Cotte Griffiths, the site’s editor, told me — one on, and the other on the site’s Facebook page. Why force the two to compete with each other, when they’re actually manifestations of the same community? Facebook is, Cotte Griffiths notes, “where the people are.”
The Lazy Paperboy still likes walking to the end of the driveway to pick up an actual newspaper every morning. Sure, I'm also reading news online, too. But is this the way things are headed? Where the choices boil down to whatever The Huffington Post and AOL put together or the Goldman Sachs Gazette, also known as Facebook?

Talk about lazy.


Fake Abe Lincoln Gets Kicked Out of the Lincoln Memorial for Giving Gettysburg Address

Thursday, February 24, 2011 , 1 Comments

pic credit: Historical Tweets

Did you know it is illegal to recite the Gettysburg Address on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial? Me neither:

On President’s Day — standing where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech” — Phillip Howell, 25, recited Lincoln’s famous address and was quickly stopped by a Park Police officer. He told Howell that he could not give speeches on the steps of the memorial without a permit.

“He called me Abe, and then I turned around and he said, ‘Do you have a permit?’ I said ‘no’ and he said, ‘well you can’t do that here then,’” Howell told The Daily Caller. “Then I said, ‘I’m just giving the Gettysburg Address, come on, it’s President’s Day.’ And he said, ‘I don’t care what you’re giving, You’re not allowed to do that here. I don’t care what speech or what agenda you want to give.’”

Once not too long ago I was in a certain DC airport bawling my eyes out and was told by TSA that "crying is not allowed in the airport." Perhaps she was trying to lighten the mood and soothe my sobbing soul but when you've got your belongings exposed in an X-ray machine and are shuffling barefoot through a metal detector with your pockets turned inside out, it can be difficult to discern humor from unnecessary authority.

So? Is this about keeping order or just being assholes with a little power?

Peep the video:

Said Fake Lincoln to the Daily Caller "It does seem a little ironic that the ‘Land of the Free’ cannot be so free at times." But he's not butthurt, it's just law and order in the Land of the Free.


Are You Sure You Want This to Be Your Moment, Scott Walker?

pic credit: me, appreciating the stomping grounds of my youth
(October, 2010, road trip from SF to DC)

Disclaimer: I support Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's mission but I do not support the way in which he implemented it, as you cannot simply rip away the crack without some kind of system in place to replace it. Look around, people, it's ugly out there. People are pissed. I'm not saying they should continue to get handouts nor am I saying this wasn't needed, I'm just saying he should have snuck it in the backdoor instead of jamming it in without nary a drop of warning.

In case you guys haven't noticed, madness has set in around the country and all the tranquilizer darts in the world couldn't save us now. Talk about bad timing.


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose efforts to curtail the rights of public-employee unions have thrust him into the national spotlight, is pushing other new Republican governors to follow his lead.

He said he communicates regularly with Ohio Gov. John Kasich and has spoken with Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. And Walker has suggested that his counterparts in Michigan and Florida seek to address their budget problems in part by demanding major concessions from public workers.

"There's a lot of us new governors that got elected to do something big," Walker said this week. "This is our moment."

Funny, Walker also happened to say "this is our moment" to a certain blogger cum fake Koch brother in the prank call heard 'round the world:
Walker: [blah about his press conferences, attacking Obama, and all the great press he's getting.] Brian [Sadoval], the new Governor of Nevada, called me the last night he said—he was out in the Lincoln Day Circuit in the last two weekends and he was kidding me, he said, “Scott, don’t come to Nevada because I’d be afraid you beat me running for governor.” That’s all they want to talk about is what are you doing to help the governor of Wisconsin. I talk to Kasich every day—John’s gotta stand firm in Ohio. I think we could do the same thing with Vic Scott in Florida. I think, uh, Snyder—if he got a little more support—probably could do that in Michigan. You start going down the list there’s a lot of us new governors that got elected to do something big.

Koch: You’re the first domino.

Walker: Yep. This is our moment.

As of the writing of this post, Buffalo Beast was still presumably breaking under the weight of increased traffic. But the audio and transcript of the call can be found here. As can this very astute observation, which all of us should keep in mind in times like this:

So there you have it, kids. Government isn’t for the people. It’s for the people with money. You want to be heard? Too fucking bad. You want to collectively bargain? You can’t afford a seat at the table. You may have built that table. But it’s not yours. It belongs to the Kochs and the oligarch class. It’s guarded by Republicans like Walker, and his Democratic counterparts across that ever-narrowing aisle that is corporate rule, so that the ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots can swallow all the power in the world. These are known knowns, and now we just know them a little more.

But money isn’t always power. The protesters in Cairo and Madison have taught us this—reminded us of this. They can’t buy a muzzle big enough to silence us all. Share the news. Do not retreat; ReTweet.

The revolution keeps spinning. Try not to get too dizzy.

It would be really easy to turn this into the evil Republican governor against the common American worker but let's get a few facts straight: Scott Walker is not a regular Republican governor, he's high on power and desperate to fix what he perceives as a broken system by any means necessary while getting some good press coverage in the process. Public sector unions are not representative of the American worker, they are political machines that pick the candidates that are going to treat them most favorably during their terms (and that usually works out to be Democrats but that's coincidental based on Democrats' tendency to favor big fat government, nothing personal). Are we sensing a pattern here yet, people?

In reality, Scott Walker and the unions he is battling in Wisconsin right now are not that different. Everyone wants the power and no one has the self control to say no.

Would you?

A frequent argument I'm hearing from the left is that the fight in Wisconsin is over who gets to keep the capital, "The Man" or "The People." First of all, the people are trying to stage a fight against the people so let's think about that first and foremost but secondly, we ALL need to stop and realize that THE CAPITAL IS GONE. That's right. We've been robbed. Fleeced. Punked. And while the thieves have long since slipped through the backdoor and stashed the loot in Fed reserve accounts and European vaults, here we are bitchfighting amongst ourselves over the scraps.

The longer we drag this out, the more time they have to safely tuck away their bounty.

Just remember that next time you want to yell at a Republican or bitch out a Democrat. The unions didn't rob you. Scott Walker didn't rob you.

Are you fucking people listening yet or do I have to keep yelling? Because I will, I have nothing else scheduled.


TLP: This is Not Fooling Anyone

Thursday, February 24, 2011 , , 0 Comments

coke bottles
Coca-Cola usually gets good reviews for its marketing. Set aside the "New Coke" debacle, the company has catchy jingles, clever teevee spots, good product placement, and a nearly genius and devious ability to get soda-filled vending machines in schools.

So who came up with this horrible fail?

Coca-Cola Co. plans to offer its beverages in a widening variety of package sizes in the U.S. this year as it tries to boost its pricing power while grappling with the twin challenges of higher commodity costs and price-sensitive consumers.

The soft-drinks giant recently began pilot testing 1.25-liter bottles of its flagship Coke brand at supermarkets in some parts of the country at a price of 99 cents. At the same time, it raised prices for its conventional two-liter bottles in those markets, after previously offering them as low as 99 cents.

"We will surgically continue to seek opportunities" to increase unit prices, Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola's chief executive, said Wednesday at an investor conference.

Coca-Cola began introducing 16-ounce bottles of its chilled beverages in the U.S. last year to complement its popular 20-ounce version, also in a bid to raise the price for the larger-sized, single-serving product while offering a lower-priced alternative for price-conscious customers.
Not to be too obvious about it, Coke, but shrinking the size of the package is rarely a win with any type of consumer. Especially if you still want the same payoff. And, really, pitching some magically enlarged version of the same package? Someone's been getting bad ideas from their spam email, I think.

Oh well, not that Coke doesn't have good ideas these days. Also from the WSJ's Mike Esterl, who seems to be on the bottle beat this week:
H.J. Heinz Co. will start rolling out ketchup this summer using Coca-Cola Co.'s "plant bottle'' packaging that contains less petroleum, part of a broader collaboration push between the food and beverage giants.

The partnership represents the latest attempt by consumer-products companies to introduce more environmentally friendly packaging. It also coincides with a spike in crude oil prices, which are hovering close to $100 a barrel and reached their highest levels in more than two years this week.

Heinz said Wednesday it will use Coca-Cola's technology for 120 million of its 20-ounce plastic ketchup bottles in the U.S. this year – or about a fifth of the bottles that Heinz sells globally. As much as 30% of the revamped PET plastic packaging is made from plants, reducing the amount of petroleum that is used.
If Coke thinks bigger containers are the answer, they should just use their plant bottles. Fuck, plants grow. All by themselves.


Kansas City Fed's Hoenig Gives the Kill Too Big to Fail Speech ... Again

pic credit: Kleptocracy, who has the t-shirt
(JDA is a small.. just sayin)

Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoenig has done this speech a million times by now but this time he made JDA get shivers down her spine. Well played, homie, well played.

My remarks are entitled “Financial Reform: Post Crisis?” and will address financial regulatory reform and too big to fail. Like most Americans, I am a strong defender of free market capitalism and I’m here today to make an argument that our country should take the difficult steps required to move its financial industry back toward that system.

I acknowledge that there is more than one view on this topic. There are those who believe we have made great strides with Dodd-Frank and if we implement it well, all will be fine. Some believe that that the industry is over-regulated, which may be true, but we should not confuse over-regulated with well-regulated. And some of us are certain that in spite of all that’s been done and debated, the soundness of the largest financial institutions and the systemic risks they continue to pose is no better. In my view, it is even worse than before the crisis. As well-intentioned as the Dodd-Frank Act may be, it will not improve outcomes. Today I will describe why I believe that is the case and, more importantly, what must be done to give the United States a financial system that is healthy and competitive, and that supports rather than endangers the economy.

The entire speech is recommended in its entirety, lest we skew his intention by chopping it up and tearing it up paragraph by paragraph.

Too Big to Fail has failed, starting with Washington and working our way out.


Are We Really Going to Let Some Germans Buy the NYSE?

How long until the IASB has offices in Kansas and the Utah mountains?


Nasdaq OMX Group was assessing whether it can compete against Germany's exchange operator Deutsche Borse to buy the New York Stock Exchange, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

If the New York-based Nasdaq decides it cannot mount a strong rival bid, it was looking to buy another exchange or sell itself to avoid marginalization in the wake of the tie-up between the NYSE and its German suitors, these people said.

And if Nasdaq can't come up with the cash, there's always a lawsuit:

NYSE Euronext, the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange, and Deutsche Boerse AG were sued by a Big Board shareholder who hopes to stop its planned $9.53 billion sale to the German company.

The proposed deal, which would create the largest owner of equities and derivatives markets, undervalues NYSE and is structured to discourage competing bids, the shareholder, James Benson, said in a complaint filed Feb. 18 in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

“The proposed sale is wrongful, unfair and harmful to NYSE public shareholders, and represents an effort by defendants to aggrandize their own financial position and interests at the expense of” investors, Benson’s lawyers wrote.

Good to see that the American way is still alive and well, even if it is available for sale to Europeans.

Some have dared to suggest that the economic events of the last three years were little more than an engineered demolition intended to destroy financial sovereignty around the world and usher in globalization in all her disgusting glory. But reasonable people (JDA considers herself one most days of the week) know that this came out of nowhere because really, who could have known questionable mortgages and securitized everything would blow up in our faces?!

Of course there's no reason to waste a good crisis and God is this the motherfucking humdinger of crises.

But when does it end? When we start auctioning off ad space on the Washington Monument for BMW and BP?

taxgirl had a great write-up on the possible NYSE/Deutsche Boerse deal entitled What's Next? The KLM Liberty Bell? which sheds a little light on the move, which probably has less to do with paying the bills and more with trying not to pay Treasury's bills:

Why the Netherlands? It’s not the windmills and the tulips. It’s the tax structure. The Dutch do not, as a rule, tax global profits; under the U.S. Tax Code, U.S. companies are taxed on their worldwide profits. Additionally, the corporate tax rate in the Netherlands is less than that of Germany or the U.S.

Of course, for their part, both companies aren’t saying the move was contemplated because of taxes. But c’mon. It totally is.

The Netherlands has long been a magnet for taxpayers seeking to lower their tax bills. Our office refers to the country as the “Delaware of the EU” for its favorable corporate and tax climate. The country has been successful in its attempts to woo corporations and artists (like U2 and the Rolling Stones) by adjusting its tax laws.

The U.S., on the other hand, has become increasingly heavy-handed in its treatment of U.S. based companies. I should know, I am one.

I, for one, welcome our future Euroasian overlords and would like the record to reflect that my part Dutch ass can't eat french fries without mayo. You know, in case it comes down to that.


Do Federal Reserve Bank Presidents Pursue Regional or National Interests?

Because JDA has other things to do (namely stalking the Capital Wasteland for mutants, picketing the Fed Board of Governors and entertaining at home, naturally), Bernd Hayo and Matthias Neuenkirch (Philipps-University Marburg) have beat me to the paper Do Federal Reserve Bank Presidents Pursue Regional or National Interests? New Evidence Based on Speeches.

Obviously Federal Reserve presidents are supposed to take what business interests in their district offer and use that to craft, nay, hone perfect policy and opinion based on that input. Some Fedheads are better than others at shlepping Main Street to the 27-foot, two ton mahogany table at which the FOMC meets but in the interest of not outing central bankers bad at their jobs, we won't name names. Hayo and Neuenkirch didn't need to name names either, though it's pretty easy to figure out who is who based on their findings:
In this paper, we analyze the determinants of speeches by Federal Reserve (Fed) officials over the period January 1998 to September 2009. Econometrically, we use a probit model with regional and national macroeconomic variables to explain the subjectively coded content of these speeches. Our results are, first, that Fed Governors and presidents follow a Taylor rule when expressing their opinions: a rise in expected inflation (unemployment) makes a hawkish speech more (less) likely. Second, the content of speeches by Fed presidents is affected by both regional and national macroeconomic variables. Third, speeches by nonvoting presidents are more focused on regional economic development than are those by voting presidents. Finally, voting presidents and Governors are less backward-looking in their wording than are nonvoting presidents.
What I'd love to see is an abstract on former presidents and Governors' backward-looking tendencies compared to current presidents and Governors based on teevee appearances, speeches and possibly papers that they've written for a payoff that they didn't actually disclose. Not that I have any idea where they could find a case study like that.


TLP: Harry Reid Says Nevada Should Outlaw Prostitution, Gets Bitchslapped by Whores

nevada prostitution
Did you hear the one about the politician and the hookers? Turned out to not be so funny. Maybe that was because he was trying to fuck the hookers and take their money at the same time.

AP via The Huffington Post:
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid took aim at the world's oldest profession Tuesday, telling state lawmakers the time has come to have an adult conversation about Nevada's legal sex trade if the state hopes to succeed in the 21st century.

The Democratic Senate majority leader made the comments before a joint session of the Legislature as brothel owners and lobbyists – and working girls from the rural establishments – looked on from the gallery.

In his autobiography, Reid, a Mormon, wrote about growing up in the mining hamlet of Searchlight, Nev., and learning to swim in the pool at a bordello. His mother took in laundry from the 13 brothels around town.

But when the nation thinks about Nevada, Reid said, "it should think about the world's newest ideas and newest careers – not about its oldest profession."

He received a smattering of applause when he first suggested Nevada outlaw bordellos. By the time he finished with the topic, his remarks were met with silence from the representatives of a state whose identity is woven tightly with gambling, alcohol, quick marriages and prostitution.
What did he expect? His own mother made money washing the dirty laundry from whorehouses. Everybody wants to get paid, Harry. At least one hooker who listened to the speech wasn't shy about raising her pimp hand to the honorable senator.

More AP:
Brooke Taylor, a prostitute at Bunny Ranch east of Carson City, called Reid's speech "offensive" and said Reid should be proud of the way the state's brothels regulate the sex industry.

"We're the first ones to do it right," Taylor said.
Don't think this hooker doesn't know what she's talking about. As JDA reported last spring from Battle Mountain, Nevada, there are businesses in the state that could learn a few things from prostitutes. For free.


Are the San Francisco Tax Maniacs Going to Tax Twitter Right Out of Town?

Seriously, San Francisco, what the fuck is wrong with you?

Check out this supremely ignorant editorial via the Bay Guardian (as if you needed another reason to completely ignore that rag):

Even if Twitter doubles its workforce, the amount it would save with the city's proposed tax break is only about $300,000 a year (the cost of two or three high-end employees out of the 350 the company wants to hire). If Twitter moves into the 200,000-square-foot space it's eyeing in Brisbane (sharing an office, reports say, with Walmart — how cutting edge!) and pays $25 a square foot in rent (probably low for nice office space), rent alone will be $8 million a year. Then there's the cost of all those workers driving (or taking a private bus) to a location badly served by transit. The payroll tax liability in San Francisco is tiny in comparison.

So this isn't an economic decision. It's corporate blackmail, the kind San Francisco sees all too often. "It's like this every time," Sup. John Avalos, who opposes the tax break, told us. "It's a race to the bottom."

Making it worse, the city can't legally give a tax break just to Twitter — the break would have to cover all companies either in a business sector or in a specific geographic zone. So the supervisors would either have to give tax breaks to a lot of other tech companies or, more likely, give the break to everyone moving into the Mid-Market area. That increases the cost to the city — and creates an odd situation. Under the Twitter proposal, big companies with big payrolls would get a break and small businesses would get nothing. (Black Rock LLC, which runs Burning Man, is also looking at space in Mid-Market, and the city's not offering that outfit — which employs 30 people and has an annual payroll of $3 million — any tax breaks.)

As if! Why can Silicon Valley boast HP, Ebay, Google... I can continue if need be. San Francisco hasn't hosted a big dot com since dot com went bust AN ENTIRE FUCKING DECADE AGO except for Twitter. Would these tax maniacs care to guess why that would be? Perhaps because they have progressively turned off every business in town with their incessant taxes? Not to mention the fact that minimum wage in San Francisco of $9 will not cover basic living expenses, so for a company to root itself in SF means it has to come up with protection money for the progressive schizophrenics at the Board of Supervisors and an unreasonably high wage for talent just to keep them around.

And then there's the whole transportation issue - God forbid employees actually drive to the office, as they'll spend at least one of the hours you are paying them for circling the block avoiding the Parking Gestapo, who claim they are facing a parking ticket shortage. Or if they take public transportation they can look forward to fare increases and harassment by bootleg bus cops, berating riders with "show me your papers!" Ever feel like you're getting pounded at all ends, San Francisco? Maybe that's why you moved there in the first place but for me, my ass got sore and I had to leave.

I hope Twitter feels the same and tells SF in 140 characters or less just how hard they can shove it up their over-taxing asses on their way to Brisbane or Mountain View or wherever the hell they choose to go.

See also San Francisco Wants to Tax Your Stock Options– All of Them. [TechCrunch]


Why is the White House Phishing For Social Security Numbers?

Filed under: are we sure these guys are cut out for the job?

Can you blame these Cleveland business owners for thinking the invite was spam?

Via FOX News:

Email invitations the White House sent to Cleveland area business owners inviting them to a roundtable looked like spam to many of the recipients, leading some to delete the invites from their inboxes.

A vague subject line and generic language that asked for the recipient's social security number set off red flags among some who got the email. Others may not have ever gotten the email as it didn't make it through their spam filters.

PartsSource Chief Executive Ray Dalton tells FOX News his company received an invitation from the White House to meet with the president but they discarded the email as spam, suspecting it of being a phishing solicitation.

Thankfully, Social Security has a handy guide to protecting your Social Security number (even though we all know actual Social Security won't exist by the time enterprising criminals get around to stealing your identity) here:

How can I protect my Social Security number?

You should treat your Social Security number as confidential information and avoid giving it out unnecessarily. You should keep your Social Security card in a safe place with your other important papers. Do not carry it with you unless you need to show it to an employer or service provider.

We do several things to protect your number from misuse. For example, we require and carefully inspect proof of identity from people who apply to replace lost or stolen Social Security cards, or for corrected cards. One reason we do this is to prevent people from fraudulently obtaining Social Security numbers to establish false identities. We maintain the privacy of Social Security records unless:

* The law requires us to disclose information to another government agency; or
* Your information is needed to conduct Social Security or other government health or welfare program business.

You should be very careful about sharing your number and card to protect against misuse of your number. Giving your number is voluntary even when you are asked for the number directly. If requested, you should ask:

* Why your number is needed;
* How your number will be used;
* What happens if you refuse; and
* What law requires you to give your number.

The answers to these questions can help you decide if you want to give your Social Security number. The decision is yours.

White House spokesman Matt Lehrich told The Plain Dealer "inevitably, when you're e-mailing a large group, there will be some glitches. But we know it's not every day you get an invitation to meet with the president of the United States . . . which is exactly why we always follow up by phone."

Good idea.

(psst, don't give your Social Security number out on the phone either, kids. Serious.)


TLP: HuffPost Bummed, Totally Should Have Used AOL to Hit on Congresswoman

congressional hottie
Talk about rejection. The Huffington Post didn't even get to flash its $315 million bank account at U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem before she shot the website down for calling her the "Hottest Freshman" in Congress. Or something.

From HuffPost, which doesn't even seem embarrassed:
Well, this is unfortunate. It appears that Huffington Post's newest "Hottest Freshman," Representative Kristi Noem (R-SD), is not elated by the accolade.

In an interview last week with The Daily Caller, the ravishing rancher finally addressed the "Hottest Freshman in Congress" title she won in January: "I thought that was kind of an unfortunate distraction, I guess, when that came out. I don't think about that too much. I'd rather they were talking about my solutions for our country rather than that, but we'll get there." ...

After being sworn in last month, Noem was up against seven other handsome congressional contenders for "Hottest Freshman." 10,000 votes later, our readers let it be known that they found Noem to be the fairest of them all.
The story on HuffPost rambles about some congressman who won the same "contest" a couple of years ago and used it to blather on about whatever it was he wanted to do as a freshman House member. And then, not getting the message, HuffPost asks its favorite new hottie to blog for it and gets nowhere with that, either.

Oh well, as bad as this was, it could have turned out much worse.


$200 Oil Is Coming and It's Not Why You Think (Or Maybe It Is)

Surely gas prices have nothing to do with rampant inflation, the fact that oil is still denominated in constantly-being-made-up dollars and the asshats who have entire tankers full of crude floating around in the ocean somewhere just so they can mess with prices. Yup, it's got to be the civil unrest.

Do you, like me, ever read some of this shit and wonder where reality went? Or better, wonder who you need to speak to to convince it to return?

Via USA Today

If political unrest in Libya spreads to other oil-rich countries and the ensuing chaos disrupts crude oil production, gas prices could hit $5 a gallon by peak summer driving season, industry analysts say.

Benchmark crude oil prices soared Monday, rising about 6% to $95.39 a barrel for April contracts on the New York Mercantile Exchange as violence and a military crackdown spread in Libya, the first major oil-producer hit by a burgeoning anti-government movement. The increased violence prompted BP and Norway's Statoil to pull oil workers from the besieged country.

"If this thing escalates and there's a good chance that there'd be a shift in supplies, $5 gas isn't out of the question," says Darin Newsom, senior analyst with energy tracker DTN.

Yeah? Murder and killing and printing money sure are a dirty business eh?

Who else is planning to fill up first thing tomorrow morning before it reaches $4 a gallon?

Such a convenient scapegoat.

Meanwhile, I believe Libya has already pretty much escalated just about as much as it could at this point so when shall we expect $6 gas and when does it end?


TLP: He's Just an Excitable Boy

It seems pretty obvious that CNBC pays Rick Santelli to spend his days squawking. I find myself constantly muting his loudmouth jive, along with half of what comes out of the mouths of his on-air colleagues. So he had one good rant. Now it just feels like Trying Too Hard.

And maybe Santelli ought to stay on the trading floor. He wandered over to "Meet the Press" on NBC the other day and ended up one-upping U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan — who equated the Wisconsin statehouse protests with the overthrow of the Egyptian government — by dragging 9/11 into the mix. Joe Scarborough was distressed — "Little out of control, to say the least" — and very nearly crossed his arms over the whole matter on his MSNBC show.

Story and clip from The Huffington Post:
Joe Scarborough criticized Rick Santelli, his NBC colleague, for comparing the Wisconsin protests to the 9/11 attacks.

On Monday's "Morning Joe," Scarborough played a clip of Santelli — who works for CNBC and who credits himself with launching the Tea Party movement with his infamous rant in early 2009 — on Sunday's "Meet the Press."

Santelli was discussing the budget deficits in Wisconsin, which the state's governor, Scott Walker, has cited as a reason to strip public sector workers of their collective bargaining rights.

"If the country is ever attacked like it was on 9/11, we all respond with a sense of urgency," Santelli said. "What’s going on on balance sheets throughout the country is the same type of attack."

"Did he just compare this to 9/11, where 3,000 Americans died?" Scarborough asked incredulously. "Did he misspeak? He didn't just compare this battle to 9/11, did he?"
Leaving aside the fact that all of these networks are owned by the same company, it does seem a little overly dramatic. Santelli rants, Scarborough criticizes and the whole incestuous team gets some media attention. It's not a new act: Scarborough went after Olbermann last year over politics and, of course, Olbermann snapped back. Given what happened to him, Santelli may want to keep his head down.


Because Epic Failure is Always Cause For a Raise

FINS reveals that the SEC, CFTC and IRS want to add 6,200 staff and $1.5 billion to their budgets in 2012, presumably due to increased regulatory duties that have fallen on said agencies in the wake of this whole financial debacle.



The agency is requesting just over $1.4 billion for its 2012 budget, a $264 million (27%) increase over the level at which it's currently operating in fiscal year 2011.

The increase will allow the agency to support 4,827 positions (4,460 of them full-time), an increase of 780 (612 of them full-time) over fiscal year 2011 levels.

-- 312 for strengthening core SEC operations, like gathering market intelligence, monitoring the financial disclosures of large corporations and overseeing money market funds and specialized product.

-- 468 positions for the implementation of new rules stemming from the financial regulatory bill. Many of the hires will focus on the derivatives market, hedge funds and whistleblowing.

The hiring won't stop in 2012: The SEC believes 296 additional positions will be required in fiscal year 2013 to continue implementing Dodd-Frank.

Besides examiners, the agency will hire those with experience in derivatives, credit default swaps, collateralized debt obligations and securitized products. Compliance officers will also be hired.


The agency requested $308 million for fiscal year 2012, up from its current budget level of $169 million, an 82% increase. It wants to grow headcount to 983 in 2012 from its current level of 667.

Of the 316 new staff, 238 would focus on implementing the financial regulatory bill. The hires will be focused on both oversight and enforcement. The agency will need examiners, economists, audit staff and analysts.


The agency requested $13.3 billion for fiscal year 2012, a $1.1 billion, or 9.4%, increase from current levels. It wants to add 5,112 new full-time employees, an increase of 5.4% to 100,537 employees.

The budget justification calls for more staff to handle new information reporting requirements, increase compliance with regards to offshore tax evasion, expand enforcement efforts among corporate and high-wealth taxpayers, and improve the tax preparing service. For example:

-- 377 for international service and enforcement.

-- 519 for tax preparation assistance services.

-- 413 for collection and tax debt coverage.

-- 497 for tax law and compliance issues.

-- 834 for the tax credits unit.

Conservatives for smaller government should be cringing right about now. Reasonable folk who don't care either way should also be cringing, as this sort of news goes to show the audacity of our government to demand more when it failed miserably with what it had in the first place.

SEC Chair Mary Schapiro wanted to make sure everyone knows that the SEC's increased budget won't actually add to our massive deficit, saying:

“These funds will provide the SEC with the resources needed to carry out both our longstanding core mission as well as our new responsibilities for derivatives, hedge fund advisers and credit rating agencies. By law, the 2012 funding is entirely offset by transaction fees such that the SEC budget will not add to the deficit.”

Transaction fees? (like the ones it quadrupled last year) So what's the issue? Let them come up with a $42 bazillion budget for all we care, right?

It sounds like some sort of sick financial mob, forcing investors to pay their own protection money. And for what? At least the mob will keep a shopowner from getting robbed most of the time in exchange for their protection money.

Dodd-Frank namesake and ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee Barney Frank chimed in, saying “The SEC is not perfect, but it has a new set of responsibilities. What we're seeing here is ideological opposition to reform of the financial system.” It was awfully presumptuous of Dodd-Frank to grant the SEC a 18% increase in funding for FY 2011 and so far, the agency has been forced to operate at its current budget level. Fuck it! “We are making some difficult choices,” Schapiro said about the SEC's short financial leash. “That's having an impact on our ability to fulfill our core mission.”

What she means by that is that the SEC cannot waste money on technology, travel and trinkets to help it fulfill that core mission which, allegedly, has been to protect investors. Let's all ignore the fact that they couldn't protect us in 2008 and haven't protected us yet. Let's also ignore the fact that they still don't have an answer for last year's Flash Crash (and every mini crash since) and are busy chasing Amish Bernie Madoff while Wall Street continues to securitize little babies for Satan or whatever it is they do all day.

Please. Someone protect us from the SEC. Who else would pay for that?!


The New York Times Declares Blogs are Dead

(h/t Joe Weisenthal via - gasp! - Twitter)

I'm not surprised the NYT would go out on a limb and let out a premature death call on the blogosphere's heartbeat, attempting to reign in those unruly readers who have defected to bask in the wild wonderland that is blogging. Really?

Blogs were once the outlet of choice for people who wanted to express themselves online. But with the rise of sites like Facebook and Twitter, they are losing their allure for many people — particularly the younger generation.

The Internet and American Life Project at the Pew Research Center found that from 2006 to 2009, blogging among children ages 12 to 17 fell by half; now 14 percent of children those ages who use the Internet have blogs. Among 18-to-33-year-olds, the project said in a report last year, blogging dropped two percentage points in 2010 from two years earlier.

Former bloggers said they were too busy to write lengthy posts and were uninspired by a lack of readers. Others said they had no interest in creating a blog because social networking did a good enough job keeping them in touch with friends and family.

Shit, really.

As one such dinosaur who still blogs, I don't even know where to begin with this NYT piece. Maybe I'm too busy to write a lengthy criticism of everything wrong about this article or just another lazy blogger who can't bring myself to do any research or make any valid points outside of my own opinion. Maybe the bile is rising in my throat so quickly that I can't sit by my laptop long enough to pound it out. Hopefully the future gets here soon so I can get that WiFi-enabled toilet bowl I've always wanted.

Since when do 12-year-olds define an entire ecosystem? My bread and butter as a blogger comes from advertising revenue, including my gig at Going Concern (which consists of advertising I, thankfully, do not have to get my hands dirty with), and last I checked, I wasn't writing for 12-year-olds. In fact, if any 12-year-olds are reading this I respectfully request that you fuck off and go over to Club Penguin or Justin Bieber's myspace page so the grown ups can talk amongst ourselves. Does the NYT write for 12-year-olds?

Don't answer that.

NYT continues:
Defining a blog is difficult, but most people think it is a Web site on which people publish periodic entries in reverse chronological order and allow readers to leave comments.

Yet for many Internet users, blogging is defined more by a personal and opinionated writing style. A number of news and commentary sites started as blogs before growing into mini-media empires, like The Huffington Post or Silicon Alley Insider, that are virtually indistinguishable from more traditional news sources.

Blogs went largely unchallenged until Facebook reshaped consumer behavior with its all-purpose hub for posting everything social. Twitter, which allows messages of no longer than 140 characters, also contributed to the upheaval.

No longer did Internet users need a blog to connect with the world. They could instead post quick updates to complain about the weather, link to articles that infuriated them, comment on news events, share photos or promote some cause — all the things a blog was intended to do.

I'm sorry but I'm not going to put my Internet eggs in Facebook's diabolical basket, regardless of what the social mediatards say. Facebook, in this blogger's humble opinion, is for connecting with people I actually know, most of whom don't care about economics or my opinion thereof. Twitter, on the other hand, is a medium of communication to advance my blogging goals, not the be all end all of the conversation. As NYT obviously figured out, there is a limitation on Twitter that doesn't apply to the blogosphere.

I refuse to believe that NYT actually believes blogs are dead and am a tad disappointed that they didn't try harder to sway public opinion if the goal is to get their former readers back to NYT and away from those dirty, nasty blogs.

Maybe the oversharing livejournal blog is dead and if that's the case, we're just as thrilled as the NYT but let's be sure we differentiate the livejournal blog from the independent writer who uses opinion to reflect on news that matters to said independent writer. Too bad hackery is alive and well, NYT. The attempt to demonize the competition is so obvious it's sad. I, for one, am not at all deterred by the New York Times pointing its shotgun at me telling me to get off the porch. It's a big fucking porch and we all own it.

Don't they understand the symbiotic relationship between the mainstream media and the alternative media who are constantly berating them? It keeps us all in business.


Wisconsin Teachers Go Back to School ...

... but isn't Monday a holiday? No wonder our public school system is so screwed up. (Disclaimer: JDA is a product of Wisconsin public schools)

In all seriousness, the president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council said those in districts who recognize Presidents Day should return to school on Tuesday.

We'll see how that works out. Too bad I don't have any second graders in Wisconsin public schools or I'd send one to class with a friendly note from mom explaining how these teachers are confused by how things work. A union of the people against the people is just another way to spread the wealth and, well, tax themselves while taxing their neighbors and friends. Are those the sorts of people you want teaching your children?

You don't have to answer that question, this drama should be arriving in your state soon enough to answer for you.

Keep fighting the good fight against yourselves and the rest of us, public union employees!


Now Available, Zeitgeist: Moving Forward

Monday, February 21, 2011 0 Comments

As many of you might be aware, the bit in the original Zeitgeist documentary that went over fractional reserve banking and the automagical money-making of the Federal Reserve was a huge catalyst to forming the website you enjoy today. Between that and not-so-accidentally picking up a copy of Michael Panzner's Financial Armageddon, my mission was clear and I set out to devour every piece of information I could find on economics, monetary policy and the socioeconomic fabric that binds us all. It's a mission in progress but in the last 2 and a half years I've managed to get a PhD in Fedspeak (how the hell do I know what these asshats are saying?!) and have thus far decoded about 5% of what Alan Greenspan ever said. Progress, people, progress.

Fun JDA fact that isn't new to my hardcore stalkers: I hate movies. Hate them. Common movie references that most normal people might get are beyond me because I haven't seen them. That thing with the chick with the "gel" in her hair? Didn't see it. The one with the guys in space and the CNN voice? No chance. Perhaps it's because I don't like the idea of giving up 2 hours of my life to bear witness to a manufactured fantasy world of scripts and scenery and CGI. Whatever it is, when Zeitgeist accidentally showed up on my computer screen nearly 3 years ago, I happened to stop whatever it was I was doing to watch all two hours of it and it changed my already-strange view of the world as we know it.

And now the third installment in the Zeitgeist series is here.

The entire film may be found below. I humbly recommend you give yourself the full two hours and 45 minutes you need to watch it in its entirety.

From the official site:

Zeitgeist: Moving Forward focuses on the very fabric of the social order: Monetary-Market Economics. While the majority of the world today have slowly come to see some basic flaws in the economic system we share, as large scale debt defaults, inflation, industrial pollution, resource depletion, rising cancer rates and other signposts emerge to bring the concern into the realm of “public health” overall, very few however consider the economic paradigm as a whole as the source. The tendency is to demand reform in one area or another, avoiding the possibility that perhaps the entire system is intrinsically flawed at the foundational level. ZMF presents the case that it is, indeed, the very foundational mechanics of this system that generates the patterns of behavior and unsustainable methods of conduct that are leading to the vast spectrum of detrimental consequences both personal, social, and environmental and the longer they go on, the worse things will become.

Enjoy, kids. (Since you're probably at work, email this to yourself and watch it when you get home. Seriously)


TLP: Happy Presidents Day, America. And the Winner is ...

Monday, February 21, 2011 , , , , 0 Comments

presidents day
Big month for Ronald Reagan. First, he clocks the centennial. Now, for Presidents Day, he scores the top spot in a poll that asked Americans to name the "greatest" president. Admittedly, neither honor is especially meaningful to him, circumstances being what they are.

Politics Daily:
Number 40 is No. 1. Just in time for Presidents Day, Ronald Reagan tops a list of the nation's greatest chief executives, ahead of Abraham Lincoln, according to a new survey out Friday.

The Gallup Poll puts Reagan, with 19 percent, in the top spot for the third time. Reagan also occupied the position in 2001 and 2005 -- and he has been in the top three eight times since Gallup started asking the "greatest president" question 12 years ago.

Lincoln garnered 14 percent, followed very closely by Bill Clinton, with 13 percent.

John F. Kennedy, who was on top in 2000 and tied with Lincoln in 2003, came in fourth this year.

The country's first president, George Washington, is fifth on the list.

Gallup said respondents are more likely to mention recent office-holders because "the average American constantly hears about and from presidents in office during their lifetime, and comparatively little about historical presidents long dead."

Four of the five most recent presidents are in the top ten this year: Obama (No. 7), George W. Bush (No. 10), Clinton, and Reagan.
How about that? Obama breaks the top 10 after only two years and W still ranks up there. And the top spot is nothing new for Reagan: he or Lincoln or JFK have ended up there in every poll over the last dozen years.

So celebrate however you like. Eat some jelly beans, buy a Reagan stamp from the Postal Service. What the fuck, you can always just mark the day by wearing a favorite t-shirt.


The Wingnut Argument for Stupid Economists

Ever notice how "experts" seem to insist that laypeople can't possibly understand the excessively complicated esoterica of economics? That's not a coincidence. Inflation (an insidious, hidden tax on every dollar in our wallets) wouldn't be possible if everyday Joe and his four ugly blond kids had even a remedial understanding of how money works and where it comes from. The Fed would have been burned down 50 years ago were regular schmoes like you and I to truly understand what goes on there and why they do it. Lucky for them, most of us are blissfully unaware, our noses turned up at the stench of economics and all its complications.

The ironic part is that for all its models and formulas and rules, economics is a crude study of humans and what we do with what we have. How complicated can that be?

Only as complicated as they want it to be.

Here's a little laugh from David Kramer via Lew Rockwell on the all-too-not-at-all-complicated science of economics:

(N)ational (P)ropaganda for (R)ockefeller

Or is it (N)ational (P)ropaganda for (R)othschild? Or both? (I vote for both.) Jim Grant was on NPR this morning extolling the virtues of the gold standard. Of course a real “economist” that NPR found under a rock (which is actually where all non-Austrian “economists” reside) said that no economist would support such an anachronistic concept. After all, it was the gold standard that “caused” the Great Depression. Had the U.S. been on a gold standard now, we could never have gotten out of our recent financial crisis. (You know—the recent financial crisis that we really are not out of and that was caused because we are not on the gold standard.)

Professor of “Economics” Randall Parker at East Carolina University:

“[the gold standard] a pernicious anachronism that should be kept in the history books. And to think that modern people today want to speak about its resurrection should absolutely horrify and terrify anyone who understands economics even a little bit.”

Parker is almost correct. Anyone, such as Parker, who understands economics only a little bit—if at all—would never get a job teaching his Bankster form of “economics” if he promoted a financial system in which David Rockefeller and Evelyn de Rothschild actually had to work for a living like the rest of us, instead of having the government-backed privilege of adding to their banks’ accounts simply by typing in a number followed by some zeros into the computers at their banks’ headquarters. (Or is that strenuous workload handled at the “Federal” Reserve itself for Dave and Ev?)

Grant knows he doesn't have tenure at the Zimbabwe Ben School of Economics and, thankfully, he's OK with that. "The argument I'm making is in fact the wingnut argument," he told NPR, "Every self-respecting tenured faculty member in economics this country, almost without exception, would laugh it out of court."

Right. Because a lot of those guys may have never had the chance to finance their educations and textbook writing careers were it not for the seemingly infinite potential to manufacture money out of nothing. And as Kramer points out above, no economist, bootleg or otherwise, would be allowed to teach in our hallowed educational institutions were they to evangelize such a wingnut concept as money that is finite and limited by the supply of whatever backs it, be that gold or beans or widgets.

Want to see some real wingnuts? Check out the comments on the Planet Money story, including the guy who claims Wall Street funds "50 cent" bloggers to influence popular sentiment one way or another so they can clean up on the resulting volatility, supposedly backed by those darn Koch Brothers. Seriously? This isn't wingnut territory, it's the full-on Republic of Nutjobs.

Anyway, are we still paying attention, children? It's all quite simple, surely you can keep up.


Are Wisconsin Protests a Harbinger of Doom for Municipal Bonds?

 pic credit: moonbattery

Are Wisconsin protests a harbinger of doom for muni bonds? John Carney seems to think so.

While muni bond holders in Wisconsin shouldn't have much to worry about in the weeks and months ahead, there are greater fools out there (like California debt-holders) who should be sweating right about now.

Martin J. Bennett argues via California Progess Report that California public employees aren't the problem:

According to the California Budget Project (CBP), [California has] the second lowest ratio of state workers per 10,000 residents in the nation. In addition, more than 70,000 public sector jobs have been eliminated in California since the crash of 2008, and public sector job loss is proportionately greater in California than in most other states.

Does the CBP calculate that number counting California's 2.5 million illegal immigrants or whatever official number it is we're using today? (It's supposed to be somewhere around 7% of California's entire population) Perhaps a large reason why illegal immigrants are not demonized in the state is because it can be really convenient to add them in to prove our statistical points, especially when defending not only the large number of public employees in California but the large lifetime benefits they reap for being such.

Anyway, how many there are doesn't matter. It comes down to the political choices lawmakers in broke states will make when it comes to paying the bills and keeping their promises. What's scarier, an angry mob of teachers or a bunch of hedge fund guys ticked off at you?

Carney via CNBC:

But a victory by the unions in Wisconsin could embolden state workers in states with far worse finances. Politicians worried about similar revolts might consider it better politics to force muni bond holders to accept haircuts. After all, hedge fund and mutual fund managers are not likely to fill the streets of the state capital or win the sympathy of members of the state legislatures.

Much of the bullish case for munis depends on the belief that states and localities will behave rationally and predictably when it comes to their debt payments. In Wisconsin, however, we’re seeing these assumptions fall apart. Political risk is alive and well.

Better politics? I doubt politicians have the ability to adopt a fuck or be fucked position when it comes to staying a step ahead of Wall Street financial engineers who are banking on their failure.

See also WSJ, January 14, 2011:

The rollover rush stems from the credit crisis that roiled the U.S. in 2008. Municipalities had issued so-called auction-rate securities, instruments whose rates reset at weekly auctions. Amid the credit crunch, buyers at these auctions vanished.

Many municipalities scrambled to convert the debt into other instruments, including variable-rate demand obligations, which are long-term bonds with interest rates that reset periodically. For a fee, big banks guaranteed many of these deals.

These so-called letters of credit from banks typically only last two or three years, leaving municipalities to refinance the deals or obtain a new guarantee. The issuers expected to easily renew the letters of credit.

But many of these letters of credit have become much more expensive and scarce, state officials say, leaving them with little choice but to try to refinance at a time when the broader muni market is under pressure.

How many times do we have to go over this before we admit that politics can no longer fix this mess and must be removed for us to get anywhere?

Or let's go back to kindergarten and make this simpler. Remember when some kid in your class came to school with lice and the school nurse would end up sending you home with a letter that your parents had to search through your head for the nasty little bugs? And if they found them, your head would be soaked in chemicals, your sheets and blankets boiled in the laundry and your stuffed animals and toys wrapped up in trash bags and tossed.

The infestation is rampant. You with me?

And why is no one pointing out that unions are supposed to be for the people against the corporation, not for the people against the people?

As Sic Ibid said via WC Varones in June 2010:

Now, a regular union's purpose is to protect its members from the ownership of the company they work for. That's fine and dandy. But let's ask ourselves; who are the Public Employee Unions protecting their members from? Who "owns" the U.S. government (all obvious jokes aside here)? The citizens of America, is the answer! Public Employee Unions are protecting their members from the citizens, from us! So every time the Public Employee Unions demand fulfillment of unreasonable pension promises despite a state being tens of billions of dollars in debt, they are acting in a way that is totally contrary to the interest of the people, who in theory, own and run their government and are supposed to be able to make their own laws (via our representatives).

See you on the breadline, comrades.


TLP: Stupid is as Stupid Does

Sunday, February 20, 2011 , , 25 Comments

confederate plate
Not that he stands a chance anyway, but Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour seems determined to do things that ensure that his political base will never expand beyond, uh, Mississippi.

AP via HuffPost:
Does Haley Barbour have a Confederate problem?

It's a question hounding Mississippi's Republican governor as he gears up for a possible 2012 presidential run. Barbour refused this week to condemn a proposed state license plate to honor Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general who was also an early Ku Klux Klan leader.

Barbour wouldn't say what he thinks about Forrest, a Tennessee native who's venerated by some as a brilliant military strategist and reviled by others for leading the 1864 massacre of black Union troops at Fort Pillow, Tenn.

"Look," Barbour told The Associated Press, "if you want a lesson on Nathan Bedford Forrest, buy a book."

Was Barbour's decision not to denounce a divisive historical figure a political calculation to appeal to conservative voters in early presidential primary states such as South Carolina? Or was he simply showing his well-known stubborn streak?
Stubborn is one word for it, I guess. Clueless might be another. Politically suicidal comes to mind. In the last year, he's professed himself to be puzzled at criticism that Virginia's Confederate History Month omitted a mention of slavery, saying the controversy "doesn't amount to diddly," and then had to explain what he really meant to say about segregationist Citizens Councils in the South during the civil rights era.

And, oh yeah, he coughed up a tar ball during last summer's BP oil spill when he appeared to be accommodating to drilling interests even as the slick spread across the Gulf of Mexico and onto the Mississippi shore.

Maybe Barbour doesn't need a book to learn the story of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Could be that his lesson is in a movie.
Forrest: (voice-over) Now, when I was a baby, Momma named me after the great Civil War hero, General Nathan Bedford Forrest... She said we was related to him in some way. And, what he did was, he started up this club called the Ku Klux Klan. They'd all dress up in their robes and their bedsheets and act like a bunch of ghosts or spooks or something. They'd even put bedsheets on their horses and ride around. And anyway, that's how I got my name. Forrest Gump. Momma said that the Forrest part was to remind me that sometimes we all do things that, well, just don't make no sense.
And that's all I have to say about that.