TLP: Besides, Being Drunk Makes You Forget About the Economy

Friday, September 30, 2011 , , , 0 Comments

booze laws
Because it's always happy hour at Jr Deputy Accountant, we offer you something to argue about at the bar. And, no, we're not picking up your tab.

Drink up, America. The government needs the money.

With cities across the country facing their fifth straight year of declining revenues and states cutting services and laying off workers, raising money from people who enjoy a cocktail is becoming an increasingly attractive option.

Since the recession started in earnest in 2008, dozens of states and cities have tinkered with laws that regulate alcohol sales as a way to build up their budgets.

Twelve states have raised taxes on alcohol or changed alcohol laws to increase revenue, including Maryland, which in July pushed the sales tax on alcohol to 9 percent, from 6 percent — the first such increase in 38 years and one that is expected to bring in $85 million a year.

In November, voters in Atlanta and elsewhere in Georgia will decide whether to repeal colonial-era laws that ban alcohol sales on Sunday.
More revenue for ailing states, collected voluntarily from the willing? Not the worst thing. Fewer governmental restrictions on the availability of the product in question? Sounds like a good thing.

Well, not to everyone, apparently.
“Lawmakers are taking a very short-sided view,” said David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “What they gain in short-term tax revenue they are losing in long-term police costs, emergency room costs and work-force readiness costs in terms of the Monday morning effect.”

Like many public health officials, Mr. Jernigan does not support government efforts that increase the availability of alcohol, but he does support raising sales tax as a way to make people drink less.
"Short-sided"? Was Kim Severson drunk when she wrote this? (Try "short-sighted"; works better with "view.") Jernigan must have been drunk, though I doubt it, when he argued for less available, higher-taxed booze. That's a lose-lose, and we can't let things end that way.
Taxes do not always slow things down at happy hour, however. Because there is not a good substitute for alcohol, state officials are banking on the fact that people will simply pay more or drink cheaper brands.

“These are kind of antitax times, so it’s tough to raise any kind of tax, but this is one they might have more success with,” said Mark Stehr, an associate professor of economics at Drexel University in Philadelphia who has studied the effects of taxes and other regulations on cigarettes and alcohol.

“Legislators can say it’s to protect health and reduce drunk driving, and that’s what can draw support, but the real motivation is revenue,” he said.
Tell the public what it wants to hear, and get the dirty work done. In politics, that's a win-win.


Bank of America to Charge $5 a Month to Use Your Money

Ken Lewis wouldn't let this happen. Just sayin.

True story, I'm a recent Bank of America convert. As some of you know, I was a Chase customer back in California and loved them to death but since I moved to DC, I've had a bit of banking drama. I've since ditched those losers at BB&T and moved to BofA because there's a branch down the street from me, online banking is simple and eBanking is free if you don't get a statement and do all your deposits at the ATM. I don't like people anyway so that's a perfect relationship right there, I'd rather do my interacting with a machine, especially if it saves me a few bucks. Plus their Keep the Change savings program rules for those of us not necessarily disciplined enough to make regular contributions to the savings end of our cash flow (sorry, grandma).

So I don't know if you guys heard but, Bank of America recently announced it will start charging $5 a month for debit transactions, and it's no surprise that a lot of folks out there got butthurt.

Presumably, you can work around this by doing only credit transactions. Since I write about this shit day in and day out, I generally tell merchants "whatever is easier for you" in response to "debit or credit?" and by easier, I mean cheaper. I know debit sales are cheaper than credit. It's all the same to me anyway, so anything I can do from keeping my favorite merchants from jacking up my prices, I'm more than willing to do.

Here's the WSJ story:

The nation's beleaguered banking industry, which has been raising fees and doing away with free services, has a new target: debit-card users.

Bank of America Corp. is laying plans to charge millions of customers a $5 monthly fee to use their debit cards, and other big banks are expected to follow suit. The industry says it needs the fees to recoup revenue it will lose because of new government regulations taking effect Saturday that cap what they can charge merchants for debit-card transactions.

Bank of America, the largest U.S. bank by assets, disclosed the plan on Thursday in a memo to its senior staff. It intends to begin collecting the fees nationwide early next year.

How's that Dodd-Frank working out for you motherfuckers? Thanks for nothing, assholes.

Am I going to leave Bank of America? Probably not. They've treated me good so far, always credit me my deposits promptly (if you call 5 days promptly, but at least they disclaim that on my receipt when I pop them in the ATM) and don't bug me about nonsense.

What I am going to do is use my Capital One credit card more often and simply write a check to pay that bitch every month. Problem solved.

Stop whining, people.


Confirmed: Goldman Sachs Rules the World

 There is only one level of douche up from this

That stuff about Goldman Sachs ruling the world has been confirmed, at least according to this slick, coked out bastard:

Apparently this is for real, though the guy isn't some "real" trader gone off the reservation, just a concerned citizen of the world in a shiny tie warning the king that the sky is falling.


The Capital Wasteland Wins Worst Traffic Congestion In America

As many of you know, I'm currently in the process of having my soul sucked out by an hour and a half a day on DC metro parkways. I'm as grateful for my awesome job as anyone else with one but really?!

This is from USA Today so it must be true:

The nation's capital is the most congested metropolitan area in the USA, a new report says. Instead of cursing the rush-hour gridlock, residents of Washington and its suburbs might conclude that their commute is so bad mainly because their city is better off economically than most.

What a bunch of morons out there. You guys think subjecting ourselves to that out there day in and day out makes us somehow better off than everyone else? Yes there are jobs here. But we also are fast on our way to becoming LA freeways at this rate.

This seems a bizarre way to celebrate our well-off-ness. Yay, I burn $7 a day scuttling back and forth from DC to the Maryland suburbs and I've become a hollowed-out recluse as a result. I hide in my condo on the weekends, crippled by Beltway PTSD and barely able to take my car down to the car wash. YAAAAAYYY!!

The Post hits it better:

Washington suffers from the worst traffic congestion in the nation, with drivers spending more than three days out of every 365 caught in traffic.

Helped along by a relatively robust economy, the Washington region forged well ahead of perennial rivals Chicago and Los Angeles, which ranked second and third in an extensive study conducted annually by a research group at Texas A&M University.

“This is one of those odd times when bad news is good news,” said Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton. “The reason we have more congestion is that the Washington region has a very strong economy. I go to other parts of the state and they say they have no transportation problems.”

THREE DAYS. I look at my GPS stats and can't believe I spent 2 hours not moving out of 10 and a quarter hours of driving. But I can because I'm angry, my car is tired and I'm at the pump every few days. Bright side: there aren't any tolls along the way. Yet.

It's only going to get worse (and has) as we try to accomodate BRAC:

Maryland’s depleted Transportation Trust Fund, the pot of money used to pay for local road projects, has languished in recent years as lawmakers directed the funds to other programs, and it remains to be seen whether supporters of a gas tax increase can muster enough momentum next year to rebuild the fund. An attempt to increase the state’s 23.5 cents-per-gallon tax by 10 cents died during the 2011 General Assembly session.

“One (hurdle) is the challenge of infrastructure, keeping pace with the traffic demands generated by the new jobs,” said J. Michael Hayes, director of military and federal affairs for the state’s Department of Business and Economic Development. “And that in the best of times is a challenge.”


I'm dying out there, people. Someone save me.


What Happened to Personal Responsibility?

Continuing on last evening's thoughts about FEMA, check out this whiner crying over FEMA's lack of responsiveness to her, erm, needs. And by needs, I mean demands for cash.

Here's the big fat crybaby via the Connecticut Post:

Elizabeth Robinson has no patience for the partisan political maneuvering in Congress that has threatened to delay federal aid for victims of Hurricane-turned-Tropical Storm Irene.

The Bridgeport resident, whose apartment suffered significant water damage from last month's storm, was among the first-day visitors to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Recovery Center at Housatonic Community College.

The temporary center had been based in Greenwich, but low traffic volume resulted in the location change.

"Just release the money," Robinson, wiping back tears, said of Congressional Republicans' insistence on adopting cuts to pay for some additional FEMA funds.

Raquel Forbes, of Bridgeport, who also met with FEMA staff Monday, agreed.

"Help people who are hurting now and worry about making cuts elsewhere later," she said.

First of all, why is someone in an apartment getting free FEMA money? Doesn't that go to the building owner if needed at all? Second, I pay less than $150 a year for $35,000 in renter's insurance that covers me in the event of all sorts of disasters such as a robbery, spontaneous cat combustion or, God forbid, a natural disaster. The policy does not cover the disaster itself (like a window getting blown out in a hurricane) but it would cover my big screen TV if a hurricane blew out my windows and someone walked right in here and took it. It also covers secondary damage from natural disasters, because it is assumed that the property owner's policy covers any damage to the actual property. I am not required in my lease to hold a renter's insurance policy but I live in the hood, so figured I'd hedge my robbery odds in my favor and do the smart, responsible thing. God, who the hell am I?

Anyway, apparently it's easier to cry to the media about how unfair the government is being by not cutting a check for damages an apartment renter wouldn't even be responsible for than to suck it up and throw a few bucks at the insurance company. God fucking bless America.

How much do you all want to bet this person got worked up over Wall Street bailouts?

Or how about this?

Those who have not gotten disaster relief money are flocking to FEMA Disaster Relief Centers like one in Luzerne County.

"You are sending so much aid to other countries, you are sending so much everywhere else. You've got to help America. I mean, I think everybody in America would like to send that message to politicians. It's us. We need it," said Suzie Mizzer of Kingston Township.

Did you ever think it would come to this, America? Crumbling infrastructure, corrupt politics and a bankrupt Treasury, with our citizens begging for the last scraps before the entire thing goes bust?

Don't get me wrong, I feel horrible for the people who have lost everything. But feeling horrible and funding their moral hazard are two different things. Back in the early 2000s when everyone could afford it, maybe it didn't matter. But now we're at the breaking point, and either we make sacrifices (like not expecting the government to replace our moldy Beanie Baby collections) or we fall. It's pretty much that simple.

But don't tell hysterical beggars that.

However, I did appreciate the way Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont put it:

"[FEMA's money] could run out very, very quickly. And then the highway fund that repairs our highways-- that's virtually gone. It is ridiculous. It's the first time in history that we haven't come together and say, OK, Americans have been hit by a disaster, let's Americans help Americans. You have some of these people who have voted for a blank check to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan, but they suddenly say, well we can't vote for money to rebuild America? For Americans? With American jobs? It's Alice in Wonderland."

We're obviously seeing how deep the rabbit hole goes.


TLP: New Jersey Economic Policy Now Subject to Governor's Taste

jersey shore taxes
Companies looking to expand or locate their business in New Jersey now know they can't count on the state government to make good on the economic incentives it promises.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey on Monday blocked a $420,000 tax credit that the state’s Economic Development Authority had approved last week.

Was the loser a high-tech startup? An alternative energy company, perhaps?

No. It was Snooki and the Situation.

The production company behind the reality series “Jersey Shore” had applied for the credit, intended to expand film and television shooting in the state, to help cover costs for its inaugural season in 2009.

Mr. Christie said he was “duty-bound” to see that taxpayers were “not footing a $420,000 bill for a project which does nothing more than perpetuate misconceptions about the state and its citizens.”

“In this difficult fiscal climate,” he wrote to Caren S. Franzini, the chief executive of the Economic Development Authority, “the taxpayers of New Jersey should not be forced to subsidize projects such as ‘Jersey Shore.’ ”
Wonder how difficult the fiscal climate would be down the Shore without MTV's money and all the related spending by companies sucking up to the production, servicing the wannabe Guido tourists, creating jobs just because America can't look away from this freak show.

Or worse, how the New Jersey economy will fare when executives negotiating with Christie's economic development officials start saying fuck it and go somewhere else.


The Senate Tries to Keep Our Lights On a Few More Weeks

This sounds a lot like how I live my life towards the end of the month, but instead of $114 million, I'm lucky to have a spare $114 on hand. Except I am a starving writer living in one of the most expensive cities in the country and this is the federal government we're talking about here.

But HEY, now that the Senate has reached a deal, we're that much closer to never ever having to worry about not having enough money to pay the bills again. Right.


The Senate reached a bipartisan spending agreement on Monday to avert a government shutdown, sidestepping a bitter impasse over disaster financing after federal authorities said they could most likely squeak through the rest of this week with the $114 million they had on hand.

After blocking one Democratic proposal, the Senate voted, 79 to 12, to approve a straightforward seven-week extension of financing for government agencies that were due to run out of money on Friday, simultaneously replenishing accounts at the Federal Emergency Management Agency that this summer’s string of natural disasters had nearly exhausted.

“It shows us the way out,” said Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader, who said the plan should be satisfactory to both Democrats and Republicans. “It means we no longer have to fight.”

The way out? No offense to Mr. Reid but are you fucking dense, bro? That would be like me trucking my beat up old Mazda over to Virginia to get a car title loan to keep the lights on for a few more weeks and claiming all my problems solved. Is he for real?

I would like to believe at this point that the boneheads in my fair town are smart enough not to say these sorts of things out loud but I know better.

Anyone else find it sketchy that FEMA just magically came up with some extra cash to get them through after the first plan was shot down? What did they do, scour the couch cushions in those concentration camp trailers to find a few quarters?

Maybe if FEMA wasn't giving away $800 a pop on a "case-by-case basis" to people who buy generators or offering assistance to undocumented immigrants, we might have a few more bucks 'til pay day. Why should the government be expected to fund your fucking generator? Candles are $2 a pop, deal.

But hey, let us all know how that way out works for everyone, please, Harry Reid. I'm so super excited!


TLP: Naked People Mad About Wiener

Monday, September 26, 2011 , , 2 Comments

nudity protest
As crazy as things got in Salt Lake City this weekend, with people running through the streets to show off their un-Mormon underwear, the real fun was in San Francisco. People got naked right out in public just because a city supervisor wants to pass a law so that they can't.

Perhaps it should not be a surprise that San Francisco does not have a law against being naked in public, nor that a small, unselfconscious segment of the city’s residents regularly exercise that right.

That tiny minority was joined this weekend in the autumn fog and cold by unclothed sympathizers at a “Nude-In.” One of their objectives was to draw attention to a proposed law — introduced by Scott Wiener, a city supervisor — that would prohibit nudity in restaurants and require unclad people to put a towel or other material down before sitting bare-bottomed on benches or other public seats.

Mr. Wiener said the law was introduced in response to an increase in nakedness in parks, streets and restaurants.

“It used to be that there would be one nude guy wandering around the neighborhood and no one thought twice about it,” said Mr. Wiener, who represents the city’s Castro district. “Now it’s a regular thing and much more obnoxious. We have guys sitting down naked in public without the common decency to put something down underneath them.”

Mr. Wiener’s effort was destined to grab headlines, but he probably did not anticipate that his legislation would inspire even more people to disrobe.

“Wiener might as well have shot lasers and fireworks into the sky announcing that public nudity is legal,” said George Davis, 65.

A self-described “urban nudist” who once ran for mayor and often campaigned in the buff, Mr. Davis now spends most afternoons lounging in his birthday suit in a public plaza in the Castro.
Unfortunate laser-shooting metaphors aside, I just want to know how a guy named Wiener ended up on the side of this issue that's against being naked.


TLP: Since When Are Funny Underpants Unusual in Salt Lake City?

mormon politics
I guess this is what passes for excitement in Utah.

AP via HuffPost:
Thousands of people stripped to their underwear and ran through Salt Lake City to protest what they called the "uptight" laws of Utah.

Undie Run organizer Nate Porter says the goal of the event Saturday was to organize people frustrated by the conservative nature of state politics.

Nudity was prohibited by organizers. Participants donned bras, panties, nightgowns, swimwear or colorful boxer shorts – and some added political messages by expressing support for causes like gay marriage on their chests, backs or legs.

Salt Lake City is the home of the Mormon church, which is a vocal opponent of gay marriage.
East Germans gathered at the Berlin Wall. Egyptians swarmed Tahir Square. Is the history of political upheaval in Utah beginning with the Underwear Revolution?


TLP: Can Rick Perry Talk Like a Pirate?

pirate party
The rebellious American colonists who pulled off the Boston Tea Party — inspiring the political rebels of today — fooled the British by dressing up as Indians. The present-day Tea Partiers have had some success, but just think where they'd be if the colonists had worn eye patches and puffy shirts instead of war paint and buckskins.

Works in Germany, according to an NYT report:
With laptops open like shields against the encroaching cameramen, the young men resembled Peter Pan’s Lost Boys more than Captain Hook’s buccaneers when they were introduced Monday as Berlin’s newest legislators: They are the members of the Pirate Party. ...

By winning 8.9 percent of the vote in Sunday’s election in this city-state, these political pirates surpassed — blew away, really — every expectation for what was supposed to be a fringe, one-issue party promoting Internet freedom. The Pirates so outstripped expectations that all 15 candidates on their list won seats — seats are doled out based in part on votes for a party rather than for an individual. Normally parties list far more candidates than could ever make it, because if they win more than they nominate, the seat must remain unfilled.

These men in their 20s and 30s, who turned up at the imposing former Prussian state parliament building, some wearing hooded sweatshirts, and one a T-shirt of the comic book hero Captain America, were no longer merely madcap campaigners and gadflies. They had become the people’s elected representatives.

The question that members of Germany’s political establishment are now asking after the insurgent party stormed the statehouse is this: Are the Pirates merely the punch line to a joke, a focus of protest, a reflection of electoral disgust with all established political parties — or an exciting experiment in a new form of online democracy?

“They are absolutely not a joke party,” said Christoph Bieber, a professor of political science at the University of Duisburg-Essen. While there was certainly an element of protest in the unexpectedly large share of the votes the Pirates won, they were filling a real need for voters outside the political mainstream who felt unrepresented. “In the Internet, they have really found an underexploited theme that the other political parties are not dealing with,” Mr. Bieber said.
The campaign has just gotten started. Plenty of sword-fighting to come.


This Explains Why My Condo Is So Cheap

Loud sex is a billion dollar problem, says Jon Bittner in Forbes:
Using census data and analysis of an informal pricing survey of 114 users of (a “share bills” app for roommates which I co-founded), I estimate that solving the loud sex problem alone would be worth $1.1-1.9 billion per year to the US market. Mitigating all unpleasant noises would represent a market of around $12 billion per year for the population we considered.
Bittner suggest the market could be made more transparent by allowing buyers and renters to see the history of nighttime disturbances in a given apartment before they buy. That wouldn't work in my part of DC, you don't snitch on people, even those who are banging their headboard against your wall. That's, naturally, why mine is against the outside wall. I'm not a shitty neighbor.

He estimates that the potentially affected population is about 33.5 million people (people 20-34 living with at least one other person who is not their spouse), which leaves 18.4 million sufferers.

Well what the fuck... you're talking about 22 year olds crammed into a house, not my neighbor disrupting me on a Thursday night by bringing home some skanky hoodrat from the projects across the way. According to his research, those who suffer from this awful situation would be willing to pay to remove all unpleasant sounds. The amount they'd be willing to pay? $53.81 per month, or $645.72 per year.

Hate to break it to you, Goldilocks, but you're going to have to cough up more than that to ditch the roommate and bang your snookums on the floor like a grown up (as loudly as you'd like).


The Four Congressional Queens of the Apocalypse Implore Zimbabwe Ben to Chill on the Money Printing

No really, they even wrote a letter and everything:

Dear Chairman Bernanke,

It is our understanding that the Board Members of the Federal Reserve will meet later this week to consider additional monetary stimulus proposals. We write to express our reservations about any such measures. Respectfully, we submit that the board should resist further extraordinary intervention in the U.S. economy, particularly without a clear articulation of the goals of such a policy, direction for success, ample data proving a case for economic action and quantifiable benefits to the American people.

It is not clear that the recent round of quantitative easing undertaken by the Federal Reserve has facilitated economic growth or reduced the unemployment rate. To the contrary, there has been significant concern expressed by Federal Reserve Board Members, academics, business leaders, Members of Congress and the public. Although the goal of quantitative easing was, in part, to stabilize the price level against deflationary fears, the Federal Reserve’s actions have likely led to more fluctuations and uncertainty in our already weak economy.

We have serious concerns that further intervention by the Federal Reserve could exacerbate current problems or further harm the U.S. economy. Such steps may erode the already weakened U.S. dollar or promote more borrowing by overleveraged consumers. To date, we have seen no evidence that further monetary stimulus will create jobs or provide a sustainable path towards economic recovery.

Ultimately, the American economy is driven by the confidence of consumers and investors and the innovations of its workers. The American people have reason to be skeptical of the Federal Reserve vastly increasing its role in the economy if measurable outcomes cannot be demonstrated.

We respectfully request that a copy of this letter be shared with each Member of the Board.


Sen. Mitch McConnell, Rep. John Boehner, Sen. Jon Kyl, Rep. Eric Cantor

How fucking lazy, they couldn't mail extra copies to the rest of the Federal Reserve Board? Or perhaps trotted their plastic asses down to 20th and Constitution to leave the letter tucked under the windshield wipers of every car parked in front of the Board? Cantor could borrow one of those Lady Liberty costumes Liberty Tax puts unemployed high school dropouts in on the corner during tax time. It'd be awesome.

I'd personally lick the stamps to send this letter to every Federal Reserve System employee across the 12 districts just to see that.


TLP: Maybe Rural Broadband Expansion Isn't Such a Good Idea After All

rural internet
Apparently, rednecks, hillbillies and other rural and small-town Americans can't be trusted with the Internet. Makes them go all "Deliverance" on each other.

Who better to delve into this milieu than the NYT?
In rural America, where an older, poorer and more remote population has lagged the rest of the country in embracing the Internet, the growing use of social media is raising familiar concerns about bullying and privacy. But in small towns there are complications.

The same Web sites created as places for candid talk about local news and politics are also hubs of unsubstantiated gossip, stirring widespread resentment in communities where ties run deep, memories run long and anonymity is something of a novel concept.

A generation ago, even after technology had advanced, many rural residents clung to the party line telephone systems that allowed neighbors to listen in on one another’s conversations. Now they are gravitating toward open community forums online, said Christian Sandvig, an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“Something about rural culture seems to make people want to have conversations in public,” said Mr. Sandvig, who has studied the use of social media sites in rural areas.
And that's what the Web is perfect for. Maybe it's less awkward when the people you talk shit about aren't in line with you at the grocery store, but, as they say on the Internet, "whatevs."

What's unacceptable is the kind of language people use. Not profanity; fuck that. It's the accumulated fail of grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization and other things that even a lazy descendant of hillbillies like me can't tolerate.

The NYT couldn't resist telling us that it saw what they did there.

“i think when these girls have one child ok maybe an accident. but when it gets to two of them. i think the law should be pasted that they have to get fixed so there isn’t a third child. sorry just my thought.


“does anyone know anything about him, i know that a close family member of mine has been hanging out over there a lot with her child, and i was just wanting to know what kind of guy he is and if its a safe place for them, she has had a drug problem in the past and i am just concerned about the childs safety i have heard a lot of bad things about him and that place, just wondering if it was true ...”


“You people are horrible and hurtful. I bet you don’t have any room to talk about others. Take a good look at your self BEAUTY QUEEN I bet your not that great yourself.”

And neither are you.


TLP: Pols With Names Ending in Vowels Try to Put a Hit on 'Jersey Shore' Tax Credit

jersey shore jobs
Seems that not all jobs count equally in this economy recession recovery. At least for politicians in New Jersey. (h/t the Yoga Situation)
A chorus of angry politicians and a national coalition of Italian-Americans called on Gov. Chris Christie Thursday to veto a controversial $420,000 film tax credit awarded to the hit MTV television show "Jersey Shore."

"The governor needs to step up for decency and veto this. If the show wants to go somewhere else, let ‘em," said state Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), who said it includes negative stereotypes of young Italian-Americans.

"Let us just hope against hope that New Jersey taxpayers don’t end up paying for ‘Snooki’s’ bail the next time she is arrested. What a terrible, terrible and misguided waste." said State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen).

Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said although the governor dislikes both show and the incentive program, he cannot veto the credit issued Wednesday by the state Economic Development Authority. Although the rules say the authority’s actions are subject to potential vetoes, Drewniak explained that the program is non-discretionary and the company met guidelines.

"Look, it’s the law. If the Legislature has buyer’s remorse, they are free to fix it," said Drewniak, adding that the "Jersey Shore" application was submitted under the Corzine administration.

The EDA approved the $420,000 film tax credit for for the 2009 production of the inaugural season of the hit television show. The approval was part of the first round of film tax credits awarded by the EDA since Gov. Chris Christie suspended the program in 2010 to close budget deficit.
So much grandstanding. You'd think these lawmakers were the ones with the GTL obsession and the need to preen on camera. (Note to Sen. Vitale: "Jersey Shore" already did go somewhere else. Twice.)

Anyway, this is what passes for competition among state governments for jobs. Whether the goal is to get teevee shows or movies produced, factories built, whatever. They shake their incentives at producers and CEOs, hoping to get enough of a rise out of them to land the production or construction or project and whatever jobs they can count as "created" next time they campaign.

And it's a total business deal. The company comes through with what it signs on for in terms of jobs or the state cuts off the money. Something tells me the "Jersey Shore" jobs weren't scoffed at so much when they were announced. Just now that they have to be paid for.


The Beltway is Killing Me

In the last few months, I've started feeling like shit. I'm tired, unenthusiastic, lethargic, uninspired... I can hardly draw the energy to be up Bernanke's ass and he works right down the block from me. Sad.

I've been thinking long and hard on what it could be sucking out my soul. I live in an awesome DC condo, have a pretty bad ass boyfriend, manage to work in this economy and actually love what I do. I'm grateful to be able to say that, so my actual life can't be it.

I'm surprised the answer hasn't come to me on my 45 minute long reverse commute out from DC into the Maryland suburbs and back every day. Maybe because I'm too busy screaming at people, rocking my foot back and forth on the brake, growling and generally cursing life.

Your commute can actually kill you, though WaPo says it happens in your 50s, not your 30s. You could fool me. I suffer through constant back pain (though that could be from any number of other factors), and a general shitty disposition that has to rub off on anyone around me.

I've been suffering through DC freeways for only a matter of months now and I'm already burned out. How do people do this for years at a time? I always considered myself kind of clever for living in the city and working in the suburbs but it doesn't seem to be any easier, except the traffic in the other direction looks only slightly more painful than mine. Tap. Tap. Taptap gaaaaasss tap. taptap. TAP. It will drive you fucking insane. Even my GPS knows traffic is going to be fucked up once I drop into any one of DC's many perpetually-a-construction-zone roads. It tries - in vain - to lead me away from the traffic and ends up dumping me on a worse stretch.

Here's one of my favorite financial smear mags, The Economist, on how "drive 'til you qualify" has made for many a miserable commuter (JDA not one of them):

Slate's Annie Lowrey had a great piece late last month rounding up the best research on the effects of commuting on human health and happiness. The article is pegged to Swedish researchers' discovery that a commute longer than 45 minutes for just one partner in a marriage makes the couple 40% more likely to divorce. But Ms Lowrey ends up running through the whole litany of traditional commuter complaints—that it makes us fat, stresses us out, makes us feel lonely, and literally causes pain in the neck—and finds research to prove that the moaners are, more often than not, right. "People who say, 'My commute is killing me!' are not exaggerators," she concludes: "They are realists." So why do we do it? Here's Ms Lowrey:

The answer mostly lies in a phrase forced on us by real-estate agents: "Drive until you qualify." Many of us work in towns or cities where houses are expensive. The further we move from work, the more house we can afford. Given the choice between a cramped two-bedroom apartment 10 minutes from work and a spacious four-bedroom house 45 minutes from it, we often elect the latter.

For decades, economists have been warning us that when we buy at a distance, we do not tend to take the cost of our own time into account. All the way back in 1965, for instance, the economist John Kain wrote, it is "crucial that, in making longer journeys to work, households incur larger costs in both time and money. Since time is a scarce commodity, workers should demand some compensation for the time they spend in commuting." But we tend not to, only taking the tradeoff between housing costs and transportation costs into question.

It was actually killing me.

While on vacation in Minneapolis, a random clerk asked what we were doing there. Vacation, I guess? It's difficult to explain to someone that you just picked a random city on the map and ran away for several days that didn't involve driving.

On my first day back in town after this alleged "vacation" (my laptop is still nuked after I accidentally neglected to remove it for TSA, oops), I practically panicked at the thought of having to hit DC freeways again.

Maybe a small part of me hoped my car would get jacked while I was gone.


Terrorists Capture Mall of America

Did you know Mall of America mall cops have their own reality show?

Long ago and far away, I lived in Minneapolis and it was awesome. If you can get over the few months of God-forsaken weather each year and weird accents, you'll discover a town with real soul. People there are, believe it or not, pretty cool. They don't drive nearly as bad as their friends to the south in Wisconsin and Illinois and they have those amazing manners Midwesterners (like myself) are known for. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that you can survive on $35k a year without auctioning a kidney, or at least you could back then.

I first met the Mall of America at 15 or 16.

Safe to say it was everything I'd ever dreamed it would be. Sprawling, huge and packed with more (dramatization) Footlockers and Orange Juliuses (/dramatization) than any mallrat teenage brat could want, we spent an entire day winding around it. This was pre-9/11, of course, so maybe things have changed a bit since I was last there.

Strangely, I'm actually leaving for Minneapolis this weekend for a much-needed respite away from the Beltway. I was sort of looking forward to the idea of leaving a sacrifice at the largest Temple of Consumption in the country while we're out there but now I'm seriously reconsidering that decision. It's bad enough I'm going to have to get body-scanned and groped on my way out of Washington but now this?

A fantastic NPR report (which happened to come out yesterday) details how America's largest shrine to shopping (which happens to be owned by a Canadian multinational conglomerate) has gone balls out TSA on its shoppers.

In its investigation, NPR uncovered 125 suspicious activity reports filed by MOA mall cops. Some of the "activity" included losing a cellphone at a food court and writing in a notebook.

And then there was this former Army missile system repairman, who was filming the mall from the experience of a shopper so he could share the video with his fiancée in Vietnam:

One afternoon three years ago, Francis Van Asten drove to the Mall of America, near Minneapolis, and started recording. First he filmed driving to the mall. Then he filmed a plane landing at the nearby airport, and then he strolled inside the mall and kept recording as he walked. He says he was taking a video to send to his fiancee in Vietnam.

As he started filming, he didn't realize that he was about to get caught up in America's war on terrorism — the mall had formed its own private counterterrorism unit in 2005. And now, a security guard had been tailing Van Asten since before he entered the mall. Van Asten was first approached by a guard outside a clothing store.

"And he asked me what I was doing. And I said, 'Oh, I'm making a video.' And I said, 'Are we allowed to make videos in Mall of America, and take pictures and stuff?' He says, 'Oh sure, nothing wrong with that,' " explains Van Asten. "So I turn to start walking away, and then he started asking me questions. Why am I making a video, what am I making a video of, what I did for a living, and he asked me, what's my hobbies?"

The guard called another member of the mall's security unit, and they questioned Van Asten for almost an hour before summoning two police officers from the Bloomington Police Department.

"I hadn't done anything wrong. I wasn't doing anything wrong, according to them even. I asked the policeman why I was being detained," says Van Asten. "He said, 'Listen, mister, we can do this any way you want: the easy way or the hard way.' "

And then, the police took Van Asten down to a police substation in the mall's basement.

Van Asten ended up in the Mall of America parking lot bawling his eyes out over the incident. A man who gave himself in service to this country, reduced to tears in a fucking mall parking lot.

So yeah, we may just be forced to skip the trip to Mall of America, which means hoarding the dollars I planned to throw away. I'm grateful to be in a position to have any disposable income to fritter away in this economy (making me Mall of America owners' highest priority target), but I'm not about to put myself in a position of getting treated like a terrorist in order to have the privilege to do so.

I can just as easily do my shopping online, which is just between me, the retailer, and the Homeland Security unit assigned to monitor my online activity.

I get it. It's called the fucking "Mall of America," I could see how Midwesterners with too much time on their hands might think terrorists (possibly wanting to get back at its Canadian owners... uh?) would target all four Aloha Shades locations in a mall named after America's former favorite past time. Here's what I don't get... The Mall of America itself provides plenty of logistics information, so why are they worried about some guy videotaping the mall for his soon-to-be-wife? I have no idea how terrorists think but I'm pretty sure they don't think I am totally going to go troll the mall obviously with a video camera.

"Mall security is the worst, always kicking you out of the food court for not buying anything, then filing a suspicious activity report with the FBI," says Gawker. What the fuck? When did we vote for this shit to happen?

When you look back on September 11th, think about how you've been terrorized relentlessly by this police state since.

We say bullshit like "never forget" but then we do, because we end up tolerating this sort of crap from glorified security guards with directives to feed fusion centers that aggregate the American condition. To what end? Is the guy who lost his cellphone in the food court really a threat? Maybe. But it becomes a joke when we then quarantine the man's cellphone along with someone else's cooler and stroller and detain the man for questioning. And we do this in front of the rest of the world.

What these endless filers don't understand is that the terrorists already attacked institutions like Mall of America - 40% of its traffic comes from tourists, 750 million people have walked through it. We are already reluctant to set foot in a fucking mall to begin with, and now we can get harassed for doing so. Doesn't that mean the terrorists have won? They didn't have to bomb the mall to accomplish that.

"It shattered an image of the U.S. that I had, fundamentally. I don't know, especially when I saw some of these reports. It's definitely bothersome, how small things can just, you know, trickle up that quickly, and all of a sudden you're labeled. And once you're labeled, you're basically messed up, right?" That's the U.S. citizen originally from Pakistan who found the FBI at his door after losing his cellphone.

Oh, and that Canadian multinational conglomerate that owns Mall of America? It's looking forward to launching "American Dream" in New Jersey:

American Dream is the vision of Triple Five Worldwide (T5), the only developer that owns and manages similar destinations. Through decades of experience, T5 has mastered attracting new and repeat visitors from around the world to its centers. Its focus on fresh concepts, promotions, tourist-drawing and the use of amusements, attractions and entertainment, creates constant top-of-mind awareness. This allows American Dream to capture consumer disposable income throughout all types of economic cycles, while ever-enhancing its appeal as a world scale tourist magnet.

Capture sounds violent, maybe the mall itself is the terrorist act. Maybe the wrong people are being reported.

American Dream! You can't make this shit up. Whose fucking dream is this supposed to be?

It doesn't appear to be a dream for those darn Canadians, who wanted $800 million in public financing to finish building this "American Dream," which sits frozen at 80% complete. You read that right: the Canadian multinational that owns assets like the West Edmonton Mall and Mall of America and operates in banking, private equity, natural resources like oil and gas, engineering and biotechnology wanted tax-free financing from the state of New Jersey to finish the project. And they wanted more before that.


TLP: It's Like a Glitter-Bomb, But You Can Do It on Your Couch

tea party zombies
I'm not a gamer. Back around the time I was literally a paperboy, I had an Atari system that would be called "old school" except it was new out of the box at the time. I was good with the joystick. Like teen-aged boys are.

I've had the opportunity lately to spend some time on JDA's PlayStation 3 and I seem to do all right, with her encouragement. ("Press the big button. The big button. Yessss! That's it! Good boy!")

Here's a game I could get into and probably manage on my own. Which is good, since she might not find the objective as politically appealing as I do.

A new video game is giving players a chance to explore a post-apocalyptic Fox News studio and kill off zombies that resemble famous conservatives including Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck.

The game, called "Tea Party Zombies Must Die," is project by StarvingEyes Advergaming, a website that provides games for online viral campaigns.

Other characters in the first-person shooter include the "Generic Pissed Off Old White Guy Zombie," the "Pissed Off Stupid White Trash Redneck Birther Zombie" and the "Express Racist Views Anonymously On The Internet Modern Klan Zombie," who dons the remains of a KKK robe as he wanders around with a sign that describes President Barack Obama as a Muslim.
They're all riled up over at National Review Online. From the comments: "I marvel at how lefties excel in the use of dignified civil discourse." Meh, it's just a game. It's not like putting political opponents in crosshairs in an actual election. Or urging supporters to "RELOAD!"

But beware, the presidential campaign is under way. I hear Democrats and other "lefties" have a secret weapon. Things could get sparkly out there.


U.S. Charges 91 With Medicare Fraud

Wednesday, September 07, 2011 , , 0 Comments

So the important question here is what else, besides after-the-fact sting ops, is the federal government doing to prevent Medicare fraud?


U.S. authorities said on Wednesday they had charged 91 people, including doctors and nurses, for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud involving approximately $295 million in false billing.

Attorney General Eric Holder, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry announced the charges in Washington, saying they resulted from coordinated operations in eight U.S. cities carried out by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.

Sting operations went down in Miami, Houston, Baton Rouge, Los Angeles, Detroit, Dallas, New York and Chicago according to officials.

Miami defendants made up nearly half of the prosecutions, with a total of $160 million in false billings for such services as occupational and physical therapy and HIV infusion.

According to the U.S. Office of Budget and Management, Medicare and Medicaid made an estimated $23.7 billion in improper payments in 2007. These included $10.8 billion for Medicare and $12.9 billion for Medicaid. Medicare’s fee-for-service reduced its error rate from 4.4 percent to 3.9 percent.

Per the 2008 Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations, Medicare paid dead physicians 478,500 claims totaling up to $92 million from 2000 to 2007. These claims included 16,548 to 18,240 deceased physicians.

Whose issue is this, the fraudsters or the ones writing the checks to said fraudsters?


California State Employees Get a Rude Awakening

Wednesday, September 07, 2011 , , , 1 Comments

Hey! Does anyone remember all that drama with California not being able to pay its bills? I know! I forgot too! Now that I've lived in DC for almost a year and haven't gotten a single parking ticket since this time last year, it's all but gone from my mind. But I guess the state is still having trouble keeping all those unnecessary government grunts on payroll, and sent said unnecessary government grunts notes saying as much.

From the Fresno Bee:

The state has warned nearly 3,300 California state workers this year that their positions may disappear as the government grinds through a slow-motion layoff process that aims to shrink government over the next few years.

The notices, overwhelmingly concentrated in the Sacramento area so far, represent the initial wave of warnings that eventually will lead to several thousand state jobs lost.

Of the State Restriction of Appointment notices issued, 2,024 went to employees working in Sacramento County. Los Angeles County accounted for the next-highest number of potential layoffs with 800 notices going to workers there.

I hate to break it to the great state of California but it's too late to shove that genie back in the bottle. Ask Scott Walker what happens when you try to beat back the bureaucrat beast, I'm sure he'll tell you all about it.


The Toxic Sludge of DC Overflows

Literally, not figuratively, folks. We're up to our knees in shit here, people, help!

Perhaps you saw the story about sewage overflows in the waterways due to Hurricane Irene.

It’s even worse than the story reported.

In addition to the 200 million gallons of rain and raw sewage that overwhelmed the pumps of DC Water, and the 61,200 gallons of diluted wastewater from the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission’s Fort Washington pumping station into Piscataway Creek Sunday (for 11 1/2 hours), the WSSC reported three other overflows which doubled the reported total.

Some 4.3 million gallons of diluted sewage overflowed in Upper Marlboro for 14 hours Sunday, about 13.7 million gallons overflowed at an Accokeek wastewater treatment plant during a 4 1/2 hour event late Saturday and early Sunday, and 2 million more gallons of diluted sewage overflowed at the Broad Creek Wastewater Pumping Station in Fort Washington from 9:50 p.m Saturday through 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

I bet Tucker Barnes has something to say about this shit.

I don't know about any of you but I wasn't planning on taking a dip in the Anacostia any time soon. I can barely step out of my condo without dousing myself in hand sanitizer, I couldn't imagine taking a dip in that, er, shit.


When There's No More Room Left In Hell...

pic credit: intelwars

Apparently UK prisons are at their breaking point thanks to all these lovely new rioter prags, who are probably getting bent over as you read this.

This account clashes a bit with earlier media reports, which stated the masterminds of the UK Riots were mostly juveniles. I cannot possibly envision a scenario where they start sticking 13 year olds in regular prison, so how is it prisons there are at capacity and about to break?

Their prisons minister doesn't seem to feel there is a problem:

Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt has said the disturbances in English cities this month were a "one-off" event.

Mr Blunt said the justice system could cope in the short-term and there would be no long-term effect on the prison population in England and Wales.

Last Friday the number of inmates hit a record of almost 87,000, largely driven by the riots, but the government expects numbers to fall again in 2012.

Seriously, they want us to believe this:

The speed and devastation with which the riots spread suggests they were organised.
Rioters in London Some argue that gangs were instrumental in co-ordinating the disorder

This wasn't a general uprising, says Christian Guy, policy director at think tank the Centre for Social Justice. It was a well co-ordinated operation, which is likely to have been led by young people in street gangs, he believes.

Daniel Weston, a youth worker in Brixton, says gangs in his area bided their time after the first night of violence in Tottenham.

When they were ready to strike, gang leaders used Blackberry Messenger, a closed network not visible to police, to mobilise younger gang members. Targets were identified - typically Footlocker, JD Sports and Currys - and gang members directed to them.
Gangs of fashionista thieves terrorizing retailers with BlackBerrys in hand? Something just doesn't smell right.

Anyway, if the good government folk out there can't make these people jobs (does that sound familiar?), they'll sentence the people to do stuff that resembles work for free:

"What we have to do is make sure there are prison places for those sent to prison by the courts and we will continue to do that regardless of how many people are sent to prison."

His comments came as he promoted the Ministry of Justice's previously-announced plan to make more use of community-based sentences for some offenders.

Mr Blunt confirmed that from next year unemployed offenders doing unpaid work - known as community payback - will be made to do it full-time rather than spread out over many months.

The Ministry of Justice has actual numbers on the rioters, of course, which break down to something like this:

1,630 appeared in court as of the 5th of September
22% are under 18
91% are male
66% have been remanded in custody

Still think the UK riots were some crackpot scheme plotted by a bunch of kids?

Someone PIN me when you're ready to rise up. 18 and over only, please, this is a grown-up fight.


TLP: And if it Means a Bigger Christmas Tip for the Paperboy, That's a Win-Win

Tuesday, September 06, 2011 , , 3 Comments

postal crash
You know, if Congress says you're in a crisis, it might be time for a little self-evaluation. Unless it's already too late.

Maybe we'll find out this afternoon when the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs holds a hearing on U.S. Postal Service in Crisis: Proposals to Prevent a Postal Shutdown.

The NYT delivers the details:
The United States Postal Service has long lived on the financial edge, but it has never been as close to the precipice as it is today: the agency is so low on cash that it will not be able to make a $5.5 billion payment due this month and may have to shut down entirely this winter unless Congress takes emergency action to stabilize its finances.

“Our situation is extremely serious,” the postmaster general, Patrick R. Donahoe, said in an interview. “If Congress doesn’t act, we will default.”

In recent weeks, Mr. Donahoe has been pushing a series of painful cost-cutting measures to erase the agency’s deficit, which will reach $9.2 billion this fiscal year. They include eliminating Saturday mail delivery, closing up to 3,700 postal locations and laying off 120,000 workers — nearly one-fifth of the agency’s work force — despite a no-layoffs clause in the unions’ contracts.

The post office’s problems stem from one hard reality: it is being squeezed on both revenue and costs.

As any computer user knows, the Internet revolution has led to people and businesses sending far less conventional mail.

At the same time, decades of contractual promises made to unionized workers, including no-layoff clauses, are increasing the post office’s costs. Labor represents 80 percent of the agency’s expenses, compared with 53 percent at United Parcel Service and 32 percent at FedEx, its two biggest private competitors. Postal workers also receive more generous health benefits than most other federal employees.
You read that right: 80 percent of USPS expenses are for labor. The mailman who's happy to find any excuse not to deliver. The executives who let retiree costs explode. Whoever put a fake Statue of Liberty on a stamp. That labor sucks up 80 percent of Postal revenue.

And if they're shut down and gone by Christmas? They can't say no one warned them. Not that there's anything wrong with that.


Zimbabwe Ben's Mentor Robert Mugabe Tells Zimbabweans To Avoid the West

The dude who imploded Zimbabwe's proprietary fake money is lashing out at the West in response to this whole Libya thing that we got ourselves into without anyone's permission.

President Mugabe urged Zimbabweans to be wary of the West.

"Only a dead imperialist is a good one. So do not trust them, it is only when they are dead that you can trust them," President Mugabe said.

Wow, that seems really fucking harsh.

The funny part of this entire story is that Zimbabwe, totally on the mend after having its "debt" wiped out, is headed back there again since they switched to U.S. dollars.

That's even harsher.

As a token of solidarity, Mugabe kicked out Libya's ambassador and other embassy staff who renounced their loyalty to his homie Gaddafi. Mugabe has also offered Gaddafi a place to hang out while these NATO assholes peacekeep all up in his shit.


TLP: Getting Away With It Isn't As Easy As It Used To Be

Tuesday, September 06, 2011 , 2 Comments

butch getaway
It took the FBI all of 15 years to catch up with alleged Boston mobster Whitey Bulger. The hijacker known as D.B. Cooper eluded the Bureau for nearly twice that long, dying without being caught, if you believe the story of a woman who says he was her uncle.

Neither one had the luck or the smarts of Butch Cassidy, according to an account uncovered by a book collector.

A rare books collector says he has obtained a manuscript with new evidence that Butch Cassidy wasn't killed in a 1908 shootout in Bolivia but returned to the U.S. and lived peaceably in Washington state for almost three decades.

The manuscript, "Bandit Invincible: The Story of Butch Cassidy," dates to 1934. At 200 pages, it's twice as long as a previously known but unpublished novella of the same title by William T. Phillips, a machinist who died in Spokane in 1937.

Utah book collector Brent Ashworth and Montana author Larry Pointer say the text contains the best evidence yet - with details only Cassidy could have known - that "Bandit Invincible" was not biography but autobiography, and that Phillips himself was the legendary outlaw.
Maybe the secret is in the hiding out. Despite the boldness of his bank-robbing and other ballsy stunts like stopping trains and blowing up railroad cars to break into safes, Cassidy disappeared into the western landscape, ran away to Bolivia and then, according to the new account, got a day job.

Cooper did pretty well, too, according to his would-be niece, blending in with his family and only letting on to a few about his famous leap. Mostly, people seemed to think the fall killed him. Bulger apparently was tripped up by his girlfriend, who didn't have the mobster's knack for evading surveillance and led the FBI to their apartment, otherwise ordinary except for being stuffed with $800,000 in cash.

And then there are the criminals who don't try to hide at all.


Check Out This Amazingly Honest 1969 Film About the U.S. Treasury

that's JDA's finger on her first visit to the Treasury, 2009

Learn all about the beginnings of the U.S. Treasury, the uselessness usefulness of the Internal Revenue Service, the patriotic duty that is funding war and how our government comes up with spare cash.

Personally, I appreciated this candid explanation of how we validate paying IRS employees what we do to do, uh, whatever it is they do:

"Its publications and its rulings are numerous and form the basis of many legal decisions and numerous highly technical books and articles on assorted tax matters. All this variety of effort and activity is what keeps those 60,000 employees busy, not just during the filing period but every day the year round."

Note to dear reader: as of 2010, the IRS employs around 106,000. I'm sure there's plenty of work to go around.

Enjoy, kiddies.


Mission Accomplished

pic credit: Steve Helber / AP (via TIME)