Happy New Year, People

Saturday, December 31, 2011 4 Comments

that's Buck, gunning for a spread on CashCats.biz

Call me a square if you'd like but I'm spending my NYE curled up with the cats, a 6-er of Raging Bitch and the trusty old PS3. It's much safer to be blasting heads off super mutants in the manufactured, post-apocalyptic Capital Wasteland than it is to be out there in the actual, pre-apocalyptic Capital Wasteland fighting for drinks, cabs and stupid cheap ass noisemakers.

They say whatever you do on New Year's Day you do for the entire year so make tomorrow a good one, kids. As for me? I'll be spackling condo walls and giving my living room a good sheen of Martha Stewart glitter glaze. God, what happened to me? I used to be so cool.

It may not sound like it, but it's a good life. 2011 was my first full year in Washington, and brought lots of exciting changes like the fabulous new condo in DC's scariest quadrant (which also happens to house the Capitol), two precious but terrorist DC street kittens rescued from Washington Humane Society and a great new job. While I trust 2012 will mostly be spent counting down to December 21st, I'm also looking forward to growing with my company, finally tracking down some decent dividends and spending more time getting to know all of you, my dear and much appreciated loyal readers.

Here's to a 2012 filled with everything you ever wanted and nothing you don't. If you're anything like me, you're sick of waiting around for total economic meltdown, so maybe 2012 will be our year.

Stay beautiful, stay smart and be well this year, my darlings.

With all the love my cold black heart can muster without imploding,


TLP: Someone's Got To Be Losing A Year-End Bonus Over This

verizon fee
Wow. I never even had a chance to grumble about this with JDA.

Verizon Wireless bowed to a torrent of criticism on Friday and reversed a day-old plan to impose a $2 bill-paying fee that would have applied to only some customers.

The consumer vitriol, which cascaded across Twitter and onto blogs and petitions all around the Web, struck a chord with a company that was clearly not expecting it.

“The company made the decision in response to customer feedback about the plan, which was designed to improve the efficiency of those transactions,” Verizon Wireless said in a statement referring to the reversal.

That a company with revenue of $15 billion in the most recent quarter would have to quickly change course over such a small fee suggests something particular about its business and others like it.
Hmm, and what would that be? That they're greedy and petty? We pay Verizon $200 every month for the pleasure of having matching BlackBerry Bolds, one of which has been replaced twice, I think, and both of which are constantly in need of battery pulls and reboots. We're still trying to forget about the last pitiful BBM upgrade.

And they wanted us to pay $2 so that we could pay them $200? I probably could have talked JDA into iPhones if that had gone through.


TLP: The Real News Is That Iowa Democrats Were Working

occupy iowa
This is entertaining for no other reason than there is no Democratic contest in Iowa. Seems a throng of 12 protesters from Occupy the Caucus blocking the doors to party headquarters in Des Moines became a little too much for the staff to handle (or ignore).

Unlike more than a dozen arrests this week at the campaign offices of the Republican presidential contenders Mitt Romney and Representative Ron Paul, where officers joked with protesters and the news media were allowed to watch the arrests up close, the tone was formal. All bystanders had to watch from the fringe of the property.

While all the arrests were made peacefully, the change in mood suggests an early, if subtle, indication that the patience of the police, protesters and campaign staff members may be put to the test in the coming days.

“I’m not going to have my people stuck in there,” said Sue Dvorsky, the chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, who tried to reason with protesters before the police arrived.

Norm Sterzenbach, the executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party, grew angry that protesters were stepping on the flower beds in front of the building and accused them of “threatening behavior” for barricading the doors.

“They moved this to a different level,” he said, comparing it to an earlier protest that month.
So sensitive, these Democrats. You'd think the Republican campaigns, primed to go off at the slightest provocation, would have reacted more harshly.

Who knows, maybe it was the flowers.


TLP: At Least Santorum Carried A Shotgun When He Went Bird-Hunting

big bird
Maybe the Romney campaign's opposition research team has gotten a little cocky. The sudden appearance of curiously detailed media attention to past deeds and misdeeds has annoyed, damaged or killed the campaigns of Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain. All of the Republican candidates fought back, but front-runner Mitt Romney may have his toughest adversary in Big Bird.

Mitt Romney on Wednesday made a pledge to spare the life of the beloved children's television icon Big Bird, but as he told a crowd while campaigning in Iowa, his mercy would come with a price.

"Big Bird is going to have advertisements, all right?" he promised while outlining his plan to cut spending on programs such as the National Endowment for the Arts and the Public Broadcasting Corporation.
Yawn. Republicans in Congress have tried this, repeatedly, only to be laughed at for putting so much effort into chasing so little money. Remember how Eric Cantor tried to slap Big Bird with his big Boehner? And Big Bird flipped him off.

Good luck, Mitt!


Those Darn Ron Paul Kids Keep It Professional

While my cohort may think it's funny to bag on the esteemed Dr. Paul for cheap hits, let's look at an awesome example of campaigning done right.

How do you get thousands of degenerate college students who believe in crazy ideas like legalized drugs and small government to clean up? Send them out on the Ron Paul campaign trail:

“No tats,” another volunteer, Rocco Lucente, said as he ticked off the rules after arriving at the airport Tuesday night. No liquor, no drugs and, he said, no “fraternizing in the dorms, nothing like that.”

Mr. Lucente, a 19-year-old from Ithaca who is a sophomore at Alfred University, said the Republican Party had been hijacked by a “social conservative war party” that had lost sight of the “idea that the government should be out of the way,” one of Mr. Paul’s abiding principles.

Mr. Lucente’s ride from the airport — along with two dozen others who arrived the same time — was on a Partridge Family-style school bus painted red, white and blue and festooned with slogans like “Pro Gun Ownership,” “Pro Homeschool,” “No Lobby $” and “Our Liberties We Prize and Our Rights We Will Maintain.”

Amen to that, brother. Just think, if more 19 year olds got it like Mr. Lucente gets it, we might not be so doomed after all.


Friendly Advice: Don't Tweet About Bombs

Those of you not in DC probably can't relate but every day on my commute back from work (which happens to cross paths with NSA headquarters), I have the pleasure of witnessing the shell of the new DHS headquarters near Bolling Air Force Base coming to life. "Headquarters" doesn't really do it justice. "Compound" is more like it. The funny part? They built it in Anacostia (bad enough on its own) on top of the grounds of a former hospital for the insane. How fitting. The $3.4 billion project is the largest federal construction project since the Pentagon.

Anyone see where I'm going with this?

Daily Mail:

The Department of Homeland Security makes fake Twitter and Facebook profiles for the specific purpose of scanning the networks for 'sensitive' words - and tracking people who use them.

Simply using a word or phrase from the DHS's 'watch' list could mean that spies from the government read your posts, investigate your account, and attempt to identify you from it, acccording to an online privacy group.

The words which attract attention range from ones seemingly related to diseases or bioweapons such as 'human to animal' and 'outbreak' to other, more obscure words such as 'drill' and 'strain'.

The DHS also watches for words such as 'illegal immigrant'.

The DHS outlined plans to scans blogs, Twitter and Facebook for words such as 'illegal immigrant', 'outbreak', 'drill', 'strain', 'virus', 'recovery', 'deaths', 'collapse', 'human to animal' and 'trojan', according to an 'impact asssessment' document filed by the agency.

When its search tools net an account using the phrases, they record personal information.

It's still not clear how this information is used - and who the DHS shares it with.

Really, were there any doubts? The government is in the business of staying in business, which means needing a project to feel useful, such as hoarding the tweets of known dissidents and incendiaries. I honestly and truly hope they enjoy tracking my cat pictures and traffic complaints.

The only way to combat this invasion of privacy (as private as what you say to the entire Internet can be, that is) is to have every American man, woman and child with a Twitter account tweet the offending words. Repeatedly. Until the DHS Mother Brain is so overwhelmed with information, it shorts out and collapses on itself.

That'll at least buy us a few weeks.


TLP: Ron Paul Misses Herman Cain

Good thing I said that Ron Paul has some good ideas. Because, as it turns out, even he doesn't agree with everything he's said to have said, either.

Emerging as a real Republican contender in Iowa, Representative Ron Paul of Texas is receiving new focus for decades-old unbylined columns in his political newsletters that included racist, anti-gay and anti-Israel passages that he has since disavowed.

The latest issue of The Weekly Standard, a leading conservative publication, reprised reports of incendiary language in Mr. Paul’s newsletters that were published about 20 years ago.

A 1992 passage from the Ron Paul Political Report about the Los Angeles riots read, “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks.” A passage in another newsletter asserted that people with AIDS should not be allowed to eat in restaurants because “AIDS can be transmitted by saliva”; in 1990 one of his publications criticized Ronald Reagan for having gone along with the creation of the federal holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which it called “Hate Whitey Day.”

The magazine article largely matched a similar report in The New Republic in 2008, and it was written by the same author, James Kirchick. The passages were plucked from a variety of newsletters that Mr. Paul’s consulting business published during his years out of Congress, all of them featuring his name: Ron Paul Political Report, Ron Paul’s Freedom Report, Ron Paul Survival Report and Ron Paul Investment Letter.

Mr. Paul did not respond to an interview request, but repudiated the writings in 2008. Likening himself to a major news publisher, he said he did not vet every article that was featured in his newsletters. “I absolutely, honestly do not know who wrote those things,” Mr. Paul said in an interview on CNN at the time, adding that he did not monitor the publications closely because he was busy with a medical practice and “speeches around the country.”
Lately, Paul has taken to flat out denial. "I didn’t write them. I disavow them. That's it," he told CNN.

Things have a funny way of sticking to you when you put your name on them. And now Twitter has a fun way of making it all interactive.


TLP: Mystery Solved, TSA Agents Are Obviously High

Monday, December 26, 2011 , , 0 Comments

tsa weed
Traveling for the holidays? Carrying something frowned upon by the authorities? 'Tis the season to get away with it. For starters, we have the secret ninja daggers that were being smuggled in a hollowed-out book from D.C. to Chicago. This apparently is not a safety concern. Then, there's this.

From a skeptical New York magazine report:
The TSA has a certain reputation for being populated with killjoys, the kind of people who look into your pleading eyes as you beg to be allowed to keep your slightly oversize jar of face cream, and just say, nope, sorry, m'aam. But not everyone there is quite so into following the letter of the law. Earlier this year, for instance, one TSA employee in charge of inspecting a bag that contained a vibrator left the owner a note that said, "Get your freak on, girl." Fairly creepy, and definitely not something TSA employees are supposed to do. Now, there's another note circulating the web that's supposedly from a TSA baggage inspector, according to rapper Freddie Gibbs. "The TSA found my weed and let me keep it. They just left me a note. 'C'mon Son'. Lol." We're not exactly convinced this is real — after all, weed is illegal to take on a plane and vibrators aren't.
No surprise if the agents took enough out of the bag to keep from completely hating a workday full of groin-groping and bits-peeping. What were they going to do, sell it?


Economic Genius... In Amazon Customer Discussions

I happened across this on Amazon, in a thread from 2008 complaining about prices rising while Amazon customers are in the process of purchasing. WTF. A game goes from $29.99 to $79.99 in the three seconds it takes to type in your password? I don't buy it.

At first, I thought this guy was your run-of-the-mill Internet dick (I can spot them because I am paid to be one) but by the end of his comment, I realized that he's actually a total fucking genius. The Fed should hire this guy. He gets it. Like no one on Amazon has gotten it before him except for maybe management and whoever actually CAME UP WITH the idea of Amazon.

Ladies and gentlemen, Bob:

Bob says:
If you don't like the price, don't buy the item. If it fluctuates and that's a problem for you, wait until it goes back down.

If you were willing to pay a higher price for something, then Amazon obviously would have been stupid not to sell it to you for that much.



Happy Holidays From the JDA Family!

Saturday, December 24, 2011 0 Comments

 Cash is suddenly wishing he'd been euthanized at Washington Humane Society
instead of adopted by me

In this time of unparalleled consumerism, gorging on ham dinners and binge drinking just to survive the family, I'd like to take a moment to say happy holidays. No, fuck that, I'd like to say Merry Christmas because it's Christmas Eve and I was raised to believe in zombie Jesus so that's what I'm going to run with. Happy everything else to my non-zombie-Jesus-believing friends.

From JDA, TLP, BooBoo, Buck and Cash, we wish you the very best. You're going to need it, you haven't even had to sit down with the family yet. Suckers.

With love, peace and all the snark Santa could fit down the chimney,

p.s. if you've got any generosity left in your cold black heart, why not kick down a few bucks to our friends at the Washington Humane Society? Animals like Buck and Cash who haven't been fortunate enough to find forever homes rely on donations to keep them warm and happy until crazy cat ladies like me wander by and snatch them up.


UPDATE: You Can Bring Hidden Daggers to the Airport But Not Fake Bullet Belts

If anyone recalls, the first time I'd flown in a long time was mid 2009. The very nice but totally wrong TSA agent at Richmond International Airport confiscated my pink bullet belt (available from the terrorist costume outlet Hot Topic) because bullets were a "replica weapon," which are not allowed on American flights. I repeat: fake bullets grommeted to a pink canvas belt, looped into my pants. I'm crying in the airport carrying an Eeyore I used as a pillow and this guy wants to confiscate my lame Hot Topic belt because its (likely plastic) fake bullets "replicate" a weapon. Who am I going to threaten with the fake bullets firmly attached to what is holding up my pants?

Whatever. I let him toss it in the trash. It's not worth getting violated (I had been on vacation, I'd spent days doing that anyway) over a cheap ass belt. It was an awesome belt. My pants slipped down my ass all the way home once I made it back to San Francisco. Dickhead.

Anyway. What happened to the wanna-be ninja shlepping daggers to Reagan Airport in a ninja book? Finally, we know.

WUSA reports there are no plans to file charges, since investigators determined the passenger was not a security threat. 

SO, to recap. Jr Deputy Accountant was a security threat in her ridiculous pink bullet belt but a guy who tried to board a flight to Chicago with smuggled daggers in a hollowed-out book from the airport at the heart of the nation's capital? Totally fine.



We Have No Idea If a Ninja Got Arrested at Reagan Airport

You know how sometimes the news forgets the important bits? Like where this maniac with the knives is RIGHT NOW?

The Transportation Security Administration says officers found two throwing daggers hidden in a hollowed-out book at a checkpoint at Reagan-Washington National Airport.

A TSA spokesman says a passenger was stopped Monday when officers found the hidden daggers in the passenger’s carry-on bag. The daggers, which measured just over half a foot long, were hidden in the hard-cover book.

This is an AP report. Now, it goes on to say that a TSA spokesperson didn't get back to them and therefore they have no idea if the guy got arrested or not. See, I'm a hack not an actual journalist but even I know you have to put together a minimum of details if you're going to publish a story. That's sort of a big one.


The LA Times is no help either. I don't care how long the knives were and how artfully concealed they were, I need to know if whatever freak who tried to bring these to the airport is not wandering around Washington as we speak.

The Hill doesn't mention an arrest either. So we can assume one of two things. A) This story is entirely manufactured to make us think that TSA actually does something functional (Really? Who smuggles daggers into the airport? On the "Ninja Equipment" page of a book called Ninja: The Shadow Warrior? REALLY?!) and they forgot to write the details or B) the guy who actually attempted this stunt was released by TSA even though he allegedly smuggled knives in his carry-on. Which is more unbelievable?

Thanks for nothing, guys.


Pepco Gets Fined... Again

different Pepco...

I would like to note that Pepco came through for me during Hurricane Irene by ensuring non-stop electric current pumping directly to JDA's Secret Lair and the surrounding hood all throughout the event. I stayed up watching the Weather Channel until 4 in the morning beginning when Irene first hit in Ocean City, MD and I was only half kidding when I said I was going to run up every electric device in my house ahead of what I assumed would be a week-long outage. Except for a few transformer explosions (which, admittedly, could have been gunshots), my juice stayed cranked all night. Even while 180,000 Washingtonians and Marylanders around me stumbled through the dark. Oh, maybe that's the problem, it isn't all about me.

The Maryland Public Service Commission is sick of Pepco's shit:

Maryland regulators fined Pepco $1 million Wednesday for failing to fix problems that have led to the frequent outages that have long plagued customers of the Washington region’s leading power company.

The Maryland Public Service Commission described the fine as its largest ever and only its “initial” penalty for the company, which it concluded failed to maintain its power lines for years, resulting in prolonged outages during storms and on fair-weather days. The commission concluded that Pepco compounded its failings by communicating poorly with customers.

What's the problem? It's only our nation's ENTIRE bureaucratic backbone on the line here if our local utility can't keep the lights on around Washington! Think about the benefit to we, the people when all those unnecessary paper-pushing government drones are forced to stay home and eat cold tamales out of BPA-infested cans. It's a win-win if you ask me.

I'm not angry at Pepco anymore. Granted, it's been almost a year since the Snowpocalypse of 2011 and my short term memory is shot so I've forgotten how much I hated them in January when they left me in the dark for three whole days. But as long as my A/C stays jacked up in the summer and my lights on during major weather events that keep me locked indoors, I'm cool with it.

Just in case, I still have 30 bottles of water and more batteries than any girl should ever have stashed away around her apartment. I don't trust those bastards at Pepco, winter hasn't even started to hit yet.

The problem with fining Pepco is that now I am going to have to fork over more money to the utility for my usual dose of juice (I use way less energy than my neighbors, according to Pepco stats which are extensive and, frankly, pretty cool to use to get an idea of what your home is or isn't wasting). Pepco doesn't learn anything and I have $3.42 less (or whatever) to waste on useless merchandise marketed at my demographic.

Regulatory FAIL.

Side note: why can Pepco afford to hook up its Maryland customers to Smart Meters (good luck with that, I saw it in California) but can't afford to hire a few brainiacs to figure out how to bury our power lines away from the dangers of heat, hurricanes, falling trees, drizzle, ice and snow? I admit I'm puzzled.


TLP: Whatever Happened To 'Will Work For Food?'

weed man
And also, all together now, "Why didn't I think of that?"

Let the NYT spark this one for us:
He calls himself the Weed Man, and he has become a familiar presence in Times Square, standing near Planet Hollywood and holding aloft a placard that stands out even in this part of the city.

“Help!” the sign, in green letters, reads. “I Need Money for Weed!”

The man, Joshua Long, has become a favorite of some tourists who pose for pictures with him and stuff dollar bills into his hand. But some police officers in Midtown have taken a dim view of his entrepreneurial spirit and, perhaps, the words that further it; they have arrested him several times while he was displaying his placard.
But there's good news for the Weed Man this week. A judge told the police to chill, dudes. As long as Long doesn't block the sidewalk or otherwise break the law, he can stand there with his sign and accept the generosity of passersby.

Seriously, why didn't I think of that?


Pittsburgh Celebrates the End of the Federal Reserve


OK, I have two questions. First, why is the Federal Reserve in the business of U.S. Savings Bonds anyway? Second, why is there even a Fed branch in Pittsburgh?

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette brings us the fantastic news:

The Federal Reserve Bank is selling its Pittsburgh branch headquarters Downtown after eliminating the jobs of all but 25 of its 320 employees.

The bank said in February it would eliminate about 200 jobs because of its plans to discontinue the paper sale of U.S. Savings Bonds and other securities. Bank spokeswoman June Gates said about 240 of the Pittsburgh branch's employees were involved in those sales, which will [sic?] conducted electronically. Those operations were consolidated into the central bank's Minneapolis branch.

The other 55 jobs eliminated in Pittsburgh were in human resources and other functions that supported paper bond sales, she said.

Ms. Gates said the branch has about 60 to 65 employees and that will be reduced to 25 sometime early next year. She did not have a timetable.

Those whose positions were eliminated took early retirement or were given severance packages based on length of service as well as help finding other jobs, she said.

"Remaining in our current building just is not a viable option," she said.

Interesting about this is that Bill Bergman posed the question "WTF is up with Fed salaries and compensation" a few weeks back. If you remember Bill, he's the one who got fired from the Chicago Fed (excuse me, his "position was eliminated") when he started asking about suspicious money behavior leading up to 9/11/01. You guys all remember what happened that day.

Bill writes via Boiling Frogs Post
But the ‘salaries and other benefits’ line item on the Reserve Bank income statements poses some questions.

If you simply add up the totals for what the individual Reserve Banks report for their salaries and other benefits expense, you get a smooth, unbroken upward trend seen in the chart below. But if you use the salary and benefits expense line reported on the Combined Financial Statements for the Reserve Banks, you get another result – with much faster growth from 2008 to 2010, amidst the worst financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression.


Bank spokeswoman June Gates said the remaining Pittsburgh branch staff will need 12,000 to 15,000 square feet. They include bank examiners, accountants, auditors and human resources.

Figures, the accountants are always the last to go.


TLP: In This Economy, You Do What You Have To Do, Even At $4.99 A Minute

phone sex
It makes sense that the number of mothers in the workforce would increase once the school year starts. Put the kids on the bus and head off to Old Navy to sell clothes, put on your red polo and stock shelves at Target or tap your inner barista at Starbucks.

Or slip on a headset in your home office and start talking dirty. Dirtier when the economy sucks.

ABC News:
In the last 18 months alone, the number of mothers of young children pursuing sex work has jumped 400 percent, according to ratracerebellion.com, an organization that helps mothers find work-at-home jobs of all kinds, ranging from writing assignments to telemarketing.

Chris Durst runs Ratracerebellion.com. Durst has tracked the working habits of moms for more than a decade, and, while she says there's always a spike in the number of moms pursuing phone sex work after Labor Day, the last two years have shown unprecedented levels of interest.

The reason, she says, is the dismal state of the economy.

"Most sound a little embarrassed," she told "Good Morning America" of the moms who reach out to her, in search of phone sex work." "They say, 'I've tried everything. It's come to the point my family is on food stamps. We can't make the rent and are facing foreclosure. This is the fastest way for me to get my family back on my feet again.'"
They wouldn't be the first to do whatever it takes to make it out of the recession. Nor for it to involve jerking off.


TLP: That's What "Unfollow" Is For

Friday, December 16, 2011 , , , , 2 Comments

twitter jail
It's not surprising that the government doesn't want you to be Facebooking, tweeting or sending dirty BBMs on your cell phone while you're behind the wheel — while disregarding whatever other specific sorts of distractions might make you a shitty driver — but in some places, what you tweet could put you in jail. Good thing there are a few "activist" judges around.

In a case with potentially far-reaching consequences for freedom of expression on the Internet, a federal judge on Thursday dismissed a criminal case against a man accused of stalking a religious leader on Twitter, saying that the Constitution protects “uncomfortable” speech on such bulletin-boardlike sites.

The government had accused the defendant, William Lawrence Cassidy, of harassing and causing “substantial emotional distress” to a Buddhist religious leader named Alyce Zeoli. He had posted thousands of messages about her, some predicting her violent death. He lived in California, she in Maryland.

In his 27-page order, Judge Roger W. Titus wrote that “while Mr. Cassidy’s speech may have inflicted substantial emotional distress, the government’s indictment here is directed squarely at protected speech: anonymous, uncomfortable Internet speech addressing religious matters.”
What I like best about this ruling is that, in a case about the Internets, the judge got all Colonial on the prosecution's ass. He talked about the importance of anonymity in documents such as the Federalist papers and then worked himself into a scene out of "You Are There."
Suppose that a Colonist erects a bulletin board in the front yard of his home to post announcements that might be of interest to others and other Colonists do the same. A Blog is like a bulletin board, except that it is erected in cyberspace rather than in one's front yard. If one Colonist wants to see what is on another's bulletin board, he would need to walk over to his neighbor's yard and look at what is posted, or hire someone else to do so. Now, one can inspect a neighbor's Blog by simply turning on a computer.
There's other stuff in the ruling about how the courts said it was cool for Hustler magazine to bust on Jerry Falwell because the ability to insult people (even with f-bombs!) provides "breathing space" for First Amendment freedoms.

The law being what it is and all, it took the judge 27 pages to say what ought to be said to a lot of people who complain — about movies, teevee, music, websites or Twitter feeds they don't like — turn it the fuck off!


And Why Didn't We Untangle Ourselves From Europe THREE YEARS AGO?

I'm not mad, but why haven't we disconnected ourselves from Europe in the last three years? What economic geniuses didn't see this coming from 1,000 miles (or precisely 3653 miles) away?! And then which of those economic geniuses decided the best course of action would be to throw more money at it?

Here's some testimony before a House TARP oversight committee by Federal Reserve Director of International Finance Steven Kamin on the "economic situation in Europe." A fucking situation.

In 2011, we should not even be having this conversation. It should be "Oh, sucks for Europe but we learned our lesson in 2008 when we imploded everyone else and have successfully removed ourselves from the contagion." Instead it's "Ooops, we better throw dollars at them to 'help' the situation." WTF is that?! The euro is dead, no amount of dollars can fix that. We don't even have enough dollars to fix our own shit, let alone Europe's hot mess.

And yet, here is the Board before the House yapping about how "progressively more entangled" we have become. Who let this happen on their watch?

For two years now, the tone of global financial markets has become progressively more entangled with fiscal and financial developments in Europe. The combination of high debt levels and low growth prospects in several European countries using the euro has raised concerns about their fiscal sustainability. Such concerns were initially focused on Greece but have since spread to other euro-area countries, leading to substantial increases in their sovereign borrowing costs. Pessimism about their fiscal situation, in turn, has helped to undermine confidence in the strength of European financial institutions, increasing their cost of raising funds and threatening to curtail their supply of credit. These developments have placed significant strains on global financial markets and have weighed on global economic activity.

Late last week, European leaders announced new steps to address the crisis, including proposals to strengthen fiscal rules and European fiscal coordination, as well as to enhance and provide additional clarity on the timing and design of a more credible euro-area financial backstop. These steps are a positive development and indicate the commitment of European leaders to alleviate the crisis. However, many key details of their proposed policies have yet to be worked out, and implementing them will be a challenge. Hence, it will be critical for European authorities to follow through on their commitments in the days and weeks ahead.

Here at home, the financial stresses in Europe are undoubtedly spilling over to the United States by restraining our exports, helping to push down business and consumer confidence, and adding to pressures on U.S. financial markets and institutions. Of note, foreign financial institutions, especially those in Europe, are finding it more difficult to fund themselves in dollars. A great deal of trade and investment the world over is financed in dollars, so many foreign financial institutions have heavy borrowing needs in our currency. These institutions also borrow heavily in dollars because they are active in U.S. markets, purchasing government and corporate securities as well as making loans to households and firms. As concerns about the financial system in Europe have mounted, many European banks have faced a rise in the cost and decline in the availability of dollar funding. Difficulty acquiring dollar funding by European and other financial institutions may ultimately make it harder and more costly for U.S. households and businesses to get loans. Moreover, these disruptions could spill over into the market for borrowing and lending in U.S. dollars more generally, raising the cost of funding for U.S. financial institutions. Although the breadth and size of all of these effects on the U.S. economy are difficult to gauge, the situation in Europe poses a significant risk to U.S. economic activity and bears close watching.

So what this asshole is saying is that we never learned our lesson and now it's our fault Europe was forced to experiment on a failed economic model of unity? That's bullshit.

He goes on to explain why the Federal Reserve has chosen to open the European spigot:

To address these potential risks to the United States, the Federal Reserve agreed with the European Central Bank (ECB) and the central banks of Canada, Japan, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom to revise, extend, and expand its swap lines with these institutions. 1 These actions were described in a joint announcement by the Federal Reserve and the other central banks on November 30. The measures were motivated by the need to ease strains in global financial markets, which, if left unchecked, could impair the supply of credit to households and businesses in the United States and impede our economic recovery. At present, such strains are particularly evident in Europe, and these actions were designed to help prevent disruptions in financial markets there from spilling over to the U.S. economy.

After an over explanatory explanation on these swap lines, he adds the obligatory disclaimer:

I would like to emphasize that information on the swap lines is fully disclosed on the Federal Reserve's website--through the weekly balance sheet release and other materials--and information on swap transactions each week is provided on the website of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

I also want to underscore that these swap agreements are safe from the perspective of the Federal Reserve and the U.S. taxpayer.

That's kind of a dick thing to say. "We're screwing your purchasing power in front of you and here it is fully disclosed on our website and we swear it won't screw you." Who digs through Fed swap data on a weekly basis? People just want to know why milk costs so much these days.

Unfortunately, things like TARP have somehow turned out to be an awesome dollar laundering operation, with Treasury reporting "profits" as if the "money" ever existed in the first place. So guys like this are able to go in front of Congress and say they believe the swaps are "safe" for both the Fed (who has a financial interest in our survival as an economy - if we die, the parasites can't feed on us) and the taxpayer (who doesn't have a choice anyway). Why does that feel like we're getting screwed in the deal?

Because it isn't real. They've built an illusion on top of an illusion and by supporting the failure of the European experiment, they're only prolonging the inevitable. They're borrowing off what they borrowed on, and passing it back and forth without ever actually "creating" more value. Consumers in America are distorted on what things should cost, while the establishment is shipping crates of dollars to Europe and Afghanistan and Iraq. What's wrong with that picture?

Over it. Totally over it.


TLP: This Ron Paul Fellow Has Some Pretty Good Ideas After All

text and drive
I'm still pretty sure Ron Paul doesn't have a chance in hell of riding his pony across the finish line in this presidential race, but he brings some common sense to a Republican field dominated by millionaire equivocators, lobbyist loudmouths, and an increasingly dimming dim bulb.

Paul had something sort of smart to say about a proposal the other day to prohibit drivers from using cell phones on the road.

The NYT has the background:
A federal agency on Tuesday called for a ban on all cellphone use by drivers — the most far-reaching such recommendation to date — saying its decision was based on a decade of investigations into distraction-related accidents, as well as growing concerns that powerful mobile devices are giving drivers even more reasons to look away from the road.

As part of its recommendation, the National Transportation Safety Board is urging states to ban drivers from using hands-free devices, including wireless headsets. No state now outlaws such activity, but the board said that drivers faced serious risks from talking on wireless headsets, just as they do by taking a hand off the wheel to hold a phone to their ear.

And Deborah Hersman, chairwoman of the N.T.S.B., an independent federal agency responsible for promoting traffic safety and investigating accidents, said the concern was heightened by increasingly powerful phones that people can use to e-mail, watch movies and play games.

“Every year, new devices are being released,” she said. “People are tempted to update their Facebook page, they are tempted to tweet, as if sitting at a desk. But they are driving a car.”
In Paul's view, this is a little bit too much government busybodying. He was asked about the issue at a campaign appearance in New Hampshire.

CNN Politics:
The Texas congressman, a self-proclaimed "constitutional conservative," staunchly promotes libertarian views. Among them: a dramatic scaling back of the role of federal government in the lives of Americans. True to that form, Paul said the NTSB proposal was another example of government overreach.

"The federal government shouldn't be involved," Paul told the crowd.

The congressman acknowledged that talking and texting while driving is potentially dangerous. And he added that eating or "disciplining kids" could also cause driver distractions. Yet Paul asked: who should be responsible for preventing it?

"For the federal government – that means they have to enforce these laws. Does that mean we're going to have more federal policemen checking up on who is going to answer the phone?" Paul asked.

And as he frequently does, the congressman repeated an unyielding line used by those who support Libertarianism: in a push for more individual liberty, Americans should be responsible for themselves – even if it means endangering themselves.

"It's taking away the responsibility from you as the individual, that if you mess up and you do something wrong in a car you should be held responsible," Paul said.
Like I should be if, for instance, I happened to be using my BlackBerry to post this item and ran into somebody's campaign bus. Hahaha. Ahem. But really, I only use the device when I'm in the car if I need to engage in some lively comment commentary with WCV or to tap-tap-tap filthy BBMs to JDA.

I'd hate to disappoint either of them, so nobody tell the NTSB.


Why Did the NY Fed Allow Obviously Troubled MF Global Primary Dealer Status?

Surely it couldn't have been because Jon Corzine is such a charming bastard.


Now bankrupt MF Global lobbied the New York Federal Reserve heavily to become a primary dealer, eventually succeeding after a delay sparked by a regulator flagging internal control problems.

Thomas Baxter, the New York Fed's general counsel, revealed the regulator's behind-the-scenes dealings with the futures brokerage, including a personal meeting with former MF Global chief Jon Corzine, in testimony prepared for a congressional hearing on Thursday.

The Fed delayed approving MF Global's application for primary dealer status after the Commodity Futures Trading Commission warned the Fed in April 2009 it had uncovered major compliance issues.


After a review process that included looking at audited financial reports, tax returns and an on-site visit, the New York Fed finally concluded in a January 2011 memo that MF Global "demonstrated a clear ability" to meet the Fed's standards.

That last paragraph is actually pretty funny. Just months before its collapse, MF Global "demonstrated a clear ability" to meet the Fed's standards, which tells me either the Fed has no standards or the standards they have aren't at all relevant to financial security. I mean think about it, Bank of America is a Fed primary dealer. And we know how well they are doing these days.

Of course, primary dealer status isn't an audit opinion, and it was never the Fed's job to judge whether or not MF Global was solvent. Still, you'd think they would have maybe seen something when they were checking out those audited financials and tax returns. Oh well, no one's perfect.

Find Baxter's prepared remarks for your reading pleasure here.


Those in Glass Houses Shouldn't Throw Insults About State Capitalism

Which came first, the pot or the kettle?

This is from the BBC:

China's economy 'will grow' despite 'grim' 2012 outlook

China's economic policymakers have pledged to guarantee growth in 2012, despite an "extremely grim" global outlook for the year ahead.

After their annual closed-door economic meeting in Beijing, the country's leaders declared that monetary policy would remain "prudent".

They said the currency, the yuan, would remain "basically stable".

The meeting avoided big policy changes before China's top two leaders retire next year, analysts said.

Now I realize the BBC is being funny by quoting Chinese sources, who can say whatever they want (sound familiar, Americans?), but were all those quotations really necessary?

It would have been hypocritical for the U.S media to poke fun at the Chinese for their "basically stable" monetary stance but that doesn't stop the United States at large from calling out China for their very same dysfunction:

Despite some progress during 2011 in its consultations with China, the U.S. remains concerned over state intervention and the large role played by state-owned enterprises in China’s economy, intellectual property rights violations and other policies that disadvantage foreign firms.

“In recent years, China seems to be embracing state capitalism more strongly, rather than continuing to move toward the economic reform goals that originally drove its pursuit of WTO membership,” the trade representative’s office said in an annual report to Congress on China’s compliance to its WTO commitments, released late Monday.

Did I miss the quotation marks in that one?

The irony is killing me.


House Passes Payroll Tax Cut Extension, America Still Screwed

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 , , 4 Comments

Do you ever get the feeling like we've been here before? You should, because we have.


The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would extend an employee payroll tax cut for one year while freezing pay for federal workers, restructuring unemployment compensation and speeding approval of a Canadian pipeline that would stretch to Texas.

Today’s 234-193 vote sends the $202.4 billion measure to the U.S. Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has said it won’t advance. The Senate may vote on blocking the House measure this week before negotiations begin on legislation that would have a better chance of clearing both chambers of Congress and being signed by President Barack Obama.

Come on now, are they really not going to squeeze through all the stimulus they can ahead of an election year?

The problem with these "temporary" stimulus measures is that someone forgot how broke Social Security is. At some point, we're going to have to figure that out, election year or not.

I'm as voraciously anti-tax as the next right-leaning hawk but at some point, my patriotism takes over and I'm compelled to ask when we as Americans stopped being willing to do our part. Sure, the government is in shambles and we spend something like 40 cents of every dollar of tax money collected just to pay down our ever-growing debts (which are officially mathematically impossible to pay off, even if the government seized every dollar in circulation to do so) but when did we lose the uniting goal of keeping our country afloat? What happened to buying savings bonds? Signing up for war? Helping thy neighbor?

Where's THAT America? I'd give up all the tax cuts in the world to find her again.


Ding Dong the Euro Is Dead!

Well shit, that only took 12 years!


The European Union failed to secure backing from all 27 countries to change the EU treaty at a summit on Friday, meaning any deal will now likely involve the 17 euro zone countries plus any others that want to join, three EU diplomats said.

An agreement at 27 fell through after British Prime Minister David Cameron demanded concessions that Germany and France were not willing to give, one of the officials said.

The decision means Britain could now be left outside the tent as up to 25 EU member states - not including Denmark which has an opt-out from the euro -- push ahead with deeper integration, including much tighter debt and deficit rules among the euro zone countries, the diplomats said.

What this means for you: not a damn thing. Don't listen to anyone who suggests that this now means firms and governments will seek out the United States for safer place to hide their money. The good news is that we're now one huge step back from the globalization agenda, I mean how can they possibly keep going after this failed European experiment?

Keep the faith, people.

I watched Nicolas Sarkozy on Al Jazeera last night after this news came out and even though the translator sucked and didn't do a very good job of decoding the French, I didn't need to speak it to know that guy knew he was fucked. "The euro is not a right, it's a duty," he apparently said while half-grinning from behind the podium. "We have to do everything to save the euro."


Earlier today, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso urged European Union leaders to "do everything" to save the euro ahead of a crucial summit on tackling the eurozone debt crisis.

"The entire world is watching. We must do everything" to save the euro, Barroso told reporters in the French port city of Marseille, adding: "It is extremely important that we all together, all the EU, show that the euro is irreversible."

"At the heart of the crisis is a problem of confidence and credibility."

Please, just let it go already.


BP Wants You To Go Spend Your Money to Stimulate the Gulf

Over the weekend, I was watching TV as I'm wont to do (horrible habit, I know, I'm ditching cable as soon as my Con-cast new subscriber deal runs out and they jack me up to $100 a month for basic cable) and this commercial popped up. Presumably, it promotes Gulf tourism. I sat there (soaking up my fourth beer, admittedly) watching it wondering who on Earth paid for this spot and completely unable to recall what disaster hit the Gulf that would inspire such a balls-out tourism ad.

By the time it is revealed who paid for this "please come spend your money with us" plea, I remember what disaster we have to thank for this.

Watch it:

The video is an ongoing effort of BP to, uh, clean up.


TLP: And This Little Piggie Cried 'Wee Wee Wee' All the Way Home

cain fail
Not to pass judgment on what a pair of presidential candidates might or might not have done for 12 or 13 years, respectively, since neither admitted it. But I couldn't help noticing how differently they handled the accusations.

Bill Clinton? Right.

Herman Cain? Wrong.

Any coincidence that one wife hit back and one wife clapped and nodded?


Richmond Fed Debunks The Horrible Rumor That the Fed Prints Money

*that's not from the Richmond Fed but you get the idea

I will readily admit to having a piece or two of Fed propaganda lying around my house but to have it invade my computer so viciously has left me feeling violated and abused.

What happened?

Apparently Richmond Fed came out with a series of instructional videos (you guys remember those from school right?) about what they do and don't do. Presumably Mythbusters was already taken so they named it MythUnderstanding. According to the Bank, the goal of "MythUnderstanding" is to clarify their role and responsibilities in America's economy.

With titles like "The Fed Doesn't Print Money" and "Fed Not Controlled by Wall Street," you'd think someone over in my friendly 5th District Federal Reserve Bank was feeling a little defensive these days. I wonder why that might be. I'm definitely not on the "non-hostile" side of the Fed's list of friends (for the most part) but I'm also not a complete anti-Fed Jihadist (I'm mad but cuddly), so I can admit that they were actually doing alright up until yesterday morning when they announced full support for European collapse. Fuck it, let's take everyone down. Again. I mean it's going down eventually anyway isn't it? Might as well get a big screen and some $4 bacon out of it while we can. The minute they pull the plug on the money - oh, excuse me, they don't actually print the money - it's back to shooting dinner and planting stuff in the ground. Best to kick the high fructose corn syrup while you can, kids.

Anyway, on their YouTube page, there's also a video made by Virginia college students that looks like the intro to one of those weird tube videos about the nice college girl coming to the audition in front of a camera. And another that looks like a Group X video warns if you spend money you don't have, you'll end up living in your mom's basement.

And then there is a cozy little piece about how the Fed protects your money by sending out bank examiners and writing regulations that protect the consumer (consumer being anyone forced to use dollars). There is no mention of dispatching examiners to the Federal Reserve itself to ensure that our money is being protected.

"The Federal Reserve doesn't print money — we influence the nation's money supply and issue currency, distribute it and store it. The U.S. Treasury prints the currency you use every day."

God that sounds absolutely fucking filthy. "Influence" and "distribute"? That sounds an awful lot like pimping to me — they don't do the actual dirty work but they, er, supervise.

Points for trying.