The Fed Goes Balls Out... Again



I received this love letter to cheap money from the Board moments ago:

The Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, the European Central Bank, the Federal Reserve, and the Swiss National Bank are today announcing coordinated actions to enhance their capacity to provide liquidity support to the global financial system. The purpose of these actions is to ease strains in financial markets and thereby mitigate the effects of such strains on the supply of credit to households and businesses and so help foster economic activity.

These central banks have agreed to lower the pricing on the existing temporary U.S. dollar liquidity swap arrangements by 50 basis points so that the new rate will be the U.S. dollar overnight index swap (OIS) rate plus 50 basis points. This pricing will be applied to all operations conducted from December 5, 2011. The authorization of these swap arrangements has been extended to February 1, 2013. In addition, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, the European Central Bank, and the Swiss National Bank will continue to offer three-month tenders until further notice.

As a contingency measure, these central banks have also agreed to establish temporary bilateral liquidity swap arrangements so that liquidity can be provided in each jurisdiction in any of their currencies should market conditions so warrant. At present, there is no need to offer liquidity in non-domestic currencies other than the U.S. dollar, but the central banks judge it prudent to make the necessary arrangements so that liquidity support operations could be put into place quickly should the need arise. These swap lines are authorized through February 1, 2013.

Does anyone else find it funny that they still feel market conditions warrant all the dollars the world could possibly need?

Remember, it was only yesterday Fed #2 and known easy money whore Janet Yellen insisted the Fed still had wiggle room and tools remaining to ease.

Someone get a towel, the patient is hemorrhaging!

Happy Birthday, Zimbabwe Ben!

Man, is it really almost December already? It must be, I can feel my landlord breathing down my neck for my rent check.

As has been tradition going on three years now, I send Ben Bernanke a birthday card as a sort of token of appreciation. Do I expect a card back since we share the same birthday of December 13th? Hell no. Has one ever been returned to sender with a big middle finger drawn on it in crayon? Nope.

I humbly present to you, dear JDA reader, Zimbabwe Ben's 2011 birthday card.

The front.


The dedication is between ZB and me but you get the joke.

Good lookin' out, Hallmark.

I can pretty much guarantee my birthday will be way better than his but let's just hope I don't run into the guy at whatever DC restaurant the boy drags me out to to celebrate the 31 years since my mother was sliced open to pull me out into the world.

Exposure of the American Consumer to the Horror of Black Friday


Did you go shopping this weekend? I specifically opted out even though I needed shit, like a lamp to replace the two my terrorist kittens destroyed and maybe a second big screen teevee.

Apparently a lot of people did:

Retailers can breathe a sigh of relief. The holiday shopping season started strong, with bigger crowds spending more dollars than ever before.

According to ShopperTrak — the world's largest provider of retail and mall foot-traffic counting services — Black Friday sales increased 6.6 percent over the same day last year. This represents $11.40 billion in retail purchases and the biggest dollar amount ever spent during the day. Retail foot-traffic rose accordingly, increasing by 5.1 percent over Black Friday 2010.

"Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year and the traditional start to the holiday shopping season," said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin. "Despite our sluggish economy, shoppers proved they are looking for value and ready to buy if given a good customer experience.

Oh yeah? You mean with deeper discounts than ever and bizarre hours like 4 in the morning ON Thanksgiving Day (FUCK OFF, I slept in)? It's no wonder retailers cleaned up, I wouldn't say it is fair to compare the "Black Friday" of 2011 with that of years previous. I don't even remember how it was 10 years ago but I'm fairly sure it was not at all like this.

I even avoided the grocery store, lest my store loyalty card record my regular weekly grocery shopping as amazing "Black Friday weekend" sales.

"Retailers continue to stretch out Black Friday weekend by enticing shoppers with door-buster deals weeks in advance," said [ShopperTrak founder Bill] Martin, "and yesterday consumers were especially bullish. Granted, the economy is still sputtering, but slight increases in the employment rate mean fewer workers fear layoffs. While consumers are still extremely value-conscious, they clearly responded to retailer price reductions and 'door-buster' promotions."

So because fewer workers fear layoffs, they're willing to elbow each other out of the last "door-buster" big screen at Wal-mart? I don't buy it. The America I come from isn't that fucking stupid.

Consumer Reports confirmed what I knew all along - that sleeping in (and maybe playing some Fallout: New Vegas) was a much better use of the day if you're looking for a real deal. I've been capitalizing on retailers' holiday desperation for four years now, there's nothing wrong with getting stuff you need at cheap prices, there's no reason to get up at 5 in the morning for it.

From Consumerist:

Consumer Reports notes that you'll definitely find some rock-bottom prices on Black Friday, but they are likely to be on items that the magazine has either not recommended or even reviewed.

"One thing I've noticed is that many of the lowest prices this year are on secondary and tertiary brands such as Element, Sansui, Seiki, and Dynex, that we don't typically cover," says CR reporter Jim Willcox.

Is it worth getting shot over a deeply discounted Dynex teevee?! Fuck no.

A shopper pepper-sprayed other bargain hunters and robbers shot at customers to steal their Black Friday purchases, marring the start of the U.S. holiday shopping season, according to authorities.

Up to 20 people were injured after a woman used pepper spray at a Walmart in Los Angeles to get an edge on her competitors. In a second incident, off-duty officers in North Carolina used pepper spray to subdue rowdy shoppers waiting for electronics.

A man was in critical but stable condition after being shot by robbers in a parking lot outside a Walmart In San Leandro, California, at 1:50 a.m. (0950 GMT), Sergeant Mike Sobek said.

I'm not going to pretend like I'm not a consumer whore but there is a line one draws when it comes to saving a few dollars. I'd say getting shot is definitely it.

“There’s an awful lot of psychology going on here,” said expert on consumer behavior at New York University Jacob] Jacoby. “There’s the notion of scarcity — when something’s scarce it’s more valued. And a resource that can be very scarce is time: If you don’t get there in time, it’s going to be gone.”

See what that psychology does to people?

No thank you. I stayed at home. Free parking. Good restaurant on-site. No one getting shot (at least in my immediate vicinity).

TLP: And What's the Problem?


Bonus: Spelling laziness right

OK, my mind's made up. And the election is still a year away. Who said there was something wrong with being lazy? Certainly not this Lazy Paperboy.

NYT:
Mitt Romney attacked President Obama on Tuesday for making what Mr. Romney described as “disparaging” remarks about Americans, singling out comments over the weekend in which the president said the United States had gotten “lazy” in trying to attract new business.

“Sometimes I just don’t think that President Obama understands America,” Mr. Romney said on the factory floor of Colite International, which manufactures corporate signs. “Now I say that because this week, or was it last week, he said that Americans are lazy. I don’t think that describes America.”

Mr. Obama, speaking at the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Hawaii on Saturday, told a group of chief executives that the United States had grown complacent, especially when it came to recruiting businesses — although he did not specifically single out citizens as “lazy.”

“We’ve been a little bit lazy over the last couple of decades,” Mr. Obama said. “We’ve kind of taken for granted — ‘Well, people would want to come here’ — and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new businesses into America.”
See, I think Romney is the lazy one here. What Obama said isn't complicated. Of course, Romney spent a good bit of the business career he brags about cutting and outsourcing jobs. That's not to say he's lazy — just check out Romney's finances — but it didn't do much for American business.

And Rick Perry couldn't let this one go, either. Of course, he was too lazy to do a second take of this spot when he fucked up his lines. That's pathetic. Well, unless he was drunk. Again.



Advice for Hazardous Living: Paint That Sh*t Gold



Good advice.

I'm a Terrible Person But Ben Bernanke Is Not Off the Hook

 everything is better with kittens

I apologize for the absence, rest assured the black helicopters haven't gotten me.

Maybe I got a little burned out on all of it. Maybe I've had other shit to do. I have a nasty ass cat from the Washington Humane Society who reeks from the inside (love him but he's gross), and I have an hour and a half a day commute that is killing me and I live in the murder capital of DC. I write about how fucked up the Federal Reserve is and give advice to accounting students for a living. You can see how one might burn out from that pretty quick.

Don't get me wrong, it's a good life. The rank ass cat is entertaining most of the time when he isn't stinking up my amazing condo hidden in the hood. No one gets murdered on my doorstep, the myth of how dangerous DC is is mostly just that, a myth. But you won't catch me walking to Metro any time soon, I drive. Everywhere. Driving in DC has given me freeway PTSD; I don't leave the house unless I have to (good thing too, I hear it's wild out there). I pile up errands at weird hours and still somehow hit traffic. 10pm on 295. 7am on 495. 2am on 50. It's all awful. This tells me DC has reached capacity. It's amazing how no one here even recognizes an economic glitch in the Matrix for the last few years.

I've also spent the last week running the show at Going Concern (while somehow managing said hour and a half commute from hell in the worst place in all of America to have to drive your car and a few hours at my day job), which is exhausting in and of itself. The accounting industry is fucking scary, people, I've seen it first hand. These kids are confused, overworked, undereducated and few of them are ever taught proper English. They will inherit the empire one day. Think about that. Think about the kind of bullshit they have grown up watching. Tyco. Enron. Worldcom. And they are taught virtually the same accounting system that brought us those frauds. They've been chased into their own corner and told how to behave. For the short term, accounting is fighting with itself on how best it can fix itself. Like I said, it's scary. You'd be wise to pay attention.

I feel honored to get to spend time with the future accounting partners (or private accounting public drop-outs) of America, even if they are horribly confused and not very well-written some of the time.

At some point it's just too much. Greece. Italy. Bernanke. The euro finally falling apart.

I came home from work the other day to find RT on the TV, my two WHS cats suspiciously prowling the living room in front of it. I turned off the TV before I went to work (electricity isn't free WTF). You can't trust DC street cats. I wanted to ignore the news that day but I couldn't because I'm constantly being assaulted by it on my BlackBerry. Fuck, even BlackBerry is dying.

It's overwhelming. I'm fucking tired. I've been waiting for this shit to blow up since March of 2009 and so far, the only thing I've landed from this crisis is a gig giving advice to accountants and a piece of tail across enemy lines. As good as that is, it's tiring betting on it to blow up with no explosion thus far.

I'm not sure how long these guys can keep up appearances but apparently it is at a minimum 2 years and 8 months.

Seriously fucking tired.

I'll get it together one of these days.

TLP: Does This Mean I Get to Skip the Census Next Time Around?

survey threat
I thought the Obama Administration's bold move to cut swag expenditures in the federal budget meant they were serious about saving money. I'm sure there's plenty of waste in the purchasing of giveaways that become throwaways — otherwise, why would the swag industry be bitching so loudly?

And then I get this:



Yes, the U.S. Census Bureau twice in as many weeks sent me a hefty envelope containing the American Community Survey and threatened me in BOLD CAPS if I didn't comply and fill it out. And expected to get it back in two weeks! Hey, I'm lazy. In fact, my first name is Lazy. And I can't be the only one.

But guess what, Census Bureau? I'd actually gotten around to filling it out and had already given it to the mailman. (I hear he needs the work.) So the survey crew in Jeffersonville, Indiana, can get ready to read all about whether I have a job, how I get there, if I have health insurance and if I went to college. And other stuff too mind-numbing to recount. Knock yourselves out.

And, hey, send me a note and let me know how I did.

TLP: Obama Turns Swag Into Stuff Nobody Gets

swag
Everybody loves swag — you know, the Stuff We All Get — from conventions, trade shows, business meetings, wherever. Whether you pick it up at an exhibit hall kiosk, find it on a table at a seminar or have a swag bag left for you at your hotel, the stuff isn't as cool as the get.

America's makers of pens, mouse pads, coffee mugs, lanyards and various assorted useless and forgettable freebies are collectively squeezing their stress balls at the news that the government is getting out of the tchotchke business.

The Hill:
The promotional products industry is worried that President Obama's executive order to cut back on federal agency "swag" could lead to job losses.

Obama this week ordered agencies to find ways to cut about $4 billion per year from the federal government’s budget for travel, cellphones, conferences and "swag" like agency-branded mugs and clothing.

“We certainly wouldn’t want people to stop using promotional products, if they can be used efficiently and effectively, in a knee-jerk way and cost jobs,” said Tim Andrews of the Advertising Specialty Institute, which represents the promotional products industry.

“For the president to say that buying promotional products is a waste is extremely troubling and shows how little he knows about the industry,” Matt Bertram, president of Fields Manufacturing, said in a statement. “This is again another example of our administration making quick decisions that will hurt small business.”
Or maybe it's a decision that should encourage these small businesses to do one (or both) of two things: make products that make sense for federal agencies to buy — the executive order on "Promoting Efficient Spending" says, "Sec. 7. Extraneous Promotional Items. Agencies should limit the purchase of promotional items (e.g., plaques, clothing, and commemorative items), in particular where they are not cost-effective." — or find people in the private sector willing to buy their stuff and give it away.

The less of my money the federal government needs for useless things, the better. Unless it's a SIGTARP jacket. I'll totally take one of those.

TLP: In This Economy, Sheep Pay When a Sheepskin Doesn't


Forget about trying to make it in Silicon Valley. The new place to launch a start-up may be the Dell, as in Farmer in the Dell.

The NYT checks in from Oberlin, Ohio:
In this verdant lawn-filled college town, most people keep their lawn mowers tuned up by oiling the motor and sharpening the blades. Eddie Miller keeps his in shape with salt licks and shearing scissors.

Mr. Miller, 23, is the founder of Heritage Lawn Mowing, a company that rents out sheep — yes, sheep — as a landscaping aid. For a small fee, Mr. Miller, whose official job title is “shepherd,” brings his ovine squad to the yards of area homeowners, where the sheep spend anywhere from three hours to several days grazing on grass, weeds and dandelions.

The results, he said, are a win-win: the sheep eat free, saving him hundreds of dollars a month in food costs, and his clients get a freshly cut lawn, with none of the carbon emissions of a conventional gas-powered mower. (There are, of course, other emissions, which Mr. Miller said make for “all-natural fertilizer.”)

“They countrify a city,” Mr. Miller said of his four-legged staff. “And they lend a lot of awareness about how people lived in the past.”

As an uncertain economy and a stagnant hiring climate continue to freeze people out of the traditional job market, a number of entrepreneurs like Mr. Miller, many of them in their 20s and 30s, are heading back to the land, starting small agricultural businesses. And in the process, they are discovering that modern homesteading offers more rewarding work, and possibly more security, than entering the white-collar fray.
Miller, who graduated from Boston University a year-and-a-half ago and failed to find a job or secure the grants he sought, told the Times the mowing business brings in $1 per day per sheep. And he'll barter, like for karate lessons, maple syrup or the use of a truck. He also part-times at a farm and recently doubled his workforce from two to four.

The Times also found two women in Seattle who started a grocery story in a shipping container they plopped down in a "food desert" neighborhood and hipster chicken farmers in Brooklyn, of course.

Good for them. They seem happy (one of the grocers called this type of venture, "the new Plan A") and no one's bitching about the drum circle or where to get a vegan panini.