The Nanny State Goes After College Entrance Exams

I showed up hungover to one of my college entrance exams and did amazing - and yes, it was really me - and look where it got me. No one carded me when I took the exam 90 miles from where I went to high school, using the exam as an excuse to go on a half-week long excursion away from home.

I digress.


Students taking college entrance exams this fall will have to submit photo IDs with their applications — a key security upgrade after a widespread cheating scandal at a number of high schools on Long Island, a prosecutor and testing officials announced Tuesday.

The security change is one of a number of initiatives after the arrest of 20 current or former high school students accused in the cheating scheme. Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said some of the students were paid as much as $3,500 to stand in for other students taking the SAT, a key barometer for many colleges determining admissions.

Well wait. For them to take such drastic measures, this must be a really pervasive threat to the security of the SAT, right?

Rice said 50 students were likely involved in the scheme, but she had evidence to arrest only 20. The cases against the 20 students are pending.

Remember, the government's job isn't taking care of its people, it is preserving the Government's own interests. Data collection on its own citizens is a great way to look busy.


TLP: It's Time to Say Goodbye to Your Mailman, Just In Case

fired mailmen
I have to admit, I'm not happy with the mailmen these days. And it's not even like one of them shit on my lawn. More like difficulty with the completion of their appointed rounds.

So, I'm not feeling too bad about this report from CNNMoney:
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said Tuesday that incentives will be offered to woo some of the 150,000 eligible employees to retire.

"We're going to offer incentives as we move from six to five day delivery," Donahoe told a House hearing on Tuesday. "It's critical to move the head count down."

Mass retirement is key to U.S. Postal Service plans to stem its financial bleeding. As the service moves forward on plans to close 223 postal plants, which could mean the loss of 35,000 jobs, it hopes to ease the pain with retirement packages to those who qualify.

More than one out of every four career employees is now able to retire, Donahoe said, and another 100,000 reach retirement eligibility in the next five years.
Of course, this being the Postal Service, money seems to be no object. CNN says there's been no announcement of what the retirement packages will cost. Guess it'll just add to the $5.1 billion loss from last year, or maybe come out of the $12.1 billion loan the mailmen took out from the Treasury.

Sympathy's gonna be tough to get.


TLP: At Least It's Not a Sweater Vest

hank tshirt
What would a political campaign be without swag? It's so basic that even cats — notoriously lazy, God love 'em — know that much.

Hank, the 9-year-old former street cat vying for a Virginia seat in the U.S. Senate, is selling bipartisan campaign T-shirts.

Two new designs came out over the weekend. Ever the independent, one is modeled on the famous JFK "Leadership For The 60's" poster; the other, based on Dwight D. Eisenhower's wildly successful "I Like Ike" slogan, reads "I LIKE HANK."
You may recall that we covered Hank's candidacy here last month, along with commentary from JDA about the political prospects of her own cats. Turns out that Hank has issues.
Reproductive rights are a key issue among the human candidates competing in the Virginia Senate race. Likewise among cat candidates. Hank's campaign is focusing on pet population control, as well as job creation and an effort to stop the University of Virginia from using cats in its pediatrics residency program.

The cat vows not to accept outside contributions to his Senate efforts. All T-shirt profits go to a spay and neuter program run by Animal Allies, the Virginia-based animal rescue group that, according to the campaign website, saved Hank and his family from death row almost a decade ago.
Let's just hope Hank's rough-and-tumble past doesn't include any feline felonies. Only Virginia's popular Class 6 kind that make everyone purr.


Oh God, The Fed Is Never Going to Pull Out

When is it going to get better? When will they ever be able to remove the monetary crutch? You and I both know they can't, and I'm fairly sure that brilliant little bastard Fisher knows it too, he's just too smart to say it out loud.


"We have filled the tanks, there is plenty of liquidity. We need no more," Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher, an outspoken policy hawk, said at a business event in London.

"The question is finding the right time to effect an exit strategy. We're not there yet. This is a matter of judgment and feel, and a more robust economic situation".

Funny, I thought the economy was cured in March of 2009, isn't that the line we're going with? So what's with the delay? Pull out already!

Sadly, I don't think Fisher's colleagues agree with him on the concept of too much monetary support for an allegedly healed but still weak economy.

New York Fed President William Dudley, a close ally of Chairman Ben Bernanke, painted a mixed picture of the economy, tempering recent signs the recovery is gaining speed with warnings that it could just as easily stall out.

"Nothing has been decided," he said of QE3, in which the Fed would make large-scale asset purchases in an attempt to lower rates and give the economy another controversial shot of adrenaline.

"It all depends on how the economy evolves," Dudley added. "It's about costs and benefits, and if we get to a point where we think the benefits of another program of QE outweigh the costs, then we'll certainly do so."

WHAT THE FUCK is so difficult about this math? More QE = bad idea. Pulling out = good idea. I'm sorry that pulling out will mean total collapse for a system hooked on free Fed funny money but them's the breaks, kid.


TLP: Tom Ridge Gives Threat Level Assessment For Rick Santorum

ridge santorum
Not that his support has meant a lot so far, but this is worth noting.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who previously supported Jon Huntsman, endorsed Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination on Wednesday.

"I've met accomplished and strong leaders in my life," Ridge said in a statement released by Romney's campaign. "Mitt Romney is one of them."

Prior to serving in the George W. Bush administration as the first to head the Homeland Security Department, Ridge held two terms as Pennsylvania governor and six terms as a congressman for the state.
Ridge made his endorsement in advance of the next big primary date for Republicans, April 24, when Pennsylvania's 72 delegates will be among the 231 up for grabs. The announcement comes as Rick Santorum leads the GOP field in state polls.

You know Ridge wasn't wild about Romney from the start, having initially backed Huntsman. And since Ridge served in Congress from Pennsylvania with Santorum, and then also knew him when he was governor and Santorum was in the Senate, you'd have to think Ridge would agree with former Senator Bob Kerrey's appraisal: "Santorum, that's Latin for asshole."


LOL Mayor Gray!

See, this is why I love living here. Guys like our esteemed mayor can say things like this with a straight face:

“If you are a criminal and committing thefts or robberies, or if you profit from crime, in the District of Columbia, we will we find you, arrest you and bring you to justice,” said Mayor Gray. “The District of Columbia is a place of law and order, and neither Chief Lanier nor I will tolerate any crime on our streets. Every single D.C. resident has the right to walk our neighborhoods in safety and confidence.”

OOOOH I bet the snack truck that trolls my neighborhood handing out cocaine and dimebags is going to cease IMMEDIATELY after a threat like that!


GAO Finds Half of TARP Banks Paid Back Government Money With Government Money

Surprise surprise [PDF]:

As of January 31, 2012, 341 institutions had exited CPP, almost half by repaying CPP with funds from other federal programs.

Read more at Fox Business but really that's all you need to read.


Those Crazy Canadians Launch The Federal Reserve: The Restaurant

Friday, March 09, 2012 , , 2 Comments

 pic from the Cleveland Fed, not this restaurant

h/t my fellow Pollock Krupo, who happens to be one of my favorite Canadians (not that I keep favorites or anything).

Apparently, a Toronto brunch spot has launched bearing the name of a certain central bank to the south many of us are familiar with:

After a quiet opening last week, The Federal Reserve experienced a whirlwind first weekend, with Dundas West’s fevered brunch crowd gamely filling up the space (with NoNo’s and This End Up soon to open on the same strip, Dundas’s rate of restaurant openings is nearing Roncesvalles-like heights). Running the ship is a band of friends—Zach Slootsky, Duncan MacNeill, Joe Zabukovec and Adam Janes—all of whom are balancing their time at the Federal with other jobs both in and out of the restaurant industry (MacNeill’s currently at Woodlot and Slootsky, a sometime photographer, is at Swan).

Brunch? Shit, that beats getting financially assraped by central bankers any day!

The best part, as always, is the comments. Like this gem:
Is it a scam like the actual Federal Reserve?
There's really nothing more to be said here. Not until I start making mimosas and bacon, at least.

Is this at all related to the Federal Reserve brunch spot in Rhode Island?


The Pentagon Gets Caught Cheating On Its Exams

You know, maybe they could have solved this by slapping wings on a bunch of Boston Dynamics' Cheetahs and called it a day.

Wired reports:

It seemed like a promising step for America’s next stealth fighter: The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter passed a key Pentagon test of its combat capability. But it turns out that the family of jets cleared the mid-February exam only because its proctor agreed to inflate its grade. In essence, the military helped the F-35 cheat on its midterms.

The collusion between the Pentagon testing body, known as the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC), and the F-35 program — first reported by Inside Defense — confirmed that the U.S.’ most expensive warplane met previously established performance criteria. Specifically, the review was meant to show that the jet can fly as far and take off as quickly as combat commanders say they need it to.

But the review council, which includes the vice chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, eased the standard flying profile of the Air Force’s F-35A model — thereby giving it a range boost of 30 miles. And it tacked an additional 50 feet onto the required takeoff distance for the Marines’ F-35B version, which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta just took off budgetary probation.

The full cost to buy and fly the entire fleet of F-35s over 50 years would run the Pentagon $1 trillion if you factor in normal inflation (that doesn't even touch the actual inflation we're looking at over the next 50 years) - the most expensive defense program EVER.


TLP: What Lawyers Do

And it sort of clarifies how short on cash the NYT is.


DARPA Has Created The Creepiest Thing I've Ever Seen

Living in the DC slums, I'm supposed to worry about dope fiends and muggers, apparently. But really, I'm more scared about this thing escaping from some creepy Arlington lab.



Fuck Cheetah. I'm not OK with this.


Silly Senators, Speculation Is For the Fed

Oh those poor speculators, always getting blamed when folks don't know who else to blame. Personally, I imagine part of the spike in gas prices has to do more with the ethanol subsidies that dried up as of January 1st but I'm no senator, I could be way off on that one.


Excessive speculation in the oil futures market may be costing you 15 percent or more at the gas pump and playing a "significant" role in rising gasoline prices, according to a joint letter from 68 members of Congress that ABC News has obtained.

The joint letter, which cites a recently updated report by the St. Louis Federal Reserve titled "Speculation in the Oil Market," urges immediate action by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to install caps on the biggest traders on Wall Street, preventing them from controlling unusually large positions in the oil futures trading market.

Here's the funny part, the senators actually believe the Fed report that blames speculation for higher gas prices. Of course the Fed would want you to believe that speculators are to blame, why on Earth would they take responsibility for this? Seems common sense to me: oil priced in dollars, Fed ruining the dollar, how difficult is this equation to assemble?

The report also concludes "speculation played a significant role in the oil price increase between 2004 and 2008 and its subsequent collapse. Our results support the view that the financialization process of commodity markets explains part of the recent increase in oil prices."

The Federal Reserve paper also puts a price on how much extra consumers may have had to pay at the pump during the Federal Reserve's five-year study period, saying, "speculation contributed around 15 percent to oil price increases" during the five year period analyzed.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, has pushed for reform on Wall Street for years. He says the Federal Reserve report is significant.

"If the St. Louis Federal Reserve, a conservative institution, is saying speculation is contributing significantly to the high price of oil and gas at the pump, then I think that is clearly what the case is," he said.

Here's the full St. Louis Fed report if you're interested in lining your cat litter boxes with it like I am.

With so many unemployed, how could demand be high enough to warrant these prices? Well it can't, obviously. So what else could possibly be driving them up? With Ghaddafi dead, it's not like we can blame Middle East tensions (though that won't stop them from trying, I'm sure).

Seems totally clear to me.


Luxury Toys For Luxury Lifestyles [NSFW]

Wonder if this guy has one of these in a drawer at his house...

If you're going to do it, you better do it in style.

For a mere $13500, you can own Inez, The Most Exclusive Vibrator Ever Created:

INEZ is an elegant and luxurious pleasure object with an energetic buzz, crafted in stainless steel or 24K gold-plate. The metal, enticing and evocative against the naked skin, offers exciting prospects for users inclined to the sensual utilisation of hot or cold. Five pre-programmed stimulation modes and a virtually silent vibrator engine provide the basis for a multitude of enjoyable experiences. Her petite frame ensures discreet yet reassuring company, eager to sate daily desires. INEZ is rechargeable and a 2-hour charge provides up to 4 hours of bliss. Comes presented in an elegant wooden gift box, accessorised with charger, manual, satin pouch for stylish storage and a 1-year LELO warranty.
That gold plate isn't getting any cheaper, people.


TLP: If This Keeps Up, We Won't Hear From Obama Until He Picks His Bracket

Don't be surprised if the only sound coming from the White House and the Obama campaign for the next few days is a whole lot of silence. Much easier to hear right-wingers say stupid things and then apologize for them.

Remember the judge with poor judgment? Didn't take him long to tuck his tail about passing along an email joke about a dog and sex and Obama's mother. And since the judge, appointed by W, emailed it from his courthouse computer, it made sense to apologize on judicial letterhead.

Richard Cebull, Montana’s chief U.S. district judge, asked Thursday for a formal judicial review after he admitted forwarding a racist email “joke” involving bestiality and President Barack Obama's mother.

The judge also sent a formal apology to President Obama and his family.

“I accept full responsibility; I have no one to blame but myself,” the judge wrote in the letter.

Cebull wrote that such a mistake would never happen again and that he had requested a judicial review.

“Honestly, I don’t know what else I can do. Please forgive me and, again, my most sincere apology,” Cebull wrote.
As entertaining as all that was to watch, Rush Limbaugh (or his lawyers and accountants) apologized for slut-shaming Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke for her views on health care coverage for birth control.
For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke. ... My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.
If Rush apologizing seems unusual, it is. But, capitalist that he is, it was prudent to try to keep any more advertisers from bailing on his radio show. The apology also succeeded in overshadowing Obama's phone call to Fluke to thank her for speaking out.

Oh, and Rick Santorum admitted he was wrong to say that Obama's encouragement of higher education was snobby. Funny thing is, he was called out for it on Fox, which CNN was happy to report:
Rick Santorum backtracked Sunday on his criticism of President Barack Obama's call for higher education, saying he agreed with providing options for high school graduates to continue in some form of additional schooling or training.

Santorum recently accused Obama of snobbery for advocating that all students attend college, saying not everyone would benefit from four years at what he called liberal-leaning university campuses.

However, when confronted by "Fox News Sunday" with Obama's past statements calling for different kinds of higher education options -- including community college or technical training programs -- Santorum said that made sense.

His motivation in criticizing Obama was to "focus not just on four-year college degrees," Santorum said. Asked why he thought Obama was only pushing a four-year program, Santorum said "maybe I was reading some things" that gave that impression.

"If it was an error, then I agree with the president" that offering students options is the right way to go, he said.
Who's next? Newt?


Deadbeats Never Make a Mortgage Payment on Million-Dollar Home, Manipulate the System to Stay In It

File this story under: holy fuck, can you believe the things people think they can get away with?

Now, I'm as anti-bank as anyone. Can't stand the fuckers. Avoid them as much as I can. And I totally feel for struggling homedebtors who are trying desperately to do everything right and stay in their homes. But there are some people out there who are obviously gaming the system that need to be kicked to the motherfucking curb, their shit piled on the lawn for neighbors to loot.

Like these two.

Via WaPo:

The eviction from their million-dollar home could come at any moment. Keith and Janet Ritter have been bracing for it — and battling against it — almost from the moment they moved into the five-bedroom, 4,900-square-foot manse along the Potomac River in Fort Washington.

In five years, they have never made a mortgage payment, a fact that amazes even the most seasoned veterans of the foreclosure crisis.

Yes, you read that correctly. Five years in a million-dollar home without a single payment. He's done time for bankruptcy fraud and she's a former real estate agent. Oh, and did I mention that they made a bunch of money during the Before Time flipping properties?

During the boom, they set out to become mini real estate moguls, buying properties and flipping them for a profit. In the process, Keith Ritter, 54, went from being on probation for bankruptcy fraud and making minimum wage to being a successful real estate investor and landlord with a six-figure income. Then, when the housing market tanked five years ago, the couple found themselves facing multiple foreclosures.

The Ritters have tried to negotiate different payment arrangements with their lender to save their posh home near National Harbor, they said, but to no avail.

“It was never our intention to get here and never make a mortgage payment,” Keith Ritter said. “We don’t believe in living for free.”

You know, 30 days of "living for free" and I might believe him. Even 3 payments behind I could maybe buy it. But we're talking about FIVE years here.

Long story short, the Ritters have filed for bankruptcy several times (notice a pattern here?) and that has somehow kept them in "their" home for all this time. Man, you really feel for people like this, don't you?

Further testing Maryland's foreclosure laws, Ritter asked for mediation but didn't actually show up when it was granted, blaming a mail mix-up for his obvious absence at the hearing he himself requested. Please, I blame the mail too but that's just lazy.

“Defendant(s), humbly prays that the Honorable Judge, will recognize that this process, written into law by Governor O’Malley was to prevent just this situation, whereby the note holder can . . . trample on the rights of the homeowner,” Keith Ritter wrote in a December 2010 mediation request.

Excuse me. "Homeowner" implies someone who has the full, unrestricted rights - through distribution of their own dollars - to a home. You aren't a "homeowner" if you put practically nothing down and haven't paid anything since.

Anyway, you really have to read the entire 5 page debacle at WaPo.


TLP: Lucky For Him That Job Comes With a Lifetime Appointment

joking judge
One of the great things about America is the freedom to say whatever you want. Even if you're a federal judge with questionable judgment.

Talking Points Memo:
Montana Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull, a George W. Bush nominee, admitted on Wednesday that he forwarded a racially-charged email implying that President Barack Obama might have been the product of a sexual encounter between his mother and a dog.

“A little boy said to his mother; ‘Mommy, how come I’m black and you’re white?’” the email forwarded from Cebull’s official court email address on Feb. 20 read, according to the Great Falls Tribune. “His mother replied, ‘Don’t even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you’re lucky you don’t bark!’”

The federal judge’s email called the joke “a bit touching” and said he wanted all of his friends to feel what he felt when he read the email. “Hope it touches your heart like it did mine,” he wrote.
Funny? Not funny? Who knows? Potentially offensive to mothers, black people, dogs, presidents of the United States? Maybe. Stupid for a federal official pulling down about $175,000 a year to send from his government email account? I think the opinion on that is unanimous.

But one of great things about America is the freedom to say whatever you want. Even if you're a commenter on a blog:

From HuffPost:
“Little Cebull to his mom: "Mom, why do we stop by this field of goats every day?" Mother Cebull: "To say 'Hi' to your daaaaaaaaaaaad."”
I believe the bailiff has a few papers for you to sign.