December 24, 2011 archive

Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

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The Stars Hollow Gazette


The uncertainty is significant due to

Uncertainties of original conditions.

Numerous concerns trigger critics.

Wheres and hows, nobody really knows.

Complete meltdown?  Define complete.

Define “molten,” or “radioactive.”

For that matter = energy,

Define credit default swaps.

Melt-down versus melt-up?

Tick-talk, radioactive clock!

Deer still walk in the mountains, constantly chewing

Berries ripen on the vine. Incessantly.

Rosewood fretboards…obla-di obla da.  

Death is still “The Mother of All Beauty…”

Holiday Shopping Insanity & The Real Economy

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

I long ago stopped with the Holiday shopping and spending madness that now starts in September. I can’t remember the last time I set foot in a store the day after Thanksgiving. There isn’t anything that my family needs that badly that I would subject myself to obsessed drivers vying for the parking spot closest to the doors if over crowded shopping centers. Or to the rudeness of shoppers, young and old, who will do just about anything from pepper spraying you to walking over your dead body to get to one of the 24 pairs of Nike Air Jordan’s on the shelf, or some other heavily discounted item, that they have waited countless hours for with a thousand other shoppers.

This isn’t just shoppers behaving badly, this is pure insanity driven by greed.

Despite the all this spending frenzy, the economic outlook for retailers isn’t all the booming:

Half off at the entire store at Ann Taylor. Sixty percent at Gap. Forty percent off almost everything at Abercrombie & Fitch.

Aggressive last-minute deals in the days before Christmas are good for procrastinators, but they could be an alarm bell for the retail industry.

While scattered markdowns are standard every year, discounts across entire stores – which analysts say are more widespread than last year – suggest merchants are stuck with too much merchandise.

“It’s really a game of chicken,” said David Bassuk, managing director and head of the retail practice at the consultant firm AlixPartners.

Many retailers entered the season “with pretty optimistic plans” that shoppers would rush into stores and pay full price, Mr. Bassuk said. But that did not pan out, and the final days before Christmas have retailers being “much more aggressive in terms of promotions being offered,” he said.

Shoppers are filling their holiday lists against the backdrop of an uncertain year, with stubbornly high unemployment, increased food prices, volatile gas prices and unpredictability for stocks and Europe’s debt crisis. The government on Thursday said that third-quarter economic growth had not been as brisk as it previously estimated, because of a drop in consumer spending on services like health care.

The American worker is taking home less, if he’s even lucky enough to still have a job, with the real unemployment rate is 11%. The big deal in the news today is the House Republicans caved to demands for a two month extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits that will have to hashed out again when Congress comes back from their extended Winter vacation then end of January.  


What a pain in the posterior!  YouTube has a notable lack of Deathmatch Duck (Episode 13, Season 2) which is by far the most interesting of the 2 stories broadcast January 14, 2005 (Episode 14, Deconstructing Dodgers, is a faux clip show mainly interesting if you have a thing for Queen Tyr’ahnee).

Yes, I actually watch these things.  Why do you ask?

In any event Deathmatch Duck is basically a straight rip off of Star Trek Arena if Kirk were played by Zapp Brannigan (Captain Agave is played by Taz).

The only copy I could find (ok, the first copy I found that was any good at all) is hosted at and includes both parts (21+ minutes) so I’ll have to come up with something different tomorrow.

Also my preview was a little choppy on buffering and only the Soapblox gurus know if it will actually embed, but as with most things I’ll simply cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Below the fold you’ll find some more traditional YouTube hosted copies of Deconstructing Dodgers.

Merry eksmas.

On this Day In History December 24

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 24 is the 358th day of the year (359th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are seven days remaining until the end of the year. This day is commonly known as Christmas Eve.

On this day in 1955, NORAD begins tracking Santa in what will become an annual Christmas Eve tradition.

According to NORAD’s official web page on the NORAD Tracks Santa program, the service began on December 24, 1955. A Sears department store placed an advertisement in a Colorado Springs newspaper. The advertisement told children that they could telephone Santa Claus and included a number for them to call. However, the telephone number printed was incorrect and calls instead came through to Colorado Spring’s Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center. Colonel Shoup, who was on duty that night, told his staff to give all children that called in a “current location” for Santa Claus. A tradition began which continued when the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) replaced CONAD in 1958.

On Christmas Eve, the NORAD Tracks Santa website videos page is generally updated each hour, when it is midnight in a different time zone. The “Santa Cam” videos show CGI images of Santa Claus flying over famous landmarks. Each video is accompanied by a voice-over, typically done by NORAD personnel, giving a few facts about the city or country depicted. Celebrity voice-overs have also been used over the years. For the London “Santa Cam” video, English television personality and celebrity Jonathan Ross did the voice-over for 2005 to 2007 and the former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr narrated the same video in 2003 and 2004. In 2002, Aaron Carter provided the voice-over for three videos.

The locations and landmarks depicted in some of the “Santa Cam” videos have changed over the years. In 2009, twenty-nine “Santa Cam” videos were posted on the website. In previous years, twenty-four to twenty-six videos had been posted.

NORAD relies on volunteers to make the program possible. Many volunteers are employees at Cheyenne Mountain and Peterson Air Force Base. Each volunteer handles about forty telephone calls per hour, and the team typically handles more than 12,000 e-mails and more than 70,000 telephone calls from more than two hundred countries and territories. Most of these contacts happen during the twenty-five hours from 2 a.m. on December 24 until 3 a.m. MST on December 25.Google Analytics has been in use since December 2007 to analyze traffic at the NORAD Tracks Santa website. As a result of this analysis information, the program can project and scale volunteer staffing, telephone equipment, and computer equipment needs for Christmas Eve.

By December 25, 2009, the NORAD Tracks Santa program had 27,440 twitter followers and the Facebook page had more than 410,700 fans.

Official NORAD Santa Tracker

The Carry Trade

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Have I mentioned yet that banksters are stupider than you and I?

About the only way they can find to make money is to borrow it from Central Banks at low or non-existent rates of interest and lend it back to governments at significantly higher rates.

This is why Modern Monetary Theory is so appealing.  Why not just cut out the bloodsucking middlemen?

Oh, in theory they lend that money to producers of goods and services.  In fact, not so much.  Take for instance the European Central Bank’s outstandingly “successful” auction.

Where will the ECB’s billions go?

Felix Salmon, Reuters

Dec 22, 2011 09:50 EST

Norris’s bullishness is based on what you might call the Sarkozy trade – the idea that a huge amount of the ECB’s new lending will end up being invested in Eurozone government debt. He calls it “an obvious, virtually risk-free, option” for the banks who borrowed ECB funds.

(T)he prudent course of action, for Europe’s banks, is to use this ECB money to pay down their own debts. Doing so would address a big funding risk, and would also help derisk their balance sheets in the eyes of the world and of Basel.

The big question, then, is how long the ECB is going to be doing this kind of thing. If this operation is a signal to the market that the ECB will be the lender of last resort to European banks for at least the next couple of years, then the banks don’t need to worry so much about their own financing needs and can lock up the funds in two- or three-year government bonds as Norris and Sarkozy anticipate.

If I were running a European bank, I’d fill up on ECB lending now, when it’s plentiful, because you never know for sure when that limit might be reached. That’s what happened yesterday. But I’d definitely think twice before turning around and lending it all back out again to Italy or Spain. Yes, that trade is a profitable one. But the one thing that European banks need more than anything else right now is liquidity. Profits come second.

So the 2 choices on the table right now are stealing money using the ‘Carry Trade’ to extort it from governments and calling that ‘profit’ OR simply using it to write off the Trillions of crap they already have on their bloated, insolvent books.

Late Night Karaoke

Random Japan



The environment ministry says that ¥11.5 billion worth of “eco points” from the government’s recent energy-saving promotion are set to expire next March without being redeemed.

Authorities are investigating the president of a used-car company over suspicions that he bilked 2,500 investors out of ¥1.3 billion “on the pretext of helping victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and poverty-stricken African people.”

Police in Okayama and Yokohama busted three Chinese man and one woman for smuggling 3kg of stimulants into Japan aboard a cargo ship last month. The drugs have a street value of ¥230 million.

It was announced that Japan will provide $2.9 million of additional funding to support the UN-backed trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders in Cambodia. By the end of the year, the tribunal will have spent nearly $150 million.

Sentence of the Week: “A ‘veteran’ pickpocket has told police he’s lost his touch and he’s going straight after he was caught lifting a person’s wallet on a bus [in Fukuoka] by another passenger.” (via The Mainichi Daily News)

Investigating Fannie & Freddie But Not The Banks

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Another slap on the wrist by the government for the banks that caused the housing bubble and the crash that sank the economy world wide with unregulated derivatives and credit default swaps:

DoJ Settles – Again – With Countrywide on Fair Lending Claim

by David Dayen

The Department of Justice has announced a $335 million settlement with Countrywide, the former subprime mortgage giant now subsumed into Bank of America, on claims of housing discrimination.

   The Justice Department on Wednesday announced the largest residential fair-lending settlement in history, saying that Bank of America had agreed to pay $335 million to settle allegations that its Countrywide Financial unit discriminated against black and Hispanic borrowers during the housing boom.

   A department investigation concluded that Countrywide had charged higher fees and rates to more than 200,000 minority borrowers across the country than to white borrowers who posed the same credit risk. It also steered more than 10,000 minority borrowers into costly subprime mortgages when white borrowers with similar credit profiles received prime loans, the department said.

   The pattern and practice covered the years 2004 to 2008, before Countrywide was acquired by Bank of America.

   “The department’s actions against Countrywide makes clear that we will not hesitate to hold financial institutions accountable, including one of the nation’s largest, for discrimination,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said. “These institutions should make judgments based on applicants’ creditworthiness, not on the color of their skin.”

I’m waiting for someone to hold financial institutions accountable for discrimination against every one of its customers, by defrauding them and destroying the residential home mortgage market. That’s obviously not going to happen here.[..]

Here’s the settlement agreement, and once again you see that Countrywide doesn’t have to admit wrongdoing for their crimes.

But the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission will enthusiastically pursue the one agency that didn’t cause the crash but just inherited it, at tax payers expense:

FBI Now Investigating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

by David Dayen

The walls have closed in over the past couple weeks on mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The SEC charged former CEOs and executives at the companies with fraud. California Attorney General Kamala Harris sued them for imformation (sic)in a wide-ranging fraud investigation. And now we learn that the FBI is investigating them[..]

If Fannie and Freddie are guilty of misleading investors, they deserve to pay the penalty. And yet, I do sense more enthusiasm to go after these government sponsored enterprises than to go after the private banking firms which were far more responsible for subprime. This feeds a false narrative that government somehow caused the financial crisis by forcing lending to poor people. Fannie and Freddie followed the market in subprime and did not originate it.

Popular Culture (Music) 20111223: A Brief History of The Who

The year 1970 was a roller coaster for The Who.  The success of Tommy, both in record sales and in touring revenue, were making them rich.  Not just doing OK, but rich.  However, the year started with a real tragedy, and probably marked the beginning of the end of the band, but no one knew it at the time.

Actually, there were two events that presaged the decline, but the one on 19700104 was the actual tragedy.  What I find interesting is that this event, which really happened, is not nearly as well know as the one about Moon driving the car into the swimming pool at the Holiday Inn the previous year, which as we discussed last week, never happened.

Foie gras

The world bank force-feeds money

into “bankable projects” until their livers

croak, but we refuse to force-feed Muslims

on Ramadan?  The oil-besotted world

has no poor to think of; it IS Heaven!  

Albeit CO2 heavy.  The indignant,

high-profile rich cry like milk-choked whelps

sent to lobby the Pentagon of class warfare;

Cuz we punk-ass kids didn’t buy

their flexible flyers PS3 drones;

War-horny men whose missiles creamed

the launch pad: Gullet the blue pills!

Gum the suicidal works!  Whoops.  

Nausea, dizziness, exploding shits, etc.  

Teach the Children…and the Adults

England Justice secretary Kenneth Clarke recently announced that “the starting point” for sentencing by judges in the murder of people with disabilities and transpeople would be doubled from 15 to 30 years.

That’s the same starting point for sentences for murders in which race, religion or sexual orientation is an aggravating factor.

The proposal is part of the government’s first strategy to tackle transgender prejudice in England and Wales. The equalities minister, Lynne Featherstone, said the strategy included support for transgender pupils in schools, measures to tackle discrimination in accessing public services and greater steps to protect transgender people’s privacy, including not having their transgender identity revealed at work without their consent.

Featherstone said the first transgender equality plan was needed because statistics showed that 70% of children who were uncertain about their gender were subject to bullying. The official figures also show that 88% of transgender employees experienced discrimination or harassment at work, and that hate crime against transgender people had recently risen by 14% to 357 incidents last year.