Archive for money

Bridge-it Loves Christie

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Pulaski Skyway Bridge Pulaski Skyway Bridge

What is it with boys and their toys? They just won't leave them alone sometimes. They have a fascination that they can't give up -- until they break them.

And NJ Governor Chris Christie may just have crossed that bridge too far.

Now comes another bridge scandal. No, really. Another bridge scandal. You just gotta love this guy, Christie. He doubles down when he thinks he can get away with something. He's determined to leave no bridge unturned.

Here's the latest from the Daily Beast:

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Manhattan district attorney and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating Christie's office for lobbying the Port Authority to divert $1.8 billion away from a canceled rail-tunnel project and towards repairing the Pulaski Skyway bridge. Pulaski is a state bridge, outside of the Port Authority's purview. The Christie administration recast the bridge as an access road to the Lincoln Tunnel (they're not connected) in order to justify using Port Authority funds. The move is under scrutiny for potentially defrauding bond holders. Under the Martin Act, prosecutors could bring felony charges without proving intent to defraud. The SEC could also take civil action.

What's it all mean? Fraud.

Christie, who boasted he could balance the state's budget in his reelection stump speeches, couldn't. So he diverted funds from a public source, the billion dollar rail-tunnel project. Christie cancelled the project which was already underway then took the unspent funds and used them for repairs that were not authorized. He did it by claiming the bridge was an access road.

A bridge became an access road? Okay, that's stretching it, but we'll move on.

He then claimed this "access road" connected to the Lincoln Tunnel. It does NOT  lead or connect in any way, shape or form to the Lincoln Tunnel. That's like saying the Bridge over the River Kwai connected Burma with London.

So, just when you thought it was safe to return to New Jersey, think again. You may be following road signs from Trenton to New York City and end up in Pennsylvania thanks to Gov. Christie and his new road connection designations.

But if you want to speak to him, you better do it quickly. He may be moving his office to the New Jersey State Department of Corrections.

Looks like he's gonna have a bit more 'splainin' to do, Lucy.

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Mary Barra-ly Telling The Truth About GM Related Deaths

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GMMaryBarraw300h264

 

Sometimes people just aren't the right people to ask when something goes wrong. But in the case of GM and the multiple deaths attributed to a faulty ignition switch design, you'd think the government had found the right person to quiz.

There was an apparent `cover-up and to get to the bottom of this, General Motors tabbed the CEO of the company to come in and answer official inquiries by both the House and Senate committees into what happened, how it happened, when the company knew about it and what steps did they take to correct the situation?

Simple enough questions. And Mary Barra, the GM CEO, should be ideally suited to answer these questions. That is, if GM had nothing to hide. Sadly, they do and she did. She showed up to the Senate hearings and played the typical ignorance game -- she defended her lack of knowledge in this deadly issue by playing dumb. Truth is, she's anything but. She claimed that she is new to her job and she needs time to look for the answers. Currently she just doesn't know enough to comment on her company's potential criminality nor their alleged cover-up.

That wasn't good enough for committee chairperson, Sen. Claire McCaskill, (D-Missouri). She got right to the point to tear apart Barra's 'neophyte status' defense. Checking out Barra's resume, which McCaskill does so deftly, you can see why her "I wasn't aware of a problem" defense" was shred into itty-bitty pieces.

It's time for GM to stop lying to buy time and confess to their liability. Thirteen families have been devastated by their actions. We Americans have put a lot of money into big corporations to save them. Maybe they should start coming clean with us on their actions.

If the American public is going to subsidize you, (hear that big oil), you better come honest and prepared to our elected officials when summoned or face the consequences next time you look for us to give you any help.

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Bitcoin, anyone? No, I'll pass, thanks...I like a little more substance to my currency.

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Bitcoin
Image: money.cnn.com

Bitcoin? No thanks...

I haven't gotten into arguments with right-wingers for a long time and I don't miss them.  I got tired of them because they never seemed to use a single brain cell to back up their points.

Libertarians are the worst of the lot because they live in a pure fantasy world where Ayn Rand's fiction is, to them, serious economic theory.  They never appreciated my telling them that Howard Roark is just as real as Harry Potter.  In essence, they all saw 'the emperor's clothes' although he was butt naked.  They had no connection with reality and still do not.

That's what I feel about Bitcoin.

I found a great explanation of Bitcoin in this article by Kevin Roose on the New York Magazine site:  The Doomsday Cult of Bitcoin.

From the excellent article:

Today, another nail hit the coffin courtesy of Flexcoin, a so-called "Bitcoin bank" that announced that all its users' accounts had simply vanished.

For months now, Bitcoin soothsayers have proclaimed that the virtual currency is going to Change Everything. The mass adoption of Bitcoin, they told us, would utterly transform the way the world stores and exchanges value. Government-backed currency would become obsolete.

In other words, there's no there there!  Bitcoin is virtual slight-of-hand, legerdemain. 

These may seem like isolated incidents, but together, they add up to a massive, damning breach of trust. I don't doubt, as Nobel laureate Robert Shiller put it last week, that "something good can arise from [Bitcoin's] innovations." But Bitcoin itself will never recover from these initial pratfalls.

The nature of a speculative commodity like Bitcoin is that it essentially runs on hope – the more people who buy the hype, the higher the value goes, and the more firms like Andreessen Horowitz are willing to pump money into strengthening the Bitcoin ecosystem. Wish for the UFO hard enough, and it might actually arrive.

But the Bitcoin dream is all but dead. Now the true believers are trying to cope with their setbacks by increasing their numbers. And if history is any guide, they’ll keep telling you the bright future of Bitcoin is just ahead, long after they've ceased to believe it themselves.

Someone finally pointed out that the emperor is naked.

Oh, by the way, don't take any wooden nickels.

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Power Of Hate With Duck Dynasty

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Duck Dynasty quartet

Ah, the power of hate speech and the people who bring it to us. Does it matter who the source is? You bet.

You may be dismissive of this as a good ol' boy just speaking his mind, maybe even on some hootch or moonshine. But consider this... Phil Robertson has a huge following and he's got political clout.

Back in November, I wrote a post called: Tea Party, Jindal, Cantor Get Slapdown From Duck Dynasty And Voters. It told about how Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame came to the support of a Louisiana congressional runoff contest between favored Neil Riser and newcomer Vance McAllister. McAllister was trailing badly until he got the Duck Dynasty fellows to come visit and support his campaign. Well, damned if things didn't turn on a dime and Vince pulled off a huge comeback win. And he knew how it happened. It was the huge popularity of the Phil Robertson and his clan.

So when these guys and their wives speak, millions listen. When the speech is hateful, evil and vile, sadly it brings out the nutcases. Among the quick to speak out for their defense:

Sarah Palin immediately jumped onto her Facebook account with this:

Sarah Palin and Duck Dynasty guys

And she's not alone in defending the indefensible, offensive and reprehensible. HuffPo:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) on Thursday became the latest politician to defend Phil Robertson, a cast member of the reality show "Duck Dynasty" who was suspended from the television network A&E after making graphic anti-gay comments and saying African-Americans were "singing and happy" before civil rights in the South. "Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the State of Louisiana," Jindal said in a statement. "The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with."

And no indefensible stand would be complete without wackadoo-in-chief, Ted Cruz. From Talking Points Memo moments ago:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Thursday defended 'Duck Dynasty' star Phil Robertson after he wassuspended from the television show for making controversial anti-gay remarks in an interview with GQ magazine.

"If you believe in free speech or religious liberty, you should be deeply dismayed over the treatment of Phil Robertson. Phil expressed his personal views and his own religious faith; for that, he was suspended from his job," Cruz wrote on his Facebook page. "In a free society, anyone is free to disagree with him--but the mainstream media should not behave as the thought police censoring the views with which they disagree."

Time will tell who else will join the whackadoo bandwagon but this should be a warning sign. The Tea Party is on the march, armed with rifles and duck whistles -- coming soon to a hunting blind near you.

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Three Men And A Rabbi On Another Government Shutdown

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rabbi

The old story goes, two men are arguing their case to a third man over the disputed sale of a mule. The argument becomes heated until the third man spots the Rabbi walking by and asks him to arbitrate. As a buddy to both, the third man didn't want to risk his friendship over this battle. The Rabbi agreed.

The first man tells his side of the story and the Rabbi nods to him and says, "You're right."

The second man rushes to tell his side of the story. After hearing it the Rabbi says, "You're right."

The third man looks to the Rabbi questioningly, "Bill's right and Dave's right? They can't both be right?"

The Rabbi pauses and say's to the third man, "You're right too."

And for years, the argument continued.

That story is similar to the problem with Congress and their budgetary committees. They're never going to see eye to eye and neither party is going to give an inch. They both know the other has valid points, but they'll never agree despite both being right. We, the public, are left as the third man.

According to the AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Since the end of World War II, more than a dozen high-profile bipartisan panels have been convened to tackle the nation's thorniest fiscal problems. Seldom have their recommendations spurred congressional action.

Their ambitious, high-octane reports and recommendations are mostly gathering dust on government shelves.

This doesn't bode well for the current 29-member bipartisan budget panel which faces a Dec. 13 deadline. What's at stake is another government shutdown. The current short-term spending bill is keeping the government running, but only through Jan. 15. The current debt ceiling runs only through Feb. 7. That last $26 billion debacle should have taught us something. But it's very unlikely if history is any indication.

One of the few special panels generally hailed as a success is the 1981-83 Social Security commission chaired by Republican economist Alan Greenspan, who later served for 19 years as Federal Reserve chairman under four different presidents. His panel is credited widely with rescuing the old-age benefit program from insolvency.

The panel quickly deadlocked, with Democrats opposing benefit cuts and Republicans opposing higher Social Security taxes. It came up with its big fix only after the direct, heavy intervention by Reagan and House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill, D-Mass.

The two main participants in that agreement are both dead. And sadly, nothing we can do will bring them back. So we must move on, not die with them.

In 2011, the Simpson-Bowles Act was a result of a wide-ranging proposal that would have generated new revenues and made some social program cuts. But it's sitting, collecting dust after meeting with indifference from both parties.

It failed, Simpson later suggested, because Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike "all worship the god of re-election."

So what will it take to move Congress off the dime and start them on a path to true fiscal leadership?

The answer is actually quite simple. It's a threat.

The threat is for a Congressional clean sweep. Yup, dump the chumps who are gumming up the works. But to get out the bad, remove all of those who are victims of favors they owe or beneficiaries of favors promised by them.

Call it tossing the baby out with the bathwater, but I prefer dump the chump. We'll lose the good with the bad, but if they're really good, they can run for reelection after sitting out a term. Then we'll know who's really dedicated and who's just collecting a check.

Sit one out for the team. Make us miss you and your legislative magic and we'll return you to office.

Until then, fresh blood. No obligations to the gerrymandered farts who don't care about anyone but themselves. They line their pockets with graft and then proclaim they're going to cut unnecessary spending. They will take a cleaver to the fat and sinew in the budget. Sadly they can't distinguish a medallion of fat from a filet mignon.

Fat and gristle to them is defined as spending that doesn't effect them directly. They'll not move an inch to close corporate loopholes but will cut food stamps for the poor. They'll not increase minimum wage or pass a jobs bill which could take hard working people off the food stamp rolls but will enrich farmers and big oil with subsidies -- two places they enrich themselves either directly or indirectly. They favor bridges to nowhere, not roads to deliver kids safely to schools.

It's only a thought, a dream, I know. But movements begin with dreams. And if we're going to face another shutdown, maybe this dump the chump is a dream these elected officials should be hearing before they dig in, entrench themselves and align with the likes of Cruz, Rubio, Paul and the other Tea Party stalwarts. All promoting hard-line stands which will lead to another shutdown.

Let your voices be heard before the shutdown. We can't afford another $26 billion in waste while we're starving millions who live and perish in sickness and in hunger.

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Cartoons of the Day- Cyber Monday

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Early Shopping

Rob Rogers

cyber

Charles Beyl

cyber2

Ann Cleaves

cyber3

Joel Pett

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So Corporations Are People, My Friends. Visiting Day In Prison Is Sunday

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corporations are people

Back in the 2012 Presidential campaign, Mitt Romney made a bit of a splash when he said, "Corporations are people, my friend."

He of course was jeered as we think of corporations as entities, with people working under that business umbrella. But what if Romney was right? What if corporations are people?

If they break the law, shouldn't they go to jail?

If you're a people/person you would. So why not corporations? The Hill:

Earlier this month, JPMorgan Chase tentatively reached a deal with the Justice Department to pay $13 billion to settle charges it misled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about mortgage quality leading up to the financial crisis. And Bloomberg reported that the Federal Housing Finance Agency is eyeing at least a $6 billion penalty for Bank of America for similar claims.

Okay, so the JPMorgan Chase corporation admitted wrongdoing -- breaking the law -- and they are going to pay a fine. But the crime was committed by people, not a building, and with it carries a jail sentence. So who's going to serve? Jamie Dimon? He's the CEO. He knew what was going on.

jamie dimon

Nope. No jail time for Jamie. Just a fine. And we, the public are paying it  for him.

Reform advocates argue that if the government truly wants to discourage bad behavior in the financial sector, it is not enough to rack up billion-dollar fines against big banks. The government needs to go after individual executives and hold them personally responsible.

Consider this, if the banks are forced to accept responsibility, than instead of us paying the fines with increased fees, their law-breaking executives will be doing time. The guilty will be penalized, not us. No more passing the buck, so to speak.

Fortunately, there is a voice who is speaking up for us. And her voice is that of the MGM lion that roars. It's Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter to financial regulators Wednesday where she not too subtly chided them for what she saw as lacking enforcement.

She noted in her letter that the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) had managed to secure over 100 criminal convictions between 2009 and 2012 and place 51 defendants in prison.

She also noted the agency did it with a fraction of the enforcement staff and budget the other regulators enjoyed. Warren clearly wanted to know why more convictions had not been pursued and achieved (by the DOJ), and asked for enforcement statistics from the agencies.

So SIGTARP could do what the DOJ couldn't. And this is very important to deter further frauds and money manipulations. We can't stand by and keep bailing out the banks who knowingly gamble with our money, take exorbitant salaries and bonuses (win or lose) and then stick us with the bill, either in a federal bailout or raised banking fees.

If they can't run themselves, let them fail. And jail the gamblers who broke the law. Other banks and financial institutions will rise up. Money isn't going away. All that will disappear will be the frauds and phonies who have stiffed us over the years. We don't need a BofA nor a JPMorgan/Chase. We can get by with local banks that can get the same fed rate as the big ones.

Doing so might also make getting a loan a lot easier when Mr. Donnelly or Mrs. Heath at the local bank, who knows you by name, is making the decision on whether or not you meet federal requirements for a loan. And those managers will appreciate your patronage -- maybe even do more business with you. That means profits and they'll go more locally or regionally.

Federal guidelines are needed and Senator Warren and her allies are working on that with the new Glass-Steagall bill.

Remember, local banks? We used to have them. And local banks mean local money. Let's break up the huge corporations that Romney claimed are really people. Let's send those people where they belong -- packing. And you don't need to take too many things, Mr./Mrs. Banker. They give you uniforms and three meals a day where you belong.

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