May 29, 2009
The Next Time Ben Bernanke Testifies Before The United States Senate
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke: …In conclusion, let me say that the Federal Reserve remains committed to keeping long-term interest rates low through the aggressive, yet prudent purchase of up to $300 billion in United States Treasuries and $1.25 trillion in Mortgage Backed Securities. This $1.5 trillion injection into the credit markets should ensure that our troubled housing sector is placed on a path of sustainable recovery through the mechanism of lower refinancing costs.
Thank you, and I welcome your questions.
Senator Judd Gregg: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I only have a few questions. First, with mortgage rates now actually rising in tandem with long-term Treasuries, do you expect that you will have to increase your purchases of Treasuries and Mortgages in the open market beyond the $1.5 trillion you’ve already committed, to bring the rates back down?
Bernanke: Bring the rates down?
Gregg: Yes, you said you’re purchasing securities to keep rates down.
Bernanke: I said that?
Gregg: Yes, you said that.
Bernanke: Because that doesn’t sound like me.
Gregg: You said it a few minutes ago.
Bernanke: Well, maybe that was someone else. I have that kind of face. Let me assure you, the Federal Reserve is certainly not buying securities to somehow lower interest rates. That's just crazy talk.
Gregg: Then why are you buying them?
Bernanke: It just seemed like a good investment. My wife has been on me about the 401K if you know what I mean.
Gregg: Now wait one second here. Just because rates are rising now doesn't mean you can suddenly deny ever...
Committee Chairman Kent Conrad: The gentleman’s time has expired. Senator Murray?
Senator Patty Murray: Thank you Mr. Chairman. There have been some concerns raised that your aggressive moves in providing liquidity might lead to hyperinflation.
Bernanke: My aggressive what now?
Murray: Your aggressive moves in providing liquidity, such as injecting $1.5 trillion into the securities markets.
Bernanke: Who said I was doing that?
Murray: You did.
Bernanke: I can’t say that’s ringing any bells.
Murray: Hold on, I even have the minutes from your last FOMC meeting. Just a second, let me find the right page, okay, here we go, right here it says…
Did you just shave off your beard?
Bernanke: I can’t say I was ever really fond of facial hair.
Murray: You’ve had a beard as long as I’ve known you.
Bernanke: You must be thinking of my brother, Ben.
Murray: Mr. Bernanke, you are making a mockery of this hearing and in so doing showing great disrespect for the United States Senate.
Bernanke: ¿Como? ¿Estados Unidos? No entiendo. Tengo que ir ahora…
May 28, 2009
If You Post On Twitter And No One Reads It, Does It Still Make A Tweet?
Just a reminder, we do update our Planet Moron Twitter page fairly frequently, so even if there's no action here (or even if there is) there might be something going on there. We understand if you don't want to sign up at first. Like most Planet Moron readers you probably value your privacy, or are tired of having multiple web accounts to keep track of, or just can't climb out of the bottle long enough to create a password that consists of something other than animal sounds resistant to onomatopoeia, or are simply concerned that it could be interpreted as a violation of your parole (particularly if you don't get one of those empathic judges whose rich experiences informs his or her opinions as to what the written word means). The good news is, you don't have to sign up for anything if you don't want to, you can just click on the Twitter logo on the right or right here to get direct access.
You'll find our Twitter posts are every bit as entertaining and informative as our regular blog posts. Still, that's no reason not to visit from time to time. Besides, with a limit of only 140 characters, you'll find yourself wasting time more efficiently than you ever thought possible. (Think of it as the Six Sigma approach to brain rot.)
For those unfamiliar with it, Twitter is one of the fastest growing new-tech enterprises on the web, having generated in its brief three-year existence, exactly zero dollars in revenue.
That's okay, the owners have a plan to someday make money. They just don't know all the particulars yet. Like who will pay. How much. For what. How they'll pay. And why.
Which of course is why major venture capital investors enthusiastically threw $35 million at them they didn't even need or want.
You know what's funny about that? A business that has never made a dime, has no business model, and has little to no idea how it will ever make money has investors knocking on its door begging to give them money.
And yet the only idiot General Motors can find to invest in its business is...
Wait, that's not as funny as we thought it was going to be.
May 27, 2009
Top Ten Things Sonia Sotomayor Was Thinking When This Photograph Was Taken
Top ten things Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor was thinking when this official White House Photograph was taken:
9) Hey, camera boy. Mispronounce my name one more time and I’ll superglue that tripod to your head.
8) Let’s see if I have this straight in case anyone asks: The judicial branch sets the policies, the legislative branch rules on the constitutionality of… wait. I got that backwards again, didn’t I?
7) Come on, smile, you can do it, turn the corners of your mouth down. No, up! Turn them up! That’s it, that’s it, easy now. Man, are my cheeks going to be sore tomorrow.
6) What are you talking about, "the fifth amendment?" Since when does the Constitution have more than four amendments? Uh oh. Oh well, that's what I get for buying my law books on eBay.
5) Then again, it’s really not so much what the Constitution says, but how I feel about what it should say.
4) After all, if the richness of my experience has no bearing on the outcome of a case, it would be as if we were all simply subject to equal justice under the law. Hold on, that sounds familiar…
3) By the way, Joe Biden’s dentist? Miracle. Worker.
2) I wonder if working on the Supreme Court involves essay questions.
1) I sure picked a bad day to pass a kidney stone.
May 24, 2009
National Treasure 3: In Search Of A Politically Viable Policy
It was revealed shortly after Barack Obama’s major speech last week at The National Archives that the copies of the Constitution behind him were not the originals but rather facsimiles of the kind that are used in movies such as National Treasure. As it turns out, the actual documents cannot be exposed to bright lights.
Given that the President appears to prefer visual impact over authenticity, the venues at his disposal are nearly limitless:
Pro: Obama likes columns.
Cons: Given the emphasis in public education on “historical thinking” and “interrelations,” it’s possible that most younger people won’t know what the Parthenon is unless they happen to have been fans of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones.
Pro: Demonstrate common touch with the people.
Con: Don’t want Michelle to have to compete with Padma.
Pro: Helpful in getting the word out about the many health benefits of colonoscopies.
Con: Given coming tax increases, he’ll be there soon enough without a graphic reminder.
May 22, 2009
You Just Introduced The Dumbest Legislation Of The Year! What Are You Going To Do?
Representative Alan Grayson was at Disney World when it suddenly hit him:
There should be a federal law mandating that everyone gets two weeks of paid vacation a year!
As he noted, “There’s a reason why Disney World is the happiest place on Earth: The people who go there are on vacation.”
It could have been worse. He could have been at a gentleman's club:
“There’s a reason why The Crystal Cabaret is the happiest place in the Rosemont area. The people who go there are drunk and looking at naked women!”
Or perhaps worse, given the venue, he could have just as easily been hit with the idea of federally mandated fireworks shows narrated by the voice of Jiminy Cricket and the Blue Fairy.
Now there are some jobs that won’t be going to China!
But Congressman Alan Grayson is renowned for his sobriety and seriousness, often pontificating on the greater Constitutional questions surrounding whether or not Rush Limbaugh is a “has-been hypocrite loser” or “was more lucid when he was a drug addict.”
You know how we know that’s really smart? He went to Harvard. It has to be smart!
Presumably it was considered the most appropriate of all the other photographs they could have used in that it made him look the least like someone who was auditioning for the sequel to Sling Blade in which the Karl Childers character is once again released from the mental institution where he was being incarcerated and lands a job as an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Timothy Geithner.
According to Grayson, paid vacations are “a matter of right,” and “there are certain basic elements that people need to have enjoyable lives… they need time off.”
If that’s in the Constitution, it’s in the penumbra. Of the penumbra.
Among his “Paid Vacation Fast Facts” is the fact that “Every European worker gets at least four weeks of paid vacation by law, yet the Euro is rising while the dollar is falling.”
Here are some other equally relevant and applicable “Fast Facts:”
Italians like their coffee strong, yet Americans are only just starting to consider diesel a viable option for fueling passenger vehicles.
Say, this is easy when you don’t have to make sense.
It is unclear why Grayson would stop with his “Paid Vacation Act 2009” legislation when there are so many other ways he could easily improve the work experience through simple nationwide mandates:
Require that all businesses with 50 or more employees have in excess of 100 coffee stirrers at a distance no greater than 25 centimeters from the coffee maker, unless you use the fresh creamer in which case the stirrers can be next to the fridge.
Fuzzy Slipper Act
A pair of nice fuzzy slippers will be provided to all “General Office Workers” as defined, for use while on premises. Studies show that 73% of office workers who wear fuzzy slippers, have feet that feel “fuzzy.”
Occasional Pat On The Back Act
Research shows that employees who are given occasional pats on the back report 8.3% higher job satisfaction and spend 1.3% less on health care. The “Occasional Pat On The Back Act” will require employers to proved each employee with at least two pats on the back per quarter, the force of which is not to exceed one-third Newton and the duration of which shall be no longer than one-quarter second. (See Federal sexual harassment guidelines for more.) Each pat on the back must be accompanied by an “attaboy,” “good job.” “well done,” or “keep it up!”
Given his enthusiasm for his paid vacation act, it appears Alan Grayson thinks that vacations are free, as if businesses pay people not to work rather than paying them a set amount of money for a set amount of work with the up-front understanding that they won’t be working whatever their allotted days off add up to. It’s not clear where he thinks the extra money will come from or why, like all mandatory non-market costs, it won’t result in either higher levels of unemployment or the reduction of other, non-federally mandated employee benefits that are presumably of at least equal value to the employee or they would not exist in a competitive marketplace.
Or maybe Congressman Grayson should just stay away from the faerie dust next time, IYKWIMAITYD.
May 20, 2009
More For Less! (They're Going To Need a Different Ad Slogan.)
While it may have appeared that Barack Obama had all the essential pieces in place to ensure a successful resurgence of the domestic automobile industry including providing billions in government financing without any accountability, handing majority ownership over to the autoworkers union, and employing renowned Italian business management practices to run things, there was one critical piece missing:
There is an upside, however.
Hey, Barack Obama said he was going to reduce your carbon footprint, he just didn't say how. (It's people! Carbon Offsets are made out of people!)
But none of that is important. What is important is, as the President points out, we make up 5% of the world's population but use 25% of the world’s oil. You know what that means?
We’ve been spectacularly prosperous and productive and have been reaping the rewards of our success, hard work, and ambition.
Naturally, this must be stopped.
And not a moment too soon: As President Obama notes, we’ve been aware of this problem “one way or another since the gas shortages of the 1970s.”
That’s nearly 40 years of continuous dire warnings we ignored during which time nothing particularly terrible happened. Fortunately, we now have a President willing to look past benign reality and instead take action to address dire warnings.
But what makes the increased costs and fatalities worth it? As the President says:
And here’s a different way to get a sense of the magnitude: That’s about three months of oil usage. Not per year, but total savings, all added up, for all the cars sold in the next five years over their entire useful lives.
Does this President understand cost/benefit analysis or what?
Plus, you’ll come out ahead anyway! According to the President, you’ll make up the extra costs in gasoline savings.
Of course, you could do that now and purchase an expensive hybrid that might pay back the extra cost in gas savings. Or you could purchase a small car.
Say, this little Mazda 3. See, that’s not too bad. Not exactly roomy, can’t haul too many heavy items, but something you could live with and… Oops, the Mazda 3 gets only 32 MPG highway, that’s short of what’s needed.
You say you don’t want to buy a Toyota Yaris?
That’s exactly the point. The problem with choice is that people often make the wrong one. That’s why we elect leaders so there’s always someone around to tell us what the right choice is.
And you like the Yaris. You want the Yaris.
There’s one problem. The Yaris doesn’t get good enough gas mileage either. You see, the new standards will require the average passenger car to get about 39 miles per gallon.
Trucks will need to average about 30 miles a gallon. Here is a list of the top five trucks that get 30 miles a gallon:
- Ford Escape Hybrid.
So what's an economical solution for the average truck driver who doesn't have an extra nine grand lying around to buy a hybrid?
The Toyota Yaris - El Camino edition.
May 19, 2009
Well, That’s What They Get For Rewarding Good Behavior
For far too long have credit card companies assessed late fees and charged penalties for missed payments on cardholders who paid their bills late and missed payments.
But thanks to Barack Obama and his allies in Congress, credit card companies will soon be forced to end these deceptive practices hidden as they were in the documents people agreed to and signed and shift the burden to the people who really deserve it:
Those who pay on time, never carry a balance, and have sterling credit histories.
Payback’s a bitch! Literally, in this case.
Expectations are that the era of responsible customers getting annual fees waived, cash-back awards and frequent flyer points very well might be coming to an end as banks will now be forced to lower penalties and interest rate hikes on their irresponsible customers.
As David Robertson, publisher of the Nilson Report says, those who have been prudent in managing their credit have been getting a “free ride.” Much like that free ride you got when you took out a mortgage you could afford and got a low rate with no points. You probably didn’t know that those undeserved little perks of yours were built on the backs of people who bought houses they couldn’t afford and then took out second ones to purchase new cars.
Thanks to Barack Obama, that little gravy train of yours is going to get derailed.
As Robertson puts it, “There will be one-size-fits-all pricing, and as a result, you’ll see the industry will be more egalitarian in terms of its revenue base.”
In other words, no longer will credit card customers be unfairly discriminated against based on their credit.
According to Gail Hillebrand, a lawyer with Consumers Union, “The business model will change because the business model doesn’t work for the public.”
Well, not “the public” per se, 173 million members of which found the business model works well enough to hold 1.5 billion credit cards, but more an imaginary public, where everyone is as smart as Gail Hillebrand.
What are we to make of all this? As Robertson points out, if you have a good credit rating and always pay your bill on time, you’ve been “making out like a bandit.” And according to Austan Goolsbee (scroll to the bottom), a senior economic adviser to the President, if you are a credit card company that has been disclosing all your fees and policies up front you have been committing “a series of carjackings,” and making the argument to cardholders that “if you didn’t want to be carjacked, why weren’t you locking your doors or taking a different road?”
This strongly suggests that the only way to avoid being labeled a criminal is to stop paying your bills on time.
We suggest you start with the IRS. No doubt they will be far more forgiving than those carjacking credit card companies and their bandit customers.
Let us know how that one goes.
They have Internet access in prison now, right?
May 18, 2009
Sure It'll Still Be Old News, But At Least It Will Be More Expensive!
Bleeding red ink, Newsweek embarks this week on a bold new strategy, aiming to attract highbrow, affluent readers by focusing on politics and public policy, deemphasizing straight news and playing up opinion and editorializing, and publishing its issues on heavier stock, glossy paper.
Plans also include doubling the subscription price so as to purposefully chase away half of its current three million subscribers.
Risky? Maybe. Crazy? Perhaps. Insane in the truly clinical sense of the word? Possibly. The natural outcome of a six-day bender spent ingesting large quantities of Qualudes, methamphetamine and cheap gin? Conceiva…
Wait, where were we going with this?
Oh, yes. The bold change in strategy. Hoping to chase away the ignorant swine who today can barely scrape together twenty-five bucks for a year’s subscription, editor John Meacham expects it’s new high-class readership, the kind of tycoons who can easily fork over fifty bucks, will flock to the newly erudite glossy weekly and in so doing attract advertisers that will pay plenty to reach them.
Without question, Newsweek’s move will upend the competitive landscape of the newsweeklies so don’t be surprised if you see the following developments:
The Economist is clearly in the crosshairs of John Meacham who is a longtime fan. However, the British newsweekly will not so easily give up its grip on affluent, social climbing status seekers to whom it has long appealed and so will up the ante by printing its American edition entirely in French. It is not believed that circulation will take too big a hit as internal research strongly suggests that as many as three-quarters of American readers never actually open the magazine, preferring to leave it conspicuously on coffee tables or tucked under their arms as they walk briskly down the street to buy Maxim.
Time Magazine, long the BMOC of American newsweeklies, cannot afford to be seen as missing the latest trend in publishing and so will begin printing issues on the same stock used for restaurant menus and increase its newsstand price to $20 an issue, noting in its advertising, “let the ignorant riffraff buy Newsweek.” Reporters will be told to avoid unbiased recitations of the week’s news and instead focus on 100% unsubstantiated opinion. One longtime staff journalist will quit in protest but will later return when he realized he’d gotten the meaning of the memo backwards.
US News and World Report, having long ago dropped below 1.5 million subscribers for its print edition will point out that it was “way ahead of the curve on that one” and its three remaining staffers will take a rare night off before returning to their typical 16-hour workdays putting out the online edition in the hope that maybe this will be the week they get a paying reader.
The New York Times, unwilling to cede readers to what it perceives to be Newsweek’s clear attempt to woo away it’s core demographic, will begin publishing its Sunday Magazine insert on planks of wood. There will be nothing written on the planks beyond a Givenchy ad on the assumption that its readership is so highbrow and savvy there’s nothing they could tell them that they don’t already know.
Regardless of how the this all turns out, it will be interesting to watch as these media giants battle over that rarest of demographics: The affluent reader willing to pay for quality content that is varied, intelligent, challenging and timely.
And who doesn’t have access to a broadband connection.
May 17, 2009
Joe Biden’s Top Five Future Accidental Top-Secret Revelations
It appears Joe Biden may have inadvertently revealed the details of a classified bunker located within the Vice President’s residence explaining to people assembled for a Gridiron Club dinner that the hideaway was “behind a massive steel door secured by an elaborate lock with a narrow connecting hallway lined with shelves filled with communications equipment."
God love him.
Given that Joe does tend to run off at the mouth a bit, we’ve put together the following:
Joe Biden’s Top Five Future Accidental Top-Secret Revelations
1) “I’d like to thank everyone for attending this morning’s ceremony marking construction of the new Route 295 connector. You know, I had to laugh when Jack showed me the work order. Where’s Jack Johnson? You have a fine County Executive there, a good man, a good family man. So, he shows me the work order number, ACD 1893-4763, and it’s the same as the backup launch code for the nuclear football. No, seriously, it is. I mean, whoa, is that a coincidence or what? Yowza! Hey, Manny, Manny’s my Secret Service guy, Manny, where are you off to in such a hurry? Well, you know what they say, 'when you gotta go, you gotta go.' Manny, skip the taco salad next time!”
2) “That reminds me, just last month, I was with Defense Secretary Robert Gates looking for the President, I needed to talk to him right away about the renovations going on at the Amtrak station in Wilmington, you know how I love my trains, whoo whoooo! Anyway, Bobby goes, ‘how will you find him, you know they use decoy limos,’ and I say that’s easy, he’s always in the one with the American flag on the front left corner with the red and white strips reversed dummy! Is Bobby here? Yeah, there he is, see how he’s shaking his head. You know it happened Bobby! You know it, buddy.”
3) “True story: National Security Advisor Jimmy Jones and I were heading for NORAD’s secret secondary site outside of Morgantown, West Virginia about ten miles down route 19 just short of Rikesville where you take a right at a seemingly abandoned silver 1996 Ford F-150 and while he’s giving the proper response to the guard, two flashes of the headlights followed by three long blasts of the horn, and two short chirps of the siren I say, hey, what, did you used to handle the soundboard for Aerosmith or something! No, I swear, it’s true! Every detail. Every single one.”
4) “I just got a bumper sticker: 'If You Don’t Like My Driving, Email BHO1763@whitehouse.gov.' That’s Barack’s private Blackberry email. Get it? If you don’t like my driving, you’ll be emailing the president instead! What? Is this thing on? These are the jokes folks. Ha!”
5) “I’d like to be the first to welcome Russian Foreign Secretary Sergey Lavrov to the White House. Not many people know this, but Serge is one mean Bridge player! I kid you not. Not only that, but he’s been clandestinely feeding intelligence on Russian nuclear arms development to the NSC. Thanks, Serge, that ought to come in handy! Am I right, or am I right?”
May 15, 2009
You Made Me Promises, Promises, Knowing I'd Believe…
One of Barack Obama’s strategies for convincing Americans to spend vast sums of money we don’t have is that we will recognize enormous savings in the future. The far future.
Near future? Maybe not so much.
This approach is absolutely essential to his most important initiative, health care reform, as he promises that we will see savings possibly someday maybe, from the investments he wants us to make today. These savings will come from such things as “improving health information technology” and “instituting comparative effectiveness measures” which might save money.
His other strategy is to announce huge savings, such as the $2 trillion pledged by a collusion of,.. sorry, we mean consortium, a consortium of health care companies even though they don’t actually exist.
While we applaud the President’s early successes in selling his pretend savings to a credulous public and enabling White House Press Corps, we don’t think he’s been nearly aggressive enough in pressing his advantage on such a contentious issue.
We therefore respectfully suggest the President fully realize the potential of his current strategy and announce the following health policy goals:
Cure Cancer: Curing cancer will save the United States over $200 billion a year (pdf). Over the course of ten years that would add up to $2 trillion in savings, or the same amount the health care industry didn’t offer and couldn’t achieve anyway if it did. Take up Arlen Specter's lead and suggest that anyone who opposes your cancer initiative is a murderer. (Use a target date of 2020 so you can blame it on your successor when cancer is not cured.)
Extraterrestrial Help: No, of course we don’t mean to suggest that aliens will visit the earth, the distances are too enormous for that to be believable. However, we should be able to communicate with them through SETI. Announce an increase in funding with the aim of tapping into the unimaginably vast reservoir of knowledge our star-dwelling friends might have regarding best-practices in hospice care.
Robot Nurses: Self explanatory. $100 billion a year.
Synergistic Wellness Initiatives With Outcome Optimizing Matrices: This doesn’t actually mean anything. But that doesn't matter, the press corps doesn’t want to look stupid and won’t ask you. Claim it’s good for $337.7 billion a year starting in 2020 (precise numbers makes it look more believable).
Robot Guards for the Robot Nurses: Not so much a cost-saving measure as a precaution should the fully networked Robot Nurses spontaneously form a hive mind and turn on their human masters. Deduct $50 billion a year from the $200 billion Robot Nurse savings.
Non-Networked Robot Guards with Manual Fail-Safes for the Robot Guards for the Robot Nurses: Maybe we should scratch the Robot Nurse savings altogether.
Sure, none of these will ever happen, but that’s not what’s important.
What’ important is that the President will say they’re going to happen.
And you will believe him.