Category Archives: Business

The Death of Single Payer!

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Yesterday was a sad day for me.  I knew that it was coming.  I just wouldn’t accept it until I heard the man say it.  Yesterday the man said it.  He said something to the effect that since we are not building a system from scratch, we pretty much have to use what Americans have come to expect and that is employer provided health care.  Shame on you Barack Obama!  You have caved to the insurance industry.  Those bastards have come up with a plan to save 2 trillion dollars over ten years.  Yeah right!  This is like giving an alcoholic the keys to your bar and telling him to clean up.  You end up getting cleaned out!

To be fair to Obama, the President does not write legislation.  That job falls to Congress, and in the Senate, the man calling the shots is Senator Max Baucus (D-MT).  Senator Baucus is the powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee which oversees health programs under the Social Security Act and health programs financed by a specific tax or trust fund.  According to Consumer Watchdog, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has received more campaign contributions from the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries than any other current Democratic member of the House or Senate; the third highest contributions of any member of Congress.  See the conflict of interest?

Friday’s edition of the New York Times explains how the current plan is shaping up.  The more I read, the more disgusted I got.  The Democrats are going to fuck things up simply because they are Democrats.  And this is where I blame Obama.  As the head of the party, he needs to make good on his promise of getting the special interest groups out of policy making.  If it’s good for them, how in the hell is it going to be good for us?  There is no incentive for the insurance companies to make this work.

Fortunately, for me, I will finally start using the Veterans Administration for my health carewhich is a form of single payer.  I earned it, I might as well use it.  The Democrats need to look at that model and that of Medicare.  Medicaid should be abolished altogether.  Ones social status should not affect ones health care.  But in the end it appears that we are going to end up with another convoluted government program.  Obama wins either way.  He can alway put the blame on Congress for delivering an imperfect program yet take all the credit for delivering something.

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Thwart That Evil Hitler Sperm!

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There’s an old saying about sperm:  “Last one in is a rotten egg, first one in is daddy!”

Here at the Associated Mess, we take societal matters very seriously, including birth control.  In fact, the Associated Mess highly recommends the use of condoms during sexual activity.  Not so much as a matter to prevent a sexually transmitted disease, but rather to prevent the birth of  a child that will for the rest of your life be more aggravating than a scorching case of The Clap could ever be.

Click the link below to see how you can keep from being the proud parents of the next Osama bin-Laden or Adolph Hitler.  I’m personally waiting on the George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Rush Limbaugh editions.  They’d never fit and would probably break every time you would use one so I am not holding my breath!  Not to be sexist, I also propose an Ann Coulter condom; nothing says keep your dick in your pants louder than a bitch who just might be Hitler’s secret frozen love child.

http://adweek.blogs.com/adfreak/2009/04/use-a-condom-thwart-that-evil-hitler-sperm.html

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Fuck the Banks!

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 “When their eloquence escapes me, their logic ties me up and rapes me!” – The Police

I don’t know about anybody else but all of this doublespeak coming out of Washington is blowing my high!  Note to self, don’t hit the bong and then watch a politician.  I feel like a fucking moron at an idiot’s convention.  All that I am hearing is that we’ve got to get the banks lending again.  From what I can gather, the banks are taking loans from the government at a 1% interest rate.  Subsequently, the banks are charging small businesses 9-14% for a loan.  Is it any wonder why Goldman Sachs announced a first quarter profit of over one billion dollars?

I also gather that the Government has put in place a series of stress tests that banks must meet requiring liquidity.  Having not taken economics since sometime in the last century I can only imagine that this means how much money the banks have on hand.  Requiring the banks to have a certain level of capital on hand would explain the high interest rates the banks are charging small businesses.  I also hear that the banks are fucking everybody with a credit card by raising their interest rates also.

Where I come from, we call that a racket!  Talk about eating your cake and having it too?  I am thinking about going to the Registrar’s Office and changing my double major of Philosophy and Religion to Wall Street Banking!  I know religion only fucks with people’s minds but being a Wall Street banker gets to fuck anything he/she wants.

I don’t want to hear anymore shit about hedge funds, leveraging, and mortgage backed securities.  I don’t want to hear any more shit about stress tests and liquidity.  I failed my stress test and my liquidity doesn’t start until after five.  You gave a great speech today Mr. Obama but for people like me, I need to see more than a glimmer of hope at the end of the rainbow when the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars and peace will guide the planets and love will steal the stars.  Show me some of the damn money!

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South Park Breaks Down The Financial Crisis!

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Killer Peanuts!

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When I woke up this morning I found a suggestion in my in-box that I look into the great peanut butter recall.  Here, at the Associated Mess, our food reporter pretty much covers the liquor industry.  If there is any damn salmonella found in booze, somebody is going to get fucked up!  I pretty much thought that the only way you get salmonella poisoning was eating chicken like it was sushi.  So my first order of business was to find out how salmonella gets into peanuts/peanut butter in the first place.

This is some pretty scary shit!  How in America, can something like this happen?  I’ve got a better chance of being killed going to the grocery store or a restaurant than anything Bin-Laden might have in store for me.  What’s even scarier is that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have the authority to order a mandatory recall.  The company responsible for sending out their ptomaine peanut butter is voluntarily recalling their tainted products and for that, they are to be commended.  But they should also be held accountable for any deaths and medical exspenses.  And the CEO should be required to sample each batch of new peanut butter since obviously they have no quality control in place.

With the economy in a pretty fucked up state and getting worse, staples such as peanut butter will find themselves on the dinner table more and more.  I should know, tonight I plan to grill a steak fashioned out of the stuff!  Last time I checked, a porterhouse was in the same display case as a pair of Tiffany cuff links.  So where do we go from here?  And how do we keep our peanut butter safe?

The Associated Mess is suggesting that President Obama appoint former President Jimmy Carter as the nation’s first Peanut Czar.  Carter, a former peanut farmer will bring with him a vast knowledge and years of experience keeping Americans safe from the ill effects of tainted peanuts.  It will also keep him busy enough to stay out of foreign affairs and keep from writing books that paint Palestinian condominiums as a ghetto.

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Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell!

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As the above picture indicates, this is not a blog about gays in the military. “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” seems to be the new slogan at the Department of the Treasury.  Of the $350 billion welfare money handed out to Wall Street banks and insurance companies, no one seems to be able to account for the money.  The TARP money has been buried in the books of the companies that received the government handouts.  Where is the outrage?  Where is our inept Congress demanding accountability?  And has George W. Bush joined Dick Cheney in an undisclosed location?

Read this chilling account of where your taxpayer dollars went:

Elizabeth Warren, who chairs an oversight committee set up by Congress to oversee the bailout, is interviewed by the Associated Press in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008.
AP Photo

Click to view a larger picture

Where’d the bailout money go? Shhhh, it’s a secret

Associated Press Writer

Think you could borrow money from a bank without saying what you were going to do with it? Well, apparently when banks borrow from you they don’t feel the same need to say how the money is spent.

After receiving billions in aid from U.S. taxpayers, the nation’s largest banks say they can’t track exactly how they’re spending it. Some won’t even talk about it.

“We’re choosing not to disclose that,” said Kevin Heine, spokesman for Bank of New York Mellon, which received about $3 billion.

Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, which received $25 billion in emergency bailout money, said that while some of the money was lent, some was not, and the bank has not given any accounting of exactly how the money is being used.

“We have not disclosed that to the public. We’re declining to,” Kelly said.

The Associated Press contacted 21 banks that received at least $1 billion in government money and asked four questions: How much has been spent? What was it spent on? How much is being held in savings, and what’s the plan for the rest?

None of the banks provided specific answers.

“We’re not providing dollar-in, dollar-out tracking,” said Barry Koling, a spokesman for Atlanta, Ga.-based SunTrust Banks Inc., which got $3.5 billion in taxpayer dollars.

Some banks said they simply didn’t know where the money was going.

“We manage our capital in its aggregate,” said Regions Financial Corp. spokesman Tim Deighton, who said the Birmingham, Ala.-based company is not tracking how it is spending the $3.5 billion it received as part of the financial bailout.

The answers highlight the secrecy surrounding the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which earmarked $700 billion – about the size of the Netherlands’ economy – to help rescue the financial industry. The Treasury Department has been using the money to buy stock in U.S. banks, hoping that the sudden inflow of cash will get banks to start lending money.

There has been no accounting of how banks spend that money. Lawmakers summoned bank executives to Capitol Hill last month and implored them to lend the money – not to hoard it or spend it on corporate bonuses, junkets or to buy other banks. But there is no process in place to make sure that’s happening and there are no consequences for banks that don’t comply.

“It is entirely appropriate for the American people to know how their taxpayer dollars are being spent in private industry,” said Elizabeth Warren, the top congressional watchdog overseeing the financial bailout.

But, at least for now, there’s no way for taxpayers to find that out.

Pressured by the Bush administration to approve the money quickly, Congress attached nearly no strings to the $700 billion bailout in October. And the Treasury Department, which doles out the money, never asked banks how it would be spent.

“Those are legitimate questions that should have been asked on Day One,” said Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., a House Financial Services Committee member who opposed the bailout as it was rushed through Congress. “Where is the money going to go to? How is it going to be spent? When are we going to get a record on it?”

Nearly every bank AP questioned – including Citibank and Bank of America, two of the largest recipients of bailout money – responded with generic public relations statements explaining that the money was being used to strengthen balance sheets and continue making loans to ease the credit crisis.

A few banks described company-specific programs, such as JPMorgan Chase’s plan to lend $5 billion to nonprofit and health care companies next year. Richard Becker, senior vice president of Wisconsin-based Marshall & Ilsley Corp., said the $1.75 billion in bailout money allowed the bank to temporarily stop foreclosing on homes.

But no bank provided even the most basic accounting for the federal money.

Some said the money couldn’t be tracked. Bob Denham, a spokesman for North Carolina-based BB&T Corp., said the bailout money “doesn’t have its own bucket.” But he said taxpayer money wasn’t used in the bank’s recent purchase of a Florida insurance company. Asked how he could be sure, since the money wasn’t being tracked, Denham said the bank would have made that deal regardless.

Others, such as Morgan Stanley spokeswoman Carissa Ramirez, offered to discuss the matter with reporters on condition of anonymity. When AP refused, Ramirez sent an e-mail saying: “We are going to decline to comment on your story.”

Most banks wouldn’t say why they were keeping the details secret.

“We’re not sharing any other details. We’re just not at this time,” said Wendy Walker, a spokeswoman for Dallas-based Comerica Inc., which received $2.25 billion from the government.

One didn’t even want to say they wouldn’t say.

Heine, the New York Mellon Corp. spokesman who said he wouldn’t share spending specifics, added: “I just would prefer if you wouldn’t say that we’re not going to discuss those details.”

The banks which came closest to answering the questions were those, such as U.S. Bancorp and Huntington Bancshares Inc., that only recently received the money and have yet to spend it. But neither provided anything more than a generic summary of how the money would be spent.

Lawmakers say they want to tighten restrictions on the remaining, yet-to-be-released $350 billion block of bailout money before more cash is handed out. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said the department is trying to step up its monitoring of bank spending.

“What we’ve been doing here is moving, I think, with lightning speed to put necessary programs in place, to develop them, implement them, and then we need to monitor them while we’re doing this,” Paulson said at a recent forum in New York. “So we’re building this organization as we’re going.”

Warren, the congressional watchdog appointed by Democrats, said her oversight panel will try to force the banks to say where they’ve spent the money.

“It would take a lot of nerve not to give answers,” she said.

But Warren said she’s surprised she even has to ask.

“If the appropriate restrictions were put on the money to begin with, if the appropriate transparency was in place, then we wouldn’t be in a position where you’re trying to call every recipient and get the basic information that should already be in public documents,” she said.

Garrett, the New Jersey congressman, said the nation might never get a clear answer on where hundreds of billions of dollars went.

Associated Press writers Stevenson Jacobs in New York and Christopher S. Rugaber and Daniel Wagner in Washington contributed to this report

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The Digital Slay-Ride

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Illustration by Robert Neubecker. Click image to expand.

Slate Magazine
press box

The Digital Slay-Ride

What’s killing newspapers is the same thing that killed the slide rule.

By Jack Shafer


Hardly a day goes by, it seems, without some laid-off or bought-out journalist writing a letter of condolence to himself and his profession. The Columbia Journalism Review and the American Journalism Review have harbored these self-pitying fellows, as have newspaper columns and blogs. The Web magazine LA Observed has almost made the unhiring of journalists its beat, with black-bunting dispatches about job cuts at the Hollywood Reporter, the L.A. Daily News, the Ventura Star, and the Chicago Tribune in the last month alone.

The genre will only grow, what with newspapers gone over the edge in Albuquerque, N.M., and teetering in Denver; the Tribune Co. chain thrown into bankruptcy; the New York Times Co. borrowing against its skyscraper to cover debt; and other newspaper companies—the Journal Register Co., Lee Enterprises, MediaNews, the McClatchy Co., the Philadelphia dailies—racing to stay ahead of their creditors. The Paper Cuts mashup records 15,471 layoffs and buyouts at U.S. newspapers this year. That doesn’t include the magazine industry, which is showing hundreds the door as titles downsize or fold.

The misery of a laid-off or bought-out journalist isn’t greater than that of a sacked bond trader, a RIF-ed clerk, or a fired autoworker. The only reason we’re so well-informed about journalists’ suffering is they have easy access to a megaphone. The underlying cause of their grief can be traced to the same force that has destroyed other professions and industries: digital technology.

Folks giggled at Wired founder Louis Rossetto’s bombastic formulation in 1993 that the “digital revolution is whipping through our lives like a Bengali typhoon” and upsetting the old order. But Rossetto is getting the last laugh. Wherever digital zeros and ones can dislodge analog processes, they either have or are. Call it a digital slay-ride.

The rise of digital technology isn’t the whole story of the current newspaper collapse, of course. Advertising is the lifeblood of newspapers, and it generally falls during recessions—and the current recession is cratering newspaper advertising, as Newsosaur blogger Alan D. Mutter reports.

But newspapers were hemorrhaging before the recession because advertising and reader eyeballs were moving to the Web. Online advertising—a purely digital play—grew faster than advertising on any other new media technology ever recorded. Last year, Web-advertising revenues passed radio-advertising revenues for the first time. The Interactive Advertising Bureau reports (PDF, Page 14) that the growth of Web advertising in its first 13 years eclipses that of both broadcast TV and cable TV in their first 13.

American Journalism Review‘s John Morton does a good job of finding some good news among the bad for newspapers in the current issue, pointing out that the industry still makes money. But nobody believes that newspapers will regain their lost ground after the recession recedes.

Before we get too weepy about lost journalistic jobs and folded publications, let’s ask how often reporters lamented the decline of other industries, products, and services swamped by Rossetto’s digital typhoon. Here’s a very short list of typhooned jobs for which I wish there were a Paper Cuts-like mashup of losses:

• Bank tellers
• Typewriters
• Typesetting
• Carburetors
• Vacuum tubes
• Slide rules
• Disc jockeys
• Stockbrokers
• Telephone operators
• Yellow pages
• Repair guys
• Bookbinders
• Pimps (displaced by the cell phone and the Web)
• Cassette and reel-to-reel recorders
• VCRs
• Turntables
• Video stores
• Record stores
• Bookstores
• Recording industry
• Courier/messenger services
• Travel agencies
• Print and cinematic porn
• Porn actors
• Stenographers
• Wired telcos
• Drummers
• Toll collectors (slayed by the E-ZPass)
• Book publishing (especially reference works)
• Conventional-watch makers
• “Browse” shopping
• U.S. Postal Service
• Printing-press makers
• Film cameras
• Kodak (and other film-stock makers)

Local television news, feeling the same hurt as newspapers, is likewise making cuts. The New York Times reports that the typical late-news program reaches 12 percent of viewers compared with 21 percent from a decade ago and that revenues are down 7 percent. To make ends meet, many stations are giving their exorbitantly paid veteran anchors the heave-ho.

In Washington, D.C., Gannett-owned WUSA-TV is replacing its news crews with multimedia journalists “who will shoot and edit news stories single-handedly,” reports the Washington Post. Such job-juggling would have been impossible in the analog days. Cameras were heavy, bulky, and complex to operate. You needed an editing console to create the segment and a telescoping transmitter on top of a van to send images back to the studio. Now the digital technologies of tiny cameras, laptops, editing software, and WiFi connections can do most of the heavy work.

Perhaps the most prescient of all digital prophets was scholar W. Russell Neuman, whose 1991 book, The Future of the Mass Audience, saw how the Web would overturn the existing order before the public World Wide Web even existed. The media—newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, cable, motion pictures, games, music, books, newsletters—all resided in separate “unique, noncompetitive” analog silos. Translating and transmitting from one format to another was “an expensive, labor-intensive endeavor,” Neuman writes.

By introducing these varied—and often monopolistic—media to a “single, universal, multipurpose network,” the digital Web destroyed the old barriers and created new competitive pressures. For end users, viewing last night’s Dave Letterman monologue or cruising Craigslist or scanning today’s headlines or reading one’s inbox or listening to the Timbaland/Cornell collaboration now happens inside the same space. In other words, CBS, the Times, Universal Music, Verizon, Blockbuster video, and anybody else who wants your media attention is fighting for your attention (mindshare and dollars) in the same kiosk. It only stands to reason that in today’s environment, the daily newspaper—that wonderful, crusty old beast, which I love with all my heart—would take a beating.

Newspapers embraced the new platform when it arrived in the mid-1990s, but they weren’t very inventive. All the great innovations in advertising, search, and social networking have come from outside the newspaper industry, which, given its 20 percent margins, it could have afforded to fund. Today, with the Web beating newsprint as a distribution platform and gaining on it as advertising destination, the odds are against conventional newspapers.

It appears to me that most newspapers—by choice or by necessity—have made the “decision to liquidate,” to steal the phrase from Philip Meyer’s excellent 2004 book, The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age: They’re cutting costs, cutting staff, cutting pages, cutting features, cutting quality, and will continue cutting until the last reader and advertiser depart. (Local TV news looks to be following a similar script.)

I keep waiting for one of these distressed, failing newspapers to realize that it has nothing to lose and get a little crazy and create something brand new and brilliant for readers and advertisers. I keep being disappointed.

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That said, I still love the incredibly clever and useful New York Times Reader, which belongs on everybody’s computer. There’s even a beta for the Mac now. I have great hopes for the “Open API” program at the Times. I’m also crazy about the Boston Globe‘s “Big Picture” feature. Adrian Holovaty isn’t a newspaper, but he could be. The former Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive employee created the data-scrapping EveryBlock.com, which impresses me. What’s your favorite 21st-century newspaper innovation? And help me build out my list of analog roadkill with your suggestions. Send correspondence to slate.pressbox@gmail.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name in “The Fray,” Slate‘s readers’ forum; in a future article; or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)

Track my errors: This hand-built RSS feed will ring every time Slate runs a “Press Box” correction. For e-mail notification of errors in this specific column, type the word Digital in the subject head of an e-mail message, and send it to slate.pressbox@gmail.com.

Jack Shafer is Slate‘s editor at large.

Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2206854/

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Copyright 2008 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC

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