Later today, the new power cord for my laptop should be delivered. I hope the damn thing works.
…my thoughts are a bit off this afternoon, almost like I’m in a Virginia Woolf stream of consciousness state of mind. Sometimes it’s difficult enough to get my thoughts organized in some kind of rational order. But today it is random and ridiculous…
Tonight is the STFU speech…oops, I mean SOTU speech. (Eh, innit the same thing?) We will be live blogging it here, so if you are around, be sure to stop by.
Just one story for you this afternoon, and it deals with the horse meat scandal over in Great Britain. Yup, you know what I am talking about!
“Ground beef” with a touch of Mr. Ed. From the same folks who brought you Mad Cow disease…there is now “beef” being sold in England and Europe that contain horse meat.
I’m not sure we have mentioned the horsemeat scandal here on the blog, but if you have been living in a barn for the past few weeks… here is a quick review of what happening in, on and around the burger scene across the pond.
A food safety group did some investigating and found horse DNA in some cheap burger meat being sold in supermarkets in the UK and Ireland.
It did not stop there, looks like Burger Kings in Great Britain also sold the Trigger burgers, since their meat supplier was the same company who supplied the supermarkets.
Then…Hi Ho, what d’ya know… Silver found himself in other “beef” products, like frozen lasagna dinners from a company called Findus. (Now, with a name like Findus….it has to be good…cough, cough.) As with Burger King, Findus Brand frozen dinner’s “beef” was also supplied by the same smeat factory. (Smeat btw is not a typo.)
The company bringing Seabiscuit to tables across Britain and the Continent of Europe is called Tesco. You can see Tesco’s technical director dude in the hot seat, responding to the horse DNA found in its “Trojan” beef products. View the video here:
Tesco’s technical director, Tim Smith, says his company does not yet know how many products containing horsemeat have been sold in their shops, and an investigation is under way into how it happened. Samples from one of Tesco’s burger lines contained 29% horsemeat relative to beef content. Traces of horsemeat have also been found in food products sold by Iceland, Lidl and Aldi.
Watching that man and his expressions reminds me of that SNL skit with Martin Short playing Nathan Thurm, the smoking sleazeball lawyer…
You need to see this skit, if you don’t see the video embedded below, so be sure to watch Saturday Night Live: 60 Minutes online at this link.
Minkman Toys pushes 60 Minutes to investigate fraud in the novelty item business.
Mike Wallace…..Harry Shearer
Herb Minkman…..Christopher Guest
Al Minkman…..Billy Crystal
Nathan Thurm…..Martin Short
Damn, I got distracted…can’t help it, that is a great skit! Funny as hell!
Okay, where was I?
Oh yeah, the horse meat.
Today some new light has been shed on the scandal:
The UK’s horsemeat scandal was in “large part” the result of a switch from UK to foreign meat suppliers in 2012 caused by an abrupt change in European regulation that the government failed to contest, according to the expert who led the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) surveillance programme for a decade.
The change meant that “desinewed meat” (DSM), a fine mince rubbed under pressure from carcasses, could no longer be called meat on packaging. DSM produced in the UK was the main ingredient in most value-range burgers, sausages, pies and kebabs and the change meant that thousands of tonnes of meat had to be sourced from elsewhere and at low cost.
A former senior scientist at the Food Standards Agency says an EU decision to reclassify a type of mincemeat widely used in the UK played a significant part in creating the horsemeat crisis.
Desinewed meat was a key ingredient in value items such as pies, lasagnes and other beef products.
Dr Mark Woolfe said the decision to ban it prompted producers to go outside the UK to source supplies of cheap mince.
He also raised the possibility that UK lamb products might need testing for horsemeat.
Until 2009 Dr Woolfe was the head of authenticity at the Food Standards Agency. He says the root cause of the current horse meat crisis can be traced back to a decision taken by the European Commission less than 12 months ago to ban a key food ingredient called desinewed meat.
This material was introduced in the the UK in the 1990s as a replacement for mechanically recovered meat (MRM). Sometimes called “pink slime” MRM was formed by removing residual meat from animal bones using high pressure water.
It was linked to the spread of the human form of mad cow disease and the UK government took steps to restrict it from the food chain.
Desinewed meat (DSM) was developed as a higher quality form of recovered meat. It was produced using low pressure, retained some structure and was regarded as a meat ingredient on value products.
Yup, and y’all know who buys value products. Poor or low income people.
Check out these headlines, some of which are a pun filled laugh:
BBC has a couple of articles, their coverage is not as intense:
But, The Guardian has reported a lot on the scandal:
Damn, what a mess! However, I do love the puns in some of those headlines…the Brits have a great sense of humor.
This is an open thread…
For this third installment (y’all are probably sick of these cartoons now) we have a several commentaries on the debt ceiling and other topics that have been in the news this past week.
Hope you enjoy them!
*Please take a look at this comment regarding the Headstart cartoon below.
This last one is real funny, if you have trouble reading the small writing…click the image for a larger look.
There you are, have fun this long weekend!
This is an open thread.
Tonight is Homecoming night for the Panther’s so this is going to be a short cartoon post. First a couple of news links…
I thought this was interesting, since this is the show I sort of got the Friday Nite Lite title from: Friday Night Lights Creator Accuses Romney Of Plagiarism, Blasts His Politics
This next link is something I had been saving for a while. Italian bicycle sales ‘surpass those of cars’
Italians bought more bicycles than cars in 2011 for the first time in decades, according to local media reports.
Last year some 1.75 million bicycles were sold, about 2,000 more than the number of new cars registered, La Repubblica newspaper reported.
It attributed the change to a slump in car sales during the economic crisis and the rising price of petrol, as well as bikes coming back into fashion.
Car sales have slumped to the level at which they stood in 1964, it said
Which made me think of the amazing film, The Bicycle Thief…where a man’s bicycle is connected to his making a living.
Bicycle Thieves (Italian: Ladri di biciclette), also known as The Bicycle Thief, is director Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 film about a poor father searching post-World War II Rome for his stolen bicycle, without which he will lose the job which was to be the salvation of his young family.
Adapted for the screen by Cesare Zavattini from a novel by Luigi Bartolini, and starring Lamberto Maggiorani as the desperate father and Enzo Staiola as his plucky young son, Bicycle Thieves is one of the masterpieces of Italian neorealism. It received an Academy Honorary Award in 1950 and, just four years after its release, was deemed the greatest film of all time by Sight & Sound magazine’s poll of filmmakers and critics; fifty years later the same poll ranked it sixth among greatest-ever films. It is also one of the top 10 among the British Film Institute’s list of the 50 films you should see by the age of 14.
That is what Wikipedia has to say, here is Rodger Ebert on the film: The Bicycle Thief / Bicycle Thieves :: rogerebert.com :: Great Movies
The Bicycle Thief / Bicycle Thieves (1949)
“The Bicycle Thief” is so well-entrenched as an official masterpiece that it is a little startling to visit it again after many years and realize that it is still alive and has strength and freshness.
You need to see this film, if you haven’t look online, they have the movie in full for free.
Okay, on with the cartoons.
Bagley is right about that, and did you see this?
Last year, when Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett suggested offsetting college tuition fees by leasing parts of state-owned college campuses to natural gas drillers, more than a few Pennsylvanians were left blinking and rubbing their eyes. But it was no idle threat: After quietly moving through the state Senate and House, this week the governor signed into law a bill that opens up 14 of the state’s public universities to fracking, oil drilling, and coal mining on campus.
For a system starved by budget cuts, it’s an appetizing deal: The Indigenous Mineral Resources Development Act mandates that 50 percent of all fees and royalties from the mineral leases will be retained by the university where those minerals are mined, 35 percent will be distributed across the state system, and another 15 percent will go towards subsidizing student tuition.
Of course, those benefits don’t take into account externalized costs.“This has been a big giveaway by the state of Pennsylvania to drilling interests, and it’s at the expense of students and the public.”
Environmentalists and educators are concerned that fracking and other resource exploitation on campus could leave students directly exposed to harms like explosions, water contamination, and air pollution. They’re also worried oil and gas development would leave campuses ruined for future generations. It doesn’t help that Pennsylvania has a lousy regulation record, with a tally of violations that have increased more than fourfold since 2005. According to the PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center, Pennsylvania drilling companies racked up a total of 3,355 violations of environmental law between 2008 and 2011, 2,392 of which posed a direct threat to the environment and safety of communities. Meanwhile, in 2010, the state left 82,602 active wells go uninspected, more than all the active wells in New York and Ohio put together.
Considering that cartoonist is from Spain, and that today the EU won the Nobel Peace Prize, those mice are kind of funny! (I think it is safe to say we know who the cat is.)
I love that one…
Alright, this is an open thread, but y’all know that already…
Happy Mother’s Day! After spending the day trying to find some sort of tribute to all you Mother’s out there…I realized that my only experience with mother’s are those of the Sicilian and Cuban variety, meaning that my perception of Mama is that of a woman…a short woman with a predisposition towards obesity, dark eyes, olive complexion…and more hairs on her face then Fidel Castro. Okay, so I am exaggerating about the facial hair…just a bit.
(Be sure you check out those video links above…I will try to embed them at the end of the post!)
So please humor me while I honor my own special mother, grandmothers and great-grandmothers…Happy Mother’s Day!
Okay…on with the show. This week has been a crazy one indeed. With each new “release” of information/video/statement about the bin Laden raid, the more surreal it all becomes. I don’t know if I am watching The Onion or CNN. Boston Boomer has discussed this in two of her post this week…I’ll link to them here and here. So I will refrain from discussing bin Laden, and get on with other news that you may have missed this week.
They are calling this a 500 year flood…as Residents brace for more flooding as Mississippi River swells – CNN.com
As the Mississippi River gushes downstream with no clear boundaries, flooding continues to deluge parts of Tennessee as residents farther south brace for what will come.
“When you see the Mississippi River and it’s about two miles wide because it’s lost its borders, it’s sobering,” said Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.
In some areas, murky brown water inundated entire neighborhoods, with only the roofs of buildings and treetops visible from the sky.
The Mississippi River is expected to crest about 14 feet above flood stage at Memphis as early as late Tuesday.
I spent a lot of time staring out over the Mississippi while in Memphis, the thought of that muddy water spanning two miles wide is overwhelming. Here is more on the floods: Watery week ahead as Mississippi floodwaters hit Memphis, move downriver – CSMonitor.com
Record high floodwaters are expected to crest throughout the southern Mississippi Delta next week, starting in Memphis, Tenn., Wednesday and continuing through New Orleans by May 17. As momentum builds, the bulging waters moving down the Mississippi River are backing up tributaries that feed into it, resulting in evacuations, school cancellations, and road closures as water builds.
Some areas in and around Memphis are already under water, as river levels sit at 46 feet, breaking the record of 45.8 feet set during the historic 1927 flood. The National Weather Service forecasts that the Mississippi will crest there at 48 feet Wednesday and is expected to remain standing for as many as four days.
For up to date Flood Warnings and Watches click the image below.
On Saturday, Wonk the Vote had a great post about New Orleans and the Gulf. Be sure to check it out if you missed it.
On to some world news. Read the rest of this entry »
The European Union appears to be serious about stopping the hedge fund casino where you get to bet on the failure of countries to meet their sovereign debt obligations with other folks’ money. It also wants to increase regulation that provides more transparency which should–theoretically–lead to increased protection from moral hazard and insiders with inside information acting against the best interests of other investors. Would you consider this action to be protectionist? (i.e. against free trade agreements?) Once again, I’m turning to the UK’s Financial Times for more information.
Tim Geithner, US Treasury secretary, has delivered a blunt warning to the European Commission that its plans to regulate the hedge fund and private equity industries could cause a transatlantic rift by discriminating against US groups.
A letter sent by Mr Geithner this month to Michel Barnier, Europe’s internal market commissioner, makes it clear that the European Union is heading for a clash with Washington if it pushes ahead with what the US – and Britain – fear could be a protectionist law.
As we see the continual watering-down of financial regulation met to rein in the worst of credit abuses in the country, we now see our government arguing against reining-in the casino-style side bets of the hedge funds. The UK is raging against the reform machine too.
The draft EU directive would impose tighter restrictions on hedge funds, private equity and other alternative investment funds. It has caused alarm in the City of London, where some in the industry say it is a thinly veiled attempt by France and Germany to undermine the UK’s dominance of financial services.
Okay, so this is my question. How is this going to undermine the dominance of the UK and US investment houses? How does this stop them from competing for business? The answer is in one clause that may or may not be the real issue here.
Mr Geithner warns that US hedge funds, private equity groups and banks could be discriminated against if proposals to restrict the access of EU investors to funds based outside the 27-country bloc are included in the final law.
So-called “third country” elements of the directive would force non-EU funds to comply with the new rules if they wish to market themselves at all within the EU. The directive could also force EU-based private equity and hedge funds to use only locally based banks as custodians and depositaries.
Contentious areas also include rules on remuneration, limits on borrowing, the disclosure of sensitive information and the regime for depositaries.
Paul Myners, UK financial services minister, told a meeting of private equity executives on Wednesday that he would fight “line by line and minute by minute” to defend the free movement of capital. But he also warned that “nobody in this room is going to get the directive they want”.
One senior private equity executive said the UK needed to take a stand before others would rally behind it.
I can see how portions could restrict the movement of capital from one country to another if investors are forced to use local banks. However, asking the UK and US hedge funds to comply with the EU rules doesn’t seem any different than asking FORD or GM to comply with the tougher MPG or emissions standards by the EU or for that matter asking US food companies to restrict certain ingredients either. Most other U.S. industries comply with EU rules daily. One major example is the use of the metric system. So, why can’t Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan just shut up and comply?
Here’s what is more likely at the heart of the argument.
The momentum for a ban on naked CDS is getting stronger. Germany and France on Wednesday called on the European Union to consider banning speculative trading in credit default swaps and set up a compulsory register of derivatives trading, the FT reports. Angela Merkel and Francois Fillon sent a letter to Jose Barroso yesterday, asking for an immediate investigation of the role and effect of speculative trading in CDSs in the sovereign bonds of European Union member states. Fillon assured after talks in Berlin, that both governments are “very much in agreement in tackling extreme speculation”.
Earlier this week, Mario Draghi indicated that tighter regulation of CDS could become a G20 issue when he confirmed that the subject will be on the agenda of the Financial Stability Board (FSB), Reuters reports.
An inquiry must be opened into the role and impact of speculation linked to credit default swaps trading in EU government bonds as soon as possible to determine any market abuse, the heads of four countries said.
The move stops short of repeating recent calls for an immediate ban on selling CDS contracts to ‘naked’ buyers who have no interest in the underlying asset — thereby making it easier to find broad backing from the bloc’s finance ministers who will discuss CDS markets next Tuesday.
In a joint letter to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, dated March 10, Germany, Luxembourg, France and Greece also called for more transparency on derivative markets.
The moves would be aimed at preventing undue speculation, enhancing transparency and improving the safety of derivative transactions, according to the letter, which was released by the office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday.
So is Geithner complaining about the provision to restrict business in certain countries to local banks or the restrictions on some of the more exotic and toxic financial innovations? That would include the ones that have troubled both Greece and Iceland.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that Senator Future Lobbyist of America member Chris Dodd is about ready to unveil his version of Financial Reform. This reflects his compromise with Republican committee member Bob Corker. Have I mentioned recently that nothing particularly good ever comes from compromising with a right wing nut? Oh, yes, that would be yesterday’s post where we talked about Corker’s goal of exempting payday lenders from regulation meant to stop lending abuse. Still, let’s go to Bloomberg for the latest controversy in OUR financial industry reform.
The new Dodd bill will include some elements negotiated with Corker. For example, it won’t propose the stand-alone agency, which Corker opposed, and will probably put the consumer unit in the Federal Reserve with an independent budget, a director appointed by the president and some enforcement powers, according to a person with direct knowledge of the plan.
“It has always been my goal to produce a consensus package,” Dodd said in the statement. “And we have reached a point where bringing the bill to the full committee is the best course of action to achieve that end.”
Notice the difference in the content between the EU talks and the US version. The EU is talking about serious regulation and the US is creating another level of bureaucracy within the FED with “some enforcement powers”. This is like trying to protect some one from AIDS by handing them a virginity pledge to sign when they ain’t no virgin.
It has to be the power of the FIRE lobby. All you have to do is read any of the academic literature on the financial industry to know that standardization of process and translucency, along with making investors have skin in their game creates stronger and deeper financial markets. While we are shuffling decks on the Titanic, the Europeans are looking at the engines. I just wish I had more control over my pension plan (which unfortunately has to be a selection of professionally ‘managed’ screwed up funds rather than letting me have my own money to invest as I see fit.
Who is going to stop Wall Street before they kill again?