Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Eff You Vonage and Random Readings

I am a customer of Vonage - the VOIP phone service. I actually like them - they have some pretty cool features (like call forwarding, or call multi-ring - where I can set up incoming calls to ring on as many different phones as I want and whomever picks up first gets connected) but they set me off with this email today:
"At Vonage, we're committed to providing our valued customers with the best experience possible through meaningful updates to our services. To ensure that we continue to deliver top-notch service and quality, we will modify two of our existing fees as follows:

The Emergency 911 Cost Recovery will become the Emergency 911 Service Fee, which ensures we maintain nationwide E911 service in compliance with FCC regulations. Our customers' safety in an emergency is our primary concern and this update allows us to continue delivering reliable emergency services.

The Regulatory Recovery Fee will become the Regulatory and Compliance Fee, which covers our regulatory-related and legal compliance expenses. For example, this fee pays for charges associated with benefits like procedures to ensure customer privacy, identity theft protection measures and phone number porting.

These fees will each increase from $0.99 to $1.49, effective July 15, 2009. This change allows Vonage to maintain our commitment to safety, innovation and customer service.

If you have any questions, call 1-VONAGE-HELP and speak to a customer service representative. We're always available, 24 hours a day, everyday.

Thank you for your business"

Ok, so it's net another buck to me per month, but since it's a slow blogging day, I'm going to bitch about it. Guess what Vonage - I shouldn't have to pay you EXTRA for things like keeping my information private and ensuring that you don't let someone steal my identity - that's not something you charge your customers for - that's a cost of doing business. As for the E911 crap - that's bullshit - you already had me register my address - it's updated - you don't have to maintain anything. It's there - it's done.

Anyway, here's other stuff I'm looking at today:

Matt Taiibi's Rolling Stone piece: "The Great American Bubble Machine."

"Goldman sachs has engineered every major market manipulation since the Great Depression. They're about to do it again."

The National Association of Realtors is fighting against appraisal reform. Sick. From Barry Ritholtz:

"So the very people who were enormous contributors to the credit bubble (mortgage brokers), and their colleagues who helped feed the housing boom and bust via friendly (i.e., corrupt) appraisals (RE Brokers, appraisers), are now mobilizing to make sure that honest appraisal reform is thwarted.

The NAR and NAMB apparently have no ethics to speak of. Their shameless self-interest, regardless of the damage it may cause, disgusts me . . ."

China's overdue credit card debt increases. The absolute numbers aren't onerous - YET... Give them a few years and they'll have a credit crisis of their own.

"China's credit-card debt at least six months overdue rose 133% in the first quarter, though the total overdue debt was still at the relatively modest level of 4.97 billion yuan ($727.7 million), the People's Bank of China was reported as saying in a state-run media report.

Accounts overdue by six months or more accounted for 3% of total outstanding credit-card debt at the end of March, a 60-basis-point rise from a year earlier, the China Daily cited the PBOC as saying in a report dated Tuesday.

The PBOC warned of the potential risks of rising levels of overdue consumer debt, which come as financial institutions expand their credit card businesses, the report said."

Ron Paul on the topic of a bailout of California:

"Californians know they are overtaxed, which is why they decisively the recent series of initiatives designed to close the state deficit, largely through tax increases. Yet, they want to maintain high public spending.

Unlike the states, Washington can temporarily delay budget woes by firing up the printing presses. But we can no longer ignore economic reality. The financial crisis came from too much shortsighted borrowing and spending, and it cannot be solved with more of the same. It would be unconstitutional, and irresponsible, for Congress to enable California’s fiscally reckless ways.

A decision by Washington to loan billions more it does not have will further increase our national debt, devalue our dollar, and foster the moral hazard created by its previous interventions, thereby increasing the burden felt by all Americans.

Instead of seeking federal aid, California should cut spending, rethink some of its unsustainable public pension programs, tame down the expensive and failed drug war, and repeal regulations that discourage economic growth. According to a 2008 piece by The Independent Institute’s William Shughart, the state owns more than 20,000 buildings and 6.7 million acres of land, a portion of which is “surplus” property that could be sold to private owners.

The federal government can best aid California, and all other states, by setting a fiscally responsible example and easing the load it places on taxpayers. It is time to end the unconstitutional federal mandates that force the states to subsidize programs they can’t afford, to reduce taxes and give Americans more of their own money back, and to stop the inflationary monetary policy that is destroying the dollar and fueling the boom-bust cycle that has pummeled California and the entire nation."

Carolyn Baum's Bloomberg article, "Obama Bulks Up Too Big Too Fail," has a few handfuls of well written paragraphs at the beginning, with clear, succinct points that echo some I've made previously.

"The Obama administration’s architects went back to the drawing board and last week produced a blueprint for regulating financial institutions. One controversial aspect of the plan is the creation of a systemic risk regulator, the Federal Reserve, with the power to oversee any financial firm, not just a bank holding company, “whose combination of size, leverage and interconnectedness could pose a threat to financial stability if it failed.”

In other words, the same folks who missed, or did nothing to prevent, the worst crisis since the Great Depression will definitely, absolutely, positively be able to anticipate the next one. Uh-huh.

It gets worse. Instead of eliminating the doctrine of “too big to fail,” which encourages risky behavior because of perceived government backing, the Obama plan defines, institutionalizes and expands on it.

“All systemically important companies will be subject to enhanced regulation,” says Peter Wallison, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank. “What could that possibly mean? It means they are too big to fail.”"

I can't get enough of Jimmy Kimmel's "This Week in Unnecessary Censorship."



Anonymous said...

maybe you can use this...

friends from the floor

Anonymous said...

This is amazing. And what about the new movie just out: Stock Shock???! Fantastic!!! Market manipulators watch out!!

Anonymous said...

This is amazing. And what about the new movie just out: Stock Shock!!!! Fantastic!!! Market manipulators watch out!! Stock Shock and Matt Taibbi are here!!