Saturday, October 15, 2011

Awe-inspiring Landscapes

Via the Big Picture:

Landscapes: Volume Two from Dustin Farrell on Vimeo.

It is recommended that it be viewed full screen.

History May Not Repeat Itself...

But it rhymes.  As attributed to Mark Twain.  Via the naked capitalism links, Joe Nocera reviews the 1940 book on the Great Depression, "Since Yesterday," by Frederick Lewis Allen, and notices that much of the writing could describe the situation we face.  The whole column is a must-read, but I thought I'd highlight this part on the 1937 mini-Depression:
What dominates “Since Yesterday” — as it must dominate any history of the Great Depression — is the government’s responses to the crisis. Herbert Hoover was “leery of any direct governmental offensive against the Depression,” writes Allen. “So he stood aside and waited for the healing process to assert itself, as according to the hallowed principles of laissez-faire economics it should.” Sticking to his convictions, Hoover allowed the country to sink deeper and deeper into Depression, becoming in the process one of its victims — “along with the traditional economic theories of which he was the obstinate and tragic spokesman.”
Then came Roosevelt, untethered to any economic theory and willing to try anything to get people back to work. Allen describes the alphabet soup of agencies he created, the deficits he generated, the regulations he enacted. The economy, which bottomed out in 1932, steadied and then began to grow until, by 1937, it appeared that the Great Depression had ended.
Allen then takes us through the terrible days of late 1937, when the economy collapsed again. “Roosevelt’s Depression,” businessmen called it, blaming it on a business tax they particularly loathed. In fact, Allen makes the convincing case that the real problem was that Roosevelt had tried to do something business wanted: balance the budget. Shrinking government spending dried up demand. And not until the following spring, when he reversed course and decided to “go in for heavy spending again,” did conditions begin to improve.
The tragedy of Washington today, as the supercommittee begins its task of finding $1.2 trillion in cuts, is that nobody seems to remember the lessons of “Since Yesterday” — and most other books about the Great Depression.
Reminds me of what Republicans might call "Obama's Recession."  It is hard for me to see many times in the 20th and 21st century when the Republican party has been correct about anything.  Even the solutions provided in the late 70's and early 80's were tremendously flawed, and have brought us to the point we are at.  The Democrats have gotten a lot wrong, but they've often been more right than the Republicans, and most of their unforced errors have been made because of ridiculous Republican attacks, the most costly being the 30 years of foreign policy disaster in the wake of the Democrats "losing China."  But I digress.  The Republicans were wrong in the 30's, and they are wrong now.

News of the Obvious Headline of the Day

From the Washington Post:

Cain’s ‘9-9-9’ tax plan hits poor, helps wealthy, experts say

No shit, Sherlock.  If the wealthy are currently paying 17-25% of their income in taxes, and it is cut to 9%, and a 9% sales tax is added in, and the whole thing is revenue neutral, who the hell else is going to pay more, but the poor and middle class.  I am always stunned by the number of average folks who advocate for a flat tax.  They seem to think that somehow they will pay less under such a system, but it is not mathematically possible for that to be the case.  I guess they think that the wealthy take advantage of loopholes which they can't, so a single-bracket system will magically make the wealthy pay more.  I tell them that isn't the case, and the poor and middle class will end up paying more.  That doesn't deter them.  People are drawn to simplistic systems, and if there is one thing Herman Cain represents, it is being simplistic.

Also at the Washington Post, via Mark Thoma, the cost of the Bush tax cuts:

If Republicans have proven anything, it's that the rubes are mathematically-challenged suckers.  That's a trillion, folks:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is trying to win hearts and minds in the Palmetto State right where it counts — with food.
At a luncheon in Spartanburg Thursday, his wife, Anita, a former nurse, said she loves South Carolina: "Ham and grits, I'm that kinda girl. I think I could live here, too."
And she took some jabs at President Obama's record.
"Our debt is more than $14 trillion and climbing," she said. "I had to look up what a trillion was."
Please, people, don't vote for a Republican, unless you intend to be taken advantage of.  Corporations are allowing voters their choice of idiots in the primaries.  Afterwards, you'll want to take a shower.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Trophy Games This Weekend

Illinois and Ohio State play for the Illibuck Trophy.

Michigan and Michigan State play for the Paul Bunyan Trophy, not to be confused with Paul Bunyan's Axe:

and my personal favorite for the week, Cincinnati and Louisville play for the Keg of Nails:

Also, I somehow failed to mention the Golden Hat when I talked about Oklahoma and Texas last weekend.  My apologies, because that is such a Texas-type trophy:

Update: I forgot to mention Carleton vs. St. Olaf for the Goat Trophy and the Cereal Bowl Trophy.  And Missouri and Iowa State play for the Telephone Trophy.

U.S. Manufacturing

Forbes, via The Big Picture:

Take That, Bank of America

Dayton Daily News:
An Urbana bank says it will pay you to use its debit card.
The Peoples Savings Bank of Urbana says, starting in November, it will credit customers $5 each month for each account with a debit card.
President Brice Kadel said the two-branch bank launched the program to show its opposition to debit-card fees charged by large institutions. Last month, Bank of America announced plans to levy a $5 monthly fee on customers who use their debit cards.
Kadel said customers have asked whether Peoples Savings planned to impose debit-card fees.
“Paying our customers to use our debit cards is the kind of symbolic gesture that eliminates their fears,” Kadel said.
Peoples will credit $5 to each account that uses one or more signature-based debit card transactions during the statement period. Customers also can earn the credit in December and January.
After Jan. 31, the bank still won’t charge for point-of-sale transactions using debit cards.
I just don't understand how the big banks can claim that it costs them more than 20 cents per debit card transaction.  Computer costs can't be that great.  I assume they were just screwing retailers, and now that that is limited, they're screwing customers.  I'm glad to see a small bank make the point that the big guys are crooks.

103 Years

October 14, 1908:

The Cubs win the World Series, hopefully for the last time:

Attendance at Bennett Park in Detroit for Game 5: 6,210.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why The Tea Party Can't Win The Republican Nomination

Conor Friedersdorf:
But the actual tea party isn't savvy. It overestimates its clout within the GOP, fails to appreciate the many obstacles to winning a general election, let alone implementing its agenda, and is therefore careless and immature in choosing its champions. It elevates polarizing figures of questionable competence like Sarah Palin because doing so is cathartic. It backed Michele Bachmann despite her thin resume, erratic behavior in interviews, and the fact that she cares most about advancing a socially conservative agenda, not a small-government agenda. Its erstwhile favorite, Rick Perry, doesn't even subscribe to what ought to be a core tea party tenet: that the government shouldn't subsidize particular firms, picking winners and losers. Perry is a right-wing corporatist. And Herman Cain, the front-runner of the week? He has zero governing experience, acknowledges that he knows next to nothing about foreign policy, flip flops on matters of tremendous consequence, and touts a flawed economic plan, 9-9-9, that could never pass.
I'll go with that they like idiots and assholes, and they don't have the money to buy the nomination like the establishment Republicans and the corporations do.  The establishment and the corporations don't hate the current system, because they benefit the most from it.  They'll allow the loons to push the Overton window further right, because it benefits them, but when the Tea Party tries to cut them off from the government trough, the Tea Party gets the boot.  It's pretty simple, the Tea Party is there to give the Republicans the majority, at least in non-presidential year elections.  They may get some idiot congressment in there, but come the next election, that candidate isn't going to get any corporate money if they don't play ball.  The establishment is playing a dangerous game, but they can get away with it in Presidential elections, because those elections cost so much, and the candidate has to win votes in the suburbs, not just in rural districts which love to hear the Tea Party garbage.  The corporations and the establishment hold the power in national elections, and nobody should believe otherwise.  The Tea Party will fall into line when Romney is nominated, just watch.

Not Extremely Productive

Yesterday wasn't the best day.  I broke an electical plug on the combine when I forgot to unhook it from the corn header.  That took over an hour to put back together, after I did it wrong the first time.  I also backed the back tire of the combine into the ladder on the back of the semi trailer, bending the ladder significantly.  Luckily, nothing further was damaged, and we were able to combine about 30 acres of beans.  Hopefully I can avoid further damages until the season is over.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

This Job Deserves High Wages

Via the Awl, Capital New York includes an ironworker's photo from One World Trade Center:

Seven Deadly Lies

Robert Reich highlights the seven biggest economic lies passed off as economic wisdom (via Mark Thoma):
1. Tax cuts for the rich trickle down to everyone else. Baloney. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both sliced taxes on the rich and what happened? Most Americans’ wages (measured by the real median wage) began flattening under Reagan and have dropped since George W. Bush. Trickle-down economics is a cruel joke. 
 2. Higher taxes on the rich would hurt the economy and slow job growth. False.
My favorite part of number 2:
(Don’t believe small businesses would be hurt by a higher marginal tax; fewer than 2 percent of small business owners are in the highest tax bracket.)  
I want to kick the TV when I hear somebody say that the top marginal income tax rate can't increase because it will hurt small businesses.  I guess it depends on what you consider small, but most owners of businesses employing fewer than 20 workers aren't making $200,000 a year.  They shouldn't be impacted by increasing the top marginal rate.  And if they are doing that well, they can reinvest in the business, create new jobs, and lower their taxable income.  That would seem like a pretty good deal to me, but what do I know, I'm not a job creator, I'm just a leech working for them.

The One Percent

Christopher Ketcham gives the data on the top 1% of household incomes in New York City (via Ritholtz):
New York, the FPI informs us, is now at the forefront of the maldistribution of wealth into the hands of the few that has been ongoing in America since 1980, which marked the beginning of a new Gilded Age. Out of the twenty-five largest cities, it is the most unequal city in the United States for income distribution. If it were a nation, it would come in as the fifteenth worst among 134 countries ranked by extremes of wealth and poverty—a banana republic without the death squads. It is the showcase for the top 1 percent of households, which in New York have an average annual income of $3.7 million. These top wealth recipients—let’s call them the One Percenters—took for themselves close to 44 percent of all income in New York during 2007 (the last year for which data is available). That’s a high bar for wealth concentration; it’s almost twice the record-high levels among the top 1 percent nationwide, who claimed 23.5 percent of all national income in 2007, a number not seen since the eve of the Great Depression. During the vaunted 2002–07 economic expansion—the housing-boom bubble that ended in our current calamity, this Great Recession—average income for the One Percenters in New York went up 119 percent.
Where is Mark Twain when you need him?  He could easily author an updated edition of The Gilded Age.  I really don't understand why people in Kansas (for instance) will vote for tax cuts for the uberwealthy in New York City, when Shawnee County, Kansas, the county containing the state capital of Topeka, doesn't have enough money to prosecute misdemeanors, including misdemeanor domestic violence.  Don't get me wrong, I think there are definitely too many prosecutions, but it is pretty bad when the only reason they aren't prosecuting crimes is because they don't have the money to staff the office.  Something is definitely wrong.

The First Oktoberfest

October 12, 1810:
First Oktoberfest: The Bavarian royalty invites the citizens of Munich to join the celebration of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The All-Time Leading Pro Passer

At Grantland:
On Monday1, presuming he throws for at least 258 yards, this man you've probably never heard of will become the leading passer in the history of professional football. He has accumulated more yards than Peyton Manning, more yards than Dan Marino, more yards than John Elway and Jim Kelly and Fran Tarkenton and Joe Montana and Brett Favre, and he has done it all without ever being even marginally famous in the United States. This in itself is a remarkable accomplishment. That he is 39 years old and still considered one of the two or three best players in his adopted country is another. That he has continued to play football even after both he and his wife fought cancer is still another. Not only is Anthony Calvillo the most prolific anonymous quarterback who ever lived, his is one of those great American stories, an epic tale of failure and adversity and redemption. It just happened to take place in Canada.
A confession: Until midsummer, I had no idea who Anthony Calvillo was, either. But I've long harbored a fascination with the Canadian Football League, with its colorful nicknames (Eskimos and Blue Bombers and Argonauts) and its bizarro edicts (110 yards instead of 100, three downs instead of four, 12 men instead of 11), with the idea that there is a league just like ours and yet completely different, as if it were birthed on an alternate plane of reality. Is there a more apt metaphor for how America sees Canada than how Americans view the CFL? Most of our knowledge is acquired out of desperation and boredom; the CFL regular season starts in June, when we are jonesing hard for football, and when it does show up on our television — say, on an otherwise idle Friday night on the NFL Network — it is more Rube Goldberg than Vince Lombardi, because of its extra-man-per-side and its stretched field and because it allows us to reconnect with former college standouts we had otherwise forgotten. In Canada, Ken-Yon Rambo and Avon Cobourne are stars.
I've turned on the CFL when it was on NFL network, but haven't really paid much attention.  I usually look to see who was playing and who was winning, but I was really surprised the other Saturday when I saw Edmonton leading 1 to 0.  That left me scratching my head.  Here's the explanation of the 1:
That "4" was put up not because the Eskimos sacked Calvillo twice in the end zone, but because of the novelty concept known as the single, or rouge: One point is awarded when the ball is kicked into the end zone by any legal means other than a made field goal, and the receiving team is unable to scuttle the ball out of the end zone by either running or kicking it back out, which can lead to a back-and-forth straight out of Benny Hill. As an American, you probably find the rouge an idiotic perversion of the game, and I wouldn't blame you. Even Canadians are self-conscious about the rouge, and there's been discussion about abolishing it. Thirty years later, the rouge was the first thing Charlie Weatherbie mentioned when I asked him about adapting to the peculiarities of the CFL.
Anyway, congratulations to Anthony Cavillo, and good luck to the Alouettes (not offspring of the Alou brothers). 

African Concrete Work

From a reader at the Dish, this is unbelievable:

That is some serious work.

Chart of the Day

From the Dish:

So who benefits from 15% tax rates on dividends and capital gains?  I think we know.

America's Failing Infrastructure

Via the Big Picture, ASCE pushes for infrastructure investment:

Sure, they are a lobbying group which would benefit from the spending, but they are right, we need to do a lot of work on our infrastructure.

Hell In Pennsylvania

The Paris Review writes up Centralia, Pennsylvania (h/t the Dish):
Centralia, Pennsylvania, is a town that barely exists. It is a blip of a place, almost indistinguishable from the endless forest flanking state road 61 in the rambling northeast quarter of the state. There are no hulking ruins—not even a sign that alerts you when the town begins or ends. Though the population of Centralia peaked in the 1960s at more than two thousand people, now fewer than ten live here. After the nineties, road maps and atlases began leaving it off their indexes; the post office revoked its zip code in 2002. The reason is simple: Centralia has been on fire for almost fifty years.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Former Miss Iceland Reportedly Collects Bulger Reward

LA Times:
A former Icelandic beauty queen and actress collected the $2-million reward for turning in Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger and his longtime girlfriend to the FBI, the Boston Globe reported in its Sunday editions.
Anna Bjornsdottir, who was named Miss Iceland in 1974, intermittently lived in the Santa Monica neighborhood where she would somtimes encounter Bulger's longtime girlfriend, 60-year-old Catherine Greig, as she fed an abandoned tiger-striped tabby. Bulger, who is accused of killing 19 people, would stand nearby.
"It was this bond, formed over the cat, that proved the downfall of one of America’s most wanted men, South Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, after 16 years on the run," according to the Globe article.

Bjornsdottir had known the couple as Charlie and Carol Gasko. But last summer, while she was at home in Iceland, the Globe said Bjornsdottir saw a CNN report about the FBI's multi-city publicity campaign to track down Bulger, 82, and she called the FBI.
Bjornsdottir recognized them immediately as the Gaskos, her former neighbors -- and the cat's benefactors -- an ocean away on Third Street.
Interesting.  There is nothing dull about the Whitey Bulger case, that's for sure.

IMF Stress Tests A China Slowdown

At MacroBusiness, what to expect for Australia (h/t Yves Smith):
Scenario two is a more severe a one year slowdown in Chinese growth arising from a real estate bust:
…we assume a decline in investment drives a slowdown in China, possibly because of problems in the real estate market or some financial market disturbances.
11. Australia suffers a terms of trade shock. The size of the impact, however, depends significantly on the degree of policy flexibility elsewhere.
  • With limited policy flexibility elsewhere, Australia’s terms of trade falls by about 10 percent in the first year, relative to baseline. The impact of the fall in global commodity prices on the terms of trade is partly offset by a fall in the price of commodity imports, including oil. With full policy flexibility in advanced countries, the fall in Australia’s terms of trade would be cut by two-thirds.
  • Real GDP falls by about ¾ percent relative to baseline, because of lower demand from China and the negative impact of the Chinese shock on global demand. However, with policy flexibility in advanced countries the fall would be less than ¼ percent. The reduction in commodity prices amplifies the negative impact on nominal incomes, with nominal GDP falling by 2½ percent in the case of limited policy flexibility (1½ percent with full policy flexibility).
  • Government revenue in Australia falls directly, through a decline in resource taxes and company income taxes, and indirectly
  • through lower economic activity. We assume public expenditure is reduced gradually to balance the budget. As a result, transitory deficits add to public net debt which rises by about 3 percentage points of GDP over two years.
12. A depreciation of the Australian dollar helps buffer the shock, as do cuts in the policy interest rate. The exchange rate depreciation redirects exports to non-commodities and reduces imports. The contribution of net exports to GDP growth in real terms improves. However, the depreciation is not strong enough to fully offset the impact of lower commodity prices on the nominal trade balance, which worsens by about 1½ percent of GDP. Because about half of private earnings from commodities accrue to foreign shareholders, the drop in the current account balance is smaller than the decline in the trade balance.

The Dawn Of The American League

October 11, 1899:
 In a meeting in Chicago on October 11, 1899, the Western League renamed itself the American League.
The members of the Western League from 1894 to 1900:
Detroit Tigers (only WL charter member in its original city)
Sioux City Cornhuskers → St. Paul Saints, 1895 → Chicago White Stockings, 1900   (renamed Chicago White Sox, 1903)
Milwaukee Brewers → St. Louis Browns, 1902 → Baltimore Orioles, 1954
Grand Rapids Rustlers → Cleveland Blues, 1900 (renamed Cleveland Broncos, 1902, Cleveland Naps, 1903, and Cleveland Indians, 1915)
Had transferred to St. Joseph, Missouri and Omaha, Nebraska in 1898 before returning to Michigan in 1899.
Kansas City Blues → Washington Senators, 1900 → Minnesota Twins, 1961
Toledo White Stockings → Columbus Buckeyes, 1896 → replaced by Buffalo, 1899
         Buffalo Bisons, 1899 → dropped for newly organized Boston Red Sox, 1901
Minneapolis Millers → dropped 1901
Indianapolis Indians → dropped 1901
Baltimore (moved to New York in 1903 and later became the Yankees), Philadelphia and Boston were added in 1901.

Brain Structure And Political Belief

At Discover Magazine, via Ritholtz:
Can neuroscience provide evidence for a liberal and conservative thinking style?
It may seem like a stretch to say that one could predict whether you lean left or right by looking at a brain scan—no questions asked, no opinions voiced—purely based on your neuroanatomy. However, this might not be too far from reality—at least insofar as predicting thinking style, which has been shown to be somewhat distinct based on party association.
Does brain structure determine your beliefs, or do your beliefs change your brain structure? What about those who switch parties at some point? How do they fit in to this model? We’ll be discussing all of this. It’s a complicated issue with lots of variables in play, so we’re going to take a pretty deep look into this topic from all angles, so we can draw the most accurate conclusions.
It is a pretty interesting discussion, mainly because the brain is so fascinating.  On a seperate brain story, I heard a great, apparently old Radiolab story on the connections of the brain to the body this weekend.  Check it out.

Harvest Update

We're making headway with harvest.  We're just under 50% done with soybeans, and 25% done with corn and the winter wheat is sown.  Yields picked up as we started running some of our best ground, but the corn is topping out around 160 bu/acre, and the beans have maxed so far around 45.  Another week and a half of the nice weather we've been getting, and we'll only be waiting on the very late stuff and the double crop beans.

Happy Columbus Day / Canadian Thanksgiving Day

Happy Columbus Day to our nation's bankers and Italian-Americans.  Happy Thanksgiving to our neighbors to the north.  Are there traditional CFL games on the Canadian version of the holiday? Oh, wait, here's the answer:
Similar to the United States, traditions such as parades and football can be a part of Canadian Thanksgiving. The Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest parade is the most widely known Canadian Thanksgiving Day parade and is broadcast nationwide on CTV. The Canadian Football League holds a nationally televised doubleheader known as the "Thanksgiving Day Classic". It is one of two weeks in which the league plays on Monday afternoons, the other being the Labour Day Classic. Unlike the Labour Day games, the teams that play on the Thanksgiving Day Classic vary each year.
I guess that answers that.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Milky Way

From the Big Picture:

I Smell A Bubble

Dayton Daily News:
Forget the gold rush. The most valuable material in the land right now might be the land itself.
While gold prices have retreated after surging to near-record highs, the value of farmland continues to climb at a brisk clip, driven by surging prices for agricultural commodities and a dearth of available property.
In Ohio, the price of farm real estate — which includes all land and buildings used for agriculture production — has shot up 7.5 percent from 2010 to an average of $4,300 per acre, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently reported.
That was higher than the national average of $2,350 per acre, up 6.8 percent from last year, according to the report.
The boost in cropland prices alone was even greater, jumping 8.6 percent to $4,400 in year-over-year comparison.
It’s a trend that’s been gaining momentum for several years as U.S. farmers have planted more crops in 2007 and 2010 than any other year in the past 60 years, based on government data.
Why do I think it is a bubble?  All the talk about how it is a great deal:

Division III Roundup

#2 Mount Union walloped Marietta 62-0
#3 St. Thomas got by Augsburg 17-0
#8 Thomas More beat Grove City 37-7
#9 Bethel defeated St. John's 41-20
#14 Wittenberg lost to Huntingdon 38-20
Maine Maritime got by Westfield State in double overtime, 36-34
John Carroll defeated Wilmington, 44-7
and Defiance beat Mt. St. Joseph 23-13.

The rest of the scores are here.