Saturday, November 12, 2011

Swiss Bank Account Is Preparation For Apocalypse

Cincinnati Enquirer:
Ronald Weinland thinks the world is coming to an end on May 27, 2012, but federal authorities say that is no excuse for not paying taxes. An indictment handed down Thursday claims Weinland diverted money from an Internet-based ministry operated out of his home in the Union subdivision of Triple Crown. Some of the money was transferred to a Swiss bank account in Weinland's name, according to court records.
Weinland didn't return messages on Friday, but he has referred to the Swiss bank account during his sermons that are audiocast on his website. He told his followers that he was going to open the account in his name and deposit $200,000, according to a review of those audiocasts. He said the church would be able to continue to operate if it diversified outside of the United States because the nation was on the brink of collapse.
Weinland, once a member of the Church of God, created a breakaway church several years ago named Church of God - Preparing for the Kingdom of God.
He prophesizes to members about the end of the world. In extensive writing posted on his website, Weinland said the United States will collapse causing World War III. He claims in two books sold on the Internet that the collapse will culminate in the annihilation of the human race in May.
He better hope the world ends before the IRS sends him to prison.  I don't think the odds are in his favor that it will end.

Drink Hudepohl Tonight

This post is brought to you by the good folks at Hudepohl:

I'll have one, how about you?

The Exploding Whale Incident

November 12, 1970:
On November 12, 1970, a 45-foot (14 m), eight-ton sperm whale beached itself at Florence, Oregon, on the central Oregon Coast. All Oregon beaches are now under the jurisdiction of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, but in 1970 Oregon beaches were technically classified as state highways, so responsibility for disposing of the carcass fell upon the Oregon Highway Division (now known as the Oregon Department of Transportation, or ODOT). After consulting with officials from the United States Navy, they decided that it would be best to remove the whale as they would remove a boulder. They thought burying the whale would be ineffective, as it would soon be uncovered, and believed the dynamite would disintegrate the whale into pieces small enough for scavengers to clear up.
Thus, half a ton of dynamite was applied to the carcass. The engineer in charge of the operation, George Thornton, stated—on camera, in an interview with Portland newsman Paul Linnman, that he wasn't exactly sure how much dynamite would be needed. (Thornton later explained that he was chosen to remove the whale because the district engineer, Dale Allen, had gone hunting).
Coincidentally, a military veteran from Springfield with explosives training, Walter Umenhoefer, was at the scene scoping a potential manufacturing site for his employer. Umenhoefer later told The Springfield News reporter Ben Raymond Lode that he had warned Thornton that the amount of dynamite he was using was very wrong—too little to disintegrate eight tons of untamped carcass, too much to simply push it off the beach. Umenhoefer said Thornton was not interested in the advice. However, by an odd coincidence, it was Umenhoefer's brand-new Oldsmobile that was flattened by a flying chunk of blubber after the blast. He told Lode he had just bought the Ninety-Eight Regency at Dunham Oldsmobile in Eugene, during the "Get a Whale of a Deal" promotion. Today Umenhoefer is the owner of a gun store and shooting range in the Eugene-Springfield area.
The resulting explosion was caught on film by cameraman Doug Brazil for a story reported by news reporter Paul Linnman of KATU-TV in Portland, Oregon. In his voice-over, Linnman alliteratively joked that "land-lubber newsmen" became "land-blubber newsmen ... for the blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds." The explosion caused large pieces of blubber to land near buildings and in parking lots some distance away from the beach, one of which caused severe damage to Umenhoefer's parked car. Only some of the whale was disintegrated; most of it remained on the beach for the Oregon Highway Division workers to clear away. In his report, Linnman also noted that scavenger birds, whom it had been hoped would eat the remains of the carcass after the explosion, were all scared away by the noise.
Ending his story, Linnman noted that "It might be concluded that, should a whale ever be washed ashore in Lane County again, those in charge will not only remember what to do, they'll certainly remember what not to do." When 41 sperm whales beached nearby in 1979, state parks officials burned and buried them.

Pacquiao-Marquez III

The premier boxing match of the year occurs tonight, and unfortunately for boxing, the match will be on pay-per-view, the same night that UFC goes mainstream on Fox. The restriction of audience hurts boxing severely. Maybe for Marquez, the third time is the charm, but I think Pacquiao wins.

CME Tries To Lessen Damage of MF Global Crimes

The CME Group, the major exchange where MF Global did business, took the unusual step on Friday of pledging $300 million to help ailing customers of the bankrupt brokerage firm.
The money will be an insurance policy of sorts, handed over to the trustee overseeing MF Global, and is intended to backstop the roughly $600 million in customer funds missing from the firm. While CME is not sending the money directly to customers, the announcement will provide an extra cushion that could enable the trustee to dole out additional funds.
The move comes after days of fierce complaints from MF Global’s futures industry clients, including farmers and hedge funds, who have called on CME to step in to plug the $600 million shortfall. The exchange has no legal obligation to do so, but customers have hammered CME, saying the safety of the futures industry is at stake.
“CME Group believes it is critical to pursue this option with the trustee to distribute additional securely-held customer assets,” CME Group’s chief executive, Craig Donohue, said in a statement. “Our primary concerns are the protection of our customers at CME Clearing and the integrity of all futures markets.”
MF Global’s customers, including farmers and traders, were frozen out of trading by the CME Group on the day MF Global filed for Chapter 11. While CME has transferred some of their positions to other brokerage firms, customers received only about 60 percent of the cash they posted to directly back their trades. There’s also customer cash reserves that remain frozen.
CME will provide a $250 million guarantee to the trustee’s office so it has “greater latitude to make an interim distribution of cash to customers now,” CME said in the statement. CME Trust, a related entity that was set up like an insurance fund for trying times like these when customers lose money after a brokerage firm fails, also pledged $50 million.
I don't know what the folks at MF Global were thinking, but if nobody ends up in jail, our system is completely corrupt.  This case shows how real people are screwed over in the casino financial system.  We need stronger regulation of the financial system, and the outright end of many financial products.

Lie Spotting

Via the Big Picture:

I'm not a very good liar, but I often notice I'm using a fake smile when I'm talking to somebody who is making some kind of tasteless racist or sexist comment, or some extreme political position I disagree with. I often wonder if the other person can tell, but I never know. I'm guessing this lady would notice.

Friday, November 11, 2011

College Rivalry Trophies-November 12 Edition

UAB and Memphis battle for the Bones:

According to wikipedia:
Recently the game has been accompanied by a barbecue competition befitting the "Battle for the Bones" theme.
Wisconsin and Minnesota play for Paul Bunyan's Axe, and used to play for the Slab of Bacon:

Paul Bunyan's Axe
photo from Stilleto Sports
Slab of Bacon
Akron and Kent play for the Wagon Wheel:

Wagon Wheel
Appalachian State and Western Carolina play for the Old Mountain Jug:

Old Mountain Jug
Mt St. Joseph and Thomas More play for the Bridge Bowl trophy:

Bridge Bowl trophy, and its designer
Wabash and DePauw play for the Monon Bell:
The Bell is a 300-pound locomotive bell from the Monon Railroad. At of the end of the 2010 season, the two teams have played against each other 117 times. Wabash leads the all-time series, 55-53-9, but DePauw has the advantage in games played since the Bell was introduced as the victor's trophy in 1932, 37-36-6.

300 pounds! Sports Illustrated featured the rivalry back in 1993, in the same week that Notre Dame beat Florida State.

Finally, on Tuesday, Ball State and Northern Illinois play for the Bronze Stalk trophy:

Since Northern Illinois is located in DeKalb, that seems appropriate.  Here is some DeKalb seed history I found interesting:

The history of DEKALB Genetics Corporation can be traced back to the Farm Bureau county organization, founded in DeKalb. Illinois in 1912. Tom Roberts, Sr. became the assistant manager in 1919 and then manager from 1920 to 1932. In 1923 Henry C. Wallace, the Secretary of Agriculture, spoke at the DeKalb Farm Bureau picnic and recommended development of hybrid corn. Roberts took up the project, even though he understood there would be a 12 year lead time before he could bring a product to market. As a result of this effort DeKalb AgResearch sold hybrid corn seed beginning in 1935. Sales expanded rapidly as Roberts organized a force of farmer-dealers, who were paid a 15% commission. The first popular hybrid was DEKALB 404A, which sold 508,000 bags in 1947, the same year total DEKALB sales exceeded 2,000,000 bags of seed corn. The first popular full- and short-season, large volume, single-cross maize hybrids were DEKALB hybrids 805 and XL 45. As a result, DEKALB was the leader in U.S. hybrid seed com sales from the mid-1930s until the mid-1970s (Crabb 1948. Roberts 1999).

Why Do Businessmen Want Us To Be More Like China?

Steve Jobs apparently told Obama the U.S. needed to be more helpful for businesses, like China, and others have complained that the U.S. has too many regulations.  But then there's this:
A recent survey from the Bank of China and wealth researcher Hurun Report found that more than half of China’s millionaires are either considering emigrating or have already taken steps to do so.
The survey found that the most common reason cited by respondents for emigrating was their children’s education, followed by a desire for better medical treatment and the fear of pollution in China.
The top destination among those emigrating was the U.S., accounting for 40%, followed by Canada with 37%, Singapore with 14% and Europe with 11%, the survey showed.
I know, U.S. businessmen don't want our air to be opaque, but listening to the Republicans claim they'll get rid of the EPA, you have to wonder.  It is nice to know that the wealthy in China don't think it's that great, and they want to come here.  So much for China being better.  Business executives may build plants in China, but they aren't moving there.  That says a lot.

Super Robot

Honda's latest Asimo is pretty impressive.

The Cult of Selfishness

Susan of Texas boils Objectivism down to its base over at naked capitalism:
1805 the selfish were constrained by Christian teachings on duty and charity. Fortunately for their bank accounts, modern economic conservatives like Goldberg and McArdle feel comfortable ignoring religious teachings because they can appeal to the authority of a failed screenwriter. When they are not sure what to say, they can drag out their worn copy of Atlas Shrugged and tell themselves that Ayn Rand was right: the poor are looting and mooching scum.
Rand believed that the world should be ruled by the elite, a tiny group of genetically superior men and women whose drive for excellence in the business world would inevitably lead to world domination. The only thing that hampered their rise to greatness was the mediocrity and weakness of the rest of the world. The scum, looters and moochers who made up the other 99% of the population obviously wanted to bring down the wealthy because of jealousy and shame.
Understandably, this philosophy became extremely popular in the business world. The elite saw Rand’s fairy tales of inherent superiority and personal glorification as a permission slip to denigrate and dismiss the poor. Rand taught the elite to be proud of being greedy and callous. She dreamed up a million reasons to be cold and selfish, why the emotions that were natural to her should be natural to everyone else.
Even though altruism declares that “it is more blessed to give than to receive,” it does not work that way in practice. The givers are never blessed; the more they give, the more is demanded of them; complaints, reproaches and insults are the only response they get for practicing altruism’s virtues (or for their actual virtues).
In other words, forget the poor–what about ME? Rand ignores reality, in which the rich and successful are fawned over by every segment of society. She prefers to take personal affront at any complaints, reproaches and insults directed towards cold, selfish people.
To me, that chart speaks for itself.  Economic crises occur when wealth becomes too highly concentrated.  Once super wealthy people have more money than they can ever spend, they start "investing" it in risky securities, which eventually crash.  Likewise, when the wealth isn't more evenly distributed, the majority of people have to borrow increasing amounts of money to live.  When the security markets crash, the credit dries up, bringing the economy to a halt.  It seems brutally obvious to me that income inequality and economic crises are linked.

As for Rand, she gives selfish people justification for their greed, which deep down, they know is wrong.  That is the only reason her "philosophy" is well-known.  I may try to force my way through The Fountainhead this winter, but only to know what people I disagree with like.  If it's anything like Atlas Shrugged, I'll hate every minute of it.

Investing In Infrastructure

Robert Frank and P.J. O'Rourke agree that we ought to invest in infrastructure while interest rates are low and construction workers are unemployed (h/t Mark Thoma):
And to delay infrastructure expenditure is to inflate it. For example, take a badly worn stretch of Interstate 80 in Nevada. The state's Department of Transportation says fixing it today would cost $6 million, but waiting two years would cause the roadbed to be so degraded by traffic and weather that the price would rise fivefold, to $30 million.
That's probably an underestimate. Many construction workers are currently unemployed and equipment is idle. Two years from now, putting them to work on I-80 will mean bidding them away from other jobs. Furthermore, construction materials are cheap at the moment and interest rates are at record lows.
Another example is a pair of bottlenecks in the Northeast rail corridor. Low clearances block flatcars from carrying double-decker shipping containers. The containers go by truck instead, mostly on I-95, now bumper-to-bumper day and night. Other trucks use I-81, which is also congested and adds 200-some miles to the trip. According to a study commissioned by the I-95 Corridor Coalition, the bottlenecks could be eliminated for a cost equal to half the resulting multibillion-dollar savings. And those savings don't include reductions in noise, air pollution and the number of furious drivers with beet-red faces stuck for hours in traffic.
Here is our proposal: Have Congress create a 12-person bipartisan jury of eminent — or even half-bright — citizens. Give this panel authority to decide which of the American Society of Civil Engineers' projects should not be begun right away. Greenlight all the rest, and with luck most will get done before the Chinese decide they're tired of buying our 10-year T-bills at 1.7%. In contrast to the desperately overdue maintenance projects that our proposed committee would identify, the stimulus bill passed in 2009 actually didn't have all that much infrastructure in it, and a lot of what it did have was new pork projects that were far from shovel-ready.
Man, the freight rail improvements are a no-brainer.  Unfortunately, the loony right will block more infrastructure investment because they don't want government doing anything constructive.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Christmas Tree Tax, Or Republican Stupidity?

I go with the latter.  Christian Science Monitor:
USDA promotion and research boards are common, used by at least 18 other agricultural commodities. The Christmas tree industry petitioned to set up its own promotional program after years of concern about lost market share to the artificial Christmas tree industry. The NationalChristmas Tree Association said a majority of growers favored the petition.
Industries get the Agriculture Department involved to make sure the effort to promote their product is fair and unified. If the USDA eventually approves it, a board of industry representatives will make decisions on how to promote and research Christmas trees.
Conservative critics were unbowed. David Addington, a former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney and now a vice president at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said in a post on the think tank's website that the money coming into the federal government constitutes a tax.
"The American Christmas tree has a great image that doesn't need any help from the government," Addington said.
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., piled on.
"This new tax is a smack in the face to each and every American who celebrates Christmas, and may be the best example to date of President Obama's obsession with taxing and regulating hard-working American families," he said.
So the Christmas Tree Association proposes a checkoff program of 15 cents per tree sold, and Republicans are bitching about a Christmas Tree Tax.  I've got to say, I usually buy a pretty cheap tree when I buy one, and it's usually $20-30.  Is 15 cents noticable?  No, but that won't prevent Republicans from sounding like total dumbasses.  What the f--- is wrong with these people?  It's pretty common in agriculture to have a checkoff program, and this is an industry group proposing it.  The right-wing noise machine has completely cut all ties to reality at this point.  War on Christmas, indeed.  More like a Republican war on reason.

Chart of the Day

Via the Dish, Dave Hoffman shows Pumpkin Cannons reaching a plateau:

Goodbye, Euro?

It looks like the ruling Christian Democrats in Germany are preparing to allow the Greeks, and others, out of the Eurozone (h/t nc links):
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union may adopt a motion at an annual party congress next week to allow euro members to exit the currency area, a senior CDU lawmaker said.
If passed by CDU delegates, the proposal would still have to be agreed by all three parties in Merkel’s coalition before becoming government policy. Germany would then need to persuade its European Union partners to agree to changes to the bloc’s guiding treaty to allow a country to leave the euro.
The motion proposes allowing a euro member that doesn’t want to or is unable to comply with the common currency rules to leave the euro without losing EU membership, Norbert Barthle, the ranking CDU member of parliament’s budget committee said by phone. It has been approved for debate by CDU delegates meeting Nov. 13-15 in the eastern German city of Leipzig, he said.
“This motion will go through; I am sure of it,” Barthle said late yesterday. “It will become part of our party platform for future policy with regard to amending the framework treaties of the euro,” he said. “Any country that wants to leave the euro on its own should not be prevented from doing so.”
One way or another, the bill will come due for the Germans.  If they let the countries in the periphery out, those countries devalued currencies will make German goods too expensive to buy.  At the same time, the German banks will need to raise capital to make up for all the debt write-offs they'll have to take.  There isn't a painless way out of this mess.

Also, from Businessweek, via Ritholtz, Euro Trash Talk:

Stealing From Clients?

Via Ritholtz, Jesse's Cafe Americain on Jon Corzine's MF Global collapse:
 When 'non-consequential' customers were requesting their funds, they were issued checks instead of wire transfers. The checks of course were not honored and bounced. But days later, and just hours before the bankruptcy filing, MF Global was paying BONUSES to its UK traders. Remarkable in light of how much dirty business the NY firms have been outsourcing to London. Follow the hush money.

This is a scandal of the first order, and a severe test for the Obama Justice Department, the regulatory agencies, and the exchanges.  This is a great crime, undeniably premeditated, and possibly the tip of an iceberg that would shake the public confidence in a deeply corrupt financial system. 

If a registered broker can simply take Treasuries and receipts for physical assets like gold and silver from customer accounts and give them to a complicit crony lender, and then look at the public with a straight face and say the money is missing and they do not know where it is, then no one's accounts are safe, anywhere, at any bank or broker, in the US financial system. 

This has every appearance of a legally sanctioned theft, pure and simple.
I have been unable to believe that customer assets were pledged and lost to creditors.  I can't believe that Corzine, being worth hundreds of millions of dollars, would do something so stupid.  The man doesn't seem like one who would want to risk years in federal prison for criminal theft.  If they actually did this, he is going to have to go to jail.  Jesse is right, Obama's Justice Department should be putting together a criminal case against the parties on both sides of this deal.

Harvest Is Complete

We shelled our last field of corn yesterday.  Now I've just got to fix things and feed the livestock until things warm up next spring.  This wasn't a very good crop, or even an average crop, but it wasn't as bad as I'd anticipated.  Modern plant genetics are amazing, and with a little better weather, we'd have had an awesome crop.  I guess like an old Brooklyn Dodgers fan, I'll just wait'll next year.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Is It A Bubble?

Via Mark Thoma, Michael Roberts weighs in on whether farm land prices are in bubble territory.  He agrees with a number of economists that grains are fairly priced, and while he doesn't feel that he has enough information about the farm land market to weigh in on a bubble there, he feels with food prices likely to rise, it is probably fairly valued.  I'm going to disagree.  I will wager that if the European crisis finally brings collapse number two, commodity prices will crater, just as they did in 2008, and if the governments don't print money like they did in 2008-2011, then they will stay down this time.  There's too much money chasing too few goods, and things won't work out well.  That's my opinion, for what it's worth.  It isn't based in numbers, it's based on gut feeling.

Ohio Issue Two By County

Holy hell, I knew I lived in the most Republican part of Ohio, but this is crazy.  Six counties out of 88 voted yes on Issue 2, Holmes County (Amishland, and ridiculously conservative-56% for, 44% against), Delaware (54-46) and Warren County (52-48) which are the richest suburbs of Columbus and Cincinnati, respectively, and Miami (50.1-49.9), Shelby (53-47) and Mercer County (55-45).  Shelby and Mercer Counties are each populated by a sizable population of German Catholic farmers, and Miami County is just run by the Republican Party.  Either way, most of these counties went at least 65% for John McCain, so this was obviously a major loser for the Republican Party.  Well played, Kasich.

JoePa, Penn State and the Catholic Church

Does anybody else get the feeling of deja vu over the Penn State scandal?  From what I can guess, Paterno likely heard about the investigation into Jerry Sandusky's actions with a child in 1997, encouraged him to retire and hoped that it was a one-time action.  Much like the Catholic Church, where the bishops seemed to hope that an accusation against a priest was a misunderstanding or a one-time thing, Paterno took the minimal action in 2002, when disregard of the previous event would make he and the University more liable.  Common sense and decency would indicate at a minimum in 2002 that the police should be notified.  A reliable witness can testify to actually seeing the crime.  Unfortunately, much like the Church, it appears that concern about protecting a friend, along with protecting his personal and his employer's reputation, left a criminal on the street to commit more crimes.  It would be bad enough that Paterno took no further action in 2002, when he had an eyewitness to a crime, but if he knew about the previous investigations in 1997 and 2000, and still did nothing other than pass the news up the chain-of-command, he seriously failed.  Engaging in a coverup makes someone criminally liable, while putting off the damage until it is much worse.  The Catholic Church has found this out, and now it looks like Joe Paterno and Penn State are learning it too.  It is a pretty sad way to end an otherwise honorable career.

The Voters Have Spoken

But what the hell did they say?  I think they said that they are schizophrenic.  They slapped down the Republican governor of Ohio's push to crush public-sector unions, while passing by a slightly larger margin what would appear to be an unconstitutional state Constitutional amendment nullifying the federal health care reform law, which happened to be upheld yesterday in the DC District Court of Appeals, with the majority decision written by a highly-respected, Reagan-appointed, conservative judge.

On the local front, people who work for a living in my school district voted to raise taxes on themselves by 75%, while exempting income from interest, dividends, capital gains and cash rent on farm ground.  So an elderly couple owning 150 acres of farm ground, with a current market value of at least $500,000, receiving $22,500 in cash rent a year ($150 an acre) would pay $0 in local school district tax, while somebody earning the same $22,500 a year in income at a job would pay $393.75.  That doesn't make much sense to me.  But I'm just a simple-minded farmer.

Update: I failed to mention that under the previous system, which was replaced yesterday, the couple and the worker would have each paid $225 a year.  The school needed to raise more revenue, and people (generally older) didn't want their taxes on unearned income going up, so we get this newer, elderly-friendly (read: people with savings) earned income tax.  It doesn't seem to make sense to exempt cash rent when the district is almost entirely farm land, the land prices and cash rent are at record highs, and property taxes on the value of farm ground are already significantly reduced (approximately 67%) with CAUV.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Rex Goliath

I'm definitely not a wine drinker, but here's a case where I'd be sold by the label:

At the turn of the 20th century, HRM (His Royal Majesty) Rex Goliath was the treasured attraction of a Texas circus. People came from far and wide to behold the 47 lb. bird, billed as the “World’s Largest Rooster.” Our label replicates the one-of-a-kind vintage artwork from the circus banner that hung above Rex’s roost, and we proudly honor Rex with our premium varietal wines.
Our wines are a tribute to Rex's larger-than-life personality, with big, fruit-forward flavors that are sure to please. In essence, Rex is all about letting that robust California fruit express itself in an easy-to-drink, worry-free fashion. Enjoy!
If I were forced to buy a bottle of wine, I'm definitely buying one named after a giant rooster from a circus freak show.

Asteroid To Cross Earth-Moon Orbit

An asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier is to soar past the Earth this week and, while NASA is certain that the space rock will not hit us, it will be our closest encounter with such a large chunk of rock in three decades.
The 400-yard-wide asteroid is called 2005 YU55 and at the point of closest approach it will graze our planet at 201,700 miles — about 10 percent closer to Earth than the Moon’s typical orbit.
It is the “closest approach by an asteroid, that large, that we’ve known about in advance,” said principal investigator Lance Benner, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in an educational announcement. This gives the space agency an unprecedented view of such a rare flyby — and it will take full advantage.
NASA will track 2005 YU55 from the Deep Space Network at Goldstone, California, and provide radar observations from the Arecibo Planetary Radar Facility in Puerto Rico. This should reveal a wealth of detail about the asteroid’s surface features, shape, and dimensions.
They have an explanatory graphic at the site.

Chart of the Day, Part 2

From Calculated Risk:

Either scenario is pretty bleak.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse

November 7, 1940:

I couldn't pass up the opportunity to replay the most famous civil engineering video of all-time.

Also on this date in history:

1811-The Battle of Tippecanoe
1910-The first air freight shipment (from Dayton, Ohio, to Columbus, Ohio) is undertaken by the Wright Brothers and department store owner Max Moorehouse.

Buckeye Vodka Has Early Success

Dayton Daily News:
Buckeye Vodka’s sales have tripled its projections and the spirit brand has sold its 2,000th case in just six months, according to Buckeye Vodka’s chief executive.
The vodka, distilled and bottled in Dayton, is now carried in 232 retail stores in Ohio, as well as in hundreds of bars and restaurants across the state.
“We’re thrilled with the achievement,” said Jim Finke, CEO of Crystal Spirits LLC, the parent company of Buckeye Vodka. Finke said the sales translate into “nearly $500,000 infused into the Ohio economy.”
The company has hired a distributor, Southern Wine and Spirits of Ohio, to expand Buckeye Vodka’s footprint across the state, Finke said Tuesday. Southern has 37 sales representatives throughout the state and will “take us to the next level, hopefully,” Finke said.
There are no immediate plans to market the vodka outside Ohio or to branch out into other spirits such as gin or whiskey, the Buckeye Vodka CEO said.
Good luck to them, and it would be interesting for them to branch out into other liquors.  It's good to see a microdistillery do well in Ohio.

The Regulatory Burden On Businesses In The U.S.

Economix takes aim at a Rick Perry claim that overregulation in the United States, and not cheap labor, is the reason so many jobs have been offshored from the U.S:
Is that statement true? Are American regulations so burdensome that they are driving companies abroad?
Certainly the United States tax code is impenetrably complicated, and companies do have to deal with plenty of regulations. But even so, the United States is far friendlier to business than are emerging markets like India and mainland China, according to international analyses of regulatory climates.
For the last nine years, the World Bank has been grading countries on 10 measures of business regulation: getting electricity, enforcing contracts, protecting investors, dealing with construction permits, trading across borders, registering property, resolving insolvency, paying taxes, getting credit and starting a business.
Based on these criteria, these are the top 10 countries where it is easiest to operate a business:
  • Singapore
  • Hong Kong
  • New Zealand
  • United States
  • Denmark
  • Norway
  • United Kingdom
  • South Korea
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
That’s right: The United States comes in fourth.
Hong Kong beats the United States, but mainland China — that bugaboo of American employment protectionists — does not. Instead, China comes in 91st. Despite the higher regulatory burden, American-based multinational companies have increased their employment in China by 161,400 from 2007 to 2008, a gain of about 20 percent, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. (The most recent data are for 2008.) In fact, American employment in China rose 77 percent in the prior decade, from 1998 to 2008.
Not only are China and India tough as a regulatory regime, but they are also crazily corrupt. Businesses in India need to operate their own private infrastructure, because the Indian government is too corrupt and dysfunctional to provide reliable utilities.  As for the regulatory burden in the United States, I think the problem is that businessmen love to whine and blame others for a lackluster economy. Government makes a perfectly believable bogeyman, and the echo chamber makes it seem true.

The GOP Circus

David Remnick:
The Obama-Clinton race in 2008 did not want for spectacle—it was like a full-employment plan for journalists—but, on the whole, it was a revealing contest between serious candidates. Who among the Republicans this time around is serious? Last week, while the carny caravan blared in Iowa, New Hampshire, and beyond, the business of governing in Washington, D.C., included the complexities of reviving a failed economy; Greek and Italian debt debates; the uprising in Yemen; a crisis at UNESCO. Who among the Republicans would set aside pandering rhetoric to convince Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet that a unilateral strike against Iran and its nuclear program is a dangerous idea that courts regional war? Who would set aside magical thinking about tax cuts and propose something more than scams like “9-9-9”? The notion that you can cut everyone’s taxes and fix the deficit belongs to the same Kardashian world in which you can collect wedding gifts without the burdens of marriage—a tempting scenario but, in the end, a hot slice of nothing.
You don’t have to agree with Barack Obama on every particular, or on much at all, to admit that the spectacle of the Republican field is a reflection of the hollowness in the G.O.P. itself.
I would like to believe that half of the country wouldn't actually vote for one of the Republican candidates for president.  I would really like to believe that, but I just can't.  Americans love magical thinking, especially when the alternative is to deal (painfully) with actual problems.  I am extremely concerned about what news we will be facing on the morning of November 7, 2012.

Chart of the Day

From Early Warning last week:

Pretty amazing.  Who would ever guess that human activity might actually be affecting global climate, or using up natural resources?

The Bad News At Penn State

It is very disturbing to hear the stories about former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.  All I can think of is this Sports Illustrated article covering Sandusky's retirement and his work with troubled kids through the Second Mile program.  The issue will probably hang over the Penn State program until Joe Paterno retires, and I'm not sure where it will leave JoePa's son as heir apparent.  For the next few weeks in Happy Valley, actual football games will be a sideshow.

Ohio Issue 2

From the LA Times (h/t nc links):
Kasich, the focus of both sides in the referendum fight, touts his blue-collar roots as the son of a postman. But he warns that a victory by organized labor would undercut his efforts to hold the line on government spending and rebuild the state's economy.
"Look, I understand that people are nervous about this in the public sector," he told a northeastern Ohio rally in support of the anti-union law he signed in March. But, he added, "if we want to continue on this path of pulling Ohio out of this ditch, the state of Ohio has to be responsible."
The arguments by Kasich, whose popularity has fallen sharply since his election a year ago, appear to have swayed few voters. Public and private polling indicates that Ohioans, by a substantial margin, want to overturn the new law.
Strategists on both sides say conservative legislators and the new governor, emboldened by a Republican election sweep, overreached when they added curbs on collective bargaining to a measure requiring government workers to pay a larger share of their pension and healthcare costs.
Obviously, Kasich overreached.  He barely won the election, and with normal turnout in Democratic districts, he wouldn't have won election.  Yet, he shoved through a huge grabbag of Republican wet dreams without any participation from the people affected.  Meanwhile, he pushed through another income tax cut.  The Republicans demonized public workers, when they should have been working to compromise.  The public workers knew the Ohio budget was a mess.  They were willing to make sacrifices.  But the Republicans threw away the opportunity by trying to bust the unions. 

I voted no on Issue 2, along with voting no on Issues 1 and 3.  I agree with the Republicans that changes have to be made in public sector employment, but I disagree that taxes must always go down or that workers can only collectively-bargain on wages.  I think any rational political party would have approached the state budget as a give-and-take opportunity for negotiating positive change.  Unfortunately, the Republicans aren't rational.  Republicans win gracelessly, and they lose even more gracelessly.  I don't know whether they will actually lose on Issue 2, but if they have learned any lessons, they should handle victory or defeat with a little grace, for a change.  I doubt that they will, though. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Drosselmeyer Wins Breeders' Cup Classic

Drosselmeyer won in an upset at the Breeders' Cup Classic, while 18-year-old jockey Joseph O'Brien rode St. Nicholas Abbey to a victory in the Breeders' Cup Turf:

Division III Wrap-up

#1 Wisconsin-Whitewater beat Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 37-22
#2 Mount Union squeaked by Baldwin-Wallace 25-20
#3 St. Thomas won easily versus Carleton, 56-0
Waynesburg upset #8 Thomas More, 26-23
#10 Wabash got by Wittenberg, 28-17
St. John's beat #19 St. Olaf, 27-24
Coast Guard Academy pounded Maine Maritime, 52-15
and Mt. St. Joseph beat Hanover, 41-23.

The rest of the scores can be found here.