Monday, March 30, 2009

But everyone knew her as Nancy

It's adults only in some libraries, thanks to the Speaker of the House of Representatives:
In February, an overzealous law governing lead in products resulted in toys going from store shelves to the trash heap. Now, confusion over how the rules affect children's books has led some libraries to rope off kids' sections.

....Older books pose hardly any danger, according to safety experts at the Centers for Disease Control. The problem is the ambiguity in a law that leaves businesses facing lawsuits if they can't prove their products are safe. In addition to libraries, thrift stores, church bazaars and small batch toymakers are also unclear what they can and can not sell. Makers of bicycles and ATVs have pulled youth models -- designed to increase safety -- off the showroom floor at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Nancy Pelosi boasted last summer that the toy safety law would mean products weren't merely made differently in the future but would be removed from the shelves today. That's the real source of this mayhem, as she was amply warned at the time by Democrat John Dingell, among others. Ms. Pelosi prevailed, and now the harm to thousands of businesses, charities and even public libraries is manifest. Since the House Speaker won't admit a mistake and fix the law, the [Consumer Products Safety Commission] must do what it can to prevent more damage to the already challenging economy.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Burma Shave

There's nothing new under the road that meets the rubber:
Don't be surprised if you see Col. Sanders out filling potholes. In an unusual cause-marketing push, KFC is tackling the pothole problem in Louisville, Ky. in exchange for stamping the fresh pavement with "Re-freshed by KFC," a chalky stencil likely to fade away in the next downpour.

"This program is a perfect example of that rare and optimal occurrence when a company can creatively market itself and help local governments and everyday Americans across the country," said Javier Benito, exec VP-marketing and food innovation at KFC.

Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson noted in a statement that budgets are tight for cities across the country, and finding funding for road repairs is a dirty job. "It's great to have a concerned corporation like KFC create innovative private/public partnerships like this pothole refresh program."

The KFC program appears to be part of a growing body of consumer-service marketing that connects in a meaningful way. This past holiday season, Charmin provided a public restroom in Times Square for the third year running. The company has also developed anapplication for iPhone and BlackBerry that helps consumers find toilets when the need arises.Samsung has installed electrical charging stations in many major airports to help travelers stay connected while in limbo.

Perhaps most importantly, while KFC seems more suited to pot pies than potholes and efforts like these are unlikely to sell chicken sandwiches in the short term, the company is likely to build a reservoir of goodwill among the general population -- particularly when they arrive at the pothole they've gotten used to swerving around.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Barack Obama Doll

When you pull its string, it says, 'Math is hard'.
In that sense, what it would do is it would equalize -- when I give $100, I'd get the same amount of deduction as when some -- a bus driver who's making $50,000 a year, or $40,000 a year, gives that same $100. Right now, he gets 28 percent -- he gets to write off 28 percent. I get to write off 39 percent. I don't think that's fair.

That is, of course, the flip side of progressive income tax schemes. High income people pay higher marginal tax rates and thus have higher incentives to donate to charity as a result. Obama seems to be decrying the unfairness of higher tax rates to people who pay lower rates.

But, it gets worse for Obama as the questioner follows up:
QUESTION: It's not the well-to-do people. It's the charities. Given what you've just said, are you confident the charities are wrong when they contend that this would discourage giving?

OBAMA: Yes, I am. I mean, if you look at the evidence, there's very little evidence that this has a significant impact on charitable giving.

About the evidence, Obama is wrong--as Tom Maguire has noted--there is such evidence.

However, this morning in the NY Times, carries an open letter that says that ain't Jake:
...I have decided to donate 100 percent of the effective after-tax proceeds of my retention payment directly to organizations that are helping people who are suffering from the global downturn. This is not a tax-deduction gimmick; I simply believe that I at least deserve to dictate how my earnings are spent, and do not want to see them disappear back into the obscurity of A.I.G.’s or the federal government’s budget.

....On March 16 I received a payment from A.I.G. amounting to $742,006.40, after taxes. In light of the uncertainty over the ultimate taxation and legal status of this payment, the actual amount I donate may be less — in fact, it may end up being far less if the recent House bill raising the tax on the retention payments to 90 percent stands. Once all the money is donated, you will immediately receive a list of all recipients.

It would only be far less if Obama gets his way and reduces the deduction for charitable deductions, because Mr DeSantis can, as of the law now, donate the entire amount of the bonus prior to taxes. But, it seems that confiscatory taxes do have the expected incentive, contrary to what the President said in his news conference.

Happy as a Pig in Slop

Barack Obama backer and financial supporter of the Democrats squeals in delight:
A hedge fund manager who predicted the global credit crunch has said the financial crisis has been 'stimulating' and the culmination of his life's work.

George Soros, who predicted the global financial crisis twice before, was one of the few people to anticipate and prepare for the current economic collapse.

Mr Soros said his...decision to come out of retirement in 2007 to manage the [Quantum] fund made him $US2.9 billion.

And while the financial crisis continued to deepen across the globe, the 78-year-old still managed to make $1.1 billion last year.

'It is, in a way, the culminating point of my life’s work,' he told national newspaper The Australian.

Soros is one of 25, top hedge fund managers from across Wall Street who have defied the credit crunch crisis to reap a total of $11.6billion (£7.9bn) last year.

It shall be a crime...

...not to drink small wine:
Pubs will be forced to sell wine in smaller glasses as part of a new Government crackdown on binge drinking.

No word yet on how many hoops the three hoop pot will need to have:
Be brave, then; for your captain is brave, and vows reformation. There shall be in England seven halfpenny loaves sold for a penny: the three-hooped pot; shall have ten hoops and I will make it felony to drink small beer: all the realm shall be in common; and in Cheapside shall my palfrey go to grass: and when I am king, as king I will be,—

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Well, Do you feel lucky?

Do, ya, Mr. Yamaguchi:
A man of 93 has become the first person certified as a survivor of both the U.S. atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the end of the Second World War.

Tsutomu Yamaguchi appears to be the only person in history to have survived not one, but two atomic bomb blasts.

....Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima on a business trip on August 6, 1945, when a U.S. B-29 dropped an atomic bomb on the city.

He suffered serious burns to his upper body and spent the night in the city.
Traumatised, he then sought the refuge of his hometown - Nagasaki.

With devastating timing, he arrived just in time for the second attack, city officials said.

The Side Walk to Nowhere

Coming to a neighborhood near you, paid for by you, if you live in Seattle:
Jesus Barajas wanted granite countertops and hardwood floors but is settling for Formica and carpet. Instead of hiring professional house painters and landscapers, he now plans to do the work himself.

The soured economy is part of the reason Barajas is downsizing his dreams for the new, 2,400-square-foot home he's building on property he's owned for nearly 30 years. Mostly, though, he's cutting back on amenities to pay for construction of a sidewalk outside his front door.

The price tag: nearly $15,000 for a 60-foot strip of asphalt.

Seattle officials admit Barajas is an unintended target of a year-old city ordinance meant to force developers to provide infrastructure improvements in the city's 22 designated urban villages.

....Barajas, a janitor for King County Metro since 1990, and his wife, Maria, a housekeeper at a downtown hotel, have saved for 12 years to afford the down payment on their $250,000 construction loan.

"I just want something to live comfortable after I retire," said Barajas, 61, adding that the new house will be his teenage daughter's inheritance.

The financial sting of building a sidewalk is all the more painful because Barajas wouldn't need one if he lived on the west side of 32nd Avenue South, instead of the east side. That's because the western boundary of the MLK at Holly Street urban village is the center line of Barajas' narrow residential street.

....Homebuilder Olivier Prock has spent countless hours trying to negotiate with city staffers on Barajas' behalf. ....

...he...has to pay for an engineer, a surveyor and an excavator. He also has to pay for a transportation-department review and inspection, along with traffic control while the sidewalk is built and street cleaning after it's done. By Prock's estimate, the sidewalk — measuring 60 feet long and 6 feet wide with a 5-foot-wide planting strip and curb abutting the road — will cost $13,920 to $14,420.

"At first I thought they were joking, I thought they misread the code," Prock said,....

The last new home on Barajas' street was built 10 years ago, he said. At that rate, Prock figures it could take 100 years or longer for a continuous sidewalk to be built.

"We'll all be dead and buried, and by that time, Mr. Barajas' sidewalk would have outlived its useful life," he said.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sweden to Trollhattan; Drop Dead

General Motors will soon abandon Saab to its fate, which doesn't appear to be socialism:
...the Swedish government has responded to Saab's desperate financial situation by saying, essentially, tough luck. Or, as the enterprise minister, Maud Olofsson, put it recently, "The Swedish state is not prepared to own car factories."

Such a view might seem jarring, coming as it does from a country with a reputation for a paternalistic view of workers and companies. The "Swedish model" for dealing with a banking crisis — nationalizing the banks, recapitalizing them and selling them — has been much debated lately in the United States, with free-market defenders warning of a slippery slope of Nordic socialism.

But Sweden has a right-leaning government, elected in 2006 after a long period of Social Democratic rule, that prefers market forces to state intervention and ownership. That fact has made the workers of Trollhattan wish the old socialist model were more in evidence.

....Swedish officials have condemned what they see as protectionism by other European countries that have pledged to prop up their own failing car industries. They have also been scathing about General Motors, Saab's owner, and the last thing they want is to seem to be bailing out a despised foreign company.

Struggling for its own survival, G.M. has said it will completely pull out of Saab by the end of 2009, a course that Ms. Olofsson, the enterprise minister, described as tantamount to declaring "that they wash their hands of Saab and drop it into the laps of the Swedish taxpayers."
She said: "We are very disappointed in G.M., but we are not prepared to risk taxpayers' money. This is not a game of Monopoly."

Saab lost about $343 million last year. It is now going through a Swedish process known as reorganization, a step short of bankruptcy, as it tries to persuade its creditors to prop it up while it looks for a buyer. Joe Oliver, a spokesman, said in an interview that "around six serious investors," from Sweden and abroad, had expressed interest.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Beginning to see the light

And, it's not at the end of the tunnel:
Obama seems incapable of balancing the need to be a national leader and his childish desire to retain his image as the uber cool dude he so clearly believes that he is.

....Obama has never run anything other than his presidential campaign. He doesn't know the difference between governing and campaigning and he's sticking with what he knows.

....The most striking aspect of the Leno appearance is that while he's all smiles and self-regard, Obama is flat out not funny.

....He speaks like the kind of lecturer who puts their students to sleep. His first prime time press conference (there is another coming this week) was colossally dull, with rambling ten minute answers.

Still don't believe that Obama is the new [Jimmy] Carter? Michael Wolff writes: "It's instructive and humorous to remember that Carter ran a brilliant campaign that succeeded largely because his voice was new. Simple, direct, basic, human. And then, of course, he turned into a sad-sack twit."

Sound familiar? That sums up Obama rather well right now.

Not over til...

It's over, RIP:
As her performance on Big Brother made clear, her years of formal education had left Jade Goody with little knowledge. She thought that a ferret was a bird and abscess a green French drink; that Pistachio painted the Mona Lisa; that Sherlock Holmes invented the flush lavatory; that East Anglia ("East Angular" in Jade-speak) was abroad; and that Rio de Janeiro was "a bloke, innit?"

She eventually attended Bacon's College in Rotherhithe – one of Britain's first City Technology colleges. Following her first appearance on Big Brother, the college felt constrained to emphasise that its exam results had improved since Jade left. ....

After leaving school, Jade eventually found employment as a dental nurse. When she applied for a place in the Big Brother house, however, she was up to her ears in debt, had recently been evicted from a flat in Rotherhithe over £3,000 of unpaid rent and was facing jail over an unpaid council tax bill.

....Given Jade Goody's status as a media creation, it was perhaps inevitable that when stories began to circulate of a "cancer scare", some assumed it was just another tasteless publicity stunt. That did not prove to be the case. After her initial diagnosis last year, it quickly became clear that her cancer was at an advanced stage. Radical surgery failed to stem its progress and early last month she was told it was terminal.

There was time for one more twist however, as, on February 22, in a blaze of publicity which was said to have earned her close to £1 million, Jade Goody married a 21-year-old carpet fitter, Jack Tweed. In order that the couple could spend their wedding night together, he was allowed to ignore the 7pm curfew which was a condition of his early release from an 18-month prison sentence imposed for assaulting a 16-year-old boy with a golf club.

Her husband survives her with her two sons.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Better left unsaid

The policy of organized labor in Washington State, appears to be: Millions for defense of our perks, but not one dime for hypocritical tribute to virtue:
Lawmakers would not release the e-mail, but a copy was obtained by The Seattle Times. It apparently was from a staff member of the Washington State Labor Council to several members of labor organizations as well as a small number of state lawmakers.

It reads in part:

"Brothers and Sisters, Just a quick update on where we are on the Worker Privacy Act:

• "Great leadership call yesterday where folks agreed that we would push for passage in the House this week and then call for a union president meeting with the Governor and the Majority Leader of the Senate to move the bill through the rest of the process.

• "Union leaders would send a message to the State Democratic party and to the Truman and Roosevelt funds from the House and Senate that 'not another dime from labor' until the Governor signs the Worker Privacy Act."

[Emphasis, the FLUBA's]

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

So Easy Even Cave Dwellers Can Do It: Sleepers in Missouri

Where getting the shaft means one mortgage loan by the private sector saves a homeowner:
An eastern Missouri family expects they'll be able to stay in their home built inside a cave after accepting an offer of a private mortgage contract. Curt Sleeper said Tuesday that a New Jersey-based business offered a 15-year loan with a low interest rate that should allow the family to keep their home in Festus, about 30 miles south of St. Louis.

"We're excited about it." To celebrate: "We're throwing a party at a friend's cave," he said.

Curt and Deborah Sleeper fell in love with the unique geography of an old mining cave in 2004 and figured out how to build a house inside of it. But they were having trouble making a large payment that was coming due on the property, prompting them to put their home up for auction on eBay.

They no longer plan to auction the home through the Web site, but Sleeper says the house will remain there until paperwork is completed on the loan.

Jon Demarest, owner of Logical Source Inc., confirmed that his the Fairfield, N.J.-based archiving and medical record company offered the Sleepers a mortgage.

Where Everybody Knows You're Gone

The recession claims a victim; a famous bartender:
Eddie Doyle was the guy who really did know everybody's name, at least when he started working at the tavern that inspired the television show "Cheers."

To the tens of thousands of tourists that later passed through, Doyle remained behind the bar to offer a smile, a beer and tips about where to find the Boston that wasn't shown on TV.

Now Doyle is out of a job, laid off from "Cheers" after 35 years. The bar's owner has said a tough economy and sagging business forced the move, which was one of several layoffs.
Doyle said he's not bitter, just surprised and a little sad.

....Doyle, who was laid off in February, has spent the past few weeks cleaning out his office and reflecting on what he considered a great run.

....Doyle was nothing like his TV counterpart, the womanizing barkeep Sam Malone. He's married to the same woman he met at the bar when he was a regular there in the early 1970s.

Lights are on...

...but, no one is answering:
The British Government is finding it "unbelievably difficult" to prepare for the G20 summit because no one in the US Treasury department is answering their calls, Britain's top civil servant Gus O'Donnell has said.

....Amid the worst global economic crisis in decades, the Cabinet Secretary said Number 10 was having trouble even getting in touch with key personnel at the US Treasury.

"There is nobody there," he told a civil service conference in Gateshead. "You cannot believe how difficult it is."

The reported comments come after Downing Street aides were left frustrated by the White House's chaotic handling of arrangements for Gordon Brown's visit last week.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Bank Failure

The gang that couldn't drill straight:

The thieves hoped to steal thousands from the Royal Bank of Scotland branch in Poynton, near Macclesfield, Cheshire, but clearly had not done their homework.

Having forced their way into the wrong property, they tried – and failed – again to get into the bank before running out of time and fleeing.
....Insp Gareth Woods of Cheshire police said: "This offence seemed organised to a certain extent but was clearly not the slickest and best executed crimes we have ever seen.
"It looks like they've broken into a flat above the bank and pulled some carpet up and made a hole in the floor only to end up in the space below.
"They clambered back up and went to another room to drill a hole in the ceiling of the bank but couldn't gain access.
"We can only assume they must have taken a long time to do it and they probably fled because they ran out of time or were disturbed."

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

No Pressure Cooker

Onc French chef prefers no heat in his kitchen:
A young French chef awarded his first Michelin star on Monday said he fought to stay out of the revered guide, afraid that joining the star system would be a poisoned chalice.

Cedric Bechade, 32, said he asked Michelin's reviewers to leave his Auberge Basque eatery in the foothills of the Pyrenees out of the 2009 guide for France, but that they "did not respect my wishes as a businessman."

Now he holds a star, Bechade said the need to hold on to the make-or-break ranking - or be seen as losing his edge - was an unwelcome diversion from the business of making good food.

What goes up

Must come down...of its own accord, or it's pay the Piker:
Hikers who reach the summit of Pikes Peak but are daunted by the descent have reason to find a second wind — calling rescuers will cost a hefty fee.

The city council of Colorado Springs set a fee of $100 or more if uninjured hikers call 911 for help because they're not up to walking down the 14,000-foot peak.

The fee could increase if snow has to be plowed from Pikes Peak Highway for rescuers to fetch a stranded hiker.

Rather be in Philadelphia

Where the doughnuts are:
British Transport Police (BTP) officers are currently in the States to share railroad security and counter-terrorism practices with officers from Amtrak Police Department (APD), which looks after America's railways.

But first things first - the day began with the all-important visit to Dunkin Donuts.

Officers from BTP then jointly patrolled Philadelphia's 30th Street Station where they observed Amtrak's security operations onboard trains and around the station.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Cash for the barrelheads

Italy's growth industry:
The Mafia and its loan sharks, nearly everyone agrees, smell blood in the troubled waters.

"It's a fantastic time for the Mafia. They have the cash," said Antonio Roccuzzo, the author of books on organized crime. "The Mafia has enormous liquidity. It may be the only Italian 'company' without any cash problem."

At a time when businesses most need loans as they struggle with falling sales, rising debt and impending bankruptcy, Italian banks have "absolutely closed the purse strings," said Gian Maria Fara, the president of Eurispes, a private research institute.

That is great news for loan sharks. Confesercenti, the national shopkeepers association, estimates 180,000 businesses recently have turned to them in desperation.