Posts Tagged ‘business’

Presidential Disingenuity

Posted: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 11:21 pm
By: RadioActive Chief
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This is the latest example of B.O.’s continuing disingenuous criticism of Republican “obstructionism”. Frankly the Chief is really tired of hearing this sort of attack…like the GOP should roll-over and rubber stamp whatever he proclaims as being The Truth.

Obama: GOP Holding Tax Cuts “Hostage”
President Urges Congress to Approve Extension of Middle Class Tax Cuts from Bush Era for Families Making Less Than $250,000

President Obama is applauding two Republican senators who voted for a small business bill and says he’d welcome that kind of cooperation on the divisive issue of extending tax cuts for the middle class.

Mr. Obama thanked Republicans George Voinovich of Ohio and George LeMieux of Florida for voting to move the bill closer to final passage. Speaking in the Rose Garden after a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Mr. Obama urged lawmakers to approve an extension of Bush-era tax cuts for middle class families making less than $250,000 a year.

After praising these two Republocratic Demmicans for being properly submissive to the proclaimed will of The One, B.O. went on with one of his favorite complaints against the opposition:

Mr. Obama says Republicans should stop holding those tax cuts “hostage.”

This was originally, and continues to be one of the most puzzling political statements one can ever encounter. Let’s do some simple arithmetic.

The House of Representatives currently contains 434 members (with one vacant seat). This is comprised of 256 Democrats, and 178 Republicans. The Senate seats are currently held by 57 Democrats, 41 Republicans, and 2 Independents. Even without using a calculator or computer, it is readily apparent that there are significantly more Democrats than Republicans in both houses.

After careful examination of my trusty pocket Constitution, I see nothing there that prevents majority rule from operating in either of the houses of Congress. If President B.O.’s halo of political glory is not enough to persuade even his own party members from supporting his often ill-conceived legislative and policy initiatives, then what reason does he have to blame the GOP? All he needs to do is to have his partisan legislative satraps drum up enough loyal Democrats and he would be able to pass anything he wanted…oh, yeah, enough loyal Democrats to support his agenda…not any more.

In the case at hand the bone of contention concerns whether or not to kill the so-called Bush tax-cuts, which is worth commenting on in itself:

“They want to hold these middle class tax cuts hostage until they get an additional tax cut for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans,” Mr. Obama said. “We simply can’t afford that.”

This statement, on its face, is false. According to B.O. he so called wealthy are those with $250K or more of income. While the Chief concedes that that certainly seems to be greatly more than he has had the chance to appreciate in his life, it must be recognized that a significant number of small businesses that are not incorporated are included in this group, and pay income tax on their legal BUSINESS as legal INDIVIDUALS.

Given the continued stubborn lack of employment to respond as predicted to the massive Keynesian bout of trillion dollar stimuli, throwing a de facto tax increase onto these small businesses, that historically create the most jobs, is the LAST thing needed to help relieve unemployment. Also of dubious veracity is the shot about affording this tax cut, ignoring the dynamic that repeatedly increases net government revenue as marginal tax rates are reduced…but why quibble with reality, when there’s an need for some way invent another political stick to flail the opposition in response to diving poll numbers and fading electoral hopes.

Madison: Our Classy Town

Posted: Thursday, August 12, 2010 at 7:28 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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That’s the Stadium Sports Grill, bringing class to Main Street Madison since 2007.

Caterpillar crawls into the Hills

Posted: Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 1:51 pm
By: David Newquist
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Bob Mercer was about the first news person in South Dakota to note that Caterpillar, Inc., will have an engineering and design center up and running in Rapid City by October.  This is probably some of the most important news for the state since the National Science Foundation selected the Homestake Goldmine for the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory.

The story is still breaking on the South Dakota media, although I received notice of the press release from Caterpillar late yesterday from a journalism organization I belong to that sends out daily summaries of breaking stories.

None of the stories I read in either the national or state media went beyond the press release, although the Rapid City Journal did, apparently, interview the president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology who made some comments promoting his institution, claiming that an alumnus who works for Caterpillar was involved in the decision to create the Black Hills Engineering Design Center.  The press release makes note of Rapid City’s diversity of resources as a reason for situation the Center there, and the educators suggest that the attraction is that the company can tap directly into SDSM&T  graduates to fill the staff for the facility.  The problem with that explanation is that the research and development organizations, both corporate and government-sponsored, rely on talent from many institutions and geographical backgrounds for the critical development of products and services.  Caterpillar has two other engineering design centers.  One is in India, reflecting Caterpillar’s place in the global market.  The other is in Champaign, Ill., the site of the huge University of Illinois campus, and about 90 miles form Caterpillar’s corporate headquarters in Peoria.

If Caterpillar hopes to attract major talent for its research and development projects, it may have its eyes on the people that will be coming in to work with the DUSEL facility, now called the Sanford Underground Laboratory.  The Black Hills have long been noted as being a nice landscape and geographical environment in which to work, but the limited culture and intellectual climate has been discouraging.  The prospect of the DUSEL and the people it will attract has changed that.

Within recent weeks, Caterpillar has also expanded its interests in mining with a new venture centered on that activity in North Carolina, and with the expansion of its underground imaging technologies, with the acquisition of a company in that field.

Those rapidly developing fields of science and engineering may well make the Black Hills their center.  It’s like rocket science.  Only more difficult.

BP, TransCanada Buy Same “Scientists”

Posted: Saturday, July 24, 2010 at 8:19 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Classic Big Oil playbook: BP is trying to stifle science. As it rounds up experts to help build its defense against over 300 lawsuits stemming from the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, BP is trying to get academics under contract not just to testify on their behalf, but to prevent them from offering any testimony for plaintiffs against BP. Those contracts include confidentiality clauses that would restrict scientists on BP’s payroll from publishing any research results on the oil spill for three years.

Hmmm… why kill all the lawyers when you can buy all the scientists?

Anyone care to speculate how many of the 3% of active climate scientists who still deny anthropogenic climate change have been similarly bought by Big Oil? Or how many of these educated folks who helped prepare the inadequate draft environmental impact statement for the Keystone XL pipeline may have contracts to ensure they never say a discouraging word about the designs of Big Oil?

Worth noting: Entrix, the consulting firm TransCanada paid to write the DEIS and lowball the risk of pipeline rupture, is also BP’s go-to team for environmental consulting. Also, one of the Entrix folks in charge of oil spill risk assessment in the DEIS has as her highest degree an MBA from questionable for-profit online University of Phoenix.

Blognote / Obamanomics: Truth and Consequences

Posted: Monday, July 5, 2010 at 11:40 pm
By: RadioActive Chief
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Firstly, a side note: Phew! Travel done & recovery/decompression mode largely done after having 4 weeks on the road since May 19th, with several short breaks back home.

I KNEW it was time to stop when I woke up one night and thought “This is the most comfortable place we’ve stayed yet – but why can’t I remember checking in?” A moment later I realized I was at home! ’nuff said!

So…to business: this item from that noted mouthpiece of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy (VRWC)…the New York Times?

A Market Forecast That Says ‘Take Cover’

WITH the stock market lurching again, plenty of investors are nervous, and some are downright bearish. Then there’s Robert Prechter, the market forecaster and social theorist, who is in another league entirely.

Mr. Prechter is convinced that we have entered a market decline of staggering proportions — perhaps the biggest of the last 300 years.

In a series of phone conversations and e-mail exchanges last week, he said that no other forecaster was likely to accept his reasoning, which is based on his version of the Elliott Wave theory — a technical approach to market analysis that he embraces with evangelical fervor.

Originating in the writings of Ralph Nelson Elliott, an obscure accountant who found repetitive patterns, or “fractals,” in the stock market of the 1930s and ’40s, the theory suggests that an epic downswing is under way, Mr. Prechter said. But he argued that even skeptical investors should take his advice seriously.

“I’m saying: ‘Winter is coming. Buy a coat,’ ” he said. “Other people are advising people to stay naked. If I’m wrong, you’re not hurt. If they’re wrong, you’re dead. It’s pretty benign advice to opt for safety for a while.”

This article is really worth the read, and some thought. Even when they present an opponent to Prechter’s view…well…he sort of agrees too:

Over the next several years Mr. Acampora expects an “old normal market,” characterized by relatively short-lived swings that will provide many opportunities for smart investors — one that resembles the markets of the 1960s and 70s. “I’ve lived through it,” he said.

Like Mr. Prechter, he is a past president of the Market Technicians Association, the leading organization of technical market analysts, and he said that his colleague has done “some very good work.” But Mr. Acampora doesn’t agree with Mr. Prechter’s long-term theories, either intellectually or emotionally.

Hmmmm. Doesn’t agree with him EMOTIONALLY? WTF does THAT have to do with it?

The “mathematics don’t work,” Mr. Acampora said, because such a big decline would imply that individual stocks would need to trade at unrealistically low levels.

The logic here is very interesting. First, “The mathematics don’t work…” Why not? “BECAUSE such a big decline would imply that individual stocks would need to trade at unrealistically low levels.” (Like GM and GE, etc. trading for a few dollars a share in ’33?) Since when does the production of a mathematical result serve as the criteria to determine whether the mathematics “works”? He’s essentially stating that the math doesn’t work out because it gives an answer that he doesn’t like. This attitude is further amplified by the following statement:

Furthermore, he said, “I don’t want to agree with him, because if he’s right, we’ve basically got to go to the mountains with a gun and some soup cans, because it’s all over.”

Then he concludes:

“Still, on a “near-term” basis, he said, “We’re probably saying the same thing.”

Oops! Remember…THAT’s presented as an opposing view to Prechter!

At least the view from across the pond in the UK is better…right? Well, not exactly…it sounds more like the favorite observation of the robot character Marvin from Doug Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “It’s all so depressing.”

With the US trapped in depression, this really is starting to feel like 1932

The US workforce shrank by 652,000 in June, one of the sharpest contractions ever. The rate of hourly earnings fell 0.1pc. Wages are flirting with deflation.

“The economy is still in the gravitational pull of the Great Recession,” said Robert Reich, former US labour secretary. “All the booster rockets for getting us “Home sales are down. Retail sales are down. Factory orders in May suffered their biggest tumble since March of last year. So what are we doing about it? Less than nothing,” he said.

Read on for more of the gory details. Maybe the robot has it right after all.

More Madison Big Business Handouts: City Subsidizes Elevator

Posted: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 8:06 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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If we could draw an organizational chart of Madison’s power structure, we might find Madison Farmer’s Elevator somewhere near the top. Other businesses and organizations, like East River Electric and James River Equipment, have to ask nicely for their subsidies. Madison Farmer’s Elevator gets $100,000 of work done on its property for free by the City of Madison without even asking:

Also scheduled in 2011 is the railroad crossing upgrade on Highland Avenue. Comes said this $100,000 project is 90 percent funded through a railroad grant.

Don’t forget: vote in the latest Madville Times poll on what great project Madison’s taxpayers should subsidize next!

Mayor Gene Hexom asked if the Madison Farmers Elevator would be contributing funding for the project, since that company actually owns the railroad crossing.

Comes said the elevator hasn’t been approached about providing cost-share toward the project [Elisa Sand, “City Reviews Five-Year Street Improvement Plan,” Madison Daily Leader, 2010.06.22].

Ah, the Madison free market at work. Imagine if the city would just appear on your street one day, fix all the sidewalks, and not even knock on your door to ask you if you want to chip in to cover the cost.

Google: $33M in SD Ad Biz, $54B Nat’l

Posted: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 6:59 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Google provides what they call a conservative estimate of the economic activity they generate in each state of the Union. Google says $54 billion a year moves around thanks to its search and advertising tools. Now that’s not including the economic activity that occurs when I Google “rain barrel downspout diverter,” find one that fits the tank I liberated last fall, and order it from Home Depot. That $54 billion is just the money that changes hands when we click on the sponsored links on searches or the Google ads on various webpages.

South Dakota hears the jingle of “just” $33 million—0.06%—of that Google economic activity. We have 0.26% of the national population, so we seem to be lagging in bidding for search terms and buying Google ads to make a buck. Compare the two states that claim the biggest chunk of the Google pie, California and New York. California has 12% of the nation’s population but rakes in 26% of the Google bucks. New York has 6.4% of the nation’s population but claims 11.7% of that economic activity.

There are twelve states total whose percentage of Google’s economic activity exceeds their percentage of the U.S. population. In other words, 11 states and D.C. ring up more Google cash per capita than the national average:

Google econ. activity per capita
Dist. Columbia $423.58
Washington $420.16
California $381.48
Massachusetts $333.66
New York $322.39
Illinois $247.86
Utah $231.63
Connecticut $211.18
Nebraska $192.58
Nevada $192.58
Arizona $181.93
Delaware $180.77

South Dakota’s annual per capita Google cash is just $40.62, which ranks us 41st nationally. Being a rural state doesn’t mean you can’t make money with Google ads—consider that Utah and Nebraska have landed spots in the top ten for per capita activity. It may be that South Dakota businesses are more dependent on local markets and don’t see as much advantage in casting the wide ‘Net for online business as they do in advertising in traditional local media to reach their mostly nearby customers.

Google says some 2200 South Dakota advertisers and website publishers engage Google’s advertising services. Google spotlights Aberdeen’s as an example. With franchises across the country and in Canada, Kitchen Tune-up is in a good position to take advantage of such broad Web exposure.

Still, the South Dakota businesses that are taking advantage of Google advertising are generating less economic activity per business than the national average. Each participating South Dakota business generated $16,500 in Google cash (the Madville Times is dragging that average way down). That amount ranks us 36th nationally on that score, so our Google-inclined businesses are making more of Google than counterparts in some other states. But compare our take to the national average of $35,431 in Google cash per participating business. The highest per-business performance is in Nebraska, whose 5000 Googly businesses generate $69,200 each in direct Google economic activity.

$69,200 per business: for you big operators, I suppose that’s peanuts, but wowza! if I could generate even half that with ads here on the blog, I’d quit my day job. Must blog harder!

Check the complete state-by-state data and my calculations yourself on my homemade spreadsheet (you’re welcome!).

La plume de la mer

Posted: Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 9:36 am
By: David Newquist
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Those who are still smarting over the criticism George W. Bush and his administration received over the handling of Katrina are attempting to make Obama’s handling of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico  an equivalent problem.  They contend that Obama was slow to react.  What they don’t say is the government is shackled in this instance.  The shackle is called BP.

The difference between the two disasters is obvious.  Katrina was a natural storm (although some conspiracy theorists say it was controlled by human powers) which the government was unprepared, unwilling, and incompetent to deal with.  The Great Oil Plume is a man-made disaster resulting from collusion between big corporations and agreeable government bureaucracies compounded by greed, negligence, and a the strong faction on the American right who deny that humankind can be the cause of and responsible for  things that despoil the planet and threaten life, human and non-human alike.

News reports keep referring to the Deepwater Horizon disaster as a spill.  It’s not.  It’s a spew.  It’s not something that leaked or slopped over.  It is something that is furiously spewing forth toxicity, and it has been doing so for a month.

Many people do not understand why Obama is so slow to act.  I, for one, wonder why he has not acted with more decisiveness and expediency.  From an environmental standpoint, the spew has the potential of destroying the sea habitat from the Gulf to New England.  From the economic standpoint, it has the potential of destroying the fishing industry along the entire gulf and eastern seaboard.  Instead of Atlantic cod, salmon, and lobsters, those who try to get Omega-3 in their diets may be doomed to that mushy farm-raised tilapia from Indonesia.

Oceanic scientists have joined the voices raised in impatience, asking, in effect, what the hell are you doing,  Obama?

The first problem is that all the solutions for the problem lie with the oil industry.  The second part of that problem is that the government lease managers have been gullible buddies of the oil industry.  They have been assured that the safety devices that shut down wells in case of blow-outs and other failures are redundant and fool-proof.  They have become such devout believers that they have accepted as gospel the reassurances that off-shore drilling in our technological day-and-age will never cause a major environmental crisis.  Apparently, Obama bought into this when he announced that he was going to allow off-shore drilling along the east coast.

The scientists have stated one of the clues as to why the Obama administration is not acting more decisively.  According to The New York Times:

BP has resisted entreaties from scientists that they be allowed to use sophisticated instruments at the ocean floor that would give a far more accurate picture of how much oil is really gushing from the well.

“The answer is no to that,” a BP spokesman, Tom Mueller, said on Saturday. “We’re not going to take any extra efforts now to calculate flow there at this point. It’s not relevant to the response effort, and it might even detract from the response effort.”

As the major lease-holder and operator of the drilling rig and oil well, BP has legal rights through which it can control any activities and information surrounding the disaster. Those rights apparently extend to making the rules about information on the oil slick.  A boatload full of photographers were chased away from taking pictures of the slick by the Coast Guard.  As the Coast Guard vessel pulled away, someone yelled, “It’s BP’s rules, not ours.”

The Obama administration is stymied from swift and effective action by legal rules by which corporations, and particularly foreign corporations, operate.  In inquiring through our Congressional delegation just why the  U.S. government seems to be stuck on blame placing and not decisive action, I was told that the press needs to cut through the political propaganda and to deal with the facts.  I was told that the very same people who are claiming the loans provided to automobile companies to turn them into “Government Motors” and the passage of health care reform are takeovers of private industries by government are the ones who want government to take over an oil company.  The same ones who have worked against regulation of business and industry are the ones crying loudest that the administration has been lax in its regulation of BP.

The Congressional source says that there is little that the government can do in terms of taking direct action, as it is dealing with entities that lie outside of its jurisdiction.  One possible measure would be for the president and congress to declare martial law, which would put the contaminated area under military control.  But BP is a foreign corporation which could not be put under the full authority of the U.S. government.   Another possibility would be to obtain a court order requiring submission to and compliance with emergency actions the government would take.  But the oil industry has managed to erect a set of laws which limit its responsibilities in case of mishaps.  And court orders would not extend to the BP company headquarters in London.

The oil spew is not Obama’s Katrina.  It’s his dilemma.  BP is exercising its power.  It will not even allow government officials or scientists to make an assessment of the amount of  oil spewing forth or the damage being done.   BP has said it will pay all reasonable claims against the company, but it reserves the right to decide what is reasonable.  While it has obtained the cooperation of the government in trying to manage the spew, it sets the terms of that cooperation and prevents it from obtaining and releasing information about the extent and severity of the damage being done.

Obama has to admit a defeat in this matter.  Those who oppose government oversight and regulation of the way business conducts itself have got what they want:  a prodigious mess and a government too shackled to do anything about it.

Obama Cuts Taxes for Small Business with Health Reform

Posted: Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at 6:03 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Here’s something else Gordon Howie and Marty Jackley want to repeal: tax breaks for 20,000 South Dakota employers. KJAM reports that President Obama’s health insurance reform law provides tax credits to encourage small businesses and non-profits to cover at least half the cost of their employees’ health insurance. The credit applies to small businesses that offer new coverage and firms that simply maintain qualifying coverage.

And while some of the good parts of health insurance reform don’t kick in until 2013, these tax credits are in effect now: you offer coverage to your employees this year, you get to claim the credit on your 2010 taxes. The credit kicks in now at 35% of premium costs; in 2014, it bumps up to 50%.

So keep this in mind: in opposing health insurance reform (which, I emphasize again, is now law), the Tea Party is fighting a tax cut for small business.

Learn more at the IRS website (and thank you, KJAM, for the hyperlinks!).

Fox Reports Health Care Reform Boosts Entrepreneurs, Innovation

Posted: Monday, March 29, 2010 at 3:44 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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An eager reader forwards an interview from the Fox Small Business Center that finds self-employed people eager for the benefits of health care reform… benefits like more innovation and more economic liberty:

Sara Horowitz, founder and director of the Freelancers Union, said that as a result of the shift, “more (workers) [will be] in the driver’s seat about organizing their career than in the past.”

FOXBusiness: What do you see as being the biggest impact freelancers should expect from the health-care changes?

Horowitz: Right away, of course, is the pre-existing condition changes. This will be the big thing. For lower income freelancers, they will see they are able to get certain subsidies in the next few years….FOXBusiness: Do you think the health-care legislation will lead to more innovators taking the leap to the driver’s seat?

Horowitz: I do. It will enable people who stay in a job for health care to get out. People are going to have to be more nimble and more mobile. Not having your benefits tied to your employment will clearly help people be nimble [Suzanne Zionts, “How Health-Care Changes Impact Self Employed,” FOXBusiness, 2010.03.26].

I told you so. Now Fox has, too.