March 30, 2007

Couldn’t Help But Notice (033007)

If you’re a lawyer, Chubb says blogging makes you uninsurable (HT Techdirt).

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In Paris, rioting is back in fashion again (HT Atlas Shrugs; more here). My guess is that in the US, underplaying the story is also back in vogue.

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Reason 13,248 for the Fair Tax: All right, the questions used to reach the conclusion were shaky, but I believe the conclusion would stand even if the questions had been more predictable — According to Accounting Web, 8 in 10 people need professional help to fill out their income tax returns.

Notice I didn’t say that they GET the help.

In 2007, this is ridiculous. People have better things to do than spend hours filling out IRS forms that even a genius can barely understand. And many studies have shown that even “expert” tax return preparers often get it wrong.

With a Fair Tax, there wouldn’t BE an income tax return, and as they say, April 15 would just be another spring day. Go to the link to learn more.

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Andy at Buckeye Ag has some sharp opinions (here and here) on the announcement by Burger King that it will begin buying eggs and pork from suppliers that don’t confine their animals. As he notes, this appears to be a cynical and opportunistic competitive tactic that gives ground that should never have been ceded to people who ultimately want the eating of meat banished from the earth.
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Though the company says they’ve only given up on Manhattan, New York City appears to think it’s too good for Wal-Mart. Pretty funny, considering that even far-lefties acknowledge that there is very little difference between Target and Wal-Mart in the areas they claim to be most concerned about. Yet the Big Apple has plenty of Target stores, and Target appears to have avoided the unpleasantness Wal-Mart has endured. This 2005 Times article (4th paragraph from the end) says that “There are five Target stores in three New York City boroughs: the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens….”

More on the Gratis Card

Filed under: Business Moves — Tom @ 6:15 am

This new business was first mentioned at this post about Biz Weak-covered items last week (2nd item; name of card added at original post for continuity).

If successful, the Gratis card and its support system are going to take a meat ax (long overdue, in my opinion) to the interchange fees that merchants pay to credit card issuers when a customer uses a credit or debit card.

Current interchange rates are roughly 2% – 5%, depending on the size of the merchant. A $100 purchase from a small merchant using American Express probably costs the merchant close to 5%, which a $100 purchase using a Visa card at Wal-Mart probably costs the rough-and-tumble retailer a bit less than $2. These costs are not visible to consumers, because the agreements merchants enter into with issuers prohibit them (the merchants) from offering cash discounts.

Gratis promises huge cost savings; it also appears there will be space saved in consumers’ wallets:

GratisCard Inc. will charge 50 basis points on each transaction (That 0.5% — Ed.). The card will be targeted at merchants that process low-value payments. GratisCard says the card requires no incremental investment by merchants since its software works with magnetic stripe and barcode scanners, or simple numeric keypads. The Company also noted its system will reduce transaction time with average processing speed of 30 milliseconds. As a credit card or prepaid card the initial market will be consumers with poor to medium credit. For consumers, GratisCard says the new card can aggregate prepaid and credit cards, as well as other loyalty cards so there is only one card to manage.

If the company’s heavy-hitter backing and seasoned management are any indication, Gratis has to be rated as having a fair chance to succeed. If there’s a downside, it may be that merchants may will look at that 0.5% fee and decide that it costs more than that to accept cash (it probably does), and thus refuse to accept anything that isn’t plastic. If “no cash” becomes widespread, Brinks and other armored truck businesses may have very big haircuts looming on the horizon.

‘Voting with Feet’ Continues in Cuyahoga and Hamilton Counties

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:10 am

From the Associated Press last Thursday:

Cleveland, its close suburbs shrinking

3/22/2007, 5:38 p.m. EDT
CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland and its Cuyahoga County suburbs have been losing population at a pace only exceeded by Detroit’s Wayne County and the Gulf Coast region devastated by hurricane Katrina in 2005.

U.S. Census Bureau population estimates also show Cincinnati’s Hamilton County shrinking and Columbus and Franklin County growing slightly.

Cuyahoga’s population dropped 1.2 percent, from 1,330,428 to 1,314,241, between July 2005 and July 2006. Hamilton County’s dropped 0.7 percent, from 828,487 to 822,596.

It’s a dry, numbers-driven report, so let’s refresh: People vote with their feet and abandon where they live because of crime; high taxes; poor schools; and, in some cases, lack of open space. It would be nice to think that Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland, or Hamilton County and the City of Cincinnati, are doing something about these problems. Whatever they are doing, if anything, is not enough.

At the LA Times, Agenda Journalism Never Sleeps

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:05 am

Patterico has the goods: on the Times’ latest effort to create something out of nothing in the US Attorney firings non-event:

The editors of the L.A. Times know that fired U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins disputes the central premise of an article they published, about whether his dismissal was tied to a political investigation.

They know it — but their readers don’t. And they have decided to hide this fact from their readers.

The paper reported that Cummins feared there was a connection between his firing and an investigation he had conducted. Cummins has since unequivocally said that he does not fear that, and knows of no possible connection. He believes he was misquoted. Even if he wasn’t, he says, the quote did not accurately state his beliefs, as should have been clear from the context of the conversation.

No matter. The paper has decided to leave its readers in the dark.

Read the whole thing. Why anyone parts with real money to read a paper, or advertise in one, that carries out studied and deliberate deceptions such as what is described above is beyond me.

Positivity: Survival Miracle at Sea (Two Weeks)

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From the Courier Mail in Australia:

A MISSING medical team has been found alive 400km from where they disappeared after their boat drifted for more than two weeks off Indonesia.

“(Friday) night Doctor Juliana Carolus and friends, who were missing since February 28, were found alive in the Dobo waters,” ministry of health official Rustam Pakaya told AFP.

Carolus, head of the health office in the Tanimbar isles, with five of her staff, left on a speedboat on February 27 from the town of Saumlaki on the way to Kormomolin, about two hours away by speedboat.

The Dobo waters, where they were found, are about 400km away from where they set off.

The group was reported to have been found by fishermen, floating near the Papua mainland. They are all reported as being well.