August 23, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 9:23 PM


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Posted by orrinj at 9:09 PM


Doing what comes naturally : Tallahassee make timeless old town music on Wolfe Moon (CHRIS CONTI  |  September 22, 2009, Providence Phoenix)

Tallahassee frontman Brian Barthelmes speaks softly and carries a big beard, a burly dude who just switched vocations from bruising offensive lineman to social worker and budding singer/songwriter, penning most of the lyrics with help from Rhodes piano/banjo man Scott Thompson.

Barthelmes attended the University of Virginia, where he learned how to "finger pick a guitar and banjo and fell madly in love with Bluegrass and old-time country music. Of course, I had to listen to some metal to get rowdy before a game, but my real pleasure came after a game with a porch, a drink, an old folk record, and my friends and family," Barthelmes recalled via email while vacationing with the in-laws last week. And one need not be NFL-obsessed (guilty as charged) to get a kick out his recollections while earning a paycheck with the Pats:

"Creating art has always been my first love. I really did not care for football whatsoever . . . In 2009 I realized that I was miserable playing football professionally as I had no time for music, art, or giving back to humanity. I laugh in retrospect at my final training camp; I should have been memorizing plays and watching film, but instead I was giving guitar lessons to Junior Seau, Dan Koppen, Matt Light, Mike Vrabel, and mandolin lessons to Tedy Bruschi. I had started an illustrated poetry book for adults, and recorded an EP in my hotel room, which I debuted in the weight room. Coach Bill [Belichick] politely told me as he cut me that I may want to pursue a different profession, so here I am."

Wolfe Moon is a gorgeously crafted merger of folk, country, and blues (the band's name derives from the Muskegon Indian translation "old town") in the spirit of Fleet Foxes and Crooked Fingers, and Iron & Wine and Townes Van Zandt are proclaimed major influences. The disc follows their self-recorded '08 EP Cellar Songs; Thompson conceded the band was "never quite satisfied with how the EP turned out. "The new album is a big step forward for us," he said. "We tracked the new record in just four days, whereas we spent about four months recording the EP piecemeal. Whenever we start to overthink something it usually gets discarded pretty quickly."

The hasty process for the 11 songs on Wolfe Moon is belied in its overall grace and beauty.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 PM


A Bold New Direction : The election's winner will face economic trouble and political deadlock. Here's a way through. (KENNETH SILBER, August 23, 2012, aDVISOR oNE)

First devised in the 1980s by the late Princeton economist David Bradford, the X tax has gotten renewed attention in policy circles lately. A recent book making a detailed case for such a system is Progressive Consumption Taxation: The X Tax Revisited, by economists Robert Carroll and Alan D. Viard (American Enterprise Institute, 2012).

An X tax is a VAT that has been revamped so as to maintain progressivity. As with any VAT, tax is due at every stage of production or distribution. However, as with a progressive income tax, household wages are taxed by brackets; also business cash flow is taxed at that scale's top rate. The burden falls squarely on consumption. Firms can deduct their business investments, and households pay no taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains. All savings, in effect, are getting the advantage of being in a Roth IRA.

As proposed by Carroll and Viard, the X tax would be a broad transformation--replacing personal and corporate income taxes, estate and gift taxes and the Unearned Income Medicare Contribution Tax. It would, however, leave in place other federal taxes, notably the payroll tax (as the authors' focus is on eliminating taxes that penalize saving).

If the new president wants to achieve a truly historic legacy, he might go one step further: replacing the payroll tax with a carbon tax.

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 PM

Posted by orrinj at 5:24 AM


Amazon's Political Heat Map Colors Book-Buying Preferences (Roberto Baldwin, August 21, 2012, Wired)

Amazon has introduced a heat map of the political books sold in the U.S. An overwhelming lean toward red hues suggests that conservative-themed books are outselling left leaning ones coast to coast.

Posted by orrinj at 5:18 AM


Cautious Moves on Foreclosures Haunting Obama (BINYAMIN APPELBAUM, August 19, 2012, NY Times)

After inheriting the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, President Obama poured vast amounts of money into efforts to stabilize the financial system, rescue the auto industry and revive the economy.

But he tried to finesse the cleanup of the housing crash, rejecting unpopular proposals for a broad bailout of homeowners facing foreclosure in favor of a limited aid program -- and a bet that a recovering economy would take care of the rest.

During his first two years in office, Mr. Obama and his advisers repeatedly affirmed this carefully calibrated strategy, leaving unspent hundreds of billions of dollars that Congress had allocated to buy mortgage loans, even as millions of people lost their homes and the economic recovery stalled somewhere between crisis and prosperity.

..left him terrified of helping the undeserving poor who had loans.

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 AM


Americans waste, throw away nearly half their food: study (Reuters, 8/21/12) 

Americans throw away nearly half their food every year, waste worth roughly $165 billion annually, according to a study released on Tuesday.

Posted by orrinj at 4:53 AM


Fewer circumcisions could cost the US billions, says study (AFP, August 22, 2012)

As debate rages over the ethics of infant circumcision, a study published Monday said falling rates of the once-routine procedure in the United States could cost billions of dollars in health costs.

"We find that each circumcision not performed will lead to US$313 (RM980) of increased expenditures over that lifetime," said senior investigator Aaron Tobian, of the Johns Hopkins University team that did the study. [...]

In all, the nearly 25 per cent drop in circumcisions since the 1980s could run up a tab of about US$2 billion in health care costs, the study found.

And if US circumcision rates were to drop as low as one in 10, the average across Europe, the research team estimated the associated rise in medical expenses would total US$4.4 billion over the lifetimes of a decade of babies.

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 AM


Tootsie's Secret Empire : A CEO in His 90s Helms an Attractive Takeover Target. So What's Next? No One Really Knows (BEN KESLING, 8/21/12, WSJ)

The 116-year-old company, run by one of America's oldest CEOs, has become increasingly secretive over the years, severing nearly all of its connections to the outside world. Tootsie Roll shuns journalists, refuses to hold quarterly earnings calls, and issues crookedly-scanned PDFs for its earnings releases. The last securities industry analyst to maintain coverage of the company stopped last year because it was too hard to get information.

"I think the only way you can get a tour is by jumping over the fence and sneaking in," said the last analyst to attempt the task, Elliott Schlang of Cleveland firm Great Lakes Review.

The chairman and chief executive of Tootsie Roll is Melvin Gordon, a bespectacled man in his 90s who has headed the company for 50 years. He runs it with his 80-year-old wife, Ellen.

Decades of acquisitions have given Tootsie Roll a product gallery of mostly antique--though profitable--candy brands, including Charleston Chew, Sugar Babies, Junior Mints, and Blow Pops, in addition to the company's chewy, brown namesake. Mr. Gordon likes to joke with visitors about the Tootsie Roll's robust shelf-life, and he and his wife have worked hard to ensure that the company stays out of the clutches of competitors. The Gordons control the company, primarily through their majority ownership of its powerful class B stock, each share of which is worth 10 votes to common stock's one vote. [...]

Tootsie Roll's Chicago headquarters is a modern-day Willy Wonka factory. Massive puffs of steam billow out of humming machines on the roofs of the gray cinder block and red brick buildings, which sit surrounded by off-kilter "no trespassing" signs. The Gordons haven't granted an interview in years. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 AM


Alleged Hate Crime in Israel Part of Larger Trend (Dan Ephron, Aug 22, 2012, Daily Beast)

An alleged hate crime against Palestinians in West Jerusalem this week, which left one young man unconscious and in the hospital, underscores a troubling reality: that Israeli teens are more militantly anti-Arab than their parents and increasingly more prone to rejecting democratic values. [...]

In the latest incident, at least five teens are suspected of punching and kicking a Palestinian nearly to death over the weekend at a crowded public square in Jerusalem, as dozens of other youngsters looked on. The Palestinian, 17-year-old Jamal Julani, collapsed and stopped breathing at one point, but was resuscitated and is now in stable condition.

A police spokesman said the five suspects--three boys and two girls, ages 13 to 19--were in custody and being questioned. "For my part, he can die," one of the suspects, a 15-year-old, told reporters outside of the courtroom, in reference to Julani. "He's an Arab."

The attack was unusual in its brazenness. According to the police spokesman, the teens allegedly roved Jerusalem's downtown area chanting anti-Arab slogans and looking for victims before setting on Julani and several of his friends. Other violence against Palestinians in recent years has been more clandestine, including mosque burnings and roadside ambushes.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


U.S. auto loan delinquency rate hits 13-year low ( Jerry Hirsch, 8/23/12, Los Angeles Times)

The national auto loan delinquency rate -- the share of borrowers 60 or more days past due on their payments -- hit its lowest level since credit report company TransUnion began tracking the data in 1999.