Archive for July 2013

New Emergency Broadcast Texts

Don't know if you have seen these, but many cellular networks activated the capability to broadcast government "emergency" messages in the last week.  Mine has gone off twice in 3 days.  I get a tone like the old emergency broadcast network test on the radio and then a text like this one.  Not sure why dust storms that are routine features of summer here in Phoenix warrant having the NWS spam my phone, but there it is.  Tornado and tsunami warnings certainly make sense.  Wonder when the first conspiracy theory / scandal hits, such as the election day alert that warns people to avoid travel.

 

PS, gotta love "til" rather than "until".   Can't wait for the "Tornado Warning - FML" message.

Local Celebrity

I just read about a project dedicated to local celebrities, people who are very famous in their own backyard but not known at all beyond a small region.

The one person in this category I could think of (beyond local TV and radio personalities) is Johnny Barnes in Bermuda.   I encountered him around the year 2000 when I went to Bermuda for a job interview -- I was running Internet companies at the time and a group in Bermuda had an idea to combine an Internet B2B model with offshore banking and tax havens.  Transfer pricing games seemed to be prominent in the model.

Anyway, there he was, at a busy traffic circle almost everyone on the island passed when going to work in the morning.  He just stood there saying hello and good morning to everyone.  I found out later he was a Bermuda icon -- if he missed a day the radio stations and government offices would be flooded with calls from people asking if he was OK.  Searching the Internet, I found that someone has made a film about him.

 

The Crony Christmas Tree

One item that was part of the (thankfully) deceased farm bill that got little attention was a levy on live Christmas trees.

Apparently, live Christmas tree producers are upset at competition from artificial trees.  And there is nothing to which Congress is more sympathetic than using government coercion to help industry incumbents fight off new competition.

Readers may or may not know that the government often steps into certain agricultural commodities and, at the behest of the largest producers, creates mandatory advertising regimes.  In these regimes, a tax is levied on everyone's product and the money is used to fund advertising campaigns (e.g like the ones for milk and beef).

The most recent farm bill was to create a similar regime for live Christmas trees, requiring all tree producers to pay the per-tree tax whether they wanted or needed the advertising campaign or not.  So, for now, we have escaped holiday government-funded ads like "Pining for Christmas" and "Live Trees:  They are What's Fir Christmas."

The egg industry was silent on whether they would consider a similar step to battle plastic Easter eggs.

On Crazy Government Requests and Subsidizing Economists

There is some chance this may be apocryphal (I don't see any evidence the reporters confirmed this with the FDA), but as someone who has had government inspectors show up on our property demanding to see our license to sell eggs, it wouldn't surprise me if true.  I am bombarded with government insanity of this genre every day.

Apparently, a children's magician who was forced to obtain a government license for his stage rabbit is claiming

My USDA rabbit license requirement has taken another ridiculous twist. I just received an 8 page letter from the USDA, telling me that by July 29 I need to have in place a written disaster plan, detailing all the steps I would take to help get my rabbit through a disaster, such as a tornado, fire, flood, etc. They not only want to know how I will protect my rabbit during a disaster, but also what I will do after the disaster, to make sure my rabbit gets cared for properly.  I am not kidding–before the end of July I need to have this written rabbit disaster plan in place, or I am breaking the law.

The bizarre government requests like this one at least give us a laugh around here.  Less funny are the zillions of other pieces of waste paper that must be supplied to various agencies every month -- for example the 9 different permits which took 3 years to accumulate from Ventura County just to remove a dangerous and rotting deck  (not coincidentally, we are closing all our business in Ventura County at the end of this year).  Just in the last several days the Department of Labor asked for new, more onerous monthly reporting of headcounts and payroll by state (I declined) and the census bureau asked for quarterly rather than annual detailed reports of our lodging business (I declined).

One piece of advice I would give to harried small business people is to say "no" as often as possible to these data requests.  Obviously, you will need to turn in your monthly sales tax reports or you will be going to jail, but do you really need to feed the census?  The department of Commerce?  The Department of Agriculture?  The Labor Department?  Much of this data they gather is used either 1) to craft regulations that will just make your life as a business owner harder in the future or 2) to subsidize academics and economists in the form of free data.  As I told the Labor Department the other day, I am happy to fill out their survey if they want to pay me, say, $100 a month to compensate me for my time.  Otherwise they are just stealing free labor and proprietary data from me to help some grad student write her PHD or help some Wall Street hedge fund manager better call the market.