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ShopFloor.org: The Manufacturers Blog



Shopfloor.org is one of the top business blogs in the country discussing important issues affecting manufacturing, small businesses, free markets, outsourcing, energy prices, health care, taxes and staying competitive in the business world.



Modified: 2008-06-02T19:17:13Z

Copyright: Copyright (c) 2008, Carter Wood
 



Class-Action King Sentenced to 30 Months

2008-06-02T19:17:13Z

From the AP:LOS ANGELES — A federal judge has sentenced law firm co-founder Melvyn Weiss to 30 months in prison for his role in a lucrative lawsuit kickback scheme targeting some of the largest corporations in the nation. The 72-year-old...

From the AP:

LOS ANGELES — A federal judge has sentenced law firm co-founder Melvyn Weiss to 30 months in prison for his role in a lucrative lawsuit kickback scheme targeting some of the largest corporations in the nation.

The 72-year-old Weiss also was ordered Monday to pay $9.7 million in forfeitures and $250,000 in fines.

Reuters here.

You know, it would be really informative for Congress to have an oversight hearing into the abuses of the plaintiff's bar. Weiss would probably appreciate a trip to Washington to break upon the monotony of prison.




A Constitutional Question about Lieberman-Warner

2008-06-02T18:45:50Z

Can we at least all agree that S. 3036, the Lieberman-Warner climate change bill, is all about raising revenues? (Specifically: Title IV, Auctions and Uses of Auction Proceeds.) Well, then, the bill should not have been introduced in the Senate...

Can we at least all agree that S. 3036, the Lieberman-Warner climate change bill, is all about raising revenues? (Specifically: Title IV, Auctions and Uses of Auction Proceeds.)

Well, then, the bill should not have been introduced in the Senate and it should not be debated there.

Unless the U.S. Constitution has no meaning.

U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 7. All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.




The Moral High Ground

2008-06-02T15:46:56Z

The pro-regulation, pro-tax, pro-crush-the-economy side of the global warming issue -- supporters of Lieberman-Warner included -- want to claim the moral high ground in the debate, since inaction will supposedly lead to dead polar bears, endangered crustaceans, and every other...

The pro-regulation, pro-tax, pro-crush-the-economy side of the global warming issue -- supporters of Lieberman-Warner included -- want to claim the moral high ground in the debate, since inaction will supposedly lead to dead polar bears, endangered crustaceans, and every other bad thing that ever happens.

But doesn't the moral high ground actually belong to those productive members of our society who create wealth, including the tax revenues that finance the government's protection of the environment? Jobs creators have a better claim of doing good than do the jobs destroyers, right?

Anyway, just a thought, prompted by this observation in today's Washington Post:

"This is just a money grab," said James E. Rogers, the chief executive of Duke Energy. Rogers says he supports a cap-and-trade system but argues that this bill raises too much revenue from coal users while diverting too much of it to other purposes. "Only the mafia could create an organization that would skim money off the top the way this legislation would skim money off the top," he said. Duke, with customers in Ohio, Indiana and the Carolinas, relies heavily on coal-fired plants.




Two Must Reads to Start Your Cap-and-Trade Day

2008-06-02T15:00:58Z

Robert J. Samuelson, writing in The Washington Post, "Just Call it Cap and Tax": The chief political virtue of cap-and-trade -- a complex scheme to reduce greenhouse gases -- is its complexity. This allows its environmental supporters to shape public...

Robert J. Samuelson, writing in The Washington Post, "Just Call it Cap and Tax":

The chief political virtue of cap-and-trade -- a complex scheme to reduce greenhouse gases -- is its complexity. This allows its environmental supporters to shape public perceptions in essentially deceptive ways. Cap-and-trade would act as a tax, but it's not described as a tax. It would regulate economic activity, but it's promoted as a "free market" mechanism. Finally, it would trigger a tidal wave of influence-peddling, as lobbyists scrambled to exploit the system for different industries and localities. This would undermine whatever abstract advantages the system has.
And the basic truth that too many policymakers want to avoid addressing: "If we suppress emissions, we also suppress today's energy sources, and because the economy needs energy, we suppress the economy."

And The Wall Street Journal, "Cap and Spend," which does a great job of detailing just how this vast wealth transfer would be parcelled out by politicians.

When cap and trade has been used in the past, such as to reduce acid rain, the allowances were usually distributed for free. A major difference this time is that the allowances will be auctioned off to covered businesses, which means imposing an upfront tax before the trade half of cap and trade even begins. It also means a gigantic revenue windfall for Congress.

Ms. Boxer expects to scoop up auction revenues of some $3.32 trillion by 2050. Yes, that's trillion. Her friends in Congress are already salivating over this new pot of gold. The way Congress works, the most vicious floor fights won't be over whether this is a useful tax to create, but over who gets what portion of the spoils. In a conference call with reporters last Thursday, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry explained that he was disturbed by the effects of global warming on "crustaceans" and so would be pursuing changes to ensure that New England lobsters benefit from some of the loot.

Here's today's Senate program:
Senate will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to consideration of S. 3036, Climate Security Act, and vote on the motion to invoke cloture
on the motion to proceed at approximately 5:30 p.m.
Perhaps the most straight-forward thing you'll hear from the Senate this week.




Weiss, Milberg Sing That Boomtown Rats Song

2008-06-02T12:07:47Z

The law firm Milberg, down to one name, is close to a deal with prosecutors to settle charges the firm engaged in a various federal crimes in paying kickbacks to lead plaintiffs in class-action lawsuits. The WSJ: Class-action law firm...

The law firm Milberg, down to one name, is close to a deal with prosecutors to settle charges the firm engaged in a various federal crimes in paying kickbacks to lead plaintiffs in class-action lawsuits. The WSJ:

Class-action law firm Milberg LLP is close to a settlement that could end a federal prosecution of the firm for alleged kickbacks, according to two people familiar with the discussions. The deal would mark the climax of a case that has roiled the American plaintiff's bar.

While a deal could still fall apart, the sides have made progress after weeks of talks that have centered on the payment Milberg will have to make as part of a settlement. Last summer, prosecutors had sought about $50 million in fines and penalties, but the demand mushroomed this year to about $100 million, say people familiar with the negotiations. Recently, Milberg and prosecutors have zeroed in on a payout in the neighborhood of $75 million, these people say.

And from Reuters, a story on the today's sentencing of Mel Weiss.
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Class-action legend Melvyn Weiss can expect a rough ride on Monday when he is sentenced by a judge who handed down the maximum penalty to Weiss's former partner for his role in a kickbacks scheme involving their former law firm.

The 72-year-old Weiss, who built a multibillion-dollar shareholder litigation empire around a law firm now known as Milberg LLP, pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge in March.

More at Portfolio, a feature story on the Bill Lerach-Mel Weiss duo, with such tidbits as: "Compared with Lerach, Weiss has always been the more compelling and complex character, down to the diamond pink ring that he will probably be wearing to his sentencing hearing."

With all the deals done, the sentences issued, wouldn't now be a good time for Congress to hold an oversight hearing into the predations of Milberg Weiss and the plaintiff's bar?

P.S. That Boomtown Rats' song? "I Don't Like Mondays." Although "Rat Trap" might also fit.




The Week Ahead: The Week of June 2

2008-06-02T11:53:16Z

Congress is back from its Memorial Day recess, with the Senate setting its cap for cap-and-trade anti-global warming legislation. You know, there's an old German saying: Lieber man wärmer als Lieberman-Warner.* The Senate convenes at 2 p.m. and is scheduled... Congress is back from its Memorial Day recess, with the Senate setting its cap for cap-and-trade anti-global warming legislation. You know, there's an old German saying: Lieber man wärmer als Lieberman-Warner.* The Senate convenes at 2 p.m. and is scheduled to vote at 5:30 p.m. on cloture on a motion to proceed to S. 3036, the Climate Security Bill. The House convenes Tuesday at 2 p.m. The week's floor schedule includes"> H.R. 3021, the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act; the conference report on S.Con.Res. 70, the budget resolution; and perhaps H.R. 2642, the war supplemental. The House floor schedule for the week is here. House hearings: A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Wednesday considers Health IT and privacy. On Thursday, a Judiciary subcommittee holds a hearing on H.R. 3652, the Protecting Employees and Retirees in Business Bankruptcies Act. (Details.) Thursday it's a House Science subcommittee hearing on H.R. 4174, the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act. A House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Thursday considers "Maintaining our Nation's Highway and Transit Infrastructure." Senate hearings: Senate Commerce holds a hearing Tuesday on energy market manipulation. George Soros will testify, aptly enough given his historical skill at manipulating markets. Also Tuesday, Senate Finance holds a hearing on health-care costs. (Details.) On Thursday, the Banking Committee examines the state of the banking industry. Also Thursday, Finance holds a hearing, "C, K, or S: Exploring the Alphabet Soup of Small Business Choices in Advance of Tax Reform." ZZZZZ Executive Branch: President Bush has a meeting scheduled this morning on the economy and tax cuts (10:50 a.m., EEOB). The White House congressional picnic is Wednesday afternoon; on Thursday the president makes remarks at the ceremonial groundbreaking for the U.S. Institute of Peace, yet another building on the Mall. (With a webcam, too.) He then meets with the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Jan Peter Balkenende. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is also in town, meeting with POTUS on Wednesday. Secretary Paulson gives remarks in Dubai today on investment. Commerce Secretary Gutierrez is in Kiev, Ukraine, midweek; on Saturday, he's in St. Petersburg, Russia. USTR Ambassador Schwab is at the OECD Ministerial in Paris June 3-4. Economic reports: Today is the release of the ISM report for May. Friday the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the May jobs figures. More. * "Better warmer than Lieberman-Warner." Roughly. Very roughly. And it's a joke, anyway. [...]



Penn State: Innovation, Education and Scholarship

2008-05-31T16:13:28Z

From the Centre Daily Times:Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor Emily Stover De- Rocco sees Penn State as a driver of innovation and the Pennsylvania economy — something she plans to highlight in her new role as visiting senior policy...

From the Centre Daily Times:

Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor Emily Stover De- Rocco sees Penn State as a driver of innovation and the Pennsylvania economy — something she plans to highlight in her new role as visiting senior policy fellow in Penn State’s Office of Workforce and Economic Development.

DeRocco, who is senior vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Manufacturers, said this will be an opportunity to use her education and experience to shape the university’s role on a broader level.

“Higher education and universities around the country are taking on a much higher role in the transformation that’s occurring in education, our economy and the work force,” she said. “Penn State has for a long time had a substantial impact on the regional economy.”

DeRocco is an alumna of Penn State and will receive the university’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

Emily is also president of the Manufacturing Institute, of course.




Cool Stuff Being Made: Avanti Cigar Company

2008-05-31T15:10:40Z

This week's "Cool Stuff Being Made" takes us to the American cigar capital of ...Scranton, Pa.? You bet. As Dominic Keating, company president, tells us on our factory tour, Avanti Cigar Company is the nation's largest producer of all-tobacco cigars,...

(object) (embed) This week's "Cool Stuff Being Made" takes us to the American cigar capital of ...Scranton, Pa.?

You bet. As Dominic Keating, company president, tells us on our factory tour, Avanti Cigar Company is the nation's largest producer of all-tobacco cigars, exclusively. From the company's website:

With prices that start at 45 cents each and top out at a dollar and a quarter, the cigar lines produced by Avanti Cigar Company are not status symbols. But for the serious connoisseur who wants to experience a unique, mild, and flavorful smoke, these Italian style cheroots are anything but a step down.

"We feel it's our turn now to be part of the cigar phenomenon" says Tony Suraci, Jr., marketing director and part of the third generation of the Scranton, Pennsylvania-based clan that produces Parodi, DeNobili, Avanti, Petri, and several other regionally recognized brand names for the Toscano-style cigar market. All told, the company manufactures and distributes over 30 million 100% U.S. tobacco cigars annually. While those numbers might sound impressive, the company routinely sold two to three times that number during its heyday in the 1960s. Nonetheless, Avanti still produces more all-tobacco cigars than any other U.S. company.
Mr. Keating does a nice job of explaining the machinery and processes and people, with lots of detail along the way.

To Pennsylvania Cable Network, we say grazie for providing the video.




Poll: Public Disinclined to Waste Money

2008-05-30T21:17:56Z

From The National Center for Public Policy Research:Washington, DC - Just as the U.S. Senate is poised to vote on the Lieberman-Warner America's Climate Security Act (S. 2191), a new poll finds an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose the higher...

From The National Center for Public Policy Research:

Washington, DC - Just as the U.S. Senate is poised to vote on the Lieberman-Warner America's Climate Security Act (S. 2191), a new poll finds an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose the higher energy costs that Lieberman-Warner would impose.

The poll, conducted by the Public Opinion and Policy Center of the National Center for Public Policy Research, found that 65% of Americans reject spending even a penny more for gasoline in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The number rejecting raising gas prices in an effort to combat global warming has increased by 17 percentage points -- or 35% -- in just over two months. The National Center conducted a similar survey in late February.

There's more here, including the questions and crosstabs, a sign of confidence in the poll and its results.




This Week on America's Business Radio

2008-05-30T19:37:24Z

Congressman Bart Gordon (D-TN) helped push passage of legislation that will create an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy. That agency will harness some of the best minds in America to help the nation develop solar, nuclear and other alternative...

(image) Congressman Bart Gordon (D-TN) helped push passage of legislation that will create an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy. That agency will harness some of the best minds in America to help the nation develop solar, nuclear and other alternative energy, Gordon says.

“Bring in a program director, get the public sector, the private sector, the national labs, the universities, everyone together in trying to really break through,” says Gordon, a guest on this week’s “America’s Business with Mike Hambrick” radio program. “We’re going to have to have some major breakthroughs.”

Gordon, who is also chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, also talked about that panel's examination of ways to improve electronics recycling, or e-waste management.

Washington Post Columnist Bob Samuelson regularly gives his readers the straight dope on politics and the economy. Samuelson has been a guest on “America’s Business” before. He returns to talk about presidential candidates, free trade, and an issue on many people’s minds – sky high gasoline prices.

Americans love their gadgets but when our laptops, cellphones and video games break or go obsolete they end up in the garbage can. However, Mike will talk to Electronics Recyclers International Chief Executive Officer John Shegerian about how his company is turning a lot of that electronic junk into gold.

Keeping your tires properly inflated is one way to improve gas mileage. But did you know filling tires with nitrogen can improve gas mileage even more? Branick Industries President Brian Brasch will visit “America’s Business” to talk about his company’s nitrogen tire inflation systems.

In our regular segments, Renee Giachino of American Justice Partnership gives us the latest on tort reform and commentator Hank Cox recalls the “The Way It Was.” And the National Association of Manufacturers President Gov. John Engler will close the program with “The Last Word.”

For more about “America’s Business with Mike Hambrick” and to listen to the program online, please click here. And for video highlights and more, check out www.americasbusiness.org.




On Trade, The Rest of the World Isn't Waiting

2008-05-30T16:39:26Z

While the U.S. Congress blocks trade agreements that would lower tariffs against U.S. exports, other countries busily reach deals. From Colombia Reports: The Free trade agreement between Canada and Colombia will be ready in the first week of June, Colombian...

While the U.S. Congress blocks trade agreements that would lower tariffs against U.S. exports, other countries busily reach deals. From Colombia Reports:

The Free trade agreement between Canada and Colombia will be ready in the first week of June, Colombian Minister of Agriculture told Caracol Radio.

The two countries finished another round of talks this weekend and are almost ready presenting a final agreement. ‘The most difficult issues are dealt with,” he said. “We hope that in the first week of June the treaty between the two countries is ready,” he said.

The original report in Spanish is here.

Also, Peru signed free trade agreements with Canada and Singapore yesterday.




The Costs and Politics of Energy

2008-05-30T15:18:52Z

The National Review's editor, Rich Lowry, cites NAM Chief Economist David Huether to issue a bipartisan critique of the presidential candidates' position on energy and global warming. Well, mostly a critique of McCain. From The Corner:The Party of Cheap Energy?...

The National Review's editor, Rich Lowry, cites NAM Chief Economist David Huether to issue a bipartisan critique of the presidential candidates' position on energy and global warming. Well, mostly a critique of McCain. From The Corner:

The Party of Cheap Energy? [Rich Lowry]

Higher energy prices are threatening to stoke broader inflation and are eating into workers' paychecks, as USA Today noted yesterday: “Already, says David Huether, economist for the National Association of Manufacturers, soaring energy prices mean that the average worker's wages have fallen, when adjusted for inflation. `If you exclude energy, real wages would be rising now,’ Huether says.” Wouldn't it be a great time for the GOP to favor cheap, abundant energy? Especially when the nomination of Barack Obama is creating an opening among working-class voters who are especially feeling the pinch? Alas, the GOP nominee supports a scheme to make energy more expensive in an ineffectual gesture toward addressing a theoretical threat from global warming. What a missed opportunity.

05/30 11:09 AM





The Bigger the Crisis, the Bigger the Contribution

2008-05-30T14:11:37Z

From a Union of Concerned Scientists' fundraising letter:With the global warming crisis reaching a critical point, each of us must strengthen our commitment to meeting this threat. Please donate today to ensure your donation will be doubled. UCS is uniquely...

From a Union of Concerned Scientists' fundraising letter:

With the global warming crisis reaching a critical point, each of us must strengthen our commitment to meeting this threat. Please donate today to ensure your donation will be doubled.

UCS is uniquely positioned to seize the opportunities presented by heightened public awareness about global warming, strong pressure on policy makers to take action, and a new president in the White House. We are a trusted voice among the scientific community and in Washington, DC, and our groundbreaking scientific analysis helps steer policy makers toward the best solutions before it is too late.

Your donation will allow us to respond quickly to the rapidly changing policy landscape in the coming months. Please make a generous donation to the UCS Matching Gift Fund today.
Trusted, eh?

The full letter is here. OK, granted the letter lacks the more refined touches, you know, the weeping polar bears, but... "before it is too late." Apocalypse, now.




A Lieberman-Warner Warm-Up Round-Up

2008-05-30T13:53:09Z

With the Senate to begin the debate Monday on the Lieberman-Warner cap and trade, tax and spend legislation, much excellent commentary is appearing around the web. Heritage Foundation, The Foundry blog, "Lieberman-Warner is Lose, Lose":Last week the Natural Resources Defense... With the Senate to begin the debate Monday on the Lieberman-Warner cap and trade, tax and spend legislation, much excellent commentary is appearing around the web. Heritage Foundation, The Foundry blog, "Lieberman-Warner is Lose, Lose":Last week the Natural Resources Defense Council put out a report claiming “Doing Nothing on Global Warming Comes With Huge Price Tag.” Covering the report’s release, the Austin American-Statesman wrote: “If the United States doesn’t do something soon to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it could cost the country $3.8 trillion annually from higher energy and water costs, real estate losses from hurricanes, rising sea levels and other problems, an environmental group predicted Thursday.” The NRDC’s report is a case study in how environmental groups distort science to deceive the American public. Roy W. Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, in The National Review, "Sacrifices to the Climate Gods":Lieberman-Warner will, in effect, punish the use of energy by making it more expensive. Yet, energy is necessary for all human activities. We are already causing a food crisis around the world by converting food, such as corn, into liquid fuels for transportation. Now, with the Climate Security Act, we will also be causing additional turmoil at home as the poor struggle to survive in a world where only the middle class and wealthy can afford to live relatively comfortably. We will, in effect, be sacrificing even more humans at the altar of radical environmentalism in the vain hope that the gods in charge of weather and climate will look favorably upon us, and not destroy us. Charles Krauthamner, The Washington Post, "Carbon Chastity": Predictions of catastrophe depend on models. Models depend on assumptions about complex planetary systems -- from ocean currents to cloud formation -- that no one fully understands. Which is why the models are inherently flawed and forever changing. The doomsday scenarios posit a cascade of events, each with a certain probability. The multiple improbability of their simultaneous occurrence renders all such predictions entirely speculative. ...Yet on the basis of this speculation, environmental activists, attended by compliant scientists and opportunistic politicians, are advocating radical economic and social regulation. "The largest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity," warns Czech President Vaclav Klaus, "is no longer socialism. It is, instead, the ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous ideology of environmentalism." And here's the plan for Senate consideration. From The Congressional Record, Daily Digest: Senate Chamber Program for Monday: Senate will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to consideration of S. 3036, Climate Security Act, and vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed at approximately 5:30 p.m. [...]



The Business of America is Energy

2008-05-30T13:30:50Z

Investor's Business Daily today praises Exxon-Mobil for having a refreshing point of view, that is, the company is in the business of producing energy.Speaking to reporters after the annual meeting of Exxon stockholders Wednesday, CEO Rex Tillerson shoved political correctness...

Investor's Business Daily today praises Exxon-Mobil for having a refreshing point of view, that is, the company is in the business of producing energy.

Speaking to reporters after the annual meeting of Exxon stockholders Wednesday, CEO Rex Tillerson shoved political correctness aside and insisted the science on climate change is not settled and "that to not have a debate on it is irresponsible" and that to "suggest we know everything about these issues is irresponsible."

Also irresponsible is to ignore the growing energy requirements of the U.S. and world economy, hoping they will be met solely by sources such as biofuels which actually harm the environment by leading to cutting down forests and disturbing the soil to plant crops destined for our gas tanks, releasing huge amounts of CO2 in the process.

Tillerson says that "everyone agrees that notwithstanding the growth in all other options for supplying energy, renewables, nuclear, biomass alternatives, you are still going to require substantial fossil fuels to meet energy needs, and two-thirds is going to come from oil and natural gas."

Oil sands, the Bakken formation, oil shale ....if we developed our domestic energy resources, we can meet that demand.

More at The Chilling Effect.

And speaking of the Bakken formation:

NEW YORK (Associated Press) - North Dakota's mineral resources director says a $1.85 billion deal between two Texas companies is the biggest oil transaction on record for the state's part of the Williston Basin.