Rich and poor divide up rural Iowa – guess who gets the land?

Bidding on farmland that went for more than $14,000 an acre

At an auction in northwestern Iowa, 314 acres of cropland fetched $4.5 million this July. The price reflects a booming worldwide demand for grain that has showered wealth on some farmers and tripled land values in Iowa in the past decade. The surge is creating local millionaires. It’s also fueling an income divide in rural areas that had long been the province of urban America…

“Iowa had had historically low levels of inequality, but now it is skyrocketing,” said David Peters, a sociologist at Iowa State University in Ames who specializes in income disparity. “Today you have far fewer farmers and a small number earning larger and larger incomes. It doesn’t spread through the economy like it used to.”

Booming worldwide demand for grain has showered wealth on farmers by tripling Iowa land values in the past decade and setting them up for record profits this year, even in the face of the nation’s worst drought in more than half a century…

Land that had long produced boxcars full of corn and soybeans is now yielding a new crop: locally grown millionaires. In doing so, it has brought to the nation’s rural areas the kind of income divide that had long been the province of urban America.

Less-populated areas dominate the ranks of U.S. counties where income inequality widened the most in recent years, according to U.S. Census Bureau data…These rural counties reflect divergent recoveries in the first two years since the last recession ended in 2009. During that time, the top 1 percent of Americans captured 93 percent of real income growth, compared with 65 percent during the recovery from the 2001 recession, according to an analysis by Emmanuel Saez…

The split has produced climbing levels of need in the nation’s breadbasket. Food-stamp demand in Iowa rose 6 percent in July from a year earlier, according to the latest government data. That’s twice the 2.9 percent nationwide increase…

Historically high land values have given farming in Iowa the appearance of a private basement poker game, where the pot keeps getting bigger while the players — the landowners –don’t change. Struyk has a seat at the table, along with his increasingly elderly peers. Fifty-five percent of the state’s farmland was owned by people 65 and older in 2007, almost double the percentage of 25 years earlier, according to survey data from Iowa State…

While Iowa’s unemployment rate is lower than the national average, it understates the disparities in the state’s rural economy as young people shrink the labor pool when they move in search of better opportunities, Peters said. The census showed that two-thirds of Iowa’s 99 counties, including O’Brien, lost population in the last decade, with many people moving to metropolitan areas, or out of state.

RTFA for lots of detail and not a heckuva lot of solutions for Iowa’s farming country poor. A contrast to the world of most of America’s multi-millionaires for whom money is a commodity unto itself.

New York strip club seeks ‘dramatic arts’ tax exemption

A New York state strip club says it should not have to pay tax, claiming an exemption for the performing arts…But the New York state tax department and an appeals court say $124,000 owed by Nite Moves does not fall under an exemption for “live dramatic or musical arts performances”.

Tax officials say the club paid taxes on non-alcoholic drinks but must also pay for admission and “couch sales”.

The exemption claimed by Nite Moves is usually applied to theatre performances or ballets.

The club is expected to ask a cultural anthropologist who has studied exotic dance – and visited the club – to testify on its behalf at the New York Court of Appeals.

An administrative law judge had previously ruled that “the fact that the dancers remove all or part of their costume… simply does not render such dance routines as something less than choreographed performances…”

The tribunal said there was not enough proof that the dances were choreographed. An appeal court which upheld the tribunal’s ruling added that club dancers did not need to have formal training.

It is expected that the high court will take about a month before issuing a decision.

No doubt they will review video evidence daily – to, um, aid in their eventual ruling.

Cripes, this takes me back almost to when I moved my personal blog over here to WordPress. Back in 2008. The critical issue in Iowa was whether or not stripping was an art form – which therefore allowed public performances.

Livestock producers livid over USDA newsletter endorsing Meatless Mondays – newsletter disappears

The message seemed innocuous enough, coming as it did from the federal agency tasked with promoting sustainable agriculture and dietary health: “One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias,” read a United States Department of Agriculture interoffice newsletter published on its Web site this week, “is to participate in the ‘Meatless Monday’ initiative.”

Thousands of corporate cafeterias, restaurants and schools have embraced the idea of skipping meat on Mondays in favor of vegetarian options, an initiative of the nonprofit Monday Campaign Inc. and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

But by Tuesday afternoon, amid outraged Twitter messages by livestock producers and at least one member of Congress, the agency’s “Greening Headquarters Update” had been removed. “U.S.D.A. does not endorse Meatless Monday,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. The newsletter, which covered topics like the installation of energy-efficient lights on the Ag Promenade and recycling goals, “was posted without proper clearance,” the statement said.

Among those who objected to the Agriculture Department’s apparent plug for vegetables was Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, who tweeted: blah, blah, blah!

A spokesman for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said: blah, blah, blah..!

Peggy Neu, the president of the Monday Campaigns, said she had not been consulted about the renegade endorsement of the campaign or the department’s subsequent repudiation of it…“…from our perspective it would be a terrific thing if they signed on,” Ms. Neu said. “Or, I guess I should say, ‘would have been.’ ”

Given that the bureaucrat cowards who ran to hide from the wrath of cow growers are supposed to represent all of American agriculture, I guess we have the whole range of animal excreta to choose from characterizing the lobbyists, government officials, politicians involved – from chickenshit to bull crap.

Financial fraudster sold investors SpongeBob SquarePants coins!

Silver SpongeBob SquarePants coins minted by a private company in New Zealand were among the assets seized by FBI agents from Peregrine Financial Group after its chief confessed to nearly 20 years of fraud last week.

Ira Bodenstein, the trustee in Peregrine’s bankruptcy case in Chicago, said the coins were in a vault at the firm’s Cedar Falls, Iowa, headquarters. The value of the takings was not immediately clear.

The coin disclosure adds a new twist to the case of Peregrine Finiancial Group CEO Russell Wasendorf Sr., who was arrested last Friday after he confessed to doctoring bank statements to make regulators think his futures brokerage had nearly twice the assets it did, leaving customers with an estimated shortfall of over $200 million…

Peregrine ran a unit called PFG Precious Metals which offers investors “whole sale prices, fast & fully insured shipping” for gold, silver and platinum coins, as well as novelty items created through a partnership with the Auckland-based minting firm…

A four-coin set of SpongeBob Squarepants, housed in a “distinctive” treasure chest, went for $259…Each coin in the set shows a character from the Nickelodeon animated series and bears the inscription “IN SPONGEBOB WE TRUST.”


Iowa broker admits 20-year fraud — will regulators admit they didn’t do their job?

In the dramatic conclusion to a week-long saga that has shaken trader confidence in the trillion-dollar U.S. futures markets, authorities released parts of a detailed statement in which one of the industry’s best-known veterans explained how he used little more than a rented P.O. Box, Photoshop and inkjet printers to dupe regulators in a more than $100 million scheme.

FBI agents arrested Russell Wasendorf Sr, 64, at the Iowa City hospital where he has been since trying to commit suicide on Monday. He was charged with making false statements to regulators, but prosecutors said they would seek more charges. He faces “decades in prison”…

In the signed statement, left along with a suicide note and released as part of the criminal complaint, Wasendorf said he began forging bank documents after the business he built from his basement risked failing without additional capital. The timeline suggests his deceit lasted almost the entire life of his brokerage…

“I guess my ego was too big to admit failure. So I cheated,” the note said. It was discovered on Monday in his car outside the company’s new Iowa headquarters, where Wasendorf had tried to kill himself by funneling in tailpipe exhaust.

The arrest ends much of the mystery that has enveloped the futures industry this week. But it will not ease the pain of betrayal in the small Iowa town that Wasendorf made his corporate home in 2009, nor the anger of a financial industry still smarting from the failure of rival brokerage MF Global…

Yet he also wrote in almost boastful detail about the “blunt authority” that allowed him to control the flow of documents into the company; how he used a simple post office box to trick “unquestioning” regulators; and his skill in turning out forged bank statements within hours that “no one suspected.”

First – convict this sleazy thug. He is a crook and shouldn’t be treated differently from any other crook just because he wears thousand-dollar suits.

Second – force regulators to do the job they are paid to do. Snoop, question, evaluate according to industry and government standards. This is part of what the word “govern” means.

Wasendorf’s note about “unquestioning” regulators is significant. No differant from anything admitted by Bernie Madoff – or the few Enron officials who eventually admitted guilt. Getting away with a crime is always made easier by bureaucrats who don’t perform the tasks they’re paid for.

The usual political leeches, conservative politicians who blather of free markets and the glories of enterprise will stamp their patent leather shoes and try to bring a halt to more government regulation. That’s what you get, folks, when you don’t do your own jobs. More oversight. Try taking responsibility for the personal corruption that inspired a thoroughly ordinary thief.

Third – throw away the key.

Oops! Dumb politician of the day

He does have a he-man handshake, though

A Republican congressional candidate says he’s learned to double check his campaign schedule after he mistakenly spoke at a Democratic convention in Iowa.

Dan Dolan told the Quad-City Times he arrived early Saturday at the county courthouse in Albia for a Republican convention. He says his staffer asked the crowd if he could speak, and when he finished, “a guy raises his hand and says, ‘I think you want to talk to the Republicans.'”

Turns out, Democrats were meeting in the same place two hours before the Republican event was to start.

Dolan, of Muscatine, Iowa, says everyone was nice about the mix-up, but he now asks “Is this the Republican convention?” before he starts talking.

Dolan is running for the GOP nomination for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District seat.


I really like the part where the Dems let him spend the time practicing his speech and waited till the question-period to point out his mistake. 🙂

Xi Jinping makes a return voyage to Muscatine, Iowa

Xi Jinping talks with local people in the home of Roger and Sarah Lande in Muscatine, Iowa
Kevin E. Schmidt / Pool via AFP – Getty Images

A young, blue-eyed Sarah Lande never thought the polite young man from China, Xi Jinping, sitting at her dining room table in 1985 would go on to become the next president of China. She simply thought of him as a gentle soul with genuine interest in her family’s Iowa roots, sharing a home-cooked meal of pork, beef and locally grown corn.

Wednesday afternoon 27 years later – he returned to the same three-story home on Muscatine’s 2nd Street and walked through the same door, but this time as China’s next president.

Coming here is really like coming back to home,” Xi told a packed living room of familiar faces he met on his 1985 visit. “You can’t even imagine what a deep impression I had from my visit 27 years ago … because you were the first group of Americans that I came into contact with…”

Xi first visited Muscatine as a provincial official from Iowa’s sister state of Hebei almost three decades ago. Leading a delegation of four other local officials on an educational trip primarily focused on agriculture, Xi and his colleagues toured local farms and businesses as part of an exchange that began with Iowans going to Hebei in 1984. He met then-and current Iowa governor Terry Branstad and more than a dozen other Iowans in Muscatine he now calls his “old friends…”

Clearly, Muscatine also left an indelible impression on Xi. Upon invitation back to Iowa by Governor Branstad, he requested to reunite with each person he met in Muscatine.

Muscatine is the perfect, if coincidental, background to counterbalance Xi’s highly-scripted meetings in Washington. Aesthetically frozen in the 1950s, the town oozes both old-fashioned small-town charm and the harsh reality of post-industrial American economy. Many storefronts and warehouses stand empty in a place that once called itself the “pearl button capital of the world.” Meanwhile, China has opened and expanded exponentially since 1985, into a roaring economy.

RTFA. There is so much real farm country folksiness in the article I won’t do an editorial job on it. The point for me – perhaps because of my decades dealing with Asian businesses bringing products to sell in the United States – is that commerce sets an appropriate stage for individuals and cultures to get to know each other, affect each other in social ways, in business, in study and friendship.

There was a time in American history when some portions of this nation lived as neighbors to the world – by preference. Better we learn to learn from each other – instead of following the night-riders of bigotry into their pride in conquest and conflict.

Governors seek commerce for their state – national politicians seek power from ignorant voters

Iowa Soybean Association members at a port on the Po River

In October 1984, Iowa’s governor, Terry Branstad, made his first trip to China. He and his wife flew to Beijing and took an old steamer train about 200 miles southwest to Shijiazhuang, a city in the Hebei province…

Local government officials greeted the Branstads with flowers and a band. One member of the welcoming committee was a young man who would eventually ascend to the ranks of China’s top leadership, Xi Jinping. Currently China’s vice president, Xi is widely expected to succeed President Hu Jintao, who is set to step down next year.

“The friendships you build, you never know when it might pay off in the future,” said Brandstad, who has stayed in touch with Xi over the years. “Treat everybody well. You never know when they might someday be very important.”

Will someone please engrave this on bronze plaques to be placed on the desks of each of our Congress-critters!

Continue reading

Midwest farmers on the alert for pig rustlers

Here in pig country, the pigs are vanishing.

This month, 150 pigs — each one weighing more than an average grown man — disappeared from a farm building in Lafayette despite deadbolts on its doors. Farther north near Lake Lillian, 594 snorting, squealing hogs disappeared last month, whisked away in the dark.

And in Iowa, with added cover from the vast stretches of tall cornfields, pigs have been snatched, 20 or 30 at a time, from as many as eight facilities in the last few weeks, said the sheriff of Mitchell County, adding that among other challenges, the missing are difficult to single out.

“They all look alike,” said Curt Younker, the sheriff, who said he had only rarely heard of pig thefts in his decades on the job. “Suddenly we’re plagued with them.”

Some livestock economists pointed to the thefts in this hog-rich region as…a reflection of record-high prices for hogs this year and the ease of stealing pigs from the large barns that are often far from the farmer’s house.

“This is the hot commodity of the moment, like copper…and gold,” said Ryan Bode, whose family company, Rebco Pork, discovered that 150 of its pigs were missing on Sept. 16, shortly before they were to be taken to market…

Mr. Bode seemed doubtful about seeing his pigs again. “My guess is that they’re bacon and pork chops already…”

Investigators suspect that the pigs may have been taken to meat-processing plants or affiliated “drop-off” facilities or that they were sold at auction barns, which are less common these days as more large pig producers have direct arrangements with food-packing companies.

But that has raised an uncomfortable suggestion in an industry where many of the biggest farmers and pork buyers know one another personally and where a stranger pulling up to sell 100 hogs should give pause.

Someone in the business somewhere has the answer as to who’s doing this,” said Sheriff Marc Chadderdon.

RTFA. Crime stories are a magnet for me. Not only catching the thieves; but, how the thieves pulled off the job.

Some of the article is hogwash. 🙂 It’s absurd for an informed journalist to blame the lousy economy for the thefts – though she tries to. It’s the skyrocketing value of the pigs that motivates these crooks. Easy access to something worth stealing – and someone ready to buy.

Bitch Blocks Witch!

Crisis averted. Partial-term Gov. Sarah Palin — who was maybe not going to show up at a Tea Party event this weekend because a certain suddenly-unpopular abstinence witch might end up standing too close to her — has agreed to show up at the event that she at which had previously agreed to show up…

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is set to appear at a tea party rally in Iowa Saturday, a source close to Palin told CNN.

O’Donnell was, for the second time in 48 hours, removed from the program Wednesday afternoon. Ken Crow, one of the rally organizers, told the Des Moines Register that he dis-invited O’Donnell at the Palin camp’s request.

You see? That wasn’t that hard was it? All they had to do was make sure that Christine O’Donnell not get any of her stink of failure anywhere near Sarah Palin’s hair, and everything was sorted out fine…

An aide to O’Donnell disputed that people close to her mischaracterized her relationship with Palin to the Iowa rally organizers and asserted they did not lie about the extent of conversations between the two late Wednesday.

It doesn’t really matter who’s lying does it?

Like, we have two loonies trying to appeal to a crowd of nutballs so they can rake in sufficient geedus to keep them in the lap of luxury and never ever accidentally have to work for a living, eh?