Archive for the ‘ National/International ’ Category

Justice is Served in Bell

We return our attention to Bell, California. Administrators and council members there paid themselves exorbitant salaries while cutting city services, overcharging taxes and fees, and creating a major municipal revenue source out of a vehicle impounding program.

This and more was accomplished in a roughly DeKalb-sized town with per capita income of $24,000.

Now, today I was sent a link (thanks!) to an article with this beautiful headline: Bell Council Members Guilty of Multiple Corruption Counts.

Five former council members were found guilty of stealing public money. Two former city administrators are still awaiting trial.

Key factors in the corruption seem to include a lack of oversight — Bell does not have its own newspaper — an aggressive city manager “mastermind,” and Bell’s status as a charter city, which allows its government to ignore state limits on salaries and other spending.

—————–

Site news: Posting is sure to remain very light through the rest of March and into April as the write-in campaign for city clerk continues. One way to be notified when I’ve posted is to visit or ask to join the City Barbs Facebook group if you use FB a lot.

Makers Vs. Takers

The Monkey Cage is a political science blog. One of the topics this week is “makers vs. takers” in the USA.

Creating a working definition of takers is tricky. A core conceptual problem is that making versus taking is a matter of degree…nearly all of us are takers to some extent. And nearly everyone contributes to government through taxes of some sort at the national, state, or local level.

I’m quite interested in this subject because some days I feel surrounded by folks who feel that half the country are deadbeats.

It used to be that I was surrounded by people with disabilities, who received government benefits like SSDI but who would have given a whole lot to be “normal,” the definition of which was a couple more residential options, a family and a job.

If I knew of someone who was a “welfare cheat” I would turn him/her in immediately, because allowing fraud to go on adds to the “deadbeat” stories and in the end would hurt some of the best people I know.

**Update 9/6: Here are a couple charts as visual aids. Approach them cautiously if you’re prone to vertigo.**

Over the weekend at CEPR blog, Dean Baker addresses the question, “Are the American people better off than they were four years ago?”

The reason we know that the questioners are incompetent reporters is that this is a pointless question. Suppose your house is on fire and the firefighters race to the scene. They set up their hoses and start spraying water on the blaze as quickly as possible. After the fire is put out, the courageous news reporter on the scene asks the chief firefighter, “is the house in better shape than when you got here?”

A serious reporter asks the fire chief if he had brought a large enough crew, if they had enough hoses, if the water pressure was sufficient. That might require some minimal knowledge of how to put out fires.

Similarly, serious reporters would ask whether the stimulus was large enough, was it well-designed, and were there other measures that could have been taken like promoting shorter workweeks, as Germany has done. That would of course require some knowledge of economics, but it sure makes more sense than asking if a house is better off after it was nearly burnt to the ground.

Read the rest of this entry

The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to bring you lists of authorized drone pilots/sites and map their locations.

You do not have to be President of the United States to own and fly drones. We are lucky to live in such an egalitarian country!

[looking at map] Geez, get with the program, Illinois.

Bonus: Do-it-yourself drones

Pro Publica: How Democrats Fooled California’s Redistricting Commission.

Previous redistrictings had been executed by political pros with intimate knowledge of California’s sprawling political geography. The commissioners had little of that expertise — and one of their first acts was to deprive themselves of the data that might have helped them spot partisan manipulation.

The law creating the commission barred it from considering incumbents’ addresses, and instructed it not to draw districts for partisan reasons.

The commissioners decided to go further, agreeing not to even look at data that would tell them how prospective maps affected the fortunes of Democrats or Republicans. This left the commissioners effectively blind to the sort of influence the Democrats were planning.

The commissioners were “civilian” volunteers who were holding down day jobs. They had neither the know-how nor the resources to winnow the wheat from the chaff, and in defensive attempts to limit input ended up shutting down legitimate citizen participation as well.

Reaction to the report, unsurprisingly, depended upon party affiliation.

Secret Santas

RRStar.com/AP: “Anonymous donors pay off KMart layaway accounts”

The benefactors generally ask to help families who are squirreling away items for young children. They often pay a portion of the balance, usually all but a few dollars or cents so the layaway order stays in the store’s system.

The phenomenon seems to have begun in Michigan before spreading, Kmart executives said.
[...]
The good Samaritans seem to be visiting mainly Kmart stores, though a Wal-Mart spokesman said a few of his stores in Joplin, Mo., and Chicago have also seen some layaway accounts paid off.

At least one beneficiary is “paying it forward,” too. A real upper of a story.

One potential cause of a drop in unemployment is a declining labor force. In this case women are dropping out of the labor force in significant numbers — and not household “second earners,” either.

I quite recently discovered CEPR Blog and am getting a lot out of it, so have added it to the Public Policy blogroll.

What I’m Reading

Daily Chronicle: “Briscoe: Here’s Budget 101 for District 428″

The Stephenson Blumdoggle: “The State of Stephenson County: Delusional and Propagandized” (which is also about a budget. I recommend reading a bit further as well, at least to “A Justified Default on $5.5 million”).

Capitol Fax.com: “Joe Walsh Tells Candidate He’s Running in Another District”

Pro Publica: “Why a Federal Judge Trashed the SEC’s Settlement with Citigroup”

Bloomberg Businessweek.com: “Secret Fed Loans Gave Banks $13 Billion Undisclosed to Congress”

The New York Times: “Crisis in Europe Tightens Credit Across the Globe”

Doing Nothing is Unacceptable

In this age when lies and prejudices masquerade as truth as never before, it can be very difficult to figure out what’s factual, and which sources to trust.

Nowhere is this more the case than in macroeconomics, yet we must decide upon which economic policies and legislation to support — soon.

One of my sources is Paul Krugman, because of what he’s demonstrably gotten right over the past four years. Krugman was one of the people to call the housing bubble a bubble, when other leading economists were claiming that the age of bubbles was past. He was able to explain to me, a child of the 70s, why hyperinflation was not going to happen this time. He correctly predicted where the stimulus would be found wanting, and that austerity measures at the federal level would lead to continued high unemployment.

Today in his blog, Krugman warns that the situation appears to be taking a turn that would make climbing out of the hole harder. Read the rest of this entry

What I’m Reading

I’ve been distracted lately from local blogging by questions of macroeconomic policy, the odds of a double dip and the latest developments in the class war.

The Panic of 1873 and the Causes which Produced It

GAO audit of emergency assistance authorized by the Federal Reserve

Registering the Poor to Vote is Un-American

Registering them to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals.

Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult

The Profession and the Crisis

What are you reading? Feel free to add your own links in the comments section.