Thursday, November 29, 2012

FTC wastes taxpayer money

Guest post today from (republished with permission): Views under the Palm - FTC does not have a case against Google: "Google may dodge FTC's antitrust bullet, report says | Internet & Media - CNET News: "Regulators aren't sure they have enough evidence for an antitrust lawsuit and are examining whether consumer benefits of Google's search approach outweigh harm to competitors, Bloomberg reported, citing three unnamed sources."

No kidding--this was obvious to most non-biased people a LONG time ago--in the meantime the FTC has wasted millions in taxpayer funds chasing a meritless case, hiring expensive outside counsel (I would love to know the particulars of that "sweetheart" personal services contract--"only inside the beltway"), just to harass one of the most respected companies in the world--and a large generator and platform of new businesses which use Google apps and other services at low, or no cost.

Microsoft and some other competitors of Google have been lobbying the FTC and other federal departments and agencies to "harass" Google--

"Those rallying opposition to Google include two industry groups, FairSearch.organd Icomp; Microsoft is a member of both groups, but other companies involved with the groups include comparison shopping sites Foundem and Nextag and travel sites Kayak, Expedia, TripAdvisor, and Hotwire."

And of course I am sure China and radical foreign Islamists (YouTube anyone?) who oppose Google's stance on free speech and a free internet would also want the FTC to do their dirty work.

As one commenter on the above cited article wrote--

"Why not investigate whether sufficient legal authority to hire outside council [sic] ever existed in this case. 'Microsoft told me to.' is not legal justification for wasting taxpayer money and trashing the Constitution.""

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chicago Still Suffers from Corrupt Image

Chicago Still Suffers from Corrupt Image | NBC Chicago: " . . . One reason Chicago maintains its unscrupulous profile is its tradition of Mike Royko-style investigative journalism and its focus on the darker side of politics, Grossman said. Chicagoans are also deeply interested in that subject, and enjoy speaking about it publicly – arguably more than in most parts of the country. So, corruption cases that might otherwise not attract much sustained attention get thoroughly discussed and dissected.“In some cities maybe where the public culture is less vibrant, corruption doesn’t bubble up as quickly,” Grossman said. But Simpson points out that there several realities still make Chicago a cradle for graft. It is dominated by one party, the Democrats (conversely, the outlying suburbs, with its own tradition of corruption, is overwhelmingly run by Republicans). Despite laws to curb patronage, machine-style politics abound, notably on the hyper-local level. Family dynasties remain, most notably the Jacksons’ (Jackson Jr.’s wife, Sandi, is an alderman). And state campaign finance laws are still relatively lenient, Simpson said. And then there's the continued popularity of politicians facing corruption charges. On the same day that Jackson Jr. won re-election, so did Derrick Smith, who won back his seat in the state House of Representatives despite having been charged with taking a bribe, and expelled from the House. . . In the end, it’s up to the people of the city to make things better. “The problem with corrupt politicians is when people are willing to put up with it,” he said.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Eisenhower family fights design of memorial

Eisenhower family continues to fight ‘totalitarian state’ design of memorial - Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion: "A proposed Frank Gehry designed memorial for President Eisenhower is being vehemently protested by his only living son as well as granddaughters, who have objected both to the high cost to taxpayers and the design concept. A letter made public November 20 by granddaughter Susan Eisenhower details the latest events in the ongoing struggle between the family and the commission. It also highlights yet another attempt to impose a thinly veiled progressive narrative over historical events (the Rev. Martin Luther King. Jr. memorial comes to mind). Philip Kennicott, the Washington Post’s culture critic, writes: “Gehry has produced a design that inverts several of the sacred hierarchies of the classical memorial, emphasizing ideas of domesticity and interiority rather than masculine power and external display.” The design, which features 80-foot tall ”giant industrial steel” tapestries, is considered by Susan to evoke a ”totalitarian state.” The tapestries are estimated to add considerable cost to the already substantial $120 million cost for their upkeep."

Hope the Eisenhower family is successful. My hat is off to them.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Miami Beach code officer gets prison time

Power corrupts--

Miami Beach code officer gets prison time - Miami Beach - "A fired Miami Beach code enforcement supervisor who led the shakedown of a nightclub owner for thousands of dollars was sent to prison Tuesday for more than four years. Jose L. Alberto, 42, was taken into custody immediately after U.S. District Judge Robert Scola sentenced him. Alberto was arrested along with six other Miami Beach employees earlier this year in an FBI sting operation that shook City Hall. Collectively, the ring extorted $25,000 from the Miami Beach nightclub owner, who tipped off authorities. In August, Alberto pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit extortion. He admitted personally accepting 22 separate cash bribes totaling $16,600 from the Club Dolce owner and an FBI undercover agent. Alberto, whom the city hired in 1993, earned $122,000 with overtime pay in 2011 as the second-in-command of the Building Department’s code compliance division. . . . "


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Lawsuit Alleges “Corruption and Negligence” at DOE

Green graft?

Lawsuit Alleges “Corruption and Negligence” at Department of Energy: "A lawsuit filed in federal court on Wednesday alleges mass favoritism in the Department of Energy’s decisions to award federal grants to major car companies to develop electric vehicles, according to a legal complaint obtained by Scribe. The plaintiff, San Francisco-based XP Technology, says in a complaint filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims that “corruption and negligence” pervaded DOE’s decision to award loan guarantees to Ford, Nissan, Tesla Motors, and Fisker Automotive for the development of electric vehicle technology. “Investigations have shown that DOE officials intentionally stalled numerous applicants’ reviews in order to force them out of business and protect favored players,” the complaint claims. It adds: XP has received information demonstrating that the unprecedented number of failures in the DOE program relative to what DOE officials have claimed to be “the most expensive and extensive due diligence in history” is explained by manipulated reviews, in the due diligence effort, on behalf of what the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigations found to be “favoritism” in published investigation reports. A senate ethics investigation states, in published reports, that “negligence and mismanagement by DOE officials” was a regular occurrence. XP, which applied for federal backing under the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program, “is seeking to have applicants who were “targeted” receive fair re-reviews, in a transparent manner, if they so desire.” In addition to an unfair selection process, XP alleges that DOE retaliated against the company for reporting evidence of negligence and corruption incorporated into the various investigations into the ATVM program."


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cows Flee California

Cows, Hogs at the Trough--it's all a real barnyard tale--

RealClearMarkets - Cows Flee California Seeking a Better Economic Climate: "A few years ago, the Office of Management and Budget assessed federal dairy price support programs as part of a broad initiative to gauge the effectiveness of over 1,000 government programs. It found that the dairy program had not demonstrated results, has design flaws that limit its effectiveness, and distorts trade in a way that puts the U.S. in violation of World Trade Organization rules. What action was taken as a result of this negative report? None, of course. If you go to to read the program assessment, a note pops up that says, "This is historical material, ‘frozen in time.' The web site is no longer updated and links to external web sites and some internal pages will not work." That's just how special-interest democracy works. So bon voyage, intrepid cows. Yet another trillion-dollar farm bill is being cobbled together in Washington as we speak. And the odds that any deficit producing, wealth-destroying, consumer-shafting dairy programs will be phased out, allowing the dairy industry to restructure itself on rational lines, are about as good as that of the Supreme Court waking up one morning and ruling that the Constitution never granted Congress the power to set milk prices in the first place."


Monday, November 19, 2012

FHA could need bailout

What is it with Government--doesn't anyone know how to run a solvent operation anymore? The Feds?--the worst Hogs at the Trough--

FHA projected to exhaust reserves, could need bailout - The Federal Housing Administration, which has played a crucial role in stabilizing the housing market, said it ended September with $16.3 billion in projected losses -- a possible prelude to a taxpayer bailout. The precarious financial situation could force the FHA, which has been self-funded through mortgage insurance premiums since it was created during the Great Depression, to tap the U.S. Treasury to stay afloat. The agency said a determination on whether it needs a bailout won't come until next year. . . .  The FHA has permanent and indefinite authority to draw money from the Treasury, although it has never had to use that power."

Never had to use that power--until now.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pension Reform: talk vs action?

Chicago Council Approves Rahm's 2013 Budget | NBC Chicago: "His directive for the City Council was to stay the course and to speak up about pension reform. "Here is the hard truth," Emanuel said. "In less than four years, payments to meet our pension obligations will comprise 22 percent of the City’s budget – one out of every five dollars. That’s $1.2 billion of taxpayer money, and growing, each year after that.""

That's right Mayor--the problem is not going to just "go away."  However it's going to require more than just talk--you need ACTION!

Friday, November 16, 2012

California Prop 30 -- How Greedy Is Your State?

California aims to be the most greedy of all 50 states with Proposition 30--

Would Prop. 30 really drive millionaires out of California? - "A counterpart to the biblical adage that the poor will always be with us is the notion that the rich will always be one tax hike away from leaving us. That's the foundation stone, after all, of the argument against raising taxes on "job creators" and of bestowing preferential treatment on capital gains (largely collected by the rich) over wage income (the sustenance of us other poor slobs). And it's a linchpin of the campaign against Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to raise income taxes on income above $250,000, topping out at a 13.3% rate on income over $1 million. Go after the wealthy like that, the argument goes, and the rich will flow out of the state like rainwater cascading down a sewer grate."

Here's the kicker--it passed, but may have solved nothing!--

Proposition 30 win no guarantee of fiscal safety for California - "California's unstable tax base, debt and falling revenue are among the threats that could upend the budget despite the infusion from the passage of Proposition 30."


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Social Security?--government is part of the problem

Social Security?--government is part of the problem--

In addition, the subcommittee found the normal costs of the state’s retirement systems — the amount needed each year to cover benefits earned that year — to be less than those of neighboring states and of private sector employers, chiefly because almost 80 percent of the workers covered by the state plans are not eligible for Social Security, so the state does not pay a federal tax on their salaries. In contrast, private sector employers must pay a 6.2 federal payroll tax to provide Social Security coverage for their workers, and on average contribute 4.4 percent of payroll to 401(k) and other retirement plans, for a total cost of 10.6 percent, compared with state government’s normal cost, which averages about 9 percent of payroll.

In other words--state and local governments "opt-out" of participating in Social Security and pay less! (Wish I could do that!)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Illinois Pension Crisis

Kick the can all you want--this problem isn't just going to "go away"--

The pension chasm - Illinois Issues - A Publication of the University of Illinois at Springfield - UIS:" . . . Moreover, many private sector employers no longer offer defined benefit plans, in which retirees are promised a certain amount for life, but instead offer defined contribution plans, in which the company agrees to contribute a certain sum each year into an employee’s retirement savings account. “A substantial disparity thus exists between pension benefits generally available in the private sector and the state’s pension plans,” Martin wrote in the minority report. “This disparity should not continue, for two reasons. First, the state cannot afford it. Second, maintaining such a disparity is unfair to taxpayers — who largely work in the private sector — who must pay higher taxes to support the more generous and more costly benefits provided to the state’s employees.”

Monday, November 12, 2012

Holder Might Not Stay On As Attorney General?

Holder Announces He Might Not Stay On As Attorney General « CBS DC: "Holder has been under fire from congressional Republicans for what he knew about the botched “Fast and Furious” operation where the U.S. allowed guns to be sold illegally in hopes to track Mexican drug cartels. Holder was found in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents regarding the operation. President Obama has invoked executive privilege. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was reportedly killed with one of the guns used in the ATF operation. Terry’s December 2010 death lifted the veil on the bungled federal government’s gun-smuggling investigation that was later the subject of congressional probes."

Why leave now?--the party is just starting!


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hogs at the Trough and Empty Piggy Banks

From the British newspaper--The Telegraph:

A poor lookout - Telegraph: "In the long term, the only solution to this crisis is to increase greatly the amounts being saved. This is the logic behind the Government’s new auto-enrolment system, which pushes workers into a pension scheme unless they actively choose to withdraw. Of course, it may turn out that the new rules are too conservative, and that a return to prosperity sees Britons’ eventual pension values far exceed the new projections. But it is surely better to be pleasantly surprised than to realise, upon retirement, that the piggy bank is empty."

Here in the U.S., prudence has been thrown out the window.  Thanks to all the Hogs at the Trough, almost everyone's piggy bank will be empty in just a few years!


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Fat Cat Generals and Hogs At the Trough

Accusations against generals cast dark shadow over Army--The Washington Post: "The investigation into Gen. William E. Ward, the former chief of Africa Command, is being closely watched at the Pentagon, where rank-and-file officers wonder aloud whether senior leaders will be reticent to punish one of their own. A June 26 report, compiled after investigators pored through a trove of e-mails and expense reports, portrays a general using taxpayer funds to support a high-rolling lifestyle. The inspector general concluded that Ward used government funds to pay for personal travel expenses; assigned staff to run errands for him and his wife; and accepted meals and Broadway tickets from a defense contractor, in violation of Pentagon rules. The inspector general’s report says he wasted and misused tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars. For example, he billed the government $129,000 for an 11-day trip to Atlanta with a team of 13 people, even though he only conducted business during three of the days, the inspector general found. On Feb. 14 he sent the following e-mail to an aide: “Might you be able to stop by a florist and pick up a small bouquet of spring flowers for me? Not extravagant at all — just a small not very expensive bouquet.” The aide offered to get it and asked where the general would like the flowers delivered. Ward responded: “Can you have in the limo pls — trunk. Tnx”


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Mayor Dave Bing says Detroit won't run out of cash, despite pace of financial progress

Mayor Dave Bing says Detroit won't run out of cash, despite pace of financial progress | City of Detroit | Detroit Free Press | "Detroit must meet crucial reform goals before the state releases more than $80 million in bond revenue now in escrow. Board members said Monday that they're concerned the city isn't making enough progress, particularly with savings from reduced employee health care not kicking in until Jan. 1. Bing conceded as much but said his administration believes a cash-flow crisis will be avoided, despite huge challenges. For one, the state's emergency manager law faces a crucial test Nov. 6, when voters decide a referendum on it. Equally difficult, he said, is opposition from the city's unions, a lack of cash to upgrade outdated technologies and low morale in battered city departments that have endured pay cuts, furloughs and work force reductions."

As I've said before, ACTION not words, Mayor Bing!


Saturday, November 3, 2012

KUDOS to Illinois State Rep. Greg Harris for accountability of Wexford Health Sources

“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” ― Nelson Mandela

As Nelson Mandela says (and he knows)--any society/nation/state/community should be judged on how it treats prison inmates. Therefore KUDOS to Rep. Greg Harris of Illinois--

Illinois State Rep. Greg Harris is pushing HR 1248 to increase oversight of Wexford Health Sources, a private company that provides health care to Illinois inmates | WBEZ 91.5 Chicago: "Democratic Rep. Greg Harris from Chicago’s Northwest Side is pushing HR 1248, a House resolution calling for an official examination of how the state failed to audit Wexford Health Sources before signing a $1.4 billion contract with the private health care company last year. WBEZ has been reporting on poor health care in the prisons, and a recent report by the prison watchdog John Howard Association found that no one in the state is checking on Wexford to make sure they’re providing the care they’re being paid for. Harris's audit would change that. Harris says there are 250 lawsuits against the state right now alleging poor health care. He says he's been seeking proof that Wexford is actually earning the $115 million Illinois pays them every year, but he’s not satisfied with what he’s found."

Friday, November 2, 2012

California pension plan is a bad trend?

Editorial: California pension plan is a bad trend: "Now, California lawmakers are hoping to start a new trend: states managing retirement funds on behalf of private-sector workers. In September, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law creating such a fund. . .On its surface, the California plan might seem enticing. Employers would divert at least 3% of their workers' salaries into a state-administered fund for which private money managers would make investment decisions. At retirement, workers would receive a monthly benefit based on contributions and investment returns, with the state guaranteeing a minimum rate of return. But there are two potentially problematic outcomes. One is that the fund will behave like the great majority of publicly run funds, becoming more and more generous as beneficiaries form an organized political constituency and demand more. That has certainly been the case with Social Security. The tax on workers and employees that funds it has been increased 19 times and more than sixfold (from 1% to 6.2%) since the 1930s. And even that has not kept up with the steady growth in benefits. Retirement plans for state and local employees are causing larger problems. They have grown so generous as to put a number of states, including California, into deep fiscal turmoil. Given that track record, it is not difficult to imagine participants in California's new plan lobbying for an increase in the guaranteed rate of return, or even transforming the program into a traditional defined benefit pension, where annual payouts are not based on returns but on the final salary a worker enjoyed."

Actually California is trying to rectify a situation that should be solved at the federal level-- 1) ABOLISH all pensions; 2) allow self-funded, tax-exempt retirement accounts by everyone, with mandatory default 5% direct deduction from employee pay into account of employee's choice at any federally regulated institution; 3) broadening Social Security to include everyone--President Roosevelt envisioned this at the time Social Security was created.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Recycling fraud is draining California cash

Oh my--another example of CLUELESS California government--

Recycling fraud is draining California cash - Eleven states have container redemption programs, and experts believe some level of fraud exists in each. "Seinfeld" fans will recognize the scheme: Two characters once conspired to drive a mail truck full of empty bottles from New York, where they could be redeemed for 5 cents each, to Michigan, where they could fetch 10. The problem is particularly challenging — and costly — in California. This is the only state in the region besides Oregon with a deposit program, making it a magnet for recycling fraud. And it is the only state besides Hawaii to directly administer the program through private recycling centers. Other states have beverage distributors or sellers collect the deposits and pay the redemption costs, so they — and not the state — are responsible for the money. But grocery stores and markets opposed that approach in California, which opted to have private recycling centers take in the material. The state reimburses the centers for what they spend on redemption costs, based on their account of what they take in by weight. The centers, which make their money by selling the material for scrap value and sometimes by collecting additional fees from the state, have a financial incentive to maximize the amount of material they take in, not to look for fraud. . . ."

What is it about California?  Is it something in the water or air? It has become the laughingstock of the USA.