Showing posts with label Documents. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Documents. Show all posts

Friday, July 13, 2012

Ignore the Bedwetters

You would think that the Romney campaign would have harsh words for the Obama Campaign and the media, but why do they say such terrible things about the people who are supposedly on their side?
“We went through this in the primary,” the adviser said. “You have a lot of people inside the Beltway, who like to sit back and be armchair quarterbacks, strategists who talk to you and don’t go on the record. We have a plan. We know what the plan is, and we’re going to implement the plan.” 
The adviser added: “We aren’t reacting to what the Obama campaign does. … We aren’t reacting to what Republican strategists do. We’ve got a plan to win. We know what it takes and that’s what we’re going to do. All of this hew and cry, you know, from the bedwetters who get to sit on the sidelines, aren’t going to affect what we’re going to do and our plan.” 
In many ways, the Globe story didn’t break a lot of new ground, as several truth squad reports pointed out. It simply renewed focus on the fact that Romney has always stated that he technically left Bain in 1999 to run the Salt Lake City Olympics, while maintaining legal and financial ties to the company that didn’t include actively managing its affairs or investments. 
[emphasis mine] 

As far as I know, the revelation from the Boston Globe article was not wholly explored during the primary campaign, and if it had been, I would think that it would have severely damaged Mitt Romney's credibility. It may not have cost him the nomination, but it sure wouldn't look like the huge deal that it is right now.

I don't know how the working media can parse this any other way. Romney has been caught in a massive lie, and the lie is written into the financial disclosure documents that he submitted in order to allow himself to serve as the head of the Winter Olympic Games and to give himself some distance from Bain Capital's connection to outsourcing jobs to China. He has been caught committing and act of outright fraud, a felony-level financial disclosure crime that likely would have resulted in charges if it had been discovered in the early 2000s when he was trying to elevate his national profile.

And that's what this is really all about--Romney has been caught lying about what he owned, what he was worth, and where his money has been sheltered time and time again. He lied so that he could elevate his status in the political world, not the business world. He has no credibility and he has dubious financial ethics. The idea that a venture capitalist of his supposed experience maintained ownership of Bain Capital and then did not "actively" manage its affairs or investments is the sort of dodge that a lot of people sitting in Federal prison have tried in relation to things like insider trading.

It doesn't matter if he was actively involved (a subpoena of E-mails? internal documents? might further prove or disprove this fact) because that's not the standard for ethical disclosure. You either owned it or you did not; Romney owned Bain Capital for three years longer than he admitted to owning it.

That's something the "bedwetters" would call a "big fucking deal."

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Republican Party Hates Veterans

I keep telling people that the Republican Party hates Veterans, and I think this message is finally starting to gain some traction.

The Republicans want to disenfranchise Veterans because they tend to be consistent with their voting patterns. Many of them are already Republicans, and vote Republican no matter what, so they are a safe voting bloc. Angering them does not automatically lead to defections, in other words.

The Democrats who can be identified as Veterans know that their benefits are under siege from Republicans. They know that the Republicans don't want to foot the bill for their foreign policy misadventures--to do so would be to acknowledge that they made a horrible mistake by invading Iraq and by creating so many wounded warriors. It was all about patriotism when it was time to vote for defense spending five or six years ago; now we hear about austerity and budget cuts when it comes time to figure out what we need to spend on rehabilitating and taking care of Veterans.

Naturally, they want to purge the voter rolls of anyone who even remotely sounds foreign. The fact that Mr. Internicola happens to have been awarded the Bronze Star for his service means nothing to these people; follow the link to the article and you'll see comments from the wingnuts who think that this man is probably an illegal alien, despite a lifetime spent in this country since returning from World War II.

If there's one thing that should have earned this man his citizenship and his dignity, it would have been his service. That means nothing to Republicans. They don't know what service is, and when they see a person who has served and who now identifies themselves as a Democrat, their first instinct is to disenfranchise that person and identify them as being un-American.

That's how it is in America right now--if you're a liberal, a Democrat, or someone who thinks that there is a progressive view of this country, then you have to be a socialist or a criminal. What a dismal state of affairs.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Does Corzine Sound Like a Crook?

While shocking, this story fails to put the lede in the right place. Former Governor of New Jersey John Corzine has not been accused of wrongdoing. Customer funds have been misallocated. And there is no allegation, at this time, of wrongdoing. The article does make it look like Corzine is a crook, however, and that's why the whole thing sounds pretty fishy right now.

So what's really happening here?

Our moneyed elites can't run anything and the complexities of modern finance are too much for a class of people that has skated for decades on good looks, connections, and buying the answers to tests. Is Corzine a symbol of incompetence, greed, or laziness? Or does he just have trouble finding good help?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lowe's Shuts Down a Handful of Stores, Distressing More of the Gentlefolk

Store Closing Fact Sheet - 10.17.11
An interesting document, and the thing that caught my eye is the fact that, from New Jersey to Maine, things aren't going very well for Lowe's right now. With almost half of the stores being closed in this area, there isn't much to celebrate in the economy right now. If Lowe's can't make it, what does that say about the possibility that a lot retail businesses are on the verge of folding? And, if they are, doesn't that mean thousands and thousands of people who are now underemployed are going to be out of work?

No wonder people are Occupying Wall Street. Every time there's a clear indication of what's going on, we get media confusion and obfuscation. It's a better story when you can read about the dirty hippies stealing from each other and doing drugs, isn't it? Meanwhile, thousands more out of work.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Theft of Cultural Treasures

Neil Brodie et al (2000), Stealing History: The Illicit Trade in Cultural Material, Commissioned by: ICOM U...

This is a wonderful article, and I think it fits here precisely because exploiting the desperately poor nations of the world to make money off of antiquities is an age old problem. This is not a recent phenomenon--there are well-to-do museums all over the world that still feature the looted valuables of cultures that will never get them back unless someone starts to address the issue of what constitutes theft and what constitutes preservation.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Another Refinancing Craze?

Americans are refinancing their homes these days, and I don't know if this is because they want to save themselves from foreclosure or help build up another bubble in the housing market:
Applications for U.S. home mortgages rose last week, helped by refinancing demand as interest rates fell for the third week in a row, an industry group said on Wednesday.
The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity, which includes both refinancing and home purchase demand, rose 4 percent in the week ended April 29.
The MBA's seasonally adjusted index of refinancing applications climbed 6 percent, while the gauge of loan requests for home purchases added 0.3 percent.
It makes sense on the surface--lower interest rates are triggering refinancing--but what does it mean in the long term? Is it really saving people money or are they getting involved in the creation of another housing bubble? Are strapped consumers taking "equity" out of a home that they are under water in (where possible) or are people taking what little equity they still have out of their home in order to compensate for lower wages and under-employment?

I don't think we ever really got a handle on the mortgage industry. I don't think it has been reformed, re-regulated and restructured in such a way as to benefit American homeowners and it could, I suppose, be so badly structure right now that any surge in refinancing might trigger the creation of another mini-bubble.

There are a vast number of homes on the market--adding in foreclosed homes puts the number at the high end of nine million previously owned homes being available for purchase. And, given all of that inventory, which has caused a drastic decrease in property values, why would you go and "reset" everything, given that no one really knows where the market is headed? Can you continually refinance yourself into oblivion if the value of your home doesn't stabilize? 

If I was a homeowner right now (got out a year ago and it wasn't pleasant), I'd think long and hard about any kind of refinancing arrangement. You might save yourself a little money. But you might end up dealing with an unscrupulous new lender that might engage in unethical or nefarious practices. There is a real problem in this country with banks taking away homes that that they cannot prove they own because the deeds and the financing paperwork are not squared away. Why would you wade into this mess and create another opportunity for a lender to take a mortgage (yours) and bundle it with others and then refinance or resell those loans?

Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me. And, for what? Saving a hundred bucks a month or not much more? Is that worth losing a home over?
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Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Dishonest Hit Job on Federal Spending for Homelessness

Never mind that we only spend $2.9 billion dollars per year battling homelessness--take a look at this argument:
The federal government's multi-agency approach to help the homeless is often confused, according to a recently released report that catalogues the hundreds of different ways the government squanders taxes through waste, overlap, fragmentation and bureaucracy.
The Government Accountability Office report found that in 2009, federal agencies spent about $2.9 billion on more than 20 programs that targeted homelessness. If that money were to be targeted toward the building of homes, at say, $200,000 per home, it could theoretically produce 145,000 houses.
"Take that money directly and give them sort of a voucher so they can go get housing on their own, or get some mental health benefits," Brian Darling, director of government studies at the Heritage Foundation suggested. "But the way it is now when you have all of these different government agencies administering the same program, you have government waste."
The headline for this Fox News opinion piece was "GAO Report Highlights Wasteful Spending on Ending Homelessness" and it implies that ALL of the "billions" being spent are wasteful. The GAO report says that there are some areas where there is duplication of effort. Eliminating those areas would save some money, but NOT the entire $2.9 billion being spent. This is the sort of deceitful argument that prevents people from getting a reasonable assessment of the problem.

In fact, the GAO report doesn't identify a specific dollar amount that could be saved by eliminating some of the duplication of effort costs. It merely outlines what could be done to save a limited amount of money between the various Federal agencies. 

Would it shock you to find out that there already are programs in place that are eliminating duplication of effort? Here's what the GAO had to say [page 131]:
In keeping with GAO’s previous recommendations and the plan’s objective to increase coordination, it will be important for the federal agencies that have adopted the plan to develop implementation plans that include but are not limited to a project schedule, resource allocation, outreach measures, and a performance measurement strategy to evaluate their progress. The plan recognizes that collection, analysis, and reporting of quality, timely data on homelessness are essential for targeting interventions, tracking results, strategic planning, and resource allocation. As noted above, currently each federal program generally has distinct data requirements. The plan acknowledges that a common data standard and uniform performance measures across all federal programs that are targeted at homelessness would facilitate greater understanding and simplify local data management. Consistent with the plan, representatives with USICH noted that agencies are taking steps to improve and coordinate data, specifically citing the December 2010 announcement by the Department of Veterans Affairs to participate in Homeless Information Management Systems over the next 12 months.2 The formal coordination among agencies outlined in this plan may minimize fragmentation of federal programs and help address gaps in supportive services while linking housing and supportive services. The linking of these services is considered to be important for effectively delivering assistance to those experiencing homelessness.
The problem is no where near as bad as it sounds. And it's NOT wasting "billions" by any stretch of the imagination. The article on Fox News wants to put it out there in circulation that "billions" are being wasted so that if the political class decides to cut these programs they can fall back on media reports of wasteful spending. This gives them cover to shave small amounts of money from programs that are underfunded already and provide badly-needed services. 

So, what is the problem, then? Billions will NOT be saved if ALL of the problems in administering these programs were reformed. That's just not possible. Is it worthwhile to pursue the ideal and make changes that can save a little money? Absolutely. But spending money to help Veterans end homelessness is NOT wasteful government spending by any measure. And laying out a dishonest argument about scrapping these programs and handing out vouchers is ridiculous.

This is a non-starter. It would lead to more cuts and punish the homeless even further. When the first homeless person under this magical voucher plan would lose or abuse their voucher, the outrage from the media would be deafening.

We're Spending Next to Nothing on Homelessness

Back in March, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) had this to say [page 129] about duplication of efforts in fighting homelessness:
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), approximately 643,000 individuals and persons in families experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2009. [the graphic above shows other numbers, but it's less than a million homeless, I believe - WJS] Multiple federal programs provide assistance targeted to those experiencing homelessness or more broadly assist low-income populations. GAO reported that in 2009 federal agencies spent about $2.9 billion on over 20 programs targeted to address the various needs of persons experiencing homelessness. Some federal programs may offer similar types of services and serve similar populations, potentially leading to overlap or fragmentation. 
In June 2010, GAO recommended that the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services (HHS), and HUD develop a common vocabulary to better coordinate homeless services. GAO also recommended in July 2010 that HUD and HHS consider more formally linking their housing and supportive services programs. The agencies concurred with these recommendations and to date have taken some actions to address them.
I realize that there are programs at the state and local level as well, but the fact that we spend around $3 billion dollars on homelessness is a tragedy in and of itself. Spending $10 billion dollars would be a great place to start. If this kind of money was invested in solving the problem--not just temporarily housing people but actually helping to correct the problems and issues that cause their homelessness--we could eventually spend less money on the problem (since prevention and solving the problem itself are worthy goals.)

Arguing that we don't have the money is a specious argument. We need to spend more money fighting homelessness in order to avoid having to spend money on health care costs related to being homeless. There's no reason why investing in a solution to homelessness couldn't benefit our economy. If you stabilize one person's life and get them on the right path, their contributions back into society are more than worth what you invested in helping them.
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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Oxfam International

If you're interested in policy research, Africa, and the environment, you could do a lot worse than this:

The Rain Doesn't Come On Time Anymore: Poverty, vulnerability, and climate variability in Ethiopia

Oxfam International has a great presence on Scribd. This is something that I can also recommend.