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02 April 2013

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Leo Scanlon

I wish you good luck! you're going to need it at the local level. Less transparency in every respect than what exists at the Federal level--so much for local control...

Fred

The Feds finally convicted Kwame Kilpatrick, former mayor of Detroit. Hopefully he'll get twenty years, though I'm sure the city will never see a dime of the money he defrauded them of.

Babak Makkinejad

Oh, yes, Michigan where the corruption takes the form of paving the roads any number of times - making money on the transactions.

All White, all of the time.

Jose

Naughty. Many will say that this kind of thing is typical of the fantasy archipelago of places like New York City, Washington, Atlanta, Chicago, etc. It is, and the ridiculous teacher corruption scandal in Atlanta comes to mind - pl

This nonsense goes on in Miami all the time, this is the latest:

http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/riptide/2013/03/justin_lamar_sternad_pleads_gu.php

The beaver

Colonel

You are not alone. We are living through it right now in Montréal- an enquiry before criminal charges going back as far as 15 yrs. From the mayor to provincial politicians to the Mafia.

oofda

Colonel,
That's not all- not only did McDonnell have the developer pay $15K for his daughter's wedding- he didn't report it as he was required to do. Also McDonnell and the delveoper have "a relationship that has included rides on Williams’s corporate jet, personal gifts to the first family and efforts by the governor and his wife to promote the company.”
"Not only that: Mr. McDonnell’s wife, Maureen flew to Florida three days before the wedding (how nice it must be to have so much free time before your daughter’s wedding) and gave an endorsement for a dietary supplement being developed by Star Scientific called Antabloc, which Mr. Williams hopes will be helpful to people with Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis and to his company.
Here’s the kicker: Three months after the wedding Mr. McDonnell gave a launch party for Antabloc — at the governor’s mansion.
This is a clear and direct example of the improper use of government money, facilities and power for the personal enrichment of friends. If the speech and the party were not a quid pro quo for the help with the wedding feast, it’s hard to imagine what a quid pro quo is." (from the NY Time"
And all this from a guy who touts his MBA and JD from Regent's University ( Pat Robertson's school) and his upright 'Christian' morality.

Fred

Which roads might those be? The ones I've seen could use some paving. Meanwhile in Lansing Snyder & Company and dutifly centralizing power.

steve g

A report last week on the million
dollar bus shelters in Arlington
might fall in this category. Bus
riders were stunned to learn of the
cost as they barely protected them
from the elements. It seems we have
lost the investigative vigilance
needed to expose these outrages.

oofda

Colonel,
That's not all- not only did McDonnell have the developer pay $15K for his daughter's wedding- he didn't report it as he was required to do. Also McDonnell and the delveoper have "a relationship that has included rides on Williams’s corporate jet, personal gifts to the first family and efforts by the governor and his wife to promote the company.”
"Not only that: Mr. McDonnell’s wife, Maureen flew to Florida three days before the wedding (how nice it must be to have so much free time before your daughter’s wedding) and gave an endorsement for a dietary supplement being developed by Star Scientific called Antabloc, which Mr. Williams hopes will be helpful to people with Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis and to his company.
Here’s the kicker: Three months after the wedding Mr. McDonnell gave a launch party for Antabloc — at the governor’s mansion.
This is a clear and direct example of the improper use of government money, facilities and power for the personal enrichment of friends. If the speech and the party were not a quid pro quo for the help with the wedding feast, it’s hard to imagine what a quid pro quo is." (from the NY Time"
And all this from a guy who touts his MBA and JD from Regent's University ( Pat Robertson's school) and his upright 'Christian' morality.

William R. Cumming

You mean local politicos are supposed to not feed at the public trough even beyond their salaries and perks?

Babak Makkinejad

Then I would say that you have not been paying attention...

For decades...

Babak Makkinejad

How many times must the electorate put up with a system of paving the roads that is deliberately set to deteriorate rapidly so as to provide sustenance for the politicos pals - from either party - to eat at the public trough?

How many times must the electroate pay for a student to learn algebra II- in Middle School? Again in Community College? Again in High School Summer (Remediation) Session?

How many times must the electorate pay for these athletic stadiums to revive this or that city's terminally ill Downtown area?

And why raze a perfectly fine building - in a high school or in a university - building a new one so that some people can be set for life?

These are not politicos at the public trough - rather they are a fine mesh of Private-Public Partnership in Corrupt Practices.

steve

While this behavior may be "typical" of certain large cities, I would argue that corruption exists in many areas of the rural south as well. Want to find out where the sale of illegal liquor takes place, say, in a dry county? Ask a sheriff's deputy.

As a southerner, I'm not dogging the south by any means. I am just more familiar with it and am sure thieves exist in all levels of government in all regions.

Fred

"All White, all the time" Yes Ficano in Wayne County is white and a crook; Kwame is black and a crook. Neither one of them ran the road commissions state-wide. Please spare me the racism. As to roads in Michigan, no I've only lived here ten years. Most of the cuts that led to roads being in bad shape came from Governor Engler before he left office; that was before I got here.

Babak Makkinejad

Oh, yes, Engler - the man who finally ended the feeding of 90,000 able-bodied men at the public trough, the man who tried to spare public education - at all levels - from lack of funding, the man who replaced the Democrat Blanchard who seemed to know how to build more prisons - yes, by all means, he and the republicans must be responsible for the sorry state of roads in Michigan. And that looker who know resides in California and whom Snyder replaced - what did she ever accomplish for Michigan except taking expensive junkets to China to get the Chinese to come and invest in Michigan - to no avail.

confusedponderer

I think this behaviour may be "typical" of about any city.

When people have the opportunity and/or insider knowledge to make a profit, they are tempted to cash in on it. They get away with it, because most of the time nobody is looking that closely at it. That tendency spreads with impunity.

Wall Street graft is also typical of that sort of herd behaviour. Over time it becomes standard. The market doesn't settle this, it encourages it.

In the end it is a simple thing about human nature. The people who absurdly ascribe moral virtue to efficient market pricing ignore that.

Man needs laws to reign him in lest he becomes a savage, and since if morality alone doesn't suffice for that, a lot of times, there's a need for cops and sanctioners.

I argue that profit seekers are such savages and need reigning in. There is a reason why greed is a sin, and the need for reigning in is a matter of survival. Unchecked profit interest in business is as much an evil unchecked ambition or is in government.

turcopolier

CP

Oh, come on! Everyone does it so it is OK? Well, everyone does not do it. If I were to believe that you were right I would just quit. pl

twv

Shocked??
I'm surprised when politicians DON'T steal.
Local politicians are just more flagrant and stupid about it.
US Senators have more opaque opportunity.
How many have entered the senate with no conspicuous wealth and after a few terms are living like pashas?
Harry Reid, anyone?

Fred

As I pointed out before Engler (and Blanchard) were in office before I became a resident.

FYI Snyder trip # 2 at the taxpayer's expense:

http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2012/09/gov_rick_snyder_heads_to_china.html

Anna-Marina

Now, this is a real scale of corruption:
"A study by James S. Henry, a former chief economist of the international trust McKinsey & Company, estimates that the ultra-rich have $21 trillion to $32 trillion in private financial wealth hidden in offshore havens"

http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/exposed_a_global_offshore_money_web_20130404/

Lets see how quickly the "haves" will go into damage control mode. If bother at all...

confusedponderer

It's my mood today. What I had in mind was this: I did not mean profit seeking as an evil per se, but an excess of profit seeking. That is what is not healthy, and that is what amounts to savagery to me.

A guy who looks at a forest and only sees the material value of the timber in it is a savage to me. Given free reign, he will destroy it, depriving future generations of it.

Or take a guy who sees a mountain, wants to get at the coal under it, and calculates that removing the mountaintop is the cheapest way to get to it. He is incapable of seeing or indifferent to the immaterial that a landscape gives to its inhabitants. To me, that's a savage also, and, given free reign, he, too will deprive future generations of it.

Oversight, like the sort that's theoretically supposed to happen on Wall Street, is about checking such overreach in the interest of the polity. IMO, that's quite a conservative thing to want, but tell that Republicans nowadays ...

To get back to the topic city corruption, if it is pervasive then because of the same reasons why Wall Street graft was pervasive. There sure were honest brokers, there always are. That is good. Does that alone prevent fraud?

I have never understood why in America there are people, self described conservatives in particular, who can reconcile in their thinking utter laissez faire in the economy with almost vengeful positions on even petty crime.

That's worst with the Ayn Rand crowd. They distrust man enough to generically consider people 'on the government take' untalented moochers, but in the business world, industry leaders are idols who must not be restrained, lest their genius goes into hiding or some-such.

IMO, there wouldn't be a difference between Wall Street graft, and a guy who enriches himself while in public office. They're crooks all the same, with the latter merely having the extra shame for abusing the power of an elected office. Now, just look who ends up doing time.

Babak Makkinejad

I do not believe that there ought to be any limit - beyond usual taxation rates that apply to everyone - on the accumulation of wealth by any individual.

I do not have any problem with the fortunes that Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison and very many others have amassed.

In fact, I believe that the examples of such fortunes are rather inspiring; even to those who can never imagine being that successful in their own small businesses but, nevertheless, would wish to have - at least theoretically - the possibility of becoming very very wealthy.

My impression has been that EU states/electorate do not share my opinion and out of egalitarian envy, wish to oppose the emergence of successful businessmen and enterprises, even small ones.

What they have accomplished, however, has been the accumulation of Wealth and Power by the State - thus making it imperative to join the government as the best means of becoming wealthy.

A fellow obtains a worthless law degree, joins the Italian government and spends the next 20 years maneuvering his way through the Italian bureaucracy to the top; competing against others such as himself.

In France, his counterpart would be a graduate of Ecole Polytechnique or Ecole Normal with a golden ticket to the top.

And in both countries, the rest of the population is back-ground/supporting crowd against which the lives of these elites are lived.

I think many people in US live in a Libertarian fantasy world whose prophetess is Ayan Rand - a dreamer and an idealist like so many other Western intellectuals.

I think many people in EU live in a Socialistic fantasy world whose prophets are Marx et. al. - all dreamers and idealists.

I find it interesting that both Rand & Marx were Jews, each recapitulating the Judaic idea of "Chosen People" in a different guise - for Marx it was the "Industrial Proletariat" and for Rand the "Creative Individual".

dan bradburd

For an enjoyable (seriously) read about corrupution, I recommend "Plunkitt of Tammany Hall." He famously made a distinction between honest and dishonet graft and lived by the motto, "I saw my opportunities and I took 'em." Plus ca change....

confusedponderer

Babak,
actually it isn't about socialism really, and not about super-rich folks like Bill Gates either. He is a cut throat businessman, but except for the Linux people, nobody is suggesting that he commits fraud. So nerds use Linux, artists use Apple and people with a job use Windows? Fine with me.

And yet, the EU has rightly intervened in the market against Microsoft when the company engaged in unfair market behaviour. That doesn't mean they wanted to tax Gates into poverty and redistribute his wealth. It's been a while since the US last reigned in a monopolist (and as far as I know, the US never were a particularly socialist country).

The idea about checks and balances to market ambition is about the consequences of market behaviour.

In then essence, it is about that bystanders are stakeholders, and they want a say to reign in excess. That is very easy to see when someone they elected into office betrays the trust put in him by enriching himself. But in essence he is just recklessly enriching himself at other people's expense. That one is obvious.

Let's get a little more subtle: Take a neighbour, who builds a workshop on his grounds, and the fumes are blown into your garden, ruining your crops, blackening the sheets you hung out to dry or just ruining your barbecue. You probably won't like that.

In international law, the classic case is the trail smelter dispute. It resulted in the "polluter pays principle" in environmental law of transboundary pollution. There is nothing socialist in that.

The fines levelled on Microsoft by the EU are justified in analogous manner, because Microsoft "polluted" the market by aggressive anti-market behaviour.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trail_Smelter_dispute

In essence, I simply speak of rules of good neighbourliness, oversight, and as importantly, enforcement. It makes sense in government as much as in the business and private worlds.

PS:
I have never attributed Rand's views to Judaic ideas. Rather, I think she never got over the fact that Bolsheviks confiscating her family's apothecary, plunging her family into poverty. She worked that into her ideas about the moochers and the entrepreneurial class. I think in the end she was a Nietzschean, and the Creative Individual is her Übermensch.

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you for your comments.

I completely disagree with your opinions on the way EU treated Microsoft - it was a form of extortion, in my opinion.

I do not agree that the analogy that you have sketched obtains -- the one between pollution and industrial production on the one side and the accumulation of wealth.

Pollution is a physically quantifiable phenomenon and its effects are both observable and subject to analysis. Furthermore, and in your analogy, an industrial polluter may be legally compelled to pay damages, based on observable damages to the crop of his agriculturalist neighbor.

No such thing obtains for the case of Microsoft or other similar cases of wealth accumulation. I am excluding illegal activities such as market manipulation, cheating, lying, insider trading, etc.

I know that you did not attribute he ideas to Judaism; I did that.

Consider: very many of the Bolshevik leaders were also Jews - Lenin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Kagnovitch, Trotsky, and Bukharin.

They identified the "Industrial Proletariat" with the "Chosen People" rather than the "Jewish People".

[Marx being their prophet, Dialectical Materialism their God, Historical Process the Holy Spirit etc.]

Same religious idea - different applications.

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