Sunday, May 19, 2019

FABLE: THE GOOSE AND THE GOLDEN EGG


There was once a Countryman who possessed the most wonderful Goose you can imagine, for every day when he visited the nest, the Goose had laid a beautiful, glittering, golden egg.

The Countryman took the eggs to market and soon began to get rich. But it was not long before he grew impatient with the Goose because she gave him only a single golden egg a day. He was not getting rich fast enough.

Then one day, after he had finished counting his money, the idea came to him that he could get all the golden eggs at once by killing the Goose and cutting it open. But when the deed was done, not a single golden egg did he find, and his precious Goose was dead.

Those who have plenty want more and so lose all they have.

Who Rules America?





Who Rules America?

Joel Kotkin's new book fingers Silicon Valley as the new elite. Is he right?

In The New Class Conflict, Joel Kotkin argues that the socially and politically ascendant groups in contemporary America are the oligarchs of Silicon Valley and a complex of elite journalists, think-tank pundits, and academics that he dubs the clerisy. The nouveaux riches of the tech world are increasingly intent on remaking society in accordance with their own passions, reports Kotkin, an urban studies scholar at Chapman University. The clerisy, meanwhile, promotes and provides ideological legitimation for elite goals. The effect of the two groups' efforts, he concludes, is to concentrate wealth and power in a shrinking number of hands, leaving the middle class stranded and subject to ever more evident economic decline.

Kotkin does not claim that either group is a monolith. Different factions within each class compete for access to wealth and political influence, and they also exhibit some differences in cultural commitment. But overall, Kotkin suggests, there is a persistent pattern: Contemporary elites are socially liberal but relatively blasé about the bread-and-butter impact of a broad range of policies that drive a growing wedge between those at the top and everyone else.

Thus, for example, tech leaders press a green agenda whose elements include support for mass transit and opposition to suburban living. Such policies implement the oligarchs' moral and æsthetic preferences, and sometimes they create business opportunities for the oligarchs' class (as when they invest in and promote putatively green technologies). But the same policies pose risks for the well-being of many ordinary people, by constricting their options and limiting their access to resources.

Similarly, while Bill Gates may call for higher taxes on the rich, many tech firms (Kotkin points to Twitter and Apple) seem quite happy to ensure that tax burdens fall not on them but on the middle class. (Gates's own Microsoft, for instance, has "shaved nearly $7 billion off its U.S. tax bill since 2009 by using loopholes to shift profits offshore.")

Despite its social liberalism, Kotkin suggests, the tech industry is visibly focused on business models in which disregard for privacy is central. Some commercial intrusions (sometimes compatible with contractual and property rights, sometimes not) may be annoying but relatively benign. But the industry has also generally appeared quite willing to facilitate surreptitious state monitoring of multiple facets of interpersonal communication as well.

Kotkin also criticizes the tech industry for business models that disregard people's privacy. These range from annoying but relatively benign commercial intrusions, such as the collection of browsing data to enhance the targeting of on-line advertisements, to cooperation with the National Security Agency's monitoring of our communications. Kotkin also highlights the tech industries' expansion into the broader media world, where their money is being used both to reinvigorate existing media outlets (such The New Republic and the Washington Post) and to create new ones (such Pierre Omidyar's First Look media, home to Glenn Greenwald's The Intercept). In this way, he argues, they create new platforms that allow their allies in the clerisy to enforce environmental and social orthodoxy.

What might a libertarian make of Kotkin's analysis?

Class used to be a significant theme in libertarian political commentary. Though Karl Marx's account of class conflict is better known, Marx acknowledged his indebtedness to earlier French classical liberal theorists of class, such as Augustin Thierry, Charles Comte, and Charles Dunoyer. Class analysis also figured powerfully in the rhetoric of many later libertarians, notably Karl Hess and Murray Rothbard during their alliance with the New Left (and, with a more right-wing populist flavor, in Rothbard's later work as well).

For Marxists, class position is determined by economic actors' relationship with the means of production. The ruling class rules, on this view, because it controls capital, while other classes are subordinate to it because they depend on access to the assets the rulers control. In libertarian class theory, by contrast, class position is a function not of the resources you own but your relationship with the state. Dominant classes are constituted by their relationship with political power. The source of their resources is their ties to the state, and the use to which they frequently put those resources is the manipulation of the state to achieve their goals.

Libertarians and Marxists will frequently identify the same groups as making up the dominant social classes: top elected or appointed officials, for instance, or dominant figures in the military-industrial complex. But while the Marxist might treat a Pentagon contractor as a member of the ruling class simply because of the resources she or he owns, the libertarian would explain the contractor's wealth and class position by stressing the role of the state's war machine and its incestuous ties with the "defense" industry.
Today, unfortunately, you're more likely to encounter class analysis in the discourse of the Marxist left, and perhaps the Tea Party right, than in that of classical liberals and libertarians. Perhaps this is a function of a desire to avoid unsavory associations. Often, I fear, it reflects an instinctive valorization of the successes of those who have made it in today's marketplace, no matter how unfree those markets may be. The worry seems to be that using the rhetoric of class to criticize influential groups in our society will somehow give aid and comfort to those who promote a politics of envy and resentment. But I think this worry is unwarranted. It is possible to acknowledge the creativity and determination of people who actually succeed by contributing to the welfare of others through creativity and peaceful, voluntary exchange while also criticizing social stratification and the abuse of power.

Kotkin is not a libertarian, but his account overlaps helpfully with a libertarian critique of contemporary class relationships. He tends to focus on members of the Silicon Valley elite's attempts to gain political power—for themselves personally and for their class. But it's worth emphasizing that the tech world's ties with the state are much more pervasive than those created by intermittent political campaigns, or even by their campaign donations.

The concentration of wealth in Silicon Valley would be unimaginable without a patent and copyright regime, created by political fiat, that confers monopoly power on a limited number of actors who can use this power to extract wealth at exorbitant rates from businesses and consumers dependent on their products and services. "Intellectual property" rights shore up Silicon Valley firms' control over software and other elements of their businesses, offering the premiums monopolies always make available to those who hold them. The creativity and drive of Valley entrepreneurs is real, but so is the mark-up that intellectual property laws allow them to charge.

The Valley's links with the NSA, and other profitable government contracts, also concentrate wealth in hands of the oligarchs, who are actively involved in vigorous D.C. lobbying. So do Bay Area land use regulations that dramatically raise the cost of living, limit access to housing and commercial space to the wealthiest people and firms, and route wealth to those who have already managed to gain access to land in the region.
The clerisy obviously depends on the state for influence, too. Elite journalists succeed by maintaining access to key political players, generally secured using fawning coverage and stenographic reporting of official positions. Pundits link the media with political elites and work for think tanks that frequently contract with state entities to provide rationales for the policies the establishment favors. Academics frequently rely on state-proffered grants to conduct research. State-mandated licensing requirements channel people into higher education when they might otherwise be inclined to seek alternate means of training. Tax money funds many academic institutions, and tax-secured student loans feed the wealth of universities.

Thus, the class groupings on which Kotkin focuses are (as I have no reason to think he would deny) creatures of the state. The cultural, political, legal, social, and economic environment misshaped by the oligarchs and the clerisy is a product of government intervention.
Kotkin understandably and rightly challenges the results of this intervention. In stark contrast to many contemporary commentators, he emphasizes that economic growth is crucial if the decline in middle-class and working-class living standards is to be reversed. High-minded talk about "sustainability" often serves as an excuse to leave the wealth of elites undisturbed while refusing to pursue policies with the potential to boost the incomes of everyone else. Kotkin stresses that those who care about reversing class polarization must support growth-oriented policies. He also emphasizes the snobbery and disregard for middle-class preferences and aspirations evident in elite groups' disaffection for the suburbs—though he does not address the ways, such as highway subsidies and the use of eminent domain, in which suburban development has been a function not only of consumer demand but also of policy outcomes designed to benefit developers. Silicon Valley isn't alone in its ability to play the lobbying game.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

SB50 will be back

Friends,

Please read the below Marin IJ piece but please note that part of the article's description of SB-50 gives an incorrect impression about the exemptions in the bill.
The article states; "The new merged bill gave special treatment to smaller cities and counties, and exempted small coastal cities, historic districts and fire-prone areas from zoning reforms."
First of all, the above listed exemptions only apply to the section of the bill that deals with "Equitable Communities Incentives", which would allow taller, denser residential developments near transit stops and within jobs-rich areas.  They do not apply to the section regarding "Neighborhood Multifamily Projects", which would allow the construction of fourplexes, by right, in all residential areas (including all single-family neighborhoods), provided the projects meet minimal criteria.
Secondly, the exemption from fire-prone areas is essentially ineffective because the bill's fine print states that this exemption will not apply if "a site has adopted fire hazard mitigation measures pursuant to existing building standards or state fire mitigation measures applicable to the development".  This would be easily accomplished by developers.
Per the article, SB-50 was moved to a "two-year bill".  That means SB-50 will be held for the rest of the year and come back for a vote in January 2020.  Please be ready to help defeat the bill again at this time.

Marin reaction mixed to failure of controversial housing bill to advance
By  | rhalstead@marinij.com | Marin Independent Journal
PUBLISHED: 
State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, left, confers with State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, center, during a hearing on their housing bills April 24 in Sacramento. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

A controversial housing bill that called for sweeping changes to California’s zoning rules is dead for the year — a major setback for an ambitious legislative package that aimed to solve the housing crisis, but a triumph for residents worried the zoning overhaul would change their cities for the worse.

Senate Bill 50, which would have allowed fourplexes in neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes and forced cities to approve taller, denser residential buildings near transit stops, was one of the most-watched — and hotly debated — bills of the year. It also was the cornerstone of a group of bills seeking to reform everything from renter protections to residential development, part of an effort to ease the affordable housing shortage that for years has been driving Californians’ costs up and quality of life down. The effort has been taking place under a governor who has made housing a priority and specifically asked for housing bills to sign.

SB 50’s setback was received with mixed emotions by Marin officials. State Sen. Mike McGuire, whose district includes Marin, secured some special protections for Marin jurisdictions by agreeing to merge his affordable housing bill, SB 4, with SB 50.

“It is disappointing since we struck a balance between the need for workforce affordable housing and not adopting a policy that takes a one-size-fits-all approach,” McGuire, D-Healdsburg, said Friday.

The new merged bill gave special treatment to smaller cities and counties, and exempted small coastal cities, historic districts and fire-prone areas from zoning reforms. But the compromise also included an especially controversial new measure — cities would be required to approve fourplexes on vacant land in any residential neighborhood in California, a move critics decried as an attack on single-family zoning.

“I think the amendments made SB 50 stronger,” McGuire said.

McGuire said he expects state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, SB 50’s author, to advance an amended version of the bill when the next legislative session begins in January 2020.

“This provides an opportunity to continue to negotiate on the bill and work with all stakeholders,” McGuire said. “The bottom line is this: the affordable housing crisis is not going away here in California.”

Sausalito Councilwoman Joan Cox said, “I believe that senators Wiener and McGuire collaborated to accomplish some very good work on the updated version of SB 50 but I believe there remains additional work to do.

“It became clear that a majority of jurisdictions were not yet ready to support SB 50 without further amendments,” said Cox, who has served on an ad hoc committee advising the Metropolitan Transportation Commission on Marin’s response to various housing bills working their way through Sacramento.

Others in Marin, however, were not sorry to see SB 50’s momentum stall.

“Obviously we’re really pleased about the delay and think it’s a big success and victory for people who are really concerned about issues of affordable housing for low-income residents,” said Susan Kirsch of Mill Valley, founder of slow-growth group Livable California.

Richard Hall of San Rafael said, “SB 50 isn’t dead yet; advocates for the bill, the Yes in My Backyard YIMBYs, are pressing Toni Atkins, the president pro tempore of the state Senate, to put the bill to a floor vote as soon as possible.

“The most likely situation,” Hall said, “is SB 50 will be put to a vote in January 2020; 2020 is significant as not only is it a presidential election year, but also many state politicians will be up for re-election.”

SB 50 divided the state, pitting slow-growth groups against YIMBYs, developers against anti-gentrification advocates, and local mayors against state legislators.

It all came to a head Thursday. Moments before the bill was set to undergo a crucial vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee, the committee chair, Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, announced SB 50 would join a handful of measures to become “two-year bills.” That means SB 50 will be held for the rest of the year and come back for a vote in January 2020.

“There were legitimate concerns expressed from both large and small cities about the scope of SB 50 as it pertained to bus corridors, historic preservation, the definition of ‘jobs rich’ neighborhoods and whether it would increase gentrification and discourage light rail expansion as unintended consequences; all of which justified the pause established today by the committee,” Portantino wrote in a statement.

But the fact that the committee held SB 50 this year, instead of killing it outright, is significant, said David Garcia, policy director for UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation.

“Bills get turned into two-year bills every now and then,” he said. “I think that signifies that the goals of the bills are worthy, but they simply couldn’t get the support in time for it to move further. But they want to continue the conversation into the next part of the legislative session.”

The bill was the second attempt by Wiener to pass sweeping zoning reform. His similar measure, SB 827, died last year in its first committee hearing.

“While I’m deeply disappointed that the Chair of the Appropriations Committee has decided to postpone SB 50 until 2020 — since we have a housing crisis right now — we are one hundred percent committed to moving the legislation forward,” Wiener wrote in an emailed statement. “We’re either serious about solving this crisis, or we aren’t. At some point, we will need to make the hard political choices necessary for California to have a bright housing future.”

Housing advocates still had reason to cheer Thursday, as several other housing bills made it out of the Appropriations Committee and will advance to the Senate floor. They include SB 329, which would prohibit landlords from discriminating against Section 8 tenants; SB 330, which would prevent cities and counties from imposing new parking requirements for housing developments; SB 5, which would fund affordable housing development at a cost of $200 million per year; and SB 6, which would create a database of local land suitable for residential development.

But none of those bills generated as much opposition as Wiener’s SB 50. City leaders fumed that it would strip their ability to control what gets built within their borders. And affordable housing advocates worried it would lead to more high-end development, which would displace low-income residents.

It may be more difficult for SB 50 to pass in 2020 because it’s an election year, Garcia said. Legislators up for re-election may be hesitant to cast a vote for such a controversial bill or may urge its author to soften its impact.

Newsom was disappointed.

“California must address the housing supply shortage head on, and we need to be able to use every tool in the toolkit to address this systemic crisis,” he wrote in a statement.

But Palo Alto Mayor Eric Filseth was relieved.

“It’s welcome to see cooler thinking starting to prevail in Sacramento,” Filseth wrote in an email. “Housing costs and also transportation remain really serious problems in the Bay Area, and I hope Sacramento will take this year to work with cities, instead of against them.”

Bay Area News Group reporters Marisa Kenda

Friday, May 17, 2019

The drug and homeless crisis . Is Seattle dying?

SB 50 will come back for a vote in 2020

Controversial housing bill that challenges single-family zoning is dead for the yearSB 50 will come back for a vote in 2020


State Sen. Scott Wiener speaks at a demolition ceremony for the Vallco Shopping Mall, Thursday, Oct.11, 2018, in Cupertino, Calif. Wiener’s SB 35 bill was used to help usher along a new development for the site. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

By MARISA KENDALL and KATY MURPHY |
PUBLISHED: May 17, 2019 at 6:48 am | UPDATED: May 17, 2019 at 6:49 am


A controversial housing bill that called for sweeping changes to California’s zoning rules is dead for the year — a major setback for an ambitious legislative package that aimed to solve the housing crisis, but a triumph for residents worried the zoning overhaul would change their cities for the worse.

Senate Bill 50, which would have allowed fourplexes in neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes and forced cities to approve taller, denser residential buildings near transit stops, was one of the most-watched — and hotly debated — bills of the year. It also was the cornerstone of a group of bills seeking to reform everything from renter protections to residential development, part of an effort to ease the affordable housing shortage that for years has been driving Californian’s costs up and quality of life down. The effort has been taking place under a governor who has made housing a priority and specifically asked for housing bills to sign.

But SB 50 divided the state, pitting slow-growth groups against YIMBYs, developers against anti-gentrification advocates, and local mayors against state legislators.

It all came to a head Thursday. Moments before the bill was set to undergo a crucial vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee, the committee chair, Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, announced SB 50 would join a handful of measures to become “two-year bills.” That means SB 50 will be held for the rest of the year and come back for a vote in January 2020.

“There were legitimate concerns expressed from both large and small cities about the scope of SB 50 as it pertained to bus corridors, historic preservation, the definition of ‘jobs rich’ neighborhoods and whether it would increase gentrification and discourage light rail expansion as unintended consequences; all of which justified the pause established today by the committee,” Portantino wrote in a statement.

But the fact that the committee held SB 50 this year, instead of killing it outright, is significant, said David Garcia, policy director for UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation.

“Bills get turned into two-year bills every now and then,” he said. “I think that signifies that the goals of the bills are worthy, but they simply couldn’t get the support in time for it to move further. But they want to continue the conversation into the next part of the legislative session.”

The bill was the second attempt by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, to pass sweeping zoning reform. His similar measure, SB 827, died last year in its first committee hearing.

“While I’m deeply disappointed that the Chair of the Appropriations Committee has decided to postpone SB 50 until 2020 — since we have a housing crisis right now — we are one hundred percent committed to moving the legislation forward,” Wiener wrote in an emailed statement. “We’re either serious about solving this crisis, or we aren’t. At some point, we will need to make the hard political choices necessary for California to have a bright housing future.”

Housing advocates still had reason to cheer Thursday, as several other housing bills made it out of the Appropriations Committee and will advance to the Senate floor. They include SB 329, which would prohibit landlords from discriminating against Section 8 tenants; SB 330, which would prevent cities and counties from imposing new parking requirements for housing developments; SB 5, which would fund affordable housing development at a cost of $200 million per year; and SB 6, which would create a database of local land suitable for residential development.

But none of those bills generated as much opposition as Wiener’s SB 50. City leaders fumed that it would strip their ability to control what gets built within their borders. And affordable housing advocates worried it would lead to more high-end development, which would displace low-income residents.

“Obviously we’re really pleased about the delay and think it’s a big success and victory for people who are really concerned about issues of affordable housing for low-income residents,” said Susan Kirsch, founder of slow-growth group Livable California.

It may be more difficult for SB 50 to pass in 2020 because it’s an election year, Garcia said. Legislators up for re-election may be hesitant to cast a vote for such a controversial bill or may urge its author to soften its impact.

SB 50 made it through two committee hearings before it was tabled Thursday, and it went through several changes along the way. As part of a compromise last month with Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, Wiener agreed to give special treatment to smaller cities and counties, and exempted small coastal cities, historic districts and fire-prone areas from his zoning reforms. But the compromise also included an especially controversial new measure — cities would be required to approve fourplexes on vacant land in any residential neighborhood in California, a move critics have decried as an attack on single-family zoning.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has asked the legislature to bring him housing bills to sign, was disappointed.

“California must address the housing supply shortage head on, and we need to be able to use every tool in the toolkit to address this systemic crisis,” he wrote in a statement.

But Palo Alto Mayor Eric Filseth was relieved.

“It’s welcome to see cooler thinking starting to prevail in Sacramento,” Filseth wrote in an email. “Housing costs and also transportation remain really serious problems in the Bay Area, and I hope Sacramento will take this year to work with cities, instead of against them.” 
see article in the Marin IJ HERE

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

2,650' rappel off El Capitan in Yosemite

FORBES: Financial Advisers Can Help State and Local Government Workers Understand Their Imperiled Pensions

FORBES: Financial Advisers Can Help State and Local Government Workers Understand Their Imperiled Pensions



A network of financial advisers capable of responding to growing concerns of workers participating in our nation’s largely underfunded public pensions is needed—immediately.
With nearly 80 million Baby Boomers retired, or on the verge of retiring, news that the overwhelming majority of this population is unprepared financially for retirement is finally getting the attention it has long deserved.
Ten Years ago I wrote in Forbes,
“We are on the precipice of the greatest retirement crisis in the history of the world. In the decades to come, we will witness millions of elderly Americans, the Baby Boomers and others, slipping into poverty. Too frail to work, too poor to retire will become the “new normal” for many elderly Americans.
That dire prediction is already coming true. Our national demographics, coupled with indisputable glaringly insufficient retirement savings and human physiology, suggest that a catastrophic outcome for at least a significant percentage of our elderly population is inevitable. With the average 401(k) balance for 65 year olds estimated at $25,000 by independent experts – $100,000 if you believe the retirement planning industry - the decades many elders will spend in forced or elected “retirement” will be grim.”
It is well known that the percentage of full-time private sector workers who have a pension has declined dramatically in recent decades. In the public sector, pensions are still the norm, so most state and local government employees have been promised a stated amount of retirement income for life.
Note I said, “promised.”
Whether state and local workers will ever get the full retirement benefits they have been promised is, with each passing year, becoming more and more uncertain. A great many of the states and local pensions are massively underfunded.
States facing the biggest pension crisis include Connecticut, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, Illinois, California and Colorado.
On April 12th I was invited by PeakProsperity to do an hour-long podcast focused upon the subject of underfunded public pensions.
Tens of thousands listened to the podcast, making it clearer than ever to me that people are starving for experts to explain in plain language how pensions work, or don’t work—fail.
On May 20th, I will be participating in another lengthy interview on Jefferson Public Radio, the NPR affiliate for Southern Oregon and Northern California, focusing on Oregon's pension. The folks at PeakProsperity and I are planning additional podcasts focusing on the worst funded states.
In addition to seeking clear explanations about how these pensions work and what taxpayers and participants should expect in the event of a bankruptcy, people keep asking me what they can do.
My message is clear: you are not helpless. There are steps you can and should take today.
Very simply, there are three main contributors to any pension’s health. First, how much money goes into the pot (contributions); second, how the money in the pot is managed over workers' lifetimes, say, 30 years (investments) and third, how much flows out of the pot (benefits). If any of these three elements is out-of-whack, trouble ensues.
The issue of contributions to government pensions by taxpayers typically is hotly debated because taxpayers are already stressed about their own woefully inadequate retirement savings. Equally, taxpayers often cite too-rich state worker retirement benefits as a concern. These taxpayer responses have been attributed to so-called private sector “pension envy.”
Mismanagement of pension investments is the one key element to pension health that no one talks about—ever. However, in my decades of experience forensically investigating public pensions, I have repeatedly discovered that the greatest cause of pension underfunding is mismanagement of investments—not contributions or benefits.
Most investigations I have undertaken have concluded that if the pension had been properly managed, most or all of the underfunding would have never happened.
Part of the reason investments at even the largest public pensions, such asCalPERS, are such a mess is that the boards of these funds lack even basic knowledge of investing pension assets. Public pension boards consist of laymen—school teachers, cops, firefighters, and sanitation workers. Generally, in my experience, it is foolhardy for workers to put their trust in these boards. Even if the boards wanted to do the right thing-- which (for political and other reasons) they often don't-- they wouldn't know how to.
Likewise, most participants in public pensions lack the financial expertise required to divine whether the investment program securing their retirements makes sense.
Now for the good news.
Virtually all public pensions today have websites that disclose the key information regarding the investments, as is generally required under state Freedom of Information Acts. All pension stakeholders should visit these websites and learn as much from them as you can.
In addition, there are tens of thousands of financial advisers nationally who could assist state and local workers evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of public pension investment programs. (Obviously, some advisers are more skilled than others.) My advice to every financial adviser is to spend some time studying your state and local pension’s website and comment about your findings. It’s a great way of responding to the needs of potential clients who are government workers and your efforts will help address a growing national concern.
I encourage all financial advisers and public pension stakeholders to work with me to create a national network to scrutinize and improve public pension investing before it's too late.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

How some Southern California drug rehab centers exploit addiction

How some Southern California drug rehab centers exploit addiction

Timmy Solomon lights a glass pipe of crystal meth in the bathroom of his sober living home in San Clemente. He closes the window and turns the shower to steaming hot to disguise the smell. He said he got the meth a few days earlier from another addict at their outpatient treatment center in San Juan Capistrano. Less than an hour later his housemates call the house manager to report him being high. A few hours later he’s kicked out and sent to Mission Hospital Laguna Beach where he spends the night.(Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
245 COMMENTS
By TERI SFORZA | tsforza@scng.com, TONY SAAVEDRA | tsaavedra@scng.com, SCOTT SCHWEBKE | sschwebke@scng.com, LORI BASHEDA, MINDY SCHAUER | mschauer@scng.com, JEFF GRITCHEN | jgritchen@scng.comand IAN WHEELER | iwheeler@scng.com | Orange County Register
PUBLISHED: May 21, 2017 at 5:55 am | UPDATED: November 5, 2018 at 2:37 pm

REHAB RIVIERA


Navigate to a section:
Part 1 | Some rehabs use loopholes, Obamacare to exploit addicts
Part 2 | Many recovery centers fail to deliver
Part 3 | Recovery homes can make tough neighbors
More | A note from the editor and other findings
Previous


































Timmy Solomon’s mood swings between euphoria and sadness after shooting heroin and crystal meth, a concoction aptly named “goofball.” One minute he’s dancing: “I’m the luckiest person in the world!” The next minute he’s crying because his ex-wife won’t allow him to see his 1 1/2-year-old daughter when he’s using. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Part 1: Some rehabs use loopholes, Obamacare to exploit addicts


As they push their grocery carts and clutch their coffees, the shoppers scurrying through the Ocean View Plaza parking lot pay little attention to Timmy Solomon.Timmy hunts for cans in the garbage and turns them in for cash at the recycling station to buy drugs. “I never pictured this as my life, ever dude.” he says. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

For many, he’s easy to ignore.

His hair is dirty and matted. His voice is raspy. And on this sunny Tuesday, Solomon is dragging around a bag full of cans and bottles that he hopes to sell to the RePlanet Recycling station behind the Ralph’s in San Clemente.

He wants to raise $20 so he can get high one last time before he goes into rehab.

As a kid, Solomon was taught not to steal or use drugs. But today, at 28, he’s grown up to become a shoplifter and a junkie, addicted to heroin and meth and benzodiazepines, one of the hardest drugs to kick.

Those aren’t the only contradictions in Solomon’s life.

As broke as he is, Solomon is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Chronic drug users like Solomon are commodities, exploited by a growing world of drug and alcohol rehab operators who put profit ahead of patient care. Everything from the opioid epidemic and Obamacare to prison realignment and legal loopholes has created conditions in which unethical operators can flourish, using addicts to bilk insurance companies and the public out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Though many legitimate centers remain, critics and long-time insiders say a darker version of the industry is emerging, built around an illicit world of patient recruiters, fraud-driven clinics and drug-testing mills.

Southern California, where the implementation of Obamacare makes it easy for recent arrivals to sign on for insurance, is on the front line of the conflict.


More HERE

Finding Skimming Schemes (Marinwood CSD is at risk)



Finding Skimming Schemes


Schemes that involve the skimming of money are very difficult to detect, investigate, and ultimately prove. These types of schemes are carried out before money is recorded in a company’s accounting system. Because of this “off-books” nature of the crime, little to no trail is created for investigators to follow.
Skimming happens at the point of entry of money into a business. The gatekeeper who receives those funds is the most likely person to steal the money. Typical jobs that might involve access to funds in this way include bank teller, waitress, store cashier, salesperson, or medical billing clerk. Hundreds of jobs could afford someone an opportunity to skim funds from a company, but these common examples illustrate the ease of theft but the difficulty of investigation.
Imagine a case involving a waiter or waitress who takes an order from a customer, which includes an appetizer, a meal selection, and a beverage. The customer receives all the food and pays for all the food, but the server has not entered the appetizer into the cash register, and instead pockets that part of the customer’s payment. This is a simple example of how easily a skimming scheme can be carried out.
It is simple to see how this could happen. Instances like this are probably less common in restaurants that use computerized systems and have good controls in place. A restaurant might require that the kitchen not release any food that is not in the computer, with management actively supervising employees to be sure that this rule is followed. That can be a pretty effective control and would go a long way toward preventing skimming by waiters and waitresses. But what about a restaurant in which no controls like this are in place? It would probably be fairly easy for the servers to run a scam like this. How would anyone ever prove it? Unless the waiter or waitress is caught in the middle of the act, how could restaurant management later prove a theft of this nature? It would be very difficult.
In a retail environment, an investigator will look for clues that skimming might be occurring. Telltale signs from cash register data might include excessive voided transactions or no-sale entries. These can be legitimate things that happen during an employee’s shift, or they can be done to make it appear to the customer that the employee is ringing up a sale, while she or he is really stealing the money. By comparing the instance of these void or no-sale transactions between employees and shifts, you may find one employee has an alarmingly high rate.
In an office setting, the process of skimming is usually a little more difficult. Suppose a customer goes to the phone company and makes a cash payment at the window, but does not bother with a receipt. The cashier could easily take this money without entering anything into the record-keeping system, thereby accomplishing a theft by skimming. The customer has no proof of payment, and neither does the phone company, because a receipt was not generated. However, this creates a problem. If the customer’s account is not adjusted to reflect the payment made, the customer will likely complain when the next bill is received in the mail. So although the cashier was easily able to steal the money before it was noted in the accounting system, a red flag of fraud will likely be raised soon unless the customer’s records can be adjusted soon.
The customer may be out of luck without a receipt, but too many customer complaints like this would create a red flag that might alert management to a fraud. Yet imagine how difficult an investigation would be. There is literally no documentation related to the theft. Unless an employee is caught in the act, a fraud may be very difficult to prove. This type of situation emphasizes the need for segregation of duties to prevent fraud in the workplace. If the process of receiving payments and recording payments in the accounting system are separated, the chance of theft decreases dramatically. The cashier could steal the payment, but if she or he has no ability to update account records to conceal the theft, there is less chance the theft will occur.
Skimming schemes can be carried out in numerous ways, and detecting and preventing them varies from industry to industry. No matter what industry a company is within, it is important to develop surprise audit procedures that would uncover a skimming scheme. If you were going to steal money before it enters the accounting system, how would you do it?
If you managed a large apartment complex, maybe you would rent out a couple of the apartments without filing the paperwork in the office. You would collect the rent from those tenants but pocket it, with the property owner never being the wiser. As a fraud investigator, it may be your responsibility to brainstorm how a situation like this could be prevented. How about a regular audit of the allegedly vacant units? Someone who is not responsible for the money and doesn’t  have a chance to steal is required to verify vacancies and submit a report on them. That report is then compared to rent collections and the total rent expected from the property. The person in charge of collecting rent could no longer secretly rent out an apartment and keep the proceeds, because the other employee’s vacancy report would tip off the owner.
Because skimming is so difficult to detect and prove, companies should rely heavily on preventive controls. If employees think they are being actively monitored, they are less likely to steal. Effective tools in the fight against skimming could include:
  • Video cameras to monitor employee activities
  • Active involvement of managers
  • Involvement of customers by alerting them to the company’s policy to issue a receipt for all transactions
  • Segregation of duties to eliminate opportunities to cover theft
  • Surprise audits or counts to deter fraud
So how would you actually investigate a case of alleged skimming if it is so difficult to investigate things leaving little to no paper trail? Some ideas include:
  • Look for obviously altered or incorrect documentation.
  • Examine accounts for irregular entries, especially high-volume, low balance accounts like miscellaneous, voids, cash over/short, write-offs, returns, and the like.
  • Look at accounts receivable aging reports to identify irregularities. Unusually old balances might be signs of skimming, which wasn’t followed by an adjustment to a customer’s account.
  • Use trend analysis to look for patterns in accounts. Are write-offs increasing compared to account balances? Are discounts unusually high? Is a particular employee recording more write-offs, refunds, or discounts than the other employees?
  • Use audit software that can quickly examine thousands of records to look for irregularities in entries or balances. The irregularities might include who is making entries, what accounts are used, or suspicious dollar amounts.
Editor's Note:  Marinwood CSD business practices opens itself up to fraud.  They have two accounting systems and use "petty cash" for thousands in undocumented expenses. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

Marinwood CSD Board meeting packet May 14, 2019

SB50 goes into Suspense on May 13, 2019

Here's Why Autonomous Cars Are the Only Way to Eliminate Traffic Jams

Here's Why Autonomous Cars Are the Only Way to Eliminate Traffic Jams



There's a driving technique that's guaranteed to eliminate traffic jams forever. Too bad human drivers can't pull it off.

BY ERIC LIMERAUG 31, 2016




If you know anything about how traffic patterns work and congestion actually occurs, you'll already know a frustrating and basic truth about driving: It only takes one jerk's tap of the brakes to spark a traffic jam that can reach for miles and last for hours.

This issue is only exacerbated by drivers who don't understand what makes a traffic jam worse and what makes it go away. But as CGP Grey explains, there's actually a strategy that—if every driver knew it and adhered to it—could make many traffic jams just disappear. Just maintain an equal distance from the car in front of you and the car behind you. That's it.




Simple in theory, but next to impossible in practice. For one, not all human drivers are aware of this principle, and we'll never reach a point where they all are. On top of that, human drivers lack the precision and consistency to maintain equal gaps like this all the time. Last but not least, it breaks down unless everyone is doing it; you don't control the car behind you and if it's getting right up on your bumper, there's not much you can do.

The solution, of course, is self-driving cars. Self-driving cars and only self-driving cars. The more robotic cars on the road, the more they can communicate, follow these rules, and make commuting more efficient than it ever could be with even one human driver in the mix. Maybe we'll get there someday. In the meantime, enjoy the freedom of driving yourself—if you're not caught in a human-caused traffic jam.


https://www.roadandtrack.com/new-cars/car-technology/videos/a30618/the-one-driving-technique-that-could-solve-traffic/

Sunday, May 12, 2019

FABLE: THE WOLF AND THE HOUSE DOG

There is nothing so precious as Liberty

There was once a Wolf who got very little to eat because the Dogs of the village were so wide awake and watchful. He was really nothing but skin and bones, and it made him very downhearted to think of it.

One night this Wolf happened to fall in with a fine fat House Dog who had wandered a little too far from home. The Wolf would gladly have eaten him then and there, but the House Dog looked strong enough to leave his marks should he try it. So the Wolf spoke very humbly to the Dog, complimenting him on his fine appearance.

"You can be as well-fed as I am if you want to," replied the Dog. "Leave the woods; there you live miserably. Why, you have to fight hard for every bite you get. Follow my example and you will get along beautifully."

"What must I do?" asked the Wolf.

"Hardly anything," answered the House Dog. "Chase people who carry canes, bark at beggars, and fawn on the people of the house. In return you will get tidbits of every kind, chicken bones, choice bits of meat, sugar, cake, and much more beside, not to speak of kind words and caresses."

The Wolf had such a beautiful vision of his coming happiness that he almost wept. But just then he noticed that the hair on the Dog's neck was worn and the skin was chafed.

"What is that on your neck?"

"Nothing at all," replied the Dog.

"What! nothing!"

"Oh, just a trifle!"

"But please tell me."

"Perhaps you see the mark of the collar to which my chain is fastened."

"What! A chain!" cried the Wolf. "Don't you go wherever you please?"

"Not always! But what's the difference?" replied the Dog.

"All the difference in the world! I don't care a rap for your feasts and I wouldn't take all the tender young lambs in the world at that price." And away ran the Wolf to the woods.

There is nothing worth so much as liberty.

Is There a Homeless Industrial Complex That Perpetuates Homelessness?

Is There a Homeless Industrial Complex That Perpetuates Homelessness?

By  | Aug 5, 2013
going-out-of-businessIn recent years, the approach to homelessness dramatically changed from how to “manage” homelessness to how to “end” homelessness. This was not merely an alteration of semantics, but a systematic change in how to allocate the limited resources that were spent every year on America’s growing homelessness problem.
Even now, the speeches at conferences, forums, and workshops on ending homelessness are instilled with a sense of pride that the homeless services and housing world has its priorities and approaches right – allocate resources to immediately house people who are homeless, also known as “housing first”, and create detailed plans to end homelessness.
But do those of us in the “business” of ending homelessness really have it right?
For years, I heard directors of homeless agencies and key leaders in the field say, “We are working toward going out of business, when there is a day that there is no homelessness.” Are these hollow feel-good words?
Communities across this country were mandated by HUD (the Department of Housing and Urban Development) to create plans to end homelessness. When the plans are compared to each other, most are very similar.
But I do not know of any community plan that actually details how to dismantle the existing homeless service system after homelessness has ended. Where do all of the Executive Directors, Development Directors, and Finance Directors go after the agencies go out of business? How about the social workers, security guards, and peer counselors? Do we sell off all the agencies’ property and assets?
Within the agencies that I lead, we have nearly 250 employees. Should I be giving everyone a post-dated pink slip, explaining to them that they will all be out of a job within the next 5 to 10 years (depending on what plan we are going from), since homelessness will end and there will be no need for our services?
Peter Buffet, a scion of the famed Warren Buffet, recently penned an op-ed piece, “The Charitable-Industrial Complex” that has turned the charity world upside down. Some of his points are poignant reminders of how charities (perhaps, even within the homelessness world) trend toward perpetuation rather than elimination:
Philanthropic Colonialism – Buffet says that the charity world would rather transport a solution to a local social issue (in our case, homelessness) from the outside (for example, “housing first”) rather than understand the local dynamics and resources for why the issue is actually occurring in a local neighborhood. He infers that this causes perpetuation.
A Growing Charity World – In a span of ten years, from 2001 to 2011, the philanthropic world has increased by 25%, a clear sign of perpetuation.
In the homeless charity world, local homeless agencies are going out of business. Not because homelessness has ended, but because they financially cannot keep their doors open.
The world of homeless services and housing remains massive. The federal government alone spendsseveral billion dollars per year, not including private dollars. Some would say that the system of ending homelessness should increase because the need is increasing.
Conscience Laundering – Is all of this charitable energy to end homelessness simply a guilt-relieving exercise for those of us who are not homeless? Are political and community leaders investing in homelessness to keep, as Buffet would say, “the existing structure of inequality in place”?
“The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over.”
I don’t think any of the leaders I have worked with to end homelessness would think they are putting in 60-hour work-weeks to prevent a revolution from occurring in this country, nor do they feel guilty because they are not homeless. On the contrary, our energy in this social struggle is because we are called to help those who are hurting, and because we, too, feel we could be without a home given the fragility of this economy.
Buffet’s assessment of this country’s charity industry may be correct in many cases. But within the homeless services and housing world, the goal of ending homelessness in this country is a public expression that the homeless charity world truly wants to go out of business, and not become what Buffet calls a “perpetual poverty machine”.
While some may feel ending homelessness is utopian, or wishful thinking at best, the direction and approach to its realization are correct.
When industry leaders and funders begin to help homeless agencies transfer their staff to other employment sectors and guide organization on how to sell their assets, then I may need to start issuing pink slips. Ironically issuing pink slips might be cause for celebration, because homelessness will have ended.