History of Municipal Bankruptcies Under Chapter 9

Municipal bankruptcies are covered under Chapter 9 of the bankruptcy code.  Chapter 9 was created in 1934 in the midst of the Great Depression.  Chapter 9 has many differences from corporate or personal bankruptcy.  First, states can determine if municipalities are permitted to file for Chapter 9.  If Chapter 9 filing is allowed the municipality cannot be forced to liquidate assets to cover debts, does not protect collective bargaining agreements, does not protect retiree benefit guarantees, and the bankruptcy judge has no ability to modify bankruptcy plans; he can only approve or reject a submitted bankruptcy plan. (source)

The list below contains a brief account of counties, towns, and cities that either filed for chapter 9 or came close to filing.  Note that there are other municipalities that file for chapter 9 that are not a county, town, or city.  These special municipalities are setup for special projects: hospitals, sewers, landfills, etc.  The list below is only of municipalities that can be found on a map.

Whole Foods fined $800,000 for cheating customers

A story broke recently about a fine levied against Whole Foods for cheating customers.  A year long government investigation found that there were instances where Whole Foods did not properly account for the container for items purchased from the salad bar, priced some items by unit instead of by weight as dictated by the overlords of California, and some items weighed less than stated on the packaging.

Proponents of government regulation, such as these folks, use this as an example of the necessity of government regulation and mock the silly libertarian idea that the market can regulate itself.

The internet 100 years from now

Awhile ago I read an article where folks speculated what people 100 years from now would read with amazement and disbelief about life today. One speculation was about the need for oil, another about the abundance of poverty, and so on.

One entry that was not in the list that I think will be mind boggling to those 100 years from now: the freedom of the internet.

Man helps people reduce taxes, government official says he is hurting everyone

Upstate New York has some of the highest property taxes in the country (see map below of property taxes as a percent of home price).  One man has started a business where he helps residents challenge government assessments which are used as the basis for calculating property taxes.

"The Tax Opposer" is the name of his business and he gets a percentage of the savings if he is able to reduce the assessment for a homeowner, nothing if he is unsuccessful.

McDonald’s employee fired for paying for customers’ meals. I would have fired her too.

Heather Levia, a 23-year-old employee of a McDonald’s in Olean, NY used $83 of her own money to purchase breakfast for firefighters that had placed a breakfast order at the restaurant. The firefighters were fighting a house fire in the area. A little while later another fire department placed a $70 breakfast order at the same McDonald’s. Levia asked her boss if McDonald’s would pick up the tab for these firefighters.  Her boss said no.  She then called McDonald’s corporate office who also denied her request that McDonald’s pay for the fire fighters’ meals. Levia and her coworkers pinched in to pay the $70 for the second fire department’s meals.

The next day she was fired. Based on the information in the story, I would have fired her too.

History of government confiscation, raiding, taking of private pension, retirement accounts

Below is a history of the confiscation, raiding, or taxing of private retirement or pension funds by government.  Note that the list only includes instances where private pension or retirement funds were targeted.  There are many other instances of public pension funds being raided by government.  I’ll attempt to catalogue those instances in another post.

Why does the yield curve invert?

There are moments in time when the yield curve inverts.  This article takes a look at when such events occur and what could possibly cause them.

Chinese Villagers Defending their property

I read this article that describes a group of Chinese villagers who are trying to prevent the government from selling their land to developers without consent of the villagers.

The villagers have decided to sign a pact that any villager who is harmed by the government while defending their land from seizure will be given a grand burial.  Their family will also be cared for.  This is an interesting tactic that I think would be effective.

Prism Search

The NSA has developed a new website that can be accessed by the public:  Prism Search.  Since the NSA has access to everyone's Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Youtube, and Skype content, as well as other undisclosed online content, they thought people may want to search their online content across all these disparate domains.  Thus, Prism Search was born.  A nice feature of Prism Search is that all harmful content has been removed by the NSA.  For your safety, of course.

Melinda Gates saves lives using birth control. Huh?

I literally laughed out loud when I read the headline "Melinda Gates Will Saves Thousands of Lives With Birth Control".

Yes, the best way to save lives is to prevent them from being created.

Munger says banks should be bailed out and bankers are like heroin addicts

Back in September,2010 Charlie Munger, the Vice Chairman of Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway, stated that "You should thank God" for bank bailouts.  In regards to the bailouts he said "You shouldn't be bitching about a little bailout.  You should have been thinking it should have been bigger."  His most famous line from this address was when he said Americans should "suck it in and cope".

What is surprising is in a recent interview on CNBC the same Munger says bankers can't be trusted.  He said they are like "heroin addicts".

In the first article Munger talks about how the bailouts where required to "...save civilization".  So let me get this straight: we must bail out banks because they are the basis of civilization.  Banks? The basis of civilization?  The same banks that are run by heroin-like addicts?  This is what our civilization is based on?

It doesn't occur to Mr. Munger that banks might behave like heroin addicts BECAUSE they get bailed out.

I'm coping Mr. Munger but I no longer "suck it in"....especially your drivel.

Does Google Glass have a chance?

Does Google Glass have a chance?  I don't think so.

Several articles have appeared recently stating Google Glass will be the wave of the future.  I'm not so sure.  Google Glass is an indication to me that Google is ran by engineers instead of a product designer who understands the desire for attractive products.  Engineers are typically terrible at product design since they place very heavy emphasis of function over form.  When making a purchase a typical engineer will construct a spreadsheet comparing all the features of different models of a product in an attempt to determine which model provides the most "bang for the buck".  The engineer rarely takes into consideration the form or attractiveness of the product.  I have quite a few spreadsheets as proof of this behavior.

Most people want to look nice.  See the substantial size of the fashion, makeup and plastic surgery industries as proof of this.  In fact, people are willing to shoot lasers into their eye balls in an effort to rid them self of unsightly glasses.

Google glasses are not attractive and I believe this will be a major hindrance to their adoption.  I was skeptical of 3D TVs that also required glasses.  Who wants to put on glasses to watch TV?  Google Glass could meet the same fate as 3D glasses.

Targeting innocent civilians is terrorism

In this clip regarding the Boston marathon bombings Obama states:
Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terror.
Drone attacks under the Obama administration have killed over 150 innocent children.  But the killing of innocent children by government personnel is not terrorism?  Of course not.  The term terrorism never applies to government killing.  The killing of innocent people by government is called "collateral damage" making it sound like it couldn't be prevented.

Reminds me of a quote: "The terrorist is the one with the small bomb."

Fidelity executive is concerned about Americans' savings rate....sure

In this article a Fidelity executive argues that Americans should be saving more for retirement.  He seems so concerned for Americans and their future.  Sure.

In 2006 congress passed the Pension Protection Act which allows employers to automatically enroll employees in retirement plans.  Employers can enroll employees at a maximum rate of 3% under the act.  The Fidelity executive states that rate should be increased to 6%.  He says Americans aren't saving  enough.

He seems so concerned with my well being.  I'm sure he couldn't have an ulterior motive, right?

Guess which company is the largest administrator of 401K plans?  You guessed it: Fidelity.

Confiscation of savings accounts proposed in US

The Cyprus President, in cahoots with the EU, proposed a one-time tax on money in savings and deposit accounts.  The tax would range from 6% to 10% depending on the amount in the account.  If the proposal was approved the government of Cyprus would take the funds from peoples’ bank accounts.

How fantastically efficient and simple?  For some reason this has outraged many people who are correctly calling this action robbery.  Strange that taking money from peoples’ bank accounts is theft but taking it from their paychecks is just fine.

Why have other governments not thought of this approach?

They have.

Michael Arrington upset about Homeland Security taking his boat

Mr. Arrington ordered a boat from Canada.  Upon the boat's arrival in the US a Homeland Security official needed Mr. Arrington's signature on a form.  Mr. Arrington noticed a discrepancy in some of the financial information reported on the form so he refused to sign the form at which point the Department of Homeland Security seized Mr. Arrington's new boat.  Arrington complains about the "bastards" on his blog as well as "...how screwed up our government bureaucracy has become".

I agree with his assessment of the government however I find it hard to sympathize with his condition.

Let me explain.

Obama the gun salesman

Obama may be one of the best salesmen for guns.  The chart below shows the number of background checks conducted by the FBI.  At this rate it won't take long before the FBI has done a background check on every person in the US.

Penelope Soto offends a tyrant, goes to jail

Imagine being dragged in front of a dress wearing man who is attempting to set the bond amount that you must fork over so that you return to his lair at which point he'll determine how to properly punish you for possessing a dangerous substance.  Your only crime was the possession of a substance a group of politicians deemed dangerous.  No one was harmed by your possession of this substance.  Absolutely no one.  This is the illogical craziness of the war on drugs.

Well, some are amused by the silliness of it all.  Witness one Penelope Soto.

America has low taxes

Henry Blodget at Business Insider posted an article essentially stating that Americans shouldn't complain about high taxes.