Category Archives: Financial Crimes

Ferguson v. Port of Olympia, Part II

Ok, jumping back in on the Port of Olympia. If you want to start at the beginning, go here for Part I.Logs Oly port 2011July1 (3)

If you want to start with Part II and not look back, the story is that former finance director Kevin Ferguson has sued the Port of Olympia and Edward Galligan for wrongful discharge, violation of whistleblower law and other tortious conduct.

So, working from the lawsuit Ferguson v. Port of Olympia again, I note/quote from the lawsuit:

  • “In approximately late June/early July, 2011, plaintiff (Ferguson) met with two Commissioners to alert them to what plaintiff considered to be some of the serious issues that he had reported to Galligan (Port Executive Director Edward Galligan) , and advised them that Galligan had failed to take any remedial action.  The issues that plaintiff reported at that time included the failure of Galligan to follow Port personnel policies, and the apparent nepotism and increased technology expenses in a potentially unlawful awarding of a technology contract.”

and

  • “on August 16, 2011, plaintiff was compelled to submit a written report via email to Port Commissioner Jeff Davis, which laid out plaintiff’s reasonable belief about violations of law or policy and waste of Port funds, most of which implicated Galligan.  The written report identified a variety of matters with details information, including but not limited to the following:

(a.) Nepotism in the award of the Port’s IT contract to the brother-in-law of Galligan’s former secretary and the Port’s HR Manager, who was directly responsible for all information technology at the Port, which appeared in conflict with Port Policy 108.

(b.) Change of the IT award/oversight from the HR Manager to a staff person, who was nevertheless supervised by the HR Manager, continuing to appear in conflict with Port Policy 108.

(c.) Waste of Port funds in paying an excessive amount of $10,000 per month to maintain the IT system, and payment of such amounts with lack of adequate service by the IT consultants – one who resided in Vermont most of the year and the other who left the Port without local technology support while out of the area.

(d.) Award of the IT contract to an entity which has a statutory two year ban from public work due to previously operating without a license

(e.) Payment to the IT contractor after the contract expired, and renewal of an expired contract without first requesting new proposals for qualifications or bids.”

In reading through the 17 page Ferguson complaint, it becomes clear that the IT contract is a somewhat central thread that should be subject to public scrutiny for the purposes of deciding if the Port is operating in an ethical and forthright manner.

So, how would we start to get to the heart of this story?   Why not start with a quick look at the contracting entity and the contract?

Sorry, need to go to work, will be back with a look at the contracting entity and the contract in a day or two.

New Economics? Is there another way?

I like some aspects of free markets.  As a craftsman who has made a living at times in my life building and remodeling houses, I like the idea that I can trade my time and skills in a relatively free manner for money or other goods that I want or need.  More and more I find I don’t really want too much stuff.  I have a houseful of stuff.  It comes and goes.  I don’t buy much in the way of new stuff.  We are awash in consumer goods in the US and if you turn off regular television and cable and stop reading the newspaper, your consumer programming falls away pretty fast in my experience, so I just am not all that familiar with the stuff that the consumer culture thinks I should be craving.

I think consumer culture and rampant capitalism is the downside of the free market.  I like Medicare.  I like Social Security.  I like public education.  I think it should be free and include higher education.  I think that means I like socialism.

But try to sell socialism to the US electorate with the consumer capitalists in charge of the media.  It’s going to be a tough sell.

I am throwing up this piece by Gar Alperovitz.  I will watch it in a day or two.   Maybe he has some thoughts about new economic systems that I will find appealing. Maybe you will find something here also. Hope so.

Gar Alperovitz – Our Time in History: The Possibility of Fundamental System Change from New Economics Institute on Vimeo.

Ocean Report

A couple of items on things oceanic came to my attention this week.

NYT had a story on collapse of the cod fishery:

The Shocking News About Cod

The ideal fish for human consumption would mature quickly and reproduce in staggering numbers.

Courtesy Wiki Commons NOAA

This does not describe the Atlantic cod. Cod mature late — at 4 to 6 years old — and they can live as long as 25 years. Female cod do, in fact, produce astonishing numbers of eggs. But older cod lay two or three times as many eggs as younger cod. This means that a healthy cod population must include relatively large numbers of older fish.

For Op-Ed, follow @nytopinion and to hear from the editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, follow @andyrNYT.

A recent survey of cod catches in Northern Europe shows exactly the opposite. Extrapolating from survey numbers, scientists at a British government fisheries agency estimate that there are nearly 200 million 1-year-old cod in the North Sea but only 18 million 3-year-olds. As for older cod, the numbers are shocking. The survey team estimates that in 2011 there were only 600 12- to 13-year-old cod, a third of which were caught, and not a single fish older than 13 has been caught in the past year.

Read the whole article?  Important stuff.

Paul Pickett in Oly shared this new NOAA app that shows sea level rise and coastal impacts. We have been talking in Oly about actions by the Washington State Department of Ecology.  DOE has blocked a shoreline plan in Jefferson County that prohibited pen fish farming.  This is the industrial practice of raising fish such as Atlantic salmon in pens.  We don’t healthy fisheries if we can raise fish to eat in pens.  Ecology is also stepping in on the the Olympia shoreline plan in ways that may help the Port of Olympia and thwart environmental action that has wide public support.  We are talking in Olympia about how regulatory agencies can be captured by the industries they regulate and what we can do about it.

I think we have to ask the right question and that question is “why would regulatory agencies thwart reasonable environmental actions?”  The answer is profit, capitalism; economic interests are in control and dictate to us all.  Disaster capitalism.  Disaster, capitalism.  Disaster. Capitalism.

Here is the sea level rise app.  NOAA is not a regulatory agency per ser, more of a pure science agency.  It’s harder to capture science agencies than it is to capture regulatory agencies who are able to weigh science against economic interests.

It’s kind of tragic and ironic that we are both depleting the ocean and increasing the ocean’s coverage of the planet at the same time. The Greenland ice cap is melting.  Start looking hard at the sea level rise application and plan accordingly.  There are going to be some opportunities for profit in the coming troubles.

Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer

NOAA Coastal Services Center

Features

  • Displays potential future sea levels
  • Provides simulations of sea level rise at local landmarks
  • Communicates the spatial uncertainty of mapped sea levels
  • Models potential marsh migration due to sea level rise
  • Overlays social and economic data onto potential sea level rise
  • Examines how tidal flooding will become more frequent with sea level rise

Overview

View the current status of the tool.

Being able to visualize potential impacts from sea level rise is a powerful teaching and planning tool, and the Sea Level Rise Viewer brings this capability to coastal communities. A slider bar is used to show how various levels of sea level rise will impact coastal communities. Completed areas include Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Florida, and Georgia, with additional coastal counties to be added in the near future. Visuals and the accompanying data and information cover sea level rise inundation, uncertainty, flood frequency, marsh impacts, and socioeconomics.

Launch Now

Acknowledgements

The NOAA Coastal Services Center would like to acknowledge those organizations that provided direct content used in this tool or feedback, ideas, and reviews over the course of the tool’s development. Specifically the Center would like to acknowledge the following groups.

Here is the link to the main page for this NOAA app.

Pinata Economics

I have been thinking about Romney and the general casino-style financial sector that has been preying on the US and the world over the past decade and the image of a pinata came to mind.  Pinata economics.  The willingness, the glee of smashing something pretty to get at the goodies inside really seems to fit with the get really rich really quick schemed of leveraged buyout.

In These Times has a couple of good articles in the September 2012 issue.  One is The Bain Legacy and the other How to Succeed in Business Without Adding Value.  Both by David Moberg.   I recommend reading them both.

Courtesy Paul Sapiano and Wiki Commons

 

 

Courtesy Gage Skidmore Wiki Commons

 

 

 

 

    Pinata Economics.  I should probably claim intellectual property rights to that term and sell it to the highest bidder.  Isn’t that the way these things work?

Wish I knew how to put the  ~ symbol on top of the N.

Lo siento, amigos.

PUD or Macquarie PSE Power?

Power for the people?  or  Power for Profit?  That’s the other regular election issue that I am really geared up to work on for the next few months. 

We have a chance in Thurston County to assert local control through the ballot to establish local power, local accountability, and local jobs.

The Thurston Public Power Initiative is on the ballot.  This a very simple measure that opens the door for competition for efficient power generation.  The Macquarie Group PSE is pulling out all the stops to defeat the Initiative and it’s easy to figure out why.  I think the figure is 17 million dollars in profits that were take out of Thurston County last year and deposited in the coffers of the Australian banking giant – the Macquarie Group.

I notice that an R Castaneda was posting in the Daily Zero with a letter in favor of the The Macquarie Group PSE yesterday.  Castaneda says he(?) lost power for one day last winter with the ice storm.  and his recommendation to folks who lost power for many days is simple:  buy a generator.

Who needs local jobs maintaining the lines, trimming the trees, restoring the power.  Just ship the profits to a struggling international bank and buy a generator set.

I am not sure what to say about that, but I am not planning to buy a generator set.

Here is some history to consider:

Puget Sound Energy was a locally developed  energy company that formed with the 1997 merger of Washington Energy and Puget Sound Power & Light.  You can get a possibly factual primer on PSE at  Wikipedia.

Here is an interesting set of newspaper articles that provide a longer term look at questions about Puget Sound Energy and the takover by the Macquarie Group.

Take special notice of these particular articles:

from the last article:

Referred to as “the millionaire’s factory” before the onset of the financial crisis, Macquarie’s net profit fell 25% in fiscal 2012 to an eight-year low of A$730 million Australian dollars as a slump in deal volumes and volatility in global markets cut earnings at Australia’s only listed investment bank.

A Macquarie spokeswomen wasn’t immediately available for comment.

So, we have a decision to make in Thurston County about power.  Do we continue to buy our electricity from the millionaires factory or should we establish a public power option to keep the private sector competitive?  This does not seem like a hard decision.

Posterity Economics v. Austerity Economics

Are we keynesians or would we prefer to be serfs?  It’s an election year, soCourtesty Billy Hathorn Wiki Commons we get to weigh on this and other questions.  I really think we need to be thinking about creative economics.  Market-based economics that are sustainable, that create useful commons instead of quarterly profits, dividends and obscene bonuses.  We all get to decide how to make that happen.

As for me, I will be voting for posterity economics.  Raise taxes and reinstate the steeply progressive tax rates that discourage bald-faced greed and encourage investment in useful infrastructure.  You will hear that taxing the rich won’t raise the funds that we need, that we will have to tax the middle class.  That is a calculated threat by the rich to discourage taxing the rich. And besides, look at the demographics, where is this vaunted middle class?

Where are the middle class jobs?

Time to downsize? Ouch!  Click me please

A couple of stories from the Washington Post this morning caught my attention:

The Mittster is chillin’ in Israel for a few days after his tour of the London Olympics where he wowed them.    well, maybe not.  but anyway, he’s out to Israel now.  Checking the real estate in Jerusalem.  Making contacts with car elevator contractors in case he decides to build a get away place in the Other Holy Land (not salt lake).

Mittster did have kind words for the Israeli health care system.  Unfortunately that health care system is exactly the kind of big government interference that the right wing is certain will destroy the soul of a great nation.  Here is a piece of the WAPO article on that:

Romney praises health care in Israel, where research says ‘strong government influence’ has driven down costs

Posted by Sarah Kliff on July 30, 2012 at 11:10 am

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had some very kind things to say about the Israeli health care system at a fundraiser there Monday. He praised Israel for spending just 8 percent of its GDP on health care and still remaining a “pretty healthy nation:”

 When our health care costs are completely out of control. Do you realize what health care spending is as a percentage of the GDP in Israel? 8 percent. You spend 8 percent of GDP on health care. And you’re a pretty healthy nation. We spend 18 percent of our GDP on health care. 10 percentage points more. That gap, that 10 percent cost, let me compare that with the size of our military. Our military budget is 4 percent. Our gap with Israel is 10 points of GDP. We have to find ways, not just to provide health care to more people, but to find ways to finally manage our health care costs.

Romney’s point about Israel’s success in controlling health care costs is spot on: Its health care system has seen health care costs grow much slower than other industrialized nations.

How it has gotten there, however, may not be to the Republican candidate’s liking: Israel regulates its health care system aggressively, requiring all residents to carry insurance and capping revenue for various parts of the country’s health care system.

Israel created a national health care system in 1995, largely funded through payroll and general tax revenue. The government provides all citizens with health insurance: They get to pick from one of four competing, nonprofit plans. Those insurance plans have to accept all customers—including people with pre-existing conditions—and provide residents with a broad set of government-mandated benefits.

Read the whole article?  Go for it. 

It’s too bad that the conservatives have no sense of humor or appreciation of irony.  They really miss out on the best that their leaders have to offer.

Second piece from the WA Post that jumped out at me:

As ‘fiscal cliff’ looms, debate over pre-Election Day layoff notices heats up

 

 

By , Published: July 30

  The deep federal spending cuts scheduled to take effect at the start of next year may trigger dismissal notices for tens of thousands of employees of government contractors, companies and analysts say, and the warnings may start going out at a particularly sensitive time:

Days before the presidential election.

Read the whole piece.  I dare you. 

I hope that the Dems find a semblance of spinal material and will hold certain feet to the fire.  Imagine a budget cut so severe, so fair that it would even cut into defense jobs.  Well, try to imagine that.  What are the chances?

Each moment we are faced again with the choice of austerity politics or posterity politics. Think on.

 

 

 

The State is a Condition

“The State is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of behaviour; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently toward one another…”

Gustav Landauer

Have to pack and set up the Really Really Free Market in Olympia.  Contracting other relationships, behaving differently toward one another?  Can we really destroy the state by behaving differently?

Thurston Public Power or Macquarie Group Profits?

Want to know more about the history of public utility districts?  Want to know how many communities in the State are getting public services at competitive costs from public utility districts?   Hey, you are in luck.

The WPUDA maintains a website that carries all that stuff.  They also have a great building on Union that showcases the kind of distributed electrical generation grid that we could develop locally through expanding PUD in Thurston County from water to water and electricity.

Do you think Macquarie Group has great interest in the quality of life here in Puget Sound or are they primarily interested in the profits they can bank in Australia from your PSE bill here in Washington State?

Another thing to study up on is the connection between PSE and coal fired power.  Read about it on Sightline.

Thurston County voters will get the opportunity to expand the Thurston County PUD from water to water andelectricity in November.

This is a no-brainer.  You get local control, local ownership, local accountability and

the profits that are currently traveling abroad from PSE can be used for local jobs that will do maintenance andprevent an ice-storm electric outage like we had last winter.

Connect the dots.


WPUDA-Washington Public Utility Districts Association - Your Connection

 

 

Home

 

About Us

 

News

 

Calendar

 

PUD Info

 

Member Services

 

RCW54

Washington PUDs | FAQs | History | RCW 54 | Jobs

 

 

RCW 54

The PUD law is RCW 54.

In 1929, the Washington State Grange collected more than 60,000 signatures – twice the number necessary – to send Initiative No. 1 to the Legislature, allowing rural communities to form their own publicly owned utilities. When the Legislature failed to act, the measure went to a statewide election, where it passed in 1930 with 54 percent of the vote. The new PUD law went into effect in 1931.

The law, now known as RCW 54, authorized the establishment of public utility districts to “conserve the water and power resources of the State of Washington for the benefit of the people thereof, and to supply public utility service, including water and electricity for all uses.” In 2000, as access to the Internet became increasingly important, the law was amended to include wholesale broadband telecommunications service.

Puget Sound Energy is an Australian For Profit Utility

 

Thurston County will get to vote to authorize the Public Utility District to expand into electricity in November.  It is on the ballot, friends.  We did it.  No paid signature gatherers, just volunteers knocking on doors.

Let’s talk about Puget Sound Energy for a moment.  It is not a Puget Sound based company despite the name.  PSE is owned by the Macquarie Group of Australia.  I have nothing against Australians, but the Macquarie Group appears to be an investment company.  A slinger of high finance instruments including Collateralized Debt Obligations, one of the casino style financial models that create privatized profit and socialized risk.

The SEC is reported to be considering lawsuits against the Mac Group.  Should we continue to trust them with an electricity monopoly in Thurston County or should we vote for PUD Power and have them compete with a utility that is locally owned, locally controlled, and locally accountable?   Want to know more about Macquarie Group?  here’s a piece from The Australian:

Macquarie Group unit faces US probe over deal

 

 

 

MACQUARIE Group is being investigated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission over a botched subprime mortgage bond deal from before the global financial crisis.

It was revealed yesterday that Delaware Investments, now a subsidiary of Macquarie Group, and Mizuho Financial Group are likely to face civil charges over the $US1.6 billion Delphinus bond offer in 2007.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the SEC, the US corporate regulator, was about to file lawsuits against the two groups.

It will be alleged that the bond deal consisted of a collateralised debt obligation that “imploded” just months after it was sold to investors.

Want to read the whole article in The Australian?  Sure, why not.  I don’t think The Olympian is covering the Macquarie Group story.  just sayin…