Posts Tagged ‘ethics’

Profound for Monday

January 7, 2013

It’s Monday, so I guess I need to come up with something to say. Then again, I don’t want to say something just to be saying something. I need to come up with something profound.

My coughs getting better. That’s only profound for me and my friends and family.

What can I say that is profound for everyone?

We need more ethical, just, and moral government, and not for just a few, but for everyone. Thankfully, some of Georgia’s state legislators also believe that, or, at least say they do. State Senator Josh McKoon says he believes that and is willing to  stand up for it. Let’s hope he gets support, and let’s hope we get more than window dressing in the bill that gets passed, if one gets passed. 

What else can I say that is profound? I didn’t say original, just profound. 

We have term limits for president of the United States, and we have term limits for governor of Georgia and Alabama, and probably other states. But, what we don’t have  and what we need most is term limits for national and state legislators. Something really needs to be done to encourage lawmakers to do the right thing for all of us, instead of just pandering to those who pour money into their campaigns.

Let’s see if I can come up with one more profound statement. How about this: we need news media who seriously do investigative reporting by reporting the stuff that somebody doesn’t want you to know. The internet showed promise in providing a platform for reporting stories that the mainstream media either ignored or was afraid to report. It turned out a lot of  misinformation and some out-and-out lies, were being posted on the web. You really have to check out sources to make sure what you are reading  is true.

Okay, now we can stop the profound parade and get ready for the really big story, one that will no doubt win the rating wars tonight: Alabama and Notre Dame playing for the national college football title. I have connections with Alabama so I’ll be pulling for the Crimson Tide.  

 

 

 

 

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COMING ATTRACTION: “THEY ARE ALL CROOKS”

August 6, 2012

Since I promised to always try to post a new article every Monday, I’ll have just promote the one I hope to finish by tomorrow. I  realize this is a very short article, even shorter than a movie preview, but at least I made a post.

Watchdogging is a News Media Responsibility

November 18, 2010
It was good, in my opinion, to see that Georgia’s largest newspaper still considers it is responsible to serve the public as a watchdog.

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Dan Chapman broke the story Sunday about Governor Sonny Perdue’s meeting with state employees in the Georgia Ports Authority about his trucking and grain companies seeking business with ports.  And yesterday,  according to AJC, Rome, Georgia ethics watchdog George Anderson asked Georgia’s attorney general and inspector general to investigate  Governor Sonny Perdue for allegedly violating the public trust by meeting with state employees to boost his trucking and grain businesses. 

The paper’s Sunday story reported that Governor Perdue met in the Georgia Ports Authority in Savannah “with a half-dozen state employees” with the purpose of the meeting to discuss how the Ports Authority could help grow the governor’s private businesses.

Responding to Anderson’s call for an investigation,  AJC reports that Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley said, “This is yet another frivolous complaint filed by Mr. Anderson, solely based on a news story that was full of speculation and innuendo, not facts.”  Previously he had stated that Governor Perdue and his associates were simply obtaining information available to any Georgian for his businesses in which the governor will become active after he finishes his second term.

No matter how this turns out, the positive note to me is that the Atlanta  Journal-Constitution is doing its Fourth Estate duty by serving as a public watchdog.  Somebody has to keep an eye on what politicians are up to. After all, their actions have direct effects on our lives because they get to make the rules, rules that they sometimes break themselves.  They may tell us during their campaigns that they are looking out for our interests, but it turns out that is not always the case, that they are sometimes primarily looking out after their interests.  

Let’s hope AJC keeps up the good work and that other news media follow their example.  It’s their public duty, in my view.

Josh McKoon on Why We Should Support New Ethics Legislation

March 21, 2009

I don’t know when public confidence in state and federal representatives and senators has been lower than it is right now. Perhaps lawmakers can turn this around if they enact some tough ethics legilsation that effectively stops the buying of our  Congressional and state legislators.  Josh McKoon,  attorney,  former chair of the Muscogee County Republican Party and a member of Common Cause Columbus,  told me he is seeking support for a new, thougher ethics bill  pending in the Georgia legislature. SB 96 passed unanimously in the Georgia Senate and now is before the Georgia House. I asked him to tell me why he thinks we should support the measure.  He sent this explanation:

SB 96 is legislation that accomplishes several important goals.
 
First, it provides for training for registered lobbyists by the State Ethics Commission to insure full compliance with the new reporting requirements for provision of meals, etc. to legislators.
 
Second, it tightens up the definition of lobbyist to make sure it is inclusive only of those paid to lobby and does not require grassroots activists to register.  For example, under the current law you could argue that your piece and Bob Hydrick’s comments about the Billboard legislation amount to lobbying and that the “compensation” received is keeping highways free of clutter.  I agree it is absurd, but the way the law reads it could certainly be interpreted that way.  The new revised langauge will resolve that issue.
 
Third, it beefs up reporting requirements for lobbyists.  I don’t dispute the idea that anyone who wants to pay for lobbyists in Atlanta should be able to do that, but we need a more transparent accounting of what is being received by our elected representatives on their behalf.
 
Finally and most importantly in my view, it establishes ethics panels to review and dispose of ethics complaints against local elected officials.  This is an important check on the power of our elected representatives and protects against violations of the ethics law which the State Ethics Commission does not have jurisdiction over nor the manpower to handle.  These panels will fill a gap in current law where there is no remedy, short of filing a civil lawsuit in Superior Court, to handle matters where elected officials abrogate or ignore the law.  We have seen what happens when this is allowed to go on in Clayton County among other places. 
 
Critically, these panels will be composed of unpaid volunteers so there is no growth in the size of government.  Also the panels are empowered to fine frivolous complainers to the tune of $1,000.00 per complaint, to weed out those who would use this mechanism to harass elected officials that are not violating ethics laws.

If you agree with Josh, please contact your Georgia state representative and let him or her know.   At first blush,  the bill sounds good to me, but I am not sure it is strong enough to actually cut down on the influence of lobbyists for vested interests on our legislators.  At least  it’s a step in the right direction.

The Poverty Business

August 17, 2008

  Interesting how one thing leads to another in life. I posted an article on Columbus’ biggest problem, poverty. Then I learned that it’s not only a problem but a business opportunity, because poverty can be profitable. In fact, according to what I heard on Bill Moyers Journal, it is a 600 billion dollar a year industry. That’s right; the lowest 25 percent of the American socioeconomic sector provides that much money.

 

  An article in Business Week, “The Poverty Business,” points out how the poor are paying so much more for loans than higher income people.

 

 Federal Reserve data show that in relative terms, that debt is getting more expensive. In 1989 households earning $30,000 or less a year paid an average annual interest rate on auto loans that was 16.8% higher than what households earning more than $90,000 a year paid. By 2004 the discrepancy had soared to 56.1%. Roughly the same thing happened with mortgage loans: a leap from a 6.4% gap to one of 25.5%. “It’s not only that the poor are paying more; the poor are paying a lot more,” says Sheila C. Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

 

  Moyer says loan sharks have always been around. The loan-shark industry justifies the usurious interest rates on the grounds that lower income people are a higher risk. However, the industry has put on a new face in some instances.

 

  There are used car lots that cash in on the poor. One such lot was featured on the Journal. You don’t see any prices displayed on the cars. That’s because price is not even discussed until a profile on the customer is recorded. It goes into a software program which quickly tells the salesperson the max that the buyer can pay. Once the deal is made, the odds are good that the buyer will not be able to afford the payments very long. The car will be repossessed and sold again. Bottom line: a good bottom line.

 

  Emergency rooms have to treat people whether they can pay or not, but they have the right to try to collect. Some hospitals are turning this over to loan companies. The companies buy the accounts and collect the money at high interest rates. So many American don’t have health insurance that there is money to be made this way.

 

  So you could say there is a bright side to poverty. You just have to know how to exploit it. Instead of being considered a problem, it could be considered an opportunity. After all we are talking about a 600 billion dollar industry. Of course, it means you can’t afford the luxury of a conscience, or of “doing the right thing” by your fellow human beings. Wait a minute, some might say, those who lend money to the poor are helping them.  But then, there is the argument that when you charge predatory rates what you are doing is helping them do it stay poor and even become poorer.