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Monday
Jul212014

POLITICS (National): U.S. Senate, dysfunction, "intensely personal war between the leadership offices": "Leadership war stymies Senate mission" ....

* Washington Post:  "Leadership war stymies Senate mission" - From the WP:

The Senate went three months this spring without voting on a single legislative amendment, the nitty-gritty kind of work usually at the heart of congressional lawmaking. So few bills have been approved this year, and so little else has gotten done, that many senators say they are spending most of their time on insignificant and unrewarding work.

The big issues have been sidelined by political and procedural battles and an intensely personal war between the leadership offices. Senators say that they increasingly feel like pawns caught between Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whose deep personal and political antagonisms have almost immobilized the Senate. The two men so distrust each other, and each is so determined to deny the other even the smallest political success, that their approach to running the Senate has been reduced to a campaign of mutually assured dysfunction.

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The problems are so severe that a rump caucus of Democrats and Republicans has been meeting secretly, trying to break the logjam, to no avail.

The situation is so alarming that former Senate leaders, including Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.), are mounting a public intervention to try to steer the chamber back toward effectiveness and maybe even some of its grand traditions. “The Senate has degenerated into a polarized mess,” the former majority leaders recently wrote in a report that criticized both sides.

If the situation seems suddenly more urgent, it is just an escalation of an old problem..........................

Monday
Jul212014

LOCAL GOVERNMENT (Bay Area): Santa Clara County, parcel tax, November ballot: "Silicon Valley open space tax heading toward November ballot" ....

* San Jose Mercury News:  "Silicon Valley open space tax heading toward November ballot" - From the MN:

SAN JOSE -- Hoping to preserve scenic parklands, wildlife habitat and farmland around Silicon Valley, the board of the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority is scheduled to vote Thursday on placing a $24 per-parcel tax on the November ballot. The tax, which would require a two-thirds majority for approval, would raise $120 million over the next 15 years to expand the agency's network of open space preserves, currently located around Henry W. Coe State Park, Calero Reservoir and the hills east of San Jose.

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If the board places the measure on the ballot, as expected, voters who live inside the district's boundaries -- which include San Jose, Santa Clara, Campbell, Milpitas and most of unincorporated Santa Clara County -- will have the final say.

With voter approval, the agency, established by state law in 1994, will double the size of the land it has preserved in Santa Clara County. . . .It also will be able to triple the size of trails for hiking, horse riding and mountain biking from 19 miles now to about 60 miles.

A leading anti-tax group is lining up opposition...............................

Monday
Jul212014

LOCAL GOVERNMENT (Los Angeles area): Transportation, "Metrolink to cut service on San Bernardino line"; traffic, LAX, "'Century Crunch could make journey to LAX worse"; law enforcement, "Ex-Arcadia cop convicted in theft of nearly $42,000 from police union" .... 

***Various items relating to politics and/or public policy in and around Los Angeles area....

* San Gabriel Valley Tribune:  "Metrolink to cut service on San Bernardino line"

* Los Angeles Times:  "Ex-Arcadia cop convicted in theft of nearly $42,000 from police union"

* Daily Breeze:  "'Century Crunch' could make journey to LAX worse"

Monday
Jul212014

POLITICS/BUSINESS (National): Resurgence, subprime lending, used-car dealers: "In a Subprime Bubble for Used Cars, Borrowers Pay Sky-High Rates" ....

* New York Times:  "In a Subprime Bubble for Used Cars, Borrowers Pay Sky-High Rates" - From the NYT:

Rodney Durham stopped working in 1991, declared bankruptcy and lives on Social Security. Nonetheless, Wells Fargo lent him $15,197 to buy a used Mitsubishi sedan. “I am not sure how I got the loan,” Mr. Durham, age 60, said.

Mr. Durham’s application said that he made $35,000 as a technician at Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, N.Y., according to a copy of the loan document. But he says he told the dealer he hadn’t worked at the hospital for more than three decades. Now, after months of Wells Fargo pressing him over missed payments, the bank has repossessed his car.

This is the face of the new subprime boom. Mr. Durham is one of millions of Americans with shoddy credit who are easily obtaining auto loans from used-car dealers, including some who fabricate or ignore borrowers’ abilities to repay. The loans often come with terms that take advantage of the most desperate, least financially sophisticated customers. The surge in lending and the lack of caution resemble the frenzied subprime mortgage market before its implosion set off the 2008 financial crisis.

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The explosive growth is being driven by some of the same dynamics that were at work in subprime mortgages.....................................

Monday
Jul212014

POLITICS (National): Detroit, financial crisis, water shutoff to thousands of homes: "The terrible choices Detroit confronts as it cuts off water to its own residents" ....

* Washington Post:  "The terrible choices Detroit confronts as it cuts off water to its own residents" - From the WP:

On Friday in Detroit, hundreds of local residents and activists — and, somewhat inexplicably, Mark Ruffalo — gathered to protest what has become an only-in-Detroit kind of crisis: The city's water utility has been shutting off service to thousands of homes, many with the elderly, the poor and children inside.

The story of how this has happened — and on the shores of one of the largest bodies of freshwater in the world — is not as simple as one of government incompetence or indifference to the poor .................................