Category Archives: Debt

Berkeley politics: Corrupt business as usual

In Berkeley, a town where developers are kings and poor people are being gentrified out of existence, genteel sleaze is the order of the day, as we noted recently.

The latest example to raise a stink in the normally complacent mainsteam media comes from the Oakland Tribune, under the headline “Berkeley council member profited from police chief’s public home loan.”

Here’s the gist from the story by reporter Thomas Peele:

In a move that ethicists call fraught with conflicts and cronyism, a city council member who voted to give Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan a $500,000 housing loan from public funds later worked as his real estate agent and took a commission on the chief’s purchase of a home, records show.

Councilmember Lawrence Capitelli said he split the nearly $30,000 commission on the $1.185 million sale with another agent in his office at Red Oak Realty, where he was a partner. The firm also took a cut of the commission. Capitelli’s questionable role in the 2010 home sale came to light this week after the Bay Area News Group published a story Sunday that showed how at least 33 local governments use taxpayer funds to help top public officials pay for housing.

A Berkeley city council member since 2004, Capitelli insists he did nothing wrong by representing Meehan after the council voted in November 2009 to loan the chief $500,000 because the two hadn’t discussed representation at the time of the vote.

But the Oakland Tribune story is a bit late, given that former mayoral candidate and Berkeley gadfly Zelda Bronstein had reported the same story three years ago for the Berkeley Daily Planet, a fact Peele failed to acknowledge in his story.

From her 31 October 2012 report:

On November 10, 2009, Laurie Capitelli joined the rest of the Berkeley City Council in approving the appointment of Michael Meehan as the City’s new police chief, effective December 13, 2009. The resolution of approval authorized “a housing assistance loan of up to $500,000 for the purchase of a residence within the City of Berkeley”.

In 2010 Chief Meehan moved into a home in the Thousand Oaks neighborhood in north Berkeley. I assume that he used his $500,000 loan from the City to purchase that property, which sold for $1,185,000. The seller used an agent from Northbrae Properties; the buyer used Red Oak real estate agent and Berkeley Councilmember Laurie Capitelli.

What makes the story more interesting is that Capitelli is the successor-apparent to Mayor Tom Bates, who is now in his final term of presiding over giveaways to his real estate developer pals.

Bates controls a city council majority elected in campaigns where the primary bankrollers are folks who are eager to gentrify every part of the city, and their gaze is now fixed on the city’s last remaining sanctuary for lower-income people of color.

As for the police chief, he’s the same fellow who gave his officers free rein to lay into peaceful as well as violent “Black Lives Matter” protests, and who has overseen an increasing militarization of the department, including military camouflage uniforms for his SWAT teams and landed one of those ugly Pentagon mine-resistance assault vehicles for his troops.

So forget any notion of Berkeley as a liberal bastion. The only part of Berkeley City Council politics with a liberal bent is the succession of meaningless resolutions — and even there the inevitable hot button issue is anything having to deal with Israel.

From the 15 September San Jose Mercury-News:

Cheryl Davila didn’t realize that she had waded into a minefield when she wrote a Human Welfare and Community Action Commission resolution calling for city divestment in Israel. Davila was removed from the commission by Councilman Darryl Moore just before the panel took up the issue on Sept. 16.

Davila said she wrote the resolution after reading about the 2014 military operation in Gaza, during which more than 2,000 Palestinians and some 70 Israelis lost their lives. She had also recalled that Berkeley had been among the first entities to divest from the apartheid state of South Africa decades earlier.

In part, the resolution asks the city manager to “examine the feasibility of divesting all city of Berkeley direct holdings in companies complicit in ongoing violations of human rights and international law under Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian territories.”

Which brings us back to Capitell. Back in 2010, after Israel’s bloody Operation Cast Lead invasion of Gaza, the he was scheduled to co-sponsor a city council resolution condemning the attack. That was when the same crew of ZioNutsies who organized a campaign of intimidating Berkeley Daily Planet advertisers because the paper published letters to the editors and op-ed scribes critical of Israel sprung into action.

Three comments posted to an article at JWeekly, a San Francisco Bay Area publication, report what happened next:

BLOG CapitelliThe Capitelli “watchdog” website was pulled.

Spizter and Gertz, along with now bankrupt PR guru Jim Sinkinson, were the key players in the war on the newspaper.

The site smearing the Daily Planet remains, a celebration of what the Israeli think tank the Reut Institute [advisers to the Israeli government] hails [PDF] as a successful “price tag” attack.

Kidnapping an African American baby legally

First the kidnapping, via news department of WESH 2, the NBC affiliate in Orlando, Florida:

3 days after missed payment, dealership repossesses car with 9-month-old inside

  • Mother went inside day care to pick up child when car was taken

A vehicle with a child inside of it was repossessed on Tuesday.

The Orlando Police Department helped the mother track down the vehicle and find the 9-month-old baby girl.

“I thought somebody kidnapped her because my oldest daughter said, ‘It was two white males [who] got in the car and they just left,'” Antoinette Jordan said.

Jordan went inside an Orlando day care to pick up her other two children, and when she went back outside, the car was gone.

Here’s the video report from WESH 2 News:

3 days after missed payment seller repossesses car with baby inside

Program note:

A vehicle with a child inside of it was repossessed on Tuesday.

H/T to Nothing To Do With Arbroath.

A WESH 2 News update answers the question provoked by our post-al headline:

A spokesman for Xpress Finance Inc. declined to appear on camera but said, “The rules are the rules.”

But what about the fact that the car was repossessed with her child still inside?

Because the men were in the process of reclaiming the car legally, under Florida law, WESH 2 legal analyst Richard Hornsby said they are not subject to arrest.

“I think there’s a gap in the law here. There’s no reason someone can take a car that has a child in it and be justified,” Hornsby said.

To which we would respond as we would’ve to high school friends fifty-some years ago, “No shit, Sherlock.”

So the argument, hewing to the letter of the law, is that it wasn’t a kidnapping because they didn’t intend to take the child, only the car, which they were legally entitled to do: After all, as the company says, “The rules are the rules.”

But to the mother, there was no different whether her daughter was taken by repo men or an intentional child-stealer. She only knew that her daughter had been taken, along with her car. The grief and horror she experienced — traumas by any definition of the term — were absolutely real, exerting profound impacts that can [as we can attest] last a lifetime.

One can also argue that the car-takers may have seen the child — how could they not have? — but took the car anyway [and how did they know she was there unless they had been following her, and therefore almost certainly knew of the infant?]. At the very least, how did they not know, given that car repossessers are legally obliged to preserve personal property in that car at the time of repossession?

But, hey, mom would no doubt call the cops, and every ethical repo man notifies the cops about repossessions, as, in fact, they did.

As ownership becomes increasingly a right retained by the seller and no longer transferred to the buyer, possession becomes ephemeral, save for those who have amassed virtually all the world’s capital stock, both material and virtual, employing the machinery of finance to accelerate the accumulation.

In this case one small African American and her family were simply collateral damage.

Maps of the day: What’s for dinner, mom?

Not, the maps aren’t about food, but they are about the dramatic rise in young adults forced to live at home, largely because of the burdens of student loan debt.

The maps, by Liberty Street, are drawn from data from a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

First up, the pattern before the crash:

BLOG At home 2

Next, the post-crash comparison a decade later:

BLOG At home 1

Finally, from the Federal Reserve report, Debt, Jobs, or Housing: What’s Keeping Millennials at Home? [PDF], comparing patterns of residence and dramatic decline in home ownership by the young, drawn from the survey by the bank’s Consumer Credit Panel [CCP]:

BLOG At home 3

How about some real Hope™ and Change™?

If that’s what you’re looking for that, better move to Croatia.

From the Independent:

Croatia wipes out the debts of thousands of its poorest citizens in ‘fresh start’ scheme

Starting Monday, thousands of Croatia’s poorest citizens will benefit from an unusual gift: They will have their debts wiped out. Named “fresh start,” the government scheme aims to help some of the 317,000 Croatians whose bank accounts have been blocked due to their debts.

Given that Croatia is a relatively small Mediterranean country of only 4.4 million inhabitants, the number of indebted citizens is significant and has become a major economic burden for the country. After six years of recession, growth predictions for Croatia’s economy remain low for this year.

“We assess that this measure will be applicable to some 60,000 citizens,” Deputy Prime Minister Milanka Opacic was quoted as saying by Reuters. “Thus they will be given a chance for a new start without a burden of debt,” Opacic said earlier this month.

The most important video you’ll watch today

In one impassioned, articulate, angry,. and deeply humane speech from the floor of the United States Senate, Vermont’s independent Sen. Bernie Sanders shreds the economic semantic subterfuges of those who now control both houses of Congress and would sugarcoat their completion of the handover of the nation and all its resources to the Kochs, Waltons, and other oligarchs now salivating at the thought of realization of Feudalism 2.0, a social Darwinian dystopia in which the older, the diseased, and the helpless are consigned to the elements and in which the masters have no reciprocal obligations whatsoever to the newly enserfed:

Trickle Down

After Greece, is Spain next to abandon austerity?

Indeed, following the capture of the Greek government in last week’s elections by the anti-austerity Syriza Party, another recently formed party may be headed to power in another country hard-hit by Troika-imposed austerian mandates.

We begin with a report from the Guardian on a massive demonstration today in the nation’s capital called by Podemos:

100,000 flock to Madrid for Podemos rally against austerity

  • Inspired by the leftist Greek election victory, support grows for new political order in Spain

Four years ago, Madrid’s central Puerta del Sol square belonged to los indignados – an impromptu revolt of thousands, camping out for weeks and rallying against a political establishment felt to be out of sync with the people.

On Saturday, up to 100,000 people again filled the square, determined to show the world that 2015 would be the year that the change demanded by the indignados would come about.

Less than a week after Greece elected an aggressively anti-austerity government, the leaders of Spain’s own insurgent force, Podemos (We Can), urged supporters to take to the streets in a show of strength as it embarks on a tumultuous electoral campaign. “Tick tock, tick tock,” chanted thousands as they occupied the broad avenues of central Madrid, counting down to a year packed with municipal, regional and general elections. Just a year since its creation, Podemos has vaulted to the top of opinion polls, threatening to bring an end to the bipartisan political system that has governed Spain since the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975.

A video report from euronews gives a sense of the turnout:

Podemos holds biggest rally yet in Spanish capital and promises election earthquake

Program notes:

Tens of thousands of people turned out in Madrid on Saturday for the latest show of strength for Podemos, the new left-wing party that in just a year has come from nowhere to threaten to change the face of Spanish politics.

It was the biggest demonstration yet of the mass support that has propelled it to the top of the opinion polls ahead of this year’s local, regional and national elections.

More from the Wall Street Journal, the house organ of those most threatened by Podemos:

Podemos had organized the march weeks ago as a show of strength ahead of local elections this spring and general elections in November or December.

The event’s significance grew last Sunday when Syriza—which, like Podemos, opposes the prevailing European Union policies of budget cuts to restore financial stability and growth—won Greece’s general election. The victory made Syriza the first populist movement to take power in a eurozone country since the Continent’s 2008 financial crisis.

“The Greek people have won in Greece,” Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias told the crowd. “We need dreamers who dare to defend the poor to fight the rich.”

“We need Quixotes,” he added, in a reference to the 17th century Spanish novel, Don Quixote.

More from the Independent:

They came from across Spain in more than 260 buses that had been laid on for the “March of Change”, and from midday packed Madrid’s busiest central avenues around the square of Puerta del Sol – a hub for shoppers, tourists, and often protests too. Long before the speeches started, Sol was full, and many that had travelled from across the country found themselves jammed shoulder-to-shoulder in side streets.

Waving a Greek flag, one of the many in the crowd, Pablo Gonzalez, 32, a television director, said that voters in Greece had shown the way forward. “I hope we all do the same. In Ireland, Portugal and Spain. We should all follow what the Greeks have done,” he said.

“I am cross with Europe and with the political system here – it all has to change. We are all suffering. My pay has not risen for seven years, and many of my friends are losing their jobs. The situation just can’t go on.”

Another video report, this time from RT:

Podemos ‘March for Change’: Tens of thousands rally in Madrid against austerity

Program notes:

Tens of thousands of Spaniards have taken to the streets of central Madrid in support of Podemos, a leftist political party campaigning on an anti-austerity platform. The party’s popularity has soared in the wake of the Syriza victory in Greece.

And some context, via Deutsche Welle:

Podemos won five seats in elections for the European Parliament last May and is currently leading voter surveys in the run-up to local, regional and national elections in Spain this year.

The party rejects austerity programs as a means for lifting countries out of deep economic crisis and, among other things, has called for a return to a fully state-controlled health care system and for labor laws to prevent profitable companies from firing their workers. It has also pledged to tackle corruption.

Its policies have met with considerable public support in Spain, which has been beset by a number of corruption scandals and hard hit by public spending cuts imposed by both the current conservative ruling party and the previous Socialist government after the 2008 economic crisis.

Although Spain has now officially come out of recession, thousands of households are still struggling, with nearly one in four Spaniards unemployed and salaries still not back to pre-crisis levels.

All we can add is a blessing we once received from a mentor/professor that we’ll pass along to Podemos:

More power to your elbow, and may your shadow never grow less!

Syriza wins: Greeks declare against austerity

Remarkable electoral results from Greece where today’s vote could mean a dramatic change in Europe as one nation stands up against the austerian policies which have devastated the social contract, devastating the masses while enriching the banksters.

Wages have been slashed, healthcare gutted, vast swathes of the commons have been sold off, and social benefits, pensions, and other supports for those most in need have been slashed.

As the repeated promises of the ruling conservatives have proven empty time and again, the Greek people have finally said “Enough!”

First, a video report from RT:

Radical-leftist Syriza party wins elections in Greece – exit polls

Program notes:

Greek radical-leftist party, Syriza, has won between 35.5 and 39.5 percent of the vote in the national parliamentary election, leaving the country’s ruling New Democracy party more than 10 per cent behind, the exit-polls revealed.

Some specifics from the Guardian:

Greece elections: anti-austerity Syriza party enjoys comfortable win

  • Exit polls put Alexis Tsipras’s leftwing party on 36-39%, well ahead of incumbent conservatives New Democracy

Syriza, the radical leftists who have pledged to roll back austerity and push to cut the country’s mammoth debt burden, have emerged as comfortable winners of the Greek elections, early exit polls suggest.

Minutes after polling stations closed at 7pm (5pm GMT) on Sunday, the first exit polls – considered reliable indicators, but frequently out by several points – put Alexis Tsipras’s party at 36-39% of the vote, between 10 and 12 points clear of the rival incumbent conservatives of New Democracy.

The projections suggest Syriza, which would collect a 50-seat bonus for finishing first, could end up with 158 MPs, an outright majority. But the party could also fall just short of the 151 it needs to govern alone: the final percentage of the vote a winning party needs for a majority depends on the share taken by the smaller parties that score below the 3% threshold needed to enter parliament.

More from the Independent:

Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party

Greek voters have rebelled against the austerity programme imposed by Brussels and Berlin in return for loans to fund Greece’s massive debt. The radical left Syriza party, which promises better terms for Greece, won a decisive victory in the general election today and is close to winning an absolute majority in parliament.

Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipras, won between 36 and 38 per cent of the vote compared to between 26 and 28 per cent for the conservative New Democracy Party of the Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, who has led the government over the past two years. He was defeated because he failed to end the bailout, get a Greek debt reduction, lift the economy out of deep recession despite some recent improvements and get the IMF removed from the much-hated troika (EU, ECB and IMF) that has exercised a near-colonial control over the Greek economy.

Syriza may seek to form a government on its own or it could look for allies such as Pasok and the Potami party. But it will soon find itself in a confrontation with the EU as it look for relaxation in the austerity that has reduced four million Greeks to poverty.

From CBC News, concessions:

Greek election: Left-wing Syriza party wins but number of seats in question

  • Syriza promised to axe bailout deal

Samaras’ New Democracy party conceded defeat not too long after the exit poll was announced.

Supporters of opposition leader and head of radical leftist Syriza party Alexis Tsipras cheer at exit poll results in Athens. Syriza could get between 149 to 151 seats in government. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

“We lost,” Health Minister and conservative party parliamentary spokesman Makis Voridis told private Mega TV, adding that the extent of the defeat wasn’t yet clear. He said the government’s austerity policies, implemented to secure vital international bailouts, “make sense” but were cut short before they could bear fruit.

Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis congratulated Syriza, saying its victory “cannot be questioned.”

“It is evident the Greek people believed there is another way forward than the one described by the government,” he said. “For the good of the country, I hope they are right.”

The Greek electoral system grants an automatic 50-seat bonus to the first place party, a measured designed to minimize parliamentary gridlock.

New Democracy, which headed the just-fallen government, is neoliberal and firmly embraced the austerity policies imposed by the IMF, the European Central Bank, and the EU government — policies laid out in “the memorandum” so staunchly opposed by Syriza and the Greek communists of the KKE, the party most likely to provide winning margins in the absence of Syrixza winning an outright majority.

The other parties range from centrist to the far right Sieg Heil-saluting latter-day Nazis of Golden Dawn.

From To Vima, here’s the likely look of the coming Tsipras-headed parliament:

Official projection gives SYRIZA 149-151 seats in Parliament

  • The Ministry of Interior’s first official estimation confirms the major victory for the Left

An exit poll conducted by Kapa Research gives SYRIZA an 8.5 to 9.5 point lead over New Democracy, in what appears to be a major win for the Left in the 2015 general elections.

Specifically, the exit predicts SYRIZA will receive 33.5% to 37.5% of the vote, followed by New Democracy in second place with 25% to 28% and Golden Dawn in third with 5.5% to 7.5%. The poll shows PASOK next with 4% to 6%, KKE with 4.5% to 6.5% and The River with 5% to 7%. The Independent Greeks seem to barely make it in parliament with 3.5% to 4.5%, while the Movement of Democrats Socialists is given a 2.2% to 3.2% of the vote in Kapa Research’s poll.

Based on Kapa Research’s exit poll, which was conducted for,, and the Vima 99.5 FM radio station, after analyzing 70% of the given data, it appears that the parties will receive the following number of seats in parliament:

BLOG Greece

All we can add is a hearty congratulations for an election that promises to give the continent a much-needed shakeup.