APRIL 30, 2016 -- JIM NEFF







Sometimes you come upon news that is hard to believe. You realize an item is true, but it just makes you want to shake your head. Sometimes the item makes you angry, sometimes sad, and sometimes incredulous.


An example of this is a story relating to Flint. In the midst of the water tragedy, an unscrupulous scammer operating in California operated a Ponzi scheme “using Flint homes to fleece $15 million from realty investors.”


Here's how it worked. He created a “so-called 'Millionaire Club,' which sold its potential investors on a program that could help them make millions of dollars in real estate. It was a simple plan. He would purchase foreclosed homes in bulk for pennies on the dollar and sell them to his investors at a small markup. The investors would then be able to turn around and sell the properties on a rent-to-own basis for a profit.”


People from all over the country fell for the scam and (obviously) wound up losing money. “County records show the scam left a glut of vacant properties in its wake after investors walked away from the often dilapidated homes that could not be sold.” The good news is that the scammer “was eventually convicted and sentenced in December 2015 to nearly five years in federal prison and ordered to repay more than $15 million in restitution.” However, Flint is now left with vacant eyesores all over the city. (http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2016/04/ponzi_scheme_leaves_scars_of_b.html)


Scammers conning people out of money is maddening, but it's pretty common in Michigan. This state ranks third in the country in fraud. “Three out of four frauds start with a phone call and only 8 percent come via e-mail. Only Florida and Georgia had more fraud complaints per capita than Michigan.” Nationally: “The FTC's Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book reported...The 2015 total was 40 percent fraud, 16 percent identity theft issues and 40 percent other complaints, which includes banks and lenders, lotteries and shop-at-home and catalog sales. Last year, these scams cost consumers more than $765 million and the median amount a victim lost was $400.” (http://www.freep.com/story/money/business/michigan/2016/03/07/michigan-3rd-us-fraud-id-theft-compaints/81314706/)


Speaking of money, recently there has been a lot of discussion about whose face should be on the $20 bill. An interesting sidelight to that is the fact that many Native Americans will not touch a $20 bill because the negative connotations associated with Andrew Jackson. There has been a proposal to remove Jackson for quite some time. According to the Indian Country Today Media Network, he was a slave trader, he signed the Indian Removal Act, he was known by nicknames like “Indian Killer, and he was responsible for the deaths of thousands.”



Hopefully, the Jackson controversy won't result in a lawsuit because if it gets to the Supreme Court the vote might be 4-4 and nothing would be decided. Of course, this refers to the stalemate of how justices are appointed. But there might be a way to resolve the appointment morass. “There is a better way, championed by of all people Texas Governor Rick Perry in his ill-fated 2012 presidential run. Perry’s proposal is satisfyingly simple: Justices would serve staggered, 18-year terms. Each four-year presidential term would thus bring two appointments...Eighteen years is a long enough for justices to take a long view that extends well beyond any one presidency. Justices could retire at a reasonable age without fear that they are betraying the home team.” It's hard to believe this idea is not getting serious consideration.(http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/02/scalia-how-to-fix-supreme-court-vacancy-reform-213637)


Maybe the next president will enact this idea, but that person might not be named Clinton or Trump. “An anonymous group of conservative billionaires is ready to place their bets on a man dubbed 'Mad Dog,' hoping to draft him into the presidential race. Think of it as a Plan B should Trump be nominated by the Republican Party in Cleveland: swing behind retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis and press him into service yet again as a third-party candidate.”


The strategy is a bit strange, but strange seems to be normal in this race. “The strategy would not be for Mattis to win, at least at first—the operatives behind this potential bid would only be seeking to deny Trump and Clinton the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the general election outright...But if the retired military officer could win several states won by President Obama in 2012, they might be able to block Clinton, thus forcing the incoming House of Representatives to make a decision on the next president of the United States. With the House split, the strategists reason, Mattis could be the consensus choice.”



Finally, something for all the old timers who tell stories about how tough it was to walk to school back in the good old days. You want tough? “Melting ice off the coast of far-west Alaska is forcing polar bears onto the land, dangerously close to villages where children often walk unaccompanied across the snow-swept tundra. In these isolated communities, fears of a fatal encounter between stressed predators and the towns' most vulnerable members have forced residents into action: they now train for polar-bear patrols.” Using shotguns and pepper spray, parents try to keep the bears away from routes used by children to walk to school. “Polar bears can be 10-foot-tall, weighing in at more than 1,000 pounds and willing to tangle with whales and walruses.” As for the bears, the kids are just another potential food source.



Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at CadillacNews.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews.



Paul Fell
Artizans Syndicate
Apr 25, 2016