Squatters trashing foreclosed / abandoned homes in Vegas

Realtor Ashley Hawks takes closer look at debris and leftover packaging following the eviction of squatter at one of her listed properties. (Ophelia Young/FOX5)

Realtor Ashley Hawks takes closer look at debris and leftover packaging following the eviction of squatter at one of her listed properties. (Ophelia Young/FOX5)

Squatters are becoming a serious problem in some parts of Las Vegas, illegally moving into abandoned and foreclosed homes. Sometimes the problem is so serious that entire condo complexes are overrun. (One does have to wonder why the HOAs and management companies are apparently unable to do anything to stop it.)

Casa Vegas was once a modest but solid community near Maryland Parkway and Vegas Valley Drive but squatters have turned it into a living hell. Residents are scrambling to get out. Realtors can’t rent or sell available units. And investors are seeing their money go down the drain.

This isn’t just homeless. This often is semi-organized crime. They rip out and sell anything of value. Fires have been started. The result of this in Casa Vegas is anyone who can leave is, even if that means selling at a loss. Then the condo complex just spirals down to being a complete wreck.

Thousands of squatters, among them suspected scam artists who scheme to get utilities turned on at their chosen targets, living for free as they plot their end game: getting a bank to pay them to leave in a racket known as cash-for-keys.

Using bogus leases, the scammers bring crime. Some have run drug, prostitution and weapons sale rings from their adopted homes. Others have started fires and slowly stripped houses of all resalable items.

Some squatters “lease” units to other squatters. New laws make unlawful occupancy and housebreaking crimes (why weren’t they already crimes?) and makes it easier to get police involved.

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On the ground Clinton campaign organizing


I’ve been volunteering with the Clinton campaign here in Vegas. It is a full throttle GOTV operation. Several of the staffers are in their twenties and were brought in from out-of-state. Some have been here since May. All of then routinely work 10-12 hours day 7 days a week.

Considering the Republican Party is fractured and at war with itself, I’m certain Trump campaign staffers have not been in Nevada since May. This is where Hillary has a huge edge. Because it’s all about Get Out The Vote.

It starts with voter registration. Volunteers stand outside stores and libraries signing up new voters. By law, they must accept registrations for all parties. New registrations are entered into the Democratic voter tracking system and sent to the Secretary of State. Then, Democrats are called using voter registration lists, and asked who they support, are they planning to vote the day of or early (Nevada has early voting at voting booths), and do they want to volunteer. This is a crucial part of the GOTV push. Thousands of calls are made each day in Vegas to Democratic voters. Likely Democratic voters are identified and later will be asked if they want rides to polls.

Then, neighborhoods are walked, contacting Democrats who did not give a phone number or who are never home when they are called. The whole point of this is to get Democrats to the voting booths. Never in any of this are they asked for money.

I’ve been spending a couple of hours a day doing deeply boring but crucial data entry. Happily, the software is well-thought-out and easy to use.

It’s paying off. Clinton and the Democratic ticket is now ahead in Nevada. And I’m quite sure the Trump campaign has nothing close to the sophistication of the GOTV effort and number of staff and volunteers that Clinton has.

Because on the ground is where races are won.

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Largest power plants worldwide are hydroelectric

biggest power plants hydro

Hydroelectric is the quiet workhorse of electricity generation. The nine biggest power plants in the world are hydroelectric. Three Gorges in China is the biggest by far, with a capacity of 22.5 GW. (One gigawatt can roughly power 725,000 homes in the US, probably more in China.)

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Japan has been shut down since Fukushima, thus the top nine are all hydroelectric. Big coal and nuclear plants come close to matching the 6.5 GW output from bottom-ranked Sayano-Shushenskaya Dam but do not surpass it.

Big hydro is indeed renewable energy, however not without environmental issues. Huge dams displace large number of people. The weight of all the water can trigger earthquakes. Eventually the lakes do silt up. And there are other issues too.

Dammed rivers have also impacted processes in the broader biosphere. Most reservoirs, especially those in the tropics, are significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions (a recent study pegged global greenhouse gas emissions from reservoirs on par with that of the aviation industry, about 4% of human-caused GHG emissions). Recent studies on the Congo River have demonstrated that the sediment and nutrient flow from the Congo drives biological processes far into the Atlantic Ocean, including serving as a carbon sink for atmospheric greenhouse gases.

Large dams have led to the extinction of many fish and other aquatic species, the disappearance of birds in floodplains, huge losses of forest, wetland and farmland, erosion of coastal deltas, and many other unmitigable impacts.

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Colerain Township is sadly an example of a broke city

Colerain memorial park

Colerain Memorial Park

Colerain Township in Ohio essentially is broke, even as it might not realize it yet. Many properties are closed on Colerain Avenue. It was booming in the 1950s, a desirable place to live. However, new suburbs have displaced it, tax revenue is declining, infrastructure needs expensive maintenance, and pension debt is problematic.

Granola Shotgun has seen this pattern before in many other cities. There are no easy answers. Colerain’s problems are exemplified by a heartfelt memorial park to veterans and to 9/11 that is so badly situated that hardly anyone will visit it and when they do, street noise will be problematic.

The town is broke because there’s a structural gap between revenue and expenses due to a suburban land use pattern that can never pay for its own obligations or maintenance. The memorial park is sitting in a sea of low value surface parking lots, empty buildings, and buildings that are only occupied because they were bribed into existence with subsidies and tax abatements to keep up appearances. Meanwhile millions of dollars worth of public infrastructure sit underutilized.

Ultimately Colerain has two options. It can reduce its physical infrastructure and default on its promises to municipal employees, which is the de facto path most post war suburbs are on. Or it can add significant amounts of higher value private development to the existing public infrastructure chassis to generate more revenue. There are no other options.

This process can be even more pronounced in rural areas. We’ve lived in southern Utah. Some small cities in Utah get it and are expanding. Cedar City has a university, a 50+ year old Shakespeare Festival, and lots of festivals. Kanab is a gateway to three major national parks. Both try hard to build on what they have and are succeeding.

We just drove through Fredonia, a little town near Kanab. There’s a Dollar General, a couple of bedraggled motels, and way too many beat-up trailer homes. How does a place like this even survive? By contrast, Parowan, a town of 3,000 near Cedar City, is slowly rebounding after the real estate collapse. There is a new gas station, restaurants, and a Dollar General. Several new businesses in a town the size of Parowan is a big deal. It means jobs. It will survive. Not so sure about Fredonia.

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Democratic Party is skilled at diffusing dissent

What goes around comes around. From Missouri State Populist Party cartoon collection

What goes around comes around. From Missouri State Populist Party cartoon collection

Peter Camejo wrote The Avocado Declaration in 2004. It details how a prime function of the Democratic Party is to siphon genuine protest and activism into the party, where it is rendered inert. This has been going on for quite some time. After all, the Democratic Party simultaneously backstabbed and co-opted the then-thriving Populist Party of the 1890’s.

It is quite likely the Republican Party will splinter after Trump gets stomped. Such a process will take much longer to happen in the Democratic Party, if it happens at all, primarily because the Democratic Party is way more skilled at inviting dissent into the party where it is diffused and becomes harmless. Republicans invited Tea Party crazies in only to find that not only could they not control them, the crazies may well destroy their party. The Democratic Party wouldn’t have made that mistake.

Every now and then a crazy gets let loose and the Democratic Party happily tries to round-up the dissent. I say, remember France in 2002. Sarkozy vs Le Pen. Multiple parties who loathed Sarkozy teamed up to get him elected because they saw the genuinely fascist threat from Le Pen. Sarkozy demolished Le Pen and the other parties then attacked Sarkozy, and quite successfully too. They were not co-opted by any of it. It was a short-term alliance for mutual interest, nothing more.

The Democratic Party, as Camejo explains, basically is good cop to the Republican Party bad cop. They need each other and quite often have similar aims and goals.

The Republican Party has historically acted as the open advocate for a platform which benefits the rule of wealth and corporate domination. They argue ideologically for policies benefiting the corporate rulers. The Republicans seek to convince the middle classes and labor to support the rule of the wealthy with the argument that “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country,” that what benefits corporations is also going to benefit regular people.

The Democratic Party is different. They act as a “broker” negotiating and selling influence among broad layers of the people to support the objectives of corporate rule. The Democratic Party’s core group of elected officials is rooted in careerists seeking self-promotion by offering to the corporate rulers their ability to control and deliver mass support. And to the people they offer some concessions, modifications on the platform of the Republican Party. One important value of the Democratic Party to the corporate world is that it makes the Republican Party possible through the maintenance of the stability that is essential for “business as usual.” It does this by preventing a genuine mass opposition from developing. Together the two parties offer one of the best frameworks possible with which to rule a people that otherwise would begin to move society towards the rule of the people (i.e. democracy).

Together the two parties have made ballot access increasingly difficult, defended indirect elections such as the Electoral College, insisted on winner-take-all voting to block the appearance of alternative voices and opposed proportional representation to prevent the development of a representative democracy and the flowering of choices. Both parties support the undemocratic structure of the U.S. Senate and the Electoral College, which are not based on one person, one vote, but instead favor the more conservative regions of the nation.

Elections are based primarily on money. By gerrymandering and accumulating huge war chests –payoffs for doing favors for their rich “friends”– most officeholders face no real challenge at the ballot box and are re-elected. In the races that are “competitive,” repeatedly the contests are reduced to two individuals seeking corporate financial backing. Whoever wins the battle for money wins the election. Districts are gerrymandered into “safe” districts for one or the other party. Gerrymandering lowers the public’s interest and involvement while maintaining the fiction of “democracy” and “free elections.” The news media goes along with this, typically focusing on the presidential election and a handful of other races, denying most challengers the opportunity to get their message out to the public.

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