Florida’s second-most populous county, Broward, announced in December it was removing the agricultural tax break for 127 properties because it appeared their “farming” work was a sham. Broward’s property appraiser estimated the county had lost “hundreds of millions of dollars” over the years granting the bogus reductions — as landowners were blatantly housing just a few cows (in some cases, merely renting them) to graze and calling that “agricultural.” The appraiser’s office, after auditing only a few of the exemptions, found, for example, that land occupied by a government-contract prison was “agricultural” (with a rent-a-cow arrangement).
The Ontario College of Trades ministry, finally implementing a long-ago reclassification of about 300,000 professionals, announced in November that barbers would immediately face fines if they had not acquired new licenses demonstrating proficiency with perms and highlighting and other aspects of women’s hairstyling. Even barbers who had cut men’s hair for decades and with no desire to accept female customers would probably need a costly study program for the upgrade, which one barber estimated at 2,000 hours and $5,000 or more. Said one exasperated old-timer, “We’re barbers, not neurosurgeons.”
A September report from the National Bureau of Economic Research revealed that almost 9 percent of all federal government spending occurred during the last week of the government’s fiscal year, as agencies scrambled to buy things they previously had not needed but suddenly did — because the money would otherwise disappear. Further, the report found that contracts made during that perhaps-frenzied final week were from double to more than five times as likely to be poorly executed as contracts made earlier in the fiscal year.
The Army Corps of Engineers said in December that it “continuously strives to implement lessons learned from its work in the extremely challenging Afghan environment” — apparently its primary response to an inspector general’s report that it wasted $5.4 million on trash incinerators for a forward operating base that were late, in disrepair, dysfunctional even if working properly, health hazards for troops, and ultimately abandoned on site, unused. The project was termed “a complete waste,” but the corps pointed out that money was actually saved by not repairing expensive equipment that would not have worked anyway.
South Africa, still transitioning to freedom after apartheid, has been slow to embrace the “performance art” that is a staple of American and European popular culture, but artist Anthea Moys is creating her own space, according to a December Wall Street Journal dispatch from Johannesburg.
Recently she played an exhibition soccer game — alone against an 11-player lineup. Her “team” quickly fell behind, but sympathetic spectators wandered onto the pitch to help her, and she managed to lose by only 12-0.