Monday, December 31, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Correct Me If I Am Wrong..

But I thought that one of the hallmarks of Republican ideology was to have less government regulation at the national level so that the states had more autonomy to legislate for themselves within the national system. What usually gets referred to as the state laboratories or experiments or something along those lines. Its actually not a bad idea some of the time.

Apparently, when it comes to serving their corporate backers, ideology and values are not so important to the Republic Party of the current administration. Today, at about 6:30 p.m. EST, the EPA, headed by Stephen L. Johnson, decided to not grant a waiver to California.

Had the waiver been granted, California, and possibly other states, would have been able to set higher standards to decrease the amount of emissions. In all, the proposed California law would have mandated a 30 percent cut in tailpipe emissions by 2016.

Now, first it might be helpful to explain what this "waiver" is all about. The waiver California was seeking has to do with the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act, first signed into law in 1970 and amended as recently as 1990, sets standards to combat air pollution in the United States. While states may not legislate levels below the standards set in the Clean Air Act, they may create laws which exceed the standards of the law. In order to do so, they must first obtain a waiver from the EPA.

Since the Clean Air Act became law, nearly four decades ago, there have been 40 applications for waivers. Until today, none of had been rejected.

It should also be noted that California was not the only state that was seeking a waiver, it was simply the first in line. Also stating that they would seek waivers from the EPA were Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Four more states, Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Utah, were preparing to adopt the same of similar standards as those in the California proposal. Furthermore, Iowa is considering adopting them as well.

In all, those states represent apparently 70 percent of new car sales. Going by the figures for the population of the U.S., if all the states were to adopt these standards (which seems likely given that only Iowa is still at the consideration phase), then it would represent 157.5 million people, or 52.6% of the population. All of these legislatures are responsible to their constituents, in some ways more so than the EPA is through Congressional oversight and Presidential administration control.

So what was the rationale for the EPA's decision? As the AP noted, "In explaining his decision, Johnson cited energy legislation approved by Congress and signed into law Wednesday by President Bush. The law requires automakers to achieve an industrywide average fuel efficiency for cars, SUVs and small trucks of 35 miles per gallon by 2020."

Anyone else notice what they were doing there? Instead of admitting that they were breaking with precedent, the EPA was changing the subject. The laws being adopted by the states had to do with emissions. The new federal law deals with fuel efficiency. The two are not the same.

Whats the real reason? In my opinion, I think you need to look at who stands to gain from all this. Perhaps... the auto industry. GMC has gone on record stating that they are opposed to the California style regulations and that refusing the waiver would "[remove] the disproportionate burden of complying with a patchwork of state-specific regulations that would divert our resources, automakers can concentrate on developing and implementing the advanced technologies in ways that will meet America's driving needs."

Of course, GMC has been fighting California's stringent air quality standards in the courts. And recently, their attempts failed when the U.S. District Court last week.

Again in my opinion, if you look at what auto industry is saying, is that they do not want to change. They want to be to continue do business the same way. Yes, I have read the arguments that imposing change in industries is a bad thing. However, this time, I do not believe that the argument works. The law, at least the California version, did not mandate how the reduction in emissions were to occur. It was just that the emissions had to go down. The automakers would have a clear deadline to come up with whatever way would work for them... just as long as they met the deadlines.

Now, its not all the auto industries fault. They are doing what corporations are supposed: trying to maximize their profits for their investors. However, the actions of the EPA in this case seem to be at odd with what the current administration has been instructing them to do: namely find a ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

And here I thought that the goal was to find a way to protect the environment (and by extension our health) without submitting to Kyoto. And by letting the states do this, we see what works and what does not. And its something that every other administration has permitted applicant states to obtain for more than thirty years.

Oh well, I must have been wrong.

What Follows Is Purely My Opinion

Law firms which deal primarily, or largely, in the collection of debts are, in my opinion, slime. Perhaps, scum would be better a word?

I mean, how fraking hard would it be for them, when they have intiated a law suit, to consent to a telephone call in an attempt to settle the case.

Yes, I know, deadbeats should have to pay their debts. I am all for that.

Yes, I understand that Federal laws have been enacted which can result in liability to them if they act improperly with a consumer. Those are some good rules put in place to prevent abuses that were, and in some cases, occur by debt collection agencies.

But why must I, having identified myself politely as opposing counsel in the case, write a letter begging them to deign to talk to me on the phone?

I did want to just work out a settlement with them. Now, I'm thinking go with my original instinct and file the summary judgment and see how they like that.

But like I said earlier, in my opinion, attorneys who are debt collectors are scum. If one would like to prove my opinion wrong, please do.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My Thoughts On The Mitchell Report and the Hall of Fame

So I have had a few days to think about the implications of the Mitchell Report.

A few things have to be accepted if you accept that Mitchell is correct. First, banned substance usage in Major League Baseball was widespread. Some of the best players, and some of the not so great, of the 1990s and early 2000s are implicated in the report. If anything, I would not be surprised to learn that more players were involved for the simple reason that the Major League Baseball Players Association was telling the players not to participate in the investigation.

Second, this was not something where there were a few "bad apples" who were participating in it. The management of the teams, as well as Major League Baseball, were turning a deliberate blind eye to what was happening. As long as McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds were hitting the balls out of the park, no one wanted to look too closely at how they were able to do it. The same with Roger Clemens and Andy Petite racking up World Series victories and Cy Young Awards while pitching for the Yankees.

So with all that out there, lots of people are mumbling about not letting many of these people into the Hall of Fame, about tagging records with asterisks, and possibly other things. To me, this seems wrong. Because it seems that their usage was so prevalent that the argument that there was an imbalance in the playing field seems to fail because it appears that to get on the field you had to be doped up in the first place.

This is what I think should be done: let the records stand, let those who offended go in to the Hall of Fame on the merits of their career (even with the use of performance enhancing drugs) but include on their plaque their offenses (or alleged ones).

The new regime in baseball should mandate random tests and an actual penalty for first time offenders (as opposed to a warning) and much more severe penalty (say a 60 game suspension), with a third offense getting a year and a half suspension and the team is allowed to void the contract. Now, if the team allows it to continue, say by hiring now peddlers of the illicit substances, they too should be penalized. A first time offense costs the team a first round draft pick. A second reduces the amount that it takes in as part of revenue sharing (or has to contribute more).

Of course, that would require the Commissioner of Baseball to be an actual commissioner for baseball as opposed to a member of the owners. Almost makes me wish for Judge Landis to come back from the dead.

Although if he did, he would not be nearly as lenient as anything I have heard.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Oh The Irony...

Some readers may have heard, but others may have not, about the little trial that is going on down in Texas. In the 226th Judicial District, Mary Roberts and her husband Ted Roberts, have been standing trial for multiple counts of felony theft. In March, her husband, Ted, was convicted on three counts of theft. Yesterday, the jury apparently found for the prosecution and convicted Mary of five counts of theft.

The thefts alleged stemmed from Mary cheating on her husband. Her husband, like any good red-blooded man, was not going to stand for being cheated on by his wife, whom he presumably loves. However, instead of the time honored beat-down or perhaps, in view of Texas' liberal gun policy, shooting them, he fell back on what he knew.

You see, Ted and Mary, are both attorneys. So Ted, as soon as he found out about the affairs, sent demand letters to his wife's paramours threatening them with lawsuits for emotional distress caused by their actions (Texas apparently abolished the alienation of affection statute back in 1997).

Now, Ted's actions are in a bit of a gray area, in my opinion. If he intended to go through with the suits, then it may be that the prosecution got it wrong. Otherwise, it would seem that lawyers sending off demand letters in any case where they represent clients on contracts or in personal injury accidents could end up facing theft charges. To me, it seems there is an inconsistency in this, unless they showed that there was some plan whereby Mary would sleep with the men with Ted's knowledge so that he could pounce on them.

A few asides... Apparently the prosecutor charged them with blackmail, but failed to secure convinctions on those charges. Mr. Robert's appeal is currently pending. And finally, it should be noted that Mrs. Robert's practice areas included "ethics-Legal malpractice". Perhaps Mr. Roberts should have run the scheme by her first...