Friday, December 19, 2008

They May Have Come To The Wrong Conclusion

I do not always agree with the California Supreme Court. They have extended privilege protection in ways that seem to penalize tenants, and embolden landlord's to abuse the civil litigation process. In what looks like their latest mistake, they have allowed a lawsuit to go forward against a rescuer.

Under California law, specifically Health and Safety Code §1799.102, people who are performing emergency care at the scene of accident are immune from civil suits as long as the emergency care was rendered in good faith and not for compensation. Essentially, if a person collapses, and you give them CPR, and something bad happens as a result, then the person giving the CPR is not liable for damages.

Now, in the case of Van Horn v. Watson, the California Supreme Court ruled that this immunity does not extend to people who perform the rescue of the person in need. In Van Horn, two women (Van Horn and Torti) were riding in a car when they ended up in a accident. Torti, being less injured, thought she saw smoke coming from the car. So she pulled her friend, Van Horn form the car. However, because of her condition, and the movements in pulling her out of the car, Van Horn was left a parapalegic.

The Van Horn decision, written by Justice Ching, held that the statute was meant to be construed in a particular fashion. Specifically, Ching wrote, "the 'scene of an emergency' ... means a scene where 'an individual has a need for immediate medical attention' ... it logically follows that the Legislature intended for the phrase 'emergency care' ... to refer to the medical attention given to the individual who needs it."

Seems to me that the statue reads "No person who in good faith, and not for compensation, renders emergency care at the scene of an emergency shall be liable for any civil damages resulting from any act or omission." Yes, it is contained in a section of the code which deals with doctors and nurses, however, the law states that it is dealing with "emergency care at the scene of an emergency". A plain reading would indicate that this means all emergency care at the scene of the emergency, and not simply the emergency medical treatment.

Given the reading that the majority (the decision was a 4-3 split) gives this code section, it could have the effect of making people even more likely not to help people in an emergency situation. It appears that the majority's reasoning for its decision, that the legislative history and placement of the statute, conflicts with the facts. The statute, as the majority acknoweldges, was meant to encourage people to be good samaritans and render assistance. However, they chose to read it narrowly on the grounds that it was in a section of the Code dealing specifically with medical care.

Part of me thinks that the Justices were uncomfortable giving immunity to someon who was probably drunk and/or high at the time that the accident occurred. (See the facts fo the case to see how the participants of the suit had spent their night.)

Basically, I think that the court missed a chance to shield bona fide good samaritans from lawsuits. Unfortunately, I think its going to end up hurting more people in the long run. (Shocker, I am taking the defense side on this one.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Imagine the following:

A person goes out driving with a blood alcohol content that is approximately three times the legal limit. The person while driving manages to get into a car crash with a large truck. As a result of said accident, the passenger in the car, the boy-friend of the driver in fact, dies in the crash. The driver is then arrested, prosecuted for DUI and manslaughter, convicted and sentenced to 4 months incarceration with an additional 8 years of probation.

Having heard all that, what do you think the next action the driver would take?

If you said, sue the driver of the truck which they hit, you'd be right.

Apparently Elizabeth Shelton was driving drunk on October 23, 2007. In her lawsuit, filed in October of this year, she claims that the driver of the truck she hit was driving recklessly and that he was the reason that for the accident which resulted in the death of her boyfriend, Matthew McNiece.

Talk about Chutzpah.

Sort of Important to San Francisco Renters

Now, this is something that I have been aware for a while, but that's because in my practice I deal with a lot of landlord tenant cases on the side of the tenants. However, most lay people probably would be confused by this, especially people who rent in San Francisco.

As renters might have noticed from the falling stock market, the upsurge in bank failures, and the rash of foreclosure notices that have been going around for a while, your landlord might be on the verge of losing their property through foreclosure. For people who do not live in rent controlled jurisdictions, this can be a problem. Basically a renter's lease is typically, though not always, subject to being extinguished by the foreclosure. Apparently its so much of a problem that the San Francisco Chronicle let one of its columnists devote some of his time to writing about it for a change.

However, this is not the case in San Francisco, and to my understanding in other areas which require good cause evictions. In San Francisco, a person who rents in a multi-unit building (i.e. at least two units) may only be evicted where good cause exists. The list of good causes reasons includes: failure to pay rent, nuisance, using the property for illegal activity, illegal sublets, as well as owner-move in, and substantial renovations. The full list is contained within San Francisco Administrative Code, section 37.9.

Now, if you are a renter in San Francisco, and you do receive a notice to quit from someone the first thing you should do is get some counseling about what your options are. In San Francisco, the places to go for help include (this is only for people who live in San Francisco):

San Francisco Tenant's Union - (415) 282-6622
San Francisco Rent Board - (415) 252-4602
San Francisco Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service - (415) 989-1616
San Francisco Bar Association VLSP (pro bono referrals based on meeting certain eligibility standards) - (415) 989-1616
San Francisco Eviction Defense Collaborative - they do drop in work and do not typically give advice over the phone. They are located at 995 Market Street #1200, San Francisco, California.
In order to make sure that you don't end up on the wrong end of an unlawful detainer, or even worse abandoning a tenancy based on a bad notice to quit because of a misunderstanding of the law, you need to be proactive. If you get a notice, contact someone who knows landlord tenant law (either on the list above or another attorney). Do not rely on what the landlord's attorney and/or agents tell you. They do not represent you. Sticking your head in the sand will not just make it go away. A rent-controlled tenancy, particularly in these times is a valuable commodity for a renter. Don't lose it by not taking the steps you need to take in order to protect it.

(Disclaimer: this, like any other postings I make on this site, does not constitute a legal relationship, or the creation of an attorney-client relationship. This article, like all others on this website, are for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal advice about specific situations. Readers should consult with a licensed attorney if they need help with legal matters.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No one to blame but myself I suppose

I agree to partner with another attorney. I prepare all the fracking paperwork that is necessary for this other attorney to sub-in. I sign off on the paper work. I give said paperwork to the partner-attorney.

Apparently partner attorney felt that filing half of the paperwork was enough.

Now I know why I have been getting nothing the last few weeks.

Only myself to blame. Should have double checked.

(Mrs. Angrybell disagrees. She is of the opinion that adults should do what they agree to do. Its why adults are allowed to eat candy for breakfast and stay up until 3 am if they want to.)

Now I have a mess to fix.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Think Before You Drop The Next F-Bomb (or How to Get The Judge to Overreact)

Overreaction? You decide.

Here is the situation, two lawyers finished up their argument and started to walk away. One lawyer says to the other, commenting on the evidence of a witness, "He's a f--king liar." The judge, hearing this, asks the lawyer to confirm what the lawyer said. The lawyer answers the judge that, yes, he did in fact use the word in a statement to opposing counsel.

The judge finds the lawyer in contempt. He sentences him to 6 months in jail.

And no, this is not a hypothetical. It happened a few days ago in a Cincinnati courtroom. Apparently Michael Brautigam said the words and said them within the hearing of the wrong judge. Judge Robert Ruehlman has a history of being hard on profanity in his courtroom.

Now, I can understand finding a lawyer in contempt for using profanity in the courtroom. I can even understand levying a fine or something. But six months? When word wasn't used to the court but in a conversation to another lawyer on the way out?

As a rule you should never use profanity in court. However, in this case, six months seems a wee bit on the excessive side.

Who Knew That Berkeley's City Council Would Like To Take Over The Role Of Thought Police

I mean really. Isn't Berkeley supposed to be a place where different view points are allowed to coexist? A place where Voltaire's line about "disagreeing with everything you say but willing to die to defend your right to say it" is supposed to be honored in deed as well as spirit?

Apparently not.

According to the SFGate, the Berkeley City Council passed a measure asking that the Department of Justice prosecute Professor John Yoo of U.C. Berkeley. If you are not aware, Professor Yoo is a law professor at U.C. Berekely's Boalt Hall Law School. Prior to that, he served in the Department of Justice during the early half the current administration. The best piece of work product that you might have heard about is the memo he turned out.

In 2003, he authored the now infamous memo. The memo was generated after being being requested by the Department of Defense to answer the question about what could occur in military interrogations of unlawful combatants held outside the the United States. His memo lead to certain practices being implemented. Specifically, he was considering the requirements of Federal constitutional and statutory law, as well as international treaties, upon military operations and needs when it came to interrogating prisoners.

Now, he was asked a question. He generated a reasoned response, based on research and examination of the relevant Constitutional articles, case law, statutes, and treaties. Were all his conclusions correct? No. Were some? I believe so.

However, the ultra-liberal (how I hate even typing that word because I get the feeling I'm going to get tarred as being a Bush supporter or a neo-con) Berkeley City Council wants him prosecuted. For putting forth his interpretation of the law.

Let's be clear. He did not have the final say in what happened in any prison. All he did, was give his interpretation of the law.

It seems that Berkeley only likes freedom of thought when it comes to progressive/socialist/liberal/alternative ideas. Unfortunately, the loud mouths on the city council should be figuring out better ways to help the citizens of their city. However, it seems they would rather go on quixotic crusades to force people to think the way that they want them to think.

Sorry bout the rant. What it comes down to in my opinion, is that I would rather see people doing, than complaining. If I were a Berkeley resident, I would rather see my city council work on finding ways to help make housing more affordable. Not pontificating on things that have already come to pass and which have changed or already in the process of being changed.

Shame Apparently Works on Some Corporations...

But not on their insurers.

You may remember my post about Taneka Talley and the shameful way in which the insurance company is treating her death. Quick recap:

Ms. Talley was at work stocking the shelves at the Dollar Store where she was employed. A man walked in, stabbed her to death. The insurance company denied the claim against the life insurance policy claiming that it was not work related. They said it was not work related because the man who killed her was just looking for the first African-American he could find so that he could kill them.

Let's see: only reason she died was because she working where she was supposed when she was supposed to. Sounds like it was work related. Doesn't sound like a vengeful ex-lover came after her. Or that she had been knifed by a co-worker because of a person dispute. Nope, sounds liek she died only because she was at work that day.

Well, apparently, protests against the Dollar Store have had some effect. Apparently afraid that the bad publicity will hurt their sales even more, one of the company's vice-presidents, Timothy Reid, announced that "he full workers' compensation benefit permitted under California law[]" will be paid to Ms. Talley's survivor, a son who is still in junior high.

Personally, I think that is not enough. They have made this kid and his guardian (his grandmother) wait for more than two years for this death benefit. The insurer in this case is getting away with making a profit. I hope that Dollar Tree is able to turn around and sue their insurer for bad faith. Letting Specialty Risk Services, a subsidiary of The Hartford, get away with this perversion of the facts is, in my opinion, a travesty.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

This Is How I Roll

Scene: Standing in line at the supermarket near my home approximately 6:20 p.m.

Clerk: Two six packs of Diet Dr. Pepper.... must be a Saturday night.

Me: Yup, that's me, a wild and crazy guy.

Too Funny

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Pondering What the Right Thing To Do Is

I have a case.

Yes, I almost always have a case. However, this one is slightly unusual. And my client is of the opinion that she wants to try and get some media attention since it concerns somethings that may or may not be news worthy.

Now, I personally have a deep aversion to the media since an incident back in college. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

How Rock Music Should Be Heard

Yes, they have been a band for longer than I have been alive.

Yes, all their music does sound the same.

No, they have never (unless you count the song "Ride On") ever put out a ballad.

And yes, they still put on an amazing show!

I'm partially deaf. My voice is shot. But it was all worth it to see AC/DC for the first time in more than two decades of trying to get tickets!

And Just When You Thought Insurance Companies Could Not Sink Any Lower

There comes this story. In a nutshell this is what happened. A woman went to work at a store. A man walked in. He decided that he was going to kill someone that day based on their skin color. The woman at the counter happened to be that skin color. He took out a knife and used it to kill said store clerk.

The only reason she was killed: she working that day and fit the profile of someone he wanted to kill.

Now the employer's insurance company has decided to contest the death benefits due her family (in this case, her 11 year old son). There grounds: the death was not work related.

The facts are undisputed: Taneka Talley, was on duty, at the Dollar Store; her murderer walked in and stabbed as she was doing her job, stocking the shelves. She had never had any contact with him before. The only reason she died was because she was working.

The insurance company, Specialty Risk Services, has taken the position that because the man who killed the store clerk just wanted to kill anyone who was African-American, and not in the course of a robbery, that this situation is not covered by the policy. They are saying that there denial is based on it being a "personal" matter.

Apparently Specialty Risk Services has been delaying paying the benefit now for more than 2 years. How they can make this argument with a straight face is beyond me.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

This Just Kills Me

So I was looking at who has been visiting this site. One of them caught my eye because of the search that they used to get here.

Google cannot seem to find my real firm's website, however, a search for the best small firms in California brings up this blog? Killing me.

Dancing With The Stars Finale - Part II

All I can really say is, the right person. Warren was great, but Brooke just dazzled more than he did. Either one winning would have been the right call, but Brooke, for most of her dances, just had that little something extra when it came to the dances that Warren's charisma could not overcome.

Congratulations to Brooke Burke. Now where do you put that mirror ball trophy?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dancing With The Stars Finale Part I

First off... is Bruno trying to steal Brooke Burke away from her husband?

Second, Brooke Burke did a nice free-style dance, but it was no Drew Lachey free-style.
Exhibit A: Brooke Burke's ode to Grease.

Exhibit B: Drew Lachey's "Save a Horse Ride A Cowboy" routine.

One of the best free-styles, are you sure Len? Please.

Then we come to Lance's routine. I gotta say, neither the Mrs. Angrybell or I were digging it. As Mrs. Angrybell said" Lacey is a weak choreographer". To me, it was just a miscalculation. It seemed.... flat. A freestyle is supposed to wow.

This one... not so much. Since its the finals, they had to give them 9's I suppose.

And then we come to the big man, Warren Sap. Kym, good call on the costume and the choreography.. You had everyone in America, and especially in the ABC Legal Department, wondering if there was going to be a costume "mishap". Then to recognize, you had a massive ex-NFL player with a lot of upper body who has been waiting to throw you around.

I have to agree, it was my favorite routine of the night.

Now, the last couple of weeks have been interesting. Brooke has been the best dancer all season. Lance has had some nice routines. However, Warren has consistently turned in the best performances.

Now, when I say performances, I include both technique and showmanship. He goes out there, and people respond to the fact that he is having a lot of fun out there. His technique may not be great, but his charisma makes up for it.

Lance just has not been that good. He has moments of good/great, but then he will piss it all away. Why? No idea. His partner, Lacey, does not appear to be as good at choreographing routines as the other professional dancers. However, its not her fault when it comes to executing. At that point, its all Lance's problems coming out on the floor. My guess is that he is a head case (Mrs. Angrybell thinks he needs a lot of therapy to deal with his feelings of inadequacy).

The interesting case for me at this point is Brooke Burke. All season she has been the one by whom all the other dancers were measured on the show. However, in the last two weeks of show, it has become clear that she is letting the pressure get to her. Her jive last week basically imploded, opening the door for Lance to threaten her. Now, the dances she turned in tonight were good. However, both had little errors, errors which three weeks ago we would not have seen. So the question becomes, do you judge her in the finals solely on what she does tonight and tomorrow or do you judge her for the work that she has turned in this season.

In case anyone cares, I think that Brooke should win. Warren should come in second. However, the performances that the Big Fella turned in tonight make it hard to ignore him.

If Lance wins, people who vote for him need to have their heads examined. Anyone who whines that much does not deserve to be rewarded.

Final question: Mrs. Angrybell wants to know if I should get Len's outfit from tonight. Who thinks I should rock the pink like Mr. Goodman?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Are You Frakking Kidding Me? We Have That Many People Who Are That Afraid of...


I mean seriously. Prop 8 won? A proposition that by its very nature is discriminatory? That seeks to strips rights from people? That says that its more important to love who an organized religion says is appropriate rather than following your heart?

This disgusts me.

People bought into the argument that children need to be protected from hearing about gays and gay marriage? People believe that simply because children might be exposed to it, that they will grow up to be degenerates, immoral, and/or homosexual?

I cannot believe that California was so blinkered as to vote this way.

Explain it to me? I understand that people are religious. I'm a fairly religious person. However, how does allowing gay marriage inhibit their ability to worship? Does it establish some "homosexual church" that I was unaware of? Does it mandate that people will suddenly turn gay?

Let's be clear: Californians, for all their so-called liberal ideals, managed to allow this disgusting piece of social-mandating legislation to passed.

Yay, Obama won. Go and celebrate if you like. Personally, I don't feel much like celebrating knowing that this was approved by the people of my state.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I'm Not Telling

Other than to say I did vote.

Well... I Guess Its A Trial For Sure

So in my rubber dog doo case, I got part of what I wanted. What that means is that for certain, this case will go to trial soon.

I must remember to take seriously my opposing counsel. though its hard when even the judge's jaw dropped open at some my opposing counsel's comments.

Hopefully the jury will see my opposing counsel and the opposing party for what they are: insane people making a casse that never should have been brought in the first place.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Dancing With the Stars This Week

Ok... is the fix in or something? I mean seriously. What was up with all the fawning that was going on for Susan Lucci. She was terrible. She was tentative. She missed steps in her Paso. Then there was the Cha-cha-cha where she kept missing steps.

Please... please get her off. Let Suan Lucci go back to what she is good at. It sure is not dancing.

For Warren Sap, a not so stellar foxtrot was made up for it by that Paso routine. Brooke Burke still looks like she is leaving the rest of the group behind though. Lance... is too much of a mental wimp to hang in there. He has had some good performances, but his unwillingness to push when the going gets tough is showing. Cody looked good, but then dancing with Edyta, almost anyone would look good.

The team paso was light years better than the team cha-cha-cha.

Quotes from Mrs. Angrybell:
"I like that Cheryl is getting heavy!"
"Lacey looks like a garbage scow."
"Edyta looks like Hawaii died on her."

AngryBell's Endorsements for California and San Francisco (As If Anyone Cares)

Prop 1A - Yes.

Even though I am wary that it could be a boondoggle. I'm all for trying to create an alternative to cars and airplanes for intra-state travel.

Prop 2 - No.

Prop 3 - No.

Yes, I am a heartless monster. However, we passed Prop 61 four years ago, and now the argument is that they need more. My problem is that they don't say what its needed for other than just expansion. The need for expanded health-care, especialy for children is always going to be there. As much as I would like to cure every child, with the budget deficit as it is currently in California, it seems wrong to add more debt on simply because "more" is needed for the kids.

Prop 4 - No.

I am mindful that the people who are affected by this law are children. And children do not have the right to make virtually any other medical decision. However, at the same time, I am also mindful that having a kid is a big deal, one that can affect their lives forever, just as the decision to choose an abortion is. But as the official ballot initiative pamphlet from the state points out, the law does allow minors the choice of treatment for anything relating to a pregnancy. So it seems wrong to take away this choice. If only the anti-abortion foes would spend more time teaching their kids how not to get pregnant... but alas I digress.

Prop 5 - No!

I am all for drug court, rehabilitation and drug treatment. However, I am absolutely opposed to anything that prevents a judge from crafting the right sentence to fit the crime. This proposition would prevent the courts from dealing with criminals who are deemed "nonviolent". There is the argument that people can blame their crimes - such as burglary, theft, and embezzlement - to get into this type of sentencing. While I am not sure that this analysis is correct, I think that by taking away the court's ability to use the stick, the carrot of drug court and diversion is going to become less effective. Therefore, vote no on 5.

Prop 6 - No.

There are some nice things in here dealing with gangs and gun violations. However, the cost of doing all this, by requiring a set amount from the State's General Fund is just wrong. In times like these, to have required spending levels, especially in budget crunches, means that the state is going to be unable to act as flexibly as is needed. This is just the wrong way to go about dealing with the problems of gangs. This proposition is no good for California.

Prop 7 - No.
Let's see, when the Republicans, the Democrats, PG&E, Sierra Club, the Green Party all agree that there is a problem with this initiative, I think there is a problem. Its badly written. It has the potential to hurt us fiscally as well as hinder small business who want to get into the alternative energy field. This is just not the way to do it. Vote No.

Prop 8 - NO!

Do I really need to go into why this is wrong? I am a religious person. I am a married person. However, I do not believe all the hoopla that the religious groups have been making over this issue. Consenting adults should be allowed to marry whomever they wish. It was wrong we told Mildred Jeter that she could not marry Richard Loving. Just because Sue might be marrying Jane, my marriage is not going to be any less valid. Will kids hear about gays getting married? They already do. Does it harm them? As opposed to buying them Grand Theft Auto IV? Or any other shoot-em-up game out there?

At its core, this is a discriminatory piece of legislation. If we adopt it, it will stain California's reputation for decades. Instead of being a state that values inclusion and equality of opportunity, we will be taking counsel of the fears of those who are unwilling to see that change is occurring. Who are we to say that someone's love for another person is wrong, and therefore not deserving of the same recognition, simply because they are in love with the person who is of the same sex? Vote No on Prop 8.

Prop 9 - No.

I've lived through being a prosecutor in a state where there are victims rights bills like this one. It just causes a mess. It changes the system from one of justice to one of retribution. We need less of the latter and more of the former. Vote No.

Prop 10 - No.

Let me get this straight? A bond measure to help consumers buy high fuel economy or alternative fuel vehicles? As the Chronicle notes, this works out to being about $2000 a buyer. When you subsidize things, the prices tend to stay higher. Why? Because it allows the buyer, in this case, to afford a higher price. How about this... lets the market drive down the price for alternative fuels. Even with the drop in gas prices in the last few weeks, we are still paying a lot higher than most can still easily afford. We are not going back to the 1980s when gas was under a $1.00 per gallon. If people have an incentive to bring a fuel efficient mehtod to market at a good price, it will be better than subsidizing a more expensive method. This is just another attempt to get money out of the state, money that is needed for other projects, not people's purchasing of a new car (especially when I don't see anything in here about the government funding my trip to the grocery store!). Vote No.

Prop 11 - No.

Redistricting is a pain no matter who does it. But one of the perogatives of being the party in power means you get to help with the redistricting. This new baord, with its equal number of seats gives too much power to the minority parties. You think electoral districts are funky under the current system, wait until there is a deadlock under the proposed one.

Prop 12 - Yes.

I know, I'm usually against anything that includes a bond. However, the program that these bonds will fund has a track record of success. The value of the bonds have been paid back with the money generated from the mortgages loaned by this project. Now its time to refund it. Vote Yes.

Local San Francisco Propositions

Prop A - Yes.

We need a hospital in this city. It needs to be upgraded to meet the new earthquake codes. Math seems pretty simple on this one. Vote Yes!.

Prop B - No.

First, San Francisco needs all the tax revenue it is getting just to pay for what it is supposed to be doing now. Second, the government should not be helping people with subsidies to buy houses. This is not going to solve the problem of affordable housing in this city. Additionally, rent subsidies are not going to be the solution in this rent control market. Its only going to exacerbate the problem by allowing the landlords to raise the rates higher (why should they care when the city is going to subsidize the tenants). This is the wrong way to deal with a very difficult problem.

Prop C - No.

Why should we prevent a qualified person from sitting on a charter board simply because they are employed by the city? If the right person works for the city, then use that person. If they dont, dont appoint them. Vote No on C.

Prop D - Yes.

Why do we have to have a city vote on this? Was this really necessary? Everyone agrees something needs to be done. So do it already. Vote Yes on D.

Prop E - No.

What is the purpose of this? Or is this just Supervisor McGoldrick trying to make it more difficult to get recalled after the scare he had before?

Prop F - No.

This is change for change sake. There is no good reason here.

Prop G - Yes.

This seems like a limited change for a specified purpose: you get to purchase (not automatically receive) credit for time taken for parental leave. Or, in simpler terms, people's retirment do not get dinged for having a kid.

Prop H - No. No. No. NO. NO! NO!

This is the ultimate boondoggle. It simply gives the Board of Supervisors a blank check to solve a problem that does not exist. Is there really a need for the City and County of San Francisco to run its own utility? Its not going to help with a move towards greening the enivronment. All its going to do is cost the San Francisco tax payers. Vote No on this proposition.

Prop I - No.

An independent rate payer advocate? Or just another government office that requires funding If they had power to actually change the rates, there might be something to this measure. However, since its just going to examine rates from the viewpoint of the PUC customer, hold investigations, and provide explanation of the PUC's rates, its just going to cost the City money. Money that the City needs for other things. Vote No on this. Its just another sinecure that will need to be filled by a Supervisor or Mayor's crony.

Prop J - No.

So San Francisco has a "Landmark Preservation Advisory Board". However, Prop J wants to create a Historic Preservation Commission with seven more people appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Supervisors. Do we need these seven, plus the nine on Landmark Board? Or is this just another attempt to find more jobs for cronies? Let me think about that while I vote No on Prop J.

Prop K - No.

Prostitution has been around forever. And attempts to stamp it out as a criminal enterprise have been failing for just about as long. However, that being said, Prop K does not provide the solution. If this were just a legalization and regulation of the sex business, that would be one thing. But this proposition goes a bit further, and prevents the police from tyring to prevent sex-trafficking. Sex-trafficking is a major problem, where women are essentially enslaved into become prostitutes and then sold and shipped around the world. Alot of them come from Asian or Eastern European countries. The last thing that San Francisco should become is a safe zone for those trafficking in people. Therefore, Vote No on Prop K.

Prop L - Yes.

Criminalizing the homeless for being homeless and the mentally ill for being crazy does not work. Yet, that is what we have done for decades. However, Prop L works to try and change this, by funnelling people into what are being called "Community Justice Centers". Essentially its a court for infractions caused by the homeless or the mentall ill. These courts have been effective in other places. Fully fund this project by voting Yes on Prop L.

Prop M - Yes.

Now, the Chronicle came out against this one, saying that there is no need for it. They say there is no evidence of landlord harassment of tenants. If that is the case, I must be getting the only tenants in all of San Francisco who are facing some of problems which this ballot measure deals with, including refusals to cash rent chekcs, requesting invasive information about tenants (including their medical and mental health status), threats of violence, and intimidation. Of course, since I doubt that anyone on the S.F. Chronicle's editorial board rents from a landlord, that would be their view. On the other hand, these things happen ever day. And tenants in San Francisco have no recourse. If you are a good landlord (i.e. one who cashes the checks in a timely fashion and who doesnt try to intimidate their tenants into fleeing) this will probably never affect you. This is about dealing with the landlords out there, and they do indeed exist and own many a building in this city, who are less than civil. Vote Yes on Prop M.

Prop N - No.

While I think the City needs money, I'm not in favor of changing the rates to single out any one group.

Prop O - Yes.

It just brings things up to the modern era from the looks of it. I don't pretend to know everything about everything, but it looks reasonable. Even though its put me again on the other side of my favorite person to see on the ballot each year: Starchild!

Prop P - No.

This seems like the mayor's attempt to get on another board. Whats the point? Vote No on P.

Prop Q - NO!

Its hard enough to be in business for oneself. Esepcially as a sole proprietor. So why are we now goign to extend the payroll tax to these people who already pay their taxes to the city. This is just going to make it harder for the small business to do business in the city, rather than spending time trying to compky with all the rules. Vote no on Q!

Prop R - No.

Its funny. Its cute. But let's just move on. Its not worth the money its going to take to put up the new sign to vote Yes on this one. We all know that George W. Bush is going to go down as an unpopular president. Let's let it go that way. Vote No on Prop R.

Prop S - No.

Its a nice idea, but all it means is that instead of the fight being over whether there is money, its going to be over where the ballot measure is realistic about where the money is coming from. Its not a real change, its just a comestic one.

Prop T - No.

This is another attempt to hamstring the City's ability to meet future challenges. It requires that a cost (unfixed mind you) be part of each budget. This means that other programs will have to be cut, programs which may be just as necessary. While I like the idea of providing free treatment to substance abusers, doing this at the cost of other programs which may involve prevention, education, and job training is ill-advised. Vote No on Prop T.

Prop U - NO.

It'll probably win, but then again its just wrong and stupid. Vote No.

Prop V - Yes.

Keep JROTC. Ignore your prejudices against the military and recognize that this program has helped a lot of people get their lives together and go to college. The military is neither evil nor the enemy of San Francisco. Fostering a hatred and disrespect, through actions like this, is why people do not take San Franciscans seriously on other issues. This is somethign that is voluntary. No one is saying to make it mandatory. People who want to volunteer for this type of training should not be prevented by small-minded peaceniks. Vote Yes on Prop V.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Latest (Crusade?) Case

So I'm doing another case. Surprise, I'm an attorney.

The facts of this case right now are really important. This could be a case about actual rubber dog doo.

Anyways, what I'm doing now is writing a reply for a motion which I should have already won. Unfortunately, the Court decided to give my opposing counsel a chance to recover from their own self-inflicted mistake.

Thanks Court.

But now I am reading the documents to which I am replying. And I have come to a couple of conclusions. First, opposing counsel, despite being a native of this country and allegedly having graduated from a couple of institutions of higher education, and having passed the California State Bar Exam, has only a passing acquaintance with the English language. Second, I don't think that this attorney has any idea how to properly use the "(sic)".

Third, if I win this case, I am sending them a copy of this.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

So My Problems With the Upcoming Election

I'm supposed to be a good little progressive type aren't I? I support rent control laws. I am generally for taxes which make sense. I am pretty liberal when it comes social issues (why should anyone have the right to invalidate or criminalize someone else's way of living when it does not cause an actual harm to another.)

So why can I just not get excited about Senator Obama? Even at this late stage of the campaign, I am having trouble the idea of voting for Senator Obama. (Yes, I know, this must make a racist.)

Part of it has to do with the fact that I can't see the substance to anything he says. Ten years ago, Senator Obama was at the start of his second term as an Illinois State Legislatory, specifically a State Senator. During his eight years as a state senator, Senator Obama proposed approximately 800 pieces of legislation. Almost half of them dealth with either health and human service issues (i.e. health care issues) or bills related to poverty (i.e. public assistance or studies of poverty issues). Now that is a lot more than his record in the Senate.

But what is disturbing about his time in the Illinois State Senate was how he voted. Not so much that he voted the liberal Democrat party line. It is the fact that in a number of cases where the issue was controversial, Senator Obama voted "present". Essentially by voting present, Senator Obama was abdicating making a decision. Now, Senator Obama characterizes these as protest votes, claiming that it was part of a strategy to protest the proposed legislation.

Now, it was my impression, that the correct thing for a legislator to do when faced with a bill that they did not agree with, was to vote against it. Apparently, my civics instructor misinformed me back in the seventh grade.

In his one term as a U.S. Senator, Obama has been present for (by my count) 584 votes. Of those Senator Obama voted present 240 times, or 41% of the time. Yes some of those "present" votes were for resolutions such as "Expressing Support for General Petraeus and All Members of the Armed Forces", but then were instances of his voting "present" for bills such as FISA Amendment Act of 2007, REAL ID Act funding, and consumer protection laws. Then there were his non-votes on issues regarding Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senator Obama says that he wants to lead. Senator Obama says that he wants to sit in the Oval Office and be the President of the United States. To me, that is a job that requires making a decision more than 59% of the time.

Now, there are other things about Senator Obama that disturb me. He has a tendency to surround himself with people that have made some questionable choices.
First, there is Professor William Ayers. Mr. Ayers has admitted to setting bombs and conspiring with others to conduct a bombing campaign. This is not a case of simply being an anti-war protester. This was a man who planted bombs. He has never fully come clean about his activities, with other former radicals asserting that his memoir riddled with errors. Prior to 9/11, Mr. Ayers claimed that he had no regrets about being a part of a terror organization and that he would do it (be a terrorist) again. However, as soon as the Twin Towers fell, and the climate for would-be terrorists became distinctly unhealthy, he set about on a campaign to retract/explain away those statements. On another occasion, he seems to argue that an apology for what he did would not be right

Then there is a Dr. Rashid Khalidi, of Columbia University. At best, this man is an apologist for terrorism. At worst, he is a member of the PLO, a terrorist organization.

Aside from terrorists, Senator Obama also seems to choose poorly when it comes to his economic advisors. Yes, he does have people listed such as Robert Reich and Paul Volcker. However, he also has taken advice, or hoped to until people in the media finally dared to say something negative about the Obama campaign, Franklin Raines and James A. Johnson. Both Raines and Johnson were former heads of Fannie Mae. Both were forced out of the CEO positions because of accounting scandals.

As far as his foreign policy advisors are concerned, from the articles that I have read which deal with who is actually advising him, he appears to have a mixed bag. Susan E. Rice is apparently the head of Senator Obama's foreign policy advisors which include Anthony Lake, Gregory B. Craig, Richard J. Danzig, and Denis McDonough. From what I can discern, this seems like a foreign policy team that is driven more by humanitarian impulses rather than pragmatism. While we should aspire to see that human rights are respected and upheld, to base a foreign policy on that idea, rather than the interests of the nation, is a dangerous road. It was attempted by the U.S. back in the 1970s, during the Carter Administration and was not very successful.
After looking at who Obama calls friends, and whom he turns to for advice, I look at Obama's record and his actions. Other than proposing bills, or rabble rousing for change as a community organizer, there is very little in the way of a record to go by as to how he will act in a tough spot. His 240 present votes do not exactly fill me with optimism. Furthermore, for a man who claims he wants "change". Such a nebulous word. Is change all good? What kind of change do we need?
To an extent, I hope he means changing many of the things that have gone wrong under the current administration. In a pamphlet ("Obama Bide Blueprint for Change")on his campaign site, he includes portions of a speech where he said, "“There are some who believe that we must try to turn back the clock on this new world; that the only chance to maintain our living standards is to build a fortress around America; to stop trading with other countries, shut down immigration, and rely on old industries. I disagree." Yet, what is his track record on these issues?
He voted for legislation such as the second PATRIOT ACT and the FISA amendments ("build a fortress around America"). On immigration issues he has been saved from making a hard choice with the failure last year to get to the voting stage because cloture was not invoked (i.e. there was not enough people ready to vote whether to enact the bill). Then on the issue of relying on old industries, Obama has expressed a desire to renegotiate portions of NAFTA, which indicates to me that he wants to increase protections for American industries that have not fared so well under the NAFTA regime. Then there is his proposed Patriot Employer Act, with its protectionistic overtones. Then there are his votes against free trade pacts with Central American countries and Peru, and Senator Obama has also voiced his opposition to planned free trade deals with Columbia and South Korea. For all his lipservice to the global economy, his actions indicate something else.
Then there is the war. We are currently fighting two campaigns, separated by thousands of miles, involving different cultures against enemies who are unified primarily in their adherence to an interpretation of Islam. Senator Obama has been very clear about his position: he wants out of Iraq. However, he wants to get further, and more significantly (in terms of numbers) involved in Afghanistan. He has voted against General Petraeus and against the surge. He has called for a timetable for withdrawal. On all of these issues, I cannot be on the same side as the Senator from Illinois.
Whether or not the decision to go into Iraq was the right one, or whether the administration in power lied about the evidence, the fact of the matter is that we are there. We have killed thousands of people and we have lost many of our own over there. We have destroyed countless structures, and ravaged the infrastructure of that land. This is not to say that American and Coalition forces are some rampaging hordes bent on destruction for destruction's sake. Death and destruction are facts of warfare. However, bound up in our actions is a responsibility which I believe that we have. That responsibility is to help to set right what we have caused to go wrong. To leave Iraq before stability (not utopia mind you) is achieved, would be to consign the Iraqi people to another round of violence and the potential for another failed state along the lines of Somalia or Afghanistan. The United States did help the Iraqi people by eliminating the Hussein regime. But unlike movies, where when the villain dies the movie ends, there needs to be something more or else the victory will be lost.
We should have learned this lesson from our actions in 1990s when we abandoned Afghanistan. It seems that Senator Obama has not.
Senator Obama's strategy for Afghanistan seems to be not much better. Instead of pulling out, he wants to drop more troops into that region. Not only does he want to expand our commitment there, Senator Obama has even stated that maybe we should invade Pakistan. Statements like these concern me because they do not have the feel of someone who has a rudimentary understanding of the history of that part of the world, or what it would entail. It also seems to me that he does not even pay attention to the conflict he is most opposed: namely Iraq. Terrorists are essentially insurgents. Insurgencies do not go away simply because you invade the territory where they might be operating from. Large scale operations to reduce insurgencies usually fail (see various operations in Iraq and Vietnam prior to General Abrams taking command of US Forces there).
Furthermore, there is his tax policy. I am all in favor of ensuring that everyone pays their fair share. However, I question how he is going about doing it. Right now, 1 percent of Americans pay 37 percent of the taxes in this country. The top 10 percent of American earns account for 67 percent of taxes paid to the government. And these are the people who are going to see their taxes increased. While at the same time, the people who benefit from those taxes (whether it be through government assistance programs or college tuition grants) will see their taxes cut even more. It seems to me unsustainable to expect a dwindling number of people to pay for everything in this country. It almsot seems like it is penalizing people for being successful. Ideally the tax system in this country should be progressive and not confiscatory. A tax increase, such as proposed by Senator Obama, seems like a move back to a confiscatory taxing scheme.
Finally, in looking at Senator Obama's statements and actions, I look at how he proposes to act in the foreign policy arena. And there, there is more to concern me. First, there is Senator Obama's proposed method for dealing with Iran: directly and without preconditions. To do this would, in my opinion, be a public relations coup for Iran in general and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in particular. After years of trying to curb their nuclear ambitions, it would be as if we surrendered our principles just to talk to them. Part of diplomacy is perception. For the world to perceive us as giving in to rogue states, it would lend credence to the thought that the U.S. is weak willed. Negotiating always gets harder when you come at it from a position of weakness. And that is how we would be if Senator Obama carries through on this plan. Equals can meet without preconditions. The U.S. and Iran are not equal in size, in power, or population. To treat them as equals, raises their stature and the image of their power while it erodes at our own.
Second, there is the question of Israel. Senator Obama has been making the rounds. He has been saying the right things. However, there is just some part of me that concerned about his actual stance. There are those around him who are his friends, Dr. Khalidi and William Ayers, both of who are supporters of the terrorists. There is his pastor, Revrend Wright, whose own views on Israel are well known. Everyone has a racist friend that he excuses, but when more of them keep appearing, you have to wonder where his true heart lies on this topic.
What I have written above, are my intellectual problems with Senator Obama. Intellectually, I applaud a number of Senator Obama's positions. I probably would also be in favor of the people whom he would choose to sit as judges in the Federal Courts. To an extent, I agree with his health care proposals (though some parts I question as being workable).
But they are not my only problems with him. On an emotional level, the Obama campaign has brought about a visceral reaction: I don't like him and am scared of him. And I can pinpoint the exact moment when that reaction started when Senator Obama announced that rather than accept the nomination in the covention hall, he would accept it in a speech at a stadium nearby. The feeling was reinforced when I saw the speech. It was not the words he said, but it was the backdrop and imagery he used. Yes, I know they do not match, but the first thing that popped into my head was "Nuremberg". As I ride the bus to work, I see Obama for President campaing paintings on buildings and in posters that remind me of Fascist propaganda posters of the 1930s. Senator Obama's campaign feel as though it has become, at least to me, demagogic. His followers, so extreme, accusing those who do not agree with Senator Obama's statements and proposals as being racist or worse. I'm not comparing Senator Obama to Hitler, Mao, Stalin or anyone else who has encouraged a cult of personality. But Senator Obama's campaign, at least to me, has that cult of personality feel.
He is a man who has no real record of leadership or accomplishment, just of having a knack for getting himself elected. Some have made comparisons between him and John F. Kennedy in regards to the lack of a record. The problem with that is John F. Kennedy, for all the mistakes he made, had been forced to take responsibility during WWII and acquitted himself well.What I do not see is someone who has a record for assuming responsibility to see something through. He has never owned a business, been a mayor, governor, or had command responsibility. He sounds good, but can he be more than someone who just sounds good?
So there is my problem in a nutshell with Senator Obama. On the issues, I seem him standing on the right side when it comes to judges, healthcare, and civil rights. I see him on the wrong side of foreign policy, Iraq and Afghanistan, and tax policy.

I Want My Money Back

Unfrakkingbelievable. Microsoft has finally admitted what everyone else has known for some time: Vista does not work. They are now moving on to Windows 7.

So when am I going to get reimbursed for this piece of junk system I was forced to accept when I bought my computer? If Microsoft had any sense of honor/responsibility, they would give everyone afflicted with Vista a few upgrade to a system that works (be it XP or Apple's OS).

Too bad Microsoft is run by greedy monopolistic shmucks who are happy to put such a flawed product on the market in the first place.

Not A Good Time To Be A Big Firm Lawyer in San Francisco

So I used to wish that I worked at big firm. The steady paycheck and benefits would be great. The whole support staff thing would be ... I don't even know how it would be but I've heard it's amazing.

And then I see what happened to Heller Ehrman last month. The firm announced it was dissolving. For those in groups lucky enough to be poached by another firm, it probably was not too bad. But for the associates on the outs with their supervising partners, I'm betting that they are still looking for work. In this market, its probably not fun.

Then today, I was surprised to see another of the San Francisco big firms going under. Thelen (formerly known as Thelen, Reid and Priest) is going under. The partnership council (doesn't that sound like a group of guys in robes, sitting around a round table with candles, chanting) has announced tha tthey will be winding up business by December 1. Apparently a combination of partnership defections, recessionary pressures, as well as other economic factors, forced the council to take this step after merger talks with other firms fell through.

Lot of expensive lawyers going to be looking for work. This is not a good time to be a law student. It was hard enough to get a job in the first place. Now with all the experienced associates who may be up for grabs, its just going to make things even harder.

Monday, October 27, 2008

An interesting thing in the polls

Since poling seems to drive our every decision in politics, I was taking a look at one of the daily tracking polls. Over at Investor's Business Daily, they have a break down of their latest poll which shows the election as being pretty close if it happened today: Barak Obama with 47% and John McCain with 44.2%. The margin of error was listed at +/-3.5%. Statistically, the race is a dead heat.

What I found interesting in the poll was that the more education a person, the closer the numbers got. The largest gap was 51% for Senator Obama against the 40% for Senator McCain. However, for those with college degrees or better, the two candidates split the vote evenly with each having the allegiance of 47%.

Of course, this does not mean that much, since it would appear that the latest polls, when translated to how this would break down for the electoral college. According to Rasmussen, there polling indicates that the if the election were held today, Senator Obama would win with 286 electoral votes to 174 for Senator McCain.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A $40 Million Loss (Or An Interesting Lawsuit, Part 2, or More Reasons to Hate IP Law)

Last year, in June 2007, a lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by Deborah Novak and John Witek against Warner Bros over the movie We Are Marshall. (Here is the original post about this case.) Novak and Witek were seeking $40 million in the suit, most of it based on a theory of copyright infringement.

Yesterday, the court ordered the case dismissed after the judge granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment in the case. Novak and Witek had argued that Warner Bros, in making the movie, had lifted sequences from their earlier documentary film after the two sides could not come to an agreement. Novak and Witek's counsel argued that even though the film re-shot events which were in the public record, they did so in such a way as to make them substantially similar enough to constitute copyright infringement.

Judge Gary Allen Feess rejected this argument. As he pointed out early on in his 39 page order, copyright laws only protect only "an author’s original expression and not historical facts or events...." From there it all goes downhill for Novak and Witek's case.

Thankfully, historical facts remain uncopyrightable.

Thoughts on Dancing With The Stars This Week

Tough week from the looks of it. I've been out of sorts getting back to level after a wee bit of vacation, hence why I was not indulging in my typical posts about DWTS.

I really liked Toni Braxton. I figured she would have had more of a built in fan base than Maurice Green, who in my opinion is not very good and very, very annoying.

The judging this week seemed a little schizo. Cody Linley walks off with well earned scores, but it seems like Warren Sapp gets punished for going earlier in the evening. From my less than professional dancer judgment, it looked like he did a superb job, but it was not quite reflected in his scores.

On the other hand, the judges got it dead on with Lance Bass. It was not his fault, it was his professional's fault. It was almost like his partner was channelling the worst aspects of Maksim by choreographing something that showed off too much of her and not enough of Bass. Should Bass be better? Well, maybe he just is not. He certainly is no Joey Fatone.

So where does this elimination leave the competition? I think its pretty clear that Brooke Burke right now in the lead. She's not Kristi Yamaguchi, but damned if she isn't doing a pretty good impersonation of her ability to always hit her marks.

Even though his scores did not reflect it, I think Warren Sapp is breathing down her neck. He's a big man. He moves so lightly on his feet and has yet to look like he's been lost in any of his dances.

After a number of weeks of being a snarky immature boy, Cody Linely has stepped up to become a snark, immature guy. Will he be able to string together another good performance or is he going to fall back to being that guy strumming Julianne Hough's leg again and being a spaz? On the other hand, actors do not tend to do that well in making it to the finals. I suspect that Len would say it has something to do with them lacking the welly to be trained properly like the atheletes.

Cloris is hanging in there, and I suspect she will until we get down to the final four or five. She's just too funny to get rid of at this point. Susan Lucci is there, now with the sympathy vote thing for her bum foot. She will hang around for a bit, but really, does she deserve to? I mean, the judges gave her some good scores saying that they have seen "Erica Kane", but I have not. She always seems a bit lost out there in the sense she is too worried about going wrong and not worried about doing well. Then there is Lance. Either he turns it around this week or I suspect he is going to be going home.

And will people please stop voting for Maurice Green? Really. Please. I mean it.

Let The Mocking Continue

Remember former Administrative Law Judge Roy Pearson from D.C.?

Perhaps you might remember his loss: a pair of pants.

Or more likely, the lawsuit he brought against the cleaners for a whopping $67.3 million (later reduced to the more reasonable demand of $54 million) for said lost pair of pants?

Well in case you missed, he went to trial on this case back in June 2007. Predictably, since the majority of his claims are, well, outrageous, he lost. Like any good lawyer, Pearson took his case to a higher authority and appealed the court's judgment.

Judging by the report of the Washington Post, it does not look like the District of Columbia Court of Appeals is any more receptive to his arguments than the trial court was. One of the panel was quoted as asking, after hearing Pearson's argument, "Where is the fraud?"

So let there be another couple of months of mocking (between 2 and 4 according to the Post).

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

So What Was the Purpose?

Did not the leadership of both parties argue that the bailout (to the tune of $700 billion) was necessary to prevent any more problems to the economy. Problems like banks going under, the stock markets plummeting, and things of that ilk.

So nice to see Congress and the President agree to throw money at a problem rather than tackle the problem itself. I mean, after all, its not their money.

Monday, October 06, 2008

I Missed It Last Week.... My Dancing With The Stars Thoughts

Susan Lucci... should be better dammit! I mean seriously, she looks hesitant. She looks lost. Yes, the ankle was hurt (maybe), but come on. Would Erica Kane let herself be this hesitant? A dissappointment. Unless she stops being so timid, she needs to go, fans or no. Those sevens were a little too high.

Lance Bass... acts like he thinks he is Mario Lopez. Mario Lopez could break the rules because he and Karina were that good as a couple (even if they did get hosed by the fan voting). Then we get to the dance. It was,... not fluid. Cant say it better than that, but the rise and fall just wasn't there. Carrie-Ann was obviously not watching this, because her comments were off the mark. 22 seems a little high, but then Carrie Ann had to give points to him that she wouldn't normally give to Tony.

Maurie Green... I don't like him, but I thought it was better than the previous two. This also shows why Cheryl has won twice: she clearly changed the routine to play to his strength. Max would have pushed for his original concept and his partner would have suffered for it. So it looks like another week of his inane rhyming. The score was right, even with the normal inflation that goes on.

Rocco Dispirito... He's still on? Oh yeah. Uneven. Sometimes, it looked right, sometimes it went all wrong. But then again, with that song it was hard. But ya gotta love the sunglasses on Len. I hate to admit it, but I was agreeing with Carrie Ann on this one: he showed significant improvement. 20 was about right.

Warren Sap... Props for pulling off the raspberry suit and pink shirt. And like Bruno says, it was "Big Smooth And Beautiful". How can he be that big and move that lightly? And shame on Bruno for only going to 8.

Cody Linley.. enough with air guitar on her leg. Seriously, I think he thought he was playing Rock Band instead of dancing. Also, dont make it so that Julianne has to back lead it so blantantly. Personally, I would have given them more sixes than sevens.

Toni Braxton... good. Not Sapp good, but better than Lance Bass. And who hated her enough to put her in that outfit. My one criticism was that she looked tentative through much of it. There were times when it looked good, but there were times when it did not look right (but that might have been by design because of the arrangement for the song). 22 was probably right.

Cloris Leachman.... as Mrs. AngryBell said "What the hell?!?!?!?!?!?!" Was the hair thing on purpose? On the other hand, she does know how to work the crowd. The 16 was, well generous.

Brooke Burke... Derek needs to learn how to communicate better. If he is smart, he will take a page from Cheryl when it comes to bring along her partners. Brooke Burke always looks like she is committing to the dance with him, even where other contestants are loking hesitant with their partners. Then of course, there was the shameless use of her kid in the act. I disagree with the "best dance of the season" title that Len handed her (since I think Sapp's waltz earlier was just a little bit better). I can see the reason for the 28, but I think that calls into question Sapp's score.

Mysti May-Treanor... fate is a fickle mistress.

Update on my picks:

Favorites- Sapp and Burke

Middle of the Pack- Toni Braxton, Cody Linley, and Cloris Leachman

Needs to go - Maurice Green, Lance Bass, and Rocco Dispirito

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Something A Foot

I just got some news. But I can't put it up. Its part of what could now be a long term project. Now if the next bit of information comes back the same way... I may have something cooking that doesn't involve pro bono work for once.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Wow... And When I Thought It Could Not Get Any Worse

So earlier this week, while I was scrambling to keep a woman housed, the House of Representatives did the right thing: they voted down the bailout plan.

Why, you may ask, did this fill me with hope? Because the plan is wrong. It is going to reward people for making bad choices. This bailout is not going to get the economy going in the right direction because it is simply going to crease a sense of "if I frak it up really badly, then the government will help me out and wash me of my sins."

Yes, I know that the legislation was altered to affect executive pay for corporations which would receive help from the bail out. But I did not see anything in there about reforming the sector of banking and securities which allowed this mess to happen in the first place. Furtheremore, I did not see anywhere where it was mentioned where the government would get the money. As most people know, this country's budget, under the inept handling of the Bush Administration, has managed to roll up an impressive deficit. You know, the one that is almost 10 trillion dollars.

So now comes the Senate. Bad as the bailout bill was before, I was thinking that no one would have anything worse to throw at the wall. I was hoping that someone would have a better idea than "Throw money at it and hope it ends up alright".

Yeah. Well I was wrong about that.

The Senate bill, which apparently was passed earlier today (with both candidates voting for it) is the same bill that the House of Representatives shot down.... except that its full of earmarks. About the only good thing I can say about it is that it might resolve the AMT mess. Otherwise, it has about 8 billion in tax breaks (but hey, when you're already $ 9.8 trillion in the hole, whats wrong with cutting off another $8 billion in possible revenue), money to spend on rural schools (so, less money coming in, lets help it by spending more in an emergency), more tax breaks for homeowner who do not itemize (yes, lets help them more for doing less), and more spending on disaster relief for the South and Midwest.

What an incredibly great bill! I mean, lets give the Secretary of the Treasury $ 700 billion to spend to help rescue his old company, give out another $ 8 billion in tax breaks, and spend money in every region of the country. And how are we going to pay for this?

Some are saying that the government will make the money back on the mortgages that it is buying up. Let's think about this for a moment. If you could make money off these mortgages... why hasn't anyone? Why are these now referred to as "junk bonds".

This plan is severely flawed. This plan has gone from being an attempt at bailout (which is questionable as to whether it will actually help) to being an attempt by the belt bandits of both parties to get more of their pet projects pushed through during a time of crisis.

I guess the only thing to hope for now is that the Democrat and Republican Representatives who voted against passage last time will stick to their guns. Though I doubt that. With all that pork hanging in front of them, how can they?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dancing With the Stars... Yes, I have to comment on it

Since I don't have the time to go through each one, just some general comments.

1) All the women need to stop thinking so damn much! Most of them seem to know the steps, but then they have these brain farts which get them all mucked up.

2) The men are better than last season. I'm impressed at how many of them can move their feet.

3) To the comedian who got booted last night: you cost us Edyta!!!!!!! Now who is going to set the standard for kicking the heels past their ear while wearing next to nothing.

Early picks: Lance, Mysti, and Brooke.
Who should stay for the entertainment value alone: Cloris "Battleship Geriatrica" Leachman.
Who needs to go now: Maurice Greene (the rhyming thing is driving me nuts)
Dark Horse: Warren Sapp

Monday, September 22, 2008

Thinking About This Mess

So another day on Wall Street, another 300 plus point drop. This keeps up much longer and I'm going to start thinking that is the norm.

However, a little more seriously, I'm looking at what the Bush Administration intends to do. Essentially, it wants to pump a lot of, what will ultimately be, taxpayer money into saving people who are getting hit by the market downturn. Specifically, they (meaning the Administration and the Democrat-controlled Congress) want to spend about $700 billion (more on the credit card I suppose, since as I recall, Bush and the Congress have collaborated to create a huge budget deficit already) in order to buy up bad mortgages from failing institutions.

My question is why?

Yes, I understand that if they go under, it will be economically bad. But the plan that seems to be floating out there is going to do very little to either A) undo the mess, B) prevent it from happening again or C) punish those who got us into this mess in the first place.

Now, the financial situation, from my lay point of view, was sort of inevitable. There is always going to be a downturn, especially when it comes to housing. It just is un-realistic to think that prices would never fall, that defaults would never happen, or that the value would continue to go upwards. The sub-prime loans were a bad idea, that too many people bought into, and that too many presidential administrations did nothing to ensure that they would remain monitored.

Consider this, subprime lending only became available when the laws in this country were relaxed in regards to usury. What is usury you may be wondering? In TV shows, its what a loanshark deals in regular basis. Originally, usury meant the charging of interest on loans. For centuries, the practice was banned in the Catholic Church (and as an interesting histotical side note, one of the reasons why the great banking houses were Jewish originally, i.e. the Rothschild family). However, in the U.S., the concept of usury evolved into situation where the interest on the loan exceeded the permissible rate. In California, its anything over 10%.

In 1980, at the tail end of the Carter Administration, Congress passed a law called the Depository Institutions Deregulatory and Monetary Control Act in 1980. One of the things which this law did was it eliminated interest rate caps for a number of types of credit loans, including mortgages. In the 1990s, Wall Street started to securitize (or making them tradeable on the market) mortgages. Since they could use them as securities, it was a way to make more money. The more mortgages, the more securities available to sell or trade. So the mortgage companies started to look for more people to loan money.

However, they ran into a problem. With interest rates as they were in the 1990s, there was already stiff competition for people with good credit. However, despite the 1980 Act, there was still a relatively large and untapped pool of people to market subprime mortgages.

Now, it should be noted, that subprime mortgages were meant to be used by people who could not get a traditional mortgage. These are people who have bad credit histories, credit scores of below 620, and people with bad debt ratios (i.e. more than 45% of their income goes to servicing debt).

The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated that in 1994, there were approximately 70 lenders who did subprime mortgages. By 1997, that number had more than tripled to 270. In 1993, subprime mortgages represented approximately $20 billion dollars in loans made. By 2000, the number had reached $140 billion and was continuing to rise.

With the increase in subprime lenders, there was also an increase in subprime mortgages being written. And the more that these companies got into the business, it seems, the more addictive it became for them. While this was happening, two administrations (Bush and Clinton) failed to recognize the potential problems that this could cause.

In addition to an overall expansion of subprime lending, there began to be a shift in how subprime loans were made. According to one report, the shift became most noticeable in 2006. Prior to that, subprime lenders were competing by making rates more attractive (i.e. not requiring such high interest rates to people who had blemished credit histories). However, begining with the mortgages in 2006, it appears that there was shift in the guidelines and a lowering of standards even further to allow more people to qualify for the loans.

Why did they do this? The answer is simple: profits. Prior to 2006, and specifically in 2004, interest rates on mortgages hit their lowest levels in decades. For people with good credit, that was a great. They could get mortgages at very low rates of interest. For people with bad credit, it was even better. They could get mortgages that were not usurious (or at least not as bad had been previously). The people who is was bad for was the corporations making the loans. For every dollar they loaned, they were making less than on previous years. Therefore, they needed to do somethign which would increase their profit margins. Their solution: raise the interest rates on their loans, but decrease or make exceptions to the requirements for people taking out the loans.

Let's see. A desire for ever increasing profits. Mixed that with predatory lending practices targeting people who have demonstrated they can not be trusted with credit in the first place. Sounds like a great plan to me.

What did this lead to? Increase home values (because so many people had access to money they were able to bid up the prices of real estate), increased profits over the short-term (looked great on their balance sheets) and lots of people owning property that they did not really have the money to support.

So now the Bush Administration, as well as both major candidates, want to bail everyone out. About the best that can be said for Senators McCain and Obama is that they both agree that none of the bailout money should be used to pay for CEO/executive compensations for getting us all into this mess. The initial plan proposed by the Bush Administration was best summed up here.

Now, where will we get the money to do this bailout? Well, it will have to be borrowed, since the government does not have nearly three quarters of a trillion dollars lying around (which by the way means that every taxpayer is on the hook for approximately $2,300). What will it do? Well that is a good question

Part of the argument which is going on now in Congress is exactly what should happen with the bailout. (If only half as much thought had been put in the PATRIOT ACT... but I digress).

Reading some of the interviews that are going on, its interesting to get some of the mindset of the Bush Administration people who are doing the talking. For instance, when asked about limiting executive compensation, Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson declined to consider that as part of the package. As he stated, if such language were included in the bailout package, "institutions aren't going to participate ...this won't work the way we need it to work,...." apparently because it will be viewed as punitive. It almost seems to me as if he is saying that the drowning man won't accept a lifeline because it means he will have to let go of the thing that is dragging him down.

Besides, if the entity accepting help under the bailout needs help, isn't that an indicator that something is wrong in the first place? When did we start rewarding failure as if it were success? Apparently, the Bush Administration wants to pretend as if nothing the financial houses did was wrong, because to admit to that might leave the door open to.... a modernized, comprehensive regulatory system that makes sense! Horror! Regulations are bad... and must be abolished to allow market freedom which will benefit everyone in the end. ... Except of course when the Republicans want to tinker with the market to protect their friends.

Which takes me to my next point. The people who owe the money on the mortages. They are just as complicit in this financial mess as the executives on Wall Street. Not partly. Equally. They sat across a table from someone and had a chance to review the terms. As long as they were all included, and all the necessary discolsures were made, they had a choice. Subprimes were always a gamble. They had to hope that the value of their property would increase enough to help them refinance or that they would continue to be making enough money to meet their loan payments. Many people, including myself, looked at subprime mortgages when they had an opportunity to buy property. Many people, including myself, walked away from subprime mortgages because they were simply too economically risky.

Why then should we reward these people by keeping them housed? All it will do is continue to artificially inflate the value of real property. This in turn will make it harder for people to put together sufficient capital necessary to get a prime mortgage, at a good rate.

In fact, part of the proposal put together by Congressional democrats includes a provision which will allow bankruptcy courts to refashion mortgage terms in order to avoid foreclosure. Apparently, to the Democrats, contracts are really meaningless until an outsider has a chance to reform the terms which the parties previously agreed to in good faith? Apparently, according to the Democrats, we should reward people for not taking into account what the terms of the contract means before signing. We should encourage people to not consult an independent financial or legal advisor, and instead just tell them to go ahead, fail, the government will come and bail you out just like the Republicans do for the executives on Wall Street.

From my point of view, the mortgage industry enhanced this mess by not realizing that they were going to get the profits which they hoped for and instead sat down to reformulate the terms with the customers. Instead, they just kept letting properties go into foreclosure, leaving them with worthless mortgage securities to trade. At the same time, too many of the people who took out these mortgages did not pay attention to wath they were doing. They did not do what was necessary to keep up with the mortgage payments. They were not proactive enough to get things done.

The Chairman of the Federal Reserve says that there will be a recession if we do not bail out the mortgage industry. I am not in favor of a recession, but if all we are going to do is spend money to save the people who put us in this mess, without providing for real reform and real consequences to both Wall Street and the subprime defaulters, then it might not be a bad thing. Otherwise, we are just artificially inflating the markets... and inflation which will come back to hurt us even more later.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Why Do I Blog As AngryBell?

Its very simple. I blog under this pseudonym because it distinguishes my law practice from my personal opinions. While I do use my legal training to inform the opinions which I give here, it would be misleading to some people, and confusing to others, to put the name I use for my law practice here.

And quite frankly, given some of the comments which I have received, both on the comments and to the email which I check (located here), I think its not a bad idea to make it a little harder for some people to find my real name (i.e. telemarketers and cranks). However, if you want to know my name, email me and be a mensch about it. Otherwise, to the anonymous poster (see the comments left at 10:44 p.m. and 10:46 p.m.) who decided that invective was better than argument and facts, I say this: "Piss off".

Monday, August 25, 2008

This Is What Happens After Your Brain Goes to Law School

So I am reading Lowering the Bar's post on the request for a TRO by Philip J. Berg. In case you have not heard of this little insanity, Mr. Berg, a Hillary Clinton supporter, is seeking a TRO to block Barack Obama from running for president because, Mr. Berg alleges, he is not a "natural born citizen" of the United States.

After describing the attempt, Lowering the Bar comments on the phrase "natural born citizen", referring to previous candidates who had their own problems, or at least questions, with meeting this qualification. But while reading this, I thought to myself, there could be problems down the road for some future candidates. I mean, what if a candidate was conceived through artificial insemination, i.e. in vitro? That would seem to call into question the whole natural thing. And then I wondered, does giving birth through cesearian section mean that they were not a naturally born citizen?

I wonder if Justices Scalia and Alito would stick to their guns then or if they would look to outside sources then?

Dancing With The Stars Just Announced Their Line-Up

And here it is:

Kim Kardashian, reality TV star, will be dancing with Mark Ballas.

Cloris Leachman, Oscar-winning actress, Corky Ballas (Mark Ballas' father)

Maurice Greene, Olympic sprinter, will have the enviable task of being partnered with two-time winner Cheryl Burke.

Lance Bass, former N' Sync star, will dance with Lacey Schwimmer (who is making her first appearance on Dancing with The Stars. She is the 2006 U.S. Youth Latin Champ and 2007 World Swing Dance Champ).

Rocco DiSpirito, TV chef, will be Karina Smirnoff's cross to bear... er I mean partner... this season.

Warren Sapp, NFL star, will be partnered with Kym Johnson.

Misty May-Treanor, two time gold medal winning Olympic beach volleyballer, will be Maksim Chmerkovskiy's partner/victim.

Toni Braxton, Grammy award-winning R&B star, will be partnered with Alec Mazo.

Cody Linley, that cute kid from "Hannah Montana" show (otherwise known as the Disney representative on the show), will be dancing with the other two-time winner Julianne Hough.

Ted McGinley, veteran actor, will be dancing with another newcommer to the show, Inna Brayer.

Brooke Burke, actress/TV personality, will partner up with Derek Hough.

Jeffrey Ross, celebrity roaster and comedian, will be the burden that Edyta Sliwinska must bear this season.

Susan Lucci, "All My Children" star, will be partnered with cougar-magnet Tony Dovolani.

Looking at this list... I can't really see an early favorite outside of Lance Bass, and that is based on how well Joey Fatone did on the show a few seasons back. The down side is that its been a while since the last album... not to mention that the girls who idolized him as teens will probably not be there for him like they were for Joey. The boys on the other hand...

Another favorite would have to be Warren Sapp based on the Jerry Rice and Emmit Smith finishes (as long as he doesn't go the "Clyde the Glide" route). At first glance, it looks like Karina Smirnoff is still draying the short ends of the stick, although Edyta would seem to be close behind in that department.

As far as my sleeper pick... at first glance (and without seeing how any of this breaks down), I have to go with Susan Lucci. Big fan base. Good partner in Tony Dovolani. If she picks up enough, and given Tony's track record with the partner's he's had in the past, she could win it. I'm curious though to see what Mysti May-Treanor can do.

But the one that has me scared is the 82-year old Cloris Leachman. I hope Bergeron hasn't forgotten the number for the paramedics.