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?