Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Someone may need to use a thesaurus at the Chronicle.

Or as Inigo Montoya once said, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means"

So the headline over at SFGate tonight read:

Homicides plummet inexplicably in S.F.

The article which follows, written by Jaxsen Van Derbeken (usually pretty reliable in my opinion), then goes on to list a whole litany of contributing factors as to why the homicide rate dropped this year in San Francisco. This would include an expansion in the Homicide unit, which gave them more manpower to solve 70% of the homicides this year. Then there was the redeployment of the SFPD, putting more officers in the stations that have the high crime rates and the gang problems. Added to this was the SFPD's decision to aggressively target the various gangs that were the cause of alot of the homicides in San Francisco.

Seems like there are a lot of reasons why the rate is down. The question is whether the City of San Francisco is going to do what is necessary to keep the rate down.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Should have been a Muni employee


Yes, I know, lately I have been on an anti-MUNI kick but lets take a look at some things. Today, it was revealed that MUNI employees, as long as they work 2,080 hours in the year receive a bonus of $3,000.00. Based on the number of employees that earn this (about 65%), that works out $18 million.

This bonus, it must be noted, is not based on anything other than the number of total hours which an employee clocked in the year. No requirement that the hours be good. No requirement that something have been achieved during those hours. Its simple, work 2,080 hours, you get a bonus.

You know how many hours you work in a year if you work 50 weeks? That would be 2000. And how many vacation hours do they get? 2 weeks? That would be 80 hours.

By the way, last year MUNI operated at a $70 million deficit. With a little simple math, that means that the bonus system has caused at least 25% of the MUNI budget deficit.

And yet, I don't see anyone at the top of MUNI losing their job for creating a $ 70 million deficit. Nor do I see any hours being cut back for the workers. The only people I see being asked to sacrifice are the users of the system who see their fares go up and their service go down.

Next up, let's look at what MUNI employees make. The entry level, according to the article is: $29.19 per hour. In the course of a standard 50 week work year, assuming that they do 8 hours and no overtime: $58,380.00. Throw in vacation pay, because unlike many workers nowadays, they still get vacation pay, and that's more than $60,000.00 per year, plus an additional $225 per month for their benefits.

As a point of reference, many law firms in this area start their first year attorneys at small/medium-sized firms start somewhere between $57,000.00 and 90,000.00. Add in student loans from seven years of school, and it would have been better to skip education and get a job driving a bus, where standards seem to only be enforced when a rider finally catches you on their cell phone camera acting badly.

How any agency or business can pay bonuses when they are losing money is beyond me. It should be illegal for a municipal, state, or federal agency to issue bonuses when the agency itself is over budget. If a private business did it, they should be (not the employees) taxed prohibitively.

Enough of this rewarding people for just showing up. Showing up is not enough.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Let's See If I Get This Whole Thing About Muni Straight...

My fast pass is going up, again.

If I still want to be able to use it to ride BART, then it goes up even more.

MUNI has cut service, meaning even longer wait times.

Even with the recent fare increases, if I'm (or my wife, or my daughter are) attacked on MUNI, there is a better than even chance that a) the camera on the bus/street car won't be working well enough to get an image of the assailant and b) it is unlikely that the MUNI driver will bother to call the police about the incident.

So where is the part that says that MUNI will improve its service? Will they actually show up on time? Only 73% of the time, if the statistics are to be believed. Where I come from, that's a C-. (Although I'm sure if President Obama was in charge of MUNI he'd call it a solid B+).

A C- is not acceptable.

So why are all the cuts being made in ways that affect the people who are supposed to be served? I'm not hearing of any lay offs of administrative personnel. I'm not hearing about any ways that MUNI is acting to save on expenses, other than by sticking it to the citizens of San Francisco.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mrs. Angrybell Has A Theory

So my wife has a theory on how I get my clients. She is convinced that there is a website somewhere where all my clients go and discuss who to hire as a lawyer.

And we're not talking about Avvo.

First I should explain. Many of my clients have issues. These aren't your "difficult-because-they-are-demanding-types-client" issues.

I could only wish.

Rather, a large portion of my clients have been ... well..

Crazy is the polite way of saying it (although I think Mrs. Angrybell would describe more than a few of them as "bat-sh!t loony"). Complete with certifications that they are indeed.. well... crazy.

So Mrs. Angrybell has come up with a theory, especially in light of the fact that lately there has been an uptick in calls for my services from these .... crazy... potential clients. She believes that there is a website devoted to helping... crazy... folk find lawyers. Somehow, my name must be on there with a bullet.

At least, that is what Mrs. Angrybell thinks is the reason for why none of my clients seem to be ... well.. not crazy.

My mother would be so proud.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

After all... whats in a name?

Well if the name is Flynt, apparently its high class porn. Not just porn. It has to be porn that walks that fine line between "vanilla" and "making people uncomfortable".

At least that is what Larry Flynt said in testimony before a jury in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

What was this about? Larry Flynt is suing two of his nephews for trademark infringement. Interestingly, its not for misuing any of the Hustler marks. Instead, its for using their own name, Flynt, for their porn production company.

According to Larry Flynt, their porn just does not make the grade when compared with the porn turned out by Larry's Hustler. On the stand, Mr. Flynt was giving the fine points between trashy porn produced by his nephews, such as "Positive Exposure" and "Sex at Your Service", did not live up the high quality one would expect from Hustler. To prove his point, he compared them to images from "Mason's Sluts".

I'm sure that the 4 men and 4 women on the jury had fun with that explanation.

Now, according to what I have read, Mr. Flynt would have let his nephews go with the name, but for the fact that their films were so "passe". Mr. Flynt was proud to say "We're bringing elegance back to erotica."

Wow. Who knew?

In the end, the jury came out with a split verdict. On the trademark infringement claims, the jury found in favor of Larry Flynt. On the other counts, relating to invasion of privacy, the jury found for the nephews.

So beware the next time you think about slapping the name Flynt on any old piece of porn!.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Friday, December 04, 2009

They didn't cancel it, just moved it.

Apparently some people really, really love the A Charlie Brown Christmas. And who wouldn't. I'm Jewish and I think its one of the best holiday specials ever made.

But apparently, some people are a little... over enthusiastic. And woe betide the person who preempts their annual viewing tradition.

The mayor of Arlington, TN, is so incensed over the Charlie Brown Christmas being preempted, that he is accusing the President of doing it on purpose.

In fact, he went so far as to say "We sit the kids down to watch 'The Charlie Brown Christmas Special' and our muslim president is there, what a load.....try to convince me that wasn't done on purpose."

Ok, was that necessary? Almost surprised he didn't call President Obama a "our Jewish" president (Barak is Hebrew for lightning). Don't worry, The Charlie Brown Christmas Special is going to be broadcast next week and again on December 15.

And why would he call him a Muslim, when its well known that President Obama has been faithful Christian. Prior to becoming president, he regularly attended services with Reverend Wright. What more could a good Christian conservative want from him?

I mean, its not like the speech was that good (yes, I grade speeches hard.) or that bad (yeah, I give it about C, or in DWTS parlance, a 6). And the position he staked out seemed like the worst compromise possible (yes, let's send troops but lets not give them enough time to do anything constructive except as targets before we pull them out). But apparently he felt the need to cover himself politically that he had to talk to the American people by using an aircraft carrier the Corps of Cadets at West Point as his backdrop.

But let's not worry. Charlie Brown has been delayed. Charlie, Linus and the rest of the bunch will be on this year.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Georgina Blackwell

Imagine that you've gone through undergraduate and earned a degree. Then you've gone through legal training, and been admitted to the bar. You've done your scut work, gotten promoted to the point where you get to be in charge of cases for one of the largest builders in the country. In fact, some newspapers have said you are one of the top lawyers in the country.

And in walks someone with no training. Little formal education past secondary school. And they proceed to kick your ass.

It happens. And most recently, it happened in Royal High Courts Of Justice in London.

Just to make it worse, from the lawyer's perspective, the lawyer in question got beat by a beautician.

Georgina Blackwell's mother lives in a house in Essex. However, it stood in the way of a developer's project. Before Ms. Blackwell's mother could get a lawyer she could afford, the developer had her in court and got an order allowing them to demolish a good portion of her house for their project.

Not willing to let this happen, Ms. Blackwell tried to get a lawyer for her mother. However, they could not afford one. So Ms. Blackwell, who apparently had foregone a law career before to help support her mother, decided to take on the case herself. She drafted the case, argued it before the High Court, and won. The developer had to pay for the property (to the tune of £ 75,000) and had to give up the costs that they had won in the initial round of litigation (about £ 20,000), and pay Ms. Blackwell's legal costs.

As a result of the publicity, she has been offered a place at one of the Inns (the British version of law school). Her response: she's interested but "the idea of giving up work again and becoming a student is a bit scary, plus I’ll miss my old job and my lovely clients."