Wednesday, December 07, 2011

They're Missing The Point

If you have a notice from any of my previous posts, I really, really do not like this whole Occupy movement. From where I sit, with having to drive by and walk by these protesters, the sense I get is that they're a bunch of Americans who forgotten that there Americans have decided to act like Frenchmen and whine about the inequities of the system. I understand that some people believe that visible protests like this can somehow solve the situation, but I think that they're more effective ways of moving the ball forward them by throwing what is in effect a temper tantrum by adults.

That being said, my opinion was starting to change about the Occupy people when it was announced that they were intending to form a credit union. I thought, finally they want to do something constructive. Instead of whining about the problem, they decided to use the system to fix the problem.

It remains to be seen if the intent is followed through by the Occupy people who are trying to get the credit union plan off the ground.

Here in San Francisco, city leaders have been alternating between joining the protesters and trying to gently guide them to a less touristy visible location. The one that's been proposed is somewhere in the Mission. And although it sounded like some of the Occupy lunatics were in favor of moving to a new location, they couldn't get a consensus so nothing really came of that.

Finally, Da Mayor decided that the eyesore and public-health problem needed to be dealt with. So we sent in the police and the fire department to evict the Occupiers. (I'm wondering if any of my tenants rights friends are gonna get calls from these people wanting to sue for wrongful action. I can just see this happening.) Predictably, Occupy nuts have vowed to "retake" their campsite at Justin Herman Plaza.

These people don't seem to get the whole idea. It's like they want to occupy just to occupy and that the grounds that they occupy is more important than getting their goals met. Whether it be Zuccotti Park in New York or Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco, the idiots of Occupy seem to believe that sitting tenants doing nothing but chanting, drumming, protesting will bring about a better situation.

It won't.

Simply occupying a piece of real estate does not bring about the change in the system that seems to be needed (what the change needed is up to is up for debate). It's not about the real estate, it's about people and the opinions that those people have. Unfortunately, the occupying nuts think that street theater is more important than substantial change. It seems that in their mind, it's either arrival wish and or nothing. And does anyone think that revolution is the right way to go or should it be through evolution?

What would call the founding of this country, the American Revolution, was not really revolution. We broke free from the British monarchy. We did not, however, some least create a whole new concept of what the rights of citizens should be. We merely distilled and codified the rights which common people had been asserting against the English crown together with newer ideals coming out of the Enlightenment. Compare that with the French Revolution or the Chinese Cultural Revolution and I think you know which type of revolution you want to be a part of.

Hopefully the cops have to deal with these idiots don't have to suffer too much. They certainly don't need the aggravation for simply the enforcing law.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Evictions Are Serious People

So you are a renter. And for some inexplicable reason bad stuff starts to happen. You lose your job. Your roommate bails on you. You get sick. You have a fight with a neighbor that gets loud. And then the notice to quit comes.

Guess what? You have just entered the eviction process. Except in California, legally, we don't call it the eviction process. It is know as an unlawful detainer. And for tenants, it is not a happy place to be.

Why? Part of it has to do with the nature of the unlawful detainer proceeding. Its quick. Its limited in what issues can be brought up. It favors the property owner, but then that is the casse with almost all landlord-tenant rules.

Another part of the problem is because most judges do not like unlawful detainer cases. They're messy. Often times at least one of the parties is representing themselves. They keep judges away from more interesting, or important, cases. Also, in counties where there is rent control, the judges often times do not have a clue about the rent control laws and how they interact with state law. There's a whole analysis that I'm not going to get into in this article about that, but needless to say, judges will bend over backwards to avoid having to make a decision, in some counties, when they can construe the facts in such a way as to make easier decisions. Don't think so? Take a look at some of the unpublished decisions out of San Francisco Superior Court's Appellate Division, especially on the issue of Civil Code section 827. Something else I'll have to write about in the future.

But back to my main point. If you are a tenant, you face an uphill battle if you find yourself in an unlawful detainer. You do not want to find yourself there.

So how do you avoid it? You take steps to protect yourself. First one, act like a grownup. Just because you are not the owner of the property, does not mean you should not just ignore problems. If the heater does not work, send you landlord an email. Don't just call him and leave a message. Grownups leave paper trails. When you were a kid, you could ask your mom for some money to do something (like say buying lemons for your lemonade stand). Your parents, if they wanted something, needed to put it in writing (whether it be a loan, a permit, a business license. Why? Because the paperwork spells out what they can and cannot do. It also spells out what theother side of the agreement can and cannot do. That way, later on when someone is claiming that they have the right to do something, there is actual evidcence of it.

Second, think about your well being. That's right, be a little selfish and think about what is good for you. The landlord is getting something for themselves, its called money. Now, if you want to ensure that you are getting something for that exhorbitant amount of money which you pay in rent each month, you have to look out for yourself. What does this mean? If there is a problem, do something about it. Now, you can't make major repairs or alterations under most leases. But for those types of things, the landlord is responsible. How will they know to act responsibly if you, the renter, do not take steps to make sure they know about it. Furthermore, if you do not keep a file on things, how will you be able to present a defense should things go south in your living situation? With the proliferation of smart phones and cloud drives, how hard is it to image your documents and save them into a file? Not very. But if you ignore it, and lose the information, don't think for an instant that the landlord will save you by giving you a copy. Remember, the landlord is working for his self-interest. You should do the same.

Third, don't be greedy. A little contradiction here? Perhaps. But when I say don't be greedy, understand that the law requires the rental unit to be habitable, not four star certified. If you are paying $1100 a month, do not expect that the landlord will come in and change the carpets every six months and install granite countertops. If you think that way, its going to lead to conflicts. And conflicts between landlords and tenants rarely end well for the tenant.

Four, don't be an ostrich. An ostrich closes its eyes, sticks its head in the sand and hopes tha the predator does not kill it. A tenant who ostriches is one who will soon be looking for a new place to live, more likely than not with an eviction on their record. If the landlord notifies you of a lease violation, do not ignore it. See if its valid. If it is, correct it. If its not, then tell them IN WRITING. Refer to the part of the lease that makes it their problem, or gives you the power to do something. If it is a Notice to Quit (whether it be 3, 30 or 60) take it seriously.

Now, if you have hit the point where the landlord is seeking to do an eviction, do not be ashamed and ASK FOR HELP. Let me say this again: do not be ashamed and ASK FOR HELP. Too many tenants ignore a notice to quit. Its the precurors to an unlawful detainer action. Unless you are an attorney who pracitces landlord-tenant law, the odds are you do not have enough information to represent yourself. If you want to try and keep your home, rented as it may be, then you should seek out a lawyer's advice on what to do. Will it cost money? In many cases the answer is yes. Is it worth it? In my experience, having a lawyer represent you significantly increases the chance that the tenant will have a better outcome.

Now for the people who say to themselves, "I can't afford an attorney", and actuallly cannot, there are other options. Many counties have a pro bono program which may be able to assist you. In San Francisco, the San Francisco Bar Association's Volunteer Legal Services Project coordinates pro bono placement for low income people in unlawful detainers and other types of cases. For people who do not meet the eligibility requirements, there are panels of attorneys who have agreed to take cases on at a reduced fee.

While you are looking for an attorney, remember, you are on a ticking clock once you have been served. You have 5 CALENDAR DAYS in which to file and serve an answer. That means, if you get it on a Tuesday, your answer must be on file with the court by the end of Monday. If you get served on a Thursday, your answer is due on Tuesday. They do count the weekend days unless the final day is a weekend or holiday. Then the due date beceoms the next court day. Failure to answer means that the landlord can get a default and then a default judgment against you. That means they can get the sheriff out to physically remove you from the property.

For those of you in rent controlled jurisdiction, do not for a minute believe that your rent board can save you from this by filing a complaint with them. They can consider it, but the unlawful detainer case filed in the superior court will take priority and precedence. State court trumps municipal administrative agency hearings almost every time.

So what should you do while you are looking a lawyer, make sure that an answer gets put in. In some counties, there are organizations which help pro per (self-represented) tenants to file answers. In San Francisco, there is the Eviction Defense Collaborative. They will help you to file the appropriate paperwork. They charge a small fee, on a sliding scale fee, that is more than worth it.

If you do not take an unlawful detainer seriously, no one will for you. Losing an unlawful detainer case, either because you defaulted, by not showing up, or at trial because you did not have any documentation about what was going on between you and the landlord, it will effect you for years. It will be reported on your credit, Furthermore, there are agencies which landlords use to see if a prospective tenant has been evicted before. It will make finding a new place that much harder.

Take it seriously. Protect yourself. Get help.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Thoughts On Ten Years Ago

I cannot say what I want to say. So this is what I'll go with for today.

“Remember what Amalek did to you on the road, on your way out of Egypt. That he encountered you on the way and cut off those lagging to your rear, when you were tired and exhausted; he did not fear G‑d. Therefore . . . you must obliterate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. Do not forget.” (Deuteronomy 25:17–19)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dancing With The Stars (Or Is This The Weakest Lineup Ever?)

I know that Dancing With The Stars is never going to be a show filled with A-List people, and that's alright. However, there was some anticipation for this seasons where apparently the producers were told they could do just about anything they want to stop filling the rosters with D-Lister has-beens. There were reports that the idea was to get some high profile celebs, even though Snooki's name kept getting tossed around.

So what did we get? We got.....

  • A D-List Kardashian (I mean really, the brother. Not even one of the sisters who headline the trainwreck that is the Kardashians? Instead we get Robert Kardashian who's most notable act is that he cheated on a Cheetah Girl. Woohoo.) He has been paired with Peta Murgatroyd, who is not a newcomer to Dancing With The Stars. She has been on both the Australian and American versions as one of the professional dancers before being promoted. Although with a promotion like this, maybe she'll be wondering if its not the booby prize.
  • A C-List Laker in Ron Artest (yes, an active, striking, NBA player whose greatest moment came when he charged into the stands after a fan he incorrectly believed threw something at him during the Pacers-Pistons brawl back in 2004.) Anna Trebunskaya will have the job of breaking this bronco. 
  • A D-List soccer player named Hope Solo (alright, its a little mean. She is arguably the best known of the US Women's Soccer team but the way we view soccer in this country, that only gets you to the D-List. Plus, there's her little problem with authority - she was kicked off the team once - and then there's the fact she got scored on to lose the Women's World Cup.) She is paired up with Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Given her history of not being afraid to speak her mind, this could go bad quick.
  • Kristin Cavallari who I'm not sure even qualifies as a star. (I mean, really. Her show The Hills is off the air. She's done a couple of guest spots on other shows and had a role in an independent movie that very few people have seen. Her chief claim to fame seems to be that she just got dumped by Jay Cutler.) Mark Ballas ends up with the hot chick again. Perhaps he can make a silk purse of this sow's ear. 
  • Chaz Bono. Famous for being related to famous people and having a sex change operation. Maybe its the fact that I live in San Francisco but that just doesn't seem that exotic. Karina Smirnoff has the task of teaching Chaz how to dance like a man. (Yeah, that's mean I suppose.)
  • David Arquette. Arguably a C-lister. At one time was a B-Lister. Being divorced by a B-Lister. But, he fills their requirement for a recovering addict I guess (see David Hasselhoff and Steve-O). Lacey Schwimmer, rather unsurprisingly, was given this oddball (and I say that in a good way, well sort of). I feel bad for Arquette. He has to deal with Lacey's insanity. 
  • J.R. Martinez, filling a double quota (Soap Opera Dude and Inspirational Man). Cheryl Burke will be dancing with him. 
  • Elisabetta Canalis A D-Lister in the U.S. now that she is no longer attached to George Clooney. Derek Hough returns and is given the model. Hmmmmmm. Was that the price for his return? 
  • Nancy Grace. A D-Lister so inappropriately named (can you really think of anyone with less grace in their makeup?) who seems revel in leading lynch mobs from the safety of her TV studio. 
  • Chynna Phillips. The D-Lister "Christian" celebrity. Oh joy. I suppose she's famous but since last Wilson Phillips album, when has she really popped up on anyone's radar? And she has Maksim's younger brother, Valentin, as her partner. 
  • Carson Kressley. I suppose he wants to tell everyone how to look good naked or something. Oy. Kym Johnson, who I'm sure doesn't have a problem looking good naked, will be tasked by him. 
  • Ricki Lake. Possibly a C-Lister. I can't be too mean. I don't like to be mean. Its just I'm annoyed. Tristan MacManus, another promotion from the ranks of the DWTS professional troupe, has her. Could be interesting to see what these two do since there's so much unknown here.   
  • Ryan O'Neal apparently is withdrawn. He would have been interesting. But apparently his knee replacement surgery recovery is not far enough along for him to compete. His replacement is Carson Kressley.

So that's the line up. Color me so underwhelmed. At least in the past there were people I was interested in or liked. No Olympians. No champions (though Artest has played for good teams). This one. I mean I'm sort of curious about Hope Solo, but not that much.

With a gun to my head, I have to say Hope Solo is my pre-season pick for the women. I know I have her picked to be the train wreck waiting to happen, but maybe. For the men, I have to go with J.R. Martinez, even though he has a few things going against him (he has burns on his face from serving in Iraq, not a lot of name recognition since he's only had 3 years on a soap). However, he's got Cheryl Burke and she knows how to train competitors who can please the crowd and please the judges.

Whether I tune in to this 13th season remains to be seen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I Feel Like Leo McGarry Right Now...

....after looking at the probables for 2012.

Seriously, is this what our choices are going to be? Where the hell is the Good Man (or Woman) who will step up and run. The current occupant of the Oval Office is definitely not it. The current GOP slate makes me want to pinch my nose.

Is this seriously the best we can offer?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What Was Wanted, What We Got...

This is what the nation wanted when we voted back in 2008...

What we got instead is....

Thursday, August 11, 2011

History of English Language

There's some in the later bits that had me laughing out loud. Yes. If you have guessed, I am that much of a geek.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Stephen Fry is one of the few actors that I like to listen to when they aren't in character

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Angrybell took the Hardest Gary Gygax Quiz in the World and got 60%!

You are a Gary Gygax Myrmidon. You are mighty in the ways of Gary Gygax. You're probably a First Edition or OD&D player, and I wouldn't be surprised if you had an original copy of the Chainmail rules.

Monday, July 11, 2011

File This Under Inappropriate?

So... I'm still kinda reeling on this one.

This is not my case. I am helping out a friend of mine, an attorney, on a restraining order and divorce matter. My friend is an early thirties woman who has, in her own words, acted a magnet "asshole men" since she got out of college. Not sure why is started then, but it did.

This case involves a wife who has had enough with being the husband's punching bag, and just wants to get away from the guy. So she went to my friend, we'll call her Jen, to expedite her escape. I got roped into this mess because Jen is a very good criminal attorney but is iffy on civil procedure questions.

Iffy is a kind way to describe it. But I digress.

The other side has turned what should be a simple hearing into another trip to Volga. They've conned the judge into giving multiple delays while they've subpoenaed everyone in site while hiding the money and conducting a campaign of terror against the client through his proxies.

Isn't family law great?

So amidst all this, we've gotten to know opposing counsel really well. I by letter (since I've done all the letters) and her in person when they've talked. As she describes him, he starts off by insulting our client, then he insults her while proclaiming his client's virtue and announcing that this is nothing more than a shakedown by a vengeful spouse.

Charmer right? But wait, there's more. He is 68 years old, divorced, and has urinary problems (as in he has to go to the bathroom every 10 minutes or he'll lose control). We'll call him Attorney U.

Today, they got to go head to head again in court. They were sent out, the judge reserving decision, with orders to "Work something out!". Eventually they did (about what I figured the result would be and told her we should plan for). At the end of it, this is the conversation that happened:
Attorney U: So that's settled. You will get your client to sign off on it. .. I can tell you are intrigued by me.
Jen: What makes you say that?
Attorney U: I can tell by the way you look at me.
Jen: I have no idea what you are talking about.
Attorney U: How about dinner on Thursday?
Jen: Excuse me? You're joking.
Attorney U: No. Dinner Thursday. You and me. Call me about it.
Jen: I'll call you about the deposition schedule tomorrow.
Attorney U: Great. When you do, you can tell me what time to pick you up.

My friend tells me this. Whats worse, she says now, after he has been such an ass, that she is curious.  Hopefully she will let this one remain a mystery.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Light Fluff, Summer Movies, And Who Is Better...

I could post about some real issues. Really. But angrybabybelle has been sick (nothign too serious, just a virus) and its exhausting. So its just light stuff for right now. Grandma (as opposed to Lil'G, the other grandma) gave Mrs. Angrybell and I a day off.

So we went to the movies to answer the question of which would be better female lead for a transformers movie.

First up, we had the plucky contender.....

Vicky's Own Devon Doll


The Tennessee Temptress
And the unanimous decision, based largely on hotness and which least adversely affected the movie (Mrs. Angrybell set the criteria.)....

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tinker Tailor

I remember watching part of this back when it was a miniseries on Masterpiece Theatre.

I am curious to see if it lives up to the original (even though I know, I should still read the book, bad Angrybell).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Delta - We Love Our Money More Than Our Principles

Maybe you have heard that word came out today that Delta Airlines has entered into a code sharing partnership with Saudi Arabian Airlines. As part of this deal, if you are Jewish, have Jewish-sounding name, or have any sort of religious items which are offensive to Islam (meaning anything not Islamic) then you won't be allowed to on those shared flights. The original article was here. But now apparently US Today has pulled it down and replaced it with this.)

Now, Delta is saying, throught its blog,

First and foremost, I think one of the most important things to mention here is that Delta does not discriminate nor do we condone discrimination against anyone in regards to age, race, nationality, religion, or gender.
They don't discriminate. They just partners with airlines who do. 

That said, some have raised questions about whether Saudi Arabian Airlines’ membership in SkyTeam means Delta is adopting any type of policies that could present barriers to travel for some passengers, including Jewish customers. For this particular concern, it’s important to realize that visa requirements to enter any country are dictated by that nation’s government, not the airlines, and they apply to anyone entering the country regardless of whether it’s by plane, bus or train.
We, like all international airlines, are required to comply with all applicable laws governing entry into every country we serve. You as passengers are responsible for obtaining the necessary travel documents, such as visas and certification of required vaccinations, and we’re responsible for making sure that you have the proper documentation before you board.

This is a bunch of bullshit. I try not use profanity too much, but there is nothing else to call it. This is a company scrambling to cover it ass and say that its really not their fault that they are going to participate in discrimination

Delta has a choice of who it does business with.  Its not this little issue of Saudi Arabian Airlines' discreThey chose to get into bed with Saudi Arabian Airlines. Saudi Arabia Airlines does not just fly to Saudi Arabia. They fly all over Arab world and the world in general. What happens when your code share flight turns out to be a Saudi flight that goes through another city? That's right. Get ready to experience dhiminitude.

Yet Delta chose to partner with them. No one forced them. They just decided that it was more important to make an extra few bucks than have any principles.

Remember who you giving your money to the next you look fly somewhere. Do you want to give it to someone who discriminates? If you do, Delta will happily partner with someone who does.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Seriously, What Is Wrong With Attorneys These Days

What is the problem with lawyers these days? It seems like so many of the attorneys I deal with are being disingenuous when they say they want to resolve a matter. Why? Because if I start trying to work out a solution the same refrain comes back every time: Why don't we wait until mediation?

That is perhaps the most assinine thing. Unless of course you enjoy spending your client's money for a mediators time, as well as the attorneys time. 

What is the problem with trying to get the ball rolling so that when it does come to mediation, if it must, that instead of trying to bridge a huge chasm at $400 dollars an hour, its just the last 3 outs of the game? 

I understand that in some cases, the sides are so far apart that only a mediator may be able to get one or both of the sides to make the compromises necessary to get a settlement done. However, it feels like an excuse they use to avoid having to do work. This way, instead of the attorney being responsible for a settlement, at least in the eyes of an attorney's client, they can place all the blame when buyers remorse comes on the fact that it was really brokered by the mediator and the client signed off on it. Have we as lawyers really gotten that bad? Or that lazy?

ADR was originally billed as the cost-effective way to end cases prior to trial. However, instead of doing that, they've become mini-trials, even when its mediation and not arbitration. Think I'm wrong? Take a look at the mediation brief that gets submitted. More often then not, its not just a little road map so that the arbitrator gets an idea of whats going on. Rather they are essentially trial briefs, previewing the case down to the last bit of evidence. Sure, it supposedly gets all the cards on the table. However, if you have an attorney who is not walking malpractice, then they should have already brought the bad cards to the client's attention. 

ADR has its place. However, lawyers have become over-reliant on the mediators to accomplish the job. This is bad for both the attorney, and even more so, for the clients who have to pay the mediator's salary. And lets face it, they all don't look like Kate.

So next time, why not talk to your opposing party first. Whats the worst that can happen? You go the meidator later and drop a few grand of your client's money there. But at least you took a stab at being an attorney and not just someone who spends other people's money needlessly.

We fund this organization

Why then do we allow it to go after Israel at the behest of Iran, Egypt, Bahrain, Venezuela, and other countries where human rights violations routinely happen? Why do we not insist that the people who use tanks, guns, and abductions cloaked as police actions to be held accountable?

Because apparently its much easier to go after the liberal democracy than a repressive regime.

What do the California Legislators and Nathaniel Ford Have In Common?

They're both receiving more money than they should for failing. At least Nathaniel Ford will soon be gone, happily depositing his $384,000 severance package (equal to approximately a year plus benefits). I guess its better than paying him nearly $700,000 to wait until his contract expires. Heaven only what kind of a mess he could have turned the system into with what he claims are his "leadership" and a "management" abilities.

On the other hand, we're stuck with the legislators in Sacramento for few more years. And unfortunately, we the voters are too stupid to choose people, from either party, with actual ability and a desire to serve rather than ones who just want a cush job where they can enjoy the graft from the special interests groups.

Whats brought about this? Have you seen the budget they produced in order to meet the June 15 deadline? The Democratic leadership, in fear of the impending June 15 deadline, forced through a budget that Governor Brown characterized as full of spending gimmicks, accounting skulduggery, and cuts to programs. No reform of the budget. No hard choices made. Just whatever was easiest got cut so they could produce a budget.

So Governor Brown vetoed it. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one who wants to see taxes raised, which is where I differ with the governor. But I do want to see a real budget put together. Not one that is easy to pass but does not fix the problems which we here in California are facing.

Both parties share in the blame for this mess that is occurring. The Dems for being irresponsible about the budget they rammed through, as well as their failure to seriously discuss reforming the spending that goes on here in the state (pensions anyone?) and the Republicans for not compromising on certain (but not all) issues.

Apparently when we passed that referendum last year, requiring them to pass a budget, we all missed that part in the fine print. The budget only has to pass the Legislature. There is no requirement that it be signed into law by the governor. That was a mistake. Maybe we ought to correct that at the next possible time. It might be too late for November, but how about we make it clear: no one in the legislature or the Governor's office gets paid if the work they're required to do isn't finished.

So enjoy your ill gotten gains. One of these karma will catch up with you. One can only hope its at Mr. Ford's next job interviews and the legislators next election.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hopefully, the MTA Will Take This Task Seriously...

But what I wanted to say was: Mr. Ford, don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Good riddance to bad trash. The only problem is, it seems that the MTA is not upset with him. To my mind that means they're going to get another appeaser rather than a doer as the next head of Muni. And that is exactly not what this city or this system needs right now.

Sadly, it looks like the powers that be down at Civic Center want to keep the job in house. The SFGate is suggesting that the inside track is being held by Friends of the Mayor, or happened to be Ford's chief deputy (Ed Reiskin or Carl Rohan, respectively). This does not instill me with confidence.

Anyone who wants to call Nathaniel Ford's term in office a success needs to consider one thing: there was a voter revolt because things had gotten so bad on his watch. When the voters have to go to the ballot box to force Muni to put its house in order, that is a clear sign of failure.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Epic Failures By MTA and Local 250-A

I am starting to wonder if the Muni Operator union is taking advice from the Yasser Arrafat diplomacy playbook. In case you don't know, it was once summed up by Abba Eban as "Never missing a chance to miss a chance." Luckily for them, they were saved from themselves today by an arbitrator.

How were they saved from themselves?

Well, after voting down the unbelievably outrageous deal that Mr. Ford and the MTA offered them, it was sent to binding arbitration. The arbitrator, who coincidentally brokered the deal in the first place, ordered it in effect. Carol Vendrillo, in her decision, wrote "It is the opinion of the mediator/arbitrator that the terms of the (proposed contract) on the disputed issues represent the best resolution of these protracted labor negotiations and are in the best interests of both the parties and the riding public[.]"

Now, I am going to confess to a bit of bias here. I do not think that Ms. Vendrillo should have been the arbitrator. Ms. Vendrillo has an impressive number of years working in this type of situation. However, she was the neutral that helped broker the deal. In my experience, I've found that after a while, this makes them favor the deal that they help author. This could be lead to some bias if they are later called upon, as she was in this instance, to pass judgment on the deal she brokered.

How did Muni employees miss a chance?

Let's start with how Local 250-A, the Muni Operators union described the proposed deal. On their website, they stated,

In collective bargaining this year, MTA sought to reduce our total compensation by nearly 20% through numerous threatened changes to our MOU.  With your support and strength, we were able to negotiate a Tentative Agreement under which you lose no wages, no premiums, no allowances and no benefits.  Moreover, under the Tentative Agreement your monthly healthcare costs will substantially decrease, and MTA will continue to pickup the 7.5% employee pension contribution.  We were also able to eliminate the absenteeism policy (Bulletin 10-039) which MTA unilaterally imposed last year, increase report time, and obtain a grievance process that ends in binding arbitration like all other City employees have. 

Now for those who have not been following the Muni saga here in the city, the MTA, surprisingly, tried to get tough on absenteesim last year.  They had the radical notion that if you are calling in sick, then you need a sick note. Despite the fact that this reduced absenteeism, one of the leading causes of why Muni was spending so much on overtime (because of the scheduling rules in the agreement which has expired) on drivers. Yet, this "radicial" policy has been eliminated from the proposed agreement.

Yet another example of Nathaniel Ford's dynamic leadership. Upon discovering a program that increases productivity, revenue, or efficiency of the system, at all costs it must be eliminated!

But ti might not be over yet. Some of the Muni drivers are talking walk out even though it would not be sanctioned by the union.

How did Mr. Ford and the MTA fail?

In looking at the agreement, it seems that it was even worse than what Nathaniel Ford was touting. No change to compensation. Increases in spending by Muni, without corresponding increases by the drivers, for their healthcare costs. Increase in protection for operators who fail to show up for work. No real reform of how the pension works.

What is almost more troubling than the money and pension reform aspects, is the proposed change in safety. As of now, Muni is averaging over 2000 accidents a year. Its drivers are found to be responsible in just 25% of those incidents. Yet when compared to other transit agencies of similar size or larger, the number becomes more curious. East Bay AC drivers are found at fault 30% of the time. Seattle and Portland drivers are found to be at fault 33% and 47% the time respectively. Now, maybe SF drivers are better. But in watching them cut me off on occasion, I can't believe that.  The numbers seem just too neat on the SF Muni drivers part.

Now, add into that that under the new rule, if the accident's property damage value is less than $15,000 or less (and with only  minor injuries to boot), then no action can be taken against the driver.

Read that again. Does that make sense? I'm not saying that a driver should lose his job over a minor fender bender. But maybe there needs to be some discipline to get the point home on how you drive a massive wheeled vehicle that could cause serious damage or loss of life. It seems that Nathaniel Ford and the Local 250-A are being more than a little cavalier with their attitude towards safety.

Make no mistake, Nathanial Ford just proved that he is not the man for this or any other job. He had support, he had the upper hand, and he was more concerned about appearing to "spike the football" than getting a contract that served the interests of the citizens of San Francisco.

The operators won. There is only partial concessions on work rules. In the end, nothing else changed. The operators are laughing all the way to the bank on this one. No meaningful change which favored the citizens of San Francisco were made with regards to pensions, absenteeism, or pay. For failing to meet the goals, they will continue to be rewarded as some of the highest paid drivers in the country. The MTA will continue to hemorrage money. And this means more cuts to services.

In terms of numbers, Muni is running, currently, at $21 million deficit. This deal will only start to make a dent in that as it is projected to save them $38 million per year over three years. In other words, a little over $12 million per year. Guess where the rest of the deficit is going to come from.

Thank you Mr. Ford and Muni drivers for wrecking Muni and leaving the taxpayers and the fare-payers to make up for your shortsightedness and venality.

Below the fold is the decision.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Well... Muni is still a mess

Tomorrow the MTA gives the people of San Francisco another gift: price increases!

Isn't that just amazingly good. I mean, anytime they can't manage their budget, its the ridership who gets to pay the price. Our unelected, and apparently unaccountable MTA leadership has managed to increase the cost of ridership while decreasing the service.

But hey, at least the operators are getting paid their exhorbitant salaries. I mean, its only fair that the union gets to stick it to the rest of San Francisco.

But I guess I shouldn't complain that much, I mean after all Nathaniel Ford, who apparently is failing at getting hired away to anywhere else in the country did take a 2 percent pay cut earlier this year. That means he only makes $308,837 this year. That $6,000 dollar pay cut he took really benefitted the ridership. 

(In case you wanted to know, the mayor of San Francisco makes $252,000 - and he took a $7,000.)

Now, as this is going on, Muni is negotiating its labor contracts. So far, they have gotten two to the "tentative deal" phase, meaning that the union membership has yet to approve it. The IBEW contract will save a forecasted million dollars.  The same situation is going on with the operators union (Local-250A). Their proposed deal will save $21 million over three years (or $7 million or so per year). 

However, the problem with the operator deal is that they still do not address some of the fundamental problems going on with Muni. First, the operators are still going to be making an obscene amount of money. No cuts in pay. Not cuts in starting salary pay.  And all it guarantees is a freeze for 3 years. Second, they still do not make any contribution to their pensions. All that Mr. Ford's wonderful negotiating has done is getting the union to accept the use of more part time drivers. That was not even the bare minimum. 


Mr. Ford had virtually every bit of support going for him. The Board of Supervisors and the people of the city were dead set against the sweetheart deals that the operators have had for far too long without any corresponding performance on their part.  Yet for some reason, this is going to be allowed to happen because our elected leaders are unwilling to do what is necessary to complete the reform of Muni started by the Prop G movement.

Another opportunity missed. But hey, rather than deal with a real problem, San Francisco wants to debate circumcisions. 

Ford needs to be sacked. The unions need to be put in their place and reminded that their rank and file is here to work for the people of this City and not vice versa. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Buster Posey

So its almost been 24 hours since Scott Cousins, of the Florida Marlins, ended Buster Posey's season with a devastating hit. As the rules stand right now, it was a clean, legal play.

Now, baseball does not have a lot of contact. And I am one of the first to say that the MLB has gone overboard in protecting the players. For instance, that ridiculous rule where the umpires can warn the benches, meaning that any further hit batsmen will result in automatic ejections, is a mistake. It allows cowards to get away unpunished because the Leagues never do anything to them.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

And the Winner Is...

Congrats to Hines and Kym. They are the champions of Season 12.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Quick Hit of Madness

So I haven't been writing much about DWTS. Stuff came up. I've been watching, but its hard to blog it with whats been going on around here.

Here are my thoughts pre-final final night. First, the freestyles were anemic last night. Only Hines and Kym really took a risk with their routine. It was interesting, but I'm still not sure that I liked it. Also, for the first time in weeks, it didn't look like Hines was having fun out there. Instead he looked nervous. His quickstep was very good. The judges love him and it seems that the critics do too. The problem is, I think he's benefitting by being back-lead most of the time by Kym.

Chelsea and Mark's dance was nice. A little weird. At the same time, the flashing lights on their hands and feet were fun and distracting. Also, the choice of music was...  not the best. I understand, I think, where Mark was going when he chose the music, I just don't think it worked for the end result.

Kirstie and Maks did what they could. Despite losing 38 inches off her waist line (that's almost one Angrybell), she still looks like she is running out of steam in her routines. And it happens every dance. SHe starts out really good, but halfway through the routine, she's straining to hang in there. She put up a game effort, but really she is not supposed to the winner here. She's tried. She has shown up, put the work in. I just feel that she gets outdanced by either Hines or Kym.

I really think Chelsea should win. However, I suspect that Hines is going to walk away with the mirror ball.

Just a thought for next season (not that anyone would ever listen to me). Instead of a judge's choice dance like this year, how about a judge's choice insta-dance. That way we see if the competitors have learned to dance or learned how to do routines. Just a thought.

Whatever way it ends, this will be the closest finish since they redid the scoring.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sometimes, it's just not worth trying to be nice and professional. And yet, I still say "please" and "thank you" and I still call everybody by their proper name and not by some diminutive that I've created my head -- unlike some people with a bar card. But I'm telling you, it just isn't worth it some days.

Take for example today. I have a case where I'm representing someone who was charitably described by their best friend as someone that you would drink with, but never let them hold your wallet. This fine upstanding individual is being sued because of a business deal gone bad. From what I gather of the other side, they are either delusional or really desperate for money. And that makes this whole case so much more fun because, after the deal went horribly sideways, no one had any money.

With that setup, you'd think that the opposing counsel would have a sense of perspective. Not so much. Matter of fact, I think he believes that I actually work for him. Either that or he thinks that I'm sitting on all the money. So this is a letter that I wanted to send him today after one of our lovely conversations:

Dear Atty. Idiot: 
I am writing to follow-up on the lovely conversation today that I had with you and some of your subordinate associates. I wanted to say just how much fun I had being insulted and belittled. As a matter of fact, the last time a conversation was that enjoyable for me, the dentist was taking out my wisdom teeth. 
I fully sympathize with your inability to get information out of my client. The problem is if you insist on asking him these questions and demanding these documents you will never get them. There's a simple reason this: he doesn't have them. We keep telling you who might have the documents, but you insist on telling us that we have them. it seems that the only way that you will believe that I do not have these documents, or the my client does not have these documents is that you physically searched every nothing cranny of my office. Trust me, if I had them I would've shut them down your G-d-damned throat already. Then, I would've danced a little jig is you threw them up and realized that no one has any money out of this deal. 
While I appreciate that you believe that I work for you, I have checked my bank records and can find no evidence that you pay my salary. Furthermore, nowhere on the law offices of angry Bell is there any record of you being a partner or managing partner of this firm. Therefore, when I don't have an answer for you five minutes after you make a demand of me during one of our enjoyable telephone conferences, I will feel free to say "Fuck You". After all, if you insist on acting as if I work for you, why should you be any different from the partners who he used to work for back at Underpaid, Abused, Mistreated & Belittled. 

Fortunately for me, Mrs.Angrybell told me that that would be a bad idea.

I don't get paid enough for this case.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Release The Photo Already

Not that I agree with everything Jon Stewart says, but once again he's pretty close to my way of thinking. Let's treat Bin Laden like nearly every other bogey man we've run to ground in our history. Release the photos.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Bin Laden Couldn't Run Forever

All I can say is, whatever way he went down, it was too wasn't painful enough for what he did. Thankfully, it sounds like it was done by the US and not someone else. It also seems that he may have been killed by SEALs who were sent to get him (though whether they were supposed to kill or capture him has not been stated yet).

To whomever did the job, thank you.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Did this in response to the article I read over at ElderofZiyon who was quoting from Nick Cohen's piece here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

If the Big Firms Are Too Precious For This Case, I'll Be Happy To Step In

And not because I relish actually winning the case.

Let's back up here. Some of you may have heard how the House of Representatives, because President Obama has refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, took some money from the Department of Justice's budget. This money was to be used to pay former U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement, a partner at King and Spaulding, The idea was that Mr. Clement would act as the attorney for the House of Representatives who would be seeking to intervene in the case.

Gay rights groups, predictably when seeing their chance at an easy win dropping, brought pressure to bear on King and Spaulding. What was surprising was the gutlessness of the firm. Today they announced that they were withdrawing from representing the House of Representatives. The head of the firm where Clement now works, Robert D. Hays,  Jr., stated that the firm was withdrawing because "Last week we worked diligently through the process required for withdrawal,[.]...In reviewing this assignment further, I determined that the process used for vetting this engagement was inadequate. Ultimately I am responsible for any mistakes that occurred and apologize for the challenges this may have created.”

In many reports, its being stated that the real reason is that LGBT groups were putting pressure on the firm.  Mr. Hays has spent the better part of two decades defending mass tort litigation against corporate giants such as GM (defective cars) and companies which pollute the groundwater in particular and the environment in general, as well as defending claims based on recalled medical devices while championing the idea of preemption against tort cases. However, apparently the thought of someone calling him a bigot for defending a law, as opposed to being a corporate shill who seeks to deny compensation for people and communities damaged by corporate greed, was too much for him and others in the partnership. So they withdrew the firm from representation.

Maybe the only one with any moral fiber in the higher echelons of King and Spaudling in Mr. Clement. He has resigned from the firm in protest over the action by his partners. In his letter,which was released, he stated,
...I resign out of the firmly-held belief that a representation should not be abandoned because the client's legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters. Defending unpopular positions is what lawyers do. The adversary system of justice depends on it, especially in cases where the passions run high. Efforts to delegitimize  any representation for one side of a legal controversy are  a profound threat to the rule of law. Much has been said about being on the wrong side of history. But being on the right or wrong side of history on the merits is a question for the clients. When it comes to the lawyers, the surest way to be on the wrong side of history is to abandon a client in the face of hostile criticism.
There is more to the letter, but that paragraph right there sums up what law this is about for lawyers.

When it seemed this would be a half million dollar fee earner for the firm this year, there seemed to be no problem for the leaders of King and Spaulding. But once it got uncomfortable, they showed their true colors and abandoned ship.

For our system to work, there has to be lawyers willing to defend both side of the argument. King and Spaulding only seems to remember this when, apparently, when the cause is politically acceptable in certain sectors (e.g. defending terrorist detainees at Guantanamo). But its not just when the client is a cause celebe or a heart strings case. Sometimes the unpopular position has to be defended or represented because otherwise the system breaks down.

John Adams, one our early patriot leaders and later the second President of the United States, knew this. He was the man who accepted the job of defending the British soldiers accused of murder in the Boston Massacre. He had to defend these men in a court in a town which had become vehemently anti-British  and vehemently anti-army as a result of the Massacre and other legislation passed by Parliament. He did not defend the British soldiers because he liked them. Adams was already one of the leading Patriots in Boston at the time. He took the case because it ensured that the system would operate freely and fairly. When he recevied threats he did not back down, he did not quit on the British soldiers. He fought the case out to verdict.

Apparently King and Spaulding are not cut from the same moral or ethical cloth as John Adams.

If the House of Representatives is willing to go with a solo, I'd take the case. Not because its a law I think should be on the books, but because our system of justice demands that it be defended.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I'd like to say I was surprised at Muni's latest idea...

But I'm not. I mean, what else can we expect from an agency that cannot fulfill its core function. Or from a leader of that agency who has demonstrated time and time again that he does not want the job, and demonstrates it consistently by begging to be hired as far away as possible while neglecting his job here.

What am I talking about?

Apparently Muni, after decades of ignoring a law on the books, has chosen now to suggest increasing parking fees in San Francisco. As some of you may know, almost every garage in San Francisco offers a deal that if you park by a certain time, usually 9 or 10 a.m., then you will get a prices break. This can be, for San Francisco, significant, because the fees can run from $35 dollars for the day and up. Combine this with parking ticket fines of $65 in the downtown area and $55 in the rest of the city, and its difficult to find a reasonable way to park your car. Under the MTA's proposal, this will be abolished.

However, San Francisco continues to operate under the delusion that because it has decreed a "transit first" policy, that it actually has a transit system that meets the needs of the people living and working in the city. Apparently, someone has not clued in Nathan Ford at Muni or the Supervisors that simply decreeing it does not make it happen.

Sad facts: the buses don't run any near to their target goals. Service has been cut and fares have been increased.

So who is going to take the hit for it? The people who commute into the city and the people who are so frustrated with inefficiency and unreliability of Muni that they drive instead.

Gee thanks Muni.

How about we do something that doesn't increase the cost to those who foot the bill here in San Francisco. How about we start by ensuring that the fares get collected, regardless of race or economic status (which for Muni would be a revolutionary concept apparently). How about fixing the travesty that is the contract with the operator's union (or better yet just breaking the union entirely).

Then, once Muni has cleaned house, and dealt with the real issues rather than grasping at "low hanging fruit", then come back to the community and ask for more our money.

Nathan Ford and the Operator Union Local 250-A need to be dealt with. One needs to lose his job. The other needs to be shown that they are not worth what they think they are based on their performance.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

We Know Who Is Answering The Phone at 3 a.m.

But has he done enough to earn another four years in office? When the phone is wrong, has he made the right choices? Has he made choices at all?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dancing With The Stars American Week Edition

Ok, what moron came up with this idea? Let's have an American themed week on a week where most of the people are dancing very foreign/international dances. I mean really, a samba to "Sweet Home Alabama"? Why not just say "Ralph, we're stunned by your vote totals and we're going to do whatever it takes to make you look bad so that the others have a chance to knock you off. Sorry."

But before we get to the rest of the dances, let's talk Kendra. For a woman who insists she is tough and powerful, I've never seen someone with so much of a glass jaw when it comes to taking criticism. What am I talking about? Apparently she cannot take constructive criticism labeling Carrie Ann Inaba's criticisms from last week as belittling and embarrassing.  Let's get something straight, the only thing embarassing is her attitude.

Mrs. Angrybell was stunned when Hines Ward and Kym came out. As she put it "It was Officer and a Gentlemen meets a fringed lamp without any hip action." And please, a rumba to "G-d Bless The USA"?  That was just cruel. Not sure what dance Carrie Ann was watching.  The 9s from the judges on that one were totally out of left field.

And really, can someone please, please, please make Maksim put his shirt on. Between the faux tattoos and a chest that rivals mine for needing to get to the bench press, its a miracle that the FCC has not slapped it with an indecency fine already. I can't even tell you about the dance,... I was too stunned by the outfit, the lack of competant hairography, and the Maksim... being Maksim.

The scores this week were nuts. On the one hand, you had Macchio & Smirnoff and Jericho & Burke getting hit with every little technical deduction. Then you have to judges gushing over the dreck that Kendra and Louis through out there. To be fair, Louis was going with the spirit of the song, but Kendra's stomping all over the floor did not make it a dance.

The one thing that needs to happen: people need to start voting for Chelsea and Mark. She is good. She is probably the best of the female dancers left. The problem is America not voting for her. She does not deserve to be in the bottom. Hopefully people saw that this week. Fortunately, Mark resisted his urge to do something odd and showcased her doing a good party samba to that Miley Cyrus song.

So where does that leave us?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

While I'm Thinking On Government Reform

Is this a bad idea? As I was looking at news, I saw that BART is going to have to pay $1 million in severance to the outgoing director. And then I remember that Nathaniel Ford, who still hasn't managed to find a better job than being the head of the MTA here in San Francisco, has what is essentially a pay or play contract that makes it economically almost impossible to terminate. And I wonder to myself, whiny are entities funded by our tax dollars paying CEOs as if they were the heads of GM or Goldman Sachs?

Essentially they are just hired civil servants, right? I'm not trying to put down civil servants. I'd like to go back to being one. But why should the head of an agency that underperforms, as in the case of Mr. Ford, have a golden parachute that makes it nearly impossible to get rid of them. Especially when he has made it clear that he does not want to stay in the job.

Maybe we need an amendment to the city charter which prevents these types of contracts are being offered or allowed. I know the argument is that it will cost us good people at Lulu's two other municipalities. But so far, it hasn't brought us anybody who's delivered on any of the lawfully mandated minimum requirements either.

Obama Has To Be Pushed Kicking And Screaming To Act Like An Adult

So earlier this year president Obama proposes one of the most ludicrous budget proposals floated by a sitting president in decades. It completely ignored the work done by the deficit reduction committee, a committee formed at his request, which issued its report late last year.

This budget, coming in at a whopping $3.7 trillion, showed that the president was completely not serious when it came to the question of how to deal with the budget deficit. (This budget claims to hold spending of $3.7 trillion, however other commentators have noted that the true cost of this budget could actually be closer to $5.8 trillion.) In fact, although he touted the proposal as one which would reduce the deficit, most, if not all, of the savings contained within the proposal would not occur until after Obama left office. That is, if he left office in 2016. In fact, most of the savings contained in his proposal were not actually savings at all. What they were, two thirds of the time, were simply a freeze in the amount that we would be spending. In other words, we still spend the same and not have to reduce anywhere.

Does that make sense to anyone else? What credit card company accept the argument that you have increased your spending, but merely maintain the same level but she did that sometime in the past?

Then we have the Republicans trying to make political hay out of this. A lot of them were recently elected on the promise they would cut $100 billion from the federal budget this year. The problem was, they seem to only target the parts of the budget which were controversial among their base. High on their list were Planned Parenthood and NPR.the problem with the Republican version of cutting the budget deficit is 1) the cuts were too small and 2)  they did not address the problem of entitlements.

When they finally did manage to push through their cups, it seems the Republicans were just as dishonest about what they were cutting as the Democrats are in what they are "investing" in. Instead of actually cutting expenditures, it seems that the majority with the GOP managed to do a budget deal with the President that averted the shutdown, was to merely not spend money which has not been spent yet.

Add into that the problem of the debt ceiling and you think that some people would start taking process of reforming the budget a little more seriously.

It took the threat of a government shutdown  for President Obama to his knowledge that maybe his proposal might not be on target. So then we get today's address from the president. after months of talking about "winning the future", and being confronted with Congressman Ryan's budget proposal (not perfect, but at least its an honest attempt to deal with the problems), that maybe something had to be done to look like he was going to do something about the problem. After all, he is up for election next year.

And nothing gets Obama working at the thought that he may have to campaign to on to his job.

So what does he do? He becomes a born-again believer in the deficit reduction commission of 2010 (aka National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform)! Except, he really doesn't. He just says that he wants to adopt some of the proposals of the committee that he created. And then ignored.

President Obama starts with the overused trope that, "We have to live within our means, we have to reduce our deficit, and we have to get back on a path that will oust to pay down our debt[.]" (Gee, you mean all those people who've been deficit hawks may actually have a point?) But, it wouldn't be a president Obama policy speech if he didn't have someone to blame for the problem that was going on. Fortunately, he can go to his old standby and blame President Bush for all problems. Nice to know that our president has his priorities straight and fixes the blame before he does anything else.

When the president finally deemed to describe what his plan would involve this is what we get:

Approximately $770 billion in nonsecurity, discretionary spending cuts through the year 2023. This would be coupled with $360 billion worth of cuts over the same period to mandatory spending. allegedly this would save approximately $1.1 trillion.. Heaven only knows if this is actual cuts or simply spending freezes, which don't actually reduce the amount of money we're spending.  The

When it comes to the big problems, Medicare and Social Security, the President was much more vague as to what he wanted to do. the president Obama's plan, there will be no reason to the Medicare retirement age nor a switch in how payments under Medicare made. With regards to Social Security, president Obama was even less specific, although he did take the position that Social Security is not in crisis nor is it contributing to the deficit problem.

Apparently, Social Security is solvent because it still has assets. The assets which Social Security has are not cash on hand because that's already been spent. The assets which so security has our bonds which a purchase from the federal government. In order to get the money they would have to redeem the bonds from the federal government. Which would mean the government have to issue more bonds and take on more debt in order to pay the Social Security payments  which people are entitled to. So no, I guess Social Security isn't insolvent, yet. It's just that the federal government is going to have to come up with a whole bunch of money to pay back to Social Security for the loans that it's taken out from Social Security over the years. (I would suggest you read this article written by someone a lot smarter than me on the subject.)

The President Obama's minds that must sound perfectly solvent and not a drain on the budget. To me it sounds like a house of cards about to be blown over.

The President's position seems even more absurd if you look at what he actually said in his speech. President Obama stated
Up until now, the cuts proposed by a lot of folks in Washington have focused almost exclusively on that 12%. But cut to 12% alone won't solve the problem. So a serious plan to tackle our deficit will require us to put everything on the table, it takes on excess spending wherever it exists in the budget. A serious plan doesn't require us to balance our budget over night-in fact, economists think that with the economy district to grow again, we will need a phase I approach-but it does require tough decisions and support from leaders of both parties. And above all, it will require us to choose a vision of America we want to see live in 10 or 20 years down the road.
It's so nice to see that everything on the table means we're not going to talk about Social Security and Medicare changes.

President Obama went on to say that would be wrong to make changes to Medicare and Social Security because in 10 years it would affect a person who turns 65. That is, a hypothetical person who, 10 years from now, turns 65. 10 years is an awful long time to readjust your planning for the future. You can do a lot in a decade. Apparently, President Obama does not have the faith in the American people to make adjustments given a 10 year lead time.

Not content to believing that the average American is incapable of making any future plans, President  Obama began to make the case for increasing taxes and decreasing the amount that Americans get to keep their own money. President Obama states, "Beyond that, the tax code is also loaded up with spending on things like itemized deductions. And while I agree with the goals of many of these deductions, like homeownership for charitable giving, we cannot ignore the fact that they provide millionaires average tax break of $75,000 while doing nothing for the typical middle-class family that doesn't itemize." To that end, the president is going to propose more changes to the tax code by restricting the amount of itemization deductions for the wealthiest 2% of Americans.

Part of the reason why Americans donate to his right thing to do. Another part of why we donate is because it's something that we can write off our taxes, an incentive that the government encourages. In fact, in 2006 for instance, the donations by Americans equaled 1.7% of the total economy for that year. In terms of total dollars, those in the top tax brackets give more than those in the bottom. Percentage wise story is different.

In a way, this is an interesting insight into President Obama's philosophy. He is a liberal politician. And in this country, liberals give less of their money to charity then conservatives. To President Obama's mind, going after itemization such as charitable donations make sense. Why? Because, if the governments job to provide, and not the individual or local community groups.

In addition to calling for restrictions on itemization, President Obama then makes a rather interesting comment. He states, "But to reduce the deficit, I believe we should go further. That's why I'm calling on Congress to reform our individual tax code so that it is fair and simple-so that the amount of taxes you pay isn't determined by what account and you can afford."this is curious for a number of ways. First, it suggests that individuals are escaping paying their tax liabilities a far higher rate than say corporations. Second, it seems to indicate that he wants to radically change the tax code in some fashion. Disney suddenly wants to go with a flat tax? I find that to be highly unlikely. Which brings me to my third question: is this president Obama's way of saying that he intends to start asking for a VAT tax?

(If you wish to read the entire speech, you can find it here.)

In short, this was another "hope and change" speech that ignores reality. President Obama is short on specifics, and long on platitudes. He calls on people to remember the better days that existed in the past and to hope that they will exist in the future while promising not to make any fundamental changes to massive burdens which are driving the deficit in this country.

Once again, President Obama refuses to deal with the problems this country faces and instead promises to continue the "bread and circuses" policy has been the heart of his administration. it seems that I President Obama's mind,  there is no sacrifice worth taking today that can ensure the future tomorrow because to do so may cause someone discomfort. 

While I do not like the idea of losing some of the cherished itemization benefits than current US tax code, I realize that there may come a time when those will have to be changed or abolished in favor of a system which adequately provide for the needs of the country. However, it is my belief that changes need to be made now and not in the future. plans for the future should be made based off of the worst-case scenario and not the best case scenario. It is also my belief that before we begin taking property away from people, whether it be through direct taxation or through amendments to the tax code which would abolish the advantages provided to a wide range of people through homeowner mortgage deductions or Roth IRAs, that we first make serious cuts alterations to the programs which we already have and have paid for.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Classical Week Madness On DWTS

Alright, so if you haven't been paying attention, there's a little scandal brewing on Dancing With The Stars. It seems that Karina Smirnoff has posed for playboy. And she didn't clear it, or it seems notified, the show. This all started when Hef went and let the cat out of the bag in a tweet. Now, some stories are saying that if this is indeed true, DWTS is taking a dim view and will end her tenure on the show. Apparently, the ABC image makers are not pleased about this and view this as Karina sullying the reputation of the show for posing in Playboy.

Excuse me? This is the pot calling the kettle black. Over the past few seasons, they have been putting up celebrities who are known primarily because they have posed in Playboy (um...hello? Kendra this season and Pamela Anderson in season 10, Joanna Krupa in season 9, and Holly Madison in season 8 have all graced the pages of Playboy nude.) The ABC and DWTS need to get over themselves and let her go on. Its not going to make DWTS any more tawdry.

Back to our regular questions. Mrs. Angrybell wants to know if Brooke Burke is pregnant. Otherwise, she says, Ms. Burke needs to can her stylists for putting her in something that makes her look as big as Kirstie Alley.

Thankfully, this week the DWTS production crew told us who was dancing what. It didn't make sense to go through the whole introduction thing for the baby pros and then not tell us which pair is dancing which dance each week when they are so made up that its hard to tell.

Romeo and Chelsea lead off doing a paso. He has the right demeanor, but his steps, at least int eh begining are not confident enough. As it goes on, he starts to become more confident, but there are transitions where the flow stops and it hurts the dance. And then at the end, there is the gratuitous shirtlessness as he gores the cape. I'm not sure why he is goring the cape, he's supposed to be a matador and they gore the bull. Mrs. Angrybell would give it 7s. Instead, the judges went with a 7/8/8 for 23.

Kendra and Louis follow that up with a Viennese Waltz to "Time To Say Goodbye".  She's got posture problems. She is making the right steps, but somehow is not getting the rise and fall down. During the spin, she got very afraid, and it caused her to blow it a bit, fortunately, Louis held her up. This dance is a bit of a dog's breakfast. Her arm are not strong, which is throwing her frame all over the place. At leat the death spiral went well. This was not a pretty dance. Mrs. Angrybell found herself in agreement with Carrie Ann for once, but that was about sexy and elegant comments. The 18 was a gift.

Anna and Sugar Ray are up to do a Viennese Waltz. All I can say is Anna looks tough. She may almost be as tough as my mother, who has been known to put the fear of G-d into combat veterans, but that's another story. Too much mucking about in the start of the dance. This is much better than what we saw from Kendra. The problem is that they went a little too much ballet in this dance and its over powering the viennese waltz flavor. It was a marked improvement over last week. He looks elegant. he flowed when they were in hold. My only criticism with the choreography is that it felt too ballet-ee. Sure, he's got some technical problems and sure his frame could have been better at times, but it was an improvement. Well he got better than 20, with the 21.

Dmitri and Petra are trying to get angry for their Paso Doble. They got a good song, whose name always escapes me. She has some stunningly ungraceful moments in this dance. I know it hard. But she is supposed to flow. There are a lot of transitions in this dance so far where she looks like she is stopping and then starting again. When she is in hold, things are uneven. Not good. Not terrible. But problematic. Its like a step sideways from last week. Bruno was watching a different dance. Either that or he felt like an hour was down and he hadn't gotten to start one of his almost stripteases. This 23 was too high.

Ralph and Karina are looking to come back from the rumba with this week's Viennese Waltz. The acting in the beginning was scaring small children. But then they got into the dance. He's actually got some heel leads in where appropriate. Len may cry if he realizes this. This song enforces a very slow tempo for the waltz, but he is doing a good job with it. It just looks like he is letting his bum out too much sometimes. The 25 felt a little low. I dunno, almost felt like there should have been a little more there.

Hines Ward and Kym are up looking to build off of last week. This week they're doing a paso doble. This is interesting. Where Romeo looked intense, even when his feet weren't showing the intensity, Hines' face does not look intense to start off, but his steps are intense. As it goes on, the two start to become in sync. I would not call this a perfect dance, but its being done very well. There is only one little hiccup towards the end where it looks like they got a little crossed up with their hands. The 25 was good, I think there should have been a second 9 in there.

Chelsea and Mark are up to do a Viennese Waltz. Her frame is nice. her footwork has a common problem of nocies. She is dancing it on her toes mostly. This is preventing her from always getting the nice rise and fall of a waltz. She really threw herself into that spin at the end. Shows how much she trusts him, which Kendra clearly did not with Louis. It was good. Not great. Bruno needs to work with his expelliarmus a bit.So there was a 26.

Are Chris and Cheryl up for the paso this week? Let's find out. They got a good song with the Sorcerer's Apprentice song. He has the look down. His footwork looks confident too. If I didn't know better, Id swear he was leading this dance. It was really good. The only time that it seemed to not look right was when he was stepping over her as she rolled in his hold parallel (more of less) to the ground. What Len was talking about in his critique was shading. He liked it. What would have made it better was if he had found a way to show an increase in the intensity and the force of the dance. They got hosed on the judging with the 23. It should have been a 25.

Kirstie and Maksim are up last tonight. Its a Viennese Waltz. With her hip injury. Why is it htat the singers have better dresses than Brooke Burke? Kirstie starts off the dance slightly ahead of the beat. And then her shoe falls off. But she laughs it off. There was some nice stuff there. The problem was, she was ahead of Maks. Now, when a guy does it, its not so noticeable. The problem is, she is supposed to be following Maks. The 22 was a gift.     

So who should go home? I think its time to say good bye to Kendra. Her dance was not good. She is cracking. Its best she goes home now before something bad happens and she looks really bad. The flip side is Kirstie. She had a bad dance. The 8 from Bruno was a freaking gift. The question is do you penalize her for a bad dance, as opposed to Kendra who has been uneven at best.

Hosed of the week: Chris Jericho. That dance was much better than I thought it would be, but it just wasn't reflected in the scores. If you are looking for someone to vote for, give him your vote, he probably needs it.