Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Last night the president gave his speech. Immediately after the speech, I talked to some friends and conversed back-and-forth about speech with others on Facebook. From all that, two things became clearer about last night.

First, President Obama does not understand what it means to be a leader. president Obama is very good when it comes to talking about ideals. In a way, he could be some sort of oratorical inspirational. Chicken soup for the soul type of person. And he will you could do that very well. But that's not what his job is. Barack Obama is the President of the United States. He is supposed to be a leader.

A leader can operate in many ways. He can do that passively. He can do it actively. He can do it by playing one side off the other. When the leader has to do in order for people to follow him is to set out a goal for where he wants to lead the people to. it's not enough to say that the leader wants his people to be happy, healthy, prosperous. Something that Gary and vague doesn't tell people where the leader wants to go or how he wants to get there.

In his speech, president Obama was referring to the "Sputnik moment", for this generation. From this "moment", that he never defines, he hopes to usher in a new era in technology and industry, which will help secure the nation's prosperity going forward. The problem is, he never says where he wants to go. This is what he said,
   This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.  Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race.  And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal.  We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology -– (applause) -- an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.
He goes on to recount how advances are being made in the fields of renewable energy. Then he issues, what he believes, is an echo of Eisenhower's and Kennedy's call to surpass the Soviets in space race. He says,
 That’s what Americans have done for over 200 years: reinvented ourselves.  And to spur on more success stories like the Allen Brothers, we’ve begun to reinvent our energy policy. We’re not just handing out money.  We’re issuing a challenge.  We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo projects of our time.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Eisenhower and Kennedy both had the same goal in mind. To combat the threat posed by the Soviets and their space program, we would develop a program which would go further, faster then the Soviets. President Eisenhower confronted the actual Sputnik moment with both short-term and long-term solutions, but all of these laid out clearly. He told the nation where he wanted to see the country go. First, he wanted to see the country get a satellite in orbit. Second, he accelerated the development of IRBM's. Third, he just of the priorities in his budget. Fourth, he invested in education with the National Defense Education Act.

His successor, President Kennedy, went further. He laid out a goal, that within 10 years the United States would place a man on the moon.

President Obama did not do that. He basically said, "If you tell me where to go, and I like it, I'll give you money." That's not leadership. That's playing it incredibly safe. Its like voting present, something President Obama learned how to do in Illinois Legislature.

Leadership is not easy. Especially when faced with a hostile group of "followers". President Obama is far from unique in having a hostile Congress to contend with. When faced with the Republican successes in the 1994 mid-term elections, President Clinton realized that while he had to change tactics and goals, he did not have to abdicate the position of leadership. In his 1995 State of the Union, he said,

So let this be the year we end welfare as we know it. But also let this be the year that we are all able to stop using this issue to divide America. No one is more eager to end welfare— [applause]—I may be the only President who has actually had the opportunity to sit in a welfare office, who's actually spent hours and hours talking to people on welfare. And I am telling you, the people who are trapped on it know it doesn't work; they also want to get off. So we can promote, together, education and work and good parenting. I have no problem with punishing bad behavior or the refusal to be a worker or a student or a responsible parent. I just don't want to punish poverty and past mistakes. All of us have made our mistakes, and none of us can change our yesterdays. But every one of us can change our tomorrows. And America's best example of that may be Lynn Woolsey, who worked her way off welfare to become a Congresswoman from the State of California

I have proposed the middle class bill of rights, which should properly be called the bill of rights and responsibilities because its provisions only benefit those who are working to educate and raise their children and to educate themselves. It will, therefore, give needed tax relief and raise incomes in both the short run and the long run in a way that benefits all of us.

There are four provisions. First, a tax deduction for all education and training after high school. If you think about it, we permit businesses to deduct their investment, we permit individuals to deduct interest on their home mortgages, but today an education is even more important to the economic well-being of our whole country than even those things are. We should do everything we can to encourage it. And I hope you will support it. Second, we ought to cut taxes $500 for families with children under 13. Third, we ought to foster more savings and personal responsibility by permitting people to establish an individual retirement account and withdraw from it, tax-free, for the cost of education, health care, first-time homebuying, or the care of a parent. And fourth, we should pass a "GI bill" for America's workers. We propose to collapse nearly 70 Federal programs and not give the money to the States but give the money directly to the American people, offer vouchers to them so that they, if they're laid off or if they're working for a very low wage, can get a voucher worth $2,600 a year for up to 2 years to go to their local community colleges or wherever else they want to get the skills they need to improve their lives. Let's empower people in this way, move it from the Government directly to the workers of America.

Confronted with a walloping in the mid-term elections, Clinton came out and spelled out what he wanted to do. He didn't say, we'll see what other people can come up with. He came out and said to the US people, many of whom were not supporting him at that point, "This is where I want to lead you."

Going back to Reagan's State of the Union Address in 1983, after he had been handed a setback in the mid-term election, he too displayed leadership which was and is lacking in the Obama Administration. Reagan. Like Obama, he was faced with pressures in foreign policy and an economy struggle to get out of the mismanagement of the previous officeholder. He came out and stated the problem simply and effectively, saying,
The problems we inherited were far worse than most inside and out of government had expected; the recession was deeper than most inside and out of government had predicted. Curing those problems has taken more time and a higher toll than any of us wanted. Unemployment is far too high. Projected Federal spending -- if government refuses to tighten its own belt -- will also be far too high and could weaken and shorten the economic recovery now underway.
Sounds like it should have been said last night, doesn't it? But Reagan, facing a Congress now controlled by the Democrats, came out and refused to back off from the themes he had come to the presidency with. To the Congress, he stated, that his priorities were jobs, restraining or freezing federal spending, and exporting our democratic values abroad.

Our current officeholder, as is his practice, could not muster any leadership. He spoke of ideals that all could agree with, but when you look at what he really said, the specifics, or even the general direction of what he wants is sadly lacking.

Second, he and his speech writers do not under the "Sputnik moment", nor could they say what it is. Rather than set forth a goal to work towards, he looked to the past to burnish what he had to say. However, looking to the past, when the accomplishments are not your own, can only yield a pale, reflection.

As Americans, we face serious problems. Problems which need to be confronted head on. Is the Obamacare plan going to yield the savings they say? Or is it a boondoggle which will further drive this country into debt?

How do we deal with pensions and Social Security when we have no money to pay them, and we already have more debt than at any other time in our nation's history?

How do we deal with the challenge posed to us by both militant Islam and a China that wants to assert its place as world power?

Our president did not offer us a plan for going forward. He offered to "invest" or spend money on unstated programs with unknown goals. Are his "investments" that or are they another attempt at Keynsian economics which has resulted in long term unemployment of over 9% (hitting 12% here in California).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dancing With The Stars Rumors (An Outbreak of Off-Season DWTS Madness)

Well, since the last time I looked at things in DWTS-land, it seems that everything is still pretty unsettled. There will be no Lindsey Lohan. They producers still want a same-sex couple.

But one thing that has come up is Derek Hough. Looks like he wants out so that he can spend more time with his girl-friend, Cheryl Cole. Not that we didn't see this coming. He sees what his sister has done and I'm sure he has ambitions as well.

One of the more weird rumors is about Heidi Montag. The story goes that she was offered a slot but that she turned it down, claiming contractual restrictions by MTV. Maybe its true, maybe not. But I would think  someone could get a lawyer involved to find a solution. Its not like she doesn't need the money.

In a move that will probably frustrate Mrs. Angrybell, it looks like the producers are in talks with Kendra Wilkinson, one of Hef's original Girls Next Door. Both Mrs. Angrybell and myself would prefer that the producers go after either Holly or Bridget, but cest la vie.

Another couple of names that are getting tossed around are poker player Phil Helmuth and Tina Fey. Personally, Tina Fey would be great to see on DWTS, but I doubt that NBC is going to let her. I hope I'm wrong.

Some Tenants Attorneys Doing Well

So one of my loyal readers wanted to know if I heard anything about landlord-tenant victories in San Francisco lately. Well after looking around a little bit I am happy to announce that two tenants were able to get some justice in the courts.

The most recent was a long term tenant represented by the Law Offices of Mary Catherine Wiederhold and the Law Offices of William E. Shapiro, recently achieved a settlement for their client in a hard fought Owner Move-In case. 

At issue was a landlord attempting to evict a long term tenant in order to move in to their unit. Although settlement numbers were not divulged, the amount was called robust in light of the long-term tenancy of their client, in addition to nearly a year of additional time to move. 

However, a bigger one, which I really should have reported sooner was the decision in the 746 Clementina case, which you may know better as the building formerly owned by the Worst Landlords. The new landlords were attempting to follow through on the Ellis Act eviction started by the Macys. Defended by Steve Collier and the other lawyers at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, the court decided that the new owners could not Ellis the building.  

Some People Really Need To Get Their Priorities Checked

I was at a gathering of attorneys the other day. Since a number of them were either tenants' rights attorneys or sympathetic to tenants right, the topic turned that way when someone brought up an interesting quirk of San Francisco law.

Under San Francisco's Housing Code, specifically section 701, states that landlords have to provide heat to the tenants so that the temperature of the unit reaches 68F. However, a quirk of the law is that the landlord must only provide the heat for 13 hours during the day. The ordinance further states that those hours 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and 3p.m. to 10 p.m.

Apparently, San Francisco does not require heat at night. Because, I guess, someone decided that tenants don't need heat after 10 p.m. at night. Or maybe someone believes that its warmer during those late night hours? If so, perhaps they should tell that to the homeless on the streets.

Now, to further muddy the water, there is a state law called the Uniform Housing Code. Under the UHC, a landlord has the duty to provide heat 24 hours a day such that a residential unit is heated to 70F. Somehow, San Francisco and other municipalities have rules which contravene this. On at least one occasion, the local rule was struct down by the appellate court, yet San Francisco's rule remains in effect.

Heat, especially in San Francisco where it can get pretty cold at virtually any time of the year, is an important topic. In my time as a tenants' rights attorney, I've seen more than one landlord let the heating unit "mysteriously" stop working and expect the tenant to provide the heat with a space heater (something which is verboten under both San Francisco and California law).

So where is this all going? Well at this little confab that I was at, this topic came up. And I was gobsmacked to hear this as the first comment was "Should we really be advocating for this? I mean, asking for more heat for tenants is not an evironmentally sound thing especially with global warming."

And what was worse, a fair number of the people were taking her position. This is lunacy. People need heat. They may not need to be heated to 90F or whatnot, but when its cold, they need heat. And the idea that we need to put something ahead of people without adequate heat is absurd. The priority needs to be people, not something as amorphous as "environmentally sound".

Friday, January 21, 2011

Still here...

So for the New  Year, I am trying to get back into shape. This is not, I repeat, not a resolution. This started in December when I made it back to the gym on a regular basis.

My current weight: 255lbs. At 5'10, that means my BMI is bloody frack all bad.