Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Investment Bankers - The New Lawyers

I was at a conference last week and the topic of lawyer bashing came up.  The speaker said, probably because it was a conference of lawyers, that because of the recent financial meltdown, Investment Bankers have leaped over lawyers as the most despised group of professionals.

Here were a few of the jokes about investment bankers:

Because of the financial meltdown they had to redefine a few terms - CEO now means Chief Embezzelment Officer, Broker is what your investment counselor has made you and the new theory of economics being taught is no longer buy low/sell high, it is buy low/sell lower.

If you bought $1000 of stock in Delta Airlines before the economic meltdown, it is worth $49 today, $1000 of AIG is now worth $39 and $1000 of Leaman Brothers is worth nothing.  If you bought $1000 worth of beer and drank it instead of investing in these companies you would have $214 worth of aluminium.  The moral of the story is drink beer and recycle.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

McDonalds and their Lawyers

Last week I was at a legal conference.  The topic of lawyers and their public perception came up.  It was interesting to hear from an insider that things are not always what they seem.

Everyone has heard of the lady who was burned by coffee at a McDonalds drive thru.  We know she settled for over $1M and the public sentiment seems to be that she was taking McDonalds for a ride.

It turns out:
1.  McDonalds knew, and admitted, that coffee served at the temperature they served it was not fit for human consumption.  The coffee was served at 190 degrees, which will cause third degree burns within 7 seconds of contact with the skin.
2.  Over 700 people had been burned by McDonalds coffee before this lady sued.
3.  She offered to settle with McDonalds for her medical bills, they refused.

It has been my experience when we hear of a verdict or settlement that is too good or bad to be true, usually we are not getting the whole story.  Whether it was McDonalds management or their lawyers, they shouldn't have allowed their egos to get them beyond the point of no return. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

The TSA Isn't Doing Its Job

The TSA Isn't Doing Its Job

I don't mean the TSA isn't protecting us from the next terrorist threat.  I fly a lot and, like everyone else, I'm inconvienced by the gauntlet of procedures we have to go through, but the alternative is much worse.  I don't know enough to know whether the TSA is effective or not in stopping terrorist threats.

The TSA is charged with conducting security screenings at America's airports.  Recently they instituted a full body pat down program.  As I understand it you get a full body pat down if you refuse the full body imaging test or you continue to set off the metal detector even after a few tries.

The full body pat down has raised a lot of concern and generated several U-Tube videos because they seem invasive and unnecessary.  I saw a young guy's phone video of him telling the agent "If you touch my junk I'll have you arrested" and another video of a 7-10 year old boy with his shirt off and a TSA agent patting him down. 

I don't believe the TSA is overstepping their authority, I think they aren't adequately addressing these situations.

I would feel my privacy was compromised with these tests, but that is the price we pay for the world we live in.   If the TSA could do it another way they would.  We know the terrorists will take advantage of our conventions and will go to all lengths to find our weaknesses and exploit them.  Airplane travel is annoying, this isn't the TSA's fault.

What the TSA should do is 1) train their people to handle irate passengers better.  This would probably mean paying them more which isn't going to happen with teachers so why would I expect it to happen here.  The TSA should also 2) remind the public that these incidences are isolated and are sometimes the fault of the passenger. 

In the case of the guy with the touchy junk he had refused a body scan.  Maybe he didn't want certain anatomical revelations.  In the case of the kid, it was his dad behind him that yanked off the kid's shirt because he was irate. 

Travel by air is not as fun and exciting as it used to be.  If you are the type that gets irate easily maybe you should consider driving or taking the train.  Both can be relaxing and don't require security checks.  For those of us who have to travel by air, if you don't have anything to hide, the best thing we can do is be cooperative, come to the airport prepared and expect these sort of delays until we competely stop terrorist threats.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Anal Cinema

Not what you think it is.

I finally went and got a colonoscopy.  I have been pestered by my wife and doctor for two years to get one.  What really did it for me was the television ads with a television reporter who died at 58 from colon cancer because he didn't get a colonoscopy.  That really got to me.

The worst part was the 24 hours before.  I couldn't eat anything, which for me is impossible.  If I don't have something to eat every two hours I go crazy, really. I'm hypoglycemic and I get light headed and grumpy - more grumpy than usual some would say.  I keep a protein bar in my brief case so if I'm at work and can't get to lunch for a while I won't go crazy.

If that weren't bad enough, about 6 hours before the procedure I have to take a stool softener and about 4 times the normal amount of laxative.  It was a good thing I didn't go to work that day.  When they say everything comes out, everything comes out.

When I got there they gave me the sedative and literally the next thing I knew the nurse was putting my glasses on.  I didn't feel any discomfort and I wasn't washed out like I have been with other procedures.  I highly recommend it to everyone who is of age or has a history.  The alternative is much, much, much worse.

I got my results back a few days later, with pictures, and all is well.  I don't have to go back for 10 years.  Now I can watch those public service announcements without puckering.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Is Anyone Awake in Congress?

I think our esteemed Congressional representatives continue to demonstrate that they are so far removed from the people they represent that they are on another planet.

I was listening to  NPR this morning.  Former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi was the guest.  She was saying that the Democrats and Republicans were continuing to butt heads on tax relief.  The Republicans are still holding onto making the Bush Era temporary tax cuts for the top wage earners (the wealthy) permanent.  She went on to say that the Democrats would consider making these tax cuts permanent only if there were also tax cuts for all.  As a side note she said the Bush Era tax cuts did not create jobs as expected. 

Are you kidding?  We have spent ourselves into future bankruptcy and now you want more tax cuts?  I like to get things for free but we need to be responsible.  We can't just keep getting the best of government services and cut taxes.  Do they really think this is the solution? 

This is short-sighted thinking and is the type of thinking that got us into this mess in the beginning.  Is this the "less government" route the Tea Party people are calling for?  The American people have spoken and this is not what they have said. 

I believe the American people want government to get their house in order.  I believe the American people want some fiscal responsiblity.  They know it will hurt, but again they have put their trust in Congress and this trust is being violated. 

The program also went on to attack the mortgage interest deduction as a possible place to cut back.  Ms. Pelosi said this is huge program so it is a place to make a huge impact, and therefore is a natural target.  After hearing the discussion I believe we (our government) should not promote everyone getting a mortgage but this seems to be a simplistic way to get at the problem.

Rather than do a precision cut of wasteful tax and spending programs piece by piece, they would rather take a machete to one program, hack out a large chunk and then be done with it.  It didn't take one reform to get us into this mess and it will take more than one reform to get us out. 

When will our candidates quit telling us they are going to Congress to do what is right, and do it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Free Speech and How To Make Everyone I Know Mad

My brother says that if I weren't an asshole I would have no personality at all.  I don't try to be one but I seem to step in it more often than others.  I guess it is because I went to law school and have been in the profession for a number of years.  I'm not using that as an excuse, just an explanation.

A few days ago one of my Republican friends sent me another hate filled diatribe about how Democrats are going to hell because they are directed by lawyers and the Republicans are the good guys because they are lawyer-free. 

At first I just shrugged it off as another "Democrats Suck" jab.  Then I thought about it some more.  I thought it was childish of the author and forwarder to throw jabs without solutions.  Sort of the - if you don't vote you can't complain - logic.

My purpose in providing this witty retort is not to show how blindly some people will vomit what others say, but to point out that you can't sit on the sidelines and get mad at the other team unless you are playing. 

Here it is - straight from the asshole lawyer's mouth:

Free speech is a wonderful thing, even when it is full of lies, half-truths and distortions.

There are 81 Republican lawyers and 123 Democrat lawyers in Congress (I found this in the Internet - it probably isn't updated for the changes of last Tuesday). Not the huge disparity the author pretends.

Lawyers are taught to think critically and to put their client's best interest first. The majority of lawyers do this within the bounds of the law. Lawyers are also taught to be fearless and speak their minds. The fact that Barack Obama was a lawyer and the editor of the law review at Harvard (this position goes to the valedictorian of the class - the person who will graduate number one in their class) was a positive in my mind when I voted for him. I thought he could reason through the issues and attack them with clarity and without emotion.

The one thing that has become clear to me is that people are mad. They are mad at the government for not preventing the economic melt down in 2008 and not getting things back on track once it happened. Whether either of these is or was possible will be the subject of debate for many years in barrooms and civic centers, classrooms, living rooms and the halls of Congress.

Apparently the Democrats couldn't get things done fast enough. Now the Republicans have their chance. The worst thing they can do is react emotionally and make bad legislation and cut necessary government programs for the sake of their appearance. Even worse is remaining divisive and the party of "No", stalling critical advances and wasting precious time.

The Republicans need to rely on their critical thinkers to come up with real solutions that help all of us, not just the upper 5% of wage earners. They need to get rid of selfish wasteful spending for a small minority and make government cuts that will serve everyone well. They also need to find ways to serve our nation without pandering to special interests. We are all in this and we all should be considered when making changes.

The Republicans need lawyers to hash out the critical issues and to agree to dialogue. The Republicans need lawyers who can compromise and who are willing to fight for their clients (the public) but who are willing to be realistic and come to a good solution rather than hold out for a great solution which may never come.

The democratic process (notice I used the little "d") was created by lawyers and in my opinion is the best means of government on earth. It has withstood the test of time and is still serving us all very well long after other options have come to an end. It may be messy and take time, but it is better than the alternatives.

The best thing we can do is to be involved, not as Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Socialists, Constitution Party, Green Party, Libertarian Party, Tea Party Coffee Party members, but as US citizens. Call your congressman or congresswoman and tell them what you want.

If you are angry and don't know what you want, listen to others, for and against your position, and form your own opinion. Hear competing opinions, debate the issues with your friends, write about it, and you will really get a feel for the heart of the issue. Regurgitating what you hear on MSNBC does no one any good. Know what it is you believe and specifically what you want done about it and the labels will take care of themselves. We can't waste any more time yelling across the table.

It is time to sit down and get a few things accomplished or we will be living in a post apocalyptic waste land protecting what little resources we have with fear and anger.

Now is the time to get involved. With enough thoughtful consideration and debate on the issues, who knows, you may decide you want to go to law school.

Friday, November 5, 2010

I Hate Banks

I hate banks.  I mean I hate those banks that made loans they couldn't live with.  I mean the banks that turned to the American public when these loans started to go south and asked for money to help them survive.  I mean the banks that took the money and then gave the government the bad loans.  I mean the banks that used the money to boost their own bottom line, not improve the economy.

The latest selfish activity of the banks is that they refused to help those who filed bankruptcy because they couldn't pay their loans.  In bankruptcy loans on your primary residence are not negotiable.  I thought that was the point of bankruptcy, that you could negotiate more favorable terms to debts.

It appears that loans on the home that you are able to keep are not able to be renegotiated in bankruptcy.  In 2008 Congress attempted to get this changed because so many people with loans they couldn't afford were filing bankruptcy.  The financial institution industry lobbied very hard against this and this reform didn't pass.

I heard on NPR that if this change to the bankruptcy laws had passed we would not have needed the Federal Government's loan modification program.  I hate banks.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Political Fall Out

The elections are over and the populace has spoken, at least 34% of them have (the percentage of voters in Utah who voted on Tuesday - 45th in the nation). 

In my own political analysis, which is the result of listening to CNN, MSNBC and FOX for as long as I could take it, I believe the public are angry that things aren't turning around quickly.  Other than that I believe it is the political pundits that are spinning that into a condemnation of specific Democratic programs. 

The trouble is now the Republicans can't just be angry, you red guys (and girls) have to do something. If we voted we have the right to complain, now we all have the obligation to get involved. Write your congressman (or woman), voice your opinion and tell them what you want. Go to local political meetings where your representatives will hear you and tell them what you want. I'm not talking about the vitriolic rantings the Tea Partiers call rallies.
If you are angry about something specific, write it down and give it to someone in charge.  If you are angry and don't know quite what it is that is angering you, put in the time to find out.  We have the greatest political system in the world and the ability to effect it.  Exercise your Constitutional rights.  Get out and make a difference.  The voice our elected officials hear should truly be the voice of the people, not what they want to hear. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Humorous Headstone

I was watching a documentary on Halloween about graveyards.  This headstone hit my funnybone.  It's in a cemetary in Key West, FL.