Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What should you pay for really good golf?

The president of one of my clients and his wife will be down this way next month for a wedding; and, he sent me an Email suggesting we play a round of golf while they are here.

So, I did some research on good courses.  Everyone rates the five or six courses at Reynolds Plantation in the top 15 in Georgia.  But you can’t play them unless you are staying at the Ritz Carlton, one of the condos or one of the cottages.

That’s OK, it’s a hike from Atlanta so staying there the night before is a good idea I think.   A one night package and two extra rounds of golf seemed like a good idea.


My package:  $410.00.  The extra two rounds: $190.00 each.

We will be playing the eighth best course in Georgia, closer to Atlanta and down the road from where they are staying for the wedding for $49.00 each.  I think I’ll get a couple of magnums of champagne and some coozies.

Stolen from Thomas: Thanks.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Prize Will Be Awarded

I seldom check my blog statistics anymore, seeing as how every time I do, they trend down; but, the blog is 458 visits away from 40,000 visits, whatever Sitemeter means by visit.

The prize, if I can figure out who 40K is?  Dinner if you're in town or are willing to visit Atlanta.  Or a hearty thanks for hanging out here.  I just hope the winner isn't someone doing a Google search for "rather than" or "The Federal Judge Song."  Hot dog searches are always welcome.

Constitutional Irony: One Amendment, Two Clauses

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

On one side, we have the Muslims and their fellow travelers trumpeting the right to freely practice religion without government interference.

On the other side, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Rick Lazio, Pamela Geller and the legions of FOX talk of sensitivity trumping rights.  “Think of the victims, we speak loudly for the victims!”

I wonder if they appreciate the irony of exercising a constitutional right to attack a constitutional right.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Short take on Mosque "insensitivity:" 

I think it is insensitive to try to change the Constitution to kick brown babies out of the country. It's insensitive to roust people based on the color of their skin. It's insensitive to trick a dumb accused criminal into saying something incriminatory. It is insensitive and an affront to basic decency to pick and choose your adherence to constitutional rights.

Lawyerly Obscurification

Always be wary of overly precise responses from lawyers.  I got a letter from a lawyer today who advised that his client did not get the "July 13, 2010 letter" I alleged to have sent.  It didn't.  It got it on July 15, 2010, well within the required period.  I'd put the wrong date in the letter I sent following up on the first letter.  Gave me a moment of panic before I realized that was the week I was working from home because ^%!^&( AT&T wasn't providing internet at the office and having just checked the home laptop when I got home to see that my fear was unjustified.

And never trust anyone.  Reagan had it right about that verify stuff.  I need a drink.

Friday, August 20, 2010


When the U.S. invaded Iraq over 7 years ago, the first ground unit was the 4th Stryker Brigade which moved from Kuwait to Baghdad.  Yesterday, attempting symbolism and achieving irony, the brigade drove from Baghdad back to Kuwait as the last combat troops to leave Iraq.

The irony?  I listened to an NPR piece this morning where the commander was briefing his troops on IED locations to look out for along the road they were taking, while brass were trumpeting the "success" of the combat phase now ending.

So, President Obama has now "kept" his campaign promise to have the "troops" out of Iraq this summer.  The 50,000 remaining?  "'Part of our mission will be to continue to train, coordinate, advise and assist' Iraqi forces" according to the general in charge.  But a Marine captain said "'[c]ombat operations' is sort of a relative term.... I think some troops who remain after this date are going to see things that look kind of like combat."

At least Obama didn't swoop down on an aircraft carrier and and announce "mission accomplished." 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

One Corporation, More Than One Vote

Last month Best Buy and Target were in the news for giving six figure contributions to a conservative group that then gave the money to an Attila the Hun leaning Republican candidate for the Minnesota governorship.

This morning the New York Times reported that News Corporation gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association for it to distribute in 37 governor races this fall. A News Corporation spokesman said “News Corp. has always believed in the power of free markets, and organizations like the R.G.A., which have a pro-business agenda, support our priorities at this most critical time for our economy…. [T]he company’s corporate side made the donation with no involvement by its news operation and that the gift would not have any impact on newsgathering operations. There is a strict wall between business and editorial.” The Michigan Chamber of Commerce gave the Association $1.48 million and a vice president of Koch Industries gave them another $1 million.

The explanation that the News Corp. contribution was triggered by “business” concerns mirrors statements by Target and Best Buy.

Google got flack for its retreat from net neutrality principles over the last couple of weeks. (Everyone already knew that Verizon is evil, so it got a pass.)

And these are just the biggest guys and splashiest actions. There’s a lot more corporate involvement in politics that is under the radar.

Calvin Coolidge famously said that what is good for General Motors is good for America. We had better hope he was right.

Corporations, whether they spread the wealth to influence elections and the resulting winners when in office, as News Corp, Target and Best Buy have done, or try to influence legislation as Google and Verizon are doing, do not have a “public benefit” motivation. Indeed, their executives would be violating their fiduciary duty to the corporation and its shareholders if they spent money or promoted legislation that would harm the corporation.

The legality of corporate participation is pretty much a settled question – they can play politics to their amoral hearts’ content.

Remember back when you were say 8 or 9 and you whined your way into the big kids’ pick-up baseball game? Remember getting whipped? That’s the feeling you’re going to be having going forward in the political arena. Corporations are bigger, faster, more practiced and talented at politics than any combination of voters can be. They are going to win the game. My hope, going back to Calvin Coolidge, is that their win trickles down, though I’m not optimistic.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Creating a Legacy


  1. money or property left to someone by a will; bequest
  2. anything handed down from, or as from, an ancestor or predecessor
  3. a student applying or admitted to a college or university who is a relative of an alumnus

I was surprised when I consistently found just these definitions of the word online.  Note that there is no connotation of good, which I’ve always thought was a part of the word in the context of reputation and none of the definitions address reputation.  Money or property from the folks can be good or bad depending on how you use it, as can anything else you get from someone else.  Legacy students actually have a negative connotation – Junior would have no chance of getting into Yale without his parental connection.

I’ve been hearing the word legacy a lot.  Ted Stevens and Dan Rostenkowski appear to have left mixed legacies.  Both brought home the bacon to their states, keeping a little bit for themselves.

The word appeared in news stories about Warren Buffett and Bill Gates getting promises from their fellow billionaires to give half their money away.

You always see the word in connection with the famous who are retiring, dying or just departed.

For most of us, our legacy will be summed up in our eulogies.  Anyone planning your life based on the prospect of getting a socko eulogy?

Though I’m not a politician, rich or famous, I wonder if this legacy thing is a media creation.  Does the upper class really spend any time thinking about legacy?  Estate planning, sure.  But, did George W. Bush agonize about how he will be remembered while he was in office?  Did Fellini make his films with a view as to how he wanted them to be thought of?

I think “legacy” is for the most part an overlay given by those remaining.  I think achievers, of good or bad, spend their time achieving.  Those that don’t achieve, spend their time coping.  Maybe nearing the end they reminisce and are happy or rueful about the outcome of their lives.  And, maybe the outcome would be a little better overall if we spent a little more time planning it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Of Speaker Wire, Hot Dogs and Other Important Matters

Having no desire to do any work and having nothing remotely interesting to say, I visited my statistics at Google Webmaster Tools.

Google says the most significant word used here is “post” with the runner-up being “September.”

Google has sent 103 people here in the last month. 16 people came my way from a Google search for “rather than.” Another 12 wanted to know how to strip speaker wire.

Indeed, Google sends people here for all manner of important questions. Can you buy beer in Georgia on Sundays? How about in Texas? What’s the best way to reheat pizza?

I’m a big source of hot dog information. Skinless, natural casings, how to make onion sauce, ketchup do’s and don’ts (answer: never on a hot dog), wieners in Chicago.

16 people have subscriptions for the blog using Google products. Thank you, each and every one of you.

In the last month misguided surfers found their way here from Iran, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Vietnam.

You’ll note I’ve added a new banner over on the right touting my status as a repository of obscure knowledge. I’ll do my best to live up to the responsibility of being #1.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Is brilliance enough?

"Press on! Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing in the world is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."  Calvin Coolidge

‎"We are being ruined by best efforts."  W. Edwards Deming.

Senator Scott Brown recently explained that he wouldn’t vote to confirm Elena Kagan as a Supreme Court justice though he thought she was brilliant because “[he] believe[s] nominees to the Supreme Court should have previously served on the bench. Lacking that, [he] look[s] for many years of practical courtroom experience to compensate for the absence of prior judicial experience. In Elena Kagan's case, she is missing both.”

President Obama is by all reports and my observation, brilliant.  But I’m not too happy with him these days.  I lived through the Reagan years, and he’s no Reagan when it comes to leadership.  He spends too much of his time and effort trying to placate and lure the right towards his view, an approach the right has played masterfully.  He waits for his own party to form some sort of consensus on issues and no time staking out a position and promoting its adoption.  He’d probably be a world-class mediator.

I’ll take brilliant over dumb any day; but, I think there are a lot of things beyond being smart that go into being good at what you do:  Temperament, experience as the Senator says, all of the characteristics laid out by President Coolidge and best efforts, despite what Mr. Deming said.

(Quotes courtesy of Thomas and Ron.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Is a pipe still a pipe?

Google, of Do No Evil fame, and Verizon, of wanting to return to Ma Bell monopoly fame, jointly announced yesterday a proposal for “net neutrality” going forward.  Both are for it, except when they aren’t.

Comcast got in, and out of, trouble recently for slowing down transmission of data for some, but not all of its customers.  The FCC said it couldn’t do that.  A federal court said the FCC didn’t have the authority to tell Comcast no.

Since then all the major players have been huddling.  While it is perhaps an unfair characterization, they are trying to figure out how to give the appearance of submitting to government regulation with the purpose of benefiting the public, while having the free reign that the financial industry and BP had with the results you’ve seen over the past couple of years.

Thomas, of Living Next Door to Alice fame (see Recommended sidebar) as is usual, summed up how to think about the internet and how we get to the internet.

Yesterday, I did a quick post on Facebook that pointed out that Word and Blogger want me to spell internet as Internet, which contradicts what I learned from Mr. Wendt in the sixth grade.  Thomas left a comment that said he refuses to capitalize internet for the same reason he doesn’t capitalize “phone line.”

So, with Thomas’ counsel, lets look at the destination and the means of getting there.

What is this destination, the internet?  It’s a place, and yet not a place.  In my very non-expert view, it’s really an electronic compact among all the people that want to be able to communicate with each other digitally rather than by analogue methods.  We all agree (though most people haven’t done so expressly) to allow our “devices,” computers, TV’s, iPods, cell phones and so on, to talk to each other. 

Think of it as an electronic town with a bazaar, a movie theater, a post office and all the other things you need from a community.  Once you’re there, you are free to roam as you will.  If you like the trinket you see in the bazaar, you work a deal to buy it from the vendor (eBay and Amazon and others).  Want to be entertained?  There are some sidewalk performers who serenade you or make you laugh without charging you, while inviting you to throw some money in the in the guitar case or the hat (the late Napster, the Onion, YouTube, most newspapers and magazines) Others want some money up front to watch the movie they are showing (Netflix Streaming, most newspapers and magazines, the Apple Store and Android Market, iTunes and its progeny).  Need to talk with Aunt Sally or your boss?  My how the two cent stamp and party line have changed (Email, Gmail, Yahoo, texting and a host of others).

Sounds great doesn’t it?  How do I get there, is there a price of admission to this great town?  There doesn’t need to be if you’ve got the resources to set up your own gateway; but, most of us don’t.  So we’re willing to pay someone to do it for us:  Enter the internet service provider (ISP).  And there are lots of flavors.  Phone lines, cables, satellites, wireless (3G, 4G, LITE, WiFi, WiMax) and their granddaddy - dial-up.

Some are better, faster, more flexible than others, so they cost more as determined by the marketplace.  Traditionally, everyone pays the same price for the same flavor of pipe.  The marketplace doesn’t discriminate between customers, it’s neutral, the basics of each flavor are fungible.  There’s an implicit “equal access clause” working.

The big boys, who I told you at the start of the post were huddling want to change that.

Put briefly, Google and Verizon want to create different kinds of pipes.  Well, not really create them; rather, they intend to label them as different and then treat them differently.

If you have access to the internet by cable or DSL they promise not to discriminate.  They won’t speed up transmission for people who pay more, they won’t slow it down for anyone, which is pretty much the status quo. 

But if someone comes up with a new use for the internet, they give medical monitoring, education and entertainment/gaming as examples, all bets are off.  They get to choose what they will transmit, what they will charge and who they will allow to play.  They do promise to be transparent about their discrimination.  Thus, they want to, without government interference, control market creation and entry to the internet.  Have an idea for the next Google, YouTube, Facebook?  Want to save lives with a unique web service?  Web education on the tundra?  Pony up to the big boys, or have the internet’s door shut on you.

Get your internet over the air, wirelessly?  You have a new partner.  For you they promise to transparently do whatever they want to do.  Why?  The “nascent” wireless internet access is “more competitive and is changing rapidly.”  Translated, they mean that’s where the money is going and we want a piece.  Put a different way, wired internet access is nearing maturity as a market, wireless access is just beginning to grow and we see it as replacing wired, we want a bigger piece of the new money pie.

So, do you trust them?  Was Ronald Reagan an economic demi-god or the deregulating father of the current recession?  Are Enron, Goldman Sachs, Massey Mining and BP aberrations or concrete lessons on the limitations of free market economics?

Monday, August 09, 2010

I'm for a two'fer

This isn’t really about law, stick with me and you’ll see.

The post is rather about consistency.

There’s a lot of talk about the Fourteenth Amendment’s, in many peoples’ minds, unfortunate grant of citizenship to everyone that’s born here. “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

The Amendment was added to the Constitution in the context of the ending of the Civil War, the need to deal with people, recently enslaved, who were the subject of the Dred Scott Decision.  From Wikipedia, of course: “The Civil Rights Act of 1866 had already granted U.S. citizenship to all persons born in the United States; the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment added this principle into the Constitution to prevent the Supreme Court from ruling the Civil Rights Act of 1866 to be unconstitutional for lack of congressional authority to enact such a law or a future Congress from altering it by a mere majority vote.”

Prominent Republicans Lindsey Graham, John Kyl and Mitch McConnell are promoting amending the Constitution to do away with “anchor babies,” an issue never contemplated when the amendment was passed.  Their argument in short, “they weren’t thinking about our flood of illegal immigrants back then” and didn’t intend to grant citizenship to every Pedro and Pepita born here.  The citizenship grant is outdated given modern circumstances.

I can’t argue with their point on the folks back in 1868 not giving a thought to Mexican immigrants (though they were surely aware of the hundreds of thousands of European immigrants entering the country).  Maybe we should re-think the reasonableness of its reach.

But, here’s Senator Graham opposing a bill that would attempt to keep automatic weapons out of the hands of terrorists: “Graham described the bill as an instrument of those who would ban guns altogether. ‘We're talking about a constitutional right here,’”

But, like the Fourteenth Amendment, isn’t it an outdated constitutional right, somewhat like the vestigial appendix?  Sure back in the late Eighteenth Century, they needed all the muskets they could muster; so much so that the Founding Fathers included the right to keep and bear arms in the Bill of Rights.

But, just like the folks in the next century failing to anticipate “anchor babies,” I’m pretty sure the Founding Fathers weren’t thinking of Tech Nines, Saturday Night Specials and Neo-Nazi Militias.  Indeed, they might be looking down from the sky and trying to tell us how sorry they are about Original Intent and literalism.

Think Senator Graham will be with me in calling a constitutional convention to reconsider both amendments so as to consistently deal with un-anticipated constitutional problems?

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Dear King Roy,

You lost my vote today. 

I never had any real high hopes for you, you’ve been civil liberties “lite” for years.  All you’ve had going for you is that you aren’t as rabidly anti-civil liberties as your opponents over the years.

Yeah, there was the flag thing.  You stood up on that one and have regretted it ever since.  You talked against the teachers’ union, rightly, and now pander to it at every opportunity.

What it comes down to for me is that you are a bit more urbane than either of your potential Republican candidates. 

None of you have any money to spend on anything, so economically, the three of you are a push. 

Now I find out that you don’t quite like all of your fellow citizens, some are second-class to you, a view no different than Mr. Deal or Ms. Handel.  And you are a lawyer.  You can “believe” all you want that marriage is between “a man and a woman.”  You are wrong, to my mind legally, ethically and morally.

I’d thought that I could hold my nose and vote for you; but, I can’t do that.  Don’t worry, I won’t be voting for your opponent; and, I’m tired of throwing away votes on Libertarians.

Given that any Governor has little ability to right the economy, it may be more fun to watch either Deal or Handel fumble along.

In closing, “Kings” don’t pander, they rule.  Hubris didn’t become you the last time around, pandering is no better this time.

Not very respectfully,


(For those of you that don’t live hereabouts, sorry for going local.  He just pissed me off and I’m using my little soapbox to vent.)

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

14 is a good number

As in the Fourteenth Amendment, which reads, as a lawyer would say, in pertinent part,

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Recently, there are some people that want to get rid of that “persons born” part because it includes kids whose parents are illegal. 

As of mid-afternoon, there are a lot of folks perturbed with the due process and equal protection parts as they now, for now, in California, include, the horror, gay people.

Yep, faggots have fundamental rights.  California has to have a compelling interest to treat them unequally.  The District Court Judge didn’t need that, he found that the Proposition 8 law, barring their right to marry, was irrational.  That last will be important as the case moves up the legal food chain.

America is a great place if you are white and couldn’t get a date even if you were gay.  Develop a hue or an unnatural predeliction in the view of the majority, that’s what the number 14 is for.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Dear UPS

First off, in the scheme of complaints, this isn't a big one.

And, I really do like you (though I don't like your independent "UPS Stores" which for the most part suck). 

So don't take this the wrong way.

I got a UPS letter this morning.  Came on time.  The driver, not even the regular driver, knew who I was; and, as always, he was friendly.

But, he handed me the "brick" to sign my name.  You know, the behemoth GPS wireless thing that weighs ten pounds (give or take) that I have to hold in one hand, with the envelope tucked under my elbow while I write an illegible version of my signature onto the scratched and discolored plastic.  And speaking of plastic, how do you make plastic so heavy?  Do you get it from the same people that made my parent's 1960's rotary dial phone?  That was some plastic!

And, I know you're fond of brown, "Big Brown" and all, but really, dull is to good a word to describe it.  Even the inventor of one color fits all, Henry Ford, finally gave in.  Keep the uniforms and trucks and envelopes if you like; but, please, could you consider say a nice complementary "sand" color for the bricks?

(A hint:  I hear tell that Steve Jobs is now in the plastic thing business - GPS, wireless, touch screen, all that stuff.  And he doesn't kill a forest full of plastic trees to make them.  Give him a call.)

Your friend and customer,