Friday, January 28, 2011

If nothing else, read the introduction to the piece

Former Georgia Governor Roy Barnes on corporations and politics:

Even heterosexual corporations can't marry.

More Class Warfare

Newt Gingrich and Jeb Bush wrote this week in the Los Angeles Times that they want to revise the bankruptcy statutes to let states file for bankruptcy.


“The new Congress has the opportunity to prepare a fair, orderly, predictable and lawful approach to help struggling state governments address their financial challenges without resorting to wasteful bailouts.”

What are the financial challenges that need addressing?  Here’s some cherry picking from the op-ed:

“[Reorganize their finances free from their union contractual obligations.”  [R]eform their bloated, broken and underfunded pension systems for current and future workers.” Get rid of “[t]he lucrative pay and benefits packages that government employee unions have received from obliging politicians over the years….”  “If government employee union bosses know that they could have all their contracts annulled under federal bankruptcy law, either through a plan of reorganization voluntarily entered into by state leaders or by the voters through proposition, they may be far more accommodating with state governments to restructure government employee union workforces, pensions and work rules.”  (Emphasis added.)

Sense any antipathy for unions?  Click on the link above and you’ll see no mention of using bankruptcy to squeeze money from corporations who have lucrative contracts with states.  You’ll see no requirement that a bankrupt state cut non-essential services and sell off non-essential assets as conditions to squeezing its employees.

What I see is, I think, an attempt to do to government workers what was done to private sector workers over the past couple of decades – get rid of employer responsibility for funding retirement.  Private pension plans are an endangered species, replaced by 401(k)’s, SEP’s and only Social Security in an increasing number of cases.  One of the methods used to make the transition was strategic bankruptcy by corporations.

I’ll leave aside the arguments for and against saving for retirement being an individual rather than a societal responsibility.  But, I don’t like stacking the deck by the proponents of the change.

I’m not a rabid fan of unions.  They’ve done good and bad over the decades to my mind.  I am a fan of contracts; and, contracts are invariably the victim of bankruptcies.

Back in 2006, Congress passed a revision to the federal bankruptcy statutes “with the explicit intent of discouraging filings under the Bankruptcy Code.”  The CPA Journal.  Why?  There was a growing sense that bankruptcy was being abused by debtors.  Run up $25K in credit card debt, file, and walk away from your creditors, then do it again in a few years. That’s a little bit harder after the revisions in 2006.

In my experience, it’s worse with companies.  File, stiff your creditors using the reorganization rules, including your employees and their pension plans, and start fresh on Monday morning.  In the case of some companies, repeat as necessary.  The thinking is, I guess, better that a relatively small group of creditors feel the pain than society as a whole as the result of a feared rash of liquidations.

Is it a good idea to provide this kind of leverage to states? 

Bankruptcy historically has not always been so kind to debtors and the rules stacked against creditors.

From an early, modern era, Supreme Court bankruptcy case:

“This purpose of the act has been again and again emphasized by the courts as being of public, as well as private, interest, in that it gives to the honest but unfortunate debtor who surrenders for distribution the property which he owns at the time of bankruptcy a new opportunity in life and a clear field for future effort, unhampered by the pressure and discouragement of preexisting debt.”

Local Loan Co. v. Hunt, 292 U. S. 234, 244 (1934) (emphasis added).

States deciding on bankruptcy aren’t going to surrender anything to anyone.  We aren’t going to liquidate a state.  (Though, do we really need New Jersey?)  Rather states would use the rules to take away from others, employees, by threat of an even worse outcome - the same approach used by a laundry list of airlines, car companies and other businesses over the past couple of decades. All extending bankruptcy protection to states will do is focus the pain on some people, employees, rather than diffuse it over all people, taxpayers. “Federal taxpayers in states that balance their budgets should not have to bail out the irresponsible, pandering politicians who cannot balance their budgets" say Gingrich and Bush.  Nope, God forbid that – let’s take it out of the hides of the workers.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Spinning the State of the Union Speech and Reality

From a article about Dem and GOP spins on the not yet given State of the Union speech:

“The public itself seems split, or perhaps confused. Americans overwhelmingly say that in general, they prefer cutting government spending to paying higher taxes, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll published last week. Yet their preference for spending cuts, even in programs that benefit them, dissolves when they are presented with specific options related to Medicare and Social Security, the programs that directly touch millions of lives and are the biggest drivers of the long-term deficit.


“’To borrow an analogy, cutting the deficit by cutting investments in areas like education, areas like innovation — that’s like trying to reduce the weight of an overloaded aircraft by removing its engine,’ Mr. Obama said …’It’s not a good idea.’


“Republicans are themselves divided over how much of the budget they can realistically slash. The leadership has already acknowledged that it would be difficult if not impossible to fulfill the $100 billion campaign pledge, and instead has suggested that cuts prorated for the balance of the fiscal year would be more realistic. Tea Party conservatives are pushing the leaders to stick to the $100 billion target. Now the leaders face the task of uniting the rank-and-file around challenging the president.”

Both sides are poised to do the same thing - not much - while blaming the other side.

Obama and the Dems will preach the need to  “invest,” or put it more clearly, continue spending money on things that make their constituents happy.   The GOP will hammer on the need for huge cuts in spending and then not make them, hoping the Tea Party won’t notice and that its corporate constituency will notice that it is business as usual.

The reality of where we find ourselves is that the federal government spent 1.3 trillion dollars more than it took in last year.  The coming fiscal year without cuts will burn about the same amount of borrowed money no matter which side prevails with its rhetoric.

Both sides are looking to borrow maybe $50 to $100 billion less than last year, still spending some 1.2 trillion dollars that the country doesn’t have.  It’s just a matter of who gets the borrowed money at the margin.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What a difference a light year makes

Since the article is short, I’ll paste it here rather than make you click a link:

“The supernova could provide the biggest light show since Earth was formed, and will be so bright that night will become like day for one or two weeks, experts said.

“Betelgeuse, which is part of the Orion constellation 640 light years away from Earth, is a red supergiant, meaning that it is nearing the end of its life and is due to explode.

“When it does [s]o, it will burn so brightly that the earth will appear to have two suns in the sky, the Daily Mail reported.

“What is less certain is when it will explode.

“Brad Carter, senior lecturer of physics at the University of southern Queensland in Australia, said the explosion could take place before the end of the year – or indeed at any point over the next million years.”

I’m no science guy; but, shouldn’t Mr. Carter be talking about when the increased light from the explosion gets here?

Yes, I’m bored.

Company Town: Citizens United in the Flesh*

About 90 people live in the five and a half square miles of Vernon, CA, home to about 1,800 corporations.  The people live in about 25 “households,” on property owned by the City.  Most of them are City employees or officials.
Vernon is next door to Bell, CA, famous for the high income and indictments of its officials.  A lot of Bell’s 38,000 real people work for Vernon’s 1,800 companies.

I don’t have anything pithy to say about Vernon, I just find the idea of a bunch of companies getting together and importing people to be the “government” to be fascinating.

* Citizens United is the Supreme Court case that said that corporations are people for purposes of political contributions.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dumb Me

When we buy a computer or a smartphone, we get a hunk of metal and plastic that’s loaded with computer code, software.  We don’t own the software, we’re granted a license to use it with the hunk, hardware.

With computers we’ve become accustomed to operating system updates every now and again; and, then less often, a new operating system comes out – Windows Vista to Windows 7 or 8 or whatever it is now; Leopard to Snow Leopard if you have a Mac.  The companies let you operate the old operating systems for a relatively long time.  Indeed, XP, one of the most stable Microsoft products is still being sold for netbooks.  But over time, the old OS’s become dinosaurs.  They can’t cope with the new features that captivate our imaginations.

Most people have become used to the continual changes and delay updating their software.  Why?  The old version works just fine and the new version doesn’t offer much value added.  Until a point, and then you update.

Smart phones are a bit different – evolution is accelerated.  iOS 4 is a quantum leap from the software on the only a few years old original iPhone.  Android 1, a couple of years old, is laughable next to 1.5, 1.6, 2.1, 2.2 or 2.3.

Apple seems, as is often the case, to have a better way of managing expectations and sales.  Once a year, mid-year, there’s a new iPhone:  Similar, incrementally better, hardware with an improved OS.

Android, owned by Google, is much less controlling.  Android’s very business model is chaos.  It continually changes the operating system and offers it, free, to phone and tablet manufacturers telling them to do as they will with it.  And they do.  HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung take the update and overlay some proprietary stuff, then stuff it into an new hunk of hardware and market it to the carriers – Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Metro PC and so on.  But we aren’t done yet.  The carriers junk up the already junked up OS with their add-ons.

I have a T-Mobile  HTC My Touch Slide.  I could spend a couple of paragraphs bitching about HTC Sense and T-Mobile Faves.  But I won’t.

Instead, I’ll get to the title of the post.

Am I being unreasonable in being mad at HTC, the manufacturer, and T-Mobile, the carrier, for delaying OS updates?

Android techie blogs are full of posts and comments about whether manufacturers, carriers, or both, are screwing their customers by not providing OS updates for the phones they’ve sold on two year contracts, with the alleged purpose of selling newer phones with the newest OS installed.  Scroll back a week or so on Rather Than Working to see my contribution to the mass customer ire.

It is a truism that whatever electronic device you buy, whenever you buy it, is almost immediately out of date.

With smart phone advances moving so fast are manufacturers and carriers creating an angry customer base by announcing and promising updates and not delivering?  Yes, if I’m an example.

Should I really be mad?  Probably not.  There isn’t any way all of what’s flowing out of Google can be implemented and distributed to every phone out there on any kind of quick schedule.  I shouldn’t have bought into the false promise of continual, immediate updates to the newest and coolest features, especially when the promisors are in the business of selling new phones and new service while keeping current customers just this side of mad enough to switch carriers.

Dumb me.

The Dangers of Inhaling Religious Second Hand Smoke

The Cherokee County Georgia School Board voted last night to hold its graduation ceremony this spring at the 5,000 seat First Baptist Church of Woodstock, just like it has since 2005.  Why?  Because it costs $2,000 to rent versus $8,000 for renting neighboring Cobb County’s Performing Arts Centre.

The difference this year is it was threatened with a lawsuit by Americans United for Separation of Church and State based in Washington D.C. because “church ceremonies expose students to religious imagery such as prominent crosses, pictures of Jesus and religious literature, and send a message that the district endorses the church and favors Christianity.”

News flash to Americans United:  pretty much everyone in Cherokee County, including the School Board, favors Christianity.  That out of the way, though I’m a liberal, commie pinko, I can’t get too riled up about this.

The School Board should take the lessons learned by county courthouses and municipalities across the country from Supreme Court decisions.  Throw a curtain in front of the chancel to hid most of the “offending” imagery.  Take the Bibles and hymnals out of the pews.  Distribute some strategically placed Stars of David, Menorahs and maybe a Buddha or two around the nave to dilute the religious tone remaining from the pictures in the stained glass windows and you’ll be good to go.

If a heathen attending the graduation suddenly stands up, having found Jesus, and starts dancing in the aisle, a Catholic becomes a Baptist or a Buddhist suffering confusion becomes agnostic, it will be a true miracle.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

O'Reilly Fesses Up

Bill O'Reilly said

“…I don't hold [Bill] Maher to the same standard as the Washington Post, as he's a comedian, a man who makes a living expressing a point of view….Talk radio is entertainment. People on there make a living expressing opinions. It's not a news form. Therefore, the standards aren't the same.”

Fox News has repeatedly defended its evening shows as being “opinion” not news.  Now that O’Reilly has outed Limbaugh, Ingrahm, Savage and other radio talk show hosts who make their livings “expressing opinions” as entertainers, isn’t it time to change the name of Fox News because its shows feature hosts and guests who spout opinions to entertain their audience?

The old World Wrestling Federation, WWF, was forced to change its name back in 2002 to World Wrestling Entertainment, WWE, when a British court ruled that the World Wildlife Fund was entitled to the exclusive use of “WWF” outside the United States.  Said Linda McMahon, the wrestling group’s CEO, “[w]e will utilise this opportunity to position ourselves emphasising the entertainment aspect of our company, and, at the same time, allay the concerns of the Fund.”  (Yes, that’s the same Linda McMahon that ran as a Republican for a Connecticut U.S. Senate seat last Fall.)

Back during its heyday, when Hulk Hogan changed overnight from a yellow clad hero to a black clad villain, very few of the WWF’s fans blinked an eye.  To paraphrase Ms. McMahon, “that’s entertainment.”

Comcast owns the cable channel E! (Entertainment Television, Inc.).  With Comcast’s purchase of NBC just approved, maybe NBC and News Corp could work a swap.  NBC gets all two or three of Fox News’ actual newscasts and Fox’s night-time line up can move over to ET.

I see Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin as being much more comfortable being down the hall from the E! News staff (which features the hosts of Ask The Answer Bitch and H’Wood Party Girl).  Hannity and O’Reilly might be a bit perturbed at first, putting on airs; but, they’ll get used to it.

Think the Tea Party demographic will mind?  I bet they’d like not having to switch cable channels between E! and Fox News – the new tagline could be “All E! All the Time!”

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Surefire Ratings Hit

Fox News makes a big deal of its distinction between its news and opinion shows.  Bret Baier and Neil Cavuto are news.  Beck, Hannity and O’Reilly are opinion.  Though I don’t know for sure, I’d guess that MSNBC makes the same point about its people.  (If you go to the Fox website, Baier and Cavuto are listed under “Personalities” with the opinion guys.  I wonder how Walter Cronkite would have felt about being listed as a CBS personality.)

Fox and MSNBC didn’t start the yelling at/talking over each other format for TV shows.  As best I can remember, Firing Line after William Buckley left started it and it spread.  Media gives us what “we” want.  If people didn’t watch Olbermann and Hannity, they wouldn’t be on the air.

I suppose that’s why you don’t see a lot of George Will on the air and Charlie Rose and Tavis Smiley have late night shows on PBS.

I’d love one of the cable channels to do an experiment.  Once a week or month, air Jon Stewart talking with (note that I didn’t say to) Charles Krauthammer.  Or Leonard Pitts and George Will, though they probably write better than they talk.  Bill O’Reilly and Rachel Maddow (the smartest of the Fox and MSNBC rosters), though with that pair you’d have to have electrical prods triggered by a raised voice.  Three cameras (a wide shot and one for each person - it’s TV you can’t be too static).  Pick a current political issue, let them do some research and have them talk with each other about it for an hour.  That’s it.

Am I a programming genius or what?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sorry Sarah

As it turns out Sarah Palin, the subject of my last post, was using, cryptically at least to me, a phrase that was first used in the title of a Wall Street Journal editorial about the Tucson shooting.  The Journal compared the factually unsupported allegations that Palin’s cross hairs contremps caused the Tucson Shooting to alleging falsely, that Jews kill kids to get their blood for ritual use – a blood libel.

The phrase was picked up by a writer at

Here’s Palin again:

“But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.”

If she is referring to the unsupported argument of a connection between the right’s rhetoric and the killing, and I think she is, the fault is mine as I didn’t know what the phrase meant. 

Sorry Sarah.

Oh Sarah

Sarah Palin is attacking her attackers on her Facebook page, labeling their attacks on her as “blood libel.”

Sarah being Sarah, I figured she was using the adjective blood to describe a libel that was especially bad, or something similar.

It turns out she was accusing them of being members of a religious minority (usually Jews) that allegedly kill children to use their blood in a religious ritual. (From Wikipedia of course.)

Well okay.

Here’s what she said in context:

“Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions. And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere. If you don't like a person's vision for the country, you're free to debate that vision. If you don't like their ideas, you're free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.”

She always has had a way with words, not always used in the right order, not always with the meaning most people give to them.  Now I understand her outrage, she surely genuinely pictures crosshairs when she’s referring to surveyor marks.

Is she complicit in the Tucson murders?  No.  Is she butchering English?  Yes.  Is she a knowing rabblerouser?  Oh yeah.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

SODDIT - Tech Version

In cop-speak, that’s “some other dude did it.”  Every cop and every prosecutor has a story of asking two suspects who’s responsible for some particular mayhem and they point at each other.

I have an HTC My Touch Slide smart phone with service from T-Mobile.  I bought it last June with an Android 2.1 OS.  Android had just announced that 2.2 would be coming out shortly, which indeed it did.  Every couple of weeks there would be an announcement that 2.2 was going to be pushed to some HTC phone or another, most of them phones introduced after I got mine. 

I saw an announcement yesterday that yet another two newer phones were getting it.

Now, the way these things work is Android (part of Google) comes out with an update that it sends to the manufacturer, in my case HTC.  HTC then plays with it to make it work with its hardware and then sends it to the carrier, for me T-Mobile, which plays further to integrate it into its network.

Last night, bored and suffering from Snowpocalypse 2011 cabin fever, I “chatted” with a T-Mobile customer service agent about the whereabouts of 2.2 for my phone.  She commiserated with me and said that T-Mobile was dependent on HTC, never quite saying whether or not HTC had sent the update to T-Mobile.

Getting nowhere with her, I sent an Email to HTC customer service asking similar questions about the missing update.  I just got a “response” which mirrored the T-Mobile rep’s deflection.  Without saying whether HTC has shipped the update, she inferred that the delay was T-Mobile’s fault.  I sent a follow-up Email asking specifically whether HTC had sent the update to T-Mobile and asked that if she didn’t know would she refer the question to someone who did know.  To this she danced:

“Well, at this point, it's tough to say. I'm not attempting to point fingers at anyone, since I don't know enough to say who's at fault.

“Basically, T-Mobile would have to request the software from us. Once they've recieved it, they'll customize it to suit their preferences, test it out, and then release it. Whether or not they've requested the software from us, or if they're working on the update, I can't say for sure. Our technical support department does not have the necessary means to find out the status of any given update, as this is something that would need to be addressed to our corporate offices, who do have a direct line to our software developers.”

Notice no mention of referring the question to someone else, just further deflection.

I think I’m going to do what juries do with two defendants who point at each other – fry them, getting a new phone manufacturer and carrier just as soon as my phone contract expires.  Samsung?  Apple?  LG?  Verizon?  (That’s really my only carrier choice as I’ve already suffered with Sprint and AT&T.)

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Modest Proposal for my Conservative Friends

Though I don’t agree, we all have the individual right to keep and bear firearms.  The Supreme Court did say that reasonable limitations of that right are constitutional.

Arizona, and a number of states, let anyone who has reached 21 buy a gun if they check out on an instant background inquiry.

Is it asking too much that governments license people with guns?  That they make you take a test to get the license?  Most states make you take a few hours of classes to get a drivers license – too much to ask to get a gun?  Run-ins with the police disqualify you from getting a gun?

The guy that everyone now agrees is crazy after shooting the people in Tucson bought the gun he used on November 30.  Walked in and walked out.  He’d had a number of incidents involving community college police.  Might he have popped off during a couple of hours of class like he did in college?  Don’t know the answer.  I sure wish we’d have given him the chance screw up small, with consequences, before he had the chance to screw up big.

If I am wrong, tell me how.  None of “that liberals are all alike.”  Rational reasons we shouldn’t have reasonable restrictions that might have saved a few lives on Saturday, and most every week during the year.

What you get, when I get tired of working at the dining room table during an ice storm

We are more and more, individually and collectively, self-indulgent, coupled with an inability or unwillingness to address our problems.

I want, you want, we want and we are not sufficiently concerned with the effect getting our wants has on society.

Reduce taxes, create better health care, leave social security and defense spending alone.  Talk about the contradiction and be shouted down.

We've become an instant society.  Give me my happy meal.  Now!  Elect a President.  No instant, magical results?  Reverse the representation in Congress. When that, predictably doesn't work, go to Plan C.  Repeat as necessary.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Justice Scalia and I went to different law schools

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia just announced that these words don’t include women:

“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.”

And of course the word women isn’t in the Fourteenth Amendment.  Neither is black, African American, gay, lesbian nor a host of other kinds of people.

Said the Justice when asked if the Amendment prohibited sexual discrimination:

“You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn't. Nobody ever thought that that's what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that. If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws. You don't need a constitution to keep things up-to-date. All you need is a legislature and a ballot box. You don't like the death penalty anymore, that's fine. You want a right to abortion? There's nothing in the Constitution about that. But that doesn't mean you cannot prohibit it. Persuade your fellow citizens it's a good idea and pass a law. That's what democracy is all about. It's not about nine superannuated judges who have been there too long, imposing these demands on society.” (emphasis added).

Now, I’m sure Justice Scalia can argue legal rings around me; but, here goes.

Judges look at statutes and constitutions and interpret them.  To do that they use rules.  Some of them are:

"In assessing statutory language, unless words have acquired a peculiar meaning, by virtue of statutory definition or judicial construction, they are to be construed in accordance with their common usage." Muller v. BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., 923 P.2d 783, 787-88 (Alaska 1996).

“The words of a statute . . . should be given their ordinary meaning, absent clear and express legislative intention to the contrary,” as long as the ordinary meaning does “not render the statute’s application absurd, unreasonable, or unjust.” State v. Rowell, 121 N.M. 111, 114, 908 P.2d 1379.

As always, the quotes are from that fountain of legal knowledge,

For a change of pace, here’s one more rule from

“Another maxim of statutory construction is expressio unius est exclusio alterius. Roughly translated, this phrase means that whatever is omitted is understood to be excluded. Thus, if a statute provides for a specific sanction for noncompliance with the statute, other sanctions are excluded and cannot be applied (Sprague v. State, 590 P.2d 410 [Alaska 1979]). The maxim is based on the rationale that if the legislature had intended to accommodate a particular remedy or allowance it would have done so expressly; if the legislature did not provide for such an allowance or event, it should be assumed that it meant not to.”  (Emphasis added.)

You too can be a judge.  If you meant the Fourteenth Amendment to apply only to men, why wouldn’t you use the word men instead of person which includes women, gays and so on?  Expressio unius ya’ll.

Justice Scalia, an adherent of textualism – not reading meaning into the plain words – ignores the plain word person.

He nicely illustrates the problem with his analysis when he gives his opinion of New York City pizza at the end of the interview.

“You more or less grew up in New York. Being a child of Sicilian immigrants, how do you think New York City pizza rates?

“I think it is infinitely better than Washington pizza, and infinitely better than Chicago pizza. You know these deep-dish pizzas—it's not pizza. It's very good, but ... call it tomato pie or something. ... I'm a traditionalist, what can I tell you?”

“[I]t’s not pizza” he says.  Those other cities’ pizzas are of course pizza in its broad sense.  He’s ascribing a qualitative sense to the word that should be achieved by using an adjective or another word or phrase – his choice, tomato pie.  Though the text of the Fourteenth Amendment clearly says person, as he said in his answer above, “[n]obody ever thought that that's what [person] meant.” 

Maybe he’s right; he’s probably right that Congress, just after the Civil War, wasn’t thinking about women’s rights.  They certainly weren’t thinking of gays and lesbians.  But, until we go back and change the word or put an adjective in front of it “words… are to be construed in accordance with their common usage."  All God’s chilluns are people, persons everyone.

One good thing, he’s telegraphed his vote in the inevitable case dealing with Arizona deporting a van-load of brown babies born in the U.S. of illegal immigrants. 

I do agree with him about the pizza thing though.