November 20, 2001
Tax Code Sec. 1240 (now repealed) was put into place solely to benefit Mr. Louis Mayer, of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer:
Sec. 1240. Taxability to Employee of Termination Payments
Amounts received from teh assignment or release by an employee, after more than 20 years' employment, of all his rights to receive, after termination of his employment and for a period of not less than 5 years (or for a period ending with his death), a percentage of future profits or receipts of his employer shall be considered an amount received from the sale or exchange of a capital asset held more than 6 months if-
(a) such rights were included in the terms of the employment of such employee for not less than 12 years;
(b) such rights were included in the terms of the employment of such employee before the date of enactment of this title; and
(c) the total of the amounts received for such assignment or release is received in one taxable year and after the termination of such employment.
This proposed tax code section would have benefited only one individual:
"Charitable contributions to certain schools. -- Charitable contributions paid to certain institutions of higher education are not disqualified because the contributor receives the right to seating or the right to purchase seating in an athletic stadium of the institution. This provision applies only to an institution that was mandated by a state constitution in 1876, established by a state legislature in March 1881, located in a state capital pursuant to a statewide election in September 1881, the campus of such institution formally opened on September 15, 1883, and that is operated under the authority of a nine-member board of regents appointed by the governor, or to an institution that has a stadium, the renovation plans for which were approved by a board of supervisors in 1984 and 1985 and by a state board in 1986."
That provision applies to two schools, one of which is the University of Texas.
"It is considered to be extremely injudicious to investigate with extreme care the oral cavity of an equus which has been provided to one gratis." (or: Don't look a gift horse in the mouth).
"It is possible to avoid thrice three in repairs if the initial step of repairing a rent or damage is initially made with a filament attached to a sharp pointed piece of steel with a hole in one end." (or: A stitch in time saves nine).
"A superfluity of persons able to prepare edible comestibles sometimes can damage the preparation of a liquid intended for consumption." (or: too many cooks in the kitchen will spoil the broth).
November 19, 2001
I'm now on AOL Instant Messenger. My screen name is "twiseesq". I'm also on Yahoo Instant messenger (twise).
November 18, 2001
Went to see the new Harry Potter movie. Having read all four books, the movie was a letdown in my opinion. After the quiddich game, the movie just seemed to drag on.
November 16, 2001
My new phone works really well, and the calling plan is so much better than Cingular. If you want to send me a text message, use this form. I'm seeing Harry Potter on Sunday. Today is the day bar results come out ... my friends who took the July 2001 exam are very nervous. It brings back a lot of memories about how scared I was a year ago today. Thank goodness that's over.
November 13, 2001
OK - I finally bit the bullet and got a new cell phone plan. I didn't like to change, especially since it involved a one-year commitment, but I really did get a good deal though PwC's corporate plan:
Old plan (Cingular): $29.95/month got me 120 peak minutes, 1000 off-peak minutes, statewide roaming coverage.
New plan (AT&T): $25.50/month gets me 350 peak minutes, 1000 off-peak minutes, free nationwide long distance, statewide roaming, and a Nokia 8260 for $89.
I'll have the new service activated by the end of the week, and I'll send out an e-mail with the new number. The old number will stop working on 11/20.
November 11, 2001
The line for the metal detector at SJC was 45 minutes long on Friday, and 20 minutes on Saturday. They have national guard troops patrolling SJC and LAX with big guns. Clearly their only purpose is to reassure travelers that we are somehow protected. The Southwest Airlines cockpit doors now resemble a bank vault ... very impressive. And no more lining up at the lavatory.
Flower Drum Song was .... interesting. Lion King was amazing ... Disney really pumped money into that thing.
November 9, 2001
Pho Saigon is so much better than Dac Phuc. They really shouldn't be both placed in the same category of "restaurants." I've been limiting my list of lunch restaurants to too narrow of a geography. I need to venture out beyond downtown San Jose more often.
I'm thinking of creating a "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)" page. Until I figure out if I am going to do that or not, here's my first two entries, based on frequent e-mails I get:
1. Q: Can you get me a job at PricewaterhouseCoopers?
A: The best way to apply for a job at PricewaterhouseCoopers is to do so through our Online Career Profile website. Unless you personally know me, please do not e-mail me your resume. I don't have the time to read and screen resumes of people I don't know. If you personally know me, go ahead and send me your resume and I will pass it on to our recruiters. What they do with it is beyond my control.
2. Q: Can you give me advice about preparing for the bar exam?
A: All of the advice and knowledge that I have about the bar exam is on my California Bar Exam Primer website. I'm not holding back any secret tips. You are welcome to send me e-mails with questions, but most of the time I don't have any information to give other than referring people to the Primer. Please do not call me with questions about the bar exam. I will not return phone calls.
twise.com readers prefer IE to Netscape by a 6:1 margin.
November 7, 2001
If Dac Phuc would just improve their customer service a tad bit, they could make a boatload more money than they currently are. The restaurant is always busy, packed even, but they won't hire more employees to bus the tables and seat the customers. Table turnover is slow. And I wasn't impressed at all with that lemongrass chicken daily special ... ugh!
I worked for a legal aid type organization (Community Legal Services, now Bay Area Legal Aid) for a few years during law school. For about a year, I worked on the housing unit, and handled all sorts of landlord/tenant problems, evictions, Section 8, discrimination, etc. I have to tell you that the worst problems were the folks in the mobile homes. I could fix almost any problem with someone who was renting an apartment - negotiate with landlord; sue landlord; get code enforcement involved, etc. But when someone called with a mobile home problem, nine times out of ten the answer was, "I'm sorry, but you are just out of luck." Evictions were the most common problem ... as you can imagine, they are disastrous ... what the heck do you do with a double-wide, owned by an elderly woman who just got evicted for nuisance because she has 10 cats?
After a while, I noticed a pattern in the demographics of mobile home owners. These people existed in what I thought of as a no-man's land. They weren't poor ... they owned a unit, paid a mortgage, and paid the land charges. But they weren't middle class. Nor would most of them ever be. They viewed mobile home ownership as a stepping stone to home ownership, but I doubt many ever make that jump. They were overwhelmingly white. A poor Asian, Hispanic or Black family would never go from living in a slummy apartment to owning a mobile home. In most cases, they would pool money with other families and buy a house to share. But white folks would buy a mobile home. Why? Because they could claim it as their own, and not have to share it with the family. It makes sense culturally.
November 6, 2001
Subash Bahadur Gurung was arrested on felony charges for trying to board a UAL flight with nine knives, a can of pepper spray, and a stun gun. He claimed he accidentally packed those weapons in his carry-on instead of his checked luggage. How do you accidentally pack nine knives in anything? Why would anyone carry nine knives on an airplane, given what's happened in the past few months? I can imagine accidentally putting your contact lens solution in your suitcase instead of your carry-on luggage, but nine knives, a can of pepper spray, and a stun gun? I don't think so. And he is in the country illegally. Goodbye, Mr. Gurung.
November 4, 2001
I had a fun day at Cost Plus and Target. And at Home Depot, of course. I got a new idea for landscaping the back patio area with plants (hard to do with a brick patio). Thanks, Rich, for telling me how many cubic yards of dirt I'll need for my little project!
This coming weekend I'm seeing Flower Drum Song, and quite possibly The Lion King, if that ticket frees up. That's two theatre shows in one weekend, which for me is a record. For Kenny it's considered a slow weekend. Yesterday I saw "Car Man" up at Cal. Good dancing, but there was no dialogue (i.e. a silent show), so it was kind of hard to follow for the first fifteen minutes until the action really started. Parking is expensive up there! $16 for 3 hours! We ate at Banana Leaf in the Ranch 99 complex ... what great food! It was so flavorful. Review coming soon.
So far the West Wing is kicking butt on the much delayed and much rescheduled Emmy's. Ellen is trying her darndest to be funny. There is no better drama out there right now than West Wing. I used to be a big ER fan, but lost touch with the show when I was studying for the bar. I think I'll try and watch it again this Thursday after my class, to see if I still like it.
November 3, 2001
I'm retiring the "Places I've Been" page.
November 1, 2001
Is there any team that better deserves to win the World Series than the New York Yankees? No, not this year.
October 30, 2001
The Justice Department warned today that terrorist activity is likely in the next few days. As a result, Dick Cheney has been moved to a "secure location," (i.e. under a mountain) and his security is being evaluated on an hour-by-hour basis. On the other hand, President Bush will be sitting in a seat at Yankee Stadium tonight for the third game in this year's World Series, before tens-of-thousands of people, in what is obviously a huge target.
I think it's clear where our priorities lie.
The news keeps reporting that traces of anthrax are being found in mail facilities and government offices. What they aren't reporting is if that is normal to find traces of anthrax in buildings, or if that is abnormal. So far it doesn't sound like the quantities they have found are lethal, and since anthrax grows naturally in dirt, it seems like some of these findings could just be normal anthrax.
October 28, 2001
Tonight was the fifth annual Wise-Hom pumpkin carving. For the first time in five years, I didn't use a template and instead drew the design myself. It turned out considerably worse than when I use a template. Kenny used a template, and his looks like a professionally carved pumpkin. It should - he spent a few hours on it.
My coworkers will be very happy to learn that I bought a bag of 480 tootsie rolls to fill the pumpkin on my desk. They have been complaining about the lack of chocolates in my selection.
Tonight I finished reading Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. Great story. It's on the best-seller's list.
October 27, 2001
"Timothy Near" isn't really a good name for a woman. "B. Modern" isn't really a good name for anyone.
On the other hand, "Ctrl-Alt-Delete" was a good show at the San Jose Rep, about the creation and collapse of the dot.com stock market in 1998 and 1999.
October 26, 2001
CNN headline: "U.S. decides to issue anthrax vaccine." Oh, wait, there's a vaccine?
Yesterday the audit department decreased itself by 10% (about 100 employees).
October 25, 2001
The Pro Bono Project, an organization of attorneys serving the public, has misspelled the word "attorneys" on their webpage... "attornies".
"If your plane was hijacked, who would you rather sit next to? Righteous reverends who will sit back and say 'This is God's punishment for gay Teletubbies' or the gay rugby player who lays down his life to save others?" -- NPR Commentator Scott Simon, comparing the Rev. Jerry Falwell with openly gay Flight 03 hero Mark Bingham.
I had dinner last night with my best friend from college, Diane (note to mom: she's getting married). As we're walking through Willow Glen back to her apartment, she points out a huge house where "some guy named Garcia from the 49ers lives." Yea ... that'd be #5, Jeff.
October 24, 2001
If you could choose any career other than your present one, and money was not a factor, what would you choose?
My coworkers and friends have been asking that a lot lately ... I think it's a reflection of increasing discontent with work (in general, not just at my company). I would be a teacher. Probably high school history.
Sometime around September 15, all of the networks stopped airing the video of the planes crashing and the WTC collapsing. That video hasn't been on the networks since. Compare that to the Challenger explosion, which repeated for months, and still appears occasionally on TV. I'm glad the networks pulled that video - kids (and adults) don't need to keep seeing those images. But I wonder how much of a role airline advertising dollars had in getting the networks to stop the footage?
October 23, 2001
We seem to be bombing a lot of hospitals and nursing homes lately. Is our intelligence that bad, or is Afghanistan putting civilians in military buildings? The pentagon briefing for last Friday's ground attack disclosed that we considered taking prisoners at the military base that we overtook, but we decided to shoot them all instead during the attack.
This Thursday I'm teaching my high school mock trial class how to prepare opening and closing statements. I can't get over the irony that I'm teaching this stuff, but I've never really done it myself.
The IT department upgraded my computer over the weekend and I can't get the webcam software to work very well with my computer, so it's been disabled until I figure out how to fix it. I think when I get it back up, I'll just use it on Yahoo! Messenger - that software is easier to use. Don't worry mom, I promise I'll put up a digital picture of me in my Halloween costume next Wednesday.
October 22, 2001
I overhear so much good stuff in the hallways. Like today, I learned that a hoodrat is like a mallrat, but they hang out in the hood. That's good info.
One of my coworkers asked me today what my favorite [Internal Revenue] code section is. Ummm... yea.
I decommissioned some stuff this morning:
About This Site
Why a personal website? I'm not exactly sure, but it has to do with self expression, keeping on top of current technology, creativity, information storage, and just because I can.
The predecessor of this website was first created in 1994, and has undergone many reincarnations since. I registered the twise.com domain in February of 1999.
This site is currently maintained using the following stuff:
Genealogy: The Wise, Weiss, and Brumbaugh families.
Bilingual Education (1997)
I hired Steve Hampton (408-249-0644) to paint my house, and he did a darn good job. I'm glad I hired someone, because I have high ceilings, and I would not have been able to paint those as well as he did. But after watching him paint the bedrooms and ceilings, I think when those need to be repainted, or when other rooms need to be painted, I will do it myself. It didn't look that hard.
Fix Squeaky Floors
Most homes older than five years have at least one squeaky spot somewhere on the floor. I had several on my first floor which were very annoying. I was replacing the carpet anyhow, so I tore up the carpet above the squeak, bought a box of long screws at Home Depot, and started screwing the baseboard into the floor joists wherever I heard squeaks. It took about forty screws to solve the problem.
Once I had the new carpet layed and moved the furniture in, some new squeaks appeared. Obviously I could not tear up the new carpet to drill more screws, so I used Squeak-Relief floor squeak fixers from WorkSavers.com, which have to be installed from the crawlspace (the same company makes a device to stop floor squeaks on the second floor).
Replace Light Fixtures
The prior owner of my townhouse installed ceiling fans in the two upstairs bedrooms. Ceiling fans are nice for air flow, but it wasn't quite the look that what I wanted.
Replacing ceiling fans and light fixtures is relatively easy. Light fixtures and fans have four main components: The decorative cover which you see, the fixture mount, the ceiling bracket, and the wiring. The fixture mount is attached to the ceiling bracket with two screws. The decorative cover is attached on top of the fixture mount, usually with one or two screws.
To replace a fixture, first turn off the power to the fixture at the circuit breaker. Unscrew whatever is holding the decorative cover in place, and remove the cover. Two screws should be visible, going up into the ceiling. Remove these two screws and lower the fixture mount. Two wires will be visible coming from the ceiling, connected to the fixture's own wires with wire connectors. Remove the connectors and discard the light fixture.
To install the new fixture, connect the two wires from the fixture mount to the wires in the ceiling using wire connectors, and then attach the fixture mount to the mounting bracket with two screws. Fixtures usually come with their own mounting brackets, but I usually use the ones already installed in the ceiling if they are compatible with the fixture. Install the decorative cover (i.e the glass dome) over the fixture mount, and turn on the circuit to test.
Replace Exterior Door
The door that leads from the mud room to the garage had a dog door installed in it. I don't own a dog, and this isn't up to code anyhow. So I wanted to replace the door.
Southern Lumber in San Jose has a door matching service that is wonderful. You take them your old door, sans-hardware, pick out a new door from their selection, and they will cut the new door to match your old door, including the doorknob, deadbolt, hinges, and shape of the door itself. I picked out a door that was the same depth as mine, and Southern Lumber did a great job of matching the doors.
Back at home, I painted the door and installed the hinges, and hung the door in the existing frame. Unfortunately the door wasn't matched perfectly, and it hung a bit unevenly in the frame. So I used 1/8th inch balsa wood to shimmy one of the hinges out a bit, and that fixed the problem. I reinstalled the hardware, and I had myself a new door.
Restain Front Door
I'm not sure why I thought restaining the front door would be a good idea. It was much more work than I had initially thought. This project taught me that there are some projects that it is best to just pay someone else to do. Although I will say that the door looks much better now that it's been restained.
My front door is a large, heavy, hardwood door, with a lot of grooves and carvings in it. The former owner had stained the door to be dark, and then put polyurethane on top of the varnish to protect the door. That was fine, except the varnish was starting to fade unevenly.
At Home Depot I bought a can of paint stripper, a can of mineral spirits, a wire brush and a plastic scraper. I already had goggles, gloves and rags at home. I applied the paint stripper with a rag, and let that do its thing for about fifteen minutes. Then I scraped off the goop with the plastic scraper and wire brush. To clean up the residue goop off the door, I used the mineral spirits on a rag. Then I sanded the entire door. Sounds easy enough, but that took three full days to do the entire door.
I lost interest in revarnishing the door for about a month, so I just left it alone for a while. Then I realized the unprotected door was probably getting damaged from the sun, and it looked like some animal had peed on the door, so I figured it was time to finish the project.
I took the door off its hinges and put it down on sawhorses. The door is soft wood, so I applied a wood conditioner, and then the wood stain. Eight hours later, the stain had dried. A few weeks later, I applied three coats of polyurethane sealant with a foam brush. The door looks great!
I moved into my house in December of 2000, and received my first PG&E bill in January of 2001. That was the height of the 2001 energy crisis. My bill was $190. I decided that I needed to do something not only to reduce my PG&E bill, but also to contribute to the conservation of electricity so that California could avoid rolling blackouts in the spring and summer. I made it my goal to find some way to reduce my energy usage each week, and put that idea into practice. I managed to reduce my PG&E bill down to $16 a month during the summer of 2001. These are some of the ways I did it:
Movies I've Seen Recently: Iron Monkey, Haiku Tunnel. Both very good.
Most of these trails are appropriate for jogging, but some are purely hiking trails. The Santa Clara County Parks website has a trails page, which lists trails by category: Hiking Only, Paved Multi-Use, Equestrian/Hiking, and Unpaved Multi-Use. For people who are into serious hiking, I recommend visiting Kevin Gong's Hiking Page.
October 21, 2001
Some people have e-mailed me asking what that broom looking thing is in the background of my webcam. It's a broom. Last Halloween I dressed up like Harry Potter, and never took the broom home. So many people commented on it that I just hung it up on my wall. On the stick it says "Nimbus 2000". The thing that seems to be dangling from the left hand side of the broom is a yo-yo.
October 20, 2001
It's Oktoberfest in Downtown Campbell. Traffic is bad. Street parking is bad. I finished weatherproofing a door leading to my garage, and put those foam insulators on most of my electrical outlets and light switches. Last night I saw Iron Monkey. Paid $44 for a haircut today. That's about four times my normal price. The reviews will be posted Monday.
October 19, 2001
Survivor Africa is plodding along. The challenges are less interesting the third time around. The only pressing problems are the water supply, and coalition building. The contestants appear to be living in a desert, and yet for the cow-drinking contest it was set next to a rushing river ... where did all that water come from?
New bookmarks: Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN - 29 USC 2101), Angry Little Asian Girl, angry media watch, Big Bad Chinese Mama, monolid magazine.
October 18, 2001
People haven't been taking my halloween candy that I put on my desk nearly as much since I put the "Free Anthrax Candy" sign on the candy bowl. My manager did request that I stock chocolates though ... I'll bring those in when the current supply of peanut butter taffy is gone.
Amazing Race is getting weird. Team Guido is pulling punches that are good strategy wise, but I think they are almost crossing the line ethically. I wouldn't have the guts to do what they did last night - cutting in line and trying to stop the other players from getting to their plane, and pushing Emily's mom. I think they will win because they have the skills and they are being aggressive, but like Big Brother's Will, I don't think they really deserve to win.
Some of the departments at PwC SJ are really underutilized ... the folks are just sitting doing nothing. I don't think that can last very long before something has to give (or go). My group has pretty good productivity though, relative to the others at least.
I'm archiving some of my bookmarks of people's personal websites:
October 17, 2001
You'll never learn earth shattering news of general importance by e-mail. When you receive an e-mail that has a story in it, and you wonder why you didn't read about it already in the newspaper or see it on TV, it's because the story isn't true. Don't forward it on to other people. Especially if the message has racist overtones (i.e. war against Afghanistan). Or check one of the many urban legend databases.
This week's TV Guide has an interesting article on the effect of the media on presidential decisions. What if JFK had the media pressures during the Bay of Pigs that Bush had on September 11? JFK would have had to made a decision and a statement within an hour if not minutes after the Bay of Pigs escalated ... not the hours that he took to make the decisions. The result could have been vastly different - rushed decision making could have led to a nuclear war. But he was able to take the time to make a rational decision.
Which reminds me - thank goodness Cheney is hidden in a mountain somewhere. They're keeping Bush out in public, kind of a visible target, but the real brains behind the operation is safely tucked under tons of concrete. Good idea.
October 16, 2001
The webcam is now up and running, on a trial basis. Access it from the home page.
Darn - they put The Mole II on hiatus.
October 14, 2001
Mendocino was great.
October 11, 2001
Wow - it's been a month since the WTC was attacked and collapsed. My company organized a blood drive as a result of the attack, and it was today. I tried to donate, but they had too much A+ blood, so they sent me away. The Red Cross is in desperate need of O type blood.
If everything goes as planned, I get my new Windows 2000 enabled laptop on Monday, and the webcam will be on much more during the day than it currently is.
Survivor III premiered tonight! Ooooh.
October 7, 2001
Only a six year old can (or should) get away with wearing a leather coat with flip-flops.
October 6, 2001
My neighbor told me where I could find a store with full size (3x5) flags in stock ... the army surplus store on Bascom. So I went over and bought two. I don't have anything to hang the flag on, but when our next national emergency or holiday comes, I'm partially prepared. I could hang it in the window.
October 5, 2001
You might have had trouble viewing this website or sending me e-mails this week. I moved the domain name to a new server, hijinks design, and whenever you move servers, it takes a few days for the internet to readjust.
October 4, 2001
OK, here's a SAT-style test, from last night's West Wing:
Islamic Fundamentalists : Islam :: ______ : Christianity?
Solution: Islamic Fundamentalists : Islam :: KKK : Christianity
October 3, 2001
I hope I never get sick, so that I don't have to deal with insurance companies.
October 2, 2001
Need website hosting? I strongly recommend hijinks design.
September 30, 2001
The webcam is now up and running.
September 26, 2001
Right now it looks like about $500,000,000 (half-a-billion-bucks) has been raised for charities related to the WTC attack. If we assume there are around 6,000 victim-families out there (between the WTC casualties and Pentagon casualties), that comes out to $83,333 per family. Of course, that doesn't include those who were injured, who lost their jobs as a result of the WTC collapse, or the consequential damages to travel agents, airlines, etc.
September 25, 2001
Got more than $100,000 in net worth? Call your insurance agent and buy an umbrella insurance policy. Today.
September 23, 2001
In Cincinnati, race riots broke out several months ago when a white police officer shot a black man. In response to the riots, the police severely cut back patrols of the black neighborhoods. As a result, the murder rate has increased dramatically in those neighborhoods. Not everyone in Cincinnati sees a problem with that. It will be interesting to see if the police officer is found guilty or innocent.
September 22, 2001
The news has reported that the WTC attack is the first time America has been attacked, apart from Pearl Harbor. I guess they forgot about the War of 1812.
Bush has put a bounty on the head of "terrorists." Can I turn in other Americans? We did the same thing to Native Americans that modern terrorists are trying to do to us. We did the same thing every time we colonized another sovereign nation (i.e. Philippines).
September 21, 2001
My third grade teacher, Mrs. Monroe, is still teaching.
America's new vocabulary:
And of course, the phrases the news channels use:
"America Under Attack"
"America On Attack"
"Attack On America"
"America on Alert"
"America the Vulnerable"
"American Answers the Call"
The list goes on...
September 20, 2001
I flew to Ohio today to visit my family. The images of planes crashing into buildings were hard to suppress, for everyone. I arrived at SJC the proscribed 2 hours before my flight, prepared for lengthy security lines. Fifteen minutes after entering the airport, I was ticketed, through security, and sitting in a chair at my gate. So much for 2 hour delays. The only increased security I noticed was that all passengers had to be passed over with the metal detector wand, and our ID's were checked at the gate while boarding. The metal knife on the lunch tray was gone.
The pilot on my second flight welcomed us on board and acknowledged our (and his) nervousness. He suggested we introduce ourselves to the people seated around us. No one did. Then the plane took off over downtown Chicago, right next to the Sears Tower.
September 18, 2001
No one ever believes me when I tell them I'm allergic to melons. From the National Institute of Health website:
"Another interesting example of cross-reactivity occurs in people who are highly sensitive to ragweed. During ragweed pollination season, these people sometimes find that when they try to eat melons, particularly cantaloupe, they have itching in their mouth and they simply cannot eat the melon."
I'm highly sensitive to ragweed. That explains the melon allergy. So far I've only run into two other people who have melon allergies.
September 16, 2001
This article urges us not to just bomb the hell out of Afghanistan.
September 14, 2001
Five PwC employees died in the hijacked airplanes, and the 3 year old son and partner of one of the employees also died. It appears that no employees were in the WTC.
Next Thursday I am scheduled to fly to Ohio for the weekend. It should be interesting to see how the airport security has increased.
As of this morning, all three major networks were still doing no-commercial coverage. I wonder how long until they stop for the first commercial?
September 12, 2001
The most amazing video I have seen of the attack is the shot of Plane #2 going into the WTC, shot from the WTC plaza (below the building). The plane enters from the left side of the screen, and enters the building as if the building just opened up for the plane, and then a fireball comes out the other side. I have heard that at least one person who was on the floor the plane came in on survived by locking himself in an office. Somehow he survived the collapse of the building.
Several employees of my company were aboard the airplanes that crashed into the WTC. No doubt many other employees were in the WTC - we have over 20,000 employees working in Manhattan.
On another note, it's tax return season, with the corporate deadline being 9/17. I just gave our processing guy a tax return that is six inches tall.
September 11, 2001
I woke up this morning at 6:15am to see the aftermath of Plane #1's hit on the WTC. Then I saw live as Plane #2 hit the WTC. Then the Pentagon, and then the collapse of the towers. The only other thing like it was watching the Challenger explode.
I know there will be thousands of horrific stories, however this poor man that worked at WTC Tower 1 was on an NBC audio feed and told of his escape, running down the emergency stairwells. He then broke down as he blurted "I hope someone helped those poor people in the wheelchairs. They were just sitting in their wheelchairs, hoping someone would carry them down because they couldn't use the stairs."
September 10, 2001
September 8, 2001
CBS's The Amazing Race is really a good TV show, as far as reality shows go. The race starts with 11 contestants racing around the globe. At each checkpoint, the last team to arrive is eliminated from the race. The personalities of the contestants are very interesting, and the producers did a good job of editing the show. Tonight I watched NBC's competing "Lost" and I got lost just watching the show.
September 6, 2001
From yesterday's Campbell Times:
CAR IS CULPRIT IN ACCIDENT
Witnesses of an incident on August 27 at Home Depot told police they thought a man was intentionally trying to run his wife over with a car, but the whole thing turned out to be just a bizarre accident, caused by a mechanical problem with the car
"We got a call of a person who was ramming other cars in the parking lot at Home Depot," [the police chief said]. "Contrary to what all of the witnesses said, it was an accident."
A middle aged couple was having severe car problems that afternoon. The man, who was driving a four-door Mercury Tracker, first backed into a car, then pulled forward two aisles and struck another car. At this point, the man's wife got out of the car, supposedly to check to see if they'd hit anything else. He backed up again and hit her, pinning her against another parked car. One more time, he pulled forward and hit another car, causing that car to hit two more cars. Then the folks from Home Depot got him stopped and got things under control.
The woman sustained a broken leg, the man was taken in for questioning and released, and two of the seven damaged cars were towed.
September 4, 2001
Today was my one-year anniversary with PricewaterhouseCoopers. Nothing vested. But I'm still happy there, and I don't want to leave... so that's a good thing.
September 1, 2001
Today I finished Gone With The Wind - right on schedule (2 weeks). I also finished watching the movie, which was very true to the book, except in the book she had 3 children, and only one in the movie. Now I can start on The Wind Done Gone.
August 31, 2001
I'm now a cubicle dweller. I gave up the office which I occupied for a year, and moved into a three-walled cube. I think I like it better.
August 29, 2001
Almost done reading GWTW. And I'm a little over an hour into the movie. When this is all done, I can read TWDG.
So Frank Brady, a member of the Hell's Angels and drug producer/dealer, got himself charged with two counts of murder for the deaths of two firefighting pilots whose planes crashed fighting the fire that Frank started, supposedly with his meth lab. Wondering if your next campfire could lead to a murder conviction? Check below:
August 26, 2001
On my server logs I can see what search terms people have used on search engines like Yahoo! to get to my website. Sometimes they're amusing ... for example, "usps proof of service by mail divorce". I guess that person is getting a divorce by mail. Or "contingency fee divorce california" ... no, you won't find that in California. Here's a funny one: "women don't belong in the military". That's more of a statement than a search, I guess. "what does a person do after passing the bar exam" ... most of them get drunk. "community property vs joint tenants" ... it's a hot debate.
August 25, 2001
Over half-way done with Gone With The Wind, and Scarlett still hasn't married Rhett.
After a year of sharing an office with my office mate (who is very nice, by the way, and we get along fine), this Friday I'll be moved about 10 feet from my current office to a cubicle. I'm looking forward to the move, because I'll have more wall and desk space. The trade off is that I'm giving up my privacy - my phone calls can be overheard, and more people can see what's on my computer. Still, I'm looking forward to it.
From the "I can't figure out where to put this" file, here's a sample "notice of intent to vacate premises" letter, which you can use to give your landlord 30 days notice that you're moving out (assuming you're on a month-to-month lease):
January 1, 2001
Mr. Land Lord
123 Main Street
Anytown, ST 51234
Dear Mr. Lord,
This letter notifies you that I will be terminating my lease agreement effective February 5, 2001. I will be vacating the premises at 456 Slum Street no later than February 5. I request that a full refund of the security deposit be mailed to my forwarding address. If any portion of the security deposit is not returned, please send a written explanation detailing your reasons. My forwarding address is: 789 New Street; Anytown, ST 51234. Please contact me if you have any questions or need additional information. I can be contacted by phone at [day] (408) 555-1212 or [home] (408) 555-3434.
Thank you for your cooperation,
Deliver the letter to the landlord either by certified or registered mail, or personally. If mailed, send it 33 days before moving out.
August 24, 2001
"God's nightgown" is such a strange phrase.
Gary Condit is acting the way Bill Clinton acted before he was impeached. He has chosen to be cagey and evasive, and use body language and words that have "guilt" written all over them. Why can't these people get better advisors? Mark my words, a year from now Gary will be sorry.
August 22, 2001
One third of the way done with Gone With The Wind. It's a darn good book.
Poor poor spineless Bunky. He cries when someone looks at him strange. Not the best gay role model out there.
August 18, 2001
I wanted to read The Wind Done Gone, because it's been in the news lately and got good reviews. But after 10 pages, I realized I needed to read Gone With The Wind first, to understand where the heck the wind done gone. So I checked Gone With out of the library today... 1,000 pages. We'll see how long that takes to read. I'm betting 2 weeks. It's the longest book I've read in at least seven years. Once I'm done with Gone With I'll read Done Gone. I'm going now.
August 17, 2001
It's such a pleasure to deal with competent customer service representatives. Our electric bug catcher vacuum broke, and the company is shipping me a new one, no questions asked!
There's this guy in the East Bay who killed a home invasion burglar with the burglar's own gun. The guy is being called a hero for saving the lives of the other people in the house. But now he's in jail ... turns out he was on parole, and violated his parole by holding the burglar's gun.
The Genealogy of the Brumbaugh and Wise Family got moved here.
August 13, 2001
Today was Black Monday at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
August 12, 2001
Vehicles must yield to pedestrians who are either crossing with the light in an intersection, or crossing in any intersection not controlled by a light. Vehicles stop, pedestrians go. Always. Cal. Veh. Code Sec. 21950(a).
August 10, 2001
Reuters Headline: Elderly Couple Dies Off Florida Keys in Sex-Plane Hijack.
If you have Federal student loans, now is the time to consolidate! Lock in the current 6.x% interest rate for the life of your loan! Do it before September 30 and get a .8% interest rate reduction!! You can't beat that. And you can apply for the consolidation online.
My Bookmarks page is up on-line.
August 8, 2001
My new Restaurant Reviews page is up on-line.
Never mind. The ABA voted against changing the model ethics rules. Too controversial.
August 6, 2001
Today the American Bar Association changed the model ethics rules for lawyers to allow lawyers to divulge confidential client information if "reasonably certain" to prevent death or substantial bodily harm. The old rule was "imminent". This rule change was prompted in large part by the Goodyear tire lawsuits, in which many lawyers knew the tires were killing people, but were unable to sound the alarm to the press because of the confidentiality rules. The settlements with Goodyear included confidentiality clauses, so for nearly a decade no one knew that the tires were exploding and killing people. Now, those lawyers would be able to tell the proper authorities and the problem would hopefully be fixed earlier.
Interestingly, this rule change has no effect in California, which has the most strict confidentiality rules - I cannot divulge confidential client information for any reason, even if it means someone else dies.
In other legal news, today the California Supreme Court held that gun manufacturers could not be held liable for deaths caused by their guns. Gun control advocates are already blasting the court for the decision. But in order for the court to hold the gun manufacturers liable, the manufacturers have to be found "negligent." The California legislature passed a law saying that as a matter of public policy, gun manufacturers are not allowed to be held negligent for deaths caused by their guns. Therefore, the California Supreme Court could not legally find the manufacturers negligent, and therefore liable. The courts only interpret the law. If you don't like the law, complain to the legislature, not the courts.
August 5, 2001
My Big Brother predictions, in order of getting booted:
7. Monica (winner)
August 2, 2001
99% of the time when I call a business, all I want to know is their closing time. It is such a pleasure to call a business who answers their phone, "[name of company], we close at 9pm". I don't have to ask anything - I can just say "thank you" and hang up. The Home Depot in Campbell answers their phone "Thank you for calling Home Depot, where we close at 9pm tonight." The Walgreens in Campbell answers their phone "Walgreens, open 24 hours." What a great idea.
July 28, 2001
Brian Palmer Gilbert of San Jose has been charged with two felonies in connection with the death of his 5-month old baby boy. The baby died after Mr. Gilbert left the baby in a hot car last week for 2 hours. Mr. Gilbert has told investigators that he "simply forgot" the baby while he went inside a friend's house to watch a movie. He forgot the baby? I can understand forgetting your cell phone, or your wallet, or your car keys, but how do you forget your baby? Mr. Gilbert should be put in a hot car and forgotten as a way to weed out the stupid people from this world.
Why do people who do bad things always have three names?
July 27, 2001
Goodbye New Jersey. Goodbye 6:30am fire alarms. And buffet food.
It was time for a slight redesign of the website. Some pages got consolidated, some got eliminated, and the front page got reworked. Most of the pages containing my political and social commentary got appended to the Etc. Archive. If you're looking for the page that describes how to rewire three way switches, here it is.
Why I'm A Tax Lawyer
"Anyone may so arrange his affairs that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which will best pay the Treasury; there is not even a patriotic duty to increase one's taxes."
-- Justice Learned Hand1
One of the side effects of being an attorney is that people frequently ask me what type of attorney I am. They are probably hoping for something interesting, like death row appeals, civil rights, or environmental law. When I say "I�m a tax lawyer," I immediately see their eyes glaze over with boredom.
It�s true that there is not a lot of glamor to tax law. Most of my time is spent analyzing the tax code and court cases and administrative rulings which have interpreted the tax code. It is my job to apply these resources to my clients� situations, to minimize the amount of money that they have to pay to the government.
I think that job is very interesting, and a challenge which I enjoy. I believe that people have a duty not to pay any more taxes than the government can legally demand. Otherwise, we are not challenging the government�s powers. When we fail to keep those powers in check, we surrender our liberty. My career allows me to put that belief into practice every day.
The Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution established the Federal Income Tax in 1913. Since its inception, there have been many court cases which affirmed and reaffirmed the obligation of citizens to pay tax to the government.2 However, citizens also have a right not to pay any more taxes than what they legally must pay. U.S. Supreme Court Justice George Sutherland said that, "The legal right of a taxpayer to decrease the amount of what would otherwise be his taxes, or altogether to avoid them, by means which the law permits cannot be doubted."3
Western jurisprudence has created a judicial presumption of immunity from tax unless it is clearly imposed, and the freedom of taxpayers to arrange their tax affairs in such a way as to minimize tax is a right, provided that the means used are effective at law and they do not seek to conceal or misrepresent the true situation.
The duty of tax lawyers and the role of accountants is to defend that right, and to ensure that the citizens are not forced to pay any more taxes than the government can legally claim they are obligated to pay.
In the words of Judge Learned Hand, "Over and over again courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging one's affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible � for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands. Taxes are enforced exactions not voluntary contributions."4
That is why I am a tax lawyer.
1. Helvering v. Gregory, 69 F.2d 810 (1934).
2. Brushaber v. Union Pac. R. Co., 240 U.S. 1 (1916); Bowers v. Kerbaugh-Empire Co., 271 U.S. 170 (1926).
3. Gregory v. Helvering, 293 U.S. 465, 469 (1935).
4. Commissioner v. Newman, 159 F.2d 848, 850-51 (2d Cir. 1947).
July 26, 2001
The further east you go, the worse the Chinese food gets, and the more strange the people get. At least it seems that way.
July 19, 2001
The question is not why did these companies go public, because any company can go public, but rather why did people buy stock in these companies?
July 17, 2001
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reported today that they are have lost track of 449 weapons and 184 laptops. You'd think they could ...... investigate ...... that.
July 13, 2001
Jennifer Daughenbaugh, an investigator for the Santa Clara County Probation Department, was assigned to write the pre-sentence report for Judge Kevin Murphy in People v. Andrew Burnett. Jennifer failed miserably in her duty to serve the public by recommending that Andrew Burnett, who threw Leo the Dog to his death, serve no jail time but rather be placed on probation. She had the nerve to suggest that the community would "benefit" by placing him on probation (as opposed to placing him in jail). She said that Burnett has shown "remorse for the victim and accepts responsibility for the death of the dog." Really? It didn't look that way to me when Burnett was interviewed on 20/20 two weeks ago and acted very smug about the incident.
Superior Court Judge Kevin Murphy, an all-around bright guy, choose to ignore Jennifer's recommendation, and instead sentenced Burnett to three years in jail (the maximum allowable sentence). Usually judges follow the pre-sentence report, but Judge Murphy clearly recognized the danger Burnett poses to society. Three cheers for Judge Murphy.
July 12, 2001
The ultra-conservative "Alliance For Marriage" has proposed a Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage. I guess these folks don't have anything better to do, since there is no chance of the Constitution ever being amended about something so controversial. Merely officially proposing such an amendment requires the approval of two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate, as well as two-thirds of the legislatures of the states. The final amendment must then be ratified by the legislatures of 75% of the states. There's no chance in hell they can get that many people to agree on anything, let alone something even remotely controversial.
Let's look at the last few amendments that have been approved: #27: Compensation of Senators and Representatives. #26: 18 year old voting age. #25: Order of succession to the presidency. #24: Qualification of electors. Those are all boring! There's no chance of ratifying an amendment about anything controversial. That's why flag burning and abortion (and heck, even women's rights!) failed.
July 9, 2001
Rep. Gary Condit made the same mistake Bill Clinton made. He thought that if he denied it, it would go away. That didn't work for Bill, and it didn't work for Gary. Bill found out that when the truth finally came out, the repercussions were worse than if he had been truthful up front. For Gary, I think he's in deep shit no matter what. It was clear from the beginning that something was improper about Gary's relationship with Chandra. Politicians like Gary don't have 24 year old female "close friends". They have affairs with 24 year old females. And this one is missing. Fingers are pointing to Gary, as well they should. I'm putting my money on Gary or his wife.
July 7, 2001
Oregon outlaws self-serve gas. Apparently it's part of their state employment program to keep everyone employed.
I overheard this from employees of the Department of the Interior:
"That's freakin' weird." (explaining Darwinism)
"Big birders" (describing people who watch birds)
June 30, 2001
The AT&T Cable repairman who came to fix my HBO bragged about all the great services AT&T would be rolling out to my neighborhood in the next 18 months. Cable modems, local phone service, more channels. My experience just trying to get cable T.V. with AT&T has been so painful I cannot imagine getting any other utilities from them. If I had a choice, I would prefer to get my cable tv from someone else (maybe the water company?), but AT&T has a monopoly with the city.
All you white guys who married Asian women, tell your wives to check out Monolid Magazine.
June 28, 2001
Today the Supreme Court ruled that states may not specifically ban tobacco advertising around schools and in businesses, because such a ban violated the First Amendment. In related news, a poll released today shows 40% of Americans think the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees.
June 25, 2001
Headline: "Texas Mother's Mental State May Be Best Defense". That's an understatement. When she opened up the door to her house and told the police officer, "I just killed my children," that pretty much closed the doors on any other defense.
June 22, 2001
On June 19, Andrew Burnett was found guilty of felony negligent cruelty to an animal, which resulted in the death of Leo the Dog. He will be sentenced on July 13. He could be sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison. I think a more appropriate sentence (if it were up to me to write the sentencing guidelines) would be to drag him out of his SUV and throw him into the path of an oncoming semi. Maybe then the smirk on his face would disappear.
Speaking of dogs, what is it with people keeping pit bulls as pets? Shawn Jones, currently clinging to life in Oakland, has had his two ears ripped off his head, and his face, head and arms have been permanently mutilated by the dogs. This happens far too often. The government should sponsor a program where they exchange cute little beagles for each pit bull dog that gets turned in, kind of like those "cash for guns" programs.
June 18, 2001
My bar of soap lists "soap" as the main ingredient. Oh.
June 14, 2001
At my bus stop in the morning, there is usually a woman who gets on the bus with me who is not a native English speaker. She has told me that she is taking English classes during the day. Occasionally she asks me to explain an English word or phrase to her. Today she had an e-mail with her which contained a bunch of redneck jokes. So I had to explain each joke to her, and try to help her understand why they are supposed to be funny. I think we both learned that if you have to explain why a joke about marrying your cousin is funny, its not funny any more.
June 11, 2001
I don't know ... I'm not really satisfied that executing Timothy McVeigh was the best thing we could do. I was (and continue to be) all for executing Richard Alan Davis, for killing Polly Klass, but I lacked the same enthusiasm for executing McVeigh. I'm not sure why, after all, McVeigh inflicted much more carnage than Davis.
June 10, 2001
The religious protesters at the corner of Market and Santa Clara streets were so ... annoying. Can't they just let people be happy? Who gave them the authority to tell other people what is right and wrong? Amazing Grace as an amazingly appropriate response.
June 7, 2001
I walked around the neighborhood this evening. It was humid, but not hot. A fan in the window would have cooled a house down nicely. I couldn't believe how many people had their air conditioners on. One house even had its outdoor holiday lights lit up. I wonder if those are the same people who are saying, "we're doing all we can to conserve electricity, and our PG&E bill is still through the roof!" Holiday lights in June?
June 4, 2001
Got this e-mail today: "This is not a SPAM. You are receiving this because you are on a list of email addresses that I have bought." Oh, ok, I guess that isn't SPAM.
May 30, 2001
Headline: "Bush Kids Tried To Buy Booze." For the second time in a month, Jenna Bush was caught by the police trying to buy alcohol, this time with a fake ID. My goodness, can't someone control these kids? Hasn't anyone told her that her daddy is the president, and she needs to be on her best behavior? Didn't she learn anything from her arrest last month? These are not the signs of an intelligent family. My goodness, if Chelsea Clinton got in this much trouble, the media would have been all over her like jam on toast.
May 27, 2001
The State Bar released the results of the February 2001 California Bar Exam on Friday. One of my classmates finally passed the exam ... after taking it four times over a two year period. He is an inspiration for everyone who has had to retake the exam. I am so thankful that I passed the first time. It's really a horrible measure of how good of an attorney a person will be, but I guess it's the best system they've got.
If you ever get a burning desire to replace a door in your house ... fight the urge ... it's not quite as easy as Steve makes it looks on This Old House.
May 21, 2001
I was in the bathroom at work today and I heard the beeping sounds of someone using their PDA from one of the stalls. That just seems weird. Although, if it had wireless internet access, you could e-mail the facilities people if you ran out of toilet paper.
May 20, 2001
I went to the Campbell Prune Festival this weekend, just a few blocks from my house. There weren't many prunes there ... hardly any. Lots and lots of people, though.
May 18, 2001
This month's PG&E bill: $22.00. That clothes line out back was a good investment.
May 16, 2001
Nathaniel Brazill, age 14, was sentenced to prison for 25 years today for second-degree murder. Testimony in the trial showed Brazill was sent home early from school last May for throwing water balloons. He retrieved a gun, returned to the school and shot his teacher in the head at the classroom door. Defense attorneys argued he made a "mistake," and that he should be found guilty of manslaughter, not murder. I haven't thought much about whether it's good to try teenagers as adults or not, although if they're going to be engaged in adult activities such as carrying guns, then it seems logical to hold them to an adult-level of responsibility. If it were up to me, I'd put Nathaniel's parents in jail for 25 years also, for completely failing as parents.
May 13, 2001
Target stores in California sell a lightening bug catcher that is supposed to act like a lantern. Only problem is that we don't have lightening bugs in California.
Leave it to the FBI to screw things up. Timothy McVeigh all but volunteered to be executed, and the FBI couldn't help but withhold over 3,000 documents related to his case. This could conceivably drag things out for 10 years or more. Good going, FBI. Between this and their spy problems, they're looking mighty incompetent.
May 11, 2001
I get on the bus to work near an elementary school, and the kids these days are pulling around their books and supplies in airline luggage - the carryon kind with wheels. What the heck is in there? Why do elementary school kids have so much crap to lug around? I don't think I even had a backpack when I was in elementary school.
May 9, 2001
Goodbye, Mrs. Landingham.
May 8, 2001
The California Supreme Court yesterday outlawed jury nullification - the process by which juries vote what they feel should be right, and not necessarily what the law requires them to do. Jury nullification has been around ever since the invention of juries, and I'm sad to see it go away, because there are a lot of cases in which I would have voted my conscience and not with the law, although I think juries will still vote their conscience, only now give different reasons for it.
April 30, 2001
My facts for the day:
Did you know that sharks are the only interauterine cannibals in the world? The fetuses prey on each other in the womb until just one remains.
What do tennis courts have in common with lungs? They both have the same surface area.
April 29, 2001
Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination.
End of debate.
I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them.
1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev. 1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev. 15:19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
4. Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?
5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?
6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?
7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? - Lev. 24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)
I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.
Your devoted disciple and adoring fan.
April 28, 2001
So one of President Bush's daughters got cited for underage drinking. I'd hate to have been that police officer ... I mean, can you imagine, giving the president's daughter a citation for anything?
I'm now beyond the point of no return for getting a Palm. I know, I've got to be the last person getting on this bandwagon, but I didn't realize how much I needed one until now. I've been using Desktop 4.0 for a week now, and I love it. The calendar and phone book are super - better than any other PIM I've used before. It's too bad there isn't built-in e-mail, but hey, I can't ask for everything. A week from Monday I'll get the Palm Vx.
April 26, 2001
Did you know that it is illegal to ride a bike on a public road while wearing headphones?
April 24, 2001
Captain Scott Waddle, the former commander of the USS Greeneville, is a good man. Yes, he was in command of a submarine that collided with a Japanese fishing boat full of high school children, killing 9 aboard. Nothing can diminish that. But Captain Waddle did something that few public figures have done in recent years: He took responsibility for what he did. With no concern for his own considerable legal exposure, Captain Waddle has repeatedly and frequently made heartfelt apologies for what happened. He takes full responsibility for his acts, and insists that the buck stops with him. He does not blame others - not the crew, not the civilians on board, and not the Navy. He takes full, undiluted personal responsibility. Bill Clinton didn't do that for his sexual escapades, and George Bush didn't do that for his DUI and drug use. This captain is someone to respect, and he is a good man who made a mistake and fully owned up to it.
My dental insurance (MetLife Dental) has an 800 number for me to call to verify benefits, but the customer service representatives consistently give out wrong information. I'm always amazed what we allow health insurance companies to get away with.
April 22, 2001
The annual retreat to San Luis Obispo was great! Cal Poly's Open House was good - we watched the Robot Rodentia (electronic robot maze competition), looked at the exhibits by the school clubs, ate lots of good food, and generally had a good time. The weather was good, and we were able to stop at the beach and play a round of mini-golf at the World's Most Difficult Miniature Golf Course. We also enjoyed Sycamore Mineral Springs, which is a great spa to visit if you're in the area.
What is it with people who don't follow the "every other car" rule when there's a traffic jam in a parking lot? I hope they get hit by a big-rig.
And these folks who have $400 electric bills this month ... mine was $32, and that's for gas and electricity ... what are these people doing with their electricity that causes them to use 10 times more than me? I can't imagine.
How's that war on drugs going? Last I heard, the CIA just managed to score a big hit by shooting down a plane with a missionary family, killing a woman and her baby. Good job.
April 19, 2001
I'm getting ready to join the 21st century and buy a Palm Vx. I compared it to the Handspring Visor Platinum, but the Handspring just seems too plastic. Plus the Palm has an upgradeable OS. So now I'm converting most of my stuff - calendar, address book, etc. over to Palm Desktop to upload to my Palm Vx, which I hope to get next week.
Palm's Desktop 4.0 impresses the heck out of me as a PIM. I'd use it even if I wasn't getting a Palm.
April 15, 2001
I had a very productive day yesterday. I replaced the weather stripping on the front door - now no more air leaks. I also did some landscaping on the back patio. And used the new clothesline to air-dry the laundry. So exciting.
Today is the day that countless Silicon Valley dot-comers who were once millionaires when their stock options went through the roof, but have since tanked, will learn about the Alternative Minimum Tax. Those folks will be paying taxes on stock that once was worth something, but now is worthless. The IRS never intended the AMT to apply to people in this situation, but it does, and all over the Valley people are waking up, wondering how they will pay their tax bill.
April 13, 2001
Finally, justice is being served:
I couldn't help but smile this morning when I heard that Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel got evicted from their apartment last night. And they have no money to pay for a private attorney. Maybe they should just stay in jail to get the free food and shelter.
Andrew Burnett has been arraigned on felony charges in connection with the killing of Leo the Bichon Frise last year at the San Jose Airport. Maybe someone should yank Mr. Burnett out of his car and throw him in front of another car and see how he likes it.
Today is Friday the thirteenth. It's also Good Friday. Doesn't that seem like an unlikely combination?
April 12, 2001
No, we didn't apologize, nor should we have.
We expressed "sincere regret over your missing pilot and aircraft" and that "we are very sorry for their loss." We then said that "we are very sorry the entering of China's airspace and the landing did not have verbal clearance." That language merely expresses our sorrow for their loss and our sorrow that the aircraft and landing did not have clearance. The language does not acknowledge responsibility for the loss or the lack of clearance - it merely says that we are sorry that the events happened.
I can be sorry that the stock market went down, but that doesn't mean I had anything to do with it, or that I am apologizing for my role, if any.
An apology would have been, "We are sorry that we caused your pilot to die, and your plane to crash. We are sorry that we did not get verbal clearance to land our plane on your island."
It's like when Dr. Laura said, in reference to some comments she made, "I deeply regret the hurt this situation has caused the gay and lesbian community." She wasn't saying that she was sorry she caused the hurt - she was merely saying that she was sorry the gay and lesbian community was hurt by her words. It's two different things - one is an apology, one isn't.
April 11, 2001
Okay, Netscape users, I changed the color scheme!
Channel 5 news reports that the car belonging to Marjorie Knoller was vandalized. The 1969 Mercury Cougar was spray-painted, its tires were flattened, and the windshield smashed. Well, Marjorie, what goes around comes around.
Moved here from some other pages on this website:
April 10, 2001
I wonder how they would react if they knew the person vacuuming their floors was an attorney who normally bills several hundred dollars an hour for his work?
April 9, 2001
Remember the TV show Murphy Brown, where the running joke was that each show Murphy had a new secretary? That's kind of like where I work. Every week, we have a new receptionist. I guess they're from a temp agency or something. Anyhow, today's receptionist answers the phone "PricewaterhouseCooper." Every time I come down the stairs or out of the elevator, I hear "PricewaterhouseCooper." I must have heard it 20 times today. The problem is, the name of the company is "PricewaterhouseCoopers." With an "S". Anything less is terribly annoying.
April 5, 2001
The good news was announced this week: The TV show First Years was cancelled.
April 3, 2001
George Bush is handling his latest foreign / military mess by telling the Chinese government that they had better not be snooping around in our spy plane that made an emergency landing in China. So ... it's ok for us to spy on them, but we're supposed to be outraged when they spy on us (if looking at a plane that landed in their country can be considered spying)? What a hypocrite! Of course China is going to look at the spy plane. We would do the same thing if a Chinese spy plane landed in America.
March 28, 2001
Hurrah for the grand jury indictment of Robert Noel and Marjorie Knoller! These two people are some of the scummiest lawyers I have ever heard of. For example, trying to blame the dog attack on the perfume that Diane Whipple was wearing. As far as I'm concerned, even if Diane did wear perfume that attracted the dogs, that in no way mitigates Noel and Knoller's fault for having such vicious dogs in that apartment building. I think the prosecutors will have a difficult time proving second degree murder for Knoller, but I hope they are at least found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, and disbarred.
March 27, 2001
Power is expensive in California. Gas for cars is expensive. Gas for heating is expensive. Electricity is expensive. When the PUC raised rates 40% today, the newspapers and evening news was full of interviews with people saying that they were paying close to $200 a month in electricity bills now, plus the 40% increase next month. The question I think needs to be asked is, "Why are you using $200 of electricity each month?" My electric bill for February was $26. That supplied enough electricity for two people to live normally, in an average sized house. I think people who are using $200 a month in electricity aren't doing their part to conserve, and we shouldn't feel much sympathy for them.
I tried to watch First Years again last night. I turned it off after 15 minutes, when one of the "first year" lawyers asked another, "What does TRO stand for?" It is inconceivable to me that a lawyer, fresh out of law school and fresh out of the bar exam, would not know that a TRO stands for "temporary restraining order." It's like a doctor asking, "What does ICU stand for?"
March 22, 2001
How many more high school shootings will it take before we get the guts to take steps to end this embarrassment? This is not what the authors had in mind when they wrote the Second Amendment. It's no longer acceptable.
March 19, 2001
OK - I'm going to try this again.
I just watched the debut of First Years, a TV show about a bunch of lawyers in their first year of practicing law at a big law firm. Let me just say that there are not that many good looking people in law school. And there is nothing exciting about the first year of practicing law for a large firm. This show is destined to fail. Why did they ever think it would succeed? What demographic are they going after?
I did my pro bono work tonight at Lawyer's In The Library. Yes, it's true: If you run up a lot of debt on the credit cards, eventually they're going to want their money.
March 5, 2001
Some people think that they have a First Amendment right to free speech on the internet, i.e. in chat rooms or message forums. They don't. Unless the chat rooms or message forums are run by the government (including a public school), or the government is trying to shut down the forum, there is no First Amendment right to free speech in that forum.
February 22, 2001
The 2001 Grammy's was not without much controversy. Rapper Eminem, well known for his homophobic lyrics, sang a duet with Elton John, the well-known flamboyant gay singer who was one himself well known for controversial lyrics. The media did its part to stir the controversy by interviewing people who said they were offended by Eminem's lyrics. But even more pronounced were the interviews with musical celebrities who supported their colleague and defended his lyrics with the First Amendment.
On the days leading up to the Grammy's, it was hard to turn on the TV and not hear some entertainer discussing the merits of the First Amendment. Of course, it was no surprise that the entertainers are not experts on Constitutional law. The First Amendment had no relevance to Eminem's duet with Elton John. There was absolutely no threat of the government interfering with the Grammy's. Eminem's right to speech free of government restriction was never threatened. More interesting than this display of Constitutional ignorance was the fact that the First Amendment was the only defense the entertainment industry had for Eminem's lyrics. Since that defense did not apply to Eminem's performance at the Grammy's, one wonders what defense is left for the lyrics.
January 16, 2001
Western Appliance: I bought a washer, dryer and refrigerator from this chain of appliance retailers. I choose a delivery date, and stayed home from work to await delivery. My purchases never arrived. They explained that the shipping paperwork got lost. So a new delivery date was chosen, and again, I stayed home from work. No delivery. This time, the shipping paperwork wasn't the problem - they simply forgot to put the appliances on the truck. I vigorously complained, and they dispatched a special delivery truck to bring me my purchases later that day. It shouldn't be that hard.
AT&T Broadband: This company is the sole provider of cable service where I live. Believe me - if they had competition, I would choose the competition. All I needed was for AT&T to switch the cable account from the previous owner of my house to me. I'll spare you the details, but the bottom line is that it took over nten phone calls to their customer service people, putting up with sales pitches that rival used car salesmen, and finally reaching a manager to change the account. It shouldn't be that hard. I then made an appointment for them to come out and install a new outlet in my house. The first visit was unsuccessful because the installer lacked the proper key to access their cable distribution box. The second visit was unsuccessful because the installer disconnected my cable, rather than connect it (and this in turn took two additional visits to remedy). The third visit was never scheduled, despite promises by the manager to do so. I finally gave up and installed the jack myself. The nightmare finally ended when I wrote a nasty letter demanding my money back. Who ever thought that utility monopolies were a good idea?
November 17, 2000
After several months of searching, in October I made an offer on a townhouse in downtown Campbell which was accepted by the seller (a rare event during the housing boom of 2000). The sale closed today, and after a some remodeling is completed, I will move in early December.
My criteria for a house included being centrally located to freeways and being in Campbell, and this one met both criteria. It is eighteen years old, has about 1,400 square feet, and is one of nine units in the complex.
The upstairs has two master suites, both with a full bath, and the downstairs has a half-bath, family room, kitchen with breakfast bar and dining "L", laundry area, a fireplace, and garage. There are nine closets - plenty of room for all my stuff! The house is fully carpeted, except for the kitchen and bathrooms, which have tile floors. All of the appliances are brand new, including the trash compactor - something I've never had before. The back patio is about 150 square feet, and fully enclosed and private. The library is a five minute walk from the house, as is downtown Campbell.
I am happy to recommend my realtor and mortgage broker: Don Gaskin, of Century 21 SCVA in Campbell, was my realtor; and Kate Frias and Ed Kolb of Willow Street Morgage were my loan brokers.
November 14, 2000
This may come as a shock, but there is no federal right for citizens to vote for president. Nowhere in the Constitution nor United States Code does a right exist for citizens to cast a ballot for president. Only the state legislatures are given the power by the federal government to elect the president, through the process of selecting electors. All states have chosen to delegate at least part of this selection process to the citizenry, but there is no federal law requiring them to do so, nor prohibiting them from rescinding that grant of power. Yet another reason why the Electoral College needs to be eliminated.
No reasonable person, at least none outside of Florida, would call it an "error in vote tabulation" or a "rejection of legal votes" when the voting machine performs exactly in the manner designed, and fails to count those ballots that are not marked in the manner which the voting instruments explicitly and prominently specify.
In the aftermath of the catastrophe that was the 2000 presidential election, a Florida woman was shown on the news crying, "I was raped! My vote was stolen from me, and I was raped!" Her comments were representative of many other Floridians. Their anguish is understandable: Many of these voters are Jewish, and the media was telling them that they may have accidentally voted for Pat Buchanan, a man who has publicly stated his admiration of Hitler. The root of the problem was a ballot that some said was confusing. Of course, some people find traffic lights confusing. In fact, this ballot did not seem to cause any confusion until after the election. Republicans and democrats both signed off on the design before the election. The ballot was even published in the newspaper, so that people would understand its format. No one alerted election workers to any confusion about the ballot during the election. Indeed, nothing about the ballot was novel - it is a design that has been successfully used for one-hundred years. Yes, it is unfortunate that some people were not able to properly use the ballot and vote as they intended. Ballots, including this one, are designed for the lowest common denominator, so that even the village idiot can vote. But when the village idiot can't figure out how to use the ballot, he shouldn't blame other people.
October 29, 2000
When Anthony Dwain Lee, a black man, was shot by LAPD officer Tarriel Hopper, also a black man, there was an outcry that the shooting was racially motivated. I don't buy this for one minute. Hopper shot and killed Lee, in accordance with standard police procedure, because Lee was intentionally pointing a gun at Hopper, a uniformed police officer. It later turned out that the gun was a toy, but Hopper had no way to know that. Race had nothing to do with this shooting. When a person points a gun at a police officer, the police officer is trained to defend himself by shooting the person wielding the gun. This only makes sense. If the gun later turns out to be fake, but the officer had no way to know that, it is not the police who should be blamed - it is the person stupid enough to point a gun at a police officer who should be blamed. If we accept that this shooting was racially motivated, then any time a black person is shot, it must be a racial incident. This is not logical. A racial incident is not caused by the mere fact that one of the people involved is not white. A racial incident is caused when the intent behind the incident is racial. Hopper did not shoot Lee because of Lee's race. Hopper shot Lee because Lee was pointing a gun at Hopper. I would expect any police officer to do the same. People need to take responsibility for doing stupid things.
August 25, 2000
Notwithstanding my belief that less government is better, when the private sector wholly fails to act in the best interests of the public (its customers), I do believe an argument can be made for government interference. Such is the case with the airline industry. Regulated until the late 1990's, the airli0ne industry has had incredible difficulty becoming deregulated. And for that reason, I think the government should step back in and assist the industry in deregulation, rather than let it "fly" willy-nilly. Anyone who flew on United Airlines in August of 2000 understands what I'm talking about. I have flown United dozens of times, and never had a problem. But in August when I went to Ohio to visit relatives, I nearly had to turn back and go home. The flight from San Jose to Chicago O'Hare was fine. But upon arrival in Chicago, my next flight, from O'Hare to Dayton Ohio, was cancelled due to mechanical problems. Their mechanics were refusing to fix the planes. The only remaining United flight to Dayton that day was nine hours later. I was booked on that flight, and proceeded to wait in the terminal. Two hours before my new flight was to depart, it too was cancelled for mechanical problems. I was booked on an American Airlines "express" (small plane) flight to Dayton, which was delayed an hour due to mechanical problems. My luggage didn't make it to Dayton until the next day. Were there apologies? No. No explanations, no food vouchers, no complimentary upgrades. Nothing. Just a shrug of the shoulders - as if this was the normal course of events in modern aviation.
Customers should expect more, and they should demand more. I called United from Chicago, expressing my extreme frustration and displeasure with being treated this way after paying quite a bit of money for my airline ticket. The customer service representative sympathized, but of course is mostly powerless to truly help me (i.e. give me a refund). This is not acceptable. Because of our reliance on air travel, and the lack of any meaningful competition in the industry, airlines can get away with abusing air travelers. They have for years, and in my view, until the government steps in and demands change on behalf of the public, such treatment will continue.
July 30, 2000
One of the defining points of my adolescence was when I was 15 years old, flying on an airplane from Ohio to California, seated next to a businessman in his 50's. I was minding my own business, reading a magazine, when mid-flight he turned to me and asked, "What do you do?" I thought that was a silly question. "I'm in high school" I answered. He responded, "Yes, but what do you do?" It then dawned on me that just because I was a high school kid didn't mean that I didn't do important things. I told him about my interests and hobbies, and what I wanted to do in the future, and he seemed genuinely interested in talking with me. His interest in what I "did" showed me tremendous respect.
May 16, 2000
The recording industry is up in arms. People are able to exchange digital music (MP3s) on the internet, for free. Walkman-type listening devices, with prices falling daily, will soon replace portable tape players and CD players as the listening device of choice. People will no longer buy CD�s in droves, and that scares the recording industry, because it jeopardizes the artificially high profits that the industry receives on the sale of CD�s. The recording industry has threatened legal action against distributors of MP3s. Whether they will be completely successful in court remains to be seen. But rest assured: MP3s are here to stay, and even with Napster shut down, the recording industry will never again be the same.
The only answer to this problem is for the recording industry to find a new business model. CD�s will not disappear over night, just as cassette tapes did not disappear when CD�s were introduced. But unless the recording industry develops a business model which includes an effective way to harness the trade of MP3s and use it to their advantage, they are going to be up a creek without a paddle.
The recording industry is not alone. In just a few years, you will access the internet by wireless interface, and your telephone will plug into your computer. Your voice will be carried by same technology that allows you to see this text (internet protocol). Once that happens, the phone companies, as we know them today, are out of business. Phone companies, like the recording industry, is in desperate need of a business model which allows them to profit from the internet. And since right now, very few companies are profiting from the internet, that business model will have to be a new one.
One of America�s oldest brick-n-mortar establishments is also in danger. Car dealerships are fighting like mad to get states to pass laws which would restrict our ability to purchase cars on the internet from anyone other than a brick-n-mortar car dealership. The technology and business interest is present for on-line car dealerships to sell customized cars directly to you over the internet, cutting the price by as much as 20% by eliminating dealer profits and costs. It won't be long before new business models are developed to accommodate these new economies.
April 30, 2000
The United States repeatedly assumes an obligation to interfere with the governance and disputes of less powerful sovereign nations, claiming various self-serving justifications. The U.S. government lies to its own citizens by using propaganda to rally Americans into supporting these "conflicts". If the roles were reversed, I suspect we would not be long tolerating Japanese troops on our street corners, Iraq controlling our economy, and China boycotting our products because our Constitution violates human rights due to its foundations in slavery of an entire race of people.
When the South refused to integrate, and the National Guard was sent to force integration, Russia didn't send aircraft carriers to drop bombs on our country to protest our use of force against our citizens... nor would we have tolerated such actions, which we have repeatedly done in other countries. What if bombs were dropped on America every time a different political party came into control of our government, as we did to Vietnam and Korea?
Not every economy is the same as ours. Before condemning businesses for setting up shop in foreign countries and paying their employees wages which are less than that to which we are accustomed, inquire about the economy and standard of living of the foreign country, to determine if the company's presence presents an opportunity or detriment for the employees. We should not assume that a foreign government is incapable of establishing the same regulation and control of minimum wage and working conditions that our own government has bestowed upon us.
The U.S. likes to tell other countries that they are violating the human rights of their citizens. Russia was a popular target in the '70's and '80's. The '90's saw our focus change to China and some of the Middle-Eastern countries. Aside from the problem I have with one country telling another sovereign nation how they should govern themselves and organize their society, what I find particularly disturbing is the U.S.'s own human rights record. Let's examine:
Certainly there are other examples of human rights violations in America. These are but two examples which disturb me the most. Until we clean up our own act, we should not be telling other countries how to behave.
Another example of our messed up foreign policy was the Vietnam War. I think Vietnam vets are owed our complete support, and I think the government and society has really treated these people poorly. It wasn't their choice to go to war. However, I think the war itself was wrong, and the politicians who got us into that war were not very bright. Let's admit one thing to ourselves: We lost the war. The Vietnamese won. 58,000 Americans died, for absolutely no good reason.
The Oval Office tapes of President Johnson tell us that he knew we would loose the war, but he sent our troops in anyhow. And to get America to go along with his plan, he lied about an American ship being bombed in the Gulf of Tonkin. Another lie: South Vietnam was never a democracy. It was a totalitarian state led by a puppet leader who we installed after we helped assassinate the former leader. We were supposedly fighting the spread of communism, a political system which we thought was evil, but no one ever told us why.
In the 1940's, during World War II, a Vietnamese leader named Ho Chi Minh sided with America and the Allies to defeat the Japanese and Germans. After the war, he came to Washington in the hopes of convincing the President and Congress to back his people's struggle to be free. He was certain that the Americans, whose own country was founded through a revolution against a foreign king, would back his efforts to create a free and democratic Vietnam. He was not a "Communist" then. His hero was George Washington. The Vietnamese Constitution he proposed was based on the U.S. Constitution, which he thought to be a profound document. The Congress and the President turned him away.
Ho and the Vietnamese were forced to look for help elsewhere. And the rest is history. Over two million Vietnamese died in the war. John McCain, who lost the bid for the 2000 Presidential election, killed some of them. In fact, when his plane was shot down, he was on his way to bomb innocent children in Hanoi. What a hero.
April 25, 2000
If you ever wanted an example of a stupid idea with good intentions, 'zero tolerance' is that example. Despite the fact that the U.S. Department of Education reports that crime on school campuses is down by as much as 30% in the past decade, school administrators are instituting zero tolerance as a way of showing panicked parents that the schools were taking action against what they falsely perceived as out-of-control violence.
The result? Kids who take plastic knives to school to spread peanut butter on bread are expelled for bringing a weapon to school. Asthmatics are suspended for taking their prescribed medication. And these students must disclose this punishment on college and employment applications.
Of course, these laws are completely ineffective at preventing violence: Students who carry guns to school, such as the shooters in Littleton, Colorado, could care less about zero tolerance policies.
Students should not be suspended for having aspirin in their backpack. If that is what the war on drugs has come to, then it's not just the zero tolerance laws which are stupid, it's the politicians, parents, teachers and school administrators.
April 22, 2000
For months in early 2000, the headlines carried the latest updates about Elian Gonzalez. Millions of dollars were spent trying to figure out what to do with the kid. Well, I'm fed up with it. I don't care about Elian Gonzalez, and I think he should have been shipped back to Cuba the day he was released from the hospital. If I were Janet Reno, I would have sent the S.W.A.T. team into into that house the day after he got there, get kid, put he and his daddy on the first boat to Cuba, and frankly, anyone who wants to protest that can go with them as far as I'm concerned.
Our Immigration Policy is Absurd
With one exception, the United States policy on immigration is that if a non-citizen comes to this country illegally, they will be deported without due process of the law, and without any regard to what may be in their best interests.
The one exception is Cuba. Because of our country's illogical hatred for Fidel Castro, we encourage Cubans to risk their lives to try to make it across the water to America, just to make Fidel mad. Their reward, if they successfully complete their journey, is the right to stay here. Elian Gonzalez does not meet this exception because he was rescued at sea, and therefore under US immigration policy should have been returned to Cuba immediately.
Of course, there are countries other than Cuba which have communist dictators, such as Vietnam and China, but illegal immigrants from those countries are sent back without any due process. The difference between our treatment of Cubans and illegal immigrants from other countries reflects our racist and hypocritical immigration policy.
We have based our entire foreign policy in this hemisphere on one thing -- eliminating Castro. We tried to assassinate him. We sent "troops" to invade at the Bay of Pigs. We prevented medicine and food from being shipped to Cuba. We almost blew up the world over Cuba and Castro. And we've stayed that way for forty years. Last year, we fined an American citizen $10,000 because he went down to Cuba to tune pianos! It's illegal in this "free" country to travel there. We've been driven crazy because we can't get rid of Fidel Castro.
American propaganda tries our best to make Cuba look bad, but it is difficult to do so. Cuba simply is not a bad place to live: The schools are excellent, and their literacy rate is 100%, something few other countries can claim. Health care is free, and their infant mortality rate is lower than that of America.
The U.S. immigration policy should be no different for Cubans than for Haitians, Chinese, Mexicans or Europeans. Anything short of consistency is racist and hypocritical.
One of the reasons our immigration policy towards Cuba is so screwed up is the Cuban community in Miami. They left Cuba in the 1960's to escape Castro and come to a better place. They have a lot of money (that's how they could afford to get out of Cuba), and they have bought a lot of political influence. But now they're breaking our laws, waiving their Cuban flags, and criticizing the US government for trying to implement our immigration policy. Folks, if you don't like it here, no one is forcing you to stay. Maybe Canada or Mexico will put up with this nonsense. Or heck, go back to Cuba. But if you're going to stay here, you're going to follow our laws, or work within the system to change the laws.
Why Elian Isn't Special
Americans find it difficult to enforce our immigration policy against a cute little white boy. They want to rescue him from evil Cuba, and call him their own. They treat him like a celebrity while the Attorney General, the President, Congressmen, federal court judges, talking heads and presidential candidates publicly pondered for months if the boy should be returned to his father in Cuba.
But the press doesn't give us the full story. Maybe with the full story we could have made up our minds much sooner as to what the fate would be for this cute little white boy. Let's examine some of those missing facts:
Elian's father was awarded legal custody of the child, who was conceived after the father and Elian's mother divorced. Elian's mother didn't like the custody decision, so she kidnapped Elian, and died doing so. She abused him, and place his life in unconscionable danger of death by putting him and eleven other people on a boat that could only hold six. The mother's boyfriend was the owner of the boat, and charged people hundreds of dollars to ride on that death trap.
Elian's "family" in Florida has milked the press and the government for months to demand due process. First of all, illegal immigrants do not have due process rights. But we gave them to Elian anyhow, because he's cute, and lest we forget, white. Elian's family said that they would rely on the judiciary to vindicate what they thought was Elian's right to stay in America. But that judge said Elian had to be sent back. While Elian's family grasped for another straw, they refused to follow standard U.S. immigration policy. The straw they finally selected was to argue that sending Elian back wasn't in his best interests, and that a family court should decide Elian's fate.
The "best interest of the child" test is one which is used in custody battles between two persons with legal custody, such as when parents of a child divorce. In Elian's case, of course, only one person has legal custody: His father. Therefore, the "best interests" test is not applicable. Additionally, Elian is nothing more than a routine immigration case - something family courts have no power to hear. But "the best interest of the child" is a phrase that sounds so good when it's said on national television, and something the public can quickly rally behind and demand for our friend, Elian. Fortunately America is growing weary of Elian, and the PR campaign isn't working.
Even if the "best interests" test was the proper legal standard, it's doubtful that Elian's relatives in Miami would satisfy the test. First, they are hardly what most of us would consider "relatives." He lived with a "great-uncle" and a "second cousin." In our country, no "relative" replaces the parent. A brother, cousin or "great-uncle" who holds a child against the will of the parent is committing a major crime.
Second, their criminal history alone is grounds for denying custody. Elian's uncles each have two DUI's. Two of Elian's cousins, who are frequently at the Miami home where Elian is hold up, have multiple felony arrests, including assault on a tourist, robbery, burglary, carrying a concealed weapon, failure to pay child support, grand theft, and petty larceny. That's in Elian's best interest?
And his "surrogate mother," Mariselysis, has emotional problems that repeatedly cause her to be hospitalized. She also displays a complete lack of concern for Elian's emotional well being by allowing him to be subjected to the media, and watch his own fate unfold on television.
While the debate about Elian's future raged on, hundreds of black and Asian immigrants were returned to their equally if not more oppressive communist countries to face certain persecution. Hypocrisy breeds racism, and racism breeds hypocrisy.
The Gun Wasn't Big Enough
I completely support Janet Reno's much delayed decision to use force to rescue Elian. Some people said that Janet used too much force - I say she didn't use enough. If I had a six year old child, and he was being held against my will for five months, I can guarantee you that I would be coming at his kidnappers with a lot more firepower than a puny gun and a woman carrying a blanket. And I sure wouldn't be negotiating. You do not make a "deal" with the kidnappers of your child. When someone illegally holds a child who is not theirs, there is no "deal."
Maybe these Cubans didn't understand the rules we play by here in the States: In America, when a parent asks for his child to be returned, no matter how nice the kidnappers were to the child, the child must be returned to the parents. The child's desires about custody are absolutely irrelevant - 6 year old children do not call the shots in America - parents do (if this is confusing to you, consider your 6 year old's desire to put a knife in the electrical outlet, and whether the child's desires should be entertained).
April 4, 2000
I do not understand the arguments in favor of a constitutional amendment prohibiting flag burning. Our country was founded on the principle that people could express their disillusionment with the country without fear of the persecution which those who founded the country faced in the United Kingdom. Much blood has been shed to defend that right. The Supreme Court has held time and time again that symbolic speech, including flag burning, is without a doubt included in free speech. After all, what better way to symbolize one's disillusionment with one's country than to burn the country's flag? The ultimate irony of the proposed amendment is that one would be free to burn the American flag in a foreign country, but would lack that freedom here in the one country that is supposedly built on the principles of freedoms and free speech.
The argument often used in support of a flag burning amendment is that our veterans didn't fight in wars so that we could burn the flag (implying that the flag is intrinsically tied to veterans, and they would be deeply offended by the burning of the flag). No question about it, our veterans have sacrificed much to defend our country. It also may be true that many veterans would be offended at the sight of someone burning the flag. However, those facts are insufficient justification for amending the Constitution to water down the Bill of Rights.
The reason why the First Amendment is so important is not because it protects speech that is inoffensive. To the contrary, its importance lies in the fact that it protects offensive speech because speech that is inoffensive does not need protecting. I would think that the proposed Nazi speech in Skokie was much more offensive to the Jewish residents there then any type of flag burning speech would be to veterans. Should there be a constitutional amendment to outlaw Nazi speech? What about generally anti-American speech? Where do you draw the line? If the line is drawn at the place where speech is offensive to a politically popular group like veterans, then what you end up with is no freedom of speech at all. Our veterans did not fight only for our country. They fought for the ideals behind our country, which include the right to speak politically unpopular thoughts in politically unpopular ways.
March 30, 2000
Remember the story of the boy who cried wolf? He wanted attention, so while he was guarding sheep he cried "wolf!" to get the adults to come running. Then one time, a real wolf came, and he cried, and no one rushed to help. There have been two instances of "crying wolf" locally in early 2000 which really ticked me off. In the first case, a gay Morgan Hill man claimed he was the victim of a hate crime in order to cover up an affair he had with another man, so that his boyfriend wouldn't find out. Now, when someone really is the victim of a hate crime, people will be hesitant to believe the victim.
Not long after that event, the evening news carried a story about two elderly Mexicans who traveled on a Greyhound bus from Mexico to spend their 34th anniversary in San Francisco. They had dreamed about it for years, and their 5 children scrimped and saved $3,000 for the journey. As soon as they got here, their suitcase, with all the money, was stolen. And there was the couple on TV, crying about how their children had sacrificed so much, and how they were looking forward to spending their honeymoon in The City. The police department set up a fund to help the couple. Marriotts donated the Presidential Suite of their nice Oakland hotel to the couple, and lots of community organizations were pitching in to make sure the couple's anniversary trip was a success, and that they would home happy. Two days later, the police announced the entire story was a hoax. Now, the next time this happens, and it's NOT a hoax, people won't give money or support because they will say "last time I did this, it was a hoax, I'm not going to get burnt again." Idiots.
March 28, 2000
Jury Nullification: I've never sat on a jury, and as an attorney I probably never will. I don't doubt that the job of a juror is very difficult, and it is easy to second-guess the decisions jurors have made. Not wanting to be left out, there are a few decisions I would like to second guess: 1. O.J. was found not guilty not because he didn't kill Ron and Nicole (the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that he did), but because the prosecution and what they had to work with was an incompetent match for the Dream Team. I would have voted "guilty." 2. What is it with white police officers shooting and beating unarmed people, and the juries who find them not guilty? Amadou Diallo was shot at 41 times by four New York City's finest for doing nothing other than holding his wallet. What more did the jury need to find the police officers guilty? A life sentence seems appropriate to me.
The Emasculation of the Judiciary: About once a month, some court hands down a decision and radio talk show hosts get upset at the court for issuing the decision, which they view as the wrong decision. They blame the judge for the decision, which they say defies common sense. But more often than not, the judge has no control over the outcome, because our state legislature has passed so many laws which bind the hands of the judge. Case in point: Thomas and Denise Rossi had been married in California for 25 years. They shared everything, even their toothbrush. That is, until Denise won $1.3 million dollars in the California Lottery, and didn't tell her husband. Instead, she filed for divorce, and kept all of the money. When Thomas accidentally found out about the winnings, he sued her, claiming she withheld community property. In In re Marriage of Rossi (1999), the judge ruled that Denise violated the fiduciary duty which married couples have, and awarded Thomas 100% of the earnings. The irony is that had Denise disclosed the lottery winnings, she would have been able to keep 50%. But because she acted with malice, oppression and fraud, she lost it all. Some people, mainly feminists, were up in arms! "This judge abused his discretion," they claimed. Wrong - the judge had no choice. The legislature, in Cal. Family Code �1101(h) mandated the judge to award all of the lottery earnings to Thomas. Those who opposed his ruling should complain about the legislature, not the judiciary. And, by the way, feminists, that law was passed to protect wives from fraudulent actions by husbands. You can't have it both ways.
The Death Penalty: I support the concept of the death penalty. There are some crimes are so bad, the criminals who commit them have severed their ties with society, and revoked their right to remain in our society. However, the present administration of the death penalty is so perverse, it should be abolished: A black man who kills a white woman is twelve times more likely to end up on death row than a white man who kills a black woman. We call that justice? Intolerable.
Money Buys Justice: If you don't recognize that money buys justice, you should take your blinders off. The evidence in the murders of Ron Goldman, Nicole Simpson and JonBenet Ramsey overwhelmingly points to O.J. Simpson and Patsy Ramsey as the perpetrators of the respective killings. Yet those suspects have been able to drive a Mack truck through the legal system, because they have the money to do so. There can hardly be a doubt that a poor black man from south-central would have been forced by his P.D. to plea guilty to either crime, regardless of the exculpatory evidence. Is there a solution to this? No, there isn't. Our system is far from perfect, but it's the best thing going.
March 20, 2000
The bankruptcy code should be repealed. If you don't have the money to spend, don't spend it. If you spend money you don't have, you shouldn't be able to rob your creditors simply by virtue of your stupidity.
March 15, 2000
HTML, the language in which web pages are authored, is a cross-platform publishing medium. A web page should look and function the same regardless of the browser or platform which you use. Web page authors who include "Best viewed by [browser name]" on their web page do not understand HTML or the concept of cross-platform publishing.
I fundamentally believe in the right of the people to own guns, even though I do not personally own a gun nor support the NRA. The right to bear arms is a right we are guaranteed in the Constitution, and a right we should enjoy under the basic doctrine of freedom and individual liberty. When someone abuses this right and infringes upon the freedoms of others by use of a gun, the perpetrator should be consistently, swiftly and harshly punished, and much more so than is presently done. However, I am now questioning my belief in the Second Amendment and the ability of our society to handle its freedoms properly.
Just a few weeks before I wrote this, on February 29, 2000, a 6-year old boy brought a semi-automatic gun to his Flint, Michigan elementary school and killed 6-year old Kayla Rolland. The gun belonged to his uncle, with whom he lived. His father was in jail. He lives in an impoverished area, and goes to a school where the majority of the students' families are well below the poverty line. But that is beside the point, and by way of background only, not in any way as a justification for the shooting.
The statistics I feel are relevant are that in 1999, 16,000 people were killed by people using guns in the US and 15,500 of these were killed by someone they knew (husband, boyfriend, neighbor) or by someone at work. Approximately 500 were killed by a stranger who broke into their home and 300 of those were killed by their own gun. By way of contrast, Great Britain, a nation of 60 million people, in 1999 experienced a grand total of 12 murders by people using guns. Handguns are totally banned in Great Britain, as in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Canada, and most of New York City. In New York City, the number of murders by firearm there has dropped from 2,200 a year to 600.
I have a difficult time maintaining my faith in the ability of society to function with the right to have firearms under a libertarian system based on freedoms and rights. This difficulty comes as a result of the tremendous amount of violence that is occurring in America by people wielding guns. I don't have the solution any more than the politicians do, but each act of violence like the Kayla Rolland murder and the Columbine massacre pushes me towards further towards the side of stricter regulation.
I have no doubt that the people who wrote the Constitution believed the Second Amendment was vital to the security of the nation. After all, it was second only to freedom of speech and religion. No doubt most of the citizens, almost all of whom were gun owners, did as well. But reliance on the Second Amendment is wearing thin with me, especially in light of what I view as an increasing abuse of that right. Rights are not absolute, and when society abuses a right in the way that the Second Amendment is currently being abused, it is time to reexamine and reevaluate that right.
Times were different 225 years ago: There was no army or police force to protect the people, so guns were the only defense the people had against domestic and foreign intruders. The guns themselves were unrecognizable compared to modern firearm technology. And the people who used and owned them treated them much differently than we do - resulting in none of the gun violence that we are presently experiencing. Additionally, I'm not convinced that handguns provide much benefit to us, while the harm is increasingly obvious.
It's easy to criticize the status quo, and hard to come up with workable solutions. The only way to reverse or amend the Second Amendment is by constitutional amendment, and that would be nearly impossible given this country's divide on the issue. Therefore, we need to find other solutions, including education and regulation. The Second Amendment does not prohibit states from regulating guns, and they should.
If I were put in the position of power to come up with a solution, I do not know what that solution would be. But I would probably start by requiring public education, licensing and training, akin to what is required to drive a car. A more extreme measure is to ban handguns, as in most other countries, but I am sure that the effects of prohibition would be worse than the existing problem.
Prohibitions don't work in America - they never have, and I doubt they ever will. But we have to do something to stem the bloodshed, and by doing nothing, we look like a bunch of idiots.
March 6, 2000
Making people wind through queuing lines, such as when you go to an amusement park and are in line for a ride, makes no sense when no one else is in the line. Organizers should use ropes which can be moved to re-shape the queue so that people do not have to wind their way through permanent barriers to reach their destination.
The purpose of a tip in a restaurant is to show appreciation for and reward quality service. In the United Kingdom and in Hong Kong, restaurants automatically add a 10-12% "suggested optional service charge" (tip) to the check. While this saves me having to calculate the tip, it's nearly impossible not leave an amount other than what they have specified, for example if the service was particularly horrible (as it often is in the U.K.). I find that this system discourages the staff from being courteous, because they will get the same amount of money regardless of how they treat the customers. Unlike in America, there is no true economic incentive for the staff to treat the customers well (and usually, they don't).
I do not understand companies who allow their cashiers to be unable to change a $20 bill. I have gone to a restaurant or store and handed the cashier a $20, and they tell me they can't change a $20. The cashier should be equipped with enough change to handle the day's customers, and if they are not, someone (probably the manager) has failed to perform their job. Along these same lines, one of my pet peeves is businesses who will not accept a charge card as payment for an amount under a certain limit. This violates the merchant's contract with their bank, and is very inconvenient for people like me who, for the sake of convenience (and frequent flier miles), charge everything.
February 28, 2000
Having now had my Civic for one year, I can still say I'm not disappointed in the car. I wish the passenger seat was more comfortable, but since I am almost always in the driver's seat, I don't notice the discomfort much. I have had two warranty repairs in the first year of ownership:
Roof Squeak: At 6500 miles, I heard an intermittent creaking noise from the top of the windshield on driver's side, particularly during cold weather. Dealer installed rubber block and felt wool to eliminate the noise, apparently per Service Bulletin 99-060B, covered by warranty.
Vent Intake and Blower Motor: On the low to medium power settings, the cabin air blower started making a thumping noise at 6500 miles. Dealer said it was leaves, and that they fixed the problem by removing the leaves (dealer said that the vent intake screen is inadequate to block leaves). The problem persisted. On second inspection, dealer found no leaves to cause the noise, so they replaced the blower motor.
February 28, 1999
After six years of faithful service, I retired my 1988 Toyota MR-2 (red) and replaced it with a 1999 Honda Civic EX Coupe (black). I choose the Civic after five months of research, investigation and test-drives, based on my opinion, shared by many, that the Civic is the most reliable yet sporty car for the money.
October 1, 1995
Throughout the history of the United States, we have exerted our economic and military power in our own country and around the world, in order to promote our
own ideals and cultures. This expansionistic style began with the Indians (�Native Americans�), continued with the Christian missionaries, and is currently taking
place with our policies towards other countries.
Most, if not all, sensible people are in favor of justice, morality and human rights. But different countries have different views of these objectives. The United States
has a certain definition of these values, and we have historically tried to impose our values on other countries. We use our economic and military strength to back
An example of this is when Michael Faye broke a law in Singapore and was about to be punished by that country in accordance with their laws, and we pushed for
him to be pardoned because he was an American. Another example is our embargo of Cuba because we disagree with their style of government.
Not all countries share the same philosophies as America. We have no right to impose our views and definitions of human rights on other countries, just as we
would not want other countries to do the same to us. What we call violations of human rights are norms for other countries, and when we impose restrictions on
those countries because of the differences in views, we end up hurting ourselves.
We would not like Japan stopping trade with us unless we conformed to their values, so why do we think we can bully other countries into following our
definitions? We may not always be the superpower we presently are, and increasingly we are depending on other countries for trade. If some of those countries begin boycotting America because of our own human rights definitions, such as the death penalty, legalization of abortion, and even our own democracy, we will be in for quite a shock. Yet this is exactly what we do to other countries.
We boycott many Chinese products and services, and impose high tariffs on trade with that country because of their use of slave labor. What if Japan boycotted
America because we allow ownership of guns? I doubt we would be willing to give in and change our Second Amendment because of Japan�s demands. We
would suffer economic consequences because we value our sovereignty and our Constitution. Yet this is the exact position we place other countries in, just because
of our strength.
For these reasons, I support not imposing our justice system, morals, and views of human rights on other countries, because I do not want other countries doing the
same to us.
April 1, 1995
Throughout most of human history, suicide has been looked upon as a negative action. The legal treatment of suicide can be traced through most of human history,
and it has roots in cultural, religious and pragmatic beliefs about human life, and the relationship between the individual and the state. I will argue that as humans, we
have a fundamental right to control our own lives, and that control includes deciding whether to live or die. That decision can include one's family, and include
trained medical professionals to assist when asked. The decision to end ones life should not be illegal, nor should requesting, receiving or giving assistance to end
another persons life, understanding that the decision was undeniably and unmistakably made by the person wanting to die. I will show this by examining the current status of the laws regarding suicide and doctor assisted suicide, and the constitutional treatment of the same.
Our society, based upon the assumption that suicide is not a rational choice, has made every effort to prevent and discourage the choice to end one's life. As we
debate about the legality of assisted suicide and euthanasia, we are challenging those long held assumptions by suggesting that in some cases, society should shift
from prevention to toleration or assistance.
Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in the United States (When Death Is Sought, p. 9). Because of the large number of people who decide to end their own
lives, many studies have been done as to who these people are, and what drives them to make that choice. I feel that that is irrelevant to my argument. While every
effort should be made to help a person who wants to commit suicide to find a solution to the problem that would result in life, rather than death, the final decision is
theirs. That decision is a private one, and the state has no business nor any interest in that decision.
The Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, 1972, decided that abortion was a private choice, and one which the state could not interfere in unless there was a
compelling reason. In simpler terms, if a woman wants to abort her fetus, that is her private right, and in most cases, the state does not have a compelling interest to
prevent that. I believe that if a person wants to abort their life, then that is a private right as well.
The argument for the legality of assisted suicide is often centered around seriously ill patients. Cancer patients have twice the risk of suicide than the whole
population. Almost all patients who receive a cancer diagnosis carry a belief that says, "I won't die in pain from cancer - I'll kill myself first." Many have hidden
supplies of drugs for this purpose, but for most patients, the time never comes because life becomes more precious as natural death, approaches (When Death Is Sought, p. 11).
People with AIDS are, according to some studies, as much as 36% more likely to commit suicide than the population as a whole (Living With AIDS, p. 39). Other
studies show that AIDS patients who commit suicide tend to act within nine months of receiving the AIDS positive diagnosis (Living With AIDS, p. 42).
The state of New York Task Force on Life and the Law, formed by Governor Mario Cuomo in 1985, reported in a May 26, 1994 press release that:
"The Task Force concludes that legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia, or mercy killing, would be profoundly dangerous for many patients. This is
particularly true in light of the widespread failure...to address pain and depression adequately -- treatable conditions that cause suffering and most often
lead patients to think about suicide."
This argument - that we should treat the causes of the desire to end one's life rather than assisting in any way with the actual ending of the life, is a popular one. It is
true about abortion also, though. There are many ways to treat the cause of the unwanted pregnancy, which we strongly promote through sex education and widely
available contraception, but we also recognize the right of the woman to make a decision about her own life. I believe this should be equally true about the fate of
one's own life.
Most state law defines four types of practices that can end a person's life: The withdrawal and withholding of life-sustaining treatment; suicide; assistance to commit
suicide; and active euthanasia (When Death Is Sought, p. 14). The laws governing each of these practices reflects a judgment regarding the balance between an
individual's right to privacy and the interest of the state. Most states accept that a patient has a right to accept or reject medical treatment, including life sustaining
and life prolonging treatments, through a legal document called a living will (When Death Is Sought, p. 34).
Thirty-two states have made assisting a suicide a statutory offense. In the remaining eighteen states, those who assist may be subject to prosecution for murder or
manslaughter. In the wake of Dr. Jack Kevorkian's acts of suicide assistance, several states have specifically outlawed assisted suicide. Few cases of assisted
suicide are actually prosecuted, because of the public sympathy and difficulty of securing an indictment and conviction. (When Death Is Sought, p. 5).
Common law has historically protected an individual's right to decide about medical treatment. In Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health, the United
States Supreme Court decided that the right to refuse treatment is a protected "liberty interest" under the due process clause. The ACLU has argued, specifically in
the Kevorkian case, that laws banning assisted suicide and suicide in general violates the rights of the terminally ill patients who wish to die. (ACLU Documentation
on Kevorkian, p. 2).
The key to legalizing suicide and assisted suicide is to classify decisions about ones own life a fundamental right, meaning that those laws regarding suicide would be
subject to strict scrutiny. Supporters argue that the individual's right to self-determination encompasses all decisions concerning the timing and manner of death. The right to assisted suicide is implicit in the right to refuse life-sustaining treatment, because both practices seek to give individuals "control over when they die, where they die and their physical and mental state at the time of their death."
The current law, however, makes a distinction between passive and active killing, saying that passive killing (refusal of treatment) is more moral than active killing
(assisting in suicide). I disagree. Hunger strikes are passive suicide, because they withhold life sustaining nutrients. Shooting oneself is active suicide. It is not the job
of the government to decide for me which is more moral.
Our government does not have the responsibility of protecting the people from themselves. It is a fundamental right of ours, not defined by the Constitution but by
our existence, to decide what is best for our bodies. This includes what to put in our bodies, how to live, and whether to live at all. This fundamental freedom should
also include where, how and why to die, and if we choose to die with the comforting aid of a medical professional or our family, why should that be illegal? The state does not have a compelling interest in keeping us alive. We will all die eventually, by various means, and it is impossible for the government to prevent people from taking their own lives. Instead, they should encourage treatment where possible, and medical assistance for those people, such as terminally ill patients, who choose to end their life while they have some sense of dignity and control over the circumstances.
American Civil Liberties Union Documentation on Dr. Jack Kevorkian. ACLU, 1995.
Landow, Joseph. Living With AIDS. Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1993.
When Death Is Sought. Author unknown. ND.
Customer Service: Many business establishments operate under the assumption that they are doing me a favor by providing me with goods and services, in exchange for my money. Their employees and policies avoid the possibility that I may have a choice when it comes to deciding which establishment to patronize. Because of this, oftentimes customer service is arrogant and impolite, and the product or service they deliver is substandard and overvalued. These business owners then wonder why it is that they are unable to attract and retain customers, and why their company is in constant economic despair. They need to be reminded of a basic rule of capitalism: They are not doing the consumer a favor by offering their services. The consumer is doing them a favor by giving them the opportunity to serve the customer.
Renting an Apartment: For a year-and-a-half during law school, I worked at a legal aid office advising tenants of, among other things, their housing rights. Some of my clients were treated unlawfully and extremely unfairly by their landlord, such as when a landlord discriminated against a tenant because of race, or didn't keep the apartment up to minimum habitability requirements. We advocated on behalf of those clients, and took some of those landlords to court. However, some if not most of our tenants were treated lawfully, but their eyes, unfairly. I frequently heard "It's not fair that the landlord can evict me with just 30 days notice after I've lived here for 5 years." or "It's not fair that she can raise my rent that much in one year." or "It's not fair that my landlord can kick me out - I'm on subsidized housing!" or "I don't pay much in rent, but this place is in bad condition - it's not fair." or "The rules my landlord has are ridiculous!" I could appreciate my clients despair, but I had a hard time sympathizing with them. They live in the most expensive housing market in the country, and rent rather than own a home. They therefore sacrifice the legal securities that come with owning a home. The fact that they can't afford a home here doesn't make my heart bleed: There are plenty of places that I can't afford a home, so I don't live there. I live where I can afford a home. Moral of the story: If you don't like living under the rule of a landlord, buy a house. If you can't afford a house where you live, move somewhere less expensive.
Blind Nationalism: Many Americans think that the United States is the best. That we have the best technology and the freest press. Wake up! Hong Kong, Japan, and most of western Europe have more advanced consumer electronics than we do. Their cell phones and TV's are at least a year ahead of ours. And we will never have the incredible public transportation system that they do (let's talk about BART, which runs from Daly City to Fremont, completely skipping three major international airports). As for a free press, our news media treats our government with kid gloves - heaven forbid they would be critical of the government and do an expose on some of the waste and cover-ups that take place. The foreign press, specifically in Hong Kong and the U.K., is much more adept at uncovering corruption in both their government and ours ... but we will never hear about it, because our media doesn't want to upset our government officials. If you think America is #1, take a trip overseas to the U.K. or Hong Kong, and you'll find that we have an undeservingly big ego.
The Fallacy of the Gateway Theory: A Lesson in Logic. Just because a lot of X did Y doesn't mean that Y results in X. This type of logical error, called post hoc ergo propter hoc (after which, therefore because of which), is often employed in the failed War on Drugs. Part of the propaganda employed in this "War" is that using marijuana leads to using cocaine and other harder drugs (the often heralded "gateway drug" theory). This has been used to fight the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes, and to counter the scientifically proven arguments that marijuana is a relatively benign drug. The logical fallacy is that just because a lot of cocaine users once used marijuana, therefore using marijuana results in using cocaine. I'll use an example to illustrate: A lot of people who have been in car accidents have eaten french fries in the week preceding their car accident. Using the same logic as the "gateway drug" propaganda, it therefore follows that eating french fries leads to car accidents. Of course, this is utter nonsense! A second example: A lot of people who use cocaine regularly drank alcohol before using cocaine. Using the "gateway drug" fallacy, it should therefore follow that regularly drinking alcohol leads to cocaine use. Of course, this is wrong. There is no statistically significant correlation between eating french fries and car accidents, drinking alcohol and using cocaine, nor marijuana use and cocaine use. Until such a correlation is found to exist, the "gateway drug" theory is pure propaganda, and completely illogical.
Bullying: The initiation of the use of force, whether by a person or a government, against another person or another government, is impermissible. Individuals have a responsibility and a right to defend against the infringements of their rights, and when asked, to assist others in similar defenses. The primary purpose of the government should be to ensure that the rights of its citizens are not infringed upon by neither internal nor external threats. The government should also, when able and willing, assist other sovereigns in similar defenses upon request. Bullying should not be tolerated, in any form. On the school playground and in the workplace, bullying is a form of subrogation which assaults the self-esteem and spiritual psyche of the victim. Schoolyard bullies should be expelled, and adult bullies should be stood up to and silenced. Her name was Heather Davis. I owe much of my hatred and resentment of small-town Ohio and the people who live there to her. Heather was a classmate of mine in the fifth and sixth grade. For a number of reasons, she was an incredibly insecure person. She dealt with her emotional problems the same way that her parents dealt with theirs: By being a bully. Every day I went to school knowing that she would be there to yell names at me and physically harass me. I often went home in tears. After almost two years, I told my mom I had enough - I refused to go back to school, and if I was forced to, I would kill myself before facing the wrath of Heather Davis again. The next day, my mom intervened with the school and most of the bullying stopped. If I knew then what I know now, I would have sued the school district and Heather Davis for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, assault, and battery. I trusted the school to protect me from physical and mental abuse, but they failed to do so, despite knowing that the abuse was present. Bullying is not normal childhood interaction. It is no more normal in children at school than it is for adults in the workplace. It commonly exists in both situations, and schools as well as employers should not tolerate such behavior. Bullying is an abnormal way for people to deal with their emotional problems. It is not acceptable, and must not be tolerated.
Decriminalization of Drugs: Assuming, for the sake of argument, that illegal drugs are a problem in our country, the present course of action in combating that problem (the "War on Drugs") is a failure, and as history has shown, will continue to be a failure. Can we not learn from our mistakes and move on? Apparently not. Legalization or decriminalization of drugs would not stop the use of drugs. But why is that our goal? Illegal drugs are relatively harmless compared to alcohol and tobacco, and hey, if someone wants to fill themselves up with a mind-numbing product, that's not my concern. Decriminalization would remove the criminal element from the cash flow equation, and allow the government to realize revenue from the taxation of the sale of drugs. Rather than following the path of curtailing the supply, which by all accounts has failed, spend resources on health programs for drug users and education programs designed to diminish the demand for drugs. The AMA says that drug addiction is a disease and should be treated as such. Maybe we should listen to our country's finest doctors and treat this problem, rather than listening to the military (not known for their medical expertise), who wants to "declare war" on every problem our country has. Prohibition should have taught us something. Our drug policy is a mess, and seriously in need of a basic reorientation.
Victimless Crimes: Victimless crimes do have a victim: the person convicted. Crimes which have no victim, including personal drug use, possession and prostitution, should be decriminalized and persons convicted of those crimes set free. It is intolerable that we have to bankroll "wars" to fight activities which have been ongoing and unstoppable since the beginning of humanity. Those efforts, time, money and jail space should be focused on crimes with victims.
Freedoms & Personal Responsibility: You should be able to do whatever you want without interference by society or individuals, so long as you don't infringe upon others' right to do the same, and you are willing to take complete and total personal responsibility for your actions. I should not be required to financially support someone who has made conscious choices to lead a lifestyle that they are unable to support themselves. I may choose to help someone in need of charity, but I should not be forced to do so. Similarly, others should not be required to financially support me as a result of my lifestyle choices, and I am working hard to make sure that my family and I will always be self-sufficient.
Stereotyping Minorities: A Lesson in Logic. Just because a lot of [ stereotype ] are [ minority ] does not mean that a lot of [ minorities ] are [ stereotype ]. Examples: Just because a lot of criminals are black does not mean that a lot of blacks are criminals. Just because a lot of engineers are Asian does not mean that a lot of Asians are engineers. Just because a lot of bigots are white does not mean that a lot of whites are bigots. For this reason, racial profiling should be prohibited as a means of law enforcement.
Middle Stoppers: You are not the only person in the world. This applies when you are driving, walking down the sidewalk or walkway, exchanging ideas, and meeting new people. People who drive slowly in the left lane, fail to get the hell out of the way of an emergency vehicle, or walk in the middle of a pathway, get what they deserve if they get run over. Don't stop in the middle of the grocery store aisle. Don't stop in the middle of a busy sidewalk. Don't stop in the middle of a busy walkway. There's other people behind you who don't want to stop and watch whatever it is you are doing, so move to the side! If you don't know how to drive, or you learned how through a correspondence course (these don't really exist, but some people drive as though they do), please, find someone who knows how to drive and get them to teach you.
Problems People Have: We all have problems and struggles in our lives. Mine are different from yours, but that doesn't mean they are any less valid. Former criminals, drug users and alcoholics should not be congratulated nor rewarded for their reformations, unless people who have never been criminals, drug users or alcoholics are similarly congratulated and rewarded for their abstinence. When I was in the sixth grade, the school I attended would reward "problem" students with a candy bar when they had gone one week without receiving any reprimands. I asked my teacher why I didn't get a candy bar, when I had gone the entire year without any reprimands. The response was that the purpose of the candy bar was to reward problem students for not engaging in problem behavior. But what I learned was that it paid to be bad, because then and only then you would get a reward for being good. I can't blame my teacher though - she was a victim of narrow-minded thinking.
The First Amendment: Violence is not caused by the free access to information. Watching violent movies or knowing how to make a pipe bomb does not cause violence. Censorship will not decrease violence - quite the contrary, history shows us that prohibition and censorship has only increased crime. Parents and teachers must do their jobs in order to reduce violence. When I was a kid, I used to watch the Dukes of Hazard TV show. That show featured more car crashes than any other show I've ever seen! Now that I'm an adult, I drive a car. Did watching that show make me want to crash my car? Never! Not even as a child watching the TV show did I expect cars to crash like that in real life. We should not presume a causation element where there is none. Schools which ban the wearing of certain colors or symbols, such as the Star of David (misunderstood by some as a gang symbol) or clothing with the word "hemp" on it have completely missed the boat on curbing gang violence. Restricting the rights of non-gang members empowers gangs. The only way to solve the "gang problem" (and I'm not talking about peaceful assembly or drugs here - I'm talking about physical violence perpetrated by groups of people) is to strictly, consistently, and when justified, harshly punish the people who perpetrate the crimes.
Organized Religion: This section is bound to offend many people, including some of my friends. But some of my friends have religious beliefs that offend me. The feeling is mutual, but I hope that we transcend that and focus on what we have in common. By doing so, I have been fortunate enough to know many very wonderful people, even though they have religious beliefs which I disagree with. I haven't let that stop me from having valuable friendships with them, and likewise I hope that my beliefs have not stopped them from pursuing friendships with me. Some of my best friends fall into this category, and I'm thankful for knowing them, even though we do not see eye-to-eye on all issues. Now on with the offensive part.
In addition to being ignorant and hypocritical, I think organized western religion is a fraud. Churches use the fear of death to defraud otherwise ignorant commoners of a disproportionate amount of their income. Of course, it is a brilliant business scheme, but still a fraud.
The Mormon Church was once a big proponent of bigamy. It was only after the government prohibited bigamists from practicing their "sinful" acts that the Mormons told their members to stop practicing bigamy. And it was not until the late 1970's that the Mormon Church allowed African-American Mormons to enter the church's temples. Nowadays, the church is spending tens of millions of dollars to prevent gays from getting equal civil rights as straight people enjoy, claiming that being gay is immoral and unnatural. And they don't think that bigamy is also? Why is it that one man marrying five women is just fine and dandy, but two men or women in a committed relationship causes the church so much grief?
I find it ironic that the Mormon Church was spending millions of dollars to prevent gays from getting married, while at the same time they said not a word of protest when FOX aired the TV show "Who Wants To Marry a Millionaire?" - where a live marriage ceremony was performed on nationwide TV, only to be nullified by the "husband and wife" when they realized they entered into the marriage just for publicity. Whose marriage is the Mormon Church protecting? These televised sham marriages?
Your interpretation of a religious dogma or ideology, such as the Bible, is purely subjective, and completely meaningless to me. Please do not presume to tell me that your interpretation is more valid than mine, or that my life should, in any way, be restricted or guided by your interpretation.
If someone has made a conscious choice to believe in God or Jesus, that's fine. But I resent anyone who tries to convince me that I should share in their belief. I also resent those who brainwash their children (or other's children) with a specific religious affiliation. Let the person decide for himself when he is old enough and knowledgeable enough to make that choice.
I'm not a biblical scholar, but I know enough about Christianity to know that Jesus was a rather compassionate fellow. He didn't shun the sick or the prostitutes; he took them under his wing. It is hypocritical that so many of his so-called followers fail to follow his example. The Mormons, Jimmy Falwell, and Fred Phelps, just to name a few, tell us that "God Hates Gays" and that gays are evil. They used similar propaganda against racial minorities in the 1950's and 1960's. That hardly seems compassionate and Jesus-like. Of course, the church's racist interpretations of the Bible were reversed when racism was no longer in vogue, seeming to reinforce my view that religious dogma is not handed down by the Almighty, but rather selectively adopted by the church to further whatever their present agenda is, be it racism, bigotry, or invading other people's privacy. It therefore seems that the church has little to do with furthering the stoic goals and principles of Jesus, but more to do with advancing a flimsy agenda created to suit the whims of the Christian leaders.
Conservative, fundamental groups tout family values, yet they repeatedly fail to practice what they preach. Newt Gingrich having an affair is one example. Another example is Mike Trout, a top official and announcer for Focus on the Family. He resigned from the conservative Christian group in October of 2000 because he had an extramarital affair. These people spend so much time, effort, money and hatred attacking those who do not fit within their definition of "normal" or "moral", and yet frequently, they themselves aren't living up to the standards that they are setting for others.
"Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." John 8:7.
Elected Officials: Elected officials who are exposed as hypocrites should be banished from public office by the voters.
Newt Gingrich screamed for family values and the Defense of Marriage Act, all the while carrying on an affair behind his wife's back with a girl half his age. He told his wife he was divorcing her while she was in the hospital receiving treatment for cancer. What kind of family values are those? And where were the republicans and their family values when Juan Miguel Gonzalez wanted his little boy, Elian, back? They wanted to hold investigatory hearings ... until they found out the American people supported the reunification of Elian with his dad. Such wonderful family values.
Senator Bob Barr, who wrote the Defense of Marriage Act, has been married three times. Which one of his marriages is he defending? Bill Clinton signed the act in the very room in which he received oral sex from his mistress. What's so great about these marriages that deserve defense?
When the nominee for Secretary of Labor is found to have violated labor laws, and is criticized for that, it is not "politics of personal destruction." It's called "exposing a hypocrite."
Homosexuality: The U.S. military doesn't want gays to serve in the armed forces. All other western countries allow gays to serve in the military, but the U.S. has yet to be enlightened in this regard. Canada and Israel report having none of the problems with having gays serve in the military that the U.S. fears: There has been no demoralization, and no privacy problems. It seems that once again, the United States is behind the times in the area of bigotry and discrimination.
If the military wishes to discriminate against gays by not allowing them to enlist in the armed forces, then I do not see any reason why gays should be subject to the draft. Gays should also be exempt from registering with the Selective Service System, until they are allowed to voluntarily enter into the military. After all, if "unit cohesion" is the reason why gays must be excluded from the military during peacetime, how would that change during time of war? If anything, I would think unit cohesion would be more important during time of war. So let's be consistent: No gays in the military means no need for registration with the Selective Service.
Much of the following was taken from an essay by Nathan Sanders.
Homophobia is generally found in two arguments: The Choice and The Bible. The Choice is that a gay person has chosen to be gay, and therefore should make the choice not to be gay in order to avoid moral destruction. Apparently, believers in The Choice think that gay people wake up one day, decide that their life is boring, and choose to make a drastic change to a lifestyle which is the target of hatred. To believers in The Choice, I ask: When did you chose to hate broccoli? When did you chose to be attracted to red-heads, or tanned skin, or blue eyes? And why on earth would anyone chose to persecuted and hated, to be a target for beatings and murder, and to be ostracized from society? Whatever causes sexuality --- genes, environmental influence, the food the mother eats during pregnancy --- does not matter. Gay people are who they are, and they cannot change it, and most would not change it.
As for The Bible, Jesus himself never once said anything about homosexuality, and you'd think that if homosexuality was as big of a sin as Christians make it out to be, the very Savior of Christianity would have said at least one passage. But nope, not a single word. It must not have been that important to him. You have to be just a bit worried when the central figure of your religion doesn't mention something about what you believe to be a major sin. In fact, none of the four Gospels mention homosexuality --- the messages therein are concerned with acceptance, love, and not judging others.
From the Old Testament, you have the Holiness Code from Leviticus, which bans many acts such as wearing clothes made from two clothes, planting fields with two seeds, eating pork, etc. as well as same-sex intercourse. Of course, many Christians ignore these restrictions, and there does not seem to be any reason other than fear or hatred to single out particular sins from the Holiness Code.
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is typically used as an example of how God punishes homosexuals. But read your Bible carefully, in particular Luke 10:10-13 and Ezekiel 16:49-50. Their sin was not homosexuality--- it was inhospitality and failure to take care of the poor (sins many Christians commit indiscriminately today).
And what of the remaining passages in the Bible that "condemn" homosexuality (Romans 1:26-2:1, I Corinthians 6:9-11, and Timothy 1:10)? For starters, they were all written by one man, Saint Paul. Seems kind of hard to believe that centuries of hatred and loathing are based on the writings of one man, in a religion based on love, forgiveness, non-judgementality, and acceptance of mortal flaws (remember when Jesus said in defense of an adulteress: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone"?).
And Paul wasn't the best person to take advice from: he believed that government authority was not to be questioned; he believed that women should wear veils; and he was anti-Semitic. What makes Paul's views on homosexuality more valid than his views on government, women, or the Jewish people?