Stress of Global Recession Leading to Weird Results

Actually, I’m not sure if what I’m going to write about has anything to do with either stress or global economic blues, but it must be indicative of something.

(Now, I know I should be writing about Government Motors and the new Pelosi GTX, or even about health care deform, but this looked too good to pass up.)

According to the Wall Street Journal and a Japanese culture writer named Lisa Katayama, the new rage in Japan is virtual boyfriends and girlfriends.

I tried to check it all out at http://web-kare.jp (which means “Web Boyfriend”) but I couldn’t figure out how to navigate the site without knowing Japanese. It appears that you have to create an account to get up and running, however.

Anyway, Ms. Katayama reports that you can choose an animated character to be your boyfriend (or girlfriend on other sites), and when you log in, Mr. Nice Cyber Guy will tell you how great you look.

I’ll settle for a Belvedere Martini, shaken and not cyber.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Income Distribution (and Taxes) in the United States

I found this (now-purloined) graph prepared by an economist writing about health care in the United States in the New York Times. His purpose was much different than mine. I’m reproducing it to show how politicians blatantly lie every time they say they’re going to tax the wealthy and leave the middle class alone. Yeah, right. All the money is in the middle, as the graph clearly shows (totals include cost of benefits and Social Security/Medicare contributions borne by employee and employer):


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Duelling Memos: Baucus and Kennedy Go Head to Head

This past week saw Ted Kennedy and his Senate Committee on Health (and a zillion other things) issue a paper on how the Massachusetts Senator envisions America’s new health care system. Now, his counterpart over in Senate Finance, Senator Max Baucus of Montana, has joined the fray with his own paper on the subject.

Actually, there’s not much difference in the two, but Baucus reveals some juicy details about how the Obamacrats intend to enforce rationing of health care (which they still won’t admit is on the table, but they cloak it under the concept of “clinical (read: cost) effectiveness”).

In envisioning a Health Fed to run the nation’s doctors and hospitals (modeled after the Federal Reserve in both its overweening power and its so-called political independence), Baucus proposes a $10,000 fine for each instance of “medically improper or unnecessary care.”

Now, about that hip replacement you wanted to get after the age of 60, forget it. It’s unnecessary since you won’t be able to work long enough to justify the expense. (This is actually the policy in Great Britain.)

To paraphrase Al Davis, “Just suffer, baby.”


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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EEOC Sues Strip Club for Firing 56-Year-Old Waitress

I stumbled upon this attorney’s employment law blog that focuses on the bizarre, humorous and unusual in case law (Wal-Mart execs dressed in drag and filmed at a meeting, for instance).

On his site, CurrentEmployment.net, Tim Eavenson brings up the tale of a lawsuit filed this past week by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against a strip club that burned to the ground–two years ago.

However, the year before the club’s demise, the owners of Cover Girls in Houston had fired 56-year-old Mary Bassi, who had waited tables there for nigh on to 15 years and raked in almost $100K a year from a loyal suite of customers. Younger babes were seen taking her place.

Bassi says the bosses used to call her “old” and make jokes at her expense about Alzheimer’s.

Meanwhile, the suit will go on because the owners also operated four other Houston strip clubs. Bassi, now 59, is working for a competitor. I wonder if her loyal customers followed her over to the competition.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Lawyers Seek Own Bailout Through Tort Reform

It was kind of hard to capture what I’m trying to say in one short headline (title), but basically the trial lawyers of America are going around knocking on the doors of statehouses and legislators everywhere to expand liability laws, so they can rack up increased litigation–and paychecks. It’s what Tiger Joyce of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel calls the “litigation industry’s stimulus plan.”

Basically, what these lawyers are doing is beating back tort reform–which aims to make it harder for lawyers to sue companies right and left for often-frivolous reasons–whenever it rears its to-them-ugly, to-us-beautiful head.

Writes Joyce:

In the past…, I’ve offered broad analysis of the litigation industry’s well financed and well coordinated lobbying effort in statehouses across the country designed to roll back recent tort reforms and otherwise increase liability and the number of lawsuits, all at the expense of productive elements of the economy upon which we must rely to drive an eventual recovery.

He then goes on to note the four areas upon which the litigators are focused: false claims, consumer protection, statutes of limitation and repose, and wrongful deaths. In other words, these lawyer-bandits want to expand opportunities for lawsuits and financial rewards in these four very broad areas.

Consider just consumer protection and this infamous $54-million pantsuits litigation:

Overexpansion of existing consumer protection acts has led to cases such as Washington, D.C.’s infamous “pantsuit” wherein the plaintiff pursued a $54 million claim against his dry cleaner over a misplaced pair of suit pants. While the judge ultimately ruled for the defendant at trial, the broadly worded law, which allows a “private attorney general” to seek $1,500 “per violation” without demonstrating injury, kept the judge from dismissing the case outright at an early stage. The family owned dry cleaners ran up more than $100,000 in defense costs and ultimately opted to close the shop.

These categories pose fairly difficult challenges to us layfolk in understanding them, but Joyce provides good detail in his article.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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In This VAT, There Be Billions

Scrambling to come up with money (i.e., take it from us taxpayers), Congress and the White House are experiencing a taxing time figuring out sources of revenue that won’t have serious political repercussions.

One that is almost sure to be enacted in the name of “healthcare reform” (since when did health care become one word?) is a tax on employer-provided health benefits, which will probably be skewed toward those with the highest wages and/or highest priced plans.

Inevitably, however, the good ol’ value-added tax, or VAT, has resurfaced. In this tax scheme, a tariff is assessed each time a value is added to a product–when it’s made, when it’s shipped and when it’s bought or consumed. Some 130 nations currently employ VATs, and one wag even argues that a VAT of 24 percent (!) would enable the federal government to balance the budget and drop all income taxes to zero for those earning $100,000 or less and to 25 percent for high-earners.

Of course, it would also horrifically raise the cost of everything from eggs to excess consumption–and everything in between.

Now, if Congress would actually incorporate a VAT in the name of ending most income taxes, I’d say it’s worth a look, but I doubt you could get many Democrats to go along in the face of a) “lost” revenue from income tax and b) constituent outrage over soaring living costs. Plus, Republicans, theoretically at least, are opposed to all taxes, especially those proposed by donkeys. (Not that the elephants have much power anymore.)

The most commonsensical and best approach is, as always, an across-the-board flat tax on all incomes above…, well, fill in the blank. Or we could revisit Richard Nixon’s plan for a guaranteed income for all and thus end the welfare debacle.

However, things that make sense can never make it past Democrats, whose sole purpose in life is to create constituencies that will be indebted to them forever and therefore always vote Democratic–even if the world is falling apart around them.

The Democrats, after all, have a program for everything–and a solution for nothing.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Countrywide Leads the List of Top 25 Bandits


I don’t usually agree with AlterNet, which is generally a left-leaning (to say the least) site, but The Center for Public Integrity has a well-reasoned piece on “The Bad Guys of Subprime Lending Are Raking in Bailout Billions.”

The article details the woeful and sordid spectacle of non-banks (for the most part) dishing out $1.4 trillion in subprime (paradoxically, actually meaning higher than prime rate) loans that could never be repaid, with ever-lowered standards of loan qualification.

Now, with 20 of the top 25 lenders either out of business or swallowed up, many of the worst culprits are now zinging Uncle Same to bail them out. I’m reprinting the chart that lists the top 25 bandits at right (click on image to enlarge).

Interesting, but how did $1.4 trillion in bad loans cause $3 trillion of federal expenditures in response? Wouldn’t it have been easier just to buy up the foreclosed homes and take them off the books?

Answers: Government never takes the easiest or most sensible route since the goal is to buy support and votes, not necessarily to solve any problem.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Heritage Foundation Asks, ‘What Employer Advantage?’

James Sherk, writing for the Heritage Foundation, has challenged the assertion that current union organizing laws favor the employer over the organizers. He makes these points, and I’m taking the liberty to quote his text directly:

In fact, as I have written before, labor law heavily tilts the scales in favor of unions during organizing drives:* Unions control the election timing, so workers do not vote until union support peaks.

* Employers rarely learn of the organizing drive until unions ask for an election, so unions have months to build support while employers have just one month to present the other side.

* Employers may not ask employees if they support the union. Unions may ask employees how they will vote and focus their efforts on persuading undecided workers.

* The law severely restricts employer speech while allowing unions to say almost anything they want. Employers may not promise to improve working conditions if workers vote down the union. The union may promise anything it wants, even if it knows it cannot keep those promises.

* Employers may not even ask workers what problems they have in the workplace and why they want a union. Unions can ask workers about anything they want.

* Unions may not campaign while workers are on company property and on company time. However the company must give unions the addresses of every worker and unions can visit workers at their homes. Employers are legally prohibited from visiting workers homes to campaign.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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British Doctor Warns of Human Toll from U.S. Health Care Reform

The British organization going by the acronym of NICE is anything but when it comes to its role in policing health care in the United Kingdom. It routinely denies the use of drugs that the United States and European nations rely on to prolong and save lives from chronic diseases such as cancer.

NICE stands for the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, Britain’s model for what Obama and crew want to accomplish here in nationalizing and then rationalizing (and rationing) health care–true cost effectiveness.

As British oncologist Karol Sikora points out, however, NICE manages cost effectiveness by keeping the nation in the medicinal dark ages. “If it costs too much, it can’t be any good” seems to be NICE’s motto when it comes to drugs.

Writing in the Manchester Union-Leader, Dr. Sikora notes that Obama wants a similar mechanism for holding down costs and warns that it will cost thousands of Americans their lives in premature deaths and suffering:

As a practicing oncologist, I am forced to give patients older, cheaper medicines. The real cost of this penny-pinching is premature death for thousands of patients — and higher overall health costs than if they had been treated properly: Sick people are expensive.

Sadly, the model upon which Obama is building is based on Tom Daschle’s book, which praises NICE and slams old people for hanging on to their lives too long and costing taxpayers too much money (which presumably could be spent elsewhere in buying votes).

The thing about bleeding-heart liberals (see Obama, Barack, Kennedy, Ted, and Baucus, Max, et al.) is that they only bleed for taxpayer dollars and for systems they can run–not for real people in suffering.

“Build them a system, and they will be happy–and we can take credit for it forever.” Or at least until the “happy” citizens die at 67 instead of 81.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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EFCA Sponsors Says Card Check May Go Bye-Bye

Senator Tom Harkin, D.-Iowa, says compromise is in order to save the Employee Free Choice Act, specifying that the card check provision will no doubt have to be dropped.

"Compromises are going to be made," said Harkin, 69. "It probably won’t be card check [as part of the final law], because too many people are opposed to it now."

Card check allows organizers to unionize a company by merely getting 50-percent-plus-one of the employees to sign off on the idea. No election need be held, but the union (har de har har) could still ask for one.

Business is unilaterally opposed to it, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce calling the EFCA "Armageddon." (New York Governor David Paterson has already created card check in his state by fiat–executive order. Henceforth, all businesses receiving government assistance in just about any form in his state will be subject to card check unionization.)

Harkin said he’s hoping that the compromise bill he’s negotiating with fellow senators will win the "grudging support" of both labor and "some business." For its part, labor says card check is non-negotiable and absolutely essential, and from the business side comes the stance that, even with card check gone, the EFCA is still Armageddonish with its binding arbitration provision.

The proposed law mandates a two-year binding contract be imposed if the company and union fail to agree upon a contract after 90 days of direct negotiations and another 30 days of mediation. In the words of Rodney King, "Can’t we all just get along?" Evidently not.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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