Thursday, May 19, 2005
Well not on that general of a scale, but it clearly shows how bias can affect media reporting. Of particular note is not so much the original version, which was clearly biased and factually inaccurate. But more important is the revision, which was clearly done in such a way as to attempt to paint republicans in a bad light, and democrats in a positive light where the facts in a way that is inconsistent with the facts.

And they wonder why Americans consider used car salespersons more trustworthy than the media....
Friday, May 13, 2005
U.S. Border Patrol agents have been ordered not to arrest illegal aliens along the section of the Arizona border where protesters patrolled last month because an increase in apprehensions there would prove the effectiveness of Minuteman volunteers, The Washington Times has learned.
More than a dozen agents, all of whom asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, said orders relayed by Border Patrol supervisors at the Naco, Ariz., station made it clear that arrests were "not to go up" along the 23-mile section of border that the volunteers monitored to protest illegal immigration.

Not good. If they are going to do this, I say we just fire them all and reform our immigration laws rather than spend millions for nothing.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
The opinion is here. Eugene Volokh has a good summary and response, and I generally agree with his analysis, and especially his conclusion that this will be overturned. I think it might be overturned on a more fundamental issue though: standing. It is not clear to me that the associations at issue should be allowed standing to challenge this constitutional amendment.

But more importantly, if the opinion were the law (it is not - it is a horribly flawed opinion frankly), the slippery-slope consequences would be astounding. The case would have to be limited to its facts to prevent those consequences, which is the hallmark of a bad decision.

It will be interesting to see just how harsh the appellate court is on this opinion.
Monday, May 09, 2005
I am starting to wonder if Bob Herbert even writes his columns anymore, or if he just has a collection of 50 anti-Bush, anti-Iraq war (outdated) talking points from which 8 or so are randomly selected and thrown into a column... It really makes you wonder if he is just so biased, he refuses to analyze any information from the last 6 months or so, or if he is just so out of touch with the news from Iraq that his columns appear to have been written a year ago.

And the NYTimes is trying to figure out why they are losing credibility? Here is a hint, trying cutting back to just either biased reporting and columns or factually inaccurate ones. When you combine both it makes it really hard to be taken seriously.

There are legitimate criticisms of the Iraq war, but you should probably have at least some of the facts before you try to make such a criticism. Clearly Herbert does not have those facts...
Friday, May 06, 2005

RALEIGH, North Carolina (AP) -- To a dessert shop customer, the severed fingertip found in a pint of frozen custard could be worth big dollars in a potential lawsuit. To the shop worker who lost it, the value is far more than monetary.

But Clarence Stowers still has the digit, refusing to return the evidence so it could be reattached. And now it's too late for doctors to do anything for 23-year-old Brandon Fizer.

"I'm not saying who has it, but somebody has it," Stowers said this week in a telephone interview, refusing to let on where the fingertip is now.

Soon after Stowers found the finger in a mouthful of chocolate soft-serve he bought Sunday at Kohl's Frozen Custard in Wilmington, he put it in his freezer at home, taking it out only occasionally to show to television cameras.

He refused to give it to the shop's owner, and refused to give it to a doctor who was treating Fizer, who accidentally stuck his hand in a mixing machine and had his right index finger lopped off at the first knuckle.

Medical experts say an attempt to reattach a severed finger can generally be made within six hours.

But according to the shop's management, Stowers wouldn't give it back when he was in the store 30 minutes after the accident.

"The general manager attempted to retrieve it and rush it to the hospital," reads a statement posted Thursday on Kohl's Web site. "Unfortunately, the customer refused to give it to her and declared that he would be calling the TV stations and an attorney as he exited the store."

Officials at Cape Fear Hospital said their efforts to retrieve the finger also failed.

Dr. James Larson, director of emergency medicine for UNC Hospitals, who was not involved in the case, said once Stowers took the finger home and froze it, it was too late to even try for reattachment.

So ultimately, this idiot that finds the finger in his ice cream (bad, but not the end of the world - its not like he actually put it in his mouth), tortiously causes the innocent kid to permanently lose his finger. And why? To possibly make a windfall of money from the store. Too bad the kid will probably win 2-3 times more (at a minimum) than this moron when he sues him for not giving him his finger back.

Plus, with the public behind them, the store will never settle with this guy, and even if he wins at trial, I guarantee you the kid's claim will (at least they will try) be tried with his suit (potentially the kid could assign his claim to the store or something to insure that happens - there is probably a workers' comp issue here that I am unfamilar with. I am pretty sure workers' comp preempts a tort claim against the employer, but not sure if (or why) it would preclude a claim against someone other than the employer - such as this customer).

So even if the customer wins at trial, he will almost assuredly also lose, and most likely more than he just won.

He is screwed, and frankly, he deserves to be screwed. What an idiot.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
I say so. Footnote 1 of this opinion, penned by the surprisingly pop culture savvy Judge Evans states:
The trial transcript quotes Ms. Hayden as saying Murphy called her a snitch bitch "hoe." A "hoe," of course, is a tool used for weeding and gardening. We think the court reporter, unfamiliar with rap music (perhaps thankfully so), misunderstood Hayden's response. We have taken the liberty of changing "hoe" to "ho," a staple of rap music vernacular as, for example, when Ludacris raps "You doin' ho activities with ho tendencies."
Sunday, May 01, 2005
The comments cover a lot of ground and are a very good read. Here is what they had to say on the housing bubble:

Buffett: "A lot of the psychological well-being of the American public comes from how well they've done with their housew over the years. If indeed there's been a bubble, and it's pricked at some point, the net effect on Berkshire might well be positive [because the company's financial strength would allow it to buy real-estate-related businesses at bargain prices]....

"Certainly at the high end of the real estate market in some areas, you've seen extraordinary movement.... People go crazy in economics periodically, in all kinds of ways. Residential housing has different behavioral characteristics, simply because people live there. But when you get prices increasing faster than than the underlying costs, sometimes there can be pretty serious consequences."

Munger: "You have a real asset-price bubble in places like parts of California and the suburbs of Washington, DC. "

Buffett: "I recently sold a house in Laguna for $3.5 million. It was on about 2000 sq. ft of land, maybe a twentieth of an acre, and the house might cost about $500,000 if you wanted to replace it. So the land sold for something like $60 million an acre."

Munger: "I know someone who lives next door to what you would actually call a fairly modest house that just sold for $17 million. There are some very extreme housing price bubbles going on."

On the market and the dollar their comments are much more ominous and similar to my thoughts, it is not a question of if, it is a question of when:

Buffett: "That really is the $64,000 question. It seems to me that a $618 billion trade deficit, rich as we are, strong as this country is, well, something will have to happen that will change that. Most economists will still say some kind of soft landing is possible. I don't know what a soft landing is exactly, in how the numbers come down softly from levels like these....

"There are more people [like hedge-fund managers] that go to bed at night with a hair trigger than ever before, it's an electronic herd, they can give vent to decisions that move billions and billions of dollars with the click of a key. We will have some exogenous event, we will have that. There will be some kind of stampede by that herd....

"When you have far greater sums than ever before, in one asset class after another, that are held by people who operate on a hair-trigger mechanism, then they lend themselves to more explosive outcomes. People with very short time horizons with huge sums of money, they can all try to head for the exits at the same time. The only way you can leave your seat in burning financial markets is to find someone else to take your seat, and that is not always easy...."

Munger: "The present era has no comparable referent in the past history of capitalism. We have a higher percentage of the intelligentsia engaged in buying and selling pieces of paper and promoting trading activity than in any past era. A lot of what I see now reminds me of Sodom and Gomorrah. You get activity feeding on itself, envy and imitation. It has happened in the past that there came bad consequences."

Buffett: "I have no idea on timing. It's far easier to tell what will happen than when it will happen. I would say that what is going on in terms of trade policy is going to have very important consequences. "

Munger: "A great civilization will bear a lot of abuse, but there are dangers in the current situation that threaten anyone who swings for the fences."

Buffett to Munger: "What do you think the end will be?"

Munger: "Bad."

Buffett: "We're like an incredibly rich family that owns so much land they can't travel to the ends of their domain. And they sit on the front porch and consume a little bit of everything that comes in, all the riches of the land, and they consume roughly 6 percent more than they produce. And they pay for it by selling off land at the edge of the landholdings that can't see. They trade away a little piece every day or take out a mortgage on a piece.

"That scenario couldn't end well. And we, also, keep consuming more than we produce. It can go on a long time. The world has demonstrated a diminishing enthusiasm for dollars in the last few years as they get flooded with them – every day there's $2 billion more going out than in. I have a hard time thinking of any outcome from this that involves an appreciating dollar.

[But, Buffett later added, he is not predicting an end to US economic power:] "If you have a good business in this country that's earning dollars, you'll still do OK. Twenty years from now, a couple percentage points of GDP may go to servicing the deficit, but you'll do fine.... I don't think trade deficits will pull down the whole place; the country will survive those dislocations. I'm not pessimistic about the US at all.... We have over 80 percent of our money tied to the dollar. It's not like we've left the country."

The slow down is largely blamed on increasing crude oil prices. But I suspect that is just a small piece of the puzzle. Everyone knew crude oil prices would affect the U.S. economy, yet most economists didn't expect this severe of a slow down:

During the quarter, the gross domestic product -- the value of goods and services produced in the United States -- grew at an annual rate of 3.1 percent, down from a 3.8 percent rate for 2004's fourth quarter, the US Commerce Department reported yesterday. Many economists had been looking for a first-quarter growth rate of 3.5 percent.

''Clearly, the economy lost momentum in the first quarter," said Nigel Gault, US economist at Global Insight, a Waltham forecasting firm. ''The farther we got into the quarter, the softer it got."

Sounds like it will probably get worse before it gets better....
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I am an attorney in Chicago. Politically speaking, I am an indepedent that tends to lean conservative on fiscal issues and progressive on social issues. I try to remain as unbiased and open-minded as possible. Please email or post any comments, and especially criticisms. If something I say is wrong, or you disagree - let me know about it!

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