Thursday, May 1, 2014

What's so bad about socialism?

It's May Day and its time for the Communists and Socialists to yell in megaphones at the college campuses. For most of us who've gone to college, the "protests" were something to walk past while we were on on way to do something important like throwing a frisbee, drinking a few beers or heaven forbid studying! These days, the conservatives and mouthpieces for the Koch Brothers are about the only people who get hot and bothered about socialism. Well, lets look at our current form of government versus the "evils" of Socialism. I'll start with our current system.

1) Idiots like Sean Hannity would tell us that under a socialistic government, we the people would lose our freedoms. Really? Our freedoms are shrinking daily. From the NSA spying on US citizens, to governments taking away people's homes under the guise of eminant domain only to turn that property over to a corporation and the police which now operate as a military organization, complete with tanks and other heavy weapons routinely smash down the doors of innocent people and kill them.

2) Sean would also say that under Socialism, the citizens would lose all control over who is elected and what laws are passed. Again, really? Our politicians are owned by corporations. The lobbyists for the corporations write the laws, give the draft to the politicians who then introduce it into Congress or the state legislatures. The vote of an average citizen is irrelevant.

3) Sean would rant that socialism requires that all children attend "state" schools that would be substandard to what students currently receive. Please. In the U.S., if you aren't affluent, guess what? Your kid goes to a crappy school with overworked teaches and few resources. Your kid's chances of going to college are nil. If you are affluent, well then your kid goes to a school that looks like a college campus, has computers in every room, plenty of aids and aides for the teachers, most likely a library and most importantly, connections to college administrators eager to accept your child and your dollars into their school. Oh and who pays for this? Why you do Mr. and Mrs. Parent or worse, Ms. Parent.

4) Sean complains that citizens are overtaxed. Here, he has a point. What he and his fellow conservatives always fail to point out is that wealthy people's incomes are mostly derived from investment income not a paycheck. So yes, poor people and middleclass people are overtaxed while Sean and his cronies are undertaxed. Let's not forget the corporations which extort tax free income from municipalities under the threat of leaving to a more "business friendly" state. Of course, like all blackmailers, the payments never really end. Once the tax free period runs out and the corporations are to begin paying their taxes, the corporations renew their threat of leaving and either get an extension of a tax free existance or the corporation moves to another friendler locale.

Now, let's look at the "evils" of socialism, shall we?

1) In Europe, especially France, spying on citizens is strongly discouraged and the citizens were rightly outraged that the US NSA had violated their laws to spy on European citizens. Those citizens don't meekly comply. They have taken to the streets and the threat of a national strike is a reality that their politicians have to face and accordingly, are careful not to tread on the privacy rights of their citizens.

2) The politicians in socialized countries haven't been proven to be more corrupt than politicians in the US. And those same politicians vote for laws enabling people to work 35 hour work weeks, retire at 55, free healthcare for all, retraining for people out of work, subways that aren't death traps and food that isn't full of Monsanto chemicals. The Socialists get my vote.

3) Socialized countries have national curriculums so that it doesn't matter what size your bank account is, each kid gets the same educational opportunies. Tests determine which college your kid goes to. Oh and if your kid does go to college, the government pays for it, not mommy and daddy. Another win for the Socialists!

4) Under socialism, the Corporations are taxed at an equal or higher rate than working citizens. For the most part, the taxes are limited to a national tax and a sales tax such as VAT in Europe. I've run the numbers and I'd pay about the same amount in taxes in France for example as I do now. The difference being that I receive some benefits from those taxes.

So, bring on the Socialism in the U.S. BABY, cause I"M READY!!!  

Monday, April 7, 2014

Can the legal community go paperless?

1) From criminal prosecutions to the smallest of civil matters, evidence of all kinds is being accumulated, stored and disseminated in pdf, jpg or jpeg formats.
2) The providers of evidence are scanning and storing that evidence rather than incurring the expense of storing, copying and providing those documents to firms, agencies or corporations. Document repositories of millions of pages of paper are no longer necessary. Teams of lawyers, paralegals and investigators poring over these documents are becoming a thing of the past as document providers find it is more profitable to scan the documents they can and destroy what they don’t want to retain.
3) Courts are understaffed and are no longer equipped to process the massive volume of paper formally kept in paper files. Courts are increasingly suffering from having huge backlogs of pleadings, orders and other documents waiting to be physically placed in the paper files. These documents are unavailable to the public. Eventually, the local Courts will have no choice but to require all parties to submit all documents in pdf or an similar form. Call it the trickle down effect of PACER.
4) In the private sector, it is becoming increasingly evident that as the corporate world goes paperless, it will force the law firms it employs to adapt to this new reality. 
4) Finally, the demographic of the Judges, attorneys, paralegals, investigators and other staff has evolved to the point that spending hours shuffling papers is no longer a viable means of prosecuting or litigating a case.    

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Who needs France? We've got Yountville!

My friend is a World Traveler in the truest sense of the word. Since retiring a few years ago, he’s lived in Rome for a month, Thailand for two months, Vietnam for several more months, made numerous trips to Laos, India, Japan, France and countries he either told me and I’ve forgotten about or he didn’t mention it to me. Anthony Boudin has nothing on my friend Don.

So during one of his brief interludes in this country, Don came over to the house for a hike and chat. After the hike, we chatted over a beer or two. Marianne and I mentioned that we would love to go to France or maybe Italy. Don, who has been to both places several times said-“why would you do that when the Napa Valley is only an hour away?” Well, yeah, we knew that but somehow that had never clicked into our consciousness to the point where we actually drove up there.

Where to go first?  Why to the  Bouchon Bakery of course. Croissants and coffee in the morning sun while chatting with a couple from Montreal Canada. I’d love to say I practiced my French on them, but that would be a gross lie. And, not necessary since they’ve been living in the same town as Marianne and I for the past 12 years.

After breakfast, we wandered around Yountville in the sun. I had to choose-sunscreen or hat. I always go with the hat and here it is.

From there we drove up to this beautiful French restaurant and hotel.  What a beautiful site and if I win the lottery, I’ll be happy to rent it out for my daughter’s wedding next year.

Marianne repeated many times before and during the trip that she had to go to the store Dean & deLucca.  So we did and you know what, D&D is Whole Foods on Steroids. 15 bucks for a jar of jam etc. Still we bought some sandwiches and ate out back.

Next up was some real wine tasting which since neither of us drink wine could be called an adventure. 

Muscat for Marianne, the House Red for me.  Yes, we really did go “wine tasting.”

Remember that Sting song “Fields of Gold?”  Here’s Marianne in her Fields of Gold on our way home.

So there you are, my little viginette about the Napa Valley.  VIVE LE YOUNTVILLE!