Sunday, September 30, 2007

Michigan budget deal hasn't happened yet.

But Right Michigan seems sadly pessimistic that a deal is going to be reached that will involve raising our taxes.

So far both the Detroit News and Free Press are stating that a deal is not yet been reached so there's still a possibility of a shutdown, and the Detroit News reports that the proposed 6% sales tax extensions to sales tax to services for the "rich" such as dry cleaning, lawn maintenance, ski lifts, tanning booths and dating, consulting, landscaping and janitorial and payroll services.

Of course a sales tax on these industries will likely hurt them right when keeping business going is vital for this economy. The addition of taxing of ski lifts is likewise ridiculous, especially when Michigan is trying to draw tourists here for recreation, hitting them with an additional 6% may drive them farther away to where there's even better skiing. Nice idea indeed.

Upping the income tax when in this economy people need every dollar they can will likewise hurt the state's economy and its people.

Increasing taxes in a recessionary economy is just plain economically wrong

Apparently, it will only take a couple Republicans to be swayed for this to take place. Hopefully they'll show some backbone and demand real structural changes to reduce spending and balance the budget that way rather than further taxing the people of Michigan.

The Republicans have a huge PR opportunity here to portray themselves as defenders of the people from the Democrats insatiable appetitefor tax increases and even more government spending.

Let's hope they don't squander this opportunity and cave-in to the Democrats tax hunger.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Will Michigan's Governor turn out the lights?

There's a good chance that Governor Granholm will shut down the government unless she gets a tax increase passed rather than merely pass a continuing budget resolution.

For some great coverage of the impending shutdown see the excellent commentary at Right Michigan.

The interesting thing is if the shut down will be a bug or a feature.

While the Democrats think this shut down will cause people to push for a quick tax increase as the government will not be providing services. Apparently the Governor is threatening that liquor stores and casinos will not be allowed to open due to a lack of state inspectors, indeed people are being warned to get their licenses renewed now in case the government is shut down when theirs expire, and who knows what other facilities she'll threaten to close?

In case of a shut down, the default should be open, not closed. That there are no inspectors to watch a casino or liquor store should not prevent it from being open as it is the government and not the facility that is choosing to withhold inspectors. Likewise DNR sites and state controlled recreation areas should be open without fees.

Indeed anyone who gets ticketed for an expired plate should have an excellent excuse- they can't get one from the very government thats ticketing them.

Default to open and we'll see how long people can go about their business without being hampered.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

More Media Bias from the AP

Its to be expected from the Associated press, but one would think the Detroit News would at least add some context or a less misleading and biased headline.

Rice peace trip undermined by Israeli actions reads the headline with a helpful subline:

Decision undermines U.S. hopes of restarting Middle East peace talks.

And the story:
Associated Press JERUSALEM -- Israel declared the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip an "enemy entity" on Wednesday and said it would cut utilities to the territory.

The move complicates a U.S. plan to relaunch peace talks aimed at establishing
a separate Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank.

Israel made the provocative decision hours before Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice arrived for talks setting up what President Bush hopes will be
a pivotal peace conference this fall. The decision is likely to reinforce
perceptions among Palestinians and their Arab backers that Israel will do as it
sees fit regardless of the cost to civilians and that the U.S. will not block

Rice said the U.S. is trying to help both sides reach "common understanding."
But she did not say if the U.S.-sponsored meeting will address the hardest
issues in the six-decade conflict, including the borders of a Palestinian

Amazing how the Israeli response to constant rocket attacks on civilians originating from Gaza is the "obstacle to peace" and "complicates a U.S. plan to relaunch peace talks". Maybe if the Palestinians stopped terrorist attacks and ceased the rocket attacks there wouldn't be a need to cut utilities to the territory.

The Associated press' biased article and the Detroit news' running of it without any context or real explanation or analysis is shameful and has the one-sided anti-Israel line we've come to expect.

Really, In any case what nation would not declare an area that is the source of attacks on its country an ""enemy entity" and what nation in the world would keep utilities and supplies going to such an entity while it was under attack from it? Can anybody name one?

The only obstacle to peace here are the terrorist attacks and rocket attacks on Israel, and whoever is exerting pressure on Israel not to respond and defend itself.

Sadly a failure to aggressively defend itself is seen by the Arabs as a weakness, emboldening them in their attacks. Indeed this same failure of the US to aggressively respond to Syrian and Iranian suppliers of insurgents in Iraq is similarly emboldening them.

If you want peace in the region let Israel defend itself fully, including making it clear that if the palestinians want to launch rockets against Israel and refuse to live as peacable neighbors, there will be a price to pay.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Of Trials, Tribulations and A Really, Really dumb Juror

Generally a Jury will do the right thing: Listen to the facts, decide a case and get on with life. Of all the jury trials I've had the Jury has come to the right decision and most have been quite sharp and perceptive.

How do I know this? After a trial judges often give the jurors the option of talking with the attorneys and the jurors often graciously give some time to talk with us, give us pointers on our performance as attorneys and ask questions, oftentimes very pointed questions, such as why didn't the police report come in as an exhibit? (You then get to explain that the rules of evidence preluded it from being admitted.), or why we said something or what we should have said to be even more convincing or what questions they still would want to have resolved.

The Juries I've been before also have consistently some of the best poker faces I've ever seen - we're talking tournament quality here, and you just couldn't read them.

As I said most juries do the right thing....but this one juror...

I was in District Court on a landlord-tenant eviction case and was doing the entire trial by myself with no partners present. It was a jury trial as it was to evict a harrasing and threatening tenant from a HUD subsidized apartment.

The trial went very well indeed, and we awaited the Jury's verdict.

After long deliberation and some interesting questions from the Jury (showing that they clearly were paying attention during the trial and were taking their deliberations seriously) the Defense Counsel and I were called by the Judge into her chambers.

The Judge (a very professional, courteous, smart and capable Judge indeed by the way, she ran a great trial) told us that the jury had reached a verdict but there was a problem. The jury had sent a note that one of the jurors had gone and visited the apartment complex twice.

Now this is a no-no. The instructions to the Jury are very clear, they are not to go visit the scene or do their own investigation.

The Defense attorney knowing a walk is as good as a run immediately requests a mistrial. (A mistrial results in the trial being held once again and the tenant gets to stay while that is happening).

I request that we at least interview the juror and jury and see what actually has happened and the judge agrees.

So we interview the Juror and he says he only drove by the building to see if there were air conditioners, which were a side issue in the case. He also says he thought it was a nice place.

The Defense immediately claims that the juror and jury was tainted by this excursion and again demands a mistrial.

I point out that this is the very definition of harmless error as both Plaintiff and Defendant admit its a nice place to live, otherwise why would Defendant want to keep living there? I also point out that the outside of the building has nothing to do with the Defendant's behaviors that are leading to his eviction nor to his retaliation claim against Plaintiff for trying to evict him.

The Judge sadly for me, grants a mistrial.

On speaking with the Jury after the trial, the verdict was for my client and for the eviction 5-1 (In Michigan a civil jury does not need to be unanimous, you only need 5 of 6 jurors).

So 4 court days, 3 of which were trial days before the jury are down the drain and the trial has been rescheduled and we get to do it all over.

Thanks a lot, Juror Clouseau, next time please wait for the trial to be over to satisfy your curiosity.

Almost Earning a Darwin Award

or how students just aren't prepared for the real world....

MIT student arrested with fake bomb
By GLEN JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 9 minutes ago

BOSTON - An MIT student wearing what turned out to be a fake bomb was arrested at gunpoint Friday at Logan International Airport and later claimed it was artwork, officials said.

Star Simpson, 19, had a computer circuit board and wiring in plain view over a black hooded sweatshirt she was wearing, said State Police Maj. Scott Pare, the commanding officer at the airport.

"She said that it was a piece of art and she wanted to stand out on career day," Pare said at a news conference. "She claims that it was just art, and that she was proud of the art and she wanted to display it."

Simpson was charged with disturbing the peace and possessing a hoax device. A not guilty plea was entered for her and she was released on $750 bail.

. . .

Prosecutor Wayne Margolis had requested $5,000 bail, saying Simpson showed a total disregard for the situation she was in — an airport after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

. . .

Simpson was "extremely lucky she followed the instructions or deadly force would have been used," Pare said. "She's lucky to be in a cell as opposed to the morgue."

Simpson is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology sophomore from Hawaii, officials said.

The battery-powered rectangular device had nine flashing lights, and Simpson had Play-Doh in her hands, Pare said.

You would think by now even the most isolated ivory tower student would have a passing awareness that walking into an airport with a circuit board that looked like a bomb combined with holding play doh that could look like plastic explosive is on the top ten list of really dumb ideas.

She certainly should get an C for her performance art and an F for common sense.

Luckily she didn't get killed and hopefully this will serve as a reality check and a welcome to the real world.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Arts, Beats, and Eats- Pontiac Gets it Right

Kudos to the City of Pontiac and Chrysler for putting on a great event.

On Labor Day we went to Pontiac to explore the Arts, Beats and Eats show, along with Providentia Blogger Scott and his family.

An excellent time was had by all - the show was well organized and well setup.

There were a variety of stages with a constantly changing variety of musical acts, including this great Reggae band:

And of course there were the eats -lots of food everywhere incluidng some impressive ethnic cuisine -
Not sure if the cooks at Indo-Pak attack each other over Kashmir in between making pakoras, but the food smelled real good.

Of course I went for the finest of Ethnic Cuisine:

Yep, a good plate of Fish and Chips is a thing of beauty, and Union Jack makes a great Fish 'n' Chips. I had to wait awhile as they had to fry some up fresh, but it was worth the wait. Simply excellent - now I have to go find out where they are located and patronize them when I get my next craving for great Fish and Chips.

One small note to my fellow Michiganians - in British English, Chips are not potato chips but French fries. Somehow, most Michigan restaurants have missed this cultural linguistic curiosity and when they have a burger and chips on the menu, they bring you a burger and potato chips (with an upgrade to fries being extra). Sorry but that is simply wrong. You have been notified.

It was a large well-behaved crowd at the event and everyone seemed to be having a good time. Chrysler had some prominent displays of their vehicles and even an opportunity to test drive them that I sadly did not have time to do.

It was a great way to spend Labor Day and after the festival we went to the beach for a quick swim. Pontiac did a great job on the Festival and along with the sponsors and organizers made a great event and one that I'd certainly consider visiting again next year.