Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Man charged with DUI after towing boat, trailer upside down: "Eric A. Willis, 40, of Avondale, was charged with DUI, reckless driving, resisting arrest and resisting arrest with violence, disregarding a police officer's signal, leaving the scene of a property accident, driving at an unreasonable speed, driving on the wrong side of the highway and two counts of failure to signal intention, said state Fish & Wildlife Enforcement Sgt. Gregory Rhodes."

What I want to know is whether the two counts of failure to signal intention occurred before or after he started driving on the wrong side of the highway.
This congressman has yet another plan to "save" Social Security, by converting it to an investment plan. It also creates a new federal cureaucracy to administer it. Here's the fundamental problem: Social Security is insurance, which pays out upon disability or upon reaching a certain age. By turning it into an investment plan, you fundamentally change the nature of the program. Oh, and by the way, what happens if the market tanks? Answer: "the above investment scenarios will undoubtedly have some down years where the portfolios would have a negative return...."

It might be worth thinking about if you could guarantee at least the benefit recipients currently get. But that's the problem with market-driven investments: return on investment cannot be either predicted or guraranteed.
I am seeing a lot of "news" stories excoriating Social Security lately -- more so than usual. Could it be that someone is trying to poison public opinion about Social Security in order to make it easier to gut the system? In light of Rick Perry's on-record statements condemning the program, I am skeptical about whether that's a coincidence.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Florida linebacker arrested for "resisting an officer with violence" and driving with a suspended sentence. Will the Gators suspend him or find a way to play him against Tennessee on Saturday?

I know what they ought to do, and I can guess what they'll probably do. And those are two different things.
Ok, now this is just too weird: Mel Gibson to make Jewish movie. You know, Mel, just leave well enough alone. This approaches the absurd, considering your past behavior.
What to look for in a new family car. Most of this is common sense, but it's a handy checklist if you're in the market.

The newer technology airbag is especially interesting. A number of years ago, our Knoxville personal injury practice had a client who was rear-ended and whose pickup was forced into the car ahead of hers. Yhe airbag deployed, and when she came to see me, her face looked like she had gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson. If these improved airbags can reduce the amount of injury actually caused by an airbag deployment, that would be a good thing.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Social Security is no swindle. I particularly like this part:

there's one other way that you -- and Gov. Perry -- can distinguish Social Security from a Ponzi scheme. Ponzi schemes often leave their elderly victims penniless and with nothing to fall back on.

Nothing, that is, except Social Security.

To me, it is disturbing that a man who is governor of one of our larget states, and who thinks he is qualified to be President, doesn't know what a Ponzi scheme is. In and of itself, that ought to disqualify him from higher office. I mean, don't we want our best -- and brightest -- in these positions of great responsibility?

R.I.P. Cliff Robertson.
I've been somewhat following the U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife Services search warrant executed on Gibson Guitar in Nashville and Memphis. Here is the search warrant affidavit that led a judge to sign the search warrant for Gibson.

In that affidavit, it is alleged that: India prohibits export of wood from India. Aff., para. 17; prohibited Indian ebony was imported and allegedly received by a company called Luthier Mercantile International. Aff. para. 18. While the shipment was marked for transport to Nashville, the final consignee was not identified in the paperwork. Para. 20. Luthier Mercantile's representative advised that the shipment was intended for Gibson Guitar in Nashville, id., even though customs forms indicated the final consignee to be Luthier Mercantile in Canada, contradicting the other declarations and paperwork indicating the materials were intended for Nashville. Para 21. The Indian export declaration falsely classified the shipment as being allowed parts (finished parts of musical instruments). Eleven imports in the past year have been noted to be of the prohibited type of wood. Para. 28.

The implication here is obvious: that Gibson, in order to get away with obtaining prohibited materials, set up a series of "straw men" to receive the prohibited materials. If true, that suggests Gibson knew full well what it was doing was in violation of law.

I have tried to distill the legalese in the affidavit for brevity's sake. My judgment is that the affidavit shows probable cause sufficient to issue the search warrant.

Gibson's CEO denies wrongdoing, but doesn't seem to address the implicit charge that Gibson is importing prohibited wood. He is upset that his business is being disrupted. He is mad that the Justice Department has taken the position that sending out any guitars with questionable materials would be obstruction of justice. He said the wood materials seized Wednesday are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, a third-party organization that promotes responsible forest management. He does not address the implication in the search warrant affidavit, though -- that the importation itself violates Indian and U.S. law. He does trumpet the fact that he employs U.S. workers, and implies the dispute has to do with being compelled to use Indian-made finished parts.

Now, the conservative blogosphere immediately took the position that this search is a political vendetta by a Democratic administration against a CEO who is a known Republican. Aside from those bare circumstances, I see no evidence to support these muckraking allegations.

Gibson's CEO has allegedly said that "We have letters from a very high-level government agency in India that says that this product was allowable export," he notes. "And in fact, we have been buying the same product for well over 17 years, regularly." he also says that "Wood that we are buying is being bought by other companies in the industry, and they have not had any kind of action -- not so much as a letter or a postcard...." If there is evidence that other guitar manufacturers are importing wood in violation of law, then they ought to be subject to the same treatment. On the other hand, if the importation was above-board, why all the subterfuge about what was included in the shipment and who the final consignee was?

Frankly, I think it is inconceiveable that the Obama Administration is engaging in this action as some sort of low-level political chicanery, as suggested by the Administration's political/philosophical opponents. Given bureaucratic realities and the appearance of this action as a Fish & Wildlife operation, I would be surprised if the White House even had advance notice of the search warrant.