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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Jesus of Nazareth: His Likely Medical Trauma

While Christians worldwide prepare to celebrate (or more properly, to revere) the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth (and subsequent resurrection, as held by faith) upon the holy day of Easter, some earthly research into the extreme barbarity visited upon the Nazarene carpenter-by-trade named Jesus may give a new appreciation for the actual and virtually unimaginable suffering He sustained.

A central tenet of Christianity is that Jesus endured this suffering to save humanity and to "wash away the sins of the world." The suffering is associated most often, and with good reason, with His being literally nailed to wooden posts arranged as a cross. Yet the physical trauma -- which has been depicted in excruciatingly brutal fashion in some cinematic works including The Passion of the Christ  -- may have been more extensive, and his treatment even more brutal, than the "mere" fact of His being impaled.

Perhaps there is no greater (or more widely cited) medical authority on the severe physical trauma suffered by Jesus of Nazareth before and during his crucifixion than a 1986 Journal of the American Medical Association paper by Drs. William D. Edwards, Wesley J. Gabel and Floyd E. Hosmer. 

The full paper can be accessed in PDF form through this link

Whether for the devout Christian or just the historically curious, the paper is worthwhile and compelling reading and remarkably relatively brief. It may give readers a new sense of the gravity of the pain and the duration of what today would undoubtedly be referred to as "torture." 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Judge On New York's Highest Court Found Dead in Hudson River

A sitting judge on the highest New York State court, the Court of Appeals, was found dead in the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey on Wednesday, in what authorities suspect is a suicide. 

Sheila Abdus-Salaam was reported missing earlier on Wednesday, and her body was found by passersby Wednesday afternoon. 

See this full report


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Client Information Is Never Totally Safe: Why We Need A "Know Your Lawyer" Rule

When you, or your company, hires a large law firm, you are assuming your information, your sensitive trade secrets, even sensitive personal information, is safe.

Far from it.

Your sensitive data could be at risk. Not from technology, not from breaches, technology failures or the ready-made-scapegoat-excuse of "hacking."

The risk is from the people who work at the law firm or corporation. 

The risk gets larger, and is harder to control, the bigger the organization is, simply because the biggest "X factor" is human nature and human integrity. That means that the more people with potential or actual access, the less safe your information is. Period. Even if there are "controls." 

That means that confidential client information is often only as safe as the integrity of the least-obedient person working in that firm or company. 

Consider this breaking news from the middle of the State of New Jersey, where a young lawyer got busted for accessing confidential files while a law student working for a county prosecutor's office. 

Could the same wrongful access happen to your files?

Financial institutions have had to obey the anti-money laundering and 'know your customer' rules largely implemented after the 9/11 attacks.

Far too many legal clients don't enjoy the same protections when they use a large law firm. The controls on who has access to information can be unevenly applied, hard to enforce, and susceptible to circumvention.

Most commentary on this topic focuses on the "ethical rules" which are in place in just about every state which govern the practice of law. I don't focus on these rules at all, because those rules are good at shifting the blame from the "leaker" to the lawyer. I think lawyers get blamed for enough things which are not their own doing, and the blame-shifting is only good for other lawyers to find a deep pocket (read: money) to go after in court.

That does nothing -- nothing at all -- to keep your data safe. Preventing your loss is my focus here. So-called deterrence is useless Monday-morning-quarterbacking that others can engage in to try to sound smart. But that does you no good at all, not before your loss and certainly not afterwards.

Risk managers will talk about how to "mitigate" risk. This is a smart distinction. The honest manager knows the risk can never be eliminated, but it can be reduced. 

In a "cover your ass" corporate world, decisionmakers are often rewarded for taking steps which, in hindsight, can be explained or rationalized or defended. But that is different from actual risk management. 

Often, the best risk management starts with the initial decision about which law firm or outside service provider or information technology vendor to use. Those decisions are commonly made in favor of "brand name" or "known" (and so often, larger) institutions, which always carry the integrity risk because of the sheer volume of people who are either working on a matter or have incidental access to sensitive data. (The list goes from top partners and executives down to janitors and copy-room workers.)

A solution may be to use select smaller institutions or even solo practitioners. Those are options which allow for direct accountability and the ability to "know" 100 percent of the personnel involved. There may be a loss of convenience, but as those whose information has been stolen or secrets revealed can attest, there is nothing more damaging or "inconvenient" than a busted deal or lost case because data got into the wrong hands.

Friday, March 31, 2017

How To Screw Renters and Homeowners

Homeowners want to preserve their home value.

Renters, or at least some of them, want to be homeowners one day.

But the so-called experts (including many politicians) on "the foreclosure crisis" have a way to hurt both groups. Even worse, they will make the real problem even worse, because our elected leaders and politicians either can't figure out the real problem, or they're too busy trying to buy support by giving more stuff away.

I've been writing about the "foreclosure crisis" ever since mortgage-backed securities starting going bad and home prices began to tumble, That was in the bad old days -- in other words, 2006 and 2007.

Foreclosures are -- wait for this -- a good thing!

Even for the family in foreclosure, it's a good thing. That family gets to "move on." What doesn't happen for that family is this: It doesn't get to live, rent-free, in a home it can't afford, not yesterday, not today and not tomorrow.

Why Do Foreclosures Occur?

Foreclosures usually happen for two reasons. 

The first is the obvious one: The family can't meet its monthly payment, falls behind and eventually "gives up" on paying. But the family isn't evicted right away, and not even for a few years! Foreclosure proceedings only start when the bank or investor holding the mortgage gets fed up with a nonpaying borrower (in legal terms, this is a "nonperforming asset"). In many states, including New York and New Jersey (both states in which I practice law), foreclosures go through the courts. In New Jersey, the average foreclosure period (that means the time from when foreclosure actions start in the courts, to the date of auction at the courthouse) is close to four years! (That's the longest period in the nation during which a borrower can avoid paying anything and stay in the house!) 

What happens during that time? Often, the borrower is pocketing the money he or she would otherwise be paying. That means some families in foreclosure are better off than they were before! 

How is that? I'll tell you! Because now they have cash.

And if you have been pocketing your monthly mortgage payment for three, four, even five years, that's a lot of money!

Meanwhile, those of you stuck in apartments, even subsidized Section 8 housing, can't move out and move up. Why? Because you're too busy working to pay your bills. And that is why you don't have the pot of gold these other people have. You're paying your bills; the people in foreclosure most often are not. 

The common wisdom in foreclosure relief is to "keep people in their homes." However, when you have an income problem and can't pay your bills, that relief is only delaying the inevitable and denying the obvious: The owner who can't afford the home and who needs to move out, ideally as soon as possible.

But the common wisdom, the politicians, and the people who run nonprofits to do "foreclosure assistance," either don't understand this, or those who do, turn a blind eye to it because they're too scared to lose votes!

As for the second reason for foreclosures, it comes from the lack of value of the underlying property. In the simplest terms, this is expressed by the phrase: The debt on the home is greater than the home's value. These mortgages are often called "underwater" and represent negative equity. These homes are often unmoveable, and fall into disrepair, but the primary reasons for that are either the refusal by the homeowner in foreclosure to sell (or dump) the property at a loss, or the bank's refusal to allow a "short sale" (where the home is sold for less than the outstanding mortgage) because then the bank has to recognize a loss on the asset.

The very opposite happens when a family defaults on its mortgage but still has plenty of equity in its home. That family may not be able to stay in that home, i.e., they can no longer afford the monthly payments, but here's what they can do and what they should do: They can sell the home. For a profit! And then turn around and have money, maybe enough for a down payment, on a less expensive place!

None of this should be taken to mean that expensive homes are immune to foreclosure. There will always be bull-headed homeowners who refuse to accept the inevitable, that they cannot afford to stay in their home. There are also plenty of expensive homes which are overleveraged. But more expensive homes are found in more desirable areas, are much more likely to be bought before falling into foreclosure, and therefore account for many fewer foreclosures than homes in lower-income areas with far less demand.  

A real solution to the "foreclosure crisis" recognizes that the neighbors and neighborhood are the victims, not the owner in foreclosure. A real solution incentivizes troubled borrowers to sell and move on, or for banks to do short sales and recoup part (but not all) of their loss. (The reason not to absorb all the banks' losses is to avoid encouraging banks to make more "bad" or "risky" mortgages to poor credit risks.)

The real foreclosure problem can be identified only when you figure out the real victim. The family in foreclosure, while sometimes a victim of circumstance, is not the victim of the foreclosure. The foreclosure victims are the neighbors, whose property values are threatened by a foreclosure and risk of an abandoned home becoming an eyesore, magnet for crime, or safety or health hazard.

This last point is recognized by some elected officials, because that is their impetus to help those in foreclosure on the hope that those "homeowners" will stay in their homes and maintain them. 

That approach is wrong. It is bad policy. It is also bad politics! 

A homeowner, who already has allowed his property to fall into foreclosure, or disrepair, or both, and who has been pocketing the money that would otherwise go to the loan payment, is not going to be any more responsible with someone else's money when he is getting it for free! 

If that home is an eyesore now, the government or a nonprofit throwing money at the old homeowner won't do anything to keep up the neighbors' home values, won't keep the rundown house from becoming more rundown. (Of course, you'll hear promises to the contrary, because people will do and say just about anything to get their hands on free money.) 

Our neighborhoods will be better off, they will be made more stable, and there will be fewer abandoned or dilapidated properties, if we stop trying to keep people in foreclosure "in their homes" and instead start using our scarce resources to move them out!

As for the elected officials terrified about losing political support, consider some points. 

First, people in foreclosure are few and far between. 

Second, people who are not reliable payers of their bills a hardly reliable voters. 

Third, as the self-styled affordable-housing activists are saying they won't support you unless you take their position of the day, you need to realize you are in an extortionate death spiral in which you will be induced to take ever more damaging positions as you seek to avoid the inevitable, which is to "lose" their support (which you likely never had and never will get) and ultimately an election. 

Fourth, you need to realize that for each voter in foreclosure you seek to appease with these foreclosure-victim appeals, you are alienating many more average voters. 

Voters who pay their bills and own homes are much more incentivized to be active in elections, to contribute to campaigns and to vote their pocketbooks. 

So if you're a politician torn between these two camps, can you figure out who can help you more, and who can hurt you more?

How you answer that question might decide your political future -- and if your town is lucky, its ability to have safe, stable neighborhoods and rising property values for its residents in the future. 







Sunday, March 26, 2017

Facts Versus What You Think Is A Fact: Prosecutions and "Fake News"

The judicial system (that is, our courts) have to parse out the facts of a case.

Both sides (and sometimes cases have more than two sides!) present their version of the facts, their arguments about the law and how the two work, and introduce items into evidence where permitted.

Many people do not truly understand the limits on a fact.

Even worse, and much worse, is this: Those people then compound the first error by imprecisely describing what is it that they claim to have seen, or know. 

This is where the vast majority of people get it wrong. Whether they're in the legal profession, or judges, or journalists, and definitely many corporate officials making decisions, they almost always get it wrong.

Just imagine, those are the people with above average mental intelligence, if not necessarily the emotional intelligence. For those of "average" or even "below average" intelligence, the subtle nuances between "impressions" and "opinions" and actual "facts" are often lost. This is a huge risk factor for people going before a jury, I tell you.

Someone having a feeling about something being wrong? Where's the fact in that question?

It is not that "something" is "wrong." The fact there is the observation about the underlying information that supports the feeling. The fact is the observation, that is, "I saw something." The problems arise when the "something" gets described incorrectly, inaccurately or embellished. 

Facts are objective. 

Opinions are not objective, but it is a fact to say that you have an opinion. The opinion, however, is not fact. 

A particular person who is quoted in some article saying blah blah blah?  The blah blah is not the fact, but the act of it being said becomes the fact. No matter how false the actual subject of what's said might be, the truth of it being said creates a fact no matter how false the subject matter claim might be. 

This brings me to my final points: Facts are objective, but impressions are subjective. Most people hear only part of what you will say (or write). Listening comprehension is a lost skill, particularly as we "multitask" more and get more "plugged in" to competing sources for information.

In other words, we hear, but we do not necessarily listen. And it's much rarer that we actually understand what gets through. 

The same can be said for the skill of reading comprehension. Trust me, as the skill in today's journalism has generally declined from two decades ago, although the dropoff in skill has also affected legal writing. 


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Former Goldman Sachs Executive Would Turn Foreclosures Into Mini-Ghettoes

Whenever you hear people talk about this so-called "foreclosure crisis" or "housing crisis" or whatever these Leftist opinion leaders call it, remember that good policy requires speaking the real truth about public housing. 

Because if we don't, we soon are going to all end up in public housing, that is, in housing where the actual quality of life is indistinguishable from a housing project! Let me explain how.

First of all, there could be an impetus, stemming from this year's New Jersey election for Governor.

The very wealthy former Ambassador to Germany under former President Obama, Phil Murphy, is running for Governor of New Jersey and he is currently battling for the Democratic nomination. The common wisdom and press coverage right now indicates he's a heavy favorite to get the Democratic nomination. As registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans statewide by nearly two to one (over two million registered Democrats to about 1.2 million Republicans, but over 2.4 million voters haven't picked a party, according to these new figures), and also seeing that Hillary Clinton ran strongly in New Jersey (beating now-President Trump by 14 percentage points), it's a very good bet that Murphy will be New Jersey's next Governor. 

Here is what is troubling. Ambassador Murphy, perhaps being made to feel he should be ashamed of his own accomplishments in life, senses he must atone for his success by "giving back."

I've met Murphy and spoken to him at length personally. He is a decent man, perhaps too decent for retail politics. I sense it is in that spirit that Murphy wants to turn foreclosures, in the midst of thriving working, middle and upper class neighborhoods, wants to solve the "foreclosure crisis" or "lack of affordable housing crisis" but his "plan" would risk turning any foreclosed property into a mini-ghetto.

Murphy puts forth his "housing rescue" plan (actually a rehash of a twice-vetoed "foreclosure residential transformation" bill passed by New Jersey's Legislature earlier this decade) on his campaign website. It reads:

Murphy said he would aggressively pursue the state's fair share of Wall Street mortgage settlement funds to launch a program in which the state would purchase foreclosed homes and partner with qualified nonprofits to repurpose them as affordable housing.

"Affordable housing"? 

In plain English, folks, that means a little housing project, for a whole bunch of people who otherwise can't afford (or do what it takes to earn a living sufficient) to live in your neighborhood.

As for your home values, they're likely to crash. Moving people "who can't afford 'affordable housing' " may be great to get the approval of the brie-cheese-and-caviar intelligensia, but it isn't good for the property values of the neighbors of the new mini-project.

That's because people who can move out of the ghetto, get the hell out of them and they do not ever look back. There's no conga line of people lining up to buy homes right next to housing projects -- er, sorry, "affordable housing." Why is that? It's because public housing contains some of the worst people you would ever want to have as neighbors. The mentally ill, the drug-addled, and plenty of criminal elements.

Turn a foreclosed mini-mansion into "affordable housing," and you'll have more "for sale" signs than dandelions very quickly. 
___________________________________________________
FLASHBACK: How "Foreclosure Relief" Hurts The Poor. Eric Dixon's 2012 analysis on a disastrous foreclosure relief plan which passed New Jersey's legislature, not once but twice!
___________________________________________________ 
It's also because public housing was originally sold to the electorate as an absolute last housing option for those with no other choice except homeless shelters or a cardboard box outside. It was not intended to become permanent low-income housing, which is precisely what it's become across America. (Ask yourself whether its original proponents knew all along what would happen, and purposely stayed silent.)

Some very good houses in upper and middle-class areas fall into foreclosure when disaster strikes their owners. It could be a medical emergency of which the cost outstrips the insurance coverage. 

Under the Murphy plan, those homes would become a great opportunity to turn a big house into a multi-unit "affordable housing" development, or a drug rehab center, or a property for some other "noble purpose."  

If the home equity you've built over decades of responsible ownership gets wiped out, well, you're a homeowner so you are one of the "rich." It might be more intellectually honest to simply come out and say the following: It serves you right. 

Why would any politician advance such a plan? Maybe it's because the politician doesn't understand basic economics. Some of our elected leaders do not understand basic supply and demand. Many others are disdainful of economic cause and effect. But why would Murphy, who is clearly a smart guy -- a former Goldman Sachs executive who actually omits any reference to this on his campaign website -- push this plan?

He understands the economic forces at work. He also understands the political forces which make him make a choice between the Leftist or "progressive" votes he thinks he needs, and the homeowners whose votes he believes he can take for granted. 

In making such a choice, politicians like Murphy are pandering to the mob of Gramsci (i.e., cultural) Marxists who envy, hate and want to hurt anyone else who's "got more." To these real deplorables who believe in political or cultural Marxism, anyone with a home may be branded as morally inferior, evil incarnate, and thus the ends justify the means.

If they cannot confiscate your property -- which I believe will be the end goal -- they can try to reduce its value. 

Confiscation and destruction of private property has often been among the first actions of totalitarian regimes upon seizing power. This attitudinal shift is laying the groundwork for future generations to come to believe those actions would be totally reasonable, acceptable and legitimate. 

Private property, after all, is the crime in their eyes. So these "foreclosure relief" measures are really just an attack on private property. The strategy is to attack the value, your value, your wealth, and by extension, your work, effort and sacrifice for all these years.




Saturday, March 11, 2017

Preet Bharara Got "Fired" As His Brilliant Strategic Move

Breaking news never sleeps. On Saturday, Manhattan's U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was fired by the Trump Administration after refusing to tender his resignation, as requested on Friday. Bharara himself confirmed the firing, using that precise term in his own tweet, from his own personal account.

This news needs to be viewed both in the proper context, and in a strategic context.

Background: A total of 46 sitting U.S. Attorneys, all appointed by President Obama, were requested to submit their resignations yesterday.

Further background: Submitting your resignation is not the same as an automatic resignation. It allows the Trump Administration (as with predecessor administrations) to accept or decline the resignation. It also allows the administration and the President (at whose pleasure all executive branch officers serve, let's remember) to exercise the discretion which it has, to decide when to terminate an appointee. 

Great lawyers think strategically. This could all be strategic. Not by Trump. But by Bharara.

First, Bharara may have anticipated being fired, or may have been looking for a way out without necessarily resigning or compromising any ongoing investigation (either civil or criminal) in the office of the United States Attorney he runs in Manhattan. 

As a result of his federal post as United States Attorney, Bharara would face potential conflicts and ethical hurdles if he negotiated big firm job offers -- likely quite lucrative -- while still in the federal post. That is because some of those firms representing corporate and individual clients who are (or were) witnesses, subjects or targets of investigations, or defendants. His conflicts would not merely be with cases he handled; he would face conflicts from any case or investigation before his entire Office of the United States Attorney in Manhattan.

That's a huge office. That means a huge list of potential, active conflicts. 

Some of those conflicts remain with regards to clients he cannot represent if or when he moves to a law firm, assuming that is even an option or desire on his part. Now that he is a "fired" and "former" federal employee, Bharara can have those discussions -- assuming, again, that he even wants to move into private sector legal practice.

He can also collect $400 per week in unemployment benefits. New York State allows a fired employee to collect $420 per week for up to 26 weeks. 

Plus, Bharara reserves the rights all fired employees have, including the right to sue for wrongful termination. One never knows what could happen.

And should Preet Bharara have political ambitions in New York City or New York State, suing President Trump for wrongful termination would be an absolutely brilliant optical and strategic move, if not necessarily a winning legal or financial move.

But overall, forcing and then publicizing his own firing looks like one great strategic play by Preet Bharara. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Female Hockey Player Sucker-Punches Opponent, Then Sues Referee

An overly aggressive New York female lawyer attacked a male opponent from behind in a co-ed ice hockey game, and is now suing the referee after she allegedly suffered a concussion and broken nose when the referee intervened to stop the attack. 

The news report (link above) glosses over the fact that the female player instigated the attack, and "allegedly attacked a male player from behind." 

Longtime observers of pro hockey -- and plenty of people with common sense -- know that attacks by one player on another player, particularly from behind, carry a high risk of serious injury. 

It is that risk, and likely the referee's awareness of that, which should be cited by the defense in this case to explain the referee's actions (assuming this case gets to the point of depositions or trial). 

The preeminent professional hockey league, the National Hockey League, has suspended players for such actions. 

And now here's some context -- with video:

The career of star New York Rangers defenseman (and 1994 Stanley Cup winner) Jeff Beukeboom never resumed after he was attacked from behind by Matt Johnson of the Los Angeles Kings in a 1998 game. Here's the video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pS_D3FP4Zs

In another reprehensible attack, Todd Bertuzzi followed and then punched from behind Steve Moore, who fell right to the ice (again, basically ending his career). Here's a video clip showing Bertuzzi chasing down Moore in that 2004 game.

The severity of the attacker's actions must be considered, irrespective of the actual injury of the original victim, because the risk to that victim provides the necessary context with which to explain the propriety of the referee's actions. 

You win cases by explaining the context, whether historical or medical. In this case, the focus should be on the instigator. 

Eric Dixon is a corporate and investigative lawyer who consults with clients in New York and New Jersey.



Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Why Your Lawyer Sucks: More Headwinds For The Economy

America has never had so many lawyers.

And, apparently, so many absolutely mediocre ones!

Recent data shows that applications to the most competitive law schools in America have generally declined nearly 20 percent since the recession
-- which was nearly a decade ago! These schools (measured using the U.S. News annual rankings) report having reduced their entering classes by about five percent.

So fewer lawyers from the top schools, right? And maybe, fewer brilliant lawyers if you assume a brain drain from law school to other fields?

What about the rest of the law schools pumping out new graduates into the workforce? Other data reports a nationwide decline in applicants of between 40-45 percent post-recession. One prominent Northeastern law school reports a 60 percent decline.

Despite this significant applicant decline, the American legal profession continues to mint new lawyers at a consistent rate. The profession's leading industry organization, the American Bar Association, reports the number of active resident lawyers has never been higher! The ABA's latest data for 2016 shows approximately 1.315 million "resident active attorneys" nationwide, a number which has consistently been growing at over one percent annually, and which is currently an all time high!

When new graduates keep flowing unabated while the incoming pipeline has been drying up markedly for nearly one decade, you can draw the inference that law schools dependent on tuition revenue for survival have had to accept lesser quality students to keep up their enrollment.

This, in the face of declining student demand. It's also in the face of the persistent anecdotal evidence throughout the industry (including from big law firm partners) that demand for legal services has been flat to down now for over ten years. (That roughly corresponds with the deflation of the mortgage credit bubble.)

The results? Great judgment remains rare and in demand by a discreet set of users. However, most other legal services are a commodity. Many consumers believe contracts and even court complaints are boilerplate and that legal advice is now a "DIY" commodity. Furthermore, new demand areas like compliance are at risk of obsolescence (and offshoring) if the Trump Administration declares its War on Regulation, as promised.

The glut of mediocrity -- or worse -- threatens to create new headwinds for an American economy that has been under siege from government overreach for the better part of the last quarter century.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Boy Scouts and Avoiding Lawsuit Risk

The Boy Scouts of America recently announced it will allow transgender children (i.e., biological girls) into the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.

The policy change comes days after reports that a New Jersey mother of an eight year old girl, identifying as male and recently kicked out of a Cub Scout pack, planned a civil rights complaint with New Jersey authorities. Not even a civil lawsuit, although there's no telling what has happened away from the glare of media cameras.

I counsel clients on avoiding risk and weighing risk in various situations. Part of that process involves asking questions, like: "How do you act, to minimize the risk of a false accusation?"

You cannot control the conduct or intent of others, but you can control your own conduct, your intent, and the situations you put yourself in. I believe that, and it's unfortunate in this world, but innocence is not enough.

With that in mind, here is how I see the Boy Scouts' situation.

When a girl joins and participates with the Boy Scout pack, the boys, the scoutmasters (often parents of the boys in the pack) and the organization are all at risk of a false accusation -- from a female.

In the current politically charged climate, for practical purposes, female accusations are accorded greater weight, at least in the court of public affairs. Allegations may not hold water and false accusers may even be prosecuted, but targets of accusations don't have a ready remedy to restore their reputations. (Note the qualifications and phrases set off by commas, before you misinterpret my writing.)

The Boy Scouts' new policy -- call it appeasement, call it compromise -- may endanger all of its participants in a misguided strategy prioritizing the seeking of the approval of opponents, over duties to its members. The effect is to give no resistance to outside challenges which represent a crude, if not depraved, indifference to the risk assumed to any Scout participant, a risk assumed by the mere act of being involved with the Scouts. Sadly, making participation in the Scouts a risky proposition, one in which participants (even, and especially, chidren) risk legal and reputational consequences, might be the unstated but intended consequence.

The organization could have elected to show a spine, to prepare for and engage in litigation. Now, by trying to avoid confrontation, it may well weaken its standing and support among its members. That in turn will almost assuredly weaken its ability to withstand the next legal threat, which its appeasement today will only invite.

After all, weakness is provocative.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Starbucks Risks Lawsuits With Refugee Hiring Push

The chief executive officer of Starbucks said Monday morning he will have his coffee chain hire 10,000 "refugees" in response to the Trump Administration executive order on certain majority-Moslem-nation refugees and visa holders.

I guess Americans will be wondering just where those unfilled jobs were all these years.

These are borderline discriminatory policies. The motives are clear. These companies either want to avoid the backlash from a Leftist-Marxist pro-open borders crowd, or they are catering to this growing and substantial segment of the consumer market. Thus, "virtue signaling" to this portion of consumers is seen as the way to grow -- more likely, to retain -- consumer sales.

Yet such blatant preferences -- for which the flip side is equally blatant discrimination -- violate a host of federal and state civil rights laws.

If one baker can be sued by a state attorney general for refusing to bake wedding cakes for a gay couple, surely Starbucks would be a clear target of an ideologically blind Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, or state attorney general, would it not?

I would think Starbucks and companies following its lead would become prime targets for shareholder lawsuits as well. That's because essentially declaring war on much of the rest of your native "American" consumer population is eventually going to harm the bottom line. Implicitly criticizing a segment of the consumer base puts other revenue at risk. These political decisions are not guaranteed to be revenue net-neutral and may well become net negative. The risks are substantial enough to throw doubt on whether any cognizable "business judgment" argument can or will be made to justify such strategies.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Hidden Target of Election Fraud

The current controversy over alleged voter fraud misses the point on the numerous opportunities for actual mischief and distortions in the political process.

As this longer analysis of mine points out, the arena of opportunity is in the dark recesses of the election machinery. 

Everyone is watching a presidential election. 

It's where no one is looking -- and frankly, no one cares -- where the real problem lies. I explain how that then leads to metastasizing problems which undermine the integrity of the election process. 


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Bullish on Blockchain, Or Full of Bull? How You Can Avoid The Frauds

As of this writing, most digital currencies of consequence are soaring with double digit percentage gains over the past week if not the past day!

Renewed interest in all things "blockchain" has followed. That interest is flowing towards the omnipresent commentary about how "The Blockchain" will solve all manner of human problems large and small.

Want to have immediate transaction clearing? The blockchain will handle that. Sure. Someday. Just trust us.

Want to end world wars and terrorism? The blockchain will have an app for that!

Want to stop food from spoiling? Yeah, the blockchain can do that too.

These are the fantasies of the utopians, the tech lovers and science fiction geeks whose faith in human intelligence to ultimately provide these solutions is both unbounded by and, too often, ungrounded in reality.

Blockchain technology can be a platform for great innovations, advancements and improvements in commerce, science, education and recordkeeping. It can be a main pillar of the next wave of human civilization in which the information economy is not merely a feature but rather a core element.

Yet the dreamers are too often followed by the schemers. The people saying that blockchain technology will solve your problems -- and get you rich quick in the process -- are confident only that it will solve THEIR financial problem, and your capital is the solution.

Any real solution starts with an understanding of the gravity of the problem.

We are rapidly moving into a post-fact era where impulsivity replaces intelligence and bravado replaces mature judgment. In this new world, we need a renewed appreciation for and value of the sanctity of information.

There's something else here as well. The value of information is only as good as the information itself. Throw bad content into the blockchain and, absent a strong external
Quality Control mechanism which may contradict the very nature of blockchain, the content remains. Because it is valid -- even though in its valid state it may have impure data.

The blockchain can be a great preservative. But it cannot guarantee a great crop yield and it cannot guarantee the food will get from field to table in one piece or in edible condition. As with perishable food, no amount of refrigeration will restore food which has already gone bad before it gets to the blockchain.

A mature view of this technology will accept its current limitations and identify the real present day problems that can be solved today. Focusing on stuff that sounds like it came out of a "Star Trek" movie is great for showing off. For the rest of us, we need to solve real world, real life problems and we need all the focus we can summon to accomplish what's real.




Without that appreciation, the blockchain is worthless.