July 27, 2002

A clarification:

In my post last Sunday concerning my dorm reunion, I wrote that most of my friends from 20 years ago now have "spouses and children". In fact, none of my friends from that period is polygamous, or at least none of them would so admit. My apologies to Erik and Chris, especially, for any uncomfortable questions they may have had to answer.
Admittedly, I have mixed emotions about the sudden reversal the bankruptcy bill received in the House last night. While this bill would be one of the most repugnant acts passed by any Congress, since, well, the Fugitive Slave Act, it would benefit me enormously (see yesterday's post). Not only would there be more filings during the six month period leading into the date the law would take effect, but the law itself would add a necessary step in preparing all future filings, the consideration of means testing the debtor.

In most cases, the new law would require almost no additional work, as most people who file would still fall below (or could be shown to fall below, with some effective legal representation) the income standard imposed by Congress. But anything that could remotely complicate a filing will be justification for increasing the fees charged to clients, which (at least in L.A.) are closely monitored by the bankruptcy court and the appointed Trustee monitoring the case. Locally, the amount a debtor's attorney can charge a client in a Chapter 7 case ranges from $750 to $1500, and from $2000 to $2500 in Chapter 13 cases (the type of bk that WorldCom and Enron filed, a Chapter 11 reorganization, is much more rare, and is not really significant to this discussion). Anything higher than those amounts receive judicial scrutiny, and an attorney must be prepared to justify his receipt of any payments over that amount, an often time-consuming and expensive process. If the "reform" bill passes, it will obviously be much easier to charge a client between $2-3k for a Chapter 7, since thorough consideration of the means test will now be an important aspect of representing a client, not to mention fighting off credit card companies once the case is filed (which may justify even greater fees).

From the perspective of creditor's counsel, the "reform" has even sweeter consequences, since it introduces a new prospective client: the credit card company. For the most part, credit card companies take a relatively low profile in most cases under the current law, preferring to make occasional reaffirmation offers (which I generally advise clients to reject; why incur a new credit card debt that you can't discharge, when the whole point of filing was to acknowledge that you weren't able to pay off your debts) and non-dischargeability lawsuits, where the debtor is sued before the bankruptcy court on the claim that they incurred the debt through fraud, such as a false statement on a loan application, or the maxxing of a card in Vegas the day before the filing. Under the proposed new law, credit card companies are going to become players in just about every new case, and will need attorneys to represent them. Such as me.

Anyways, the "reform" is a bad law. Besides the fact that it would harm many consumers who got suckered in by the illusion of easy credit, bankruptcy law attracts many practitioners who are at the low end of the evolutionary scale for attorneys, in terms of their abilities or their ethics, and their clients could really get screwed. Hopefully, its opponents will marshal its efforts in the next month and find a way to kill it in the Senate, where a filibuster might still be possible if we can find 40 members who haven't whored themselves out to Visa or CitiCorp, and/or are fanatical enough about opposing abortion. And I will cheer them on, because sometimes not even I need the money that badly.
A pretty good column in today's N.Y. Times from someone not named Krugman, Rich, or Dowd, about the silver lining on the stock market crash. Since my investment was relatively insignificant ($3k), I can look at the 90% decline in value of 3Com and Palm as a life lesson; I think one of the reasons I've refused to sell is that my "portfolio" serves to remind me that there's no such thing as a sure thing, an easy buck. Hopefully, in the future those of us who are still young enough to rebuild our IRA's will be fortified by this sense of humility, a reminder of the price of hubris.
Yet another mystery...according to Sitemeter, yesterday two separate visitors were referred to my site by having punched in the terms "dogmeat" and "Japan" into the Google search engine.

July 26, 2002

Undergarments, with a spiritual goal. (with props to Uberchick)
Last night, the House-Senate conference committee came to an agreement on "bankruptcy reform". That is very, very bad news for the country (as I noted here and here), and, since I'm a bankruptcy lawyer, very good news for me; any change in the law will create a rash of new filings and a whole host of situations for people to need my legal service. That Leahy and Schumer support this monstrosity is a disgrace.

July 25, 2002

Having seen the new ads for Jaguar, I can only say that Joe Strummer must be back on the horse if he needed the money that badly.
So which Slate columnist is the frontrunner for its "Whopper of the Week" award? Nice try, but next time, hire a fact-checker (or at least, buy a calendar) before getting conned by far-right spin....
On why that flashing thingey at the top of the page (ie. the ad) is part of a much larger fraud....
A good review might get your fanny into a bookstore or a theatre, but a bad one is more fun to read. I think its something to do with schadenfreude. Let's face it, Battlefield: Earth is a helluva lot more entertaining after you read the critics; my favorite review said it should have been called, "Ed Wood's Battlefield: Earth". In that spirit, here are recent book and movie reviews that are absolutely vicious. And as always, thanks Molly....
Other sites have done a pretty effective job debunking Ilsa, She-Wolf of the S.S., so maybe its time to sponsor a writing contest dedicated to honoring the current N.Y. Times best-selling author. Just make sure that your submission is untruthful and has "lots of footnotes".

July 24, 2002

To the dedicated fans of 24: She's back (albeit in prison) !!!!
Apparently, I was not the only one who wondered whatever happened to the pin-point accuracy of the Mossad. This blogger inquires into whether the two-month old infant killed yesterday had ties to Hamas.
Anyone with access to C-SPAN should take note that the expulsion vote on Congressman Soprano, err, Traficant, is this afternoon, sometime around 3:00 p.m., to be preceded by his valedictory on the Floor of the House. If you actually have to work today, than by all means, TAPE IT !!!!
Dept. of Corrections: I was informed at the aforementioned Spens-Black reunion that the correct quote from Prof. Jill Schlessinger was "the world is ugly, and the people are sad," not "the world is ugly and the people are sad." I am sorry for the confusion.

July 23, 2002

In this household, Tuesday night always brings about a certain anticipation, for it's the time the two comedic highlights of my week are published over the internet: the new edition of the Onion, and the posting of this week's "Michael Kelly" column in the Washington Post. The Onion, of course, is probably the most famous satirical website on the 'net. "Michael Kelly", for those of you who haven't indulged in that guilty pleasure, is probably the most hilarious send-up of political punditry since the Times published "A.M. Rosenthal" a decade ago. In the meantime, for those of you who wondered why Bono hasn't been more vocal lately, check out this article.
To follow up on a link several weeks ago (July 4th, to be exact), this article goes even further into a pet obsession of mine, the fine art of obituaries. Beware the kicker at the end....
Hitting the Trifecta, cont'd: Does anyone have the sinking feeling that maybe Sharon wanted the collateral damage. I mean, Israel is famous for being able to whack its enemies with booby-trapped cell phones and the like; all but one of the killers at the '72 Munich Olympics were erased without the necessity of firing long-range missiles at their homes. I'm glad this guy is dead; he and others like him can roast in hell for all I care, and if other warped minds wish to look at him as a martyr, than screw them. But using a sledgehammer rather than a rapier will have an effect far greater than just the murder of the children in the immediate vicinity; it makes retaliation inevitable. Some deaths just cry out for vengeance, whether its a fireman or a child. And as long as the Palestinians use force to assert their claims, Sharon can just assert that he will never give into terrorism, he will grow stronger politically within Israel, and the cycle of violence will continue.
One of the cool gadgets I have on this site is Sitemeter, which gives me a general idea of what my readership is composed; whether they use Macs or Windows 2000, what timezone they live in, what ISP they use, whether they linked to Smythe's World from another page, etc. On occasion, I will get a visitor from outside the U.S., and in almost every instance, its because they linked to the site from another source, like Google or Blogger.

Anyways, just before midnight last night I got a visitor from Norway, at least according to the ISP. I do not know anyone in Norway. That visitor linked here directly, so he/she had to have already known about the site, and decided, while eating breakfast, to find out what my take was on the Hamas bombing, or the Vinnie Baker trade, or whether I passed out at Joxers, or whatever. That is so cool. Whoever you are, whether you are Norwegian, or just a regular vacationing in Scandinavia, feel free to contact me.

July 22, 2002


As you might have imagined, I got lots of reaction to Miss Overated 2002.

Some random chick from the "Industry", who works in the legal department for a giant French Multi-National, opines:

My vote goes to Mrs. Chin, er, Mrs. Pitt-- Jennifer Aniston. You are crazy about Linda Evangelista. She is gorgeous. And Paris Hilton is pretty in a Tara Reid sort of way…BTW, in your blog were you referring to Marie Chantal, Alexandra and Pia Miller? You think they are attractive? Have you gone mad? They are HIDEOUS! And all of their marriages were business arrangements whereby their husbands got $$, and they got a nice last name in return.

Evangelista is exactly the sort of model that women are going to think is attractive, which is probably the whole point; after all, she made her rep posing in Cosmo and Elle, not the S.I. swimsuit edition. Paris Hilton is going to have spend some serious trust fund cash on liposuction if she is ever going to look half as good as Tara Reid; her kid sister, on the other hand….The whole point about the Miller Sisters wasn’t that they were gorgeous (although Alexandra isn’t half bad), but that they get hyped for being nothing in particular. As I said, beauty is mostly subjective: there are some women, like Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jennifer Connelly, Colleen Lye, Vicki Zale, Gwynnie, Halle B., Phoebe N., the young Kim Novak, Senator Kaye Hutchison, etc., who are simply gorgeous; the rest we argue about. The distinction I was trying to draw was that at least you know why the Miller Sisters were being hyped (ie. marriages to EuroTrash), as opposed to why VF had Gretchen Mol(?) on its cover several years ago. As always, thank you for your input; I love it when you approach a subject with claws bared.

Sir Mix-a-Lot comments:

(Y)ou are gay ... I wouldn't kick Anna out of bed. Anna is a hottie or maybe its just that she is the most beautiful tennis player to come along since Chris Evert. She has everyone else in women's tennis beat by a country mile. You are right about Julia, though; she is overrated.

My over-rated beautiful woman is: Matthew Broderick's Wife, Sarah Jessica Parker? (I would have sex in the city with anyone else but her!)

Also, I actually think most toothpick-sized models are overrated. You know, Sir-mix-a-lot loves those babies wit' back…Sarah Michelle Geller is ugly now that she has lost weight. I liked her better when she was chubby…(W)hile taking a break from writing, I ran across the telecast for the ESPYs. It just so happened that Serena Williams was on the screen accepting the ESPY award for her sister Venus ... I double dog dare you to tell Serena to her face that her blond hair is not flattering. If you had the balls to do that (and didn't mind losing them) I'll bet you that she'd kick your ass!!!!!!! Man is she ripped.

It appears I’m pretty much alone on Kournikova. When I discussed this contest with my therapist, he informed me that, for the first time after a decade of treating me, he could now safely conclude that I had a serious mental illness. Almost everyone else has told me that I am not only wrong about Kournikova, but that I have no taste, that I am a poor judge of women, etc. Nevertheless, I shall stand by my opinion. Her claims to being a sex symbol are due solely to her tangential connection to the world of sports, and even there she compares unfavorably to Ms. Evert or her vastly underrated contemporary, Evonne Goolagong; in fact, depending on the lighting, I would place Martina Hingis, Serena (when she’s not dyeing her hair), and, after enough cocktails, even Mrs. Agassi above her (obviously, the nose would be a problem). To put it another way, if you had the choice between Bridget Wilson and Anna K., whom would you take? And that’s just tennis; we haven’t even gotten around to mentioning Katerina Witt or half the starting line-up of the U.S. women’s soccer team yet. By the way, each of the women mentioned above (except for Ms. Wilson, who has also failed to win a tournament on the woman’s tour) are great athletes too, with all the dedication and hard work that entails. Also, Serena does scare me; I hope she realizes that I'm just kidding.

Finally, this from M.C. Hammered:

I believe Teri Hatcher has to be included as one of the most overrated "beautiful" women. She has eyes that make her look like she has (a disease) and her (breasts) may be real but they are far from spectacular…I believe that the big, fat, ugly, buffalo chicks who were the cheerleaders in Tony Basil's "Mickey" video were hand picked by Basil herself so she would look better.

Your remarks about ESPN Classic are right on the mark! ESPN is owned by the same shmucks that own ABC and they can't get the rights to show even some classic Monday Night games?! I was excited a few years ago when this s*** channel became available but have since become extremely disappointed. The channel SUCKS, SUCKS, SUCKS!!!! Doesn't it feel good to finally right about something, Smythe?

Hold on, M.C., you're not suggesting that Toni Basil is overrated? In any event, why dwell on ESPN Classic, when there are so many other important things in the world we can disagree about? (more)
As a bankruptcy lawyer, I'm supposed to have a take on the big news event today, World Com's double toothpicks filing in New York. Unfortunately, unless that company happens to be leasing space at Fallbrook or Baldwin Hills, it is unlikely I will be able to wet my beak in this week's largest-ever bankruptcy. A good place to figure out why all this came down, and how it could have been avoided, can be gleamed here. By the way, when all is said and done I have a feeling that most of these new economy accounting scams are going to arise out of companies headquartered either in Texas or the Deep South.
I don't know how often visitors to this site check out the links on the left side of the page. Most of them are politically-oriented, with a few odd satirical sites thrown in. One of the sites, The Daily Howler, was pretty much out of commission for the past four months, but has recently come back with a bang; I strongly recommend it to anyone who believes the media might be a little too full of excrement in the way they cover politics and politicians. His two obsessions right now are the collection of mendacity recently published by Ilsa, She-wolf of the S.S., and the Bush-Harken controversy, in which he quite persuasively challenges the claims of some (including myself) that W's stock sale back in 1989 was necessarily illegal or unethical. Since his web-rep was made by his blistering attacks on the media for its coverage of the bogus scandals during the Clinton administration, it is reassuring that there is a website with enough integrity to investigate scandal, and media coverage of same, without partisanship.

July 21, 2002

Last week, when the NY Times published a pair of columns analyzing W's "bidness" background, the Prez' shills in the media immediately pointed out that the corporate entity that runs the Times basically did the same thing, as if the President and the Times were somehow equal branches of government subject to the same checks and balances (funny, those same pundits never objected to the Washington Post obsequious coverage of Ken Starr, even though it had been represented by Starr in a critical legal case only a few years earlier). Well, the Times has apparently not learned its lesson, because it published an even more eviscerating column on Bush, Chaney, et al. over the weekend. Read, and enjoy....
I suppose this can be filed in the same place as the Overrated Beauty Pageant, or perhaps as another example of the myopia of the East Coast: the alleged "rivalry" between the Yankees and the Red Sox. This weekend, those two American League teams played a three-game series at Yankee Stadium, and each time the sports news updated the score, they would always refer to the two teams as "hated" rivals, as if New York and Boston had beaten each other up over the years in the same manner as Ali and Frazier, the Celtics and the Lakers, Borg and McEnroe, and Germany and the rest of Europe. I'm sure Bosox fans are quite sincere in their hatred of the Yankees, but, after all, isn't a rivalry supposed to be between two relative equals? Hey, chowderheads, the Red Sox haven't won squat since 1918, and haven't beaten the Yankees in any game that really mattered since 1904; no matter how much you might despise the Bronx Bombers, that is no substitute for a true rivalry. Calling that series a rivalry is like calling the Lakers and Sacramento a "rivalry", or any great NHL team and the Flyers a "rivalry". Sorry to rain on your parade, but as much as I also hate the Yankees, putting the Red Sox on the same plane as the Yankees does violence to the English language.
I'm back after a very fun and emotional weekend in the Bay Area, attending the 20th reunion of my college dorm floor, the second floor of Spens-Black, Unit III. As I mentioned last week, I never actually lived on that floor, but was close enough to the residents that I became an honorary member over the years. This was easily the best reunion I've attended to date, in that I actually liked these people, as opposed to reunions I had previously attended for high school and law school. We got together for dinner and a movie Friday, a picnic at Lake Anza in Berkeley the next afternoon, and then had one helluva feast Saturday night, thanks to Ms. E. Honda, another honorary member of the floor. At the end, there was still so much to talk about; without exception, I could have spoken many more hours with each person who attended.

Unlike other reunions, where your old classmates do not seem to change in any superficial sense, mainly because you never cared about them in the first place, it was fun noting the differing paths my long-ago friends have followed: most have spouses and children; a few, like myself, are just older and fatter than we used to be. We have changed dramatically in the two decades since we almost burned down the dorm celebrating a wake after the death of Leonid Brezhnev, but for one weekend, we could get together and remember how we used to be, when all of life's possibilities still seemed to lay before us, and we could count on each other to tolerate our excesses (wink, wink...) As always, The Future Lies Ahead !!!!