April 02, 2005

Offerman Signs: You know the baseball season draws near when this story hits the wires...btw, the page for Phoebe Nicholls at IMDB.com has not updated in the past twelve months. Should I be concerned?
Well, obviously, if we are to believe MSM accounts, his Holiness did not die on April Fools Day, although all accounts continue to suggest that his death is "imminent". What happened? I posted yesterday, based on a report I saw on FOX NEWS (!!!!), then had no access to a computer the rest of the day to change, edit, alter, or do anything to correct it. Anyways, the post stays, forever an example to me and others of blogospheric hubris, a reminder not to believe anything controlled by Sir Rupert.

April 01, 2005

JOHN PAUL II DEAD: For good or ill, he was probably the most important historical figure of the last fifty years. It was he, not Gorbachev or Reagan, who was most responsible for the West's victory in the Cold War; Reagan's contributions were mainly rhetorical, and Gorbachev might not have been possible without the groundwork laid by the Pope throught Eastern Europe. But he must also bear a good deal of the responsibility for the dominancy of reactionary theological tendencies in the Church, particularly its continued support for the oppression of women and gays. There was a reason The DaVinci Code became a best-seller, and it wasn't because of the high-quality of its prose.

March 31, 2005

Alice in Crackerland: Tired of wasting your life talking to men and women who actually think for a living, in the "provincial ghettos" of the Big Apple and The City. How would you like to "overhear sophisticated lunchtime conversations about logistics management and telecom configurations," or ..."appreciate the problem-solving rigors of commercial ventures," while uncovering "...the crafts culture of stay-at-home moms." Well, then, Virginia Postrel has just the hellhole for you. [link via Alicublog]

March 30, 2005

The conventional wisdom in this town is that Jerry Buss dropped the ball, big-time, when he traded Shaq in the off-season and let Phil Jackson retire, rather than letting Kobe Bryant leave as a free agent. While Miami's emergence as the class of the Eastern Conference would seem to support that line of thinking, I think there are some problems with making Dr. Buss the scapegoat for the Lakers' downfall.

First, as anyone who saw last year's NBA Finals can attest, the Lakers were no longer a championship-caliber team before the Lakers made the trade. It was a stone-cold fluke that they even made the Finals (where have you gone, Fisher King?), and the Lakers were one miraculous Kobe Bryant trey from getting swept by the Pistons, one of the least talented champions in my lifetime. Without a draft to build on, some changes were going to be in order if the Lakers were going to do something better than remain competitive.

Second, Shaq was the obvious candidate to be moved. He is seven years older than Kobe, had a contract set to expire in another year, and he had all but disappeared in four of the five games of the NBA Finals. He was rarely in shape, often showing up for training camp morbidly obese, and then playing himself into something resembling "shape" over the course of the regular season, which usually encompassed a few weeks on the D.L. Even if he could be presumed to have two or three more seasons at the top of the league, his was clearly a stock in decline over the long haul. The salary cap meant that extending Shaq's contract and re-signing Kobe would have made it nearly impossible to sign another superstar anytime soon, which, as anyone who saw the 2003-4 NBA Finals can attest, was absolutely essential if the Lakers were going to make another title run.

So, of course, the Lakers trade their star for two younger players, neither of whom will likely start on any future Lakers champions, re-sign Kobe, and Shaq is finally motivated to get into shape before training camp, this time with a new team. The Heat have completely dominated their conference, and if they remain healthy through the playoffs, are almost a lock to make it to their first NBA Finals. The Lakers will not make the playoffs, and are now struggling to remain ahead of their Staples Center cotenants, the Clippers. Neither result could have been considered unexpected at the time the trade was announced (the biggest flop in the NBA this year isn't the Lakers, btw, it's the T-Wolves, the team with the best record in the Western Conference last year, who returned all of their stars, but have a record scarcely better than the Lakers).

But even had the Lakers held on to Shaq, managed to re-sign Kobe, and re-upped the ZenMaster for another year, it is improbable that they would be contending for another NBA title this season. Without the humiliation of being traded, I doubt Shaq would have been healthy enough to contribute the way he has to the Heat, and an injured, sub-par O'Neill would, at best, have led the Lakers to another 4 or 5 seed in the West, good enough to possibly get out of the first round, but not good enough to win the title. To Jerry Buss' credit, the Lakers aren't yet willing to settle for just being a contender.

March 28, 2005

Under current bankruptcy law, homeowners who suffer temporary setbacks, either at work or due to medical expenses, can file what is known as a Chapter 13 petition, where they can pay off the amount they've fallen behind on their mortgage over a period of time (usually between 3-5 years). It has been a remarkably successful method for some to keep their homes while rebuilding their credit, but according to this article, the new "reform" is going to sabotage Chapter 13 by giving greater priority to credit card debt, and by abolishing "cram downs", where a financially distressed debtor is allowed to reduce the amount owed on car loans to the actual depreciated value of the car, rather than the inflated (and typically usurious) amount in the original loan. The result, according to the bankruptcy judges they interviewed, will be a complete breakdown of a system that had been working quite well at enabling creditors to recover over $3 billion a year in outstanding loans.

On the other hand, foreclosure specialists are going to party like its 1999...I wonder if we're going to see something along the lines of judicial nullification when this law gets passed. Much of the proposed law, including provisions concerning the imposition of repayment plans when a debtor earns more than an arbitrary, pre-set level of income, requires a court order first, and judges maintain the discretion not to force the debtor into a repayment plan if the debtor can establish "special circumstances" that justify certain expenses. I can guarantee you that many bankruptcy judges will bend over backwards to define "special circumstances" in such a way as to permit all but the most egregious cases to remain in Chapter 7; the phrase, "special circumstances" almost begs to be given the sort of improvisation that an activist judiciary can muster.

And of course, there will be just enough pricks in the judiciary to give the term the most anally retentive definition possible; that split is exactly what will make the practice of ordinary Chapter 7 law so lucrative for specialists such as myself. The bankruptcy "reform" bill, stitched together as it was by credit card industry trolls and Federalist Society profs at non-elite law schools, with seemingly no contribution from anyone who's ever had any day-to-day experience in the trenchs, is going to become a joke the moment it goes into effect.
My sister Jen, who is currently in the Indonesian port city of Medan (150 miles NE of the epicenter), informs me that a) last night's quake was the most horrifying experience of her life, b) you could hardly tell as of this morning that a quake had struck Medan, and c) her company (Kohler) is pulling their people out of there ASAP, but not until after she's put in a few hours this afternoon interviewing some of their local reps. That, and the West is getting very preliminary casualty figures...yikes.