Saturday, July 24, 2004

The trouble with lawyers...

This came from a post on one of my favorite message boards - - about a lawsuit where a drunk hit a couple, and the couple is suing the gas station that sold him the gas, and the oil company. A link to the original message is here.

from "Hound"
You can't "toss out" a "BS" lawsuit until its legally determined to be BS, which necessitates a court case, Unc.

PS: Butch, loser pays is a great idea when you have a level playing field. But when its some Giant corporation with 20 lawyers on staff against the guy who burned up in a F*rd Pinto, it ain't exactly a fair fight is it?

*shakes head* I really don't want to get into an overtly political arguement here, but sometimes that's exactly what needs to happen. To tell you the truth Hound, you sound like a trial lawyer - who are really the only group that believes that we don't need any reform in our legal system. The system is set up such that it encourages lawsuits to be filed, which keep trial lawyers rich, but serve to cost the rest of the nation money. Allow me to explain albeit a bit simplistically...

In the current legal system we have for civil cases - note this does not include criminal cases which are an entirely different subject - what is required to win a case is not "proof beyond a reasonable doubt", but simply "a preponderance of evidence". This simply means that he who has the best evidence and convince a jury that they are more right than the other side wins. This was fine in older times, but in modern times, a few new inventions have greatly skewed this process - namely TV.

What has happened is that someone who feels "victimized" can file a lawsuit against any other party, regardless of how remotely they are connected to the actual case. In the example that started this message, the two plaintiffs are suing the gas station and the oil company. Forget that the driver of the other car was drunk, he doesn't have enough money, so they sue someone who has more money, and who can afford to pay them for their pain and suffering. With the advent of TV, these companies do not want to be associated with a terrible accident on the nightly news, as it may lead to a decrease in revenues due to the bad press. So the companies settle out of court, giving the "victim" something to make the case go away, irregardless of whether they were at fault or not. They view the bad press as costing them far more than they would have to pay to the victims, and the cost of the lawyers that would have to defend them. It makes economic sense to pay up and keep the case out of court.

Where the problem comes up is when you get greedy victims - or as is usually the case, greedy victim's lawyers. Why settle for $500,000 when you think you can get $2,000,000? They play a little hardball, threatening to take the case of the poor victims to the local TV station, which they know - and the company knows - will cost the company far more money than the $2,000,000. But this isn't justice - it's extortion. Cases like this get press because of how ridiculous the idea of someone suing the gas station and the gas company because they supplied gas to the drunk who hit thier car.

But here's the dirty little secret - companies don't pay legal fines - the people who buy their products pay the fines. Comapnies are in business to make money. If, for example, someone sues GM and wins $10,000,000 in a case, GM isn't going to just take the hit. They're going to raise the price of new vehicles to cover the cost. In GM's case, that means about $2 per new vehicle sold for the next year to pay that legal bill. It gets really big when you realize that some recent jury awards have gone over $750,000,000 - about $100 per car sold. Same thing goes when someone sues McDonalds because they spilled their coffee. Someone wins $8,000,000, McDonalds raises the price of Big Mac's. They aren't in business to lose money. In the end, we the consumers pay the bill. The most recent estimates I've seen are that close to 35% of all costs we pay for goods and services are directly the result of legal actions. The examples are everywhere - just look at the AirBag warning stickers on the visor of your Av - they're there as part of a lawsuit settlement in which some idiot thought that they didn't need to wear a seatbelt because they had airbags.

What changing the legal system to a "loser pays" system like most of the rest of the world would do is to eliminate the ridiculous lawsuits. If you still have a valid case that a lawyer thinks they can win, they'll still take it to court. But if you have to pay for both sets of lawyers, you had better have a REALLY strong case, or else you're going to get stuck with some really big bills. It would virtually eliminate the ridiculous cases like the McDonalds coffee case, and people suing the gas station and gas company for a drunk driver hitting them. It wouldn't stop the cases like the exploding pintos, because the victims would likely have a VERY solid case against the company, and any number of lawyers would line up to get in on that gravy train.

I could go on and on about this subject as it has caused me considerable grief and a lot of extra design cost due to ridiculous court cases. But I'll stop here for tonight as I'm getting tired, and this message is already plenty long enough. Let's just say that I really hate frivolous lawsuits...

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Lions Preseason Hyperbole…

OK, so I'm the biggest optimist about the Lions and their chances every year. I'm even optimistic in retrospective each year as I assess what I saw on the field – usually after another loss. For example, the last couple of years, while the Lions have struggled to 2-14, 3-13, and 5-11 seasons, I've seen a) the difference between winning and losing is as close as a single play / player, b) the Lions could be significantly better if they didn't get hit by so many injuries, and c) With only a little luck, the Lions could have had records of 10-6 each of those years. Now I know that that is extreme optimism, and I realize that the team was pretty bad. The talent they had was extremely low level, and upgrades have been sorely needed. But I think I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Let me explain…

In 2000, we were all fooled as they came within a Paul Edinger field goal of making the playoffs. What we failed to see was an old, slow team that was living on some incredibly lucky bounces. The Lions led the NFL in turnover margin that season, and it was the single biggest reason they were 9-7. They were no where near being a Super Bowl team, which is what all of us want.

Over the next two dreadful years, we saw what happens when a team is torn apart. It was very difficult to see progress, because so many players had to be replaced. Each year, going into the off-season, there was no real hope for even getting to be a .500 team the following year. There was some hope, as the drafts looked pretty good on paper, but the players were young, and there were far too many injuries to keep up with.

Last year, I started to see the method behind the madness. Again, there was a good draft, and a good free agent signing. As the season progressed, the injuries again crippled the team, but it became very apparent that there were only a few specific holes left that needed to be filled. At the end of last season, I made a list of what I thought needed to happen for the Lions to emerge this year as a top flight team. And they have not only hit every point on that list, they exceeded it.

I was calling for a few players heads at the end of last season. Bill Schroeder, Barrett Green, and Mikhael Ricks were my prime candidates for different reasons. I wanted to see new starters at CB, WLB, RG, LG, WR and TE for those reasons. If we were miracle workers, and we were able to land a fast RB, a young DE, and an upgrade at SS, the team would be SOLID.

Through free agency before the draft, we filled some of those holes spectacularly – LG Damien Woody, WR Tai Streets, and CB Fernando Bryant were all huge upgrades and fantastic signings. Later, we plucked TE Stephen Alexander and SS Brock Marion to further upgrade. Alexander makes me a bit nervous with his injury history, but he's an upgrade, and I still like Casey Fitzsimmons for long term.

In the minicamps, it was revealed that WLB Dirty Davis has bulked up and not lost any speed, making him a candidate to start at a LB spot. DE Kalimba Edwards was also finally recovered from the hernia surgery of last year, and looks potentially very good at the DE spot. So prior to the draft, we were nearly settled at every need position I had picked out, with only one OG spot to fill. We had even addressed some of the "nice to upgrade" positions. Not a bad offseason already heading into the draft.

Then in the draft, we truly hit the jackpot. Roy Williams was either the #1 or 2 WR in the draft depending on who you talked to. RB Kevin Jones was a candidate to be drafted in the #6 spot after the bowl games, and we were lucky to get him. Then we grabbed LB Teddy Lehman in the 2nd, and it was like hitting the lottery. Three elite starting type players in the draft is amazing.

So after all the dust has settled, we significantly upgraded the skill positions, had a huge upgrade at guard, had some pleasant surprises at LB and DE, upgraded SS and CB. The only position of note that hasn't been filled is RG. We signed Dave Loverne, but he may not be quite the answer. But as has been shown on several other web sites, there are plenty of capable guys still out there as free agents that could easily fill that hole.

So this leads to my optimism, albeit cautious. I can easily see this group winning 10+ games this year. The only obstacle in the way is the learning curve for KJ, RW, and CRog (effectively a rookie after only playing 5 games last year). The number of wins will be directly related to how fast the kids learn the offense. If it's slow, we might be in for a roller-coaster season with 8 wins. If they learn fast, the 4 horsemen (Harrington, Jones, Williams, Rogers) could win 10 or more and be terrorizing the league for years to come.

I hope they learn fast…

Why I can't stand John Kerry

This is something I need to get off my chest. I'm not the biggest George W. Bush supporter, as he's a bit of a knucklehead on some things. But I do admire his honesty and conviction, even if it's sometimes misguided. I just wish he didn't come across as so stubborn.

But this John Kerry guy, I can't stand him. He's got Clintonitis in the way he speaks. By that I mean his position on any subject of substance depends completely on his audience. He seems to go out of his way to contradict himself. He's like the ultimate hypocrite. Some examples:

Abortion: Last week, he came out and said he believes life begins at conception. Yet, he remains a strong supporter of the so-called "right to choose", even voting against the ban on partial birth abortion. This is complete BS. In order to make sense of his position, he believes that a woman has the right to kill her living child right up until that child has taken a breath outside her body. He defined that the child is alive by saying that life begins at conception. Therefore, he's pro-infanticide. Absolutely ridiculous.

Health Care: He's now running commercials indicating that the US spends about 1.5 Trillion (That's $1,500,000,000,000) on health care a year, and about 350 Billion ($350,000,000,000) of that is due to paperwork, so he wants to reduce the paperwork to reduce the cost of health care. Now let's see if we can follow the logic – the paperwork is there to protect the patients. The government requires the paperwork in an attempt to reduce the number of lawsuits. The lawsuits are filed by ambulance chasers – like his running mate, John Edwards. NOW I see what he wants – less paperwork for more mistakes for more lawsuits for his VP candidate to cash in on! Simply amazing. If he wants to protect healthcare and reduce costs, he should suggest that we need limits on damage awards to so-called "victims" of medical malpractice, and change the civil suit system to "loser pays" like in the rest of the world. THAT would reduce the cost of health care with every lawsuit that an ambulance chaser files and loses…

The Military: "I actually voted for the $87 billion, before I voted against it". 'nuff said.

There are actually so many of them that I really don't want to regurgitate them all here. Just go to any search engine and type "John Kerry Flip Flops" and you'll get a bunch. I got over 91,000 hits at Google this morning. Probably the best one I read was at George W. Bush's re-election site, but since some people may want to think that it's too biased, there is a really good one at which is about as liberal as they come. Even the Dem's know this guy is fake. And if there's one thing I can't stand, it a guy who's fake…

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The Ultimate gadget

Well, for my first post to the blog, it's about a gadget.

I love my electronic gadgets. I have enough of them to do just about anything that I can think of. But I'm really hoping for more digital convergence because of the load I'm toting around. With that in mind, I started thinking about the best features of multiple devices on the market and how I would want them integrated into a single device. I want a PDA-Phone-MP3-GPS device. I want it to connect easily and seamlessly to my everyday life. And I don’t think it's that far off. Here are the components I would integrate to make the "One" device.

PDA Interface – Sony UX-50. I love just about everything about this PDA – the screen, camera, Bluetooth, wi-fi, keyboard, memorystick. I would start with this device as my platform to integrate the other devices into. I wouldn't drop ANYTHING that the UX-50 does, just add to it.

Phone – PalmOne Treo. I love how the phone function works – and how it integrates seamlessly to the Palm OS. Again, I like the UX-50 size of the keyboard better, maybe with slightly better keys like the Treo has. I don't expect to ever use it as a headset, because my device would come with a Bluetooth headset. The device would be used for all phone functions except the microphone and earpiece. As backup, I'd have a standard 2.5mm jack. I guess to allow for phone use without peripherals, I'd allow the UX50 to use it's speaker and microphone as a phone. I just don't like taking a touch-sensitive screen and placing it to my ear while talking. Had one too many issues with my Treo 180 doing that. And while we're at it, make the phone not drop my call and reset if a misbehaving palm app causes the palm device to reset. That was the biggest gripe I had with the Treo – playing nice with other palm apps.

MP3 – Apple iPod. From the iPod, I'd take the hard drive. I like the smooth nature of the iPod, but I prefer the UX-50 interface for all it can do. But I need that hard drive and it's shock resistance for my device. I also love the completely intuitive way the buttons work on the iPod, so maybe I'd try to figure out a way to replace the jog-dial with the touch keys. I'd keep iTunes as my music store though.

GPS – Garmin iQue. Really, it's only the GPS function that I want from the Garmin device. With the hard drive, I can store all the DVD map info on the device.

Camera – Upgrade the 0.3 megapixel camera (that's 640x480 folks) in the UX50 to at least a 2 MP unit (1600x1200). Shouldn't be too hard to do. At leqast not compared to everything else I'm asking for…

Connectivity – BlueTooth and WiFi are already integrated into the UX50, so this is already covered. I just need a car stereo that can connect to it via either standard.

With all these functions, I'd have the ONE device that I would carry around. I want it to stay in the same form factor that the UX50 has right now – larger is not better. Now which company is going to be the one to grant me my wish???