Main Street Fairness Act

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

If truth in advertising laws applied to Congress, the so-called Main Street Fairness Act would be renamed as the Main Street Tax Act because it has absolutely nothing to do with fairness for main street. The unstated premise is that our current tax laws that treat online, out-of-state purchases different from offline purchases at bricks-and-mortar stores is unfair to Main Street businesses. However, the bill is all about collecting more sales tax and offers no help to Main Street businesses.

Congress makes the following findings:

(1) States should be encouraged to simplify their sales and use tax systems.

(2) As a matter of economic policy and basic fairness, similar sales transactions should be treated equally, without regard to the manner in which sales are transacted, whether in person, through the mail, over the telephone, on the Internet, or by other means.

(3) Congress may facilitate such equal taxation consistent with the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota.

(4) States that voluntarily and adequately simplify their tax systems should be authorized to correct the present inequities in taxation through requiring sellers to collect taxes on sales of goods or services delivered in-state, without regard to the location of the seller.

(5) The States have experience, expertise, and a vital interest in the collection of sales and use taxes, and thus should take the lead in developing and implementing sales and use tax collection systems that are fair, efficient, and non-discriminatory in their application and that will simplify the process for both sellers and buyers.

(6) Online consumer privacy is of paramount importance to the growth of electronic commerce and must be protected.

You have to love Congress. Not sure how increasing taxes is fair to anyone but state governments, but there you go. Looking out for Main Street by hiking taxes.

admiralty personal injury

Deepwater Horizon

There are a number of ways to research the Deepwater Horizon disaster that continues to unfold in the Gulf of Mexico. You can find Deepwater Horizon news via Google News or watch a Senate webcast about the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. You can also peruse securities filings, for mentions of the Deepwater Horizon.

The McMoRan Exploration Co. Form 10-Q Reports:

In April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon, an offshore drilling rig located in the deepwater of the Gulf of Mexico, sank following a catastrophic explosion and fire. Hydrocarbons have been discharged continuously into the Gulf of Mexico from the wellhead since the time of this disaster as efforts to close the wellhead and contain the spill continue. Although McMoRan has no operations in the deepwater of the Gulf of Mexico and its operations were not associated with this event, the Minerals Management Service (MMS) advised McMoRan on May 7, 2010 that approval of all new drilling permits in the offshore Gulf of Mexico is deferred until the U.S. Department of Interior and federal government complete an ongoing safety review related to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon. The Department of Interior expects to deliver its report to President Obama by May 28, 2010.

Delays in obtaining permits from the MMS may impact the timing of drilling new wells scheduled during 2010. McMoRan’s in-process drilling operations, including the wells currently drilling at Davy Jones, Blackbeard East and Blueberry Hill have not been affected. The extent to which these recent events may impact our future results is uncertain.

The Navigators Group, Inc. Form 10-Q reports:

Our insurance subsidiaries provided property reinsurance covering the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20th, 2010 and subsequently sank. We received loss notifications for the first party property damage related to the loss of the Deepwater Horizon. Our net physical damage loss for this claim is currently estimated to be approximately $4.6 million, net of tax, reinsurance and reinstatement premiums.

We also participated in various layers of the marine liability insurance programs purchased by entities with potential liability exposures related to the Deepwater Horizon incident. At this point in time, we are unable to accurately estimate the potential liability arising from the Deepwater Horizon incident, the allocation of that liability amongst the various participants, or what recoveries would be available to the participants from other applicable insurance coverage. If losses were incurred in the various marine liability insurance layers in which we participate on, we believe our exposure would be mitigated by the substantial reinsurance coverage we maintain. Our management expects that the ultimate liability, if any, for the marine liability portion of the Deepwater Horizon loss will not be material to our consolidated financial position, but if a significant portion of the marine liability layers in which we participate were to be exhausted, the loss could potentially have a material adverse effect on our consolidated results of operations or cash flows in a particular fiscal quarter or year.

The Parker Drilling Company Form 10-Q peports:

As part of our normal business operations, we monitor industry developments and their potential impacts to our business. In this regard, we are monitoring the recent incident in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico involving the Deepwater Horizon. At this time, we cannot predict what, if any, actions may be taken by the United States or state governments or our customers or other industry participants in response to the incident or what impact any such actions may have on our operations or the operations of our customers.

The Apache Offshore Investment Partnership Form 10-Q reports:

On April 22, 2010, a deepwater Gulf of Mexico drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, operating on Mississippi Canyon Block 252 sank after an apparent blowout and fire. Although attempts are being made to seal the well, hydrocarbons have been leaking and the spill area continues to grow. The Partnership does not have any ownership in the field and as of this date, the spill has not affected the Partnership’s current operations. However, the Partnership cannot predict at this time the potential impact of the incident and resulting spill on our future drilling activity or operations or how government agencies may respond with changes in laws and regulations pertaining to the Gulf of Mexico.

The International Shipholding Corporation Form 10-Q reports:

Our vessels which travel in the Gulf of Mexico could be disrupted due to the oil slick presently moving towards shore. On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon Oil rig, located in the Gulf of Mexico, had an explosion causing an oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico waters. Given the nature and scope of our operations, specifically the Rail-Ferry Service, we are vulnerable to disruption this oil slick may cause to our operations or to any damage it may cause to our vessels.

The American International Group, Inc. Form 10-Q reports:

On April 20, 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig, operating in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, resulted in a fire that sank the rig and caused a massive-scale oil spill. AIG estimates that its exposure to property loss on this event was approximately $20 million, which has been paid. It will not be possible to estimate the amount of casualty loss associated with this event, if any, until the determination of the cause and responsibility for the explosion and resulting oil spill and the assessment of damages resulting from the oil spill, as well as other factors, have been resolved. Therefore, although AIG cannot currently quantify its ultimate liabilities arising from this event, it is possible that such liabilities could have a material adverse effect on AIG’s consolidated results of operations or consolidated cash flows for an individual reporting period.

Transatlantic Holdings, Inc. Form 10-Q reports:

On April 20, 2010, an explosion occurred on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Based on preliminary information, TRH expects that total industry losses from this event could reach $1.5 billion and TRH’s pre-tax costs, net of reinsurance and reinstatement premiums, should be less than 1% of such industry losses. TRH will record its estimate of costs related to this event in the second quarter of 2010, based on information then available.

TRH’s present estimate of its costs arising from the Deepwater Horizon explosion is very preliminary due to the recent date of the explosion’s occurrence and the developing nature and potential breadth of related consequences, among other factors. In addition, the estimate involves a significant amount of judgment and is based on information available at the time of estimation.


Santa Clara County Tackles Child Obesity

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted to ban restaurants from offering toys or other incentive items in conjunction with foods that contain excessive calories, sodium, fat, saturated fat, trans fat and sugars. Interestingly, this ordinance will not affect all of Santa Clara County. Instead, the ordinance only regulates restaurants “in the unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County.” So, at first glance, this seriously diminishes the number of restaurants that may be affected.

However, the real curious aspect of this law is that it does not prohibit restaurants from serving unhealthy food to children. Restaurants may continue serving high caloric foods with excess sodium, fats and sugars. They just can’t provide toys, games, trading cards, admission tickets or other consumer products along with the meal. Note also that if the restaurant provides such toys, games, trading cards, admission tickets and other products with no purchase necessary, such a transfer will not run afoul of the ordinance since the toy is no longer linked to the purchase of a Single Food item or Meal.

Net effect: much ado about nothing.

humor Law

Cyber Privacy Act

Last week, Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) introduced a bill that would require certain Internet websites that contain personal information of an individual to remove such information at the request of the individual.

This bill potentially affects “[a]ny Internet website that makes available to the public personal information of individuals.”

The bill also defines “personal information” as “any information about an individual that includes, at minimum, the individual’s name together with either a telephone number of such individual or an address of such individual.”

Megan’s Law. If this bill passes, the first class of persons that will be seeking relief under the bill would be the people on California’s Megan’s Law website. Interestingly, not all the offenders subject to Megan’s Law qualify. Those with names and addresses listed do, but those with addresses denoted as “Specific address not subject to disclosure”, “transient” or “unknown” do not meet the minimum threshold set forth in the Cyber Privacy Act.

Barack Obama. I did not realize that there were so many Barack Obamas in the United States. Spokeo lists a Barack H Obama in Illinois. The listing displays Michelle Obama as a member of the household, but the profile states “Children: No” and “[i]s not interested in politics,” which should give you a hint about data quality. Spokeo also has a listing for Barack Obama on Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington DC. Would this be 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW? The data for this Obama is no better: “[i]n a relationship”, no children, and “[i]s not interested in politics.” So, can President Obama get his personal information removed from Spokeo? Well, even though the website does not display his full address, it does make such data potentially available if you sign up to view full results, which may include the name, address, home phone, mobile phone and other personal information. So, Spokeo qualifies as an Internet website that contains personal information. However, like the prior example, not every individual may request to have their information removed from the website, such as if Spokeo is missing the full address or phone number of the individual in their records.

Credit Reports. For credit reporting websites, such as Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion, the Cyber Privacy Act presents a real nightmare. The credit reporting bureaus qualify under the Cyber Privacy Act because they “make available to the public personal information of individuals” in the form of credit reports. These reports definitely contain your personal information, including your name, address (past and present), as well as your phone numbers, unless you fear killer robots from the future and are truly living off the grid. The problem for credit reporting bureaus will occur when people with bad or poor credit start requesting that their credit reports be removed from these databases. Fun! And, so long as the report meets the minimum threshold (i.e., name + phone number or address), the individual may request that all the personal information be removed. No more online credit reports. Back to faxes.

State Bar. If the State Bar has disciplined an attorney, and the attorney does not want the State Bar to publish his or her disciplinary record, the attorney can seek relief under the Cyber Privacy Act because the State Bar of California publishes an attorney’s address, phone number and fax number.

HR 5108 IH


2d Session

H. R. 5108

To require certain Internet websites that contain personal information of individual’s to remove such information at the request of such individuals.


April 22, 2010

Mr. MCCOTTER introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce


To require certain Internet websites that contain personal information of individual’s to remove such information at the request of such individuals.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the `Cyber Privacy Act’.


(a) In General- Any Internet website that makes available to the public personal information of individuals shall–

(1) provide, in a clear and conspicuous location on the Internet website, a means for individuals whose personal information it contains to request the removal of such information; and

(2) promptly remove the personal information of any individual who requests its removal.

(b) Definition of Personal Information- As used in this Act, the term `personal information’ means any information about an individual that includes, at minimum, the individual’s name together with either a telephone number of such individual or an address of such individual.


(a) Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices- A violation of this Act shall be treated as an unfair and deceptive act or practice in violation of a regulation under section 18(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 57a(a)(1)(B)) regarding unfair or deceptive acts or practices.

(b) Powers of Commission- The Federal Trade Commission shall enforce this Act in the same manner, by the same means, and with the same jurisdiction, powers, and duties as though all applicable terms and provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 41 et seq.) were incorporated into and made a part of this Act. Any person who violates such regulations shall be subject to the penalties and entitled to the privileges and immunities provided in that Act.

criminal law

Bernard Madoff Got Lucky

The 150 year sentence that Judge Denny Chin imposed in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme case seems a bit light. Considering that investor losses may range from $10 to $20 billion, Madoff was sentenced to 1 year of prison for every $66.7 million in losses at the low end of the estimates. Of course, no one, let alone a 71 year old man, can possibly serve the entirety of a 150 year sentence, so Madoff is getting a great deal in this instance.

In contrast, consider the terrible plight of Jeffrey Rush, who faked paralysis and proceeded to collect veterans and disability benefits. He was recently sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison and ordered to pay about $300,000 in restitution. He ended up with 4.3% of Madoff’s prison sentence, but only caused 0.0015-0.003% of Madoff’s losses. If $66.7 million in losses is worth one year in prison, $300,000 in losses should only yield about a day and a half in prison.

As I said, Bernard Madoff got lucky. Really lucky.


Warning: Unreinforced Masonry Building

Walking down Murphy Street in Downtown Sunnyvale, I spotted this warning affixed to the wall of a building:

The warning reads as follows:

This is an unreinforced masonry building. Unreinforced masonry buildings may be unsafe in the event of a mojor [sic] earthquake.

I’ve walked past many buildings both old and new, but I’ve never seen such a warning sign before. Further down the block, I spotted the same warning again.

Interesting. The warning notice cites Assembly Bill 2533. Possibly not a law, but a bill. And, the other important item that was omitted was the all important session during which the bill was introduced because the California Assembly has this practice of reusing Assembly BIll numbers. So, from the most recent AB 2533.

AB 2533. Introduced February 19, 2010 regarding “health care coverage: quality rating.” Nope.

AB 2533. Introduced February 21, 2008 regarding “disability access: remedies.” Nope.

AB 2533. Introduced February 23, 2006 regarding “sales and use taxes: exemption.” Nope.

AB 2533. Introduced February 20, 2004 regarding “seismic safety.” Bingo!


SECTION 1. The Legislature finds and declares all of the

(a) Jennifer Lynn Myrick, known to her friends as Jenna, was
killed by falling debris while fleeing a building in Paso Robles,
California, during the San Simeon earthquake of December 22, 2003.

(b) The building, known as the Acorn Building or Mastagni
Building, in which Jenna worked was an 1890s era unreinforced masonry

(c) Section 8875.2 of the Government Code requires local building
departments to identify all potentially hazardous buildings within
their respective jurisdictions. The Acorn Building was identified as
a potentially hazardous building, but had not been retrofitted to
meet widely recognized building codes for earthquake safety.

(d) The California Seismic Safety Commission reports that, as of
2003, 1,413,398 people live in jurisdictions that had not completed
their inventory of potentially hazardous buildings, and 705,782
people live in jurisdictions with no program to retrofit unreinforced
masonry buildings.

(e) It is the intent of the Legislature to improve the public’s
awareness of potentially hazardous buildings so that occupants and
passers-by are better equipped to protect themselves in the event of
an earthquake.

SEC. 2. Section 8875.8 of the Government Code is amended to read:

8875.8. (a) An owner who has received actual or constructive
notice that a building located in seismic zone 4 is constructed of
unreinforced masonry shall post in a conspicuous place at the
entrance of the building, on a sign not less than 5 X 7 the following
statement, printed in not less than 30-point bold type:

“This is an unreinforced masonry building. Unreinforced masonry
buildings may be unsafe in the event of a major earthquake.”

(b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), unless the owner of a
building subject to subdivision (a) is in compliance with that
subdivision on and after December 31, 2004, an owner who has received
actual or constructive notice that a building located in seismic
zone 4 is constructed of unreinforced masonry and has not been
retrofitted in accordance with an adopted hazardous building
ordinance or mitigation program shall post in a conspicuous place at
the entrance of the building, on a sign not less than 8 X 10 the
following statement, with the first two words printed in 50-point
bold type and the remaining words in at least 30-point type:

“Earthquake Warning. This is an unreinforced masonry building.
You may not be safe inside or near unreinforced masonry buildings
during an earthquake.”

(c) Notice of the obligation to post a sign, as required by
subdivisions (a) and (b), shall be included in the Commercial
Property Owner’s Guide to Earthquake Safety.

(d) Every rental or lease agreement entered into after January 1,
2005, involving a building subject to the requirements of subdivision
(b) shall contain the following statement: This building, which you
are renting or leasing, is an unreinforced masonry building.
Unreinforced masonry buildings have proven to be unsafe in the event
of an earthquake. Owners of unreinforced masonry buildings are
required to post in a conspicuous place at the entrance of the
building, the following statement:

“Earthquake Warning. This is an unreinforced masonry building.
You may not be safe inside or near an unreinforced masonry building
during an earthquake.”

(e) An owner who is subject to subdivision (b) and who does not
comply with subdivision (a) may be subject to an administrative fine
of two hundred fifty dollars ($250) to be levied by the local
building department no sooner than 15 days after the local building
department notifies the owner that the owner is subject to the
administrative fine. If the owner does not comply with the
requirements of that subdivision within 30 days of the first
administrative fine, the owner may be subject to an additional
administrative fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000).

(f) If an owner who is subject to subdivision (b) does not comply
with subdivision (b), any person may bring a civil action for
injunctive relief if all of the following have been met:

(1) He or she has made a request to an appropriate authority for
administrative enforcement of this section at least 90 days prior to
the action.

(2) An administrative fine has not been levied since the request
was made pursuant to paragraph (1).

(3) At least 15 days prior to the filing of the action, the person
has served on each proposed defendant a notice containing the
following statement:

“You are receiving this notice because you are alleged to be in
violation of Section 8875.8 of the Government Code, which requires
that the owner of an unreinforced masonry building post a sign, not
less than 8 X 10, in a conspicuous place at the entrance of the
building with the following statement, with the first two words
printed in 50-point boldface type and the remaining words in at least
30-point type:

“Earthquake Warning. This is an unreinforced masonry building.
You may not be safe inside or near unreinforced masonry buildings
during an earthquake.

Failure to post the sign in compliance with subdivision (b) of
Section 8875.8 within 15 days of receipt of this notice entitles the
sender of the notice to file an action against you in a court of law
for injunctive relief.’ “

(4) The owner has failed to post the sign in accordance with the
requirements of subdivision (b) within 15 days of receipt of the
notice served pursuant to this subdivision.

(g) The prohibitions and sanctions imposed pursuant to this
section are in addition to any other prohibitions and sanctions
imposed by law. A civil action for injunctive relief pursuant to
this section shall be independent of any other rights and remedies.

SEC. 3. This act shall be known and may be cited as the “Jennifer
Lynn Myrick Memorial Law.”


California Vehicle Code 22658

I was walking around Mountain View and wondered what CVC 22658A referred to on the Parking Restricted sign.

The owner or person in lawful possession of private property, including an association of a common interest development as defined in Section 1351 of the Civil Code, may cause the removal of a vehicle parked on the property to a storage facility that meets the requirements of subdivision (n) under any of the following circumstances:

Interesting. I wonder if the sign complies with CVC 22658 because it requires that the sign contain “the telephone number of the local traffic law enforcement agency.” While the sign does list the phone number of the Mountain View Police Department as 415-903-6344, the sign is quite dated since Mountain View left the 415 area code for the 650 area code permanently on January 31, 1998.


Confederate History Month

Not sure which is more appalling: California’s Cuss Free Week or Virginia’s Treasonous History Month.

WHEREAS, April is the month in which the people of Virginia joined the Confederate States of America in a four year war between the states for independence that concluded at Appomattox Courthouse; and

WHEREAS, Virginia has long recognized her Confederate history, the numerous civil war battlefields that mark every region of the state, the leaders and individuals in the Army, Navy and at home who fought for their homes and communities and Commonwealth in a time very different than ours today; and

WHEREAS, it is important for all Virginians to reflect upon our Commonwealth’s shared history, to understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War, and to recognize how our history has led to our present; and

WHEREAS, Confederate historical sites such as the White House of the Confederacy are open for people to visit in Richmond today; and

WHEREAS, all Virginians can appreciate the fact that when ultimately overwhelmed by the insurmountable numbers and resources of the Union Army, the surviving, imprisoned and injured Confederate soldiers gave their word and allegiance to the United States of America, and returned to their homes and families to rebuild their communities in peace, following the instruction of General Robert E. Lee of Virginia, who wrote that, “…all should unite in honest efforts to obliterate the effects of war and to restore the blessings of peace.”; and

WHEREAS, this defining chapter in Virginia’s history should not be forgotten, but instead should be studied, understood and remembered by all Virginians, both in the context of the time in which it took place, but also in the context of the time in which we live, and this study and remembrance takes on particular importance as the Commonwealth prepares to welcome the nation and the world to visit Virginia for the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the Civil War, a four-year period in which the exploration of our history can benefit all;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert McDonnell, do hereby recognize April 2010 as CONFEDERATE HISTORY MONTH in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.


Censorship is in Eye of the Beholder

On on hand…

S. Res 405 (Feb 2, 2010)

[T]he Senate–

(1) reaffirms the centrality of freedom of expression and press freedom as cornerstones of United States foreign policy and United States efforts to promote individual rights;

(2) expresses serious concern over ongoing official efforts in many countries to restrict speech and expression, including attempts to censor, restrict, and monitor access to the Internet;

(7) urges companies to engage in responsible business practices in the face of efforts by foreign governments to restrict the free flow of information by refusing to aid in the curtailment of free expression[.]

On the other hand…

H. Res. 224 (Mar. 7, 2007):

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that corporate owners of websites that share user-posted videos should take action to remove jihadi propaganda.


Cuss Free Week

Thank you California legislature. The Golden State may be teetering on the brink of insolvency, but at least it will go down with good manners:

WHEREAS, On June 1, 2007, then 14-year old McKay Hatch founded the No Cussing Club at his South Pasadena junior high school after noticing many of his peers were using cusswords and foul language that created an environment of rudeness and disharmony towards others on his campus. McKay reasoned that if pupils could say no to cussing, it would be easier to stay away from drugs, violence, and pornography and turn their focus to positive aspirations and goals. “Leave people better than you found them” became the No Cussing Club’s active motto; and

WHEREAS, Upon founding the No Cussing Club, 50 pupils immediately joined and membership rapidly spread to other schools, communities, states, and countries. By 2009, the No Cussing Challenge had grown to 100 clubs in schools and churches worldwide, with 35,000 online members in 50 states and the countries of Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Philippines, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. Its Internet Web site receives thousands of hits per day with hundreds of parents, teens, and children taking the No Cussing Challenge online; and

WHEREAS, While South Pasadena is not the first community to confront a tradition of rude language, for example, in 2009 Saint Charles, a suburb of Saint Louis, Missouri proposed a ban on swearing in bars, and in 2007 , hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons called for an industrywide ban on racially and sexually charged epithets, the No Cussing Club created a process to help convert foul language to charitable actions that would raise our spirits in times of economic uncertainty and frustration; and

WHEREAS, Cusswords and aggressive language are used by bullies to intimidate their victims. To counter this, the No Cussing Club offers a workbook that can be downloaded from their Internet Web site and used to assist teachers and pupils to combat bullying and cyber bullying; and

WHEREAS, The No Cussing Challenge encourages members of offices, homes, and schools to place money in a jar with a custom-made label available from their Internet Web site,, when foul language is used and donate collected funds to charity. This practice not only helps raise awareness of our wide use of negative language and how it affects our spirits, but inspires redeemable actions that benefit charities and nonprofit social programs; and

WHEREAS, The No Cussing Club has been endorsed by government officials at all levels with some creating cuss-free zones in their jurisdictions. Promoting the notion that words are powerful tools that express how we feel about ourselves and the world we live in, the No Cussing Challenge is a reminder that our ability to uplift, encourage, and motivate others and improve our community starts with the words we use and actions we take; and

WHEREAS, The California Legislature invites the people of this state to take the No Cussing Challenge each year during the first week of March to improve our relationships, to set a tone of harmony and connectedness in our communities, and to inspire ourselves to higher endeavors; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Assembly of the State of California, the Senate thereof concurring, That the Legislature designate the first week of March of each year as Cuss Free Week; and be it further

Resolved, That the Chief Clerk of the Assembly prepare copies of this resolution for distribution to the California congressional delegation and others as appropriate.