Thursday, September 28, 2006

What to do about punitive damages?

Today on NPR there was a discussion of an upcoming Supreme Court case involving punitive damages (sometimes known as "exemplary damages" -- meaning "to make an example of"). Actually, there has been a lot of fear-mongering about it by conservative politicians, who proclaim that businesses cannot be profitable if punitive damages are not capped. They also point to the unfairness of only the one plaintiff in the case getting the financial windfall, when multiple parties are harmed by wrongful behavior.

Firstly, punitive damages may only be awarded to a prevailing Plaintiff if it can be shown that a Defendant acted intentionally, willfully or wantonly in harming the Plaintff. There are some such tortious actions which are also criminal, but not all. Whether or not such acts are criminal should not matter. Such acts should be punished for the good of society. There are some torts that are committed intentionally or with such reckless disregard for the health, safety or financial well-being of others in pursuit of profit that it is important to give juries the ability to "send a message" to similarly-minded persons. When such actions are discovered and proven in court, society (via juries) must be able to take action to curb such behavior. Punitive damages are the only viable solution.

It is also important to know that there are people out there who will "do the math" and count up the potential profit versus the potential risk of loss. If punitive damages are limited, there is a greater risk "bean counters" will calculate how to maximize profit -- even if it means that they harm others. Remember, first they have to be found out; second, someone has to file a lawsuit; third, it has to go to trial; fourth, the Plaintiff(s) have to prevail; fifth, there must be a finding that the harm done was sufficient to award punitive damages (usually by clear and convincing evidence); and sixth, the jury must award the punitive damages. Even after all that, an appellate court must uphold the award. In many cases, jury awards are reduced (as in the famous McDonald's spilled coffee case).

The question then is: how do we assess damages in such a way as to maximize the benefit to the harmed parties and to society? My idea is not to limit punitive damages. It is important to hold wrongdoers accountable; sometimes this can only be done with large damage awards.

I would agree that when it is shown that multiple parties are harmed, that all members of the class should receive some compensation (rather than only to the winner of the "race to the courthouse"). However, because part of the harm is also societal, then society should receive some of the benefit. As an example, there have been cases involving dumping of chemicals into drinking water by corporate entities. In such cases, the actual damages are bad enough (however, proving actual damages may only yield a small number), but the harm to society is incalculable. It is my suggestion that a part of punitive damage awards should be awarded to the state and federal government for court administration and indigent legal assistance. That way, both individuals and society are compensated for civil wrongs.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Life's Four Corrupting Influences

I have thought for a long time about the question "what motivates people?" What causes people to become corrupt, immoral or even criminal? I have thought about the question in an attempt to come up with a kind of "string theory" that would explain it all. This is what I have come up with:

The four corrupting influences in a person's life are:

1. Money;
2. Power;
3. Sex; and
4. Vanity

Everyone is susceptible to different corrupting influences. For instance: a movie star would be more vulnerable to the corruption of Vanity (fame) but might not be so prone to temptations of power. On the other hand, a politician is very vulnerable to the trappings of power, but perhaps not as much from the other three. A CEO of a company may be very susceptible to the allure of money, but may not be all that desirous of Vanity.

The real conundrum is that, the way I see it, one cannot have lived a successful, happy life unless one has a little bit of success in each of these areas. If someone, however, gets too much of any one of these, they will live a life that is out of balance. The old saying "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely" can be applied to the other corrupting influences as well. Absolute money corrupts (think Enron's "Smartest Guys in the Room"), absolute sex corrupts (think pornography and obsession with sex) and absolute fame corrupts (think of figures who become obsessed with their own fame).

The question is: how to control these base desires to lead a balanced life? How do we keep the engine from driving the car?

There is a famous saying among lawyers and accountants: "all great wealth starts with a crime." It is not literally true, but it is true enough. The excessive desire for money can lead to the compromise of principles. Paul's statement in the New Testament about "the love of money is the root of all evil" is too narrow. The obsession with obtaining wealth is the root of all financial evils. The obsession with attaining power is a root of evil, too -- just look at how many elected or appointed government officials get caught up in scandals while in office. So is obsession with sex. So is obsession with attaining popularity and fame.

Our desire for each of the corrupting influences can be our ruin. The biblical admonition to "train up a child in the way he should go" is really just a command to teach self-control over each of these forces.

Are there any corrupting influences that I missed?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Virtues of Education

The Internet Monk, Michael Spencer, writes a great article about the value of a liberal education. I wish more Christians thought like this.

Panel Calls for Health Care Guarantee

It looks like President Bush and the Republican Party are running against the tide of history.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Economist article about dangerous business debt

An article in The Economist about how business debt is spiraling out of control and how much of it is an unregulated market.


Here is one of the more interesting quotes in the article:

“The same factors that may have reduced the probability of future systemic events, however, may amplify the damage caused by, and complicate the management of, very severe financial shocks. The changes that have reduced the vulnerability of the system to smaller shocks may have increased the severity of the larger ones.”

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Another reason to National Health Care -- Travel

There is another good reason to create a national health care plan: so that American's freedom of movement is not inhibited. Many private health plans only cover medical providers in the insured's local area. As a result, if an insured takes a vacation and gets sick or hurt while away from home, many times their illness or injury will either be reduced or not covered by their health plan at all.

This policy is irrational. Americans should be free to explore and see new things. They should not have to worry about a reduction or denial of health benefits while they are away.

Change in posting rules

I have decided to turn off moderation for now and turn on word verification so that people can make comments during the day while I am at work. I am going to see how it works out.

Is Osama Bin Laden dead?

A report came out a couple of days ago, in a bit of rumormongering, that Osama Bin Laden died of a water-borne disease -- specifically, typhoid is the one that is mentioned. We may never know if it is true, given the shadowy world that he lived in. If it is true, it will be another blow to al-Qaeda. It is not so much that Bin Laden himself was such a great military leader; it is rather that a lot of al-Qaeda's planned operations were carried out using his finances. I am sure that not all of those finances will be recoverable by al-Qaeda if Bin Laden is dead.

What makes this story interesting is that al-Zawahiri is a medical doctor from Egypt. Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri was probably the "brains" of the organization, while Bin Laden supplied the "capital." If he had been around bin-Laden, you would think that he would be able to recognize the symptoms and get Bin Laden treated before he could meet his demise. However, it says that Bin Laden was in a remote area; then there is the rumor that the two had seperated for operational reasons. I suppose it is possible that Zawahiri and Bin Laden were incommunicado with each other -- especially since our intelligence services know how to pick up electronic communications -- leading to Bin Laden not being able to get medical help fast enough. After all, when you are the world's most wanted man, it is not like you can simply have someone pick up the phone and dial 911 and get a house call from any doctor. There are very few people he would be able to trust to keep their mouths shut -- even in that part of the world -- when you have a $50 million bounty on your head.

Talking Points Memo has a discussion on it

Of course, it could be an early
"October Surprise" as well, with the purpose of stemming the Republican's losses (even possibly leading to Republican gains) in the November elections. And it could be that our intelligence services found him and slipped him a biological agent to make it look like natural causes. That way, it would be less likely that he could become a martyr in the eyes of the Muslim world.

We are a long way from that, as we have not yet even confirmed that he is dead yet; and a lot of people have raised a lot of doubts about the report's veracity. In the shadowy world of espionage, we may never find out.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Okie Blogger Round-up 2006

I attended the Okie Blogger Round-up today. There was a lot of information at the meeting. In fact, there was so much information to disseminate at the Advanced Workshop that they ran out of time before they were able to get to everything.

They may have given Charles Hill The Bird (the award trophies where rubber ducks on top of roman columns), but they gave me a shirt.

I enjoyed the get together to meet other Okie bloggers and have made contacts that I hope will help me create a better site.

Friday, September 22, 2006

White collar workers having problems getting jobs

Charles Smith over at Of Two Minds Blog does a book review of Bait And Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream by Barbara Ehrenreich. One of the the conclusions in her book is that we need a national health care system.

The issue is bigger than just the white collar workers that she focuses on in her book. One of the reasons that the commerce clause was put in the Constitution was to create a uniform national economy free of local barriers to trade.


U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8 clause [3]

To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes;


One thing that should be patently obvious to anyone who knows anything about macroeconomics: that when workers cannot leave one job and take another that is more suited to their abilities because they would lose their healthcare benefits it will cause a loss of productivity and efficiency. This is also true if they cannot have portability of their retirement benefits. That is one of the tremendous advantages of Social Security. No matter where you work, your Social Security goes with you. The same should be true for your health care and retirement benefits that you have earned. A national health care system would make workers more portable. That is even more critical at a time when economic forces are rapidly changing.

Even though American workers are more productive than ever, many manufacturing jobs are going overseas (or to Canada). One of the main complaints by businesses is the cost of health care. A national system would spread the risk and cost so that it could be controlled through the economy of scale.

Think of it this way: let's say that a single person gets injured with a broken bone. The cost of their hospitalization / treatment comes to $10,000.00. If they have to pay the entire cost themselves, the cost is pretty great (unless they are wealthy). Let's say they go to a church which has 100 members. Let's further assume that ever church member shares equally in the cost of their health care. The cost to each member of the church comes to $100 each -- not too bad. Now lets assume that every American of working age helps pitch in to cover the cost (250 million Americans / $10,000). That comes to $0.00004 each. Now I realize that when you get to that many potential claimants, that there will be more injuries and illnesses. However, the principle is still the same. The economy of scale brings down the cost to each individual overall.

This same principle also applies to Medicare if we allow our government, who buys prescription drugs for Medicare recipients. The economy of scale will bring down the cost of the precription drugs if we allow it to.

We can bring down business costs by creating portability in health care and retirement so that the worker can maximize their efficiency and productivity. This is the win-win-win situation that we have sought: increased profits with increased productivity for the business owner, while increasing the security and portability of the American worker.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Everybody Loves a Holy War

This song by Mark Heard (whose last album title became the basis for the name of this site after a few other picks I had were not available), seems to be more true now than when he wrote it 20 years ago. We have more Christian militarism in this country and Muslim militarism all over the world, it seems, than we had when Mark wrote the song. The song was designed to be satire, as he said in his liner notes from the album; but it sure has a serious message -- especially when he sings:

Dissident cries are met with cold eyes
And treatment the devil would get
Righteousness and truth
can be weapons in the hands of fools

While innocents go to their deaths

As I think about the mainstream Christian thought here in Oklahoma, and what is sweeping the U.S., I harken back to the wisdom of Mark Heard's music so many years ago. At the time, he wrote about riding the London Tube and the possibility of becoming a victim of IRA terrorism at the time -- a victim in someone else's war.

I was thinking of this song when I heard about how Michelle Malkin was defending a group of Indonesian Christians who were apparently convicted of terrorism-related activities.

Violent actions against any other human is not a Christian idea; and American Christians should not leave the impression that they support such activities.

Here is the full lyrics to the song:

Everybody Loves a Holy War

Some say that God has approved of their mob
Esteeming their purposes alone
Choosing sides with a definite pride
And taking their cause for His own

Everybody loves a holy war
Draw the line and claim divine assistance
Slay the ones who show the most resistance
Everybody loves a holy war

Many's the man with the iron hand
Supposing his own thoughts to be Divine
He will break any bond -
'cause the other man's always wrong
It's a handy excuse for his crimes

Everybody loves a holy war
Draw the line and claim divine protection
Kill the ones who show the most objection
Everybody loves a holy war

Dissident cries are met with cold eyes
And treatment the devil would get
Righteousness and truth
can be weapons in the hands of fools
While innocents go to their deaths

Everybody loves a holy war
Draw the line and claim divine assistance
Slay the ones who show the most resistance
Everybody loves a holy war

Written by Mark Heard
© 1982 Bug 'n Bear Music ASCAP

Fed Holds Interest Rates Steady

The most respected economists and market pundits have a saying: "Hold strong positions that are weakly held." Based on not only the Feds actions today, and based on the expectations of the Fed starting to drop rates in 2007, I have to start rethinking the economic expectations that I am having.

About 15 years ago, Japan had a real estate boom that crashed. That precipitated their central bank lowering interest rates to zero percent (the ZIRP after the real estate crash in Japan. I am starting to wonder if we are seeing the beginning of the same thing here. Is our central bank, the Federal Reserve, getting ready to cut interest rates in order to stave off the worst effects of the bursting of the real estate bubble?

My assumption has been that the Fed would keep raising rates to curb inflation. Now I am not so sure. Will lower fuel prices also act as a curb against inflation? If you are good at macroeconomics, I would like to hear from you. If you do comment, could you please let me know what school of macroeconomics you subscribe to (Keynesian, neo-Keynesian, Austrian or something else).

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

October Surprise?

It is possible it is just the rumor mill brewing: there is a lot of talk on the leftist blogs/websites that the Administration is planning an "October Surprise." The rumor has it that it either a) involves invading Iran, or b) it involves blockading the Straight of Hormuz.

Something smells fishy about this report (read: leak). Fuel prices are coming down. On the other hand, as I have previously posted, there is a significant factor in the price of oil in fear and market uncertainty. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if someone who has something to gain from the belief that oil supplies will be disrupted wouldn't try to keep prices up by spreading such a rumor on leftist websites. Whatever it is, the markets don't seem to be acting like there is any risk of it. Not that markets act rationally.

Poster JPF311 at left a comment (you can see the discussion
here) that postulates two possible reasons for such a leak (I have edited his comment for clarification):

"1) Reassure the increasingly angry War on Terror hawks that the Bush Bunch hasn't gone squishy soft with all that fancy- shmancy Euro-diplomacy stuff and we are taking some sort of military action too; and

2) Bluff the Iranians into thinking that we are [prepared] to strike if they don't negotiate meaningfully."

I think there is another possible reason for the rumor: to make Liberal bloggers and opinion makers look "goofy" "conspiratorial" and "out of the mainstream."

I have no idea if there is anything to this rumor. I guess we will just have to wait and see.

Bankruptcies filings starting to stabilize?

There is a new post over at Credit Slips that discusses the fact that bankruptcies are starting to stabilize. I can tell you that, anecdotally, I am hearing that bankruptcies are starting to rise again. I don't think that they can rise too much -- mainly because of the extra cost (on average about twice what it used to) and time it takes to prepare. Another problem is the new re-filing time barriers and restrictions on the automatic stay in secondary filings -- one of the main reasons to file bankruptcy.

But, one of the main things that piqued my interest was the following statement:

"But when you account for factors like level of indebtedness, use of credit cards, and general economic conditions, the apparently large differences between the United States, on the one hand, and the UK and Japan, on the other, seem to disappear. The data suggest that the overwhelming majority of bankruptcy filings are inevitable, and that the principal effect of legal changes is to accelerate or defer the time of filing."

If the U.K. and Japan have the same debt levels and use of consumer credit, why would their bankruptcies be lower? There are several reasons. One, I believe, is obvious: the existence of national health care in the U.K. and Japan. As I have written previously, medical bills are the #1 cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. However, that is not the only reason. I remember discussing bankruptcy with someone from the U.K., and as I recall, bankruptcy does not provide as much protection as it does in the U.S. I am not familiar with Japan's bankruptcy laws. However, the U.S. bankruptcy laws have traditionally been more liberal because of the social and political value of providing a "fresh start." Another value in the U.S. is one of "economic dynamism" as opposed to social stability, which is traditionally the European model.

The question is: is there a "middle way," as the Scandanavians call it, between economic dynamism and social justice? If there is such a happy medium, can it be achieved in a politically polarized America?

Monday, September 18, 2006

National Home Builders Confidence at 15-year Low

I stole this image from Calculated Risk. If you look at the image very closely (you can get a bigger version at the link provided -- and a better analysis, actually), you will see that it won't take much for home builder confidence nationally to go to lows that we have not seen since the Great Depression. Frighteningly, there are a lot of things about the economy we have not seen since the Great Depression (debt levels, for one). These problems are not here in Oklahoma yet. Yet. Oklahoma is always a few years behind the coasts.

Of course, things could always get
worse. Some pundits are predicting a bailout of the banking industry greater than the S&L crisis of some 15+ years ago.

Oklahoma is not unfamiliar with bank failures. Prior to the S&L crisis, we had the
Penn Square Bank failure.

The S&L bailout cost around $300 billion. With all of the other financial problems that we are facing, will the current housing bubble and expected defaults end up being the straw that broke the camel's back?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Downtown Oklahoma City's revitalization

Oklahoma City has had a lot of improvements in the quality of life area in the last ten years. The Bricktown area is still being developed and is becoming quite a nice place to visit. There is a large Bass Pro Shops store called "Outdoor World" that features a waterfall and large fish tank inside. The canal with its man-made waterfalls and water taxis, along with the entertainment and restaurants in Bricktown, have become tourist attractions (even for the locals), and they are finishing the upgrade to the Oklahoma river downtown. Sometime next year, there will be tour boats that will run up and down the river. They already have high-speed boat races on the river.

They have built up a park next to the river which features a building in the shape of a boat. The Chesapeak Boathouse contains rowboats, kayaks and dragon boats that you can rent and take down the river. There are specific lanes that have been marked along the river for racing. The boathouse also contains an indoor exercise room with several rowboat exercise machines. There is even an event room for meetings.

The original MAPS plan called for digging up Oklahoma City's light rail "trolley car" tracks (ala San Francisco -- without the hills). However, for some inexplicable reason, our own congressman shot it down in committee. He then supported the same project for Salt Lake City when that money could have been used for his own state. The trolley buses that replaced them just don't quite fill the void.

The revitalization plan still has a long way to go, but there is a tremendous improvement in the feel of the city. The availability of Broadway plays, nationally touring artists and big shows like Cirque du Soleil (who I was able to see earlier this year) and Blue Man Group, who will be here in November, 2006, combined with 4 professional sports teams (the basketball team is a major league team) gives my hometown a vitality that I don't ever remember it having before.

Back in the 1930's, Oklahomans fled to California to seek out a better life. With the housing bubble bursting, will those disaffected Californians have to move to Oklahoma to seek out a better life?

My visit to the Oklahoma State Fair

I went to the Oklahoma State Fair today. I recently listened in on an NPR broadcast about how state fairs are dying off. Attendance is down nationwide. Honestly, I am not sure why.

I attend the state fair every year. This year's fair seemed a little better than last year's fair; but a couple of year's ago, they changed a lot about the fair -- some for the better, some for the worse. An old decaying monorail was dismantled. Back when it was built, it was supposed to represent the future of mass transportation. But that idea never really took off -- Las Vegas excepted.

Another thing they ended was the International Photography Show. The photos they had this year were pretty good, and I sensed an improvement from last year, but the largest collection this year was of flowers. The only collection from professional photographers were of nature scenes and photos of architecture. Don't get me wrong; I love photos of nature and interesting architecture as well. But I wish the photos that gave me an overseas perspective -- that challenged my understanding of the world -- were shown too. I realize I can get my fix on, but it was still nice to be able to look at it museum-style.

One nice aspect of the fair this year was the string quartet from the local Oklahoma City Philharmonic orchestra -- two violinists, a violist and a cellist. It was a nice addition/change from the normal fair. Philharmonic music is not my cup of tea all the time, but it is nice that we have an orchestra here. However, I have to confess, I don't avail myself of the opportunity to see them often enough.

There was the traditional fare of merchants hawking their wares. There were a few things that I knew were marketed at the fair that I am wanting, so I went to check them out. One of the things I went to look at was the new cars that were coming out. Every year at the fair, new car dealers set up showrooms to show off their new models.

Anyway, I went to look at the new hybrid vehicles. I had to laugh internally when a saleman who was showing a Toyota Prius told everyone that the value of the used Priuses has not gone down from its new price in the last year. I told him that, if you knew where to look, you could get a used one for far less than the dealership. I got into a conversation with him regarding the declining domestic auto market and how U.S. automakers are not responding to customers who want Prius-style economical cars. He responded how it was all the "union's fault;" That if it wasn't for labor unions, U.S. automakers would have no problem competing. "They have outlived their usefulness," he said. I told him how his car company, Toyota, had relocated a plant from the southern U.S., where wages are generally lower, to Canada, a country that has, if anything, stronger unions. Furthermore, I told him, one of Toyota's main stated reasons they moved to Canada was its national health care system. One of the main complaints Toyota had was the cost of health care here in America.

Another reason to support national health care -- competitiveness in international markets that involve manufactured goods.

Now, to be fair to U.S. automakers, Toyota has the advantage of a younger work force. Many of GM's and Ford's workers are nearing retirement age. Therefore, because of the U.S. system is set up the way it is, it is only natural that annuity costs and health care costs will be greater for an industry that has an aging workforce. On the other hand, America's corporations bargained for this -- however many years ago it was -- because, back then, and in the short term, it helped their bottom line.

Now, many corporations will argue that the money that was set aside (or not, many pensions are underfunded) for pensions and health care never belonged the workers. The problem with that is that in contract law, a third-party, who is not a party to a contract, can still make a claim as a third-party beneficiary. The U.S. courts have not recognized such a right for workers, as far as I know.

The salesman seemed genuinely shocked that the top cause of bankruptcy was medical bills. He had suggested that companies setting up savings plans for their employees would solve the health care problem. I told him that it wouldn't solve the problem of 45+ million Americans who don't have health care to begin with; and besides, the health insurance they are required to buy has very high deductibles and requires them to cover 20% of the cost after their deductible.

As I was keeping the salesman from doing what he was there to do -- namely sell cars -- he quickly tried to find a way out of the conversation. I understood. I was keeping him from making money, and it was really busy in there. He ended the conversation politely by telling me that I had a unique and interesting perspective. I suppose he is right; not everyone is an attorney who does bankruptcies and personal injury work and can see that our system could be so much more efficient with the implementation of a national health care system.

I bet you, the reader, never expected that my story about my trip to the fair would turn into a discourse about the need for national health care (again). Honestly, I didn't either. However, the salesman's statement is a very common perception here in Oklahoma -- namely that unions are the whole cause of America's lack of competitiveness in world markets. Writing this blog is one way I hope to add to the discussion that people have about, among other things, the pension and health care crisis.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Friedman on Brazil's response to high fuel costs

As a follow-up to yesterday's column here on oil manipulation, I saw today in the New York Times that Thomas Friedman (subscription required, which is only like $49.year -- roughly $4/month) has written about Brazil's response to the high price of oil. It turns out that sugar ethanol costs roughly half what ordinary gasoline costs. However, according to Friedman's article, ethanol makes roughly 30% less fuel economy than regular gasoline. So Brazilians simply do the math on the price of gasoline vs. the cost of ethanol.

The United States does not have enough cars that can run on ethanol to support widespread use of ethanol. Someone more technically savvy than me can explain it, but my understanding is that ethanol burns hotter, and is therefore harder on the engine's internal parts. If we were to produce ethanol here in the U.S., it would come from corn. However, corn-based ethanol is more expensive to produce according to a report at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. I am not a farmer or scientist, but I think I read somewhere that corn is a pretty water-intensive crop to grow; and, unlike Brazil, the U.S. does not have that many rainforests. Lately, the midwest and plains have suffered drought conditions, which is not the best condition to expand corn crops.

Rather than try to come up with solutions that are dependent on climate forces, I suspect hybrid technology has more promise -- at least for the U.S. Besides, water is expected to become a more scarce and valuable resource in the future due to climate change. We do not need to waste it on alleviating our oil dependence.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Oil: A Manipulated Market?

Today, over at the Of Two Minds blog, Charles Smith discusses the possibility that the oil market is manipulated.

You could certainly make a good argument that it is. The price of oil seemed to spike almost instantaneously over the last year. Just today, I heard the D.J. on K-LOVE radio mentioning how he read that the price of a gallon of fuel will fall to $1.15/gallon over the next few months. I doubt that that prediction will come true. The cost of extraction of oil is just too much at this point.

Other factors that factor in to the price of fuel at the pump include: the cost of transportation, refining capacity, marketing costs, taxes and the cost of the extraction of the crude itself. There is another factor that is not discussed on the mainstream sites like That is the price of fear. A lot of the premium price of crude oil futures is the "fear factor." That is where price manipulation can take place. We have seen how the threat of terror has allowed politicians to manipulate Americans to constantly be in fear. In a lot of ways, the threat of war is used to manipulate the price of oil.

I do think that there is such a thing as "peak oil." The theory of peak oil states that at some point, the availability of cheap oil will pass because the extraction costs will rise due to the difficulty of getting the oil that is left in the earth. Although there is estimated to be a 100-year supply in the sands of Canada, the extraction costs (not to mention the environmental destruction costs, which in some ways is an externality -- a cost that is not easily quantifiable) are only justifiable as oil rises over $40/barrel.

So, the best evidence suggests that although the price of oil has been dropping as of late, the long term prospects says that the price will have to rise due to demand from developing markets, rising populations that will need it to heat their homes, fuel their cars and farm implements and generate other forms of energy. Also, in the long term, it will be necessary to develop efficient alternative renewable forms of energy (wind, solar, hydro and possibly nuclear).

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Rise in Student Loan Defaults

A new post over at Talking Points Memo site in the Warren Reports section entitled Canary in a Coal Mine? discusses the rise in student loan defaults from 4.6% to 5.1% in the last year. As the post notes, 5.1% is historically low. However, the report also notes that it is expected that 12% of the loans made this year will eventually default.

One of the main arguments for requiring students to borrow money is that it should be seen as an investment. Of course, we have heard the same argument for housing, too -- and look where the housing market is headed now with overleveraged investors in a excessively crowded market.

One of the problems is that many students are not able to graduate from college and find a job that, given a complete financial cost-benefit analysis of their earning potential, would justify "investing" in college by borrowing money. Section 523(a)(8) of the bankruptcy code virtually makes student loans non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. Therefore, such an investment carries with it a tremendous risk. More risk than, say, starting a new business.

We used to value a college education so much that we provided grants to qualified students so that their schooling was paid for. Because of our public policy, grants and scholarships are rarely granted anymore. In fact, colleges and universities are even getting "incentives" (read: kickbacks) to push students to borrow money from private lenders rather than the cheaper government-subsidized loans.

What makes this worse is that students from lower-income groups, who have a hard enough time moving up the economic ladder, become saddled with debt that may compound their difficulty with upward mobility. Somehow, the American people need to come to the realization that we all have a stake in educational opportunities. The world is changing. We cannot sit on our laurels. People in China and India want our jobs. We will have to work harder and continually learn new things if we expect to keep our place of preeminence in the world. Now is not the time to saddle people with debt that creates another barrier to entry to success.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Petition for Interpleader and Health Care

Today I came across another reason why I think we need a national health care system. I represented a couple and their children who were struck very hard by careless driver. The insurance company filed a Petition for Interpleader.

An Interpleader is a procedure in the law whereby you have too many claimants given the amount of insurance. In this case, there were six claimants, one of which died in the accident, the accident was so severe that the two children are still receiving medical treatment several months later. I was told by the attorney for the insurance company that we are going to have to tell the children that their medical treatments, although probably necessary, will have to come to an end. The amount of insurance will not make any of the injured parties whole; the proceeds will be split among the injured parties and medical providers.

As a result, the medical providers, as a practical matter, will have to take a big hit. The family of the deceased victim will not receive anywhere near the expected damages from their loss and damages. The children's medical treatment will be cut short and their parents will have to bear the cost of their continued medical care.

If we had a national health care system, we would no longer have to make the choice of whether to cut short necessary medical treatment as a result of an accident, injury, or illness. The legal maneuver of Interpleader provides yet another anecdotal story of why we need it.

United States' annual debt increase

A poster over at the Housing Bubble Blog wrote this:


No need to buy gold here…move along."

I just had to laugh out loud when I saw where the U.S. stood. It's not really funny, because we cannot keep going this way. The amount of debt the U.S. keeps piling up has got to stop. We truly are becoming an Empire of Debt.

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 Conspiracy Theories

Last week my I stayed with my sister when I played in a chess tournament over the weekend. While I was there, my nephew was on the computer playing certain "documentary" videos. The videos and web pages he was visiting discussed and postulated that the real reason why the twin towers came down was due to explosive charges being pre-planted in the buildings -- discounting the idea that fuel from the planes could have burned enough to cause the "pancake effect" to bring down the towers.

Let me just say that as a lawyer, the general rule is that "the absence of evidence is not evidence of its absence." If you want to search for the debunking explanation, just Google "9/11 conspiracy theory debunked" or something like that.

Interestingly enough, in much of the Muslim world, conspiracy theories rule the streets. Some pollsters theorize that a lot of Arab Muslims, where they have polled, actually accept the idea that Arab Muslims committed the acts on 9/11, but are not willing to admit it publicly.

This is what I don't understand about the Muslim world -- especially the non-Arab Muslim world: why do they hate the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East (or anywhere)?

Let me preface it to say that I know that there are good Muslims out there; the oncologist who treated my father for cancer seemed to be a genuinely devout and compassionate Pakistani Muslim. I would like to attribute it to his education, but there seem to be so many high-profile well-educated Muslim extremists that belie that explanation. Many of the 9/11 hijackers were very-well educated themselves.

In the Christian context, it is a fundamental teaching that there is a "brotherhood of mankind." And I am mindful that the saying goes that Osama Bin Laden is to Islam as the Ku Klux Klan is to Christianity. However, I am curious if there is a identical teaching in Islam as there is in Christianity that there is a brotherhood of mankind. Not a brotherhood of Muslims, but a brotherhood of all peoples -- regardless of whether they believe in Islam or not. If such an idea exists (or existed) I would think that it would be a lot harder for Muslim extremists to justify hatred of Israel based on sacred texts and appeal to faith. I would like to be able to say that Bin Laden's teachings are a perversion of Islam, rather than a "revival" of traditional Islamic faith, but for me, that remains to be demonstrated.

Anyway, if the Arab Muslim street polls are any example, appeal to logic and reason does not seem like a likely way to change Arab and Muslim minds. The question is then: how do we make inroads to change Muslim minds and win the "battle of ideas?"

Sunday, September 10, 2006

How to Avoid Bankruptcy, Part 3 -- Personal Responsibility

I have previously mentioned how public policy and circumstances beyond our control limits our ability to avoid bankruptcy. Now I want to mention what you can do to avoid personal bankruptcy.

First, the secret to wealth creation is to learn to live below your means. In this regard, I agree with Stephen Snyder at If you have been through bankruptcy, Stephen's site is a good one for learning about how the credit system works and personal budgeting. The only real criticism I have of him is his recommendation to his readers that they invest in real estate. With the housing bubble now in full bust mode, now is not the time to invest in real estate.

There are many, many people who preach this doctrine. Dave Ramsey is another Let me make clear that I do not subscribe to Dave Ramsey's idea of never using credit. Rightly or wrongly, too many things are based on our FICO score. I do agree with the principle of living below your means and responsible financial management.

Secondly, right now all of the best minds in the financial sector seem to be saying "cash is King."
Volume on Wall Street is very low, and most of the big brokerage firms seem to be staying out of the market and keeping everything in safe savings accounts. I saw one mutual fund that had no investments other than savings. Now that's bearish for you.

In the coming years, unless the Fed starts printing vasts amount of money to inflate consumers out of debt (an unlikely scenario as Bernanke has pointed out that Congress' mandate to the Fed is that the Fed control inflation), there will be several defaults that will accelerate in the coming years. For people who are entrepreneurs, this will become the time to buy on the cheap.

Last year, for the first time in many years, consumers incurred more debt (108%) than they made in income. Part of it was attributed to people incurring long-term debt such as housing, but because of this mad rush into real estate investments, a lot of those same people were buying real estate at the top of the bubble. Now that real estate prices are starting to come down, a lot of these people who bought based on an irrational belief that real estate, as a commodity, can never go down in price are going to be in for a rude awakening. See the Housing Bubble Blog for anecdotal evidence. There has also been a lot of fraud in the mortgage and housing mania. See the Mortgage Fraud Blog for anecdotal evidence of that.

Most of the best economic minds are predicting an economic slowdown. The way to survive the coming economic onslaught is to cut your expenses and live frugally.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Law of Demand and Health Care

Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article wrote an article for The New Yorker in August, 2005 entitled The Moral Hazard Myth. Actually, Gladwell mixed up two economic concepts. One concept is moral hazard (mentioned previously). The other concept is the law of demand.

The law of demand states that if you reduce the price of a good or service, then people consume more of it. Because Universal Health Care coverage reduces the price that people pay (at the time of care) for routine health care, the argument goes, the law of demand will increase their use of the commodity.

As applied to health care, the law of demand says that by making the consumer pay for all or more of the costs of health care, patients will use health care more efficiently because they will go to the doctor only when needed. The idea is to encourage people to use less access to health care because – according to the argument – not requiring the consumer to bear the cost of their health care will result in overconsumption.

The argument put forward assumes that you will always know when you need to see the doctor. There are many medical problems that can only be treated or cured before symptoms manifest themselves – before the consumer even knows that they need treatment. Having to pay for routine but necessary medical care for a low to middle class consumer may mean having to cut back on other essential needs – like rent, for instance. It assumes that receiving less medical care = more efficient use of resources – but, as the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Combine this with the fact that many illnesses are only treatable before symptoms arise, therefore, only utilizing access to care when a problem is known is spending a pound of money when an ounce of preventive care would have been the more efficient use of national resources.
The main reason health care is not well-suited to a free-market capitalist system can be understood by appealing to the logic of an old Ben Franklin proverb: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” A pound of cure will always be more profitable than an ounce of prevention. Right now American health care is based on a pound of cure.

Small, low-impact personal injury lawsuits

A lot of small-impact personal injury lawsuits could end if we instituted national health care. In my practice, I have seen people file lawsuits over very small injuries that amounted to $1000-2000 in medical costs. Now it is true that there is a cottage industry that files lawsuits because fraud can be profitable, but it amounts to a very small amount of all lawsuits. Creating a national health care system would take a lot of the profit out of the system because personal injury awards would not be tied to the amount of medical bills. The only award would be for pain and suffering.

Another problem is that there are people that will claim they got hurt in an auto accident so that they can see a new doctor and get pain medication. Creation of a national health care system would allow us to more closely track patients that are overusing pain medication and prevent their abuse.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Moral Hazard Theory and Health Care

Another reason used by conservatives to justify not creating a National and Universal Health Care program is that providing everyone a guarantee of health care creates a “moral hazard.”

From Wikipedia:

In law and economics, moral hazard is the name given to the increased risk of problematical (immoral) behavior, and thus a negative outcome ("hazard"), because the person who caused the problem doesn't suffer the full (or any) consequences, or may actually benefit. Such a concern typically arises in the context of a contract (for example, an insurance policy).

The moral hazard theory states that a consumer that has insurance is more likely to engage in more risky behavior than if he did not have any insurance at all. The logical problem with the moral hazard theory being applied to health care is that it is a fallacy to think that the consumer failing to utilize the insurance available the consumer “does not suffer the full (or any) consequences” of not seeking care. On the contrary, the consumer risks having any potential problem fester and metastasize into something much worse.

On the argument that consumers will engage in more risky behavior if they are insured belies the observation of human behavior throughout history. Mankind is comprised of risk-taking creatures -- especially in the United States. The risk-taking nature of our civilization is arguably part of what makes us successful. From bungee jumping to using recreational narcotics, our civilization is full of people who, for the thrill of it, engage in irrational risky behavior. It defies scientific observation of human activities to say that imposing medical costs onto people will persuade them to stop engaging in risk-taking adventures.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Mark Heard High Noon Review

I recently posted a review of Mark Heard's High Noon CD on Ebay. I am reprinting the review here:

High Noon is basically a "best of" Mark's last CDs: Dry Bones Dance, Second Hand, Satellite Sky and another one that was produced after his death. From Strong Hand of Love (probably his best song ever) to Treasure of a Broken Land, Mark Heard wrote and performed music that was both personally touching and real.

There is a reason why performers as diverse as Bruce Cockburn to Olivia Newton-John performed his songs on a benefit CD Orphans of God after his death. Although a relatively unknown Christian performer during his lifetime, his impact went far beyond the small market that was home to his music. In many ways, he was considered the "Christian Bob Dylan" for his incisive lyrics and progressive and widely varied music. Mark's music ranged from the folksy Appalachian Melody (one of his earlier albums) to the Cajun Rise From the Ruins (on Dry Bones Dance) -- with a lot of rock 'n roll in between. His music also ranged from the powerful driving rock 'n roll to thoughtful ballads.

The song Strong Hand of Love does not sound as good on this CD as it does on Dry Bones Dance, but High Noon contains a complete compilation of his best songs from the later years.
If you listen very carefully, you will notice a pattern to the lyrics. Some words appear over and over: bones, satellite, broken. His music was very philosophical. It contained a lot of very deep concepts. His music is not for those who want nothing but jingoistic, happy talk pop. His music was designed to provoke thought and introspection.

The CD starts out with Strong Hand of Love. A beautiful ballad about life and love and how we can go through life never recognizing how a kind of mysterious unseen love affects us all, whether we know it or not.

Another Day in Limbo was classic Heard. He contrasts immutable natural scenes with ever changing modern technology -- and he is the only singer I have ever known to use an unusual word -- Jacaranda -- in a song and make it seem like it belongs there.

On She's Not Afraid, he sings about a woman who longs for a past long since gone and withered. She reminisces about the beauty and vitality of her youth that she, now older, wishes she could get back.

The Dry Bones Dance is a song that sings of an idealized world (think: heaven) that is unattainable in the here and now. For instance: Every now and then I seem to dream these dreams/ Where the mute ones speak and deaf ones sing/ Touching that miraculous circumstance/ Where the blind ones see and the Dry Bones Dance/.

House of Broken Dreams is another lamenting ballad that typifies much of his later works: Lay me down to sleep/ Come and comfort me/ I'll sleep in peace/ In a House of Broken Dreams/. The song speaks about the transitory nature of life and how we suffer many heartbreaks throughout it.

Nod Over Coffee seems to talk about a married couple who go about their daily lives like automatons. He seems to be telling us to look beyond our daily lives and to "seize the day" without telling us directly.

The Orphans of God talks about the vanity of life and how someday in the future, our contemporary struggles will be mostly forgotten by our ancestors.

The final song is a driving rock song that rounds out the CD. It once again contrasts the corporeal here and now with the spiritual afterlife, and how it is important to live life to its fullest.

If you want a "best of" Mark's later works, this is a must buy.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Health Care's Moral Argument, Part 1

It is absurd to claim we just don’t have enough capitalism in our health care system. We have tried private health insurance for about as long as we have had organized health care in this country. It hasn’t worked and it will never work (if the goal is to provide necessary and quality health care for all who need it). The reason it will never work is because private health insurance’s primary concern is to make a profit – not to see to it that everyone who needs health care gets it. In order to make a profit, they must do two contradictory things: increase the number of premium payers (increase the risk pool) and reduce the number of potential claimants and the amount they can claim (reduce the risk pool and utilization of the premiums) by cherry picking potential additions to the risk pool and limiting the amount of its lifetime use.

One of the unspoken reasons for the governmental policy of not having a very large risk pool (as in 300 million Americans) all of whom, of working age, pay premiums through taxation into risk pool is “Social Darwinism.” From

“Social Darwinism was an application of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution to the field of social relations. Throughout human history, wrote the English philosopher Herbert Spencer, society had operated like a jungle, in which only the strongest and best adapted--the "fittest"--survived…(and) efforts to improve social conditions along the way would be both misguided and futile.”

“Corporate leaders seized on Social Darwinism as "scientific" justification for their actions. Businessmen like Andrew Carnegie argued that unrestrained competition was simply natural selection at work, steadily improving the national economy by weeding out the unfit. Social Darwinism also appealed to those who opposed social legislation.”

Surprisingly, many conservative evangelical Christians are succumbing to this very unchristian ideology. Shame on them. If anything, Christians should be in favor of universal health care. At its foundation, health care is a benevolent and charitable dispensing of care for human beings at their weakest moments and in need of help. See the parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37.

A little background on the story: Jesus was responding to a lawyer who had first asked Jesus what was required of him to inherit eternal life. Jesus responded by rhetorically asking “what does the law say?” The lawyer responded with “love God with all your soul, all your strength and all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus told the lawyer that he had answered correctly; “do this and you will live” Jesus told him. Not to be outdone, the lawyer asked Jesus “who is my neighbor?” Jesus then went on to tell the story of the Good Samaritan. From Wikipedia:

When the lawyer then asks Jesus to tell him who his neighbor is, Jesus responds with a parable about a traveler who was attacked, robbed, stripped, and left for dead by the side of a road. Later, a priest saw the stricken figure and avoided him, presumably in order to maintain ritual purity. Similarly, a Levite saw the man and ignored him as well. Then a Samaritan passed by, and, despite the mutual antipathy between his and the Jewish populations, immediately rendered assistance by giving him first aid and taking him to an inn to recover while promising to cover the expenses.

At the conclusion of the story, Jesus asks the lawyer, of the three passers-by, who was the stricken man's neighbor? When the lawyer responds that it was the man who helped him, Jesus responds with "Go and do the same."

The parable, as told originally, had a significant theme of non-discrimination and interracial harmony…The story [has to be] often recast in a more recognizable modern setting where the [characters] are ones in equivalent social groups known to [interact uncomfortably]. For instance, in [recounting the story] to a conservative middle class audience, the assaulted man could be a middle class businessman, the unhelpful passers-by could be presumably respectable people like a pastor and the substitute for the Samaritan could be some disliked minority such as a homosexual, atheist or biker gang member. Thus cast appropriately, the parable regains its socially explosive message to modern listeners: namely, that an individual of a social group they disapprove of can have a superior moral behavior to individuals of the groups they approve. It also means that not sharing the same faith is no excuse to behave poorly, as there is a universal moral law.

The point being: if anything, contemporary Christians should be in favor of providing medical assistance to all who need it – particularly those who are their fellow citizens. The conservative Christian leaders would probably respond by saying that all assistance should come from donations from their congregants. The reason why this fails is twofold: 1) there are not enough contributing congregants to cover all of the medical costs for everyone in the country; and 2) only getting contributions from Christians fails to understand the universality of the moral law: namely that our neighbor even includes people we may never meet, and that the principles of “love your neighbor” and the golden rule “do unto others” should extend to everyone.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

How to Avoid Bankruptcy, Part 2

I think the "Ownership Society" Is more of a slogan than a real idea. It is only meant as a ruse to lull an unsuspecting public into accepting what we have seen come out of Washington -- from the bankruptcy law “reform” which puts extra burdens in the middle and lower classes and which actually, in some instances, eases burdens on corporate Chapter 11 debtors to tax cuts for the wealthiest individual members of our society -– as a sound wealth building strategy.

In 2005, the average household spent more money than it took in and personal debt is at an all-time high. The last time this happened was In the 1920s -- just before the Great Depression. There is a "Perfect Storm" brewing on the horizon: personal debt, real estate bubbles all across the country and increases in the Fed's interest rate that will make the costs of borrowing go up on everything from Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARM) and Interest Only Mortgages (I/O) to credit card debt. Then add in medical costs that are rising annually at 25-35% with an aging population, personal savings at an all time low and the fact that Congress has just made it harder to file for personal bankruptcy and you have the makings of a true financial crisis.

In the bankruptcy business, I counsel people who constantly borrow money to restructure their debt. We say that these people "try to borrow themselves out of debt." I see this administration trying to do the same thing on a grand scale. They want to cut taxes to please their base (you know, the "haves and have mores" as President Bush jokingly referred to them when he spoke to a group of wealthy contributors), and they justify it to the general public by claiming that cutting tax rates increases tax revenues (also known as the “Laffer Curve”). In reality, cutting taxes has forced Congress to borrow more.

I still remember Newt Gingrich telling Republicans in a fundraising speech that the plastic card that Congress uses to vote with is the "nation’s largest credit card." It used to be that Republicans were for efficient, cost-effective government. Now we are finding out that they want to bankrupt government in an effort to cut social programs see “starve the beast”). The idea is that the more money that is spent servicing the national debt, the less money there will be available for social programs such as Social Security, Medicare and other related social programs.

The debt that is being run up right now by the country acts as a “hidden tax.” At some point, the debt that is being incurred will have to be paid back. Americans also need to accept more responsibility on a personal level for their own consumption. The secret to wealth creation is to live below your means. The principle of delayed gratification needs to be learned by our country. This problem, as a whole, is a societal one.

Friday, September 01, 2006

How to Avoid Bankruptcy, Part 1

Copyright © Fred Roper 2006.

Until the changes in bankruptcy law on October 17, 2005, bankruptcies were exploding in prevalence in the US. The credit industry blamed consumer debtor attorneys and claimed there was endemic fraud being perpetrated by debtors. Conventional wisdom has been that bankruptcy is the result of poor financial planning and management. Even now, there are websites that tout the idea that bankruptcy should always be avoided – and that filing for bankruptcy represents a personal failure on the part of the debtor.

The fact is that just isn’t so.

While bankruptcy should be avoided if at all possible -- and that is what this blog post is about -- it is not a personal failure to file bankruptcy. The founding fathers of the United States always intended bankruptcy to be a part of our legal system.

U.S. Constitution
Article 1.
Section. 8.
To establish … uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

The Primary Causes of Bankruptcy

One poster on a recent blog wrote: (Bankruptcies have) more to do with increasing consumer credit, working mothers, and declining personal savings rates than it does with the policies of this or any other administration….

This entry does espouse the conventional wisdom, however, as I will explain, it fails to get to the root causes of why there is “increasing consumer credit” “working mothers” and “declining personal savings.”

My personal experience as a consumer bankruptcy attorney leaves a different story:

Over the 5 years I have been practicing primarily bankruptcy law, I have noticed that most consumer bankruptcies are the result of seven (7) primary causes, few of which are effectively within the control of the debtor. Not necessarily in order, I see:

1. Medical bills and related problems (54% according to a Harvard study)

2. Divorce

3. Loss of job, drop in pay, or unexpected increase in living expenses (new family member or job relocation, rising gas prices, etc). This problem will rise in the future as more large companies file for Chapter 11, shedding the company's obligations for health care and pensions. This is a kind of "hidden tax" on the poor and middle class in that the worker is having to shoulder more of the risk and cost that business owners used to shoulder.

4. Overuse of credit (spending money they don’t have, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t know).

5. Death of a spouse or related bread-winner.

6. Among business owners, an unexpected economic downturn or failure to pay taxes.

7. Drug abuse.

I have not seen as many bankruptcies (but I admit there are some) which are the result of poor spending habits or gross mismanagement of funds (my best guess is roughly 10-15% of all bankruptcies). And I will admit there are even some that are planned by unscrupulous people. But these cases are very rare (maybe 5% of all bankruptcies). Bankruptcy may appear to the debtor as a sign of failure, but it most certainly is not when the cause is beyond the debtor’s control.

Given the primary causes of bankruptcy (chapter 7 or 13) based on my experience, how then can bankruptcy be avoided?

The first thing that can be done to help prevent bankruptcies is not even under the control of the debtor. The answer is also very controversial. What would be the best way to prevent personal bankruptcies (and corporate ones for that matter)?


This will not happen as long as the current crop of lawmakers stay in power in Washington. But if you truly wanted to reduce the number of bankruptcies and their root causes in this country, then creating a national health care plan would be the most effective way to do it.

More on the benefits of a National Health Care system and the effects of the new bankruptcy law in a future post.



Fred Roper, an attorney in the state of Oklahoma is NOT a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) and does NOT give individual investment advice. My comments are an expression of OPINION ONLY and should NOT be construed in any manner whatsoever as recommendations to buy or sell a stock, option, future, bond, commodity or any other financial instrument at any time. Futures, options and other leveraged instruments carry the potential for catastrophic financial losses that may drastically impair my financial well being. Although, I believe, my statements to be true, they always depend on the reliability and credibility of my sources. I cannot assure you that the information I use is accurate or complete. I do not in any way warrant or guarantee the success of any action you take in reliance on my statements. Investments in the securities markets are speculative and involve substantial risk. Capital loss is always a possibility. I recommend that you consult with a qualified investment advisor, one licensed by appropriate regulatory agencies in your legal jurisdiction, before making any investment decisions. Further, I encourage you to confirm the facts on your own before making important investment commitments. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Disclosures of positions, if any, are current as of the date of publication of each report. Archived reports may NOT represent current opinions and positions.

This blog is a public resource of general information, which is intended, but not promised or guaranteed, to be correct, complete and up-to-date. This blog is not intended to be a source of advertising, solicitation, or legal advice. The reader should not consider this information to be an invitation for an attorney-client relationship, should not rely on information provided herein and should always seek the advice of competent counsel in the reader's state. I do not intend links on my blog to be referrals or endorsements of the linked entities. Furthermore, I do not wish to represent anyone outside the state of Oklahoma, with possibly an exception for cases that hang exclusively on application of Federal U.S. law. Finally, the use of Internet E-mail for confidential or sensitive information is discouraged. If you desire to discuss private matters, please call.

Why the name "Satellite Sky"?

The name Satellite Sky comes from the name of the last album/CD by Christian artist Mark Heard. He was relatively unknown outside a few dedicated fans. I was one of those fans. His music, by many accounts, was intellectually honest (which is probably why so few Christians listened to it). In a sense, this blog is dedicated to Mark, whose music had such a profound influence on me.

I initially tried to use the name OkieLawyer, since that is the name I go under almost everywhere else, but some doofus got it before me -- and then apprarently never used it again! Oh well, Satellite Sky is probably more catchy anyway.

Because I am primarily a bankruptcy attorney here in Oklahoma City, I had thought about writing a book about financial management, sprinkled with political commentary on how to prevent bankruptcy from occuring, but that would take a long time. Frankly, I don't think I have the time to write an entire book -- and this is easier, anyway.

Anyway, I plan to use this blog to put into an online publishing what I have been wanting to put into book form for some time. I plan to use it to share principles of wealth creation, financial management and talk about how the concept of Justice plays a part.

My motto is: "Find the Truth. Do Justice." This isn't just a catchphrase for me. It is a way of life.