Computing Overtime

November 17, 2014

Every business owner must be aware of the Department of Labor’s method of computing overtime.  Some businesses are paying the correct amount of money and being assessed substantial penalties.  A common example of this is an employer who employs someone six days a week.  The employer give a fixed amount for the six days.  This amount may include time and a half for the hours worked over forty hours each week.  This meets the Washington State and federal requirements for payment of overtime, but not the recordkeeping requirements of the federal enforcement agency, the Department of Labor.  The DOL will take the position that the pay check does not include overtime and treat the check as payment for six days at the regular hourly rate, then make as assessment equal to the number of overtime hours times fifty percent of the hourly rate which it has computed.  This amounts to a payment  for overtime more than twice the amount due the employee.  The DOL can assess double the amount that it deems underpaid and is authorized to recommend criminal action.

There is no legitimate argument that businesses should not be paying overtime but the means of enforcing the law creates a trap for vulnerable businesses which are paying overtime.

Spurring a Gift Horse

November 17, 2014

What is more complicated than the law?  Answer: family.  I recently got a call from a woman living with her aunt, who had given her a room for the past five years.  The reason for the call was that she had received from her aunt a written demand that she leave or start paying rent.  My enraged caller demanded to know whether this notice complied with landlord-tenant law and whether she had recourse against her aunt for failure to recognize her rights as a tenant.  This caused me to wonder how many “legal matters” could be better resolved with good counseling.  A high percentage I suspect.

Contracts sometimes have mediation clauses in them.  This does not often lead to resolution of a heated dispute because neither side is bound by an outcome and it is easy to dispense with a mediator’s recommendations as being biased or ignorant.  I suppose a mandatory counseling clause would suffer the same fate.

Small Claims Court

November 6, 2014

Want your day in court and want to avoid exposure to lawyers?  When a person represents himself or herself that person is said to be appearing before the court pro se.  People appearing pro se are not usually successful when they are matched against a lawyer on the other side but that unfortunate situation is entirely avoided in small claims court where lawyers are barred from appearing for others.

In Washington claims up to $5000 can be heard in small claims court.  Each side can present its version of the case, call witnesses, and present evidence, all without the involvement of lawyers.  The rules of evidence are very loosely applied, as the litigants customarily are unfamiliar with the rules.

I’ve sat in on small claims cases.  Most of the judges acted as facilitators, helping the participants through the procedural confusion; a few act like bejeweled potentates, but that is certainly not the norm.  The average case that I saw lasted ten to twenty minutes, maybe a little more.

If your claim is more than $5000 but for one reason or another you feel that it is not worth hiring a lawyer, you can bring the action for $5000 in small claims court, waiving your right to the excess amount.  The outcome of small claims cases is not entirely predictable but the price is right.  If you do go there, it’s a good idea to have lawyer look at your complaint and discuss it with you for an hour or so.

Hate Literature in America

October 18, 2008

Wow.  Here’s a blogger’s compilation of  hate literature being circulated in swing states.  This compares rather starkly with’s research on the subject of Bill Ayers.

What interests me is that people get this stuff and circulate false information based on it. No wonder Bush did not adequately fund education and cut back education loans.

You Go, Joe!

October 17, 2008

Here’s a healthy sign:  Bidden denounced a Palin statement.  It has for me been weird hearing her highly inflammatory statements echoing through the news with nothing but denials by Obama and Biden.  Palin has been treated like a little girl who should not be treated severely.  This has given her a sort of immunity to make the most outlandish statements which seems to be mobilizing a segment of the population that everyone prefers not to talk about.

Today Biden called her out for apparently identifying areas of “real America” as apparently opposed to geographical pockets of sedition.  This of course is  (I thought) by now a hackneyed tactic of setting Americans against each other for political gain.  All you need to do is fill some people (a majority) with self-righteous contempt for others or promote righteous doubt about the legitimacy of others, including candidates.  (Palin informs us that Washington D.C. is not pro-America and cities should be viewed with suspicion.) It seems so transparent but it still seems to work to some degree.  At least the tactic does not appear to be effective with a majority of the people.  At least not right now.

Anyway, I say call demagoguery out.  This tactic needs to be aired and revealed for what it is.

Sarah Vowell in Seattle

October 17, 2008

On Monday at Town Hall Sarah Vowell read from her recent book “Wordy Shipmates.”  I attended the reading but had not read any of her books.  There are four previous books.  “Assassination Vacation” was probably the most popular.  It was on on the overstock table at Elliot Bay which means that the publisher expected a lot of sales and carries a vague hint of disappointment.

Sarah Vowell, as you probably know, early in her career worked with David Sedaris on Ira Glass’s show “This American Life,” and still occasionally does a piece for the radio show.  I find her little autobiographical pieces side-splittingly funny and her books have been highly recommended to me but have just never made it to the top of my reading list.

For all her public speaking and television and radio appearances, she is quite shy and reserved in public, at least on this stop of her book tour.  Nonetheless her reading and discussion afterwards was very enjoyable and made me bump her new book to the top of my reading list.

I’ve just started but can already recommend the book as a very engaging and unique look at American colonial history.  The breadth and originality of her associations with early writings and historical events is almost mesmerizing.  Pop culture, contemporary events and Puritanical doctrine seem to somehow blend in a way that enriches the reader’s understanding of all of them.

One of the things that has struck me is how two threads of the colonist’s doctrine have been unwoven from that fabric, one has been largely abandoned and the other used to justify things far from the minds of the Puritans.

The Puritans advocated a rich inner life of learning, reading, appreciation of history, science and literature (mostly Biblical).  They were creatures of the Age of Reason and avid writers, committed to the exchange of ideas.  They saw the colonies as a refuge from hostilities between nations.

This developed into our founding fathers’ abhorrence of “entangling liaisons” with other nations.  This prioritization of scholarly learning and the development of our understanding of science and literature does not seem to have taken a firm grip on today’s society.  Nor does the notion that in the interest of fostering this enrichment we ought to avoid becoming entangled with other countries.

The other thread was probably thought of at the time as a benign Christian notion.  I guess it still is but it has lost some of its “benign” luster.  Sarah Vowell’s book discusses the Massachusetts Bay colony, which was founded by Puritans faithful to England, people full of doubt and second thoughts about leaving.  They were fleeing persecution but searching for a Godly justification for the trip.

The official seal of the colony, brought over from England, has on it an Indian and the words “Come over and help us.”  A person glancing at the official documents of the day might get the impression that the trip was motivated by a heathen’s call for help.  Things certainly didn’t work out that way.

This call for help has echoed down the course of American history and heard at opportune times by our leaders.   It was heard by William McKinley who sent gunboats to Manila to Christianize Filipinos.  The ardor of this vision was not abated by the discovery shortly after arrival that the Philippines had been Catholic for two hundred years.  John Kennedy heard the same plea from the Vietnamese (at least from the ones at the south end of the country) and sent aircraft carriers to “help freedom defend itself.”  George W. Bush and Dick Cheney heard the same pleas.  Bush heard the people of Iraq crying to him for freedom and Cheney knew that we would be greeted as liberators.   Sarah Vowell reminds us that we have been hearing this for a long time.

Palin’s Attacks Continue to Backfire

October 9, 2008

Not only is McCain vulnerable to many of the attacks launched by Governor Palin but the attacks are increasingly being seen as hypocritical.  First, she is not so well established that her attacks resonate with anyone but an audience of true believers.  It is a little uncomfortable to be learning about her while she assails others.   If she were a know commodity, her attacks might have more traction.

She is increasingly though catching flack for making accusations against Obama that are in fact true of her.  Who could say that he or she has never associated even in a casual manner with someone accused of terrorism.  It is simply impossible to know that, so any denial would be spurious.

It turns out that Sarah does not have an abhorrence of convicted felons associated with terrorism.  She wanted to hired G. Gordon Liddy and appear on his talk show.

The AlaskaReport asks these questions:

Did Palin know Liddy was convicted of conspiracy, burglary, wiretapping, contempt of court and contempt of Congress? Did Palin know Liddy was willing to kill a janitor and a journalist as part of the Watergate cover-up? Did Palin know Liddy admitted plotting to firebomb the Brookings Institution? What about the plan to kidnap protesters at the 1972 Republican National Convention?

If she did not know these things, then she must acknowledge that the guilt by association game is a sleazy one.  If she knew Libby’s background then obviously she feels that people change and that it is not impermissible to innocently associate with someone who has a dark past.

Where Your Tax Dollars are Going

October 7, 2008

ABC reports that after a difficult season wrangling money out of the government, AIG executives went on a retreat costing $440,000 at the St. Regis Resort in Monarch Beach, California, where rooms run up to $1000 a night. The group should be commended for only changing $23,000 in spa fees, but after eating $200,000 worth of food in a week, they may not have been able to get to the spa.

We are quite literally paying for this with tax money in order to stabilize financial institutions.

The bailout involves us just buying worthless securities.  The banking lobby convinced Congress that it should not follow the recommendation of economists in taking stock in the financial institutions that it is propping up.  By buying the garbage generated buy these institutions instead of taking a stake in them, we as taxpayers do not only lose the right to future profit of the business but the right to curb the sort of behavior reported on by ABC News.

Palin Keeps Opening Doors McCain Does Not Want to Enter

October 6, 2008

Remember ten days ago or so when Palin mocked Biden’s age?  This of course made us wonder how much she respected her party’s nominee for president.  This weekend of course Palin accused Obama of associating with terrorists, which I hope is such a shockingly untrue accusation that there will be serious blowback. Palin’s weekend attack on Obama has two very strong negatives:  It makes her ticket look cheap and spiteful; and it again opens the door to unflattering comparisons with McCain.

Palin’s use of the media while complaining about it may have contributed to a growing impatience with her inability to address subjects substantively.  Given the many questions about her, the recent attack strategy has Republicans wondering about the campaign’s direction.  Interestingly we rarely here anything about integrity in this context.  The discussion seems to be entirely focused on efficacy of what were once thought unworthy methods.  Thankfully some media feel it is incumbent on them to at least check the truth of scurrilous accusations.

In opening the door of past associations she has exposed an area of extreme vulnerability to McCain.  McCain actually was one of the Keating Five at the heart of the financial crisis of the 1980’s.

Look at this discussion of one of McCain associations:

Palin is accusing Obama of association with a terrorist by his being on the board of directors of a nonprofit corporation when also sitting on the board was a university professor who had helped found the Weathermen twenty years earlier.  That’s it.  There was no further association.  It’s actually rather high praise for an individual if that is the closest association the person has ever had with a person who had a questionable background. Would you do better?

n contrast to Obama, McCain was in the middle of our last financial crisis, from 1988 to 1991.  He was one of the Keating Five who caused havoc with the economy and McCain was never exonerated from the charges, but never criminally charged either.  His role was investigated by the Senate and the F.B.I. which concluded that he had bad judgment but that there was not enough evidence of criminal activity on his part to sanction him.

This guilt by association accusation triggered a multimedia assault by the Obama campaign, featuring the video on this website.  Politico has a review of the this counterattack.I

As many other have pointed out Palin seems to find more to fear in Obama’s sitting near this professor at the annual meeting than her husbands membership in an American government hating secessionist group.

The Campaigns Begin to Dramatically Diverge

October 5, 2008

With a month to go the two campaigns are launched on different trajectories.

Obama is calling attention to our financial crisis and the need for the financial regulation opposed by McCain over his entire career.  His is also calling attention to McCain’s recent erratic behavior, something that has deeply troubled conservatives lately.  He is focusing on the present and on facts that we ought to be grappling with.

McCain increasingly looks like a battle weary veteran spouting obsolete policy, howling like Lear in the wind.  His voting record is the story of the deregulation that brought us this financial crisis. His health care plan is widely discussed as a boon to business and a gift of deregulation to the insurance industry, leaving consumers with health issues like stockholders in the market. Despite the fundamental problems with our economy, McCain has refused to back off his commitment to dramatically increase defense spending and to wither governmental revenue by deepening tax cuts.  Even before the current crisis experts were decrying this proposal as burying us further in national debt.

McCain is compelled to dissemble his voting record and obfuscate policy.  Like our current president McCain will stay the course on his policies but he cannot — without disastrous consequence — clearly articulate those policies.

The only course left to him is the road most traveled by his predecessors.  His camp must forage in the past for bromides used by Reagan to rally support and engage in the sleazy practice of demagoguery, fear and hate mongering.  The self described “mavericks” have leaped into perhaps the oldest political cesspool.

Sarah Palin this weekend has been shrieking that Obama associates with terrorists and is not a real American.  CNN looked into these “charges” and found them utterly without merit. It seems a bit odd to dignify such things with inquiry but I applaud CNN’s acceptance of the role of responsible medium and refusal to be a propaganda organ.

I trust that, as the McCain camp embraces its end justifying the means abandonment of integrity, that other media will follow CNN’s lead and not give demagoguery the appearance of legitimacy by merely reporting its as news.