Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Big Thirst: Nothing’s Quite So Thirsty As A Las Vegas Golf Course | Fast Company

"It's illegal now to have a front lawn in any new home in Las Vegas. The water authority will pay people who already have lawns to take them out--$40,000 an acre-- and replace them with native desert landscaping. They pay golf courses to do the same thing.

It is illegal to let your sprinkler spray water on a sidewalk or street, and Las Vegas specifies the kind of hose nozzle you can use to wash your car (trigger style, so it doesn't simply pour water out when you're not using it)."

But, as the article says, "A single, 18-hole round of golf at a typical Las Vegas golf course requires 2,507 gallons of water." Golf courses in the desert: monuments to the arrogance and stupidity of an empire in decline?

Third Time's the Charm? Right to Rent Reintroduced in Congress

I noted below that allowing owners who are foreclosed on to become renters instead of just evicting them would solve a lot of problems. It turns out that there is a piece of legislation called the Right to Rent Act that would do that. Economist Dean Baker came up with this proposal, and this link goes to his blog at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, where it is announced that the bill was just re-introduced. It didn't clear the House Financial Services Committee in 2010, when Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi could have green-lighted it, and it had 23 co-sponsors including many members of the Progressive Caucus. I don't know the story on that yet. Now, of course, it is in a GOP-controlled House. In any event, I think Rep. Grijalva has the right idea in pushing it.

Friday, April 29, 2011

SWAT team evicts granny from her house because bank refuses to take payments after her husband's death

Thanks to Mystery Reader for this infuriating link. I just came from a lawyer's education course where we spent a long time hearing from judges and attorneys about mortgage foreclosure. Here's a question for you that nobody could answer:

If a bank forecloses on a mortgage, why can't the former owner stay on as a tenant and pay market rate rent if they want to, instead of being evicted? What is the point of kicking somebody out of the home and leaving it vacant? Many, probably most, people would gladly stay in their home as a renter. The bank would be getting income, the property would be maintained, there would be no disruption to the neighborhood, and the bank would own the property and could sell it to whoever they chose. If the former owner, now a renter, didn't pay the rent they could evict him like any other tenant.

Why don't banks do that instead of whining about how much vacant REO they have on their books? And why don't we have a federal law requiring them to accept that arrangement if the owner is willing and able to pay monthly rent, even if they can't pay the arrears, penalties, property tax, etc.?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Judge doubtful of Righthaven’s right to sue over R-J material - VEGAS INC

Judge doubtful of Righthaven’s right to sue over R-J material - VEGAS INC: "One of the judges most critical of newspaper copyright infringement lawsuit filer Righthaven LLC said in an order Thursday that Righthaven does not appear to have the right to sue over Las Vegas Review-Journal material."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Supreme Court Arbitration Ruling: Courts for the Wealthy and Wall Street

SANTA MONICA, Calif., April 27, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today's U.S. Supreme Court decision in AT&T Mobility, LLC v. Concepcion, invalidating California's protections against unfair provisions in contracts effectively eliminates the right of consumers to join together to fight powerful corporations in court and will lead to enormous abuses of consumers by corporations, Consumer Watchdog, a California non-profit consumer advocacy organization, said today.
You can read the opinion in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion by following this link to SCOTUSBLOG.

Here's what happened and why it matters. The Concepcions were entitled to "free" cell phones under their contract. Then AT&T charged them thirty bucks for "sales tax." They joined a class action with others who got shafted the same way. Everybody's claim was too small to litigate alone, but together they had something worth a lawyer's time.

But their contract contained a clause saying disputes had to go to arbitration, and could not be joined with a class action.

Under California case law that term in the contract was unenforceable because it is unconscionable. The Discover Bank case, decided by the California Supreme Court, held that such class action waivers contained in adhesion contacts are unenforceable.

AT&T argued that the Discover Bank ruling was pre-empted by the Federal Arbitration Act, which provides that arbitration agreements are "valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract." The conservative voting bloc of the US Supreme Court (Scalia, Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Kennedy) agreed with the big corporation and screwed the little consumer (what a surprise!)

Why does this matter? I expect to see such arbitration clauses and class action waivers in every single contract we get in our hands, from now on. The Supreme Court just gave corporate America a way to slam the door to the courthouse in our faces. No lawyer will litigate a thirty dollar case against a giant corporation. Now orporations can strip us of our class action rights just by inserting a term in a non-negotiable adhesion contract.

Will this include condominium or HOA declarations? I am sure it will be tried.

Affluent Kings Point Plans Extensive Surveillance Network: License Readers, 44 Cameras To See Who Comes And Goes

To protect its 3.3 square miles, Kings Point plans to install 44 cameras and license plate readers at each of the 19 points of entry. The devices will take pictures of every vehicle and license plate and compare them to data bases.

“It will alert us to suspended registrations, felonies, stolen cars, order of protection, sex offenders, things like that,” Kings Point Police Commissioner Jack Miller said.

Things like that. Sure. Whatever. And this is a municipality.