Archive for July, 2007

Off to Illinois in the Morning

31 July 2007 at 6:43 pm
by Berck

And other places with unpronounced s’s. Like Des Moines. Back Thursday.

A War We Just Might Win

31 July 2007 at 6:27 pm
by Jonah

Printed by the New York Times? By two analysts from the liberal Brookings Institution?

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

It ends with this:

But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.

What is the world coming to!


31 July 2007 at 5:04 am
by Jonah

Did you know there’s an Olympic event called the “heptathlon”? Well, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Intelligencer?) thinks there is. They printed a piece on my bosses’ son Eli’s teammate Sheila, who very well may make Olympic history by being the first woman to compete in three different sports (she’s already done swimming and triathlon and just had to learn three more for her current forte).

Taormina, 38, finished 11th on Monday in the modern heptathlon (fencing, riding, shooting, swimming and running) at the Pan American Games.

Funny how they only mention five of the sports associated with “heptathlon.” To be fair, they just reprinted an AP article that USA Today also ran with, who should have known better, having printed this article just a few days before.

Both mention Eli, because he’s the one who convinced this superwoman to become a “heptathlete.”

The article also mentions two Cubans who up and walked away from the PanAm Games, “paid up with U.S. bills,” according to Fidel Castro. Or maybe there were seven of them. Who knows.

“If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.” ~Mark Twain


30 July 2007 at 7:10 pm
by Berck

It’s becoming more and more apparent that I’m not wanted in Pueblo. I have no idea why. But I’m starting to wrap my head around it. I’m trying to remember what it’s like to move, to tape up boxes and put things in them. The problem this time is, in the past, I’ve always been excited about the destination. This is the first time where, unless I move to Alaska, I’m not going to be that excited about geographic displacement.

Jonah’s convinced that if I don’t get the job in Pueblo, things will turn out for the better. She points out that, in fact, I was quite disappointed about not getting a job at Airman, and that really turned out quite well. To Jonah, this is evidence of divine stewardship that will continue. To me, it’s my one break, and now karma will come bite me in the ass. While I don’t have her faith, I do feel an attachment to a sort of providence that has, so far, not led me wrong. Whether I see this providence as something strictly divine, natural, or more likely, merely perceived doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter how I see it, or whether it exists– just that I have a perception of a sort of providence. And I agree, it hasn’t steered me wrong yet, but I have no faith. Where Jonah refuses to take control of her destiny, I feel that I must do my best regardless. Sure, perhaps providence will work in my favor, but it can’t hurt to do my best. And, the best things that have happened to me haven’t been mere chance– they’ve been the fruit of (sometimes misdirected) labor.

That’s a lot of words which probably don’t make a lot of sense. The short of it? Perhaps I have no control over my destiny, but I have to make decisions as though I do. Jonah, on the other hand, refuses to make decisions until her hand is forced. I’m convinced she’s wrong in this, but with only one of us making decisions, this whole thing is much easier.

So, I’ve embarked on a partial journey back through the blog to figure out if I was, indeed as disappointed as Jonah indicates. There’s no indication of such.

I asked if the flight school was going to be needing any flight instructors in the near future and he said, “Well, I’m actually trying to get a rid of a few right now.” So that doesn’t look terribly promising.

I’ve been trying to remember what it’s like to sit around all day and search for a job.

After I get out of bed, I shower and make a great effort not to ponder the likelihood of employment in my near future because I know that path leads to nothing but frustration and fear. I get dressed and anxiously hope that the few bits of email in my inbox are employment related, even though I know they’re not. Then I check my voicemail, just in case. I spend the rest of my day trying not to think about jobs or food and counting down the unknown number of hours until Joanna gets home. I anxiously switch between skimming the surface of the internet in the same old places, never delving too deeply, reading, and looking for new places to send resumes. I anxiously check the time until about noon when there’s a vague possibility of having been visited by the postman. At which point I begin a series of regular journeys to the mailbox, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to deposit the new found contents of the box into the trash can. At some point, after I round the corner, I’ll see the mail truck which means that I can return in half an hour to certain yet unexpected disappointment.

Oh, right, that’s what it’s like. I can’t wait. Except that now I’ll have a ton of studying to do as well.

But, anyway, priorities. Now that I’ve finally gotten my mind around the fact that I have to do something, a list of priorities has finally cemented itself in my mind. I’m not sure it’s a good list, or accurately reflects my wishes and goes, but it’s a list, and I best not think about it too much lest I wind up back at the beginning with nothing.

So here they are:

  1. Work for the airlines.
    1. ASA
    2. Mesa
    3. Maybe Great Lakes, but I haven’t decided if I’m that desperate.
  2. Find a job in Alaska that doesn’t involve flight instruction.
  3. Find a job anywhere but Florida that doesn’t involve flight instruction
  4. Work as a flight instructor in Prescott, Arizona

The airlines will take a lot of work, and are a long shot. The only real reason I want to do it is because I could keep living here. I’ll need to take the ATP written just to slightly up my chances. And study a whole bunch besides. Then I’ll need to try to remember what it’s like to fly instruments on Microsoft Flight Sim. Then I’ll need to hire a real instructor, and fly a real simulator. Then I’ll need to get an instrument proficiency check, so I can legally fly instruments again. Then I’ll need to go up in a multi-engine airplane at night, so I’m current. Then I can apply. And *if* I get an interview, then I have to pass a simulator check. Right.

The other jobs will be much simpler. Apply, hope for interviews, interview. Trouble is, there aren’t a lot of jobs I qualify for. Maybe the right one will come along. If not, I think that working in Arizona might not be too bad. Do it for a year, and I could probably do whatever else I wanted without too much trouble.

The stupid thing about searching for pilot jobs? It’s the only job market in the world where the unemployed have to *pay* to search job websites. Stupid.

ADA Shakedowns

29 July 2007 at 7:46 pm
by Jonah

Hussein Kajouee, 63-year-old Iranian immigrant, bought the Hyde Out, a neighborhood bar in San Francisco, 17 years ago. He found out the hard way what can happen to the average American when the long arm of the Americans with Disabilities Act grabs you around the throat.

The man who sued him, quadriplegic Marshall Loskot, visited the bar only once — in February 2004. He was there barely long enough to go to the restroom, which he quickly deemed too cramped for his wheelchair and unable to pass ADA muster.

Two years and $34,000 later, Kajouee settled, deciding against chancing that a jury would accept his argument that replacing the restroom in a century-old building wasn’t “readily achievable” (in other words, that it would cost too much), an exception to ADA compliance for older structures carved out under the law.

Had he lost at trial, besides a judgment, he would have also faced paying Loskot’s legal fees as well as his own…

As it turns out, that February day was a big one for Loskot… A review of court records shows Loskot claimed to have had not one, but two lunches — one at the Washington Square Bar & Grill in North Beach; the other at the Golden Horse Restaurant, a Chinese place next door to the Hyde Out.

He sued both.

For dinner, he went to La Barca in Cow Hollow, a restaurant he had sued several months earlier during another trip to the city. Afterward, he retired to a hotel in Petaluma, which he also ended up suing…

Indeed, records show that Loskot has been the plaintiff in at least 92 such lawsuits since 2000, averaging one a month during the last 7 1/2 years. (As for the two lunches on the same day, he says simply, “I’m someone who likes to eat.”)…

“There’s a special place in hell reserved for that man,” proclaims Larry Juanarena, 75, the former owner of Pat and Larry’s, a mom-and-pop steakhouse in Willows, Calif., that he and his wife, Pat, operated for a quarter-century before selling last year. Loskot sued the restaurant in 2005, ironically only a few weeks after Juanarena completed a remodel intended to make the eatery accessible to the disabled. Having settled for $11,000, he considers himself luckier than most, but still bristles at the memory.

“What Loskot and others like him do is nothing less than legalized extortion,” Juanarena says.

California businesses typically settle out of court for $20,000 to $35,000, much less than they’d pay upon losing a jury trial and being stuck with both their and the plaintiff’s legal expenses.

In 2000 Clint Eastwood fought a plaintiff who wanted more than half a million dollars in attorney’s fees after accusing his historic 1850 inn in Carmel of ADA violations. He claims when he bought the hotel he did everything he could to comply. A jury found Eastwood responsible for two minor infractions but didn’t order him to pay anything. Who knows how much his legal fees were, since his pockets are much deeper than the usual victim of these lawsuits.

River City Brewing, a Sacramento bar, decided to fight but was forced to declare bankruptcy when a court ordered it to cough up $145,000 in plaintiff’s legal fees. Why? Because they had some seating (less than a third) in a mezzanine area not wheelchair accessible, an architectural plan the city had approved.

George Louie has filed over 500 lawsuits against businesses all over California for ADA non-compliance. He even sued one of his own lawyers Paul Rein (the attorney who sued Clint Eastwood) for having his office toilet two inches too close to the wall and its grab bars not positioned right.

Another serial suer is Jerek Molski, who has filed more than 500 ADA suits in California the last four years. He doesn’t have a full time job and typically gets $4,000 for each business that settles. His attorney Tom Frankovich gets the rest and is estimated to have made around $10 million from representing Molski alone. (His office is oddly inaccessible to anyone in a wheelchair, several steps above the street with no elevator. He meets with handicapped clients off-site.)

The Shadowbrook Restaurant in Capitola, CA spent around $200,000 on renovations to become more handicapped accessible, even installing a wheelchair lift from the entry level to the main level. But before work was completed, it was hit with a ADA non-compliance lawsuit. One of the cited problems was the “hillevator” that carried customers down to the entrance, despite the fact that it was installed in 1989, before the 1993 ADA cutoff date, and a building inspector had tested it for wheelchair clearance. Apparently, no good turn goes unpunished.

In California, a single plaintiff — in one day — doled out lawsuits to 20 businesses along a stretch of highway, charging them with noncompliance with the ADA. Many ADA infractions are minor, such as Braille signs that are one inch too high, doors that are a half-inch too narrow, handicapped parking signs that need to be repainted, and the lack of signs directing people to handicapped-accessible entrances.

Part of the problem is California law, which sometimes contradicts Federal law and always makes it easier and more lucrative to sue. But these drive-by suings aren’t limited to the Golden State. Florida has been experiencing a rash of these lawsuits, one of which even targeted a wheelchair store with two handicapped owners. In the space of a few months in 2004, Warren Lloyd had sued more than 30 establishments in the Philadelphia area for causing dire emotional distress due to ADA non-compliance. Many of the restaurants were flabbergasted; no one had ever complained about their facilities before they’d suddenly received letters saying they were being sued and urging them to settle for a few thousand bucks.

So why don’t establishments just follow the law to begin with? The ADA lays out hundreds of requirements: height of countertops and mirrors, weight of swinging entrance doors, the exact location of grab bars, as well as 95 different standards for bathrooms alone. Hardly any establishment can expect to be 100% compliant, even after hiring an ADA adviser. The law also gives winning plaintiffs the right to collect generous attorneys’ fees, while a winning defendant still has to pay for his defense.

L&L Drive-Inns, a restaurant chain in Hawaii, was sued for non-compliance in 1997 for one of its units for infractions like the omission of Braille signs on restrooms and noncompliant seating. L&L settled the case and then fixed problems at all their restaurants, hiring an ADA expert to review them. But a few months later they were sued again. This time they went to court. In the end they were instructed to place a sign on an outside door that led to an employee only restroom directing people to the restaurant’s handicapped-accessible entranceway, something the expert had never expected.

Instead of being an instrument to help people, too often the ADA is being used to get a quick buck for a few savvy folks in wheelchairs and their lawyers. In 2000 Representatives Mark Foley (R-FL) and Clay Shaw (R-FL) introduced legislation to require ADA complainants to give firms notice of non-compliance and 90 days to fix them before slapping them with lawsuits. But strong opposition from disable-rights group and the Clinton administration stopped the bill in its tracks.

But at least it appears even New York City isn’t immune.

In 2001, a disabled-rights advocacy group sued the Duane Reade drugstore chain, charging that many of its outlets in Manhattan violated the ADA. One plaintiff complained that some non-prescription medicines stood on shelves too high for her to reach; another felt uncomfortable when store employees had to help her get to the pharmacy area. Mandates for uncrowded drugstores will probably lead to the closing of some locations in places like midtown Manhattan—thus making everyone, handicapped people included, go farther to get their prescriptions filled or pay higher prices, since rent per square foot is a major element of overhead.


ADA Lawsuit Factory in SF, Wed Jul 25, 2007
The ADA After a Decade: The Industry’s Efforts to Provide Accessible Hospitality, September 2000
The ADA Shakedown Racket, Winter 2004