After my post last week about alligators, I couldn’t pass up this headline:
Crocodile injured by falling accountant during circus bus accident in Russia
Read more here.
The crocodile’s name is Fyodor. According to the article, he’s going to be ok.
I’ve never really noticed watchdog.org before, but if this story turns out to have substance, it’s pretty significant, in my opinion.
I don’t know much at all about Texas politics or Texas higher education, but I have the impression that people associated with the University of Texas pretty blatantly look down their noses at the other public universities in the state (not unlike some people in Arizona). If it turns out that political connections get less qualified candidates admitted (and it sure looks like that’s what happened), that sure undermines the superiority of the “U” boosters, don’t you think?
Could this revelation have any effect on the thinking of some people in Arizona who still cling to the obviously outdated notion that their school is somehow superior? I doubt it.
Hat tip: TaxProf Blog
to reality. Here’s the latest from Google on their self-driving car project.
As you’ll see in that blog post, they have now built their own prototype. Don’t be fooled by the description. Just because it doesn’t have a steering wheel or brake pedal doesn’t mean it has no steering or brakes. It means that you, the occupant, don’t control those functions.
As I have said before, I can’t wait. I might even go to wherever they are introduced first just to try it out. I’m sure I won’t be the only one. It could be a Disneyland-type attraction.
Reading a blog post about pet rescuers, I came across a link to an adoption contract. It’s a contract that is intended for use between a pet rescue organization and individuals adopting pets from the organization. The contract includes this provision (the typos are in the original as I found it, I’m not going to correct them):
“It is agreed that rescuer shall retain superior title in said animal, limited to and for the express purpose of assuring the animal's well-being, and only exercise it's superior claim in the event it appears to rescue that the proper and humane care, as specified in the above adoption provisions, is not being afforded said animal, in which case the animal may be taken through a claim and delivery proceeding.”
Pets are personal property. This contract says that the pet you adopt isn’t your property, it remains the property of the rescue organization, and they can repossess the pet if it appears to them that the pet is not being cared for properly.
The contract also says this (again, the mangled syntax is in the original as I found it):
“If the terms and conditions of this contract are not upheld by the adopter, and/or any misrepresentations have been made by the adopter, rescuer reserves the right to terminate this contract and the adopters will agree to allow a representative of rescuer to reclaim the dog without notice or refund. The adopter further agrees to pay liquidated damages, in the amount of fifty (50) dollars per day, for every day that the adopter fails to comply with the agreement terms, or willingly surrender the dog at time the incident has become knowledge to rescuer.”
This provision of the contract says the rescue organization can terminate the contract if you violate any of the terms. In that event, if the pet that they are allowing you to keep (so it isn’t really an adoption at all) isn’t returned, you owe them $50 per day in “liquidated damages.” “Liquidated damages” is a contract term in which the parties agree ahead of time what the damages will be if one of the parties breaches the contract. How they came up with $50 per day, I can’t imagine.
Wow, I never knew adopting a pet would require this kind of contractual analysis.
I found the contract through a blog post at PJ Media’s PJ Lifestyle blog.
Perusing one of my favorite sites, Overlawyered, led me to this news item. It’s about a case in which a landowner sued his neighbor for damages resulting from a condition on the neighbor’s land.
What was that condition? Alligators. Lots of them, apparently. Well, the land is in the southwestern corner of Mississippi, near the Mississippi River, so I imagine it’s pretty wet there.
Who was the neighbor? Just so happens it was a large oil company. Why does that matter?
This reminds me of a situation I wrote about some time ago where the condition on the neighbor’s property was the neighbor’s bizarre behavior. In that situation, however, the discussion was about whether or not a home seller was obligated to tell his buyer about the neighbor’s bizarre behavior.
In the situation blogged on Overlawyered, the landowner was apparently warned about alligators in the area by the broker who sold him the property.
One more possibly relevant fact: alligators are a protected species under Mississippi law, so the neighbor couldn’t have reduced their numbers, anyway. Can you fence in alligators?
Another interesting report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) was released this week. According to the Inspector General’s press release, the report “identifies a $2.3 billion gap between the amount of alimony deductions claimed by taxpayers in 2010 and corresponding income reported.”
Here’s the background: a person receiving alimony (spousal maintenance) payments from an ex-spouse is required to report those payments on their tax return as income, while the person making the payments can claim a deduction for the payments. The person getting the tax benefit (deductions) may tend to over-report the payments, while the person getting the tax detriment (reportable income) is likely to under-report the amounts received.
Here’s the maddening part, from the highlights of the report: “Apart from examining a small number of tax returns, the IRS general has no processes or procedures to address this substantial compliance gap.” This means that the IRS has no procedures in place to try to find, and collect the tax payable on, $2.3 billion of taxable income in the form of alimony payments.
There’s really no way to describe it other than, as they say these days, “fail” (or, actually, “EPIC FAIL”). I’m talking about the astounding statistics from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration that about one out of every four payments under the Earned Income Tax Credit Program in fiscal 2013 was improperly made, and those improper payments are estimated to total between $13.3 and $15.6 billion!
In case you’re keeping score, the range of payments found to be improper has been more than 20% on the low end, and at least 25% on the high end, while the estimated total of improper payments has been at least $8.6 billion, every year since 2003.
And oh by the way, the Inspector General found that the IRS continues to be non-compliant with the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act of 2010, a law designed to make federal agencies report information on, and take action to reduce, improper payments.
You will find the Inspector General’s press release here, and the full report here. I have written about the function of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration here.
I’m a little reluctant to get further into it, but there are indications of a shift taking place in the understanding of the condition known as “persistent vegetative state.” That’s a term used in the Arizona form of living will. This blog post at Instapundit (but by a guest blogger, not the Instapundit himself) suggests that some people who have been diagnosed as in a persistent vegetative state are in fact aware of their surroundings and able to respond to questions.
It sounds like a developing area that needs further attention, but I wouldn’t say it should dissuade you from signing a living will.
A quote from the abstract for a law review article titled Unseating Privilege: Rawls, Equality of Opportunity, and Wealth Transfer Taxation, by Jennifer Bird-Pollan of the University of Kentucky College of Law, to be published in the Wayne Law Review, Vol. 59 (I’m adding emphasis):
"Equality of opportunity requires not only ensuring that sufficient opportunities are available to the least well-off members of society but also that opportunities are not available to other members merely because of their wealth or other arbitrary advantages. Therefore, an income tax alone, even one with high rates on the wealthy, would be insufficient to achieve these goals."
Translation: opportunities available “merely because of…arbitrary advantages” must be eliminated. You mean, like the arbitrary advantages Randy Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, and William “Refrigerator” Perry were born with? Aren’t their extraordinary physical gifts “arbitrary advantages?” Those physical gifts gave them opportunities not available to other members of society, and they became very wealthy as a result.
Continuing to quote from the same article (again with emphasis added):
"While revenue raised via the income tax should be used to provide additional opportunities to low-income members of society, wealth transfer taxes provide the additional safeguard of preventing the heirs of wealthy individuals from inheriting wealth that would provide them with additional, unwarranted and unjust, opportunities."
Translation: forget about saving money to make the lives of your grandchildren better by, say, making sure that they can go to college. You’re only providing them with “additional, unwarranted and unjust, opportunities.”
The purpose of taxes is not to provide “equality of opportunity.” The purpose of taxes is to fund necessary government services.
I found the quoted abstract through, once again, the indispensable TaxProf Blog.
I know this is a subject might seem off topic, but it’s become more and more interesting to me as it appears to be getting closer to reality: driverless cars. Google now says that their driverless vehicles have logged nearly 700,000 miles and that they are “optimistic that we’re heading toward an achievable goal – a vehicle that operates fully without human intervention.”
As I said recently, I claim that the topic is relevant to real estate law because major developments in transportation have had in the past, and I predict will continue to have in the future, profound impact on land use.
I found that Google blog post via the Antiplanner blog.
The contents of this blog, this web site, and any writings by me that are linked here, are all my personal commentary. None of it is intended to be legal advice for your situation.