Thursday, June 7, 2007

excuse the mess

My apologies to all of you who have sent me messages asking where I've been as of late. I don't believe my Blogger account is getting the traffic I desired when I opened it. I'm now moving over to
The new site still needs some tweaks (not "tweakers") and additional content, but it'll allow more interaction between me and the various communities we are building. I invite all of you to visit. If this blog manages to drive traffic to the new site, I might continue it. As of right now, it feels like someone's cut the string on my tin can phone.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Rich Buttery Badness: The Case of Popcorn Workers’ Lung and the $100 Million Purse

Black lung was kid’s stuff. Have some trouble breathing, compounded likelihood of lung cancer if a smoker—nothing compared to asbestosis. Those sharp little asbestos fibers do a number cutting up the alveoli (air sacs) in your lungs. That’s the stuff of nightmares. But there’s a new kid in town stirring up trouble, a new occupational lung disease ready to give asbestosis a run for its money.

Popcorn lung. Sure, its ring name leaves something to be desired but its medical name of bronchiolitis obliterans is awfully sinister if you know a little Latin. It’s a rare disease limited pretty much to people exposed to diacetyl, a chemical that in sufficient quantities tastes buttery and is used as artificial butter in microwave popcorn.

The chemical's like an acid, causing a condition similar to scabbing an open wound in the sufferer's lungs, scar tissue replacing healthy tissue until the person can’t breathe properly. Like asbestosis, the effects are irreversible. No cure. Better luck next life. Removing the lung and replacing it with a transplant the only cure. And while you’re waiting for a lung, you can have an iron one breathe for you, attended by friendly RNs. Like we were living in a future. Maybe one where industry cares about it workers.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking (I hear it on the train and at airports and it turns my stomach): “A few eggs to make an omelet. People get hurt at work all the time. Spilled milk. What about me? My family? My health?”

Well, ignoble reader, EPA says it’s safe for consumers (like aspartame). Feel free to eat handfuls and show your stubborn support for an unnecessary product (before Washington, D.C. comes and takes away another of your doggone, god-given, private citizen rights), but I’m going to go back (to the future? both seem like how 50s sci-fi would depict popcorn making in the year 2020) to the Real Genius or, if I can still find it, my old R2D2-style set-up.

Bronchiolitis obliterans has affected (perhaps the nicest way of putting it) microwave-popcorn workers in Missouri, Iowa, Ohio, New Jersey, Illinois, California, and Maryland.

CA will again lead the safe way (acceptable benzene levels in beverages, lead warnings, etc.), most likely banning the production of chemical in the Golden State in upcoming months and meanwhile The Governator’s (though he’ll always be Dr. Alex Hesse to me) pushing for a public awareness campaign--all this while OSHA’s still deciding what to do (it’s known about the dangers since 2001, so we could expect something in the next six years?).

Sometimes it takes a $100 million in damages (since blue collar workers turning blue from lung obliteration isn’t enough) to get legislators into action.

Envy all people, let none annoy thee.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Difference between a Trial Lawyer and a Prostitute*

Wait, wait, stop me if you’ve heard this one. Oh, you have. Well, what's the difference between a vampire and a lawyer?** Yeah, I guess that’s kinda old. The difference between a lawyer and a catfish?***

There’s a slew of them. Some funnier than others. Almost all rubbing me the wrong way. I like to substitute “pharmaceutical rep” for lawyer or attorney when I tell mine. At least attorney’s serve a function.

Industry is ruled by a bottom-line. Personal injury lawyers, if they prey on anything, prey on the predators, taking a little of the abundant profits made on consumer misery and redistributing the wealth. I might be romanticizing, but they’re a little like this fellow from Sherwood—or this lady from Cali.

It’s a little like that Union bumper sticker: Safer workplaces brought to you by litigation. First asbestos. Lately benzene. And soon maybe popcorn lung (link pending).

Each one of these series of lawsuits is a step forward to safer workplaces, which does not necessarily mean (unlike what tort reform advocates suggest) higher insurance and costs but, rather, a higher standard of health for our fellow American workers and conscientious business practices. Lawyers are private citizens’ posse when the company store violates our rights, when government agencies can’t, haven’t, or won’t protect us, like in cases of stock fraud or nursing home abuse.

Industry cries abuses, like lawyers and disabled people invented mesothelioma and acute lymphocytic leukemia. Meanwhile, industries (like the big pharmaceuticals) market sickness, creating both the cure and the disease for such “crippling” (and questionable) ailments and "diseases" as restless legs syndrome and menopause. Perhaps, in some near future utopia, those suffering from sore jaws and unproductive or delayed stays in the restroom might be saved from chewing food and defecation—Mr. Gerber, meet Mrs. Metamucil. Industry reps, especially those in D.C., are like an orifice on the end of my elbow—right here, my elbow.

That’s the difference.

Envy all people, let none annoy thee.

* Clothes
** A vampire only sucks blood at night.
*** One is an ugly, scum sucking bottom-feeder and the other is a fish.
**** In fact, the only good joke I read—sure, it plays into that horrible lack of class consciousness and self-protection that serves the interest of big business, but it’s funny—was
Q: What do you call a lawyer gone bad?
A: Senator.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hillbilly Heroin (or, for that man bites dog angle: Addictive Drug Found Addictive)


$634.5 million in fines. Record-breaking. Yeah?

Funny that the case was brought up on mislabeling charges. Apparently “Hillbilly Heroin” is addictive. Oxycodone addictive? Who knew? Well, aside from this guy or this one or this mysterious (and convincing) ghost writer.

US Attorney John L. Brownlee won the case, so I suppose my Limbaugh-Gonzales conspiracy theories are unfounded ( click for a 404 error ).

But what’s also odd were the charges that Purdue Pharma drug reps urged doctors to prescribe OxyContin every 8 hours instead of the 12 hour dose. Odd not because drug companies are just in it for the money—or at least that 40% of their budgets dedicated to sales force and advertising (about twice the cost of R&D, i.e. the creation of a useful product and its safety testing), but odd because FDA suggests doctors be creative in their drug prescriptions—in essence and essentially and other hedging I might essay—giving doctors license to prescribe untested, off-label uses for drugs. I’ve written about this dangerous absurdity.)

So Rush gets some dittos from the media for not being able to know his body well enough to sense serious addiction and for blind trust of pill pushers.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Advanced Lawyer Photography for Dummies*

Class is in session. Today’s lesson: Successful photography for lawyer clients.

First and something to mind throughout the creative process: Lawyers are not a photogenic bunch. Alas, despite this misfortune of nature, they, like realtors, seem obsessed with pictures of themselves.

Here are a few tips to help you out. You’re an advanced class, one of my best, so I’ll go quick.

Lawyers want to convey rigidity, strength, dominance. They’re representatives of our no-nonsense legal system: Have them stand proud but perhaps with a slight “come hither” look in their eyes. Crossing arms further conveys confidence that a simple high school yearbook background might elide.

Lawyers are thought a cold, tough breed, sharks sporting suits but with worse manners. A bit of PR might be required of you by the firm. This friendly persona can be captured with the proper lighting--well, proper lighting and a bit of Photoshop. For tougher customers, try softening the border of your picture to reduce hard edges. Even better, get rid of edges altogether or place your subject between his/her office and the Twilight Zone.

Additionally, lawyers of all ilk take an oath (equivalent to doctors’ Hippocratic) to defend freedom. Freedom© being copyrighted by the U.S., what better way to display your love of the oath than to put a patriotic reminder of your nation behind you. Or, better yet, capture them volunteering at their local flag shop .

So, class, I hope you were taking notes. Your homework for next week: Generate a successful lawyer pic for one of your clients. For a reference, you can view representative examples of photographic excellence by following this and this link .

Class diss-missed.

Envy all people, let none annoy thee.

* Limited educational value. Primarily for our shared enjoyment and to justify my hours of looking through the results of “lawyer” on Google image search.

** Veiled Monty Python allusion.

Sane or Safe?

Was reviewing this morning’s RSS feeds to see how the friendly, big money-loyal, buyable politicians in Tennessee were doing—never get tired of their friendly faces hiding behind legal pads and raised suit jackets—after the FBI is charging them for changing state laws to benefit a dummy corporation, but before I could read the article a large, orange ad taking up a good portion of the webpage caught my eye:

Stop Crazy Lawsuits in Washington...

Being sensitive to the public perception of lawsuits and lawyers, I clicked to find out what, exactly, these "crazy" cases were that must be stopped. What's interesting is that no previous lawsuits are offered (you can google for them yourself; I’m not going to host their URL). Nor is it exactly clear who the "coalition" hosting the site is or why they don't want to see certain proposed laws passed in Washington state. Instead, what the website amounts to is just what I feared: a special interest group hosting the page to play off the general public's ideas of lawyers and lawsuits run amok.

Now I'm not a native of Washington state. I would rather not post a position on the bills this website doesn't want to see passed. I am a little disturbed, though, by those individuals the website lists as supporting the petition to prevent these "crazy" lawsuits. These are all either insurance companies (State Farm), big business (Johnson & Johnson), or large hospitals. But what I can’t abide is the empty rhetoric of “crazy lawsuits.”

Though treated with the status of individual by the courts, corporations cannot be locked away for injuring like a flesh and blood human. The damage to human life and wellbeing a pharmaceutical company can do far outweighs any convenience store holdup or bank robbery—and these corporations' take (called "profit" by execs) is in the millions. Corporations, incorporeal entities created to make money, are not deterred by jail sentences; profits rule its logic. The only way to keep their abuses limited is to speak their language. The only measure we little guys and gals have against these Goliaths is to sue.

What would be "crazy" is voting against your primary means of protection.

Envy all people, let none annoy thee.

Friday, April 13, 2007


Oh and agh and uh, hello, welcome to my first blog--well, the first I've been paid to write and my first since my short-lived MySpace account (1 Corinthians 13:11*).

Never really understood what people got out of posting and reading others’ rants and raves and thesaurus-written ramblings until I began my job at The Consumer Justice Group and realized there’s much more to the neologistic gerund (a quick ShiftF7 for "blogging").

Every M-F I’m scouring the good and bad of consumer and legal advice on the net, researching, finding interesting topics, staring at screens ‘til my eyes feel like they’ve got daggers in them. Occasionally, but more frequently, I’ll come across blogs from a law firm whose attorney’s scribbled something that sounds like news or advice but really exists to make it appear they have something new or important to say so Google’s bots will spider them.

But I suppose that’s business.

Our competition is mega-law firms with PR personalities (about that of a turnip) and metastasizing advertising agencies eating the good tissue of reliable help on the web.

So, unable to change their content, I’ve started this blog to add my own ir-, semi-, and relevant content. It’s now part of my job description. Here I can still help get the word out about CJG and build links to our page while taking a break from composing web content. It’s a dalliance better than designing jewelry from strung paperclips and other office supplies or resharpening the pencils in my desk like a burned out IBM engineer.

It’s my hope you’ll find what I’ll be posting personable, enjoyable, and informative--perhaps in that order.

Feel free to comment or drop me an e-mail with questions on previous or suggestions for future entries. Until then, I’ll keep posting on everything** legal.

Envy all people, let none annoy thee.

* This quote does not indicate an endorsement of the Christian Bible, nor does this disclaimer represent a disavowal of the bestseller. It’s a good quote. I’d like to leave it at that.

** Please note: Not “everything”. Not even most things. But nothing on this page will be illegal--fortune, weather, human will, and deities permitting.