I’m a Tucson Arizona lawyer (business, real estate and probate law) and a Licensed Fiduciary (Personal Representative, Trustee and Guardian/Conservator). I also spend part of each day volunteering and helping raise money for good causes. At night I write!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Straight Talk About Tax Cuts

Tax cuts, and whether they will expire at the end of 2010, have been discussed for months. Sadly, almost every article/column/blog post I've read has been wrong on simple facts. 

The facts are really simple. Proposals advanced by President Obama and the Democrats in Congress leave the so-called Bush tax cuts in place with respect to the first $250,000 of taxable income earned by families. Thus, the Bush tax cuts will remain in place for all taxpayers who pay federal income tax, as to the first $250,000 of taxable income.

The 2% figure you hear about represents the percentage of Americans with taxable incomes that exceed $250,000. As for them, they get the lower tax rates on the first $250,000 of taxable income. The balance of their taxable income will be taxed at the rate in effect when Bill Clinton was the President, back when our government spent less money than it collected (and was using the excess to reduce the national debt.)

As for the $250,000, that represents taxable income. That sum represents total earnings before deductions and exemptions. Many people with taxable income of $250,000 have gross income of more than $300,000.

So when you hear a story that claims tax cuts will only be available for 98% of all Americans, that's a false story. When someone claims tax cuts will only people making less than $250,000, that's false too.

This is not terribly complicated stuff! Unfortunately, those people who report on public policy debates--and some of the debate participants, because they are lazy thinkers or dishonest advocates--are often wrong on the facts!!! 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A LIFE AT 50-ISH (the book)

Buy A LIFE AT 50-ISH right here, right now, for $15! Or, if you're not a Paypal person, contact me at markdrubin@gmail.com.


I've been eating pizza for 50 years. I've had lots and lots of good pizza, some bad pizza and a fair amount that falls "in between." And that only includes the pizzas made by others, for I've been making my own pies for 35 years or so. In that realm there have been a few good ones, and many that have been unremarkable.

For the past several years I've been curious about "the best" pizzas. Are they really good? Exceptional? Memorable?

There's no standard for "the best," of course. (My daughter used to be sweet on Chuck-e-Cheese pizza. I thought she wanted to play games and collect little red tickets, so she could exchange them for plastic junk I'd throw away when I cleaned out drawers, but then she wanted to know if Chuck-e-Cheese delivered. Wrong I was, I guess, about her taste in pizza!) There are, however, purveyors who receive recognition, far and wide, for exceptional pizzas. By 2010, I decided it was long past time for me to start answering my questions.

In Phoenix Pizzeria Bianco resides just east of downtown, a mere 116.51 miles from my garage door. Alas, PB does not take reservations, it's only open Tuesday through Saturday from 5-10 and the wait is generally 2-3 hours. It's always on my mind but, like cleaning the garage and losing the extra 10 pounds, it never seems to happen!

Last month we had more than one good reason to be in Los Angeles, so we decided to try Pizzeria Mozza, the restaurant owned by Joe Bastianich, Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton. The joint has a national reputation, and it takes reservations. So, while getting there involves more travel than a round-trip to Phoenix, if one needs to be in LA, the travel is not a huge burden.

Pizzeria Mozza is a very nice place. It's small, comfortable and the staff is very friendly. (None of the LA "attitude" one gets in certain places.) Prices are not low, but they're also not ridiculously high. Pizzas run from about $14-21, salads and sides are mostly less and wine prices are fair.

And the pizza? Very nice. Good. Tasty. Memorable? Not really. (Frankly, Pizzeria Vivace makes very similar pies in Tucson, they're as good or better, and the drive is 15 miles, round trip.)

I'm sure I'll try Pizzeria Bianco someday. (Ed Levine, in Pizza:  A Slice of Heaven, gives his "best pizza" in America award to PB.) My journey to LA has given me an operating hypothesis for the time being, however:  Some dining experiences are not meant to be memorable. I'll never forget a meal I had at Aureole, a fine French restaurant in New York. Or the sweetbreads and grilled octopus I ate at Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante in Miami Beach in 2008. Or the Pinot Noir I had at Sogno Di Vino, the wine bar next to Buon Appetito in San Diego. (I remember how wonderful it was, and how annoyed I was that I didn't note the name.) Pizza, though, is pizza. It's good and certainly pleasurable. (Some have said that, like sex, when pizza is good it's great and when it's not so good, it's still pretty wonderful. Of course, never having experienced "not so good" sex, I can't say.) It may be, though, that it's simply too simple to be really wonderful. Just not one of those "I'll never forget it" foods. Or, maybe, I simply haven't had the best there is!!!

P.S. You can buy A LIFE AT 50-ISH, for better documented observations about many other important phenomena, by contacting me at markdrubin@gmail.com or by clicking the Buy Now button below.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Liz Cheney and the Lawyers

So Liz Cheney (former Vice President Cheney's darker incarnation) and her pals on the Way Far Right have taken out after lawyers who work for the Justice Department now and used to represent detainees. Never mind that, when lawyers who represented detainees later worked for the Justice Department in the GWB Administration, there was nary a public peep from Ms. Cheney, Bill Kristol (a fellow board member with Ms. Cheney at Keep America Safe) or anyone who talks on Fox News. And never mind the fact that Ted Olson--it was his lawyering that put W over the top in the Supreme Court in the last days of 2000, and it was his wife Barbara who died when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001--took out after Ms. Cheney for her comments! Never mind all that, because I have but one question for Ms. Cheney and her gang of crazies:

What gives with the criticism of lawyers for supporting a cause, as opposed to simply being in it for the money?

(Supporting terrorism is hardly noble, but if someone thinks terrorism is a worthy cause, we can hardly say they are unprincipled when they support that cause. Misguided, crazy and absolutely best dead, but not unprincipled.)

I'm confused because, for most of my career as a lawyer, I've listened to your crowd complain about lawyers only being in it for the money. Y'all have been after trial lawyers for decades. (BTW, every trial I’ve ever been in has always had at least two lawyers, and whenever the crowd you like shows up for court, they’re always represented, and always by well-paid, highly skilled lawyers.) You come at us hard, constantly, as if society’s ills will vanish if we can just get rid of the lawyers!

Have you changed your minds? Decided lawyers really might be principled from time to time. That we might be so scrupulous that we'll give up money to support a cause? If so, welcome to the right side of the line. Now, just take another step or two in the right direction and consider the fact that maybe, just maybe, the principle these lawyers have advocated, and continue to advocate, is adherence to the law. The law as it is written in the Constitution. The law as the U.S. Supreme Court applied it in case after case, against the Bush Administration, with respect to detainee rights. Maybe, just maybe, that's the principle these lawyers--these people you claim are so principled that they adopt their clients' causes, never mind the money--are following!

P.S. When y'all rant about safety concerns if terrorists are tried in the United States, how ‘bout a little candor? The decision to store people at Guantanamo was never based on any worry about U.S. security, and you know it! Guantanamo was always about the oddity that is Guantanamo:  Kind of "U.S. lite," controlled by us but ... not too much, so we can run the place but we don't have to follow U.S. law when we do it. For pity's sake, how ‘bout a little bit of honesty? Just a little? Please?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Where I've Been

Sorry about the lack of blog postings. Writing A LIFE AT 50-ISH has occupied lots of time during 2009 and the early part of 2010. I also closed my law practice and joined a firm, Mesch, Clark & Rothschild, P.C., and that process occupied plenty of hours I'd have otherwise spent writing here. Expect more posts going forward!