Saturday, August 30, 2008

Shame On America Sunday: Housing Edition

As I said last week, I don't like to get too serious or too political on my blogs. But the people who are supposed to be serious and political and take on weighty issues are too busy debating... nothing. Fiddling while Rome burns. So until America lives up to its promise and takes care of everyone and makes sure that everyone enjoys basic human dignity and comfort, I am devoting every Sunday to Shame On America Sunday.

I may have erred slightly in taking on Barack Obama in the first Shame On America Sunday, as people thought it was a political attack.

It was not; it was an attack on a rich man who was using money to do rich man things while poor people suffered. My point about Same Ol' Obama is that he spent millions to have a fancy party for his supporters, while people like the Shaws have to pay for medical care for their kids out of their own pockets.

I stand by that; if Same Ol' Obama really wanted to make a difference, he'd have invited Ryan and Angie Shaw onto that stage, and promised the world that they and everyone like them, within four years, would never ever have to wonder whether they should take their babies to the doctor or buy them groceries.

But it was not a political attack; Obama at least has a plan to provide health insurance -- necessary to secure health care, which is a basic human right on par with "life" and "liberty"-- to the country. We'll see if he can do it. I hope he can.

In the meanwhile, Shame On America Sunday will continue my mission to point out the awful inequities of American life, where for some reason most people (not me) celebrate the rich and enjoy the way the rich waste money while the rest of us must struggle to pay school fees and put food on the table. America is the richest, best country in the history of the world, but it is failing and people are letting it fail, and that should not be.

We should not allow people to have more than they ever need in their life. We should not allow people to thoughtlessly squander, on excessive boorish luxuries, money, spending on one tiny item enough money to support someone for their whole life.

We should, in short, not allow someone like David Saperstein or Susan Saperstein to behave the way David Saperstein and Susan Saperstein do.

David and Susan Saperstein are rich people who want you to know who rich they are; they are rich people who will waste more money in a day than I will make in a year.

Let's take Susan first: Susan Saperstein was described once, by Vanity Fair -- and if you read Vanity Fair you are part of the problem I'm trying to fight -- as "probably the world's No 1 consumer of haute couture and 18th century furniture." (Source)

As though that were a good thing. For those of you wondering what haute couture is, it means "things that cost more than most people make in a year and which will be worn once, if at all, by a foolish and selfish person."

Susan Saperstein married a rich man. She didn't do anything to help him earn that wealth, but she sure knew how to spend it: while they were married Susan (whose name is spelled Suzanne in some reports) owned several horses and would fly to Europe on the couple's private jet for "shows and fittings." (Source.) She flew a private jet to Europe to try on clothing.

It seems fitting that she was served with divorce papers on that private jet. It didn't matter; when she was divorced, she got a staggering sum of money -- including an obscenely gauche house that is an insult to anyone who goes to work every day, a house that she put on the market for $125,000,000.

David Saperstein is no better: when he was still living in the $125,000,000 house with his then-wife and the nanny he left her for (according to some reports), he said he and his family were just like anyone else, trying to put bread on the table. That's not just disingenous; that's rude to people who really do try to put bread on the table. David Saperstein started out with not much and grew it to a great deal. That's to his credit. He then not only forgot what he came from, he decided to actively insult the type of people he used to be by claiming that, as someone with a $125,000,000 house, he was "trying" to put bread on the table.

The table that David Saperstein was trying to put bread on was a table located in a 45,000 square foot house. That is roughly twenty times the size of the average house in my community. David Saperstein is so (self) important that he needs 20 times the space you or I do.

That's a lot of space, you're thinking, and you're right. But he needs more, because the $125,000,000 house is not his only house; he also built the "Hummingbird Nest Ranch," which has 140 acres of extreme disdain for other people and excessive displays of wealth spread across the Simi Valley.

Want to know more about the kinds of tables David Saperstein was just trying to put bread on? I'd like to tell you, but there's precious little information on the kinds of tables the Sapersteins bought as a furniture-based substitute for just spitting on people; buying furniture is a good substitute for spitting on people because society would frown on them if they actually thumbed their noses at us, but applauds them for garish displays of excess that are the functional equivalent of that. Remember that: physically spitting on people = bad. Metaphorically spitting on people by spending obscene amounts of money = good.

So while we don't know much about the tables, there are other details you can get about the Sapersteins' life and how they metaphorically are spitting on you.

One blog describes the $125,000,000 home, incorrectly, as "extravagant" and "sumptuous." The actual words you are looking for, blogger, is "insulting" and "wasteful." (We would also have accepted "deserving of a special circle of Hell, if there is justice in the universe.")

Here are those details:

It has Italian marble walls, Saperstein_mansionFrench limestone floors, gold-embossed leather wall coverings, and gold-leaf crowned moldings, according to the property listing. Rooms include a ballroom with ceiling frescoes, a library with a first-edition book collection, two kitchens and a screening room with seating for 50. A pool house has a full kitchen, a massage room and a gym. Also on the property: a three-bedroom manager’s house, staff quarters for 10, a nine-car garage and a ¾-mile jogging track


I am glad to know that the Sapersteins, whose disdain for the rest of us knows no bounds, did not have to actually walk all the way from their pool house to the main house to get a meal. I would wonder how I survived without a kitchen in my pool house, except that I don't have a pool house. If I want to swim, I have to go to the community pool or the one at my health club. We take one of the cars from our two-car garage. Sometimes we also drive them to the library, where I check out books. I'm not sure if they are first edition books; I take them to read them, not to flaunt them in people's faces like the Sapersteins.

Flaunt they do. Do you know why you have marble imported from Italy? So you can say "That marble is imported from Italy." So that you can be a smug, overspending loser with no concept of value. Marble is marble. Nobody even knows it's marble, let alone that it's from Italy, until you tell them, right, David Saperstein? And you do tell them, don't you, David Saperstein. Jerk.

One person who won't be touring David Saperstein's monument to his own lack of concern or compassion about the human race is Debbie Aurelio. Debbie Aurelio lives in Hawaii, a state that I usually use as a synonym for paradise. It's not paradise for Debbie Aurelio, though. Debbie was trying to refinance her house and got taken by a scam artist. She learned, too late, that she no longer owned her own home.

Debbie's home shares something in common with David Sapersteins: both houses have a carport. Debbie doesn't have a massage room, which is too bad because she could probably use a break from the stress of trying to fight to save her house. After realizing that she'd been bamboozled and no longer owned her house, that con artists had the title to her house and her equity, Debbie tried to hire a lawyer.

And failed.

Debbie couldn't come up with the thousands that lawyers wanted to represent her to try to save their house.

She finally had to turn to her local Legal Aid Society for help; they were able to represent her and have so far kept her from being evicted. They're suing, but Legal Aid Societies are stretched thin because they rely on funding from the government -- the government that is made up of the people, the government of the people, by the people, and for the people-- and the government of the people doesn't give the people much help.

The Legal Aid Society helping Debbie gets annual funding of $810,000 -- down 47% since 1992 -- from the State. Funding has dropped by more than 1/2 since 1980. So as wealth increases and profits increase and the Gross Domestic Product increases, we the people reduce legal aid to poor people like Debbie.

That $810,000 had to go to handle more than 8000 cases in a single year. That means Legal Aid gets about a hundred bucks a case to handle each claim.

The Sapersteins main house was marketed for $125,000,000. Let's do some math here. Since nobody should ever have a home worth more than $500,000 (I'll adjust that for inflation as time goes on) that means the Sapersteins had $124,500,000 in excess money tied up in their home. They were squandering $124,500,000 in money, just sitting on it with their Italian marble and theater and kitchen in their pool house. Sitting on it and believing they were better than you or me, or anyone else.

Debbie had equity of $160,000 in her house at the time of the scam. That means the Sapersteins, had they bought a $500,000 house, could have bought Debbie Aurelio her entire house and given it to her, as a gift, and left themselves with $124,340,000.

They would never have missed the $160,000.

They in fact could have bought themselves a $500,000 house, and then bought $160,000 houses for 778 Debbie Aurelios. Seven hundred and seventy eight families could have had houses, leaving the Sapersteins living in a house worth a half-million, and with money left over.

The Sapersteins, of course, did not buy 778 families a house. They bought themselves several houses, instead, houses with Italian marble and kitchens in the pool house and guest quarters to invite all their wealthy friends over to enjoy the finer things in life, people they would no doubt invite over and say "See that? It's Italian marble."

Debbie Aurelio's family, in their far more modest house, likes to have people over, too. They had a party for her youngest son to celebrate his first birthday. One of the people who showed up wasn't invited. He was a sheriff, serving them an eviction notice.

Shame on you, Sapersteins, and Shame on America, for letting you live in a $125,000,000 house while Debbie Saperstein has to take time out from baking a cake for her son on his birthday to be handed an eviction notice. Shame on you.

The Trouble With Roy firmly believes that no adult should be allowed to earn more than $200,000 per year; that a $500,000 house is more than enough for anyone, and that health care is a basic human right. And if you believe otherwise, you are part of the problem.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Shame On America Sunday: Barack Obama Edition.

I try not to be too political or topical or, frankly, angry, on my blogs. I try that in part because there are people whose job it is to be political and topical, people who pay attention to politics and business and other news that in theory qualifies them to talk about politics and business; I mostly pay attention to what's on my iPod and comic books.

But I can't help it; I've boiled over and I can't contain it anymore, and the people whose job it is to be political and topical -- the politicians and editorial writers and reporters and other people who are supposed to be doing something good for the world -- are fiddling while Rome burns. They are fretting over flag pins and medal counts at the Olympics while the United States of America, the greatest country ever embodying the greatest concepts of the human race-- slowly rots from the inside.

And I can't stand it anymore. I'm tired of just making jokes about mystery writers and pizza while people struggle to pay medical bills and find houses and make ends meet, and I'm especially tired of making jokes about mystery writers and pizza while others suffer at the same exact time as stinking rich selfish people rub all our noses in how stinking rich and selfish they are and help slowly but surely bring about the destruction of the United States of America while also keeping people living in squalor as they engage in foolish, reprehensible behavior.

It is disgusting to me that we live in a country that allows some to squander money and resources and time and not only flaunt it but be celebrated and honored for doing that while others struggle to enjoy what should be basic rights. And I can no longer tolerate it.

So most of the week, I'll continue doing what I do: In my "work" as a lawyer, I'll continue to try to help people save their houses and pay their bills and keep their kids. As a writer, I'll mostly keep making jokes about mystery writers and pizza. But once a week, on Sundays, I am going to publish, on all my blogs, Shame On America Sunday, to highlight the morally decrepit people who should not be honored, who should not be celebrated, who should be scorned and ridiculed; and I will contrast those people-without-souls against the people they are spitting on, the poor, the hungry, the needy.

It may not be much, but it's what I can do, and I'll do it.

What has set this off is this week's highlighted hypocritical loser, Barack Obama.

Allow me to quote from "Money talks at convention," courtesy of The New York Times, as reprinted in the Wisconsin State Journal on Saturday, August 23, 2008:

When Sen. Barack Obama gives his acceptance speech... on Thursday in Denver... a group of lobbyists and corporate executives will watch the event from plush skyboxes, with catered food and a flowing bar, and a price tag of up to $1 million.

And Obama's biggest fundraisers will be staying at the
Ritz-Carlton. They will be treated to an array of cocktail parties.
While Obama has attacked those who 'have turned our government into a game only they can afford to play,' the corporate and other special-interest money will be as pervasive as ever at this year's Democratic convention.

So, "change you can believe in," or whatever the hypocritical, already-failed Obama administration's empty slogan is, apparently means "Same old same old." The Democratic National Committee is planning on spending $60 million dollars to throw Obama a coming-out party, and Obama, who speaks on this issue with the forked tongue all politicans have -- he's not "change" of any real sort -- is helping to raise that money.

Are you a member of a union? If so, check what benefits you get in case of a strike; odds are they're pretty low. Then check what benefits Obama gets: He got $500,000 from a union, and had the gall to ask for $500,000 more.

Think teachers are underpaid? Their union doesn't; instead of helping teachers out, they gave $750,000 to Obama's big party.

It's pretty much all of Same Ol' Obama's fault, too: he decided to give his speech outdoors, adding $6 million to the cost of the party. So Obama needs six million dollars to have an outdoor photo op. Six million dollars extra so that Obama could stand under a starry sky, spread his arms, give us all that smile, and promise things will be different -- while knowing deep down inside that they absolutely will not because he is just another politician lying to us while getting himself rich.

Six million dollars extra to speak outside.

Now, let me introduce you -- again -- to Ryan and Angie Shaw. My longtime readers know Ryan and Angie Shaw and their two wonderful boys, Mateo and McHale. Mateo and McHale were born conjoined twins and to date have had twenty-five surgeries. They were given a 5% chance of of living and have been beating those odds for over two years.

Here's something to think about: Ryan and Angie Shaw have used up every cent of their insurance. They had insurance coverage and it's done. They have no more. So they exist on donations and the goodwill of the hospitals and doctors that help them. I don't know what their medical bills are, but I know when I had back surgery the tab was over $20,000. If they spent just $20,000 per surgery, that's $500,000 just on the surgeries -- that doesn't count prenatal and postnatal care and physical therapy and braces and checkups and follow-ups and the wheelchairs the boys need.

While I don't know the exact tab, I'm willing to bet that all of Ryan and Angie Shaw's bills, every single bit of medical care they and the boys have ever received, could be paid for using just the extra money Same Ol' Obama wants to get his photo op speech.

This is what Same Ol' Obama has to say on his website about health care (if you go to his website, you'll first be hit up for money before you can find out anything about Same Ol' Obama, whose slogan maybe should be "Pocket Change You Can Send In") (and no, I won't link to his website. He doesn't need my help.)

We now face an opportunity — and an obligation — to turn the page on the failed politics of yesterday's health care debates

Obama promises to make things better and create new programs. But he is spending our money, money you have paid in union dues and donated to his campaign -- to throw himself a party and get a photo op.

How much health care could be paid for with $6 million? How much health care could be bought with Sixty Million Dollars, the amount Barack is going to spend to throw himself a party?

This week, Barack Obama is going to travel to Denver to enjoy a splendid party featuring free-flowing champagne, luxury boxes, limousines, and swanky hotels.

This week, Ryan and Angie Shaw will take their boys in their wheelchairs to a park that is not wheelchair accessible.

Shame on you, Barack Obama. Shame on you.

Skip the clicking on Same Ol' Obama's website; instead, donate some money to the Shaws. Send donations to:

The Mateo and McHale Shaw Irrevocable Special-Needs Trust,
c/o Kohler Credit Union,
850 Woodlake Road,
Kohler, Wis., 53044.

And read more on Mateo and McHale by going to Caring Bridge, where you can type "mateoandmchale" into the box to Visit A Caring Bridge Website to see more pictures and the parents' journal.

The Trouble With Roy firmly believes that access to health care is a universal right, that no adult should be allowed to earn more than $200,000 gross income in a given year, and that the United States of America, as great as it is, can do a lot better.