The Dish: Hall Of Shadows

The BALCO controversy? Just a coupla cowboys, stabbin’ each other in the back.

Yahoo Sports reported this week that the source of the leaks that blew open the BALCO case against Barry Bonds and many others was BALCO defense lawyer Troy Ellerman. Which is already pretty crazy. The San Francisco Chronicle reporters who wrote the book Game Of Shadows, which had details of grand jury testimony which shouldn’t legally have gotten into the public domain, are currently awaiting sentencing of up to 18 months in prison for refusing to reveal their sources. Ellerman, who worked for the defense in the BALCO case, would be one weird hombre to be leaking information about Victor Conte and Bonds to reporters, wouldn’t you say?

Even weirder is the fact that Ellerman’s status as the potential leaker was exposed by private investigator Larry McCormack. Until recently, McCormack (who worked for the BALCO defense team in the first few months of the investigation) was the executive director of the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, but was fired about three months ago. Ellerman, meanwhile, in addition to being a BALCO attorney, is the commissioner of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, and helped McCormack get his job at the hall of fame. It’s been alleged (and McCormack denies this) that the reason McCormack is now speaking out about Ellerman being the source of the leak is revenge for having lost his job at the hall of fame. Of rodeo.

How ironic is that, people? Bonds may never get to the Baseball Hall of Fame because of some dudes squabbling over the Rodeo Hall of Fame.

What do you think of the Allen Iverson deal? Is Denver a legitimate threat now? And is Philly a lock for the NBA’s worst record?

BoDog Bookmakers, BoDog.ws: The deal was probably the best deal Billy King could receive, given the circumstances. Firstly, he was able to get two more first-round picks that can be traded or used to bring in some young talent. In addition, Andre Miller is a solid player, and he should help keep the 76ers from looking much worse than they already do. After Carmelo was suspended, Denver needed to make this deal more than anyone. How do you replace the NBA’s leading scorer? Get the NBA’s second-leading scorer. Iverson never takes a game off, and for the first time he has a legitimate, All-Star-caliber teammate. His scoring may drop, but his assists-per-game could go through the roof now that he has someone to pass the rock to. George Karl is a winner; he’ll get the better end of the deal with his new Nuggets team. On the other end, Philadelphia has all but assured themselves Greg Oden or Texas phenom Kevin Durrant.

The Jets, Jaguars, Bengals or Broncos: which teams will win the AFC Wild Cards, and why?

BDB, BoDog.ws: The remainder of the Jags’ schedule is tough, considering they have to play the Pats and Chiefs to finish the season. The Jets are lacking in overall talent, but are well-coached and have an easier schedule ahead of them. The winner of the Denver/Cincy game will squeeze through, but other than that, it’s too tough to call.

And do a little NFC Wild Card analysis for us: Eagles, Giants or Falcons? How come?

BDB, BoDog.ws: Eagles QB Jeff Garcia has come in and played some very effective football. Remember his taunting penalty against the Giants? It just goes to show how fired up he is, and how much this team is driven to win. Along with having to deal with an inconsistent quarterback, player dissent toward the coach, and numerous injuries, the Giants have also had to cope with Tiki’s pre-retirement announcement. They’re lucky to have a somewhat easier schedule to finish with. First up, they have the Saints at home, and then travel to Washington to finish against the Redskins. The Falcons are another team in disarray. Jim Mora is coaching to save his job after damaging comments by both him and his father. I’m not sure if the players will even play well enough for him to keep it.

Bodog’s current odds on winning the Super Bowl include a few teams between 5:1 and 10:1. These teams obviously aren’t the favorites, but they might be a place to find some value. Which wager do you like best out of: Dallas (8-1), Indianapolis (11-2), New England (10-1) and New Orleans (5-1), and why?

BDB, BoDog.ws: New England at 10-1 looks very good. The team is 10-4, with an outside chance of getting a bye. Tom Brady and coach Belichick are both winners. I think the loss against the Dolphins really reignited the fire within them.

How to Eliminate Credit Card Debt Legally So That You Can Free Yourself From the Crushing Pressure

Are you swimming in credit card debt? Are you literally maxed out and cannot make the minimum payments? If so, you are not alone. It’s become nearly commonplace for people to be carrying more credit card debt than they can possibly pay off. The situation has so become so widespread, many say it’s a pandemic. Living above one’s means and bridging the gap with credit cards is a practice that’s run rampant through our country. As a nation, we have accrued an astonishing mass of debt. In just last few years, it’s exploded to quantities never before seen in our history. Once people find themselves with all their credit cards maxed and facing minimum payments they cannot meet each month, they begin to panic. If they’re smart, they begin to investigate how to eliminate credit card debt legally.

There’s one thing you need to know about credit card debt. It is what we refer to as ‘unsecured debt.’ What does that mean? Unsecured debt is debt which is incurred without any physical objects put up against the debt. In other words, no collateral was required to secure the loan. If the payments are not made, the bank cannot repossess an item in order to recoup their funds. No one will appear at your front doorstep in order to take possession of anything you own. If you were to be taken to court over the debt, it would be to civil court. The point of all of this is that if you were to choose not to repay your debt, that behavior is not considered illegal.

This is not to say that there wouldn’t be consequences. If you do not make payments on your debt, then your credit rating will undoubtedly suffer tremendously. It’s likely that you will never again be given a loan for anything else. Think about that. If you ever needed to buy a car or a home, if you wanted a store credit account, you would be denied. You do have a contractual agreement with the credit card company and by choosing not to pay them, you would be in breach of contract, which isn’t looked upon favorably in the financial world. If you were to decide to simply stop making payments on these accounts, you would eventually find yourself unable to even be approved for layaway. Your credit identity would be known as a parasite. Doesn’t sound like a good option, does it?

So rather than simply avoiding paying your bills, the smarter move is to exercise your right to utilize various programs created by the credit card companies themselves. These programs aim to allow consumers to pay off their balances. There are specialized organizations whose mission is to assist consumers with their credit card debt management. These companies exist to enable people to climb out of debt. Many people need these companies because they feel badgered by their creditors. They do not feel they can bargain with the credit card companies because they feel so overwhelmed, ashamed and intimidated. There’s a great reason many people feel this way. Ever talked to a collection agent? It’s pretty well known that they have the personality of Attila the Hun with a migraine. These people have a singular focus. They care about one thing, and one thing only. What is that? To force you to write a check to them, no matter what else you may have to forgo in order to do so. They’re well trained in how to bully, browbeat, menace and torment.

Third party organizations can truly help you out in this situation. They are more than happy to withstand the verbal abuse these collectors want to dish out and still stand their ground. After all, they aren’t emotionally involved like you are. They are not the ones who have no money and no idea where the next bit of cash will come from. So they can be calmer, more logical, and stand toe-to-toe with those collection agents. The process works like this: you write up a list of your creditors. You detail how much you owe and what your minimum payments usually are. They will take it from there. Ready for the very best part of this offer? You don’t have to pay them any money upfront. “Let me get this straight,” you say, “I don’t have to take any more abusive phone calls. And I also don’t pay any money to this company?” Are you scratching your head in confusion, wondering what the catch is? No, you’re not confused. That’s precisely how this works. You stop having to field calls from collectors and you don’t have to write a check to the third party company either. And get this: in 99% of the cases, your monthly payments drop considerably. In fact, after using these companies, people report that they have some financial breathing room again for the first time in years.

As great as these companies are, lots of people have never even heard about them. A lot of people are suffering the indignity of endless phone calls and harassing collections agents when they could be using this entirely legal avenue to resolve credit card debt. Imagine it: eliminate credit card debt legally. I guess it’s not that shocking that few people are aware of this option since the credit card companies certainly want to keep consumers in the dark when it comes to this solution. This option is gaining popularity across the country. More and more folks each day call up one of these companies and breathe a sigh of relief as they watch their credit card debt shrink before their eyes.

There are other means to eliminate credit card debt legally. However, the options available have a lot of problems associated with them. Read on to learn about two of these options.

1. A consolidation loan – Consolidation loans can be a good solution for those consumers whose credit score is high enough to qualify. Other consumers can qualify by using collateral. Sounds great, right? Yeah, except the part where you realize that if you had credit that good, you wouldn’t be struggling to pay your bills, would you? And if you actually owned something that would constitute a collateral, then you might have already sold it to rectify your debts. If you do still own something of enough value to secure a loan of this size, it’s not really financially savvy to put it on the line to get more debt. Once you begin thinking about it, it seems pretty silly. Doesn’t it? It’s not really a viable option.

2. Borrow money from your family members or your friends – Here is where things get uncomfortable and hairy. If you’re already struggling to pay your existing debt, how is taking on more debt going to solve your problem? If you do convince a loved one to extend even more money to you, you’ve now put yourself in a very awkward situation. Ever heard the adage: Don’t loan money to family or friends? Well, there’s a reason for that. These situations rarely turn out well. In fact, these type of situations are exactly the fodder that day time talk shows are made of. If you’d like to see yourself on Judge Mathis or Jerry Springer, then go ahead and hit someone you’re related to up for some cash.

Once you’ve dug a deep financial hole for yourself, there is really only one viable option to alleviate your discomfort. When you can’t pay your credit card bills, you can only make one move. You have to call a third party negotiator to talk to your creditors. They can convince them to either lower your monthly payments or even reduce your entire debt amount. It’s that or take on even more debt and burn bridges among your family and friends. Gosh, when you put it that way, the choice starts to get really clear, doesn’t it?

The important thing to remember is that time is not on your side. If you’re already behind on your payments, then your account has been flagged. Once it is officially sent to “legal,” your options grow very slim, very quickly. If they’ve put your account with their legal department, then there will be no negotiation. It won’t matter if you call or your third party negotiator calls. No one will be able to move the creditor at that point. If they’ve referred the account to their legal department, then they are planning to circumvent you and get their payment directly from your paycheck. They may even be planning to put a lien against something you own. If you truly want to get out from underneath this crushing debt, you must take action now.

California’s Central Valley Is a Petri Dish for Clean Energy

A Fresno patent attorney wanted to know the most pressing legal needs of clean energy companies in the San Joaquin Valley.

Her emailed question made me think. The industry remains in its infancy but likely won’t dawdle in Huggies for long, especially if petroleum prices continue upward as analysts suggest. Oil-price.net still lists $99 barrel on its one-year forecast, and pump prices continue to climb.

In my response to this attorney, I included concerns of solar, energy efficiency and biomass industries.

“Land use is a big deal,” I wrote. “I have heard that because of increased difficulties getting federal land secured, solar companies are moving to get private land deals. So far those are with municipalities and small solar operations, teaming them with wastewater sites (big electrical users) in hinter-ish lands.”

I also mentioned potential interest by Westlands farmers looking for a new source of revenue for farmland due to restrictions on irrigation water. Hundreds of acres of parched and dead grape fields and orchards greet passers by in this incredibly fertile sun-drenched valley.

My co-worker Sandy Nax, who was also my compatriot on the now mothballed Fresno Bee business desk, says the Central Valley is a veritable Petri dish for clean energy with its abundant sun, wind in the Sierra foothills, methane rich dairy waste and bio-plant-rich farmland.

Should a series of studies prove correct — that clean energy will produce scads of jobs nationwide and in California — I believe a large role will be played by those bitten by the powerful American entrepreneurial spirit. I told the patent attorney to keep an eye on start-ups, especially those related to water and biomass.

For instance, the more than $800,000 fine levied on two biomass plants in Merced and Madera counties by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently will likely worry folks in that industry. The Fresno Bee’s Mark Grossi called it “one of the state’s largest air-pollution fines in recent history.”

Biomass defines the process of burning woody material and ag waste to generate electricity. Emissions are a part of that as they are for biogas from methane.

Another sector worth a look, perhaps from an attorney’s perspective, is construction. Net-zero homes, the passive house movement and others will likely become dominant features of the new home market. A part of that is retrofits, something we’re quite familiar with at the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization.

The practice of auditing buildings and upgrading systems that show inefficiencies is gaining converts and consumer interest. Some big players are starting to do this elsewhere. For instance, the Empire State Building is now a model of efficiency after a massive overhaul.

I was talking about the status of the clean energy movement with Valley hydrogen power expert Gene Johnson, and he said the best bet for change is talking up the subject to our young people. “Education is the key to this whole thing,” he said.

I convinced him to be one of the potential speakers in a program we’re working on with Valley high schools and colleges to prepare students for clean energy and entrepreneurial opportunities. Gene is one of those amazing people who can inspire people after 5 minutes in his presence. For example, he decided he wanted a hydrogen powered car so converted a glossy yellow Chevy SSR to run on the clean burning fuel.

Gene’s pretty optimistic about the future of clean energy. “Once people see food and gas prices going up… they’ll realize self-sufficiency is the best way to deal with it,” he said. Gene’s definition of self-sufficiency is pretty global and refers to the United States being able to produce all its own energy, from multiple sources.

Sandy and I keep up with news, and on the subject of clean energy and energy efficiency it looks pretty good. Our hope is that this industry takes off in the next couple of years. That may be optimistic, but things are definitely happening.

The jolt of federal stimulus money didn’t hurt. But it’s limited. In fact, we’re working on a couple of stimulus grants that sunset in the next 12 months. So we are biased — a bit.

We were heartened by a post on grist.org by Bracken Hendricks and Jorge Madrid with the Center for American Progress in which they called “clean energy technology one of the fastest-growing sectors of the global economy and it is projected to grow to $2.3 trillion by 2020.”

They also said American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the official name of stimulus money) sustained the nation’s fledgling clean energy industry when it was struggling due to the economy and global competition.

Nice to hear. I put a comment on their post saying as much.

Erase 50% of Past Due Balances Legally and Ethically

How would it feel to have your debt legally erased? Did you also know anyone who has a 10k balance on their credit-card will pay over $40,000 in interest and will take them almost 40 years to pay off?

Fact: Credit cards have become a debt trap for many Americans.

Fact: The average American can now legally and ethically reduce their credit-card debt by 50%.

Fact: Plastic dishes another euphemism for debt.

Credit institutions gloss over the fact that a single credit-card bankrupted almost 1 in 73 people in America last year. Interest rates are at all-time high in America and anyone who has a credit-card is at the mercy of their credit institution who can change their interest rate with no legal repercussions at this time.

Fact: The credit charge you make today could amount to thousands of dollars in interest.

There is no reason why the American should stay in debt when free information is available to help them erase 50% of their past due obligations that they owe to financial institutions. And because of this, many companies are starting to release free information that can help the average consumer erase half of what they owe without having to file bankruptcy and ruin their financial life.

This next year Congress will start passing laws that prohibit financial institutions from changing their interest rates in order to steal everything that you own. Every American who has a past due balance should see if they can legally get their debt erased.

Exercise your rights.Get out of debt.