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Someone ought to sue

Meteor Blades and Joan McCarter at Daily Kos, are writing a series entitled The War on Voting. The latest article discusses a lawsuit against the state of North Carolina:


U.S. District Court Judge Thomas D. Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee, ruled in favor of North Carolina’s new voting law Monday, prompting plaintiffs in the case to say they would immediately appeal. The law is considered by opponents as one of the strictest in the country. But that wasn’t the viewpoint of the judge.

The law requires voters to have one of a number of state-specified, government-issued photo-IDs. It also barred people from registering and voting on the same day, cut the number of days allotted for early voting, blocked the counting of any ballots that are cast in the wrong precinct. Preregistering teenagers before they turn 18 is also no longer allowed under the law.

via Daily Kos

Let’s stipulate that the intent of the changes in these laws is to suppress voting, particularly among those groups, particularly minorities, that vote Democratic. Still, I’m struck by the fact that some of these states, in many respects, still have voting laws more liberal than we have in Connecticut. We don’t, for instance, have any early voting, except for absentee voters. Many of these cases involving restrictions of, but not elimination of, voting opportunities that are not available to Connecticut residents at all.

Connecticut was never covered by the Voting Rights Act, so its restrictions were never subjected to scrutiny. It’s very doubtful that they were the product of intentional discrimination. The legislature is helpless to liberalize many of our voting requirements because they are contained in the state constitution. There was a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2014 that would have allowed the legislature to liberalize our laws, but it was defeated by an electorate that had no idea what it contained.

Many of the challenges to restrictive voting laws have succeeded in federal court. The North Carolina plaintiffs might succeed eventually. Maybe the Koch owned ACLU could do us a favor and bring suit against Connecticut to get rid of some of the unnecessary restrictions embedded in our constitution. If they brought suit, the Malloy administration would be well advised to not defend the case, as a matter both of justice and partisan advantage.

A Democratic hypocrite of Republican proportions

It is a sad fact of life that, while they are indeed masters of the art, the Republicans do not have a monopoly on hypocrisy. Consider Debbie Wasserman Schultz, one of the more loathsome Democrats out there:

Last week, Florida congresswoman and DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced that she was signing on as an original cosponsor of the Stopping Abuse and Fraud in Electronic (SAFE) Lending Act, which would prohibit payday lenders from having access to borrowers’ bank accounts, close loopholes in the payday lending system and “ban lead generators and anonymous payday lending.” A partner bill has also been introduced in the Senate, featuring progressive co-sponsors Tammy Baldwin, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, among others.

The bill is, by all accounts, a solid piece of legislation. Payday lending has recently found its way into the crosshairs of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, among other consumer protection organizations, as being an industry that takes advantage of borrowers by trapping them in a cycle of debt, turning initial loans of a few hundred dollars into four or five-figure debts. The SAFE Lending Act would curtail some of the industry’s worst abuses.

However, Wasserman Schultz’s co-sponsorship of the bill makes her a bit of an oddball. As Allied Progress and a collection of other advocacy organizations pointed out in a letter sent to her office yesterday, she remains a co-sponsor of H.R. 4018. Wasserman Schultz previously faced widespread criticism from the progressive community over that bill because it is specifically designed to both make it harder for the CFPB to regulate payday lending and to encourage states outside of Florida to adopt policies favorable to payday lenders. As the Huffington Post explained:

The misleadingly titled Consumer Protection and Choice Act would delay the CFPB’s payday lending rules by two years, and nullify its rules in any state with a payday lending law like the one adopted in Florida. The memo being passed around by Wasserman Schultz staffers describes the Florida state law as a “model” for consumer laws on payday loans, and says the CFPB should “adjust their payday lending rules to take into account actions Florida has already taken.”

via Americablog

This is the woman who heads up the DNC, and is channeling money into the campaigns of DINOs. The payday situation is only the latest of her sins. Listing them all would be impossible. Perhaps the most egregious is her co-operating with Republicans in Florida to gerrymander the state in their favor, all so she could preserve a comfortable district for herself.She is the current reason I won’t contribute to the DNC, inasmuch as so much of their money is devoted to beating progressive Democrats in primaries. She has a serious primary challenger, Tim Canova. Every patriot should donate to him.

Who says skunks stink?

We live in funny times. I would have thought that if you see a dead skunk in the middle of the road, and something is stinkin’ to high heaven, you can conclude beyond reasonable doubt that the smell is coming from the skunk, especially if the smell gets worse the closer you examine the skunk. But apparently not:

The Supreme Court heard former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s appeal of his sentence on political corruption charges Wednesday, and appears to be leaning in his favor. McDonnell was convicted and sentenced to two years for accepting gifts from a businessman, including a $20,000 Fifth Avenue shopping spree, more than $5,000 for a monogrammed Rolex and the use of a convertible Ferrari, a custom-made golf bag, and a sizable personal loan. The questions from the justices raised concerns that “the government’s concept of bribery was so broad as to criminalize many routine actions by public officials.”

via Daily Kos

He actually argued that “buying access and influence with public officials is protected by the 1st Amendment“, and the Supreme Court, apparently, has got his back. I remember back in the olden days Justice Stewart said he couldn’t define obscenity, “but I know it when I see it”. Not a great standard to judge pornography, but it comes to mind when reading about the McDonnell case.

Another petard hoisted

I just heard about this, and, as a lawyer, I am mightily impressed:

Travis Kalanick, the chief executive of Uber, failed on Thursday to win the dismissal of an antitrust lawsuit accusing him of scheming to drive up prices for passengers who use the popular ride-sharing service.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan said Kalanick must face claims he conspired with drivers to ensure they charge prices set by an algorithm in the Uber smartphone app to hail rides, including “surge pricing” during periods of peak demand.

Passengers led by Spencer Meyer of Connecticut claimed that drivers conspired with Kalanick to charge fares set by the algorithm, with an understanding that other Uber drivers would do the same, even if they might fare better acting on their own.

via Fortune

The delicious part about this is that they are taking advantage of the legal fiction that Uber drivers are truly independent contractors. By any reasonable standard they aren’t, but Uber sticks to that fiction, so that it can avoid paying decent wages and benefits. To rub salt in the wounds of the “contractors”, they also apparently lead their customers to believe that a tip is built into the pricing structure, when in fact it is not. So that’s one petard hoisted.

Why, you might ask, is the Uber CEO a defendant, and not Uber itself. Well, that’s yet another petard hoisted:

“In creating Uber, Kalanick organized price-fixing among independent drivers who should be competing with one another on price,” Meyer’s lawyer Andrew Schmidt said. “Today’s decision confirms that apps are not exempt from the antitrust laws.”

Uber was not named as a defendant, despite being valued at well over $50 billion in recent funding rounds.

Rakoff said in a footnote that Uber passengers are subject to “user agreements” requiring them to resolve various disputes through arbitration.

In other words, Kalanick is a defendant because he deprived people, by stealth, of their right to go to court against Uber but he forgot to exempt himself.

So, hats off to Andrew Schmidt, or whoever came up with this idea. It won’t happen, but it would be nice to see them truly hammer Kalanick. Rakoff might rule for the plaintiffs, but the Appeals Court will reverse.

As a side note, this tendency to deprive people of their rights to go to court (a feature, we’re told, and not a bug in the TPP) is becoming more and more widespread. It should be among the injustices people like Bernie rail against, though most people are not informed enough to resent it. It is endemic in our system right now. I recently found, buried in the fine print of an owner’s manual for a hard drive I bought, that by buying the drive I had agreed to arbitrate any disputes I might have. On closer inspection, I could have also discovered this on the outside of the box, had I Superman’s super vision. And here’s a story of hedge fund managers shifting the responsibility for their own criminal behavior onto investors who had no part in their wrongdoing, yet another way of cooking the legal books to exempt the .01% from responsibility for their crimes.

Immune from attack

I’m a Bernie guy, but I try to be rational and realistic. There are some Bernie folks out there, otherwise reasonable people, who believe that Bernie will get the nomination when Hillary is indicted because of her email server. Not only is that not going to happen, it shouldn’t happen, because she didn’t do anything seriously wrong. It’s depressing to see people buy into Republican memes when it serves their purposes. And as I’ll develop, unless she does get indicted, which I repeat won’t happen, the “scandal” will come to nothing.

Here’s a more superficially realistic concern, yet one that we can easily dismiss:

The other day I was listening to a political show on the radio, and a guy called into say that, although he was “Cruz guy”, he believed that Trump could beat Hillary because of Hillary’s sordid past, as detailed in a book by Roger Stone.

That’s when it hit me: if Trump is the nominee, it will be five months of Vince Foster, the Mena drug operation, the Clinton body count, and so on.   I hope the Hillary campaign wishes a motherfucker would, but they’d best be prepared for a media that says “some say the Clinton personally murdered upwards of 50 people, some say they do not, the truth lies in the middle.”

As crazy as the last eight years of anti-Obama have been, I don’t think it quite touches the insanity of the anti-Clinton stuff in the mid-to -late ’90s, at least within mainstream political discourse.  The Republicans never even got around to impeaching Obama the way I thought they would.

via Balloon Juice

The Cruz guy who thinks Trump could beat Hillary is the very model of the person who would never vote for Hillary (or any Democrat) in the first place, so the fact that he buys into these smears means Hillary has a net loss of exactly 0 votes. The question is, how many people, who might otherwise vote for her, will choose to vote for Trump instead because of any of these smears that Roger Stone fabricated? The fact of the matter is that Hillary is well-nigh scandal proof. Why did the Republicans get no traction with Benghazi? For that matter, why are they getting no traction with the email issue? On issues like that, they have essentially immunized her. She has been the victim of so many specious attacks that people’s eyes glaze over when they hear another attack of that ilk.

True, people don’t trust her, but it’s not because of her emails or even Benghazi. People distrust her because of stuff like Iraq, speeches to Goldman Sachs, equivocation on the TPP, her reflexive warmongering, etc. You know, issues. Note that on the issues that cause that mistrust, she is in lock step with the Republicans, making it difficult for them to attack her where she’s weakest. That sort of distrust is mostly on the left, and we’re going to be stuck with her. Bear in mind too that the Dems have been doing their oppo research on Trump, and there’s a mother lode there. Anyone who is actually going to compare candidates based on their involvement with Trumped up scandals will find more reason to vote against Trump than Hillary. In addition, Hillary will not sit passively by while she’s attacked. She will not be swift boated.

In truth and in fact, Bernie is more at risk from the swift boaters than is Hillary. He’s a relatively unknown quantity, and no one really knows how much damage attacks on an avowed socialist atheist would do in this land of the ignorant. He may be polling better than Hillary at the moment, but that is quite likely because he has not yet been subjected to the types of attacks that simply no longer work when directed at Hillary. I still think he’d be a better president, and I think we may be losing our last chance to put down the oligarchs, but I don’t believe that Hillary will lose to Trump or any other Republican because Roger Stone says she killed Vince Foster.

This cracks me up

Nothing even vaguely political about this, but I can’t stop laughing whenever I read about it:

Ships can bear the names of former presidents, war heroes, long-lost loves, or clever puns. However, the U.K. public appears to have taken a different tact when it comes the naming of a new polar vessel from the National Environment Research Council.

The NERC announced the online voting contest to name the nearly $300 million boat to be launched in 2019 recently, and the leading vote-getter so far is the simple but silly “Boaty McBoatface.”

Via CBS News

What can you expect from the land of Monty Python?

Rejected by the Day

Recently I alluded to the fact that the New London Day, and in particular, its columnist, Dave Collins has been conducting a bit of a jihad against our State Senator, Andy Maynard. Andy suffered a brain injury before the last election. He now suffers from aphasia, which means he has trouble articulating his thoughts. As the Day knows, his constituents re-elected him with full knowledge that he had had the accident and had possibly suffered brain damage, but Collins in particular, and the newspaper in general, has insisted that Andy should not vote, because he is being manipulated by the evil Democratic Senate leaders.

Last week, on the 13th, the Day printed an article about a letter former (thank God) Congressman and current Stonington first selectman Rob Simmons wrote in which he basically pushed the same meme. Naturally, the Day gave the letter front page treatment.

I took pen to hand and wrote this:

Rob Simmons’s recent attack on Senate Democrats for allegedly manipulating Andy Maynard was an exercise in precisely what he was accusing the Democrats of doing: manipulating Andy Maynard for his own purposes. Mr. Simmons wants us to believe that he can speak for Andy, and tell us what Andy would do if only Andy were not being manipulated by those terrible Democrats. We are to believe that Simmons has only Andy’s best interest at heart, politics having nothing at all to do with it. We are also to believe that if only Andy were the Andy Rob once knew, he would vote as a Republican, like Rob always did.

Simmons undoubtedly knew the Day would give him maximum exposure, as he’s just repeating the meme the Day has been pushing for over a year in its columns and news stories. There is, in fact, no reason to believe that Andy’s aphasia has affected his ability to make his own decisions, and the constituent service offered by his office has not suffered as a result of his disability. His disability renders him an easy target. Since he can’t verbalize a response, he loses no matter what he does.

The Day called me to confirm I’d written it, but it has yet to see print and it probably never will.

This is the second letter in a row that I’ve written that the Day has rejected. My wife wrote a letter, which it did print, attacking our local (Republican) state representatives as do nothings. It drew a printed response from a letter writer, with a defense so lame as to be laughable. I wrote a response to that letter, which the Day refused to print unless I was identified as my wife’s spouse, using her name. My wife preferred not to become the issue. I didn’t fight about it, but the logic escapes me. If my letter made sense, which of course it did, what difference does my relationship to my wife make?

The Day used to be a good paper, but it is rapidly becoming Fox on the Thames.

Trump aides: Don’t worry, he’s lying

I’m not alone in pointing out that we really have no idea what Trump would do if he were elected President. I don’t know if I’ve said it here, but I’ve often said to friends of mine that I could envision Trump, the day after his inauguration, telling the press: “You didn’t really believe all that stuff I said, did you? I just said that to get elected.”

Well, it looks like his people have jumped the gun:

Trump’s newly hired senior aide, Paul Manafort, made the case to Republican National Committee members that Trump has two personalities: one in private and one onstage.

“When he’s out on the stage, when he’s talking about the kinds of things he’s talking about on the stump, he’s projecting an image that’s for that purpose,” Manafort said in a private briefing.

“You’ll start to see more depth of the person, the real person. You’ll see a real different way,” he said.

The Associated Press obtained a recording of the closed-door exchange.

via Associated Press via Daily Kos

You see, the message has been focus grouped, and he’s giving the Fox propaganda saturated people what they want. When the time comes, he’ll do an about face. It is sort of rare to see such a bald faced admission that a candidate is essentially lying his way into office. I mean, all Republicans do it, but most don’t admit it.

Now, if it came out that Hillary’s people were telling anyone this sort of thing, the press would go into a full throated outcry. But coming from Trump, they’ll welcome it, because it will enable them to continue to push the meme that the state of our politics is the joint responsibility of both parties, their being no qualitative difference between the two. Trump was making it hard for them to do that, to the point where they were having to come up with ways to make Cruz look like a moderate. Now that they know that Trump is lying his way into office, (which the rest of us already knew), they can take comfort in their tired bromides.

This will have no effect on Trump’s supporters of course. They purport to be tired of being played, as they have been over and over, but they’re true believers and, to amend the Who’s song a bit, “will be fooled again”. Sadly, we on the blue side are not immune from that disease. Witness the large number of Hillary supporters who just need to believe that she’ll be anything but a Wall Street shill once she gets into office.

Stopped clocks, etc.

It’s not often that I find myself in even partial agreement with Republicans from Texas, but I have only a few minor quibbles about this:

A handful of Texas Republican district or county conventions in March passed resolutions calling for a vote on secession, paving the way for a potentially awkward debate at the state GOP conference in May. 

A Nederland-based pro-independence activist group, the Texas Nationalist Movement, said at least 22 of the hundreds of conventions passed secession items. Texas GOP chairman Tom Mechler said he “would be very surprised” if that many had indeed passed the conventions.

via The Houston Chronicle

If they had done this 20 years ago, we wouldn’t have had to endure George W. Bush or the Iraq War, and we would not now be faced with the possibility of a Ted Cruz presidency. Only Texas could give us the worst president in history and then follow up by putting up someone even worse.

Long time readers (if there are any) know that I have advocated secession of the sane states myself. But if these Texas folks get their way, we accomplish the same result without having to lift a finger. Imagine a country unburdened by the idiocy of Texas. The great thing about this sort of secession is that it leaves us with possession of the U.S. Treasury and things like the Social Security Trust fund.

But, as I said, I have some minor quibbles. First, some provision has to be made for the people of color of that benighted land, as well as the persecuted minority of rational white people. There’s better than even odds that Texas would bring back slavery once it’s gone its separate way. Also, we don’t want them leaving alone. They have to take the rest of the old Confederacy with them, or they can’t go. We might consider letting Florida stay, given the number of snowbirds living there, but they would have to promise to be good, and they could start out by chaining Rick Scott to a pillar next to the ocean and let him drown in the rising sea.

This leads me to a related observation. Yesterday Ted Cruz got his ass whipped in New York, which was not surprising since he accused Trump of having “New York values”, which we are to understand are very very wicked values, which, presumably, he is accusing other New Yorkers of sharing. Isn’t it odd that politicians from the dark backwaters of our nation feel privileged to insult us here in the North, where we are expected to take no offense, while any negative comment about the brain dead denizens of the old Confederacy provokes outrage from the Southern yahoos? Personally, I think that Trump does not share the values of the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers, who by and large reject the politics of racism that he has borrowed from our Southern neighbors. If anything, Trump has simply shown the Southerners how to do it right. Sure, New Yorkers are reprehensible in some respects, but you really can’t blame them for being Yankee fans. That aside, they’re alright, and certainly far preferable to Texans.

John Kasich is not a moderate 

I’m a deeply disappointed guy. Today, the New London Day endorsed John Kasich for the Connecticut Republican primary, as I expected it would. I’m not disappointed by that, it was inevitable. What I am disappointed by is the Day’s failure to apply the term “moderate” to Kasich. When I saw they’d endorsed him, I figured I could write something fairly clever about the plasticity of the English language, using the ever shifting meaning of moderate as a point of departure. But the Day failed me. Rather than call him a moderate, they settled for implying that he was one, by engaging in cherry picking and historical revisionism, actions that have become the media norm when writing or talking about Kasich. You see, it is impossible for them to shed their religious faith that the Republican Party must contain some reasonable people, and if that means redefining the term “reasonable” then— well, we’re all reasonable people here, aren’t we, and allowances must be made. So the Day preferred to whitewash Kasich’s record, carefully avoiding the extreme right wing positions he has taken. I won’t go into great detail. All you need do is Google (or, as I do, “Duck-Duck-Go”) “John Kasich is not a moderate” and get all the details you like. The first hits on Duck-Duck-Go were here and here, and they pretty much cover the field. Anti-woman, anti-poor, anti-public education, anti-worker, anti-environment, anti-gay, pro guns, and pro discrimination disguised as religious freedom. What more could a right winger want?

If you put a gun to my head and made me choose among the three remaining Republican contestants, I’m not sure I’d pick Kasich, though it’s the conventional wisdom that he’s the more “moderate” of the three. Kasich has a track record. We know for certain that if he were elected, he would be the extreme right winger that he has been in Ohio. We can suspect, with reason, that on the national stage he would be even more extreme, since Ohio is not Mississippi, and there are forces which keep him from being too extreme. The only reason to prefer Kasich is that he couches his positions in language designed to appeal to people who are desperately seeking Republican “moderates”. That doesn’t make him one. Such people are on the road to extinction, even in their native habitat here in New England.