Tennessee – a state where hopeless causes never die

You would think that following the US Supreme Court decision in 2015 outlawing bans on same-sex marriage, opponents would admit defeat and wait for their god to deliver the retribution to these sinners that these religious zealots long for. Not the Tennessee legislature. They are considering a law that would ban such marriages in their state.
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The problem of mandatory sentencing laws

Here is the part of an 4-1 majority opinion by a New York State appellate court that describes the offense committed in the case that was brought before them.

Defendant, a homeless 53 year-old, entered a pharmacy and attempted to pay for a tube of toothpaste using a counterfeit $20 bill. The bill was rejected by the cashier, and defendant left the store without completing the transaction. Shortly thereafter, defendant was observed by the police, where he was attempting to purchase food with a counterfeit $20 bill. The restaurant cashier refused to accept the bill. Defendant was stopped by the police in front of yet another fast-food restaurant. Five counterfeit $20 bills were recovered from him upon arrest.

So here’s a question. What would have been a reasonable punishment in this case?
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The danger posed by extreme minority rule

The November 2018 issue of Harper’s Magazine magazine has an article by Jonathan Taplin with the rather alarming title of REBIRTH OF A NATION: Can states’ rights save us from a second civil war? (possibly behind a paywall). The fundamental problem that he points out is that the US constitution has insufficient elasticity to accommodate the changes that have taken place since it was first written. Many of its features were included as part of compromises to gain acceptance from each of the 13 original states and one that he points out is the provision that gives each state two senators irrespective of its size. As a result, small states have disproportionately greater representation and power in the senate. Currently twenty-six states with 18 percent of the population elect a majority of the senate’s 100 seats, while nine states with an absolute majority of the population elect just eighteen senators.
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Challenge to ranked-choice voting in Maine thrown out

The only congressional races to use ranked choice voting are those in Maine and the first time it was used was in last month’s elections and it produced a result in the second Congressional district that illustrated how it works. When the first choice votes were counted, the Republican candidate Bruce Poliquin came in first and the Democrat Jared Golden came second but none of the four candidates got the required 50%+1 votes. So the second choices of those voted for the candidates who came in third and fourth were then tabulated and Golden emerged the winner.
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Jeffrey Epstein case takes a surprising turn

Today was the day when the civil trial brought by the lawyer of some of the accusers against sleazy convicted sex offender multi-millionaire Jeffrey Epstein was to go to trial. Last week, the Miami Herald released a bombshell investigation into the allegations and cover up of the abuse of young girls by Epstein who had plenty of friends in high places. But at the last minute a settlement was announced that included an apology by Epstein to Bradley Edwards, the lawyer who brought the case.
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The Jeffrey Epstein case is a perfect example of how plea deals favor the rich

I have written before about how plea bargains are used against poor people to get them, even if innocent of the crime were originally arrested for, to plead guilty to some other charge and accept a lower penalty, even if it includes jail time. Poor people do not have the resources to mount a vigorous defense and do not have access to the top prosecutors who make the decisions about who to prosecute and how vigorously. With rich people, it is the other way around, as I have described before with the way that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. treated leniently the wealthy and influential and well-connected and those who contributed to his campaigns (like Harvey Weinstein and members of the Trump family) but went after the poor and Chinese immigrants.
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Why Trump is going after the judiciary

Donald Trump’s attack on a federal judge who ruled against him as being an ‘Obama judge’ and thus acting in a biased way resulted in an unusual rebuke from US Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts who decried adding labels to federal judges once they are on the bench, declaring that they should be presumed to be above partisan interests. To no one’s surprise, Trump did not take Robert’s comments lying down and has issued a new series of tweets against the judiciary.
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Christine Blasey Ford senate hearings

I watched the hearings this morning. As the hearings began, Ford looked nervous, vulnerable, and scared and began speaking with a quavering voice. She got a little better with time but throughout she looked credible and, for want of a better word, natural. She was almost in tears when Blumenthal praised her courage in coming forward despite the trauma. I cringed to hear, when asked about what was her most indelible memory of the event, how Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge laughed during the assault, that they were having fun assaulting her. She said that she had met Kavanaugh many times before the assault so there was no question of her confusing him with someone else. Although I believed her even before the hearings, I can only say that she showed the entire nation what an honest person she is.
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In other Washington chaos news …

… the media were abuzz over the story that deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who overseas the Mueller investigation, had gone to the White House today to either offer his resignation or be fired in the wake of reports that he had doubted the president’s competence and even suggested that people wear a wire when talking to him, though that has been characterized as facetious. That report turns out to be premature and any decision has been postponed until at least Thursday. The whole non-event may have been orchestrated to create a distraction from the Kavanaugh debacle.

Marty Lederman, a professor of law at Georgetown University, lays out the complex series of succession options that would come into play if Rosenstein were be fired or resign because of the recusal of attorney general Jeff Sessions and other key players. It is a mess.

In this White House, the only thing that is straightforward is the transfer of money to the already wealthy from the rest of us.

More details emerge about Kavanaugh

The Republican strategy with the Brett Kavanuagh nomination is clear: Quickly have hearings that feature only Kavanuagh and his accuser Christine Blasey Ford, declare that it is a ‘he said, she said’ stalemate, decide that Kavanaugh’s denials are credible, and vote him in. But as a quintet of former prosecutors have pointed out, there are many ways to get further than just two conflicting testimonies, but this requires investigation by an independent party to ferret out corroborating or contradictory evidence, and having hearings without such preliminary work would result in just a charade.
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