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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What Kavanaugh is accused of is not adolescent drunken high jinks

Some defenders of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the US Supreme Court have responded to the allegations that have been leveled against him by arguing, like senator Orrin Hatch does, that this was youthful behavior and that what matters is what kind of person he is now,. But it is important to realize that what is alleged is not drunken high jinks, some casual groping done at a party. What happened was attempted rape that involved isolating, overpowering, and silencing the victim. When Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge are said to have done is take a 15-year old girl Christine Blasey Ford to a closed room and then try to rip off her clothes in order to rape her. It was only her taking a brief opportunity of confusion to lock herself in a bathroom that prevented the rape from taking place. Kavanaugh was 17 years old at the time and in the US many 17-year olds are tried as adults if the crime is serious enough, though whether that is a good thing is a debate for another place and time.
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Expect the Trump mob to descend on Kavanaugh accuser

Older people may remember how Anita Hill was vilified and her name dragged through the mud when she came forward with allegations of odious behavior by then US Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. He was finally confirmed after he cowed craven Democrats, including then judiciary chair Joe Biden, by alleging racism when it was nothing of the sort. And that was before the days of the internet. Now new allegations have emerged about even worse behavior, this time an attempted rape of a 15-year old, by current nominee Brett Kavanaugh. (The full interview can be read here but may have a paywall restriction.)
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Indian Supreme Court decriminalizes gay sex

This going to be a very busy day for me and there are plenty of things I want to write about later, such as the fallout and backlash to the New York Times op-ed about the palace coup against Donald Trump in the White House and the hearings on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. But I want to first flag a really important news item and that is that the Supreme Court of India has, in a unanimous ruling, decriminalized homosexual acts, thus nullifying anti-gay laws that were in section 377 of the penal code, a relic from the days of British colonialism.
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