Friday, November 13, 2015

Brian Kilmeade: Call Me Stupid All Day Long, But FAT Is Fightin' Words!

 Brian Kilmeade / Charlie Cowins, CC BY 2.0

This morning toward the end of Kilmeade and FriendsBrian Kilmeade said something striking.

The show was being hosted by former Senator Scott Brown, apparently because  Kilmeade is busy pontificating about the Million Student March on various other outlets.  Brown was interviewing Kilmeade over the phone (yes, on Kilmeade's own radio show), and asked Kilmeade how he felt about the way he's portrayed on Saturday Night Live.  

Brown first played an audio clip of a NSFW SNL skit about himself, where Speaker Pelosi fantasizes about the former Cosmopolitan centerfold (played by Jon Hamm) when he arrives as a newly elected Senator.
Brown then played an audio clip of one of the numerous skits about Fox and Friends (around 0:18 to 0:32 here.)

Portland Conservative Talk Radio Site Hacked?

While looking up the lineup for Portland, Oregon conservative talk radio station "Freedom 970" moments ago, Google gave me the following:

So has KUFO AM 970's website been hacked?  If so, by whom and why?  Or was this just an error on Google's part?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Did the GOP Steal Kentucky Guv's Race? [Spoiler: Not Likely]

The Tea Party GOP Bevin-Hampton ticket won handily in an election with just 30% voter turnout / Photo: Facebook

An article from Alternet is making the rounds in online progressive and Democratic circles today, asking a provocative question:

Did GOP Insiders Steal the Kentucky Governor's Race for Tea Partier Matt Bevin?  

However, once you look at the Kentucky election results and dig a bit more into the dynamics of the race, it seems to be much ado about nothing.  And the bigger story here is that Kentucky's elected state executive offices just flipped party control from 6 Democrats and 1 Republican to 5 Republicans and 2 Democrats.

Some takes on the Alternet piece make it sound like more people voted on down-ballot races than on the Governor's race.  If true, that would be shocking - but it's not true.  Almost 10,000 more folks voted on Governor than Secretary of State, and races further down have, predictably, fewer votes cast. 

Let's look at the actual data:

Donald Trump Shakes His Groove Thing on SNL

In case you missed (or forgot) it, take a moment to enjoy Donald Trump getting jiggy with it on Saturday Night Live about a decade ago.

The Trump House of Wings "ad" features Trump dancing in that middle-aged guy, biting his lower-lip and wiggling his hips kinda way.  Best comparison: Michael Douglas in that club scene in Basic Instinct.

Just picture these moves at a State Dinner ... =/

Monday, November 2, 2015

Arbitration Clauses Everywhere - Where Are Better Options For Consumer Justice?

 Lady Justice at Alexandria, VA Federal Courthouse / Dan4th Nicholas, CC BY 2.0

The New York Times had an excellent piece yesterday about some of the problems with mandatory arbitration clauses.  For example, the agreement for your credit card probably requires you to take any dispute you have about the credit card company's actions to a "neutral" arbitrator and forecloses you from going to court.  So even if the credit card company illegally loads a bunch of fees onto your bill, you can't take them to court.

Three thoughts inspired by the piece:

1. Consumer contracts and corporate employment contracts have grown increasingly chock full of mandatory arbitration clauses for more than 10 years.  This isn't a new phenomenon, but it's still deserving of coverage.

2. The following is largely speculation based on my own experience representing consumers [and tenants] in court.  I'm not sure whether there have been any studies of actual court data to examine these questions.

Even in cases not barred by arbitration clauses, lower-level county courts (where consumer defense cases are usually tried) also tend to have pro-business bias.

This occurs in part because:

a) The laws they're applying tend to have a pro-business bias - even in "liberal meccas" like Washington state.

b) More lower court judges than not seem to assume that large corporations (including credit card companies) have fleets of high-priced (and thus super-genius) attorneys who help them make sure everything they do is at least *barely* legal.  They don't - more than a few of them engaged in pretty egregious limit-lowering and fee-loading behavior when the economy tanked, in some cases resulting in effective interest rates (APRs) in excess of 100%.  This was clearly in violation of federal law.  But because regulations implementing those statutes didn't specifically prohibit the behavior at the time, banks pushed the envelope to maximize their profit during a massive recession.

c) I suspect some of it also comes from class bias, as well.  A lot of Americans - especially in the professional class, which judges certainly are - have a tendency to assume that in any face-off, the person of higher socio-economic status is necessarily more trust-worthy than the other side.  Most folks probably don't think about it concretely, in those specific terms.  It's more of a subconscious response.

3. From an economic standpoint, class action suits seem an incredibly inefficient way to police bad corporate behavior. Bringing and maintaining such a suit is an extraordinarily expensive and labor-intensive proposition.  The result - the vast majority of the penalty extracted from the corporate offender (I say extracted because it seems most cases with a scintilla of merit settle) ends up going to attorneys' fees and other litigation costs, not to the consumers who were injured by the misdeeds.

And on the other hand, we do see a fair number of class actions against pharmaceutical and medical device companies that seem to be based on unrealistic expectations of perfect, fail-safe treatment for serious medical conditions, often premised on the notion that although a given risk was disclosed in the producer's literature, it wasn't made obvious enough.  At least, that's the impression I get from the numerous ads on TV urging people to call law firm X if they ever used medication Y or device Z.

If the point of our legal system is to make injured people whole again, class actions generally do a poor job of it.

But much the same can be said of DOJ and State AG cases - those government agencies also have to be reimbursed for costs and labor expended prosecuting violations of consumer law.  Does a $300 settlement share check repair the harm to a consumer's credit (and life) that occurred when Bank of America illegally foreclosed on their home?  NO, it doesn't.  But that's what folks are getting.

I don't have a better answer than those options, though.  If anyone has ideas, please share them below in the Comments section.

Sen. John Cornyn's A Lot of Things, But KKK Member Ain't One of 'Em

Senator John Cornyn / Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0

Today in don't believe everything you read on the Internet: anonymously-made allegations that a variety of politicians are members of the KKK.

The list of politicians allegedly involved with the KKK that was released today looks very, very dubious.  It was released by someone calling themselves @sgtbilko420.  Their Twitter feed says they're not directly involved in Anonymous, but they're sympathetic.

But their identity is anonymous - so how accountable are they, really?  I take a "trust, but verify" approach with most people who've actually earned my trust.  Those who haven't - especially anonymous folks on the Interwebs - get a "be skeptical, and investigate" response, instead.

Knoxville, Tennessee Mayor Madeline Rogero seems on the level to me (see her Facebook refutation.)  She started her career working with the United Farmworkers - an unlikely start for a seething white supremacist.  She participated in a December Black Lives Matter rally.  And here’s a picture of Rogero's multi-racial family.  Not a likely candidate for the KKK.

Also listed - the Mayor of Lexington, KYWho's openly gay.  And has been an openly gay politician since 2005.  In Kentucky.  Not seeing him as a KKK member.

Also listed - U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX).  Who's been derided as a RINO by right-wingers for years for offenses such as: saying compassionate things about undocumented kids last year, supporting immigration reform, voting to allow a vote on Loretta Lynch’s nomination to the post of Attorney General, supporting President Obama on the need to act in Syria two years ago, and co-sponsoring the Sentencing Reform Act with Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ) and others.  I don't know John Cornyn's heart when it comes to race, but a KKK leadership role seems very, very unlikely. 

Here's a report showing the refutations of a number of those listed on the so-called "KKK list."

Additional debunking will be posted as found.

UPDATE at 4:26 PM PST: