“I’m the president of the United States. You think I’ve gotta go borrow somebody’s computer?”
Columbus, Ohio (CNN) – In their bruising fight over collective-bargaining rights with Ohio’s governor, police and firefighter unions have put their battle cry on a bumper sticker, “Help the Middle Class, Ticket Kasich.”
The one-liner is a reference to a 3-year-old routine traffic stop that Gov. John Kasich would rather forget.
Globe and Mail
Bonds Trial Update: Things get personal
Yesterday was oversharing time at the Barry Bonds trial with the witness who, if Greg Anderson had testified, may never have been called: Bonds' ex-girlfriend Kimberly Bell. She testified that Bonds admitted to steroid use prior to his grand jury …
Home run king to spend Opening Day in court
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Written by Filip Stojanovski
Bojana Jankovska blogs [MKD] on how she deals with the economic crisis at a personal level: make a deal with family members to use electrical appliances during “cheaper” hours of the day, possibly cancel central heating, locate the cheapest neighborhood store for regular grocery shopping, and lock your credit card in a drawer. Influenced by the Croatian self-help book, “Financial Rebirth,” [CRO] she considers canceling the credit card, so she would “no longer pay interest on things she can comfortably live without.”
Work with me on this one as we wend our way down a road of legal hair splitting and semantic daring do. The case is FCC v. AT&T decided by the U. S. Supreme Court, 8-0. As Solicitor General, Elena Kagan’s office represented the FCC as the case was coming up, and she did not participate in the decision. Chief Justice Roberts wrote the opinion.
Here’s the backdrop. The FCC’s investigative bureau conducted an investigation into overcharging by AT&T in the FCC administered Education-Rate program that was created to provide enhanced access for schools and libraries to advanced telecommunications services. That investigation was resolved by a consent decree. Following the consent decree, a trade group comprised of AT&T competitors filed a Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] request for records from the investigation. AT&T objected based on an FOIA exception related to matters of “personal privacy” which it contended should apply to corporations.
Before charging forward, understand a few things. First, this is a case in which the Supreme Court is interpreting the meaning of a federal statute, the FOIA. It is not a constitutional case. Second, the U. S. Code, in its definitions section, specifically includes corporations in its definition of the word “Person(s)”. Third, in prior decisions the Court has recognized that corporations are subject to “personal jurisdiction” and enjoy “personal privileges.”
Fasten your seatbelt, here we go. The FOIA exemption is 5 U. S. C. §552(b)(7)(C). It exempts disclosure of law enforcement records which “could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” The Supreme Court held that, even though corporations are legally “persons”, personal privacy applies only to individual human beings and not to artificial persons.
For those interested in etymology, semantics or who simply have a morbid fascination with the way lawyers can manipulate words to fashion a result, the reasoning of the Court is an interesting read. For starters, the Court nearly acknowledges, but ultimately does not fully admit, that the word personal derives from the word person. Chief Justice Roberts observes, “Adjectives typically reflect the meaning of corresponding nouns, but not always.” He notes some exceptions where adjectives do not correspond to the base noun, and uses examples like “corn” and “corny”. He then attempts, largely unsuccessfully, to explain how the adjective “personal” does not relate to the corresponding noun “person.”
For this exercise, the Chief Justice relies on the fact that the word “personal” is not included in the definitions section of federal statute [though the word “person” is]. From there he contends that the ordinary meaning of the phrase personal privacy should apply, rather than a meaning related to the legal definition of person. AT&T had argued that “personal privacy” meant the privacy of a person, and, since the statute included corporations within the meaning of “person(s)”, the personal privacy exemption applied to corporations by legal definition, if not ordinary definition.
The Court, after divorcing the adjective “personal” from its precedent noun “person”, goes on to rummage through Webster’s Dictionary, a 1974 Attorney General’s opinion and other sources to conclude that both the word “personal” and the phrase “personal privacy” apply only to individual human beings.
The sad part is that none of semantic gamesmanship was necessary. The decision is correct within the simple context of the FOIA itself. Subsection (4) provides corporate exemptions. All the Court really had to do was say that, within the context of the statute, corporate exemptions were distinguished from individual exemptions. They ultimately get around to doing that in Part III of the decision. But, the semantic hair splitting that precedes Part III does make the case more entertaining.
So, does this have any impact on other corporate rights cases like Citizens United? Don’t get your hopes up. The answer is no. This case turns on the interpretation of one federal statute and does not impact previously recognized corporate rights that are constitutionally based.
Like many Republican governors, Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) has released a budget that lays off thousands of state workers and slashes education and Medicaid funding, but still cuts Florida’s already low corporate income tax rate by two and a half percentage points. During an interview with CNBC’s Larry Kudlow last night (which didn’t air, but was posted online), Scott defended his budgeting moves, saying that his cut in the corporate income tax — and his desire to eventually phase that tax out entirely — is part of promoting “fair taxes” in the Sunshine state:
We want to make this the place where people say ‘look, its got a fair government, we have fair taxes.’ We don’t have an income tax, I’m getting rid of the business tax…We’re going to reduce it by two and a half percent this year, down to three percent, and then phase it out over the next few years.
Placing the burden of deficit reduction onto public workers and those who depend on public services, while simultaneously doling out new corporate tax cuts, certainly isn’t fair. But it’s even less fair considering that Florida has one of the nation’s most regressive tax systems, with no personal income tax and a high reliance on sales taxes.
Florida’s poorest 20 percent of residents currently pay 13.5 percent of their income in taxes, while the richest one percent of Floridians pay just 2.6 percent. In fact, Washington is the only state in the nation where a poor family can expect to pay higher taxes than in Florida, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. “The bottom line is that many so-called ‘low-tax’ states are high-tax states for the poor, and most of them do not offer a good deal to middle-income families either. Only the wealthy in such states pay relatively little,” ITEP wrote.
Adding insult to injury, Scott wants to lower a corporate tax that is already riddled with giveaways and loopholes. The Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy has found that “exemptions from the corporate income tax cost more than $ 1 billion annually, and the state loses several hundred million dollars each year because of ‘tax avoidance behavior’ by companies.” Instead of addressing these problems — or introducing some progressivity into his state’s personal tax code — Scott is proposing a new tax cut for corporations that his state can ill-afford.
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The Supreme Court addressed the scope of insider trading liability for those who tip inside information and those who trade on such tips in a 1983 decision called SEC v. Dirks. The court explained that:
We were explicit in [the earlier Chiarella case] in saying that there can be no duty to disclose where the person who has traded on inside information “was not [the corporation’s] agent, . . . was not a fiduciary, [or] was not a person in whom the sellers [of the securities] had placed their trust and confidence.” Not to require such a fiduciary relationship, we recognized, would “[depart] radically from the established doctrine that duty arises from a specific relationship between two parties” and would amount to “recognizing a general duty between all participants in market transactions to forgo actions based on material, nonpublic information.”
This formulation posed problems for tipping cases, because the tippee typically is not an agent or fiduciary of the issuer. To deal with that problem, the court held that a tippee’s liability is derivative of that of the tipper, “arising from [the tippee’s] role as a participant after the fact in the insider’s breach of a fiduciary duty.” A tippee therefore can be held liable only when the tipper breached a fiduciary duty by disclosing information to the tippee, and the tippee knows or has reason to know of the breach of duty.
The mere fact that an insider tips nonpublic information is not enough under Dirks. What Dirks proscribes is not merely a breach of confidentiality by the insider, but rather the breach of a fiduciary duty of loyalty to refrain from profiting on information entrusted to the tipper. Looking at objective criteria, courts must determine whether the insider-tipper personally benefited, directly or indirectly, from his disclosure. Secrist tipped off Dirks in order to bring Equity Funding’s misconduct to light, not for any personal gain. Absent the requisite personal benefit, liability could not be imposed.
In Dirks, the Supreme Court identified several situations in which the requisite personal benefit could be found. The most obvious is the quid pro quo setting, in which the tipper gets some form of pecuniary gain. Nonpecuniary gain can also qualify, however. Suppose a corporate CEO discloses information to a wealthy investor not for any legitimate corporate purpose, but solely to enhance his own reputation. Dirks would find a personal benefit on those facts. Finally, Dirks indicated that liability could be imposed where the tip is a gift. A gift satisfies the breach element because it is analogous to the situation in which the tipper trades on the basis of the information and then gives the tippee the profits.
The subtext of several insider trading cases over the years has been whether sex between tipper and tippee constitutes the requisite personal benefit. (I here manfully resist the temptation to refer to “friends with benefits”)
As Bruce Carton observes, the issue has once again reared its prurient head in the Galleon insider trading case:
So what is the over/under on the number of people Danielle Chiesi will ultimately be alleged to have become “intimate” with in order to gain information for insider trading? We are already up to two and we’re still on the first witness in the Rajaratnam trial. I’m conservatively setting the over/under at three.
As I wrote back in 2009 (“‘Sexuality’ and Insider Trading“) as the Galleon news began to break, Chiesi-”a blond, blue-eyed former teenage beauty queen”-is said to have used her sexuality to build sources at male-dominated tech companies. She reportedly
wore short skirts, low-cut tops and outfits such as a “tight red suit with red fishnet stockings” as part of her effort to develop her network, Bloomberg says. According to the article, one of Chiesi’s go-to “ploys” was to go barhopping with a group, and then peel a potential source off to talk to on the dance floor.
I noted at the time that this appeared to be the first time that “sexuality” had surfaced as a factor in the usually dry world of insider trading cases (with the exception of some “untrustworthy mistress” cases).
Actually, the SEC has pretty consistently taken the position that a tiper who gets sexual benefits from the tippee has gotten the requisite personal benefits to satisfy the Dirks test: See, e.g., SEC v. Thayer, [1983-1984 Transfer Binder] Fed. Sec. Litig. Rep. (CCH) ¶ 99,718 (S.D.N.Y. Jan 5, 1984) (complaint coyly alleged “personal private relationship” to show tipper benefitted from trades by his mistress/tippee); SEC Litig. Rel., Court Enters Final Judgment Against James J. McDermott And Kathryn B. Gannon (Jun. 7, 2005) (coyly noting that McDermott and porn star Gannon “were involved in a relationship” when the tips took place).
Typically these days on Capitol Hill, senators set broad parameters on big bills like the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and it’s up to the staff (who are sometimes true policy experts, but other times fairly novice 20-somethings) to fill in the details.
But that hasn’t been the case so far this year in the Senate. The “Big Four” lawmakers in the Senate overseeing reauthorization in that chamber have been meeting twice a week, for a couple of hours at a time, to have real, substantive discussions about reauthorization.
As a reminder, the “Big Four” are: Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, the top Republican, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., himself a former Secretary of Education under President George H.W. Bush, and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.
For those outside the Beltway, this may sound like the way things should always get done, but in Congress, it isn’t. It’s unusual for members to be this personally engaged in legislation.
There are plenty of political hurdles to ESEA reauthorization and it’s still unclear if lawmakers will be able to finish a bill by the Obama administration’s preferred timetable. But the bipartisan meetings are a sign that these four lawmakers are truly personally committed to ESEA.
As we’ve been documenting, several conservative governors have proposed placing the brunt of deficit reduction onto the backs of their state’s public employees, students, and middle-class taxpayers, while simultaneously trying to enact corporate tax cuts and giveaways. Govs. Rick Scott (R-FL), Tom Corbett (R-PA), and Jan Brewer (R-AZ) have all gone down this road.
Following suit, Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI) has proposed ending his state’s Earned Income Tax Credit, cutting a $ 600 per child tax credit, and reducing credits for seniors, while also cutting funding for school districts by eight to ten percent. At the same time, as the Michigan League for Human Services found, the state’s business taxes would be reduced by nearly $ 2 billion, or 86 percent, under Snyder’s plan:
Business taxes would be cut by 86 percent from an estimated $ 2.1 billion in FY 2011 to $ 292.7 million in FY 2013, the first full year of the proposed tax changes…Taxes on individuals from the state income tax would rise by $ 1.7 billion or nearly 31 percent, from an estimated $ 5.75 billion in FY 2011 to $ 7.5 billion in FY 2013, the first full year of the tax changes.
As the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found, the practical upshot of Snyder’s tax increases is to place even more of a burden on Michigan’s poorest residents, who will see a bigger hike than those at the upper end of the income scale:
Michigan already has a regressive tax system, which Snyder’s proposal will only make worse. Currently, someone in the poorest 20 percent of Michigan taxpayers pays a tax rate of 8.9 percent, while someone in the richest one percent pays 5.3 percent.
In addition to trying to make an unfair tax system even more problematic for Michigan’s low-income residents, Snyder has also asked that the state be given the power to dismiss local government and appoint emergency “town managers” who could break contracts and “strip powers from elected officials.”
“[P]artially driven by how passionately I felt about this country…”
It ain’t just liberals and big media that are groaning at this explanation. Among conservative outlets/pundits that are rolling their eyes: The Daily Caller, Jim Geraghty of NRO, Philip Klein of AmSpec (who snarks, “Wilt Chamberlain must have really loved his country”), and John Podhoretz of Commentary, who advises Newt not to bother running after […]
Given the enormous problems besetting the U.S. these days and the need for Congress to address them, the hearings being convened by Representative Peter King tomorrow into the perceived threat of homegrown Muslim radicalism would seem to be an unwelcome distraction.
Or are they? Becoming curious about what might lay behind the right-wing New York Republican’s insistence that there is a large and growing threat, I burned a few hours searching and cross-checking databases to see how many terror incidents in the U.S. since September 11, 2001 can be attributed to homegrown Muslims.
What I found was this:
Of 62 incidents considered to be acts of terrorism carried out or attempted on U.S. soil since that dark day, some 28 involved Muslims or Muslim sympathizers, or 45 percent of the total, while 16 of the 28 incidents involved homegrown Muslims, or 25 percent of the total. (Click here for a list of the incidents.)
Sixteen incidents still might be considered a worrisome number even allowing that some of the plots, most infamously that hatched by seven clueless Miami men who didn’t even have bus fare to get to Chicago to blow up the Sears Tower, were amateurish in the extreme and some were the result of FBI entrapment; in fact, in one case federal agents put together a terror plot from scratch and delivered it to naive jihadist wannabes.
No matter the number of incidents, what may lurk behind them is not King’s motivation for calling the hearings. After all, 25 of the 62 incidents, or 40 percent, involved political, religious and social extremists of the Caucasian persuasion, and he has no interest in them.
Plain and simple, by equating Islam in general with radicals in particular, as he and his ilk have down with sickening frequency since 9/11, make the hearings a witch hunt in the finest tradition of notorious Red-hunting Senator Joe McCarthy in the early 1950s.
And while some of his Republican colleagues have urged him privately to back off, as well as public admonishments from a wide range of religious leaders, King will not allow his personal jihad to be derailed.
will be closed if commenters are unable to stick to these parameters.)
Photograph by Manuel Balce Ceneta/The Associated Press
A former staffer for a bipartisan commission once chaired by Rep. Alcee Hastings has filed a federal lawsuit which accuses the Florida Democrat of harassing her with “unwelcome sexual advances, crude sexual comments, and unwelcome touching.”
Winsome Packer, in a suit filed by the conservative group Judicial Watch, accuses Hastings of harassing her when he was her boss at the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Packer and Hastings knew one another through a mutual friend when they ran into each other on C Street in D.C. in March 2007, according to the lawsuit. When Hastings heard Packer, a Republican staffer on the Committee on Homeland Security until December 2006, was unemployed, he invited her to come interview for a position. After they met the next month, Hastings offered her a position and she started her job as a policy advisor on May 7, 2007.
Fred Turner, the staff director for Hastings, told Packer in December 2007 that Hastings wanted her to take one of the most prestigious positions on the committee as a representative to the U.S. Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a position based in Austria, Packer alleges.
Hastings invited himself to visit her at her apartment in Vienna for a week once she was settled, according to the lawsuit. Packer says she later complained about Hastings’ actions to Turner, who said he would speak to the Congressman about the issue.
But when he returned to Vienna in May 2008, Packer says Hastings “hugged her with both arms, pressed his body against her body and pressed his face against her face. Prior to that instant, Mr. Hastings had never hugged her in such a manner,” the lawsuit alleges.
According to the lawsuit, Hastings told Packer that the only reason he was dating his deputy district director was because she had been his counsel in his bribery and impeachment trials that resulted in his removal from the federal bench and even told Packer he was dating another staff member.
Packer said she suffered health problems because of the stress caused by the situation. She filed a complaint in August with the congressional Office of Compliance asserting sexual harassment and retaliation, but the counseling period ended in September and mediation ended in December (the outcome was unclear in the lawsuit).
Hastings issued a statement responding to the allegations but said his “comments will be limited since I have not seen the complaint filed in U.S. District Court by Judicial Watch.”
“I have seen a draft complaint prepared by my accuser that contains numerous inaccuracies and untruths,” said Hastings. “I have never sexually harassed anyone. In fact, I am insulted that these ludicrous allegations are being made against me. When all the facts are known in this case, the prevailing sentiment will be, ‘How bizarre!’
“I will win this lawsuit. That is a certainty. In a race with a lie, the truth always wins. And when the truth comes to light and the personal agendas of my accusers are exposed, I will be vindicated.”
Significant News Stories You May Have Missed (With Some Personal Commentary)
While the world has been focused on the start of yet another U.S.military adventure, this one in Libya (so many tyrants, so few missile firing submarines), and on an earthquake that moved Japan’s largest island 17 feet, a lot of other news was being reported that didn’t get the attention it deserved. Here’s a quick catch up in case the following headlines passed under your radar — along with some of my own personal observations.
“Squirrel attacking residents of Vt. neighborhood.” A lot of people like squirrels. Think they’re cute. Me, I think they’re just rodents with bushy tails The fact that one of them is especially nasty (not rabid, by the way, squirrels don’t transmit the disease) surprises me not at all. In fact, while traveling cross-country a few years back I had a confrontation in Montana with a chipmunk apparently angry because I was using its picnic table. The beast drove me and my companion off. Thankfully, we made it back to our car unhurt, but the incident instilled in me a fear of small wild creatures generally — though you’d think they’d be nicer in Vermont.
“How the penis lost its spikes.” This headline is not a tawdry attempt at low humor but actually appeared in a nature magazine and therefore is of scientific interest. Which of course is what attracted me to it. Here’s the story in brief. A few hundred thousand years ago humans branched off from other ape-like creatures. Many of the others developed bumps (not spikes) on their males’ penises, which for reasons only Charles Darwin could explain, are now linked to areas in the same part of the brain where humans developed greater intelligence instead. I know. This sounds like an episode of “Seinfeld.” But you can check the story out on the Internet. And while doing so, you might mull over the question of which species ended up with the better deal.
“‘Zombie’ ants fall victim to mind-control fungus.” I won’t even attempt to describe what this story is about. It’s another one of those nature things. Let me simply refer you to certain outcomes of the mid-term election in this country instead, with the observation that a great many people who actually showed up to make their voices heard should have been sprayed with fungicide before being let into the voting booth.
“Lost city of Atlantis, swamped by tsunami, may be found.” No. Not the recent Japanese tsunami. One that supposedly took place thousands of years ago somewhere off the coast of Europe. While married to an astrologer many moons ago I heard a lot about Atlantis, which members of her circle believed was a continent, by the way, not a city. These folks leaned toward the notion that survivors of the drowned Atlantis escaped and established the civilizations of Europe. I thought it more likely they morphed in porpoises. Those wishing to pursue the Atlantis matter further are advised to drop out and tune into Donavan’s song of the same name.
“Vegan diet for dogs: A question of thriving vs. surviving.” Forget the actual story that went with this headline. What really got to me was the notion of imposing a human theory of eating on a pooch. My first thought here was to wonder if maybe Fido should only eat kosher. My mind then jumped to one of my all-time favorite TV commercials, which opened with the question: “Is your dog eating enough cheese?” That one made me think, I could tell you. I have a new favorite TV commercial these days, however. I saw if on one of those late night channels where burial insurance policies for people ” between 0 and 85″ are peddled. My current favorite commercial on this channel involves a beautifully colored $ 2 bill, real legal tender, being sold for $ 10 (plus postage and handling”. “But wait,” the announcer intones. “For a limited time only we’ll send you a second $ 2 bill free!” Only in America.
More from this writer at http://blog.wallstreetpoet.com/
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