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Friday, January 30, 2015

Fame And The Bad Element

Sometimes the best lawyers are the ones who understand human nature. This trait is very useful in representing high-profile clients in business or politics, or those who "have money," and even known figures in the entertainment industries.  It is useful, and those clients need that skill, because they are constantly being surrounded and besieged by users, hangers-on and parasites who will often enable bad habits, facilitate exploitation and eventually leave some very successful people very broke.

That is the skill which allows you to see things through the eyes of your adversary. That's true whether you're negotiating, or fighting out something (which is a tactic that is part of negotiating). It's why the legal process and especially litigation is described as adversarial. It also explains why mature lawyers must be able to assert themselves. Shrinking violets put their clients, and themselves, in harm's way, and there are many lawyers who simply are ill-suited to be advocates and representatives for anyone else.

If you are someone who is developing a profile, who is becoming "known," who is starting to have a problem walking in midtown Manhattan without being recognized and stopped, here are some of the things you need:

1.    Get independent advisers who answer only to you, not to your inner circle. The inner circle you think is protecting you might actually be the source of your problems.

2.    The confidential advice given to you by your advisers should always stay between you and your advisers. See point 1.

3.    Have an audit done. Never be afraid to check and test those around you. You might be afraid of what you'll discover, but if you're that afraid now, there is probably a reason. Trust your gut. 

4.    Never confuse employees with friends. There are plenty of people who will pretend, for months and for years, that they are your friends. Some may even keep up this ruse through the first few years of marriage. But the common denominator that almost never fails is the test of adversity. When the candy train stops, see how quickly these hangers-on bolt for the door. The true test of friendship is who sticks with you when you have nothing, or simply if you shut the spigot. Again, see point 1.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer, advisor and strategist who runs the website http://www.NYBusinessCounsel.com and can be reached at EDixon@NYBusinessCounsel.com.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Stranded By The Storm

As a blizzard descends upon much of the urban Northeast, many state and local governments and transportation agencies are shutting down roads and vital transportation crossings. For example, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is shutting down the PATH interstate train and all six bridges and tunnels between New York and New Jersey at 11 pm tonight. The scope of the shutdown will literally strand travellers, and it will strand workers.

The offered reason is that this is being done for the public good, for the protection of the public.

The real reason may be different. Call me a cynic, but there are few better ways for government leaders to assert their power than to shut down transportation systems. I mean, what did you think the Bridgegate scandal involving the use of Port Authority personnel to close entry lanes to the George Washington Bridge in September 2013 was all about?

But what about the effect on the public? Well, it seems pretty clear. The main effect is to essentially scare the dickens out of the public, to raise the specter of being stranded in order to deter anyone from travelling in the hours before the peak of the storm (when only a few inches had fallen).  

However, the consequential effects are predictable and they are severe. Businesses were forced to close early on Monday, not because of the weather per se but because their workforce was rightfully concerned that they would lose the ability to get home. 

Call me a cynic, but one wonders if this isn't just the government shifting the burden of inconvenience on the public, in order to make its "job" easier and avoid having its inefficiencies in snow removal and road maintenance exposed. 

And as the vast majority of those inconvenienced or disrupted by these government actions happen to be business owners who are the last ones out shutting their stores or offices, or honest employees, then all the better. You see, the storm is useful in deterring -- no, punishing -- people from working, all the better. Never let a crisis go to waste. 

Now it is without doubt that a blizzard is a serious weather event and those stranded outdoors can have their lives imperiled in a worst-case scenario. But these government exercises in authority have a real and subtle message: They remove your choice in the matter, and allow government to dictate your freedom of movement. 

The trend in recent years to have governments just "shut down" all manner of transportation arteries seems to be more about flexing muscles in the name of protecting the public, than in actually doing good. We'll bet that more people will be stranded by the feckless efforts of public servants trying to look like do-gooders, than by reckless individuals out for a joyride in the middle of a blizzard.

And again, let's point to the Bridgegate scandal still being investigated by various federal and state authorities. If Bridgegate was an abuse of power in September 2013 -- as it apparently was, with its criminality still in much dispute -- then how exactly is preventing people from getting home not an abuse?

Some will object to the cynicism, but if the government does not trust the general public to exercise minimal due care and common sense with its own safety, why exactly is the general public obligated to accept as an article of faith that the government is acting in the true public interest?



Thursday, January 22, 2015

Sheldon Silver's Warning To The Free Market?:

Behind the dismaying arrest of New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on a series of mail fraud, extortion "under color of official right" and honest services fraud criminal charges (here's the
federal indictment against Silver), there could be some subtle and worrisome themes best expressed in three questions:

First: Does the federal government have the right to approve business contracts? This leads to the question of whether the federal (or state) government be able to criminalize any contract of which it does not approve?

And second: Are prosecutors also regulators, that is, able to impose regulations outside the ambit of legislative authority (because prosecutors are part of the executive branch) through their creative use of criminal statutes?

And finally, third: Will business be subject to arbitrary, shifting and perhaps ill-informed standards of care, perhaps set and then measured for compliance by people not necessarily qualified to do either, and of which standards an alleged violation becomes a crime?

These concerns 

(Before I continue: This article explores some troubling nuances in the thought process behind the case, and in no respect is meant to excuse or defend any of the alleged conduct. I have no love lost for Mr. Silver, none at all, but nor do I bear him any animus. Full disclosure: I've beaten his political machine -- that's different from him and I impute nothing to him -- on some election law cases in the past, going up against someone from the big law firm Stroock, Stroock & Lavan. They even sought sanctions against me in a frivolous argument thankfully rejected out of hand.  But I am not sold on the big picture here, which carries the subtle message that the government will use its prosecutorial power to regulate economic activity and businesses with which it simply disapproves or dislikes of an activity, industry or a particular person. None of that should be meant as a defense of Mr. Silver, particularly in some of the other criminal charges that involve none of the issues I discuss below, and which charges are both much more formidable and bolstered apparently with cooperating witnesses.)

Somewhat buried in the Silver criminal complaint are nuggets that very much indicate (and United States Attorney Preet Bharara said as much in his press conference) that the Department of Justice was questioning what Silver did to earn his referral fees from two law firms.

Here's the problem. The evaluation of what he did, whether he was qualified, etc. is an inherently subjective-value driven evaluation.

Should the federal government be able to charge you with a crime because it claims -- for good cause, bad cause or no cause -- you are not qualified to handle certain work and therefore made money by splitting legal fees on work you were not qualified to do and thus were not entitled to receive?  And what standard of qualification is used? Even more importantly, who gets to exercise that standard, and what standards are going to be used to judge whether they are qualified?
We are moving in that direction. We are lurching dangerously in a direction where personal or political animus can be the unstated basis for the prosecution and financial, reputational and personal destruction of people who have merely had the misfortune to achieve, and then to draw the envy and thus the ire of those in power who are envious, ambitious or flatly malicious.
The factual foundation of one charge is a fee-sharing agreement among lawyers, that is, Silver and another law firm, regarding work that Silver is considered unsuited to have performed, and Silver's failure to disclose that source of income.  But lawyers are allowed to refer clients to others who may practice in different fields (or even the same field) and get referral fees.  New York's Disciplinary Rule 2-107(A) -- a rule which is not even a criminal statute -- provides that lawyers can split fees if "each lawyer assumes joint responsibility for the representation" and the client is informed in writing. That rule follows a nearly 50-year old New York appellate case that holds that
“It has long been understood that in disputes among attorneys over the enforcement of fee-sharing agreements the courts will not inquire into the precise worth of the services performed by the parties as long as each party actually contributed to the legal work and there is no claim that either ‘refused to contribute more substantially.’
Sterling v Miller, 2 A.D.2d 900, aff’d 3 N.Y.2d 778 [1956]). (Emphasis added.)
So do we have a criminal charge against Silver that is based, dangerously subjectively, on the premise that in a prosecutor's mind, Silver simply didn't do enough to deserve his fee? (There is an echo here of the federal prosecution of New Jersey State Senator Wayne Bryant for having a "low-show" and also low-paying part time job, by then U.S. Attorney Chris Christie.)
And regarding the alleged crimes comprising several counts, one needs to ask what is "legitimate outside income" for a lawyer? And does this type of case put any part-time legislator at risk of having his or her outside income considered "bogus"? What is the standard? Is it arbitrary?  
Is that really a federal crime -- a crime at all?
In other words, do we have real crimes, or just ambitious second-guessing and smug judgments against a public elected official whom, regardless of whether you like him or his policies, is allowed to have part-time outside income. (Or perhaps, just not too much income.) I wonder if what we have here is a subjective standard that puts certain professionals -- lawyers are a suspect class -- and particularly public officials and elected officials most especially at risk on account of their high profile and thus their ability to "make the career" or "make the name" of an ambitious government prosecutor.
Arguably, the appropriate sanction for such acts, particularly if they are intentional, is not prison. It is disqualification from holding public office and/or public employment. That would be a stiffer, more meaningful and, to be frank, more painful punishment that would also be more effective in achieving deterrence. The goal of deterrence is historically a key element of the Anglo-American tradition of criminal law. (Others include the need to protect the public, and yes, the goal of retribution.
But envy, jealousy and clearing the field to create openings for the ambitious are not proper motives for the criminal law.
And as for elected officials, perhaps they are irretrievably under suspicion, and it is very hard to prove one's innocence in a world of the subjective standard. A solution would seem to lie in the eradication of the part-time legislator, so as to protect elected officials from this subjective standard.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Tea Party Played For Third-Rate Fools Under Election Law

As I predicted six months ago in this article -- which was met with derision among most of the "tea party" movement -- the establishment insiders running the Republican Party in New York used a "Stop Common Core" ballot line as a ruse to create a new third party to attract and ultimately neuter independent, reform-oriented sentiment on various issues.

The new third party will be called the "Reform Party." As that report indicates, the party will expand its "issues" beyond purported opposition to the Common Core school curriculum which has become a hot button around the nation and also raised issues about federalism and states' rights. 

It should now be apparent that the ballot line's title was merely a ploy to attract the necessary ground troops to gain 15,000 petition signatures and then the 50,000 votes (Stop Common Core got a shade over 51,000 for Rob Astorino) needed under New York election law for a ballot line to convert into a legally recognized political party for any election in the state for the next four years. "Stop Common Core" was never about protesting the federal curriculum mandate. It was about making sure protest movements were kept under watch, under control and chopped down at the first sign of strength.

But as I predicted, the petition drive and third statewide ballot line for November's gubernatorial election used grassroots and "tea party" elbow grease to capture independent-minded protest votes, first for the near-term objective of keeping them away from any bonafide independent (read: not controlled by the establishment), and later (and this is unfolding now) to keep them captive so no serious challenge to Republican establishment orthodoxy can ever be mounted. 

The pseudo-reform brilliantly capitalizes on the amateurishness and mediocrity -- the third-rateness -- of so many self-styled "reform" or citizens' groups which lack not only money and expertise but also the basic discipline to agree on and implement a winning strategy.

I am critical now of these self-styled citizens' groups, both because of their emotionally immature stubbornness to even consider what they thought last year was the unthinkable -- that political insiders would dare lie to them -- and their arrogant dismissal of my very public, overt and strident warnings of what was about to happen.

The end result is that now, voters in New York State will have the illusion of even more choice, when in reality they will have much less. In New York, the political parties' ability under state election law to cross-endorse one another's candidates has led to a practice where most elections are either not seriously contested or, when they are, they are two-candidate races in which each candidate is "endorsed" and runs on at least two or three ballot lines. 

Too often, third parties are and remain third parties, because their personnel and decisions are third-rate. I am not even sure the tea party groups' decisions with Stop Common Core even rise to the level of third rate. New York deserves better. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Explaining Christie's Run

No suspense here. Chris Christie is running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

The cherry on top of the cake, so to speak, may have been the impending hire of Texas power broker Ray Washburne as his campaign finance chair, hinted at strongly in this report

Some will stop and say, "Wait! Weren't federal prosecutors closing in on Christie?" based on last week's report that Christie had a sit-down with prosecutors in December. 

True.

And note the language in that ABC News report. Specifically, this:
He agreed to sit down with investigators voluntarily after they offered him a chance to provide his side of the story.
Assuming that the wording was borrowing the description, from an unnamed source, with both knowledge of the facts and knowledge of the legal background behind the events, the choice of words supports a few inferences.

First, "he agreed" means the meeting was sought by prosecutors. Not Christie.

That means prosecutors wanted something. It could be verification of information given by another (i.e. corroboration), it could be looking for something to dispel a theory, or it could be a direct inquiry at a high-profile potential "target," that is, Christie himself. But the feds were the ones starting this process, not the Governor.

Second, he met "voluntarily." View this through the prism: There's an easy way, and a hard way. This means the feds requested and he agreed to meet. There was, perhaps, no subpoena, but rest assured, failure to meet voluntarily is not so voluntary when refusal means you might be compelled to meet, either via subpoena or via arrest. 

Consider the guidelines from the United States Attorneys' Manual, which provides in relevant part:
A grand jury may properly subpoena a subject or a target of the investigation and question the target about his or her involvement in the crime under investigation. See United States v. Wong, 431 U.S. 174, 179 n. 8 (1977);United States v. Washington, 431 U.S. 181, 190 n. 6 (1977); United States v. Mandujano, 425 U.S. 564, 573-75 and 584 n. 9 (1976); United States v. Dionisio, 410 U.S. 1, 10 n. 8 (1973). However, in the context of particular cases such a subpoena may carry the appearance of unfairness. Because the potential for misunderstanding is great, before a known "target" (as defined in USAM 9-11.151) is subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury about his or her involvement in the crime under investigation, an effort should be made to secure the target's voluntary appearance. If a voluntary appearance cannot be obtained, the target should be subpoenaed only after the grand jury and the United States Attorney or the responsible Assistant Attorney General have approved the subpoena. In determining whether to approve a subpoena for a "target," careful attention will be paid to the following considerations:
  • The importance to the successful conduct of the grand jury's investigation of the testimony or other information sought;
  • Whether the substance of the testimony or other information sought could be provided by other witnesses; and
  • Whether the questions the prosecutor and the grand jurors intend to ask or the other information sought would be protected by a valid claim of privilege. (United States Attorneys' Manual Chapter 9-11.150) (Emphasis added)



Third, they "offered him a chance to provide his side of the story." This is really important. This means that the prosecutors have come up with a theory, a likely version of events plus a legal underpinning of a potential charge, and they believe this theory is likely at odds with what they believed Christie would say. (The basis for that expectation comes from the ample public comments Christie himself made, surprising comments based on his own prosecutorial experience and perhaps evidencing an unfathomable hubris.) 

But most of all, the last phrase means that prosecutors have decided on a course of action -- if not directly involving Christie, then involving others near him -- and that course of action will be taken, whether Christie cooperates in the effort or not.

So how do prosecutors view Christie? The United States Attorney, Paul Fishman, is not saying. (Nor should he. That's the professional course to take.) Here are how some key terms are defined in the United States Attorneys' Manual, Chapter 9-11.151.
A "target" is a person as to whom the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant. 
But here are some pointers.

When you are a witness or potential target, you are technically offered the chance to meet prosecutors. But this is not Hollywood. It's really more of a choice: easy way, or hard way. Consider the United States Attorneys' Manual, which provides:
It is not altogether uncommon for subjects or targets of the grand jury's investigation, particularly in white-collar cases, to request or demand the opportunity to tell the grand jury their side of the story. While the prosecutor has no legal obligation to permit such witnesses to testify, United States v. Leverage Funding System, Inc., 637 F.2d 645 (9th Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 452 U.S. 961 (1981); United States v. Gardner, 516 F.2d 334 (7th Cir. 1975), cert. denied, 423 U.S. 861 (1976)), a refusal to do so can create the appearance of unfairness. Accordingly, under normal circumstances, where no burden upon the grand jury or delay of its proceedings is involved, reasonable requests by a "subject" or "target" of an investigation, as defined above, to testify personally before the grand jury ordinarily should be given favorable consideration, provided that such witness explicitly waives his or her privilege against self-incrimination, on the record before the grand jury, and is represented by counsel or voluntarily and knowingly appears without counsel and consents to full examination under oath. 
(United States Attorneys' Manual Chapter 9-11.152)(Emphasis added.)
And furthermore:
When a target is not called to testify pursuant to USAM 9-11.150, and does not request to testify on his or her own motion (see USAM 9-11.152), the prosecutor, in appropriate cases, is encouraged to notify such person a reasonable time before seeking an indictment in order to afford him or her an opportunity to testify before the grand jury, subject to the conditions set forth in USAM 9-11.152. (Emphasis added.)(U.S. Attorneys' Manual Chapter 9-11.153).
Now consider the ABC News report referenced above, which, if accurate, reported that prosecutors were considering subpoenaing Christie if he did not respond to their request to meet.

And no matter how you are viewed -- fact witness, character witness, impeachment witness, or potential defendant (i.e., a target) -- any question and answer session puts you at risk of a false statements charge if your statements to federal prosecutors or investigators are later considered false. 

That's not necessarily fatal. Others have taken the risk and survived; see former Governor Jon Corzine as an example of someone who played with fire and lived to tell about it -- although he is theoretically still at risk of federal prosecution until the statute of limitations expires on him probably in early 2017.

But it would still have been smart for Christie to have insisted on a videotaped question and answer session, especially since the FBI adopted new regulations in May 2014 requiring the videotaping of most suspects. That's quite a change from the FBI regulations in place when Chris Christie was the United States Attorney himself and his office backed away from questioning someone because he insisted on a videotape. 

From the Manual's guidance, it certainly seems like Governor Christie's conduct may be at least that of a "subject," a term defined as a "person whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury's investigation." (United States Attorney's Manual Chapter 9-11.151.) It is possible he is a "target," as defined earlier.

But indictments are not fatal to political hopes.

One thing is certain. There can be no assurance that the investigation would end without action, or with an "all clear" for Christie prior to the point where he would have to lay the serious foundation (i.e. fundraise) for a presidential campaign. Hence, he has little choice, strategically, but to go full steam ahead. However, the foregoing discussion should explain why a campaign is not indicative of his ultimate legal exposure in the myriad of federal investigations still believed to be ongoing. 





Friday, January 9, 2015

Bitcoin's Dreaded Bitlicense Revision Promised Soon

The anticipated and feared revised New York "Bitlicense" proposal will be issued soon and "early in 2015" according to New York State Department of Financial Services chief Benjamin Lawsky in new comments made Friday.

Lawsky's comments included the ominous warning:
People wanting to "flout the law...will not be able to survive."
Bitcoin and digital currencies refer to an electronic payment system that does not use conventional, or "fiat" (i.e. government-issued) money. This emerging industry's role in the financial sector has come under scrutiny, because of an incorrect and irresponsibly shared view (promoted by conventional banking competitors) which Lawsky himself voiced that Bitcoin comes from 
"a very unregulated world...[that is] colliding with the closely regulated banking system."
However, a reasoned and knowledgeable approach recognizes that the Bitcoin and digital currency sector, like all other commercial activity, is as subject to the same myriad of state and federal laws on fraud, for example, and other criminal and civil laws that regular businesses are subject to -- so the common view that Bitcoin is in some lawless netherworld is pure bunk. 

Lawsky persists in promoting the myth of Bitcoin as some sort of refuge from the long arm of the law. This is the same type of nonsense often used to impose laws or regulations known by their proponents or enforcers to have disparate (and hence, legally challengeable) effects. Lawsky, for one, claims that his Department "wants to make bitcoin safer" without putting innovative companies "out of business." Be warned that such an objective can be achieved, of course, if many of those companies simply stay in business but move out of New York State, if not out of the country altogether.

Read Eric Dixon's Original Comments To The New York State Department of Financial Services on Its Original Bitlicense Proposal: From August 2014.

Bitcoin is not "unregulated." It merely is not regulated in the same way -- not yet -- as the large financial institutions. But make no mistake, regulator Lawsky said clearly:
 "there hasn't been enough regulation" about Bitcoin.
And Lawsky's job is to regulate. That means finding something to regulate. The need for regulation is not the need to protect people; it's the need for people, like regulators, to have and keep their jobs!

The key to any acceptable and legally-sustainable regulation, of course, is whether it achieves "fairness" among competitors in our economy. Regulatory favoritism will surely give way to cries of crony capitalism, and here, crony regulation. 

On related themes, Lawsky did appear to recognize the benefits of "encryption as a way to avoid the sharing of personal information."

The proof, of course, will be in the details of the eventual new draft regulation. 

Eric Dixon has been a corporate, business and regulatory lawyer in New York for 20 years. 

The Constitution And The Vicious Anti-Christian Cartoons of Charlie Hebdo

The content of this article is offensive, insofar as it republishes highly-vulgar cartoons sharply attacking and mocking the essence of Christianity, in one, and the Roman Catholic Pope in another.

While freedom of speech and expression -- and of the news media -- are under attack, let us also distinguish between defending the right to such speech, and defending the content of that speech.

What's the Terrorists' Strategy Here? Answer Below...

While we are at it, we should really also draw a distinction between: (a) the freedom to express oneself, and (b) the demand that others react the way we want them to react, and only as we want them to react, to our expression. The latter is really a demand for a nonsensical, nonexistent freedom from responsibility -- that is, the responsibility to acknowledge that all expression causes reactions, and that those reactions are unpredictable, ungovernable and often undesirable.

Legal arguments commonly hide the real agenda behind some artfully drawn phrase or argument. I sense that's the same thing here. I sense the Charlie Hebdo protests are really not about "freedom of speech," but rather about a "freedom from responsibility."

We should remember that, even in the United States, governments routinely attempt to enact laws and regulations which unconstitutionally (and thus unlawfully) target certain speech because of its content. Such "content-based restrictions" are commonly invalidated.  The courts are pretty good -- so are civil libertarian lawyers like myself -- in discerning the hidden, unconstitutional agendas behind otherwise benign-sounding laws and regulations.

The "right to free speech" is one thing. But the use of tyranny, whether through violence, boycotts or organized efforts to induce economic or reputational harm to those with whom one disagrees, is part of an illusory (and nonexistent) "right" to compel either the desired reaction to one's free speech, or absolute silence equating to submission. In short, any "right to free expression" as conceived by the United States Constitution does not -- clearly does not -- include a right to exclude, by any means, the speech of others.

With that in mind, here is my suspicion: When opinion leaders are demanding a defense of the right to free speech, what they really want -- and what they won't admit -- is a defense of the intentionally deeply offensive and, frankly, blasphemous speech. I believe this is a deliberate part of the terrorists' strategy. But look at the following cartoons and decide for yourself.



Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Strategy of the Charlie Hebdo Attack

The murderous attack by Islamic terrorists on the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo earlier today may be part of a nefarious strategy to use Western outrage against, well, the West.

In short: I think the West is being terribly played today.


This analysis offers a strategic theory. As such, I am avoiding repeating the condemnations and ancillary topics (i.e. immigration) which are readily found elsewhere on the World Wide Web.

If you start on the premise that Islamic terrorists are claiming (whether justified or not) that Western (read: Christian or Jewish) society's attacks on or oppression of Islam validates their actions (whatever, wherever and whenever they are), consider the following points.

First, Charlie Hebdo was satirizing the Prophet Muhammed. That is pretty clear, and it's also pretty clear that satire (or worse) of a religious figure is pretty serious. In the United States, it is constitutionally protected free speech, and it is actually a "core" constitutional right according to the Supreme Court.  But it is also undeniably offensive.

Now, I am not arguing or even suggesting that there is no right to offend others. And those of you offended 25 years ago with Andres Serrano's taxpayer-funded portrait, "Piss Christ," or all other manner of anti-Christian blasphemy, should know exactly how that feels and understand that point -- because that was what was thrown at you a quarter-century ago.

Second, it appears Charlie Hebdo was attempting to provoke. Again, this is part of American-style free speech. It is also the same intent, the same secular insult, which so many Western Christians have felt or perceived, and which has so incensed them over the past several decades. 

When you write something, knowing it offends some in the audience -- whether they deserve to be offended is a subjective value question, and it is not objective -- and when you intend to offend them, you are being very provocative. Some would call this very passive-aggressive behavior. Let's emphasis the aggressive part of this. And please consider all the ways this type of anti-social behavior already is in -- no, it dominates -- Western culture.

I compare this to going to a zoo and using the sharp end of a stick to poke the eyes of a ferocious animal. I'll bet my money and your money you would never do that, not without some pretty strong protection between you and the animal. My real end point is this: When you are acting in an unambiguously offensive and intentionally provocative manner, do you have the high moral ground?

When your opposition has been claiming -- with no basis whatsoever -- that the Judeo-Christian cultures of the West have been oppressing it, aren't you actually validating that claim by mimicking the intentionally offensive and intentionally provocative?

When some commentators in the United States use the Charlie Hebdo massacre as the pretext to issue all sorts of intentionally-offensive remarks, isn't that aggressive behavior?

(Let me stop readers here: I am not suggesting there should not be universal condemnation of the attack, only to point out that the common responses you are most likely having are the result of a carefully-designed chain of events. In other words, you're being played. Like a fiddle. Keep reading.)

If the claims of Western hostility were pure rubbish before the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the mass re-publication of cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammed and others can -- whether you want to admit it or not -- be used as physical evidence of that hostility.

This results in the atrocious result, that Western outrage, as justified as it may be, as understandable as it may be, is likely to take the ridiculous blood-libel Islamic-terrorist argument, and actually begin to give such evil rubbish the spectre of truth, legitimacy and moral equivalency.

In other words: Have Western cultural thought leaders just been suckered into giving the Islamic terrorists perhaps the first literal justification to claim a legitimate offense, by being baited and drawn into a rightful fury, so that their reactions and your reactions would give the attackers a basis for, finally, claiming some high moral ground?

And here's the crux of the theory: What if this attack was designed exactly to provoke the deliberately-offensive (blasphemous?) cartoons and other cultural attacks on Islam that the Islamists need to turn themselves into victims?  Furthermore, what if the terrorists deliberately chose a radical-Left publication to attack, in order to activate the Leftist side of the political activist spectrum to further demand, not free speech per se, but rather an untrammelled right to exclusivity in the public square, that is, to shout down, intimidate and otherwise squash opposition and dissent. As one United States Senator has remarked about this remarkable intolerance in the name of free speech, it is, "Free speech for me, not for thee." 

This should be unthinkable. But I think that's exactly what's happened here, and I think this -- not the twelve dead people in Paris -- was the real objective!

In other words, are all the "free press" and "free speech" expressions containing the deliberately and directly offensive cartoons just the desired result of a brilliant Islamic offensive strategy?

Maybe, just maybe, that's the real attack. 

Sayreville Football Reverses Error: Program To Return

The Sayreville, NJ high school football program will return in 2015 after a self-imposed, panicky Reign of Error which probably helped detour -- and hopefully not ruin -- the college and even professional football dreams of some otherwise perfectly innocent young men.

As I chroniced on this website months ago, the locker-room assaults resulted in several arrests but also in the township school board's decision to suspend the program for the remainder of the 2014 season. 

In short, the response revealed several flaws typical in high-profile, high-publicity investigations and crisis management approaches.

1) Accountability matters, but only when the right people are held to account. 

1A) Nothing destroys the respect for authority and the law more efficiently than punishing the innocent along with the guilty. Suspending the entire program was a CYA move -- cover your ass -- by administrators worried about their jobs and legal liability, and those concerns clearly trumped, and led to reputations of some very innocent young men getting trampled and sullied by the hysterical response. Concern is warranted about those people who act, point fingers and ruin reputations without having the facts right, often without caring whether there are any facts, and without concern for the permanent reputational damage they can cause. 

2) Trying to appear to do the right thing, is not the same thing as actually trying to do the right thing.

3) Calling something an investigation does not make it an investigation. It may be a cover-up, under the clever guise of a legitimate, official-sounding action -- which, naturally, is the best way to convince most people of average intelligence and below average emotional intelligence that there is "nothing to see here, just move along."

4) Ignore the loudmouths who demand "answers" when they really mean they want their desired result. That might be vengeance, an exoneration in public of a guilty party, or whatever. Investigations are like souffles. Pressure ruins them. 

5) Publicity and professionalism rarely go hand in hand, particularly when legal issues are involved. These crises often reveal people as the amateurs they really are. 

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer. 



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

How Do You Pick A Lawyer?

Ohhh. Here's a fun topic.

You need a lawyer. This means you have a problem. 

You need a problem-solver, a fixer.

You also need someone you can trust. That is, someone you trust to keep your matter confidential.

So what do you do next?

Keep reading, as the rest of the article is here


Police Street Protests: What's The Real Agenda?

There are tragedies, there are outrages, and then there are crises which are allowed to fester in order to advance an agenda.

So what is really behind the urban protests? Is it really about the stated reason of protesting police brutality, or is there much more?

Read the following analysis.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Obama Amnesty Ruled Unconstitutional: Read The Opinion

A federal district court judge found that the amnesty policy set forth in President Obama's November 2014 Executive Action was outside the scope of presidential authority and thus is essentially unconstitutional, according to an opinion in a criminal case just released Tuesday.

The Executive Action remains in place and other judges are free to uphold, recognize or enforce it, but this opinion means that District Court Judge Arthur Schwab, sitting in the Western District of Pennsylvania, will not do so.  And all judges' opinions are subject to appeal.

Notable from the opinion by District Court Judge Schwab:
This Executive Action "cross[es] the line," constitutes "legislation," and effectively changes the United States' immigration policy. The President may only "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed . . . "; he may not take any Executive Action that creates laws. U.S. Const., Art. II, § 3.
Later, Schwab wrote that as the Executive Action acted as legislation, it went beyond the executive's prosecutorial discretion. He further wrote that President Obama's contention that the "Executive Action was necessary because of Congress’s failure to pass legislation, acceptable to him... is arbitrary and does not negate the requirement that the November 20, 2014 Executive Action be lawfully within the President’s executive authority," which Judge Schwab found it was not.  

The opinion considered the applicability of the Executive Action to an illegal alien (a/k/a/ undocumented entrant), Elionardo Juarez-Escobar, who had already pleaded guilty to unlawful entry by a previously removed (that is, deported) alien. 

Juarez-Escobar illegally reentered in 2005 and only ran into trouble when he was caught driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.18%, or more than double Pennsylvania's legal limit of .08%. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Democratic Primary 2016: Connecting The Dots

This is a theory but I'm sticking to it.

Progressive / leftist (pick your term) organizers are apparently gearing up to challenge the presumptive Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

I say presumptive, because in some quarters she is anathema. As in, too centrist.

I also say that because I believe that these organizers are very good at the art of disinformation and practice it brilliantly, and much better than their counterparts on the "right" side of the political spectrum. 

In order to mount the successful challenge, the progressives (for lack of a better term or one which is most understood by the most readers) need to keep their armies organized. That is because the most effective army is one which is obedient, follows orders and keeps its collective eyes on the singular prize.

Winning.

(Attention, conservatives, this is where you fail!)

I believe the Eric Garner / Michael Brown protests are nothing more than a cover to keep the radicals, progressives, anarchists, socialists, Marxists, etc. all pumping, all active, and all involved so they can be mobilized to action at the right time.

Think of them as revolutionary sleeper cells. (Activate!)

BREAKING -- Here's my new term -- they're not leftists or progressives. They're revolutionaries! Got that?!

Think back to Obama's 2008 presidential election. Those armies of excited and generally young revolutionaries needed to be kept intact. That led the Obama campaign organization to quickly set up a new organization known as the OFA -- Organizing For America -- before even his inauguration. They wasted no time. This became the grassroots operation of the Obama re-election campaign, and is still intact albeit with a new but similar name: Organizing For Action. 

In the interim, you had the Occupy Wall Street movement and its affiliated copycat protests. Those groups all had the goal and fulfilled objective of attracting, collecting and retaining hard-core activists. Worker bees to "make the case." To change this country. To change the world. 

Detractors can deride them as human cannon fodder or useful idiots, but here's the rub: These people carry petitions. These people knock on doors. These people get in your face. And these people vote.

Now you have the protests citing the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. On the surface, these are protests against claimed police brutality.

In reality, these are merely exercises to identify more ground troops, keep existing troops organized, motivated and angry, and get them ready for action when ground organizing for suitably-revolutionary Democratic presidential primary candidates starts in the summer and fall of 2015.

How effective can these groups be?

Consider that strongly-liberal New York State had a popular Democratic incumbent governor from a political family and with 100% name recognition run for re-election last year.

Andrew Cuomo's opponent was a no-name law professor whose name was barely known outside of her classroom at Fordham Law School. 

But that professor, who previously was also a Howard Dean and Occupy Wall Street organizer, tapped into the revolutionaries. Zephyr Teachout got 33% of the Democratic primary vote statewide. 

And if you think she did better in the supposedly-more-liberal New York City, think again.

Street organizing pays off the most in low-turnout areas. Get this: Teachout won numerous low-population counties by substantial margins, revealing Democratic organization weakness.

In fact, Zephyr Teachout won over 40% of the primary vote outside of New York City.  Look closely at these county-by-county results.

Now tell me that supposed favorite daughter Hillary Clinton is a sure bet to win the Democratic presidential nomination.

Hillary Clinton isn't even a lock in her own adopted home state. 

If legitimate political scion / incumbent Andrew Cuomo couldn't crack 60% against no-name Teachout and barely-on-the-ballot Randy Credico, are you sure Hillary would win a contested New York primary?

Particularly if the establishment vote gets split a few ways and the revolutionaries all pack their support for one candidate?

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer and strategist. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Like A Rolling Stone: When Reporters Get Duped

The journalism industry is being targeted for not properly vetting its sources. The newest Ground Zero for this movement is the recent Rolling Stone investigative piece which the magazine is now questioning.

Some commentators are blaming the news media for the falsity of the story (if that is the ultimate conclusion). This is wrong.

The blame for a false allegation lies with the liar, not the person who is lied to. So, don't blame the victim!

Blame the liar. Better yet, as sunshine is the best disinfectant in all instances of fraud, corruption and crime: Expose the liar.

In some quarters, the news media is ripped as being "irresponsible" or "partisan." But this misses the essence of the news media.

The news media is a business, first and foremost.

Because it is a business, and not a public trust, it does not have responsibilities to the public. (Arguably, such responsibilities lie with publicly-funded news media organizations like National Public Radio.)

The news media is about eyeballs. And that's how it should be.

Sensationalism, and arguably irresponsible or jumping-the-gun practices like poor sourcing, may make for short-term gains. Journalistic fraud like the Jayson Blair debacle years ago can ruin a career. What's happened to Jayson Blair, by the way?

Credibility ultimately drives eyeballs, and commercial revenue follows.

Blaming reporters for "getting it wrong," or believing a fraud, is wrong. Worse would be a move to make the reporters or their news media outlets legally responsible. Even worse, you could face a chilling of the First Amendment by erecting a legal standard making journalists the guarantors of the truthfulness of their sources. The reporters get duped just as easily, and when they're working for peanuts, you're talking about young, green and naive reporters. Those reporters will take enough of a reputational hit for being fooled, particularly in an industry with cutthroat competition and ease-of-entry for new bloggers and news websites. An unintended consequence of this blame game will be to chill news-reporting activities, drive out some organizations, reduce bonafide investigative reporting and turn it into the very exclusive province of investigative lawyers working for private clients (in other words, people like me) and issuing reports only to private audiences (i.e., clients).

When sunshine is the best disinfectant, the solution is to have more reporting, more disclosure, and more news media competition. Targeting the reporters will be a tremendous mistake in the wrong direction.

Friday, December 5, 2014

New Bitcoin Protection Bill Introduced In Congress

Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas and the House Ways and Means Committee introduced a bill to protect Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and digital currencies from changes in federal tax law while the bitcoin and blockchain technologies are studied further.

Here is a copy of the bill, H.R. 5777.  Rep. Stockman has credited me with drafting virtually the entire bill (my draft had additional material on a proposed commission to study the technology, which was omitted from the introduced bill).

Comments are welcome. 


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Are New York Islanders Padding Attendance Figures?

Some very strange anomalies in reported attendance figures for the New York Islanders hockey club, namely, similar numbers for crowds for different games, when seating capacity is not an issue.

In 2013-14, they had five crowds end with "008," three with "108," three with "888" and four ending with "922." Seating capacity doesn't explain it - the Islanders play at the Nassau Coliseum which officially seats 16,170. These digital similarities cannot be a coincidence. (Evidence: See http://www.hockeyattendance.com/te…/new-york-islanders/2013/.) 

(This type of apparent padding has been suspected in the past. See this 2005 article reporting on a largely empty Continental Arena for New Jersey Devils' games.  And years ago, I saw the gross ticket revenues reported in a franchise's prospectus -- the team was going public -- and those numbers required either sharp discounting or absolute giveaways of tickets in order to avoid a conclusion of serious crowd padding.) 

Other seasons also have evidence of this trend. In 2014-15, there have been at least two crowds (one was tonight) ending with "888." Oh, and in 2012-13 there were four crowds ending with "22" and two crowds ending with "888."

Are the Islanders trying to make Nassau Coliseum crowds look bigger in order to induce a Coliseum renovation? Are the Islanders looking far down the road or hedging their bets, perhaps at a return to Nassau Coliseum if Barclays Center (to which they move in the fall of 2015) exercises a reported "out clause" in the team's new lease after five years? 

The implications of the numbers game, and the reported arena out clause, suggest the Islanders' future in New York is not secure -- not contractually at least. (It is highly unlikely the team would move out of the New York area, for the simple reason that it would lose a lucrative cable television contract, and that comes straight off net cash flow, thus destroying the team's potential out-of-market valuation and potential sale price.)

These are just questions, but the reported attendance figures raise legitimate questions. As nothing occurs by random and it is highly unlikely (like, Earth-getting-hit-by-asteroid-unlikely), explanations are warranted. 



Monday, November 24, 2014

Men As Scum? And Hookup Today, Lockup Tomorrow?

The overcriminalization craze has hit a new high...or low.

In New Jersey, state assemblyman Troy Singleton has introduced a bill which will criminalize the use of deception or fraud to procure sex. (Author's note: The text of the bill is not yet posted on the New Jersey Legislature's website, but the bill number is A.3908 and eventually it will come out.)

So lying about being rich can get you thrown in jail. I guess lying about your ultimate intentions (e.g., promising to marry someone) isn't legally safe either.

This is a misguided bill with huge potential for abuse. Think about the danger for wrongful or reckless accusations, destroyed reputations and even wrongful prosecutions. You see, the problem is that this bill calls for deception to be defined by its purported victim.

Call this the regret-is-rape law. Or, the vengeance-is-mine law.

The law's practical implications are staggering. Should one partner later feel regret or shame, she (or he) could use the argument that she would never have "consented" to sex "had she known about" something or other. Theoretically, this requires the other partner to engage in absolute "full disclosure" about, well, just about anything, and that other partner would never -- let's be real, it's never -- have the security of knowing he is in the clear legally, that any sexual contact could not theoretically come back and result in a criminal charge.

This setup works fine, if you enjoy the meme of men as inherent predators and belong to the Blame Men First club. Or if you simply believe you're entitled to dish out as much venom as you wish and that men (caution: it could be anyone, but mostly it's going to be men) deserve whatever they get.

The problem is that in the real world, people respond to changing conditions and generally pattern their behavior to avoid risk.

When sex carries with it the uncertainty of future criminal prosecution if and when one's partner becomes disappointed...sexually, emotionally or financially, anything you can imagine...can you envision a new generation of men becoming very cautious and abstinent

Come to think of it, these might be the very class of men most likely to be good family men and the bedrock of their generation.

On the surface, the bill is intended to stop predators who procure sex through "deceptive" means.

You would have to be the village idiot to not understand that men are the primary targets of this bill. But what about women using makeup, hair dye, spackle, Bondo, butt implants, breast implants, Botox, rubber cement, plastic surgery, anti-anxiety drugs, etc.?  There are creative lawyers out there.

And what about women taking responsibility for checking into the pasts of their potential sexual partners, benefactors or fathers of their spawn? And, isn't a lot of courtship based on varying levels of openness and trust? Aren't the parties responsible for determining the basic character of the other party?

While people lying to get what they want is certainly unsavory and warrants strong disapproval, the trend towards making every crushed hope, every dashed dream, every broken heart, every unfulfilled fantasy...or even, every unfulfilled vice...the predicate for a crime and a domino in the progression of some hapless chap through the criminal justice system should raise concerns among mature observers.

By the way, don't think that abstaining is a foolproof way for men to safeguard themselves. Who's to say the man didn't have sex with his alleged victim? You see, this is a bill premised on the accused having to prove a negative, that is, that he (or she) didn't do it.

This isn't funny. This opens the door to all sorts of abuses, from the merely unconstitutional to the blatantly vicious, mendacious and ruinous.

Spurned lovers can now use this law (if it passes and is signed by New Jersey governor Chris Christie) to exact revenge or commit extortion. Men who disappoint women can become easy targets - even if they didn't have sex. You see, this bill is dangerously based on the notion that women are, well, telling the truth.

The bill turns the he-said-she-said allegations into a Russian roulette where a man's freedom (never mind his reputation) can easily be jeopardized by a woman's lust for vengeance, hypersensitivity or psychological dysfunction.

The crazy thing about this bill is that it will likely deter romantic overtures from the nicer guys, the more marriage-material type. The cads, the pigs, if you will, are unlikely to be deterred. (This is the lesson of overcriminalization; making more things a crime doesn't change behavior, but it sure fills up the jails.)

And who suffers the most?

Eventually, it will be single women who will get hit the hardest.

On the other hand, the bill may encourage more Puritan, more traditional courtship and perhaps a lot of delayed sex. That isn't necessarily bad. Men need to be more careful for many reasons. However, risk averse behavior by men is likely to mean that women, at much younger ages, will find it increasingly harder to get the attention they want.

This is the dystopian result when you start criminalizing the Y chromosome.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Red Light Cameras: When Safety Takes A Back Seat

The red light camera industry is based on a nice sounding and politically sellable concept, but is really based on exacting a hidden tax on hapless drivers and their passengers. In fact, safety arguably takes a back seat to the allure of the money honey pot for financially irresponsible towns and cities all across America.

If you know where to look and which government offices to get public documents from, and have the tenacity to dig, you may find some interesting phrasing buried in some obtuse documents.

Lawyerly language, not exactly written in plain English, the better with which to argue the plausibility of multiple meanings to the eye of the beholder.

"Traffic safety cameras" are "seen as promoting a public good." Note the language; you don't read that traffic safety cameras "have been shown to reduce accidents," for example, or that they actually are saving lives and injuries. It isn't what is written; sometimes what's important is what is missing.  Don't get confused with the statistics about how many people are killed or injured because drivers run stop signs or red lights. That is a different statistic and that activity is the claimed reason for red light cameras. But where is the evidence to show that these cameras reduce red light violations? (Heck, anecdotal evidence suggests that drivers will "stop short" and overcompensate for the camera, but stopping short ends up causing accidents -- perhaps even more accidents -- as well.)

"Significant contributors of revenue to municipal budgets." Mind you, this is used as a key selling point as to how the underlying red light camera business line will be profitable, because buyers will generate revenue.

Some town mayors and councils stand to be embarrassed if it is ever revealed that they pushed to install red light cameras to raise more money from their residents.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Moslem Attack On Christmas Backfires

Part of my practice -- legal and consulting -- is to give people strategic advice.

This often involves analyzing the "other side's" strategy to uncover its true objective. Part of a successful and effective negotiation (or attack) is knowing what that true objective is so you can cater to it.

Such is the case with the Moslem activists' push to have a Montgomery County, Maryland school district close for the Muslim holiday of Eid.

The activists (including the Committee of American-Islamist Relations, or CAIR) have been pushing to have the school districts close for Eid just like they close for Christmas or Yom Kippur.  On the surface, it is a form of equality as the stated objective.

Never mind that Christmas is largely a secular holiday, recognized by nonbelieving Christians and most people in most faiths; ditto for Easter, and even the Jewish high holy days (e.g., Passover).  And never mind that the vast majority of Americans literally have no idea -- none whatsoever -- about Eid. 

The school district's response to CAIR and others was to simply de-religionize the days off. The days off will remain on the school calendar, but their purpose will become an unstated truth as to which no one shall speak, but as to which everyone will understand the reason.

So of course the days off will be for Christmas, or Yom Kippur, or whatever. 

And guess what? The apparent, blatant "blankness" of the days in official documents will not diminish the symbolism of those holidays or the faiths they celebrate.

Rather, it will enhance them.

Now, let me address the fears of some political quarters.

Some are already charging that the school districts are surrendering to the intolerance and aggressive proselytizing of Moslem activists who seek an opportunity to preach, convert and otherwise expand the Moslem footprint, under the guise of equality. (Such proselytizing, incidentally, is not confined to Moslems, but that is a story for another article.) This concern holds that by "going secular" by removing the stated religious-holiday basis for certain days off, the school district undermines the predominant and socially-established (but not State-established) faiths of this land and thereby attacks those faiths.

I disagree entirely.

The school district is engaging in a successful passive-aggressive response. Its response is to give the Moslem activists their literal equality. Everything shall be equal; no religious holiday shall be the stated basis for a day off.

But of course, everyone not living under a rock or in a dirt cave will know the religious holidays are very much the basis for the days off. 

But now, here are the results which the activists may not have anticipated.

First, the population at large will now become increasingly aware of the true religious nature of the days off.

Second, the population at large will become fully aware of who is responsible for the stated secularization of those days off.

Third, the population at large now knows that there are elected and appointed leaders who will defend our First Amendment to our Constitution. In particular, they will honor the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses, which holds:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
Unwittingly, the activists have validated the tenet first expressed by the author Ayn Rand, who wrote that the best way to defeat a fraud is to comply with it literally. The fraud here is not any religion, but the use of a religion and the associated claim that equality is desired, as a pretext to allow (if not endorse) proselytizing, thus achieving a form of unequal treatment in the form of supremacy. That would, of course, raise questions about "equal protection" under the Constitution.

So if religious activists are worried that the Maryland school board is caving to religious aggression, a waving of the white flag, I suspect the subtle strategy is a defense, a defiance that may be a sound strategic and legal maneuver.

You see, the best part is that this decision forces the hand of Moslem activists -- or atheist activists, whether in the guise of civil liberties organizations if not courageously in their own name as atheists -- who would be forced to argue for official religious recognition and for supremacy, not equality, if they continue to oppose or challenge the school board decision.

This situation bears watching.



Is Wall Street Fraudster Now Calling The Ukraine?

Could a notorious former federal informant, whose history of using multiple names (i.e., change a letter here or there, drop the vowel at the end of the name, etc.) while suckering the Federal Government into using him as a potential key witness in a landmark federal securities fraud prosecution was revealed here in 2011, now be working at an unregulated Wall Street private lending firm and cold-calling prospects in Eastern European countries like the Ukraine, Romania and even Russia?





Saturday, November 8, 2014

Loretta Lynch: Not An Early 2008 Obama Supporter

President Obama's new nominee to be Attorney General, current United States Attorney Loretta Lynch (Eastern District of New York), may be a great lawyer, but she should not be assumed to be a bedrock-strong Obama supporter. Campaign contribution filings suggest she jumped on the Obama bandwagon only moments before it started rolling down the victory parade route. 

Lynch did give $9,200 to Obama in 2008, but all of it was after Obama's nomination was all but literally official. Her general election contributions were also on the eve of the election. 

She gave $2,300 to the "Obama for America" primary account on July 31, 2008 despite the fact that Obama had been the presumptive nominee and was announced by major media organizations to have clinched the nomination on June 3, 2008, with Hillary Clinton conceding and endorsing Obama a few days afterwards. The Democratic nomination became official on August 28, 2008. 

She also gave $2,300, not designated for either the primary or general election, to the Obama Victory Fund on July 22, 2008, and another $2,300 to Obama Victory Fund, also not designated, on November 2, 2008

Lynch gave $2,300 to the "Obama for America" general election account on November 3, 2008, for the general election the following day. The Obama campaign raised more than $657 million through one committee for its 2008 campaign covering both the primary and general election.  In the 2007-08 election cycle, the Federal Election Commission increased the contribution limits so that a contributor could give up to $2,300 to each candidate or candidate committee per election. 

Contrast her tepid after-the-fact support for Obama with her enthusiastic, jump-the-gun support of an inner-city Brooklyn progressive and son of a longtime Brooklyn congressman. Loretta Lynch has given only a few candidate contributions over the years, but Chris Owens, the son of Rep. Major Owens (D-Brooklyn) got contributions from her for his unsuccessful 1989 run for City Council ($250) and for his unsuccessful 2006 run for his father's Congressional seat, a loss which has to be somewhat embarrassing. Owens lost the Democratic primary in both years.  

When Owens ran for his father's House seat, Lynch gave the maximum of $2,100 to each of the primary and general election committees for congressional candidate Chris Owens in the 2005-06 election cycle. Here is the March 2005 contribution of $2,100 to the Owens primary account, and here is her optimistic January 2006 contribution of $2,100 to the Owens general election account, given eight months before the Democratic primary that September. In that primary, Owens ran fourth out of four candidates in a contested primary to replace his father, Rep. Major Owens. The primary and later the general election for the seat was won by Yvette Clarke. 

A mere nine days after the primary loss, the campaign refunded Lynch's general campaign committee contribution in full.

Chris Owens later became a radio talk show host on the Air America Network and was an early Brooklyn, NY backer of Barack Obama's then-nascent presidential campaign.
 
Lynch also was a way-early supporter of David Dinkins, giving him $300 in February 1989 a good seven months before Dinkins beat then-three-term incumbent Edward I. Koch in a five-way contested Democratic primary for Mayor of New York City. Lynch then gave Democratic nominee Dinkins another $250 in October 1989 weeks before Dinkins eked out a narrow victory over Republican candidate (and former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York) Rudolph Giuliani. (Source: NYC Campaign Finance Board records.)

Unlike Dinkins and certainly unlike Owens, who may have been one of Obama's charter supporters, Lynch did not get on board with Obama until after he had vanquished Hillary Clinton.

Eric Dixon is an investigative and corporate attorney headquartered in New York City. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

How Electronic Voting Systems Are Failing

Electronic voting systems, once considered innovative and the hoped-for progress towards modern American elections that would avoid the dreaded "hanging chad," are proving to be a huge failure and costly boondoggle.

Reports from around the nation are showing significant failures with the electronic machines. 

The electronic systems retain a tragic and serious flaw which, in my opinion, renders them no better than the trusted old mechanical-lever machines of 50 years ago.

The problem is that the technology does not do away with the reliance on trust in people. A stand-alone electronic machine still needs a person to download records, and the general public is still asked to trust the people who are doing the counting of the votes.

Or the maintenance of the machines.

Or the paper record backup for these machines.
Or the auditors who compare the paper record with the electronic record. 

Or...you get the point.

The machine technology is merely considered more reliable than old machines but you still have the potential for a malfunction, or human error (like a transposed number, where 921 becomes 129). Or fraud. Or...you get the point.

Here's a solution which I am working on as part of a New York group, which is subject to a pending patent application. The solution is to have the blockchain system do the vote counting. Machines are used only to input the votes, but the blockchain records all votes in real time. In addition, as the blockchain relies on a form of mathematical proof (really a complex algorithmic assumption) to signify a form of decentralized consensus among all network users (or nodes, representing each election machine) as to the validity of all inputted data (which can be votes in this example), you have a system which is constantly self-validating without the interference from or contamination by people. Moreover, because all data in the blockchain is tied together mathematically, the last vote cast is tied in by an algorithmic relation to each preceding vote (the actual "vote" data is but a small part of the genetic makeup of the block of data and can be easily encrypted to preserve and ensure vote secrecy and anonymity).

The product is a system which does away with the need for post-election counting among thousands of polling places. 

And you know what? This system could be auditable, could go hand in hand with a paper record, but would be faster in tallying votes. 

There would be fewer election day workers counting votes and making mistakes.

The current machines would be reduced to merely taking inputs (votes) from voters and transmitting them over the Internet to the blockchain, instead of having to store a small number of votes until the end of the night.

Doesn't this sound like a better way to run a truly modern, post-industrial nation's elections?


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

New York's New Political Parties?

There could be one or even two recounts in New York State's gubernatorial election.

Not because there's any doubt that Andrew Cuomo won re-election by a 14 point margin.

UPDATED. No. It's because two of the ballot lines are thisclose over the threshold of 50,000 offiical votes required for a ballot line to achieve (or retain) its status as an official, legally recognized political party for the next four years. There certainly might have been a challenge if the parties were below the bar, and as of Wednesday morning the Andrew Cuomo alternative ballot line Women's Equality Party was 309 votes short of 50,000. The WEP is now 1,052 above, while Rob Astorino's Stop Common Core party had been about 4,000 short but is now 242 over the 50,000 threshold.

As for the Stop Common Core party, its qualification poses a very interesting question. Will the Republican establishment allow SCC to become a third party?

The reason for my suspicion is that the SCC petition committee on vacancies for the gubernatorial petition was dominated by Republican Party officials or consultants.  Under New York Election Law, the call as to whether the ballot line transforms into a third party is up to the gubernatorial candidate -- here, Rob Astorino -- but really this is a high-level insider game. 

The stakes are huge. Such a new party could cross-endorse candidates in any election anywhere in the state for the next four years, and it could get its own members who could easily qualify for the ballot.

For example, someone running for the House of Representatives in a regular party needs 1,250 valid signatures. (There are exceptions for low-enrollment districts where there are fewer than 25,000 enrolled members in a particular party in that district; then, the threshold is five percent of the enrolled number.) An independent candidate needs 3,500 signatures.

But for a new party with just a handful of members, you could get on the ballot with just five percent of the handful.  For what that's worth.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Too MANY People Vote: What's Really Wrong With Elections

Every year, every election, you hear "experts" talking about what a shame it is that two-thirds of the electorate stays home.

But think about it: The only people who give a damn about voter turnout -- aside from candidates and consultants -- are the intellectual elite and opinion leaders, the informed slice of the electorate which ALREADY votes because they CARE. 

Let's get something straight. If you really care about the elections, you're already voting tomorrow! Doesn't matter where you fall on the political spectrum. If you care, you're voting! 

If you really want electoral reform, you have to approach the issue from a totally different angle.

So when you hear this reheated pablum tomorrow about "not enough people vote, blah blah," think about who exactly isn't voting. It's the people who don't care. Democratic, Republican, makes no difference. So we're spending all this time trying to get more of the unconcerned, the indifferent, the inconsiderate, the uninformed, to vote. Is that rational? Is that a good use of YOUR time? 

Why There Are No First-Time Home Buyers

An insightful and well-documented analysis from Tyler Durden on the Zero Hedge blog deserves a re-posting here.  Durden points out that the new FHFA head, Mel Watt, is looking to slash lending standards to facilitate more buyers, although in an environment where housing in many markets is arguably overvalued (and that may be a mild assessment) it follows that subsequent price declines are likely if not probable and thus the people supposedly being targeted for help would then become a new wave of underwater owner victims.

A related issue is the concept of bailing out delinquent homeowners in order to stabilize residential real estate. Such proposals have it backwards.

Delinquent homeowners are not the backbone of any housing market.

The backbone, the support, the foundation -- now there's a word -- for the housing market is the homeowner who's making his or her payment each month. 

It's the responsible, solvent homeowners who deserve the help, if any goes around. Those are the homeowners who need to be kept in their homes, not the ones who have already shown through inability or unwillingness to keep up with mortgage payments.