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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. 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. 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?

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer who works extensively with blockchain and cryptocurrency innovators and startups.

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.