Friday, June 26, 2015

Fair Housing Act Lives

The Supremes have come down with a trio of scorchers in the last two days.  In a 6-3 vote, they upheld the Affordable Care Act and at least arguably adequate health insurance for everyone (Roberts wrote the opinion and managed to stay away the "great powers" nonsense he used in his prior opinion upholding the Act.  Scalia went straight of the rails in his dissent, of course, basically repeating the Cato Institute's extreme shoveling which boils down to saying that the federal government doesn't have taxing authority in spite of the 16th Amendment and doesn't have general welfare powers in spite of the main text of the Constitution.).  Today gay rights won 5-4 (And although the dissenters claim to be all about original intent, they displayed a complete ignorance of it here.  This decision will not lead to discrimination against conservative denominations; it will end the conservative denominations' use of state authority to prevent liberal denominations from performing same-sex marriages.  And since the dissent was never taught it, I'll point out that preventing denominations from using state power to enforce their beliefs on other denominations was exactly why the Founding Fathers adopted the religion clauses in the First Amendment.  The Four Horsemen will never admit what hypocrites they are, though.).

And yesterday the Fair Housing Act was salvaged 5-4, with the same line-up.  Disparate impact can still be used to make a discrimination case.  Disparate impact means that, if you look at the figures (in this case financial assistance for affordable housing) and they show impermissible discrimination (race, religion, etc.), you can use that to show discrimination.  You don't need a smoking gun, such as an in-house memo saying, "Don't sell to minorities."  Disparate impact became a thing when I was much younger and there was obvious red-lining going on in sales and lending, but the banks, builders, and real estate companies weren't stupid enough to leave a trail.  It was happening with winks and nods, but it was definitely happening.  So statistics became the evidence to keep discrimination at bay.  The majority yesterday decided that was a good thing.  The dissent would rather make the discrimination laws a dead letter by making them unenforceable unless the discriminating party attains an "ain't gonna happen" level of stupidity.  In other words the dissent wants to make discrimination effectively legal.  And that's about all you need to know about Roberts, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas.


Monday, June 01, 2015

But There Isn't a Problem with the Financial Sector

Dick Fuld, the financial genius whose leadership ran Lehman Brothers into the ground (Yes, I know he had plenty of help from several other financial deities, notably Goldman Sachs, but it wasn't like he was resisting their siren songs.), crawled out from under his rock last week for the Marcum Microcap Conference.  He immediately blamed the government for the financial crisis, by "forcing" lending to "unsuitable borrowers."

I'll be the first to say the government screwed up in this mess, and that it in fact made things worse by pumping up the bubble by expanding the pool of "eligible" borrowers beyond what was advisable.  But what really caused the mess, people?  Fast and loose fund raising by the banks?  Even more fast and loose lending with fraudulent appraisals and credit checks?  Definitely.  If the government was to blame, it is because it was criminally asleep at the switch in controlling all this fraud.  But the banks were the core of the problem and remain so because of people like Fuld, who remain in charge and continue to blame anyone but themselves.

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The Road Lawyer

Now for some self-promotion.  For some time I have had a more recreational blog, The Road Lawyer.  I've never really gotten it off the ground, though, since I just don't travel as much as I did 10 years ago.  In honor of the new movie, I think I'll give it another try.  Since I'm not really traveling, though, I think I'll blog about my travels in Law World, which have had plenty of twists and turns.  I might be compelled (at long last) to call out a few people and places who have been less than kind to me and mine.  We'll see how it goes.


A Rant

First, something of a rant.  It makes me physically ill when I see the signs on buses and Trax cars saying that Utah Transit Authority has won a big, hairy award.  UTA is pathetic.  It is clown shoes marinated in weak sauce.  It is the worst transit system I have ever dealt with, which is truly damning given the years I was at the mercy of Washington State Ferries.  I'm not going into details.  Anyone who actually has to deal with this bloated, unresponsive, frankly corrupt nightmare knows what I'm talking about.