Saturday, April 10, 2021
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Home Authors Posts by cvllelaw



Gingrich claims fraud!

Newt Gingrich has a new reason why he didn't make the ballot -- fraud on the part of someone he hired.  He is claiming that he hired someone to get signatures who forged or made up 1,500 signatures.  See the story here.

I heard on the news tonight that Newt was blaming poor staff work -- sort of a class-less move but hardly surprising.  So now we have an allegation of fraud.

I wonder if anyone will prosecute?  I mean, it's a crime to submit petitions fraudulently.  At the bottom of the form is this language:

I understand that falsely signing this affidavit is a felony punishable by a maximum fine up to $2,500 and/or imprisonment for up to ten years.

See Va. Code 24.2-1016.

So let's get those prosecutions going!  I want to see the perp walk!

The Republican War on Science Continues

I have a fantasy that the Democrats will solidify their claim on the suburban vote by making it clear that we believe in science and the Republicans don't.

This thought comes to mind again because of Rick Santorum's latest comments, as reported in the Des Moines Register:

Discussing controversial classroom subjects such as evolution and global warming, Santorum said he has suggested that "science should get out of politics" and he is opposed to teaching that provides a "politically correct perspective."

We as Democrats -- in 2012, 2013, and beyond -- need to wrap this idiocy around the necks of every Republican until the Republicans repudiate it and join the 21st Century.

In July, 2004, John Kerry asked this question -- "Wouldn't it be great to have a President who believes in science?"  The answer that the country gave was, "Nah."  John Kerry might not have been the right messenger, but the question was the right question.  

What the Republican “regulatory reform” agenda really means

When Ralph Nader wrote his book Unsafe At Any Speed in 1965, he documented how unsafe the Chevrolet Corvair was, and how General Motors and other car manufacturers opposed any effort to require safety features like seat belts because they didn't want to spend money on such safety features. The safety measures that he wanted car makers to implement would cost about $700 per car; the car makers were in fact spending about 23 cents a car on safety features.

The publication of Unsafe At Any Speed and the National Academy of Science's report "Accidental Death and Disability-The Neglected Disease of Modern Society" led to Congressional hearings , legislation to require installation of seat belts, and adoption of  the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was formed in 1970, and has been responsible for investigating accidents and developing and implementing safety standards in vehicle and road design.  Since safety became an important governmental priority, deaths per 100 million miles driven fell from about 5 in 1965 to 1.13 in 2009.  The number of actual highway deaths has dropped from over 50,000 in 1965 to 33,808 in 2009.  (See here for the data from NHTSA.)

In 2000, Congress created the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA); the FMCSA's mission is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.  The Republican majority in the House of Representatives are using the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearings to try to prove their point that regulations are just costing businesses too much.  Last week -- on November 30, 2011 -- the Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs had a hearing devoted to a proposed FMCSA rule to reduce the amount of time that a commercial vehicle driver can drive from 11 hours a day to 10 hours a day, increasing rest periods, etc.  Their position on the proposed rule is made clear by the title of the hearing -- "The Price of Uncertainty: How Much Could DOT's Proposed Billion Dollar Service Rule Cost Consumers This Holiday Season?" The idea seems to be that this regulation will be the Grinch That Stole Christmas.  You can go to the Subcommittee's website to see more.

Essentially, the industry argument is that this regulation change would impose unacceptable costs on trucking companies (there are other exceptions and provisions to make it somewhat flexible, but that is the main change proposed.)   Studies show that the number of accidents rises sharply when a driver has been behind the wheel for more than 10 hours.  The trucking industry came to these hearings making a cost-benefit analysis -- that the cost of implementing these rules would be great, and that there would be relatively few additional lives saved.  This was a familiar criticisms; conservative economist Thomas Sowell had argued in The Vision of the Anointed (1995) that Nader was ignorant and dismissive of the trade-off between safety and affordability.

This sort of cost-benefit analysis is central to the Republican analysis of regulations.  Perhaps the most egregious example, and one of the best known, is a memo that was written for the Ford Motor Company in 1973 when it became known that Ford Pintos were likely to explode when rear-ended.  The problem was that there was the car's design allowed its fuel tank to be easily damaged if the car was rear-ended, which sometimes resulted in deadly fires and explosions.  Trial lawyers bringing these cases showed that the fact that the Pinto didn't have a true rear bumper or any reinforcing structure between the rear panel and the gas tank meant that in certain collisions, the tank would be thrust forward into the differential, which had a number of protruding bolts that could puncture the tank.  On top of that, the doors could potentially jam during an accident, making it impossible for the occupants to get out of the car as it burst into flames.  The Pinto became known as "the barbecue that seats four."

Ford was aware of this design flaw but refused to pay for a redesign.  Instead, they decided it would be cheaper to pay off possible lawsuits for resulting deaths. Mother Jones Magazine obtained the cost-benefit analysis that it said Ford had used to compare the cost of an $11 repair against the monetary value of a human life. They figured the $11 cost of making the repairs needed on all 12.5 million Pintos meant that the cost of doing the fix was going to be $137.5 million.  On the other hand, Ford economists estimated the number of collisions that might be expected with Pintos being rear-ended, and estimated the number of people who would be killed or injured in those crashes, and the average cost of a lawsuit payout coming from those crashes.  They decided that it was likely that there would be 2,000 crashes, with property damage of $700 each time, plus 180 people killed and 180 more injured.  They figured that the value of the personal injury claim for those who lived would be about $67,000, and that the value of the human life lost would be $200,000.  Doing the math, they figured that the cost of NOT fixing the Pintos would not exceed 180 x $67,000 plus 180 x $200,000, plus 2000 vehicles x $700.  In sum, Ford estimated that its costs in NOT making the Pinto safe would have been $49.5 million.  So they didn't make the repairs.

But suppose the value of a life was not $200,000, but was $1,000,000?  Now all of a sudden, the cost-benefit analysis makes it profitable to fix the Pintos.  It all depends on the value that Ford put on a human life.  And, in the present regulatory hearings, it all depends on the value that the trucking companies put on a human life.

Congressman Bruce Braley from Iowa is a former truck driver.  He is also a former trial lawyer, representing people injured in accidents caused by, among others, sleepy truckers.   And his questioning of the trucking company executives and their experts exposed the money-grubbing nature of the objection -- these rules wouldn't save very many lives, and the value of those lives saved doesn't rise to the level of the costs to the trucking company of having to hire more truckers.  Look here for Braley's questioning.  

Many plaintiff's lawyers -- the folks that Republicans tend to brand as simply "trial lawyers", as though that were an epithet -- know that when plaintiff's lawyers raise the costs to businesses of not correcting negligent designs, they make it more likely that the manufacturers  will decide to correct those negligent designs.  If more plaintiffs had brought suit against Ford and had received larger judgments for Ford's negligent design, perhaps Ford's economist would have placed a higher value on human life.  I can't tell from the information available to me at the moment what value the trucking industry's economist placed on a human life.  But I will guarantee that it is less than the value placed on that life by the family who has lost a father, or a mother, or a child.

Cost-benefit analysis that requires placing a monetary value on a human life is a sordid business.   But that is what the trucking industry is doing in these hearings, and it is what the Republican Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform is doing in these hearings and in the political discussions that it is having on the cost of regulation.

So when you hear politicians -- particularly Republican politicians, though there are some conservative and "centrist" Democrats doing it as well -- talk about the "costs of regulatory reform," think about the cold calculations that go into that argument.  Think about the value that industry, and the politicians, place on the value of a human life.  And let's choose a regulatory scheme that is not so sterile, and that values human life as a paramount, not a secondary, consideration.

Elizabeth Warren’s announcement

The funniest thing I've seen in a while --

Finally someone says what needs to be said…

Elizabeth Warren lays it out (I don't know how to embed the video, but here's the URL --

"I hear all this, you know, 'Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever,'" Warren said. "No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own - nobody.

"You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory - and hire someone to protect against this - because of the work the rest of us did.

"Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless - keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along."

Does Tim Kaine have the guts to say it that clearly?

More corporate fatcats coming to Virginia…

From "Contrary Indicator":

Mindful of the need to be closer to its core customer - the Pentagon -- defense contractor Northrop Grumman (NOC) is moving its headquarters from Los Angeles to the Washington, D.C. suburb of Falls Church, Virginia. Naturally, shareholders are helping to pay for the move. The standard relocation package for top executives includes the usual assistance plus "a loss on sale assistance for employees who own their home, capped at $250,000." (Translation: if you have a pre-bust $1 million mortgage on a house now valued at post-bust $750,000, the company will make you whole when you sell.) But, according to a recent filing CFO James F. Palmer is getting a check for $750,000 to help facilitate the move, which, as notes, come out to $280.16 per mile for the 2,677-mile move. As for CEO Wes Bush, his new home in Virginia got "enhancements ... deemed necessary by the Company for his security" worth a cool $1.6 million.
See for this and other instances of "The Most Outrageous Acts of Corporate America."

Chief Justice Hassell died this morning

Chief Justice Leroy Rountree Hassll, Jr., died this morning after a long battle with cancer.  Chief Justice Hassell was the second African-American Justice on the Virginia Supreme Court, and the first African-American Chief Justice.

He was a champion of indigent defense, and under his leadership the Virginia Supreme Court began a series of programs to improve the quality of indigent defense and of criminal practice in solo and small law firms.

Chief Justice Hassell had been sick for some time, though the details were never public.  He had announced last fall that he was not going to serve another term as Chief Justice, and Cynthia Kinser was chosen by the Court to serve as Chief Justice beginning on February 1.

To those of us who are concerned about the quality of criminal representation in the Commonwealth, and particularly to those of us who practice in small firms and who represent most of the criminal defendants in the Commonwealth, Chief Justice Hassell was a strong advocate for a group that often had no advocate in high places.  

Chief Justice Hassell was determined to use his power at the Virginia Supreme Court as the chief administrative officer in the court system to improve the legal system.  For example, when the General Assembly did not act for a couple of years in a row to study improvements to the ways in which the judicial system handles the mentally ill, he formed his own study commission under his authority as Chief Justice.  This outraged the General Assembly, but it began a conversation that needed to be started.  In an effort to improve the quality of judges, he began a process of evaluating judges that involved local attorneys giving reviews of the judges.  These reviews were then used within the court system for feedback to the judges, so that (hopefully) they might accept criticism and improve.  The General Assembly got into another argument with the Supreme Court over these reviews, because the Judiciary Committees wanted access to the reviews when it came time to reappoint judges.  Chief Justice Hassell refused to give the reviews to the Committees, leading to more turf battles, attempts to cut the Court's budget, etc.

In all of these fights, Chief Justice Hassell used his power as Chief Justice to improve the delivery of legal services, at a time when the political process seemed paralyzed and unable to act.

He will be missed, and one can only hope that Chief Justice Kinser will continue his fights.

Things are turning toward Perriello

Perriello not Hurt

A week ago, this yard had Hurt signs up.  Now the Hurt signs are in the garbage, and a Perriello sign is up.

Perhaps the homeowner went to the debate last week?

Albemarle Judge Throws Out Cuccinelli’s Subpoena Request

Judge Paul M. Peatross, Jr., a retired judge sitting in the Albemarle Circuit Court, today issued a ruling in the case challenging Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's investigation into research on global warming.  Cuccinelli had requested the production of thousands of documents from the University of Virginia related to the research of former UVa climate change scientist Michael Mann, claiming that the AG was investigating "fraud in government contracting."  The University of Virginia opposed the subpoena request, backed by groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists, who argued that this request interfered with academic freedom.  

Today Judge Peatross threw out the AG's civil investigative demands.  Entirely.

The only down side is that they were thrown out "without prejudice," meaning that the AG could try again if he wanted to.


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