Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Letter to University of Michigan President Santa Ono on Pro-Palestine Protests of March 24, 2024

 Dear President Santa Ono:

Although I was generally in agreement with the content of your letter regarding the disruption at the honors convocation on Sunday, I take exception with your inflammatory characterization of the participants as "anti-Israel protesters" and your claim that the protest was "especially painful" for members of the UM Jewish Community.

The tendency to automatically equate Judaism with support for the actions of the Israeli government has a long and unfortunate history in the U.S. But Israel has been in control of a right-wing government for decades and many Jews, not only in the U.S. but also in Israel itself, are opposed to many of its policies--including support for illegal settlements in Palestinian lands, the "collective punishment" of Palestinian families for acts of individual members, and a range of Jim Crow-style apartheid laws that deny equal rights to Israeli Arabs. Yet now, under the current Israeli occupation of Gaza, tens of thousands of Palestinians have already been killed and untold numbers are at serious risk of death in the near future either through continued military action or famine. Many have called these attacks genocidal and though I have seen legalistic claims to the contrary, what is transpiring in Gaza is outrageous by whatever one chooses to call it. Plenty of Jewish persons all around the world recognize this and oppose these actions.

A university honors convocation may not be the appropriate time or place to demonstrate against these actions. But in your unfair and inaccurate attempt to paint Sunday's protest as essentially an act of anti-Semitic hatred, you mischaracterize the cause and righteousness of those protesting genocide (or something close to it), and you further insult the UM Jewish community by implying all of them agree with and support the atrocities being protested.


Eric Dunn (he/him/él)

LSA Class of 1997

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Hypertechnical tError


In 1980, Congress passed Section 214 of the Housing and Community Development Act (or “Section214”), which limited eligibility for federal low-income housing assistance to U.S. citizens and certain categories of immigrants—such as lawful permanent residents, refugees and asylees, and some others. This made all other non-U.S. citizens outside the chosen categories, both documented and undocumented, ineligible. 

        Determining whether a particular non-citizen was eligible under this statute was straightforward enough; one simply compared that person’s immigration status to the list of eligible categories. But many households with immigrants had some members who were U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens, and other members who were not eligible. Section 214 did not make clear what was to be done in cases involving such “mixedstatus families.” 

        Allowing only the eligible household members to live in HUD-subsidized housing, while excluding the ineligible members, would require either breaking up households or forcing eligible people to forego critical housing assistance just to remain with their family members. This was not only cruel and counterproductive, but often impractical—for instance, often young children would be U.S. citizens while their parents belonged to ineligible immigrant categories. But simply allowing such families to participate fully in federal housing programs would seem to conflict irreconcilably with the statute—and though it was a bad idea, a statute is a statute.

               After many years of litigation and HUD rulemaking, a compromise called the “mixed status families rule” resolved this conundrum. If a family had at least one eligible member, then the entire family could live together in subsidized housing—but their rental subsidy would be pro-rated based on the percentage of eligible household members. This had been HUD policy since the mid-1990s, and had functioned without incident for more than 20 years since Congress endorsed the rule in 1996. 

Trump's HUD Secretary Ben Carson wanted to change this, replacing the mixed-status families rule with a new all-or-nothing policy dreamed up by senior Trump advisor and notorious xenophobe Stephen Miller.[i] Under the proposed newrule,[ii] nobody could be a member of a subsidized household unless that person was eligible. If adopted, this policy would have forced all 25,000 of the existing mixed-status families in HUD housing either to break up or move out. 

HUD’s own analysis showed the proposed rule change would have cost U.S. taxpayers roughly $400 million per year, impacting HUD’s budget so much that the net loss of housing units would eclipse the number of apartments opened up for fully-eligible households on waiting lists.[iii] The policy would also have devastated certain housing authorities with higher numbers of mixed-status families—such as Los Angeles, where one-third of its assisted households were mixed-status. But all of those harms were exactly the point; not only was the Trump administration built on racism and anti-immigrant sentiment, but starve-the-beast was just as much a long-favored rightward tactic for demolishing popular social programs. Carson and Miller had to figure HUD wasn’t getting the extra $400 million per year, and so local housing authorities would just need to close projects, cancel vouchers, or cut other services accordingly--and that was just peachy in their sick little minds.

Former NHLP attorney Karlo Ng had partnered with allies at the National Low-Income Housing Coalition to launch #KeepFamiliesTogether, an information and advocacy campaign dedicated to the housing rights of immigrants and laser-focused on beating back the Carson-Miller attack on the mixed status families rule. Among other activities, Karlo and #KeepFamiliesTogether provided educational materials and templates for use in submitting comments to HUD on the rule change. This was important because federal agencies cannot promulgate new regulations or change existing ones without considering and responding to the comments they receive. This helps lay the groundwork for future legal challenges to regulations, because an agency’s response might reveal that some important fact was overlooked or that the proposed change is otherwise “arbitrary and capricious,” the usual standard for challenging federal executive actions.[iv]

In this case, however, the #KeepFamiliesTogether campaign paid off in HUD simply receiving an absurd number of comments; whereas HUD had never previously received more than 1,000 comments on a proposed rule, the change to the mixed families rule received an astounding 30,000+ comments.[v] Though NHLP and partners geared up for months preparing to sue HUD if and when they put the proposed rule into effect, that litigation never became necessary. Between the time it took for HUD to review so many comments, coupled with the delays and complications related to Covid-19, #KeepFamiliesTogether had simply run the clock out on them. The Biden administration formally withdrew the proposed rule change in the spring of 2021.[vi] 

Such were the wages of putting clueless neurosurgeons in charge of housing agencies and other people with limited or no government experience in charge of departments in which they had no subject matter expertise either—or probably even more importantly, for which they had no respect. We never had to sue HUD over the mixed status families rule, but had it been necessary the case would likely have succeeded in large part because some unknown HUD analyst had Galen Erso’d the rule by noting how its $400 million per year cost would simply shut down way more housing than however many units Miller thought he was opening up for his preferred kind of people. This was the kind of thing likely to have the Trumps launching into conspiracy theories and whining about the “deep state,” but was simultaneously just a professional person telling the truth.

[i] Tracy Jan, “HUD says 55,000 children could be displaced under Trump plan to evict undocumented immigrants,” Washington Post (May 10, 2019),

[ii] 84 FR 20589 (May 10, 2019).

[iii] U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development, Docket No: FR-6124-P-01, Regulatory Impact Analysis, Housing and Community Development Act of 1980: Verification of Eligible Status, Proposed Rule (Apr. 15, 2019), file:///C:/Users/Eric%20Dunn/Downloads/HUD-2019-0044-0002_content.pdf.

[iv] 5 U.S.C. § 706.

[v] Maggie McCarty and Jameson A. Carter, “HUD’s Proposal to End Assistance to Mixed Status Families,” Congressional Research Service (July 29, 2019),

[vi] 86 FR 17346 (Apr. 2, 2021).

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Wax the car, sand the deck, paint the fence...

I originally wrote the following for a manuscript I have in development on stopping evictions during Covid-19. But it’s too much of a deviation from that topic, and had to be removed. So I am posting it here as kind of a stand-alone blog and tribute to a great advocate and mentor. Without further ado…


I first met Jim Grow toward the end of 2007, when I was working at the Northwest Justice Project in Seattle. He called me on the phone to talk about a case called Hendrix v. Seattle Housing Authority.

 Shortly after moving to Seattle in 2005, I discovered that Seattle Housing Authority (or “SHA”), the city's public housing agency, had been systematically expelling families from its housing programs without due process of law. That is, if SHA decided to evict a family from public housing or revoke the family’s rent subsidy, there was a right to a hearing at which to contest the termination—but SHA had retained a man with no meaningful training or legal skills to preside over and decide those cases. And because that hearing officer lacked the training and legal skills, SHA instructed him not to consider any “legal arguments” that tenants might present. He did as instructed.

SHA’s arbitrary omission of tenants’ arguments and defenses rendered their hearings utterly meaningless, failing to afford the due process rights to which families facing the loss of their homes were entitled. Through public records requests, we discovered this was a systemic, recurring problem: over 270 families had been evicted or expelled from SHA housing programs through these sham hearings. It was an outrage, and addressing it entailed a multi-year campaign of civil rights litigation.

One major component of that litigation campaign was a federal lawsuit, Hendrix v. SHA. We’d brought the case seeking to enjoin SHA from hearing new housing voucher termination cases until they’d corrected their hearing procedures and hired new hearing officers with the training and skills to consider and evaluate tenant defenses. The judge in Hendrix issued a favorable ruling in November 2007, essentially rejecting SHA’s contention that “legal arguments” were inappropriate at voucher termination hearings, and allowing our case to go forward.

The favorable decision in Hendrix had been easily the most significant accomplishment in my legal career to that point. Though SHA’s practices were extreme, housing authorities across the country were notorious for violating tenants’ due process rights—whether through ersatz hearings and biased hearing officers like at SHA, using procedural tricks that kept tenants from even having hearings at all, or sometimes by simply ignoring or disavowing a hearing decision that didn’t go the housing authority’s way. So having a federal judge issue an opinion confirming that such practices were wrong and violated the U.S. Constitution, and recognizing a tenant’s right to actually hold the housing authority accountable in court, was a major win. 

The ruling would provide the bargaining leverage we needed to negotiate a far-reaching consent decree[1] with SHA to reform its hearing practices for voucher tenants, critically ensuring that tenants could raise any pertinent argument or defense, and that new, legally-trained hearing officers would be hired to preside over all future voucher cases.

 And yet winning a major housing due process case isn’t like winning the Super Bowl. There is no trophy presentation or city parade. A good percentage of U.S. adults have likely heard the term “due process,” but probably very few could accurately describe what it means or stands for. Federal housing programs are not well known, and few other than lawyers might ever give a second thought to the importance of administrative hearing rights in such programs. There is no fanfare; constitutional rights in housing just don’t capture the popular imagination like carrying an inflated pigskin across a white chalk line. The most there ever is a call from Jim Grow at the NationalHousing Law Project, looking to discuss his reading of the court’s opinion, and the idea that the due process rights of housing voucher tenants might be even more expansive than lawyers commonly believed.


I was glad to make Jim’s acquaintance that day. Because about seven years after the Hendrix case, I began representing an organization of tenants living in a north Seattle building called the Theodora, a HUD-subsidized property for disabled tenants. The property had recently reached the end of a 50-year “Section 202” mortgage, which had required the owner to keep the property affordable to qualified low-income residents. But that obligation expired with the mortgage, and now the owner planned on selling the Theodora to a developer for conversion into luxury apartments. 

Such “housing preservation” cases can be bewildering, requiring an understanding of affordable housing finance, knowledge of various obscure laws that might be leveraged to slow down or ultimately derail a pending sale, an ability to navigate complex ethical and regulatory obstacles and represent groups of residents whose objectives may or may not uniformly align, and in this particular case, advance a fair housing theory that requiredstatistical proof of discrimination (i.e., that the planned sale and redevelopment would substantially diminish housing opportunities for people with disabilities in the vicinity, an outcome the seller could avoid by conveying the property to a preservation-minded buyer instead). 

Without Jim we wouldn’t have stood a fighting chance. Few front-line legal aid attorneys spend much time thinking about how commercial housing deals are structured, and I was no exception. I had even attended multiple training presentations on the subject dating back years, but without many opportunities to make use of the information it never really took. I had no idea how to handle a complex housing preservation case that. Jim did.

An affordable housing project has certain “capital needs” costs, Jim explained, mainly the price of the land and the construction or rehabilitation needs of the building. Then, once the housing project is up and running, there will be operating costs—the amounts needed to pay the staff, maintain the physical plant, service the debt, and so on. For a project to be feasible basically required enough up-front money to meet the initial development costs and, once in operation, taking in enough rent and subsidy payments to cover the project’s operating costs.

That was simple enough. But I also didn’t have any idea how to figure out what those numbers actually were in connection with any particular project. The acquisition costs and capital needs for the Theodora I knew because we had obtained figures from the already-planned transaction through discovery in the lawsuit. But those numbers just showed how much a preservation buyer would need to pay if they wanted to match the existing offer on the Theodora—not how much they could afford or where the money might come from. Again, Jim knew. “Talk to some nonprofit developers in your area,” he recommended. “See if there are any interested in the project.”

It turned out that numerous Seattle-area nonprofit developers were interested in the Theodora. The property was in Wedgewood, by then an impenetrably cost-prohibitive area to place new affordable housing. Executives from four different affordable housing providers signed affidavits describing the building’s importance as a rare asset for meeting the housing needs of low-income Seattle residents, and people with disabilities specifically, in high-cost northeast Seattle. Each explained that the sale caught them off-guard and they’d likely have bid on the property if given the chance. But the seller had inked a deal with Goodman Real Estate, a for-profit entity known for voraciously scooping up the area’s aging affordable housing with no concerns for the futures of current residents, before the nonprofits ever had a chance. 

The only problem seemed to be that the highest price any of the nonprofit developers could have afforded to offer for the Theodora was about $6 million—and the seller’s contract with Goodman was for $7 million. That left what affordable housing developers call a “gap.” Either the price had to come down, or more money would need to come from somewhere to fill it—otherwise a preservation deal wouldn’t work even if we could force or negotiate one through the litigation.

We knew a sale to a preservation-minded buyer could have required the seller to discount the price; by how much, we didn’t know at the outset. But now we knew, and it was the difference between the $6 million the nonprofits knew they could come up with, and the $7 million that Goodman was willing to pay. How might a $1 million gap be closed? Again, as a guy who concentrated on the nuances of individual tenant matters like housing admissions or eviction proceedings, I hadn’t the faintest idea. 

Jim, on the other hand, had plenty of ideas. Money isn’t easy to come by in the nonprofit world, but those who look hard enough can often locate various sorts of strange, hard-to-access funding opportunities—tax credits, federal contracts, state bonds, small pots of federal appropriations that nobody ever qualified for. If there was money out there the nonprofits had missed, or that they might qualify for with some tweak in the laws, then they might be able to close the gap—at least part of the way. Otherwise, the only way to bring the gap down would be for the seller to sell the property for less. 

Expecting a seller to simply take less money might ordinarily have seemed out of the question. But here, the seller was itself a nonprofit organization. The seller would clear at least a $2 million gain on the sale to Goodman, and had already committed to investing the funds in some other unspecified manner to help people with disabilities in the Seattle area. But they didn’t have a plan for what that help would be. Leaving some of that anticipated profit on the table to allow preservation of the Theodora seemed to us quite a logical way to help Seattleites with disabilities.

 Sadly, in the end we were not able to identify any specific sources of additional capital that the non-profits could have received So to fill the financing gap in a preservation plan would have required the seller to discount the price by the entire million dollars. Jim thought that was too far, and all I could do was shrug. We’d hoped, if we made a formidable enough showing, that Goodman might agree to set aside a handful of affordable units in exchange for giving up our snowball’s chance. But they weren’t up for negotiating, so we just had to take our best shot in the courtroom and hope the federal judge saw things our way. 

He didnot.  Even though the seller was a nonprofit, the judge ultimately ruled, maximizing its profit on the sale of the Theodora was a sufficiently strong business reason to sell to Goodman as to justify displacing its disabled residents.

The effort to save the Theodora was not successful. But to the tenants who’d organized and fought to save their homes, the case had been deeply meaningful and well worth the effort despite the outcome. I was proud of the effort, happy to have served the clients, but disappointed with the result. 

With Jim’s help I’d touched the rim on a higher level of legal advocacy.  And yet I’d only touched it—I certainly couldn’t dunk yet. I didn’t want to just be the well-meaning legal aid guy in way over his head, but with the case having ended in a ball of fire we only hoped wouldn’t make the Federal Supplement,[2] I had to admit that’s what I had been. 

I wanted to be the expert national guy with all the answers. I wanted to actually win those cases. I wanted to learn the ways of the force and become a Jedi like Jim Grow. 

 Six years later I was trying to stuff a Napa cabbage into a plastic sleeve in the produce section of New Grand Mart when my cell phone rang. It was Jim, calling on a Saturday afternoon and wondering why I hadn’t been checking my NHLP email.

“Grocery shopping,” I answered, fumbling the half-bagged cabbage back into the display.

A mild chuckle suggested Jim could actually sense my one-handed shopping struggles from his shady back yard in Oakland. At least it was a good enough excuse. “Well,” he said, “When you get home, check it. Congressional staff is trying to reach you about the national eviction moratorium.”




[1] A “consent decree” is a type of legal settlement that is judicially approved and entered as a court order, so that the decree may be judicially enforced (i.e., violations constitute contempt of court).

[2] The Federal Supplement is a series of legal case reporters published by West Publishing, which contains important federal district court opinions issued since 1932. Though not binding on other courts, opinions that appear in the Federal Supplement tend to receive greater deference from fellow judges than non-published opinions.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Michigan Football Signgate Explanation/Update

 Here’s a summary/update for anyone confused about the off-field legal drama involving Michigan Football. 

This all started a few weeks ago when reports broke that someone had reported Michigan to the NCAA for allegedly filming opposing teams’ signs and signals, and the NCAA was going to investigate. Rumors have surfaced that the report came from a private investigator connected to Ohio State head coach Ryan Day, though this has not been confirmed.

The investigation centered on a low-level Michigan staffer, Connor Stalions, a retired USMC captain who had the job of trying to decode opposing teams’ signs. While NCAA rules do not prohibit decoding signs, they do prohibit using electronic devices to film opposing teams’ signs during games. Another NCAA rule prohibits team staff members from attending opponents’ games for in-person scouting. 

Stalions evidently determined that he could work around these rules by arranging for people not affiliated with Michigan Football to attend opponents’ games and film from the stands. While his actions certainly appear contrary to the spirit of the rules, there is at least a non-frivolous argument that he indeed found and exploited a loophole in the rulebook. This is being referred to as the “gray areas” defense. Michigan reportedly told the NCAA the school would not rely on the gray areas defense, but has raised it in proceedings with the Big Ten Conference (discussed below).

The evidence presented to the NCAA largely consisted of proof that he had purchased tickets to a number of games of Michigan opponents and paid various acquaintances or associates to record the games and upload the footage to a Google drive or similar cloud storage platform. He then presumably used the recordings to try and decode signals. Media has described this as a “vast network” of spies, of which Stalions was the “mastermind.” It’s just like SPECTER from James Bond.

Michigan’s coaches all deny knowing about any of these activities and to date there is no evidence to the contrary, so it appears Stalions was doing this all on his own. Notably, Devin Gardner (who played at M from 2010 to 2014) remembers Stalions being at every Michigan away game during his career (Stalions has only been on staff since 2021). Stalions was also reported to have written a 600-page “manifesto” on his plan to “take over Michigan Football.” So that’s the kind of person we are dealing with here. Nevertheless, NCAA rules make the head coach responsible for any violations that occur within a program.

In the meantime, a separate story broke about a person resembling Stalions having appeared on the CMU sidelines, wearing officially-issued CMU coaching staff gear, during a game against Michigan State in September (Michigan did not have a game that day). CMU declared an investigation but has been unable to identify the person. It appears most likely that it was indeed Stalions, and that he was present on the CMU sidelines at the invitation of CMU’s coaching staff. (This is just an unconfirmed theory, but seems more likely than the possibility that an unknown person resembling Stalions infiltrated the CMU sidelines, acquired official staff apparel, and remained there for an entire game while in close proximity to CMU staff and coaches). Notably, CMU’s coach, Jim McElwain, was briefly on Harbaugh’s staff during Stalions’ tenure—so it is possible he may have known Stalions and invited him or otherwise permitted him to be present on the sidelines, whether to moonlight as a CMU sign decoder or for some other purpose.

Michigan suspended Stalions immediately upon notice of the NCAA investigation, and Stalions later resigned. FWIW, he stated that none of the Michigan coaches knew about his recording activity. To my knowledge he has not made any statement about the alleged CMU sideline appearance. 

With the NCAA investigation was proceeding, a group of rival Big Ten coaches and athletic directors urged Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti to impose some immediate punishment on Jim Harbaugh over the sign-stealing scandal. It is unclear what all schools were involved in this campaign, though reports suggest it was a majority of Big Ten schools and that the Michigan State AD was the most vocal proponent. 

Big Ten rules provide that, in the case of alleged NCAA violations, the conference must cooperate with the NCAA investigation and not launch its own separate investigation, so as to avoid the possibility of inconsistent outcomes. Big Ten rules also provide that the conference may impose additional penalties on a member institution “subsequent to” the completion of the NCAA’s investigation. Therefore, the Big Ten was not authorized to investigation or punish Michigan for the alleged NCAA rule violations (at least until the NCAA investigation concluded). 

The Big Ten also has a separate “sportsmanship policy,” under which the league may impose punishments either on individuals who engage in unsportsmanlike activity that are not NCAA rule violations, or on member institutions for such conduct. This policy has traditionally been used to punish minor transgressions, such as bad-mouthing officials after a game.

Michigan communicated to Pettiti its belief that the conference needed to await the outcome of the NCAA investigation before taking any action. Michigan also retained legal counsel in anticipation of potentially needing to sue the Big Ten in case an unwarranted penalty were to be attempted. 

Meanwhile, a series of additional media stories broke which revealed that numerous Big Ten schools had colluded to decode Michigan’s signs and shared the decoded signs with each other. The schools involved in this collusion included, at minimum, Ohio State, Rutgers, and Purdue. Reports then surfaced that the Big Ten was considering levying a fine on Michigan, suggesting the controversy was winding down.

It was not to be. On November 10, Tony Petitti invoked the sportsmanship policy  to suspend Jim Harbaugh for the remainder of the regular season. The Big Ten did not announce the suspension until Friday afternoon (Nov. 10), a national holiday, after Michigan had left Ann Arbor for its game against Penn State.

Michigan’s lawyers filed a lawsuit in Washtenaw Circuit Court on Friday evening and moved for a “temporary restraining order” (or “TRO”) that would have stayed the suspension of Harbaugh long enough for the court to hold a hearing on the legality of the Big Ten’s suspension. While Michigan makes a number of arguments in its complaint, the key allegations are: (i) that the sportsmanship policy does not apply to this case because it involves NCAA rules violations and the NCAA investigation is ongoing, (ii) the sportsmanship policy also does not apply because this is not the type of violation for which the sportsmanship policy has traditionally been used, (iii) even if the sportsmanship policy applies, it only authorizes penalties against the individual who did the offending conduct (i.e., Stalions) or institutions (i.e., Michigan) and cannot be used to suspend a head coach for the transgressions of a staff member, and (iii) even under the sportsmanship policy, Michigan was entitled to an opportunity to defend itself against the allegations but wasn’t provided any such opportunity. 

For reasons that remain unclear, the Washtenaw Circuit Court Judge did not grant the TRO on Friday or Saturday, so Michigan was forced to play Penn State without Harbaugh on the sidelines. Instead, the court set a hearing in the matter for Friday, Nov. 17. The court will determine at or shortly after that hearing whether to enter a “preliminary injunction” permitting Harbaugh to coach the remainder of this season or not.

To secure the preliminary injunction, Michigan and Harbaugh must show three basic elements: (i) that they will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of the injunction; (ii) that they are likely to prevail on the merits of the case; (iii) that the harm to Michigan and Harbaugh without the injunction outweighs the harm to the Big Ten if the injunction is entered and turns out not to have been warranted. The court can also consider whether the injunction would be in the public interest, though this is sort of an optional factor here.

Michigan should easily meet the irreparable harm and “balance of equities” factors. Irreparable harm basically means an injury for which money damages cannot properly compensate; denying Harbaugh the ability to coach his team and denying the players the benefit of their coach are clearly harms that are difficult if not impossible to quantify in economic terms. And if the harm to Michigan and Harbaugh is greater than the effect on the Big Ten; were the injunction later found to be improper, the Big Ten could always suspend Michigan’s coach in the future. 

Therefore, the injunction is likely to come down to the “likelihood of success” factor. Michigan will argue the Big Ten had no authority to impose the suspension on Harbaugh in the manner it did, if at all. The Big Ten will probably argue that the sportsmanship policy gives Petitti the authority to punish Michigan for stealing signs and to determine what the punishment is. Though Petitti’s ability to do this is hardly clear under the sportsmanship policy, the Big Ten will likely contend that it’s a permissible interpretation of the policy and the court should defer to the Big Ten Commissioner’s own interpretation of the league rules. 

Notably, substantially every disinterested athlete and coach to express an opinion on the impact of sign-stealing has stated that pretty much every football team tries to steal opponents' signs--even though the benefit to be gained therefrom is insignificant. Michigan, for its part, has been without its designated sign decoder for three games now and is undefeated in those contests.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

EGD's Top 11 Other Noteworthy Injunctions by Judge Drew Tipton

[ICYMI, Judge Tipton is the genius who issued an order this week enjoining the Biden administration from pausing most deportations for 100 days, as the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security had commanded. Article]

11. "The sitting U.S. President, having failed to set forth any reasons whatsoever for not attacking Sweden, is hereby enjoined from continuing in his policy of not attacking Sweden."
10. "Having considered the evidence set forth by Plaintiff Flat Earth Society and there being no response tendered by the Defendant, Edwin Hubble, the Court duly finds therefore that the Earth is flat and the universe exists in a 'steady state.' All science teachers having notice of this order shall forthwith cease and desist teachings relating to any of the following: (a) a supposedly 'spherical Earth,' (b) the concept of a 'big bang' in which the present universe exploded from a 'primordial atom;' or (c) other 'science.'"
9. "Grapefruit, being at once a plentiful yet loathsome tasting fruit, shall taste better within 30 days of this order."
8. "The Court finds that Lake Michigan is the only one of the five (5) Great Lakes fully located within U.S. borders, yet is only the third-largest of the Great Lakes by area. These finding are greatly troubling to the Court because certainly the United States, being the greatest nation that ever was and perfect in every imaginable way, should certainly have the largest of the Great Lakes all to itself. This Court therefore orders the nation of "Canada" to fill in so much of the Lakes "Superior" and "Huron" as is necessary to make them smaller than Lake Michigan. Alternatively, the nation of "Canada" may comply with this order by simply ceding all of its territory located in waters of "Superior" and Huron to the United States. Also our national anthem is not worse."
7. "It being clear from the text of the document that the Founding Fathers of the United States intended in the Constitution for Donald J. Trump to be the U.S. President in perpetuity, as well as unrestrained philosopher king and almighty fuhrer, it so it is done by my hand this 27th Day of January, 2021."
7. "All birds residing or traveling through this district shall henceforth refrain from depositing excrement, purposefully or negligently, upon or in the vicinity of a the personal automobile belonging to this Judge, being a grey Mercedes bearing the license number . . ."
6. "Covid-19, having originated in mainland China, is hereby ordered to return forthwith to Eastern Lands."
5. "All polar ice caps having notice of this order shall forthwith cease and desist from continuing to melt, insofar as any such melting is the result of natural processes unrelated to human activity. Any melting shown to have been the product of human activity is hereby declared impossible, and therefore need not be enjoined."
4. "By the power vested in this United States District Court, the state of North Korea is hereby ordered to cease and desist from continuing to enrich nuclear material for use in the manufacture of military warheads and shall immediately dismantle any and all ballistic missiles and machinery or appurtenances for the production thereof."
3. All people are hereby enjoined from initiating or prosecuting any claims in this honorable Court, except as follows: (a) people who are not natural persons but are corporate entities with the rights of persons (including foreign and domestic corporations, limited liability companies, etc.); (b) people who meet all the following criteria: (i) possess significant wealth, (ii) identify racially as "white" or "caucasian;" (iii) are Evangelical Christians or a different form of Christian and have obtained an order from the court authorizing participation due to extenuating circumstances; (iv) voted for Trump in 2020 and, if eligible to vote in 2016, voted for Trump in that election too; and (v) are fully heterosexual both in sexual orientation and in gender identity and of the same gender as designated at birth.
2. "Trains shall blow their horns more."
1. "This Court finds that many people appear not to respect this Court as the august jurist I am. It has been said this Court has extreme and irrational views and fails to understand basic concepts of law and procedure. This Court's orders have been mocked and ridiculed as "unenforceable" by legal scholars, news media, and other analysts and advocates--many of whom suggest this Court's appointment had more to do with some bizarre combination of right-wing politics and graft than with the Court's high qualifications and impeccable professional acumen. Therefore, it is now ordered that all you who question this honorable Court may go f*k directly off. So ordered."

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Election 2020: Best & Worst


It wasn't quick and it wasn't comfortable, and somehow 73 million people voted for the white supremacist fascist candidate.  But we did it, U.S.A.  Almost 79 million showed up or sent out to reject the Orange Mussolini, good for 306 electoral votes, and so we'll have a new jefe come 2021.  The only questions now are (1) how much damage the clown-in-chief will be able to do on his way out the door, and (2) whether the Dems can pick win the two Georgia runoff elections necessary to deliver a 50-50 time in the Senate and effective control with the Kamala Harris tiebreaker.  She definitely needs to be speaking, yo.

Best: Black voters

We all went to bed a tad nervous on Tuesday night (really, Wednesday morning), with the trumps having shown out to their pastoral polling places in depressingly large numbers.  But by Thursday morning, things looked to be falling into place as states slow to count mail-in ballots and urban precincts in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia plowed through their votes.  By Friday, when Biden took the lead in Pennsylvania, it was all but over--and there was no question who had delivered this election to the Biden/Harris ticket.

With nearly 83% African-American population, Detroit is the Blackest city in the U.S.  Over 250,000 Detroit voters cast ballots in 2020, with 233,908 of them going to Biden/Harris and fewer than 13,000 to Cheetochet.  That's a differential of approximately 94.5% - 5.5%, and clearly made the difference in a state Biden/Harris carried by just under 150,000 overall votes.  

All scary white people just stay the f*k out

The story was much the same with Black population centers in the other key battlegrounds.  In Georgia, over 83% of DeKalb County (over 54% Black) voters favored Biden, almost 73% of Fulton County (44.3% Black), and nearly 60% of Gwinnett County (23.6% Black).  But most moving were voters in Clayton County (51.5% Black), home of the late civil rights icon John Lewis; 85% of voters there cast their ballots for Biden/Harris, and poll workers there worked overnight to count votes so Clayton County could be the district that turned Georgia blue.  

In Pennsylvania, Philadelphia County (43.2% Black) alone delivered over 584,000 votes to the good side against fewer than 130,000 to the bad, and other Philadelphia-area districts proved decisive in Biden's favor.  Among these were Chester County (the fourth-Blackest U.S. jurisdiction), which Biden won by over 50,000 votes (out of just over 300,000 cast).

Worst: the polls

I pride myself on being an evidence-based thinker.  I tend to prioritize the opinions and analyses of experts, particularly when they show their work and rely on credible information.  Everyone is prone to feels and hunches, but I regard them as suspect and unreliable.  So when people declared "the polls are wrong" and disdained the analyses of the Nate Silver types, I didn't really listen.  Political polling is a serious endeavor, I presumed, and while errors and fluctuations will certainly occur I found inconceivable the notion that political polling could truly just be a huge pile of fool's gold.  This 2016 article from Pew explaining what had gone wrong and what could be done to fix the polls--coupled with later coverage suggesting the necessary changes had been made--certainly didn't deter me. 

So, I figured the polls would mostly get it right in 2020.  That's not to say I expected 100% accuracy.  But I imagined the polls wouldn't be off my more than 2-3 points except in maybe one or two states, and that any polling errors that did occur were about as likely to favor Biden as Trump.  In fact, deep down I believed polling errors were more likely to underestimate Biden, since 45 was more a of known quantity by 2020.  

Because of this, I expected election night to be a Biden/Harris romp.  Yes, I knew Pennsylvania would take days to count and a few other states might not come in.  But the polls had Biden winning Florida and North Carolina, neck-and-neck in Texas, Iowa, and Ohio, and winning by comfortable-to-huge margins in Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada, and Arizona.  Had that happened--or even had most of that happened--we'd have been spared most or all of the drama and could have had our Saturday celebration on Tuesday night.  What we got instead was this nonsense:

From New York Times

Let's review some of it.  The polls missed Pennsylvania by four points, Michigan by five, and Wisconsin by nearly freaking 10 points.  At least Biden still carried each of those states but WFT polls?  The polls missed trump states Texas (four points), Iowa (seven points), and Ohio (nine points) by similar margins--though again, at least they got the outcomes correct.  But they didn't get the outcome right in Florida, which they missed by five, or Maine's second district, which they missed by 10.  They also got North Carolina wrong, though the three-point differential there almost looks like a triumph of quality polling in comparison to some of these other disasters.  

Nationally, Biden was favored by more than eight points in the popular vote and wound up winning by just five.  While that seems like another acceptably small three-point error, keep in mind the dreadful 2016 polls that caused everyone to question them in the first place only missed the popular vote by about two points.  

Already Silver is peddling excuses for the pollsters and returning to the "it's your fault for trusting them" argument that is somehow supposed to bring us back to 538.  I guess I'll take that literally this time.  I now consider political polls fully arbitrary unless and until proven otherwise.  Close your eyes, Marion.  Don't look at them.  

Best: the artwork

We didn't need to wait long for the first brilliant piece of art celebrating the election of the first female vice-president, who is also the first Indian-American to reach the post.  

The piece of course evokes the famous Norman Rockwell painting featuring Ruby Bridges being escorted to her elementary school in New Orleans.  The armed guards are gone now, of course--though one wonders if they should be.  

But there is plenty more to check out.  The Lewis-McCain heavenly fist-bump.  The Hank Willis Thomas piece about counting every vote from every kind of voter.  Mississippi replaced its flagThis

Worst: the lawsuits

Despite losing by some 5 million votes nationally and not being particularly close in any state that could affect the outcome, Team Trump dispatched their phalanx of election lawyers to try and create judicial chaos around the outcome for . . . reasons, I guess.  "Networks don't get to decide elections. Courts do," Giuliani declared.  Anyone but voters, it seems.

As Republicans have been doing for years, they complained fiercely about supposed voter fraud in the media.  Yet the lawyers failed to produce a single shred of evidence establishing voter fraud once they got to court--which is not surprising because voter fraud is vanishingly rare, and really just used as a false justification to suppress voting.  The lawsuits wound up being about such nonsense as whether Republican "election monitors"--really just goons harassing poll workers--were allowed to be close enough to vote counters, or whether they should have had more of them in rooms, or other such drivel.  The cases were or are in the process of being dismissed, and one of their law firms was taking such a hit to its reputation that the firm even withdrew from representation

What these lawsuits seem ultimately to reflect is the far, and maybe not even that far, right's view of the the judicial system and litigation.  Court cases are supposed to be about finding facts (i.e., the truth) and applying the appropriate laws and rules to the matter.  Yet the trumps seem to view litigation akin to something like a gymnastics meet, where lawyers compete against each other as if they were athletes and their performances are scored by judges--whom, the trumps seem to presume, are mere partisans destined to rule in favor of the party who put them on the bench.  Maybe some SCOTUS justices see things the same way.  I guess if they are not into following the rules anymore...

Best: Native American voters

While Black voters delivered Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, it was the often-overlooked Native American vote that proved decisive in Arizona:

From High Country News

Biden won Arizona by fewer than 12,000 votes--so the 425,000 Native voters in Arizona were a critical constituency and they not only turned out in remarkable numbers (116% of 2016 turnout in Apache County, where the Navajo and Hopi nations are located) but supported Biden/Harris by margins well over 60% statewide, and well over 90% on some tribal lands.  

And it wasn't just Arizona.  Wisconsin's 80,0000 Native voters also proved decisive in that state, which Biden carried by just over 20,000 votes.  Turnout in Menominee County (which largely overlaps with the Menominee Nation reservation) increased by 20% over 2016, with Native voters breaking better than 4/5 for Biden/Harris.  

Worst (Best?): Four Seasons Total Landscaping

How does that even happen?  I don't buy for one second that it was just some kind of mistake where a staffer confused FSTL for the Four Seasons hotel.  But there really isn't so much to be said about, it, best to just look at the pictures.

There's, of course, Rudy going all banana-republic-scary-junta-henchman, which I guess he has had plenty of practice at so far.

There's the side view so we can get the more complete Mad Max effect.

Welcome to Gas Town.  Don't forget to check out Fantasy Island books, right next door.

Actually, that entire block is just loaded with upscale establishments fit for a presidential press briefing:

Seems like the kind of street where somebody in an Al Pacino movie would be lured and then whacked for having insulted a made man.  And look, Delaware Valley Cremation Center right across the way.  Almost wonder if the reporters attending the event were treated to the smell of burning flesh too, as they listened to Rudy rant and rave. 

Better yet, just burn it all down.  

Rise from the ashes to B.B.B.  

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