Quantum Meruit

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Month: July, 2011

Obama Punts on Warren to Head CFPB

In abandoning the recess appointment of Elizabeth Warren to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, President Obama continues to show that he has no stomach for pushing concerns that he cares about. Professor Warren made a career of consumer protection at Harvard Law School, which is precisely why Republicans are terrified of her. The double standard couldn’t be more obvious: a person in charge of a regulatory agency will pass Republican muster if and only if he or she can demonstrate inefficacy in furthering the mission of that agency, preferably by coming from the industry that he or she has been selected to regulate. In the Bush Administration, for example, heads of cabinet departments were selected based on their proximity to the industries they would ostensibly regulate, with the implicit goal of not enforcing regulations adverse to those industries. For example, the head of the U.S. Forest Service under President George W. Bush was a former timber industry lobbyist.

So it’s okay to bring in someone who will not enforce the law. When it comes to Warren, it is explicitly unacceptable to have an agency chairperson who will actively and passionately fight for the goals of that agency if those goals are adverse to large businesses (as represented by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce). In other words: if your guy won’t enforce the law, that’s great. But if your guy will enforce the law, he’s got to go.

If Obama recognizes this blatant and pervasive double-standard, he’s not saying. But he’s certainly not putting up a fight. And even in the case of Richard Cordray, Republicans have made it very clear that he won’t survive. And why would he? Cordray is competent, well-qualified, and would bring a similar level of care to the CFPB as Warren. And for Republicans, that’s just out of the question. That’s why they would rather neuter the Bureau by replacing “a single leader with a board of directors.” The more people that can be put in charge of the CFPB, the more it can be watered down and made impotent. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce couldn’t ask for a better outcome outside of eliminating the CFPB completely. It is to their advantage not to have oversight.

Republicans’ intent in this matter couldn’t be more transparent: for years, the tactic was to destroy a legitimately-created federal agency, whose existence they disagreed with, by staffing that agency with either incompetent cronies (see FEMA under “Heckuva Job” Michael Brown) or industry patrons (like the U.S. Forest Service). That Obama doesn’t call them out on their blatant disgust for a functioning government places as much blame with him as it does with the Republicans.

Unnecessary Lawyer Latin of the Day

The first in a series of posts about unnecessary Lawyer Latin. It’s not the 13th century anymore; there’s no reason to uses phrases like “judgment non obstante verdicto” — which means nothing to 99% of the world — when other phrases like “judgment notwithstanding the verdict” would suffice (and make it easy to understand what’s going on). Unnecessary Latin is an impediment to understanding, either accidentally (through inertia) or intentionally (to make the lawyer’s language is a secret club which only the educated lawyer elite may join.

Vel non: a summary of alternatives. In English: “or not.” As in, “The merits, vel non, of this case.”

Why it’s unnecessary: You could have said “or not” or “lack thereof.” For example, if your roommate bursts into your room, without knocking, while you’re naked, you could say, “I appreciate your courtesy, vel non.”

Read This to Learn About the Fallacy of False Equivalence

There’s so much wrong about Janet Daley’s column in The Telegraph that I’m not quite sure where to start.

But here’s the biggest problem: a priori, when a right-wing news agency does something, it’s to support its conservative masters. Same goes for left-wing news agencies. Except when it doesn’t. Rupert Murdoch didn’t build his empire on politics. He built it on something more craven: divisiveness, conflict, and sensation. News of the World didn’t get killed because of its political leanings (whatever those might be). It got killed because it engaged in the most reprehensible tactics in order to get — wait for it — sensational news stories.

Daley frames the problem as one of more liberal types wanting to squelch speech, but it’s just a straw man, and not even a very good one. Free speech isn’t the issue, here. Breaking the law is the issue. Especially when News of the World is in cahoots with the police. And not just once. But it was an arrangement that lasted for a long time and continued until News of the World folded.