Monday, May 14, 2018

Last Call For You Can Bet On It

A major decision from the Supreme Court today, as in a 7-2 decision authored by Justice Alito, the court struck down a 1992 law prohibiting sports betting outside Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon as unconstitutional after New Jersey challenged the law in 2012.  The practical upshot: states can now legalize sports betting on professional and college sports as they see fit.

The United States Supreme Court agreed on Monday to allow New Jersey's bid for sports betting at its casinos and racetracks, effectively ending on a prohibition on a $100 billion industry and striking down restrictions on wagering outside of Nevada. 
The ruling could allow as many as 25 other states to seek similar allowances.
The case, Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, dealt with if the government had the right to "impermissibly commandeer the regulatory power of States." 
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected New Jersey law in 2016, ruling that the statute violated the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) which forbids state-authorized sports gambling. 
The move in trying to get New Jersey into legalized sports betting started years ago by former governor Chris Christie and other lawmakers, with the state passing a non-binding referendum allowing sports betting in 2011. 
Each of the North American major pro sports leagues and the NCAA filed a lawsuit against the state the following year after Christie signed a sports betting law, suing in 2012 and again in 2014. 
The sports leagues players' unions have said they want to be involved in some facet amid concern about fixing games and point shaving. 
"Given the pending Supreme Court decision regarding the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) ... The time has come to address not just who profits from sports gambling, but also the costs. Our unions have been discussing the potential impact of legalized gambling on players' privacy and publicity rights, the integrity of our games and the volatility on our businesses," the Players Associations said in a joint statement in January. 
Congress did give New Jersey a chance to become the fifth state to allow gambling before the ban was enacted, but the state failed to pass a sports betting law in the time allotted.

In other words, betting on pro and college sporting events is about to become legal in New Jersey, and you'd better believe a whole lot of states are going to follow suit very quickly.  Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Connecticut and Mississippi have already passed laws in anticipation of the ruling, and 14 more states are ready to pull the trigger on sports betting laws, including California, New York, Illinois, Louisiana, and of course right here in Kentucky.  Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan will almost certainly get involved as well.  The two big states you can count on not taking bets: Texas and Florida.

Illegal sports betting in states outside Nevada is a $100 to $150 billion a year industry or more, depending on who you ask, and I anticipate dozens of states are going to make it legal and start collecting taxes on it with a swiftness.

Now, Congress isn't just sitting around and is actually ready to introduce legislation that bans sports betting in a way that meets Alito's test, at least in the Senate anyway.

But speaking of Alito, here's the thing: Alito's ruling makes it clear that the federal government can force states to do things by making them illegal but it can't pass laws that prevent state legislatures from allowing things to happen.  Guess what falls into that second, unconstitutional category of "commandeering state legislatures"?

That doctrine, moreover, has implications well beyond the realm of sports betting. Murphy isn’t simply good news for Atlantic City. It also bolsters the legal case against the Trump administration’s crackdown on so-called “sanctuary cities.”
Murphy concerns the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), a very odd statute which “makes it ‘unlawful’ for a State or any of its subdivisions ‘to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law or compact . . . a lottery, sweepstakes, or other betting, gambling, or wagering scheme based . . . on’ competitive sporting events.” 
What makes this law unusual is that Congress typically does not forbid state lawmakers from taking a particular action. If Congress wants to ban sports betting, it can simply ban sports betting, and instruct federal agents to enforce that law. Banning state lawmakers from authorizing sports betting is a strangely roundabout way of accomplishing a similar goal. And it is also, as Justice Alito explains, unconstitutional. 
The reason why stems from the Supreme Court’s “anticommandeering” doctrine, which prohibits Congress from effectively drafting states into federal law enforcement. As the Court held in New York v. United States, “we have always understood that even where Congress has the authority under the Constitution to pass laws requiring or prohibiting certain acts, it lacks the power directly to compel the States to require or prohibit those acts.” 
“Where a federal interest is sufficiently strong to cause Congress to legislate,” New York explained, “it must do so directly; it may not conscript state governments as its agents.” 
The core holding of Murphy is that the anticommandeering doctrine applies equally to federal laws requiring state officials to take a particular action and federal laws prohibiting state lawmakers from enacting a particular law. “Congress,” Alito explains, “cannot issue direct orders to state legislatures.”

In other words, this just blew a hole in the Trump regime's sanctuary city claim that state and local government have to allow federal law enforcement officers in to conduct ICE business.

We'll see this in court for sure.

You can bet on that.

Whither Wellstone's Legacy?

I lived in the Twin Cities when Minnesota Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone's plane crashed in 2002, and it was a heartbreaking moment, I was convinced Wellstone was going to go far in life as a true progressive champion, and all that ended in an instant.  But Wellstone's legacy lived on and his sons helped to put together a grassroots movement to train the next generation of 21st century liberal leaders after his death.

But now that legacy is in trouble as the eternal, unavoidable question of Democrats in the Trump era raises its head in Minnesota: which matters more in rural America, winning back white Trump voters, or keeping black, Latinx and Asian voters who stuck with the Dems through Hillary?

Founded after Wellstone’s death in a plane crash in 2002, Wellstone Action has trained thousands of progressive candidates, campaign operatives and community organizers throughout the country, with alumni serving in local and state offices and in the U.S. House. In 2016, the last year for which tax filings were available, the group reported providing training to 2,135 data and digital strategists, 723 nonprofit leaders and community organizers, and 854 aspiring political leaders. 
David Wellstone and other Democrats close to his father began objecting last year to what he described as Wellstone Action’s abandonment of disaffected Democrats in the rural Midwest — the rural poor were an early focus of the late senator — with an increasingly narrow focus on gender politics and people of color
“I said, ‘After Trump, we’ve got to figure out how we are going to go back after those Democrats that we lost,” David Wellstone said. “We can do all the stuff we do. We do great stuff on communities of color, we’re doing great stuff on gender identity politics. But we need to do some of these other trainings. … Nobody wanted to have a discussion about that.” 
In a prepared statement, Connie Lewis, chairwoman of the Wellstone Action board, said the group’s “mission has not changed.” But the group’s staff and board of directors appeared to suggest a shift in the progressive movement since Paul Wellstone’s death, asserting in a statement on its website that “a lot has changed over the last fifteen years” and that “the progressive movement also looks different today than it did when we first started.” 
In an early sign of tension at Wellstone Action, then-board member Rick Kahn, Paul Wellstone’s longtime friend and campaign treasurer, raised concerns in an email to a staffer last year about a draft tax filing in which staff proposed changing the group’s stated mission from a “advancing progressive social change and economic justice” to “advancing progressive social change and economic, racial, and gender justice.” 
“I am not remotely questioning the work we do in the realm of racial and gender justice,” Kahn said in the email, one of several documents he provided to POLITICO. “I support it, and applaud it, all of it. That has always been true, and will always remain true. What I am calling into question, and vigorously objecting to, is the strategic thinking in expressly choosing to highlight our work for just those two groups, and no others, in a document posted online, that we share with the entire world.” 
Kahn and other Wellstone allies said the board moved against them only after they began raising questions about the group’s finances. But the exchange reflected a broader undercurrent of discord. Noting Wellstone Action’s other priority constituencies included young people and working-class people, among others, Kahn wrote, “And since the language in question relates expressly to the legacy of Paul and Sheila [Wellstone], if we are willfully choosing to include some groups here, and not others, what about justice for people with mental illness, and victims of domestic violence?” 
Edith Sargon, then-executive director of the group, agreed in an email to use the group’s original mission statement in its tax filing. But she also challenged him in an email, saying, “We added race and gender because they are also part of the bigger goal of working towards social justice. Wouldn’t you all agree?” 
David Wellstone took the language on the group’s website — that “a lot has changed over the last fifteen years” — as an affront to his father’s legacy. 
“How I read it is Paul Wellstone is no longer relevant. It is the most untrue, un-thought-through and most offensive remark,” David Wellstone said. “When you’ve got people who are hurting and they’re turning to Donald Trump, we’ve got to give them something. … We should be the fighters for all folks who aren’t on top. That’s what my dad always said.”

It's a depressing situation in Minnesota even as the national Democratic platform shaping up for 2018 and 2020 is the most liberal in generations.  If even one of the most progressive organizations in the country is running away from even recognizing the voters that got them there in favor of the "political reality" of 90%+ white states in the Midwest, then who stands for people like me, black and living in Kentucky, or Kansas, or South Dakota, or Minnesota?

It's a question the Democrats better figure out and fast, because time is almost up.  We have less than six months before the 2018 midterms.

Heavens To Betsy, This Is Corrupt

You can make the argument that Trump EPA head Scott Pruitt is the most corrupt member of the Trump regime, at least from a personal perspective, and that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's corruption may be the most far-reaching, stretching all the way from Alaska to Puerto Rico and back.

But there's little argument that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's corruption has done the most damage to America because of her massive undermining of America's schools and colleges and her relentless efforts to trap millions of young people in a for-profit $1.5 trillion-plus student loan system that threatens to wreck America's entire economy for decades.

Members of a special team at the Education Department that had been investigating widespread abuses by for-profit colleges have been marginalized, reassigned or instructed to focus on other matters, according to current and former employees.

The unwinding of the team has effectively killed investigations into possibly fraudulent activities at several large for-profit colleges where top hires of Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, had previously worked.

During the final months of the Obama administration, the team had expanded to include a dozen or so lawyers and investigators who were looking into advertising, recruitment practices and job placement claims at several institutions, including DeVry Education Group.

The investigation into DeVry ground to a halt early last year. Later, in the summer, Ms. DeVos named Julian Schmoke, a former dean at DeVry, as the team’s new supervisor.

Now only three employees work on the team, and their mission has been scaled back to focus on processing student loan forgiveness applications and looking at smaller compliance cases, said the current and former employees, including former members of the team, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation from the department.

In addition to DeVry, now known as Adtalem Global Education, investigations into Bridgepoint Education and Career Education Corporation, which also operate large for-profit colleges, went dark.

And of course let's not forget the investigation into Trump University, where the corruption goes all the way to the top.  It's obnoxious and severely damaging to the future of our country.  With people under 35 saddled with a trillion and a half dollars in debt, and Gen X still reeling from the Great Recession, how does anyone in my generation or younger afford a house these days?

Of course, working as intended I guess.


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