Sunday, June 16, 2019

Gibson's v. Oberlin College: A Woke Case Gone Bad

Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio has historically been a consistently progressive college in America. It was coed and interracial from its founding in 1833 and was part of the Underground railway before the Civil War. Gibson's Bakery has been family run since 1885 near the campus. It had an exemplary record serving Oberlin and its students until an incident on November 9, 2016, the day after election day. The election of Donald Trump put many progressives on edge, which may be a partial justification for Oberlin’s crazy, stupid, expensive explosiveness. An Oberlin student, Jonathan Aladin, entered Gibson’s with the intent of stealing two bottles of wine. He also had a phony ID. Allyn D. Gibson, son of Gibson’s two co-owners, his father and grandfather, saw the attempted theft. He took out his phone to take Aladin’s picture, whereupon Aladin slapped the phone in Allyn’s face. Allyn chased Aladin out of the store. The two exchanged blows outside the store. The police arrived shortly and witnessed Aladin, and two friends who were with him, punching and kicking Allyn, who was lying on his back. The police body cams captured the beating. A flyer was circulated shortly after the arrests. The flyer listed 10 competitors of Gibson’s to patronize. Roughly 300 Oberlin students demonstrated outside Gibson’s. Oberlin may or may not have suspended classes to let students attend the demonstration. Oberlin’s legal problem is that Dean Raimondo copied the flyer for the students on Oberlin’s copy machines and then disseminated them at the demonstration. She also used a bullhorn at the demonstration to direct the students. Oberlin’s Comparative American Studies Department posted on Facebook: “Very Very proud of our students! Gibson’s has been bad for decades, their dislike of black people palpable, their food is rotten and they profile Black students. No More!” Oberlin continues to argue, even after the jury findings of fact, that it had no part in the demonstration or student actions. Oberlin quickly terminated Gibson’s century old relationship with the college by supplying donuts and bagels to Oberlin. Gibson’s technically contracted with Bon Apetit Management Company, Oberlin’s food service contractor. Dean Raimondo ordered Bon Apetit on November 14, 2016 to terminate Gibson’s. The Gibsons met with the President of Oberlin, Dean Raimondo, and the President’s assistant a week after the incident. The Gibsons wanted an apology from the College. The response was Oberlin’s request that Gibson’s forgive every shoplifter for a first offense and contact Dean Raimondo rather than calling the police. Gibson’s would be committing economic suicide if it agreed to that offer. Aladin and his two friends Cecelia Whittston and Enida J. Lawrence, subsequently pled guilty to various offenses. Aladin’s written statement said “On November 9, 2016, I entered Gibson’s Market in Oberlin Ohio and attempted to purchase alcohol with a fake ID. When the clerk recognized the fake ID, I struggled with the clerk to recover the fake ID. The clerk was within his legal rights to detain me, and I regret presenting a fake ID in an attempt to obtain alcohol. This unfortunate incident was triggered by my attempt to purchase alcohol. I believe the employees of Gibson’s were not racially motivated. They were merely attempting to prevent an underage sale.” Ms. Whittston and Ms. Lawrence wrote similar statements. The Oberlin Police investigated the claims that Gibson’s had a history of racial discrimination. The police reported that 40 shoplifting arrests were made at Gibson’s from January 2011 through November 2016. Only 6 of the arrestees were African Americans. 33 were Oberlin students. Tray James. An African American employee of Gibson’s, said racism did not play a role in the arrest. He said “If you’re caught shoplifting, you’re going to get arrested.” Gibson’s filed suit against Oberlin and Dean Raimondo with counts of libel, slander, tortious interference with business relationships, tortious interference with contracts, deceptive trade practices, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring, retention, supervision, and trespass. Oberlin said Gibson’s brought the controversy unto itself by chasing Aladin out of the store and tangling with him. Ohio, like the vast majority of states has a shopkeeper’s privilege statute, which allows a merchant to detain for investigation a suspected shoplifter for a reasonable time in a reasonable manner upon reasonable grounds for investigation. Allyn had reasonable grounds to suspect Jonathan was shoplifting. Being progressive should not mean being blind. The Gibson family and bakery just won a judgement for $11.2 million compensatory with another $33 million tacked on by the jury. The complaint’s allegations are eye-opening. “Racist” is one of the most loaded, inflammatory, vicious comment you can make of someone today. Oberlin kept it going for a year. The university continued to prominently display in the Wilder Hall Student Union statements that “Gibson’s has a history of racial profiling and discriminatory treatment of students and residents alike.” Oberlin student tour guides told the parents and prospective students to boycott the racist Gibson’s. Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo is a social justice warrior. Our campuses have many social justice warriors in the administration, faculty, and student body. The youth have traditionally been liberal. I was once much more liberal than I am today. As Winston Churchill is quoted as saying: “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.” It’s a great Churchill quote even if he never uttered it, However, VP Raimondo will not let the facts get in the way of the narrative. The narrative is that white males have consistently discriminated against African American, especially young males, with slavery, Jim Crow, and now the criminal justice system. Unfortunately for VP Raimondo and Oberlin College, the facts are the facts here. Professor Raimondo joined the Oberlin faculty in 2003 in the newly created Department of Comparative American Studies. She explained in 2003 the department role is studying how diversity affects Americans at home and abroad, looking at the role of America in a global context. Her views approximated those of President and Michelle Obama, who viewed America as an oppressor nation both domestically and globally. Her courses covered gender and sexuality, race and ethnic studies, social justice, and HIV/AIDS. The professor was one of six receiving an Excellence in Teaching Award. She was appointed Special Assistant to the President for Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity as well as Title VII Coordinator in July 2014. Her role was to ensure Title VII compliance, to “further enhance institutional planning on diversity and inclusion,” and to support victims of sexual abuse and misconduct. Parties can insult the intelligence of jurors. Oberlin certainly accomplished that feat. Oberlin made two insulting arguments against punitive damages and one dumb mistake. The first was that they were not as bad they were seen, which went against the jury’s determination. In other words, the jurors were wrong. The second argument was that Oberlin was poor and couldn’t afford the judgment. Oberlin’s President testified that “We’ve created deficits … and over the next ten years, if this continues, that is unsustainable and we will not exist. He added to maintain diversity the college awards $60 million in grants annually while only 10% of the students pay full tuition. Cross examination was devastating. Plaintiff’s counsel presented the Oberlin 990 form, an annual, detailed financial form that non-profit institutions must file with the IRS. It is then made public. The 2017 990, the most recently available, reported Oberlin had” cash- non-interest-bearing” of $7,223,563 and savings and temporary cash investments of $85,876,658. 18 administrators earned over $100,000 annually while the President and Chief Financial Officer made over $500,000. These figures are not unusual in higher education, but help explain why tuition is so high. Oberlin’s endowment was $877 million. Oberlin’s financial statements report 301,560,000 is unrestricted. It can be used to pay the judgment. Apparently the worth of Gibson Bakery is $35,000. I can see the jurors’ eyes bulging at these figures. David with good lawyers can defeat Goliath with poor lawyering. The mistake was the response to the compensatory damages. Scott Wargo, speaking for Oberlin, said the college had no response at the time. Donica Thomas Varner, Oberlin’s Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, made a mistake after the initial $11 million judgment in an email. She believes “the Constitution is a living document that should reflect our times, our norms, and what matters to us as everyday citizens.” Both Vice Presidents Raimondo and Varner fit the Oberlin ethos. Oberlin may be highly progressive, but much of Ohio is conservative. I know, having taught at Ohio Northern for three years in rural Ohio, that these hard working, America loving citizens in Lorain County are what Hillary Clinton referred to as “deplorables” and whom Senator Obama said “cling to their guns and religion.” Town and Gown don’t mix when Gown is trying to destroy Town. Vice President Varner sent an email to alums after the verdict She said Oberlin “was disappointed with the verdict and regret that the jury did not agree with the clear evidence our team presented.” Juries are the finders of fact. I teach students that there are two sides to every case. They may not be equal, but without two sides, you wouldn’t have lawsuits. However, once the jury decides the facts, then only one operative set of facts exists. Period! Dean Raimondo testified at trial that the witnesses for Gibson’s had lied, misrepresented, or misunderstood the occurrence. The jury obviously did not believe her. Discovery is great. Dean Raimondo said of a Oberlin professor who spoke out against the boycott of Gibson’s: “Fuck him, I’d say unleash the students if I wasn’t convinced this needs to be put behind us.” Oberlin continues to claim that it has no control over the students and that the involvement of Dean Raimondo was to ensure no violence occurred. Dean Varner added “The college and Dr. Raimondo worked to ensure that students’ freedom of speech was protected and that the student demonstrations were safe and lawful.” The $44 million sends a message to all colleges about social justice. Don’t defame and try to destroy an innocent party on grounds of racism. The jury award for compensatory damages was $5.8 million to the father, $3 million to the grandfather, and $2.2 million for the eatery. It held the college and Dean Raimondo were liable, but said damages would only be assessed against the college. The $44 million will be reduced. As I read Ohio Revised Code§2315-21(C)(5), punitive damages are limited to twice the compensatory. $11 billion will thus be cut off the verdict. The trial judge or appellate tribunal may do a remittitur on the compensatory, and cut them and the resulting punitives. The best advice for Oberlin once the trial judge makes his final decision: SETTLE. The publicity is not good. Look at Missouri and Evergreen. You could lose the 10% paying full tuition. The lawyers on Oberlin’s Board should intervene with both common and legal sense. Settle with a full apology.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Questions for Senator Bernie Sande, et al

Senator Bernie Sanders’ has a tag line: “How much did Amazon pay in taxes last year? His answer is Zero. Question for Senator Sanders: How many jobs did you create? Amazon created 100,000 in 2017. Amazon would have created 50,000 in in an economically depresses neighborhood in Queens. Your Democratic Socialist fellow traveler blocked it. Second Question for Senator Sanders: How as a Democratic Socialist have you managed to become a rich millionaire while serving in Congress, having failed in the private sector? Third Question for Senator Sanders: You said Venezuela and the Soviet Union don’t count as examples of failed socialism. What examples exist of successful socialism? Fourth Question for Senator Sanders: You know government housing projects have been a disaster. How do you expect the government to successfully build and manage tens of millions of affordable housing? Quick question for Senator Sanders: What is democratic About socialism? Question for Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: How many jobs have you created? The answer is Zero. How many jobs did you block in Queens? 50,000 Question for Senator Elizabeth Warren: Senator Warren: How much wealth have you created, except for yourself and your husband? Probably Zero Question for Senator Warren: Why do you propose a probably unconstitutional wealth tax of 2% on the rich? Question for Representative Llhan Omar: You will not release your tax returns, which are alleged to include questions of mistake, if not fraud. Why do you demand and excoriate President Trump for not releasing his taxes? Question for Vice President Joe Biden: You recently used the tagline “Let’s Make America America again.” Why did you use this phrase from disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti? Senator Cory Booker: Who was Spartacus? Senator Gillibrand: You wrote a letter to the NRA a decade ago "I appreciate the work that the NRA does to protect gun owner rights and I look forward to working with you for many years in Congress." Why last week did you say that Americans are "ripped apart again and again by gun violence" and saying the NRA cares more about profits than protecting the American people"?

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Could We Do D-Day Today?

We just commemorated the 75th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1946, the invasion of the Nazi occupation of continental Europe. It is one of the turning points of WWII: Battle of Britain, Battle of the Atlantic, El Alamein, Stalingrad, Kursk, and Midway. All these Allied victories were essential for the defeat of the Axis powers. We celebrated the remaining D-Day veterans who returned to Normandy yesterday. The democracies, led by the United States and the United Kingdom, united to liberate Western Europe. They had to invade the Continent to defeat Hitler. The conquest of the Normandy beaches led to the breakout of American, British, Canadian, French, Norwegian and Polish forces, the liberation of Western Europe, and the defeat of the German forces in the West. The days of the Third Reich were numbered, showing the folly of Adolph Hitler’s declaration of war against the United States and initiation of a two front war by invading Russia. D Day was a massive effort: 11,000 ships, thousands of planes, and hundreds of thousands of soldiers against an entrenched enemy behind The Atlantic Wall. The Atlantic Wall proved to be as ineffective as the Maginot Line and the Siegfried Wall. The question are: Could we do it again? Would we have 2 ½ years to marshal the forces? The first problem would be the media, which concentrates on the negative. There will be no John Wayne glorification of the War and D-Day. Vietnam was the first war on nightly TV, showing dead bodies and the horror of war to the civilian population. The public was disillusioned. The media is quick to find fault. War has more than its share of fault and incompetence with tragic consequences. The media would concentrate on the delay in breaking out (the French hedgerows) They will report the large civilian casualties. They will highlight the mistakes, not understanding battles do not proceed as planned in the fog of war. The first day objectives were not obtained on D-Day. General Eisenhower famously said “Plans are useless, but planning is essential,” or words to that effect. Today’s media would proclaim us as losing after Pearl Harbor. They would confirm it by the loss of Wake Island, Singapore, Malaysia, and the success of the German U-boats against Allied shipping in the Atlantic. They would harangue the Pentagon for the Guadalcanal Campaign that lingered for six months with no end and the interminable New Guinea Campaign. One quarter of the Second Marine Division were casualties on Guadalcanal. They would decry the loss of the fabled aircraft carriers, Lexington, Concord, Hornet and Wasp, and several naval bottles of Guadalcanal. They would have magnify the large losses in the Pacific: Tarawa, Saipan (2,949 deaths and 10,646 wounded), Peleliu (2,336 deaths and 8,450 injured), Iwo Jima (6,821 deaths and 19217 injured), and Okinawa (16,250). They would never understand the Pacific Campaign and the stepping stones, the islands and atolls, on the way to Tokyo. They would have proclaimed all is lost with the slaughter of the invading first waves on Omaha Beach, the two months to capture Caen, and then being stuck in the hedgehogs around Normandy. Photos and videos would depict the pathos of bodies drowning before they could reach the shores. They will note that of the fabled 200 rangers climbing Pointe de Hoc, 135 died or were wounded. Confirmed deaths (the numbers are not precise) on D-Day were 4,114 deaths, of which 2,499 were Americans and 1915 from other countries, It’s possible they will miss the fact that 875,000 Allied soldiers disembarked on the Normandy beaches by the end of June. America’s opponents today know the American public believe the American people have little patience for long wars with casualties. They want short, quick wins with low casualties. Another problem is that the United States was the Arsenal of Democracy in World War I and World War II protected by two oceans. Its large industrial base was not damaged during the war. The government financed the construction of steel mills, aluminum plants, and shipyards. Auto factories could be transformed into airplane, truck, and tank factories. The aerospace industry manufactured about 3,000 airplanes in 1939. It produced over 300,000 planes by the end of the war by over a dozen manufacturers, including the auto companies. The United States could outproduce Germany and Japan in ships, planes, tanks, guns, and artillery, as well as manpower. The armada of ally ships in Tokyo Harbor for the Japanese Surrender illustrate the manufacturing power of the United States and to a lesser extent the U.K. The American Arsenal of Democracy supplied much, but by no means all, the munition of England and Russia, with convoys to England and Murmansk. The United States now has three major plane manufacturers, two companies with shipyards for Navy ships, and one tank factory. America’s industrial base has been decimated in recent years, with scores of factories not only shuttered, but demolished. Most significantly, World War II was total war. Neither lawyers nor the White House micromanaged the war. The rule of engagement was WIN. Civilian casualties were a necessary corollary to winning the war. Firebombing Dresden and Tokyo would not be allowed under today’s rules. Neither would dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

LA Voters Wise Up; Soundly Defeat Prop EE, The Largest Property Tax Increase in LA History

Teachers have struck over the past year and a half in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Colorado, Arizona, Oakland in, and Los Angeles. 32,00 Los Angeles teachers, represented by the United Teachers of LA (UTLA), struck the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) for six days, January 14-22, before an agreement was reached. 600,000 students received, at best, minimal teaching during the strike. The terms of the new contract were very favorable to the teachers: 1) A 6% pay raise, retroactive to the 2017-18 school year 2) A 4 student reduction in class size; 3) Removal of a provision allowing larger class size during economic emergencies; 4) A commitment for a full time nurse in each school; 5) A librarian for every middle and high school; 6) Special education teachers will get two release days to conduct testing; 7) A dedicated hotline and attorney for immigrant families. The average pay for LA school district prior to the agreement was $74,789. The first problem is that the LAUSD was already operating at a loss, and said after the settlement that it didn’t know how it was going to pay for it. Austin Beutner, LAUSD Superintendent, said he had “tremendous concerns about insolvency.” He also said “This is a truly historic agreement, and we look forward to tomorrow, and a new day for our schools.” It’s historic – signing an agreement with no funds to pay for it. The second problem was that Prop 13 requires a 2/3 vote of voters to approve a tax increase. Hence a proposed tax increase For the Children, always For the Children. Why not propose the largest property tax increase in the history of Los Angeles? It's for the children. The third problem is that no matter how much political pull the public employee unions, especially teachers unions, have with elected officials in LA, California, and several other states, the elected officials cannot enact a tax increase on the own in California. Prop 13 requires a 2/3 vote at the ballot box. Hence a proposed property tax increase of 16 cents for square foot of improvements. It would residential single family and multi-family housing and commercial buildings for 12 years. The assumption is that almost every home owner in the LAUSD voted against it. A further assumption is that renters would vote for it. Renters understood that it would result in rent increases. The proponents didn't even have the honestly or integrity to call t a property tax; They labeled it a "parcel Tax," as if it came from the Post Office, UPS, or FedEx. Voters have memories. They don't trust the LAUSD and the politicians. They remember the 2013-4 IPad scandal. The then Superintendent of Schools entered into a $1.3 billion deal to supply IPads to every student, roughly 650,000 students, in the District. The money came from a bond issue for school reconstruction. Prop EE threw a few bones to charter schools, which the UTLA otherwise vigorously fights. Prop EE did not receive 2/3 of the vote. It did not even receive a majority! The vote count yesterday was 165,294 NO, 139,027 Yes. It was a smackdown rebuke of UTLA, LAUSD, and Mayor Eric Garcetti who vigorously campaigned for it. Absentee ballots remain to be counted, but even with the best ballot stuffing, it will not be enough to overturn the Tuesday vote. Prop 13 limits property tax increase to 2% annually based on the year you bought the property. The Democrats and public employee unions have hated it since the public voted for it. The significance of this vote is a warning to them. They plan to place a proposition on the ballot next November that would lift the Prop 13 limits on commercial property. They call it a “split roll” proposal. Yet another measure that will drive more businesses out of California. LA taxpayers had already approved tax increases for roads, Prop H sales tax increase of 1/4% for the homeless, plus bonds, and against repeal of the gas tax increase. Why not another tax increase, this time for the children? They’re sympathetic to tax increases for good causes and for the children. The polls showed a 65-35% approval of a proposed parcel tax. Once again, the pollsters were wrong. Business was unified against the increase. The real estate industry was against it. John and Ken with their large listenership on KFI ranted against it daily. It would be another California way to drive business out of the state. Opponents ran an interesting campaign, not so much against the tax proposal itself, but a takeoff on the great The Who song, “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” The gas tax increase as for “the roads.” Much of the proceeds were diverted elsewhere, pursuant to the fine print in the act. Indeed, some communities used the funds to reduce traffic lanes for bicycles and other uses. A billion for the homeless, and the homeless tragedy in LA is growing. Voters a few years ago in San Jose and San Diego enacted pension reform on the public employees. They have been struck down in the courts, but the public is increasingly upset with the salaries and benefits of these workers. The voters also understand that little of the tax increase will in fact reach the classroom, much less fix the deferred maintenance in the schools. The math didn’t add up. The new contract was estimated to cost $175,000 million the next two years, and then $228 million beginning July 2081. LAUSD estimated EE would raise $500 million annually. Where’s the rest of the roughly $300 million going? No answer. It’s a replay of the gas tax increase. Prop EE did not address an underlying structural problem with LAUSD. Student enrollment in LAUSD dropped from 654,000 five years ago to 621,000 today while the bureaucracy grew 20%. Fewer students; more administrators. LAUSD has done nothing to control these costs. It’s Not for The Children, but for the union workers and the unions. LAUSD has reserves of $1.8 billion, but by state law they gave to maintain a reserve of 1%. Remember the distrust? The Superintend, union leader, and Governor said after the defeat they had the funds to cover the first two years of the new contract. The tax proceeds would go into the general fund of the school district, probably to cover accrued pension costs. They’re be back next year with a new tax proposal.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Former Incompetent Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy Flees to Maine: Why Does Maine Want Him?

Governor Malloy is a prime example, one of many, of Democratic governors in thrall to the public employee unions, especially the teachers unions. Their response is always to raise taxes – not to control spending. Eight years of raising taxes! Eight years of raising taxes while tax revenue from the top 100 paying Connecticut taxpayers dropped 45% from 2011-12 to today. Raising taxes on a shrinking economic base is economic suicide, but they do it anyway. Governor Malloy even promised in his reelection campaign in 2015 not to further raise taxes. He immediately raised them after reelection. His successor Ned Lamont pledged during his campaign last year to not raise taxes. Of course he’s raising taxes. GE absconded to the state previously known under equally incompetent Governor Michael Dukakis as “Taxachusetts.” UPS left for Georgia three decades ago. Hedge funds have left for Florida. Taxes keep rising. Businesses, entrepreneurs, retirees are fleeing Connecticut. $100,000+ incomes defect to the Sun Belt. Florida, North Carolina, and Texas look attractive to businesses and individuals – low taxes, low cost of living, low regulation, low corruption. The four states with the largest percent of out-of-state moving are dark blue New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut, and New Jersey – four states with high taxes, high costs of living, excessive regulation, and high rates of corruption. Connecticut and Illinois are in a race to the bottom. Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven and Waterbury are in bad fiscal shape. The reviled Daniel Malloy, ex-Governor of Connecticut, is leaving behind his legacy in Connecticut of high taxes, low economic growth, and rising deficits. He is abandoning Connecticut for Maine. He’s leaving Connecticut with a 21% approval rating. But why Maine? Maine is a beautiful, wonderful state with a demographic problem: an aging work force and shrinking high school population. The four states with the largest percent of out-of-state moving are New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut, and New Jersey – High taxes, high costs of living, excessive regulation, and high rates of corruption. Maine’s problem is that it lacks an industrial base. It has farming (think Maine Potatoes), LL. Bean and the outlet stores that have blossomed around L.L. Bean in South Freeport, Maine. Maine has skiing and tourism, second homes for New Yorkers, Bath Iron Works, Baxter State Park, Mount Katahdin and the jumping off point of the Appalachian Trial, prestigious private colleges of Bates, Bowdoin, and Colby and a good public higher education system, but business is not moving into Maine. Maine is essentially a rural state with a land mass equal to the rest of New England with a low population base. Portland is a great city, but it does not typify the remainder of the state. The Trustees of the University of Maine just hired the former Connecticut governor to be Chancellor of the University of Maine system. They want him to bring together the state colleges and community colleges as “One University,” excluding the University of Maine. He performed a similar merger of Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education with what can best be described as mixed results. The University of Maine has a high acceptance rate, but low admissions rate. Many of the state’s top high school students go out of state. The state public colleges and universities face deferred maintenance, a declining high grade population, while the state has the oldest workforce in the nation. They’re paying him $350,000 annually for five years, up from the $277,00 his predecessor earned. Daniel Malloy can talk the talk – walking the walk remains to be seen. Apparently Cathy Malloy, his wife is staying behind in Connecticut.