Any list of basic necessities includes shelter—a roof over your head. But roofs, it turns out, are really expensive. In 2017, the federal minimum wage remains just $7.25/hour, although some states have gone as high as $11.50/hour. According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition’s 2017 Out of Reach report, you’ll need to put in at least 51 hours at minimum wage in order to afford a one-bedroom apartment in South Dakota, the cheapest state.
In my interview with Ryan Winkler, who hopes to be the next Minnesota Attorney General, we spent a fair amount of time talking about what an attorney general does and the attorney general’s unusual position in the executive branch. This is particularly interesting in light of recent events.
After President Trump issued his executive order on border security and immigration, it was almost immediately challenged in court. But the acting US Attorney General, Sally Yates, refused to defend the executive order (which meant the Department of Justice would not defend the order). She explained that she was “not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with [her] responsibilities, nor [was she] convinced that the executive order is lawful.”
Some condemned Yates for her decision while others lauded her for it. In any case she was quickly fired. However, Yates’s decision was not all that unusual.
Ryan Winkler is running for Minnesota Attorney General in 2018. I’ve known Ryan since my last year of law school at the University of Minnesota. I had just started one of the first student chapters of the American Constitution Society, and Ryan was starting one of the first chapters for practicing lawyers.
Soon after, Ryan entered the Minnesota House of Representatives as a DFLer from Golden Valley, and served from from 2007 to 2015. In 2015 he left the legislature to support his wife’s career when she took a job in Belgium. Since then, Ryan has been going back and forth between Belgium and Minnesota, and he will obviously move back in time for his campaign.1
I haven’t kept in touch with Ryan since I graduated law school, but I saw him do plenty of good work in the Minnesota legislature. And since it is really early in the 2018 race, I thought it would be a good opportunity to reconnect and interview Ryan.
We spent about an hour talking about what a Minnesota Attorney General does and what kind of attorney general Ryan intends to be, including how he would use the office to prevent the wealthy (and others) from hiding behind “wall of privilege.” We discussed the role the Minnesota Attorney General could play in resolving complaints like those of the Black Lives Matter movement, and how a state attorney general could stand up to unconstitutional actions by the federal government under President Trump.
Ryan does not intend to challenge the current Minnesota Attorney General, Lori Swanson, but she is widely expected to run for governor in 2018. ↩
Noting that Midland buys old debt it knows is not legally recoverable because of various state laws preventing collection after a number of years, Sotomayor asked, “Apparently, you collect on millions of dollars of these debts. So is that what you do?”
Yes. Yes it is.
This is a conversation every consumer lawyer has had many times with clients. No, you don’t owe the debt any more. Yes, they can still collect it. Yes, that’s fucked up. Apparently the Supreme Court just learned about zombie debt, and a few of the justices, at least, seem to agree that it’s pretty fucked up.
The decision in Midland Funding, LLC v. Johnson should be out in June.
Recently my wife and I hosted a fundraiser for Erin Murphy, who we are excited to support in the 2018 race for Minnesota governor. So I made a cocktail for the occasion, “The Governor.” It turned out really well.
“The Governor” is basically a ginger Old Fashioned. Ginger like Erin. Also like Erin, it is quite strong. If you have a fundraiser for Erin you should definitely have “The Governor” on hand, but it’s worth drinking any time.
There is a pernicious myth that welfare recipients are spending their dole on drugs. It is just that: a myth. And it’s pernicious because it redirects taxes that could be put to better use to pointless drug-testing programs.
Here’s the most recent case in point. Michigan did a pilot program and tested 443 welfare recipients and turned up—wait for it—zero drug abusers.
The aloe vera gel many Americans buy to soothe damaged skin contains no evidence of aloe vera at all.
According to the Chicago Tribune, if you bought Target Up & Up Aloe Vera Gel, Walgreens Alcohol Free Aloe Vera Body Gel, CVS Aftersun Aloe Vera Moisturizing Gel, or Wal-Mart Equate Aloe After Sun Gel, you are basically just rubbing maltodextrin and an emulsifier on your skin.
This is just the latest example of herbal supplements that don’t live up to their labels. In 2013, Canadian researches found that a third of the herbal supplements they tested don’t contain the herb on the label. In 2015, the New York Attorney General tested herbal supplements from GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart, and found that 80% of them just contained houseplants.
Featured image: “Aloe vera leaf” from Wikimedia Commons.
Here is the Minnesota Secretary of State’s notice of vacancies in state boards, councils, and committees for November 2016 (pdf). There are 74 pages of vacancies for everything from the American Indian Child Welfare Advisory Council to the Noxious Weed Advisory Committee. Most are uncompensated other than expense reimbursement, and many positions have requirements for qualification. But if you want to help with the business of government, there are lots of opportunities.
You can also sign up to receive notice by email when there is a new vacancy.
If you sometimes feel like you are living in a completely different world than people who voted for the other candidate in this year’s presidential election, you kind of are. The echo chamber is real.
To illustrate the point, the Wall Street Journal built a “Blue Feed, Red Feed” tool that lets you see, side-by-side, what a liberal and conservative might see on Facebook at any given moment. And it’s striking.
The two feeds might as well exist in alternative universes. When you see them side-by-side, it looks like two uninformed elementary schoolers arguing about whose armpits are smellier.
Now, these feeds are built off of some pretty biased sources, but I definitely recognize some of the liberal-side sites. Although I try to have a balanced news feed, sites like Daily Kos, Salon, and the Daily Show regularly pop up in my own liberal echo chamber. Many of the articles on the conservative side are about things I’ve barely heard of. For example, George Soros is apparently a conservative boogeyman in the same way the Koch brothers are for liberals. Who knew?
I’ve gone through my own Facebook page likes and Twitter follows to try to build a more neutral information stream, and you should, too. Get out of the echo chamber and improve your news diet. It might feel good to hear people