A month after dismissing federal prosecutors, Justice Department does not have any U.S. attorneys in place
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a lot of things. But so far, none of those things include “good at being Attorney General.”
Would you hire a builder who, when he finds out you want a new house at some point down the road, just knocks down the one you have now, without thinking about where you’ll live until the new one is ready?
If you would, then Jeff Sessions is your man. Because he knocked down the Justice Department before even making the vague outline of a plan to put a new one in place.
Oh, and just in case you forgot, he’s a racist son of a bitch, too.
Antitrust official inappropriately lauds Amazon’s “disruptive business model”
DOJ antitrust head William J. Baer, speaking at a London antitrust conference:
By conspiring with Apple, which was seeking a fail-safe way to enter the market, five major publishers and Apple reached an agreement to drive the industry to an agency sales model and seize back control over and raise retail pricing of e-books. The department successfully challenged this conspiracy to quash Amazon’s disruptive business model, forcing the defendants to terminate the contractual agreements they had used to effectuate the conspiracy. Since then, Amazon’s disruptive business model has continued to stoke competition in the e-books marketplace.
That is an inappropriate way for a federal antitrust official to speak about a major market participant. Amazon did not make noise about Apple’s ebooks collusion for the good of its customers. They did it because low prices keep them on top, and because no other company is willing to bear the losses Amazon can endure, there is no end to their dominance in sight.
Apple’s attempt to raise prices in cooperation with five publishers did not end well for the Cupertino company and rightly so, but their motivations were logical. Amazon maintains low prices and therefore the illusion that they are doing customers a favor, and in the long run doing authors and publishers a favor by expanding the pool of would-be customers who can afford ebooks.
However, there is at least some truth to the concerns authors and publishers have expressed about Amazon’s dominance. The company is in a position to decide what books a large majority of book buyers can access. It’s a wise short-term strategy both business-wise and legally because it is as quiet and passive as Apple’s conspiracy was bold and aggressive. But long-term it’s likely to expose the company to regulatory inquiry at a time when Amazon is contemplating things like drone delivery, which will likely face stiffer regulation sooner than later, especially when put to retail use.
Of course based on Assistant Attorney General Baer’s comments at the Chatham House Annual Antitrust Conference, Amazon has at least one friend in a position, and a mindset, to lionize them despite questionable competition strategies.
Apple under federal anti-competition scrutiny, again
Micah Singleton writes for The Verge:
Sources also indicated that Apple offered to pay YouTube’s music licensing fee to Universal Music Group if the label stopped allowing its songs on YouTube. Apple is seemingly trying to clear a path before its streaming service launches, which is expected to debut at WWDC in June. If Apple convinces the labels to stop licensing freemium services from Spotify and YouTube, it could take out a significant portion of business from its two largest music competitors.
I dislike hyperbole, but the fact that Apple would even engage in behavior that is capable of misperception as anti-competitive is shocking.
Image credit: “Apple Headquarters in Cupertino” by Joe Ravi. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Petraeus reaches plea deal with Justice Department
Kevin Johnson and Tom Vanden Brook, reporting for USA Today:
The explosive details in the agreement show that Petraeus lied to investigators, divulged a massive amount of sensitive data to Paula Broadwell and worried about how she handled them in an interview she taped with him.
Those who want former NSA analyst Edward Snowden’s head on a plate for disseminating classified information based on his ideals, with which you may or may not agree, and then admitting it, must be really angry at former CIA director General David Petraeus for disseminating classified information to his mistress and then lying about it to FBI agents.
Treatment of Transgender Employment Discrimination Claims Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
It’s about damn time. According to a DOJ press release:
Attorney General Holder announced today that the Department of Justice will take the position in litigation that the protection of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extends to claims of discrimination based on an individual’s gender identity, including transgender status. Attorney General Holder informed all Department of Justice component heads and United States Attorneys in a memo that the department will no longer assert that Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination based on sex excludes discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender discrimination, reversing a previous Department of Justice position. Title VII makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate in the employment of an individual “because of such individual’s…sex,” among other protected characteristics.
The Washington Post reported the story, saying:
According to the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, a survey of 6,450 transgender people in the United States, transgender people experience twice the rate of unemployment as other Americans and are much more likely to live in poverty. Advocates attribute those facts in part to the difficulty transgender people face in finding a job.
Direct antidiscrimination legislation addressing the prejudice so many LGBTQ people face would be much better than the DOJ’s reinterpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But this is a good start. Read a PDF of the related DOJ memo here.