Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Letter from a lawyer to Musk (who seems to have bitten off more than he can chew)

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Letter from lawyer to Musk, threatening legal action if Musk does not honor commitments regarding severance.

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2022 at 8:02 pm

Level of religious tolerance in the 25 most populous nations

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Chart showing nations arranged using two axes: social hostilities (SH) and government restrictions (GR). China has very high GR and extremely low SH. Japan is at the bottom for both GR and SH. The US is moderate for both. Nations very high in GR are Iran (low SH), Russia (more SH) and Indonesia (high SH). India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Egypt, and Bangladesh are all high in GR and very high in SH.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2022 at 12:50 pm

The New York Times Is in the Tank for Crypto

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I’ve noticed this, too. The NY Times rather too often has feet of clay — the effects of privilege and poor priorities (“access is everything” does not provide good guidance). Robert Kuttner writes in The American Prospect:

In a recent post, I noted in passing the oddly soft coverage of the collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried in The New York Times. The Times managed to compare the woes of FTX to a bank run, to blame Bankman-Fried’s competitors for undermining his credibility, and to take his professed charitable intent at face value.

Since I wrote, the Times coverage has only gotten worse.

A piece on the interconnections between Bankman-Fried’s exchange (FTX) and the investment company he controlled (Alameda) soft-pedaled the outright illegality of his making trades with customer funds. To hear the Times tell it, “Alameda’s need for funds to run its trading business was a big reason Mr. Bankman-Fried created FTX in 2019. But the way the two entities were set up meant that trouble in one unit shook up the other as crypto prices began to drop in the spring.”

But that’s not what happened. When customers demanded their money, Fried didn’t have it, because he had been using it and losing it, illegally, for his own trades.

And this: “Alameda’s methods borrowed many aspects from traditional high finance. It was a quantitative trading firm, similar to Wall Street hedge funds that use mathematical models and data to inform decisions. It used ‘leverage’—or borrowed money—to fuel its trades and make bigger returns.”

Note the alibis, and the passive voice. The subhead tells the reader “things got out of control,” as in Nixon’s infamous “mistakes were made.” The comparable Wall Street Journal piece ran rings around the Times version, explaining the interlocks and the sheer illegality.

More from Robert Kuttner

But the most appalling recent Times piece was . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 November 2022 at 4:58 pm

Using guns to kill debate — and democracy

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The use of openly displayed firearms to intimidate and silence is particularly a problem in the US, which has more guns in civilian hands than it has civilians. Mike McIntire reports in the NY Times (no paywall):

Across the country, openly carrying a gun in public is no longer just an exercise in self-defense — increasingly it is a soapbox for elevating one’s voice and, just as often, quieting someone else’s.

This month, armed protesters appeared outside an elections center in Phoenix, hurling baseless accusations that the election for governor had been stolen from the Republican, Kari Lake. In October, Proud Boys with guns joined a rally in Nashville where conservative lawmakers spoke against transgender medical treatments for minors.

In June, armed demonstrations around the United States amounted to nearly one a day. A group led by a former Republican state legislator protested a gay pride event in a public park in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Men with guns interrupted a Juneteenth festival in Franklin, Tenn., handing out fliers claiming that white people were being replaced. Among the others were rallies in support of gun rights in Delaware and abortion rights in Georgia.

Whether at the local library, in a park or on Main Street, most of these incidents happen where Republicans have fought to expand the ability to bear arms in public, a movement bolstered by a recent Supreme Court ruling on the right to carry firearms outside the home. The loosening of limits has occurred as violent political rhetoric rises and the police in some places fear bloodshed among an armed populace on a hair trigger.

But the effects of more guns in public spaces have not been evenly felt. A partisan divide — with Democrats largely eschewing firearms and Republicans embracing them — has warped civic discourse. Deploying the Second Amendment in service of the First has become a way to buttress a policy argument, a sort of silent, if intimidating, bullhorn.

“It’s disappointing we’ve gotten to that state in our country,” said Kevin Thompson, executive director of the Museum of Science & History in Memphis, Tenn., where armed protesters led to the cancellation of an L.G.B.T.Q. event in September. “What I saw was a group of folks who did not want to engage in any sort of dialogue and just wanted to impose their belief.”

A New York Times analysis of more than 700 armed demonstrations found that, at about 77 percent of them, people openly carrying guns represented right-wing views, such as opposition to L.G.B.T.Q. rights and abortion access, hostility to racial justice rallies and support for former President Donald J. Trump’s lie of winning the 2020 election.

The records, from January 2020 to last week, were compiled by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a nonprofit that tracks political violence around the world. The Times also interviewed witnesses to other, smaller-scale incidents not captured by the data, including encounters with armed people at indoor public meetings.

Anti-government militias and right-wing culture warriors like the Proud Boys attended a majority of the protests, the data showed. Violence broke out at more than 100 events and often involved fisticuffs with opposing groups, including left-wing activists such as antifa.

Republican politicians are generally more tolerant of openly armed supporters than are Democrats, who are more likely to be on the opposing side of people with guns, the records suggest. In July, for example, men wearing sidearms confronted Beto O’Rourke, then the Democratic candidate for Texas governor, at a campaign stop in Whitesboro and warned that he was “not welcome in this town.”

Republican officials or candidates appeared at 32 protests where they were on the same side as those with guns.  . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2022 at 4:01 pm

Media-opoly

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From a Mastodon post:

Aired only once in 1998 on the live SNL show for which it was written and effectively banned and never aired again.

I wonder why.

Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2022 at 3:11 pm

In the US, violent crime is down, not up

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Check it out. (Trigger warning: Charts and graphs at link.)

Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2022 at 2:38 pm

The Judge and the Case That Came Back to Haunt Him

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Jesse Barron reports in the NY Times (no paywall):

None of Anthony Kline’s colleagues had ever seen it happen. The most senior justice on California’s First District Court of Appeal, Kline was asking to be transferred to the juvenile bench, at the advanced age of 83. Juvenile was the scrappy place you started a career, not the triumphant place you ended one. But after four decades in appeals, Kline was feeling estranged from real life. He wanted to spend a year in juvie before retiring.

The First District was in a Beaux-Arts building next to San Francisco’s City Hall, with stone archways framed by lanterns. The juvenile court occupied a rundown 1950s building on Woodside Avenue next to a gas station, high on an isolated hill. Kline’s new courtroom was on the ground floor and had wood-laminate walls, hulking silver air-conditioners and mismatched office chairs. Forty years earlier, in 1981, he spent a year presiding over this same courtroom — one of his first judicial assignments.

Before arriving back at Woodside, Kline was given a one-week training course, meant for judges who were starting in juvenile for the first time. In a way, he was. Juvie had softened in the intervening years. In the 1980s, juvenile judges tended to track minors into detention, but today, the instructor explained, juvenile judges try to divert defendants into drug treatment, mental-health counseling or family therapy. A progressive throughout his career, Kline thought the changes were an enormous improvement.

On Kline’s docket, the cases looked like the ones he confronted 40 years earlier. Foster kids accused of stealing cars. Eighth graders caught in school with knives. A 15-year-old from the Potrero Hill projects who had somehow gotten his hands on a high-capacity weapon. If Kline had been looking for real life, he found it. The downstairs courtroom of Woodside Avenue was about as far from the abstract world of the appeals court as you could get.

Five weeks into his new role, Kline learned about a case coming his way, one in which the defendant was not a minor at all. She was a 58-year-old woman. When Kline sought an explanation, he learned that California had recently passed a bill to help reduce the state’s prison population through resentencing. Now, an inmate serving an inordinately long sentence for a crime committed as a minor could return to juvenile court and have the case reconsidered, once, by a juvenile judge. The defendant coming to Kline had served 41 years for a crime she committed at 17. Her name was Jamesetta Guy.

Kline recognized it. In 1981, during his year in juvenile court, he presided over the trial of a 15-year-old girl named Sharon Wright, who had participated in a botched robbery attempt in which a taxi driver was shot and killed. In the taxi with Wright there had been another girl: Jamesetta Guy. Kline sentenced Wright to eight years in juvenile custody, but he never learned what happened to Guy. Now he had the answer. Forty-one years. A staggering term, especially for someone convicted as a minor. Some adults with the same conviction would have paroled out 20 years ago. What led to this sentence, Kline saw, was almost everything that could go wrong for a juvenile defendant. She had no criminal history; the gun wasn’t hers; she grew up in a violently abusive home. The evidence didn’t show premeditated murder. And yet a judge in 1981 declared her “unfit” to be tried as a juvenile and tracked her into the adult system. By the time her name appeared on Kline’s calendar in 2022, Guy had been in prison as long as he had been a judge.

Guy’s ordeal seemed to confirm all of Kline’s theories about the California judicial system. His heroes were men like Brandeis and Marshall, the 20th-century liberal lions. He kept up with The New York Review of Books. A Black Lives Matter poster hung in the window of his Victorian home in Lower Pacific Heights. In 2019, Kline wrote the opinion in a First District case in which a prisoner serving life for a crime committed as a juvenile was suing the parole board for denying his release. Having failed to give “great weight” to the “diminished culpability of youth,” Kline wrote, the board had violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Kline noticed that the parole board denied Guy’s release in 2015, which gave him a grim kind of validation. And the fact that a judge had tracked her into the adult system in the first place only confirmed his nascent view that juveniles belonged in diversion whenever possible.

A few days before Guy’s new hearing, a public defender named Emily Goldman walked into Kline’s chambers to catch up. The public defender had offices in the same building as the courtrooms, so Goldman was a familiar presence. She settled into a chair in front of Kline’s desk. She said that her colleagues had been working on Guy’s case at the main office downtown. Looking through the file, they figured out the name of the judge who diverted Guy from juvenile court into the adult system. It was Kline.

He tried to make sense of this disorienting news. At the beginning of his career, he had closed the first link of the chain that ultimately sent away a 17-year-old for four decades. It cut against everything he believed in, yet he had done it. He couldn’t remember the details. The hearing would have lasted an hour, if that, on a busy morning at the very beginning of a long and rich career that came to involve hundreds and hundreds of cases, probably more than a thousand. As for the transcript, Goldman did not have it. Kline thought that maybe it was sealed because Guy was a minor. It could also have been lost. The California courts were not required to preserve the files in every run-of-the-mill case in which all appeals had been exhausted, as Guy’s had been in 1986.

At 9 a.m. on the appointed Monday, Guy walked into the downstairs courtroom and took her seat at the table. Kline ascended the steps to the bench. The last time they saw each other, in this same courtroom, she was a skinny, baby-faced teenager. He was a young judge — not a father yet, hair still black. Four decades had left their mark, adding pounds around their middles, flecking Guy’s eyebrows with gray. Kline’s blue eyes, under their bushy white eyebrows, peered down at Guy through his red-rimmed glasses.

“Do you remember me?” he said. . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2022 at 6:47 pm

Uh-oh. This looks bad: Monopolies and Cybersecurity Disasters

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Matt Stoller writes in BIG:

Today I’m writing about an ID software management roll-up, where the private equity billionaire responsible for the worst software hack in American history is trying to get into even more sensitive territory.

One common theme of this newsletter is how a finance-first mentality creates hidden risk, particularly in areas of opacity and interconnection, like in enterprise software, the systems that manage the flow of information throughout big corporations.

The guts of corporate America runs on this stuff, large bloated software packages tied together with duct tape and run by ornery techies nagging their superiors about potential problems. Microsoft has built a somehow-unnoticed set of giant monopolies here, but there are an endless number of parasites – from software integrators to management consultants – who feed at this trough. And why shouldn’t they? Most CEOs of big companies don’t care if they spend a few more pennies per seat on some random network access security feature. They have IT departments for that, or CTOs they can ignore. And so enterprise software is often vastly overpriced and of poor quality. But it’s a rounding error on the profit-and-loss statement, it just doesn’t matter.

Only, sometimes it does.

SolarWinds is one of these innumerable enterprise software parasites, it makes a cheap and ubiquitous network management service called Orion. As the CEO put it, “We manage everyone’s network gear.” And he wasn’t, as we would find out later, joking. In late 2020, SolarWinds, and as it turns out every major corporation, was at the center of a devastating Russian hack. The victims were the most important American institutions, from the FBI to the Department of Treasury to Cisco Systems, Intel, Nvidia, California hospitals, etc. Russians got access to Microsoft’s source code and into the Federal agency overseeing America’s nuclear stockpile.

Hackers put malware into updates that SolarWinds sent to clients. Since SolarWinds was everywhere, the malware went everywhere. We hear a lot about how difficult it is to avoid cybersecurity problems, but this particular catastrophe wasn’t some unavoidable natural disaster. SolarWind’s security practices were not, shall we say, top quality. One researcher had previously alerted the company that “anyone could access SolarWinds’ update server by using the password “solarwinds123.’” It wasn’t just one instance of Spaceballs-style Dark Helmet idiocy, either. Lax security practices were common and systemic, so bad that the key advisor at the firm told them a security breach would be catastrophic, and eventually quit in frustration. For days after the firm was hacked SolarWinds continued to offer its software.

Why was SolarWinds such a poor quality software provider? The firm chose to underinvest in security, a result of a specific business model, which is designed to maximize cash flow while offloading risks, like vulnerabilities to hacking, onto others.. SolarWinds is owned by Thoma Bravo, a private equity firm which scoops up software companies in obscure areas where customers are locked in. In a puff piece in 2020, the Wall Street Journal covered the basic business model.

Thoma Bravo identifies software companies with a loyal customer base but middling profits and transforms them into moneymaking engines by retooling pricing, shutting down unprofitable business lines and adding employees in cheaper labor markets.

The firm then guides its companies to use the profits they generate to do add-on acquisitions, snapping up smaller rivals with offerings that they could spend months and millions of dollars trying to replicate.

Typically Thoma Bravo raises prices and cuts quality, but the affected constituency group – corporate IT managers – don’t have a lot of power or agency. Their superiors don’t want to think about a high-cost but low-probability event, especially if every other big institution would be hit as well. CEOs, ever since the turn to monopoly and finance in the early 1980s, have become bankers, not engineers. So the Thoma Bravo model works, because no one with power listens to the IT nerds offering sage warnings about software quality and risk.

What makes SolarWinds more than a catastrophe, and turns it into a scandal, is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2022 at 6:42 pm

Amy Coney Barrett urged to step away from gay rights case because of faith affiliation

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The US Supreme Court has some serious problems, which it is working hard to avoid recognizing or doing anything about. Stephanie Kirchgaessner writes in the Guardian:

Former members of Amy Coney Barrett’s secretive faith group, the People of Praise, are calling on the US supreme court justice to recuse herself from an upcoming case involving gay rights, saying Barrett’s continued affiliation with the Christian group means she has participated in discriminatory policies against LGBTQ+ people.

The former members are part of a network of “survivors” of the controversial charismatic group who say Barrett’s “lifelong and continued” membership in the People of Praise make her too biased to fairly adjudicate an upcoming case that will decide whether private business owners have a right to decline services to potential clients based on their sexual orientation.

They point to Barrett’s former role on the board of Trinity Schools Inc, a private group of Christian schools that is affiliated with the People of Praise and, in effect, barred children of same-sex parents from attending the school.

A faculty guide published in 2015, the year Barrett joined the board, said “blatant sexual immorality” – which the guide said included “homosexual acts” – had “no place in the culture of Trinity Schools”. The discriminatory policies were in place before and after Barrett joined.

The schools’ attitude, the former People of Praise members said, reflect the Christian group’s staunchly anti-gay beliefs and adherence to traditional family values, including – they say – expelling or ostracizing members of the People of Praise “community” who came out as gay later in life or their gay children.

“I don’t believe that someone in her position, who is a member of this group, could put those biases aside, especially in a decision like the one coming up,” said Maura Sullivan, a 46-year-old who was raised in the People of Praise community in South Bend, Indiana. Sullivan identifies as bisexual and recalls coming out to her parents, who were members of the People of Praise, when she was 19.

“They decided that I wasn’t allowed to be around my sister, who was 13 at the time, without them around, because I could ‘influence’ her in bad ways. Stuff like that. So I had a tenuous relationship with my family,” she said. “To be cut off from my family was the ultimate loss of community.” Sullivan and her parents, who are no longer members of the faith group, have since repaired their relationship, she said.

Questions about the People of Praise’s attitude toward LGBTQ+ members and their families, and Trinity Schools’ policies, have resurfaced because the supreme court will hear oral arguments on 5 December in the case of 303 Creative LLC v Elenis.

It centers on a Christian website developer, Lori Smith, who has claimed an anti-discrimination law in Colorado has violated her right to free speech over same-sex marriage, which she says goes against her religious faith. Smith has said the Colorado law has forced her to “create messages that go against my deeply held beliefs” since she cannot legally turn away gay couples seeking her website services.

Barrett said in her confirmation hearing that her personal religious beliefs would not interfere with her abilities to be an unbiased judge. Conservatives have also lashed out against any suggestion that her affiliation with a Christian sect could compromise her independence.

But some former members of the faith group say . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2022 at 4:04 pm

DHS: The Twenty-Year Boondoggle

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I earlier blogged about the counterproductive incompetence manifested by DHS. That turns out to be the tip of the iceberg. Amanda Chicago Lewis reports in The Verge:

Just a week after 9/11, while the country was still reeling, a series of letters began arriving at news organizations and Senate offices. The envelopes were innocuous, indistinguishable from other mail, but inside was a white powder, a rare bacteria that can be fatal if inhaled — anthrax. Five people died, and 17 were sickened in one of the most deadly biological attacks in US history. Yet anthrax had the potential to inflict far more harm: if the spores had been released from a rooftop in downtown Washington, DC, it might have infected hundreds of thousands of people. One letter included the message, “DEATH TO AMERICA,” perhaps indicating more to come. But how could we plan for a silent, odorless killer?

Responding to the universe of new threats facing the country soon became an all-out scramble, consuming the public and the federal government’s attention for several years. The man that President George W. Bush chose to manage America’s preparation for a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear incident was a renowned physicist and weapons expert named Penrose “Parney” Albright.

Albright is exactly the kind of guy you’d want in charge of protecting the country from a devastating attack. Known for his candor and ingenuity, he is one of those people with a talent for both hard science and political science. He had excelled at places like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) because he knew how to bring big, complex projects across the finish line.

So as the Bush administration finalized its plans for a new Department of Homeland Security, ultimately bestowing him the title of assistant secretary for science and technology, Albright was alarmed to find that the people around him were not as prepared.

“There was almost nobody in the senior leadership at the Department of Homeland Security who really understood the details of what it took to run a cabinet agency,” he told me. When DHS officially began operations on March 1st, 2003, everything was so haphazard that one undersecretary worked out of a former cleaning closet with a shower curtain for a door. There was no human resources professional to help Albright hire people and no bank account for his budget. When he tried to type out an email, an orange bar would pop up, freezing everything for three to four minutes; DHS employees soon took to calling this the “orange screen of death.”

The dysfunction might have been funny, in a Dilbert-meets-Veep way, if the stakes weren’t so high. Albright was overseeing a project called BioWatch, a system intended to detect traces of biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction. Bush described BioWatch in his 2003 State of the Union as “the nation’s first early warning network of sensors,” which would initiate processes to mobilize hospitals, alert the public, and deploy supplies from the national stockpile.

There was only one problem: BioWatch never functioned as intended. The devices were unreliable, causing numerous false positives. “It was really only capable of detecting large-scale attacks,” Albright explained, because of “how big a plume would have to be” for the sensors to pick it up. And the system was prohibitively slow: every 24 hours, someone had to retrieve a filter and then send it to a laboratory for testing, which might then take another 24 hours to discover a pathogen.

“The time required after BioWatch might pick up evidence of a toxin and the time required to get it to somebody who might be able to reach a conclusion there might be a terrorist attack — my God, by that time, a lot of people would have gotten sick or died,” former Senator Joe Lieberman told me.

Albright did his best to make it work. He ramped up  . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

. . . These days, the mess at the Department of Homeland Security is one of the only things that all of Washington can agree on. Disliked by both Democrats and Republicans, DHS has metastasized into the worst version of what we imagine when we think of bureaucracy: rigid, ineffective, wasteful, chaotic, cruel. Since its inception, DHS has been on the Government Accountability Office’s “High Risk List,” which highlights programs vulnerable to “fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.” It consistently has the lowest morale of any federal agency with more than a thousand employees, according to the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

“It’s like an agency no one wanted and everyone is stuck with,” said Juliette Kayyem, assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs at DHS from 2009–2010.

“Even for someone who is kind of cynical, it was shocking,” said John Roth, the DHS inspector general from 2014–2017. “You do a little scratching, and there was just rot underneath.”

We see the downstream effects of the Kafkaesque ineptitude at DHS every day, even if we don’t recognize the connection between headlines about alleged sexual abuse at migrant detention centers, billions of dollars disappearing into fraudulent disaster aid, and the erasure of text messages likely detailing an attempted coup. DHS functions as a loose confederation of subagencies, meaning that the absurdity of security procedures at airports is attributed to the Transportation Security Administration, not to DHS, and the anemic response to Hurricane Katrina was blamed on the Federal Emergency Management Agency, not its parent organization. Yet the tensions between these satellite operations and the cabinet secretary’s headquarters in Washington, DC, are crucial to understanding DHS.

“I would call it unwieldy,” said Kevin McAleenan, who served as acting secretary of homeland security in 2019 after working at the department since it was founded. McAleenan recalled moments when he saw people at headquarters “trying to direct activities they didn’t understand very well and mission sets they weren’t familiar with and legal frameworks they hadn’t studied, and I thought, ‘This isn’t going to work. We’re not going to overcome the problem of expertise or, in this case, the lack of expertise.’”

Some consider the Department of Homeland Security successful because there has not been another major terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11. And it’s true that only about a hundred people have died on US soil from Islamic terrorism in the past two decades. But domestic terrorism and mass shootings are on the rise, with Americans now justifiably afraid of malls, parades, supermarkets, churches, and elementary schools. Militias plot against democracy. A deadly virus has killed over a million Americans. Foreign governments infiltrate social media and snatch our data. Storms and wildfires grow bigger and more frequent every year. Tens of thousands of migrants linger in refugee camps at the southern border. Those that make it across face what one high-level whistleblower called “a system that involves widespread abuse of human beings.”

All of this is under the purview of DHS. . .

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2022 at 9:07 pm

“Free-speech absolutist” — Elon Musk’s understands that term in a special way

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Headline in the NY Times:

SpaceX Employees Say They Were Fired for Speaking Up About Elon Musk

Noam Scheiber and Ryan Mac report (no paywall):

In June, about 20 engineers were invited to a meeting hosted at the headquarters of the rocket manufacturer SpaceX. The subject of the conversation: the company’s founder and chief executive, Elon Musk.

The day before, the company had moved to fire five employees who had written a letter calling on SpaceX to condemn the “harmful Twitter behavior” of Mr. Musk, who had used the social network to make light of a news report that SpaceX had settled a sexual harassment claim against him. Several of the engineers filed into the meeting expecting a sympathetic ear, as some managers and executives had indicated that they did not condone Mr. Musk’s behavior.

But the meeting, which has not been previously reported, quickly became heated, according to two SpaceX employees in attendance.

They said Jon Edwards, the vice president leading the meeting, had characterized the letter as an extremist act and declared that the writers had been fired for distracting the company and taking on Mr. Musk. When asked whether the chief executive could sexually harass his workers with impunity, Mr. Edwards did not appear to answer, the two employees said. But they said the meeting had a recurring theme — that Mr. Musk could do whatever he wanted at the company.

“SpaceX is Elon and Elon is SpaceX,” the two recalled hearing Mr. Edwards declare.

The SpaceX letter ultimately led to the firing of nine workers, according to the employees and their lawyers. On Wednesday, unfair-labor-practice charges were filed with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of eight of those workers, arguing that their firings were illegal.

The SpaceX case raises new questions about the management practices at Mr. Musk’s companies, where there is little tolerance for dissent or labor organizing.

Tesla, the electric car manufacturer that Mr. Musk also runs, has resisted unionization attempts at its factories and is embroiled in legal action brought by workers who said they were not given adequate warning before a layoff in June.

After Mr. Musk acquired Twitter for $44 billion last month, he immediately fired executives before laying off half of Twitter’s 7,500 employees. This week, he had subordinates comb through the internal communications and public tweets of Twitter employees, leading to the firing of dozens of critics.

Interviews with the eight SpaceX employees who filed the charges highlight Mr. Musk’s firm grip on his workplaces, perhaps even beyond the restraints of federal law. Six of those employees spoke anonymously for fear of reprisal and are not identified by name in the labor board filings.

Legal experts said the law, which gives workers the right to come together for “mutual aid or protection,” most likely protected the writing of the letter, which, in addition to addressing Mr. Musk’s online habits, urged SpaceX to enforce its harassment policies more effectively. . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2022 at 4:28 pm

Three guilty as court finds Russia-controlled group downed civilian airliner MH17 in 2014, killing 298 people

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Russia seems to really like to attack civilian targets. Anna Holligan and Kate Vandy report for BBC News:

A Dutch court has found three men guilty of murder for shooting down a passenger jet over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing 298 people.

The court found that a Russian-made missile supplied from Russia and fired by an armed group under Russian control brought down flight MH17.

The men – two Russians and one Ukrainian – were found guilty in absentia and sentenced to life in jail. A third Russian was acquitted.

The missile attack was one of the most notorious war crimes in Ukraine before allegations of atrocities there became an almost daily reality.

Many of the victims’ relatives believe if the world had reacted differently, and taken a tougher stance against Russia eight years ago, the invasion of Ukraine and the geopolitical instability that has followed could have been avoided.

The judges ruled that it was a deliberate action to bring down a plane, even though the three found guilty had intended to shoot down a military not a civilian aircraft.

  • Igor Girkin, the military leader of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, was convicted of deploying the missile and seeking Russian help
  • Sergei Dubinsky was found to have ordered and overseen the transport of the Buk missile launcher
  • Leonid Kharchenko was found to have overseen the Buk, acting on Dubinsky’s instructions.

Oleg Pulatov was the only one of the four accused to have legal representation at the trial. The judges acquitted him, although they found he knew about the missile.

On 17 July 2014, 298 people, including 80 children and 15 crew, boarded Malaysia Airlines flight 17 to Kuala Lumpur at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

The plane was cruising at 33,000 feet over Ukraine. It was the early days of Russia’s efforts to control parts of the country.

At the time this was a relatively low-level conflict zone, but f

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2022 at 11:05 am

DHS blocked vital research on domestic threats, say terrorism experts

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When the government breaks down because officials do not want to know. Hannah Allam reports in the Washington Post (no paywall):

As bloody, hate-fueled attacks rose in 2019, Homeland Security officials pledged to step up their response to domestic terrorism, funding in-depth research that would help them understand the scale of the problem.

“Accurate nationwide statistics will better position DHS to protect communities from these threats,” the department said in a strategy report.

More than two years later, that data collection has not begun, and $10 million languishes unused because of internal disputes over privacy protocols, according to researchers and an official of the Department of Homeland Security.

Academics who received DHS contracts say their projects to study violent attacks and extremist movements have been delayed, some effectively scrapped, because of an endless loop of privacy concerns that typically would not apply to work based on open-source records — unclassified materials such as news reports. In interviews, researchers described the roadblocks they have faced as “crazytown,” “mind-boggling” and “beyond logic.”

Their accounts were confirmed by a DHS official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely describe a sensitive internal debate. The official said around 20 research projects funded by Homeland Security faced varying degrees of delays because of rulings by the DHS’s Privacy Office that deemed them high-risk even after researchers repeatedly explained that the information they intended to use was widely available to the public. At least $2 million of funding has been returned unused; $10 million more is essentially frozen unless privacy officers approve the research.

After so many months of paralysis, the official said, DHS relations with top terrorism scholars have soured, and DHS leaders are left with a gap in data — just as national attention is again focused on political violence, which is at the root of the ongoing trials in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the recent assault of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, and far-right threats around the midterm elections.

Those issues are likely to come up this week as Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas makes public appearances to address the government’s response to violent extremism, a national security priority for the Biden administration. In June 2021, the need for more research was spelled out in the country’s first national strategy for countering domestic terrorism, which noted that understanding the threat “requires facilitating a systematic provision of information and data.”

So far, that information-gathering work has not been carried out.

“Right now, if the secretary of Homeland Security turns to us and says, ‘Last year, how many serious attacks based on ideology or grievance happened?’ we can’t answer those fundamental questions,” the DHS official said. “We don’t know.”

Homeland Security declined to address specific examples of delayed contracts or to explain the privacy concerns. In a statement, a DHS spokesperson said that addressing domestic violent extremism is a top priority and cited interagency intelligence-sharing, prevention-focused grant programs, and a dedicated domestic terrorism branch within the Intelligence and Analysis office.

“DHS engages in a community-based approach to prevent terrorism and targeted violence, and does so in ways that protect privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties, and that adhere to all applicable laws,” the statement said.

Within DHS, the official speaking anonymously said, one view is that privacy officers are trying to shield Mayorkas from potentially controversial research at a time when federal agencies are criticized by both major political parties for their response to political violence. Republicans in Congress have portrayed the effort to investigate domestic terrorism as a thought-police exercise that infringes on First Amendment rights. Some Democrats, too, have expressed wariness of federal overreach, citing the civil liberties violations of the war-on-terror years.

DHS is already under scrutiny because of the rollback of plans to fight disinformation and for reports that authorities sought dossiers on protesters in Portland, Ore. — indications of how easily counterterrorism work can be politicized.

The academic researchers on contract with DHS said they . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

There’s much more, but I should append a frustration warning.

Update: See also this article on the ongoing failure that DHS represents.

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2022 at 8:51 pm

The complexity of J. Edgar Hoover

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People are more complicated than we want them to be,  particularly when we are feeling judgmental. Kai Bird has a fascinating review (no paywall) of a new biography of J. Edgar Hoover in the Washington Post, which begins:

On Oct. 7, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson’s longtime aide Walter Jenkins walked into the YMCA near the White House after a party at the Newsweek magazine office and had sex in the bathroom with a homeless Army veteran. The vice squad arrested Jenkins, booked him and released him. A week later, the story made headlines on the eve of the presidential election that pitted Johnson against Republican Barry Goldwater. By then, a near-suicidal Jenkins had checked into George Washington University Hospital and the Republicans were “punching hard,” writes Beverly Gage in “G-Man,” her masterful account of the life and controversial career of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. The Goldwater campaign demanded to know if Jenkins’s conduct had compromised national security. Forced to act, Johnson ordered Hoover, his old friend and onetime neighbor, to investigate the scandal. Hoover was annoyed. This was politics, and for decades he had tried to insulate the FBI from partisan politics. But he did what he was told to do by his president.

It turned out that Jenkins, the father of six children, had been arrested in the same bathroom five years earlier. Johnson was astonished that Jenkins could have hidden his proclivities. Hoover was not. He thought such temptations were commonplace. Four days into the investigation he told Johnson that Jenkins had been under enormous stress and required medical attention. The FBI chief had already sent a bouquet of flowers to Jenkins’s hospital room. Attached was a sympathy card wishing him a speedy recovery. “With less than two weeks to go before the election,” Gage writes, “Hoover issued a report absolving Jenkins of any national security violations,” and on Election Day, Johnson rolled to victory in one of the nation’s biggest presidential landslides.

In Gage’s biography, Hoover emerges as a strangely tortured man who wielded power within the Justice Department for an astonishing 48 years. His response to Jenkins revealed a softer side and, Gage explains, raised an “innuendo that Hoover might have more in common with Jenkins than he wished to acknowledge.” In a memo, Hoover wrote that he liked Jenkins and felt sorry for him. “It is a pitiful case,” he observed, “and I think it is time for people to follow the admonition of the Bible about persons throwing the first stone and that none are without sin.”

Hoover’s story illustrates the unique power of biography to enter the life of another human being. The genre can provoke a rare response: It can persuade one to change one’s mind. This magical leap can happen when a good biographer is able to seduce the reader into understanding another soul. “G-Man” is Gage’s first biography, and she turns out to be a marvelous biographer.

After reading Gage, I have changed my mind about Hoover. He is not the caricature villain I thought I knew when I came of age in the turbulent 1960s. Hoover was a man of profound contradictions. While he had enough empathy to send flowers to Jenkins, he also orchestrated . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2022 at 5:59 pm

Why Didn’t the Government Stop the Crypto Scam?

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Matt Stoller explains (no paywall):

“I’m sorry. That’s the biggest thing. I fucked up, and should have done better.” – crypto Ponzi schemer Sam Bankman-Fried, 2022

“Recklessness and deceit do not automatically excuse themselves by notice of repentance.” – Louis Brandeis, 1936

Just before he became President, and as the world slid into the worst part of the Great Depression, New York Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave a speech attacking Herbert Hoover for failing to tame the Wall Street traders who had fostered the crisis through corrupt and fraudulent activities. “The public has burned its fingers in the flame of wild speculation and has learned to fear the fire,” he said. “While it still fears the fire is the time for us to act.”

One of Roosevelt’s first acts was to regulate stock trading through the Securities Act, which forced public companies to disclose relevant material information to investors, and thus prevent the market manipulation so common on Wall Street. These disclosures are now what investors rely on today when analyzing stocks. Originally the Securities Act was enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. And New Dealers hated the FTC, as it was slothful and corrupt, having been run by monopoly-friendly cronies for a decade. But it was all that existed.

By 1935, the New Dealers had set up a new agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and cleaned out the FTC. Yet there was still immense concern that Roosevelt had not been able to tame Wall Street. The Supreme Court didn’t really ratify the SEC as a constitutional body until 1938, and nearly struck it down in 1935 when a conservative Supreme Court made it harder for the SEC to investigate cases.

It took a few years, but New Dealers finally implemented a workable set of securities rules, with the courts agreeing on basic definitions of what was a security. By the 1950s, SEC investigators could raise an eyebrow and change market behavior, and the amount of cheating in finance had dropped dramatically.

Institutional change, in other words, takes time.

It’s a lesson to remember as we watch the crypto space melt down, with ex-billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried – who was one of the single largest political donors in 2022 – turning out to be nothing more than a standard Ponzi schemer. I summarized the scam he was running a few days ago.

Over the last forty eight hours, SBF’s $15 billion net worth evaporated in a fraud-induced bank run common to the crypto space. SBF’s situation is a lot like that of Enron. One of his companies, FTX, claimed to have substantial assets valued at billions, but it didn’t disclose that the market price of those assets – called FTT tokens – was set by trading back and forth to another one of his company’s, Alameda Research. All the value was based on sham prices in sham transactions. When a rival decided to engineer a bank run on FTX, his network of firms simply didn’t have enough cash to honor the withdrawal requests. Bloomberg has written SBF lost 94% of his net worth yesterday, and he’s now under Federal investigation.

It’s not like perfidy in crypto was some hidden secret. At the top of the market, back in December 2021, I wrote a piece very explicitly saying that crypto was a set of Ponzi schemes. It went viral, and I got a huge amount of hate mail from crypto types. (SBF actually reached out to meet with me in between his lobbying meetings, but I decided out of either laziness or integrity that I didn’t feel like taking a short cab ride to Capitol Hill to do so. Instead I invited him to my office, and so we never connected.) I’m not some sort of genius, I just hate group-think around obvious fraud. I mean, in April, SBF literally said on Bloomberg’s Odd Lots that much of what he was doing was facilitating Ponzi schemes. But it didn’t seem to matter, because back then he seemed to have a lot of money.

Today, a lot of people are mad at SBF for stealing. But one of the more bizarre aspects of the crypto meltdown is the  . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2022 at 9:11 pm

The Crypto Ponzi Scheme Avenger

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A while back it came to me that cryptocurrencies are the techno-nerd version of beanie babies. And, like beanie babies, wild speculation and mass hysteria resulted in a run-up in prices, the (inevitably) followed by a crash. After the crash, the beanie-baby collectors had a better outcome: they at least had the stuffed animals. Crypto players have little but memories.

David Segal in the NY Times has a good profile (no paywall) of a man who has long sounded the alarm on the crypto scam. Segal writes:

Last year, Danny de Hek was a social media guru badly in need of a social media guru. A buoyant New Zealander with geeky glasses, he dispensed advice about how to vastly expand your online audience, to a group of just 350 subscribers.

He earned a living by drop shipping electronics as he searched for ways to make serious money. Then, in February, the husband of a friend sent the 52-year-old Mr. de Hek an email crowing about a company that somehow guaranteed outsize and clockwork returns. Investors in what was then known as HyperFund — it has since been rebranded twice — could triple their money in 600 days.

“It’s the best passive income retirement plan I have ever seen,” the acquaintance wrote. Get in now then sit back and watch the cash roll in.

The message changed Mr. de Hek’s life, though not in the way his friend might have hoped. After a few days of looking into HyperFund, Mr. de Hek concluded it was a scam, one that he estimates has attracted at least $1 billion by recruiting thousands of participants, some of whom put up as little as $300 or as much as $50,000 or more.

By March, he had crafted a new online identity: crypto Ponzi scheme buster. Mr. de Hek has since denounced HyperFund in more than 130 videos posted to YouTube, some of them nearly two hours long, lecturing viewers in a style that toggles between goofball and scold.

“When I looked into HyperFund, to me it just seemed black and white,” Mr. de Hek said during one of several interviews from his home in Christchurch. “Then I thought, I need to warn people about this.”

Mr. de Hek is one of the few voices flagging crypto-based Ponzi schemes, which U.S. investigators say are a severely underpublicized scourge. The past week has shown just how volatile the market is: One of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world, FTX, collapsed and the industry, is in meltdown.‌

Amid that kind of uncertainty, many investors have decided that if their tokens won’t recover from the steep drop in value that began last November, why not take a flier on a company that sounds crypto-adjacent?

“People are desperate, and out of desperation they’re giving it a go,” Mr. de Hek said. “It’s depressing because this is often a last-ditch effort.”

A Ponzi scheme, for those in need of a refresher, is an age-old fraud in which inflows of new money pay off earlier investors. Using cryptocurrencies does little more than lend the whole plate-spinning contraption a patina of the cutting edge — Hey, it’s on the blockchain — and makes it harder to pin down who is in charge. But the story ends the same way: champagne for those at the top, tears for everyone else.

U.S. investigators have busted a handful of crypto Ponzis over the years. Among them is OneCoin, which was based in Bulgaria and which prosecutors allege brought in roughly $4 billion from investors around the world. The charismatic co-founder of that fraud, Ruja Ignatova, disappeared after the fund closed in 2017 and is the subject of an 11-part BBC podcast, “The Missing Cryptoqueen.”

“We’ve worked multiple cases that involve more than $1 billion, and those are only the ones we hear about,” said Jarod Koopman, the acting executive director of the Cyber and Forensic Services section of the Internal Revenue Service, which spearheads crypto-Ponzi investigations, in a phone interview. “These are traditional Ponzi schemes that have been adapted to the digital landscape, recruiting investors through social media to make them look great. And they’re completely bogus.”

Mr. Koopman would not comment on cases other than those that are already public, and he declined to discuss HyperFund. The company has attracted the attention of regulators in Britain, where . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2022 at 1:02 pm

Twitter in a tailspin

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Interesting article by Mike Masnick in TechDirt:

Yesterday I tweeted out a question about whether or not there was anyone left at Twitter who remembered that the company was under a pretty strict FTC consent decree: . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

So, here’s the thing. While Elon may think he’s not afraid of the FTC, he should be. The FTC is not the SEC and the FTC does not fuck around. Violating the FTC can lead to criminal penalties. I mean, it was just a month ago that Uber’s former Chief Security Officer was convicted on federal charges for obstruction against the FTC.

And you wonder why Twitter’s Chief Security Officer resigned?

The Verge article also notes the following:

Musk’s new legal department is now asking engineers to “self-certify” compliance with FTC rules and other privacy laws, according to the lawyer’s note and another employee familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity to speak without the company’s permission.

Anyone working in Twitter needs to know that “self-certifying” something that violates the FTC’s consent decree may be tied to a prison sentence and huge fines. This is not how any of this should be working.

Stanford’s Riana Pfefferkorn (who used to be outside counsel for Twitter) has a great Twitter thread explaining the many ways in which this is fucked up. That thread notes that… today Twitter violated the FTC’s consent decree as it was required to file a notice with the FTC about Elon’s takeover and how it relates to the compliance with the consent decrees.

Written by Leisureguy

10 November 2022 at 1:52 pm

Government regulations vs. Business incentives

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This is quite an interesting video. Greger points out that sometimes government regulations do indeed work — for example, the banning of trans fats in the US and the UK’s reduction of salt content in food. But sometimes regulations struggle, particularly when they strike more directly at the profit sources of powerful interests. 

Capitalism is set up to generate profit, and it lacks any mechanism to evaluate the source of the profit. Capitalism operates from a simple criterion: “Profit good, more profit better,” and thus we have companies that unabashedly profit from products and services that destroy lives (cigarette companies, Purdue Pharma, and others, along with companies that create (and abandon) enormous toxic waste dumps or destroy the Amazon rain forest).

The video is short and worth watching. 

Written by Leisureguy

7 November 2022 at 10:04 am

The Most Lawless County in Texas

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Kathy Wise reports an amazing story in D Magazine:

Suzanne Wooten had 10 minutes to decide her own fate. It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving in 2011, and the jury just wanted to go home. Wooten did, too. The 43-year-old Collin County District Court judge was used to observing the courtroom from the opposite vantage point. Now, she was seated at the defense table, dressed not in a robe but in a conservative pantsuit, her blond hair pulled back in a basic bun. She was facing not only the loss of her career but also the loss of her family. Charged with nine felony counts that included bribery, conspiracy to engage in organized criminal activity, and money laundering, Wooten could be sentenced to anything from five years to life in prison.

The whole trial had felt like a terrible farce. She had been accused of taking bribes from a couple, whom she swore she had never personally met, to fund campaign expenses, which she had checks to show she had paid for, in return for favorable decisions in a custody dispute, which she had recused herself from and never heard. But that didn’t stop the lead prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Harry White, from projecting on screen a photo of Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone in The Godfather and saying, “Not all mob bosses look like that.”

Her lawyers reassured her there was no rational basis for a conviction. If there was, every judge in the state of Texas could be indicted as well. But during the trial, when the jury stopped making eye contact with her, Wooten knew she was in trouble.

Her lowest point came the night before the verdict. She was soaking in her bathtub, trying to figure out what to tell her kids, aged 15, 9, and 7, if the worst happened. Should she say she was sick and had to go away to the hospital? They weren’t stupid. For a moment, she thought maybe it would be better for them if she were dead.

But, as the pragmatic daughter of a career Air Force officer puts it, “I am really not a kill yourself kind of gal.” So she started looking for ways to make something out of the situation. “Well, crap—Shawshank Redemption,” Wooten thought. “I can help people write appeal bonds. I can help people with their divorces.” That flicker of a plan was enough to get her out of the tub.

It was still a gut punch, though, when she saw the verdict form. Wooten is farsighted, and she was familiar with the form from her time on the bench, so it was easy for her to decipher the jury’s findings as the judge silently flipped through the pages: guilty, guilty, guilty.

When the judge read the verdict out loud, Wooten’s husband collapsed and had to be carried out of the courtroom. In a daze, she followed her lawyers, Peter Schulte and Toby Shook, to the attorney-client conference room for a 10-minute break before sentencing. The only saving grace was that the jury had spared her a first-degree felony conviction, so now the worst-case scenario was 20 years. As they headed out of the courtroom, Schulte, a young, tough-talking former cop with a buzz cut, angrily told White, “This is not over. We’re going to appeal this until the end of time.”

During the break, White approached Shook and offered 10 years’ probation if Wooten would waive her right to appeal. He would later testify that he offered the plea because his sole goal was to get Wooten off the bench and keep her from running again. Even if she were sentenced to prison time, White wasn’t sure how long she could stay on the bench during the course of an appeal.

“I’m in this blur,” Wooten says. “But what got me to my decision was one of my dear friends who was there. She said, ‘Do you want to be right or do you want to be free?’ ” Wooten knew that if she were sentenced to more than 10 years, she would not be entitled to an appeal bond; she would go straight to prison without seeing her kids.

She took the deal.

On that November day in 2011, nobody could have foreseen that Wooten, whose hands were effectively tied behind her back without the ability to appeal, would emerge a decade later, Houdini-​like, with a complete exoneration and a $600,000 settlement against Collin County. . .

Continue reading.

One word: Texas.

Written by Leisureguy

6 November 2022 at 11:25 am

Where Will This Political Violence Lead? Look to the 1850s.

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In Politico Joshua Zeitz looks to US history and notes a recurring refrain of political violence from conservative minorities:

Early Friday morning, an intruder broke into the San Francisco home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and bludgeoned her husband, Paul Pelosi, 82, on the head with a hammer.

Details are still scant, but early indications suggest that the suspect, David Depape, is an avid purveyor of anti-Semitic, QAnon and MAGA conspiracy theories. Before the attack, the assailant reportedly shouted, “Where is Nancy? Where is Nancy?”

This is the United States of America in 2022. A country where political violence — including the threat of political violence — has become a feature, not a bug.

Armed men wearing tactical gear and face coverings outside ballot drop boxes in Arizona. Members of Congress threatening to bring guns onto the House floor — or actually trying to do it. Prominent Republican members of Congress, and their supporters on Fox News, stoking violence against their political opponents by accusing them of being pedophilesterrorists and groomers — of conspiring with “globalists” (read: Jews) to “replace” white people with immigrants.

And of course, January 6, and subsequent efforts by Republicans and conservative media personalities to whitewash or even celebrate it.

Pundits like to take refuge in the saccharine refrain, “this is not who we are,” but historically, this is exactly who we are. Political violence is an endemic feature of American political history. It was foundational to the overthrow of Reconstruction in the 1870s and the maintenance of Jim Crow for decades after.

But today’s events bear uncanny resemblance to an earlier decade — the 1850s, when Southern Democrats, the conservatives of their day, unleashed a torrent of violence against their opponents. It was a decade when an angry and entrenched minority used force to thwart the will of a growing majority, often with the knowing support and even participation of prominent elected officials.

That’s the familiar part of the story. The less appreciated angle is how that growing majority eventually came to accept the proposition that force was a necessary part of politics.

The 1850s were a singularly violent era in American politics. Though politicians both North and South, Whig and Democrat, tried to contain sectional differences over slavery, Southern Democrats and their Northern sympathizers increasingly pushed the envelope, employing coercion and violence to protect and spread the institution of slavery.

It began with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which stripped accused runaways of their right to trial by jury and allowed individual cases to be bumped up from state courts to special federal courts. As an extra incentive to federal commissioners adjudicating such cases, it provided a $10 fee when a defendant was remanded to slavery but only $5 for a finding rendered against the slave owner. Most obnoxious to many Northerners, the law stipulated harsh fines and prison sentences for any citizen who refused to cooperate with or aid federal authorities in the capture of accused fugitives. Southern Democrats enforced the law with brute force, to the horror of Northerners, including many who did not identify as anti-slavery.

The next provocation was the Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854, which effectively abrogated the Missouri Compromise and opened the western territories to slavery. It wasn’t enough that Democrats rammed through legislation allowing the citizens of the Kansas and Nebraska territories to institutionalize slavery if they voted to do so in what had long been considered free territory. They then employed coercion and violence to rig the territorial elections that followed.

Though anti-slavery residents far outnumbered pro-slavery residents in Kansas, heavily armed “Border ruffians,” led by Missouri’s Democratic senator David Atchison, stormed the Kansas territory by force, stuffing ballot boxes, assaulting and even killing Free State settlers, in a naked attempt to tilt the scales in favor of slavery. “You know how to protect your own interests,” Atchison cried. “Your rifles will free you from such neighbors. … You will go there, if necessary, with the bayonet and with blood.” He promised, “If we win, we can carry slavery to the Pacific Ocean.”

The violence made it into Congress. When backlash against the Kansas Nebraska Act upended the political balance, driving anti-slavery Democrats and Whigs into the new, anti-slavery Republican party, pro-slavery Democrats responded with rage. In 1856,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 October 2022 at 11:29 am

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