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“Sense of Entitlement”: Rioters Faced No Consequences Invading State Capitols. No Wonder They Turned to the U.S. Capitol Next.

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Economics has the term “moral hazard,” which refers to a lack of incentive to guard against risk where one is protected from its consequences, e.g. by a bail-out. This issue was discussed a lot in the 2008 bailout of big banks, and indeed since the banks were protected from the consequences of their actions, they quickly returned to their old (and profitable) ways.

It strikes me that the lack of consequences for various offenses against the government (starting with, say, the 2014 Bundy armed refusal to stand down) has over time resulted in the insurrection in DC — and indeed many of the particcipants think they should not in any way face consequences for their actions.

Jeremy Kohler reports in ProPublica:

The gallery in the Idaho House was restricted to limited seating on the first day of a special session in late August. Lawmakers wanted space to socially distance as they considered issues related to the pandemic and the November election.

But maskless protesters shoved their way past Idaho State Police troopers and security guards, broke through a glass door and demanded entry. They were confronted by House Speaker Scott Bedke, a Republican. He decided to let them in and fill the gallery.

“You guys are going to police yourselves up there, and you’re going to act like good citizens,” he told the invaders, according to a YouTube video of the incident.

“I just thought that, on balance, it would be better to let them go in and defuse it … rather than risk anyone getting hurt or risk tearing up anything else,” Bedke said of the protesters in an interview last week. He said he talked to cooler heads in the crowd “who saw that it was a situation that had gotten out of control, and I think on some level they were very apologetic.”

That late-summer showdown inside the Statehouse in Boise on Aug. 24 showed supporters of President Donald Trump how they could storm into a seat of government to intimidate lawmakers with few if any repercussions. The state police would say later that they could not have arrested people without escalating the potential for violence and that they were investigating whether crimes were committed. No charges have been filed. The next day, anti-government activist Ammon Bundy and two others were arrested when they refused to leave an auditorium in the Statehouse and another man was arrested when he refused to leave a press area.

In a year in which state governments around the country have become flashpoints for conservative anger about the coronavirus lockdown and Trump’s electoral defeat, it was right-wing activists — some of them armed, nearly all of them white — who forced their way into state capitols in Idaho, Michigan and Oregon. Each instance was an opportunity for local and national law enforcement officials to school themselves in ways to prevent angry mobs from threatening the nation’s lawmakers.

But it was Trump supporters who did the learning. That it was possible — even easy — to breach the seats of government to intimidate lawmakers. That police would not meet them with the same level of force they deployed against Black Lives Matter protesters. That they could find sympathizers on the inside who might help them.

And they learned that criminal charges, as well as efforts to make the buildings more secure, were unlikely to follow their incursions. In the three cases, police made only a handful of arrests.

The failure to stop state capitol invasions is especially chilling after the attack on the U.S. Capitol last week, which left five dead, including a police officer, as lawmakers met to certify the election of President-elect Joe Biden.

Experts and elected officials said the lack of action by lawmakers and police created an environment that encouraged political violence. The FBI has warned of armed protests occurring in all 50 state capitols in the run-up to the inauguration on Wednesday. Authorities in both Washington and state capitols have dramatically strengthened security.

“Eventually, you get to the point of entitlement where you can get away with anything and there will never be any accountability,” the Idaho House minority leader, Ilana Rubel, a Democrat, said. “I don’t know that (Bedke) was wrong under the circumstances, but it adds up to creating a sense of entitlement.”

Bedke said he saw no correlation between the events in Boise and Washington. But domestic terror experts said in interviews that the statehouse invasions likely created a sense of impunity among right-wing activists. The feeling grew throughout the year as Trump praised gun-carrying activists at state capitols as “very good people” and emboldened the insurrectionists in Washington.

Amy Cooter, a Vanderbilt University sociologist and expert in the militia movement, said the U.S. Capitol attack may have been less likely to occur if the violence in state capitols had been met with harsher punishment.

What’s more, she said that authorities who failed to take action against protesters earlier may find it difficult to do so now.

While many Trump supporters already see their First Amendment rights as being under attack, they may see efforts to block them from state capitols as an attack on their Second Amendment rights, she said, further legitimizing their need to stand up to what they perceive as tyranny.

When officials acquiesce to demands, “it typically makes these folks feel like those are ‘constitutional’ officials who support their general aims, which can then embolden them against officials they believe to be the opposite, that is, officials they believe to be betraying their oaths to the people,” Cooter said.

If extremist groups “believe they have been given allowances in the past and are not moving forward, this can further reinforce that notion of officials who are derelict in their duty, officials who should be removed and, depending on what group we’re talking about, possibly officials who should be confronted with force.”

Days after Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN,” protesters taking part in an “American Patriot Rally” outside the Michigan Capitol in Lansing on April 30 swarmed into the building demanding an end to the stay-at-home order put in place by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group, which numbered in the hundreds, included several heavily armed men. Few wore face coverings or observed social distancing. A line of state police troopers and other Capitol employees held the mob back from entering the House floor.

“We had hundreds of individuals storm our Capitol building,” state Rep. Sarah Anthony said in an interview. “No, lives were not lost, blood was not shed, property was not damaged, but I think they saw how easy it was to get into our building and they could get away with that type of behavior and there would be little to no consequences.”

Some armed invaders entered the Senate gallery. While none of the protesters faced charges, two of the men seen in a photo posted by state Sen. Dayna Polehanki looking down on lawmakers would be among the 14 people charged months later in a plot to kidnap Whitmer and bomb the state Capitol.

“It made national and international . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more — other statehouses, for example.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 January 2021 at 12:55 pm

The honey detectives are closing in on China’s shady syrup swindlers

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Jonathan Ungoed-Thomas and Jonathan Lake write in Wired:

Shortly before dawn most days, José Eduardo Moo Pat sets out from his home in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula with a protective suit and his metal smoker for calming honey bees. He drives six miles through low-lying tropical jungle to tend to his 30 hives nestled in a clearing.

His work has always been hard. But now making a livelihood is even tougher and his bees are at real risk – not from pesticides or deforestation, but from a catastrophic collapse in the wholesale price of honey. “I think every day about profitability,” says Moo Pat “I have seen many beekeepers disappear in the last two or three years. I don’t know if I can continue. I don’t even have enough money to pay for the fuel to go to see my bees.”

Five years ago, Moo Pat, who is 42 and from the small Mexican town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, was paid 47 pesos (£1.73) per kilogram for his organic honey by a local fair trade co-operative, but the price has now slumped to just 35 pesos per kilogram. The price for conventional honey has fallen even further, from 43 pesos per kilogram to just 23 pesos. Many of Mexico’s estimated 42,000 beekeepers – much of whose honey goes to Europe – are now giving up and abandoning their hives.

Moo Pat blames China for his financial plight. There, cheap honey and sugar syrup are produced on an industrial scale and blended together by fraudsters. Beekeepers believe this adulterated honey is responsible for saturating the market, crashing global prices and deceiving millions of customers.

“Most of the honey imported from China into Europe is blended with syrup,” says Etienne Bruneau, chairman of the honey working party at the European agricultural umbrella organisation Copa-Cogeca. “In China, they tell you if you want honey it’s one price and if you want a cheaper price you can have syrup in it.”

In the UK, beekeepers are also finding themselves squeezed by bargain honey pouring off the production lines in China. “Even for large scale bee farmers the size of the operation would need to be off the scale to be able to compete on price for the product that they sell as honey,” says Martin Pope, who runs Beeza Ltd, producing honey and wax products from apiaries around Kingsbridge in South Devon.

Moo Pat and other beekeepers in Mexico are starting to fight back, campaigning internationally to investigate and expose the honey fraudsters – and the looming risk to biodiversity from abandoned hives and declining bee populations. His federation of honey producers has helped fund tests on supermarket honey in the UK, one of the world’s biggest importers of Chinese honey.

The tests have indicated widespread adulteration, but also laid bare the limited and often unreliable tools available to detect and police honey fraud. Scientists and regulators around the world are now developing a test with a vast database of sample honeys which they hope will lead to the prosecution of honey fraudsters and bring the illicit industry to a sticky end.

Beekeeping is one of the most ancient forms of farming, with archaeological evidence suggesting humans have been harvesting honey from bees for nearly 9,000 years. Research published in Nature in November 2015 found traces of beeswax on pieces of Neolithic crockery unearthed in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

There are now more than 90 million managed beehives around the world producing about 1.9m tonnes of honey worth more than £5 billion a year. The industry provides a huge environmental benefit because three out of four crops depend to some extent on pollination by bees and other insects for yield and quality.

Farming bees is, however, labour intensive, so honey is expensive – and that makes it a tempting target for adulteration with cheap substitutes. The most common fraud is the dilution of genuine honey with sugar syrup, typically manufactured from rice, corn or sugar beet.

China is the world’s biggest producer of honey, accounting for about a quarter of global output, but its rise to dominance and its low prices have long been viewed with suspicion. In the eastern province of Zhejiang, where much of the country’s beekeeping industry is concentrated, industrial plants manufacture cheap rice and corn syrup to be blended with honey. Alibaba, the Chinese online marketplaces, even advertises industrial “fructose syrup for honey” for as little as 76p per kilogram.

Beekeepers warn that the flow of adulterated honey coming out of China is so great that it’s distorting the market. In November Copa-Cogeca warned that the livelihoods of many European beekeepers were in peril after  . . .

Continue reading. I would also note that some supermarket honey brands, such as Sioux Bee, strangely never crystallize.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 January 2021 at 1:48 pm

41 minutes of fear: A video timeline from inside the Capitol siege

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The Washington Post has an excellent 14-minute video in this article that gives a visual timeline of the invasion of the Capitol by the insurrectionists seeking to assassinate Pence, Pelosi, and others. The accompanying article by  Dalton Bennett, Emma Brown, Sarah Cahlan, Joyce Sohyun Lee, Meg Kelly, Elyse Samuels, and Jon Swaine begins:

At 2:12 p.m. on Jan. 6, supporters of President Trump began climbing through a window they had smashed on the northwest side of the U.S. Capitol. “Go! Go! Go!” someone shouted as the rioters, some in military gear, streamed in.

It was the start of the most serious attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812. The mob coursed through the building, enraged that Congress was preparing to make Trump’s electoral defeat official. “Drag them out! … Hang them out!” rioters yelled at one point, as they gathered near the House chamber.

Officials in the House and Senate secured the doors of their respective chambers, but lawmakers were soon forced to retreat to undisclosed locations. Five people died on the grounds that day, including a Capitol police officer. In all, more than 50 officers were injured.

To reconstruct the pandemonium inside the Capitol for the video above, The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and hundreds of videos, some of which were exclusively obtained. By synchronizing the footage and locating some of the camera angles within a digital 3-D model of the building, The Post was able to map the rioters’ movements and assess how close they came to lawmakers — in some cases feet apart or separated only by a handful of vastly outnumbered police officers.

The Post used a facial-recognition algorithm that differentiates individual faces — it does not identify people — to estimate that at least 300 rioters were present in footage taken inside the Capitol while police were struggling to evacuate lawmakers. The actual number of rioters is probably greater, since the footage analyzed by The Post did not capture everyone in the building.

After breaking in on the Senate side of the Capitol, rioters began moving from the ground floor up one level to the chamber itself. Vice President Pence, who had been presiding, was moved to a nearby office at 2:13 p.m. The mob passed by about one minute later.

Continue reading. And read it all.  The article includes detailed diagrams of the Capitol that show the details of the insurrection.

Rebecca Solnit on Facebook notes:

Benjamin Carter Hett writes: Hitler learned his lesson: A sophisticated modern state could not be overturned by a violent coup led by outsiders, against the police and the army. He realized he would have to work within the system.

Over the following decade, this is exactly what he did. The Nazis ran in elections until they were the largest party in Germany’s parliament, gridlocking legislative business. Even more insidiously, the Nazis worked to infiltrate crucial institutions like the police and the army. In 1931, Berlin police responded incredibly sluggishly to a massive Nazi riot in the center of the city. It turned out senior police officials silently sympathized with the Nazis and had colluded in hobbling the police response.
Hitler grew steadily more attractive to business and military leaders who saw him and his movement as their only salvation from the growing Communist Party. Early in 1933 they opened the doors of power to him.

After the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, 139 Republican members of the House and eight members of the Senate, led by Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, came out of hiding to vote to object to the electoral college vote count. While a police officer lay dying, they supported Trump’s lie of a stolen election and embraced the insurrectionists’ cause.

Imagine the events of the past weeks and months if someone like Hawley had been the secretary of state in Georgia, or someone like retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn held a significant military command. Imagine what would have happened if the Republicans held majorities in both houses of Congress and could have overturned the electoral college results. Imagine if the courts had been more generously stocked with judges willing to entertain the Trump campaign’s ludicrous arguments.

Above all, imagine if the president had been a bit more competent, a bit more strategic, a bit more daring. Hitler, after all, was at least willing to be present at the violence his words inspired. He was also more persuasive in his dealings with important officials.

It is much more common for democracies to be undermined by seemingly legal actions taken from within than by violence from without. Hitler himself ultimately consolidated his power through legal instruments — for instance, the notorious Reichstag Fire Decree, which abolished the civil rights the democratic Weimar Constitution had granted.

In recent times, we have seen this happen in Hungary, Turkey and Russia. We need to think about legal safeguards for our institutions more than we need to think about barricades. We need to know that our police and military commanders will be loyal and do their jobs. And there must be real consequences for officials who try to profit from spreading sedition. There need to be motions of censure at the very least against Hawley and Cruz.

The majority of one of our two political parties is firmly committed to anti-democratic and insurrectionist politics. Normally the opposition party gains in midterm elections. It takes little imagination to see where this would put us in a close election in 2024. Democrats will have to work hard, using the Georgia model of mobilization to minimize midterm losses.

This month, Americans have seen what it means to have insurrectionists working inside our government. We will need to respond aggressively if our Beer Hall Putsch is not to be followed by more of the kinds of violence and terror we have seen in the past.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 January 2021 at 5:53 pm

The American Abyss: Fascism, Atrocity, and What Comes Next

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Timothy Snyder, Levin professor of history at Yale University and the author of histories of political atrocity including “Bloodlands” and “Black Earth,” as well as the book “On Tyranny,” on America’s turn toward authoritarianism, writes in the NY Times Magazine on the mechanisms and failures that brought the US political system to its current state of wreckage:

When Donald Trump stood before his followers on Jan. 6 and urged them to march on the United States Capitol, he was doing what he had always done. He never took electoral democracy seriously nor accepted the legitimacy of its American version.

Even when he won, in 2016, he insisted that the election was fraudulent — that millions of false votes were cast for his opponent. In 2020, in the knowledge that he was trailing Joseph R. Biden in the polls, he spent months claiming that the presidential election would be rigged and signaling that he would not accept the results if they did not favor him. He wrongly claimed on Election Day that he had won and then steadily hardened his rhetoric: With time, his victory became a historic landslide and the various conspiracies that denied it ever more sophisticated and implausible.

People believed him, which is not at all surprising. It takes a tremendous amount of work to educate citizens to resist the powerful pull of believing what they already believe, or what others around them believe, or what would make sense of their own previous choices. Plato noted a particular risk for tyrants: that they would be surrounded in the end by yes-men and enablers. Aristotle worried that, in a democracy, a wealthy and talented demagogue could all too easily master the minds of the populace. Aware of these risks and others, the framers of the Constitution instituted a system of checks and balances. The point was not simply to ensure that no one branch of government dominated the others but also to anchor in institutions different points of view.

In this sense, the responsibility for Trump’s push to overturn an election must be shared by a very large number of Republican members of Congress. Rather than contradict Trump from the beginning, they allowed his electoral fiction to flourish. They had different reasons for doing so. One group of Republicans is concerned above all with gaming the system to maintain power, taking full advantage of constitutional obscurities, gerrymandering and dark money to win elections with a minority of motivated voters. They have no interest in the collapse of the peculiar form of representation that allows their minority party disproportionate control of government. The most important among them, Mitch McConnell, indulged Trump’s lie while making no comment on its consequences.

Yet other Republicans saw the situation differently: They might actually break the system and have power without democracy. The split between these two groups, the gamers and the breakers, became sharply visible on Dec. 30, when Senator Josh Hawley announced that he would support Trump’s challenge by questioning the validity of the electoral votes on Jan. 6. Ted Cruz then promised his own support, joined by about 10 other senators. More than a hundred Republican representatives took the same position. For many, this seemed like nothing more than a show: challenges to states’ electoral votes would force delays and floor votes but would not affect the outcome.

Yet for Congress to traduce its basic functions had a price. An elected institution that opposes elections is inviting its own overthrow. Members of Congress who sustained the president’s lie, despite the available and unambiguous evidence, betrayed their constitutional mission. Making his fictions the basis of congressional action gave them flesh. Now Trump could demand that senators and congressmen bow to his will. He could place personal responsibility upon Mike Pence, in charge of the formal proceedings, to pervert them. And on Jan. 6, he directed his followers to exert pressure on these elected representatives, which they proceeded to do: storming the Capitol building, searching for people to punish, ransacking the place.

Of course this did make a kind of sense: If the election really had been stolen, as senators and congressmen were themselves suggesting, then how could Congress be allowed to move forward? For some Republicans, the invasion of the Capitol must have been a shock, or even a lesson. For the breakers, however, it may have been a taste of the future. Afterward, eight senators and more than 100 representatives voted for the lie that had forced them to flee their chambers.

Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president. When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place. Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves. If we lose the institutions that produce facts that are pertinent to us, then we tend to wallow in attractive abstractions and fictions. Truth defends itself particularly poorly when there is not very much of it around, and the era of Trump — like the era of Vladimir Putin in Russia — is one of the decline of local news. Social media is no substitute: It supercharges the mental habits by which we seek emotional stimulation and comfort, which means losing the distinction between what feels true and what actually is true.

Post-truth wears away the rule of law and invites a regime of myth. These last four years,  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more — it’s a long article — and at the link you can also listen to it (30 minutes at normal speed).

Written by LeisureGuy

16 January 2021 at 1:56 pm

Combat in the Capitol

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It was worse than it’s been portrayed. Rebecca Solnit on Facebook:

One of the things seldom remembered is that 9/11 in NYC could have been much worse. Nearly everyone in the Twin Towers below the plane impacts got out alive, the great majority of people there, before the buildings collapsed (and because there was an election that Tuesday morning, a lot of people were not at work at all, so the towers were much emptier than usual).

Likewise, 1/6 could have been much worse. It nearly was.

Reading the Washington Post‘s riveting, horrifying firsthand accounts (published Thursday night; posted on my page) from the police who were battling the insurgents is a reminder that thousands of would-be assassins with guns were engaged in hours of brutal, almost unhinged hand-to-hand combat to try to get at the elected officials. (One police account says that they confiscated a lot of guns and knew there were far more, and that he suspected the protestors were waiting for the police to shoot first, so, aside from the shot that took out the Navy vet, they didn’t.) That the mob did not manage to lay hands on any of our representatives, so far as we know, seems remarkable under the circumstances. There would have been beatings, probably rapes and murders, possibly torture and hostage-taking.

The first round of images of the goofballs lounging among the paintings and sculptures, taking selfies, putting feet up on a Pelosi staffer’s desk were misleading. Elsewhere, it was combat. A lot of police, ex-soldiers, militia members in the crowd were committing some very organized violence.
We were misled by the early photographs and media accounts, which didn’t sufficiently portray the sheer violence of that day. I think that some blame for what happened lies with some members of the Capitol police; much will probably turn out to lie with those officials elsewhere who failed to gather or act on the information that monumental violence was planned or possibly actively suppressed that information and the aid that should have been given to the Capitol force beforehand and during what it now feels legitimate to call a battle.

What I know for sure is that we know a lot more today than we did on 1/6, and we will continue to learn. About, among other things, a broad conspiracy to try to topple the government by attacking the legislative branch with lethal violence. (As I wrote in Lithub a few days ago, their devout faith in violence was misplaced; even had they succeeded in taking the building and killing some congresspeople and senators or taking hostages, they would not have convinced the nation and the world that 45 was the legitimate winner of the November election and entitled to stay in office.) I think we are seeing the first edges of a many-faceted conspiracy.

The more people recognize this, the more the alliance between these invaders and their supporters in right-wing media, among elected officials, and beyond will be questioned. This is the culmination of who this sector has become over the past four years, a disinhibited, intoxicated version of the worst of what the far right has long been. The supporters need to either assent to what happened or disown it; the long having it both ways needs to end. Or so it seems to me tonight.

See also: ‘We got to hold this door’: How battered D.C. police made a stand against the Capitol mob.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 January 2021 at 8:18 pm

Two good quotes from David Pell’s newsletter

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David Pell writes:

ET TWO, BRUTE

No, you’re not seeing double. No need to do a double take. The House of Reps is serving up impeachments, and Trump said, “Make mine a double.” The two-faced, two-timing, double-crossing, seditious recidivist, for whom treachery is second nature, is a repeat offender, setting a double standard by becoming the first president to suffer twin falls; getting impeached twice over, suffering double trouble and a second reprimand because he couldn’t accept coming in second place and instead turned America’s Capitol into a two-bit riot act. In other words, Trump finally grew a pair. Now we’re tired of all the twinning. Individual One just made number two. You dropped a deuce, Ace.

And also offers this observation:

Some GOP House members indicated to reporters that they would have voted for impeachment but they feared for their lives. Folks, this is the very definition of living in an autocracy: Fear of violence bends elected officials away from the people they represent, or the law, in favor of the autocrat’s will. It’s how the mafia runs. It’s how bullies rule the school yard. It’s not how America is supposed to work.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2021 at 8:52 pm

When there is no accountability: New York City Paid an NBA Star Millions After an NYPD Officer Broke His Leg. The Officer Paid Little Price.

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Bad police act as they do because they know they have impunity: they know that it is extremely unlikely that they will pay any price for misconduct. Mike Hayes reports in ProPublica:

Five years ago, NBA guard Thabo Sefolosha was standing outside a nightclub when he was tackled by five New York Police Department officers, one of whom broke his leg with a baton.

Sefolosha sued, and the city paid its largest settlement for alleged police brutality in years, $4.5 million. After all, Sefolosha had to have surgery and couldn’t play basketball for a year. And a jury had acquitted Sefolosha of the charges against him for allegedly resisting arrest. The whole incident had been caught on tape.

But the payout — which didn’t cost the officers a dime — is where any accountability ended. The city had insisted during the case that the officers were blameless, and they ended up facing no significant punishment.

It’s left Sefolosha frustrated. “To get a settlement was a small victory. But big picture, it’s a small drop,” Sefolosha told ProPublica from his home in Vevey, Switzerland. “When are people going to be held accountable? You have to have repercussions. They’re going to do it over and over again.”

New York City has paid more than $1 billion over the past five years to settle lawsuits against the NYPD, according to data released by the city. ProPublica examined dozens of the biggest payouts in cases where civilians had also filed complaints with the city agency that reviews alleged police abuse. Again and again, the officers faced minimal or no discipline.

In one case, the city paid out $125,000 when officers allegedly fractured someone’s cheekbone with a flashlight. The officers were not disciplined. In another case, officers allegedly bashed in a man’s car window with a baton, then broke his ankle dragging him from the vehicle and charged him with resisting arrest. The charges were dropped and the city paid $460,000 to settle. The officers again faced no discipline.

In the 45 cases we examined, the harshest penalty any officer received was a loss of 15 vacation days — for punching a teenager and knocking him unconscious in an incident caught on tape that went viral. The city settled that case for $200,000.

The city has ended up paying out settlements for some officers’ alleged misconduct again and again. Over the past seven years, at least 800 officers have been named as defendants in five or more suits settled by the city. About 50 have been named in at least a dozen settlements.

The city has paid out more than $600,000 in settlements for one officer, nicknamed Bullethead, who has been sued dozens of times. The money in all these cases comes not from the officers or the NYPD itself, but from the city taxpayers.

report a few years ago by the New York City Bar put the issue succinctly: The city’s civil claim system is “failing in one of its principal purposes, to shape the actions of those officials on whose behalf damages are paid.”

While the Office of the New York City Comptroller — which cuts the settlement checks — tracks details of cases, the NYPD only recently agreed after a court order to incorporate some of the information into its monitoring of officers’ conduct.

Under Mayor Bill de Blasio, the city has moved to limit payouts on what the mayor described early in his administration as “frivolous lawsuits” against the NYPD. While the city has kept settling cases at roughly the same pace it has for years, it has become more aggressive in its defense of the NYPD. In a few cases reviewed by ProPublica, the city has defended officers who seem to have lied or engaged in what was clearly misconduct.

Joe Berger, a New York City civil rights attorney who previously worked at the Law Department, told ProPublica that the Law Department “will say anything, no matter how ridiculous, to defend officers.”

Berger, who brought a recent case against the city in which he said an officer lied to arrest his client, wrote in a law review article last year that police misconduct victims are “mistreated twice these days, first by the misconduct itself and then by city attorneys who withhold or acquiesce in the destruction of vital discovery and abuse legitimate plaintiffs with unethical tactics.”

De Blasio’s office did not respond to multiple requests to comment for this story.

A spokesperson for the Law Department, which handles suits, told ProPublica that each case has a “unique fact pattern and is evaluated on its individual merits.” The spokesperson emphasized that settlements are “not an admission of wrongdoing on the part of the city or its police officers.”

The NYPD said in a statement that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2021 at 3:14 pm

Insurrection Timeline – First the Coup and Then the Cover-Up

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Steven Harper writes at Moyers on Democracy:

The Department of Defense’s January 8, 2021 press release purports to “memorialize the planning and execution timeline” of the deadly insurrection that it calls the “January 6, 2021 First Amendment Protests in Washington, DC.”*

The memo’s minute-by-minute account creates a false illusion of transparency. In truth, its most noteworthy aspects are the omission of Trump’s central role in the insurrection and the effort to shift blame away from Trump and his new Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller.

Who is Christopher Miller?

By November 9, every news organization declared that former Vice President Joe Biden had won the election. On that day, Trump fired Acting Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and replaced him with Miller, an Army retiree who worked for a defense contractor until Trump tapped him as his assistant in 2018. Miller’s promotion began a departmental regime change that embedded three fierce Trump loyalists as top Defense Department officials: Kash Patel (former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)), retired army Gen. Anthony Tata (pro-Trump Fox News pundit) and Ezra Cohen-Watnick (former assistant to Trump’s first national security adviser, Mike Flynn).

At such a late date in Trump’s presidency, many asked why the shake-up at the Department of Defense? We may be learning the answer.

Prior to the Attack

The department’s January 8, 2021 memo ignores Trump’s central role in igniting and then encouraging the January 6 insurrection. In fact, the only reference to Trump appears in a January 3 entry, when Miller and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Milley meet with him and he concurs in activation of the DC National Guard “to support law enforcement.”

Other than that, Trump is conspicuously absent, along with the most important parts of the story. In the date and time entries that follow, only those in italics and preceded with “(DoD Memo)” summarize items from the Defense Department’s January 8 memorandum. The memo ignores every other fact set forth in this post.

Dec. 19, 2020: Trump tweets: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

Jan. 3, 2021: Replying to a tweet from one of the rally organizers, Trump tweets: “I will be there. Historic day.”

Jan. 4: The National Park Service increases the crowd estimate on the January 6 rally permit to 30,000 — up from the original 5,000 in December.

January 6, 2021:

8:17 a.m.: Trump tweets: “States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval. All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”

Noon: Trump begins to address the mob and continues speaking for more than 90 minutes.

  • “We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.”
  • “We won this election, and we won it by a landslide. This was not a close election.”
  • “I hope Mike is going to do the right thing. I hope so. I hope so, because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election. All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify, and we become president, and you are the happiest people.”

1:00 p.m.: While Trump continues his rant to the mob, some members of Trump’s crowd have already reached the US Capitol Building where Congress assembles in joint session to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. An initial wave of protesters storms the outer barricade west of the Capitol Building. As the congressional proceedings begin, Pence reads a letter saying that he won’t intervene in Congress’s electoral count: “My oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority.”

1:10 p.m.: Trump ends his speech by urging his followers to march down Pennsylvania Avenue. “We’re going to the Capitol. We’re going to try and give them [Republicans] the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country…If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

The Attack

If the District of Columbia were a state, its governor alone could have deployed the National Guard to crush the riot. Instead, Trump and his Defense Department had that responsibility, and an unprecedented assault on a sacred institution of government succeeded, if only for a few hours.

(DoD Memo) 1:26 p.m.: The Capitol Police orders the evacuation of the Capitol complex.

1:30 p.m.: The crowd outside the building grows larger, eventually overtaking the Capitol Police and making its way up the Capitol steps. Suspicious packages — later confirmed to be pipe bombs — are found at Republican National Committee headquarters and Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington.

(DoD Memo) 1:34 p.m.: DC Mayor Muriel Bowser asks Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy — who reports to Miller — for more federal help to deal with the mob.

Bowser is told that the request must first come from the Capitol Police.

(DoD Memo) 1:49 p.m.: The Capitol Police chief asks the commanding general of the DC National Guard for immediate assistance.

2:15 p.m.: Trump’s mob breaches the Capitol building – breaking windows, climbing inside and opening doors for others to follow.

(DoD Memo) 2:22 p.m.: Army Secretary McCarthy discusses the situation at the Capitol with Mayor Bowser and her staff.

They are begging for additional National Guard assistance. Note the time. It’s been almost an hour since Bowser requested help.

2:24 p.m.: Trump tweets: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”

After erecting a gallows on the Capitol grounds, the mob shouts, “Hang Mike Pence.” Rioters create another noose from a camera cord seized during an attack on an onsite news team.

2:26 p.m.: Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund joins a conference call with several officials from the DC government, as well as officials from the Pentagon, including Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, director of the Army Staff. Piatt later issues a statement denying the statements attributed to him.

“I am making an urgent, urgent immediate request for National Guard assistance,” Sund says. “I have got to get boots on the ground.”

The DC contingent is flabbergasted when Piatt says that he could not recommend that his boss, Army Secretary McCarthy, approve the request. “I don’t like the visual of the National Guard standing a police line with the Capitol in the background,” Piatt says. Again and again, Sund says that the situation is dire.

(DoD Memo) 2:30 p.m.: Miller, Army Secretary McCarthy and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff meet to discuss Mayor Bowser’s request.

(DoD Memo) 3:04 p.m.: Miller gives “verbal approval” to full mobilization of the DC National Guard (1,100 members).

It has now been more than 90 minutes since Mayor Bowser first asked Army Secretary McCarthy for assistance. It took an hour for Defense Department officials to meet and another half hour for them to decide to help. And Bowser still doesn’t know the status of her request.

(DoD Memo) 3:19 p.m.: Pelosi and Schumer call Army Secretary McCarthy, who says that Bowser’s request has now been approved.

(DoD Memo) 3:26 p.m.: Army Secretary McCarthy calls Bowser to tell her that her request for help has been approved.

The Defense Department’s notification of approval to Bowser came two hours after her request.

While Miller and his team were slow-walking Mayor Bowser’s request, she had sought National Guard assistance from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R). At about the same time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called Northam directly for help and he agreed.

3:29 p.m.: Gov. Northam announces mobilization of Virginia’s National Guard. But there’s a hitch. Federal law requires Defense Department authorization before any state’s National Guard can cross the state border onto federal land in DC. That approval doesn’t come until almost two hours later.FBI report warned of ‘war’ at Capitol, contradicting claims there was no indication of looming violence

(DoD Memo) 3:47 p.m. Governor Hogan mobilizes his state’s National Guard and 200 state troopers.

The Defense Department “repeatedly denies” Hogan’s request to deploy the National Guard at the Capitol. As he awaits approval, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) calls Hogan from the undisclosed bunker to which he, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have been evacuated. Hoyer pleads for assistance, saying that the Capitol Police is overwhelmed and there is no federal law enforcement presence.

4:17 p.m.: Trump tweets a video telling rioters, . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Also of interest: “FBI report warned of ‘war’ at Capitol, contradicting claims there was no indication of looming violence,” a report in the Washington Post. Republicans in general, and particularly those who supported the Trump administration prior to the uprising (that is, almost all Republicans), are frantically trying to hide or minimize their involvement and support of the insurrection, including making the ludicrous claim that those storming the Capitol were not Trump supports but Antifa members disguised as Trump supporters.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2021 at 12:08 pm

How the Trump terrorists were so quickly identified

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And also:

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2021 at 10:32 pm

Arnold Schwarzenegger points out similarities between Capitol Hill insurrection and Austria’s Kristallnacht

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Written by LeisureGuy

10 January 2021 at 11:27 am

The riot/insurrection that was planned in plain sight

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Logan Jaffee writes in a ProPublica newsletter:

Hi there,

My name is Logan Jaffe. I’m a reporter at ProPublica. To be frank, I am struggling to even type right now, as I am watching a nightmare unfold in the U.S. Capitol. It’s midday on Wednesday, Jan. 6. A door of the Senate chamber has been barricaded with heavy furniture. Elected officials have been evacuated. A PBS reporter is crouched behind something to keep her safe, still broadcasting, somehow. The halls of the Capitol have been overtaken by a group of people that CNN’s Jake Tapper just suggested we call terrorists. President-elect Joe Biden called this an insurrection. Many Americans may feel surprised by this violent attempted coup. I am not one of them.

For years, I’ve been following far-right and white nationalist movements, both online and in person. In January 2017, I stood outside of a gun store in rural Virginia as hundreds of neo-Confederates raised a gigantic Confederate battle flag in honor of Robert E. Lee’s birthday. Almost four years later, on the morning of the Capitol insurrection, the same group who organized the flag-raising tweeted: “Friends. We didn’t lose our Republic last night. We lost it in 1865. It’s just taken 155 years to fully reap the whirlwind #TheSouthWasRight.” Someone replied: “Amen to that. Was good to see the battle flag in the Capitol.”

While reporting in the sundown town of Anna, Illinois, in 2019, I had a lengthy conversation in the Walmart parking lot with a man who warned me a civil war was coming to this country. At the start of the pandemic in April 2020, I reported on how lockdowns were triggering discussions in some Illinois counties about seceding, or kicking Chicago out of the state. Of course, it is all still unlikely — Illinois secession and a national civil war — but the rhetoric is not meaningless because it is an expression of the violence that became a reality this Wednesday.

In the weeks leading up to the election certification on Wednesday, talk of violence at the nation’s Capitol — and state capitols, too — was not hard to find. It was out in the open, just as it has been for years. Sometimes, it is explicit. One commenter on MyMilitia.com wrote on Dec. 12: “If this does not change, then I advocate, Revolution and adherence to the rules of war. … I say, take the hill or die trying.”

It would be nearly impossible to quantify the rhetoric from President Donald Trump’s supporters on social media platforms that calls for uprising, to defend the Constitution, to defend America, to defend and defend and defend. Trump himself has repeatedly told his followers he will not back down. And though the people who dared to riot, pillage and trespass their way into the nation’s Capitol did not succeed at their goal of “stopping the steal” of an election that has not been stolen, they came far too close. What that means, perhaps, is that those whose job it is to safeguard the Capitol, the citadel of democracy, did not believe in the reality of the threat as much as insurrectionists believed in their own delusion.

To many Americans, what happened at the Capitol on Wednesday was a nightmare. Five people died. To some Americans, it was a dream come true.

In a story I wrote this week with my colleagues Lydia DePillis, Isaac Arnsdorf and David McSwane, we report on the widespread talk of violence on social media and the unpreparedness of Capitol Police to meet the moment. We’ll be reporting more on this in the coming weeks. If you have information or other thoughts you’d like to share with me, you can reply directly to this email. I hope to hear from you. Thanks for reading.

Until next week …

—Logan Jaffe, ProPublica

Written by LeisureGuy

9 January 2021 at 11:21 pm

Podcast: Bill Moyers and Heather Cox Richardson

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The podcast can be downloaded from this post on BillMoyers.com. The transcript begins:

ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Moyers on Democracy. President Trump urged his followers to come to Washington for a “big protest” on January 6th. He wanted their help in reversing the results of the election he lost. “Be there,” he said.“ (It) will be wild.”  And they came. By the thousands, they came, and sure enough, it was not only “wild,”  as the President had promised, it was worse. Much worse. The protesters became a mob, stormed the US Capitol, drove the vice president and members of the House and Senate out of their chambers, and turned a day meant for celebrating democracy into a riot that sought to overturn a free and fair election. Across the country and around the world people watched, horrified, dumbfounded and disbelieving, as insurrection incited by the president of the United States and his Republican enablers struck at the very centerpiece of American governance. Here’s Bill Moyers, to talk about that day with the historian Heather Cox Richardson.

BILL MOYERS: Good morning Heather, glad you could join me.

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: It’s always a pleasure.

BILL MOYERS: It’s the morning after what happened in Washington, the insurrection. Did you believe your eyes when you were watching those events unfold on the screen?

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: I believed them and I wept. And I am not exaggerating. Seeing that Confederate flag, which had never flown in the Capitol during the Civil War, and it had never flown in the Capitol in the 1870s, and it had never flown in the Capitol during the second rise of KKK in the 1920s, going through our people’s government house in 2021– the blow that that means for those of us who understand exactly what was at stake in the Confederacy. That image for me, of the flag being carried through the halls was, I think, my lowest moment as an American.

BILL MOYERS: Interesting because I kept seeing the flags all afternoon: the Confederate flag, American flags flying upside down. Flags with the name “Jesus” on them, “Jesus saves,” “Jesus 2020.” A big, burly protester carrying a flag on a baseball bat that seemed as big as his arms. He paused long enough just to give the camera and us a middle finger. Joe Biden keeps saying, this isn’t America. It’s not who we are, but it is America. This kind of character and this kind of conflict and this kind of meanness are a big part of our history. Is there any hope for Biden’s aspiration to unite us again?

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: These people have always been in our society. And they always will be in our society. What makes this moment different is that we have a president who is actively inciting them in order to destroy our democracy. We certainly have had presidents who incited these sorts of people before for one end or another. But at the end of the day, every president until now has believed in democracy. And this one does not. He wants to get rid of democracy and replace it with an oligarchy that puts him and his family at the top. The same sort of way that we have oligarchies in Russia now, for example. Biden cannot combat these people alone. This is a moment for Americans who care about our democracy and who care about returning to our fundamental principles. And finally, making them come to life to speak up, to push back, to insist on accountability and to recognize that we are, in fact, struggling for the survival of our country, not simply talking about, “Oh, I like this politician” or, “I like that politician.” And if we do that, will we win? Absolutely. But making people do that and getting people to understand how important that is is going to be a battle. And it’s one that, by the way, we’ve been in before, and lost. This is the same sort of battle we fought at the end of Reconstruction, when most Americans sort of went “Whatever.” And we ended up with a one-party state in the American South for generations. And that is exactly the sort of thing that they are trying to make happen across America itself.

BILL MOYERS: What do you think happens to those we saw on the screen yesterday, those who invaded the Capitol, the core of our congressional system? What do you think happens to them when they discover that Trump and the Republican Party have been lying to them? That the election wasn’t rigged, it wasn’t a hoax. What do they do?

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: A lot of them will never realize that. You know your psychological studies. A lot of what we used to call brainwashing can’t be undone and won’t be undone. And they will go to their graves believing that this was a stolen election. But some, and you could see them on their faces yesterday, some people sort of went, “Well, wait a minute. This was supposed to be the storm. We were supposed to be having a revolution. And it didn’t happen. We got into the Capitol building. We did our part, and there was nobody there to greet us and to help us take over.” And what’s interesting in a moment like that is there are two things to do: you can go deeper into your delusion, or you can turn on the people who took you there in a really powerful and passionate way. And this is one of the reasons this moment is so fraught is a lot of people might be waking up and going, “Wait a minute. They lied to us. They changed their minds last night and they made Biden president.” And you can see if you’re watching QAnon. They’re sort of saying, “Well, wait a minute. I’m sure Trump has an even deeper plan.” Which, of course, puts him in a bind because he can’t now say, “Oh, never mind. I didn’t mean this,” because then he’s going to lose their loyalty. So, we’re in this fraught moment. But I think people will either go ahead and continue to believe and this will a rump group that we are going to have to be dealing with for many, many years. Or some of them will become some of our most vocal opponents of people like Trump.

BILL MOYERS: Seventy million people are not really a rump group, are they? They constitute a sizable portion of the American population. You think they’ll drift away, those who are just seeing Trump as a sort of spokesman for their grievances and someone who could put the establishment on notice? Or are they in this for the long run?

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: I think it’s really important to distinguish between

Continue reading. Or go to the link and listen (or download the audio file).

Written by LeisureGuy

8 January 2021 at 1:07 pm

Janet Yellen’s Cash Haul of $7 Million Is Just the Tip of the Iceberg; She Failed to Report Her Wall Street Speaking Fees from JPMorgan and Others in 2018

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Democrats — like Republicans — should strive for ethical behavior and honesty. This attempted deception by Janet Yellen seems disqualifying to me. I hope Biden will look for integrity in those he picks. Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:

On December 29 we needed a clarification from former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers about his opinion column against Congress issuing $2,000 stimulus checks. We sent him an email at 10:13 a.m. and received a very clear response from him directly at 12:51 p.m. that day — a span of a few hours.

Compare that timely response to Janet Yellen’s respect for the media’s obligation to report a full set of facts to the American people. Three days ago, we contacted Yellen at four different entities with which she is affiliated. Only the Brookings Institution responded, saying she was on leave. President-elect Joe Biden’s media team did not respond at all, nor did the Washington Speakers Bureau and University of California, Berkeley.

Yellen is Biden’s nominee for U.S. Treasury Secretary. In anticipation of her Senate confirmation hearing, she has released her financial disclosure forms which showed a windfall of more than $7 million in speaking fees since she left her position with the Federal Reserve. The bulk of that money came from Wall Street firms, which are variously regulated and bailed out by the Fed.

Our question for Yellen is an uncomfortable one: why did her financial disclosure form report her cash haul from Wall Street’s serially charged trading houses for just the years 2019 and 2020 when common sense suggests her biggest haul would have been in 2018, when her knowledge of the thinking at the Fed was most timely.

Yellen stepped down as Chair of the Federal Reserve on February 3, 2018 when President Trump failed to renominate her for the position of Chair. Yellen was a Fed Governor before becoming its Chair and that term didn’t expire until 2024. Yellen could have remained at the Fed and functioned as a public servant. Instead, in the very same month that she stepped down at the Fed, she signed an exclusive contract with the Washington Speakers Bureau.

Less than two months after stepping down from the Fed, Yellen was raking in huge fees for chumming around with, and delivering her bits of wisdom to, the mega trading houses on Wall Street: the very same folks who blew up the U.S. financial system in 2008 and received a super-secret $29 trillion bailout from the Fed. The details of the Fed’s obscene bailout were made public three years after the fact under a federal court decision and government audit.

Yellen’s first event on April 2, 2018 was reported by Reuters. Yellen was hosted by. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Later in the article:

We know that Yellen has not fully disclosed her financial entanglements with Wall Street because page 8 of her financial disclosure form asks her to list her “sources of compensation exceeding $5,000 in a year.” Under that heading, Yellen lists JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Carlyle Investment Management. And she states the source of the income from those firms resulted from her being a “speaker.” But Yellen has not included those firms and others in her details of income for 2019 or 2020, leaving the reader to assume that she was paid for speaking events at these firms in 2018, while failing to report the specific amounts of income from each.

It’s disgusting if Joe Biden puts up with this sort chicanery.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 January 2021 at 10:50 am

That call from President Trump to Georgia election officials

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To no one’s surprise, President Trump lied about the content of his call, but to President Trump’s surprise the entire call had been recorded, and once he attacked the Georgia officials, the recording was released.  Marc Caputo writes in the Politico Playbook newsletter:

On Sunday, politics here switched from a national fascination to an international spectacle, courtesy of — surprise! — President Donald Trump, who was secretly recorded trying to pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to throw out votes for an opponent and “find” votes for himself. Trump was strangely quiet about the call on Twitter on Sunday as the news exploded online, but expect the president to trash his new GOP bête noire by name at his rally tonight in Dalton.

The story of the extraordinary call of a president pushing a top election official to rig the Georgia results was broken by the superb reporting of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein and the Washington Post’s Amy Gardner, but the backstory is almost as interesting.

It started on Saturday when Trump and his team reached out to talk to Raffensperger, who, according to an adviser, felt he would be unethically pressured by the president. Raffensperger had been here before: In November he accused Trump ally and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham of improperly exhorting him to meddle in the election to help Trump win Georgia. Graham later denied it.

So why not record the call with the president, Raffensperger’s advisers thought, if nothing else for fact-checking purposes. “This is a man who has a history of reinventing history as it occurs,” one of them told Playbook. “So if he’s going to try to dispute anything on the call, it’s nice to have something like this, hard evidence, to dispute whatever he’s claiming about the secretary. Lindsey Graham asked us to throw out legally cast ballots. So yeah, after that call, we decided maybe we should do this.”

The call took place Saturday afternoon. “Mr. President,” announced Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, at the top of the call, “everyone is on the line.” Little did he know. Trump made his ask and did most of the talking for the next hour, trafficking in the same conspiracy theories about election fraud that no court or criminal investigator has found credible. At the end of the call, Trump complains, “What a schmuck I was.”

Raffensperger’s team kept quiet about the call and the recording and waited. The president made the next move, claiming on Sunday morning via Twitter that Raffensperger was “unwilling, or unable, to answer” questions about his baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true,” Raffensperger replied at 10:27 a.m. “The truth will come out.” It wasn’t an empty promise.

This isn’t the first time that a call or his recorded comments have threatened Trump (see: Access Hollywood, Ukraine president).

“This phone call is bad,” Georgia conservative commentator Erick Erickson said on Twitter. We asked him to expand on that, and here’s what he added: “I think the general worry is that the GOP early vote actually came on strong [late] and there’s a real worry that the president shows up tomorrow and messes it all up. The North Georgia GOP has to turn out on Election Day. They’ve lagged the whole state. The President goes to Dalton tomorrow to get them out and now people are worried he spends his time attacking the GA GOP … There is real nervousness.”

Erickson and other Republicans have been concerned since November that the president’s voter fraud rhetoric will dampen turnout, a fear intensified by far-right activists who’ve suggested that Trump voters not go to the polls unless Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue fight harder to somehow cancel Biden’s Georgia win. Trump’s handling of a coronavirus relief package and his vetoing of a defense bill is another concern: Congress overrode the vote, but Perdue and Loeffler skipped out so they weren’t crosswise with Trump. Loeffler on Sunday avoided answering how she would’ve voted on the defense bill.

“Look, voters aren’t paying attention to all this stuff, people like us are,” one Georgia Republican strategist who’s working to elect Loeffler and Perdue told Playbook. “But at a certain point, all these little things that don’t look like they matter could matter. I still feel OK. But this doesn’t help. The president needs to cut out the Leeroy Jenkins s—. Unfortunately, he won’t.” Full transcript of the call with audio

Heather Cox Richardson also discusses Trump’s blatantly criminal phone call. In her column, she notes:

David Shafer, the chair of the Georgia Republican Party, tried to excuse this extraordinary conversation by tweeting that the phone call had been a “confidential settlement discussion” of two lawsuits Trump has filed against Raffensperger, and that the audio version the Washington Post published was “heavily edited and omits the stipulation that all discussions were for the purpose of settling litigation and confidential under federal and state law.” [In fact, the Washington Post published the entire phone call, omitting only the name of a person about whom President Trump made unsubstantiated claims. David Shafer is simply lying. – LG]

Marc E. Elias, a lawyer leading the Biden team’s litigation efforts to counter Trump’s lawsuits over the election, knocked that explanation flat. “Trump and his allies have lost 60 post-election lawsuits, including several in GA,” he tweeted. “There are no cases that could have plausibly been the subject of settlement discussion. Oh, and I represent parties in all of those cases, so I would have had to be on the phone as well. I wasn’t.”

Her entire column is worth reading, particularly the references in the Notes at the end of the column.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 January 2021 at 10:00 am

How To Get Away with Murder: Live in ancient Rome

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Emma Souton writes in History Today:

In 176 BC a strange but revealing murder case came before the Roman praetor, M. Popillius Laenas. A woman, unnamed in the sources, was brought before the court on the charge of murdering her mother by bludgeoning her with a club. The woman happily confessed to the monstrous act of matricide. Her fate, then, seemed sealed when she entered Laenas’ court; but she introduced a defence that was as irrefutable as the wickedness of the killing of a parent. She claimed that the deed had been a crime of grief-fuelled vengeance resulting from the deaths of her own children. They, she said, had been deliberately poisoned by her mother simply to spite her and her own actions were therefore justified.

This defence caused the entire system to grind to a halt. The situation was an appalling paradox. In Roman culture, parricide was a crime that provoked a unique horror; there was nothing worse than murdering a parent. The typical punishment was a bizarre form of the death penalty, which involved the perpetrator being sewn into a sack with a monkey, a snake, a dog and a chicken and then thrown into the Tiber to drown. The purpose of the animals is unclear; the purpose of the sack was to deprive the murderer of the air and water, and prevent their bones from touching and defiling the earth. It was impossible to imagine a confessed parricide being left unpunished. Rome, however, had a predominantly self-help justice system, where private families and individuals investigated and punished slights against themselves. It was not the role of the state, particularly during the time of the Republic (510-27 BC), to interfere with such private matters as a vengeance killing within the family. The right independently to enact justice, especially when avenging the death of your own children, was central to the Roman conception of a just world. It was, therefore, equally impossible to imagine such a killing being punished.

For Laenas, the situation was a nightmare. For most of Republican history there was no formal law criminalising homicide: the Roman government was so deliberately decentralised that it did not see itself as a state which was harmed by private homicide. The murder of a private person did not affect the various magistrates’ power, and therefore the state need not interfere.

Therefore, if he punished a woman who had acted, in the depths of her grief for her children, to justly avenge their murder, then he would be passing judgment on all such killings and suggesting that vengeance killings were criminal. This could not be countenanced.

There was, however, one major exception to this rule:  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 January 2021 at 3:11 pm

Americans’ acceptance of Trump’s behavior will be his vilest legacy

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Robert Reich writes in the Guardian:

Most of the 74,222,957 Americans who voted to re-elect Donald Trump – 46.8%of the votes cast in the 2020 presidential election – don’t hold Trump accountable for what he’s done to America.

Their acceptance of Trump’s behavior will be his vilest legacy.

Nearly forty years ago, political scientist James Q Wilson and criminologist George Kelling observed that a broken window left unattended in a community signals that no one cares if windows are broken there. The broken window is thereby an invitation to throw more stones and break more windows.

The message: do whatever you want here because others have done it and got away with it.

The broken window theory has led to picayune and arbitrary law enforcement in poor communities. But America’s most privileged and powerful have been breaking big windows with impunity.

In 2008, Wall Street nearly destroyed the economy. The Street got bailed out while millions of Americans lost their jobs, savings, and homes. Yet no major Wall Street executive ever went to jail.

In more recent years, top executives of Purdue Pharmaceuticals, along with the members of the Sackler family that own it, knew the dangers of OxyContin but did nothing. Executives at Wells Fargo Bank pushed bank employees to defraud customers. Executives at Boeing hid the results of tests showing its 737 Max Jetliner was unsafe. Police chiefs across America looked the other way as police under their command repeatedly killed innocent Black Americans.

Here, too, they’ve got away with it. These windows remain broken.

Trump has brought impunity to the highest office in the land, wielding a wrecking ball to the most precious windowpane of all – American democracy.

The message? A president can obstruct special counsels’ investigations of his wrongdoing, push foreign officials to dig up dirt on political rivals, fire inspectors general who find corruption, order the entire executive branch to refuse congressional subpoenas, flood the Internet with fake information about his opponents, refuse to release his tax returns, accuse the press of being “fake media” and “enemies of the people”, and make money off his presidency.

And he can get away with it. Almost half of the electorate will even vote for his re-election.

A president can also lie about the results of an election without a shred of evidence – and yet, according to polls, be believed by the vast majority of those who voted for him.

Trump’s recent pardons have broken double-pane windows.

Not only has he shattered the norm for presidential pardons – usually granted because of a petitioner’s good conduct after conviction and service of sentence – but he’s pardoned people who themselves shattered windows. By pardoning them, he has rendered them unaccountable for their acts.

They include aides convicted of lying to the FBI and threatening potential witnesses in order to protect him; his son-in-law’s father, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion, witness tampering, illegal campaign contributions, and lying to the Federal Election Commission; Blackwater security guards convicted of murdering Iraqi civilians, including women and children; border patrol agents convicted of assaulting or shooting unarmed suspects; and Republican lawmakers and their aides found guilty of fraud, obstruction of justice and campaign finance violations.

It’s not simply the size of the broken window that undermines standards, according to Wilson and Kelling. It’s the willingness of society to look the other way. If no one is held accountable, norms collapse.

Trump may face a barrage of lawsuits when he leaves office, possibly including criminal charges. But it’s unlikely he’ll go to jail. Presidential immunity or a self-pardon will protect him. Prosecutorial discretion would almost certainly argue against indictment, in any event. No former president has ever been convicted of a crime. The mere possibility of a criminal trial for Trump would ignite a partisan brawl across the nation.

Congress may try to limit the power of future presidents – strengthening congressional oversight, fortifying the independence of inspectors general, demanding more financial disclosure, increasing penalties on presidential aides who break laws, restricting the pardon process, and so on.

But Congress – a co-equal branch of government under the constitution – cannot rein in rogue presidents. And the courts don’t want to weigh in on political questions.

The appalling reality is  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2020 at 5:01 pm

How U.S. Cities Lost Control of Police Discipline

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It doesn’t have to be the way it is. In the NY Times Kim Barker, Michael H. Keller, and Steve Eder report:

It took Portland, Ore., almost $1 million in legal fees, efforts by two mayors and a police chief, and years of battle with the police union to defend the firing of Officer Ron Frashour — only to have to bring him back. Today, the veteran white officer, who shot an unarmed Black man in the back a decade ago, is still on the force.

Sam Adams, the former mayor of Portland, said the frustrated disciplinary effort showed “how little control we had” over the police. “This was as bad a part of government as I’d ever seen. The government gets to kill someone and get away with it.”

After the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis officers in May spurred huge protests and calls for a nationwide reset on law enforcement, police departments are facing new state laws, ballot proposals and procedures to rein in abusive officers. Portland and other cities have hired new chiefs and are strengthening civilian oversight. Some municipal leaders have responded faster than ever to high-profile allegations of misconduct: Since May, nearly 40 officers have been fired for use of force or racist behavior.

But any significant changes are likely to require dismantling deeply ingrained systems that shield officers from scrutiny, make it difficult to remove them and portend roadblocks for reform efforts, according to an examination by The New York Times. For this article, reporters reviewed hundreds of arbitration decisions, court cases and police contracts stretching back decades, and interviewed more than 150 former chiefs and officers, law enforcement experts and civilian oversight board members.

While the Black Lives Matter protests this year have aimed to address police violence against people of color, another wave of protests a half-century ago was exploited to gain the protections that now often allow officers accused of excessive force to avoid discipline.

That effort took off in Detroit, partly as a backlash to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, when police officers around the country — who at times acted as instruments of suppression for political officials or were accused of brutality in quelling unrest — felt vulnerable to citizen complaints.

Newly formed police unions leveraged fears of lawlessness and an era of high crime to win disciplinary constraints, often far beyond those of other public employees. Over 50 years, these protections, expanded in contracts and laws, have built a robust system for law enforcement officers. As a result, critics said, officers empowered to protect the public instead were protected from the public.

In many places, the union contract became the ultimate word. The contract overrode the city charter in Detroit. The contract can beat state law in Illinois. The contract, for years, has stalled a federal consent decree in Seattle.

Many police contracts and state laws allow officers to appeal disciplinary cases to an arbitrator or a review board, giving them final say. Arbitrators reinstate about half of the fired officers whose appeals they consider, according to separate reviews of samplings of cases by The Times and a law professor. Some arbitrators referred to termination as “economic capital punishment” or “economic murder.”

Disciplinary cases often fall apart because of contractual or legal standards that departments must show a record of comparable discipline: A past decision not to fire makes it harder to fire anyone else.

Because many departments don’t disclose disciplinary action for police misconduct and there is no public centralized record-keeping system, it is difficult to determine how many cases are pursued against officers, and the outcomes.

And police chiefs acknowledge that they don’t always seek the discipline they think is warranted. That can lead to problem officers remaining on the streets. Rather than gamble on arbitration, some chiefs allow officers to quit or opt for financial settlements, which can enable them to move on to other departments with seemingly unblemished records.

“You would pay them to leave,” said Roger Peterson, the former police chief in Rochester, Minn., who said he had negotiated such payments for about a dozen officers during his 19-year tenure. “It stunk.”

Union leaders defend the disciplinary protections, saying that police work is difficult [unlike all other jobs, which are easy? – LG], and that rules help ensure that chiefs don’t impose discipline because of political pressure or personal biases. Public outcry, they said, can unfairly influence a city’s decision to fire an officer accused of excessive force. Will Aitchison, the union lawyer who represented Officer Frashour in Portland, said the arbitration process protected officers like him who were fired because of “political expediency.”

Nobody wants a bad cop,” said Brian Marvel, a San Diego police officer and the president of California’s largest law enforcement labor organization. “Good cops want bad cops out as bad as anybody else. But we still have to protect the due-process rights of all our members.”

Even so, many leaders argue that the protections handcuff them. Eric Melancon, chief of staff to the Baltimore police commissioner, drew a direct line between the laws from decades ago and the difficulties today.

“If George Floyd were to happen in Baltimore city,” he told a state policing commission, “we would not be able to terminate those officers.”

In the summer of 1967, civil unrest simmered in more than 150 cities nationwide. Detroit caught fire.

Black residents saw the almost all-white police force as . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 December 2020 at 3:30 pm

She Noticed $200 Million Missing, Then She Was Fired

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Corporations, as one can readily observe, are legal persons: sociopaths who will do anything for money and have no guiding ethical or moral principles. In ProPublica Scott Morris provides an excellent example:

Earlier this year, the governing board of one of California’s most powerful regulatory agencies unleashed troubling accusations against its top employee.

Commissioners with the California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC, accused Executive Director Alice Stebbins of violating state personnel rules by hiring former colleagues without proper qualifications. They said the agency chief misled the public by asserting that as much as $200 million was missing from accounts intended to fund programs for the state’s blind, deaf, and poor. At a hearing in August, Commission President Marybel Batjer said that Stebbins had discredited the CPUC.

“You took a series of actions over the course of several years that calls into question your integrity,” Batjer told Stebbins, who joined the agency in 2018. Those actions, she said, “cause us to have to consider whether you can continue to serve as the leader of this agency.”

The five commissioners voted unanimously to terminate Stebbins, who had worked as an auditor and budget analyst for different state agencies for more than 30 years.

But an investigation by the Bay City News Foundation and ProPublica has found that Stebbins was right about the missing money.

Just days before Stebbins was fired, CPUC officials told California’s Department of Finance that the agency was owed more than $200 million, according to a memo obtained by the news organizations. The finance agency launched an investigation into the uncollected funds.

The news organizations’ investigation also found flaws in the State Personnel Board report that Batjer used to terminate Stebbins. Three former CPUC employees said in interviews that the report contained falsehoods. The report alleged that the auditor who discovered the missing money was unqualified. But hiring materials obtained by the news organizations show that state officials had determined that the auditor was the most qualified candidate, awarding him an “excellent” rating in every category.

Batjer, a former casino executive, was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to lead the commission in July 2019, the same month Stebbins briefed the commissioners on problems with the agency’s accounting practices. Early on, Batjer scrutinized Stebbins’ personnel decisions, according to previously unreported text messages obtained by the news organizations. Shortly after she was sworn in as president in August, Batjer texted a former colleague in Newsom’s cabinet.

Batjer told Julie Lee, who was serving as California’s acting secretary of Government Operations, or GovOps, that she was “very concerned”: She believed the auditor was not qualified for the job and was upset that Stebbins had given him a raise after putting him in charge of additional employees. Batjer had previously served as head of GovOps, which oversees the State Personnel Board.

“I find this outrageous!” Batjer wrote to her old colleague. “I’m terribly worried. Thanks much for any advice/help you can get before this gets much worse.”

“Let’s get together and figure this out!” Lee responded. “We will help you fix, don’t stress.”

The commissioners appear to have violated state transparency laws when they later exchanged text messages among themselves about whether to fire Stebbins. California law prohibits the majority of a public body from discussing matters under its jurisdiction outside of a regular meeting, particularly to build a consensus, legal experts said.

“I can’t imagine her remaining,” Batjer wrote a fellow commissioner in a private text message.

Stebbins filed a wrongful termination suit against the CPUC this month. In a series of interviews, the most extensive since her termination, she described an agency mired in disorganization and ineptitude. An experienced administrator, she was recruited by the previous president to clean up a dysfunctional agency. She found some of her employees did not know basic information about the utilities they were supposed to be regulating — in one case, lacking even current contact information for regulated water companies. Audits dating back to 2012 had found ineffective budget management and a need for improved fiscal monitoring.

“You’ve got just systemic issues,” Stebbins said in an interview. “The only way you can make those changes is to really tear it apart.”

Batjer did not respond to requests for an interview. The other commissioners did not return emails seeking comment. The CPUC has not yet responded to Stebbins’ lawsuit. Through a spokesperson, Lee denied that she triggered or influenced the investigation into Stebbins. The State Personnel Board declined to comment on their investigation.

In response to detailed questions, commission spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said that Stebbins’ allegation of $200 million in missing fines and fees was the result of a misunderstanding of the commission’s accounting practices.

Prosper did not address the apparent open meeting violations, citing pending litigation. But she said Stebbins’ manipulation of the hiring process warranted her dismissal. She acknowledged “some inaccuracies” in the state personnel report but dismissed them as “nonsubstantive details.”

“Her allegation that she was dismissed for finding alleged budget irregularities flies in the face of the clear public action taken by the CPUC,” Prosper said.

A Cleanup Job

The CPUC was formed in the early 20th century to regulate railroads. Since then, numerous other industries have been placed under its oversight, including giant electric and gas monopolies, phone companies, water providers and transportation companies like Uber and Lyft, making it one of the most powerful agencies in California.

But in recent years, the CPUC has faced accusations that it has become too cozy with utilities. In 2010, a PG&E gas line exploded in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno, killed eight and destroyed 30 homes. The CPUC president at the time, a former energy executive, resigned after it was revealed he and his staff were helping a PG&E executive pick the judge for an upcoming rate case.

Stebbins was hired as the agency’s executive director in February 2018 to bring fresh scrutiny to its finances and operations.

Stebbins was disturbed by what she found at the CPUC. Fiscal mismanagement and disorganization made holding utilities accountable impossible, she said. She ordered extensive audits of agency divisions, accounting practices and specialized programs for providing services to impoverished and disabled California residents.

She quickly fired the head of the Water Division, who oversaw 110 investor-owned utilities serving about 6.3 million residents. Stebbins said that the division wasn’t . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s interesting albeit infuriating. Example:

Stebbins was disturbed by what she found at the CPUC. Fiscal mismanagement and disorganization made holding utilities accountable impossible, she said. She ordered extensive audits of agency divisions, accounting practices and specialized programs for providing services to impoverished and disabled California residents.

She quickly fired the head of the Water Division, who oversaw 110 investor-owned utilities serving about 6.3 million residents. Stebbins said that the division wasn’t keeping basic records like contact information for the utilities it regulates.

An audit found division staff members were often not conducting required on-site visits and when they did, the inspections were brief and incomplete. When a utility was found out of compliance with regulations, the division rarely issued citations, even when violations persisted. One utility had been collecting fees from ratepayers for 19 years and failing to send the money to the CPUC, Stebbins said.

“It was a nonfunctioning division, and it’s still for the most part nonfunctioning,” Stebbins said.

One audit Stebbins ordered found the CPUC was doing a poor job collecting on debts. It found $49.9 million in outstanding collections as of the end of 2019. That included more than $12 million in enforcement fines, more than $22 million in telecommunication fines and more than $14 million in reimbursable contracts. About $21.1 million had been due since before 2017.

“Given that nearly $50 million is owed to the CPUC,” the audit said, “CPUC should investigate whether the program areas utilize appropriate collection efforts against companies with delinquent payments and to what extent follow up occurs.”

I’m beginning to have some doubts about Gavin Newsom.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 December 2020 at 3:13 pm

“I’m Haunted by What I Did as a Lawyer in the Trump Justice Department”

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worked in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department from 2016-18, writes in the NY Times:

I was an attorney at the Justice Department when Donald Trump was elected president. I worked in the Office of Legal Counsel, which is where presidents turn for permission slips that say their executive orders and other contemplated actions are lawful. I joined the department during the Obama administration, as a career attorney whose work was supposed to be independent of politics.

I never harbored delusions about a Trump presidency. Mr. Trump readily volunteered that his agenda was to disassemble our democracy, but I made a choice to stay at the Justice Department — home to some of the country’s finest lawyers — for as long as I could bear it. I believed that I could better serve our country by pushing back from within than by keeping my hands clean. But I have come to reconsider that decision.

My job was to tailor the administration’s executive actions to make them lawful — in narrowing them, I could also make them less destructive. I remained committed to trying to uphold my oath even as the president refused to uphold his.

But there was a trade-off: We attorneys diminished the immediate harmful impacts of President Trump’s executive orders — but we also made them more palatable to the courts.

This burst into public view early in the Trump administration in the litigation over the executive order banning travel from several predominantly Muslim countries, which my office approved. The first Muslim ban was rushed out the door. It was sweeping and sloppy; the courts quickly put a halt to it. The successive discriminatory bans benefited from more time and attention from the department’s lawyers, who narrowed them but also made them more technocratic and therefore harder for the courts to block.

After the Supreme Court’s June 2018 decision upholding the third Muslim ban, I reviewed my own portfolio — which included matters targeting noncitizens, dismantling the Civil Service and camouflaging the president’s corruption — overcome with fear that I was doing more harm than good. By Thanksgiving of that year, I had left my job.

Still, I felt I was abandoning the ship. I continued to believe that a critical mass of responsible attorneys staying in government might provide a last line of defense against the administration’s worst instincts. Even after I left, I advised others that they could do good by staying. News reports about meaningful pushback by Justice Department attorneys seemed to confirm this thinking.

I was wrong.

Watching the Trump campaign’s attacks on the election results, I now see what might have happened if, rather than nip and tuck the Trump agenda, responsible Justice Department attorneys had collectively — ethically, lawfully — refused to participate in President Trump’s systematic attacks on our democracy from the beginning. The attacks would have failed.

Unlike the Trump Justice Department, the Trump campaign has relied on second-rate lawyers who lack the skills to maintain the president’s charade. After a recent oral argument from Rudy Giuliani, Judge Matthew Brann (a Republican) wrote that the campaign had offered “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence.” Even judges appointed by Mr. Trump have refused to throw their lots in with lawyers who can’t master the basic mechanics of lawyering.

After four years of bulldozing through one institution after another on the backs of skilled lawyers, the Trump agenda hit a brick wall.

The story of the Trump campaign’s attack on our elections could have been the story of

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 December 2020 at 8:36 am

Kushner OK’d Trump Campaign Shell Company That Secretly Paid Trump’s Inner Circle

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Rachel Olding in the Daily Beast describes the details of how Trump’s scam “send me money to fight election outcome” works:

ared Kushner approved the creation of a shell company that operated like a “campaign within a campaign” and secretly funneled millions of dollars in campaign cash to Trump family members, Business Insider reports. The company, American Made Media Consultants Corporation and American Made Media Consultants LLC, took more than half of the Trump campaign’s massive $1.26 billion war chest and was largely shielded from having to publicly report financial details. However, a source told Business Insider that Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump was the company’s president, Vice President Mike Pence’s nephew was its VP, and Trump campaign CFO Sean Dollman was treasurer and secretary.

The mysterious company caused consternation among other campaign staffers, who had no idea how it was spending money, and the Campaign Legal Center filed a civil complaint with the FEC in June accusing the Trump campaign of laundering $170 million largely through it. A campaign spokesperson . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 December 2020 at 8:13 am

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