Later On

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

Archive for the ‘Law Enforcement’ Category

The US and Argentina

leave a comment »

The US has a long, sordid, and disgraceful history of overthrowing democratically elected governments abroad (and, of course, recently the same thing was attempted domestically in an effort that is still ongoing). The US in general gives lip service to the idea of democracy but has proven to be quite ready to chuck that out the window in favor of more brutal methods, as it did in Argentina in the early 1970s.

Three years ago Ernesto Londoño reported in the NY Times about US support in installing, training, and otherwise helping military dictatorships. 

The United States provided varying degrees of support to military juntas that came to power in Latin America during the Cold War. Latin American military officials received training on harsh counterinsurgency techniques at the United States Army School of the Americas as Washington leaned on allied governments to stem the appeal of communism in the region.

“Harsh counterinsurgency techniques” is a euphemism for torture and murder. The US not only condoned the practice, it trained people in how to do it “better” — that is, inflict more pain, get away with more murder.

Londoño’s article is well worth reading (especially if you see through the euphemisms), but the article I particularly want to point out is the article in the Guardian by Uki Goñi in Buenos Aires, which begins

An old, boxy twin-engine propellor plan sits on a white runway under a lowering sky, in a dismal black-and-white photograph.
Skyvan PA-51 was used to ‘disappear’ perceived enemies of Argentina’s dictatorship in the 1970s and 80s. Photograph: Giancarlo Ceraudo

On the night of 14 December 1977, the three pilots flew their turboprop aeroplane for more than an hour out over the Atlantic Ocean. The technical log they had completed on takeoff registered no passengers, but that was a lie: on the cabin floor behind them lay eight women and four men, tortured, drugged and barely conscious.

Two of the flight crew stripped the victims naked and opened the ramp door at the rear of the plane. Then they pushed their victims out, to fall thousands of feet into the South Atlantic.

Though such “death flights” by which thousands perished were routine during Argentina’s 1976-83 military dictatorship, many of their details remain unknown.

After an astounding series of events, however, not only have the pilots of this particular flight been identified and convicted, but the plane itself, a Belfast-built Short SC.7 Skyvan, has been located in the US and will soon be returned to Argentina, where it will be put on display in Buenos Aires at the Museum of Memory set up in the former Argentinianmilitary death camp that it once served.

Cecilia De Vincenti, whose mother, Azucena Villaflor, perished on the flight, said the plane’s return will provide concrete proof against Argentina’s rising tide of dictatorship denialism.

“It will render history tangible: they were alive until 14 December, when they were thrown from this plane, and no one will be able to deny that now,” she said.

Unlike Brazil and Uruguay, where wide-ranging amnesties were passed for crimes committed during their dictatorships, Argentina has tried and convicted about 1,000 former military officers for human rights abuses under military rule. But that consensus shattered under former president Mauricio Macri, who may run again in this year’s elections – and who this week dismissed the issue as “the human rights scam of what happened 40 years ago”.

It is hoped the plane will return to Argentina by 30 April, the anniversary of the first time the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo marched in front of the presidential palace in 1977, demanding news of their children who had been forcibly disappeared by state forces.

The 12 people thrown from the Skyvan on the night of 14 December belonged to the Group of the Church of the Holy Cross, named after the Irish community church where they met. They included three members of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, including Villaflor, three other relatives of missing people, two French nuns and four young activists who helped the relatives in their search for their loved ones.

I knew most of them because they came regularly to the Buenos Aires Herald, an English-language daily where I worked that was one of the few outlets to report on the disappearances. After we published their stories, the activists tried to persuade me to join their group, and the Mothers sometimes returned if only to hold my hand in silence for 15 minutes.

Two were taken from the Comet bar near the Herald offices where we had been scheduled to meet on 8 December. Had I been at the table that day I might also have ended up tumbling from that Skyvan.

The aircraft used for that flight was located thanks to . . .

Of course, you might say, that was not in the US. The US might help dictatorships, but the US itself is not a dictatorship. Not yet — but it is heading in that direction.

And in that connection, Emptywheel has an interesting list of the lawyers who have assisted Donald Trump in his efforts to overthrow democracy in the US. Read the full post, but here’s the list:

  1. Michael Cohen (hush payment): convicted felon whose phones were seized April 9, 2018
  2. Rudolph Giuliani (Ukraine, hush payment, Georgia, coup attempt): phones seized in Ukraine investigation April 28, 2021, received subpoena for billing records in fundraising investigation around December 2022
  3. John Eastman (Georgia, coup attempt): communications deemed crime-fraud excepted March 28, 2022; phone seized June 22, 2022
  4. Boris Epshteyn (stolen documents, coup attempt, Georgia): testified in Georgia grand jury; phone seized in September after which he retroactively claimed to have been doing lawyer stuff
  5. Sidney Powell (fraud, coup attempt, Georgia): Subpoenas sent in fraud investigation starting in September 2021; testified before Georgia grand jury; appeared in November subpoena
  6. Jeffrey Clark (coup attempt): May 26 warrant for cloud accounts and phone seized June 22, 2022
  7. Ken Klukowski (coup attempt): May 26 warrant for cloud accounts
  8. Victoria Toensing (Ukraine, coup attempt): Phone seized in Ukraine investigation April 28, 2021, on June and November subpoenas
  9. Brad Carver (Georgia and fake elector): phone contents seized June 22
  10. Jenna Ellis (coup attempt and Georgia): Rudy’s sidekick, censured by CO Bar for lying serial misrepresentations, on June and November subpoenas
  11. Kenneth Cheesbro (fake elector, Georgia): included in June and November subpoenas
  12. Evan Corcoran (stolen documents): testified before grand jury in January, testifies under crime-fraud exception on March 24
  13. Christina Bobb (coup attempt, Georgia, stolen documents): interviewed in October 2022 and appeared before grand jury in January, belatedly asked for testimony in Georgia
  14. Stefan Passantino (coup attempt obstruction and financial): included in November subpoenas, alleged to have discouraged full testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson
  15. Tim Parlatore (stolen documents): appeared before grand jury in December 2022
  16. Jennifer Little (Georgia and stolen documents): ordered to testify under crime-fraud exception
  17. Alina Habba (stolen documents, NYS tax fraud): testified before grand jury in January
  18. Bruce Marks (coup attempt): included in November subpoena
  19. Cleta Mitchell (coup attempt and Georgia): included in November subpoenas
  20. Joshua Findlay (coup attempt): included in June subpoenas
  21. Kurt Olsen (coup attempt): included in November subpoenas
  22. William Olson (coup attempt): included in November subpoenas
  23. Lin Wood (coup attempt): included in November subpoenas
  24. Alex Cannon (coup attempt, financial, stolen documents)
  25. Eric Herschmann (coup attempt, Georgia, financial, stolen documents)
  26. Justin Clark (coup attempt and financial): included June and November subpoenas
  27. Joe DiGenova (coup attempt): included in June and November subpoenas
  28. Greg Jacob (coup attempt): grand jury appearances, including with Executive Privilege waiver
  29. Pat Cipollone (coup attempt): grand jury appearances in summer and — with Executive Privilege waiver — December 2
  30. Pat Philbin (coup attempt and stolen documents): grand jury appearances in summer and — with Executive Privilege waiver — December 2
  31. Matthew Morgan (coup attempt): included in November subpoenas

Tim Parlatore is the latest addition to this list, based  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2023 at 12:14 pm

Media coverage of Trump indictment should stick to the (highly incriminating) facts

leave a comment »

Dan Froomkin writes at Press Watch:

There appears to be ample evidence that Donald Trump violated a number of state laws when he told attorney Michael Cohen to pay hush money to a porn star days before the 2016 election, then wrote the expense off as “legal fees”.

We also know that Trump was “Individual-1,” the unindicted co-conspirator in the successful federal criminal prosecution of Cohen for violating campaign finance laws. Ample documentation proved that “Individual-1” directed Cohen to make the illegal payments.

Trump’s protestations of a “witch hunt” and his at times racist attacks on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg do not constitute a defense, and are immaterial to the central issue of Trump’s criminality.

So what is his defense? Trump’s attorneys don’t contest that he had Cohen pay off the porn star, Stormy Daniels, to keep her quiet. They don’t contest that Trump reimbursed Cohen by paying him for “legal services.”

His actual “defense” appears to be primarily that he would have paid off Daniels regardless of his political campaign, simply to avoid embarrassment, so it was all just a personal matter.

That’s a laughable defense.

So those are the facts of the case: the evidence of a crime and the defense.

But the facts of the case has not been the focus of the coverage by the elite corporate media. Its coverage is seemingly about everything else, most monotonously an endless litany of articles about imagined legal hurdles and the “political firestorm” surrounding the case.

It’s certainly true that Trump could get off due to a legal technicality. But the coverage of that one factor is disproportionate and only feeds into the false but dominant media narrative that this is a tough decision for the prosecutor that should be made with a view toward the political implications.

That is a toxic view that makes a mockery of the rule of law.

As Protect Democracy’s Aaron Baird recently wrote to me in an email, the . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 March 2023 at 10:39 am

Wealthy Executives Make Millions Trading Competitors’ Stock With Remarkable Timing

leave a comment »

Robert Faturechi and Ellis Simani report in ProPublica:

On Feb. 21, 2018, August Troendle, an Ohio billionaire, made a remarkably well-timed stock trade. He sold $1.1 million worth of shares of Syneos Health the day before a management shake-up caused the company’s stock to plunge 16%. It was the largest one-day drop that year for Syneos’ share price.

The company was one Troendle knew well. He is the CEO of Medpace, one of Syneos’ chief competitors in a niche industry. Both Syneos and Medpace handle clinical trials for biopharma companies, and that year they had jointly launched a trade association for companies in the field.

The day after selling the Syneos shares in February 2018, Troendle bought again — at least $3.9 million worth. The value of his Syneos stake then rose 75% in the year that followed.

In February 2019, Troendle sold much of that position, netting $2.3 million in profit. Two days later, Syneos disclosed that the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating its accounting practices. The news sent the company’s shares tumbling. Troendle’s sale avoided a 25% loss, the stock’s largest decline in such a short period during either that or the previous year. (Troendle declined to comment.)

The Medpace executive is among dozens of top executives who have traded shares of either competitors or other companies with close connections to their own. A Gulf of Mexico oil executive invested in one partner company the day before it announced good news about some of its wells. A paper-industry executive made a 37% return in less than a week by buying shares of a competitor just before it was acquired by another company. And a toy magnate traded hundreds of millions of dollars in stock and options of his main rival, conducting transactions on at least 295 days. He made an 11% return over a recent five-year period, even as the rival’s shares fell by 57%.

These transactions are captured in a vast IRS dataset of stock trades made by the country’s wealthiest people, part of a trove of tax data leaked to ProPublica. ProPublica analyzed millions of those trades, isolated those by corporate executives trading in companies related to their own, then identified transactions that were anomalous — either because of the size of the bets or because individuals were trading a particular stock for the first time or using high-risk, high-return options for the first time.

The records give no indication as to why executives made particular trades or what information they possessed; they may have simply been relying on years of broad industry knowledge to make astute bets at fortuitous moments. Still, the records show many instances where the executives bought and sold with exquisite timing.

Such trading records have never been publicly available. Even the SEC itself doesn’t have such a comprehensive database. The records provide an unprecedented glimpse into how the titans of American industry make themselves even wealthier in the stock market.

U.S. securities law bars “insider trading” — buying or selling stocks based on access to nonpublic information not available to other investors — under certain circumstances. Historically, insider trading prosecutions and SEC enforcement have both focused on corporate employees, and those close to them, trading in the stock of their own companies.

But executives at companies can also have extensive access to nonpublic information about rivals, partners or vendors through their business. Buying or selling stock based on that knowledge can run afoul of insider-trading law, according to experts. ProPublica described multiple trades, without mentioning names, to Robert Zink, a former chief of the Justice Department’s criminal fraud section, who responded that if he were still at the Justice Department, “of course we would look at it.” He added that the key to ProPublica’s findings is “the trading doesn’t appear to be a one- or two-time thing. It’s happening a lot.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2023 at 6:34 pm

Trump Lawyer Tacopina Says Trump Didn’t ‘Lie’ About Stormy Daniels Payment, He Just Said Stuff That Wasn’t ‘True’

leave a comment »

“A distinction without a difference” is the phrase that springs to mind. Liz Dye reports in Above the Law:

On Monday, Donald Trump’s lawyer Joseph Tacopina went on Good Morning America to explain that his client, a man who was notorious for his infidelities even before he got caught on tape bragging about grabbing women by the genitals, did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Stormy Daniels. In fact, he went so far as to say that Trump had been a “victim of extortion,” paying the porn star $130,000 to keep quiet about a sexual encounter that never happened to avoid embarrassing his family.

It was merely a coincidence of timing that Trump tried to bury Daniels’s story of their 2006 encounter — and at least two other stories as well — just months before the 2016 election. And thus, the lawyer insisted, the hush money payment cannot be seen as an excessive, undisclosed contribution to Trump’s presidential campaign.

The problem with that theory, aside from being fundamentally ridiculous, is that there are a whole bunch of witnesses who can testify otherwise, including: former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker and editor Dylan Howard, who conspired with Trump and his campaign to “catch and kill” embarrassing stories; Stormy Daniels’s first lawyer, Keith Davidson, who negotiated the hush money agreement; Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to lying to Special Counsel Robert Mueller about the deal, as well as several other illegal tax schemes; and Trump’s former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who discussed the payment scheme with Cohen at least once. And every one of those people has testified to the grand jury impaneled by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg to investigate the payment.

Donald Trump has not testified, although he was invited to do so. But, as the Daily Beast’s Jose Pagliery points out, Trump was not given the automatic grant of immunity provided to grand jury witnesses, indicating both that he is the target of the investigation, and that this process is speeding toward its inevitable close.

There are lots of reasons to be skeptical that an indictment will be forthcoming here, not least of which is that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2023 at 3:09 pm

Botnet that knows your name and quotes your email is back with new tricks

leave a comment »

I’m sure that my grandmother would have told me as a little boy, “Be careful what you click on” if the technology had been around back then. Dan Goodin writes in Ars Technica:

Widely regarded as one of the Internet’s top threats, the Emotet botnet has returned after a months-long hiatus—and it has some new tricks.

Last week, Emotet appeared for the first time this year after a four-month hiatus. It returned with its trademark activity—a wave of malicious spam messages that appear to come from a known contact, address the recipient by name, and seem to be replying to an existing email thread. When Emotet has returned from previous breaks, it has brought new techniques designed to evade endpoint security products and to trick users into clicking on links or enabling dangerous macros in attached Microsoft Office documents. Last week’s resumption of activity was no different.

A malicious email sent last Tuesday, for instance, attached a Word document that had a massive amount of extraneous data added to the end. As a result, the file was more than 500MB in size, big enough to prevent some security products from being able to scan the contents. This technique, known as binary padding or file pumping, works by adding zeros to the end of the document. In the event someone is tricked into enabling the macro, the malicious Windows DLL file that’s delivered is also pumped, causing it to mushroom from 616kB to 548.1MB, researchers from security firm Trend Micro said on Monday.

Another evasion trick spotted in the attached document: excerpts from the Herman Melville classic novel Moby Dick, which appear in a white font over a white page so the text isn’t readable. Some security products automatically flag Microsoft Office files containing just a macro and an image. The invisible text is designed to evade such software while not arousing the suspicion of the target.

When opened, the Word documents present a graphic that says the content can’t be accessed unless the user clicks the “enable content” button. Last year, Microsoft began disabling  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2023 at 2:49 pm

Ohio politicians found guilty in $60 million utilities bribery scandal

leave a comment »

Naveena Sadasivam reports in Grist:

FBI agents arrested one of Ohio’s most recognizable politicians, then-state House of Representatives Speaker Larry Householder, in connection with a $60 million bribery scheme nearly three years ago. The 80-page criminal complaint against him and four collaborators reads like a John Grisham thriller. According to the complaint, Householder and the others controlled a slush fund that received millions of dollars from three utility companies in the state. Householder used this money to help elect like-minded legislators. In exchange, he helped pass House Bill 6, a bailout law that halved the amount of renewable power utilities were required to buy, eliminated energy efficiency measures, and provided billions of dollars to utilities that owned nuclear and coal power plants in the state. It was a classic pay-to-play scheme.

Yesterday, a federal jury largely affirmed those allegations, finding Householder and ex-Ohio Republican Party chair Matt Borges guilty of conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise involving bribery and money laundering. The two men face up to 20 years in prison and will be sentenced in the coming months.

“Larry Householder illegally sold the statehouse, and thus he ultimately betrayed the great people of Ohio he was elected to serve,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Kenneth Parker in a press release.

Borges and Householder plan . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2023 at 12:07 pm

In Nebraska, Big Brother is watching you

leave a comment »

Martin Kaste reports for NPR:

A 41-year-old woman is facing felony charges in Nebraska for allegedly helping her teenage daughter illegally abort a pregnancy, and the case highlights how law enforcement can make use of online communications in the post-Roe v. Wade era.

Police in Norfolk, Neb., had been investigating the woman, Jessica Burgess, and her daughter, Celeste Burgess, for allegedly mishandling the fetal remains of what they’d told police was Celeste’s stillbirth in late April. They faced charges of concealing a death and disposing of human remains illegally.

But in mid-June, police also sent a warrant to Facebook requesting the Burgess’ private messages. Authorities say those conversations showed the pregnancy had been aborted, not miscarried as the two had said.

The messages appear to show Jessica Burgess coaching her daughter, who was 17 at the time, how to take the abortion pills.

“Ya the 1 pill stops the hormones an rhen u gotta wait 24 HR 2 take the other,” read one of her messages.

Celeste Burgess writes, “Remember we burn the evidence,” and later, “I will finally be able to wear jeans.”

According to police investigators, medical records show the pregnancy was 23 weeks along. A Nebraska law passed in 2010 forbids abortions after 20 weeks, but that time limit wasn’t enforced under Roe v. Wade. After the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson ruling overturned Roe in June, Madison County Attorney Joseph Smith brought charges against Jessica Burgess.

It’s not clear the illegal abortion charges against Burgess will stand. In his concurring opinion to DobbsJustice Brett Kavanaugh wrote, “May a . . .

Continue reading.

This is an example of the Republican idea of “limited government.”

And it’s not just the government: “Three Texas women are sued for wrongful death after allegedly helping friend obtain abortion medication.”

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2023 at 2:33 pm

A corrupt lawyer buys off the California State Bar

leave a comment »

Harriet Ryan and Matt Hamilton report in the LA Times:

Disbarred Los Angeles lawyer Tom Girardi funneled more than $1 million in gifts and payments to an investigator at the State Bar and the investigator’s wife, a USC accounting professor, according to a report released Friday.

The long-anticipated report, the result of a year-and-a-half investigation by a law firm working for the State Bar’s governing board, described corruption of the agency by Girardi beyond what was previously known publicly.

In addition to the money and gifts he directed to investigator Tom Layton and his wife, Rose, the report documented that State Bar officials close to Girardi killed complaints that came into the agency about the lawyer’s alleged misconduct.

At least eight complaints were quashed by State Bar employees whose ties to the wealthy attorney “tainted their decisions to close the cases,” according to a summary of the report by the law firm Halpern May Ybarra Gelberg LLP. In addition, two agency prosecutors who advocated taking action against Girardi’s law license were fired under “questionable” circumstances by top executives close to the lawyer, according to the summary.

“The magnitude and duration of the transgressions reveal persistent institutional failure and a shocking past culture of unethical and unacceptable behavior,” said Ruben Duran, chair of the State Bar’s board of trustees, in a statement.

The release of the report was part of the board’s attempt to move the agency beyond the Girardi scandal. Despite more than a hundred lawsuits against the lawyer and more than 155 complaints over the decades, the State Bar did not take action against him until March 2021. By then, his law firm had collapsed, and a federal judge had referred him for criminal investigation related to alleged misappropriation of millions of dollars from clients’ settlement funds.

Bob Baker, an attorney who has represented Layton during the investigation, said Friday that he had not seen the law firm’s report. Asked for comment about the report, Baker said, “I don’t give a damn,” before ending the call.

None of the officials alleged to have inappropriate relationships with Girardi still works for the State Bar, according to the agency. Layton was fired in 2015. The Times has detailed how he functioned as Girardi’s social secretary and chauffeur while collecting a State Bar paycheck. Girardi provided free legal representation when the Laytons sued their general contractor, and employed two of their children at the Girardi Keese firm.

Of the cash and valuables Girardi directed to the Laytons, the summary said that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2023 at 12:14 pm

How the US power grid is a target for far-right groups

leave a comment »

Mike Wendling reports for BBC News:

Far-right groups are increasingly talking about attacking the US power grid to cause chaos and advance their cause, terrorism experts say.

The warnings come as the founder of a neo-Nazi group and a woman he met in prison are scheduled to appear at a plea hearing on Friday.

They are charged with plotting to attack power installations around Baltimore.

Brandon Russell, 27, and Sarah Clendaniel, 34, face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

In messages revealed in court filings, Ms Clendaniel described their alleged plot as “legendary” and hoped it “would completely destroy the whole city”.

The pair were arrested before the alleged attack was carried out. Prosecutors said thousands would have been left without power if it had gone ahead.

Attacks against infrastructure are a long-standing obsession of far-right and white nationalist groups, and they are increasingly being discussed in extremist spaces online.

Veryan Khan, president and CEO of the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium (Trac) says attacks are “not a matter of if, it’s when”.

Recent attacks

In addition to the alleged Baltimore plot, investigators are looking into several recent attacks on power installations, including incidents in North Carolina, Oregon and Washington state.

The North Carolina attack, in Moore County in early December, knocked out . . .

Continue reading.

In the George W. Bush administration, reports were prepared on the likely sources of domestic terrorist activity from the Left and from the Right. Republicans in Congress were outraged that there was a report on the possibility of domestic terrorism from the Right and forced the report to be withdrawn.

Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2023 at 8:00 pm

Why corporations break the law so readily

leave a comment »

From a post on Mastodon:

David Graeber got an economist to admit that he was not aware of single case where a company was fined more than the profit it made by breaking the law. He summarized this as the government saying: “Do all the crime you want, but if we catch you, you have to give us a cut.”

Written by Leisureguy

26 February 2023 at 4:59 pm

Christians amaze me: A Christian Health Nonprofit Saddled Thousands With Debt as It Built a Family Empire Including a Pot Farm, a Bank, and an Airline

leave a comment »

Ryan Gabrielson and J. David McSwane report in ProPublica:

Bonnie Martin kept the bleeding secret for as long as she could. Her sisters, boyfriend and sons knew nothing of her illness until suddenly, during a family gathering in October 2018 at a diner in Annapolis, Maryland, she began hemorrhaging.

A tumor had burst through the wall of her uterus. Doctors performed an emergency hysterectomy and removed what cancer they could reach. She needed multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, expensive stuff. As her family grew fearful, Martin walked that fine line between resilience and denial — she’d beat this, she said. She focused instead on fun things ahead, a trip to Ireland with her boyfriend and sisters, for instance, and a Rolling Stones concert.

Luckily, or so Martin thought, she had placed her trust — and her money — in Liberty HealthShare. Liberty is what’s known as a health care sharing ministry, a nonprofit alternative to medical insurance rooted in Christian principles. Hundreds of thousands of people rely on such organizations for basic health coverage. They promise no red tape, lower costs and compassion for the sick. Although Martin wasn’t religious, she found comfort in Liberty’s pledge to “carry one another’s burdens.”

Martin received treatment that pushed her cancer into remission. But 18 months later, it returned, this time in her lungs. She was dying.

Liberty covered her bills at first, but then, without warning or explanation, the payments stopped. Suddenly, she faced $10,000 in unpaid charges. Her whole life, she’d had pristine credit. Now creditors called constantly and sent harassing letters.

Martin refused to accept that her cancer was terminal. She was going to survive, and when she was rid of it, she needed those bills paid. She spent hours pleading over the phone with Liberty, straining to focus as the toxic drugs she was taking sapped her energy. Martin’s long, auburn curls fell out, and her memory was slipping.

Martin forwarded the overdue notices to Liberty, writing on one in pen, “WHY HAS THIS NOT BEEN PAID?” In emails Martin’s family shared with ProPublica, she pleaded, “I am asking for your help and compassion. Help me, I don’t know what else to do. … I CANNOT deal with this stress and fight cancer. You say you are a ministry and want to help people. THEN HELP!!!”

Martin died in July 2022 at age 63. Liberty never settled the bills that she had begged them to pay.

What Martin didn’t know when she joined Liberty was that she was sending her money to members of a family with a long and well-documented history of fraud.

For generations, members of the Beers family of Canton, Ohio, have used Christian faith to sell health coverage to more than a hundred thousand people like Martin. Instead they delivered pain, debt and financial ruin, according to an investigation by ProPublica based on leaked internal documents, land records, court files and interviews. They have done this not once but twice and have faced few consequences.

Patriarch Daniel J. Beers, 60, lies at the center of the family network. He was a leading figure in a scheme in the 1990s involving a health care sharing ministry that fraudulently siphoned tens of millions of dollars from members, court records show. Two decades later, he played a key role in building Liberty into one of the nation’s largest sharing ministries, several of the nonprofit’s current and former employees told ProPublica.

Four years after its launch in 2014, the ministry enrolled members in almost every state and collected $300 million in annual revenue. Liberty used the money to pay at least $140 million to businesses owned and operated by Beers family members and friends over a seven-year period, the investigation found. The family then funneled the money through a network of shell companies to buy a private airline in Ohio, more than $20 million in real estate holdings and scores of other businesses, including a winery in Oregon that they turned into a marijuana farm. The family calls this collection of enterprises “the conglomerate.”

Beers has disguised his involvement in Liberty. He has never been listed as a Liberty executive or board member, and none of the family’s 50-plus companies or assets are in his name, records show.

From the family’s 700-acre ranch north of Canton, however, Beers acts as the shadow lord of a financial empire. It was built from money that people paid to Liberty, Beers’ top lieutenant confirmed to ProPublica. He plays in high-stakes poker tournaments around the country, travels to the Caribbean and leads big-game hunts at a vast hunting property in Canada, which the family partly owns. He is a man, said one former Liberty executive, with all the “trappings of large money coming his way.”

Despite abundant evidence of fraud, much of it detailed in court records and law enforcement files obtained by ProPublica, members of the Beers family have flourished in the health care industry and have never been prevented from running a nonprofit. Instead, the family’s long and lucrative history illustrates how health care sharing ministries thrive in a regulatory no man’s land where state insurance commissioners are barred from investigating, federal agencies turn a blind eye and law enforcement settles for paltry civil settlements.

The Ohio attorney general has twice investigated Beers for activities that financial crimes investigators said were probable felonies. Instead, the office settled for . . .

Continue reading. Another product of the American approach to healthcare.

Just a reminder: “No true Scotsman” arguments are fallacious.

Written by Leisureguy

25 February 2023 at 3:54 pm

A Norfolk Southern Policy Lets Officials Order Crews to Ignore Safety Alerts

leave a comment »

Capitalists will fight anything, including safety measures, that threatens to reduce profit.  Topher Sanders and Dan Schwartz report for ProPublica:

In October, months before the East Palestine derailment, the company also directed a train to keep moving with an overheated wheel that caused it to derail miles later in Sandusky, Ohio.

Norfolk Southern allows a monitoring team to instruct crews to ignore alerts from train track sensors designed to flag potential mechanical problems.

ProPublica learned of the policy after reviewing the rules of the company, which is engulfed in controversy after one of its trains derailed this month, releasing toxic flammable gas over East Palestine, Ohio.

The policy applies specifically to the company’s Wayside Detector Help Desk, which monitors data from the track-side sensors. Workers on the desk can tell crews to disregard an alert when “information is available confirming it is safe to proceed” and to continue no faster than 30 miles per hour to the next track-side sensor, which is often miles away. The company’s rulebook did not specify what such information might be, and company officials did not respond to questions about the policy.

The National Transportation Safety Board will be looking into the company’s rules, including whether that specific policy played a role in the Feb. 3 derailment in East Palestine. Thirty-eight cars, some filled with chemicals, left the tracks and caught fire, triggering an evacuation and agonized questions from residents about the implications for their health. The NTSB believes a wheel bearing in a car overheated and failed immediately before the train derailed. It plans to release a preliminary report on the accident Thursday morning.

ProPublica has learned that Norfolk Southern disregarded a similar mechanical problem on another train that months earlier jumped the tracks in Ohio.

In October, that train was en route to Cleveland when dispatchers told the crew to stop it, said Clyde Whitaker, Ohio state legislative director for the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, or SMART. He said the help desk had learned that a wheel was heating up on an engine the train was towing. The company sent a mechanic to the train to diagnose the problem.

Whitaker said that it could not be determined what was causing the wheel to overheat, and that the safest course of action would have been to set the engine aside to be repaired. That would have added about an hour to the journey, Whitaker said.

But Whitaker said the dispatcher told the crew that a supervisor determined that the train should continue on without removing the engine.

Four miles later, the train derailed while traveling about 30 miles per hour and dumped thousands of gallons of molten paraffin wax in the city of Sandusky.

Records from the Federal Railroad Administration, the agency responsible for regulating safety in the railroad industry, show that Norfolk Southern identified the cause of the October derailment as a hot wheel bearing. Whitaker said this bearing was on the same engine that originally drew concerns.

A spokesperson for the FRA said the agency’s investigation into the derailment is ongoing. The agency did not say whether it was examining the role of any Norfolk Southern officials in deciding to keep the damaged engine on the train. It’s still unknown what role, if any, the help desk played in the final decision.

This month, 20 miles before Norfolk Southern’s train spectacularly derailed in East Palestine, the help desk should have also gotten an alert. As the train rolled through Salem, it crossed a track-side sensor. Video footage from a nearby Salem company shows the train traveling with a fiery glow underneath its carriage.

If, like the Sandusky train, this one was dangerously heating up, a key question for investigators will be whether the help desk became aware and alerted the crew, and if it did, why the crew was not instructed to stop. The NTSB told ProPublica it is reviewing data from the Salem detector and those before it on the train’s route.

Continue reading. Modern-day capitalists believe “Profit über alles.”

President Biden should have supported the union. That is what Democrats have stood for, not crushing unions to support capitalists who care nothing about the public or their own workers.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2023 at 6:07 am

Feds fine Mormon church for illicitly hiding $32 billion investment fund behind shell companies

leave a comment »

Yet another church scandal, this time financial. Rob Wile reports for NBC News:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a nonprofit entity that it controlled have been fined $5 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission over accusations that the religious institution failed to properly disclose its investment holdings.

In an order released Tuesday, the SEC alleged that the church illicitly hid its investments and their management behind multiple shell companies from 1997 to 2019. In doing so, it failed to disclose the size of the church’s equity portfolio to the SEC and the public.

The church was concerned that disclosure of the assets in the name of the nonprofit entity, called Ensign Peak Advisors, which manages the church’s investments, would lead to negative consequences in light of the size of the church’s portfolio, the SEC said.

The allegations of the illicit shell company structure first emerged in 2018, when a group formerly called MormonLeaks – now known as the Truth and Transparency Foundation – claimed that year the extent of the church’s investments had reached $32 billion.

The following year, a whistleblower filed a complaint to the Internal Revenue Service, according to a 2020 Wall Street Journal report; that year, the newspaper said the church’s holdings had grown to $100 billion.

“For more than half a century, the Mormon Church quietly built one of the world’s largest investment funds,” the Journal said. “Almost no one outside the church knew about it.”

The SEC accused the church Tuesday of going to “great lengths” to avoid disclosing its investments and, in doing so, “depriving the commission and the investing public of accurate market information.”

“The requirement to file timely and accurate information on Forms 13F applies to all institutional investment managers, including non-profit and charitable organizations,” said Gurbir S. Grewal, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, in a statement.

In a statement, the church said that, starting in 2000, its Ensign Peak investment management group “received and relied upon legal counsel regarding how to comply with its reporting obligations while attempting to maintain the privacy of the portfolio.”

As a result, it said, Ensign Peak established “separate companies” that each filed required disclosure forms, instead of a single aggregated filing.

“Ensign Peak and the Church believe that all securities required to be reported were included in the filings by the separate companies,” the church said in its statement.

After the SEC expressed concern about Ensign Peak’s reporting approach in June 2019, the church said, Ensign Peak “adjusted its approach and began filing a single aggregated report.”

Since that time, the church  . . .

Continue reading.

That’s a fine of 0.016% on the investment. Imagine lying on your taxes, having hidden $100K offshore, and the IRS tells you, “You’ll now have to pay a penalty of $15.63.”

Written by Leisureguy

22 February 2023 at 9:45 am

Firearm Forensics on Trial

leave a comment »

Alexander Gelfand writes in the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Magazine:

One day last March, biostatistician Michael Rosenblum got an email from the chief attorney in the Forensics division of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender.

He was more than a little surprised.

Jeff Gilleran wanted to know if Rosenblum would assess the scientific validity of forensic firearms examination, a discipline better known as “ballistics” to fans of police procedurals like CSI and Law & Order.

“I initially thought, How could I help?” says Rosenblum, PhD.

It was an understandable response. Rosenblum is an expert on designing and analyzing clinical trials. A professor in Biostatistics, he has spent the last 13 years developing improved statistical methods and free software for designing and analyzing clinical trials. His research has informed FDA guidance for designing Covid-19 treatment trials, and he’s collaborated with clinical investigators to design trials to evaluate treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.

Firearm examiners, meanwhile, are tasked with determining whether the bullets and cartridge cases found at a crime scene were fired from a suspect’s gun. Most of them work in police department crime labs or for state or federal law enforcement agencies. Their job entails test-firing the gun in question and comparing the bullets and cartridge cases side-by-side under a microscope with the slugs and cartridge casings collected at the scene. They also serve as expert witnesses—typically for the prosecution—by testifying that the fired evidence found at the scene came from the suspect’s weapon.

“It’s deadly evidence,” says Gilleran, who notes that juries, which tend to view any kind of forensic evidence as objective and scientific, rarely doubt a firearms examiner’s testimony. “The bullets match the gun. The gun was found in the defendant’s apartment. What else do I have to know as a juror?” he asks rhetorically.


The number of cases involving forensic firearms evidence is hard to pin down, according to Jeff Salyards, PhD, a researcher with the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence. But the best source of data—a 2016 report by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics—found that in 2014, publicly funded forensic crime labs completed some 154,000 requests for what is sometimes called “firearms/toolmarks” examination.

Gilleran and his colleague Molly Ryan explained to Rosenblum that they needed someone who could evaluate the quality of the studies that are cited in court.

“We’re not scientists,” Ryan says, “so we need help identifying the issues.”

Initially, Gilleran simply told Rosenblum that he would be one of several scientists contributing to an amicus brief for the Supreme Court of Maryland, the state’s highest court of appeals. (Filed by amicus curiae, or “friends of the court,” an amicus brief is submitted by third parties who are not directly involved in a case but seek to offer information in support of one side or the other.)

Only later would Rosenblum learn that the brief was being filed on behalf of Kobina Ebo Abruquah, who had already spent a decade in prison for the shooting death of Ivan Aguirre-Herrera in 2012. Aguirre-Herrera’s body was found in the house where both men lived in Riverdale Park, Maryland. At trial, a forensic firearms examiner testified that the bullets recovered from Aguirre-Herrera’s body had been fired from Abruquah’s gun. A jury found Abruquah, then 40, guilty of first-degree murder and the use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence. A judge sentenced him to life plus 20 years. 

Abruquah’s lawyers have appealed his conviction by questioning the scientific validity of the methodology used by firearms examiners and of the studies that support their conclusions.

“Trying to establish scientific validity is something I think about all the time,” Rosenblum says. “This is part of my and my colleagues’ everyday work to ensure that the research being done to evaluate new medical treatments is scientifically sound.”


In the case of firearms examination, establishing scientific validity turned out to be problematic. The central issue, Rosenblum explains, is that firearm examiners claim to be able to determine whether the bullets found at a crime scene were fired from one particular gun and no other. Doing so, however, presupposes that every gun imprints a set of unique physical characteristics on bullets and cartridge casings during the firing process.

Yet as Rosenblum discovered, the notion that every single gun has a signature distinct from every other gun has not been established scientifically—nor has the ability of firearm examiners to reliably and accurately say that a bullet was fired from one gun to the exclusion of all others.

“There have been many studies of this, but each one is lacking in at least one important aspect … to establish scientific validity,” Rosenblum says.

Some of those deficiencies were first spelled out in . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

For example, the examiners who participate in such studies are typically permitted to reach three different conclusions: The two bullets were not fired from the same gun (exclusion); they were fired from the same gun (identification); or they can’t tell (inconclusive). An inconclusive finding, Rosenblum says, clearly means that the examiner didn’t reach the correct answer, since every pair of bullets must have been fired either from the same gun or from different guns. Yet most validation studies count inconclusives as correct or exclude them entirely.

Rosenblum compares the situation to one in which students taking the SAT were allowed to skip any question they couldn’t answer. “It’s not a real test; everyone will get a perfect score,” he says. Indeed, when inconclusives are counted as incorrect, error rates suddenly climb as high as 93%.

Written by Leisureguy

21 February 2023 at 10:15 am

Excellent thread summarizing Dominion Voting System’s defamation suit against Fox “News”

leave a comment »

Worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2023 at 10:27 pm

Reporters who uncovered Matt Gaetz evidence baffled after DOJ drops sex trafficking case

leave a comment »

Samaa Khullar reports in Salon:

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., will not be charged in connection with a federal sex trafficking investigation, according to lawyers involved in the case.

Gaetz’s attorney Isabelle Kirshner shared in a statement with CNN and The Daily Beast that the Justice Department informed them of their decision on Wednesday.

“We have just spoken with the DOJ and have been informed that they have concluded their investigation into Congressman Gaetz and allegations related to sex trafficking and obstruction of justice and they have determined not to bring any charges against him,” wrote Kirshner.

The Justice Department initially relied on the testimony of Gaetz’s friend Joel Greenberg, a local Florida tax official who was charged with corruption but agreed to be a cooperating witness in the case.

As the investigation continued, federal officials found evidence that Gaetz regularly sought out young women for sex, which made their final decision not to press charges frustrating for Greenberg and his lawyer, Fritz Scheller.

“While the decision is troubling, it’s not surprising. After so many years of defense practice, I’ve slowly come to the realization that our country has a two-tier system of justice,” Scheller told The Daily Beast. “To be fair, why expend resources prosecuting the privileged, when there’s undoubtedly a minority out there with a small amount of pot?”

The investigation into Gaetz came after allegations emerged that the congressman had sex with a 17-year-old girl. The Justice Department investigated whether Gaetz had paid or illegally trafficked the girl to have sex. His ex-girlfriend was granted immunity last year for testifying in front of a federal grand jury.

Gaetz denied all the allegations against him, despite Greenberg, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison for sex trafficking, sharing a confession letter in 2021 that said he and Gaetz paid to have sex with multiple women including the 17-year-old girl.

The federal probe into the Florida lawmaker began in March 2021, but during the Jan. 6 investigation, details emerged that Gaetz asked multiple aides of former President Donald Trump to issue him a preemptive pardon before the DOJ even launched an official investigation into him.

Trump aide Johnny McEntee testified that Gaetz told him that he didn’t do anything wrong, but “they” were trying to make his life “hell.”

After the New York Times broke the news that Gaetz was under investigation in 2021, The Daily Beast revealed key evidence supporting the case, including sources who were familiar with the operation describing how Greenberg was a “fixer” for Gaetz.

Other details emerged including private Venmo transactions that showed Gaetz sent Greenberg $900 late one night in May 2018. The next morning, Greenberg sent the exact same amount of money to three young women. In the years when the two men were close, Greenberg sent more than 150 Venmo payments to dozens of young women — including a girl whom Gaetz named in a private message that was just 17 at the time.

Greenberg’s confession letter also detailed the instances in which Gaetz asked him to help him find college students to sleep with, including the underage girl who was at the center of the federal investigation.

“On more than one occasion, this individual was involved in sexual activities with several of the other girls, the congressman from Florida’s 1st Congressional District and myself,” Greenberg wrote in the letter obtained by the Daily Beast, referencing the 17-year-old girl.

“From time to time, gas money or gifts, rent or partial tuition payments were made to several of these girls, including the individual who was not yet 18,” he wrote. “I did see the acts occur firsthand and Venmo transactions, Cash App or other payments were made to these girls on behalf of the Congressman.”

Jose Pagliery, a political investigations reporter for the Daily Beast expressed his frustration with the Justice Department’s decision on Twitter.

“Feds had a confession letter. Private Venmos. Uber receipts. Flight records. Yet they still won’t prosecute Congressman Matt Gaetz,” he wrote. “This is all the more stunning, because [Roger Sollenberger] & I were the ones who exposed the evidence.” . . .

Continue reading.

See also “Cold feet”: Court filing slams DOJ for sitting on “a mountain of evidence” in Gaetz sex crime probe.

Something is seriously wrong with the legal system in the US.

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2023 at 3:19 pm

From Freddie Gray to Tyre Nichols, early police claims often misleading

leave a comment »

The problem also seems endemic to military self-reporting and reports from religious organizations (regarding pedophile officials, for example). I believe that any strongly hierarchical and semi-authoritarian organization has a tendency to hide errors and cover up missteps “for the good of the organization” or for “the greater good.”

Ashley Parker and  Justine McDaniel report in the Washinton Post:

The first police statement made about Tyre Nichols said he had complained about “shortness of breath” — failing to mention that he had first been Tasered, pepper-sprayed and beaten for roughly three minutes.

The initial news release about the death of George Floyd said that “officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs” — failing to mention that one officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as Floyd begged for his life.

And the incident report filed after Breonna Taylor’s death listed her injuries as “none” — failing to mention that she had been shot several times and was pronounced dead on the scene.

A Washington Post analysis of seven high-profile cases in which people died after use of force by police officers — from the fatal injury of Freddie Gray in police custody in 2015 to the death of Nichols last month — found a familiar pattern: The initial police version of events was misleading, incomplete or wrong, with the first accounts consistently in conflict with the full set of facts once they finally emerged.

In cases where the police are later accused of excessive and unwarranted use of force, the first draft of history is almost always written in part by those same officers, who often portray the police in flattering ways and the alleged suspect in less flattering ones.

“The police own the narrative in every interaction they have with the public, because they write up the reports, and sometimes the reports are written to justify the actions the officers have taken and sometimes to cover up what actually happened,” said Philip Stinson, a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University who researches criminal behavior by police.

The Post analysis found several consistent themes throughout the seven incidents involving Black people who died in encounters with police: The officers were often, but not always, White; the initial police accounts regularly described the victims in terms assuming they were guilty of a crime; and the initial police version frequently used clinical language that seemed to obscure their own role in the incidents.

Police in these cases frequently used passive language in their first statements or reports, with phrases such as “the incident occurred,” “a struggle ensued” or “a confrontation occurred.” Early police statements and reports also often describe the victim with language assuming culpability — “the arrested individual,” “the suspect,” “the defendant.”

“When we use passive language in our own lives, usually we’re trying to create some distance from what happened, whether it’s ‘the milk fell’ instead of ‘I spilled the milk,’” said Lauren Bonds, executive director of the National Police Accountability Project, a civil rights organization that advocates for victims of police violence. “It’s a very intentional kind of framing to avoid responsibility or push responsibility onto another person.”

Several police departments contacted by The Post said that it is not uncommon for preliminary information to change as more facts become available or an investigation continues. The departments sometimes find themselves balancing the public’s right to information and the goal of transparency, spokespeople said, with the reality that a more complete picture of an incident frequently emerges in the following days, weeks and months.

“Information about critical incidents often evolves,” said Ryan Luby, a spokesman for the police department in Aurora, Colo., where 23-year-old Elijah McClain died in 2019 after being forcibly restrained by police and then given a high dose of ketamine by paramedics. “Any perceived omissions of information are not intentional — what is intentional is our desire to communicate with the public.”

Experts on police violence and misbehavior say that initial police statements should be viewed “cautiously” — and that restoring trust with the public will require greater accountability by police departments.

“It’s very damaging to the police department because it does damage to their reputation when they put out these press releases and it turns out they’re false,” Stinson said.

He added that the prevalence of body-camera footage and bystander video have changed the public’s understanding of these incidents: “What’s different now is that people can see the lies with their own eyes by watching videos, whether it’s on cable news, the local TV news or on YouTube,” he said.

Continue reading for specific cases.

I do understand the balancing act forced onto police departments: if the department does not immediately disclose what it knows/surmises, the public is enraged by the appearance of a cover-up or a slow response; on the other hand, if the department does immediately disclose what it has, that account will almost certainly have to modified as more facts come to light (an obvious example: a witness may lie to protect a miscreant), and that also enrages the public.

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2023 at 2:33 pm

Proud Boys leader learned of upcoming arrest from D.C. police officer

leave a comment »

The previous post was about an American Nazi who lived in the mid-20th century. They are still around, though, and some are in the police (and in the military). Holley Bailey reports in the Washington Post:

The leader of a right-wing extremist group learned days in advance that he would be arrested for his actions after a pro-Trump rally through his conversations with a D.C. police lieutenant, according to testimony in federal court Wednesday.

Enrique Tarrio was arrested on Jan. 4, 2021, for his part in burning a Black Lives Matter flag stolen from a historic African American church weeks earlier. The evidence played in court during the trial of Tarrio and four other Proud Boys leaders who face seditious conspiracy charges show the far-right figure appeared fully aware of what was coming, thanks to his “source” in the D.C. Police Department.

Tarrio has argued that Shane Lamond, a 22-year-veteran of the D.C. police, is a key witness who could show there was no Proud Boys conspiracy to overthrow the government because the group shared its plans with a law enforcement officer. But the messages shown in court Wednesday reveal how much the then-head of intelligence for the D.C. police was sharing with Tarrio during the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Lamond was suspended with pay from the D.C. police a year ago and is under federal investigation for his contacts with Tarrio; he has not been charged with a crime. In a statement Wednesday, Lamond’s attorney Mark E. Schamel said his client did nothing to aid Jan. 6 rioters and “was only communicating with these individuals because the mission required it.”

He added that Lamond “was instrumental” to Tarrio’s arrest and “there is no legitimate law enforcement officer who is familiar with the facts of this case who would opine otherwise.”

On the evening of Dec. 30, 2020, Lamond and Tarrio had a call lasting nearly 15 minutes, during which Tarrio sent out a bulletin to Proud Boys leaders calling for an “Emergency voice chat.”

Tarrio made it harder for investigators to follow the conversation by setting his messages from around that time to auto delete, FBI Special Agent Peter Dubrowski testified, but responses from other Proud Boys indicate that Tarrio had shared with them that he would be arrested soon.

On Jan. 4, 2021, as he flew to D.C. from Miami, Tarrio told other Proud Boys, “The warrant was just signed.” He was pulled over and arrested driving into the city from the airport.

According to the court record, by that point Lamond had been giving Tarrio inside information for at least six months. D.C. police declined to comment Wednesday on the court testimony, citing the ongoing investigation. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

The US has a serious Nazi problem, and many of the adherents have wormed their way into official positions in the Republican party, the police, and the military.

Written by Leisureguy

16 February 2023 at 11:21 am

The Long Descent to Insurrection

leave a comment »

Jacob Glick writes in Lawfare:

The release of the final report of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol was the culmination of a yearslong sprint to uncover the facts behind the attempted insurrection. The committee’s top-line conclusion has been well established by now: Donald Trump’s authoritarian obsession with retaining power resulted in a multipronged assault on American democracy that reached its bloody climax on the steps of the Capitol. By exposing that truth, the committee accomplished its most urgent task, which was to warn the public about the dangers of Trump and his coup-enthusiast lackeys.

But that story is only one piece of a broader constellation of evidence assembled by the committee, including an unprecedented inside look at the coalition of domestic violent extremists who answered Trump’s call to upend the rule of law. I was part of a small team of investigative counsels who were responsible for interviewing members of the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and other individuals associated with far-right extremist groups. This evidence we collected should be a warning to the general public that the Jan. 6 assault is part of a broader threat of paramilitary violence and its intersection with electoral politics, which began long before the day of the insurrection and has endured far after it was quelled, as former Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary McCord and I wrote in Just Security.

However, this evidence can also be studied in order to reshape public perceptions of the underlying dynamics that made the Jan. 6 attack possible in the first place. The committee’s report and investigation rightly focused on the immediate lead-up to Jan. 6, particularly by zeroing in on the importance of Trump’s tweet from Dec. 19, 2020, as a rallying call for extremists to come to D.C. But the larger universe of evidence released by the select committee shows that there was a much longer run-up to the attack that stretches back to at least the beginning of 2020, if not earlier in Trump’s term.

Depositions with Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, QAnon adherents, and others revealed how extremist mobilization did not begin with Trump’s call to his supporters to come to D.C. or even with his refusal to concede the election. The committee uncovered a monthslong trend toward political violence by these groups spurred on by pandemic-related health restrictions and, later, Black Lives Matter protests. Our evidence shows that the violent energy that burst forth on Jan. 6 had been cultivated during the tumultuous months prior, including in the most fascistic fantasies of Oath Keepers’ leader Stewart Rhodes and chief Proud Boy Enrique Tarrio.

In many instances, the right-wing extremists we deposed pointed to a clear throughline between the perceived tyranny of Democratic politicians’ imposition of coronavirus safety measures in the spring of 2020, the alleged “riots” that occurred in left-leaning areas during the summer, and those same cities allegedly manufacturing ballots and enabling shadowy forces to steal victory from President Trump in the autumn. Beyond revealing the racist heart of the “Big Lie,” this narrative arc shows why paramilitary groups like the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, and others were so ready and willing to answer Trump’s command to “stop the steal.” To them, it was the natural extension of what they had been preparing for all year long—often at Trump’s urging—as they grappled with what they saw as an extended crisis that required a vigilante response.

The Trigger of the Coronavirus

As our team conducted depositions with assorted far-right extremists, I was at first surprised by how consistently the onset of the pandemic was cited as the genesis of their engagement with domestic violent extremism. But as we conducted more and more interviews, it began to make sense that the society-altering fallout of the coronavirus would have also had a strong impact on the evolution of the Jan. 6 coalition, because it provided an unprecedented opportunity for paramilitary extremists to join forces with others on the far right in a joint effort to target the government, which would lay the groundwork for the type of coalition that was eventually mustered on Jan. 6.

Perhaps the most consequential example of this phenomenon was Kellye SoRelle, lawyer for the Oath Keepers and close confidante of Stewart Rhodes as he plotted his seditious conspiracy.  SoRelle said her desire to fight back against the coronavirus public health measures initially led her to engage with the Oath Keepers. She testified that a “ragtag” association of groups had private militias—including Rhodes and the Oath Keepers—that acted as security for anti-lockdown activists who challenged restrictions in Texas.

In context of these anti-lockdown protests, SoRelle described the Oath Keepers’ mission as one of . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 February 2023 at 10:43 am

What’s Wrong With Pete Buttigieg

leave a comment »

Cory Doctorow spells it out:

The people apologizing for Secretary Buttigieg like to say that he’s not the Emperor of Transportation, who can just snap his fingers and make regulation based on the latest headlines.

That’s true, which is why Buttigieg’s critics have spent two years sounding the increasingly urgent alarm over the fact that he hasn’t commenced market studies or hearings on (e.g.) airline IT dysfunctions or rail staffing or rail safety or the factual record on Trump-era rollbacks of braking regulations.

Lacking market studies or hearings, he’s failed to publish NOIs (notices of inquiry) to develop a factual record on the possible regulatory responses to grave, lethal, massive dysfunctions in the transportation system.

Having failed to run NOIs , he hasn’t developed a factual record that would allow him to publish NPRMs (notices of proposed rulemakings) that would lead to regulation itself.

An administratively competent Transportation Secretary should have arrived in office with a First 100 Days plan that targeted the specific dysfunctions of the transportation system — dysfunctions that had already been the subject of Congressional hearings, and also spectacular disasters — and that plan should have kicked off the instant he was sworn in.

The problem isn’t that Buttigieg isn’t lurching from crisis to crisis, chasing the latest headline.

It’s that he failed to head off the headline-making crises by failing to act with the administrative competence that the American people need and deserve from Transportation Secretary to the President of the United States of America — who is, after all, one of the most powerful people in the history of the human species.

Written by Leisureguy

15 February 2023 at 10:22 am

%d bloggers like this: