Earlier this year, scientists found a previously-unknown genus of spiders, all of whom have a velvety appearance and live underground.
Accordingly, they named the genus Loureedia, which something about which I could not be happer.
Earlier this year, scientists found a previously-unknown genus of spiders, all of whom have a velvety appearance and live underground.
Accordingly, they named the genus Loureedia, which something about which I could not be happer.
For example: far from violent militants, the Party was also responsible for creating highly successful meal programs for poor (mostly Black) schoolchildren.
The reason the Feds feared and vilified the Black Panther Party — and eventually assassinated its leaders — was that they were effective and they were actually helping poor Black people, and, well, ours is a racist government.
This backgrounder over at Talking Points Memo is extremely informative. I had a vague sense that Wilson was a jackass, but until now I didn’t appreciate what a complete and utter shitbag he was.
He ultimately taught at Princeton, where he made his mark with a compact textbook, “Division and Reunion,” about the Civil War and postwar reconciliation. Contained within was an outline of the post-Confederate vision of a nation reunited based on shared Anglo-Saxon interests. He declared the “charges of moral guilt” leveled against Southern slave lords were unjust because slaves “were almost uniformly dealt with indulgently and even affectionately by their masters,” who themselves were the beneficiaries of “the sensibility and breeding of entitlement.” He condemned Reconstruction — the effort to enforce the civil and political emancipation of African-Americans in the occupied South — and said allowing Blacks to vote was a “carnival of public crime.”
In his follow-up effort, a “poorly written and shoddily researched five-volume tome” called A History of the American People, he
furthered the white supremacist arguments in “Division and Reunion,” calling freed slaves “dupes” and the KKK a group formed “for the mere pleasure of association [and] private amusement” whose members accidentally discovered they could create “comic fear” in the Blacks they descended on. Immigrants were a problem because they were no longer “of the sturdy stocks of the North of Europe” but contained “multitudes of men of the lowest classes from the South of Italy and men of the meaner sort out of Hungary and Poland” and Chinese people, “with their yellow skin and strange, debasing habits of life,” who seemed “hardly fellow men at all, but evil spirits” and who provoked understandable mass killings by white mobs.
Once elected president — which, we should note, really only happened because of a 3-way split of the electorate, as he took office having only captured 42 percent of the vote — he made his priorities clear:
Wilson presided over the segregation of the federal government, with Black civil servants directed to use only certain bathrooms and to eat their lunches there too so as to not sully the cafeterias. At the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, makeshift partitions were erected in offices so white clerks would not have to see their Black counterparts.
You can read more in this thread. And you should.
The Police are the Problem
This week, we’ve watched countless peaceful marches descend into violence, but the striking thing is this: The violence has been overwhelmingly initiated and escalated by the police, not by the protesters. Standard operations procedure appears to involve kettling the protesters just before curfew, then refusing the let them leave and tear-gassing them, and then arresting and detaining as many as they can. After arrest they’re left to suffer in hot, unventilated spaces for hours with their arms bound, no access to bathrooms or water, with no explanation for their detention.
Police do this because they know no crime has been committed, so no charges will hold up in court— and so they mete out justice on their terms. It’s the maxim “you can beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride” writ large, which is itself evidence of broken and corrupt policing. A cop can arrest you for any old trumped up bullshit, rough you up on the way to jail, and hold you for a day on nothing just because he wants to, and you’d need to be very rich or very connected for the cop to suffer any consequences for this thuggish behavior.
So in that context, read this editorial.
An insane doofus railway engineer took control of a fucking TRAIN and used to to try and ram the USNS Mercy in an LA port on the grounds that it’s “suspicious” and that he does not believe “the ship is what they say it’s for.”
The train crashed into a concrete barrier at the end of the track, smashed through a steel barrier and a chain-link fence, slid through one parking lot and then a second lot filled with gravel and hit a second chain-link fence. It came to rest after passing under a ramp leading to the Vincent Thomas Bridge. The train remained in that position Wednesday.
He allegedly made statements to a CHP officer that included “You only get this chance once. The whole world is watching. I had to. People don’t know what’s going on here. Now they will.”
The best part of this, if there is a best part is that he “has been charged with one count of train wrecking, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.”
I love the specificity.
The UK government will pay 80% of lost wages for those laid off during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Some are suing the governor of New Hampshire over COVID-19 related admonitions to stay home and not gather.
Years after an indoor smoking ban here in Houston, and after spending a LONG time in the endurance sports community, I can almost forget people still smoke.
So imagine my shock to read this, about how smoking intersects with Coronoavirus, and in particular about the shocking smoking rates in China:
First, 52.1% of Chinese men smoke. That is quite high. Smoking in the US peaked in the 1950s at around 45%. It’s now just under 15%. (Since smoking at the time was heavily gendered, the total for men was likely significantly higher.) […]
But this wasn’t the number I found most surprising. It was how deeply gendered smoking is in China. 52% of men smoke but only between 1% and 3% of Chinese women do. In other words, smoking in China is an almost exclusively male phenomenon. The delta between the two numbers is what surprised me most.
Smoking in the US used to be highly gendered. But that is much less so today after decades in which tobacco companies marketed smoking as a form of female empowerment. Today about 14% or 15% of Americans smoke – 15.6% for men versus 12% for women, according to this recent CDC data.
There’s so much to unpack there — really? MOST Chinese men smoke? — but one of the real icky facts is that the assholes at tobacco firms marketed to women as empowerment. I mean, damn.
The ATF and DEA just love using fake entrapment cases; see:
Federal judges appear to be tiring of the government’s long-running entrapment programs. One of the federal law enforcement’s favorite “enforcement” efforts is creating crime in order to bust “criminals.” Agencies like the ATF and DEA find someone in need of cash — usually a minority someone — and use undercover agents and confidential informants to convince them to raid a drug stash house for some easy money.
The twist is the drug stash house is fake. There are no drugs. There are no armed guards protecting the drugs. Once the mark arrives with a weapon and a plan of attack, the ATF arrests the person for thinking about robbing a fake stash house to steal nonexistent drugs.
The other twist is the prosecution. Since the drugs never existed, the ATF is free to claim the targeted stash was large enough to trigger mandatory minimum sentences.
The LEOs here are literally creating a fake crime just to sting some hapless and down-on-his-luck type. They’re doing nothing to improve safety, or pursue actual predatory criminals — I mean, that takes work! — but they still get to crow about convictions.
As noted above Federal judges are getting tired of it.
The blood of poor people is now about 2% of the US’s national exports.
The $164,000 billed to Waldron for intestinal surgery was more than twice what a commercial insurer would have paid for her care
Oh, and it gets even more awful, because not only are they taking houses. In another case:
Nacy Sexton, who is in his 30s andl ives outside Richmond, hoped he might get a break on his medical bills as a student enrolled at the University of Virginia. He was close to finishing a bachelor’s degree in 2015 when he was hospitalized for lupus. When he was unable to cover the reduced bill offered by the hospital, the university blocked his enrollment.
You can’t get blood from a stone, but by god they’ll do everything possible to keep you poor!
Fuck these bloodsuckers.
The Airbus A350 must be rebooted ever 149 hours, or it will crash and kill everyone on board.
Yay, the Future!
It’s possible you’re curious.
Greg Travis breaks it all down in this long Medium post that’s super worth your time.
The tl;dr here is that Boeing was doing everything in their power to make fundamental changes to the 737 without the result being considered a new airplane, and they went WAY THE FUCK TOO FAR. Moreover, the software at work to make the new plane fly like the old plan (& thus prevent legions of pilots from needing recertification on the MAX) made some seriously, seriously stupid assumptions.
One wonders if this plane will fly again at all, but if it does I suspect it’ll be as a creature distinct from the 737 parent.
There’s apparently been a Sex Cult at Sarah Lawrence, which is not, as I previously thought, the name of a 70s exploitation film.
If I understand this story correctly, Port Richey, Florida just had its second mayor arrested in the last three weeks. The first wasn’t your standard mayoral arrest. Mayor Dale Massad was arrested when he opened fire on a SWAT team that had come to arrest him on charges of practicing medicine out of his home without a license. Sheriff Chris Nocco said Massad was a violent drug user who kept a stash of weapons in his home, had had previous run-ins with the law and lost his medical license 25 years ago after a three year old patient died.
After the mayor was arrested in this shootout the state also announced an insurance fraud investigation. Governor Ron DeSantis then suspended Massad from office and replaced him with Vice Mayor Terance Rowe. The new acting mayor criticized how the Sheriff’s office had treated his predecessor but conceded that Massad was “not a perfect role model.”
Now Rowe has been arrested for obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice and using a two-way communications device to facilitate the commission of a crime. Notably, Massad is also charged with that two way communications device charge, which sounds like a clue.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent Mark Brutnell said the case against Rowe is “related but [to Massad’s] it’s an off-shoot.” Both cases are “very active investigations” with “lots of moving parts.”
William Langewiesche tells us about using the Stealth Bomber to target Libyan insurgents.
A Michigan bar has had its liquor license suspended for problems I’m dead certain at least one person has dismissed as “some seriously ticky-tacky namby-pamby nanny-state bullshit:”
Drinking alcohol while throwing axes, ax-throwers wearing open-toed shoes, a lack of monitoring by bar management and axes ricocheting off targets in the direction of participants were among the concerns listed by Michigan Liquor Control Commission investigators.
Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag, sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose, or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking. Witness what Henry did in Cambodia – the fruits of his genius for statesmanship – and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milosevic. While Henry continues to nibble nori rolls and remaki at A-list parties, Cambodia, the neutral nation he secretly and illegally bombed, invaded, undermined, and then threw to the dogs, is still trying to raise itself up on its one remaining leg.
And now Tony is gone, and the unrepentant Kissinger still draws breath.
(This is also something that’s been buried in my inbox.)
Predator & similar drones are now showing up in traditional Afghan rugs.
So, this story is already bananas, right?
It’s crazy even before you get to this:
Officers reported finding eight 75-mL vodka bottles — seven of them empty — in her purse.
7 x 75ml is 525ml, or more than 2/3 of a fifth.
BUT IT GETS MORE NUTS, because these are the links at the bottom for “related stories”:
I hugged my wife this morning, when we heard about Las Vegas, and 50 more dead. I can’t stop thinking about that moment today, about our safety together in our bedroom as we got ready for work, and about the shattering loss to each of the victims’ families. It seemed bizarre to realize, in that moment, that the loss was certainly still unknown to many of those families, who like us were dressing for work, unaware of what was coming. I hugged Erin tighter.
But also, I think, we hugged because we know that no one really cares. We know this because it keeps happening, and no one does anything about it. Already I’ve seen on Facebook useless, empty blather about how gun rights are important, and let’s not rush into anything, and it’s the right of the citizen to be armed to protect himself and his family, and let’s not politicize a tragedy, and all the rest of that tired bullshit.
They needn’t bother. We know now, after Sandy Hook in 2012, that the ammosexuals have won. We as a nation chose guns over the lives of children. We stood in the aftermath of the deaths of 26 children and took no meaningful action.
The first thing I did when I got to my desk this morning was repost this Onion story, which is a thing of beauty in its brutal honesty. Here’s the text:
‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens
ISLA VISTA, CA—In the days following a violent rampage in southern California in which a lone attacker killed seven individuals, including himself, and seriously injured over a dozen others, citizens living in the only country where this kind of mass killing routinely occurs reportedly concluded Tuesday that there was no way to prevent the massacre from taking place. “This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,” said North Carolina resident Samuel Wipper, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations. “It’s a shame, but what can we do? There really wasn’t anything that was going to keep this guy from snapping and killing a lot of people if that’s what he really wanted.” At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past five years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”
Two years ago almost to the day, in response to another shooting (in Oregon, at a community college), President Obama addressed our collective failure:
We don’t yet know why this individual did what he did. And it’s fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds, regardless of what they think their motivations may be. But we are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.
Earlier this year, I answered a question in an interview by saying, “The United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense gun-safety laws — even in the face of repeated mass killings.” And later that day, there was a mass shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. That day! Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it. We’ve become numb to this.
We talked about this after Columbine and Blacksburg, after Tucson, after Newtown, after Aurora, after Charleston. It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.
There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America. So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer? We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths. So the notion that gun laws don’t work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence.
We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings. Friends of ours, allies of ours — Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours. So we know there are ways to prevent it.
And, of course, what’s also routine is that somebody, somewhere will comment and say, Obama politicized this issue. Well, this is something we should politicize. It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic. I would ask news organizations — because I won’t put these facts forward — have news organizations tally up the number of Americans who’ve been killed through terrorist attacks over the last decade and the number of Americans who’ve been killed by gun violence, and post those side-by-side on your news reports. This won’t be information coming from me; it will be coming from you. We spend over a trillion dollars, and pass countless laws, and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so. And yet, we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths. How can that be?
This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction. When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities. We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives. So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon, when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who could hunt and protect their families and do everything they do under such regulations doesn’t make sense.
These were remarks given on October 1, 2015. We have, of course, done absolutely nothing. This is who we are.
It doesn’t have to be who we always are, but right now, in this mean and rude year of our lord 2017, this is America.
If you want more information, Vox has some charts for you concerning our uniquely American problem — and, by inference, our uniquely American refusal to do anything about it.
Via MeFi, we find this NYTimes Magazine story: America’s Hidden HIV Epidemic, which asks the question “why do America’s black gay and bisexual men have a higher HIV rate than any country in the world?”
While the problem is nationwide, the story focusses on Mississippi — which, as it happens, will no longer offer free HIV tests through the Health Department after June 1, owing to budget cuts forced by the Republican supermajority in charge of the state.
The Jackson paper notes something also found in the NYTimes story: in Jackson, 40% of gay or bisexual men are HIV positive. Forty. Percent.
No, really. An astoundingly well preserved dinosaur fossil has been found; check it out.
You know about that whole “open fraudulent accounts to accrue fees” thing they did, like, two million times, right?
Well, many of those folks are suing Wells over this egregious behavior, which they should.
In response, Wells is arguing in court that, because these people agreed to binding arbitration when they opened their legitimate accounts, they shouldn’t be allowed to sue over the fraud. Wells will happily work through arbitration instead — and, of course, arbitration nearly always favors the corporation.
Frankly, if you’re an attorney arguing this in court, you’re a goddamn disgrace.
But it gets worse: some judges are buying it.
Well, maybe you can learn via counterexample, at least.
Step one is to establish extortionate long distance rates as the only possible way to talk to inmates. In the world you and I live in, long distance costs are effectively zero; not so for prisoners, where $14 a minute isn’t unheard of.
These rates are decided by legal limits, not actual costs; prison phone providers have repeatedly gone to court to prevent the FCC from imposing rate caps here; those suits are ongoing — but the cap is still a very high 11 cents per minute.
Step two? Eliminate actual visits in favor of video calls with absurdly high per-minute charges.
Travis County ended all in-person visitations in May 2013, leaving video visitation as the exclusive method for people on the outside to communicate with the incarcerated. But Travis County is only on the leading edge of a new technological trend that threatens to abolish in-person visitation across the country. Over 600 prisons in 46 states have some sort of video visitation system, and every year, more of those facilities do away with in-person visitation.
For the families of the 2.3 million incarcerated Americans nationwide, crippling costs are part and parcel of supporting a loved one in jail. A sweeping survey of families by the Ella Baker Center showed that more than 1 in 3 families goes into debt just to cover the costs of keeping in touch with their loved one. Of everyone pouring money into those systems, 87% are women.
These fees are the linchpin in an elaborate racket between telecommunications providers, prisons and local governments. The business model for the three major prison telecoms is built around long-term contracts that establish them as the sole provider in a given county or state. In order to win these contracts, the major companies promise each county or state “site commissions” — a euphemism for kickbacks. These deals are lucrative: In Los Angeles County, for example, it brings in a baseline, contractual guarantee of $15 million a year. In some counties, this money trickles back down to the prisons.
Both of these plans make it much, much more difficult for those inside to maintain relationships and connections with friends and family outside — which is absolutely counterproductive. Having an active, non-felon support network upon parole or release has been shown over and over to keep people from ending up back behind bars.
The minute you set up a system where people can literally get rich in the prison industry, you have fucked up, because rapacious soulless assholes will have absolutely zero problem screwing these people over. Repeatedly. The end result is a net higher cost to society, because the worse we make prison, the higher the recidivism rates go — which means we all end up paying Big Prison more money to house more prisoners for more years.
Prison operations companies and those that feed at the same trough see this as a feature, not a bug.
The situation in South Dakota highlights the insanity of this. South Dakota charges a defendant $92 an hour for his public defender, owed no matter the outcome of the case. If a public defender spends 10 hours proving that her client is innocent, the defendant still owes the lawyer $920, even though he committed no crime and his arrest was a mistake.
Failure to pay is a crime. Someone who qualifies as indigent may be acquitted, only to be convicted of being too poor to pay for the legal services the Constitution requires the state to provide.
Security expert Bruce Schneier weighs in. This is a guy who absolutely knows what he’s talking about:
The FBI’s demands are specific to one phone, which might make its request seem reasonable if you don’t consider the technological implications: Authorities have the phone in their lawful possession, and they only need help seeing what’s on it in case it can tell them something about how the San Bernardino shooters operated. But the hacked software the court and the FBI wants Apple to provide would be general. It would work on any phone of the same model. It has to.
Make no mistake; this is what a backdoor looks like. This is an existing vulnerability in iPhone security that could be exploited by anyone.
What the FBI wants to do would make us less secure, even though it’s in the name of keeping us safe from harm. Powerful governments, democratic and totalitarian alike, want access to user data for both law enforcement and social control. We cannot build a backdoor that only works for a particular type of government, or only in the presence of a particular court order.
Either everyone gets security or no one does.
You really should make time for this in-depth bit over at the Atlantic: What ISIS Really Wants.
If Meshal’s tormentors had been foreign officials, he could have sought a remedy under the Torture Victim Protection Act. Yet the majority holds that because of unspecified national security and foreign policy concerns, a United States citizen who was arbitrarily detained, tortured, and threatened with disappearance by United States law enforcement agents in Africa must be denied any remedy whatsoever.
This is awesome. Obviously, you can trade in oil futures, but what happens if you just try to buy a barrel of oil? Tracy Alloway found out.
The point of the exercise was to take part, in some small way, in the severe contango present in the oil market in 2008. Generally speaking, oil purchased for immediate delivery is much less expensive than oil purchased to be delivered at some future date, but in 2008 the differential was huge enough that those with the capacity to move and store large amounts of crude oil could buy, hold, and profit at a meaningful scale.
It took a few years to push the idea to execution, but Alloway did eventually pull it off (though at a smaller scale). The story’s hilarious, but this may be my favorite part:
A true oil storage trade therefore required an early buyer. The usual suspects—think Glencore and Trafigura—wouldn’t dream of touching my puny amount of oil, of course. So I looked farther afield, all the way to my ex-colleagues, who I thought surely still harbored those dreams of owning Black Gold.
Izabella Kaminska, a writer for FT Alphaville and an all-round commodities expert, expressed interest in the contract, then immediately embarked on a due diligence process that would make me rue the whole endeavor.
Unsatisfied with photos of the product, she recruited the services of a professional oil consultant for comfort. The consultant asked for a full inspector’s analysis report and a proof-of-origin certificate. All I had was a FedEx invoice, though I assured them both that I wouldn’t dream of peddling anything but top-shelf sweet crude.
“That [is] all good and well until you learn it’s not Bakken but Kurdish oil, under strict embargo. Well done [for] supporting ISIS,” the consultant replied by e-mail. Adding insult, the consultant informed me that the glass bottle was worth more than the oil inside it, anyway.
When I threatened to sell the oil to a far-friendlier former FT colleague, one without expert knowledge of commodities or the benefit of a sarcastic oil professional, I was accused of taking advantage of less-informed retail investors. Expletives followed.
The TSA has new pornoscanners.
Matt Taibbi: Sandra Bland Was Murdered:
So news broke yesterday that authorities in Waller County, Texas, have “full faith” that Sandra Bland committed suicide. They said there was “no evidence of a struggle” on the body of the 28-year-old African-American woman who was ludicrously jailed last week after an alleged lane change violation.
In related news, the Texas Department of Safety ruled that Brian Encina, the officer who arrested Bland, pulled her from her car, and threatened her with a Taser, had merely violated the state’s “courtesy policy.” The state said there was “no evidence” yet of criminal behavior on Encina’s part.
So barring something unexpected, we know now how this is going to play out in the media.
Many news outlets are going to engage in an indirect version of the usual blame-the-victim game by emphasizing the autopsy finding of suicide, questioning Bland’s mental health history, and by highlighting the reports of marijuana found in her system.
Beyond that, we can expect a slew of chin-scratching “legal analyses” concluding that while there may have been some minor impropriety on officer Encina’s part, the law governing police-motorist encounters is too “complicated” to make this anything more than a tragic accident.
Media scandals are like criminal trials. They’re about assigning blame. Because Bland may have technically taken her own life, the blame is now mostly going to fall on a woman with a history of depression and drugs, instead of on a criminal justice system that morally, if not legally, surely murdered Sandra Bland.
But nobody yet has dared to say Sandra Bland would still be alive today, if only she’d used her blinker. That’s a bridge too far even for TownHall.com types.
Suddenly even hardcore law-and-order enthusiasts are realizing the criminal code is so broad and littered with so many tiny technical prohibitions that a determined enough police officer can stop and/or arrest pretty much anybody at any time.
Bland was on her way to a new job at Prairie A&M university when she was pulled over for failing to signal when changing lanes, something roughly 100 percent of American drivers do on a regular basis. Irritated at being stopped, she was curt with Encina when he wrote her up. He didn’t like her attitude and decided to flex his muscles a little, asking her to put out her cigarette.
She balked, and that’s when things went sideways. Encina demanded that she get out of the car, reached for his Taser, said, “I’ll light you up,” and eventually threw her in jail.
Many editorialists following this narrative case suddenly noticed, as if for the first time, how much mischief can arise from the fact that a person may be arrested at any time for “failing to obey a lawful order,” which in the heat of the moment can mean just about anything.
If a cop wants to arrest you, he can arrest you. And very, very bad things can happen to you for which no one will ever be held accountable until and unless we drastically reform the way we police our society.
Three score and ten years ago today, on July 16, 1945: “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”
Apparently, it’s illegal to carry cash in the US, and the penalty is the loss of the cash.
There exists someone named Tokyo Sexwale who is neither an amorous, Japanese marine mammal nor a character in a Pynchon novel.
He is, of course, now leading a FIFA monitoring committee on Palestine.
Carry on. As best you can, anyway.
So Denny Hastert is in trouble. Mostly, my reaction is as you’d expect: depressed amusement at the predictability of a scolding hack getting popped for misconduct like this. But there’s more here, and you should delve into it, because what’s happening to him is really kind of alarming.
The always-on-point Ken White over at Popehat has written up an examination of the charges against Hastert and how they came to be, and if you’re not a little freaked out by the process I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Basically, the Federal prosecutors can target just about anyone and take them down because of how “creative” they can get with astonishingly broad interpretations of federal law that are generally supported by the courts. Put simply, if they decide they want you, they can get you. After all, you very probably commit Three Felonies A Day (more here); the extremely broad laws and broader interpretations give Federal prosecutors enormous power that is basically unchecked by anyone. “Trust us” is a shitty insurance policy against power of this nature.
Hastert isn’t going down for diddling little boys or for bribery. He’s not going down for fraud. He’s being charged with structuring transactions –his withdrawals were all less than $!0,000 — and for lying to the Feds about the purpose of the cash:
The indictment has mostly inspired chatter about what it doesn’t say. Hastert is charged with structuring withdrawals of less than $10,000 (so that they would not be reported to the IRS) so that he could pay off an unidentified person for Hastert’s unidentified past misconduct. What past misconduct, or threatened accusation of misconduct, could lead Hastert to pay $3.5 million? The indictment doesn’t say, but it has been drafted to imply that the allegation of past misconduct relates to Hastert’s job as a teacher and coach in Yorkville, Illinois. Hastert isn’t charged with doing anything to the accuser, and the accuser isn’t charged with extortion.
We imagine law enforcement operating like we see on TV: someone commits a crime, everyone knows what the crime is, law enforcement reacts by charging them with that crime. But that’s not how federal prosecution always works. Particularly with high-profile targets, federal prosecution is often an exercise in searching for a theory to prosecute someone that the feds would like to prosecute. (Emph. added)
The takeaway is simple:
From the citizen’s perspective, this situation points to one obvious conclusion: shut up. Never answer a federal agent’s questions without a thorough debriefing with a qualified lawyer first.
It may or may not be the case that Hastert did something terrible. In a free society, though, law enforcement must work within limits. If it’s the case that he molested boys, but no complaint was made at the time, and the statute of limitations has passed, it may be tempting to endorse the actions of the FBI and the federal prosecutors here, but that’s a bad path. The tactics in question are downright scary to me, even when applied to someone like Hastert.
Scores of low-flying planes circling American cities are part of a civilian air force operated by the FBI and obscured behind fictitious companies, The Associated Press has learned.
The AP traced at least 50 aircraft back to the FBI, and identified more than 100 flights in 11 states over a 30-day period since late April, orbiting both major cities and rural areas. At least 115 planes, including 90 Cessna aircraft, were mentioned in a federal budget document from 2009.
For decades, the planes have provided support to FBI surveillance operations on the ground. But now the aircraft are equipped with high-tech cameras, and in rare circumstances, technology capable of tracking thousands of cellphones, raising questions about how these surveillance flights affect Americans’ privacy.
It gets worse:
Basic aspects of the FBI’s program are withheld from the public in censored versions of official reports from the Justice Department’s inspector general, and the FBI also has been careful not to reveal its surveillance flights in court documents. The agency will not say how many planes are currently in its fleet.
The planes are equipped with technology that can capture video of unrelated criminal activity on the ground that could be handed over to prosecutions. One of the planes, photographed in flight last week by the AP in northern Virginia, bristled with unusual antennas under its fuselage and a camera on its left side.
Some of the aircraft can also be equipped with technology that can identify thousands of people below through the cellphones they carry, even if they’re not making a call or in public. Officials said that practice, which mimics cell towers and gets phones to reveal basic subscriber information, is used in only limited situations.
“These are not your grandparents’ surveillance aircraft,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union. Stanley said the flights are significant “if the federal government is maintaining a fleet of aircraft whose purpose is to circle over American cities, especially with the technology we know can be attached to those aircraft.”
The TSA missed 95% of weapons and explosives in an undercover test.
These people are fucking criminals, and should be fired, shunned, and jailed.
They are actively seeking out sleeper car passengers on Amtrak to harass, illegally search, and steal from. This is a regular practice.
The agents found nothing in Rivers’s belongings that indicated that he was involved with the drug trade: no drugs, no guns. They didn’t arrest him or charge him with a crime. But they took his cash anyway, every last cent, under the authority of the Justice Department’s civil asset forfeiture program.
There is no presumption of innocence under civil asset forfeiture laws. Rather, law enforcement officers only need to have a suspicion — in practice, often a vague one — that a person is involved with illegal activity in order to seize their property. On the highway, for instance, police may cite things like tinted windows, air fresheners or trash in the car, according to a Washington Post investigation last year.
Once property has been seized, the burden of proof falls on the defendant to get it back — even if the cops ultimately never charge them with a crime. “We don’t have to prove that the person is guilty,” an Albuquerque DEA agent told the Journal. “It’s that the money is presumed to be guilty.”
This means that the DEA can basically steal any cash they ever find, and the onus is on their victims to prove the money was legitimately theirs. Because the DEA overwhelmingly target young, poorer people, they rarely have the means to contest the seizures.
Frankly, I’d like to see a RICO action against the DEA generally. Maybe not everyone there is actively involved in these sorts of thefts, but by working they they enable what has become a fundamentally criminal enterprise — and by getting paid, they receive benefits at least in part because of these crimes.