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The memory of a beloved pet inspires one couple's fight against injustice.

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    Joe Biden and Doug Jones

    U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) has pretty much given Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden a pass on sexual-misconduct allegations, which is ironic given that Jones earned his seat largely because of sexual-misconduct allegations against his Republican opponent, Roy Moore.

    Do Jones' comments, coming in a Mother Jones podcast published yesterday, suggest he is angling to be running mate if Biden is nominated? The answer likely is yes. Could all of this go off the rails if reports prove true that Jones has a "special friendship" with a woman in Birmingham who is not his wife? On that, it's too early to say. But we are researching the matter and have learned the woman has experience with multiple law firms in the metro area.

    Yellowhammer News (YH),an Alabama right-wing Web site, reported yesterday on the Mother Jones podcast, with the headline "Jones says Biden sexual harassment allegations ‘distract’ from beating Trump – ‘We have to not be so judgmental’." First, we should note that no one has made sexual-harassment allegations against Biden; several women have said Biden sniffed their hair, hugged them, or touched them (usually on the shoulders) in ways they considered inappropriate or discomfiting. Vox has referred to it as Biden's "Creepy Uncle Joe" problem.

    As for Doug Jones, he has placed himself solidly in Biden's corner, according to YH:

    On a recent Mother Jones podcast, Jones early on in the interview brags about how Democrats are “on the right side of history.” Later on, he is asked if there are any particular Democratic presidential candidates he is “excited about” for 2020. Jones has previously pledged to back whomever the Democrats nominate against President Donald Trump in 2020, no matter how radical they are.

    Answering the host, Jones said, “I’m crazy about all of my Senate colleagues. They’re incredibly bright folks and have a lot to add to this upcoming primary season. I think it’s going to be very interesting to watch. … Obviously, I’ve been very candid about this in the past — my closest friend in this field of candidates has been someone I’ve known for 40 years. And that’s former Vice President Biden. And despite the issues that he’s faced, I still think that he has the ability to reach people from all ends of the political spectrum and govern this country.”

    While Jones made electoral hay with sexual-misconduct allegations against Roy Moore, he doesn't seem much concerned about similar allegations involving Joe Biden. From YH:

    While [Mother Jones] included this response in their transcript of the interview, they edited out what came next, when Jones spoke about “the issues” surrounding Biden.

    From the 21:30 – 25:10 mark in the podcast, Jones discusses Biden’s behavior with women and concludes that the allegations against him “distract” from the Democrats’ ultimate goal of beating Trump.

    Before reaching that conclusion, Jones’ remarks strayed well into “word salad” territory, with the junior senator saying at one point, “Where even what I believe to be, I won’t use the term ‘innocent’ because that’s probably not appropriate, but I don’t think Joe Biden ever had the kind of intention you had that in a harassing kind of way or an assaulting kind of way. But this is another step in an interesting movement and a very important movement for this country that we have to recognize more about the people on the receiving end.”

    When pressed on whether Biden’s intent matters or not, Jones then seemingly backtracked, saying, “No,” and adding that he was “not trying to mitigate” the allegations.

    Jones goes on to state that his primary concern is beating Donald Trump in 2020, and he seems to admit the "Creepy Uncle Joe" issue could be a problem. From a YH transcript of the podcast:

    HOST: So, follow up, is he saying the rights things on that, Biden? Like, is he actually meaningfully addressing the criticism that’s been waged at him?

    JONES: You know, it’s funny, I think he’s said some of the right things, I think he’s said some wrong things. I think the thing that people need to remember that it’s not for others to judge. It’s really for the people who are at the receiving end of that. They’re the ones that need, they’re the ones that need the reassurance, and I think this is another interesting, I think, and very important step in the movements that we’re seeing across America. Where even what I believe to be, I won’t use the term “innocent” because that’s probably not appropriate, but I don’t think Joe Biden ever had the kind of intention you had that in a harassing kind of way or an assaulting kind of way. But this is another step in an interesting movement and a very important movement for this country that we have to recognize more about the people on the receiving end. And I’ve said that for years anyway. I’ve said it about civil rights, I’ve said it about other things. It goes back to Atticus Finch, you gotta walk around in someone else’s shoes to see things from their point of view. And I think this is a very, very significant moment where more and more people are taking a look at that.

    HOST: Does Vice President Biden’s intention matter when it’s received in an awkward or maybe intimidating way?

    JONES: No, I mean, look, that’s what I’ve said a minute ago and I’m not trying to mitigate that at all. I think it’s not the intentions, it is the person who is on the other end of that. That’s what we have to be cognizant of. That’s why this is such an important moment. That it, you know, it’s one thing to harass, it’s one thing to assault but I think now what we’re seeing is that we’ve got to be so much more aware of someone else’s space. I think this is a very, very significant and important moment where we are in this country and recognize, particularly, the issues that every, I don’t want to say every, but just about every woman will face at some point in their lifetime, and I think it’s really significant. So, it’s not the intentions of folks like Joe or me or anybody else, it’s the woman that we’re talking to or shaking hands with.

    HOST: Do you think debates around this can sort of distract from the ultimate goal that Democrats have of beating Donald Trump?

    JONES:Oh, absolutely, I think a lot of things, I mean, I think, you know, President Obama this weekend in Berlin at the Obama Foundation was talking about Democrats having a circular firing squad over things that are important but not something that can win the election.

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    Matt Osborne
    After engaging in a substantial back-and-forth with me, Dry Alabama scammer Matt Osborne pulled a surprise by producing some evidence that actually did illuminate issues we had been discussing. But in keeping with his underhanded tendencies, Osborne tried to blame my wife, Carol, for being "confused" and "wrong"when she had not written the first word in our discussion. In fact, I was acting as translator for Carol on Osborne's jumbled ramblings, and any confusion was caused by Osborne or me, trying to grasp events that happened at our home while I was in jail.

    Osborne left the following comment, on our April 17 post, at 11:42 a.m. on April 19:

    Matt Osborne said...

    Roger, ask Carol if these words are familiar:

    "Me and the kitties got plenty of sleep yesterday. And I woke in the evening to feed them and I discovered your wonderful gift on the front porch which I can't wait to try. BTW.
    then I had a chicken sandwich for later dinner. So it was low-key to say the least.
    And I agree about it being any number of bloggers etc. These folks are psycho!! I'm trying not to let them get me down. The latest worry is spark coming out of our icemaker inside our ancient freezer. I was banging on it. Yikes!! But it is not hooked up to make ice. I may need to get a couple screw drivers, flip the circuit breaker and get the dang thing out of there! It serves no purpose whatsoever. Roger and I had talked about removing it before the arrest. I just hope it doesn't cause a fire. Now I'm scared to go to sleep But I need to just not banf (bang) it in the future."

    (Note: Carol's reference to her late dinner being "low-key, to say the least." That suggests this was on date where she normally would have a special meal. Carol believes it was around Thanksgiving or Christmas, which would have been 1-2 months after the Osborne visit to our home, around Halloween.)

    ^^^ This is the text of the Facebook email that Carol sent to thank Melissa for the food, including typos. Melissa is under no obligation to put her account number on display for your satisfaction. No one is ever under an obligation to prove they sent you a gift 5.5 years ago just because you can't remember it.

    When I arrived at the house with my girlfriend, Carol was expecting us, invited us both in the door. Then she showed us where you had been arrested in the basement and my girlfriend held the camera while Carol told us what had occurred in there. A lot of concerned people were very interested to see that video and the photos I took. Good luck getting any law enforcement agency to act on your complaint of an unarmed home invasion by a couple of people trying to help your wife.

    As for who told me about your brothers: YOU DID. You have written several blog posts about them. See:

    https://legalschnauzer.blogspot.com/2016/11/here-is-ex-parte-letter-that-my-brother.html

    And:

    https://legalschnauzer.blogspot.com/2015/10/my-brothers-are-trying-to-turn-missouri.html 
     
    Do you now deny ever writing these blog posts, you funny little man?


    Osborne seemed to think he had a "gotcha moment" here. But I'm not sure how he figured that, given that -- as usual -- he has a slippery grip on the truth:

    legalschnauzer said...
    Matt:

    Yes, those words are familiar to Carol because she wrote them to Melissa, thinking she had met her when you came to our home. As for the food, Carol remembers you and your companion bringing a bag of grocery items with you when you came to our home. She doesn't remember a food basket appearing on our doorstep, but so much was going on during that time period, her mind likely was jumbled. At that point, Carol was running the risk of being arrested every time she opened the door. You can ask your friend Doug Jones about that because I'm sure he knows details about my arrest, theft of our home, the cheat jobs on our employment, etc. If not, he can find out from his friends Rob Riley and Luther Strange.

    Carol does remember the ice-maker issue, and she obviously thanked Melissa, so there must have been a food basket. I hope you have some appreciation for the fact that, a few days earlier, Carol had come upon a scene in our basement that made her think her husband had been murdered -- as it turned out, I had only been kidnapped. But either way, that kind of thing knocks your world off its axis and your current utter lack of empathy for what we went through is a little creepy for someone who claims to be a liberal, caring about a free press, First Amendment, civil rights, etc.

     I can only attribute that change to your affiliation with Doug Jones, however far back it goes. Jones is sort of the William Barr of insurance fraud, as practiced by U of Alabama honcho Paul Bryant Jr. As U.S. attorney in Bham, Jones let Bryant and his Alabama Reassurance Co. get away with millions of dollars in insurance fraud from a case that already had been proven in Philadelphia. That's one of many reasons I find Jones to be a repugnant individual, but perhaps you will discover that on your own someday. BTW, I sure can understand why Melissa blocked Carol on Facebook, given the traumatizing "pathos" of our ice-maker issue.

    Another thought or two:

    (1) Regarding possible trespass, I'm talking about a civil case, which still is within the six-year statute of limitations. I'm not necessarily looking forward to bringing such a claim, but it remains a possibility -- especially since you continue to insult and trash both of us, giving us reason to believe you entered our home under false pretenses, that you never were there to actually help. (Plus, it's clear the journalists who have disproven my reporting do not exist, so you have no real reason to have soured on me or my work. That's only happened because of Doug Jones.) The possibility of ulterior motives becomes even stronger now that we know you have a taste for acting under fraudulent and deceptive circumstances. You might think your "funny little man" comment is clever, but it is just digging your liability hole deeper. (BTW, I might be a lot of things, but I'm not little; I'm 6-4, 215, and that's not a Trump tale. I also tend to be good-natured, but it's a simple fact that I'm not "little.")

    (2) Of course I wrote those posts about my brothers. But you claimed they were trying to "help" us, and you certainly could not have gotten that from those posts. In fact, both posts you cite are about my brothers (especially David, the lawyer) making abusive use of the court system to hurt us. And their "incapacitated" case was so weak that even a Missouri judge dismissed it for lack of evidence. Specifically, I think David and Paul asked for it to be dismissed because they seemingly admitted they had no evidence. Bottom line: You didn't get info about my brothers "helping" us from my posts, so it must have come from somewhere else. Maybe "RogerS" told you. Oh wait, he doesn't exist either.

    Before receiving a reply from Osborne, I decided to add a few facts about my family, an issue with which Osborne clearly is uninformed:

    legalschnauzer said...
    Matt:

    I have to chuckle that you, a supposed liberal, would try to put positive spin on my brothers, both of whom are avowed Trumpists and right-wingers. Both of them, as I understand it, are serious racists. Paul, I'm told, made sport out of calling Michele Obama a "gorilla." David used to bitch about black students getting scholarships in law school. Even David's special-needs, teen-age son is a Trumper, though he probably would never have health care if Trump had his way.

    I never heard a racist thought within my family growing up, but when I moved to Birmingham, my brothers apparently took over and brought Kluxerism (or something like it) to the forefront. My understanding is that my mother was horrified to see black people, quite a few of them, at our wedding. They were our friends, and I think that turned my mother against Carol, deciding it was Carol's fault that we lived in Birmingham among the "darkies." I think my mother also was convinced Carol turned me into a n----r loving liberal, even though I had generally been a Democrat for as long as I can remember -- casting my first vote for Jimmy Carter, although being stupid enough to vote for Reagan and Bush I in the '80s.

    You have a tendency to mouth off about things you know nothing about. You absolutely have no clue about my brothers. Among my whole family, I'm pretty sure Carol and I are the only liberals, the ones who believe in equal rights based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, LGBLT, etc. I have one niece, Erin, who is a physician and might be a lib, but I'm pretty sure she's the only possible non-Bush/Trumper, besides Carol and me.

    And you spend your time calling us kooks because Doug Jones doesn't like my (accurate) journalism? You truly are a misguided soul.

    Try thinking for yourself, funny little man.

    Osborne then seemed determined to prove Carol got something "wrong," even though she had not directly engaged in our conversation for even one word:

    Matt Osborne said...
    " . . . thinking she had met her when you came to our home";

    So you now admit Carol is confused, good

    " . . . As for the food, Carol remembers you and your companion bringing a bag of grocery items with you when you came to our home";

    Yes, this is what nefarious agents of Doug Jones do, we all bring groceries to your door, we are sinister little grocery elves

    " . . . She doesn't remember a food basket appearing on our doorstep, but so much was going on during that time period, her mind likely was jumbled";

    So glad you can admit Carol is wrong.

    Your threats to sue are hilarious. Bring it on if you are so confident. I DEMAND that you initiate this litigation immediately.

    I decided to set a few things straight, since Osborne (known as a disinformation practitioner) obviously could not do it:

    legalschnauzer said...
    Matt:

    Carol doesn't admit that she is wrong or confused about anything and neither do I. In this back and forth via blog comments and Twitter, Carol has not written one word. If you can find a word she's written, let me know. If you want to discuss it with her directly, give it a shot.

    I've tried to translate your confused ramblings and asked her about a couple of things, but any confusion comes from my struggle to convey what you were trying to say, between all the insults and spitball tosses. I told her that you seemed to be claiming that you and your female friend presented Carol with a food basket when you came to our house somewhere around Halloween (Oct. 30?). Carol said, "No, they gave me a regular bag of groceries." And you now admit she was right about that. The food basket apparently arrived at some later date, from a person (Melissa Brewer) you claim Carol had never met. What date did Melissa send the food basket? How big a gap was there between the two food events?

    Carol received a number of care packages during that time, and she was grateful for all of them. But I told her I thought you said you and your friend gave her a food basket at our house, and Carol said, "No, it was a bag of groceries." And she's right. As for me, I was in jail, so I don't know what happened, and I'm probably a pretty bad translator on these issues.

    The food bag/basket issue seems meaningless to me, and I wonder why you are obsessed with it. As for someone being wrong on substantive issues, let's look at your track record:

    (1) You are wrong about the law on interfering with a federal election;

    (2) You are wrong about the law re: the meaning of the word "scam";

    (3) You are wrong about journalists "disproving" my reporting;

    (4) You are wrong about my brothers trying to "help" us;

    On top of that . . .

    (1) You don't deny asking around about access to our computer;

    (2) You seem to admit that you are an agent for Doug Jones -- and apparently have been for some time.

    Finally, any lawsuit Carol and I might file will come when we are ready, within the statute of limitations -- and we have several months to decide on that. If it happens, you will be among the first to know.

    To end things on a lighter note, here is "Funny Little Man," a lovely tune from Seals and Crofts classic 1972 album Summer Breeze. The album is filled with great stuff and long has been one of my favorites. When Osborne pulled his "funny little man" line, I immediately thought of Seals and Crofts -- and my copy of Summer Breeze, which was lost in the bogus foreclosure on our home:







    Now that I'm on a Seals and Crofts roll, I can't get off. The duo were known mostly for ballads, but here is another song from Summer Breeze, a rocker called "Say":




    Finally, we have one of my long-time favorites, called "Advance Guards." It almost sounds like a children's song to me, but I think it's about a heavy subject -- thinking back over your life in the minutes before confronting possible death. Not sure if my interpretation is correct, but 45 years after I first heard it, the song still resonates. "Advance Guards" also is from Summer Breeze, but this is a live version:



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    Michael Smirnoff

    An Alabama police officer has pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges of violating a man's civil rights by repeatedly assaulting him while he was handcuffed.

    The case of former Tallassee officer Michael Smirnoff shows, in some cases, our "federal justice apparatus," takes criminal violations of civil-rights laws seriously and seeks to hold rogue officers accountable. When taken in conjunction with my own case of being beaten and wrongfully arrested by Shelby County deputies inside my own home, the Smirnoff case also shows the feds can look the other way when an instance of police misconduct goes beyond a crooked street cop to include crooked legal and political figures.

    The bottom-line question: Why did FBI and U.S. attorney officials in Alabama pursue the Smirnoff case, while (so far) we see no signs that they've done anything on my case. Are Chris Blevins and Jason Valenti -- the Shelby County thugs who unlawfully entered our home, beat me up, doused me with pepper spray, threatened to break my arms, and hauled me to jail for a five-month stay (with no whiff of a criminal allegation) -- supposed to get a free pass? Are Blevins and Valenti protected because their criminal acts were driven by political/legal figures -- likely including attorney Rob Riley, lobbyist Liberty Duke, former Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, attorney Jessica Medeiros Garrison, U.S. Judge Bill Pryor, and former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), among others?

    Do the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) practice a form of white privilege, where bad cops get away with criminal acts if they are committed at the behest of white, conservative political figures? But a thuggish cop gets nailed if he, like Smirnoff, acted essentially as a lone wolf?

    Our experience indicates the answer to both questions is yes. It certainly is not because the feds don't know about my case. First, it received national and international news coverage. Second, I contacted two FBI offices in Alabama, and to my knowledge, they've done nothing.

    On November 19, 2018, I contacted Susan Hansen, of the Montgomery FBI Office, and told her about my experience in Shelby County with officers Blevins and Valenti. I had read about her involvement with the Smirnoff case, and that's why I contacted her, even though I figured jurisdiction on my case probably would rest in Birmingham. Ms. Hansen took down details about my case and treated me in a professional manner, but as I expected, she said the matter was outside her purview, and it would need to go to the Birmingham office. She said she would pass along the information to her counterpart in Birmingham, Cornelius Harris.

    Chris Blevins
    I took the extra step of contacting Mr. Harris in Birmingham and leaving a detailed voice message with him. I've never heard from him. Did Mr. Harris ignore my phone message and toss the info from Ms. Hansen in the trash? Did he take a genuine interest in the case, only to have his superiors -- Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. and U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama Jay Town -- short-circuit it for political reasons?

    The answers to those questions are unknown at the moment, but it's clear I was beaten, kidnapped, and incarcerated for political reasons, and it's likely a cover-up is under way for political reasons.

    As for Michael Smirnoff, how did he get in trouble? From a report at al.com:

    According to the guilty plea, Smirnoff was on duty as an investigator in March 2016 when he used his patrol car to pursue a 24-year-old man who was on a four-wheeler. After the pursuit, the victim stepped off his four-wheeler, laid face down on the ground, and allowed several Tallassee police officers to handcuff him.

    While the man was handcuffed, authorities said, Smirnoff lifted him into the air and then slammed him to the ground. Smirnoff then repeated the assault. Moments later, before Smirnoff placed the victim into his patrol car, Smirnoff slammed the victim’s head into the side of the vehicle. For each assault, the victim was handcuffed, compliant, and did not pose a threat, Franklin said.

    Smirnoff faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. His sentencing has been set for July 18.

    Chris Blevins and Jason Valenti should be facing similar punishment. But it appears they haven't even been investigated. Of course, if powerful figures are pressuring the feds to lay off Blevins and Valenti, that itself is a crime -- obstruction of justice. Those who know about the offense, but have failed to report it to the "proper tribunal" also are committing a federal crime -- misprision of a felony.

    Does law enforcement in Alabama take police misconduct conduct seriously, in general, or only in certain cases? Consider these words from Middle District U.S Attorney Louis Franklin and his assistant, Eric Drieband:


    “Police officers who willfully use excessive force not only violate the Constitution, they erode the public trust in law enforcement,” Drieband said in a prepared statement. 
    “It is especially important in a climate of distrust between law enforcement and the public, that officers act ethically and within the bounds of the law,” Franklin said. “This police officer’s brutal behavior was unacceptable and criminal. He violated this young man’s constitutional rights and the trust placed in law enforcement officers to faithfully, ethically, and morally enforce the law. You can be sure that anytime an officer steps over the line and into criminal behavior, as this one did, my office will hold that individual accountable.”

    Should the public take those statements seriously or consider them empty words?

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    Morris Dees

    With the recent departure of three top executives, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is in such disarray that one news outlet reported "the wheels had come off" at the venerated civil-rights organization in Montgomery, Alabama.

    In dozens of news accounts about the firing of founder Morris Dees and the resignations of president Richard Cohen and legal director Rhonda Brownstein, the same theme appears over and over: The SPLC has not been what it appeared to be for years; it essentially is a fraudulent organization, finally facing a reckoning amid multiple reports from staffers about racial and gender discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace -- the very issues SPLC supposedly was designed to fight.

    Another recurring theme: The SPLC mostly is about fundraising, with limited concerns about actual justice. From my former home base in Birmingham, AL, I've heard for years about dysfunction and phoniness at the SPLC. Ultimately, the organization's disinterest in fighting for constitutional rights hit home in a personal way.

    The situation at SPLC is so dire that prominent voices are calling for a federal investigation. From The Washington Post, written by former Montgomery Advertiser managing editor Jim Tharpe:

    Dees has said little about why he was shown the door after 48 years at the organization he had come to define. But to those of us familiar with the SPLC and its inner workings, the allegations swirling around the latest drama were familiar. The question isn't what went wrong at the SPLC; it is why it took so long for the rest of the country to learn what local reporters already knew. It will probably take a federal investigation to fully unravel this Deep South mystery and provide a credible, long-term fix.

    More than two decades ago, I was managing editor of the Montgomery Advertiser, which was located one block from the SPLC in downtown Montgomery, Alabama. I proposed an investigation into the organization after ongoing complaints from former SPLC staffers, who came and went with regularity but always seemed to tell the same story. Only the names and faces changed. The SPLC, they said, was not what it appeared to be. Many urged the newspaper to take a look. . . .

    In February 1994, after three years of research, the Advertiser published an eight-part series titled "Rising Fortunes: Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center" that found a litany of problems and questionable practices at the SPLC, including a deeply troubled history with its relatively few black employees, some of whom reported hearing the use of racial slurs by the organization's staff and others who "likened the center to a plantation"; misleading donors with aggressive direct-mail tactics; exaggerating its accomplishments; spending most of its money not on programs but on raising more money; and paying its top staffers (including Dees and Cohen) lavish salaries.

    What should be the focus of such an investigation? Tharpe provides insights:

    Any investigation should take a close look at the SPLC's finances. It should look at what the center has told donors in its mail solicitations over the years. And it should take a close look at how that donor money has been spent. Investigators should also look at how SPLC staffers have been treated over the years. Where was the center's board when this mistreatment was going on? And why did no one step up sooner?

    The feds owe that to the young progressives who work at the SPLC. And they certainly owe that to the donors who have put their own first-class stamps on the checks they mailed to Montgomery.

    Multiple press reports suggest Morris Dees' primary talent, since founding SPLC in 1971, has been separating liberals from boatloads of cash. On the flip side, he and his staff -- while promoting the notion that "hate groups" are proliferating in America -- did relatively little to stand up for those whose civil rights had been violated, often by judges, lawyers, bar associations (the legal tribe), law enforcement, and conservative politicians.

    Ray Scott
    In fact, we now know Dees long has been in bed with the very entities that tend to abuse civil rights. One source who has seen Dees operate in an up-close way tells Legal Schnauzer that Dees has a history of manipulating courts -- especially the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta -- to help ensure his allies receive favorable treatment. If this means sucking up to Republicans -- even those with records of opposing civil rights -- Dees is willing to do it.

    Some have suggested SPLC practices a form of reverse racism, against white people. From National Vanguard:

    The SPLC works closely with the judiciary, law enforcement, secret police agencies, the media, and academia to quash the rights of White Americans by targeting, terrorizing, and destroying them and their families emotionally, reputationally, economically, and organizationally. . . .

    In 2001 the morally bankrupt American Bar Association published a ghost-written hagiography “by” Dees called A Lawyer’s Journey: The Morris Dees Story. The real author is named Steve Fiffer. The book carried cover blurbs by Jimmy Carter, Kurt Vonnegut, and Establishment Black icons Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King. Amazon’s “customer reviews” seem to have been doctored to present a glowing picture of readers’ opinions.

    Is National Vanguard over the top on some of this? Perhaps, but the record is clear that Dees has enjoyed a cozy relationship with law enforcement, courts, and the legal establishment -- all entities that are riddled with corruption and tendencies to quash due-process rights.

    For a supposed civil-rights icon, Morris Dees has kept curious company over the years. Some examples:

    * Dees long has been close to Ray Scott, founder of the Bass Anglers Sportsman's Society (B.A.S.S.) and friend of the Bush family. A 2003 affidavit from Missouri lawyer Paul Benton Weeks provides details about the relationship between Dees, Scott, B.A.S.S., and the right-wing Bushies. From item No. 45 of the Weeks affidavit, focusing partly on former federal judge Ira DeMent, who had been appointed to hear a lawsuit against B.A.S.S.-- in which Weeks served as a plaintiff's lawyer:

    Simply doing my job, I researched Judge DeMent's background and discovered that while serving as an Alabama U.S. attorney, Mr. DeMent was involved in three of the 1970 B.A.S.S. anti-pollution suits and had been told in a letter by a B.A.S.S., Inc. attorney (Morris Dees) that B.A.S.S. is a"national association. . . . " My research and investigation led to other information suggesting that Judge DeMent might have knowledge of facts material to the B.A.S.S. case.

    So, we learn that Dees represented B.A.S.S. and had a tendency to write curious communications to a federal judge presiding over a case involving B.A.S.S. As for Ray Scott and the Bushes, Weeks provides more insight:

    There are also politics at work in the B.A.S.S. case. Since the late 1970s, Ray Scott has used his (ill-gotten) wealth and prominence to align with the Bushes. In a 1999 vanity-press biography, Scott repeatedly mentions his connection with the Bushes. . . . Scott'sbiography reports that both father and son Bush have helped Scott when requested.

    Scott's 1999 biography also suggests that Scott enjoys special access with Gov. Bush, now President of the United States and a "life member of B.A.S.S."Scott is also quoted in this book as saying that:"George W. told me that outside his father and family, the two men who had the most profound effect on his life were Billy Graham and Ray Scott. One had taught him about faith and the other about bass fishing."

    Ray Scott's claim to enjoy a special connection with the Bush family is not mere braggadocio. Former President Bush wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal in January 1996 criticizing the WSJ for publishing its December 13, 1995, article about the B.A.S.S. case and its obvious merit.

    * Dees has other curious ties to right-wingers, perhaps most notably with Edward Carnes, current chief judge of the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. While chief of the Capital Punishment Division in the Alabama Attorney General's Office, Carnes earned the nickname "Death Penalty Ed." Carnes' background was as a solid opponent of civil rights, but Dees pushed for his elevation to the Eleventh Circuit anyway. From an article titled "King of Fearmongers," at the Weekly Standard:

    Dees further alienated opponents of the death penalty—and Southern liberals in general—by successfully lobbying the Senate in 1992 to confirm George H. W. Bush’s nomination of Edward Carnes, head of the capital-punishment unit of the Alabama attorney general’s office and a leading death-penalty advocate, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.“He was up in Washington staying at the Four Seasons Hotel [in Georgetown] and lobbying Congress every day,” recalls Stephen B. Bright, a Yale law professor and president of the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights, a criminal-justice public-interest law firm that opposed the Carnes nomination. “He was the great Morris Dees, so he gave cover to the Democrats in Congress to vote to confirm Carnes,” said Bright in a telephone interview. Bright’s Southern Center has a $2 million annual budget, with nine staff lawyers pulling down relatively modest salaries. “Their annual budget is $30 million,” said Bright of the SPLC, “and we accomplish more than they do with a lot less.” Bright called Dees “a shyster if there ever was one—Morris is a con man.”

    Why did Dees push so hard for Carnes to be planted on the Eleventh Circuit? Sources tell us it's because Carnes gives Dees a favorable ear on the appellate court, that Carnes essentially serves as a fixer for the SPLC and its allies. Here is more on the nomination from The New York Times:

    As the Senate prepares to vote . . . on the nomination of Edward E. Carnes to be a Federal appeals court judge, some civil rights groups are trying to dispel the perception of a split in their ranks on the nomination, which they say they unequivocally oppose.

    But there is no question that the nomination of Mr. Carnes, an Alabama assistant attorney general, to succeed Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr. of Alabama, who is widely revered as a hero of the civil rights era, has caused a rift among forces generally considered to be allies.

    Edward Carnes
    That rift centers on Morris Dees, the crusading Alabama lawyer and foe of the Ku Klux Klan, who since January has aggressively championed the nomination of the 42-year-old Mr. Carnes, who is often referred to by critics as Alabama's chief defender of the death penalty. It has been Mr. Dees more than anyone else who has kept the nomination afloat in the increasingly choppy waters of controversy.

    Those who oppose Mr. Carnes include civil rights groups like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and figures like Coretta Scott King and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Most cite Mr. Carnes's support of the death penalty, but they also criticize his lack of experience in other areas of the law and his efforts to limit inmates' appeals to the Federal courts.

    Mr. Dees, although himself an opponent of the death penalty, says he supports Mr. Carnes because he is fair and progressive on racial issues. As founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which runs educational programs on racial tolerance as well as battles white supremacists, Mr. Dees carries weight in the Senate.

    Perhaps that kind of underhandedness and manipulation of the court system, plus his lack of genuine concern for the rights of others, led to Morris Dees' downfall at SPLC. From a recent article titled "The Southern Poverty Law Center Is Everything That's Wrong With Liberalism," from currentaffairs.org:

    The Southern Poverty Law Center perfectly shows social change done wrong. It was a top-down organization controlled by an incompetent and venal leadership.* It was hypocritical in the extreme, preaching anti-racism while fostering a racist internal culture and being led by men whose own commitment to equality was questionable. It didn’t care about listening to and incorporating the viewpoints of the people it was supposed to serve. It was obscenely rich in a time of terrible poverty, and squandered much its considerable wealth. Finally, it picked the wrong political targets, and focused on symbolic over substantive change. Each of these practices goes beyond the SPLC, and is endemic to a certain kind of “elite liberalism” that desires “progress” without sacrifice. It is the kind of liberalism recognized by Phil Ochs in 1966, and its chief characteristics are a deep hypocrisy and a lack of willingness to seriously challenge the status quo.

    What the SPLC doesn’t do with its money is a problem. But there is also a problem with what it does do. The story here has been told many times: After beginning as something vaguely resembling a “poverty law” firm in the ’70s, and winning a number of important anti-discrimination fights, the SPLC turned much of its attention to going after “hate groups.” It pursued the Ku Klux Klan in court on behalf of its victims, winning large judgments. Over time, it began to track “hate” across the country, and it now has a 15-person staff producing “intelligence reports” on hate groups.

    I know how the SPLC's fraudulent act plays out in real life. I've seen the impact it has on victims of injustice.


    (To be continued)

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    William Barr

    As U.S. Attorney General William Barr faced grilling before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday over his handling of the Mueller Report, hardly anyone (among lawmakers and news analysts) mentioned Vol. 1 of the report -- the part about possible collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russian officials.

    It was as if Barr's finding (and Mueller's) of "no collusion" is widely accepted as accurate, with the only remaining questions surrounding obstruction of justice. But a report from a prominent think tank, released more than five months before the redacted Mueller Report became public, raises serious questions about the accuracy of the "no collusion" finding. In other words, Team Trump is no more home free on collusion (the legal term is conspiracy) than it is on obstruction.

    The Brookings Institution, on Oct. 31, 2018, issued a report titled "Considering Collusion: A Primer On Potential Crimes." It showed that publicly available information at the time pointed to violations of 18 U.S.C. 371 (Conspiracy to defraud the United States), and it named names -- specifically Roger Stone and Donald Trump Jr.

    We've already shown that Barr lied to the American people about the law governing hacking of Democratic Party emails and possible dissemination by Team Trump and/or Russians. But it's almost as if the Brookings Institution knew Barr, or someone involved in the investigatory process, would try to claim there was "insufficient evidence" of collusion -- and Brookings makes a powerful case, well ahead of the Mueller Report's release, that such claims are not based in fact or law.

    Before focusing on the facts of possible collusion, Brookings spells out the law (pp. 16-17 of report):

    A conspiracy requires that the parties share the same agreement to defraud. An affiliate of the Trump campaign could potentially be criminally liable as a co-conspirator of the indicted Russian defendants if he or she agreed to participate in Russia’s scheme to impair any of these government functions—the most likely being interference with the FEC’s regulation of campaign expenditures. We now know that Trump campaign officials reportedly had at least 82 contacts with Russian individuals and officials during the 2016 election cycle, including the now infamous meeting at Trump Tower between Russian nationals and senior members of the Trump campaign. Those contacts potentially presented opportunities to agree to support Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    But even without evidence of an explicit agreement between co-conspirators, courts permit triers of fact to infer the presence of an agreement based entirely on circumstantial evidence due to the secretive nature of conspiracies. [See United States v. Wardell, 591 F.3d 1279, 1287 (10th Cir. 2009)]. Relevant circumstantial evidence includes: concert of action among co-defendants [See United States v. Fisch, 851 F.3d 402, 407 (5th Cir. 2017)], the relationship among co-defendants, negotiations in furtherance of the conspiracy, mutual representations to third parties, and evidence suggesting “unity of purpose or common design or understanding among conspirators to achieve the goals of the conspiracy.” [See Wardell, 591 F.3d at 1287-88].

    Key note: Circumstantial evidence can prove a conspiracy? Have we heard anything about circumstantial evidence from either Barr or Mueller? I'm not aware of it. Brookings then shows that extensive digging is not required on this issue in the Trump-Russia probe; the facts already were in the public realm:

    Based on the known facts, there already is circumstantial evidence of possible agreements by Trump associates to conspire with the Russians. Two episodes potentially relevant to the agreement analysis are detailed in the July 13, 2018, indictment filed by the special counsel’s office against twelve Russian military intelligence officials:

    The first such episode involved Roger Stone:

    On August 15, 2016, Russian military officers posing as Guccifer 2.0 sent a direct message via Twitter to Roger Stone (described in the indictment as “a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign”) thanking Stone for “writing back” and asking him “do u find anyt[h]ing interesting in the docs i posted.” Two days later, Guccifer 2.0 added, “please tell me if i can help u anyhow it would be a great pleasure to me.” On August 21, 2016, Stone tweeted, “Trust me, it will soon [be] Podesta’s time in the barrel.” On September 9, 2016, Guccifer 2.0 and Stone discussed a document stolen from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that detailed voter turnout methods.

    Is this circumstantial evidence of "concert of action" and "unity of purpose" that points to conspiracy, under the law. Do these written documents go beyond circumstantial evidence?

    The second episode involved Donald Trump Jr.:

    On October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks (described in the indictment as “Organization 1”) released the first set of emails that Russian operatives had stolen from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. Although not detailed in the special counsel’s indictment, we know that Donald Trump Jr. was in direct contact with WikiLeaks during this time. On October 12, 2016, WikiLeaks contacted Donald Trump Jr. via Twitter to suggest that then-candidate Trump tweet a link to the stolen emails. Fifteen minutes later, candidate Trump tweeted: “Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!” On October 14, 2016, Trump Jr. tweeted the same link to Podesta’s stolen emails. If there is evidence of additional contacts between WikiLeaks and the campaign—particularly any contacts before October 7—that evidence would be probative of whether there was an agreement.

    Trump Jr. did exactly what WikiLeaks asked regarding stolen emails. That's not "concert of action"?

    Brookings then provides more legal analysis that shows why Stone and Trump Jr. should be in serious legal doo-doo:

    In addition to sharing an agreement to impair a government function, each participant in a defraud-clause conspiracy must have known of the illegal goal and willfully joined the unlawful plan. Evidence need not show that a conspirator had specific knowledge of the regulations or government functions alleged to have been impaired. The government must only show that the defendant had “a general awareness” of the scope and objective of the plan, not necessarily that a defendant knew every detail.

    Therefore, a Trump affiliate could potentially be criminally liable so long as he or she had knowledge of Russia’s plan to disseminate hacked emails; he or she need not also have had knowledge of the means and methods of Russian hacking. Nor would American co-conspirators need to have known that Russia’s hacking and dissemination of campaign-related emails impaired the FEC’s ability to carry out its regulatory mission. Similar to proving an agreement to enter a conspiracy under Section 371,knowledge may be established using circumstantial evidence. Intent to defraud the United States may also be inferred from circumstantial evidence related to “the relationship of the parties, their overt acts, and the totality of their conduct. . . .

    Accordingly, evidence that tends to show President Trump or his associates attempted to conceal interactions with Russian nationals, helped guide Russia’s social media influence efforts, or attempted to direct the distribution of stolen emails could be used to prove intent to join a conspiracy. Of the reported facts, Roger Stone’s purported technical and sustained discussions of stolen campaign documents with Russian military officers posing as Guccifer 2.0 tends to show the type of active participation that courts have found sufficient to infer intent to participate in a conspiracy to defraud.

    I would argue that Trump Jr.'s actions were at least as incriminating as Stone's. But Mueller can't find circumstantial evidence of a conspiracy? After yesterday's hearing, I'm not sure any rational American takes William Barr seriously. A lot of Americans take Mueller seriously, but the weak language in his redacted report raises questions about whether that trust is misplaced.

    How did Mueller reach his "no collusion" finding? That's hard to say, given that huge chunks of his "Prosecutions and Declination Decisions" section (pp. 174-199) have been redacted. The closest we get to an explanation from Mueller is found on page 181 of his report:

    The investigation did not establish that the contacts described in Volume I, Section IV, supra, amounted to an agreement to commit any substantive violation of federal criminal law-including foreign-influence and campaign-finance laws, both of which are discussed further below. The Office therefore did not charge any individual associated with the Trump Campaign with conspiracy to commit a federal offense arising from Russia contacts, either under a specific statute or under Section 371 's offenses clause

    The Office also did not charge any campaign official or associate with a conspiracy under Section 371 's defraud clause. That clause criminalizes participating in an agreement to obstruct a lawful function of the U.S. government or its agencies through deceitful or dishonest means. . . . The investigation did not establish any agreement among Campaign officials or between such officials and Russia-linked individuals-to interfere with or obstruct a lawful function of a government agency during the campaign or transition period. . . .

    The investigation did not identify evidence that any Campaign official or associate knowingly and intentionally participated in the conspiracy to defraud that the Office charged, namely, the active-measures conspiracy. . . . Accordingly, the Office did not charge any Campaign associate or other U.S. person with conspiracy to defraud the United States based on the Russia-related contacts. . . .

    As Brookings shows, all of these elements can be shown via circumstantial evidence. But Mueller and his elite band of investigators could not manage to do that? Unbelievable. Perhaps someone forced them to use an impossibly high evidentiary standard, one that does not exist under the law?

    Mueller is using a lot of "trust me" language here in his report. He feeds the public phrases such as "the investigation did not establish any agreement" or "the investigation did not identify evidence," while providing few specifics about how his office reached its conclusions on collusion. Release of evidentiary materials might be the key to understanding his actions.

    After Barr's combative and deceptive performance yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee -- and his decision to skip a hearing today before the House Judiciary Committee -- a number of Democrats are calling for his resignation or impeachment. But Democrats should not give Mueller a free pass; he needs to be questioned thoroughly and aggressively, especially on the matter of collusion.

    The Mueller Report, as we have it right now, hardly is a model of clarity and transparency on that issue. The public needs to know why.

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    From propublica.com

    Child-pornography charges have been dropped in more than a dozen recent instances around the country because defense attorneys raised questions about software tools used to investigate such cases.

    Could the pending U.S. v. Scott J. Wells case in the Western District of Missouri, which we have covered extensively, produce such a result. That's hard to say because charging documents indicate the Wells case began with a "cyber tip" from Facebook, rather than the use of investigative software. Also, the software scans for child porn on peer-to-peer networks, and there is no evidence Wells used such a network -- strongly suggesting he did not knowingly receive or distribute child porn.

    Our recent research on the Wells case reveals signs that the prosecution's case is frightfully weak due to a lack of probable cause that has nothing to do with technology. That is particularly alarming when you consider that Wells has spent more than two years in federal detention, mostly at Leavenworth, KS, because U.S. Magistrate David P. Rush has deemed him a "threat to society," even though he's been found guilty of nothing, is virtually blind in one eye, and must use a walker to get around due to a benign brain tumor he's had since childhood.

    Our recent discoveries in the Wells criminal complaint and affidavit are shocking, and they come on top of weaknesses in the prosecution's case on which we've already reported. New details about the case are set for upcoming posts.

    As for the recently dropped child-porn cases, those are outlined at a ProPublica article titled "Prosecutors Dropping Child Porn Charges After Software Tools Are Questioned," with the sub-hed "More than a dozen cases were dismissed after defense attorneys asked to examine, or raised doubts about, computer programs that track illegal images to internet addresses." From reporter Jack Gillum:

    Using specialized software, investigators traced explicit child pornography to Todd Hartman’s internet address. A dozen police officers raided his Los Angeles-area apartment, seized his computer and arrested him for files including a video of a man ejaculating on a 7-year-old girl. But after his lawyer contended that the software tool inappropriately accessed Hartman’s private files, and asked to examine how it worked, prosecutors dismissed the case.

    Near Phoenix, police with a similar detection program tracked underage porn photos, including a 4-year-old with her legs spread, to Tom Tolworthy’s home computer. He was indicted in state court on 10 counts of committing a “dangerous crime against children,” each of which carried a decade in prison if convicted. Yet when investigators checked Tolworthy’s hard drive, the images weren’t there. Even though investigators said different offensive files surfaced on another computer that he owned, the case was tossed.

    At a time when at least half a million laptops, tablets, phones, and other devices are viewing or sharing child pornography on the internet every month, software that tracks images to specific internet connections has become a vital tool for prosecutors. Increasingly, though, it’s backfiring.

    How does the software backfire? Gillum has the details:

    Drawing upon thousands of pages of court filings as well as interviews with lawyers and experts, ProPublica found more than a dozen cases since 2011 that were dismissed either because of challenges to the software’s findings, or the refusal by the government or the maker to share the computer programs with defense attorneys, or both. Tami Loehrs, a forensics expert who often testifies in child pornography cases, said she is aware of more than 60 cases in which the defense strategy has focused on the software.

    Defense attorneys have long complained that the government’s secrecy claims may hamstring suspects seeking to prove that the software wrongly identified them. But the growing success of their counterattack is also raising concerns that, by questioning the software used by investigators, some who trade in child pornography can avoid punishment.

    “When protecting the defendant’s right to a fair trial requires the government to disclose its confidential techniques, prosecutors face a choice: Give up the prosecution or give up the secret. Each option has a cost,” said Orin Kerr, an expert in computer crime law and former Justice Department lawyer.“If prosecutors give up the prosecution, it may very well mean that a guilty person goes free. If prosecutors give up the secret, it may hurt their ability to catch other criminals. Prosecutors have to choose which of those outcomes is less bad in each particular case.”

    Our coverage of U.S. v. Wells iindicates courts tend to treat child-porn matters as cut-and-dried, with defendants often pressured into guilty pleas, whether they committed the offense or not. ProPublica's investigative work shows such cases can be more complicated than some courts want them to appear:

    In several cases, like Tolworthy’s, court documents say that the software traced offensive images to an Internet Protocol address. But, for reasons that remain unclear, those images weren’t found on the defendant’s computer. In others, like Hartman’s, defense lawyers said the software discovered porn in areas of the computer it wasn’t supposed to enter, and they suggested the police conducted an overly broad search.

    These problems are compounded by the insistence of both the government and the software manufacturers on protecting the secrecy of their computer code, so as not to imperil other prosecutions or make trade secrets public. Unwilling to take the risk that the sensitive programs could leak publicly, they have rejected revealing the software even under strict court secrecy.

    Nevertheless, the software is facing renewed scrutiny: In another case where child pornography identified by the software wasn’t found on the suspect’s computer, a federal judge in February allowed a defense expert to examine it. And recently, the nonprofit Human Rights Watch asked the Justice Department to review, in part, whether one suite of software tools, the Child Protection System, had been independently tested.

    The government often wants to have its prosecutorial cake and eat it, too, says one expert:

    “The sharing of child-sex-abuse images is a serious crime, and law enforcement should be investigating it. But the government needs to understand how the tools work, if they could violate the law and if they are accurate,” said Sarah St.Vincent, a Human Rights Watch researcher who examined the practice.

    “These defendants are not very popular, but a dangerous precedent is a dangerous precedent that affects everyone. And if the government drops cases or some charges to avoid scrutiny of the software, that could prevent victims from getting justice consistently,” she said. “The government is effectively asserting sweeping surveillance powers but is then hiding from the courts what the software did and how it worked.”

    What about a big-picture view of child-porn cases? ProPublica's Gillum provides one:

    The dismissals represent a small fraction of the hundreds of federal and state child pornography prosecutions since 2011. More often, defendants plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence. (Of 17 closed cases brought since 2017 by the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, all but two resulted in plea deals, ProPublica found.) Even after their charges were dropped, Tolworthy and Hartman are both facing new trials. Still, the dismissals are noteworthy because challenges to the software are spreading among the defense bar and gaining credence with judges.

    Software developers and law enforcement officials say the detection software is an essential part of combating the proliferation of child pornography and exploitation on the internet.

    “This is a horrendous crime, and as a society we’re obligated to protect victims this young,” said Brian Levine, a computer science professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst who helped develop one such tool, called Torrential Downpour. “There are a number of victims who are too young to speak, or can’t speak out of fear. This tool is available to law enforcement to rescue those children who are abused.”

    Evidence is mounting, however, that the tool does not always work the way it's supposed to:

    In cases where previously flagged porn isn’t turning up on a suspect’s computer, investigators have suggested the files have merely been erased before arrest, or that they’re stored in encrypted areas of a hard drive that the police can’t access. Defense attorneys counter that some software logs don’t show the files were ever downloaded in the first place, or that they may have been downloaded by mistake and immediately purged.

    Scott J. Wells
    Defense lawyers are given a bevy of reasons why porn-detection software can’t be handed over for review, even under a protective order that limits disclosure to attorneys and their experts. Law enforcement authorities often say that they’re prohibited from disclosing software by their contracts with the manufacturer, which considers it proprietary technology.

    Prosecutors are also reluctant to disclose a coveted law enforcement tool just to convict one defendant. A Justice Department spokeswoman referred ProPublica to a government journal article, which argued peer-to-peer detection tools “are increasingly targeted by defendants through overbroad discovery requests.”

    “While the Department of Justice supports full compliance with all discovery obligations imposed by law,” wrote lawyers for the Justice Department and the FBI, “those obligations generally do not require disclosure of sensitive information regarding law enforcement techniques which, if exposed, would threaten the viability of future investigations.”

    Prosecutors, in essence, are telling the public to "trust us" with this sensitive technology. But as we've shown in U.S. v. Wells, prosecutors are not always deserving of trust:

    “Courts and police are increasingly using software to make decisions in the criminal justice system about bail, sentencing, and probability-matching for DNA and other forensic tests,” said Jennifer Granick, a surveillance and cybersecurity lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project who has studied the issue.

    “If the defense isn’t able to examine these techniques, then we have to just take the government’s word for it — on these complicated, sensitive and non-black-and-white decisions. And that’s just too dangerous.”

    The government apparently wants to keep the public in the dark about software used in child-porn cases. But ProPublica has shined a troubling light on the technology:

    One common suite of software tools, the Child Protection System, is maintained by the Florida-based Child Rescue Coalition. Although the coalition says it’s a nonprofit, it has ties to for-profit data brokers and the data company TLO. (TransUnion, the major credit-reporting agency, has acquired TLO.) CRC has hosted some of its computer servers at TransUnion since 2016, according to a review of internet records collected by the firm Farsight Security.

    A redacted user manual filed in a federal case, portions of which were un-redacted by Human Rights Watch and confirmed by ProPublica, indicates that the Child Protection System draws on unverified data gathered by these firms. It says TLO “has allowed law enforcement access to data collected on internet users from a variety of sources,” with enhanced information that includes “marketing data that has been linked to IP addresses and email accounts from corporate sources.”

    “No logs are kept of any law enforcement query of corporate data,” the manual continued. It cautioned that subscriber data was unconfirmed, and that it should “be confirmed through other investigative means that are acceptable with your agency and prosecuting attorney.”

    Software that relies on unconfirmed information from big data brokers, civil liberties advocates say, may not only point police to the wrong internet address owner, but it also enables them to gather a mountain of personal details about a suspect without a court order, sidestepping constitutional protections. . . .

    Another widely used detection tool, Torrential Downpour, was developed by the University of Massachusetts a decade ago with U.S. government funding, court records show. Levine told ProPublica in an interview that the program is accurate enough to find probable cause for a search warrant, but that it can only be effective if police and the courts do their jobs.“The software is one part of an entire process,” Levine said, “followed by investigators and courts to produce reliable evidence and to follow a fair judicial process.”

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    Jessica Medeiros Garrison and Luther Strange
    We recently received an anonymous comment indicating the sender has knowledge of criminal acts in our court cases, across multiple states and jurisdiction. The comment suggests connections between bad actors in Alabama and Missouri and even points to a possible conduit between the two.

    Specifically, the comment raises the specter of broad criminality -- including obstruction of justice, wire fraud, conspiracy, misprision of a felony, and possibly more. All of these could form a pattern of racketeering that might be part of future criminal or civil (or both) cases under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO).

    How much do I know about the comment? Well, I know it was sent at 8:45 p.m. on Dec. 5, 2018, via blogger.com, which should make it highly traceable. From my blog statistics, I'm about 90 percent certain it came from Springfield, MO, where we currently reside. The comment references a less-than-famous political figure in Alabama, suggesting the commenter has more than a casual interest in cheat jobs against us. That makes me 95 percent certain I know exactly who it is. Even if my instincts about that are off, the sender likely has left enough of a digital footprint to be tracked down.

    Here are the contents of the comment, which was sent to a post titled "Reporting on Steve Marshall's acceptance of illegal campaign funds in Alabama AG race shines light on the theft of our home via a wrongful foreclosure." I did not post the comment at the time because it clearly was from a troll. But I think it might yield important clues to wrongdoing against us, so I am posting it now:

    You do realize you are never going to get your house back right? You know you are never going to win in a suit of any kind right? You know Jessica Garrison probably never thinks about you anymore but you think about her all the time right? This whole “House” thing jumped the shark long ago. Why not just save up and get another house. I like your blog because of the comedy elements but you have beat this joke to death. Get some new material champ.

    Let's look at a few of these sentences and consider what they might mean?

    (1)  You do realize you are never going to get your house back right? We've pointed to all kinds of corporate, political, legal, and judicial corruption associated with the theft of our Birmingham home via wrongful foreclosure. (See here, here, here, and here, for starters). The commenter suggests he knows about events connected to our wrongful foreclosure. Perhaps he would like to testify under oath about that?

    (2) You know you are never going to win in a suit of any kind right? This blog is bursting at the seams with posts about unlawful court rulings against us. (See here, here, here, and here.) The commenter suggests he has an insider's knowledge about those rulings. Perhaps he would like to testify under oath about that?

    (3) You know Jessica Garrison probably never thinks about you anymore but you think about her all the time right? If the commenter is from Missouri, how would he know much about Garrison, the one-time campaign manager and girlfriend of former Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange? Perhaps Garrison has communicated with the commenter and other bad actors in Missouri? Perhaps the commenter, and Garrison, would like to testify under oath about that?

    (4) All of this leads to another question: Does the commenter have inside knowledge about multiple financial transactions involving Garrison and her curious ability to obtain pricey housing in Birmingham's "tiny kingdom" of Mountain Brook? For example, public records indicate Garrison has not had a steady job for quite some time, but she managed to purchase a house at 212 Dexter Avenue in Mountain Brook for $835,000. How does that happen? I've had a number of friends in the Dexter Avenue area over the years, and sources say several sets of eyes (with no prompting from me; they have a healthy case of curiosity) are keeping a regular watch on activities around the 212 address. Ironically, I happened to be in Birmingham a few months back and drove through the heart of Mountain Brook. Another such trip might be developing soon, so maybe I can join the "Neighborhood Watch" activities.

    Is it possible the commenter is a con artist, one who doesn't know much of anything and is just jerking my chain? Yes. Is it possible the commenter knows even more than he's letting on and would be a strong candidate for a deposition in a federal lawsuit? Yes. Either way, I'm in the process of learning more about him and his apparent ties to Ms. Garrison.

    Could the commenter wind up deeply regretting that he sent his vile little message, and do I intend to make sure he is unmasked in a glaring and painful way? Absolutely. Will Jessica Garrison regret screwing around with me for accurately reporting on her tawdry affair with Luther Strange? I don't know exactly how Ms. Garrison's mind works -- and I don't care to know -- but her notorious interview at Marie Claire suggests she has more emotions than brain cells. I suspect that has led her to take some ill-advised steps. -- the kind that could prove costly, even for someone living in Alabama's "tiny kingdom."

    After all, Garrison already is defendant in two pending lawsuits, and more may be on the way.

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    Gerald Bar Tjoflat
    A federal judge in the Deep South recently upbraided an Alabama lawyer for filing a complaint that allegedly violated court rules. The judge was so incensed that he upheld the trial court's dismissal of the complaint and threatened to order the lawyer to pay the opposing parties'"double costs and their expenses, including the attorney's fees they incurred in defending these appeals." Our research, however, indicates the judge is not so good about following court rules himself.

    U.S. Circuit Judge Gerald Bard Tjoflat played a prominent role in cheating former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. For good measure, Tjoflat also was part of three-judge panels that issued unlawful rulings -- wildly contrary to precedent -- that cheated me on several matters. In fact, Tjoflat is a central figure in a cheat job against me at this very moment. (Details on that in future posts.)

    As for the most recent matter, Tjoflat used his opinion in Jackson v. Bank of America, NA, 898 F. 3d 1348 (11th Cir., 2018) to label the pleadings of Birmingham attorney Kenneth James Lay as frivolous "garbage." Tjoflat further claimed Lay and his clients -- Karun and Ursula Jackson, of Daphne, AL -- "obstructed the due administration of justice."

    Lay, of the firm Hood and Lay, represents the Jacksons in a wrongful foreclosure proceeding. Tjoflat, who turned 89 in December, was appointed to the federal bench by Richard Nixon and elevated to the appellate bench by Gerald Ford. Tjoflat is the longest serving federal-appeals judge in active service and has served on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (covering Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) and its predecessor, the Fifth Circuit, since 1975.

    It's ironic that the Jackson case involves the loss of a house because we've seen signs that Tjoflat repeatedly violated black-letter law on the appeal of our own wrongful-foreclosure complaint, which we call "The House Case" to distinguish it from "The Jail Case" (involving my unlawful arrest and incarceration for blogging in Shelby County, AL.) We've also uncovered evidence that suggests Tjoflat routinely violates statutory law (28 U.S. Code 455) and ethics rules that prohibit a federal judge from hearing a case in which he has a financial interest.

    Does Tjoflat tend to side with banks, mortgage companies, and the like? The public record reflects the answer is a resounding yes, and our research reveals why Tjoflat might favor certain financial institutions in cases that come before him. (More on that in an upcoming post.)

    In the Jackson matter, Tjoflat almost seemed to take offense that Lay's clients weren't happy about facing a foreclosure and eviction that they considered dubious, at best -- and the record includes factual allegations that show why they might have felt that way.  From the Atlanta-based Daily Report:

    In a blistering opinion, Tjoflat chided Lay for filing a clearly deficient complaint as part of a scheme “engineered to delay or prevent execution of a foreclosure judgment on a residence and the consequent eviction of its occupants.”

    Lay “effectuated this scheme by filing a multi-count, incomprehensible complaint that flouted the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and this circuit’s well-established precedent,” Tjoflat wrote.

    In addition to upholding the trial judge’s dismissal of the case, Tjoflat said the frivolous filings constituted an abuse of judicial process and ordered Lay to show cause why he should not be ordered to pay the defendants’ double their costs for defending the appeal.

    Lay did not respond to requests for comment.

    Notice that Tjoflat goes apoplectic when an Alabama lawyer supposedly acts contrary to precedent. We will seek comment from the judge about his own failures to follow "well-established precedent, and we feel certain he will have plenty of excuses for that.

    Tjoflat got his judicial dander up because Lay filed what the judge considered to be a "shotgun pleading." What is that? The Daily Report explains:

    After granting multiple extensions to an Alabama lawyer fighting a foreclosure, a federal appeals panel was decidedly unimpressed when he said in oral arguments that their concerns about his “shotgun” complaints may be “an issue in federal court,” but they “are not disfavored in Alabama courts.”

    Federal rulings have defined shotgun complaints as containing multiple counts, each incorporating by reference the preceding allegation with no clear cause of action asserted. They often assert those claims against multiple defendants without specifying which is responsible for each claim.

    Here is how Tjoflat, in his opinion, characterized the complaint Lay filed on the Jacksons' behalf:

    The Jacksons' complaint alleged fourteen causes of action under Alabama and federal law in separate counts, spanned twenty pages, and contained 109 paragraphs of allegations. The causes of action were not defendant-specific, all were based on all of the complaint's twenty-four introductory paragraphs, and all fourteen causes of action incorporated all previous allegations. This made it impossible for any Defendant to reasonably frame an answer. The crux of the complaint appears to be that Defendants classified their home mortgage as in default, accelerated their loan, turned over their  account for foreclosure, and reported the foreclosure to the credit reporting agencies without any legitimate basis for doing so.

    How does that run afoul of 11th-Circuit procedure? Tjoflat explains, while noting that "All told, Mr. Lay sought and obtained ten extension requests from this Court":

    The amended complaint is an incomprehensible shotgun pleading. It employs a multitude of claims and incorporates by reference all of its factual allegations into each claim, making it nearly impossible for Defendants and the Court to determine with any certainty which factual allegations give rise to which claims for relief. As such, the amended complaint patently violates Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, which requires a plaintiff to plead "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). At twenty-eight pages long and having incorporated all 123 paragraphs of allegations into all sixteen counts, it is neither "short" nor "plain."

    Kenneth Lay
    This Court has filled many pages of the Federal Reporter condemning shotgun pleadings and explaining their vices:
    Shotgun pleadings, whether filed by plaintiffs or defendants, exact an intolerable toll on the trial court's docket, lead to unnecessary and unchannelled discovery, and impose unwarranted expense on the litigants, the court and the court's parajudicial personnel and resources. Moreover, justice is delayed for the litigants who are "standing in line," waiting for their cases to be heard. The courts of appeals and the litigants appearing before them suffer as well. Cramer v. Florida, 117 F.3d 1258, 1263 (11th Cir. 1997).

    Did Lay waste court resources by filing a deficient, "incomprehensible" complaint and seeking an excessive number of time extensions? Maybe. Does Tjoflat have  legitimate gripe about the "shotgun pleading"? Possibly.

    But our reading of Tjoflat's opinion suggests the Jacksons raised legitimate legal issues involving the foreclosure on their home -- and we see no sign that either the trial or appellate court addressed those. That's in keeping with Tjoflat's documented history of favoring financial institutions -- and the apparent reasons, which we'e uncovered, for such unlawful favoritism. It's also in keeping with Tjoflat's history of issuing opinions that run contrary to black-letter law -- and we have personal experience with that.

    We will examine both of those issues in upcoming posts.


    (To be continued)


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    Sandra Bland, the black motorist who died of an apparent suicide in a Texas jail three days after being arrested in a dubious traffic stop, took her own video of the stop, according to news reports this week. The Bland video raises new questions about the nature of her death and adds to the mountain of evidence that suggests law-enforcement officers are among the most dishonest people on earth.

    My wife, Carol, and I have firsthand experience with that, from our unlawful eviction that ended with Missouri deputies breaking Carol's arm -- and then alleging SHE had assaulted one of them, even though the officer in question, Jeremy Lynn, admitted he initiated physical contact with Carol, not the other way around. That meant, as a matter of Missouri law, Carol could not possibly have assaulted a law enforcement officer. But Greene County Judge Jerry Harmison, in a farce of a bench trial, found her guilty anyway.

    In retrospect, Carol probably was fortunate to come out of the incident alive. Sandra Bland was not so fortunate -- and the video she took shines new light on her experience. From a report at The New York Times:

    Ms. Bland, a 28-year-old African-American from the Chicago area, was taken into custody in southeast Texas following the confrontational 2015 traffic stop and was found hanging in a jail cell three days later in what was officially ruled a suicide. The case, which drew international attention, intensified outrage over the treatment of black people by white police officers and was considered a turning point in the Black Lives Matter movement.

    The video surfaced for the first time publicly Monday night in an investigative report on the Dallas television station WFAA that included interviews with Ms. Bland’s family and supporters, who accused officials of concealing information that they said should have been made public early in the investigation.

    The authorities released the trooper’s dash-cam video days after Ms. Bland’s death, but Ms. Bland’s own recording was never made public — except, it appears, to lawyers and investigators involved in the case. The Texas Department of Public Safety said in a statement that the video recording was referred to “multiple times” in its investigative report on the Bland case and was released to the WFAA reporter in response to a public records request. The video “has in no way been concealed by the department,” the statement said.

    The 39-second video from Bland's cell phone can be viewed at the top of this post. The full WFAA report can be viewed at the end of this post.

    Why is the Bland video important? The Times explains:

    The images aired Monday night marked the first time that most people had seen the traffic encounter as Ms. Bland had seen it: a close-up view of the face of the state trooper, Brian T. Encinia, contorting in anger as he pulled out a stun gun and shouted at her to get out of the car. 
    “I’m going to light you up!” he yelled, his voice growing hoarse. 
    State Representative Garnet Coleman, an African-American lawmaker who chairs the State House’s County Affairs Committee, which conducted statewide hearings following Ms. Bland’s death, said on Tuesday that he plans to call legislative hearings before the current session adjourns on May 27 to look into why the newly surfaced video was not made generally available to the public until now. 
    “It is very disturbing to those who have followed the case of Sandra Bland,” he said.

    A lawyer for the Bland family takes it several steps further:

    Cannon Lambert, a lawyer who represents the Bland family, said he had not seen the video until it was shown to him by the television journalist. “I immediately called my co-counsel and asked whether he had seen it, and he hadn’t seen it either,” he said.

    Mr. Lambert said the video, by showing Ms. Bland with a cellphone in her hand, seriously undercut the trooper’s claim that he feared for his safety as he approached the woman’s vehicle.

    “What the video shows is that Encinia had no reason to be in fear of his safety,” Mr. Lambert, who represented the family in a $1.9 million legal settlement, said in a telephone interview. “The video shows that he wasn’t in fear of his safety. You could see that it was a cellphone, he was looking right at it.”

    Mr. Encinia said during internal interviews with Department of Public Safety officials that he had been worried about his safety. “My safety was in jeopardy at more than one time,” he told department interviewers.

    The Bland video shows the officer lied. Our experience with thug cops in Missouri indicates lying is second nature for many of them.


    (To be continued)





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    Judge Bill Pryor, with and without robe

    A rational citizen might expect the influence of U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor to be waning, given his documented ties to 1990s gay pornography via badpuppy.com and his reputed role as Karl Rove's right-wing fixer on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. But in the Age of Trump, -- where malice, fraud, and disrespect for the rule of law often are rewarded -- Pryor's influence actually appears to be growing.

    How could that be, considering that Pryor is an (under cover?) acolyte of former U.S. Sen. and Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R-AL)? Who can forget Trump repeatedly spewing disrespect and disdain toward Sessions for recusing in the Robert Mueller probe? Who can forget Sessions slouching out of office in disgrace last November, at Trump's demand -- to ultimately be replaced by the even more corrupt William Barr?

    So, how does Pryor, Sessions' chief protege (with whom he has a deeply personal and disturbing relationship), have influence on the upswing? It's not as if Pryor's personal career arc is going anywhere; in fact, it appears to be stuck in the mud, with even Team Trump retching at reports that he is a closeted homosexual, who has dallied with gay porn since the early 1980s.

    Could it be that Sessions, during his time in the Trump campaign and administration, obtained enough dirt on the current occupant of the White House to sink the RMS Lusitania? Did Mueller do the public a grave disservice by letting Sessions off the hook for lying multiple times to Congress? Could House Democrats do something about that, if they have the courage?

    We do not have solid answers to those questions at the moment, but we have seen evidence that connections to Pryor can help one receive a Trump nomination to a spot on a federal court -- and that suggests Sessions has stored up enough dirt to bring down the Trump White House in one stiff, elfin breeze.

    Andrew Brasher
    Just 11 days ago, the U.S. Senate confirmed Andrew Brasher to a judgeship at the Middle District of Alabama (based in Montgomery), replacing the ousted wife-beater Mark Fuller. In response to that, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall appointed Edmund LaCour Jr. to replace Brasher as the state's solicitor general.

    Both Brasher (formerly of Birmingham's Bradley Arant law firm) and LaCour (formerly of the D.C. firm Kirkland Ellis, which produced William Barr) are former law clerks to Bill Pryor. And the Pryorian stench emanating from the Trump White House does not end there.

    Corey Landon Maze, who awaits confirmation to a seat on the Northern District of Alabama, is another Trump nominee with ties to Pryor. From Alabama Political Reporter:

    Maze served as Alabama solicitor general. He is a deputy Alabama attorney general. Born in Gadsden, Alabama, on Jan. 4, 1978, Maze graduated summa cum laude from Auburn University in 1996 and cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center in 2003.

    After graduation, Maze joined the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, working under then-AG William “Bill” Pryor as assistant attorney general in Criminal Trials and Appeals.

    In 2008, Attorney General Troy King selected Maze to be the solicitor general of Alabama.

    In 2011, he became special deputy attorney general for civil litigation, a position he still holds.

    Maze has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. This seat opened on June 22, 2018, when Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins moved to senior status.

    Maze was nominated in the last Congress, but his confirmation was blocked by Republican Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake’s blockade on judicial nominees.

    The Vetting Room predicts that he will be confirmed eventually. Flake refused to allow judicial nominees to be confirmed unless legislation protecting Robert Mueller’s position was passed.

    Republicans refused to comply with the dissident GOP senator’s demands, meaning that dozens of Trump nominees to the federal bench were not acted upon in November and December.

    Brasher, Maze, and LaCour all are active with the Federalist Society. long a pet project for Bill Pryor. That suggests Team Trump is determined to fill the "Alabama Justice System" with officials who likely are more loyal to the Federalist Society than they are to the U.S. Constitution. If you live in Alabama and care about the rule of law, we suggest you keep an eye on this alarming trend.

    The public also should not overlook signs that Pryor is a rotten human being, as outlined by Shane Rogers-Mauro, a classmate at Northeast Louisiana University who says Pryor sexually harassed him:

    I was in college with Bill and knew him very well. We were in band together at Northeast Louisiana University. I also had “work study” for about three semesters with him, so we worked in the same small office for many, many weeks as part of our band scholarship.

    The stories are all true. The Bad Puppy pictures are him. He was pretty flamboyant, and actually hit on me quite a bit, but I brushed him off as irritating. He was College Republicans president, and I was president of the Young Democrats of NLU.

    In today’s world, [Pryor's actions] would certainly qualify as sexual harassment. In the early and mid 1980’s, we were all pretty closeted, and he was known to be gay. We used to argue for hours about Ronald Reagan’s 1984 win and other things, and I’m sure we are polar opposites today. He’s never tried to contact me nor have I spoken to him since college days.

    What form did Pryor's harassment take?

    There was a lot of touching, in a way that absolutely would be considered inappropriate today. Back then, nothing was inappropriate; you just sucked it up and moved on. Bill was very manipulative. He always wanted to go have dinner and discuss certain types of politics, like he was going to change your way of thinking.

    He toyed with closeted gay folks. Back then, it was a demon, and he was into outing certain people. That's a nasty thing, and it would mess with people's lives. But Bill didn't give it a second thought. I think it was part of his illness.

    Pryor even went so far as to out Rogers-Mauro, apparently out of jealousy over Rogers-Mauro's relationship with another gay student:

    I was in a band fraternity -- Kappa Kappa Psi -- when Bill discovered I was seeing someone else, and he decided to out me to the rest of the band. Back then, outing was rotten thing to do because people were pretty much in closet. In fact, I would say that outing me, alone, was a form of sexual harassment. I was ostracized in the fraternity, and it pretty much ended my time in that organization.

    Bill has a self loathing outlook, with his anti-gay opinions in court and in his public statements. That is so old school and disgusting to us all.

    Rogers-Mauro still seems to struggle with the idea that Pryor could become a federal judge:

    I don't have a lot of dirty stories about Bill; I never had any sexual interaction with him. He's got a wife and kids, which is pretty shocking. That is him in Bad Puppy. He was known as gay -- he was in percussion, a drummer -- and he had a mouth on him, saying things, about politics and other subjects, that he shouldn't have been saying. We worked together in work-study, so we got to know each other pretty well.

    Edmund LaCour Jr.
    I'm surprised he's an appellate-court judge. Not only is he not the right person for the job, with all of his prejudices, but I've never seen someone so conservative and cruel. We wrote Bill off as a pure radical; he was always glorifying Reagan. His views are so far right -- he was Republican this and Republican that.

    This guy's evil. I've had no contact with him since college. From opinions and statements of last 20 years, I can see it's only gotten worse. How can he be a judge of others when he's so prejudiced in one direction. That goes beyond homosexuality or anything like that. He will try to get as high as he can. He's one of those power grabbers. You can't make judicial decisions in the right way when you are so far on the fringe.

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    Alabama is one of about a dozen states that are in various stages of trying to pass "fetal heartbeat" laws that generally would outlaw most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy -- before many women even know they are pregnant. The legislative efforts, which tend to be centered in the South and Midwest, "represent the largest assault on abortion rights in decades," according to a recent Associated Press report.

    A group of high-profile gynecologists -- people who know a thing or two about the human biology related to pregnancy -- say "fetal heartbeat" bills tend to be based on medical ignorance and fraudulent use of the English language.The gist of their argument: At six weeks, there generally is no fetus and there is no heart; that makes it pretty difficult to claim there is a "fetal heartbeat." From a recent report at The UK Guardian:

    “These bills present the idea that there’s something that looks like what you or a person on the street would call a baby – a thing that’s almost ready to go for a walk,” said Dr Jen Gunter, a gynecologist in Canada and the US who runs an influential blog. “In reality, you’re talking about something that’s millimeters in size and doesn’t look anything like that.”

    That early in a pregnancy, Gunter said, an embryo does not have a heart – at least, not what we understand a human heart to be, with pumping tubes and ventricles. At six weeks, a human embryo throbs, but those tissues have not yet formed an organ, so the pulsing should not be confused with a heartbeat.

    Notice Gunter's use of the term "embryo." That's because that's what it is at six weeks, not a fetus. Also notice that she says a "human embryo throbs" at six weeks. But those throbs are not heartbeats because there is no such organ:

    It would be more accurate to call these bills “fetal pole cardiac activity” measures, said Gunter. Though it doesn’t roll off the tongue, the term would capture the state of an embryo at six weeks, which appears more fish-like than human baby.

    Other gynecologists agree:

    “When throbbing of some tissue begins, it’s not a heart,” said Dr Sara Imershein, a gynecologist and obstetrician in Falls Church, Virginia. “Really, we call it an embryo until about nine weeks from last menstrual period,” or roughly three weeks after the new laws prohibit termination of pregnancy. . . .

    "It’s a process – the heart doesn’t just pop up one day,” said Imershein. “It’s not a little child that just appears and just grows larger”, in contrast to imagery often invoked by anti-abortion campaigns of embryos as tiny, miniaturized infants.

    The Alabama Senate is expected to vote today on a bill that wold ban virtually all abortions in the state, pending the signature of Gov. Kay Ivey -- and likely court challenges. The vote is expected to come down to 31 men and three women in the Senate.

    The "pro life" movement, it seems, is built on a mountain of contrived language, apparently designed to deceive and base the public discussion on religion, hysteria, emotion, and threats -- anything other than facts and medicine:

    Misleading names like “heartbeat”move the debate away from medical considerations for a woman’s decision to get an abortion, said Gunter.

    Similarly, the phrase "late-term" is misleading. A normal human gestation is 40 weeks. Medically speaking, "late-term" means 41-42 weeks.

    But anti-abortion activists twisted the phrase into a political construct understood to be any abortion after the 21st week, late in the second trimester. “Nobody is doing late-term abortions – it doesn’t happen,” said Gunter of the medical definition. “But it’s become a part of our lexicon now.”

    In Alabama, Republican sponsors of a "fetal heartbeat" bill admit it is designed to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade. That, of course, is serious business, so you might think drafters of the bill would at least base it on scientific facts and correct medical language. But you would be wrong; in essence, it's a political stunt:

    Gunter said six weeks is not enough time to make informed medical choices. It’s before most women know they’re pregnant, and before fetal malformations can be diagnosed. The risks of medical conditions, such as lupus, won’t be apparent that early. There are some heart conditions “where we say, you should not be pregnant”, said Gunter. “The risk of death is 50%. We know that the second the pregnancy test is positive. But what if that person doesn’t seek medical care until they’re eight weeks?”

    “The whole point [of these bills] is to introduce terminology that makes people think differently about pregnancy,” said Gunter.

    In practice, she said, six-week measures are effectively abortion bans – a fact that misleading names such as “heartbeat bill” could obscure. “We can’t use the incorrect language in the bills,” said Gunter. “Because once you start using incorrect language, you’ve basically conceded.”

    (To be continued)

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    San Francisco cops prepare to break into
    the home of journalist Bryan Carmody

    San Francisco police detained a freelance journalist last Friday and raided his home in an effort to obtain the source of reporting on the death of a public defender in February.

    Given my "arrest for blogging" in October 2013, and subsequent five-month stay in the Shelby County (AL) Jail, the San Francisco story hits close to home. As a matter of record, it appears I remain the only U.S. journalist to be arrested since 2006, and I'm clearly the only one to be incarcerated in that time. The detention of Bryan Carmody in San Francisco likely was lawful because it sought information related to a possible crime. My arrest, over a wholly civil matter, clearly was unlawful -- violating more than 200 years of First Amendment law.

    That's not to say Carmody's detention wasn't disturbing to anyone who cares about freedom of the press. It certainly seems to speak to the rise of a police state in the Age of Trump. Like my arrest, it involved use of police violence inside a home, and that should alarm all citizens -- journalists or not. What kind of brown-shirt actions did police take in San Francisco? Here's how National Public Radio (NPR) describes it:

    San Francisco police raided the home and office of a freelance journalist on Friday, taking a sledgehammer to the gate of his house and seizing his computers, phones and other devices.

    Their goal: to uncover the source of a leaked police report in the possession of freelance videographer Bryan Carmody.

    The raids on Carmody's home and office are the latest in a series of events concerning the death of San Francisco public defender Jeff Adachi in February, at age 59.

    Within hours of Adachi's collapse in a San Francisco apartment, details from a leaked police investigation into his death were already showing up in news reports, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

    A number of the details in the police report were salacious, suggesting that perhaps one or more members of the police department were trying to tarnish the reputation of Adachi, who was known as a police watchdog and fierce advocate for criminal justice reform. In San Francisco, the public defender is an elected position.

    Was Adachi, the public defender, targeted because of his willingness to stand up to cops? Does that explain law enforcement's rough treatment of Bryan Carmody? Those are two of many questions surrounding Adachi's death. From CBS News:

    A freelance journalist is vowing to protect his source after San Francisco police raided his home and office while keeping him handcuffed for several hours as part of a criminal investigation, according to a newspaper report. Bryan Carmody told the Los Angeles Times that officers banged on his door Friday and confiscated dozens of personal items including notebooks, his cellphone, computer, hard drives and cameras.

    A judge signed off on search warrants, which stated officers were investigating "stolen or embezzled" property, the newspaper reported Saturday. Authorities said the raid came during an ongoing probe into who leaked a confidential police report about the Feb. 22 death of San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi.

    Carmody said investigators had asked him a few weeks earlier to identify the source that provided him with the report. The reporter said he politely declined. 
    While he was shackled, officers got a second warrant to search his newsroom, where police seized a thumb drive, CDs and, inside a safe, the leaked police report about Adachi's death, the Times said.

    Curious details about Adachi's death quickly surfaced earlier this year, and that is when Carmody's investigative instincts kicked in, leading him to obtain the leaked police report. Thomas Burke, Carmody's lawyer, said the raid was "designed to intimidate" and "it's essentially the confiscation of a newsroom."

    Jeff Adachi
    What about those details on Adachi's death? CBS has details:

    The document, as reported by KGO-TV in San Francisco, detailed that shortly before his death, Adachi had dinner with a woman named "Caterina" who was not his wife, then returned to an apartment he arranged to use for the weekend. The woman called 911 for emergency medical help, and Adachi was taken to the hospital, where he died. Later that night, officers went to the apartment and found "alcohol, cannabis-infused gummies and syringes believed to have been used by the paramedics," the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Photos of the apartment circulated online by KTVU-TV and other news outlets.

    Carmody told the Chronicle that he sold his news package on Adachi to three TV stations.

    How has the raid impacted Carmody's ability to earn a living as a journalist? So far, his business is pretty much wiped out. From the Los Angeles Times:

    The search has brought Carmody’s business, North Bay News, to a halt. As a freelance videographer for nearly three decades, he works through the night to supply the locations, video, images, and on- and off-camera interviews that feed the beast of local TV news. The search warrant documents show police collected check stubs from Fox, Disney and CBS, among others.

    He estimates that police hauled off between $30,000 and $40,000 worth of equipment, along with personal photos. Without functional equipment, he cannot work — so his friend Aaron Lee started an online fundraiser to collect donations.

    Carmody is insisting on protecting his source’s identity. And he swears he never paid the person for the police report. “No,” he said, “not even a cup of coffee.”

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    Ultrasound of fetal cardiac activity at 6 weeks and 1 day.

    The Alabama Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that effectively would outlaw all abortions in the state, with the votes of 25 white, male (Republican) senators leading the way. That speaks to rank hypocrisy that long has held center stage in the "pro life" movement. But more concerning should be the stupidity and dishonesty involved in the process. Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill into law yesterday.

    A group of prominent gynecologists has said "fetal heartbeat" bills, which tend to ban abortions after six weeks, often are based on medical and biological ignorance and fraudulent use of the English language. Dr. Jen Gunter, a Canadian gynecologist who writes the influential blog drjengunter.com has been pointing this out for years. Consider this 2016 post titled "Dear Press, stop calling them “heartbeat” bills and call them “fetal pole cardiac activity” bills": Warning: Dr. Gunter has a tendency to use blunt, foul language at times.)

    Ohio is the latest state to attempt to pass a medically illiterate abortion “heartbeat” bill.

    It’s bad enough that these bills exist, but the press needs to do a better job of calling them what they are. If politicians want to play doctor they should be using medical terms. If they refuse to use the correct terminology, the press should correct them. People who vote for the assholes who write these shit shows know them as “heartbeat bills” not because they follow them as they groan through committee, but because that is how they read or hear about them in the news. The politicians know exactly what they are doing as a “heartbeat” bills is a way of making a 4 mm thickening next to a yolk sac seem like it is almost ready to walk.
    Anti-choice embryo
    Fetal cardiac activity can be detected as early at six weeks from the last menstrual period. The ultrasound [above] shows an image at 6 weeks and 1 day. (See image at the top of this post.)

    The fetal pole is between the two markers and is a thickening at the end of the yolk sac (the yolk sac is the circular blob) and contains the earliest ultrasound evidence of cardiac activity. I know some have wondered why not use the term embryo, but as it’s the fetal pole that is being measured I think the term “fetal” is technically fine.
    However, when most people think of a heartbeat they don’t think of a 4.3 mm thickening next to a blob they think of something like this. (See image, above right.)

    The image (above, right) is an anti-choice version of an embryo, obviously not a faithful representation of size or appearance. If you want a real picture for comparison, check out this link. (See image at the end of this post.)

    Is the "pro life" movement designed to deceive? Absolutely, and Dr. Gunter has seen it firsthand:

    I expect nothing less than a campaign of misinformation from the misogynistic degenerates who hold office in these places. I worked in Kansas for many years and after a restrictive law passed I found myself in a three-way phone call with the hospital attorney and the politician playing doctor who tacked on the abortion rider to the bill that turned the governance of Kansas University Medical Center (KUMC) to a private authority. Yes, that’s right the State legislature in Kansas held the hospital’s financial future hostage over abortion and the Dean and the University caved. The politician who added the abortion rider to the bill was simply shocked that an abortion could actually be needed for health reasons. I mean he was gobsmacked. He believed the lie hook, line, and sinker that pregnancy never maims or kills. He was also somewhat shocked that the hospital attorney had tracked him down at night and that he had to explain what he meant by “the life of the mother being in danger” to a doctor. Dear Reader, the hospital attorney was worried we would be sued if this non-doctor didn’t think the woman was sick enough so I had to call and explain modern OB/GYN to Chance the gardener.

    After some silence and muttering he said something like, Oh my, just do your doctoring of course. I am sure that even before the receiver hit the cradle the drop of truth that I had forced him to drink was rapidly diluted by the poison he’d been supping since birth and that woman and every single one like her dropped like chaff from his narrow little mind.

    If Dr. Gunter sounds disgusted with the "fetal heartbeat" crowd, it's probably because she knows what she is talking about -- and they don't:

    No one passing these laws gives a shit about the medicine or the science or the statistics. Really, they don’t. If they did, these laws wouldn’t exist and there would be laws providing free long-acting reversible contraception because that’s actually what works. I really believe the assholes in Ohio who voted for the fetal pole cardiac activity bill truly believe that the more than 21,000 women in Ohio who get abortions each year are just doing so because the greedy doctors who run the abortion spa at the mall have frequent BOGOs on pleasure abortions and if these little women just had a firmer hand from the patriarchy they would see the error of their ways. As pregnant women needing abortions won’t be picketing their offices they will take the silence as tactic approval, but who has time to picket and march when it’s tic toc. Women will be panicked making calls to find an out-of-state clinic and many will be raising money. Anyway, even if you do have the cash on hand, do you want your face in the paper so your rapist can see you got pregnant? Maybe you don’t want your parents to know, not because your are a teen, but because you are a grown-ass woman and it’s no one else’s fucking business what you do with your body?

    In short, bills like the one in Alabama are based on "fetal heartbeats" that don't exist. That's because there is no heart at six weeks, and in medical terms, it isn't yet a fetus; it's an embryo. Writes Dr. Gunter:

    While the press doesn’t write bills or pass laws they do pass on information or in this case subtle misinformation. Using “heartbeat” anywhere in a piece, but especially in the headline, even in quotations is not appropriate. It’s no different from allowing a neo Nazi to self identify as alt-right.

    The earliest cardiac activity is seen in a fetal pole and using any other term means that you are lock step with a campaign of misinformation and it’s wrong.

    The politicians who write these bills are dealing in misinformation and the press should refuse to play the game.





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    Deutsche Bank office in Jacksonville, FL

    Officials at a German bank ignored employee warnings about possible money laundering involving members of the Trump family and overseas entities (including some in Russia), according to a report yesterday at The New York Times. An employee at a Deutsche Bank branch in Jacksonville, Florida, was fired after raising concerns about the transactions.

    Tammy McFadden was terminated last year after raising concerns about Deutsche Bank's lax enforcement of anti-money laundering practices, especially when high-level clients were involved. McFadden since has filed complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulators. Writes Times reporter David Enrich:

    Anti-money laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank recommended in 2016 and 2017 that multiple transactions involving legal entities controlled by Donald J. Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, be reported to a federal financial-crimes watchdog.

    The transactions, some of which involved Mr. Trump’s now-defunct foundation, set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity, according to five current and former bank employees. Compliance staff members who then reviewed the transactions prepared so-called suspicious activity reports that they believed should be sent to a unit of the Treasury Department that polices financial crimes.

    But executives at Deutsche Bank, which has lent billions of dollars to the Trump and Kushner companies, rejected their employees’ advice. The reports were never filed with the government.

    The nature of the transactions was not clear. At least some of them involved money flowing back and forth with overseas entities or individuals, which bank employees considered suspicious.

    The flagged activity at Deutsche Bank coincides with the 2016 presidential campaign, The Times reports:

    In the summer of 2016, Deutsche Bank’s software flagged a series of transactions involving the real estate company of Mr. Kushner, now a senior White House adviser.

    Ms. McFadden, a longtime anti-money laundering specialist in Deutsche Bank’s Jacksonville office, said she had reviewed the transactions and found that money had moved from Kushner Companies to Russian individuals. She concluded that the transactions should be reported to the government — in part because federal regulators had ordered Deutsche Bank, which had been caught laundering billions of dollars for Russians, to toughen its scrutiny of potentially illegal transactions.

    Ms. McFadden drafted a suspicious activity report and compiled a small bundle of documents to back up her decision.

    Typically, such a report would be reviewed by a team of anti-money laundering experts who are independent of the business line in which the transactions originated — in this case, the private-banking division — according to Ms. McFadden and two former Deutsche Bank managers.

    That did not happen with this report. It went to managers in New York who were part of the private bank, which caters to the ultrawealthy. They felt Ms. McFadden’s concerns were unfounded and opted not to submit the report to the government, the employees said.

    Ms. McFadden and some of her colleagues said they believed the report had been killed to maintain the private-banking division’s strong relationship with Mr. Kushner.

    Did bank officials take the money-laundering concerns more seriously after Mr. Trump became President Trump? No, they did not:

    After Mr. Trump became president, transactions involving him and his companies were reviewed by an anti-financial crime team at the bank called the Special Investigations Unit. That team, based in Jacksonville, produced multiple suspicious activity reports involving different entities that Mr. Trump owned or controlled, according to three former Deutsche Bank employees who saw the reports in an internal computer system.

    Some of those reports involved Mr. Trump’s limited liability companies. At least one was related to transactions involving the Donald J. Trump Foundation, two employees said.

    Deutsche Bank ultimately chose not to file those suspicious activity reports with the Treasury Department, either, according to three former employees. They said it was unusual for the bank to reject a series of reports involving the same high-profile client.

    The Trump relationship with Deutsche Bank already was in the news when yesterday's story broke:

    Deutsche Bank’s decision not to report the transactions is the latest twist in Mr. Trump’s long, complicated relationship with the German bank — the only mainstream financial institution consistently willing to do business with the real estate developer.

    Congressional and state authorities are investigating that relationship and have demanded the bank’s records related to the president, his family and their companies. Subpoenas from two House committees seek, among other things, documents related to any suspicious activities detected in Mr. Trump’s personal and business bank accounts since 2010, according to a copy of a subpoena included in a federal court filing.

    Mr. Trump and his family sued Deutsche Bank in April, seeking to block it from complying with the congressional subpoenas. The president’s lawyers described the subpoenas as politically motivated.

    Deutsche Bank already has been under scrutiny for its willingness to deal in dirty money. Reports The Times:
    In the past few years, United States and European authorities have punished Deutsche Bank for helping clients, including wealthy Russians, launder funds and for moving money into countries like Iran in violation of American sanctions. The bank has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties and is operating under a Federal Reserve order that requires it to do more to stop illicit activities.

    On two palm-tree-lined campuses in Jacksonville, Deutsche Bank has thousands of employees who vet customers and transactions. Six current and former bank employees there said the operations were deeply troubled.

    Anti-money laundering workers were pressured to quickly sift through transactions to assess whether they were suspicious, the employees said. As a result, they often erred on the side of not flagging transactions.

    Two former employees said that they had raised concerns about transactions involving companies linked to prominent Russians, but that managers had told them not to file suspicious activity reports. The employees were under the impression that the bank did not want to upset important clients.

    Where is this story headed? It's probably too early to say with any certainly, but Grant Stern, of Washington Press,says it has bombshell potential:

    Deutsche Bank is notorious for skirting the wrong side of the law when it comes to money laundering scandals, especially when the clients are Russian oligarchs. Perhaps coincidentally, they’re also the only major bank willing to do business with perpetual disaster Donald Trump, lending both he and his son-in-law’s family real estate companies billions of dollars over the past few years. . . .

    McFadden believed that the independent anti-money laundering experts at the bank would review her work and report it to the Treasury Department’s clearinghouse for those reports, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

    In fact, its Jacksonville based Special Investigations Unit did look at its history with Trump and recommend the bank should file anti-money laundering SARs.

    But Deutsche Bank routed the review back to the private banking division who handles Donald Trump’s accounts, where he worked with the son of former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy as his personal account representative until recently. Trump’s businesses have borrowed $2.5 billion from Deutsche Bank to fund prominent properties like the Washington Trump hotel and a Miami golf course.

    The story of possible Trump ties to money laundering is not likely to go away soon. Writes Stern:

    Tammy McFadden alerted the S.E.C and an alphabet soup of bank regulators who can all investigate her story.

    It’s no wonder that the House Financial Services Committee led by Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) just subpoenaed Deutsche Bank last month to find out more about their relationship with President Trump. The bank had reportedly already been cooperating with House Dems, but today’s news adds a lot more smoke to what appears to be a real fire under the entire White House.

    The President has a lot to fear from House Democrats revealing the truth about both his transactions with Deutsche Bank and the details of their relationship.

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    Dr. Jen Gunter

    Alabama has passed a "fetal heartbeat" law that even televangelist Pat Robertson says has "gone too far." Who knew something could be so far right that it would make Pat Robertson retch? But that has happened, and a prominent gynecologist saw this coming several years ago because of what she calls the "babyfication of the embryo."

    Dr. Jen Gunter, who practices in Canada and the United States and publishes the blog drjengunter.com, addressed the babyfication issue in a 2015 post after the Ohio House passed a "fetal heartbeat" bill. Why are such bills generally so dishonest? Because, at six weeks, there is no fetus and there is no heartbeat, Gunter says. The proper term would be "embryonic cardiac activity," which is essentially a throbbing, but not from a heart. That term isn't catchy enough to rile up the right-wing fundies, so someone created the bogus term "fetal heartbeat." Writes Gunter (again, this is in 2015, before Donald Trump added his toadies to the U.S. Supreme Court):

    The Ohio House just passed a “fetal heartbeat” bill, which is the first step on the road to legislation that would ban abortion after embryonic cardiac activity.

    Embryonic cardiac activity is typically seen by 6 weeks gestation (42 days into the pregnancy or about 2 weeks after a missed period), which is before many women know they are pregnant and certainly before many have really had time to consider what being pregnant means for them. Thus this kind of legislation really has one goal – to eliminate abortion.

    This type of bill has been tried elsewhere and while it hasn’t become law anywhere, typically because some politician decides it won’t hold up to in the Supreme Court against Roe. With that in mind, why keep churning these things through State Legislatures wasting tax payer dollars?

    If Dr. Gunter sounds disgusted with the "pro life" crowd, it might be because she has spent considerable effort (and money) to master a challenging discipline, only to see know-nothings abuse its facts and language in order to score political points:

    Possibly the “pro-life” forces that support this legislation think that if they keep throwing enough garbage that something is going to stick. If the balance of the Supreme Court changes to an even more conservative bench we’ll see a flurry of these things, so testing out the kinks in advance might be a useful strategy. Also, chest thumping about anti-choice zeal is helpful to raise money for campaigns. But there is also something more insidious about these bills and it is the terminology “fetal heart beat,” because at 42 days it’s an embryo and it doesn’t have a “heart beat;” it has cardiac activity.

    We encourage you to let that last sentence sink in: "But there is also something more insidious about these bills and it is the terminology “fetal heart beat,” because at 42 days it’s an embryo and it doesn’t have a “heart beat;” it has cardiac activity." So, it's an "embryo" (not a fetus), and it has "cardiac activity" (not a heartbeat) -- but that's not a distinction you will hear from the Republicans (mostly white and male) who passed the Alabama law that disturbed even Pat Robertson. Here is more from Dr. Gunter:

    Using terms like fetus and “beating heart” conjures up an image of a tiny human almost able to live on its own . . . . Cardiac activity can be detected when an embryo is 3 mm and the actual visual isn’t very baby-like at all. (See image of an actual embryo at the end of this post.) 
    To the average person who a fetal heart beat bill sounds a lot more like preventing a 2nd trimester procedure and a greater number of Americans oppose those. The majority of voters support 1st trimester abortion, so if you want the average person to think you are limiting 2nd trimester procedures repetitively talking about a fetal heart beat would be one way to do that. The more “baby like” the image the better, and so fetal heart bills sound more like saving close to term “babies” than restricting access to 1st and 2nd trimester abortion.

    In short, "pro lifers" are conning the American public, and Dr. Gunter is brave enough to call them on it:
    The imprecision also contaminates legal cases, if a 6 week embryo with cardiac activity becomes a fetus with a heart beat to the general pubic then at 23 weeks a fetus seems a lot closer to term than the reality of being barely on the cusp of viability even with intensive neonatal care. This what happened in Purvi Patel’s case. The pretrial motions indicated her fetus was 30 weeks when it was 23-24, but the damage was done. The image that this was a 3rd trimester pregnancy was set. Shifting the paradigm of what sounds like a baby earlier and earlier has lots of anti-choice payoffs. 
    Using incorrect terminology isn’t just sloppy, it has a purpose – the babyfication of the embryo and it’s just one more back door way to erode choice.



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    Edmund LaCour Jr.
    Alabama's recently appointed solicitor general has worked for two law firms with strong connections to Russia. In fact, SG Edmund LaCour Jr. directly represented one of Russia's major energy companies while working for a law firm in Texas.

    LaCour's appointment by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall -- replacing Andrew Brasher, who was confirmed as a Trump nominee to a U.S. judgeship in the Middle District of Alabama -- is just one sign of the "Russiafication" of Alabama's political and "justice" systems. Others came to light recently.

    As usual, greed related to the gaming industry is at the heart of Alabama corruption, and the latest manifestation of it reportedly has attracted attention from the Trump Department of Justice (DOJ), probably because the president's buddies in the gambling industry are concerned about losing market share to Alabama's Poarch Creek Indians.

    Russian influence on Alabama politics is not new, and it appears to have originated with former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and his alliance with Russian oligarch and mobster Oleg Deripaska and future Trump-campaign criminal Paul Manafort in an effort to win a $40-billion Air Force refueling-tanker contract for a European consortium that was to build tankers partly in Mobile, AL. The battle over that contract started roughly in 2000, and the ultimate winner in 2011 was Seattle-based Boeing (which also has a major presence in and around Huntsville, AL).

    Sessions and Co. were losers on that deal, but the LaCour appointment is just one of several signs that the Russiafication of Alabama -- perhaps the state will become known as "Moscow on the Cahaba" -- is advancing apace.

    LaCour, who grew up in Alabama's Wiregrass Region, came to the SG position from the D.C.-based law firm of Kirkland and Ellis, which also produced U.S. Attorney General and Trump protector William Barr. In fact, one of the most overlooked aspects of the Robert Mueller investigation is Barr's ties to Russia. It's possible Barr's recent actions on the release of the Mueller Report were only partially about protecting Trump; Barr might also have been trying to protect himself. From our recent post about Barr's ties to Russia, based largely on a report from Newsweek:

    On Barr’s public financial disclosure report, he admits to working for a law firm that represented Russia’s Alfa Bank and for a company whose co-founders allegedly have long-standing business ties to Russia. What’s more, he received dividends from Vector Group, a holding company with deep financial ties to Russia.

    These facts didn’t get much attention during Barr’s confirmation hearing, as Congress was hyper focused on an unsolicited memo Barr wrote prior to his nomination, which criticized the special counsel’s investigation—and whether he would release an unredacted Mueller report to Congress. Much of the information is public, but it has so far been unreported in relation to Barr. . . .

    On his financial disclosure report, Barr notes that he earned anywhere from $5,001 to $15,000 in dividends from the Vector Group.

    The company’s president, Howard Lorber, brought Trump to Moscow in the 1990s to seek investment projects there. The trip is widely seen as the first of many attempts to establish a Trump Tower in Moscow.

    Barr's ties to Russia do not end there:

    Barr’s former law firm Kirkland Ellis LLP, where he was counsel from March 2017 until he was confirmed as attorney general in February 2019, represented Russia’s Alfa Bank. (Barr earned more than $1 million at Kirkland.)

    As for Edmund LaCour Jr., it's clear that during his time at Kirkland and Ellis, he worked for a Russia-connected firm. But LaCour has more direct ties to Russia from his days at the Houston, TX, office of Baker Botts. That's where he helped represent a Russian energy giant in a case styled Moncrief Oil International v. OAO Gazprom.

    How important is Gazprom in Russia? It is a central player in plans for a $500-billion Arctic oil-drilling project; the company wants to build man-made islands to support the drilling. The project has been stalled by U.S. sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. In fact, the desire to have those sanctions lifted might be the No. 1 reason Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election to get Donald Trump in the White House.

    From our post on Russia's drilling plans and its ties to two energy giants, including Gazprom. The post revolves around a USA Today report about FBI director Christopher Wray and his Russia-related conflicts from his work at the Atlanta law firm King and Spalding:

    The most troubling issue that Wray may face is the fact that his law firm — King and Spalding — represents Rosneft and Gazprom, two of Russia’s largest state-controlled oil companies.

    Rosneft was prominently mentioned in the now infamous 35-page dossier prepared by former British MI6 agent Christopher Steele. The dossier claims that the CEO of Rosneft, Igor Sechin, offered candidate Donald Trump, through Trump’s campaign adviser Carter Page, a 19% stake in the company in exchange for lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia. The dossier claims that the offer was made in July while Page was in Moscow.

    Rosneft is also the company that had a $500 billion oil drilling joint-venture with Exxon in 2012, when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was Exxon’s CEO. However, the deal was nixed by President Obama in 2014, when he imposed the sanctions that crippled Russia’s ability to do business with U.S. companies. The lifting of sanctions by the Trump administration would enable Exxon to renew its joint venture agreement with Rosneft, and the law firm of King and Spalding could end up in the middle of the contract negotiations between those two companies.

    What about Gazptom's role in all of this? Here are details:

    The law firm’s representation of Gazprom raises even more serious conflict issues for Wray. Gazprom was a partner in RosUkrEnergo AG (“RUE”), which is controlled by Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash. He is under federal indictment in Chicago for racketeering charges, has had numerous financial dealings with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and is generally considered to be a member of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

    Gazprom
    Though there is no indication that Wray personally worked on any of the Rosneft or Gazprom legal matters handled by his law firm, he might well have an ethical and legal conflict of interest that would prevent him from any involvement in the FBI’s Russian probe. When a law firm such as King and Spalding represents clients, then all of the partners in that law firm have an actual or potential conflict of interest, preventing them from undertaking any representation of any other client that has interests clearly adverse to those of these two Russian companies. These conflict rules continue to apply even after a lawyer leaves the law firm, so Wray could be ethically barred from involving himself in a federal investigation that includes within its scope a probe of Rosneft, Gazprom, and affiliated companies.

    Christopher Wray might not have personally worked on Gazprom legal matters, but new Alabama SG Edmund LaCour Jr. definitely did, as this press release makes clear. How substantial is Gazprom's international footprint? This 2015 article from dallasnews.com spells it out, along with details of the Moncrief Oil case:

    Moncrief Oil International Inc. unexpectedly dropped its $1.37 billion case Monday against Russia’s national energy company, one month into its trial.

    The decision abruptly ended Moncrief’s decade-long trade secrets legal battle against Gazprom after the Fort Worth company discovered lethal holes in its case.

    Lawyers for Moncrief told Tarrant County District Judge Melody Wilkinson over the weekend that they wanted to dismiss its claims against OAO Gazprom, the world’s largest natural gas producer with revenue exceeding $350 billion. The judge informed the jury of six women and six men Monday morning that the case was over.

    What about other signs that Alabama is becoming a subsidiary of Russia Inc., answering to Vladimir Putin and his associates? One such sign came with an article from Alabama Political Reporter (APR) about the Poarch Creek Indians alliance with a Russian oligarch to help the tribe establish a gaming monopoly. Writes APR's Bill Britt:

    A former Russian banker’s company is now offering software to the state that would take screen captures of contractor PCs at least once every three minutes and also track keystrokes and mouse activity.

    Poarch Creek’s lobbyist, Barton and Kinney, LLC, is pushing legislation similar to that being hawked in New Jersey and 20-plus other states that would require any company doing at least $100,000 worth of work for a state to “use software to verify that all hours billed for work under the contract for services performed on a computer are eligible charges.”

    Barton and Kinney, LLC, comprised of former Republican Rep. Jim Barton and Phillip and Allison Kinney has become a powerhouse lobbying firm based on their relationship with Poarch Creek’s Vice President Robbie McGhee. McGhee and the Kinneys have been nearly inseparable during past legislative sessions. However, this year McGhee has only shown his face at the State House on rare occasions when the tribe has felt its gaming monopoly was being threatened.

    Who is the Russian seeking to interfere with state contracting in Alabama? Writes Britt:

    The lobbying outfit now represents TransparentBusiness, Inc, which is pressing state lawmakers across the nation to pass legislation that would demand the type of monitoring software it offers.

    The company was founded by Alex Konanykhin, a Russian national who, according to his Wikipedia profile, was granted political asylum in the United States in the early 2000s.

    Russian Time Magazine reported that Konanykhin was considered one of the most wealthy and influential men in post-Soviet Russia. They said, “You could call him an oligarch, or a genius.”

    Three days after that article was published, APR followed up with a report titled "Poarch Creeks subject of multiple federal probes, White House is watching." Writes Britt:

    Federal authorities are actively investigating the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama.

    APR recently learned from a former federal prosecutor with deep ties to D.C. that President Donald Trump’s administration now has the Poarch Creeks on its radar after several news reports focused on the tribe’s monopoly in Alabama and its expansion plans.

    A former White House insider confirmed to APR on background that the Trump administration is watching what is happening in the State Legislature as the Indians are interfering in gaming and lottery legislation to ensure the tribe’s monopoly grows at the expense of private gaming interests.

    “Stories citing the president’s disdain for Indian underhanded tactics are always an interest to the White House,” said the former White House insider. “Trump forgets nothing … what the tribe is up to in Alabama is being heard in Washington.”

    I don't agree with Trump on much of anything, but it's about time someone in law enforcement started taking a look at the rampant sleaze in Alabama. Of course, if Trump realizes his beloved Russia is helping drive much of the crookedness, he might call off any investigation.

    Then, Alabama might be well on its way to becoming "Moscow on the Cahaba."

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    Of all the lies Donald Trump has told since entering the White House -- and CNN puts the number at about 10,000 -- perhaps the most flagrant involved the issue of abortion rights. Given that Alabama recently passed the nation's most restrictive abortion law, which is wildly unconstitutional and contrary to biological facts and proper language, this should hit home to many of our readers -- as our blog nears its 12th birthday, after receiving the breath of life in Birmingham.

    What Trump lie was so fantastic that it stands out above a crowded field -- and made an influential Canadian and American gynecologist want to flip her lid, stethoscope and all? It came in late April at a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin (See video above), and here is how HuffPost's Sanjana Karanth reported it:

    President Donald Trump continued to tell dangerous lies about abortion on [April 28], this time falsely claiming to his supporters in Wisconsin that mothers and doctors conspire to commit infanticide after a baby is born.

    “The baby is born, the mother meets with the doctor, they take care of the baby, they wrap the baby beautifully,” he said in an off-the-rails rally in Green Bay. “Then the doctor and mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.”

    Yep, the president of the United States claims infanticide is routinely practiced in American clinics and hospitals. The notion so outraged Dr. Jen Gunter that she did not even have to wait for Trump to speak his words in order to call b---s--t. The canard apparently had been going around in right-wing extremist circles to the point that Gunter was able to respond to it in a blog post dated March 7, 2019, titled "I'm an OB/GYN, and infanticide is not part of abortion care. Here's why" From the post:

    The propaganda about infanticide and abortion is offensive and ridiculous. It insinuates that somehow abortion involves delivery of a viable infant and then that viable infant is killed.

    This isn’t what is happening. At all.

    A legal, non-back alley abortion does not lead to infanticide.

    Anyone who says otherwise has no idea what happens at an abortion, has a forced-birth agenda and to further that goal is attempting to equate a fetus with an infant, is purposely trying to get a health-care provider hurt with inflammatory lies. Or all three.

    Just like the myth of “late-term abortions,” there are a few lies layered in, so let’s unpack them so people have the right talking points. And the truth.

    The first key point: A live birth is required for infanticide -- and that means the definition of a live birth, which Donald Trump almost certainly does not know, is kind of important. Writes Dr. Gunter:

    I can’t believe I have to say this, but here we are.

    I’m going to repeat this again.

    You need a live birth for infanticide.

    This is the definition that most states use for live birth:

    ‘Live Birth’’ means the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of a product of human conception, irrespective of the duration of pregnancy, which, after such expulsion or extraction, breathes, or shows any other evidence of life such as beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, whether or not the umbilical cord has been cut or the placenta is attached. Heartbeats are to be distinguished from transient cardiac contractions; respirations are to be distinguished from fleeting respiratory efforts or gasps.

    That last paragraph is likely to leave many lay eyeballs glazed over -- so Dr. Gunter adds some explanation:

    The key part is the last sentence: Heartbeats are to be distinguished from transient cardiac contractions; respirations are to be distinguished from fleeting respiratory efforts or gasps.

    Movement or cardiac activity does not equate life, by the medical and the legal definitions.

    Whether a birth is recorded as “live” in situations of extreme prematurity or fetal anomalies — the kind of situations we are talking about — is not cut and dried. . . .

    The take away — a live birth does not mean a life is possible. There is a huge difference. And, the recording of a live birth can be fluid based on parental wishes.

    The second key point: Most abortions can't possibly end in a live birth that can actually result in a life:
    Only 1.3% of abortions are performed at or after 21 weeks and most of these happen by 24 weeks. So right off the bat, 98.7% of abortions can’t possibly end in infanticide because they are performed before any chance of viability. There can never be a live birth no matter how much bad technique or malpractice is involved in the care. 
    Most states limit abortion to under 24 weeks. So it is clear there are very few places where the mythical “live birth” abortions could actually happen. Some states allow for abortions after 24 weeks when there are lethal fetal anomalies. Let’s be super clear here — lethal fetal anomalies can’t have a life.

    Maternal health is a part of the equation in many states:

    Some states have a maternal health exemption. Abortions for maternal health are super rare at or after 24 weeks. They are almost always a catastrophic combination of events where fetal outcome is also deemed to be not possible or very improbable. These are wanted pregnancies, so if there is any realistic chance of fetal survival a c-section or vaginal delivery is done. The ONLY time a surgical abortion would be done is when maternal health is deteriorating quickly due to the pregnancy and fetal survival is deemed to be highly unlikely or impossible — again, for those in the back, a lethal situation cannot become a live birth. And obviously if you are pro life the life of the person that should matter the most is the maternal one, even if you just consider the mother a host. A dead mother is bad for fetal life. (I can’t believe I have to write that, but again, here we are).

    The most common scenario for abortion for maternal health at or after 24 weeks is severe fetal growth restriction and severe maternal hypertension (pre eclampsia). The fetus is not considered viable due to the growth restriction, even though it is past 24 weeks. The mother is very sick and needs not to be pregnant ASAP, and an abortion is deemed the fastest way to save her life. A c-section is riskier, so if there is someone skilled to do surgical abortions at this gestational age that is the recommendation.

    Determinations about fetal abnormalities cannot always be made at 24 weeks:

    Sometimes the conclusion about severe fetal anomalies is not reached until 25-26 weeks or later. These are typically situations where a live birth may result in a few days of life with multiple, painful interventions or perhaps a few months of abject misery due to medical interventions. These are conditions that after birth, should these anomalies have gone undetected prenatally, we would typically allow parents to withdraw care. Withdrawing care in utero or after delivery are the same thing.

    Dr. Jen Gunter
    In this situation, an abortion might be accomplished by induction of labor or by surgical methods. Sometimes an induction is not possible as a c-section would be needed for obstetrical indications (meaning labor is not safe medically). Many women elect for the surgical abortion as they do not want the major surgery. A surgical abortion by a skilled provider, even in the 3rd trimester, is safer for the pregnant person.


    Abortions at or after 24 weeks are VERY expensive. Typically $20,000 or more. If there are no fetal anomalies or severe maternal health indications, insurance will not cover them. Even in medically indicated situations — maternal or fetal health — the amount covered can be low or non-existent. People don’t pay tens of thousands of dollars cash on a whim.

    The third key point: Most abortions can’t possibly end in a live birth because they are abortions:

    I can’t believe I have to spell this out either. I mean, really?

    The idea that abortions at or after 23-24 weeks — the only theortically possible “live birth scenario” — are done by two methods: surgical or induction of labor.

    A surgical abortion does not in any situation result in a live birth. It’s not possible. The end.

    So that leaves induction of labor. Again, these are almost always severe fetal anomalies, so the live birth scenario is preposterous and, quite frankly, offensive to those patients who are living the tragedy. Many patients have a procedure to stop fetal cardiac activity before the induction, so fetal demise has already occurred. Some providers think this may shorten the time it takes for induction. And some patients prefer it. Often there is fetal demise during labor, because that is what happens with severe fetal anomalies. In the rare scenario where there is a live birth, parents hold their baby for comfort care.

    The fourth key point: Most states don’t allow abortions after 20-24 weeks without extreme exceptions:

    Only 7 states have no gestational age restrictions, meaning places where the mythical healthy 32 week pregnancy that results in the, “Oh my gosh I forgot to get my 8 week abortion abortion!” could happen. For all the mental masturbation from forced birthers about New York allowing abortions at term, the law applies only after 23 weeks and 6 days for situations where maternal health is in jeopardy or lethal fetal anomalies (both of which we have spelled out above and are not going to result in live births).

    So there are only 7 states where this mythical infanticide could actually happen. Again in these states the scant abortions happening after 24 weeks (and most are before 26 weeks) are almost always for severe fetal anomalies or a combination of severe anomalies and maternal health. Again, no survival is possible.

    Are there some abortions that happen for rape after 24 weeks? Likely a few. Maybe 1 or 2 a year? Are there a few procedures for less than lethal anomalies in these states? Perhaps. However, these will all be surgical procedures, so no infanticide is possible as a fetus isn’t an infant and a surgical abortion can’t result in a live birth.

    Trump is such an ignoramus on so many topics that full-time journalists struggle to correct him. But on the subject of abortion, I would say Dr. Jen Gunter has done an outstanding job of unmasking Trump in a way that most anyone can understand. That is quite a public service. Her final thoughts on the subject:

    So why the infanticide claims?

    Lies and ignorance. Propaganda. Accomplished by perverting the narrative of babies born to die.

    The forced birthers are trying to rename a fetus a baby or an infant or a person. This is to raise funds off the misery of women. If they cared about fetal life and the survival of newborns they would advocate for free maternity care, mandatory vaccines, gun control, and banning tobacco. This is also about power and controlling women’s bodies.

    Legal, available, affordable abortion prevents back alley and clandestine procedures. If you want to prevent infanticide from predators, stop writing laws that restrict abortion.

    It’s that simple.

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    Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant

    Federal investigators in New York are scrutinizing a Tennessee developer's $1-million donation to the Trump inaugural committee, and the probe ultimately could shine light on the toxic, greed-fueled political environment that has enshrouded Alabama for at least a quarter of a century, according to a report from Associated Press.

    Franklin Haney, of Chattanooga, apparently made the donation in hopes of gaining support from the Trump administration for his plan to resurrect the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in northeast Alabama. Haney's plan, at least initially, is to sell energy to one customer -- Memphis Light Gas and Water Division (MLGW).

    Haney has a history of dumping cash on Alabama governors, including Robert Bentley and Bob Riley. In fact, sources tell Legal Schnauzer that several crooked Alabama political figures are hoping to benefit from a Bellefonte deal.

    To add several extra layers of sleaze to the project, it has ties to . . . of course, Russia. So far, Haney has little to show for his Trump gift other than the attention of U.S. prosecutors. From the AP report:

    Real estate mogul Franklin Haney contributed $1 million to President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee and all he’s got to show for the money is the glare of a federal investigation.

    The contribution from Haney, a prolific political donor, came as he was seeking regulatory approval and financial support from the government for his long-shot bid to acquire the mothballed Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in northeastern Alabama. More than two years later, he still hasn't closed the deal. . . .

    Haney’s hefty donation to Trump’s inaugural committee is being scrutinized by federal prosecutors in New York who are investigating the committee’s finances. Their probe is focused in part on whether donors received benefits after making contributions.

    Former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen could play a major role in turning over dirt to the feds. Reports AP:
    Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has given prosecutors information regarding Haney, his son and business associate, Frank Haney Jr., and the nuclear plant project, according to a person familiar with what Cohen told the authorities. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

    Haney had briefly hired Cohen to help obtain money for the Bellefonte project from potential investors, including the Middle Eastern country of Qatar. Cohen is now serving a three-year prison sentence for tax evasion, lying to Congress and campaign finance violations.

    Prosecutors also are examining whether foreigners unlawfully contributed to the committee. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan issued a subpoena last year seeking a wide range of financial records from the committee, including any "communications regarding or relating to the possibility of donations by foreign nationals."

    Where might those international money trails lead? One destination, as we reported last September, is Russia. In fact, our sources say Gov. Kay Ivey likely is playing fast and loose with Alabama taxpayer dollars in an effort to help promote a Bellefonte deal. Could that lead federal investigators to cast an eye toward Montgomery, Alabama? From our September 2018 report:

    Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is providing a taxpayer-funded defense for former Gov. Robert Bentley in the Spencer Collier lawsuit probably because she is trying to pave the way for a plan to resurrect the dormant Bellefonte nuclear plant in northeast Alabama, says a state political insider. Like much of Alabama's corruption, the shady deal appears to involve Russian interests, from a country notorious for its rampant organized crime.

    Bill Britt, editor of Alabama Political Reporter (APR), reported earlier this week that Bentley's high-priced lawyers from Maynard Cooper and Gale of Birmingham are playing hardball on discovery, stonewalling on producing the names of donors to the ACEGOV nonprofit, which has become known as Bentley's "Girlfriend Fund" because it was used to pay his mistress and senior adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

    Why the determination to stiff the Collier legal team on discovery? Jill Simpson -- opposition researcher, whistle blower, and retired attorney -- says it likely is because Chattanooga real-estate mogul Franklin Haney was a prominent donor to ACEGOV. And he is the money man behind the Bellefonte project.

    So, Bentley has been out of office for more than two years, but the swamp he left behind still is dragging Alabama down. Bob Riley, who could be called Alabama's "Creature from the Black Lagoon," had sticky fingers when it comes to Haney cash, and Riley's swampy ways continue to infest Alabama:

    Why is the Ivey administration so doggedly defending Bentley instead of putting the matter to rest? Simpson says it's likely because Ivey supports the Bellefonte project on behalf of what Simpson calls the "Alabama Gang" of corrupt right-wing politicos -- including such luminaries as "Luv Guv" Bentley, former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, former Gov. Bob Riley, and former Business Council of Alabama (BCA) president Bill Canary.

    As for the Bellefonte project's ties to Russia, that's not just a guess; it's a matter of public record. From our September 2018 report:

    Haney has reached an agreement with SNC-Lavalin, a Canadian engineering firm, to finish at least one of two reactors at Bellefonte -- with the assistance of federal loan guarantees.

    SNC-Lavalin has a history of working on various projects with Russian interests, via the VEB Bank, which has close ties to Vladimir Putin. reputed mobster Oleg Deripaska, and former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort (who has been found guilty of financial crimes.)

    See what we mean about the "Russification of Alabama"?

    Could the Haney probe send shock waves through Alabama government? Well, his pet nuclear project is in our state. And he has a history of greasing the palms of Alabama governors, as we reported in May 2016:

    The Haney Cash Caravan started with Bob Riley, who after receiving lots of Tennessee dough, suddenly started pushing for a deal regarding the old Social Security Building in Birmingham--a deal that proved awfully sweet for Mr. Haney (not to be confused with the lovable greaseball character from Green Acres). . . . 

    Haney, according to the Alabama Secretary of State's office, passed at least $130,000 to Riley through PACs run by noted PACman Clark Richardson, much like he did last year with the Birmingham City Council. . . .

    Riley, later, would become a big advocate for Haney and the Birmingham building.

    One of his last acts as governor was to sign a lease that would consolidate Jefferson County's Department of Human Resources and move that agency into 290,000 square feet of Haney's building. Annual rent on that building began at $1.2 million a year, according to the lease, but rises this year to $5 million for the remainder of the term, plus possible extra costs for operational expenses.

    That's higher than any of the 63 state tenants in any of David Bronner's newer and shinier RSA buildings, according to state records. It appears to be the highest rental rate for any state agency.

    Riley not only signed the lease as he left office, he lobbied for Haney in Birmingham.

    What about Bentley's ties to the Haney Gravy Train? Well, it looks like Mr. Haney, from Tennessee, might have helped pay for the "Luv Guv's" mistress, Rebekah Caldwell Mason:

    Franklin Haney
    Haney has resurfaced under the Bentley regime. This time, Haney dumped cash on Bentley--possibly even helping support a slush fund to pay Bentley's mistress, Rebekah Caldwell Mason--and wound up getting support for a project involving a partially built nuclear reactor in northeast Alabama. Haney also got more support for his office building.

    Just the traceable donations from Haney's businesses to Bentley's last campaigns total about $300,000, much of which moved into Bentley's campaign account after the last election was over. . . . That campaign account subsequently paid the salary of Rebekah Caldwell Mason, the governor's senior political advisor with whom he is accused of having an affair.


    Could this possibly get any sleazier? Perhaps U.S. prosecutors from New York will help answer that question -- and maybe "Cowgirl Kay Ivey" and a few of her predecessors as Alabama governor could wind up in a tight spot. And it could come from a project that, experts say, has limited value for producing modern-day energy. From the AP report:

    Stephen Smith, executive director of the nonprofit Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said Haney faces too many technical and financial hurdles to overcome.

    For example, Bellefonte’s never-completed nuclear reactors are decades old and are of a unique design that has never received an operating license in the U.S. before. He compared Bellefonte to a Ford Pinto, a 1970s-era vehicle with serious engineering flaws. Smith said it’s “extraordinarily unlikely” Bellefonte will be allowed to operate.

    Maybe the "stable genius" in the White House can help sort all of this out.

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    Nuttiness over abortion rights in Alabama did not begin with the state's recent passage of the most restrictive and unconstitutional anti-choice law in the nation. In fact, the atmosphere regarding reproductive rights for women has been toxic for decades. Birmingham has been the site of annual demonstrations, and the city has been the site of one of the nation's most notorious fatal bombings at an abortion clinic.

    In fact, I was in the general vicinity of that bomb blast, as I wrote in a post dated Jan. 20, 2008, as the nation recognized the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. From that post:

    Reading about those activities took me back to the morning of January 29, 1998. I was sitting in my car reading the newspaper before going into work (at UAB) when I heard an explosion that seemed to come several blocks to the southwest. I thought perhaps there had been an accident at a construction site, and I remember thinking, "I hope no one got hurt."

    I had been at work only a few minutes when word quickly spread that a bomb had gone off at the New Woman, All Women health clinic, which is three blocks south and two blocks west of where I had been sitting in my car. The clinic is probably less than 100 yards from Purple Onion, one of my favorite Southside lunch spots.

    The blast killed police officer Robert Sanderson and critically injured nurse Emily Lyons. Thanks mainly to the remarkably alert actions of Jermaine J. Hughes, a student at nearby UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham), authorities were able to track down Eric Robert Rudolph.

    That was a scary morning, to be sure. If I had been a few minutes later on my journey, and taken a certain path to work, my car (with me in it) would have been in close range of fragments from the bomb. Perhaps just as scary is ongoing activity related to abortion in Alabama courts.

    A December 2016 decision from the Alabama Supreme Court found that a physician could be subject to a wrongful-death lawsuit for treating a woman who, court records indicate, was having a miscarriage. The case is styled Kimberly A. Stinnett v. Karla G. Kennedy, M.D., and prominent Canadian and American OB/GYN Dr. Jen Gunter writes about it in a post at her blog dr.jengunter.com. Here is the background from a January 2017 post titled "An OB/GYN in Alabama treated a miscarriage. She’s getting sued for wrongful death":

    Court documents tell us that on May 9, 2012 Kimberly Stinnett, a resident of Alabama, found out she was pregnant. Two days later, on Friday, May 11, Ms. Stinnett had abdominal cramping and fever and the OB/GYN covering calls, Dr. Kennedy, instructed her to go to the emergency room . Upon admission Ms. Stinnett reported that her last menstrual period was April 1, 2012, so she was approximately five weeks and 5 days pregnant. Her medical history was significant for 2 prior miscarriages and a prior ectopic pregnancy in 2010, which resulted in the rupture and removal of her left fallopian tube (salpingectomy).

    An ultrasound in the emergency room revealed fluid in the endometrial cavity that “could be a gestational sac” but the court records do not describe this as definitive nor do they list the size. There was no yolk sac, fetal pole, or cardiac activity. Ms. Stinnett’s beta-hCG was 18,473. At this beta-hCG, there should have been a yolk sac. If there was an intrauterine pregnancy, the available evidence indicated it was not normal.

    Dr. Kennedy was concerned about ectopic pregnancy or an inevitable abortion (an abnormal pregnancy destined to miscarry). Her patient had one of the biggest risk factors for ectopic pregnancy, a previous ectopic pregnancy. Failure to promptly diagnose and treat an ectopic pregnancy can cause severe blood loss and even death. If not expertly treated, it could also result in the loss of her one remaining fallopian tube which would require in vitro fertilization for any subsequent pregnancies.

    In short, Stinnett's life was in danger, as was her ability to carry a normal pregnancy in the future. Dr. Kennedy conducted a laparoscopy and a dilation and curettage (D and C) to "confirm the intra-uterine placement of what the evidence suggested was a non-viable pregnancy. When pathology results were inconclusive, that meant a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy still was a possibility; it is possible for there to be a pregnancy in the tube and the uterus; this is called a heterotopic. Dr. Kennedy was concerned enough that she recommended methotrexate, a cancer drug and a recommended therapy for ectopic pregnancy.

    Ectopic pregnancy
    About three weeks later, Stinnett miscarried, and she eventually sued for wrongful death of her "pre-viable child." A trial-court judge in Jefferson County dismissed the claim, but the eight justices of the Alabama Supreme Court, including Tom Parker ("Roy Moore Lite"), reversed and allowed the wrongful-death claim to move forward. Here is how Dr. Gunter describes the medical evidence, as available in the court record:

    With a beta hCG of 18,473 a yolk sac should have be seen on the initial ultrasound on May 11th. In fact, 99% of the time a yolk sac should be seen with a beta hCG of 17,716. The gestational sac wasn’t normal looking so with that pregnancy hormone level and the absence of a yolk sac it is pretty hard to conclude this pregnancy was viable. Remember the fetal pole cardiac activity bills? We often see cardiac activity at 6 weeks, so an irregular gestational sac at 5 weeks and 5 days by with no yolk sac is itself very abnormal.

    I asked 3 reproductive endocrinologists what the chances of a pregnancy being normal with a beta hCG of 18,473 and no yolk sac, and they all looked at me like I was nuts.

    In other words, the evidence was overwhelming that the pregnancy was non-viable, and Dr. Kennedy acted reasonably to save the mother from the dangers of an ectopic pregnancy. But the Alabama Supreme Court, twisting the law into all sorts of contortions, disagreed.

    Here is a summary of the facts and legal issues from a post at jdsupra.com:

    If an obstetrician’s negligence causes the miscarriage of a nonviable fetus—i.e., one that couldn’t live outside the womb–does the patient have a cause of action for wrongful death? In Alabama the answer is yes, according to a unanimous opinion by the state’s highest court.

    Kimberly Stinnett alleged that two days after being informed by her OB that she was pregnant, she experienced severe cramping and fever and was seen in the ER by Dr. Kennedy, the OB on call. Stinnett reported that she had experienced two prior miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy that resulted in removal of a fallopian tube. After testing, Kennedy administered methotrexate, a drug used to treat ectopic pregnancies by terminating them.

    Three days later an ultrasound revealed an intrauterine pregnancy, which Stinnett’s OB said was failing as a result of the methotrexate. About four weeks after the ER visit, she miscarried. The fetus had never been viable, but there was a dispute as to whether it could have reached viability if not for the methotrexate.

    How did we reach a point where treating a patient with a history of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy -- a patient who again was in the midst of a troubled pregnancy, one that appeared to be non-viable -- could put a physician in legal jeopardy? Court documents suggest three factors are in play:

    (1) State courts' longstanding desire to maintain congruence between the state's criminal homicide statutes and the civil Wrongful Death Act. The thinking is that both are designed to prevent homicide, so they need to be in alignment;

    (2) A 2006 amendment to the homicide statutes (called the Brody Act), altering Alabama law to include an "unborn child" as a potential victim of homicide; (The federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which President Bush signed in April 2004, covers unborn victims of federal crimes.)

    (3) A ruling in Mack v. Carmack, 79 So. 3d 597 (Ala. 2011), based on the Brody Act, holding that the Wrongful Death Act permits an action for the death of a pre-viable fetus.

    The Alabama Supreme Court, in Mack v. Carmack, describes the process that turned an "unborn child" into a potential homicide victim -- and thus, the central figure in a wrongful-death lawsuit:

    Section 6-5-391, Ala.Code 1975, entitled "Wrongful death of minor" ("the Wrongful Death Act"), provides, in pertinent part, that "[w]hen the death of a minor child is caused by the wrongful act, omission, or negligence of any person ..., the father, or the mother ... of the minor may commence an action."[3] § 6-5-391(a), 600*600 Ala.Code 1975. The issue before us in this appeal is the proper application of § 6-5-391(a).

    Mack concedes that, in two decisions issued by this Court in 1993 concerning wrongful-death claims arising out of the death of a fetus, this Court held that no cause of action for wrongful death exists if the fetus was not viable at the time of death. See Gentry v. Gilmore, 613 So.2d 1241, 1242 (Ala.1993) (concluding that "the Wrongful Death Act does not provide a cause of action for the death of a nonviable fetus"); and Lollar v. Tankersley, 613 So.2d 1249, 1252 (Ala.1993) (concluding that "a cause of action for death resulting from a pre-natal injury requires that the fetus attain viability either before the injury or before death results from the injury"). Largely on the basis of a recent legislative enactment, Mack now asks this Court to overrule Gentry and Lollar.

    In pertinent part, the so-called "Brody Act," Act No. 2006-419, Ala. Acts 2006, codified as Ala.Code 1975, § 13A-6-1, changed the definition of the term "person" in the article of the Alabama Code defining homicide offenses. Before its amendment in 2006, this article defined the term "person" as "a human being who had been born and was alive at the time of the homicidal act."§ 13A-6-1(2), Ala.Code 1975. As amended by the Brody Act, § 13A-6-1(a)(3), Ala.Code 1975, now defines the term "person" as "a human being, including an unborn child in utero at any stage of development, regardless of viability."

    In essence, the Brody Act started the ball rolling toward the Alabama Supreme Court's ruling in Stinnett, where a doctor faces possible liability for wrongful death in treatment of a miscarriage. That raises this question: Is the Brody Act sound law? An amended version of the Brody Bill, the one that was signed into law, can be found here -- and we see no sign that it is based on fact, science, legal precedent, or anything else of substance. It appears to be a piece of arbitrary legislation that has little or no legitimate purpose and was created mostly for political expedience. Former State Rep. Spencer Collier drafted the bill, and we found this in a report at saintpatrickcc.com:

    Collier said that, starting July 1, it would be up to a prosecutor to prove a woman was pregnant and that the accused person injured or killed the child she was carrying.

    He said a district attorney might try to use the Brody bill to prosecute someone for criminally negligent homicide or manslaughter if the person caused a traffic accident that killed an unborn child.

    Not only would the law not apply in the case of legal abortions, it also would not apply to the mother. Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, said he wanted that provision added to ensure that a woman who miscarried could not be prosecuted. It also would not apply to health care providers if an unborn child were injured or killed by medical care.

    Collier's bill as first written would have applied to "an unborn child at every stage of gestation (in the uterus) from conception to birth, regardless of viability."

    At Smitherman's request, that phrase was rewritten to apply to "an unborn child (in the uterus) at any stage of development regardless of viability."

    Collier said he believed the new language had the same meaning as the original language. "I do think it accomplishes the same thing," he said.

    But Smitherman said it would be up to a judge to decide whether the bill applied from conception. "I don't know what a judge would say," Smitherman said.

    Clearly, the act had its origins in the notion that "life begins at conception," even though that is demonstrably untrue -- as should be apparent to anyone with a sixth grader's knowledge of human biology. Apparently, the Alabama legislators who approved the Brody Bill -- and former Gov. Bob Riley, who signed it into law -- lack that level of scientific knowledge.

    That means the Brody Act, and its progeny, are very bad law, and we will show why in upcoming posts.

    As for the Stinnett case, it was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings, and we have seen no updates in the press.


    (To be continued)

    0 0





    The big loser from Robert Mueller's statement yesterday about the Trump-Russia investigation appears to be Attorney General William Barr, The special counsel, in announcing his resignation and closing his office, made it clear Barr lied to the public in summaries of the Mueller Report -- and absolved Donald Trump on obstruction of justice in a way that was not supported by the evidence.

    Even right-wing Fox News blasted Barr in the wake of Mueller's statements. And Andrew Kreig, of the Justice Integrity Project, has a timely and insightful piece that shows, in many respects, history is repeating itself as Barr acts as a protector and fixer for Trump. From the Kreig piece, titled "Trump Found His Roy Cohn In Deep State Fixer Bill Barr":

    In protecting President Trump, Attorney General William Barr is meeting the president’s demand for a loyal legal fixer in the radical right mold of the canny, connected and immoral Roy Cohn.

    That is the not-so-hidden backstory of the radical gutting of American constitutional government now under way to expand and cover up Team Trump's corruption.

    The synergy between Barr's ugly past as a CIA-trained strategist implicated in massive drug, arms and financial crime cover-ups decades ago makes his current alliance with Trump far more dangerous for United States democracy than Cohn's long-ago relationships with the big-talking hotelier Trump of the early 1980s, or even with Cohn's own 1950s mentor, the red-baiting Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy.

    Some see Barr as a conservative "institutionalist" committed to a "rule of law" at the Justice Department. Others increasingly regard him as the president's puppet and defender against other law enforcers. We argue in this column that his track record shows a pattern of cynical manipulation of law and rhetoric to enhance the power of the already powerful.

    Many of today's Trump-related headlines, Kreig reports, have their roots in the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s:

    We must note at the outset the shocking failure of society's watchdogs during recent years to refresh public recollection about Iran-Contra.

    That's especially harmful when so many of the malefactors are still prominent. These include Barr, the recent National Rifle Association President Oliver North and Presidential Special Envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams.

    Barr, who was U.S. attorney general from 1991 to 1993 as he protected President George H.W. Bush from corruption investigations, had sought the Trump post with a unsolicited 19-page memo to the Justice Department last year arguing for expanded presidential immunities.

    Not surprisingly, the embattled Trump then chose Barr to replace Trump's first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who had angered the president by failing to protect him from the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller into claims of 2016 Trump presidential campaign wrongdoing and cover up.

    Barr went on to lie at news conferences in spinning his redacted version of Mueller's 448-page report before anyone in Congress or the public could see it.

    Trump's move last week to give Barr unprecedented power to declassify U.S. intelligence -- in an apparent effort to show the Trump campaign was the victim of unlawful spying in 2016 -- is particularly troubling, Kreig writes:

    Trump's designation of new powers for Barr is an invitation for Team Trump to cherry pick information to argue that Trump is the victim of "spying" and other unfair practices during the 2016 campaign. Scant rebuttal is possible because Team Trump controls much of the classified documentation and has vowed minimal cooperation with Congress or other oversight bodies.

    The rest of the public can safely assume -- based on past practices and the indictment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on May 23 on spy charges for releasing classified documents -- that Team Trump will try to use Barr to thwart independent investigations of the classified materials at issue.

    As Barr seems to morph into a modern-day Roy Cohn, it raises this question: Just how seedy was Roy Cohn? Kreig provides plenty of insight:

    Cohn became prominent as a federal prosecutor in the early 1950s and then as Sen. McCarthy's chief counsel from 1953-54 as the senator crusaded against supposed Communist and other leftist threats against major U.S. institutions, including the Army, State Department and Hollywood. The blustering McCarthy and his aide Cohn intimidated officials in Washington by inflaming right-wing anger until the Senate censured the hard-drinking McCarthy. He died soon afterward as a lonely, forlorn figure, according to his friend, the liberal Washington Merry-Go-Round columnist Jack Anderson.

    As for Cohn, his legal brilliance, ruthless tactics and diverse alliances enabled him to work in private practice as a radical right political operative with such ostensibly different institutions as FBI leaders, organized crime, the Catholic Church and big business.

    Roy Cohn and Donald Trump
    Cohn . . .  was a member of the ultra-conservative John Birch Society [and] represented three of New York City's most powerful Mafia families. . . . This editor reported on the mob during this era and once interviewed Cohn regarding his representation of Carmine Galante, then head of the Bonanno Mafia Family.

    Among other notable Cohn clients were media mogul Rupert Murdoch, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and GOP political operative Roger Stone, who became a close friend of both Cohn and Trump.

    Cohn also represented Donald Trump and his father Fred Trump. Trump credited Cohn with teaching him to litigate fiercely and exhaust the resources of opponents, even including the federal government on occasion, by increasing pain for them in any way possible. . . .

    Cohn, who was ultra-right wing politically, was also a closeted but active homosexual, according to widespread reporting through the decades that illustrates his hypocrisy. Cohn had also been disbarred for fraud at the end of his career despite his legendary legal ability and high-level connections, including representation of seemingly eminent officials and institutions, including church leaders.

    Why is the current investigative focus on Trump's finances? It involves his long-time ties to organized crime, including unsavory characters like Roy Cohn:

    Money-laundering is a key skill for all major crime operations because the money has to re-enter the financial system without triggering scrutiny. Condos and casinos are especially popular as conduits.

    This helps explain much of the current investigative focus on Trump's financial records as well as his mob connections regarded as relevant to Trump's construction projects, casino gambling and colossal bankruptcies. Major biographies focused on such topics include Trump by Wayne Barrett (1992), TrumpNation by Timothy O'Brien (2005); The Truth About Trump by Michael D'Antonio (2015); and The Making of Donald Trump by David Cay Johnston (2016), fleshed out by innumerable investigative and tabloid reports. Russian, Asian and European mobsters would replace the Italian-American hoodlums in Trump's orbit during more recent decades . . .

    How do the careers of Roy Cohn and William Barr intersect? Writes Kreig:

    One common denominator for those that Barr and Cohn have defended is, of course, the sinister business and crimes of Donald J. Trump.

    More generally, both Barr and Cohn have extensive track records in hiding such crimes as massive money-laundering and tax fraud, which typically (and we can strongly suspect in Trump's situation also) involve income derived from foreign-born mobsters and their dope dealing, arms smuggling, massive financial frauds and corrupt relationships with high-ranking officials. . . .

    Mob assistance to the CIA for repeated assassination attempts against Cuba's leader Fidel Castro would inevitably require the assistance of fixers both in the private sector and in government. The late Air Force Col. Fletcher Prouty, the top Defense Department liaison to the CIA for covert operations, entitled his breakthrough 1973 memoir The Secret Team to show how what he called "The High Cabal" of U.S. and U.K. oligarchs deploy operatives widely and covertly to manage events and information flow.

    Roy Cohn and Bill Barr are part of this tradition. A distress signal is surely warranted at this point.

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