30 November 2015

If Only the Ruling Included a Kick to the 'Nads

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals just issued a permanent injunction against the Cook County Sheriff enjoining them from contacting credit card companies to threaten them into dropping n adult web site:
Nov 30 A federal appeals court on Monday ordered an injunction blocking the Cook County, Illinois, sheriff from pursuing any effort to stop credit card companies from handling transactions for Backpage.com, a classified ad website that the sheriff said promotes sex trafficking.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said Sheriff Thomas Dart, whose jurisdiction includes Chicago, violated Backpage's First Amendment free speech rights by demanding that companies such as MasterCard Inc and Visa Inc ban the use of their cards to buy ads on the website.

Writing for a three-judge panel, Circuit Judge Richard Posner said Dart's "official bullying" and "campaign of suffocation" amounted to censorship, preventing even transactions for ads touting "indisputably legal" activities from being processed.

"As a citizen or father, or in any other private capacity, Sheriff Dart can denounce Backpage to his heart's content. He is in good company; many people are disturbed or revolted by the kind of sex ads found on Backpage's website," Posner wrote.

But as sheriff of a county with more than 5.2 million people, Dart cannot make "dire threats," including of possible prosecution, in a campaign "to crush Backpage's adult section - crush Backpage, period, it seems," the judge added.


The injunction bars Dart from coercing or threatening sanctions against card companies, processors and financial companies that do business with Backpage.com, while the company pursues its lawsuit to stop his campaign.

In August, U.S. District Judge John Tharp had rejected Backpage.com's bid for a preliminary injunction.

Posner said that was a mistake because Backpage.com would probably succeed on the merits, and suffered "irreparable injury" from its loss of First Amendment freedoms.

Dart's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. His office has said it has made more than 800 arrests since 2009 connected to Backpage.com ads.
800 arrests from lurking on an internet web site looking for sex workers.

How about policing those gun shops in Cook County, just over the border from Chicago who are selling to any sort of skeevy straw buyers with two nickels to rub together instead of pursuing some masseuses giving tug jobs?

I hope that Backpage.com takes him to the cleaners in a civil suit.

I also would like to see the Department of Justice go after Sheriff Dart for criminal conspiracy to deprive Backpage.com of its civil rights, but I don't expect to see that happen.

It should happen, but it won't.

Quote of the Day

So that’s what happened with iOS; I’d been wondering.
Lambert Strether on Naked Capitalism in response to reports on Rolling Stone that Silicon Valley creative types are "microdosing" psychedelic drugs.

29 November 2015

Russian Shootdown Update

First, it appears that Erdogan's Son Bilal owned the oil trucks that were bombed by Russia on the day before the shootdown. Funny how that works:
The prime source of money feeding ISIS these days is sale of Iraqi oil from the Mosul region oilfields where they maintain a stronghold. The son of Erdoğan it seems is the man who makes the export sales of ISIS-controlled oil possible.

Bilal Erdoğan owns several maritime companies. He has allegedly signed contracts with European operating companies to carry Iraqi stolen oil to different Asian countries. The Turkish government buys Iraqi plundered oil which is being produced from the Iraqi seized oil wells. Bilal Erdoğan’s maritime companies own special wharfs in Beirut and Ceyhan ports that are transporting ISIS’ smuggled crude oil in Japan-bound oil tankers.

Gürsel Tekin vice-president of the Turkish Republican Peoples’ Party, CHP, declared in a recent Turkish media interview, “President Erdoğan claims that according to international transportation conventions there is no legal infraction concerning Bilal’s illicit activities and his son is doing an ordinary business with the registered Japanese companies, but in fact Bilal Erdoğan is up to his neck in complicity with terrorism, but as long as his father holds office he will be immune from any judicial prosecution.” Tekin adds that Bilal’s maritime company doing the oil trades for ISIS, BMZ Ltd, is “a family business and president Erdoğan’s close relatives hold shares in BMZ and they misused public funds and took illicit loans from Turkish banks.
BTW, it now appears that between the Russians deploying a guided missile cruiser and S-400 long range SAMs, has created a no-fly zone in Syria, for the Turks:
The Turkish army has suspended flights over Syria as part of an ongoing joint military campaign with the United States against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) after it shot down a Russian jetfighter, sparking an unprecedented crisis between Ankara and Moscow.

The decision was taken following the eruption of the crisis with Russia in which a Turkish F-16 downed a Russian warplane early Nov. 24 after it allegedly violated Turkish airspace, according to diplomatic sources.

Sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, stressed that the suspension of the Turkish jetfighters’ participation in the U.S.-led military operations against ISIL was in fact a mutual decision taken with Russia, which also halted its aerial campaigns near the Turkish border. Both parties will continue to be as careful as possible in a bid to avoid a repetition of such incidents until they re-establish dialogue channels to reduce the tension.

Turkish and Russian military officials held initial talks on the incident on Nov. 25 as the office of the Chief of General Staff invited defense and military attachés from the Russian Embassy to military headquarters to inform them about how the incident took place. However, there is still a need for high-level political meetings to let the two parties reconcile and reduce the tension.
I would take the bit about Russia standing down, because we have numerous report of continued airstrikes by Russia against targets across Syria.

The important part of Turkey standing down in Syria is probably that the Kurds, who are now supported by both the Russians and the US are likely to have far greater freedom of operation, as they will not have to worry about Turkey bombing them.

Rather unsurprisingly, we now have a timeline, with the Russian jet in Turkish airspace for less than 18 seconds according to Turkish claims (how you warn an aircraft 10 times in 18 seconds is an activity I will leave as an exercise to the reader), which implies that this was not a timely response to a Russian provocation, but a predetermined and preplanned shootdown, which indicates that the (absurd) Turkish assertions that they did not know the plane was Russian are lies.

Meanwhile, the Russians have implemented a series of sanctions against Turkey.

Most significantly, it appears that this will involve the shutting down the tourist trade to Turkey, which is something like a quarter of Turkey's tourism business, though it will also likely involve agricultural products and textiles.

Russia is not doing anything involving natural gas exports at this time.

I think that sanctions involving natural gas are highly unlikely:  Turkey actually pays for its gas, and were they to do so, it would spur alternate pipelines to Turkey, and perhaps to through Turkey to Europe.

It's a mess, but in the short term, it appears, in the short term at least, that Turkey is coming out the worse on this, because they will be less able to prosecute their policies in Syria.

Canadian Awesome

I just have to say that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has the most awesome socks in Canada.

Cui Bono?

As Bear who Swims observes, it turns out that the latest "bipartisan" efforts to reform criminal justice have been hijacked by a Koch brothers attempt to make it next to impossible to prosecute white colar crimes:
For more than a year, a rare coalition of liberal groups and libertarian-minded conservatives has joined the Obama administration in pushing for the most significant liberalization of America’s criminal justice laws since the beginning of the drug war. That effort has had perhaps no ally more important than Koch Industries, the conglomerate owned by a pair of brothers who are well-known conservative billionaires. Now, as Congress works to turn those goals into legislation, that joint effort is facing its most significant test — over a House bill that Koch Industries says would make the criminal justice system fairer, but that the Justice Department says would make it significantly harder to prosecute corporate polluters, producers of tainted food and other white-collar criminals. The tension among the unlikely allies emerged over the last week as the House Judiciary Committee, with bipartisan support, approved a package of bills intended to simplify the criminal code and reduce unnecessarily severe sentences.


One of those bills — which has been supported by Koch Industries, libertarians and business groups — would make wholesale changes to certain federal criminal laws, requiring prosecutors to prove that suspects “knew, or had reason to believe, the conduct was unlawful,” and did not simply unknowingly violate the law.

Many laws already carry such a requirement — known as “mens rea” — but Congress left it out of many others, and libertarian groups say that has made it too easy to unknowingly violate obscure laws. Some environmentalists argue, however, that the real motive of Charles Koch, the philanthropist and the company chairman, in supporting the legislation is to block federal regulators from pursuing potential criminal actions against his family’s network of industrial and energy companies, a charge the company denies.


The proposed standard, Justice Department officials said, might have prevented guilty pleas in a variety of cases, such as the charges filed in 2013 against Jensen Farms of Colorado for failing to adequately clean cantaloupe, resulting in an outbreak of food-borne illness that was cited as a factor in at least 33 deaths. It also might have prevented the plea in the 2012 charges against the owner of a pharmacy who sold mislabeled, super-potent painkillers blamed in three deaths.

The same powers, officials said, have allowed the government to pursue charges against major corporations, like the 2011 conviction of Guidant, the giant medical device company, for failing to report safety problems with defibrillators, used to restart heartbeats.


Mark V. Holden, general counsel and senior vice president at Koch Industries, acknowledged in an interview this week that the company’s efforts to pursue revisions in federal criminal law were inspired in part by a criminal case filed 15 years ago against Koch Industries claiming that it covered up releases of hazardous air pollution at a Texas oil refinery. Those charges resulted in a guilty plea by the company and a $20 million penalty.

That case, Mr. Holden said, demonstrated that the Justice Department too often pursues criminal cases even when the accused had no criminal intent. The company itself discovered the problems and notified the authorities, he said, meaning the company did not knowingly violate the law.
Yeah, right.

Koch industries did nothing wrong.

If you believe that, I have some swampland in Florida for you.

I was wondering when the other shoe would drop.

I kind of figured that there would be a Republican turd in the punch bowl.

This is a Feature, not a Bug

What a surprise. Obama's Jihad on whistle-blowers, and openness has led to a situation where there is no accountability in government programs:
Justice Department watchdogs ran into an unexpected roadblock last year when they began examining the role of federal drug agents in the fatal shootings of unarmed civilians during raids in Honduras.

The Drug Enforcement Administration balked at turning over emails from senior officials tied to the raids, according to the department’s inspector general. It took nearly a year of wrangling before the D.E.A. was willing to turn over all its records in a case that the inspector general said raised “serious questions” about agents’ use of deadly force.

The continuing Honduran inquiry is one of at least 20 investigations across the government that have been slowed, stymied or sometimes closed because of a long-simmering dispute between the Obama administration and its own watchdogs over the shrinking access of inspectors general to confidential records, according to records and interviews.

The impasse has hampered investigations into an array of programs and abuse reports — from allegations of sexual assaults in the Peace Corps to the F.B.I.’s terrorism powers, officials said. And it has threatened to roll back more than three decades of policy giving the watchdogs unfettered access to “all records” in their investigations.

“The bottom line is that we’re no longer independent,” Michael E. Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general, said in an interview.

The restrictions reflect a broader effort by the Obama administration to prevent unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information — at the expense, some watchdogs insist, of government oversight.


n a rare show of bipartisanship, the administration has drawn scorn from Democrats and Republicans. The Obama administration’s stance has “blocked what was once a free flow of information” to the watchdogs, Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said at a hearing.
They have it wrong.

Obama simply does not believe in accountability for his administration, because he believes that they, and he, are honorable men, so we have the war on all forms of public accountability.

This is counter to both common sense, and to the intentions of the founders when they created the Constitution, who understood that a balance of powers, for which regulatory authorities need knowledge of what is going, is crucial to that idea.

Why I say that Barack Obama is the Worst Constitutional Law Professor Ever.

28 November 2015

Our NATO "Ally"

Journalists in Turkey uncovered arms shipments from the Turkish Military to ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/Whatever.

Of course, the response of Ankara was to charge those journalists with espionage and treason:
A court in Istanbul has charged two journalists from the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper with spying after they alleged Turkey’s secret services had sent arms to Islamist rebels in Syria.

Can Dundar, the editor-in-chief, and Erdem Gul, the paper’s Ankara bureau chief, are accused of spying and “divulging state secrets”, Turkish media reported. Both men were placed in pre-trial detention.

According to Cumhuriyet, Turkish security forces in January 2014 intercepted a convoy of trucks near the Syrian border and discovered boxes of what the daily described as weapons and ammunition to be sent to rebels fighting against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

It linked the seized trucks to the Turkish national intelligence organisation (MIT).

The revelations, published in May, caused a political storm in Turkey, and enraged president Recep Tayyip Erdogan who vowed Dundar would pay a “heavy price”.

He personally filed a criminal complaint against Dundar, 54, demanding he serve multiple life sentences.

Turkey has vehemently denied aiding Islamist rebels in Syria, such as the Islamic State group, although it wants to see Assad toppled.

“Don’t worry, this ruling is nothing but a badge of honour to us,” Dundar told reporters and civil society representatives at the court before he was taken into custody.
Understand, the very fact that they were charged with, "divulging state secrets" means constitutes an admission on the part of the Turks that they did sent arms to ISIS.

This is not a surprise.

Erdogan is looking to establish an Islamic state in Turkey, so it's no surprise that he is supporting the Islamic state in Syria.

It does put that shoot-down of the Russian in perspective, though.

27 November 2015

Germany Finally Does Something Useful for Greece

It appears that Germany had combed through the data that it has managed to obtain from various tax havens, and has turned over to Greece the names of over 10,000 tax cheats:
Germany has handed Athens the names of more than 10,000 of its citizens suspected of dodging taxes with holdings in Swiss banks.

The inventory, which details bank accounts worth €3.6bn – almost twice the last instalment of aid Athens secured from creditors earlier this week – was given to the Greek finance ministry in an effort to help the country raise tax revenues.
They could have done this at the beginning of the whole crisis, and done a lot more to help both the Greek people and the Euro Zone.

The Germans wanted their pound of flesh, though, so it's taken 3 years for them to turn over this data.

And of Course, the Media is Avoiding All Use of the Word Terrorist

In (where else) Colorado Springs, Colorado, Home of Focus on the Family and the epicenter of the Christofascist movement in the United States, a gunman opened fired at a Planned Parenthood clinic:
A gun battle erupted inside a Planned Parenthood center here on Friday when a man armed with an assault-style rifle opened fire and began shooting at officers as they rushed to the scene. The authorities reported that three people were killed, a police officer and two civilians, and nine were wounded before the suspect finally surrendered more than five hours after the first shots were fired.

A police official in Colorado Springs, who was not authorized to speak, identified the man in custody as Robert Lewis Dear, 59. No other information about him was available.

The police did not describe the gunman’s motives. For hours on Friday, officers traded gunfire with him inside the clinic before they were able to shout to the man and persuade him to give up, according to Lt. Catherine Buckley, a police spokeswoman.

And only time that the "T-word" is used in the story is in a direct quote from a representative of Planned Parenthood:
In a statement, Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said the group had strong safety measures and worked closely with local law enforcement.

“We don’t yet know the full circumstances and motives behind this criminal action, and we don’t yet know if Planned Parenthood was in fact the target of this attack,” she said. “We share the concerns of many Americans that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country. We will never back away from providing care in a safe, supportive environment that millions of people rely on and trust.”
This is an act of domestic terrorism, and should be treated as such and called such by the government, the press, and the public.