Thursday, May 23, 2019

Dr. Jen Gunter, an influential gynecologist (and blogger) unmasks Donald Trump as a preposterous con man on the issue of abortion and infanticide

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.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The "Russification of Alabama": Edmund LaCour Jr., state's new solicitor general, has worked at two law firms with ties to Russia and represented Gazprom, natural-gas producer with $350 billion in revenue

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.

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 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."

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

"Fetal heartbeats" actually are "embryonic cardiac activity," and pro lifers use such fraudulent language to boost their "babyfication of the embryo" campaign

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, 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.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Deutsche Bank officials ignored warnings of suspicious activity in Trump and Kushner accounts, adding fire to an already smoky story of possible money laundering

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.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Alabama's "fetal heartbeat" bill is built on a mountain of deceitful language and medical ignorance, but mostly white, male lawmakers don't seem to care

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 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.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Police raid the home of San Francisco journalist, seeking info on a leaked death document, in a scene reminiscent of my "arrest for blogging" in Alabama

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.”

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Gynecologists say "fetal heartbeat" bills popping out of legislatures in the South and Midwest are built largely on medical ignorance and fraudulent language

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)

Monday, May 13, 2019

The influence of Judge Bill Pryor, with his ties to 1990s gay porn, seems to be growing as Trump seeks to pack Alabama courts with devotees of the Federalist Society

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 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.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Sandra Bland's video of Texas traffic stop, released posthumously this week, shows officer lied about threat to his safety and likely lacked grounds to arrest

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)

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

U.S. Judge Gerald Bard Tjoflat, who helped cheat Don Siegelman in political prosecution, blasts Alabama lawyer Ken Lay for allegedly violating precedent, but the judge himself has a history of failing to follow rules

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)