Monday, September 27, 2021

Epic hack of Epik website-hosting firm provides roughly 10 years of data about the rise of right-wing extremism that led to January 6 attack on U.S. Capitol

(Associated Press)
 

The story of perhaps the most important data breach in U.S. history has erupted over roughly the past two weeks. The tale is in its infancy, so it's too early to say in what direction it might head. But it clearly could provide revelations about Alabama's toxic political and legal culture -- mainly because Montgomery-connected extremist Ali (Akbar) Alexander appears to be a central character. Here are at least three questions the breach could help answer:

(1) Who was behind the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol by apparent supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump?

(2) Who is behind right-wing corruption in Alabama, and beyond, and what forms does it take?

(3) How did one of our two major political parties turn into a haven for those wracked by disinformation, race-based fears and hatred, and disrespect for the rule of law -- becoming essentially a cult of personality, with few (if any) defining governing principles beyond maintaining power, at all costs?  

What is the gist of the story? Here is an explainer from CNN

The hacking collective Anonymous last week claimed to have stolen and leaked reams of data held by Epik, a website hosting firm popular with far-right organizations like the Proud Boys.

The more than 150 gigabytes of data swept up in the breach shine a light on years of online activities from far-right groups, including those who tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election. While researchers are still sifting through the data, Epik has historically provided web hosting services to an array of conspiracy theorists, and for conservative media networks like Parler and Gab. 
The breach also undercuts Epik's pledge to customers that it can safeguard their anonymity, no matter what dangerous conspiracy theories they spread online. For that reason, experts told CNN the hack could have repercussions for how far-right groups organize and try to protect themselves online.

"A breach like this will force some of these actors to find security providers outside of North America to possibly step up their security game," Gabriella Coleman, a professor of anthropology at Harvard University, told CNN. Coleman said the data dump "confirmed a lot of the details of the far-right ecosystem."

Emily Crose, a cybersecurity analyst who studies online extremism, said the breach "will be another factor causing paranoia among far-right communities online." Crose said those groups already feel like they're under surveillance, given their violent attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election

Emma Best, co-founder of Distributed Denial of Secrets, a non-profit that itself has published hacktivist data, said researchers could be poring over the Epik leaks for months for clues into how different people and far-right organizations are linked.
 

How epic was the Epik hack? Reports CNN:

In a statement to CNN on Tuesday night, Epik said the information that Anonymous released included data on 15 million people that was already public.
 
Epik has been a trusted resource for many years and our highest priority will always be security and privacy," the firm said.

A report at The Wasington Post/Seattle Times provides insight on the scope of the hack, calling it "huge":

Extremism researchers and political opponents have treated the leak as a Rosetta Stone to the far right, helping them to decode who has been doing what with whom over several years. Initial revelations have spilled out steadily across Twitter since news of the hack broke last week, often under the hashtag #epikfail, but those studying the material say they will need months and perhaps years to dig through all of it.

“It’s massive. It may be the biggest domain-style leak I’ve seen and, as an extremism researcher, it’s certainly the most interesting,” said Megan Squire, a computer science professor at Elon University who studies right-wing extremism. “It’s an embarrassment of riches — stress on the embarrassment.”

Epik, based in the Seattle suburb of Sammamish, has made its name in the internet world by providing critical web services to sites that have run afoul of other companies’ policies against hate speech, misinformation and advocating violence. Its client list is a roll-call of sites known for permitting extreme posts and that have been rejected by other companies for their failure to moderate what their users post.

Online records show those sites have included 8chan, which was dropped by its providers after hosting the manifesto of a gunman who killed 51 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019; Gab, which was dropped for hosting the anti-Semitic rants of a gunman who killed 11 in a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018; and Parler, which was dropped by Amazon Web Services due to lax moderation related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Epik also provides services to a network of sites devoted to extremist QAnon conspiracy theories. Epik briefly hosted the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer in 2019 after acquiring a cybersecurity company that had provided it with hosting services, but Epik soon canceled that contract, according to news reports. Epik also stopped supporting 8chan after a short period of time, the company has said.

The hack produced roughly 10 years' worth of data about the far right, according to a report at Business Insider.

Epik oficials have said they take data security seriously, but that claim now appears to have been mostly window dressing. From the WaPo/Seattle Times article: 

Since the hack, Epik’s security protocols have been the target of ridicule among researchers, who’ve marveled at the site’s apparent failure to take basic security precautions such as routine encryption that could have protected data about its customers from becoming public.

The files include years of website purchase records, internal company emails and customer account credentials revealing who administers some of the biggest far-right websites. The data includes client names, home addresses, email addresses, phone numbers and passwords left in plain, readable text. The hack even exposed the personal records from Anonymize, a privacy service Epik offered to customers wanting to conceal their identity.

Similar failings by other hacked companies have drawn scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission, which has probed companies such as dating site Ashley Madison for failing to protect their customers’ private data from hackers. FTC investigations have resulted in settlements imposing financial penalties and more rigorous privacy standards.

Where does Ali Alexander, with his Montgomery-based attorney Baron Coleman, fit into this picture? We will have more on that in an upcoming post. 

(To be continued)

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The legal world is feeling heat from forest fires sparked by unsavory behavior that would fit right in with Alabama's toxic culture marked by Balch & Bingham


The legal profession tends to avoid serious public scrutiny, but that might be changing, according to a report at banbalch.com. In what should be a surprise to no one, the dubious actions are reminiscent of Alabama's toxic legal/political environment. Writes Publisher K.B. Forbes, in a post titled "Not Above the Law! Balch & Bingham, Perkins Coie, and Arnold & Porter Feel the Blistering Heat":

In 2017, we, the CDLU, dispatched a letter and email to the firm-wide managing partner of Perkins Coie, the law firm that represented the failed presidential campaign of former U.S. Senator and First Lady Hillary Clinton. 

The law firm, closely tied to the Democratic Party, was allegedly behind the circulation of the infamous and unsubstantiated “Steele Dossier” against President Donald J. Trump.

We wrote at the time:

We are writing to you to request an immediate internal investigation of the allegations against Perkins Coie partner Marc E. Elias who allegedly mislead the media and the public about the funding of Fusion GPS. Recent revelations are bothersome. If the allegations are substantiated, Perkins Coie must investigate what other staff or partners were involved in this alleged public deception and hold them accountable. 

Since last year, we have been investigating a sector that has never been under real, tangible scrutiny: the legal profession. We have learned that many unscrupulous and possibly criminal actions, including money laundering and wire fraud, are hidden behind the attorney-client privilege.

                   Like Balch & Bingham, Perkins Coie ignored our request.

The story, however does not end there for Perkins Coie. Writes Forbes: 

Like Balch & Bingham, a criminal indictment was handed down against an esteemed partner at Perkins Coie.

Last Thursday, a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. indicted Perkins Coie attorney Michael Sussman on a charge of lying to the FBI in 2016 when he allegedly hid the fact that he was working for the Hillary Clinton campaign while pushing for an investigation into supposed ties between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, a Russian financial institution.

On Friday, unlike Balch & Bingham’s partner, Sussman resigned from the law firm.

That's not the only trouble percolating in the legal world. Another storm is brewing over opioid-related litigation, which has involved Alabama Republican and Jeff Sessions/Balch & Bingham ally Luther Strange. From banbalch.com:

The indictment comes around the time of more legal bad news out of New York.

There is a “flash flood of misconduct inquiries in opioid litigation across the country” that is “threatening to inflict considerable damage on the professional reputations of its Arnold & Porter attorneys,” according to a report last week from Law360.

New York “Supreme Court Justice Jerry Garguilo … ordered Endo Pharmaceuticals and its attorneys, Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, to explain at a hearing…why they withheld critical evidence from the New York Attorney General, ” according to Paul Napoli Law Blog.

Lying, withholding evidence, and other unscrupulous conduct is not surprising after four years of observing Balch & Bingham’s alleged misconduct.

Now, Balch is stung by the alleged cover-up of misconduct by alleged pedophile Chase T. Espy, an attorney who worked for Balch for eight years and was arrested in August after allegedly seeking sex with a child online.

Balch foolishly admitted to having abruptly fired Espy a year ago, last September. Weeks before firing the alleged predator who solicited a child online, Balch changed their internal Wi-Fi address, according to sources at Balch.

What was Balch hiding and what will investigators find?

Although Marc Elias eventually left Perkins Coie and started his own law firm, he still collaborates with his former employer and represents the Democratic Party in legal battles.

The alleged unsavory conduct does not end.

In March, the “United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ordered sanctions against Marc Elias and other attorneys at Perkins Coie, an international law firm that provides counsel for the Democratic National Committee, for submitting redundant and misleading supplemental filings in their attempt to re-implement straight-ticket voting in Texas,” according to a statement from the Attorney General of Texas.

Some partners at Balch, Perkins Coie, and Arnold & Porter may foolishly believe they are above the law.

Like the blind and adoring fans of Alabama Power CEO and ex-Balch partner Mark A. Crosswhite, some of the partners may stupidly believe that they, too, are “the most powerful” person in their respective state or practice area.

Go ask Balch’s ex-partner Joel I. Gilbert when he’s ten feet tall.

He’ll be reporting to federal prison in five weeks.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Signs of sloppiness at Christopher Wray's FBI go beyond the USA Gymnastics probe; they date at least to a botched background check on Brett Kavanaugh

Brett Kavanaugh protest

Signs of ineptitude and possible corruption at the FBI under Director Christopher Wray did not begin with the botched USA Gymnastics probe, which was the subject of a U.S. Senate hearing last week. It dates at least to a sloppy background check on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh -- and that's a story that seemingly will not go away. Perhaps it's driven in part by Wray's curious background, which  includes alarming ties to Russian interests and right-wing bad actors who tend to have an outsized influence in Alabama's political and legal worlds. From a Legal Schnauzer post in October 2018:

FBI director Christopher Wray has professional ties to Russia, and that likely explains a Brett Kavanaugh background check that widely is being described as a "sham," according to an Alabama political insider.

Donald Trump nominated Wray to lead the FBI in June 2017, having fired James Comey roughly one month earlier. In 2003, President George W. Bush nominated Wray to lead the Criminal Division at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Before going into public service, Wray was a partner at King and Spalding, an Atlanta-based law firm with 10 offices around the country -- plus 10 international branches, including one in Moscow. . . . 

How sketchy was the FBI supplemental background check on Kavanaugh? It probably would have to improve to merit being called "cursory". According to one report, FBI agents interviewed nine individuals --  but they apparently did not include chief accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, nor any of her corroborating witnesses. From a report at New York magazine:

Several people who reached out to investigators to offer information said they were also left hanging. NBC News says dozens of potential witnesses have come forward to FBI field offices, “but agents have not been permitted to talk to many of them.” The New Yorker spoke to several people who were also unable to get an audience with the FBI despite their ability to corroborate [Deborah] Ramirez’s story and information refuting claims Kavanaugh made during last week’s testimony.

The FBI/Kavanaugh story continues to percolate, as evidenced by a report last week from the UK Guardian

The FBI director, Chris Wray, is facing new scrutiny of the bureau’s handling of its 2018 background investigation of Brett Kavanaugh, including its claim that the FBI lacked the authority to conduct a further investigation into the then supreme court nominee.

At the heart of the new questions surrounding Wray . . . is a 2010 Memorandum of Understanding that the FBI has recently said constrained the agency’s ability to conduct any further investigations of allegations of misconduct.

It is not clear whether that claim is accurate, based on a close reading of the MOU, which was released in court records following a Freedom of Information Act request.

The FBI was called to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation process in 2018, after he was accused of assault by Christine Blasey Ford, a professor who knew Kavanaugh when they were both in high school. He also faced other accusations, including that he had exposed himself to a classmate at Yale called Deborah Ramirez. Kavanaugh denied both accusations.

The FBI closed its extended background check of Kavanaugh after four days and did not interview either Blasey Ford or Kavanaugh. The FBI also disclosed to the Senate this June – two years after questions were initially asked – that it had received 4,500 tips from the public during the background check and that it had shared all “relevant tips” with the White House counsel at that time. It is not clear whether those tips were ever investigated.

The FBI said in its letter to two senators – Sheldon Whitehouse and Christopher Coons – that the FBI did not have the authority under the 2010 MOU at the time to “unilaterally conduct further investigative activity absent instructions from the requesting entity”. In other words, the FBI has said it would have required explicit instructions from the Trump White House to conduct further investigation under the existing 2010 guidelines on how such investigations ought to be conducted.

But an examination by the Guardian of the 2010 MOU, which was signed by the then attorney general, Eric Holder, and then White House counsel, Robert Bauer, does not make explicitly clear that the FBI was restricted in terms of how it would conduct its investigation.

The MOU, which was released in court documents in 2019 as part of Freedom of Information Act litigation brought against the US government by Buzzfeed, also does not explicitly state that the White House had the power to set the process parameters on any investigation.

What about the ties of Wray's former law firm to Russian mobsters, domestic mobsters, and unsavory characters in the Alabama political/legal firmament? From our 2018 post:

King and Spalding's extensive ties to Russia should raise eyebrows about the cursory supplemental background check of Brett Kavanaugh by Christopher Wray's FBI, says Jill Simpson -- whistle blower, opposition researcher, and retired lawyer from Rainsville, Alabama. In a Facebook post yesterday, Simpson notes King and Spalding's ties to a number of dubious characters and activities related to Russia.

They include Sergei Millian, a one-time Russian translator who has headed the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce (Russia Am Cham, based in Atlanta) and reportedly was a primary source of information for the Trump-Steele dossier. In short, Millian likely has loads of blackmail-worthy dirt on Trump, and guess what law firm has represented Russia Am Cham? It's King and Spalding, of course, says Simpson.

The firm also has ties to Trump-affiliated mobster Felix Sater, and Simpson says the firm (via Russia Am Cham) was involved in a failed lottery deal -- involving oily Alabama lawyer Rob Riley and his associate, Robert Sigler -- that fleeced the late Milton McGregor, attorney Tommy Gallion, and other prominent Montgomery business types out of about $40 million. King and Spalding, says Simpson, has ties to Russian oligarch/mafia figure Oleg Derispaska, one-time Trump campaign chair and convicted felon Paul Manafort, and Trump attorney general Jeff Sessions.

That is a lot ugly, nasty stuff -- threatening America's democracy, and Christopher Wray, via his association with King and Spalding, is tied to all of it. Writes Simpson:

FBI director Christopher Wray should be forced to resign over [the Kavanaugh supplemental background check]. It was Wray's firm, King and Spalding, that used to host the Russia Am Cham conferences for Oleg Deripaska, Mr Millian, and Mr. Sater --  the Riley/Sessions Gang attended when they beat Milton McGregor and his buddies out of $40 million for a fake Russian lottery. 
Wray's firm represents the Russian Oil and Gas Business firm that Vladimir Putin directs. Also, Christopher Wray was a Yale Law School graduate, just like Kavanaugh,  and has been buddies with the Kavanaugh, Rove, and Sessions crowd for years. 
The FBI's Kavanaugh background check is just a report done by a member of the Jeff Sessions, Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump Russian Mafia. I tried to say last week it would be bullshit, due to Wray's ties to the Russian Mafia. His old firm is a big part of Putin's legal team. Until we as a country crush the New York/Alabama/GOP Russian Mafia, we are going to continue seeing this level of corruption.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Former deputy faces manslaughter charge for the fatal shooting of white teenager in rural Arkansas, in a case drawing attention from prominent civil-rights lawyers

A protest in Arkansas for Hunter Brittain

An Arkansas deputy has been charged with manslaughter in the fatal June shooting of a white teenager near Little Rock. The incident attracted the attention of national civil-rights leaders and is seen by some as a potentially pivotal event in the drive to reform U.S. policing. From a report at Associated Press:

A special prosecutor announced the felony charge against Michael Davis, a former sergeant with the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office, in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Hunter Brittain. Davis faces between three and 10 years in prison if convicted.

Davis shot Brittain during a June 23 traffic stop outside an auto repair shop along Arkansas Highway 89 south of Cabot, a city of about 26,000 people roughly 30 miles northeast of Little Rock.

Davis told investigators he shot Brittain once in the neck during the traffic stop after the teen reached into the back of his truck and did not comply with his commands to show his hands, according to the arrest affidavit. Brittain was holding a container — which his family members have said held antifreeze — and no evidence of firearms was found in or near the truck, the affidavit said.

A passenger with Brittain said he and the teen had been working on the transmission for Brittain’s truck. The passenger told investigators he never heard Davis tell the teen to show his hands.

Davis, who is white, was fired by Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley in July for not turning on his body camera until after the shooting occurred. Staley said there’s no footage from the shooting, only the aftermath.

Several members of Brittain’s family and friends shouted, “thank you Jesus,” as Phillips announced the charge. Phillips said a bond hearing for Davis would be held on Monday.

Two of the nation's best-known civil-rights attorneys -- Ben Crump of Florida and Devon Jacob of Pennsylvania -- are representing the Brittain family. From a report at he Daily Beast:

On Friday, Jeff Phillips, a special prosecutor assigned to the case, announced that Michael Davis, the sergeant who shot Brittain, will be charged with manslaughter for “recklessly” shooting at Brittain.

According to an affidavit read by Phillips at a press conference, Brittain was test-driving a pickup truck with his cousin that the two spent the night tinkering on at a local repair shop. The car, which had transmission issues, began smoking and was pulled over by Davis as it neared the repair shop.

In an interview with investigators, Davis said that before he could put his own car in park, Brittain jumped out and moved to the rear of the truck and began reaching into the bed as it slowly rolled backward. Davis said he gave commands to Brittain to show his hands that were ignored. When Brittain was about to remove his hands from the back of the truck, Davis said he shot once before he could see what Brittain was holding.

Davis’ attorney, Robert Newcomb, previously told the Daily Beast that Davis feared the worst when Brittain hopped out and reached into the bed of his truck.

But it turned out to just be a jug of antifreeze.

A relative was riding with Brittain, and he provided an account that differed significantly from what the deputy said:

Jordan King, Brittain’s cousin who was in the car with him at the time, said Brittain hopped out with the jug to place it behind the truck’s tires—which is something the teen always did to help stop the old truck. But King said Davis never gave any commands to Brittain before he shot him.

The two conflicting narratives were hampered by the fact that Davis’ body camera was never turned on during the quick encounter. Shortly after the shooting, Davis was fired by the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office for breaking their body-camera policy.

The investigation of the shooting was quickly turned over to the Arkansas State Police. In July, Phillips, a prosecutor from a district on the other side of the state, was assigned to handle the case.

His press conference on Friday was brief and he refused to take questions. “I don’t want to jeopardize this case, it’s too important,” he said.

Crump, in a statement, said the charges were the first step “in the pursuit of justice” for Brittain, adding that his shooting was the “latest example of law enforcement shooting first and asking questions later.”

After Phillips’ announcement that a warrant would be issued for Davis’ arrest on Friday, the courtroom burst into cheers.

If convicted of manslaughter, Davis could be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison.

His attorney, Newcomb, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wendy Lindsey, Hunter’s cousin, said in an interview shortly after the announcement on Friday that she was happy “at least something was done.” But she added that she didn’t think the manslaughter charge for Davis was enough.

“I think it’s murder,” she said. “He took a life.”

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Director Christopher Wray admits FBI botched sexual-abuse case regarding USA Gymnastics, which fits with his ties to Russia and various Alabama political thugs

USA gymnasts Simon Biles, McKayla Maroney, and Ali Raisman

 

The United States might soon be in need of a new FBI director after Trump nominee Christopher Wray admitted before a Senate panel yesterday that his agents failed to protect scores of female gymnasts who were victims of sexual assault at the hands of serial predator Larry Nassar. Four gymnasts testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the FBI mishandled their reports, flatly falsifying victim statements in some instances.

Wray, who has connections to the Deep South (including Alabama) was a dubious choice to lead the FBI from the beginning, considering his professional ties to Russia and to the "Alabama Gang" of right-wing bad actors, which includes former Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Wray even could have roundabout ties to Alabama's 2022 Republican Party primary for the U.S. Senate if Rob Riley (son of former Gov. Bob Riley) chooses to make a run, as he reportedly is considering.

Multiple sources tell Legal Schnauzer that Riley and Wray have been chums since their time together at Yale Law School, with Riley serving as senior law journal editor in 1990-91 and Wray graduating in 1992. If Wray's directorship at the FBI turns into a scandal -- one marked by mistreatment of sexual-abuse victims -- would that be an impediment to a possible Rob Riley U.S. Senate run?

That's a probing question, given that Riley has significant ethical baggage on his own. In 2008, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) fined him $10,000 for his role in a campaign-finance ethics case. In 2013, Riley sought my unlawful arrest and incarceration over a civil case of alleged defamation, which received national and international news coverage for its blatant trampling of First Amendment principles. I was arrested because Riley sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, both of which have been found to be unlawful prior restraints under more than 200 years of First Amendment law. (See Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697 (1931). It makes you wonder what Riley and Wray learned at Yale about constitutional law -- and if either one of them even supports a free press. Sara Rafsky, of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) wrote an insightful analysis of Rob Riley's trampling of free-press rights and even spotlighted press statements he made that are plainly false.

As for Christopher Wray, if his FBI botched the U.S. gymnastics case, how many other cases has the bureau screwed up or ignored completely? Consider two cases of what appear to be attempted murder in the Birmingham area:

(1) The Bert Newsome vehicle crash -- In September 2020, Birmingham attorney Burt Newsome was hit head-on by a large SUV as he was engaged in litigation involving powerful corporate and legal entities -- Balch & Bingham, Alabama Power, Drummond Company -- in Alabama. From our report on the crash

The questionable ethics of the Balch Bingham law firm have been unmasked for the public, most prominently in the North Birmingham Superfund bribery case; perhaps most stunningly in the head-on vehicle crash that nearly claimed the life of attorney Burt Newsome, a recent courtroom adversary of Balch and its clients (Alabama Power, Drummond Company).

Evidence from the scene suggests the crash might have been staged, perhaps designed to intimidate, injure, or even kill Newsome. He did, in fact, sustain grave injuries, but is recovering from emergency trauma surgery and has even made a few trips to the office. 

[We invite you to check the crash-scene photo (below) and note the SUV's wheels are turned sharply right, directly into the driver's compartment of Newsome's vehicle; a similar turn to the left might have missed the Newsome car altogether, or at least, placed the impact on the passenger's compartment, which was vacant. Does this mean the SUV driver meant to hit not only Newsome's car, but the area where Newsome was seated?]

Two big questions: If the incident was staged, who staged it? Why was a Norfolk Southern employee driving the SUV, many miles from the company's local HQ in Irondale? We do not have the answers at this time.

(2) The shooting into David Roberson's vehicle on U.S. 280 -- In late February 2021, former Drummond executive David Roberson was driving south on 280 when someone fired a shot into his vehicle. From our report on the incident

The plaintiff in a $75-million lawsuit against Drummond Company and the Balch Bingham law firm was driving south on U.S. 280 near Birmingham on Friday when someone fired a shot into his vehicle.

Former Drummond executive David Roberson escaped shaken, but apparently unharmed. Details about the incident are scarce at the moment, but Roberson reported it to law enforcement. This marks the second time someone connected to the lawsuit has met with violence that apparently was designed to intimidate, severely injure, or kill. Burt Newsome, attorney for Roberson and his wife Anna, was hit head-on in a crash where the driver of an SUV appeared to veer directly into Newsome's Volkswagen Jetta. Newsome sustained a broken leg, which required insertion of a titanium rod during trauma surgery at UAB, along with other injuries.

Our research indicates that Christopher Wray's FBI has shown little or no interest in either case -- and the same goes for local law enforcement. Why? The USA Gymnastics case indicates Wray's FBI doesn't take much of anything seriously -- even child sexual abuse, of girls who went on to become athletes with world-class skills. From a report at Axios

Before a rarely unified Senate panel, the head of the FBI apologized for his agents failing to protect scores of U.S. gymnasts who were victims of sexual assault. 

"I am deeply and profoundly sorry to each and every one of you," said Director Christopher Wray.

Four gymnasts — McKayla Maroney, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols — testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and detailed how the FBI mishandled their reports.

  • Maroney said the FBI "chose to lie about what" she said about the abuse she suffered at the hands of Larry Nassar and "protect a serial child molester rather than protect, not only me, but countless others."
  • Raisman said agents told her "to keep" her reports "confidential and not tell anyone."
  • Biles also blamed "an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse.”

The bottom line: "I am sorry that so many people let you down over and over again, and I am especially sorry that there were people at the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed," Wray told the victims. 

Nassar is serving 40–175 years in prison. The FBI fired an agent accused of failing to properly investigate the sexual assault allegations, Wray said.

That Wray's FBI has proven to be incompetent and crooked should be no surprise to those who know about the director's previous associations, including those in Alabama. We will address those in upcoming posts.

(To be continued)

 

Burt Newsome crash scene



Wednesday, September 15, 2021

For more than 100 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has held states have the "police power" to require vaccinations; so why is COVID-19 raging again?


Why have state and local governments allowed a summer surge of COVID-19 to happen when they have safe and effective vaccines at their disposal -- and the legal authority to enforce their use? That question arises from a Washington Post article under the headline: "Require the vaccine: It's time to stop coddling the reckless." Writes Ruth Marcus:

It’s reasonable, it’s fair, and it’s legal to step up the pressure on the reckless noncompliant. By reckless, I mean to exclude some people: If you have a medical condition that counsels against vaccination, you are excused.

If you have a good-faith religious objection, same — although I have a hard time imagining what that might be beyond adherents of Christian Science, or what religion does not advocate some version of the Golden Rule. Yes, some fetal cell lines were used in the development or testing of the vaccines, but the Vatican has declared that it is “morally acceptable” to take the vaccines, and that reasoning seems solid.

Federal judges have already rejected challenges to vaccine mandates by hospitals and public universities. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has made it clear that federal anti-discrimination laws don’t prevent private employers from requiring proof of vaccination. The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel concluded that federal law “does not prohibit public or private entities from imposing vaccination requirements” for vaccines even at the emergency-use stage.

A century ago, balancing the tension between individual liberties and public safety, the Supreme Court upheld the ability of state and local governments to enforce mandatory vaccination laws. “In every well-ordered society charged with the duty of conserving the safety of its members,” wrote Justice John Marshall Harlan, “the rights of the individual … may at times, under the pressure of great dangers, be subjected to such restraint, to be enforced by reasonable regulations, as the safety of the general public may demand.”

Then the great danger was a smallpox epidemic. Today it is a global covid-19 pandemic. The “safety of the general public” demands a “reasonable” response today, just as it did in 1905.

The SCOTUS case in question was styled Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905). In it, a Massachusetts resident named Henning Jacobson challenged as unconstitutional a state law that made smallpox vaccinations mandatory. Jacobson claimed that, back in his native Sweden, he had suffered a bad reaction to a vaccine as an infant, struggling for years with an angry rash.

Roughly 115 years after it was issued, the Jacobson case is back in the news because of President Joe Biden's vaccine mandates last week related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The nation's highest court rejected Jacobson's argument that he was protected by the U.S. Constitution's Due Process Clause, finding the state's police power gave it the authority to enforce such a statute. That likely means Biden's COVID orders rest on solid legal footing. From the opinion (Most citations omitted for ease of reading):

The authority of the State to enact this statute is to be referred to what is commonly called the police power — a power which the State did not surrender when becoming a member of the Union under the Constitution. Although this court has refrained from any attempt to define the limits of that power, yet it has distinctly recognized the authority of a State to enact quarantine laws and "health laws of every description;" indeed, all laws that relate to matters completely within its territory and which do not by their necessary operation affect the people of other States. According to settled principles the police power of a State must be held to embrace, at least, such reasonable regulations established directly by legislative enactment as will protect the public health and the public safety. It is equally true that the State may invest local bodies called into existence for purposes of local administration with authority in some appropriate way to safeguard the public health and the public safety. The mode or manner in which those results are to be accomplished is within the discretion of the State, subject, of course, so far as Federal power is concerned, only to the condition that no rule prescribed by a State, nor any regulation adopted by a local governmental agency acting under the sanction of state legislation, shall contravene the Constitution of the United States or infringe any right granted or secured by that instrument. A local enactment or regulation, even if based on the acknowledged police powers of a State, must always yield in case of conflict with the exercise by the General Government of any power it possesses under the Constitution, or with any right which that instrument gives or secures.

Were any of Jacobson's constitutional rights trampled by the state law? No was the answer from the high court:

We come, then, to inquire whether any right given, or secured by the Constitution, is invaded by the statute as interpreted by the state court. The defendant insists that his liberty is invaded when the State subjects him to fine or imprisonment for neglecting or refusing to submit to vaccination; that a compulsory vaccination law is unreasonable, arbitrary and oppressive, and, therefore, hostile to the inherent right of every freeman to care for his own body and health in such way as to him seems best; and that the execution of such a law against one who objects to vaccination, no matter for what reason, is nothing short of an assault upon his person. But the liberty secured by the Constitution of the United States to every person within its jurisdiction does not import an absolute right in each person to be, at all times and in all circumstances, wholly freed from restraint. There are manifold restraints to which every person is necessarily subject for the common good. On any other basis organized society could not exist with safety to its members. Society based on the rule that each one is a law unto himself would soon be confronted with disorder and anarchy. Real liberty for all could not exist under the operation of a principle which recognizes the right of each individual person to use his own, whether in respect of his person or his property, regardless of the injury that may be done to others. This court has more than once recognized it as a fundamental principle that "persons and property are subjected to all kinds of restraints and burdens, in order to secure the general comfort, health, and prosperity of the State; of the perfect right of the legislature to do which no question ever was, or upon acknowledged general principles ever can be made, so far as natural persons are concerned." Railroad Co. v. Husen, 95 U.S. 465, 471,  we said: "The possession and enjoyment of all rights are subject to such reasonable conditions as may be deemed by the governing authority of the country essential to the safety, health, peace, good order and morals of the community. Even liberty itself, the greatest of all rights, is not unrestricted license to act according to one's own will. It is only freedom from restraint under conditions essential to the equal enjoyment of the same right by others. It is then liberty regulated by law." In the constitution of Massachusetts adopted in 1780 it was laid down as a fundamental principle of the social compact that the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for "the common good," and that government is instituted "for the common good, for the protection, safety, prosperity and happiness of the people, and not for the profit, honor or private interests of any one man, family or class of men." The good and welfare of the Commonwealth, of which the legislature is primarily the judge, is the basis on which the police power rests in Massachusetts.

Was the state law onerous? Again, SCOTUS' answer was no:

Applying these principles to the present case, it is to be observed that the legislature of Massachusetts required the inhabitants of a city or town to be vaccinated only when, in the opinion of the Board of Health, that was necessary for the public health or the public safety. The authority to determine for all what ought to be done in such an emergency must have been lodged somewhere or in some body; and surely it was appropriate for the legislature to refer that question, in the first instance, to a Board of Health, composed of persons residing in the locality affected and appointed, presumably, because of their fitness to determine such questions. To invest such a body with authority over such matters was not an unusual nor an unreasonable or arbitrary requirement. Upon the principle of self-defense, of paramount necessity, a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members. It is to be observed that when the regulation in question was adopted, smallpox, according to the recitals in the regulation adopted by the Board of Health, was prevalent to some extent in the city of Cambridge and the disease was increasing. If such was the situation — and nothing is asserted or appears in the record to the contrary — if we are to attach any value whatever to the knowledge which, it is safe to affirm, is common to all civilized peoples touching smallpox and the methods most usually employed to eradicate that disease, it cannot be adjudged that the present regulation of the Board of Health was not necessary in order to protect the public health and secure the public safety. Smallpox being prevalent and increasing at Cambridge, the court would usurp the functions of another branch of government if it adjudged, as matter of law, that the mode adopted under the sanction of the State, to protect the people at large, was arbitrary and not justified by the necessities of the case. We say necessities of the case, because it might be that an acknowledged power of a local community to protect itself against an epidemic threatening the safety of all, might be exercised in particular circumstances and in reference to particular persons in such an arbitrary, unreasonable manner, or might go so far beyond what was reasonably required for the safety of the public, as to authorize or compel the courts to interfere for the protection of such persons. Wisconsin &c. R.R. Co. v. Jacobson, 179 U.S. 287, 301; Freund's Police Power, § 63 et seq. In Railroad Company v. Husen, 95 U.S. 465, 471-473, this court recognized the right of a State to pass sanitary laws, laws for the protection of life, liberty, health or property within its limits, laws to prevent persons and animals suffering under contagious or infectious diseases, or convicts, from coming within its borders. But as the laws there involved went beyond the necessity of the case and under the guise of exerting a police power invaded the domain of Federal authority and violated rights secured by the Constitution, this court deemed it to be its duty to hold such laws invalid. If the mode adopted by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the protection of its local communities against smallpox proved to be distressing, inconvenient or objectionable to some — if nothing more could be reasonably affirmed of the statute in question — the answer is that it was the duty of the constituted authorities primarily to keep in view the welfare, comfort and safety of the many, and not permit the interests of the many to be subordinated to the wishes or convenience of the few. There is, of course, a sphere within which the individual may assert the supremacy of his own will and rightfully dispute the authority of any human government, especially of any free government existing under a written constitution, to interfere with the exercise of that will. But it is equally true that in every well-ordered society charged with the duty of conserving the safety of its members the rights of the individual in respect of his liberty may at times, under the pressure of great dangers, be subjected to such restraint, to be enforced by reasonable regulations, as the safety of the general public may demand. An American citizen, arriving at an American port on a vessel in which, during the voyage, there had been cases of yellow fever or Asiatic cholera, although apparently free from disease himself, may yet, in some circumstances, be held in quarantine against his will on board of such vessel or in a quarantine station, until it be ascertained by inspection, conducted with due diligence, that the danger of the spread of the disease among the community at large has disappeared. The liberty secured by the Fourteenth Amendment, this court has said, consists, in part, in the right of a person "to live and work where he will," Allgeyer v. Louisiana, 165 U.S. 578; and yet he may be compelled, by force if need be, against his will and without regard to his personal wishes or his pecuniary interests, or even his religious or political convictions, to take his place in the ranks of the army of his country and risk the chance of being shot down in its defense. It is not, therefore, true that the power of the public to guard itself against imminent danger depends in every case involving the control of one's body upon his willingness to submit to reasonable regulations established by the constituted authorities, under the sanction of the State, for the purpose of protecting the public collectively against such danger.

In essence, SCOTUS found that Massachusetts had the authority to protect public health:

Looking at the propositions embodied in the defendant's rejected offers of proof it is clear that they are more formidable by their number than by their inherent value. Those offers in the main seem to have had no purpose except to state the general theory of those of the medical profession who attach little or no value to vaccination as a means of preventing the spread of smallpox or who think that vaccination causes other diseases of the body. What everybody knows the court must know, and therefore the state court judicially knew, as this court knows, that an opposite theory accords with the common belief and is maintained by high medical authority. We must assume that when the statute in question was passed, the legislature of Massachusetts was not unaware of these opposing theories, and was compelled, of necessity, to choose between them. It was not compelled to commit a matter involving the public health and safety to the final decision of a court or jury. It is no part of the function of a court or a jury to determine which one of two modes was likely to be the most effective for the protection of the public against disease. That was for the legislative department to determine in the light of all the information it had or could obtain. It could not properly abdicate its function to guard the public health and safety. The state legislature proceeded upon the theory which recognized vaccination as at least an effective if not the best known way in which to meet and suppress the evils of a smallpox epidemic that imperiled an entire population. Upon what sound principles as to the relations existing between the different departments of government can the court review this action of the legislature? If there is any such power in the judiciary to review legislative action in respect of a matter affecting the general welfare, it can only be when that which the legislature has done comes within the rule that if a statute purporting to have been enacted to protect the public health, the public morals or the public safety, has no real or substantial relation to those objects, or is, beyond all question, a plain, palpable invasion of rights secured by the fundamental law, it is the duty of the courts to so adjudge, and thereby give effect to the Constitution." Mugler v. Kansas, 123 U.S. 623, 661.

Whatever may be thought of the expediency of this statute, it cannot be affirmed to be, beyond question, in palpable conflict with the Constitution. Nor, in view of the methods employed to stamp out the disease of smallpox, can anyone confidently assert that the means prescribed by the State to that end has no real or substantial relation to the protection of the public health and the public safety. Such an assertion would not be consistent with the experience of this and other countries whose authorities have dealt with the disease of smallpox. And the principle of vaccination as a means to prevent the spread of smallpox has been enforced in many States by statutes making the vaccination of children a condition of their right to enter or remain in public schools. Blue v. Beach, 155 Indiana, 121.

Speaking of kids and school, I can remember my mother taking me to the lunchroom at Portland Elementary School in Springfield, MO, to have some kind of shot administered to my arm -- I don't think I even knew what it was for at the time. But I know now it was for smallpox, and even though I don't recall my mom saying it then, I would not have been allowed to attend school without it. It was not controversial in the least, best I could tell; we just did it, no fuss, no muss. Like millions of other Americans, I still have a slight bump on my upper left arm as a reminder of that day: 

The latest case upon the subject of which we are aware is Viemeister v. White, President &c., decided very recently by the Court of Appeals of New York, and the opinion in which has not yet appeared in the regular reports. That case involved the validity of a statute excluding from the public schools all children who had not been vaccinated. One contention was that the statute and the regulation adopted in exercise of its provisions was inconsistent with the rights, privileges and liberties of the citizen. The contention was overruled, the court saying, among other things: "Smallpox is known of all to be a dangerous and contagious disease. If vaccination strongly tends to prevent the transmission or spread of this disease, it logically follows that children may be refused admission to the public schools until they have been vaccinated. The appellant claims that vaccination does not tend to prevent smallpox, but tends to bring about other diseases, and that it does much harm, with no good.

"It must be conceded that some laymen, both learned and unlearned, and some physicians of great skill and repute, do not believe that vaccination is a preventive of smallpox. The common belief, however, is that it has a decided tendency to prevent the spread of this fearful disease and to render it less dangerous to those who contract it. While not accepted by all, it is accepted by the mass of the people, as well as by most members of the medical profession. It has been general in our State and in most civilized nations for generations. It is generally accepted in theory and generally applied in practice, both by the voluntary action of the people and in obedience to the command of law. Nearly every State of the Union has statutes to encourage, or directly or indirectly to require, vaccination, and this is true of most nations of Europe. . . .

"A common belief, like common knowledge, does not require evidence to establish its existence, but may be acted upon without proof by the legislature and the courts. . . .

"The fact that the belief is not universal is not controlling, for there is scarcely any belief that is accepted by everyone. The possibility that the belief may be wrong, and that science may yet show it to be wrong, is not conclusive; for the legislature has the right to pass laws which, according to the common belief of the people, are adapted to prevent the spread of contagious diseases. In a free country, where the government is by the people, through their chosen representatives, practical legislation admits of no other standard of action; for what the people believe is for the common welfare must be accepted as tending to promote the common welfare, whether it does in fact of not. Any other basis would conflict with the spirit of the Constitution, and would sanction measures opposed to a republican form of government. While we do not decide and cannot decide that vaccination is a preventive of smallpox, we take judicial notice of the fact that this is the common belief of the people of the State, and with this fact as a foundation we hold that the statute in question is a health law, enacted in a reasonable and proper exercise of the police power."

Could Biden's orders be challenged in court? Could that bring Jacobson back into the news as the guiding precedent on matters of vaccines? The answer to both questions is yes. But as we reported in a recent post, legal experts seem to think Biden's orders stand on firm legal ground:

In 1905, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Jacobson v. Massachusetts that public health measures, like vaccination, imposed by states are constitutional because, in essence, living in society comes with restrictions, including those pertaining to public health.

At the heart of the case is the intersection between public health and a person’s individual rights. The court ruled that while the state doesn’t have absolute power to limit individual rights, it can impose reasonable limits when it comes to public health.

Now in the wake of the sweeping federal vaccine mandates President Biden announced on Thursday and claims by some Republican lawmakers that the rules are unconstitutional, experts say legal challenges to the measure are likely to be unsuccessful because of the strong precedent established by the Jacobson case.

“I think the Biden administration can clearly point to the fact that there is an ability of governmental entities to mandate vaccination,” Brian Dean Abramson, an adjunct professor of vaccination law at Florida International University, said of the Jacobson case.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

From 9/11/2001 to 1/6/2021, Americans have been hit with so many steaming piles of lies that our collective sense of reality has grown dangerously out of whack

George W. Bush at the site of the World Trade Center

Many Americans took time out over the weekend to observe the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on our country. The events of 9/11 are sobering enough but at least one commentator made an especially stark observation: that 9/11 helped set the stage for the 1/6/21 attack on the U.S. Capitol. From that idea grows this troubling question: Did the tragedy of 9/11 teach Americans anything? Lucian K. Truscott,  a columnist at Salon, has doubts. Under the headline"9/11 and the birth of the Big Lie: Those attacks, and how we reacted to them, tore us apart as a nation — by destroying our shared sense of reality," Truscott writes:

What drove this country crazy after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11? Was it how vulnerable we had been shown to be, that a group of 19 men armed with nothing more than box-cutters could bring the entire country to a halt? Was it that the attack was aimed primarily against innocent civilians, with nearly 3,000 killed at the Twin Towers alone? Was it that with the 19 hijackers dead in the suicidal attacks, we didn't seem to have anyone to retaliate against?  Was it that we had no grasp whatsoever on understanding why our country, the freest and most democratic ever, was hated so much that they would attack us?

I remember how disconnected things felt for days, even weeks, after the attacks. Travelers outside the country didn't have a way to get home because flights had been canceled. People stranded in cities they were visiting within the country couldn't find cars to rent, there were so many trying to get home. Everyone seemed to feel a need to gather with families and friends and hunker down, as if another attack could come at any moment.

The country's leadership was frozen, stunned. Remember the photos of George W. Bush as an aide leaned over his shoulder and whispered the news into his ear? He was the president of the United States, and he looked scared to death. In fact, he was rushed from the school he was visiting in Florida to Air Force One, and his plane took off on what amounted to a flight to nowhere as his administration tried to pull itself together and decide how they would respond. It wasn't until hours later that Air Force One landed at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana and Bush hurriedly addressed the press in a windowless conference room, vowing to "hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts." Three days would pass before the president was flown to New York to appear atop the rubble of the World Trade Center at what became known as Ground Zero to take a bullhorn and make the pledge that would launch the country on a trajectory that has yet to change: "I can hear you!" he shouted to the workers at the site, "The rest of the world hears you! And the people — and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!"

Those sounded like encouraging words at the time, but they proved to be not so soothing:

A collective madness ensued. A great scrambling began to protect us against … well, against what? Box-cutters first and foremost, it seemed, as a new regime of inspections began at airports everywhere. The initial panic over the hijacked flights would lead to the establishment of the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security, a kind of domestic department of defense which proceeded to put us on what amounted to a wartime footing within our own country that persists even today. How many times have you had to throw a set of fingernail clippers into a bin at airport security because a TSA agent was defending us from terrorism? How about removing your shoes because a lone lunatic made an unsuccessful attempt to blow up an airplane with a "shoe bomb"?

The entire paranoid regimen under which we still live 20 years later grew out of a supposed "war on terror" begun after 9/11 that has never ended. It took a decade to find and kill the actual terrorist who ordered the attacks on 9/11, but in the meantime two shooting wars were launched, only one of which had even the slightest connection to the terrorists who attacked us. There was an elemental problem: The war on terror wasn't against an enemy, it was against an idea, and ideas don't die when you hit them with bombs and bullets.

And so, without a readily definable enemy who could be seen and shot and killed and defeated, which is what wars are usually for, lies were substituted. We were buried with lies, and not just any lies. They had to justify the movement of hundreds of thousands of troops and the expenditure of trillions of dollars in treasure and the loss of thousands more American lives than died on 9/11 and countless more lives — enemies, civilians and, my goodness gracious, even a few real flesh and blood terrorists.

With one lie heaped on top of another, many Americans seemed to lose their sense of reality:

Sept. 11, 2001, was when the Big Lie was born. Or should we say, Big Lies, because they came fast and furious. By now they are known to be so completely without any basis in reality, so wholly bogus, that they hardly bear recounting. Weapons of mass destruction? Connections between Iraq and its government and leaders and the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11? Ha! 

And then came new Big Lies to support the earlier Big Lies: that we were "winning" the war on terror. How many times were we reassured that all those lives and all those dollars were not being pissed away for nothing? How many times were we reassured that we were rebuilding the countries that hadn't needed rebuilding until we attacked them? How many times were we told of the miraculous training of the Iraqi and Afghan armies? They even invented a new word that I never learned in the classes I took in military history at West Point, a word to describe the magic bullet that was going to win both wars: the surge. If only we sent 10,000 or 20,000 or 30,000 or 50,000 more troops, we could  win the mythical war on terror.

"Shock and awe" was a lie. "Taking Baghdad was a lie. The army of Iraq just went away. The "surge," each and every one of them, was a lie. "Winning" was a lie, every single time the word was used. Every. Single. Time. The Afghan army was a lie. It didn't even bother surrendering to the Taliban. It just went … poof. The Afghan "government" was a lie. It too went poof. The Iraqi government is a lie. Everything we have done to win the war on terror for two decades, 20 long years, has been a lie. We wasted trillions of dollars that could have been spent to, I don't know, feed hungry children in Arkansas? Pay for health care for poor families? Send kids to college? Reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and save our planet? 

We wasted all those lives, American and Afghan and Iraqi and German and Australian and Polish and every other soldier from every other NATO country who died fighting "terror." And we killed hundreds of thousands of Afghan and Iraqi people for nothing. 

For nothing.

The war on terror essentially morphed into the war on truth, Truscott asserts, leading to the lie-fest also known as the Trump Administration -- and finally, to the horrifying images of Jan. 6, 2021:

The biggest Big Lie of them all was that it had meaning, that we accomplished something, that we somehow won the war on terror. Terror hasn't gone away. Hell, we're growing it ourselves now, right here at home. 

I'll tell you another war we lost, maybe even a bigger and more important war than the war on terror. We lost the war on truth. And we were warned. Oh yes, we were warned. Take Donald Trump's first Big Lie right after 9/11 as just one example. He claimed — I hope you're sitting down for this — that he could see from his office window in Trump Tower crowds of Muslims across the Hudson River, several miles away, on the roofs of buildings in Jersey City, cheering as the World Trade Center fell.

Remember that one? It was such a patently outrageous lie that it zoomed right past without anyone noticing as the rest of the Big Lies hit one after another. 

But Trump got away with it, and he learned from it. Oh, yes. He learned how the Big Lie worked. He learned from watching Bush get away with lying about WMDs, and he learned from the Big Lies that we were winning in Iraq and Afghanistan. So he started trying out other Big Lies of his own, like the one about how Barack Obama wasn't a citizen of the United States, that he had a fake birth certificate, that he was a "secret Muslim." Remember when Trump was all over the TV for days and days claiming that he had sent detectives to Hawaii? All we had to do was wait and he was going to reveal the "truth" about Obama. 

He got away with his "birther" Big Lie, and he learned something that he has used ever since, something that helped him drive us into the ditch of the pandemic he lied about for a year, something that has helped him transform an entire political party, the Republican Party, from one of two normal political parties in this country into an authoritarian cult. 

He learned that if he told Big Lies that were big enough, and if he repeated them enough times, that he could get away with it, just like Bush got away with lying about WMDs to get us into Iraq. And his party, the Republican Party, learned right along with him. Look at what they are doing right this minute about the insurrection he incited against the Congress of the United States in his naked attempt to overturn the election he lost. Donald Trump and the Republican Party are on a campaign to deny that it happened. They are trying to make a case that it wasn't Trump supporters who attacked the Capitol, it was somebody else, and those who were arrested are political prisoners facing false charges … and on and on and on.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Gov. Kay Ivey holds the early lead in the Alabama GOP's race to make the dumbest statements yet in response to Biden's effort to get COVID under control

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey
 

Alabama Republicans seem to be conducting a contest to see who can make the most vapid remarks about the vaccine mandates President Joe Biden issued last week. Right now, the contest is neck-and-neck, as we will show by examining some of the most rank comments. After that, we will take a look at statistics -- actual facts -- that show conservative "strategies," and intransigence from right-wing voters, have caused the nation to utterly fail at controlling the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Here are some of the gems we've seen so far from the Alabama GOP:

 

(1) Gov. Kay Ivey -- 

“Once again, President Biden has missed the mark. His outrageous, overreaching mandates will no doubt be challenged in the courts. Placing more burdens on both employers and employees during a pandemic with the rising inflation rates and lingering labor shortages is totally unacceptable. . . .

“Alabamians have stepped up by rolling up their sleeves to get the covid-19 vaccine, increasing our doses administered significantly in recent weeks,” she added. ‘We have done so without mandates from Washington D.C. or Montgomery. I’ve made it abundantly clear: I support the science and encourage folks taking the vaccine. However, I am absolutely against a government mandate on the vaccine, which is why I signed the vaccine passport ban into law here in Alabama. This is not the role of the government. . . .

 “Bring it on. Washington won’t be telling Alabama what to do. . . . 

" You bet I’m standing in the way. And if [Biden] thinks he’s going to move me out of the way, he’s got another thing coming. I’m standing as strong as a bull for Alabama against this outrageous Washington overreach."

Schnauzer sez --

If Ivey's leadership is "strong as a bull," why was Alabama's case count at 114,000 in August -- triple what it was in July and the highest count for the state since the pandemic began? Could it be because Ivey's efforts at virus control have been a miserable failure?

Ivey makes matters even more embarrassing for the state by talking like a juvenile. You've got to love this line: "Washington won't be telling Alabama what to do." Probably every third-grade teacher in the country has had some whiny brat use language like that. And here you have Alabama's governor stooping to such a low level. It's going to be tough for anyone to unseat Ivey from the No. 1 spot in this contest.

 

(2) U.S. Senate candidate Katie Britt -- 

"Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate is yet another anti-free market overreach, This administration, going around Congress once again, is trying to change the fabric of our nation from being built on individual responsibility to being marred by dependency on big government. Forcing businesses to do something against their will tramples the free market principles that have made America great.”

Schnauzer sez:

What do free-market principles have to do with controlling a public-health crisis? The word "nothing" comes to mind. Gov. Ivey has pretty much tried a free-market approach, and it has resulted in only 39 percent of Alabamians being fully vaccinated -- a rate that is even worse than those for Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Is it any wonder Biden felt the need to intervene?

 

U.S. Rep. Barry Moore --

"President Biden’s federal vaccine mandate is yet another breathtaking and blatantly unconstitutional power-grab by an out-of-control Administration. . . . 

"The Biden Administration’s statement that issuing vaccine mandates was ‘not the role of the federal government’ has now been revealed as a barefaced lie, just like the president’s claim that he had a plan for Afghanistan. It is clear to Americans and our allies abroad that deceit, ineptitude, and even subversion are at the foundation of this administration."

Schnauzer sez -- 

In 1905, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Jacobson v. Massachusetts that public health measures, like vaccination, imposed by states are constitutional because, in essence, living in society comes with restrictions, including those pertaining to public health.

At the heart of the case is the intersection between public health and a person’s individual rights. The court ruled that while the state doesn’t have absolute power to limit individual rights, it can impose reasonable limits when it comes to public health.

Now in the wake of the sweeping federal vaccine mandates President Biden announced on Thursday and claims by some Republican lawmakers that the rules are unconstitutional, experts say legal challenges to the measure are likely to be unsuccessful because of the strong precedent established by the Jacobson case.

“I think the Biden administration can clearly point to the fact that there is an ability of governmental entities to mandate vaccination,” Brian Dean Abramson, an adjunct professor of vaccination law at Florida International University, said of the Jacobson case.

In short, Rep. Barry Moore might need to brush up on constitutional law.

Americans are now getting infected with COVID-19 at 10 times the rate needed to end the pandemic, which will persist until more people get vaccinated, NIAID director Anthony Fauci tells Axios.

Threat level: "The endgame is to suppress the virus. Right now, we're still in pandemic mode, because we have 160,000 new infections a day. That's not even modestly good control ... which means it's a public health threat."

  • "In a country of our size, you can't be hanging around and having 100,000 infections a day. You've got to get well below 10,000 before you start feeling comfortable," Fauci says.
  • Once enough people have been vaccinated, he adds, "you'll still get some people getting infected, but you're not going to have it as a public health threat."

Between the lines: Despite all of the buzz about the Mu variant, which appears to elude some protective properties of authorized vaccines and prior infections, the Delta variant continues to dominate in the U.S. and around the world.

  • The good news: Fauci says this means currently authorized vaccinations are still effective.
  • The bad news: Not enough Americans are taking measures against the Delta variant, which has already upped the stakes.
  • And, the longer it takes to end this pandemic phase, the bigger the chance we'll end up with a "monster variant" that not only eludes vaccines but also is dangerously transmissible.

Alabamians, it seems, have a choice: They can cling to the failed "free-market principles" that Ivey, Britt, and Moore espouse or they can get behind Biden's efforts to increase vaccination rates, reduce case counts, and get the virus under control -- increasing the odds that they, their children, and other loves ones and friends will live to see a mostly COVID-free country.