Monday, July 31, 2023

Donald Trump and a "public mental-health crisis": Experts see Trump as a controlling narcissist and predator, who views unwitting Americans as "prey"

 

If you do a Google search on "Donald Trump's mental health," dozens of articles appear, from a wide range of sources -- Psychology Today ("Psychological Terms That Characterize the Trump Presidency"), USA Today ("Trump History and Behavior Suggest Mood, Personality Disorders"), and Scientific American ("The 'Shared Psychosis' of Donald Trump and His Loyalists"), among many others. 

Salon's Chauncey DeVega takes an updated look at the issue (in a post dated 7/21/23), including compilations of interviews with mental-health experts, in a post titled "'An inner drive for self-destruction': Psychoanalyst on Trump's cycle of crimes and confessions." DeVega, focusing on Trump's tendency to use violent rhetoric, writes:

Donald Trump has repeatedly demonstrated, through the many direct and implied threats of violence that he has made during his decades of public life, that he is a very violent man. 

The many recent examples of Trump's violent ways include wishing death upon Hunter Biden and inciting his followers to assassinate former president Barack Obama by sharing what is presumed to be the latter's home address online. One of Trump's followers acted on those de facto commands last month and was apprehended by the Secret Service near Obama's Washington, D.C., home. The would-be assassin was armed with two guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

In a [recent] post on his Truth Social disinformation platform, Trump shared audio of his 2020 interview with the late right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh, in which Trump says, "If you f**k around with us, if you do something bad to us, we are going to do things to you that have never been done before."

And of course, Donald Trump attempted a coup on Jan. 6, which included a terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol by his followers. This is in addition to Trump's repeatedly encouraging and outright commanding his followers to attack their "enemies." such as Black Lives Matter protesters, "Antifa," and the news media. His labeling of the press as "the enemy of the people" is Trump's version of the language used by the Nazis in Germany (the "l├╝genpresse" or "lying press").

Trump and his regime also engaged in acts of democide through their active and passive neglect and sabotage in response to the COVID pandemic, a disease that has now killed at least one million people in the United States.

Recently, Trump was found liable in civil court for sexually assaulting E. Jean Carroll.

What does this portend for a possible second Trump term as president, with polls showing him by far the leading Republican candidate for 2024? For those paying attention to Trump's words and actions, the answer is far from comforting. Writes DeVega:

Suppose he is able to take back the White House in the 2024 Election. In that case, Trump has promised a "final battle" and to unleash hell in a campaign of revenge and punishment against the Democrats and other Americans who dared to defend democracy, the rule of law, and human decency by opposing him and his MAGA movement. Law enforcement and other experts have shown that there is a direct connection between Trump's violent rhetoric and other pathological behavior and the increase in political and other violence (including hate crimes against non-whites, Jews, the LGBTQ community, Muslims and other marginalized communities) that took place during his presidency and continues through to the present.

In all, Trumpism, the MAGA movement, the Republican fascists, the White right, and the country's larger democracy crisis are more than "just" political problems. In reality, the rise of American neofascism is a type of public mental-health crisis – that the country's multiracial pluralistic democracy will not survive unless a holistic approach is taken to confront and cure the underlying causes.

In a continued effort to sound the alarm about Donald Trump's threats of violence, murder, and mayhem, and the danger(s) such behavior represents to the American people and society, I asked several of the country's leading mental-health experts for their insights and suggestions.

These mental health experts also shared their thoughts about Trump's pathological behavior and what will likely happen as he (finally) faces serious accountability for his many obvious public crimes, including the Jan. 6 coup attempt and larger plot to steal the 2020 Election, and his allegedly stealing top-secret and other highly sensitive national-security documents in violation of the Espionage Act.

(These interviews have been lightly edited for clarity and length.)

One expert on cults and mind control says Trump shows signs of being a cult leader. Writes DeVega:

Steven Hassan is one of the world's leading experts on cults and other dangerous organizations, as well as how to deprogram people who have succumbed to "mind control." Hassan was once a senior member of the Unification Church, better known as the "Moonies." He is now the founder and director of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center.

Donald Trump's threats of violence are predictable.

It's an element of malignant narcissism, to threaten one's enemies and to get revenge. Donald Trump and other people like him, dictators and malignant narcissists, want to control people through fear. Many people when they are afraid will stop engaging in critical thinking. They will surrender to the bullies. When Trump was a child, he was taught a rule, a binary, that one eats or is eaten. This means as an adult Trump will choose to threaten to eat everybody that gets in his way because he's so afraid of being eaten.

Donald Trump is becoming more and more afraid. But I also believe that his behavior is being influenced by Vladimir Putin and other bad actors who want him to sow chaos and undermine the rule of law and trust in democratic institutions. I am hopeful in one way that the more Trump threatens people and acts badly more generally, the more evidence that is made known about his crimes, that there will be some of his supporters who leave the MAGA movement. I tend to think of these possible outcomes in terms of the rule of thirds: one third may leave; one third are going to double down on their beliefs and loyalty to the cult of Trump and become much more violent and extremist; the middle third could go either way depending on the forces around them.

Trump's stated desire to destroy those who differ from him is one sign of a psychopath. In short, an expert says, Trump is a predator, and we are his prey. If enough citizens do not come to recognize that, our democracy is in trouble. Writes DeVega:

Dr. Lance Dodes is a retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a training and supervising analyst emeritus at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute.

Trump openly threatening to imprison or kill anyone who opposes or even disagrees with him reflects, again, the enormity of his psychological impairment. His absence of a capacity for genuine empathy, contempt for the concept of truth, and a primitive need to destroy those who differ from him are familiar hallmarks of psychopaths. The fact that his threats are slightly less concealed now indicates that his veneer of normality continues to wear down as his actual criminality is made public. His calls for a civil war with an end to democracy likewise is not about actual political or social issues, but only his need to rule everyone and everything. This is covered by populist lies to try to con his supporters into thinking he cares about them or their concerns.

I expect that his veneer of normality will continue to disappear. The future of democracy will depend on how many citizens can finally see that the emperor not only has no clothes but is a predator and they are his prey.

Trump is a controlling narcissist who is steaming with rage, one expert says, comparing Trump to an athlete who mashes a tennis racket after losing a point. Writes DeVega:

Dr. Mark Goulston is a leading psychiatrist, former FBI hostage negotiation trainer, and the author of the bestsellers Just Listen and Talking to 'Crazy'. He is also co-founder of the Deeper Coaching Institute.

Donald Trump is displaying "impotent rage," which is a condition that says the more power-seeking a high controlling individual is part of their identity, the more enraged they become when actual power or the threat of power being taken away from them. Given all the threats to Trump are coming at him the greater his rage and greater the impulse to act on it.

A central tendency of people with a narcissistic personality is that they treat other people as an extension of themselves and their bodies. Just as an angry athlete might smash a golf club, tennis racket, or baseball bat as if they were an extension of them with a result he - and less likely she - is not happy with, but not usually injuring themselves, Trump sees his base as something that can express his narcissistic rage for him and become violent for him without him doing it directly.

In the near future, the more the vice grip of justice is closing in on him, the more desperate he may feel, the more impotent rage we can expect in him and the more incendiary his language may become. That may include his slipping into being more direct about telling his base to harm someone which is different than saying Hunter Biden deserves to die or giving out Barack Obama's personal address.

Many in his base, especially the unhinged ones, are happy to feel like an extension of Trump and happy to do his bidding that he, up until now, has stepped short of doing himself.

One of my concerns is that those in his base who feel powerless, frustrated, and with nothing left to lose have formed a psychological adhesion to Trump. This is much like the disaffected American youth who joined and formed psychological adhesions to the terrorist organization ISIS.

A psychological adhesion — similar to a post-surgical adhesion — is much more powerful than an attachment. It will not respond to logic or reason. It needs to be surgically severed. To do that with Trump's base, we have to drill down and distill all the needs that being connected to him fulfills and then find a way to fulfill those needs powerfully enough that his base lets go of their connection to him.

The author of  Trump on the Couch says the former president has struggled with an ongoing conflict between building things and destroying things. Writes DeVega:

Dr. Justin Frank is a former clinical professor of psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical Center and the author of Trump on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President.

The title of Republican strategist Rick Wilson's book Everything Trump Touches Dies is true.  And it turns out that everything Trump says, kills. He commands his unstable followers to violently attack his "enemies;" he instructed his White House minions to downplay the pandemic resulting in the completely preventable deaths of thousands of Americans, because the truth might make him look bad. Trump's appetite for cruelty and destruction in the service of his personal agenda knows no bounds. It never has.

In chapter seven of my book "Trump on the Couch," I wrote that Trump has had a profound internal conflict between building and destroying since childhood. As his power grew, the destroyer instinct has overwhelmed any constructive instincts he had.  Even his single-minded drive for self-preservation is met with an inner drive for self-destruction, as we've all seen in his damning confessional rants.

Trump's violent directives excite the fantasies of his mindless supporters, converting his words into weapons designed to destroy anyone he hates. Ninety years ago, the psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich wrote about mass psychology and the origins of fascism. He described Hitler's ability to stir up deep feelings of hatred. Trump is not (yet) Hitler, but he knows how to provoke those same feelings in others.

As the possibility of Trump trials approaches, his mental state of fear-driven outrage will intensify – as will his accusations of victimhood and betrayal. His followers are well-trained to respond, having already been deeply touched by years of relentless rants. He activates long-buried resentment and frustration in his supporters, deeply connecting them only to him and to one another, at the same time severing their ties with family, community, and reality itself.  

The danger to the rest of us will only increase, as words become literal "sticks and stones." Trump's words kill, when he uses them to incite vulnerable people to act on his craven directives – and it seems there are many millions of them ready and willing to do so.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

The Watkins and Shuler families know this: When a loved one risks all to protect our Constitution, injustice and the rule of law become deeply personal matters

Joseph T. Watkins

What would it feel like to put your life on the line for your country only to return home as the target of racial discrimination? As a White American, I struggle to conjure up an answer to that question. But the family of longtime Alabama attorney and civil-rights advocate Donald Watkins (who is Black) has faced it in a close-up way. That's because his uncle, Joseph T. Watkins, lived it.

I suspect that experience helped Donald Watkins fight for the rule of law -- including publishing a Web site about justice issues (donaldwatkins.com) -- in a legal career of almost 50 years. It also might explain my desire to start the Legal Schnauzer blog in 2007 and keep it going continuously for 23 years.

How is that? Watkins helps explain it in an article published yesterday under the headline "Joseph T. Watkins: This Soldier Fought America’s Foreign and Domestic Enemies." Donald Watkins writes:

Joseph T. Watkins was my father’s youngest brother. He was smart, strong, and brave.

We called him “Uncle J.T.”

Uncle J.T. was a World War II veteran who served as a corporal in an all-black Army unit that fought in the campaign to liberate France from Nazi occupation. He was proud of his military service for America, and the Watkins family was proud of him.

Uncle J.T. would later become an effective fighter in another kind of war -- the never-ending battle for the protection and advancement of civil and constitutional rights in America.

After the War, Uncle J.T. moved to Washington and became a housing inspector for the District of Columbia government. He also rose through the ranks to become president of his local federal employees’ union.

The racial discrimination Uncle J.T. faced in Washington during the late 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s was heartbreaking. Uncle J.T. had put his life on the line in France for a nation that despised him at home.

I've known Donald Watkins for 8-10 years -- in fact, we were the two online journalists who wrote about "Luv Guv" Robert Bentley and the "Girlfriend Scandal," featuring senior aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason, that eventually forced Bentley to resign, drawing national news coverage in the process. Donald and I wrote about the Bentley scandal for roughly seven months before the mainstream press began to give it serious attention -- and we received relatively little credit for it.

AL.com columnist John Archibald appeared several times on The Rachel Maddow Show and was wrongly credited with "breaking" the Bentley story. The truth? Watkins and I wrote about the Bentley scandal, with depth and detail, for seven months before Archibald or anyone in the mainstream press gave it a serious look.

Bentley's own words and actions indicate he considered Watkins and me to be the central drivers of the "Girlfriend Scandal" that brought down his political career. Documents from a lawsuit involving Spencer Collier, former head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), show that Bentley asked multiple subordinates to unlawfully use state and federal criminal databases in an effort to retaliate against us for our journalism.

While I have known Donald Watkins for a number of years, I did not know the story of his Uncle J.T. until yesterday. I've never encountered anything approaching the racial discrimination Uncle J.T. experienced. But I did work one summer in a rubber factory -- making V-belts for domestic vehicles, appliances, military equipment, and more -- and I remember working on the line with Vietnam veterans who said they felt the American public never appreciated their service in what proved to be an unpopular war.

I thought of that when I read about Uncle J.T., and it helped me realize that, in a roundabout way, my family's story intersects with that of the Watkins family. Here's how: Uncle J.T.'s military service centered around the effort to liberate France from Nazi occupation. My father, William J. Shuler was involved in that effort, too.

William J. Shuler
As I was growing up, I knew about my dad's military service, but I did not know many details. He had a Luger, the distinctive-looking pistol German troops used, and he showed it to me one time. It looked scary to my eyes, and I've never been much of a gun guy, so I did not ask to see it again and did not want to know where he kept it. I think he might have had a Nazi arm band, but I'm not sure about that. As for the Luger, one of my brothers almost shot his foot off with the thing, so I was glad we all survived that episode -- especially since the bullet went through our parents' bedroom floor and landed in the basement, barely missing our fish aquarium, which was a fairly heavily trafficked area, where quite a few folks (including me) made a habit of gathering to watch the fish.

My dad died in 2008, and about 10 years later as my mother was nearing the end of her life, she told me that Dad was in a unit that landed on Normandy beach three days after the D-Day invasion. I've looked online several times for information about Dad's unit, but I haven't found anything so far. My best guess is that they were on what might be called a "recovery mission," to recover bodies, equipment, perhaps German intelligence. I can only imagine the kind of danger my father was in on that mission.

I imagine that unexploded land mines and other munitions dotted the beach. One wrong step, and my father's life would have been over -- and the lives of my siblings and I never would have started.

When you know that a loved one has faced danger and taken great risk to protect our country, our Constitution, our democracy, it tends to make you want to expose the kind of judicial, legal, and law-eforcement crookedness I've witnessed in two states (Alabama and Missouri). It makes you appreciate that we are a nation of laws, and you want to see those laws faithfully upheld, not trampled by judges who have no qualms about violating their oaths of office. I know that is the case with me, and I suspect it drives Donald Watkins, knowing what his Uncle J.T. went through. Writes Watkins:

In 1966, Uncle J.T. initiated an Equal Employment Opportunity Act administrative complaint on behalf of himself and others similarly situated that challenged the District of Columbia's widespread employment discrimination against blacks in hiring and promotional practices. Taking this bold action unleashed pure hell against him as a black employee.

In 1969, Uncle J.T., having exhausted his EEOC administrative remedies, filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that the District of Columbia's unlawful employment and promotional practices violated his civil and constitutional rights, as well as those of the class of blacks he represented.

In 1971, Uncle J.T. won his lawsuit after proving a pervasive pattern of racial discrimination against African-Americans in the District’s employment practices.

However, the trial court declined to grant certain relief requested by Uncle J.T., including (a) an immediate promotion for himself and another nonwhite employee named Somera, the only two employees who had been denied promotions because of race and were still employees; (b) rescission of a specific promotion of a white employee; (c) disciplinary action against persons still employees who were found to have perpetrated the system of racial discrimination; and (d) an injunction against further acts of discrimination and retention of jurisdiction.

Uncle J.T. appealed the trial court’s denial of the promotional relief for himself and Somera and denial of the requested injunctive relief.

On December 29, 1972, Uncle J.T. won the requested equitable relief that had been denied to him and Somera by the trial court.

Black federal employees in the District of Columbia were ecstatic. It was the first major employment-discrimination victory for the plaintiffs' class in the District in the early 1970s.

In making its ruling, the Court of Appeals stated:

Appellant Watkins, who has for six years waged an almost single-handed battle against racial discrimination in the Housing Division, deserves a clear response from the courts……Accordingly, …… [t]he District Court is directed to remand the question of the promotional status of employees Watkins and Somera to the Hearing Committee or other appropriate administrative forum. The court is also directed to issue an appropriate order enjoining the Housing Division from further acts of racial discrimination and ordering the Division to take steps necessary to ensure that the effects of past discrimination will be eliminated and that there will be no discrimination in the future, the order to provide that the court will retain jurisdiction to enforce its order.”

After I graduated from the University of Alabama's law school in 1973 and passed the Alabama Bar exams several months later, I joined Uncle J.T. on the front lines of the fight against racial discrimination in employment practices in the District of Columbia and other federal agencies in Washington.

With Uncle J.T.’s help, I secured a nice office in a building at the corner of Albemarle St. and Wisconsin Avenue in the Georgetown area of Washington. I represented unionized federal government employees in Washington from 1974 until I was elected to the Montgomery, Alabama, city council in 1979.

Uncle J.T. continued to wage a passionate fight against racial discrimination within a number of federal agencies in the District of Columbia. His passion for the fight was exceeded only by his commitment to the cause of freedom and equality for all.

On June 8, 1973, Uncle J.T. won another round of sweeping injunctive relief for the plaintiffs' class of black District of Columbia employees after the trial court described the government's massive resistance to its anti-discrimination orders as "unreasonable, obdurate obstinacy."

By 1974, Uncle J.T. had achieved as much judicial relief as the courts would grant him and the class he represented. During the pendency of his last motion to enforce the prior court orders regarding the denial of a personal promotion to a GS-12 position, Uncle J.T. received a promotion to a GS-11 position, and later to a GS-12 job, before the Court of Appeals could issue a final ruling on his motion.

With this favorable personnel action and years of accumulated back pay, Uncle J.T. shifted his focus to securing upward mobility for a host of other black employees by establishing an aggressive and well-funded litigation support network.

Uncle J.T. died on November 3, 2005. He fought for equal opportunity until the last breath of life left his body. Uncle J.T. died on his feet fighting like a real soldier. He never got on his knees and surrendered his manhood to anybody.

Friday, July 28, 2023

With Hunter Biden staring at 10 or more years in prison, feds recommended a sentence of "probation"; would you or I get that offer? No way, says attorney

Hunter Biden

A longtime attorney and criminal-defense expert, with a record of writing critically about favoritism Hunter Biden has received in his tax and gun-possession cases, says he was shocked after reviewing documents related to Biden's plea deal.

Donald Watkins, who spent most of his career in Alabama and now lives in California, writes at his Web site under the headline "Hunter Biden's Plea Deal Explained":

Thanks to outstanding reporting yesterday from Politico, we now know what was in Hunter Biden’s Plea Agreement and Pretrial Diversion Agreement.

During my 46-year legal career, I have seen hundreds of plea agreements and quite a few pretrial diversion agreements in federal criminal cases. However, Hunter Biden’s plea deal documents truly shocked me. They exemplified a level of favoritism and preferential treatment that I have never seen before.

I am explaining these agreements in this article because no ordinary American citizen in a similarly situated circumstance will ever get Hunter Biden's plea deal.

Watkins warns his readers that if they ever find themselves in criminal hot water, they should not expect to get a plea deal like Hunter biden received. Writes Watkins:

An exhibit to the Pretrial Diversion Agreement described Hunter Biden’s crack and powder cocaine drug addiction since 2016. At times, this addiction caused Hunter Biden to get high as often as every 15 minutes.

Hunter Biden was hooked on crack and powder cocaine. He has been in and out of outpatient drug treatment facilities for years.

Hunter Biden now claims that he got sober in May of 2019, and he has been sober since.

However, there is no mention in the Statement of Facts accompanying the Plea Agreement that Hunter Biden has been regularly tested for cocaine use since 2019. Appropriate drug testing would have confirmed whether Biden is sober, or not (as of yesterday).

Furthermore, there is no mention whatsoever of whether Hunter Biden was tested for and cleared of any drug abuse after powder cocaine was found in the White House during the 4th of July weekend. Hunter Biden was staying at the White House during this period of time.

Finally, the Plea Agreement is completely silent on how the government corroborated Hunter Biden's self-asserted claim that he has been sober since 2019.

Perhaps the issue that jumps out most to Watkins is Biden's possession of a firearm while using crack cocaine:

On October 12, 2018, Hunter Biden purchased a firearm and ammunition that federal law prohibited him from possessing. Biden lied about his drug use on the ATF form that was required for his purchase of the firearm from a licensed gun dealer.

During the time Hunter Biden purchased and possessed the firearm, he also purchased and smoked crack cocaine on a regular basis. Hunter Biden also brandished the firearm in the presence of those who engaged in his orgy of illegal drug use, prostitution, and sexual debauchery.

On October 23, 2018, Hunter Biden's firearm was located in his car, along with drug remnants and paraphernalia. The firearm was subsequently discarded in a trash can outside a supermarket in Greenville, Delaware. It was later recovered by law enforcement.

The outlook for a regular American under such circumstances would be dire, but Watkins sees little sign that Hunter Biden received anything approaching hard-ball treatment:

Nowhere in his Plea Agreement was Hunter Biden required to cooperate with law enforcement agencies in an effort to identify, arrest, and prosecute the drug dealers and sex traffickers who facilitated Biden's violations of federal criminal laws.

Furthermore, there is no mention of any contemplated obstruction of justice charge against Hunter Biden in connection with his act of discarding the firearm in a trash can.

In Section 15 of the Pretrial Diversion Agreement, the government agreed that it would NOT prosecute Hunter Biden for any of the uncharged criminal offenses encompassed within the broad scope of the Statement of Facts accompanying each agreement.

As expected, the Statement of Facts attached to each agreement supports a host of potential criminal offenses against Hunter Biden, including many offenses that arise from his work for Ukrainian and Chinese foreign nationals.

None of these potential offenses can be prosecuted, unless they are based upon Hunter Biden's future conduct.

As such, Section 15 is the government’s gift to Hunter Biden of a platinum “get out of jail free card" for some pretty serious felonies against him based upon his past conduct (i.e., criminal conspiracy; working as an unregistered agent for foreign nationals who sought to influence U.S. government policies; additional income tax-related charges arising from Hunter Biden's previously undisclosed foreign sources of income; obstruction of justice for discarding the gun in the trash can; etc.).

Finally, despite Hunter Biden's wide range of felony offenses, the government agreed to recommend that the judge sentenced him to "probation."

If you or I were facing such a laundry list of felony charges and potential felony charges, should we expect to receive a recommended sentence of "probation"? Watkins seems to be saying: "You would be wise not to count on that":

Hunter Biden did not need a lawyer to negotiate his plea deal. The Department of Justice effectively served as Biden's lawyer with its end-runs around the litany of felony statutes that would have landed Hunter Biden in federal prison for 10 or more years.

Hunter Biden's plea deal was the most egregious and aggressive “fix” of a federal criminal case I have seen in my entire legal career. This plea deal was an insult to the intelligence of the American people. It also dishonored the honest members of the federal law-enforcement community.

Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika stopped the “fix" in Hunter Biden's criminal case. Going forward, Judge Noreika must do everything within her power to protect and promote the fair administration of our federal criminal laws in Delaware because the Department of Justice has abandoned this important function for the sole privilege of kissing Hunter Biden’s ass.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Souhern Company's Vogtle project in Georgia could be headed for receivership as cost overruns, construction delays, and testing failures continue to pile up

Vogtle Unit 3 near Waynesboro, GA

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) likely will place the two nuclear-power units being developed at Southern Company's Plant Vogtle into a receivership, according to a report from banbalch.com

The Vogtle project has been plagued by cost overruns, construction delays, and a wide-ranging racketeering scandal that has been swirling around Southern Company and its subsidiaries for years. The most recent portion of the scandal involves the unlawful sealing of court records by Alabama Circuit Judge Tamara Harris Johnson, an apparent effort to protect wrongdoers at Southern Company affiliate Alabama Power and its corporate associates, Drummond Company and the Balch & Bingham law firm.

The curious sealing attracted the attention of AL.com, the state's largest news outlet and prize-winning columnist John Archibald. That could be a precursor to the NRC placing the Vogtle project into a receivership, reports K.B. Forbes, publisher of banbalch.com and CEO of its parent organization, the CDLU public charity and advocacy group. Under the headline "Receivership for Vogtle? Southern Company Scrutiny Soars with Rebirth of North Birmingham Bribery Trial and Targeting of Innocent Children," Forbes writes:

Now that two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Archibald has pealed back the apparent  corruption of the Alabama judicial system by the Southern Company criminal enterprise -- involving the unlawful sealing of records related to the civil rebirth of the North Birmingham Bribery criminal case, the Office of Investigations at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission can finally tell the commissioners to place the Vogtle Nuclear Plant into receivership, with a third-party administrator.

The Office of Investigations “develops policy, procedures, and quality-control standards for investigations of licensees, applicants, their contractors or vendors, including the investigations of all allegations of wrongdoing.”

A receivership, according to Investopedia.com, is a court-appointed tool that can assist creditors in recovering funds in default and can help troubled companies avoid bankruptcy. Having a receivership in place makes it easier for a lender to obtain the funds that are owed to them if a borrower defaults on a loan.

A receivership may also occur as a step in a company's restructuring process that is initiated to return a company to profitability.

Forbes' article comes as the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) has a hearing set for today (7/27/23) to review progress on the Vogtle project. From a report at the Georgia Recorder

On Friday, Georgia Power announced that a new nuclear reactor at Plant Vogtle is on its way to becoming fully operational in the coming months, news that comes several days before the utility faces another showdown over the project’s ballooning costs brought on by years of delays.    

Georgia Power announced on Friday (7/21/23) that the Waynesboro nuclear-energy facility operators, Southern Nuclear, has turned over to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission the 364 inspections, tests, and analyses required for regulatory approval to assure that Vogtle’s final reactor meets strict nuclear safety and quality standards prior to completion. The development comes just weeks after Georgia Power revealed that Vogtle’s third reactor unit was delayed for another month before becoming the first new reactor to produce electricity in the country in 40 years when it came online in July. 

Georgia Power is awaiting the nuclear commission’s formal approval to start loading fuel into Unit 4, which is expected to be completed by this fall or early 2024. It is the last planned expansion of the nuclear plant started in the late 1980s with the completion of two reactors. . . .

The latest setback to Vogtle’s Unit 3 was caused by a malfunction of the hydrogen system that supports the generator that converts the turbine’s mechanical power into electricity.  It was another of many delays stemming from the project’s early stages when its contractor Westinghouse Electric declared bankruptcy, to technical and regulatory problems throughout construction as well as periodic worker shortages during the pandemic. 

On Thursday (today, 7/27/23), Georgia’s Public Service Commission is scheduled to hold another hearing to review the progress of a project with costs that have more than doubled to north of $31 billion after taking seven years longer to complete than projected.  A number of utilities analysts and consumer and clean-energy groups have expressed concern about how much more ratepayers will have to pay for a project that its supporters argue will provide a reliable, cleaner source of energy for decades to come.

The hearing comes as Forbes reports on the myriad ways Southern Company's racketeering activities have seeped into the Birmingham area:

Southern Company paid contractor and vendor Matrix, LLC, and its founder “Sloppy Joe” Perkins millions, with no need of invoicing, to allegedly investigate, target, spy on, and harass potential enemies and innocent children.

Perkins foolishly admitted that more than $50 million was laundered through 18 different tax-exempt entities, and then had his press release deleted into an Internet black hole.

Why in heaven’s name is a publicly traded utility company sending threatening packages of luggage and outfits to four young children and their mother?

Why in heaven’s name is a publicly traded utility company calling and harassing a Hispanic mother and her two young daughters demanding to know her whereabouts causing her and her family to flee to Mexico?

Why in heaven’s name is a publicly traded utility company allegedly breaking into offices, stealing bank records, and impersonating others to illegally obtain confidential financial information?

Southern Company, its subsidiaries, and vendors and contractors are out of control and appear to be involved in a large web of wrongdoing and deception.

That web appears to have tentacles with considerable reach, and it involves some deeply disturbing activities reports Forbes:

The embattled law firm Balch & Bingham, another Southern Company vendor, has two of its attorneys sitting now, this very moment, in federal prison. One for bribery and money laundering; the other for possession of kiddie porn.

Both disbarred attorneys at one point represented Southern Company. The bribery and money laundering were tied directly to the original North Birmingham Bribery Trial in 2018.

Now look at the Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant. The Plant is operated by Southern Nuclear Operating Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Company.

Vogtle costs “have more than doubled to north of $31 billion after taking seven years longer to complete than projected,” according to a report Monday by the Georgia Recorder.

The cost overruns and delays appear to show “intentional deception and criminal concealment” to investors, ratepayers, and regulators.

The Compliance Officer and General Counsel at Southern Nuclear is Millie Ronnlund, the former Balch & Bingham partner whose husband, Robert M. Ronnlund, was the attorney accused of engaging in alleged obstruction of justice and the alteration of evidence in the Newsome Conspiracy Case.

Ronnlund lives just yards up the road from Willard L. Bowers, the retired Alabama Power executive whose son, Jeffrey Bowers, a then-Columbiana Police Officer, pulled Burt Newsome over in 2013 and arrested the innocent man in an alleged “staged arrest.”

Another Southern Company subsidiary was allegedly engaged in fraudulent practices, criminal concealment, and false claim acts.

As ENRSoutheast wrote last December:

“The [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’] Jacksonville District hired Durham, N.C.-based PowerSecure Inc., a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Co., via a sole source time-and-materials contract for repair and restoration of Puerto Rico’s power grid following Hurricane Maria in 2017. The Corps’ contract was initially worth $1.3 million. After several modifications, its value reached $523 million, according to a 2019 U.S. Dept. of Defense Inspector General audit.

“U.S. Justice Dept. officials alleged that PowerSecure violated the Truth in Negotiations Act, which requires that government negotiators have access to cost or pricing data when developing a proposal for a sole-source contract, as well as the False Claims Act, which makes contractors liable for defrauding the federal government, by knowingly failing to disclose pricing data related to labor and equipment costs on another post-hurricane restoration project it had taken in Florida and Georgia earlier in 2017.”

In December, Southern Company’s wholly owned subsidiary agreed to pay the federal government $8.4 million to resolve allegations that it improperly withheld pricing data.

The concealment of pricing data confirms what we correctly foreshadowed in 2022: criminal concealment has been a consistent element involving Southern Company and their stooges, vendors, and contractors.

Wrongdoing? The enormity of Southern Company’s alleged wrongdoing is unprecedented.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has the irrefutable evidence, the documentation, the chronological timeline to put the Vogtle Nuclear Power plant into receivership and end the criminal RICO enterprise known as Southern Company.

Hunter Biden's plea deal on tax charges falls apart, drawing applause from criminal-defense expert, as immunity from future charges takes center stage

Hunter Biden (center) outside courthouse

Hunter Biden's plea deal on two misdemeanor tax charges fell apart yesterday during what was expected to be a routine hearing. Donald Watkins, a longtime Alabama attorney and criminal-defense expert, applauded Judge Maryellen Noreika's decision to hold off on accepting the terms of a revised plea deal. 

The case is now on hold for at least a few weeks while both sides submit new materials to Judge Noreika,  and she takes time to review them, according to a report from Axios. Biden entered a plea of not guilty after Noreika said she was not ready to accept the revised plea deal.

Watkins, publisher of the donaldwatkins.com Web site, has argued in recent weeks that Biden received favorable treatment from the U.S. Department of Justice, based on race, connections, and socioeconomic status. He also has argued that a defendant of color -- even a famous one, such as actor Wesley Snipes -- almost certainly would not get the kind of favorable treatment Hunter Biden received in a similar matter, also involving taxes. Watkins referred to Biden's treatment as a form of "white privilege." But Judge Noreika threw at least a temporary roadblock into the plea deal yesterday. Under the headline "Hunter Biden’s Crooked Plea Deal Blew Up in Court," Watkins writes:

Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) tried to “fix” the Hunter Biden criminal case with a crooked plea deal. Today, this plea deal blew up in a Delaware federal court.

U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika, the judge assigned to hear the plea deal in Hunter Biden’s case, rejected this stinking and highly suspect plea deal.

In disapproving the plea deal, Judge Noreika directed her focus on two aspects of the deal: (a) the DOJ’s grant of blanket immunity to Hunter Biden on future tax charges and (b) the DOJ's admission of Hunter Biden into the federal pretrial diversion program, even though he faced a gun-possession charge.

Under the law, that is a problem and Watkins provides an explanation of the issue:

In June, Hunter Biden was charged with two misdemeanor tax charges and a “firearms offense – namely, one count of possession of a firearm by a person who is an unlawful user of, or addicted to, a controlled substance, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(3) and 924 (a)(2) (2018).”

Section 922 is a felony “weapons” offense, as defined in the annual DOJ statistical reports. The mandatory minimum sentence for this offense is 5 years.

Prosecutors attempted to help Hunter Biden avoid the 5-year minimum sentence by allowing him to enter into a pretrial diversion program.

According to the DOJ reports from 2001 to 2021, none of the 185,082 “weapons” cases prosecuted during this 20-year period was referred by DOJ to a pretrial diversion program. Hunter Biden is the first and only federal offender who has enjoyed this kind of preferential treatment in a firearms case.

Watkins points to other issues that could be problematic in the Hunter Biden criminal matter:

Hunter Biden also failed to declare millions of dollars in income from Ukrainian and Chinese businesses on his federal tax return. His conduct in this regard constitutes one or more felony offenses of income-tax evasion.

The DOJ tried to “fix” Hunter Biden’s tax-evasion crime by dragging out its criminal investigation into Biden's undeclared millions of dollars in income until the statute of limitations runs out on this offense.

Judge Noreika did not buy any aspect of the DOJ's crooked scheme to save Hunter Biden from going to prison. The plea deal is now dead.

Claims by the White House and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland that Hunter Biden has been treated like all drug-using, federal firearms-possessing, and tax-evading federal offenders are complete and utter "bullshit."

Hunter Biden’s criminal case was “fixed” because he is President Joe Biden’s son. America's crack cocaine-smoking, "dopehead" first son is a beneficiary of the most corrupt Department of Justice in modern history.

We thank God that Judge Maryellen Noreika is not a crook like Merrick Garland and the other Department of Justice officials who approved the Hunter Biden “sweetheart” deal.

What's next in the Hunter Biden matter? That's hard to say. According to Axios, the plea deal is not technically dead, but it is on hold:  

Hunter Biden's legal team was stunned by what it expected would be a formality of a hearing that would allow the president's son to avoid prison time.

  • The case now is on hold for at least a few weeks while both sides submit new materials to Judge Maryellen Noreika, and she takes time to review them.
  • The delay came at the end of a raucous and tense hearing that featured two recesses as prosecutors and Biden's attorneys privately and publicly feuded over what they had agreed to.
  • Hunter Biden's plea deal to avoid jail time included a guilty plea to two tax misdemeanors for failing to pay taxes and a diversionary agreement on a gun-related felony for owning a weapon while using drugs.

The first recess was prompted when Hunter testified that he believed the guilty plea agreement on tax misdemeanors was connected to the diversionary agreement on the separate gun felony, which the prosecutor said was incorrect.

After the judge gave the two sides time to iron out things, tensions flared as Biden lawyer Chris Clark snapped at Justice Department prosecutor Leo Wise that this wasn’t the deal — and they might as well “just rip it up.”

The second recess was prompted by Noreika's questions whether the diversionary agreement shielded Hunter Biden from future prosecution under other laws, including the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA).

  • Wise also told the court that there is an "ongoing investigation." Asked for more information by Noreika, Wise said he was "not in a position where I can say."
  • Biden's legal team was shocked when Wise told the court that prosecutors believed they still could charge Biden with FARA violations.
  • Clark said that was not his understanding, to which Wise replied: "then there's no deal."

The hearing almost concluded with a new court date a month away, before Clark pleaded for another recess to see if the sides could hash out their differences.

  • As the two sides haggled, Biden's plea deal was orally amended to be more explicit in what Biden was immune from in the future — but it still could be tweaked in the coming weeks.

Biden's lawyers reached the initial deal with the Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney David Weiss. Sentencing on the charges is at the discretion of Noreika, also a Trump appointee.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Ron DeSantis and other Republicans are peddling a rosy picture of slavery, but longtime Alabama attorney says, for the enslaved, there was nothing rosy about it

 

Is the postmodern Republican Party serious about governing? That Donald Trump is the GOP's runaway front-runner for president in 2024 would give some people pause. With no shortage of issues that merit serious attention -- climate change, bank failures, corporate malfeasance, income inequality, racial injustice, dubious policing, and much more -- a segment of Republicans has chosen to rally around the notion that slavery was not all that bad for African Americans.

Florida Governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis is a leading voice in a push to alter the teaching of African-American history in a way that some argue is "pro-slavery." Even Chris Christie, the former GOP governor of New Jersey and onetime head of Trump's transition team, has fired back at DeSantis on the slavery issue, and Vice President Kamala Harris has called the new Black history standards "propaganda." Maybe all of this explains why DeSantis is trailing by wide margins in polling for the 2024 GOP primary.

A reasonable person might ask, "How did this become an issue in 2023? Has it not been clear for several hundred years that slavery was an inhumane and evil institution?" Longtime Alabama attorney and civil-rights advocate Donald Watkins seeks to unmuddy the waters with a piece at his Web site under the title "American Slavery is Defined in Slave Codes Adopted by Colonies and States." Writes Watkins:

Today’s Republican politicians want to re-image the history of slavery in America to make it a benign chapter in our history as a nation.

Led by Florida governor Ron DeSantis, many Republican-controlled state legislatures, governors, and state boards of education are now proclaiming that slavery, which was legal in America from 1612 to 1865, was beneficial for the enslaved people of African descent.

A review of my old Property and Constitutional Law books as a student at the University of Alabama’s law school (1970 to 1973) provides a different, accurate, and documented legal history and description of American slavery.

What is the reality of American slavery? Watkins paints the picture, and as many of us already knew, it isn't pretty:

Here are the unvarnished legal tenants of America’s enslavement of Africans, as presented in my law books:

1. Slaves were brought to America packed in the hell holes of slave ships. Those who survived the voyage were forced into the most brutal living and working conditions imaginable.

2. Slaves were deemed to be “chattel property,” not human beings.

3. Slaves were bought, sold, traded, willed to relatives and third parties, mortgaged, and insured, all for the benefit of their owners.

4. Slaves had no rights that white men were bound to respect. Dred Scott v. Sandford (U.S. Supreme Court, 1857).

5. Slaves worked six days per week from sun up to sun down, with bullwhips used to enforce the work ethic imposed by their owners.

Watkins' legal texts make it clear that the horrors of slavery were codified in many American states, both in the North and the South:

6. Slave women were raped by the masters, with impunity. A child born from the rape of an enslaved woman by her master, or an overseer, was a slave for life.

7. All slaves were subject to slave codes enacted by various colonial authorities and state legislatures in the North and South. The slave codes eliminated the legal rights of enslaved people. Nearly all of these codes provided that:

a. Slaves could not be away from their owner's premises without permission.

b. Slaves could not assemble unless a white person was present.

c. Slaves could not own firearms.

d. Slaves could not be taught to read or write.

e. Slaves could not transmit or possess “inflammatory” literature.

f. A slave could be killed by his/her master, who would face no criminal charge.

The brutality of slavery clearly was present in Alabama, and it also was apparent as your eyes and mind move toward the north -- from Virginia to Maryland to Massachusetts:

8. The 1852 Alabama Slave Code made the voluntary manslaughter of a white person by a slave a capital offense. Slave owners used a variety of punishments to discipline and dominate slaves. Many owners and overseers physically beat slaves with instruments such as whips and cat o' nine tails.

9. In 1723, the Virginia colony enacted laws to limit the increase of free negroes to those who were born into that class or manumitted by special acts of the legislature.

10. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was part of the Compromise of 1850. The Act required that slaves be returned to their owners, even if they were in a free state. The Act also made the federal government responsible for finding, returning, and trying escaped slaves.

11. The Massachusetts legislature passed the 1855 law with the defiant title, "An Act to Protect the Rights and Liberties of the People of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts." A key provision was the section calling for the removal of any state official who aided in the return of runaway slaves.

12. In the 1664 Maryland Code, the third section of enacted law focused on marriage and penalized a free-born European woman who married a slave, declaring she would forfeit her freedom and become indentured to her husband's owner for the period of time the husband lived and that any children born of that marriage would be enslaved.

Nothing about American slavery was desirable or beneficial from the standpoint of the enslaved people.

Ron DeSantis and his political cohorts who peddle this new, unfounded, benign version of slavery are nothing more than disgusting racists.