In a development that got lost in all the jabber about the Nevada caucuses, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor used a dissent in a case that highlighted one of the worst ideas ever to slime its way out of Stephen Miller’s twisted mind to call out her Republican colleagues for being Republican hacks. Back in August, the administration* sought to limit immigration through something called the “public charge” rule. In brief, this means that someone can be denied the right to come here if that person could potentially take advantage of our pathetically shabby social-safety net. Resistance to this idea was loud and immediate. People pointed out that this was exactly the argument the government had used to send Jews who were fleeing Hitler back to Europe.
…Make no mistake. In this dissent, Justice Sotomayor is calling out the new 5-4 conservative majority—which includes Chief Justice John Roberts—for being White House errand boys. This is an astonishing development. You simply do not ever see this kind of attack on the Court’s objectivity from inside the temple. And the hell of it all is that she’s right. There was no reason for the Court to act so precipitously on this noxious principle except to do the White House’s bidding, and, by doing the White House’s bidding in this way, the 5-4 majority submarined the authority of the appellate system all the way down through the federal judiciary.
There was a time when I actually believed that Roberts cared enough about the institution over which he presides that he never would let it become an adjunct chop-shop to a criminal enterprise. Madame Justice Sotomayor just told me how wrong I was. I stand corrected.
[The Dotard] trumpets that he is the most bodacious barrier builder of all, yet he can’t seem to get his one “big, beautiful wall” funded or even taken seriously, much less built. Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has continuously stamped his tiny feet and demanded that Congress shell out more than 10 billion of our taxpayers’ dollars to erect a monster of a wall across some 2,000 miles of the U.S. border with Mexico. Like a flimflamming snake-oil peddler, he rants that his magnificent edifice would magically keep “aliens,” “rapists,” “murderers,” “terrorists,” “drugs” and “cartels” from entering the U.S. from the south. But even when his own party controlled both houses of Congress, the presidency and the courts, his grand scheme went unloved, unfunded and unbuilt.
Still, he kept insisting … and persisting. In January, he directed his Customs and Border Control officials to put up a short section of his 30-foot-tall wall on the border at Calexico, California, to show the world how effective the Trump bulwark would be. Alas, though, the thing blew over! Not from a hurricane-force storm but from moderate winds topping out at only 37 miles an hour. The metal panels flung over into Mexico. Embarrassing.
A month later, a climbing group in Kentucky built a replica of that wall and held an up-and-over competition. Winning time was 13.1 seconds! Sixty-five competitors easily topped it, including an 8-year-old girl and a guy who climbed it one-handed while juggling various items with his other hand.
Would be amusing if it wasn’t so sad. What else could Wall money be spent on? Nearly anything would be more useful…
El Paso Times reports:
Smugglers in Juárez have engineered camouflage hook-and-ladders made of rebar that blend in so well with the border wall that it can be hard to detect, according to U.S. Border Patrol. The ladders are the same rust brown color as the mesh panels or steel beams of the fence.
El Paso’s urban stretch of border is littered with the rusted rebar ladders at the base on both sides — ladders lying in wait on the Mexican side, ladders pulled down by border agents or abandoned by smugglers on the U.S. side. One of the rebar ladders was poking out of a dumpster in a lot near the Chihuahuita neighborhood on Thursday.
The ladders appear to be made with two poles of 3/8-inch rebar and four thinner poles, outfitted with steps and bent over at the end in a U, to hook on the top of the wall. It’s the sort of cubed rebar support structure used in construction in Mexico, called castillo.
Six meters of castillo costs 99 pesos, or about $5.30, at the Hágalo — or Do It Yourself — True Value hardware store in Juárez. There is no indication that smugglers are shopping at that store in particular.
Romero said the rebar ladders started turning up in large numbers in the El Paso sector last year in May, around the time that construction of the most recent replacement wallfinished downtown. They’ve been a go-to method for scaling the fence in the urban footprint since.
A pardon for Roger Stone would be the capstone of the White House’s extraordinary interference in this legal case. Attorney General William Barr already created a firestorm by overriding the sentencing guidelines of the original prosecutors in the case, who resigned in protest.
Trump’s use of his pardon power can be distinguished from the other scandals of his presidency in that it is a perfectly legal, indeed constitutional, form of corruption. The fact a president can pardon his own criminal associates doesn’t make the action any better than actually impeachable offenses like obstructing justice or using foreign aid to advance his political fortune.
Rather, the very constitutionality of Trump’s actions makes them worse, because they show how the legal powers of the presidency are themselves ripe for abuse. Trump, by being bolder than his predecessors, has shown how easily a president can undermine the rule of law without even breaking any laws.
I couldn’t stomach watching much of the debate last night, happily, from what I saw, the loser was Michael Bloomberg. He was only in the debate because he is a billionaire, which is such a strange decision by the DNC. What is the depth of support for an oligarch among the Democratic Party’s base? Not much.
That said, I hope Bloomberg is a man of his word who spends freely up and down the ticket to unseat the Republicans, including in the Senate. We’ll see.
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) pushed back Tuesday on a pot firm’s plan to open a recreational weed store next to the city’s largest drug treatment facility.
Burnett, a former alcoholic, said the location proposed by Wheaton-based NuMed is simply “too close” to The Haymarket Center at 932 W. Washington.
“Ideally, I would like to have a perimeter of three city blocks that surround Haymarket. But I think it’s going to be very challenging,” said Lustig.
Asked if the litany of bars in the area that serve alcohol are also a concern, Lustig said: “I’ve always had concerns, but you can’t smell alcohol” like you can smell marijuana smoke.
But Burnett said because of the availability of booze, the other proposed pot shop locations aren’t as much of a concern to him as NuMed. The Fulton Market Association, a nonprofit focused on economic development in the area, is collecting signatures for a petition against NuMed that it plans to send to city officials Friday morning.
“We support that [patients] shouldn’t be faced with a marijuana shop right in their face and perhaps be enticed into a relapse,” said the group’s executive director Roger Romanelli.
This irks me for all sorts of reasons. For one, for addicts, including alcoholics, being near bars and restaurants that serve alcohol is fine apparently, but an upscale cannabis dispensary being 1/4 mile away is a temptation they cannot resist? Really? Really?
Secondly, smoking is not permitted in dispensaries. Smoking cannabis is also not legal on the streets, though of course people have been smoking on the weed in public for decades or longer, including right in the doorway of this drug treatment facility. I can attest to this personally.
And if I were to get NIMBY1 with it, I’d rather this treatment facility was the one that moved. The clients2 often huddle in groups on the sidewalk, blocking passersby, chain smoking Newport cigarettes, blowing smoke on pedestrians. Why is this drug treatment facility located in the middle of a bustling entertainment district anyway? Haymarket Center has been there for a long time, and originally, this was not the same neighborhood as it is now. But neighborhoods change, and the West Loop has drastically changed over the last decade. The West Loop of 1975 is not the same as the West Loop of 2020.
Final thought, smoking cannabis is not a gateway drug to being a heroin addict, at least not according to modern research. The State of Illinois recognized this by granting medical cannabis licenses to opioid users, remember? Addicts need help, and consideration from the rest of us, but perhaps having the city’s largest treatment facility on 900 W. Washington is the real issue that should be addressed rather than NuMed opening an upscale storefront on Randolph Street.
Ted Cruz, the Republican Texas senator, has given an unwitting boost to an Alabama lawmaker’s attempt to push back on restrictive abortion laws in her state, by tweeting about her proposal to force men to have vasectomies when they reach the age of 50.
Democratic representative Rolanda Hollis introduced the measure to the state’s House last week, intending it as protest against a law passed by the Alabama legislature last year to outlaw abortion in almost every case unless the life of the mother was at risk.
“The responsibility is not always on the women. It takes two to tangle [sic],” Hollis wrote in a tweet acknowledging that her long-shot House bill, which would also a mandate a vasectomy after the birth of a father’s third biological child, was intended to “neutralize the abortion ban bill”.
After an initial flare of mostly local publicity, the issue was set to fade back into obscurity – until Cruz waded in with a tweet that placed it firmly before a national audience and his own 3.5 million Twitter followers, exposing his apparent hypocrisy over reproductive legislation at the same time.
“Yikes. A government big enough to give you everything is big enough to take everything… literally!” Cruz wrote, linking to an Alabama news website’s account of the story from three days previously.
Ted Cruz is not as smart as he pretends to be, in other words. Or else, secretly he believes in progressive ideals but says the opposite because he is a Senator from Texas?
Nahh, Cruz is just not that smart.
For nearly a decade, as male politicians have repeatedly sought to chip away at our reproductive rights, female legislators have responded with bills of their own, meant to regulate theirs. In 2012 we had a whole slew of them — Rep. Kelly Cassidy of Illinois proposed adding an amendment to a bill requiring those who get abortions to watch an ultrasound beforehand that would also require men who get Viagra to watch a graphic video about its potential side effects; Sen. Janet Howell of Virginia thought men who wanted Viagra should probably get a rectal exam first; and Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner felt that the best way to show men who feel they need a drug for erectile disfunction “that we care” about them would be to require a psychological examination beforehand, and then a cardiac test every 90 days after that, and that they should also be required to sign a form saying they understand the side effects.
Then, in 2017, Texas state Rep. Jessica Farrar “A Man’s Right To Know Act” proposed fining men $100 for masturbating (every sperm is sacred!), allowing doctors to refuse to perform vasectomies or prescribe Viagra if they feel they have a religious objection to it, and requiring all men to read an informational booklet before getting Viagra or a vasectomy or a colonoscopy. So good! All of them!
The latest of these bills comes from Alabama state Rep. Rolanda Hollis (D-Birmingham), who on Thursday filed a bill (HB 238) that would require men to get a vasectomy prior to their 50th birthday or after their third child. Naturally, this would be at the man’s own expense. And Ted Cruz is positively outraged!
As many as nine new recreational cannabis dispensaries could clear a crucial regulatory hurdle during a special meeting of the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals scheduled for March 6, potentially almost doubling the number of pot shops allowed to operate in the city, according to officials.
The board will consider “cannabis-specific” applications at the first of its kind special meeting. The formal agenda for the meeting has not yet been released.
The following cannabis companies have filed applications with the Zoning Board of Appeals to open new dispensaries, according to the Chicago Department of Planning and Development:
Pharmacann, for planned dispensaries at 1001 W. North Ave. and 444 N. LaSalle St. A community meeting was held Feb. 6 to discuss the LaSalle Street proposal, and another is scheduled for Feb. 18 to discuss the North Avenue site plan.
Natures Care Company, for a planned dispensary at 810 W. Randolph St. A community meeting was held to discuss the proposal on Feb. 6.
Numed Chicago, for a planned dispensary at 935 W. Randolph St. A community meeting was held to discuss the proposal on Feb. 5.
PDI Medical, for a planned dispensary at 60 W. Superior St. A community meeting was held to discuss the proposal on Feb. 5.
Green House Group, for a planned dispensary at 612 N. Wells St. A community meeting was held to discuss the proposal on Feb. 7.
MOCA Modern Cannabis, for a planned dispensary at 214-232 W. Ohio St. A community meeting was held to discuss the proposal on Jan. 29.
The sooner the better, it’s already going to be summer before these open.
Parenthetical confession: I haven’t been inside one of the newly legal dispensaries, yet. I’m not enough of a pot-head to stand in line for 2 hours, especially in the winter, and I’ve been to dispensaries in other states, so there isn’t a novelty itch that I need to scratch. I’ll wait until the flower shortage abates, and the weather improves.
South American military dictatorships combined forces in the late 1970s on a continent-wide crackdown they called Operation Condor against perceived threats to their rule. It was part of a broader wave of violence in which nuns and priests were imprisoned, dissidents were tossed out of airplanes and thousands of victims were “disappeared.”
To coordinate this brutal campaign, Argentina, Chile and other countries established a secret communications network using encryption machines from a Swiss company called Crypto AG.
Crypto was secretly owned by the CIA as part of a decades-long operation with West German intelligence. The U.S. spy agency was, in effect, supplying rigged communications gear to some of South America’s most brutal regimes and, as a result, in unique position to know the extent of their atrocities.
Whether there were opportunities to act, and failures to do so, are among the difficult questions raised by the revelations about the CIA’s involvement in Crypto — dubbed Operation Rubicon by the agency. The program enabled U.S. spy agencies to monitor the communications of dozens of countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America over half a century.
Two brief thoughts: one, why didn’t the US government do more to reign in these abuses? Because they were being conducted by right-wing governments?
and two, no wonder China wants to emulate this program with the installation of Huawei networking gear, and also no wonder the US is opposed.
No NATO ally should succumb to the temptation of letting Chinese tech giant Huawei into their next-generation cellular networks, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday at Allied headquarters, turning U.S. opposition to Huawei into a bipartisan effort.
Pelosi said the invasion of privacy that would result from having Huawei integrated into Europe’s 5G communication networks would be “like having the state police, the Chinese state police, right in your pocket.”
She insisted such technology was far too sensitive to turn to over to Chinese interests, even though they can deliver such technology cheaper, thanks to the fact that the company relied on Western know-how to build its systems.
“While some people say that its cheaper to do Huawei — well yeah — it’s a People’s Liberation Army initiative using reversed engineering from Western technology,” Pelosi, the senior Democratic lawmaker, told reporters in Brussels.
“So, of course it’s going to be cheaper to put on the market. And if it’s cheaper, then they get the market share and then they (China) bring in their autocracy of lack of privacy.”
A revelatory book about the rise and fall of the world’s biggest bank might hold some interest to financiers, business school professors and readers of the Economist. But what about one that also has all the elements of a page-turning mystery novel: suspicious suicides, Russian money laundering, securities and tax fraud, price fixing, $100 million bonuses, whistleblowers who are ignored and fired, and a heroin junkie peddling stolen documents to journalists and FBI agents? Add to that a big client with a sketchy financial history who suddenly becomes president of the United States, and you’ve got the makings of a blockbuster.
A new Russian subsidiary laundered tens of billions of rubles into dollars for Russian oligarchs and cronies of President Vladimir Putin. Its London traders helped organize a conspiracy to fix interest rates. Its New York investment bankers were at the front of the pack peddling collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and mortgage-backed securities they knew would go bad. Its bankers conspired with corporate clients to evade economic sanctions against Iran and Syria, and helped giant hedge funds avoid taxes in the United States. Its enormous stash of risky derivatives was carried on its books at prices well above their market value. And its top executives repeatedly lied about all these things to investors, regulators and even their own directors.
The consequences of all this risk-taking, mismanagement and fraud are now clear. Between 2015 and 2017, the bank was forced to record losses of more than $10 billion, and it only barely returned to profitability in 2018. Since 2007, its stock price has fallen 95 percent. And as Enrich reports, the bank’s financial position was so precarious that even longtime corporate customers abandoned it. The International Monetary Fund recently singled out Deutsche Bank as the institution posing the biggest risk to the global banking system.
And when Trump was on the verge of defaulting on loans used to buy his failing hotels and casinos in Atlantic City, Deutsche Bank came to the rescue by peddling $484 million in junk bonds to investors — bonds on which Trump defaulted within a year.
Normally, such a default would have been enough to scare away even the most risk-tolerant lenders. But within months, Deutsche Bank’s real estate division was again providing Trump with a $640 million loan needed to build a new Chicago hotel, while its team in Moscow was steering Russian investors to Trump projects in Hawaii and Mexico. The relationship hit a low point in 2009 when Trump announced he had no intention of repaying his loan on the Chicago hotel, claiming that the unfolding financial crisis was an act of God that freed him of his obligation.
When Deutsche Bank sued to get its money back, Trump countersued, preposterously accusing the bank of predatory lending practices. The matter was finally settled with a two-year extension on the loan — and a vow by the bank’s real estate lenders never to do business with Trump again. But two years later, Trump somehow sweet-talked his way into Deutsche’s private banking division, which over the next several years provided him with $350 million in personal loans to cover projects in Chicago, Miami and Washington.
Sounds interesting. It always seemed odd to me that a bank would continue to lend vast sums of money to such an obvious deadbeat like Trump. Was it all money laundering? Something else? I guess I’ll have to read the book and find out.
“Enrich tells the story of how one of the world’s mightiest banks careened off the rails, threatening everything from our financial system to our democracy. Darkly fascinating. A tale that will keep you up at night.” — John Carreyrou, #1 bestselling author of Bad Blood
From New York Times finance editor David Enrich, a searing exposé of the most scandalous bank in the world, revealing its shadowy ties to Donald Trump, Putin’s Russia, and Nazi Germany
On a rainy Sunday in 2014, a senior executive at Deutsche Bank was found hanging in his London apartment. Bill Broeksmit had helped build the 150-year-old financial institution into a global colossus, and his sudden death was a mystery, made more so by the bank’s efforts to deter investigation. Broeksmit, it turned out, was a man who knew too much.
In Dark Towers, award-winning journalist David Enrich reveals the truth about Deutsche Bank and its epic path of devastation. Tracing the bank’s history back to its propping up of a default-prone American developer in the 1880s, helping the Nazis build Auschwitz, and wooing Eastern Bloc authoritarians, he shows how in the 1990s, via a succession of hard-charging executives, Deutsche made a fateful decision to pursue Wall Street riches, often at the expense of ethics and the law.
Soon, the bank was manipulating markets, violating international sanctions to aid terrorist regimes, scamming investors, defrauding regulators, and laundering money for Russian oligarchs. Ever desperate for an American foothold, Deutsche also started doing business with a self-promoting real estate magnate nearly every other bank in the world deemed too dangerous to touch: Donald Trump. Over the next twenty years, Deutsche executives loaned billions to Trump, the Kushner family, and an array of scandal-tarred clients, including convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Dark Towers is the never-before-told saga of how Deutsche Bank became the global face of financial recklessness and criminality—the corporate equivalent of a weapon of mass destruction. It is also the story of a man who was consumed by fear of what he’d seen at the bank—and his son’s obsessive search for the secrets he kept.
Last year the five lakes that together hold 20 percent of the fresh surface water on the planet broke 10 high-water records, and more are expected to fall this year. The inundation follows a 15-year span from 1999 to 2014 when the so-called upper lakes of Superior, Michigan and Huron experienced the longest period of low water in recorded history.
The lakes have always been tempestuous neighbors, but today they appear to be entering a new era of volatility that is testing the region as never before. The simple explanation is that the last five years have been the wettest in history in the Great Lakes watershed, which encompasses parts of eight states and two Canadian provinces. But some scientists believe a more complicated dynamic is at work: a warming climate that will continue to cause extreme fluctuations in weather and water levels, threatening havoc for lakeside homeowners, towns and cities, tourism and shipping.
All of this has many lakefront property owners reconsidering their relationship with the lakes they love. Should people living in areas prone to flooding and shoreline erosion pack up and leave? Or should they stay, and at what cost to themselves and taxpayers? How much are communities willing to spend to protect against storms and rising waters?
The Trump administration is deploying highly trained officers to boost arrests of unauthorized immigrants in cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, the latest move in a battle against localities that adopt “sanctuary” policies to protect them from deportation.
Members of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Border Patrol Tactical Unit will be among the officers deployed to cities to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. They will also be sent to San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston, Boston, New Orleans, Detroit and Newark, New Jersey, CBP spokesman Lawrence Payne said in a statement.