Category Archives: Don’t be THAT guy

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have XBoxes

Cody_Wygant_mugshotJust when you think that human depravity has dived to depths unsurpassable, down with the whale droppings on the bottom of the Marianas Trench, some low-life blows and sounds for the unlighted deep in a newly horrifying way.

Ah-OOO-gah. Dive, dive, dive! Meet Cody Wygant, who didn’t want his XBox game interrupted by some damnable baby, so he did the logical thing for a product of the Self-Esteem Factory that’s modern schooling (modern society, actually). He smothered the infant. And returned to gameplay. Priorities, you know?

Cody Wygant, 24, admitted to police to suffocating the 16-month-old baby because he wouldn’t stop crying, police said.

“The loss of a life? The loss of a baby over something as foolish as, I can’t pause my video game and pay attention to the child? That’s nuts,” the child’s grandfather, who lives in Newmarket, N.H. said.

via Florida man admits to killing son over video game, police say | Local News – WCVB Home.

Wygant’s victim was his own son, Daymeon Grant (many of the stories about this don’t even mention the poor kid’s name). He’s since been charged with more offenses, as has the mother of the victim, Jessika Dufour, and her mother, Geneva Dufour. That’s because another baby in the house of horrors — Daymeon’s 3-month-old probable sister — was suffering from:

…a yeast infection that covered most of her body and caused tissue damage… [and] … what appeared to be what’s known as flat head syndrome — a condition caused from leaving a child in a playpen for extended periods of time….

In other words, a textbook case of gross neglect. That NY Daily News story has the mug shots of all concerned. The grandmother looks like the Mountain Trolls from the Hobbit movie. (“They’re half-wits! You can’t reason with them.”) You’ll thank us for not reproducing that picture; follow the link at your own risk, and eye bleach ought to be on standby just in case.

A local TV station has more details, including this quote from Undersheriff Buddy Grant: “The death of Daymeon was a horrible tragedy, but it led to the discovery of extreme abuse to the baby girl in the house. Thankfully, we got to this child when we did. I don’t want to think about what would have happened to her without this type of intervention.” Well done, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office — seriously. Another grim detail: Jessika Dufour wants the court to let her go to Daymeon’s funeral. Maybe the judges did (it was today, Thursday), but our best guess is that the only “closure” she’s going to experience is going to be the cell-door kind for the next few years. 

Here’s hoping the surviving baby can go up for adoption to someone with more parenting skills than the filial cannibalism that characterizes some tropical fish. The physical ability to bear a child is not always correlated positively with the ability to raise a child, and it’s a pity the court can’t sterilize them all. Three generations of mountain trolls breeding in the Florida sawgrass is enough.

In Colonial times, Wygant’s defense attorney would have told his lordship of the court that it wasn’t Wygant, it was Satan. He was the victim of demonic possession. Belief in Old Nick as a cause of crime has fallen off over the centuries, but really, you look at some of these crimes and you wonder if there isn’t some measure of truth in it.

He killed his son to get back to his XBox. WTFO?

Naturally, no firearms were used in any of these repellent acts. Unfortunately for those that would like simple answers to complex questions, crime and violence are deeply seated in human behavior. It may be that religion has more of value to say than criminology does about these events.

We tend to go all “get off our lawn” at these moments, but it’s scarcely fair to tar a whole generation with Wygant’s misdeeds. After all, hundreds of thousands of 24-year-olds cheerfully interrupt their video games today to conduct infantry patrols, stand watch at sea, load cargo jets, drill nee Marine boots, and that just names a few of the responsible military jobs in his cohort. There are 24-year-old university professors, bicycle repairmen, assistant US attorneys, FBI agents, and freakin’ florists, all of whom do a better job of caring for their kids than these admitted edge cases.

But we can’t execute this guy, many believe (he’s probably too stupid, under Atkins v. Virginiathe controlling precedent). That would be cruel and unusual punishment. But what are we to do about cruel and unusual crimes?

Lady Marine Weaponizes the Whining

2LT Sage Santangelo (she's the one with the baby fat)

2LT Sage Santangelo (she’s the one with the baby fat)

We’ve covered again and again the whole sad dynamic of women (by which we pretty much mean careerist officers and women who’d rather be men) demanding equal access to combat leadership slots for career reasons, while expecting the heteronormative male patriarchy (that’s Feminist for “men”) to (1) lower the standards to meet the women wherever they are, and (2) do it all while denying they’ve lowered the standards.

The senior leaders of all the services, generals and admirals, empty chests who’ve sold their souls for that fourth star, are certainly willing to play along. Hell, there’s no limit to the casualties they’ll send their men to take for “lip service to diversity,” the organizing principle of the American political class.

But their vision of the Bright Shining Uplands of the future with the New Soviet Man New Combat Barbie™ is struggling to make headway. As we’ve recounted, the Marines’ aggressive attempts to push carefully selected and prepared Marine women through Infantry officer training has produced three things: officers who quit, officers who flunked, and officers who injured themselves in the effort (badly enough to fail the course). This is because the New Combat Barbie™ plan is up against biological, behavioral, and psychological facts that altogether could be called “sexual dimorphism in homo sapiens

But that’s not the way at least one of these failures sees it. See, Lieutenant Sage Santangelo wuz robbed. In the real physical world, as opposed to in the fevered brain of a Unique And Special Snowflake™, she failed miserably — a first-day failure, along with the other three female LTs in her class, and 24 of 100 male ones. At some level she realizes she just could not do it: 

[T]here came a point when I could not persuade my body to perform. It wasn’t a matter of will but of pure physical strength. My mind wanted more, but my muscles quivered in failure after multiple attempts. I began to shiver as I got cold. I was told I could not continue.

But that tiny admission of failure was buried deep within a Washington Post opinion piece by Santangelo in which she excused her failure and demanded another chance.

I’ve always been taught that failure provides the greatest learning opportunities. My failed effort at Quantico has helped me better understand the needs of the Marines on the ground and will allow me to better support them in the future. At the same time, I love the Marine Corps philosophy that failure should never be viewed as permanent or representative; it is an opportunity to remediate. Marines cannot meet standards all the time. What do we do? We train until every Marine is competent. “No Marine joins the Corps to be a failure,” Gen. James F. Amos has said. “We don’t raise them up that way.”

She went on to argue that, essentially, the standards be dropped to meet her:

[I]nstead of passively evaluating their performance, we need to figure out how to set women up to excel in infantry roles.

We know what those code phrases (“set women up to excel”) mean. And, sure enough, it did. She wanted a do-over at Infantry school, which some male officers have received; but she didn’t want it to interfere with her plum flight school billet which she’d already secured.

Her whining was extremely irritating, but given the politicians in Washington these days, worked; on April 4th Marine Commandant Amos offered future women a do-over, and Santangelo a tour in Afghanistan — an offer extended to no other officer who failed out of basic branch school, as far as we know — while she waits for flight school. She’s not needed to do anything in particular in Afghanistan; it’s just a ticket-punch for someone the brass wants to smile on. She’s so special the rest of the 2LTs in the Corps have to wear shades and face away from her.

Naturally, this school failure is far more celebrated in the media than any of the Marines’ successful officers. This week, she went on ABC News and told them that she didn’t actually fail: the Marines robbed her by putting her in all-female training units that didn’t challenge her enough, physically.

[S]he was segregated into female-only training units and as a woman, was relegated to less strenuous physical training than her male counterparts. And that’s why, Santangelo told “On the Radar,” she didn’t have a fair shot at passing the Marine Corps’ Infantry Officer Course.

Why, those mean old men Marines, they expected her to get in shape on her own. Why, like she was a male Marine or something. Call that girl the Waaahmbulance!

That’s kind of like all the BUD/S, 18X SFAS and SFQC failures saying that basic training PT wasn’t hard enough to get them ready for the big gut check. Seriously, everybody that ever succeeded at anything like this got into shape on their own — doing the minimum standard in training PT won’t prepare you, and if you’re fit enough to go to any elite unit or to infantry training, it’s because you prepared yourself, and if you rely only on unit PT in basic training units you’ll fail. QED.

Likewise, anybody in any military elite unit has passed through a crucible including “muscle failure PT.” Yes, there’s a number of reps and sets that anybody can’t do, and the instructors will make sure you do “go there.” It’s what you do after your quivering, twitching skeletal muscles have hit the wall that exposes your charachter.

Santangelo went back to the billets and ordered pizza.

“The standards have to change,” she says, and we all know what that means to Jim Amos and the other DC timeservers. But then she goes on to say, “The standards cannot change.” In pretty much the next sentence. La donna è mobile, eh. 

This person is a piss-poor officer and a pretty lousy human being. But the fix was in, according to Jonn Lilyea at milblog This Ain’t Hell:

As it turns out, the commandant of the Marine Corps, James Amos, ghost wrote the piece with the young 2LT, because, for some reason the issue was important to him. …

Santangelo still won’t accept responsibility for her own unpreparedness for participation in the course. She says that the Marine Corps set her up for failure by making initial training different for men and women.

Yeah, Waahmbulance enroute for the podgy little thing. It’s hard to top Jonn’s coda:

But, as we’ve all known since we read Santangelo’s Washington Post piece, this has been about LT Santangelo, not the Marine Corps or even women in combat. I wonder what her excuse will be when she fails next time.

Whatever it is, we’re as confident as Jonn that she will have one.

How Spies are Made

This excellent true story from the FBI recounts the careful start and ugly end of an attempted foreign penetration of a US intelligence agency. It is well-produced and well-acted (somewhat unusual for government message films).

Glenn Shriver is a young man without much of a moral center. This leaves him easily manipulated by friendship and praise. The story is told in voice-over by the young actor playing him, until the credits roll at the end: then you see the actual Shriver, sitting handcuffed in a chair, explaining the consequences for him.

At the end, he doesn’t think he could have followed through and betrayed his country, but he acknowledged that he doesn’t know what he’d have done if (more realistically, when) they blackmailed him. The movie’s very well done, and you’ll see both how the pros grease the skids for someone’s descent into betrayal, and the exact point where the agent crosses over (it’s about 13 and a half minutes in). The movie does not compromise the sources and methods used to catch Shriver.

In the bad old KGB days (which, anybody working CI will tell you never really let up when it became the FSB), the case officer would set the hook by offering the would-be agent money to reimburse some expense or other, then having him sign. Cha-chinggg! Blackmail material, stored in his permanent file. They usually never had to take it out again, although some reluctant agents needed to be reminded it was there.

Nations will spy. As the Chinese spymasters note, the USA and China have many areas of cooperation and interrelations, and maintain generally friendly relations, despite occasionally divergent national interests. The same is true of the USA and Russia, Russia and China, and even nominal allies like the USA and Israel — sometimes our national interests are not congruent, and so every nation’s intelligence organs spy on every other to one extent or another. For the average person, it is usually a calamity to get caught up in this game.

It goes without saying that the same techniques are used by agent handlers of all nations and all causes. And in the end, part of being a case officer or agent handler is understanding that your agent is a pawn, however much you may like him, and in the end, he’s expendable. And how much can you really like a traitor?

The real-world Shriver was very, very lucky. The cooperation he provided landed him a very gentle plea-bargain with only four years imprisonment in lower-security Federal prisons. With good behavior, Inmate Number 44634-039 was released just before Christmas last year. But as he notes at the end of the film, he’s basically ruined for life by his own bad decisions. He’ll never hold a government job or a position of trust. He has a college degree, a knack for languages, and a command of Mandarin, so he’s one up on many ex-cons, but he’s still an ex-con, and it’s doubtful that the Chinese will give him a visa ever again, after the loss of face his case represents. (And if they do, what will they want from him?)

When Guns are Outlawed, bat update

Terrence V. Hartley. Courtesy Portsmouth NH PD.

Terrence V. Hartley. Courtesy Portsmouth NH PD.

They’re now saying it was a “metal bat,” and they’ve thrown the book at Terrence Hartley:

A Maine man who committed a masked home invasion in the Maple Haven neighborhood — during which he clubbed two people with a metal bat — was given four 7½- to 15-year state prison sentences Friday.

Terrence Hartley, 47, of 179 Tardiff Road, Clinton, pleaded guilty to and was sentenced for two felony counts of burglary and two felony counts of first-degree assault, according to the Rockingham Superior Court. The four state prison sentences are to run consecutive to each other, meaning his total sentence is 30 to 60 years in state prison.

As part of a plea agreement, four other charges alleging first-degree assault and a felony alleging his possession of cocaine were dismissed, according to the court.

via Bat-wielding home invader gets 30 to 60 years | SeacoastOnline.com.

If there is anyone at whom the book should be thrown, it’s Hartley. Consecutive sentences FTW! Apart from the crimes for which he was sentenced, and the ones he pled to nullity, his record includes:

…convictions for aggravated felonious sexual assault, two domestic assaults, and probation violation.

Charming fellow. Well, we’ll see how sporty he’s feeling in 2044 at age 77, or 2074 at 107, or some time in between. We’re thinking some of the starch will be out of him by then.

Back in September when we first wrote this up, the story was his weapon was “a hunk of pipe,” and we recorded some of the details:

He wasn’t content to beat a man with the pipe. He wasn’t even done when he beat a woman. He also had to tune up a dogThere’s wrongand there’s vileand this guy came across the Vile Gap, swingin’ a pipe.

No word on whether the arresting officers gave him a taste of PR-24. Probably not: the sort of people who beat folks with sticks usually have a low tolerance for being beaten with sticks.

A misdemeanor charge of cruelty to animals was one of the four counts broomed as part of Hartley’s plea bargain. When arrested, he was booked with his “last known address” noted, which is usually a marker of a homeless bum. We noted about his case:

Funny how all these folks who can’t afford soap can always seem to afford drugs. This particular loser sent two people to the hospital (and injured the dog, we can’t forget Fido) despite the opinion in some places that crime is caused by guns. There are thousands of guns in Portsmouth, New Hampshire itself and none of them hurt anybody yesterday, unlike Hartley. Indeed, he’s a lucky duck that he didn’t pick a house where the householders have defense means beyond a dog, or he could have seen Sunday’s sunrise in a morgue drawer instead of a cell window.

We also predicted that he’d hurt someone else after “his release from this trip to prison.” Since “this trip” has decades to run and he will emerge, if at all, as an old man, we may have overstated that prediction.

We still don’t know if his blunt instrument was a length of pipe or an actual bat. Baseball bats have a long and storied history here at When Guns Are Outlawed. A few other examples include:

So… there are criminals out there with baseball bats and other blunt instruments. Unless you plan to go bat-to-bat with them, they intend to make you the ball. 

Or you can do the responsible thing and gun up. If Hartley was the only one of these scrotes out there, you’d have until 2044 to make up your mind.

But he isn’t, and you don’t.

The Fate of an Informer

When the scalps Richard Bistrong delivered to Federal prosecutors got away, they took his as a consolation prize.

When the scalps Richard Bistrong delivered to Federal prosecutors got away, they took his as a consolation prize. He’s out of prison now, but no one will ever trust him again.

Recently, we told a story of how the ATF used a paid felon informant, and an attorney’s own willingness to suspend disbelief that he was being set up, to put the attorney away for years. Despite the high-profile given to undercover work against violent criminal organizations, this use of informants to target people who might be seduced over the line of the law is much more typical of how the Federal anti-gun police work.

You may remember a series of arrests at the 2010 SHOT Show — made with a Barnum blare of publicity, with federal agents helping the media spin the arrests as evidence that the entire show, and indeed the entire industry, were corrupt. We covered the collapse of the case here under the title Remember Those SHOT Show Arrests?, and covered the combined agencies’ full-court press at the 2013 SHOT show under the title To Reach The Stasi: 702-690-9142.

While the case was resolved with its collapse in late 2012 — the prosecution failed to gain any convictions in two trials, and the three executives who took plea bargains had their convictions overturned — one guy did go to prison, the informer; he was the only victim left that the prosecutors had handy, and they screwed him over. As the Wall Street Journal reports (use this Google Search if you’re paywalled out):

Mr. Bistrong, formerly a vice president for international sales at Armor Holdings, later bought by BAE Systems, may hold the distinction of being the longest-ever undercover cooperator in a white-collar criminal investigation, according to prosecutors and defense attorneys. He spent 2½ years as a government witness, monitoring 155 meetings, recording 527 hours of conversations and almost 25,000 telephone conversations, according to trial documents.

Bistrong lost his job, career, family, friends, health, and home, and is now a Federal felon, having been released after completing 12 months of an 18-month prison sentence. His years as a snitch, even if a failed one, are the cornerstone of his plan for a new life: teaching businesses how not to wind up in the sights of the Feds themselves.

The story of his work as an undercover cooperator shows the extent to which investigative methods usually confined to drug and Mafia cases have moved into the executive suite as prosecutors take on crimes like foreign bribery and insider trading. While the case that Mr. Bistrong worked on ultimately fell apart, these days, federal prosecutors in New York have made aggressive use of wiretaps in their yearslong crackdown on insider trading.

Harry Sandick, a former New York federal prosecutor, said that sting operations and other aggressive tactics had been used previously in white-collar cases, most famously in the Abscam case in the 1980s that led to the conviction of a U.S. senator and six congressman. But these tactics have come into common use in the past five years.

Prosecutors came knocking on Mr. Bistrong’s door in the spring of 2007, looking for somebody to work undercover. At the time, the government was ramping up FCPA enforcement, which was historically confined largely to corporate settlements and was rarely used in prosecutions of individuals.

According to people familiar with the matter, prosecutors and FBI agents had long hoped to target individual offenders. They also hoped to send a signal about a crackdown on white-collar crime. “We wanted people to start questioning whether their business partner was wired,” one of the people said.

Mr. Bistrong’s efforts led to bribery charges against 22 executives at more than a dozen medium-sized companies in the arms business over what prosecutors described as a complicated scheme to pay a $1.5 million bribe to the Gabonese defense minister for a contract to outfit the country’s presidential guard, according to court documents.

The government’s case ultimately collapsed after two trials, with all 22 executives walking free.

An estimate of the cost of the sting and investigation, $48,875,000, is far too low, as it assumes the burdened labor cost of a federal agent is $75k and didn’t count the years of post-arrest case-building. However inept it may have been, people still did work on it. The real investigation may have blown over $100 million.

Despite the costly failure of the sting, the Feds are insistent on trying it over and over.

When asked if the collapse of the ‘Africa sting case’ had chastened the agency, assistant FBI Director Ronald Hosko said last year, “We will do it again,” he said.

In order to get the big SHOT Show splash the prosecutors and agents wanted, Bistrong had to entrap not only business acquaintances, but also personal friends.

In 2009, the undercover operation transitioned into a sting, in which Mr. Bistrong invited 22 targets, including friends, to participate in a phony deal with representatives of Gabon—actually FBI agents in disguise. Mr. Bistrong said he knew he would be lying to business associates and friends. “I viewed my obligation as with the U.S. government, not against anyone,” he said.

The businessmen, including a former U.S. Secret Service official, all gathered at Clyde’s restaurant in Washington, D.C., in early 2009 to meet with a purported representative of the Gabonese defense minister and hear about the deal. They were told they could all get a piece of a $15 million contract to outfit the presidential guard if they paid a 20% “commission” to the minister. The 22 men later met in Miami with Mr. Bistrong and another Gabonese agent, and later at trial videotapes would show each executive agreeing to pay the commission during the meeting. 

This is a less rare technique than you might think. When corrupt (and since-promoted) ATF agents David Voth and Hope MacAllister, and corrupt (and since resigned-in-disgrace) US Attorney Dennis K. Burke and (since bruited for promotion also) AUSA Emory Hurley secured the cooperation of FFL Andre Howard and his Lone Wolf gun shop, Howard got cold feet and asked for something in writing. Hurley, whose plan was to indict Howard for cooperating under Federal persuasion and against his better judgment, refused; the only reason Howard was never charged is that the whole program collapsed when American agents were killed with the guns that had been killing their Mexican counterparts for months.

The prosecution’s aim was always a splashy show arrest, a rapid trial in the media, and extorted guilty pleas. They made it as far as the splashy arrest:

The businessmen were arrested en masse by an FBI swat team while attending a Las Vegas gun show in January 2010, and were later charged with FCPA violations in federal court in Washington, D.C.

…and the Trial by Media. For example, the dependably anti-gun Paul Barrett at the structurally anti-gun Bloomberg Businessweek crowed:

The FBI used the convention to round up 21 industry executives who allegedly fell for an undercover sting in which they agreed to pay illegal kickbacks to the defense minister of an African nation. In exchange, the small arms marketers thought they were securing the opportunity to sell millions of dollars in weapons and body armor. Unfortunately for them, they were transacting business with FBI operatives posing as middlemen, according to indictments unsealed by a federal judge in Washington. A 22nd suspect was picked up in Miami. “This is one case where what happens in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer at a news conference.

Breuer, of course, is a long-time anti-gunner and Clinton administration retread.  (Breuer was also involved in the planning and central control of Mexican gunwalking, and has the blood of murdered US Agents and honest Mexican cops on his hands). It was Breuer’s idea to hold the arrests at SHOT, which had nothing to do with the charges; his (and Barrett’s) hope was, as Barrett put it in the head and subhead of that article, “Big Shots Go Down at Gun Show: FBI arrests in a bribery scandal may leave the firearm industry wounded.” (The subhead has since been erased from the page, but it still shows in Google):

Screenshot 2014-03-30 14.08.18

Barrett singled out a Smith & Wesson executive (the only one of the 22 with a high-profile handgun or even firearms nexus, which is probably why he picked him) for opprobrium in the article.  To this day, Barrett and Bloomberg have not corrected the story, or apologized to Amaro Goncalves or Smith & Wesson, which were found blameless by the judge in the case.

That’s because Barrett is not a reporter, but a propagandist. In the same article (from 2010, remember) he gloats that the gun-sales spike of 2009 is over. He isn’t right in retrospect, and wasn’t right at the time: NICS checks were down because of supply constraints, not lack of demand. (According to FBI data, not the probably-Breuer-sourced leak Barrett got, 2010′s year-end number was 14.4 million, barely up from 2009′s 14.0m. But 2011-13 were 16.5, 19.6, and 21.1 million NICS checks, respectively, showing continued strength. So far 2014 (for which we have only two months’ data) is falling between the record years of 2013 and 2012. Here’s what the data look like, in millions of NICS checks, in both the FBI and more conservative NSSF-adjusted flavors; remember that in January 2010 Barrett crowed that, “the gun industry still faces the fizzling of the Obama sales rally.”

nics_adjusted_and_raw_data_chart

And the lesson is: Paul Barrett can be trusted — to lie, mislead, and misunderstand, whether he’s emitting sound waves or digital text. Not that he did anything that ABCNBCCBSCNNTimesPost didn’t do with the same case. None of them have apologized or retracted, either. “Journalistic ethics.” Always good for a laugh.

So we know that reporters got ahead for acting as uncritical press release rewriters on this, what about the other players?

So we know that Barrett’s designated villan, a Smith & Wesson sales VP, has been thoroughly and completely cleared by the legal system. That’s what happened to all the designated fall guys whose lives were trashed so that Lanny Breuer could have a press conference. Remember, though, what happened to the snitch?

Yep. Penniless, divorced, addicted, and imprisoned after two years of playing international-crime-guy lifestyle on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s dime, meaning yours if you’re a chump taxpayer like the rest of us. And they are eager to do more of these cases. Well played, FBI.

And the lesson is: there is no benefit to be had for cooperating with the FBI or ATF. The single most-screwed guy in this whole mess is Richard Bistrong, who did it to himself: he sold his integrity to save his freedom, and wound up without either.

The Institute for Legal Reform notes that the sharp practices of the US Attorneys in the SHOT Show case did not help the government, particularly, before the judge; and the agencies involved certainly damaged their reputation with him:

At the time, the Department of Justice announced the sting was “the first large-scale use of undercover law enforcement techniques to uncover FCPA violations and the largest action ever undertaken by the Justice Department against individuals for FCPA violations.”

After two trials, however, the government dropped the case. The judge, according to his transcript, had to “chastise the government in a situation where the government’s handling of the discovery process constituted sharp practices that have no place in a federal courtroom,” adding that it was “the end of a long and sad chapter in the annals of white collar criminal enforcement.”

The judge’s remarks are worth quoting [SCRIBD document] at greater length. He did indeed say that, but he also said all of this:

[L]et me make a few brief remarks. This appears to be the end of a long and sad chapter in the annals of white collar criminal enforcement. Unlike takedown day in Las Vegas, however, there will be no front page story in the New York Times or the Post for that matter tomorrow reflecting the government’s decision today to move to dismiss the charges against the remaining defendants in this case. Funny isn’t it what sells newspapers.

The good news, however, is that for these defendants, agents, prosecutors, defense counsel and the Court we can get on with our professional and personal lives without the constant strain and burden of three to four more eight week trials hanging over our heads. I for one hope this very long, and I’m sure very expensive, ordeal will be a true learning experience for both the Department and the FBI as they regroup to investigate and prosecute FCPA cases against individuals in the future.

Two years ago, at the very outset of this case I expressed more than my fair share of concerns on the record regarding the way this case had been charged and was being prosecuted. Later, during the two trials that I presided over I specifically commented again on the record regarding the government’s very, very aggressive conspiracy theory

that was pushing its already generous elasticity to its outer limits. Of course, in the second trial that elastic snapped in the absence of the necessary evidence to sustain it.

In addition, in that same trial, I expressed on a number of occasions my concerns regarding the way this case had been investigated and was conducted especially vis-a-vis the handling of Mr. Bistrong. I even had an occasion, sadly, to chastise the government in a situation where the government’s handling of the discovery process constituted sharp practices that have no place in a federal courtroom.

Notwithstanding all of this water over the dam, and there has been a lot of water, I’m happy to see and I applaud the Department for having the wisdom and the courage of its convictions to face up to the limitations of its case as revealed in the past 26 weeks of trial and the courage to do the right thing under the circumstances.

Having served at the higher levels of the Department, I know that that was not an easy decision. They never are, when so much has been invested, and the agents and the prosecutors are so convinced of the righteousness of their position. I for one however am confident this will be in the end a positive, if not painful, lesson that results in better prosecutions of individuals in the future under the FCPA. As for the defendants, I hope the healing process  is a swift one and that they get back to their normal lives in the very near future.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not comment on the tireless and spirited effort by the defense counsel from all over the country who came here to try these very lengthy and complicated cases under difficult circumstances and some even pro bono. Their hard work and effective advocacy are a testament to how strong our criminal defense Bar is nationwide.

And so without further adieu [sic] I grant the government’s motion to dismiss. The defendants are excused. And I will set hearings in the near future to determine the status of those cases where guilty pleas have already been entered.

As mentioned above, the judge later vacated the guilty pleas of the three defendants who’d pled to a conspiracy count. And he slammed the cooperating informant, Richard Bistrong, with a more serious sentence than anyone had requested. But as you can see, the judge, a former Department of Justice official and one with great sympathy for the prosecutor’s task, knew at the outset that the case was no good; but it still destroyed dozens of lives, and even coerced guilty pleas out of three innocent men.

This is what happens to you if you come to the attention of today’s Federal enforcers.

None of the prosecutors or agents involved in this attempted frame job were disciplined in any way. In fact, many have been promoted despite their misconduct in this case. They are not ever held accountable; much like Hammurabi’s Code had “different spanks for different ranks,” so do our laws today, at least “as implemented”. The Founders saw these kinds of blanket immunity as a feature of patents of nobility; didn’t they say something about that in some document or other?

SF Chronicle: Hey, this guy Yee was a crook all along?

Yee-Hah-haThat’s the press for you: sucking-up to the comfortable and grinding the faces of the afflicted in the dirt. Consider the case of gun-control-poster-child Leland Y. Yee, who had a secret identity worthy of some comic book chump in homoerotic tights: Mighty Yee, the International Arms Merchant.

Yee was against anyone owning dangerous weapons of mass destruction — who didn’t give him money.

Now the San Francisco Chronicle spent years tongue-bathing Yee in gauzy profiles and airy puff pieces, accompanied by photographs with the equivalent of Vaseline on the lens. With Yee jammed up, the Chron lost its love for Yee faster than a fickle teenybopper changing pop stars. Now it did something it never bothered to do during Yee’s years as a top legislator: it broke out the roll call reports and compared his votes, his stated positions, and his reported cash contributions. Principle, it turns out, is a great motivator until a dollar is laid against it. From the article:

Sifting through the layers of alleged criminality in a years-long FBI probe that ensnared Yee, notorious Chinatown gangster Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow and 24 others last week, the picture that emerges of Yee in a 137-page FBI affidavit is not the sleeves-rolled-up, 65-year-old Democrat with a knack for retail politics that Yee projected.

Instead, it’s of a man driven by money who was willing to skirt campaign finance laws, collect cash for meetings, trade political favors for donations, and even promise to facilitate an international arms deal worth up to $2.5 million. Now, a Chronicle review of his votes and campaign donations shows that money might have influenced many of his votes in the Legislature, too.

“When you read the (FBI) transcript, it’s pay-to-play politics at its worst,” said David Lee, a San Francisco State University political science instructor and executive director of the nonpartisan Chinese American Voters Education Committee. “It also speaks to someone who was desperate to hold onto power at any cost.”

Gun control advocate

Yee, a gun control advocate and outspoken critic of violent video games, was charged with conspiring to traffic in firearms and six counts of scheming to defraud citizens by allegedly trading political favors for campaign donations to pay off a $70,000 campaign debt from the mayor’s race and finance his now-abandoned run for secretary of state.

Controversy has dogged Yee since soon after he was elected to the San Francisco school board in 1988, but how far back his alleged practice of trading political action for money reaches is unclear.

The Chronicle review of his voting record in the Legislature, where he is currently in his 12th year, shows more than 30 instances dating back to 2003 where he cast votes that were arguably counter to his stated positions or the interests of his constituents in San Francisco and San Mateo counties, and then received large campaign contributions from the industries that benefited. Those included chemical, oil and insurance companies, campaign contribution records show.

via Linking Calif. Sen. Yee’s voting record to major donations – San Francisco Chronicle.

Now these ink-stained ward captains for The Party discover records that support the proposition that Yee would be anybody’s BFF, as long as they kept dropping coins into his slot. Records showing this behavior going back to 2003, and maybe as far as 1988.

Records that the Chronicle could have looked at at any time during Yee’s 25-year influential career. And they did, now, as soon as they finally developed some curiosity about him.

After all he was just one of the most important politicians in the city who’s name is on their newspaper masthead even today. Why would they be curious about that?

America-hating Piers Morgan signs off with gun-control screed

History repeats.

History repeats.

Supercilious Brit Piers Morgan, who escaped from England with the hounds of Scotland Yard on his heels for his participation in the wiretapping culture of England’s crude lower-class tabloid press, finally came to the point of his last show.

Far from regretting his show’s cancellation, due to abysmally low ratings driven in some part by his doomed anti-gun crusade, Morgan doubled down on loathing for America and its gun culture during his last report.

[T]hat’s where I think guns belong – on a military battlefield, in the hands of highly trained men and women fighting for democracy and freedom. Not in the hands of civilians. The scourge of gun violence is a disease that now infects every aspect of American life.  Each day, on average, 35 people in this country are murdered with guns, another 50 kill themselves with guns, and 200 more are shot but survive. That’s 100,000 people a year hit by gunfire in America.

Now, I assumed that after 70 people were shot in a movie theater, and then, just a few months later, 20 first-graders were murdered with an assault rifle in an elementary school, that the absurd gun laws in this country would change. But nothing has happened. The gun lobby in America, led by the NRA, has bullied this nation’s politicians into cowardly, supine silence. Even when 20 young children are blown away in their classrooms.

This is a shameful situation that frankly has made me very angry. So angry, in fact, that some people have criticized me for being too loud, opinionated, even rude when I have debated the issue of guns. But I make no apologies for that.

via Piers Morgan | final show | gun control | NRA.

This is the third sacking for Morgan, if we’re counting correctly. Once for running a hoax impugning the British Army, once for the wiretapping scandal (the paper he helmed actually went out of business), and third time, at CNN, may be for keeps.

During his swan song, Morgan whined that he really would love America, if it would just be more like Britain on the gun issue. Well, we’d love you too, if you’d be more like Marcel Marceau and shut your pie hole.

Meanwhile, why not go back to Britain and face the music for your tabloid career of bugging celebrities’ phones? (In our country that’s a felony, unless — unfortunately — it’s the NSA doing it. We’re guessing that tapping Paul McCartney’s ex’s phone, as Morgan admitted doing, was a felony over there, too. Reporters working for him also bugged the Royal Family). So head on back to Britain, Piers. We’re sure they have a cozy new situation for you. Maybe we’ll come see you at the appropriate time.

CNN’s replacement for Morgan will have higher ratings, even if it’s this:

CNN Soviet Test Pattern(Soviet “Tablitsa 249″ test pattern, circa 1970, a knock-off of a 1950s Telefunken test pattern).

Update: TV personality Dana Loesch called for a Piers Morgan Range Day today. Many tweeted their own participation. Heh.

Yee-Haw. Haw-haw-haw-haw.

The forgotten TV show Hee-Haw was a Hollywood idea of the entertainment country hayseeds might like, and its symbol was a braying jackass. “Yee-Haw” is what we call all the schadenfreude about the indictment of San Francisco anti-gun extremist, and simultaneously, wannabe gun-runner Leland Y. Yee. There’s this, from Yee’s onetime punchbag, the CalGuns Foundation:

Yee-Hah-ha

Heh. And then there’s the mock business card that’s going around:

Yee-Hah-ha2

The funniest bit of that: it’s all basically true, at least if we believe the 137-page criminal complaint. There are some gems in there, too.

One of the Chinese Tongs with which Yee appears to be associated is named… Hop Sing. We are not making this up, it’s on page 4 of the complaint. There’s also a Hop Sing gang with some 300 members which is different from the Hop Sing Tong, which is different from the Triads, but the Venn diagrams seem to overlap a lot. Reading this stuff is like being ripped out of one’s comfortable country life and deposited into the middle of a Hong Kong Kung-fu movie. Hiiyaaah! (Whack!)

Yee’s money launderer in the conspiracy, one Kevin Siu aka Dragon Tin Loong Siu, has a criminal record — for prostitution. Well, it is San Francisco. Our take: he’ll be the guy who flips and cooperated. After all, it’s not very far from selling his @$$ to make money for Yee to selling out Yee to save his @$$.

What’s with the Dragon thing anyway? Is it a Bruce Lee thing, or a throwback to the KKK?

While some of the charged conspirators, like Yee, had no priors, quite a number of them have long records, and several are now charged as felons in possesson of firearms.

One of the charged individuals, Raymond Chow, admitted to shipping military-grade tungsten from the US to China, in addition to all the weapons-smuggling (most of which was promises to get military weapons from overseas for Domestic moslem terrorists) and money-laundering.

 

 

 

Bradley Manning is Appealing

Bradley Manning Support NetworkNo, not as a guy dressed in drag. (The mistaken pronouns in the excerpt from Politico hack Tal Kopan below have been corrected; as long as he’s got a Y Chromosome, let along male reproductive tackle, he’s a guy, and Leavenworth isn’t going to schedule his whackadickoffomy any time soon). He’s appealing his conviction, because he’s all confused and suchlike.

Other than that, he’s enjoying life in prison. Some places, a guy who wants to be a girl is guaranteed a certain popularity.

The inept Kopan, who seems not to have registered the outcome of the trial and the terms of Manning’s sentence, also refers to the prisoner as PFC Manning, although he, she or it (Kopan, whose sex we don’t know) gets his, her or its (Manning’s, whose sex we know but Manning doesn’t) abbreviation as well as rank wrong. For you see, Manning is not a PFC, having been reduced to the lowest enlisted grade as a result of his court-martial conviction and sentence. This is an important distinction, for a Private First Class (Lance Corporal to you Marines) is a private who has served sufficiently honorably to be advanced a couple of times. Still a pawn, perhaps, but a pawn at K4 now. And that is not Manning, who once made the exalted grade of Specialist 4th Class (Sp/4; the grade is an artifact of the 1960s and there is no other class of specialist) before persistent and durative misconduct plucked his small achievements away and landed him where he belongs, in prison, penniless except for the donations of useful idiots.

"Position of humility, march!"

“Position of humility, march!”

Writing a message to supporters from prison, Pfc. [sic] Bradley Manning announced a new team of lawyers for his appeals process, saying they are prepared to take his case to the Supreme Court if necessary.

The email, dated March 17 and distributed by the Pvt. Manning Support Network, includes a number of fundraising appeals alongside the personal message signed by Bradley Manning.

Manning said he has hired Nancy Hollander and Vincent Ward of the law firm Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Urias & Ward of Albuquerque, N.M., in preparation for an appeals process, with help from the Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network.

“I’ve spoken a few times with both Ms. Hollander and Mr. Ward over the phone and I met them in person last month. I feel they are a perfect fit for doing this case, and we’re all excited about working together,” Manning wrote. “Both Ms. Hollander and Mr. Ward have achieved successes in complex, high profile, civil and criminal cases in the past, fighting to protect the U.S. Constitution, civil liberties, and social justice through work on Guantanamo, the Gulf Coast Oil Spill, and more. They are eager to represent me before the military court, federal court, and perhaps even the Supreme Court.”

Sure, because freedom for traitors is an important part of social justice. And lawyers are just selfless, noble social justicitians, not parasitical termites gnawing at the very joists and uprights of society, right?

Is there anybody who does not hear “social justice” and reach for a revolver? Well, us, but that’s just because we have an AR-10 handy.

Manning also thanked supporters for their attention and fundraising efforts, updating them on his life behind bars. The Army private, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison by a military judge last summer for leaking thousands of pages of government documents to WikiLeaks, said the he is spending most of his time exercising and doing legal research.

via Under the Radar Blog: Josh Gerstein on the Courts, Transparency, & More – POLITICO.com.

So in 34 years or so we can expect a bulked-up and haggard middle-aged Manning to emerge from the pokey, in pink makeup, a little black dress, and stiletto heels. Still with outie rather than innie genitals and that intractable Y Chromosome, although, who knows what’ll be medically possible by 2048? And his prison pen pals will be waiting for him, probably in an old Chrysler.

And in the meantime, hippies, dopers, no-hopers and the sexually confounded can sink their disposable funds into his legal assistance fund, thereby squandering money they might actually have done some ill with. So there’s a silver lining in the cloud, just not for Bradley.

Sorry about that.

Rick Shinseki’s Bad Week

VA-veterans-affairsRick Shinseki is the ineffectual and unsatisfactory Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. He’s been in Congress a lot the last couple of weeks, and he’s pretty much been a punchbag for both Senators and Congressmen, and both Democrats and Republicans, because of various mis-, mal-, and non-feasance on his watch. So last week was a pretty bad week for ol’ Rick.

It isn’t the scandals so much as the parade of VA bigs lying about them that has the pols’ noses out of joint. It’s impossible to list everything the VA has screwed up lately, but here’s a few high points.

  • The VA has a budget of $164 Billionbut can’t begin to account for where it all goes. Hang on, you’re going to see a couple of the places the money gets spent. Hint: not on veterans.
  • About $100 million a year, and increasing, goes to paying malpractice settlements and judgments from substandard VA care that leaves vets crippled or dead. This wastage is almost $1 billion over the last 10 years.
  • Rep David Scott (R-GA) has asked Shinseki to resign (he got the F U) and has asked President Obama to fire him (same reply). After a VA hospital in Scott’s Atlanta district bungled three patients to death, the VA leaked that: heads had rolled; a menu of 19 changes had been implemented; and Shinseki had taken personal charge. But it was all bullshit. No one was actually fired (we’ll see that again), the VA’s own IG found the Atlanta VA Medical Center blew off 12 of the 19 reforms, and Shinseki still has never even visited the place.
  • VA Undersecretary for Health Dr Robert Petzel last year told the House, in compelled, hostile and truculent testimony, that those responsible for patient deaths had ducked accountability for them by resigning. But Petzel lied. At least one of the doctors who denied cancer patients diagnostic treatments is still being paid his roughly $300k salary. Petzel also lied about what the IG found.

Petzel told Congress:

The IG did not link any deaths to the activity at Atlanta. There were three mental health deaths, but the IG made no comment in their report on the quality of care that was delivered to them or the course of action.

But the IG actually wrote:

We substantiated that staff’s failure to ‘watch’ patients may have contributed to the subject patient’s death … Our review also confirmed that facility managers did not provide adequate staff, training, resources, support, or guidance for effective oversight of the contracted MH program.

Which is a direct contradiction.

  • Inept planning meant a new VA hospital in North Las Vegas, completed in 2012 for over $1 Billion, had a substandard and inadequate emergency room. Tens of millions more are being spent to rebuild and enlarge the two-year-old ER. The VA knew all along it was too small, but figured they could just spend more and fix it later. That’s not the only problem with the facility, a model to the VA’s Soviet-style central planning: the dialysis center puts patients in blind spots where nurses can’t observe them, and a planned long-term-care facility never opened because it’s been co-opted for use as administrative offices by the VA’s ever-metastasizing bureaucracy. Shinseki had no answers for the lawmakers on the VA hospital.
  • Even something as simple as making a legally-mandated list of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan exposed to burn-pit fumes has proven to be beyond the agency — and it hasn’t bothered to explain why that is (if its leaders even know). This produced another bipartisan letter from Congress, to be binned at Shinseki’s leisure.
  • Shinseki “solved” the problems of Gulf War illnesses — which, to be sure, are often a portmanteau into which activists and veterans throw the normal bad news of the actuarial tables — by packing the Research Advisory Committee on same with yes-men and toadies. That move too has generated bipartisan Congressional backlash.
  • Congressman Jim Cooper (D-TN) is at odds with Shinseki over a Tennessee VA employee who blew his claims-review job off and didn’t even go to work while soaking up $140k in salary. Shinseki promoted the no-show Joe, one Richard Moore, and transferred him to headquarters (which probably increased the mean integrity of the VA’s offices in both TN and DC). When the story made the papers, Moore was “suspended,” but with pay — in other words, further rewarded with a paid vacation.

So, if they’re not managing their basic function of health care worth a damn, what is the VA doing? Bidding on a Department of Defense IT contract, in hopes of turning their supposed expertise into a profit center for the VA. We are not making this up.

Oh, but they want $900 million for this among other IT projects. We’re not making that up, either.