Linky Friday: ‘Cause Ain’t No Such Things As Halfway Crooks Edition
As always, all pieces quoted in Linky Friday are the opinions of the writers, are for discussion purposes only, and are not an endorsement.
Long, thorough breakdown of the Joel Greenberg story, which the Rep. Matt Gaetz allegations and investigation stems from, including receipts:
Sources told Mediaite that it was Greenberg’s obsessive need to destroy Beute’s personal and political reputation that opened the door for all the troubles now swirling around him and his friends, leading to a still-growing number of dominoes falling, one by one, all the way to Gaetz’s doorstep…and perhaps soon others as well.
Greenberg, an independently wealthy man who was interested in cryptocurrency, decided to run for tax collector and allegedly use the resources of the office for that purpose, instead of using his own resources to launch a cryptocurrency business. He is accused of creating a viciously false smear campaign against a primary opponent, Beute, who he most certainly would have beaten if he had just stayed quiet until after the primary.
That alleged smear campaign, supported and promoted by Roger Stone acolyte Engels, attracted enough attention from local press and law enforcement authorities that a sprawling investigation began, warrants were issued, and Greenberg was arrested. Until Greenberg made his easily-traced attacks against Beute, federal and state law enforcement authorities had their suspicions about Greenberg, but do not appear to have had enough evidence to show probable cause to move forward investigating him or to issue the warrants that first gave them access to his computer activities.
Once the door was open, however, Greenberg’s poorly-concealed trail of financial improprieties — again, for allegedly stealing taxpayer funds to purchase items that he could have easily afforded to buy himself — gave investigators ample additional evidentiary paths to follow.
Among the duties of county tax collectors is issuing driver’s licenses, including collecting fees for licenses for new residents, who surrender their old IDs in order to get a Florida driver’s license for their new residential address.
When Greenberg was arrested at his home on June 23, 2020, federal agents found several stolen driver’s licenses in his work vehicle, two fake driver’s licenses in his wallet, and evidence related to creating additional fake licenses at his office. The fake IDs were allegedly created with the photos of Greenberg and some of the young women reported to have been involved in the sex trafficking escapades, but with the names and information from the people who had originally been issued the licenses.
In January 2020, months before Greenberg’s arrest, U.S. Secret Service agents got a tip from an employee of the Seminole County Tax Collector’s Lake Mary office about Greenberg allegedly making fake IDs, including a late night weekend trip to the office in April 2018.
Reportedly accompanying Greenberg on that nighttime escapade: his Congressional buddy, Gaetz.
The challenges for regulators are obvious. Where a single company channels payments for the majority of a country’s population, as does M-Pesa in Kenya, for example, its failure could crash the entire economy. Regulators must therefore pay close attention to operational risks. They must worry about the protection of customer data – not just financial data but also other personal data to which Big Tech companies are privy.
Moreover, the Big Tech firms, because of their ability to harvest and analyze data on consumer preferences, have an enhanced ability to target their customers’ behavioral biases. If those biases cause some borrowers to take on excessive risk, Big Tech will have little reason to care if it is merely providing technology and expertise to a partner bank. This moral hazard is why Chinese regulators now require the country’s Big Techs to use their own balance sheets to fund 30% of any loan extended via co-lending partnerships.
Governments also have laws and regulations to prevent providers of financial products from discriminating on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, and religion. The challenge here is distinguishing between price discrimination based on group characteristics and price discrimination based on risk.
Traditionally, regulators require credit providers to list the variables that form the basis for lending decisions so that the regulators can determine whether the variables include prohibited group characteristics. And they require lenders to specify the weights attached to the variables so that they can establish whether lending decisions are uncorrelated with ethnic or racial characteristics once conditioned on those other measures. But as Big Tech companies’ artificial intelligence-based algorithms replace loan officers, the variables and weights will be changing continuously with the arrival of new data points. It’s not obvious that regulators can keep up.
In algorithmic processes, moreover, the source of bias can vary. The data used to train the algorithm may be biased. Alternatively, the training itself may be biased, with the AI algorithm “learning” to use the data in biased ways. Given the black-box nature of algorithmic processes, the location of the problem is rarely clear.
There is, of course, a way to stop this needless slaughter of Black people for the apparently capital crime of “driving while Black.” We need not live in a world where the police can “accidentally” kill Black people who committed moving violations. The solution is simple and obvious: Abolish armed traffic stops. Use unarmed officers and ubiquitous technology to enforce the traffic laws instead. More Black people will live.
This isn’t as radical as it might sound—or as dystopian. Yes, cameras, drones, facial recognition technology, and the other apparatus of the surveillance state are just as racist as the people who program them. But I can argue a ticket much more effectively than I can dodge a bullet.
In most localities, we already have unarmed law enforcement officers issuing citations for minor vehicular offenses. Parking cops issue tickets all the time, but most of them are armed only with that unforgiving ticket-writing thingy, instead of a gun. And despite the fact that I’ve seen people pull out a thesaurus to come up with the worst possible invectives to shout at these officers, when was the last time you heard about somebody killed by a parking inspector?
There’s no actual reason we should have armed police officers enforcing traffic laws. Government officials don’t need to carry a gun to write a ticket or issue a summons. The state need not send armed paramilitary units to rove the streets looking for people who miss a turn signal. The option of shooting somebody over an air freshener should never be on the table.
I’m not calling for traffic anarchy. Driving is a dangerous privilege. Road traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for people under 54 in the United States. They’re the leading cause of work-related death in almost every industry. I’m constantly aware that getting behind the wheel of a car is the most dangerous thing I do, and sitting in my car is the most dangerous thing my children do. I know I’m much more likely to be killed by a fellow civilian speeding through an intersection than by a cop violating my constitutional and human rights. Cars are so dangerous the Federalist Society probably wants to invent a constitutional right for aggrieved white boys to drive them without a permit.
But we have no evidence that siccing armed police officers on people suspected of moving violations makes our roads safer. Indeed, technology has advanced to the point where many traditional traffic enforcement duties are being handled by the surveillance state instead of the police state.
[LF4] ‘We Just Can’t Do This Anymore’: Business owners who want to hire workers are finding it impossible to compete with the pandemic relief packages’ enhanced unemployment payments By Steve Hayes at The Dispatch
Like the business owners in Ohio, Ruiz and Rudzki say the generous government benefits are the primary impediments to hiring. “You can’t incentivize people not to work,” says Ruiz, a longtime Air Force veteran. “You need to have incentives to get people to work, not to stay home. You’ve got the hard workers who want to have a job, but the others need that motivation.”
“The government jumped in and helped in a crisis—it was the right thing to do at the right time,” says Rudzki. “But now, let’s admit there’s a problem and let’s fix it.”
One overriding concern: One part of the “fix” is five months away. That’s when the federal unemployment supplement expires. Several of the business owners we interviewed volunteered the exact date—September 6—without prompting and told us their hiring strategies are built on more labor availability then.
If these employers draw a direct connection between government support and their hiring challenges, the data are suggestive but not dispositive. N. Gregory Mankiw, professor of economics at Harvard University and chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) under George W. Bush, says that while the conventional view of the current labor market suggests there is still a lot of slack, there are some counterindicators. The job openings rate (4.9) is higher than at any point in the last two decades, a data point “consistent with the stories you have been hearing and suggests a tight labor market.” The “quit rate” points in the same direction. “It is hard to say whether that apparent inconsistency (between employment, which is still well below the peak, and openings/quits) is due to policy, such as excessively generous UI,” says Mankiw. “That is a plausible hypothesis, but still unproven.”
Jason Furman, also a professor of economics at Harvard and the former chairman of the CEA under Barack Obama, says while labor shortages do not yet show up in the data, it’s likely that the government programs are slowing hiring. “The usual sign of an unusual degree of mismatch between workers and jobs is rising wages in the sectors with labor shortages that draw new workers in. So far we do not see those in the data (in fact wages have grown more slowly in the leisure and hospitality industry than in the economy as a whole), but we also do not have particularly good data for March and have no data for April so I would not rule out labor shortages,” Furman tells The Dispatch.
“All of that said, I think the $300 a week supplement for unemployment insurance, relaxed eligibility for unemployment insurance, and 100 percent federal subsidy for COBRA is going to hinder the labor market recovery at some point if it has not already,” he added. “More than half of workers will get more from being unemployed than they would be from being employed. Many of those workers will still choose to get jobs for the security it affords but definitely there is a heavy thumb on the scale of staying waiting until September to take a job. No one has ever studied this scale of benefits as a pandemic is ending. Congress should have tapered the benefits so they phased down to $100 a week over the summer (especially since the same unemployed workers are also getting checks so could maintain their consumption).”
For Dan Sinykin, who runs Monterey Mills, a textile producer with operations in Wisconsin and North Carolina, the influence of the government support was clear and direct. Although he raised his wages 30 percent overall during the worker shortage, he’s been unable to return his operations to fully staffed. And his labor flow has closely tracked with the federal government’s boost to benefits. “We definitely saw a resurgence when the second stimulus check was cut,” he says. “I think we lost 19 employees that week… We definitely saw more employees not return to work when [stimulus checks and unemployment supplements] were distributed.”
Expanding the size of the court – once a fringe idea – has become a rallying cry for many liberal Democrats who remain angry about how Republicans handled Supreme Court nominations in 2016 and 2020. Under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Senate refused to give a confirmation hearing to Merrick Garland in the final year of the Obama presidency but, four years later, rushed to confirm Amy Coney Barrett weeks before the November election.
“We have a stilted, illegitimate, 6-3 conservative majority on the court,” Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts said at a press conference outside the Supreme Court to unveil the legislation. “Republicans stole two seats on the Supreme Court, and now it is up to us to repair the damage.”
But despite its support on the left, and despite the fact that Democrats now control both chambers, the bill has little chance of passage in the current political environment. President Joe Biden said as a candidate that he is “not a fan” of proposals to expand the court, and last week, he appointed a commission to study various types of court reform – a further indication that he has no interest in endorsing a sweeping plan to add seats in the short term. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Thursday that she does not intend to bring the court-expansion bill to the floor. And Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate’s second-highest-ranking Democrat and the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, suggested that lawmakers should wait for Biden’s commission to issue a report, which is due within 180 days of its first meeting.
“I want to give the commission this time to do their due diligence and review the measures they recommend when it comes to important potential reforms of the court,” Durbin said through a spokesperson.
Republicans have condemned proposals to add seats to the court as politically motivated court-packing. The Judicial Crisis Network, a group that advocates for conservative judicial nominees, said Thursday it was launching a $1 million advertising campaign to oppose the bill.
Titled the Judiciary Act of 2021, the two-sentence bill would change the number of justices from nine to 13. In addition to Markey, the bill is sponsored by three House members: House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler of New York, Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia, and Rep. Mondaire Jones of New York.
Congress has the power to determine the size of the Supreme Court, and it has changed the number of justices seven times in the nation’s history, from a low of five justices to as many as 10 justices at one point. But the size of the court has remained fixed at nine justices since the late 19th century.
Even the bill’s sponsors seemed to acknowledge its high political hurdles when speaking with reporters outside the court on Thursday. “I believe Speaker Pelosi and others will come along,” Nadler said. Markey added that, for the bill to have any chance of clearing the Senate, that body would first have to abolish the filibuster.
This story is absolutely, tragically bonkers…
Barney Harris was the basketball coach at Union Academy in Monroe where he was well-loved and respected, but Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson said there was another side to Harris that most people didn’t see — one that was involved in the dangerous and deadly drug world.
Channel 9 learned Harris and his brother-in-law, Steven Alexander Stewart, went to a mobile home park on Wyatt Road in Green Level, North Carolina in the early morning hours of April 8 to steal money and drugs from the Sinaloa Cartel’s stash house. Johnson said the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office was flooded with calls just after 12:50 a.m. in reference to reports of gunshots being heard at the mobile home park.
When they got there, deputies said they found Harris in a bedroom with several gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Investigators said 18-year-old Alonso Beltran Lara, who was a member of the cartel, was also found with gunshot wounds. Deputies said his feet were bound and his arms were tied behind his back. He was taken to a hospital where he later died.
Detectives said Harris and Stewart broke into a trailer and Lara showed up while they were inside. Deputies said the men questioned Lara about the stash and when he didn’t give them the answers they wanted, they shot him in the head. “And they were trying to find the money and drugs and apparently he didn’t give them the information to do that and he was technically close range, two bullets to the back of the head, he was executed,” Johnson said.
Johnson said after the pair killed Lara, other members of the cartel showed up and Harris was killed in the gun fight that followed.
According to Johnson, dozens of bullet casings were found at the scene. Some pierced through other trailers in the community, but no other injuries were reported. “The trailers that were shot up, it looked like an old Western shootout, that’s what it looked like,” Johnson said. The sheriff said Harris was wearing a bulletproof vest but that it was no match for the high-caliber firepower of the cartel’s guns. “Mr. Harris, he had a bulletproof vest on, but it did not work with the kind of ammunition that was used,” Johnson said. “He had gloves on, and he, they went there to do what was done except they did not think it was going to backfire on them.”
Detectives believe Harris and Stewart had been using electronic trackers to follow members of the cartel before the shootout. Johnson said Stewart, who is from Wadesboro, survived the shooting and was arrested on Sunday. He has been charged with first-degree burglary, first-degree murder and possession of a firearm by a felon. Steven Alexander Stewart Steven Alexander Stewart survived the shooting and was arrested. He has been charged with armed robbery and murder. Harris was hired by Union Academy Charter School in July 2017 as a high school Spanish teacher and served as the head coach for the varsity men’s basketball team and varsity men’s track team.
“It’s just hard to understand,” Johnson said. “The fact that someone like Mr. Harris, who apparently had a pretty good life as a teacher and a coach, wound up in this type of crime.” Johnson said he is concerned that the shootout could lead to a drug war with the cartel seeking revenge against Harris’ loved ones. “I’ll tell you right now, as sheriff, I’m still worried about some retaliation because Mexican cartels — they don’t forget. They’re going to pay someone back somewhere,” he said.
Deputies said they found about two pounds of cocaine in the trailer along with $7,000.
Juan Daniel Salinas Lara is wanted in reference to this crime and has active warrants for trafficking cocaine.
This Week At Ordinary Times:
The Hunger Games: I Volunteer As Conscript by Kristin Devine
It’s pretty unfair to say, “but The Hunger Games characters had their agency removed!” I mean, yeah, duh, that was kind of the point.
61-Year-Old Minnesota Man Arrested, Unharmed by Sam Wilkinson
Minnesota man arrested unharmed after assaulting store employee, attacking a police officer with his vehicle and a hammer, and fleeing.
Thursday Throughput: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Science, and Facts vs Truth by Michael Siegel
It’s fashionable to say, “believe the science”. But science is not a belief; it’s a series of facts and our interpretation of those facts
Noam Chomsky, Ron Paul, and American Hegemony by Russel Michaels
When conservatives mention that certain sectors of the American left despise America, Chomsky’s American hegemony BS is not far behind.
No Charges in Ashli Babbitt Shooting: Read It For Yourself
The US Attorney’s Office for DC has closed the investigation into the fatal shooting of Ashli Babbitt, one of the more infamous images from the January 6th Capitol Riot.
Unworthy Schemers, Demographics, and Nothing New Under The Sun by Andrew Donaldson
If you listen to them closely enough, the unworthy schemers always will tell you it is all about them. We should believe them when they do.
President Biden Sets Date For Afghanistan Exit, For Real This Time, Supposedly by Andrew Donaldson
We’ve heard it through three different administrations, but President Biden says he means it: America is getting out of Afghanistan
CDC and FDA Against Johnson & Johnson Vaccine by Michael Siegel
Suspending the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine right now seems an over-reaction that is likely to get more people killed.
Stacey Abrams’s Big Lie Has Real Consequences by Eric CunninghamStacey Abrams doesn’t seem to realize that her words have consequences and her claims will be taken seriously outside the political sphere
Things Just Ain’t the Same: African Americans, Progress Made, and Work To Be Done by Dennis Sanders
Even though problems remain, and there is still work to be done, African Americans can’t forget the progress that has been made.
Respect My Authority!!! by Russel Michaels
Respect for (false) authority is a common logical fallacy that everyone who needs someone to trust them for something has to deal with.
Sunday Morning! “A Little Devil in America” by Hanif Abdurraqib by Rufus
Hanif Abdurraqib’s song of praise never elides Black pain or the reality of racism; but centers and is held aloft by Black miracles.