As widely rumored, Pope Francis has issued a historic papal encyclical that agrees with the vast majority of scientists that global warming is real, largely caused by mankind, and threatens the very future of humanity. He has called for emergency action to curtail carbon emissions by reducing fossil fuels and developing renewables.
Below is my column today in USA Today on the decision of the Supreme Court to reject the Obama Administation’s argument for a low standard in criminalizing speech on the Internet and other forums. The Court did not have to directly deal with the free speech implications of the case since it ruled on the standard for criminalization. The Court rejected the lowest standard of a reasonable person in establishing a criminal threat. However, with the remand, the issue may come back to the Court under another effort to adopt an alternative standard of recklessness.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contibutor
It has happened again. Several big banks have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar and are paying billions in fines for their admitted transgressions.
“On Wednesday, four large global banks — Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland — pleaded guilty to a series of federal crimes over a scheme to manipulate the value of the world’s currencies. The Justice Department accused the banks of collusion in one of the largest and yet least regulated markets, noting that at one bank one trader remarked “the less competition the better.”
That lack of oversight, coupled with the pressure to squeeze profits from a relatively middling business, set the stage for this scandal, one that unfolded nearly every day for five years. The crimes described on Wednesday also painted the portrait of something more systemic: a Wall Street culture that enabled many big banks to break the law even after years of regulatory black marks after the crisis.” New York Times Continue reading
The details on the indictment of former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, 73, have remained hazy with some notable gaps in the underlying criminal enterprise alleged in the complaint. The theory is that Hastert was paying millions to a blackmailer and tried to hide the payment through “structuring” of withdrawing less than $10,000 to avoid reporting to the federal government. What is interesting however is that the underlying alleged blackmailer has not been charged. There is also the question of the subject of the earlier “misconduct” and whether it could be charged. Some offenses like child molestation can be charged many years after the fact. Hastert was indicted on two counts for charged with lying to the F.B.I. and the structuring of withdrawals, both carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The hearing on the Administration’s motion to dismiss the House challenge was heard yesterday in Washington, D.C. as reported widely in the media. (Wall Street Journal, NBC, Daily Mail, Rollcall, New York Times,AP, The motion is now under advisement and the parties will wait for a decision on whether the House can be heard on the merits of this historic challenge. If the Court rules against the motion, the parties will then be able to present their arguments on the merits of the constitutional challenge. If the Court rules for the motion, the case can proceed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia for review. (Thanks to Claire Duggan for the photographs)
At 10 a.m. tomorrow morning, Judge Rosemary M. Collyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia will hear argument on the motion to dismiss filed by the defendants in U.S. House of Representatives v. Burwell, et al., No. 1:14-cv-01967 (D.D.C.). The defendants are the Departments of Health and Human Services and Treasury, and the secretaries of those two executive branch agencies. The Administration is seeking to prevent the Court from reaching the merits of this historic case, which was authorized by an affirmative vote of the entire House of Representatives on July 30, 2014, and which the House filed for the purpose of protecting our constitutional structure.
The National Security Agency is still struggling to explain what many denounced as the uncharged act of perjury by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in denying the existence of the secret NSA surveillance program targeting the communications of all Americans. If you recall, the first explanation by Clapper was that his denial was an intentional act to pick the “the least untruthful” statement to answer the question. Then, National Intelligence general counsel Robert Litt (left) insisted that Clapper “misunderstood” the question. Now, Litt is changing spins and saying that Clapper merely forgot about the massive surveillance system. It was not only massive but recently declared illegal, as some of us have long maintained. It is the latest chapter in America’s Animal Farm as average citizens are criminally charged with small discrepancies in statements to investigators while people like Clapper and David Petraeus and Sandy Berger are protected from serious repercussions for alleged criminal acts.