Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

De Blasio: Kickbacks, Unions, Cops, Hookers, Horses

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Just because current New York mayor Bill De Blasio is a left-wing loon doesn’t mean he’s not also corrupt up to his eyeballs:

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has his sights set squarely on the political operative turned chief executive.

It’s a sprawling probe, but the main line appears to be following the money trail the Daily News’ Greg B. Smith, NY1’s Grace Rauh and others have extensively tracked since de Blasio ran for mayor in 2013.

That was when a union run by his cousin and a top donor to him both wrote six-figure checks to an anti-carriage horse group run by big developers that days later cut checks for the exact same amount to another group — very ironically named New York City Is Not For Sale — that promptly spent the cash, not disclosed until well after the damage was done, on TV ads that brought down then-frontrunner Christine Quinn.

Wait, Democrats and unions involved in corruption? What are the odds?

That happened just as de Blasio found religion on the carriage-horse issue, repeatedly vowing to end on “day one” of his administration an industry that very few New Yorkers saw as a scourge but that would open up what’s now vastly valuable land where the stables now sit on Manhattan’s Far West Side. The developer behind that push, Steve Nislick, wrote a “Shermanesque” statement to the Voice of the People last year vowing he wouldn’t personally profit from their closing.

And it’s not just ponies: “The feds are also looking at how the city helped turn a nursing home for AIDS patients into luxury condos and at a series of scandals involving hookers for top cops and diamonds for their wives.” Among many other transgressions.

That cops and hookers scandal (which took place on a plane to Las Vegas, a nice plus for a juicy sex and corruption story) involved Jeremy Reichberg and Jona Rechnitz, both of whom are De Blasio donors.

Given that Bharara took down former Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, there’s a good chance he’ll succeed in taking down De Blasio. Then it might finally be Andrew Cuomo’s turn in the barrel…

(Hat tip: Instapundit’s Twitter feed.)

LinkSwarm for April 22, 2016

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

As today is a made-up celebration called “Earth Day,” be sure to have beef for dinner…

  • Reminder: “Officials at VA’s Phoenix hospital manipulated wait-time data to make it appear they were connecting doctors and veterans seeking appointments much faster than they actually were. This was done so VA managers at the Arizona facility could keep getting generous performance bonuses. They got their bonuses but dozens of waiting veterans died.” So how did the VA address the problem? They hired someone accused of doing the exact same thing at another hospital.
  • Huge ObamaCare premium hikes are coming down the pike in 2017. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • “The largest health insurer in the U.S. has started pulling out of select Obamacare exchanges.” (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Eight more ObamaCare co-ops are about to bite the dust.
  • Meanwhile, ObamaCare is helping enourage opioid addiction.
  • Thanks to Obama’s supergenius management, the Taliban are now winning in Afghanistan.
  • “The National Labor Relations Board suspended a top-ranking Philadelphia official after receiving complaints that he helped raise money from unions for his pro-union charity.” (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Following a congressional subpoena over Benghazi, Hillary’s state department staff hid requested files in another department. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Is Rhode Island closing 66% of polling places for next week’s presidential primaries? Something smells.
  • How Ted Cruz could beat Hillary Clinton. “Clin­ton is en­ter­ing the gen­er­al elec­tion with glar­ing vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies of her own. Her im­age is tox­ic to Re­pub­lic­ans and in­de­pend­ents, and her pop­ular­ity among Demo­crats is now at an all-time low as a pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate, ac­cord­ing to Gal­lup’s polling. It won’t take a top-tier Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ate to win.” Also: “Cruz con­sist­ently runs far more com­pet­it­ively against Clin­ton than Trump does.”
  • “It’s not just Wall Street banks. Most companies and groups that paid Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to speak between 2013 and 2015 have lobbied federal agencies in recent years, and more than one-third are government contractors, an Associated Press review has found. Their interests are sprawling and would follow Clinton to the White House should she win election this fall.”
  • Donald Trump jumps on the social justice warrior tranny bathroom bandwagon.
  • Evidently accused pedophile Terry Bean is the one whose organizations are pushing tranny bathroom bills down America’s throats. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Trump convention manager Paul Manafort engages in the time-honored traditional rhetorical device know as “lying your ass off.”
  • Thomas Sowell on campaign lies and dodgy statistics.
  • “Although our panel’s original estimates had Trump finishing with 1,175 pledged delegates, my revised deterministic projections have him at 1,155, and the probabilistic version has him at 1,159.”
  • Ted Cruz has done heavy organizing in California.
  • Man indicted for selling school supplies to Detroit schools he didn’t actually deliver…with the connivance of several principles receiving kickbacks. Now, remind me: Which party has controlled Detroit for half a century?
  • Venezuela instituting four hours of blackouts a day, in addition to the previously mentioned three day weekends. That socialist paradise just keeps
  • Brazil impeaches their President.
  • Won’t someone please think of poor, penniless Boeing?
  • When low-fat dogma trumped science: hamburger study data showed exacpt opposite of study’s conclusions.
  • Navy chief starving Marine air corps.
  • What Women Really Want Is The Patriarchy.”
  • ‘White Privilege’ Is a Racial Slur.”
  • Walden is less a cornerstone work of environmental literature than the original cabin porn: a fantasy about rustic life divorced from the reality of living in the woods, and, especially, a fantasy about escaping the entanglements and responsibilities of living among other people.”
  • Mexico’s Popocatepetl volcano erupts. Popocatepetl is less than 50 miles from Mexico City…
  • Goldman Sachs pays $5 billion fine to “settle claims that it misled mortgage bond investors during the financial crisis.” (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Pratt & Whitney pushing a B-52 engine upgrade.
  • The woman who can’t remember her own past. (Hat tip: Bill Crider.)
  • Lileks: “Who wouldn’t want to lounge around in a set from a 1970s failed Gene Roddenberry pilot?” (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • Son, that’s no way to treat steaks. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Texas vs. California Update for April 18, 2016

    Monday, April 18th, 2016

    Time for another Texas vs. California roundup, with the top news being California’s hastening their economic demise with a suicidal minimum wage hike:

  • Jerry Brown admits the minimum wage hike doesn’t make economic sense, then signs it anyway. (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • Who is really behind the minimum wage hike? The SEIU:

    California’s drive to hike the minimum wage has little to do with average workers and everything to do with the Golden State’s all-powerful government employee unions.

    Nationally, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is known for representing lower skilled workers. But, of the SEIU’s 2.1 million dues-paying members, half work for the government. In California, that translates to clout with much of the $50 million SEIU spent in the U.S. on political activities and lobbying spent in California. In fact, out of the 12 “yes” votes for the minimum wage bill in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations on March 30, the SEIU had contributed almost $100,000 out of the three-quarters of a million contributed by public employee unions—yielding a far higher return on investment than anything Wall Street could produce.

    Unions represent about 59 percent of all government workers in California. Many union contracts are tied to the minimum wage — boost the minimum wage and government union workers reap a huge windfall, courtesy of the overworked California taxpayer.

  • “The impacts of the increase in minimum wage on workers at the very bottom of the pay scales might be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the ramifications of the minimum wage increase.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Indeed, that hike will push government employee wages up all up the ladder.
  • “California minimum wage hike hits L.A. apparel industry: ‘The exodus has begun.'” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • “Texas’ job creation has helped keep the unemployment rate low at 4.3 percent, which has now been at or below the U.S. average rate for a remarkable 111 straight months.”
  • “Number of Californians Moving to Texas Hits Highest Level in Nearly a Decade”:

    “California’s taxes and regulations are crushing businesses, and there are more opportunities in Texas for people to start new companies, get good jobs, and create better lives for their families,” said Nathan Nascimento, the director of state initiatives at Freedom Partners. “When tax and regulatory climates are bad, people will move to better economic environments—this phenomenon isn’t a mystery, it’s how marketplaces work. Not only should other state governments take note of this, but so should the federal government.”

    According to Tom Gray of the Manhattan Institute, people may be leaving California for the employment opportunities, tax breaks, or less crowded living arrangements that other states offer.

    “States with low unemployment rates, such as Texas, are drawing people from California, whose rate is above the national average,” Gray wrote. “Taxation also appears to be a factor, especially as it contributes to the business climate and, in turn, jobs.”

    “Most of the destination states favored by Californians have lower taxes,” Gray wrote. “States that have gained the most at California’s expense are rated as having better business climates. The data suggest that may cost drivers—taxes, regulations, the high price of housing and commercial real estate, costly electricity, union power, and high labor costs—are prompting businesses to locate outside California, thus helping to drive the exodus.”

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • More on the same theme. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • It’s not just pensions: “The state paid $458 million in 2001 (0.6 percent of the general fund) for state worker retiree health care and is expected to pay $2 billion (1.7 percent of the general fund) next fiscal year — up 80 percent in just the last decade.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Texas border control succeeds where the Obama Administration fails. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • California and New York still lead Texas in billionaires. But for how long?
  • “The housing bubble may have collapsed, but the public-employee pension fund managers are still with us. If anything they’re bigger than ever, still insatiably seeking high returns just over the horizon line of another economic bubble.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • How to fix San Francisco’s dysfunctional housing market. “Failed public policy and political leadership has resulted in a massive imbalance between how much the city’s population has grown this century versus how much housing has been built. The last thirteen years worth of new housing units built is approximately equal to the population growth of the last two years.” Also: “The city is forcing people out. Only the rich can live here because of the policies created by so-called progressives and so-called housing advocates.” (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • UC Berkley to cut 500 jobs over two years.
  • What does BART do faced with a $400 million projected deficit over the next decade? Dig deeper. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Stanton, California, is the latest California municipality facing bankruptcy. “One of the main reasons the city can’t pay its bills without the sales tax is that it gives outlandish salaries and benefits to its government workers.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Yesterday was Tax Freedom Day in Texas.
  • Politically correct investing has already cost CalPERS $3 billion. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • “A federal jury on Wednesday convicted former Los Angeles County Undersheriff Paul Tanaka of deliberately impeding an FBI investigation, capping a jail abuse and obstruction scandal that reached to the top echelons of the Sheriff’s Department.” (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • Top California Democratic assemblyman Roger Hernandez accused of domestic violence.
  • Calls for UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi to resign, she of the supergenius “pay $175,000 to scrub the Internet of negative postings about the pepper-spraying of students in 2011” plan.
  • California beachwear retailer Pacific Sunwear files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
  • California retailer Sport Chalet is also shutting down.
  • 75% of current Toyota employees are willing to move to Texas to work at Toyota’s new U.S. headquarters.
  • California isn’t the only place delusional politicians are pushing a “railroad to nowhere.” The Lone Star Rail District wants to keep getting and spending money despite the fact that Union Pacific said they couldn’t use their freight lines for a commuter train between Austin and San Antonio. The tiny little problem being that the Union Pacific line was the only one under consideration…
  • Hillary’s Server, Guccifer, and Sid

    Sunday, April 10th, 2016

    Welcome to the second half of An All Sidney Blumenthal Weekend! (I’m sure that hook is just the thing to pull all the kids in for boffo sweeps ratings…)

    First some useful background on the state of play on Hillary’s email server scandal, via Kimberly Strassel at The Wall Street Journal (usual WSJ Google hoops apply):

    Hillary Clinton is good at imagining partisan plots, and to listen to her team, no less than several inspectors general, the intelligence community, and the entire Republican ecosphere are colluding to turn her home-brew email system into a fake scandal. To this conspiracy, she must now add the federal judiciary.

    In recent weeks, not one, but two, esteemed federal judges have granted an outside group—Judicial Watch—the right to conduct discovery into the origins and handling of her private email system. It’s a reminder that Mrs. Clinton’s biggest problem this election isn’t Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump. Her problem is a 1966 statute known as the Freedom of Information Act, and the judges who enforce it.

    The judges have taken unprecedented steps to resolve this case. It is exceedingly rare—almost unheard of—for a judge to allow discovery in a FOIA proceeding. This is a testament to how grave Mrs. Clinton’s email problem is. In the usual course of things, an outside group demands documents, a judge requires a federal department to hand them over, and the public learns something.

    In this case—as we all know—the problem is that the State Department doesn’t have the documents. Or rather, it can’t confirm that it has them all, because State left it to Mrs. Clinton and her aides to possess them, and then to unilaterally decide what to hand over. To Judge Royce Lamberth, this is cut and dry “evidence of government wrong-doing and bad faith,” and the law demands a full accounting of how this situation came to be, what records exist, and where they are now.

    Speaking of the judge’s words, they too are a testament to Mrs. Clinton’s mess. Judge Lamberth was unplugged in his order, calling the former secretary of state’s email set up “extraordinary,” and slamming “constantly shifting admissions by the government and former government officials” about the setup. Judge Emmet Sullivan, the first to allow discovery, referred in his own hearing to Mrs. Clinton’s “totally atypical system” and noted that it “boggles the mind that the State Department allowed this circumstance to arise in the first place. It’s just very, very, very troubling.”

    “Troubling” is putting it mildly…

    Fueling the judges’ suspicions has been new evidence that Mrs. Clinton didn’t turn everything over. Judicial Watch recently obtained emails showing that State Department and National Security Agency personnel had big concerns with Mrs. Clinton’s early demands that she be allowed to use a BlackBerry for secure correspondence. They wanted her to sit at a computer in a secure facility—as everyone else does. These documents include a February 2009 email from then-Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills to her boss, crowing that State was coming around to Mrs. Clinton’s demands, and a return email the same day from Mrs. Clinton saying, “That’s good news.”

    These are clearly work-related emails. They speak to the question of Mrs. Clinton’s communications while at the State Department. They aren’t about yoga routines. And yet, guess what? That email chain was not included in the 55,000 pages of documents Mrs. Clinton turned over. Perhaps it was an oversight, but far more likely, the Clinton team—knowing the firestorm over a home-brew system—chose to withhold documents showing that State and NSA considered Mrs. Clinton’s email demands unsafe and unreasonable. What else did Mrs. Clinton choose to withhold from the public?

    What else indeed?

    Judicial Watch is hoping to use discovery to interview eight current and former State Department officials, including Ms. Mills, Clinton aide Huma Abedin, top State Department official Patrick Kennedy, and former State IT employees Bryan Pagliano (who is reported to have recently been granted immunity by the FBI). And yet in a hearing this week in Judge Sullivan’s court, State Department officials were already moving to limit or shut down what questions Judicial Watch could ask—including those pertaining to how classified information was handled on the system.

    Put another way, State wants to put off-limits the questions that are at the heart of the Clinton email scandal. And no surprise. The Judicial Watch discovery holds the potential to expose the many and varied ways Mrs. Clinton may have skirted the rules, and in turn to put enormous pressure on the FBI to act. These depositions meanwhile are currently set to happen this summer, right before the Democratic convention.

    The beauty of FOIA is that it is designed to bring things to light. Mrs. Clinton has grown talented at outfoxing investigators, Congress, inspectors general, the press. But she made the error this time of playing games with a law that federal judges take seriously, and that gives outside watchdogs real leverage.

    So what role did Clinton toady Sidney Blumenthal play in this “unsafe and unreasonable” secret email server? He’s the one that helped get it exposed via a Romanian hacker:

    One of the notches on Guccifer’s cyber-crime belt was allegedly accessing the email account of Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal, one of Clinton’s most prolific advice-givers when she was secretary of state. It was through that hack that Clinton’s use of a personal account — clintonemail.com — first came to light.

    Former law enforcement and cyber security experts said the hacker, whose real name is Marcel Lehel Lazar, could – now that he’s in the U.S. – help the FBI make the case that Clinton’s email server was compromised by a third party, one that did not have the formal backing and resources of a foreign intelligence service such as that of Russia, China or Iran.

    And isn’t it interesting that hacker “Guccifer” has been extradited to the U.S. “at a critical point in the FBI’s criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email use”?

    Also this: “Guccifer has no programming skills and guessed passwords of prominent public figures after reading their biographies.”

    So Guccifer isn’t some computer criminal mastermind, he’s a lowly “script kiddie” doing password guess attacks. If he did obtained access to Hillary’s email server, then it’s a dead certainty that Russia, China and other intelligence services hacked it as well.

    (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)

    The Panama Papers’ Clinton-Putin Connection Part 2

    Saturday, April 9th, 2016

    It turns out that there’s another Clinton-Putin collection revealed by the Panama Papers in the form of ubiquitous Clinton toady Sydney Blumenthal:

    Bidzina Ivanishvili, a Georgian billionaire and former prime minister of the Caucasus state, is also named in the Panama Papers, which is believed to be the largest leaks of financial documents in history. A close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ivanishvili appeared in the Hillary Clinton email dump through her longtime friend Sidney Blumenthal.

    Blumenthal, who played a middle-man role for Clinton, passed along a memo from Ivanishvili ahead of the 2012 Georgian elections. Ivanishvili was head of the Georgian Dream party, which successfully ousted then-Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, a U.S. ally.

    Snip.

    According to Blumenthal’s email, [former Clinton ambassador to Germany John] Kornblum was “working with the political party in Georgia opposing Saakashvili.”

    Kornblum made the case that the U.S. should consider distancing itself from Saakashvili. He also asserted that the regime was cracking down on opposition parties, such as the Ivanishvili-controlled Georgian Dream coalition.

    “There is a real chance Saakashvili could lose,” Kornblum wrote. “He is doing everything possible to avoid that indignity, including harassing Georgian Dream in ways described in the letters.”

    “If Saakshvili clearly steals the election, there could be public discontent, violence and maybe a ‘wag the dog’ scenario with Russia,” he added.

    In a memo passed to Blumenthal through Kornblum, Ivanishvili urged Clinton to support Georgian Dream.

    “The first step back to the path of democracy must be an open and fair election that offers the hope of a peaceful transfer of power,” Ivanishvili wrote. “Recent polls suggest that Georgian Dream can make this happen, if the authorities give democracy a chance.”

    Yes, because “peaceful democracy” and “Putin stooges” go together so well. And who wouldn’t want to ally with an America whose Secretary of State is willing to intervene in local elections on behalf of their political enemies?

    Of course, betraying allies and comforting enemies has pretty much been the modus operandi of Obama/Clinton/Kerry foreign policy.

    It is unclear if Blumenthal was paid for connecting Kornblum and Ivanishvili to Clinton. It is also unclear whether Ivanishvili directed Kornblum or Blumenthal to reach out to Clinton. Additionally, it is unclear how Clinton responded to the memos.

    But as Gawker reported, attorneys with expertise in the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which governs foreign lobbying, say that Blumenthal and Kornblum should have registered as lobbyists.

    Blumenthal frequently emailed Clinton with items ranging from political gossip to in-depth intelligence briefings gleaned from his deep reservoir of intelligence community sources. He lobbied heavily on behalf of a company called Osprey Global Solutions, which sought contracts in post-Gaddafi Libya.

    And this is not the last time that Blumenthal will be mentioned here this weekend…

    The Panama Papers:
    The Clinton-Putin Connection

    Friday, April 8th, 2016

    Among my first thoughts when the Panama papers scandal broke was “How soon until until this is tied to the Clintons?”

    The answer seems to be about four days:

    The revelations of the so-called Panama Papers that are roiling the world’s political and financial elites this week include important facts about Team Clinton. This unprecedented trove of documents purloined from a shady Panama law firm that arranged tax havens, and perhaps money laundering, for the globe’s super-rich includes juicy insights into how Russia’s elite hides its ill-gotten wealth.

    Almost lost among the many revelations is the fact that Russia’s biggest bank uses The Podesta Group as its lobbyist in Washington, D.C. Though hardly a household name, this firm is well known inside the Beltway, not least because its CEO is Tony Podesta, one of the best-connected Democratic machers in the country. He founded the firm in 1998 with his brother John, formerly chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, then counselor to President Barack Obama, Mr. Podesta is the very definition of a Democratic insider. Outsiders engage the Podestas and their well-connected lobbying firm to improve their image and get access to Democratic bigwigs.

    Which is exactly what Sberbank, Russia’s biggest financial institution, did this spring. As reported at the end of March, the Podesta Group registered with the U.S. Government as a lobbyist for Sberbank, as required by law, naming three Podesta Group staffers: Tony Podesta plus Stephen Rademaker and David Adams, the last two former assistant secretaries of state. It should be noted that Tony Podesta is a big-money bundler for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign while his brother John is the chairman of that campaign, the chief architect of her plans to take the White House this November.

    Sberbank (Savings Bank in Russian) engaged the Podesta Group to help its public image—leading Moscow financial institutions not exactly being known for their propriety and wholesomeness—and specifically to help lift some of the pain of sanctions placed on Russia in the aftermath of the Kremlin’s aggression against Ukraine, which has caused real pain to the country’s hard-hit financial sector.

    It’s hardly surprising that Sberbank sought the help of Democratic insiders like the Podesta Group to aid them in this difficult hour, since they clearly understand how American politics work. The question is why the Podesta Group took Sberbank’s money. That financial institution isn’t exactly hiding in the shadows—it’s the biggest bank in Russia, and its reputation leaves a lot to be desired. Nobody acquainted with Russian finance was surprised that Sberbank wound up in the Panama Papers.

    though Sberbank has its origins in the nineteenth century, it was functionally reborn after the Soviet collapse, and it the 1990s it grew to be the dominant bank in the country, today controlling nearly 30 percent of Russia’s aggregate banking assets and employing a quarter-million people. The majority stockholder in Sberbank is Russia’s Central Bank. In other words, Sberbank is functionally an arm of the Kremlin, although it’s ostensibly a private institution.

    Snip.

    John and Tony Podesta aren’t fooling anyone with this ruse. They are lobbyists for Vladimir Putin’s personal bank of choice, an arm of his Kremlin and its intelligence services. Since the brothers Podesta are presumably destined for very high-level White House jobs next January if the Democrats triumph in November at the polls, their relationship with Sberbank is something they—and Hillary Clinton—need to explain to the public.

    So in summary: Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager is a registered lobbyist for Vladimir Putin.

    The Clintons generate corruption and conflict of interest the way bees make honey…

    Putin and the Panama Papers

    Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

    Here’s a potentially huge scandal that’s just unfolding now:

    An unprecedented leak of more than 11 million documents, called the “Panama Papers”, has revealed the hidden financial dealings of some of the world’s wealthiest people, as well as 12 current and former world leaders and 128 more politicians and public officials around the world.

    More than 200,000 companies, foundations and trusts are contained in the leak of information which came from a little-known but powerful law firm based in Panama called Mossack Fonseca, whose files include the offshore holdings of drug dealers, Mafia members, corrupt politicians and tax evaders – and wrongdoing galore.

    The law firm is one of the world’s top creators of shell companies, which can be legally used to hide the ownership of assets. The data includes emails, contracts, bank records, property deeds, passport copies and other sensitive information dating from 1977 to as recently as December 2015.

    It allows a never-before-seen view inside the offshore world — providing a day-to-day, decade-by-decade look at how dark money flows through the global financial system, breeding crime and stripping national treasuries of tax revenues.

    There’s 2.6 terrabytes of data released, including Donald Trump’s favorite Russian dictator:

    The most extraordinary allegations in the archive revolve around Putin’s closest associates, including Sergey Roldugin, a close friend since the late 1970s when Putin was a young KGB agent.

    Roldugin is a cellist for the St Petersburg orchestra, yet his name appears as the owner of offshore companies that have rights to loans worth hundreds of millions of dollars. A Russian news service report in 2010 disclosed that he owned at least three per cent of Bank Rossiya, Russia’s most important bank.

    When Mossack Fonseca helped open a bank account in Switzerland on behalf of Roldugin, the application form asked if he had “any relation to PEPs (politically exposed persons) or VIPs.”

    The one-word answer was, “No.” Yet, Roldugin is godfather to Putin’s daughter Mariya.

    “Roldugin is, by his proximity to a serving head of state, clearly an exposed person,” Mark Pieth, a former head of the Swiss justice ministry’s organized crime division, told the ICIJ team.

    The documents show how in 2008 a company controlled by Roldugin had influence over Russia’s largest truck maker Kamaz, joining with several other offshore companies to help another Putin insider acquire majority control of the company. They wanted foreign investment, and German carmaker Daimler later that year bought a 10 per cent stake in Kamaz for $250 million.

    The offshore company that connects many Putin loyalists is Sandalwood Continental Limited in the British Virgin Islands. Roldugin was a shareholder until 2012, as was Oleg Gordin, a little-known businessman whom incorporation documents describe as linked to “law enforcement agencies.”

    The files also mention a company co-owned by Putin friend Yury Kovalchuk, the largest shareholder of Bank Rossiya. Kovalchuk was among those targeted by US sanctions in 2014 in retribution for Russia’s invasion of Crimea. Another friend, Arkady Rotenberg, Putin’s judo partner and a billionaire construction mogul, openly obtained companies through Mossack Fonseca. The US Treasury Department, when sanctioning him in 2014, suggested that the oligarch acted on behalf of “a senior official.”

    That was widely believed to mean Putin, whose fingerprints were not on any offshore company.

    The fact that Putin is lining the pockets of himself and his cronies is hardly shocking, but having concrete proof of it is a different thing altogether.

    Strangely, the web page for the papers run by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists‎, doesn’t seem to have any Americans fingered by the papers yet. There’s a good chance that could change.

    Developing…

    Hillary’s Email Scandal: Worse Than You Thought

    Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

    The Washington Post has a long piece up on how Hillary Clinton’s private email server scandal unfolded. Though quite restrained by the standards of the blogsphere, it paints a devastating portrait of Clinton and her aides not only blithely unconcerned about security, but plotting to bypass security and accountability from the get-go:

    Hillary Clinton began preparing to use the private basement server after President Obama picked her to be his secretary of state in November 2008. The system was already in place. It had been set up for former president Bill Clinton, who used it for personal and Clinton Foundation business.

    On Jan. 13, 2009, a longtime aide to Bill Clinton registered a private email domain for Hillary Clinton, clintonemail.com, that would allow her to send and receive email through the server.

    Snip.

    They were aware of a speech delivered by Joel F. Brenner, then chief of counterintelligence at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, on Feb. 24 at a hotel in Vienna, Va., a State Department document shows. Brenner urged his audience to consider what could have happened to them during a visit to the recent Beijing Olympics.

    “Your phone or BlackBerry could have been tagged, tracked, monitored and exploited between your disembarking the airplane and reaching the taxi stand at the airport,” Brenner said. “And when you emailed back home, some or all of the malware may have migrated to your home server. This is not hypothetical.”

    At the time, Clinton had just returned from an official trip that took her to China and elsewhere in Asia. She was embarking on another foray to the Middle East and Europe. She took her BlackBerry with her.

    Snip.

    Few could have known it, but the email system operated in those first two months without the standard encryption generally used on the Internet to protect communication, according to an independent analysis that Venafi Inc., a cybersecurity firm that specializes in the encryption process, took upon itself to publish on its website after the scandal broke.

    Not until March 29, 2009 — two months after Clinton began using it — did the server receive a “digital certificate” that protected communication over the Internet through encryption, according to Venafi’s analysis.

    It is unknown whether the system had some other way to encrypt the email traffic at the time. Without encryption — a process that scrambles communication for anyone without the correct key — email, attachments and passwords are transmitted in plain text.

    “That means that anyone could have accessed it. Anyone,” Kevin Bocek, vice president of threat intelligence at Venafi, told The Post.

    The Post piece is well worth reading, even if it avoids the conclusion already drawn by everyone not already a Hillary Clinton backer: She set up a private server to avoid legal accountability while doing back-channel deals with foreign powers that directly benefited herself, the Clinton Foundation (but I repeat myself), her friends and cronies.

    Then there’s this: “Because Clinton did not use desktop computers, she relied on her personal BlackBerry.” Wait, a high ranking government official in the 21st century “doesn’t use personal computers”? Who is she, your grandmother that complains she can’t play solitaire because you closed the games directory on Windows 95?

    (Hat tip: Director Blue.)

    48 More Waco Bikers Indicted

    Friday, March 25th, 2016

    Another update on the aftermath of the Waco shootout:

    A Texas grand jury indicted 48 more bikers Wednesday in connection with a May 2015 shootout outside a Twin Peaks restaurant that left nine dead, bringing the total number of people facing felony charges to 154.

    Prosecutors in Waco announced that all the bikers indicted are charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, meaning they’re accused of being complicit in the shooting that also left 20 people injured. They face 15 years to life in prison if convicted.

    McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna won indictments against 106 other bikers in November. In a statement Wednesday, he did not rule out more indictments in what he called “an ongoing investigation.”

    Six of the 48 people newly indicted have not been arrested, and their indictments remain under seal. But Reyna and the McLennan County district clerk’s office confirmed they were facing the same charge as other bikers. A spokeswoman for Reyna did not respond to a question about whether the grand jury declined to indict in any cases presented.

    Reyna has been harshly criticized by attorneys who say he’s prosecuting dozens of bikers who were at the restaurant only for a peaceful gathering of motorcycle clubs.

    Snip.

    Prosecutors have not indicted anyone specifically for murder in the nine deaths. The organized criminal activity charge incorporates allegations that every person indicted was responsible for the deaths and injuries that ensued in the gunfire.

    Dallas attorney Don Tittle said Wednesday’s indictments appeared to center on bikers who weren’t members of the two major clubs present — the Bandidos and the Cossacks — but rather part of smaller “support clubs.” Dozens of Bandidos and Cossacks have already been indicted.

    DA Reyna seems to be working on the novel (to America, anyway) theory of “collective guilt,” that if he can just get a grand jury to indict every member of every motorcycle club present at Twin Peaks that day merely for being in a motorcycle club, that will make up for his inability to charge any individual with murder.

    That’s not going to fly. Quantity is absolutely no substitute for quality in the criminal justice system. Ten months after the Twin Peaks shootout, public officials seem no closer to determining who killed who that day, and what role law enforcement overreaction and incompetence played in those deaths.

    Garland Jihad Shooting Conspirator Convicted

    Saturday, March 19th, 2016

    A jury on Thursday convicted an Arizona man of conspiring to support Islamic State in one of the first trials in the U.S. involving charges related to the terrorist group.

    Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem also was found guilty on other counts stemming from an attack last spring at a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas. Kareem was stoic when the verdict was read.

    Authorities said Kareem bankrolled and motivated two Islamic State followers who were killed in a shootout with police while trying to carry out a rampage at the anti-Islam event in suburban Dallas.

    Kareem also was convicted of providing guns used in the May 3 attack. Authorities say he and the two gunmen, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, had researched travel to the Middle East to join Islamic State fighters.

    I wouldn’t say the event was anti-Islam per se, but rather pro-freedom of speech.

    Abdul Squared had previously “abandoned his birth name of Decarus Lowell Thomas and legally became Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem in 2013.”

    So what’s the over/under for when “Free Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem” t-shirts start showing up at left-wing rallies?