China is pushing the naval ‘grey zone’. Sooner or later, the shooting will start

“An Anzac-class frigate of the Royal Australian Navy stopped to conduct diving operations (to clear fishing nets that had fouled its propellors) in international waters off Japan when it was approached by a destroyer of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
The Australian ship, HMAS Toowoomba, then called PLAN ship Ningbo to inform them that they had divers down and asked them to keep their distance. So far so normal.

In response to this, it appears the PLAN destroyer closed the Toowoomba and turned on her bow-mounted sonar, putting enough sound energy into the water to injure the Aussie divers. A spokesperson for the Australian Defence Minister said, “medical assessments conducted after the divers exited the water identified they had sustained minor injuries likely due to being subjected to the sonar pulses from the Chinese destroyer.””

When Trump tells you he’s an authoritarian, believe him

“Perhaps the clearest sign came in a speech on Veterans Day where he vowed to “root out the communists, Marxists, fascists, and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country that lie and steal and cheat on elections.” Calling one’s opponents subhuman and vowing aggressive action against them is a hallmark of classical fascist rhetoric, so much so that the Washington Post’s headline — on a news article, not an opinion piece — described it as “echoing dictators Hitler [and] Mussolini.”
They’re not wrong: Anyone familiar with Nazi propaganda can tell you that it commonly dehumanized Jews by describing us as rats or diseases. Trump has used such language more than once: Just last month, he claimed immigrants were “poisoning the blood of our country.”

This incendiary language is backed by an incendiary policy agenda. Trump and his team have a series of proposals to crack down on dissent, including by remaking the Justice Department into a tool for jailing his enemies and sending troops to suppress protests. They aim to launch mass anti-immigrant raids and detain the people he rounds up in camps. They have extensive plans to replace as many as 50,000 career civil servants with ideologues and toadies, putting people ready and willing to undermine the rule of law in key positions to act on Trump’s dubious orders.

Given Trump’s track record, we should take these threats seriously. Let’s not forget that many thought it was unthinkable that Trump would attempt a kind of coup after the 2020 election. We now know that’s exactly what happened, up to and including inciting an actual riot on January 6.”

The Supreme Court’s new ethics code is a joke

“The code, in other words, codifies the same rules that Justice Clarence Thomas followed when he spent nine days vacationing on Republican billionaire Harlan Crow’s superyacht — a trip which “could have exceeded $500,000” in value, according to ProPublica. The code also locks in place the same rules Thomas followed during his frequent summer trips to Crow’s private resort in the Adirondacks. The code “represents a codification of principles” that Thomas followed when he bought a $267,230 RV that was underwritten by Anthony Welters, another of the many wealthy individuals who have lavished gifts on Thomas since he joined the Court.”

“The new code also seeks to “dispel” any impression that the justices “regard themselves as unrestricted by any ethics rules,” which may have been created when Justice Samuel Alito accepted a $100,000 private jet flight to Alaska from Republican billionaire Paul Singer, where Alito stayed in a fishing lodge that ordinarily charges more than $1,000 a day to guests, and where Alito was reportedly served wine that costs more than $1,000 a bottle.
The new code, which, again, by its own explicit terms largely seeks to put in writing the same rules that these justices followed when they accepted luxurious gifts from major Republican Party donors, is also almost entirely unenforceable. If a litigant, or one of the more than 300 million Americans governed by the Supreme Court, believes that one of the justices is violating the newly written-down rules, there is no mechanism to enforce those rules against a justice.”

“The new code imposes no meaningful obligations on the justices. It explicitly disclaims any desire to do so. It accuses the Court’s critics of “misunderstanding” the justices’ past behavior, when it really isn’t hard to understand the ethical implications of taking a $500,000 gift from a major political donor.”

The Backpage Defendants Never Stood a Chance

“The Department of Justice claimed this was about “keeping women and children across America safe” from sex trafficking. But behind that bravado, the government’s actual case was clearly something less noble. A performance of protection. A publicity stunt. A massive scapegoating set against the backdrop of a moral panic. And a politicized prosecution against people who engaged in and defended the most dangerous thing to any government: free speech.
Ultimately, the Backpage prosecution was a small-scale tragedy that upended individual lives as well as something much bigger. Its effects were wide-reaching and devastating for many sex workers. And yet—it wasn’t ultimately about sexual commerce or sexual crimes, not at its core. This was a warning shot fired at entities that enable all sorts of digital communication and a test bed for further legal attacks on tech companies that won’t suppress speech as politicians see fit.

That Lacey was convicted of “international concealment money laundering” is bizarre, since the money transfer was not concealed: His lawyer informed the IRS about it, as required by law. And it was not made for nefarious purposes, according to Scottsdale lawyer John Becker’s trial testimony. Lacey had needed some place to park his savings after U.S. banks, scared by a years-long propaganda crusade against Backpage, had decided doing business with the company or its associates was a reputational risk. So Becker and another lawyer advised Lacey to deposit the money—$17 million, on which taxes had been paid—with a foreign bank.

It’s hard to see how Lacey conducted a financial transaction “to conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the proceeds of specified unlawful activity,” even if you accept the government’s premise that this money was derived from unlawful activity. And, to be clear, I don’t accept that premise, since Backpage’s business should have been protected by the First Amendment (not to mention Section 230 of federal communications law).

But Backpage made money from adult ads, and the government alleges that some of those ads were illegal enticements to prostitution. Therefore, the case alleged, anything done with money made from Backpage was de facto illegal. That’s how Lacey—and former Backpage executives Jed Brunst and Scott Spear—wound up facing money laundering charges for merely moving money around.”

One stat that could spur a compromise on the child tax credit

“Out of the $105 billion paid out in 2021 and 2022 as part of the temporary expansion of the child tax credit here in the US, only 5 percent went to families without any income at all.”