Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: July 3, 2021
It has been a strange couple of weeks here in Massachusetts. I don’t usually write much about local news; I hope you won’t mind me doing so today.
Last week we had a heat wave with temps in the high 90s and even hitting 100 last Wednesday. Hours later, intense thunderstorms blew through, taking down trees and knocking out power for thousands of households; and the temperatures dropped into the 60s. Rain has continued for days and yesterday and today temperatures have been in the 50s!
And it wasn’t just the weather. We had two apparent hate crimes
here last week. Even in the one of the bluest of blue states, we can’t escape the horror Trumpism has unleashed. Last Saturday a man who apparently was a white supremacist murdered two black people. NBC News: Fatal shooting of 2 Black people in Massachusetts investigated as hate crime, officials say.
Authorities are investigating a Massachusetts shooting that left two Black people dead as a hate crime after investigators found “some troubling white supremacist rhetoric” in the gunman’s handwriting, officials said Sunday.
Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, who identified the suspected gunman as 28-year-old Nathan Allen, said during a press conference on Sunday that investigators found “antisemitic and racist statements against Black individuals.”
“There was hate in this man’s heart,” she told reporters Monday.
Allen was killed by police officers on Saturday afternoon shortly after stealing a plumber’s truck, crashing it into a house and shooting two Black bystanders multiple times in Winthrop, just outside Boston, according to Winthrop Police Chief Terence Delehanty.
The slain bystanders, who were both Black, were identified as David Green, 58, a retired Massachusetts State Police officer; and Ramona Cooper, 60, an Air Force veteran who still worked with the military, according to Rollins. Allen shot Green four times in the head and three in the torso, and Cooper three times in the back.
“He walked by several people that were not Black and they are alive. They were not harmed,” she said. “They are alive and these two visible people of color are not.”
On Thursday a rabbi was stabbed in Brighton. NBC 10 Boston: ‘An Act of Hate And Darkness’: Leaders Denounce Violence at Vigil for Recovering Rabbi.
Rabbi Shlomo Noginski of the Shaloh House, who was stabbed in Boston’s Brighton neighborhood Thursday, used judo training to divert the violent attack out of sight from children, according to his colleague.
“The stabbing happened right here, where you stand,” said Rabbi Dan Rodkin, executive director of the Shaloh House, a Chabad center that runs a school, camp and more. He was speaking to a swath of elected officials, Jewish leaders and community members who gathered in a show of support Friday in Brighton Common, the scene of the stabbing.
Noginski was stabbed eight times in the arm and shoulder just outside of the Jewish Day School on Chestnut Hill Avenue Thursday afternoon. His accused attacker, Khaled Awad, appeared in court Friday, where prosecutors said that the incident began with Awad holding a gun and demanding that Noginski give him the keys to a van.
Police were investigating whether the attack was a hate crime, though many of the speakers at the vigil argued the stabbing was an act of hate.
Noginski’s wife told NBC10 Boston he remained very weak but was happy to be out of the hospital and was looking forward to getting back to work as soon as possible.
A black belt in judo, Noginski used his expertise to defend himself and save children from the traumatic event, Rodkin said. The school told parents that it went into lockdown, but all the children were safe.
“We are here to send a message to everyone — that we, Boston, are not going to sit back,” Rodkin said. “We will fight back. We will bring goodness to the world. We’ll make sure that we will become better people and we will send a strong message — that evil has no place in America.”
Today we saw another unusual event in our state. There was an armed standoff just north of me in Wakefield, MA early this morning. State police were forced to shut down a stretch of I-95 and people in the town were told to shelter in place. This story actually hit the top of Memeorandum this morning.
Massachusetts state police said nine suspects have been taken into custody following an hourslong standoff that prompted the partial closure of Interstate 95….
The standoff shut down a portion of I-95 for much of the morning, causing major traffic problems during the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
Authorities said the southbound interstate reopened, but northbound lanes remain closed.
In Massachusetts, Interstate 95 runs from the Rhode Island line, around Boston to the New Hampshire line. Wakefield is just east of where Interstate 95 and 93 meet north of Boston.
The standoff began around 2 a.m. when police noticed two cars pulled over on I-95 with hazard lights on after they had apparently run out of fuel, authorities said at a Saturday press briefing.
Between eight to 10 men were clad in military-style gear with long guns and pistols, Mass State Police Col. Christopher Mason said. He added that they were headed to Maine from Rhode Island for “training.”
The men refused to put down their weapons or comply with authorities’ orders, claiming to be from a group “that does not recognize our laws” before taking off into a wooded area, police said.
The men belong to a group calling themselves “Moorish American Arms.” WABC NY: 9 arrested from heavily-armed group of men claiming not to recognize laws after standoff.
The bizarre incident played out Saturday morning after a state trooper saw a group of eight to 10 men in military-style uniforms refueling their vehicle on the side of 1-95 around 1:30 a.m. in Wakefield, about 10 miles north of Boston.
The men — who carried tactical gear like body cameras and helmets and had long guns slung over their shoulders — told the trooper they were on their way to Maine from Rhode Island for “training.”
During the traffic stop, two arrests were made. The rest of the group, identifying themselves as “Moorish American Arms,” fled into a wooded area. All were detained by 10:45 a.m. local time, police said….
Massachusetts officials said the group claimed it “does not recognize our laws.” ABC News is asking federal officials whether or not this group is known for extremism.
The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies the Moorish sovereign citizen movement as “collection of independent organizations and lone individuals” that “espouse an interpretation of sovereign doctrine that African Americans constitute an elite class within American society with special rights and privileges that convey on them a sovereign immunity placing them beyond federal and state authority.” [….]
“Members of the Moorish sovereigns, called Moors, have come into conflict with federal and state authorities over their refusal to obey laws and government regulations. Recently, Moorish sovereign citizens have engaged in violent confrontations with law enforcement,” according to the SPLC.
Last month, a Los Angeles man who identified himself as a Moorish sovereign was arrested in Newark, New Jersey, after locking himself inside a woman’s home and declaring it his ancestral property.
UPDATE: CNN reports that there have now been 11 arrests. They say bad news comes in threes, so I hope that will be the end of violent incidents here for now.
Now for some national news.
Trump and his acolytes in Congress continue their efforts to destroy U.S. democracy. William Saletan at Slate: Trump Is Working Harder Than Ever to Undermine Democracy.
On Wednesday, two dozen House Republicans flocked to Texas to show their support for Donald Trump. They joined the state’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott, in applauding the former president as he toured the border, denounced the U.S. government, and repeated the lie that he had been removed from office illegally. “Biden is destroying our country, and it all started with a fake election,” Trump declared as the lawmakers looked on in silence or approval. He accused the United States of “phony elections,” called it a “sick country,” and bragged that as president, he had seized military funds—against the will of Congress, and in defiance of the Constitution—to fund his border wall.
For many Americans, Trump’s disappearance from Facebook, Twitter, and the mainstream media has left the impression that he has gone away. That impression is false and dangerous. Trump has tightened his grip on the GOP, and he has escalated his campaign to undermine American institutions. His authoritarian movement is a direct challenge not just to President Joe Biden but to the larger alliance of democracies. The fundamental political conflict in our country is no longer between Democrats and Republicans. It’s between people who believe in a democratic republic and people who don’t….
The authoritarian menace extends into our country. In his inaugural address, Biden noted that he was taking office “just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy.” He described his inauguration, in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection, as “the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause: the cause of democracy.” A month later, in a conference with European allies, Biden implicitly connected Putin’s propaganda to Trump’s attacks on NATO and the American electoral system. “Russian leaders want people to think that our system is more corrupt or as corrupt as theirs,” said Biden.
Trump is working to spread that message of American corruption and to destabilize the U.S. government. In rallies, interviews, and emails to his supporters, the former president rejects the 2020 election as “fake,” a “hoax,” and a “crime.” He calls Biden’s government “illegitimate” and “unconstitutionally elected.” In May, he said his supporters were right to call him “the true President,” and he essentially demanded to be restored to office, arguing, “If a thief robs a jewelry store of all of its diamonds (the 2020 Presidential Election), the diamonds must be returned.” Republican leaders, far from repudiating Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 attack, blocked his conviction in a Senate trial, thwarted a proposed commission to investigate the attack, and reaffirmed their allegiance to him. On Thursday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was asked twice whether Trump was “accountable in some way” for “the events leading up to Jan. 6.” McCarthy refused to answer.
Please read the rest at the link. It’s frightening, but true. Yesterday the Arizona Republic broke the news (behind a paywall) that Trump tried to overturn election results in the state–like he did in Georgia. The New York Times: Trump Is Said to Have Called Arizona Official After Election Loss.
President Donald J. Trump twice sought to talk on the phone with the Republican leader of Arizona’s most populous county last winter as the Trump campaign and its allies tried unsuccessfully to reverse Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s narrow victory in the state’s presidential contest, according to the Republican official and records obtained by The Arizona Republic, a Phoenix newspaper.
But the leader, Clint Hickman, then the chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said in an interview on Friday that he let the calls — made in late December and early January — go to voice mail and did not return them. “I told people, ‘Please don’t have the president call me,’” he said….
The Arizona Republic obtained the records of the phone calls from Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani after a Freedom of Information Act request.
The Arizona Republic reported that the calls came as the state Republican chairwoman, Kelli Ward, sought to connect Mr. Hickman and other county officials to Mr. Trump and his allies so they could discuss purported irregularities in the county’s election.
Ms. Ward first told Mr. Hickman on Nov. 13, the day after the Maricopa vote count sealed Mr. Biden’s victory in Arizona, that the president would probably call him. But the first call did not come until New Year’s Eve, when Mr. Hickman said the White House operator dialed him as he was dining with his wife.
Mr. Hickman said the switchboard operator left a voice mail message saying Mr. Trump wished to speak with him and asking him to call back. He didn’t….
Four nights later, the White House switchboard operator called Mr. Hickman again, he said. By then, Mr. Hickman recalled, he had read a transcript of Mr. Trump’s call with Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state whom Mr. Trump pressured to “find more votes” to reverse his defeat in the state.
“I had seen what occurred in Georgia and I was like, ‘I want no part of this madness and the only way I enter into this is I call the president back,’” Mr. Hickman said.
This post is getting long, so I’ll end with this piece at The Atlantic by U. of Chicago Law Professor Daniel Hemel: The Trump Organization Is in Big Trouble.
If the facts alleged in yesterday’s indictment are true, the Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, have engaged in blatant tax evasion for more than a decade.
Early reports characterized the crime in question as involving “fringe benefits.” This gives entirely the wrong impression. The Trump Organization and Weisselberg aren’t being charged with tripping over some hyper-technical provision on the margins of the tax system. They are being charged with blatantly violating basic tax-law requirements—and bilking New York State and New York City out of hundreds of thousands of dollars along the way.
Probably the strongest allegation relates to an apartment on Riverside Boulevard in Manhattan where Weisselberg lives with his wife. According to the indictment, the Trump Corporation—one of the Trump Organization’s many business entities—paid roughly $100,000 a year in rent, utility bills, and garage expenses for this apartment starting in 2005. The Trump Corporation allegedly didn’t report those payments as compensation on Weisselberg’s W-2 forms, and Weisselberg allegedly didn’t include those amounts in income on his own tax returns.
But the Trump Organization did, according to the indictment, maintain a separate set of books that accounted for the payments as part of Weisselberg’s compensation. Notably, when the Trump Corporation paid Weisselberg’s rent, according to the indictment, the Trump Organization reduced Weisselberg’s salary by a corresponding amount. (Both Weisselberg and the Trump Organization pleaded not guilty yesterday.)
One can describe this as a “fringe benefit”—a tax-law term for any payment for services that is not part of stated compensation—but it’s also plain old tax fraud. Under federal and New York State tax law, lodging provided by an employer to an employee is part of the employee’s gross income. There are limited exceptions to this rule—for example, if the employee is required to live on the employer’s business premises as part of the job, or if the employer is a religious institution and the employee is a clergy member. But Weisselberg wasn’t living on Trump Organization premises because of some business need (and Trumpism is only metaphorically a religion). And if the Trump Organization was keeping a separate set of books recording compensation that it didn’t report to tax authorities, then this was no unintentional oversight.
Read more at The Atlantic. I don’t dare to get my hopes up at this point, but I’m watching and waiting. Maybe this time Trump will actually pay a real price for his behavior.
I hope you all are having a nice Fourth of July weekend. Remember the Delta variant is out there and fully vaccinated people have caught it–so stay safe and wear a mask if you’re around a lot of people indoors. I worry about all the folks who will crowded together even outdoors watching fireworks displays.